Excerpt from Delphinium (Happy Valentine’s!)

“So what did you do this last year?” she asked as they began to walk around the clearing. They heard water and made towards the stream.

“Surgery work,” he replied. “We had corpses to practice on, to be able to know what went where, and why, and how.”

“How did you receive corpses?”

“Several people and families generously allowed us to use their loved one’s bodies after death.”

“I can not imagine that is popular. Did you share each.. Body?”
Pierre grimaced. He had not wished to inform Lizzy of this specifically. “Truthfully most were criminals whose deaths were not deemed important enough to give full funerals. At least this way they would be… of use.”

She took this in stride, nodding her head slowly though shuddering.

“A grim year, then.”

“Quite. Though it was not all gloom and horror.”

“Do tell?” While they had walked their hands had linked and she leaned against him as they found the river.

“We were students after all. Pranks were pulled, curfew ignored, alcohol drunk in excess. I was among the oldest so I mainly watched over the younger men.”

“And when you were younger?” Lizzy probed, reading into what Pierre had not said. He did not meet her eyes, staring up at the trees quite pointedly.

“Your brother and I had our fun at times.”

She laughed. They had gotten into enough trouble as children to guess the level of possible mischief Pierre and Piers could do when alone and bored.

“Anything illegal?”

I killed a man, he thought immediately. Several in fact, but one stood out to him in that moment. A prisoner taken straight from his hanging to his slab, so the students could see what was as close to a living body as possible. He had been not quite as dead as they had thought. After seeing the blood flowing and hearing the man let out a moan, even opening his eyes, many of the students turned away and one ran to alert a professor. Pierre had made it seem that he checked for a pulse, but he squeezed the very damaged windpipe. By the time someone with more authority was in the room the man was well and truly dead. It was deemed a delayed hanging. Pierre remained to finish the lesson even though he had been offered a pass at seeing a man die right before his eyes.

“No,” he told her.

“A pity. I hear from Piers that the best moments are those that might get you a night in jail for your troubles.”

“Oh, did he? What tales did he tell his dear little sister?”

“I believe there was a time when the boys in your dorm snuck in strong wine, or went out on the town. Perhaps those were actually in chronological order, it would explain much.”

“I never did such things.”

“Of course not. Though I now shall have to find myself another companion,” she said with a smile and glance to him. “I would like a partner with experience in such things so I have some guidance when I deem to try.”

Before he could answer she dashed ahead to where the stream was in view. He gave chase. At the edge of the bank she did not stop, pulling up her skirts and jumping to a rock that jetted out in the middle. She made it, arms waving to keep her balance and getting one shoe wet, but staying on the rock. With a laugh she turned and curtsied to him.

“And you think yourself safe there, Lizzy dear?” he called.

He took even less care of his attire, jumping straight into the water, mud, and stones. She gasped, looking around for another place to go, but the far side of the bank was, as named, too far.
He reached her then, grabbing her and swinging her in his arms as she shrieked.

“Pierre!”

“Hush or I shall drop you!”

“You would not!”

He pretended to, getting another shriek from her that had him laughing as he carried her back to shore.

“No, my dear, I would not,” he agreed, finally, placing her down in the grass. Not after she had been ill. Another day, perhaps.

They were the same height at the moment and he kissed her before getting out himself and looking down at his ruined clothes. His shoes were wet and the feeling was quite uncomfortable out of the water. He knelt down and began to untie the laces.

Lizzy bit her tongue to keep from asking naughtily if he would also take off his trousers, seeing as they were wet up to the knee.

When barefoot Pierre hopped back into the stream with the shoes in his hands.

“What are you doing?”

“Leaving my shoes,” he called over his shoulder, going back to the rock. He made sure they would not fall into the water before again returning. “They are quite nice shoes, but hardly my only pair. I am sure there are fée around, perhaps the gift would be appreciated. We cannot spare much food or drink.”

Her one shoe was hardly as wet as his had been but she sat and began to undo her laces as well. Without a word he bent down to help her.

“I shall buy you an even lovelier pair when we reach Piques,” he promised as he turned back to place her shoes next to his.

“Oh, you do not—”

“I insist.”


Not exactly a Scene as it’s from Delphinium and not a stand-alone, but I thought it fitting for Valentine’s. You’ll recognize Pierre’s thoughts from the Scene ‘Hanging.’

Mailing List Promo!

Early NaNo is going well. I’ve not hit my wordcount exactly every day, but I am consistently working and excited.

With Delphinium now slated to be out soon I wanted to reward you lovely lot.

As you know Larkspur is set as permanently free. This is in the US Amazon, Kobo, and B&N online stores. Amazon in other regions hasn’t price-matched, but it’s at .99 in those places.

Delphinium will be $2.99 at release, maybe upped to $3.99 at a later point. It is going to be 100K+, so *seven* times longer than Larkspur. You will have gotten your money’s worth 🙂

I know I’ve taken ages with it, I know many of you are waiting for it. And so, to those that have joined, or will join, my mailing list before the release will be getting Delphinium for free. After it’s officially out you’ll have to pay. But for the next two months or so (as I finish and then edit it) anyone who joins the list will get a free copy as soon as it is done.

I am not requiring a review to get this copy, though I’d adore if you left your thoughts. This is my gift to you.

Join this list to get a free ARC copy of Delphinium before its release!

Editing and drafts

I’m having a lot of fun with Scrivener and I’m trying to use it to its full potential. I was the ‘write everything in order, no outline’ gal for a long time. That didn’t get a lot of things done at all. Now I have an outline that’s helping a lot, with estimated wordcounts for each point. Which aren’t meant to be chapters, just a general ‘this happens, and then this’ with a brief summary sketching out my ideas. For Delphinium they’re as vague as “Lizzy ill” and “Duc things” to “Piers and Eglė visit.”

I added my own spin to drafts today too. I never got the ‘first draft’ ‘second draft’ thing. I wrote and edited as I went along, so I could rarely show you what version of a story was what. But finding that I could edit the labels in Scrivener got me thinking and I made up my own system.

  1. Get the wordcount: Each of my 15 outlined points has a wordcount estimate of 2500 words. This will leave me with a book of 75,000 words. In a few cases I’ve already gone over the limit, and I’m sure there are points where I won’t be able to get to the 2500 exactly, but I want to give myself a goal. I can edit a little as I go along, so this isn’t a strict first-draft with no edits, but it is the ‘bleed all over the pages’ stage (this is a metaphor despite my subject matter). I’m also not allowed to sit and fret over one paragraph- that’s for later.
  2. Make it pretty: So I’ve hit 2500 and the words mostly make sense. Some of the scenes sort of stop in the middle, and I need to rewrite the opening paragraph, and this is the step where I’m allowed to put everything in its place and well, make it pretty. I should be able to read it from start to finish without wondering WTF.
  3. Make it functional: This is more nitty-gritty. Check the grammar, double-check the spelling, and triple-check I meant that exact word. Then read through the story from start-to-finish and see if it works as a whole. Maybe I need easier transitions or there was a plot point I dropped and need to get back to.
  4. Beta crit: After it’s Functional in my eyes I’m going to pass it over to my beta-readers/editor etc and let them at it (while starting work on the outline for Aconitella). Then I’ll take all of their comments and help and make adjustments as I see fit. I’ve paid an editor previously to help a bit with Larkspur, and I’m going to use 5 close writer-friends for beta readers for Delphinium.

All that’s left then is some formatting and I can publish my sequel.

Right now I’m still mostly in the ‘Get to the Wordcount’ stage, but a few of the points are at “Make it pretty” and the first point can be moved to “make it functional” soon.

Part 1 of Delphinium, Beta Edition

Here’s part 1! Remember, this is a beta/advanced-copy of Delphinium, being serialized on my blog because I’m horrible at getting things done. This way I’m working on it every day, and giving something back. This is *not* the final edition of the book. It’ll still be read through and tweaked, by me and my editor, before a final copy is up for sale. I can assure you the main story won’t change, but there may be scenes added in, or rewritten, and other small changes that make this the ‘beta’ version and not the final. Similarly, if you find any issue or are confused, please comment! Or if you like it, please comment then too.


She had become ill. A cough began the day of their departure and lasted throughout the  journey, bringing with it chills and taking away her appetite. Three days from Piques’s capital they were commanded to stop and rest in town, her suitor refusing to go further until she improved. As his orders were that of duc and doctor none could argue.

He carried her to the most elegant suite at the inn as if he were already her husband, laying her down in bed, but then moving to the hall while a maid helped her undress. When he entered again she was curled up under the covers and shivering. Ignoring the maid he made his way to the lady, kissing her forehead and letting his lips linger to both comfort and assess a fever.

“I am unfamiliar with what ails you, my dear,” he said, stroking back her curls. Her blue eyes were unfocused, and her skin was pale save for blotches on her cheeks. “I will consult with local physicians about this. You will be better soon.” His studies had been in surgery, not illness, but he would take extraordinary measures to make her well.

“Forgive me for being so much trouble—” A kiss silenced her. The thought that he could catch her illness entered his mind for a moment, but the desire to show her no blame won over. And if he did fall ill, felt the symptoms himself, at least he might be able to hold back the spirits that plagued her.

She broke the kiss to cough. Spots of red betrayed how much worse her condition had become.

“Rest for now,” he said softly. He took out a handkerchief and wiped away the blood, then tucked her in. She lay facing away and only mumbled a reply. The duc remained standing by her side, not wanting to leave her, one hand still stroking blonde hair that was damp from fever and sweat.

“There is drink for Lady Elizabeth by the bed, Your Grace,” the maid spoke up, breaking into his thoughts. “And chimes to the servant’s room for when she wakes.”

“Thank you, you may go,” he replied over his shoulder. Pouring his love a glass of diluted wine he paused after setting down the glass- the maid had left and the door was barely ajar. He took off his gloves and, with a pin taken from the folds of his clothing, he pricked a finger. Blood seeped out, becoming dark first with saturation and then in hue. When it dripped down his hand the trail left behind was black.

He let several drops of blood fall into her wine before putting on his gloves again. They were black as well, and by sight one would not see the bloodstains. He would change them when he had a spare moment.

“Sleep well, Lizzy. Do not forget to drink. I will have a light dinner brought to you later.” She did not reply a second time, already asleep or too weak to answer.

He closed the door behind himself softly, uncertain if he wanted to leave without making her at least drink first. But no, she needed to rest, it would do her good before any magic enchanted her. And he needed his own rest before using any cræft.

He went to his rooms, smiling when he walked in to see his cat lying on a pillow. He sat beside her and pulled the black queen onto his lap, not a care for the expensive clothes that would be covered in fur. He held her close as a pet from childhood and not the Familiar she usually was.

“She is very ill,” he told her. “I do not know what to do, Pluta. I don’t know how to feel… A doctor has been sent for, what if they can offer no help either?”

Pluta pressed herself to her master. He did not often worry, but Elizabeth had become close to him again these last few weeks.

“What is the worst that can happen?” the cat said. To most it would sound like purring or mewling, but to him and those that knew necrocræft it would be human tongue.

“She could suffer,” he replied. “And I might not be able to do anything.”

Illness was something one learned to understand and live with in Clandestina. While some of the best healers and doctors of the world resided in this realm, it was by necessity, as the guardians who had once controlled death and illness were all but gone. Some resided in other realms, most had just disappeared, yet the magic of a realm was innate. Other places could continue to thrive without ever knowing about the keres; this land of fée and mortal was in turmoil.

But some did not accept so easily that control was out of their grasp.

“My Lady,” Pierre called out to the silence around him. The bed shifted as another sat behind him, arms wrapping around his waist. Her head rested between his shoulder-blades. She brought a chill with her, as if she had stood out in the snow for far too long and had yet to warm, and the duc shivered in her embrace.

“The illness–”

“The spirits are not mine,” Mora said. “They come from my plane, but only in ancestry.” She was not a goddess. Neither all-knowing nor all-powerful, she was a being that happened to exist in another plane and have more magic than most– A daimon. The last ker. Legend and time, though, had turned her into a being that responded to Death. And sometimes Life.

“Do what you will,” she said before he continued. “Piques is your land, Clandestina your home, and you are my most beloved Suitor. You do not need my permission, Lord of Death.”

“Will you help?” he asked. She had been wary of Elizabeth since the daughter of the comte had returned to Pierre’s life. Had been jealous even that he had chosen to come back to life after committing suicide (the final of Death’s tests) instead of staying with her in the land of the dead.

“I will not hinder.” She placed a kiss of ice to the nape of his neck, and the weight on the bed vanished. The cold remained.

***

He made his way to the dining hall. Most of who had accompanied him were left to have meals while rooms were sorted. From guards to those driving the carriages, miscellaneous staff, and other nobles who had been at the castle for his birthday party just two weeks past. He had become ill that evening, through the use of his cræft, and Elizabeth stayed with him and kept him company until he was well. He had in turn asked her to join him for the spring in Piques.

Raising a finger to hush the man that would announce his presence, Pierre Salvador, duc de Piques, walked through the throng of people until he found his student. A gifted boy in healing and similar skills, Wolfram was sitting among a group of boys that helped with the animals.

“Have you heard of this illness?” the duc asked, interrupting some story about the dogs. The young man nodded, though the others seemed unsure of what to do with the duc before them.

“Yes, Your Grace. But I have only heard of it in passing. I do not know the treatment. I have just heard Lord Ophion mention it.” Before being with the duc he had been a student of the royal physician.

Pierre nodded, the tightening of his grip on his cane the only visible sign of discomfort. “Let us go wait for the healers and see if this has been happening in the area. Come along.” Wolfram was not needed, but he was the closest the duc had to a human friend within this party, aside from Lizzy. Thinking about medicine or cræft at least kept his mind occupied and relevant to trying to help her.

The food was forgotten, Wolfram standing and attending his lord while leaving behind the others. Several more people offered to come, but Pierre ignored them and walked quickly with only his apprentice.

“What else has Ophion said?”

“It presents with a harsh cough that can lead to blood coming up from the lungs and throat. The few cases he has seen…” Hesitation, and Wolfram did not finish what he was going to say.

“Ended in death,” Pierre said, guessing correctly why the boy would feel uncomfortable sharing this news. “At least death I can cure.”

***

“Your Grace,” the doctor greeted when he entered the room. After trying to understand the spirits of the illness and failing, Pierre and Wolfram had retired to wait until the physician came.

The duc stood and crossed the room to shake his hand, a gesture from physician to physician and not lord to citizen.

“My beloved is ill,” he began without further introduction. “A harsh cough that leads to bleeding, though whether from the lungs or throat I am not aware. She runs a fever and is weak and pale. She is asleep, though if you need to examine her she may be woken.”

The doctor nodded. “There is no need, Your Grace. I have seen the illness. It is rarer here than in the south of Piques, but it is slowly spreading north. I know of no name for it, but I can describe what is happening. It is an illness that can lay dormant in a human person for many months, if not years. I speculate there are many infected among us, we are merely not ill.”

“And what causes it to become active?”

“The presence of death,” the doctor replied. Pierre remained composed, but Wolfram coughed to hide his intake of breath. The doctor did not pay him any attention.

“How is this treated?” the duc continued.

“I have medicines to treat the cough, the tearing, to keep down the fever– but these only treat the symptoms and not the illness. The afflicted must be surrounded by life. It is early spring, if she has just become ill then perhaps it will not be for long. By next winter I hope to have a better cure in mind.”

“Thank you.”

They shook hands once more and the doctor left.

***

She awoke to a gentle hand shaking her shoulder.

“Elizabeth,” a woman’s voice said. “I am here with medicine for you, and dinner.”

Lizzy thanked the nurse, sitting and receiving a cup filled with some concontion that smelt of mint. A dinner tray with soup and a roll was beside her bed.

Her fever must still be high for she thought she saw wings on the woman’s back.

“Thank you,” she said.

Mora smiled.

Part .5 of Delphinium, Beta Edition

Once again my over-estimations come back to haunt me. Here’s part of the first ‘chapter’ of Delphinium, about a 4th of it. This is why I gave the vague ‘day or two’ for estimations. Slow and steady did finally win the race though, so I’ll keep writing even if it’s only a little at a time.

She had become ill. A cough began the day of their departure and lasted throughout the  journey, bringing with it chills and taking away her appetite. Three days from Piques’s capital they were commanded to stop and rest in town, her suitor refusing to go further until she improved. As his orders were that of duc and doctor none could argue.

He carried her to the most elegant suite at the inn as if he were already her husband, laying her down in bed, but then moving to the hall while a maid helped her undress. When he entered again she was curled up under the covers and shivering. Ignoring the maid he made his way to the lady, kissing her forehead and letting his lips linger to both comfort and asses a fever.

“I am unfamiliar with what ails you, my dear,” he said, stroking back her curls. Her blue eyes were unfocused, her skin pale save for blotches on her cheeks. “I will consult with local physicians about this. You will be better soon.” His studies had been in surgery, not illness, but he would take extraordinary measures to make her well.

“Forgive me for being so much trouble—” A kiss silenced her. The thought that he could catch her illness entered his mind for a moment, but the desire to show her no blame won over. And if he did fall ill and feel the symptoms himself, at least he might be able to hold back the spirits that plagued her.

She broke the kiss to cough, spots of red betraying how much worse her condition had become.

“Rest for now,” he said softly. He took out a handkerchief and wiped away the blood from her lips, then tucked her in. She lay facing away and only mumbled a reply. The duc remained standing by her side, not wanting to leave her, one hand still stroking blonde hair that was damp from fever and sweat.

“There is drink for Lady Elizabeth by the bed, Your Grace,” the maid spoke up, breaking into his thoughts. “And chimes to the servant’s room for when she wakes.”

“Thank you, you may go,” he replied over his shoulder. Pouring his love a glass of diluted wine he paused after setting down the glass- the maid had left and the door was barely ajar. He took off his gloves and, with a pin taken from the folds of his clothing, he pricked a finger. Blood seeped out, becoming dark first with saturation and then in hue. When it dripped down his hand the trail left behind was black.

He let several drops of blood fall into her wine before putting on his gloves again. They were black as well, and by sight one would not see the bloodstains.

“Sleep well, Lizzy. Do not forget to drink. I will have a light dinner brought to you later.” She did not reply a second time, already asleep or too weak to answer.

He closed the door behind himself softly, uncertain if he wanted to leave without making her at least drink first. But no, she needed to rest, it would do her good before any magic enchanted her. And he needed his own rest before using any cræft.

He went to his own rooms, smiling when he walked in to see his cat lying on a pillow. A pure black queen, she was his constant companion and confidant.  He sat beside her and pulled her into his lap, not a care for the expensive clothes that would be covered in fur. He held her close as a pet from childhood and not the Familiar she usually was.

“She is very ill,” he told her. “I do not know what to do, Pluta. I don’t know how to feel. A doctor has been sent for, what if they can offer no help either?”

Pluta pressed herself to her master. He did not often worry, but Elizabeth had become close to him again these last few weeks, a childhood friendship becoming an adult’s desire for true companionship and love.

“What is the worst that can happen?” the cat said. To most it would sound like purring or mewling, but to him and those that knew necrocræft it would be human tongue.

“She could suffer,” he replied. “And I might not be able to do anything.”

Serializing Delphinium

I’ve been a bad author. It has taken me far far too much time to get Delphinium done, and frankly, I’m still not finished.

I am sorry.

I get ahead of myself and make plans, and then I realize I can’t do what I want to. With a blog and facebook and twitter I’ve found myself also spouting all my plans to people who actually count on me. Then I can’t deliver.

I’m learning, I’m trying to catch up with my mouth and ideas. I’m getting there. To make up for this astoundingly long wait I’ve decided to serialize Delphinium’s first edition on my blog. It’ll have pages up there under “Clandestina > Larkspur Series > Delphinium” and I’ll mention it in posts here. There are 15 parts of ~2000 words each, and most still need polish, so I’m going to release one at a time (in order :P) until the book’s finished. I’ve giving myself a day, maybe two, for each section. That said some sections are almost perfect now, so as soon as they are done they will be put up. I won’t be holding anything back, it’s less ‘a part a day’ and more ‘a part as fast as I can finish it.’

Then I’ll send it over to my editor to catch any last moment issues I may have missed, and release it on Amazon/B&N/Kobo. Sadly at that point the ‘first edition’ will be taken down.

The first part of Delphinium will be up *tonight.* It’s late-ish (East Coast) but I’ll have it up before I crash for the night. I promise.

Book II

I really need to get Delphinium out. Larkspur’s sales have peaked, and even though it’s not even been 3 months yet, I already feel like ‘hey I wrote a book!’ is getting old. I don’t want to spam people, I want people to read my stuff because they like that sort of thing. My Facebook Party has 18 confirmed guests, and my sales are at 132- so it seems people are at least a little interested.

But I won’t be able to keep anyone’s interests with a short novelette and no sequel.

I moved the facebook release date to the 30th, just so it wouldn’t stay on the 20th, but I think I can hit that. The extra week is giving me a lot more breathing room, even accounting for an exam I have to take on the 23rd. I’m essentially home alone for the next two weeks (family in Poland, and while brother is at home, he’s out a lot) and won’t have many distractions aside from keeping the house not-on-fire. Now just not to get sucked into procrastination.

Larkspur will still be free on the 20th and 21st, going on to Nook, Kobo and other platforms the 22nd.