Archive for the ‘Novel’ Category

Tongue of Ash, Heart of Bone – Chapter One

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

I don’t normally post my NaNoWriMo novel as I go, but what Wendig wants, Wendig gets. Behold the awful majesty of a first draft.

* * * * *

When the message came from the king, Kira was in the middle of copying a spell, her long sleeves tied behind her back so that they wouldn’t smudge the dark red ink. It was a defense spell, because word from the western border had come that Elaushana’s great armies were stirring, and the king did not desire to be unprepared should their gaze fall on Ismira. Kira had been drawing the spells out, one after another, since the prayer bells had rung before first light, the delicate symbols of the heavenly tongue coming more easily to her than they had when she was a child learning their use. Only when she finished the scroll and reached for a fresh paper did she notice the messenger standing near her chair in the old library’s copy room, the other scribes toiling around her in a silence made vaster by the height of the arched copper ceiling above them. Kira held a finger to her lips, cleaned her pen and put it away in its wooden case, then untied her sleeves and beckoned for the trembling man to follow her outside.

They stood in the hall of the spellmakers’ temple, its walls adorned with the complex patterns and pictures that had protected the building for hundreds of years. The messenger bowed and Kira gestured at him to speak.

“The king summons you to his meeting chambers,” the man murmured. “I am sorry to have disturbed your work.”

Kira considered this with a frown. What could the king want with her? She searched for the voice she rarely used in her quiet life as a scribe. “I am at his disposal,” she said. “Lead.”

The messenger guided her out of the temple, whose soaring towers and arches gleamed gold in the late afternoon light. Kira realized she hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but pushed the ache in her gut away and focused on the moment. They walked through the streets of the capital, the bright banners on shops and homes flicking in the wind, smooth stones underfoot, down to the gates of the great castle where the king and most of his wives and children resided. The walls around the compound were tall and sturdy, painted with the same spells that protected the temple, which even now a group of scribes were carefully retouching with fresh red inks. She wiped a bead of sweat from her face, glad that the day was sunny instead of plagued by rain that might sabotage the scribes’ work. The coppery green smell of the ink soothed her nerves, which were prickling her skin even as she controlled her breathing and mentally repeated a mantra to calm them.

Inside, the halls were a flurry of activity as usual. Kira dodged courtiers in their stiff formal hats, skirts flared and dragging behind them to be arranged and rearranged by servants trailing in their wakes. Other messengers darted to and fro like honeybirds, weaving in and out of the crowds to vanish through doorways or out into the warm sunshine. Servants mostly stuck to the stuccoed walls, avoiding the eyes of the nobles and hurrying about their own tasks as briskly as they could. Kira knew many of them had been awake since before her, and stifled yawns attested to their labors. One young girl fumbled a tray of fruits, which clattered to the white stone floors and elicited titters from a preening woman in a blue dress, but glares from the manservants who were changing the oil in the lamps lining the walls. Kira paused to help her, picking up a pair of bruised fruits before catching the eye of the messenger she followed and remembering her task. She shrugged at the hapless maid and handed her the food with a smile.

The king wasn’t in his usual meeting chambers, which led to a spirited sotto voce debate between her guide and another servant, who was polishing the great wooden table in the center of the room. He had left recently, apparently, and not in good spirits.

“Let me,” Kira interjected. She took a deep breath and released it in a puff of steam onto the surface of the table, then carefully drew a pair of runes in it with her fingertip. She felt a brief tugging sensation towards the northern side of the castle, which disappeared as the rune dissipated.

“He is that way,” she said, pointing.

“Probably in his study, as I said.” The servant went back to his polishing, hesitating at the area where Kira had spelled before briskly rubbing his rag over it.

The messenger walked in front of her, but she knew their destination, the rooms and corridors drawn into her memory like a sigil. If anyone wondered at the scribe in her worn dress with wrinkled sleeves, hair plaited and bound with simple strips of fabric instead of hidden by a modest hat, stalking the halls of the royal family’s private wing, they did not stop her to ask. She was deposited in front of the door to the king’s study with a bow, the servant knocking for her and then dashing away on some other errand.

“Come in,” a booming voice called, so she unhooked the latch and pushed the door in, entering and closing it softly behind her.

King Justice Amrim Lianakin stood in front of the window, looking out over the city of Vania spread below them like a painting. His hair was graying, but his beard was still black as soot, his hawk’s beak of a nose curving over a bushy mustache. Wrinkles cracked the edges of his eyes, and the hands he clasped behind his back were more gnarled than she remembered, the skin paler. Still, he stood straight as a tree, and suddenly she was a child again, fighting the urge to run and wrap her arms around his legs, knowing that he would chastise her lack of decorum.
He glanced at her over his shoulder and nodded. “Kira. You’re always so quiet.”

Her personal name. This would be informal, then. “Father. You summoned me?”

“I did. How is our stock of spells?”

“It grows.” Surely this wasn’t why he wanted her; he spoke regularly with the master scribes, and would know their progress.

“Your spellwork is very fine, I hear. A steady hand, and a keen eye.”

“I have been told so,” she said.

He moved away from the window, his steps muffled by the thick woven rug. A table stood nearby, and he rested a hand on one of the papers littering its surface. His fingers tapped it, a tic she knew meant he was thinking, but she couldn’t see what was written on it from so far away.

“I will be brief,” he said finally. “Elaushana has taken Alnor, and Borun. We can no longer doubt their intentions.”

Kira knew Alnor bordered Elaushana on the west, and Borun could only be reached through Alnor, to the north. They were small countries compared to Ismira, but as it was, Ismira served as a buffer between Elaushana and the other countries in the region; if Parandor were to fall next, they would be flanked on three sides.

“What of our allies?” she asked.

“Parandor is pledged to our aid, if we are to theirs,” he said. “Logoria and Torpin are… Waiting.”

They were farthest from danger, so this was sensible, if unfortunate. “And Muria?”

“They demure, as usual, with talk of limited funds and the need for neutrality.”

Meaning they feared to take sides, small as they were. But none of this explained why he wanted her, Kira thought. She was the youngest child of his third consort, afforded the luxury of freedom that came with royal blood and a complete lack of proximity to the throne. Her breath caught in her throat; was she at last to be betrothed, married off to some lordling to secure an alliance?

“The gravest report has only just reached me,” the king said, looking down at the paper under his fingers. “Their spellbinder has… We are not certain how it has come to be, but he leads their armies on the back of Colrath the Silver.”

Kira’s hand flew to her mouth. The dragon? Tales said his breath could burn as fire or ice, and the spread of his huge feathered wings could darken a whole valley at midday. If this mage had controlled him, then his power must be vast. And if Colrath had joined the Elaushanans of his own free will, their peril was great indeed. But suddenly, Kira knew what he wanted of her. Not marriage. Not yet.

“I must find Kala,” she said.

Her father nodded. “I have prepared you an escort. You will ride at dawn to Merryport, and from there sail to Perlsea, where she was last seen.” He walked over and rested a hand on her shoulder. They were almost of a height; she hadn’t realized she had grown so much since she last saw him.

“Ancestors guide you, daughter,” he said softly. “You must succeed, and soon, or Ismira may fall.”

Kira nodded, and he moved back to the window, once again clasping his hands behind his back. She was dismissed. Feeling light-headed, she left the room, quietly closing the door.

Kala. Her sister, her twin. Greatest warrior of Ismira. Wielder of the spear Rathsbane, Dragon-Killer. And missing since their brother Andel’s wedding two years ago.

NaNoWriMo keeps on truckin’

Monday, November 8th, 2010

I can’t believe it’s already been a week of writing this novel. Too much exposition. Too much dialogue. TOO MUCH FUN!

Since I’m otherwise pretty much neglecting my blog, I figured I’d drop a sample of the novel in case anyone wanted to follow along. Cheers!

* * * * *

Idly watching the landscape pass, Maggie began to hum to herself. She wondered what she was supposed to be waiting for. Easing on down the road, left foot up, right foot down… after a few turns she found herself staring more into the distance than noticing what was in front of her. The colors sort of blurred together, shadows lengthening and merging. She probably wasn’t allowed to be here at this hour, but no one had stopped her when she came in, and no one was looking for her now. She was alone among the dunes. Her hazel eyes opened and closed lazily; could she fall asleep while walking, she wondered?

Suddenly, it was in front of her: a huge gate. No, two gates. One was black and twisted, like it was made out of the antlers of some wild animals. The other was smooth and glistening, gleaming faintly, a pearly white that could have been the same smooth material as piano keys. To the side of each gate was a creature that couldn’t possibly exist. One one side, a sphinx, on the other something with the head of a person and a body like a lion but with a scorpion stinger for a tail.

“Greetings, traveler,” the sphinx said. It’s voice was as smooth as the white gate it guarded.

“Hullo, girly,” the other said. Sounds like Tom Waits, Maggie thought, all gravelly and deep.

Maggie couldn’t bring herself to speak and the creature rasped out a sound that she realized was a chuckle.

“Cat got your tongue?” it asked.

“No,” she snapped. “You’re just weird looking is all.”

“Feisty,” the sphinx purred. “I love it. And speaking the true tongue, too. What a rare treat.”

Whatever that meant, Maggie thought. “I need to get through, I think,” she said. “Which way will take me to the Otherworld?”

The man-lion laughed again. “All roads lead to Rome, girly. But one is the real and the other is a dream.”

“Which do you want?” the sphinx asked. “One way lies peril, the other pleasure. One way is harsh while the other is sweet.”

“Sounds like crap to me,” Maggie said. “If this was going to be easy then I wouldn’t have needed so much help.”

“Ah, but dreams can be terribly helpful,” the sphinx said.

“Windows to the soul,” the man-lion added.

Maggie crossed her arms. “That’s eyes, not dreams. Which gate is which?”

Now they both laughed. “That’s for us to know, and you to find out,” said the man-lion.

Maggie stared at them. Obviously the white one was prettier, so that probably led to the better place. She could just see through the bars of the black gate, and it looked like a scary forest behind. But would anything really be that obvious?

“I can’t stay with what I know is real,” she said slowly. “I’ll just end up back in the park, won’t I?”

They said nothing, but exchanged a glance. The sphinx licked her paw and the man-lion stared at her.

“I suck at metaphors,” Maggie muttered. “Why can’t you just tell me what to do?”

“That’s not how life works, girly.” The man-lion winked, his enormous face nearly level with hers.

“Make your choice, or turn back if you desire,” the sphinx added.

“Fine.” Maggie stepped forward, hesitated, then went for the beautiful white door.

“Are you certain?” the man-lion asked.

“I’m looking for a cold-ass bitch who kidnaps men to marry her,” Maggie replied. “Why would she be hanging out behind an ugly door like that?”

“Why indeed,” the sphinx murmured, opening the gate for Maggie.

“I’m betting that I’m supposed to not judge a book by its cover,” she continued. “You want me to think that the other one is the tough road, but that would be the really easy option, wouldn’t it?”

“You’ll find out, won’t you,” the man-lion rasped, as a sudden wind sucked Maggie through the white gate. It slammed behind her, and she found herself in the depths of a forest in near blackness.

From The Blue Lady’s Children

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Here are a couple of excerpts for Amalia’s Dream Sequence Blogfest, which is an awesome thing that you should check out. These are bits taken from my novel-in-progress currently titled The Blue Lady’s Children. It’s in pretty rough shape so these dream sequences may not even make it into the final draft, but if they don’t, at least they’re preserved here. Hopefully for your entertainment.

The main character is Evie, a freshman at Frost University of the Magical Arts and Sciences. Shiva (short for Shivanee, don’t get any ideas) is her roommate, Luke is a friend from class, Engela is her yoga teacher. The first segment is currently at the end of the first chapter, while the second comes later, during her yoga class.

* * * * *

I was awakened from a deep sleep, but not by anything in particular. I pushed the sheets off and slid out of bed, padding across the floor to the front door. I opened it.

Instead of the hallway of the dorm building, there was a sheer drop of about four stories. The ground was completely submerged in calm, blue water. In the distance, the moon was setting, its rays reflecting on the surface as if it was a mirror. To the left was the other dorm tower, also rising out of the water as if the ground were nothing but a distant memory. All the buildings that normally populated downtown were gone, with nothing standing between me and the horizon.

The water began to rise. At first, it was close to the base of the tower, and then slowly it inched up until it covered the first floor of the building, like a tide coming in at high speed. Panic rose in me. I had no boat and I didn’t know how to swim. Looking back, I couldn’t see any sign of Shiva; it was as if she had never been there. The water was over the second floor now, so that the moon seemed to be falling to meet it instead of the other way around.

I backpedaled into the room. What could I do? Nothing around me looked like it would float. Maybe the mattress? The desk? This was impossible. This couldn’t be happening. Water reached the threshold and poured over. It didn’t flood the room so much as flow in my direction like a stream. It was coming for me. I had done something to it and I didn’t know what.

“I’m sorry!” I shrieked. “I didn’t know, I’m sorry!”

The water flowed up over the edge of the bed to where I was crouching in the corner. The moon touched the surface in the distance as I screamed.

And then I woke up.

* * * * *

“Evie,” a soft voice said next to my ear. I opened my eyes and looked up at Engela, who was smiling, but a bit sadly.

“You are not with us in this moment, Evie,” she whispered. “Please try to focus on today’s lesson. The problems of tomorrow are for tomorrow.” With that, she tiptoed off.

Ugh. I told myself firmly to shut the hell up about the quiz and I focused on my breathing. Inhale, exhale, repeat. Clear your mind. Relax. Feel the toeness of your toes. Feel your toes relaxing. Inhale, exhale. Relax your neck, relax your shoulders, relax your back…

And then I was back at home, walking to the kitchen to make myself a cappuccino. My sister Kari was there already, eating cereal.

“Mom left you a note,” she said, gesturing at the refrigerator. My mom was always leaving me notes because she was usually off at work by the time I woke up. I went over to the fridge and instead of a paper, there were words written on the door in what looked like crayon. I couldn’t read them.

“I don’t know what this says,” I told my sister. Kari just shrugged and kept chewing. “I guess I’ll try to call her, then.”

“You can’t,” Kari said. “She’s in surgery today.”

“She had better not want me to pick something up from the store then, because I won’t,” I grumbled.

Kari stopped chewing. “I have to go to school.” She disappeared and suddenly I was walking to the bus stop. I knew that I was going to miss the bus again, but I would just fly if I had to. The bus zipped past in a blur, leaving a glowing trail in its wake. Someone was waiting for me at the corner, sitting in the middle of the sidewalk.

It was Luke, still wearing his tweed jacket. He had spread out some tarot cards on the floor, three of them, all in a row. They were turned over so I couldn’t see them.

“Which spread is this?” I asked. He grinned.

“Past, present, future,” he replied. “Want to see?”

“Sure.”

He flipped the first card over. It was a picture of a frowning moon above two barking dogs. Some kind of scorpion or lobster was crawling out of a pool of water at the bottom. The picture started to move, but in a loop: the dogs barked, strange drops fell out of the moon like rain, and the thing in the water crawled toward land but never got any closer.

“Ah, The Moon,” Luke said. “Confusion. Anxiety. Unrealistic ideas. You think you know what you want, but you are not sure of your decision. You have been a victim of your own illusions. Until you can see things as they are, you will remain lost and uncertain.”

He flipped over the next card. It was the same picture I had seen earlier in the day, in Divination class. Death. Lucky number thirteen. In the card, he was a skeleton riding a white horse, carrying a black flag with a white rose on it. All over the ground were the bodies of the dead and dying, but unlike the card I had seen before–with men in crowns next to men in rags–these were people dressed in modern clothes. There was even some child that I didn’t recognize, watching the scene with an unreadable expression. Like The Moon, this card began to move; the flag snapped and waved in an invisible wind, and the Reaper reached down and grabbed the child, hoisting her up to sit in front of him on the saddle.

“You know this one,” Luke said. “You are on the verge of a great change. You cannot escape the inevitable, but you can control how you react.”

For some reason, the card didn’t bother me as much as it had before. I pointed at the third card. “And my future?”

Luke’s grin widened as he reached for the card. As he turned it over, everything faded to black and I felt a strange whooshing sensation. A hand touched my arm lightly.

“Evie, wake up.”

From The Lamanai Codex, Chapter 8

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Let's Talk

This is for the “Let’s Talk” Blogfest, which I just discovered despite its making the rounds for a month. While probably half my writing is dialogue-heavy anyway, I figured I would post something new(ish) instead of just linking to an existing post. This is from my last NaNoWriMo novel, which is still very much in progress. The main character is Dr. Katherine Lancaster, a literature professor trying to recover a stolen occult book that can bring about the end of the world.

* * * * *

The door opened after the third knock and Kate met the briefly astonished gaze of Rey Hernandez. He was half-dressed and looked to have been reading with the television on. His expression quickly turned neutral and he smiled slightly.

“To what do I owe this pleasure?” he asked.

“You said you’re not the one trying to kill me,” Kate snapped. “I’m giving you a chance to prove it.”

His expression soured. “I don’t have to prove anything to you. If you really think I’d do such a thing, we have nothing to talk about.” He began to close the door but she pushed against it.

“This has been a very trying few days for me,” she said in a low voice. “Either you can help me get to the bottom of this, or you can be the stubborn, cowardly mercenary you always were and I will be sure to leave orders that you are not allowed within fifty miles of my funeral.”

His eyes scoured her face, settling on the bruise that had begun to look especially purple and angry against her latte-colored skin. “Not an accident in the shower, I take it?”

Kate shuddered. “Please do not mention showers around me for at least the duration of this already gods-forsaken cruise.”

“I wasn’t planning on staying,” Hernandez said. “I was going to jump ship at the next port and fly back home.” He grinned. “But maybe you’ll have a drink with me first, for old times’ sake? I might let you persuade me to loosen my lips.”

“I know very well how loose your lips can be,” Kate said, wrinkling her nose. “As well as certain other portions of your anatomy.”

He shrugged, his dark eyes looking her up and down. “That’s a shame. Have a nice trip then.” He closed the door.

Kate sighed. She really did need to get him to talk. Acting had never been her forte but perhaps just this once… She sighed again, more heavily, and leaned her forehead against the door with a gentle knocking sound. The door suddenly opened and she fell forward, right onto Hernandez, who steadied her with a muscled arm.

“Don’t even think of making the joke that is traipsing from your brain to your mouth at this moment,” Kate said. “I will absolutely sic Eliza on you and I do not give you good odds in that match.”

He rubbed his chin with his free hand. “Not even two to one?”

“More like ten to one.”

“Is she seeing anyone?”

“Release me this instant.” Kate struggled to regain her footing, fuming. “I had thought to take you up on your offer of drinks but now my second thoughts are telling me it’s a terrible–”

“No, no, wait,” he protested. “Sorry, I’m sorry. Tell your second thoughts to take a hike. Give me a minute to pull myself together and we’ll head up to the Skybar. It has a nice view.”

“Yes, fine,” she said. They stood looking at each other for a moment. “Please stop rubbing my arm,” she said finally, and he released her as if she burned.

“I’ll be right back,” Hernandez said. Kate nodded. He closed the door and she heard some rummaging sounds inside.

“You’re a fool, Kate,” she murmured to herself, shaking her head and touching the spot on her arm where he had held it.

From The Lamanai Codex, Chapter 10

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

I was just informed of a little something called Fight Scene BlogFest, so I figured, why not toss something into the fray. You see what I did there. I… never mind. This is from my last NaNoWriMo novel, which is still very much in progress.

* * * * *

“What’s the plan, Doc?” Eliza asked as they crouched behind the car.

“We, er, surprise them?” Dr. Lancaster said uncertainly.

“Works for me,” Eliza said. “I’ll take the big guy and the lady, you take the skinny dude.”

“I can take someone other than the… skinny dude!” Dr. Lancaster protested.

“Fine, take the lady,” Eliza said. “Whatever. Just stay out of my way.”

Another scream issued from inside the house. Eliza did some kind of quick stretch and then vaulted the car and raced for the door. Dr. Lancaster followed, wishing she had some kind of weapon but knowing that such things could be used against her. Eliza disappeared into the house and, taking a deep breath, Dr. Lancaster went in after her.

Copeland’s son was on the ground behind the door, his face in the process of being rearranged by the burly man while the woman looked on passively. The other man was nowhere to be seen. She took this in quickly and then reevaluated as the scene changed.

Eliza sent a sharp kick toward the back of the man’s head, knocking him flat since he was already near the floor. The woman turned in surprise and lunged at Eliza, who had already backed away and proceeded to lash out with a rapid series of kicks and punches that the woman absorbed with remarkable fortitude. Meanwhile, the man on the ground was struggling to his feet and Copeland’s son was crawling away using his good arm.

“Mierda,” Dr. Lancaster cursed. Looking around, her eyes settled on a large clay pot near one of the sofas. She leapt over and grabbed it, turning around just in time for Eliza to kick the woman right into her. The woman smashed into the pot with her head and Dr. Lancaster was thrown back onto the couch, the woman half in her lap. Without thinking, she grabbed a smaller pot and brought it down on the woman’s head as well. This one, however, was not clay: it was cast iron. The woman sank to the ground with a groan and didn’t move.

“Nicely done, Doc!” Eliza exclaimed just before the man on the ground dove at her legs and knocked her down. He jumped on top of her with a savage grin and punched her straight in the face. Her head bounced against the terrazzo floor with a sickening crack. As he drew his fist back to hit Eliza again, Dr. Lancaster swung the cast iron pot at his head. He dodged but still received a glancing blow, and abandoned the apparently unconscious Eliza for the clearly vibrant Dr. Lancaster.

She swung at him again and he dodged again, rising to his feet. They were about the same height, but he easily weighed twice as much as she did. After a few more feeble swings dodged, he was able to grab the pot and yank it out of Dr. Lancaster’s hand, throwing it behind him and rushing toward her like a linebacker aiming to sack the quarterback. She jumped aside and he crashed into the coffee table, splintering it like it was made of toothpicks. Unfazed, he turned and charged her again, and this time managed to grab her waist as she tried to dance beyond his grasp. He pulled her close in a bear hug and treated her to that same grin he had given Eliza as he slowly tightened his grip to squeeze the breath out of her.

Knowing that she had at least a minute before her air was gone, Dr. Lancaster did what had worked against such people before: she viciously headbutted him right in the teeth. Unfortunately, he seemed to be better equipped to deal with such a move than the last person she had tried it on, the only difference in his demeanor that he was now grinning while blood dripped from his nose and turned his teeth red.

“You two-timing me, baby?” a voice from behind the man said, and as he relaxed his grip on Dr. Lancaster and turned to look, a fist plowed into the side of his face. Teeth audibly cracked and he released Dr. Lancaster enough for her to slip out of his grasp and stagger backwards, gasping for air. The man completed his turn to see Eliza in a defensive stance, grinning at him and gesturing for him to come and get her. He was only too happy to oblige.

Dr. Lancaster left the two of them to their row and rushed to Copeland’s son, who had almost reached the other room. “Are you all right?” she asked him. He shook his head, his face already swollen and changing colors. She grabbed him under his arms and hauled him the rest of the way into the room, closing the door after them and locking it. On the floor, she saw the gun that she had kicked away earlier and wondered why he had never gone back to pick it up. Idiot.

“Listen,” she told him. “They want the book, and they want you dead and out of their way, just like your father. Give it to me and they’ll come after me instead.”

He tried to say something but his mouth was apparently in too much pain. Blood dribbled from between his lips and Dr. Lancaster wondered if it was all localized or if he was bleeding internally.

“Is the book in here?” Dr. Lancaster asked, and he shook his head. “The kitchen? The bathroom?” Shake, shake. Exasperated, she said, “I don’t suppose you hid it in the recingado flower pot outside?” At this, he nodded, and she stared at him in horror.

“That book is a priceless five hundred year old artifact and you left it outside to the elements like a bit of compost?” she shrieked. He shook his head and looked as offended as anyone could with a face covered in bruises and contusions. Again, he seemed to be trying to speak, but gave up and just groaned, tears streaming down his cheeks.

The door burst open, revealing one out cold strongman and one winded and slightly bleeding teaching assistant, who turned her head and spat blood at the floor in a very unladylike fashion.

“Are you quite finished?” Dr. Lancaster asked, smirking.

“Me?” Eliza grinned. “I could go a bit longer, but I think I wore him out.”