C. A. Pack

Musings & Brainstorms & Rants

April 2012

Library of Illumination - The Orb - Chapter Six

The Library of Illumination - The Orb

Chapter Six

          Within the hour, the cops returned with their Chief of Police and two agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They eyed Johanna and Jackson, but ignored them and headed directly for the orb. Their conversation mimicked the discussion by the scientists who had preceded them. Additional attempts to touch the sphere were futile.
          The older FBI agent was a muscular man named Mace. “We’ve got to move it out of here.”
          “If we can’t even touch it, how is that going to be possible?” a cop asked.
          Salisbury, the younger FBI agent, caught his eye. “Backhoe.”
          “What if it blows up?” the Police Chief speculated.
          “How did it even get in here?” Mace asked. “Somewhere, someone knows just what this thing is, and how to move it.”
          “Maybe Scotty can beam it up?” Jackson said dryly.
          Johanna unobtrusively kicked him in the ankle.
          “Hey, the kid’s a Trekkie,” one of the cops said.
          “Star Trek is not going to help us here,” Mace replied as he slowly circled the orb.
          “I still think a backhoe is the way to go,” Salisbury said. “It might be a little tough getting it in here, but it should be able to handle the payload.”
          “What if the driver fries on contact?” the police chief asked.
          “There doesn’t have to be a driver,” Salisbury answered. “We can use a robotic backhoe, that way nobody gets hurt.”
          “Yeah, unless the freakin’ thing explodes,” Jackson added. He felt Johanna’s shoe connect with his ankle, again. “Hey,” he whispered. “I’m too young to die, and I don’t want these guys doing something stupid.”
          “If you’re scared, hop on a plane to Australia, or else shut up,” she hissed under her breath.
          Jackson clamped his jaw shut, fisted his hands and stared at the floor. He was surprised by Johanna’s reprimand.
Aren’t we in this together? he wondered, but didn’t say out loud, not wanting to further upset her.
          “All right, young lady, who’s in charge here?”
          Johanna bristled at the agent’s tone. “I am.”
          “No. I mean, who’s your boss?”
          “I am the curator of this Library.”
          “There’s no CEO? No Board of Directors?”
          “The Library Board has little to do with the day to day operation of the Library.”
          “Just get the top guy down here, now! This is a matter of national security. Go on! Get on the phone!”
          Johanna had no other choice. She called the head of the Library Board and told him he was urgently needed. He tried to put her off until she said, “The FBI is here.” He arrived twenty minutes later.
          She could see the annoyance etched on his face turn to fear, as he stared at the pulsing blue orb.
          “Johanna,” he called out. “Where did this device come from?”
          “I don’t know. It was here when Jackson and I returned from working in the antechamber.”
          “Where’s your loading dock?” Salisbury asked the head of the Library Board.
          He shrugged. “Johanna, where’s the loading dock?”
          “We don’t have one.”
          “What do you mean we don’t have one?” the Director admonished her. “We have to have one. All this stuff didn’t get in here through the front door.”
          “As far as I know, it did. There
is a narrow alley in the back, but it’s too small for a large vehicle. And there’s no ramp, just concrete steps up to the back door. So, as far as I know, there’s no loading dock.”
          “A backhoe could fit through the double doors out front, as long as we can get it up the steps,” Salisbury speculated. “Maybe we could lay some planks across them and drive the backhoe up the incline.”
          The older agent nodded. “That seems like our best plan.” He lowered his voice, “Just make sure we’re not going to all this trouble for nothing. Take a walk around the building and check whether what she’s saying is true. She’s just a kid, and how she ever got to be curator of this place, I’ll never know.”
          “Would anybody mind if I went out and got some lunch?” Jackson looked from face to face. Nobody seemed to care, so he left.
          It wasn’t long before more agents arrived. They measured the width of the front door and nailed planks together to form a ramp. Officials were intent on driving a backhoe through the main entrance.
          Johanna felt the sting of tears.
How could this happen? How could she have let Mal down? He entrusted her with the Library and now it looked like the entire place was going to blow apart, as soon as the backhoe made contact with the blue orb.
          She slipped away from the main room and went into her office to retrieve Mal’s diary. She was about to open it when she heard Jackson call out her name. Instead, she put it back on her desk and walked out front.
          “I got you a chicken salad sandwich and a latte.”
          “Thanks.” She picked up a cellophane bag filled with foil-wrapped chocolates. “What’s this?”
          “I thought we could share a few kisses.”
          Johanna smiled in spite of herself. Jackson grinned.

          The head of the Library walked over to them. “I’m glad to see you two enjoying yourselves while the rest of us scramble to avert a catastrophe that could cut the future of this Library short.”
          “If there’s a catastrophe, at least I will have had a last meal,” Jackson replied, “because if that thing blows up, I get the feeling that a lot more than the Library will be affected.”

          The head of the Library Board remained speechless for a moment, before rushing off to the FBI agents where he initiated a spirited conversation. A short time later, he climbed into a shiny, black high performance sports car. It was his pride and joy – the ultimate status symbol – which made women notice him, and men envy him.
          He dialed his wife from his mobile phone and insisted she take the children, strap them in their car seats and immediately drive to their country home up the coast. He told her there was no time to ask questions, or to pack.
          She argued with him but he raised his voice, “Just grab the children and go. It’s a matter of life or death. I’ll meet you there and explain everything.”
          “What’s happening?” she cried.
          “Just do it.” He peeled away from the curb. He couldn’t care less if the Library blew up, as long as he wasn’t anywhere near it when it did.

To be continued…

Living Small

I can’t imagine living in less than 500 square feet of space, but this slideshow from Houzz shows how to fit a whole lot of living in a small East Village apartment. My usual style is traditional, but I love the clean lines of this renovation and the storage ideas - like drawers built into the stairs. I thought I’d shared it, considering how impressed I am by it.

My only problem would be what to do with all my books…

Gabriella's Cottage

In Evangeline’s Ghost, Evangeline takes Gabriella back to her home in France, which I described as a stone cottage. I just saw this on Houzz and it reminded me of it.

Gabriella's Cottage, Former rectory in Normandy, France (as seen on Houzz)

According to the description, this is a part of an old village rectory with an attached barn in Normandy, France. This one has been totally renovated and has 2500 square feet of living space, which is larger than what I had envisioned for Gabriella’s family. But it’s the stone exterior and the mood it evokes and the rose bushes out front which reminds me of my favorite ghost and her colleagues.

Elongated Yellow Fruit

I know, I know—a banana is just a banana.

H. W. Fowler coined the phrase “
elegant variationin the 1920s to condemn using unnecessary synonyms like elongated yellow fruit to replace a single word like banana. Fowler later became associate editor of The Atlantic and began collecting examples of elegant variations including, “numbered spheroids” for billiard balls; “hen-fruit safari” for Easter egg hunt; and “rubber-tired mastodon of the highway” for truck.

The Library of Illumination—Casanova, I wrote a page-long scene about the theft of a book and found myself guilty of committing my pet peeve—the serial repetition of a single word. I used a thesaurus to find as many alternatives to the word book as possible. There was volume, folio, tome, bound manuscript, but I had to use those same words so many times in the space of one page that I started repeating them as well. So I added adjectives like “precious tome” and “treasured manuscript” to make each expression sound different, until I realized my monologophobia had morphed into periphrasing. Specifically, my fear of repeating a word made me guilty of speaking in a roundabout way.

Did I mention synonymomania—overusing distracting synonyms?

Theodore Bernstein, assistant managing editor of the New York Times between 1925 and 1950, coined the words
monologophobia and synonymomania. Former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans once described a monologophobe as someone who would edit the bible to read, “Let there be light and there was solar illumination."

So now, I feel thoroughly chastened. Yet I know I won’t go back and change every reference to a
book—to the word “book.” What can I say? Reading that same word over and over again makes me cringe. I know it worked for Hemingway, but I just can’t board that train. So if I call Shakespeare’s First Folio a “precious tome” because I don’t want to refer to it by name, point at me and snicker. When it comes to being a monologophobe—I’m guilty as charged.

The Hunger Games


I must have fallen off the face of the planet. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has been around for several years, but until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t heard of it (and if I did, had probably dismissed it as a diet book). So when I heard it was a hot YA novel, I thought I would read it, to see what made it so appealing.

The book is a post-apocalyptic thriller in which North America has been divided into a dozen starving districts and a Capitol (where excesses run high). The Capitol uses an annual even called the Hunger Games to keep the districts in line, by making each district send one girl and one boy to fight to the death, while their families watch on TV. Last child standing is the victor. The book has a strong, 16 year old female protagonist. She’s independent and self-sufficient, yet vulnerable. The other main characters are appealing. There’s a love triangle, personality conflicts, and some pretty heinous villains. The stakes are high to begin with and get increasingly higher. There is a lot of gore, but kids experience that every day shooting zombies on an Xbox. It’s a great series.

When I started reading, I told myself I was looking at it with a critical eye, but after the first fifty pages, I was so hooked that I was reading for pure entertainment. Then I found out it doesn’t really end after the first book. It’s part of a trilogy. The good news (for me) is I was so late in my addiction, that the second and third books had already been published. I downloaded them immediately and finished them within 2 days --- just in time to read all the articles about the movie.

I guess if I had started writing YA a few years ago, The Hunger Games might have been on my radar. As it is, I lucked out because I was able to read it all in one fell swoop.

The remaining question is, what other great YA books are still out there, that I’m missing?

Library of Illumination - The Orb - Chapter Three

The Library of Illumination - The Orb

Chapter Three

          Adam was a least a foot shorter than Oppenheimer, who stood six feet tall. Eve was even smaller. The first couple was surprisingly bald, with no facial or body hair. Instead, they had the soft downy skin of newborns. They had not been exposed to the elements long enough to be either tanned or hirsute. They neither cowered in fear, nor tried to cover their naked bodies, but stood as still as statues, their skin so pale they could have been mistaken for alabaster figurines. Their muscles were clenched and their eyes wide. They seemed to be on high alert, monitoring every sound and movement around them.
         The scientists slowly turned away from the orb, their attention arrested by the naked couple who had suddenly appeared.
         They all stared at each other, not knowing where the others had come from. No one had any knowledge of the unique peculiarities of the Library of Illumination, nor had they seen the physicist open the Bible. Oppenheimer slowly looked from Adam to Eve to Johanna, who was staring at the book in his hand. He looked down at the bible, and closed his eyes for a second as he processed the information at hand. When he opened his eyes, he smiled at the couple, and closed the cover on the Gutenberg Bible. Adam and Eve disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. The scientists gasped and immediately began speculating about what had just happened. The disappearing couple was, to them, just as astounding than the strange blue orb with a force field.
         Johanna took the bible out of his hands and said, “Please Dr. Oppenheimer, can we discus the matter at hand?”
         One mathematician raised his voice, “Where did they go?”
         “Back to their own reality,” Oppenheimer replied, “Just as we will return to ours. Is that not right, Miss?”
         “Is that one of your random hypothetical suppositions, Oppie?” a scientist asked.
         “There is nothing random about it, Gentlemen. We’ve been brought here to discuss this device.” Oppenheimer gestured toward it with one arm. “Care to share your opinions on it?”
         “It is very powerful, and the field around it is becoming exponentially more dangerous,” the mathematician stated.
         “It gives off light, but doesn’t appear to generate heat,” noted an engineer.
         “The interior protrusions are aimed at what appears to be a carbon ball in the center. If the protrusions have been engineered to act as a fission trigger, and the central ball contains an adequate amount of uranium and plutonium, or even chemicals unknown to us at the juncture, then this could be a powerful explosive, that needs to be immediately disarmed,” another scientist concluded.
          Oppenheimer walked around the orb, noting what his colleagues had said. “Gentlemen, if devices like this are possible and there are people who have access to them, then we have a big job ahead of us.”
         “Can you disarm it?” Jackson asked.
         “No,” Oppenheimer answered, “Not without more information on who created it and why. Or how it was put together.” He looked at Johanna. “What year is this?”
         A colleague berated him. “How can you ask such a ridiculous question? You know very well it’s 1943.”
         Johanna shook her head. “This is the twenty-
first century,” she said quietly.
         Oppenheimer nodded.
         “Then there is nothing we can do for you.” He paused, “There must be much to observe outside these walls. I don’t suppose you would take us on a tour?”
         “What a wonderful idea,” one of the scientists said. “And I would love the opportunity to explore this library.” He swung his arms in a wide arc to illustrate the breadth of what he wished to take in. He twirled around, but got tangled in the carpet underfoot, and fell into the blue orb. He immediately disappeared.
         “Where did he go?” The missing man’s colleagues looked around.
         “This device is obviously much more dangerous than it appears!” one of them said. “We must commence an immediate search.”
         “That’s out of the question,” said Johanna, still holding the book that had produced Oppenheimer and his colleagues. She closed it, and the group disappeared.
         Jackson tugged on the book. “Why did you do that? We need their help to find out where he went.”
         Johanna refused to let go of the book. “Hopefully, he’s now back in his own time period, and has been reunited with the others.”
         “What if he isn’t there? What if his disappearance changes history?”
         Johanna pulled the book away from Jackson and placed it on the shelf. She picked up a later book about the
Manhattan Project and began searching through the pictures of the team members. She found the scientist in question. The picture was taken right after the gadget –a code name for the A-bomb – was tested near Alamogordo, New Mexico. “Look. That’s him,” she pointed out. “I don’t know what happened to him, but his disappearance could not have been permanent. If it were, all these books would have changed automatically, and he wouldn’t be in this picture.”
         Jackson ran his hands through his hair, pushing it straight back off his forehead. “Now what?” He picked up a pencil and shook it rapidly between his thumb and his index finger, watching the movement. He lost his grasp and the pencil flew into the orb, but instead of disappearing like the scientist, the pencil pinged off the force field and shot away at an accelerated rate of speed, embedding itself in the spine of a dictionary.
         Johanna walked over and inspected the damage as she tried to control her anger over her protégé’s careless behavior.
         Jackson sensed he was in trouble. “Johanna, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize what I was doing. Is the book badly damaged? Do you want to dock my pay to pay for the materials to fix it? You can you know.” His tone was earnest.
         Johanna took a deep breath. “Do you realize how lucky we are that this pencil only pierced a book? What if it had ricocheted in a different direction, and embedded itself in my eye? Or your heart?”
         The 16 year-old paled. “I didn’t know that would happen. How could I? I didn’t expect to lose my grip on the pencil.”
         “Whatever that thing is,” she tilted her head toward the orb, “it’s very powerful.” Almost immediately, her shoulders slumped and her voice quieted. “I think we have to call in the authorities. But first, we have to move as many of these books as possible into storage.” She paused. “I think we should buy a couple-hundred regular books for the shelves down here, so if someone should open one, nothing will happen.”
         “Isn’t that going to take a lot of time and money?”
         “I cashed in the last doubloon and put the money into the Library account,” she answered. “I can use that to pay for the books. Maybe we can find a used book store that will sell us their contents, for a good price.”
         “What if we can’t?”
         She sighed. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

To be continued…

More on the WLNY Merger

Saw this on Media Bistro today and thought I’d repeat it here for anyone who missed it.

WLNY Takeover a ‘Once in a Lifetime Experience’ For CBS
By Merrill Knox on April 2, 2012 11:48 AM
CBS has officially taken ownership of WLNY and launched a three-phase transition that will result in new newscasts and high definition programming at Long Island station.
As part of the
merger with WCBS, the CBS O&O in New York City, Betty Ellen Berlamino has been named vice president and station manager of WLNY. She is a former general manager of WPIX, the CW-affiliate in New York.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the New York market to create a new TV station,” WCBS news director David Friend said.
In July, WLNY will launch a morning newscast at 7 a.m. and an evening newscast at 9 p.m. The morning newscast will include WCBS’ weathercaster
John Elliott and sportscaster Lisa Kerney. Additional on-air talent will be named soon.
The evening newscast will be anchored by the WCBS evening team — anchors
Chris Wragge and Dana Tyler, weathercaster Lonnie Quinn and sports anchor Otis Livingston. Richard Rose, who is WLNY’s primary anchor, will also contribute to the newscast. The Daily News reports that Rose was the only WLNY personality to be picked up by CBS.
For more from Friend and WCBS general manager
Peter Dunn, visit FishbowlNY.