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Dinner and a Show
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I think I finally wrote the right beginning to Marla Mason #2 (which I'm probably not calling Ferocious Dreamers. We'll call it the Dream novel for now, hmm? And I'll think about titles.) I'll post that first scene in this journal entry after I natter on a bit, but if you're not interested in my dinner and our kitten's health, and are instead hungry to read the opening scene of a book that won't be published until 2008 or 2009 (remember, it's the sequel to Blood Engines, which has no pub date yet), skip to my golden words.

Jonathan Strahan arrived in Oakland a few days ago, and I got to hang out with him (and his family, and various other folks) yesterday at A Certain Magazine hq. It's always a pleasure to see Jonathan, and he brought with him my contributor copy of Eidolon 1, which looks just lovely, and is chock full of good stories by people like Hal Duncan and Elizabeth Bear. (It includes my story "The Third-Quarter King", which was recently podcast at The Coode Street Podcast.)

Heather and I had planned to go to a party on Friday night, but she wasn't feeling well, so we came home for a low-key evening instead. She felt better this morning, which was good, since we had to take Freybug the ferocious kitten to the vet for her first check-up. She's fine. Sneezing a little, but it's not bacterial, and she doesn't appear to have fleas, or any other problems. So, whoo!

A couple of weekends ago, we had some friends over and we barbecued out back. This required my sad attempt to repair our crumbling patio furniture. A few nails and some baling wire made the redwood picnic table usable, and the bench somehow supported the weight of people sitting on it. But it was a sad affair. My landlord later showed me several Ikea boxes in the garage -- he'd purchased two tables, two chairs, and a bench! But hadn't had time to put them together, and didn't think he'd have time in the foreseeable future. If I felt motivated, however, I was welcome... so this afternoon, after our trip to the farmer's market, I opened many boxes and twirled many allen wrenches and, lo, a couple of hours later, we had two tables, a bench, and two chairs. It's so much nicer out there now!

For dinner, we cooked some of the good stuff from the farmer's market. Heather had broiled salmon with caramelized onions, and I had a pan-seared buffalo steak (one of the best steaks I've ever eaten). We made a big salad with lots of avocado, and had some wine, and ate it all out back, enjoying the fine late-summer weather. A perfect Saturday evening.

And, without further, dithering here's the first scene of the first chapter of my novel-in-progress. Usual disclaimers, it's a first draft, etc.

The Sleeper Wakes

The Bentley squealed to a stop at the top of the horseshoe driveway before the looming brick face of the Blackwing Institute. Marla leapt from the passenger side and rushed for the front doors, purple-and-white cloak billowing after her. The blade of the slim dagger in her hand crackled with blue sparks of paralytic magic, and she held colored pebbles in her left fist, each capable of neutralizing one of the five senses. Even deaf, blind, paralyzed, and unable to smell, taste, or feel, Elsie Jarrow would be lethal. But the handicaps would at least level the field.

Marla paused at the entryway, because with her hands full she couldn't haul open the heavy wooden double doors, carved all over with symbols of calming and confinement, and it wasn't like she could clench the paralyzing knife in her teeth. Fortunately Rondeau caught up with her. He had a butterfly knife in one hand, which would be about as useful for fighting Elsie Jarrow as a damp bathtowel, but Marla appreciated him for trying. He tugged open the door with his free hand, and Marla ran in --

-- almost colliding with Dr. Leda Husch in the foyer. Husch's pale, beautiful face was soot-smudged, and she clutched one arm that must have been injured, but she was here, and whole, and wasn't a few shreds of exsanguinated flesh scattered on the floor, as Marla had expected.

"Jarrow has been contained," Husch said.

Marla narrowed her eyes, looking for any telltale signs of mental domination. Husch had been director of the Institute for a long time, since its creation, but that didn't mean she was immune to the powers of her patients. But her eyes were clear, and she had no microfacial tics, so she was probably clean.

"It's all right," Husch said. "Poe wrote on both."

Marla relaxed.

"Poe did what now?" Rondeau said, flipping his knife closed.

"It's an answer to that Alice in Wonderland riddle, 'How is a raven like a writing desk?'" Marla said.

"It's also our 'all clear' code phrase," Husch said. "So Marla knows I'm really me, and that I haven't been coerced, or turned into a zombified slave, or anything. Jarrow is in the concrete cube below the boiler room. It should hold, though I wouldn't mind if you refreshed the binding spirals before you leave."

Marla dropped the sense-nullifying stones into her pocket. She glanced at the still-crackling knife in her hand, then jammed the blade into a wax apple in a fruit bowl on a table. The energy couldn't be dismissed, it had to be used, but who cared if a wax apple got paralyzed? It was an improvement, even -- now the apple would never melt. "Okay. How did you stop Jarrow? When you called, you said she'd escaped her rooms, discorporated two orderlies, and was trying to find a way through the outer walls. We drove about ninety miles an hour down all those country roads to get here, and Rondeau's a shitty driver at half that speed. So, what, were things not as bad as you thought?"

"Oh, they were bad," Husch said, still clutching her arm. "But we found Jarrow unconscious in a third-floor hallway. One of our other patients did escape, though."

Marla braced herself. Was it one of the two Roger Vaughns, the mad sorcerer or his young doppelganger, determined to sacrifice the world to a dark god that didn't actually exist? Norma Nilson, the nihilomancer, who had driven whole towns to suicide? Ayres, the time-traveling necromancer who'd once raised his own corpse as a zombie? None of the other patients in Blackwing were as dangerous as Elsie Jarrow, but they were all confined at the Institute for good reason. "Who got out?"

"Genevieve Kelley."

Marla frowned. "Who the hell's that?"

"One of my lesser-known patients. Not so much notorious as sad. Still, her escape... it's troubling. Not to mention inexplicable. I'll tell you about her on the way to her room. But first, Rondeau, would you be a dear and help me pop my dislocated shoulder back in?"

"Sure thing," he said.

"Wow, popping your arm back in. That's more action than Rondeau got the time you two went out on a date," Marla said.

They both glared at her, but Marla just grinned. She'd expected a fight to the death when she left Felport, and hadn't been sure she'd ever see her city again, but now things weren't so bad. Marla had never heard of Genevieve Kelley, and even though her former presence in the Blackwing Institute meant she was some flavor of crazy and some kind of magical, she couldn't be too dangerous if her name had never come up before. Marla made a point of educating herself about potential threats. It was all part of her job as Felport's protector, and head of the unruly tangle of sorcerers that lived there.

Rondeau wrenched Husch's arm, and it popped in. Husch grimaced, then relaxed, and looked up at Rondeau with a radiant smile.

"Okay, you're fixed," Marla said. "Tell me about the runaway, and show me the scene of the crime. I've got an appointment this afternoon, and I need to get back to the city, country mouse."

***

And... that's it. That's all that's written so far. But, hey, only 79,000 more words to go!



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