I have been busy, true. So busy that I contemplated doing another Deadlines post, but I eventually concluded that two less than a month apart would sour from mildly pretentious to full-on whiney. So instead, I decided to give you, readers, a snippet of what has been keeping me so busy.
Like the rest of our blogging community, I am entering Rooglewood Press's 5 Enchanted Roses writing contest. (I'll actually announce a call for beta readers soon, in case anyone is interested.) I have been diligently plugging away at my two entries since early June, and I am quite pleased with one of them; I think it is the best I have ever written. And the other is... um. Yes. It is, and it will get better, and I will somehow scrape it together in time for the deadline, because I always do. But now I am tearing my hair out in search of some refinement for my convoluted plot.
But I digress. The other entry turned out better than I had hoped, and, with parent-like proudness, I have decided to share a snippet with you.
What was Father like?
"He's a scientist," the boy said. "An astronomer." He laughed. "Before we came to this strange land, he used to wake me up at night to see the stars. I knew all the constellations, from the Phoenix to the Cobra to the Great Polar Bear." His smile faded. "But he couldn't see them when we moved to the city. There were too many lamps. Once we took a trip to the country to see them properly. I think he loved them because they were the only thing that stayed the same when we left home to come here."
"But you like the stars?" the princess asked, raising her eyebrows.
"Yes." The word slipped from the boy's mouth. "More than anything. They're so lonely and-- and beautiful. Like ice. And they don't feel anything, so they're sad." He caught a characteristic gleam in the princess's eye. "What is it?
"Nothing," she said, smoothing the look away. "I'll tell you after dinner."
And she refused to say more, although he pestered her all through their evening meal, which was pickled shark with stuffing, and pudding for later. The princess waited until he finished, then rose and said, "Follow me."
She led him through the cold, dark hallways and up a flight of creaking stairs, the musty carpet releasing the scent of dust beneath their feet. There she paused for a moment, and he heard the clink of metal on metal before burningly frigid air brushed his face.
"Up here," the princess said. "Mind the steps." She turned and helped him rise into darkness, snow squeaking beneath his feet.
He looked over at her. He could barely see the paleness of her face, but he knew she was smiling.
"Give it a minute," she said. "Almost there... Now. Look up."
The boy tilted his head back and gasped.
The silver disc of the moon rose above the trees, and the land flashed silver. Radiant paleness stretched as far as the wind could breathe and the light could reach, dancing in the shadowed forest. Overhead the spilled-sugar stars mirrored their movements, spritely spiraling into the dark void of the universe that was a snowy winter's night.
The princess gazed up in contentment. It had been many months since she had seen the sight and bathed in the gossamer lightness of the moon, and she tilted back her head to take it in.
She heard a soft sound and looked down sharply. The boy was crying.
"No," she said helplessly. "Please don't be sad. Is it the stars? Do you want to go back inside?"
The boy shook his head, gasping for breath. It wasn't his father's stars, as ashamed as that made him feel.
"It's the snow," he said, and the word set off his tears again. "I've never seen anything so beautiful and white. In the city it's always ugly and black with coal dust."
The princess stared at him. A few tears, pale and insignificant next to the stars, fell from her lashes.
They sat together on the edge of the roof and watched the stars until the moon faded beneath the trees again.
What about you? Are you entering?