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Friday, January 27, 2012

#FridayFlash: Far From Home

This is both my #FridayFlash and a teaser for my upcoming novella, Chasing a Rainbow. Like several of my longer stories, it started out as a flash that grew. Here’s a first shot at a blurb for the novella:

The warrior-wizard Chelinn and his friend Lodrán have visited many strange places. But when a curse goes awry, sending them to a place where wondrous yet mundane devices have taken the place of magic, nothing is familiar at first. Then, after stopping a robbery of a game store, they find themselves embroiled in a far more dangerous situation.

As hundreds of lives hang in the balance, two heroes and their new friends must use all their talents to foil an evil plot — and survive until they can catch a rainbow and return home.

This excerpt is very close to the original flash. It’s set in the same world(s) as my earlier #FridayFlash stories What Is Due and Off the Cub, and falls between them chronologically. Feel free to critique both the story and the blurb. (Please!)

Far From Home

Lodrán and Chelinn looked around them wild-eyed, assaulted by eldritch sights and sounds, trying to take it all in. A phantasmagoria of wild flashing colors competed with a cacophony of roaring, bleating, thumping noises. The scent of recent rain battled with a less pleasant smell, a hint of something burned.

After a long minute, Lodrán looked behind him then gripped his friend’s arm. “An alley!” Chelinn took one last look around, then nodded and allowed Lodrán to pull him away from the street.

After the incomprehensible overload of sight and sound, the alley was a familiar if odorous comfort. They ducked behind a large box of some sort, giving them cover and some relief from the strangeness without. The noises from the street followed them into the alley, but muffled enough to allow speech and thought. Unhealthy puddles of standing water, close walls looming above, even the smell of decay, all combined to provide a touchpoint of familiarity. “Some things can’t be changed, eh?” Lodrán grinned, looking around.

“Hm.” The big warrior-wizard rapped the green-painted box with a knuckle. “An alley is an alley. But details? Look. This box is made of iron.” He tapped a shiny spot near the top, where paint had flaked away. “See? Rust. And if my nose does not lie, it’s full of garbage.”

“What? That’s as much iron as we’d find in all of Anlayt or Roth’s Keep, and they… no.” Lodrán sized it up. “A box must have a lid. The way it slopes into the alley, I’d say that’s the front…” he seized the end of the lid and lifted. “Ha! Whew. You’re right — what kind of fools would dedicate such wealth to garbage?”

“The kind of fools for whom iron is near as abundant as water?”

“Impossible. Nowhere in all of Termag is… um.” Lodrán turned to look at his comrade, the question he dared not ask plain on his face.

“Yes. Wherever we are, we’re far from home.”

Lodrán peered around the side of the great metal box, shuddered, and crouched against the wall. “If I get a chance,” he panted, “I’ll kill that priest!”

“Too late.”


“I’m sure you already killed him.” Chelinn looked as grim as Lodrán had ever seen. “You spitted him with your spear, right in the middle of his curse. Good thing — those Easterners do things differently, but if I’m right he meant to send our living bodies straight to Hell. Instead, you disrupted him and we’re — wherever we are.”

“I’m not convinced this isn’t Hell!” Lodrán chewed his long mustache, as he often did when nervous or thinking. Instinct led him to crouch in the shadow of the box. Black garb, black hair, tall and thin, Lodrán was a shadow among shadows. Even knowing he was there, Chelinn found him hard to see.

“Courage, man. Hell would not have left us armed —” he patted his sword hilt — “nor provided this quiet alley for our retreat. This is no more Hell than it is Termag. So let us gather our wits and look again at the world beyond this alley.”

After a minute, they retreated again to the shelter of the great iron garbage box. “What did you see?” Lodrán asked.

“Carriages of metal and glass, moving without oxen pulling them. People inside the carriages. Streets of solid stone. Lights flashing in patterns, and patterns have meaning. People walking around without weapons. And our alley. We’re in a city. And you?”

“Storefronts. People walking unconcerned among the carriages. No armed patrols. This place reeks of a long peacetime. And magic.”

“At peace with others, perhaps. But with itself? Hear that?” They paused to listen to a wailing, whooping, chittering cry, a sound they had never heard before. It grew for a moment, then faded. “I don’t need to know the language to know that’s a distress cry. And whatever made it was moving fast.”

“But… didn’t we hear it when we were looking around too?” Chelinn nodded, and Lodrán continued, “Nobody looked concerned then. If we were watching the street now, nobody would do more than look around. I’d put a handful of octagons on that.”

“And you’d be likely to win that bet, my friend. Let me take one more look, then we’ll decide what to do.” Chelinn slipped around their shelter before Lodrán could object.

Lodrán only had a few minutes to wait before his friend reappeared. “I know where we need to go. Come on.”

“Where to?”

“This way,” said Chelinn, reaching the sidewalk and pointing to his right. “What do you see up there?”

“More city. More chaos.”

“No… look up.”

“Hm. The rainbow?”

“Indeed. A rainbow is a bridge between worlds. If we can get to it before it fades, we can cross it and get home.”

“Then let’s catch it.” They started down the sidewalk to their long journey home.


  1. I like the characters and their view on what they find in this strange world.

    In the blurb, I am hung up on the phrase, "wondrous yet mundane devices." Do you mean that the devices are mundane to us but are wondrous to your characters? That makes sense in the context of the story, but it's not what I get from just reading the blurb.

  2. Hi Tim! Thanks much for the blurb comment. You read it right, but I need to clarify that somehow.

  3. Interesting characters and great introduction to the strange world they find. :)

  4. Just as good the 2nd time around, apart from the bit Tim spotted, couldn't spot anything else amiss.

  5. Very original world you've got going, there. Nice work:)

  6. Some nice descriptive imagery in this Larry, I do like the idea of wizards surfing between dimensions on rainbows.

  7. Love the descriptions! But I doubt they will have any luck catching the rainbows!

  8. Interesting characters and a fun adventure!

  9. Thanks, Cherie — I hope the rest of the story doesn't disappoint!

    Craig, thanks much… (for those of you who weren't aware, Craig beta-read the novella for me)

    Anne, it was 30 years in the making. Or the characters were, anyway.

    Steve, it worked for Dorothy, right? A wizard doesn't need a tornado, though. ;-)

    Sonia, that's where magic comes in…

    Thanks Helen!

  10. My review of this "first shot" story will probably be less- pleasing than others, but well-meaning.

    Starting with the improvable: there is an overload of adverbs and adjectives that are unnecessary to -- and may actually stymie -- the story's flow. As I read the excerpt, I kept thinking, 'this could be written more succinctly with the same or better impact.' Some examples: eldritch, phantasmagoria, cacophony, bleating, incomprehensible overload, odorous comfort, giving them cover [bad phrase], "and allowed" and "to allow" [redundant verbs], [u]nhealthy puddles, touchpoint of familiarity, “wailing, whooping, chittering” etc. These are nice words/phrases, but the excess language slows the good reader down. Why? Because the reader intuitively begins analyzing the phrases to try to picture the scene. Take the superfluous lines "[u]nhealthy puddles of standing water” or “touchpoint of familiarity” or “wailing, whooping, chittering” as three such instances.

    Concluding with the storyline and dialogue: Generally very good.

    I believe the faster an average reader can comprehensively absorb the words and imagine the story in motion, the better the writing. Your story is very good, but the reader stumbles on the excess.

  11. I'm on board with Rachel about adverbs, and would toss in stuffy dialogue. By the time I reached "And you’d be likely to win that bet, my friend," the starch of the dialogue was wearing on me. I can handle one such character if the others are dynamic, but this is the only strong sense of voice to the piece. You've got good heart to this work, and your excitement about it is apparent from beginning to end, but I would be very careful about imbuing characterization and the way you unload your world. The simpler and more naturalistic you can make your descriptions of things, including the three-adverb cry, the better we'll sink in.

  12. I certainly enjoyed reading it but for some reason after reading the blurb, I was expecting the pair to be young men, so the descriptions of them in the actual passage threw me a bit. But that might just be me mis-reading it!

  13. I love the premise of using a rainbow to travel from one world to the next.Some excellent descriptive work here Larry, perhaps too many adj and adv as suggested above, but apart from that I can see great potential in the characters and the development of plot.

    Isn't it really great when a flash story starts to spill out in front of you and then expand into something more substantial in your mind and on the paper. My novel did that for me.

    This could turn into a very ambitious tale..

  14. Far, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. My mom has been in the hospital with several issues. Although she's still there, things have settled a bit and I should finally be able to read your story. Thanks again for sending it.

  15. Characters are awesome and the whole language is great - nice one Sir, again!

  16. Rachel, John, Icy — thanks much for the #stabbylove. This opening scene is much more florid than those that follow, and that was a deliberate move on my part. The goal was to make the reader feel what Chelinn and Lodrán were feeling… unfortunately, what they were feeling was panic and sensory overload. Probably not the best thing to try imparting. I'll fix this somehow!

    The "stuffy dialog" does continue, and was an attempt to give them a distinct accent, a different way of speaking. Another thing to fix.

    Tom, the complete story runs 17000 words and there's already a sequel pouring out!

    Boran, I hope she gets better — wish you'd said something on your blog! Take whatever time you need.

    Thanks much, Brainhaze. I have a few things to fix, as I mention above, but I'll try to keep the feel. Somehow.

  17. I like the premise you've given us, and these two hard cases feel like they can be great protags. However, I'd second the comments by Rachel about the descriptions and John about the dialogue. These two seem to get their bearings very, very quickly. I'd expect a bit more disorientation.


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