It's about time for another update. I've always been the worst at keeping a journal and I find that I'm just as bad at blogging. I don't do it intentionally. Life with 3 kids, a dog, a newspaper route and a second job at home is keeping me on my toes. There is little time to do anything else at the moment. I'm losing the second job here in the next couple weeks, so I should have more free time. If you can call it free time with kids and school and homework. Plus, I'm blogging on the Relentless Writer's blog every so often. If you're looking for writing and subbing tips, check it out.
Alright, so, as for what I'm writing, I finally finished with BRIAR. It felt like it took forever, but I'm happy with the finished product. It isn't my original vision, but it's pretty close. BRIAR is a Robin Hood/Sleeping Beauty role reversal in which Robyn must wake the sleeping Briar after his mother puts him under a curse. There's a little bit of magic, a little bit of thievery and the a cursed cat woman. I'm considering writing other books using Robyn's adoptive siblings and other fairytales, but I want to get through Briar first. I've also finished with SUMMONER BATTLES, my Frozen meets Pokemon Utopian Fantasy, but that's another story for another day.
While I wait to hear back from Cate on BRIAR and SB, I've decided to start a new project. At the moment I have three completed manuscripts, BRIAR, SB and a third that's sort of Tomb Raider meets I Am Legend, but I've had an idea for something new that I'm super jazzed about. It's going to be video gamey, demi-goddy and full of spirit animals and Japanese steampunk. Sounds great, right? Stay tuned for more details as I start writing. In the meantime, enjoy the first chapter of BRIAR.
It is the perfect night for thievery.
I steady myself against the pitch of the roof. Angry clouds cover the starry sky like a black eye, thunder rolling like a freight train. Lightning illuminates the distance giving the air a charge. Beneath my boots, random droplets make the ceramic tiles slick. On either side of me I see familiar shadow-like lumps. One holds up a hand motioning us forward. Even though he can’t see, I give him a nod.
A wooden rope bridge stretches across the rooftop I sit on and the building across from me. Gondolas rock in the canals below. I don’t like the idea of crossing the bridge, but the buildings are too far apart to jump. A poster clings to the post that holds the bridge in place. I smirk when I pass it. The sketch shows a hooded figure, locks of hair hanging loosely around the chin. Her rounded lips curve up in a smirk, a bow and arrow in her hands. The words WANTED: ROBYN written above the image. There isn’t any other information, the sketch nothing more than a mouth and chin, not that it matters.
The girl on the poster is me.
The flat roof of the skyscraper leads to a bridge then several apartment buildings that shrink in size becoming townhouses and mansions. I pull another poster off the wall before climbing onto the bridge. The poster isn’t of me this time, but it doesn’t make me feel better. My brother Trent, cloaked in a hood much like myself, covers the parchment. The people that live in the city of Locksdale won’t recognize the square jaw, but I know it anywhere. I crumple the paper and toss it into the ocean water in the canal. My throat tightens and my hands ball into fists.
I start my descent across the rooftops keeping momentum as I go. Parkour keeps us moving along and out of the hands of the Sheriff’s men. The descent isn’t easy, but I’ve grown accustomed to using rain gutters or trellises to climb on. I want the rush of adrenaline crossing the rooftops gives. Beside me, I can see the shadows of my siblings heading toward the center of town. I’ve spent the last ten years combing the city like this, searching for riches to feed the poor.
The city of Locksdale used to be glorious, one of the finest cities to live in. It sits between the ocean and a wide expanse of forest that keeps the city locked away from everywhere else. Few people travel through the forest and the surrounding islands aren’t big enough to inhabit. Ships come to the port to drop off supplies. Pirates drop anchor and party in the local taverns keeping the economy alive. At least until Madeline Bowler became mayor of the city.
My focus shifts from thoughts of what the city used to be to the mansion in front of me. The house is three stories high and well-manicured. There aren’t any lights on inside, but I don’t expect there to be. Mayor Bowler holds parties in her mansion nightly and everyone who’s anyone attends. It’s the only way to stay in good graces with the Mayor and Sheriff Locksley.
The window on the bottom floor near the kitchen is open a crack. I smile in spite of myself at my good fortune, a thrill sends chills down my spine. The window pushes open with ease and makes very little noise. It opens onto the backside of a couch. Again, my luck seems to have improved. Most of the time I have to break into a building. No dropping onto the floor for me this time.
Most of the furniture in the small alcove room is antique. The couch squeaks as I land on its plastic covered cushions and I cringe. Across the room, I see a breakfast nook followed by the kitchen. Most of the items that aren’t covered in plastic are gold or silver. I think of taking these for a moment, but most of the time objects placed in the open are the first to be missed. Sighing, I pull a burlap sack from my backpack and move to the kitchen.
The pantry holds every canned and bagged good under the sun. This one looks to be recently refilled, much to my delight and I almost clap my hands. I make my way along the shelves dropping any items that have more than two in their rows. I can’t help the giddy smile that insists on stretching across my face. In ten years, I’ve never had this much luck.
The thought sets me back on my heels a bit and I pause. Locksdale’s known for many things, but not luck.
I continue sorting through the shelves. Canned vegetables, fruits and jars of peanut butter weigh down the burlap sack. It’s almost too much for me to handle, but I continue. I may not get this much food again. People have become more aware over the years and don’t stockpile the way they used to. The feeling of elation turns to awareness. Something feels off deep down in my gut, a creeping sensation like someone watching me. Above something drops, the sound of a footfall and the hairs on the back of my neck rise, my ears perked. I close my eyes, my heart plummeting to my stomach. He almost got me this time.
The burlap sack has reached capacity and I manage to get it over my shoulder. The noises on the second floor have stopped, which sends a flutter through my chest. I swallow releasing the breath. Getting in may have been simple, but getting out might prove to be a touch more difficult. I poke my head out of the pantry and scan the kitchen. The shape of the room makes it difficult to see anything but the stove and refrigerator.
My steps are cautious as I move back toward the breakfast nook. Part of me prays that I’ll get out with ease, but the other half has begun searching for ways to escape. There is a door off of the kitchen, but I’m not one-hundred percent sure where it leads. The windows are locked except for the one I came in through. Unlocking them will take precious seconds I won’t have. The second story housed the strange thumping noise, and I’m positive that whatever’s waiting for me up there won’t be pretty. I want to go through the front door, but I know that whatever’s waiting on the second floor may have reinforcements out front.
I head for the third floor.
The chances are slim that I’ll make it through the second story onto the third. The floorplans I spent the night studying revealed a back staircase, but I can’t be sure that they aren’t waiting there either. It feels like the better option in any case. I prefer the rooftops, up with the stars. Up there I’m free, and I know that the others will be there too, watching and waiting for those of us who were chosen to steal.
I make my way through the door in the kitchen, fingers crossed that the floorplans were right. The door opens to a small stairwell beside a dumbwaiter and I breathe a little easier. My boots are quiet, the soles worn, but they still smell like leather—a comforting scent. The stairs hardly make any noise as I make my way up. The few sounds they do make most would attribute to the house settling.
The top opens to a landing. There are doors on both sides of the hallway. From the floorplans, I know these rooms to be bedrooms, but the hall is disorienting. I can’t be sure which way I’ve come from, which throws me off and sends another thrill down my spine. Once outside I’ll be able to find my way, but indoors, where I can’t see the moon, I’m lost.
I choose a door on the left near the middle and enter the room. The lights are off and I see a bed to the side. A window lets in small shafts of lightning and moonlight through the blinds. The clouds have shifted off the moon again. With one free hand, I pull up the blinds and release the lock on the window and push up the pane. The window squeals more than I like and I cringe, forcing the window up as fast as I can. Once it’s up, I pause to listen. There is very little if any noise and my tense muscles begin to relax. The night air is cool and I can smell rain in the distance.
A cable for hanging banners in the square links the mansion to another building across the way. I pull a couple of carabiners out of the backpack and attach them and a string to the burlap sack. Across the way, a shadow appears on the top of the building pressed against the ridge. Dim orange streetlamps reveal a dark black hoodie and a violin case clinging to the back of the figure. Jacob coos like a dove and I nod, pushing the heavy sack toward him with as much force as I can muster.
“Might as well bring it back, Robyn.”
The voice behind me is cool and gruff. There is a grating as if his throat has been scratched. I know the voice well though I’ve spent most of my time listening to it in hollow rooms or around corners. Sheriff Lockley doesn’t often bother with riff-raff like me.
I close my eyes, my heart leaping into my throat. I’ve run out of options.
“It’s already gone.” My tone is as clear as I can make it though my hands start to tremble. I haven’t been this close to the sheriff since I started stealing.
He snorts. “You do realize I can see out the window, right?”
Sheriff Locksley isn’t alone, but the other men can’t get into the room around him. I’m not sure why he doesn’t come all the way in. Maybe he’s afraid he’ll scare me off. It’s not like I plan on hanging around no matter how much space he gives me.
“I almost fell for it.” My own voice betrays me revealing just how in awe I am of the fact that he lulled me into complacency. It will never happen again.
“Almost?” He chuckles, stepping into the thin light of the streetlamps and I look over his reflection in the glass. He’s a tall man, towering like a giant over my own short stature. Dark curls cover his head and dangle into his eyes. I can’t tell the color in the orange light, but they seem black and pretty sure he’s already won. “I’m fairly certain I’ve caught you.”
“Counting your chickens before they hatch?” My fingers itch for the bow wrapped across my torso and the arrows in the quiver at my side, but I don’t move. I’m not sure what will happen if I turn around.
“The only way out is down.” His brows quirk and he gives me a pointed look.
Locksley seems to think he knows everything about this house, but he hasn’t spent much time looking over the outside. The window opens to a ledge that’s wide enough for my petite frame, but nothing the sheriff can climb onto. On both corners of the building are rain gutters. I’m aware that there are men in the bushes below, but it doesn’t matter. The cable strung between the buildings will serve as the best escape route.
“You live in a box, Locksley,” I say and jump out the window, clinging to the cable. My weight, along with the burlap sack, pulls the cable down until it dips and my heart plummets with it. I’m not sure if it will snap or just lower us to the ground, but it doesn’t matter. I start to shimmy my way across the rope, pushing the sack toward Jacob.
Sheriff Locksley yells obscenities and orders to the men below. I’m not paying enough attention to understand what. My mind focuses on the task at hand. Jacob swings his violin case out and catches the string I attached to the sack. With a few pulls, he removes the sack and wedges it between the gable and the edge of the roof. We’re lucky. Weapons were confiscated for the war years ago. They can’t shoot at us making our escape that much easier.
Jacob grabs my foot and pulls me the rest of the way along the cable. My hood falls back exposing part of my face around a tartan scarf I never leave home without, but I don’t have time to worry. The men have already moved into the mansion and are working their way up the floors, but we are faster. Jacob pulls me into a standing position and hefts the bag with more ease than I could manage.
“You’re a teenager.” Sheriff Locksley stands on the street watching us move across the roof. His voice isn’t loud, but it’s quiet enough around that I don’t need to strain to hear.
I replace my hood, my cheeks burning beneath the scarf. The only defense we have is our anonymous identities, and I may have lost mine.
“Let’s go.” Jacob’s voice is harsh, scolding, but I know it’s more out of concern than anger. As my lookout, he must feel as responsible for my almost capture as I do.
We run along the ridge of the roof, confident in our steps. The buildings in the square are close enough together that we can make the jumps. We’re gone before the first of the sheriff’s men have climbed on to the mansion’s roof. As we make our way back toward the woods, rain begins to fall.