I’ve reached 33K in Locust Eaten Years and things are looking up (compared to my last post, at least). I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed at the sheer scope of the story, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s so much I have to weave in and develop over the next 60,000 words or so and it’s daunting to say the least. In book one, I didn’t kill any main characters or main minor characters (well, one did die, but he was only in about four chapters, so…) but in book two, at least one will die and possibly two. Which will be hard, of course. Then, there’s also backstory, subplots, characterization, and all the other things that go with writing a novel. I still haven’t quite gotten used to writing a sequel, but I’m comfortable enough to do my 1K or 2K a day. Anyway, I thought I’d share some snippets and see what all of you think. There’ll be one or two from each chapter.
“What?” she said defensively. “Haven’t you ever seen a woman?”
One of them gulped a little and said, “Um…no.”
The leader smacked him on the shoulder. “Of course we have, idiot. Who do you think the people are that run the facility?” The boy lapsed into shamefaced silence, and the leader smiled at Raya. His teeth were white and even, and stood out in the darkness. “You aren’t supposed to be down here, you know,” he said, touching her arm.
Another shiver went through her. A delightful shiver, at that. Then she realized what he said. “What do you mean I can’t be down here? This is my house. Why are you in here?”
“Work detail,” he said casually. “To clean up, you know.”
“No. I don’t know. Anyway, my house is clean already and whatever isn’t my maid can take care of. You don’t need to come back here.” Even as she said the words, she found herself hoping that they would come back. It was boring up here, being waited on hand and foot, having everything she wanted given to her as she asked for it, and talking with these boys – and particularly the leader – had certainly livened things up.
“We have to. It’s orders.” His voice was firm and decided.
“Oh, then, very well,” she said. “Have it your way.”
He smiled again. “Thank you.”
She flushed and looked down, flustered. “I’ll be going now.”
“Will you be coming again tomorrow?”
“Yep. You’ll be here?”
She hesitated, and then nodded. “I will.” ~Prologue
Lily felt Mara’s expert hands do up her hair in a complicated twist of blonde braids and curls. She felt pins being inserted into her hair and knew that they were exquisite diamond ones that the woman had picked out. She looked down at her gown as she sat there, waiting for Mara to finish. It was not exactly form fitting, but close enough, at any rate.
She had gained a few pounds – enough to make her just the right slimness, and not terribly thin. A simple diamond bracelet was clasped around her right arm, with a matching choker necklace and tiny earrings that had twinkled in the sunlight when she put them on. Her dress was turquoise silk and Mara said it brought out the green in her eyes well. Her shoes matched the dress perfectly.
“Done,” Mara announced.
“Can I look now?” Lily asked, excitement tinging her voice.
“Yes,” Mara said, a smile in her voice.
Lily pushed back the chair she was sitting on, ran over to the full length mirror, and turned it back the right way. She gasped. A stranger stared back at her. The stranger smiled when she smiled, frowned when she frowned, and looked puzzled when she did, but other than that, she could see no resemblance. Her hair and eyes were the same, of course, but with diamond pins, and the dress bringing out the green in a rather startling way, they looked different.
But the biggest difference was that she was beautiful. The makeup Mara had applied skillfully had done wonders, but it felt completely natural to her, not stifling at all. She turned around and hugged Mara. “Thank you,” she whispered, her arms still around the older woman. “If only Nathan could see me,” she thought, but squelched the idea immediately. She would most likely never see him again. ~Chapter 1
“I thought perhaps we could build a life together someday,” he said, his voice choked with anger and perhaps a few tears. “But I can never feel anything for a dirty, double-crossing liar.” Nathan steadied his bow hand and drew back.
She closed her eyes, waiting for the arrow to rip into her body.
But nothing came.
There was a strange silence in the room.
She opened her eyes. His bow was wavering in his hand. What was going on?
“You can live this time,” he said. “But I don’t want to see you again. The next time I do, you’re dead. I promise you that. Understand?”
She nodded, covering her face with both hands and sobbing, mostly with relief.
He ran out of the room.
Why had he done it? ~Chapter 1
“Don’t worry about saying anything. It doesn’t matter. Now you know my story and we can go on from here.”
“But it does matter,” Esther said. Her voice was passionate with what could only be termed anger and hurt and Lily knew that this conversation was not one of queen to subject, but equal to equal. Or perhaps not even that, because Esther was certainly on higher moral ground than she. “Was it necessary?” she asked.
“The war. The fighting. The bloodshed.”
Lily felt defensiveness rising in her. “I had good reasons. I needed to help my family.”
Esther shook her head. “That’s not-you can’t-I thought you were different from the others. You seemed to be sincere about wanting to discover the Truth. Not like Nathan, or the other people I’ve met on missions. I was wrong.” She shook her head again and stood up.
Lily stood up as well. She laid her hand on Esther’s arm. The arm stiffened, as if Esther would shrug the hand off, but she didn’t. “I’ve done some bad things, Esther,” she said. “It’s-it’s cost me everything, really.” She wouldn’t cry. She was determined not to cry. “But I feel like this is my destiny. I need to be queen. I need to make a change in the world, and the only way I can do that is by keeping this position.”
Esther didn’t say anything, didn’t move.
“I already regret what I did,” Lily said. “Nathan can never forgive me. I don’t think I can forgive myself. And I’m not asking you to. But would you please stay? So I can show you I’m still the same…in a way?” She was pleading for Esther to stay. As queen, she could order her to stay, and have her imprisoned if she didn’t, but if Esther wanted to leave, she would do nothing to stop her.
Esther shifted a little and then said, “I’ll stay-”
Lily breathed a sigh of relief.
“But, Lily, please promise me you’ll never do anything like that again.” Esther’s voice was gentle – but very firm – and her eyes held a quiet fire in them. “And, I’m very sorry, but I don’t think that we can be friends.” She dropped her head into her hands. “I shouldn’t say that,” she said, her voice muffled, “but just thinking of-of what happened. I can’t-”
Lily swallowed an unpleasant lump in her throat and guilt and shame surged through her. “I understand,” she finally said. “And thank you for staying.” ~Chapter 2
Aaron leaned forward a little, chin resting on his right hand, deep in thought. He had a distant, faraway look in his eyes and Nathan tried to replicate that and think deeply as well. It didn’t work. All he could think about was what a mess he’d made of everything, and how exhausted and thirsty he was. In other words, pouting, only it was on the inside. He took a deep breath and bit back all those thoughts. They weren’t getting anybody anywhere.
“Wasn’t there someone you mentioned once-?” Aaron said, speaking in a slow, thoughtful tone, “-someone who had a rebel band of his own? You said some of your men were defecting to him. Maybe we could join his band.” When Nathan didn’t respond, he added. “Just a thought.”
It was a good thought, and one that Nathan was grateful for. “Ryder,” he said. “That was his name.” He gave a short laugh, the bitter kind. “And it wasn’t ‘some’ of my men. It was almost all of them. And now the rest are in prison.” He scowled at the ground. It was a perfect example of what his leadership skills had been. He had no right to be uncomfortable asking Aaron for his opinion and advice.
“Do you know how to find him?” Aaron asked, after a moment’s pause.
Nathan took a small twig and started scratching meaningless designs in the dirt. After a moment, he broke the twig and threw the two pieces away. Then he stood up, dusting his hands off on his pants. “No, I don’t,” he finally said. “But it doesn’t matter. He’ll find us. All we have to do is keep walking, and I’m sure one of his spies will report about us soon – if they haven’t already.”
“He’s that good?” Aaron asked, visibly impressed.
Nathan nodded. ~Chapter 3
“I need to talk to you,” he said as quietly as possible.
“Why?” Dylan said, not looking at him.
Aaron felt himself at a loss for words. What could he say? Just wanted to catch up on the Nonexistent news? Wanted to hear about the family he’d deserted? How many Existents had sacrificed their lives for the Faith since he had left? He shook his head inwardly. Nothing like that would do. “Just…because.”
Dylan gave a derisive snort. “Great reason.”
“Please,” Aaron said. “I need this.”
Dylan whirled on him, jaw hard. “Five minutes. That’s it.”
Aaron breathed an inward sigh of relief. “Thank you.”
“Come with me.”
They ducked into an alley.
“So, what is it?” Dylan said. He crossed his arms in front of him.
“How are my-how’s everyone doing back home?”
“You mean you want to know how everyone reacted to your letter, right?”
Aaron conceded with a nod.
“They discovered your letter that morning,” Dylan said. “Your dad was furious.”
Aaron winced. “And mom?”
“She read it and went right back inside. I haven’t seen her since.” ~Chapter 3
“What do you mean ‘you don’t have any medicine’?” Laii asked sharply.
The doctor standing in front of her shook her head again. “What I said – I don’t have any. None at all. My waiting room is full, as you can see, and I don’t know how I’m going to take care of everyone. I really can’t give anything to you. I’m sorry.” The doctor did look genuinely sorry, her brown eyes full of worry and sympathy. “I’ve asked for more supplies, of course, but it’ll be a few days, at the least, until they get here.”
Laii frowned. “It’s just-I have someone at my facility who’s extremely sick. They need medicine as soon as possible.”
“I’m sorry,” the woman repeated. “But as soon as possible will be in a few days. No sooner.” She flipped through a few folders in front of her and then frowned. However, she made no comment, and both woman stewed in silence. “What are his symptoms?” the doctor finally asked.
“Fever. Stomach pains. A headache.”
The woman looked up, her eyes narrowed. “How strange,” she said slowly. “Almost all of my patients recently have complained of such things, most of them all at once. If it had been separate symptoms – you know, just a fever, or headache – it wouldn’t be so worrying, but all three together make for something serious. And the stomach pains are more than usual. I don’t like it.”
“What are you saying?” Laii asked.
“I’m not sure,” the doctor said. “I don’t want to say ‘plague’ or ‘contagion’ right now, since that causes unnecessary panic far too often, but I’m afraid it could turn into that. It seems to be spreading at a terrible rate. I need supplies.” ~Chapter 4
Something inside Aaron snapped.
“You need to stop thinking about your own needs and focus on others,” he said angrily. Nathan’s face showed surprise – even shock – but he pressed on. Too much had been bottled up inside for too long. He had put up with Nathan’s moods, mainly because he shared the same pensiveness and lack of purpose, but now that he had a purpose, he wanted Nathan to snap out of his angry illusion as well. “You’ve been wanting a purpose? Well, now you have one, if you’ll just take it.”
“It’s not that simple,” Nathan said.
“I think it is.” Aaron felt as thought something inside him were changing, and he wasn’t sure he liked it. It was as though he was becoming Nathan, and even though he was very close to his friend, he didn’t admire every character trait about him. Hardly. But sometimes the only way to make someone like that understand was to use their own tactics and Aaron felt the fight build up in him.
“You mope around all day because you don’t have anything to do, and when something does come up, you brush it aside because it’s ‘too dangerous’ and it won’t help your precious cause. Just people. Ordinary people.” He knew that was the main reason for Nathan’s disinterest, and seeing his friend bite his lip made him know he was right. “We can go to whatever place you want, even the Capitol if you’re so inclined, but we are going. End of story.”
Nathan looked at him, really looked at him for what seemed to be the first time. Aaron kept himself calm under the hard, though not entirely unfriendly gaze for what seemed like hours. Then, Nathan’s expression relaxed into neutrality. “We’ll go, then.” ~Chapter 5
Nathan sank against the reassuring firmness of a stone building.
He and Aaron were both panting for breath, desperate for air after the chase.
“I knew we shouldn’t have done anything in the day,” he gasped, sucking in air.
Aaron shrugged, grinning. “I don’t know,” he said. “That was more exciting than-”
“It was dangerous,” Nathan said sharply.
Aaron sobered. It was dangerous. However, the exhilaration of shaking of their pursuers brought a relief and happiness that wouldn’t have been there quite fully if it had been easy. “But you’ve got to admit that giving those Warrior Women a slip was-”
“-fortunate. I’ve seen what they can do. You don’t want to play around when it comes to them. I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, so just shut up and keep still while I think of something else to do.”
Aaron bit his lip. Nathan was pushing himself too hard, too much, and it was going to catch up to him. He didn’t allow himself a moment for levity. It was all work, work, work; push, push, push, and something was going to snap soon. He tried to be more casual about things, if there was a way to make light of a situation, but it was proving nearly impossible on this journey. ~Chapter 6
Aaron shrugged. “I went to the palace, but there was no need of my help. Queen Lilith has everything under control. I’m really surprised that the queen, of all people, would care so much for the needs of others, but she does. Food and shelter and medical care. Anyway-”
“Did you see her?” Nathan asked abruptly. He didn’t know why he was asking, but even after all this time, he still wanted to hear about her. How she looked, if she was in good health, if she was happy.
“Um…no,” Aaron said, looking puzzled at Nathan’s question. “I didn’t. Not surprising, really, because she’s probably really busy.” He thought for a moment and then nodded, as if he’d just re-confirmed his words in his head. “But everyone was talking about what amazing work she’d done, so it wasn’t hard to figure things out.” He smiled. “Perhaps there’s hope yet.”
“For what?” Nathan asked absently. He was still mulling Aaron’s words over in his head and trying to fit them with his mental picture of Lily – both outwardly and externally. The Lily he knew was self-serving. Someone who used people to get ahead, although she certainly hid her motives well. He should know. He’d been subject to her machinations one too many times and it had scarred him for life. Was Lily using the people to fulfil some desire of hers? How would that work?
Face it, he told himself. You just don’t want to admit she could do something good for a change. And why should I? he asked fiercely. Because people change. You should know that more than anyone. You’ve changed. He shook his head inwardly. It was as though two separate things were warring in his mind.
I know I have. But she’s different.
How is she different from you?
She uses people. I don’t.
True, but you’ve done things in your life that she hasn’t.
You’ve killed people. Several.
Don’t you think I wish I could take that back?
I know you do. Don’t you think she wishes she could take back what she’s done? ~Chapter 6