A Clean-Up Project

3.7

So yesterday I started getting through ancient sketches on my laptop and resuscitating or deleting them.

This was a messy doodle that I cleaned up last night.

I figure I’ll either throw out or transform all my icky, boring half-sketches, and then my laptop will be organized and not so haphazard.

I like how this one turned out, anyway! And now, here is what Diana does next:

Sample

A Walk

Stuart sobbed like a man unobserved, following Diana and wiping his face with the motion of a devastated child. If Diana had not been so curious about what he would say and do next, she might have been tempted to say something along the lines of, ‘Just kidding!’, or ‘Have a hug, you pathetic, adorable noodle.’

However, as she was highly invested in finding out what Stuart was like when he thought he was alone, she held her tongue and kept walking in the direction of her old house, which she hoped would be mostly undisturbed.

Diana really wanted to change her clothes, and she was looking forward to using her own shampoo in a nice, cold shower. To her surprise, Diana had rather gotten used to frigid water, and was almost thinking about continuing to take cold showers in the future when she got her life back.

Diana had come to the conclusion, after Stuart had revealed that he’d been in an experimental tube for four years when she had only experienced a few weeks, that the aliens were holding a kind of scientific and emotional expedition, and that if she played her cards right and got into their heads, she might be able to negotiate everything going back to the way it had been before the aliens had come.

Diana was pretty sure, based on the aliens’ unwillingness to stand by while Stuart threatened her, that the aliens hadn’t actually killed any humans yet. As far as I know, Diana reflected, they might have done some kind of trick with time, and none of this has actually happened.

When Diana thought this, a strange ripple, like a concentric heat wave, shivered on her right side. She froze and stared at it. Stuart was crying volubly and stopped, too, though he appeared to think she was caught up in making plans instead of reacting to anything in particular.

The concentric heat vanished, and nearly translucent words rose into the air. Diana was sure Stuart could not see them.

Diana Vassel, hold back your development. Finish the term. Make an oath? Human promise. Do that now.

The term of five years, she thought, and Diana looked around the street for a moment and then drew a deep sigh.

“It’s too bad I’m all alone now,” Diana said, her face flushing gently because she felt stupid, and she kept walking. A single word appeared just in front of her, moving as she moved.

Good.

The word vanished as Stuart, drawing a ragged breath, began to speak.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the original bodyguard is teaching a large group of people how to protect themselves.

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I’m Grumpy on this Particular Tuesday Morning

sketch 31

This is my ‘break through panic blocks’ method: cartoon sketches to work up into scenes later on.

This is a picture of the two princes (well, one of them’s a king by this point) having a battle to the death while their mom watches.

Ah, royal family drama.

Here’s what happens next to Diana:

Sample

Outside, Part II

Stuart really expected Diana to come back, so he waited. He thought she was setting some manner of test to see if he would be patient and not pursue her.

Diana, however, went directly to the hole in the ice and stepped out onto the street.

The black ice, as soon as she was on the other side of the hole, began to grow back together. Diana heard the crinkle and swish of the ice and turned to watch.

“Stu! Come on!” Diana shouted.

She heard the faintest sort of muffled return shout from the distant house and bent down a little to look through the shrinking hole.

“You’re going to be trapped in there, Stu! Come out!” Diana bellowed.

Stuart, frowning, came out onto the porch and then glimpsed the closing hole. He swore and sprinted down the steps and over the lawn, throwing himself through the opening and landing with a crunch on the street outside.

Diana eyed the hole as it crackled closed with new, thick ice.

“That was close, sweetie. I’m glad you made it, though. I don’t know if it would have melted a second time. I think the aliens enjoy novelty. They would have liked your panic after you realized you couldn’t get out. Poor Stu. Is your face okay?” Diana asked.

Stuart picked himself up from the pavement and held back several sarcastic and cutting replies with much greater care than before as he did so, for he no longer had a comfortable, familiar bed to run and hide in if she made him cry. Stuart had deep scrapes along his cheek and over his eye, and his arm had a nasty road burn.

Diana frowned and took up his arm, brushing away the specks of asphalt on his skin.

Stuart, again, stopped himself from snapping at Diana or wrenching his arm away from her hands, though he liked her touching him very much.

“Why are you angry, babe?” Diana asked, straightening Stuart’s shirt and examining the raw shine of his face scrapes.

“I don’t—” Stuart said, and then he stopped. He could feel himself trembling on the verge of one of those blithe statements that rolled easily off his tongue but ended in Diana blinking at him with wide eyes and asking where he’d been all this time. Stuart’s eyes prickled with the threat of tears. “I don’t know why,” Stuart admitted, his voice honest and the anger draining out of his shoulders.

“Oh, that’s a good lie, Stu. That’s much more presentable. I don’t think we’ll ever be a couple, though. You hate me too much,” Diana said, settling the backpack on her shoulders and setting off down the street. The first thing Diana wanted to do was investigate her old house, which was at the far end of town, and then she wanted to go to the grocery store and look at the state of the canned goods.

Stuart followed Diana, as there didn’t seem to be anything else to do, and he started to process his options for a response, much as he had done during his four-year tenure in the alien tube, rejecting all the ideas for things to say that he knew from experience would set Diana off on another round of pretending that he’d vanished.

“Um, sweetie?” Stuart asked at last.

Diana’s eyebrows hitched, for this sounded, to her, like a promising opening.

“Yes, Stu?” she asked, walking along the road with the straps of the alien backpack over her shoulders and grasped in her hands.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m in a terrible mood because of reasons. Also, in my current novel, the hunter is in the midst of working on married couples (because the gangster asked him to).

The Striped Canyon Where the Rock Snakes Live (which are super scary!)

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This is a partial sketch of the black and white rocks in the part of the book where the hunter fetches in some material from the quarry. It’s not finished yet, but yay. I think it looks like a zebra.

In other news . . . wow. Yup, I have nothing more to say about myself at this time.

But here is what happens next to Diana!

Sample

Stuart’s Suspicion

Diana kept a blithe, interested look on her face.

“Where have you been, Stu?” Diana asked.

“I was upstairs, Di. I’ve been behind you this whole time,” Stuart said, looking increasingly upset.

“Oh, wow. I thought I was here all by myself. Are you hungry? How long were you gone this time?” Diana asked.

“Don’t do that. I didn’t go anywhere; I’ve just been here, right behind you,” Stuart said.

“No, I don’t think so,” Diana said, frowning and looking sincere.

Stuart, who had been isolated in a plastic tube for the last four years, and whose mind had been taken back and forth many times through various timelines and situations, burst into tears and ran back into the house.

Diana smiled. Excellent, she thought, and she made several trips carrying her pile of eggplant-like fruits into the kitchen and started to whistle as she got into her usual cleaning routine.

By the time she made it upstairs to straighten up the bedrooms, she found Stuart curled in a ball on the bed, his shoulders hunched and his face marked with tears. He was sound asleep.

How sweet, Diana thought, and she went outside to climb her tree and read a book.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the bachelor party has so far produced, um, three wedding proposals among the guests, who are all having a marvelous time.

Some Clothes (and Diana)

sketch 63

Here are some clothes. And my brain is so empty right now. Like, I’ve got a numb buzz going on purely from general stress. Whee, right?

I’m nearly finished scrubbing excess commas from one of my other books. (So many commas!)

Aaaaaand here is what happens next to Diana:

Sample

The Second Day

By the time Stuart woke up, Diana had formulated a plan. Stuart had, to all appearances, been completely exhausted, for he had slept the rest of the day and most of the night. Diana was sitting against the headboard in the dark when Stuart woke up.

“I was holding your hand. How come you’re over there?” Stuart asked, his voice groggy.

“You kind of rolled all the way over there and I wasn’t going to follow you. Are you ready to talk?” Diana asked.

“Yeah,” Stuart said, yawning.

“Here’s what we’re going to do, Stu. You’re a horrible person. Do you agree?” Diana asked.

Stuart hesitated for a while.

“I hope I’m not irredeemable,” Stuart offered.

“That’s not really a clear admission, sweetie. Yes or no, do you agree that you’re awful?” Diana asked.

“Um,” Stuart said.

“I’m gonna take that as a no, then. Phoning in to the right answer isn’t really good enough for me, and we’re going to have to get you doing a lot better than that. Here’s what I’m thinking, Stu. The aliens gave us a kind of roadmap of what should theoretically be possible for you and me, right? With all the fixing up the house and the marriage stuff. You were being really nice and supportive for a lot of that, don’t you think?” Diana ask.

Stuart looked unprepared to comment, so Diana jumped off the bed and left the room.

“Well, wait!” Stuart said, scrambling after her. The alien lights brightened slowly as Diana moved, illuminating the places she went to.

Diana went down the stairs and into the kitchen, where she checked on the current stockpile of fruits and then went out of the front door to harvest the latest crop of eggplant-like growths.

“Diana, you can’t just ignore me,” Stuart said.

Diana ignored him. Stuart laughed a little and stood on the front porch, studying her as she tugged fruits off the vine and made a stack of them on the ground.

“Do you need help?” Stuart asked.

Diana pretended he wasn’t there.

Stuart started to look a tiny bit weepy, though he did his best to keep a brusque, invulnerable expression on his face.

“Hey, I’m still here,” Stuart said, his voice wobbling.

“Oh, hey, there, Stu. Where did you come from?” Diana asked, pretending that he’d only just appeared. Stuart narrowed his eyes.

“What are you doing?” Stuart asked, looking thoroughly suspicious.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, one of the performers is being auctioned to a stable household as a highly-rated companion and snuggle-friend.

One Point Perspective

sketch 59

I am a baby at drawing. But look at my pretty shadows! Yay!

I’m (insert mundane work details, indicating that I’m a-froth with bustling industry), and here is a bit of Diana for now:

Sample

The Proposal

“Well, we were here, just–just living here. Um, I don’t know how much you remember, Di. Diana, sorry,” Stuart said, flushing and scooting a little away on the bed.

Diana wanted to keep Stuart on the edge of feeling off-balance and uncomfortable, so she moved closer to keep them at the same distance.

He studied her for a moment, a hard light in his eyes, and then continued without making any comment on her behavior.

Good, Diana thought, and she looked at the bruising along Stuart’s face as he spoke.

“I don’t know what parts you were there for, but things started to jump around in my timeline after that fight we had. You remember, when I came back, or seemed to, and you threw water in my face and tried to beat me up?” Stuart asked.

“Yeah, I know that part,” Diana said.

“Good. Well, things got wonky after that. Um, I had you tied up in the bed, right? And I was trying to talk to you, to make you calm down, and then everything–well, the room around us dissolved and you and I both went and had a long talk with the aliens. Do you remember this?” Stuart asked.

Diana had no intention of revealing how much she’d experienced, so she made herself look haunted and tired and refused to answer. Stuart sighed.

“Yeah, I’ll just keep talking and telling my side. It’s hard for me to think about, too. I imagine it’s worse for you, if you do remember that stuff. When did you leave? What part did you miss?” Stuart asked.

“Stuart, talk,” Diana said.

“Yeah, okay. Well, I’ll work from that fight, then, and me tying you up. So the room dissolved and we had a really long talk with the aliens. They, um, froze you for parts of that, and then sometimes they froze me and talked to you instead. Negotiations went on forever, it seemed like, hours, and the conclusion was that we’d both be aged a bit and thrown into a facsimile neighborhood, to recreate young adulthood for the aliens. I feel really stupid saying all of this as if you weren’t there for it, Diana. I mean, you know most of this better than I do, I’m sure. You were managing most of it, telling the aliens what would be acceptable, and how things needed to be. I feel idiotic telling you the story like this,” Stuart said, his eyes asking her for help.

“No. Keep talking,” Diana said. Stuart sighed and nodded.

“So the aliens made us older. I was in my late twenties, I think, and you were at least twenty-one. I’m not sure exactly how old, but you told the aliens that twenty-one was your cut-off age for what you’d be comfortable with, and so you were early twenties and I was late twenties. Um, and we were still in this house at first. You changed so much, Di. I didn’t know at first if it was even you, but–I guess it might not have been you, actually,” Stuart said, looking moody.

“Look, Stu. If we ever get to the point of being really good friends and I feel I can trust you, then I’ll tell you my half and we can really compare timelines. For now, just be super honest,” Diana said.

“Okay,” Stuart said, clearly attempting to make himself small and docile-looking. Diana laughed and patted his knee, which made him flinch and then smile in a faltering manner.

“Stu, that’s not working. I know you’re not nearly this wrought up with dramatic feelings. Just talk,” Diana said.

Stuart’s looks melted into something like consternation. He eyed her and then sniffed with a ‘Well, fine, then’ kind of sound and went on.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, Rosie the toddler is about to be rescued (dramatically!).

Caleb’s Office Conceptualization of Death (that’s a mouthful)

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This is the office from my spec-thriller, which is going through a light update at the moment.

I’m learning to draw buildings in my free time right now because they terrify me. I mean, I don’t think they should, realistically, because buildings are usually just boxes with curves built in some places, and it should be a matter of rulers and shadows.

But they do, they scare me mostly to death, so I’m working on that. I finally finished my dragon book (hooray!), which took me a few years start to finish, and now I’m queuing up my next enormous revision challenge.

There’s expensive ice cream in my freezer that I have not yet sampled, and here is what happens next to Diana:

Sample

The Frightened Boy

The first thing Diana did was to go past the bookshelf and lay hold of a partly-filled recipe book, which had a lot of blank pages in the back. She carried the recipe book into the kitchen, paying no attention to Stuart, who was shadowing behind her and trying to be quiet, and found a pen in the junk drawer.

Diana peered out of the open kitchen window to ascertain an estimate of the time of day.

The sun was at a midpoint between noon and evening, and Diana decided it was probably somewhere around three o’clock and noted down the date and time at the back of the book.

“What are you doing?” Stuart whispered. He seemed to think that if he spoke too loudly, Diana would vanish again.

“I’m keeping track of time,” Diana said, tucking the pen into the book and keeping it under her arm as she got a snack. Her supply of food was endless and extremely boring, as the plants in the yard grew quickly and had fresh fruits on the vines every morning. Diana had taken to keeping a supply of the eggplant-shaped fruits on the counter, and the pile of fruits she’d left there the last time she’d been in the house were perfectly good.

“Can I have one?” Stuart whispered. Diana frowned, for she heard hunger in Stuart’s voice, and she piled several of the heavy fruits into Stuart’s arms. “I—okay,” Stuart said.

“They grow outside. We have plenty,” Diana said, for she could see he didn’t want to put her out by eating too much. Goodness, Stuart’s gotten manners in his captivity, Diana told herself, and she grabbed her own fruit and went back to the bookshelf, where she found a couple of murder mysteries she hadn’t read yet. “Bedtime,” Diana said, nodding towards the stairs.

“You want me to go first?” Stuart asked, his voice low.

“Yeah. I’m right behind you, Stu,” Diana said. Stuart stared at her for a moment, as if trying to decide if she was going to trick him and run away, or if she might vanish if he took his eyes off her. Eventually Stuart compromised by walking sideways and keeping his eyes on her. Diana laughed.

“What? I don’t want to be without you again. I don’t like it,” Stuart said.

“Go up by yourself, honey, and wait for five minutes. I’ll come up and sit with you then. I’ll start counting right now,” Diana said.

“No! No, stay. I don’t want to be apart,” Stuart said.

“Stu, go, or I’ll make it ten minutes,” Diana said. Stuart glared at her with something resembling hatred and then turned and stomped up the stairs. Diana bit her lip and laughed in her heart, for she felt Stuart was behaving adorably, and she counted through five minutes before following him.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m thinking about rhetorical practices of reflection in well-constructed dialogue. Also, in my current book, Gloria is having her makeup done for the big shindig, at which she is hoping to snag a boyfriend.

And now . . . it’s Wednesday (which is not really a surprise, all things considered)

sketch 47 clean for blog

Here is a drawing that I made of the opening scene from my other science fiction series (about cyborgs, yay!), wherein the lady in the human zoo wakes up and discovers herself (very disturbingly) to be naked on a metal table.

She does not, of course, remember how she got there.

Drama ensues.

But anyway, today, as I said, is Wednesday, which is not a terribly great surprise, considering that yesterday was . . . ahem . . . Tuesday.

Back to work. But first, here is what happens next with Diana:

Sample

The Alien Ship

The most frustrating thing to Diana was how little she could see of the interior of the ship. The room was dark and apparently empty, though somber purple lights glowed at intervals in the air, apparently floating without any support.

“You are snarling plans, Vassel,” a thick, almost impossible to understand voice said from seemingly nowhere.

“If you want me to cooperate, I need better directions,” Diana said, turning slowly to take in what she could see of the whole room.

She was quite sure she was inside an alien ship, for there was a wide, semi-circular array of controls and a really interesting display that showed a holograph of Earth. Several areas of the holographic planet were blacked out, as if they’d been erased.

Diana wondered if these black parts were the places the aliens had frozen and covered with snow and ice.

“You promised to demonstrate home. We have as yet had only fragments of said home from you. Our–” and here the alien voice said a long word that Diana could not make head or tail of at all– “grows agitated, and we desire you to get to work and stay on task.”

“If you want me to show you home, which I’m willing to do, why do you keep interrupting me when I make progress?” Diana asked.

There was only silence for some time after this, and Diana began, very cautiously, to explore the dark room. She didn’t touch any of the controls, but she went to the edge of the room and went along the curved wall, which rose up above her head into a pointed dome.

“Vassel,” the voice said again.

“Yes,” Diana said, peering at the panel of glowing buttons she suspected would open a large door she had discovered.

“You continually seek combining one piece of your heart with the spiritual essence of the man we gave you. What is this?” the voice asked.

“That’s home. That’s what home is. You find someone you care about and intertwine your lives together. I’d show you if you would leave me and Stu alone for two seconds,” Diana said.

There was another long silence, and Diana got the impression that the aliens were thinking it over.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and right now I am thinking about cleaning up an old book I wrote a long time ago. Yay potentially unsalvageable manuscripts!