Sharing a snippet from Freaks 3

Well, I made it through DD’s deadlines to hand in her painting and design boards, as well as her scholarship painting portfolio (…think staying up till 1 or 2 in the morning to keep her company while she finishes off various pieces, and going through multiple rolls of double-sided tape to attach paintings and photos etc to aforementioned boards and portfolio as per DD’s layout printouts; if I ever see another roll of double-sided tape in my life it’ll be too damn soon!).

I got through Halloween — despite *gasp!* running out of lollies because we had so many trick-or-treaters. Not to mention a very hastily decorated window in the form of a Halloween Headquarters banner taped to the upstairs office window. Um, yeah. Not one of my best efforts, but the kiddies who came to our door still thought the banner was “cool”.

And I’ve (hopefully!) seen the end to an extended Guy Fawkes — Tuesday through to Saturday night so far. Fingers crossed everyone in the neighborhood finished off their last fireworks last night and we don’t have a repeat performance tonight ‘coz to be frank, it’s getting a bit tiresome.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching fireworks, and we’ve set a few off ourselves over the years. But five nights of ’em are more than enough. Plus, our 10-month-old kitten had recently taken to prowling the roof of our two-storey house… and the roof is not the best place for a kitten when night falls and the fireworks start going off. Luckily I’ve trained her to come when I call, and there’s a convenient upstairs bathroom window that I can usually lean out of and grab her as she skitters past. Once I’ve gotten her inside, she cowers under the couch until the sky rockets and crackers quit for the night, so it’s heartbreaking but she’s safe, at least. I shudder to think of her cowering on the roof, two storeys up, while the fireworks and rockets light up the sky all around her. Heck, it was scary enough for me, driving home late Wednesday night and having a rocket whiz past my front windscreen! I swear, if I wasn’t already going gray disgracefully, I’d have a bunch more gray hairs after that experience.

Finally, I have yet to deal with the aftermath of another water leak in one of the downstairs bedrooms, that necessitated the temporary installation of this space-age-looking octopus dryer thingie:


Not to mention the necessity of re-piping the entire house to replace old water pipes, which will mean cutting holes in walls and ceilings, and then re-gibbing and painting aforementioned walls and ceilings, followed by carpet cleaning to remove water damage. Work will start this coming Wednesday, right smack in the middle of the kids’ end of year exams, and me trying my darnedest to squeeze in writing time to complete the third Freaks novel.

So if you’re getting the sense that there’s not been much writing going on lately, then you’d be right. Unless typing emails to insurance companies and coordinating plumbers and other tradies counts toward my manuscript word count??? Yeah. Didn’t think so :(

BUT… by snatching a bit of time here and there I have somehow managed to: 1) come up with a great plot twist completely out of the blue, 2) write a whole new beginning to incorporate aforementioned new plot twist (and dayum, if that new beginning doesn’t work reeeeeally well!), 3) draw up a timeline of events for all three books to make sure everything fits (which it does —  yay!), and 4) the most exciting discovery of all, realize I’m now halfway through the story.

And since I’m feeling brave, to thank any of you who’ve read this far, here’s a snippet from Freaks Under Fire — it’s a draft, so please forgive any grammatical errors:

Gravel crunched beneath her boots as she marched to the entrance. Putting on her “Don’t fuck with me” face, she shouldered through the doors into the small reception area.

No one was manning the desk and she could hear voices drifting from what she guessed was the break room. Why did it not surprise her that security was so lax? Not that it mattered. She had a duplicate key to Unit Twenty-Six, so there was no need to hang around waiting for anyone to realize she was here. She’d get in, do her job, and get out. And she suspected this “job” would be easier without witnesses. No point in anyone else suffering nightmares after watching her dismantle something that appeared to be a young, helpless human girl.

A helpfully marked “This Way to Storage Units” side door led her to a concrete path running alongside each row of units. She took a right at the third row and halted directly in front of Unit Twenty-Six. Its roller door had been secured with a decent-sized padlock. At least something was locked up as it should be.

The key stuck in the padlock, and she had to wrestle it to get it to turn… and then fiddle with the padlock mechanism to coax it open. Hmm. Anyone could be forgiven for believing this unit hadn’t been accessed in a while….

Only idiots left an opened lock hanging beside a storage unitit was just asking some asshole to use it to lock you in. She pocketed the padlock, heaved up the roller door, and squinted, adjusting her eyesight to the interior gloom. Strangely, the unit was bare save for what appeared to be a large canvas bag that had been dumped in the corner by the right wall. From what she could see, both security cams had been switched off, as though whoever had set up the feeds felt there was no further need to monitor this unit.

It took her a moment to dampen growing unease, and then she fished a torch from a side pocket of her kitbag. She was about to thumb the switch when some deep-seated instinct prompted her to pivot on her heel and close the roller door behind her, blanketing the interior of the unit in darkness again. She’d learned to trust her gut, and if her gut told her it was prudent not to advertise the fact she was here, then so be it.

Switching her torch to the lowest setting, she approached the bag and played the torch-beam over it. Definitely not empty. And whatever was inside was not small, either.

The fine hairs on the back of her neck rose. Damn, but she was getting a bad feeling about this.

She reached for the bag’s zipper and, in one swift movement, opened the bag. The torch-beam highlighted the curve of a pale, sunken cheek, and thin, almost skeletal features haloed in a tangle of dark curls. A teenage girl. Painfully thin—you could count each prominent rib and her limbs were little more than sticks. Her eyes were shut and she lay curled on her side.

Anger warred with horror, and all remaining possibility of professional detachment died. There was no longer any “it” to be “dealt with”. There was only this defenseless, disabled creature, this child. God Almighty. They’d zipped her into a bag, tossed her in a corner, and left her there, starving and helpless, unable to die. Who were the inhuman monsters here?

Her hand shook as she reached out to check for a pulse. The instant she pressed the cyborg’s carotid artery, those paper-thin eyelids opened.

Whoa. She had never seen such incredibly blue eyes before—eyes that sucked her in and ripped through her defenses and filled her with steely resolve because she knew without a doubt that Beta was conscious and sentient. She had suffered. Terribly.

Speaking the command that would shut this cyborg down, reducing a miraculous but flawed creation to a lifeless machine, might be construed a mercy. But in this moment, right now, it smacked of murder not mercy… and she realized she didn’t have it in her.

She stroked the cyborg’s hair. “Well, Beta, we’re up shit-creek without a paddle, eh? That bastard Caine’s going to pin big-ass targets on both our backs.” Her soft bark of laughter bounced off the walls. And when the echoes had faded, she started making plans.

Freaks Under Fire excerpt copyright 2014, Maree Anderson.



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