Knowing Better Isn’t Doing Better

I started posting excerpts of Stars Fall Out when I was halfway through the draft. As a result, I haven’t posted excerpts of a lot of the early action that defines the book, including the main character’s use of a magic vial that allows travel from one place to another via a natural body of water.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that knowing better isn’t the same as doing better. I like stories with intelligent characters, but I also like characters who fuck everything up and get in their own way.

I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive.

This post is the third excerpt in a sequence that I’ve posted over the last two weeks. Here’s the first and second, which involve stealing the vial and discovering that it’s damn uncomfortable to use.

You’d think I would be smarter this time. That I would bind up a change of clothes so they wouldn’t get wet. That I would pack money and bread. That I would bring a map or compass.

Instead, I was less smart. I packed none of those things, and I barely even concealed myself. “I’ll take it from here,” I had told Tirsan when we came in sight of my home. “You’re tired.”

Then I had waited half-behind a tree, and watched as Tirsan walked away, the limp still present in his step after all these months.

I ran almost to the bridge, then slowed to a stroll so I wouldn’t draw attention to myself. But when I made it to the water, when I filled the vial and chugged it down, I practically dove in.

Water swept me down and crushed me, squeezed my rib cage, until I washed up elsewhere, free of the city, free of all of it.

Infinity, was what I thought when I looked at the beach.


That Awkward Moment When Your Stolen Magic Vial Actually Works

Last week, I posted a short excerpt from Stars Fall Out in which my main character runs like hell after stealing a magic vial from her sister’s professor. All she knows about the vial is that it’s supposed to allow travel from place to place if one uses it to consume water from a natural body. She doesn’t know the finer points of how this works or how to choose the place you go to.

She also doesn’t know that it’s going to be uncomfortable as hell.

Darkness.

Darkness rushed around me, and water burned wrongly in my nose. I flipped, but stayed perfectly still. Or the world flipped, and gravity—

The rushing-water-darkness thrashed me up and away from it. Gravity and ash hit me at the same time.

Ash. I couldn’t see it, but the sensation of it had come to me immediately, plugging my nose. And my forearms were buried in it. My legs floated uselessly behind me, while my arms and upper body were buried in the cold, crumbling remains of a campfire. My fingers crawled around, breaking pieces of old wood as I dragged myself fully onto the shore and collapsed on my belly directly over the pile of coals. Pale hints of light came from somewhere, and my eyes tracked to them automatically.

I blew my nose onto my sleeve, messy and childlike, and wondered, stupidly, if anyone had seen. Still on my belly with my hands and elbows in the burned out fire, I gave myself to the count of twelve, and then rolled onto my back.

This was not my home.


That Awkward Moment When Someone Catches You Stealing a Magic Vial From Your Sister’s Professor

It’s tough to find a good first draft excerpt. Something that isn’t too clunky, too spoilery, or too rife with notes-to-self and bracketed terms I need to research. After starting to post excerpts at the halfway point of Stars Fall Out, I went back and found a few from earlier in the book. That took care of the “spoilery” bit of the problem.

I’m still self-conscious about most of the excerpts I’ve posted. There’s a lot that’s lost by taking words out of the context of the scene, and since they’re rough draft, that clunkiness is still there.

Anyway. I think we can all relate to the feeling of sneaking into a lab at the top of a tower with an almost infinite number of stairs to steal a magic vial from your sister’s professor. So here’s more about that:

The light came near me again, and I dove to a crouch, stumbling at the edge of the archway, and again losing momentum as I tried to pivot and rise to my feet out of view. In that third moment of stillness, my legs shook with fear. They would fail me the next time I tried them.

I wouldn’t make it to the stairs, let alone down.

But they worked on their own, somehow, somehow, thank the gods, thank the spirits, thank reflex and terror, and I dashed down the stairs, skipping them two and three at a time, stumbling around corners and knocking into walls.

I didn’t hear my pursuer, or even know for sure if they were indeed pursuing me. I lost track of how many flights I had gone down, and so there was no halfway point to acknowledge, but again, stairs, landing, fireglass.

Stairs, landing, fireglass.

Stairs, landing, fireglass.

Door.

I pushed it open with all my strength in opposition to a powerful winter wind blowing it shut.

And then I burst out onto the university campus, and onto the streets of Nirsuathu.


A Fearsome Beast

Here’s another excerpt from Stars Fall Out, one of several I set aside to post before I finished the draft, but then never got around to posting due to the fact that finishing the draft ate all my free time in the weeks before its completion.

This excerpt features Master Zanhori, known as one of the greatest living oneiromancers, who travels throughout the Kirosz Empire with his three fearsome beasts, negotiating for peace where he can, and sometimes leaving destruction where he can’t.

The chair creaked alarmingly when I sat in it. Berihl opened a single eye at the noise and snorted. “How did you get a huge boar like that up the stairs?”

“I’d rather not talk about it.” Zanhrori tapped his long, elegant pen against the side of his desk. “And she’s a sow, not a boar.”

“Piro said—”

“For all his keenness, he isn’t much of a biologist. Your husband could’ve told you the difference.”

“That’s probably true.” His unexpected mention of Tirsan had thrown me off balance. I took a deep breath and braced myself in the chair so it wouldn’t creak again. “I know that you’re busy, so I’ll get right to it: I’m looking for someone to train me.”


I Finished Stars Fall Out

My completed first draft of Stars Fall Out is 234,000 words, 173 scenes, and 1125 pages, with a printing time of two hours.

I posted on Facebook that hole-punching would be my hobby for the foreseeable future, and it did take three days before I got the entire draft off the dining room table, punched and distributed between three binders.

I still have several excerpts I haven’t posted since I’ve neglected the blog in my single-minded drive to finish this thing. Here’s the first of them, a longer one from near the end:

Tirsan leaned against the counter too, arms folded across his chest, and once again considered me. “This is the most we’ve spoken in two days.” He studied his fingers against his upper arm. “Do you want to know where I went today? I went to talk to a man with some animals to sell. More gyadi, sheep. A dog. He’s moving north in a couple months, and he let me inspect them.

“Gods, they were nice animals. Even if you knew nothing about them, you could tell. Glossy coats. Well-tempered, meticulously groomed. Fresh hay. I could’ve paid him, gotten the whole process started, and been back to [some other farm chore.]

“But I didn’t pay him. I said, ‘Do you mind if I talk to my wife and come back in a bit?’ Then I left. Walked around for the better part of an hour. I came back and said you’d told me to make sure they didn’t have any history of health problems in the breeding lines.

“He reassured me that they were all set—he’s had them going a few generations back–and said something like, ‘Good looking out, that wife of yours.’

“And I agreed with him, and asked if he wouldn’t mind me running home a second time to talk to you again. He said, ‘No, no, not at all, though you probably should’ve just brought her with you and saved yourself the trouble.

“I laughed and said, ‘Yes, I probably should have. But she’s far too busy getting things ready around the house.’

“Then I did the whole walk again, came back, and told him we’d take the animals. So that’s underway now. I thanked him and said we’d be in touch.

“And then, Tyatavar, I look the long way around home, as if I hadn’t walked enough miles already, because the whole thing bothered me so much. Why did I make it take two hours longer than it had to? Why did I lie about talking to you? Why did I say you had all those questions, when I knew within minutes I’d take the animals?”


Me: Time to print a 1,125 page draft.

HP Officejet Pro, 95 pages in: Align the printheads. DO IT DO IT NOW.