Fly By Night

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It’s 1925, and though the war is over, the memories remain. August Ramayan, a shell-shocked infantryman, still can’t seem to sleep through the night. All he wants to do is travel the world in the boat he’s been building for years, but his mechanic shop, his only source of income, is failing.
Fox Van Damme, flyboy extraordinaire, is a bit of an everyman. When he’s not recklessly barnstorming, he smuggles rum for the local mob.
Euros Ayers has been missing since the Armistice. Before the war, August promised to take care of Euros’s headstrong sister, Moxie, and it’s shaping up to be the most difficult job he’s ever had.
When Euros’s dogtags show up in Fox’s airplane, Moxie wants to find her brother, whatever the cost. Fox agrees to help out–but his services aren’t cheap, and she and August are running out of money. The mysterious Chester brothers offer to fund the expedition in exchange for August’s shop, but their true motives for helping out are unclear.
With a mysterious figure from his past shadowing his every move, Fox whisks Moxie and August on the trip of a lifetime as they explore Paris looking for Euros. Will they find him, or will they be shot down?

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Guilded: Chapter One

guilded

Taldora

As the room went still, the rapid beating of my heart became horridly apparent, and I willed it ceaselessly to stop. Maybe then I would be free from this embarassment.

“Taldora, this isn’t the time for games. Sing,” Sir Laraunts commanded, tapping his walking stick impatiently upon the floor. I swallowed heavily and opened my mouth. And just as before, no sound came out. Absolutely nothing. I closed my mouth and raised trembling hands to my face to hide my shame. Sir Laraunts struck the music stand with his stick, sending my sheet music fluttering to the floor like broken butterfly wings.  I gazed up at him in shock.

“Tallie?” mother whispered, rising from her seat, “You can, can’t you?” I looked away. Father helped her back to her seat, watching me in such a knowing way. I couldn’t take it-I fled the room, knocking over the empty music stand in my haste.

I ran as quickly as I dared to my cousin Joseph’s  rooms. As I looked carefully through his clothes, I knew that I only had minutes if I was to leave without interruption.  And I knew that I must leave. There were others like me; Guilded ones who have lost their voices.  They are shut away in attics like horrid spinsters, an embarassment to a prominent family such as my own. Our parents often told us of the Songstress Vertiline, a wicked woman who stole the voices of pretty young girls like myself if we didn’t behave. We had been brought up to believe that it was just a story, that terrible women such as Vertiline did not exist. But now, I knew it wasn’t so. I didn’t know what I had done to bring this curse upon me, but I would set it right. My Presentation was only a month away, and I would perform at it. I would. Clumsily, I ripped the laces from my dress and stepped into Joseph’s clothes. As I pinned my hair beneath his cap, I trembled.

Silas

It was a shame that I’d promised mother I wouldn’t fight. It was a shame because I knew that I would do it anyway.

I tried, mother, I thought, rolling up my sleeves, I tried my hardest to avoid it. With an animal cry, I rushed at Charles, nearly knocking the air out of my lungs when we hit the ground. He flipped me over and I ducked his punch swiftly, rolling out from under him. As I scrambled up, I landed a quick kick in his side.

“Come on, lad!” I shouted brightly, crossing my arms, “Up you get!” A crowd of other Taskers began to gather as Charles lumbered to his feet, face bright red. I nearly laughed. Honestly, I had no business picking fights with boys two times my weight, but it wasn’t exactly my fault. I’d heard what he was thinking, heard the words he had thought against my sister.

There had once been others like me. Diviners. People who could  hear, sense, by touch. But they were gone now, killed by the Guilded ones, the ones who wanted our powers for themselves.  There were times when I was able to control it, perhaps, but those times were few and far between.

Charles reached for me, and I ducked away, landing a glancing blow on his ear. As he came for me, I noticed that I had misjudged the distance, and I closed my eyes, expecting the blow. Instead, I was knocked back, and my head bounced painfully back against the cobblestone. My eyes flew open and I scrambled back. It hadn’t been Charles who had pushed me back, but a girl. A girl who was most decidedly dressed as a boy. I studied her for a moment longer, waving off the dispersing crowd of jeering Taskers hungry for a row.

“Taldora LaVielle,” I whispered, pushing off the ground. I offered her my hand, and then withdrew. We were complete opposites, our people. The Taskers and the Guilded did not speak to each other unless absolutely needed. It was dangerous for me to be as close to her as I was. She said nothing, only stared at me, eyes wide in shock. Shaking my head, I offered my hand, reading her when she took it.

I musn’t be seen here, someone will see me and I’ll be exiled for the rest of me life! But I must  run, I must  find Vertiline-

Gasping, I let go. She snatched her hand away and turned to run.

“Taldora,” I said softly, “I can help you find her. Vertiline.” I shouldn’t have offered, but I did. As dangerous as it was, I did. She was helpless without a voice. She turned, stricken.

“I’m a Diviner,” I told her, “Come with me.” She did.

“But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”-John Steinbeck

Timshel. Thou mayest. Such a simple word, really. The above quote comes from Steinbeck’s East of Eden, which just so happens to be my favorite novel of all time. And it’s incredibly difficult for me to play favorites.

Perhaps you’ve come upon it by way of Mumford and Sons. Either way, you’ve stumbled upon it now, and I congratulate you.

Lee, a supporting character from Steinbeck’s novel, argues that timshel is easily the most important word in the English language. As he says, it makes man great. It gives man choice. Free will, even. Because even in your darkest, most jaded moments, you can choose to get up, brush yourself off, and try again. Even when you make the gravest of mistakes, you can forgive yourself. You can, and that’s what’s so important about timshel. Thou mayest. So will you or won’t you?

“Do not pray for easy lives…pray to be stronger men.”-John F. Kennedy

The above quote about sums up my existence right now. After all, an overwhelming majority of writers have endured serious hardship, right?

It’s been getting better, though. Our power had been coming in and out for a couple of months, and about midweek last week, everything hit the fan. We went through some power surges (which turned my house into Poltergeist…) before the power went out. We spent two nights without heat, which had happened before, so we just bundled up. It always happens on the coldest days, I swear. Today an electrician came out and told us that the surges had burnt out our modem (I’m currently using my cell phone as a source of wifi), our oven, our cable boxes, and the heater. He patched up the heater at no cost, which was amazing, and as of this morning, we have heat again.

We need to have our circuit breaker replaced, which will run us about $2,100, which is a lot of money that we sort of have but really don’t. Somehow, my mom can pay for it, and my grandpa is lending her the money to put back into the account before it screws up finances.

The oven, etc are still out, so we can pretty much only cook on the stove. But we have power, and I’m insanely happy about that. Money’s still going to be tight, and we set up a paypal in the event that anyone is generous enough to drop us an extra dollar or two and help out. It’s so greatly appreciated. (The email to send the money to through paypal is iggyziggy2@gmail.com. I know, fabulous email, but it’s my mom’s.) I’m not one to beg, but it’s been difficult.

But housing situation aside, I finally have the chance to read now that I’m on winter break. I’m 3/4 of the way through David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, which I’ll follow up with Cursed With Power, 11/22/63, The Map of Time, and Moab Is My Washpot. 

If you’re considering reading Cloud Atlas, do it. It’s maddeningly brilliant, and it’s been driving me crazy since the end of the first chapter. The book breaks every single rule in the writing book, and I don’t even care. The first half of the book has chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; chapter 6 is an interlude, and then the second half of the book has chapters 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The book doubles back and goes in reverse order. Crazy, right? On top of that, many of the chapters stop either mid sentence or right in the middle of the climax, leaving the reader with a terrible cliff hanger. Everything is connected, and the book reinforces that in so many ways. I’ve already had so many conversations about it with friends and teachers. Cloud Atlas is literally life changing. Read it.

I’m trying out a new novel and a new how-to-write book simultaneously, and so far it’s actually been okay. The book, Chapter By Chapter, offers a countless exercises to practice your novel with. The book I’m working on, The Impossible, has taken on a mind of its own. It’s straying from my outline, and thus far, I’ve let it. I’ll pay for it later, of course, but for now, I’ll see where it goes.

Christmas is tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to spending quality time with my family. (Did I really just say that?) But Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!