Box of Bones Map

It is late and it is small and it is simple, but here is the promised map. It was a hard month, but I validated yesterday with 71 extra words and about a half hour to spare. If I scrounge up the time for it, I might do another map of the Grey Islands themselves, and another of the known world at large. I also wanted to do some topo lines, or maybe some olde schoole sea monsters lurking around the margins, but tonight is not that night.

Thanks for your patience!

BoB Maps

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Box of Bones, Prologue

I am so terrifyingly behind in Camp NaNo right now. D:

But here is the prologue to my project, Box of Bones. I’m not sure it’s a prologue I’m going to keep in the final product, but it’s where I started and it helped me get into the project in the first place. Enjoy!

Prologue

Tiva cleaned the last dish and set it on the rack to dry with the others. The windows were open out onto the cobblestone street below, and the breeze carried in the smells of dust and daffodils. Tiva would miss all this while she was away. It was always the mundane things she missed the most.

Her father was quiet at the kitchen table behind her, staring down at the blue veins of his hands. He had used to argue with her right before she left- oh, how they had fought- but he’d learned it wasn’t worth it. She would keep doing what she did, and there was nothing he could do to stop her. Or at least, there was nothing he was willing to do that would stop her. He knew the thread she walked on in her line of work. It had taken only the smallest misstep for her husband to fall off that thread. Her father wouldn’t risk her falling as well. There were risks enough without his adding to them.

Tiva wiped the table and the counter tops and dried her hands on her apron. She cleaned the lamps and swept the floor, working room to room in their tiny home. She saved the chamberpot for last of all, and then scrubbed her hands with lye soap and the sink water before draining it from the basin and hauling it out to the street. She watered the bright flowers lining her whitewashed wall and then tossed the last of the water down the street, watching the grimy water disappear in the cracks between the sunbaked cobblestones. A lean gray cat darted out of an alley to lap up the water before it disappeared, watching her with amber eyes.

She went back up the stairs, untying her apron, and hung it on a peg inside the kitchen door. She buffed the basin in the kitchen until it shined, brushing her fingers lovingly across the glazed images of the Mother and the Twins.

Everything was done. It was time to leave.

Tiva kissed her father on the top of his bald head, squeezing his shoulder, and he pressed his hand over hers. She rested her cheek against his forehead, staring down at the tabletop with him.“I love you, Papa.”

“Be careful, Tiva.”

“I will. Just a few months and I’ll be back again.” She stepped back, giving him a playful smile as she went for the door. “Don’t kill my flowers.”

She got her bag from her room and went back down the stairs, the wooden steps groaning beneath her heels. She turned up the streets, greeting neighbors she’d known since she was a girl, and went farther and farther from her home, into the parts of town she had always warned her own two children against.

The sun rose higher and shone straight down into the narrow alley. Sweat prickled down her neck and her back, and more and more people retreated into their homes to wait out the afternoon heat. Tiva walked on, her palm sweaty on the handle of the bag. Her belly fluttered with queasiness and she couldn’t quite still her pattering heart. She wasn’t worried. She always got like this before a job, every time. It was nothing to worry about. Just something to live with.

Finally, she reached the grocer’s shop and went down stone steps to the dark cool of the interior.

A man at the counter called to her before her eyes adjusted to the dark. “Tiva, my beauty. How’s that grandbaby of yours?”

Tiva’s face broke into a brilliant smile, her eyes crinkling into merry laugh lines. “She gets heavier every day. I don’t know what Mahli’s been feeding her.”

He laughed. “How’s she adjusting? Her husband helping her out?”

“He’s been a saint.” Her eyes adjusted and she stepped down a narrow corridor lined with baskets and bins of fruit and vegetables, fresh from the countryside. “And his mother too. They take such good care of my girl.” She flicked her fingers over her heart in a small blessing. Her children had all the gifts she could wish for them, all the ones she hadn’t had herself- steady homes, good communities, bright futures. It was everything Tiva had fought so hard for all those years. With just a few more jobs, she could guarantee their futures. Then she could tell them the truth.

“Good.” The man grunted, his chair creaking as he rose up onto his one leg. He grabbed his crutch from the wall and hopped after her. “And Werrin?”

“Oh, he complains endlessly, the thankless beast. Even after all these years.” The man chuckled and she added, “You’d think I apprenticed him to a bear for all his whining.”

He shook his head. “Youngest. It’s in their nature.”

“All the same, he’s progressing. He made me the most beautiful basin for the kitchen. It’s hard work, but he’ll manage it.” She paused at the door in the back, hidden behind a pillar, crowded with stacked baskets.

“Takes after you then.” He paused at the basket of nespera and tossed one to her. “Take care of yourself, beautiful.”

Tiva caught it with a laugh. “You, too, Barik.” She lifted the bag over her shoulder and shimmied sideways through the narrow gap, pushing the door open with her hip.

The hall was black as the door swung closed behind her. Without a window to the outside, it was cold and dark, a welcome change after the bright and heat of the outdoors. The sweat on the back of her neck chilled her and she let out a breath, starting forward. She, and probably scores of others like her, knew every step of that corridor. The only ones who didn’t know the steps weren’t supposed to be there. They never found their way back out again.

She turned down a side corridor and down an uneven flight of steps, the stone worn and sloping. She shouldered her way through the door at the bottom of the steps, biting into the nespera, its bright sweetness hitting her tongue at the same moment she noticed the lamplight from the next room.

A woman sat at a table, two other men busily pouring over stacks of paper. The woman smiled up at Tiva tiredly. “Thought you weren’t coming until tomorrow.”

Tiva shrugged, heading into a little alcove at the back of a support pillar. “Werrin’s master needed him back. May as well get an early start.” She held the fruit in her teeth and untied her headscarf. She started unbuttoning her blouse and asked, “Nera still mad about the last batch?”

“Oh, she’s always mad about something. You just do your job and she’ll do hers. Don’t worry about it.”

But Tiva did worry. Nera had a say in Tiva’s bounties. She had a say in Tiva’s assignment pool. Maybe the others liked Tiva, and still remembered her husband, but Tiva didn’t like complications. Her work was complicated enough. She kicked her skirt aside and dug through her bag, pulling out a tunic and a pair of trousers. They were rough and ugly, stained and worn in patches and streaks. Not shabby enough for begging, but not nice enough for respect, they were the kind of clothes you wore when you didn’t want to be noticed.

It was more than subtlety, though. Tiva always changed her clothes before a new assignment. She didn’t know why. She just knew that it made things easier in her head. Tiva-at-home wouldn’t like the things that Tiva-abroad had to do. Best to leave all that behind.

Tiva stuffed her clothes into her bag and went back out to the table. The other woman pushed a stack of papers to an open chair and Tiva sat, setting her bag against her ankles.

Tiva did a lot of things for the Plum Army. And she’d been at it long enough now that, most of the time, she had the right to choose the things she did. If she didn’t like an assignment, she didn’t take it. She made her way through the stack of assignments, reading each description, and placed them face down in one of two piles. Maybe, and No. And then she went through the Maybe pile again, dividing it into Still Maybe, and Not This Time. It was important that she choose carefully. If she failed her mission, she didn’t get paid. If she failed it badly, she didn’t get to come home again.

Her husband had failed his last mission badly, all those years ago. She wouldn’t do that to her family again.

Finally, there was only one page left in the Maybe pile.

The woman frowned down at the paper as Tiva handed it back, staring at it for a long moment. “Huh.” Her eyes flicked up to Tiva’s. “Didn’t know you were a sailor.”

“Close enough to pass for it.”

“You sure? It’s pretty a specialized assignment.”

“I’m sure.”

She shrugged. “Alright, then. I’ll have the girls draw up the papers. They’ll be ready for you in…” She glanced down at the page again. “… Dahlsport in a week. Twin’s luck.”

Tiva stood, lifting her bag. “Twin’s luck.” She scooped the nespera seeds into her hand and headed for the door, leaving Tiva-at-home behind her.

Sample Chapter: Copper

Howdy, friends! I am sick and behind on my word count, so I’ll dispense with the pleasantries and vomit up this first chapter of my current project, Copper. Enjoy, and don’t catch plague!

Chapter One

Phoebe stared up at the single naked lightbulb in the room, suspended hiiiiigh out of reach from the ceiling. It flicked on every morning at six. It flicked off every night at eight. It was a tiny sun, beyond her control and beyond caring for someone like her.

It wasn’t a particularly strong bulb. The corners of her room were always in shadow. The darkness was under the bed; she would move the thing if it wasn’t bolted down, just to see what the floor looked like in relatively bright detail, rather than lying on her belly coughing on dust bunnies with her cheek to the cold concrete floor. Like every other inch of the floor and the walls as high as she could reach, she knew every bump and grain and gouge. Nearly every moment of the past five years had been spent in this room. She knew every inch of it by touch and sight and smell and even taste and the sound it made when she tapped it with a knuckle or slapped it with a palm or stomped it with a bare heel.

But on the days she was strapped onto the bed, sedated half out of her mind, bored out of the other half, she had nothing to do but stare up at that one dim bulb and think about how grand it would be to take it down and handle it and peer at its little insides. It was the one great mystery left in the room.

The room Phoebe had had before the electricity had been put in had had a window high up by the ceiling. She could trace its path along the wall and have a kind of clock. She missed that.

The room before that had been in a different facility entirely. It hadn’t seemed nice at the time, but Phoebe realized now that her grandmother had probably chosen the place with care, not realizing they would decide within months of her deployment that Phoebe was too dangerous to be kept there, and off she went to Bloomingdale. Phoebe used to wonder if knowing where she would end up would have changed her grandmother’s mind, but had decided it probably wouldn’t have. Her grandmother had never been one to be bothered by anything less than the needs of the whole world. The needs of one little girl just weren’t important enough.

She had promised Phoebe she would come back for her.

She never had.

The lightbulb overhead flicked out, plunging Phoebe into blackness. She closed her eyes, and then opened them again. It made no difference.

 

#

 

Mrs. Alice Mae Phillips stepped closer to the window, staring out over the manicured lawn of St. Anthony’s Home for Aged Exceptionals, its grass still slick with last night’s rain. She watched the abandoned grounds for a few moments, absently running her large-knuckled fingers through the plush fur of the Turkish Angora lounging in her windowsill. The cat arched her back appreciatively, a low purr rumbling in her throat.

“Well, Maggie,” the old woman murmured, tired already. “Time for the morning jailbreak.”

The old woman pocketed a small cube of copper, rolling her stooped shoulders, and then ambled toward the door. She paused in the frame, glancing back at the cat again, and gave her a conspirator’s nod as she said in a low voice, “Don’t forget the plan.”

 

 

To read the full chapter, click here!

Reblog: Daily Writing Routine

Howdy folks! It is now April, and that means it’s Camp NaNo season! Wahoo! I really need this, because I have been super lazy about writing the last few months and particularly the last few days. (Holidays. Holidays WRECK my writing system.)

Speaking of writing systems, the reblog this week is from our friendly neighborhood Well-Storied, about daily writing habits- the good, the bad, and the augh-why-does-it-hurt. Read Kristen Keiffer’s take on daily writing and decide if it’s right for you! Enjoy, and happy writing!

Have you ever thought about creating a daily writing routine? In today's breakdown, I'm sharing my the pros + cons, as well as my personal experience in maintaining a 1,000 day writing streak!

“Real writers write every day.”

Unfortunately, that’s a sentiment you’ll often hear in the writing world, and for a time, I subscribed to it myself. And while I still maintain a daily writing routine, I regret the days I spent telling other writers they should to do the same.

Every writer’s process is unique, and what works for one—or even many—isn’t guaranteed to work for you. And that’s okay! The important thing is to find the writing techniques that work best with your time, your skills, and your stories. Unsure if a daily writing routine would be a good fit for your writing process?

Allow me to share the pros and cons of my own experience with a daily writing routine today!

How I Built My Daily Writing Routine…

I’m far more of a storyteller than a writer. I enjoy plotting, creating characters, world-building, and the like, but the actual process of writing the dang thing is often like pulling teeth for me. And because of that, I’m prone to procrastinating my work.

A few years ago, my writing life was a mess because of this procrastination. I wouldn’t write for weeks at a time, until I grew so frustrated with my lack of productivity that I’d practically hurl myself into the work. Obviously, working with such intensity wasn’t exactly sustainable, and I often exhausted all of my creativity energy and motivation during these times.

I wouldn’t write again for weeks, and so the cycle repeated.

I knew I needed to find a way to stop procrastinating my work, to instead spread my creative energy out throughout the week, but I didn’t know where to start. That’s when I found Faye Kirwin’s Write Chain Challenge, a 30-day course designed to help you build a daily writing routine.

The course itself runs off the principal of a daily minimum. Every day, you must meet your daily minimum writing goal in order to add a link to your Write Chain. Fail to earn your daily link, and you break your chain and must start over.

This challenge seemed like the perfect way to revolutionize my messy writing life, and in February 2015, I began adding links to my Write Chain. After nearly three years of daily writing, I hit my 1,000th daily link earlier this month. One thousand days! 

Never in a million years would I have thought I could work on my writing for so many days in a row. But the practice wasn’t always easy, and it certainly wasn’t perfect…

To read the full article, click here!

Greetings from Camp!

Hello! I gotta say, I’m a little proud of myself lately! In addition to Camp NaNoWriMo, I’m staring down four other writing deadlines this month and- shock of all shocks- I might actually hit them all. This is unprecedented! (And might have something to do with [okay, everything to do with] having damaged my leg and being trapped on a couch with KT tape, compression socks, the works. Nothing slows down an overachiever like crutches. Guess I’ll have to overachieve somewhere else- hello, laptop!)

We’re over halfway through the month now and I’m pretty sure I’d have to lose an arm in a car accident in the next 24 hours to not be able to squeak across the finish line. So I might actually have the time to draw a decent comic for next week! But until then, enjoy another reblog, this time from National Novel Writing Month itself! (By the way, their blog archives are worth trawling if you’re ever low on motivation or ideas.)

This little number caught my eye because it’s doing the opposite of what I normally do on my blog: it’s taking lessons learned from writing and applying them to life in general! Please enjoy and I’ll see you again next week. Happy writing!

5 NaNo Lessons I’ve Applied to the Rest of My Life

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Every November since 2011, as soon as I post the “NaNoWriMo Participant” banner on my social media outlets, I hear two things from friends and family. One is, “You’re mad to tackle 50k words in a month.” The other is, “I wish I had the drive to do that sort of thing!”

I never said I’m not mad (I am a writer, after all). As for the drive… take the word of this former owner of the Pan-American record for Writing Procrastination: that can be taught. So much so that I applied what I learned in six seasons of November madness into other areas of my life that have nothing to do with fiction writing.

After all, most big deadlines can seem like the elusive 50k in November: an Everest of a situation. Whether you want to do it (e.g. get to dance at the Lindy Hop ball, finish a race for the first or tenth time) or you have to do it (e.g. a school essay, a job presentation), the first and irrational reaction, of course, is to panic and freeze, and then say “Nope, won’t do it. There are better people doing it already.”

That’s where the NaNo mind-frame comes in handy.

Want to read the rest? Head on over to NaNoWriMo’s blog via this lovely link!

Sample Chapter: Seasong

Boy, I haven’t done a sample chapter in ages! Probably because I produce horrible horrible first drafts that aren’t fit for human eyes until they’ve gone through at least two major revisions. BUT WHO CARES ABOUT THAT. I shall now assault your eyes nonetheless!

Enjoy!

Seasong

Chapter One

He was one of the older ones, old enough that he should have known better.

Meisa watched Urae carefully pull herself up out of the water, slowly, slowly, so as not to startle him. He bumbled forward, curious, blinking at her with spell-clouded eyes. The water washed around his ankles and he didn’t even notice. Urae held the spell tight around her, golden curls spilling over her pale shoulders, her round breasts. She sat on the rocks, keeping her true half hidden down in the water still. She flashed Meisa a quick glance, flicking her chin away to the far side of the bay.

Meisa slipped down into the water and darted through swirling seaweed and surging tide. The sea distorted her sister’s song, twisting the notes into tuneless keening, a nightmare of what could only be the sweetest dream to the unwitting landmeat above. Meisa breached on the far side of the bay, tucked back against the black rocks, and watched.

Urae sang without words, the seasong pouring from her elongated throat. She spread her arms toward the landmeat sloshing toward her in the tide, tripping and stumbling against the sharp rocks below him, scattered with mussels and weeds.

He had no idea. No idea.

Meisa felt a twinge of uncertainty.

Her sister sprang forward like a striking eel, grabbing the human around the waist. He fell backward into the water with a cry and a splash, and then all was stillness.

Meisa waited a moment, squeamish about what came next, and then sank without a ripple, swimming to her sister.

The landmeat was dead before they passed the tideline.

Want to read the rest? Follow this finely crafted link to the full chapter!

Reblog: The Bulletproof Writer

mermaid Hello! It’s another NaNo months! Wahoo! *flings confetti* And with that comes stick figures and reblogs, huzzah!

I know we’re only three days in, but I’m feeling good about this month so far. I spent the first day working on a thriller project that I quickly sacked (probably in large part because I am apparently majorly uncomfortable writing about affairs), and then switched over to a Little Mermaid retelling. I’m really enjoying the switch, and it’s great to be drafting again after so long editing. This being a NaNo month, though, let the blogging laziness begin.

Our first reblog of the month is about dealing with rejection, something that I’ve been working hard to get better at. (As you may recall, I have a rejections goal for the year, which sounds a little insane, but is actually kind of working for me.)  If you haven’t come across Joanna Penn’s blog, The Creative Penn, before, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Here’s a piece from her archive by Michael Alvear, called:

The Bulletproof Writer: How To Deal With Rejection

Rejection is part of the writer’s life, whether that’s from an agent or publisher, a one-star review, or lack of sales. But that doesn’t mean that rejection has to destroy you.

bulletproofHere are some tips from Michael Alvear on how to handle it in a more positive way. 

What danger is to a cop, rejection is to a writer–always hanging in the air dripping with possibility. And drip it does, onto the talented and untalented in almost equal measure.

Actually it doesn’t just drip; it pours.

Rejection has a 360-degree aim — from literary agents who don’t want you as a client, editors who don’t want your manuscript, publishers who give you an insulting advance, bad reviews from literary critics, hate speeches on Amazon, and of course the ultimate rejection—poor sales. Somebody, somewhere at just about every stage of your writing life gives you the finger, a hand and sometimes the whole arm.

Success makes it worse because now you have more to lose. Who do you think suffers more—the newbie who can’t get her first manuscript accepted or the best seller who can’t get his last published because his prior two books tanked? Success, as any best-selling author knows, doesn’t protect you from rejection.

Want to read more? Go check out the full post here! And until next week, happy writing!