Weekend Writing Warriors: Something’s being planned

d8c3b-wewriwa_square_1Happy Canada Day weekend and Happy Independence Day 🙂 Hope you’re having a grand time whichever holiday you celebrate, or if you’re just hanging out at the computer waiting anxiously for all the posts in the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop! In case you just happened to find my blog and don’t know what the excitement is about, this is the blog hop for writers and readers. Every week we post up to 10 sentences from one of our own works then hop all around to other participating blogs, commenting and finding cool new stories to read!

Given that here in the U.S., this is a major summer holiday weekend so some folks will be off celebrating instead of blog hopping, I’ll share an excerpt from a different scene so regular visitors won’t miss anything. Previous excerpts are here. In this scene, Devorah visits Father John, the priest of St. Benedict’s Catholic church, to warn him that something’s being planned by the local demon groups that could affect humans. She can’t tell him everything because he doesn’t know she’s one of the demons; like undercover cops, she has to keep a lot of secrets. He knows she’s into something strange and dangerous, but not much more.

She’s speaking with him in the privacy of a confessional. St. Benedict’s is over 100 years old so there’s a limit to how much modernizing can be done. Devorah is the first speaker.

“I can tell you that something is being planned for the 29th of this month around the Earth Hour events. It’s just a test phase to take advantage of when people turn their lights off, so if a lot of lights don’t come back on right away, don’t be alarmed.”

His cassock rustled as he shifted position. “That’s only three days away. This won’t be people sabotaging power stations, I take  it?”

“It may last an extra fifteen or twenty minutes, or maybe a couple of hours – that’s all I can say. And right about now, I need a dose of normalcy. How’s the church renovation going?”

He gave a light sigh. “Someday I hope you can take me fully into your confidence.” 

The renovation figures into the plot, by the way. Devorah and Father John don’t know that yet! I like Father John, although he doesn’t get much airplay. It’s nice to have a character who doesn’t try to take over.

If you’re reading this on July 3, I’ll return your visit in the evening; that might be July 4 where you are. I’ve got a reservation for a Buffalo River history tour by boat. I’ve never done it before but it sounds interesting and fun. I love water and boats, raise your hand if you do too 🙂 Stay safe, everybody, and thanks so much for visiting me today!

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Visualizing characters

I seem to work with character dichotomies. So far in the two novels I’ve worked on, I’ve had two protagonists for each story. One has emerged from my psyche (or wherever these people come from) pretty much whole like the myth of Athena bursting from Zeus’ head. (One protag has been pretty warlike so that’s apropos) The other protag hides their personality and thought process from me. The cliche of pulling teeth being easier is really the truth in that case.

For Night Shift, the character with the hidden personality has been Devorah, which is very awkward because she’s also the POV character. Hard to tell a story through somebody’s eyes when you don’t know much about that somebody!

I’m a visual person so I thought having some kind of picture might help me define her better. I came up with these. They’re not exactly how I think of Devorah but they give me something concrete to work with.

Devorah2 Devorah4

Devorah is a Crosser, one of the humans who work undercover in the ranks of demons; they ultimately answer to the God of Light. Many demons keep their human forms so they can work more effectively in the human realm. Crossers must blend in among full demons so they usually wear a lot of black. Devorah also wears some blue because she’s aligned with the element of water. She puts a steampunk spin on the usual demon attire; I had a hard time finding clothing items I thought fit with that but these work for what I need.

Many Crossers also invent an alternate persona they fall back on when they must engage in the inevitable demon behavior. For example, before Devorah could be admitted to one of the local demon groups, she had to perform an initiation challenge. If she completed the challenge without flinching, she was accepted. Her challenge was murder, a typical demon bit of behavior. The alternate persona is similar to the persona undercops use. Devorah’s demon persona is known as Malicia. It’s common for demons to use names that we think of as a bit corny; they’re not an especially creative bunch!

So this is what I came up with for Malicia. She has a “uniform” that often includes an army jacket and/or army boots, or something camo. She also had blue streaks put in her hair.

Devorah3

I don’t currently have a way to make an avatar for Kazimir, although it’s not really necessary since he was so clear and developed almost from day 1 that I had to stop him from taking over the story!

Characters . . . some you love, some drive you quite insane, some you wouldn’t want to be in the same country with, some just drift into stories then out again when their job is done. But you’ve got to have a clear sense of who they are if they’re going to be effective whether they’re the POV character or a minor player. Seeing pictures helps make them more real for me which, hopefully, translates to the typed page.

How about you? Do you find a picture of your characters helpful whether you can already visualize them or not? Does your idea of their physical appearance change as you write more about them?

Weekend Writing Warriors: We require a profession of penitence

angel, stone
Image courtesy Flickr cc: Pawel, “angel”

Happy June, everybody 🙂 I love this time of year! Summer’s flowers are blooming and I’ve finally shed that waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop feeling that the warmth is only temporary because the cold will be back in a day or two. But on to the next excerpt for the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop! Participants share 8 – 10 sentences from one of their own works then visit each other’s blogs to comment and generally support each other. I don’t have to ask people for book recommendations anymore, I find my reading material right there 🙂

You may remember that in my excerpt last week, the angel Nanshi berated Kazimir for some recent mysterious behavior. (You can find previous snippets here.) Continuing with the scene for just a bit, this part hints at how seriously these angels take breaking a vow.

Nanshi drifted toward the hall and called Kazimir. He came into the doorway eating an apple. 

“I will leave you in place as Devorah’s mentor,” she said, “unless there is another breach of trust. Should that occur, you will be sent to Ninti.”

He shrugged and bit into the apple with a resounding crunch. That was no exceptionally crisp fruit; his tense body language told me he swallowed a retort along with the apple.

“Also,” she continued, “we require a profession of penitence. Now–and I remind you that Devorah and I are not your only witnesses.”

There’s no one else in the room so who else is listening? Hint: Nanshi is an angel, Kazimir and Devorah are servants of the God of Light. 😉 And where is Ninti? I think I’ll keep that secret for now–but it’s clear Kazimir is not happy with the prospect of being sent there.

I’m vacillating over whether or not to include a prologue for this story. The piece I have in mind explains why and how Devorah’s dad got involved with the people who eventually killed him, and since solving his death is what propels her throughout the story, it seems like it might be a good fit. But I know a lot of people don’t read prologues. How about you? Always skip, never skip, sometimes? How come?

And thanks for stopping in. I like having visitors to my little blog home!

Weekend Writing Warriors: What the hell was that?

Well friends, I hope whatever your current season is that it’s treating you better than spring in Western New York. Outlying areas may see a freeze tonight. *sigh* Today was rainy, gusty, and chilly–but on the upbeat side, I’ve spent the afternoon editing/revising additional chapters of my novel-in-progress, Night Shift, from which I present 8 more sentences. Oh dark fantasy’s not really your thing? That’s cool, visit Weekend Writing Warriors for excerpts from the whole range of genres. A bunch of us share snippets and comments every week. Seriously, other than writing, it’s the most fun I have in the week!

Skipping ahead a bit, Devorah and Kazimir are returning to their apartment. It’s late at night. Being humans who are also demons has disadvantages: you never know who or what might be lurking in the shadows, waiting to spring with weapons conventional or otherwise.

When we turned onto our street, I scanned the nearby porches, knowing Kazimir would be keeping an eye on the spaces between the parked cars we passed. He’d taught me a few tricks in case anybody tried to grab me but it was best to avoid trouble. Human thugs weren’t all we needed to look out for; rival demon groups had been known to attack each other.

My gaze was drawn to a porch across the street. Something lay on one of the steps, a deeper black than the surrounding shadow. It oozed up onto the porch floor and disappeared.

My eyes popped wide open. “What the hell was that?”

Probably something unconventional! Maybe don’t cross the street, ya think?

I expect to have 27 chapters once I’m done with this draft, and I’m on chapter 21 today. I’m still focusing on the plot rather than the prose, because it’s annoying to craft gripping or soaring prose only to cut those scenes because the plot has to be changed. Wish me luck! Thanks for visiting today, your comments always make me smile 🙂

Weekend Writing Warriors: His bellowing echoed in my head

sun, NYC, Central Pk
Photo by sylvain.collet, Flickr cc

Who had a beautiful bright warm sunny day on Saturday? I did I did! 😀 Our warmest day this month. Insects are starting to wake up, birds are deliriously happy, daffodils are screaming their yellow heads off–ah, spring!

It was so nice out today I couldn’t even come inside to put together another Weekend Writing Warriors excerpt until evening. But here it is! You may recall that previously, Devorah and her mentor Kazimir were asked to trap the demon known as Thaumiel. They set up said trap in the basement of a synagogue. Last week, something unexpected happened. This week, I’m skipping ahead a little.

You can find previous excerpts here. Today’s excerpt has been modified to follow the rules. And please remember to go back to the WeWriWa home page to find links to wonderful excerpts from a wide variety of stories! If you can’t find something here to love reading, you’re too picky 🙂

Cracks opened in the floor; the continuous shaking threw me down. Rumbling and the sounds of things falling got louder. Somebody lifted me, but rather than feel my feet on solid ground, I kept moving upward, fast enough to make me light-headed. An awful crashing went on below as my feet dangled into nothingness. The swaying was worse than the boat trip I’d taken when we got caught in a storm. Cold wind raked across me, making it hard to get enough air into my lungs and making my whole head burn.

I thumped onto the ground, snow flying into my face. I gulped air and my skin tingled painfully as it began to warm. Thaumiel’s terrible bellowing echoed in my head, his blazing eyes seemed to hover in front of me. I rubbed my eyes then looked around—close by, Kazimir struggled to rise to one knee.

Want to know what went on when Thaumiel was caught? You’ll either have to wait till the book is published or volunteer to be a beta reader! 😉 I’m adding worldbuilding details but it can be hard to work that in without it looking like it’s worked in, you know? Plus trying to avoid the “as you know, Bob” syndrome. Non-writers think writing is easy; heck, I used to think that too. What a rude awakening, LOL!

Weekend Writing Warriors: Unexpected shadows

What are you reading? I’ve just started re-reading The Witches of Karres, by James H. Schmitz. I read the book closer to 30 years ago; picked it up on a whim at my local library. I adored this book when I first read it, lost track of it and spent time since then trying to figure out who wrote it or what the title was. It’s delicious to rediscover a book you’ve been looking for literally for decades! 

Anyway it’s time once again for Weekend Writing Warriors! Peeps who sign our linky list before 12 midnight Saturdays Eastern time visit each other’s blogs for samples of their writing, published or not. 8 to 10 sentences is not much but you’d be surprised at the cool things our writers can get into that little framework.

So in the previous excerpt of my novel-in-progress (working title Night Shift) Kazimir and Devorah, along with Kaz’s friends Vishram and Kwame, set up the basement of the synagogue with a trap for the high-ranking demon known as Thaumiel. In the full version of the chapter, it’s explained that the centerpiece of the trap, an earthenware bowl called a demon bowl, will hum and vibrate when Thaumiel is nearby. The group has had a few minutes to wait, walking in nervous circles or idly playing with whips made of whichever element they’re aligned with. You can find previous excerpts here.

A loud humming filled the room. Covering my ears, I grimaced as the high-pitched sound drove into my brain. It stopped when two or three dozen writhing shadows dropped onto the bowl. They were shaped like humans but smaller. All but a couple slithered off. 

“What the fuck?” Kazimir shouted. 

Vishram snapped his fire whip at some of the shadows moving in his direction. “You said he didn’t use tarashim anymore!” 

“He hasn’t used them in two hundred years!” 

Oops. Well that doesn’t sound good! These are not your typical shadows, as you might expect. I’ll share a bit more from that chapter before moving on.

Thanks for visiting my little blog today 🙂 I appreciate all your comments, even if it’s to suggest a change or two. After all, different eyes see different things, and our work wouldn’t improve without new perspectives. I’m looking forward to tying up the current draft so I can look for some critiquers willing to read the whole thing. I’m sure there could be more worldbuilding and some repetitive words knocked out. It’s hard to find all the things that need improving when it’s your own word-baby!

Weekend Writing Warriors: How far back does the plan go?

If it’s the weekend, it must be time for Weekend Writing Warriors, the blog hop where writers share up to 10 sentences from an original work of theirs, published or unpublished. It’s a great way to find new writers or just spend a while reading the creative excerpts from our talented participants! You name the genre, and at least one of our writers will have something in it.

My post this weekend continues the scene from last time. Our heroine Devorah and her mentor Kazimir have been asked to capture the high-ranking demon known as Thaumiel. You can find previous excerpts here. The characters have heard that some kind of major upheaval is being planned at top levels of the demon hierarchy, and they’re worried that will be bad for humanity. Meanwhile, Kazimir looked up the website for the ecclesiastic conference that he expects will draw Thaumiel’s attention. That would offer the perfect opportunity to trap and capture him. Kaz grabs his phone leaving his laptop with Devorah. Margate is the fictional American city where the story takes place.

Kazimir exchanged some rapid-fire Russian chatter with whoever he’d called. I wondered about the conference. The group picked Margate because of the fighting that broke out around Halloween the last few years. A lot of people felt the violence was religiously motivated; it did seem to target Wiccans first. Had local demons started the yearly violence as part of whatever the coming shake-up was? Did the plan go back as far as that?

Kazimir’s voice got more animated as he talked around a big smile and gesticulated as if he was casting some spell. Finally he slapped the phone back on the table. “Otlichno! Kwame’s going to scoop up Vishram and they’ll join us in a day or two–they’re friends of mine from way back.” 

Oh good, I hear you saying. They’ll have help nabbing that evil demon! You know what they say about the best laid plans … 😉

I hope you’re enjoying the excerpts so far, and thanks for visiting. I always have fun writing these characters. But I’ve been thinking, it can be hard to convey in writing what I see in my head. Somebody needs to invent technology that will capture the visuals in my head and display them on a screen. That would be the bomb!!