Excerpt Two from And Then There Were Winds

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The problem with sharing excerpts from a Work-in-Progress is that it’s a Work-in-Progress.  Drafts go through many changes, including shifts of tone and pacing, and the re-naming of characters!  And though I haven’t been blogging, I HAVE been writing–and that’s worth sharing.

So let me further preface the excerpt by giving some information that will build understanding for the following scene.

Wilo has barely survived a plague that left victims hairless and breathless.  Grappling with grief over her losses, her journey has only barely begun.  In the following scene, Wilo’s father and sister, Lor, have taken Wilo to the first fall Fair, in their village along the river Shan, since the sickness came.  Unfortunately, soldiers spot Wilo and bewilderingly attack.  Wilo, her fa, and Lor hide in the innkeeper’s kitchen.

Excerpt Two
And Then There Were Winds

Finally an old man entered the kitchen from the main dining room door, a gray cloak circling his shoulders, his bald head shiny and dark.  His features were hidden by a thick gray beard, beads woven amid braids and leaves.

“She can’t stay here,” he rumbled, his melodic voice deep.

Fa protested, “What are you talking about?  Wilo’s not going anywhere!”

“Listen to the man,” Ranald implored.

“She can’t stay here anymore.  She isn’t safe here.  Those were King’s Men out there.  Think you they’ll be stalled long by a bunch of peasant burghers?”

“She’ll be safe at home,” piped in Lor.  “No one’ll tell ‘em where we live.”

“Of course they’ll tell ‘em,” the gray stranger insisted.  “Folks are broke and hungry and eventually the nonsense the soldiers spout will start to sink in.”

Fa sat heavily into a chair, the wood creaking.  His hand snaked out to seize mine, and I felt as I had that horrible day I first discovered my hair spread across a pillow.

“What news do you bring then?” he asked quietly.

“Dahl Fain came in off the Shan wit’ ‘em,” Ranald said.  The stranger nodded, opening his mouth to speak when Fa interrupted.

“You’re Dahl Fain?  Dahl Fain, the bard?”

A smile cracked through his matted beard.  “Aye, heard tell o’ me then?”

“My wife, Winette Fain, the girls here, she was their ma.  She was kin o’ yours, I think.”

Dahl leaned back, his eyes resting first on me, moving swiftly to Lor, and then back to Fa.  “My brother had a daughter named Winette, and given the look of your younger one, I’m inclined to think we are related.”  He sighed deeply then.  “That doesn’t change things, only mayhap you’ll listen better.  The girl, the one that survived the sickness, she’s got to flee.”

“No,” he thundered, slamming his hand on the table.  “Wilo stays here.  Kin or no, I’ll not listen to fear’s blather.”

Ranald opened his mouth and the argument began, the three men swirling voices in quiet drum rolls of sound, the timber registering in my breastbone, even as my fingers went numb from Lor’s desperate clutch.

I’m not sure what made me do it, having never had much in the way of courage before, but I quietly shook off Lor’s hold and stood to grasp Fa’s shoulder.

“Please…” I whispered, and lo my voice didn’t register in my own ears, they heard, the hush sudden.  “I must hear what he has to say.”  Fa looked at me, his eyes heavy.  He pressed his callused hand along my cheek.

Then he nodded.

I turned my gaze to Dahl Fain.

He had gray eyes.  I had gray eyes once, I thought.

“The sickness has been up and down the Shan,” he began.  “Nary a village or burg is untouched, some worse than others.  King’s physician ordered an official reckoning now that the worst of it has passed.  Lo many mourned their dead, folks been sending in their counts, family by family.  No one who fell ill survived, leastways none that folks spoke of.”  He paused, reaching under the table into his pouch, pulling out a dark wood pipe.  He filled the pipe with tobacco, in no hurry to continue, it seemed.  When my fa’s voice began to rumble, the gray bard eyed him to silence.

“The King’s physician, a man that goes by Primus, lo I doubt that’s the name his ma bestowed, ordered those gone from the plague burned, even if they t’were already buried.”

The collective gasp halted the story.

Ranald asked what we all wanted to know.  “He wanted folks to unbury their lost?”  His voice echoed our own horror.  To disturb the rest of the departed was to invite the worst luck, passing curses down generations.

“Aye.  Said it would shrive the taint, cleanse out the ill so that no more would get sick.”  He took a pull from his pipe.  “I heard tell that t’were a survivor out this way, someone not dead from the cough.”  He looked at me.  “I’m not the only one that heard that tale.”

“Me.” I whispered.  “They were talking about me.”

“It’s worse,” he continued.  “Primus believes fire is the great cleanser, the answer to our pleas for mercy from the sickness.  I travelled down the Shan with the King’s Men.  They’ve got orders to kill you and bring your body back to the city for the pyre.”

Fa leaped to his feet, sweeping me off my chair and behind him, even as Lor choked off a protesting cry.  “She lives.  She’s not sick.  She can’t be the only damn survivor!  After everything else, I’ll not see her harmed.”  His voice turned pleading.  “Lor and I have been around her constantly since she fell sick and neither of us have fallen ill.  She’s on the mend and the king can’t have her!”

“Father, stop, please,” I begged even as he tried to pull me back out the door.  “You saw what happened at the market!  We can’t ignore this.”

He turned abruptly, grasping my elbows, hauling me up to my tiptoes, “It’s not fair, Wilo.  Haven’t we been through enough?  You can stay hidden at the house, hidden and safe.”

“That’s not going to be possible anymore,” Ranald insisted.  “Folks saw her today, folks from other places, and they’ll remark upon her.”

“There’s talk already of the girl downriver,” Dahl Fain confirmed.  “She can’t stay here.”

I could tell he listened, though he didn’t want to, and the intensity of his face shifted to a grief so heavy, I cried, the tears spilling softly down my cheeks.  Lor clutched at me, her own tears not so silent.  Still staring at me, he asked, “What would you have us do, then?”

“You must send her away,” the gray bard offered.

The Poet’s Companion

While I have taken any number of fiction courses, and I definitely remember the hours I spent in survey courses as an English undergrad, I took no poetry classes.  I did manage to take one poetry workshop, but I remember little of it.

During the Tallgrass Writing Workshop, I was excited to get to spend time with Amy Sage Webb.  Not only did she critique ten of my poems, she gave me a list of suggested reading to help me broaden my education and understanding of poetry. As I work my way through the list, I’ll be sharing some items here.

Poet's companionThe first is probably familiar to many poetry students in workshops across the country: The Poet’s Companion.  This book has been both insightful and accessible.  While I have experience with literary criticism, I was looking for something more along the lines of The Art of Fiction.  While instructional, it is definitely NOT dry.

What are your favorite ‘writing manuals?’ Do you have volumes that you return to over and over?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Reviews for Sand River are here!

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The Shocker, the alumni magazine of WSU, has included Sand River and Other Places I’ve Been on their Shocker bookshelf!  Go here to read the review (along with Rob Grave’s Nightmarism-just keep scrolling down).

Now that you’ve read that review, here are two more!

From poet Michele Battiste

Nothing is what you expect it to be in the places that April Pameticky has been. And yet, after she reveals the truth of things, you say to yourself, “of course.” Of course courage is “a sister-cluster of dryer lint and dirt.” And certainly grief eats cereal straight from the box while it snuggles next to you on the couch. Pameticky takes us through the looking glass, where a world often considered pleasant but banal – the world of wife and mother and middle school teacher – is transformed into a darker, dangerous, but far more fascinating realm.

Michele Battiste is the author of the poetry collections Ink for an Odd Cartography (2009) and Uprising (2013), both from Black Lawrence Press. She is also the author of four chapbooks, the latest of which is Lineage (Binge Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Anti-, The Awl, Mid-American Review, and Women’s Studies Quarterly. She lives in Boulder, CO where she raises funds for nonprofits undoing corporate evil.

From poet John Jenkinson

Generous, smart, and musical, April Pameticky’s first chapbook, Sand River and Other Places I’ve Been, presents the reader with a Baedeker of the heart. From Sand River to Blackwell, middle-school to “the corner,” “from elm to oak,” Pameticky’s poetry vibrates with wit, intelligence, and a lively lyric voice given to stunning turns of phrase and wry observation. “The truth is not always true,” urges the poet, as she strokes us “to a mild whimper” – or a wild roar of realization. April Pameticky is real – each poem “a fist landed with precision,” and this brief collection, Sand River and Other Places I’ve Been, a necessary and welcome addition to the 21st century bookshelf.
John Jenkinson, author, REBEKAH ORDERS LASAGNA

Jenkinson has received an AWP Intro Journals award, the Ellipses Prize, a New Voices Award, a Balticon Science Fiction Award, and awards from Kansas Voices.  His work appears in a variety of journals and anthologies including Slipstream and The Mennonite. He has published several chapbooks with B.G.S., Hard Knocks, and Basilisk presses, and his first full-length collection, Rebekah Orders Lasagna, has just appeared from Woodley Press.

Buying Sand River and Other Places I’ve Been

Convinced? Travel here to put your order in directly to Finishing Line Press for Sand River and Other Places I’ve Been.  Help me ensure a large and significant print run. Did I mention that it’s my birthday?

Dirty Kanza

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Mile35In early June, I travelled to the Tallgrass Writing Workshop in Emporia, Kansas.  As I drove across the flint hills in the early morning, I saw cyclists riding across the barren terrain.  Their number spread for miles, and I was fascinated with their journey.  Later that same evening, I had the privilege to be downtown (nearly 12 hours later) when many of these premier athletes crossed the finish line after 200 miles of gravel and dirt.

While not as epic as the race, I did write this poem:

DK1

Dirty Kanza

Even from the road
I know their passion,
the weight of
the blood, bone, and morning
against the pedal,
the elegant push
against stone and grass,
though I’ve never
sat as they sit,
smoothing out
new paths over the hills,
silhouettes stark
against the sunrise,
the sweat of their intention
reaching me here,
their breaths deep in my chest,
the rhythm,
the flow
push
push
push
exhaling me beyond the sky.

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