I've also been reading a lot, and sometime soon I'll be putting up a monster Reading Roundup post. Tons of great books to recommend!
Finally, being November, it's National Novel Writing Month. I've done it and "won" it (I actually prefer to think of it as completing the challenge, since everyone who validates 50,000 words written in November is a winner) every year since 2009, and this year looks like it'll be no exception. I'm writing The Healing Tree (working title), an old unfinished novel set in the same world as Chosen of Azara, that I decided to take another run at since the characters wouldn't leave me alone and I love the idea of it. I used this awesome outling guide, Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker (pants - writing term, for writing without an outline or "by the seat of your pants") to plan it all the way through, and so far it's going pretty well. As of today, I'm at 28,165 words, out of a target of 50,000. The actual novel is probably going to be much longer.
The main problem I've run into with it is that Davreos, the male main character, is a very complicated character. I made some adjustments to him from how he was in the original version, but he keeps wanting to revert back to that instead of going with my changes. If I've learned one thing in 26 years of writing, it's that the characters are almost always right, so I've finally decided to just go with it.
Anyway, to give you a little taste of this new project (which will eventually be released for sale), here's the first scene. It's unedited, straight from my brain to my fingers, but I think it came out ok:
"Stubborn," the Inquisitress said, only a faint note of frustration and displeasure coloring her impassive voice. Davreos glanced at her, waiting for her next instructions. Her black robe, covering her from head to toe, hid all signs of femininity, all signs of individual identity, but her height, slenderness, and voice were unmistakeable. The Inquisitress's veiled face remained turned and bowed slightly towards the wizard where he was strapped to the table a little longer. Though her face was always veiled while she was acting in her duties, Davreos knew what she looked like behind the veil, and he could imagine the dark, tilted eyes narrowed in disapproval, the full lips frowning. "Useless," she said. "Finish him."
"Yes, my lady," Davreos said.
"And," the Inquistress went on, "be sure to remove his Source-token before you dispose of his body. It might be useful."
"Yes, my lady," Davreos said again.
The Inquisitress left the cavern. Davreos turned back to the wizard and prepared to lower the blade that would give the killing blow. Suddenly, the wizard's hand, which should have been bound with unbreakable chains to the table, seized the opening of Davreos's ragged tunic and pulled him down so that their faces nearly touched. Fear clenched Davreos's belly; how had the wizard's hand gotten loose? Had the bonds been insufficient? The Inquisitress would punish him if the wizard somehow got loose and escaped...
"I pity you," the wizard breathed against his face, his voice a nearly soundless tatter after all his screaming. "You could be so much more, so much better than this..."
Davreos froze. His heart nearly stopped. How did the wizard know of his most secret thoughts? Desires and ambitions that would see him tortured and killed this same way if the High Priest or the Inquisitress or, worst of all, Maikarsk itself became aware of them. He was a slave; that was his ordained role in life, and to hope for anything more was utterly impossible and forbidden.
"Silence," he said to the wizard, and pulled himself out of the old man's grip.
The wizard seized him again, this time grabbing his arm. He placed Davreos's hand on the small carved wooden pendant that hung from a chain around his neck, and folded Davreos's fingers around it. "Take this," he whispered.
Davreos had been ordered to take the Source-token anyway, which would contain power from whatever Source the wizard drew his power from, to sustain his magic while he was away from that Source. He pulled on it, intending to snap the chain, but instead, at his touch on the wooden pendant, power shocked up into him through his arm, warm and bright, with a golden-green glow that was more a feeling than a color. It filled him, the warmth and light almost unbearable in comparison to the power of Maikarsk he bore within him. It filled him until he thought he would burst; his jaw ached as his teeth gritted against the agony of it, biting back his own cries. He didn't dare make a sound; if he was weak against the subjects, he would be deemed useless and sent back to the worst jobs at the temple of Maikarsk. Finally the power seemed to gather itself and bury itself deep within him until it was no more than a faint glimmer.
He opened his eyes, which he had squeezed shut against the pain, and unclenched his hand from around the Source-token. Nothing but dust filled his hand. A cold bolt of horror pierced his chest; the Inquisitress had commanded him to take the token. But she was gone; perhaps he could tell her that the wizard had destroyed it himself.
Time to finish the job. He placed his hand on the blade again, then looked at the wizard. The old man's cloudy eyes stared sightlessly upward into the shadowy heights of the cavern, and his gnarled hand had fallen to lie limply at his side. He was dead, almost as though he had given up his life of his own volition. Davreos looked at the broken chain that had held the wizard's hand bound to the table. The wizard had had enough strength to break that chain and to hold on to his life until he chose to give it up. Why had he allowed himself to be taken prisoner at all, if he was that strong? Why had he surrendered his life instead of escaping? What had he hoped to accomplish with the useless sacrifice?
Stupid, he thought. The man had allowed himself to be defeated. Stupid and weak. Anyone that weak was worthy only of death.