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No Man’s Dawn: writing a bastard

Luk is a bastard. And he’s great fun!

He’s a version of the Knight from my Dresden writing, and a version of him also snuck into the Dresden RPG – Ryan wanted to play him for our next session. The character sheet was awesome to make; basically, if he can fight or screw his way out of a situation then he will, and if he can’t, then he’ll weasel out of it. He’s mostly looking out for himself, has a definite way with words, and is just generally a git.

He comes in to No Man’s Land, but he’s a bit less of a dupek at that point. No Man’s Dawn is a prequel, set about ten years before No Man’s Land…and I get to have Luk be his original, bastard self.

This is just the start of him; he gets worse! *big author grin*

 

But the first thing I do after I swing myself out from under the very comfortable duvet is pull out the two trinkets I stole from the crone in the Otherworld yesterday.

In the morning light, they look plain and dusty. One is a set of thin bracelets, held together with a leather strap woven down one edge; the other side jangles faintly as I pick them up. Seen through the Sight, this cluster of thin silver rings looks like it contains a fairly potent shielding spell, or maybe a concealment. I’d have to get someone a bit more knowledgeable than I am to have a look.

The second item looks, frankly, like a small red carrot. It’s heavy, slightly bobbled, pointed at one end and blunt at the other. It doesn’t look like it does anything.

I hold it in my palm and flick my Sight on. It’s magical, sure, and…it looks like it’s got some kind of trigger spell on it. You’d have to put magic into it to start whatever the magic is that it contains, and I’m not feeling that today. That’s a pretty good way to get your metaphorical fingers burned when the main spell sucks you dry. No thank you.

I put both of the items in one of the desk drawers, and sling the invisibility cloak over my naked shoulders. Polly’s got a long mirror leaning against the wall in the hallway, so I pad out to look at myself. To me, the cloak just looks like a cloak, but in the mirror I’m barely there. I’d guess that the spell has lost some of its potency here; the cloak will act as more of an attention-diverter than a true invisibility spell. Still, pretty useful.

I drop the cloak, enjoying the fabric on my skin, and spend a little while examining myself. I still look pretty good, even with my scars. The white, puckered lines trail down my cheek and neck and onto my side. My rib’s healed nicely, and you can’t even tell that my arm was broken. My cock took a bit of a beating, but that’s healed – although admittedly my balls didn’t. Oh well, it’s not like I wanted children anyway.

I pose for a while longer, and then run a hand through my hair. A bit greasy, but it’ll do. It’s not like my natural charm ever let greasy hair get in the way of a fuck.

 

 

Old writing: Dragons

This is likely from around 2000, and it’s definite cringe for me – I’m putting this out there in the name of entertainment! You can tell I was reading the Dragonriders series at the time, and I can see some of S’ian and an early incarnation of Toru in the characters, but…oh dear. I wonder if I’m going to look back on my current writing in seventeen years time and have the same reaction?

The people in the street gaped up at the sentry who shouted, then turned to gaze at the sky. Within a few seconds, the whisper spread throughout the city, the trickle turning into a stream. It spread through the households like fire, engulfing everyone in its path. The news reached the centre of the city within a minute and sent servants running.  People rushed out of their houses to stare at the two patches of shimmering colour in the sky. When the lord of the city had the news brought to him by a flustered servant, he blinked several times in surprise, then hurriedly gave several shouted orders to his functionaries and sent them scurrying. All through the city, the trickled news turned into a stream, then into a river as more and more people stopped what they were doing and hurried towards the walls.

High up on the two great beasts, the dragonriders watched as a stream of people poured out of the gates and up onto the walls. A glance passed between the riders, and the dragons began to spiral lower and lower towards the green fields outside the city walls.

The lord of the city was worried as he rode towards the gates. Sitting in his carriage, he could see the air of excitement on the peoples’ faces. It was like a celebration, he mused. But the dragons were living legends, as the riders did not visit the country very often. He had only seen them once before in his lifetime. It was a great honour to be visited by the riders. But all the same, it had only been, what, 20 orbits since they visited last? They must have some reason for coming again so soon. They couldn’t have…The Lord found that he was nervously fingering the great gold ring of office on his finger and tried to calm himself. The carriage passed through the gates and came to a stop on the edge of the crowd. The lord dismounted, and despite himself, gazed upwards with the crowd to watch as the two dragons circled closer and closer.

As the dragons came closer to the field and the waiting crowd, the riders could see the carriage drive up and the man, ridiculously small from this height, step out. The rider of the silver dragon, a young elf-girl, patted its side, as if in sympathy to something it had said. A glance passed between her and the boy riding the golden dragon, and although no sound passed between them, they seemed to speak to each other.

They are expecting us, Ben

Did you expect anything less? It is good that the sentries were alert-

 -Yes, but do they know why we are really here? – 

 -We have to have a purpose…we don’t visit for fun, Cian. – 

-Agreed, but we must be alert. They will be expecting a reason-

The gold dragon turned its head to the youth riding it.

-They are scared of us, Ben. Raider says that the people have not seen beasts like us much. Why do we scare them? –

-Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. –

– And Raider says please pay attention. We are landing soon-

-Tell her we know what we’re doing, Manooth-

They turned back to watch the city as they circled closer.

#

As the dragons came in to land, the lord could see them close up for the first time. They were truly magnificent. Their skins shone in the sunlight and their wings spread the full width of the gatehouse. The lord noted that although both dragons had other colours shimmering faintly along their wings and ridges, the gold dragon had more pronounced highlights of red on the tips of the wings, claw sheaths and all along the back ridges. The silver dragon only had a few faint green highlights, but the eyes of both dragons glittered like diamonds. They swooped in, and the lord could clearly hear the gasps of apprehension and feel the crowd pull back as the dragons flew straight towards the city walls. Then they suddenly backwinged with a blast of air and settled to the ground just in front of the exited crowd. The sigh was audible as the dragons furled their wings with a rustling sound like the wind. The crowd drew back as both riders dropped to the ground and one walked towards the Lord. The other turned towards the dragon and reached up to stroke the lowered head. The crowd cautiously drew in to get a closer look.

The boy up on the walls, hidden out of sight from the people on the ground, had watched with the crowd as the dragons flew in and landed. As he saw the riders dismount, he craned forward over the wall to see more clearly. He saw the boy walk forward to meet the Lord of the city. His gaze flicked to the Lord and back to the rider. The drab riding clothes of the riders contrasted sharply with the clothes of the richly dressed ruler, but he saw how the boy walked with an air of poise and confidence that both the riders had. It was obvious against with the slight nervousness of the Lord’s stance. Why was the Lord so nervous? But his gaze was caught as the girl by the dragons removed her helmet and goggles and reached up to stroke the great head lowered towards her. How he would love to be able to do that! It must be wonderful to ride a Dragon. Then he felt his breath catch sharply as the girl turned her head towards the walls, her gaze searching for something. He ducked back into the crowd and watched with apprehension until the girl turned back to stroke the head of the silver dragon as it towered above her. That was too close. He had to be careful! But still he stayed on the walls, watching with envy.

Cian was thinking fast as she turned back to the dragons. I felt him looking at me! He was watching us. I felt it. So where is he? I thought I saw him, then he was gone. He ducked back. Is he scared? Scared to face his future? Or maybe he doesn’t know. Then what was he doing watching us like that? He must know the legends, even if he doesn’t know that it’s him. She reached out with her mind but the mind she had felt before was gone. Shielded, she thought. Clever. I could break through, but not now. It can wait.

As he approached the Lord of the city, Ben could clearly feel the apprehension emanating from the richly dressed man. Dragonriders did not visit very often, and usually no one person had seen two visits in their lifetimes. But it had been only 20 turns since the last routine check, so the lord had a right to feel nervous.

–Ben, stop worrying- came Cian’s soft voice in his head. He caught his gaze on the slightly nervous lord, walking forward to greet him, and smiled.

“My Lord.” The lord could not quite mask his nervousness. “ It is an honour to meet such famous people. It is a great favour for Dragonriders to visit twice in one lifetime, and we are indeed honoured with your presence.  May I welcome you to our city and offer you the hospitality of the palace while you recover from your journey?” The lord bowed low.

Ben responded with a half bow. “I am B’ten, rider of gold Manooth, and that is X’cian, rider of silver Raider. I apologise for the inconvenience of this visit, but may I assure you that it was necessary.”

He glanced at the crowd surrounding them. The Lord looked even more nervous for a moment, but got control of himself.

“Of course. Is there anything we can, uh, do for your Dragons?”

Ben smiled. “We will see to the dragons later – they might need feeding, you know. But they don’t eat meat.” he added hurriedly. “They should be all right here for the meantime. I think your people like them.”

The Lord looked a trifle put out. “We do not see many of these beasts up close. It is a rare opportunity.”

Why did you say that name? You don’t often use B’ten. – Cian enquired in his head. Ben gave a mental shrug. – And the dragons are going to get nervous. The crowd won’t leave them alone. Can you do something? –

 Ben turned to look at the crowd surrounding the dragons. It was keeping its distance, but was rather big. He frowned. “If you will excuse my interfering, but I think that mabey you should try and disperse the crowd a little.” he said in a low voice to the lord. “ The dragons get irritated when there are too many people around them.”

That did the trick. The Lord went pale and nodded hurriedly. He beckoned a servant over and murmured something. The servant scurried away and a few minutes later guards started to motion the crowd to disperse.

“If you would like to follow me, I will escort you to the palace. I can assure you that the Dragons will not be bothered if your lady would like to come with us.”

Ben heard Cians’ laughter echo inside his head.

Your Lady! He has not even met me yet. All right, Raider. You stay here with Manooth. Fly over to those walls if anyone pesters you. –

Ben smiled at Manooth’s indignant rejoinder that no one would pester Raider. He was very protective of his flying companion and teamate. Ben turned to the Lord with a neutral expression.

“If you could but delay a moment, I think that Silver Treid would like to join us.” He used the formal title deliberately. Treid simply meant rider, but he knew the use of the word would reproach the Lord from automatically assuming that he and Cian were more than a flying pair. It was not a matter for this petty lordling to speculate on.

As Cian came over, Ben saw the Lord’s eyes scan up and down her figure. Cian met his curious gaze with one of steel and the lord hurriedly dropped his eyes and bowed to her. She returned his bow and after another exchange of pleasantries they were led over to the carriage and climbed in.

Cake Club, March 2017: Aims

So, I’m part of a thing called Cake Club. Basically, it’s a small group of authors who get together every few months, talk goals, and eat cake.

The cake is the important part. You can tell by the name.

One of the members was ill this month, so it was just Adrian and I. In between plotting chaos (which may or may not come to anything, so watch this space) we also updated each other on progress and what our plans are. Adrian did an update on Saturday, and while I did tell him everything I’m up to, I’m going to put it here too – just to give myself a public record of incentives!

I like having my progress bars in the sidebar (down to the right) – it lets me see how I’m doing. Greensky’s ongoing, and I’ve submitted No Man’s Land to more agents to bring my total there up to eight. I’ve also had one short story accepted; I’ll tell you more about that when I know more!

My aims for the next two months, before the next meeting? I’ve got the Shadow series to rewrite; I’m having some time away soon (if plans work out) so I’m hopefully using that as dedicated writing time. No Man’s Dawn is in progress, currently on 18000 words with things roughly plotted. No Man’s Sky is at about 50k and needs to get to 70k, so…eh. Ongoing. I’m thinking about it!

Beyond that, it’s basically business as usual for me. The thing I like is that I am – despite all my frustrations – in a rough routine for writing. I know when my next few short story deadlines are; I’m happy with my three-times-a-week-plus-Sunday blog post schedule, and I’m reading enough to put up the occasional review. I keep enough ongoing that I still feel that I am writing.

It makes for a fairly boring update, but everything really is trundling along! I’m just waiting for news from agents (good or bad), waiting for submissions to come back, waiting for more anthology calls that I can write for or submit to, waiting for my novels to progress chapter by chapter, waiting for the ideas to fall into place. This is what a lot of writing is – step by step progress, one word at a time, one story at a time!

Progress: No Man’s Dawn

Writing feels like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes, except you have to make up the pieces yourself.

I start off with some of the edges, and a few bits of tree or whatever, and then realise that maybe the pattern is a kitten in a basket and that’s some of the basket, and I’ve got the kitten, plus I found a few more bits of edge, but maybe it would look good with a puppy in there too? And then the cat sits on the board and I lose a few of the pieces down the back of the sofa and the sky seems to be a weird mix of blue and cloud, and it’s all a weird mess within a few random edge pieces.

Also, I think metaphors can be taken too far. But you get what I mean.

I didn’t feel that No Man’s Dawn was quite right; I was missing something. Dee was boring. While the outline was good – someone running away from a problem, making a new life, discovering secrets, murder mystery – it didn’t have the spark I wanted.

Well, I came up with a solution.

I added Luk.

I came up with the idea in the car, and my housemate just gave me a Look when I started giggling.

This is now the start of the book:

“Fuck. Fuck, fuckitty fucking fuck. Fuck!”

That last one echoes off the rock ahead of me, and I glance over my shoulder to try to spot my pursuers.

Of course, I can’t see anything.

“Fucking invisible bastard fuckers!”

You see why I was giggling?

Adding Luk adds depth and familiarity. I’m doing alternate chapters, Luk and Dee; it means I can add an extra plotline, add an extra thread to my murder mystery, and I don’t necessarily have to explain everything to the clueless Dee as Luk is already experienced. He’s also a complete bastard, and it’s been great fun to play out some of the consequences – especially on Dee. I’d already planned for him to come into the story, but having half of it from his perspective is definitely the right thing to do.

The spark’s back. I’m loving this almost as much as No Man’s Land; it hasn’t got the same snark factor, but hopefully it’s going to have a similar Not Nice feel, along with a twist at the end.

I’m also doing some work on No Man’s Sky; I’ve got ideas for some fill-in sections thanks to my beloved alpha-reader and aunt, and it’s been through a couple of other readers who have also given me ideas and encouragement. I’m waiting on my other alpha to finish writing Suddenly Lesbians (working title) and then she can focus on it, but that’s definitely got some spark back too.

So it’s getting there! (Again). Yay!

Old writing: A Normal Day

Definitely a piece from sometime between 1997 and 2002 – I think it was probably 1999, as Year 9 was round about when I was stretching my writing wings and trying to do short pieces. I even submitted something to the school magazine, which didn’t get in – gotta start with the rejection list early!

Just a normal day

The day an alien visited my kitchen.

As I said, it was a perfectly normal day. School had been normal – we’d gotten yelled at a few times, several people hadn’t done their homework, we’d had a wonderful talk in PSE on some totally irrelevant subject, we’d got piles of homework and a lecture on exams in however many weeks.

So I walked home, unlocked the door, dumped my bag. I’m the first one in because my parents are at work and my sister always takes ages to walk home – she talks rather than walks, if that makes sense. But anyway, I went through to the kitchen and went to get myself something to eat, then stopped. Because something wasn’t right.

Now, I know it always sounds really dramatic when you say “and I heard footsteps behind me” or “and I suddenly felt a chill”, but I could sense that something wasn’t right. It’s just a combination of a thousand tiny things that told me that there was someone else in the house. Or to be more precise, behind the pantry door.

I stood completely still for a moment, then turned slowly and walked over there. Yes, I know it sounds like a stupid thing to do. But I walked over there and pulled the door back. And this person stepped out.

To this day, I’m not sure which one of us was more terrified and surprised, me or him. Anyway, this person stepped out, and we both looked at each other for a minute in absolute shock. Then this person carefully spread his arms out and said in rather odd English; “I am no weepons.”

I simply stared at him. It’s not every day that you have an oddly dressed stranger step out of the pantry. And he was odd. Slightly taller than me, he was wearing one of those all-in-one suits with a long robe over the top of it, like you see the Arab people wearing. His hair was pure white, the whitest I’ve ever seen, and he had a small microphone tucked onto his collar. He was wearing a silver band on his wrist, like a watch, but it wasn’t. And his eyes were just pure black! It was like he was wearing sunglasses under his skin.

So, I bullied my brain into working and replied “I haven’t either – who are you?” I admit that it wasn’t the most original of comments but under the circumstances, I wasn’t going to say something that sounds like it’s out of a sci-fi movie.

He smiled carefully. “I am name…” and then something that sounded like it was off a fast-forwarded tape. I gave him a blank look. “Tset?” he said, nodding in apology.

So this guy Tset and I ended up sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea (he’d never seen it before and rather liked it) while I tried to explain various things to him, like how the tap worked and why the window was see-through but you couldn’t feel the air. In return, he was trying to explain his world to me.

When I think about it, what I remember is that his world is like ours, but it’s magic. They don’t have technology; they use some sort of forces in the earth to do what we do with dead metals and plants. It sounded really weird and I didn’t really understand it, partly because his English wasn’t too good. He sounded a bit foreign, sort of a mix of German and Italian. But apparently he’d got into out kitchen through a portal, because his world was linked with ours. And this was the bit that I didn’t really understand, but it was something to do with opposite forces and power cables. Or power lines.

But he was trying to tell me about links when I heard gravel scrunching. We’ve got a gravel path and I guessed that it was my sister. Tset must have heard it to, because he got up and retreated into the pantry again.

“I must tank you, for your heelp. It iss very intereestink? But I must goo. The gate iss opeen.”

“In our freezer?” I said as he got in.

He winked at me and as he shut the lid, there was a flash of light.

I opened it and there was nothing there.

Call me a liar if you like. I’m just waiting to see where they come out of next.