“You” refers to all of my readers out there. Me is, well, it’s me. I know, you’re reading “me” and thinking it’s me, but it’s not, it’s me. I’m glad we straightened that out.
While you’re confused and spinning around wondering if you’re talking to yourself, here’s the gist of what today’s blog is about. Pre-emptive reading. I finished up book 3 in my Order of the Dragon fantasy series (Sands of Betrayal) a few days ago and it’s in my editors hands. That’s not good enough for me. I want to deliver the best experience possible. That means I need a little help. That’s where you come in.
I’m looking for a handful of beta readers that don’t mind having a crack at a raw manuscript in rough draft form. Here’s the kicker though, I’m not looking for much in return other than your thoughts on it and what did / didn’t work. Suggestions for ways to make it better are welcome and encouraged also!
I’m not asking you to buy the book when it comes out. I’m not asking you to write a review. I’m not asking you to do any editing at all. I’m just asking for people willing to read it and share their thoughts on the book (grammatical and typographical issues aside). The one and only stipulation is that anybody interested needs to be able to get it done inside of 5 – 10 days.
Now then, if you’d like to buy a copy when it’s finished and / or leave a glowing review I’d be nothing short of giddy as a school girl. In a manly beer chest thumping sort of way, that is. But if that isn’t your thing that’s cool too. All you have to do is leave a comment with your email or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nothing to it! I’ll email out the pdf of the completed rough draft asap and you can enjoy it to your heart’s content. Or if you’d like it in another format I’m sure I can arrange that too.
Stay tuned to the blog too, I’ve have a hectic week but things are settling down a little (I hope!), so I can get some of the blog posts that have been piling up in my head out on this thing soon. I plan to share some characters and snippets from Vitalis: Genesis, my current project, a bit of a teaser on a joint project I’ve undertaken, and some random thoughts designed to amuse, upset, and possibly irritate a few people.
To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
I’ve raved about Child of Fate being released a couple of times (and I’ll probably do it a couple more), but why stop there? Not only is it available at your favorite websites for your ereading pleasure, now it’s available for those of you that prefer the feel of a printed book. That’s right, Child of Fate has gone physical! Click on the pic below (or the link below it) to have a chance to snatch it up.
But why stop with just one? In true made-for-TV marketing, I have not one but two books that just crossed the threshold into the real world. Not only is Child of Fate available to read and then use as a paperweight, but so is Vitalis: Resurrection. Check it out!
Unfortunately that’s all I’ve got to offer today. Aside from news that I have finished my self-edit of Bounty and I was very pleased with how it turned out. Now it’s off to Lisa Shalek, my content editor. I hope she’s as happy with it as I am!
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
To a non-writer the act of sitting down and writing thousands of words seems more than a little daunting. I can remember the groaning of fellow students even in my MBA classes at the thought of having to write 500+ word essays. Heck, I’ve got a co-worker who once offered to pay me to write his quarterly company newsletter articles and those are only a couple of paragraphs! And no, I didn’t take him up on the offer, but not because I’m afraid of writing.
As any writer knows, writing the book is actually the easy part. What comes after, the publishing and marketing, is a far more grueling and difficult task. It’s not a matter of “if you write it, they will read.” Sure, we’d love for that to be the case, but if nobody knows it’s out there how could anyone possibly read it? That’s the tricky part. Tricky and, depending on how you go about it, expensive.
But all of those things still may not be the hardest part of writing. I’m sitting on a very complicated dilemma at this very moment while I’m finishing up a self-edit of my most recent fantasy novel, Child of Fate. I hope to finish the self-edit today then send it off to Lisa Shalek for content editing, then my proof reader, Faith Williams. And of course my favorite cover artist, Willsin Rowe. As excited as I am to get that book going I’m having a bit of a rough time. You see, in the back of my head I have two books fighting each other for the right to be heard, or at least read. Do I jump into the sequel for Child of Fate right away while it’s still fresh or do I step away and undertake another long overdue project?
What long overdue project? Well I’m glad you asked! It started out with some plans my wife and I have to go to Vegas without the kids in a couple of weeks. We’re meeting some friends out there and the plan is, for a night or two, to go clubbing. Now when I think of the word clubbing I flash back to either romance in the caveman era or being mugged in a dark alley. My wife corrected me and pointed out that I needed to be on my best behavior because if I let my irritation show on my face while waiting in line or in the club, I could very easily be asked to leave. I was thinking about this Friday night while my wife and I were out with a different couple (yes, we’ve got at least four friends). My wife and her friend were out dancing while the other guy and I were sitting there watching them. It was entertaining. Her words flashed into my head though, and that started an unexpected moment of inspiration.
I have a character in the books I’ve written that shares some traits with me. In him they are amplified to levels that are admirable. Sort of like the movie Braveheart where William Wallace is considered an uncompromising man and it’s a good thing. Well Carl, of Wanted / Ice Princess fame, would be just as annoyed or more so than I would be in such a situation, and he wouldn’t be upset to show it. Add in somebody putting their hands on him to escort him out and, well, it would get messy.
So with that scene in mind I chuckled, then I realized I might be on to something. Was this, at last, the segue into the third and final book in the Wanted series? I dug deeper and soon it just started pouting into my brain. I had a plot and a premise. I had scenes. I had ideas. Now all I need to do is write it out!
But I’m indecisive. When I wrote Wanted I got hung up for a long time on it. I ended up cutting back and dropping around 15,000 words at the end and rewriting the ending. My original plans lay shattered for the trilogy and I considered leaving it at just one book. Eventually I found inspiration to do Ice Princess, but I had a rough time with that one too throughout it. So now I’m nervous that the third one would be equally troubling. I’ve come a long ways as a writer since those books, but that doesn’t stop the fear of failure from creeping in.
Nonetheless, I think I’m going to proceed with the third Wanted book. Like I said, I’ll be in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks so what better time to write it then when I can do live research on the place where I plan for most of the book to happen in? Granted, it’s a very different Las Vegas. The third book will take place several years after Ice Princess has ended. The United States government has moved back in and reclaimed the western states from the neo-anarchy that plagued the world for several years, but their presence is limited and quite often quite martial. With all the sparks from that kind of environment going on what could be more fun than adding in a little gasoline?
Stay tuned, I’ll be sure to post progress as I get started on it. I’m not sure if I want to title the book “Sin City”, “Vegas”, or something else altogether. Not to worry, I’ll figure it out!
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
I haven’t blogged much as I should have recently. I’ll make no promises that I’ll step it up to a few posts a week in the immediate future either. My dayjob has been kicking me between the legs so much lately it’s becoming repetitive. I hope I get used to it and build up a tolerance. Although I hate to imagine having callouses “down there!”
Anyhow, in spite of the day to day burdens of life at a tier 1 auto supplier, the write must go on. I try to squeeze some writing in on lunch since I never leave the day job except to go home at the end of the day, but even that’s been denied to me this week. The answer? headphones.
One of my wife’s favorite shows (perhaps her current favorite altogether) just started back up, “The Voice.” I admit, it’s kind of catchy at times and I do enjoy the train wreck that is Christina Aguilara’s outfits. The problem is it comes on when the kids go to bed and that’s prime writing time. Enter the headphones. I fire up a selection of music I’ve loaded for inspiring creative genius and go to town. Sure, there are still some distractions with the Voice in the background and my wife occasionally laughing or talking to me (I keep the volume low enough to hear what’s going on around me).
In spite of the distractions the music helps keep me more focused, even if it only serves as white noise. Monday night, for example, I cranked out 2000 words on my current work in progress (Child of Fate, a fantasy novel beginning a new series). Last night I shocked myself by managing over 3000 words in an even shorter time frame. With Child of Fate I’m shooting for an average of 3000 words per chapter and I’m some in the early to mid 20′s for chapter count. Two more to go and I expect the book will be finished.
So what’s next after Child of Fate? I’m tempted to launch into book two right away, but I’m considering my options. I may branch out and try something completely different from my usual fair, but I remain undecided. Whatever it is I’ll keep plugging away like the writing machine that I am. That much is certain.
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
I spent a year living in southern Utah in a beautiful location called Moab. I highly recommend visiting if you like hiking and climbing. Incredible scenery and, as John Wayne once put it, “It’s where God put the West.” Activities include four wheeling, mountain biking, hiking, climbing (free and with ropes and spikes and stuff), white water rafting in the Colorado River, hunting elk / beer / deer / bighorn sheep / mountain lion / etc., or visiting multiple nearby national parks including the Grand Canyon and Dead Horse Point, where scenes from Thelma and Louise and The Last Crusade among other movies) were filmed. That was a helluva sentence, so go ahead and take a breath.
I bring up living in Moab because I came home from work for lunch one day and walked into my front door. I opened it first, not to worry. I ate my lunch with my family and then headed back to the same door to head back to work. I stopped abruptly though – there was a very large female black widow spider hanging right in the middle of the doorway at my waist height. I grabbed a shovel, relocated it to a safe place, then smashed the juices out of it.
There’s my creepy spider black widow story. My other Black Widow story is in the hands of my content editor (Lisa Shalek) as of this morning. I’m expecting great things from her, even though I was mighty impressed with it when I reread it and smoothed out a few issues. I’ll admit that I’m biased, so that’s where the third party editor comes in.
I’m leaning towards starting my eighth Vitalis book, Resurrection, but I’m not 100% on it. I’ve been working on brainstorming ideas for it. So far I’ve got quite a few, but I’m still looking for the threat to keep it exciting. Oh sure, there’s the constant danger of dinosaur like predators, hives filled with aggressive and poisonous creatures, and even dissension amongst the survivors. Not to mention the new species that’s living with a human who’s sanity is questionable. I’d really like those to be background threats though, not the main villain. I guess we’ll see what happens – just writing this has given me some possible ideas.
This post is dedicated to editing. Not how to edit, nor what a wonderful thing a good editor is. Rather it’s about the different styles of editing and how very misunderstood the concept of editing is. I’m far from above making the mistake of misunderstanding it as well, it took several books and years for me to be able to wrap my brain around it. Truth be told, I’m sure I’m still missing out on a lot.
You see I hate typos and grammatical mistakes. They infuriate me because they’re so easy to miss. I assumed, years ago, that by sending out my work to an editor they would magically be corrected. Then I’d get reviews or comments complaining about how my book needed editing. I keep my hair short for many reasons, not the least of which is so that it’s too hard for me to pull it out when stuff like that happens.
The misconception is that all editing is the same. It’s not. All of my books are edited, and nearly 95% of those are done by a third party person as well as myself (and sometime by other parties as well). The third party is the content editor. A content editor is reading the story and looking for it to make sense and to make it flow better. They help revise poorly worded areas and also catch other things that drag a story down or make it difficult to read / understand. These people can truly make a story shine, yet to the average reader they have no idea these people exist or that they aided in the publication of a given story.
Then there’s the copyeditors, or proofreaders. They look for the formatting and typographical errors. Copyeditors are the parade soldiers in dress uniforms that people see. They make a writer and a reader feel like they’re being protected from the barbarian hordes wielding fragmented sentences. In reality, the copy editor has less of an impact on the story than anyone else does, yet their work is the most visible. For me, most of my stories have not been reviewed by a proper third party copyeditor. I admit this and regret it, but when it comes down to managing costs it’s a difficult burden to bear. Instead I try to do my own proofreading (shame on me, I know), and try to sucker anyone else I know to do the same. As time and money becomes available I send stories off to be copyedited, but I write faster than I can afford to edit so it’s a growing backlist.
So my friends, when I say I’m a stickler for editing, I mean it. That doesn’t mean you won’t find superfluous errors with no impact on the story though, it only means the story itself has been polished and shined to be something fun and provoking. I’d love to be able afford to provide both, but that requires more sales. How can you help? Tell your friends what you’re reading and how much you like it – it helps even more if the book your reading is one of mine! Tweet about it, post it on Facebook, blog about it, or write a glowing review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iTunes, Sony, Kobo, or wherever you go it. And keep checking back, I’m always writing the next book – my current project is Black Widow, book four in the Lost Girls series, which I’m hoping to release in August.
Chapter 14 of Betrayal’s Hands wasn’t as bad as the last couple. Oh it still needs plenty of work – there’s too much passive vs. active – but it didn’t make my eyes bleed as much.
The questions stopped. Not the small insignificant ones, but the probing questions into Cor’s past ceased. He didn’t realize exactly when it happened, but he noticed that she’d stopped digging into his history.
First one excuse, then another had arisen to keep Teri there. After the snows had finally abated Cor had delayed, making sure winter had loosed its hold. Then she’d come down with a stomach flux that forced him to care for her for a few days. Afterwards he wanted her to gain her strength back. Then he admitted that her help was handy with the garden she had planted behind the hut. He still planned on being rid of her, but it was looking more and more like it would not happen until the fall. Or at least that was what he would gruffly explain when the subject came up.
In the meantime he lashed together some branches to make a cot for her. Using pelts of animals he hunted she finished the cot and made extra blankets for herself. Life was far from easy or simple, but she found herself enjoying it for the first time in a long time. Gone, most of the time, was the fear she had come to live with constantly. In its place was a sense of warmth, familiarity, and security. Cor had saved her, after all, from Krev and from the others that had come for her. Cor had also cared for her when she was ill, something she had not been sure he would be capable of.
Now she knew, or at least suspected, his fondness for her. She knew she thought quite highly of him. Often silent, always capable, he was a rock in the turbulent storm that served as her life. Without Cor she had no idea what she would do, where she would go, or what might happen to her. It bothered her that he refused to admit to himself the things she suspected, and it scared her a little that she might be projecting her own feelings onto him.
Teri felt not only safe around him, she felt liberated. For the first time since she’d set foot on the road out of Duth Darek, she had a sense of freedom about her. She felt as though anything were possible, she had only to imagine it. She owed that feeling to Cor and she wished she could show her true gratitude to him in ways other than the simple ones that often went unnoticed.
She’d tried going out of her way to raise his interest in her, in ways that women knew best. She let him catch her partially clothed on occasion, whether washing or changing. She would offered to nurse the minor injuries he acquired; scrapes, scratches, and bruises though they were. She rubbed his shoulders once, in the hopes of relaxing him. While doing so she marveled at the strength she felt beneath the clothes he wore.
Somehow he always managed to wash himself or change when she was not around, adding to her sense of mystery. It was only a one room hut, she didn’t understand when, where, and how he managed it!
Teri wanted to help him as he’d helped her. It became her driving obsession. Before she could figure out a way to make it happen, however, fate intervened.
Cor sat at a table in Mung’s Place, listening to the latest snippets of conversation he could hear. He saw Mung from behind the bar, the troll shorter than average for his race but still massive compared to everyone other than an ogre or half-ogre. What concerned him was that Mung kept looking at him. Not at the crowd, so much, but at him.
Finally, at the point where Cor was past being uneasy and ready to leave, Mung made his way out from behind the bar and over to his table. He traded jokes with a few of the patrons on his way over, then finally stopped in front of Corillius.
“You should leave,” Mung said bluntly.
Cor looked at him, then shrugged. “Alright,” he said, pushing his chair back and standing up.
“Briam’s Crossing,” Mung continued. “Word’s spread that you’ve got the girl with the reward on her head.”
Cor looked at him, eyes narrowing. “What reward?”
Mung chuckled. “Took me a while but I put it together. You’re not so stupid. I don’t know how it came down, but there was a lot of guys after that girl, and you ended up with her. Asked around, I did. You killed some trolls up north of here.”
“So why warn me?” Cor asked him, confused by Mung’s behavior and his seemingly random thoughts.
Mung shrugged. “I like it quiet around here, good for business.”
Cor’s eyes narrowed. There was more to it, he was sure, but he was just as sure that he would not get it from the troll. “Alright,” Cor said again, tossing a few coins on the table for the ale he had drank and then turning to the door. He stopped and looked back. “What’s the reward for?”
Mung shrugged. “Word is a thousand gold for her safe return.”
Cor cursed. “Return to where?”
“Duth Derek’s all I know.”
Cor nodded. “Thanks,” he muttered.
Mung grinned. “Just keep it civil in the Crossing, that’s all I ask.”
Cor left the tavern and shook his head outside of it. A society minded troll, what next! Chuckling darkly, he turned and stomped off back towards his cabin, wondering with each passing step if he would be there in time.
* * * *
Teri was taking her time washing, hoping Cor would return early. She luxuriated in the feel of the warm rag against her skin, wiping away the sweat and dirt from working in her garden. She lingered as she washed her chest, feeling her breathing quicken at the sensations the washrag caused her stiffening nipples. She even moaned lightly, wishing that Cor was there and that he would help her with her problem.
The door slammed open, startling her. She dropped the rag into the pot filled with water and stared at the intrusion. Cor looked around the cabin, then his eyes fell on Teri. He paused, his eyes taking in her nudity like a dehydrated man drinking from a stream. He shook his head and growled, seemingly annoyed with himself. Averting his eyes he walked in and grabbed up the set of clothing she had made from the pelts of wolves he had slain when he caught them either in his snares or trying to steal the things he had caught in his snares.
“Put these on, it’s time,” he said.
“Time for what?” She asked, confused, excited, hopeful, and startled.
“Time to leave,” he said.
Her worst fears came crashing in on her. “You’re sending me away?” she asked, tears forming in her eyes.
He looked at her and sighed. “We are leaving,” he said again, emphasizing the word ‘we’.
“Where are we going?” Teri asked, her spirits buoyed slightly, but the sudden change still left more questions than answers.
Cor just shrugged and moved to another trapdoor in the floor. In this one he removed his mercenary garb he’d worn long ago, in what seemed like another life to him. He clenched his stomach muscles and took a deep breath as he stared at it, then began to gird it on.
Teri watched, surprised, as he fit the mismatched armor on. It looked to be patchwork, but his familiarity with it and the effectiveness with which it was worn made her certain that Cor was every bit as formidable as he looked. He glanced up at her as he stood up and cinched the belt around his waist with a hatchet at one end and a long sword at the other.
“Get dressed!” He snapped, not bothering to ogle her beauty this time.
Teri jumped, realizing she was brazenly displaying herself to him. She stepped into the patched together leggings and then pulled on the loose fitting top. She slid the supple moccasins she had made onto her feet and hurried over to her pile of belongings, which had grown in the months she’d stayed with Cor. She slipped the things she felt she would need into her pack and stood ready. She was amazed, in hindsight, at how differently she valued material possessions now compared to when she had first run away from her former life. Now she valued function over wealth. Utility over fashion.
“Here,” Cor said, tossing her a Nordlamarian short sword.
She caught it awkwardly, yelping slightly in surprise. She looked at it, tucked safely in its scabbard, and wondered at what she could ever hope to do with it.
“Just in case,” he offered, then slipped his own pack over his back and headed for the door. “Let’s go,” he said, walking out and into the Darkwood in the evening.
Teri swallowed nervously then tied the weapon around her waist. She looked longingly at the cabin, suspecting she would never know a time as peaceful and free as she had just known, and then turned and followed the man she had come to know as a protector instead of a captor.
As they moved through the darkening woods, Teri ran through her mind, trying vainly to figure out what could have spurred Cor to such strange action. He set a grueling pace and she was hard-pressed to keep up. Panting, she struggled along behind him, feeling a bead of sweat run down and curl under her breast. Finally she was nearly to her breaking point, and gasped, “Cor…Please…” and collapsed to the forest floor.
Cor looked back when he heard the plea, just in time to see the girl sink to the ground. He quickly made his way back to her side. “We can’t stop yet,” he said.
At her pained expression, he growled, “Come then, I’ll carry you.” He reached down and lifted her to her feet. “On my back.”
He crouched and she clambered up onto his broad back, locking her hands around his neck and her legs around his waist. He thought for a moment that he would certainly like to be between her legs, but this was neither the time nor the place. Once she was settled, he took off running again, a relentless pace, even with the extra weight. She sighed, settling her face against his back, concentrating on holding on.
As the sun began to rise over the horizon, seen only as a pale haze in the forest, Cor slowed his pace and finally stumbled to a halt near an enormous oak stump. Teri raised her head to see where they were, seeing still nothing but the forest. Cor dropped to one knee, releasing Teri’s legs, and she slowly slid to the ground. A tortured moan escaped her as her abused feet hit the ground.
“Will you tell me now what this is about?” she asked softly, moving around to look into his face. He still had not moved from where he had settled.
“Who wants you Teri?” He countered, his face tight and angry for a moment. She looked at him, confused, not knowing what he meant. He growled, “There is a thousand gold reward for your return to Duth Darek.” He spat the last like a curse. Teri paled, stepping back and away from him.
“You aren’t taking me back there…” she swallowed hard, “are you?”
Cor swore, wiping the sweat from his brow before replying. “We’ve been heading North all night.” He dragged himself to his feet and closed the distance between them. “Who wants you back so badly?” Suspicions lay heavy on his mind, and he hoped there was nothing to them.
“My betrothed…” She whispered in a tiny voice. “A monster.” Suddenly she began to shake so hard that her teeth chattered. “More than even Krev. His intentions, at least, I understood.” She looked at the growing dawn, “Krev kept me safe. Virgins bring a better price, he said.” A tiny hysterical laugh escaped her. “I know only a little of what awaits me if I am returned to Duth Darek. I will not go there.” For a moment, Cor could see the core of steel which had kept the girl alive through the winter.
“You were promised to another against your wishes?” Cor said, ignoring the strange feeling in his stomach.
Hugging her arms to herself self-consciously, Teri nodded. Cor grunted, his thoughts hard to pin down. “And you ran from him, how did you come to winter with the half-ogre?”
“Krev?” Teri asked, personalizing him. “I stumbled onto his bandits, he saved me from them.”
“He saved you from his bandits?” Cor asked, somewhat incredulous. “Then where are they all at?”
Teri’s answer fit in with the pet theory Cor had been working on… a theory that made him no less nervous. “We were attacked but soldier’s from Duth Darek that had tracked me. They killed most of the bandits and Krev saved me from them by taking me with him as he fled.”
Cor nodded, frowning slightly at her continuing association with the bandits. Bandits were little better than lawless scum that preyed upon the old, the young, the weak, and the helpless. Fresh from a noble home and skilled in little more than embroidery, he imagined Teri fell under the helpless category.
“Bandits,” he said, his voice dripping with disdain. Then he realized that he was little better than they were at many times. He chuckled, his self-deprecating tone sounding cruel.
“My fate amuses you?” Teri asked, her voice soft and her chin trembling at the thought that he was making fun of her.
“No,” Cor said, shaking his head and looking away. “My fate amuses me.”
“We’ll camp here for the night,” He said, changing the subject. “On the ‘morrow we’ll veer to the east and be free of the Darkwood.”
“Where then?” Teri asked, glad that he continued to speak of them as being together. She did not know what she would do if he abandoned her.
The Nordlamarian stared at the darkening limbs of the trees above them. He sighed. “I’ll not turn you in,” he said at last, drawing a exhalation of relief from her.
Cor turned and gave her a rare smile, which felt to her like a beam of sunshine. “Worry not, I may not have the honor of my ancestors, but some things I still hold dear.”
“You’ve always been honorable with me,” Teri said softly and consolingly, knowing that he spoke of a deep pain within him.
He shrugged. “My penance,” he said with an air of finality on the topic.
“Who are your people? Are you not from Aradmath?”
Cor looked at her for a long moment, then glanced away to the north, almost as if he expected merely thinking the name would bring its attention upon him. “I was born in Nordlamar,” he finally said.
Teri’s eyes widened. Cor, her protector, savior, and champion, was a barbarian from the north! She remembered the woman her father had captured and tortured and shivered in spite of herself. She was glad that Cor did not see her involuntary shudder.
“Is it true, what they say of them?” Teri asked cautiously.
“What do they say?” Cor asked.
“That they are barbarians. Heathens that treat their women as equals?”
Cor chuckled and looked at her. “You don’t consider yourself the equal of a man?”
“Well,” Teri stammered, realizing she had backed herself into a corner. “I don’t know… I mean, I think I could be, in some things. It depends upon the man…”
“Yes it does, and it depends upon the woman,” Cor answered her. “It is true that Nordlamarians let every person, be they man or woman, determine their own worth and choose their own fate. To do less would be slavery.”
“Then I think I would like to visit this place some day,” Teri said, her mind running wild with the possibilities.
“It is to the north. Once we are free I will show you the way,” Cor told her.
“You won’t come?” Teri asked, her excitement fading with the speed of a crashing wave.
“I…” Cor hesitated, then he shook his head. “No, I cannot.”
“But, Cor… why?”
Cor opened his mouth, then closed it as his throat rebelled against him with the rising memories. He shook his head and forced out in a tightly controlled voice, “I’ll show you the way, no more.”
Teri stared at him, tears gathering. A chance lay open before her to escape Aradmath once and for all. Even the long reach of her father and Baron Darleth could not have her in Nordlamar. But, apparently, the arms of Cor would never reach her either. It was something that troubled her greatly.
“Get some sleep,” Cor said, moving off silently into the woods to set a watch for them.
Teri watched him go and then let the first tears fall. She wiped them clear, knowing that crying accomplished nothing. Still, she had no idea what else to do. In the end she took Cor’s advice and cleared a spot on the ground free of sticks and rocks. Stuffing her pack under her head and wrapping her cloak about her as a blanket, she fought her anxiety and tried to find the peace of sleep. It was a long time in coming to her.
* * * *
Sleep was also Cor’s enemy. It would not come, and then when it did, it brought the nightmares. He lay huddled in his blanket trying to think of anything but the stricken look on the girl’s face when he had told her he would not travel back to Nordlamar.
He could not go back. Doing that would mean facing his family, most especially Anna, with the memory of how he had failed her. Facing Anna with what he had not done – could not do. He frowned, the child had had no part in Makan’s assault of Anna, it was not right that she had paid the price for it. His morbid introspection did not last long, however, as the clutching arms of sleep dragged him quickly into the dark abyss.
This is a short chapter, and it’s entirely too passive for my tastes. Otherwise it’s ready to go, but it deserves the time to be fully rewritten. In spite of that it inspires some wicked thoughts for the future – thoughts and a direction the original story never took but one I might very well add to it. Originally Betrayal’s Hands was going to be a trilogy but the interest was lost in it and now, rather than continue it over multiple segments, I think I’ll just end up making this longer and tie up the loose ends that I left for another day.
In the north Anna showed signs of returning to who she’d once been, but she grew more and more ill as the season changed. Within a few months it became impossible for her to deny, she carried Makan’s child in her womb.
Anna was devastated by the realization and fought to hide it. She also considered trying to void the babe from her body, but it was too late by the time she’d accepted the truth. Killing it could kill her as well. And so she lived, hating herself and hating the baby within her each day more and more. She was determined to destroy it with her own hands as soon as it was born.
As time passed and her belly grew she was forced to retire from her command, if only temporarily. She wouldn’t have her soldiers knowing what it was that she carried within her. How tainted she’d become. She sought out her sister and arranged for her to go into hiding to bear the child in secret. Shar created a special assignment for her, as far as her soldiers were concerned. A secret mission to strike fear into the hearts of the Aradmathians. None but the two women knew the truth.
Winter was longer than usual, and by the time it was over Anna was nearly ready to bear the bastard child. Shar had her cloistered with a midwife that visited daily in a small homestead a week’s ride from the army, out of the way of the supply routes to further conceal her condition.
Anna had also put in a request to see Corillius. She’d thought long and hard on her behavior towards him and knew she must put it right. Her attitude towards men had grown somewhat rougher than it was before; it was the only way she found herself able to deal with them. Gone was the camaraderie she’d once felt. In its place was the uneasiness of a cat that knew only that the dog wouldn’t snap at it so long as the dog knew the cat would attack it at a moment’s notice.
But Cor she’d treated wrongly, and she knew it even if she didn’t feel it. Having sent for him, she waited impatiently. She was anxious to see him and afraid to see him. Cor was the only one who’d seen her at her worst, when she had been Baron Makan’s plaything. She spat at the thought of it, dredging up considerable anger. Yet at the same time a part of her quailed in terror at the memory.
Her sister, Sharlotta, had arrived instead of Corillius. Shar told her of their cousin’s fate, how he’d ridden back into Aradmath to exact the vengeance upon Makan that Anna herself had called down upon him. She also told her how intelligence had learned that Makan’s two daughters had disappeared, one slain and another missing. No more news had come of it, and after many months had since passed, the worse was assumed. Corillius Argondiir, one of the army’s greatest single warriors, had fallen.
Anna’s mood grew sullen at the news and she took ill for many days. The rest of her pregnancy was plagued with troubles of one sort or another. It was only the end of it, one cool late spring night, that brought Anna and her midwife any relief.
Several hours enduring the pains of labor finally produced a large baby boy. Anna stared at him, sweat and tears running down her face from the agony of the ordeal. She was in a state of shock, unbelieving that such a thing had come from within her. She stared and she reached for him, her lips trembling. The midwife finished tying the child’s cord and dried him off, then wrapped him in a blanket before handing him to Anna.
Anna took the child, then remembered her silent vow to herself. Her hand rubbed down his cheek then settled around his throat. Still trembling, she tried to make her hand squeeze, but she couldn’t do it as she stared into the innocent babe’s eyes. She looked away, fresh tears running from her eyes.
“Take him!” Anna commanded, thrusting the boy back to the midwife. Confused, she did as she was ordered, then helped Anna finish her ordeal while the babe rested in a cradle, strangely silent for one just introduced to the world.
While finishing her delivery, Anna’s mind wandered. She still sought the death of the child. It represented her slavery and imprisonment to her enemyl. But now she had hatched a better way of making it happen. Instead of slaying the boy herself, she wanted to take up the quest that Corillius had failed. She would take her bastard son and confront Makan himself with him Before his very eyes she would spill the boy’s blood and then Makan’s as well. His whore of a wife had only born him daughters, she knew, and the one he had sired would die in front of him, with him helpless to intervene.
The midwife looked up, alarmed, at the strange laughter that kept coming from her charge while she pushed out the last of the remnants of the pregnancy with her final contractions.
Bonus points if you figured out the title is screwed up. I used it on purpose, courtesy of MS Word’s auto-correct ‘bazaar’ was used instead of ‘bizarre’ in my book, Wanted. There are other errors as well, typos that slip past the eye of someone attempting to scrutinize if for detail. The irony is that incorrect words and spellings leap off the page and slap a casual reader across the face.
I’ve had reviews on Wanted in particular stating it was good but it needed some typographical assistance. This is frustrating to me – I need details and some means of understanding the scope of the problem. I had a wonderful woman sent me an email today that went into some of those details. Now, finally, I can have a better grasp of the problem and put a plan in motion to correct it.
It’s embarrassing to me, as a writer, to put out products like that. In the early days when I went through a different publishing company such errors were rampant. Horrible editing took place, and in some places no editing at all. Since I’ve reigned myself in and now control my own books from start to finish it’s gotten better, but I’m certain some mistakes still slip through. Say what you will about traditional publishing, at least 95% or more of the time they do a bang up job on editing.
As for me, I’ve found a couple of great editors in my life. Even they have differing skill sets though. One is great at helping to smooth out how the story flows. Another has an amazing bullshit-meter. A third can kill the difference in passive versus active voice with the skill of a sniper. I’m in the process of finding an outstanding copy editor and I believe I have a couple of them lined up. Thank you, Twitter!
So, fellow writers, make sure you get your books edited properly! Trust me, you can’t edit your own book. Oh sure, you can try and you might even catch a lot of stuff, but you’re going to miss a lot too. It needs to be somebody else doing it, somebody who knows what they’re doing, not your uncle, sister, wife, or friend. Unless, of course, your uncle, sister, wife, or friend has experience and training at editing.