Friday, May 18, 2018

GRAVE DIGGERS - Part VIII

It's hard to believe we're already closing in on the end of Grave Diggers. I hope everyone has enjoyed it so far!

One thing I've noticed as I've gone through each chapter, how different my writing is now compared to when I wrote Grave Diggers two years ago. It's definitely been a good exercise in editing and spotting scenes I wanted to change. I should probably do this more often. 

Have a great weekend!


*****


GRAVE DIGGERS 

Part VIII:


Desi:
“We have a problem.” Edmund frowned, his fingers flying over the computer keys. He'd been working on decoding the Grave Digger footage for over a week, spending hours going through line after line of code that made up the data the plane had gathered.
“What’s wrong?” Desi looked up from where she’d been fiddling with an antique radio system they'd rescued from the incineration plant. Parts littered the floor around her in a kind of electronic halo.
“I think I’ve found why the photos from this mission weren’t sent to us.” He expanded one section of the code and shifted it to its own corner of the screen. Desi couldn’t read code nearly as well as Edmund, but she understood the basics. Even from across the room she could tell something was off about the segment he'd separated. It was like someone had taken a masterfully done portrait and crudely pasted a picture of a duck right in the middle. In this case, someone had gone into the program that provided the Intells with reports on archeological sites and shoved a blocking command in front of it.
“Edmund…” Desi gripped the back of his chair. “Have we gotten any other reports from the Reclamation sites since Puck brought us this?”
“No, we haven’t.”
“Has any communication come in from the government at all?”
Edmund brought up the database all the Intells had access to, the storage space allowed to them by the Council. There was nothing. It wasn’t visible unless you pulled up the entire shared database, but the last time any of them received any type of file transfer from the government was a week before the last mission Puck’s squad completed. A mission Edmund had only found out about by reading the National newspaper, which few Intells did anymore.
 “They’re shutting us out.” Desi whispered. A knot dropped into her stomach like a stone. “They’ve deliberately stopped the communications about the archeological sites. Who knows how many they’ve destroyed during this time and we didn’t even notice!”
“Where’s Artemis?”
Desi said, “He’s meeting with the Elders right now.”
The Elders, the few living Intells who were old enough to remember the early days of the Rebuilding and the formation of the Council, had begun having weekly meetings with representatives from each Intell family. Their numbers had dwindled over the last decade, and the Elders were growing concerned. Fewer Citizens were marrying into Intell families, from fear of the Council or their own disagreement with the Intells’ work. The Village was becoming more isolated every year.
  “We’ve got to tell them about this.” Edmund sent a copy of the corrupted code to his tablet. The cousins locked up the office and raced downstairs.
Desi grabbed her bag, threw open the front door, and slammed face-first into Squad Commander Puck with his hand raised to ring the bell. Puck lurched away from her, their combined momentum sending them toppling back into the street.
He broke most of Desi’s fall. 

*****

Puck:
Puck stared up at the sky, trying to will air back into his lungs. The fact that Desi was lying on top of him didn’t escape his attention, but breathing was currently more important. Her cousin stood frozen in the doorway, mouth hanging open like a gasping fish. Puck tried to ask him to move her off his chest, but all that came out was a high-pitched wheeze.
“Ow…” Desi’s muffled voice floated up from somewhere near his sternum. He reached up and reluctantly moved one of her soft, sweet smelling braids off his face.
“Hello, Desi.” Puck rasped, his lungs finally inflating.
Edmund finally came to his senses and lifted her off the soldier. He set her down carefully on the door step, then offered a hand to Puck. Once everyone was back on their feet, Desi scowled.
“Did you know?” she snapped.
Puck stared at her. “Did I know what?"
“This!” She grabbed Edmund’s tablet out of his hands and shoved it at the bewildered soldier. “Did you know your precious Council was doing this to us?”
He eyeballed the screen, but didn’t know what it said. Council members’ children weren’t required to learn how to read code in school. “I can’t read code.”
A loud snort drew their attention to the boy leaning against the side of the building. Edmund affected a look of innocence and shrugged. “It shows that someone has but a block on any communication between the government and our database.  We haven’t gotten any communications in weeks.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.” Puck handed the tablet back.
Desi took a deep breath. “Of course it doesn’t. We were just on our way to tell my father.” She peered at him. “What are you doing here?”
Puck clasped his hands behind his back. “I came to apologize for my behavior the last time we met. It was rude of me to leave the way I did.”
Desi continued to assess him. He began to feel if she stared at him much longer those blue eyes would bore straight through him.
“Apology accepted. Thank you for coming.” Her expression became thoughtful and she turned to her cousin. “Edmund, could you please take the code to father and the others? There’s something I want to take care of.”
 “I’ll be back soon.” Edmund loped off down the street, his long strides taking him quickly out of sight. 
"Come with me." Desi led Puck back inside the house. 
“What are we doing?” Puck asked when they reached the third floor office.
“I need your help.” Desi unlocked the door and turned on the lights. “You use some pre-Quake technology in the army still, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Puck took in the mess of parts still on the floor. “There are some communication tools that work better in more remote areas than the National database connections.”
“Good.” She knelt down next to an old radio system. It was large and blocky, older than the radios the military still utilized. “I’ve been trying to get this thing to work, and I keep getting stuck.” Patting the only parts-free space on the floor next to her, Desi waited for him to sink down beside her before continuing. “I wanted to see if I could get it functioning, and then somehow wire it through a receptor connected to the database.”
“Why?” Puck peered into the open side of the metal box, where Desi had been experimenting with wire connections.
“To communicate with the other surviving nations.” Desi said, as if he should have already thought of it himself. “The distance is too far to reach them on the radio frequency alone, but if I can link up through a satellite in the Nation’s database, then maybe…”
Her mouth was set in a stubborn line. “There’s something the Council isn’t telling us about the other people left in the world. There has to be a reason why we know they’re out there but never hear from them.
“Maybe they’re hostile and that’s why we don’t have any contact with them. But what if they are good people and could help us? What if we could open up a network of trade and knowledge sharing that would benefit everyone?”
As she talked, she tried connecting a line inside of the radio and sparks flew out. They both flinched. “I understand if you don’t want to help.”  
Puck stared at the hunk of metal, weighing his options. When he’d gotten off the train at the Village station his plan had been to find Desi, apologize, and then get out of there as quickly as possible. He was already conflicted enough over what he’d found at the records office, let alone everything else that was thrown at him when he came to this place.
Nothing ever went according to plan when this girl was around.
“I can’t guarantee it will work, but I’ll see what I can do.” 
Puck would have promised to get the radio working, reach the other nations, and arrange a friendly get-together if it meant those blue eyes would shine at him the way they were right now.    
Desi smiled and handed him her toolkit. “That’s all I’m asking for.”

*****

TBC...

© Courtney Carter, http://writingdeskblog.blogspot.com, 2018


Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018 TBR List (Update 5/17/2018) + What Happened to My Q1 Goals

Good Evening, Writing Desk Readers!

I figured it was about time for a new 2018 To Be Read (TBR) update. The following books have now been added to the list:

The Midnight Line, by Lee Child
(Saw it, read the back cover, had to have it. Enough said.)
















Imber, by Tyffany Hackett
(Due out on June 12, 2018, Imber is the first book in Tyffany Hackett's Thanatos Trilogy. Tyffany and I connected during #MarchLitWrit, and I'm excited to read her debut novel!)














The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn
(I first saw this one on @crimebythebook's Instagram page. I was curious if this was going to be another "Gone-Girl-on-a-Train" scenario, so we shall see.)















Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
(Another impulse purchase. I seem to be making a lot of those lately when it comes to books. And workout leggings...but that's another story.)



















Founding Feuds, by Paul Aron
(After reading Killer Debt and George Washington: A Life in Books, I'm still on my American Revolution kick. I also feel the need to sprinkle in a few nonfiction books between all of the others I read.)














*****

Now, a brief explanation about what is going on with my Q1 Quarterly Goals.

There have been a lot of outside factors affecting my writing goals so far this year, not the least of which including my grandmother's passing and the medical procedure I had to have last month. So, I decided to cut myself some slack and absorb Q1's goals into Q2.

Whatever your passion is, it can be hard to accept when there are things you truly want to accomplish but the outside world creeps in and slows you down. What I have to remind myself, is that it's okay to take a step back and give myself more time. It's okay to say: Hey, I wasn't as productive as I wanted to be this quarter, but I can still meet the goals I've set for myself.

How about you, Writing Desk Readers? Did you crush your Q1 goals, or are you in the deadline extension boat like me? Either way, we've got this! 

Friday, May 11, 2018

GRAVE DIGGERS - Part VII

While Part VII of Grave Diggers is a little short, think of it as a segue into the climax of the novella. Only three more installments to go! 

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

*****

GRAVE DIGGERS 

Part VII:


Desi
Desi watched the soldier leave her home. Biting her lip, she locked up the artifact room and found Edmund still at the bottom of the stairs.
“I take it that didn’t go like you planned it would.” Her cousin peeled himself off the wall.
“Not quite.” She sighed. They had all discussed it last night, Desi, Edmund, and Artemis. If Commander Puck was as perceptive as he seemed, then it was possible they could have an ally outside of the Intell community.
Now, Desi wasn’t so sure. She probably shouldn’t have thrown so much at him at once, Puck hadn’t been raised to question everything around him like she had. But time wasn't exactly on their side.
“Maybe he’ll come back.” said Edmund.
“He might.” said Desi. “But if he does, will it be on his own or with an army behind him?” 

*****

Puck:
Another week went by before Puck returned to the Spire. Nothing could take his mind off of what he’d seen in the records department and in the Intell’s home. Training his squad exhausted him enough so he could sleep, but even then his dreams were a mess. Everything he’d believed his whole life clashing with the new questions Desi had planted in his mind.
Puck wasn't sure whether he’d make contact with the Intells again. What he needed to know first, why his squad’s Reclamation sites weren’t being utilized like he’d been led to believe. The need for clarity gnawed at him, making him curt even with his fellow soldiers.
For someone who had been so eager to leave the Spire a week ago, Puck couldn’t get there fast enough this time. He couldn’t stop fidgeting with the cuffs of his uniform jacket, the material felt like it was growing tighter around his wrists.
He made it to the twenty-first floor and down to Edison’s office without running into anyone he knew. The clerk was surprised to see him again so soon.
“Don’t tell me, the cameras still aren’t working?” Ed put down the tablet he’d been using and saluted the him.
“No, we haven’t gone on another mission yet.” Puck said. “I wanted to see my squad’s Reclamation log again.”
“Sure!” Ed put up his away sign and led Puck back to the room they’d used before. He logged into the system and offered Puck the seat at the console. “I hope you don’t mind, I really need to finish a report. Do you think you’ll be able to navigate the program?”
"I've got it, thanks Ed." said Puck.
As soon as Ed left the room he began scanning the list, adding up how many missions they’d successfully completed, and how many of the sites had been used for the expansion of the Nation. He did the math, and he did it again, then did it a third time just to make sure. 
“Less than a quarter…” Puck hissed. “Less than a quarter?” He wondered briefly if the data was wrong, but no, the log had to be right. It was part of a continuously updated National database.
Before he could change his mind, Puck downloaded the log onto a new memory card and closed the program down. Edison was still engrossed in his notes when Puck reached the front office. He thanked Ed again and made his way out of the Spire, the memory card burning a hole in his pocket until he made it out onto the street.

Puck’s squad received their next assignment the following day, a site about three hours’ flight south of the city. The men were actually excited about the prospect. Missions had been coming farther and farther apart over the last year, as the Rebuilding project neared its first phase of completion.
They would have one day of leave and then two weeks of preparation before the mission date. Despite the improvements the military had made in their technology, which Sergeant Abalos was always quick to point out, this was still dangerous work. Grave Diggers were usually given an opportunity to visit their families before each Reclamation mission, in case they didn’t make it back.
Having no inclination to see his father or, by virtue of proximity his mother, Puck spent most of the morning wandering around the city. He wore civilian clothing, but the Citizens he passed still gave him a wide berth. The military haircut, buzzed down on the sides and long on top, didn’t help to hide his identity. Perhaps if these wary people knew he was merely a Grave Digger, they wouldn’t have given him quite as much respect. He would have still been avoided, but for different reasons.
Puck’s wandering eventually brought him to a train station. He blindly chose one of the Citizen trains and situated himself in the last seat of the end car. From here he could feel the train’s wheels on the tracks, the subtle shudder that went through the chain of cars whenever the engine switched gears or the brakes were applied. His eyes drifted closed, his breathing evened out to match the steady clacking of the train.
I could do this all day.’ The sluggish thought surprised him. ‘I could float along on the train, day in and day out…maybe I should have been a conductor.’ Puck's eyes flew open. That was the most disturbing thought he’d had all day. He had a feeling his father would have been more outraged if Puck had volunteered to become a train conductor instead of enlisting. Hilliard probably would have killed him. 

*****
TBC...

© Courtney Carter, http://writingdeskblog.blogspot.com, 2018