Friday, September 25, 2009

New lower price

In other good news, Amazon is once more directly carrying The Golden Horn at a five dollar discount over the "list" price that PublishAmerica chose. So now you can get my first novel for "only" $19.95 once more and even get super-savings shipping. Such a deal! :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Window Treatments

Moldings around the windows of our passive solar home might seem to be low-priority, something we could work on at any time. But the approach of winter has given that project a higher status. We need to get the windows finished while there is still warm weather, and we need to have a way to install curtains to hold in night-time heat. The biggest challenge was the large, south overhead window in the central bay. We ended up making our own scaffolding, then spent two days staining, varnishing and painting. With the curtains installed, one window is finally ready for the cold season.

Hot Water, Part 1

Two major projects have remained for our house to be completely liveable: Power and hot water. But as Linda has pointed out. “I can live without electricity, but I won’t live without hot water.” So the hot water system became our next priority. We engaged Craig Edwards and Kirk Rohn of the Evergreen Group to do the installation. The hardest work was installing the posts and frame for the panel. We went with a large panel in hopes that it would be enough, even on cloudy, winter days, to avoid the need for a supplemental heat source. The panel is now in place, the tank is hooked up and the system is working with temperatures above 150 degrees F. on sunny days. Despite our lower upstairs water pressure, there was enough to enjoy my first shower on Saturday. We may have all the details complete by October.

The Watchers, Part Seven

Another entry in the story started last year: Let me know if you want more.

“Titus, poor Titus! What has this place done to you?” Benjamin sighed before bending over once more to fasten the strap on his other sandal. Should he have left two days ago? He had secured a seat; he had gone to the aeroport. Why had he come back? It could not have been the warmth of his hosts. They had been but strangers. He took a deep breath. “It’s the girl.” There, he had spoken truth at last. He had been plagued with mysteries from the moment he had left his own country, but none were vexing him as much as that child with her sweet voice, big eyes and impossible hand. She had saved his life … and threatened it as well. What was she? For the eighth time, Benjamin ran what he knew to be truth back through his mind. She was a worship house child, she was an adolescent scholar, she was a rich family’s second daughter, she was a ninja warrior. She had two hands, or one, or many? She wore a simple shift or silken gowns, or black tights. She spoke of the “watchers;” she agreed that this was an evil place. What was she? Very smart and much too wise for her physical age, that he knew to be true. Otherwise?
The Wall. She had mentioned a “wall.” She said it had answers. “Hmm.” Benjamin opened the paperback novel and his compupad. He began leafing through the book’s off-white pages, occasionally pausing and noting a word or letter. He typed these characters into a fresh document on his compupad. When he had two lines of text, he hit return, entered a password, confirmed and began to page through the screens that the compupad provided. He took no notes and when he was done, he did not save anything. Instead he ran a second program that deep-erased any record that he had ever accessed any outside source.

“I don’t like this.”
Why? the thought passed through Beriana’s mind.
“I am too old, too tall. I am growing up.”
Does that matter?
“You know it does. I used to be a little beggar girl. Now …” Briana made a sour face. “The last time I went out with the bowl, a man offered to take me to a place where they make love. He thought I was trying to sell my body. I don’t like that.”
We have only a few left. We need someone to see for us.
“I don’t want to do this.”
Remember your promise?
“I remember.” Beriana rubbed her right hand, then folded her arms and hugged herself. “This is the last time, for sure.” She began changing.

Nineteen beggars squatted in a line against the north wall of the square. Some were missing limbs. Two appeared to be blind. Beriana seated herself close enough to the group so that she was clearly one of them but not too near. Her business today did not involve coins. She hunched down, trying to make herself appear as small and short as possible before setting down her bowl in front of herself. The sun felt good, and Beriana turned her smudged face toward it, gathering in its heat, then she shielded her brow with her left hand and began watching. She did not have long to wait. The paster arrived within three tick-tocks of her own arrival. He was trying to appear casual, as if he were a simple visitor from the south lands, or some other closer country. He studied the brass bracelets in Uncle Ollie’s stand, spoke briefly with a horse vendor, even looked her way briefly, but gave no sign that he recognized her. Then he approached the older part of a stone-rubble wall that closed in the south side of the market.
“If you know so much about this man that you can predict exactly when he will show up where, why do you need me?”
You know the answer already to that question.
“Humph.” The girl made no further sound but concentrated on watching the pastor’s every move.

Benjamin certainly did not know what he was looking for. He traced the lines and cuts of the wall’s massive boulders, occasionally touching projections or nobules. This had to be the wall the girl had referred to. No other wall was so old or more storied. Here the first humans had overcome the first demons, hurling them from the wall’s heights to destruction on sharp rocks below. Here had once been the altar of love and hate where the first judges had granted marriages and cast evil humans to their deaths. Dark red stains, some washed by rain and scoured by winds back to a limestone white, hinted at ancient violence. Benjamin did not touch the stains. Instead he searched with his eyes, squinting and moving his head back-and-forth to catch each irregularity from as many angles as possible. When three tick-tocks has passed, he straightened and stretched his back. He tried once more, this time using the corners of his eyes as he had in the hotel room. Nothing. The wall, this wall, was supposed to have answers, yet he had found none. He sighed, failure and frustration complete, then, as he turned away, a quick breeze began to blow.
The sudden wind caused stall awnings to flap and even toppled several poles. Merchants grabbed cloth and wood and held on. Shoppers pulled hoods up to shield their faces from the stinging sands and dirt swirling through the booths. The threatening chaos caused even the girl’s companions to pull in their bowls and mute their begging chants.
Benjamin remained still as the sand grains pelted his cheeks, He listened to the sounds of wind and sand squeezing through the crevices and grooves of the wall. The wall was speaking. When the dervish column of air had run its course, he smiled and turned away. He came quite close to the girl as he left, close enough to easily drop a coin in her bowl. The clink of metal against fired clay like a clap of thunder, caused all but the girl to stiffen, but the pastor did not look back as he continued on his way.

“You heard?”
Yes, we heard. We do not need eyes to know that he has caught the first message.
“Am I done then?”
Yes. For now.
The girl retrieved the bowl and its offering with her left hand and got to her feet. For a moment her eyes appeared to see nothing while her left hand rubbed the fingerless knuckles of her right. Then she swallowed a faint sob and followed the same route out of the market that the pastor had just taken. [To be continued.]