July 9, 2008

Watch the author, again!

Robin once again smacked us all with the gauntlet, and once again I am giving it a half-assed shot. At least in this one I look less of a bum and the lighting isn't reminiscent of a Bigfoot sighting. These are the words from the first couple of pages of my current work in progress, working title of "Gold Miner's Daughter." (No, she doesn't become a singing star. Ha, ha. That was funny maybe the first nineteen times I heard it.)

Here is the video:


And here is the text that I'm reading in the video:

Gold Miner’s Daughter

Chapter 1

The doctor squatted in the golden candlelight next to the cot, sweating whiskey and smelling of mildewed canvas. Andie watched him pat at her father’s forehead with a wet cloth, as if he were tapping time to a spirited camp song. “Gently,” she breathed.

The doctor stopped and pushed himself up with a groan, wobbling as he turned. He rubbed a dirt-smeared hand across his scraggled mining camp beard. While his eyes focused in the dim tent, he smacked his lips three or four times. He was so tall and lanky he had to stoop. “So…” His wheezing voice wavered in the flickering candlelight. “You and your father been here about a month, that right?”

“Yes, sir, only just.” Three months it took them from Baltimore to Sacramento, crossing through the jungles of Panama on the way. Then another two days to get here, to Broken Wheel.

The doctor let his gaze rove slowly up and down her. His beard cracked with a wide grin, and his dull eyes seemed not to sparkle at all in the flickering candlelight. “That so, that so,” he mumbled. “How old are you?”

Andie stiffened and clasped her hands together. She had met enough gold rushers to understand that only two types of boys asked that: young boys who wanted to know if she was too old to play make-believe, and grown men wanting to know if she was too young to get married. She measured her reply, looking past the mess of a doctor into the shadows beyond. “I turned fourteen the day we left Sacramento.” When was he going to get to the medicine?

He nodded, thinking and sucking at his beard, and finally he winked. “You’re a fine, young woman.” The doctor stepped past her and pushed open the tent’s flap. In swept the cool evening air of August in the California foothills. “Good night, missy,” he said, and he wobbled off down the rocky path that led to the main camp.

“Wait!” Andie hurried after him, anxious and confused. “What about my father?”

“Nothing I can do,” said the doctor as if she’d asked him to make it snow.

“But… but, you’re the doctor. Don’t you have medicine, or something?” If only that doctor from the steamship, Doctor Albrecht, were here.

“Eh…” The doctor looked down into the starlit camp, gray canvas tents huddled like sleeping baby elephants by the river’s edge. “No medicine,” he murmured.

“What?” Andie thought the idea of a doctor who didn’t have medicine absurd. What good was a doctor without medicine?

“No medicine here,” he added, louder. “All gone. Got… used up. Sent for more from Sacramento, but it ain’t here yet. Might not be here for weeks. Months, maybe.”

Andie knew the doctor was also a miner, like the others. She’d seen him out in the river with his washbowl, flinging handfuls of mud and splashing about. Apparently, he was no better doctor than he was a miner. “I have two nuggets,” she offered quietly, wondering if Father would scold her for it.

“Hmm? What’s that?” The doctor seemed flustered. “How big… I mean, it don’t matter.” He glanced at the hulking, dark tents again and whispered. “No medicine, I tell you.”

“I’ll find more!” Andie grabbed at his grimy sleeve, desperation turning her fear to panic. The doctor couldn’t leave. Without a doctor, her father would die. Then who would find the gold to send back to Uncle Timothy? What would happen to Mother if Uncle Timothy turned her out?

“Don’t you get it, little girl?” The doctor hissed at her with an urgency and sudden sober focus that made her gasp. “I ain’t got no medicine. I ain’t got nothing that can help your daddy.” He held her with his glare and corrosive breath a moment more, then turned and loped off toward the main camp.

19 comments:

JaneyV said...

Pete - I could listen to you all day, but alas I must take the kids to school. You have a wonderful voice, made for reading stories. I enjoyed your first chapter very much and now I'm really worried about the fate of 14 year old Andie with a dying father, with her two nuggets, in a camp-full of sex starved, lecherous men.
I feel an adventure coming on!

Enjoy the game later - you don't mind if I root for the Mariners (Go Go Ichiro) I've been to one of there's - got a foam finger 'n' everything!)

fairyhedgehog said...

I really enjoyed this. I liked the text being posted too - it helped me focus a bit better. I love the way you tell the story.

Natalie said...

Really good. I'm a sucker for those California Hills.

Whirlochre said...

This is very atmospheric and I like how you steer the dialogue through the cones of the characters' reflections.

As for Bigfoot lighting — it's bound to be in the shops soon.

freddie said...

This is terrific! You must read stories out loud to your sons—or at least did at one time. Nice pacing!

Robin S. said...

Wow, Pete.You did it again - this is so so good - all of it- the reading, the cadence and tone of your voice, and I agree, posting the piece being read was really good. We should all do that next time.

It's also fun to see your bookshelves and your 'spaces', and YOU. So far I haven't had the nerve to get in front of the camera. That you can do that - what can I say- I'm impressed!

P.S. I like Andie a lot.

McKoala said...

Great start to a story; and I liked the way that you conveyed the doctor and Andie in different ways with your voice. Nice to see your face, too! And I did like having the words posted, too. I wasn't going to read along, but the temptation was too much, and I did!

pacatrue said...

Too bad your kids are too cool now to have stories read to them?

ril said...

Like this a lot, and very well read! Kudos for getting in front of the camera, too!

pjd said...

Thank you all for the very kind words! I love reading to my boys, and fortunately they're not yet too cool for it, though the older one has become more picky about what I read out loud. Their favorite right now is Shel Silverstein poems.

Kiersten said...

This was so great, Maria! That doctor was uncomfortably creepy in the best possible way, and I loved the chapter. You are very good at reading aloud.

Now I'm thinking I'll have to do one where I'm not on fast-forward. Nah, I'm okay with everyone sounding better than me.

sylvia said...

You are so brave - I tried getting in front of the camera and then I decided I had horrific eyebrows and I didn't want to be known on the internet as "that eyebrow lady with the funny voice" and I turned the camera away.

"Two types of men" - that says so much about her world. Brilliant bit of storytelling.

I definitely like that you wrote the text in the post (OK, I know I did but that was because I couldn't think of anything additional to say!).

Can you read us the next chapter now? I need to know what happens.

fairyhedgehog said...

I only added the text to my post after seeing this: it seemed like such a good idea.

I started with a whinge about how hard it was to make it but that got pushed to the bottom of the page, and rightly so.

freddie said...

Yes, I love that the text was included, too. It makes it so much easier to follow along.

Your kids have good taste, pjd. I gave a book of Shel Silverstein stories/poems to my niece and she gave me The Eyebrow. Now she reads that The Day My Butt Went Psycho series. *shrugs*

pjd, can I link you? I'm often lurking on your blog, and it would be easier to get here from my blog roll.

Jennifer said...

Great excerpt! You know, you have a very pleasant reading voice - easy to listen to and animated, not monotonous.
Bravo!!

Sam

ChrisEldin said...

Excellent all around. I'm riveted by your story. Very well done!

Ello said...

This is awesome! First off, you have the perfect voice for reading - your kids must love your bedtime stories. Secondly, thanks so much for posting the excerpt. As much as I loved that you taped yourself, I actually enjoyed reading along with your voice playing the best. And now I would very much like to know what happens next. But I should warn you suspense is not good for me.

pjd said...

Thank you again, everyone. I'm overwhelmed with the kindness of all of you. Evil minions, pshaw. "There's good in you yet. I sense it!"

And, to freddie and anyone else who'd like to link me: Please do! It flatters me. Makes me feel like Navin R. Johnson. I'm somebody now!

Phoenix said...

Hey Pete -- stopping by but all I see is white space where your video should be. Firewall issues. Drat. I would have loved to have heard and seen you reading that opening. Very evocative!