Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My New Favorite Villain: Kemball

Copyright 2011 By Teresa Cypher  All rights reserved

This is where I hide from the world... Currently hip deep in a novel titled "THE CRIMSON MAOLGURDANE".  This is a first draft, by the way :-)  This villain is the nemesis of the Ruler of the Maolgurdanes.  He bears a personal vendetta against the Ruler (Baldura). is mounting a coup, and is on a mission to the hinterlands to find Baldura's son, young Tybalt, to eliminate him from inheriting the title (and to collect his ears on a string).  This is his first night on the way.  I love creating villains. They are so much more interesting than any other characters... That might just be me though.  The trick is having the reader find some bit of good of them...to avoid the dreaded flat character that no one cares about.

"It was evening when they neared the river pass of the great ridge. Kemball told his group to make camp just inside the wooded edge of the trail, hoping to catch an unsuspecting traveler who might be unfortunate enough to use the pass during the night.

The men tethered their horses, gave them their grain, then set about building a fire and cooking dinner. Finally, they all slept, except  Kemball.

A gibbous moon illuminated his way as he walked up the high trail, surveying the distant hills and plains.  He was not so much looking for what was there, but imagining what could be.  The land was rich with resources, and innocent of the ways of plunder.  The wuftas could be systematically eliminated or even driven out, just as history showed had been done years before in the Maolgurdane world.

And the hinterlanders?  What of them?  They could be useful, he reckoned. A great, thriving, culture always needed those who were willing to work for the privilege of merely having a roof over their heads and a meal at the close of day.  They could be brought around, he was sure.  And he had no need, no desire, to court their affections or their respect.  People could be ruled as easily by fear as by affection. And he well understood that affection for a ruler was merely an illusion anyhow. It allowed a man to sleep at night. Look at how easily people had been turned against Baldura…a man whose greatest crime against his people was complacency, yet with the right bit in their mouths so many had been led in a direction that found him guilty of treacherous behavior against his own.

He looked up at stars veiled by a fine haze, and listened to the sound of frogs singing in a slough.  “Three times through the looking glass.” his mother used to tell him.  The frogs woke and looked up at ice covering their watery world, waiting for the thaw,  to sing their courtship.  And when the ice returned, they crawled back into their muddy slumber.  But the third time the looking glass was gazed upon, the thaw would be final and then it would be time to sing the loudest, the longest, and with the shrillest chirp.

Kemball spit on the ground beside where he stood while thinking about what pathetic creatures the male frogs were.  Males in general, the more he thought about it.  Singing, courting, chasing, following their lust rather than following gold.  Mere men…unable to control their impulses, their vices, their longing for validation in the eyes of a woman.
Clouds loomed in the distance off to the northeast. And with the setting moon behind his shoulder, he knew that daylight was not long to arrive.

His mind continued planning what he would build out here. Here, in this pristine land away from the filth and vulgarity of the crowded city.

Controlling the flow of who came, who went, who was permitted to dwell here in his new city beyond the ridge, was paramount to the success of his utopia.  All would either be entitled to live on the account of the title, or would work to serve those who were entitled. No riffraff, no drunken bums sleeping on street corners, no hungry beggars, no sickly children who would never support themselves as adults…there were so many ways to control it.
Beyond the great ridge…yes…here, he could picture the utopia of his making, where those deserving of it would be treated as the near-gods that they were, and the rest would serve.
And they all would bow before him and his queen.

Women…he thought. Why do all thoughts eventually return to women?  He had a situation brewing at home; not one that was unmanageable.  And as far as Baldura’s daughter…a tool to be used throughout his coup…for his own pleasure, and to inflict pain to others.  He found himself thinking about her youthful body.  That was a pleasure, untried, and oh, so, willing.  Then he thought about Bissy and the things she knew how to do, the things she could do to him. Evil bitch…that she actually must think she could put a ring in his nose by starting at his pants.

If men could just reproduce without women, imagine how much better it would be?  None of the weakness that a woman gave to the child…just pure strength.., pure power. The world would be ruled by might.  Not ever even influenced by the charms of a woman who had brought a ruler, first to her bed, and then to his knees.

His fatigue from the day of travel overtook him, and he sat on the ground, then continued thinking.

Who knew what the future could bring?  Maybe, he would give each of them earrings from some exotic place, made of precious stones…and then he would proclaim his undying affection  In time the earrings would be side by side on a string of ears.  How fitting…he found himself smiling that sick smile. He would take Tybalt’s ears and string them next to Cinnie’s…and one of Bissy’s on either side of theirs.  The marm…always watching and caring for her little charges.
And what of Baldura’s ears? Somehow, there was something very appealing in the image of the ruler’s ears on their own string, dangling from Kemball’s seat at the head of council. Or he might hang them from his nightstand next to his bed.  Maybe he would just wear them as a constant reminder to any who might give a thought to a world without Kemball sitting at title.

Then the merc felt a thrill run through his body…a thrill far greater than any woman had ever made him feel.  It was like lightning…starting at the top of his head where his hair seemed to tingle and stand on end. Then it coursed downward, through his chest where his heart beat wildly, past his stomach to his loins. The excitement filled him. And finally through his legs which had begun to tense and cramp, to the very soles of his feet. Even his toes were affected; they itched. He was thinking of Baldura’s tongue.  The ears were one thing…but the symbolic nature of taking the ruler’s tongue was nearly orgasmic as he sat picturing it.  The tongue that had uttered the words, “Remove Kemball from serving, take his rank, his weapon, and his red fur coat. His actions have dishonored my title.”

Birds chirping woke Kemball, completely unaware that he had fallen asleep until the morning sounds barged into his dreams.

He stood quickly and looked around to see if anyone was about.  Then he made his way near soundlessly down the trail until he heard the sounds of camp.  Beyond trees, tucked in next to the roundness of a horse-sized boulder, he stood, listening.

In his mind he could hear his mother’s voice saying, “Kemball!  Don’t you sneak the sounds. You know people who eavesdrop never hear anything good about themselves!”

Well, Gloke above, he had never given a care for hearing anything good about himself.  What consequences did the good things, when voiced, have anyway? It was the bad that paid him handsomely to know… who said, when and what exactly they had said.

On this morning, he had an urgency brewing in his mind…and his body yearned to see it through.
His target would reveal himself to him in short order, he was sure. He was just not sure if there would be one or several.
He could hear Fadrick; he knew him by his loud mouth.  He had thought him a big, clumsy, oaf of a man.  But he had great strength in battle and a complete absence of morals when it came to life.  The rare…he was, able to sit and buy an ale for man, arm wrestle him, listen to him go on about his mate and his children, but if coins were dropped in front of him to cut the life out of the man, he did it without hesitation. Kemball personally knew that to be the case-- having tested him one time.

This day, the oaf was quickly becoming the target of Kemball’s need, by the words that were spewing forth from his mouth.

“Ya pantywaist boys…wanting to turn and run away like little girls!  Where is yer backbone?  Yer steel? Ya just look at it like this. If the cold bastard comes at ya, jus pull out yer blade…what in all of creation did Gloke give ya hands for?  To grab a woman and to grab a blade. I don’t think old earstring boy could be bought off by any woman ya grabbed, so grab yer damn blade if he threatens ya, and threaten him back.”

Kemball waited a few minutes. The men were silent, probably eating their food.

When he emerged from the trees, he noted the looks that passed between his men.  But as he made eye contact with each of them, they were like dominated dogs, quickly averting their eyes.
Inside he smiled at their cowardice…so afraid Fadrick had been heard and that there would be assumed guilt by association.

He walked to the fire and poured himself a cup of the hot brew, then turned and with no particular purpose noticeable, wandered near where Fadrick stood.  He sipped at his cup, scowled and said, “Bitter…who would drink such slop?”  Then in a fluid motion, threw the scalding hot drink into Fadrick’s face and had his left ear dripping blood, held in front of the startled man’s eyes before he could even open them.

The other men backed away, as if Fadrick had just been declared a rabid oaf.

Fadrick cursed in pain, with one hand at his ear and the other trying to get at his blade. Desperately blinking his eyes, he tried to see through the pain that had managed to engulf nearly every bit of  him above his neck.

Kemball had his knife at the man’s throat, which immediately stilled the giant.  He looked at the bloody ear in his hand, then at Fadrick, then back at the ear, then at Fadrick again and said, “Nice ear. Do you realize that I took the one without an earring?  I did show you consideration, but boy, you best settle down or I will have both of them.  I appreciate your need for locating sounds and hope to not have to take the other. Understand?  And if I ever hear you or…” he paused his words while he looked around at all of the contrite faces staring back at him, “anyone else talking about taking their blade to me, there won’t be a one of you worth a pint of piss at hearing the enemy approach. Understand?”

Heads nodded at Kemble then he said, “Have you all lost your tongues?”  Then he laughed like the mad man that he was and added, “Mind your words and your intent…or you could lose your tongues along with your ears.”

The men finished eating in silence, rolled up their blankets, saddled their horses, and were on their way.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring Song

Copyright © 2011 By Teresa Cypher   All Rights Reserved

April...I find myself asking the same question, over and over..."Where does the time go?"  The clacker frogs made a raucous on the 17th of March, and in true PA springtime fashion, the peepers followed them a day later on the 18th.   Last weekend, a honeybee landed on my pant leg as I sat outside, and just today I noticed that the larches on the steep hill below the house had fuzzy green needles bursting forth.  Just blink and there will be butterflies...

The forsythia have painted entire hillsides gold, and the wild Juneberries are unfolding, exposing cream colored flower falls that had just been veiled in spring-green buds.

In the garden there is the rich smell of earth tonight...under stars that shine down on a cold world.  The beets and turnip-greens have poked their little heads up through the earth. It was sure nice to get my hands in the dirt.   I recall a springtime of past.   The past--where I go when my thoughts meander.  It must surely have been April.  I was not in school yet, and was walking along a hedgerow watching nothing in particular.  I could see my dad on the Farmall "H" harrowing the field. It was slow going for him; the harrow was very narrow by today's standards.  This was after plowing the field with a two-bottom plow.  The dust flew behind him as he went.  It was warm and sunny, and the wild Juneberries were in bloom--white puffy clouds of trees on yet otherwise  winter-bare hillsides.

Over across the hollow, Gloz's cows grazed...enjoying the treat after a long winter eating hay inside the barn. Their sides were black and white patterns, and there were some red ones with white faces.  I could see Mary walking the fenceline with her bucket of nails, hammer, spare wire, insulators, and pliers.
My dad pulled to the edge of the field and asked if I wanted a ride down to the house.  I liked riding the tractor, but my voice chirped out "No thanks" as I shook my head from side to side.
I walked a long walk, across the newly harrowed field, and there was the scent, that in my youth,  I had not yet identified as the smell of the earth. With each gust of warm wind, the dust flew through the air and the scent surrounded me.  I reached the closest property line that the Gloz's owned, and knew not to go beyond. I turned down the lane and walked to the house...singing as I went...
The day was a blur...siblings arrived home from school, grandma hauled old potatoes out of the cellar with our help.  I paid little thought to what it was all about.
Saturday morning arrived with an early start.  There were old, metal, five gallon, buckets loaded on a wagon, and all of us kids were rounded up to help.  We hopped on the hay wagon and rode up to the field that my dad had harrowed just the day before.  My grandma got organized--upturning one bucket for a seat.  She sat down arranging her long cotton skirts, exposing her heavy-cotton-stockinged legs and her old leather shoes. Then she started at her task, with hands as bent and twisted as the old gnarled apple trees surrounding us.  She picked up each potato and cut it into pieces, making sure that each had an eye. Then she dropped the pieces into a metal bucket.  My dad dumped powder into the bucket and shook the potatoes around.  Then we were handed the buckets to carry out to rows that older siblings had been hoeing into the field.  We dropped potatoes into the ditches made by the hoes, and then the rows were covered back over.
My older sister, Anna, sang while we worked.  I tried to sing her songs with her but she knew so many...
Life is a song…
The potato planting went on endlessly...and we were plenty happy when it was all done!
Late Saturday afternoon arrived and we were all rounded up again.  We were filthy, every last one of us, from hours in the potato field.  We headed to the summer kitchen and started to pump water up from the springhouse—making sure to save the last container for priming the pump next time.
The water was placed on the stove in big "boilers" to heat, and then it was dumped into galvanized washtubs along with cold water to make the temp just right.  We had homemade lye soap to wash with, and the room was warmed by a woodstove.
All eight of us sparkled when we were though... ready for church on Sunday morning.
We went into the house and my older sisters took extra milk (from our cows) and made fudge, two kinds-- Hershey's chocolate--the recipe from the side of the tin can, and vanilla fudge (my favorite).
We were allowed to watch TV until 9:00 pm, and then it was bedtime. We headed upstairs to the bedroom that all eight of us shared.  The stairs creaked as we stepped on them...but it was a familiar and comfortable creak.  The house was chilly...there had been no fire made in the fireplace down in the living room.  It had not been necessary-- the dirt floor cellar kept the pipes above freezing. And the plumbing was minimal-- just cold water to the kitchen sink from a gravity-flow spring above the house. There was no bathroom...but I had not started school so I didn’t know yet--the other school kids had not had a chance to tell me what I didn’t have.  Going out to the outhouse was just part of life.  It was 1965...
I bet that the peepers sang that evening, and that the smell of earth and the sound of cows lowing were all a comfort to me--even though I was but a mere 5 years old...and likely did not understand the concept of comfort.
I share this story from my early years, not because I want anyone to tell me that I had it rough.  We all have a story...and I think that pity is a wasted emotion, anyway... What I hope that you take from it is this: It was my reality, and compared to others it may have been a reality of poverty...but my spirit was never trampled to the point that I gave up and believed that I would never have anything more, that I was a poor soul destined to a life of rural poverty.  I sang...even on the darkest days of my life...I heard the song wending through me, and I knew that tomorrow would be better...there was a song of hope and a song of determination that dwelt within-- that could not, and refuses still, to be silenced...
I will never take things for granted...and my very humble beginnings have given me something that I deeply cherish--I am grounded beyond the ability of any flight of fancy to turn me...to change me into something that is unappreciative, or full of a feeling of entitlement.  I understand that people can be poor of material things, but be wealthy in spirit and love.
And I have the gift of understanding, and the gift of perseverance...handed to me by my early years.

I understand that the children of poverty have no hand in the choices that place them there. And I know that if people persevere, things will get better. Hardship in my youth did not hold me back.  Not being gifted with a new car or a
college education did not hold me back. I hold no one to blame for the
steep road that I walked to be where I am...and I am often troubled by
how quickly people are willing to blame others for their situations in
life. I am by no means wealthy, but I have a comfortable life, a nice humble home, and have hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
I wish that everyone had songs in their hearts...and that they chose to raise their song to the stars.  We each can soar; we each can hold the promise of spring, the wonder of hope… in our souls.
Springtime comes to all of us, young and old, rich and poor...as does summer, autumn, and winter...I greet each of the seasons with a hopeful look forward, and a nostalgic glance back at the things that made me who I am...
I take my flights of fancy, wondering, dreaming...yet always knowing that the earth is steady and dependable...and waiting for me...
With springtime, and the smell of the earth...a peeper sings, a honeybee buzzes in an early search for something sweet, and a  butterfly flaps her wings, stretching them in the sunshine… basking in the warmth of longer days.  She takes flight from time to time...Like me...but my roots are deep--tethered in a way that most cannot see... the roots are sunk deeply in a soft, newly-harrowed field, in 1965... and if you don't see me in the field with my hands in the earth, then look to the hedgerows...and an old farm lane...I am probably there...walking a long walk--while I sing...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Moving Forward Beyond Loss

Gosh, wish I had kept a decent blog record of my journey toward becoming a published writer.  But, alas, I did not.  So, I will just move forward.  I have been pounding out the words of my stories, and exploring publishing avenues.  There has never been a time like this in the publishing industry. The ground is shifting so rapidly beneath authors' feet that it is a challenge to dance fast enough to keep up.

I have shifted my old blogs to wordpress, a very easy two click operation offered by Microsoft, from the now-defunct livespace experiment.  I am sad that I lost so many wonderful contacts associated with that account, though. Boo, MSN once again. 

So, this site, along with several others, will be my beginning of networking all over again.

I am searching my soul for inspiration, but all that comes to me is sad and dark.  The novel I am working on right now--THE CRIMSON MAOLGURDANE-- was started a couple of years ago, before loss managed to pervade so many spaces in my life.

Grammy Buss, gone a year ago in October.  An inspiration to anyone who ever wondered if a human really can love everyone.

My job of 22 years, lost last August in-- yet again, another corporate restructuring.  There might be a blog about that later. I loved my job and losing it was a deeply painful experience.  But, it has given me the opportunity to attempt to do what I truly love to do. Write.

Our old dog, Gus, lost last August from complications of diabetes--after a nearly two year struggle with the disease.  Sweet old Gus Buss...a god among dogs.

My mother in November, after a series of events leading up to her heart attack while in the hospital, subsequent resuscitation, ICU, feeding tubes, ventilator, dialysis, and a diagnosis that her brain waves were slowing and she could no longer swallow.  Hospice-- for ten days she lived...I spent nights with her, and had a lot of time to examine my life, and to recall hers...there are no words that can describe the empty place in my heart.

Dave's best friend and best man from our wedding, in February, a dear young couple's loss of their preemie daughter in February, reminders that life has no rhyme or reason, and loss is not limited to just those over a certain age.

The pain of loss knows no boundaries, is not prejudiced, and crosses into every walk of life, every age, every economic bracket.

Last week, my old dog of 15 years, Pokey.  Now in the ground like so many.  He taught me that my belief in dog deities is not monotheistic, but polytheistic.  I now know more than one god among dogs.

I am reeling. I know it, but have taken very little time to grieve.  It will come out.  I don't know when or where. 

Perhaps in the words of a story...my pain will disentangle itself from my soul and flow onto pages to be shared?

But, like I wrote above, this is the beginning...I guess I just felt a need to acknowledge some endings before I trotted off into the future.