Monday, March 05, 2007


The Day's Progress - Monday Edition

Lost a few hours of work this morning to taking Georgia to the pediatrician (another ear infection, nothing serious), and then another hour to figuring out things like what the weather was like in London the last week of June, 2000. But after breaking for lunch I was able to dive right in, and wrote the first 4K words or so of "Millennium", the last section of End of the Century.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
119,912 / 140,000

Thursday of last week I went through and fleshed out my outline for "Millennium," and then on Friday I did a bit of research and then spent a few hours at a coffee shop, trying to work out the last couple of problems with the plot. Around three-thirty on Friday afternoon, the skies opened up and an inspiration particle hit me like a ton of bricks (with apologies to Terry Pratchett), and I realized that there was a simple and elegant solution to both problems that also improved my epilogue a hundredfold, and gave me resolutions for the arcs of two characters that previously had just kind of shuffled off stage at the end, unresolved. I suddenly switched over from "Oh, god, this isn't working" to "Hey, this could work!", and I got really excited about where things are going.

Today I started writing "Millennium" in earnest. This last section is set in 2000, and is for all intents and purposes the modern day. Having adopted a kind of rough hewn prose for the "Twilight" section of sub-Roman Britain, and a more baroque and somewhat florid style for the "Jubilee" section in Victorian London, I'm going for a much looser style in these modern sections, as will be apparent.

Today's sample is the opening scene of "Millennium." It is what it says.
The guy behind the counter wouldn’t stop giving Alice the stink-eye.


“Alice Fell.” Like it wasn’t on her passport, right there in his grubby mitts.

“And how old are you, miss?”

“Eighteen.” Again, like it wasn’t there in black and white.

The guy pursed his lips and nodded, looking thoughtful. Alice got the impression he thought she was lying, but really, who would lie about being eighteen? Only a sixteen year old. If you were eighteen, and looked it, you’d lie about being twenty-one. At least you would in the States. But then again, the drinking age in England was eighteen, wasn’t it? So maybe he had a point.

“And is this your luggage, miss? All of it?”

As if he found it difficult to accept that she’d just gotten off a transatlantic flight with no luggage but a ratty little nylon backpack with an anarchy symbol drawn on it in ballpoint pen. She nodded, trying not to giggle. She’s just realized who his accent made him sound like, and found it funny to imagine Sporty Spice with a bristly mustache working the immigration and customs counter at Heathrow Airport.

“You’ve just arrived on Temple Air flight 214 from New York?”

Alice nodded.

“Anything to declare?”

Alice had to actively resist the temptation to say “Nothing but my genius,” like Orson Welles or whoever it was had done. Oscar Wilde, maybe? But then, she wasn’t really much of a genius, so maybe she’d have been better off saying “Nothing but my angst” or something equally self-aware and mopey. As it was, she managed to resist the impulse altogether, and just muttered “No” while she shook her head.

“May I look in your bag?” He said it like it was a question, but Alice knew that if she answered anything but “Yes,” she’d be turned right back around and put on a plane back to the States. So she played along, and nodded.

Here was what the guy pulled out of her backpack, which presently represented everything Alice owned in the world:

A deck of playing cards, wrapped in duct tape.

A library bound copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Loooking Glass, stamped property of Grisham Middle School, Austin, TX. (She’d stolen the book from the school library when she was in the eighth grade, but she wasn’t sure what the statute of limitation on library theft was, or what sort of extradition policy Austin ISD had with the United Kingdom, anyway, so she kept the fact that the book was stolen property to herself.)

A trade paperback edition of Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.

A copy of the 2000 edition of Frommer’s London From $85 a Day (shoplifted from the Waldenbooks at Lakeline Mall which, again, Alice failed to mention).

Two t-shirts, one pair of denim jeans, three pairs of socks and three pairs of undergarments.

Two packs of Camel Light cigarettes, one opened and one unopened.

An antique silver match holder, or “vesta case,” engraved with the initials “J.D.” and a stylized dragon’s head, containing thirty-two wooden matches.

A wallet containing an American Express credit card, an ATM card, four hundred and fifty-two dollars in American bills, and seventy-two cents in American coins.


A Ziploc bag containing various toiletries, including toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant.

A half-dozen tampons.

A Diamond Rio 500 Portable mp3 player, with headphones.

Three spiral notebooks, one completely filled, one partially filled, one entirely empty.

Four Uni-ball Vision Micro roller pens, all with purple ink.

A vial containing 125 mg doses of divalproex sodium, brand-name of Depakote, an anticonvulsant, prescribed to an Alice Jean Fell of Austin, Texas.

That, along with the clothes she had on—leather jacket, blue jeans, eight hole Doc Martens, and black Ramones t-shirt—was all that Alice owned in the world. And her nose-ring, she supposed, if someone wanted to get technical. And the ink in her three tattoos. And the platinum filling in her left rear molar.

“Reason for your visit to the United Kingdom, miss?”

Alice shifted her gaze away from the mustached Sporty Spice, trying to think of a convincing lie.


The truth was, she was on a mission from god. Or she was completely batshit crazy. There wasn’t much middle ground. But she was pretty sure that neither answer was likely what Sporty Spice wanted to hear, and that either answer would greatly diminish her chance of walking through the door and getting on with it.

Alice looked up from the counter, and with a smile, said, “Pleasure?”

Sporty Spice narrowed his eyes, pursing his lips again, making his bristly mustache stand out at all angles.

Alice was sure that the guy thought she was a drug mule or something like that. As if any drug mule worth their salt would show up to the airport with a nose-ring and dyed-black hair, less luggage than most kids carried to a regular day at high school, stuffed into a backpack with the word “FUCK” scribbled in purple ink next to the carefully wrought anarchy symbol. Wouldn’t she be better off wearing a sign around her neck that said, “Please give me the full body cavity search, I’m carrying drugs,” and cut out the middle man?

An eternity later, the guy pulled out a little stamp, carefully lay Alice’s passport on the counter, and after stamping it a couple of times handed it back to her.

“Enjoy your visit, miss.”

Alice stuffed all of her junk into the backpack, slung it on her shoulder, and moved on before Sporty Spice had a chance to reconsider.

She breezed by all of the tourists and businessmen wrestling with their heavy luggage, or waiting around the carousels at baggage claim. She fished her sunglasses out and put them on, and stepped outside. It had been one hundred degrees outside and sunny when she left Austin, the day before. Here, it was sixty degrees at most, about as cold as it got at night back home, this time of year, but just as sunny.

Alice pulled a cigarette from the half-empty pack, and lit it with a match from the silver vesta case her grandmother had given her, just the week before. Last week, she’d been Alice Fell, the girl from that accident no one liked to talk about, finishing up her junior year at Westwood High School, watching her grandmother die by inches.

Now, she was all by herself in London, and she was on a mission.

That, or she was completely batshit crazy. The jury was still out...

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