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Friday, November 16, 2012

Another NaNoWriMo Update!



I stole this cool little graphic from the NaNoWriMo site where I have been updating my word counts. So far I've been able to hit my goal words per day in writing almost every day, and I'm proud of myself. I had some plot details that held me up a little but I wrote through them. Those parts are probably going to get edited down a bit, because I find when something in my story isn't making sense, it helps to see it through the voices of my characters. 

Plot point doesn't make sense or I'm not exactly sure how my characters are going to accomplish things? Take two of them, put them in a room, and have them talk it out. It turns into a long, dialogue laden scene of just two characters talking, sometimes in circles, but eventually one of the characters says, "Well, why don't we storm the castle inside of a giant wooden rabbit? Why wouldn't that work?" and the other character says, "That idea is just crazy enough that it just might work!" and then they go do it. 

Possibly all the discussion leading up to that where the characters say, "We could go in dressed as bananas" or "why don't we just ask very nicely if they will let us into the castle. . ." etc will be edited out at some later date, but at least I got through it all and they have come up with a solution for me. 

I think that's why NaNoWriMo is so good for writers. Instead of getting discouraged and giving up when something about my story doesn't exactly make sense, I am forced to just write through it, to keep adding words to my word count until something finally does makes sense. Just keeping on going enables me to force my way into the more developed parts of my story, the parts that excite me and keep me interested and excited. 

I only have 17k words or so until my word count goal for the month (50k) and the site's estimator suggests I'll be done with my goal by the 23rd, a week early. I guess that will give me extra time in case something goes wrong. I'm not sure what I'll do if my story ends and I'm still a few words short. I might have to go back and add more in at some point. We shall see.

I also thought I would share a little bit of my novel . . . and a picture of me fighting a dinosaur with fire:





The First Chapter of my Novel:



Shannon held her breath against the acrid stench of the cavern, her back pressed flat against the rough, unnaturally warm stone.
            “Just press forward,” she thought desperately. “One way or another this will all be over if you just press forward.” But her feet wouldn't move. She forced her eyes open. She could make out the vague outline, like a great, leather cloak draped over bumpy furniture but about a thousand times bigger. He seemed to be sleeping. If she turned back now perhaps she could still live but that meant going back to everything that had driven her to this insanity in the first place.
            As she timidly moved one slippered foot forward, she recited from the Wizards' Practical Guide to Dragons under her breath, “Dragons like puzzles. Dragons love gold. Dragons can be swayed by flattery and bought with presents.”
            She touched the strap of her knapsack just to be sure it was still where it should be and prayed her offering would be enough. She took another step, her stride stronger now, one way or the other this was going to end. One way or . . . The dragon moved. She swallowed a scream as her legs gave out underneath her . . . oh why oh why had she ever come to Regone? If only she'd listened to Martin. . .

            Three months before:
            Shannon drew a deep breath. She hated confrontation, but she was in the right in this, and Martin needed to know. She had been assuring herself of this her entire trip through the university's echoing halls, her boots slapping out a rhythm of “it's unfair; he should've come to me first. It's unfair. He should've. It's unfair. . .” She wasn’t good at being angry; it simply didn’t come naturally to her, and if she was going to assume an air of righteous indignation she would need to work herself up and keep herself there. If she was indignant enough he’d have to listen.
            She threw open the door to his study not even bothering to knock. Her friend sat behind his desk, quill pen in hand. He was hunched over some papers but when she burst in he looked up and raised his eyebrows.
            “Shannon? Is something wrong?” he asked.
            “Yes, something is wrong!” she burst out. Her voice sounded shrill. She swallowed and considered adjusting it. Even she couldn’t take that voice seriously. She sounded like a six year old. She cleared her throat to begin again. “I just talked to Henri in the library. He told me you had put him on the short list for the assignment in Regonian. I didn’t know you were even interviewing candidates yet, and Henri has already had two interviews and is on the short list. I’m twice as qualified as Henri, Martin! This is because I’m a woman, isn’t it? I know the headmaster is old fashioned but, the choice is yours, not his. . .”
            “No, that’s not it. Dame Allison is on the short list too,” he said, sticking the quill into the ink well and leaning back wearily in his seat. She gaped. She couldn’t help it. She gaped. Allison knew her alchemy, she admitted it, but she had no imagination, no ambition. She was like a walking reference library, true, but if it came to thinking out of the box, Shannon knew she could run circles around Allison.
            “That. . .that only makes it worse, Martin,” she said, managing to control the pitch of her voice. “I’m a better alchemist than Allison and I know more botany than Henri. Why are they both on the list when you never even interviewed me?”
            “Do you even know what this assignment involves?” Martin scowled.
            “I saw the letter they sent the headmaster.” She nodded trying to come across as firm rather than shrill. “The Regonian steward wants a scholar versed in alchemy, botany, and apothecarianism, and I was top of my class in all three. You know I’ve been wanting. . .needing. . .to leave the university. Why didn’t I make the list? I should’ve been the list.”
            “Because it’s Regone!” he said, sounding unaccountably exasperated. She blinked at him. He drew a deep breath. “You don’t know what that means, do you?” he asked. She shook her head. “You do live under a rock, don’t you?” he groaned. “Regone is cursed, Shan.”
            She let her brow crinkle. She could never tell when Martin was joking but this had to be a joke. She’d heard of cursed objects, cursed people, even an occasional cursed castle, but an entire kingdom? The amount of magic it would take to curse an entire kingdom was unfathomable. His eyes were placid, though, no twinkle.
            “How so?” she asked. He eased himself behind the heavy wooden desk and into his chair.
            “The current king of Regone, Edwin, is the second son of the previous king, Ernest. The first son, the Crown Prince Ewan, was killed about five years ago by a dragon,” he explained.
            “Unfortunate but hardly in the realm of the supernatural.” Shannon shrugged. “Men are always trying to prove themselves against dragons and it rarely ends well.”
            “I’m not finished. Upon hearing of his brother’s fate, Edwin swore vengeance upon the entire race of dragons and, along with the majority of the knights from the Regonian court, began hunting them from one end of the continent to the other. Rumor is he and his entourage killed at least half a dozen of the great wyrms before they encountered an entire nest of them and, outnumbered by the beasts, they were roasted and rent . . .”
            “Again, sad but the inevitable consequence of tangling with dragons. . .” she interrupted.
            “Again, not finished.” Martin’s scowl returned, a little deeper this time. “Miraculously one or two of the knights survived, Edwin being one of them, though he didn’t escape unharmed. He was grievously injured. When Ernest saw them bring back his only remaining son clinging to life by a thread, he collapsed and never awoke; his heart gave out and he died within the hour. Edwin, of course, survived, but he is severely maimed and in constant pain from the dragon venom in his wounds, which is why they need a scholar in the first place, someone to help alleviate his symptoms. Nothing has gone right for the royal family since Prince Ewan’s death. The kingdom is nearly bankrupt. Many of the nobles have left the kingdom or are simply refusing to pay taxes because they know King Edwin does not have the man power to force them to do so, the majority of his army having been devoured by dragons, as it were. I grew up in Regone. When I was a boy it was thriving. Ernest was a good king, and Ewan had potential to be an even better one. . . he wasn’t an idiot. When I’d heard a dragon had got the drop on him. . I couldn’t believe it. You don’t need to be entangled in that mess, not your first trip out of the university.”
            “But I’d be perfect for the job,” she persisted. “I know I’ll be fine, Martin. I can handle myself, and I promise I won’t go anywhere near dragons.”

            She almost laughed at the memory. She certainly had broken that promise. Well, hopefully Martin would forgive her. She knew dragons . . . at least she knew books about dragons. If anyone could talk a dragon down, she could; she knew she could.
            It was time to wake the beast.
            Stepping boldly from the wall, she shouted out: Dragon! Her voice squeaked but echoed loudly. For a moment nothing happened but then, all at once, the dragon moved, unfolding to its full size, easily as big as a house. Its neck arched upwards like a great snake posed to strike. A burst of flame shot from its nostrils causing its slate gray scales to glow red for a moment before the cave plunged back into darkness except for the green glow of the beast’s cat like eyes. She gasped and almost fell over backwards. Somehow she steadied herself, bracing her legs together to keep her knees from knocking. Her heart, however, persisted in pounding and she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it could hear her. Suddenly a deep, decidedly masculine voice boomed, “You’re too tiny to be here for a fight. Did the peasants think if they sent me you as a meal I’d stay away from their sheep? If so, I’ll have to tell them that you aren’t even a healthy appetizer.”
            His head lowered to rest between his fore talons like a resting dog but his gaze stayed focused on her. Her vision was recovering from the flash of flame now and while the ambient light was poor, she could make out enough to get a good idea of him. His head was shaped roughly like that of a horse but with a beak like upper lip, sharp as an eagle’s maw. He had great, fan shaped ears and curled horns that circled back until right behind his glowing eyes, eyes which spoke to an intelligence more human than animal. He had four great limbs, each tipped with glinting talons, and wings that were folded close against his side though she could imagine their span could easily fill the cavern if he chose to unfurl them. He was, she supposed, not large for a dragon as she had read of many being the size of a large house and this one was maybe thirty feet from nose tip to tail tip and about ten feet in height, young, she imagined.
            “Want me to close my eyes and count to ten?” he yawned. “I’m feeling lazy, so you have a sporting chance.”
            “I’m not here as a sacrifice. . . I . . . not yet, anyway. I brought you a gift,” she stammered. He snorted and once again the flames lit the cavern. She blinked and squinted back at him.
            “A gift?” he chuckled. “I must admit, I’ve never heard that one . . .  I’m intrigued. What is it?” She reached into her satchel and pulled out the golden chain. “Ah, shiny,” he said. “I have been putting off starting my horde. Once a dragon nests on a pile of gold and puts down roots moving becomes awkward.”
            “I . . . I was hoping I could talk you into leaving,” she stammered.
            “This is a very nice cave,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot more than a necklace to get me to vacate, especially since they apparently send girls to do their fighting here, unarmed ones at that. Are they out of knights?”
            “That’s what I’m here to talk to you about: they have a knight and a very good one. He’s killed at least a dozen dragons and if you don’t leave he’ll come for you next.”
            “Am I supposed to be frightened?” he asked. “Thank you for the warning, but I’ll take my chances. Just put the gold down wherever.” He closed his eyes again. She set the chain down on the cave floor and stood watching him. After a moment he opened his eyes again. “That was your cue to go.”
            “I can’t go,” she swallowed. “If he kills you he gets to marry me and he’s an absolute bore.”
            The dragon lifted his head and cocked it to the side quizzically.
            “Let’s start at the beginning. Who are you, exactly?”
            “My name is Shannon. I’m a scholar and an alchemist in the employ of King Edwin. This knight named Roderick has been paying me favors, but he’s awful. I’ve been polite but one of the good things about being a scholar is that I don’t have to just marry the first man to wink at me, and I informed him of that. . .but then you showed up and he said he’d dispatch you, but only if I agreed to marry  him afterwards. He really is a formidable dragon hunter. You really don’t want to go up against him. I wanted to just refuse but Edwin wants you dead in the worst way. He really has it out for dragons and now that he can’t hunt them on his own, it’s worse in some ways.”
            “Believe it or not, we dragons aren’t too keen on him either. You know he has killed a good number of us.”
            “Because one killed his brother.”
            “Is that why?” the dragon looked sober for a moment. Then his voice took on a mocking tone once more. “How do you know one of the dragons he killed wasn’t my brother? Or all of them, for that matter. What do you know about dragon family structures. . .”
            “Quite a bit, actually,” she said. “Dragons usually mate for life but don’t usually raise their young because they hatch fully formed and. . .”
            “No one likes a know-it-all,” the dragon interrupted.
            “I’ve been told that before,” she blushed. He snorted in a way that might’ve been a laugh.
            “Of course you have. . .scholar, huh?” She nodded. “I normally don’t like people in my cave, but I have to admit, I’d been rather bored over the past several months, and I’m definitely not bored now. I’m not sure what I can do about your Sir Roderick, except maybe eat him . . .”
            “Oh no! I . . .I don’t want that!” she gasped.
            “Oh, so now you care about him?”
            “I. . .I just don’t want to see him eaten, is all. . .or anybody for that matter,” she stuttered.
            “Ah. . well, I actually don’t prefer the taste of human. Too fatty,” he said. “I can’t promise I won’t kill him, though. If he comes at me, I will kill him, experienced dragon hunter or not.”
            “Cocky, aren’t we?” She frowned.
            “Confident. . .and very good at self-defense is all. Sir Roderick won’t be the first knight to take a swing at me, and he won’t be the last. . .I actually came here to draw King Edwin into a fight, but it looks as if he has others do his dirty work now.”
            “Well, with his injuries, he isn’t exactly in fighting condition,” she said. The dragon’s ears twitched. “You. . .you don’ t know, do you?” she said. “The King was seriously wounded several years ago in a battle with a dragon. He can barely walk let alone wave a sword around in full armor. That’s why he hired me. I’m helping him purge the dragon venom from his system.” The dragon made a strange sound in his throat.
            “That’s . . .disappointing. I supposed some scores can never be settled,” he murmured.
            “So he really did kill your brother, then?” she pressed. “You weren’t just being flippant?”
            “Something like that,” he said. “Let’s just say, my motives for staying in Regone have decreased significantly thanks to you. . .any chance your witchcraft will get him back on his feet?”
            “I’m a scholar, not a witch,” she scowled.
            “Semantics,” he said, shrugging his gigantic shoulders. She drew a deep breath, trying not to let him annoy her since that was clearly his goal.
            “I would like to think I will be able to relieve his pain, but I’m not a miracle worker, and even if I was I don’t think I’d want to heal him just so you can devour him whole. Are you going to leave Regone or not?”
            “Not yet. But don’t worry, I won’t let your Roderick get the best of me so you can break his heart all you want.”
            “I am not. ..” she began to protest but stopped. “You know, in all my reading, I never read that dragons were this infuriating.”
            “I’m special,” he replied.
            She had to smile. This was the most simulation her brain had had in months and she really didn’t want it to end. Still, even if he didn’t seem likely to eat her, she didn’t want to wear out her welcome.
            “Well, thank you for your time,” she said. “I had better leave now. It’s already later than I intended and I want to be off the mountain by nightfall.”
            “You won’t make it,” he said. He craned his neck towards the mouth of the cave. She turned her head in that direction and even from a distance she could tell the sky was already tinged with pink. “You can stay here tonight. I don’t have anything for you to eat, but I can promise I won’t make a meal of you.”
            “I have some supplies,” she responded. “Thank you.”
            It was probably more dangerous to turn down an offer like that than to accept it, after all.
            “Let me show you around,” he said. He rose onto all fours and breathed into a dark corner of the cave. A pile of branches that had been hidden there burst aflame and the light flooded the cavern. There were a few small tunnels branching off from the main chamber, but none large enough for a grown man to stand up in, let alone a dragon. In the back of the cave water dripped from the ceiling into a large pool. “That’s my basin,” he said. “It’s a hot spring, very relaxing even if I can only get my front feet into it. You should try it. . .um. . .I think that’s about it. I have some scraps of this and that in the tunnel over there, things I’ve collected over the years; I think there might be a couple of useable blankets. Make yourself at home.”
            The adrenaline that had been coursing through her body was beginning to dissipate, and she felt both tired and hungry. Sitting at the edge of the spring, she dug into her pack for an apple. She glanced at the dragon who was once again settling into an amorphous mound in the shadows.
            “What should I call you?” she asked. There was a moment of silence.
            “Is something wrong with dragon?” he asked.
            “You must have a name to distinguish yourself from others of your kind,” she pointed out. “There are hundreds of dragons, after all.”
            “Aye, but how many of them do you know?” he asked. She shrugged and took a bite of her apple.
            “A name would be nice, all the same,” she said after swallowing.
            “Gnaw.”
            “Gnaw?” She laughed. “As in to chew on something?”
            “As in, that’s the only name I’m giving you. Shut up about it or I’ll Gnaw one of your arms off,” he replied, his voice cold. She shuddered and quailed back a little. He raised his head again and cleared his throat. “Seriously, though, you can call me Gnaw.” 
            “All right, Gnaw,” she said. She convinced herself that he’d meant to be funny, but the thought of those teeth still made her nervous, terrified even. “You promise not to eat me?” she asked with a wavering laugh.
            “Cross my heart,” he yawned. She munched on her apple. “I’m surprised they let you come up here to consort with me,” he commented. His eyes were intense and glowing, cat like but with a human quality that she quite liked. It was hard to pin point exactly why, but she wanted to trust him, if only because it made her position less hazardous.
            “I didn’t exactly ask permission,” she said. “No one knows I came here. If they knew I was going to they would’ve locked me up as a lunatic. Dragons and virgins aren’t usually friends.”   
            “Virgins. . .” he chuckled and she blushed. “I wonder if virgins taste differently than looser women. . .”
            “Well, you aren’t going to find out tonight,” she scowled.
            “Of course not. I gave my word,” he winked. That was unnerving. “This Roderick must be an ogre if you’d rather risk being my meal than his bride.”
            “I don’t like men who think with their muscles rather than their mind,” she snorted.
            “Well, that’s one thing we have in common. So he’s stupid. Don’t women like stupid men? They’re easier to manipulate, after all.”
            “I don’t want someone I can manipulate. I want someone I can talk to and respect and admire. Like I said, being a scholar gives me the luxury to take my time, and I’m holding out for someone who is as smart or smarter than me.”
            “Well, that shouldn’t be that hard.” She dropped her apple and glared at him. He snickered.
            “You really are infuriating,” she said.
            “I try.”
            “It’s not a good thing.”
            “It keeps me amused.”
            “Well, as long as you’re amused,” she gave an exaggerated sigh. He gave a quiet but throaty laugh. . .she quite liked that as well. “So what does a dragon do for fun?”
            “Huh?” he picked his head back up off the ground and blinked at her. “Fun?” He hesitated for a long moment. “Fly, I suppose. It’s the main advantage to being a dragon. . .that and the general physical prowess that comes with being the largest predator in any given environment. I’ve spent the last several years traveling from one end of the continent to another. I’ve seen some incredible things.”
            “That sounds exciting. I’ve never traveled much . . . but I’ve read a lot about a lot of places I like to see. My family lived an hour’s walk from the Academy of Magic and Sciences, and I used to go there and sit in their library and read years before I was old enough to enroll as a student.”
            “That sounds . . . fun,” he yawned.
            “It was for me,” she said. “I don’t suppose Dragons read.” 
            “They don’t exactly make books in my size,” he pointed out. They sat in silence for a moment before he cleared his throat and said, “But I appreciate stories. A couple years ago I waylaid a scholar on the way from the Academy. I just wanted some news about human goings on, but he ended up having a satchel filled with novels and I told him I wouldn’t eat him if he read me one. I enjoyed that.”
            “I thought you said you didn’t like the taste of human.” She frowned.
            “I don’t, but he didn’t know that.” She laughed.
            “I don’t know if you are clever or just cruel,” she then said.
            “If I were cruel I would’ve eaten him anyway,” he pointed out before laying his head back on the ground. “I don’t suppose you have any volumes in that backpack of yours.”    
            “Novels, no,” she said. He nodded and shut his eyes. “How do you feel about biographies?” she asked. His head shot back up, eyes wide open.
            “It’s not about a famous poet or anything sappy like that?” he pressed. She shook her head.
            “It’s about the first king of Regone. I figured, since I’m staying here, I should brush up on my local history. Do you want me to read it to you?”
            “Yes!” he said. She smiled at him and he cleared his throat again. “If you don’t mind, that is.”
            “Not at all.”







From Grandma With Love also shared on The Peaceful Mom

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