Tag Archives: Monday Morsel

Monday Morsel: Doors to Nowhere and Everywhere – an excerpt from BECOMING THE DEMON

Wrong Way Around

I know this is supposed to be a Touring Scotland post–in fact, last post was supposed to be a Touring Scotland post, and you got a new cover reveal instead–but I’m in the throes of writing the last few thousand words of the first draft of Becoming the Demon, and I really don’t have the headspace to write it. Sorry! Here, have another Monday Morsel instead.Be warned, it’s a long one!

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Wrong Way Around

In the brilliantly lit main Hall, a circle of doors stood end-to-end around the room. They looked innocent enough, if strange—they were doorframes with no doors, standing on their edges: doorways to nowhere. Except they weren’t. They looked like a step through the doorway would take you one step deeper into the room, when in reality it would take you, maybe, millions of miles across the world. Some of them led to similar rooms in other citadels, where there would be a door you could step back through to your origin. Some of them deposited the user in locations without doors—and no way home, except the long way, unless the user was a wizard capable of building his own permanent or temporary portal.

This room had been Alloran’s original inspiration for the hell-gates, when he was younger. What if the door didn’t just lead somewhere else on this plane? What if you could step through to another plane? What if you could step through time? The ‘what-ifs’ made him twitch, especially the last one—he never had gotten on to that question, and now that he was researching again, that old thought made him twitch like a rabbit scenting the hawk.

The Hall was empty, though of course at any moment that might change, due to someone stepping through a Door, or entering from outside the Hall. His use of magic to open the lock might go unnoticed, since the Hall was a constant epicentre of magic, or they might send someone to investigate. He could enter a false name in the log on a small table by the door to coincide with the time he used magic, but then he had no way of knowing who was currently within the citadel. A false entry might be more suspicious than no entry.

He turned away, brushing past Gisayne to close the door to the back hall, and locking it again against detection. Then he took the right hand passage, counting the racks as he went. One, two, three… At the fourth, he stopped, and counted the second door along. Its frame was metal, and pressed cold against his palms as he got a good grip and slid the door from the rack.

Portals were lengthy and complicated spells, requiring much preparation. A dormant portal spell could be started, and then suspended at a certain stage, to give a wizard quick access to a portal to anywhere at any time, but they could be volatile around other magic, and they weren’t portable—they had to be fixed to a certain location. The portals in the Hall were permanent, and portable, and thus designed to solve that problem. They could also be recalibrated to new destinations, although that was a specialist field currently practised by only a handful of wizards.

The doors were of a uniform height and size, but their frames were as per the taste of its maker. This one had a shining silver frame, though the exact metal was indeterminate in the blue shadows, in straight, simple lines, with no decoration. It was a common design for makers of portals who were practical and fuss-free, who attached no sentimentality to their doors, and therefore a design shared by the majority of portals. The only ornament was the rows of polished stones, five each on the left and right frames, their facets reflecting shards of light from the glow on Alloran’s finger.

He frowned, leaning closer to examine the stones. They looked like a random combination of precious jewels, rubies and diamonds and sapphires, but the stone was actually a rare mineral mined from the far western mountains on the main continent. Chakrin, or sorceress stone as it was sometimes called, was sensitive to magic, and so in high demand amongst wizard artificers like Alloran.

“How do you turn it on?” Gisayne leaned closer, blocking the light.

“Illiterate barbarian.” Alloran rolled his eyes and pushed her back so she wasn’t crowding his space, but the fact was most wizards would ask the same; they didn’t see the point in knowing how to do for themselves what they had specialists to do for them. Short-sighted. There was value in knowledge for its own sake, although sometimes too much knowledge was equally dangerous.

Then he straightened abruptly. “This is the wrong door.”

“What do you mean, the wrong door?” Gisayne didn’t so much as twitch, but there was tension in her voice, and her hand dropped to her sword. Uneasily, she glanced behind her, towards the exit. “Then where is the right door?”

“I don’t know!” Alloran shoved the door back into the rack, too hard. It clanged against the shelving, sending clamorous echoes rolling through the storage unit. “It might have been moved, or destroyed. Doors destabilise over time, and then they are dismantled.”

“Can you change the destination of another door?”

“Not these ones.”

Monday Morsel: You Have To Run – an Excerpt from BECOMING THE DEMON

What Price A Lie
What Price A Lie

“Did you hear me, Alloran? You have to run. The first thing he did after his confirmation was label you a public menace. If he can’t kill you, he will have you silenced.”

Her words broke the paralysis gripping him, and he gasped at the cold shock of this pronouncement. He spun to start gathering together various item.

“There is no time!” Ashraque hissed. “I saw the guards halfway here, and I had to run to beat them.”

Alloran froze. “But I—”

Ashraque followed his desperate glance to the next room, where his private texts, some of them containing damning research, were hidden.

About BECOMING THE DEMON

Not all doors lead to places a man should go.

Desperate to rescue Dek from the fifth circle of hell after abandoning him, Alloran’s task is complicated when he is forced to go on the run again. Bereft of all resources, Alloran enters into the shady world of loose morals and stitchers—black wizards hiring out their services to the highest bidder. When a strange woman presents him with a lucrative but criminal opportunity, he must ask what Dek’s life is worth to him — or is it the chance of a challenge he cannot defeat that tempts him into the criminal underbelly of the city?

Gisayne is fixated on avenging her father’s murder, but Alloran, consumed by his need to rescue Dek, will not help her. Alone, she hunts the deadly wizard Ladanyon, but when the trail leads her back to Alloran, she must fight to save him—but is the greatest threat to Alloran from the black wizard or himself?

Blinded by his determination, Alloran risks crossing a line to become the very thing he fights against.

Monday Morsel: Not All Doors Lead To Places A Man Wants To Go

What colour is your magic
What colour is your magic

I’ve been quiet a long time, I know — getting On the Edge of Death finished nearly wore me out, more than I had realised, and for almost two months I wallowed in doing nothing except reading Scottish crime fiction — yes, tarton noir is this fantasy writer’s secret vice.

But I am back writing, if not as consistently as I’d like, and what I’m working on now is Becoming the Demon, part three in The Seven Circles of Hell. In fact, it’s almost half done. So I’m going to start sharing bits with you as part of my Monday Morsels series again, and I’m going to try to get back to finish telling you about last year’s trip to Scotland. If I’m honest, I’ve avoided that because I’m homesick for Scotland, and thinking about it, about how long it will be before we go back, makes my chest tighten up painfully. It will probably be 2021 at the earliest.

So, instead of dwelling on that, here is the opening page of Becoming the Demon.

Monday Morsel

The diagram appeared to delineate a gate, the stark black lines innocent in their simplicity; but not all doors lead to places a man wants to go.

Alloran hunched over it at the central worktable in his laboratory, sketching in a new line, with Gisayne peering over his shoulder.

The laboratory door banged open, the sound of the wood striking the stone reverberating through the room’s small confines. Gisayne jumped, jerking away from Alloran like a guilty lover, even though they’d only been huddled together over the diagram.

Alloran straightened, casually covering the image with a hand. Then his brain caught up with his reflexes; it was only Ashraque. He let out a long breath, and moved his hand away. Even if Ashraque had not already known what he was about, the planned out lines of sulphur and magnesium for a hell-gate were disguised with a code. The diagram instead spelt out the use of certain woods for its construction; ash for magnesium, oak for the sulphur. Concealing it, even casually, had been the stupid act of a guilty man.

“You scared the hell out of me, Ashraque,” he said.

“You should be scared.” Her words came out a gasp, and she paused, leaning against the door, winded. Her usually immaculate platinum blonde hair was falling from its pins, and her white pillbox hat was askew.

“What’s happened?” he asked.

“You have to run.” She straightened, jamming a pin back into her hair before the hat fell free. Her amber eyes were alight with intense anger. “Valgon has been elected to the position of Lord Wizard. The guards are already on their way.”

About BECOMING THE DEMON

Not all doors lead to places a man should go.

Desperate to rescue Dek from the fifth circle of hell after abandoning him, Alloran’s task is complicated when he is forced to go on the run again. Bereft of all resources, Alloran enters into the shady world of loose morals and stitchers—black wizards hiring out their services to the highest bidder. When a strange woman presents him with a lucrative but criminal opportunity, he must ask what Dek’s life is worth to him — or is it the chance of a challenge he cannot defeat that tempts him into the criminal underbelly of the city?

Gisayne is fixated on avenging her father’s murder, but Alloran, consumed by his need to rescue Dek, will not help her. Alone, she hunts the deadly wizard Ladanyon, but when the trail leads her back to Alloran, she must fight to save him—but is the greatest threat to Alloran from the black wizard or himself?

Blinded by his determination, Alloran risks crossing a line to become the very thing he fights against.

More News

I don’t have time to write twice weekly on this blog anymore, so for the time being the blog schedule will be Monday Morsels on the first and third Mondays of the week, and Touring Scotland posts on the second and the fourth. If there are five Mondays in the month, that fifth one is mine 🙂 Also, watch out for some more Seven Circles of Hell news coming up soon!

Monday Morsel: An Understandable Urge – An Excerpt From ON THE EDGE OF DEATH

“Happy New Year!”
* * *

“Nice picture.”

Ellaeva immediately crumpled up the drawing and stuffed it away, looking up into the oily smile of Drault as he set two tankards of ale on the table. His breath stank as he leaned over the table; they weren’t his first drinks of the evening. His dark red hair was pulled back in a neat queue, no doubt courtesy of the nervy man who served as his aide, and he was dressed far too finely for a back-country inn like this. The Gaylbrath tartan alone screamed his identity, and he wore both kilt and plaid with a snowy white silk shirt. Then again, she had said the more pomp the better.

She swallowed a grimace and dropped her eyes, unable to find it in herself to offer a smile. A man like Drault would only take it the wrong way anyway. “Your highness.”

The prince sat down uninvited, as princes tended to do, and pushed one of the tankards towards her.

“I am waiting for Lyram,” she said.

“You speak very familiarly of a man who only recently hired you.” He looked at her sideways over the top of his ale as he drew a long draught. When he set the tankard down, an unpleasant, amused smile twisted to his lips.

Ellaeva curled her hands under the table to stop from punching him in the nose. It was already slightly crooked from when Lyram had broken it, after Drault had insulted Lyram’s dead wife. That urge to hit him was, she realised, entirely understandable.

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Thanks for dropping by! Don’t forget, this is a fourth draft, and as such won’t be perfect – while the bones of the story are there, enough to give you a glimpse into the tale of these characters, I typically do at least eight drafts so you can expect a lot of polishing to occur between now and release date.

If you like what you read, and are so inclined, show your support by leaving a comment. If you’d like to sample more of my writing, check out the free short stories available on this site. Subscribe to the newsletter to receive a free short story and discounts on some of my books.

On the Edge of Death

All the Left Hand of Death wants is something to call her own, but is the price too high?

Ellaeva, the fated avatar of the death goddess, is desperate to track down her missing family but the trail is decades old. Instead, she discovers her battered and bloodied sister priestesses driven across the Jerreki border on pain of death. Ellaeva must turn aside from her personal quest to investigate the murders, only to find her parents have been taken into the heart of the conflict.

Lyram Aharris, favoured son of the royal line of Ahlleyn, is the only living person she trusts to help her infiltrate the enemy stronghold and uproot the horror they find there, but their chequered past threatens the mission. Accompanying him is his crown prince, the one man Lyram wants dead above all others.

Now Ellaeva must face down the darkness in her soul before a dark god is brought into the world.

At the boundary of life and death, all oaths will be tested.

Monday Morsel: And Yet You Still Asked – an excerpt from ON THE EDGE OF DEATH

Today I am sharing with you one of my favourite moments from On the Edge of Death.

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“Will you marry Narrawen?” Ellaeva broke eye contact. Why had she asked that? She hadn’t meant to, and the words came out stiffer than she liked.

“No. I don’t know. No.”

She flickered her gaze back up to Lyram for a moment, a tiny smile tugging the corners of her mouth despite herself. “Which is it?”

But he didn’t smile, instead frowning deeply. “I need to marry and have heirs. And politically, she is a good match. But…”

“But?”

“But.” He looked at her frankly.

A hot flush spread up her cheeks, but she found herself unable to drop her eyes. “We…we cannot be.” Her tongue tripped over itself, betraying her.

“And yet,” he said, his voice very quiet in the near silence of the room. “You still asked.”

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On the Edge of Death

Thanks for dropping by! Don’t forget, this is a fourth draft, and as such won’t be perfect – while the bones of the story are there, enough to give you a glimpse into the tale of these characters, I typically do at least eight drafts so you can expect a lot of polishing to occur between now and release date.

If you like what you read, and are so inclined, show your support by leaving a comment. If you’d like to sample more of my writing, check out the free short stories available on this site. Subscribe to the newsletter to receive a free short story and discounts on some of my books.

On the Edge of Death

All the Left Hand of Death wants is something to call her own, but is the price too high?

Ellaeva, the fated avatar of the death goddess, is desperate to track down her missing family but the trail is decades old. Instead, she discovers her battered and bloodied sister priestesses driven across the Jerreki border on pain of death. Ellaeva must turn aside from her personal quest to investigate the murders, only to find her parents have been taken into the heart of the conflict.

Lyram Aharris, favoured son of the royal line of Ahlleyn, is the only living person she trusts to help her infiltrate the enemy stronghold and uproot the horror they find there, but their chequered past threatens the mission. Accompanying him is his crown prince, the one man Lyram wants dead above all others.

Now Ellaeva must face down the darkness in her soul before a dark god is brought into the world.

At the boundary of life and death, all oaths will be tested.