My quarantine novella is done and dusted 🙂 It’s around 23,000 words and now available on Smashwords and Amazon. I’m also halfway through my goal of publishing two stories this year.
I’ve released my next story, The Things We Do. Below are the prologue and first chapter from the book for you to read. The Things We Do is a science fiction novella that is set in a far off planet system that is in the throes of civil unrest. It revolves around a young woman Lone Honora, who’s been caught stealing money from her employer to cover her mother’s medical expenses. After being sent to jail, Lone must see out the next two years while her mother’s health declines and the encroaching civil war on a neighbouring planet ramps up.
The Texta Four, a small transport spaceship, rested on an open grassy field adjacent to a series of opulent houses. One house, whose wide back door steps descended gracefully down and seemingly melted into the ground, was just feet from the ship. These grand houses had so far been left untouched by the civil war, but at the current rate of hostilities, it may not survive the year.
A small child with wavy blonde hair, nearing four years, looked about her. Something wasn’t right, but she didn’t know what. She recognised the people around her, but they were acting differently. Nervous, afraid, silent. The woman who was holding her hand squeezed too hard. She looked up to Nanna Lou, her brown hair was streaked with just enough grey to show her age. The fifty something-year-old was staring attentively at the small ship.
Shielding her eyes from the setting sun, the child asked, ‘Where we going?’
Nanna Lou looked down. Her very freckled face was hard. Sharp cheekbones, square jaw, with prominent wrinkles on her forehead. She knelt and said,
‘We’re running away from the monsters Isla.’ Then after a pause said, ‘You’ll be safe with me.’ She stood back up and turned to a woman, younger by fifteen years.
‘Mama,’ Isla reached out with her free hand.
‘You have to go with Nanna Lou now. She’ll be looking after you until you get to your father.’ This woman had a round face and her features were soft from a lifetime of comfort.
‘So, you’re not coming then?’ Nanna Lou ask.
‘No, it’ll just take up a seat meant for another child.’ She placed her hand on her belly. Isla was going to have a baby brother in a few months. ‘Take good care of her.’
Nanna Lou nodded. A child in the crowd started crying. Isla looked around to see who it was, but the bodies of adults and other children blocked her. Then people started to move.
‘Time to go Isla,’ the child’s mother kissed her on the hand. ‘Be good and listen to Lou. She’ll protect you. I’ll be right behind you on the next ship.’
Isla began moving with the crowd, there was a sense of urgency. She looked back and saw that her mother was waving goodbye. Isla waved out of habit. Though she was too young to fully grasp what was going on, she knew that she was going up into space. Then she was inside the small ship, though it was quite large to her. People began to thin out as they made their way along the corridor and off into side rooms.
‘Sit here,’ Lou commanded as they came to a series of seats in a quieter part of the ship. Isla sat and waited with arms raised to be strapped in, but that didn’t happen. She watched as Lou looked around her and then took off her backpack, placing it on the seat beside her. Isla saw her yellow plush toy be taken out and she reached out to receive it.
‘This isn’t for you anymore.’ Lou’s tone was surprisingly harsh as she placed the toy under the chair. She then sat next to the girl. Lou was breathing heavily and as she gripped the hand rests, her veins bulged.
‘Don’t worry Nanna. Those monsters aren’t going to get us here. You said they can’t follow us in space.’
Nanna Lou coughed out a laugh. They jerked in their seats as the ship rose off the ground and after some turbulence, everything became calm. The girl watched Nanna Lou crawl at the armrest and the beads of sweat get bigger. Then she turned and said, ‘Come on time to go.’
Grabbing Isla’s hand and tugging her off her seat, she guided her along the brown wooden panelled corridor heading back towards the entrance. The conversations of the other people mixed into one another. Nanna Lou stopped at a door. The girl looked at the large red letters.
‘What do they say?’ she said looking up at Lou, who now had beads of sweat on her face. She didn’t say anything as she pulled down a lever. The door popped open and a voice over the radio sounded. ‘Emergency door four has been opened.’
‘Get inside,’ Nanna Lou said as she pushed Isla forward, almost knocking her over. The woman followed and closed the door behind them. There was banging behind her and Isla saw Lou looking at two angry men’s faces from the door window. Lou pulled down another lever and after a jolt turned away from them. ‘Buckle yourself in,’ she commanded.
Isla sat on a chair and found that she could do what Nanna Lou wanted. She looked up at saw that there were now more people. They looked so angry, so scary. They must be the monsters trying to hurt her, but Lou was going to save her. They continued to pound on the glass, but she couldn’t hear their thumps anymore. And their faces grew smaller, eventually, she could the ship was surrounded by black.
She turned to look at Lou who was now seated in the pilot’s chair. It looked like they were skirting along the edge of the planet with no destination in mind.
‘Where are we going?’ There was a period of silence before Lou turned around. ‘We’re running away from those monsters Isla.’ She stood up and handed the girl a small rectangular object that had a rounded end. ‘Press it and see what happens.’
The girl pressed a button on the end of it. ‘It isn’t doing anything.’
‘I guess it’s a dud,’ but Lou’s eyes wandered over to the small window. In the distance, a small blip of light ignited on the edge of the mesosphere layer. The Texta Four was no more. Then she returned her gaze to the front and moved the steering wheel left. They turned back towards the planet. The girl saw bare, grey mountains approaching.
The image on the screen was of a small spaceship rocketing down through some clouds, a thick trail of black smoke followed in its wake. It was the sole focus of the news report. The image of the ship was zoomed in on and once pixilation occurred it zoomed out. The image had been captured on a personal video camera from someone on the ground.
‘This is the only visual record we have the of Texta Four’s destruction.’ The female voiceover was serious. A banner at the bottom of the screen had the slow-moving phrases of Anniversary of the Vauban Disaster and Anniversary of the Texta Four Incident.
The image was replaced with a picturesque scene of a lush green leafy crop, but the centre held a burnt out and smouldering crater, the final resting place of the remains of the ship. ‘The only wreckage found was a few chunks that had fallen off prior to its crash. Presumed to be brought down by a suicide bomber the impact and subsequent incineration meant that very few remains of both the ship and its passengers were recovered.’ Another image, this time of the field in the present day saw that it was for the most part still active farmland. Flowers and makeshift shrines had been placed along the fence and there were people holding a remembrance ceremony.
The screen changed to a series of large, white, bulbous spaceships as they sat in space. It was an old stock image, used multiple times to show the strength of the military stationed in the Allicarus Region of space.
‘In the subsequent years following this terrorist attack, the Democratic Alliance’s retaliation, led by Captain Pan of the Vision, who has continuously received criticism at his response, especially considering his personal involvement in the situation. . . .’
Lone looked up from her metal food tray on the table and turned to face the screen. She knew this story intimately. . . and had no sympathy for the man that had been the root cause of all the problems in her life. She slumped in her chair, sliding her tray to the side and rested her head in her arms on the table.
The communal tea room was quiet, but even with her eyes closed, Lone could still see everything. The two-toned walls of dark green and grey-white, the white tiled floor that was occasionally broken up with a green one. The rectangular room was twelve meters by twenty-five and there were no windows except on the east side which gave a bland view of the opposing grey apartment building.
When she had first come to this planet she was in awe of how nice it was to simply see intact buildings. The people here were very lucky to have lockable doors, running water, electricity and most importantly no fear of the dark. Now she wondered how the residents in the buildings around them manage to keep their sanity every time they looked out their windows. Especially since it was her workplace, The Nova Vita Democratic Alliance Military Administrative Headquarters, that they constantly saw. Thankfully she and her family hadn’t been assigned to one of those apartment complexes upon their arrival.
A young man entered the cafeteria and saw Lone hunched over a table in the centre of the room. He had seen that she had been stressed from earlier. He could see that she still was and the closer he approached the sorrier he felt for her.
He sat down opposite her, she didn’t acknowledge his presence and still rested on the table looking at the news on the TV. A fork twirling in her hand. He stared at the part in her hairline. It was perplexing, was she losing hair from stress? He thought he could see more of her pale scalp. Bok knew that saying something about her appearance would prompt a response from her. ‘I didn’t know your hair was wavy.’
Lone twitched and touched her hair, still facing away from him.
‘Yeah, I’ve always straightened it because I don’t like it this way.’
‘Well, I like it natural. You should wear it more like that. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing against not having straightened hair in the regulations.’
She turned to him and he saw her sad face. Her brown eyes were streaked with red veins. Then painfully slow she sat back up and rubbed her face.
‘It’s not the end of the world,’ he said trying to cheer her up.
‘Surprise employee audit. I didn’t have time to prepare. I don’t know what to do now. They’re going to find out very soon.’
‘At least your mother is alive. You said to me at the beginning that if everything goes to hell, at least your mother won’t.’
Lone lowered her eyes in thought. ‘I did, but now it seems . . .’
Bok touched her arm, ‘It won’t be the end of the world. Only a few years maximum, right? Worth it if your mother lives another twenty.’
Jarringly Lone scratched her head. He saw the movement of the hairs and realised that black wasn’t Lone’s natural hair colour. Was it blonde? He knew of practically no one on this planet who had natural blonde hair. Why hadn’t she told him she dyed it? But he didn’t think it was the right time to comment on her looks anymore, especially with the way the conversation was going. ‘Do you have any idea on how to avoid it?’
‘I can send in a resignation letter on his behalf. Make it look like it wasn’t working out and they might let it go. I could rinse and repeat in a few months.’ People always got fired after employee audits. But in all her four almost five years here she had never been through a surprise one before. Everyone had always been given at least two weeks’ notice.
‘Did you know that I froze?’ Lone continued. ‘I just sat there in front of Kim and Mr. Perrin. All I could say that I wasn’t able to write up my report in time because I was helping look after Mum. I think they seemed to understand.’
Lone thought back only half an hour as she sat in front the old and greying advisors. Kim, who was known by her informal name, was Lone’s boss and head of Human Resources. ‘They mentioned that I was making mistakes in payslips. Three people had been in contact with them. I’m the reason why that memo that was sent out about everyone needing to check their payslips.’
Bok frowned. He had read that memo and it was odd to see it because it had been months since human resources had new staff.
‘They’re recommending that I should take some time off, a month or two.’ She pressed and rubbed her eyebrow, her light-coloured eyebrows.
‘I can help you while you’re not here.’
‘Thanks. I’ll go write up the letter and put it in. Keep an eye on things. I can’t afford to . . .’ Lone breathed deeply. Bok had never seen her so distressed before. It seemed like it had been months since he last saw her smile. Then he saw a small one.
I’ve gone and gotten shiny new idea syndrome and have begun a new book, but what about my other ones?
Save One is mostly completed. Need a few more light drafts and it should be ready. I’ve just grown tired of it atm so I’m giving it some space.
The Things We Do has been submitted to Tor.com as part of a sci-fi novella submission. Practically ready for release, but will have to wait to see if accepted by these guys.
Jumpstart is also mostly done. I’m also fatigued by it and have started and stalled on the sequel Tune In. I want that story done before thinking of releasing this as part of the marketing strategy for the series.
Beyond Calico has stalled. The first draft is not completed, but I have a rough outline of the story and need to write it up sometime.
The Chloris and the Electra has not been touched in over six months and I’m not sure when I’ll go back to it. I enjoyed writing what I have and will finish it. But I think it’s only 60% through the first draft. I think I have an idea of how it ends, but that’s flexible.
Overall I intend for the book I’m writing now to be done by the end of June. Then I might move onto another of the others I haven’t finished and try to maximise my time. I’m still heading towards my goal of 10 self-published stories by my 30th birthday, so I’m not slowing down. I’m hoping to have some stories out by the end of the year so I have that to look forward to.
If you’re interested in reading a short story set in a medieval time that involves two sisters going to a witch’s community for help then read the first chapter down below. It is currently available only on Amazon through KPD Select. From June 6 it will be available on Smashwords.
Turning over in bed, Daphne looked at her younger sister. Edwina looked so peaceful asleep, so unbothered by the world. Her face was so angelic. Daphne scrunched up hers. If the situation were reversed, then there would be no problem. It just wasn’t fair that the world treated them differently.
She listened to the commotion down below. Her father and brother were already up and packing for their trip to the nearest town. She listened as they exited the house. Their voices rose up into their bedroom window.
‘Hopefully, this will take us through the winter,’ her father said to their mother.
‘It always does,’ her voice was quiet and soothing.
‘Hold the fort while I’m away.’
Avoiding the floorboards that squeaked, Daphne stared out the window and down at her family. Eric was already on the cart with their father climbing onto it. Her mother was standing beside it. Then the two of them rode off through the early morning mist. It could be a week before they sold all their pelts.
‘Wake up Ed,’ Daphne said as she shook her sister’s shoulder.
‘What?’ she was annoyed and turned away.
‘I have to tell you and mother something now that Father and Eric are gone.’
‘Wha? Later,’ she pulled the thick wool sheets over her head.
The pair descended the curved wooden steps and as Edwina was about to fall asleep again at the table she heard her sister speak.
‘Mother, I have to tell you something.’ The sound of her distressed voice opened her eyes. ‘I’m with child’.
‘Oh, dear Lord!’ cried their mother after a moment. ‘How? Who? When?’
‘I haven’t received my bleeds in six weeks.’
‘It’s one of those men Eric hangs out with at the Tavern, isn’t it?’
Daphne gulped and before she could say anything her mother continued, ‘Don’t worry the women of Evelyn can get rid of it.’
‘What those damned witches?’
‘How can you even say that? Those women provide a valuable service to the community. And you need it now.’ Daphne began to tear up. ‘You should know better than to believe what comes out of the mouths of those types men.’
Then she turned to Edwina. ‘You’re not in the same boat as your sister, are you?’
‘No, I’m still a maiden.’
The look on their mother’s face was harsh. ‘I will not have a disgrace for a daughter. Damn it. No one is going to want you now. Why did you do this yourself?’ Then she calmed herself as her eldest daughter began to cry. ‘You will go to Evelyn and they will fix everything. I can’t go because it will look suspicious. Edwina, you will accompany your sister. If people ask, say she’s coming down with the pox.’ Then she left through the front door. Daphne was silent as tears fell down her face.
‘Who is it?’ Edwina asked. Her sister shook her head. Why wasn’t she saying? Her stomach clenched as she thought that how the child was conceived. What type of man would hurt her sister like that? Their mother shouldn’t have blamed her if that was the case.
She couldn’t place a time when Daphne was alone with a man here. Unless it didn’t happen in the house. Maybe it happened in a few moments of stolen privacy. Maybe behind the Tavern? And Daphne was not one who could count on looks to ease her passage through life. A child out of wedlock would mark her out. At least someone can hide their lost girlhood.
Then their mother re-entered the house. ‘The mule is saddled up. You two will ride along the cliffs until you get to Evelyn. It will take you all day, so you need to leave now. Edwina, I need to talk to you. Daphne, pack some food; the women are not a charity you will be expected to do chores in exchange for their services.’
Outside the house, Edwina and her mother talked. ‘Did you know about this?’
‘No, I only just found out.’
‘Mr. Cole will not have his son to marry into a family that has a tainted daughter. Make sure your sister comes back without it.’
‘Don’t let her out of your sight.’ Then her tone changed slightly. ‘I have to admit. I’m surprised that she managed to find someone to lay with. I would have thought it would be you in this position.’ Edwina knew exactly what her mother was referring to. How could two full blood sisters look so different from each other? It was almost like the Lord himself had taken the beauty that should have been halved between the two of them and gave it all to her. h seemed destined that Edwina was made divinely beautiful so that she could secure a rich man.
She thought of Eli Cole, the only son and heir of Mr. Cole the biggest landowner in the region. According to her mother, how Edwina played herself would decide how her life would turn out.
‘No, I will be with her all the time.’
‘Good. Also, find out who it is. And never speak of this outside of Evelyn.’
They went back inside, and the two sisters got dressed in their winter garments. It was always windy along the coast no matter what time of the year. So just like their father and brother, the pair set off, but in the opposite direction. They carried with them food in a knapsack, a knife for defence and the order to follow the white stone path and not stop for anyone. Their mother made sure to mark Daphne’s skin to give credence to their story. After all, a person infected with pox needs to look like they are contagious.
The woods gave way to open plains and they turned to travel parallel to the cliffs of Evelyn. Their trip along the most well-known but seldom travelled path was uneventful.
‘How much longer?’ Daphne whined. Edwina rolled her eyes, a lot sooner than seven, eight months, she thought. ‘You can see it in the distance,’ she pointed ahead of her to the singular stubby mountain that was highlighted by blue skies.
‘Really? We’re only halfway there.’
‘It’s going to be sunset when we arrive remember?’ Her sister’s hands tightened around her waist. ‘This wouldn’t be an issue if you didn’t get yourself into this mess.’ She added.
‘You think I wanted to be in this position?’
‘Well, why did you sleep with a man you’re not married to?’
‘I didn’t think,’ her voice stopped, ‘I didn’t think that you could become pregnant on the first time.’ Then Daphne hugged her sister, ‘I didn’t think it’d happen to me. Not like this. You’re not going to tell Father, are you?’
‘No, this is women’s business.’
I completed the seventh draft of my short story The Witch’s Room and I decided that it was ready to be released into the world wide web with my name attached to it. It is currently under review on Amazon and should be up within 72 hours. At the moment I am only putting it on KDP select as a means of trying to get as many people to read it. If all goes well in a few months I’ll put it up on Smashwords 🙂
This story started with the visuals of a character entering the Witch’s Room. I thought that the scene was awesome and I shouldn’t/couldn’t let it go. So I had to work out what needed to happen for this scene to occur in a story. So I wrote it down on my work notepad and when I got home I began working on it.
Looking back on the dates of my word documents, I had the first draft completed just before 5pm on the 15th of February. That’s less than a month ago! Since then I have drafted every 2-5 days. It only took me a few hours every time to draft because of how short it is (I was also working on other stories).
I think the most challenging thing about this process was picking the book cover image. I wanted to have a stone sculpture of a woman to portray the scene in the Witch’s Room. But I was very nitpicky about it. It had to be aged and not too ornate. But I couldn’t seem to find one that fit everything because a lot of stone sculptures of women from the past were of the Virgin Mary or Angels and had religious themes to it. You can see that I found an image as close as possible to what I wanted. It’s not how the statute looks in the story, but it’s the closest.
The image I found for this novella was already sitting in one of my many iStock photo boards 🙂 I like the simplicity a lot (you know because I not much of a photo editor). But I think this book might be near completion by the end of this year or early next year 🙂
The cover was also easy to make. I just bought the image for a credit on iStock.com and using Pixlr.com put the text over it and made it the same yellow in the image. I then went into layer styles and picked outer glow. I made it black, chose a size that was like the other black lines and then merged all the layers down to one image. I then sized it to Smashwords book cover dimensions and voila!
Whenever I manage to finish writing a story, I get to rediscover that writing the book was the easy part. Now I’m about to journey through the not-so-great joys of editing.
To alleviate this I watch a lot of youtube videos on the subject. There are quite a few people who go through the different types of editing. But whenever I edit, it’s a free-for-all. The line edits are forced to be with the proofreading and don’t get me started on the structural editing. It’s all one big party where I’m ripping out my fingernails because I hate parties.
My word documents all end up either covered in red (at least first to fourth drafts) or minimally wounded by the time I’m ready for it be self-published (aka getting sick of it). As revisions go on it does get quicker/easier, both because I’m getting better at killing my darlings and increasingly more confident in my editing abilities.
To people out there who think that editing is something daunting like climbing a mountain when you’ve never done such a thing, then do not fret. You don’t experience, you just need persistence. Afterall you just finished writing a manuscript. That’s something a lot of people never manage to do. Hooray!