1: Drought

Story Notes



Once upon a time, on a starless, moonless night…

A slope – a GIRL (13) runs, crashing through underbrush, staggering.  In both arms, she clutches a straw doll with a round belly, the kind made by tying and shaping straw.  She and the doll wear white.

Heavy footsteps stamp after her. Metal clinks and leather creaks.  A greasy torch sputters.

She keeps running, at times just a gasping shadow in deeper dark, stumbling on roots, dashing briars aside, wincing.

The forest robes a sheer mountain with a bald, stony peak.

 A bad trip, a tumble.  She rolls down the hill.

Splash:  The edge of a still small pond.  She’s panting fearfully, checks herself, her doll:  All in one piece.  Staggering, she stands.  Silver light gleams. She looks across the pond: 

A reflection:  A door in the mountainside, blocked with fallen rubble.  Something shines from the lintel.

A fearful look back, a curious look forward:  The girl tests the water:  Shallow.  Hugging the doll, she splash-sprints across, climbs the rocks.

The heavy feet still stomp in the forest.

At the silent pond, the girls sits on the rubble, out of breath, looks around.





No answer.

She turns and traces the oval light source: a silver mirror.  Her hands explore either side.  Carved in stone: two serpents twining tails.  She picks at moss: two more heads on each snake.  More moss: Three…

Crash.  She yelps, turns, stumbles to her feet.  Stones shift underfoot. 

Splash:  The pursuers have arrived:  Two SOLDIERS.  One carries the torch, the other a spear.  One foot in the water already, the torch soldier hurries forward.





She scrambles to her feet.

He grabs her hand, drags her back across the pond.  She pulls, but his hand’s so big that it’s holding a twig.



Mother!  Help, mother!



Enough of these games.


He tugs, tugs again, finally flings her forward at the other.  He catches her shoulder.



You’ve made your father very worried, princess.


She clutches her doll, bows her head.  The other soldier nudges her towards the underbrush.  She doesn’t move.  Again, she hunches her shoulders. 



Let’s go home.


Dark eyes in an aged face blink worriedly through a wall of ferns.

The soldiers and princess leave the glade.  The pond water’s still. 

The light is gone.



At the foot of the mountain stands a city that glistens with gold, hung with finery. 


In a high tower with large windows and fine draperies, a YOUNG WOMAN (20s) holds back the curtain to stare out.  Her long braid is paler than blond.  She’s a grave sort of lovely.

She watches the soldiers lead the girl from the forest, drops the curtain and storms away.





A dusty road by dusty fenced fields.  The wind blows.  Dry soil whirls in a cloud.

A colorful (and dusty) camp is packing up.  Now and then CHARATERS (ND )pass in wigs or makeup: It’s a Fools’ caravan. 

A WOMAN (ND) packs up costumes and wooden masks, an elderly MAN (ND) feeds a small animal for a trick.  Children play with straw dolls.  Two PARENTS lead a TODDLER across a balance beam.

At the fence: PAVEL ILMENOV (24) watches the dust clouds grimly.  He’s a friendly, beardless soldier in plainclothes, good-looking and quite aware of it. 

He smiles when he turns round.  

A tent: GALEN DOMONOV (29) squints in the bright light as he steps out.  He’s a thin, serious man with moss-green eyes and not enough sun.  He wears sagely looking blue robes with hems that catch bits of silver. 

His black hair is long, but the sides are caught up in a crown with strange knots and twists, like it’s traditional. 

He squints a moment more, spots Pavel, crosses the camp.  At the fence, they watch the goings-on.

Note: Galen is not a morning person.



How d’you sleep?



Couldn’t they have gotten us separate tents?



I’ve known Matilda since I was a boy.  We got what she could spare.  I snore?



No.  You hug.



Oops. I guess I toss a bit.  Sorry.  (a grin) You know you love me.



(dry) Do I?



It’s been three years.  I’m fond of you too.



“Love” is a bit of a strong word…



I only mean, if a lion attacked the two of us on the road, you wouldn’t run and leave me for dead.



No.  I’d say, “Pavel, look out, a lion,” then I’d run…



See, you do care.


Galen scoffs, but twitches a passing smile when he looks away.

Watching the parents, Pavel’s gone a bit sad.



We’re on our own at the next crossing.



I know.  But how d’you sleep?


A beat.



The gods aren’t talking to me.



I don’t need their assurance.  I want yours.


The toddler makes the end of the beam.  The father sweeps him into a congratulatory swing.  Pavel breaks out in smiles again.



I think this is a mistake.


He leans on the fence, stares across the dry fields.



It’s more up your alley than mine.






Locked up princesses, shoes worn out overnight…  If anything’s walking through walls or spiriting these girls away, my sword’s not going to cut it.


He’s not wearing his sword now.



But there’s water in Stolist.



That there is.



That’s all King Liev and the rest of the Three Kingdoms can worry about right now.


A beat.



If this is up my… “alley…,” why did you come along?



If I have to attend one more diplomatic dinner party, I’m going to choke on my starched collar.



You have your father’s skill at it.



No, he wore a collar far better. (sigh) He never came out this far.  He was born a thatcher in Ilmen.



You’ve mentioned.



I’ve got things covered if this king needs us to climb on any roofs or stab something ugly.



For all we know, both are possible.



Anything’s possible.


He looks up at the vast, bare sky.



Anything but rain.




Story Notes

Images by Pixabay.


Screenwriting Notes: 

  • If you’ve followed awhile, you probably know that I’m self-studying screenwriting and the formatting thereof.   On the way, I’ve found that graphic novel scripts are, essentially, the same format.  I’ve been getting comfortable using this “script” language when blogging, though I format a little differently to make it more readable on the web.  Programs, like WritersDuet or FinalDraft are designed to make the final formatting process (all those indentations) easier.
  • This time around, I’m adding two new features I’ve read about:  SUPER and INSERT.
    • “SUPER” is when text is superimposed on the screen.  It’s not to be confused with a chyron.
    • “INSERT” is when the writer wants to the camera/viewer to focus on something up-close.  Since Spec scripts generally don’t include camera directions, this is especially helpful to give the director hints in a detective story.  A similar writing device is “POV” (Point of View).
  • Be on the lookout for more fun add-ins.  Coming up we have “over,” “pre-lap,” and “L-cut,” so stay tuned!

A Queen’s Ransom: Chapter Lists & Details

This post is to re-post A Queen’s Ransom as it has now been redrafted with some substantial character developments and hopefully better readability.  As always, thank you for all your follows, likes, and comments!  See you next week with Chapter One of The Midnight Dances.

For Bedivere, most excellent of cloak-wearing sages my age.

Chapter Links:

Setting: Two of “The Three Kingdoms,” Dolina and Tishina (The third is Merya)

Time: Once upon a C.E.

Map: Continue reading

Welcome to Hereabouts!

“You think there’s more to the story?”

“The story? No. Stories are always simple. The truth, that takes work.”

Welcome to Hereabouts, home to Westfall, A Queen’s Ransom, and Ivan the Brave.

Long Reads

Westfall – Ever have one of those dreams you can’t get out of your head?  Ever have an immortal faerie king take over your free nation?  18-year-old Rose doesn’t believe in rhetorical questions.  (Warnings: violence and violent deaths, some sexual references and language, politics)

Scripts & Screenplays

A Queen’s Ransom Princess Sasha plans to pay her fiance’s ransom with a song, but are the gods really on her side? (Warnings: fantasy violence, some adult themes, death)

Ivan the Brave – Can a simple but kindly prince defeat an immortal sorcerer?  (Warnings: fantasy violence, death)

Quick Looks

Shorts Shorter works with rhythm, rhyme, and occasionally reason. (TV-PG)

Poems & Songs – Verse and rhyme, written for both fiction and memoir.  (TV-G, mostly)

The Real Life Personal journals on writing and life. (TV-G)

Short Stories – (pieces up for submission elsewhere have been removed and will be replaced with external links or re-posted later.)


Other Musings

Thereabouts – Cabin fever, but stuck wandering the web?  Check out my writer’s blog on Weebly.


Images by Pixabay.

The Midnight Dance (Next Project is Go!)

They’re dancing in the in between
in lands of gold and silver.
They’re dancing with the iron queen
across the fiery river.
“The night is cool, the dance divine—
The king is none the wiser!”
each princess to her partner says. 
(No partner will chastise her.)
They neither drink nor eat nor rest.
Their feet won’t tire or bruise.
But dawn will come and leave the sun
to wonder at their shoes.

Initial character and story development are finished for the next big thing!  As always, thank you for your likes, follows, and comments!

This time, I plan to feature more familiar places and hope to bring back some of my other characters.  I’ve grown fond of building this fairy tale world extracted from Slavic lore, and I hope you are too.

Updates to the posts of A Queen’s Ransom will be completed sometime in August.  Keep a look out for a re-blog of the first chapter.

Once again, thanks for all your input!

Photo from Pixabay.com

26: Reversal

We made it to the last chapter!

~~~ Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! ~~~

I mentioned at the start of this that I’d be working without a net.  We made it across the tightrope to the last chapter of a brand-new beta, which of course now needs some test reading and feedback.  Although it was a bumpy ride, your views, likes, and shares really encourage me to no end.  A huge thanks to you for keeping me going.

Now that the story’s coming to a close, I’d love to hear beta reader comments on:

  1. What worked and what didn’t.
  2. What felt superfluous or scant.  
  3. What seemed missing or perhaps too ubiquitous.

Please leave your thoughts, questions, and suggestions in a comment below!

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