Welcome to my worlds!

I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dragon Apocalypse Book Four: 18952 words

A decent week thanks to a snow day, though I would have liked to get more done. A lot of my time during the weekend was spent playing publisher instead of writer. I had to finalize the Witchbreaker cover and get the ebook files uploaded across several platforms, and, of course, the second I did I found an error in the text, a small one, but I still had to fix it and go through all the uploads all over again. Sigh. Anyway, it takes a few days between the upload and the book showing up in various markets. I'll reveal the cover and talk more about the new edition later in the week.

Fortunately, thanks to the snow day, I met my goal of 10,000 words for the week, plus a few thousand extra. Even better, I like the way things are shaping up. I've been carrying stuff around in my head for a while now, and sometimes ideas that seem great in my skull just crash and burn the second I start typing them. So far, things are flowing nicely.

As promised, here's a sample from this weeks work. It features Cinder, a major player in the final book. Due to unusual circumstances surrounding her conception, she has the power to leap between the material world and the spirit realms. It's a power she'll be getting to use a lot as the book progresses.

Please note, this is raw first draft. It even contains a note to myself, to go back before the second draft to research the physical description of a character last seen in the first book. I use notes like this quite frequently, to help maintain momentum.

Excerpt: (This is from a few pages into the chapter, as Cinder has left the village of the pygmies to search for her mother, and paused for a while to watch long men building a settlement on the shore.)

Cinder turned away and headed back into the maze of brush. Her mother would likely be returning soon from her hunt. Perhaps she could still catch her before she reached their home village.

By now, the chirps of the morning birds in the brush had changed from a song to a cacophony, loud as a waterfall. She didn’t hear the huge boar rustling along the pathway until she turned a corner and found the beast less than ten feet away. The boar was one of the largest she’d ever seen, six feet long from tusks to tail, its powerful muscles bulging beneath a rust colored hide. She skittered to a halt, startled. The boar was as surprised as she was. Half the time, a startled boar would bolt and run. This was not one of those times.

The boar lowered its head, it’s tusks pointed like twin spears as it charged. Cinder met its charge by lowering her spear, planting the tip into the beast’s shoulder. The spear caught in the mound of thickened skin that protected the beast, failing to hurt it. The boar’s momentum ripped the spear from her hands and at the last possible second she leapt, lifting her legs above the slashing tusks, using the creature’s back as a springboard. She landed on the path behind it and ran. With luck, the boar wouldn’t give chase.

Around her, a thousand birds took to the air as the boar spun in its tracks, let out a deafening squeal, and lunged forward in pursuit, its heavy hooves thundering on the volcanic rock.

Cinder was the fastest runner among the Jawa Fruit tribe, but the boar quickly closed the small lead she’d started with. She could hear it panting mere inches behind her, but dare not look back. She still had a hundred yards to cover before she reached the edge of the forest, and the hope of leaping for a branch to clamber skyward beyond danger.

She had no choice. Though her mother had forbidden it, she would have to escape to the other place. Stretching her arms before her, she grabbed the air, then tore it. She ran through into the chill gray landscape her action revealed.

She stopped as the boar ran through her now ghostly form. All around her, the berry bushes lay dead and withered, there leaves gone. The sky, pink with the morning only seconds before, was no dark and starless. She could still see into the living world, the shapes there wraithlike, more shadow than substance. She saw the boar charge on a few more yards before halting, spinning around, its rage changing to bewilderment. The shadows of birds flitted into the air to the left of the boar, their cries of alarm muffled and distant.

The source of the bird's distress quickly revealed itself as Cinder’s mother leapt from the bushes beside the boar. Her mother was the tribe’s greatest hunter, a titan five and a half feet tall. At fifty, she was one of the oldest members of the tribe, though her body was still athletic, hardened by years of constant use. Like other members of the tribe, her skin was dyed green, with her hair a lighter shade of lime. Unlike other members of the tribe, she wore more than just a loincloth, concealing her torso with a vest of leather.

She carried a spear like the one still stuck in the boar’s shoulder, but her mother had far more experience in the proper use of the weapon. With a grunt, her mother drove the stone tip between the beast’s ribs. With a howl of rage and pain the boar spun, its tusks slashing the air, as Cinder’s mother leapt back from their path. Then she calmly reached out and grabbed Cinder’s spear, plucking it free. As the boar slashed its tusks toward her once more, she drove the spear into the beast’s left eye. Bringing all her weight to bear, she drove it deep into his skull. The creature’s body fell dead.

Instantly, the creature’s spirit was a solid thing standing before Cinder. The ghost glared at her with its one intact eye, shuddering with rage. Before Cinder could take any action to defend herself, the creature turned and bolted, turning to smoke as it ran, vanishing from sight.

“Perhaps pigs have a hell of their own,” said a voice from behind.

“Oh,” she said, turning around. “You followed me? Why didn’t I see you?”

The man standing before her shook his head. “I didn’t follow you. I followed her.” He nodded toward Cinder’s mother, who squatted over the fallen boar, freeing Cinder’s spear. She studied the now mangled leather strapping that held the obsidian spear tip in place with a scowl. Cinder knew her mother would recognize the spear as one of her own, and deduce who had to have planted in the boar’s shoulder. Other members of the Jawa Fruit tribe used spears almost half the length of those her mother preferred.

“Tell her I must speak to her at once,” the man said.

“She’ll kill me if she finds out I came to look at the long men,” Cinder said. “She’ll kill me if she finds out I came here!”

“You engage in hyperbole,” the man said. “She will scold you, nothing more.”

“We should wait,” said Cinder.

The man scowled, though his scowl wasn’t much different than his normal expression. Dead men seldom looked happy, but this one’s face seemed permanently set to a look of disgust, as if merely speaking to Cinder was a loathsome task.

In life, he must have been a tall man. (Check Greatshadow description.) His face was thin, his scalp bald, and he wore long black robes, unlike most other dead men she’d met, who were normally unclothed. He differed also from other dead men in his gaze. Most of dead she’d met had wandering eyes, confused expressions, as if they couldn’t quite comprehend where they were or why they were there. This man’s expression was focused, unblinking. He seemed to have no doubt as to the where or why of his existence.

In the living world, Cinder’s mother stood up and shouted, “Cinder! Cinder!”

“She thinks the boar has harmed you,” the man said. “It would be cruel not to tell her you’re unharmed.”

Cinder sighed and nodded. “Wait here.”

“Where else am I to go?” the man asked, sounding both annoyed and amused.

Cinder once more tore the air before her and stepped through. The humid jungle air washed over her, rich with a thousand scents, flowers, berries, bird droppings, and, above all, the scent of blood as the boar bled out from the slit her mother had carved in it’s throat with her obsidian knife.

“Cinder!” her mother cried out again, facing away as her daughter emerged from the land of the dead. The worry in her voice could be plainly heard now that it was no longer muffled by the veil between the lands of the living and the dead.

“I’m here,” said Cinder, softly. “I’m okay.”

Her mother spun around. “Cinder! I found your spear! I thought… I thought you had… what on earth were you doing out here? Don’t you know how dangerous it is?”

“I’m fine,” said Cinder. “I was looking for you.”

“Looking for… why? What was so urgent it couldn’t wait until daylight?”

Cinder placed her arms behind her back. “There’s… there’s a ghost who’s come to see you. He says he knows you from a long time ago.”

“Stagger?” her mother whispered, her eyes growing wide.
“It’s not father,” said Cinder. “Though his name is Father. Father Ver.”
Her mother’s face fell. She wiped the boars blood from her obsidian knife against her loin cloth, shaking her head slightly.

“You’ve been to the other place again, haven’t you?”

“I had to go there to escape the boar.”

“And the long men,” her mother said. “You say you came here looking for me, but you really came to look at the settlement again. Again! After I forbade it.”

“No. It’s just… I knew since you hadn’t told me you were going to go hunting, you must have come hunting here, on the edge of the settlement. Father Ver says his business is urgent.”

“He’s dead,” her mother said, sheathing her blade. “He has all of eternity to wait.”

“He says eternity is shorter than it used to be,” said Cinder.

Her mother sighed. “Fine. Let me talk to him.”

Cinder held out her hand. Her mother hesitated, then took her offered grasp and looked around, seeking the visitor. Her mother’s eyes locked on a nearby form, invisible in the material world, but plain to Cinder’s eyes.

“Ver,” her mother said. “I never expected to see you again.”
“Infidel,” said Father Ver. “It would be a dark day in Hell before I came to you for help. A dark day indeed, but a day that has come.”

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