Posts Tagged ‘writing’

I’m going to do a feature where I introduce my upcoming characters. I just decided this and it starts today. Instead of starting with main characters, I’m going to go with some side characters just for fun.

Up to this point, I’ve only written humans (or human-like people.) In my fantasy comedy, Legends of Auhlg, that’s changing. I have two animal characters.

First is Blaze, a cerulean hellhound. What’s that? Well, imagine a dog that can breathe fire and then imagine that dog is blue and breathes blue fire. Blaze is the animal companion to one of the main characters, Melysoni the sylph.

He doesn’t speak and is protective and loyal to his mistress. Despite being terrifying to look at, he’s a good boy.

Blaze is a lot of fun to write. As a non-verbal character, he communicates through body language and the sounds of a regular dog. By mixing his expected behaviors with his magical abilities, it creates a realistic dog character with bonus features.

The second animal sidekick is Gary the Arrogant Unicorn. I posted an excerpt of him here on my blog when I first came up with the idea. Gary is a verbal character and he also lends to the comic relief.

Gary, however; is not a human and is of the equine family. He doesn’t have the same physical cues to his dialogue. Unicorns don’t sigh, for example. This helps to change things up a bit when writing dialogue tags. Again, giving him a mix of realistic horse traits mixed with human language and dialogue presents a new challenge to writing.

That’s all for today. Have a great week!

 

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Where’s RR?

Posted: April 22, 2017 in Writing News
Tags: ,

Hi Everybody!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. I decided to post about my current plans and writing.

Right now, I’m working on two projects. The first is Book Three of my Darkness Falling Trilogy. I’ve been having some trouble with it and it’s slow going. But it is going.  Hopefully, I’ll be close to completing it in the falls. My plan is to have it out before the end of 2017, the 20 year anniversary of when I first started writing.

Secondly, I’m working on my fantasy comedy: Legends of Auhlg. I’d also like to get this story out this year or early next year.

How do I work on two things at once? Well, I’m writing on whichever I feel more inclined to write on every day.

I’m also still working on The Hunted, but it’s more of a back seat right now.

Anyway, that’s my update. I’ll be posting on the blog again but not sure if I’ll post every week like before.

This post contains spoilers from the episode of The Walking Dead which aired November 13, 2016. If you haven’t seen the episode, you have been warned.

Today I want to talk about creating and holding tension in storytelling. It is both a difficult and necessary part of telling a good story, specifically in the horror and thriller genres, both of which The Walking Dead fit into. Creating and holding tension is something that this show struggles with. Either they do an amazing job or they do a horrible job. That’s because tension itself must either be amazing or horrible. There is no “middle ground” for tension, kind of like being pregnant. You either are pregnant or you’re not. Something is either intense or it isn’t.

Tension requires the perfect combination of acting, writing, and directing when it comes to television or movies. In writing, it falls fully on the writer. This episode was a television version of exposition. Exposition has its place, but a full ninety minutes of it is a bad thing. Once again the story was told in a weird order instead of linearly. Linear can be a good thing, and at this point of The Walking Dead, it could help to build tension.

You’re Early

Let’s start with the biggest problem first. We don’t get to see Rick and Company return to Alexandria. We don’t know how many days have passed. Michonne sneaks out to do some target practice so that she can become a sniper. Rosita and Spencer are headed out to scavenge. Eugene is “building them a radio,” although I bet his bullet building skills would be worth more to them if they knew.

Negan shows up right at the top of the show. They were supposed to have a week but now the Saviors are early, with Daryl in tow as a visual reminder of what is at stake.

This would all be great, except for one problem: The population of Alexandria seems totally clueless.

“Who is this guy? Why is Rick freaking out?”

Did Rick really not tell anyone anything? Is he trying to pull an Ezekiel, because that’s not going to work. Negan considered our crew of survivors as a threat, which is why he’s put on such a big display.

Remember – we don’t know how much time has passed. It’s been enough time that Daryl looks the same as he did at the end of last week’s episode, beaten up and broken down. That alone makes it feel like more than one night has passed.

Another reason it feels like he must have told someone is Father Gabriel. The idea of telling Negan that Maggie died, and her grave, means some planning has occurred.

By the time Rick gathers everyone together at the church, it feels like a reminder, not an explanation. The whole thing is convoluted and confusing.

What would have worked better is if the episode starts with us seeing Rick tell the Alexandrians about Negan, to see their grief or shock over what happened to Glenn and Abraham, to see Rick still raw. They then begin gathering supplies – setting aside half their food, lamenting that there isn’t enough and what are they going to do? Then, as we feel the dire reality that Alexandria doesn’t have much to offer by way of food and Rosita and Spencer are heading out to scavenge; knock knock, Negan is early!

 

knockknock

“When I say knock knock, you say who’s there.”

 

Why would this work better? Because it would give the people of Alexandria a chance to show us their emotional response in a more realistic manner; even if they think Rick is crazy and don’t think it’s that bad. Even if they want to fight back or are confused when Negan shows up and starts taking chairs and mattresses instead of food.

Sniper!

I had a lot of hope for Michonne. Smuggling the rifle out in the morning for target practice was a good idea, but ultimately, her story this episode was pointless. If she has left the rifle out in the wilderness it would have been a great opportunity. If Rick hadn’t seen her taking the rifle it would have been even better. Why? Michone the Sniper would be a fantastic secret to have not only from Negan, but also from Rick. Giving characters secrets only makes them stronger, it builds possibility right into the story.

Another problem with Michonne’s story is Negan’s reaction to her return. He just had Alexandria turned upside down to find two guns, then Michonne walks in with an undocumented gun and he gives Rick a verbal warning. This is completely out of character and also stupid. Even if there aren’t any more guns out there, the bold faced lie that Rick told him should have resulted in something terrible. Instead, he shows leniency.

As he said to Olivia, guns are life and death. Not flipping his lid over one undocumented gun makes no sense.

You Ain’t My Daddy!

Carl’s attack on Negan and his men was one of the worst scenes in the whole episode. I didn’t believe a minute of it. Sorry, Carl, but the tough guy attitude fell short.

It was also pointless.

As pointed out by Rosita, it was already pretty clear they were going to take the guns. Why else did Dwight take her gun, other than being a jerk? Guns were on the menu. Hilltop doesn’t have guns. The Kingdom has guns, but Ezekiel is better at diplomacy than Hilltop’s leader, as we saw last season. We didn’t need Carl to throw his teenage angst on the fire for Negan to take the guns away.

Uncomfortable

The most important part of the episode is understanding what Negan took away from Alexandria. He left their food out of “kindness,” but he took away their safety and comfort. Alexandria has been very comfortable for a long time. Even with the threats of last season, they still had fancy houses to live in and could pretend that everything was semi-normal. The addition of discomfort is a blow to their moral and is very manipulative.

Taking the guns leaves Alexandria is helpless, not only from Negan but from other threats, and he wants them to be helpless. He wants them to need his protection. He left their food because although they are upset about losing their mattresses, it could have been worse. He wants him to be grateful to him when he’s merciful; so that they constantly teeter between fear and relief.

This builds a strange type of loyalty, something similar to what you would see in an abusive relationship. Without the guns, Alexandria is helpless. Negan will protect them. Negan can also destroy them. Play by the rules and everything will be fine. Break the rules and someone gets hurt.

Other Thoughts

I really hope Rosita is finally going to get a storyline. She’s been a background character for a long time now and I would really like to see her develop. Of course, it’s also likely she’s just going to get killed.

I miss Carol, the Angel of Death. I’m starting to feel like her mental breakdown was a contrivance because this version of Carol didn’t exist in the comics and they had to eliminate her to make the Negan plot work. There are other ways Ezekiel and the Kingdom could have been introduced to the story.

I really hope Daryl is going to earn respect from some of the Saviors because I think one of the best ways to take Negan down is from the inside. Dwight may or may not be helpful in this, considering he’s on a power trip.

Do You Like this Feature on my Blog?

Thank you for reading. This may be the last episode that I’m able to address on a Monday. Watching the episodes live isn’t easy for me, and it may be that I will have to start watching them after they air. If you find this feature to my blog interesting, helpful, or otherwise enjoyable, please let me know in the comments.  I will move it to Tuesday if I’m unable to watch on Sunday. Otherwise, this may be the last time I share my two cents on the subject.

Many writers are very organized people, and they are called plottersfractal-1681742_960_720, making their outlines and using bullet points before really setting down to write.

Other writers use their intuition to guide them. They are called pantsers because they “fly by the seat of the pants.”

Then there are those of us who do a little of both, one way or another.

The funny thing about my NaNoWriMo project is I have the whole thing planned out in as close to an outline as I can get, but I’m not able to tell the story.

Why?

For me, outlines are very bad.

I didn’t intend to “plan” the story. I wrote down my idea  so that I wouldn’t forget while I was working on Book Two of my trilogy. This has tricked my brain into thinking that I’ve already written this story and now I’m struggling to actually write the story.

Instead, as I try to push through and find the words, I end up researching. I’ve spent hours
reading up on Mesopotamian history and culture, and I’ve learned some amazing things. My story doesn’t take place in Mesopotamia, but a place inspired by it. All of this research is great, but it’s putting a damper on my actual writing time. I already don’t have much time to write to begin with considering I work 40 hours a week, have a family, write a blog, and of course get caught up in the random distractions we all have.

Another reason I think I’m struggling is because I’m trying not to edit. That’s a “writer rule,” and one that I don’t follow at all. I edit while I write. By the time my first draft is done, every chapter has been edited for content at least once. NaNo rules say “No Editing!” but that’s like telling me “No breathing!” My mind is gasping for air as I try to create the new without fixing the old.

The point of NaNo is to build a writing community and to teach young (or new) writers how to be disciplined and finish something. I’ve never participated before. I have finished things I’ve started – stories, articles, and novels, – doing things my way.

While I struggle with my NaNoWriMo project, my chaotic mind still needs to write something. I’ve been working on part eight of The Hunted. I also started a short story for a contest, because of course I did. The project I thought I would be working on is simmering quietly, taking shape, but also fighting me. With my chaotic mind, I could suddenly find the right thought and it will send me flying through the narrative.

At least you can all expect another episode of The Hunted next week.

Thank you for reading. If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

 

 

This post will contain spoilers for The Walking Dead which aired November 6th, 2016. If you haven’t seen the episode, turn back now!

Last night The Walking Dead took us along for the ride with Daryl and his adventures with Negan. These adventures include being locked in a dark closet and tortured with super happy music all day. Sometimes Dwight, (also known as Burned Face Guy,) would take Daryl for a stroll in the yard, which consists of a big cage full of zombies and prisoners. The Savior’s main compound is big and prison-like, but if Daryl is a good boy and decides to join Negan, he’ll get a studio apartment including a bed, chair, kitchen, and even a TV so that he can watch himself on The Walking Dead. (I know they probably have a DVD player or something, but it was funny to see the TV in that room.)

We did get to learn a little bit more about Negan. He’s just as crazy as he first appeared, a real tyrant ruling over his army of loyal ants. How loyal are those ants, exactly? We also learned what happened with Dwight and his wife Sherri after her sister Tina died in the woods and they betrayed Daryl. This came via tell instead of show, where the villain gets to share a customary evil bad-guy speech.

Tina was supposed to be Negan’s fiancé, but she didn’t want to marry him. He was just being a nice guy allowing her to marry him so that she wouldn’t have to work so hard for her insulin anymore. Of course, Tina didn’t like that idea and the three of them ran off. Tina was eaten by zombies; Dwight and Sherri stole Daryl’s crossbow and motorcycle and returned to Negan. In order to save her husband, Sherri married Negan and Dwight worked himself up to being a big dog in the Savior’s army. Of course, he still had to have his face ironed. That’s unfortunate.

If we base the timeline of The Walking Dead on the age of Judith, who is still a baby under a year old, all of this has happened in the span of maybe one or two months. Negan is way more forgiving than expected! It’s fine that they didn’t spend a whole episode hanging with Sherri and Dwight, because last season had a lot of other important things going on. This type of storytelling is lesser than if we’d seen it happen, do we really care about Dwight and Sherri when they are torturing Daryl, who we all know and care about already? I’m guessing we’ll get to spend more time with Sherri and Dwight before it’s all done, but at this point, it’s their fault for returning to Negan instead of going with Daryl to Alexandria.

Also, I’m not the only one thinking “There is only one Negan vs. many unhappy people.” No matter how many people claim to be Negan, there is only one. As the escaped guy told Dwight, if there was an uprising he would be screwed. Too bad Dwight doesn’t seem to be the leader they need, not yet, anyway.

The leader they do need is Daryl.

Last night’s episode was another great look at the characterization from a fan favorite. Daryl is a prime example of how strong characterization can not only shape a story, but uphold it through dark times.We watch him take his torture silently, with that same stoicism we’ve all come to know. Even in the midst of fear, he still takes the opportunity to try to escape, reminding us of his resilience and confidence in his skills. Sherri begs him to go back, but he won’t, because he believes he can get away. After being recaptured, and forced to listen to Elvis crooning about loss, he finally lets it all out. I think, however; that just helped him grow stronger. Sometimes you just need a good cry.

We watch him take his torture silently, with that same stoicism we’ve all come to know. Even in the midst of fear, he still takes the opportunity to try to escape, reminding us of his resilience and confidence in his skills. Sherri begs him to go back, but he won’t, because he believes he can get away. After being recaptured, and forced to listen to Elvis crooning about loss, he finally lets it all out. I think, however; that just helped him grow stronger. Sometimes you just need a good cry.

Daryl knows what is at stake, but he won’t give up, and this is something we’ve seen from him since the first season. He could have turned against the group after Meryl was lost, but he stuck by them and continued to survive. When Negan asks him “Who are you?” he answers “I’m Daryl,” because he knows who he is at the core; he doesn’t need a false identity to know what he’s capable of.

Daryl is a true survivor, which probably isn’t true for a lot of Negan’s followers.

 

the-walking-dead-s07e03-still-2

“Jokes on you, shit sandwich was always my favorite.”

 

Negan lets him live. Why? Negan is building his character for us as well. Yes, he’s a crazy man with a baseball bat, but he’s also smart. He was smart enough to see the weaknesses in people and build the Saviors around fear. He also knows that there is only one Negan, which is why he’s trained his soldiers to say “I’m Negan.” By giving them a new and shared identity, he’s making them feel part of something bigger, pushing back against possible rebellion.

Those who do not wish to live under the tyranny of the Saviors need someone like Daryl, but Negan also needs Daryl. Killing him would be easy, but breaking him would prove a point to those witnessing the process.

If Negan’s soldiers can see a man like Daryl break down and change, then any misgivings they have about Negan will be quelled. It’s a dangerous game, and one I don’t think Negan will win, at least not in the way he wants. Daryl is walking a very fine line. Either he needs to start gaining support from Dwight and Sherri and others, or he’s probably going to die. A crazy man only has so much patience.

At the very end, Daryl makes his first move with Dwight. He understands. Dwight had to think about someone else, so he gave up. Daryl says that’s why he can’t, and at first it may seem like he’s saying “I don’t have anyone else to think of,” but I actually think this means the opposite. He has a lot of people to think about, everyone at Alexandria, and he can’t become a Savior because he can’t turn on them, even if it costs him his life. Again, this is the same characterization we’ve seen from Daryl before. He had an opportunity before to join a villainous group, but he can’t and he won’t.

Other thoughts:

Poor zombie nerd guy might have been a good ally if he knew about Daryl.

Sherri is in a prime position to do bad things to Negan, like poison or a knife to the throat if she has the guts and opportunity. Andrea never did with the Governor, but we don’t know Sherry very well.

Speaking of Sherri, I bet she’s going to be one of the first to rebel and possibly die.

Thanks for reading! If you have anything to add, please leave a comment.

This week I started up my National Novel Writing Month project on November first. That means spending time in a whole new world with a whole new cast of characters. These characters have been in my head since January, building up some basic background information for me to work with as I get started. Despite that, I’m just getting to know them and learning how they interact with each other.

One of the easiest ways to write a story is to know your characters. Stories consist of two key elements: an event and a character’s reaction to that event. A character’s motivation will dictate their reaction. By allowing your character’s motivations to drive the plot, the story moves forward organically. When stories move organically, they are more believable to the reader.

Motivations are discovered by character development. The character’s role in the story is only the first step of characterization. The antagonist’s role is to create a problem, and the sign-697220_960_720protagonist’s role is to solve that problem. But why? The answer comes from character background, personality, and current events; a complex combination that produces motivation. Side characters also have motivations, and they are created in the same way. They can either help or hinder the protagonist, but either way, those reactions need to make sense based on the narrative of their characterization.

I already knew who was playing which role before I began writing. I knew the backgrounds for my protagonist and antagonist. I knew the background of the primary side characters. I knew the activating events. Now that I’m putting the characters on paper, they begin to develop their personalities.

What I’ve learned in my first week is that my protagonist is not only intelligent and willing to ask questions, but is also playful and caring. It will be interesting to see her grow and change over the course of 50,000 words knowing what is happening around her. I’ve also learned that the antagonist is much colder than I expected, even when he’s attempting to hide his true nature.

Another type of motivation comes from character relationships. When two characters connect, it builds emotional investment for the reader. The more a character resembles a real person, the more a reader will connect with them. Real people have friends, family, or lovers that they connect with, and so should your characters.

It also gives the characters deeper levels of motivation; it may cause them to act when they would otherwise be still. Producing driving forces through the people they care about is another organic way to drive a story forward.

What I’ve discovered this week is that my protagonist is quite close to her younger sister. Not only does it give her motivation to act, it also adds to her personality. By allowing the reader to witness this relationship, they are given another reason to care about what happens in the first few chapters.

So remember:

  1. Organic motivations make it easier to move a story forward
  2. Motivations are created through personality, character background, and relationships with other characters

As of today, I have 4,950 words on my NaNoWriMo project, which puts me a little behind but I’m worried about it. I’ll catch up.

Thank you for reading. If you have anything to add please feel free to leave a comment.

 

That’s right, you’re hearing it here first (unless you follow me on Twitter.) I’ve signed up for National Novel Writing Month for the first time every. (Hurray!)

Because this is a writing contest and technically Book Three has been written before (it’s just very dismembered and in need of much repair,) I will not be working on it for NaNoWriMo. Instead, I’m going to be taking on an entirely new project that has been simmering for some months.

As you may know, I’m a “plantser.” I don’t really plot and I don’t really fly by the skin of my teeth, but I do a bit of both. This is a rare instance where I’ve actually a pre-written synopsis of the story. It’s not an outline, but it is. Sort of. A disorganized organization type of outline, my favorite. I don’t do that very often, or ever, so that was a sign that this project needs to get off the ground.

 

blank-page

It all starts with a blank page.

 

What is this project, you ask? It’s a fantasy with hints of mystery and horror. Set in a non-Western inspired  civilization, it has a loose comparison to 1001 Arabian Knights with a female protagonist relying on her wits to get her through unexpected situations. Unlike Sharaezade, however; my protagonist will be up against forces she doesn’t fully understand.

What does this mean for my other projects such as Book Three and The Hunted? Well, The Hunted will continue to get updated through November, perhaps once or twice. I’ll be starting on Book Three once NaNoWriMo is over, so December or January. My goal is to have it out by the end of 2017, as that will be the 20 year anniversary of its inception.

If you’re also participating in NaNoWriMo you can find me as RR Willica (shocking, I know!) I’ll be leaving updates on the blog with my progress.

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment.

 

This post will contain spoilers of not only the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead, but also the season six finale. If you haven’t watched these episodes, you’ve been warned.

First off, this isn’t a review. I like to analyze mass media as a means to understand the successes and failures of storytelling. What follows is my intellectual opinion.

Way back in April I discussed why the season six finale of The Walking Dead was such a disappointment. I had a lot to say at the time. Six months later, I do not feel any differently.

I’m going to come right out of the gate and say that the season seven premiere should have been the season six finale. It holds all of the key elements of storytelling that were missing and still ends with a cliffhanger, although a slightly different type. Instead of “The Lady or the Tiger” ending we are left more with “What are we going to do now? Everything is in ruins.”

I have nothing against cliffhangers. I actually use them in my own writing, but they need to be finely crafted and utilized correctly. There are three reasons to end a story on a cliffhanger.

1)      To compel the audience to return to a story after an unspecified break in the narrative.

2)      To open a dialogue about the story, either internally or with other audience members, that further drives emotional investment in the story.

3)      To assure the audience that there will be a continuation even when the current story has come to a close.

It can be argued that the season six finale accomplished these things, and it did. People were compelled to return to see who would take a bat to the head. There was a very vocal, and often angry, dialogue happening in the audience. There would definitely be more story, because how could it end like that without a resolution? (Although in the world of television there is no real guarantee that the show will return, although we all safely knew this one would.)

So what’s the problem?

The problem comes down to the underlying storytelling, which had been shaky for the duration of the season. The audience was annoyed already about the “close calls” that Glenn endured. Add to that the finale dragging out in a log repetitive sequence of events, and then coming to a close mid-action. If they had moved the story down the line to where the premiere ended, with a fitting sendoff for two major characters, and tie the season up in an emotional package brimming with questions about the future.

Consider the premiere of season six. It begins with a strange flashback episode. Everyone in Alexandria is working together to build a zombie funnel to lead the walkers in the quarry away from the town. We learn this in a patchwork of pieces.

Now consider the premiere of season seven. It utilizes a very similar device to drag out the truth of who took the bat, and had it been the finale, it would have been a balance to the premiere. Instead, it’s just a “filler” tactic, and that whole story with Negan and the axe could have been told after the death instead of before.

Rick’s character arc is another package that could have utilized in the finale. All season he was riding high on his ego, believing that he and his crew were the biggest of the bad and nothing could tear them down. To watch him break beneath Negan’s smiling face was incredibly important to the story, a piece of the puzzle that could have simmered in our minds for six months. Negan is a special kind of monster, and to have had a proper introduction last season would have given us time to build him up even bigger while we waited.

Next, we have Glenn’s “fake deaths” throughout season six, teasing the truth. Had the season seven opener been the finale, it would have tied those strings together. Of course, it’s emotional. Glenn is a beloved major character with a pregnant wife. No matter when he died it would have been a blow to the audience. However, from a storytelling point of view, it could have been handled better.

We also have the story arc with Abraham, Sasha, and Rosita in a very awkward love triangle. Abraham is more of a comic relief type character, and by putting six months between any emotional attachments the audience may have had about their situation, which makes it far less powerful than if it had happened when it was fresh.This is especially true because his relationship with Rosita was never really a focus of the show until that point. It also makes his relationship with Sasha feel contrived. What was the point of it? So that Sasha could lose another person she cared about?

This is especially true because his relationship with Rosita was never really a focus of the show until that point. It also makes his relationship with Sasha feel contrived. What was the point of it? So that Sasha could lose another person she cared about? It was merely added to give some sort of emotional attachment to Abraham. More development between him and Eugene would have served this purpose in a more organic way.

Lastly, we have the scene of the whole cast at the table enjoying a meal, with Glenn and Abraham at the head. A beautiful world destroyed by one crazy man with a bat. Having that as the last image of season six would have left the community in a much darker, much more immersive sendoff for the two major characters.

 

landscape-1476265091-negan-grin-walking-dead-season-7

“Hey, man, nice axe.”

 

Now that we’ve looked at why this should have been the finale, let’s look at the foreshadowing that was given to us multiple times to make sure we didn’t miss it.

“This is my axe.”

Rick may be broken now, but he is still the protagonist; the anti-hero. Negan is the antagonist. That means that the conflict will continue until it is resolved. Will we lose more of our favorite characters along the way? There’s a high probability that we will. However; I have a feeling we already know how Negan is going to die.

Rick has used the axe for a long time now. It has been nothing more than a prop, more noticeable than a kitchen knife but not as iconic as Michonne’s sword or Daryl’s crossbow. It’s not overly flashy or recognizable, just an axe that could be sold at your local hardware store.

This season the axe has taken  a prominent place in the story and becoming a focal point for the conflict. If Negan doesn’t meet his end by the axe being driven into his cocky smirk and I’m totally wrong here, it will be a missed opportunity. What a perfect way to tie up the story arc in a neat little package. Of course, we already know The Walking Dead doesn’t like neat packages, even the kind that strengthens their storytelling.

Other Thoughts

  • Are Negan’s people truly loyal or do they function solely on fear? Fear is a great manipulator but there are more minions than there are Negans, the right leader merely needs to appear to start the rebellion.
  • Negan took Daryl instead of killing him, and although having a hostage is a great ploy, it would have been stronger to take Carl or Michonne. There is likely more to Negan’s reasoning in taking him than he let on.
  • Will Maggie lose the baby? Perhaps she will lose her mind? Or maybe she will be the next angel of death seeking revenge in a world that is far too cruel.
  • Will Carol and Morgan find the reinforcements that are desperately needed in the fight against the Saviors? Or were those weird guys last season more bad guys?

Hopefully, we have answers to these questions throughout the season.

image

PART SIX
Opportunity Knocks

Gray morning light cast long shadows of the heavy four-poster bed across the small chamber. The heavy furniture was too large for the space it occupied, leaving little room to move around. The dark wood bed, oversized wardrobe, and writing desk with matching chair were all that was needed, logically, but Lexanna did not enjoy being cramped and felt she would spend little time in her temporary home.

Sitting up in the bed, she noticed the wardrobe was left open. A selection of new garments in a rainbow of colors hung patiently waiting to be selected. It was difficult not to feel guilty when such generosity was being bestowed, while she was being unappreciative of having been taken in for no other reason than to be married to the best candidate.

“I’ll just have to make the best of it,” she whispered

Selecting a dark blue skirt and matching peplum fringed jacket, along with a crisp white high collared blouse, Lexanna dressed herself with some difficulty cinching and tying her corset alone. Thankfully, she also found an array of hats, one for each of the ensembles. Hopefully, what was on her head would draw attention away from her poorly secured waistline.

She stood before a mirror in an oversized gold frame that hung on the wall to brush and twist her black hair into a neat bun, then pinned hat and all in securely in place. Examining herself she decided that it felt strange to be dressed in a fashion she had been accustomed to after weeks of borrowed clothes. Although her life had been spent dressed in finery, her reflection appeared alien.

Upon exiting her bedchamber, she found the apartment empty and cold in its silence. The heels from her boots pounded loudly on the wooden floor as she crossed to the staircase, and she was relieved to descend the stone steps.

Her mission was to find the apprentice dining hall and breakfast. The Ossuary was a daunting labyrinth of corridors and she was dismayed to realize she did not remember the way back to the foyer. Good fortune was with her, however; as a group of young men and women dressed in pale blue robes were all walking together and conversing in jovial tones.

Lexanna followed behind them at a modest distance and was pleased to discover they had led her where she needed to go. The dining hall was located in the newer part of the Ossuary. The stark white walls towered above into the peak of a vaulted ceiling run through with dark wooden beams. Along the left side of the room, large windows overlooked the courtyard. Rows of heavy wooden tables and chairs ran in two columns down the length of the room, with the kitchen at the far end. The apprentices lined up along the wall to collect their breakfast. Lexanna joined them and was fully aware of the odd looks cast in her direction.

She did her best to smile and appear pleasant. Never had she imagined how many students were being trained at the Ossuary. She always believed the gift of magic was a rare one, but possibly one hundred men and women were in attendance.

“It’s not as frightening as you may think,” a male voice whispered from behind, and she jumped. “Magicians only bite when they aren’t well fed.”

A tall, slender young man stood in line behind her, smiling at his perceived cleverness.  Dressed in a pale blue robe like all the others, he must be an apprentice. For a brief moment, she wondered if he would be a contender for her hand, then disregarded it. Hilena wouldn’t marry a magicless girl to a real magician, apprentice or otherwise.

“I don’t find it frightening at all.”

“Your expression said otherwise.” He took a moment to look her over and cocked an eyebrow. “Are you new to the Ossuary? Or did your robes have a laundering accident?”

“I’m not a student. My name is Lexanna Nidkren and Hilena Grasen has taken me in as her ward.” She knew what dropping her last name would accomplish, and she was not disappointed.

“Nidkren? As in Grivwald and Morianne Nidkren?” His smile faded and the cracks in his charm became apparent.

“That’s right.” It was her turn to smile, although she tried to hide it.

“Perhaps you would allow me to show you around the city once my tasks for the day have been completed?” He spoke with such haste he stumbled over his own words.

She was surprised at the offer. “I’ve introduced myself yet you remain a stranger.”

It was fun to watch him become flustered by his misstep in etiquette. “I apologize. Gareth Orbern, at your service.” He bowed his head to her politely. She did her best to contain her amusement at his awkwardness.

The name Orbern was vaguely familiar, although she couldn’t recall any close acquaintances to her parents from that family. They arrived at the head of the line and she turned her attention away from him to an impressive array of fare stretched the length of a long buffet. She liberally filled her plate without concern of what the other students might think.

“It was a pleasure to meet you,” she said politely to Gareth before retreating to the empty end of a table near the dining hall door.

She turned to discover he had chosen to follow her and sat across from her. Didn’t he have any friends? Lexanna tried to smile.

“It must be a great honor to be Hilena’s ward,” Gareth said before taking a bite of his food.

“My parents are dead.”

Gareth choked and coughed around toast he had just put in his mouth. Lexanna waited patiently for him to compose himself.

“I apologize, I was unaware.”

“I assumed the news of the demon attack on Shirgrand would have made it this far north by now.”

“Yes, of course. I did not know your parents were among those…” he trailed off.

“Slaughtered?”

“I was going to say, slain.” He grimaced. “My offer still stands. You may need a friend right now. Everyone knows the Magician Major isn’t the warmest woman in Rathelas.”

“And what does my friendship earn you? I have no fame to offer. I was born without magic, making us an improper match. The Magician Major is not a friend of mine; she’s merely doing her duty. I couldn’t elevate you in any way.”

Gareth’s expression became sheepish as red crept into his cheeks. “To be honest, I’m not overly talented myself. I’ve been here a year and find it exceedingly difficult to make friends. All these others care about is position and status, and when you’re a bumbling buffoon, well, it puts a damper on your popularity. When I saw you in line dressed as you are, I was hoping you were new and that I’d have an opportunity to show I’m worthy of friendship before the others got their talon in you, so to speak.”

Lexanna was surprised at his self-depreciating comments. Upon reconsideration his fumbled introduction, it was a fitting tale. She ate in silence and observed him, noting his growing agitation under her gaze. His obvious desperation for companionship could be an annoyance, but in her current situation, he may be exactly the friend she required.

“Very well, Gareth Orbern, I’ll take you up on your offer to show me around town today.”

“You will?” His face lit up once more. “That is most fantastic. I should be finished with my tasks just before lunch. Shall we meet in the foyer? We could eat here? There is a spectacular café nearby and it would be my treat if you prefer.”

Lexanna hesitated for a moment then said, “That would be lovely, I’m sure.”

Escaping her fate meant escaping the city, and that would require knowledge of her surroundings. Who better to guide her than an unwitting young man with no friends?

____________________________

Thank you for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed The Hunted this far. If you have any feedback or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments.

I am also publishing The Hunted on Wattpad.

A new version of Darkness Falling: Soldiers and Slaves is now available on Amazon. After receiving feedback through reviews that there were some typos and formatting errors, I re-edited the book and updated both the Kindle and paperback versions.

I also reworked the cover to be a darker. You can see the difference below.

 

Now that I’ve done this with Book One, I’m going to go ahead and do the same for Book Two. I haven’t received any feedback on Book Two yet, but I figure it’s just for good measure.

The nice thing about being an indie author is that we can take feedback and use it to improve our books. An example of this is how Andy Weir, author of The Martian, listened to the feedback of his readers and improved the story by making the science realistic. Because of that, he was able to reach his target audience, and eventually the world. If he had just said, “Yeah, well, this is just science fiction, so what if the chemistry is a little off? Most people won’t know,” things could have turned out very different.

Even if we do not achieve that type of success in our own writing, we can all use constructive feedback and turn it into a positive result. The goal is to always be improving. None of us are masters at our craft.

Thank you for reading and if you have anything to add, please feel free to in the comments.

Darkness Falling: Soldiers and Slaves

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