The HJP Club: The Time Keeper

For authors, by authors, one word at a time

The HJP Club: The Time Keeper

July 8, 2011 Writing 38

The horizon lay black against the burning orange sky. The sun had disappeared in a blaze of glory behind the silhouette of the mountain range way beyond. Yellow streaks broke up the orange here and there; the smoke drifting from the black earth marred its perfection. The lone cottage at the brink of the creek, that gave the sand its only moisture, was lit by a single torch, its simple wood held captive in a steel grove that protruded from the earth just enough to prevent fire. Above the torch a black urn bubbled, steam hissing from its lid to the square faceless time catcher above it. The air trembled with each quiet click of the fifty gears encased within the wood and gold frame that was propelled by the steam rising beneath it.

The Time Keeper stared off into the distance at the ebony form of an unidentifiable rider flitting from the landscape before him. He pulled his subatomic disintegrator pistol out from under the cuff of his pants, and held its vial over the steam just long enough to fill it before replacing it at the edge of the gun. It was highly uncommon for anyone to approach the time house, and the few who had died shortly after their tour. It was not for man to know how time worked, lest they manipulate it for their own selfish reasons. From this distance he was unable to tell if the rider were man, beast, or machine; perhaps a combination of the above.

The rider stopped and dismounted, still 50 feet out from the torch, hovering in the shadows without approaching.

“Show yourself, lest you be vaporized,” the Time Keeper’s wooden voice was carried along the wind.

“That would be an ill-advised move. I mean you no harm; only wish passage through the portal. I bring magnets and a trinket for you in payment.” The baritone edged on the brink of bass, resonating in the earth, sending a slight tremor through the torch, almost dislodging it. Metallic clatter and the hushed whirls of small gears met the Time Keeper’s ears. A small robot appeared in the torchlight, its head void of traditional facial expressions, its body a transparent cover to its metal guts inside. The gears within the robot turned effortlessly, without steam, a testament to the advancement of the visage before him.

“I am merely the Keeper. I do not control the portal. The train rides on its own schedule.” A flash of light bounced in the air. The stranger took note of the warning and flashed his own blade in return.

“Ah, but you know the exact hour when the train will ride, and when the portal will open. I am not afraid to duel with you, but when you are dead, who will keep time then?”

“Time needs no keeper, man does. But, I will humor your folly. Come into the light and prepare to meet your destiny.”

The stranger stepped in to the light, the fire bouncing over the metal of his fleshless cheek. His eyes were human enough, though, and that was all the Time Keeper needed to know as their blades connected. Muscle against steel, the long sleeves of the stranger’s overcoat slipping over hands, hiding their movement, thrust to match each parry. The footprints in the dirt revealed each new lead as the blades continued slicing through the air, a macabre dance of sparks, the only rhythm coming from the sliding of the gears in both the clock and the robot. The Time Keeper slipped in, using his pistol to block, ready to deliver a fatal blow, when the stranger reached into his pocket, producing a magnet. A slice of his blade through the air sent the magnet flying into the clock. A loud chugging, a hiss of steam, and the stranger disappeared in a flash of steel.

This week we were given the prompt to step out of our comfort zone and in 600 words or less write something different (I went just a little over the word count, but it couldn’t be helped). This is my first venture into the unknown world of the Steampunk genre and also in a YA setting. I’m incredibly nervous as this is the 3rd part of a continuing series that began here and continued here. It also has its own page now also.

What do you think? (please note that I am having format issues, so apologies that the indentions are not correct).

 

38 Responses

  1. Gosh, I kept on picturing them with accents ( Ian had me watching Battle for Los Angeles with aliens and what not the other night)… felt like I was in a movie!
    Great step out of your comfort zone, I am going back to work on a post on something mundane like blog lists, or trolls or something 😉

    http://www.bywordofmouthmusings.com/2011/07/friday-here-you-are.html

    • DM says:

      That was such a sweet compliment, feeling like you were in a movie. The images were vivid in my head, but the words weren’t quite so easy to come by. Thanks for taking a break from the blog lists and the trolls to stop by!

      • I imagine the TimeKeeper as a Terminator type ( I may be wrong, but it’s my imagination) especially when he says, “Time needs no keeper, man does. But, I will humor your folly. Come into the light and prepare to meet your destiny.” I love this line. is it just me? Great story line. Hey thanks for your great feedback on my Sci-Fi.

      • DM says:

        IDK if this works, but for some reason I can’t reply directly to your comment (weird!). I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone, those words of the Time Keeper there are probably the most favorite lines I have ever written of mine. I don’t know what I want to give the Time Keeper anymore description. I kind of like that each reader has their own picture of him.

  2. Carrie says:

    I’ve never encountered Steampunk and now I’ve read two pieces of it 🙂

    I like the premise of this, it’s definitely a great storyline. I found the beginning to be choppy and some of the sentences were a little long. You could probably cut some of the excess description and have it be just as strong.

    I loved the Time Keeper. I have this picture of a massive man, almost like a carved statue, standing guard over the portals of Time

    • DM says:

      I’ll have to remember that. That’s a great description. I’lll have to go back and reword the beginning later. I was trying to fit in a lot of detail with a small word count. Some of those sentences are very long, LOL.

  3. Tina says:

    The fighting description sounded a little stilted, but it was still an excellent story. You did not seem uncomfortable at all, however. I wanted to read more!

  4. Andrea says:

    I think you can’t reply to the previous comment because she replied to the one before her. 😉

    This was interesting, I liked some of it, but I do agree that the beginning seemed a bit long. I’m not a huge fan of these kinds of stories, so I often have a rough time “Attaching” to the character(s) and with more words and sometimes unneeded details I get a little bit lost and then find myself skimming to move on and catch up. Like the story runs ahead of me and leaves me trailing, maybe?

    I loved the last paragraph. This sentence and part of the next:
    “His eyes were human enough, though, and that was all the Time Keeper needed to know as their blades connected. Muscle against steel,”

    Perfection. That muscle against steel line was like music.

    • DM says:

      I will work on that beginning, trim it up and maybe loosen some of the descriptions for later, perhaps. With more room to play with it in the story overall (not to a word count) I think I can balance it out pretty well. I think I got wrapped up in trying to make sure that the whole steampunk aspects were more apparent. Thanks for your feedback!

  5. My brother has written an entire Steampunk novel, so I’m a little familiar with the genre.

    I liked the image of the Time Keeper and also the fighting scene. The beginning, especially the paragraph, was way heavy on description/long sentences and I got really bogged down.

    Steampunk is fantasy (mostly) so I’d think it’d be right up your alley!

    • DM says:

      I think I did overdo it in the beginning for this piece, but I needed to build the other world, etc. There is a lot of fantasy involved in Steampunk, but it is a bit more constrained to the Victorian era as well, and so, it takes a lot of research, and while I’m good with fantasy, I’m not so good at Sci-fi, if that makes any sense. I’m giving it a go though, and the modern day aspects with the 4 hs girls will help too. I’m excited to see where this will go.

  6. Lex says:

    I am familiar with Steampunk, but not an avid fan of it. This piece may have turned me. Like others have said, it is a little bit slow at the beginning, but I understand why. It’s hard to cover so much with 600 words. It was almost necessary for such a short piece.

    There was a slight hesitation at the start of the fight, but I loved that part the best! I love how so many people are able to do so much outside of their comfort zone.

    Can I just say that I found this bit of writing to be very cool!? So happy to have stopped by.

    • DM says:

      That I may have turned you into a fan of something outside my comfort zone is really such a huge compliment. I’m glad you stopped by too. Let’s hope I can keep it up and turn this into something larger.

  7. I love this! I work in a library and there are a few ladies who would just eat this up, I’ll have to pass the link on to them. They love reading stuff like this and while I usually wouldn’t pick this type of writing off the shelf, it was written really well. It definitely kept my attention and I want to continue reading it! Now it makes me want to start reading some books I never thought I’d like…

  8. Galit Breen says:

    Ooh you totally went for something brand new- YAY! I’m not familiar with this genre, so I’ll be learning from YOU!

    I loved phrases like this -a macabre dance of sparks- beautiful wording, so full of imagery!

    • DM says:

      Ha, we’ll be learning together then. 😉 Thank you, Galit, for stopping by. It always means so much to me when you do.

      I discovered that macabre is a fun word. If only I could work it into everything I write. 😉

  9. CDG says:

    I love Steampunk. Totally not brave enough to try it! I love the gears and clocks and the train references… and then robots and fencing!

    I thought it was very filmic, too.

    Maybe I’ll give it a shot one of these days. You make me brave!

  10. melody says:

    this was really good and I totally enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by and visiting me as well!

  11. souldipper says:

    Good for you…a courageous step out into the unknown. I admire anyone doing this sort of writing when it is not something that they know intimately. Bravo!

    I had to go back a few times in the beginning to see if I had the right figure in mind as I read. I liked the Time Keeper. To me, he was like a benevolent Watchman (Not intended as a pun!) He’s the guy I would have run to the minute the figure appeared on the horizon.

    Well done – AND – look at how well you take input. That says a lot about you. Take a big bow!

    • DM says:

      Hmmm, yet another idea of the Time Keeper. I like letting the reader decide what a character looks like sometimes. I’m not entirely convinced that the Time Keeper is a guardian to anything but that clock. I may have to kill him to see what happens. 😉

      As for feedback? It’s my life blood. I’m so glad there are so many willing to give it. I don’t think I have the badge here, but I used to post my writing on my main blog, “The Scoop on Poop”. I think it’s from there that you are most familiar with me. I am very honored that you have stopped in and taken a moment to read.

  12. varunner says:

    I love it! I even love the name The Time Keeper – it just implies mystery and I want to read more. Great job on this 🙂

  13. Lance says:

    What a great blog find. I’m a major sci fi fan and an admirer of steampunk. I’m writing a sci fi story, it’s here: http://lancemyblogcanbeatupyourblog.wordpress.com/crazy-robot-stories/ it’s a working title so, humor me,
    I like the pacing and “wordy” middle. You have to explain some things because of the genre. There are some sentences I would shorten, maybe some words you could substitute, but that’s picking nits in my opinion.

    The Time Keeper is an excellent character.

    cant wait to read more. hope you come back to mine.

    • DM says:

      I’ll definitely be back to yours. I’m going to check out your sci-fi story too, and I appreciate your comments on Steampunk needing more explanation. It’s definitely a challenge but I’m up to the task. At least I have more time to research the next set now. 😉

    • DM says:

      I’ve started reading it. I didn’t realize it was so long. I’m enjoying it so far. It’s very creative. I’ll be back to read more.

  14. kelly says:

    I have never heard of this genre before, but after reading this piece, I may just become a fan!

    I really like the Time Keeper character- it feels so dark.
    Your description was fantastic- I could picture every action as I read along…

    really good!

    • DM says:

      I found out through my research that it goes back as far as Jules Verne, but I don’t think it technically had a name until recently.
      Thank you for your kind words, Kelly, and taking time to read and comment.

  15. Chelle says:

    “Time needs no keeper, man does.”

    I love that sentence!

    I could see and hear the duel going on!

  16. Sorry – I finally made it back to give con crit! I liked this (fascinated by the genre! unaware until now). The only thing I have to note that I wondered about was some of the sentence structure for YA. I definitely think you should incorporate some complexities, but it seems like it might be a little more intensive reading than a teen would like. That said, it’s been 15 years since my Adolescent Lit class in college, so maybe the kids are more evolved today. 🙂 If you know any teens, you might have a couple read it to get their feedback before you get too far along.

    • DM says:

      I posted it on Figment, which is full of aspiring teenage authors. Thank you so much for coming back to give me feedback.

  17. This is fantastic! I’ve always wanted to try Steampunk. 🙂

    Concrit: “The sun had disappeared in a blaze of glory behind the silhouette of the mountain range way beyond.” – I think you can take out “way beyond”. It feels very awkward in that sentence.

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