Deborah Jackson

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mosaic -- Excerpts

 *

Almost there . . . The manuscript is in the hands of the designer, as noted above. Here are a few excerpts, fragments, if you will.

And so the nightmare begins . . . 

Did your parents ever tell you a sweet bedtime story that your busy little brain turned into a nightmare the instant you fell asleep? Did Cinderella ever become ten feet tall and carry an axe? Did Little Red Riding Hood actually transform into a werewolf (after she was bitten, of course). Did Scaredy Squirrel really fall out of the tree, land in poison ivy and a nest of tarantulas, and eventually get eaten by sharks, proving that he’d been right to be afraid, all along? Sure, it happened. And then you would wake up, shaking and sweating, wanting to run into their bedroom, scoot between the sheets, and spill. But you knew that if you did, they’d stop telling you stories.

 ****

“Sometimes life throws you a curve ball.”

 That’s what one of the many doctors who patched me up after the accident said. I think he was the chest guy, in thoracics, or something like that. Of course there was the neuro doc and the plastics lady and the general surg person—you know, the jack-of-all–abdominal organs. Orthopaedics dropped by every other day, waiting for their turn to add more pins to my bones. But no one else called my situation a “curve ball.” Instead, they patted my head and said, “At least you’re not dead.”

 Every day I wished I were dead.

The nurses would come in, crank me up, flip me over, redress wounds, and smile, because they couldn’t really see me. I didn’t blame them. If they’d really seen me, I think they would have cried. And you can’t cry every day.

 But the day that guy said that life had thrown me a curve ball was the first day I managed to move my casted arm on my own. I don’t think he was ever going to say it again.

 But you know what? Maybe it was a curve ball.

Sorry about that, Doc.

****

A Pirate's Captive

One of the most difficult tasks in writing this book was to switch from a modern tongue (and a hockey player's, to boot) to a more archaic and formal one. And sometimes to intertwine the two.

The tossing of the ship was relentless. I felt more than queasy, but not yet entirely green. The aftereffects of the battle persisted, as well. Although it had all but ended, it continued to rage in my head with flickering images of flying shrapnel, blood splatter, and white-faced crewmen scattering like minnows.

The schooner had severed our mainmast with a roar of cannon fire. Men had been shot, split, and disembowelled, and the corvette had listed as water poured into her holes. Now the schooner was coming alongside us. Unkempt, brutish men tossed grappling irons over the side and snagged the rigging. They swarmed onto our ship, landing with heavy boots, their flintlocks exploding, punching holes in the crew.

I scrambled away from the fray, attempting to make myself invisible behind a tattered sail that fluttered in the breeze. Beyond my flimsy refuge, guns barked repeatedly, and men screamed in terror and agony as they lay dying. I shivered and shrank and gripped the sail tightly, hoping the shot would miss me and the pirates would scramble past.

Yet little hope remained. The ship was sinking, and I could not swim. Even if the navy defeated these brigands, would there be time to mend the ship or send longboats over the side before we sank?

A crewman stumbled into my sail, clutching it and falling, tearing the ragged cloth from the rigging, and exposing me fully. He gasped a dying breath as a pirate pulled the cutlass blade free of his belly.

I froze, my heart skipping like a woodland deer. I had no concept of what I should do, or if I should even attempt to flee. The brigand stood stolidly before me, his blade poised for a lethal strike. He loomed over me, nearly two feet taller than I, the wind sweeping fair locks around his sharp cheekbones, the amber stubble on his chin catching the sunlight. Cold blue eyes peeled back my clothing with a single glance. Then, of all things, he chuckled.

“Well, well,” he said. “Bad luck you are, to the navy.”

With casual indifference, he leaned over and wiped the bloody residue from his sword onto the remnants of the sail on the deck.

My gaze tumbled to the short sword still clutched in the crewman’s stiff hand. An idea sprang to mind, a desperate one. As swiftly as a snake strikes, I snapped at the weapon, raised it high, and attacked.

The pirate parried my blow with ease, and sent me stumbling backward with a smirk.

“Bad luck for me, as well?” he asked, advancing toward me.

I stabbed again, clumsily, with the sword, but I possessed no skill with this weapon. I was much more adept with a whip. He struck back with such force that the sword was nearly torn from my grasp, my wrist bent painfully backward. I clutched the sword with both hands, wheeled away from his assault, and charged from the side.

He released his cutlass, to my amazement, and seized my hand before I could inflict even minor injury, driving my sword upward, backward, and drawing me closer. The tip of my own weapon pierced the skin at my throat, but instead of thrusting and ending it for me, he pressed on the nerves in my wrist, eliciting pain, searing pain. The sword clattered to the deck.

“Indeed, I appreciate your courage,” he said. “But I do not appreciate the men with whom you associate.”

“The—the men?” I sputtered. “But you are a pirate.”

“In the past, when we were called “privateers,” we were enthusiastically employed by various governments. Now we are referred to merely as pirates.” He swept his arm in a vast circle to encompass the sinking ship and the array of crewmen who lay dead or dying. “At this point, I think you and your men can refer to me as your better. Now, I will allow you a choice. You may either join your men in death, or you may escape to shore. But I warn you, the community there will not welcome you.”

My breathing quickened. This was no choice at all. He was committing my wellbeing to the tender mercies of the ruffians of the land—the only inhabitants of this outlying region of Florida: a small, struggling remnant of Indians, Spanish men who worked the fishing ranchos, and escaped slaves.

“Would you offer me another choice?” I asked.

The pirate grinned, his eyes sparkling with devilment.

“Perhaps. You are invited, fair maiden, to join my crew. Upon my ship, you may earn your keep.”

Earn my keep? The implications were repulsive and sent shivers throughout my body, but . . . what other option was available to me?

“Very well. I will join you, if you will treat me as a lady. If you will not . . .” I couldn’t even say the words.

His laughter startled the pirates nearby, who were dispatching the crew in the most torturous fashion possible. They stood bewildered and sent long stares in my direction. The pirate laughed as if he found my protests delightful. His grip loosened on my arm, and it appeared he would tumble off the ship. Oh, if only fate would lend me the courtesy! But even as I considered consigning my own body to the sea, since my situation would not improve if he were to shortly meet a well-deserved death, his hand clamped down on my arm again, and he drew me inexorably to his chest. “Do you honestly think that you have any say over how I will treat you? That I shall continue to grant you life is your greatest hope.”

My courage plummeted, along with hopes of any possible leniency. Nevertheless, I thrust out my chin and met his merciless gaze with equal iron.

“I may be your captive, I may be forced to do your will, but if you harm me—if I cannot in this world, then in the next I will make you pay.”

To my astonishment, he seemed even more tickled. “Interesting,” he said. “You have spirit, I’ll give you that. But I have no fear of the next world.” He winked.

Before I had the opportunity to reply, he clapped his hands, and more men poured over the side. Some leaped down into the hold and released the prisoners, assisting them as they stumbled up the steps, where they wobbled on deck with unsteady knees, blinking in the searing midday sun.

He turned to these men and addressed them.

“Good day, gentlemen. I offer you this opportunity. You may join my crew and share equally in our booty, or we will release you on Pine Island, where you may settle in the community. If you throw in your lot with me, you will have ample occasion to improve your situation, since I have freed my ship, my seas, and my settlement from any laws of the land.”

I shuddered. Such lawlessness, such disregard for order. No wonder this wretched land was so uncivilized. No wonder brigands, thieves, and murderers gathered here.

The pirate turned to me and smiled, as if he could read my thoughts.

“Shall we board my ship?” he asked, as if I had a choice.

He shoved me to the railing, looped an arm around my waist, and gripped a rope. Suddenly we were swinging out over open seas and landing smartly on the schooner’s nicely balanced deck. He added a nausea-inducing squeeze and released me, and I found myself face to face with a familiar scarred visage of charcoal hue.

“R–– Reginald,” I sputtered.

“Miss Amelia.” He neither bowed nor backed away. How absurd, how insolent! Nor did he lower his gaze in deference. He clasped a cutlass in his fist in a stranglehold that suggested he’d like nothing better than to carve his name in my flesh.

“Recognize the girl?” asked the pirate captain.

“Yessir,” said Reginald.

“No yessirs, here.”

“Sorry, Cap’n.”

“What would you have me do with her?”

I gaped, entirely flabbergasted. Would this man, insufferable as he was—albeit a ship’s captain—actually let Reginald decide my fate?

“I’d have her learn the way o’ things,” said Reginald.

The captain grinned most unpleasantly and slapped the wretched slave on the back.

“I would have given you the option of killing her,” he said. “But this may serve our purpose better.”
  
Their purpose, I thought? What could their purpose possibly be, other than to hijack ships on the high seas, to bloody and bludgeon men, and to capture and rape women? Perhaps it would be better to die. But first, if the opportunity arose, I would do my best to repay the captain for every injury and every indignity he had inflicted. He would rue the day he’d captured me.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Release in the Works


Hi there. Yes, it’s been ages since I updated you on my current and future projects but, inevitably, I’ve run into some delays. I can only work as fast as my team—referring to my editor, cover artist and typesetter. They’re amazing, so I’m not really complaining.

So . . . finally we’re getting closer to completion.

Mosaic has a cover, and you will find the blurb and some information here. You can also read Chapter One here.

I received one third of the manuscript from my editor last week. Since then, I’ve been working on final fixes. This novel took me four years to complete. Usually I don’t share much of the process of writing a novel, but I grew so frustrated with this one, and rewrote it so many times, I thought you might be interested in the ugly truth of revision. So I’m baring my soul—revealing the earliest drafts and taking you through the stages of transformation.

Before I even wrote this novel I was captivated by the setting—islands called Sanibel and Captiva in Florida. When a setting intrigues me, I usually begin digging into the history of that region. Since pirates actively employed these islands as bases for their operations, the pirate stories interested me the most. But pirate tales are rarely as romantic as those in the swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean series, so my story is a little more truthful.

This brings me to the Parental Advisory. This book is a teen novel, but it has some mature content and language that would not be appropriate for younger children or even young teenagers—13 to 15. In my attempt to be more realistic, my main character, who is a hockey player, uses language that fits her personality but may be offensive to some readers. Also, to truly expose the shattered lives in this book and understand the nature of piracy, I opted for a heavier situation with the associated mature content. It is not explicit, but it is not intended for younger readers.

Mosaic is also an experiment in structuring a book to match its theme. You’ll find it very unusual. Since that is the case, I’ve been working with my editor and artist to develop icons that will cue the reader to the abrupt transitions.

You may wonder why I decided to structure the book in this way. Let’s just say I was growing tired of the standard structure and I wanted to do something different. I’ve always wanted to add a visual component to writing, and I do love a good puzzle, so here is my attempt at a little artistry. The structural elements may be refreshing to some and annoying to others, but I hope you will appreciate the time and thought involved, if not the final product.

Mosaic is not the only project I’m working on. Over the past eight months I’ve been writing the first draft of another science fiction/near future speculation novel that involves archaeology and also some space exploration. This novel requires extensive research and it is taking me some time to complete. At the moment I’m two-thirds through the first draft, but I’m taking a break (if it can be called that) to explore new scientific research that will impact the story. This will be the longest book I’ve ever written with a number of complex characters and a mystery, like in Ice Tomb, that has global implications—if not universal.

So there you have it: the reason I’ve been semi-silent for so long. I have been making an appearance on Twitter and Google, but mainly to share photos—a hobby that helps clear my mind after a heavy session of writing or research. If you have any questions about Mosaic or my other project (although most of it I’ll be keeping under wraps for now), please feel free to contact me or add a comment below.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Junk Food



The other night I attended a hockey game—NHL, go, Sens, go—you know the routine. It was held at the new Canadian Tire Centre, which was the old Scotiabank Place a few months ago, which at one point had been called the Corel Centre, which originally boasted the name Palladium when constructed in 1996.

I hate all those names, except perhaps Palladium. I reflect on that name with some fondness, even though it’s an insurance company, because it’s also an element in the periodic table with a fanciful history.

Palladium is a chemical element, a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston. He named it after the asteroid Pallas, which was itself named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired by her when she slew Pallas.

I enjoy hockey. I consider it an honourable tradition in our country, although it's suffering rapid decay into cheap shots with the resulting serious injuries, and a lackadaisical attitude towards enforcing the rules.

But that’s not what bothered me the most that night. It was the name change, all reflecting an age that’s riddled with advertising—junk food—and this is what the establishment is feeding our brains. And don’t kid yourself, big business, small business, “industry” is the establishment, not government.

Everywhere we go, a constant bombardment. Everywhere we open an Internet page, we’re force-fed another commercial. Even when we pay a premium price, like at the theatre, where once you could assume it would be commercial-free, an endless parade dances across the screen of cell phone comparisons, Coca Cola endorsements (oh, you’ve been around a long time, haven’t you?), car ‘zoom zoom’ enticements, until the movie finally begins. Is there any wonder people pull out their tablets whenever a commercial appears on television, or we attempt to circumvent the feed by taping and fast-forwarding through the empty garble.
File:Coca-Cola 24 Can Pack.jpg

But the feed never ends.

Have you read the book Feed by M.T. Anderson? If you have, did you feel a deepening chill the more pages you turned? Did you see the society in this book as futuristic, or did you see it as commentary on the ‘here and now’?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/63/Feed%28novel%29.jpg
The feed in this story is directly uploaded to the characters’ brains through a surgically implanted chip. Our chips are in our hands, on our screens, not in our heads, yet. And in the book everything is disposable, just as all our household items are designed to fail or become outdated within a few years. We’re programmed to eagerly embrace the 'next best thing,' and cavalierly discard our two-year-old laptop,  our three-year-old toaster, our five-year-old car—and of course our debt accumulates as we happily or miserably pay the price for these shiny new treasures.

If you start eating a bag of chips, it’s hard to stop, isn’t it? But eventually you’ll feel bloated, nauseated, and it leaves a coating in your arteries that’s almost impossible to remove. Physicians often need chisels and blow torches. Junk food is delicious, but it’s also addictive and sometimes a killer. 

File:Potato-Chips.jpg

How do you stop the feed? Switch it off? It’s not that simple, because we’re governed by modern technology, we crave entertainment to release us from daily toil, and all our entertainment is tangled with the feed. But perhaps we can change our values, little by little, and that will spill over into our lives until industry will have to pay attention.

When I flip through albums I discover photographs that are just as beautiful created with my old film-dependent camera, or even a point-and-click, as those made with a DSLR.


When I walk in the woods I feel sustaining vigor and inspiration, rather than that initial spike after a shopping spree, like a sugar rush that eventually comes crashing down.


When I find special people, I want to keep them in my life, no matter how the years make their skin sag, their hair lose its luster, their minds wander, because I know their hearts will endure. 


We still own a functional toaster oven that’s 20 years old. It’s a relic I treasure, even though it requires some supervision. I will keep it until it shorts out and dies. And even then, I might keep it longer to remind me how much I need vegetables and fruit and long-lasting protein. To remind me that junk food will always be empty calories.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The African Tree


File:Camel-thorn-tree-with-sparrow-weaver-nests.jpg 

There once stood this beautiful, isolated tree in our neighbourhood. It had a short, squat trunk, but near the top its limbs stretched sideways, as if it were gripping the air on either side with elasticized arms. We called it ‘the African Tree’, because it resembled an acacia and grew in the middle of a fluttering field of grass. I pictured a drowsy lion sprawled under its branches, slapping flies away from its tawny chest with a flick of its tail. I imagined buzzards peering through the leaves with greedy glares and giraffes tearing off tender shoots.

File:Tree lion 2.jpg

I never knew what species of tree it was. I never captured it on film. It didn't cross my mind to pluck it from the air and keep a record of its existence. It was simply there every day, a vital part of our daily commute, a constant, a comfort. One day, as I wandered past, I saw a bald spot in the field and a pile of shredded wood on the ground. Tree-munchers, tree harvesters had chewed, chopped, obliterated our African Tree.


Now bland, block-like townhouses stand in its stead. Our little slice of Africa is gone. Although the site where it stood is crowded, it looks empty, hollow. A busy street to nowhere. I will always feel an ache when I gaze at that spot, a feeling of separation and loss. Solitary, resilient, and strangely misplaced, that tree belonged in a lonely Canadian field. A bold splash of colour to a dull day; a smile that shouldn’t exist; and a reminder that no matter how tangled and trapped we feel, we can always step out on a safari.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Zombie Apocalypse Has Already Begun



There’s been quite a few zombie movies released lately, and more to come. The other day I read this, regarding why we’re so obsessed with zombies and apocalyptic themes.

Essentially Professor Wilson is saying there are various complex reasons we like the ghoulish zombie epics.

An excuse to cast off blame, monsters awaken the Cain within us, zombies represent overcoming death, etc., etc.
 
But I think he's missing something. Perhaps this is one instance where likes attract. Perhaps we see more than a little of ourselves in the zombie. 

Consider for a moment human evolution.

We emerged from this:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a1/Halobacteria.jpg
Archaea

Or some form of bacteria (pleasant thought)

And evolved into this:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Schimpanse_zoo-leipig.jpg 

Then with further genetic modifications became this:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1d/Cro-Magnon_man_rendered.jpg 


And finally this:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/Einstein_1921_by_F_Schmutzer.jpg 
Albeit there were some exceptions. Not all of us were Einstein material.

First we muttered amongst ourselves while we were grooming each other--monkey see, monkey do--then we created a wonderful thing called LANGUAGE--so we could shout at someone across the field instead of poking, slapping and grunting at the guy/gal within physical reach. Words were symbolic for every nuance of life, every object, phenomenon, colour or emotion. Then we had a fabulous idea. Because we have so many fabulous ideas, we'd better write them down.

So we did.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Sumerian_26th_c_Adab.jpg
After that the ideas just kept growing. 

We developed these:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/KFNB_Austria.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2f/TModel_launch_Geelong.jpg 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Two_women_operating_ENIAC.gif 
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/Apollo_17_The_Last_Moon_Shot_Edit1.jpg


And a device that has a few beneficial components, but, as we would soon discover, is inherently evil:


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ee/Braun_HF_1.jpg 

Something happened at his point. Something like this  . . .
 



And it snowballed from there.


If you can't see this on your iPad or iPhone, click here.

Did you notice the transformation? Are we de-evolving?

This article explains what is happening.

 We’re being re-wired. My daughter gloats at my inefficiency at multitasking, but I always counter with "Is it really a benefit?" I can focus on the Wii flame for 30 minutes, or longer, while other members of my family are hard-pressed to sit through a minute. But my brain is also readjusting. I find, if the subject matter in my book isn’t riveting, my mind tends to wander. Well, that’s not unusual, but while in the past I might have taken a break, indulged in a coffee or a brisk walk, recharged in order to refocus, now I tend to pick up the iPad or the phone and skim sometimes comical but often inane posts. I’m overburdening my brain with essentially "junk data" that doesn’t help me write and interrupts vital programming—theme development, plot processing, character details—deep thought with singular focus that enables me to (hopefully) be creative.

 When we flood the airwaves or cell waves with every detail of our lives and every absurd thought, are we being social, or are we eating each other’s brains?

 You may notice I don’t post in my blog very often. That usually means I’m deep into research and writing, and I can’t focus on social media and producing a decent book at the same time. I can’t multitask worth a damn. But it doesn’t mean I haven’t tried to slap together posts now and then; the problem is they’re junk posts--fleeting thoughts, random commentary, superficial snapshots of my dull life--and I don’t feel they’re worthy of sharing. I don’t feel like boring you with every detail of my life. I have no intention of eating your brain. My goal will always be to expand and enrich it. Although, perhaps you will regard this as a junk post as well ;)

I don't ever want to become this:
Ipad/Iphone


Or see you transform into this:



Good luck surviving the apocalypse.