The Alibi – Chapter 3

The Alibi is presenting me with several learning opportunities. I wrote about what I’m learning about Toing and Froing in Parts 1, 2 and 3. I previously learned about plotting then came “Less is More,” something I learned (obviously not well enough) when writing Search and The Shaman(I’ll no doubt write about it later when I’ve learned enough worth sharing), and kind of a specific part of Toing and Froing, and today it’s “if you’re not sure, remove it” dealing with revision

As they say in German Rast ich, so rost ich.

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As always, let me know what you think.

The Alibi – Chapter 3

Cisily Throne lay on her stomach on a white and black checkerboard beach towel. The Lady Eglesia‘s Volvo Penta IPS occasionally thrummed gently when Throne’s seventy-five foot power sail’s thrusters adjusted its position over its Boston Harbor anchorage. The low vibration transported Throne back home, to one or two elders clapping, others singing, and the didgeridoo.

She missed being washed in the didgeridoo’s sound, of feeling the Old Ones take semi-human shape and walk into camp.

But that was thirty-five years and half a world away.

Today she let the sun warm her back and stretched out until her fingertips and toes touched the Lady Eglesia‘s forecastle deck’s treated wood. Her left hand touched her mobile and she shoved it so hard it skidded to the fore-railing before banging to a stop.

She seldom took time off and when she did, it was understood – Nobody bothers the Big Dog.

Cisily let the sun warm her back and chuckled.

The Lady Eglesia served as her vacation while at work. A short dinghy ride from dock to boat, a stripping of her work clothes, and she could close her eyes and be back home protected by the brilliant magenta shield of Hamersley Range swimming in pools of still, clear water, listening to the birdcalls of tiny white corella and pink galahs as they flew overhead. At night she would power out into deep water where the city lights grew dim. She’d shut down the Eglesia‘s running lights, lie on her back and watch the stars, so different from her northern Australia home, and remember the stories of her Banyjima, Yinhawangka, and Kurrama ancestors.

A passing launch tooted its horn. Throne rolled sideways on the towel and waved. Boys lined the lauch’s deck and applauded. She smiled, shook her head and lay back down. Both men and women still appreciated her late forties body. Long legged, full hipped, narrow waisted, and with just enough breast to keep a partner satisfied without getting in the way. Her skin glistened without needing oils or balms or ointments, she was the best match of her biracial birth. Growing up she was desired and hated, a dark skinned lubra in a white goddess’s body, assumed the child of rape and none knowing her black father and white mother cherished her and each other, she used all that she was wisely.

And today and for the past ten years she was Chief of AirCon security. When BHP Billington’s people came to the States to evaluate AirCon’s electronic frontier solutions, they brought Cisily with them to keep them safe. AirCon CEO Leo Dunn admired her and what her Billington employers said about her.

Would she like a new job here in the States?

Sure and here are my terms.

His smile grew wide and he laughed. “You’re not one to be fucked with, are you, Ms. Throne.”

A smile creased her lips but she kept her eyes on the AirCon CEO’s. “Depends on who’s doing the fucking, doesn’t it, Mr. Dunn?”

Her mobile alarmed.

She raised her head and saw a cloud of gray smoke climb AirCon’s thirty story Innovation Square headquarters like some Wind Spirit King Kong with swirls of denser smoke pulling and pushing like the great ape’s arms and legs.

Read The Alibi – Chapter 4.

Enjoying a Little Opie Butt

I wrote in The Bluebirds of Keith Jarrett about The Wild seeming not to signal its children to move on.

Four days later, our area looked like this:

Needless to say, migratables had migrated quickly.

Our hope is we provided fuel for their flights.

Meanwhile, two days after WinterMan walked through our backyard, an Opossum sallied forth.

I’ve always wondered why nothing ever sallies fifth. Or third. It’d be great if they medaled at least once, wouldn’t it?


Writing and Reading Rhythms

Listening to Pitjantjatjara elders’ stories as they escort you through their memories, one is aware of three rhythms working together; the rhythm of the story, the rhythm of their movement, and the rhythm of time passing.

I mention writing and reading rhythms in Toing and Froing Again Parts 2 and 3 and mentioned in other posts readers often tell me my writing pulls them along, that reading my work is effortless because it flows. First reader and critique group comments are often along the lines of “These lines flow so well and are easy to picture.” with criticisms along the lines of “this part broke the flow of the scene for me.”

There’s (hopefully) no effort reading my work because I write to a rhythm which is what readers describe as “flow.” That rhythm depends on the work itself. Some pieces are meant to be read at a quick march, some at a slow waltz, some are jive, some are tango. I work at creating a rhythm that non-consciously catches the reader and propels them through whatever they’re reading.

To do that properly – and this is key – I need to write to a rhythm. My writing rhythm differs from the reading rhythm in beats (in music, per minute. In writing, per line, paragraph, scene, …), not in time signature (in music, 2/3, 3/4, 7/8. In writing, which beats are emphasized. Study the music of James Brown. He mastered playing to the beat). Most writers/authors change time signatures via chapter breaks, scene breaks, page breaks, et cetera. Ever write an action scene and have a character pause at the end? Congrats, you’ve changed the time signature. Does the pause carry a different number of beats than the action sequence? Probably better if you have a complete break.

Writing and reading rhythms differ because I compose more slowly than I play. Two things one learns in music – sight-reading and improvisation – come in writing and usually after lots of practice (for me, anyway).

Sight-reading occurs when I write to an outline; all the pieces are there and I’m adding the flourish, the emotion, essentially turning the outline into a story. Improvisation happens when I have the basic idea and I sit down and write without an outline. The two are the dividing line between pantsers and plotters. Sight-reading is plotting and improvisation is pantsing.

Consider the following from Writing Realistic Hand-to-Hand Combat Scenes

Ellie blocked Earl’s left with her right. She locked his wrist and elbow against her abdomen. Her elbow smashed his ribs. He coughed up blood. A hammerfist to the groin doubled him over. A front knee strike shattered his jaw. He fell and she released his arm. He wasn’t getting up again.

Pay attention to how you read that excerpt and you may notice a change when you hit “He wasn’t getting up again.” I changed the time signature so the reader could catch their breath after an action sequence. I do such things because I want the reader to relate strongly to the character. If the character can relax, I want the reader to do the same.

…the same rhythm can be used when switching from a humor scene to an action scene. Often it’s required for the reader to keep moving through the story.

However, I can’t write at a tango rhythm if I want the reader to move at a jive rhythm. I can slow the jive down but too much and it’s no longer jive, it’s jibberish.

Take another look at the Writing Realistic Hand-to-Hand Combat Scenes excerpt:

  • Ellie blocked… – Strong simple past tense verb two beats in (second word in sentence)
  • She locked… – Ditto
  • Her elbow smashed… – Strong simple past tense verb three beats in
  • A hammerfist to the groin doubled… – Strong simple past tense verb six beats in
  • A front knee strike shattered… – Strong simple past tense verb five beats in
  • He fell and she released… – Ditto
  • He wasn’t getting up… – Weak, past continuous (or past progressive) tense taking up three beats.

Chart this and you get

Have you ever listened to some music and things suddenly get more intense, more lively, perhaps louder, and next there’s a sudden quiet or slowing down or change in the chord structure? That’s what you’re seeing in the chart above, a kind of crescendo in the writing and done with language instead of music. That sudden drop at the end is the diminuendo and due to a change in verb tense, hence authorial voice, and signals an end to the scene therefore a scene break (as written it would be a good cliff-hanger chapter break, too. Always leave ’em wanting more).

Always leave them wanting more. – P.T. Barnum (maybe)

The crossovers between music and writing, writing and photography, dance and writing, … are too numerous to elaborate here. Ask me about them if we’re together in a writing class.

In the meantime, study different disciplines to strengthen your writing. I study photography to learn how to put scenes together. I study acting to learn how to show emotion. I study music to learn how to pace my work. I study artwork to learn how to draw readers’ attention where I want it.

And always practice practice Practice!

The Alibi – Chapter 2

The Alibi is presenting me with several learning opportunities. I wrote about Toing and Froing in Parts 1, 2 and 3. Today big learning is plotting (I’ll no doubt write about it later when I’ve learned enough worth sharing).

The individual chapters are short. Or at least shortish. To me, anyway, yet they seem to work fine.

Of course, I’m still in the rough draft mode. Who knows what I’ll do in the rewrites.
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As always, let me know what you think.

The Alibi – Chapter 2

Rexall Shaul stood quietly at the top of the thirty flights of stairs from his AirCon corporate office to the garage. He waited, quietly, meditatively, listening to the pneumatic cylinder ease the door shut. The click of the latch would be the runner’s starting pistol.

He slowed his breathing and relaxed his gymnast lean body as he waited.

He hesitated. Lift his arm to check his Omega Dark Side of the Moon or not?

Lifting his arm would raise his pulse a beat, maybe two.

The hesitation alone raised his pulse a beat or two.

He feared he was losing his edge.

The sound of the pneumatic piston increased imperceptibly as it reached the last moments of its transit.

Quick glance at the Omega. The gun sounded.


He walked quickly but not hurriedly.

Steady pace. People wouldn’t think twice, let him pass. A burst of speed once in the garage if necessary and never necessary before.

Break a sweat and he revealed too much.

Keep it all inside. Maintained.

He opened the door to the garage, glanced at his watch.

Two-hundred-forty seconds. Eight seconds per flight. Not breathing hard. Didn’t break a sweat.


His best time made use of gravity and dropping down the stairwell, his hands working the railings like descending uneven bars.

He smiled and walked to his black Lotus Exige. Two parking spaces were assigned to him as part of his package. He parked over the center line of the two so the Exige had three feet on either side clear.

He walked around the Exige like a pilot inspecting his craft before takeoff and smiled, his personal mantra topmost on his mind; a risk anticipated is a risk avoided.

He retraced his steps back around the Exige.

Satisfied, he pulled out his phone and tapped a number.

The Exige rumbled to life, the driver’s door opened, the bomb went off, and Rexall Shaul was no more.

Read The Alibi – Chapter 3

The Bluebirds of Keith Jarrett

Early Jan 2022 we saw bluebirds at our feeders.

Genuine bluebirds.

What’s fascinating about this is they should have migrated by now.

Whatever signals The Wild gives its children it is time to move, it wasn’t given this year.

At least not for these bluebirds.

Which, of course, causes us multiple levels of concern. Most such concerns come down to “What’s happening to The Wild?”

It is both foolish and human to suggest The Wild is under attack. Or massively naive.

Take your pick.

The Wild is not just what’s out behind our backyard, it’s what’s is. If I had to, I’d offer The Wild is the face the Universe shows us.

So offering “The Wild is under attack” is tantamount to suggesting the universe is under threat.

I may write science fiction, but come on. Let’s be serious for a minute.

Okay, you could say the Universe is under attack in The Inheritors, but it’s not so much under attack as it is adjusting to a change in its parameters, much like any living thing will adjust its functioning to deal with some unpleasantness.

99.9999997% of the Universe is alive in ways we can’t fathom. It’s time for us to stop demonstrating our ignorance and appreciate that intelligence, compassion, and authority come in shapes we can’t fathom.

Never doubt the Universe is a living organism.

Just be glad it’s neither spiteful nor plotting.

We wouldn’t stand a chance.

Though many may try.

Shows just how foolish, human, and naive we can be, doesn’t it?