This morning I reached 5000 words on what I have tentatively decided is my New Book, so I thought I’d share some of it with you. Not only share it, but share my reasons for sharing it, especially so early in the process.
It has the possible working title of “The Summer Goddess”, though that might change as the story goes on. Some people like to hang on to titles for grim death, but I’m not very good at them, and I’m willing to change them if someone can come up with anything better.
I’m sharing it now, not because it’s highly polished or a dazzling piece of SF lit – far from it, it’s a purple-tinged first draft! – but because I want to share the warts-and-all journey of the book with you nice people on here, maybe get a bit of dialogue going about the writing process, listen to your ideas, bludgeon you with my word counts. Basically make it a bit more interactive. Writing is pretty solitary, even with the help of Twitter (@hierath77 , come say hi! ) and the distraction of Facebook games. And whereas in other creative jobs you get to interact with… I hesitate to say “fans”… but the people who buy your art or attend your concerts, there seem to be fewer opportunities for a writer to do that, especially for writers who aren’t in Major Leagues, or who are a bit shy. So this is our interacting space (at least, I hope it will be. Could be talking to myself, but that would be nothing unusual 😀 )
So that’s part of the reason I’m sharing. The other reason is that I want y’all to read my schizzle – that’s the inner rampaging egomaniac trying to break out. All writers have one, even if we pretend we don’t. That’s why we want to get published in the first place.
So yeah, sharing the process, putting stuff out there for you to read, making friends. Three pretty reasonable goals that I hope I can stick to. If it all pancakes, you’ll be the first to know.
(And of course I will continue with the usual routine of reviews, writing advice, and rambling about the things that catch my eye.)
Here you go then – the first-ever public unveiling of The Summer Goddess, warts, typos, rogue commas, and all. Please remember this is first draft, and all the usual first draft disclaimers apply.
The smoke was thinner at the edge of the cliff, blowing inland, and they had come out from under the worst of the concealing cloud. The raider’s voices were louder now, and Asta could hear children crying, women protesting, cut off by the dull thump of a fist hitting flesh, and a loud splash. They were on the beach.
Asta dropped flat, wormed through the sharp, salt-withered grass to the sandy edge of the bluff, and looked down. There was a ship in the cove. Not a ship, she mentally corrected herself, a boat. Wide and flat bottomed, like an upturned beetle shell, and crewed by rowers. Some of the children were already huddled in the bottom of the boat, at the feet of the muscular raiders. The rest stood close together on the narrow crescent of sand at the base of the cliff, surrounded by a ring of steel. The women of the Beehive made a last stand to protect their children, and the bronzed strangers couldn’t get near them.
Next to her, Asta heard Borteth’s hissing intake of breath as the younger woman reached for the bow slung across her back. “My baby’s in that boat, Asta!”
Asta wished she had her own bow. She wished she could see the cliff path to the tower, hidden by the curve of the headland. She wished Finn was here. “Do you see Rhodan?”
“No – yes.” Borteth pointed with her arrow. The children were crushed so tight together Asta could hardly make him out, until the boat bobbed on the waves and the movement revealed her nephew’s unruly brown hair, a shade lighter than the dark heads that surrounded him.
Asta had to prevent herself from starting forward, from sliding down the sheer cliff in a flurry of sand and rubble. Metal clashed as the women were driven back into the darkness below the cliff, their ring of steel wavering, coming apart. Her hand closed on a rock.
The missile found its mark, smacking into a raider’s unprotected knee. He stumbled, uttered a curse that was cut off as Borteth’s arrow tore through his throat in a bright red plume. Confused, the strangers backed towards the sea, flinging up their round shields to protect them from assault from above, leaving their bellies exposed.
“Come on!” Asta sprang to her feet, Borteth a heartbeat behind, and raced for the path that led down to the beach. It was marked with blood. Asta saw the abandoned bodies of the village’s defenders cast aside, but she couldn’t stop to see if any still lived. Rhodan was in the boat. She had to get him back before the raiders put to sea with him.
The curve of the path meant she lost sight of the beach, in fragments, dipping in and out of her field of vision. The shouts, the screams, the grate of steel on metal and flesh, grew louder as she ran, and she could hear thunder in the distance, rhythmic, approaching fast. She thought for a moment it was her own racing heartbeat, and then Borteth yelled, and pointed back down the beach.
“The hunters! The hunters are coming back!”
Asta could see them now, black shapes racing across the rocky sand, hooves pounding dull against the earth. They must have known what was happening, to come so fast, deadly and sharp as an arrow in flight. But the bronze strangers were climbing into the boat, dragging or pushing the surviving women before them. The warriors would not reach them in time.
“Rhodan!” Asta rounded the last corner with a desperate burst of speed, the cove opening out before her. She drew her blade as she ran towards the boat. The raider in front of her was a big man, but he had his back to her, half-turning as the blade sliced through his leather armour, his kidney, across his spine.
He fell twitching across the stern of the boat, mouth open in a soundless scream. The thunder in Asta’s skull was deafening, but she couldn’t turn to see where the horses were, couldn’t yell for Finn with her mouth full of sea water. She braced her feet against the sea floor and hung all her weight off the side of the heavy rowing boat, trying to tip it, to stop it leaving. An oar jabbed her in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her, and her bare feet dragged across the savage shingle.
“Asta!” Lefalli was in the boat, reaching out to try and catch her hand, but Asta couldn’t let go. Her feet lost contact with the sea bed and she was swimming, barely able to keep her head above water as blows rained down on her face and arms. She was dizzy, vomiting, and as the flat paddle of an oar smashed against her jaw, she felt the wood slip away from her desperate fingers. She was sinking, seaweed grabbing at her limbs, dragging her down into water clouded with blood.
Asta kicked out, reeling head breaking the surface. She couldn’t see the boat, couldn’t even see land, just a grey expanse of shifting ocean. Her lungs were full of salty water, and she vomited, wiping her mouth and ducking her chin to clean her face. It sounded like her skull was full of bells.
She splashed around, trying to get her bearings. The beach was behind her, the rowing boat pulling out to sea with smooth strokes. She tried to swim towards it, but her limbs were made of lead and the waves threw their mockery in her face. Her legs were cramped, and boat and beach both seemed so far away. It was easier just to drift, to watch Rhodan pass before her eyes. That was why she had to swim…
Strong arms grabbed her beneath her armpits, and she kicked out, spluttering water. “Let me go! Go after them!” Her throat was raw, her words no more than a squeak.
“I’ve got you, don’t fight!” Her rescuer, the man who would prevent her from saving her nephew, dragged her slowly but unceasingly back towards the shore, and she fought him with every iota of her fading strength. All she could see was sky, blurred with salt water. The sea chuckled in her ears, whispering her defeat.
Her rescuer dropped her in the shallows. The surge of the tide sucked over her prone body, trying to drag her back into the depths. Someone, she wasn’t sure who, held a water skin to her lips, and she drank and vomited and drank again. She shivered in her soaked clothes, and someone – someone else? She wasn’t sure – draped a horse-blanket over her shoulders. Beneath the ringing in her skull, it was quiet on the beach. Too quiet. The quiet of graves and plague houses.
“Asta?” A woman’s voice, and a man’s, hushing her. But Asta wore the leader’s robes, and she had to lead.
She staggered to her feet, pulling the blanket tight around her shoulders as if it gave her authority of a cloak. She spat, salt and blood frothing on the sand, and rubbed the dirt from her eyes. She looked around, taking stock. Looking for her brother.
The boat was gone. Long gone, and the hazy, smoke-shrouded sun gleamed off white sails in the distance. She rubbed her aching head. It had all happened so fast. Why would anyone want to take the children of the Beehive Tribe?