Revision Xibalba Part One

Day One of vacation from the Evil Day Job:

Made it to Kaldi’s this morning and began working on the next section shortly after 9 am.  Two cups of coffee and one section down.  Moving into Quinn’s POV next.  I think I might need one last brief “tie up” resolution section after that, a sort of breather after the high action.  I’m not sure how the sections will fall into place in the existing first draft yet, but I’ll figure that out in revision.

Short and sweet section, only 655 words, but high action.

Snippet:

The front of his shirt moved and wiggled like a rat had crawled down his collar.  He screamed louder, higher, and the pulsing mass rose sharply from his chest.  Firecrackers went off and a bucket of hot, thick fluid splashed her face. 

Gagging, she wiped her eyes and spat, trying to get the thick, foul stuff out of her mouth.

It tasted…

Her brain chittered like a birdcage of frantic, fluttering birds.

With horrible fascination, she turned and watched the lump float into the creature’s hand.

Throbbing so hard it jerked and fought the creature’s grip, the hunk of meat still squirted red from dangling veins.

A yawning pit of darkness opened beneath her feet, and this time, Tara flung herself into oblivion gladly.  I don’t want to be conscious when it takes my heart.

Revision Xibalba

Modest progress today.  I didn’t finish all of the new scenes as I’d hoped, but I’m pleased with the 2,225 words I managed to work out.  All Dallas threads have converged and the big showdown is iminent.  According to my spreadsheet, I only have one more new scene to write, but I think I’ll need 2.  I hope that’s it.  I’m really not sure what happens other than a vague “bad guy arrives and all hell breaks loose” sort of note to myself.

I made a note about needing to research flamethrowers.  Ah, I love this writing gig.  When else would I get to find out what kind of gas is used, if it’s pressurized, and whether it’s feasible to have one as small as a foot-long steel pipe?  If one doesn’t exist, I need enough details to show the possibility of one as a “secret” R&D sort of government weapon.

I have a few static traits that I thought I’d use — but they haven’t proven important yet.  I’m hoping they will magically unfold in these final pages.  If not, I’ll either have to axe those traits or tweak my plot until it’s tight and seamless.  Quinn might be using a flamethrower, but Tara’s only weapon is an expensive ink pen and she’s severely handicapped by fainting at the sight of blood.  Still, I know in a deep gut sort of way that she’s going to play a huge role in the final scene(s).

Plan tomorrow:  get the monsters off to school and drive up to Kaldi’s, the coffee shop I used in November, where assuming I end up with an outlet, I’ll write until I finish the new scenes. 

Snippet:

Mr. Linkyn slammed his fist down on the table between them so loudly she jumped.  “No cross-reference, no boring details, we don’t have the time.  Use this one.”

He pointed to a symbol which she’d identified as Ix Chel.  Dr. Tennant had said she was the rainbow goddess of fertility and medicine.  That didn’t sound so bad.

“We need two,” she said slowly.  “We can’t–”

“You know which one,” Mr. Linkyn growled out. 

Larry started to tremble but he nodded.  Meeting her gaze, he whispered, “All we need is a little blood.”

Revision Xibalba

Oh, dear, it’s been so long since I worked on this project that I forgot my own characters’ names!  Not the major characters, obviously, and this story does have quite a large cast (with three major POV threads), but still, that’s not a good sign.

I decided to start by refreshing my memory (since it was so poor!) and tracked both subplot threads from start to finish as far as I’d written.  Or so I thought — I got ready to start the next section and realized I’d written another one, but couldn’t find it.  Doh!  Found it — I’d forgotten to put it in the main draft.  Of course I had to edit it, too, and then edited a few other things, one thing leading to another…

Finally, I sat down with the next scene solid in my mind, but the words came slooooowly.  Partly because I’m sick–AGAIN–Princess Monster shared her crud with me.  It took much longer than I care to admit, but I finally got that first draft section finished. 

Only 3 more to go, then I’ll have a complete “first draft” and can piece the new sections into the revision as I edit the rest.  I think that’ll keep me from stalling each time I move from “revision” to “new” sections.

This stop and start, stop and start, and problems with my organization (or lack thereof), have really caused this manuscript’s revision to be more painful than it should have been.  It ranks as the toughest revision I’ve ever done, and sadly, it’ll probably need another pass before I can submit.  The opening page(s) still need some work.  I’m not happy with them yet.

Those Genre Fences

I did some soul searching with my accountability partner, Jenna, and I think I finally realize why I can’t get any momentum built up on the Maya story.

I can’t decide what genre the story should be in.

You might be asking, how on earth could you have written 70+K in a story and you don’t know what genre it’s in?  I find myself asking that same question. *wg*  It comes back to Romancelandia, the tall white-picket fence I tend to sit on, and which side I think this story’s going to jump down to become.

I’ll always write a “romantic” thread, sometimes smoldering and boundary-pushing, but other times, quiet and gentle.  In the first draft of the Maya story, I tried to make the romance smoldering, and it came out forced.  I *despise* forced.  I’ve toned things down considerably so it is more natural.

It’s not a traditional romance “thou shalt have hero and heroine met on page one” kind of story.  In this second major draft, a lot of plot is going on around and in the main story line.  The hero and heroine don’t even get on page together until around the 86th page.  The focus of the story is NOT them getting together.    They don’t even have relations *cough* until after the 200 page mark, and then just the one time, a feat for me.  (I dare you to go count the sex scenes in Rose, say, or Beautiful Death, or even Survive My Fire, a mere 20K!)  The romance is much less “in your face” than I would typically write, but I didn’t do it deliberately — it just happened as I worked through this draft.

Now the ending…it’s so crucial.  I have two paths.  The path I know is “romance.”  The path I don’t know is “not.”  I don’t want to take the easy path, whichever way that is.  Part of me says take the path less traveled, explore that new way, but then I wonder:  is this just me wanting to kick the genre fences down?  I do get that way sometimes (while according to the Chinese horoscope I’m a dog, I feel a lot of empathy for horses which don’t like to be penned in stalls).  I don’t want to make a choice just to be obstinant, n0r do I want to play safe.

I think the more compelling ending would be the non-romance path with a cliffhanger.  It would lend extreme urgency to the next book (although I have no idea what that plot might be).  Yet is that the *right* thing to do?

I have to make a decision.  Today.  Because I have two days off next week and I’m going to bust my metaphorical balls to finish this revision before I go back to the Evil Day Job on Wed.

Opinions?  Discussions?  Would you rather see a “happy ever after” or “cliff hanger” type ending?

RX 3/5/2009

I’ve got a lot to get done this week beyond Revision Xibalba, some that I forgot about.  Like E-Book Week.  So I’ll be working on that frantically this weekend too.

Meanwhile, I did finish the next section in the Maya story.  It was more than a simple polish, since a major side character’s motivation changed, but I finally broke 70K (72,659 words now).

To do list by Monday:

  • Write new Quinn section for the Maya story.  If I’m on a roll, write Tara’s section too.
  • First pass edits of Road.
  • Final blurb/tag line doc on Dear Sir (Letters).
  • Polish The Shadowed Blood and pull together a pdf to give away next week.

Snippet: 

He stood close enough that she got a whiff of his vest.  It smelled… she couldn’t even form the thought in her mind.  The color was fleshy, tanned, some kind of leather.  Still… wet.  She swallowed hard, the bile burning her throat.  Something dripped from the inside of the vest, dark and wet.  Blood.  The vest was…

She gagged, turning away quickly, her hand over her mouth to hide her reaction.  He was wearing skin.  Human skin.  Her mind clamored and her jaws ached to keep back the shrill scream that roared in her throat.

RX: 3/4/2009

So yesterday and today I got up semi-Dark & Early to continue working on Revision Xibalba.  It’s still slow going.  Taking a couple of weeks off certainly didn’t help.  I reread the last chapter first, smoothing a few more things (can any writer read a “complete” chapter and be 100% happy with it?) and then edited the three sections I had finished but not connected to the main draft, which is now just under 70K.

Yesterday, I grabbed the next few sections in Jaid and Ruin’s POV from the first draft and began polishing.  I think I did 2.5 pages yesterday, and finished the rest of the section this morning.  Bad things, dude, very bad things.  Hopefully I’ll build some momentum and grind through these last few horrible scenes quickly.

Tally: 

  • 14 13 revision sections
  • 4 new sections to complete Tara and Quinn’s threads.

That’s it!  I know I can do this by the end of March.

However, I did receive the first pass of edits on The Road to Shanhasson last night!  Wheeeeeee!  They’re pretty light, thanks to the terrific job Soleil, Ann, and Bethanie did of beta-reading.  I’ll get those back to Deena by Monday.  She didn’t even kill me for all the horrible things I did in that story. *wicked laugh* Although one comment totally made me laugh out loud about increasing the boys’ ages…

I also have to get the blurb and tagline stuff filled out on Dear Sir, I’m Yours (the story formerly known as Letters).  That will be tougher.  So that’s my first goal.

RX Snippet:  This section takes place in a cave, so it’s absolutely dark.  They’re in an underground pool of water.

“Which city is this?”

“Iximche.”

Surprise splintered through her, followed by a tsunami of dread that nearly dragged her back down to the depths of Lake Atitlan.  This is where her father had made his greatest pre-Chi’Ch’ul discovery.  This is where her mother died.  “Why?”

A new voice echoed in the darkness.  “Because he knew I’d come here.”   

Ruin tensed and whipped his body around toward the speaker, pressing her back from the threat.  Something slammed into him with the dull sound of flesh on flesh and ripped him away.  Water splashed violently, but she couldn’t see what was happening.  If she charged after them, she’d be killed, yet standing here, doing nothing…

She heard a wet, heavy thunk, and Ruin grunted.  God, he must have been stabbed.  Who was it?  It didn’t sound like a demon.

“At last.”

Involuntarily, she backed away into the water.  That voice did sound like a demon.  Her teeth hurt and her muscles tensed so hard and fast that she shuddered.  She couldn’t even call it a “voice” when it grated like metal on metal, screeching to the point of pain.

“Give me the White Dagger, lady.”

Until then, she didn’t even remember that she held it in her hand.  The thing felt slick and foul on her palm as though it were coated in rotted, feculent scum.  Gritting her teeth, she forced her fingers to grip it, not to sling it away.  It pulsed with a heavy, steady throb like a living heart.

“Jaid, don’t you dare–“  Ruin’s ragged voice cut off on a strangled, bubbling sound.  She didn’t need to see him to know that his throat had been slit.

 

2/25/2009

When I planned to work on Tara’s scene last night, I’d forgotten that I had a two-hour eligibility afternoon meeting at the Evil Day Job.  Talk about totally wiped.  I had a tension headache, too, and just couldn’t face this difficult scene. 

That Man had to be up at 5:15 for his EDJ today, so we both went to bed early and I planned to tackle the scene this morning.  As I was brushing my teeth, the final plot piece finally slipped into place.  I also had a vision for another diagram I need to prepare for work today before our 1 pm meeting to clean up all the stuff that came up yesterday.  Some days, my brain is firing on all cylinders!

So I shout VICTORY this morning.  The first draft of Tara’s scene is complete at 914 words.  Not a lot by any means, but a significant victory just the same.  I noted my complete lack of output since 2/14 in my spreadsheet which is totally unacceptable.  Ugh.  I could have been through Revision Xibalba this month if I hadn’t slacked off.  Le sigh.

Ah, well, nothing I can do about it now but press my nose to the grindstone and concentrate on finishing as soon as possible.

Aside:  My copy of Larissa Ione’s Desire Unchained arrived yesterday!  I had it pre-ordered on Amazon forever, it seemed, and I was going to hunt down the UPS man if he didn’t deliver it yesterday.  He was late (after dinner) but he did drop it off, along with my Caribou Coffee order.  However, I don’t get to read it until I finish Revision Xibalba.  *dies*  That’s my reward.  [I don’t get to start it, because once I do, I know I’ll read it straight through in one sitting like Pleasure Unbound!]

And so cool — my first “blurb” appears in the front!

Where I Am

I’m going to work on the nagging (haha, not “nagging” according to Sal in the Shanhasson series) scene today in Revision Xibalba even if it kills me!  If I must admit defeat by the time I go to bed, then tomorrow, I’m skipping this scene.  I know what comes later — and it’s easy smoothing/edits not writing a brand new scene. 

Kait, I don’t think I need your character therapist duties — yet.  I know this character.  The problem is I don’t know enough about the plot in this scene.  I have a general sense, but I’ve already started it in the wrong place.  This is a new sub-plot thread, and so some of this exploration is necessary for me — but doesn’t belong on page.  For whatever reason, I have a mental block about it.

Since I don’t have much to report on the writing front, I’ll note a few other things.

I’m currently reading The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett thanks to this post at Fantasy Debut.  It was generally held knowledgeable among the people who know my secret writing projects that I was working on a similar story at one time or another (2007 Fast Draft which needs so much work it’s not even funny).  Magicians is a lovely story, but very very slow paced.  It’s an interesting mix of Regency mores and “new” culture of this world.  I know there are seven old Houses that supposedly controlled or knew magic but that’s about it, and I’m thru the first five chapters.

I got out several packages last Friday AT LAST!  There was great rejoicing heard all about the land as I now have packages winging their way toward WI, VA, TN and OH.  I have one more “Christmas” present to mail to friends in WI, a birthday present (from last September — shame!!) to a friend in MN, and one of my Dad’s acquaintances wants a print out of Survive My Fire.  After that, I might almost be caught up in post office duties.

I need to clean my desk.  I need to clean out the fridge.  I need to sit down and plan out some healthy meals and evaluate my schedule to make sure I’m exercising — I’ve been lax again. 

By then, my writing mo-jo should be back in full swing.  That’s the plan, at least, and I’m sticking to it.

02/16/2009

I’m so far behind it’s not even funny.

I can’t really blame it on any single thing.  I just lost my groove.  I got out of “work mode” and I’m struggling to get back to that place that doesn’t mind getting up at 5 AM and has no interest in doing anything but writing.

Certainly not watching Phantom of the Opera AGAIN like I did last night, this time with the monsters.  Then I watched it again after they went to bed, only I fast forwarded through everything to hit only the scenes I wanted to see.  I had to quit listening to the sound track, because those songs are still pounding in my head this morning and I can’t seem to think of anything else.

So this is a rather sorry update.  I will not be finishing 7Crows by the end of the month.  I’ve finished one scene of 20+.  It’s not going to happen.  That’s fine.  I’ll take my time and do it right the first time, AFTER I finish the Maya revision, which I haven’t touched for days.

My first order of business today (2/17/2009) is to finish the next new scene in Tara’s POV.  I’ll report back tonight on how I did and where I stand in Revision Xibalba.

2/9/2009

A most excellent day of revision.  Dark & Early this morning, and then quite a bit tonight, despite parent-teacher conferences for Princess Monster.  She also conned me into reading a book she checked out from the school library that had me bawling like a baby.  Wenny Has Wings by Janet Lee Carey.  I don’t know how any parent could read that book and not cry.

4,382 in revision.  I told you it would be bam, bam, bam action from here on out, which means a lot of these sections should fly.  I do have a few research holes to plug as I go, especially once we get to Iximche.  Luckily there’s not a lot known about that ruin, so I can make up a lot.

No work on 7Crows today.  That deadline is looking pretty impossible.

Snippet:

A demon howled, a cry of derision or glee that skittered down [Ruin’s] spine.  His sense of time told him it should be high noon, but no sunlight reached the waters.  Clouds roiled in the small circle of sky, darkening the sun.  If he failed, if he allowed a demon to reclaim the White Dagger for the might of Xibalba, the sun might never shine again. 

Yet dread at what he needed to do twisted his gut.  What he needed from her now might be the final thing that drove her to turn her face and heart from him forever.

Terrified but calm, she smiled with relief as soon as he joined her.  “Where are we going?”

Solemnly, he traced the curve of her cheek with his thumb.  “Do you trust me?”

She stared at him, her chin trembling slightly. 

“Priest!”  The demon screamed above.  “Surrender the White Dagger, or I’ll slice the woman’s skin from her body in thin strips and feast on her flesh!”

She paled and her pulse thumped in her neck.  Staring at him, she weighed his many sins against the night they’d spent together. 

Carefully, he kept his mind closed and his face shut down.  He would not accidentally use the mental connection he’d forged through healing to sway her.  Steeling himself, he prepared to make the most difficult sacrifice of his life.  His heart rebelled.  A knife cracked open his chest and exposed his frantically pounding heart. 

How could he leave her to a fate worse than death?  Did he dare force her?  His mind and heart raged at one another in the everlasting battle he could never seem to escape.  This was his true curse, this desire to throw all caution away for his heart. 

For his love.

“I would die to save you,” he whispered raggedly.  “I love you.”

She trembled.  “You barely know me.”

“I know your heart.  I touched your soul when I healed you.  I love you like no one else could.  I cannot harm you, Jaid.  Trust me.  Let me save us.  I’ll pay the cost myself.”

A splash told him the demon had jumped into the cenote, willing to risk that he’d send it back to Xibalba in order to gain the greatest prize of all. 

Ruin clenched his hands into fists.  Choose, choose, he screamed silently.  Don’t make me force this choice upon you.