Transitions are Never Relevant
March 5, 2014
Here’s something else I’m removing from The Blackened Phoenix. It’s a transition scene that doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s just Morgan and Naomi walking home and flirting. It’s cute, but doesn’t drive the plot. Worse, it gets in the way of me moving moving Astarte’s scene to the beginning of Chapter 2, allowing her to wonder where the hell Morgan is before I show what he’s doing.
Scenes like this are the reason writers learn never to write transitions. They’re just bloat.
Naomi regretted turning down Morgan’s offer of a cab, which he repeated after the incident at Mr. Mouzone’s hot dog stand, by the time they finally managed the trek up Broadway to 96th Street. The physical training that kept her in shape for the stage did not save her feet from growing sore in boots too new for her to have broken in. Worse, she twisted her ankle a block ago while skidding on a patch of ice made possible by a failed sidewalk heating coil. Morgan caught her, but in his haste he pressed her too tightly to him, making her rib injury hurt. She gritted her teeth as they turned the corner and began walking the last few blocks up 96th Street to Morgan’s brownstone, where she would ask him to free her from her boots – and perhaps wash and massage her feet.
Morgan seemed to sense her fatigue, for he slowed a bit. “I asked Astarte to start up the hearth. I’ll move a chair and get a bucket of hot water so you can soak your feet. Do you want me to call in a doctor to check your ankle?”
“Damn. You saw that?”
“I caught you while you stumbled, and you’ve been wincing the way you do when your rib’s giving you trouble.”
Naomi nodded, and forced herself to expand her ribcage with a deep breath despite the pain. “It’s giving me trouble right now. I’m sure you didn’t mean it, but you were a bit rough.”
“Damn it.” Morgan hung his head for a moment. “I’m sorry, Nims. I–”
Naomi understood Morgan’s concern without needing an explanation. Every winter, at least one unfortunate pedestrian slid on ice or packed snow where a heating coil had failed, fallen, and suffered a concussion after their head struck the pavement. Seasonal public service announcements regularly advised people to watch their step, and to avoid sections of sidewalk or pavement that looked icy or were covered in snow. “You didn’t want me to fall.”
Morgan nodded, his expression still concerned, and Naomi decided a bit of flirtation might ease the mood. “What if I told you I like it rough?”
Morgan did not respond until they had reached his brownstone a couple blocks down the street. Instead of opening the door, he pressed Naomi against it and kissed her breathless before whispering in her ear. “Is that what you had in mind?”
Naomi found the doorknob, turned it, and let herself in while pulling Morgan inside by his collar. “That will do for a start.”
Too Close to Grimdark for Comfort
March 4, 2014
I wrote this on my lunch break for the first scene in Chapter 3 of The Blackened Phoenix, and then decided to take it out. Not only was it closer to grimdark than I usually go, since I’m not Joe Abercrombie, but it didn’t make sense for Naomi to relate this experience from her past when Morgan Stormrider and the others are about to learn that their operational security is a joke because of tech built into Morgan’s head.
Also, the nature of Naomi’s anecdote is just full of triggering content, and I thought it would be better to not include it. I’m just a bit old to be trying to shock people to get attention. However, I’m posting it here because it seems a shame to throw it away. I might get a short story or a novella out of it, if I can refine it and tone it down a bit.
With that said, I should clarify that I have absolutely no problem with Joe Abercrombie or his work. The only First Law book of his I don’t have is Red Country. Nor do I have a problem with grimdark fantasy. It’s just not what I want to write.
Also, my wife would kill me if I put my cast through half the hell Abercrombie, Martin, and the like inflict on their characters.
“One of my missions involved a bride farm, where captive women are impregnated, and then subjected to abortions if the fetus turns out to be male. The baby girls are then taken from their mothers, and inspected for defects. If they pass inspection, they grow up indoctrinated to be obedient wives eager to please the husbands to whom they’re sold as soon as they turn eighteen.”
Nobody asked what happened to the girls who failed inspection. Naomi suspected their fate was obvious from her expression and tone of voice, because she witnessed what befell one such unfortunate herself. “I left, and came back with a dozen other Adversaries, all women. I thought we’d be able to restrain our anger if we worked together. Instead, after we liberated the captives, we put everybody working there to the sword. We burned the bride farm to the ground after salvaging the records and documentation. We hunted down the customers, arrested them, and tried them. None were acquitted. I hear most died in prison, at the hands of their fellow inmates.”
Naomi fell silent and stared at her hands, unable to fathom why she let this story escape her lips. She had kept it to herself since her post-mission debriefing, and the subsequent trial by court martial. Judges left pale and trembling by the evidence recorded through Witness Protocol acquitted her and her fellow Adversaries. “I’m sorry. At the time, my only coherent thought was that what I saw was unforgivable.”
Morgan’s hand grasped hers. “I would have done the same in your position, with pleasure.”
She found Morgan’s expression on everybody else’s faces, as well. “You all agree with Morgan?”
Sid was first to show his assent. “Come on, Nims. You think I’d want something like that to happen to Elly, or my girls?”
Astarte’s voice was small, and quiet. “What happened to the women?”
“There were a lot of suicides, despite the Phoenix Society’s efforts to give everybody the care they needed to heal.” Naomi stared at the floor, recalling the names of those she proved unable to save. “Sometimes I get letters from the others.”