Friday, 8 August 2014

Guest author - Donna Glee Williams. An excerpt from The Braided path

Donna Glee Williams is a writer, seminar leader, and creative coach.  A sort of Swiss Army knife of the page, Donna Glee has seen her work published in anthologies, newsstand glossies, literary magazines, academic journals, reference books, big-city dailies, online venues, and spoken-word podcasts, as well as on stage and CD recordings.  These days, her focus is on speculative fiction, aka fantasy and science fiction.  Links to her web site and stories can be found below.

The Braided Path—EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2014—is a fantasy novel without sorcerers, vampires, dragons, witches, zombies or magic of any sort, except for the alchemy of love.
 
On the slopes of a vertical land where people’s lives are bounded by how high and low they are able walk on the single path that connects their world, the young widow Len Rope-Maker watches as years go by and her son Cam never finds his limits. Long past the time when other youths in Home Village have found their boundaries, Cam keeps climbing higher and lower, pushing on with his sweetheart Fox who also shows signs of being a Far-Walker. But Cam’s drive to venture far nudges him towards the top of the world, while Fox’s sends her downward, toward the mythical sea at the bottom of all things. Both are true to their own heart’s calling.
 

An excerpt from The Braided Path
 
Always in front of you and always behind, sometimes trailing over the rich, giving soil of the village shelves, but mostly over stone.  Some of the stone is the color of those roses that can’t decide between red and yellow.  Some is motley gray.  Some is black, with bits of crystal that twinkle like something in a clear night’s sky.  Some is almost the color of cream.  Some of it breaks into chips so sharp they can cut flesh.  Some grinds underfoot into a powdery sand that can slide beneath your boot.  Sometimes the path travels not over solid rock, but over an accretion of bits that have rolled downworld from somewhere high above.
Sometimes it is so broad, this path, that two can walk side by side, shielded from the great fall by a hedge of wind-wizened trees.  Sometimes it is narrow steps, chipped out of the living stone.  Sometimes it is just a rope, dangling across a wide rock face, where walking becomes a matter of trust: In the rope, in your grip, and in your boot-soles as your own weight presses you to the wall of the world.  And there are some places where it can be nearly flat, startlingly so, making for easy walking for a time.  Always changing but always itself, the path wanders across the rippling curtain of the world, stitching the whole together.
The villages are there, along the path.  In the villages, walkers can find their rest at the end of a long day’s travel.  They can throw down their packs, take food and drink, tell their stories, then sleep and dream.
When did Len first see how far the path would take them on the great wall of the world?  With all the switchbacks on the path, who can see ahead? 
No Far-Walker had been born under the apple trees of Home Village for many years.  But everyone knew Shreve Far-Walker, from Third Village Down, who often passed through as she carried loads between High and Low.  When nightfall caught her near Len’s Home Village, she would stay over, taking dinner and giving back news.  She wasn’t by nature a talkative person, but she understood the duties of a guest.  Len would crowd in with the others to hear Shreve’s account of the Far Villages and the strange stories they told there.
So Len had some notion of the life of a Far-Walker, though her own range was a modest seven villages.  (Climbing up beyond her limits made her pant for breath like an old woman; going down past them left her sweaty and sticky.)  When Cam began to show unusual aptitude for climbing high and descending very low along the path, she wondered.  Like all parents, Len had observed Cam closely from his earliest tottering steps as he followed her to First Village Up.  She had shared discreet smiles with the other parents as their young ones tried on the new costume of adulthood to see how it would fit them, daring each other to range ever farther from Home Village on spurious errands
There would be a jaunt proposed, a clamor of assent, and a rush like a group of startled goats when Cam and his friends hurried off.  No packing or planning was needed as they carried no real loads and it was understood that they would stay in whichever village they were closest to when night fell.  Families who housed a youth from another village tonight knew that their own children would find food and a pallet where they needed it tomorrow, and the balance would be kept.
Len was a maker of rope and twine.  She prospered on the fiber of a certain nettle that grew all along the path near Home Village, thinning out above Second Village Up and abruptly disappearing in the shade of the trees around First Village Down.  Her house was full of this little plant: baskets of stems, waiting to be broken; fringes of washed fiber draped everywhere, waiting to be plied; and coils of finished cords and ropes of all sizes, waiting to be carried up or down the trail for trade. 
Len was a fine crafter, with powerful, knowing hands that meted out the strength of the fiber smoothly and evenly.  She did a good business from First Village Down to Fifth Village Up, selling her rope and cordage and the intricate knots she created as ornaments and symbols.     
Len knew her ropes were much valued in the lower villages because they resisted rot so well, but she did not care to take them there herself; she knew her limits.  She would have been glad to find her son’s range ran a little lower than her own.  But it would be selfish for a mother to push or wish a thing on a child for her own convenience.  So Len Rope-Maker held her heart open, and waited to see what would emerge from the clouds.
When little Cam let go of her hand and ran off to explore the world without her, she watched after him and waited.  (It was a safe place, a place where a knee-high stone rim had been built between the path and the long fall.)
And Cam ran back to her with sparkling eyes, crying out, “As far as the big rock!  I went that far, Len!”  And she set aside the long, blond fibers she was plaiting and swept him up and made much of him (“As far as the rock!”) and solemnly asked him for news. 
It was bittersweet for Len when Cam and his friends got older and began to be away more.  Len’s little house was too silent at night without his breathing, so she got herself a cat.  She named it Goose because she enjoyed standing at her door at dinner-time and “Goose!  Goose!  Oh, Goose!” and having the little gray cat run home to her.
Like other parents—maybe more than other parents—Len worried, as the jaunts got longer and Cam was away for days at a time.  Days and nights with no word, only her trust in him to rely on.  Sometimes there were dreams of a foot slipping on rolling gravel, and then a wailing fall.   The world was steep and it happened sometimes. 
But there was no need for her to say, “Be careful.”  Every child had been a part of the sad gift-giving when some son or daughter of Home Village did not return.  Many youngsters wore shirts or coats or hats they had received on these occasions.  Some had already shared the work of building the cairns that marked where someone had fallen off the path, of piling up the stones: the black stones, the orange, the chalk-white, the gray.  Around Len’s Home Village, the stones were gray.  Granite gray.  The shoulders of the world were steep and a fall was almost always equal to a disappearance.  The cairns were raised in memory and warning.
The young people of the villages planted their feet carefully and took the dangers of the world in stride. 
 
 
Thank you Donna for sharing your story. You can follow the rest here - http://www.strangehorizons.com/2007/20070723/limits-f.shtml
 
Her web site is www.donnagleewilliams.com



Next week you will meet another guest author, Brian Brennan of Alberta with a sample of his fine writing.

On September 7th at 6:30pm, please join me at The Chateau Moncton for the launch of my debut novel, Dark Side of a Promise. Refreshments, munchies, prizes and a lot of fun.
 

 
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