An Excerpt from Chapter 29 – Evie’s Vision

I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve posted any actual bits of Augira, so here is a fun little excerpt from Chapter 29. It’s from Evie’s POV. Remember, she’s the blind girl with the mysterious past? Oh, yeah, and she has visions of the future. This may not stay in Chapter 29. Her vision may need to be moved to a much earlier part of the book to build backstory, but it’s here for now. Those changes will be in the revision process. As always, leave me your thoughts, impressions, questions – anything. Enjoy.

“Torune?  Evie?”

It was Renna.

“Praise the Almighty!” Evie breathed, hearing a sigh of relief from Renna as well.

“I cut my foot,” Renna said, and Evie felt Light Torune leave her side to check on the injured girl.  “There was a broken branch or something in the woods…luckily the canswort dulled the pain.”

Evie could hear the wince in her voice.  She must be in more pain than she is letting on.

“Is it bad?” the blind girl asked.

Light Torune sighed.  “It’s not good.  There’s a deep puncture wound, and I think some of the wood may have splintered off and is lodged within.”

Renna groaned.

“Can you put weight on it?” Light Torune asked.

“For now, yes,” Renna replied.  “But I suspect that we need to hurry.  The canswort won’t hide the pain forever, and I hate to think of the infection I could be getting right now, standing in this stuff.”

Evie nodded.  She was about to stand up when a wave of dizziness overtook her.  Her temples began to throb, and she sat down abruptly in the garbage.  The words of Renna and Torune echoed in her ears, distorted and incomprehensible.  She felt nauseated, pulling her head into her lap.

Please, Almighty, she begged.  Not again… 

And then she was floating, high in the air above a blood-stained battlefield.  She could see smoking villages along the horizon, and body upon body littered the ground.  The man who looked like the regis was there, riding through the corpses with a sick pleasure gleaming in his eyes, a cruel smile upon his face.  He was called “Kortara” now, though few knew whether or not he truly was the same Kortara from before.  All they knew was that he was vicious, and he showed no mercy.  He was flanked by men in black robes, robes that looked identical to those worn by Disciples except different in color.  They all rode horses through the carnage with disturbing indifference or enjoyment clear on their faces.

Evie recognized this vision, recognized this place.  She was above the central plains in Alcostia, near the ruined city of Old Malbec.  It took her a moment to remember that a city should be there, right where the men in black robes were riding.  The roads and a few stones the only things left of the city, all of the buildings vanished.  Or destroyed.  The houses and inns, stables and shops, all seemed to have been cleanly demolished at the ground level and razed, but there were no ashes or timbers remaining, no signs of attack with fire or machinery of any kind.

No, this was a different kind of demolition, the kind that caused whole towns to disappear into nothingness.  This kind of destruction could only be accomplished through the command of one thing: Auri.

This wasn’t the first time Evie had experienced this vision, yet every time, the wanton destruction that the regis – Kortara – wreaked on the nation using Auri took her breath away.

Her gaze was forced back to the riders.  A body lying ten feet from them began to stir, and Kortara turned his mount toward the man.  He dismounted in the single sweeping move, getting down on a knee beside the injured man on the ground.   The fallen man wore no insignia – he was no trained soldier.  Just a man trying to defend himself and his home.  Now, he lay dying, bleeding out on the plains that had already absorbed so much blood, just a few hundred years before.

“What is your name?” Kortara asked, his voice pleasant and calm.

The man could only gurgle a reply, his injuries filling his mouth with blood.

“It is of no matter,” Kortara said dismissively as it became clear that he would get no answer.  He suddenly reached out to grab hold of the man’s throat with a hand.  The man struggled weakly as Kortara used his other hand to swiftly trace symbols in the air, pausing for only a moment before repeating the process.  As soon as his finger stopped moving, the man convulsed once, then collapsed before him.  Dead.

Kortara inhaled deeply, a smile of satisfaction on his face.

And suddenly Evie was moving, going higher above this wreckage, above this monster of a man, flying over the whole of Alcostia.  She was taken south, to the burnt homes and ruined salterns that had once been Runin, along the coast, where men in black attacked and killed at will, up the Eastern side of the nation, watching image after image of death and destruction.  Finally, the vision took her to the capital, to Malbec itself.  Or, at least, what used to be Malbec.  The palace was still there, pristine and imposing above the rivers’ apex.  However the hills that were once covered with the sprawl of the city’s various buildings were pock-marked with burnt-out lots.  Refuse piled up in the streets, and corpses sat rotting in the gutters.  Frightened people hovered inside their windows as black-robed men patrolled the thoroughfares.  Houses of the affluent appeared to have been ransacked, as had shops in which portable, saleable goods could have been found.

As swiftly as before, the vision took Evie up, higher and higher, until she saw not only Alcostia spread out below her, but also the neighboring lands of Bannen, the Rebaul Republic, and Mer’Caoi.  The battle may have begun in Alcostia, but Evie saw the border towns of its neighbors bearing the tell-tale signs of destruction, black-robed forces advancing on the unprepared nations.

This was not a battle, not a war.  This was a massacre.  Kortara was able to Command Auri.  His power was limitless, and his morals nonexistant.

And, in this vision, there was no one to stop him.  In the center of the road outside the palace in Malbec, there had been a woman’s head on a post.

In this vision, Renna was dead.  And Kortara was alive once more.

I’m 75% Done with the First Draft – Now Should I Change the Title?

Hi! Guess what? Well, I won’t make you guess – I’ve written 75,069 words as of, well, about 3 minutes ago.

Woohoo! 75%!!

It’s really amazing – even though I’m a week or so late in reaching this milestone – that I’ve gotten this far. 260 pages of glorious, glorious text. And only 25,000 words left to go! At this point, I feel confident that I will finish the first draft on time {knock on wood}.

There’s only one problem: I just thought up a whole new backstory for one of my characters. Oops! It’s just so much more interesting this way. We’ll just have to see how Evie (the blind, ethereal girl who has visions of the mad regis’ death and walks up to the palace to tell him so) changes from the first draft to the second. I, for one, can’t wait.

Now, let’s talk titles.

I’m currently reading The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published (as I have been for months. What? It’s a dense book!). They have me wondering about my title. The authors discuss the need for a clear, punchy title that intrigues without going over someone’s head. And yet, Brandon Sanderson did just fine with Elantris, so I feel like I could do just fine with Augira. Both are made-up words of things/places in the story. I really like the simplicity and the [hopefully] intriguing nature of Augira.

However, what do you, readers, think about it compared to The Last Augira? Is shorter better? Because, well, Renna is the last Augira, the last one of her kind, born with the ability to access her Auri, the energy that sustains life in all living things – and the Auri of others.

So, Augira or The Last Augira?

Who Am I Writing For?

A while ago, when I was first conceptualizing Augira, I completed a writing exercise to focus myself before beginning my outline. The questions came from a Writing A Novel for Dummies book (I’m not too proud to admit that I might, indeed, be a dummy in this department).

1. Which authors would you most like to write like?

J.K. Rowling, Tamora Pierce, Robert Jordan, Stephenie Meyer (in The Host), Brandon Sanderson or Mercedes Lackey.

2. What categories interest you most?

Fantasy, maybe Mystery.

3. What story elements interest you most?

Deep characters and a fast, captivating plot.

4. Where and when would you like to set your stories?

Either in a fantastical world of my creating or a futuristic dystopia.

5. What special background or life experience can you tie into your novel?

Familiarity with semi-rural life, vivid imagination, great vocabulary.

6. What length of book would you most like to write?

A 3-part series of 80,000 to 90,000 words each.

7. Who are you writing for?

My ideal reader is a man or woman in their 20’s through 60’s who is not strongly religious (spiritual, but not adhering to any particular doctrine perhaps).  She or he strongly supports women’s rights.  They like to read to escape daily life and prefer the fantasy genre.  They have a creative streak (decorating, art, cooking, something) and like animals.  They are sick of all of the male-dominated fantasy epics that contain outdated female stereotypes and rely on rape myths.  They long for a novel that centers on strong female characters who support themselves without the need for men, but also don’t look down upon or castigate the other gender.  They want a book that brings the magic back to fantasy that many authors seem to have lost in their pursuit of nonconsensual sex, violence, and male chauvinism in the name of “authenticity”.

Vacations Are Terrible Things

Vacations are terrible things. It’s worth repeating because, for someone trying to faithfully write a manuscript, they really are. I haven’t written a word of Augira in over a week – not a word! I had gotten to the point where I could maybe give myself a weekend off, but then, well, then we went on vacation. First, the beautiful Sierra Nevadas called – and how could I say no? And then, of course, Southern California and the friends and family there beckoned irresistibly, inviting us to reminisce just a little before summer fades away and reality returns. With just one day in between those trips, well, writing was the last thing on my mind. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t write while on vacation – I did, I promise! – but, well, that only happened twice, I shamefully admit. You know how it goes, the best laid plans of mice and Laurens…

And now I’m back. For three days. Before ANOTHER trip. Goodness, I must be a busy lady, no? Yes. Luckily, this trip is back to the ol’ homestead where I grew up. Rusty or not, I will be writing throughout the whole visit – at least 10,000 words by the end of Labor Day. I promised myself that my first draft would be done by September 15th, and I’m sticking to it! The only problem is that I was writing 2,000 to 4,000 words/day every weekday during July, writing religiously to meet self-imposed goals. I got into a rhythm. Now that I’ve gotten out of it, it is surprisingly difficult to get back into it.

During my vacation, I traded writing for reading, and practically forgot to mentally check in on Renna, Evie, and Torune (they are usually not far from my thoughts). It’s easy to get so lost in the books I’m reading that I put my story on the mental back burner, focusing all my idle thoughts on the characters and plot devised by whichever author I’m currently reading (in this case, Mercedes Lackey’s first published trilogy, The Heralds of Valdemar series). Looking at books from the perspective of a person who is currently writing one gives me a whole different viewpoint than I had before. For instance, I noticed immediately that Lackey was new at this in the first book, Arrows of the Queen, because she used a head-hopping third person perspective that felt awkward, sloppy, and amateur. Interestingly, she fixed it easily in the second and third books in the series by effectively using page breaks between the perspectives of different characters. Having read most of the many books Lackey has written, especially the newer ones, it was fascinating to see the trilogy that started her career as a published author. One of my projects while I write has been to read the first published pieces written by my favorite authors to see how they compare to their recent, wonderful works. It’s been a very interesting experience – and rather comforting. Regardless of how ridiculously good they are now, they didn’t start out perfect, so I shouldn’t expect to either. 🙂

Free Write

Here’s a free-write I did this morning while ruminating on a hike I took my Golden Retriever on this weekend.

Silicon Valley is an interesting place.

In some parts brown and dusty, in others dotted with sage-green trees – magnolias, crape myrtles, eucalyptus – that increase in number atop the rolling hills.  A mess of buildings and individual cities surrounding islands of preserves and state parks.  One city blends into the other in a rolling wave, Palo Alto becoming Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Saratoga…

One short drive up the freeway – although spoken without the ‘the’ up here – and it’s easy to get lost in the dusty but beautiful landscape.  Blackberries grow in the parking lots of trailheads, cars coming and going enough to stir up the loose soil, making it swirl up in the slow-moving air.  The hills themselves aren’t all that spectacular if one focuses only on putting one dust-coated shoe in front of the other to get to the top.

However, the view from the trails…now that’s the true wonder of these hills all covered in dead grass and sagebrush.

From the steep part of a hike in Portola Valley, on the side of a hill covered in a strange mix of conifers and desert plants, my sweaty shirt, ragged breath, and sunburned shoulders suddenly disappear.  I look backwards – not up at the next step I need to take to continue the climb, but back down, down into the valley behind me.  From that vantage point, the whole of San Jose and the neighboring cities is spread out below, the salt flats of the bay shine white in the sun, and the outline of downtown San Francisco is just barely visible in the midday fog that still lingers there.

Here, however, the fog has all but burnt off.  Errant wisps still hover around the top of the hill above, weaving through the out-of-place-looking pine and redwood trees clustered there.  The sun beats down hot and merciless below that point, claiming victory over the weathermen who predicted clouds.

Something about seeing the world spread out before me makes me feel hopeful.  Looking down upon the roads and houses, malls and schools, the issues that seem to trip us up seem more manageable.

And so does the rest of the 6 mile hike, despite the unexpected heat.  The view from the top was well worth it.

Blogging While Writing

It’s been fascinating to watch this blog-site as I write. When I first created it, I couldn’t stop myself from looking to see how many hits I had gotten throughout the day, how many comments, how many followers. After the initial burst of activity, I’ve been rather viewerless for almost a week. And I’m not as bothered by it as I would have been in the beginning.

Maybe this is due to the fact that I am making significant progress on Augira’s first draft. As of yesterday, I had written over 2/3 of it. While I am aware that getting to the 100% mark doesn’t mean I will be anywhere near “done” with the novel, it is really, really, really exciting nonetheless. After that, it’s revision time, which I am actually looking forward to. What can I say? I love editing.

Still, I’ll have to find ways to keep this little blog afloat as I get closer and closer to the first finish line!

Prologue Part 3

These are the last two and a half pages that make up the Prologue. I hope peeking inside the book has been fun – maybe I’ll have to post more excerpts soon!

The time after the invoking of the Opening Marks was critical to an Augira.  During those moments, the Auri that was being accessed could be Commanded any way the Augira willed.  By focusing on a Command, an Augira could use the Auri for a multitude of purposes.  After creating the Command, it was imperative to trace the Closing Marks, lest an Augira’s thoughts wander.  If that happened, the Command would be nullified and nothing would happen upon completion of the Closing Marks.  Without a strong will to imprint an Augira’s Command on the Auri between the Opening and Closing Marks, the raw power simply slid back into its normal, life-sustaining state, unused.  Perfect focus was imperative if an Augira wanted to be able to Command the Auri they had been gifted with access to.

Of course, using life force for purposes other than the one it was intended for had consequences.  As Augiri tapped into their Auri, their lifespan shortened.  This happened every time they used it; more Auri was needed for larger, more complex Commands, so Augiri who did such works needed to ensure that they didn’t use so much Auri that they were left without enough to stay alive.  Most Augiri lived only half as long as other people, barely reaching their fiftieth year; some, who were often untrained, overdrew their Auri early on and were killed by their own over-reaching Command.  There were ways around that problem, though, but many people found them distasteful and…messy.  Kortara had not been one of those people.

Taking the lives of others had never bothered him all that much.

Kortara made sure that his blood and the boy’s had completely mingled, then he set the knife down on the stone as he focused on his Command. He then used his right hand to trace another complicated symbol in the air – the Closing Marks – while blood slowly dripped down his arm to the floor. As Kortara finished, the boy’s body suddenly went stiff, and then his slow breathing stopped. He was dead.

Surely, this time…he thought. It has to work!

Kortara moved his focus inward, trying to sense whether or not he had finally, finally been successful. Immediately, he knew. He felt nothing.

He had failed. Again.

With a cry of anguish, he fell to the floor.

“Why?!” Kortara screamed, his voiced bouncing off the stone walls, “Why doesn’t it work?!” His voice shook with anger and frustration.

“How much longer must I be a captive, imprisoned in the mind of another?!”

Kortara howled with an animalistic rage, slamming his bloody hands down on the stone floor. He continued to wail and yell as his vision went black, and darkness overtook him.

##########################################

Pevnir heard the cacophony within the chamber, but he didn’t move from his position outside the door. This was not the first time that he had heard such sounds from the chamber, and he imagined that it would not be the last. Rebirth was something that even the Nameless One had never attempted. Pevnir had no doubts about his leader’s abilities, but he imagined that this working of Auri was particular; he had no idea just what Kortara would need to do for it to work. Pevnir was just glad that he could be a part of it.

They were bringing about a new age to Alcostia – to the world!

After the chamber had been silent for about a half an hour, Pevnir gingerly entered. As he had expected, his leader was unconscious on the floor. He gently picked up the leaden body and carried him out the doors. The guard nearest to where Pevnir had waited outside the chamber gestured that he had alerted the others and that they would take care of the dead boy’s body and the cleaning, as usual. Pevnir nodded and continued down the hall.

He held the unconscious man cradled in his arms, carrying him all the way through the secret passageway that led to his chambers. They entered the Regial Suite through the hidden door that lay behind an ancient tapestry depicting Evangela’s victory at Kortara’s Ruin.

I always find the placement of this tapestry ironic, thought Pevnir. Maybe my dear ruler has a sense of humor. He smiled at the thought, placing the unconscious man on his bed. Pevnir then took the time to wash the blood from the ruler’s hands and arms, checking to make sure that none had gotten on his robes. He was lucky tonight; the regial robes were still spotless.

After one final check, Pevnir departed the same way he had entered. Although this evening had not been a success for his exalted leader, Pevnir was certain of his eventual triumph.

And then, he thought, the world will tremble before his might.