Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Western Terminus - Bisbee

Let me show you one of the exam rooms where we administer the vaccinations.”

8:55 AM. The mercury had hit 105 right before Elias turned off the ignition and headed into the clinic. But it was a DRY heat. Ha, ha. He left his sport coat in the car, and made a mental note to invest in short-sleeve dress shirts, something he would never have worn back East. Dr. Ellen wore a lab coat, stethoscope and a BIA name tag over an Ann Taylor blouse and a skirt in navy blue. She walked fast and Elias walked in her wake.

“We can’t keep every migrant out, and Lord knows we can’t send them back where they came from. But with this pilot program of free clinics from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and HHS, we can be sure to vaccinate everyone and prevent dangerous pathogens from becoming epidemics on the North side of the border.

“The illegals, well, you just never know what they’ve been vaccinated for and what they haven’t. If you ask, they will tell you they’ve had all their shots and they’re perfectly healthy. They don’t want anyone questioning. So we start from square one and give everyone a full workup, shots, and scripts for whatever they need. An ounce of prevention and all that.” She turned the corner and knocked smartly on the flimsy door inside the building, a re-purposed mobile classroom. They had them back in Monrovia when he was a kid.

“How do you get them to come in? I mean, how do they know they won’t just get shipped back?”

“Education. We make sure the coyotes know we don’t do that here. That they should come here and get free healthcare. Obamacare, that’s all you need to say. They get the message. And after a few have been through, word gets back to relatives in Sonora.”

A tech opened the door in front of them and Dr. Ellen introduced Elias. “Marta, this is Special Agent Elias Tucker from the Phoenix office. He’s been assigned to Sierra Vista and Cochise County to keep tabs on the drug trade and so forth.”

Elias could see there was a Mexican woman with three children about to be examined. She heard “Special Agent” and became alarmed. Dr. Ellen could see her alarm reflected in Elias’ face.

She turned to the woman and said something soothing in Spanish. The woman calmed down and released the death-clutch she’d put on her youngest, a girl of maybe two years. Still in a diaper.

Elias took a step into the room and smiled at the child. “Me encanta,” he said. That put everyone at ease. Dr. Ellen and Special Agent Tucker left. The baby cried when she took the wicked needle. They could hear her down the hall.

“The worst is the UACs,” said Dr. Ellen. “The unaccompanied children. The coyotes will sometimes take them this far, but usually they just end up with the border patrol.” There were two bored, dirty kids in the next office perhaps ten years old, chucking pencils at each other. Boy and a girl. They barely looked up as Elias peeked in.

“Thanks for showing me all this,” said Elias. You have my number. If you see evidence of an uptick in drugs or if anything else weird happens…”

“Thank you, Agent Tucker.” She took his hand in both of hers. They were small and cool. She lingered and then stepped back. She looked very tired.

As he turned to go, she stopped him. “Oh! Agent Tucker! One more thing. While you’re in Bisbee, stop in and say hi to Sheriff Funk. He could be a good asset to you while you’re here.”

“Thank you,” he said, and put his mirrored sunglasses back on before crossing the hellish tarmac back to the car.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I've Finished My Novel

And I'm very proud.

Here: have a look if you want to. This is a PDF of the manuscript. It has not been touched by an editor, not at all. At some point I'll have it edited properly and get cover art and put it up on Lulu and Amazon.

Not because I think it will make me rich, but because I want to be able to say I did it.

It was important to me to get the copy finished this week so I can start my new novel on 1 November for 2018's NaNoWriMo. It will be a contemporary thriller set in Arizona called Western Terminus. Murders, shadowy conspiracies, green FBI agents, crazy gunfights, all the normal stuff.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Approaching Hastings By Sea

Rucher approaching Pevensey Bay, 28 September 1066

Young Benouét perched in the netting on the bowsprit, eye toward East by North-East hown. He looked out for some greensward dear to them, beyond the morning mist. Instead, upon the fo’c’sle, lit a raven, like in elden days. Carried in its beak a sprig of mistletoe. Benouét thought nothing of the portent, for this was the way of things momentous in this time. The raven was as good as sighting land. He sprung along the railings, barefoot, calling to the host assembled there that landfall, was it nigh.

So how it came upon our Guytonnet the monk hailed from Balun, that Benouét called to the men that Pevensey was nigh. Awoke he, Guy, sat up and shivering with nothing in him but poor humor. There was a cold salt mist hung down on that dawn hour which soaked the whole the galley, through and through. The men were soakèd through and through as well. Waves slapped on the hull and halyard strained.  The single-masted Rucher[1] on a bead was run unto the naked shore.

Rucher had anarrow beam and shallow draft. Fleet she under oar. Her forebears were the longships of the Norsemen. The morning fog had kept her hidden from the Saxons. God was with them on this day. While the pilot slept in the one aft-castle state room, twenty men were there at oar; Guytonnet, some other monks, and coursers three of 14 hands and goodly breadth were at the centerline awaiting landfall and debarkment. Guyton rather earnest hoped that Rucher’s sister, Nef,[2] would be along a-present, for she held the soldier’s armory and food enow for two days’ march. More’s would be for taking from the Saxon curs. The sisters had been separated in the darkness of the passage. Although the passage narrower than nine leagues wide, it took nine hours to find the Saxon’s side. Here at the commencement, Rucher was she all alone.

The morning was within the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time. Guy wore underthings of linen and some socks of wool. His stole, collected up from Saint-Valery-sur-Somme and local folk who wished him well, was green to mark the season. His sandals (woe to him these sandals!) were of leather in the color of Burgundians, and still they felt him fairly new. His gros ortieil d’gauche were sore at the conclusion of each day of walking to and fro. These sandals from the city, a rare treat for Guy who was used to going barefoot, would break in over time, he still held hope. As soon as he was back in Normandy, he’d buy some salve and lanolin to work the sandals into shape and ease his ailing toe. Not long now, did he still hold hope.

The Sergeant of these men, whose name Guy did not know, called then upon the host: “Préparez-vous à débarquer!” One courser sneezed with great delight and all three shook their manes out  with anticipation. T’would be hour now before the sun burnt off the mist; the bow and stern of Rucher were now strangers to the other, so it held upon the deck. Half the men pulled oars and ambulated to the bow. Shortly, sand hissed underneath as Rucher found her purchase on the rocky beach beneath.

[1] Beehive
[2] Nave

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Novel Progress

I feel like I have been almost done with this beast, Lions Red and Gold, since about January 2018. That’s not true, but it’s felt that way. I wonder if a lot of writers feel “almost done” a lot more than is realistic? Looking at the progress on word counts, it appears the earliest that I could have reasonably said it was almost done was this July when I crossed the 90,000 word threshold. Less than that isn’t really a NOVEL, but more like a novella.

In a little more than a week, NaNoWriMo 2018 will be here. I am 100% certain this novel doesn’t need another 50,000 words. I have 110,000 good words down after cutting about 30 pages/15,000 words in September. They were good chapters, but not for this book. I’ll save them for another time when I write a Viking story.

The story is completely complete - no more little bits necessary - up until the battle of Fulford when Harald Hardrade invaded Northumbria in August. I don’t think I will actually cover that. I will cover the subsequent battle of Stamford Bridge because that’s germane to the battle of Hastings, which is the story’s climax.

The other thing I needed to decide was the disposition of the main characters. I had already decided that Imogene and Hyacinthe would be married. But the other two, the younger pair, I hadn’t really decided.

What I have decided is that Nesta likes Guy, but not in a romantic way. She feels like she owes him a debt of gratitude. The Archbishop is going to send him West to Wales. Nesta will escort him as far as the western border of Wessex. She still needs to gather her own forces to retake Northumbria but William isn’t turning northward quite yet. A recruiting trip through her old realm would be just the thing.

The book ends with Hyacinthe and Imogen being married, and a very short postscript.

All of this could be done in a week if I really rushed it, but I think I’ll do it over the course of the month.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Dour Médée

Journey of the Magi by Sassetta

“I cannot rid myself of dread,” Guy marked to Médée. “Upon a morning fair, while tending to the hares, I mark remarked unto myself and ere The Lord above me… something fateful.”

“The Lord is always listening, and making plans to trip us up if we don’t do what’s good,” replied sour Médée. He had blond hair and ruddy skin. His nose was red, boxed square upon the tip.  His eyes were pale, like light through stratic clouds. He smelled a little rancid, like a cut of pork bemaggotted. He was a young man, not much older then than Guytonnet; but kept he down a sour disposition in all things. Even in The Lord, this Médée held equal parts of fear and dread; if some love for our God abid within his heart, he kept it hid.

Guy stared dumbly then at Médée whilst on they trod from Alençon. His gauche gros orteil had started to complain to him, for as he walked, his sandal strap dug in beneath the thing. Guy hopped along a little and removed the brown, insulting leather espadrille.

“What’s your dread, specifically?” asked Médée, with mischief on his lips.

“Just about the time the troubles started, Médée. After Father had been laid to rest; I chanced to ruminate upon a fancy thought that passed, where I should like to aid in turning heathens there in other lands to God’s own truly lambs. And in this dream, I pictured us in valor-fields, and men there grasping sword and shield. And marry, Médée: God heard my dream and put us here!” 

No Father here to guide him. No Jean-Rémin to grant him any succor. No Archard’s snoring to bring Guy to sweet slumbering these nights. And far away from Florentin; as far as ever had he been. All to bring him discipline for this stray thought that morning when the coneygarth be in.

Médée offhandedly: “Good. I know now who to blame for this discomfort.”

Guytonnet, with sadness in this voice: “Tiens!

The word he said, Tiens, pricked Nesta’s ear. She turned about atop her Frisian to see who might have said the thing. For this, a saying she herself would use, rang true upon her ear and nary did abuse.

“Who says this thing? Tiens?” Asked Nesta of the men.

“It me, Dame Lady Knight,” reported Guytonnet.

“This pleases me to hear. My mama used the word in moments rueful,” she replied.

Guy was lost at this. He smiled and he nodded to the little dam who seemed to pick him out, a single raven from the flock. She turned back her attention to the road ahead, and smiled to herself. Mama, you are always near me, thought she then.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ultima Thule

The men and dames took time to rest and eat upon the noontime. The sun today was very warm, and most the men decided then to put their feet into a little stream beside a meadow, home to sheep and also several palfreys. The water in the stream was very clear; both some soldiers and some monks walked up the bankment nearer to the Sarthe to take a drink. Others walked downstream a ways to let their bladders empty and their under-regions breathe.

Nesta and the monk named Guytonnet stood leaning on the wooden paling rail which held the livestock in. A pair of ewes came curiously up to them. Guy put his hand to them to sniff. One of the ewes took in his manalet and rand her tongue and teeth about it. He pulled it back away, enstartled, fearing that she’d bite, and Nesta laughed.  Guytonnet laughed too.

Sinalunga by Marc Dalessio

“You don’t sound like most any other person here around, m’lady,” Guytonnet observed. “Do you hail from far away?”

“Mmm. Le Mans. My papa is a man of some repute therein. And farther than that, if you care to know.”

“Farther than Le Mans?” Guytonnet could scarce imagine this. “Where father then?”

Nesta smiled with some mischief. “A land called Ultima Thule.[1] Where men wear pretty dresses and women have the tonsure shorn. And… we eat breakfast late at night and sup upon the morning crow!”

Guytonnet knew not this place. He stood dumb before her. “No wonder you wear trousers and you cover up your hear so strangely!” Then, “You raise up rabbits there? To eat?”

Nesta smiled and looked off to the distance then. “Oh, no. The rabbits there in Ultima Thule are far too large for men to raise! They’re bigger than a draft horse from Ardennes!”

“Then what would some ascetic monk like me take in for all his hassenpfeffer? Woulds’t thou have meat for men like me?”

“Of course we do. We dine on tiny horses. Also, tortoises in Thule are made of meat. It’s quite convenient, actually.” She couldn’t help but laugh a bit.

Guy caught on, “This is not true, is it? You’re joking! Very funny! Where could ever be a place where God might make a tortoise out of beef and rabbits bigger than a man! It makes no sense at all!” They laughed, and Nesta then appeared to bough her head a bit – but kept his gaze. She wished to win his fancy, mayhap did she then.

“Still,” said Guy, “I should rather like to see your Ultima Thule one day. Perhaps once we have gone to war and gotten back to Normandy.”

“Yes, after the war,” the dame agreed, in partly of a dream, reaching down to stroke the other ewe.

They stood in quiet for a lingering, and quite enjoyed it, both of them.

Guy asked, “What’s it like? To ride a courser, wearing armor, holding up your sword? To lowborn common folk it seems quite dreadful. I – I mean to say, it fills us up with dread to see the beasts, magnificent and horrible, and riders with such absolute control about them.

“But what does it feel like to be a knight?”

Nesta hadn’t thought about what commoners or monks might make of her; only nobles and the greater clergymen who orbited her uncle and her pa.

She shrugged. “Perhaps I’ll teach you how to ride. You have your armor now. We’ll make you colors and a crest and William can endow you up a knight.”

Again, Guy stood before her, dumb. “I have no palfrey, nor a courser.”

“I’ll get one for you.”


She dipped into her wee musette and pulled from it a golden coin.

“It’s quite dear,” he said. “What is it?”

“One livre caroligienne. 20 sous make up one livre, and twelve denier make up one sous.”

“That’s a lot of eggs,” said Guytonnet, impressed. “But will it trade in for a horse?”

Nesta laughed, “No! Not only one! I have enough though. I could buy a courser and the tack, and find a boy to mind it for you if I truly wanted to.”

Guytonnet could scarcely hold the thought to mind; it seemed to him far in excess of all the metal wealth he’d ever seen. “And do you have a lot of these in Thule?”

“Don’t you know nothing, monk? You foolish man! There ain’t no Thule! Not really! It’s all part the game we played! The land I come from is North Humberland, across the sea in England!

“I truly thought we done swack up[2] together, monk! Ain’t you ken me accent and me cheek, ye pretty to me? Me slurf,[3] me notches,[4] Ilka[5] dam meself like looking wacht’s from Umberland, in’t we?” She laughed. Guy scarcely understood her as she broke into her Anglish moot, but laughed he then along as well.

“Now let’s us pick you out a sturdy palfrey to take to you.”


“We can see some pretties in the meadow, non? Which trotter there will suit m’sieur to ride?”

Guyton could not tell if this was yet another poke at him. He was but a lowly monk, and never had a nobleman or woman spoke to him in such a manner. Nor had any in the Holy Church above him spoke to him like this in all his sixteen years. His lips involuntarily made up a little circle and he scratched his head. His tonsure had returned to Nature’s rule and covered up the top of him again.

Nesta pointed to a chestnut colt of thirteen hands and mane of black. “There. That one. You think?”

And then did Ludovi approach, and clucked at them. “It cannot be that one. For never shall a Benedictine, past or present, ride a horse of fauve.[6]

The horse just then bucked at its counterpart, and bit at it. In sport it seemed, but also there was some unrestfulness about this colt. Each of them could see.

Nesta turned to Ludovi and  said, “In Anglish we would call that color ‘fallow’ like the lonesome earth.”

Oui, mademoiselle chevalier.”

“Why won’t you ride a fallow colt?”

“For they are ferocious.  Les bête fauves is to say ferocity and wildness in animals.”

“One might wisheth for his mount to be thus, brother.”

Ludovi bowed before her in good deference to her station, for before he then explained to her the Norman view of horses of this gravid hue. “Of course, mademoiselle. One may wish for this. But also do we say about les chevaux fauves, or perhaps les chevaux ‘Fauvel’, that they betray their masters at the worst of times. They are, it is a little joke perhaps? They are sinful creatures, my dam.”

“That is a funny claim. How can a courser sin? It has no agency apart from what we lend to it. What kinds of sins are these that such a fallow horse should carry out?”

Flatterie, avarice, vilenie, variété, envie, et lâcheté.[7] Of these, the cowardice is damning most of all.”

Nesta well considered what the elder monk had said. “These do sound like the qualities a nag or hairy biter might he have. And these are qualities of every fallow steed?”

Non, mademoiselle. Only of those chevaux fauves that carry forth a Benedictine monk.”

“Then rather,” Nesta countered, “might those qualities endwell within the monk and not the beast?”

Ludovi was silent. Guytonnet was silent, too. They were astonished at this claim!

“Never mind,” said Nesta. “We shall claim a different-colored courser for you. Or perhaps we won’t!” She smiled as she said it with a star within her eye of black and turned and skipped away to join the fellows cooling off their feet.

[1] Latin: Metaphysical. A place beyond the known world.
[2] Swack up: to play a game together, to conspire.
[3] Torso.
[4] Cut of neck, chin and supper shoulders.
[5] Each, from ilk. In this case: “Each lady who looks like me is from Northumbria, isn’t she?”
[6] A color alternatively translated as chestnut, reddish-yellow, tawny or fawn.
[7] Flattery, avarice, depravity, fickleness, envy, cowardice.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

News Arrives Before the Invasion

It was upon this night exact, St. Johnsfeast Night, when Imogene would then receive the news she was a widow for a second time. The knight she had been cleven to by William’s good decree was slain upon the valor fields whilst chasing down Duke Conan, back a ways, on Kenelm’s Day. She asked the monks in Hyacynthe’s command what day this was, and found she it was in July: the seventeenth. Two months be gone he was and nary had she word! She wondered then about his son, a boy she cared about a goodly mint.  His name was given as Bealdo, and his age was but eleven years. His name was like his father’s. A blond boy was Bealdo, with broad shoulders and a caring heart. And fell she, found she, unto Hyacynthe, to give her comfort in her pallor-time whilst grieving for the fallen knight she had in mind.

Something else became that day: A Celtic man came visiting the camp at Valery. He dressed him in the manner of the Mid-lands and the North of England, very strange. But only one of all the retinue did recognize this wizened gill: the man in foreign manner and in dress, his name be Morth, and Nesta knew of him immediate.

“Cael Morth! Cael Morth! O happy day’s reunion!” Called she to the man, as came he on three legs from carriage down to camp. She ran to him.

He looked up at the girl – nay – woman so approachething at pace. He raised his flat, broad bonnet to her, to reveal his face. He smiled broadly, teeth somewhat intact, and limped a little faster to her countenance withacht.

“Níos mó is mó atá againn anois, [1] Nisty!” Exclaimed Cael Morth, dropping cane and opening the girl embrace. He tried to lift her Heavenward, but ten years’ time weighed down upon him, just as it had spurred the girl to blossom up. She had left him as an oak, but found him now again as but a reed, and felt the urge to lift him up instead; but did demure for all things in good time alone are called to need.

“Cael Morth! My dear tutor of Northumberland! They’ve raised me up to be a knight! I’m gone to win our homeland, pretty homeland back!”

“Tá deartháir an Godwinson tar éis a chaitheamh le Harald, leanbh. Is é seo a tháinig mé a rá leis an Diúc.”

“Harold’s brother, Tostig, joined with Harald Sigurdson? Yes, Master Cael, we tell the Duke alack!”

Breakfast outside William's tent

And rushing to Duke William’s tent, Dame Nesta then told William what it was that Cael had said (For Cael spoke only Gaelic and the Anglestongue, and nary did he speaketh any French, nor Norman, nor the tongue of Christian works.) Nesta breathlessly announced, “Baron Morth, he former of Bamburg in Northumbria, brings news perhaps be foul or be fair upon your ear. But either way, it cannot wait! I…”

Nesta stopped her elocution in mid-sentence, and she whitened up, as humors left her face. Behind the Duke a pace, with hawkish eye trained right down on the dame was William’s cousin: Odo of Bayeaux. 

[1] "The more the merrier are we now!"