Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: Sword of Arelion (Page 2 of 3)

Time to get to work

I think that’s the question most writers have asked themselves at one time or another. It usually isn’t because we have no ideas but because we have too many. We might be in the middle of writing one book when the idea for another suddenly pops into our head. We might have finished one book and be ready to start another, only to have a chorus of plots and characters all singing — or screaming and yelling — for our attention. It doesn’t matter what the schedule is, all too often there is the pull of another story that wants to be written.

I find myself in that position right now. It’s not new. Those of you who follow this blog, or who read Mad Genius Club, know that very same thing happened during the course of writing Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). I had to stop for a couple of weeks and pound out Slay Bells Ring because the book simply wouldn’t be quiet long enough for me to finish Honor. Now I am trying to write Dagger of Elanna, the follow-up to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). I know the basic plot. I know the twists and turns it needs to take. I have characters I love — and who I love to torture (hey, I’m a writer. It’s what I do.). Instead of being able to focus on swords and a bit of sorcery, I have spaceships and the dead rising, but not as zombies or vampires, a local witch and more than one mystery to solve. And no, that’s not all one book — thankfully.

I have Skeletons in the Closet wanting to be finished. It wouldn’t take much but it is a voice and head-space I’m not ready to get into right now. The main reason is because the voice is so different from everything else that I wouldn’t be able to work on any other project at the same time. So I am trying to tell Lexie and company to give me another six weeks and then I’ll give them my undivided attention.

I also have the new title in the Honor and Duty series — no, not Victory from Ashes, the next in the series. This is the standalone short story or novella I’ve discussed writing as a reward for all of you who stuck with me during last week’s Amazon snafu. While I love the series and characters, I wasn’t prepared for the number of ideas that have been coming to me as possibilities. I need a little time to figure out which one — or ones — will work best in helping shape the characters.

Then there is Mackenzie Santos and her friends. Mac is standing in my mind, tapping one booted foot, telling me it is time to write her next book. After all, I’ve put out two novels since Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4). She’s been patient. Shouldn’t I reward her for that?

Okay, she isn’t being quite that nice about it. She is rather demanding, in fact. And oh the look she gives me when I remind her that I hadn’t planned on writing Slay Bells, so it doesn’t count.

In other words, this is another typical Monday morning in this writer’s life. What is really going to happen is I get to play catch up today. I need to do a follow-up email to my contact at Amazon, letting her know that the problems continued to exist for some of you through the weekend. Then I need to finish putting together print files for several of my books already out in e-book format. Then I need to do some yard work and clean house. Oh, somewhere in there, I must find more coffee and food. If I forget the latter, no biggie but nothing will get done without the former.

Then and only then will I be able to sit down and write. Yes, it will be Dagger of Elanna. But I am also plotting out Victory from Ashes as well as the untitled short story/novella in that same universe. Once that is done, I will finish Skeletons (which shouldn’t take more than another week or so). Then it will be the next Mac Santos book.

And who said writing wasn’t a real job?

Blogging drought is over

It is somehow appropriate that on a morning when rain is falling — and threatening to continue to fall until several inches accumulate — I am finally able to sit down and blog again. It never fails that as soon as I promise myself and those who read this blog that it looks like life is cooperating and the blog will continue on a daily — or almost daily — basis, roadblocks suddenly appear. Well, I’ve cleared them, for the moment at least, and here I am. Back again.

So, what’s kept me so busy that the blog went silent for most of the last few weeks? Nothing earth-shattering. The simple truth is that I’ve simply been busy. The first was to get the final edits done and input for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). It was more challenging than usual because I was trying out a new editor and it took some time to get on the same page.

The second was the usual pre-April 15th idiocy we all have to go through. Income tax prep and filing. Ick. Bah. Poo. As any of you who have followed me here or on Mad Genius Club over the years know, numbers are not my friends. Fortunately, I have a great accountant. Unfortunately, I have to get organized before going to him. Which means, I tend to procrastinate until almost too late.

There were other issues as well, but they have been dealt with. So, blogging resumes.

Which brings up the question of what to blog about today. That’s easy. Buy my book(s)! Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) comes out this week. It is available for pre-order right now.

For those who have been waiting for Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), it is in the works. Once I was able to sit down and get started on it, the words started flowing. Well, to be honest, I had my usual “I hate first chapters” moment for a day or two. It wasn’t that the beginning chapter was bad. It wasn’t even that I realized I was starting the book in the wrong place — something a lot of us have done at least once. That’s what rough drafts are for. It was more the shifting of mental gears from one book to the next, one genre to another. Once my brain made that transition, it’s been more of a problem to stop the words than it is to sit down and write.

That can be a problem, that sense of not being able to stop the words. I found myself facing it yesterday and had to force the muse to sit back and let me have a day. I am very glad I did, even if I lost a day writing. Instead of sitting at my desk working, I went into Dallas — well, one of the suburbs — and saw the very excellent one-man play “Wiesenthal”. It was written and stars Tom Dugan and takes place on the last day Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, spent in his office before retiring. Dugan is excellent in the role and is a master in drawing in the audience.

While the play does deal with Wiesenthal the Nazi hunter, it is more about Wiesenthal the man. He is full of humor but also recognizes that the drive that impelled him for much of his life to track down those responsible for the deaths of so many wasn’t always what was best for his family. It is also a play about not so much forgiveness but the understanding that we all have a choice to make, it might not always be an easy choice or a popular one but that choice, in the end, defines our humanity.

I came away from it with a lot to think about — and, yes, the writer part of my brain has been processing it to decide how I can use the play< and the thoughts it evoked, in some future work.

Afterwards, there was a great early dinner at Jasper’s, one of Kent Rathburn’s restaurants. Great food, prices that still blow me away — for their reasonableness — and awesome service. It was all topped off with “Jasper’s House Coffee” that has no coffee in it but lots of good other stuff: Bailey’s Irish Creme, Amaretto, Kahlua, Frangelico and whipped cream.

Then, to close out a wonderful day, I came home to find a proposed cover for Skeletons in the Closet. The very awesome Sarah A. Hoyt did the cover and it is almost exactly like what I had in mind. I’ll be honest, I’d come close to despairing finding anything to fit because the book is so different from anything else I’ve written. This cover, in my opinion, rocks. There might be a few minor tweaks between now and when Skeletons goes live but they will be minor.

skeletonsinthecloset

 

You can find snippet one here , snippet two here, snippet three here, snippet four here and snippet five here.

So, I’m back. I’m writing and I’m blogging.

For those who haven’t had a chance to read the first two books in the Honor and Duty (3 Book Series), click the link. Thanks!

New Beginnings

coverThe blog was silent this weekend for a couple of reasons. The main one was the weather. DFW and the surrounding area had not only rain — lots and lots of rain — this weekend but high winds and, in some areas, tornadoes. My thoughts and prayers are will all those in Van Zandt County, Denton County and the other areas where so much damage was done. As for here, well, there is one bedroom and bathroom that flood when we get a large amount of rain at once. Add in the fact that we have had multiple hard rains over the last few days and we have flooded three times so far in the last four days. That means my wet-vac has been well used as have the fans and other equipment used to try to dry out carpet, concrete, sheetrock and baseboards. It also means my allergies and asthma have been kicking up. So, there was no blog and very little writing done this weekend.

Nocturnal Interlude2But, there is one thing physical labor does for me and that is it lets my mind wander while I am busy doing something else. That is a good thing because it means Myrtle the Muse has time to figure out what needs to happen with which project. The really good part of this is that I now have the opening — after three failed tries — to Daggar of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), It also means I know what needs to be done in Nocturnal Challenge, the follow-up to Nocturnal Interlude (Nocturnal Lives Book 3). I have a feeling that by the time I start putting the room back together — painting and stuff like that will have to wait until the weekend — I will have the plot worked out for Honor from Ashes, the sequel to Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2). Those are all good things.

The bad thing is that I also know pretty much where Skeletons in the Close is going. The reason this is a bad thing is that I cannot, absolutely CANNOT, even think about that book while writing anything else. The main character’s voice is so strong and loud and Southern that, if I were to try working on it while doing another project, that other project would wind up sounding like it had come straight out of a haunted version of Gone With the Wind — modern day version, of course.

So that brings me back to beginnings. As I said earlier, I had started Dagger of Elanna. I even know the basic plot. I’ve talked a little of it out with one of my first readers. The problem was actually starting the book in the right place. With it being the second book in a series — and one which builds on what happened in Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), it is important that I set things up so that those who haven’t read the first book can still figure out what’s going on. On the other hand, I don’t want to bore those who have read Sword by rehashing the events of that first book. And, no, I don’t do prologues or introductions. My experience is that most readers at best skim them. so the trick is to start the story and carefully drop the background in without info dumping on a huge scale.

I think I have that figured out now and hope to see it start to flow when I start writing in a few minutes (more coffee will be needed as will stepping away from the computer for a few minutes to clear my head. This is my second blog post this morning.) So, fingers crossed that this takes off the way I think it will. If it does, then I should have the rough draft finished by the end of the month — knock on wood. The others should be done shortly after that. Knock on wood again.

In the meantime, I have blogged over at According to Hoyt this morning. I’ll post a link once the piece goes live there.
And, if you are of a mind to support the kibble fund to keep Demon Kat and his counterpart, Thena, Queen of the Universe, fed and happy — well, as happy as any cat can be when there is a dog in the house — check out Sword of Arelion and my other titles. You can find a list of all my books at my author page on Amazon.

Thanks!

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Endings and beginnings

coverThose of you who follow this blog know that I published Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1) this week. Usually, once a book goes live, I give myself at least a couple of days — and preferably a week — to decompress and get my head into the next book in the queue. This time, I haven’t had that luxury. Myrtle the Muse is an evil Muse and she loves to make my life interesting. Add to that Spring in Texas which means storms and the first of what will most likely not be mornings when I wake up to find one of the bedrooms and bathrooms flooded.

The flood is actually the easiest to deal with. Pre-coffee this morning, I had moved furniture, pulled back carpet and padding — making the decision that when it comes time to replace the carpet, something else is going down because this got old years ago — and setting up the fans to run after wet vaccing the area. Once the area is somewhat dry, I’ll be pulling the wooden “floor” of the built-in clothes hamper to make sure no water is standing under it. Then I’ll pull baseboards and start the dry, seal and paint for them. Oh, and then there is the window that has to be checked for leaks and the windowsill to be stripped, sealed, painted and sealed again. Since I know what usually happens when I get this detailed with the work, it will wind up with the bedroom, dressing room and bath being repainted as well.

Oh, and let’s not forget about pulling up and replacing the tack strips for the carpet.

Yep, wood floors or even just sanding and sealing and staining the slab is looking better and better.

Now, all that is doable and, frankly, welcome because I do most of my best plotting when doing physical labor.

Myrtle the Muse, on the other hand, is the problem. I had gotten a very good start on Nocturnal Challenge. Almost 15,000 words done in a day and a half. The voice was there. The plot was there. I was excited to see what was in store next for Mac and company.

And then Myrtle reared her twisted muse head and everything came to a screeching stop — again. Why? Because Myrtle decided I needed to go straight into Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). When I tried telling her that I needed to finish both Challenge and Honor from Ashes, she smiled and crossed her arms and shook her head. Nope. She wasn’t going to let me. No how and no way.

So I argued and begged and pleaded and my evil muse refused to be moved by my tale of readers waiting for their next UF or mil-sf fix. No, I needed to write fantasy and this fantasy in particular. Finally, after more pleading and whining and not a little whinging, she relented just a little. She will let me work on the other projects but only on the weekends. I have to work on Dagger of Elanna during the week.

Then the storms hit last night and I swear Myrtle had something to do with it. There will be no writing for at least most of today and all of tomorrow because of what needs to be done to clean up after the water. Worse, I can see her smiling and there is something she’s muttering about knowing Mother Nature and I’d better get used to not trying to fool with her.

Help! I’ve fallen into a bad remake of an old commercial.

Any way, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Help this beleaguered writer by buying one or more books. I have paint to buy and windows to seal. Oh, and cats to feed. Mustn’t forget the cats.  😉

 

It is done and now on to the next project

coverSword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1) is now live on Amazon. Part of me is shouting for joy. Despite all the doubts as I wrote the book — doubts I have about every book because I am my own worst critic — I am proud of the final product. I am also looking forward to coming back to the characters very soon to write the next book in the series. But, for now, I need to finish Nocturnal Challenge and Honor from Ashes.

Sword was one of those books that challenged me on a number of different levels as I wrote it. Each of my series requires some level of world building, even Nocturnal Lives and the paranormal romances. With those, it wasn’t as difficult because I used modern day North Texas. All I had to do was lay in the paranormal/shifter aspects. Not so hard. The biggest issue with them has been being true to the real landmarks and roadways, things people see or do every day.

With the Honor and Duty series, it was a bit more difficult because I was not only dealing with something in the future but also on different planets from this one. Still, because it isn’t hard science fiction, I can get away with a little bit of handwavium. More difficult, in some ways, was putting together a military force that has ties to what we know now but is not exactly the same. For the most part, I think I’ve done a pretty good job doing so.

But this series, my first true fantasy series, meant a lot more world building. I had to think about things like naming conventions, not only for the characters but for the cities and larger governmental bodies as well. One of my biggest peeves when it comes to fantasies happens when an author has all these names that are unpronounceable but look really cool and give hints of being influenced by Tolkien and then all of a sudden a Debbie or Steve walks into the scene without someone explaining why they look and sound like a Valley girl or stoner guy.

There are also concerns about how you show a working economy — something that will be more prevalent in the next book than this one because, well, it wasn’t integral for this book — clothing, armor, weapons, etc. Add in a religion and magic and, well, things can get tricky. While all of this is hinted at and talked about and shown in this first book, it will be even more important in the next one that I have everything grounded in a way that it makes sense.

In other words, I have to have rules for why things work the way they do and stick with those rules. If I break them, I’d better have a damned good reason for it and there had better be consequences of some sort.

All of that is what scared me the most about this book, I think. Part of me knew I was getting it right — and that more detail would be needed with the subsequent books in the series — but then there was the other part that wanted to do massive info dumps, something I hate to read so I don’t like to write them.

What surprised me the most was the fun I had creating the world and the characters. That’s important because I wouldn’t go back to the series if it had been a chore to write. I’m hoping everyone else loves it as much as I do (now that I’m not writing it).

Oh, yeah, today is also my day to blog over at Mad Genius Club. Check out that post here.

 

Edits are done and brain is mush but the world goes on

Well, the edits for Sword of Arelion are done and it has been sent to my editor with the warning that I am not responsible for any electronics that might be thrown against the wall or any brain cells that decide to kill themselves during the reading of the book. Yes, yes, I know I ought to be extolling the virtues of the book and telling you how wonderful it is and how you must buy it as soon as it is available. I promise, I’ll be doing that. But, for the moment, I’m in that second-guessing phase of creation. Did I write something other people will want to read or will I drive away the fans I’ve worked so hard to win over? What in the world was I thinking when I gave in to the Muse that wouldn’t shut up? My alpha and beta readers tell me I am always like this after I finish a book. I don’t know. Maybe I am. All I know for sure is I’m scared to death about this book and I do NOT like that feeling.

But, I can’t let myself sit here and obsess about it. There are other books to write and books to read and a life to live. At least that is what I keep telling myself.  😉

So, the world didn’t stop while I was pushing through the edits. There is word that E. L. James is going to be releasing a “how to write” book. No, that isn’t an article from the Onion. Apparently it is a real project and I don’t know whether to laugh hysterically or bury my head in my hands and cry. I’m one of those who read the 50 Shades books. I didn’t want to. I had to fight the urge, multiple times, to throw my kindle against them wall. But I had been dared and I wasn’t going to back out. I should have. I have read a lot of bad books in my day but those three are at the top of the list. They were popular not because they were well-written or even because they covered anything new. They didn’t. They were popular because of the foundation (Twilight fanfic) and that built-in audience as well as a huge push from the publisher. Add in a healthy dose of being published at the right time and you have the elements of a best seller.

Then there is the idiocy about schools telling parents what they can feed their kids at lunch. This latest comes from Colorado. Here’s the note sent home with a pre-schooler:

Dear Parents, It is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch. This is a public school setting and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable, and a healthy snack from home, along with milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it. Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks, and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack. This is a very important part of our program and we need everyone’s participation.

Now, I have a couple of issues with this. The first is simple. I am the parent. It is up to me to decide what my child has for lunch. If I want to give my pre-schooler an Oreo or two for dessert, I bloody well will. Second, if the school is so determined to be food nazis, then it ought to provide lunches and make it mandatory that the students eat the provided food. Finally, wtf?!? If the child has potatoes, the child must also have bread? Isn’t that doubling up on carbs?

If I received that sort of note, I’d not only have my butt down to have a chat with the administrators but I would soon be pulling my child from school. Not only no but hell no.

I do applaud this father for his response to the school after being told that his children would be receiving unexcused absences for their trip to — gasp — Boston. Now, I do understand, sort of, where the school is coming from. We had rules similar to this when I was in school back in the stone age. But the difference is that teachers and administrators had the ability to look past the rule and apply some common sense. That would have been easy to do in this case. It appears that the school and teachers had known about the upcoming trip for some time. How difficult would it have been to have assigned the kids to keep a diary of their trip or write a paper about what they did to be presented to the class? There are any number of things that could have been done to “prove” the educational value of the trip.

I also applaud the mother in Baltimore who took matters into her own hands when she saw her son taking part in the rioting. She showed love for her son when she marched down there and confronted him. Sure, I was like a lot of folks who cringed when I saw that first swing. But she had to do something to get his attention and, to be honest, were it my son, I would have done the same thing. What has totally blown my mind has been the number of people I’ve seen condemning her and saying that her actions are illustrative of why the young men and women in Baltimore are rioting and were nothing but child abuse.

Give me a break!

The way I look at it, her actions are no more abuse than when a parent slaps a child’s hand just before the child touches fire or sticks something into the wall socket. There are times when being reasonable and talked won’t cut it. That was one. She had to do something to get his attention first. Not that my opinion will ever sway any of those condemning the mother. They are so entrenched in the attitude that we should never lay a hand on our children or punish them, that we should only reason with them (and have they ever tried reasoning with a two year old pitching a tantrum in the middle of the store or church?).

Oh, and the Hugo controversy continues.

Maybe I ought to bury myself in another book. It isn’t nearly as frustrating as the idiocy around me.

On edits and covers and brains not wanting to play

Today’s my day over at Mad Genius Club. You can check it out here.

I’m on the downhill side of the edits for Sword of Arelion and I hope to finish some time today. Of course, the fact that I am finding everything I can to do except edit, I don’t guarantee it. So far, I’ve done some cleaning around the house, brushed the dog, carried out the trash and spent a few minutes playing with cover images. Those of you who are regulars here know that covers are not my forte. I usually leave that to folks better qualified to do them for me. But, well, when I don’t want to edit, I commit cover.

I’ve posted one possible mock-up here before.

Portrai of mystic  elf woman with sword, armor and tattoo on her hand.

I like the image but it is a bit dark, especially when you look at it in thumbnail. So, since I decided not to use a pen name for this book, I thought I would see what another of the images I bought at the same time might look like.

soa2a

I know the text still needs work, a lot of work, but I think I like this image better. Now to keep myself away from GIMP and playing with it until I finish the edits.

BTW, I got these images and one other in the series off of Dollar Photo Club. The artist is Vladimirs Poplavskis and you can find his portfolio here.

An update, a thought or two and a snippet

I’m sitting at my desk, watching it rain. While I love the rain and would prefer to be outside walking in it, I have to work. Of course, rain also means it is dark outside so, as I try to focus on editing, I want to go back to bed and nap. The fact the idiot dog and demon cat decided it would be sooooo much fun to get me up at 0330 — the 0400 and 0430 and, well, you get the message — a nap sounds really good right now. But I will remain strong and keep drinking coffee and try to get back to editing.

So, here’s the update. The edits on Sword of Arelion, the first book in a planned three book fantasy arc, are progressing. Fingers crossed, they should be done some time over the weekend, if not sooner. Both Honor from Ashes, the third book in the Honor and Duty series, and Nocturnal Challenge, book four in the Nocturnal Lives series, are talking to me again. I have a feeling that I may wind up writing them pretty much simultaneously.

Once those two are done, I will finish up Skeletons in the Closet. Then it will be time to do the sequel to Sword. The good thing is, Skeletons is plotted and the voice in that one is strong, very strong. That’s why I can’t work on it when I’m working on anything else. There are other books in the pipeline and a couple of novellas. Let’s just say, I don’t see any real down time in the future.

Now for the Hugos. Sigh. I am going to try not to spend much more time discussing the contretemps but I make no promises. I can’t and won’t sit still when I see good men and women attacked without cause, often maliciously, simply because they don’t toe the party line. But the truth of the matter is, nothing I say, nothing any of us say, will change the minds of those so ingrained in the status quo that they are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the outsiders from coming in.

Frankly, I am more than disappointed with how a number of them have reacted to the current situation. Here are authors who ought to know better trying to get their peers and fans to vote No Award ahead of nominated works simply because they don’t like they think something made it onto the ballot. They don’t give a damn about the author or the work. They are making a “statement” — well, I hate to tell them this but it is a chickenshit statement and one that shows just how petty they are. I have looked at the ballot and there are works on it that I have a pretty good idea I won’t like — and yes, they come from one of the so-called slates. But I am not going to vote No Award because of the slate it was on. Nor am I going to vote No Award because I think I won’t like it. What I will do is read it, as well as the other entries. Then and only then will I cast my ballot. The only way I will vote No Award is if I think a work — after reading or watching it — is not worthy of being awarded the Hugo. Too bad others can’t do the same.

Now for the snippet.

Portrai of mystic  elf woman with sword, armor and tattoo on her hand.Sword of Arelion is a fantasy novel I originally wrote more than 10 years ago. I have now completely rewritten it to what is, at best, rough draft status. It’s been an interesting project because I haven’t written anything like this in quite awhile. Please keep in mind that this is a very rough draft. That means there will be spelling and grammar errors, and probably more as well. These will be corrected during edits. As with anything posted here, the copyright is mine so all the standard disclaimers apply. Now, here is the opening section from Sword of Arelion, a fantasy novel that may or may not see the full light of day.

The image I’ve attached to this post is a mock-up of what I think will be the cover. Yes, I know the typesetting sucks. I was more interested in finding an image that “fit” and then in getting something that would keep reminding me that I am serious about trying to complete this novel, even if only as an exercise in what can be done.

Click here for Snippet 1 and here for Snippet 2 and here for Snippet 3.

One last note, you will notice some of the names have been changed or altered since the earlier snippets. That happened during the first editing pass after talking with my Alpha Reader. I think, for the purposes of this snippet, we are only taking about the tavern-master, but there could be one or two other minor changes.

***

She swallowed hard. The last thing she wanted to think about were those first days after waking. To give herself time, she once again lifted the mug to her lips and sipped. As she did, she knew she should have no more. With no food in her stomach, it would not take much for the wine to affect her and one lesson she had learned early on was never to lose control. It was a hard-learned lesson and one she wasn’t about to forget just because it appeared her situation was changing.

“I was nothing to him, less than an animal,” she began only to be cut off by an angry denial from the tavern-master.

Instinctively, she hunched her shoulders and looked for someplace to hide. She knew that tone of voice, just as she knew what would happen should he get his hands on her any time soon. She would be lucky to survive the beating. He had been so angry before the knight had interfered. Now his rage was deadly and she would be the one to pay the price if he managed to get free.

“Quiet!” Commander Darrias ordered.

Cait flinched as the commander followed up his order with a savage blog to the tavern-master’s midsection. Even as Giaros gasped for breath, a sense of satisfaction filled Cait. Too many times had she been on the receiving end of such blows. Now, to see the man treated in much the same manner, she could feel that faint glimmer of hope in the pit of her stomach building. Maybe this was real and her nightmare was about to end.

Not that she would let her guard down. There were still too many unknowns and too much that could go wrong. So she focused on the commander, watching as Darrias extended his right hand. A moment later, one of his troopers handed him a leather thong. Without a word, the commander nodded and stepped forward. Cait swallowed hard as memories threatened to overwhelm her as Darrias quickly bound Giaros’ hands behind his back. Much as she had suffered at the tavern-master’s hands, this was too close to what he had done to her.

“My apologies, Cait. I promise he won’t interrupt again.” The soft statement drew her attention back to the duke.  “I only have a few more questions. Did you ever try to leave Giaros or tell someone what had happened? Also, did he force you to lie with him after that day in the camp?”

Cait once again looked down at her hands. They were wrapped around the mug where it rested on the table before her. She hated remembering. It brought back all the pain and fear and threatened to overwhelm her. Why couldn’t they just leave her alone? Then a gentle hand closed over her shoulder. Looking up, she found Fallon watching her, compassion and understanding reflected in his eyes. Seeing it, she smiled slightly. She could do this. She had to. Otherwise, they might make her return to the tavern-master and she would not survive that. If he didn’t kill her, she would kill herself. She would not give him power over her ever again.

“I did try to escape, milord, several times. The first was on the trail. The next was not long after our arrival.” She closed her eyes and the memories came flooding back. “Two days after we left the camp, I managed to slip my bonds before we broke camp. It was early, not quite dawn, and he didn’t seem to be paying that much attention.  I ran but I wasn’t fast enough. He caught me and then he beat me until I lost consciousness. When I woke, he gave me my first lesson about how the slave bands could be used.” She shivered violently at the memory. “He chained me like an animal so I could only move on hands and knees. For the rest of the day, I had to follow the mules like a stray dog. Then he beat and raped me again. From then until we arrived here, when we would make camp at night, he would chain me to a tree. He promised I would never get away from him again.”

She paused, her mouth working as she swallowed against the bile the rose in her throat. She could feel his hands on her, rough and painful. His breath was fetid. Madness – or something worse – filled his eyes and she knew he would take a great deal of pleasure in dealing out as much pain as he could before he finally killed her.

No! It was just a memory. That was all. He couldn’t hurt her any more. He was the one now tied and helpless. She could do this. She had to do this.

“The second time I tried to escape, he caught me before I could leave the tavern. It was late, after the last customer had left. I thought he would kill me, he was so angry. Instead, he dragged me down to the cellar where he beat me again. Then he chained me so I couldn’t move, much less leave. He kept me down there for two days without food or water. Except when he came to me at night, he kept me gagged. He promised he would kill me if I did anything to bring attention to myself. From that day on, he made sure the opportunity to escape never came.”

“Why didn’t you say something to me at least, child?” Longbow asked.

“He threatened to kill anyone I told, sir. He said if he even thought I’d said anything untoward to someone, he would kill them and make me watch. I couldn’t risk him hurting anyone else.” Tears burned her eyes and she angrily dashed them away.

“She lies!” Fear laced Giaros’ voice so heavily Cait prayed the others realized it meant she spoke true.

“I said to be quiet!” Darrias turned and backhanded the tavern-master, almost knocking him from his chair.

“What about my other question, Cait?” the duke asked.

“Milord, he did force himself on me. I know not how many times. I quit counting long ago.”

“When was the last time?” Fallon asked.

“A few months ago.” At least she thought it had been that long. She couldn’t be sure.

“Do you know why he stopped?”

“I asked what he would do if he got me with child.”

She could almost smile at the memory. She had known the moment Giaros dragged her upstairs to his rooms what he had in mind. Something inside of her seemed to snap. She no longer cared what happened. If he beat her into unconsciousness, at least she wouldn’t know if he raped her. Death would be a welcome release.

She had asked the question before she knew what she was doing. The response was something she had never thought to see. Giaros stopped, his breeches around his ankles, his shirt dangling from one hand. His expression looked like he had just been hit by a tree and then he paled. Without a word, he pulled up his breeches. Then he grabbed her by the arm and hauled her down to the cellar where he chained her and, just before locking the door behind him, he warned her to be quiet or face his wrath. Then the door closed and she listened as the bolt slid into place. That had been the last time he’d forced himself on her.

As she remembered that night, Cait sensed Fallon stiffening at her side. When she looked up at him, she was very glad not to be in Giaros’ shoes just then. The knight looked as if he would like nothing more than to pull his sword and use it to make short work of the tavern-master. That did more to reassure Cait than anything short of Giaros’ death and her departure from the duchy could have and she clung to that for all she was worth.

Despite what the duke said, there were more questions. How often had he hit her? Had he treated her injuries? Had she ever been seen by a healer? She answered as best she could, all the while wishing they would just stop. Hadn’t she said enough already to convince them she was telling the truth.

“Cait, we’re almost done,” Fallon said softly. She nodded, not quite believing him. “But now we need to see where you stayed. Can you show us?”

Swallowing hard, she nodded. Fear knotted her stomach at the thought of returning to the cellar. Could this be a ruse to get her down there so they could do with her as they wanted? No, she couldn’t – she wouldn’t – believe that. Not when Fallon looked at her, so worried and caring, and not when she could see the fury reflected in Commander Darrias’ eyes whenever he looked at Giaros. She needed to trust these men not to betray her. But it was so very hard . . . .

She slid her hand into Fallon’s and let him draw her to her feet. Without a word, she led them through the tavern to the cellar entrance at the back of the kitchen. The heavy wooden door was closed, the bolt slid into place. Darrias stepped around her and slid the bolt back and opened the door. At his signal, one of the troopers appeared with a lantern. He led the way down the steep, uneven steps, Darrias just behind him. With Fallon following closely, Cait descended into the setting of so many of her nightmares.

She said nothing as the men looked around. She didn’t have to, not when the cellar itself told the tale. Resting on the stone floor in the far corner of the dark, dank room were the thin mattress and threadbare blanket that had been her bedding. Cait shuddered at the sight of the heavy metal rings set into the stone floor along the sides of the mattress and the short chains attached to them. Most nights, those chains had been secured to her slave bands, leaving her a helpless victim to whatever depravity Giaros wanted to visit upon her.

Her other nights had been spent chained to the man’s bed. It might have been more comfortable but there had been no pleasure in it. Those nights she had been raped and abused, often by others besides Giaros. She had learned to fear those times even more than those lonely nights in the cellar. At least on those nights, unless Giaros came to her, no one hurt her and she could escape in her dreams for a little while at least.

“Cait, did you ever see any others like you?” Fallon asked as they once more made their way to the common room.

She shook her head and then smiled slightly as he once more seated her at the table and handed her the mug of mulled wine. Gods above and below, she wanted to trust him.

“You have my deepest apologies, Cait. Until now, I did not want to believe you. I did not want to think such evil could exist in my lands without me knowing about it. For that, I am truly sorry.” The duke inclined his head, his expression as serious as she had seen since his arrival. “There is little I can do to make up for what you have suffered, but I hope you will let me begin by accepting my offer for you and Sir Fallon to take up residence at the keep until the council has met and determined the appropriate punishment for the tavern-master.”

“It would be our honor, my lord,” Fallon answered for them both. Then he looked down at Cait and she realized he wanted to make sure she agreed. She nodded. Just then, she would agree to almost anything if it meant she could leave the tavern and never return. “With your permission, milord, I think it best we leave this place. It holds nothing but pain and fear for Cait. More importantly, her injuries need to be seen to. Then I want those cursed bands removed. She has been forced to endure them all too long already.”

“Of course, Sir Fallon.”

“Once that is done, milord, I think the two of us must discuss how such an abomination could exist in your duchy for so long without someone discovering it.” Fallon’s voice was so cold that Cait looked at him in surprise. “Steps must be taken to insure there are no others suffering as Cait has.”

“I assure you, Sir Knight, that I share you concern and want those same questions answered.” If possible, the duke’s voice was even colder than Fallon’s had been. “Come morning, the council shall convene to hear this matter. But for today, Commander Darrias and his people will question the tavern-master about Cait and what has happened.”

“Very well.” Fallon inclined his head and once again rested a reassuring hand on Cait’s shoulder. “I insist upon one other thing, milord. Giaros must be confined. He cannot be given the opportunity, no matter how small, to cause Cait more harm or to escape justice.”

“Agreed.” The duke quickly issued the necessary orders and Commander Darrias assured him he understood. “Shall we go?” he asked, pointedly turning his back on the tavern-master as Giaros once more began pleading his cause.

Fallon nodded and helped Cait to her feet.

“Sir Fallon,” she said softly as they followed Longbow and the duke into the golden warmth of the afternoon sun, the first she had felt in more than a year.

“Just Fallon, lass.”

She paused and glanced skyward, one hand lifting to shield her eyes. Everything seemed so bright, so clear and clean. Despite the pain from her injured ribs and back, she breathed deeply, filling her lungs with first fresh air for the first time in much too long. Then she smiled slightly, praying this wasn’t all a dream. Even if it was, it was worth it. She had forgotten how beautiful a day could be. Now if it would just last.

“There is no way to thank you for what you’ve done.” She fell silent, wondering what those looking through open doors and windows thought of the strange procession moving through the streets in the direction of the keep. How many of them had come to the tavern over the many months she had been there? How many had seen her, had seen the bands she wore and ignored them. Anger flared and she pushed it down. There would be time for that later. But now she had to focus on what was happening and do everything she could to make sure she was never returned to Giaros. She would rather die first. “What happens now?”

“After we’ve been shown to our rooms, your injuries will be treated and those accursed bands removed. Then you can bathe, eat and get some much deserved and needed rest.”

“And after the council meets?” Damn that note of fear in her voice. It was never good to show weakness. It would be used against her. That was another lesson she had learned at Giaros’ hands.

“I promise to see you settled and safe well away from here, Cait.”

She glanced up at him, surprised by the fierce determination that shone from his expression. As she did, she knew intuitively that she could trust him. Even so, until the bands were removed, she would not be able to accept it was all real. Maybe then she could finally begin to believe things were going to get better.

Another snippet because my brain hasn’t started working yet

It’s been almost a month since I last posted a snippet. Part of the reason is because I have really wanted to give Sword of Arelion time to sit before I start the editing process. Part is because, well, I knew that the moment I started regularly snippeting it, I would have focus on it once again until it was ready to go live. The problem with that is I have two other books — Honor from Ashes and Nocturnal Challenge — I need to be focusing on. As I’ve said in my posts last week, I’ve been doing some background work for Honor, mainly re-reading the previous books in the series and making notes about what needs to be covered and not left hanging in this book.

Fast forward to this morning and, well, the world of my writing flipped on me again. Oh, I’m not delaying Honor. However, there is no way I will start writing on it for at least another week. So . . . my muse hit me (with a little help from AJ Prince and her post over at Twisted Writers this morning) and Sword woke up again. So, you guys get a snippet and I will start editing that manuscript when I’m not re-reading and taking notes on Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) (since I finished doing just that with Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) day before yesterday).

Portrai of mystic  elf woman with sword, armor and tattoo on her hand.Sword of Arelion is a fantasy novel I originally wrote more than 10 years ago. I have now completely rewritten it to what is, at best, rough draft status. It’s been an interesting project because I haven’t written anything like this in quite awhile. Please keep in mind that this is a very rough draft. That means there will be spelling and grammar errors, and probably more as well. These will be corrected during edits. As with anything posted here, the copyright is mine so all the standard disclaimers apply. Now, here is the opening section from Sword of Arelion, a fantasy novel that may or may not see the full light of day.

The image I’ve attached to this post is a mock-up of what I think will be the cover. Yes, I know the typesetting sucks. I was more interested in finding an image that “fit” and then in getting something that would keep reminding me that I am serious about trying to complete this novel, even if only as an exercise in what can be done

Click here for Snippet 1 and here for Snippet 2.

***

She stared at her hands where they rested in her lap, fingers clasped so tightly together it hurt. But that was nothing compared to the pain lancing her ribs with every breath she took or that where the tavern-master’s belt had broken the skin of her back. Not that pain was anything new to her. It had been her almost constant companion for so long she now expected it.

What she wasn’t used to was being the center of attention. Her master had told her to never bring attention to herself. Having so many eyes watching her, so many people discussing her as if she wasn’t even there unsettled her. If she could, she would flee the room but something told her that would not be allowed.

So she sat as still as she could, praying they would soon leave her be. Her master would be so angry when they did. She hurt now but it would be nothing compared to what he would do to her once they were alone. Blessed Elanna, why hadn’t she tried to help Master Longbow sooner? If she had, her master would have been none the wiser.

“What is your name, child?”

She lifted her head slightly and studied the man kneeling in front of her. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he looked like so many who frequented the tavern. But he wasn’t one of those she had served. She would have remembered his fancy clothes. The others had called him duke. What did he want with her?

Unsure, afraid of what Garris might do should she answer, she glanced to her left. Longbow sat at her side, his expression concerned and yet oddly reassuring. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and nodded. He wanted her to answer the young man. The duke, she reminded herself. She had trusted Longbow before but could she now?

“H-he calls me Sparrow.” She spoke softly, so softly the words were barely audible. Still, they sounded almost like a shout in the silence of the tavern.

“And your age?”

“H-he told me eighteen winters.” Without taking her eyes from the duke’s face, she nodded to where the troopers held Garris in place.

“Child, don’t you know how old you are?”

She heard Longbow’s concern and tears pricked at her eyes as she shook her head. There was so much she didn’t know but how could she tell them that?

“No.” If possible, she spoke even softer than before. Why couldn’t they leave her alone?

“Child, look at me.”

Something about the voice made her comply. She looked up from her hands as someone knelt next to the duke. The stranger, the one who had tried to protect her from her master, knelt there, his expression troubled. Then he reached out and she started nervously. He paused and then gently brushed a lock of hair back, revealing more of her face than she had let anyone see in so very long.

“Child, my name is Fallon Mevarel. I am a knight of the Order of Arelion. I swear you have nothing more to fear. I will make sure nothing else happens to you.” He spoke softly, almost as softly as she had, yet there was such confidence in his words and the way he spoke them that she wanted to believe him. But how could she? She had learned the hard way how foolish it was to trust anyone but herself. “Will you answer a question for me?”

She nodded almost reluctantly.

“You said the tavern-master calls you Sparrow. Is that your name? Is it what you call yourself?”

She closed her eyes as a single tear tracked down her cheek. Why couldn’t he leave her alone? She didn’t want to think about what he asked and what she knew he would ask after that.

“N-no.” She licked her lips, struggling to find the courage to continue.

“What is it?” The knight’s hand cupped her cheek so lightly she could barely feel it. Never could she remember anyone treating with such care.

“I don’t know.” Once again, she ducked her head and stared at her hands.

“Child, are you telling us that you don’t know your name or how old you are?” the duke asked.

She nodded, too ashamed to look at him or at anyone else. She was a nobody, not worthy of having a name. That was what her master had told her. She was property to be used and discarded at his whim. Would these people feel the same?

“How did you come to be called Sparrow?” the knight wanted to know.

“My master named me. Said I was his caged bird with no more sense or beauty than a common sparrow.”

She glanced up and through the mask of her hair, saw Fallon’s expression harden as he glanced at Garris. A spark of hope, faint but real, seemed to come alive at the very core of her. Maybe she could trust him, this stranger who saw more in the span of a few hours than others had in so very long.

“What do you call yourself?”

Call herself?

A slight, bitter smile touched her lips. She could tell him, just as she could tell him how much she had hated being called Sparrow, hated all it had stood for. But that would reveal much, perhaps too much, about what she thought and felt. After so long of hiding that part of her from everyone, and most especially from her master, did she dare trust this stranger?

But what did she have to lose?

“Please, child. We need to know what to call you and it would be best if it was a name you prefer.” Longbow’s hand closed over hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

She drew a deep breath, wincing as her ribs screamed in pain. She could do this. She had to do this if she was to ever break away from her master.

“Call me Cait.”

crossedswords

Fallon thought his heart would break at that one soft word. Her voice – Cait’s voice – was so filled with despair it hurt. If he had had any doubts before then, he no longer did. Not when he looked at the way she stared at her hands, rough and reddened from hard work, not when he recognized the word and its slightly foreign sound. She had chosen a name for herself that was the opposite of what the tavern-master had chosen. He had wanted to cage the bird. She wanted to kill it, or at least to kill what it represented. Cait, which she pronounced as kawch, was how some of the northerners said cat. Had she heard someone say it that way or was it a clue about where she had come from?

He couldn’t worry about that – yet. He needed to do everything possible to make sure the duke understood the extent of the problem in his realm. That was first and foremost. But he also had to make sure Cait never had to spend another moment at the mercy of Garris. Once those two things were done, he could worry about how she had come to be there.

“Cait. I like it.” He smiled and once more reached out. This time he tilted her head up so she looked him in the eye. She needed to see that he spoke true. “I have a feeling it fits you much more than Sparrow ever did.”

She gave him a small, shaky smile but it was enough to let him hope she had not yet been broken by Garris.

“Will you answer a few more questions for us?”

She nodded once.

“How long have you been here?”

She closed her eyes as if trying to remember. “This will be my second winter here.”

Longbow nodded when Fallon looked to him for confirmation. As he did, anger flared. How could so many people have seen what was happening around them and yet not do anything? Fallon wanted to climb to his feet and pace – or mete out instant justice to Garris and all like him. Instead, he stayed where he was, focusing on Cait and making sure he did everything he could to reassure her so she felt safe enough to tell him what he needed to know.

“And before you came here?”

She shook her head, tears once more leaving tracks down her dirty cheeks. Fallon closed his eyes, putting a tight rein on his emotions. Thank the Lord and Lady he listened when instinct pulled him in the direction of New Grange. If he had ridden past, he had no doubt the girl would not have lasted much longer. From what he could tell, it was a miracle she had lasted this long.

“Cait, don’t you remember anything from before you came here?”

Another shake of her head.

“I know I am asking much and I am sorry but it is important that I know everything you can tell me.” He reached out and, using his fingertips, brushed away her tears. He waited, praying she understood. Then she nodded again. This time, however, she looked directly at him instead of at her hands. Good. He hoped that was good. “What is the first thing you remember?”

“Waking in a small tent. It was cold. I was cold, so cold. I tried to sit up but I hurt. Everything seemed to hurt. Then I realized I was bound, hands behind my back, ankles crossed. It was dark and I was along.” She paused and then softly thanked Fallon as he pressed a mug of mulled wine into her hands. He waited as she sipped, knowing better than to rush her. She needed to tell this in her way and in her time. Not that it made waiting any easier.

“I may have passed out. Maybe I slept. I don’t know. But suddenly he was there.” she nodded once again at the tavern-master. This time, anger lit her eyes and Fallon nodded in approval. “Another man came in after him and dragged me outside. Neither said anything as they put the bands on me. Once they had, the second man freed my ankles and said it was time to sample the merchandise. He—” Another nod at Garris—“raped me. When he finished, they told me I belonged to him. A chain was locked to my neck band and he led me out of the camp.” Tears rolled freely down her cheeks and she reached up with one grimy hand to wipe them away.

“What else did the tavern-master say about your relationship?” the duke wanted to know.

“That I was his property. If I did as I was told, I would be rewarded. If I failed to please him, I would be punished.”

This time she glared at Garris. Seeing it, Fallon smiled in approval. Her spirit might have been battered but it had not been broken. That would help her recover both mentally and physically – if he could get her away from there before anything else happened.

“Cait, you said there was pain when you woke. Can you describe it?” Fallon asked, hoping that might help determine why she could remember nothing before that terrible day.

“Aye, sir. I seemed to hurt all over. I later realized I had a number of injuries, some almost healed.”

“Your head? Did it hurt?”

She nodded. “It did. It was hard to focus and the light hurt my eyes. It hurt badly for several days after I woke.”

A head injury then as well as everything else. But how had she been injured and by whom?

“What about the other man? What can you tell us about him?” Fallon knew her answers could tell him a great deal, at least about who held her before Garris. That would at least give him a place to start.

“Big. Skin was wind burned but still pale. He spoke strangely, as if his native tongue was not this one.” She shivered as she recalled him and Fallon wished he didn’t have to ask her to relive that time. “His hair was dark, darker than mine, and there was a band on white in it.”

Wasteland raider then. But what was a nomad from that godless land doing this far north? More importantly, when and how had he gotten his hands on Cait and what in the name of all that was holy had he done to her before handing her over to Garris?

Fallon frowned thoughtfully. Learning that Garris had been doing business with the raider boded ill for not only the tavern-master but for Lineaus and the rest of the Imperium as well. For years, the raiders had believed it their right to enslave and kill anyone who was unfortunate enough to wander into their lands. For generations, they had pressed the borders, trying to gain inroads into the Imperium. If they were getting bold enough to look for, and find, those within the Imperium willing to do their bidding, then Lord and Lady help them all. Trouble was most definitely on the horizon.

“All right, Cait.” The duke held up a hand to forestall any other questions. “What about your life here? How did Garris treat you?”

Once the draft is done

When I first started thinking about writing seriously, I did what so many new writers do. I read every blog post, every article and every How-To book I could get my hands on. Some of the information was good. Some was so obviously bad or out of date, it could be tossed aside without consideration. But then there was that information writers I had heard of or who I read gave that soon had me shaking my head and wondering if I was completely without a clue. I talk about one part of that over at Mad Genius Club today.

Right now, I’m sort of decompressing after finishing the rough draft for Sword of Arelion (working copy). This was one of those books that I never meant to write. A much earlier version was safely stowed under my bed where it would never see the light of day. Unfortunately, it had another idea and, while I was struggling with Nocturnal Challenge, it took up residence in my mind and my muse, evil bitch that she is, decided to inflict grace me with it. Now, with the first draft done — almost 83k words in a little more than 2 weeks — I am letting it sit for a bit. I’ve already made a few notes about what I need to do when I go back, things that will add to the word count as well as consistency issues I want to make sure are corrected. But I want to give the book a couple of weeks to “rest” before hitting the edits. Of course, this book is only the first of two, possibly three books in a new series. Yes, that sound you just heard was me groaning. I so did not plan to have another active series so soon.

Now I am going to turn my attention to writing Honor from Ashes, the third novel in the Honor and Duty series. Nocturnal Challenge is still going to be written, but I need to figure out a couple more things about it before I try to sit down and pound it out. This book, because of what happened in Nocturnal Interlude, is the most difficult of the series to write. It is a bridge as well as a conclusion, if that makes any sense. Because of that, I need to make sure I have all my ducks in a row. Quack, quack.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to check out Twisted Writers this morning.

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