Happy Halloween

DoW_Cvr_Art-1In celebration of Halloween, I’m re-posting an excerpt from The Dead of Winter.  This is probably my favorite sequence in the entire book.  I call it “Emlyn Ran.”  It comes from a ways into the story, so try to tell your brain not to worry about context or details you might not understand.  All “realms” [think of realms as realities] border one another — and young Emlyn learns that she can traverse them.  However, at this point in the story she doesn’t fully comprehend that.  I think it is one of my best sequences.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.

teagan

***

Emlyn Ran

Emlyn ran.  She panted for breath, but she dared not slow her pace.  She wasn’t sure why she ran, but she knew she must.  One minute she had been holding an ancient skull where she had fallen into a cave, and the next she was in a strange building.  The half-light and washed out colors told her she was in the Realm of the Dead.

The sense of him was overwhelming.  She shuddered.  She felt a horrid taint everywhere she turned.  It even seemed to coat her lungs as she breathed.  His name filled her mind and she could not escape it — Arawn.  Emlyn had not even known the name until the night before, but now it was as if she knew him and knew him well.  She could feel the blackness of his soul.  Arawn.  Everywhere she felt his presence, and she could not find the way out.  Worse, she felt that now he knew her as well!  Arawn.

She didn’t know how long she ran down one corridor after another, or if she had been running in circles.  Her side cramped.  The building seemed to be a palace, though it was empty.  She rounded a corner in the corridor, not knowing where it might lead.  She couldn’t see very far in the half-light of the Realm of the Dead.  However, something red stood out in contrast to the washed out dimness.  It was a window with heavy red velvet draperies.  Just beyond it another hallway crossed the one down which she ran.

She stopped, her breathing ragged.  Emlyn felt panic rise as she tried to decide which way to go; right, left, or straight ahead?  She also wanted to look out that window in hope that it would show more about where she was.  But she was terrified of what might be outside it, looking back at her.  However, she knew that in past dreams, which had taken her to the Realm of the Dead, she had not been able to see anything beyond the windows; only gray darkness.

Her trembling hand reached for the red drapes.  She hesitated.  Her ears strained for any sound of pursuit as she looked all around.  All she could hear was her pounding heart.  Cautiously she moved the drape just a bit.  The chink in the curtains revealed only the accustomed grayness.  Her hand shook harder as she pulled the fabric farther aside.

arawn2The laughing countenance of Arawn filled the window.  She screamed.  Emlyn didn’t know how she knew it was Arawn — she’d never heard anyone describe how he looked, but she knew it to the depths of her soul.  He tossed his straight black shoulder-length hair.  Blood was smeared across his mouth.  He wiped it away.  His long hard fingernails had blood under them.  He smiled at Emlyn in a dreadful insinuating way.

She ran ahead where the corridors intersected.  If she turned left it would seem to take her closer to Arawn, though she suspected it was possible for him to be anywhere he chose in this realm.  She knew he was toying with her.  The way ahead ended at a staircase.  She took a few steps closer to it, but as she looked up, she realized that the stairs went nowhere.  They stopped at a blank wall.

It seemed like she heard distant thunder, but it was likely the pounding of her heart.  She turned to the right and would have gone that way, but she heard a soft yip.  Emlyn turned back and looked up the staircase to find the great white wolf standing there.  She was certain it was the same huge wolf she had seen on her way to visit Osabide on that strange morning just before her journey began.

Stumbling backward, she turned again to her right, now running away from both Arawn and the wolf.  She skidded to a stop; stumbled and fell down to one knee.  The wolf stood before her; head down and growling ominously.  She gazed into its blue, blue eyes.  It bounded past her to the staircase, and looked from the stairs and back again to Emlyn.

She heard a voice, but she wasn’t sure whether it came from within her mind or from somewhere in the corridor.  “Hurry!  Winter is coming,” the voice insisted.

wolf-faceEmlyn took a shaking breath and got to her feet.  Could the wolf be trying to lead her?  “All right,” she whispered and moved toward the white wolf.

He ran up the stairs and disappeared right through the wall where the stairs abruptly ended.  Emlyn braced herself.  She closed her eyes and ran toward the top of the stairs, following the wolf.

She fell forward.  She was dizzy and unable to open her eyes.  Beneath her face and hands she felt damp grass.  After a moment Emlyn opened her eyes to see dew sparkle on green blades of grass.  Sunlight was warm on her shoulders.  She was back in the Realm of the Living.

***

Summer and Winter

The summer solstice has not yet arrived but… Winter is coming!

I’ve been toying with a cover idea for “The Dead of Winter.”  This is just an initial concept, but I had fun with it.  The image of the girl was so much like “Emlyn” looks in my mind, I thought I’d share.

DoW 06-15-2013 The border was better (dark red) before I had to edit the reflection I made… but you get the idea.  It’s hard to tell here, but I made reflections of the two human images, representing the part of the story that deals with both the living and the dead.  However, I’m tossing around ideas about how many “character” images I should show, wondering if something else might match the story better.  Or perhaps just the young heroine, the raven, and a wolf — also key to the story.  However, finding images of those creatures in similar styles proved very difficult.

Now back to summer.  June 21st is Midsummer, the summer solstice, the first day of summer.  It might be fun to read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” again.  You can get it free at one of my favorite sites, Project Gutenberghttp://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1514

Happy Summer,

teagan

Emlyn Ran – The Dead of Winter

Emlyn Ran, Excerpt — The Dead of Winter

I’ve been a bad blogger lately, and haven’t posted much.  Maybe I’ve been too focused on the paying job – also known as work.  To make amends, here is a treat.  [I hope!].  Below is an excerpt from The Dead of Winter.  I call it “Emlyn Ran.”  It comes from a ways into the story, so try to tell your brain not to worry about context or details you might not understand.  All “realms” [think of realms as realities] border one another — and young Emlyn learns that she can traverse them.  However, at this point in the story she doesn’t fully know that.  I think it is one of my best sequences.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.

teagan

***

Emlyn ran.  She panted for breath, but she dared not slow her pace.  She wasn’t sure why she ran, but she knew she must.  One minute she had been holding an ancient skull where she had fallen into a cave, and the next she was in a strange building.  The half-light and washed out colors told her she was in the Realm of the Dead.

The sense of him was overwhelming.  She shuddered.  She felt a horrid taint everywhere she turned.  It even seemed to coat her lungs as she breathed.  His name filled her mind and she could not escape it — Arawn.  Emlyn had not even known the name until the night before, but now it was as if she knew him and knew him well.  She could feel the blackness of his soul.  Arawn.  Everywhere she felt his presence, and she could not find the way out.  Worse, she felt that now he knew her as well!  Arawn.

She didn’t know how long she ran down one corridor after another, or if she had been running in circles.  Her side cramped.  The building seemed to be a palace, though it was empty.  She rounded a corner in the corridor, not knowing where it might lead.  She couldn’t see very far in the half-light of the Realm of the Dead.  However, something red stood out in contrast to the washed out dimness.  It was a window with heavy red velvet draperies.  Just beyond it another hallway crossed the one down which she ran.

She stopped, her breathing ragged.  Emlyn felt panic rise as she tried to decide which way to go; right, left, or straight ahead?  She also wanted to look out that window in hope that it would show more about where she was.  But she was terrified of what might be outside it, looking back at her.  However, she knew that in past dreams, which had taken her to the Realm of the Dead, she had not been able to see anything beyond the windows; only gray darkness.

Her trembling hand reached for the red drapes.  She hesitated.  Her ears strained for any sound of pursuit as she looked all around.  All she could hear was her pounding heart.  Cautiously she moved the drape just a bit.  The chink in the curtains revealed only the accustomed grayness.  Her hand shook harder as she pulled the fabric farther aside.

The laughing countenance of Arawn filled the window.  She screamed.  Emlyn didn’t know how she knew it was Arawn — she’d never heard anyone describe how he looked, but she knew it to the depths of her soul.  He tossed his straight black shoulder-length hair.  Blood was smeared across his mouth.  He wiped it away.  His long hard fingernails had blood under them.  He smiled at Emlyn in a dreadful insinuating way.

She ran ahead where the corridors intersected.  If she turned left it would seem to take her closer to Arawn, though she suspected it was possible for him to be anywhere he chose in this realm.  She knew he was toying with her.  The way ahead ended at a staircase.  She took a few steps closer to it, but as she looked up, she realized that the stairs went nowhere.  They stopped at a blank wall.

It seemed like she heard distant thunder, but it was likely the pounding of her heart.  She turned to the right and would have gone that way, but she heard a soft yip.  Emlyn turned back and looked up the staircase to find the great white wolf standing there.  She was certain it was the same huge wolf she had seen on her way to visit Osabide on that strange morning just before her journey began.

Stumbling backward, she turned again to her right, now running away from both Arawn and the wolf.  She skidded to a stop; stumbled and fell down to one knee.  The wolf stood before her; head down and growling ominously.  She gazed into its blue, blue eyes.  It bounded past her to the staircase, and looked from the stairs and back again to Emlyn.

She heard a voice, but she wasn’t sure whether it came from within her mind or from somewhere in the corridor.  “Hurry!  Winter is coming,” the voice insisted.

Emlyn took a shaking breath and got to her feet.  Could the wolf be trying to lead her?  “All right,” she whispered and moved toward the white wolf.

He ran up the stairs and disappeared right through the wall where the stairs abruptly ended.  Emlyn braced herself.  She closed her eyes and ran toward the top of the stairs, following the wolf.

She fell forward.  She was dizzy and unable to open her eyes.  Beneath her face and hands she felt damp grass.  After a moment Emlyn opened her eyes to see dew sparkle on green blades of grass.  Sunlight was warm on her shoulders.  She was back in the Realm of the Living.

***

Winter Is Coming!

The Dead of Winter — Draft Complete!

Winter is coming…. Winter is coming!

Maybe there is something to be said for insomnia.  Before the first 24 hours of spring were complete, so was a draft of “The Dead of Winter.”  Even though there was less than an hour to spare… even though it’s a very rough draft (at least as far as the ending is concerned), I can honestly say “Draft complete!”

There is a huge amount of editing ahead of me, in order to make the ending plausible, and to keep it in line with my concept of that world, the characters, and the spirit of the story.  The work is far from over, but I do have a solid draft.

At the ending, my biggest roadblock was knowing that somehow my young heroine had to face the villain.  However, I had placed two issues in my way:  I wasn’t heavy-handed with the use of magic in this fantasy, and I didn’t want anyone to rescue her at the end.  Help – fine.  All out rescue – no.  That meant I have a little twelve year-old girl, facing a supremely powerful psycho-villain.  Making that plausible, while staying true to my concepts for the story, seemed impossible.

Then yesterday a friend asked how the book was going, and I mentioned those two issues.  She reminded me of the story of David and Goliath.  I realized that she was right – it could be done.  (No, there is no slingshot involved.  Ha-ha.)

I’ll tweak the ending, and go to a couple of places early in the story to make small adjustments that will make everything tidy at the end.  Then come April, I’ll put Winter aside and let it steep for a while before I do a final edit.

While Winter is steeping, or brewing, or what-have-you (if you think it sounds like I’d like another cup of coffee, you’re right), I’ll dive into my big experiment with indie publishing.  The National Novel Writing month book, “Atonement, Tennessee” will be the test subject for that experiment.  Indie publishing is also the reason why I started this blog – just getting my feet wet ahead of time.  Blogging is part of independent publishing.

Happy springtime, everyone.  Here’s to new beginnings.

teagan

Spring is coming!

My heroine in The Dead of Winter hears the eerie warning, “Winter is coming!” Well, the warning I hear is spring is coming!

I’ve thought so many times how badly I’d like to finish at least a draft before winter was over yet again. So a few weeks ago I gave myself the deadline of astronomical spring.

Now the vernal equinox is only a few days away [Wednesday, March 20th]. Also, I have to work. So wish me luck. I need it.

Pitchapalooza! Dead of Winter

While I was practicing my “pitching” I decided to quickly write a “Pitchapalooza!” entry for The Dead of Winter (along with the one I did for Atonement, Tennessee).  The contest begins with a random drawing, but I figured – what the heck.  I wasn’t any good at softball, but I hope I’m better at this kind of pitching.  Here goes…

Pitch:  The Dead of Winter

Emlyn is only twelve, but the fanatic Brethren think she’s a threat; an abomination.  Why?  Emlyn has a talent — she can see ghosts.

The Brethren took over her homeland, took away women’s rights, and forbade most learning.  All beliefs but theirs are heresy.  Emlyn’s family betrays her to the Brethren when she hears the supernatural warning, “Winter is coming!”

 Now Emlyn and her teacher are on the run.  They meet and join with travelers belonging to the Deae Matres – a society of intelligent women who seek out knowledge.

Emlyn visits new lands with customs that amaze her.  But it isn’t fun and games.  She has a dire task.  The entire world is at risk.  The Veil between the worlds of the living and dead has been torn apart by evil nightwalker, Arawn.  He seeks revenge on the Deae Matres for imprisoning him beyond the Veil, in the Realm of the Dead.

As the Veil deteriorates, chaos ensues when the dead cross into the living world.  Emlyn outruns the Brethren, but not Arawn.  She has to confront the nightwalker and restore the Veil.

This richly detailed “high” fantasy will appeal to fans of Ursula Le Guin and Terry Brooks.

How Winter Began

The Dead of Winter:  How Winter Began

When I think of beginning a book, one thing I consider is how many times it has been done.  Notice I said “how many times,” because I came to the conclusion that everything has already been done – and not just once, but many times.  I even made a matrix to figure it all out.

Several times over the years, I”ve thought that rather than writing about wizards, or elves, or dragons, I wanted to write a book about someone who could see and communicate with ghosts.  (Oh yeah, I realize that’s been done too…)  I approached the idea from a variety of angles, but none worked for me.  A few titles went through my mind, but I’m not good with titles.  Not surprisingly none of those helped either.

Along came the winter when the DC area was slammed with one snow storm after another.  Then snow storms became all out blizzards.  I looked out the window at what most saw as a white winter wonderland.  I however, don’t like snow.  While I admired the innate beauty of the scene before my eyes, all I could think was, “God, it’s the dead of winter out there.”

A fraction of a second later, not only did I have the title, but ideas for the story started to stream inside my mind and come together.

(Maybe I wouldn’t still be working on “Winter” if I hadn’t had a blizzard-related accident, which kept me from working on the book for months – just when I’d really begun.  I know that somehow that’s the root of my slow progress with this book.)

“The Dead of Winter” took a much different form than I had expected during all the times I tried to get the story of someone who saw ghosts to come together.  Previously I had imagined an adult heroine, and a real world setting.  I tried different characters in multiple locations, with various types and degrees of magic involved.  All were far away from what flowed in my mind that day.

Instead of an adult in our world, it was a young girl in a fantasy world.  I’ve enjoyed building the numerous characters, countries, and cultures that compose “The Dead of Winter.”  It’s been almost finished for many months now.  Somehow… before winter is over again…