A Monday Moment: Homecoming

This is part of the scene I worked on a lot of last week. It continues past this, but goes into novel spoilers. Leahna is the secondary main character in “Pursuit of Power.”


After everything that had happened, Leahna could only think of one thing—seeing her dad. She waited until the morning and then went to the house where she had grown up. There was a sign on the door that announced the house would be sold to the highest bidder on a future date. Leahna stared at the sign for a full minute, trying to process it. Her father was moving out of her childhood home.

She tried the door, but it was locked. She knocked, but there was no answer. Though it was a little early for him to be at work, she went to the Academy anyway. There an old friend of the family told her that her father hadn’t been in for months. Leahna asked if the man knew where her father might be, and she was told to try her brother’s house.

After thanking the man and leaving, Leahna felt like she was in some strange dream. Her family’s house was being sold, her father wasn’t working at the job he loved, and he was staying with Ronald? In that moment, the year she had been away felt like ten. It was as if she was returning from being away at war for a long time, finding everything she left behind gone or different.

She ‘ported directly outside her brother’s house in Jaffna. She had only been there a few times, so she felt awkward as she approached the front door. At least there was no sign on this one.

She knocked tentatively, unsure what she could expect to find behind the door. Ronald answered, laughing at something to which Leahna wasn’t privy. As soon as he saw his older sister, his smile froze and his eyes grew wide.

“Leahna!” he said with exuberance. “You’re…here. You’re back.”

“Yes, I suppose I am,” she said, unsure how he even knew she’d gone anywhere.

“Are you…okay? Is everything okay?” he asked uncertainly.

There was no easy answer to that. “Not…exac—”

Her father appeared behind Ronald. As soon as he saw his eldest daughter in the doorway, he pushed past his son and pulled Leahna into his arms. She didn’t know how to react and simply stood still until he stepped back.

Once she could see him better, she realized that this was not the dad she used to know. He looked ten years older, and yet somehow happier.

“Come on in, Leahna, please,” he said. He backed up, and Ronald did likewise. All three of them moved further into the house. Abner led the way to the living room, where a woman was seated. She stood up when she saw who was with Abner and Ronald.

Betany reacted similarly to Ronald, asking Leahna if she was all right.

“I’m well enough,” Leahna said. She was staring at Betany’s stomach, where there was a noticeable protuberance. She looked to her brother for an explanation.

He offered a pained smile and said, “Betany and I are married, and she is five months pregnant.”

“You are going to have a baby?” Leahna asked, looking between her brother and his wife with some confusion. It was wonderful news; she didn’t understand why everyone looked unhappy about it. Even her father wouldn’t look her in the eye. “That’s wonderful, Ronald!”

He raised his eyebrows and let out a relieved chuckle. “It is?”

“Of course it is! Why? Is there something else going on that I do not know about?”

“No, of course not,” Abner said, going to stand next to Betany. “We just didn’t know how you would feel about Ronald and Betany being married while you were gone.”

“I am sad that I missed it, but I…I suppose I did not expect that you would wait your ceremony until I returned. When I left, part of me thought none of you would ever want to see me again after what happened.”

Her father’s face darkened, and Ronald sighed.

“We were probably harsher with you than we should have been after she died.” Ronald glanced over at Betany and added, “We were definitely harsher than we should have been.”

“What about Noelle?” Leahna asked. “Does she still feel such anger toward me?”

“It is difficult to say,” Abner replied. “We don’t see her much these days either.”

A Monday Moment: Between Life & Death

My first Monday Moment now that I am coming back to my writing is the piece that I’m strongly considering using as the prologue for “Pursuit of Power.” It introduces the reader to the main villain of the story, who as of right now doesn’t enter the story nearly soon enough. That’s one of a long list of things to work on. But for now, hopefully this will be of interest.


They think I’m an animal. Some kind of creature. They come into my home and disrespect me, and they’re offended when I break their necks?

Dressed in tattered clothes, standing in a large patch of desert grass and weeds that were matted down in the center, the “beast” stood over the most recent trespasser. The smell didn’t bother her, but the recent piling up of bodies was troublesome.

The first thing she really remembered was waking up in the sand, with blood all over her hands and clothes. She barely even noticed the bladed weapons at her side. For a while, she was in fact like an animal, with no real thoughts, only acting on instinct. At first, she killed only to eat. Then, somehow, her dwelling began to draw unwelcome attention. Then she had to kill to protect her home.

After a time of being around other humans, for as short of a time as any managed to live, she would hear them speak, and began to remember a past life. One in which she was an assassin, and a highly respected and greatly feared member of a powerful order. She was…

She was nothing now. A creature, a thing to be feared by man as death itself. She didn’t know what had happened to her, but she knew that she would never be the same again.

She kicked the body to the edge of the tall grass and brushed her crimson hair out of her face with a blood-stained hand. The sun would be up soon, and the only way she survived the day was to remove herself from it. She lay down amongst the tangle of grass and weeds and disappeared from sight.

At the same time, deeper out in the desert, three men hurried north, following a man mounted on a horse. The man in the lead, Drune, was leading his men—a Cleric, a Power User, and a Bowman—to the location east of Torreo where the creature was said to live. Their orders were to bring her back, but Drune had a feeling that wouldn’t be possible. He didn’t doubt that the creature was, in fact, his boss’s daughter, but he didn’t think she’d come willingly.

After a few hours of traveling, they could just barely see the lights of Torreo in the distance. Drune held up his hand, and the others stopped. He made a few other gestures, then moved ahead alone, slowly. The Cleric held up his hand and created a Power barrier around himself. When Drune called out a command, the other two men moved forward and stood on either side of him. They were thirty yards away from the nest of grass.

Drune sat silently for a moment, listening to the sounds of the desert around him. The approaching morning should have brought a plethora of animal calls, but all were absent. The only sound he heard now was the buzzing of many flies, a noise that clearly came from that large patch of grass.

“She’s in there.”

“Are you sure?” the Bowman questioned. “She’s a Shadow; she could be anywhere.”

“I’m quite sure.” Drune looked out at the horizon, where the first rays of dawn were chasing away the night. “Very few of the reported sightings and deaths happened during the day. She’s there. Go.”

Despite the command, all three remained still for a minute, as if waiting for something. Then, they stepped forward, positioning themselves around the perimeter of the nest.

The User knew it was his move next, but he hesitated for a moment. Regardless of what Drune had said, he didn’t hold out much hope for finding anything human amongst this graveyard of man and beast alike.

There were bodies, both fresh and in the early stages of decay. When his eyes rested on the small bones of a young girl, as evidenced by the tatters of clothing, he shivered. What could kill so indiscriminately? Would the force they brought be enough?

“Do it!” Drune snapped, obviously agitated at having to remind the User of his job.

The User removed a dagger from his belt and held it out in front of himself in trepidation. Finally, he waved his hand in the air. A bright light flashed around the immediate vicinity like lightning.

Then there, between them, appeared a woman with crimson hair. She was standing, no weapons drawn, but clearly ready to attack the intruders. When she realized she’d been uncovered, she didn’t make a move; she only waited.

The same ability that had removed her cloak, though, had also revealed others. A ring of Shadows stood around her, in line with the other three.

She stood still, only moving her eyes to take in the numbers. These new enemies brought the total who had come to stand against her up to thirteen. Then she looked at the Swordsman, still on his horse, who was moving closer to her. Drune stopped just outside the hedge his men had made.

“You know who I am,” he said.

Of course she did. She hadn’t lost her brain.

“We do not want to hurt you.”

I’d kill you before you could try, her thoughts mocked.

“We only wish to bring you back.”

Back? She cocked her head, communicating the unvoiced question.

“We are still your family; you belong with us.”

He said no more, giving her time to respond. She remained silent; she only stood and waited, empty hands at her sides.

In the growing light, Drune could see her better now, and he could tell something was different. The most obvious was her hair. It used to be black. Her skin was paler, her eyes were darker, and if it was possible, she even seemed taller. As she stared into his eyes, he felt her coldness and endless anger and hatred. She hadn’t exactly been compassionate before, but whatever callousness she possessed then was nothing compared to what he saw in her now.

Then she was gone. The User flashed his light again before Drune had to give the command, but it didn’t reveal her this time. Somehow she had moved fast enough to be out of the range of the light in only a second. In another second, the group’s Cleric grunted as his neck was snapped. She was there, behind him, and as his body fell to the sand, she was gone again.

“Find her!” Drune screamed. He felt his stoicism begin to fade. With every second that she remained hidden, her advantage grew. Fear was not something he was used to, as a man in such a powerful position within the Class of Morano. But he felt the fingers of dread creeping into him, and he did not enjoy the feeling.

There. The User’s light caught her. She was visible, and four men charged at her with weapons drawn. Drune watched as she drew her own weapons and threw each man aside as they came. She spun, kicked, stabbed, and sidestepped as the rest came at her at once. The User began to form a simulated blade in the air in front of him, but she cloaked herself again, appearing in front of him a heartbeat later. She buried a dagger in his chest.

Drune’s team was failing, and fast. But he didn’t move. His job was not to die with his men, and he knew it wouldn’t help anyway. She was like nothing he’d ever seen before. For as much as she scared him, she also intrigued him.

When every one of the dozen men he’d brought was lying in bloody ruins around her, she stood in the middle of them and looked at him again.

His heart began to race as she took slow steps toward him. He could already feel those blades slicing through his body. He wouldn’t die though; he could outrun her if he had to. But he didn’t want to leave.

“You don’t have to be alone out here. Morano can offer you so much if you come back.”

Still she walked towards him. When she was five yards in front of him, she stopped—and was suddenly gone.

He swore as he backed his horse up a few steps.

“Rusalki!” he yelled into the emptiness around him. “Your father wants to see you again. He wants you to come back!”

Nothing. He backed up a bit more, and was a heartbeat away from turning around and running when she suddenly appeared next to him.

Rusalki spoke the first words he or anyone had heard from her throat since she had died.

“I want to see my father.”

Daily Writing Check-in: February 21, 2016

Words/Time:  455 words of free writing about the main character of “Pursuit of Power.”

I’m trying really hard to pull myself back into writing, since I’ve been doing even less than I’d anticipated (which was already less than normal for me) for the last few weeks. It is mostly because of the new job, but also because I think I was more burnt out than I realized after finishing the revision on my first novel. Trying to dive right into the next one was unwise, and instead of taking a break from revision, while still writing every day, I just…didn’t want to write or anything like it, at all.

But I also work for the weekend, though in a backwards way than most people. My new job is on Friday and Saturdays. Sometimes I feel like all week, I’m just trying to keep everyday chores and things caught up, so when the weekend comes, it’s as easy on my family for me to be gone for 2 days as possible.

On the plus side, though, the job is so much fun! If it wasn’t, this would all be pushing me to a point of exhaustion that could lead to horrible things. In fact, my bosses are planning to create a shortened-length escape room (normal length is 60 minutes, this one will be 15) to set up for one evening during a fundraiser at a local independent theater. I’ve come up with a lot of ideas for them, in the theme they’re planning, and they’ve asked me to help them plan out the room sometime this week. More work, but it’s just this week, and I loveloveLOVE the idea of helping to create an escape room. I was hoping this might be a possibility someday when I started working there. If it goes well, maybe I’ll get to help with their next full room.

A Monday Moment: Sisters

Leahna is the secondary main character in “Pursuit of Power” and has been pretty one-dimensional for the most part. I wrote this from a prompt, but I think I’ll keep her in the next few weeks’ free writing too, to try to draw out her background and life outside of the story.


“If you could ask God one question, what would it be?”

“That is quite a question,” Leahna said. She turned wide eyes to her younger sister who was laying across her bed. “Why do you ask that?”

“Because I know exactly what I would ask.”

“What would you ask?”

“I would ask if the Power really does come from him.”

The older sister gasped and stared at Noelle from her desk chair. “Of course it does! Why would you even question that.”

Noelle shrugged. “It seems to me that when we start to assume things about God, that’s when we get in trouble. Throughout history, that’s been a pattern, don’t you think?”

Leahna furrowed her brow. “I…I do not think you are quite correct.”

“Of course I am. Think about all of the times that people have done something in God’s name, but later they were judged to be evil, ignorant, or crazy. Joan Archer, the Crusaders, the Restoration Society, even the pharisees.”

“Oh, but you can’t…” She trailed off as she thought through the list of examples her sister had given.

“Does it say anywhere in the Bible that God would give us this great Power that would prolong our lives and give us special abilities?”

“No, it certainly does not.”

“Then why is the Church of Pithea so adamant that the Power comes from him?”

“From where else would it come?”

Noelle’s eyes lit up. “I don’t know, but that’s not really the point. If I can’t come up with the alternative, it doesn’t mean it has to be God. Maybe it was a spontaneous mutation. Maybe we’re all using evil powers without realizing it.”

“No!” Leahna jumped to her feet. “You will not defile the good that we do, the healing, the protection. You will not claim that it comes from a place of evil.”

Noelle shook her head, rolled her eyes, and sighed. “You sound just like Mom and Dad. I mean, is it really that big of a deal where it comes from? Like you said, we use it for good. So what if it doesn’t come from God?”

Leahna crossed her arms and took a few steps toward the door. “I would strongly suggest that you do not let Mom or Dad hear you say anything like that.”

“It doesn’t really matter, does it? They don’t care what I think about God or the Power. You’re going to be a Cleric, and they don’t really care what I do.”

“They care what you do. They want you to do whatever God leads you to do.”

“Yeah. They want you to be a Cleric like Dad, but whatever I feel like doing is fine, because I’m not the oldest.”

“I thought you were planning to become a Cleric too,” Leahna said.

Noelle looked down at the floor. “I was going to. But I don’t know now. I mean…I thought they would want that of me, but I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter to them. Just like they don’t care that Ronald decided to become a Swordsman and join a militia.”

“I thought you both would be happier if Mom and Dad didn’t force you to do whatever they want you to do. How can you complain that they are not forcing their will upon you?”

“Like they are you?” Noelle pointed out.

“Well…not exactly. I know they want me to become a Cleric, but I am okay with it. I enjoy my studies and learning to use my Power to help others. Do you and Ronald believe they’ve forced me into it?”

“Yeah, kinda.”

“And you wish them to do the same to you?”

Noelle shrugged. “At least then we’d feel like they cared.”


Prompt used: You encounter an omnipotent being who says they will answer only one question.

 

 

Daily Writing Check-in: February 11, 2016

Words/Time:  525 words of writing practice with a prompt.

I’ve decided to put off revision for a few weeks while I settle into a new schedule, with me working every Friday and Saturday. It affects the rest of the week, if only because I have to budget my time differently, not having those two days free. Two days ago, I realized there were some big things I need to figure out before I can really dive into my first full revision of “Pursuit of Power,” but I don’t have the focus I need to figure them out.

I’m going to keep up free writing as best I can for the next few weeks, now and then focusing that writing on how to solve some of these issues. The biggest issue is how to start the novel. When I wrote the first draft, I forgot to write it with my narrator, a man who is writing from 10-15 years in the future, compiling accounts from different people involved in the events of these stories. Writing from his POV doesn’t actually change a lot, because he’s not in much of the story, so it still reads like 3rd person. However, right off the bat, I have to find a way to introduce him, and it has me stumped.

I also want to do some free writing with specific characters in mind, focusing on a different character for several days at a time. I found this helped me while revising “Pithea” to get into the head of some side characters who weren’t very well-developed. Though I’ll probably start with the main characters.

All of this I hope will give me better perspective on the story as a whole when I am ready to revise again. And I’m still writing, just not on my main project.

A Monday Moment: Chess

Today’s Monday Moment was written on Sept. 24 of last year. I know I said if I hadn’t written any for the week, I’d just have to force myself to write something on Sunday or Monday, but I’m making an exception (yes, already). Between the little break my husband insisted I take from writing, my sister’s wedding prep over the weekend, and doing extra end-of-year work for my job, I feel like it’s not just laziness that left me with nothing to post this week. And in fact, I did write something in the last 7 days that I could use, but it was handwritten, and I don’t have time to type it right now. So for today, enjoy this odd chess game:


I stare down at the board and determine my first move. Moving a piece forward, I look up at Amy.

She smiles sweetly at me. “Is it my turn?”

“It is.”

She looks down at the board and thinks for a moment. “I think you don’t want to make that opening move.”

“Why not?” I ask with amusement.

“It’s obvious. It’s the same move everyone makes. And it will start you off at a disadvantage.”

I muse over my only move so far, but only for a few seconds. “I took my finger off the piece. My move is over, but thanks for trying to help.”

She shrugs. “Okay then.” She moves her own piece, far away from mine. There is no danger here.

I think a little longer about my next move. What will she say if I move this one there? Or if I move this other one? Is it too early to take one of her pieces? I’m pretty sure she’s safe for now. I move a piece and gesture for her to take her turn.

She gives me a small smile, but says nothing this time. Instead, she moves another one of her pieces.

I wonder why she’s acting this way. The game is meant to be won, isn’t it? If she thinks I’m playing badly, why doesn’t she just let me continue so that she can win sooner?

I look down and see that she has moved her piece right in the path of one of mine. I could take her piece. I would be foolish not to, right? I think through the next possible moves, if I were to take her piece. Could she take mine right after? I don’t see how, so I take her piece.

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” she says. She seems genuine in her disappointment, but still cheerful.

After a while, the game has drawn on longer than I would have expected. It’s not that we’re taking an awful long time on our turns. But somehow, she’s no longer moving her pieces in my path very often. And she’s not taking advantage of most of the times when she could take my pieces.

I decide to take a break and stand up to stretch my legs. She’s oblivious to my action, as she is so deeply contemplating her next move. When I step over to sit back down, I notice something odd on the floor. It looks like sawdust.

I stoop over to see what it is, and suddenly she snaps her head up.

“What are you doing?”

“What’s that on the floor by your foot?” I ask her, moving closer.

“Don’t do that! Why would you come snooping around my personal space? Get back to your side.”

My eyes widen in shock over her sudden outburst, but I return to my seat.

“That should be against the rules,” she says in a huff. “In fact, maybe it is. I think you should really forfeit this game, because you’ve broken the rules.”

“I didn’t break any rules! Investigating an odd substance on the floor isn’t against any chess rules!”

“Not chess rules. Rules of life.” She crosses her arms over her chest. “You’re probably going to go to jail.”


Prompt used: You have a chess match that means much more with the antagonist of your story. (Name of antagonist changed to avoid spoilers.)

Daily Writing Check-in: January 29, 2016

Words/Time:  512 words of free writing. A minor character in “Pursuit of Power” actually just disappears about a third of the way through the novel. I never planned for him to even be there; he just showed up while I was writing. And then there was nothing for him when things started picking up (because he wasn’t meant to be in the book), and so he just slipped away. I’m going to allow that, but I wanted to give him a reason to slip away, which I’ll include in the story now. That’s what I wrote about today.

My updates for the next week will look different and may be sporadic. My husband suggested tonight that I take a week off from writing. He thinks that I’m beginning to stress too much over how long it takes for me to get to my writing time each night. He’s not exactly wrong, but I told him that taking a break from my writing isn’t necessarily going to alleviate stress, since it’s something I enjoy so much. So I’m meeting him halfway. I won’t plan to work on my revision work every night for the next week, so I’m not upset when normal family issues threaten my writing time. But if I do have some time after kids are in bed, I will still do a little free writing.

He thinks of it as a week-long vacation from my writing “work” that might help me de-stress, but I don’t see how it will change anything for after the week is over. However, since it’s only a week, I’m agreeing to it. Who knows what’ll happen.

Daily Writing Check-in: January 24, 2016

Words/Time:  665 words of writing practice just to make sure I didn’t go two days in a row without posting. Just sitting down at 11:30 pm, I asked my husband for a quick prompt to get me going. He came up with, “Two men walk into a bar and one pulls out a gun.” Not exactly the most inspirational, but I made it work. Not one of my favorite pieces of writing, but they can’t all be.

Daily Writing Check-in: January 21, 2016

Words/Time:  308 words of writing practice followed by half an hour of working on “Pursuit of Power.” Sort of. I got it into my head that the prologue I wrote for the novel wasn’t going to work for it anymore, because it focuses on the greater mystery that won’t be solved in this book. So the prologue is unrelated enough to not be worth including. And then I had a sudden idea for a different prologue. Not that there has to be a prologue, I know, and therein lies the problem. One of the problems. First, the idea I have for a prologue, which is actually directly related to the main villain in “Pursuit of Power” would be a rather long prologue. And second, in doing some research for how long is too long for a prologue (I know there’s no set length, but I went looking for opinions), I found out that prologues are actually strongly disliked in general. I didn’t realize so many people just skip the prologue. I’ve never been that kind of person, but apparently many are.

Is the story of how the villain (who you won’t even meet in the book for a while) became who or what he/she is, which isn’t integral to the story, of interest? I suppose that’s too vague a question, because that could be anything from a kid who wasn’t loved enough and vowed to never be in a position to need anyone again to a guy whose entire DNA was rewritten and he became a literal monster.

So some questions for anyone who comes across this post:
Do you generally read or skip prologues in books? What kind of information do you hate or love to see in a prologue?

Daily Writing Check-in: January 20, 2016

Words/Time:  282 words of writing practice. Also 1.5 hours working on the rest of the timeline for “Pursuit of Power.” There are a lot of places in the story where I wrote vague amounts of time. Something lasted for “several months” or happened “after a few weeks.” Of course it’s much easier to do this while writing than to bother to come up with a specific amount of time. Creating a timeline off that is a little annoying though. I muddled through, and some entries can always be shortened or extended later as I fit other stories during or after this one. I use Aeon Timeline for my timelines, and it’s the most helpful writing software I’ve ever used.

I think my next step will be to plan out a sketchy idea of the events that will take place for Alexander, the main character in this story, after this book ends. From what I can tell from my timeline, the next story involving Alexander has to take place 4 years after this one ends. I think I can make that work