Editing and revising: concision, precision, and other goodies

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Yay for Snoopy—I mean, hey, welcome back. It’s been a while, but I’ve got another post to share. 😎

This article is a revisit on improving conciseness in prose, or rather, an updated variant of it (I mentioned it briefly in one of my earlier posts). Concision work typically comes after the initial draft during the editing passes, so don’t worry about it too much when you draft the story.

Conciseness and precision are essential to good prose. Minimizing words used, trading weak vocabulary for a single stronger word, eliminating redundancy; these are but a few of the processes involved with concision. Not only will a manuscript read smoother and faster (your readers will thank you), entire pages may animate in unimaginable ways. Fortunately, there are a handful of nifty techniques to help. Although the result may not be crispy clean, you can bet a lot of unnecessary and nasty vocabulary are gone.

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” ~The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White

That said, we’re all human beings, so perfection is only an ambition that drives our efforts (and I doubt this article is optimized). Anyway, let’s cover some of those concision techniques.

Wordiness

When editing your work, look for ways to shorten a phrase or set of vocabulary. Sometimes you can convert a few words into a single one. Examples of this include, but are not limited to:

  • a number of → many/some
  • at the present time → now/at present
  • despite the fact that → although
  • on a daily basis → daily
  • he was going → he went (passive voice correction)

Notice how a single word or two can substitute for a whole phrase. Passive Voice (which I covered here) always violates the concision of prose, but there are exceptions for this. I encourage you to examine the hyperlink for more information.

Invisible words

Certain words appear ‘invisible’ to the reader’s eye. Words such as ‘said,’ ‘the,’ or ‘and’ are fillers that won’t particularly grab the reader’s attention. Their purpose is to bridge the gap between words that do matter. Regardless, if used in excess, they can cause friction in the rhythm of prose. Mix up the frequency or remove them entirely. These tools can hold significance in dialogue when using tags to denote the speaker. Sometimes you can get away with no labels at all for ideal concision.

Descriptors and pacing

While there are invisible words and prose symbols that serve some purpose, sometimes a writer can use a stronger one to enhance a sentence. You can trim down excess adverbs and adjectives into shorter, stronger versions. Often this involves a little ingenuity to mold the phrases to the tense of your written piece. Consider these scenarios:

He ran to the store quickly. → He sprinted to the store.

Marle cried loudly. → Marle bawled.

The Kraken roared ferociously. → The Kraken screeched.

He was very tired. → He was exhausted.

The use of a stronger descriptor can better highlight the action or details. Sometimes a writer will ignore this rule to highlight a particular phrase or slow the story’s tempo. It’s up to you to decide how and when to manipulate pace for the reader’s benefit.

Long paragraphs slow the pace of writing and may come off as daunting to a reader (like this one—eep!). While seldom large sections serve a function, overuse forces slower prose tempo and gives writing an unfavorable taste. Action paragraphs need to be quick and to the point. Short sentences add to the jarring sensation of battle, increasing the depth of the reader’s experience. Descriptive paragraphs are longer, slower, and more robust, similar to how human perception slows when we study or observe. Not surprisingly, scientific papers are often sluggish and detailed.

Redundant words

With concision and precision, a writer can delete an entire word without substitution, thereby strengthening a sentence or phrase. Some words are unnecessary, and you’re better off excluding them. Here are a few to watch out for:

Irregardless, obviously, very, almost, just, essentially, basically, totally, seriously, honestly, and actually.

Naturally, in dialogue, there are exceptions. Reread a sentence a few times and feel out the flavor of the words. Take your time with it and savor every morsel. Writers sometimes use these words in clever ways to better demonstrate a character’s speech habits.

Contractions in dialogue are another easy way to sharpen your manuscript, so don’t feel afraid to use them. From my experience, contractions rarely appear in narration for a more formal tone. Some characters may purposely speak without contractions for that flair of formality. Again, it’s up to the writer to decide how to present it.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this article helped with whatever creative projects you harbor. Love and gratitude. 😀


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Here’s a bonus: www.wordcounter.net. This website is a nifty piece of software you can use to sharpen your prose. Have fun!

 

Touching base

Hello to all my readers. I’m just touching base in this post as per my absence, and I wanted to jot down some of my thoughts and feelings for those interested.

My new job has kept me busy (6 days a week at a postal position does that). It’s not my ideal occupation, but it’s certainly a step up from my last one. I plan to save up enough money with this job to pay the bills and hire an editor for my upcoming book: Dragonsoul. The postal job is difficult, so, I’m hoping I make the probation period and become regular. Personally, I’d prefer fingering through a book or manuscript than a bundle of letters. As a CCA, the perks you get are good exercise and fresh air.

Outside of work, I’ve busied with reading science fantasy like Ender’s Game, The Dark Tower, Mistborn, and an informative book for writers called The Frugal Editor. I’d highly recommend these books for any SF writer, especially amateurs like myself.

Outside of reading and family obligations, I’ve done editing passes with Dragonsoul. It sounds better with every pass, but I always find new typos or issues to resolve. I’d say my manuscript is coming along, and I look forward to the end product. I have two other books planned for a trilogy at present. Creating fantasy worlds, especially on Atlas where Dragonsoul takes place, gives me a lot of fulfillment. No matter where this project goes, I’ll always be grateful for this chance to engineer such a beautiful world.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ll post a new writing article when I get the chance. Thank you for reading. Love and gratitude. 🙂


For anyone who has read my series thus far, I’d be interested in hearing feedback or if you have questions about it. If you haven’t read it, I’m always looking for more beta readers. Let me know in the comments below. Thanks. 😀

 

 

Dangling Participles

dangling_participle

Another way to improve one’s prose is to address any dangling participles (DP). This article will define this term and how best to use it in written work, whether in essays or novels. It can be tricky to spot at first, but addressing DP adds clarity to a sentence, providing information that the reader may not have. Let’s begin with a basic definition.

What is a participle?

Participles are challenging to define, but generally speaking, they are a word similar to both an adjective and a verb. Take the phrase polish for example. You can say: it’s time to polish the wardrobe. This uses the vocab as a verb. If you say: the polished wardrobe, then the verb acts as an adjective, describing the wardrobe.

Other examples of participles may attach an -ed or an -ing to the end of the verb to create the past or present participle, respectively. This is the crux of what a participle is. They have other uses too as with verb tenses, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Participle Phrase

When you have a group of words with a participle in it, it’s called a participle phrase (PP). Consider the following:

Running up the hill, Pepper heard the churning waterfall.

Taking a breather, Tarie considered the canyon that yawned in the distance.

The underlined words are the PP. Notice how they modify the second half of the sentence, using run and take as the base verbs for Pepper and Tarie. Here’s one more example:

Calming herself, Pepper felt the mindful void.

Notice the proximity of the PP to the modified subject: Pepper. The noun doesn’t have to be adjacent, but it helps clarify what the PP modifies.

Dangling participle

DP occurs when the subject modified is unclear, leaving a dangling impression or meaning to the sentence. Here’s an example:

Running up the hill, the waterfall churned noisily for Pepper.

Taking a breather, the canyon yawned in the distance in front of Tarie.

In these examples, it sounds like the waterfall and canyon are modified. The correct identifier doesn’t follow, even if the author thinks it does. Implied modifications are never wise in prose. Always bring the proper noun/subject closer to the PP, like sticking them together with glue. That said, you can call this process glue participles, or glue parts, to help remember. 🙂

Here and here are more examples and exercises.

Exceptions

As with all written work, there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes an author may desire a DP for the sake of comedy or to highlight a point (most DP read hilariously). Whatever the reason, make sure the audience understands the rationale behind the DP if you choose to include it. Nine times out of ten, DP won’t be the best choice; but you’re the author of your own story or world so you can choose and define how prose should flow in your universe. Mainstream professionals may not agree, but as long as your audience comprehends, it can work. Just food for thought.

Thank you for reading! Leave any feedback or questions in the comments below. Cheers. 🙂

 

Passive voice in written work

The dreaded passive voice (PV) is oft the bane of writers, especially those just starting out. PV has a crude and redundant place in writing, yet there are times when it is okay to use it. This brief article will elaborate on the nature of this litany device and how best to evoke PV to one’s benefit.

What is PV?

PA is when you make the object of an action into a subject in a sentence. The actor isn’t doing the activity, or doesn’t seem like it is; instead, the object (like a road) seems to be doing the work. See below for example:

The man crossed the trail (non-passive). The trail was crossed by the man. (passive).

The dragon destroyed the town (non-passive). The town was being destroyed by the dragon (passive).

Positioning the actor before the action associates the actor with that activity. The second sentence is more vague with the actor at the very end. Look for to be with a past participle, and ask yourself if the phrase describes an activity and who is the actor. Examples of word groups to watch out for: to be, are being, was being, was doing, is being, has been.

In contrast, active voice (AV) bring a crisper, shorter variant of prose. It caters to the reader, bringing more quality over quantity. Ask yourself this: would you prefer ten rotten apples or two ripe ones?

Here and here are more examples of PV and how to address them. Doing so often improves the conciseness of prose as well as readability. There are–of course–exceptions to the rule, and learning when a to be word group works may come with experience, as the below section illustrates.

When to use PV

There are times when PV is fine in prose. When you want to focus on the action instead of the actor, PV is the technique of choice, although it may diminish readability. Other times when PV is okay:

  1. The actor is anonymous
  2. The actor is unimportant
  3. Intended generalization

Character dialogue often uses PV and AV. Ask yourself how a character speaks. If an actor talks strange, but it’s in-character, then it’s okay. Usually–in our everyday lives–we speak with a passive voice. This method takes longer, allowing our minds to enjoy conversation and prepare our next sentence. However, in prose, a reader absorbs words much faster, therefore written PV is harder to digest.

Personal thoughts

I’ve seen PV used mainly in scientific works, like a thesis, research project, or business report. In these situations, it is generally accepted to defer to PV for a longer, more monotone and bureaucratic flair. For fiction, you’re better off staying away from PV if possible, except of course for the situations above.

Still, I’ve seen bestsellers with PV usage, so abusing this litany tool isn’t the worse sin a writer can commit. Lastly, don’t worry about PV for your first or second draft. Fixing prose is for the editing and proofing passes, much later on. Direct all your energy towards that creative muse.

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear any feedback or questions you have in the comments below. Love and gratitude. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams of the Scarlet Swordswoman #6

A scarlet girl traveled plains thick with snow. The snowflakes stung her eyes, obscuring vision, their petals frigid to the touch. Continuous they fell, freezing her body and slowing her progress. Her objective: an old Grasnout resting by a leafless tree uprooted and savaged by the elements. Her feet sprang into a sprint, but the snow dampened her approach. Her distance from the bear grew, her effort wasted. She collapsed into the snow, succumbing to the cold at last. A soft matt of fur brushed her body. She looked up. The beast had come to her, licking her face amiably. The redhead stood, grasping the warm, rugged fur of the tusked bear. Warmth returned to her face.

The wintery plains changed to summer. The white transitioned to a lush green, and an azure blue replaced the overcast sky. The chirping of birds filled her ears from the overturned tree, its branches gnarled like spheres, each globe containing untold blossoms. The sharp chirps of the birds were delightful, peaceful even. She smiled as the small creatures landed on the ground, regarding her with a ruffling of feathers.

“We come to you, child of the universe, in the name of the One.”

The birds flapped their wings, dazzling the girl in a bright flash of light. Three tall humanoids stood before her. They were dragon-like in appearance, covered head to foot in soft plumes of blue and violet. Lengthily hair wrapped around their bodies like a toga. Red eyes settled on the girl, yet they were gentle and full of wisdom. Long brows of yellow rolled off their heads like fountains of gold. Their mouths shaped like elongated beaks and long tails of swirling colors swiped about. They were double her height and half again as wide. An intense glow enveloped their bodies, too painful and bright to stare at for long, yet with a sensation of inexpressible euphoria. The girl found herself tearing out of sheer joy at this beautiful experience.

The bear next to the girl grunted, bowing its head. The blue dragon-like serpents raised both hands up and bowed in greeting, pressing the talons adjacent. The redhead moved forward. She attempted the same gesture but found her hands unable to comply.

“Do not fear, child of the One,” they said in unison, like a musical ensemble. “We are the Faber. We are the guardians of your ancient world. We are those who initially seeded your planet with intelligent design–the dragons of the cosmos, the symbol of transmutation. It is through Dragonites and you that a fragment of our blood flows the strongest.

“Patience, love, gratitude, humility, wisdom–these things you must realize. The way forward is not as you think. You must confront your inner demon first: the ego. In this, there comes true strength, genuine courage, and the path to ascension.” Together, they gestured a talon behind the girl. A massive shadow in the shape of a hideous serpent emerged but faded away moments later. The girl cringed.

“Dawnstar is not the enemy. You must help this individual, not destroy him. Destruction only begets destruction, for this is the way of the universe–Etherea, who rules over all Aspects and Creation.”

They paused again, this time for a shorter interval. Smiles curled on their beaks, and their serpentine eyes glowed with a gentle light. Blue scales glinted under their feathers like mystical waterfalls. “Find it within yourself the tool to reforge creation. One among you already knows of this. Seek her out and the other children who carry hope’s guidance. Gather the sacred artifacts and those of the old lineages to heal the Ethereal Seals Gate. Your destiny takes you to the Southern Wastes and against the Syre. Good luck, brave hero.”

The dragons lifted their hands and sang loud hymns in some obscure language, vanishing in a pillar of light. The girl shielded her wincing pupils.

She turned to the resting bear, bent low, and hugged him. He licked her face again, the scar on his eye evident. Then, everything turned to fractured glass. A loud boom rent the plains, starling the girl. She scanned about, but could not find the source. The glass shattered.

Revised tidbit of chapter 1.1

An up-to-date sample of chapter 1 for my beta manuscript. I’m looking for beta readers. If you’re interested, let me know, and perhaps we can arrange something after I get to know you. Regardless, I hope you enjoy my chicken-scratch! 🙂


 

Shadows crept around the ancient blade. Its destination was a red-haired young woman with a brand of fire and ice. Two armored knights, one a dark twin of the other, created a crescendo of intensity within their shadowy arena. The redhead missed her mark, and the dark twin found its own. The defeated girl fell to her knees. She retreated into silence before the enemy’s blade finished its job.

 

“Damnit,” cried the defeated youth.

The girl gazed at the legendary sword in her left palm, now a worn oaken stick. Through extensive use, the practice sword was little more than a wooden splinter. She tossed the makeshift sword away and sighed. Dirt mounds next stole her attention. She stood and brushed the dirt off her tan work clothes. “Enough daydreaming–and swordplay for the day. It’s time to get back to work.”

Pepper yawned and stretched her tall body. The bright light from the Twins, two stars of the sky, outlined her developed feminine figure and athletic build. She winced at the view of midday and combed her head, running fingers through long strands of fiery red hair. Touching the knot of her long ponytail, she withdrew her hand. The girl’s tanned and freckled complexion radiated a youthful look, no more than twenty-three. Shielding her vision from the bright rays, she noticed round air vessels gliding through the skies. Further still, she recognized three moons. One of the satellites emitted a bright commercial flash of activity from its surface.

She curled her bare toes in the soft, luxurious dirt, feeling the warm earth swallow her flesh. Her gaze turned to the sloping leas, circumvented by clusters of distant snowy mountains and tall thickets. The sound of insects tickled her ears. She closed her eyes and allowed a gentle gust to rustle her hair. Humid but balanced with a dry wind–typical weather.

The scarlet woman examined her hands, well callused from horticulture. “That dream was surreal, fighting with a shadow duplicate. Maybe someday I’ll become a knight and get a chance to explore the world again and figure out what to do with my life.” She frowned. “Yeah right, maybe when I learn how to fly properly.”

Pepper dug into her pocket and withdrew a coin of gold. Despite the worn edges, the depiction of a gauntlet shrouded in vines shone clear as day. Underneath the design, curvy Atlasian cuneiform, engraved with a master smith’s arm. “The Slyhart family emblem,” Pepper said. She smiled and squeezed the coin before setting it on the ground.

The bauble flashed and a pillar of light shot up a few inches high. The image of a tall man with red hair and a long ponytail emerged. He wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt.

“You’ll get your chance at adventure, Pepper,” he said. “Life isn’t easy for everyone, especially us. Treasure it like I treasure your mom.” He fiddled with outstretched arms, as if for a weapon. “When we get back from this war, I’ll have some thrilling stories to share. We’ll take some epic voyages too–hoo-hah!”

An image of a woman in a silver dress and a green braid hugged his side. She bore a stubby tail and pointy ears. A pair of leathery wings folded behind her. She frowned. “We hope this message reaches you well, dear. We love you very much.” Pepper rolled her eyes. “There’s extra food in the shed and a month’s worth of gold if you need it. Please promise to stay out of trouble. Don’t forget to water the fields.”

“We’ll have these demonic invaders routed by month’s end,” the red man averred. “We’re sorry about the delay, Pepper, but we’ll be home as soon as we can!” He clenched a raised fist as his silhouette wavered with the green-haired woman.

The vision vanished and the coin’s light dulled. Pepper pocketed the coin. She hesitated and brought a hand to her rear. At the base of her spine, there was a short stubby tail of scales. It twitched at her touch.

“A tail but no wings,” she said.

The girl picked up a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine where the dark twin had once been, its mirror-like surface still reflected faint images. “Yes mom, I’m right on it,” she said.

Her focus fell on the rock. Mist spouted from forth, intelligently drenching the rows of crops around her. The crystal gave a low shriek and a flash of light as it finished.

“I miss them more than I thought I would,” she thought with a frown. “This is the third message this month.”

“I see you’re still having fun with the farm plots, Miss Pepper Slyhart,” said a calm, masculine voice.

Pepper turned to the voice. She smiled and ran towards a youthful and slender looking man of white robes who had approached her from the far road. His blond hair flowed down his back like a stream of gold, broken only by a pair of long pointy ears. His youthful and slim complexion suggested him in his early twenties. He was a head shorter than she was, with an oaken staff tipped with crystal and some prayer beads, nested inside a metal circle. Vir’gol, they were called, or conduits for divine miracles.

“Tarie Beyworth, I wondered when I would see you again,” she said. The redhead and the monk exchanged bows and clasped their hands sideways–a native sign of Atlasian greeting.

Glancing over his robes, she examined a symbol of a roaring flame imprinted onto the center of his habit. Numerous herbs and medical bags hung at his waist. “How are you, my friend?” she asked. “I see you still haven’t grown a beard.”

“Nymphians don’t grow facial hair,” he laughed, “you know that. You Hyers are the ones with all the fur on your faces.”

“I’m only teasing. What news do you have of your abbey and the rest of the world?”

The monk stroked his elfin chin and grinned. “Well, affairs around the planet keep my church busy enough. One involves a clan of brigands and cultists causing mischief in several cities.” He hesitated. “I’d say our planet Atlas still recovers from the war from years ago, let alone the previous conflicts.”

Pepper clenched her fists. “Those damn Elemental invaders. If they hadn’t shown up, we wouldn’t be in such a state.” She punched at a nearby bale of hay. It scattered over the vicinity. Gritting her teeth, she let out a deep breath to relax. “Now we have these Nog’roth demons plaguing our planet again. What I wouldn’t give to enter the Royal Guard and show them what for.”

Tarie gave a start. “I-I understand your frustration Miss Slyhart. Maybe someday the Royal Guard at Midvale will accept your application as a knight. Though, I remember you’ve tried applying ten times already.”

“I suppose I can only keep trying, as depressing as it is for me. The best I qualified for was the rank of squire.” She kicked at a rock. “I know I’m worth more. Maybe it’s because my mother is a Dragonite. That makes me half-dragon and half-Hyer.” Her stubby tail gave a twitch of agreement.

“Dragonites are guardians of the planet,” Tarie said, “what with their supernatural strength. Their breath has dominion over temperature, spewing deadly breaths of flame or frost at will and their wings create powerful storms.”

“For all that’s worth, I can’t do any of that,” Pepper said. Her voice acquired a husky tinge, “Here I’m stuck defending the farm plots from hill bears, crag wolves, and heavens know what else. My father was a renowned war hero for goddess’ sake. He taught me swordplay and for what? How did it come to this?”

Tarie frowned and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Not many know of your dragon heritage. Thank the Aspects too. They say there’s a terrible curse, in which dragons trade their sanity for power.” He grimaced. “Anyway, you’d sooner be imprisoned rather than denied employment in the guard.”

“Society doesn’t condemn us half-breeds without cause,” Pepper grumbled, “but they sure keep us on a tight leash.”

He shook his head. “Take heart, Miss Slyhart. Good things come to those who are patient. If there’s anything the church or I can do, please feel free to ask.”

She smiled. “I appreciate the concern Beyworth, but maybe I’m not cut out for the guard. I do well as a farmer anyway. It’s been months since I’ve seen my parents. I hope they’re okay.”

“Perhaps it best you ask around this area for ideas? You may get inspired that way.”

“I had this nasty dream last night,” she said with a pout. “Actually, I’ve had it on a routine basis. I face off against this shadow variant of myself. I’ve used training holograms from crystals to replicate it; every dream I get killed by this doppelganger. She’s always two steps ahead of me.” She leaned up, hands behind her head. “I don’t understand it–and the dreams are painful…too painful for a normal dream.”

“You’ve had a lot on your mind,” he observed. “I do believe some food and time off the farm may help you consider the idea better. This will be on the church.” He winked.

“You’re serious? You’ve been so busy with the abbey, and I wondered if you–” She hesitated. “I mean, that sounds fine with me, Beyworth. Let me grab a couple things at my house first.”

She ran towards her conical residence. An oaken barn stood next to the egg-shaped house, painted with a worn polish. Metal bars bolted the door tight, but with metal rusted and bent from use. A small brick alcove opened towards the end, where a smithy stood. Smoke trailed through a metal pipe in its stone roof. The glimpse of an anvil and a rack of hammers and metal tools caught the corner of Tarie’s eye.

“Alright,” said he, “I’ll take in the scenery here while you prepare.” The Nymph found a pile of hay for rest. He smiled at the sky and white clouds.

He stood when his pointy ears twitched from approaching footsteps. Pepper now dressed in long emerald skirts, guillotined with white and opal gemstones. Her fiery earrings glinted in the afternoon sunlight, a match for her hair. The fragrance of pleasant herbs wafted into Tarie’s nostrils. He studied her speechless and slack-jawed, the image of the young woman a stark contrast to the rugged, dirty farmer. He cleared his throat. “That green dress looks exceptional on you, Miss Slyhart. The place I have in mind shouldn’t be too far.”

Pepper blushed at his compliment. “I’m guessing Traveler’s Rest.” She smirked, hands akimbo. “Judging by that astonished smile, I’m right, aren’t I?”

“Yes, Traveler’s Rest is a small local town, but it has its share of marvels and plentiful commodities.”

How should we get there? My parents took the family’s ship.” She folded her arms, staring at the farming plots. “I wonder where they are right now.”

Tarie pointed above. “I take it you still remember the art of flight?”

Pepper bit her tongue and glared at the sky. “I was never good at it, but I do recollect the basics. Can we try something safer like riding an airship? Then again, ships cost a fortune, unless you work for the Grust Cartel–a bunch of greedy and corrupt merchants they are. We’d be lucky to rent a small shuttle for the day selling my whole farm. I have a Yazell ostrich mount I use for business trips.”

“That wouldn’t be fun,” he teased. “Come on, I’ll guide you through it, Slyhart. Ships and Yazell are better for long-distance travel anyway. Traveler’s Rest isn’t too far.”

“Frankly, I’ve only practiced Atlasian telepathy from time to time, but with my reclusive and dutiful life, I rarely get many chances to leave the farm.” She sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “My parents never taught me the basics of flying for fear of me traveling abroad because of my genetics, I think. They wanted to keep me around the Crescent until I was ready, and I had the habit of going off on little adventures when I could. The one time I did try an extensive flight trip as a child, I ended up in a coma for a week.” She cringed. “It’s been years since I attempted it and the idea makes me uneasy.”

I’ll keep an eye out for you. You can fly close to me,” Tarie said telepathically. The voice echoed in her mind and filled her cells with a warm tingle. “Be sure to ease into it,” he added, switching back to vocal speak. “Remember to first still your mind and then visualize a sphere of force around your body. The air of the Ether should surround you like a bubble.”

“Fine, I’ll give it a shot again,” she telegraphed, “You go first.”

Tarie nodded and kicked off from the ground with his oaken staff. His long blond locks flowed like gold curtains in the breeze. Tarie gazed down.

Taking several deep breaths, Pepper shut her eyes and wrung her hands. The air churned about her, swirling against the force of gravity. Pepper heard a popping noise as gravity weakened. The refreshing breeze of weightlessness filled her being. “Heavens, it has been a while,” she said, lifting into the air unsteadily.

 

 

Ethereal Seals Part 1 Synopsis

This is what I have so far for a beta manuscript; just some thoughts I’m brainstorming and fitting together. I hope you enjoy. 🙂

Love and gratitude to my readers.

Spoiler alert(?)

Political and racial tensions abound in the sophisticated world of Atlas. Within this mythical land, trouble looms within the Ethereal Seals Gate, a relic that anchors the holy Ether and supports the crystal technology within society. Seven Seal Gems complement the Gate. Now a clan of druids ransacks the Gem shrines, seeking to please their shadow goddess and establish her new empire. The fate of the planet rests on the edge of steel; yet, the legacy of a cursed young farmer’s daughter unfolds–the half-dragon progeny of a war hero.

The alleged red-haired bastard, Pepper Slyhart, a disliked minority, finds herself at odds with a lieutenant of the Royal Guard, Gerald. After a scuffle with the captain, Pepper’s mundane life shatters during a casual jaunt in town with her life-long friend and clergyman, Tarie Beyworth. Through the will of an elderly hermit named Razaeroth, Pepper inherits her father’s old sword. Overcoming the threshold’s guardian, she accepts a pact with her sentient blade, forever sealing her fate to the weapon, and it to her. With her destiny renewed, she embarks on a journey across Atlas to prevent the destruction of her homeworld.

Upon visiting Tarie’s abbey atop a floating island, Pepper learns more about who the druids really are and their twisted alliance with the region’s capital, Midvale. She discovers Gerald’s connection to recent terrorism, connected to the disappearance of the city’s queen. The half-breed delves into Midvale Palace to decipher the wanton madness spreading from the city’s newly appointed ambassador, Reneriel Dawnstar, and the young lustful captain, Gerald.

The red youth interfaces with Tarie, and discovers him to be more than just a friend. While forbidden by the church to marry, Tarie’s growing sympathy for the half-breed transmutes into a romantic passion, one that he can no longer suppress. With his biological parents long gone, Tarie finds it ill to forgive himself for this childhood loss, furthering his sense of guilt for betraying the abbey, the only family he has left. Yet he finds comfort in Pepper’s presence and begins to question himself. Friction develops between home and his love. Tarie arrives at a crossroads, unable to choose both his adopted family and Pepper.

From the highest peaks of the mountains to the lowest reaches of the darkest dungeons, Pepper encounters an unlikely host of allies who join her cause; some come with shifty ambitions, and others form their own independent company. Pepper meets an energetic Ashia, a dragon girl princess who proves to be as much of an ally as she is a love rival for Tarie. Zihark, an outcast assassin, also joins the party, though for his own selfish reasons. A rabbit singer named Lily and a muscular mason named Gilies come later, citing concern for Midvale’s decay. Through happenstance, Lily recounts her dreadful past to a willing Gilies, hinting at a possible attraction to the big man.

Betwixt mortal battles of steel, science, magic, and romance, Pepper unravels the terrible price of her mythic blade and its connection to the Ethereal Seals. With a need for power and the constant provocations from Gerald and a mysterious soldier named Zolt, Pepper succumbs to her inner draconic urges. The red girl unknowingly sacrifices her sanity, become no more than a mindless beast. It takes Tarie and her other loyal companions to bring her back. Zihark loses faith in the redhead’s outbursts and forms his own company with Lily and Gilies.

As she traverses Midvale and its palace, Pepper fights a vengeful Gerald, who reveals to her the traumatic reason behind his hatred for half-breeds. Pepper also clashes with Zolt, discovering the officer’s unusual station and honorable demeanor. The redhead confronts Dawnstar. She recovers one of the Seal Gems and rescues the captive queen, Zelinda. An injured Dawnstar flees with his ilk, promising Pepper that her fate now entwines with his and that of the druids, never to rest their hunt of her. Dawnstar regards Tarie with a vague sense of familiarity before he departs thereby foreshadowing dire tidings of his connection to the cleric.

The skirmish leaves Midvale in ruins and her companions demoralized. Pepper’s company returns to Tarie’s abbey to recuperate. The heroine receives a lucid dream from the gods, providing guidance and wisdom. She garners her newfound courage and drives her own ambitious quest to protect the other Gems and the Gate from the druids’ machinations, no longer fettered by her own anxiety. She confronts Zihark, the disliked recluse of the group, and wins back his trust with her newfound conviction.

Midvale’s queen unveils further secrets to the situation within the abbey. The empress initiates a journey to a mountain-city named Stonehaven for the aid of her city. As diplomacy rages within the church, Tarie weighs his confined life in the abbey against Pepper, him now unsure of his traditional complacencies. Selecting excommunication over heartbreak and restriction, the cleric surrenders his home, adopted parents, and his vocation to journey with her.

Within the ruins of Midvale, the druids acquire Gerald’s mangled body. The captain consents to their plans to alter his remains, he now demoralized from the betrayal of Midvale’s court, and a need for power.

The first part of the book ends as Pepper and Tarie depart with Ashia, Lily, Gilies, and Zihark for the Slyhart farm and the southern forest; Zelinda’s company breaks west.

[Guest Post] Spirituality and Magic in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Gods and magic in SFF. Come on and check out this cool guest post I composed. Cheers. 🙂

Richie Billing

I’m delighted to introduce Ed White, writer of creative and visionary fiction, who’s contributing to the blog this week with an insightful post on a significant subject in SFF: spirituality and religion. Enjoy!


The Gods and Goddesses of myth, legend and fairy tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within the psyche, which, when allowed to flower permit us to be more fully human.

Margot Adler

In the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, gods are a curious breed. They represent something abstract—an idea or avatar beyond the reaches of mortal minds. This disconnect from the divine serves as a source of intrigue for the reader, and a subtle impetus for protagonists as they strive towards what no mortal has ever achieved.

Religion also plays a significant role in real-life. Gods and goddesses exist in every culture and region of the world, and there are hundreds of them. The power of…

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DREAMS OF THE SCARLET SWORDSWOMAN #5

Shadows crept around the ancient blade. Its destination was a red-haired young woman with a brand of fire and ice. Two armored knights, one a dark twin of the other, created a crescendo of intensity within their shadowy arena. The redhead missed her mark, and the dark twin found its own. The defeated girl fell to her knees. She retreated into silence before the enemy’s blade finished its job.

“This is a dream,” she said. The red woman stood, the twin vanished in smoke. She rubbed her eyes and stared into the void that surrounded her. The environment was a dark gray. Her body looked colorless. Only her fiery hair pierced the drab atmosphere. Her gaze settled on two similar figures in the distance, both holding sharp blades that glittered in the grey air swirling.

Shadows crept around the ancient blade. Its destination was a red-haired young woman with a brand of fire and ice. Two armored knights, one a dark twin of the other, created a crescendo of intensity within their shadowy arena. The redhead missed her mark, and the dark twin found its own. The defeated girl fell to her knees. She retreated into silence before the enemy’s blade finished its job.

“No more, please!” the redhead whimpered. She grunted and staggered backward. She tumbled to the ground, but her fall made no sound. Her eyes gazed upwards at the sky. Two figures danced around the pale clouds.

Shadows crept around the ancient blade. Its destination was a red-haired young woman with a brand of fire and ice. Two armored knights, one a dark twin of the other, created a crescendo of intensity within their shadowy arena. The redhead missed her mark, and the dark twin found its own. The defeated girl fell to her knees. She retreated into silence before the enemy’s blade finished its job.

The girl screamed, holding her head. She shuddered on the amorphous floor. Tears streaked down her cheeks, becoming mirror images of herself. The reflection smirked at the redhead.

“You are already mine, fool. With the power I can offer you, no one will stand in your way. Not Dawnstar or even the Aspects themselves will compare. Tarie Beyworth will be yours alone. You are a fool to reject such a bargain. Now, surrender to me, or I will wreck unspeakable harm upon your soul!”

“I won’t,” the redhead cried out. The tears froze on her cheeks, forming a small scene with two figures carrying swords.

Shadows crept around the ancient blade. Its destination was a red-haired young woman with a brand of fire and ice…

With a final cry, the redhead woke from her torturous state. The dream plane faded into grayscale vision, and all turned to glass.

Ethereal Seals: Part 1 of Dragonsoul; potential pitches

I’ve thought about an ideal pitch for my upcoming book, Ethereal Seals. I’ve little experience with writing pitches, so reader feedback is much appreciated. Below are some I thought of. Keep in mind this is a sci-fi fiction/fantasy novel of average length (120-130k words), not an epic fiction like Wheel of Time, Battlefield Earth, or Game of Thrones; although I do have three parts planned, and may at some point merge them together.

  1. Political and racial tensions abound in the sophisticated world of Atlas. Heroes of old rise from their graves and ancient evils infect kingdoms. The fate of the planet rests on the edge of steel, magic, and science; yet, the legacy of a cursed young farmer’s daughter unfolds–the half-dragon progeny of a war hero.
  2. With naught but an ancient sword and the will of an old hermit, Pepper Slyhart must choose which destiny to save: her planet, Atlas, or her own. Facing foes of battle and romance alike, the half-dragon girl discovers what it truly means to be a bastard knight of Atlas.
  3. A new war seizes a planet called Atlas. Within this mythical land, trouble looms within the Ethereal Seals Gate, a relic that anchors the holy ether and supports the crystal technology within society. Pepper Slyhart, a cursed dragon-bastard, must discover her destiny betwixt battles of steel, science, magic, and romance, all before her own dragon blood betrays her and the world she loves.
  4. Pepper Slyhart’s destiny changes when she and her childhood friend, Tarie Beyworth, discover a legendary sword and its guardian. Through the will of the sword’s steward, Pepper embarks on a journey throughout the technologically bizarre Atlas, seeking the truths to the wanton madness and to the draconic curse that plagues her.
  5. Pepper Slyhart’s life on Atlas takes a turn for the worse when she acquires a mythic sword given to her by a mysterious old hermit. Beset by her inner turmoils as a half-blood dragon, she must unravel the secrets to her draconic nature before her world dissolves into shadow.
  6. On Atlas, crystal technology erodes the doctrines of morality, and racial tensions flare. Pepper Slyhart, a half-dragon bastard, finds herself with her father’s old sword, now doomed to continue his partitioned legacy. Pepper must forge a new destiny with her childhood friend, Tarie Beyworth, or face dire consequences at the hands of an evil goddess and her inner draconic self.

This is what I have so far. Let me know your thoughts below. Thanks for reading. Much love and gratitude to my readers! 🙂