Snippet Sunday #19

I’m so close to finishing a beta draft of The Witch under Mountain. So close (if my own head would stop getting in the way). Here is a bit of it.

In a lot of ways this is Fox’s book. Hopefully, you’ll see why when you read it.


He turned his eyes across the cavern, where trolls stoked a great hearth-fire. One of them, clad in a burnt, greasy-looking apron, sharpened a series of wicked knives. Panic tightened its iron bands around Fox’s chest. He leapt to his feet and clutched at the side of the pen; he’d chosen the closest to Eagle last night, and had to listen to Eagle sob, but it was worth it. “Vo!” he called, clinging to the bars.

Eagle’s head went up, and he unfolded so quickly Fox had trouble tracking the motion. In half a blink he was at the bars too, with a couple of fairies trailing him; he didn’t say a word, only stood there looking at Fox as if from the bottom of the sea, faraway and longing.

Fox took him in. Lacy white sleeves spilled from an outsize velvet doublet. Silk stockings sagged into puddles around his ankles, above the tops of huge buckled shoes. His thighs were too slender for the pantaloons, and instead of puffing up as they ought to, they hung around his knees. The whole effect was dreadfully unbecoming—outright laughable, if it weren’t for the situation—as if the thinnest little chick were given clothes meant for a fat capon.

He ordinarily looked far different: unobtrusive, unassuming. His usual clothes were meant not to catch on anything, but not to foul his movements either, tough enough to hold up and fit well enough to accommodate intense activity. Under Fox’s regard he tried anxiously to smooth what he wore, but he couldn’t make it look well, or himself appear to advantage.

How little it mattered! Fox’s mouth curved in an involuntary smile. Most people wouldn’t have tried to apply an adjective like “sweet” to Eagle Eye, but with Fox he was sweet as the strawberry preserves on a breakfast buffet. He tried valiantly to smile back, but it didn’t quite come off.

Snippet Sunday #14

For Snippet Sunday this week, a little piece of an untitled work in progress (yes, I know, I have a million). This one’s about Kirsten Kalt, and it ought to go in a Tales from the Knights collection, if I can get my act together.


The familiar kid-again smell of the barn enveloped Kirsten as soon as she stepped inside. It was much warmer in here; the bodies of the reindeer made it a pleasant place to be in winter, even if it cooled off quick after they left. She yanked her mittens off with her teeth and put back her hood, never mind the flyaway hair it gave her.

It was quiet here, at least for now, and she stuffed her mittens into her pockets and blew out a sigh. She’d forgotten the bad parts of home in the middle of the missing it, just like always.

The house was even more crowded than she’d remembered, which only made sense. All the brothers and their wives and children, plus a couple of the sisters and their husbands and children, in to visit blasphemous little Kirsten… yeah, it made sense. Besides all them, there was Mama, with a woolen blanket around her shoulders, taking up three times the space an old lady ought to.

She finger-combed her hair, which never helped matters really, just made it crackle and zap, and leaned back against the door. There was somebody in here—she could tell because a lantern burned on a stall divider’s hook, and not even the tiniest Kalt would’ve left it. Ivar’s kids especially. Shit, she couldn’t even count how many he was up to. There were little ones and middle ones and older ones, even a baby. His wife must be exhausted. Kirsten could only be glad her skills hadn’t been called upon to deliver another screaming red thing.


She sucked in another draught of the ordinary-life scent: sweet hay and dry oats, straw and shit, reindeer milk fermenting, richly sour, in the shed attached to the barn. Whoever was in with her, she couldn’t see, but now that she relaxed, she heard the rhythmic shuff-shuff of a currycomb. One of the hundredth generation (most likely) of barn cats chased a mouse, scuttling and scuffling.

Snippet Sunday #12

A little piece of Hard Time this week. 🙂

Kessa and Lukas discuss reading material. There’s a little worldbuilding in here, too. It was extremely amusing to write.


Kessa scowled down at the old paper book Lukas was making her read for practice. They used to be able to copy things by magic, he’d said, and the result, if you didn’t have a copy of a copy of a copy, was nice, uniform writing. Once you got three or four generations down the line, it started to go all wonky, he’d told her, and six was unreadable.

The book annoyed her. It wasn’t that she couldn’t make out the text. That got easier every week. It was the content that set her teeth on edge. Magister Ferocious! Who cared about some dumb old guy who couldn’t do magic, and had stupid brainless girlfriends to make himself look smarter?

“Why’d you want me to read this anyways?” she demanded, as he shoved the broom under benches and table, trying to sweep up all the food the Ishlings dropped.

“I don’t know. I thought it’d be something a little different from those boring textbooks Vandis keeps making you read.” He straightened, shrugged, and leaned on the broom. “I sort of liked it.”

“You would,” she said darkly.

“What didn’t you like about it?”

“The girl.”

“Well,” he said, “I guess she wasn’t as smart as you are.”

Kessa rested her chin on one hand and let the book fall to the tabletop. “Something with a halfway intelligent woman next time, okay?”

“Tall order.” He grimaced. “At least sometimes.”

“Somebody should write one.”

“They don’t do these anymore.” Lukas tapped the book she’d dropped. “Can you imagine copying this by hand? A million times or whatever it sold? You’d have it memorized.”

“No fucking thank you.”

“Exactly.” He laughed, shaking his head, and returned to sweeping. “What used to pass for cheap entertainment! Go figure magic.”

“Are you messing with me?”

Lukas held up thumb and finger with the fraction of an inch between, and grinned at her. “I never said it was great literature.”

Naheel Queen of Heaven

Naheel is the Queen of Heaven and Queen of the Gods. She reigns from her Golden Throne in a palace of the Garden of Paradise and keeps the sun on its course through the sky. Her consort is the ascended mortal Ciregor, who was killed in Her service and elevated to stand at Her side.

Though She’s the Queen, Naheel isn’t regarded or worshiped as a mother goddess. She’s most strongly associated with purity and cleansing, with sanctification and holiness. Young virgins make offerings to Her. Traditionally She’s most popular in Muscoda (in conjuction with Reeda, the goddess of earth), where there are endless fields for Her to beat down upon, but humans call Her name wherever sunlight touches.

Her association with clean souls and bodies tends to lead Naheel’s churches into doctrinal rigidity and legalism. Many of Her religious orders lean toward the ascetic, and Her official church places an emphasis on maintaining a clear slate of sins. Atonement and penance are important throughout Her teachings.

She appears as a tall, beautiful woman, usually blonde, on a throne of gold, though some interpretations have Her as a redhead. She is almost always depicted in lush, fire-colored robes, sometimes wearing a wimple beneath Her crown, which is gold.

Father Krakus Bartowsky

Krakus is a major character in Saga of Menyoral. He’s one of the co-heads of the Order of Aurelius, and he’s provided the reader’s eyes and ears on Fort Rule, the seat of military power in Muscoda.

Originally, I’d planned for Krakus’s death in Hard Luck, but he kept shouting at me from the bench, tempting me with everything he could do. I’ve never been more pleased about deciding not to kill someone. Not only is Krakus charming, but his character arc has enriched the story of Menyoral as a whole, and he provides an excellent brake on his brother in the cloth, Lech Valitchka.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but when we first meet Krakus, he’s the very picture of a venal monk. He’s meant to be a warrior, but spends more time eating than training. Krakus starts out over fifty, overweight, and has to have his ceremonial armor constantly adjusted or remade to fit his gut. He doesn’t follow the proscriptions of his order’s Rule at all, and even has a mistress in spite of the celibacy requirement. When he begins to see Lech more honestly, he takes his first steps on a better path. I find his struggle for redemption immensely rewarding to write about.

Krakus is the first son of a farming family. He was born Before magic’s fall, but in the famines that followed soon After, the Bartowskys were faced with a choice. They took twelve-year-old Krakus to the Order of Aurelius, where he would at least be assured of food. He was immediately paired with orphaned Lech, and the rest is history.

No, literally his story. I’ve begun one about Krakus and Lech. It’ll probably be a little meatier, the length of Live Free or Die or longer, and I think I’ll have it ready early next year. In the meantime, if you haven’t met Krakus, I hope you will, and I hope you’ll love him like I do.

See you tomorrow!