La Riposte

Sunday, June 3, 2012

#SampleSunday and #ROW80 Updates

Well, it's been a week of travel and celebration - back from China on Thursday, off to Bali on Friday for a good friend's wedding, and now back in Jakarta for a nine-day whirlwind of packing, preparation, and farewell parties before heading back to the U.S. on the 13th of May.

So, on the ROW80 front, really nothing substantial to report.

The German translation of Happily Ever After is complete, and I'm going to work on getting it uploaded to Amazon before I leave Jakarta.

A few more thousands of words written for The Perfidious Mister Wickham, some work on my Author Salon profile for that same book, and a bit of networking, but that's about it. Looking forward to catching up with a big, busy week now that I'm no longer living out of a backpack!

So, to make this blog post worthwhile, I'm putting up my first ever "Sample Sunday" contribution with this sample of my latest published work, Lethargica. There's also a video trailer here, and if you're a LibraryThing member, you can sign up for a free copy here (it's the second book on the list).

Wishing you a great week,



He tells himself that it’s just a walk in the woods with a gun. The world, which was once a bright and shining place, has been drained of all color. Here there are only shades of gray and brown. The world which was once wide and unlimited, green fields and rolling forested hills and shining seas across which a man could walk or run or sail or swim or ride for miles has been circumscribed in this place to a fetid brown slit in the earth, always crumbling in upon itself, abhorring its own vacuum. Left to its own devices it would be gone in a year, discernible only as a meandering depression in a green field. Some future day it might be, but not now. It gapes like a brown wound in the gray ground, its edges crusted with wire and shards of metal and bits of broken wood and shattered lives. An infected wound, it festers sullenly, human maggots teeming in its narrow confine.
Once there was a world where the right words or enough money could get you anything, anyone, and he had money and words to spare. He still has money, and perhaps the words, though he rarely speaks these days. Here the magic of words is almost dead. No beautiful turn of phrase, no artful adjective will advance a man's cause one iota. There are only two words that matter here, that have the power over lives. “OFFICIAL ORDERS.”
Money will not buy these words; money will not buy you anything within these narrow, muddy walls. Cigarettes, chocolate, tinned fruit - these are all a minor sort of lucre here, the currency of card games and lotteries, but paper money is good for nothing but wiping a man's ass and coins not even for that. Here he is just another trader in the only medium of exchange that matters, bullets. Somewhere in that bright and distant world he is paid monthly in cash and coins, which accrue unseen in the vault of some bank, secure behind a round door of polished steel and a row of smiling faces and red brick walls. Here he is paid daily in bullets and exhorted to spend, spend, spend. No matter how much of these shiny brass-and-copper tokens he disposes of, flings away like a gambler on a losing streak, there are always more, neatly packed in wooden boxes, pressed into his hands by the Sergeant.
“OFFICIAL ORDERS.” Even these words are capricious, spoken aloud they have no meaning, the words are magic only when stamped in blue ink across the top of a scrap of paper bearing the hasty scrawl of some General at the bottom. Spoken aloud, words have no meaning, so few men speak much here. Most words you will hear spoken are lies, he has learned, they have all learned, from bitter experience. 
          The officers lie that when they say “We’re almost there, boys, just one more charge.” 
          The chaplains lie when they say “Deus nobiscum, quis contra?” 
          The cook lies when he says “Its bully beef in the stew, lads.” 
          The only words that matter here are that elusive pair stamped in blue, “OFFICIAL ORDERS,” and hers, a flowing cursive script on pages worn thin as parchment, cracking along the folds, perfumed by white gardenias whose scent is now only rendered tangible by some wishful trick of memory.
Her words are the only thing he can rely on, his last link to that lost world. That they reach him at all seems a minor sort of miracle, that these delicate scraps of paper bearing his name, and the words “American Volunteer, Fourth Army, France” are placed among similar thousands on a giant ship, a ship that navigates the freezing waters between the lost world and this one, waters teeming with icebergs and cod, mines and limpets, blue whales and Untersee boots, that these ships arrive unfailingly at foreign shores, are unloaded, that the letter finds its way in a lorry from Paris, a horse-drawn cart from Reims, is carried in a sack down, down into the brown infested scar to the buried pustule of the company office, where it lays in a stained wooden box among a stack of other letters, bearing other names, until the Sergeant scoops them all up in a grimy hand and shuffles up the creaking stair and into the eternal twilight gloom of the trench, calling out “mail call, mail… Owens… Vandermeer… Andrews…” 
Always there are more names called than there are answers, always the Sergeant will return to the bunker with a handful of lonesome envelopes which will be stamped in red, “RETURN TO SENDER” and make their way slowly back across the cold sea. He wishes he could be stamped in red, they could stamp him all over, over and over, and return him, but he would just end up here, with himself, because of course she didn’t send him, she never wanted him to go, he sent himself here, they all did, back when they were different, more innocent men. Now there are no innocents, they are all murderers, all condemned, their sentences hanging heavy in the foul, damp air. 
Her letters are his last link to that lost world, and then one day, they stop coming.
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