Jaimie Krycho

third draft's
the charm

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Category: The writing process

9:39 am on Friday, June 26th, 2015

Secondary Color – A work-in-progress

Okay! I finally got so tired of not posting anything, I decided I’m going to post EVERYTHING. Well, maybe not everything, but I’ll at least give you part of a short story I’ve written. Maybe you can help me get some traction on it. Read and enjoy, and let me know what you liked, disliked, etc. about it. The ending has yet to be written.

Also, disregard the (Name) markers I left throughout the story, and feel free to suggest names. 😉

Secondary Color Draft 2

When I first got the letter from my young disciple at the Priory, I was happy.

What a fool I was. What a complete and utter fool. I knew the inner workings of that place — the Priors at Rivest were unable to touch anything without trying to rope it in, make it belong to them. That included me, but I had been down that road before, three years ago when I — well, abdicated – my position as Sixth Executive Prior, however politely it had been given me.

Feiruse, my letter-writer, my once-savior, said she was getting married, but that was a lie, too. Nothing was ever simple with the girl, and the fact that she was writing to me at all indicated she needed something badly enough to take advantage of my debt to her. I reminded myself of that over and over as I packed my bags – she was there when I swore I’d never set foot in Rivest again, and she though she seemed fond of trying my patience, she never tried it lightly.

The journey there was uneventful, as resulted only in the roilingly nauseous experience of seasickness and acute boredom with the way the captain, a leather-thick woman with hair a few shades shy of true magenta, bent and scraped after I showed her one lock of my cyan hair to avoid paying the boarding fee.

By the time we docked I was about ready to forsake my own values and destroy one of the knots on the woman’s ship to make her leave me alone – I had stared at the walls of it long enough, seasickness pushing me in and out of color-sight, to know its palette as acutely as I remembered the churning in my stomach. The sight of Feiruse dancing from foot to foot on the shore was therefore a mercy. She had put on some bulk around the waist since we had last met, but her face, peering from out her magenta strands of hair, looked decidedly drawn.

I disembarked with a less-than-lovely demeanor. Feiruse hugged my neck, and I suppose that helped, but I was tossed back into my dark mood when I looked in her eyes, noticed she hadn’t assaulted me with words as she was wont to do, and knew the reason I was here was worse than I originally suspected.

I grasped her by the shoulders and stopped walking. Plain-haired passers-by gave us a wide berth. “I’m not sure what you’re about to tell me or ask me to do, Feiruse, but remember that the Priors don’t know where I’ve gone, and I’d prefer to keep it that way.”

She nodded, then glanced over her shoulder. Rivest was a big city, but that was little comfort.

“You’re not getting married, are you?”

“No,” she managed.

“Not a man involved, then. Good.”

Her cheeks abruptly flushed to the vivid shade of her hair. “Well. I wouldn’t say that.”

My brows pinched down over my eyes. It took a moment, but a phantom fear I’d long harbored concerning the girl took form. “No. You didn’t.”

She looked away.

“A baby?” I hissed, and was given affirmation by Feiruse’s silence. “A Secondary baby?” I had to clarify as much as I feared to.

“(Name),” she looked at me suddenly, desperately, “He has black hair and black eyes.”

I made sure I used all my worst curses for the situation, and hustled us out of the thoroughfare.


We sat at the table in Feiruse’s house, nursing bone-white porcelain cups of tea.

“You want me to what,” I said flatly.

“It’s not like it was a secret to me, what you did,” Feiruse muttered poutily. “When you accepted the position as Sixth Executive Prior and asked me to help you disappear so soon afterward. I had plenty of time to think about it. Even I know that there’s some kind of mutual knot that the Priors share with one another. You saw something you didn’t like – big surprise – and untied the knot, and everyone was shocked.” Her hands waved about as if she were swatting flies. “You aren’t supposed to be able to do that. So. I figure if you can untie a palette knot, you can do something to prevent an outside knot from being tied against one’s will.”

I hated her when she made sense. “You think the Priors will try to control your son.”

“He can untie knots. If you were a Prior, wouldn’t you?” Feiruse played with her teacup. “These were my favorite color blue not two hours ago,” she commented innocently.

I blanched. Black. The absorber of color. The color of teacups was the most minor of the palette knots the baby might accidentally untie.

“Well.” I cleared my throat. “Minor correction. I didn’t technically untie the Prior’s knot, I broke it.”

Feiruse threw her hands up. “Okay, that’s it. Nothing about you will surprise me anymore, I swear it. And before I set about interrogating you on your insane methods, can you help my son, or not?

Or _knot, _I thought, mentally chuckling to myself. All nerves now, I told myself I had a choice, whether or not to help the stupid girl. I told myself that she and her son would be fine without me, might even do better for themselves. Then when I opened my mouth, all that came out was, “Damn you, I suppose I can.”


The days following were spent in taking care of a helpless human being, something on the bottom of my list of enjoyable activities. In order to effectively protect him from the Priors, I had to be around him long enough, steeped in color-sight, to learn just what the palette of this Secondary baby looked like.

I had no idea what to expect. A black-haired and black-eyed child – one parented by two Priory-trained Casters – had never before been born. Anyone with both Colorcasting and significant skill in it was, upon discovery, hustled away to the Priory as a matter of course. There were few enough of those as it was, and even fewer with the gall – or was it apathy? – to throw away honor, status, and livelihood to risk procreating with another Primary Caster.

Then there was Feiruse. The girl who, unlike myself, never seemed to use her inconoclast bent to do something useful. I sighed, shook my head. Hands on hips, I faced down her child as he lay squirming in a makeshift bassinet. “Okay, rat. Do your worst.”

With each passing emotion, something within the baby’s line of sight changed color, sometimes texture, and on rare occasion, shape. His palette was so complex I was reduced to a heap of profanity-jabbering helplessness on the floor following my attempts to touch it, and finding myself repelled over and over and over.

There were weeks of this.

Finally, the baby and I found ourselves at something of a stalemate. I caved and began to swaddle him, change his soiled wrappings, and generally take care of him, something which the ever-devious Feiruse never warned me I’d have to do when she left him with me. These things done, he stayed calm enough to let me peer at his palette undisturbed for longer than a few seconds. Feiruse often appeared and consulted me on what I was doing, even practiced lacing the color strands in a more or less accurate reproduction of my attempts.

I had a smile in my mind the day it all fell apart. I had been making progress with the babe. Feiruse was at the Priory again, pretending that she didn’t have a child and that everything was as normal as it had always been, and I was in charge of the baby when he decided to foil my plans and pitch the grandest fit I’d yet seen. I told him I wasn’t a milk cow; I couldn’t help him, but his vociferous retort finally sent me into town, with a ache throbbing in the front of my skull, in search of some goat’s milk.

Hair covered, eyes darting every which way, I picked my way through hauntingly familiar streets feeling as if I were dreaming. I felt stabs of fear, whispers of pain from long-faded bruises. I hated being here, and suddenly, more than ever, longed to jump aboard a ship and sail back home. My breath picked up, my vision swam, my head still pounded from the baby’s screaming. I should’ve rested before leaving, after so much Colorcasting, I told myself, and promptly stumbled face-first into a grocer’s stall.

When I opened my eyes a few minutes later, my headscarf had been removed and the plain-haired, blunt-faced grocer was explaining to (Name), Second Executive Prior, “I’m glad you were here…she just fell, and when I saw that hair, your Honor, I’m just glad you were here…”

I lurched to my feet and would’ve tried to run if it weren’t already too late. (Name) held my arm in a show of beneficence that only I knew was actually imprisonment. “Thank you. We do guard our own very jealously,” (Name) told the grocer, but I knew his words were actually for me.

We walked along the road toward the Priory on the west side of Rivest, the only sound to my ears the slap of our feet against the dust of the ground. I glanced down at the now-sore spot on my arm where (Name) gripped me. “You’ve always had such a way with women, (Name).”

He jerked his hand away as if just now realizing he had foiled all attempts at seeming amicable. “You were bound to come back here, you know. Your type always does.”

Was I not the first one to run away? Had others tried and failed before? The Priors had said the system was meant to break the students, and for the first time in three years I believed it could happen to me. “And what is my reason for coming back, oh omniscient one?”

His mouth turned down sourly. “Don’t pretend you don’t remember the power you held as a Prior. And, don’t assume you’ll get to hold that power again – it’s the First Executive who will judge you for breaking your original contract.”

I chewed on that for the remainder of the walk, from the moment we stepped into one of the Priory’s surreys and were whisked away to what had been both home and holding cell from childhood.

I reverted back to a mental state I hadn’t really ever left in Rivest, just let lie dormant until I needed it: repeatedly blessing my board-stiff will, the personality traits that made me as unpredictable as, well, a Secondary baby’s color palette. My mental conditioning didn’t cease until I felt (Name’s) arms enfolding me in a paternal embrace, as we stood before the steps leading up and into the slate-gray Priory building, flooding me with a feeling that could only be called the line between loathing and need.

“Welcome home,” he said.

I forced my walk into the Priory to be one of dignity rather than defeat. They were going to force me to play their games, and the only way to win was to quit as soon as possible. And anyway, there was a baby waiting for me.

So, when (Name) took me through a hallways of arches, down shallow steps into an open double-doorway that led into a jarringly spartan chamber where the First Executive Prior was waiting, I made my move.

I had been rehashing the Priory’s color palette in my head; this room, in particular. Such a simple way to prepare, and yet one they couldn’t have prevented me from doing even if they had known what I was about. The First saw the distant look pass over my face that meant I was entering color-sight, and he jumped from his seat. After that, all I saw was the rainbow skeins that made up the beams on the ceiling.

I did the most efficient splice I could manage – after my earlier blackout, I lacked the energy required to pull the skeins completely apart – and heard the crack of wood as pieces that made up the beams rearranged into a shape that could not hold. I was able to watch them fall before having to come back to myself, dive from (Name’s) loosened hold and scramble for cover before the First could reach me at the dead run he was now effecting.

Even as I immersed myself back into color-sight one thought kept echoing through my mind: I couldn’t let any of this come back to Feiruse and the baby.

I made a gutsy dive underneath a table pushed against the wall, and scooped up one side, toppling it over and interrupting the First’s frightening speed. I fell back into wild color-sight. I had seen the First’s eyes and knew he was doing the same. It instilled cold, hard terror in my gut.

The skeins of the table were right before my eyes, a glowing spectrum of colors. My panic made me revert back to the novice practice of grabbing at the skeins as if I could physically hold them, but I still had enough presence of mind to splice one long braid so that, when my sight returned to reality, I saw a corner of the table peel away and wrap around the First’s waist, trapping him.

That, however, didn’t last long. I was conscious long enough to look up and see one of the ceiling beams barreling toward me, sweeping back like a hand preparing a blow. I spun on my heel and tried to make it to a sconce in the corner of the room, but the speed of the First’s magic was incredible, and the beam took me on the back of the head with a sound crack that reminded me of the particular hardness of my skull before I went under.

When I awoke, I was in a cell. The smell of chicken wafted toward me, and my stomach growled loudly.

(Name) turned his head. He was sitting at a small table laden with food, tapping his foot on the floor, smiling at me. I wondered how long he had been sitting there – the fact he had been watching me sleep made me shiver.

“Your timing is impeccable, (Name),” he said.

I didn’t favor him with a response, but I wondered what he was plotting, for plotting he most certainly was. I didn’t have to wonder long. Only a few minutes passed before I heard the sussuruss of fabric across the floor.


(Name) picked at the chicken on his plate and pointedly failed to invite the dark-haired girl whose voice belonged to Feiruse to sit in the empty chair across from him.

At his silence, Feiruse plowed forward impatiently. I could almost hear her thoughts, wanting to finish with the day of lessons and practicums, get back home to see how the babe and I had fared.

“Why am I here, if you don’t terribly mind? I was working on a project for (Prior) and I know she won’t be happy if I don’t finish soon…”

“Have you ever thought about becoming Sixth Executive Prior?”

There was a long and pregnant silence. Feiruse may have been dense at times, but the girl knew when she was being mocked, even if she didn’t know why.

I could almost see her opening mouth, working to form an answer.

The chair shifted on the floor as (Name) moved. “Come here. I want you to see something.”

Feiruse steps tapped forward hesitantly. I sympathized with her discomfort in being in such close proximity with the snake of a man. “This way,” (Name) directed, and I winced at the soft footfall making its way toward my cell.

When Feiruse came around the corner, dressed in the slate blue of the Priory’s elder students, face washed and hair neatly pinned, I must admit I felt a momentary pang that had nothing to do with my current situation. I was transported to some years ago, when I still believed in the purpose of my life at the Priory, tutoring Feiruse with a mixture of pride and dismay. A lifetime ago, a world away.

To her credit, Feiruse’s only reaction was the slight widening of her eyes and a sudden tightness across the brow. She even had enough presence of mind to say something not completely moronic. “I—what’s her Honor the Sixth Prior doing here, (Name)?” Her obligatory curtsy to me came a few seconds too late.

“Perhaps,” his voice, so calm and courteous, made me shudder like an unwanted caress, “you can tell me.”


2:00 pm on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

I Challenge You

…to a duel.

Okay, not really. But it seemed the appropriate (hackneyed?) end to the sentence.

You writers out there may have heard the advice, “Show, don’t tell.” Here is a really helpful writing challenge that will prep us to do just that. I’m going to make a point to throw out a good many “thought” verbs from Draft 1 of Novel 2, starting today.

What will you do with the challenge?

8:43 pm on Friday, June 14th, 2013

“Bloodlines,” Conclusion

Well, friends, I’ve decided I’m just going to post the entire last chunk of “Bloodlines,” since I’ve taken my sweet time finishing it despite lofty promises of swift postings.

Make note of a few retroactive changes I’ve made in the story – “transposition” instead of “reconstitution” (as per the suggestion of astute fellow writer Bill Tracy), and flux no longer a permanent state. Also, pretend that there was never a time that people in the real world were able to see people who were actively within the epheria. Haha. As I’ve said before, you’re seeing the writing process happen here, and perhaps it’s both a blessing and a curse!

Without further ado, the conclusion to “Bloodlines of Epheria.”

The attack came immediately. For the first time, Sifani saw the dog-creature materialize: the air seemed to fold in a split-second of blue-white, and a mass of dark fur and two-inch claws tumbled out of nothingness. As it barreled toward them, its eyes glowed an unreal red.

It dived for Lorin at breakneck speed, and the man barely managed to shift his weight aside so that the creature didn’t touch him. The hellish thing skidded past and barked out something between a yelp and growl. A wicked grin cracked across Sifani’s face. “Eat this, you ugly son of a horse’s backside!” she cried, and honed her focus, razor-sharp, on the ground around the creature’s paws.

Her consciousness swimming in a sea of particles invisible to naked vision, Sifani systematically demolished a ring of earth around the monster. At first a small burst, then in increasingly larger chunks, brown and tan clods exploded beside it, causing it to dance from side to side. Sifani released a manic laugh as the rapidly dissolving ground formed a small island around the thing.

It was really only a bare handful of seconds before the monster regained its composure, unfortunately. It paused momentarily, and a snapped a few sharp barks. At its call, the air folded in four more hair-thin lines behind it. From them stepped reinforcements.

Sifani heard Lorin’s hissed intake of breath as four new dog-creatures bounded outward and forward around the edges of the crumbling island, even as their stranded companion vaulted over the growing rift between it and its prey. Over disgusting and guttural noises that for a moment sounded to her like language, Sifani almost didn’t hear the beat of Lorin’s running feet until the wind of his passing tugged at her hair and clothes.

At the first sight of him sprinting, Sifani reached hastily into her pocket to ensure that he had put the first of their plans into action. Her first closed around a hard ball of twine that was rapidly twitching and unraveling as Lorin ran off with the other end. Reassured by its presence, Sifani took off in a sprint in the opposite direction of her partner, hand still closed tight around the twine. Her body thrummed with pent energy and the morbidly pleasant thrill of the chase, though she ground her teeth as she considered their limitations once again. There was only so much they could do without touching the creatures with something from the real-world – they couldn’t use hands, couldn’t use knives…she was definitely missing Namiss and her knives right about now. As it was, this odd medium would have to do.

Sifani huffed a quick sigh of relief when the string stretched taut – she pulled her steps up short. It appeared that the twine hadn’t touched any of the monsters in the process of unraveling, thank Donis, since the scene hadn’t changed much. The monsters were close, though, desperately close, and obstructed only by the deep scars in the ground where Sifani and Lorin had transposed.

“Now, Sifani!” Lorin barked – that was the only cue she needed to begin transposing the twine stretched out between them.

Hers and Lorin’s joined powers were not insignificant. Together, they delved into the pieces that made up the string. Their minds danced between and weaved around one another as Lorin ripped pieces apart, and Sifani transformed them.

She really didn’t do much this time, only pulled the small, rough fibers of the twine outward into stiff needles. Piece by piece, at lightning speed, Sifani made the string into a deadly weapon, which Lorin summarily cut into sections. Then, together, they pressed the pieces away with all their combined might.

The result was explosive. The hardened and broken twine torpedoed outward into the enemy line. Agonized screeches made the air ring metallically, and as the twine ripped through into the dark flesh of Nume’s dog-creatures, Sifani and Lorin plunged back into the real world.

The monsters, having been touched by an object Sifani and Lorin had brought from the outside, appeared there with them, strewn across the ground. Sifani had hoped that all five would be lying stone dead – that the force of the explosion would’ve driven the sharp pieces deep into the vital organs of all the filthy things. Instead, despite the three that lay blessedly unmoving, two others stood on shaky, yet solid enough, legs. And as her luck would have it, those two were the two closest to Sifani.

Angered by their near defeat, they leapt onto her ferociously.

True to his nature, Lorin threw himself into the fray. Sifani could’ve sworn she heard him shout a triumphant, “ha!” as he wrestled one of the things off of her, rolling to the side and bellowing as teeth scraped the side of his face. Particles of dirt floated upward in small clouds, stinging Sifani’s nostrils as she struggled to ignore Lorin’s plight and concentrate on pushing the second creature away from her. Its stifling, meaty scent filled her nostrils as it snapped its jaws in her face, teeth bare inches from her.

Her arms felt weak, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold the thing off for much longer. It was in that moment of doubt that a handle suddenly and inexplicably protruded from between the creature’s shoulder blades as if it had grown there. There was a quick, gurgling sound from within the monster’s throat, a gush of warm blood and a spasm that caused it to roll off Sifani and onto the ground, and then death.

The knife had flown true, so of course it had to be Namiss. Sifani pushed herself to her feet and looked over to see the members of the band all wielding the weapons they had brought – Jatan fitting a new arrow to his bow, and Ileniel and Antian brandishing swort-swords in case they had the opportunity to strike close. Instead of looking victorious, though, all their faces were masks of horror.

Sifani felt her heart and lungs freeze, and she spun around to Lorin. He and the monster – which now had two of Jatan’s arrows sprouting from its flank – were thoroughly bloodied now, and still tumbling to and fro in their death grapple. There was a snap of jaws and a flash of grey teeth, and the thing bit hard into Lorin’s neck.

Sifani’s world exploded in anger and fear. LORIN! Her vision wavered, and suddenly she felt her mind diving almost against her will into the daydream-place that she had been able to access once before, at the Head Counselor’s home in what seemed another lifetime – that strange state of being that bridged the real world to her Reehler powers during fits of unquenchable emotion.

Her eyes trained on the dog’s body as it strained and twitched, trying to disable its victim. Her mind floated, melting back yet leaning forward, drifting further away and yet plunging exponentially closer.

She could see the skin and fur of the creature in startling detail, but knew it was not enough. In that strange tension between letting go and clutching tighter, Sifani further freed her mind to the daydream state.

And she saw pieces. So many pieces to a living creature. She had never seen an animal so close before. The pieces themselves had pieces – that skin and hair was made of up so many, trembling parts that only a few eyes must’ve ever seen. Plants were one thing, a kind of life that put the fear of the Deities, so to speak, in a person…but to know that the kind of life Sifani now held in her hand was one of flesh and blood, effectively making her the mistress of a conscious being’s destiny…it was horrible, and so very heady.

She took those pieces and transposed them into something that was, simply put, unnatural.

The truth was, Sifani didn’t know what to do with the building blocks of a conscious creature. She and Antian had talked about the ethical ramifications of that kind of tampering, but that was all, and at the time she had devoted much of her mental energy to ribbing Antian about taking his life too seriously. She regretted it, now. Like a child trying to rebuild a complex device she had dashed to pieces on the floor, Sifani took the blocks and formed them into something grotesquely wrong.

She pulled her mind back from its deeply-embedded state to see what she had done. As she had hoped, Lorin had moved back from the creature, not needing to fight. And though the wound on his neck bled, it did not look as dire as she had feared. Far from seeming debilitated, Lorin was watching a sudden, awful growth, large as a honey melon, sprout from the side of the creature’s head. His eyes flicked to her momentarily. She thought he looked slightly horror-stricken, but all he did after looking away was stick out his tongue and mumble, “Disgusting.”

Sifani thought she would have sicked up at the sight, had she the time. But there was nothing for her but to watch her handiwork go through to its rapid conclusion, knowing Lorin was alright. The monster’s cries became almost unbearable – rasping, high-pitched things that scratched the surface of the gut as the heavy growth dragged the dog-creature’s sooty head down to the earth. It thrashed madly for minutes that seemed to stretch on and on, spasming and frothing all the while until at last it lay still.

The only sounds were Sifani and Lorin’s panting breaths, though the silence from the watching members of the band was almost louder than those. The pair exchanged glances over the monster’s corpse.

“We’ve won the first round,” Lorin commented with grim satisfaction, then his eyes narrowed as he concentrated on Sifani’s face. “And that’s all that matters right now.”

Sifani bit the inside of her cheek. She must’ve been wearing her discomfiture with what she had done plainly on her face. She nodded tersely, acknowledging Lorin’s silent admonition. “Canvass again?”

Lorin nodded, and closed his eyes to slip back into the world where, despite their limitations, they were most equipped to fight one of the Deities.

When the world blossomed into blue, it took the space of an eye-blink for a fold to appear in the air – one that stretched itself endlessly upward like an upended bolt of lightning before Nume herself stepped out from inside it.

Her beauty was not what Sifani remembered, and perhaps it could no longer be called beauty. Her mien was not the cold and sneering beauty of a highborn lady, but the terrific rage of a monarch – full-throated, insane, and indiscriminate, a commodity left only to one impossibly powerful.

“YOU LYING BRAT!” Nume screamed. Her voice was dark and resonant as approaching thunder. “NOW YOU SHALL SEE WHAT COMES FROM SPURNING MY GENEROSITY.”

Don’t stop moving. Sifani’s own instructions replayed in her mind as she threw her body to the side full-force. A terrifying wave of heat followed close on her heels, and a tumultuous heaving of the ground knocked her further away. She scrubbed her arm across her dirtied lids just long enough to peer through the clouds of disrupted dust for Lorin.

He was no more than fifteen paces away from her, pushing himself up on his elbows and scrabbling backwards. Bless him – he had kept his head. Figuratively and literally.

She jumped onto her own feet and took off like a hind before the hunter. The only way that she and Lorin could keep Nume from being able to transpose them or anything on them was to never stay still enough for her to focus on any point on their bodies. It protected them to a degree, but – a column of fire flashed through the air half a foot away from Sifani, giving her a bare eye-blink’s time to turn heel – there was still so much more that Nume could do to destroy them.

Nume hissed as Sifani escaped her blast a second time, and began to direct her efforts toward her daughter in earnest. Sifani had rounded toward some jagged trees with low-hanging foliage the color of rot, and as she passed beneath one, a solid wood chunk the length of her thigh abruptly hardened, then shattered with a mighty crash. Something much harder and sharper-edged than wood pelted forward, storm-like, slivers tearing across Sifani’s arms and legs and biting through her skin like a hoard of stinging insects. She bit back a cry of pain and stumbled.

Throwing her arms over her face in a reflexive posture of defense, Sifani tucked and rolled as best she could with her numerous wounds. Though her mind was almost all hysteria now, her survival instinct sharpened her senses for a crucial second. Rolling back up onto her right shoulder – and wanting to die for the pain that coursed through her – Sifani fixed all her attention on the silver-violet slippers Nume wore, slapping the earth as she headed toward her quarry. Fabric – something blessedly non-living, and a medium Sifani had worked with often in the past. Knowing what to look for, Sifani easily detected the interwoven strands that made up the feeble shoes. She summarily unraveled them.

In any other situation, Sifani would’ve called it a cheap shot, but it was all she had, and the rules of a death-match would forever differ from those of a duel. The trick threw off Nume’s balance in the midst of her dead run, and she went hurtling forward, her hair a red-gold splay in the growing daylight.

And then, Lorin charged onto the scene like Sifani’s own personal hellion to finish the job. Rather, there was not actually any charging involved, but she saw his immovable stance, feet apart and fists clenched, as he transposed a strategic section of the already-crumbling garden wall into dust. As it dissolved, the stones it once helped to support trembled fitfully before cascading in a low rumble onto Nume’s prone body.

Sifani’s stomach jumped sickeningly. Could it be that, just like that, they had killed her?

She heard footsteps and the air next to her changed as Lorin slipped in beside her. “You’re injured,” he growled, looking her up and down bleakly.

Sifani hardly heard. “We should bring down the rest of the wall…”

“You think a wall is going to stop her?”

Her eyes shifted to him. “Says the man who brought it down in the first place.”

A sound like the purr of a thunderhead rose up near them. They turned toward the pile of rocks, and saw it shifting.

“As long as she’s in the epheria, we can’t hurt her using that kind of tactic. You’re going to have to transpose her, like you did with the creatures.” Lorin spoke matter-of-factly – they might’ve been discussing the situation over tea. “You have to do it now, Sifani, while she’s incapable of counterattack.”

Sifani stared at him in disbelief and horror. All of sudden, she felt utterly paralyzed. “I- I don’t think I can…”

Even as she spoke, a few of the rocks burst spectacularly into flowers of dust, and a woman pushed her head out and tossed her hair angrily, screaming, “You’ll pay in spades for that!” A few seconds later, the tree that Nume had transposed a part of earlier burst into furious, nearly white-hot flame.

“Too late,” Lorin muttered. Both Sifani and Lorin took steps back, their muscles tensed for quick flight as the entire trunk flashed almost instantaneously to ash. “She’s not at all one for theatrics,” he added wryly.

The pair bolted in opposite directions again as Nume stood among the rubble and lifted her arms, hefting an apple-sized stone above her head. Morbid and inexplicable curiosity overtook Sifani as she ran, and she peered over her shoulder to see what her mother was about. The woman hurled the stone, and her eyes followed it halfway through its flight before she transposed it…in mid-air. The simple rock became a flaming projectile that resembled a piece out of the ramparts of hell, and it was on a straight path towards Sifani.

All this happened in less than a breath. Sifani had just enough time to dodge slightly to the left, and even then she detected the sudden smell of burning – the rock had passed close enough to her to singe her clothes. Horror at Nume’s level of transposing power momentarily fuddled Sifani’s thoughts, and she glanced distractedly down at her sleeve to assess the damage from the burning rock.

That opening was all her mother needed. When Sifani looked back up from her sleeve, she was careening straight into a swift-moving Nume’s outstretched arms.

Her mother had circled around to intercept her. They crashed into one another and out of the epheria into the mortal world for a second time.

Sifani knew her friends would still be waiting vigilantly, but she wished she could’ve given them warning all the same. The world crashed back into full color as she and her mother tumbled to the ground, grappling wildly.

Sifani heard Lorin’s voice bellowing into the chaos moments later. “Remember our instructions! Namiss! Remember our instructions!”

Though Nume could not have been surprised about the presence of the band, being suddenly surrounded gave her a moment’s pause. In that space, Sifani was able to twist her body around and deliver a sound blow into Nume’s side, making the woman double over. Sifani wriggled out from underneath her, and staggered backward onto her feet. As she did, a bright sliver of silver whooshed past her forearm and into Nume’s leg.

Namiss, sure-shooting once again. They needed to stretch out the battle in the real world as long as possible before they could destroy Nume for good, and Sifani had explicitly ordered the band not to make a killing blow until she or Lorin gave the word. Sifani’s feeling of relief at seeing Namiss was at odds with the disquieting sight of blood streaming from her mother’s wounded body.

Nume’s eyes rose to discern her attacker.

In all her life, Sifani had never seen such distilled hatred in a person’s expression. It seemed to ooze from Nume’s hazel eyes that had gone dispassionately and dangerously flat. The other members of the band were closing in for support – the muscles stood taut in Jatan’s arms as held his bow drawn, and Ileniel and Antian still bore their swords with competence if not exactly confidence – but all the same, Sifani suddenly felt profound fear for Namiss.

She was about to cry out to her friend, when Nume propped herself up on one hand, the other one clutching her leg. In the time it would’ve taken for her to verbally command the earth itself, Nume turned the ground to water directly underneath Namiss’ left foot.

The girl was holding a knife aloft in her left hand, its twin already buried in its target. She had been preparing to throw it, but her sudden loss of footing caught her completely off-guard. As Namiss slipped downward with a stifled cry, Nume seemed to mock Lorin and Sifani with the preciseness she used to copy the trick Lorin implemented earlier to bring the stone wall down.

The stones that crumbled away left the heavy skeleton of the wall teetering, then toppling, onto Namiss’ elfin frame. Anger and dismay tore from the throats all around Sifani. She, on the other hand, could only stare, silent and aghast, at the wall, and then at Nume.

“In spades,” her mother said. “And he’s next.”

And though all hands surely itched to send their weapons toward Nume at that moment, there was the barest hesitation – the band didn’t yet have Sifani’s sanction to kill. While their obedience stayed them, Nume formed one of those strange folds in the air and dragged herself through it, wearing a gloating smile.

Jatan’s arrow whizzed through the suddenly empty space. He swore for the first time Sifani had ever heard.

All of them turned on their heels and rushed to where the stones had buried Namiss. Lorin dropped to his knees first and began hauling rocks off of her, one by one.

“Careful!” Ileniel warned shrilly as he approached Lorin from behind. “Shift one of those the wrong way, and you might make things worse than they already are!”

“You think I don’t know that?” Lorin’s voice was pitched almost to a shout. His arms, stained with his own blood, corded with muscle as he lifted one rock at a time in strong yet gentle hands. “Each of these is heavier than a moneylender’s purse,” he snarled to himself. Then louder – “Do you know where Nume went to, Sifani?”

When Lorin glanced up at her, his eyes were troubled and tender. Sifani still felt as if her mind and body were moving slowly, her senses mired in disbelief and fear for Namiss. And he’s next, Nume had said.

Looking back at Lorin, she realized what she must do.

“Sifani?” Lorin repeated. “Where did Nume go?”

“She went into flux.” Sifani put one hand on Lorin’s shoulder, suddenly calm.

“In flux…then, we can’t reach her there.”

“No.” She paused. “You’re not powerful enough.”

Lorin stood and ran a hand over his dirty face. He wandered to an in-tact section of wall and leaned his head against it for a moment. Then, he drove his fist into the hard stone and roared out a primal cry.

Sifani grimaced. She amended her statement quietly. “I said, you’re not powerful enough.”

Bloody fist still pressed against the wall, Lorin half-turned to look at her. Understanding flickered to life in his eyes. “No.”

Sifani was already walking away.

“No!” Lorin repeated, and stormed over to her, grabbing her fervently by the upper arm and turning her about to face him. “You can’t follow your mother into there! You said entering flux means you have to manipulate your own pieces.”

He was close enough that his breath pressed hot against Sifani’s face. The smell of his fresh sweat fell thick upon her nostrils, and beneath it lurked vibrant scent of wood and water that was all him. She breathed him in, stepped closer. And then jabbed her finger hard into his breastbone.

“So, you do listen to me sometimes, Lorin a-tayn Kavath. But if you had payed attention to all of what I had said, you would know that you and I will never be safe from Nume as long as she lives.”

“Sifani, you sounded unsure that you could even achieve flux!”

“That’s true.”

“Then trying it could kill you!”

“Yes, it could.”

Lorin’s heart beat forcefully against her hand, and Sifani pulled it away from his chest. Lorin’s mouth worked soundlessly, stymied as to what he could say – which was, of course, nothing. Of a sudden, he grabbed both her shoulders, and a look of uncertainty briefly touched his eyes. “I will not let you.”

Sifani tried to snake one of her arms out of his hand, but though his grip was not painful, it held like a vice. Her brows climbed in incredulity and outrage. She lashed out with her right hand, intending to cuff him on the side of the head like she might an unruly child. His left wrist moved like a shadow, though, soundly blocking her. More quickly this time, Sifani struck out with her left hand, only to meet the solid obstruction of Lorin’s right. Yelling in frustration, she leaned hard into her motion and swiped both of his arms outward and away. When her hands came back down, her and Lorin’s bodies were practically pressed up against each other.

Lorin stared into her face, then, and slipped one arm up her back and the other around her waist. And with a passion found only in a woman full of anger that has nowhere else to go, Sifani grabbed Lorin’s head in both her hands, pulled his lips to her own, and kissed him.

It didn’t take long for him to return the fierceness of her kiss, and as it turned out, he had more than enough to spare.

Their mouths parted slowly, reluctantly, stealing a few last touches before they stood apart, the summer-sweet taste of Lorin’s mouth still warm on Sifani’s lips.

Sifani gently disentangled her fingers from Lorin’s dark curls. Somehow their silkiness made the growing distance between their bodies profoundly more bitter.

Her lungs pressed out a quick sigh. “Why didn’t you tell me all that before, you big lummox?”

Instead of returning a wisecrack, Lorin abruptly, almost awkwardly, encompassed Sifani in a hug. As he held her, his shoulders heaved a few times, almost like he were laughing, but Sifani heard no laughter.

He brought his arms away from her slowly as if he were releasing a bird, his eyes blank. He said nothing. Sifani took two steps back, not turning.

Then, because she couldn’t decide whether or not to say “goodbye,” she canvassed.

Tampering with her own being was not something she had ever even thought about before she had spoken with Nume in her circle of fire. It had been completely unthinkable, like cutting off her own finger just to see how it felt. So when Sifani slipped into the daydream-like state of mind that led her to the epheria, the act of focusing on her own pieces proved slow and nauseating.

The first moment Sifani became aware of her pieces, a jolt of panic coursed through her. Her focus fled immediately, and she sucked in air between her teeth. Her heart fluttered madly in her chest like a moth caught in a hand.

Sifani took a few steadying breaths before trying again, this time knowing what to expect. She would be doused by the sudden sense of being insubstantial, the feeling of hovering just outside of herself – outside of, even, her own conscious mind. It was a quivering certainty that there was little holding her together or making her real.

She plunged herself into that strange place with resolve, and held there only for a few long moments, knowing there was nothing for her but to go deeper.

Sifani honed her focus further on the trembling pieces of her being, her sense of them intensifying. If transition from simply standing in the epheria to focusing on her own pieces was the difference between knowing a cup existed and seeing it with her eyes, transitioning from the first level of focus to the second was the difference between imagining what the cup might feel like if she touched it, and actually touching it. Sifani was touching the pieces of herself, able to sense their movement and their potential, their placement and their function. She was both the drops of paint and the artist using them.

The familiar image of paint drops somehow set Sifani’s distant mind at ease. It helped her at least begin the process of manipulating herself – slowly, at first, but with rapidly increasing intensity and dexterity. Her presiding consciousness – the part of her that knew to focus deeper and not let go – became the paintbrush, and it took Sifani’s pieces, pushed them gently apart until they were suited to re-creation, and fashioned a new picture that bore faint resemblance to the old yet was something new entirely.

Sifani’s normal vision returned in a jarring rush. The memory of the paintbrush and colors dissipated from her memory. She found herself looking around at the space before her – a pristine white hallway that stretched on indefinitely, made of some strange, smooth material. No, Sifani thought, she was not “looking around,” exactly – she didn’t have eyes, or a body at that. But somehow she was perfectly aware of everything around her.

Her vision moved away from the floor of the hallway to its walls. They were not walls in any real sense, but Sifani could think of no other name to put to the sheets of spiderweb-thin glass that stretched from the floor to infinity on either side.

What was behind that glass was more spectacular. There were two worlds there, as one might see them from afar, as from the top of a tall hill. In one world, the band stood in the abandoned garden where Sifani had been standing only minutes ago. Namiss’ body lay unburied on the ground. Lorin held her in his arms. Through a pang of pain and regret, Sifani turned toward the other window-wall. Behind that one, a glowing blue color flowed across everything in the same familiar garden. She was looking into the epheria.

It could be a trap, she told herself…but no. Nume moved easily between worlds when she was in flux, even though it seemed she couldn’t stay in one for an indefinite amount of time. It appeared, then, that Sifani had achieved her goal – she truly was in her mother’s realm, and hopefully retained the same powers as the woman. Hopefully. She scoffed. There was so much she didn’t know. Lorin had been right to fear for her.

Even knowing she had no feet to walk, Sifani decided to try to move forward.

Sifani willed herself forward. With the vague sensation of flight, she…blew…to where she wanted to go, as swiftly as the motion of wind. Her mind sharpened with surprise, but before she could consider what had just happened her thoughts were grabbed away by something infinitely more pressing. Sifani felt her mother’s presence nearby, sharp as the scent of decay on the wind and clear as a black blot of ink on white parchment.

The presence was so tangible that Sifani located it without thought. She let the wind of her will sweep her rapidly in that direction – whatever direction meant in such a place – and quickly found herself in a circular chamber with the same white floor and glass walls as the never ending hallway that cut through the center of it. Nume stood in the center as well, enrobed in the same gauzy dress she had worn in the real world, her half-turned, regal face impassive except for a subtle tightness that bespoke shock at seeing her daughter again.

Why can I see her body? Sifani wondered, though another part of her pushed the thought away irritably. It was hardly the time to contemplate such things, and this was clearly not a place of matter, but of the mind. The things that were possible in flux, with the building blocks of different beings floating around freely, seemed limited only to the consciousnesses of those who had brought themselves here in the first place.

Standing before her mother, feeling the full weight of desperation that had driven her here after her, Sifani thought she should say something. She wanted to at least try to reason with this woman who had both abandoned and tried to kill her. She considered the cold hazel stones set beneath Nume’s dark brows, and language failed. There was no compassion there. She knew no amount of words would move her mother’s heart.

Sifani struck out at the same time Nume did.

Sifani struck out with the sensation of motion, but upon making contact with Nume, all illusion of physicality shattered, and she viewed the full scope of what it meant to be in flux. Its vastness was terrifying. Sifani was pure potential, a host of ideas waiting to take form. There was no way she could know how to do battle in this state.

Nume, on the other hand, took to the new form with horrifying familiarity. At first, Sifani didn’t even realize that she was under attack – not only that, she was losing rapidly. It wasn’t until she tried to push against the consciousness that was Nume that she realized part of her was blocked off, or missing, like a limb hanging useless.

Sifani panicked. She pushed again, frantically, and felt the growing impotence of her every movement. Black fear stole over her – Nume was using parts of herself to render parts of Sifani useless. A powerful distraction, and a further opportunity for Nume to prove how much more skill she held here than her daughter.

Sifani yanked herself back from where she had been pushing at Nume’s consciousness. She tried to clear her mind – tried to get used to the free-floating feeling of going without a body – and discern where her mother was blocking her. It took a few tries, but finally, she felt collected enough to quickly but carefully test each part of her many and scattered pieces for her mother’s influence.

Sifani found one place where Nume blocked her, and with a surge of bestial fury, shoved the unseen obstruction aside. Sifani exulted – the obstruction moved! – and had she a mouth she would’ve crowed with victory. If she could find the other areas where she was blocked in time, she might be able to meet her mother head on. As it was, she was beginning to feel the full force of Nume’s frontal attack, and it was rapidly growing unbearable.

Even as Sifani considered it, the frontal attack…doubled. No, tripled. It…Sifani couldn’t concentrate for the pressure that built up on her. What was Nume doing?

She formed a series of half-thoughts and half-motions, which were quickly swallowed up by an irresistible force pressing in all around her. Next to this, the parts of her that were blocked were a pittance. Sifani summarily ignored them. Her consciousness aflame with her power and the strain of the fight, she honed all her efforts on keeping herself from being sucked into the void Nume had created.

An idea struck her – if she stopped “touching” Nume, she might be able to regain her sense of “sight,” and maybe even get a hint as to how Nume was manipulating her being. Perhaps it was the sheer abruptness of the idea that made it possible, but Sifani acted on the impulse without waiting another moment. Sufficiently jarred, Nume let go her hold.

In a flash, Sifani was staggering backward in her body that was not a body, with her mother still looming before her in the white circular room. Except this time, Nume seemed larger, more imposing. When Sifani moved, she again felt that targeted emptiness that told her pieces of her had been ripped away, but it was exponentially greater than before.

The truth became clear of a sudden. Nume was not only taking Sifani’s pieces – her very life force – she was assimilating them into her own being. She was using her own daughter to bolster her life, her power.

So that was how one Deity killed another.

The realization twisted agonizingly through Sifani’s consciousness. In the flashes within her concentration, Sifani saw bodies filling in the spaces around where she and her mother fought. There were people of varying heights and colors, in clothing from muted homespun to elaborate, tasseled robes of emerald and violet. They stood like boundary stones with grave expressions, unflappable and still before the chaos of a mother and daughter’s wrath.

The crowd faded from Sifani’s awareness as Nume’s visible form again lunged for her, and her mind exploded back into the nothing-world once more.

Desperately, Sifani struggled against the wild, pulling force that was her mother using her as building blocks. Even without a body, it was painful, and if a kind of mental pain could be said to be worse than physical pain, this certainly was. It was the ripping and tearing of her very self, and Nume did it with alacrity. Sifani’s attempts at resistance were weak, and slowed her mother at best.

Simply because she didn’t know what else to do, Sifani attempted to pull one of Nume’s pieces into her being. She didn’t have the luxury of hesitation, and poured every bit of strength she possessed into it, though it scared her to her core to do so. Briefly, an image of the cancerous growth on Nume’s dog-creature assailed her mind. However, even with the ferocity of her effort, Nume hardly budged.

Heavily, the realization settled: there was no way that Sifani could win.

Her training in combat kept her going. Her consciousness continued to push back, to lash out, working as her muscles would work to swing a sword or throw a knife even when the battle was lost and death was inevitable. Her consciousness worked tirelessly, desperately, despite – perhaps because of – the grim thoughts floating by. She has stolen my life and my past from me. She will go after Lorin. And Namiss! Gods, I still don’t know if she is –

That was it. Namiss.

She could not summon the strength to destroy her mother’s being apart for her own sake, but for Namiss’…

Just as it had when Sifani formed the wooden birds to summon her mother, emotion fueled Sifani’s power to a furious level. Understanding brushed the back of her mind as she yanked on the first of Nume’s pieces and felt it give: the emotion could not be wild and chaotic, like anger, but something solid. Though she didn’t know how to show it most of the time, her affection for Namiss was solid if nothing else.

As before, Nume’s surprise at the counterattack was registered in the sudden withdrawal of her own attack. Perhaps her mother had not thought it possible that her half-breed daughter had a whisper of a chance against her in flux. Sifani would show her just how much strength there was in her father’s half of her bloodline, though. Daughter took advantage of mother’s pause, and tugged a larger swath of Nume’s being to herself. Even as she did, she reached out to a barrier that she could not, at the moment, see, but knew was there.

Sifani reached through the wall of glass into the real world, right into Namiss’ body.

At that moment, Sifani felt like a goddess. Her awareness burned with a bright white fire, making every second slow, every action exaggeratedly deliberate, and every subconscious supposition or piece of knowledge seem well-known and well-used. In one “glance” through Namiss’ limp body, she saw the damaged pieces in stark relief with those that were whole.

She began to place the pieces she had taken from Nume into Namiss. The process might have taken a few seconds’ time in reality, but Sifani did not feel rushed, only capable, and determined. The pleasure of seeing Namiss’ form rebuilt – the walls of her skin and the muscle and bone inside coming back into place – was visceral. As a Reehler, Sifani had always felt abnormally powerful, but to see that power save…now that was something.

I wish I could see Lorin’s face now, she mused, as she pulled all of herself back into flux to contend with Nume. The image of him holding Namiss’ body, shoulders hunched in grief, seared her. The thought was quickly lost as Nume pulled on her again, however, dragging another swath of the pieces of her form into oblivion. Sifani knew she would still lose if she didn’t finish this fast.

Desperately, she reached out into her mother’s form to grab away her pieces again, but now that Nume knew what to expect, the effort felt worse than futile. Sifani could almost taste the contempt with which her mother flicked away the attack, responding with a counter-pull on Sifani that hurt twice as much as the last one had. The very fibers of her self were quivering, burning to dust in intermittent flashes. Sifani tried to resist, to push her mother away, but she hurt so bad she could hardly think.

Another great pull, and Sifani felt that she had been folded backward and in half and set on fire with torches from the depths of hell. She screamed with an invisible mouth, screamed murder and dismay and refusal from the center of her mind.

This is the end, then, Mother…

And then, like a note of music sounded in the midst of the clamor of demons, Sifani felt something new.

Her mind burst with something like the ghost of a scream – a rumble of denial and frustration that bored into her like a thick and dirty nail into a plank. And though she shuddered beneath it, she knew it as the sound of rescue.

It was not the kind of rescue she had expected. There was no gentle extraction, no arms bearing her away from the battle while allies vanquished the woman who had so assiduously been trying to kill her. It was jerky, as if a person – or group…the figures in the robes and clothes of all colors burst for a moment into her mind – had startled, and seen that perhaps he had been making a decision he needed to amend.

Sifani sensed herself being forcibly heaved out of flux and through the glass wall into the mortal world.

She fell to the ground, skidding backwards several paces away from where the band had gathered. As she pushed herself to her knees, she was almost surprised to look down and see her hands in front of her. She flexed her fingers tentatively, wondered whether she had died among the Deities.

The Deities…

A susurrus of disbelief broke the smooth, hard silence. Footsteps hurried to where Sifani knelt. She did not look up.

“You’re back, Sifani,” Lorin’s voice washed over her, a warm wave. His shadow fell onto her as he knelt, his knees pressed to hers. Only when he put his rough hand on her face did her eyes rise to stare back into his.

“Was it you?” The music of Namiss’ voice, weak but unmistakable, made Sifani tremble with unshed tears. “Whatever you did, Sifani, you brought me back. They told me I was as good as dead, and then you went after Nume…”

“What happened?” The gentle caress of Jatan’s voice. She felt the air stir as he knelt beside her in turn. “Child, how did you…did you…?”

“The other Deities let me live.” Sifani shook her head, the blonde strands of hair she had gotten from her mother brushing back and forth against her cheeks as she did. “They threw me back here, into the real world. My mother was about to kill me, but they interfered.”

The air was still – perhaps all breaths were held. “Why?”

“I don’t know.” Sifani let her forehead drop tiredly against the warm, hard surface of Lorin’s chest. Next to his heart, she couldn’t bring herself to care. “I don’t know.”

To be continued in the second book of the “Bloodlines” Trilogy.

7:46 pm on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

The end is near.

Hey, all. I just want to assure you that the rest of Bloodlines of Epheria is still coming! I’m writing the last large chunk as a whole, so that I can have my favorite beta reader (my husband Chris) give me feedback on it. Then, I’ll make the necessary plot and style changes, and post it in smaller pieces as usual. That means you’ll get a new installment every day for several days running.

I really want the ending to have some punch, and don’t want to leave you feeling unsatisfied by a ho-hum first draft. So, stick with me! The end (of Book One) is near.

P.S. Keep in mind that when I’m done, I’ll be asking for your feedback before I write the second draft (the one I’m going to send to Harriet McDougal. I KNOW, RIGHT??). I’ll also post the feedback I’ve already received via blog comments and email. Thanks for the help you’ve given me thus far – it means a lot!

I send out my writerly love to you, dear reader.

5:43 pm on Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Hayden Rejection – One Small Step

Party in question: Amy Hayden of Linn Prentis Literary

Query sent: February 5, 2013

Answer received: March 28, 2013

Read as follows:


Trodayne here hijacking Amy’s email. She wanted me to read your sample.
Your writing has a lot going for it and your query was quite strong. As
I read your synopsis and query I found myself intrigued. But as I
finished your sample I was left hesitating on requesting more. The plot
seems to work well enough. From what I can tell the characters work as
well. I know you can write a strong action scene. That much you clearly
demonstrated quite effectively in the prologue. But then you
demonstrated it again and again in the pages following it. As much as I
did like the premise and the first part of your sample, I found myself
feeling a sense of repetition as I continued to read. I believe the
contours of the writing didn’t progress as much as I’d hoped. I must
trust my instincts in this case and pass but Linn Prentis Literary
would welcome, no, we would encourage future submissions from you,

Trodayne Northern
Acquisition Director

I think this is perhaps as good as a rejection gets, at least in my world! Though disappointment was inevitable, I am (obviously) quite motivated to send my next project Mr. Northern’s way.

I was fairly kicking myself after reading this particular email. The beginning of my novel – sans the prologue, as I wrote that after I finished the first draft – is probably the weakest part of the book. I knew that, and many beta readers told me so in so many words, but I didn’t want to scrap the whole thing and rewrite it. Now I wonder what my fate would’ve been had made the extra effort to do so.

But, as they say, what’s past is past. I am certainly aware of my tendency toward slow beginnings, as that is one of the critiques I’ve received about my ongoing “Bloodlines of Epheria” serial. The next time around, I will pay special attention to wholly grabbing the reader’s attention from the get-go.

And so, The Great Agent Hunt continues…

Party in question: Jennifer Jackson of Donald Maass Literary Agency

Query sent: May 12, 2013

Answer received: May 15, 2013

Read as follows:

Dear Jaimie Krycho:

Thanks for your query.

As to your material I’m afraid I will be passing — I’m just not
enthusiastic enough about the concept of your story to feel that I’d
be the right agent for the project. I realize it is difficult to judge
your potential from a query; nevertheless please know that I give
serious attention to every letter, outline, and writing sample I

Sorry I couldn’t give you a more positive reply. Thanks for thinking
of me, though, and best of luck in your search for representation.

Jennifer Jackson

Though this seems like a personal reply at first blush, look closer and you can see it’s a form rejection. I only say that as a point of interest, because this is the only thing I am really allowed to expect in the way of negative responses. Ms. Jackson seems like an excellent agent for sci-fi/fantasy, and her form rejection is kind and respectful, which makes me want to query her again in the future if I don’t end up with someone long-term before then.

It was a disappointment to receive this, to be sure, but a more minor one than you might expect. The Lord has been working on my heart a lot in this area. As I reevaluate my priorities, I remember that first in my life is Him, second is my husband, and third, my daughter. My career, as it were, comes at the very end of the list, even after taking care of the home. And lest those who don’t know me think me a quiet, mousy push-over (my husband will laugh when he reads that), know that I am anything but, but wouldn’t have my priorities any other way. Of course, I still value my writing career and will continue it (for I passionately love to write and always will!). I am simply able to rest in my lack of immediate success, because I know I am being faithful in the things that matter even more.

And now – with the evening breeze sweeping over the porch and a latte at my side – to write.

It came to my attention – via a reader – that the last installment of “Bloodlines of Epheria” was a touch confusing. It was unclear whether or not Sifani was going to talk to Ileniel right then and there, or if she was going to wait, and why she would even choose to wait in that case. Therefore, I’ve composed a second version in which Sifani converses with Ileniel immediately after he arrives. This is a taste of what the writing process looks like for me – lots of small yet very significant adjustments, often made according to the feedback of a reader I trust.

If you didn’t read the original version in the first place, go back and read that one first, as it contains the first half of the following scene, which is integral to the story.

That said, here is “Bloodlines” part 11, version 2.


“Whatever you say, Len.” Immediately, Sifani was seized by the impulse to put her father’s old friend to the question, right then and there. She warded it off – it took more willpower than she expected. “Has Jatan seen you, yet?”

Ileniel wagged his dark head irritably, sparing a sidelong glare for Lorin. “No. This brute decided to waylay me before I could even dismount Rush – the heavens alone know why.”

Lorin met Sifani’s eyes significantly. She raised her brows, suddenly understanding. He wanted to give me the chance to talk to Ileniel before anyone else got to him! A warm smile overtook her expression of surprise. Deities bless you, Lorin!

Lorin, abruptly seeming embarrassed, took Rush’s reins in hand and let the mare nuzzle him as he walked her back to the stable. “Whatever my reasons for ‘waylaying’ you,” he told Ileniel, “the moment I saw you I remembered you weren’t worth the trouble.”

Ileniel sniffed disdainfully, glancing between Lorin and Sifani. In the awkward silence, he brushed at the stiff sleeves of his tunic, lips twisted in distaste, as if Sifani’s hug had soiled them beyond cleaning. “You’re in a fine mood today, Sifani a-vinna Leyone. What’s put the extra sprig of mint in your tea?”

She stood still, staring at him ingenuously, her hands folded in front of her.

Abruptly, Ileniel narrowed his eyes. “You want something from me, don’t you?”

“I need to talk to you. Now.”

“Bah, the dust that Rush kicked up hasn’t even settled! Can’t this wait?”

“Lorin and I have been doing some thinking, Len.”

“Well, now, that’s something n—“

She cut him off. “I need to know: why did you run?”

For a moment, Ileniel looked genuinely confused, so she elaborated. “After I tore down the Head Counselor’s home, why did you leave the band, Len? And don’t try to tell me you were tired of it. Our work was only becoming more involved, and we were just getting a true grasp on the nature of the epheria. Yet, you ran scared.”

At this point, Len’s eyes darted back and forth. “That’s ridiculous,” he asserted, but he looked a cornered animal, deciding whether or not to bolt, or whether or not he could. He never had been good at hiding his feelings.

Sifani opened her mouth to ask about her pa and mother, but found that the words caught in her throat. She had imagined this conversation many times in the past days – she was always speaking with confidence and force, wresting the truth from Ileniel with the skill of a veteran soldier. Now, however, such an approach seemed…inappropriate. This was, after all, her family.

There must have been a shift in Sifani’s demeanor, for when she asked Ileniel to sit down with her on the water barrels nearby, he did so without protest, though caution and suspicion remained wavering on his brow. Lorin had chosen to stand several paces away after stabling Ileniel’s mare, but Sifani waved him over.

“I don’t suppose you know – Jatan would’ve waited until you arrived to inform you.” Sifani began. “A Deity tried to kill me.”

Ileniel made a strangled sound. His hand went to his chest involuntarily. “What—?”

Sifani just nodded. “At least, that’s the best explanation we have. Lorin and I were in the epheria, and these creatures, monsters the likes of which don’t – er, didn’t – exist, just manifested there.”

Sifani proceeded to explain what had happened from beginning to end. It was a different experience, recounting the story to one who hadn’t been there when it happened. She had expected it to take on a tinge of the ridiculous in her telling of it, but instead it became more tangible and weighty as she watched Ileniel’s expression melt into slow horror.

“Gods above,” he whispered when she had finished.

“Perhaps you can guess why I’ve been waiting to talk to you, then,” Sifani said, heart beating rapidly. “I need to know why a Deity might want me dead. It could be because I’m a Reehler, though Lorin is, as well, and wasn’t specifically targeted. When I look at all the facts…well, my pa once told me that my mother was one of the most powerful Reehlers who ever lived. I know so little about her that it’s more likely something to do with her than with me.”

Her voice quieted. “You knew my father so well, Ileniel. I remember how closely he kept your company – how you would talk by the fireside late into the evenings. Friendly arguments, philosophical musings.” She could see Pa’s face, laughing, the pleasant grey pepper of stubble covering his strong neck and square jaw. She missed him – how long had it been she had last visited him? “You must’ve known more about my mother than I ever did. I only know that she was dangerous, and my guess is that when you witnessed my breakdown at the Head Counselor’s home, you thought I might pose the same danger my mother did.”


Sifani leaned forward. “What?”

“The same danger she still does, Sifani.” Ileniel would not meet her eyes, but kept them on his folded hands. “Your mother lives.”

Sifani suddenly felt as if she couldn’t breathe. Silence stretched for long moments.

“Deities,” she finally murmured, running her hands through the top of her hair. “I thought…I always guessed… Tell me.”

12:19 pm on Monday, January 7th, 2013

Blasdell Rejection, and Why I’ve Been MIA

Perhaps you’ve heard, but round two of The Great Querying Adventure has ended rather disappointingly. Behold the process, in a nutshell:

Party in question: Caitlin Blasdell of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency

Query sent: December 2, 2012

First answer received: December 10, 2012

Read as follows:

Can I see 50 pages and a plot synopsis as attached word or pdf files please?

I would call this a promising response, but it actually promises nothing. It was progress, though, for Ms. Blasdell to be interested enough in my query letter to request a piece of the manuscript. I’m beginning to see that writing a captivating query makes a tremendous difference in an agent’s general response. It’s the “inside cover description” of your novel, if you will. Does the description of your book really pop in the humdrum sea of queries an agent must wade through each day?

I’ll probably post my original and improved query side by side at a later point so you can see the stark difference that complete restructuring made.

Second answer received: December 30, 2012

Read as follows:

This is not for me, but thank you for the look.

Succinct, as most rejections are. Particularly disappointing because Ms. Blasdell is a staunch advocate of sci-fi/fantasy, rather than one who merely tolerates the genre as part of her job.

Anyhow, you may have noticed that my writing has come to a complete standstill of late. To make a long story short, in addition to having been engaged in holiday busyness, our little family is in the middle of a cross-country move. We’ve been packing up our house, shipping our things to the East Coast, living out of bags and tending to our sick selves/a sick baby meanwhile. I assure you, after we settle down in our new state come mid-January, writing will re-commence.

I hope you all had a warm, restful Christmas and a happy, hopeful New Year’s celebration. Until next time!

9:13 pm on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Ellenberg Rejection

It’s a sad day for the green (and by that I mean “new,” not “tree-hugging”) novelist Jaimie Krycho.

Party in question: Ethan Ellenberg of The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency.

Query sent: September 28, 2012

Answer received: November 27, 2012  (and here I should note that the agency does not promise a rejection notification at all, so it was nice to get one)

Read as follows:

Ms. Krycho,
I’ve read the material you sent and though it shows promise I just wasn’t fully convinced.  You’re a thoughtful writer and you have a good story sense, I think you need to just keep working until the writing and storytelling is truly compelling.  Best of luck.

Ethan Ellenberg

You know, it really could be worse. There are some bright sides to this. One is that if I ever want to query Mr. Ellenberg again, I at least know what he’s not looking for. Two, there are a pair of nice compliments in there. As a dear fellow writer friend of mine teased, “You’ve officially made it out of John Grisham category with the first one (thoughtful writer), and Stephen King category with the second (good story sense)! You’re practically magical.” Three, this is all a good lesson in (sigh) humility, and (double sigh) dealing with minor failure.

Here’s the thing about querying – once you send your query on a particular project to an agent and they reject it, you can’t query them about that project again. That might not be the way all agencies work, but you’ll find it’s true more often than not. So, I could revisit the manuscript before I query anyone else…but the question is, how long do I work before I call it “ready?”

My former professor and writing mentor Mel Odom suggests that I keep querying until I’m completely out of options. He’s always telling me to move on to my next novel, and if this one never gets published, I can return to it and tinker with it again a few novels into my future.

Then there’s my husband, who is much less easily-discouraged and generally a much faster worker than me, who says he thinks the best course of action would be to revise the manuscript now before querying again.

I say that I need a luscious piece of dark chocolate, some iced coffee and an episode of “Dr. Who?” before anyone even thinks about mentioning writing to me again.

7:42 pm on Monday, October 8th, 2012

My First Novel: The Timeline

I thought some of you might be interested in what it looked like for me to write my first novel.

I began my 130,000-word fantasy novel for school…kind of. “Writing the Novel,” the much-anticipated class required for OU’s professional writing degree, started in the fall. However, I jumped in to my novel the summer before.

What can I say? I couldn’t wait! I spent the summer hammering out a general outline,  plus the first few chapters of the book. So:

Summer ’10 – I wrote the outline. The outline was not comprehensive – if anything, it was a mere skeleton of the story. It included the backstory, introduction, a  handful of central plot points that moved the story along, and the conclusion. The outline continuously guided me to the next big thing, but hammering out the murky places in between was a do-as-I-go process.

August – December ’10 – I wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote. Even when I hated it, I kept going. I didn’t edit as I wrote – my professor insisted we would get too hung up on little mistakes, and probably not finish the manuscript, if we didn’t simply plow through. He wanted us to prove to ourselves we could do what seemed so out of reach – finish – before we nit-picked at details.

I finished the required 50,000 words demanded for class halfway through the semester, but I was only halfway done with the novel.

January ’11 – May ’11 – I wrote the ending, since it was required for class whether or not we had completed the manuscript, but I was about four to five chapters shy of actually completing the first draft of my novel.

May ’11 – June ’11 – First draft, complete! I took a break from the manuscript for a little while, then moved on.

July ’11 – September ’11 – I began the draft number two, which meant running a wide-toothed comb through the story to fix glaringly obvious mistakes, fill in plot gaps, add in chapters that needed to exist and didn’t, and rewrite scenes. It was pretty frustrating at times.

September ’11 – I found out I was pregnant! Chris and I were extremely joyful. However, I experienced profound sleepiness at all hours of the day during the first trimester of my pregnancy. After that, I pretty much dropped writing until after the baby was born, so distracted was I by this new phase of life.

Fast forward 8 months…

Our first child, Ellie, was born!

Fast forward 1 more month…

I decided to jump back into novel writing full-force. Not least because enough people were speaking doom and gloom over my life, and how it was going to crawl to a standstill once the baby was born –  I really wanted to prove them wrong (And I did! HA! Take that, you naysayers)! My awesome husband made sure to give me a solid three hours to write, twice a week, away from the house at a coffee shop while he cared for the baby.

So, from

June ’12 – September ’12 – I finished the second draft, which meant the novel was really, truly finished and in a complete, coherent, readable form. I was pretty excited about this, and psyched myself up to send off the manuscript to an agent.

September ’12 – Beta Reader 1 suggested significant structural changes. I had a meltdown, after which I ate an entire banana split all by my lonesome. I sent a query letter to one agent to test the waters. I haven’t heard back, yet. If I don’t hear back from him, I’ll return to the manuscript and make the suggested changes in *deep breath* DRAFT THREE, and that will definitely take a few more months at the least. As I am fond of saying, blarglesnorfs.

October ’12 – I’m waiting to get feedback from Beta Readers 3 & 4 (2 just emailed me with an extremely comprehensive commentary, which was simultaneously awesome and overwhelming), as well as hear from the above-mentioned agent. Until then, I’m working on the serial that I’ve already mentioned far too many times in previous posts.

And that, my friends, is what it looked like for me to write my first novel. It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a relationship, but – as I know on my more clearheaded days – worth every minute. I’m a much better writer for having completed the project, and it’s an accomplishment to have finished at all.  As the fortune cookie paper taped to my laptop reads, “Do not let great ambitions overshadow small success.” So, even if nothing ever comes of the thing (eh, it could go on Kindle, at the least), here’s to the acquired skills that I couldn’t have learned in any class or workshop, skills that come from practice.