Internal Conflict. Good writing depends upon it. In every scene. It's what pulls the reader and the story itself along. As the plus and minus of electrons determines the flow of electricity, so the plus and minus of EVERY scene determines the healthy flow of a novel's narrative.
An upscale attorney walks into his office, his back being slapped by his associates for winning another case. He closes the door, turns on the light, and turns off his smile. His eyes move to the certified letter on his desk, informing him of his wife's plans to divorce him. He walks to his desk, sits down, and buries his face in his hands.
A metropolitian mayor is hanging his latest civic award upon his paneled wall. His eyes flick to the picture of his son, killed in Iraq. He remembers his last words to him : ugly words, harsh words, impossible to erase words. He takes the award from the wall, tossing it into the waste basket.
Plus and Minus.
All of which leads me to my internal conflict scene from my historical fantasy, RITES OF PASSAGE :
It is 1853 aboard the cursed transatlantic steamer, DEMETER, heading from New Orleans to Paris. Captain Samuel McCord is on the trail of a murderer of young Rachel Houston. Samuel delivered her as a baby in the midst of a Comanche raid.
He always looked after her. While he was returning from a manhunt, she was found dead on the docks of Galveston without a mark on her. Except for one thing. Her face was missing. Marie Laveau has told McCord that the face was taken, not as a trophy, but for a mask.
Rachel was last seen in the company of someone only known as the Gray Man. McCord has tracked him to the DEMETER. Now, in his cabin, McCord has just been told by the ghostly Turquoise Woman that innocents will die if he is not smarter.
And so we join him in his brooding :
The more I thought about it, the less it seemed I knew. If I kept on, I would soon end up knowing nothing at all. Estanatlehi's last words stung. Be smarter. But that was just it. I wasn't smart, only stubborn and relentless.
The beginning of every hunt was like this. I would hold a tangled ball of unanswered questions in my hand, knots that seemed beyond untangling. I would tug here. I would bumble about there. Ask this person a question. Look for the most hostile face. Ask it a question.
Listen. Poke holes in obvious lies. Ask some more. Sooner or later, someone would try to kill me. I would object, survive, shake the survivors like a wolf would a rat. Follow what fell out. Someone meaner, tougher, would make a try for me. The process would begin all over again. People would die. I would be fed. The killer would be found.
It was a messy way of doing things. But I wasn't smart enough to do it any other way. And it kept me fed. Usually. Right then, I was weak from not feeding.
Feeding. The images that word pulled out of the darkness made me ill. And it wasn't from lack of -- nourishment.
Suddenly, I felt dirty. I needed a bath. One scalding hot. Maybe if I soaked in it long enough the screams from a thousand throats would be drowned. Maybe. I looked to the gold-trimmed door to my left. It was partially open.
An ornate ivory tub was half-revealed. Running water? Maybe this suite was worth $2,000. Of course, I didn't think Sen. Houston or Gov. Bell would think so. But then, steaming, scalding water didn't mean to them what it did to me. More than hiding in the sensation of the heat, there was life and energy to scalding water. Weak but enough to sustain me for a bit.
I got up. I took off my buckskin jacket, folded it neat, and laid it next to my clean, black buckskins. I shrugged out of the double shoulder holsters with their Walsh Navy Colts, each one capable of firing twelve .36 caliber bullets. I unsnapped my Paterson Colt from its SOB holster at the small of my back. I slipped off the sheath that hung down my back which held the strange knife taken from King Solomon's mines.
I smiled bitter. King Solomon’s mines. No wonder it had been so hard to find. Everyone had been looking on the wrong continent. There was a life lesson there. I was just too dense to see it.
Last, I unbuckled the Colt on my hip. I laid all that death on top of my jacket. The rest of the buckskins followed. The gloves stayed on. I would lay them by the tub. No one saw what passed for my hands. No one that remained alive, that is.
I ran the water scalding hot and eased myself into the tub. Any other flesh would have blistered. I barely felt it. I hunkered down into the tub until the steaming water was at my chin. Then, and only then, did I take off my buckskin gloves.
And even then, I did not look at my hands. I shoved them under the water quick but still caught a glimpse of them. It made me ill. I sighed.
Rachel. She had always wondered what my hands had looked like. She had teased me that I was hiding the fact that I painted my nails.
I felt like crying. If only. The memory of my last sight of Rachel, her face neatly removed as if by a scalpel, made me worse than ill. She had needed me on the docks of Galveston, and I had been unconscious in a hunger-coma on the city's outskirts. Even when I tried to do right, it seemed I did wrong.
I watched the water turn from blue to death gray. I was leeching what life breathed in the steaming water. I was even draining the heat from it. It no longer steamed.
I stared at the copy of a painting from some old master whose style wasn't familiar but was. I squinted at it. I was an idiot. It wasn't an old master but a recent one. William Blake. He'd died just twenty years before. Poet and mystic, completely mad. Sounded like me.
I finally recognized the painting. It was of a man with long, flowing moon-white hair like mine, bending down as he hung impossibly in the sky before a bloody sun. He was surrounded by black, boiling clouds. His arm was pointing down, his fingers splayed odd, shafts of light shooting from his forefinger and from the others joined together. The brass plate below called it The Ancient of Days.
Then, I realized that they weren't spears of light coming from his fingers.
They were a compass. It was God setting a compass upon the face of the depths. Just like I was trying to fix some design to the madness my life had become, the nightmare that was Rachel's murder.
I recalled words from the Bible when Wisdom spoke :
'The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before the works of old, before the mountains were settled, before the hills were brought forth. When He prepared the heavens, I was there. When He set a compass on the face of the depths.'
Wisdom. I was a dry well there. Sure, Father had schooled me in all he knew. And after surviving the Comanches, I had undergone a strange Jesuit education of sorts for seven years. But that had just been knowledge.
Wisdom was the application of it. And I had lived my whole life and undeath tangling the threads of my life until it was one big knot that could never be untied.
I rested my head against the rim of the tub and studied Blake's painting some more. The Ancient of Days. I felt ancient. And unreal.
I wasn't used to all the elegant splendor that was all around me. I felt like I was watching myself in some strange dream. I wanted to yell a warning to my dream self that he was missing something important, something left undone. But I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was that my instincts said I should have done.
Of things I shouldn't have done there was a wagonload. I studied the picture some more. God looked as unreal as I felt, hung up in the sky, still and frozen in time. Still and frozen. There was another reason I felt unreal.
Rachel's murder. She had been like my little sister given back to me. I had allowed myself to feel again with her. My only remembered laughter had been with her.
Though it had started getting a little awkward these past few years, what with her crush on me. But in a few months, a young man her age would have come along and swept her off her feet. And I would have proudly given her away at her wedding. She deserved -- had deserved a shot at happiness and growing old with the love of her life.
But the Gray Man had swept her away first. And ever since her murder, I had been like a frozen lake. No matter what happened, it just glanced off the icy surface of my mind, my heart. I noticed with a start that the water in the tub was ice cold and black -- just like my soul.
But not black with dirt, but black because all the life had been leeched out of it. Not cold from the air, but cold because the thing that I had become had drained all the warmth out of it. It seemed I leeched and drained all the beauty from the world around me. I sat there in my cold, wet self-pity for a few more ticks of the clock.
Then, I heard the door ease slowly open. No human ear would have heard it. But to me, it sounded like the screeching of rusted hinges. And with that sound, I remembered what I had failed to do.
I had failed to lock the door.
And all my Colts were neatly tucked in their holsters on the fancy bed in the next room. There were times when 'Oh, shit!' just didn't cover it.
*********************************************************************** And now, for some stirring, haunting music :
The supernatural predators come out after Katrina. Can two undead legends stop them?
AFTER KATRINA, THERE IS NONE BUT TWO TO STOP THE UNDEAD
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LISTEN to GHOST OF A CHANCE
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HIBBS HAS FOUND HIS VOICE!
A tale of enchantment
Souls At The Crossroads
Where do you need to be?
THE DEADLIEST ENEMY IS WITHIN
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Listen to this haunting tale of horror and love
It is 1853. An undead Texas Ranger is on board a cursed ship in search of a murderer who is wearing the face of her last victim as a mask.
Listen to the LAST FAE
When the world is mad, there is little else to do but show them what true insanity is!
Can a man marry both the moon and the sun?
In the eclipse of myth, he can
What Defense is an innocent soul against the Powers of Darkness?
Let Hibbs, the cub with no clue, show you
Before Indiana Jones or Allan Quartermain
There was Sam McCord and his doomed love for Meilori Shinseen
Alice and Victor in 1834 New Orleans
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RITES OF PASSAGE link
The earliest Samuel McCord adventure: Dare to board a fantasy Titanic as it sails into the Bermuda Triangle
BOOK 1: No one talks openly of the misty figures seen walking along New Orleans' iron-laced terraces, casting no shadow. Of the shapes seen rising from sewer grates. And no one willingly visits the crypt of Marie Laveau at midnight. Into this strange world arrives the street orphan, Victor Standish, from Charon's Greyhound. Charon has to keep up with the times ... the End Times. And the teen destined to be called the "Ulysses of the French Quarter" has come just in time for Hurricane Katrina, the End of All Things ... and the deadly love of the Victorian ghoul, Alice Wentworth.
VICTOR AND ALICE ARE BACK!
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END OF DAYS is here!
St. Marrok's. The most eerie high school in which you will ever die. Its curriculum? The End of Days. Alice Wentworth plans to get an A+.
ADRIFT IN THE TIME STREAM link
SEQUEL to RITES OF PASSAGE: Come aboard the doomed DEMETER with undead Texas Ranger, Sam McCord, and sail with her into the depths of madness in ADRIFT IN THE TIME STREAM.
SEQUEL to FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE: The dead rise. Elder Beings strain to enter our world through Katrina devastated New Orleans. And the Angel of Death is kidnapped to clear their way. Can Sam McCord stem the tide of madness in time?
Buy_THE LAST FAE
Once there was an age undreamed where legends walked this earth … and nightmares, too. Terrible were the battles, tragic the outcome of the wars. Until finally there were only two survivors : the nightmare and one bruised legend. These are the legend’s stories, each one a different facet of the same priceless gem – a jewel that has come to believe herself worthless. So come. Listen to her. Listen to THE LAST FAE.
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BRING ME THE HEAD OF McCORD!
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The trilogy concludes. Not even the eclipse of myth is forever. But love is. And eclipses return. Listen. The voice of Blake, son of Man, is calling across the night skies.
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Buy_LOVE LIKE DEATH
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THE BEAR WITH 2 SHAD0WS link
Based on the stories my Lakota mother told me as a child when I was deathly ill in a freezing Detroit basement apartment. Think a Native American LORD OF THE RINGS.
Read the shadowy origin of ROSE RED
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FANTASTIC REVIEW OF THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH
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LIFE LESSONS taught me by GYPSY
Dedicated to GYPSY
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