Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday Work in Progress

I am about 45k words into writing my next novel.  No vampires this time!  It's a young adult high fantasy novel with a strong heroine, naturally.  My two point-of-view characters are Shiloh Teethborn, a 15-year-old girl headed to the Academy, and Silas Hatch, the king's "fixer," who is in his early thirties.  Regularly spaced flashbacks from each of their lives reveal back story and motivations.

The story is set in a world where magic is real, and it is hoarded by the ruling class.  Commoners with magical abilities are forced into serving the crown or the church and are generally forbidden from marrying or having children, in order to keep magical abilities from spreading through the population.  Those with the most impressive abilities are brought to the Royal Academy to be educated alongside the children of the nobility before being chosen for various posts at court or in the church.  About fifteen years prior to the events in the book, the kingdom suffered through a civil war in which two siblings fought each other for the crown, and the repercussions of this conflict resound throughout the story.  Shiloh is "hexborn," born with birth defects and chronic ailments caused by dark magic used by her mother during the war, while Shiloh was in the womb.

My inspiration for this story came, in part, from my interest in British history, especially the War of the Roses and the Tudor dynasty.  I also wanted to write a story in which the heroine lives with a chronic condition.  People with disabilities are often invisible in popular culture.

It's still early days, so anything can change, but here is a short excerpt to give you an idea of what I have created so far.  I hope that when the book is finished, you will love Shiloh and Silas as much as you do November and company.


“Eyes open, men,” Hatch directed. “Wand out, Percy.”

Percival swallowed nervously. “I’m starting to wish you’d brought an extra wand for the weirdling.”

Just when Shiloh was starting to think they might make it to safety without incident, she heard the familiar whistle of an arrow. “Get down,” she cried, throwing herself off of Hatch’s horse. More arrows soon followed, and she heard a cry of pain as one of the men proved too slow in heeding her warning.

Hatch remained calm under attack, sending out well-aimed hexes from his wand of flame. Percival seemed to be firing at total random, taking out more snowdrifts and tree branches than Wildlings. Shiloh could hear the cries of the ones Hatch had managed to hit, but the volleys of arrows kept coming. She heaved a sigh and looked around for something she could use as a weapon.

Shiloh broke off an icicle from the tree behind which she’d taken shelter and yanked her glove with her teeth, grabbing the ice in her bare hand. With this makeshift wand, she harnessed the power of water to cast a shield of protection around them, one which allowed the curses from Hatch and Percival to pass through unimpeded. The arrows of the Wildlings, meanwhile, didn’t simply stop dead upon hitting the ward; they turned and sped back toward their points of origin, betraying those who’d loosed them.

Silas threw his head back and fairly cackled in delight when he realized what she’d done, then continued to cast his curses. The rest of the men stood up now that they had no further need to fear incoming projectiles, save Bryan who lay bleeding in the road.

Shiloh, too, stood as to see the effects of her ward. In the heat of battle, her hood had fallen back. Her hair had escaped from its thick braid and blew in the wind, forming a halo of pink set aglow by moonlight. The remaining Wildings turned and fled down the mountain, speeding on their skis until they were out of sight. The three attackers who couldn’t stand remained behind, turning the snow red.

Hatch disarmed the wounded Wildlings with a few flicks of his wand. “If you wish to pray before you die, now would be the time,” Hatch told them. One of them began to beg mercy; Shiloh found herself feeling grateful when Hatch cut short his desperate plea.  She watched as he proceeded to kill the other two without so much as another word, then closed her eyes. She pushed herself through the shock and dismay that threatened to overwhelm her and turned to assess the damage to their party.

Thankfully, Bryan’s wound proved to be fairly superficial. Shiloh knelt and quickly yanked out the arrow and stopped the bleeding, focusing a spell with the help of her ice wand.

“You’re alright, now,” she said soothingly, as though the brute were but a little boy. “I’ve got you. You’re going to be fine. We’ll get you some whiskey for the pain when we get to town. You’re alright.”

She looked up to find Hatch looking down at her, face unreadable. He raised an eyebrow toward her hand, and she dropped the icicle into the snow. She pulled her glove back on with her teeth.

“Mount up. They might have friends,” Hatch ordered.

Their journey warily recommenced, Hatch whispered to Shiloh, “You are a dangerous little thing, aren’t you?”

Unsure how to respond, Shiloh held her tongue. She could have sworn she heard him laugh again, but it was hard to tell above the wind.

At last, they began to descend the pass. The cheerful sight of the well-lit village gilded in white brought the bedraggled group some much-needed cheer as their horses struggled through the deep snow.

“There’s a pub with an inn. I am told it is comfortable enough, compared to most,” Shiloh informed Silas. “You and your men should be able to get a warm bed and a decent meal, anyway.”

“Yes, I know it. I'll pay for a room for you, as well,” Silas hastened to assure her. “They are expecting us.”

Shiloh shook her head. “They'll never let me in.” She pointed to her hair, peeking out from her hood. “The best I can hope for is the stable. They might not notice I'm hexborn if I duck in there straightaway, as long as I hide the arm under my cloak. If they make me and see us together, they might not let you in, either.”

Silas shook his head. “I think you underestimate the effectiveness of my reputation in obtaining cooperation.”

“I think you underestimate how superstitious and ignorant my fellow Teethtrash can be,” she countered. “They will lose every other paying customer if I walk through their door. Mountain folk do not break bread with the unclean.”

“The cleanliness statutes were outlawed years ago, during the Reforms,” Silas protested.

“They keep to the old ways up here. The Reforms have not yet taken root, as I’m sure you are more than aware.”

“The innkeeper works for me,” Silas countered.

“One of your many sources of vital information, I presume? If he’s valuable and you want him to keep working for you, you won’t force me on them. I’ll be fine in the barn,” she declared. “The horses keep it warm.”

“Miss Teethborn—“

“Master Hatch, even if they let me in, they’ll be muttering and staring and spitting in my food. It simply isn’t worth it to me. Respectable people do not want me in their company, and I am willing to oblige them.”


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