Thursday, January 27, 2011

Author's Note: The 99th Page Blogfest

Hi. This is the author (see the photo to your right - yes, your right) just stepping in for a moment or two to do some fourth wall breakage (with my inherent clumsiness, this is a literal and figurative possibility). I wanted to let you all know that I'm participating in this thing called The 99th Page Blogfest.

"But hark, what craziness be this, oh Great Author of all things Claire?"

(What? You guys don't talk like that? I'm so very disappointed...)

Well, eager beavers, let me explain (No, no. That'll take too long. Let me sum up...). It's this thing being run by the following lovely ladies: Erinn, Alicia, Holly, Pam and Quita. The gist of it is the authors around the blogosphere post the 99th page of their manuscipts and you, the readers, are asked to decide the following:

1. Would you turn to page 100?
2. Why or why not?
3. Based on what you've read, would you buy the book?

So, without further ado my lovely minions, I respectfully submit the 99th page (which is half a page, as it's the start of Chapter 10) of The (Absolutely, Positively) True Adventures of Claire Elizabeth Rogers to you, the readers.


“Please form a single line and report to the kiosks on the left for assignment.”

The line shifts and Jack hollers to Claire that they’re finally moving. When she doesn’t respond immediately, he looks over and finds the area vacant. No Metatron, no Claire, nothing but white orbs of light and wings. She’s abandoned him, left him for the masses, and gone off on her own to accomplish what he – literally – gave his life to help her do.

“Sonovabitch,” he swears. The elderly woman next to him in line smacks his arm.

“Stop cussing,” she says before moving along past him.

He sticks his tongue out at her when her back is turned.

*Additional house points to those of you who comment with the correct movie and/or television references tucked away in this post. Hint: there's only two of them.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yo Momma So Old, She Knows God (Literally)

Katharine Rogers is, or was to be technically precise, the daughter of a blacksmith in Ireland. If given a chance to calculate her approximate age, Kate would tell you to borrow forty-five of your closest friends and ask them to each count to ten. Then she'd ask you to subtract seven.(1) For those of you good with math, it's a kinder way of saying she's currently 443 years old.

How Katharine became an angel in the employ of God is a simple story. She arrived in the offices of Heaven, Incorporated shortly after tripping over a discarded hammer in her father's smithy and falling in just such a way that she impaled herself on a newly forged sword. One minute she was bleeding all over the floor and the next she was standing in a richly furnished room, wearing a white dress, and keeping company with a caramel colored Amazon.

"Good morning, Katharine. I'm God." God was always eloquent in Her opening words to the newly deceased. She'd had years of practice and had finally perfected Her tone of voice (gentle and soothing), Her facial expressions (calm and smiling), and Her tact.

Katharine, on the other hand, was not quite accustomed to being dead and therefore had none of the tact and grace of the deity before her. In fact, Katharine's first words to God at such an awe-inspiring moment in her existence were thus:

"Christ almighty, that hurt like a motherfucker."(2)

* * *

While Katharine was occupied with the New Hire Orientation (mandated by the Pearly Gates Corporation for all newly deceased members of the staff), God did a little research. She discovered that while Her newest angel had been alive, she'd been very good at three things: tying knots, building fires, and pounding metal.(3) So God examined Her current needs in Heaven, Inc. and realized that Saint Eligius needed an assistant out in the Holy Smithy and Katharine, with her previous experience, was the perfect fit. Especially given her cursing proclivities and expertise with a hammer.

Kate, however, did not agree and as soon as God was finished explaining Her plan, the newly annointed angel threw an unholy fit.

"You're kidding me, right?" she asked. "I spent my existence on Earth in a smithy, covered in soot and ash and who knows what the fuck else because smithys are attached to stables and stables are full of horses, and now You want me to spend my afterlife in one, too?" She pulled at her bright red hair. "Do You have any idea what smoke does to hair?" she asked.

God honestly didn't, having never spent too much time out in the stables or the smithy. Big hammers and horses were never really Her thing - She was secretly a little happy when the dragons ate the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse's steeds.(4)

She sighed. "Well, then, where would you like to work?" She asked.

Katharine frowned. "I'd kind of thought I'd retire," she said, "seeing as how I'm dead and supposedly in paradise."

God decided to give it one more try. "How do you feel about libraries?" She asked.

"They're filled with books, right?" Katharine asked, and God nodded, feeling encouraged. "I've never really read a book, just used them as kindling."

God pinched the bridge of Her nose, sighed into the ether, and counted to ten before continuing the conversation. "Go sit in the library," She said, Her voice far calmer than She actually felt. "Read something, and for the love of Me, don't light anything on fire and don't touch anything that isn't supposed to be touched."

Katharine considered it, shrugged. "Sounds easy enough."

* * *

In the first fifty or so Pearly Gates years that Katharine worked in the Heavenly Library, she managed to destroy a handful of "priceless" objects, most of them statues or sculptures. It got to the point where God had to create a separate area to store the art, simply to preserve it from Katharine's clumsiness. Everytime She heard the words "uh-oh" and "my bad" filter down the hallway to Her office, God would pray to Herself that it wasn't something invaluable.

And everytime, it was...because that was just the kind of lucky Katharine was. The last straw was when she almost broke Pandora's Box(5) and Zeus freaked out, threw a lightning bolt, and broke God's favorite stained glass window.

"That's it!" She hollered, striding into the library with purpose and fervor. "You're too clumsy to work up here, Kate," She said. "There's too much to break, too much accidental havoc for you to wreak."

Katharine, who'd been enjoying a ham sandwich while perusing a copy of Carl Jung's Answer to Job(6), looked up and frowned. "Are You firing me?" she asked, ignoring the glob of mustard that fell onto the page in front of her.

God stared at the mustard glob and attempted to keep Her temper under control. She allowed Meta's voice to remind Her that there was a mountain of paperwork involved in smiting one's own employee and that no amount of personal satisfaction was worth that much inconvenience.

"No, Kate," She said, breathing steadily through Her nose, "I'm not firing you." She had a sudden idea. "I'm promoting you." She smiled a manic smile and motioned for Katharine to follow Her out of the library and away from all the breakable things. "I think I've found the exact place where your...talents...will be better appreciated."

Katharine took a bite of her sandwich. "It's the smithy, isn't it?" she asked in defeat.

God's manic smile widened and She shook Her head, wrapped an arm around Katharine's shoulders. She squeezed the angel to Her side with a little more force than necessary and the sandwich popped out of Katharine's hands and fell on the thousand year old Persian rug just inside the library door. God stared at the sandwich and the mustard stain and fought against screaming.

"Oh, Katie, it's so much better than the smithy..."

* * *

As it turned out, God's plan for Katharine was, indeed, so much better than the smithy. God told her to close her eyes and when she next opened them, she was standing on a city street surrounded by tall buildings, loud people, and metal boxes on wheels that consistently honked when they were unhappy.

"Where the bejesus am I?" she asked herself, confused and just a touch terrified. When she'd died, there had been dirt roads, horses and carts, and her village had been inhabited by sixty three and a half people (there was a leper living there). This was so far removed from what she remembered that her first thought was she'd been sent to Hell (Hades & Purgatory, Ltd).

"You're in Boston," a man said from somewhere near her and she turned her head to see him. He was tall, good looking, with a shock of black unruly hair that made him look like he'd just been kicked in the stomach by a goat. At Katharine's confused expression, he elaborated. "Massachusetts," he said. She still looked confused. "The United States of America. Planet Earth."

"Sonovabitch," she muttered. "And the date?" she asked a little more loudly.

"October third, 1973." He smiled and she found she rather liked his smile. "It's a Wednesday, if that helps."

"I always liked Wednesdays," she said, mostly to herself.

"They're so much nicer than Thursdays. I'm Harry," the man said and stuck out his hand. She looked at it, shyly took it in her own. "Harry Rogers."

"Katharine O'Malley," she said. "I'm sorry, but I'm having a wee bit of an odd moment."

"I can tell." He looked at her. "Ireland?" he asked.

"What about it?"

"Your accent. Is it Irish?"

She nodded. "Started out that way. I've been elsewhere since, though."

He sensed a story and he pointed over his shoulder. "Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" he asked. "I know whenever I'm having an odd moment, coffee tends to straighten things out for me."

"I suppose I can do that," she said. "But don't try anything funny."

In spite of the serious expression on her face, Harry laughed. "I'm an English professor," he said and she just looked at him. "I don't think I'm capable of trying anything funny."

Katharine nodded, smiled a little. "That's okay," she said. "I'm an angel. I don't think I'm allowed to try anything funny."

Harry stared at her, considered what she'd just said, and decided that not only was she one hundred percent serious, but he was ninety-nine percent sure he believed her. He also had the fleeting romantic thought that he'd marry her some day.

And he did.

(1) Not seven friends, but seven digits and however you decide to subtract them is completely up to you...

(2) Katharine, for all intents and purposes, has the vocabulary of a drunken sailor on shore leave. 'Golly' and 'gee whiz' just don't have a place in a smithy.

(3) This isn't a euphemism. She actually pounded metal, with a hammer, like a blacksmith. It was the late 16th century; pounding anything had a very different connotation than it did starting in the early 21st century.

(4) Especially Death's. There's something incredibly unnatural about a little bald man riding a skeletal horse that has strands of its own flesh hanging off it.

(5) Pandora's "Box" was actually an incredibly heavy stone urn. Why? Because the Greeks, who were always a little more difficult than all the other religions, never used boxes. "Can't stand square objects," Zeus said by way of explanation. "If I'm going to store something, I'd rather put it in something round. Less sharp edges." Seriously, that was verbatim.

(6) God likes to keep all of Her press pieces close to Her, even the bad ones...especially the bad ones. Where do you think She gets the "naughty" list from?