creativity

Ill Omen

A look back to the coronation of King Fawlen and the beginning of the end of Kallizar's old life.  

 

“And now, we must complete the ceremony for which so many have gathered to see,” Prophet Zahn continued. “You have passed your third and final test; you have shown yourself to be a humble and compassionate man, gentle and wise beyond the boundaries of the royal line.”

Mikael approached both Fawlen and Seriah. “Kneel, my brother,” Mikael said, “that you may be given what is yours.” He drew his sword, the glinting blade catching the sunlight and throwing it across the waiting crowd in green flickers.

Trembling very slightly, Fawlen lowered himself to his knees before his brother.

The edge of Mikael’s sword came down on Fawlen’s left shoulder. “The nation of Fyan cries out for a new king!” His voice was steady but his eyes were bright with emotion. “You have proven yourself, before this country and this court, that you are ready and worthy to answer this call!”

The entire courtyard watched with unblinking eyes, tense with excitement. This was the moment – the new king was about to be crowned!

The members of the court watched wide-eyed as well, but their tension was borne of sudden panic. Instead of lifting his sword and finishing the ceremony, Mikael had pressed down on the blade. It had bitten into Fawlen’s shoulder and a small patch of dark red was blossoming onto Fawlen’s clothes.

Kallizar looked around rapidly, checking the extent of the situation. Hirom had not yet noticed anything amiss, thank the gods. Seriah had – her knuckles were white where she gripped the arms of her chair. But she seemed torn between stopping Mikael by force and staying still so as not to alert the crowd.

For a split second, Kallizar met Mahlíz’ eyes. He looked stunned.

Fawlen looked much the same. Shock was all over his face, and pain beneath that… but whether from his wounded shoulder or from his brother’s actions, Kallizar couldn’t tell.

Kallizar looked to Mikael, her heart trying to beat itself free of her ribcage. What was he doing? Why in Lillith’s name would he attack Fawlen? A sudden, terrible thought entered her mind. Mikael… have you lied all this time?

A sharp, almost electric sensation hit her a second later, and Kallizar realized what must be going on. A quick glance at Mahlíz told her he had figured it out as well. Someone had thrown a spell on Mikael’s sword, and from the look of things, the prince couldn’t do anything to stop it. The muscles in his arm bulged as he strained to lift the blade, and sweat was starting to trickle down his worried face.

Mahlíz’ magic swirled onto the scene, soft blue hues to Kallizar’s vision. It wrapped around the prince’s sword and smothered the offending spell, choking it out until nothing remained.

Mikael must have felt the pressure fading because his face relaxed and he adjusted his grip so the blade would not go flying over his head.

Kallizar scoured the crowd for the guilty Sorcerer, but she could not sense anyone with that magic. Nor did she see anyone who looked particularly guilty, or surprised, or disappointed. The magical signature dissipated as Mahlíz’ magic destroyed the last of the spell, but Kallizar wouldn’t soon forget that feeling. It was all she had to figure out who – and how. Something was off about that signature… it was too scrambled, too confused, to have been natural magic. Someone had been meddling.

That thought made Kallizar extremely uncomfortable. Tainted magic came as the result of dark experiments, indeed.

Don't Interrupt a Sorcerer

Concentration is key for Sorcerers - if they are interrupted, pray to the gods you weren't the one to do so, or you may well have blood on your hands. Here we see Kallizar attending to the severely wounded villagers in the far north of Fyan, victims of a cruel pirate raid. Kallizar wished yet again that she could use her magic to heal another, but she was limited by the same thing that allowed people’s bodies to heal themselves. Her magic was foreign to them, and they fought it off. Only the Prophets could truly heal, using the gods’ powers directly. Even with all her strength, it was not enough to keep the spell up for very long. After only a few minutes, she was forced to stop. She was beginning to sweat, and her hands shook when she removed them. So did her legs when she attempted to stand.

“Water, please,” she said, kneeling quickly. When she had downed what was brought, she moved on to the next victim, this one the woman with the missing eye.

She had barely begun when she felt heat rising against her chest. Confused, she hesitated. In that moment, the spell faltered, snapping back on her with a vengeance. Kallizar jerked her hands away as pain shot up her neck, searing hot. She reeled backwards and landed heavily on her back.

Mai rushed to her side. “What happened?” she asked urgently.

Kallizar reached for the emerald necklace, belatedly realizing what had happened. As she had suspected, it was still warm to the touch – the king had called. However, when she attempted to call the wind to respond, she found herself too weak even for that. As she held the gem, it flared again.

“Oh, gods, what happened to you?”

The shock and concern in Mai’s voice cut through the pain Kallizar was feeling in her neck. “I was interrupted,” she explained. Her voice sounded oddly distant to her ears. “I got surprised and I lost my balance.”

Mai was shaking her head. “No, not that,” she said. “Your neck.” The confusion was evident in her eyes.

Kallizar was having trouble concentrating – the pain in her neck was terrible, a much different kind of fire than the feel of magic in her blood. “I… what?”

“Mai, look!” One of the other relief workers, a man, was staring at the woman in the bed. When Mai saw her, she stared, as well.

Kallizar’s heart sped up with worry. “I… what done?” she asked. Somehow, the words didn’t seem to be making as much sense as they should have been. The pain was growing, across her shoulder, down her back, and up her jaw and cheek.

Mai looked back at Kallizar. Panic blossomed across her features. “Naloi, help me,” she ordered the man. “She’s getting worse.”

Kallizar’s vision wavered; one of her eyes seemed unwilling to open. “Died?” she asked despairingly, gesturing with weak arms toward the bedridden woman.

Mai smiled carefully. “No, Sorcerer,” she assured her. “She will be more than fine.” Her smile died as worry consumed it. “Sorcerer?”

Kallizar vaguely felt herself lifted from the ground. Her skin throbbed and burned, making her recoil from the touch. Someone laid a cool cloth across her face; Kallizar realized she was lying down again. She heard Mai’s voice, low and frightened. “Naloi, go. She’s got a horse at the edge of the city. The prince is with his men at No’om. Tell him to hurry…”

Words from the Wise

Quotes from important people from Fyan's history. As a date reference, Tijak was king when Kallizar first joined the Fyanish High Court, and not long after that the prince Mikael became Commander General. High Prophet Zahn was the Prophet living in Xuun during Tijak's, and then Fawlen's, reign. All the rest of the people lived in a time before Kallizar. Lillith and Ri'hannon, of course, live throughout history as gods watching over the mortal realm.  

 

"The power of magic and even the might of the gods pales beside the strength of love we hold for one another.” -Sorcerer Jarrod,  Prophet of Lillith

 

“Do not try to live up to my name. Instead, make yours one for all generations to remember. You are strong and your heart is great – protect and love your people and they will sing of you until the stars go out.”  -Tijak, late king of Fyan, spoken to his son and heir, Fawlen

 

"An icy thrill rippled through me, and a chilling shudder passed through my body. My heart quaked within me and I clapped my hands to my pounding head. I cried for mercy; I called out for Ri’hannon’s gentle hand.

But the voice that answered me was not Ri’hannon. ‘Guess again, mortal.' The sound of her words thundered in my ears, rattling my bones. ‘You shall have your mercy, for I will stay my wrath. And you shall be my Prophet.’”  -Sorcerer Jarrod

 

“Know your objective. Watch for your enemy. Do not let anything stop you from moving forward to the very end. We are soldiers of Fyan – we will not fail; we will not fall!” -Mikael, Commander General

 

“And so men discovered the pain that came with the fires of magic. Their healing nature kept the Sorcerer from sickness and healed even his most grievous of wounds. They protected his body. But those flames weighed heavily on the Sorcerer’s soul, forcing him to say good-bye to everyone he had once loved as they aged and fell around him.” -Wrade the Historian

 

"Some say we fear what we cannot see. I think, rather, that we fear what we can see and yet cannot change, what we cannot stop, what we cannot control. Helplessness ignites the worst fears in us all.”  -Izmund, Prophet of Ri’hannon

 

"Close your eyes and look at what you see, and your sight will be made clear.”  -excerpt from the Book of the Gods

 

"All that you were is a part of who you are, even if who you are is not who you once were. And at the end, you will have been all that you were meant to be, for only you can choose which path in life you walk and where your steps may fall.”  -Prophet Izmund

 

"You say you do not believe, but it is your faith that will be your undoing.”  -Sorcerer Jarrod, Prophet of Lillith

 

“Regard this day with honor and glory, and celebrate the birth of our country, our Fyan! Let there be no quarrel between noble and common, between House or trader or Sorcerer or Prophet or farmer. Let every citizen gather together in celebration of our heritage and our future. And every year shall the High Court hold such a celebration that only the gods be spoken of more highly.”  -Ny’mara, High Queen of Fyan

 

"By the gods do I so live. In the gods do I so die. My faith makes me fearless.”  -part of the oath sworn by the Fyanish military

 

“If I could, I would wrench my soul from my body, so that I would not have to bear the sorrows of these long years. But the tears I shed must suffice.”  -Sorcerer Zeke

 

"'Have faith,’ he cried, ‘I cannot fail! My magic is the highest power!’

But magic cannot make you immortal, Sorcerer. That crackling you hear is not your flames– it is the sound of your soul breaking.”  -High Prophet Zahn

 

“We are not in your world, but we can see your suffering. We are not all-knowing, but we can feel your pain. We do not hold ultimate power, and we marvel at your strength. Mortals, your gods do watch over you.”  -Lillith and Ri’hannon

 

"People born with magic become Sorcerers. People born with power become legends.”  -Shaana the Wise

Kallizar: Fire in the Blood

I've spent a lot of time with Kallizar's story. Submitting it was the scariest and most exciting thing  I have ever done, and I'm happy for the experience. I'm also happy that I was able to take a good long look at my work and decide what would be the best for it. In the end, I decided to cut it down from a trilogy to a stand-alone novel. The vast majority of the book was the script from Book 2, but is now entitled Fire in the Blood. (I'm not going to go back and edit previous posts that refer to the old trilogy setup, but I have changed the categories and tags around a bit to make things easier to find and to reflect the new changes.)

For a while, I thought this would just be a novella-length story about a Sorcerer named Kallizar who worked as the Court Sorcerer for a kingdom and uncovered a plot about one of the nobles trying to take over the throne. As I kept working on it, more and more craziness started popping up with Kallizar's history and suddenly she informed me she had major history with a guy named Tavius - apparently he used to be her student, but when he started messing around with twisted magic Kallizar kicked him out. The entire "noble taking over the throne" arc pretty much disappeared as I let the other characters just kind of take over the story.

I can't remember how it all ended, but I know there were far too many characters and not nearly enough continuity to hold it together as a novel. But I'd written the entire thing, beginning to end, and I'd even had to get out a second notebook. Exciting! I was about to be a sophomore, and I'd actually finished a story I had started.

During the rest of high school I didn't work on Kallizar's story much, but I did bring her to life when I went to the Michigan Renaissance Festival. That was a blast. :)

Fast forward a bit to college. I had clips and bits from dozens of characters and stories, but Kallizar was nagging at me. Finally I sat down and re-worked a bunch of her story to get her to shut up, and decided most of what I had written in high school was crap, but there were some really neat ideas that I could branch out with. I grabbed a brand new notebook and started scribbling, and by the time I was ready to graduate, I had the rough manuscripts for two books in a planned trilogy ready to be typed out and edited, and the basic outline for the final book.

Go forward another year or so and I have a day job and almost no time to work on refining my scripts. But eventually I get the first one done and have a friend (another writing geek) read it over. Terrifying. More terrifying because in going through it before I hand it over to her, I keep thinking how unhappy I am with the script. Some things just don't seem to want to fit right. But I suck it up and let her read it anyway. When I get it back, she tells me basically what I already know, which hurts like hell but drops a realization at my feet: I already have a story I'm happy with. The script from Book 2 is rough, sure, but I don't think of it and want to bury it in the sand. It's got strong characters and a much better flow than the first script. And good news - Harper Collins just announced that they are taking unsolicited manuscripts from new authors for the first time in over ten years! It must be time to sit down and make a decision: what do I want from my writing career? Am I going to hang on to old ideas I had just because I put a lot of work into building them, even if I'm not happy with the result? Or am I willing to value that work for what it is (mostly good practice), use it as a reminder that I'm still - and always will be - growing as a writer, and to take the initiative to put my best foot forward?

Clicking that Submit button was terrifying. But I'm glad I had the chance. Having that opportunity, and that deadline, forced me to look at the work I was doing and really turn it into the best story it can be... and if that means cutting it down from a planned three books to one, then great. Maybe I will come back to Kallizar and company with some short stories to fill in the non-essential but fun pieces that are now gone with the death of Book 1. Who knows?

In the meantime, I'm going to keep looking forward and take these moments as opportunities for self-evaluation. I'm excited for all the stories I've yet to tell.

Short but Important

I'm terrified and excited to be actively working against my first major deadline - I will be submitting a manuscript for possible publication in October! This means I have been, and will continue to be, very busy working on making the script as good as it can be before I send it to give myself the best chance I can. This is a big step for me in more than the one obvious way. I've had some tough decisions to make about my books and other stories, and my writing career as a whole. It's been painful and needed and overall I'm pleased with the answers I've found for myself.

One of the most important things I realized about this submission opportunity is that I fully recognize the chances of an unpublished author getting picked up on the first try are very slim. But I'm not looking or thinking of that as failure - I'm excited to have the chance to submit my story, and no matter what the outcome, I will have gone through the process. Which in turn means that the next time won't be so scary, and I'll have learned things to make the next time around even better if/when this first opportunity doesn't pan out.

As I continue to refine my script, I am growing more and more certain of a few big changes I decided to make to the concept of Kallizar's story as a whole. Once the submission deadline passes and I have some time again, I will likely update the site to reflect these changes before I post new pages.

But until then, I thank all of you for your support and hope you have enjoyed the journey thus far. It's only the beginning. :)

FITB: Lee and Z

The manuscript for EUD (Book 1) is currently out to a friend for proofing. The manuscript for FHBB (Book 2) is finished, but I'm still in the first round of revisions. It's exciting, seeing the two big binders on the shelf with print-outs of my novels. Hopefully soon they'll be in real bound-print format. For those of you who don't know anything about FHBB, here's a fun introduction (taken from the script) to one of my favorite characters. And Lee takes great pride in his pirate slang, so he better not hear you mocking him. For those who do know more of this story, here's also the first mention of Z being uptight. I suspect The Glass may make an appearance in a future post to share this wonderfulness with everyone. :)

***

Even below decks, Kallizar could hear the shouts of the Saphira’s crew mixing in with the jeers of the pirates. One particularly loud man’s shout was audible even above the din. “Run an’ hide, ye cowardly Vaerish dogs! Cap’n Freeman’s come to get ye!”

“You won’t take me without a fight!” Captain Cath screamed back.

Someone laughed, and then Kallizar lost all traces of understandable conversation to the roar of the battle.

It did not last long. The merchant men, hopelessly outnumbered, were subdued in minutes. Some of them died, screaming or cursing, but Kallizar tried to ignore it. All that mattered was that Aeva and Riat were safe.

“Search the ship. Cap’n wants to make sure everyone’s up to see their cap’n dispatched,” a female shouted, causing a round of coarse laughter from the pirate crew.

Kallizar brought her magic to her hands. If they thought to take her quietly, they were mistaken. If Kallizar had her way, they would not be taking her anywhere.

Heavy footsteps thudded down the stairs. A huge, muscled man came into view, his eyes darting expertly around. When he saw Kallizar, he grinned. “Ye gonna play nice or is Lee gonna have to make ye come up?”

Kallizar recognized his voice as the man who had shouted the insult about the Vaerish dogs.

The man, seeming to get a better view of her, suddenly furrowed his brow. “Ye look awful too pretty to be a part o’ that rubbish crew,” he said. “Ye sure ye be on the right ship?”

Kallizar was completely confused by the man’s statement. “You mean, I should be on your ship?” she asked, not letting her defenses down.

The man laughed. “My ship?” he chuckled. “I’m not the cap’n, and the Fury not be me ship. But I have me place. Cap’n Freeman seems better than this what ye got yerself here.” He arched an eyebrow at her. “Or don’ ye know that this ship here belongs to one o’ the crummiest, scummiest, evilest cap’ns still sailin’?”

Kallizar did not know how to respond, so she said nothing.

“True, true,” he said with a shrug. “Creepin’ Cath an’ his two-timin’ trades.”

“Lee! Ye get killed down there, or what? By the Gods, ye take forever!” the woman called.

Lee rolled his eyes. “Zandra, gettin’ all uptight,” he explained to the surprised Sorcerer. “But I guess she be right. Come on, then.” He gestured for Kallizar to follow him.

“No.” Kallizar was mildly entertained by Lee’s nonchalant behavior, but she was not going to simply leave Aeva and Riat and follow him up into the middle of a bunch of pirates who were, doubtless, less casual than this one.

Lee frowned. “Come on, lass. I know ye be smart or ye wouldn’ be still standin’, talkin’ to me. Ye would have screamed or fainted or some other somesuch nonsense. I know yer not afraid, an’ I know why, too.” He pointed at Kallizar’s lightning. “Ye have the magic in yer blood. But I got a secret for ye.” He winked. “I’m not afraid of yer magic.”

Kallizar tried not to let her growing surprise show. “Do you have a proposition, or are you merely going to chat me to death?” Kallizar asked him. “Either fight or leave me alone.”

Lee smiled. “Those be bad choices, Sorcerer lass. I’d love to let ye stay, but I have me orders, and the Cap’n doesn’t take well to people not obeyin’ his orders.”

“Then I guess we’ll have to fight. How does your captain take to having dead crew members?” Kallizar retorted.

Lee shook his head. “Truth be told, I would take it much worse than the Cap’n if ye killed me,” he said, “but the Cap’n would still take it pretty bad.”

Kallizar shot a bolt of lightning at Lee’s knee, aiming to stop him without killing him. Gods help her, but she liked the man.

***

Show and Tell

"They're more like guidelines, anyway."    --Pirates of the Caribbean

 

Rules for writing. They're useful, they're good, and on occasion, they're best when broken. One that I particularly love to break (sometimes by bringing that phrase crashing down around someone's ears, giggling madly in time with the fragile little pieces hitting the floor) is "Show, don't tell." And really, I love to break it so much because I hear it everywhere, without the slightest bit of context, which makes me wonder whether the people saying it are, in fact, informed and trying to help, or whether they just have heard the bit-quote before and feel the need to put in their two words' worth.

In lieu of me regurgitating someone else's words here, I'm instead going to point to a blog written by a long-time favorite author of mine, Patricia C. Wrede, where she clears up a lot of issues with the over-quoted writing rule. She has my gratitude. :)

Please enjoy - and remember, if you hear crazy laughter, cover your head.

Victory!

It's an auspicious day, everyone! As is obvious by my lack of recent posts, I've been very busy lately. But it was all for a good cause, because the proofing of Even unto Death is finished! I am very excited to have hit such an important milestone in my life and writing career. The total count came out to 440 pages, and I also hit another personal goal: I broke 100,000 words! Best of all, I can honestly say that I'm happy with the results!

I'm going to be swamped with work (yes, I have a day job) for the next few months, so unfortunately I won't likely be able to do much with EUD right away. But it feels so great to have gone through the entire script and polished it up so that I feel good about the vast majority of it! There are still some sections that need help, but I'm hoping my volunteer proofers can help out with that. And soon it will be time to go agent-shopping!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, given me advice, and kicked my ass when I was being pokey-slow about working on EUD. Writers are hard to put up with, I know.

If you're wondering whether this means the end of my posts... Nope! There's still lots to do with EUD and Immortal Flames, not to mention all the other characters and stories that I've been bouncing around on here - and on paper. I'll be writing for a long, long time. :)

At the Hands of a Hunter

Alec - Vampyra, wild cousin of the vampire. Bound by the new moon and the nightmare of nightmares, this Vampyra can still feel fear... and it has been said that Hunters know how to make even demons hide their faces. Click on the tag "Alec" in the word bubble to read more about Alec and the people in her world!

 

 

Hunt me no longer. End the terror that keeps me prisoner. Such pleas have never crossed my lips, but I have never wished for anything so hard in my life.

 

Of course the Hunter does not oblige. Even if he could hear my pleas, he would not. But I can only beg silently. My jaw is held tightly shut. Paralyzed, but not by fear. By iron. A cold, cruel iron stake through my heart. The point of it protrudes from my back, into the ground where I’ve fallen. I cannot free myself – the iron freezes my boy, rendering me completely vulnerable to whatever the Hunter has in store for me.

And the pain… the pain at the hands of a Hunter, the torture he can devise, it is worse than the Turning that so many have endured. I would rather have been Turned a thousand times than fall victim to one Hunter.

Tears born from that agony creep silently from the corners of my eyes, forbidden but still present. I cannot blink them away, and they leave a shining, cool streak down my temples to the ground.

The Hunter grabs me by the ankles. I try to fight back, but I cannot even twitch my toes. The Vampyra within me snarls at his touch, even of his soft black gloves. He gives a nasty yank, jerking me forward. The end of the iron spike drags a rough furrow along the ground, wrenching me into new agonies. Screams tear at my throat but cannot escape. I endure silently, by force, unable even to close my eyes against the pain wracking my chest. Along the furrow is a smeared, sticky trail. Although I cannot see it, I know it is there.

Even though my heart does not beat, it can still feel pain. The twisting, jolting, of that spike is such fierce pain, I long to pass out, to flee from my feelings. But such is the true cruelty of iron: we must remain awake, conscious, for every second. We must feel everything.

Is it any wonder why we hate and fear the Hunters so?

Worse fear wraps around me as I realize where we are headed, where the Hunter is dragging my immobile body. Into the last, fading rays of sunlight.

There is nothing I can do. I am going to die. My only consolation is that, because I am a Vampyra, it will be quicker than he expects. He will not be able to torture me for long.

We stop moving for a moment while he regains his breath. When he sees my stone face, he laughs viciously.

Beside me, my tears fall with a whispered splash into the seeping pool of black-red blood.

Why Are the Flames Immortal?

Once, in a time before, there lived a man with fire in the blood. And when his time had come, that fire turned to stardust and fell throughout the earth. These flames buried themselves deep within the humans, sinking down and blending into their very souls. So well-hidden were they that the humans barely knew of their existence... until they felt the heat in their children's children's blood. A rare thing, for one to be born who could feel the strength of these flames burning in their own blood. But once, twice, in a family strong with these flames, would come one who could go beyond simply feeling the heat. Every once in a great many times, one would be born who could harness that power. And thus magic, the immortal flames, live on in the blood of the Sorcerers.

Akitis and the Poison Blade, Part 2

Part 1 introduces Akitis to the world, so if you don't know who she is, that would be the place to start. This piece directly follows Part 2, picking up the conversation where Part 2 left off. In other news, Even unto Death is getting closer to a smooth draft. I'm very happy with the scenes I've already edited - I feel like I'm actually making progress! Yes! Soon, I think, it will be time to send it out...

***

“Beating or not, it will still hurt when I tear it from your chest,” the vampire hissed, her eyes blazing with hatred.

“Enough!” The declaration came from Namryn, who had looked up from the registry book with tired frustration. “There are bounties listed for all whom you’ve brought us tonight, Shadowknives. You shall be paid for your efforts, as usual.”

“Excellent. I’d hate to think you were backing out on me,” Akitis replied smoothly.

Sheila glowered.

“And you in turn will surrender the medallions.”

This voice was new. It grated and moaned like the last gasps of the dead against one’s ears. The assassin's eyes flickered quickly around the room to catch the speaker, and when she realized who it was, she stiffened instinctively.

One of the demons looked back at her, its glittering amber eyes barely more than vertical slits. Usually, the creature kept itself shrouded in shadows, but now, as it spoke, they shivered away to reveal its true form.

Four arms rested against the tabletop. Two hands were folded calmly, held motionless, but the other two were curled atop the wood, the tips of their long claws clacking as the demon drummed his fingers in an almost casual movement. There were no facial expressions, for there was no face – only blackness in what Akitis could only think of as a feline shape. She imagined the demon standing properly, four arms and two legs to the ground, and realized it looked similar to the giant black cats that roamed the foothills of the Gothemere Mountains – aside from the extra limbs. She could even make out the tip of the demon’s long tail above the edge of the table. But those cats did not instill the fear Akitis now felt as she looked into the demon’s eyes.

“The medallions stay with me,” she said. The laughter was gone from her voice, but the power remained. Never show fear to an enemy. Never show weakness. Falter and you will die.

“What use are they to you? You have your gold,” the demon replied. Just barely, Akitis could hear masculine tones behind the words.

“What use are they to you? If you want them, you should have taken them yourself,” Akitis retorted. “What I kill, I own. These are my trophies and I am not bound by anything to hand them to another. Particularly not to you.”

“Then take your gold and go,” Namryn said, crossing the last of the names off his list. “Here.” He tossed a sack of gold to the assassin.

Akitis caught it one-handed and tucked it away without releasing the medallions. “A pleasure, as always,” she said, nodding sarcastically to Sheila in particular. “Any new jobs for me? Otherwise I’m out. Spent too long in this dank little hole already.”

Loranus slid a sheet of paper toward her. “The latest requests.”

Akitis scanned the list. “Nothing special… more werewolves? Full moon’s not for another few weeks. Let’s see… usual bunch of vampires… this one posted by a human though, that could be interesting… aha, here’s something fun.” She smiled. “So the Halps manor ghost finally pissed someone off enough to list. Excellent.” She folded the paper and pocketed it. “Done. I’ll be back when those wolves finally get around to showing themselves.”

“I hope they drag your shredded carcass in here for me to feed upon,” snarled the werewolf from the other end of the room. Even in her human form, her speech was rough and low.

Akitis snorted. “Keep a leash on your pet, Loranus,” she said, “or you might find yourself needing a replacement.”

“Get out, Shadowknives,” Loranus shot back.

Akitis laughed again and stepped toward the door.

“I’ll be waiting for you, half-blood,” Sheila snapped.

Akitis spun around, tossing a silver blade at the vampire’s shoulder. It found its mark perfectly and the room began to stink of burning blood. “Keep that,” Akitis called back to the snarling woman. “Call it a gift.”

As she turned back around, her eyes caught the glowing slits of the demon who had spoken earlier. Neither moved. No one spoke, but Akitis still heard the vile whispers crawling towards her. I can see you, little black Shadowknives. I can see the Darkness in your heart.

Akitis’ vision blurred. Her breath froze in her chest and her head pounded. And she felt the crawling within her, the stirring of the Dark Magick as it answered the call. We keep this body, Calmo-rin, it said. You will keep the silence. The Dark Magick will keep the silence and we will have this creature descended to us. And she will bathe in your blood even as we feed on her life.

Akitis shuddered. She grabbed at the Dark Magick and pulled it down, down into the depths of her silent heart and locked the door once more. It raged and fought, as always, but Akitis would not let up until every strand was once again locked away. Her vision refocused and she found herself still staring at the demon. Calmo-rin, she thought. The Dark Magick had named this demon Calmo-rin. When Akitis finished her new weapon, this Calmo-rin would be the first to die. It had been the Dark Magick binding his unnatural creation that had resonated with the Magick within herself, and had forced her to fight it again.

And the Dark Magick was getting stronger. Every time she beat it back, the task was more difficult. Every time she locked it away, the doors weakened.

Before the Poison Blade could figure out what had taken place in those seconds, Akitis vanished from the room. Sprinting down the corridor at full vampire speed, she was outside before the door to the council had fully swung shut. But even outside, with the cool night air against her skin, Akitis sweated. Fully changed creatures had no battle with the Dark Magick. It worked the change and sealed itself inside the medallion, giving the creature its strengths and weaknesses according to its race. But Akitis had not fully changed. She alone battled the Dark Magick as it swarmed inside her, trying to tear down her mind and destroy her from within.

Akitis gritted her teeth and headed for home. She would find the vampire who had marked her – the one so inept or so careless that he could not even control the change. She would make the Dark Magick tell her the reason it longed for her, why it healed fatal wounds instead of finding a different host to control. Akitis drew her orange blade and nicked the tip of one finger, reveling in the fierce pain that came with life.

She would not lose.

Envisioned, Part 3

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them originally.  

The instant my skin touched the glass, pain reared up behind my eyes. Pressure made them feel that they were about to burst out of my skull, and I squinched my eyelids closed, just to be safe. Somewhere else in my head I was sure there were knives being stabbed into me, but I couldn’t tell where. My focus dimmed and I wondered vaguely if this really was the one that was going to kill me.

Think of something else. Nothing came, the pain was too intense. There were pyres in my skull, their towering flames rearing up to devour me. Molten heat dripped inside my brain, covering my head in its sadistic torture and making me break out in a sweat. I half-expected the flower to melt beneath my hand, but the heat was all within me. I shuddered as another flash of agony ripped through me, threatening to tear my body apart from the inside. With what little focus I lad left, I concentrated on keeping my hand on the rose.

A tiny, distant sliver of myself marveled at my strength. Look at what I could go through. But then again, I had done this before. I knew what to expect, more or less. Yet it did nothing to lessen the pain.

Only a second later, the vision began. I welcomed the distraction from the pain, choosing to ignore the part where it would get worse as it went on. Random images flared in my sight: molten glass, a woman’s hand tracing the petals with a short finger, money passing over it as it rested on a wooden counter. My hopes began to die as the flashes continued without any information about my quest.

Wait, there – one second, not even a whole second, but I had seen something. Her hand on the rose. And a note beside it, clutched in her other hand, one word written on it: Duke.

More images flooded me, blurring together so quickly I had no chance to decipher them. The pain in my head throbbed. My limbs shook; my system was telling me it had had enough. One leg gave out and I tipped sideways, nearly smashing the rose.

I had to concentrate. Get my hand off this thing, before it killed me. How did my hand work? Uncurl the fingers. There we go.

It took only ten seconds to get my hand free, but it felt much, much longer than that to my tortured body. Finally, I let my hand drop, empty, down to my side.

The pain subsided. The pictures ceased. I was left in the blessed dim light, myself again. Each breath I took shuddered through me, and I sank shakily to my knees to keep from falling over. I kept my eyes closed, but the images of the rose would not dim.

To Watch: Red vs. Blue

Hey... You ever wonder why we're here? Ten years ago, two soldiers stood on the top of a base in the middle of a canyon, wondering that exact thing. And they had a lot of time to spend thinking about it, because their army, the Reds, had only set up a base because their enemies, the Blues, had a base on the other side of the canyon. Trouble is, neither team is very good so they're pretty much at an eternal stalemate.

Thus begins the Best Show Ever. Of All Time.

Red vs. Blue is a web-series that has been running for ten years and is better than ever, with Season 10 currently underway this summer. Produced by Rooster Teeth and filmed using the video game series Halo, Red vs. Blue is a credit to machinima (using gaming engines to produce video). The first few seasons are pretty lighthearted, with more attention on the episode-to-episode jokes and funny one-liners than a heavy overall plot... and the lines are good. Seriously. The back of my office door is literally covered with quotes. They're even spilling onto the window frame, the walls, and the top wood frame that runs around my office light. It's actually very pretty, since I use a different color sticky note for each different character. Watch seasons 1-5 and expect to laugh way more than seems physically possible.

Then watch seasons 6-8 and be absolutely blown away by the upgrades Rooster Teeth put into their show. Enjoy the animation expertise of Monty Oum, the kick-ass graphics of Halo 3, and writing, acting, and filming that makes RvB Season 1 hide in shame a little bit. The story continues, new faces (err... helmets) are added, and awesomeness ensues. Don't forget things that happened in parody-land of seasons 1-5, because memory is the key.

Season 9 has parallel story lines, with one continuing in the present where Season 8 ended and one set many years in the past when Project Freelancer was still active. Meet the freelancers in all their glory and be prepared for the biggest package of bad-assery yet. Oh, and the worst gun ever. Of all time.

Season 10 is ongoing as of this post (July 25) but it is already living up to (and possibly surpassing) the RvB bar of greatness. Rooster Teeth has said that season 10 will wrap up the Project Freelancer storyline, but has not announced the end of RvB - for which I am grateful, because that means I don't have to scrape together the money to fly down to Texas and sit on RT's front step and beg until they air more episodes. Or maybe I'd just join the riot of thousands of other RvB fans who would already be on site, asking one another, "Did you know about this?" Possibly...

You can't escape the glory of Red vs. Blue. Others have tried, and every person I've recommended it to has watched it and loved it. No joke. Every single person. A few of my co-workers even borrowed my DVD sets so they could watch it in higher quality.

So get over to Rooster Teeth and watch the show already! It's amazing. And when you're done, come back and let me know your favorite character, quote, scene, whatever. I'd love to know!

My personal favorites:

Character - Caboose

Quote - (so many to choose from, but here's one that I love that is spoiler-free) Church's line, "You will fear my laser-face!"

Scene - Tex kicking serious ass in the sparring room. Or the episode called This One Goes to Eleven.

Song - tie between Bow Chicka Bow Wow and On Your Knees. (Thank you to Jeff Williams for your musical talents in RvB!)

Legal stuff: I don't own the above pictures; two are spruced-up designs for T-shirts sold at the RT store, and the last one I pulled from the RvB wiki. Halo belongs to Bungie. Red vs. Blue belongs to Rooster Teeth. The only thing I own in this post is my opinion. :)

ABCs from EUD

No plot spoilers, just a few names that might not have been mentioned yet. Enjoy! A is for the After - the place all souls must go at the moment of death.

B is for Blood - it's important in more ways than one.

C is for Cade - Kallizar's loyal servant and friend.

D is for D'arrynt - Kallizar's home town.

E is for Enladi - the ocean that separates Fyan and Varaeti from the next closest countries of Fyan and Patal. And E is for Even unto Death, the first book in the trilogy.

F is for Fyan - Kallizar's home country and the setting for most of EUD.

G is for Gharot - the Patalian emissary.

H is for Hirom - son of King Fawlen and Queen Seriah, and the Crown Prince of Fyan.

I is for Itamn - a village in the northernmost region of Fyan.

J is for Jarrin - younger brother of Li'ra and the youngest of Kallizar's servants.

K is for Kallizar - the Honored Sorcerer of Fyan, an eccentric and honorable woman and the star of the Immortal Flames.

L is for Lubek - the huge country to the northeast that is trying to acquire a Sorcerer from Fyan for themselves.

M is for Mahliz - the Court Sorcerer of Fyan and a powerfully loyal man. And M is for Mikael, Commander General of the Fyanish military and Prince of Fyan.

N is for No'om - another of the tiny villages up north in Fyan.

O is for Olimon - a small town about a day's ride from Xuun, with very good house wine.

P is for Pirate - Pirates are common in the Fisian Sea, living in the island cities known collectively as the Free Ports.

Q is for Queen - The rules of Fyan dictate that there must always be a ruler from the royal bloodline, but whether that is the king or queen is irrelevant. Daughters, nieces, and sometimes sisters have been named Crown Princess and have inherited the rights of Queendom upon the old monarch's death.

R is for Rosa - the wife of Mikael and one-time friend of Kallizar. She is the only person to live on the South Wing of the Palace (with the royalty) without being a member of the High Court.

S is for Seriah - current queen of Fyan runs much of the less-glamorous aspects of maintaining a country because she has a good head for the complex paperwork.

T is for Tan'jeht - a poison deadly to Sorcerers because of its magic-destroying attributes.

U is for Uther - a friend of Kallizar's in Varaeti.

V is for Varaeti - the country across the Fisian Sea from Fyan. Once connected as a single island, the now two separate island nations have gone from friends and allies to enemies barely holding on to a dying cease fire.

W is for Worship - Worship is an essential part of life. The Prophets of Ri'hannon and Lillith are well-respected and protected in Fyan, and they can hear the voices of the gods and use boons from the gods to do miraculous things that even magic cannot replicate.

X is for Xuun - the capital of Fyan and the location of the Palace, as well as the national trading headquarters.

Y is for Year - at the beginning of EUD, the year is 1078 A.R. Kallizar is 90 years old.

Z is for Zahn - High Prophet Zahn is the head of a temple in Xuun that is dedicated to both gods. He is a quiet and devout man who will not hesitate to help someone - regardless of that person's worldly affiliations.

Opening the Weapons Locker

Finally found something my characters and I agree on: Weapons are cool. Different personalities prefer different weapons, different settings make different weapons available, but overall, it's a fact in my world - weapons are just plain cool. Ohhh... wait... that means I have to write scenes with weapons. I have to have fight scenes, with weapons, written in a way that makes sense and shows a great action sequence. But I've never actually used most weapons before.

Oops.

Guess it's time to learn!

Academically, at least. Here's a good example: Kallizar (when not using her magic) often carries a staff. It's tall and thick, like a good walking stick, and made from solid wood. On paper, it's sweet - she can whip it out and kick some ass... but then what? She carries it a fair amount even when not in combat. No big deal - until I made a staff for myself and walked around with it all day. Guess what? Big, solid walking sticks are heavy. And they make your hands hurt after a while, especially if you have to grip them tightly - say, for instance, if you were fighting? So I learned some valuable information by having the real thing in front of me, physically, and by being able to interact with it and use it the way I was trying to write it. Short answer to the problem? Kallizar doesn't carry the staff nearly as often now. It gets in the way a lot, it's heavy, and it's not terribly useful for most situations.

Example the second: Akitis fights with a slew of knives, usually by throwing them but she's good in close combat, too. She's got a whole belt full of them, and they range in size and weight from finger-long slim shivs to dirks longer than my forearm. Now, Akitis is on the thin side, but she's no weakling. She's grown up using knives and defending herself in hand-to-hand combat, so she's way more skilled than I am. But it was still a learning experience for me when I went to Scotland one spring and visited several shops that boasted blacksmith crafts. I got a chance to handle about a dozen different knives in various sizes and it was incredible how unique they all felt in my hands. I even ended up buying a dagger for myself. It's much heavier than anything Akitis would ever use, and it's meant to be more decorative than functional, but it still gives me something solid to return to when I'm looking for some good knife descriptors.

Third thing - swords. They're a lot like big daggers, right? I know the basics - I've watched plenty of TV and movies with sword fights. Oh, except that's all staged and choreographed, too... hmm... Well that's a bit of a conundrum. I can't buy a sword (those things are really expensive!) and I seriously doubt a class on proper fencing etiquette is going to be helpful when I am working on a pirate attack sequence. Parry! Thrust! Fail. But what I do have is still pretty good - my husband is a black belt in Tang Soo Do and has studied some kendo (traditional sword-fighting, usually Japanese). He's got some sturdy wooden kendo swords and I've been able to see a few of the basic forms. Granted, my pirates aren't going to be using kendo art when they're ransacking another ship, but I can at least understand and better write how the captain might hold his sword and bring it down or across when attacking an enemy. And again, in Scotland, I had a friend who was lucky enough to purchase a sword (actually, the sword that matches my dagger :) ) and I got to hold it. Holy whoa, was that heavy. Yes, I am a weakling, especially compared to a long-time pirate sailor or a military man, but it still was a sharp reminder that swordsmen are strong. They aren't always huge and perfectly chiseled, but they're strong. Even disarmed, they'd likely be a fearsome opponent because of their sheer strength.

Next up, and not something you'll find featured in The Immortal Flames (although they do make quite a few appearances in my other stories): guns. I've had characters fire guns, get shot at, get wounded by, and get killed by guns (or bullets, I'm not going to argue over that). And here's where I have the least personal experience. I've shot a BB gun, once or twice, about twelve years ago, and that's pretty much been the extent of it. No hunters in the family, no family heirloom I can steal away for ten minutes of intense study. So in this case, I do research. Yes, a chunk of that research is watching various TV shows and movies to see relative sizes of handguns vs. rifles, etc. Some of it is also internet, learning names for different guns and what types of bullets/ammunition they take. And some of it is even playing FPS (first-person shooters) games on my computer to see what types of guns get reloaded in what ways, how hefty the recoil might be, whether it's likely to take two hands to fire, and so on.

Plus, I get to play video games for research. Awesome!

The final weapon I wanted to touch on is what I always refer to as a natural weapon. That could mean a vampire's fangs, animals' teeth and claws, or, for Sorcerers in The Immortal Flames, the magic in their blood. Kallizar doesn't need a physical weapon to focus her magic. She crafts spells through careful pattern design and logic and creativity, but all she needs to do to activate it is bring it forth. She's not bound by the limitations of what's physically accessible - which is good, because when she needs to cast a spell on-the-fly, even a gesture might be too slow. It becomes a reflex, a habit, a part of her every day. Sure, she spends lots of time practicing, crafting new and better spells, but they take time. Ones she uses constantly, like summoning and dismissing her staff, or grabbing the wind to carry her voice over long distances, are so commonplace she doesn't even do it consciously. As the saying goes (at least in my family), practice makes permanent. It may not be the perfect spell, but do it enough, and it'll be at the ready in your mind forever.

There's more in my weapons locker, but I think that's enough for one peek. Expect an update in a day or two with pictures of some of these things, and maybe a surprise or two!

There's a Lot in a Name...

A while back, when I was first starting the Immortal Flames trilogy, I asked a group of friends for ideas for names for the two gods who would be part of the world. I gave the descriptions for both, saying that there would be a female who would be the God of Wrath, and a male who would be the God of Mercy, and that they were long-time lovers. Neither one was ever meant to be considered "evil" or "good" since there are multiple ways to apply or withhold wrath and mercy. The names I liked the best were the ones I have now: Lillith, God of Wrath, and Ri'hannon, God of Mercy.

As I watch and read more and more stories, I see "Lilith" come up again and again, and she's always evil. And creepy. And demonic. And I decided it might be time for me to change the name of my God of Wrath, because I don't want people to see the name "Lillith" and instantly think "evil and demonic" because that's not the way my character operates. Trouble is, I've been using the name Lillith for a few years now and it feels like a good fit. And also, I'm not sure what I would use instead.

So here's where you all come in. When I introduced Lillith, did you automatically assume she was an evil god because of her name? Do you have any name suggestions that would be suitable for a God of Wrath that doesn't instantly imply something evil? Or maybe you thought the name Lillith was fine and don't see any reason I should change it?

I'm looking for suggestions and opinions, so if you have anything, please share it in a comment! Thanks for taking the time and interest to help make my characters the best they can be! :)

 

(P.S. - You can search for all my previous posts about Lillith and/or Ri'hannon using the tags of their names, or with the Search box at the top of the page.)

Exactly Right!

Short but sweet - this goes out to all the over-analytical readers of the world, to remind them to pay attention to what the author is actually saying. Fair warning: Language may not be suitable for children (but then again, kids shouldn't be reading most of the other stuff on this post, so...)

Enjoy!

Meet Sam Kaplan

Remember Jean? Here's the scoop on her counterpart, Samuel Kaplan.  

Sam Kaplan

Age: 25

Profession: Bodyguard

Favorite Pastime: Brawling (Kicking Ass)

Notable Activities: Drinking, Gambling (moderately), Occasional Art Immersion

Languages: English (bits of French from Jean)

Sam Kaplan was born in NYC. His father is a member of the old NYC mob, a fact that only a select few know. Nothing is known about his mother – it is assumed she was a hooker. At any rate, Sam was raised to be a quiet, observant man with patience, confidence, and a large dose of kick-assery. Many people have (wrongly) assumed Sam’s quiet nature to be a sign of stupidity, and when they have attempted to attack him, they have paid in missing teeth, broken bones, and bruised egos. Sam is a small but very fit man who blends easily into the background – making him ideal as a bodyguard, hence his current employment to Jean. His previous jobs include Judo instructor, debt collector, taxi driver, and museum guard. This last job, particularly, gave him some insight into the world of arts, and explains why he was on his way to a gallery opening the night he met Jean.

He has told Jean very little about his background (for obvious reasons), but instead of putting her off, as his silence did most people, Jean became intrigued and asked if he would like to be paid to be her bodyguard. The pay was considerably better than his previous job and he accepted. He is now happily employed and is most at home when he gets to throw around people who get too close to his employer.

As far as romance goes, Sam has had two girlfriends, neither of which were very serious. One was shot and killed and the other left him for a very old, very ill, very rich man. Sam does not hate women but simply does not have time for a dedicated relationship. He knows Jean by reputation and thinks that, if anything, the talk about her does not do her justice. She is a very spirited, very beautiful woman. He has not admitted, openly or privately, whether there was anything more than professional interest when he agreed to hire on as Jean’s bodyguard. Speculations, however, are leaning toward yes.

Miss Jean Levoix

A character sketch for a gaming character that ended up not being used. Potential writing material? We'll have to wait and see...  

Jean Levoix

Age: 27

Profession: none

Favorite Pastime: Socializing

Notable Activities: Smoking, Flirting, Drinking

Languages: French, English

Jean moved to America with her parents when she was 6 years old. Her father was a very successful artist who instilled a love of the arts in Jean before both he and his wife were murdered for his pocket money shortly after the Crash (when Jean was about 12). Jean was not with them at the time. She inherited a vast sum of money (mostly jewels and gold but some money also) and attended a school for women until she graduated with a degree in English and a pretense of becoming a librarian. However, she never worked, preferring to spend her time frequenting the clubs and galleries in NYC. She is always dressed to kill and has had many suitors chase her, but so far she has not had a relationship lasting more than a few months. The most recent one, with an older gentleman named Byron Worthington, ended over a year ago when Byron proposed and Jean politely but completely declined. She is a favorite of many of the club owners and often gets in for free because of the other company she attracts. Jean loves to study human interaction, which is why she can be found frequenting the upper and lower crust clubs and bars. In the high class businesses she is welcomed as a member and a friend. In the low class businesses she is a source of intrigue and income. A welcome piece of eye-candy in the down-and-outs of the post-Crash, pre-War people. Jean has recently been seen often in the company of a young man (a shock in and of itself, as all her other male “companions” were much older than she). Speculation runs rampant about the nature of the man and his relationship with “Jeanie” or “Miss Levoix,” depending on who one were to ask, but nothing is known for sure. So long as there is no ring on her finger, the other single men remain hopeful that they have a shot with “the hottest broad in NYC.”

Jean’s companion is a young man named Samuel (Sam) Kaplan. She met him in a taxi on the way to an art gallery opening, and after a long and interesting discussion, discovered that he was available for hire as a bodyguard. He is extremely good at his job, even having ties to the NYC mob (which he keeps out of the public's eye, of course). Jean hired him out of self-preservation and out of curiosity. The nature of their relationship beyond employer-employee remains to be seen, but if Jean’s private thoughts are anything to judge by, there may be some budding romance.

Lamentations

It is autumn, and the forest around your castle is alive with color even now, in the early night. Licks of candle-flames sear through every leaf, bursting into colors as bright as the sun. The dark stone of the castle seems even more beautiful with the fiery frame of the trees surrounding it. Around your garden, the silvery ivy begins to slow its creepers, anchoring itself deep within the sleepy earth for the winter it knows is not far away. The few flowers you planted display their soft clothes in silence. Your fine horses prance around their pasture, stomping their glinting hooves and sending their mournful songs up to the heavens. They do not know where you have gone. They whinny anxiously, hoping you will answer their desperate call. I do not know what to do, how to tell them the truth, so I rub their velvety noses for a moment before returning to the garden. I can see my breath in little white wisps as I kneel down beside you, as I tell you all that has happened since you left. There is no comfort for me in this place, even in all the beauty that surrounds it. Like you, it will soon pass away into the dregs of winter’s memory.

But you know none of this, for you are locked away inside an iron box, forced there by others’ hatred. A white marble stone sits above your head, marking the spot where you lay, hidden from the world. How I wish I could have you in my arms, your head against my chest and your hand in mine, as I rest beneath this old oak tree! But, I do not have the key to unlock you from your prison of death.

I lay a single, red rose on your grave. The moonlight illuminates each droplet of dew on the rose’s petals, turning them into shimmering tears. They are not the first tears that have been shed over your grave, but I worry that, after I am gone, they will be the last.