The Ghost of NaNos Past

The Ghost of NaNos Past

As we approach the NaNoWriMo season (*sound of panicking in the background*), I thought it would be fun to look back at the last six years of NaNos, ever since I started.

It’s amazing how different they’ve all been! Ups and downs… And each year I step deeper down the rabbit trail as it were. 😉

(I did also do 4 Camp NaNo sessions — a 20K goal and three 10K goals, all of which I reached — but for the sake of continuity I’ll be ignoring those this post. XD They are, however, little footnotes in my NaNo history, so maybe someday I’ll do a post about them! But 6 + 4 = 10 times I’ve participated in (and won) a NaNo-ish event! *celebration*)

Here are my NaNo experiences . . .

NaNo #1: 2010 — The Chaos Year

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(Since I didn’t join the NaNo site my first year, I don’t have a handy graph from the site of my wordcount, so this one will have to do. Blue bars = where my wordcounts should have been to be on par. White bars = where my wordcounts actually were.)

Twelve Fugitives in the Wild — set in another world, without fantasy elements but with an 18th-century time period. Muskets, carriages, a dark tower, missing persons, and lots and lots of unexpected plot-twists…

Brave new step: Undertaking my first NaNo.

My first year was utterly insane. It was an unofficial NaNo (i.e. I didn’t sign up with the site) and I had no idea what I was getting into. I decided to do it the night before, and pantsed the whole thing, which I had very little experience with… I managed to reach my goal but not without falling dreadfully behind most of the month, and having to do an enormous catch-up day, writing 8,000 words on the last day. It took the entire day and much chocolate and family members pushing me back to the computer every time I wandered away in despair… *cough* But I made the 50,000! I was so happy.

NaNo #2: 2011 — The Perfect Year

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Far-mark’s Dream — to this day, the only novel I actually finished during NaNo. A fantasy adventure story featuring prophecies and salt fairies and bats and a serpent, and three friends (one reluctant; okay, he hates them and opposes everything they stand for, but to be fair he’d been enchanted. *cough*) who set out to defeat the Empire, with much epicness along the way.

Brave new step: Joined the NaNo site and forums.

My second NaNo was a complete dream come true. Learning from my mistakes of the first year, I planned ahead and had the whole novel plotted before day 1, made sure to stay on top of my wordcount, and just had a blast. I hit a few snags through the month, but always came through, and finished two days early… actually finishing the novel itself as well. I still look back at this year as my ultimate NaNo experience. ❤ I loved the book too. I still do… though I’d like to rewrite it a bit and expand some of the things. *nod*

NaNo #3: 2012 — The Overconfident Year

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Grey Betrayal — Book #1 in my several-book Epic Fantasy series, this one features plots and war and mountains, a talking bear, and the adventures of two friends, one of whom has many secrets…

Brave new step: I stepped out of my introvert writer shell and went to write-ins and a victory party at the end!

Oh, this year. I had grown arrogant, I fear… After my insane impromptu first year, followed by one where I took precautions and nearly everything went smoothly, I thought that NaNos were a breeze, apparently, as long as you planned for them. Alas, I was wrong! I didn’t realize that my second year had been the best and easiest NaNo I’d ever have the pleasure of being a part of. I started out pretty well on this third year, especially thanks to the numerous rambling thoughts of my main character, which gave me lots of words (thanks, Faron). But then I hit a snag a third of the way through called running-out-of-plot. I had neglected to plot further, and the rest of the month was a serious struggle. I pushed through at the end, but emerged a humbled NaNoer, realizing my good fortune of the previous year for what it was.

NaNo #4: 2013 — The Leading Year

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Underground Rainbow — contemporary fantasy featuring a young photographer and his adventures with various fantastical creatures: gnomes, griffins, leprechauns, and the like.

Brave new step: I stepped into a co-leadership role as a NaNoWriMo ML for my region. (Municipal Liaison: volunteer event organizer/local leader.)

This year started out all right, and then life crashed around me. It was my first year as an ML and that took up a lot of my time and creative juices, plus I was kind of in a writing slump, so that took its toll. This year is actually kind of hazy in my memory… But the story was a lot of fun, despite that, and I did make it in the end. Not to mention the wonderful camaraderie of my region this year, which was fantastic. ^_^

NaNo #5: 2014 — The Roadtrip Year

5nanoHstats

Heartseeker — original fairytale YA fantasy romance type thing, featuring the princess who goes on a quest to find the heart of her betrothed.

Brave new step: Well, it wasn’t very brave, exactly, since I had no choice, but it was definitely crazy. I managed to do NaNo while being on a roadtrip most of the month AND ML-ing at the same time. It. was. insane. But I’m also very proud of me for surviving and doing okay. XD

Although it was arguably my most difficult year, due to a roadtrip in the middle on top of life and ML-ing, this is also one of my favorite NaNos, looking back at it. I’d say this and the Far-mark year were the best. Writing in the car was a new challenge, and one I only survived due to helpfully-pestering family members, and the kindness of my co-ML lending me a power adapter so I could use my laptop in the car and some rewarding letters from her characters which I could only open at certain points. I also was thankful for being snowed in at my uncle’s house for a couple of days, which allowed me to catch up in the middle of the trip. I finished off this NaNo with a spectacular write-in at a library late at night, which is my favorite NaNo memory. ❤ I can’t believe I survived it, and I definitely wouldn’t have without the support of wonderful friends and family, but it was a challenge and, despite the stress, was a blast as well.

NaNo #6: 2015 — The Rebel Year

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  • The Silver Forest — retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses
  • The Rose and the Raven — novella retelling of Sleeping Beauty
  • The Secret of Kedran’s Wood — book #2 in my modern-fantasy series starring Tare and the Chess Club

Brave new step: Turning rebel (not so much brave as insane) and actually working on THREE different stories during NaNo in order to hit my 50K goal, instead of just one like the “rules” (made to be broken. ;)) state and like I’d done every year.

I did all right with my 12 Dancing Princesses story until exactly halfway through the month when it decided to inform me that I’d gotten the whole beginning wrong and would have to scrap everything I’d written and completely restart the novel. Um. It was going to be so much awesomer with the new twists that had emerged, but SERIOUSLY?? IN THE MIDDLE OF NANO?? What kind of bad timing was this? (Answer: it was the best of times; it was the worst of times . . . You can read the story of my Mid-NaNo-Crisis here.) I ended up abandoning it for the time being and instead taking the opportunity to work on my novella for the Rooglewood contest, with bits of KW2 to help whenever the painstaking shortness of the novella got too much. I survived this one too (despite a nasty cold near the end and running out of plot a couple times) but wow, it was definitely a new challenge! Writing more than one story in a month is super hard, because you have to get into the right mindframe for each of them, and switching between them is difficult. But it turned out okay, so huzzah!

NaNo #7: 2016 — ???

Story to write this year: To Be Announced…

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Brave new step: I’m going to be ML-ing this  year totally on my own. In my previous three years as an ML, I’ve had wonderful co-MLs and helpers with whom I’ve shared the burden. I’m all alone this year and just hoping I’ll be able to do it without those wonderful people having my back. Wish me luck, because this is scary. XD

Obviously, this year’s NaNo adventure is a mystery yet to be discovered (unless you happen to be a time-traveler, which I, unfortunately, am not…). What will happen this year? I’m as curious as you are!

Stay tuned for next week’s post which will (hopefully) be all about what I hope to work on this NaNo! (No promises, of course; NaNo projects are notoriously slippery beasts.)

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So there you have my past NaNo exploits! What about yourselves, my roadlings? Have you done NaNo? How many? What were your best (and worst) NaNos? Tell me aaall in the comments!

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Poetry Scribbles

PoetryScribbles2016

Today (October 6, 2016) is National Poetry Day! …In the UK. But hey, I figured why let them have all the fun? 😉

I very rarely write poetry, and it’s always of the rhyming variety since I don’t understand anything else, and I haven’t written any in a long time. But I thought I’d just dump a few of my scribblings here for the day. Because.

Some of my longer pieces I sometimes think about maybe posting on their own or doing . . . something with. I don’t know. Whatever it is people do with poetry. >.>

So these are short ones which I’m kind of fond of. Just snatches, really, since they’re hardly long enough to call poems… *squirms because I’m not used to doing poetry*

Anyhow. Here you are. Poem bits. Scribbles, as Gummy would call them. 🙂

***

O you are like an adjective
I like you quite a lot
But others with advice to give
Condemn you on the spot

*

Sing the dawn
Soar and fly
Song of wings
Sung in sky

*

R&R

Hidden treasures of the sea
Hidden treasures, come to me
Far away on distant shore
Who can hear the ocean roar?

~ from The Rose and the Raven by Deborah O’Carroll (Sleeping Beauty retelling novella)

*

The wind it sweeps along in spring
An almost silent whispering
Like quiet words in secret dream
A far off leaf falls in a stream

*

Dark fate or bright fortune,
Wither do you go?
Down to the desert
Or up to the snow?

*

If you come home real late and you drive up and park
It will wait for you there, in the house in the dark

*

I’ve posted a few bits of poetry on my blog before. You can find them here:

Thoughts (a poem about this blog for when I started it)

Lost in a NaNoWriMo Mist (short piece on NaNo)

A Writer’s Allegiance (humorous poem about pencil, pen, & computer)

Presenting the Strangest Character Silmaril Award (LOTR fanfiction-ish Tom Bombadil poem)

***

Thanks for reading! ^_^ (Also, this is my 200th post on this blog! *pulls out some leftover confetti from the blogoversary celebration last month and throws it*)

Return of the Ishness! {March 2016}

We will just ignore the fact that while I was trying to write this post I got distracted looking at Sherlock pins on Pinterest for far longer than I would care to admit. Yep. Because That Would Never Happen. John-est. Honest. Never.

Ahem.

Anyways, THAT was a sidetrack. But HI! Hello everyone! ^_^ I’m… trying to wrap my mind around the fact that it’s April? Say what?

I’ve also kind of… forgotten to post over here. *shifty eyes* I’ve been posting bookish things on my book blog, so it vaguely slipped my mind that I hadn’t posted here in awhile, what with not having life/writing things to say. But I am back! 🙂

And now that we’re a week into April *cough* it’s time to look at what happened in March…

ishness

WRITING

R&RThe month started off with the Rooglewood Press announcements, putting a bookend on my first writing contest, which was definitely an interesting experience! I’m very glad I wrote The Rose and the Raven and glad I entered; and actually, now, glad I didn’t win. I’m not ready for that kind of pressure, that kind of being-edited, and it’s quite clear that my somewhat whimsical, more fantasy retelling would not have fitted with the selection that was finally made…

Anyways! I learned a lot about writing and cutting words and editing under a deadline and all that good stuff. 🙂

Now that this chapter of my writing is closed for now (I’ll likely go back to the story and re-edit/add some eventually but not right now), I feel ready to focus on something else! …What that something else will be remains to be seen, though. 😉

OHEcoverAs far as what I actually wrote in March, I wrote a bit of The Other Half of Everything for later on in the story (Teague and Meridian are so fun to write…).

I also finally edited the horrendous bits of The Secret of Kedran’s Wood that I wrote during NaNo (they were a mess) and wrote a bit more of that, officially finishing Part 1 of KW2! *confetti* (We’ll just ignore the fact that it’s passed 60k and only allegedly one-third done… *cough*) But that was a HUGE milestone for me! I’ve been trying to get to that point for a looong time. Very excited about that! Though… my characters are not. Ahem. Tare may or may not be verrry done with me right now. >.>

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I printed out Part 1 as a reward/incentive

And as per usual, there’s a lot of plotting of various books going on. I changed the title of my epic fantasy series from The Starrellian Saga to The Princes of Starrellia (because… er… there are many characters of a princely variety… And I like the sound of it). I’ve been working a bit on that.

I also have a new-ish book knocking at the back of my brain to be let in, which is actually a combination of several different ideas I’d had before (namely a sci-fi/mind thing, an alleged Doctor Who fanfic which I’m taking the germ of the story and just making it an original, as well as a steampunk time-travel thing, another time-travel thing involving books, and another vague idea featuring a very special library). This new/old story is called The Library in the Stars and it’s still in fledgling state, especially since I haven’t sorted out exactly how all the threads fit together, but I’m excited to see what happens with it.

libraryinthestars

So that’s what’s going on on the writing front for me! I’m still a bit writer’s-blocked and having a hard time focusing. I consequently decided to spend much of March reading instead.

Speaking of which . . .

READING

march2016reads

Again, these are in reverse-order of when I read them, because it’s from my Goodreads Reading Challenge.

I read 13 books in March which is… a lot for me.

What a mix! Some Moomin books (a fun, hilarious children’s fantasy series originally written in Swedish); a couple of Regency books; two utterly different fantasy books set in modern-day Ireland (Blood Ties and Skulduggery Pleasant); a time-travel book; a collection of essays on writing; a splendid Beauty and the Beast retelling from Melanie Dickerson of which I got an ARC and hope to review soon; and another Diana Wynne Jones book, featuring centaurs and a Sci-fi/Fantasy Convention and tons of wackiness.

I will likely post a reading roundup on my book blog soonish… (I know, I know, I still haven’t posted my roundup for February. *cough* It will happen, it will…)

ON MY BOOK BLOG

I took part, slightly, in March Magics, which was quite fun, most notably listing the books by Diana Wynne Jones that I’ve read so far. Yay!

WATCHING

I got to see Thor: The Dark World again (yay!) and greatly enjoyed being able to actually see the faces and what was actually going on due to not having a bunch of fog between myself and the screen. Thor and Loki together are the BEST. XD

I also finally saw The Guardians of the Galaxy, which everyone and their Groot have been telling me to watch ever since it came out, and found it extremely odd but quite fun and sometimes hilarious.

I also saw Megamind, which… again, quite weird but more fun than I’d expected.

(Are you noticing a trend? Lots of superhero movies…)

And I pretty much finished watching Jeeves & Wooster. SO fun!

But most of all, I saw the first season of an original fantasy webseries, Ren: The Girl with the Mark, by the people who made the Lord of the Rings fan-film prequel, Born of Hope, and I loved it! Now they just need to do a second season! O_O (Seriously though, they need to. NEED!!!) In case you are wondering, it was AMAZING and I have very definite opinions on if you should watch it or not. (Hint: YOU TOTALLY SHOULD.)

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MUSIC

Can we take a moment to appreciate the fact that I got to see my favorite singer in concert this March for my birthday? Hearing Loreena McKennitt live on stage was MAGICAL. ❤ (If you’ve never heard her gorgeous Celtic music, you’re missing out.) Loreena herself was so lovely — charming, witty, insightful, and gracious. I just love her music so much, and it was so immersive live! So many emotions with that amazing music — one moment achingly beautiful, another hauntingly sad, and the next laughing at one of her jokes. It was so much fun, so gorgeous, and I was utterly enchanted. An incredible experience that I’m so thankful to have had the chance to have. ^_^

LIFE

‘Twas an interesting month, was March.

I kind of struggled through the Rooglewood announcements and other involved things (though I’m over that one now, thankfully! :)), Daylight Savings Time (argh! I still have not recovered. -_- *shakes clock because surely it must be incorrect*), a lot of various writing self-doubts (thanks very much for all the support on that! I love you guys! ❤ ), and a bout of writer’s block, which is lurking still, slightly…

But aside from that, the rest was really an amazing month. 🙂 I read a lot of fabulous birthday books (and a few review books), saw Loreena McKennitt, enjoyed my very first Twitter Party (for Diana Wynne Jones. It was SO FUN!) and generally… lived. Which is good, I guess. 😉

I’ve also gotten back into listening to Corey Olsen, The Tolkien Professor, since it’s handy to have something to listen to while exercising, and I had wanted to get back to listening but hadn’t found an excuse. So this is awesome and I’m very excited to get caught up on some of his awesome (free!) podcasts and lectures on Tolkien and Faerie & Fantasy and other works of literature. 🙂 Corey’s a really awesome guy, both funny and really interesting, to listen to. I always have great fun with his lectures! ^_^

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APRIL THINGS

*ignores fact that we’re already a week into the month* Dunno what my plans are for this month besides all the reading I need to do. I’ll (hopefully) have a few book reviews popping up over here soonish!

I am not, in fact, doing Camp NaNo, but for those of you who are, I wish you the best of luck, you awesome people! YOU’VE GOT THIS! I do however hope to figure out what writing projects to work on and get some writing done all the same… but we will see. *fingers crossed*

That was my March! How was yours? Any plans for April? I hope you’ll have a wonderful month! 🙂

November Saga, a.k.a. That Time That I Had a Mid-NaNo Crisis, Accidentally Became a Rebel, And Was Extremely Confused

NaNoHelmetCoffeeA belated chronicling of the saga of my November 2015 NaNoWriMo writing adventures.

It all started with NaNo. (As things often do…)

Things were going all right, I was writing very hard on The Silver Forest and having a blast writing about my twelve dancing princesses and half-fae prince and gardener and soldier and other prince and jester and all of the rest… It was going okay, though it was definitely taking a lot longer to get finished with the beginning of the story than I thought… (For instance, chapter 3, which is when they first find the Faerie realm and meet Prince Taghdach, ended up being over 15,000 words… Whoops.)

SilverForestCoverFinalThen suddenly, I ran into an entirely unforseen circumstance. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because insane things happen all. the. time. with NaNos… but I didn’t see this one coming and it had never happened to me before.

I got exactly halfway through the month, caught up on my wordcount and got a day ahead, and went to bed quite happy with myself at 26,680 words on November 15th, feeling on top of the world and like I could totally do this NaNo thing. (Even though, at  halfway to 50K, I hadn’t even introduced all the characters yet…)

Then it happened.

Below is an excerpt of what I actually typed that fateful November 16th morning to chronicle the entire incident, when I was trying to make sense of the insanity that invaded my brain:

That moment when…

You’re halfway through NaNo and you have a dream about talking to someone about your plot and in your dream you come up with a crazy new idea that would entirely change everything about the story and might fix all/most of the problems with it but could also make twice as many.

Wakes up at 5:33 a.m.: WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO EVEN DO WITH THIS INFORMATION???

*spends next hour in bed at war with self, brain wide awake, fully alert, gears spinning like fast-forwarded clockwork*

Body: It’s cold, it’s rainy and dark out, blankets are warm, I’m tired, go back to sleep.

Brain: BUT I’M WIDE AWAKE LOOK I HAVE ALL THESE IDEAS I CAN’T TURN THEM OFF OH MY GOODNESS THIS COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING MUST PROCESS ALL OF THE THINGS WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WOW I’M SO CONFUSED THIS HURTS MY BRAIN JUST WHAT BUT I THINK I LOVE IT BUT WHAT IF I DON’T BUT AAAAHH

Body: coooooold raiiiiiiiny daaaark warm bed sleeeeeeeeep tiiiiiiiiiired

Brain: BUT BUT BUT CAN’T YOU TELL I’M HAVING A MID-NANO CRISIS THIS IS IMPORTANT GAAHH

Body: Sleep. Now. Turn off. I don’t like you. Much too early for this nonsense.

Stomach: *wakes up* Why are you awake this early? Oh. Is it morning? I’M HUNGRY. FEED ME.

Brain: *distracted momentarily from chaos of NaNo thoughts* Whaaaat? Since when are you hungry for another four or five hours??

Stomach: HUNGRY. GET UP. EAT THINGS. (You can also think about your mid-NaNo crisis while you’re eating, because I’m nice like that.)

Practical half of brain: So go back to sleep; sleep on it; think about it in the morning. You went to bed at midnight, you need more sleep, plus you don’t want to catch that cold that’s going through the house so you need proper rest. In the morning–

NaNo half of brain: BUT BUT

Practical half: (No, it’s not morning yet, hush, stop arguing; it’s still dark out and no sane person who has a choice to sleep more should get up yet.) In the morning, as I was saying, you can feed your tummy at a more usual hour and after some rest your mid-NaNo crisis will still be there but you’ll be in a less sleep-deprived state and further able to process it and everything will make sense. I promise. Go to sleep, get some more rest, sleep on it and remain calm.

Creative side of my brain, utterly ignoring everything else that’s going on and still churning on a mile a minute: But see, what if……….

After that, there were about about 2,000 more words of totally incoherent thrown-around babbles about the new plot idea and all of its myriad implications, as well as screeching and flailing about the shocking realization that if I used it there would be no going back, and that I’d have to totally stop writing The Silver Forest for the moment because it would require me to basically restart the whole story. Which I was not ready to do.

I finally came to the conclusion that this was the perfect excuse to finish writing The Rose and the Raven, which I wanted to write for the Rooglewood Press contest but had only gotten about 5K words into it when NaNo interrupted.

Obviously, this would mean turning NaNo Rebel.

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In the five previous years I had NaNoed, I’d always been a rule-abiding little writer, working on one story and only one story, starting it out fresh without anything previous… Now, halfway into my 6th NaNo, I was contemplating switching to an entirely different story… and then likely switching to a third, since the remaining 14K words of The Rose and the Raven which it would take to hit the 20K wordlimit, when added to my Silver Forest words, would still leave another 8K words to be written to hit 50,000 words for NaNo… so my plan was to switch to continuing The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (KW2) to fill in the final words.

It was insane, but I did it. I switched mid-month.

(Obviously this meant I had to change my inspiration bulletin board from this…)

2015NaNoBoard

(To this…)

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And it totally broke my brain to switch stories, especially from going from a rambly mindset of WRITE ALL OF THE WORDS LET’S JUST HAVE WORDWARS AND SPILL WORDS EVERYWHERE AND HAVE FUN RAMBLING WITH CHARACTER DISCUSSIONS AND IT DOESN’T MATTER IF I HAVE 15,000 WORD CHAPTERS to a mindset where I had to try to tell a story in as FEW words as possible and actually move the plot along and try not to write too many words because it can’t pass 20K because that would make for a headache of editing. WHILE also thinking BUT I HAVE TO WRITE LOTS OF WORDS BECAUSE I CAN’T FALL BEHIND ON MY NANO WORDCOUNT. WHY ARE YOU ONLY WRITING 800 WORD SCENES?? YOU NEED TO BE WRITING ONES DOUBLE THAT LENGTH! YOU’RE FALLING BEHIND AAAAAAAAHH.

R&RIt.
was.
excruciating.

Trying to write small things for NaNo just does NOT work, and at least I have learned this… But it was an excellent way, despite all that, to actually get a lot of progress done on R&R during NaNo.

KW2coverPI ended up switching back and forth between R&R and KW2 constantly: writing a whole bunch of words of KW2 whenever I fell behind, so that I could catch up, then going back to slowly getting out those novella words. (Somehow it’s much easier to write long scenes with the Chess Club ramblings, and with Tare being all messed up in his mind, poor dear. *is knocked out of screen by an out-of-sight-Tare* *crawls back* Ahem. Sorry about that…)

And I did it. I hit 50K and won NaNo for the 6th time, as a proud Rebel!

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

nano2015wI wrote approximately:

26,600 words of The Silver Forest

13,500 words of The Rose and the Raven

10,000 words of The Secret of Kedran’s Wood

Added to what I had before, here’s what my writing bars looked like at the end of NaNo:

statbarsendofnano2015

But there was a slightly awkward fact in there… which was that I hadn’t finished the novella yet. I had nearly gotten to the 20K word limit, but I still had a few chapters left to write.

This meant, obviously, that it was time to . . . !

(No. Not celebrate. Pfft. That would be ridiculous. No, it was quite clearly time to…)

. . . PANIC!!!

But this is getting long. So. The follow-up saga of my December and my further adventures with The Rose and the Raven will recommence in my next post!

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-SquareIn the meantime, now you know about my craziest NaNo yet. (Which is saying something, considering the fact that the NaNo before, I managed to complete my 50K words while on a roadtrip for half the month… >.> Yes, this Rebel NaNo was still crazier.)

And this is why The Silver Forest is currently at an odd in-between place where I’m not currently writing it, and I kind of need to restart it but have no idea how to go about that… *cough*

Next up: December Chaos!

To be continued . . .

Snippets Galore! (NaNo 2015)

In which there are snippets from the three stories I worked on writing during NaNoWriMo 2015. (Since I turned Rebel this last NaNo, which is a topic of its own for a later post, perhaps…) Enjoy!

SilverForestCoverFinal

THE SILVER FOREST

Beast and rider swept up at a gallop and came to a halt directly in front of the princesses. The animal pawed at the ground with a hoof and snorted, prancing in place for a moment before standing very still.

Silver stared at it in awe, for it was not a horse but a magnificent kingly stag, silver-white, with a grand array of sweeping horns.

Except, in this point there was later an argument. For some of the sisters distinctly remembered it being a horse, others a stag like Silver, and others in fact a unicorn. Some of them claimed it was white, others that it was silver, and a few that it was a solid black like the clothes of its rider. They were all adamant about what they had seen, convinced they were right, but the accounts varied so much, and they could not come to an agreement.

As for the rider of the black or white or silver creature (horse or stag or unicorn), he was quite as magnificent to look at.

His hand clutched the reins in the act of reining his steed to a halt, in an effortless yet strong gesture, and he sat very straight in the saddle—if there indeed was a saddle (or reins, in fact), for there was some confusion over the existence or absence of that as well—and he had very tall shiny black boots and was dressed entirely in black. Pants, tunic, and great caped cloak, all were deepest black, edged with intricate silver embroidery.

He had a mane of black hair that flowed loose and fell past his shoulders. His face was very handsome in a fierce and frowning way, with the angles of his jaw and nose and cheekbones all sharp but smooth at the same time, in the way of a statue carved of stone. He looked to be about twenty-five years of age.

There was a strength of presence about him that Silver had never felt before, and she thought it was as one with the wild calm of the feeling of the silver forest itself. He belonged there, she felt. And yet . . . at the same time he did not. He was like no one she had ever seen before, though at the same time almost familiar.

A pair of shadowed silver eyes set in that distinctive face keenly took in the group of twelve princesses standing among the silver trees staring back at him like a captive audience.


“And where is ‘here’, if I may ask?”

He seemed to pause. “Faerie,” he said at last.

“And where is that, please?” Silver asked politely, wondering at the strange name.

Taghdach raised one black eyebrow and the corner of his mouth curved into a sardonic smile. It was the first expression he had made yet that was not remotely related to a glare. “It’s . . . difficult to explain. I thought you would have known better than to ask such a question.”

“Indeed, I did not,” Silver shot back, rather nettled at his tone of condescension, and losing her temper rather. “I have never heard of any place called Faerie, or for the matter of that, of any king called Sisceall, so unless you wish me to believe you are entirely making all of this up and deliberately giving us falsehoods for your own amusement, I should advise you to at least explain where we are.”


“Are you not going to dance at your own celebration?” she asked, stopping beside him.

Taghdach did not move for a moment or make any acknowledgment showing he had heard her. Just as she was about to ask again, he stirred and finally glanced over at her.

“Did you say something?”

“As a matter of fact, I did. I was asking if you were not going to dance at your own celebration.”

His silver eyes appraised her for a moment. She tried not to back down from the steely look. He said finally, “Dancing.” Then he shrugged, tossing his mane of black hair. “And it is not my celebration.”

“It is a ball held in honor of your day of birth,” she protested. “That is as much your celebration as anything can be.”

“I do not see that my being born is any cause to celebrate,” Taghdach said in a low voice, his eyes burning past her as if they did not see her at all. “In fact . . . more specifically the opposite,” he added, glancing at the floor, a subtle note of harsh bitterness behind his words.


Taghdach strode off, a swirl of dark cloak and mane of black hair, and disappeared into the silver forest.

“Oh, and he can go off the path, I suppose,” Emerald said.

“I believe, my dear Emerald,” Silver said, “that he does whatever he pleases.”


Seamus gave Peach a flamboyant bow, and casually pulled a silver coin out of Rosie’s golden curls with the deft fingers of his outstretched hand and flicked it through the air to Peach, who caught it.

“If you keep doing that, Father’s going to wonder why he pays you,” Rosie teased.

“You raise a good point,” Seamus mused, rubbing a hand over his jaw.


Seamus always said of himself that he was vain as a peacock, and twice as handsome.


“Well then, how about I make it an extra-special juggling lesson?”

“Like what?”

“With daggers.”

“Oooh!” Rosie’s eyes lit up.

“Oh no you don’t!” Peach cut in quickly.

“Come on, Peaches!” Rosie protested. “Don’t give me that. Since when are you all practical like Silver?”

“I’m not, and I don’t mind if you get dagger juggling lessons sometime, but not just now. It’s almost the ball tonight, and I came to fetch you to get ready. I don’t exactly want your arms slashed all to bits right before, thank you. No offense, Seamus.”

“Oh, it’s taken,” Seamus said. “Are you implying that I’m a poor teacher? I’ll have you know that when I’m teaching your sister to juggle daggers, she’ll be as safe as a baby bird in a dragon’s nest.”

“You’re not reassuring,” Rosie and Peach both said together.

“Did I say a dragon’s nest? I meant a patch of daisies and soft fluffy harmless dandelions. Naturally.”


Finnigan gasped a lungful of breath and threw himself mostly clear of the falling stones, tumbling to lie on the wall top and glancing up to see what— That was when he saw the enormous golden dragon, the cause of the fire and falling masonry, blasting through the air overhead.

He shut his eyes a moment, and reopened them to see if it had been his imagination.

No. Evidently not.

He would have groaned again if he had not been so winded and also busy flinching away from smaller bits of stone falling on him.

A dragon.

This was all he needed.


The guardroom was empty . . . probably because half of it was on fire. That was the problem with dragons. Too much flame.


“Why did you take us this direction?” Finnigan asked, glaring in the direction he thought Kern was, not that it would do any good as neither of them could really see each other in the dark. “You could have taken us to where my father and the rest of the army is.”

“No, I could not,” Kern growled. “I took you the easiest way, through the least enemy soldiers. The castle was surrounded but there were the least the way we took. The way to toward where the king and the rest went would have been through the bulk of the enemy, through the worst part of fighting and the most fire, not to mention the fellow I don’t like with the lightning, and I might add the dragon. So unless you wanted both of us to end up extremely dead in a very short amount of time, this was the best way we could have gone, and taking you to your father would have defeated my orders because you would be dead, and keeping you alive was half of them. Taking you somewhere safe was the other half. So that’s what I’m doing.”

“But—! You—! That—!” Finnigan couldn’t seem to get his words to work with how exasperated he was. He threw his hands in the air. “Why am I even talking to you?”

“Excellent question,” Kern said dryly. “Finally one that I’m glad you asked.”

R&R

THE ROSE AND THE RAVEN

Derrick was up early that morning, walking along the corridor in search of breakfast, minding his own business, when a whirlwind suddenly ran into him.

“Whoa—!” He regained his balance, grabbing at the arms of the whirlwind, which on further inspection proved to be a wild-eyed, frenzied Princess Brier-Rose apparently in an extreme hurry, with quite untamed hair and seemingly still in her nightdress.

“What are you in such a—?” he began.

“I have to save the tower room!” she exclaimed distractedly in one breath—so that he was not entirely sure he had even heard her correctly—even as she tore away from his steadying grip and off along the corridor.

“Wha—?” Derrick wavered a fraction of a second, then gave up and switched directions, hurrying after her. He caught up in time to witness her bursting into the room where the two kings were talking over breakfast and a game of chess. These activities were paused as they looked over to see a very disheveled ten year old princess standing at the flung-wide door, apparently with something on her mind, and Derrick in the background as unsure of what was going on as they.


“Funny, you’ve always seemed quite grown up to me. At least, I always thought so,” Brier said.

“I always did too,” Derrick said with a laugh.

“Even when you were five?”

Especially when I was five,” Derrick said with mock solemnity.


“Derrick!” Brier said, quickly moving to stand in front of the roses. “What—?” she began.

Derrick answered distractedly, looking past her, “I met a maid coming down the stairs from bringing your breakfast—she said I could go in—and why do you have roses in your room?”

“Roses?” Brier laughed. “What are you talking about?”

Derrick looked uncertainly from the roses—which Brier now reflected must be visible behind her no matter how much she tried to block the sight—to her, and back again.


“You will be dead before the day is out.”

“Good luck with that, then,” Ev said cheerfully.

KW2coverP
THE SECRET OF KEDRAN’S WOOD

Tare turned to Baz. “Move.”

Baz quickly elbowed Lavender out of the seat so he could scoot over and hastily move out of Tare’s way, making a mental note that he should never ever block Tare’s way again, even unintentionally.


The Chess Club were running around hither and yon, messing up the blanket of fresh snow, pelting a rain of snowballs in every direction, making enough noise to wake the dead, and clearly having the time of their lives.

Tare folded his arms and watched.

They weren’t making very good use of the various snow forts and the impromptu shelter made of a snowman which Baz was using. Their military strategy was very much lacking, he observed, except perhaps—he had to grudgingly admit—for Adrian. Chucking snowballs every which way, dumping arm loads of snow on other people and giggling seemed more to be the order of the day.

He was about to turn to leave, but one of the teams rallied and began rushing at the other, and somewhere in the midst of it a stray flying snowball hit Tare square in the face.


“Um, Tare . . . is that a gun?”

Tare glanced down at his hand that wasn’t holding on to the door, and almost looked like he hadn’t known he was holding the black handgun. “Yeah, why?”

“And your knuckles are bloody,” Marie observed.

He looked like he hadn’t noticed that either. “So.”

“What happened?” Lavender asked.

Tare gave her a flat look and blinked once. “A wall ran into them.”


“Are you all right?” Adrian asked straightforwardly.

Tare closed his eyes and said wearily, “Leave me alone, Adrian.”

Adrian nodded slowly. “I will,” he said simply.

Tare watched him another moment, appraisingly, then finally turned away and reached for the doorknob. He paused with his hand on it. Adrian waited.

Then Tare said in a low voice, “Tell them I’m sorry.” And with that Tare pulled the door open and disappeared inside his lair.