Harperpages

The blog of author Harper Alexander

The Beginning of Crooked Bird

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I’ve been focusing mainly on my YA novel ‘The Tournament of Eden’ lately, but for the times when I’m burnt out on that I decided to go ahead and let myself work on an alternative project simultaneously. I have a number of stories (sequels and such) that need to be worked on, and they’re certainly queued for progress as soon as I have the proper inspiration, but since said proper inspiration hasn’t struck me yet, I’ve gone ahead and started something new, because I WAS stricken with the inspiration for it. Sometimes, like it or not, that’s just how it works. So long as I don’t get TOO offtrack and forget queued works entirely, I’m getting to a place where I’m okay with letting inspiration run its desired course.

So, that being said – onto more relevant introductions! My new story, which I intend to craft as a novella (but THAT often changes) is called Crooked Bird.  It’s a more lyrical, ‘rich’ sort of narrative than the easy-read adventure I’ve been having fun with for The Tournament of Eden, and I think I need this type of project to keep my dreamer’s soul properly fed.  I’ve gone back and forth between these two writing styles a LOT, trying to find my niche, but the truth is I really enjoy doing both, so both it is!

And with that long-winded introduction, I’d like to share an excerpt with you all, because I said I was going to start doing that.  Here is the first chapter of Crooked Bird for your enjoyment:

…………………………………….

I had heard rumors of the place same as anyone growing up. The kind of gnarly echoes that frighten a child, but fade into perspective as a twisted sort of therapeutic chatter that defines their real core, as you realize with age you live in a time where story – any kind of story – is the best escape anyone can seize.

I was born the day before the war ended. A rosy-skinned symbol of hope, wet with life, as so many ashen-skinned heroes lay in the same wet that, for them, meant death. You could say only one day of my life was flavored with the war-torn salt that rained on the wounds of that generation, but I bear something greater than a wound because of it. I bear an emptiness, because of the father the war took from me,  before I ever knew him. Sometimes I think I can remember being born, and that my cries had nothing to do with leaving the warm cocoon of my mother’s body and everything to do with the fact that I knew – somehow I knew my father was dead, and I grieved for him as my first awareness.

I never told my mother that I felt this connection to him. What was I to say? ‘When I cried coming out of the womb, it was because I knew my father was dead, and grieved for him’?

I never had the opportunity to tell her, anyway. For she was stricken by the emptiness far more severely than I was, and paid attention only to the window after my birth, as if she were so fragile that she had to put herself in a glass case, or at least the illusion of one. I knew my mother’s face only by the pale reflection of it in that pane, always staring out at the stubby forest of chimneys that sprouted from the rooftops of Slateburrow Street. What did she find in those chimneys? Did she numb her mind tracing the abrasive mortar between bricks with her conscious? Did she see visions in the chimney-smoke?

Did the clusters of brick begin to blur after staring at them for so long, shifting behind tricks of smoke until they took on the shapes of gargoyles, becoming entrancing, frightening sentries that kept her rooted there?

I used to wonder this, as a wispy-blond child, freckled with innocence and awe, because I had woken from many a nightmare and turned away from the frightening shadows of my room only to find myself staring out the window at those very same chimneys, and mistaking their dark shapes for gargoyles myself.

Later, when I got older and gained a notion of bravery, I began to sneak out onto the rooftops at night and paint pretty pictures on those chimneys so my mother would have something pretty to stare at, and to be sure they couldn’t be mistaken for gargoyles anymore. I spent a good three years of my young life dedicated to this cause, a nightgown-clad cherub-saint growing up on moonlight and paint fumes, the chafe of off-shoulder lace against the downy goosebumps of my skin and the slate-brittle shrapnel of shingles beneath my feet. It was an unorthodox childhood, to be sure, but at least I was putting myself to good use. Unlike those who spent their days staring into nothingness or dumping bottles of spirits down their throats as if to replace the spirit that had died inside them.

Unlike the ones who gave themselves mindlessly to story and fantasy and the gossip of everyone else’s life but their own in order to escape reality, which was the most prominent fad of all. Dothame’s opera houses, libraries and gossip parlors were like anthills in those days, dedicated streams of legs always going to and from. Often, the legs ambled with a limp, or weren’t a pair of legs at all but one limb of flesh and blood and one imposter, made of wood or innovative synthetic material or something entirely more questionable.

Questionable, of course, only because the story-happy population of Dothame latched onto the irresistible opportunity to twist reality into something different; namely, in this case, the perfect theme for a new kind of speculation about the place.

The Place being that infamous, savagely-mystical isle across some impossibly hidden ocean, where devil tribes and bestial herds are said to roam, and all manner of unnatural things are bred and born and never beheld.

Legends of this place preceded my time by many generations, but the missing limbs gave it a new angle. A trick of shadow as a man’s trench coat flared wide about his deformity, or a particularly unnatural limp, was all it took for the story-mongers to start the rumor-mill churning, speculating about how so-and-so’s peg-leg looked a little more bestial than wooden, and about some ridiculous black market of limb concocting and trading going on between our city and the strange, fantastical isle across that hidden sea.

My best childhood friend, Leea, prided herself in being one such story-monger, always going on about some new glimpse of iridescent feathering about a man’s ankles or elephant-like hide where the flesh or boot of his calf ought to have been.

I, the skeptic of the two of us, challenged her fantasies with the same denouncement every time:

“Where would you hide an ocean, Leea?”

And of course, she never had an answer at the ready for that.

There were places, though. Places one could hide an ocean. As an explanation for knowing as much, as I do now, let us just say I did not spend that coming summer in the libraries and parlors and opera houses like everybody else…

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