Posted on 05/18/2016
- Full Name:
Karl L. Kruger
- Where I live:
San Diego, CA
- Years Writing:
Five or More Years
- Primary Goal:
Work To Publish
- Type of Project:
- Fiction Genre:
- Number of Words:
- Breakout Title:
THE GIFT OF MALACHI
SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK by Robert Beatty; THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
- Publication Creds:
Short Fiction Published
- Other Creds:
Actively Working on It
- Synopsis (novel / nf):
Malachi Moses Washington is a thirteen-year-old son of a former slave who had moved with his mother to the mining town of Virginia City, Nevada soon after the U. S. Civil War. In the turbulent Old West, Malachi and his mother struggle to eke out a living for themselves and escape the residual racism of 19th century America.
Malachi finds himself part of a small group of characters including a war veteran gunslinger, an elderly Scottish professor, and a young Scottish doctor when an old miner appears with an ancient Mesopotamian object and tales of a man of pure evil determined to do him harm.
Soon after this, Malachi has disturbing dreams of each of the men that include a strange “man in grey.” This man seems to hold knowledge of each of them and maliciously accuses them of past wrongdoings. The man in grey is relentlessly pursuing the old miner, and now this new group, in an effort to retrieve the ancient object, but the old miner insists it is necessary to “hold his devils at bay.” The group realizes that Malachi is somehow the key to uniting them and staving off the man in grey’s assault.
Malachi learns what the old miner means by "his devils" as numerous recently dead corpses rise from the local graveyard and threatened him and his friends in a chase through the silver mines of 1875 Nevada.
Miraculously surviving the attack through perilous, and often ingenious, means, Malachi then returns to the surface to find out that the man in grey has physically arrived in Virginia City himself! Malachi was able to fend off his evil plot in the dream world, can he now face him in the real world?
Malachi learns that his true gift is not found in the dream world, but is rather his positive world outlook, a trait the Reader may well identify in themselves.
- Writer Organization:
WORKING ON IT
- Your Bio:
I am a 48-year-old military nurse retiree who has always loved sharing stories of my own concoction. After traveling the globe for 29 years, I currently live in San Diego, California with my wife, two children, two dogs, and an exceptionally cranky cat. While the U. S. Navy kept me busy for most of my adult life, my semi-retired life is now filled with putting pen to paper and writing as often as I am able.
- Your Writing Life:
I am a recently retired U. S. Navy veteran of 29 years. I have been a Combat/Trauma and Flight Nurse in Iraq and Afghanistan and have written many short stories regarding my experiences in a war zone, one of which was published in the Danforth Review. I have also been published in the area of Nursing Research. But I believe that one should write what one loves to read and my true passion is writing for the Middle Grade audience. Each of my stories involves a 13-year-old protagonist and focuses on that magical point in time where one becomes socially aware and willingly assumes a greater role in his/her world. My semi-retired lifestyle now affords me enough time to dedicate toward pursuing a passionate and productive writing career.
- Your Career Goals:
Multi-book contract with a publishing house and writing full-time for the rest of my life.
- Inspiration for Work?:
As an RN/BSN, I am fascinated by the peculiar time in one's life where one becomes more self aware/socially aware. I have a number of stories, all of which feature a 13-year-old protagonist. My children greatly influence my attitude toward this awakening.
- Reading Now?:
A NEARER MOON by Melanie Crowder
- Manuscript Type:
- Working Title(s):
THE GIFT OF MALACHI
- Hook Line:
A thirteen-year-old son of a former slave finds himself entangled, first in the dream world, then in the real world, in an impossible battle to the death in the American Old West with an evil necromancer who seemingly cannot die.
- Conflict + Stakes:
When a thirteen-year-old son of a former slave is introduced to an ancient Mesopotamian object in the Old West, the original owner, an evil necromancer, visits him and his friends in their dreams and threatens their lives and the world as he knows it.
- The Protagonist:
Malachi Moses Washington was born on March 12, 1862 (13 years old in 1875). The son of an escaped slave who joined the Union Army and died in the trenches outside of Petersburg, Virginia on July 30, 1864. His mother works in a kitchen that serves food to railroad patrons. She left Georgia after the Civil War and moved westward to escape further persecution. Malachi is ambitious, yet humble. He learned to read with the help of a local school teacher at the insistence of his mother and, in turn, tutors her often. He doesn’t attend class, but meets with a teacher after church each Sunday for a twenty minute lesson. Has an enigmatic uneasy regard of Boot Hill, oftentimes walking deliberately around the site. Is semi-employed as a stock boy at the Barrel’s Bottom Saloon.
- The Antagonist:
Quintus Titus Verrucosus/Jonathan Kline was born on July 13, 77 AD. A low-ranking Roman soldier involved in an excavation project in Nineveh by the Roman Legion under Trajan in 115 AD. He received a scar over his right eye by an itinerant sorcerer in an encounter that still haunts him in his dreams even years later. He was subject to a pagan ritual in the ruins of Nineveh where his heart was removed, burnt to ash, and stored in a brass vessel which he terms his “Cor.” So long as the brass vessel remains unopened, he will live. Once the vessel is opened, and the contents released, he will die and his body will turn to ash. The Cor is a puzzle box, or cryptex, and has yet been unopened since no one has figured out the code or sequence of motions to open it. As a Necromancer he has the ability to animate the dead in the immediate area and command them to do his will. Quintus has always been behind the scenes of power. Always staying out of the direct limelight, he has been instrumental in the shifting of political power to meet his own desires. He was a member of Louis IX’s court; he was a member of English Parliament. He plans on running for Senate in Nevada in 1878.
- Other Characters:
Emma Rathem - 12-year-old younger sister of the town's school teacher and Malachi's secret best friend; teaching Malachi to read since he is not allowed in the all-white school.
Gabriel Hauschild - A former university professor of English/Shakespeare; fluent in five languages; sharpshooter in U.S. Civil War; captured and was a POW in Andersonville Prison. Now a gunslinger and a drunk.
Dr. Reginald Swan - Professor of Physics at St. Andrew's University; in Virginia City to conduct experiments in the silver mines.
Dr. Patrick Dwyer - Young and ambitious, he means to prove his worth to Dr. Swan to sway his opinion and earn his place into the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
- Unique World:
Virginia City, Nevada in 1875 was considered "the richest city on earth." Filled with miners, cowboys, American Indians, and young socialites, it serves as a model city for the American Old West. On October 26, 1875, nearly the entire city burned to the ground. The direct cause was never truly found. Could this story provide the missing piece to that catastrophe?
- Climax and Denouement:
Malachi and his new friends race through the silver mines to evade or defeat the raised dead men pursuing them. The group is victorious and escape the tunnels alive and the antagonist fails to obtain the artifact. But the group soon learns that the antagonist is now taking matters into his own hands and shows up physically in the end for a cliffhanger.
- Your Opening :
Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, England
April 3, 1812
“Careful!” Cephas cried out. His younger companion steadied himself on the slick, seagrass and barnacle laden rocks and held out his hand before taking the next precarious step. Thirteen-year-old Cephas Teague took the hand of his friend and pulled him sharply to safety.
“We gotta hurry, William” Cephas said. “But a fall from this height would brain ye. The tide’ll come rushing in less than an hour from now. If we’re gonna find anything worthwhile, it gotta be now afore the sea takes it back again.”
“You sure ye saw some promisin’ flotsam tailin’ its way here?”
Cephas took a deep breath and shook his head.
“Listen,” he said. “You saw ‘em jus’ as clear as I did yesterday.” Cephas pointed out to sea, referring to the small fleet of ships that had sailed, and then fought, just north where they were currently standing on the isthmus. “We saw at least one Frog ship go down and maybe another. Cannon lit up that devil fierce! There’s bound to be scores of debris litterin’ all over the shore by now.”
After a nearby naval battle the tide would deliver diverse items to the shore through which poor Cornish boys like Cephas and William would scrounge and gather up boyhood treasures. Once William was lucky enough to pick up a French Dragoon’s hat and proudly wore it home, though it was dripping wet. That is, until his father knocked it off his head and threw it into the fire. William’s father didn’t much like the English sailors that frequented his tavern, but he hated the French with a burning passion. When William would ask why, he would simply say, “Because they’re French!” To William’s father, that somehow was enough. “An’ I hope this one lost more than jus’ his hat!”
But the boys would always find something that made the perilous climb down the rocks worth the risk. Clothing would wash up onto the short sandy lines of coast stretched between parenthetical rock breakwaters.
And that meant buttons.
Oftentimes turned wooden ones, but on occasion they would stumble onto the real brass buttons of a naval officer. Cephas and William would split up a valuable find like that. Sometimes the clothing would still be worn, however. In that unfortunate case the two boys would play odds or evens to see who would be tasked with cutting the valuable items free of the corpse and searching the pockets. As Cephas and William jumped down at last onto the damp, exposed beach, they turned around to see that they would potentially leave this place today with many, many buttons.
In the bloodied, shallow water and on the strip of beach before them, were well over a dozen bodies in various uniforms and states of injury. A couple were missing limbs. More were burned severely. All of them were lifeless—motionless other than the gentle rhythmic motion as the ironically peaceful waves rolled ever in.
Cephas swallowed hard, steeled himself, and set himself to work. He hesitantly approached one of the bodies that wore a deep blue jacket and nudged its shoulder before jumping backwards. William let out an incidental snicker at his friend’s reaction, but still didn’t move any closer.
“Well?” Cephas said. “I’m not doin’ this all by meself!” William took his cue and waded in knee-deep to pull another body closer to shore. He pulled a short knife that had a handle of wrapped twine from his back pocket and prepared it to cut free the buttons from the jacket of the corpse before him. Cephas shuttered a bit, but then rolled it onto its back and lifted the front of the jacket with one hand as he put his other hand into the inside breast pocket.
“Found a watch!” he said exuberantly. He held up his prize for William to see. He opened the face and found a scribbled note within. Tossing the soggy scratch of paper aside he held it up to his ear. “Not working, though.” Still, working or not, the case could possibly be gold. At the very least the parts could be sold. A valuable find in any condition.
With the broken watch still up to his ear, Cephas noticed a shape just within the hollow in the rock face that many of the local Cornish called, Merlin’s Cave. Not another body or item of clothing, but rather something that bore straight lines and sharp angles—a stark contrast to the randomness of the seaside around them. Cephas shoved the watch into his front trouser pocket with effort and walked back onto the sandy shore.
“Why don’t you give us another, Sonny?” Mister Loewdy asked with a grin.
“Yeah! Give us one!” cried one of the patrons with the pomp common to those who drink to excess, whiskey spilling out of his glass with each exaggerated movement of his arm.
The man at the bar stood on shaky legs, caught the bar top with one hand for an anchor, and raised his half-empty glass with the other.
“I am no baby,” he started. The saloon quickly erupted with roars of applause.
“I am no baby,” the man repeated with a hoist of his glass before continuing. “I, that with base prayers I should repent the evils I have done.” The applause stopped and the saloon’s patrons paused in sudden reverence. “Ten thousand worse than ever yet I did would I perform, if I might have my will.”
The man sauntered with an unsteady gait and haphazardly leaned against a bar stool, though not spilling a drop of his drink. He looked into its contents, as if it were a sort of tool to aid in his scrying another time or place.
“If one good deed in all my life I did, I do repent it from my very soul.” With that, the man leaned over the bar and received a complementary splash of whiskey in his glass from Mr. Loewdy. The others in the saloon gave gentle applause, some in deep, drunken thought of the words just spoken.
“Much obliged,” he said with a wide grin to the barkeep and walked with some difficulty back to his stool.
Malachi had never heard such words before. He repeated them in his head, at least the ones he could remember, trying to decipher their meaning. Finally Malachi walked up to the man and could not help but do what Mr. Loewdy told him to never do: He spoke.
“What does that mean, mister?” Malachi asked.
“Them words you spoke. What do they mean?”
The man took another sip, momentarily turned his attention to someone entering the saloon, and then looked back at Malachi.
“I didn’t think you could talk!” the man said with a laugh. “I mean, I didn’t think you capable! I only see you in here sweeping stuff from one pile over here to another pile over there!” The man was clearly amused, though Malachi knew not why.
“What do they mean?” Malachi repeated. He soon found that having a conversation with a drunkard was an awkward experience and noted not to delve into the endeavor in the future. The look that Mr. Loewdy gave him confirmed that notion and Malachi started to back away and resume his chores.
“It’s from a play,” he answered at last. Then his posture changed. He sat up straighter upon his barstool. His eyes opened a little more, and his sardonic grin eased away. It seemed to Malachi as if the man were being transformed into another. “A play from long ago.”
“You mean like before the war?” Malachi asked.
The man others called Sonny Shakespeare paused and took in a slow, deep breath.
“Yeah, before the war,” he said with a soft gravity. The tip of his finger played on the edge of his glass before continuing. “You ever been so mad you could spit? So angry, so full of rage that you couldn’t focus all of it on one single person or thing? So irate that you wanted the whole world to just…burn?”
Malachi thought for a moment, “No, sir,” he answered truthfully.
The man stared at him quizzically for a brief moment and then smiled a big, toothy grin.
“Really? Well then, consider yourself lucky. ‘Cuz the rest of the world has.”
- Writing Samples:
Malachi was dreaming. He consciously knew he was dreaming. But he had never seen this place before. And no dream he had ever had before was so realistic.
He stood barefoot in the damp grass that covered rocky cliffs. Malachi looked out at a churning sea below him and admired the sheer expanse of it. The ocean breeze gently blew through his coarse hair and it made him smile.
'I never seen a place as pretty as all this,' he thought gleefully.
The gulls called out with their shrill siren call and Malachi realized he had never heard that sound before. It was pleasant, relaxing.
He turned and saw many formations of stones that were arranged in what had once been buildings, he thought. He had never seen anything so old that was made by man. The sight fascinated him.
The ocean before him. The wet grass beneath him. The ancient ruins behind him. He wanted to live here. He wanted to run and laugh and forget going to work and scraping together enough coins to help his mother buy something to eat that night. This place seemed, well, perfect.
But he reminded himself that it wasn’t real. That he was actually in a dirty, wooden shack in the middle of the Nevada desert hills. Sleeping and dreaming of this idyllic place.
“You’ve grown so old! Look at you!” a voice from behind him said.
Malachi spun around to see from where the voice was coming and saw a man dressed in a fine grey suit complete with thigh-length coat, a waistcoat, ascot, and felt top hat walking toward him. This was a dandy that you could only see on certain nights going to the theater. Someone who must have struck it rich. A diamond stick-pin was stuck through an ascot ornately tied around his neck and a cane was held in his left hand. A jagged scar traveled from his forehead, across his right eye, and ended on his right cheek.
“W-who are you, sir?” Malachi asked hesitantly. “Do you know my—“
“Jean-Pierre,” came a sad voice to Malachi’s right. He looked over his shoulder and saw an old man standing near the cliff’s edge.
“Mister Teague?” Malachi asked aloud. 'What is that old miner doing in my dream?' But it seemed neither of the men noticed Malachi at all. The older man ignored his question altogether and the much younger man walked past him without a glance.
“Jean-Pierre?” the man in grey asked, puzzled. “Oh! Yes, that’s right. I had forgotten. That was my name when I was French. It’s Jonathan. I’m English now, you see?”
Cephas turned away from both of them and looked back out to sea.
'Wait! They can’t see me!' Malachi thought
“You’ve led me on quite the chase, Cephas,” the man now named Jonathan said. “But you know you couldn’t run forever. You knew I would find you someday.”
“I’ve avoided you for quite some time.”
“True. But when one has as much time as I…”
“You can’t have it. I’m not giving it up,” Cephas interrupted.
The man in grey joined Cephas and stood shoulder to shoulder with him on the grassy ledge, each looking out over the edge. Malachi joined them, looking where they did.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” the man in grey said. Malachi looked over at Cephas and saw his face contort to a tortured grimaced in response. “So horrible, what happened to that poor lad.”
“Stop,” Cephas protested quietly.
'What are they talking about?' Malachi wondered. 'What’s making that old miner so sad?'
“Being carried off into the water like that.” The man in grey turned until he faced Cephas and leaned toward him. “I can still hear those screams,” he exclaimed. “Can you, Cephas? Can you still here that poor child screaming for you to help him?”
“Screaming for his only friend to think of someone other than himself! But you ran!”
Malachi took a step back. Even though he was convinced the other two could neither see nor hear him, the intensity of the man in grey’s verbal assault frightened him.
“You ran like the coward your father always told you that you were!”