The other day I wrote about how I ended up with a love triangle in Stars Fall Out–something that surprised me (but shouldn’t have) and made me suspicious, as I’m not typically one for romantic storylines.

An excellent use for expensive brush pens.

There’s also another love triangle, and that’s me two-timing Stars Fall Out with its sequel, Bitter Machines.

And there’s a third one, which is me making a love triangle diagram instead of working on either book.

And a fourth one, in which I’m in a relationship with a human being and run away to my office to do all of the above.

Apparently, if you have a secret marriage and an emotional affair, relationship math dictates that you will end up with a love triangle. This came about organically with Stars Fall Out after I developed a couple of the characters more, so I think it deserves its place in the story.

But I’ve been wrestling with resolving it in a non-melodramatic way that deepens the already-existing conflict and doesn’t hijack the rest of the story, kill my ending, or kill my characters, who already have future book storylines.

I’m less confident in this excerpt than in most of the other excerpts I’ve posted. Apparently, it’s tough to write a balanced, reasonable jealous rage.

But he didn’t stop. He hauled himself through streets the color of winter’s muddy death at the hands of a vicious spring, and he came to The House by the Sea Inn.

It loomed up at the top of the hill, a fortification against everything he needed to know and didn’t want to know. His heart thudded in his chest from the exertion of the hills, and only grew heavier, faster like the chugging of machinery.

No one had told him this was where the floppy-haired glass merchant was staying, but he’d pieced it together. The last job of the Rill Ryonin bakery had been a king’s ransom of rolls. They had been sent here, and Tyatavar had been the one to make that delivery.

And after that, hours after that, they’d leaned together against the wall of the locksmith’s shop, their faces lit by firelight that could never touch them.

He had been there with her there in the thick of things, where a son-in-law should be.

Here’s one of the last parts of Stars Fall Out that I wrote in November. I didn’t finish my ending, as I had hoped, but I did complete 25 scenes, which was my other goal. This deals with the mechanics of a magic vial that’s one of the most important magical advances in hundreds of years and that the main character steals and essentially uses as an addictive escape from her own life.

This time, as it fizzed and hissed and transformed the water, I focused. Just as I brought my mind back under this bridge when I needed to come home, so did I send it out. I flung my thoughts out to the farthest reaches of the empire, to farther places than that, even. I thought of mountains too tall to exist here, plants too exotic, bridges too magnificent. I thought of maps unrolled before me, not Pinuar’s maps of the city, but maps that stopped for no road and went on and on.

I took my sip of water, and I imagined it pulling me to all those places.

Then I waded in, and wished one last time for the water to whisk me out of my trap.

When I came up again, a miniature wooden statue of She-the-Sailor stared me down from on top of a nearby dock piled with weathered rope. Once, I had come across a She-the-Sailor statue in a far-off place. Nothing about this tightly-packed clutter of ramshackle seaside cottages hinted at far-off places. Nothing about the chill or the salt tang in the air hinted of far-off places either.

I’d been breathing them in all day. All week. All month.

My entire life.

I got a cool but annoying sign that I’m on track with giving my characters distinct voices in Stars Fall Out.

I pasted a chunk of text from a scene in one character’s point-of-view to another character and changed the pronouns where needed.

And it didn’t work at all. Incompatible. Wrong operating system.

It threw things off so much, I couldn’t even segue into the dialogue that I’d already written.

That last part was annoying.

Stars Fall Out takes place in a small coastal city dominated by the most prominent university in the northern provinces. The city is under occupation by a vast empire with extensive resources, including people with magical abilities. The catalyst for the bulk of the book’s events is the creation of a new form of magic by one of the university’s professors.

This snippet comes from a scene in which Tirsan ends up listening to that professor’s conspiracy theories. While the professor doesn’t convince him to join him, he does end up being the last straw for Tirsan, who soon writes to his grandfather and asks for a change in the terms that will allow him to inherit land only after he’s finished his studies and found a wife.

Tirsan shrugged, and edged down the street a bit again.

Ghordaa only came closer. “If we come into our own magic, finally, that’s one less way they have to control us. But now, my creation is missing. Even my pencils are missing!”

“Your—you think he took your pencils?”

“Yes! Even those! But it makes sense. How am I supposed to do work of the mind without proper tools?”

I’ve been eavesdropping at Dunkin Donuts while I work on Stars Fall Out.

The employees behind the counter are practicing saying “Welcome to Dunkin Donuts” in spooky voices.

There’s a job interview going on behind me with illegal interview questions.

9/25 scenes done on Stars. I took a little too long on a scene that I came up with four years ago, and that I’ve been looking forward to writing since June. Here’s the excerpt:

Maps. He had given me a pile of maps.

I angled back to the fire, less awkward now that I wasn’t trying to draw. “But these are beautiful.” More beautiful than they needed to be: the swoops, the lines that ran from thick to thin, brush and ink detailing all the hills and buildings of my home. He had made Nirsuathu a work of art rather than a box wrapped in chains, and he had gotten the whole university, even the planetarium.

I sat there studying it so long that he stopped watching for my reactions and looked awkwardly into the fire.

At last, I held them out to him. “Wait…” I snatched them back, and looked at his work again. “Why did you need me to illustrate your brochure?”

“Funny thing, but I can’t draw a cup.”

Rippling mountains. Layered city blocks and tiny spires, even the bakery and the locksmith next door. Streets colliding, separating, winding, curving in precise lines.

“Oh, come on.”

“Ok, I can draw a cup. I can’t make a printing plate. And I didn’t have the illustrations started yet…”

“So you had me do those too.”

“You do have an excellent eye for detail.”