rosa_acicularis: (Default)
rosa_acicularis ([personal profile] rosa_acicularis) wrote2011-11-05 06:35 pm

a bad moon's on the rise.

Y'all ready for a NaNo post?

So it's Day Five, and I'm only about 1500 words behind schedule. I have decided to count this as an accomplishment.

As predicted, I am really, genuinely terrible at writing without constantly editing myself. But I went to a write-in today at my local Panera Bread and found that little extra bit of peer pressure really helped me push through my dainty-fingered fears of repetitive phrasing and crappy transitions. I just wrote, baby. I wrote like the wind. (Like breaking wind, har har. Oh, I'm hilarious.)

So, for posterity and the curious, here are a few excerpts from the slightly less horrendous bits I've written so far.


When Regina remembers her father, she thinks of his hands.
Jan Walter was a broad man, and his hands were wide, with short, squared fingers and knotty knuckles sprinkled with fair hair. They were the fingers of a practical man, indelicate but strong.
On his right hand, he had only three.
Scar tissue rippled over his knuckles where his pinkie and ring fingers had been; if their loss impeded him in any way, Regina never saw any evidence of it. Her father’s hands were always steady. She never saw him falter.
When she would ask how he lost his fingers, her father would lie. He was not the sort of man to tell the truth when he could tell a story instead.
“Tigers,” he answered one morning, over breakfast and the day’s paper. “Two of them, the first black as sin and the second as pale as snow. The black one grabbed hold of my ring finger, and the white took the other. Each wanted my hand for himself, and they fought over it for hours, pulling me back and forth between them.”
“There is no such thing,” Regina said with a six-year-old’s certainty, “as a black tiger.” She looked to her mother for support, but her mother only smiled and stirred her coffee.
“I think I know what sort of tiger ate my own finger,” her father said, his round face so serious that Regina knew he was teasing. “Do you want to hear the story or not?”
She did want to hear the story. She always did, and he knew it.
He claimed that he lost the fingers to a sand scorpion’s sting, to frostbite, to the slammed door of an exiled prince’s Rolls Royce. The older Regina got, the stranger the stories became.
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times,” he said, sitting on the edge of her bed and tugging the quilt up to her chin. “It was a manticore.” 
Regina had seen a picture of a manticore in one of her mother’s books. It had the body of a lion, the tail of a serpent, and the head of a man. She was absolutely certain it was not real.
“It was waiting for me in a root cellar in Budapest. The manticore was old and crippled and dying, but deadlier still in its desperation. Man’s blood caked its hoary beard black, and its thousand razor teeth were dark with gore.” He paused. “Is this frightening you? Should I stop?”
“No,” Regina said, careful to keep the tremor in her hands from her voice. “There’s no such thing as manticores.”
“Not anymore,” her father said. “This was the last one, and it died years before you were born. Do you want to know how?”
Regina nodded.
“I thought you might,” he said, and grinned a proud sort of grin. “The manticore saw that I was young and strong, and instead of trying to eat me outright and risk further injury, he said that if I chopped off my own hand and fed it to him, he would let me go.”
She narrowed her eyes. “It was a trick. He was going to eat you anyway.”
“He absolutely was,” her father said. “And I knew it, so I cut off two of my fingers instead and told him he should try those first and see if he liked the taste. He swallowed them whole, like the greedy creature he was, and choked on a finger bone. His eyes bulged out and his face turned blue, and then he died right there on the root cellar floor.”
“And he was the last one?”
“Of course he was,” her father said. “There’s no such thing as monsters.” Then he kissed her forehead, flicked off the light, and closed the bedroom door behind him.
Regina was twelve years old the last time she asked her father to tell her how he lost his fingers.
They had returned to Oxford for the spring, to visit her mother’s vast, disapproving family and to spend some time among familiar things before they moved again, this time – for the first time – to America. Regina had briefly seen New York and Los Angeles from airport windows, passing through on their way to São Paulo, to Tokyo, to isolated outposts in the Canadian north. Those places had been new and exciting once too, but they had left those homes as suddenly and quickly as they always did, and Regina never expected to see them again.
It was better to think of the future. Of America, the next home on their horizon.
Her father didn’t like their flat in Oxford. He didn’t much like England at all, or any English people but her mother. He spent their visits sulking on the sofa or hunched over the kitchen table, flicking through days-old newspapers and muttering in German. Regina knew only a few words in her father’s language, but she was fairly certain he was complaining about English food.
“Grandmother is making pandhra rassa for dinner tonight,” Regina said one afternoon when her father’s muttering had turned particularly vicious. “That isn’t English food. You should come.”
“Panda rassa?” her father asked, frowning. His eyes were still on his newspaper.
“Pandhra. It’s a type of curry. Auntie Nita told me.” Regina’s grandmother was from a city called Kolhapur, in India. She was short and handsome and pear-shaped, like Regina’s mother, and though she didn’t talk very much, everyone listened when she did. Regina didn’t think her grandmother really liked it when her father came to dinner, but she decided it was better not to mention that. “Will you come?”
“Maybe,” he said, which meant he hadn’t been listening at all. Regina climbed onto the chair beside his and sat on the kitchen table, next to the empty, butter-smeared plate at his elbow.
“Papa,” she said, leaning into his view, “how did you lose your fingers?”
He looked up from his paper, one eyebrow arched high. “You get more like your mother every day, you know that?”
“Thank you,” Regina said primly, and he laughed. “Are you going to tell me or not?”
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you one thousand times,” he said, folding his paper on the table. “It was a wolf.”
Regina pursed her lips; this was a more mundane answer than she’d come to expect. “A wolf?”
“When I lived in London, before I met your mother. The wolf crept in through my bedroom window while I was sleeping.” He shrugged. “Bit underhanded, but that’s a wolf for you.”
“There aren’t any wolves in England,” she said. “There haven’t been for ages.” She gave him a severe look. “And even if there were, they wouldn’t be able to climb through bedroom windows.”
“This one did,” her father said. He tapped the three remaining fingers of his right hand idly against the edge of the table, his eyes fixed on her face in a long, unreadable look. “You know I tell you these stories to make you laugh.”
“They’re not that funny.”
“To make you smile, then. I didn’t smile much when I was your age; I find I often regret that.” His fingers stilled, and he looked down at his hand. “But I know you won’t be a child forever.”
It is a hard thing to be called a child at twelve years old, but Regina didn’t argue. She’d rarely seen her father’s lined face so deathly serious.   
“The wolf was not just a wolf,” he said. “It lived in the city as a man does, hidden by the crowd. It hunted as an animal does, in a forest of steel and glass. It attacked while I slept because it knew that as clever and as vicious as a wolf can be, a good man with a good knife will always be stronger.” He looked up and met her eyes. “I woke moments before it attacked, and as I lifted a hand to defend myself, it bit me. Its teeth crushed the bones in two of my fingers, but that was not why I screamed.” He took her hand, his strong, pale fingers gentle over hers. “Do you know why?”
Regina shook her head, barely breathing.
“The wolf was not a wolf. He was not an animal, and he was not a man. And when he bit me, he was trying to spread his sickness. To make me an abomination, like him.” He squeezed her fingers. “So I took my knife, and I cut off every part of myself that his teeth had touched. If I had hesitated for longer than a heart’s beat, his curse would have passed to me.”
There’s no such thing as curses, Regina thought. “What happened to the wolf?” 
“He killed it,” her mother said from the doorway. “Put the beast out of its misery.” She leaned against the doorframe and looked at Regina’s father. “Funny. I thought it was a blind griffin in Berlin.”
Regina’s father smiled, but it didn’t quite touch his eyes. “That was last week,” he said. “You wouldn’t want me to repeat myself, now would you?”
“Not at all, darling. You know I appreciate variety.” Regina’s mother only called her husband darling when she looked as if she would much prefer to call him rather less affectionate, but Regina wasn’t sure how to interpret her expression just now.
Her father sighed. “Chandra—”
“Go wash up, Regina. We’re leaving for dinner in a few minutes.” Regina didn’t move; her father still had hold of her hand.
“You’ll be early,” her father said. “It’s not even five.”
“Nita’s started spouting proverbs about tardiness over the naan; it’s either show up early or spend the evening resisting the temptation to step on her neck.” She walked to the table and picked up the butter-smeared plate. “Get moving, Regina. The sooner we leave, the better Auntie Nita’s chances of living through the night.”
“I like Auntie Nita,” Regina said, which was only half a lie. She slid off the table, letting her feet thump when they hit the floor. “Auntie Nita is normal.”
“Auntie Nita is boring, you mean,” Regina’s mother said, one hand on her hip and her dark eyes narrowed. “Do you want to be boring, darling?”
Darling again – a clear warning. Regina didn’t take it. “Maybe I do,” she said, feeling reckless. “If boring people get to go to school and have friends and live in the same place for longer than a month, maybe that’s exactly what I want to be.” She turned on her heel and stomped out of the room. The sound wasn’t nearly as satisfying as she’d hoped, so she slammed the bathroom door hard behind her.
She washed her hands in the sink. After she shut off the water, she opened the door and heard her father’s voice through the flat’s thin walls.
“—told you, we shouldn’t come back so often. It only shows her the things she can’t have.”
“She could, though,” Regina heard her mother say. “Mum offered to take her again. She isn’t lecturing much this term; we could leave Regina with her until we’ve finished in the States. She could go to school with Nita’s girls.”
“Talk about monsters,” Regina’s father said, a sneer in his voice. “Harpies in hoodies and trainers.”
“She would be safe here, Jan.”
“She’s safe with us. I won’t leave her here alone.” Regina heard the scrape of her father’s chair as he stood. “You should go. You don’t want to be late for dinner.” He stepped into the hall and smiled at Regina, tired but sincere. “Early bird catches the curry, eh, Gina?”
She didn’t smile back.

At night, Regina dreamed of the forest.

She dreamed of the forests of her father’s childhood, dense and silent and ancient. She dreamed of the forest outside her bedroom window, the green American new world wilderness that rattled against the glass. She dreamed that one night the window opened, and a shadow came inside.

The shadow stood in the shape of a man, at the end of her bed. A new, deeper darkness in the stillness of the room - slimmer than her father’s strong-shouldered bulk, taller than her mother’s deceptively delicate height. A stranger, watching her in silence. If this were not a dream, Regina thought (would remember thinking, years later), if this were not a dream, I would be frightened.

“Hello,” she said to the shadow, her lips stiff with sleep. “Are you from the forest?”

The shadow laughed. It was a rich, pleasant sound of genuine humor, with no menace in it. “I am,” the shadow said in the voice of a young man. “That’s precisely where I’m from. How did you know?”

Regina frowned and considered this for a moment. Her thoughts dragged, like boots stumbling through mud. The air in her room was sweet and heavy and strange; she licked her dry lips and managed to say, “You climbed the tree to the window. It’s a hard tree to climb.”

“Not for a man of the forest,” the shadow said, and she heard the grin in his voice. “You’re a bit clever, aren’t you?”

Regina was clever, but she knew that it was only because both her parents were, and was thus no particular accomplishment of her own. She pushed herself up against the headboard of the bed, unsteadily. “Why did you climb to the window?”

“To see you, of course.”

“But why?”

“Don’t you think you’re someone worth seeing?”

The room started to spin; Regina closed her eyes. “Something’s wrong. My head--”

“That’d be my fault. So sorry.” The shadow sat neatly at the edge of her bed, and the mattress dipped under his weight, heavier than shadow or dream. “I’ve left the window open; the gas should clear out in a minute.”    

Panic sparked in the darkness behind her eyelids, and she pressed her hand hard over her nose and mouth. She opened her eyes. “Gas--”

“A cheat, I know, but I’m not the type to take unnecessary risks.” He laughed again. “No, I’m lying; I’m exactly the type. I just wanted a bit of insurance in case you slept with a sharp surprise beneath your pillow. You are, after all, your father’s daughter.”

Her head was pounding. “My father--”

“That fearsome Deutsch battlefury - thought it might have passed to the next generation.” He leaned closer, as if sharing a confidence. “Though really, anyone who knows anything sees that your dear mum is the one to watch out for. She’s the stuff of nightmares, that woman.”

“I won’t tell them you were here,” she said. “Not if you leave right now.” There was nothing like fear in her voice, but she felt it now, twisting through her stomach like a sudden growth of thorns. He’s a shadow, she thought. A thing of the forest, and the dark. He’ll disappear in the light.
“Regina Walter,” the shadow said, his voice turned serious and soft. “How I wish we had more time.”

The bedside lamp was just within reach; Regina rolled onto her side and flipped the switch. The bulb popped to life, and she screamed.
A white wolf crouched at the end of her bed, watching her with steady, dark-rimmed eyes. Its mouth was open and wet and red, its black lips drawn back to reveal long, bone-white teeth. Regina screamed again – a shrill, wordless sound of animal terror – and the wolf snarled.
Turn off the light, she thought, turn it off turn it off turn it off, and when she reached for the lamp, the wolf lunged forward.
Its teeth sank into her forearm, tearing through skin and flesh and tendon. She felt the pressure more than the pain at first, the terrible grip of its jaws as it dragged her from the bed down to the floor. Her head slammed against the bedside table as she fell, and the shock of it cleared her mind just long enough for her to realize that the wolf was pulling her toward the empty window.
I am my father’s daughter, she thought, and with her free arm she grabbed the bedside lamp and slammed it into the wolf’s skull.
The jaws opened, releasing her arm, and the pain bloomed red and starlit behind her eyes. She felt the unholy slam of her heartbeat in her chest, her ears, a cacophony of footsteps on the stairs as two new shadows staggered into the half-dark room, backlit by the lamps in the hall. Her mother lifted a rifle to her shoulder, but the wolf was staggering to the window, stunned but escaping, white fur slick with blood. Its eyes caught the strange angle of the lamp’s light just before it leapt from the room, and in the moment’s madness Regina thought it looked back at her with laughing, human eyes.
Then it was gone.
Fuck,” her mother said, and pounded down the stairs again in her nightdress, rifle at ready.
Regina’s father stood in the doorway, staring at her with wide, horror-struck eyes.
Her right arm was bloody from elbow to wrist, marked with deep wounds in a clear cast of teeth. Every instinct told her to hold it close, to cradle it to her chest and rock through the pain; instead she held her arm out and said, “You need your knife, Papa. You need to cut it off. Everything his teeth touched.”
The knife was already in his hand; she saw it now, the glint of metal in the warm light of the lamp on the floor at her side. She didn’t understand why he was still standing there, unmoving – he’d never quailed at the sight of blood before. He’d never hesitated when she was hurt. When she needed him.
His grip changed on the knife, from white-knuckled tension to something like intent. He took a single step forward, and stopped.
He could stop the pain; she knew he could. But his strong, steady hands were trembling, and his fair skin was as pale as death. “It wasn’t a wolf,” she said. “It wasn’t a wolf, and it wasn’t a man. Please, Papa. You told me—”
“I told those stories to my daughter,” he said, almost too softly for her to hear. “I told them to make her smile.” Then he turned, knife in hand, and walked out of the room. His footsteps echoed on the stairs.
A minute later, she heard the rumble of the pickup’s engine, below the open window. She listened as the truck lurched out of the driveway and into the street. She watched the glow of the headlights until they too disappeared. Then she sat alone, and waited.
It would be twelve years before she saw her mother and father again.


End of excerpts!

So, I have pretty mixed feelings about what I've written thus far. It's definitely been helpful to write scenes with Regina's parents, particularly her dad - I don't think a lot of this backstory would make it into the novel if I wrote it properly, because, you know, pacing, but writing Mum and Dad has made me think a lot more about the kind of childhood Regina had, and what she was exposed to. The first time I ever tried to write this story I started with the attack in her bedroom; the second time, I started twelve years later, with Regina first learning about the werewolf killings outside of the city. If I had time to start from the beginning again and write all this properly, I spend a lot more time and effort and detail on how much of her parents' lives Regina sees, and how clearly. Why do her parents let her live in a world without monsters, and how have they preserved that illusion while dragging their rather perceptive daughter around the world with them? How much have they taught her about how to fight and defend herself and survive?

Unfortunately, I have to move on with the story, but these are questions that never would have occurred to me if I hadn't worked through this shitty first draft. I may turn out to like this NaNo business after all.

How's everyone else doing so far?

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