June 6, 2022 12:00am - July 30, 2022 12:00am
My Writing Goals
I'm working on an exciting project with a group of writer friends — and I owe the project 25,000 words. My goal is to complete my first draft for this collaboration by the end of the Write-a-thon.
While the elderly vertaines chatted over hors d’oeuvres in Master Rem Kardamian's elegant living room, I stood upright by the door, my face a mask of attention and respect.
“Kardamian, I believe your citresse are finer than ever.” The guest nodded to indicate two young trees in glistening ceramic pots by the full windows overlooking our terraced garden. The Master beamed. Taking up his ebony cane, he made his way over to the plants. The assembled guests fell silent as he grasped a slender branch of the arancet. Gentle but assertive, his was the touch of a master vertaine, a horticultural wizard. The Master spoke softly and his magick took hold: the shrub burst into bloom, new pink-and-red flowers filling the room with the scents of cinnamon and cloves.
“Exquisite!” The guest raised his hands, fingers spread wide. The man, though a shameless sycophant, was correct: The trunks and branches of Master Rem Kardamian’s magickal plants were elegant. The blossom colors, for which he was renowned, striking and distinctive.
I struggled to prevent my lip from curling. But time and tastes had passed Rem Kardamian by. They’d passed him by years ago. Time to get out of the way, old man.
I startled and flushed.
“The bell, Niko. Another guest.”
“Ah. Certainly.” My silk evening coat rustled as I hurried to the front door. I returned with the guest, a master vertaine of my own generation. Rem Kardamian made introductions, then waved a hand to indicate me.
“This is Niko Parr, my apprentice.”
I bowed low, which enabled me to hide the fury in my eyes. The Master still introduced me, in my 50s, as he had when I was 18 and had just joined his studio. In truth, I was now creating most of the Master's specimens--as well as developing works of my own. But that was never acknowledged.
As the master vertaines resumed their conversations, I gave polite attention. I had no other choice. It is unheard of in our country for an apprentice to leave a Master without permission. I’d expected to work for as many as 20 years before being released. But Rem Kardamian had not retired, nor had he released me after 20 years. I’d labored on as he turned 70, then 80, and then, to my horror, 90. Would there be no end to it? Had the old man somehow found a charm to revitalize himself as he did his plants?
I felt a sharp tug at my sleeve. Masha, our cook and housekeeper, whispered that the first course awaited us. I ushered the guests into the dining room and poured the wine.
“An exceptional vintage!” The Master spoke in the plummy tones of false modesty. “A gift from Mayor Pashet when I visited the City.”
That oft-cited visit had been 20 years ago! I thought uncharitably. I’d surreptitiously sniffed the bottle earlier to make sure the wine hadn’t gone sour.
It was late when the last of the guests departed and the Master retired for the night. I helped Masha wash up. When the final platter was dried and stored, I climbed the stairs to my attic apartment, too tired, too bitter, to write my weekly letter to Lily. Guilt stabbed my chest like a shard of glass. How I ached for Lily's knowing touch, the melody of her voice in my ear, and her cozy cottage in Set Petriko filled with silk draperies and comforters. How long had it been since I'd gone to visit?
I hung up my evening coat and glanced at my writing desk. No, I could not imagine myself picking up the pen. For Lily would not want to hear yet another tale of the Master's cruelty. I’d seen the impatient twitch of her lips the last time we spoke of my unending apprenticeship.
— the opening of "Late Bloomers," published in Runs Like Clockwork (Wyldblood Press, U.K.)
“A Sign of the Times” online in Quaranzine, a publication of Third State Art.
“Delicious” in the anthology Grandpa’s Deep-Space Diner (JayHenge Publishing).
“Captain Carthy’s Bride” in the Third Flatiron anthology Terra! Tara! Terror!, edited by Juliana Rew.
“Heroes of the Bridge” in the ebook The Colored Lens: Winter 2020.
“Invasion 101” in Space Opera Libretti, edited by Brian McNett and Jennifer Lee Rossman.
“Grief” in Pioneers and Pathfinders, edited by Jessica Augustsson of JayHenge Publishing and in the Aurora Award-winning Second Contacts anthology edited by Michael Rimar and Hayden Trenholm for Bundoran Press.
“I Know How You’ll Die” in Weirdbook #41 (2019).
“The Judge’s Chair” in Two Hour Transport Anthology 2019.
“Politics As Usual” in Alternative Truths III: Endgame from B Cubed Press.
“Unnoticed” in Factor Four Magazine.
"Different Meaning” online at The Drabble.
“Bad Memories, 2032” in the anthology After the Orange: Ruin and Recovery (B Cubed Press; edited by Manny Frishberg).
“The Right Man for the Job” in the anthology More Alternative Truths (B Cubed Press).
“Everything Is Fixed Now” in the anthology Welcome to Dystopia: 45 Visions of What Lies Ahead edited by Gordon Van Gelder (OR Books, 2017).
"The Light of Two Moons" in Ares Magazine online.
“Patti 209” in the Alternative Truths anthology.
“My Job Is Hell” online at Every Day Fiction.
“Unraveling” in the anthology Triangulation: Beneath the Surface.
“The Bookman” online at The Drabble.
“His Last Victim” in The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Stories. Edited by Maxim Jakubowski.