Mama did not seemed to have noticed how late I was when I arrived home, probably because as I glanced at the clock on the stove I realised that something was off. I took a closer look, tapping it to make it keep time again. At Mama’s odd glance I wandered over and turned her wrist to face me. Her watch registered the same time as the stove clock. I had arrived home at the exact time I always did from work. I pulled out the feather from my pocket and stared at it while Mama continued to sneak glances at me.
‘Where did you find that?’ she asked. I couldn’t think of an answer so I just shrugged and headed for my room. For weeks after, I stopped at the griffin rock, peering as far as I could without actually going in to the forest to see if there was any sign of Amduscias. Other than the feather that I kept hidden at home, I found none. Until a few more weeks passed.
I began to spend every moment I could on research. Although I found Amduscias listed, other than that he was an angel, looked like a unicorn at times and caused music to play there was not much more to go on. For the first time since our meeting I began to be afraid. I had seen Mama’s pregnancies progress. There was no denying that I was probably pregnant, which kind of pissed me off a bit. How many girls get pregnant their first time? And besides he is an angel. Surely though his bits looked like human bits if somewhat larger, he is another species.
Then I remembered mules, and ligers. Somewhere in all this craziness I came across a word I would begin to dread. I began to also research nephilim. Not that that did a lot of good. Except make me fear I was going to have to birth a giant.
It wasn’t long before Mama had no choice but to confront me about my somewhat obvious weight gain. Not that an unwed mother was anything new to our community, but I knew how disappointed Mama was that it had happened to me. Especially as there appeared no way for her to rectify the situation after I lied and told her that I had a one night stand with a biker who I could not really remember and had not seen since. I remained as vague as I could on dates. I had no way of knowing how this was going to progress. It wasn’t that long ago I was with Mama on the whole angels thing. I thought of talking to the local priest, for about a minute and a half. I figured he would either have me locked up as insane ,or locked away in some nunnery waiting to get their hands on whatever I spawned. Neither choice seemed like a good idea. This left me floundering.
So I floundered and I grew larger. Larger than I thought possible, which meant I began having scary visions of giant babies taking up most of my thoughts. It seemed as if life became a heat haze that warped everything I knew, or thought I knew. I found myself being drawn with more intensity back to the forest as the pregnancy progressed. At first I fought the urges, much like I fought the urges for pickled ice cream.
Although I was not yet approaching my due date, as far as I could reckon in human terms, I knew that my time was near. And as it drew closer I drew closer to the forest. Wandering in its cool shade I found myself drawn to the place where I had seen Amduscias. Curling up on the ground where he had once curled I again felt a connection. As the days passed I spent more and more time in the forest. Often sleeping, sometimes dreaming of wings and baby soft skin.
And so it was that I was back to the beginning when the first pain hit me. It did not give any warning like I had seen with Mama. This went from zero to full on in the time it took for a leaf to fall to the ground. There was no rest in between. Just constant pain. Until he came once more to me. He padded up the path and curled up on the ground, watching me as he once again switched in to his more human like form. Though the pain did not recede, his presence helped me to focus on something other than it.
I felt his arms lift me upright and cradle me against him and once again his wings lifted us in to the sky. The pain was an abyss I drifted in and out of, seemingly to the rhythm of his wings as they beat the air around us. I heard his voice. Amduscias whispered to me of what was to happen. He told me the reasons for the pain that I was to suffer both now and the rest of my days. Tears ran once again, this time landing on my face. How cool they were. His sorrow seemed almost as heavy as my pain. I fought to hold on, to stay, but once again I awoke on the forest floor. Alone. Completely alone. No Amduscias. No child. No pregnancy. Only a memory. Enough of a memory to condemn me forever. Just as he’d said. And a new feather, smaller than the other, but no less forsaken. It would have to do.
Sounding no louder than a gentle rustle of leaves, his wings opened and the trees parted allowing us access to the sky. One hand he kept between my shoulder blades while the other cupped my buttocks, deftly parting my legs as we soared higher. I silently hoped neither the Careys nor the Hudsons were out and about and looking up. As Amduscias slid his erection inside of me his eyes changed colour. Bright as pumping blood, their red glow seemed to reach inside me and warm me against the air that grew chillier as we continued to rise.
Amduscias flew with abandon. Rising straight up, with me impaled on him, then slowing down and spiralling deliberately on the air currents, he rode me in to a stupor. His skin was sleek, and softer than a baby’s against mine. Mama was a bit of a breeder, so I had a lot of baby skin to compare him with.
His voice was gentle, not much louder than the sound of his wings. As he sent me further in to oblivion he told me his history, much like a parent telling a bedside story. I learned of his joys, his fall from grace, his now ever present sorrow. He asked for my forgiveness, before admitting he would not forgive himself for crossing this last barrier in to what he called the abyss. All the while he spoke so softly, he drove hard in to me as if to lose himself. I felt my own self drift in to an abyss of another kind as we tumbled from air current to air current.
I awoke back on the path in the forest. Alone. I might have believed myself carried away with a rather delicious fancy were it not for my clothes strewn about beside me. As I looked over my naked body tiny goose bumps began to form. Dazed as I was it took some time to dress myself and find my way back out of the forest. Other than one glossy feather I found forsaken under my clothing, there was no sign that Amduscias in any form had existed.
‘Because I am forever lost to my home’, he replied. As he spoke the pool of tears became clearer and in its reflection was what I knew instinctively to be an image of his home. I understood his tears.
‘Why is it lost to you?’ I asked.
‘I was foolish to believe in one who was not truthful. Those of us who trusted in his light were led to ruin, to exile.’ Gazing in to the reflection he seemed to actually smile a little. ‘But his light was as beautiful as the fresh morning, and just as hard to resist.’ As the question began to form in my mind, he answered. ‘My name is Amduscias,’ he said and as he spoke his name, a glow began to form behind him. Within the glow large wings unfurled and a trumpet wailed, kokako like, its music settling mournfully around us. With each new note the trees bent and swayed opening up a space for his wings to spread wide and high.
He leaned back in to his wings and raised his head. As he brought it back down the eyes with which he regarded me were now similar to my own in both their size and colouring. His cheekbones were pronounced and his chin covered in fair stubble. Matching tresses hung down his back and strayed over his shoulder reaching past his nipples. He shined, and with each shaft of light that flashed around under the canopy he seemed to draw me closer to his light.
‘Come,’ he said. Again music filled the air. ‘It is too late now for you,’ he smiled, as he stood upright. The hand he held out to me, no longer misshapen and clawed, was twice the size of my own. I lay mine upon it and it seemed to disappear as he folded his fingers, claiming it for his own. Pulling me up, his gaze held my eyes. ‘You should have left when I told you to. Now, I shall condemn myself even more. I shall condemn you, and we shall both be lost forever.’
Another thing Mama got wrong. Angels have all the bits, and they work. Oh dear God do they ever. Not that I had a lot to compare it to, being the town’s only 19 year old virgin, but his bits were every bit as impressive as the rest of him.
Amduscias’s wings enfolded us and there was no mistaking the fact that this angel, because I had tweaked to this being the only possible explanation, had an erection. I felt my first twinge of fear as I contemplated the size of it. It just kept growing and now Amduscias had a definite smile curving his lips. I wish I could say I know how he managed to make all my clothes disappear; I guess angels just have a knack for it. Like Joey on Friends, with his ability to undo any bra any time.
Mama always said that angels were a load of hooley balooley. I was 19 when I found out that Mama sometimes didn’t know what she was talking about.
Riding my bike home from work usually found me daydreaming about some fantastical creature. Except for the small forest between the Hudson’s and the Carey’s farms the landscape was flat, often brown, and boring to look at. Daydreaming let me turn those browns in to lions hiding in wait for their prey, or great desert dunes where the camels outnumbered people. At times I imagined them so large, the camels I mean, that I knew the ridges between the dunes must have been left as they ran in great herds searching for humans to trample and drive from their lands.
One day as I rode, I was imagining that the giant rock that stood at the entrance to the forest was perhaps a griffin, lying in wait to pounce if I got too close. Behind the deathly still griffin I felt rather than saw movement. I placed my imagination firmly behind my curiosity so that any danger would be minimal. After all, my reality was a slash of greenery in a landscape drowning in dreary.
Throwing the bike against the rock I headed towards the trees. Perhaps there was an animal injured. Although, if I brought one more home to Mama she might make good on her threat and make me move out to the woodshed.
After the heat of the afternoon ride, stepping under the trees, the shade felt wonderful. A small path covered with tiny fallen branches, leaves and moss announced my journey and I ventured further in to the damp cool.
My brother Jared always muttered about his spidey senses after seeing Spiderman. For the first time I figured he might be on to something. The back of my neck tingled from more than my hair brushing against it. Once again I felt movement. My head turned in the direction it registered. No other part of me moved, not even to breathe, for at least a minute. Then, as I gasped in some much needed air my legs took over and began running. Not as any sane person would expect, in the opposite direction of what I was seeing, but towards it.
It focussed on me as I approached. As far as I could see, or feel, it did not seem threatened by my fast and ungainly approach. When I was close enough that I could reach out and touch it, which my hands were twitching to do, with a grace I had never imagined, the unicorn curled up on the ground, tears flowing down its face like melted silver. As they dripped on to the forest floor a pool formed. As the pool grew so did its turbulence, eddies of mist circled out of it before dropping back in to it only to rise and fall over and over again.
With the cool, the forest now seemed to be bathed in a dark and damp sadness. The weight of it made drawing a breath difficult. I did the only sensible thing I could think of, and curling my legs under me lay my head against the unicorn’s neck and closed my eyes.
It should have been shocking but when an arm slid around me all I felt was peace. Opening my eyes I lifted my head and watched with such fascination as the transformation ran down the limbs. Gone was the softness of the fur, replaced with smooth fair skin. Long nails protruded from both his; yes this was definitely a male, misshapen and large toes and fingers.
All that remained from my unicorn was his head. The large eyes still flowed with tears and the horn glowed softly in the dappled light.
‘It is best you go,’ the unicorn said.
‘Why do you cry?’ I asked. Of all the things happening it seemed the most important question to have an answer to.
Joanne “Buckshot” Bryant was a notorious bank and train robber and is possibly best-remembered as the Queen of the Rustlers in the American West of the 1800′s. It could truly be said that this queen came from a family of outlaw aristocracy. Her parents ran the infamous Bryant Gang in Australia and may have even known the outback bandit Mad Dog Morgan before he earned his enormous reputation. When you consider the fact that the later Kelly Gang, Australia’s most well-known gang of outlaws, often pointed to the Bryant Gang as their biggest inspiration and their own personal heroes, Buckshot Bryant came from the most blue-blooded bandit stock imaginable.
Joanne, or “Jo’s” parents settled in America to live in comfortable retirement from their ill-gotten wealth from Down Under. Jo was always a handful, a very willfull and adventurous young lady who caused her parents no end of trouble. In 1861 Bryant’s parents left Missouri (where Jo was born) to escape the freshly-started Civil War and traveled east. While her family hobnobbed with various east-coast gentry Jo herself purportedly began a fling with THE Samuel Colt, a newly commissioned colonel in the Union army. Colonel Colt never saw action in the field, doing mostly administrative work, but that left him with plenty of time to frolic with the beautiful young lady he had fallen in love with. Jo was in her late teens or very early twenties (accounts vary) and Colt was as old or older than her father. When Jo’s family moved on in their travels Jo insisted on staying behind to be with her lover, remaining with him until his death in 1862.
Rather than return to her parents at this time Jo’s adventurous nature led her to begin frequenting east coast rail lines, bedecked in fashionable outfits and luring well-to-do men with amorous intentions into her coachroom, where she would immediately pull a revolver on them and force them to undress and give her all their valuables. She would then slip out of the room and off the train. When the high-living young beauty was running out of the funds from her latest haul she would once again start riding the rails, relying on her sultry looks and her well-dressed appearance to draw another victim her way. One passenger she did not rob during that period of her life was a young Union officer named Humphrey Bogart,
with whom she supposedly had a brief fling. Bogart would later marry Amarillo Rose, the most colorful figure of the Amarillo Range War.
Shortly after the end of the Civil War Bryant traveled to Missouri, siezed with an uncharacteristically nostalgic desire to once again see the home where she had spent her childhood, Kiwi Aussie Manor. She found the place a gutted shell because the abandoned home had been used as a headquarters by Confederate forces and then burned during a Union raid. Feeling more rootless than ever Jo boarded a train headed west, planning to resume her usual criminal activities. As fate would have it, once the train got into eastern Kansas it was boarded and robbed by the James-Younger Gang.
As various members of the gang made their way through the train cars relieving the passengers of their valuables, Jo sprang into action and nearly shot Frank James right between the eyes before being grabbed from behind by Frank’s buddy Cole Younger. While the now-disarmed Jo stood there cursing the two outlaws in the foulest language imaginable they both stood there eyeing the gorgeous young thing before them with just one thing on their minds and it wasn’t Reconstruction Era politics. Calming down, Jo further charmed Cole and Frank by shrewdly telling them how her home had been burned by Union troops and about her railroad scam. Soon Jesse himself was on the scene ogling Jo and listening to his brother and Cole fill him in on this unexpected development. Jesse offered Jo a place in the James-Younger “organization” and she accepted, riding off with the outlaws.
Jo started out serving as a “plant” on trains the James-Younger Gang intended to rob. Dressed in finery she would pose as a passenger, then once the gang began their assault she would produce a gun or two to keep the passengers in line and accomodate the heist in any other way she could. Ever fiery, however, Jo soon tired of that role and began taking a more active part in the robberies, toting a shotgun and even dressing in the gang’s legendary long dusters and dark cowboy hats like the other notorious woman in the gang, Belle Starr
(though since this was before her marriage to Sam Starr she was still known as Belle Shirley). Jo and Belle got along famously and Belle herself gave Bryant her nickname following a legendary incident. Bob Ford, a fringe character in the Missouri outlaw world, was often trying to force himself on Jo. After one such incident Jo began loading her shotgun, swearing she would blow off Ford’s manhood so he would stop troubling her once and for all. Bob Ford fled as quickly as he could but Jo still fired off a barrel full of buckshot at his retreating form to drive home her point. Ford was far enough away that the shot wasn’t fatal but it caught him full on the buttocks, making it difficult for him to sit down for several days. Belle laughed uproariously and began calling Jo “Buckshot” Bryant, the name she would be known by forever after.
Buckshot spent a few happy years with the James-Younger Gang, enjoying dalliances with Cole Younger and the two James brothers, sometimes both at once according to Belle Starr in her memoirs. All that Hell-raising took place in between daring bank and train robberies. Eventually, however, Buckshot Bryant wanted to lead a gang of her own and headed west along with her latest lover and fellow gang member Kevin “Colorado” Costner.
In Texas, Buckshot and Colorado gathered around them the nucleus of the bank and train robbing gang that became known as the Poker Studs. That name for the gang came about because of Buckshot Bryant’s ever-roaming eye for handsome young men, whom she grew to love having around her as her subordinates. Treating these young men as her male harem, Buckshot was so desired by all of them that she took to having the young studs play poker for the privilege of sleeping with her each night. Thus, they became known as the Poker Studs, a name which was supposedly inverted and became the namesake of the game called Stud Poker, in a Burnside/Sideburns kind of way.
Colorado Costner grew increasingly jealous of this behavior and after a furious argument with Buckshot, blurted out his love for her and rode off. Bryant was surprised by Costner’s declaration of love since she thought he saw it as just fun and games like she did. Sad but too proud to chase after him, Buckshot watched him ride off, not realizing they were destined to meet again.
Oddly stirred by the depth of Colorado’s feelings for her, Bryant tried losing herself in booze, loveplay with her Poker Studs and non-stop larcenous behavior. Eventually feeling that banks worth robbing were a bit too far apart this far out west compared to back in the Missouri-Kansas area, Buckshot decided to move into rustling instead of bank robbing, though the gang would still keep their hand in train robbing with occassional heists. Sitting tall in the saddle and with her trusty shotgun always at her side, Buckshot Bryant molded her Poker Studs into a very lucrative operation. The gang would rustle cattle from ranches throughout Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, herd them below the border into Mexico where they would be either sold or traded for horses, which could then be sold back in the U.S. for a profit.
Once, after rustling some livestock from the High Chaparral, the gang was pursued by Manolito Montoya himself, who attacked the band of rustlers single-handed.
Intrigued by this foohardy courage, Buckshot ordered her Poker Studs not to kill the handsome Latino, with whom she checked into a Tucson hotel. There the two reached some form of accomodation, with the result that Jo promised to stop rustling from the High Chaparral and Manolito promised to never reveal the location of the desert hideout that he had trailed the gang to.
Sometimes Buckshot and the Poker Studs would rustle just a few cattle for the gang’s personal consumption and would have a massive cookout under the nighttime desert skies, the beef accompanied by tortillas, rice and beans, all washed down with gutrot whiskey. Bryant would revel in these festivities, comfortable and very pleased, surrounded as she was by a gaggle of toughened hombres who all desired and feared her at the same time.
Joining in the fun with Jo at these events would be Poker Studs like:
–Dancin’ Pat Swayze, formerly of the Point Break Gang, who joined Buckshot’s gang when she sheltered him from the Texas Rangers who were pursuing him
– Lariat Leo DiCaprio, the experienced rustler, fresh out of prison, who helped educate Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs in the ways of rustling. His specialty was altering cattle brands
– Colin “Wild Irish” Farrell, who fancied the rustling trade (and himself) as a continuation of the ancient Irish “art” of rustling as depicted in Celtic Mythology.
During this period of her career the Queen of the Rustlers enjoyed tweaking the forces of the law in the frontier as they ineffectually tried to bring her to justice. In the New Mexico Territory Buckshot Bryant made it her personal mission to confound the best efforts of Pat Garrett as she continually bested him at the mental chess game they played. Jo made him look so foolish that she is considered the main reason why he eventually lost reelection as sheriff and moved to Texas.
Bryant held Judge Roy Bean in particular contempt and loathed him as the epitome of the hypocritical, self-serving and corrupt system of law enforcement in the Wild West. Bean had vowed that if Buckshot was brought before him he would sentence her in one minute and hang her in two. Once, when Dancin’ Pat and Wild Irish had been captured and Bean had sentenced them to the gallows Jo mounted and executed what would today be called a commando-style raid to free her imprisoned Poker Studs. This escapade infuriated Judge Bean so much that Bryant took to freeing many of the other prisoners Bean had sentenced to death. She was so successful at this that, from then on, despite the many felons given a capital sentence by the power-crazed Judge only one was ever actually hanged. One of the men Jo rescued from Bean’s demented form of “justice” was the wandering gunfighter Juniper Johnny Depp, said to be a descendant of the notorious pirate captain Jack Sparrow. Depp and Bryant had a brief affair, which ended when the next paying client for his skill at gunplay came along and he rode off.
Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs are still a very sore subject with the Texas Rangers since no other band of outlaws was as skilled at foiling their pursuit. If cornered Jo and her minions were more than happy to resort to gunplay and Bryant’s shotgun sent many a law enforcement officer or bounty hunter to their graves.
Ranger William “Bigfoot” Wallace so admired Buckshot’s pluck that he had an unofficial “truce” with the rustling queen and would often get together with her and the Poker Studs across the border in Mexico to raise Hell in saloons.
Texas Ranger Mark Wahlberg came the closest to actually bringing Buckshot Bryant in, but, supposedly smitten with his gorgeous quarry, he let her go free instead. Unable to reconcile this with his devotion to law enforcement Wahlberg shot himself to death after watching Bryant ride off.
Buckshot’s friendship with Poker Alice, the frequently widowed card-player who roamed the west, is legendary. Bryant was far too shrewd to ever get involved in a poker game with the gun-toting mistress of the card tables but the two loved tearing up the saloons during the many times their paths crossed, often with mutual friend Doc Holliday present as well.
The biggest strain on their friendship came when Poker Alice was working as a dealer in a saloon owned by Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James and the would-be lothario whose antics had led to Buckshot being so named during their years in Missouri. Jo threatened to blow Ford away for his betrayal of Jesse and had to be physically restrained by Poker Alice to prevent her from killing Ford in front of a room full of witnesses. Alice persuaded her old, dear friend to leave, but Bryant vowed to never speak to Poker Alice again as long as she worked for Ford. That promise was kept but after Alice wandered on to another location the friendship between the two legends resumed.
Many books have been written about Buckshot Bryant’s involvement with various Native American leaders. Debate over her motives for assisting them in their battles with the bluecoats of the U.S. army continues to this day. Bryant would see to it that meat from rustled cattle would find its way to hostile chiefs like Red Cloud, Geronimo and Cochise to keep their people fed during hard times. Not only that but horses that she obtained in Mexico in exchange for rustled livestock would sometimes be given to those same chiefs to help fuel their war effort. In exchange the chiefs would help Jo and her gang to hide from particularly dangerous pursuit.
Buckshot was especially close to Cochise, who named her “Shoots Deadly Woman”, and the Queen of the Rustlers was foolhardy enough to visit Cochise in disguise when her old friend was on his deathbed in 1874. Bryant even accompanied the burial party and was said to be the only white person who ever knew Cochise’s exact resting place.
With the death of this friend of hers, Buckshot Bryant’s conviction to assist the warring Native American leaders was doubled. She took to leading her Poker Studs in running guns to the Sioux during the Sioux uprising. These activities led her into contact with former Lieutenant John Dunbar, noted for his years living with Native Americans, who named him Dances With Wolves.
Dunbar had once been mistakenly arrested for a few days because of his uncanny resemblance to Bryant’s old beau Colorado Costner. Dunbar’s philosophical musings about the plight of the Native Americans helped strengthen Jo’s resolve.
One day in the 1880′s who should come riding into the canyon hideout of Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs but that same Colorado Costner. He hadn’t lost his touch, and had tracked the gang down and penetrated their lair without them so much as noticing. He and Buckshot embraced and he related to her how he had been caught and arrested less than a year after riding off following their argument long ago. Luckily, when he left them the gang was not yet under a death sentence so he was not hanged but he had served a long prison term. His sentence was lengthened by his refusal to cooperate by giving law enforcement any information that would help them locate the woman he loved. Kevin told Jo how the thought of being able to one day hold her in his arms again was the only thing that kept him going during his time suffering in the hellish prison conditions of the time. This time Jo wasn’t too proud to admit her feelings for this man who had endured so much for her sake and the two were supposedly wed, although no records to support that assertion have ever been found.
Costner enthusiastically embraced his true love’s desire to aid Native American resistance and the two spent several happy years devoted to each other (the gang was now the Poker Studs in name only since Jo and Kevin were deeply in love). Their lives were filled with rustling, periodic train robberies, hair’s-breadth escapes from the law and with providing surreptitious aid to the Native American cause. The two felt a tight bond with the Native Americans, whom they saw as kindred spirits in living on their own terms against the power of outside forces.
In 1890 events came crashing down on Buckshot Bryant and Colorado Costner. After the gang was very nearly caught while running a supply of fresh beef to a suffering Native American community, the Poker Studs were fed up with risking their necks in such endeavors and abandoned Jo and Kevin. The two spent a few weeks in the village and therefore got to be first hand witnesses when the Ghost Dance spread into the community. The Ghost Dance has been classified as a semi-ecstatic state in which the participants were encouraged to believe all the dead Native Americans of the past, as well as all the dead buffalo, were going to return and the white people would all be driven away. This was all misinterpreted as another uprising and troops were sent to squelch it.
Thus it was that Buckshot Bryant and Colorado Costner were on hand at Wounded Knee when the army moved in to massacre the Ghost Dancers, who were all dancing, not fighting. From what has been reconstructed of the scene, Bryant and Costner, presumably sickened at what they were witnessing, savagely fought off the attacking bluecoats for as long as they could before the overwhelming odds caught up with them and they perished alongside the people with whom they had shared their strongest bond of kinship.
Now admittedly I have posted this in the early days of my blog. But Ed [who wrote this masterpiece] and I got talking on his recent post about: TEN NEGLECTED GUNSLINGERS: COUNTDOWN TO FRONTIERADO and Buckshot, as she tends to do when Ed and I get talking, made a few waves about being forgotten. So…to keep her quiet while I work, I gave in…and I hope those of you who have not met her before will enjoy her adventures as much as I do !!!
Some of you may know the lovely lady above. T B Markinson is her name for those of you who do not.
I recently got my hands on a copy of her newest book…MARIONETTE.
I was a bit hesitant about reading a book from someone I know…ye Gods…what if I hate it ?? Especially when you are dealing with subject matter such as this book does…attempted suicide, homosexuality, hiding who you are and dysfunctional family bonds.
Suicide has touched my life…and in every case…every single one…those left behind are broken and shattered and struggle to find their way past the moment that the person who took their life passed the burden on to them.
I grew up trying to be the perfect daughter, wife, mother…never trusting that the real me was good enough. I hid behind a veneer of what I perceived was acceptable.
As for dysfunctional family bonds…I am writing a book on those. From experience.
Thus…when I started reading Marionette…I was like…oh no !!! Because the beginning of the book starts with a failed suicide attempt.
Then…wham bamm thank you ma’am, you step right in to her crazy family where Paige hides everything important about herself.
Three out of four boxes I know about…Marionette was hitting close to home.
Paige Alexander is a young woman who has lived her life with parents who frankly…need shooting on sight. Seriously. These are the sort of people that were they dogs…then they would be euthanized to protect the community .
Paige loves Jessica. Secretly. Why you may ask ? Well, for that you need to read Marionette.
What can be a problem with books such as this one, I have found at least, is making the characters believable. Too many writers turn the people in their books in to cardboard cutouts that have no real dimension to them.
As Paige goes off to college, and to counseling, piece by piece we get to travel within [think Fantastic Voyage] her until we finally end up completely in Paige’s head, really knowing her.
Along the way we also get to know Jess better. Quite early on you wonder a bit about whether Jess is all she seems. I am not going to give any spoilers here, so if you want to know the answer to that…you know the drill…get the book. Why does this older, educated, confident, funny woman want to be with the younger, damaged Paige ?
The other characters in the book, except for the completely hellish parents, are all well written complementary characters. Not that the parents aren’t well conceived, they are just downright evil people.
Liddy, Paige’s counselor, is one of my favourites in the book. Slowly through Liddy, we the reader get to know Paige.
Then there are the college friends. Audrey [the roommate], aptly nick named ‘Minnie Mouse’ by Paige. Jenna and Karen [the suite mates]. Jewels, Emily, Tom, Ben and Aaron. Paige’s relationship with Tom provides a few nice twists.
Then there are:
Mel and Wesley. Talk about a couple who need a swift kick.
Alex. Paige’s childhood friend. This was one of the saddest but most unexpected relationships in Marionette.
Abbie. Paige’s sister. Abbie has more than her share of demons too.
Julia. Who runs a diner and through her food has become part of Jess’s family and so therefore also Paige’s.
This is a book about relationships. How they can grow and surprise you. How you can survive the ugly ones and rejoice in the ones that lift your spirit. It is also about secrets.
I read Marionette in one sitting. Then I went back to read it again for this review and was just as delighted the second time.
Thank goodness it has also been edited and proofread. Self published books that haven’t are sadly too many to name these days. They do little to serve the readers or the authors who can’t be bothered to make sure that their finished book actually is that – finished.
I look forward to reading the next of T B Markinson’s efforts after this.
I would have shown you a photo of me writing…but I look a little scary these days. Too much caffeine, late nights, hating my writing and a lot of head banging will do that !!!
It has its moments. I am really struggling with not being able to edit as I go. It is a very bad habit I hope NaNoWriMo will cure me of…but I am really finding it hard.
I feel like everything coming out is crap…which I know most first drafts are. And all I want to do is work on it until it is better. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr…habits are very hard things to break.
So here is some more of Chapter I. The next excerpt will have someone going over a cliff…who will it be and will they survive is the BIG question.
Chapter I Scenes VI & VII
Zak approaches, he is alone. “Other than the customary inhabitants, we are on our own here.”
“Our cautious friend is laying out a warning system.” he stares up at the mountain. “I want to go with you.”
“Deveron. I know what you seek.”
“You are not the only one Father has told the stories to.” I do not tell him that they are not just stories for me.
“Then you also know what waits on the mountain. Not everyone who seeks the Phoenix comes down again.” And now I do not tell him that anyone with me when I find the Phoenix King is in even more danger.
“If I am old enough to be here, then I think I am old enough for that as well.” His eyes bore into mine, and I realise that he is now as tall as I.
“I promised Father that you would return. I intend to keep my word Zak.” I understand his eagerness for this, his first real adventure. “If I allow you this, your death will likely follow.” I hope, foolishly perhaps, to make him understand. “No-one is allowed into their realm, I must go alone.” There were only deadly mistakes from this point, how could I make him see that.
“I will not be a disappointment to you.”
“I am not worried about disappointment.” Evijan arrives at the lake as the other men set about making camp for the night. He carries with him two large water birds slung over his shoulders, and tosses them to Zak. “I speak to you no longer as your brother Zarek, but as your commander.”
“Enough. You stay behind. Speak no more of this.”
“We are quite alone here,” Evijan announces, as he sets about making a fire. “Time to make yourself useful,” he nods to Zak to sit by him, hoping to distract him I know. “Jareth is tracking a herd of hippus.” These small grey animals are equally at home on land or in the water. Their tough round bodies make them seem slow, but when threatened their speed makes them difficult to catch. Jareth is one of a few hunters who can boast of bringing one down. Their flesh is a delicacy, and my mouth waters in anticipation of the forthcoming meal.
Zak glares at me as he throws himself on to a log beside Evijan. Eventually, everyone returns to the camp, Jareth, Adsel, Ryder, Cato, Gye, and Nils return, their kills hanging from poles they carry between them and we sit together in a sociable peace. Each face is a portrait of a part of myself, and I wonder how many of these bold companions will return home. Throughout the meal my brother remains silent, never looking in my direction. Evijan watches him as closely as I. When Zak is finished he nudges him slightly and smiles in Jareth’s direction.
“Did you purposely seek out the smallest of the herd? Or did they by chance hear you coming – oh grand hunter of the Opinouwi? Evijan is smiling at me as he taunts Jareth. “Lucky for those of us with hearty appetites, others were able to provide.” I watch as Jareth’s eyes narrow. “Perhaps I should…” Jareth pounces and Evijan is sent sprawling in the dirt.
“Perhaps you should keep your thoughts inside that minute brain of yours…friend.” Jareth sits atop of Evijan, their arms flailing as each tries to gain the advantage. I see Zak smile for the first time since our discussion, and silently thank both men. It troubles me that I must now force our minds back to our task.
“Quiet,” I hold up my hands to silence the men. Immediately all are still, and I began to outline my preparations. “Should I not return within eight days Evijan, you are to lead them on. Wraith will give you aid in finding another way.”
“There is no other way Deveron,” Evijan shakes his head.
“Then you shall have to make one. You cannot go into the Devil’s Den if I do not return…and you must not come seeking me. I want your word. Eight days and you all leave. “Understood?” He does not look pleased.
“If two of us were to go…” Zak begins.
“No. I go alone. Give me your word Evijan.” Zak’s eyes flash in the firelight as he lowers them.
“Arrogant fool,” he protests before walking away.
“You have my word, but I trust it will not be needed,” he reaches out grasping my arm. “He will be alright.” His hold stops me from following my brother.
“He is too impetuous,” I silently wish I had been able to sway my father from allowing him to come on this journey. “I should have made him stay behind. He is too young, too eager for adventure. He will take too many risks.”
“He reminds me of someone I used to know,” he says, lifting his brows. “I shall just have to keep my eyes on him. And use my persuasive manner. Do not worry. Zak is like a brother to me.” I stare at the hand still firmly grasping my arm.
“Leave him,” Evijan can read my thoughts almost as well as Wraith. “Allow him to master his feelings.” Zak stays just outside the firelight, and my sleep is uneasy.
To visit my NaNoWriMo page click on the link. Throughout the month of November you can check on my progress. You can see how many words I have written and come back and kick my butt if it’s not enough !!!!
He turns immediately to the left and begins picking his way through the dim brush. We proceed single file. For many hours we trek with only the unicorns’ sight to guide us through the darkness. As we go deeper, even though the sun would be rising, it does not reach onto the forest floor. The gloom transmits itself, and I feel the weight of the task creep under my skin.
What is it you doubt Deveron?
We are but nine Wraith.
And the Sadistiens are but six.
I fear for them. I should have come alone.
Are you so absolute in your view of yourself?
No, but I am not sure that we shall be successful.
My choice of them may be their death.
Arrogance. It does not suit you my friend.
Not arrogance Wraith, foreboding, and regret.
You must know that there is not one man here that you could have stopped from coming.
I did not try.
No, but it makes no difference, they each have the right, as do you, to be part of this.
If we fail, they will be needed more than ever.
Your lack of faith does them discredit Deveron. We are only just begun, and you sound worse than the bleakest doomsayer. Have faith, my friend.
Was it not you Wraith, who just warned me that some might not survive the Devil’s Den?
It is true. You should know by now Deveron, Unicorns always prepare for the worst. It is our way. It does not mean anything other than that. We are not blessed with vision. Were that so, we would not have been almost annihilated ourselves.
I’m sorry for it Wraith.
I begin to fear for you more than the others Deveron. You must not enter the Devil’s Den with so much weighing on your soul.
I shall feel better once I have spoken with the Phoenix King.
I hope so.
Chapter I Scene V
Wraith looks doubtful, but keeps any further thoughts to himself as he leads the way through the forest. Talking is impossible, the deeper we go the louder the noises from the inhabitants become. From deep within the underbrush to the highest canopy they call to each other of our passing. It is almost time for the sun to leave the sky when we reach Lissiom Lake. I will have to circumvent it to reach the bottom of Fire-Bird Mountain. I call a halt.
“Evijan, have a look around and make sure that we are alone here. Adsel, take Ryder…” before I finish the twins spring from their mounts and make off around the lake’s edge. Both adept hunters, we would soon have fresh food to fill our bellies.
We will leave as the sun rises? Wraith’s tone is troubled.
I know Wraith.
The King will not be happy to see you.
No, but he will not kill me.
Are you so sure?
No. But I hope.
With good fortune, four days, no longer should things go well.
And if they don’t?
I shall leave Evijan with instructions to leave after eight days. You will need to help them find another way. If I do not return, they cannot travel through the Devil’s Den.
Then we must hope that you do my friend.
I look out over the lake to Fire-Bird Mountain. In the dusk, fog circles the base rising to a third of the way up. The face of it appears sheer, but I know that inside there is a single path that leads up to a secret gateway to the clandestine realm of the Phoenix people.
To visit my NaNoWriMo page click on the link. Throughout the month of November you can check on my progress. You can see how many words I have written and come back and kick my butt if it’s not enough !!!!
I had to take the weekend off to wizz up to Auckland…which provided lots of photo taking opportunities. It also provided a chance to get dressed up. Gilly tells me I should make the following photo my gravatar – instead of [as she very politely puts it] hiding behind the camera.
When I mentioned I didn’t like my ‘scrunched up eyes’ she let go of polite with a resounding ‘STOP IT !!!!’. We all have it though…that one feature we don’t really like about ourselves. Well, mine is my eyes. It’s hard to smile and stretch your eyes open at the same time. Believe me I know. Ah well…could be worse. I might have to tuck my boobs in to my belt…oh wait…I do !!!
I even wore make-up and heels. I ate, I drank, I danced, and I met lots of fabulously fun people.
I arrived home shattered. So yesterday I got back in to it. I have some very pissed off horses at the moment. They recently told Wraith just how pissed they were about being taken in to Gryphe territory as Gryphes love horses…to eat. Wraith wasn’t to happy about it either, being a cousin of the horse.
And so…Scenes II & III of Chapter I are here for your thoughts. And please…no matter how you think I sound when I reply to comments…I DO WANT your thoughts. If you don’t like something/don’t get it/think it’s shit…say so. I am more than happy to take on board what you say.
A wonderful tutor once told me: “If your readers aren’t getting it, it has nothing to do with them. It is all about you not writing it so that they can ‘GET IT’, so rewrite it until they do the first time they read it…or you’ve lost them forever.” Very wise man my tutor !!!
“Stop,” I murmur, as we reach the first rise outside the City. Wraith halts and I turn back.
“Brother?” Zak pulls up beside me.
“Is it not a wonder?” I ask. As the gates draw close the city shimmers, moonbeams bouncing off the rooftops back into the air above.
“He does this each time we leave.” Evijan is laughing. “Your brother would have us believe that he possesses no tender traits, and yet I see a softness in his eyes every time we farewell the Elusive City.” As we watch, the city fades until there is no trace of it under the night sky.
“Evijan.” My thoughts are of the missing Stone. “Only one of the Opinouwi can open the City. Whoever took the Stone had help to enter. From one of us.”
“Runolf will discover those responsible,” Evijan replies. “And punish them, while we shall recover it and return it to the Citadel.”
“If they knew who was to track them…they would not have been so foolish,” Zak sounds younger than he looks. His pale blonde hair hangs loose about his shoulders, and his eyes, so like our mother’s, have not been marked with misfortune or sin.
# # #
Silent, I urge Wraith on. It feels good to be out of the city. With the moon out, I no longer need to rely on Wraith to pick a path, and I push him hard. His body relaxes as he hits his stride.
Hold on Deveron, he tells me. We ride hard for many miles and reach the forest before light. I call a halt when we pass the first trees.
Evijan slides to the ground immediately and begins to search. He is an accomplished seeker; I know without him we would waste valuable time. He waves to Zak to join him, and quietly begins to speak as he points to traces only he can see.
“Here,” he says to Zak kneeling beside him.
“I see nothing, old man,” Zak teases.
“Look,” Evijan runs his hand over the ground. “The dust flows back toward the clearing, something has passed over in haste.” He turns to lay his ear upon the earth, and holds up a finger to silence Zak. “There are five of them. No six, two are riding the same beast.” He looks up at me. “They ride toward the Devil’s Den.”
“Then we must prepare.”
I do not like this Deveron. The Devil’s Den can drive men to madness.Some of your men…I do not know if they can make it through.
I know Wraith.
“Are the stories true?” Zak looks from Evijan to me.
“No brother, they do not begin to tell of the malevolence that lives there.”
“I thought they were just tales, told to scare children,” he swings back on to his mount. “What must we do then, to prepare? Deveron?”
“We shall need to hunt while we are in the forest.” I look about. “If we do not touch the food stores, perhaps we shall have enough to get us through.”
We must find the Phoenix King Deveron.
I look up at Wraith’s words. It will mean a detour that will delay us, but I know he is right. Hidden deep in the forest there rises a solitary peak.
“But first, we must make our way to Fire-Bird Mountain. Come.”
Find us a way there Wraith. The quickest way please.
It is impossible to sleep. I have worked myself right in to this whole NaNoWriMo thing. So what the heck…I am starting right now. Well as soon as I post this I am. Not even going to look online until I have done as much as I need to. I need to get a little ahead as I am off to a wedding this weekend in Auckland. I am leaving Saturday morning and will be away until later Sunday…so I won’t get any writing done Saturday.
Just to keep you entertained…here is Scene 1 from Chapter 1. Remember this is only a first draft guys so it needs…well it needs work.
Where there is great love, there exists great tragedy. It is the tragedy that opens the enormous capacity inside of men for devotion to another that is greater than their instinct for self preservation.
Darkness shrouds the city. The light from the Citadel window falls on the bleached skulls that pave the square below and refracts back illuminating the men and their mounts as they wait. Beside me my brother reins in his mount, both impatient to be off.
He is my mirror image, except for the eyes. Zak’s eyes are a soft clear blue, like the inside curve of a wave, our mother’s eyes. His face no longer sprouting the first soft downy hairs of youth but bristled and more defined as he enters his manhood. His eyes are bright, and his smile full and easily given. The sight of him mounted and ready to leave brings a pain to my chest.
“I’ll keep you safe brother,” I swear quietly. I shall bring you home untarnished, if I must die in doing so, I silently add. Beside him is Evijan. Our mothers had birthed us on the same day; we had played together as children. We had passed through our manhood rites together, hunted together, lain with our first woman on the same night, fought our first battle by each other’s side. After he breathed in, I would breathe out. As he ran his gaze over Zak, he nodded slightly and I knew my brother would be protected should I fall.
A young groom appears and hands me Wraith’s halter. He is out of breath and dishevelled.
“I see he has been up to his usual trickery.” Wraith’s stark white coat is broken up with slashes of black and silver, running from his backbone vertically down his legs, as well as spiralling together in his great horn. “Do not worry lad, he has bested many besides you.” The unicorn had been a gift from my father. I had wondered many times if there was a meaning behind the gift. Wraith is the most complex of the creatures, but I trust him as I do my own limbs.
“Wraith,” I ask him, “will you carry me on this journey?” His black eyes study mine before he lowers his head. Springing on his back I feel his muscles undulate as they fit to my body. Another six men form two rows behind us, the last of them leading our pack animals.
“Why is it I am always gifted with a view of your behind?’ Jareth asks, older than I by two cycles he is the most experienced hunter amongst the party. His keen eyesight and sense of smell had often kept my belly full, and his good humour is quick to raise the dourest of spirits.
“So I do not have your incessant babble constantly in my ears.”
“Oh my friend, you wound me,” I can feel his smile.
“Go,” I whisper to Wraith in my head, and he begins to fly over the ground. I let him lead, winding his way through the dark city. We make no sound and his hooves leave no imprint in the earth beneath them. Passing through the city gates I see the moon begin to rise.
To visit my NaNoWriMo page click on the link. Throughout the month of November you can check on my progress. You can see how many words I have written and come back and kick my butt if it’s not enough !!!!