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Neither a Plotter nor a Pantser Am I June 15, 2011

Posted by techtigger in writing.
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Over the past year I’ve tried to figure out what my writing style is. Everyone says you have to find what works for you – outlining the story before you start, (Plotters),  or just writing without a plan and cleaning the story up after (Seat-of-Pantsers).  I’ve tried every method recommended for those types of writers; the snowflake, phase drafting, a collage of sticky notes spread around the room, etc.   (The last one was pretty, btw, but my handwriting is atrocious and I could never figure out what was on the notes a week later.  Oops.)

Then I heard a phrase that fit me to a tee  – I’m a Puzzle Piecer.  That is exactly how I write, I get an idea, then jump ahead and write something miles down the proverbial road, then jump back to flesh out the backstory, which gives me an idea for something in chapter 29… well, you get the idea.  The problem is, I now have pieces for at least 4 different books, and not a single one of them more than halfway done.  Don’t get me wrong, I know where the story is going, and how it will end. I just don’t have all the pieces to fill in the blank spots yet.  Believe me, it’s every bit as frustrating for me as for the folks who keep asking me, when will it be done?  The only answer I have is that I don’t know, since I have yet to figure out how to get my brain to write in a straight line.

So, here’s my question to the world – are there any other puzzle piecers out there?  If so, how do you manage to get a piece finished?  If I ever find a trick that helps me, outside of dogged perseverance, I’ll be sure to share it.  In the mean time, please be patient with me and my wayward muse.  I have a feeling all my WIP’s will end up getting finished around the same time. 🙂



Tales from the House of Winds – Aurengrey and the Grim June 13, 2011

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,

I think this has probably been one of the hardest things I have ever written, if only because so much of the later story depends on it. Any feedback would be appreciated!

Click Here to read the previous installment – Everard, Fortune Favored


Aurengrey awoke to the oppressive darkness of a prison cell. He could feel cold stone at his back, and his arms were stretched backwards, sunk to the elbows in the rock.  His legs were buried in the floor up to his knees, and a band of metal was wrapped around his throat, no doubt covered in enchantments to keep him from using his voice. The Shadowkin had taken every precaution to keep a warcaster of his strength from breaking free.

The one thing his enemies had not counted on was how quickly he healed.  Every Air elemental had the healing talent to some degree, and after years of fighting wyverns Grey had become something of an expert on poison.  He shivered as he forced the paralyzing toxins out of his system, his body chilled and soaked in a feverish sweat all at the same time.

As he worked to steady his pulse and breathing, something stirred in the farthest corner of the cell.  Large, glowing eyes met his own, and the room grew colder as a nightmarish shape formed – it was a monstrous hound, its matted fur hanging in clumps off its emaciated body.   Its claws clicked on the stone floor as it dragged itself toward him, and there was a pale, ghostly white aura flickering around it.

Grey’s heart raced as the beast limped closer, his mind grasping at the short list of options he had left.  He could breathe, so he had moving Air to work with, and he had sweat and gritty dirt all over him.  He could gather it all up and try to wear away enough rock to free one hand, but it would be a slow process. It was not like he had another choice, so he started the air casting.

The hound paused and watched him cautiously, its pale eyes unblinking. Grey breathed in, and out, a steady pattern that started little whorls of air moving around him. A damp, gritty cloud formed in front of him, and he focused all his will on moving it along his arm and into the stone behind him.

The hound dragged itself closer, and Grey could see the weights chained to its legs. The poor thing had been beaten and starved to within an inch of its life, and the fact that it could still move at all was something of a miracle.  He would have pitied it, if he was not so worried about it trying to eat him.  His breathing sped up involuntarily as the thing started to sniff around him, the muzzle full of razor sharp teeth only a hairsbreadth from his face.  It moved to the hand he was trying to free next, and it tilted its head to look at him, with a curious expression.

It sat down in front of him and to his surprise, began to thump its tail on the floor in time with the pattern Grey was breathing. He was so shocked that he lost the rhythm, and the hound stopped as well, its head tilting the other way. Then it made an encouraging noise, and picked up the beat again. Shock turned into a thin thread of hope – was it trying to help him? If so it was a shame it could not do a counterpoint, he thought, a little giddy with relief.

The tail began to thump in an alternating beat.  “I’ll be damned,” Grey thought.  He gathered up the sound waves as they pulsed through the air, and sped up the process of wearing down the stone.  His arm would be scoured into a bloody mess, but it was working. “Keep going,” he thought at the hound, “and I will get us both out of here.”

The hound let out a quiet yip, and thumped its tail harder.  “Can you growl, or make a loud whine? Any sound would help,” he thought at it.  It made a thin, unearthly sound that sent more shivers through Grey’s body.  He pushed aside his unease and bored further into the rock. He could almost wiggle the fingers of his left hand.

Something scraped in the door latch, and the hound went silent. It cowered back against the wall, its eyes riveted to the door.  Grey cursed to himself. He should have known they would be watching for any signs of Air being summoned. There was no help for it; he would just have to watch for another chance to break loose. “Courage, friend,” he thought, hoping to ease his cellmate’s fear. “We are not done yet.”

The door opened silently, and Grey had to close his eyes against the painfully bright light that flooded the room.  He could hear the hound’s claws scrabbling as it backed further away.  Another flash of light burst in the room, this one bright enough to see through closed eyelids, and the hound let out a terrible wail before falling silent.

“I see there is still a little fight in you, my pet. I should think you would have learned better by now. No matter, we shall take the last of it from you soon enough.”

Grey knew that voice.  Elphias had been Asphodel’s most talented students, a brilliant artificer with a knack for inventing new elemental castings. The old enchanter had never gotten over the fact that his golden boy had become one of the founders of the House of Shadows.  A wave of fury swept through Grey at the thought of all of the innocents this man had tortured and killed.  He stopped trying to escape, and put all his will into gathering enough force for a killing blow.

The hound must have read his mind again, because it let out a piercing keen.  Elphias whirled on it, dealing out a furious blast of energy that knocked the poor creature into the wall.

Grey gathered up the sound, shaped it with all the skill he possessed and sent it flying straight for Elphias.

It should have taken the Shadowkin’s head off.  To his dismay, it hit some sort of energy shield and merely rocked him back on his heels.

Elphias strode over to Grey and sketched a glyph on his forehead that burned like acid. His sense of Air was abruptly cut off, and his attempt at a second warcasting collapsed.  “Well, the fearsome Captain Aurengrey lives up to his reputation.  Fortunately we know every single thing that you can do.”  He got a smile like a shark on his face.  “You were right, Katya.  He will make a fine vessel.” He curled his long, narrow fingers in a come-hither motion, and Katya moved into the light.

Grey had once been told that the surest way to break a man’s will was to break his heart.  His own clenched in his chest as she walked into the room.  He had no way of telling whether she had betrayed him of her own free will, or had been forced to do their bidding. He searched her face anyway, desperate to find some sign that the woman he loved had not been a carefully crafted lie.

She brushed a soft hand over his cheek, but her eyes were empty pits. “I have chosen my bride-price, beloved,” she said. “Immortality. The aura of an elemental, merged with the immortal spirit of our pet will create a vessel to carry all our souls.  You should feel honored – the Shadowkin will live forever, thanks to your love of me.”

A glint of light on silver caught his eye – she was still wearing his feather badge, hung from a chain around her neck.  It was only a few hours since he had asked her to be his wife, and she had accepted.  She reached a hand up to touch it and brief flicker of guilt crossed her face.  Her voice dropped so that only he could hear it. “It will be easier if you do not fight what is to come.”

The glyph held him silent, but she could read the hard expression on his face.  “He won’t go quietly, Elphias. Get the knife.”

“I have it here already.”  Elphias took her arm and strapped a strange blade to it.  “Cut the symbol exactly as I showed you. I will prepare the hound.”

Grey could only watch in despair as Katya raised the knife.  “From this day forward, your name is Grimmalkyn, the Grim of the Shadow Kindred,” she said, and gave him one last kiss. “Remember that name, for you will never answer to another.” She placed the blade just above his heart. “Here’s to love.”

Grey was a strong man, but in the end everyone breaks.  His spirit fled when the torture became too much to bear, and that of the hound paced ahead of him. An invisible tide rushed around them, and he found himself moving down a plain fieldstone road. A vast, black gate rose up out of the nothingness at its end, and he knew where he was. The Long Road, the last road a man ever walked.

The hound sat before the gate, its grey silhouette slowly being washed away by the tide. In its place, the ghost of a young man took shape.  He had on the light-weight leather armor of one of the horse clans, and his long, sun bleached hair hung down from a top knot like a horse’s tail. Grey was shocked to see how many scars he bore. Every inch of exposed skin was criss-crossed with silver lines, and his armor was in even worse shape.

The doors began to open, and a look of profound relief crossed the ghost’s face.  Grey tried to follow him, but something held him back. He clutched at his chest as a sharp pain flared in the spot where the first cut had been made.

The ghost turned to face him, his eyes the same pale color the hound’s had been. “I am sorry, but He says it is not your time.” He held out the hilt of a curved cavalry saber, and Grey wrapped his hand around the grip without even thinking about it.  As he did, the saber changed into his own broadsword, and the invisible tide stopped.  “I thought you might be the one,” the ghost said, and he clasped forearms with Grey. “Courage, friend. Nothing lasts forever.”

A million questions rushed through Grey’s mind, but the ghost was gone and the doors had swung shut. He looked down at the sword at his hand, and a memory arose unbidden from his childhood. His family had raised hunting hounds before the wyverns had forced House Cyclonis to leave the plains. His father had once said they ran swift enough to catch the wind in their teeth.  Grey had spent the happiest days of his youth playing with their pups, and had often wished that he could change his shape to run with them.

That thought stuck with him, and the truth of what was being offered to him became clear. Hel needed a new Hound to guard his gate, and Grey wanted a way to go back and settle unfinished business. He let out a bitter laugh. “You drive a hard bargain.  Fine then, I accept. Just make sure I am a little less friendly looking than the ones I helped to raise as a boy.”

Another sharp pain tugged at his heart, and something vital to his being was ripped away.  Somehow he knew that his mortality was gone.  The doors would never open now, unless his new master decided to give it back. The deal was done though, and there was no point in fighting it.  He sheathed the sword and his body slowly changed to that of a hound.

He paced back and forth along the road, getting used the feel of having paws and a tail. Aurengrey was dead, he thought, with a bit of gallows humor. Long live Grimmalkyn.

Click Here to read the previous installment – Everard, Fortune Favored

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