An Excerpt from Unexpected

Much like yesterday’s Kiwi Quotes post, my delightfully harsh fairy has been somewhat edited in this excerpt to make it safe for work.  Enjoy!

Doug walked out to the tree in his backyard.  He wasn’t sure how to find Kiwi when she didn’t want to be found, but he figured he’d just hang out and wait for her.  Since Guava’s surprise visit a week ago, Kiwi hadn’t said anything else about her sister, and Doug knew the unwelcome visitor hadn’t made his friend leave this tree.  So he figured she’d come back eventually.

He sat against the tree with his book for a while, enjoying the weather, but after a bit his back started to hurt.  Eyeing his lawn, he settled on a patch of somewhat soft grass and lay on his back, pillowing his head on his hands.  The warm sunshine felt good on his skin after his day inside an overly cold, air conditioned building.  Letting his mind drift, he dozed off.

“What are you doing?”  Kiwi’s voice from above him startled Doug awake.   She was hovering about three feet above him.

“Waiting for you,” he replied.

She snorted.  A moment later she flew down and unexpectedly landed on the end of his nose.  He crossed his eyes playfully, pretending to try to look up her skirt.

When she realized what he was doing, she shouted, “Hey!” and kicked him in the nose.

“Ow,” he said as he rubbed his nose.  He hadn’t expected her to have that much power.   “I was just teasing!”

“You still deserved it,” she said, crossing her arms and hovering mid-air.

He sat up, crossing his legs.  “Fair enough,” he said.

Distracted, Doug forgot that he’d come out here for a reason.  Kiwi, however, did not, and she flew over to land on his knee.  “So why are you waiting for me?”

Doug looked down at her, puzzled by her question for a split second before he remembered his initial goal.  “I need your advice, and maybe some help.”

“We’ll see,” she said, a touch suspiciously.  “What’s going on?”

“My friend Stanley is acting really strangely,” he said.  “I think it might be something to do with the woman he’s started dating.  Veronica.”

Kiwi thought for a moment.  “Stanley’s the super nerd, right?  The skinny, pasty one who clearly spends way too much time playing video games?”

Doug was a touch offended by her description of his friend, but she wasn’t wrong.  “Yeah, that’s him.”

“So how is he acting strangely?  I mean, is he just acting like a nerdy guy who’s finally getting laid, or is it something more than that?” she asked.

He’d thought a lot about how to answer this question, because he’d known the fairy would need a good description of Stanley’s behavior.  He still struggled a bit, even with his preparation.  “He seems really tired, you know, like he’s not getting enough sleep or maybe not eating enough.  He’s very, I don’t know.  Maybe the best word is listless; he doesn’t participate in conversation unless directly asked a question, and he’s been dragging his feet a lot and is always looking down.  He gets his work done, but a lot more slowly than he used to.”  He paused, thinking about what else she might need to know.  “This all began after he started dating this new girl; one day he comes in all excited, floating on air and bragging on her, and the next he was acting a little off.  It’s gotten progressively worse since then.”

Kiwi had been listening intently while Doug worked through his description.  For a moment she stood still on his knee, thinking.  Finally she looked up at him.  “Sounds like a succubus,” she said, shrugging.  “I’d say goodbye; there’s nothing you can do once a succubus gets her hooks into a guy.”

Doug was horrified.  “Are you serious?  There’s nothing we can do?  He’s just going to die?”

“Pretty much,” Kiwi replied matter-of-factly.

“How long does he have?”  Doug asked, a touch of panic in his voice.

She answered, “Once a succubus gets a guy, he’s got a week, maybe ten days tops.”

That startled Doug out of his fright.  “That’s not right.  He’s been dating her for about three weeks already.”

Kiwi looked surprised.  “Really?  And the weird behavior has been going on that long?”

“Just about,” Doug said.  “It was only a couple of days since they first met that it started.”

“Hmm.  Not a succubus, then.” Kiwi seemed intrigued.  It disturbed Doug a bit that she was approaching this as an intellectual puzzle rather than a human being he cared about, but he wasn’t going to alienate her by pointing it out.  He might still need her help to save Stanley.

He interrupted her thinking by asking, “What else could it be?”

The fairy launched into her now-familiar professorial mode.  “There’s a whole list of female-impersonating monsters who lure men with sex and then give them some horrible torture or death, but most of them are tied to a specific location.  I mean, unless he’s been hanging out by Russian lakes recently, she’s probably not a Rusalka.  The Yuki-Onna doesn’t confine herself to Japan, but it is way too warm for her right now.  And he’d hopefully notice the tail on a Huldra.  Plus they’re all pretty much trapped in one forest or another.”

Doug’s face had whitened a bit.  “All of those are real?” he asked.

Kiwi moved her head in a non-committal way.  “More or less.  I’ve met a Rusalka; let me tell you, the waterlogged spirit of a drowned girl is not a great conversationalist. I’ve only heard of the other two.  My sister claims to have seen Yuki-Onna once, but she’s got a really strong imagination and her eyesight is questionable.”

He’d thought wrapping his head around the existence of fairies was tough.  Doug shook his head to bring himself back to the conversation.  “So if none of those are possibilities, what else could she be?”

“That’s tough,” Kiwi replied.  “I mean, from what you described, it definitely sounds like Stanley’s new girlfriend is draining his energy in a more nefarious way than a typical human female.  But honestly, I’d need to either see her in person, or see how he’s behaving, to really be able to tell you.”

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A Title, for now

NaNoWriMo is open for this year!  Yay!!

I registered my novel for this year, put up the description, and I’ve come up with a title for now.  It might not stay my title, or since it’s one word it could end up being part of the final title.

Oh, you wanted to know the title?

Unexpected

It refers to several parts of the story – the friendship between Doug and Kiwi, the people from their respective pasts who show up, and the challenge they face.  Not great, but it works for now.

So excited for NaNo!!  Who’s with me?

Excerpt from Dragon Pendant

Last year for my birthday challenge, I posted excerpts from both novels and a short story to my blog.  As I promised something challenge-worthy for this week, here is the prologue from Dragon.  Enjoy!

Te’Kalyn stretched as her body finished its transformation.   The space between her shoulder blades itched terribly, as always, and the pendant that now hung from her neck was warm against her skin.  She took two steps across the room to a small table next to a mirror.  Her eyes were focused on the prize lying on the table. Greedily she reached for the medallion.  The weight in her hand was much more substantial now that she was in this smaller, weaker physical form.  She absently rubbed her thumb across the symbols and images carved into the unusual metal.  This talisman had cost her dearly, although she was shrewd enough to guarantee its effectiveness before making her purchase.  She was also smart enough to know that the maker was only a liability, and to ensure his inability to speak of what he had made for her.  A satisfied smile crept across her face.  It revealed the pointed teeth that, along with cat-slit pupils, betrayed Te’Kalyn as a Khai in human form.   Fortunately, the irises of her eyes were so dark as to be black, concealing the pupils, and it was easy enough not to smile.

Slipping the medallion into the pouch on her belt, Te’Kalyn paused to admire her carefully created appearance in the mirror.  Small and slender, a black a-line skirt and white buttoned-down shirt accentuated her petite frame and strikingly pale skin.  The professional image of the outfit was spoiled by her chunky black boots and the black collar that hugged her slim neck.  Her black hair, so dark it barely shone in the light, was cut in a short, spiky style that still made her look feminine.

Pleased with the overall effect, she confidently strode toward the door of her home.   She stopped long enough to don a flowing hooded cloak made of rich black velvet, in order to make herself less incongruous while still on Erova.  Walking was not her usual mode of transport, but horses would not pretend to tolerate her presence, much less suffer her to ride.  Walking would be her only choice.  Fortunately, her destination was not far, and she had magic enough even in this shape to keep herself comfortable no matter what the weather.

The path to the ruins was dirt, well compacted but with the intrusions of plant life that disuse brings to a road.  Ancient fir trees shadowed the lane, their lowest branches high above Te’Kalyn’s head.  Birds stilled their voices as she walked near them; they recognized a Khai as a predator regardless of her current shape.  The world around her provided little distraction to the young woman, absorbed as she was in her own thoughts and plans.  She was finally within yards of her lifelong goal, finally near the ruins and her passageway to another world, a world more suited to her tastes and desires.

Te’Kalyn walked around a bend in the road and the ruins suddenly loomed ahead of her.  She had spent the last year overseeing her servants as they meticulously rebuilt one wall of the damaged structure.  The original stones, identified by magic, had been collected from their scattered resting places.  Three smaller ones had even been recovered from the walls of her own home.   Now, standing again where it had stood centuries ago, was a gateway.   Te’Kalyn gently stroked the smooth wood of the door.  This was the only part of the gate that was not original, for the door had long since deteriorated.  It had taken weeks of magical work to recreate the door – for something this important, a substitute could not be used.  Everything about the gateway must be identical in magical signature to the original structure in order for it to work.  The Khai had not been pleased at the amount of magical energy that the re-creation had required, but it was fundamental to her goal, and so she had spent herself dry for days on end.

Now, at last, she had received the final requirement for passage: a gate medallion.  The slimy little magician who had created the metal disk in her pouch had somehow managed to steal and duplicate a very strategic key, one of the few that could open any gateway, regardless of age or deactivation.  This theft and the subsequent results of his work had proven the depth of the man’s talents; it had been unfortunate that she had been unable to allow him to continue using those gifts.  It had been quite enjoyable to watch the man twitch and struggle as she slowly drained the life from him, his painful whimpers turning to agonized screams as she finished him off with flame.

Smiling a little to herself at the pleasing memory, Te’Kalyn removed the medallion from her pouch and approached the gateway.  Making certain that the symbols were oriented correctly, the Khai reached up and placed the surface of the disk against the matching depression in the stone to the right of the door.  She used a tiny trickle of magic to activate the disk, and the metal warmed in her hand.

For a moment, nothing happened.  Te’Kalyn was unsure if the process would work; each part had been done correctly, but with a rebuilt gate, a replica of the door, and a magical duplicate of the medallion, there was always the possibility that a flaw had found its way in.  After a moment, though, the wood began to give off a glow visible to the Khai’s other sight, and she smiled insidiously.  Placing her hand on the knob, she opened the door, shed her cloak, and stepped through into a different world, the first Khai in a generation to venture onto Earth.

Query Letters

Last night my brain started drafting the query letter for Dragon.

This is a big deal, because for Butterflies, I agonized over the query letter.  Granted, the part I was working on is the easy part about my writing experience, and not the hard story summary section.  Either way, it means that I’m getting to a point where I’m ready to start sending Dragon out into the world.

The editing is not quite done, of course, and I won’t actually be sending out any queries until the second draft is finished.  There’s no harm in getting the letter ready, though.  I’ll also need to sit down with my Writer’s Market book and start selecting agents to query, but that comes later.

Prep for NaNo – New Characters!

NaNoWriMo starts 6 months from tomorrow, and I’ve already started mentally preparing for it.

Last year I didn’t even know about NaNo until a week or so before it started.  I signed up to participate 3 days in advance of the opening day.  Fortunately, I had an existing story idea that I could work with and I wrote 50,000 words of Life in Dreams in 29 days.

I don’t have an existing story idea (other than Chasing, which is going to have to simmer on the back burner for a while longer) so the sight of the winner’s certificate from last year made me start to worry about this year.  I decided to start contemplating ideas, so perhaps when November rolls around I’ll have something to kick-start the writing.

Once I set my creativity a task, it usually delivers.  This time was no different.  Last night I decided on my main characters!  I don’t know their names, or much of their story.  All I’ve got so far is a conversation between them and a little bit of background for one of them.  It doesn’t matter, though, since now that I’ve met them I can start finding out more.  I’m not too worried about it yet, since I have six months to develop my idea!

Motivating a Dragon

As part of my revision of Dragon, I had to find a better motivation for my antagonist.

First, some background: Dragon Pendant is set in a gate world. On one side of any of the gates is Earth, mostly like it is today. On the other side, a world of magic that includes elves and dragons. Due to the magical nature of the gates, they are monitored by the elves. The dragons are mostly restricted to the magical realm, primarily due to their misbehavior early on. For some reason the elves thought that having dragons rampaging through a then-unprotected population of humans wasn’t a good idea. Ok, you’re caught up.

Now on to the antagonist. She’s a black dragon, and while not all of them deserve their reputation for evil, she definitely earns hers. I have her going to great lengths to get herself to Earth. The original reasoning I gave her was simple: you told me not to go, so I will, just to prove that I can. Once there, she starts building her hoard of antique weaponry, mostly through theft.

This was not a sufficient motivation for one of my First Readers. I’ve taken the time to consider her comments and realized that it might not be enough for other readers. So instead of just building a hoard (which she’s still going to do), she’s going to be developing herself as a major crime boss of the city. Now we don’t just have the nose-thumbing reason, we have the more traditional money/power reason as well.

I know it’s not a groundbreaking motivation, but it fits the character and the story well. And that’s my primary goal.

4 Reasons My Blog Won’t Ever Be Freshly Pressed

For those of you who are unfamiliar with WordPress (which I’m guessing is a minority, since most of my followers are fellow bloggers), there is a display of blog posts that appears when you go to the main WordPress webpage to log in.  These are called Freshly Pressed.  For some bloggers, being featured is a common occurrence; for many others, it’s a major event.  It brings new readers to your blog.  One post on Freshly Pressed can end up with over 100 likes, if it does well.  I’ve paid some attention to what ends up Freshly Pressed, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t end up on that page.  Here are four reasons why.

1. I don’t usually post pictures.  Most, although not all, of the Freshly Pressed posts feature at least one picture.  This picture is used to catch your eye on the Freshly Pressed page.  I have two photo rules that keep my photos to a minimum, and will thus keep me off of Freshly Pressed.  I only post a picture if it is truly applicable to my post, and I only post pictures that are mine to post.  (I broke this second rule once, early on, but I’ve stuck to it since.)  Since I write mostly about writing, my blog is typically picture-free.

2. I don’t write about travel or cooking.  I have posted a couple of travel-type blogs (specifically about the Galapagos), but this is not a travel blog.  This is also not a cooking blog, so I don’t post recipes.  On any given day, Freshly Pressed usually includes at least one travel post and one food/cooking post.  This weekend there were eleven exotic-locale posts (they were also filling art and photography and family roles, but still set in exotic locations) and 2 food posts.  Rule me out for those spaces!

3. I’m not a household name.  This blog is steadily growing in popularity.  I have followers, and I get new ones on a regular basis.  This doesn’t mean, however, that Butterflies and Dragons is a recognizable blog name.  Often the blogs on Freshly Pressed already have a large reader base, meaning that the title of the blog alone (listed under the title of the post) will get people to click on it.  I’m not there yet.

4. I’m not particularly funny or clever.  This could really be two reasons, but I’ve lumped them together.  Yes, I’m reasonably good at wording a sentence to explain something in a unique way, and I think that I have achieved a certain level of self-deprecation in some of my posts.  This doesn’t mean that I write humor.  That’s the first part, because funny posts get Freshly Pressed.  The second part is that I haven’t come up with a clever post that’s caught the attention of those in charge of selection.  Even a mildly humorous person can write a clever post; perhaps I can think of something that might be Press-worthy.  I’ve decided, though, to simply enjoy the blogs that do make it to Freshly Pressed status, and focus on writing what I want to and what I think my readers will enjoy, not what I think will catch someone’s attention.

When I first started blogging, I wanted to find a way to make it to Freshly Pressed.  Now I’m content to simply find a way to keep my readers interested.  Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity.  We’ll say that, and not that I’m giving up.  🙂

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