Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writing Days -- An Excerpt from "Song of the Daystar"

It has been a very LONG time since I've posted a writing excerpt. :)  I thought it would be fun to start doing that again, especially since work on SOTD has started to pick up once more.

As many of you already know, I'm working on a new rewrite for SOTD... I started after I got the reply from the publisher who was looking at my manuscript.  They thought I had a good story concept, but they thought that I didn't do it justice.  It took me a couple months of setting SOTD aside before I realized that they were right and I decided to start fresh... same characters, improved concept, story, and writing.

That was about a year ago, and since then I've been in a long stall... only three new chapters were turned out in a whole year, and everything's been on hold since.  My love of writing never digressed, but suddenly it became so much easier to put it off, and put it off, until I really had no more good excuses... just the fact that I didn't want to do it right then.

(This will lead up to a new post on Procrastination, I'm thinking... perhaps I'll be able to get that up in a day or two. ^_^)

But last weekend I decided it was time to stop stalling.  I went back and read over the three chapters I had rewritten previously, and decided that the first chapter started a little too late into the story.  So I started writing a new first chapter... one that really does start at the beginning where it should, instead of jumping right into the action where everything has to be laid out and explained in back story and the like.  This chapter is much truer to what I envisioned the beginning of the story to look and sound like, and already it's made it easier for me to plan out the next few moves. (That was one problem I had with the other rewrite... I got to a point where I felt like I couldn't move forward because there was still too much to go back and explain. :P)

I was able to write 1,513 words for the new first chapter on Sunday, and now I'm going to share them with you. :)  Note that this excerpt ends in a rather odd place, since I truly have not had time to work on the piece until today.  I'm hoping to get more done on it this afternoon after I finish the 8 measure composition due tomorrow morning for my Music Theory class, and finish the errands that my mom has me running for.

Until then, though, here's what I have up to this point:

Chapter 1
The Boy with a Secret

            The stable was cold and steeped in darkness when Curron stepped in and drew the door shut behind him.  Soft nickers drifted out to him from the stalls, followed by several welcoming snorts.  Shivering from his early morning walk, Curron latched the door with his free hand and reached out to grab the old lantern from its post.  The cold metal handle bit into the palm of his skin sending tingles up his arms, and for the hundredth time Curron wished he could afford a set of gloves.  He tipped his candle to the lantern’s wick and warm light flooded the walkway before him.  Several long muzzles poked into the aisle and dark eyes glistened at him from the cubicles lining either side of the path.  
Holding the lantern out in front, Curron made his way to the back wall where the feed was barreled.  The horses shifted to follow his progress, snorting quiet greetings and stretching their noses over stall doors for him to fondle as he passed.  A few reached out and yanked his clothing with their teeth, asking after the wrinkled apples hidden in his pockets. 
Curron winced each time he heard the fibers of his shirt pop.  The mornings were growing colder as the autumn months progressed.  Sooner or later he’d have to ask Téagh for another set of clothes if he didn’t want to catch frostbite or worse in the winter months, and it was inevitable that Téagh would be annoyed.  Téagh was annoyed at most things.  Only two winters had passed since the last time the old stable master had bartered a boy’s shirt and leggings off a servant for Curron’s sake.  The clothes had been too big for Curron then, at only twelve, but now the pants were up to his shins and the shirt stretched taught over his back.  He was afraid that someday soon the shirt might rip open, leaving him in nothing but his trousers and his skin.  Then how would he manage through winter? 
At the back of the barn, he hung the lantern on the nail protruding above the grain bins, picked up the pitchfork leaning against the wall, and turned back to his charges.  Cold and dark as it was, it was still worth rising before dawn each day to spend time alone in the stables.  It was the one place he was free to be entirely himself, the one place he could escape his nightmares. Horses always listened and were never judgmental; they didn’t care if you were a prince or a pauper, so long as they were treated with kindness and respect.  Which was good since Curron was far from princely.
“Alright then,” he said to no one in particular. “Who’s hungry?”  Grabbing up a fistful of oats from the nearest barrel, he approached the first stall and held his arm out to the occupant.  “How about you, Nathahl?” he crooned.  “Is your belly sticking to your ribs yet?”
Large dark eyes winked out at Curron from the shadows of the stall.  Several moments later the eyes drew nearer and a warm, velvety nose found its way into his palm to lip timidly at the grains.      
Calm flooded Curron’s senses at the familiar touch, easing the worry that still lingered from his bad dreams.  Setting the pitchfork against the stall door, he reached up, threaded his fingers through Nathahl’s dark mane, and sighed.  The horse’s warmth seeped into his cold hands and up through his shivering arms.  His muscles relaxed as the heat spread to his shoulders and rolled through his back. To Curron, there was nothing so consoling as the feel and smell of horse.  His charges were like family. 
It was humans who were strange, even if he must count himself among them.
            Curron closed his eyes and leaned forward, pressing his head against the small white star on the bridge of Nathahl’s nose, allowing his emotions to uncoil.  The Black knew of his dreams, of course; it wasn’t something Curron could hide from him.   The nightmares had been growing steadily worse, and Nathahl sensed them as deeply as Curron did.  He often woke hours before dawn now, panting and sweating through his bedclothes though the hearth’s fire had long since retreated into the coals and the room was cold and still.  Several months before, in a rare moment of visible concern, Téagh had insisted Curron visit the Fort Infirmary, but none of the Healers’ treatments improved the dreams or eased his sleep. Commander Olan had berated him for valuable time lost. 
Curron breathed in deep and let his mind brushed against Nathahl’s consciousness, light and airy as the tips of feathers.  The thoughts and feelings of the other horses crowded forward, eager to comfort him, eager to grab his attention, but he didn’t immerse himself.  Not this time.  He touched each of their minds and gave them all one order.
Be still.  You will get your turns in a bit.
Their wild blood pressed against the boundaries of his command, but he shielded his thoughts from them.  They were wild, yes, but he was strong… thanks to Nathahl’s guidance.  If Commander Olan ever discovered his secret, it might be the death of him, but the Black had taught him well.  Nathahl humbly shook his neck as Curron let his thanks touch the Black’s mind.  He nipped the cuff of Curron’s sleeve and nickered softly in his ear.
 Curron had no idea how long he’d been standing like that – an hour, maybe, or a few minutes – when a draft of cold air broke his concentration.  Nathahl snorted uneasily, stamping a hoof to the ground.  Curron opened his eyes and the Black jerked its head away.  The horse grunted at something over Curron’s shoulder and pranced back into the shadows of its stall.
            The sound erupted from nowhere and echoed through the rafters, rending the silence in two and sending the rest of the horses into frenzy.  Curron spun around, stretching out his mind to quiet them.  He caught snatches of their thoughts and his muscles tensed.
            Stranger! they warned.  Predator.  Bloodlust. 
            Curron’s eyes skimmed the shadows for danger as he moved down the line, placing his hand on each horse’s muzzle to calm it.  He’d never seen them so uneasy before; not in their own stalls, not while he was near.  Their minds resisted him until finally he had to force his way in between the cracks of their fears and compel comforting thoughts to take the place of terror.  It was no easy task.  By the time he reached the end of the stalls, his chest hurt and he felt like he hadn’t slept in a week.  
            He turned back toward the lantern and the pitchfork he’d left leaning against Nathahl’s stall.  It seemed so far away now, but if he finished his work quickly, maybe he’d still have an hour or two to rest before Téagh was up and yelling for him.  He took a step forward, sagged against a support beam, and yelped as a large rust-colored bird swooped down over his shoulder, missing him by inches. It lifted into the rafters and stared down at him with golden predatory eyes as if unsure what it wanted to do with him.
            “Now that’s some trick you’ve got there,” a deep, rich voice commented from somewhere behind him. 
            Curron spun, searching the shadows for the source of the voice.  His eyes roved over the cubicles one by one, but found nothing.  The lantern’s light, once offering warmth and comfort, now splayed across the floor in a pitiful pool of insipid gold reflecting like flames in the eyes of the raptor perched aloft.      
            “The horses,” the voice explained, “They respond to you like none I’ve seen.  ‘Tis a rare talent, that.  A pity it’s wasted in such a place as this.  But then again, Olan never was one to recognize ability.” 
A dark figure pealed itself away from one shadowed corner and stepped forward.  It had a slight frame draped in the dark billows of a traveler’s cloak with the hood pulled up to hide most of its features.  Only the lower part of its face was completely visible, dark ginger stubble shadowing its chin and upper lip.  A twinkle of eyes glimmered out at Curron from the darkness beneath the hood, assessing him, judging him…
Curron glanced up as the hawk warbled a few curious notes and tilted its head at him.  It followed his movements closely, shuffling back and forth on its post, its talons scratching along the beams. 
The stranger tipped his head back to follow Curron’s gaze.  “Ah,” he said.  “That’s just Aigneis.  You needn’t fear her, if that’s what you’re so anxious about.  She’ll fight like the guardians of Grimwryld themselves if I ask her, and she’s got a call to chill the blood, but she won’t attack without incentive.”  He lifted an arm and the hawk screeched again, spreading its wings and drifting down to alight on its master’s shoulder.  


Gillian Adams said...

I love the new first chapter! It hints at so much without entirely delivering all the answers. Definitely captures my attention and makes me want to read more.

I love getting to read excerpts from your book! Most enjoyable.

Wishing you the best of luck with the rewriting. I'm in the midst of some rewriting myself at the moment so I know how long and tiresome it can get after a while.

Star-Dreamer said...

Thanks Gillian. :D

Yeah, It's taking a long time... but I know I will eventually think it's worth it. ;)

BTW, congrats on getting published through FPP!!!! That's so exciting, and you so deserve it. ^_^ I can't wait to review your book. :)


Philip Nelson said...

Nichole, that was good; it's a distinct improvement. I quite enjoyed it. :)

Near the end, I wasn't seeing the words for the story: which (I think) is a very good thing.

Galadriel said...

Not bad, really. I generally don't like reading things online, but I like your main character.

Star-Dreamer said...

Wow, thank you Philip. :D This is, of course, the effect I was hoping for, but it's hard to tell for myself. It means so much to me to actually hear someone say it, so really, thanks. :)

Star-Dreamer said...

Thanks Galadriel. ^_^ I'm really glad that you like him. Curron has been... a work in progress. I love writing about him and learning more about him as I write. But sometimes he totally throws me for loops. I suppose it's like that with most characters though. ;D

Gillian Adams said...

Thanks Nichole! It's definitely been an adventure. I'm really looking forward to the release this summer! :)

Anonymous said...

"Large dark eyes winked out at Curron..."

When I think of something winking out, I think of a light going out.

Large dark eyes blinked at Curron...

Large dark eyes emerged from the shadows...

New quote:
"Curron breathed in deep and let his mind brushed against Nathahl’s consciousness..."

Curron breathed in deep and his mind brushed against Nathahl’s consciousness...

Or change "brushed" to "brush" in your original phrase.

Same quote but different problem:
"brushed against Nathahl’s consciousness, light and airy as the tips of feathers."

Which part is "light and airy as the tips of feathers"?
Is it Nathahl's conciousness that is "light and airy as the tips of feathers"?
Or is it the brushing of Curron's mind that is "light and airy as the tips of feathers"?

Suggestions--assuming you mean the brushing of minds is "light and airy as the tips of feathers":

Curron breathed in deep and his mind brushed--light and airy as the tips of feathers--against Nathahl’s consciousness.

New quote:
"Be still. You will get your turns in a bit."

This phrase is kind of awkward--does each horse get more than one turn, since "turns" is plural?

Be Still. You will each get your turn in a bit.

New quotes:
"...lip timidly at the grains."
"... thanks to Nathahl’s guidance."

If this horse has been guiding Curron, then why would this horse be timid around Curron by lipping "timidly" at the grains?
These two quotes form a discontinuity in my opinion.

"...lip softly at the grains."

"...lip eagerly at the grains."

"Eagerly" sounds better to me as a hungry horse in winter so skinny that its skin might be sticking to its ribs would be eager to eat grain.

New quote:
"...sending the rest of the horses into frenzy."

"...sending the rest of the horses into a frenzy."

My comments about your excerpt:
It's an excellent passage, well done. You've got the raw talent, some more experience and you'll be better than ever.

Your main charcter is sympathetic--who wouldn't feel sorry for a starving young boy in tattered old clothes that he's outgrown. And he's such dire conditions too, what with the winter coming on and cruel bosses that berrate him for things that he can't control. :(

And yet, there is a glimmer of hope... Young Curron has an unusual abillity, one that gives him an advantage should he make use of it, one that could make him powerful...

I likes it! I likes it a lot!
Heehee. :)

Star-Dreamer said...

Thank you Anon. :D That's really helpful, and I definitely see what you mean. I'll go back in and straighten it all out. :D