Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday Work in Progress: A Magical Flashback

Here is a little peek at my YA Fantasy work in progress.  This scene shows us a moment in the childhood of Shiloh, my protagonist.  I make heavy use of flashback in this book.  It's almost as much fun as writing November's visions.  I hope you find it intriguing.

“Fetch me the box, child. The red one with the lock,” the priest ordered his only student.

Little Shiloh rose from the floor to obey and crossed to the tall bookshelf opposite the wood stove. She smiled when she picked up the box. They had never looked at this one before, and Shiloh was a terribly curious little girl. She carried the treasure back to her master, her accustomed solemn expression of firmly back in place. Brother Edmund liked serious girls, not silly ones.

“Tell me about the four magical elements,” he directed.

“The four elements are earth, air, fire, and water. Each mage has a primary affinity for one of the four elements, from which the mage draws her power and through which she focuses her craft,” she recited, lisping through her missing front teeth.

“Good,” Edmund proclaimed, the praise filling Shiloh with warmth. “Now, we are going to find out how the elements react to you. Listen to me carefully, child. What I am doing here is against the law. Only with a bishop’s permission can a young person be legally tested. You cannot tell anyone, do you understand? Not even your father. Someone might overhear. I don’t want them coming for you before we are ready.”

“Yes, master,” she replied. “But if it is against the law, then why are we doing it?” she asked, head cocked in puzzlement.

“Because the law is bullshit,” he replied. “And I want to know if you're a waste of my precious time.”

Shiloh opened her mouth to ask another question, but the look on Edmund’s face told her to mind her tongue.

The priest unlocked the box with his wand and carefully tilted back the lid. Nestled in blue velvet sat four small spheres of glass. One was clear and colorless, filled only with air. One contained a bright flame, flickering without ceasing. One sat half full of sloshing water that moved in waves like a miniature sea. The last contained a hunk of granite speckled with pink quartz.

“They're beautiful,” Shiloh whispered. Her hand clutched her hook behind her back; she struggled to resist the urge to reach out. Edmund had long since taught her not to touch magical objects without permission; it had been a painful lesson.

“Aye,” Edmund agreed. “Now, when I tell you to, you reach out and hold your hand above the box. Do not touch the spheres. Just take a deep breath and clear your mind. Hopefully, one of the balls will react to you, just a little bit. Don't expect dramatics. It will just be a little wiggle. Go ahead, now.”

Shiloh grinned and held out her hand. She took a deep breath, as instructed. She closed her eyes. At the sound of an exclamation from Brother Edmund, they snapped back open.

All four balls had risen from their cradle and floated an inch below her palm. She turned over her hand, and the balls followed. They now sat suspended above her palm, rotating slowly.

She looked to her teacher, whose mouth stood gaping. “Did I do it wrong?” she whispered. Her eyes brimmed with worry.

Edmund stared back at her, incredulous. “No, poppet. You didn't bloody do it wrong. Gods above!”

He laughed loudly enough to shake the herbs hanging from the rafters, which only worried the girl more, as it was a sound from him with which she was entirely unfamiliar. He finally calmed himself and continued, “Time to put them away. They've told us all they're going to tell.” He waved his wand, and the orbs returned to their resting places.

“What did they tell us?” Shiloh ventured.

“That we’re both going to need to work harder,” he grumped. “And that you should stop pestering me with questions.”

Shiloh relaxed. That sounded more like Brother Edmund.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday Work in Progress: Luka's Dawn, Episode 3

Today I'll be giving you a peek into the third installment of my November Snow Epilogue short story series, Luka's Dawn.  Our dear characters are living a quiet suburban life, until an anti-vampire church brings trouble to their door.

“Are you sure this is such a good idea?” Raina asked warily. She slammed the car door and gazed across the parking lot at the unassuming building that housed Flannery’s parents’ new church.

“What’s the problem? Merrick and Hannah are not in attendance tonight. They both have food poisoning. Of course, I can’t imagine how they caught it while Flannery and the twins were spared,” he replied with an evil grin.

“Oh, I can imagine,” Raina muttered darkly.

“At any rate,” her brother continued, “No one we know would be caught dead or alive at this Jesus jamboree, so it is unlikely we will be recognized,” Luka argued. “I want to know what her parents are poisoning her mind with. Don’t you? She has enough to worry about without those two finding a new way to teach her to hate herself.” He pulled his cane from the back seat, then locked the car.

“I know,” Raina acquiesced. “Let’s get this over with.”

They entered the building to an outrageously chipper welcome. “Hi, are you new? I’m Poppy!” a young woman chirped, handing them each a bulletin.

“Indeed,” Luka replied in his most seductive voice. “I’m Jack. This is Diane.” Raina briefly closed her eyes in irritated disbelief.

“Awesome! Make sure you fill out a contact card so we can keep you up to date on all our awesome events to keep the truth alive in the face of the demonic hordes!”

“Yeah, we’ll do that,” Raina replied, then grabbed Luka’s arm and dragged him into the sanctuary proper, where they were subjected to praise music karaoke style for what seemed like an hour.

“I’m starting to regret this whole immortality thing,” Luka whispered to Raina. “Did you bring a stake?”

“Shut up and sing,” she growled back, but even the straights seemed to be getting impatient. It seemed the good reverend was running late.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wednesday Work-In-Progress: A Classroom Scene

One of the hallmarks of Young Adult lit is the depiction of school life.  The schools may be quite unusual (like Hogwarts or Vampire Academy), but many of the stresses involved are familiar to us all.  In this scene, Shiloh has a less-than-edifying encounter with a bully of a new teacher.


Shiloh sat in a small classroom with a dozen children, all under the age of ten, save for her.  In front of each of them sat a bowl of water.  At the front of the room stood Kevin Rangeborn, professor of Farsight.  He’d been away on a pilgrimage to holy sites in Gerne; this was, therefore, Shiloh’s first class with him.  It wasn’t looking too promising.  With hair more salt than pepper and a face full of frown lines, he glared down at his students with narrow eyes.

“Scrying, properly performed, can change the course of history.  It can reveal danger, expose treachery, provide insight.  Or it can be a cheap parlor trick for rich people with too much time on their hands.  I’ve no doubt that for most of you, it shall be the latter, if you can see anything at all,” Master Kevin proclaimed.  “Farsight arises only in those who possess an affinity for the element of water.  If your magic is devoid of water, you will see nothing.  Visions do not come to a busy mind, nor to a soul burdened with sin.  Your mind must be calm as the glassy surface of the water.  Your soul must be pure as the driven snow.  The Gods show nothing to those filthy with misdeeds and vile magics.” 

He turned his eyes on Shiloh, his expression full of disgust.  Her ears flushed pink as her hair, and she pressed her lips together to keep herself from replying in anger. 

“Begin,” the teacher ordered.  

The children obeyed, looking skeptically into the water, breathing deeply.  Shiloh did the same, though her mind was roiling at the professor’s obvious antipathy.  She closed her eyes and tried to let go of her anger, then gazed down into the bowl, letting her eyes become unfocused.
For an instant, she caught a glimpse of Queen Rose standing on a wooden platform, in tears, wearing only a simple shift.  In a blink, the image was gone.   She raised her eyes to find Master Kevin standing before her, glowering.

“You needn’t bother trying.  You reek of dark magic.  The Gods do not reveal truth to the unclean,” he hissed.  “No wonder Edmund didn’t bother trying to teach you farsight.  Even that traitor knew you were unworthy.  He should have killed you in your cradle.”

   Every child in the class had given up the assignment and focused their wide eyes on the spectacle at Shiloh’s desk.  Shaking, she stood to face the professor.  Drawing herself up to her full height, she barely came up to the man’s chest.  Still, her expression must have conveyed something of her rage and of her power, for the large man took a step back when she looked up into his face.

“Master Kevin, I would so hate to be a waste of your precious time,” she said, her voice sickly sweet and her eyes blazing.  “After all, who can know how much time one has?”  And with that, she turned on her heel and strode out of the room.

She kept walking until she found herself in the Temple in front of the shrine to the Mother.  She knelt down onto the pad and bent to rest her forehead on the railing.  A few tears fell, hot and silent, onto the stone floor below.

You shouldn’t have let him get to you, she scolded herself.  You know better than to let them see it hurts.

“Are you alright?” Brother Charles asked, coming up behind her.

She lifted her head and brushed aside a tear.  “I’m fine.  I just walked out of class in a huff.”

“What happened?” the priest asked, taking a seat on a bench nearby.  Shiloh rose to join him.

“Master Kevin started talking about how unclean I am, and how the Gods would never show me anything, so I needn’t bother taking his class,” she explained, voice hot.

Charles rolled his eyes.  “Kevin is an ass.  Always has been.  We shared a room our first year here.  He’s always been . . . strident.  I considered murder on a number of occasions.” 

Shiloh laughed.  “Will the headmaster be cross with me if I don’t continue taking Farsight?”

“I doubt it,” Charles replied.  “You could always ask to study it independently.  I’m sure there are books in the library.  Master Hatch is quite adept, I’m told.  Perhaps he would be willing to tutor you.”

Shiloh sighed.  “Somehow, I doubt it.  I should probably go tell the headmaster before Maser Kevin gets to him first and makes it sound like I did something wrong.”

Luka's Dawn, Episode 2

Good news, vampire junkies!  The second installment of Luka's Dawn is available here for pre-order.

If you're lucky, maybe one of these days I'll run out of Flannery O'Conner references for my graphics.

Here is a short excerpt:

Flannery looked up from her ice cream, suspicion in her deep blue eyes.
“Are you two going to yell at me, too?” she asked.  Raina and Luka exchanged glances.
“Kitten, have we ever yelled at you?” Luka asked.
“No, I guess not,” the child admitted sullenly.
“You want to talk about it?” asked Raina.
“I just thought she should know that her husband is stepping out!” the little girl erupted.  “And everyone is acting like I am the worst little girl in the world.  Does she want to get herpes?  Because that’s how you get herpes.”
The sound of her lisping the word “herpes” through her missing front tooth caused Raina to snort a laugh, which she tried unsuccessfully to hide behind her hand.
“It’s not funny!” Flannery insisted, scowling.
 “No, it isn’t,” Luka agreed, seeking to mollify her.  “It isn’t funny.  I know you meant well, kitten.  But humans . . . they don’t tend to appreciate such warnings.  They blame the messenger.  And they don’t have much patience for children who are different.  It’s not fair to you, but that’s just how they are.  The loss is theirs, kitten.  You are an ancient and powerful creature.  They are merely human.”
Flannery looked down at her dish, poking angrily at the melting ice cream with her spoon.  “My mommy is pregnant,” she announced, tears springing to her eyes.  “With twins.  I don’t think my mommy knows yet.  And they’re going to be all normal and perfect, and my mom and dad are not going to want me anymore.  I’ve seen it.”
Remind me again why killing them is a bad idea? Luka asked himself.
“Oh, honey,” Raina replied, pulling the girl onto her lap for a hug.  “I know they don’t understand you, but they do love you.  They’re not going to stop loving you just because they have more children.  That isn’t how it works.”  
Luka hoped she wasn’t lying.  It’s not as though either of them had any children.  What would they know about it?
“They’ll be easier to love,” Flannery insisted.  “I’ll love them, too, but it will still make me mad.”
“Well, I won’t love them at all, and if they’re mean to you, I’ll eat them right up,” Luka promised.  He extended his fangs and made a scary face until Flannery giggled.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Huge Sci-f- and Fantasy $0.99 Promotion

Hello, darlings. I just wanted to let you know that I'm participating in a Sci-fi and Fantasy promotion featuring tons of books on sale for only $0.99 July 1st and 2nd. My contribution is She Dies at the End, so if you have friends you've been meaning to turn into November Snow fans, spread the word. Have fun stocking up on your airplane/beach/staycation reading.