MayNoWriMo: Days 13, 14, 15

At the end of day 13, I had added 2000 words. Yay, right? Until I realized that I had a significant plothole. I hadn’t seen it, and my storycar crashed right into that crater and bent the axle.

You see, I had deviated from my handy-dandy outline, and then forgot to pick up that change going into the next section. Even though I’m touching this story everyday. Even though I’m writing like a madwoman. I forgot this one little thing. It wasn’t until I went back about 5 sections to fix the villain’s POV thing I commented on in the last MayNoWriMo post, that I realized I’d crashed my storycar and didn’t even know it.

So I declared yesterday a “read-thru” day. As I’ve commented before, I typically write in individual daily section files. Then at the end of the story, I combine all those little files into a “first draft,” smoothing as I go in a first-pass revision. Since I had to read everything and pick up the lost thread anyway, I decided to smooth everything I had now into a first draft and see what I had.

I made it through 90 pages yesterday! And then fell into yet another plothole. Sigh. I woke up Dark & Early this morning, troubled about the way I’d left the current scene. It had deviated significantly from my outline, and I couldn’t simply move to the next planned scene without adding something to connect the two, but what? Finally I cut the last nearly 300 words from last night’s scene, ended it, and began an entirely new “010A” section to slide in between. I think this will resolve my issue, and give me time as a connection.

Whew. So much for that ridiculous outline, yes? I’m glad I have it, really, although I might bitch about it. A lot of the plot maneuvering has already been done for the overall story plot — it’s these darned character arcs and subplots that are giving me fits. Still, I’d be up you know which creek without a paddle without my outline, even if I can’t stick to it completely!

Half way point: I’m right on track. Can’t afford to fall behind, though, so although I haven’t finished smoothing all sections, I need to keep the new words coming. I *hope* to finish revising the “first draft” this weekend and gain new words at the same time.

25,103 / 100000

Too lazy to pull up a snippet today.

MayNoWriMo: Days 11, 12

I ended up squeezing another session in last night for another 811 words.

Today Dark & Early: 839

Tonight: 1418

Sadly, I’ve deviated a bit from my monstrously large and detailed outline.  I think I’m still fine — it’s more motiviational changes that have happened or been explained better than my plot.  However, I did decide to eliminate the villain’s POV.  I just wasn’t able to pull it off without losing some of the suspense in the main story line.  The perfect “mystery” would unfold if Nevarre’s POV wasn’t included, but I like having his take on scenes, and he has much to add.  This isn’t a “mystery” anyway, but there’s some nice doubt brewing in Lily’s mind–and so in the reader’s mind–that I completely lost with the villain blabbering about all the horrible things he wanted to do.  For such a major structural change, I wasn’t comfortable leaving the earlier section in the villain’s (incorrect) POV, so I went back last night and revised it out.  The new words last night were continuing the earlier scene in Violet’s POV — instead of switching as I’d planned.  It hink it works much better.

I also skimmed Donald Maass’s The Fire in Fiction over lunch today and got a ton of ideas for things to do to the Maya story.  He really makes me think.  Combined with the plot weaknesses that Angelle identified, I think I’m coming up with a plan to knock this story out of the park.  I hope.  I pray.  I’m so sick of Revision Xibalba!!!  But the story deserves the best I can do, and there’s no sense in rushing a bunch of queries out into the world and ruining my A-list shots when I know the story has some problems that I can resolve first.

*cue Michael Jackson’s Thriller – inside joke*

So somehow, I need to fit some revisions in over the next week or so as well as MayNoWriMo.  If I can juggle two massive stories at the same time…  While two books are coming up for releases this and next month.  *dies*

 

22,643 / 100000

Snippet:  A few paragraphs explaining why the North Tower is charred and how Lilias came to be a widow.  (And NO, she’s not the dreaded virgin widow of Romancelandia!)

Reaching up, Violet cupped her sister’s wan cheeks in her palms and turned her face down to hers.  “If someone is doing evil–black magic as Edmund had been doing without our knowledge–then I hope it does happen again.  If someone is hurting one of our loved ones, then I hope you stop them, whatever it takes.  Edmund deserved to die.”

“And I brought him here.”  Lilias pulled free, gently, but she did take Violet’s hand in hers.  “Papa tried to warn me that Edmund was not for me.  I brought a monster to our family home and turned a blind eye until Papa paid the price of my mistake.  I couldn’t save him.”

“It’s not your fault that Edmund was doing black magic,” Violet retorted, squeezing her sister’s hand so hard that she winced.  “It’s not your fault that Papa discovered him in the middle of a terrible spell and Edmund killed him.  I’m just grateful that you were there to punish him.”

“I was so angry,” Lilias whispered, her voice hoarse.  “I lost control.  I wanted to blast him to hell for what he’d done.  What if he’d hurt you, too?  What if I’d tried to open the school, and he’d killed one of our girls?  But what’s worse…”

She made a choked sound, the slim column of her throat working.  “I thought I loved him.”

MayNoWriMo: Days 9, 10, 11

Although I didn’t get much writing accomplished this weekend, I did touch my files every single day. Combined with Dark & Early this morning — despite insomnia last night and a burgeoning cold — I can claim another 1815 words, bringing my total up to nearly 20K.

19,575 / 100000

Snippet:  This one is from Violet’s POV, the younger, headstrong sister who has one fierce dream.  She thinks she’s willing to do anything to achieve that dream, but she’ll learn the price of her choices before the story is over.

Violet flinched guiltily, and then glared at her sister as she dismounted, embarrassed at being caught and called out so easily.  “Does the Headmistress need my services so soon?  Should I drone on for hours about verb conjugation, or did you wish me to teach Francis another country reel for this evening’s soiree?”

“If you don’t wish to attend this evening, I understand,” Lilias replied softly.  “And you don’t have to teach French.  Miss Weston or I will gladly cover those topics.  In fact, I may need your help with a magic lesson.”

Appeased, Violet handed the reins to the stable boy and patted her mare’s shoulder before joining her sister.  Linking arms, they walked back toward the castle proper.  “Who?”

“Francis, of course, to see if that ‘tickle’ was real, and Becky.”

Violet laughed.  “Now you suspect one of our maids is descended from some long lost arm of the Ravene family?”

“One never knows.”

Good heavens, she’s serious.  “You want me to teach the maid to be a mage?”

“Let’s start with testing them both.  I’ll help.  I’ve already spoken to Mrs. Lane and made arrangements for additional help to come up from Ravenscar for the next fortnight until we know for sure.”

“Of course,” Violet said, not even attempting to keep the bitterness from ringing in her voice.  “There’s money to hire another maid, but not enough money to send me to London.  I shall never escape this place!”

Lilias jerked to a halt and stiffly pulled her arm free.  Red spots darkened the cheeks of her otherwise pale face.  “I’m doing the best I possibly can, Violet.  Surely you understand that we need servants to cook your meals and wash your linens, unless you would like scalded skin to your elbows to go with your French and dance lessons?”

“I’d rather slave in the kitchens than teach those silly girls another day!  You may enjoy teaching, Lily, but that was never my dream.  You know I want more than this:  I want a Season, dances, dresses, beaus.  I want a life!”

“Please,” Lilas whispered, her voice breaking.  “I need your help.”

If her sister had yelled back at her, then Violet would have felt better.  The storm would have blown out leaving rainbows and sweet-smelling air behind.  But this plea shook her world as badly as her parents’ death.

As the eldest, Lilias had always been strong and knowledgeable, always there when she needed help, tucking Violet back into bed at night after a nightmare or answering her questions when Papa had been too lost in his library to notice that his daughters were growing up before his eyes.  Lilias was as formidable as Castle Nocturna.  It didn’t need anything or anyone, it simply existed, undefeated and proud on the hill, demanding the respect and loyalty it deserved, the same as Lilias.

Hearing that shaken, fragile quality in her sister’s voice made Violet’s heart squeeze dreadfully.  Tears burned her eyes and she clutched her sister’s hand between both her own.  “What is it, Lily?”

“I’m…afraid.”

She might as well have declared that the sun had fallen from the sky and pigs flew.  “Goodness gracious, not you, Lily.  You’re never afraid.”

“I am now.”  She stared up at the burned hull of the North Wing and shivered despite the welcome warmth that had finally broken winter’s hold upon the land.  “I’m afraid it’ll happen again.”

MayNoWriMo: Days 7, 8

I was sooo tired last night, I could barely keep my eyes open. I finished yesterday’s Dark & Early session quite short — well under 1K — and so I tried to stay up until I got the normal NaNoWriMo daily goal (1667) but I just couldn’t make it. I did, however, finish two more bookmarks. This time, I tried Joy’s pattern. It’s quite a bit more complicated than the one I found online, and not as fast to make, but oh, they are so pretty! I laced one with two colors of ribbon and it looks quite nice. I’ll post a picture later.

Because I was so exhausted last night, I wasn’t sure how well I’d do this morning, if I even managed to get up. I almost stayed in bed, but finally dragged myself up shortly after 5 AM. The morning seemed endless. It’s dark outside still (stormy) and it’s been a really long week, but I finished up last night’s section, started a new one, and finished it (it was one of those blessedly short < 1K sections). So excellent progress this morning, even though the word count isn’t huge.

Yesterday: 1400

Today: 1295

Total: 17760

 

17,760 / 100000

 

Snippet:  Mrs. Lane is an interesting character; unfortunately, I didn’t “know” her before starting this story, so I’m sure I will need some serious revisions later.  I want her to be as remarkable as Miss Belle, providing some comic relief but also a larger than life and highly interesting, well motivated character.  This is a start, but I’m sure she’ll need much more work to get her just right.  First draft, revisions coming.

Mrs. Lane stood in the doorway to the kitchen, her chin jutted out, feet braced wide, gripping a wooden spoon in her hand as fiercely as any knight wielding a mace.  “The carriage house is ready, my lady.”  Bristling with indignation, she shot a glare at Mr. Nevarre that would have sent His Majesty stammering and scurrying away.  “I shall be on guard, sir.”

Mr. Nevarre bowed lower to Mrs. Lane than he’d done to the lady of the castle, again, never lowering his eyes from her challenge.  “Then I shall sleep well indeed, safe in the knowledge that Castle Nocturna will withstand any threat.”  He straightened and turned his attention to Lilias.  His mouth tightened, his eyes dark with speculation.  “If the lady still wishes to extend the invitation?”

Weighing her alternatives, Lilias concentrated all her senses on the man.  Could she trust him? 

At first glance, he appeared as any other gentleman:  his clothing fine but not fashionable, his manners impeccable, obviously well educated and traveled.  However, at closer glance, one noted that his skin had been darkened considerably by long years in the desert sun.  Instead of the shorter fashionable curls most gentlemen had adopted, his hair was long and tied at his neck in a queue.  The shoulders and arms of his coat strained, promising incredible strength that a gentleman of leisure could not claim. 

And his eyes, brown with flecks of gold, but not soft or warm in any way, rather as cold as the cobra focused on its victim.  Every time she studied him, she was reminded of some kind of fanged serpent.  How could she possibly allow this danger to remain in Nocturna, near her sister and innocent students? 

On the other hand, if this man had tried to kill her last night, then it might behoove her to keep him close–where she could defend herself at the first sign of danger.  To do so, though, she would need to use her magic and allow the castle’s nexus to fill her.  She suddenly felt as though the massive stone walls of the castle had tumbled down to stack upon her shoulders. 

Perhaps she wasn’t suffering the beginning stages of mage madness; perhaps she could live long enough to ensure Violet’s dream of a Season and a happy marriage to some young gentleman.  And perhaps this deadly man meant her no harm, neither.

Releasing a little sigh of resignation, she inclined her head.  “Allow me to direct you to the carriage house, Mr. Nevarre.”

She walked with him through the heavy oaken door opposite the main entrance, following the pebbled path that meandered alongside the Great Hall and then across the courtyard.

“When I was a girl, I used to carry a hoe,” Mrs. Lane called after them.  “Snakes love to creep into the henhouse and devour the eggs and sweet little baby chicks.  Mark my words, a venomous viper dies as quickly as a garden snake once its head is chopped off.”

MayNoWriMo: Day 6

For the record, I’m completely insane, if you didn’t realize that before now.

Thanks to a mention on Joy’s blog about crocheting a bookmark, I got the wild idea that I should do this for Mother’s Day.  (I don’t think Mom reads my blog very often if at all, so I should be safe.)  Then I realized it’s also Teacher Appreciation Week at school…

Gah.  I made one over lunch, and then ended up making four total tonight.  I haven’t messed with the “thread” instead of “yarn” in ages.  My eyes, my eyes!   The first one is a dud–I messed up the pattern.  The other three came out pretty cool and I’m getting better with each one.  I bought a ton of different colored threads and ribbons — I think I’m going to have a blast with this.  Until I get sick of it, of course.  It’s like anything else I do — I go through obsessive phases, and I’d better be thankful for whatever I finish, because when I move on, those projects will be doomed to a container and storage for ages. 

Dark and Early this morning I had almost 1K, so after the monsters went to bed and I finished the last teacher gift, I was determined to get at least 1667 total, the daily “min” to hit MayNoWriMo.  (Shhhh, yes, I’m ahead, but don’t tell Gregar or he may wander off for a kae’rahke or some such nonsense instead of tossing me into the Well.)  Then I got the min and realized the end of the scene wasn’t that far away…so I pushed onward!

Yes, these last two scenes have been a little bit shorter.  I’m still worried about length, but I’ll break that na’kindre to saddle when I get there.  Okay, now I’m really getting scared — why all these Sha’Kae al’Dan references?  Wrong story, Gregar!  Maybe I’d better check that last file…

Today:  1,926

Total: 15,065

15,065 / 100000

 

Snippet:  This section immediately follows yesterday’s snippet.  First draft, subject to heavy revision later.  If you don’t want to flip back and look, Lilias believes — rightfully — that Mr. Nevarre is getting ready to kill her.

What on earth did he have beneath his coat?  Flames roared higher, lapping at the foundations of her mind.  No, no, I don’t want to kill him.

Immediately, his manner changed.  He smiled and slipped his hand out from beneath his coat, empty, palm out.  “Your family has been collecting these books for generations.  I do beg you to forget that I ever made the suggestion.”

Disarmed by his immediate capitulation, she tried to calm the flows roaring to her aid.  Power thundered in her blood, her nerves painfully alive and overloaded with sensation.  It had been so long, and the castle’s flows were strong and rich.  She tasted the water of the lake, the rich verdant forest beyond, each individual life of her tenants and villagers down the road.  Violet, her sweet, vibrant sister, glowing like a small sun.  And this man before her, a coiled poisonous serpent, smiling and whispering that he was no threat, no threat at all.

Breathing hard, she tightened her control, forcing those mental gates closed that would separate her from the flood of power sweeping away her mind.  She felt like a tiny stick adrift in a storm-tossed ocean, and just as battered.  Bit by bit, she regained control until only a trickle of power remained.  She kept it like a small blade in her hand, in case Mr. Nevarre decided to strike after all.

She took a shaking breath.  Her forehead was damp with sweat.  “Nevertheless, Mr. Nevarre, I still wonder why you’re here.”

“I did indeed come in search of the book I spoke of earlier.  I think–” he hesitated, as though trying to decide how many lies to weave for her.  “I think it has been a very long time since you drew magic, my lady.”

“Yes.”  Her voice was clipped and brittle, but she didn’t care.  After battling the magic, her body sagged, bereft and yet exhausted at the same time.  “I should have known immediately what you are.  That’s why I don’t believe you in the slightest.”

“The book I seek is potentially dangerous in a darker mage’s hands.”  He spoke gently, softly, as though to a child.  “When so many months passed without correspondence, we began to fear the worst.”

Lilias had borne more disappointments, regrets, and agonies than this stranger could possibly fathom, and she refused to crumple into a crying, fainting fluff of a gently-bred lady before him. 

“My father was not a dark mage,” she retorted, taking a step toward him.  The banked fire threatened to burst into life again, but she firmly suppressed her magic.  She couldn’t afford another battle with herself and expect to retain the last shred of her dignity before this accomplished mage.  “Exactly what sort of book did the Archmagus send him?”

“A book on blood magic.”

Lilias felt the blood drain from her face and her knees wobbled alarmingly.  “Ridiculous.  He couldn’t possibly have been a blood mage.  Before my mother’s death, he taught my sister and me everything we know.  Even afterwards, when he began to withdraw into his obsession, he never dabbled in the darker magics.  I swear to you, Mr. Nevarre, my father was not a dark mage.”

“We don’t believe he meant to learn the book’s techniques himself; rather, he desired to confirm the events of a great historical event that occurred here at Nocturna Castle.  A death powered that magic, my lady, and the spell was detailed in that book.”

She swallowed hard, uncaring that her hands had begun to tremble.  “Did it describe the manner in which the nexi had been locked?”

“Indeed, that very event,” Mr. Nevarre replied grimly.  “So you understand why I must confirm whether the book was destroyed or not.  If such powerful magic accidentally fell into the wrong hands, the lock may be breached, freeing the maddest, darkest mage we’ve ever known to spread horrors throughout the world.”

MayNoWriMo: Day 5

I worked a bit more on Arcana last night, but mostly I discussed the Maya story with May, brainstormed some plot issues that Angelle noted, and played with George, my new (to me) Mac desktop!  Oh, I adore George already and I haven’t even started playing much with Scrivener yet.

Since I didn’t have that many words, I just rolled last night’s work into this morning’s Dark & Early session. 

I have a big problem.  I’m averaging 2043 words per section.  I have 100 sections.  Do the math.  *dies*

Here’s hoping to a few short sequels!!!  (ETA: Finished section 007 at 975 words — a little closer to my estimate!)

Today:  1,581  1,843

Total: 12,877  13,139

13,139 / 100000

Snippet:  This is a piece from Chapter 2 shortly after Mr. Nevarre and Lilias first meet.  He’s talking first and then I move into Lilias’s POV after the break.

“I must admit we’ve long coveted several books in Nocturna’s library.  Would you consider selling a few select pieces of your father’s collection to me?  I assure you the books would be well cared for and treasured in the Temple of Amun’s library.”

Her face locked down and the glow died from her eyes.  She jerked away from him and dropped her gaze to the floor.  A tremor shook her shoulders, and she froze for several long moments, studying a whitish smear on the floor. 

The massive–and cold–fireplace on the wall burst into roaring flames.  Crashing waves of power rushed to her, rising behind her like a tsunami.  At last, he’d found the witch.  Bracing himself for battle, he made no offensive move, choosing instead to fortify his own shields.

Slowly, she raised her gaze to his, her hands fisted at her sides.  Those lovely soft mossy eyes now blazed like molten emerald fire.  “Why, exactly, are you here again, Mr. Nevarre?”

***

How could Lilias have forgotten for a single moment the attack last night?  It was rather too convenient that a stranger arrived claiming an association with her deceased father a full year after his death.  Why had he come now and not months ago when her father’s letters had ceased?

Fire blazed in the fireplace once more, but she allowed the flames to remain.  She needed the protection.

Mr. Nevarre bowed without lowering his gaze from hers.  “I beg your pardon if I offended you, my lady.”   

Chills raced up and down her arms and her teeth ached from the strain in her clenched jaws.  The man was centered and focused, every muscle coiled…for what? 

Dressed in simple, understated coat and breeches with pristine linen tied modestly at his neck, he’d certainly appeared harmless when she first noticed him in her library.  However, the mild-mannered bibliophile suddenly appeared icy, hard, and very, very dangerous.  What eastern tattoos might be hidden beneath that civilized shirt–on his throat, say, where she’d seen a similar mark on her attacker last night? 

“I thoroughly understand your reluctance to part with your father’s precious collection.”

Power sang to her, whispering of the danger despite his calm manner.  Again, she cursed her reluctance to use magic.  If she were thoroughly entrenched in her home’s power, then she would have known danger loomed, both last night and this very moment.  Now she stood blind and alone, small and terrified, no proud raven at all, but the field mouse about to be devoured by a snake.

If she were going mad, though, every time she touched the flows, her madness would increase.  It would eat away at her mind, devouring her reason and memories until she was nothing but a screaming shell of agony. 

With this stranger standing before her, she risked the threatening insanity and opened herself to the castle’s nexus.  For the first time in over a year, power swelled within her.  Every sense was heightened.  The man smelled of cinnamon and cloves that had been roasted by Ra’s glorious sun.  She clearly heard Mr. Nevarre’s rapid, steady heartbeat like a drum.  Most of all, she felt the deadly coil of his magic within him, a vicious cobra poised to strike. 

Another mage.  She’d allowed another mage–an extremely powerful one, no less–to breach her defenses, and she’d not even known of his presence.  Magic pounded in her head, pulverizing her bones with urgency. 

Gritting her teeth against the wildness pulsing within her, she forced out a response that had nothing to do with the subtle challenge rising between them.  “His books are precious to me, yes, but you don’t fully understand my reluctance to sell them.” 

Mr. Nevarre’s right hand slid beneath his coat and he shifted his weight, leaning slightly toward her on the balls of his feet. 

He’s preparing for a fight, she realized.  No, he’s preparing to kill me.

MayNoWriMo: Day 4

Up Dark & Early this morning to grind into the next section. This one’s entirely new — it doesn’t even exist in the two-year-old Fast Draft version. I made a [note] to look up a poetry quotation. Back to Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (Lord Byron). It surprised me to see how many times Conn used it in Dear Sir — now I really need this poem specifically because I know Byron was publishing those exact cantos in the year of my story (1812). Problem: I need a very specific sort of quote, so finding that reference may prove difficult.

ETA: Ah, Byron, you may have been mad, bad, and dangerous to know, but you gave me the perfect quote and very early in canto 1.  Thank you.

But one sad losel soils a name for aye,
However mighty in the olden time;
Nor all that heralds rake from coffin’d clay,
Nor florid prose, nor honeyed lies of rhyme,
Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime.

What in incredible warning for my character!  Exactly what I needed.

Decent progress, nothing earth-shattering, but good. I plan to finish this section tonight and then switch gears to the Maya Fantasy. I have a few plot things I want to look at, and the synopsis is still dreadful.

11296 / 100000

Today (so far) 1,127

Total: 11,296

Snippet:  this is continuing yesterday’s post between Lilias and Violet.

Joining her in effort to pick up the worst of the mess, Violet shuffled papers on top of the larger teaching desk, her gestures stiff with frustration.  “Is this truly what you envisioned for us?”

“I always wanted to be a teacher.”

Her sister huffed out a long sigh.  “Not me, certainly not like this:  watercolors, French, dancing and simpering, while always hiding what we truly are.”

“I know very well what you want, dearest.  As soon as we have enough students to support Nocturna, you may have your Season.”

Wistfully, Violet stared unseeing at the chalkboard on the wall.  “The Season is in full swing now.  Lord Byron is supposed to publish his latest canto soon.”

Heart aching, Lilias went and wrapped an arm about her sister’s waist.  It hurt terribly to know Violet wanted something with every fiber of her being, and Lilias couldn’t provide it.  Blinking back tears, she mentally tallied the receipts and expenses for the thousandth time and came up short once more.  With careful budgeting, she could use the Littletons’ modest tuition to provide food and supplies for the castle until the harvest.  Running a castle of Nocturna’s size was a daunting endeavor in the best of times.  If she could sell the wool for a decent price, and enroll a few more students, then she could eventually afford to pay Violet and Miss Weston more than a roof over their heads and meals in their bellies. 

“More students,” she said more forcefully than she intended. 

Violet’s bottom lip jutted out, her eyes sparking.  The air tingled with electricity as if a storm hovered on the horizon.  She could raise a terrible thunderstorm in moments if she became angry enough. 

“I need more students to support us, and to accomplish that feat, we need our existing students to be happy and accomplished, so their parents will be pleased and provide referrals to their acquaintances.  This is our only hope, dearest.”

“But I hate teaching!  I’d rather muck out stables or shear sheep or–”

“If you don’t cooperate and ensure the success of the Nocturna School, you will indeed be forced to become a governess or companion, working for little more than a few pounds a year, constantly at risk from unwanted male attention.  You know what happened to Theo.”

Miss Theodosia Weston had not fully recovered from the trauma of her first and only formal appointment as companion.

Violet drew herself up and marched from the room.  “You might not be paying me a salary, Headmistress, but I’m nothing more than an employee of Nocturna School for Young Ladies.” 

Angry footfalls echoed in her sister’s furious retreat down the hall of classrooms which had once been full to capacity with eager, young mages talented in every gift from medicine and weather to marvelous inventions, some of which were covered in dust in the storeroom, their purpose long ago forgotten.

Drooping a moment, Lilias took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and let all the pain and guilt wash away on the flood of power always curling around the castle.  Her sister was young and rash, selfish in her passionate dreams of adventure and romance.  She simply didn’t comprehend why she couldn’t have what she wanted, as soon as possible; she was too young to understand that treasured dreams could sadly become tarnished beyond repair and quite often, an unbearable nightmare.

MayNoWriMo: Day 3

Today was a hard day, but mostly for mental reasons.  I’ve already detailed the mental blocks I had about this story and why; today, I had to break through them and keep going

I had an unofficial, unstated goal that I’d like to hit 10K before tomorrow, but after starting this next section shortly after church, and struggling, for at least an hour, and only having 216 words to reflect that work, I was obviously worried.  I’d run out of previously-written sections, you see, and had only my ridiculously extensive outline with which to proceed. 

I know my characters, my setting, my story.  I simply had to find the words. It took much longer than usual today.  But I pecked at it off and on all day, throughout laundry and catching up on That Man’s TiVo’d shows while we folded said laundry.  I had a tiny bit from the old first draft that I wanted to save, but I had to write TO that point and make it all fit and make sense. 

Finally, I reached the end of the scene.  I did write it in a separate file so I can revise it later — it’s mostly new “first draft” words, with very little more than a few sentences saved from the original draft.

Today:  2,307

Total:  10,169 (whew!)

10169 / 100000

 

Snippet:  Violet is Lilias’s younger sister (by 6 years) and she has one very precious story goal.  She’s young and headstrong, only 17, very pretty, and she feels terribly trapped and helpless at Nocturna.  Not a good feeling for a mage of her ability.  I’m struggling to balance her youthful mistakes with making her at least sympathetic.  While Lilias is the protagonist, her sister is a very important character who pays quite a steep price in this story.  I want that price to mean something, so if you hate her, then who cares about her sacrifices? 

This snippet happens early in Chapter 1, shortly after Violet is introduced.  She’s been misbehaving, as usual.

Violet smoothed her skirts and bit her lip, until she finally apologized.  “Lily, I’m sorry that I made such a scene.  I know we must hide our gifts, and that the school must be a success, but I’m so terribly bored!  When your grand idea was to reopen the Nocturna School again, I didn’t realize that we’d be nothing more than governesses to a bunch of silly geese!” 

“You know the day for the Nocturna School of Arcana is long past.  Society has no wish for their young gentlemen to admit to any such outlandish behavior, let alone their ladies, for shame!  We must–”

Violet rushed to quell the lecture before it started.  “Don’t explain why mage ability is in decline in England.  I’ve heard it all before, from Father and now you.  It was his favorite lecture and he constantly bemoaned the death of magic since the school closed its doors in the 1500s.”

She fell silent, and both sisters paused at the uncertain territory into which they’d wandered.  Their father’s death was still a difficult subject.  While Violet had put away the mourning gown at exactly one year, Lilias still wore black.

If it would ease the guilt she felt, she would wear black as penance for the rest of her life.

“You look tired today,” Violet whispered, worry darkening her brilliant aquamarine eyes.  “Was your sleep troubled again by… er…”

Lilias smiled wryly.  Even her beloved sister didn’t quite believe her.  She didn’t quite believe herself.  Nocturna Castle might be ancient with dozens of legends involving curses and magic, but those stories had never included a ghost.  “I stayed up very late last night so that I would sleep unhindered when I finally retired.”  She neglected to mention the dangerous encounter in the Great Hall.  The tall neck of the mourning gown hid the bruises on her throat.  “If the ghost appeared last night, I was too weary to acknowledge him.”

Violet toyed with the bright green ribbon that outlined the high bodice of her muslin morning gown.  “Are you sure it’s Edmund?”

Ah, even more dangerous territory.  Here be dragons, after all, horrendous beasts which blasted her constantly with fiery pangs of guilt.  “You may not believe in ghosts, Violet, but I assure you that Edmund does appear in the room we once shared as husband and wife.  He appears more often than not.  I know it’s him.”

“Pick another room, then, any room in this monstrously large castle.  Why do you refuse to simply move to a new bedchamber so that you may rest?”

“I considered that very alternative, but if he’s truly a ghost, he would follow me to any room in the castle.”

“Exactly!  It will prove whether…well…”

It will prove whether I’m beginning to succumb to mage madness.  Lilias calmly bent to pick up the papers from the floor, while inside, her mind shrieked with terror.  Am I mad?  Truly?  Will I die writhing in agony like our mother?

“I refuse to let nightmares frighten me from my room.  My room was mine long before Edmund came into my life, and it is mine still, no matter how many horrific dreams I may have.”

MayNoWriMo: Day 2

I knew my Beloved Sis was coming today, so I wanted to get a little work done this morning and clear my afternoon and evening for visiting.  I got most of the next section edited before she and Papa arrived at noon, and then I managed to finish up the polish tonight.  All previously-written sections are now pulled into the main draft and heavily revised to carry the new threads and plot elements.  Should be interesting from here on out!

Today: 1,974

Total:  7,862

7862 / 100000

 

Snippet:  This is part of the first section in the hero’s POV, establishing his story goal and the reason for his arrival.

As ravens spread destruction, mayhem, and death, so did Derne Nevarre expect to find nothing less than chaos at the Ravene family stronghold.  Castle Nocturna was a natural focal point of massive amounts of life energy:  for millennia, Avebury, Stonehenge, and Glastonbury Tor had cast circular waves of power out across the land, and ancient Castle Nocturna had been purposely located in the intersection of those rings.  Needless to say, Nocturna’s nexus had been at the forefront of every major British working of magic in the past thousand years and more.

The cataclysm that Lilias Ravene Slymere, Lady Nocturna, had spawned little more than a year ago had made every mage in the world sit up and take grim, even fearful, notice.

Slim, slight and deceptively vulnerable, the rogue witch he’d been ordered to assassinate sat at a mahogany desk while massive amounts of wild magic crashed about her.  Untouched.  As the mage of this famous nexus of power, she should be carefully and deliberately weaving power into the castle and lands to build her defensives; as a rogue, she would be crouched like a spider with her web spun across the wellspring of energy to greedily soak in every drop.  Instead, she didn’t draw energy at all, despite the incredible surges all about her.  Unused, the magic became more volatile and unbalanced until chaos threatened, something any sane mage would fear.  Why did she let the castle nexus run rampant like this? 

Even more troubling, why didn’t she defend herself–vehemently–as soon as a mage of his power so much as stepped foot on her land?  Let alone allow him to advance into her obviously private retreat without so much as raising her head.  However, he would be surprised if Lady Nocturna even knew he’d arrived.

So why was I sent all the way from Karnak to assassinate this “rogue?”

Power buzzed in the room so thickly he struggled to breathe.  His mage instincts trembled with the force of his concentration as he held every offensive attack he knew hovering within his mind, ready to protect himself at a moment’s notice.  Yet she made no move to strike him down.

Then she raised her face, pale and tear-stained, soft and expressive, etched with worries well beyond her years.  He felt an uncomfortable twinge in the general region of his heart.  With coiled muscles and mage powers prepared to deflect any retaliation from a deadly rogue, he suddenly felt his will falter.  Those brutal nets and clubs of power fizzled away to nothing in his mind, leaving only burning questions.

“May I help you, sir?”

“Lady Nocturna?”

“Yes.”  She pulled herself together and calmly brushed the evidence of tears away.  Firming her voice, she straightened her shoulders.  “Have I made your acquaintance?”

“No, my lady.  Forgive me, the housekeeper sent me directly, and I knocked but you must not have heard.”  Nevarre hesitated, utterly thrown adrift.  A grim cold ball of lead settled in his stomach.  He’d expected the venomous hatred of a rogue, not a woman’s tears and softness.  “I have a letter of introduction from a gentleman in Cairo with whom your father has corresponded for many years.”

He offered the letter from Lord Nedry and waited silently while she scanned the page.

“Oh dear.”  She set the parchment aside and invited him to sit before the desk.  “I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Nevarre.  My father and husband passed away over a year ago in a fire.  I have no knowledge of the book you seek.  In fact, I’m terribly afraid it may have been destroyed as well.”

The backlash of her cataclysm had rushed across the world’s power lattice like a raging wildfire devouring a tinder-dry forest.  Every mage had felt her signature:  viciously feminine, blazing with fury, fear, and betrayal.  Two men had died in her attack, and their sacrifice would have made her spell all the more powerful.  However, while every mage in the world would know Lady Nocturna simply by the barest breath of her power on the flows of magic after that day, not a single one knew the true reason why she had released such a massive, uncontrolled amount of energy. 

Anyone tapping the nexi directly during her spell could have been burned out, their mage ability seared from his mind for eternity.  What repercussions had she experienced as a result?  Or had she already been too deeply in the throes of mage madness to feel any regret at all?  Enough evidence pointed at that very likelihood–especially the previous Lady Nocturna’s grim demise–that the Magi of the Temple of Amun had called for their most skilled magical assassin to eliminate the threat before she could release another such cataclysm with even more dire circumstances.

Staring at her and studying her reactions, Nevarre couldn’t help but doubt their recommendation.  “Please accept my condolences, my lady.  No wonder we received no further correspondence from Lord Nocturna.”

“It was very sudden.”  Her delicate jaw tightened, her lips flat with strain, yet she didn’t avoid his gaze or dissemble.  “I didn’t know he was corresponding with Lord Nedry or I would have written to him myself.”

A slight tremor in her voice sent another twinge of empathy through his chest.  Either she was the most skillful liar he’d ever encountered, or she was authentically vulnerable.  Doubt held his magic in check.  He mustn’t strike until he confirmed her guilt. 

Derne Nevarre was many things, most of them dark and vile in men’s eyes, but he did not kill innocents.

MayNoWriMo: Day 1 Part 2

A long, slow crawl tonight through another completed — but very loose and messy — section, which managed to bring my totals up considerably:

5888 / 100000

I still have one more previously written section to edit (I miscounted earlier thanks to an 00A section), and then everything will be from scratch with my handy dandy outline!

Snippet:  I’m still terribly afraid that the voice for this story isn’t quite right.  Fantasy, I keep reminding myself, not “historical.”  I’m never going to sound like a British native–and that’s okay!  I can fine-tune the dialogue and narration later once I’m steady and sure of the voice.  Here’s the first complete section — first draft only — subject to revision.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a powerful woman with seemingly fearsome abilities is quite often burned at the stake as a witch.  Lady Nocturna had regretfully come to the realization that perhaps such punishment might be justified in her case. 

The intruder now gripping her throat so tightly that Lilias could neither breathe nor scream surely regarded her as no threat at all; it was she who quivered with dread, her mind a frantic whirlwind of terror. 

With all the magics of Nocturna Castle racing to her defense, she certainly could burn her assailant to a smear of ashes, if only she dared use that birthrighted power.  Instead, she pried at the fingers squeezing her throat and in her other hand, she clutched a silver candlestick against her skirts, waiting for the opportunity to bash in the man’s head.

I swore to never kill with magic again.

Her snuffed candle smoked on the wooden floor of the Great Hall, and the only light came from the dimmed red glow of the banked fireplace.  Well after midnight, it was too late to pray the servants might hear the scuffle, and she daren’t scream for fear of waking the precious few students sleeping upstairs.

The man’s breath was hot and rapid against her face, his jaw chaffing her cheek. A blade glinted red in the banked fire’s glow and he began whispering guttural words that sliced her mind like broken glass. 

Her heart pounded so hard she feared she might lose control and reach for the crashing magic thick in the cavernous room.  A mage.  He had to be a mage intent on stealing the Castle’s power for himself.  Her stomach clenched, bile burning her throat.  There was no known darker magic than that wrought by blood. 

Power flows eddied like a mighty river around her legs, calling sweetly, begging to be used.  She could light a raging blaze in the fireplace, wrap this murdering black mage in bonds of air he would never escape, and wrest his blade from his hand without exerting a single muscle.  Salvation awaited, readily at hand, if only–

The coals glowed brighter and a tiny flame leaped with excitement.  Shuddering, Lilias pushed the thought from her mind, burying it beneath a mountain of cold stone and iron chains.  The charred ruin of the North Tower was a daily reminder of the dread weapon which she might wield; she couldn’t risk burning the entire castle to the ground with her sister and students trapped inside.

Something crashed against the window, black wings beating the air and claws screeching against the glass.  The mage jerked her around toward the threat, his voice rising with alarm but not ceasing his chanted spell.  It was only some poor befuddled bird, but she used the distraction.  She clawed backward, snagging the cloth of his shirt.  Soft linen tore.  That was certainly no coarse peasant’s shirt. 

His voice growled louder, each word slamming into her brain like a physical fist.  His face was too close to hers, so she slammed the candlestick back into the man’s ribcage.  The satisfying crunch confirmed she’d at least cracked a few ribs.  His breath whistled out and the vise of his fingers lessened on her throat. 

Whirling free of his grip, she raised the heavy silver weapon to slam into his head.  Her emotions blazed high, fury and fear feeding each other. 

He would have done worse than kill me; he would have stolen my life’s blood to wrought horrors I can only imagine.  Strike him down.  Kill him now!

The fireplace blazed to life behind her, breaking the seductive call of the magic.  The man hid his face in his greatcoat and raced for the door.  His shirt hung open, torn linen trailing like a white flag of surrender.  She glimpsed a dark tattoo at the base of his neck.  A dog’s head, she thought, but it was too dark to be sure.

The flames quieted to a soothing crackle, but she continued to tremble.  Her jellied knees dumped her to the floor, and she sat shivering before the cheerful fire that should have been nothing more than banked coals while her mind tormented her.

The fire frightened her worse than the blood mage assassin.

Memories paraded through her mind:  flames engulfing the tower, her rage blazing to the heavens, screams, and the scent of charred flesh.  Pressing her hand to her mouth, she fought down the urge to sick up on the floor.  A sound escaped her mouth.  Laughter?  Or relief?

Her mother had been utterly mad when she died.  Lilias had only been fourteen but she still remembered the crazed sounds of laughter and horror tearing from her mother’s throat.  Trembling, she forced herself to her feet.  Her cold fingers trembled so badly she fumbled the candle, smearing cooling wax on the floor. 

Mage madness ran in her family.  The villagers whispered that her father was mad before he’d died last year, that he’d started the fire himself.

If they only knew the truth, they would seize their scythes and torches and march to the castle, a mob of hatred and fear in this enlightened age of steam power and Lord Byron’s poetry.  They’d burn Nocturna Castle to the ground while shouting the word she hated above all.

Witch.