Warning: this is going to be a long post.
I have a zero word count again this week. I’ve been promoting my pen name, but I’ve also been editing my humorous story Rapunzel: Stay-at-Home-Mother, which will be published under my real name! I sent it off to my editor, and it will be coming out in November before Thanksgiving.
Also, I read Peter M. Ball’s novella Exile. Great urban fantasy. The link has a little bit longer review that I posted. The sequel comes out in December. Maybe I can talk him into a guest blog to promote it
Feel free to stop here, click on comments, and post your word count for the week. Otherwise, continue reading at your own risk
But what’s really been on my mind this week is this: Fantasizing on the Famous: Harry Styles of One Direction Stars in Anna Todd’s Novel. Let me sum up for those of you who don’t want to read the article. Young woman writes fan fiction on her mobile phone about a famous real life singer and lands a huge contract with a major publisher.
At first I had the standard feelings of jealousy and frustration. Here was someone yet again breaking the rules of publishing engagement and landing a great salary. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized she did a lot of things right. She read tons of fan fic before she ever started writing her own. She split her day between writing, posting and responding to comments people posted about her story. The next day she wrote according to responses, so the fans had a lot of say in how the story went. I still cringe about the amount of typos I understand were in the story, but as Julie recently said to me, readers are a lot more interested in a good story than good editing.
So good for her. She worked hard, and got a big payoff. But, after my feelings of jealousy subsided, I kept reading about the story, and that shifted my thoughts into a whole new area. Her story is yet another mentally abusive boyfriend romance. Setting aside the fact that the abusive boyfriend is a real life person who should sue, I just don’t get it. I understand the bad boy appeal. Women as a group have this dangerous notion that we can change a man if the love is strong enough. What I don’t get is when the badness is specifically aimed at the woman. Run! Get out!
Boyd Crowder characters I get as far as romance appeal. They are murderous criminals, but when it comes to their women, they are all flowers and hot sex. I mean, the people they kill are terrible human beings so the murdering part isn’t all bad. Right?
But the appeal to mind screwing, stalking, Edward Cullen characters mystifies me. Women should not stay in relationships where they aren’t equals. Unfortunately, the romance genre does a lot to perpetuate this belief that men should not only be the alpha around other men, but that he is always the alpha in a relationship. At Bubonicon, I heard a lot of speculative romance authors railing against this. They’d try to push the envelope in their novels, and the publishers would always tell them to tone the women down.
So it all leaves me in a jam. Self-publishing allows some freedom in experimenting–I see that as a frequent post in people praising self-publishing. On the other hand, the indie publishers who are able to make a living at it by and large follow the norms of their genre.
I loved reading Elswyth Thane, growing up. She wrote family sagas where each story was about a different generation of the same family. I don’t see that done so much anymore. My “Gwen Stories” as Julie calls them even when Gwen isn’t in them, are similar, except the end of the series are the actual Gwen stories that stay with her for three or four books. The ones about Gwen could be categorized as New Adult Fantasy (no not the erotic kind). The first book in the series that happens four hundred years prior could also be a New Adult Fantasy. But the ones in between have much older characters.
And one of them has a bad immortal/good old woman romance. Maybe it would be my gold mine if I changed the woman from 53 to 16. For whatever reason from Buffy to Twilight the inherent pediphilia of an immortal vampire getting it on with a sixteen-year-old never bothers anyone, in fact it’s quite the opposite. But for me, the interesting part is my character is old and can be more of an equal in the relationship. She has the tools after living quite a bit longer than a sixteen-year-old to see the evil for what it is. Her reasons for being attracted to him are much different than a sixteen-year-old would have. But who reads about old women in fantasy? Who reads bad boy romances where the boy treats the girl well even before his other sins are resolved?
So what the hell. Since I have no idea if I’m ever going to try to publish this book or just stick to the actual Gwen stories in the series, I’ll post the first chapter and a half here. Is there a market for old women in fantasy stories? Do you know of any out there? Oh, and Krulk is not a vampire, just immortal.
Chapter 1: Days of Peace
Forms slipped out of the cave and shifted into shadows in the light. They slid as long as trees across the rocks and dirt. Krulk tried to cling to the nothingness after the feeding—the tranquility of life without rage—but roars from the nearby waterfalls pounded him into sentience and churned the curse within. As the bodies moved out, the cave cooled; soon, it would close off. He turned to see the figures casting the shadows and walking away from where he still lay—perfect bodies and blighted souls.
The roschen left for their hovels, straggling across the rocky mountains of Groduhn. They’d finished feeding the dragon Droth with their toil and anguish, and now would remain at peace while the curse welled inside of them until it drove them to attack the blessed humans.
But Krulk’s peace had already slipped away.
Alertness grew in his mind and fury raced through his veins, carrying with it a feeling he didn’t understand: a feeling he hated. He remembered too much from before the betrayal. Most other roschen didn’t even remember being cast into Groduhn and stricken down by the god Nogal, but Krulk remembered the day before the curse, and it burned inside him as immortal as he was.
He breathed in air, lacing his lungs with anger and saw a memory from after the curse, a memory that gave him inexplicable pain: he saw himself stabbing a sword through the skull of that human woman, that Holden matriarch. Silver magic crackled inside him as it had that day when the silver spread out from the woman and killed the rest of her army, her family.
The emotion he hated twisted in him.
Far into the bowels of the cave, he heard a contented snore from Droth. It rumbled the ground and shook the sides where Krulk remained. Perhaps if he stayed, he could satisfy Droth’s physical hunger later. No. He flipped from his back to his stomach. He had to return. The yearning for an unknown solution to a gnawing problem swept through him, and he leaped up, unable to resist. The feeding—the ritual that should be mutual satiation—always dragged up the memories of the Holdens when it was over: his own personal curse.
He ran, silver magic blurring into the daylight. Unable to see, he had no warning before a hand smacked him down to the ground, and his skull cracked against a boulder.
“Don’t go this time,” said the only other roschen who remembered times before the curse.
He closed his eyes and allowed the pain to throb throughout his head. Silver crackled in his skull—nothing he controlled, just something innate like breathing. The ground rumbled beneath him, and he knew the cave was closing up next to him. The pain grew to a climax and then ebbed until he could open his eyes and see clearly.
Vivian stood above him with blonde hair hanging limp and dirty to her shoulders. The filth of the cave was the top layer of her skin. “We’ll stay with each other again instead of torturing ourselves.”
He sat up and rubbed the back of his skull. Everything had healed correctly with no new lumps. He considered her with narrow eyes. They understood each other, but could never satisfy each other completely. “Not this time. I have to return.”
He stood up, and she grabbed his arms, her nails digging into his skin. She said, “I don’t want to go back, and when we’re not together, I always do. We can distract each other. It works—for a time at least.”
Their bodies together were better than when he raped human women, but he didn’t want her. He wanted that gnawing feeling gone. There was a time far back in his past when he’d known peace and hadn’t been the monster he was now. There was only one place to capture even a moment of what he once had been. “Go to your cave,” he said. “Remember the way He loved you until there’s nothing to do but kill His people in punishment. I’ll see you here when the cycle ends again. Maybe next time we can distract each other.”
He shoved her arms away—skin tearing as the nails tried to cling. His eyes had adjusted to the light, and he jumped onto a boulder. He glimpsed the circle of waterfalls both ravaging the cliffs and catching the sun in splendid rainbows. He dove.
Water hit his skin, making his muscles tighten against the cold. The cave had been warm and the day hinted at summer. He had no idea how long the feeding had lasted or even the season it had been when he’d arrived. The water parted before him until he sunk to near the bottom of the lake. He swam back to the surface and allowed the falling water to batter away the grime and filth. He’d wash properly once he reached his cave. He always had to return home clean, but not for Her. She was long gone. He returned for the land, his land, the land he’d made at Her request and She’d given to the dragon shit Holdens.
Chapter 2: Out to Pasture
Jeanette Holden charged the nourishing silver magic into her land even as she pulled out the weed by its roots. Dirt lined her knuckles and made her wrinkles more noticeable than when her hands were clean—something that happened only for meals or when her oldest daughter insisted Jeanette needed to be present for a business caller. The intruder removed, she turned back to the tomato plant burgeoning with leaves and fruit. She twisted a plump tomato and enjoyed the easy release as if the plant gave it to her as a gift. Magic tingled throughout her body. She touched the tip of her finger to a stem and watched the plant soak up the silver like a drop of water. She was truly blessed.
“Merra!” called her oldest daughter Arianna from the back porch.
Jeanette rolled her eyes and then chided herself for the childish action. She stood up and yelled, “Out here.” Looking out into the vast acres of the Holden land, she saw scythes glinting in the sunlight as her sons and daughter swung them through the fields of wheat. A few hired hands and the grandchildren who were old enough gathered the wheat several paces behind them. Todd lifted his voice in song and the others followed to keep the swipe of the scythes steady. She should be leading the song, but Arianna, wanted to go over numbers.
Taking the basket of tomatoes in one hand and brushing off her other hand on her pants, she took a step onto the flagstone path that led to the porch steps. A flare of magic from far behind her warmed her back like she stood next to a fireplace. Silver magic shot through the cracks between the flagstones, crackled through the mortar of the manor and dissipated as if it’d never been there.
Jeanette whipped around and stared beyond the fields where her children harvested, beyond the mundane apple orchard behind them and out to the enchanted apple orchard on the northern border of their land. Silver strands that usually slid slowly around the leaves jumped between trees, creating sparks. She heard tinkling like glass breaking, and she knew the sound was the silver. Her heart beat as if it tried to keep time with the silver sparks.
Arianna called out again, “Merra, I thought we were going over the books this morning.”
Jeanette held her hand to her heart. In all of her life, she’d never seen the silver magic on the land agitated. Her children continued their work in the fields—not one of them had been born with the ability to feel, see or use the magic. Arianna was sure to be mad at her, but she had to get to the orchard to see what was wrong.
“Merra, are you having a heart attack? Merra!” Arianna ran up behind her and wrapped her arms around her shoulders.
“It’s the magic,” said Jeanette.
Arianna dropped her arms. “Is that all.”
Anger burned through Jeanette as the tinkling sound of the silver clattered through her ears, and then it stilled. The land was calm once again.
Krulk stood on a rock jutting out from the Fortress Mountains—the mountains that linked all four countries of the world together. They rose up behind him and disappeared into the clouds that forever hid the peaks from view. Below him rushed a river: the first deterrent for any human in Applin attempting to scale the Fortress Mountains. But it was no obstacle for a roschen trying to get into Applin—the orchard with silver magic sliding in endless patterns around the leaves and apples was.
The first burst of impatience to return to Applin had drowned under the waterfalls, and Krulk had taken his time traveling to his cave in the mountains above the border of Applin and Shandrill. But as he scrubbed the grime off and changed into less threadbare and ragged clothes, the curse worked its poison through his veins. Anger sent him leaping over boulders and sliding down rivulets until he reached his current perch. He sent his gaze beyond the treetops and beheld the land he’d created. He stopped breathing.
Golden wheat waved in the breeze and corn stalks stood tall with a green an emerald would envy. Cherry trees had already been picked over—he imagined the ruby fruit bursting with a tangy juice in his mouth. Horses and sheep grazed on the grass of the hills and wildflowers seemed to wave at him in welcome.
Krulk’s heart hardened. He thought the land had been intended for the roschen. His eyes narrowed as he watched the humans scythe through the wheat like maggots feasting. Who was in power now? The last time he’d been here, it’d been Brock Holden, but he had to be dead by now. There’d been a grandaughter at the time who’d had purple eyes—the land always passed to them. His thoughts ran through the murk of his mind trying to recall her name: Jenny or Jeanette.
He clenched his fists at his side. He hated that he kept up with the Holdens like it mattered to him who begot who and who was in power. He should go down and slay them all now—he should’ve slain Bradford when he’d had the chance. A convulsion of anger mixed with the feeling he didn’t understand ran through his back as he saw himself laying Bradford’s sword across his body. He could’ve kept it and killed hundreds of more humans with it.
The emotions wracked him and pushed his feet off the ground into a run down the mountain. He’d end them now. Every last Holden would bleed into the land again and he’d claim it as his own. And then he’d have peace.
Closing his eyes against the silver of the orchard, he jumped across the river and landed on his knees below a giant apple tree. The silver sang in high pitched tones that swirled up and down. The ground below him warmed. A branch swung down in front of his face with a red apple promising sanctuary. But he would never again take a promise offered by Brenna, or even a servant of Brenna. He punched the apple away and ran towards the farm land.
More branches swung down and caught him up until he couldn’t even flail helplessly. Another red apple swung down and hit him on the nose. His breathing sounded like an enraged dragon. The silver from the orchard mixed in with his own and whispered: peace, peace.
His muscles relaxed against his will, and his anger ebbed. “I’m not eating the apple.”
The silver kept whispering: peace, peace.
“I just want to walk on my land again.”
The apple still dangled.
The silver magic carried out the last of his anger, leaving him calm like after the feeding. But even then the words came out terse. “I swear I won’t kill the Holdens today.”
The branches released him, and he dropped with a thud to the ground.