While the work has been extremely rewarding--my family has never eaten so well in the history of my being in charge of meal planning, procurement, and preparation--the death of the prepackaged meal has come at the cost of my timely completion of the second book in my Genie Chronicles, Solomon's Bell.
Farming has not proven conducive to creativity in my experience. Sure, I still talk to my characters while I water the green beans with the very sweat cascading from my brow as I bake like a crab cake in the Alabama sun, but mainly I just wish for a genie in the form of a tiny tornado that would gleefully take out half of the rows I'm supposed to pick before lunch. I haven't much mental energy left after a day in the dirt and itchy squash, zucchini and okra plants. That I manage not to claw my own skin off because of the chiggers seems like accomplishment enough some evenings.
I am taking advantage of less demanding days to write, but I think the sun has liquefied parts of my brain. Today I wrote for NINE STRAIGHT HOURS and got down a mere 597 words. That's less than 67 words per hour! Still, I got them down and I'm pretty satisfied with them and the direction of the story. In celebration, I'm sharing them here (with a few others for context) as a sort of teaser. I hope you enjoy them!
Remember me, as I labor away this summer in the Green Bean Forest. And pray for rain--it's good for the crops and gets me out of the fields for awhile to write!
(Unedited Excerpt: Genie Chronicles, Book Two: Solomon's Bell, All Rights Reserved)
(The Shops of Golden Lane, Prague)
The old man’s bald scalp, the only part of him not wrinkled, protrudes from the thick dark garment he wears and glows in the firelight. His nose is large and hooked, his bushy brows heavy over eyes that hang like watery black moons in his weathered face. In the firelight, his dewy eyes make him appear on the verge of tears. He plucks a crumpled hat of some kind from a wall peg near the door, shooing a fat yellow cat from its perch atop a stool underneath, and places it over his glowing dome. He looks embarrassed for a moment, pursing his narrow, thin lips as he makes minor adjustments to the cap, and this makes me feel embarrassed, too. Caleb, Haley and I are strangers, come to his door unexpectedly and uninvited, and it looks like we’ve caught him in his night clothes.
I avert my eyes and see the cat dash through a narrowly opened door at the back of the room. Then I take the opportunity to study my surroundings for signs of the djinni I’ve detected. The front room’s primary purpose isn’t altogether clear. There’s a sturdy wooden counter near the center of the space, the top of which is crowded with a number of small wooden trays, each one divided into compartments. Some of these hold glinting spools of bronze, silver and gold thread. Others hold semiprecious stones: topaz, garnet, jade, and opal. Along one side of the room a rough worktop sits covered by more trays holding thin strips of dull metal and partially unraveled spools of yarn that look like they’ve been dipped in liquid gold. There are also cauldrons of various sizes sitting alongside some kind of small press and racks of slender tools. An apparent work in progress—a string of sparkling orange topaz—lies atop a small square table nestled in a corner and bathed in a pool of light from a simple but beautiful gilt candelabra holding three candles of pale yellow wax. In the opposite corner, haphazardly stacked, sits a pile of books with leather bindings of a dozen colors; the spines visible to me are marked with curling words and symbols. Books of magic? A distinct but faint odor reminding me of fireworks hangs in the air. Whatever this shopkeeper is up to, it almost certainly involves magic.
“What is it that I can do for you?” the man asks, raising his arms and bowing his covered head.
“You are Alois Kovar, are you not?” Haley asks, drawing all four feet, five inches of her slight frame into a stance of confidence and command. “Goldsmith to the Maharal himself?”
The man’s head jerks up, his orb-like eyes betraying his surprise. He looks from Haley to me and then to Caleb, and seems to notice our appearances and clothing for the first time. “You are certainly well informed. I had not known my service to the Maharal to be the knowledge of anyone so young…and foreign to the Great City.”
The door leading to what I presume to be the inner quarters of the shop opens a few more inches and the fat yellow cat slinks back into the room.
“Marek!” the old man shouts. The cat meows loudly and, before I can do anything to stop it, is engulfed in a sudden convolution of yellow smoke. I dash forward, grab Haley, and shove her behind me. Caleb is near. I can feel one of his hands on my upper arm and hear him shout my name above the loud hum in the electrified air swirling around my head. I look over my shoulder to see my friend and foster sister fall to the ground, palms pressed tightly to their ears against the noise. Even the shopkeeper Alois Kovar crouches near the floor with his silly cap pulled low and pressed to his ears.
The noise begins to fade, lifting like a dissipating fog. I regard the scrappy yellow-haired man standing in front of me with genuine interest. I’ve never met another genie other than Rashmere before. This Marek is nothing like Rashmere, however, with his fluffy tufts of blond hair and emerald green eyes. His smile is wide and toothy but insincere and never reaches his cold, languid stare. Where Rashmere is calm and centered, Marek seems nimble and spry with an innate capacity for cunning; he looks ready to pounce. “What do we have here?” Marek purrs.