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The Five to Fifteen Minutes Thread.
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Sorus
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 09, 2016 3:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I'm sending you Downriver."

Anybody else, I'd be waiting for a punchline. But Director Indigo has no use for humor. She's watching me. Waiting for a response.

I don't have a response. The surreal quality of the day has reached a fever pitch. I might burst out laughing. Make a smartass remark. Neither would be appreciated. What does she want from me?

I look down at the file in my hands, seeking inspiration. Well, glory be. There's a punchline after all.

"He's gone missing. Downriver Market. Three days now." She fiddles with rearranging one of the many stacks of papers on her desk, and I realize she's nervous.

I should be nervous. I probably will be nervous if I can get past incredulous.

"Three days," I repeat. "He's probably sleeping it off in some 5-star hotel. Doesn't the Market cater to--" Careful now... "People of means with... discerning tastes?" Proud of myself. Weaselwords that won't set off any alarms if the room is bugged, which it almost certainly is.

"He may have crossed a line. He's probably dead."

Well, light a red candle to Lady Karma. "What does this have to do with me?"
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 09, 2016 3:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorus wrote:
Yess... It's a plot bunny that I am going to connect to existing characters as backstory.

Yay.

Rune wrote:
I didn't like it one bit!
Reading it back there were so many badly written sentences that I should have at least tried writing it once more before posting it.
The idea was about a burglar who breaks into a house and steals a laptop belonging to an extra-terrestrial. When the laptop is switched on there are all sorts of otherworldy stuff to scare the living daylights out of the happless pair. But not in 15 minutes, that's for sure!

btw... here is my reaction to this:
What I really appreciated in the narrative was the way things went... he's mad at his woman, and he's been pretty innocent of the things she's just accused him of.
And so, in anger, he goes and does those exact things. (I assume, at least, that stealing was the main thing Jilly was thinking of when she said he was 'at it again.')
It was like, "oh, yeah. that's how things go."

also, the first time around, I was wrong about (though I guessed it was the laptop of a secretive human organization.)
__________________

Tamra and Brandon looked at each other and then away.
"This is awkward." said Tamra, and then started to giggle for some reason.
I just shook my head. Neither of them was looking in my direction anyway.
"Why did I even agree to stick around?" Tamra asked.
"For the... tea?" said Brandon with a shrug.
I couldn't see his face, but I was sure it was breaking in to one of his famous lopsided grins.

"That's not what I mean... I don't know what I'm doing... what am I supposed to say after what I heard?"
In response, Brandon looked down.
And then a few words escaped his mouth: "Say you don't hate me?"
Tamra looked up, aghast. "I don't hate you. How could you think I would hate you?"
Brandon just cringed, but Tamra continued: "Some of those things - you were right about."
"Aint never stopped anyone from hating me over something I said before."

Standing over at the other end of the room, I kept thinking of things that I wasn't going to say: "Congratulations, you've just had your first fight," and "Kiss and make up," and such.
They would go over details, unraveling how on earth could one of them have possibly thought one thing while the other thought another - oh, I would make sure of that.
But this was done.
In fact, it was already decided when Tamra and I talked: Once she was able to be happy again - about anything - she was going to be able to weather this.

(about 15 minutes. and... I think that's the end.
I am dissatisfied with the writing here at the end, though glad of some stuff that happened along the way.
I wonder how real the conversation sounds.
Hmmph. I do think the tension was winding down, though...)
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorus wrote:
Children underfoot, oblivious to the tension, their fingers curled into mock fangs and claws as they chased one another around the pit.


This reminded me of an awful experience I had several years back. And rather than let it trigger my PTSD so I lie awake for hours, I am going to write about it.

***

I drove my son out of town into the African hills where the dentist lived for an appointment. The sun-beaten fields spread out in every direction, and now and then a person carried a burden by the road. Ahead, the brittle tarmac skirted a low hill. Crowds of people clustered on the verge. I slowed the Toyota down.

On the left was a police truck, uniforms hanging all over the vehicle, pointedly ignoring something.

On the right the crowd was thickest.

On the left, I spotted a man I knew; an American, dressed in Kevlar. I stopped and talked to him. He told me that the place where the dentist lived had been robbed by a gang of thieves; that the villagers had chased them all night and caught them. I asked if we could pass. "Oh, you can go on through," he told me. "They are killing them now."

Somehow, my mind refused to reconcile the two statements, and I rolled the car slowly ahead through the milling crowd. On the right, a carpet of bloody bodies spread out, men still standing over them and swinging clubs. My son's head swiveled out the window. "Oh God, Ryan, don't look!" I cried, my hand on my mouth. I fixed my eyes on the road and kept going.

The sound. The sound of wood hitting bodies most likely already dead. I can never forget that sound.

A little ways up the road, my son asked me if I was all right and said I should pull over. I told him I wanted to get away from the scene.

In the next few miles, we kept passing groups of people bearing clubs and pumping them victoriously in the air. Groups of children were also walking back and forth, with whatever stick they could find, waving them in the air.

I later heard about how the same group of thieves had attacked homes in the area several times but after arrest, they were let go because someone bribed the police, or one of the young men was related to someone with influence to get them out. They were sick of the same thing and very protective of the compound where the dentist lived, which also contained a school and retreat for pastors and missionaries. So this time, they took justice in their own hands. That is why the police were looking the other way.

About 3 weeks after, there was a paragraph in the "Police Blotter" section of the paper which completely misconstrued the event as a police action that resulted in the deaths of the thieves who resisted arrest-- except for one. I wonder what that one had to say, or what happened to him.

****

Obviously, it was the thing with the fangs that reminded me of the children I saw waving their little makeshift clubs, because that was almost the saddest thing about it.

I hope I don't trigger someone else's PTSD by writing about my own. It helped me to get it out of my head. Thanks.
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Sorus
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I seem to be on a roll this week when it comes to hitting people's triggers - I assure you, it's completely unintentional. Sad
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2016 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyway, think I'm going to scrap this one - I was on the fence about starting it in the first place, and I haven't even gotten to the dark stuff yet. I will listen to my instincts next time.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2016 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, umm, the one you're thinking of scrapping... well, just yesterday I noticed you'd written more on it.
(did not notice it before 'cuz... I posted approximately simultaneously with you... and I may have mostly been thinking about what I was going to say.)

Well, here is what I am going to say now - about it:
Enjoying the POV character's internal narrative... she can't think of anything to say to this that won't get her in trouble, so... looks around, observes, reads what she's been given, reads her boss's demeanor.


I decided to re-work that last story of mine.
Sticking with original story up to here:
"Okay, so since I ...have no idea what I'm doing, why don't we go back out there...?"
At this, her [Tamra's] face was overtaken by the good which reveals itself in a genuine grin:
"Since we have no idea what we're doing, let's plunge head-first into the mess that's been exposed!"
We.


Here is Version II:
I stood in the doorway, and put my hands together, with the grave serenity of a empress all in gold.
Or like Deborah preparing to rebuke Barak.
I planned out how I would dramatically speak my lines when the light unveiled me.
I chose the words, "We have taken counsel."
And I motioned toward the door with my head.

But when Tamra opened it, she almost whacked Brandon in the head, and my grand debut was shattered.
He started talking immediately: "What are you guys doing, meeting like this, closing me off? I don't see-- you guys shouldn't have to do that!"
"You were listening!" said Tamra.
"No, I didn't! I- I heard nothing." he said.
"Only because you couldn't!" she said.

I sighed, and with more of a huff than intended said, "Umm, I'm going to go make the tea now!"
"Coffee for me!" said Brandon, calling after me.
I looked up and gave him a small smile of sympathy: "137."
"One-thirty-seven," he nodded.

I walked to the kitchen.
He started to follow me, putting as much distance between him and Tamra as he could in the small apartment.

She just stood by the bedroom doorway, a little disoriented.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2016 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm still working on it, because it won't stop gnawing until I let it out.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You should let it out, Sorus. I find your narrative style instantly engaging. Smile

Also, I watched this video today which said that the way to kill writer's block was: give yourself permission to write garbage. Start with 3 minutes of pure crapola just to get it out of your system. So even if your current plot were crapola, which it's NOT, it is still valid to just spew whatever comes to mind. You can clean it all up and make it perfect later.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Completely different story, completely different scene:

"No, Rich. You're the one who's aiming too low."
I focused my gaze on the eyes opposite mine.
"You can chase ambition and excellence, but it's like a treadmill. Futile. Vain. Trying to grab handfuls of wind and clutch them to your heart."
"I won't settle for that. I'm the one who's aiming high. I'm aiming for nothing lower than the highest heavens."

My 14-year-old cousin walked up behind me, giggling.
"Raina, the mirror can't hear you, or argue back. It's unfair!"
Her older sister Julie walked up behind her, grasping her as if she was using that cane they use to yank someone off the stage.
She looked at me with recognition in her eyes.

I motioned to Julie, and she followed me down the hall.
I was able to flop out on the floor in her room.
"I feel so stupid. How old am I that I get caught rehearsing a conversation like that in the mirror?"
"Oh whatever. It's about the plan to go be a missionary."
"Yeah. I hate having the conversations where I tell people what I'm up to. I never get the last word like if I were talking into the mirror." I grinned.

"My mom talked about you with awe back when you were starting college."
"She's changed her tune?"
Julie looked down.
Apparently.

"I hate those conversations. You know what kind of almost halfway seems to work, though?"
"What?" she asked.
"Just being quiet. You let the other person talk himself out. All the hopes and dreams and what a bright future I'm throwing away."
Then I added, "It's still draining, though."
"Pretty sure I could never handle that!"
"You learn stuff though."

(about 10min)
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 4:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice. Even nearly four decades past the first round of "graduated (or other milestone), but not sure whether the next step is materialistic or altruistic", I am still dealing with the many different sets of expectations people (parents, spice, children, friends, etc.) have, how they feel their expectations diverge from the course I am steering, and how to balance those voices and the internal compass to triangulate a path that is still authentic.

Yes, letting people talk themselves out is sometimes the best course. Yes, it is draining!! Yes, there is something to be learned; no matter how sure you are of what you are doing, insights into how others perceive it are valuable.
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Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like that one. I was recently working on a bit in my story where the protagonist has a 'what am I doing with my life?' scene - which was a fictionalized version of my own current existential crisis, though I made it a conversation between two characters because there's already a lot of 'internal dialogue' and I felt it worked better for character development. I do like the mirror idea, though.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2016 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think both of you may be surprised to hear that when I finished writing that, I thought it was not great, and -actually- I thought I had written a character who was not easy to identify with.
So thanks for your responses!
It was for me as SD says - I got to hear insights into how others perceive what I am doing, and it was valuable!

Sorus, I am pretty sure I could make a few solid characters out of the internal dialogues I've got goin' on, too.
The mirror was fitting for this because I have thrown away so much of my life imagining and playing out conversations that I will -never- have with people.

Back to the other story, continuing with Version II after it diverged:

I glanced back, imagining myself bustling up to her in a motherly way, "Here, let me give you some tea, deary!"
As if she'd fainted.
She hadn't fainted, but faded a bit.

I started fiddling with everything for tea, while Brandon seemed unable to stop talking to me.
"You know how much work I have for class. The homework this week is gonna be a beast, I hear." he said, glancing at his watch.
"Who do you usually meet for study groups?" he asked me.
"Oh, uh... Joe, Rasheed, and Erin."

I started the coffeemaker, and then begged off to use the bathroom.
Two minutes later, the tea was boiling, so I had an excuse to talk to Tamra.
Simple, basic questions would be good.
"Black or rooibos?"
She raised two fingers, a protocol we had come up with back when we were freshman roommates.
Hence: rooibos.

Okay, now what?
I had barely asked myself the question when I knew the answer: Change the position everyone is in the room.
"Come on over to the table - everything will be ready soon," I said.
So Tamra started to inch her way, foot over foot across the carpeted floor.

The ever-talkative Brandon responded, "Oh - I think my coffee already is ready," and proceeded to pour it from the carafe.
But then he picked up the hot mug with both hands, and that was his undoing.
It crashed down on the hard, white tile kitchen floor, pale green shards shattering in every direction.

I know I must have had that instant of starting to panic, followed by stopping up the words, and clutching and grabbing ahold of my mind, and started to say, "It's okay, it's okay. We'll just clean it up and deal with it, and it'll be okay."
But I know there had been that instant where my equanimity shattered just like the frail green mug.
Because Tamra noticed it.
Because she looked straight into my eyes and asked me, "Jillian, you are like that too?"
And she followed one question with another - even more impertinent than the last if she weren't my friend:
"Growing up, you had... someone who'd flip out when a dish broke... or something like that happened?"

(13 or 14 mins!)
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2016 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, wacky new idea. New scene, new characters:

"It's that time again," her voice cheerfully sang.
My new co-worker, Melissa, had decided it was her life's mission to help me take breaks, and get out and socialize in the workplace.
But that was a good thing, because, on the whole I could use it.
Hunched over my desk, sweating through my photo-retouching in an oversize hooded sweatshirt, I must not look like a very sociable sight.

"Just... a ...moment." I said, as I finished outlining the region on the screen.
"Yes, for pen tool, I can wait." she said. "I should even get a shirt that says that: 'I break for pen tool.'"

In a moment I had my purse and we were outside.
"I'm not going to try to drag you off the campus just yet." she informed me.
I shook my head. "Ya got that right. Too much sense of adventure."
"Besides, it's a beautiful campus."
It really was. I don't even know how my workplace has such a beautiful campus. It's like someone had photo-retouched it.

Within a few minutes, we were arguing about how people can notice whether they are inside a dream or not.
"For that matter, how would you notice if you were inside a simulation?" I asked.
"You mean like in the Matrix?"
"Yeah... for example."
"I think I'm going to have to sit down for this one," Melissa said.

We sat down on a bench, and my eyes scanned the sidewalk.
"Umm, Melissa, I'm noticing something that's kind of improbable as a natural occurrence."

"No, look. Really. See the shape of that splotch about 2 feet to the right of us?" I said, lowering my voice. "And then the other one that's mostly behind the bench."
"You've been using clone stamp tool too much."

I just stayed silent, so she went on.
"I need attempt to strike down the hypothesis that you're forming - and not just because it's too creepy," she said, without even looking.
"Nobody around HERE would be that lazy with clone stamp tool."
"But behind the bench."
"Hmm, you have a point," she said quietly.
(about 17-18 mins.)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 3:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I could tell she was about to ask something significant and difficult for her to say.
It was because of how she hesitated.
Then our sweet niece lifted her eyes again and asked me, "Do you feel like it's just... so much lost time?"

My wife Wendy - God bless her - was up so late even though she wasn't very interested in the first hour of the conversation.
But when Naomi said that, she just kind of started.
Wendy looked like she couldn't quite believe anyone would ask that - at least out loud - but she held herself back.

"Well, you could say that," I said, and inevitably my hands came in to play. It was like I was holding a piece of a mechanism that fit with another, and I just wanted to turn it - just right, you see - so Naomi would understand how they go together.

"It's just that all my mom friends always sound like that... like with little kids. They're like every minute is slipping away, and they are going to miss seeing how cute their kid is, and giving him the ten-thousandth hug..."

I waited her out. I nodded.
"Right. And there is that, and I missed a lot of hours and days as he was growing up."
Wendy winced for a moment.
"But this is what I see. Maturity is to be celebrated."
"You don't want to turn the clock back, because there he is. There - a man."
"And now I've got another friend I can talk to - as much as throwing a little kid in the air is fun, and throwing a baseball with him for a few hours... yeah, I know... but this..."

(13-15 mins. thinking about it mostly happened before the writing.)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As the father of a mid-'20s young man who has multiple issues for which we make allowances (and who grew up making allowances for we flawed adults), this vignette is pure gold.

Nice!
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hated the way she was watching me while I was on the computer.
Grandma Myrtle, always there on the couch, with her cross-stitch, and wearing her big brown clunky leather shoes.
An ever-pervasive presence.

But I hated everything right then.
After about five minutes of what I later realized must have been obvious squirming, she addressed me: "You're on Facebook, aren't you?"
"Yes!"
"Someone's picking on my Jeanie-bee?"
"Grandma!"

She carefully set down her cross-stitch and eyed me through her old-fashioned glasses frames. They gave her eagles' eyebrows. "You think I'm old and ignorant because I've never had to deal with social media like you do nowadays."
I crossed one leg sideways over the other, re-balancing the laptop.
She uncrossed her two ankles, feet planted firmly on the ground as if she meant to tower over me.
"I tell you, people are people. And I don't care if you call it trolling, they have been provoking one another since the day Abel out-did Cain."
She swallowed. "But I suppose it's a lot easier to embarrass somebody in front of a lot more people without very much effort than it was then."
"Now, someone is hurting you, and I can tell that."

All the tears swam to the edge of my eyelids.
The glass coffee table was there to embrace my laptop, and I just crumpled and started crying.

"Grandma, my friend is driving me nuts. I don't know what to do, and I don't even think there is anything I can do!"
And I felt the cold knobbled hands that were on mine, and I felt their white translucent parchment of her thin-stretched skin as she patted me.
"You know what you do, Jeanie-boo."
"You forgive. Not forgiving is bad because you're really only hurting yourself. And forgiveness is good because it heals everybody, and then you don't need to be sad anymore, and there are no hard feelings. I heard it in Sunday school."
(like 22 minutes)


SD- I am glad you like that last one. It was sort of a Thanksgiving special... Very Happy
(I'd thought you specifically would like at the time I was writing it.)
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"We human beings do real harm. History could make a stone weep." -Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

deer of the dawn's anti-recommendation of "Gilead"
My anti-recommendation of the same. (hers is shorter!)
Both are on the Watch's excellent "Anti-Recommendations of your Favorite Books" thread.

'"He will wipe the tears from all faces." It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.' -Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
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Linna Heartbooger
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 5:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the intensity of the imagery...
"not in the reaping or the sowing, but in harsh chrome and bitter tears"

And as a child, I loved looking at cracked ground where it had been wet.
I loved peeling the chunks away, loved the texture and the way it clings together.
Still do.
To me, it was just fascinating.
Now as a symbol, it's a very stark one.
________________________

Oh, grandma. Why was she always watching me when I was on the computer? Leaning back in her fusty afghan-covered recliner, showing me the soles of her old blue flip-flops.
I typed a few things, agonized, deleted, typed again.

"You're angry at someone."
It wasn't a question; it was a pronouncement.

"Well, it's probably for good reason, aint it?" I said, typing random letters furiously to make her think I was not to be deterred.
She paused, lips pursed.
"Well, that's too long for a twitter message."
Nothing escaped that old lady's notice.
I kept typing random letters.

"What do you say I should do?"
"Forbear."
I spun around to face her, ponytail swishing.
I wore an indignant look I'd practiced in the mirror tons of times.
The cuteness of my newest pair of glasses was lost on her, however, due to glaucoma.

"Grandma, are you gonna go ahead and tell me if I don't forgive I'm only hurting myself?"

"No sweety, somebody just made that up."

"Well, why should I hold back?"

"You forgive and forgive because you'll heap burning coals on the head of the one you forgive, and then the good part comes..."

"What kind of Bible have you been readin', grandma? I wanna get me some of that kinda forgiveness. Sounds pretty good already."

She leaned back in her chair and her blank eyes bore through the ceiling. "Then it becomes oil... gallons and gallons of oil... perfumed and sweet... running down the beard, running down the beard of Aaron."

I wanted to tell grandma she was right, it was Erin I was fighting with, but she aint got no beard.
But there was no arguing with grandma. She was just crazy.
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Shuram Gudatetris
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2017 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although I was doing my best to deny it, consciousness was creeping upon me. It was tickling my brain stem, softly, but persistently, nudging me awake. Awareness was misery, and, at that moment, I wanted nothing more in the world than to hide from it. I was not ready to define my dread.

Physically, I felt terrible. So terrible, in fact, that no amount of denial was sufficient to keep me from noticing. In desperation, I clung to my blanket of sleep, but it was quickly evaporating from my grasp. Every pulse beat of my heart was a hammer to the backs of my eyes and an explosion between my ears. The throbbing of my head was like gusts of wind, scattering away the fog of my slumber.

My tongue was glued to my mouth, and my throat worked uselessly, begging for water. My thirst was a wailing need throughout my body, screaming in inharmonious discord against the clangor of [my headache].


-----------------------------

I couldn't work out that last metaphor in the time allotted. Spent a few extra minutes rearranging a couple of things, editing. I haven't tried writing in first person in a long time. It was kind of fun. I didn't get far enough into this character's state of misery as I would have liked. Maybe its a bit wordy. I actually had a whole scene planned out, but the bastard never even bothered to wake up! Razz
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2017 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Congratulations," Troll said, without enthusiasm.
"More difficult than expected," James said. "But I valued the training."
"And now what?" Troll asked.
"I join Orellana as an assassin."
"Why?" Troll said. "Why do you give a shit about any of us? I've seen what you can do. Why did you ever care about this? Or, haven't I earned the right to that information?"
"You have earned more than you think, Troll," James said. "Are you familiar with a counting coup?"
"Basically."
"I seek to join the ranks of my father's family."
"I thought you hated your father," Troll said.
"My father, yes," James conceded. "But not the family. My sister and I are actually a great deal alike. But, it is not enough to be born to the family. I must prove myself to them."
"And First Assassin of Earth does that?"
"No," James said. "That is insignificant to them, but it is a means to an end."
"And Orellana?"
"Again, a means to an end."
Troll sighed. "Were we friends?"
"No," James said. "We were business partners."
"I can live with that."
"And what of you?"
"Retirement," Troll said. "You earned me more than enough for that. And no one wants to work with the guy that helped a sixteen-year-old become the best assassin on Earth."
"Then," James said. "Enjoy your retirement."
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Smashwords: Discovered Mate: A Tale of Desire and Chess

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