A snippet of writing: No Man’s Sky

This is a snippet from No Man’s Sky, the second in my current WIP series. Arran’s just tried to reach into a black pool, which turned out to be made of acid. His travelling companion isn’t best pleased..I’m not technically writing this yet, but this scene came to me and I needed it out of my head!

Arran examined his ruined hand, poking at the stump. It was sore, but at least the acid had seared the flesh and effectively cauterized it. It looked odd. The skin just sort of ended in a red, burned line and then nothing. He wondered what to do with it, and settled for wrapping it in his jacket sleeve.

“Well, we’re going to the market anyway,” Maria said, annoyed. “You can buy yourself a new one.”

“How do I pay for anything? I don’t have money!”

“You could sell something. Your winning smile? Your wonderful personality?”

“All right, you don’t have to be sarcastic.”

The woman walking next to him gave him a genuinely amused smile as he caught up. “You could sell your arrogance, maybe? Your asshole nature? That’d definitely help.”

“I need those.”

“Trust me, you don’t.” She stretched, cracking joints that had stiffened during their break. “How about lies? You probably have enough of those.”

“What sort of lies?”

“Anything going.”

“Why lies?”

She gave him a sideways glance. “The Fae can’t lie. They’ll pay handsomely for someone else’s.”

“What would I sell my ‘asshole nature’ for, then?”

The beautiful young witch smiled. “How do you think we make curses?”

No Man’s Land: snippet

A snippet from a work in progress…

“You’re saying,” Marek says in his precise way, “that we have six days until this is all over?”

“No,” Luk corrects. “I’m saying we probably have six days until the height of the disturbances. Then it’ll take just as long to calm down, which means it could still be bad for…” He considers. “Another month.”

We’re in Elise’s neat flat, sitting around her table – and kitchen. Tabor, Marek, Luk and Elise have snagged the chairs. Alvin’s perched on a chair back. Nat has taken the nearest armchair in the sitting room, which puts her near enough to hear but far enough away to dodge punches, and I’m sitting on the kitchen worktop. I think Elise is plotting to disinfect it as soon as I leave.

“How much worse-” Alvin starts.

Luk holds up a hand. “If you’re going to ask me how much worse it’s going to get, I have no fucking idea. This is new territory to me too, ok? It’s Solstice-bad now, but for all I know it’s going to stablise, or get worse, or blow everything up.” He’s going more sarcastic as he gets more annoyed. “If anyone’s got good ideas about how to measure it, feel free to pass them along. After all, you lot are the obvious experts here.”

“That was unfair,” Elise tells him reprovingly. “We are doing the best we can to assist.”

There’s a brief moment of conflict in Luk’s face, and then he concedes. “True. Sorry. You are trying.”

And failing, his unspoken comment adds. But only I know him well enough to be able to hear that unsaid addition.

No Man’s Land: snippet of WIP

From No Man’s Land.

We head for Arbor Low first, rumbling along dew-damp roads in the morning light. It’s not too busy yet, and I decide I like the Peak District when it’s like this…and not full of bloody caravans. The roads get smaller and smaller, and then there’s a gravel track leading up to the circle itself. Luk rumbles us up it, and we park up in the small layby. The circle itself is in pretty good condition; there’s a ring and ditch around it, and stones lying where they fell, centuries ago. They look almost like a clock-face, pointing the hours.

I stand on the edge of the bank and spread my hands out, feeling the air rushing through them. The sky’s overcast but the view’s still beautiful, looking out over the cropped green fields and rising peaks further on into the district. It’s quiet, with only the faint rush of cars a little way off and the maaaaw of sheep in the next field. It’s a far cry from London.

Luk’s got the ward ready, and steps up beside me. “So?”

I take it, and go to step forward. But his hand is abruptly on my arm, and he jerks me backwards before I can step down into the ditch. “Take the causeway, sunshine.”

My automatic reaction is defensive, and he’s lucky that I had my hands full of ward otherwise he’d have got a clout on the ear. But I rebalance myself and blink, letting the circle come into focus.

The ditch before me is full of thorns, grey and shifting. They’d have shredded my defenses and my soul, biting inside my skin with a pain that’s unlikely to heal. Fuck.

I blink back into the real world. “Thanks.”

He lets my arm go and I tread round the outside of the ditch to the raised earth causeway. Another flick to the Otherworld shows me a clear path there, and I walk through. No need to go invisible here; there’s no-one around but two walkers a couple of fields away. I lay my hand against the rough, weathered surface and put the ward on the rune-curve with a burst of power. As I stand, I glance at the gateway – grey and matte, but not bulging with the same dark smoke as Woodhenge. I can hear spirit voices, but there’s no one loud enough to make me want to bring out my flame.

“No-one to talk to?” Luk asks when I get back across the causeway.

“Not really.”

“Do you want someone to talk to?”

I roll my eyes. “Get to the point.”

“I want to go via Five Wells.”

He gets a stare. “The names don’t mean anything. I assume there’s spirits?”

“It’s a Tomb.”

We’ve reached the bike again, and I almost miss a step, stumbling the last few to the bike. “Oh, great!”

“It could help.”

I make an irritated noise in my throat. He’s right, particularly with the current fun…but holy crap, talking to spirits is hard work.

“You’ll need alcohol,” I say.

Luk frowns in the act of putting his helmet on. “What? Since when have you needed props to talk to spirits?”

“It’s not for the spirit,” I comment grimly. “It’s for me.”

No-Man’s Land: how to kill someone

A snippet from (the provisionally titled) Bluesky / No Man’s Land.

Have you ever watched anyone die? It’s an education.

I used to be normal – hah, ok. I was never normal, not from the point I could flick a tongue of flame onto my hand. But I wasn’t born an assassin and a murderer.

I make tea, carefully, as I’ve done for years. The sound of the kettle is familiar. A spoonful of sugar and a dash of milk swirled into the brown liquid. The teabag goes into the compost caddy; the plants in the central garden need all the decent nutrients they can get.

The drug that Elise gave her has made Nisha vague. She’s not aware of where she is, really; she knows her flat, but she can’t really hold a thought from one moment to another. When she does speak it’s of monsters attacking, of the pattern on the curtain fabric, of the robot inside her, of the clock – replaced many years ago – that needs replacing. She doesn’t know my name; she speaks to me as her sister, who I know died of cancer back in the seventies.

I take the two cups over on the tray, and place it down on the table.

Nisha was a sharp, amused lady, who welcomed the terrified and shattered refugees into her domain and ruled over us with wisdom and cynicism. She only had a hint of magical talent, but even that has been enough to doom her.

She waves a vague hand at me, telling me that the wall is falling, and that I should prop it up with the cushions that litter her sofa.

I sit with her, and we drink tea out of china cups with patterned saucers. We talk about nothings and nonsense, and I watch her die.

It’s a courtesy, a respect that I try to give all those that I kill. They are human; even if they were vampire, or were-creature, or unaware of where they are and who they are with…they are still human, and deserve my company as they leave this world.

And I would want someone there with me.

Snippet of a new story: urban fantasy

I’m writing a new story – it doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy (catchy, eh?)

Have a snippet…

“Nisha has lost her faculties,” Marek says from his doorway as soon as I step off the last stair on to his landing. He was either waiting for me, or Elise has got really good at warning wards.

“Well, balls,” I say, grimacing. “Are we dealing with it?”

“Who’s Nisha?” Luk says, stepping up behind me. He’s tall enough to look over my head, so he doesn’t need to budge me out of the way.

“The landlady of this building,” Marek says, eyeing Luk. “Merlin. I am pleased to see you well.”

“And not batshit insane,” Luk responds cheerfully. “Nice to see you too, Marek. Ghost, you still in the same flat?”

“Don’t wake the baby,” I tell him, and turn back to Marek as Luk takes the key out of my fingers and heads up the stairs. “So?”

“We locked her in the flat and Ollie gave her a potion. She was raving about the vampire-kin trying to kill everyone.”

The words still have the punch in the gut, although it’s lessened by the years. They did try. “You sure it’s not dementia or something? She’s not having a bad turn?”

“Elise did a blood test.”

I sigh. “So what’s the decision?”

“We were waiting until you came back to decide what should be done.”

But I know that hesitation, that faint undertone. Let’s wait for Ghost the assassin, Ghost the killer, Ghost the trouble-solver to return. And if I won’t do it, then the Merlin’s bloodthirsty enough…

“Sure, let’s go see Elise and have a meeting.”

Marek nods, and turns to lock his door.

Luk thuds back down the stairs, scowling. I sigh. “You woke the baby.”

“I woke the baby,” he agrees. “Nat’s currently thinking up ways to hurt me. Can we get out of here before she puts them into practise?”