NaNoWriMo Excerpt #5

It’s that time already?

I can’t believe NaNo is almost over! Between international travel and not feeling my best, I didn’t get as much done this past week as I would have liked, but I long since passed 50,000 words, which was my goal for the month. Ergo, I am happy.

This week’s excerpt is a bit different. It comes near the book’s midpoint, and is a piece of a tale about two sisters, a long time ago, whose lives have shaped the fate of everyone who came after them.

Without further ado…

One day, shortly before Mirelin turned sixteen and Lora fifteen, their father pulled his younger daughter aside.

“I know that your heart is set on the forest,” he said, “but I have a hard thing to ask of you, Lora, my brave youngest. You have spent your life looking after Mirelin, and I would ask that you continue. Become her advisor, and calm her when need be, and help her rule well. Help her see the good of the people as higher than her own, and not waste her time in frivolty and weeping.”

Lora’s heart fluttered in her chest, and she felt the clang of bars closing around her, but she squared her shoulders and said, “I will do as you ask, Papa.”

He pulled her into his arms, and kissed her forehead and hair, and told her what a wonderful daughter she was, and how proud he was to have her. They both knew that Lora’s life would not be easy. She would have most of the responsibilities of a Queen, with none of the recognition. Still, she believed that as long as she could steal moments in the forest, she would be happy.

Lora did not ask for recognition. Let Mirelin draw all eyes; let Mirelin be beautiful and charming, and let the people credit her for wise judgments. Lora did not mind. It was her role in life, caring for Mirelin. Through it she tried to atone for the death of their mother, for which she had always felt guilty, as though it were a crime that had rested on her head since birth.

So the sisters grew, and their magic grew with them.

When Mirelin was seventeen, her father sought a match for her, so that she might have an heir when the time came, and would not have to ascend to the throne without a King Consort.

It came as no surprise that it was Lora, in the end, who found a husband for her sister.

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NaNoWriMo Excerpt #4

I finished WIP #1 with 105,000 words, the first time I’ve ever finished a first draft of a novel. I also passed 50,000 words on my NaNoWriMo novel this past week, sitting now at 53,000. On the writing front, everything’s going well. I’ve developed a 3k-5k daily writing habit which I hope will serve me well for a long time.

Here is excerpt #4 of Darkfall.

By the time light started to leach from the heavily overcast sky, the rain had not abated and water was beginning to trickle, a little at a time, into Ada’s boots. She could tell from Kieran’s expression, from the guarded pain on his face and the way he winced with each step, that the same was true for him. The poison in this water was not so concentrated as it had been in the lake–the water here, at least, was diluted by rain–but there was still enough to do great damage, especially to Kieran.

“We must take shelter!” Ada called, over the steady roar of rain.

Kieran looked back at her and nodded, and the two of them glanced up, toward the tops of trees. They found nothing tall enough to climb and shelter in, save one dark slick-barked tree, which had no limbs low enough to grasp. Panic clutched at Ada’s chest. It was like the day she had lost Sakar, when the trees had all been short and thin and twisted, and only the ripping thorns had saved her from the blindwolves’ teeth.

“We have to keep going,” Kieran said.

Ada nodded, and took his hand, and they went on through the flooding forest. Ada’s feet burned as though she had dipped them in boiling water, but her fear was stronger than pain, and she kept up the pace. Kieran did the same, though he limped heavily on his damaged knee, and made small sounds of pain that twisted Ada’s heart. She wished that he was back in Blackstone, safe with his family.

At last they reached a thick grove of high trees, whose branches wove together to form a solid canopy overhead. Because the ground here was high, and because the rain could hardly reach through the woven-together branches, the forest floor was damp but not standing in water. If not for the threat of blindwolves, it would have been as good a place as any to camp.

Ada and Kieran searched for branches low enough to take hold and pull themselves up. Their urgency grew, so that they weaved back and forth among the close-growing trees, walking on blistered, bleeding feet, skin shearing away inside their boots. Still they found nothing. The spreading branches grew high on the straight trunks, so high that a person thrice Kieran’s height would not have been able to reach.

Above their heads, the downpour began to ease, the roar lessening so that they could speak without shouting. After a time, just as darkness fell in truth, the rain stopped almost completely, all but a faint patter on the leaves and branches high above.

When Ada saw the lights, she thought at first that they were firebugs, tiny and bright, rising from the forest floor in celebration of the break in the rain. There were always firebugs, though fewer during the deluge season.

She thought they were firebugs. And then she saw that they moved in pairs of two, and that they blinked and slid silently around the trunks of trees, and she grabbed Kieran’s arm so suddenly and so tightly that he gasped.

“Kieran,” she said, her voice shaking. “Kieran, look.”

NaNoWriMo Excerpt #3

This has been a rough week. I’m heading back to the States soon, which means not seeing my sister or her family for a very long time (likely 2+ years). My sister and I are two halves of the same soul, and my sister’s husband is the best big brother ever, and their children are smart and funny and kind. I’ve had to say the long goodbye to them many times before, but it never gets easier.

I have kept writing, though, because writing is cathartic for me. It helps, even if just a little.

So without further ado, here is my third excerpt from my NaNoWriMo novel.

Darkfall: Excerpt #3

“Look at her feet,” said a woman’s voice. “My gods, what happened?”

Ada jerked awake with her heart already hammering. She tried to crawl away, but strong hands settled on her arm, holding her in place. “Settle, child, settle,” a man said. “Let us look at you.”

Ada tried to open her eyes, but she was so tired, and cold had shivered its way into her bones. Through her cracked-open eyelids, she saw nothing but dark.

The woman gasped. “Finnal, look.” She touched Ada’s belly, running her hand lightly along the swell.

Both were silent for a moment. Then the man said, “What happened to you, child? From where have you come?”

Ada fought her eyes open and looked up to see two shadowed faces leaning over her. “I’ve come,” she said. Her voice sounded weak and distant. “From my village… A long way.”

“Did you chase down every creature that bit or burned in the entire forest?” The woman asked.

“Kee, don’t make fun,” said the man. “Look at her. She’s had such a bad time.”

“Well then,” the woman said, “let us carry her home, and see what can be done.”

Ada lost herself for a time, when they lifted her. She closed eyes that felt swollen and heavy, and when she opened them, she was inside a warm dimly-lit house. A beautiful woman leaned over Ada, wiping her face with a damp cloth. The woman’s black hair shone in the lamplight.

“Hello,” said the woman. “I am Kee. What gave you these cuts?”

Ada licked lips that felt as dry as the anciet paper in one of Tanneth’s books. “Which ones?”

Kee smiled and trailed her fingers along the side of Ada’s face. “These,” she said. “Like claws, ripping.”

“Thorns,” said Ada. She had not known the gashes were so visible. She had not thought of them in days.

Kee shook her head. “And your feet? Did you boil them for soup? You are lucky they did not fall off.”

Ada felt ill. She had tried not to think of the raw lumps at the ends of her ankles.

“Water,” she said. “A lake. I tried to cross, but the water…”

Kee hissed through her teeth. “Forest water? Your feet were immersed in it? Child, you should be dead.”

“But I am not,” Ada said, the words leaping from her lips. Weak defiance, as fragile as leaves, but alive and growing. She had made it this far. So far. At such cost.

“So I see.” Kee was smiling again.

The man came in, carrying a bucket of water. He plunked it down on the floor and came to sit at Ada’s other side.

“Is she awake? Are you tormenting her with rude questions?”

“Ignore Finnal,” said Kee. “He does not appreciate honesty.”

Ada laughed, just a little, and it set off a cough that rattled her bones. Finnal brought water, and lifted Ada’s head just high enough that she could drink. Her teeth rattled against the rim of the cup.

“She is chilled,” said Finnal. He touched Ada’s hand. “Her skin is cold.”

“Not her face,” Kee said. “Her face burns with fever.”

They traded a worried look.

Other participants in the AbsoluteWrite NaNoWriMo blog chain:

orion_mk3 | robjvargas | AshleyEpidemic | vertigo78 | bdwilson | meowzbark | wittyblather | RhondaParrish | skunkmelon | sunflowerrei

NaNoWriMo Excerpt #2

Can’t believe it’s Friday again already!

I’ve made good progress, especially considering that I’m working on my first WIP concurrently with my NaNoWriMo novel. Altogether I’ve been averaging 5-6k per day. My first WIP, working title The Mirror Veil, is probably within 15k of being complete!

Here is a second excerpt from my NaNo novel.

Darkfall: Excerpt #2

It was Sakar who warned her, with a soft sound between a growl and a whine. Ada looked down and found him standing stiff and spraddle-legged. She followed his line of sight and drew a sharp breath.

The villager must have been past fifty, the age at which mine-call ceased. His hair was silver, his face seamed with wrinkles. Even so, he was strong, with a broad chest and muscled arms, his back hardly stooped at all. He looked at her with open hostility. He held a knife, long and curved and shining.

Ada backed away until her back bumped into the wall of a house. She held out her hands. “Please,” she said, her voice drying to a whisper in her mouth, blowing away like a puff of dust. “Please, I just needed water…”

“Who are you?” The man’s voice trembled, whether with fear or anger she could not say. “What are you?”

“I came from the forest,” Ada said. She held out her hands, showing the gashes from thorns, half-healed, weeping clear fluid through cracks where scabs had broken open. “I have come through the forest from my own village, and I was out of food and water. Please, I just wish to be on my way.”

“No one comes from the forest,” the man said. “Nothing. Nothing human.”

“I am human,” Ada said. “Please, can’t you see that I’m human? I am just a woman, nothing else.”

The man’s eyes sharpened even more at that, and he stepped forward, brandishing the knife. “If you are only a woman,” he said, “where is your husband? Or your father, or brother? Let them come speak for you. We would hear them.”

Ada opened her mouth. She closed it. Finally she said, “I have none.”

“Then you belong to your village leader,” said the man, “and should be escorted by none but him. How come you to be here, alone? Have you run from your master?” His eyes glinted with fury and righteousness at the thought. Ada pressed back as though she could sink into the wall, could disappear.

“I am not property,” she said, before she could stop herself. No one would ever own her. She was daughter of Sinda, who had overcome the stigma of marrying an outsider to become the most trusted among all those on the council.

In Blackstone, women made their own choices. The village leader before Nehtan—back when Ada was only a child—had been a woman named Kilam.

“Witch,” the villager said, his voice trembling.

Ada licked dry lips with a dry tongue and said, “But I… I am not from the royal family. I do not have magic.”

The man spat. “You don’t have to,” he said. “You show up here like a thief, unescorted, claiming to have come from the forest. And you tell me you’re no one’s property. You might not have magic but you’re a witch still the same. Don’t know your place. Like Her.”

“Just let me go,” Ada pleaded. “I will return to the forest. I will trouble you no more.”

The man advanced, eyes alight with anger and belief. It was the belief that frightened Ada most—the man’s certainty that he was doing the right thing, that his cause was righteous and just.

Sakar lowered his head as the man approached. The low rumbling growl in his chest turned to a full snarl, teeth bared.

“Call off your beast,” said the man, “or I will kill it.”

Ada edged along the side of the hut until there was only air at her back. They could yet escape this, she told herself. There must be a way.

The man advanced, and Sakar held his ground, still growling deep in his chest. The dog lunged, and Ada turned to run, blind with fear.

She made it three lurching steps before a knife pressed against her throat.

“Where do you think you are going?”

The second man was older than the first, thinner and more stooped, but the hand holding the knife was steady as stone. He smiled up at her, chill and feral. “Stand right there,” he said. “You’ll not be leaving.”

Behind them, Sakar yelped and fell silent.

“No!” Without thinking, Ada pushed away the second man’s arm, hardly feeling the thin slice the knife scored across her throat. “No, please!” She turned to run back to Sakar, but the man took her around the waist and pressed his knife against her neck, harder this time. “Stand,” he said into her ear, “or I will bleed you dry.”

Sakar lay on the ground, still. The fur on his head was dark and wet, but his sides still heaved with breath. The first man was holding his arm and swearing. Blood dribbled through his fingers from where Sakar had bitten him.

“Come,” said the first man, the one Sakar had bitten, to the man holding Ada. “We will cage these mad dogs until the assembly can decide what to do with them.”

Other participants in the AbsoluteWrite NaNoWriMo blog chain:

orion_mk3 | robjvargas | AshleyEpidemic | vertigo78 | bdwilson | meowzbark | wittyblather | RhondaParrish | skunkmelon | sunflowerrei

NaNoWriMo Excerpt #1!

It’s National Novel Writing Month!

My first work in progress is coming along well; 80,000 words, and only a few chapters left to go. Despite still working on WIP #1, I was insane enough to sign up for NaNoWriMo as well. Today marked my first day of working on two novels simultaneously. I managed a little over 2000 words in my NaNo novel; here are the first ~1200 words!

Darkfall: Excerpt #1

Ada was awake when the council came.

They wielded flickering torches against a sky that was still dark, littered with stars like chips of white stone. It was long before mine-call.

Ada stood in the doorway and watched them come up the hill, Nehtan in the lead, his head ducked against the chill wind. She knew they would not speak to her. She waited.

When they were close, Nehtan called, “Sinda?” His voice trailed up at the end, like a memory of birdsong. He looked past Ada into the dark hut she shared with her mother.

Ada turned away from the door, letting it creak shut behind her. In four steps, she crossed the room to kneel beside the pile of ragged blankets where her mother slept. Sinda’s face was still. Ada’s heart fluttered against the cage of her ribs.

“Mother?” She said. “Wake up. It’s the council.” Her voice shook. From the chill, she thought. It had teeth like blindwolves’, sinking straight to bone.

Sinda stirred, eyelids fluttering, as Nehtan pushed open the door. She looked at him, her eyes glinting hard and dark as black rock.

“Is there a decision to be made?” Sinda asked, her voice raspy and frail. Just from sleep, Ada thought, closing her hopes around the thought.

Nehtan nodded. “It’s Callo. He is very ill.”

Sinda sighed. An arm emerged from the cocoon of blankets, and she pushed against the floor, muscles standing out like thin rope. She rose a bit, then fell back. Ada moved forward, slid her arm beneath her mother’s back, and helped her up as Nehtan looked away.

Once her mother was standing, Ada stepped back, out of the way, forgotten. Until Sinda said, “Ada is coming with us.”

Nehtan’s eyebrows rose. “Sinda–”

“I will not be questioned,” Sinda said, with great calm. “She is my daughter. She will come with us.”

Nehtan looked as though he had tasted something unpleasant. At length he said, “All right. As long as she is not in the way.”

“She will not be,” said Sinda. Neither of them looked at Ada, or spoke to her. It was unsual enough that they spoke of her.

Callo’s home was halfway across the village. Outside the circle of torchlight, the forest was so black that the trees didn’t exist, except in the rattling whisper of wind through branches. Ada watched the darkness, her heart drumming slow and loud in her ears.

Light blazed from Callo’s windows, puddling on the bare ground. His wife had lit lanterns and candles and spaced them evenly around the room, driving out shadow. As though she could keep death away, with the brightness.

They climbed the steps and went inside and found Callo lying on his back wrapped in blankets, his wife at his side holding his hand. Callo’s chest heaved with his breaths. He made a sound, a deep moan like the wind in a snowstorm.

“Has Annele seen to him?” Nehtan asked Callo’s wife.

The woman looked up. Her cheeks were streaked with tears. “Yes,” she said. “She even gave him medicine.” Her face twitched. “But it did nothing, and she said he is beyond help. He’s readying to climb the mountain, now.” She twined her fingers in his hair.

Their small daughter slept in a corner, peaceful despite the light and noise. They’d had a son once, but he was dead two years, from a fever that had burned him right out of the world.

Ada wondered what Callo’s wife had traded, or done, to get Annele’s medicine that hadn’t worked.

The council stayed back. Nehtan turned to Ada’s mother. “Sinda?” He said, questioning.

Sinda stepped forward unassisted, brushing away Nehtan’s hand when he reached to help. She knelt beside Callo’s bed. She listened to his breathing, and touched his chest, and measured the beat of his heart in the pulse at his neck. Finally she sat back on her heels.

“He is dying,” she said. “He will be gone within a day.”

“Not sooner?” Nehtan asked.

“No,” said Sinda, regret in her voice. “I do not think sooner.”

She looked up, into the eyes of Callo’s wife. The woman was calm, despite the tears. This couldn’t have been a surprise for her. Callo had been ill for months. Some lived for years with cave-lung, true. But once it set in, the end could come at any time.

“Do what you must,” said Callo’s wife. She looked at her sleeping child, visible only as a pile of blankets and a tuft of dark curly hair. “He would want us safe, whatever it took. And I cannot lose my daughter.”

“We are sorry,” said Sinda, “for your loss. And we thank you for making this easier on everyone.” She touched the woman’s hand, her face as kind as Ada had ever seen it. “You should leave. And your daughter.”

“She won’t wake,” said Callo’s wife.

“If you’re sure,” Sinda said.

The woman leaned over to kiss her husband’s forehead. She whispered something to him, soft and secret. Then she stood and wiped her face and went out the door with back straight and head high.

Ada moved to follow her.

“No,” said Sinda. She looked at her daughter, straight in the eye. “You will stay here. It is time you saw. You are no longer a child.” Sinda tipped her head toward the little girl in the corner, asleep and unaware. “Stay with her,” she said. “If her mother is wrong, and she wakes, you must get her outside without letting her see.”

Ada nodded, her mouth dry as stone. “All right,” she said. She crossed to sit by the child, careful not to touch. The small pile of blankets rose and fell, steady, the sound of the child’s breathing soft and normal. The little girl had not yet set foot in the mine, but she was five years old. She would feel mine-call before summer turned to frost.

The council knelt around Callo, around the drowning body that had once been him. As one they dropped their heads and closed their eyes, and prayed his spirit safely up the mountain, and apologized for what they had to do.

Nehtan reached down, with one last whisper of “Forgive me.” Ada looked to the sleeping child and did not glance back, even when she heard Callo’s rasping breaths turn to choking.

In just a few moments, silence said it was over.

Ada stood. Callo lay on his back, still. Black bruising ringed his throat, and his wide-open eyes bulged, crimson with a sheen of blood.

Ada stepped around him, and around the council and her mother, and she went outside and vomited until pain stabbed her stomach. Still kneeling, she spread her fingers over her barely-curved belly, and whispered that she was sorry.

Other participants in the AbsoluteWrite NaNoWriMo blog chain:

orion_mk3 | robjvargas | AshleyEpidemic | vertigo78 | bdwilson | meowzbark | wittyblather | RhondaParrish | skunkmelon | sunflowerrei

when the coffee trees bloom

Selamat malam from Java!

It is dry season here. Yesterday morning we woke up and all the coffee trees had started blooming, at the same moment, like someone had flipped a switch. The air smells of coffee blossoms. Beautiful.

Good news on the ulcer front: Apparently it was indeed caused by h. pylori. The treatment worked, and I am back to eating everything except coffee, tomatoes, and citrus. (I’ll stay on omeprazole for a few months, just to ensure that the ulcer heals fully.) Being better means that I get to enjoy awesome Indonesian food! Lunch yesterday was satay, one of my favorites.

On the writing front… I’ve fallen behind, due, I think, to pacing problems. I hit a part of the story that drags, and if it’s too boring for me to want to write it, I can’t imagine anyone would be interested in reading it. I think I’ve managed to power through to the interesting part. I’ll revise, re-structure, and cut during editing.

As for tonight, I need to write at least 1,000 more words before I go to bed, or my nieces might disown me. They’re about out of patience.

In the land of rice and lava

I recently made a stressful international trip with an ulcer, and actually survived. I couldn’t eat any of the airplane or airport food, but I’d found one brand of apple cereal bars that I could eat without excruciating pain, so I brought enough for the entire trip.

On the ulcer front: I’ve started treatment for h. pylori. Day three, and I’m not sure yet whether or not it’s helping. Also not sure what I’ll do if it doesn’t help. It’s been almost six weeks since I was able to eat much. I’ve probably lost close to twenty pounds.

Enough whining. Let’s talk about Indonesia, specifically the island of Java. I love the people, the food (it’s hard not being able to eat it at the moment), and the landscape with its towering volcanos and terraced rice fields. Due to my illness, I haven’t gotten a chance to get out and take a lot of photos yet. Here are a few from around the house.

ImageBanana tree, complete with giant blossom. Bananas in the tropics taste amazing.

ImageCicak, a kind of small gecko. They are cute, and useful, since they
eat bugs. There’s also an adorable children’s song about them.

Image
Traditional hand broom.

It’s not a coincidence that Lili, the main character in my first novel, has a mother who’s Javanese (Lili’s father, like me, is a white Texan). I’ll be living here in Java for four months, learning and absorbing everything I can. I believe this experience will be greatly helpful when it comes to writing a character who is half-Javanese.

Speaking of the novel, it’s coming along. Still much longer than I had planned–30,000 words through 6 chapters. There are 21 chapters in my outline, which puts me on pace for 105,000 words. Yikes. Something tells me I’ll have to do plenty of cutting in the editing phase. Still, I’m pleased I’ve been able to keep up the pace, despite illness and travel.

Of Novels and Ulcers

My novel-in-progress, The Mirror Veil, has hit 16,000 words through 4 chapters. The first draft is going to be longer than planned, which will mean cutting stuff later. Fine with me. I’ve been told by many writers that editing is where the magic happens, and as I’ve never edited a full-length novel before, I’m almost looking forward to it. (Yes, I know I’m crazy.)

I’ve done a lot of recent work on my plot and character-arc outlines, and I’m feeling pretty good about them right now, which necessarily means that they are crap and will undergo more changes later. I’m also okay with this. The Mirror Veil is my first novel, and while I love it and am excited about it, I’m also prepared to trunk it and move on if/when the time comes. It’s 1) a learning experience and 2) a gift for my nieces. As long as they like it, and I learn many things that will make me a better writer, I’m happy.

In non-writing news: I have a stomach ulcer, and it is less fun than you’d expect. There are six foods I can eat, in small amounts: whole-grain bread, oatmeal (no milk or butter), scrambled eggs, boiled squash, cooked beans, and plain boiled chicken breast. On the bright side*, I’ve lost ten pounds in the last eight days.

*There is no bright side. I want my active, kinda-chubby body back, in place of this skinnier one that never has energy. Also, I WANT COFFEE. *weeps*

Hello!

I’m Amalie, and I am a writer. When I was five, I discovered the magic of words on pages, and that was that. I wrote my first story that year. It was about a baby fox who almost fell off a cliff and had to be rescued by his mother. I still have the story. A literary masterpiece, let me tell you.

A few other things: I am in my mid-20s. I grew up in remote wooded hills in the Southern United States, and I still breathe best beneath a wild, open sky. I love to learn and discover. I have so many interests that I don’t know what to do with them all. I also have a small horde of wonderful nieces and nephews.

My first novel-in-progress, tentatively titled The Mirror Veil, is for them. It is my love letter to courage and kindness, and magic and wilderness, and people who do the right thing even when the world is unfair.

Someday I might even finish writing it.