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NaNo Day 12

Goal today:  break 30K.  Need 1778 to do so.  I’ll edit this entry with the day’s progress.

FYI:  found the theme song for Dharman and the next 100 pages or so of Return.  Cold As You by Taylor Swift.

You put up walls and paint them all a shade of gray.
And I stood there lovin’ you and WISHED them all away.

Got it.  1931 words to finish formal challenge between Shannari and Varne.  It needs much polishing (action scenes sometimes require me to get up and act it out before everything flows smoothly), but the bones are there.

NaNo Total:  30,153 words


Laughing, he [Varne] merely leaned aside and her blade missed him entirely.  “I thought Gregar taught you better than that, Khul’lanna.”

Letting the missed slash carry her arm in a full arc, she whirled with the stroke and flipped the rahke smoothly in her palm for the rear stroke.  Gregar had drilled her ceaselessly, both against himself and her Blood until the day she’d stabbed Sal in the abdomen and nearly killed him.

She didn’t try to gut Varne.  Not yet.  But his sharp exclamation told her she’d cut him deeply.

Finishing the full circle, she flipped the rahke back up in the traditional strike position and gave Varne the best wide-eyed foolish outlander look she could muster.  “I’m sorry.  Did I hurt you?”

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NaNo Day 11 Part 2

Overall, this was a tough day, although the word count doesn’t reflect any struggles.  I’m truly happy with the progress, but ugh, I’m wore out emotionally.  I’m ready to skip all this angst and get busy with the nagging already.  *winks*

Those of you who’ve known me for years might know that I actually started writing book 3 of this series back in 2004 or so.  I had about 200 pages in it.  Then I ended up stopping to rewrite the first book, and all sorts of paths crossed and narrowed until I truly began to wonder if I’d ever have the chance to finish Shannari’s story.

For the record, not a single sentence of that original 200 pages is useable.  All utter rubbish.  But it’s important to understand that certain events will still happen.  I’ve known how this story would end since 2004 — I just didn’t have the skills to make it happen.

Yet in all that time, this story still manages to shock the hell out of me.  There I was, writing along tonight in Dharman’s POV, and something very key just popped out and slapped me so hard I about fell out of my chair.  Spoilers removed.

Today’s final word count: 2,626

NaNo count: 28,222


“And that is why I challenge you.”

Varne spluttered and surged to his feet, looking from Dharman to Sal and the other Blood standing with hands on rahkes at her back.  “You would send each of your Blood to fight me?  So be it.  I’ll kill them all, and then who will fall on you, Khul’lanna, when the next assassin strikes?”

Dharman quivered with fury.  He took at step toward Varne, his teeth aching, jaws straining to keep from bellowing.  Lightly, Khul’lanna dropped her hand to his forearm, and he stopped in his tracks, but he didn’t drop eye contact with the other warrior.  Challenge had been declared.  To look away would be to lose the first part of the challenge, and by Vulkar, he would never lose a challenge for her sake.

“Not my Blood,” she said pleasantly.  “Just me.”

Dharman whipped his head around so hard his own hair stung his face.  He stared down into her eyes, letting his fury and concern flare through their bond, but he didn’t say a word.  Not before their enemies.  :Varne is not to be trusted.:

: I was taught by the very best, and it’s well past time that I taught Varne a lesson.:

She spoke truly, but Dharman still didn’t like it at all.  He turned back to Varne and glared at him, deliberately flaring his eyes and nostrils wide, stiffening his shoulders, commanding his full presence as First Blood and proudly one of Khul’lanna’s warriors.

But what he could he say?  To threaten Varne with harm if he injured Khul’lanna would only diminish her own pride and honor.  So he said nothing, nothing at all, though he had to bite his tongue so hard he tasted blood.

She unsheathed the ivory knife on her hip.  “You’ve coveted this rahke for a very long time.  If you win this challenge, I’ll give it to you.”

Varne sneered, “And if you win?”

“Then I’ll finally remove that perpetual glower off your face.” 

“Give the lad your other blade,” Varne said stiffly. 

She arched a brow at him, slowly unsheathing the black rahke Rhaekhar had given her as a claiming gift. 

Dharman’s fingers knew every carefully carved rose and thorn by memory.

It had taken him months to finish it.  The Camp’s master bladesmith had taken as much care with the steel.  Blaine had always told him he’d have an apprentice position if he wanted, but there was only one thing Dharman had ever wanted, and she stood beside him.  Before he ever saw her face or knew her name, he’d made the hilt with her in mind, hoping beyond hope that it might catch Khul’s eye if he finished it in time.

“Why?  Are you afraid of what I’ll do if I have two blades?”

“The black one isn’t part of our challenge, only Gregar’s rahke.  That’s the one I want.”

“Very well.”  She handed the rahke to Dharman, and the darkness in her eyes sent a shock of worry through him. 

So cold, so hard, so fragile.  He feared she might shatter beneath the strain, or worse, slip to Shadow.  As unobtrusively as possible, he drifted through her mind, seeking any hint of Shadow or corruption that might strike her unawares, but he found nothing but endless snowy fields and sweeping drifts against her Shining Walls, that pride and self control that she used as a weapon.

Taken aback, Varne was slow to unsheathe his own rahke.  “You want to challenge me now?”

She smiled and Dharman’s scalp tried to gallop off his skull.  “Absolutely.”  She didn’t look at him or the other Blood, but simply said, “I need you to let go of me now.”

Words bubbled up within him.  Her bond had sheeted over with thick snow laced with treacherous icicles.  :Beware his rahke shift.  He likes to feint at the face and then toss the blade to his other hand.:

:He stole that move from Gregar.:

Relief filled Dharman enough that he dropped his hands and signaled the rest of the Blood to step back and form a ring about the two challengers.  Gregar’s gift of Death always felt like a cold frost spreading in the darkest night.  If the Shadowed Blood were present, nothing would keep Khul’lanna from winning the challenge.

With her attention wholly centered on Varne, Dharman used the Blood sign language to give them his commands. 


It was the highest level of protection short of a Death Rider alarm.  Deliberately holding his hand unmoving several moments to emphasize a delay, he gave another command to only her Second Blood. 


Sal grinned widely and nodded.

Varne would not leave this challenge breathing, unless Khul’lanna willed it.

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NaNo Day 11

Sitting at Kaldi’s (coffee shop) and slowly wading through drowning sorrow and angst.  It’s snowing on the Sea of Grass.  Winter has arrived, and this time, Summer may never return.

I reread last night’s section and added a bit of detail, then continued with the next section.  Slow going, but high emotion, so that’s okay.  After two cups of coffee, I need to stop and get something to eat, and hopefully find an outlet ’cause my battery’s half dead.

Home now.  Feeling rather down, but I couldn’t figure out why.  I was listening to one of the new songs on my playlist–Love Story by Taylor Swift–and I found myself in tears.  Well duh, after these past scenes, it’s no wonder.  Unfortunately, the miserable blizzard has only begun, but at least I recognized what was the matter.  To cheer myself up, I’m pushing onward from this current doom and gloom scene so Shannari can kick Varne’s arse.

Don’t get me wrong–I love how these scenes have played out.  Heartbreaking, killer scenes, taking lines from as far back as Rose and twisting them as weapons.  As an example, you might remember a certain Shadowed Blood who said something very much like this once, but as you can see, it’s certainly not Gregar speaking now.

:Run, brightheart, run to death.  Run to me.:

Today:  679  1270 words

NaNo total:

Snippet (why this book is called Return to Shanhasson): 

“Aye.”  Kae’Shaman squeezed her shoulder, his aged fingers digging into her so hard that she made a little sound of pain.  It shook her out of her dulled, frozen state, and she looked into his eyes.  “They need you to return to Shanhasson.  They need you to wear the Rose Crown, a constant symbol of love.  They need you to shine, Shannari dal’Dainari, Last Daughter, because something darker than the night comes to your Green Lands.  The Endless Night is coming.  He’s coming for you.”

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NaNo Halfway

The dread deed is done.  It only took two glasses of wine to help me through this horrible point in the story.  Kidding, mostly, although the wine certainly helped.  (I’m off from the Evil Day Job for the next two days.)  A certain scene in Road was much harder than this one, but neither was pleasant.  The only bright spot for the next 50 pages or so will be deciding whether or not Shannari will keep her promise to Varne.

Another 1700 words tonight, bringing the day’s total to 3119.

NaNo total:  25,596


:You always die for love.:  Despite water everywhere, she clearly heard him [the black dragon] snort with derision.  :I much prefer hatred myself.  Die, and leave me again.  I will raze your Shining Walls to the ground when I come to your Green Lands.  Die, and drag your sweet darling boys to their deaths.  Kill them with their love.  Love certainly killed you.:

:Khul’lanna.:  If Dharman was anyone but her stoic First Blood, she would have said he wailed.  :Don’t surrender this kae’don.  Don’t surrender us to death before we ever have the opportunity to love you.  Brightest Evening Star, na’lanna Qwen, my beloved Queen, please.  Reach for me.  I can still save you, if only you will let me.:

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NaNo Day 10

I’m officially at the end of Act I.  The turning point looms, the scenes that will change Shannari’s entire life.

Today:  1,419

NaNo: 23,896


“I heard wolves this morning when I checked the na’kindren.”  Drendon shivered and touched his rahke on his hip.  With especially deep snows, their greatest kae’don came in protecting the na’kindren slowed when the predators began hunting them.  “I doubled the guards on our herd.”

“Good.  Perhaps I’ll ride into the hills this day and see if I can thin the pack before the snows even begin.”

Drendon gripped his shoulder a moment.  “Be careful, Khul.”

“Great Vulkar,” he grumbled, but without anger.  “You’d think I had never hunted a wolf or two in my entire life.  Will it make you feel better if I take a fist of warriors to hunt these vicious beasts?”

:Yes,:  Shannari answered immediately through their bond, while Drendon nodded.

Throwing his hands up in mock disgust, Rhaekhar stalked toward his waiting stallion.  “Warriors!”  Camp activity stilled, warriors standing and facing him expectantly.  “Anyone who wants to hunt in the foothills, mount up!”

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NaNo Day 9

Up early before church, jotting notes in the car, writing during the football games–I’ve been frantic today.  This is a GOOD scene, one of those candy bar scenes I’m just dying to write.

I’m very pleased with the section I wrote today.  Indirectly, I used a bit of that mythology section I struggled with the other night.  I like it so much, I’m going to include quite a chunk of it, edited to remove key spoilers both from Road to Shanhasson (which isn’t out yet) and the big twist in Return that I don’t want you to know about yet.  :mrgreen:  :evil:

Today: 2,722  4,398

NaNo total: 20,801 22,477

What an incredible day!!!  Threads of Shadow began to play out; misdirection ensured.  I got Gregar on scene.  Varne got pummeled.  And Dharman and Sal finally got a very small part of their heart’s desire.  I need to decide what the next scene(s) should be, how close I am to the BIG DOOM coming.  *cackles wickedly*


The Dream began as many others.  She floated on her back gazing up at a large full moon that filled the sky with silvered brilliance.  The water was cool, but when she tasted it, she was surprised by the slight saltiness.  The Silver Lake had never tasted like the ocean.

Or tears.

The three jagged peaks of Vulkar’s Mountain did not loom on the horizon. 

High above the steep edges of the bowled cavern, the full moon still gleamed, but that was the only familiar element from her other Dreams.  She took a step and froze.

Her body had changed. 

Shining scales covered her sinuous form, a long tail curled at her clawed feet, and impossibly large butterfly wings shimmered and floated about her.  Staring down at her reflection in the water, she saw a beast with a large triangular head, vicious teeth and a long, graceful neck like a swan.

She’d walked as the Dark Mare before, but never a dragon.  Staring at the image, she noticed a dark spot on the creature’s chest.  She peered at it, and realized a scale was missing, directly over her heart.

“Allow me,” a male spoke like thunder.  She jerked her head up, wings cocked, prepared for flight.  Sliding across the midnight sky, the moon became her missing scale, lying in a massive clawed foot as black as the night. 

With a gentleness that surprised her, the black claw placed the circled scale on her chest.  Light blinded her, a flash of pure silver that burned in the night, illuminating a black dragon so large he dwarfed her.   He made a small sound of pain, turning his serpentine head aside at her brilliance.

“Who am I?” 

“Dim your light, azhar-jalbi, and we will talk.”

Brightheart.  She knew this as an endearment he’d often called her as surely as she recognized him, but from where?  Confused, she watched the blazing luminance of the moon dim within her, but she didn’t understand what or how she did it. 

Darker than the night, he edged closer, curling one taloned foreleg at her in invitation.  Why not?  What did a dragon fear?  With a single leap, she joined him on the edge and stared out over a barren land so baked by the sun the earth had long ago cracked open and died.

“Here in this land they know you as She Who Hung the Moon.”  He cocked his head, opening his mouth slightly in what she assumed was a smile of greeting.  “I’m rather new to this land and form, too.  I find myself thinking and saying all sorts of strange things, like azhar-jalbi.  It’s right, though; this land is right in a way I haven’t felt in a very long time.  I must admit, though, it’s very strange to call you brightheart again.  I believe I’ve called you much worse over the years, but I can’t say that I regret it.”

He winked, and she laughed softly.  She had a feeling this big hulking brute of a male was bad, even to the point of unadulterated evil, but there was something achingly familiar about him.  “Oh, yes, you were more likely to call me thal-jalbi, the coldest heart of all.”  Her amusement died in her throat, choking her.  Where had that come from?  “Do I know you?”

“You always know me.”  He nodded solemnly.  “Although we only rarely have an opportunity like this to talk.  I’m afraid we’re usually trying too hard to kill each other.”

“Oh.”  She gave him a sly look from beneath her lashes–if dragons had lashes.  “Who won last time?”

“You did,” he replied without hesitation.  He stretched out on the sands and looked up at the night sky, the tip of his tail tapping and twitching to some music only he heard.  “This place is very strange, its people more savage than I guess even your barbarian horse king living among his herd.”

She drew back, shaken by an image of a fiery red stallion blazing through her mind.  Vulkar.  She’d been the Dark Mare then.

The black dragon chuckled and rolled over on his back, giving her a playful look.  “They even expect me to fight.  With swords.”  He unsheathed his claws and swiped ineffectually at the air.  “They call it Dancing the Blades.”  He shuddered delicately.  “I’d much rather breathe on my enemies and kill them with my poison.”

He gave a little puff through his nostrils and she scrambled away.

Curling on his side, he stretched his muzzle out on his front legs.  “You were never afraid of my poisons, brightheart.  I occasionally sent them just to keep your claws sharp, but I knew you’d sniff them out.  You always do.”

A cold dread pounded in her stomach.  She knew this man, this dragon, yet she couldn’t think of his name.  “Shadow.”

Iyeh.”  He grimaced, his sword teeth flashing in the night.  “I’ve always been Shadow, but never yours, not since the beginning.  Others were sent to tempt you.”

“Gregar,” she whispered.  She remembered the laughing, dark-eyed man who carried an ivory blade as white as this beast’s teeth.  Warily, she slipped closer and sniffed at the dark form.  “You don’t smell like him at all.”

The black beast winked at her, breath puffing out again on a laugh.  She smelled the acidic taint in the air, but beneath its bitterness, another scent lingered.  She couldn’t quite place it.  “I know caffe very well indeed, but I never smelled like it.  I quite like this scent.  The land is so dry, here, that one’s skin turns to leather within moments if not protected.  They use an oil–you don’t want to know where it comes from–and each male tends to wear a trademark scent so they can identify each other from long distances.  So they say.  I believe they use it like dandies at court used to prance about in jeweled slippers to attract the ladies.”

[some paragraphs deleted]

Averting his face, he whispered, “I actually began to consider…dare I say hope…that you might…love me again, too.”

Such yearning filled his voice.  Another memory flashed through her mind.  She held him clutched to her breast, wings beating the air, but she couldn’t stop their tumbling spiral from the sky.  Down, down, they’d fallen toward their doom.  He’d whispered, Release me.  Save yourself.  And her answer had been, Never, my love.

A tear trickled down her cheek.  Holding his breath, he reverently licked the fluid from her scales.  Lowering her head, she rubbed along his cheek and down his long neck.  “What happened to us?”

“Love happened to us.  Great love turned to hatred and jealousy.”  The black dragon hissed bitterly.  “He never wanted you to love anyone but him.”

She snorted, shaking her head.  “Not my Khul.  He’s never been jealous.”

“I don’t speak of your horse king, but of your Fire, your Red.  He won’t like me at all, brightheart.  He never does.  Perhaps I should save us both the trouble and simply kill you now.”

She bit him gently, gripping his vulnerable throat in her jaws and he rumbled with pleasure.  “You are welcome to try.” 

He raked his claws up her flank to the vulnerable spot beneath her foreleg.  A well-placed spear planted there would find its way to her heart.  “I could kill you now.” 

“But you won’t,” she whispered, staring down into his liquid ink eyes.

“I suppose not.”  He breathed out a long, drawn-out breath and licked his jaws.  “But it’s been so very long since I tasted your blood.  Your scent…torments me.  It’s never been safe for us to be together.”

Before she could answer, he flipped her over so hard the stars blurred and the ground shook.  Talons dug into her, one clawed foot at her throat, one of his rear feet planted on her abdomen.  In a heartbeat, he could eviscerate her or rip out her throat.  Her breathing quickened at the thought, but she didn’t fight him.  There was no need.  All she had to do was let her heart glow, a symbol of her love.

Releasing a chuckling hiss of pain, he withdrew.  Shadows enfolded him, his wings slithering along the ground in a dry rustle.  At the edge of her glowing nimbus, he paused.  “The coming darkness is not my doing.  Even I would spare you that sorrow.”

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NaNo Day 8

Weekends.  I never know how much writing I’ll sneak in between errands, family time, and cleaning.  Ugh.  I hate cleaning.  I really would like a wife of my own.  Anyway, we did run around town most of the day, but while the monsters took their baths, I crammed in some writing.  I’m still working on the current section, but I thought I’d go ahead and get my update in for the day.

Today:  1802

NaNo total:  18,079


“You will continue to guard while I sleep as you’ve done every other night.”

Dharman might be years younger, but the dark look in his eyes sent chills down her spine.  Muscles tensing for all-out battle, she couldn’t deny the uncoiling heat in her belly, either. 

“Why would you fear taking two Blood to your bed, Khul’lanna?  If you tell me to lie with you and do nothing but breathe and guard your sleep, then that is exactly what I shall do.  Even Sal would keep his hands to himself unless specifically invited to be more than Blood.”

“There’s no need–”

“Great Vulkar!”  Dharman jerked away, his shoulders corded, eyes flashing in the candlelight.  “You give me so little, Khul’lanna.  The least you can do is give me the truth!”

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NaNo Day 7

The notes and brainstorming I got yesterday were terrific.  I finished the scene with Dharman last night, and then thought I’d just whip out a few sections on the Keldari, specifically their devalki.  I mean, I know, loosely, what happened, but I’ve never written it down.  Couldn’t be that hard.  Right? 

Er.  I might have been mistaken.

I’m not happy with this section at all.  The language of the beginning has the right cadence and feel of “prophesy” that I want, but the rest…well, it sucks.  I “told” the whole thing and lost the sing-song quality of story I was shooting for.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  I’ve got the bones down.  Now this section needs some serious revision.  Honestly, it will probably be rewritten from scratch.  It may not even be “included” in the final story — but likely it will be told by one character as a fireside sort of story.  It’s a legend that fits inside this story and DIRECTLY impacts how I need to resolve the ending.  Crucial stuff.  But it sure is hard and I’m definitely not happy with it yet.

Word Count:  1003

NaNo Total:  15,578 16,227

Rewrote this morning’s section (no change to word count reflected; new section is actually a bit shorter).  Yes, I know this isn’t the time for revision, but NaNoWriMo or not, this is a story I fully intend to polish and submit to my publisher, and I’d rather fix major issues now than wait until later.  It’s still not perfect, but it’s better. 

Then I wrote the next section for the antagonist, only 649 words but some lovely wicked stuff. 


The Gods have many face and many names yet one eternal truth remains:  love is the greatest gift of all, and the greatest sacrifice.  In every age and every country, They consign Their Chosen to manifest Their hearts’ desire in the world, that all people may bear witness.

Love’s sacrifice conquers even the Blackest Heart of Shadow.

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There’s no other word to describe it.  It scares the hell out of me when it happens.  It’s so frickin’ PERFECT.  I mean, I couldn’t have planned this.  I didn’t, I swear.  I actually had a lot of this wrong years ago when I first began jotting down notes for where I wanted Shannari’s story to go.  I still had a lot of this wrong in my head until just a few minutes ago.

I said the other day that Return to Shanhasson would be where Blood and Fire collide.  Gah, even then, I didn’t know how true that statement was.  I missed it.  It was sitting there, staring at me, waiting for me to finally notice it and then WHAMMO, I’m sitting here at the Evil Day Job frantically working on a real deadline and now my mouth is hanging open, my mind filled images so real, so frightening, so magnificent, I can’t even put it into words.

Little clues.

  • the Keldari oil isn’t “caco” scented as I wrote it.  Scent is very important in this series — and this was a deliberate ploy that I missed entirely and must correct.  This oil could only be sandalwood.
  • A certain new character that is not yet on page is even more important than I ever thought.  I had his heritage completely wrong, although I knew he was neither from the Green Lands nor Sha’Kae al’Dan.  So close, but I missed it by a mile until now.  Dharman is going to DESPISE him and justly so, and yet…
  • The unnamed antagonist is exactly who I thought he was, but he’s not, and this is the big, big chance for me to pull off the reverse of the theme:  Even the blackest Shadow can be redeemed through love. 
  • This is going to add a TON of suspense as the midway to end scenes play out, because even now, I’m not really sure if the antagonist can do this.  Seriously.  I. Do. Not. Know. How. To. Pull. This. Off.  But I must.  Because…
  • I need to write out the original devalki that cursed the Keldari because damn it all to the Three Hells, that story is playing out now, again, and I can only make it RIGHT this time, if I know how the original story went WRONG.
  • I need to know what happens in the partially-plotted Keldari novella “Given In Fire” and drop a few select hints there for where this is all going.  As if I don’t have enough to do…

And none of this was in my original outline.  Vulkar help me, I think I’ve got another 120K story in the works here….

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NaNo Day 6

As promised, I sat down last night with pen and paper and wrote out the Shanhasson emotional arc and themes.  The series theme:

Love, the greatest gift of all, and the greatest sacrifice.

I wrote down the lesson from Rose, how Shannari learns to love her warrior and what that means.  I wrote the lesson down from Road, how one paid the greatest sacrifice of all for love and still walks in her dreams.  What she had to do on the Great Seal at Dalden Bay–how it took not one or two but four bonds to break Shadow’s hold on the earth.  Now, she stands in Shanhasson as High Queen and the darkest, grimmest hour of her life looms ahead.

Some of last night’s scene will remain; parts will move to her emotional upheaval after the turnning point coming up, and then some of it will likely be moved to the end as the final lesson of the book and series as a whole.  I’ve been laying this groundwork down from word one, day one, in Rose.  Blessed Lady above, why have you forsaken me?   She’s going to find out that turmoil and distress was nothing, nothing at all. 

I picked up the scene today and shifted POV.  I tried Rhaekhar’s, and then I tried Dharman’s.  Not sure whose will work best in the end, but I can fix that later. 

Word count so far: 1275Finished this section with another 298 words = 1573.  Handwrote some INCREDIBLE notes over lunch.

NaNoWriMo total:  14277 14575


“I am not the only warrior who loves you,” Khul reminded her gently.  “I am not the only warrior who wishes he could carry you away to safety and never let you fight another kae’don, risking your life for outlanders who know nothing of the cost.”


Dharman stiffened, his shoulders shaking with rage and hurt.  He would have wheeled and strode away, if only he were free to do so, yet honor and his love chained him to her side, even when she wounded his heart.

“Oh, Dharman,” she whispered softly.