Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Willingly waggin' and writing...plus a book excerpt...

Obviously, I'm wagging at the moment. I should be scurrying to finish BoneSong, but I'm blogging instead. For shame! I may even read some of my email before I go back to my book.

Bad writer! Bad! Bad!

Only, it's summer, and so nice outside. I'll take me out in a few minutes, and my daughter and I will go scootering around. Brilliant stuff, and the perfect weather for it.

I love living in town!
***
About BoneSong...(my WIP)

This is my latest - the novel I'm working on now. I hope to be finished this week...or maybe next. Here's a bit about it:

We have a present-day Homo neanderthalensis, because in my novel, they are not extinct. They are actually in control, and the Primate Wars have been the dominant social issue of the past 150 years...except humans - Homo sapiens - are unaware of it.

The Neanders control politics and the economy, but they have issues. They've refined their culture to the point where they retain specially trained assassins to eliminate negative influence - a euthanasia, of sorts, over their own wayward members. They are also unable to bury their dead - and keep them in the ground. The zombies of fiction? It is sourced in these Neanders, who are unable to dissociate body from soul. They need the help of their despised brethren and their half-bred children to do that. They need the BoneSong.

Will the Neanders blend, with other humans? They've had 35,000 years to selectively breed, picking those traits which will allow them to successfully mingle with their aggressive, and more fecund, hominid relations. If you picture the diversity in human culture - from 7-ft basketball players, to pygmies - you get the idea. Neanders have no trouble blending whatsoever - they no longer sport the low forehead and recessed chin.

No problem at all.

**
Don't ask where I get these crazy ideas, because I have no idea! My characters take over, and as long as I do my research, they keep going. I sometimes feel like merely the chronicler (is that a word? LOL) of their events!

On the book front: ELF and TROLLS are finally in print! I can't tell you how much this means to me!
Oh, BTW, if you get a chance hop to one of the websites below and look at the covers. I did the bookcover paintings and design work. What do you think???? Drop me an email, if you have an opinion, but don't crush me, please!

Talk to you soon -

Cheers, and best wishes to y'all,
ND
N. D. Hansen-Hill
http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/NDHansen-Hillebooks.htm
http://www.lulu.com/NDHansen-Hill
http://www.NDHansen-Hill.com
http://www.cerridwenpress.com/productpage.asp?ISBN=1-4199-0409-4 (Gilded Folly)

Oh, below is an excerpt from Grave Images - just for fun.
***
Prologue


The final burst of smouldering orange lingered in the grass heads. Withering stalks caught what they could of the fading light—hoarding the last glints of energy against the darkness. Dusk intruded, eating the colour and smothering the valleys in chilly grey.
On the hilltop a small breeze danced, shivering the grass in seemingly aimless patterns—parting the blades and crunching the culms. The rustling sounds of its passage blended well with the first squeaks and squawks of night creatures.
The tiny whirlwind played, winding a path through reminders cast in stone—angels and slabs, crosses and obelisks—markers of lives gone, but never intended to be forgotten.
In this place, day obscured more than night. Sunlight and daysounds concealed restless energies, much as the compacted earth concealed human remains.
As night deepened, flickers of light chased the errant breeze through the headstones. Coils of mist and translucent glimmers ate at the darkness, while fragments of speech, soft laughter and sibilant sobs whispered on the night air.
Through it all, the small breeze danced.

Chapter One


Jack Halloran dumped another box of papers onto the floor. Tipping out more of the sticky syrup, he poured it over the strewn articles—shuffling his feet to crumple all the layers in-between.
Destruction of the guy’s property gave him some satisfaction—and it was orders. Make it look like a burglary, they’d said. Find the CD, take the computer, but cover yourself. If there’s anything else worth taking, grab it. Make it look real.
Real burglars liked to damage stuff. Especially if the take was as lousy as this one promised to be. He knew, because he used to burgle homes for a living. Now he did it from time to time—but for a salary.
Still, it had been a while. They’d had him coercing clients, doing the odd assassination, acting as a bodyguard. It had made him sloppy. Or maybe, once he’d seen how easy it was to get in, and what he’d have to dig through to find what they wanted, he just didn’t care.
Besides—the victim was away for the day. He always took off on Saturdays. It was safe. Jack Halloran could let the pleasure he found in destruction absorb him to the exclusion of almost everything else.
He took a book off the shelf, ripped out some pages, and scrunched the rest. Then he threw it face down in the sticky muck.
Yes, he thought, patting his gun for reassurance, life is sweet. He grinned widely at the dark relevance of his own joke.
*
“Why couldn’t you rent a place with parking?” Nick complained. Someone honked behind him and he grunted, “You’re not worth all this effort.”
Jarron look amused. “Got it—next time I’ll rent a primo parking space, and move into my car.”
Nick snorted. “Your heap? They’d tow it if it didn’t give the neighbourhood something to tag.” He glanced in his mirrors. “Where is your derelict, anyway?”
“Two blocks south, three blocks west. In an alley.” Jarron grinned. “You should see it now—the latest is orange letters on blue. Hard to miss.”
“In other words, if you drive it in the wrong neighbourhood, someone’ll shoot you.”
“Probably—but, hey—they covered the rust.”
“The guys who publish your science shit—do they have any clue what you’re really like?”
“Are you kidding? At my work I’m a god,” Jarron said jokingly. “So damn organised I have terminal credibility.”
“And at home, it’s terminal crud-ability.”
Jarron grinned. “Something like that. See if you can park this monstrosity while I stick some beer in the freezer.”
“Where’s it now?”
“In the laundry room. With the ferret.”
“You’re a sick man,” Nick told him with a frown. “If that little monster’s learned to pop lids, you can have my share.”
*
That’s weird. Jarron almost said it aloud before he realised the inevitable had happened. The thing Nick and the others kept warning him about. The thing he kept shrugging off, because he didn’t think there was anything worth stealing in his rudimentary dwelling.
Someone must be pretty desperate, was his first thought.
Are they ever going to be disappointed, was his second.
His front door was ajar. He stared at it for a moment. If the door was standing open, reason suggested the burglars had already hit, had their moment of disappointed mania, and left. No one would be stupid enough to leave the door open, so the owner could just walk in and catch them at it.
I bet they’ve ransacked the place. Taken out their frustrations by slashing his secondhand furniture, or dumping his toothbrush down the toilet. Suddenly, Jarron needed to see what they’d done—before he had to look at it through Nick’s eyes. Nick might be one of his best friends, but he was also damn good at “I told you so’s”.
Jarron heard a honk, some yells, and a screeching of tyres. Obviously, Nick was still parking the car.
I should call the police.
No—his cell phone was in the drawer by his bed.
For a moment, he wavered. Don’t be stupid, Jar. Use Nick’s phone. Or the neighbours’.
Then he remembered something he’d read. Daylight burglars usually weren’t armed. He was sure that’s what the article had said.
Maybe you left the door open when you left.
He let out the breath he’d been holding, with a sigh of relief. That had to be it. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d forgotten to lock it—just the first time he hadn’t even bothered to close it.
He was glad Nick was still playing bumper cars out in the road. His friend had known him too long to be surprised at the way his mind worked, but this was majorly absent-minded, even for him.
“Absent-minded” as in “stupid”, Jarron thought. Nick would love the fact that the purportedly brilliant Jarron Marshall couldn’t even remember to close his front door, let alone lock it. He’d ride him about it for days. Not only that, but he’d tell Kris about it, too. Not out of meanness or spite, but to try to fix it in Jarron’s brain.
Give me a bad enough time, and I won’t do it again—maybe.
Jarron listened again at the door for a moment, just to make sure, then shook his head at his own foolishness. With a self-derisive mutter, Jarron Marshall pushed open the door.
*
“Dammit all!” Nick swore. As he twisted his head to back into the undersized parking space, he spotted Jar’s keys on the seat. The damn fool’s probably looking all over for them—in a panic, Nick thought. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d had to break in. Jarron might be brilliant in his work, but he was always losing things. Nick couldn’t remember a time Jarron had travelled in his car without leaving something behind.
I bet he’s trying to figure out how to break in without me realising it, Nick thought, grinning. He knows I’ll give him a hard time.
He glanced across the street. Yeah—there was Jarron, in front of the door, just standing there.
Maybe he’s figured out he left the keys in my car, Nick thought. Then he noticed the shadow of the vestibule. The door was already open.
For a moment, Nick thought maybe Jarron had left a spare key under the mat—or that he’d finally mastered the knack of a quick break-in. It was the thought “break-in” that made him realise what had actually happened. Even at this distance, he could see Jarron deliberating, about whether or not he should go in. He could also tell the exact moment Jarron made up his mind.
“Jar, you dumbass!” he swore. Still swearing, he grabbed his phone, abandoned the car in the lane of traffic, and tore off across the street.
*
Halloran didn’t know what alerted him. It could have been any one of a dozen cues: the slight breeze as the door was pushed open wide—the scuff of a shoe on carpet—the rustle of fabric on skin. Whatever it was, he suddenly knew he wasn’t alone. He’d always cultivated his animal instincts. Now he cursed the human weakness that had distracted him—left him open for retaliation. Warily, he backed up against the wall, gun in hand.
*
Jarron couldn’t take it in. He stood there for a moment, staring at the wreckage of his lounge. The room that held his papers—his books. He glanced at one of his systematics texts, lying in a sticky mass of crumpled papers. Journal articles that he’d found pertinent. That he’d painstakingly collected over the last ten years. When he’d thought destruction, he’d been thinking about his furnishings—some personal things like his toothbrush and razor.
Not this. An assault on everything he had of value—like it was just so much toilet paper, to be used to TP his fuckin’ house.
*
Con-man nosed around for a few minutes at the beer carton, then noticed the door to the laundry room was ajar. He nudged it open with his nose and slunk out into the hall. His nose twitched as he sniffed the sweet syrup smell permeating the air. Eager now, the ferret ran in his otter-like fashion toward the lounge.
*
“Don’t move,” came a voice at Jarron’s ear. The words were followed by a coldly metallic poke in his ribs.
*
I can still get out of this with my skin intact, Halloran thought. He hasn’t seen me. He raised his gun, to bring the butt down on the other man’s head. He still needed to find the CD. After this, it’d be nearly impossible to make a second attempt.
*
He may have said not to move, but it didn’t stop Jarron’s eyes from travelling—from tracing the path of destruction across the room. His books, his journals, his slide specimens, his disks. Jarron was angrier than he’d ever been in his life. He started to shake—with fury.
*
Halloran saw it, and mistook the cause. The guy’s terrified, he thought, pleased. It never occurred to him that anyone could be that angry over the wreckage of this stuff.
*
Con-man came around the corner. He spotted Jarron—his quick brain spying something else as well—Jarron was wearing the boots—the one with ferret laces—the ones that were made for a ferret to chew on. Ignoring the lure of the syrup, he headed for Jarron.
*
Halloran never had time to figure out what it was. There was a sudden movement on the floor, and a pile of papers started burrowing his way, creating a makeshift tunnel as it came.
*
Jarron sensed the change in movement from behind. He’s going to shoot Con-man! his brain screamed.
It was the final goad. “No!” he yelled in fury, as he twisted and launched himself into a sideways dive. He rammed the other man, sending them both toppling onto the floor.
The anger that was driving him was something he’d never experienced before—and he didn’t know what to do with it. Snarling, he pounded and punched at his adversary. Jarron suddenly felt like he was fighting for all the years of lost recognition, all the long nights of lab work, all the lonely hours of centrifuging leaves and diluting solutions. This was personal.
All his pride was tied into what he’d done, and his pride was now smeared, ripped, and trampled across the ruined carpet of his lounge. Some part of his brain said, “You’re out of control”, but some other, more primitive part, didn’t care. He’d never been this angry before. Now that he’d let it out, he didn’t know how to put it back.
The impact of the bullet knocked him back, but Jarron didn’t let it stop him—didn’t know how to let it stop him. His brain had decided without him—if I’m going to go out, I’ll go out fighting. It doesn’t even hurt—
He came at the guy again.
*
Nick made himself stop outside the door, flip open his phone, and punch in the emergency number.
You won’t be the first person to make a mistake, he thought, feeling stupid. It was like screaming or yelling for help. If he was wrong he’d look like an ass.
He didn’t know what prompted him to do it. He wasn’t exactly known for being cautious.
It was just that he had a bad feeling about this. He didn’t know why—he had this sense of urgency—like if he didn’t act now, it’d be too late.
*
Halloran had never experienced anything like it. The guy was a lunatic. Halloran fired three rounds into him, but he just kept coming. For the first time, Jack Halloran felt a flicker of fear. This maniac was determined to kill him—or die trying.
He slammed his gun against the maniac’s head. The madman jerked back, but Halloran didn’t give him time to recover. Putting the force of his arm behind it, Halloran bashed it into his head again. It hit, with a satisfying thud that seemed to echo in the suddenly quiet room. The maniac collapsed, and Halloran shoved him away—just one more untidy heap amidst the litter on the floor.
*
It had all happened so fast. Halloran realised that from start to the lunatic’s finish, it had all been less than a minute.
It bothered him. He was usually cautious in how he did things. What was supposed to look like burglary had just become a murder investigation. Halloran still hadn’t found the CD, and he may have eliminated the man who’d written it.
It was one hell of a mess.
It was about to get messier. Halloran heard the sound of thudding feet. Shielding his face with one hand, he headed for the exit. When the runner tore through the door, Halloran let him have it—slamming him sideways, so his head went ramming into the wall. Halloran was gone before the guy hit the floor.
By the time Nick Acklin was back on his feet, Jack Halloran was nowhere in sight.
*
Nick stumbled around the corner.
“Jesus!” he muttered, shocked by the amount of damage.
At first he didn’t see Jarron—he was just one more piece of wreckage in the tumbled room. But he was the only piece of wreckage that had a ferret playing with his shoelaces.
There was blood everywhere. With shaking hands, Nick fumbled for a cloth and held it against Jarron’s back, then realised there was probably an entry hole somewhere in the front. He turned Jarron over and did his best to staunch the bleeding.
“Stay with me, Jar,” he urged. “Help’s coming—”
Nick felt for a pulse. It was weak, but it was there. “Don’t go, Jar,” he kept saying, over and over. Nick didn’t know how anyone could lose so much blood and live. “Help’s coming,” he said again, a sob in his voice. “Don’t go—”
Jarron’s eyes flickered open. “What s’rong, Nick?” he slurred. Nick looked like he was crying.
“Damned ferret’s biting me again,” Nick lied.
“What’re all the lights?” Jarron asked. All around, he could see weirdly translucent spheres of light.
Nick was sure Jarron was seeing the bright light people talked about in those near-death experiences. “Don’t look at it, Jar. Fight it—”
Jarron looked confused, but he smiled. “Fight a light,” he mumbled.
“Just fight it,” Nick repeated. “Stay here.” He was still saying it five minutes later, when the first of the police officers came through the door.
*
He was surrounded. Nick was vaguely aware of feet coming and going—of the stolid presence of a dozen extra bodies in the room. He supposed he was still in some kind of shock—he hadn’t even looked at their faces. Even now, he was only aware of their feet, crackling and crumpling their way through some of Jarron’s prized possessions.
Having them here should have made him feel more secure, but nothing could do that till he’d seen how Jarron was. Here he was, in the middle of Jarron’s lounge, dressed in Jarron’s blood. And they weren’t going to let him go because they were sure he must know something—was even involved, somehow.
Nick looked like he felt—lousy.
“For the tenth time,” Nick said tiredly, “I didn’t hear any shots.”
“Then why’d you call us?”
“Because the door was open, and Jarron was going in. Only he didn’t have his keys. I did.” Nick rubbed his eyes. “Can we go to the hospital now? I want to see how Jarron is.”
“In a minute.” This was someone new, and Nick realised he was in charge. At least, that was the impression he gave.
Nick sighed. New. That means he’ll want the story all over again. “Why a minute?” he muttered sarcastically. “Why not an hour? Jarron’s dying—but don’t let that stop you.” He realised the man was looking at him strangely, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Since he’d hit the wall, the throbbing in his brain had been getting worse and worse. Now, the pain was being joined by an odd sensation—almost like he was floating. The man was still there, but he was the only clear thing on the screen. “You need to get this monitor adjusted,” he said.
“Are you on drugs, Mr. Acklin?” the man asked.
At least, Nick assumed it was the man asking. His voice didn’t seem to be co-ordinated with his mouth. “How do you do that?” he asked curiously. Then he realised the man had asked him a question. “Drugs? Never touch ’em,” he said.
He rubbed his eyes—attempting to clear them. “You should check me for fingerprints,” he said, pleased that the idea he’d been trying to locate had finally come close enough for him to grasp. “He pushed me. Must have used his hands.” Nick scrunched up his face as he struggled to remember. All he could seem to recall was the crunching sound as his head hit the wall. He added, a little sarcastically, “Maybe it was his feet.” He found the face again. “Does that help?”
Instead of answering, the man just asked another question. “How’s your head, Mr. Acklin?”
“You’re just full of questions, aren’t you?” Nick grumbled. “What are you, a mind reader?” He frowned while he thought it through. “No. Then you wouldn’t have to ask.”
The man’s smile seemed to waver in front of him. “Did you hit your head, Mr. Acklin?”
“I hit the wall,” Nick said slowly, patiently trying to explain. “You’re a little thick, aren’t you?” he asked.
Somewhere in the background there was a snort. Nick tried to focus on the source. “How do you make your lips jiggle like that?” Nick asked vaguely. “Can we go to the hospital now?”
The man’s hand was on his shoulder, and Nick didn’t realise it was holding him up. He heard the man tell someone, “Get another ambulance.”
“We don’t need an ambulance,” he complained. “We can take my car—” He pushed off the restraining hand and stumbled to his feet. “It’s just out there,” he said, weaving toward the front of the house. His eyes widened in horror as he saw the open front door. “Where’s Con-man?”
“Con-man?” he heard a voice repeat, somewhere behind him.
“Jar’ll never forgive me if I lose him.” Nick dropped to his knees and started calling, “Con-man! Here, Boy!”
The ferret heard his name and poked his head out from underneath the sofa. He knew this human didn’t like him, but at least they had an understanding. Hissing slightly, he waited for a pair of feet to pass, then came tearing out at top speed.
Con-man leaped into Nick’s hands, then clawed his way up Nick’s sleeve to his shoulder.
“Good Boy!” Nick said, relieved. His eyes rolled up in his head, and Nicholas Acklin toppled face first on to the floor.
*** (from Grave Images)

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