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I’m up to my knees in NaNoWriMo and Skyfire, Dragon Wine Part Five, and these wonderful things occur to me. I really need to work smarter. As a mature woman you think I would have had all this worked out by now, but I don’t.

It started at first with labelling my hats. You see I make hats and I put them in hat boxes and every time I wanted to show someone a hat I had to pull them all out and look at each one. Then I bought a labeller. OMG! They all have labels now so I can find them a lot easier.

Now we have started labelling food that goes into the fridge and the freezer. Have you ever come across some frozen mass and thought-What the hell is that? Or mmm should it go or should it stay? Or Oh Joy Steak! and then frowned wondering when was the last time your bought steak and was it left overs from your 50th birthday party seven years ago?

So joy! We are labelling shit. The fridge well that just keeps on giving. I swear when I got back from Europe there was take aways in the fridge that I put there before I left. So to preserve lives and sanity, we are labelling stuff. Matthew I am pleased to say is getting on board. No more chances of inadvertently killing some one with some toxic pasta sauce etc. We just use masking tape and marker. Although looking at the packaging for the tape I see Matthew has bought food labelling tape. Good man!

Now why am I writing this and what does it have to do with NaNoWriMo. Well it would really help if I had a detailed plan of what I was writing. Never mind, I think that shit up just before each session and maybe I can get by with just me, my crazy mind and the seat of my pants. What really, really gets me is that I don’t have character descriptions. If I used my Scrivener I could do that as I went. But being lazy I am using word and do you think I wrote this stuff down? I want to write the colour of Eneit’s eyes. I’m pretty sure they are described somewhere in Deathwings or Bloodstorm, but grrr…If only I was more organised.

There is totally a theme here. I am throwing away old clothes. I’m too fat for some and as I no longer work in an office I don’t need others. But in the past, actually my whole bloody life, I think “Hey I have a pair of pants like that. Or where is that dress?” Only to discover after about a week of intense searching that I probably threw them away in the charity bin six months before. You think I would bloody well learn. Nope! So this time I am making a list so that I can check the list instead of doing a rampage search throughout the house and garage complete with expletives and many beeps.

There you go. I have a list. Silver business suit gone. Blue dress that was too short to be decent and you meant to add lace to the hem to lengthen it but you are too fat and old for it now. Gone. Etc. I have an issue with the shimmery blue and shimmery mauve tights though. Because as soon as I get rid of them, I am going to have some costume or some such that calls just for those tights. So they are going in the dress up tub. I just have to buy a tub and you guessed it-label the god damn thing.

So moral of the story. Be organised. If you aren’t organised. It is not too late to bring order to your chaos. I am on the last two bits of this series. Do I really need to write character descriptions now. Maybe, damn it maybe!

This post is brought to you by an insane, chaotic writer, who is behind on their NaNoWriMo project but is so happy that she is writing the said project that it is hard to stop dancing around the office and write.

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I had high hopes for my NaNoWriMo effort this year. I hadn’t quite decided what I was going to write but I just knew that I wanted to write something.

My plan was to finish the draft of the PhD novel by the end of October so my plate was clear. That was going along swimmingly until

  1. I hit a snag on a certain part of the novel that required a lot of thinking. No point in rushing it.
  2. Severe sciatica which killed my plans. How much can you write when you are writhing and moaning in pain? Well none if you must know. In the worst parts I couldn’t ever read or watch Netflix so I just invented new ways of crying, moaning, whinging…etc. I really understood for the first time in my life that people would rather die that suffer like that. A bit sobering.

So on comes November and I haven’t finished my PhD novel and I haven’t figured out what I was going to write.

I had this cool idea for a contemporary romance called Getting Jessie Laid (a friends to lovers story with a virgin hero), but I wasn’t 100 per cent convinced and I had the other stuff to do. However, after some deep and meaningful conversations with myself I decided to do NaNoWriMo and also write my PhD novel and other PhD stuff at the same time. I have a report to write on my GUFF trip too, just to spice the work load up a bit.

The worst of the sciatica pain is over. I had a pinched nerve. Actually I still have a pinched nerve. Exhibit A numb thigh muscle. It still works but it’s numb, tingly, burns and itches and twitches and also stabs me if I over do it. I am currently in therapy for that. There goes the savings. But there was nothing left but to get writing or go crazy (ier?).

The result of the deep and meaningful was that I should work on the next part of the Dragon Wine series, Skyfire. I owe it to my readers to finish the series off. This was also prompted by one lady leaving a message on Goodreads asking when the next parts were coming out as she wanted to read them but wouldn’t until she knew she’d have the lot. Something I sympathise with. Then two other women left me high compliments on my Facebook page and how could I not keep writing with such wonderful encouragement? I started NaNoWriMo late (again) and I did 1200 words this morning before leaving for uni. If I have a scene in my it just comes out rapid fire. So I’m a little behind but probably not for long. Last year I wrote 60,000 and most of that was in the last two weeks of NaNoWriMo. my word count is around 7000 words so far. A promising start. I’m about to pick up where Gercomo is at. No spoilers.

Today is my first full day back at Uni. I was sick yesterday (not sure why) and Monday well it was cold and wet and you know old bones and all that. I’ve been stuffing around with admin. I have booked my seat to Indianapolis in March. The Popular Culture Conference falls over part of Easter which makes getting to an SF convention as a side trip out of the question. I am thinking of taking a train to Chicago to check it out. I have some research I need to do there for some stories I wrote back. They are prohibition era werewolf and vampires and mobsters in Chicago. I may be publishing these short stories as a collection or novella so doing the research will help with that.

The other reason for doing NaNoWriMo is that December is usually a write off where writing is concerned so must get cracking.

Signing off. Next post will be about the Indie Publishing Experience and my Bookbub results.

PS Isn’t Thor Ragnarok and awesome movie? So much fun.

 

 

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I’ve taken the plunge, I’ve bitten the bullet, I’m working on book 3 and 4 of the Dragonwine series. Hopefully this is good news for fans of Shatterwing and Skywatcher.

I’ve booked both books in with the editor that means I have to do the work. (Momentum shut down, but they weren’t going to print these anyway as I didn’t sell enough).

Anyway, I thought I’d paste some of the WIP here. Feel free to criticise or comment, or just read and be teased. This is the first two chapters of Deathwings (tentative title) and hopefully it picks up the action and fills in on what happened before in a non-intrusive way. I try to reintroduce the characters but do let me know if you think it’s too much. Notice I start in Danton’s POV. As I love Danton this is a good thing. He had some great scenes in these two books.

Deathwings

Part 1

 

Prologue

 

Dust particles shimmer in the light of Margra’s sun, enveloping the world below in a lavender halo. A lump of space rock turns end over end as it plummets, a tail of vicious fire in its wake. Belle Moon’s surface erupts as debris is thrown high as another crater is born. The planet revolves on its axis again. Oblivious.

 

 

Like blood, a rich drop of wine is licked from the fingertip

 

Chapter One

Wings

He was falling.

Air rushed past. Breath stolen. Sharp rocks below. Fear spearing into his lungs, his heart. No breath.

A blur of the world around him.

Gercomo opened his mouth to scream. No air. No sound, his mind white with panic.

His arms and legs flailed. He tried to fly.

It was like swimming against the tide, limbs useless, clumsy. A great, burning surge of blood trammelled every muscle, undoing his human-ness, remaking him, remaking his mind. Dulling it, smashing it, obliterating it. He sucked in a lungful of air snatched from the wind rushing past.

A guttural cry vibrated against his hardened skin. His own fear haloed him. He struggled to maintain height, wrenching his shoulders, clenching his jaws in the effort to crawl through the air, yet he continued to drop.

Throwing his senses out, the world around him spun and slowed and came into conical focus. Valleys and rifts and eroded peaks loomed large beneath him, all jagged with the capacity to rend flesh.

He flapped. Wings moved, halting his plummet.

With a desperate heave, he threw more of his strength into his wings until his muscles burned, the sensation as if the flesh was being ripped from his bones. It wasn’t working. He was falling, still. Slower.

With a last ditch effort, he fought to recall the dance of dragons, remembering how they skimmed thermals and glided above the prison vineyard. Effortlessly they used the membranes on their wings to trap the air and slide. That was what Gercomo was doing wrong. He was fighting against the air instead of working with it. He ceased his struggling and stretched out his arms, no his wings, and air billowed underneath them. The headlong rush to the ground slowed as the wind caught and effortlessly lifted him. A relieved laugh turned to a screech that was alien in his mouth as he soared higher.

He was no longer falling, but he was too tired to stay aloft for long. Already the muscles between his shoulder blades ached.

Beyond the treacherous foothills of the Duggan Ranges, the desert plain stretched out muted pink, mauve and brown. He tilted his body in that direction, the colours of the landscape strange and his vision distorted while he tried to process a greater range of colours and a spectrum of light he’d not experienced before, a fierce violet glow and other alien ripples of energy that radiated and bent as he turned his head from side to side. He wasn’t seeing with his own eyes. It wasn’t the same. These were his eyes now. He had to adapt.

The flat stretches of wasteland gave him an uninterrupted view of the landscape. Yet he could not tell if objects were near or far. At times he thought he could but his brain was having trouble interpreting the new range of images and colours.  Drifting lower, the wind grew precarious and like a cough the air pushed out from under his wings. In a panic, he tried to maintain his height, to stop himself from falling and failed. Instead, the clawed foot he extended to the earth clasped emptiness and he rolled and tumbled. Over and over he went, his bones bending and his tendons twisting. Fear and agony intermingling and robbing him of even a scream. When he finally came to a halt, he lay there stunned, pain shafting through every part of him, while he waited to breathe again.

Gercomo uncurled his claw and then dragged a torn wing from underneath his ungainly, scaled body. Every movement radiated hurt and increased his confusion. He no longer had hands that could touch. All he could do was lick his skin. It was then he noticed his size.

He was puny. What horrible twist of fate was this? To be cursed to exist as a beast, but not a real one, just a semblance of one. Looking down at his body, he knew it was terribly wrong. He was nothing like the huge winged beasts that overflew the vineyard. He was pitiful. What if another dragon found him? They would know he was different, alien. Instinctively he understood the danger. With one wing dragging in the dirt, he scrabbled across the stony ground, scooping loose earth with his claws as he waddled, driven by the need to hide before Margra’s sun set, bleeding the sky of light.

The desert was barren and there was no sign of human habitation. Turning to glance behind, he saw that nothing followed on land or sky. The changes in his body had slowed. He found his sense of smell enhanced. As the light faded, the tortuous jigsaw of his vision settled and honed to a rare acuteness. He could see the warmth of the day’s sun radiating off the sand. Above, the dark purple of the sky was marred only by Shatterwing blinking pinkly above the horizon. Ripples red and violet caressed the sky and the distant horizon. The colours confused him. Why do I see in this strange spectrum?

#

Before dawn, Gercomo found a patch of ground, layered with rough, loose sand. A nudge of his snout revealed it was littered with large, round stones, like a river had once flowed along the plain. Within the soft folds of earth, he found he could wriggle down and cover himself with the sand. Delving deep enough to keep himself safe, he could allow himself to rest. After an hour or so, pale pink sunlight swept over the horizon. Then as the sun climbed higher, the sand began to warm his skin. The pain eased as if the dirt provided healing. And as he lay there his mind began to relax and to warp. The human concerns began to wane, but a few knots of anger did not disappear entirely. He held onto the important things and would not let them fade—anger, envy and lust. They are what defined him, and they melded well with the animal desires surfacing within him. He was hungry, and he was lonely. He never needed another person before but now there was something burning in his blood, something driving like stakes through his brain. He needed kin.

In the late afternoon, Gercomo was rested but the cavernous hunger inside had grown out of proportion. He needed to eat. Needed to move. Simple as that. Thoughts of food, of starvation, swelled up inside him, dominating his mind. What did dragons eat? Was he a dragon or dragon enough to eat raw burden beast? He lifted his head and sniffed. There wasn’t much of anything on the breeze, except dust. He would need to search out prey.

The sand dropped silkily from his scaled hide as he clawed his way out of his resting place. Tentatively, he stretched a wing and tested it. It no longer sang with pain yet it was still tender in places, particularly the elbow joint. Fortunately it functioned. In the growing shadows, he stepped confidently, his strange vision still pink and mauve with flashes of vermillion. He remembered there were other colours in the spectrum of light and that the world wasn’t nearly as contoured as it seemed now. Nearby small stones were so clear and precise and the distant peaks loomed large as if he could breathe onto their slopes. Even these human thoughts of what he’d lost slid to the back of his mind as the need for food dominated.

The sun’s rays began to cool as night shrouded him. In the distance, he heard something, a clink, clink, as if someone was throwing stones against a rock. Perhaps it was an animal, something he could eat. He sniffed, searching for the scent of food.

Gercomo zeroed in on the sound, learning with each step how to control his various body parts. The more he walked the more natural his gait became. He was almost elegant as he slowly stepped toward his prey. Ahead he saw that there was a tumble of boulders, spread in a circle like thrown dice. Further on he could see the mark of flame burning across his vision. Beyond that was a settlement or a dwelling of some kind. But there amid the standing boulders was a boy, tossing stone after stone. Stealthily, Gercomo angled around to get a better view and to see if any adults were about, to see if there were any dragon lances or harpoons. The boy was aiming for a target, a crudely drawn circle on one of the boulders, the outline faint in the dim light emanating from the small fire. Tick, tick the rocks hit against the boulder the boy used as a target.

Gercomo sniffed and realised the boy was the food he smelt. His stomach churned and saliva filled his mouth, dripped off his tongue. He wanted to surge forward and swallow the boy whole. That impulse he held in check by the sound of a woman’s voice. It was distant but growing closer. Hearing the call, the boy shrugged once and kept aiming at the target. He looked about ten years old, maybe younger. Gercomo blinked and saw that the child had a faint violet glow about him as well as the tantalising scent of food. Another cry from the woman and the boy laughed and scooped down to pick up more stones.

As he crept forward, the boy stiffened and turn toward him. A faint squeak of surprise and then open-mouthed the boy stood stock still. Gercomo extended a claw, reaching around the small waist and clasping him tight in his grip. Looking down at the scaly appendage that held him, the child screamed and struggled. Gercomo liked the sound; it made him drool.

The woman’s voice was suddenly closer—after a pause, there was a sharp intake of breath from just outside the ring of boulders. A frantic wail cleaved the night.

Swinging his head round, he saw her jerk as she tried to enter the circle of stones, saw her react at what he was holding in his claws and stop dead, her eyes like large dark holes. When he had her full attention, he bit off the boy’s head and upper torso and swallowed. Next he ate the remainder, enjoying the crunch of bones in his snout, the sharp gnash of his fangs and serrated back teeth as he chomped and chomped and then swallowed. His laugh echoed around him, sounding like a roar.

With a guttural scream, the woman pulled her hair and fell to her knees, lost in a moment of grief. She should have run. It would have made better sport. Gercomo threw his gaze toward the settlement, but no one stirred. She was alone and unprotected. The boy’s life blood filled his stomach with warmth, spreading out and filling his extremities with a tingling sensation that enlivened him. Eating humans was good.

Like a dart he lunged at her and pinioned her against the target her son had painted. She fainted so he let her go. After falling to the ground, she came to, shook her head and began to crawl away. He let her move away at first, seeing that she found hope in that pointless exercise. Then reaching out, he pierced her dress with his index claw and drew her slowly towards him as the cloth fell from her shoulders. With the other claw, he drew a line down her front. The sharp tip cut the skin. A fine red line opened up. The scent of blood teased his hunger and made his pulse throb. A howl like the lonely wind tearing across the plains rose from her mouth. How he wanted to taste her and yet play with her and draw the moment out. This hesitation was invigorating and excruciating, honing his taste buds until he drooled hot saliva across her face and shoulder.

The woman struggled and tried to break free. She turned on her stomach and scrabbled in the dirt on all fours. At his screech, his victim shivered and shrieked. He liked her fear, revelled in it. He flipped her over and her screams became music and then she stopped, her eyes wide and staring with no more than a whimper leaking through her lips.

When she quieted, he played with her some more, exciting that melody once more from her throat. A bite of her arm was a tasty morsel, raising the tune to a new pitch. As he lapped the blood from her wounds with care, savouring each drop, her voice became low and husky. He began again, this time at the legs. Her scream flowed over him, filling him with joy as he lapped the arterial blood gushing into his mouth. As he gulped down a thigh, her voice grew whisper thin. Another bite and there was a visceral grunt and then a low moan as her last breath eased out of her throat. Gercomo didn’t know if she could see his grin, see how happy she had made him. He had found a new source of power—human flesh.

 

Chapter Two

Vanden’s Fallen

 

‘We have to do something about the dead,’ Danton said, as he balanced on a flat slab of broken stone in the remains of the observatory’s courtyard. ‘And then there’s the wall to repair.’

Not only was there a breach in the wall where the Inspector’s siege engine had torn through, there was the debris from Danton’s carefully laid explosives that had blown up the entrance to the courtyard. With his empty eye socket covered by a patch, the rebel turned a full circle, nodding slowly. This was where the Inspector had indiscriminately sacrificed so many lives and where the observatory had fought for survival.

His young, rebel companion, Brill, climbed up behind him, feet anchored on two large pieces of rubble. Now that Danton knew Brill better he understood why Salinda helped this young lad, with his vision of hope for the future of humankind.

‘There are so many of them,’ Brill said as his gaze raked the scene. ‘Many of them are on the pyre ready to be burned, but still too many in the rubble.’

Danton tried to smile, but found that he couldn’t muster one. He was tired. Deciding to help the observatory in its fight against the Inspector had ramifications. He found he could not walk away, even though he wanted to do so. Who would have thought his attempt to rescue Salinda would lead him to this place. ‘Yes and they are ripening.’ He brushed the end of his nose with a knuckle and shook his head.

Brill’s head angled in the direction of the elders and the tenders, who were crawling over rocks, peering into crannies to locate the dead with their mouth and noses muffled by cloth. Brill’s mouth turned down at the corners and dual tear trails wormed a path down his dirt stained cheeks. ‘That’s not the only problem. The escaping rebels will take away tales about the technology this place possesses.’ Brill then wiped his nose with his shirt sleeve and sniffed loudly.

Danton thought it was more than sorrow that made his young friend’s eyes water. The dust and the stench were sufficient irritants to make a herd of burden beasts weep. ‘You think the rebels will come back?’ he asked.

Brill’s brows drew together and he shook his head. ‘No, I don’t think so. But it would make interesting information for their superiors.’

‘Damn!’ Danton’s expletive made a few elders look up from their task, dark shadows under their eyes. Acknowledging them with a nod, Danton scratched his beard and then ran his hands through his hair. ‘I didn’t think of that. Who knows what damage such a report could do? It could threaten the future of this place. Wing Dust!’

Different options ran through Danton’s mind. There was no help for it. He could not have hunted down every last rebel and silenced them. Brill and Danton were the only fighting men here and he couldn’t imagine that the observatory would condone wholesale slaughter in any case. Thoughts of escaping rebels clouded his future plans. ‘Our goal is slipping through our fingers.’

‘The wine?’

‘Yes, the wine, meeting up with the rest of the men. I must be dust mad.’ Danton wiped his forehead with a cloth from his pocket and tucked it back into his trousers. ‘Right now we need help to clear this.’

‘Agreed.’ Brill turned away, nodded to one of the elders and jumped across the gap between two chucks of wall. Calling over his shoulder he said, ‘I’ll speak with Elder Wylie. He’s bringing the people back from the caves. I’ll ask if he can bring them here as a priority so we can speed up recovery the dead. And I’ll suggest he start to works for repairing the wall.’

Danton nodded, watching Brill’s figure recede. ‘Check with Salinda’s first. With the Master Elder dead, they have turned to her for leadership. Good idea though about the wall. I may have brought it down, but that doesn’t mean I have to put it back up.’

Brill paused and looked back over his shoulder. ‘Doesn’t Sal want to leave straightaway?’

Danton felt a weight pressing down on his chest and swallowed. Thinking about Salinda was hard. He wanted to stay close to her, but she was with Nils now and that made his feelings redundant, except to him. And there was duty, which was everything to her. It was his duty to recover that wine stash that much was clear. ‘Yes…and so do we.’

#

The subterranean city of Barrahiem seemed more empty than usual as Nils strode through its desolate, dust-filled streets. White homes stood sad and empty, their walls punctured with dark round holes, like the eyes of vermin. The last of his kin, he was alone. He had been in a prison of sleep for over a thousand years. Now he had to face the future alone.

If not for the lure of dragons, his desire for knowledge of this new species that had appeared on Margra, he would never have been inclined to explore the world above, the world of the Sundwellers. He would not have rescued Salinda from that witches pyre, brought her to this secret and sacred place and taken her for a mate. Now he missed her.

A sudden, intense cramp made him falter, made him lean against the balustrade for support. Thus weakened, he found he was seized with a coughing fit, until his throat burned. Struggling for breath, his legs buckled, too weak to stand. When it was over, the pain subsided to a dull ache, one that weighted his footsteps and took the spring out of his step. His bond with Salinda was stretched so taut that it caused him physical and mental pain. Thankfully Salinda did not experience it thus.

Nils understood that his mate’s duty lay elsewhere. The aftermath of the battle and Jalen’s death, left the observatory in a delicate state. Salinda could not turn her back on them. Yet, the bond formed in the deep lake was tangible to him. It stretched out through the Ways to where Salinda was, and it hurt.

Burying himself in research appeared to be the single means to salve the hurt. With his dying breath, Jalen had spoken of Trell of Barr, Nils’ grandsire. The Master Elder had mentioned that he had seen the name in a book. That had intrigued Nils.

In his workroom he found the index markers for his grandsire’s writings. A quick scan of the dates made Nils frown. The dates were within the year he had been interred in the sarcophagus and made to sleep away millennia or more. He read the final entry.

My heart is heavy this day. My favourite grandchild has been placed in the sarcophagus—a prisoner of sleep. It pains me to know that we will never talk again. It pains me to know that the world he will awaken to will be less than it is now. But in my heart I hope that there will be a world for him to enter again.

The child of my heart has always shared my passions. I remember the light in Nils’ eye when he peered through the scopes at Trithorn Peak. I remember the catch of his breath when I told him of the bands of power holding Ruel together. I remember how he touched my hand with his forehead in thanks at the gift of knowledge and experience I had given him. Now I see his face stilled in sleep, as cold as death, caught at the cusp of adulthood.

Barrahiem holds nothing for me now. My kin are mine no more. I turn my back on them, on their ignorance and their fear. They will not heed my warnings, nor will they make any preparations for the inevitable end. I go out into the world above to seek other learned men, Sundwellers who will work with heart and mind to save what they can of Margra. For the failing Ruel will be a global catastrophe that will leave this world shattered. We cannot avert this doom, but we can make something from the ashes.

Nils searched the records again, puzzled. That could not be Trell’s last entry. Did his grandsire truly leave his kin, to dwell above after Nils was interred? That would mean that the observatory possibly held the last writings of his grandsire. No, that could not be allowed. All the knowledge must be kept together in the archives. Then he recollected that the old observatory had been levelled, the present one raised from its remains. He shuddered at the thought of the loss of Trell’s thoughts and deeds from the archives. It was akin to having his grandsire’s existence expunged from the world.

When he reached his abode, he realised there was no reason to put off his departure. All he needed was his shroud and supplies and he would see Salinda again and perhaps look about for Trell’s writings in the ruins of the old observatory.

#

As Laidan considered at the bodies piled on the pyre, there was no emotion. She knew she should feel something but too much had happened, almost being raped and killed.  It was if there was an empty space surrounding her, blocking her from empathising, from feeling sorrow, from feeling anything. The world was too awful. Its evil had slapped her in the face and there was nowhere to hide from it. What was the point anyway, of obeying the rules, doing what you were told, if you only ended up dead? May as well enjoy yourself while you can. That was her new approach to life.

Salinda had her studying mind-numbingly boring texts. They served Laidan well though because the more she read, the more distant that seat of unsettling power and thought, the cadre, came. Thurdon had thrust the cadre into her unprepared mind, making power shine out of her eyes and leaving her incapacitated and in danger of being burned as a witch. Thurdon’s voice had been so loud, so overpowering that she had been grateful when Salinda had been able to quiet it and give her some peace. But Laidan did not want the thing and from what she could tell it did not want her either.

At least, Brill made her feel good. He made her light up, made her feel like she was beautiful and important. If she was patient the task would be completed and then Brill would come to her. She would make him come to her. She would make him promise. Brill always kept his promises.

#

Garan thought that breakfast of cacti porridge, soft bread and some mulled dragonwine would wash the taste of death from his mouth. He was wrong. Everything he ate and everything he touched tasted of rotting corpse. When he closed his eyes, images of the faces, the bodies, the blood, the body parts were always there. He could not shift them from his mind. They appeared in the dark shadowed corners and dwelt in the depths of his dreams. They would plague his mind forever. He would hazard a shooting star that he was not the only one not to sleep last night. Unease and despair was in the air around him, like a sob held in check. The observatory was grieving. They had mourned the Master Elder but now they mourned Vanden’s dead, those who had been sacrificed by the Inspector against the walls of Trithorn Peak.

Even if the observatory’s inhabitants remembered the faces of their dead kin, none were recognisable, not from what he’d seen. Faces smashed, skulls caved in, bodies flat and crushed, gizzards everywhere. Blood like paint staining everything, providing a feast for flies. The observatory’s inhabitants mourned every single death as if it was their own flesh and blood. Such horror was new to them, new to Garan.

As he chewed and swallowed his breakfast without tasting it, he became lost in his nightmarish thoughts until startled by Salinda sitting down next to him. With his sleep starved gaze he gaped at her. She, too, looked like she passed a restless night. Lines at the corners of her mouth cut worry into her face. She’d been helping the elders restore some order after the attack, working long hours. The refectory doors swung open and Danton and Brill walked in. He thought Laidan might with them but she was nowhere to be seen.

Salinda looked at Danton and Garan followed the path of her gaze. He had never seen the one-eyed rebel look so grim. The smile was forced and his gaze haunted as he joined them at the table. Garan’s mood plummeted. Danton, who had helped him face the worse moment in his life, the death of a friend by his own power, was now succumbing to the misery surrounding them. Something had to give.

Salinda’s hand started to move across the table, and paused before she reached over to squeeze Danton’s hand. Instead, she wished him a pleasant morning. The look they shared with each other spoke volumes. Garan thought the rebel might cry.

Brill appeared in better spirits. Pointedly ignoring Garan, he began chatting to Salinda.

‘How are you feeling now?’ Brill asked her. ‘Rested?’

‘I am feeling more rested, thank you, Brill. And you?’

Garan was about to stand up to fetch more food, but he hesitated. Salinda’s question brought a blush to Brill’s face. Danton avoided Garan’s gaze by twirling an empty cup around in his hand, apparently absorbed in this action. What was going on now? Surely Brill had not been dallying with Laidan? Why Brill must be exhausted from all the heavy work. Garan glanced at Brill’s hands loosely clasped in front of him. The younger man had not bothered to get a meal yet. Brill’s fingers were cut and grazed and most of the fingernails broken. He had not been shirking.

Danton stood up. ‘Come on, Garan. Let’s get some of that cacti porridge. The day is young yet.’

Salinda rubbed her hand over her face as if that would wipe away fatigue, frustration and numerous other ills. Just then, the door flung open. ‘My lady,’ said that familiar croaky voice of Elder Wylie as he ran toward her breathlessly. ‘Forgive me…disturbing your breakfast. You must come…come to the gallery and see…’ Behind him strode Elder Titina, her longer legs keeping pace with the old elder. She looked thinner than the last time he had seen her. Garan recollected that she had been in the caves supervising the partial evacuation and then fell ill. Titina’s brows furrowed a vee in between her eyebrows and fatigue increased the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth. With a brief nod to him, she kept her gaze on Elder Wylie and Salinda.

Salinda stood up straight away, shifting her robe out of her way to follow. Garan hastened after them. The anxiety in the old elder’s voice was acute. Elder Titina followed close behind, her steps unhurried but efficient. Once out the doors, Garan heard people whispering in the corridors. It was like the rush of wind in an empty cave, echoing and amplifying. Something had excited the inhabitants of the observatory. The slap of boots on stone warned him that Danton had followed behind.

Salinda took the steps two at a time. Elder Wylie followed as best he could. Once out on the gallery, the old man led them round to the Klester Valley side. A glimpse behind showed that the rest of the party still followed. As Garan came up behind Salinda and Elder Wylie, he didn’t understand what he was seeing. Then the sound filtered through and that drew his gaze. Beyond the pile of corpses stacked for the funeral pyre was a line of women with stooped shoulders accompanied by ragged, barefoot children. Garan could hear them wailing.

Salinda stood stock still. ‘Oh no!’

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November is usually a good writing time for me. The taxes are done. I’m gearing up for Christmas so I usually have that impetus to get things done before December hits. I can take that 30 days to focus and write.

Many years I wrote during November and I didn’t register for NaNoWriMo. I got into the spirit of the thing. Until recent years where I’m much more likely to register. I don’t always make the goal. A couple years I baulked, usually do to workload in the day job. I have partial drafts of books. One is a contemporary romance– at least so far. I’m tempted to put in a ghost or a vampire, but basically it’s a truckie story. The other partial I have is the sequel to The Sorcerer’s Spell, called The Changling Curse. I haven’t got back to it to finish it. There are a number of reasons for that. That I already have too many draft novels that need to be crafted, revised and polished is the main one.

So this year, I signed up for the NaNoWriMo thing. I hadn’t done any planning for the novel. November just sneaks up on me. Anyway I had this idea in my head for a year or two that I wanted to write another Love and Pirates story, this time about Opeia Gayens, the mother and head of AllEarth Corp.

I started drafting. I got 5000 words down but then I had to stop. I had to work on another novel, getting it ready for beta readers. I thought I’d just come back to the NaNoWriMo project. I ended up nearly losing two weeks but I did go back.

It’s quite hard to write a story without enough ideas. Sometimes they just come to me. So I started drafting and I was thinking this is a bit lame, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I had that break from it (nearly two weeks) and reviewed the 5000 words I’d written to get me back into the story and went to bed. But obviously my subconscious was worried about the story because I had this amazing, comical scene unfold in the early hours of the next morning. I got up really revved, thinking this is it. And the resolution of this scene would skate me near to the end of the story. I was back on board. I had to write a lot to catch up, because I was way behind. But I didn’t let that worry me. I was on a roll.

This is the part that I love. Being so revved so in the story. I call it the zen zone where the creativity is sparking in the brain and the story cascades like it’s being downloaded. I walk around in a daze, send notes to myself as little ideas come to me. The ideas are flowing and writing 5000 words over the course of the day seems natural and easy. This is the buzz I live for. This is the orgasmic flow that is, lets face it, better than sex.

Often after experiencing the zen zone, I think I’ll never get it back. These days I know I can. Usually I get into the zen zone on  a writer’s retreat. This time I managed it at home, between uni, grandkids and other stuff. I caught up. I wrote 50,000 words! A complete story. I’ve even tinkered with some of those words. It’s a short novel, but longer than Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures.

Now the first cut is done, the harder work begins. Crafting the story I wrote. Opi Battles the Space Pirates is a SF romance. The most difficult part of a romance for me is writing the characters to sufficient depth. I’m queen of plot in comparison. My books tend to be plot heavy. The challenge now is to find out who Opi is and craft her better than she is now. I’d like to do that now rather than later…just in case it goes in the too hard basket.

NaNoWriMo for me then is not so much about how much I write, although I do find having a goal makes me sit at the computer longer than I really want to. I am an obsessive, goal oriented over achieving ADHD woman so that probably makes sense that I respond to a word count goal. But more than that it’s about writing, getting into the zone, giving myself permission to write and ignoring the housework and the DVD watching etc. Over 30 days you can achieve a lot. NaNoWriMo just reminds me of that.

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The stars have aligned and I think I have the capacity to a novel in a month. I’m not writing reports at work. My RSI is stablising and I have a sit stand arrangement at home as well as dictation software. No excuses. Of course right now I’d rather be napping after a day out showing some people around.

I’ve decided to try Scrivener this time. I think it will work better in the writing fresh than trying to retro fit which drove me a bit barmy.

I’m going to be working on a novel I outlined in New Orleans in May 2014. It’s an SF romance novel, tentatively titled Cold Soldier. The outline is brief so I’m half pantsing it.

I thought I’d write this blog post while Scrivener was doing an update. Good luck to other NaNoWriMo writers. My NaNoWriMo novel from 2013 is published. I bombed last year. Work was too intense and I didn’t want to risk RSI. But this time it should be fine.

Reach out to other buddies and write away.

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It is my pleasure to have Jane here today. When I first met Jane I was an aspiring writer with more zeal than talent or craft. Jane made an impression on me as an author who was happy to share her experience and was very gracious and friendly. Jane is a prior winner of the Aurealis Award for fantasy novel and remember thinking when we me met, wow, just wow. I managed to talk her into coming to Conflux in Canberra… maybe more than once.

Jane Routely

Jane Routley

Jane has provided some wonderful and insightful answers to the interview questions. Some of her habits I can totally relate to.

Your new novel is coming out. Can you tell us a bit about it?

In The Three Sisters, a woman warrior and a mage, who refuses to grow up, traverse an oppressed land in order find a kidnapped sister. Elena, the missing sister, has the curse of Fatal Beauty which means those who see her desire to own her. Unbeknowst to the sisters hidden powers are manipulating their destinies.

The Three Sisters was published some time ago by Harper Collins U.S. under a pseudonym. Clan Destine Press have been kind enough to bring it out as an ebook under my own name so that it can be read in Australia.

There is an unpublished sequel called The Melded Child which I very much hope Clan Destine will bring out in the next year or so.

Jane tell us a bit about yourself (where you live, how long you’ve been writing, previous publications etc)

I’m from Melbourne although I spent seven years in the 90’s living in Frankfurt and Copenhagen. I was a trailing spouse when I lived in Europe so I started writing then. I’d always wanted to be a writer so I figured it was time stop making excuses and knuckle down. I’ve published 4 novels and a number of short stories. Two of the Dion Chronicles won Aurealis Awards for the best fantasy novel in the year they came out.

Print edition from Ticonderoga Publications through Indie Books Online and

Ebook edition.

I had a big slump in the early naughties. Changes in the publishing world made it very difficult for a while and I completely lost my confidence. I never stopped writing but I’m back to finishing things for publication again.

Jane what do you find so attractive about the fantasy genre? In what ways do you find it fulfilling?

I’ve always loved history but I find historical fiction a bit limiting. You’re stuck with an already set out world and if your characters are well known to history you know how they’re going to end up. I’m interesting in travelling in new worlds. At the moment I’m interested in exploring a world in which wealth is passed down through the female line, which is does happen in our world too, but not on a state level. I thought it hadn’t been explored enough in fantasy. I’ve also always loved fairy tales – the sense of wonder that comes from magic. You can do that in fantasy. I do like the way people like Kate Forsyth are combining history and fantasy in books like Bitter Greens.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on “Shadow in the Empire of Light” at the moment. “Shadow” is about an orphan without magical gifts in a powerful family of mages stuck in the country managing the family estates with only an eccentric aunt and a telepathic cat for company. It’s about her breaking out to find her own way in the world.

What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writers block etc).

As a writer I’m more of a panster than a planner. I know what I’m interested in writing about and I usually have some idea of where I want to go, but I never have much idea of how I’m going to get there. Every book I start I try to be more of a planner. It must save so much time and angst. I always get to a point where the book goes dead and I’ve learned that that’s because I’m trying to make the characters do something that doesn’t work. Gee it’s miserable when it happens. I wish I didn’t have to go through it. On the other hand I get bored easily, so perhaps it’s best if I don’t know how things are going to go.

As a panster, I know I write stories and books to see what’s going to happen if… What if a woman was irresistibly beautiful as Elena is in The Three Sisters. What is it like to colonized? This is a big theme in Australia History. So I set up these conditions, invent these characters and just keep asking what if… until I get closer and closer to the story that feels right for me. It’s a bit like being an archaeologist or painting an oil painting.

I try to write most days for at least an hour, two preferably. I work part time so it makes that easier. I don’t wait for inspiration. I just sit down at the computer and stay there until my time is up. If I can’t write I sit there and feel bored. Sometimes I get stuck but even then I sit down. I’ve never had writers block really badly though I have had some really miserable times sitting at my desk. If I can’t think of anything to write I write in my diary (usually a sadly neglected file)

Elizabeth Jolley once said that one way to avoid getting stuck was to leave the previous day’s work slightly unfinished so that you’ve got something to go on with when you sit down next. I find that always works for me.

What part of writing do you find hardest?

Despite the fact that I’ve set up my life to be a writer, I still find sitting down to do it the hardest thing of all. Almost anything is easier than writing. There are still those little voices in my head saying that I’m wasting my time and that nobody wants to read this stuff. I’m very achievement orientated and signs of achievement come very slowly when you’re a writer.

There’s much more instant gratification to be had from doing the garden or having morning coffee with friends or watching eight hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And much more fun chatting on social media. That why I make myself sit down for a couple of hours on a computer that’s not on-line (yes such things do exist.) Otherwise I probably wouldn’t write at all and I’d get very down and grumpy and not know why. I regularly need to remind myself that if it makes you happy, it’s worth doing even if nobody else thinks it’s worthwhile. But I write to be read which is why I finish things.

What do you prefer, drafting the story or revising and reworking?

I find the drafting really really hard work and as I said earlier I sometimes get stuck. Plotting is the hardest part of a story. I really enjoy the reworking and the revising because you have the certainty of knowing where you’re going and you have the pleasure of adding texture to the world that can really make it sparkle. I actually go through each novel three times at least. Once to do a very detailed first draft and the second time to add the flesh to the bones and the third time to polish the prose.

What do you plan to work on next?

I’d like to do a sequel to Shadow in the Empire of Light though ideally I should try and find it a home before I start. I’m also half way through a man on man time travel romance which I started years ago and have been working on on and off for years. I’d love to finish that.

The Three Sisters book cover

The Three Sisters book cover

Here is the blurb!

“A captivating read” Sara Douglass

Three sisters, estranged from the Society they are destined to save. Elena, more beautiful than any man can resist, is kidnapped, her destiny controlled by the men who desire her. Yani, warrior woman, brave, strong, able to pass as a man, who will do anything to find Elena. Marigoth, powerful female mage, determined never to grow up, equally committed to finding their missing sister. In a country oppressed and cruelly ruled, the fate of many people lies in the unsuspecting hands of these three women.

Published by Clan Destine Press link here.   Ebook format. Available also in kindle or mobi

Price AUS $6.79

ISBN  9780992492595

Thank you so much Jane for elaborating on your writing processes.

You can find Jane online at www.janeroutley.com.au and

https://www.facebook.com/jane.routley.5

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/333390.Jane_Routley

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I feel good to be writing after a bit of a drought. The Regency Romance I’m drafting is continuing a pace. I’m past the half way mark. It’s a great feeling when a project gets its legs and you know it is going to work out. I thought this story would be 90 000 to 100 000 words. It might end up being in that range as there is still a bit of story to go and there has been a major blow up and I’m still writing all of the fall out from that.

I have quite a bit of tidy up to do but at this stage I’m just focussing on getting the draft down and being in the mental space where the story is sitting in my head and new ideas are floating to the surface.

I am hoping that this new found energy will last me into the revisions of other MSs I have stacked and waiting for attention. Revision can be hard work, but drafting something you really, really enjoy is fun, hard work but fun hard work. Revisions can seem to take longer and they do if you have structural issues. The trick is to get the structure right beforehand.

Anyway, I’m waiting for some workmen to finish up so I can get to my day job. But we have a writing date planned tonight so I’m so looking forward to writing some more.

PS. If you don’t know what I mean about a writing date. It’s where I get together with my partner and a couple of writing friends and we join together to write for a few hours. When life is busy, sometimes the only time I get to write is on a writing date, and I do that because I’ve committed to the time and made an appointment with others. We meet at each other’s houses, but sometimes  I’ve just had dates with Matthew in a cafe in town.

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