In the USA the Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated this week. I’m grateful for those of you who have continued to visit and offer encouragement even though I’ve stopped giving away episodes of a novel or serial. I’m thankful for you.
My National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) story, The Delta Pearl, is set on a very special riverboat. It continues to roll on the river, often propelled by “three things” I’ve been given by you, or taken from my jar of random things. It’s keeping the big wheel turning.
Ike and Tina Turner, Proud Mary 1971
Thanks to Sally G. Cronin for reminding me of that version of the song. (I hope it’s still available when this post publishes. The first recording I used was taken down.)
This week some of the “things” I used were from two marvelous writers who have been wonderful sources of support for me. I said I had been editing this post. I decided not to show you the snippet I first had in mind. However I still want to give a mention to the two writers who left “things” that I used this week.
Teresa (Tess) Karlinski posts marvelous travelogues, allowing us to share in her adventures. Her brilliant stories are also featured in anthologies. Tess left Montreal, Harpsichord, and Soup for her three things. I’m sure you will enjoy her vivid stories and travels.
Author Mary J. McCoy-Dressel has been with this blog since its very beginning. She happens to have two new releases. Give yourself a romantic treat with Christmas at Love House and Whispers of Forever. Mary’s things were Victorian, Engineering Drawing, and Peculiar.
My Writing Process
I just revised this post (thank goodness, else I wouldn’t have known about the first video problem). I can’t decide whether to share with you a snippet from the prologue or the beginning of chapter-1…
You see, I wanted the opening to connect strongly with the prologue, even though time had passed and the narrator’s life had changed greatly. So I think I’ll show you both so you can see how I’ve tied it together. (In other words, I couldn’t decide, so I’ll show you both.)
Here’s a bit of The Delta Pearl:
The first time I saw the Delta Pearl I was eight years old. My grandpa had died three days before. He was sick for a long time before that. I asked Moma if Grandpa had seen the riverboat. I didn’t see what was wrong with the question, but apparently something was. It made her angry and she never answered me.
Later, relatives descended upon our house bearing all manner of food. There was some hugging and handshaking, but eyes were mostly dry of tears. They didn’t cry much, my family.
Moma and Nana used every flat surface available as they tried to sort all the food into some kind of edible order. As they got creative about how to make room for every cousin’s best cooking, I made for the back door.
Pushing the door open, I stepped onto the little porch. When the screen door banged behind me I cringed. Moma always yelled at me about that. It seemed impossible to close it without the bang. However, when she called out she didn’t mention the door.
“Em! Emerald Perlezenn! You stay away from that river,” she hollered.
So of course I went to the river. The gentle sounds of the water always helped me come to terms with things I didn’t understand. The river comforted me. At that moment, I really needed the river. Besides, I thought, I might finally see the riverboat.
So I trotted down narrow paths Nana called pig trails. Rounding curves, dodging brambles and tree roots, I eventually got to the riverbank.
The riverboat, the Delta Pearl, was a legend along that part of the river. Few people had seen her. As for the ones who claimed they had seen the riverboat, everybody seemed pretty sure they were lying.
Some said the riverboat was haunted. Others claimed it was the river’s version of the Lost Dutchman, cruising the river for eternity. Most had it that if you saw the Delta Pearl you were marked for death.
“Of course the Delta Pearl is not real, Em. It’s just a story,” Moma always said. “There are too many places around here where a boat like that can’t go. It couldn’t get through. Now I’ve heard enough of that silliness, and I’d better not hear another word from you about it.”
I walked along the very edge of the bank. Now and then my foot slipped, because I was so close to the edge. I backed away to clean the mud from my shoe.
The fluttering sound of a bird taking flight came to my ears. An odd clicking sound caused me to look up into the trees. Pine needles showered down and I covered my eyes. I spotted something brass colored as it streaked across the blue sky.
That seemed like a strange color for a bird. It looked almost like metal, but that was too impossible, even for my active imagination. My eyes followed the bird as it flew along the river.
As I sat there I listened to the music of the water as it lapped against the shore. It gave me a dreamy feeling. I gazed vaguely down the path the river had carved eons before. Sunlight glittered the surface of the water. I imagined the tiny reflections were diamonds and tried to count them.
Squinting at the brilliance, I thought of what it would be like to be a grand lady with strands of diamonds at my throat and in my hair. I thought of her suitors asking for a dance. So I stood and turned and turned, dreaming of the dance, while I spun around and around.
I staggered to a stop, enjoying the sensation of the dizzy world seeming to sway around me. Stumbling, I held my arms out for balance as I faced the river.
That’s when I saw the Delta Pearl.
Chapter 1: Dance
A silver thread glittered as the morning sun streamed onto the deck. At the end of the filament was a purple clockwork spider. It skittered across the wooden floor before vanishing behind a crate.
In the arms of a truly expert dancer, I twirled and spun until the world whirled dizzily with me. My partner’s impeccable sense of balance never faltered. We danced high above the river, on the hurricane deck. Dozens of fluffy white clouds blurred into one as he twirled me rapidly around and around.
Like diamonds, I thought as sunlight reflected brightly on the strands of triangular waxed flags strung above the deck. The sound they made as they fluttered in the breeze reminded me of startled birds taking flight. It took my mind to the day, years before, when I first saw the Delta Pearl.
I missed a step. The Dealer stopped our dance. He looked at me with what passed for concern on his less than mobile features. He blinked before speaking in his quasi French accent.
“Émeraude, are you well? Do you tire? Perhaps the sun is too much?” the Dealer asked.
One would never realize it just by looking at him, but the Dealer was compassionate and nurturing. Sometimes I felt he was too consoling, though that quality had benefits in his occupation. I had to admit that I seemed to receive more of his nurturing behavior than did the rest of the crew.
Of course he had a name besides the Dealer. He called himself Jaspe. To my ears he pronounced his name ZASH-pah. However, more often than not he was simply referred to as the Dealer.
I smiled and shook my head before speaking. “I was merely distracted, Jaspe. You are a much better dancer than I.”
“Ah, but cher, I am named for a rock — jasper,” he reminded me, using the English pronunciation to refer to the semiprecious gem. “I claim no more talent than the rock whose name I bear,” he replied, self-deprecating as always. “Besides, I have had so very long to perfect the steps. You are much improved,” he complimented me with a graceful, sweeping bow.
The Dealer gazed at the horizon. He raised a white gloved hand to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight. I knew he saw much more than I ever could. After a moment he spoke. “We will be in port soon. Best we get to work, eh?”
I couldn’t help watching his graceful movements. I wanted to ask just how long he had been perfecting his dancing, how old he was. His name, Jaspe was French for jasper, and his accent clearly bespoke New Orleans. Yet, I knew he discussed neither his age nor his origins. I was sure the Captain knew from where Jaspe hailed, but our skipper was not inclined to gossip.
However, the unspeakable, nagging question to which I most wanted an answer about the Dealer was not the number of his years. Rather I wanted to know whether or not he was in fact a man at all.
The Delta Pearl is sedately rolling on the river. It might never be a speedboat, but at least the big wheel is turning. Mega hugs!
Copyright © 2016 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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