Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Favorite Part of Lost Things

Lost Things is a book I wrote with Melissa Scott -- it's currently out for sale at a publisher, and I hope that I'll have some good news on it soon. If you asked me to sum up what it's like in one sentence, I suppose I'd have to say it's like the original Raiders of the Lost Ark -- that blend of period adventure, archaeology and romance with some strong fantasy elements. We had an absolute blast writing it, and we hope you get a chance to read it soon!

This is one of my favorite bits from the first chapter introducing main characters. Lewis Segura is an out of work aviator, a World War I pilot fallen on hard times whose occasional true dreams unnerve him. This section was written by Melissa.

I'd love to hear what you guys think!

It had been a good dream, too: a plane that he’d never flown, shaped like one of the Stahltaubes he’d seen before the War, but every bit as maneuverable as the bird it mimicked, so that he had swirled and spun, not in defense but in sheer joy of flight. Below him stretched Long Beach, the airfield and its lines of planes, the crowd with their heads tipped back to see him dance.

The flare had gone up to call him in, and he’d taken the plane up toward the cloud deck, which made no sense in retrospect, but at the time had seemed the most reasonable thing in the world. He’d risen through the clouds into sunlight and blue sky and a sweet green runway stretching straight and clear before him, the windsock barely twitching on its stake beside a hanger like a young cathedral. He’d brought the bird-plane down, felt wheels kiss the sod, brought it gently to a stop beside the hanger, and a fair woman in a blue dress turned away from a scarlet biplane. It was for him, he thought, his plane, his freedom, and the woman smiled. Our Lady, the Queen of Heaven, and he’d awakened with the joy still sounding in his bones.

At the time he'd been out of work three weeks and was starting to think he knew how a dope fiend felt when he couldn’t get his fix. He still might not have gone to the airshow except that at the Legion meeting Frankie Onslow had said that he’d heard that a guy named Peters, who belonged to a Post up-state, had a crop-dusting service and might be looking for a pilot. The combination of the news and the dream seemed to be telling him something, so he’d taken a couple of dollars from his last pay packet and ridden the trolley out to the show.

Of course, Peters hadn’t been hiring, but he’d mentioned a man named Stalkey who’d taken Lewis’s name and the phone number of the boarding house, and mentioned another guy named Wiggins. Wiggins was equally non-committal, but said he’d heard that Jeff Forrest had a new mail contract, and wrote the name and hanger number on a scrap of paper.

“But he’s got a couple of planes in the stunt show,” Wiggins said. “I wouldn’t go over there till after.”

That made good sense, and anyway Lewis was hungry by then, and his feet were getting sore, so he found himself a spot in the grandstand to unwrap his sandwiches. Bologna wasn’t his favorite, but it was cheap and ok with a lot of mustard. He ate both of them and folded the waxed paper into a triangle, watching the stunt plane swirl and dive. With the right plane he could do pretty much everything he was seeing. He could do better than most of the pilots — if it were a combat situation, he could take them all.

That way lay danger. He fished in his pocket for a nickel instead, bought a Coke, and climbed out of the stands to watch the rest of the show. The white Jenny just finishing its loop was Forrest’s, and if that was his best pilot, Lewis figured he stood a chance at any jobs that were going.

He wouldn’t go over there yet, though, would wait until the crowds cleared out a little. He shaded his eyes, squinting, found the next plane as it dropped down out of the high blue, lining up on the runway. The loudspeaker crackled, the whine of the plane’s engine already swallowing the words.

“— Al Gilchrist — Cherry —”

Weird name for a plane, Lewis thought. A girlfriend, maybe? It dropped lower, another Jenny, coming in low and tight. It was cherry red, red as lipstick, red as the plane in his dream — it was the plane in his dream, every detail just as he’d seen it, down to the blue and white roundel on its tail. As it passed the first pylon, it rolled, wings tipping up and over, kept rolling, maintaining height, maintaining a perfect line as it rotated around its own center, around the pilot himself in his cockpit. Lewis’s muscles tensed, feeling in imagination the aileron hard over, the world spinning around him: not the hardest maneuver in the world, but hard to do well. And this was done well. Gilchrist finished the last roll just before the end of the course, snapped level to flash upright past the pylon. The crowd cheered — at least some of them knew what they were seeing — and a stranger in a shabby jacket leaned close to shout something.

“Nice,” Lewis shouted back. “Real nice.”

The red Jenny was circling back to land, coming in almost sedately. She bounced once, twice, then settled and slowed, trundling toward the hangers. He should follow, he knew. That was what the dream had meant, he was sure of it — maybe Gilchrist needed another pilot, maybe he was hiring — but that was too good to be true. He couldn’t rely on dreams when he had real leads to follow up. He pulled the slip of paper out of his pocket instead, checked Forrest’s hanger number.

He should have known when he got there that it was a bad idea. Forrest’s planes were all white, decked with red and blue stripes like bunting, and the Legion flag hung from the rafters, limp in the heat. A couple of boys in what looked like old uniforms were sitting just inside the door; they pointed him to Forrest, a big man who’d put on his khakis for the occasion.

“Mr. Forrest?” Lewis put on his best smile. “Ham Wiggins said you might be looking for a pilot with military experience.”

The big man turned, pushing his doughboy’s hat onto the back of his head. “I might be,” he said.

“I put in four years regular Army, three of that with the Air Service,” Lewis said. “And I’ve been flying as a civilian ever since I got out.”

“Barnstorming,” Forrest said.

“Some. I worked a couple of years for a guy who had a mail contract. Then I did some charter work. I’ve dusted crops, and I’ve given lessons.”

Forrest was starting to look interested in spite of himself. “Huh. What’s your name, son?”

“Lewis Segura. Lieutenant —”

But the interest had died. Forrest shook his head. “Sorry. I only hire American.”

I am American, damn it. Lewis had been down this road often enough to know there was no point in arguing. “Suit yourself,” he said, and turned away. He could feel the boys smirking as he left the hanger, wished he’d kept the Coke bottle so that he could smash it. It wouldn’t take much, they’d been too young to have served, despite the cocky uniform — wouldn’t even take a gun to kill them -- even a broken bottle would do, the jagged edge sharp as any blade. There was no good thinking like that. Lewis kept walking, dust in his mouth and the odor of gasoline and oil filling his lungs. It smelled like France, or like the France he’d known best, the hangers and the rickety houses where the squadrons lived. Where he’d learned to fly, where a dozen friends had died —

He shoved that thought back into the box where it belonged, jammed his hands into his pockets. There would be work, somewhere, even if the barnstorming tours seemed to be dying away. A flash of red caught his eye — Gilchrist’s red Jenny, half out of its hanger, the paint seeming even brighter in the sunset light. It was unmistakably the plane he’d dreamed about, and in spite of himself he drew a little closer. It was just to check the design on the tail, he told himself, but the dream-memory had him in its clutches: this plane was for him, was going to take him back to the skies.

The design was exactly what it had been in the dream, too, a circle and cross that looked military, but when you got up close was probably meant to be a stylized compass. There was writing underneath it, too, Ps. 22:16-17, and as he frowned, trying to remember, a woman stepped out of the hanger. She had been in the dream, too, tall, tanned, with bobbed blonde hair held back in a blue kerchief that matched her eyes, and the joy he had felt then crashed over him like a wave. He controlled it sharply, knowing she’d only find it unnerving, blurted out the first thing that came to his lips.

“Are you the mechanic?” He blushed as red as the Jenny.

She smiled, amused and friendly and not at all a dream. “And the pilot, too.” She held out her hand. “I’m Al Gilchrist.”


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 13th, 2012 04:27 pm (UTC)
*Metaphorically crosses every possible digit in hopes of getting to read the whole of this SOON*

Feb. 13th, 2012 06:55 pm (UTC)
I hope so! Lost Things is tremendously fun!
Feb. 14th, 2012 03:14 am (UTC)
Feb. 14th, 2012 02:37 pm (UTC)
I think this will be right up your alley! :)
Feb. 15th, 2012 04:00 am (UTC)
Feb. 15th, 2012 04:01 am (UTC)
Also, if you have somehow worked the Nachthexen into this book, you will have won my heart forever and ever and ever.
Feb. 15th, 2012 10:31 am (UTC)
Mmmm, not in this book. In a future sequel I do promise that we'll have Jackie Cochrane! But this is only 1929, so not quite yet!
Feb. 15th, 2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
Okay, fair. So now we ask the universe to hurry up and let the book be bought, so that I can get the awesome sequel. :D
Feb. 15th, 2012 09:01 pm (UTC)
The sequel is called Steel Blues and is in 1931. We've sketched a third one after that called Silver Bullet, which among other things features Nikola Tesla. Jackie Cochrane will make her first appearance in Steel Blues.
Feb. 15th, 2012 10:29 am (UTC)
*G* I'm glad you like it! Thank you! Alma and Lewis are so much fun together, and yes, a totally ominous scripture reference. I love them both, and this was just the ideal introduction. (This is Melissa's piece.)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )