Sunday, October 5, 2008

back to the trenches

I have punched up the first chapter and revised the proposal letter. Here is the new letter:
Please consider representing my completed fantasy novel about the dismantling of a family in the face of tribal war. When his younger brother is seized as reprisal for a blood feud, twelve year-old Jagantha makes his own disastrous, near murderous, attempt at resolving the conflict. In spite of the protagonist’s
age, this is not a children’s book. Riding Ten Thunders is Jagantha’s first-person account of a flawed effort to save children from war at the expense of their freedom. The novel emulates African folk tales from a boy’s perspective
to starkly address tribal hatreds that teeter towards genocidal war.

The manuscript explores Jagantha’s journey through broken segments of a family unit: Mothers struggling to keep their sons from growing into warring men; children abandoned to the forest to shape their own twisted truths; and men lost in
battle over patches of dirt where they will be remembered in infamy.

And now for the opening sequence. Please note, this segment of the book has already been published so it is already under copyright:

Riding Ten Thunders
João-Pierre S. Ruth

“Am I big enough for a spear today?” I asked, carefully balancing the basket of yams on my head and looking up to my mother as we walked through the shade beneath the interlaced branches of the Jwalwala Forest, where leafy green ferns choked to breathe
between the thick roots and trunks of burly kapoks and stolid khaya mahoganies.

Mother was tall and silent as the trees we passed even as booms from a distant drum rumbled over us, calling unwanted notice to the echoing clang of iron in the valley. The trees grew tightly together vainly struggling to wall off the din of men marching against each other along the river. Given the chance Mother would weave a cage from binding reeds and adamant wood, giving the warring bands no escape from each other save the drowning rapids of the Moa.

“If I had a spear, we’d be safe,” I promised, hoping she would at last bend on that most precious morning when I turned twelve. “I counted the beats. It’s a muster call.”

Mother gave no answer, but I knew she heard me. She had led me down the mountain to gather yams though I dared not be seen at the task by my father’s kinsmen. Pawing at the ground was not for an Ubaiyu man, so my father said. He was a warrior of the broad-head spear. He stalked bushpigs among the reedbeds at Whitestone Bend, the northern strait of the Moa River. He was a man.

“I should guard our door,” I offered to Mother’s silence. “There is a lynx sniffing about. I saw its tracks and it’s nothing gentle like old Tickle Paw. It might poke its nose in our hut and what then? What then, Mother?”

My turn had long come to stand alongside the other eldest sons guarding our homes. “Mountain boys, to your spears,” was the command we all waited to hear. Tatajay, an older boy, told me the Moa once growled over its banks turning the valley to
swampland. Painted dogs fled the slurry running up our slopes. But our spear-wielding boys jabbed them back like a great wall of thorns stretching along the crest of the mountain. I meant to stand ready when the next flood came.

The village of Cloud Gate tolerated no invaders, though skulking scavengers were the only threats we ever confronted until my birthday came. On that day, spears meant everything and nothing at all. That day our shields faced the wrong way, as warriors might say.

So that's the first two pages. Let's see if I get any bites this time...

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Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away