Hand of Gaia

Excerpt: The Nightward – A Battle Approaches

I’m a bit busy today, so I thought I’d post a tiny excerpt from The Nightward wherein the Lady Gretchen and her Amazores prepare to do battle with an ancient weapon called the Dark.

The Amazores waited in the cold.  Even the walls above were empty of their presence.  Behind Lady Gretchen, the sounds of banging doors and dragging furniture drifted out from within the Court.  She didn’t look back.     

“Your swords.”     

Metal shrieked as over seventy swords, all engraved with the same script as the Lady’s, were drawn and piled neatly on the colorful tile.  Lady Gretchen added her sword last, then stepped back from the heap.  Palms forward, she chanted a short spell, the words taut as the expressions on the Amazores’ faces.     

The Lady’s sword began to burn a fierce yellow.  Then golden wraithlight with a heart of green slid along the edge of the blade, limning it with a cold, magical glow.  The wraithlight kept going, jumping from blade to blade, circling each one until the entire heap shone with its light.    

Lady Gretchen lowered her arms and gestured at the Amazores to take their swords.  They did so in silence, the wraithlight throwing multicolored shadows on the gold armor.  Around them, the wind howled and tiny veins of frost began to spread in the cracks in the tile beneath their feet.     

She motioned the archers forward, directing them to pile their quivers on the ground.  Another spell and yet another heap glowed with the unearthly light.  The archers collected their property, dropping the straps over their heads and settling the quivers against their backs.     

“Be warned,” the Lady shouted above the wind.  “Each time you plunge your sword into the Dark, it will take away some of your wraithlight.  The sword is useless without the magic.  If it fades, retreat.  Do not attempt to engage the Dark without it or you will die.  Now, to your positions.”      

See you later, alligators!

Excerpt: The Nightward – The Lady Gretchen Sees Things Clearly

Here’s a bit more from The Nightward. Our little Queen and her protector have arrived at a Seat where they hope they will be safe.

Lady Gretchen stood a few feet from a torch as tall as Viyella herself, with Dagen on her right and the guard on her left.  None of them made a sound as they looked off into the distance and Viyella had an idea what they were staring at.  Steeling herself against the sight she had already witnessed, she stepped to the wall and stood on tip-toe.  She still could not manage to smother the gasp that immediately rose to her lips. 

What had only been an ink-blot before had grown into a massive, solid nothingness.  Not only had the High Court disappeared, but most of the grassland between it and Fairye as well.  The horizon before them was completely dark.  Tentacles so black they made the blackness of the night seem pale by comparison snaked along the sky and crawled across the land.  Heart beating, Viyella grabbed Dagen’s arm, causing him to glance down at her. 

“Viyella?” 

Behind her, she heard a low voice she recognized as Eleanor’s.  “This changes things greatly, my Lady.” 

“Indeed it does.”  The Lady made no attempt to hide her grim tone. 

She could not answer.  At that moment, one of the ropy lengths of darkness lifted away from the ground and swung a bulbous head toward her.  Her throat dried and cold, silvery feeling flowed through her veins.  A nameless compulsion made her want to throw herself, screaming, against the wall.  Instead, she hid her face against Dagen’s arm, the smell of blood and sweetgrass somehow keeping her still.  But it saw me and it will eat me.  I know it will. 

Dagen shook his arm slightly.  “Are you all right?” 

“I don’t want to see any more,” she answered still not looking up.  The cold feeling was beginning to fill her stomach now, and she felt ill.  She sensed someone kneel next to her.   

“Your Majesty, you must be brave.” 

She twisted her head.  Lady Gretchen’s clear-eyed gaze met hers.   

“It’s hurting me.” 

For the first time, the Lady touched her, smoothing her hair from her forehead.  Then she let her hand rest on Viyella’s brow.  A smell like the land on a summer’s day surrounded Viyella, and her eyes slid closed.  As if from far away, she heard Dagen ask a question. 

“Is it as you feared, my Lady?” 

Inside Viyella, the cold seemed to melt.  Warmth pushed it away like the sun’s rays on a winter morning.  With it came a memory of her mother’s smile, the smell of her perfume as she hugged Viyella.  I want Mommy.  She felt tears start to trail down her cheeks. 

“It is the Nightward.”  The hand lifted away from Viyella’s forehead and a sudden draft chilled the skin there.  “And it comes for her.” 

Have a great weekend and stay thirsty, my friends!

Excerpt: The Nightward – Farain the Cat

Another snippet from Viyella’s story. In truth, I’m well past these bits, but I don’t let myself post unless I’ve done lots of fresh work. Just keeping myself honest 😉

Hope you like it!

He stood and sent out one more thought.  Yowls filled the courtyard, punctuated by screams.  Seconds later, his cat Farain rounded the corner, his tail lashing the ground, his golden beard dripping blood on the stones.  Farain threw his head back and roared at the night sky, the sound alone enough to unhinge a man’s courage.  Dagen felt the scream building in Viyella, and he clamped a merciless hand over her mouth.          

“Silence,” he hissed, “or you’ll meet your mother’s fate.”     

Tears slicked his fingers, but he felt her shudder once more and then go still.  He removed his hand and called the cat closer.  With one more twist of its red, red tail, the cat obliged, thinking vague bloody thoughts in its indistinct but unique pattern.  Farain had no saddle, but Dagen had done without on many occasions, and at the moment, he had no time to inquire if the Princess was capable of the same.       

Gripping a handful of the coarse long fur that ridged the cat’s spine, he swung himself up on the sinewy back, fur prickling him between the joints of his armor.  He bent down and swept the gasping Princess onto Farain’s back, settling her between his arms.     

“Grip with your legs–tight.  Good.  Now, hold the fur with both hands and don’t let go.”     

She followed his instructions with a silent obedience he had never guessed she could muster.       

“Now,” he said, still in his low voice, half his mind engaged in soothing the cat into accepting this extra and unaccustomed burden, “this would be a good time to use that incantation you’re so fond of to hide us.”     

“I can’t,” she whispered back, fear making her voice tremble.  “I’m not strong enough.  I can only hide myself for a few minutes.”     

He sighed.  My luck runs with distressing consistency this night.  “Then hold on Princess, and pray that Ragat arrows find their target with more difficultly when a Dagen’s speed accompanies it.”     

He spun the cat around and dug his heels in.   

Have a great weekend. Stay thirsty, my friends!

Excerpt: The Nightward – A Boy Dances

It’s been a while since I proved I was working. So here is a little bit of my current Work In Progress to keep you warm for the weekend!

A burst of applause made her jump, and Viyella realized that her mother had reached the end of her speech.  When the noise died down, the Queen announced, “And now to Gaia’s bountiful feast, while we enjoy the entertainment graciously provided us by my sister Queen, Saline of Kadoomun, and brought here by the Lady Ashwin of Seat Jinn.” 

Her mother inclined her head in the direction of a frail looking young woman seated at the same table as Lady Ilene.  Next to her was a tall, thin Lord Consort, dressed in the white and gold of Kadoomun’s Court, which clashed with his bright red hair.  Viyella smothered a laugh and was surprised to find that his bright green stare sought her out in seconds.   

I hope he didn’t hear that.  Cheeks burning, she turned her attention to the slender young man who had stepped into the open space left between the stairs to the throne and the tables.  His entire body glittered with gold dust and he wore loose white pantaloons that billowed around his ankles.  The musicians began the soft strains of a folk song that made Viyella think of running through the high grass of the lands in front of the Court, and the boy began to move, sinuous as wheat in the wind. 

Entranced, Viyella leaned forward, aware that everyone in the Court had grown silent, captivated by the dipping movements of the golden arms, and the strength in the flashing golden ankles.  More than once, she caught the eye of the dancer–Did he smile at me?–and sometimes she held her breath as he twirled like thistledown in spring, or leaped high, like Dagens at play.  In that endless, powerful moment, she knew immediately she wanted to be a dancer and hold the emotions of others in the palms of her skillful hands. 

When the dance ended, the thunderous applause seemed to lift the roof higher to the heavens.  Everyone stood, some calling down blessings on the anonymous boy.  The Lord Consort of Kadoomun looked around, a strangely satisfied look on his face.   

“Wonderful, simply wonderful,” Viyella heard her mother breathe, and below that, the murmur of agreement from her father.  She continued to clap her hands together, ignoring the stinging that had set in.  The boy bowed deeply to the throne, and then his head raised and his pale eyes settled on Viyella. 

Come.  The voice twisted around her mind, seeped into her muscles.  Come.  Viyella gasped and trembled before the power of the plea; she tried to form a thought and failed.   

Come. 

Something clanged to her right.  She sensed Dagen turn his head to the sound, and Captain Freehold moved to investigate it.  Dimly, she acknowledged that she was moving toward the stairs, still clapping.   

“Viyella?” Her mother’s voice sounded far, far away, drowned out by the whispered plea.  Come to me. 

Something glimmered by the boy’s right hand.  He’s holding a candle?  A torch?  It did not matter. All that mattered was that she obey.  She started to walk faster, her small feet almost tripping on the final stair. 

The boy raised his arm, still smiling, the glimmering thing beginning to take shape now. 

Viyella! 

The thought slammed into her, smashing the command in her mind like glass.  Dagen?  A shout carried across the Court.  She groaned, holding her head and dropped to her knees.  Something went by over her head in a rush of wind, the force so great it tilted her back and to one side. She was forced to put out her hand to steady herself.  She twisted, blinking, and felt her mind clearing, sunlight breaking through mist.  Dagen stood on the stairs, arm back over his shoulder with his sword raised for the throw–but then Viyella saw her mother and that was when she screamed. 

Her mother was staring, bewildered, at the silver spear jutting out of her stomach. She touched her hand to it gently.  Then, red blooming on her pink sari, Queen Elise crumpled to the floor.  

Omg reaction gifs

Have a great weekend!

Stay thirsty, my friends 😉

In Which She Attempts to Write Five Days A Week, No Matter What

Yep, you heard me. For about a month or so now, I’ve been working hard to make sure I write Monday to Friday, no exceptions. This is a big departure for me. I’m an expert procrastinator and although I’ve finished about a dozen novels, I’ve never set myself a schedule. However, I take my writing seriously and I think if I want to get to the next level, I have to be a bit more regular when it comes to writing, so that’s what I’ve done.

My reward for this? The weekend off, so I can recharge and handle household duties like cleaning and grocery shopping. And possibly even sleep a little.

I don’t put pressure on myself to hit a wordcount, so I think that’s been the main reason I’ve been able to keep going. But I’m also going to start posting little snippets every week, to make sure I’m doing new words and to give myself a public push. Hope you don’t mind if I use you as guinea pigs for my Works In Progress.

Oh, who am I kidding. It’s not like you have a choice once you’re here, reading my blog. Am I right or am I right ;-)?

Anyway, here’s today’s snippet to prove that I am, in fact, still on track. I’m working on two WIPs at the moment. A science fantasy called THE NIGHTWARD (some of you may know it as the Hand of Gaia), and the sequel to LEX TALIONIS, the science fiction mystery I published in 2014. The working title is IACTA ALEA EST or The Die Is Cast.

The bit below is from the first chapter of the WIP I’m currently doing the most words on, THE NIGHTWARD. A royal bodyguard is watching the arrival of an emissary from a neighbouring Queendom.

Yes. I said Queendom. Did I mention this is a matriarchal world? No? Well that will come clearer in future posts I guess. Something to look forward to.

The Nightward:

The tail end of a caravan passed beneath the archway.  Twelve fair-skinned men, dressed only in flowing white pantaloons, marched in lockstep beside a massive klaxon bird that had to bend its long-necked head to pass under the Gate.  On its back it carried one of the traveling houses of royalty; pale blue cloth embroidered with gold fluttered as it swayed, but never revealed the occupants.  

The klaxon, prompted by the subtle twist of its gold-tasseled rein by one of the men, threw back its crested head and sounded a loud note, sweet and pure as a harp.  Blue green feathers rustled before the trailing tail rose and fanned open behind the house, the pattern resembling nothing so much as dozens of eyes.  

Through the mindtouch, Dagen felt his cat Farain awaken.  The howl that followed–taken up briefly by other cats–was no surprise.  Dagen cats were very jealous of their territory and had no love of birds.  He took in the arrivals for a moment, aware that with the appearance of the Emissary from the Queen of Kadoomun, Queen Elise’s anniversary party was complete.  And if I don’t find the Princess soon, the Dowager Mother will have my ears for adding to her troubles this evening.

I’ll leave it there for now. My sister has warned me I go on too long.

Feel free to drop bits of your WIPs in the comments too. I’d love to see what you’re working on.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

Because We Are Awesome

Recently I’ve been reading some great, eye-opening pieces about women and our astounding contributions to society. Sometimes women and the great things they do have been acknowledged, sometimes not, but always, we have been here.

Here is a really great piece by Kameron Hurley about how women have always been a living, breathing part of history, whether you knew about it or not.

Here’s an article about astounding women who did not care what others thought about them, and achieved a lot because of it. Yes, it’s got a lot of blue language, but that’s really not the point. The point is, how many of them have you heard of before?

And in case you think these were just exceptions to the rule, take a gander at this brief list of women warriors from ancient history. I saw a much better list a while ago, but can’t remember where. Got to find that one again. It was really comprehensive and included all women of note, warriors or not. And it went on and on and on.

I’ve been interested in this topic for a while, as I grew up in a matriarchal family, so when I started my current WIP, The Nightward (Hand of Gaia), I knew exactly how the society was going to evolve. This little article I found only after I’d come up with the female warrior magicians that play a big part in The Nightward–the Amazores.

I had even come up with the name Amazores before reading this because I wanted to bring to mind the ancient tale of the Amazons. Talk about serendipity. It helped inspire and solidify the idea I’d already been playing around with.

Here is a little glimpse of the Amazores in action from my manuscript:

Darkness gathered at the base of the wall, pooling there and setting off bright red flashes.     

“Ready yourselves, Amazores!” Annan called. 

The archers moved to the front of the walls and drew their arrows.  Wraithlight glowed fire against the Dark that pressed down from above now, making the sky glow red above them.  The hissing had become a steady dissonance that was almost painful to the ears.  Minutes stretched into years as all light turned crimson.       

Light flared into a flash.  Amazores raised their hands to their eyes.  There was a muffled boom and air rushed past them.  Silence followed, like that found in the Dead Woods in the Queendom of Jaleel.  The Amazores blinked and scrubbed at their eyes.     

The hissing began again.  Soft and satisfied.     

“Archers! Fire!” Annan cried.     

Shafts of flame whistled downward. 

The Dark rose up, wave climbing upon wave to meet them.         

Tyra Damn

I know, Tyra, I know.

So what’s my point? My point is, if you’re a woman, if you’re a girl, if you’re sitting out there telling yourself that you can only be this, or that a women can only be that…you’re lying to yourself.

We can be anything we want to be. We have always been anything we want to be.

We are awesome.

We will continue to be awesome.

And we should let absolutely nothing convince us otherwise.

 

Opening Lines

Chuck Wendig frequently posts some of the funniest, most helpful writing blogs on the internet, and he has no problem encouraging writers to come together on his site to trash out common issues either.

Recently, he had a fun challenge about loglines and I posted my own and had loads of fun reading others. After that, he asked everyone to post the opening line of their Work In Progress (WIPs), and help each other critique them, so I jumped in again with both feet.

It got me thinking about how one size does not fit all. The short grabby first line is great, but not all stories need that or should begin that way. There’s a lot to be said for opening lines that gradually draw the reader in. After, nobody picks up a book to read one line, so why act as though that opening line is make or break? It’s the knob on a door, and you have to get people to turn it. Nothing more, nothing less.

So without further ado, and just for fun, I’m posting the opening lines from three of my novels, and you can judge for yourself if I live by my philosophy.

Do  me a favour and post your opening lines in the comments too. I’d love to read them. It’s just for fun–no critiquing by anyone unless you ask!

“Death came for Michael while he slept.

He woke, gasping and trembling, from a dream of being pushed out the airlock. His fingers were cold and numb; the weight of his head on his arm had cut off his circulation. Michael sat up, wiping sweaty strands of hair off his forehead. Shifting his feet out from under him, he cursed as pain lanced up his leg.

Shit. I fell asleep. I can’t sleep. How long was I out?”

Excerpt from ‘Lex Talionis’ – Space Opera Mystery 

“Princess Viyella of the Court of Hamber, Divine Spirit of the Six Queendoms and future ruler of the High Court of Dun, stuck out her tongue at her exasperated personal bodyguard.

“And if I do not choose to go?” she asked taking another backward step up the crumbling spiral stairs to the tallest, oldest tower of the High Court.

Dagen Kemp only just managed to keep his hands by his sides instead of snatching the precocious six year old over his knee and spanking her.

“Queen Elise has requested that the Princess be taken to the baths in plenty of time for the festivities this eventide.  The Dowager House Mother has indicated her readiness to assist you in your preparations, so the Princess must come with me immediately.”

Excerpt from “The Hand of Gaia” – Science Fantasy

The technician screamed, the smoking stump of his hand smearing his lab coat as he held it to his chest.  Through watering eyes, he looked up at the two soldiers standing over him, their faces hidden behind the wavering diamond reflection of distortion masks.  The ship’s flashing emergency lights limned their black armour, turning the figure-hugging contours scarlet, then black, then scarlet again.

He could smell his own flesh cooking, and vomit scratched at the back of his throat even as pain tore his nerves to shreds.  If he turned around, he knew he would see what was left of his hand lying on the floor of the corridor behind him.  But there was no point in turning around.  His hand was gone for good.  And he was a dead man.

The one on his left lowered the massive lasrifle to his waist, still keeping it at the ready.  The soldier on the right held his weapon with the business end pointed at the floor.  The soldier was silent for a moment longer, apparently studying the tech, though it was hard to tell through the distortion masks.

“Are you ready to speak to me now?” he intoned, his voice flat and expressionless through the mask.”

Excerpt from “Warrior” – Science Fiction 

Stay thirsty, my friends!