Several years ago I went on a business trip with NASA to the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. After work, two of my co-workers invited me to join them at a local pub for dinner and darts. I’d planned on writing my sci-fi novel, but the invitation caught my interest.
I went, played, and got crushed by Dennis Davidson, then the manager of Program Planning and Control for the Space Shuttle Program. Dennis took a few minutes afterward to answer my questions and teach me the games called Cricket and Loops.
When I got back to my hotel, my brain kept replaying my losses, recreating the warm dark tones of the second story pub, and watching with fascination as Dennis’s darts thunked home in the soft sisal fibers of the Bull’s Eye.
When I woke up, I had the beginnings of a story: what better way to force a bunch of fantasy characters into the same room together? It took me a few tries to get the story right, but I’ve never had more fun writing fantasy.
As always, thank you for reading and reviewing. I’m about 70% finished with the first draft of RINGS, which is an immediate sequel for DARTS. Here’s an excerpt:
Magnus is breathing heavy like a big horse on a quiet night, with Timnus and Valery crammed in on either side of him, dead asleep. They aren’t picky. I’m not sure how the three of them fit in the master bed, since Valery is all legs and Timnus has melon-sized elbows, but they do. And no one is fighting for the blanket since Magnus is throwing off heat like a furnace on a cool autumn night.
Ahh. I love the quiet solitude. I’m thinking of my soft straw pallet in the attic as I wash the blood, soot, poison, and excess antidote from my hands and forearms. Washing. Falling asleep at the water basin. I head for the attic.
Who, in Pan’s name, is prowling about the neighborhood at this ungodly hour, bestowing their blessing on us?
I hear a soft voice outside—a pleading, familiar voice.
I nearly cry when I see her, upset with myself for forgetting it was her shop that burned to the ground tonight. She’s got soot on her face and looks like she’s about to collapse from exhaustion. “Teamus. I know you’re busy with that dart guy and all, but do you mind if I grab a bit of rug here tonight? The shop’s a total loss, and I don’t know what else to do.”
She’s got a stiff upper lip, but I can tell she’s hurting, and that makes me hurt even more. That shop meant everything to her.
“I’m so sorry, Carmen.” I say, making room in the narrow stairwell. For a moment she’s buried her face on my shoulder, sobbing. I put my arms around her and wait, wishing things had turned out just a little bit differently for her tonight. Then she’s wiping her eyes.
“Thank you, Teamus.”
Then she’s climbing the stairs determinedly up to the apartment and I follow behind, listening to the swishing of her soot-caked dress.
“Not much to eat, though,” I mutter, but she’s too tired to hear or care.
I get her settled at the small wooden table and bring her the refilled wash basin, but she’s asleep at the table before she’s finished washing half her face.
I sigh. At least that means she feels safe here.
Knock. Knock. KNOCK!
It’s not a joke. It’s Lucinda. She’s got an armful of fresh bandages. She doesn’t wait for an invitation but pushes her way in and rushes up the stairs.
Next week I hope to have a post about my trip to New York. Cheers!