beth_bernobich: red mushroom (ars memoriae)
Gwen Madóc had the same lean spare features as her brother. She wore her pale hair wound into a knot at the nape of her neck, and her height was tall for a woman. But here the photographs were true, perhaps because these had been obtained when the subject was unaware. Her bright blue eyes met mine in a direct unflinching gaze, just as the photographs portrayed.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (Rose Fractal)
As I have mentioned before, my TIME ROADS novel consists of four linked stories. Three of these appeared in Asimov's, Postscripts, and as a hardcover from PS Publishing, and I've been editing them for continuity and improved worldbuilding. Here's an excerpt from The Golden Octopus, told from the Queen's point of view:

He was not a rich man, this Doctor Ó Cuilinn. He had arrived in a hired van, with no servants, no assistants, and had transported the five large crates to the interview chamber himself using a freight trolley. He must have assembled the machine as well. That would account for the oil stain on the sleeve of his frock coat, and the dusty knees of his trousers.

The machine itself gleamed in brass and silver splendor upon the table. It was as large as a man's torso and shaped like an octopus, with shining glass tubes writhing about the massive central orb. Wires ran through the tubes, like thin black veins; more wires snaked over the table and connected the device to a crate of batteries sitting on the floor. The metals themselves, however beautiful, were likely chosen for their properties, I thought, remembering the man's initial letter. And it required a great deal of electricity. But what were those strange knobs and dials for?

With a practiced gesture, Ó Cuilinn drew a small metal bar from his pocket. It was just a few inches long, made of some dull silvery material. He pressed a spot on the side of the octopus's body. A section of the front slid open--as though the octopus had opened its mouth into a rectangular yawn. Ó Cuilinn placed the metal bar inside. The mouth closed again; this time, I could see the thin lines marking its edges.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (collage)
My River of Souls posts will start up again in September. In the meantime, here's another snippet from my next project, THE TIME ROADS:

Like every other visitation room in Aonach Sanitarium—and Síomón Madóc knew them all—this one was painfully bare. No chairs. No carpet. The plaster walls scrubbed clean of any character, the blank surface interrupted only by a single metal door and a row of narrow windows near the ceiling. In spite of the brilliant sunlight, a rare thing this September day, the air here felt chilled, as though the thick glass had leached away the sun's vitality, and a faint astringent smell lingered, a hospital smell that Síomón associated with having his tonsils removed when he was twelve. He shivered and wished he had kept his frock coat with him.

Across the room, his sister sat cross-legged on the floor, her gaze fixed upon a corner of the ceiling. "141955329," she said. "Times two. Exponent 25267. Add one."

Gwen spoke slowly, enunciating each syllable with painful care. Even so, her voice sounded furry—a side effect of the drugs, Síomón knew.

"1031980281. Times two. Exponent 25625. Subtract one." She paused a heartbeat and her normally tense mouth relaxed, as if savoring the number, before she started the next string of digits and exponents.

The faint bleating of a motorcar horn filtered through the windows from the avenues bordering the sanitarium grounds. Síomón rubbed his forehead, trying to massage away an incipient headache. When his sister had first begun these litanies, he had immediately recognized the numbers for simple primes. As the months and years passed, however, the numbers swelled to fantastical lengths, surpassing all the known tables. Síomón could only guess, but he suspected these were primes as well.

Gwen Madóc. Twenty-three. Her age too was a prime number, as was his.

interlude

Aug. 11th, 2013 09:12 am
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (siamese)
I'm taking a break from my River of Souls essays to concentrate on my current novel. Come September, though, the essays will return with posts about future stories, an excerpt from ALLEGIANCE, a triple giveaway, and more.

Meanwhile, here's a teaser from THE TIME ROADS:

Years ago, during his mathematical studies--studies broken off, or discarded, he no longer knew which—Aidrean Ó Deághaidh had proposed certain theories involving time and its equations. The modern scholars were wrong, he declared, when they talked about measuring time in discrete units. The ancient philosopher mages had touched closer to the truth when they described time as a continuous ether, its flow rising and falling like a river's current.

Ah, but I was wrong, too, he thought. Time was like sunlight pouring in all directions, susceptible to prisms and mirrors, or even a child's hand.

An automobile horn bleated in the streets below, penetrating the leaded windows of Doctor Loisg's private study. Off in one corner, a grandfather clock ticked away the seconds, its muffled rhythm a counterpoint to Loisg, who spoke in hushed tones about trauma and its effect upon memory. It was an old topic--one they had often discussed over the past year.

"Commander Ó Deághaidh? Are you well?"

Loisg was studying Ó Deághaidh closely, a look of mild concern on his fair round face.

"My apologies," Ó Deághaidh said with a smile. "My attention wandered. You were asking?"

"About your dreams, Commander. Specifically, the nightmares."

snippet

May. 27th, 2013 09:35 am
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (ars memoriae)
Ó Deághaidh settled himself by the fire. I continued to skim the reports from my Londain agents, but I was aware of his presence, as I always was. I noted the way his bones lay closer to the surface, the milk-white lines, running like spider webs over his weathered face. He was older, so obviously older, than at our last meeting. I was sorry I had not summoned him back to court years ago. No, to be true, I had. And he had politely refused.

snippet

Jun. 15th, 2012 01:48 pm
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (celestial map)
From the short story in progress:

The blade met Ilse's inspection, as she knew it would. Benedikt Ault oversaw the care of their weapons himself. She let the hilt settle into her hand. A good weight, a good balance. Sharp enough to face her enemies, if she needed to.

She started off slowly, letting the motion and sunlight warm her muscles. Over thirty years had passed since she first took a weapon in hand. Time's passage had robbed her of some grace and strength, but had gifted her in other ways. With skill and experience and a greater patience.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (Black Cat)
Seeing a new story is like sighting a far-distant object in the night sky. I pause. I study the shape of this newly-discovered star, its size and brilliance and how far the light-halo extends beyond its core. Then I set the focus of my story-seeking lense to a finer resolution...

In the hill country of Tamberau you cannot see the ocean, nor can you taste the brine upon your lips when you kiss the wind. You taste snow and grass and wet earth, you taste the woody jungle scent floating up from the valleys. You taste infinity.

I've arrived at the outer rim of the story's atmosphere. I can see continents and oceans. Swooping down I make out the forests and rivers and a few large masses that represent cities. Details flitter past like birds in the sky. I catch them in nets and save them for later. Now I'm looking for a closer view of the people who live here...

My name is Amita. My people tell stories -- oh endless tales and fanciful accounts -- of themselves, of the gods, and of times long past. My titles and certificates and degrees proclaim me an anthropologist. Shashi smiles wickedly and says that anthropologist is simply an elaborate name for storyteller.

The story grows clearer. I can tell the larger shape of the novel. Notes and outlines make my landmarks as I follow my protagonist through her world. But as I sink into the story, down to the finest level of detail, of speech and gestures and secrets and thoughts, the focus goes blurry. Go slow and careful, I tell myself. Watch this character. Look at the world through her eyes and ears.

Outside the window came the rattle of handcarts. A screech cut through the din, a chi-chi-chi-yaaaa from one of the hundreds of monkeys that overran the university. Daud dropped his gaze to his long brown hands, freeing me to study him more closely. He looked tired, his mouth tight with worry. I wondered if he and his wife were doing better these days.

Listening to my characters, I hear a change in rhythm in Amita's breathing. She turns to me and whispers, "Yes, we were lovers. You didn't expect that, did you? Come, and I will tell you more."

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