A High Point In My Writing Career

The time I’ve spent in developing my writing career has been amazing. Just waking up every day and reminding myself, “Hey, I’m a writer,” is pretty awesome all by itself. But there have been a few standout moments, events that may seem small to others, yet have instilled in me a confidence and a sense of validation that have enabled me to move forward. With my writing career still in its baby stages, I can count these events on one hand. For example:  Winning my first contest on Writing.com and getting a short story published with Dreamspinner Press. Strangely enough, these events always seem to pop up when I need them most, even if I didn’t realize I needed them until after they occurred.

I had one such experience the other night, by far one of the best experiences I’ve had so far as a writer. I’d begun flagging again, losing my grip on Sovereign of Shadow. While at a family gathering, I pulled up my new logo to show it off (I love my kitty!). My sister-in-law poked around a little on my site, looking for a sample of my writing. She found an excerpt, and I’ve never been so amazed at someone’s reaction to my stories. She asked me all sorts of questions about what was happening, and she was genuinely worried for Kieran. She went on to show the rest of my family. They all enjoyed it, but my sister-in-law’s reaction in particular meant the world. It was priceless to me. Even if I only affect a handful of people the way I affected her, I will be happy.

As a writer, all I’ve ever wanted was to entertain people with stories. These stories and characters mean so much to me that I want them to matter to others as well. To see someone so entertained… that’s the dream, isn’t it?

And I know this probably seems such a small thing – a family member enjoying a story I wrote. But for me, the fact that I opened up my story to others that way is huge. During my childhood, I had my privacy intruded upon in such a profound way that even still, to this day, I have issues with sharing my written word. I’ve even stopped keeping a journal for fear that someone will see it. It affected me deeply, and unfortunately it has carried over into adulthood, and into my writing.

That’s why this experience meant so much to me. Because in that moment I let go. I shared my story – my passion and soul – with other people. And there is no longer any doubt in my mind that writing stories for others to enjoy is what I am meant to do.

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Sunday Sample – Sovereign of Shadow, Chapter 1

Working on my baby right now, Sovereign of Shadow. This is the second half of chapter 1. This one’s a little rough around the edges and still needs some polishing. If you haven’t read the first half yet, you can find it here:

Sovereign of Shadow – Chapter 1, Part 1

Enjoy!

*****

Galan’s outta prison…. 

Kieran tried to swallow the lump in his throat.

Just then, a loud crash shook the entire house. Shouts and rattling echoed from the ground floor, and he heard the telltale clank of armor against stone barreling up the stairs.

Shit. Kieran stashed the skull away and whirled to escape through the window. He tossed back the curtains, only momentarily surprised to find it already unlocked.

Galan had set him up. He’s probly waitin’ fer me outside, ready ta put a bolt in my heart.

Still, Kieran would rather take his chances at outrunning the man he’d put behind bars than tangle with the law.

He pushed open the glass panes and rolled over the windowsill onto the balcony just as a group of shouting guards streamed into the room, exclaiming over the woman’s body. A female voice barked orders, but Kieran didn’t stick around to hear them.

Using the wrought iron bars surrounding the narrow balcony, he sprang up to catch hold of the ledge above him. Below, a man poked his head out of the window. A gauntleted hand shot up and wrapped around Kieran’s ankle, leaving his legs dangling in the air. He aimed a kick at the man’s wrist. The guard growled, but didn’t let up. Kieran’s arms trembled as he fought to maintain his grip on the iron bars.

Kieran’s strength flagged. His arms weakened. His hands lost their hold for a moment and he slipped downward, barely able to regain his grip.

In a last effort, he hooked an elbow around the bars and let go with one hand. He reached into a pocket on his tunic and pulled out a tiny glass sphere, flicking his wrist to send it smashing into the floor below the window. The liquid within the sphere reacted to the air, and a billowing cloud of thick mist engulfed the guard.

The guard’s grip faltered and he looked down in alarm. A heartbeat later, his head sagged and he folded over the windowsill, arms dangling free.

Not wasting any time, Kieran heaved himself up and over the third floor balcony and scrambled for the roof.

As he pulled himself the rest of the way up, a sharp sting hit him in the upper arm. Intense pain flared through his shoulder.

Kieran grunted, but held onto his focus. He sprinted along the rooftops, glad for the decorative bridge-like arches that connected the buildings. For a short time, he could hear guards running along the street below, shouting at him to stop. It didn’t take long to outrun them, though; they had the twists and turns of the streets to contend with.

He glanced down at his burning arm to see the end of a crossbow bolt jutting out. He left it there, not wanting to leave a trail of blood leading straight to him. He hoped the bolt belonged to a guard. If it was one of Galan’s shots, the poison would kill him in moments.

By the time he worked his way through the Outer Circle and into The Dregs, fatigue shook his legs and his arms hung limp with weakness. Briefly, he considered hiding out overnight until he was sure no one was following him; he certainly didn’t want to lead anyone back to his hideout. And it seemed Galan had been watching him.

Ultimately, he decided it would be best to risk heading straight home. The wound in his arm needed his attention sooner rather than later to avoid permanent damage.

The stench in the back streets of The Dregs of Midcity assailed his nostrils and he gagged, fighting down the rising nausea. That could have been as much from the pain as the odor, though. Every movement, every twitch in his arm sent searing agony through his shoulder. He gritted his teeth and jumped from the last rooftop on the street to the stone wall surrounding the city. His awkward hop nearly sent him over the far edge.

Eyes wide, he righted himself and took a few deep breaths until he felt steady. He lowered himself down and hung off the wall with his good arm, letting go to drop down the rest of the way. His exhausted legs couldn’t hold up his weight and his knees gave out. He rested in the cool cushion of grass, trying to breathe through the pain, trying to calm his racing heart.

Galan’s outta prison. The thought ran through his mind a hundred times. He pulled the little skull out of his pocket, staring at it as if it were Galan himself.

How? He was supposed ta be in there fer the rest of his life.

Kieran balled up his fist and pounded the ground. A barrage of memories raged through his mind, memories of working for Galan as a child. The pain, the humiliation, the terror. Galan had freely exploited that fear in Kieran and other abandoned children, using them to do his dirty work.

He musta been watchin’ me. Fer how long? Long enough to plan a set-up. Did he know where Kieran was hiding out?

Though, if Galan really wanted me ta get caught, I wouldna gotten away. He’s got other plans fer me.

Kieran gritted his teeth, heaving himself back up to standing. Keeping as much to the shadows of trees as he could, he made his way to the abandoned watchtower just east of Midcity near the river. The sight of the crumbling structure filled him with some relief. He didn’t know what had originally destroyed it, or why no one had bothered to repair it, but as long as it remained forgotten he didn’t care. The ruined tower had become his home.

Kieran ducked into a narrow hole between two fallen stones – a makeshift door, as the real entrance had collapsed upon itself. Cutting away his shirt, Kieran gripped the end of the crossbow bolt. He filled his lungs with air and pulled, snarling as he eased it out of his arm. When it came free, fresh blood trickled out of the hole. He inspected the tip, noting the lack of barbs. The fact that he was still alive told him it was a guard who had shot him. Either that, or Galan was toying with him.

He flung the bolt away, sending it careening off the far wall with a twang. He poured an entire flask of water into the wound, then wrapped a strip of his shirt around it as a bandage.

Gotta see Lilyana tomorrow. The alchemist would have something for his wound.

Kieran longed to jump in the nearby river to wash off the sweat and blood, but exhaustion tugged at his mind. He leaned his head back against the wall and shut his eyes.

Galan would pay. He’d pay for destroying Kieran’s innocence as a boy, and he’d pay for trying to frame him for murder.

Galan’s reign was over.

Mobile Writing

I’m frustrated. I do not regret quitting my job, not for one second. But I did expect that not working a set schedule would cause the progress of my novel to skyrocket. This has not been the case, much to my annoyance. If anything, my progress has slowed down. Though I do have to shift some of the blame to the holidays and my son having a two-week winter break, I can’t really use that excuse to justify my lack of achievement.

It’s like the pressure of only having an hour or two at a time to write instilled in me a sense of urgency. Without that pressure, I’ve become lazy and less motivated.

I’d heard of some people using their tablets or smart phones to write, but I could never understand how they did it. I hate poking and pecking my way letter by letter when I text or email. I wondered how anything ever got done for them.

So, desperate for a way to somehow fit writing back into my days while taking care of a four-month-old and trying to keep up with the house work and my freelancing, I did a little searching for some writing apps. I tried a couple that were really more trouble than it was worth. But even with the better ones I had to type the letters using the tiny little keyboard.

Then, I discovered something awesome. I have an Android phone, and I noticed a little button way down in the corner that brought up a menu for keyboard options. There’s this mode called Swype that lets me slide my finger around to connect the letters to form words. Sounds funny, but it totally opened up a new world for me. I can get words out fast on my phone now. Not nearly as fast as typing on my laptop, but there’s this sort of fun factor to writing a novel on a smart phone. I can now work on a scene periodically throughout the day, even when feeding my little one or making dinner. It’s pretty awesome. In fact, I actually wrote this entire blog post on my phone. This is the first time I’ve done that.

Since I’ve gotten the app and switched the keyboard on my phone, I’ve written a couple thousand words on two different stories. And that’s not counting what I did on my laptop.

Give it a try. :)

And have a Happy New Year!!

Getting Used to the Writing Life

It’s been a month now since I quit my job. At first it was weird. I just kind of floated around, enjoying the lack of a schedule I had to adhere to and spending the morning napping with my baby after my son went off to school. I’ve had some time to adjust and attempt to work out a routine that gives me plenty of time to write, and a little bit of extra time in the evenings to do some freelance work to help pay the bills. I’ve had to enforce the “writing is my job” rule, reminding both myself and my husband that I need to take it seriously and treat it like work, regardless of whether or not I’m being paid for it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that writing at home is hard, especially before I implemented a schedule for it. I’m often distracted, and almost every time I plan to sit down and write I end up laying down for a “short nap” instead, only to wake up three hours later feeling like a failure. I tried writing in the evenings, but I prefer to do my freelance transcription work during that time, as I tend to be more productive. Plus, I don’t want my novel to be interrupted by a baby waking during the night to be fed. So I’ve decided on mornings for writing. This past week I’ve started going to the library a couple days a week somewhere around 9 to 10 a.m., staying until it’s time to pick my son up from school at 2:30. His school is right down the street from the library, so it gives me that extra push to stay until then. On the days I write at home – which, when it comes down to it, is a lot more comfortable for a lazy house cat like me who wears pajamas until 3 p.m. – I have to find a way to zone out and pull myself away from my Real Life surroundings. Sometimes I sit out on the porch, but I’m not much of an outdoors person, so I do prefer to sit at the dining room table. Plus, I love easy kitchen access. I’ve had a lot of success with music and a pair of headphones. The Epic Soundtracks channel on Pandora has lent a hand in quite a few epic scenes.

Writing for several hours at a time is difficult, too. I’d gotten used to having little-to-no spare time and getting short spurts of writing in here and there, chunks of no more than 1 to 2 hours. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to write full time before now. Although I’m thrilled to have this time, it’s certainly going to take another adjustment on my part to train my mind to focus for the entire time. I have “Oooh, shiny!” tendencies, and if my little baby bear starts making adorable noises in the next room, forget about it. I’m there.

But that’s the beauty of writing full time, isn’t it? I’m here in my home, with my kids and husband, in charge of my own schedule and productivity. Although quitting my job was scary, it feels empowering to finally take control of my life.

Though I have to admit I’m worried. (Am I ever not worried?) Having self-imposed publishing deadlines is brand new to me. I’ve dealt with submission deadlines for anthologies and contests, but publishing? I think the thought is still incredibly daunting for me. I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that I have set an actual deadline to publish my novel in January. Meaning, if I can get my ass moving and finish it, the book will be out there. My story will be available, and people will read it. People that aren’t my husband or my sister. Exciting and terrifying at the same time, and I can’t wait to experience it.

I do expect that I’ll have to push the deadline back. Trying to get enough sleep, planning my son’s birthday party, and preparing financially and emotionally for the upcoming holidays have caused a concerning spike in my anxiety. I’m tearing through my Disaronno here, trying to get a handle on things. Not to mention, I’ve had some issues with the book cover, the details of which I’ll divulge in another post. But I’m not stating this officially yet. I’m still giving myself a chance to finish it on time. Not giving up on that yet!

This is still only the very beginning of my journey, but at least now I’ve stepped foot on the right path.

 

~Beka

Excerpt, Sovereign of Shadow

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Here’s an excerpt of my fantasy novel, “Sovereign of Shadow,” chapter 1. Just a bit of a teaser. I’m so excited about this book. Comments welcome. Enjoy! =)

**********

Darkness. Silence. The wealthy Inner Circle of Midcity slept. Only guards roamed the paved streets at this hour.

Or rather, guards and a lone thief weaving his way through the paths of their endless patrol.

Kieran Lazaran padded down a narrow alley. His soft boots made no sound as he crept through the shadows. He stopped at the opening into the street, poking a single eye around the corner, just enough to spot his target: An extravagant house of white stone that stood proudly at the far edge of the Inner Circle. Listening for approaching guards, he climbed up the side of the building using the windowsills and drainpipes. He followed along the connected rooftops of shops, inns, and homes until he got to the end of the street.

He looked across at the house, a full story higher than his perch on a baker’s shop. No light shone through any of the windows, and the lack of a carriage out front confirmed that the husband wasn’t home; he was rarely home, for that matter. Kieran had been watching the house and the couple that lived within for several weeks now.

In the Inner Circle of Midcity, the closer one got to Town Hall in the center, the more guards patrolled the streets. Here, two pairs of armored men crossed paths. Several more dotted the streets at stationary posts, one of which leaned heavily on the ornate fence just outside the white stone house. The sentry opened his mouth and yawned into the back of his gauntlet.

Gettin’ tired, are we? Kieran smirked, his mask pulling tight around his face. He’d timed his outing well. This group of guards were all nearing the end of their watch.

When the patrol passed again, Kieran swung his legs over the alley and dropped down silently onto an awning. From there, it was an easy jump to the ground. He rolled to absorb the impact and pressed his back against the far wall.

Their alleys are cleaner than the streets in The Dregs. He shook his head, eyeing the pristine cobblestone, particularly noting the lack of garbage, sleeping forms, and things that scurried. Using the back street, Kieran moved out of the guard’s range of view and darted across, coming around to the back of the white house.

Now, the hard part. Kieran used the wrought iron fence to vault up to the balcony on the second floor. He peered into the window through a crack in the curtains, but the darkness made it near impossible to see inside. Pressing his ear to the door, he detected only silence.

He reached down and eased a thin, hard case out of a pocket on his thigh. Examining the lock on the door, he opened the case and chose several different lockpicks, sticking the ends of them between his lips as he tried them one by one. Finally, he felt the proper resistance and pulled, a faint clunk pricking his eardrums. He returned the case back into its pocket.

Hoping the doorknob of a rich couple’s home would be well oiled, he gripped it and opened the door. A floral aroma wafted out onto the balcony, fresh and pleasant. In one smooth motion he slid inside and shut the door behind him, immediately crouching as low as he could while he gave his eyes time to adjust to the darkened interior.

Blinking, he looked around. He appeared to be in an empty bedroom, likely used only for guests. A vase of fresh flowers on a table near the balcony door explained the scent.

Kieran crept around a bed large enough to fit three people, his knife rasping softly as he drew it from its sheath. He wanted to be ready; a wealthy family like this was bound to have some sort of security in place.

Just hope it’s not a dog. Hate dogs. He pressed his lips together, remembering the lumbering mastiff from his last jaunt to the Inner Circle. Though he’d been watching this house for days now and hadn’t once heard a bark, so he was counting on a more human type of security. That, he could handle.

Poking his head out into the hallway revealed a polished wooden banister carved to resemble a twisting vine. No one stirred below on the ground floor. His eyes darted around, making a quick note of all possible escape routes.

He sent mental thanks to those who constructed the house for the stone stairways; wood had a tendency to creak at the worst possible moment. He ascended to the third floor and passed two more empty bedrooms until he reached one that looked lived-in at the end of the hallway. The door stood wide open, the massive canopy bed untouched.

The silence had become oppressive. Where was the wife? Had she gone with her husband this time? She never had before. They weren’t a particularly close couple, judging from his observation of various young men coming and going while the husband was away.

And surely a house like this would have a guard. A servant, at least. Or better locks.

A tingle ran up his spine, stirring the hair on the back of his neck. Something wasn’t right. He drew his other knife and slipped into the room.

Where before he had surveyed lavish jewelry in decorative boxes and stands lining the tables and armoire, now the surfaces were bare. He’d specifically chosen this house because the wife insisted on wearing a small fortune in jewelry every time she went outside. She might as well paint a bullseye on her back.

I know this is the right house. Been studyin’ it for weeks. There’s that ridiculous hat she always wears.

Kieran squinted at a dark stain the size of a dinner plate on the rug in front of the armoire. He knelt to inspect it.

He shot to his feet. Blood. And more of it dripped through the crack at the bottom of the armoire door.

His ears pounded and dizziness prickled across his scalp. He slowly turned the tiny knob of the wardrobe and pulled. Something thumped against the door, pushing it wide open. Out tumbled a once-handsome older woman, her naked skin slashed and bruised. Some of the cuts still oozed blood.

Kieran drew in a sharp breath and touched the back of his gloved hand to his mouth. He bent over to prop himself up on his knees. The woman’s lifeless eyes stared at him, accusing him. Her face seemed a frozen mask of terror. He searched the room thoroughly for anyone hiding out, but nothing else seemed out of place. The room was empty.

He swallowed and bent to give the woman’s wounds a closer look. They were placed at high bleeding points – her wrists, neck, and thighs. With that many cuts, and some of them deep, she probably bled out quickly. But the bruises suggested more of a struggle. On examining an ugly, purplish splotch encircling her wrist, he caught sight of something nestled in her curled fingers.

Trying to ignore the blood, he pinched the whitish object from her palm. His heart dropped to his knees, head reeling as he recognized it. A tiny carved skull with a wicked grin, no bigger than his thumbnail. It was something he’d seen before more times than he would have liked. Something he’d hoped to never see again.

Galan’s outta prison….