Kadie has a scar now. A straight line, cutting one eyebrow short on the outside and skipping over her eye. It’s darkest over her cheekbone before it fades to nothing above her jaw. A fine line, nearly invisible, except that the best-trained and best-paid physicks couldn’t make it actually invisible. So it stands out.
“You won’t be leaving this town alive.”
Finishing her next step, Jennika came to a slow stop, and made an even slower turn back to look down at the man. As far as threats went, it wasn’t very articulate. It wasn’t at all clever, cutting, or funny. And it sounded especially unreliable. It was difficult to be impressed.
Catia liked breathing. There was something pleasant about the liquid feeling of a breath, pulled gently over her tongue, warmed in her chest, pressed back out. It was soothing, the gentle tug on muscle. It rooted her into the world, with the sweetness, sharpness, spice, sourness hanging in the air.
But she didn’t need to breathe, and just now, it seemed selfish.
The crash and roar of the rockslide had shocked her out of two or three breaths. The sudden darkness and the ringing in her ears made her forget for another long moment. She blinked, and waited, perfectly still. The ringing died down. Her eyes slowly turned the darkness into gray, shifting shadows. Fynn’s breaths began to echo in the newly shortened space.
“Catia?” Fynn called.
She took in air, just to respond. “I’m here.”
The Short Docks was Kell’s least and most favorite place in the city.
Skiffs and dories and skipjacks and cutters all crowded into their moorings, tied up, creaking and bobbing in the tides. Their lines and short masts and rough-bound canvas criss-crossed each other across the bottom of the sky. Cramped and lively, the walkways were carved deep by sea salt, and scrubbed down by the heavy breeze. The warehouses and stayhouses, dry docks and taprooms, slipways and repair yards leaned into each other, until the whole place was a tangle.
Everything smelled like fish. Everything clattered, creaked, or groaned. There was always someone on a corner playing something with strings. There was always someone shouting. Girls and boys ran through cracks between men and women hauling and bartering, and everywhere there was the distinct hustle of living. Noisome, and brilliant.
Kell came once every eight weeks. At dawn, he started down the long line of little boats. In the cool air of his little office, his mornings were steady and sedate. He couldn’t find an hour early enough to keep the Short Docks quiet, and he kept his head down in the gray light, trying not to feel the clamor under his skin. He checked the names of every boat – Second Wind, Island Girl, Zanna – against the list registered to his office, collected their fees, and checked them off with a careful hand. Continue reading
“Heads, I win. Tails, you lose. Your choice.” And the girl smiled as she said it, her mouth a charming, crooked line.
In her chair, she relaxed without leaning either forward or back, her spine carelessly straight. Her dark hair was braided loosely down her back and a too-bright scarf held it back from her face. With one elbow propped lazily against the table, she let the silence stretch. And she waited for the unnecessary reply.
Elida knew every creak in the expansive apartments. She had watched Ness invent them eight months before when they moved in.
It had been pure entertainment, watching him on his hands and knees, teasing floorboards and stair railings and cupboard hinges into making their little noises. He tested them and he memorized the distinctions at the same time. Each was a little warning bell when anyone moved inside his apartment. When Elida stepped forward to help him, he gave her a look the equivalent of slapping her hands away, and laughed at himself after. He trusted her. But he trusted himself more.
So, she just watched him engineer squeaks and groans and creaks out of polished elegance. She hadn’t purposefully memorized them, too, but she liked the look on his face when she arrived in all her usual silence even while he rattled in the spaces he created.
Creeping down the stairs now, Elida had no need to see his surprise. She wished it very far away. Keeping her hands off the railing, she skipped the last step, and slid immediately to the right. A brush of air instead of a body, she imagined. A ghost. A thing already moved on.
He knocked against her with his shoulder, moving gently enough, but she pulled out of his way apologetically all the same.
When they had met, his broad shoulders and his bulk had been so welcome. He was built of warm muscle and she had liked to tuck her shoulder into the curve of his, had enjoyed finding the match in their fingers and the right way to fold herself against him. In the last year though, since he had come back for her, she had simply felt as if all her angles intruded. There were always three breaths between them, always a jarring when he accidentally closed the gap.
She hated it, quietly. She didn’t have the words to demand the return of something she had thrown away.
Leonathan let her take her single step back. He didn’t look at her. The city was dark, lit with distant lanterns that pricked through the black, flickering white and yellow. His face was a shadow, while the light from the room behind them spilled over his tan coat, his dark hair. She didn’t allow herself to watch him for more than a moment.
Leaning forward on the rail, she crossed her arms over each other. She traced the lines of the lights below until she was charting familiar streets by the string of them. She breathed slow. And then he leaned against the rail as well, leaned his shoulder into hers, and the purpose in it made her freeze.
In the evenings, the Watchers lit the church candles. Warmth seeped between the pillars. The center aisle turned golden and warm, while the side aisles were streaked with grey shadows. Flickering light and thin, steady smoke sprawled between the arching stone walls, stretching the heat of the afternoon a little further, so long as no one ventured outside. The close air hugged and held and gave an excuse to shrug out of the cover of coats and cloaks.
Ren did not come to church in the evenings anymore. His parents had stopped dragging him through the doors years ago, about the same time he had learned to embarrass them with a well-timed swear, and just a little after had started sailing on a ship of his own choosing.
He preferred the afternoons, the step down onto an echoing floor while sunlight flirted through the high windows and never quite reached the floor. A haven of cool air, set halfway below the street, chilled relief from the city two steps above him. His coat hung unbuttoned, and the small bite of the air reminded him gently what it felt like to be made of real flesh and bone and skin.
At the beginning of this month, I had intended to write a blog post every day. I wanted to talk about the process of writing during National Novel Writing Month, all the steps on the way to completing a fifty-thousand word challenge. I was going to have a grand time doing it.
Now, it’s almost midnight, very late in in the month. I’m losing the challenge by too large a margin to even dream of making it up in the next two days, and I wish more that I had posted every day.
As much as writers talk about how to win this contest, it might have been useful to see what it looks like to lose.
I spent the better part of two years mapping out the story I wanted to write. The entire plot is laid out on my wall in ten different colors of sticky notes, with a green piece of yarn connecting them all to remind me of the order. It’s a mess and it’s beautiful. I’ve looked at it every day, added to it in fits and starts, enjoyed just having it hanging there. When the first of November rolled around, I was sure I knew what to write.
I started at midnight on Halloween, as I always do.
I like midnights. There’s a brilliance to them that has less to do with starlight and the overnight chill and more to do with heartbeats and drumbeats and the things we do to fill the dark. I like the excitement of staying up too late, the space that I have to shape things before sunlight reveals the exact shape of them. It’s just a romantic notion, and I know other people would rather get up with the sun and revel in the daylight.
But this year, I had three thousand words before those people even woke up, and that’s how I like to kick off NaNoWriMo. (Yeah, I’m winking at you…)
It wasn’t until the second day that I started to feel how poorly I understood my characters. I had given them all names and ages and jobs, but I couldn’t say more about them, and within a few thousand words, I could feel it. I was trying to carve out a specific story with some very blunt tools.
I only stayed ahead of schedule for a third day, and then I started to fall behind a little at a time. Continue reading
I should not be awake right now. I’ve only gotten five and a half hours of sleep, and my alarm promised I could sleep until noon. And yet, I woke up, and I’m terribly excited that National Novel Writing Month has started.
Current word count: 2,155
Status: Ahead of schedule, sleepy, and consuming too many Halloween Kit-Kats
I started writing last night at midnight. My boyfriend accepted that pleasantly, even though it meant skipping out on his Halloween plans. One of my coworkers thought I was a little crazy to deprive myself of sleep. My friend on the East Coast, who started writing three hours ahead of me, was still up writing when I headed for bed at three-thirty a.m.
It was a good start.
I am already very aware that the editing process is going to take a long time: as usual, everything is blunter than I would like it to be. I use the same words too often. I’m writing dialogue without feeling like I even know some of the characters who are talking. And yet, the bones of a first chapter now exist, and I’m happy with the raw material that I’m building.
I’ve never been one of those writers who starts a project feeling like the writing is running smooth as a cat. I don’t hit a sweet stride until about halfway through. Right now, it’s too painstaking, too much like the tedium of setting up massive lines of dominos to knock over later in a beautiful clatter.
But I love knowing that that’s coming.
Today, I’m hoping for two thousand more words, and a few more sentences to point at and say “That’s still going to be in the polished story.”
How did YOU kick off November?