Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Website is launched

Hey there. Can you believe I actually got something done early? And a week early no less?

Well I did. Please restrain your sounds of disbelief.

I heard that!

Moving on... my new website is up at You should stop by. In fact, if you want to keep reading Servant of the King, you will need to go there. I've got articles there, my lovely current novel, and my blog as well.

Um, why are you still here?

No, seriously. I'm not posting here anymore.

Okay, right, sure. Fine, I'm still writing and you're still reading, but let's stop now.

On three.




What the? Why are-- oh.

Yes, we go on three. Not 1, 2, 3, and go. ON three.




Friday, September 3, 2010

It's official.

Hello my fine friends. Thanks for being so supportive for such a long time as I have toiled to move my writing career forward.

I have an announcement.

I won't be posting any more chapters of Servant of the King to this blog.

Cue the tears, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Do  you think you could at least clench your jaw for a moment, pretty please?

In any case, that doesn't mean you won't be able to read this book online. I've decided that my writing career has progressed far enough that I really need to launch my own website. I am currently exploring options for my website and plan to have it launched in the middle of September.

I already own the domain and I even have a rough site put together. I need to sit down with my brother-in-law, who helped me get the initial thing going, and figure out how to do the thing and get it to where I need it.

The new website should have several bells and whistles, which I am very excited about! You will be able to see active links to my best articles. You will also be able to peruse a creative writing section where you can read some of the other projects I've been fiddling with. There will also, of course, be a section where you can read Servant of the King. 

But now I need your input. I have been considering making the Servant of the King section available to members only, in order to protect my book a little better. I've also considered keeping the first 25 chapters or so available to the public, but allowing only members to read beyond that. What do you think? Should Servant of the King be available in its entirety to the public? Should only the first half be available to the general public?

Or should I put it all in a members-only place?

If you have thoughts, you can respond to the poll on the right of this blog or you can add your comment to this post. I would love your input.

For now, in about two weeks we should be up and running at, so join me there soon!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Servant of the King Chapter 27

Chapter 27
            Simra broke the kiss, pulling back with a deep breath. Her eyes lingered on his for a moment, then dropped. "That… I don't know…"
            Thoughts roiled in Lakhoni's head. Her name kept flashing through his mind, as if it were an anchor his brain was trying to grasp hold of. I can't leave her. But he had to get to Alronna. She had to still be alive. Even as he wanted to kiss Simra again, he knew he had to fight the urge. He was going to have to leave her—he didn't want to make it harder.
            "I know you have to go," Simra said, her face in shadow.
            "I…" Lakhoni didn't think he had the courage to say the words himself. How could he do this to her? Suddenly ashamed of himself, he looked to the ground. The sounds of activity outside returned as he searched for what to say. "I'm sorry." He knew it wasn't enough.
            "No," Simra said. "I'm sorry. I should not have..."
            Silence fell again. Lakhoni's thoughts raced. He couldn't lose focus; he had to get out of the village before Mibli did something serious. The longer he stayed, the harder it would be to go. But now there was Simra.
            He shifted backward, his eyes flicking all over the hut, nervous about looking at Simra's face. Now there was Simra. His family and village murdered. Alronna taken. Months with the Separated. The terrible winter. And because of it all, there was Simra. Why?
            Why would the Great Spirit set him on a path of justice and grief only to have that path end with… this? With Simra. But it can't be over. I have to find Alronna. And I have to get them… show them that they can't get away with murder.
            He had to leave her.
            Lakhoni leaned forward, tight energy building in his chest. He took Simra's hand.
            But he would come back. He would survive and return to her.
            "Simra," he said, his voice soft.
            The shadows in the hut had grown quickly as night fell. As he waited for her to look up at him, he noticed gold and orange flickering on the walls of the hut. The cook fire had been built up; its light was squeezing through the cracks around the door.
            The door. The guard.
            "You've been in here a while," Lakhoni said.
            She nodded. She raised her right hand, the one he wasn't gripping, to her face and scrubbed.
            He hadn't seen the tears falling. A tight ache squeezed his throat, anguish filling his soul. What had he done? Impulsively, he rocked forward and knelt next to her, wrapping his arms around her. "I don't know what to say… or feel. I…" he searched for the words. "I know…" he cleared his throat, trying to push the tightness away. "I have to go, and I know I…"
            He pulled her close; she seemed to resist for a moment, but gave in and leaned on his chest.
            He could say no more.
            "It's my fault too." Her voice was muffled, but he understood her words.
            "I don't want to hurt you," he said.
            She shook her head against him. "It doesn't matter. You have to go tonight."
            Surprised, he dropped his arms and moved to a crouch. "Why?"
            "Because you can't stay. Mibli wants his control and after their fight and what he said, my father can't oppose him. You challenge Mibli's control because you're still here—and my father has kept you here." Simra looked up now, eyes and face dry.
            "I was going to leave tonight anyway," Lakhoni said, reaching under his blanket and pulling out his bag.
            "Good. I don't know what Mibli would do to you, but he might just bind you and send you to the brick fields to rid himself of you."
            "Brick fields?"
            She shook her head and stood. "It doesn’t matter. We've been alone in here long enough to raise all kinds of suspicion. I'm surprised nobody has come to question you more."
            "What are the brick fields?" He saw an image of wide swaths of pasture that were filled with oven-baked clay tiles instead of green grass.
            "Slave labor, basically," Simra said. "I have to go. Finish your dinner."
            He stood quickly and grabbed her wrist, a sudden need that he couldn't deny overtaking him. He pulled her close and kissed her again. This is wrong. But it felt right.
            She pushed away after a moment. "There's no time. Finish getting ready. Listen for the cry of a nightwing in a few hours."
            Confused, he asked, "What are you going to do?"
            "I'll get the guard away from the door. When you hear the nightwing, go out and turn right and go behind the hut. Find two trees that are twisted into one about a hundred paces north of the village. I will meet you there." She turned, and with the soft whisper of her dress against the stones of the doorway, she was gone.
            Lakhoni stood still for a moment, a thick, confused fear beginning to well up in him. "What's a nightwing?" he asked in a quiet voice. He turned to his bag and hefted it, then opened it to see how much space he had left. He considered rolling the blanket up tightly and stuffing it in the bag too.
            No, he wouldn't steal from the village.
            She will meet me there? Why would Simra meet him at the trees? Was she gathering supplies for his journey? Or was she planning to go with him?
            The fear he had felt earlier grew suddenly into a cloying, stifling sensation. She couldn’t come. He couldn't take her to Lemalihah, where he planned to kill the king. She would be killed or worse. He would not put her in danger. She had to stay behind.
            But maybe she would just have supplies for him.
            His center completely destroyed by the events of his evening, he turned back to his now-cold dinner and sat, trying to control the worry that roiled in him.
            A nightwing. He had to listen for one. But what was it? He thought about the birds he had been familiar with. There were the colorful ones that sometimes sounded like a bunch of old women chattering. He mentally listed the birds he knew by name.
            It must be a bird of the evening or night. Maybe it had dark feathers.
            An image of a sleek, strong bird with a wingspan as wide as he was tall came to him. Maybe she meant the whisperbird. It only came out at night and it could carry off a month-old puppy if it was hungry enough. Its wings were usually dark.
            That had to be it.
            He stood again, moving to the door and peering through the gap between the door and the wall. The noises he had been hearing for some time now were matched by the activity around the fire. Some hunters must have returned at some point, because Lakhoni saw a haunch of what must have been a wild boar roasting over the fire.
            The smell came to him, but he was too worried to be hungry.
            He paced in the hut for a few minutes. When would she signal? It would have to be when people were sleeping.
            Sleep. He should try to get some sleep before leaving; he would have to travel all night in order to get far enough away from the village.
            He lay down and tried to fight worry and fear away. Had he been too long in his journey? Would he be too late for Alronna? What if Simra wanted to go with him? How could he say no? Did he even want to say no?
            He had just begun to win his wrestle and fade into a light doze when the sharp snap of the door being slammed open roused him. He sat up fast, grateful he had remembered to hide his bag again.
            Mibli stood in the doorway, his entire front half shrouded in darkness while firelight glimmered on his shoulders. "It's time to have some answers, boy."
            Lakhoni said nothing.
            Mibli advanced a few paces and stopped. He glanced over his shoulder and signaled. Another man entered the hut. It suddenly felt very crowded and Lakhoni felt very small as the two men towered over him. "Light the fire," Mibli said to the other man, "while I have a conversation with this boy."
            Lakhoni stood, sick of having to crane his neck to keep his eyes on Mibli's face.
            Mibli moved quickly across the hut and pushed him back down, the strength in the small man's arms surprising. "Sit."
            Lakhoni had no choice but to obey. He thought furiously, trying to remember the story with the threads of truth and lie that he had told.
            The fire came to life behind Mibli. "If you don't answer my questions, and answer the truth, you'll regret it." The man squeezed his hands into fists, his knuckles popping. "I can make you hurt without killing you easily." He produced a stone dagger from a soft sheath at his waist. "I'll know if you're lying. So you better tell the truth and maybe this won't get too bad for you."
            Lakhoni felt as if the words were too forced, as if Mibli must have been practicing them for a while. "I already told you the truth," Lakhoni said.
            "We'll see," Mibli said, settling down to a low crouch. He flipped the dagger a few times. His gaze wandering lazily over the hut walls and the hides, shelves and hooks that lined the walls, Mibli asked, "Why did you come to our village?"
            "I told you," Lakhoni said. "I didn't 'come' to your village. I was trying to go to Lemalihah, but the winter caught me. I found your village. It saved my life."
            "And where did you come from?"
            "My village is far to the west, but everybody was killed. I have some family in Lemalihah."
            "I know why you pretended to not be able to talk. You are a terrible liar." Mibli caught the eye of the other man, who somehow stood next to Lakhoni now, and nodded slightly.
            Alarm filled Lakhoni, but before he could dodge, the other man was bearing him down to the bed, trapping his arms.
            "But you're going to tell the truth. There's no way a boy your age could just 'find' our village in a snowstorm after coming as far as you say you came." Mibli moved closer. "I think you're from the Living Dead. I think you're here to spy on us and see where our weaknesses are."
            "No!" Lakhoni said, wriggling wildly to get free of the man atop him. His hands were trapped under him and no matter how much he bucked with his legs and torso, the large man wouldn't budge. "I was just lucky! It's the truth!"
            "I doubt it." Mibli moved fast, the point of the stone dagger jabbing into Lakhoni's nearest shoulder.
            Lakhoni gasped in pain, gritting his teeth to keep from crying out. Mibli dug the point of the dagger deeper into his shoulder, as if Mibli were trying to reach bone. Each twist of the weapon sent blinding agony through Lakhoni. Then suddenly the excruciating pain was halved.
            Lakhoni tried to find Mibli, unable to move his head. The stone dagger, now dripping with blood, hung right before his eyes. He tried to slow his breathing, his heartbeat and find a place to put the pain. He couldn't; fear at what Mibli might be capable of made it impossible for Lakhoni to concentrate.
            "I'll do that for every lie." Mibli smiled the smile of a man who knew he had total control of a situation and enjoyed it. "Understand?"
            Lakhoni grunted, "Yes." He had to get out of this fast. He had to get away without allowing Mibli to do too much damage.
            "Let's start again. Are you one of the Living Dead?"

I would truly love to hear your thoughts on this book so far. Will you share your impressions and expertise by commenting on this post? 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Servant of the King Chapter 26

Chapter 26
            "We still don't know who this boy is!" Mibli's somewhat high-pitched voice carried throughout the village, seeming to bounce off of huts and back at Lakhoni. The small, powerful man seemed to jitter with frustrated energy.
Lakhoni stood with his back to the fire, facing the group of people and animals that had gathered. The scene felt familiar, although it took him a minute to place it. That first night. A hot back and cold front.
But much had changed. His energy had returned. After his first day in the sun, with Simra stopping by regularly to offer him water and food, his recovery had accelerated. His strength had returned enough for him to help carry wood for the fire and help with other work around the village.
He felt strong enough to run, to hunt. Which had precipitated Mibli's outburst.
"We still cannot trust this boy! He acts like his voice is gone, but maybe that's all it is! An act so he won't be caught in lies!"
Lakhoni mulled that point. It certainly helped that he hadn't had to answer questions. His conversations with Simra were much improved now that he had a method of communication, but he could tell she wanted to ask more about his past. He wanted to keep her friendship, keep her near him talking, so he worried that his not sharing more might push her away. There had even been moments where he wondered why he didn’t just tell everything.
Because they won't let me go if they think I want to kill the king. And if they know I was one of the Separated, they'll probably automatically kill me.
"But what reason do we have to distrust him?" Neas emerged from the crowd, Simra right behind him. "He has told Simra his story. He arrived here near death. Why would he lie?"
Lakhoni noticed that the rest of the villagers seemed content to let Mibli and Neas have it out. He wondered if this was a normal occurrence. And would they support whichever of the two won the argument?
Mibli stepped closer to Neas, anger visible in each quivering muscle. "You seem happy to allow a boy we don't know to just walk in here and live off of our hard work without question. You would let him hunt with us and join our village, our life, without knowing who he is?"
"I know who he is," Neas said. "He is Lakhoni. He is an orphan. And why shouldn't we let him join our lives. We have space, don't we?"
            Lakhoni glanced away from the argument, catching Simra as she looked over at him. She offered him a small smile. He knew it was in support of him. He began to wonder if he should have been more open with her so he could deserve her kindness more. A faint feeling of shame washed through him.
            He wished he hadn't chosen to work on his bow that morning. Simra had found a new deer gut string for him and he had decided to work outside near the central fire. Mibli had noticed what he was doing and had confronted him. When Mibli demanded to know if Lakhoni meant to hunt and Lakhoni had nodded, Mibli exploded, prompting the current argument. Lakhoni was glad Neas had come to his defense, but he wondered if he should have…
            It was too late now.
            "You trust too blindly," Mibli said.
            "You fear too blindly," Neas countered.
            "I fear for the safety of our village! That is my duty."
            "And it is my duty to look to the health of our people here. We would be sick indeed if we allowed a dying boy to rot in front of our fire. And we are sick if we don't offer him our hospitality," Neas said.
            "That's all fine, but that doesn't mean I should let him carry weapons and sneak around behind me and my hunters as we search for food."
            "You make a good point, but what could he say that he has not already written that would convince you that he doesn't lie? That he really is an orphan who needs a new home?"
            Neas' words pierced Lakhoni. He knew that at nearly sixteen years old, he was almost old enough to start his own family. He figured that his age had to be fairly clear to the villagers. The idea that Neas meant to provide him a new home had never occurred to him.
            "So you want to adopt him?"
            "Maybe the village should adopt him," Neas said, his voice quiet. The way the words were said seemed to give them more impact.
            "Maybe you just don't think any of the young men of the village are good enough for your precious daughter," Mibli said, "and you want to groom this one to be her husband. First Fathers know you've had her spending a lot of time with him."
            Silence followed Mibli's insinuation. Lakhoni saw many of the villagers nodding in agreement. There had to be a history here, something he hadn't detected before.
            Mibli took advantage of the moment. "But with all that time closed up in the hut, how do you know he hasn't already tarnished your precious jewel?"
            A current of shock at the accusation shot through the crowd. Lakhoni actually saw the red boil up into Neas' face. He glanced quickly, uncomfortably, at Simra. Her eyes glinted dangerously and she looked like she was about to attack Mibli.
            "You can't say that about me!" Simra's voice rang out.
            "Stay out of this. You have no place here," Mibli spat.
"You," Neas sputtered, "you… go too far!"
            "You go too far welcoming what might be a wolf into our village!"
            Neas stepped closer to Mibli, who took a small step backward. Simra looked like she wanted to explode.              
            This was getting bad. Whatever had happened before, it seemed like he was causing it to get worse. He had to stop it. It would probably mean he would be thrown out, and would surely mean… It didn't matter.
            "Please," Lakhoni said. "I don't want to cause trouble."
            His voice, rough and raw, seemed to cut through the tension between Neas and Mibli.
            "He talks!" Mibli crowed, spinning to glare at Lakhoni. "You see! He was lying all along."
            "No!" Lakhoni said. "Just for the last week." He stared at the frozen ground, not wanting to see Simra's face. He knew she would be hurt at his deception. He just hadn't wanted to answer all of the questions he knew would be asked. Writing his words seemed to slow things down. It was easier to keep things at arm's length that way.
            "Why should we believe that? No, this boy needs to be confined until we can make sure we know exactly who he is and why he is here," Mibli said.
            That sounded reasonable to Lakhoni. In truth, he agreed much more with Mibli than with Neas. He was happy Neas had won the initial argument, but if it were up to Lakhoni, he wasn't sure if he would have been so compassionate.
            When there was no response from Neas, Lakhoni looked up. Simra and her father stood in close conversation, their words too muffled for him to hear. Neas had bent forward so his shaggy head was closer to Simra's. She shook her head firmly several times as they spoke.
            "So since nobody seems to object, boy, confined you will be," Mibli said.
            Lakhoni met Mibli's angry stare. "My name is Lakhoni."
            "You're right," Neas said. He stood with his arm on his daughter's shoulders. "Now that Lakhoni can talk, we need to make sure he means us no harm. He can be kept in the sick hut for now, with a guard on the door."
            "He should be bound," Mibli said.
            "There are no weapons in there," Neas said. "Your warriors can surely stop a young, ill, unarmed boy, can't they?"
            Mibli glared. "Fine." He gestured to a nearby man. "Take him."
            As Lakhoni was led through the crowd, he heard Neas' voice behind him. "Mibli, you will withdraw the accusation you made against my daughter."
            "Why should I?"
            "Because you know it isn't true. I won't let it stand."
            Lakhoni didn't hear Mibli's response, if there was any. He glanced over his shoulder, wanting to see what might happen. Simra's deep brown eyes, in the sun they were the color of red river clay, met his gaze. As he looked quickly away, he was sure he had seen pain in those eyes. He wanted to go back and try to explain. He wanted to help her understand that he didn't want to hurt her, that he wanted to protect her. He knew that if anyone knew the fullness of his intentions in Lemalihah, they would never let him go. And if they somehow did let him go and anyone near the king found out about any help he had received, Simra's village would be in danger.
            But there wasn't time. He would be confined while a decision was made. No, they're going to question me. Lakhoni couldn't let that happen. He had to get away.
            The man leading him grabbed Lakhoni's bow, wrenching it from his hand. He then pushed Lakhoni, hard, through the doorway and shut the door behind him. Lakhoni spun to the side and listened, watching for shadows and movement through the cracks between door and wall. He knew locking the door was not an option. The man shuffled to the right of the door. Lakhoni sensed him lean against the outer wall of the building.
            He would wait. The man's attention would lag. Maybe he could wait until darkness was falling. Lakhoni turned to face the hut, searching the shadows. He would need food. A weapon would be helpful. First though, he would need a bag.
            And he would need to listen for movement outside so that anyone coming in would not see him making preparations to leave.
            Pleased that his body no longer protested much whenever he moved, Lakhoni searched the hut. It wasn't long before he found a pile of familiar items on a small wood table. Everything he had brought to the hut, minus his bow. His bag, a pair of breeches, his chewed cloak. Even the dagger he had carried from the cavern of the Separated. Neas had obviously forgotten about leaving Lakhoni's things in the hut.
            Maybe he hadn't forgotten. Lakhoni wondered for a moment if Neas had deliberately made it seem like he would be helpless. Does he want me to escape? Does he think it will go badly for me if I stay? He held the bag open and shoved the dagger and breeches in. It didn't matter; he would leave if he had to. He scoured the hut for food, finding a small cache of dried, smoked deer meat in a heavy clay box that sat under a wood shelf containing bandaging supplies. He grabbed some of the bandages too; it never hurt to be prepared.
            He would need more food. If he could get his bow back, he would be able to hunt, especially since winter seemed to be coming to a close. He sat on his bed, waiting for dark to fall and adding up the days. He had left the Separated in the dead of winter and had traveled for nearly two weeks. He had been in Simra's village for another three, or was it four?, weeks.
            Spring had to be close.
            It should be safe for him to travel, even if he left tonight.
            He would wait until after someone brought him dinner. He hoped it would be Simra, but stopped himself. It would be easier if it weren't Simra. She would be hurt. She would ask questions.
            He didn't want to see the pain in her eyes again.
            As he sat waiting for nightfall and the moment for his escape, he practiced the breathing and centering techniques Gimno had taught him. He eased his weight backward slightly, straightening and firming his spine and crossing his legs in front of him. He rested his wrists atop his knees, breathing slowly through his slightly open mouth.
            Finding a dark whorl on the pale wood door, Lakhoni focused on it, willing himself to breathe regularly and smoothly. He considered lighting a fire to ward off the chill of the waning day, but dismissed the idea. Better if the light source was outside if anyone came in—they would make an easier target and their eyes would take a moment to adjust. That moment could be the only chance he had.
            He shook the thoughts away. Breathe. Focus.
            It took him longer than he expected to find his center. Images of Simra's face, reminders of the shame he felt at hiding that he could speak, Neas' anger—they all crowded into his mind. Simra's kindness, and that of her father, reminded him so much of his first impressions of Gimno's wife, Vena. It reminded him of home, too.
He reflected on the possibility that he might actually stay in the village. Maybe Mibli would come around. Maybe he could have a new home. He could leave his journey behind. What were the chances of his finding Alronna, much less rescuing her, anyway?
He forced the thoughts away. It didn't matter. His course was set.
Breathe. Focus. What seemed like hours passed as he struggled against the turmoil in his mind. As he finally pushed all thought away, the whorl on the door seemed to become at once less defined but larger. He closed his eyes, opening all of his other senses to the world around him. Center. Breathe. Gimno had taught him that in this state, he could extend his awareness somewhat, almost see what was happening in the world around him, despite his eyes being closed.
Smell came first. Someone was cooking deer and maybe some other animal over the fire outside. Flatbread too. Then hearing and more. Children played with dogs nearby. Somebody walked close enough to the hut he sat in that he felt the tremor of the earth under their feet.
Now Lakhoni, still in his deepened state of consciousness, willed his muscles to relax, but remain ready to move at a moment's notice. He felt fully connected with the earth beneath him, as if he could almost feel its pulse.
Somebody was walking toward the door of the hut. Lakhoni quickly stuffed his bag of things under his blanket, sliding backward and to the side so that his back leaned on the stone wall. He glanced down, assuring himself that the bag was well hidden.
            Voices came through the door, then the door opened outward. Simra stepped through the darkening shadows of the day, golden flame reflecting on her skin that was the color of fired clay. She held a plate of food in one hand, the other propping the door open. She stood that way for a long moment, her face seeming almost flat—as if she was forcing all expression away.
            Lakhoni forced the guilt away, even as his heart leapt at the sight of her.
            "They said I could bring you some food." Simra crossed the hut in a few strides. She lowered the plate to Lakhoni.
            He took it with a flat smile.
            She turned back toward the door.
            "Simra," he said without meaning to.
            She stopped, but didn't turn back.
            "I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
            A few seconds passed. She took another step, then stopped. "Typical."
            He could see the disappointment in the set of her shoulders. "What?"
            "It's typical, that's all." Now she turned so he could see her face. "The first words you say to me are an apology. Because you lied. It shouldn't be a surprise."
            He heard the anger in her voice, but there was more than that in her face. Pain in her eyes and mouth.
            "Simra, I-…" he had no idea what to say. The weight of the plate in his hands seemed to match the heaviness in his chest. "I don't…I didn't want to hurt you."
            "Nobody ever does." Moisture glinted at the edges of her eyes, but she appeared to will it away. "You're no different."
            Something in the way she said that pierced him. He suddenly wanted to be different, although he didn't understand what she meant.
            "Will you at least tell me why you hid that you got your voice back?"
            Lakhoni's throat felt tight. He wanted to make he feel better, wanted to figure out what to say or do that would work. But he had no idea what that might be. Finally, he met her gaze and nodded. "It's because I was worried I would have to talk more about what happened to my family. And why I'm here."
            Simra tilted her head to the side for a moment, her eyes searching his face. "Good start," she said. She waited.
            It took him a moment, but he understood. "And… I just don't want to put anybody in danger. What happened to my family and village… it could happen here too."
            "Is that really why?"
            He considered for a moment. "Mostly."
            Her eyes widened in surprise. He was sure she was going to spin around and leave, furious with the way he kept things to himself.
            Instead she lowered herself to her knees. "Another good answer. Can you tell me the rest?"
            He stared at her for a long moment, trying to figure her out. I guess honesty. Honesty even if I don’t tell her everything. And I tell her when I'm not telling her everything.
            "Eat before it gets cold," Simra said.
            He glanced down and automatically took a bite of the chunk of meat skewered on a two-pronged, smooth utensil. Chewing quickly, he spoke between breaths. "There is more, but I don't feel right talking about it. I think… I think it might put you and your village in danger."
            "And you didn't tell me you could talk because…"
            Hadn't he already explained this part? "Because talking is faster than writing. When I write, I can control our conversations better."
            "Fathers curse you," she swore. She looked down at her hands, which were folded in her lap. "When you get honest, you really do it right."
            He decided that was a good thing. He leaned forward, scooting out from the wall a little. "And, the truth is also that… I still don't like to remember what happened."
            Her head bobbed as she considered his words. She glanced over her shoulder at the door, then leaned forward on her hands and moved closer, dropping her volume. "But maybe I can help you with whatever you're trying to do. Find your sister, I mean." Their eyes locked. Moments passed, measured in heartbeats. "I'd like to help."
            He could see that she meant it. He wanted to trust her. He took a moment to watch the door, then moved closer to her, not wanting anybody outside to hear. "I don't think that would be a good idea. I think the people who… who took her were Lemal's warriors. I think she's in Lemalihah."
            "King Lemal?" Simra sat taller, tension in her body. "You think your sister is a captive of the king?" At least she'd had the presence of mind to whisper, although it had been a harsh whisper.
            "I think so."
            "I told you. Somebody I talked to said they saw the raiders."
            "Who did you talk to?"
            Lakhoni stopped to think. "Someone in another village."
            Simra's mouth went tight.
            "Okay, look. Somebody I can't really talk about, but I know he was right." Lakhoni grabbed another bite of food. He still meant to get away this night; he would need plenty of food in him.
            "And you think you can rescue her from the king's castle compound?" Simra asked.
            "I don't know. But she's my sister."
            The simple statement seemed to put an end to Simra's questions. The tension slid out of her body. As she moved from her kneeling position to sit on the ground, Lakhoni realized that in their desire to keep their conversation quiet, they had moved quite close to each other. Suddenly he felt awkward.
            He jabbed at the next piece of meat to hide the sudden feeling.
            "It's already dead," Simra said.
            "Are you sure?" he said, "I thought it moved."
            The air between them grew thicker after she spoke. He wanted to look up from his plate, knew it would be strange if just kept staring at his food. It felt like he was pushing through mud, but he raised his head and found her eyes.
            "Lakhoni," she said. "I'm sorry about your family. I wish I could help you find your sister."
            "Alronna," he said. He couldn't tear his eyes from hers. His heart thundered in his chest. He had to push it away. He couldn't let Simra, or how he felt, slow him down. He had to move.
            "Her name is Alronna."
            He tried to find his center, control his breathing, but he was talking before he could stop himself. "Simra, I… you… I mean, you're the most…"
            "Please don't say it," Simra said.
            "Don't say what?"
            "Just… boys tell me I'm the most beautiful girl they've ever seen. But all they want is a woman. To keep the hut, to scrape their hides. To…" she looked down.
            In that moment, Lakhoni understood her self-doubt and her directness. He finally saw why she seemed uncomfortable so often and the conflict he had seen in her made sense. He shook his head. No, she couldn't be allowed to think that he… no. He was different. He set his plate aside. It took all of his courage and him holding his breath, but he reached out with his right hand and took her left hand. "I was going to say that you're the most unusual, giving person I've ever known." He didn't know where the words came from, but they felt perfect.
            In a heartbeat, her reddish-brown eyes filled his vision.
            "You are beautiful, but not just on the outside." He swallowed and sucked in a breath, holding it. "You could never just be someone's woman. You would be a companion. A help-meet."
            Simra blinked. She squeezed his hand and stared hard at him. The moment lengthened. "Lakhoni," she said. "You…" Suddenly she broke into a wide smile. It set his heart to renewed thundering. "You have a way with words."
            He could think of nothing to say. If she hadn't been squeezing his hand so hard, he would have been trembling with the emotion that her smile and touch awoke in him. I love you, he thought, knowing he couldn't speak the words. Knowing he shouldn't be holding both of her hands now. He knew, as her eyes grew bigger and a force both outside and inside of him pushed him closer to her, that he had to get away from her village. Rescue his sister. He had to get away from her.
            His heart seemed to stop as her eyes filled his vision completely.
            The world dissolved. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Maybe Mondays...

Welcome to this post! In it you will find all sorts of fascinating tidbits, because I want to fascinate and delight you, my beloved reader.

You might have been expecting a new chapter of Servant of the King, and your expectation is well-founded. It is indeed on Mondays that a new chapter is posted. In fact, a new chapter is also posted on Thursdays. Thus, you can expect a new chapter posted later tonight.

So to what, you are probably asking, do you owe this bonus post?

To the desire to discuss writing in my life right now. If you are a writer, like me, who desires to be a successful and publishing author, your experience might be very similar to mine. So let's commiserate, shall we?

I'd like to pose some questions and have you answer them in the comments of this post. For my part, I'll answer them here in this post.

Q1. Why do I desire to be a writer, work as a writer, or in other words, be a teller of stories? Not lies, because they contain truth; but stories.

A1. That's a freaking good question. There is no doubt that if I didn't have this burning desire in me, I would be a far more settled fellow.

In any case, I think my love of stories began with The Poky Little Puppy. I remember that was the book I loved best when I was six. I don't remember anyone ever reading it to me; but I read it plenty. I also read The Little Engine that Could. Even at that young age, I had an inkling of the solid quality of the first book and the inherent problem with the second. To this day, The Little Engine that Could bugs me and The Poky Little Puppy makes me grin.

Did I digress? Yes, I think so.

I love stories. Fantasy series like The Forgotten Realms, particularly R.A. Salvatore's and Ed Greenwood's work, really got me excited. I loved what I read of Dragonlance. There was also Walter Farley's The Black Stallion. I loved that book and devoured every book in the series. They changed my life in that I learned to love horses and I actually, I kid you not, learned to ride horses by reading them. The first time I got on a horse it felt like home.

I get a little emotional when I see how much my oldest boy loves that book. I see him identifying with Alec and... man... the power of story!

Stories have moved me for as long as I can remember. I love the worlds, the people, the magic, the action, the love stories, the fantastic elements. I think there was a stretch of nearly ten years in which I didn't read these books; those were my dark ages.

So I love these stories to the point that I decided I wanted to tell them. I wanted to move people. I still do. I want to transport people into the life and world of characters and take them along on an exciting, breathless, emotional ride. I want to shock, hurt and change my readers. I love it.

Q2. Is there a spot of vanity in my motivation to be a successful writer?

A2. Why yes, funny you should ask. I have seen the vanity in myself and recognize the motivation it gives me. I want attention, I want validation, I even want some near-worship.

But when I feel like the goal of success and validation is driving my writing, I have seen that my writing becomes a chore, not a joy. So I push back when it comes a'calling and I immerse myself in story again.

I won't deny I like to get a compliment now and again. One of my fondest dreams is to meet someone like Bob Salvatore or Stephen King and hear them tell me I'm a good writer. Actually, Dave Farland said that once, so that was mighty cool.

Q3. What about writing means the most to you?
A3. There are those moments when I've pushed through malaise, laziness, doubt and distraction and have gotten into the story. Those moments when I feel like I've been in my characters' heads and hearts and have told a story that means something because it speaks of and to the soul.

Recently though, I've had a new experience that has meant even more to me as a writer, particularly regarding my journey into the craft. As I work on Servant of the King, I have found myself hitting some points that I was not expecting. I have found the character and the world he inhabits simply lead him into these moments that are beyond what I had planned. So when I've hit some of these moments where I really don't know what happens next, I take a few minutes to write about the characters involved. I write about their motivations, their goals, their individual world, and their relationships. As I do that, man, it's exhilarating! What happens next become clear because it is simply what that person would do in that situation.

And as I follow these threads, things grow more complicated and the world becomes richer and the people become more real.

So these moments where I feel like I'm really delving into the craft-- they're tops right now. They're intrinsic validation.

Have you had any of these moments where you've felt yourself learning and mastering the craft?

Q4. Is writing a solitary activity?
A4. Yes. And no.
I do my best work when I am writing in a quiet place, with my headphones playing scene-appropriate music and also keeping any ambient noise away. I must be alone and completely undistracted when I want to really get work done.

Also, writing is solitary in that the people around me, and maybe other writers too, don't truly understand what it means to try to craft an excellent story-- especially a long one. It takes lots of time and work and is completely absorbing. It's mentally and emotionally taxing. I sometimes want to share the emotions I go through when I write, and I do that, but it's clear that those I talk to don't get it really.

But writing is also not solitary at all. I mean, I'm writing for an audience after all. And I am surrounded by people who love and support me. (And it's bloody about time I recognized that.) They want the best for me and many of them are actually reading my stuff!!! I apologize for the overuse of exclamation points.

Please forgive.

And there is no doubt that a good writing group that is regularly attended is beyond value.

Q5. What about your faith? Does it play a part in your work?
A5. Very much, especially today. For a lot of years, I tried to segment my life. I kept things in their world and didn't let things spill over. For example, I want to be successful as a writer-- meaning I want to be publishing regularly and have people love my work, because I will be writing good stuff. But I never allowed my Father in Heaven into that dream.

I've changed that tune significantly. When I sit down to write, I actually watch the video I have embedded on the right of this blog first. Every time. Then I say a prayer. Every time.

My writing has been much improved of late. I know it's because I am praying over my flocks and fields and that I have recognized that my dream is good-- and my writing is a good work. God wants me to be happy. This is one of the major sources of happiness for me.

As a final note, my life is not on hold until I start reaching goals of success as a writer. Not even close. I have a phenomenal family (Oh don't practice your alliteration on me...) and a good job. I love life. I love most every moment of life. I and my family are blessed. Writing is a part of life and I expect it to become a larger part of our life as I keep moving toward goals.

And that's it for now. What about your thoughts, feelings and experience regarding these questions? I find that I stay firm in my goals and progress as I see better that I am not alone. Care to share?