Doctor Who

Nooooo…. but…but!?!

Man, Nym’s not happy 😦

Sarah Monette – The Mirador

Within the walled city of Mélusine, destabilized by unsolved murders and the lack of a legitimate royal heir, stands the fortress known as the Mirador, from which wizards strive to consolidate and increase their power. Felix Harrowgate, the Mirador’s most powerful wizard, and his half-brother, former assassin Mildmay the Fox, find themselves mired in new intrigues when Mildmay’s lover, the renowned actress Mehitabel Parr, becomes an unwilling spy for the rival wizards of the Bastion. Felix is further distracted by endless bickering with his partner, Gideon Thraxios, and trying to understand the implications of the backwards sky in the magical dreamworld of the Khloïdanikos. Mehitabel fears the destruction of her theatrical company, and the lowborn Mildmay struggles against the prejudice of wizards and lords.

This one was interesting. If you’ve kept an eye on my blog lately you might have read me raving about the awesomeness of Mélusine and The Virtu. Honestly, I’m really happy to have discovered another author of awesomeness on a whim (and after very helpful recommendations on westeros.org 😉 )

The Mirador is a little different there. First off, the pacing of the book is generally slower than its two predecessors, but actually that’s not too bad. Again, we have more internal and inter-personal conflicts than the more traditional ‘overall’ conflict (war, ursurper kings, take your pick). Before you ask, yes there overall conflicts like this in all three books, but they just don’t take up that much room as they usually would in a more conventional fantasy setting. What I like most about Monette’s work is her characters and their complex personalities.

One thing that I’m having mixed feelings about is the fact that Monette introduces Mehitabel as yet another first-person-POV besides Felix and Mildmay. Even though she is an interesting and intriguing character, I couldn’t help but notice how much Monette cuts back on Felix’ PoV. Sure, she doesn’t fail to convey his story through Mildmay and Mehitabel, still I’d have wanted more of the Felix sections.

In the end, the main plot revolves around the two brothers and the end of the book itself was pretty awesome and gives a great opening for book four, Corambis which is due to come out on April 7th, 2009 and already I can’t wait for that particular story to be continued 😀

Villain Gallery

Someone’s been creative this weekend and got her “Villain Gallery” finished. I painted Dahlia Laras, Dawnelle Nymeron and Sirius Nymeron. In one of my more fickle moments

I decided to change Dawnelle’s hair color from dark brown to black (never could decide that during writing anyway and black is a much better contrast to the white hair that usually runs in her family ;))

Anyway, I was pondering putting some of my character art into the sidebar of the blog, but for now I just created a new page with all the paintings and sketches here.

Right now I’m really looking forward to moving in August, because guess what will decorate our living room then? 😀

My mother in law asked me yesterday if I wanted to participate in a painting contest and maybe sell one or the other of my character art. Honestly? No. I love painting my characters as a hobby on the side and I really enjoy visualizing them that way (it helps tons with writing them 😉 ) but I’m neither a good painter nor a serious artist. It’sa nice, relaxing hobby though and I’m already planning another bigger painting featuring Ares and Damian in some way. Will see where this one goes 😀

Anyway, here comes the Gallery of Villains:

Arturiel Valyr

Sirius “The Eye” Nymeron

Dawnelle Nymeron

Dahlia Laras

Critique is what you make of it.


The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction.  By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.
~Mark Twain

I think it took me at least four edits to get anywhere close to where I want to be with my first chapter. Something that definitely helped me to get there has been critique. The good, the bad and the ugly (though the latter -fortunately- never happened.)

I have to admit, I suck at taking negative feedback. I totally take it with Isaac Asimov here saying that on getting negative feedback, writers either weep copiously and openly or they weep copiously and secretly. I guess I do both, depending on the situation. However, I also learned to deal with it. It hasn’t been that long since I received my first critique on the prologue and first chapter of my initial Nano-draft and man…well, let’s just say I didn’t take it really well. It took me a while to get over it, having lots of those “I should shred my writing for the sheer good of humankind” moments, but then again I got my shit together and just sat down and went through what people had told me.

Sure, critiques can be pretty ambiguous sometimes. You may have three people telling you your introduction is too long, while just as many tell you it’s too short and the rest says it’s just fine. Most of the time your critters are agreeing on certain points though and when they keep criticizing the same thing over and over again, well then you know you have a problem there.

For me it was long sentences. A villain that was nothing but an utter douchebag (it makes me cringe just thinking about it). A confusing story line that gets the reader lost between present and flashbacks. Missused words and did I mention the ultimate run-on sentence batman? Seriously, the list could go on and on and honestly a lot of that have been things I’ve noticed myself. Some things were more apparent than others, but in the end even I can see sense when it smacks me in the face and so I took a few months off writing to figure out what was wrong with what I had written so far and what I need to do to change that.

I guess anyone who’s been working on a writing project for a couple of years like I did with Light agrees with me that two years can be a long time. In this time, I’ve read something between 80 and 100 books, I’ve immigrated into the USA, I’ve attended university, I’ve started to work full time. English has become my primary language. But most of all I’ve learned. I’ve learned a lot, but that’s just how life goes. You make different experiences that change you and as far as I can see it definitely changes your writing with it.

For myself, I’d say I’ve become a much more critical person and I’ve learned to deal with critique in a productive way (and I’ve awesome critters of awesome 😀 ) Even though I’m still not 100% happy with some parts of my writing, I keep working on improving that and have definitely become much more appreciative of feedback all around.

Thanks a lot to everyone who was and is still willing to help me out there. You’re awesome 😀

P.S. Anyone interested in reading the revised chapters. They are password-protected on my blog (yay for internet-backup). If you want to read them, just drop me a line at stephanie.floch[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll get you the password 8)

One – revised

One

Damian

Prince Raeyn was dead.

At least that’s what they said, no matter where you went. Orion had been the first who’d told me and that alone was reason enough not to believe it. Wouldn’t be the first time that he’d made a mess by passing on wrong tips. It wouldn’t really have mattered all that much if Orpheus hadn’t gone fucking ballistic about it.

So there we were, all but kicked out into the street, because the boss wanted information. Not that it was very hard to get what we wanted. There wasn’t a better way to go hunting for information than the Marché Noir.

The streets were buzzing with talk and I’d doubt the Watch would be able to shut them up, even if they tried. Ain’t happening every day that one of them royals died. What made it even better was that the Eye himself had done it.

Not a clue where that one came from, but it didn’t matter. True or false, it was the number one topic and if talk could have lit lanterns, the entire core of Helos would’ve been bright as day. Since it didn’t, the usual would have to do and that made it harder and harder not to run into people as you pushed your way through the masses. If business had been picking pockets tonight, we’d be rich. It wasn’t, but that still didn’t mean I was very good at resisting temptation. A bit honest thieving here and there couldn’t hurt none. Wasn’t as if anyone was watching anyway.

The Marché Noir was safe. As long as the bribes kept coming, the Watch would keep their noses out of the market. No need to say that most of what you could get at the Marché was drugs and anything else that the Watch didn’t want honest folk to get their hands on.

Tonight all that didn’t matter and there could’ve been a fucking raid and nobody would have cared. Raeyn was dead and everyone and their dog had something to say about it.

“I don’t believe it,” Ares said next to me. “Not before I’ve seen the body.”

“Now ain’t we morbid, huh?” The comment was out faster than I could think. One look at his face was enough to know that it had hit straight home. Something was nagging at him and I’d bet it had nothing to do with whether or not Raeyn was dead or not.

He hadn’t slept again. I’d have sent him back to the Shadow, but I knew he wouldn’t listen. With that kind of stuff Ares was as stubborn as a mule and there was nothing I could do about it. That and I really wasn’t in for Orpheus throwing another of his fits.

“I’m serious, Damian. Why would the Eye kill his own heir? And don’t tell me you honestly believe that story about him being Cursed?”

“Who knows?” I shrugged. “That’s obviously what they believe.”

“But that’s just the point,” Ares got back at me. “Maybe that’s exactly what the Eye wants them to believe? Nice, smooth tale to dispose of an inept heir, don’t you think?”

I shrugged again. Honestly, I didn’t care and I had a feeling we’d find out soon enough anyway. Everyone knew that nothing good came from the royals.

Thing that got the city all worked up wasn’t so much Raeyn’s death as it was what’d come next anyway. Nobody here pretended they’d had much love for the prince. He’d never been around much to begin with. Not unless his father dragged him out of the Palace.

So yeah, Ares had a point there and we all knew how Sirius Nymeron loved to play cat and mouse, making people think whatever he wanted them to think. But this?

“I don’t know. I just don’t think it makes sense. None of it. Maybe-”

Whatever I was about to say was cut short by a high-pitched scream. That sort of scream that means trouble and sure as the Seven Hells there was half a count of Redcoats to go along with it.

“What the-” I didn’t get to finish the sentence.

Saying Ares had gone white didn’t even begin to cover it. Eyes wider than ever, he just stood there, looking as if someone had just hit him with a sledgehammer. And then, sure as fucking hell, he grabbed me by the arm and dragged me forward, right into the middle of that fucking mess.

“What the fuck is wrong with you? Stop!”

I could just as well have yelled against a wall. Ares didn’t even blink.

Ares

I heard Dahlia Laras’ voice before I saw her. Then everything seemed to drown in a mass of color.

Something inside me froze when I realized what was happening, what had made the entire Marché Noir fall silent as if thunderstruck. As far as I was concerned it wasn’t far off.

The colors hit me like lightning bolts, flaring to life in front of my eyes. I had never seen anything like it and part of me wanted to run, while the other part just stood there, staring. I couldn’t have moved even if I wanted to. Everything seemed to bleed together and I dimly felt Damian holding me back, dragging me off to the side. Even from the shadows I could still see them.

Two of Laras’ lackeys were holding the boy down, pinning him against the cobblestones. He probably wasn’t even eighteen yet, but the panic in his eyes made him look even younger. Young enough not to know that struggling wouldn’t help him. Nothing would.

The other two kept a girl in check. She could have been the boy’s female copy. Twins.

Her blue eyes were wide with fear, one of them backhanded her harshly, silencing her wailing.

“I haven’t done anything!” the boy cried and finally stopped trying to wriggle free. Laras stalked over to him, her face giving away nothing but mild apprehension.

“Oh, don’t worry. We’ll find out about that in a minute,” she said in that sweet voice of hers. If anything she sounded bored, but experience had taught me never to underestimate her. Dahlia Laras only looked like a fragile porcelain doll, but inside, she was as cold as steel. I tried not to remember how often she had used that tone on me and what had followed.

“Test him, Loran,” she commanded flatly, watching one of the men holding the boy place his hands on the blond’s head.

The colors didn’t even flicker apart from the burst of light that seemed to erupt from the Watchman’s hands. It was bright enough that it temporarily blinded me and I jerked my head away trying to escape.

Still, the colors remained, spots dancing, leaving negative imprints behind my closed eyelids. When I opened them again, it was still the same. The boy shrouded in a wavering miasma of blue, the same blue as the man holding him down. Only the one Laras had called Loran was surrounded by a white glow that was slowly receding.

I knew it before Loran shook his head.

“It’s not him, Captain.”

And then I saw it. Everyone around me shrouded in the same blue, some lighter, some darker. Only the girl gave off a faint orange glow. I could barely see it, but recognizing what it was, made me gasp.

“It’s her,” I whispered breathlessly, still dazed and unable to take my eyes off her. I remembered having seen it before. It had been years ago and back then I had shrugged it away as a figment of my imagination. The realization of what it was that I’d seen, that I was seeing now brought up something between a hysterical giggle and a sob.

The Curse. Oh Gods…

For a moment it felt as if Laras was staring directly at me, as if she could read my very thoughts. But her dark brown eyes were utterly dispassionate when she focused on the girl and spoke again.

“Now that was a rather disappointing performance, wasn’t it?” She made a dismissive gesture towards the boy, but you didn’t know Dahlia Laras if you as much as thought that she was done with the matter. She didn’t carry the soubriquet Iron Maiden for nothing. I’d argue the Maiden part, but once she’d set her mind on something she wouldn’t let go.

Laras’ gaze rested on the girl again. She hadn’t made a single sound since Loran had Touched her twin, but her mind was screaming with panic. I would have covered my ears if I thought it might help, but I knew it wouldn’t. Just as I knew that I was the only one who could hear her and that thought alone was enough to make me want to run. If only I could have as much as moved.

Distantly, I felt how my hands clenched around Damian’s arm. He said something to me, but I couldn’t make out what it was. He still held me and I couldn’t tell him that it wasn’t necessary. I couldn’t have moved as much as my little finger.

This time Laras did the work herself instead of leaving the testing Touch to one of her flunkies. If anything, the orange glow only intensified when she seized the girl’s head. A small gasp and the approving smile on Laras’ face were the only outward indicators that she had found something. And then she began to draw on the girl’s mind and I wanted to scream.

Sudden pain exploded between my eyes and I felt my knees buckle underneath me. I would have fallen if it hadn’t been for Damian who still held me in a tight grip. I felt my nails digging into his arm, my hands all but claws, but he still didn’t let go.

I heard someone scream, but no sound came across my lips, my ears filled with the sound of my own breath coming in ragged gasps.

Just when I thought that I couldn’t stand it any longer, ready to give in to the pain rendering me all but mad, it was over.

With the pain, the glow around everybody faded, all that remained was a dim residue around everyone that I could see.

The only one who didn’t give away anything was the girl and the sight of her brought back the dream I’ve been having over and over again.

The dream of the night my father had died. Now I knew what he had seen. One glance at the girl’s ghastly face, near lifeless, drained of all color. Same as her eyes…

Gods, their faces. Their Eyes…

They call it a humane solution. The only one that doesn’t kill.

People disappear and what is left behind… Ah, Gods…

And nobody knows. Nobody fucking knows.

Now I knew what he had meant and I knew. It had been a warning and I remembered Arturiel’s last words before he had killed my father.

Resistance against the Empire means death.

…a humane solution…

I shook my head, finally able to break free of Damian’s grip. I managed to stagger into the shadows just far enough that no one but Damian could see me falling to my knees and vomiting.

For a moment I just knelt there, retching while my head still pounded with the aftermath of what I had just experienced. I tasted bile at the back of my throat when I opened my eyes again to find Damian kneeling next to me, regarding me worriedly.

“Dieux, you just scared the living fuck out of me,” he said after a while. “What the fuck was that?”

Trust in Damian to get to the point. “I-,” I took a deep breath, trying to make my voice work. “I don’t know… I just saw- Oh Gods-” I shivered and caught myself rocking back and forth on my heels.

Damian licked his lips as if to say something. Without another word, hugged me hard and for a while we just sat crouched there in the dark, hanging on to each other as if our life depended on it. None of us said anything. For this we didn’t need words.

I closed my eyes, trying to make the image of the girl’s vacant eyes go away, but she just kept staring at me with those dead, knowing eyes.

They call it a humane solution. The only one that doesn’t kill.

They were wrong, but this was worse than death. Far worse.

I couldn’t take it any longer and opened my eyes, forcing myself to concentrate on Damian who helped me to my feet again. His smoky gray eyes lingered on me for a while before he whispered, “That’s what the Curse is like, ain’t it?”

A jerky nod of my head was the only answer I was able to give him. Yes. That’s what the Curse is like and it’s only beginning.

This week in the Blogosphere…

Honestly? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty lazy this week – blame the heat, the lack of sleep and lack of caffeine… Still, I’ve been able to find some interesting, brilliant and flat out hilarious posts – success 😀

As a writer of urban fantasy I always love to read other urban fantasy writers’ blogs. Can I just say that Jeff Somers makes me crack up? Read his TOP TEN REASONS MY DYSTOPIAN VISION OF THE FUTURE IS BETTER THAN YOUR DYSTOPIAN VISION OF THE FUTURE… here. It’s awesome, especially with emphasis on:

3. Profanity is not only accepted, it is pretty much the only way to make yourself understood.

4. Physical violence is not only not frowned upon, it is expected. And often enjoyed.

I daresay Damian would be happy to join in on that. Hang on, forget the would be 8)

Nathan Bransford wrote this awesome post on the fact that character and plot are indeed inseparable. I mean, you tell me how can you have an intriguing character without the plot that surrounds them? I’m thinking that most of us – myself included – who prefer the character-based approach in writing, rather unconsciously develop character and plot together without even noticing it. After all it goes hand in hand and plot is what makes a compelling character and the other way ’round.

Jessica Faust from Book Ends is quelling some of the most common Submission Freak Outs. For some reason this post reminds me of people going absolutely ballistic on me in a discussion whether to use Times New Roman or Courier New as standard font in manuscripts. Honestly? As long as it’s double-space with first line indent etc. nobody really cares. Really. Calm down.

Like I said, I suppose I’ve been a little too busy procrastinating and getting myself hung up on PoV and general editing crises, but the good thing is, revisions get moving again and maybe next year around this time I’ll be ready to think more seriously about submission. Maybe I’ve read too much Sarah Monette, but the word “bitchkitty” comes to mind whenever I think about editing. Strangely apt 8)

Villain – Dahlia Laras

Name: Dahlia Laras

Age: 33

Rank: Captain of the Watch

Background: No, since you ask, Laras really isn’t too fond of her first name. It’s ordinary and girly, just as she is nothing but the ordinary third daughter of an altogether ordinary middle-class family. Not that she really has a problem with being ordinary, but Dahlia Laras never really fit into her former life – not that she ever really tried either.

She always wanted to be a Soldier and worked her way up through the ranks of the Watch rather fast, though it never ceased to frustrate her how she was never more than one of the Commander’s countless flunkies. However she finds a way to make use of that as she finds an unlikely ally in Dawnelle Nymeron and they become as close to the definition ‘friends’ as Laras has ever known. She is loyal to her and plays her part with Arturiel Valyr. Nonetheless, Laras likes to be in control and dominance along with a sadistic streak are among her most prominent character flaws and she frequently uses especially the latter as an outlet of her frustration.

Dahlia Laras in a nutshell is ambitious, loyal and cruel and all too likely to act upon her own whims, which makes her unpredictable at times.

I’ll post a scene with her later, depending on my progress with rewriting One 😉