While I've been fighting with ongoing long-term writer's block, this year has not been entirely without words, I'm happy to report. I've made some progress on Walk the Wards, which is still planned to be my next release in the Free Court of Seattle series. As a general reminder, this book will not actually be a novel; it'll be a collection of novellas and novelettes.
And just to show that I have actually been writing at least a bit, how about an excerpt?
This is from "The Deepest Breath of Song", a story about a shy young tuba player who discovers there's a lot more to life in his small coastal town than he'd ever imagined when he must help the town's Warder find out who's been hunting the herd of hippocampi migrating through the local oceans.
When Oscar finds the culprit, well... let's just say it doesn't go well. ;D
Ashosha. Her name was the very crash of the tide against the sands. Oscar caught glimpse after glimpse of the ocean through her eyes, as she, proud huntress and magic-wielder of the merrow, roved through the wide Pacific waters on behalf of her people.
They numbered fewer every year, driven as they were into the last lingering hidden places of the deep, for the oceangoing vessels of his own kind grew harder and harder to elude. So too did the creatures that could feed the merrow dwindle—for all of them were threatened by not only the ships and submarines of humanity, but the pollutants that fouled the currents even when no humans were near. With such challenges before her people she could not afford compassion, not if it kept her from filling the bellies of hungry merrow children—
Without warning, as her finned hand snapped back from him once again, their connection broke. Or the physical one, at least. Oscar clutched his paddle to him, half-convinced it might somehow balance him against the sudden tumultuous whirling in his skull. This single huntress, this female called Ashosha, roared across his thoughts with a power far greater than the entire hippocampi herd.
How she perceived him he dared not imagine. Yet the wave that bore her drew her back from his kayak now, and he could no longer mistake the look in her eyes for anything but reluctance.
The next words she hurled at him, though, rang with resolve as sharp as her spear.
“I give the herd three days. In exchange, human, you will come to the shore each night and play upon this horn you say sounds like them. Make your case for their lives. If I do not like what I hear, your own life will be forfeit.”
It was no bargain; if anything, it was an ultimatum. Accepting it was the height of foolishness. The sheer thought of it crowded Oscar’s brain with twin thoughts that should have amplified his panic past all bearing. One, that hardly anyone in the town would understand, know, or care what happened to him if the huntress Ashosha should kill him. And the other, that his mother would.
He didn’t know how. He didn’t know why. But he did know that it was important that he return safely to his mother, and that he ask Amanda Beck, the quiet owner of a quiet B&B in a quiet little town, knew of the world Marikat had shown him.
Was his mother a Warder?
Had his father been?
“Promise me you won’t harm Marikat or my mother,” Oscar said. To his surprise, the words sounded steadier than anything he’d ever uttered, for all that his voice had gone quiet and thin. “Or anyone else in the town.”
“The merrow do not come ashore,” Ashosha replied. “None of your people will face our spears if they stay out of our waters.”
Whether he could believe her, Oscar could not possibly guess—but then, the whole night had been filled with impossibilities. Yet something in him, born out of that brief fierce contact with her mind, hinted that perhaps, just perhaps, she was not lying.
And that perhaps, just perhaps, there was compassion within her that he could reach. That made it easy to, at last, put forth his promise.
“I’ll come. I’ll play for you.”
"The Deepest Breath of Song" is just shy of 14,000 words as of this writing, and is indeed shaping up to be one of the longer pieces in the book! I hope y'all like my take on the "magical duel" trope. Not to mention my determination to have a musician in a story who doesn't play a traditionally sexy instrument, for once!
I'm fond of Oscar, too. I've had fun researching what a well-played classical tuba sounds like, just to get an idea of how he should sound on his instrument. And, he is totally a Tolkien nerd and named his tuba The Horn of Helm Hammerhand.
Want to know more? Check back with me! I'll be doing Camp Nanowrimo again next month, and hopefully, I'll be able to finish Oscar's story.
Meanwhile, I'd love to hear about your favorite story with a musician protagonist who plays an unusual instrument. Talk to me in the comments!
Angela writes the Free Court of Seattle series as Angela Korra'ti, and the Rebels of Adalonia series as Angela Highland. Either way, come find out about all her books over at angelahighland.com, or say hi to her on Facebook or Twitter.