State of the House
A word from the Creative Director's Desk
The busy season is upon us. Not only are we busy putting the final touches on the SnarfQuest project, our team has been attending conventions, conferences, and teaching writing classes. As Drake was heard saying, we are "just getting it done!"
Since the last newsletter, JT had a great event at Gmart Comics in Champaign, IL, for Free Comic Book Day. He was able to take time and visit a local school to discuss writing with kids. Drake attended Life, The Universe, and Everything (LTUE), The Author's Combat Academy, WizardCon Las Vegas, and Origins Game Fair. Robert has been busy as well, but unfortunately it has to do with his day job that had him in various locations overseas. He now resides in Germany and is looking forward to writing again.
While at The Author's Combat Academy in Nashville, TN, I had the pleasure of meeting Christine Haggerty. She and Drake had met at LTUE. We so enjoyed talking with her and discussing various writing techniques, that both Drake and I bought her book, The Plague Legacy: Acquisitions. Enjoying her writing style, I thought it would be a fun thing to see if she had anything she wouldn't mind sharing with you, our An Imagined Missive family. She sent A Thin Layer of Flesh for us to share with you. Visit Christine's website at http://christinehaggertyauthor.com/ and let her know how you liked her story.
If you read the first newsletter, you may remember we had a Free Giveaway. It is with great pleasure to announce Rhonda Z. of Indiana is the lucky winner. We look forward to presenting Rhonda with her very own "Be willing to pay what needs be paid" T-Shirt at GenCon.
Once again, we are going to give away another T-shirt for those who read An Imagined Missive Issue #2.
In addition, those of you attending San Diego Comic Con or GenCon, stop by Drake's booth and say "Hi!" and register for the daily T-Shirt drawing. You read that right, we will be giving away one T-shirt a day at each convention.
I hope you enjoy this news letter.
Imagined Interprises, Inc.
A Thin Layer of Flesh
By Christine Haggerty
Printed with permission.
Rienna dropped to her knees and swallowed a scream. The world shifted and pain bloomed in her chest.
Panicked, she clutched at the spear that stretched from her breast. Shards of agony ripped through her gut and limbs. She stumbled back, her shoulder blade slamming into a tree. She slid against the bark and down to the damp grass near the river’s edge.
She fought for air. Her ribcage expanded, the spearhead ripping back through the muscle of her heart with the motion. Her breathing shifted to a desperate pant.
Shadows thickened at the edge of her vision, dimming the blaze that licked at the night sky. Smoke curled beneath her nose and mingled with the sharp screams of elves and humans.
Blood ran beneath her leather jerkin, collecting in her belly button and trickling into the hollow of her hip, softer than a lover’s touch.
Then she felt nothing. Smelled nothing. Heard nothing. Before the darkness washed away the last of the orange light, strange hands grasped the spear shaft a few finger-widths from where the weapon punctured her chest. Human hands, one of them bleeding through a bandage that covered the stumps of three fingers…
Rienna gasped in a breath and braced herself on the ringed tree-floor of her forest home. Flames, pain, and the smell of blood faded to the moonlit walls of her son’s sleeping room, but the scent of smoke lingered on the breeze that blew in through the window. Trembling, she pressed her fingers to her chest where the spear had cut into her soulmate’s heart. The beat of blood raged beneath her breast. A vast chasm of emptiness replaced the agony of experiencing her lover’s death, his soul torn from hers.
Kendaar. The thought was more than his name. It was his existence.
Shaking and sweating, she sat back on her heels and glanced at her son. He slept soundly, his delicate cheekbones highlighted by the silver light that trickled in through the leaves beyond the window. She traced his jawline, her unsteady fingers honey-dark against his fair skin. He looked like his father, like the northern elves who fought the ice snakes during the long winters.
But here, the southern elves of her tribe fought more than just magic beasts. They fought a new creature that razed trees and soiled rivers. A parasite that devastated the delicate balance of nature and magic.
Like a pestilence, they violated our land and yet, because of Kendaar, we granted them a treaty. We wanted to raise our son in peace. We wanted to hunt and love and…now my soulmate is dead. Her thoughts raged, then faded to a trembling that reflected the ravaged exhaustion of her body.
Dead. And soon I will follow.
Rienna swayed to her feet and staggered to the window. The forest clearing below her hummed with moonlight and the soothing song of crickets. She closed her eyes and gathered the chirping and the breeze and the scent of the trees into her body until her breathing settled.
Beyond the window, the trees formed her tribe’s stronghold circled the clearing, each of them shaped and hollowed into a home centuries ago. To the west, a mile beyond the clearing, the humans had settled where the thick trees broke along the river like a jagged scar.
Kendaar’s body was there, where smoke and flame twisted and clawed at the stars. Rienna shuddered while her grief-stricken nerves echoed sensations from the sharing of her soulmate’s death: the edge of the spearhead as it cut through his flesh and shattered ribs, the scent of blood soaking into the cured leather of his vest, and the two-fingered hand on the spearshaft.
Those vermin will pay for this! Bitter longing for revenge mixed with her salty grief. Bile burned her throat. Her heart pounded. Her soul tugged to be free of her body. Not yet.
Her eyes traced the path the patrol would take through the trees. She knew the forest as well as she had known Kendaar’s body. The warriors would return within a quarter of an hour, carrying the dead.
As she passed her son’s bed, she kissed her fingers and pressed them to his brow.
The narrow, twisting stairwell nearly suffocated her, each worn step a memory of her life with Kendaar. She welcomed the smoky air when she stepped from her tree home into the clearing to wait for the patrol. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of rich loam and damp bark and ash. The early spring night still held the bite of ice, and she filled her lungs with it.
The smell of blood reached the clearing before the patrol. Like ghosts, the warriors emerged from the trees. The elf chief Haast led them, a limp body flung over his broad shoulders. The dead elf’s long braids brushed over the grass and bracken as the chief approached.
Frown deepening, he lowered the body at Rienna’s feet. “The humans attacked without warning.”
“Why?” Rienna refused to look at the corpse. She knew where blood stained Kendaar’s vest, where the gash from the spearhead left a hole of jagged, raw flesh. Instead, she hardened her gaze on the thick-bodied chief. “It was a patrol, not a raiding party. We had a treaty. What provoked them?”
The other half-dozen warriors stood behind their chief, their eyes gleaming in the moonlight.
Vaanu, a young silver-haired male with rash judgement and his first warrior braids, answered for the chief. “The humans are no better than dogs, pissing on everything. They surrounded us with fire, killing Kendaar before we had a chance to kill them.”
“Or a chance to flee.” Haast narrowed his eyes at Vaanu, then met Rienna’s gaze. “Kendaar tried hard to prevent war with the humans. The tragedy of his death is a great loss to both sides.”
The chief’s dispassionate words fell flat on her ears, but Vaanu’s argument inflamed Rienna’s grief and her mind sharpened to an edge. She shifted her gaze to the young elf and recalled the blood-soaked bandage wrapped over the missing fingers.
That wound was at least hours old. The human did not lose them in the fight with Kendaar’s patrol. She scanned the warriors in the clearing, searching their faces, the set of their shoulders, the hands still clutched around their weapons. They stood tall and tense behind their chief, grieving silently as warriors grieve.
Except Vaanu. He shifted restlessly, his gaze flitting from Kendaar’s body to Haast and behind him toward the trees.
This is not a tragedy. It is a betrayal.
Rienna shoved her grief deep into her belly, using it to fuel her rage to a silent white-hot fury. She smoothed her fingers over the worn handle of her knife. She would miss the weight of the blade in her hand, the way the metal flashed in the moonlight as it shed blood.
Soon I will wield it for the last time.
She answered Haast. “A tragedy? Is that what you will tell my son? There is a strength in peace, and Kendaar had that strength. But I will not wait here for my soul to follow his.” Rienna drew her knife and pointed it toward the river where smoke still blurred the horizon. Her voice trembled and she forced herself to keep her eyes on the chief. “A human, missing three fingers. I will kill him.”
Haast shook his head, his black braids swaying behind him. “Revenge is your right, Rienna, but you will leave your son with a war.”
“No,” she shook her head. “Others chose this war. But I shall pay death for death.”
“I’ll go with you.” Vaanu stepped up beside Haast, his dark eyes flashing. “Kill them all while they sleep. Cut their throats and dance in their blood.”
“That is slaughter, not war,” a female warrior spoke up.
“Then slaughter is what they deserve,” Vaanu spit. “Kendaar paid for trusting them.”
Another warrior played with the string of his bow. “Kendaar brought us peace, Vaanu.”
The argument found life among those in the clearing. Their voices blurred as Rienna stared at the point where the path disappeared into the deeper shadows of the trees, just beyond the reach of her keen eyes.
“I will take Vaanu.” Her voice silenced the others, then softened. “He can bring my body home.”
Haast nodded and moved aside, his face stern but approving.
Vaanu squared his shoulders and gave her a grim smile. As the young elf lifted his chin with pride, the heartbeat at the base of his throat quickened.
So did Rienna’s pulse. Such a thin layer of flesh.
Meeting each warrior’s eyes in a silent farewell, Rienna stepped over Kendaar’s body and crossed the clearing. Vaanu brushed past her as they moved into the forest, eager. The steps Rienna took behind him counted the ebbing seconds of her life. Her white fury begged her to make the betrayer suffer as Kendaar had, begged her to rend the flesh of Vaanu’s heart and watch his soul fade from his eyes. But she had left herself with only enough time for a quick, efficient death.
When Rienna could no longer hear the voices in the clearing over the rustle of leaves, she snatched Vaanu’s silver warrior braids and wrenched his head back. The only sound the young elf made was the sighing of his throat when Rienna ran her blade across his windpipe.
Just as he wanted, cut the throat and dance in the blood.
She held on to him as long as she dared, his body hanging from her grasp in a distorted slump while his blood soaked into her boots. It was only a moment before her fingers could no longer hold her prey and she followed Vaanu to the forest floor. With the final beats of her heart, she dragged herself back along the path until she could see her soulmate’s body, and beyond him the tree home where her son still slept in the moonlight.
As her soul fled, Rienna’s eyes flitted back to Kendaar and then to the elf chief. Haast folded his arms across his chest and turned to face the other elves in the clearing. The chief’s knife hung from his belt, his leather sheath freshly stained with streaks of blood. Next to the knife, tucked inside his belt where they could hardly be seen, were three human fingers.
Tip from the Pros
People say I am a very immersive, showy writer. And I really appreciate that, since I work very hard to achieve just that in my writing. But how is it done? That is a simple question with an extremely complex answer. It takes a commitment from the writer to learn the craft, and how to use grammar effectively. It also takes time to practice what you learn.
To that end, I have something you can do that will improve your writing. I challenge you to write without using any “thought verbs” for 10,000 words. As in, don’t use any words that tell the reader what the character is thinking/feeling. For example:
John knew the door was a trap, but he had no choice but to open it.
Remove the John knew (or Knowing the door… as this is the same thing) and SHOW how John knows it’s a trap. As an example, you could rewrite the above as:
Reaching for the door handle, John paused. He leaned forward, scrutinizing the lock. A small hole in the back greeted him, the sharp tip of a pin barely visible hidden within.
Think/thought, knew/knows, feel/felt, believed, wanted, desired, glad, understood, realized, remembered, imagined, loved, hated, etc. are just a few “thought verbs”. Don’t list off what the character thinks or feels, show it!
Meet the Authors, Part 2.
A word from Drake, Robert, and JT
AIM: What was the first job you had?
Drake: The first job I had where I paid taxes was working at Fat Burgers in Fresno California. The first job I had where I just earned spending money was working at grandfather's skating rink during my pre-teen years.
Robert: Paperboy, followed by sales assistant at a home improvement store. Neither were childhood dreams, funnily enough.
JT: Assistant farm hand.
AIM: What was the worst job you have had?
Drake: I was a lineman for a while, running telephony and cable from pole to pole. This is a tough, thankless job made worse by the fact that I did it over the winter in the north east of the country.
Robert: Production line worker in a garlic bread factory. It ruined garlic for me for years.
JT: Bindery operator.
AIM: Drake, if Klain were able to ask you anything, what would it be?
Drake: Why do you make my life suck so bad?
AIM: Robert, if Crowe were able to ask you anything, what would it be?
Robert: Why I always feel I need to use twenty words when he can manage with one or less.
AIM: If Lord Doctor Tymin Marten were able to ask you anything, what would it be?
JT: Why do you hate me so?
Drake will be attending:
Combat Con June 26-28
San Diego Comic Con July 9-12
GenCon July 30-Aug 2