Can you believe it’s already time for the New Year’s celebration? It feels like it should still be April. As I sit here, mulling over what I might share with you, Dear Reader, my mind is drawn to the idea of “new” and the next step, which many people connect with the New Year, which is “resolution.”
I don’t do “resolutions” anymore. I found they were too often “should do’s,” rather than “want to’s.” I have found, over the years, that “want to’s” have a better chance of happening.
I’ve been doing more journal work this year and rediscovered a love of calligraphy. I’ve been doing what I call mandalas in my journal, either with a quote or with concepts from a particular project.
Image ©2014 A. Catherine Noon, All Rights Reserved
For example, I’m working on a Walking In This World workshop right now. I decided to do a two-page spread in my journal on the chapter, using calligraphy and imagery to connect with the material in a new way. It’s enriched my experience of the workshop immensely and helped me make new connections.
|Image ©2014 A. Catherine Noon. All Rights Reserved
In terms of my writing, I’ve been using calligraphy when I work on my character sheets. It’s been interesting to add color to a character, trying to figure out what color they would be and why. Then I do the mandala for them in that color.
What about you, Dear Reader?
What are your New Year’s Want To’s?
And, just for you, here’s a sneak peek at Sapphire Dream, which will be coming later this year. It’s set in the Persis Chronicles with Emerald Fire and Emerald Keep, which is out April 8th from Torquere Press.
Chapter 1: Kotek City
Cheula settled himself in the sedan chair, his back stiff.
“Lotta sittin’ about,” Driver Sami drawled in the thick brogue some of the Drivers were plagued with.
After four days on the sands with the man, though, Cheula started to get the hang of it. “That’s true. How do you stand it?”
Sami glanced at him, his lidded eyes metallic blue that flashed in Sol’s glow. It reminded Cheula, unfortunately, of a large sand beetle. The Driver leaned sideways and revealed a strange set of beads in a mesh weave on his driving web. “Ah cheat, my handsome Keeper.”
He said Keeper as ‘Kayprr,’ and it took Cheula several tries before he understood it. Now it just sounded normal. “Are those beads?”
“Aye.” The Driver sat back. “They stimulate the muscles.”
“Does it help?”
The Driver shrugged. “Nope.”
“A Keeper would help, you know,” Sami said in a thoughtful tone.
“Are you… teasing me?”
“Would I do that?”
“I think you probably would!” Cheula chuckled. It felt good to laugh. It had been too long since he’d had an uncomplicated conversation with someone.
“We’ll break soon,” Sami told him. “The Winds are comin’.”
Cheula eyed the horizon warily.
“Don’t worry, Keeper. We’ll be fine.”
The first time they’d stayed in the inflated bubble that enclosed the sandsail, Cheula panicked. The more he tried to keep his composure in front of the laconic Driver, the worse it got. Sami seemed to sense it though, and started to tell him stories that kept him enthralled and made him laugh. By the time the Winds passed, his fear blew away with them.
They stopped and Sami hopped down, setting the chucks under the skis. The enclosure inflated around them with a hiss of metallic fabric, and the glow of the sun eased. Sami flipped his sunshades back, and the cyberplants receded into his skin like magic to reveal his hazel eyes.
He caught Cheula watching him and laughed. “Not used to sunshades, I take it?”
Cheula shook his head.
“Lotta Drivers use ’em. Hunters too. You’ll see, at Kotek City.”
Cheula hopped down to the sand, then under the sandsail to the little living area that nestled in its belly. Sami lit the daylamps and the fragrant oil filled the small space with its aroma.
The bench along the side served as a good spot to sit out of the way while the Driver settled things. He watched as Sami rummaged in his galley, got down a ceramic jug and poured two cups. He handed over a cup. Cheula took one sip and started coughing.
“Ouiska does that,” Sami murmured calmly.
The Driver kneeled in front of Cheula, his eyes large in the shadowy interior. “Come, drink. Relax. It’s just us.”
Cheula smiled and leaned forward, watching Sami’s pupils dilate. “Oh?”
But when Sami caressed his cheek, he flinched. He couldn’t help it.
“What is it?” Sami asked softly, cocking his head. His thumb stroked Cheula’s face. “I’d not hurt you for all the goldstone in Kotek City, Keeper.”
Cheula swallowed around a dry mouth. “I…”
Then Sami stroked his hand down Cheula’s chest, intending no doubt to soothe him, and brushed the worst of the bruises. Cheula cried out and pulled back, heat flaming into his face. “I’m sorry!” he blurted.
Sami’s eyes widened. He slipped his hand inside Cheula’s robes and before the Keeper could react, flipped the fabric back. The purples had darkened into livid reds, browns, even a mustard yellow near where the ribs had cracked.
“Landin’!” Sami swore. “Who did that to you?”
“I…” He trailed off, the lie dying on his lips. This close to the other man, with such gentle caring in his eyes, so uncomplicated by anything other than mutual attraction, Cheula couldn’t say the habitual ‘I fell,’ or lately, ‘I was in an accident on a camu.’ He dropped his head forward to rest it on Sami’s shoulder. “My Contract, Digger Bekto.”
Sami sucked in air, a loud hiss. “Oh, poppet. Where is he?”
Cheula pulled back. “What?”
“He should have his knees brokin’ for ’im!” Sami growled, his cheeks red and his eyes fierce.
“He’s being punished,” Cheula assured him. “I promise. I’m from Sapphire Keep. Once they found out… Violence to a Keeper carries the death sentence.”
Sami stroked Cheula’s cheek. “But you… You’re shy now, is that it?”
Cheula nodded, miserable. “I want to. But…”
Sami came up on his knees and kissed Cheula’s forehead. “Don’t rush it, Cheula,” he whispered. It was the first time he said Cheula’s name, and it felt several times more intimate than it would have otherwise. “My brother’s partner had sommat similar happen to ‘im, and it just takes time.”
The Driver stood, holding out his hand. “Come.”
Sami shook his hand impatiently. “Come.”
Cheula slipped his hand into the Driver’s calloused palm and let himself be pulled to his feet. Sami led him over to the wide hammock that swung at the back of the quarters. He lay down on it and settled the pillows for Cheula. He arranged the Keeper alongside his body and set the hammock to swinging gently. Then he ran his fingers through Cheula’s hair, just the part along the scalp before the braid, and Cheula got an idea.
He sat up and scooted sideways, so he could see Sami. With trembling fingers, he unbraided his plait, dropping the beads one by one into Sami’s palm.
“Those three are sapphires,” Cheula said, pointing them out. “The rest are crystal beads. As I earn, I’ll replace them.”
“Three sapphires,” Sami breathed, touching them with a finger.
His hair gave off the aroma of the Baku seed oil he used and he watched Sami inhale with pleasure. He lifted the Driver’s hand and set it his scalp, where the braid had begun, and let him stroke his fingers through it. Sami’s eyes widened and he continued, setting the beads on a small shelf over his shoulder. Cheula turned and lay half on top of him and rested his head on the Driver’s muscular chest, tingles traveling up and down his body as the man stroked him.
They stayed like that for the rest of the Winds, Cheula listening to Sami’s breathing and Sami enthralled by his hair. Finally, it became so still outside that delaying further would be silly. Cheula started to sit up and Sami caught him. He kissed Cheula gently but thoroughly.
Cheula smiled at him. “It was my pleasure.”
They rose and rearranged their clothing, and Sami went to reopen the sandsail. Cheula went upstairs and took up his sedan chair, replaiting his hair.
But he left one of the sapphires sitting in the dish on the shelf downstairs, carefully covered with the travel shield so it wouldn’t jostle loose.