Monday, November 24, 2014

Know--The Order--Part 2 Installment 16

[Soundtrack for this installment is...


Zofi was surprised to wake up, alive. Through some miracle she had not bled to death, had not yet contracted an infection, had somehow lived. It didn’t seem possible. Moving with care, she sat up and checked Alfons’ pulse.
She needn’t have bothered.
Even before laying her fingers against his throat, she could see his chest was rising and falling. Alfons still lived too. Another miracle. Maybe Death could hear her after all, or maybe Death was mercifully not listening.
Her stomach contracted, feeling like fingers clawing their way out, and she clutched her abdomen. Food. When was the last time she had had any? Before their capture, certainly. Had it been days, or much longer? Since Nocri—no, that had been months ago. Nocri had been when she had waded through ashes and heard a thousand dead begging for freedom.
The thought startled her because she couldn't quite match it up to a memory. Blood loss, she reasoned. Blood loss does strange things. And that directed her back to the important things: she needed food or all the miracles in the world wouldn't help her.
Zofi used the wall of the underhang to stand, then shuffled out into the ravine. She did not feel any stronger than when she had crawled out to get water, but at least she was standing now. The trickle of water had swollen to a creek. It must have rained again. If it kept up, their shelter might be compromised, but that was a long way off. She had other things to focus on. Like food.
Climbing out of the ravine sapped her strength and she had to stop for a time. Water splashed off of a leaf and dripped on her forehead. Zofi blinked once, then stood again. She kept walking, staggering against trees and stumbling over every dip in the earth. Occasionally she would stoop for nuts that were untouched by squirrels and other creatures, pocketing them and continuing.
She paused for rest leaning against a stripped oak tree. The smoothness pleased her. She spied an acorn and slid to the ground, too tired to stoop. In theory, acorns could be mashed into a sort of paste. She had read about it an age ago. As she reached for it, her eyes drifted past, landing on a dirt covered hand. It took a long moment for her to register that a hand meant a corpse.
Zofi crawled forward on her knees, rounding the tree until she could properly see the body. It had not been buried very well at all, resting in a natural depression in the earth and loosely covered with dirt and leaves that had largely been washed away by the recent rains. Worse, the body had no burial markings, no symbols, nothing to keep it from coming back as a wight. Zofi stared at the corpse, feeling even more tired just seeing it.
It had been a man once upon a time, and had hardly decomposed at all. She would have to bury it. It was her duty as an undertaker for one, but more importantly, if she left it alone and it turned into a wight, it would very likely find and kill her and Alfons. She didn't have the strength to bury it properly, but she would do what she could.
Hefting the corpse onto her back, Zofi headed back toward her refuge. She would do short term rites, like she had for herself and Alfons, and when she had gathered her strength, she would put the body to rest properly.
She kept repeating her plan in her head the entire way, because when she stopped thinking that, the only other thought was that, though she was sure she’d never seen him before, somehow she knew this man.

[And Zofi meets Mangler...sort of. The Nocri incident mentioned is from Part 1 Installment 21, Repelled. We're nearing the end of Part 2, my friends.]

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

formatting and snow

You know what I love? When you format one way and it comes out another so you end up with irregular and very deep paragraph indents. *sigh* yay formatting!

I now offer you this prompt: Long walks through deep snow are how I find peace. The fact that I'm being followed by snow angels should be irrelevant.

Comment your results. :) Enjoy your day all! When November ends, posting that is not simply The Order shall arise. Fear not. The blog fish are still alive and well and full of opinions.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Secrets Buried--The Order--Part 2 Installment 15

[This week's soundtrack, "Hello" by Evanescence:


 Blanche watched the blaze in her yard consume the bodies of her brother and husband. The smoke stung her eyes, causing tears. Her face was expressionless even though no one was watching. Finally she looked back at her house and let the fire burn.
She entered her house silently, shutting the door with care. The Immortal was just down the hall, sleeping in her bed where her husband should be. Blanche closed her eyes, suppressing a shudder, then moved a shelving unit, lifting up the trapdoor beneath it and descending into her cellar.  Ordinarily she didn’t hide the entrance to her cellar, but she was storing something too important to be stumbled upon. Now though, she couldn’t afford to keep it, not if Murderous was in her house.
 The cellar was dark as she entered it, but Blanche didn’t risk a light. She knew where everything was, particularly the corpse. She’d wrapped the body in a sheet a few days earlier as an extra precaution while she was away. Now she hoisted it over her shoulder and carried it up into the light. Setting the body down, Blanche once again hid the trapdoor to the cellar, then paused, listening for the Immortal, but all was silent in the house. Satisfied, she carried the body from the house to a cart waiting for her near the funeral pyre.
 “Thank you, my love,” she murmured to the flames, “for keeping this safe.”
 Then she trekked into the wood, cart and body in tow. Blanche headed back toward the carnage she had led Murderous to, keeping to paths not even hunters knew. When she reached an oak that had been stripped of its bark, she stopped and tipped the cart, the corpse tumbling out. The sheet came loose, falling away from the body’s head and Blanche stopped, staring at it for a moment.
So many years of work had culminated in possession of this corpse. Most of her order believed it would never happen, getting control of a dead Immortal. But now, Mangler lay at her feet and if he was not enough, she still had Murderous in her grasp.
Blanche shook herself and returned to action. She didn’t have much time left. Rolling Mangler’s corpse into a hollow in the ground, she hastily covered it with dirt, rocks, and leaves. She cast a quick rite, tracing a symbol on the tree above the temporary grave, and then rushed back home.
Above her, the clouds cracked like an egg, releasing all their rain in a torrent.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Let Us Wake--The Order--Part 2 Installment 14

[Soundtrack for this week:


Flies buzzed around the two bodies in the underhang, landing in the blood puddles, and then taking off again with sticky feet. A fat black fly dropped onto the girl’s face, patting along her half open eye, then paused and rubbed its legs together.
She blinked.
The fly flew off and she blinked again, eyes sluggishly opening and closing as if they had become stiff, heavy doors. She turned her head and let gravity bear her cheek to the ground. Her tongue slumped against her teeth and finally her vision focused on the shape next to her: Alfons.
Zofi moved in still frames, hunching up in a semblance of a sitting position. She dragged her finger through the mud, drawing symbols on her face meant to keep a body dead. When she died, they would keep her from becoming a wight. Once that was finished, she crawled to Alfons’ side.
She touched his cheek for a moment, then drew the symbols on his face and hands. Murmuring the rites for the dead, she leaned against his chest, trying to stay upright while the undertaking sapped at her strength. Then he pushed back.
Zofi inhaled sharply, pulling away and staring at the body. It was probably just the decomposition process taking place. Except he was still breathing.
“Al?” she whispered.
            The breathing continued.
            “Dear Death,” she gasped. “You’re not dead.”
            Zofi tugged on her torn sleeve, but didn’t have the strength to rip it loose. So she dug her fingers into the mud, clawing it up and smoothing it over his bullet wounds. The injuries had mostly coagulated, but they needed covered. The bullets needed removed as well, but she couldn’t help that. She didn’t know how to treat the living, only the dead.
            She stopped then, and after a pause, turned the mud on her own wounds. She wanted to help Alfons, but logically she understood that if he died, she had to put him to rest. She couldn't do that if she was already dead. And now she could at least move enough to help him. Probably she had lost less blood. Probably she might even live. Alfons…who knew.
            When she had seen to them both, she peered out of the underhang. It was bright, noon maybe. And it had rained. Zofi inhaled and then crawled out of their shelter to the lowest point in the ravine where the rain had collected into a thin rope of water, little more than a string of shallow puddles. She collapsed beside it, splashing the water into her mouth. When she was satisfied, she sat up, looking back at the underhang. Nothing in her sight would help her carry water. A flash of inspiration hit her and she dipped her tattered sleeve in the water and trooped back into the cave.
Her limbs shook as she hovered over Alfons, squeezing the wet sleeve over his mouth, hoping it would be a little beneficial. Then her body gave up and she keeled over, eyes closing with exhaustion.
Death, she prayed, let us wake again.
Outside the underhang, a figure stepped away, then vanished into the woods.

so you know

The Order is on it's way. It is complete. I just can't upload it until later tonight because of technological hurdles. (It's on my laptop; my laptop is not with me, but shall be later.)

So stay tuned! It's a-coming.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

a brief tutorial for forming plots

Hello and welcome to A Brief Tutorial for Forming Plots (aka spewing what I've learned from professors, books, smart people, experience, etc).

Well, plot's actually quite easy. What's plot: people solving problems. Essentially.

There are two basic ways to form a plot: through characters and through concept. The former is easier, but I'll start with the latter.

If you use a concept to form a plot, this is when you're sitting on a fencepost, chewing your bubblegum (snap, snap, snap), playing with your yoyo (whoo! whoo!), when along came Herman the worm. In this example, Herman represents the concept, which is, what if I wrote a story about the complex social-political hierarchy in worm culture? And so the concept is exploring what a worm culture would be like. I mean, how would that be set up when you've got worms changing gender all the time?

Then from your concept, you start to consider people (well, worms) who would live in this concept, what they would do, what would be a likely problem these people would have to solve, and then voila, plot.

Concept-plotting is usually an early step in world building. It can be anything from wanting to examine worm culture, to wondering what would happen if you start a scene with someone vacuuming a corpse.

On the other side of the fence, is character. This is when you start with a character you think would be interesting. For example, what would it be like if my main character was slowly dying of an incurable disease? (you can't steal this one, it's mine. Just kidding. It's not like it's a new concept.) That makes for some interesting development character-wise. And then once you have a character (or more sometimes), it's a matter of putting them in a difficult situation and making them solve it.

It's like Saw. The horror movies that I refuse to watch, but I wikipedia'd the plots out of curiosity. We writers are Jigsaw, the killer. We take these people who have all sorts of problems--maybe they're a drug addict, they've got a shady past, they're extremely shy, they're the youngest in a very large family, they feel guilty over someone's death--and we put them in a situation where they not only have to face and combat their problems, they also have to solve another problem that they aren't necessarily best suited to solving. Let's be honest, but was Frodo really the best suited to taking the ring to Mordor? No. But he did it anyway. And the fact that he was not prepared in anyway to make that journey made it all the more interesting, am I right? I'm right.

(Side note, we don't always have to kill our characters.)

So when plotting from a character, look at your character's motivation, or what they want most, or what they fear most, or one of those 'most' things about them and dangle it in front of them. Make them pursue it, or flee from it. And you've got a plot. It's all about people in situations solving problems.

Creating a logline is extremely helpful. If you can fill the blanks of that, then you've got a golden plot. "A (adj) (protagonist) must (do action) to stop (antagonist) and (big bad thing/time limit)."

Fill in those parentheses and see what you get. (For a much more detailed and clever explanation, see this blog post by the lovely Kristen Lamb:

(whew, that's a lot. Can I count this for NaNo today?)

Hope this was helpful. This has been A Brief Tutorial for Forming Plots.

tune in next week for more random helpful (occasionally) advice from me. (just kidding....or am I?)

-E. Farris

Monday, November 3, 2014

Human Hungers--The Order--Part 2 Installment 13

[This week's soundtrack is by Jem.


Blanche unlocked her front door and entered, pushing it shut with her foot, and then slumping against it for a moment. She considered giving up, disposing of the contents of her basement and disappearing, letting all the work of her order fall to ruin. It would be so much...simpler.
Finally, she pushed off the door and left the dark foyer, stepping into her small kitchen. She stopped mid-step, her eyes catching on her brother lying face-down in a pool of blood and then snapping to her husband, hunched in a chair, bleeding and wide-eyed, shaking his head at the third figure in the room. It was Murderous, the Immortal, in her home, aiming a gun at her husband and hissing.
"Where does she live? I've killed five towns; I will kill yours. Where is the woman called Blanche?"
Blanche leaned against the corner of the wall, arms crossed in a nonchalance she did not feel, but she kept her expression amused.
"I'm incredibly flattered, Immortal," she said. Murderous pivoted around immediately. "All this trouble looking for me when we've barely parted." She smiled. "Did you miss me so terribly?"
"I'm here to kill you," Murderous said.
She glanced at her husband, met his eyes, and knew her secret was still safe. To Murderous she pouted. "Was the little festival not your liking?"
Murderous doubled over suddenly, groaning, and Blanche straightened in alarm. By the time Murderous was upright again, her countenance had returned to the coy, blase face of before. 
"You did this," he growled. "I know you did. Somehow. Someone needs to die and it will be you."
"I'd love to know what--"
Murderous shot her husband in the throat and she jumped. Her husband's body slithered to the floor, joining her brother's, and Blanche inhaled slowly, calming herself before the Immortal killed her too. In few quick instances, she studied him. The Immortal had always been sporadic, but now he was feverish, frenzied. His eyes jerked from image to image and he was shaking. It occurred to her that he was as likely to have missed her husband as kill him. She almost choked then, but held herself together.
“Well, you’ve certainly changed in the past day. You used to at least introduce yourself before you killed someone.”
“What did you do?” Murderous demanded.
“Nothing, but I’ll fix it anyway because I’m nice.”
“It…it hurts, like it's empty, like it's hollow, like it’s eating itself,” Murderous said, clutching at his abdomen.
Blanche raised an eyebrow. “That’s called hunger, Immortal.”
            “No. Not hunger. I satisfied my hunger. I killed people. I’ve killed hundreds tonight. But it’s still there.”
            “Not bloodthirst. Actual hunger.”
            “Hunger. It’s human.”
            “I’m not human.”
            Blanche paused, then stepped over her brother’s corpse, opened her cupboard and cut a slice of bread. She slathered it in butter. When she turned, Murderous stood immediately behind her, close enough to feel his breath. He stared at her with a very different hunger in his eyes.
            “Eat it?” he asked.
            “With your mouth.”
            He ate it with increasing speed until the bread was gone. He looked at his empty hands in surprise and Blanche gave him another piece, then slipped out from between him and the counter. Her gaze wandered to the corpses on her kitchen floor, but she made herself look away. She couldn’t help them and she couldn’t grieve yet. Not yet.
            Murderous followed her closely.
            “Well?” she asked him.
            “It’s different. Less. But still…something is…wanting.”
            No space existed between them. Blanche knew what he was lacking. She realized what was wrong with him now. Somehow, someway, he was human, or more than he should be. And she knew what he wanted now.
            Abruptly, Murderous kissed her. She gasped, but he grasped her face and didn’t let go. Then as suddenly, he released her, stepping back and gaping at her. She could tell it was only his own bewilderment that had pulled him back. She had a choice then. Give in now and save her life, preserve her secret, and hope to put her family to rest before they rose, or die and let centuries of work collapse, to say nothing of the fate of her family.
            “Perhaps you are not human, Immortal, but your desires are. Let me fill them.”
            His eyes narrowed, but she kissed him and he gave in.
            I’m sorry, my love, she thought.

[Blanche has been seen in 2.7 Detour, 1.15 The City of the Undertakers, 1.21 Repelled, 1.5 Miscalculation, and 1.18 The Oracle's Corpse.]

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Have You?

Have you ever met a ghoul? Have you ever entered a place you felt safe and felt the hairs on the back of your neck tremble and then felt a hand touch your spine? And then felt the cold bite of fingers pushing through your flesh to close around your vertebrae or maybe your femur or knee? Have you ever turned your head, body stiff in place, and seen a figure clothed in dust and webs with its hand inside your body, then seen it look at you with solid white eyes, seen its tongue unroll from its grey lips, longer and longer, shuddered as that purple tongue washed your face? Have you ever stood like a paralyzed rabbit as a long, translucent spike protruded from the ghoul's wrist to pierce your clutched bone, watched your marrow disappear up that spike, and realized with a gush of terror that ghouls fed on more than flesh, but souls? Have you ever felt your mind go slack as the ghoul pulled away, taking a portion of your soul and all the memory connected with it?

Perhaps not, but let me ask you this: Have you ever discovered a bruise you couldn't remember getting?

[Because the festival of Mad King Thorn continues! And also, because it's not Order Day yet.]