Stuffed – Full Length Fantasy for Free on Inkitt

Good morning, lovelies 🙂

So my novel Stuffed has been up on Inkitt for a while now. If you’re someone who was about when I was doing a lot more blogging, you may remember me referring to this particular novel as “Tom”, after the protagonist. It’s a fantasy/thriller-ish/young adult-ish story set in a world resembling the late 1800s where steam trains and gramophones are the height of technology and mystical creatures near extinction. Stuffed is intended to be the first of a three-part series. It may be some time before I start Book 2 … it’ll be an interesting process. My style has changed a lot since I wrote this.

Stuffed is currently entered in Inkitt’s Grand Novel Contest – winner gets published. Good prize, yes 🙂 Love-heart votes required to push it up on the site listing – basically, more love = more love. And Stuffed would love your love, as would I.

So if you’ve a spare few moments – or more … I think last check it was roughly 136,000 words, so would probably take a few sittings – I would love if anyone could give my novel a look and a vote. Any comments and feedback would  be adored – it’s currently sitting on 5/5 from the lovely three reviews I’ve gotten so far. Check out these reviews, maybe, if you’re wondering what it’s about.

Also if you’re wondering what it’s about, here’s the short summary:

Snatched by a taxidermy-happy countess and her unsettling assistant, young shapechanger Tom Ness only wants to live. But how can he save his skin when that’s all she wants?

Also if you’re wondering what it’s about, for your enjoyment, an excerpt from Chapter 1: The Silver Vixen:

The silence in the shallow valley but for the breath of wind through pines was total. Weary and weighted by age, Vera did nothing to disturb that quiet, even as coughs clawed to escape her withered lungs. She hid in a tangle of scrub just beyond a little shack. Micah squatted beside her. He had chosen their cover; its view of the dwelling was uninterrupted. Micah’s black eyes were fixed on its crude door.

The shack stood—slumped, rather—at the base of the valley. There was a little glade there dotted with flowers. The patches of heather and clover brought to mind a classic cottage garden, though the clearing appeared natural. There were signs a few trees had been felled for fuel—a cluster of wood and a small axe rested by the wall nearest. Vera was pleased to note those trees chopped down had been replaced. Most were saplings, but several fine, strong young fellows stretched their branches into the air alongside seniors.

There was little evidence of the outside world, only a lead pipe stuffed through the thatched roof to pump out smoke. The shack’s walls were stone to Vera’s thigh, then interwoven twigs given strength by clay, insulation against the wind. The only window was shuttered; they couldn’t see inside.

But there was no one inside. Not yet.

Though the shack was primitive, probably constructed by its inhabitant—apparently they were determined, though lacked notable building skill— it blended so well with the undergrowth it was near invisible from all but a few perfect angles. Vera and Micah had traipsed the taiga for three weeks before they happened upon it, about to sit down for lunch. Vera’s grasp of the forest’s spoils and the rabbits and scrub fowls Micah shot kept them well fed.

From above, the taiga was a stretch of embroidered velvet; green, grey, black and glimmering night blue. Such fabric spun the gowns of countesses of old, donned to welcome the most esteemed of guests and dazzle at the most important parties. Streams and rivers twined flashing silver chains and sparkles of white—evening frost on twigs and stone—were tiny precious gems. The great lake was the crowning piece: a glistening sapphire brooch so large it would topple any silly old countess who pinned it to her breast.

Vera was a present-day countess. She wore no such finery, not now—not even when she was young, some sixty years ago. The only jewellery she wore was a small pendant on a fine chain. It was as precious to Vera as life. She never took it off, the pendant forever nestled to her bony chest.

The fresh scent of pine on cold air seemed auspicious and filled Vera with expectation, stalling surrender to the ache of her stiff old body as late afternoon eased toward twilight. Her information promised the shack’s inhabitant would return by then. It couldn’t spend the night exposed. Even in late summer, it grew bitterly cold in the dark so far south.

Light waned. Vera reached beneath her collar and gripped her pendant. Beside her, Micah was a statue. Though Vera was intent as he, his eyes were sharp, her own touched by age. It was Micah who first spotted their quarry.

A silver vixen ambled into the clearing with a scatter of needles and pine cones. Though fleet, her gait was clumsy, as though the vixen was unbearably tired or her limbs slightly crooked. The creature padded toward the shack; the clearing her home and she was unafraid of danger there. Vera’s gnarled grip tightened. The glass capsule of her pendant, around which gold and gems were fashioned, seemed to pulse, the rare syrup within rippling green-black as Vera’s hand trembled.

The last rays of sunlight filtering from heaven vanished.

The vixen gave a shudder, nose right to the tip of her limp tail aquiver.

Vera almost groaned and clutched her pendant all the more tightly. Any other capsule might have shattered, but this was a Moore heirloom. It would take more than pressure to damage Vera’s pendant; what it protected was too precious.

The vixen began to change. Her limbs lengthened and fine silver hair retracted, leaving human skin. Her tail vanished, body lengthening and bending upright so she stood on her hind legs. Soon nothing remained of the vixen. A naked woman stood in her place.

She was bent and crooked, thin silver curls sweeping to her wrinkled waist.

She was old. Older even than Vera.

Micah uttered a soft sound of satisfaction, no more than a sigh of wind. But Vera’s heart dipped, crestfallen.

The very old shapechanger stepped into a pair of worn boots and took a faded bluebell dress from a nail stuck in her door. It was a young woman’s dress: practical, smart attire for ducking out to the market, taking tea with friends or visiting relatives. At least, it would have been fifty years ago. Vera had owned several like it, buttoned down the bodice on an eye-pleasing curve, tied with pretty white sashes.

‘Countess, what’s wrong?’ Micah asked, barely moving his lips as the shapechanger wriggled into her dress. It was very loose—she was as string held up by some miracle. ‘She’s just what we need. I’ll set the traps once she sleeps and we’ll have her at first light.’

‘She is too old,’ Vera sighed, deflated. Despite deep regret, she couldn’t tear her eyes from the magnificent creature. The aged shapechanger took a stout cane, muttering about disobedient kits and quarrels over mates. Her voice was the scratch of sand on stone, the rustle of dried leaves. A voice of the earth and forest. Leaning heavily on her cane, she tottered about patches of vegetables at the edge of her clearing, gardens disordered so they appeared wild. The shapechanger filled a small sack with a few potatoes, onions, carrots and a sprig of thyme.

‘Too old, Countess? What do you mean?’ Micah asked, eyes narrowing.

‘She is too old,’ Vera repeated, initial devastation fizzling to sad resignation. She was used to disappointment, but the loss of her precious shapechanger hit hard. ‘She is beautiful, but how would she look by our other pieces? The shapechanger is our very last creature to collect. I want perfection.’

Micah wasn’t impressed. Their contact, a tanner from the south, had written of a story widespread in his town, that silver foxes became human with the setting sun and threw great parties filled with food, wine and dance. Scornful of the tanner’s reliability, Micah had reluctantly accompanied his eager mistress south; the countess had hunted shapechangers for over half a century and lived for such tip-offs. His fervour on the hunt had kindled when they found faint boot prints where no sensible villager would roam, and discovering the dwelling had sparked terrific excitement. At last seeing the shapechanger, all recent hardships were now worth the great effort he’d spent.

That it had been pointless was not what Micah wanted to hear.

‘We have spent the last month slogging through this damn forest, tailing every silver fox we’ve come across. Now you forsake possibly your very last opportunity to complete the Moores’ collection for mere cosmetic concerns?’

‘It is not only that,’ Vera insisted, eyes locked to the shapechanger as she ambled to her door and opened it with a creak. As though a signal to charge, a quintet of kits bounded from a nearby bush and skittered through her legs, barrelling into the shack. She sighed, but chuckled with two vixens and a fox that followed more sedately. They gazed up at her, noses twitching.

‘Yes, you can come in. At least you’ve got manners to ask. Those kits…’

She shook her head as though nothing could be done with them.

‘Let’s get in, then. Hope the kits’ bellies’re full, else they’ll be disappointed. Getting my fill of roots tonight—bowels’ve been letting me know I’m not getting enough.’

She chuckled again. The foxes seemed to join in.

‘Might have a bit of old fowl lying around. They can fight over it, if they’re diresome hungry.’

Impatient as his mistress listened, entranced by the one-sided conversation, Micah reclaimed Vera’s attention.

‘Tell me then, Countess Veradine: why would you abandon your life’s work? Why would you forsake your dream?’

‘Do not be so dramatic,’ Vera chided, but Micah scowled. ‘I am hardly giving it up. It is only she cannot be collected. She just cannot. She is…’

‘Too old,’ Micah grumbled.

‘We need something younger: a young, firm shapechanger that will heal well. Our traps might kill a creature as old as her.’

‘If that’s the problem, I don’t think we need to use traps,’ Micah said, again eyeing the door, lids so narrowed he might squint through solid wood at his target. ‘We can ambush her inside. I can overcome a small skulk easily,’ he declared, hand at the revolver on his hip. ‘And she can’t put up much of a fight, old as she is. I would be gentle, Countess.’

‘I know you would handle her with utmost care,’ Vera said. Micah behaved gentlemanly towards women whether toddler or school girl, maiden, married or crone. Perhaps due to his time in the army, he considered women rather delicate, as well. The few times Vera had been annoyed with Micah was when he hinted that, as a woman, Vera was in any way incapable. ‘But such an old body may not take well to the mounting process.’

‘What of the kits?’ Micah wondered, unwilling to give up on their prize. ‘Or the younger vixens and fox? They are the perfect age.’

‘But they are not shapechangers,’ Vera said sadly.

‘If she’s lived her life with the foxes, no doubt she’s bred. They could be hers. They might just change on different schedules. This is such a rare opportunity, Countess,’ Micah pressed. ‘We must be sure.’

‘I am sure. Shapechangers do not pass on their abilities,’ Vera reminded. Micah grimaced. Vera had taught him that. He’d read it many times in the museum. ‘If they could, no doubt enough of the creatures would remain that I wouldn’t be so desperate to find one.’

‘Of course,’ Micah replied.

‘And if the tanner’s story is true, and her schedule renders her vixen in daylight, how could she have carried any offspring? They would not have survived.’

‘You are right, of course,’ Micah relented grudgingly, but gave a short bow where he crouched. ‘I’m sorry to complain, Countess. Disappointment is a brute of a thing.’

‘That it is,’ she smiled sadly. The two waited until they heard the scamper of kits at play within the shack and a crackle as dry kindling was set alight. Then Micah helped his mistress to her feet. Together, starting slow to stretch cramped muscles, they began the long trek from the taiga.

Hooray if you read this far 🙂 Hope you go on to read the rest at Inkitt!

One Down in the Ground

And now, a randomly generated scene …

Nouns: handicap, jellyfish, lace, rate, resolution, screwdriver, shorts

Adjectives: puffy, long, irritating, goofy, kind

Verbs: stage, perform, calculate

Adverbs: gladly

Muffin

A front runner already, Holly calculated her chances of success, folding gently while her neighbours who shared the same long work bench stirred at a feverish rate. Both would have gladly traded their batters, lumpy on the left and runny as diarrhoea on the right, along with all future prospects of freedom for the smooth concoction in Holly’s mixing bowl. Being an experienced home baker, she had begun the week’s handicap a full half hour behind both Gregor and Tess and without the benefit of self raising flour, as had been bestowed on most of her competitors. She could see the shorts of the young man baking in front of her clung to his sweaty thighs beneath his apron.

They had begun as 16. One week in, they were one down.

One down, one down …

A more ominous than irritating little voice sang at her, overpowering the list of ingredients and methods in her mind.

One down in the ground …

They had been made to watch. She knew they would be – Holly had seen a dozen seasons before being unexpectedly whisked off to the dreaded kitchen herself. She’d known what was coming. Still, she’d been unable to distance herself from the small girl’s scream and the smell of blood mingling with the citrus-infused meringues they had been made to whip up.

The girl had never baked a day in her life. With only the barest instructions, her meringues had emerged colourless, wobbly as a sleep-deprived jellyfish. Holly’s were as puffy and crisp as those she’d called to mind to emulate from her mother’s ancient magazines, and the others’ bakes had at least resembled meringues. Holly could still see bulky Judge Wagner’s screwdriver-like index finger, stiff and cruel, trailing across the line up of nervous competitors before pointing squarely at the hapless girl. She’d been seized where she stood, toes uprooted from the linoleum beneath their feet.

‘Holly,’ Gregor moaned  as she peered in her oven and straightened, cupcakes baking nicely. Tess eyed the sugar lace that Holly wove as decoration, trying to emulate the technique and poorly staging confidence with a flick of her hair and flourish of her fork. Her cupcakes were now baking, too. Gregor, however, still gazed helplessly into his runny mixture.

‘Holly, help … I have to perform, this week. If Shelley had known which end of a wooden spoon to hold, I’d be gone already.’

It was true. Wagner had made a point of ridiculing Gregor’s goofy-looking meringues before spitting out the first bite and smashing the rest into his bench, meticulously scrubbed for the sweets presentation ceremony.

Holly pressed her lips together, nervous in indecision. She sympathised. But front runner or not, Holly wasn’t truly safe, either. Disasters happened – sometimes they were made to happen. If she helped Gregor – kind Gregor, who’d spoken to her those awful, tension-laden weeks they’d already spent in and around that kitchen while the rest of the field avoided her, forming their own segregated cliques of support – Holly would jeopardise her own chances, the firm resolution she’d made to win. To live. She’d sworn to her mother that she would.

‘Please, Holly …’

She felt like a villain for even thinking to refuse Gregor’s plea. Hadn’t she always delighted in sharing her secrets, freely distributing advice on how to best melt chocolate and knead pastry?

This is different, she tried to insist.

But despite her hefty self-preservation, Holly’s humanity refused to be ignored.

Down, down in the ground …

Holly busied herself weaving sugar into delicate strands, leaning close to her work to hide her face from Wager as he stalked up and down the aisles of benches. Internal debate raged. Gregor deflated with her silence, seeming to sink into the speckled linoleum, already feeling the iron grips that would be about his arms in a little over an hour, wrenching him out of line.

Down, down in the ground …

Finally, Holly spoke, whispering from the most minuscule corner her mouth could produce.

‘Wagner can’t see. No one can know. Do exactly as I say.’

Dry Spell

Just saw the results for the young adult short story competition I entered back in January. Failed to achieve any recognition, though was expecting that more and more after reading something indicating that the judges may not approve of violence in young adult stories. Excuses are bad, though. Just wasn’t good enough. But even though it’s not literary magazine material, I still like it. Wanted to share. There are a few Australian terms throughout – if any non-Australian readers need an explanation, let me know 🙂

*

The instant the engine spluttered silent, Paul threw himself from the passenger seat.

Don’t speak. Don’t engage. Don’t look up.

Monstrous clouds soaked up the sky, so black and harsh they could have been smoke. The stagnant air Paul breathed was near as thick with moisture, though the earth was sucked dry, two years of drought tanning the adjacent school oval, blades sharper than a field of thumbtacks. According to the most recent dam levels update, Wivenhoe lingered at a distressing eighteen per cent. Paul had long since gnawed his nails down to ten tiny, stinging nubs.

Don’t look up.

Parents and friends congregating in the car park peered skyward with such expectation. Several optimists even carried umbrellas. Paul threaded through them, knowing better. Heaven wouldn’t spare a drop.

Don’t engage.

He shouldn’t be here. He wouldn’t last. Not with the clouds bearing down on him. Not with the itch of his knuckles, each larger than a quail egg. His fists were solid enough to collide with brick, a truckload of angst and hard teenage muscle behind the blow, and retract un-shattered. That was fact. He’d seen for himself only two days ago, five times in a row.

Don’t engage.

“Paul! Hang on, love.”

Mum at last disentangled from her seatbelt.

“You should really think about getting your learner’s,” she said, gliding across the bitumen in her slip-on sandals.

Both dust-choked vehicles flanking theirs had large red Ls stuck in both windscreens.

“How can we give you the old ute if you never get your licence?”

“Don’t want to drive,” Paul muttered, edging away from her apprehensively.

Operating a malfunctioning machine gun under urgent orders to cease fire. That’s the sorry disaster Paul likened his driving to.

“You could change your mind,” Mum countered cajolingly. Beneath the car park floodlights, Paul’s looming mass cast her elfin form entirely in shadow.

You could break her… you should…

Paul’s breath shuddered in his chest.

Big Bill got her pretty good…

Rain had bucketed horizontally that day, distorting the sirens. In his mind, Paul saw Mum splayed on the cold tiles in his mind, shattered like a lobbed porcelain doll’s delicate face. Dad was crumpled beside her, bawling. Paul had been forced to leave his rugby club, once Dad’s arrest hit the news. The managers would have no connection with the disgraced forward.

“Lucky it wasn’t worse. And lucky it was me,” Mum had said fervently to a newly-subdued Paul once she’d been discharged, “not you or Deano.”

You’re bigger than him… you could do more…

Mum reached to touch Paul’s arm fondly.

“It’ll be hard to get around, once you’re on your own.”

His giant’s hand smashed Mum’s skull into the bitumen with a nauseating crunch, splintering her nose, riddling her bleeding brain with bone shards…

Break her… Do it…

NO!

“Don’t touch me!” Paul hissed wildly. Mum’s chipped pink fingertips stilled, just brushing his T-shirt sleeve.

“Don’t want the ute,” Paul mumbled, despising himself. “Save it for Deano.”

Leaving Mum behind, Paul ducked into the auditorium, passing near the diminutive principal. He remembered her from his own elementary school years.

She’d do…

The principal’s right forearm shattered in his grip…

Paul shook his head violently.

Don’t be so choosy… What about him…?

He slammed that cheery kid collecting gold-coin donations into the wall, fists buried in each kidney…

Paul groaned, mashing his face into his palms.

“Paul Fields?”

The principal studied him, mildly alarmed.

“Is something wrong?”

Paul’s fingers twitched.

Don’t engage!

“Nothing,” he muttered, sure he’d almost grabbed her. Evading her gaze, he escaped to an isolated seat in the second-to-back row. He’d barely hunched down when satin rustled, and chair-legs scraped beside him.

“Can’t you sit someplace else?” Paul growled as Mum arranged her skirts.

“Paul, love…” Mum began hesitantly as Paul knotted and drove his fists into his thighs, hard.

“Jenny!”

Voices meshing in child- and traffic-related banter, three mums and a grandma filed into the seats beside Mum, demanding her attention.

“Bloody ridiculous—roadwork at six, Jenny! On a Friday! We almost didn’t make it!”

One hit… That’s all it’d take…

Paul snapped that old hag’s collarbone…

No!

He moaned as a beefy dad dropped heavily into the seat on his right.

Paul’s fists pummelled relentlessly into his bloated gut…

Please stop!

How long can we last like this…? Stop being selfish…

“No,” Paul whispered as the principal stepped under spotlight in the darkened hall, audience hushing compliantly.

Yanking a scratched MP3 player from his pocket as they were welcomed to the end-of-year performance, Paul muffled the principal with his soundproofing earbuds, turning up the volume. Satisfied, he tucked his chin into his chest, and closed his eyes.

You can’t ignore it forever…

But there was no blood. No pain.

Paul began to unwind, near-permanent state of distress waning.

Clueless of what passed onstage, Paul coped well until the intermission. The vibrations of hundreds of unseen soles scuffling to buy drinks and queue outside the bathrooms were hard to endure.

Anyone… Choose anyone…

Paul stayed glued to his seat. He nearly sprang when a petite hand brushed his shoulder, overwound and nearing snapping point. Heart galloping, Paul snatched the water Mum offered, gulping down half the bottle in two swallows.

Settling down as the lights dimmed, Paul was half asleep when Mum prodded him gently. He groggily opened his eyes. Red curtains were closing.

“Over?”

“No, grade three’s next. Deano’ll be looking out for us. It’ll upset him if you’re not watching.”

“Can’t watch,” Paul protested as Mum pulled out his earbuds.

“You never talk to him anymore,” Mum whispered as the curtains re-opened on scraggly lines of eight-year-olds in rat ears and whiskers. “I know you’re still having a rough time…”

“I’m fine.”

“But how’s he meant to take it when you leave every time he enters a room?”

Onstage, Deano sported a magnificent handlebar moustache, presiding over the townsfolk as mayor. He’d probably been cast due to his bulk. Paul had been chubby at eight, too.

Little worshipful Deano… he’d more than do…

Paul’s hands were at his brother’s throat, slowly squeezing, strangling…

“Mum…” he breathed, petrified.

“Just watch.”

Unwillingly, Paul watched Deano hire a spritely piper girl in coloured tights to lure the rats away.

Ease the suffering… break him…

Deano refused to pay up in the next scene, crossing his arms pompously across his chest. The finale saw him weeping noisily as the tiny classmate playing his son danced away to a lively, pre-recorded tune.

Imagine if you killed him… that would fix everything…

“No,” Paul frantically denied as proud applause swept through the auditorium. Mum nudged him, and he mechanically brought his trembling hands together.

Deano found his family quickly amid the hubbub outside; Paul stood out like a burning lighthouse.

“Mum!”

“Deano! You were fantastic, love!”

Mum flung her arms about her younger son, hugging enthusiastically.

“How was I?” Deano looked to his brother, scratching his face beneath the itchy moustache before pulling it off. “Paul?”

“You were… great,” Paul managed to say. ‘Just great.’

Alight with glee, Deano lunged, fastening his pudgy, loving arms around Paul’s middle.

Unstoppable headlights glared.

Snap his neck…! Use those gruesomely engorged fingers and kill him…!

“Deano…” Paul choked, fighting for control. “That’s enough…”

But Deano wouldn’t let go, burrowing his grinning face into Paul’s chest.

KILL HIM NOW!

With a wild cry, Paul violently shoved his little brother away. Surprised, Deano nearly hit the concrete, Mum just managing to snag him before he toppled. Deano sniffled, skinny lips rippling with heartbreaking hurt.

“Paul, what the hell?!”

But Paul hurtled drunkenly to the side, heedless of Mum’s exclamation. Every scrap of his impressive weight and power summoned, Paul hurled himself into the auditorium’s solid stonework wall, elbow first.

The hideous crunch split the festive atmosphere. Paul howled. Savagely, he gritted his teeth, forcing his anguish back behind them.

That’ll do…

“Paul!”

Mum rushed forward, aghast, as Paul slumped down the wall. His tears stoppered by shock, Deano trailed after her.

“Paul… oh, love, why would you…? Come on.”

Mum swiftly gathered her wits.

“Let’s get you out of here.”

Every witness stared, shaken by the violent conclusion to the night’s events. So enthralled by his gasps as a pair of burly fathers gingerly raised Big Bill’s son to his feet, it took the first thunderous rumble and a few excited children’s cries of “it’s raining!” for onlookers to notice they were already drenched.

It’ll do for now… But it won’t be long before you’ll have to break another dry spell…

Rain pelted from heaven, drops larger than bombshells. Beneath the deafening tumult hammering the car roof, Paul gulped brokenly as Mum snapped the wipers on full-blast, and sped out onto the road.

Next time, don’t wuss out… Deano might’ve bought even more than Mum did… He’s worth a La Niña, to you…

Setting Deadlines to Streamline the Writing Process

Wrote two chapters over two days this week. Probably the most I’ve written at once since National Novel Writing Month. I brought it up briefly when a friend asked how I was going. Cause that’s how I interpret that question.

How are you going = how’s your writing going

He has a large project coming up, and asked how I managed it. I claimed by setting deadlines, and writing 1000 words a day, whether I feel like it or not.

The second one I don’t really follow. I try to. When I’m really on a roll, I can get out between 3000 and 6000 a day; I think my record is around 9000 (much easier to accomplish when unemployed). But only over short periods do I generally keep this up. Suppose everything averages out in the end. Sort of.

Setting proper deadlines, however, I find works really well. When there’s no deadline, I just kind of potter around, jump between main projects and side projects, plan a bit, read over a few things. But when I have a date to work towards, like the last day of November during NaNoWriMo, everything kind of streamlines. I can focus. I’m inspired. I don’t want anything to distract me, and it doesn’t. I don’t remember feeling stressed out during NaNoWriMo, either. 30 November was approaching, nice and calmly and slowly. And I knew I’d meet it

Maybe that wasn’t stressful in November as I knew if I didn’t meet it all would be well. The deadline I’ve currently got is mostly the same deal. I’d be highly disappointed if I didn’t meet it, but it wouldn’t spell the end for me.

Decided last week that Pulp Runner (the NaNoWriMo novel) wasn’t ready for the young adult novel competition I plan to enter come the end of March. So, decided to work full throttle on Tom, instead. He’s not quite finished, but I’ve been working on him a lot longer, and I’m more satisfied with the story in general. The plan is to pump out the final four chapters (after the two I wrote across Monday and Tuesday) fairly quickly – I have reams of notes filling my pink book for them – then spend until the end of February editing. Hopefully, I can find a few people to read it for me quick-smart, and I mean to send it on 10 March. Could probably wait a few days longer. But it has to be sent conventionally, and reach its destination by 29 March. Would rather have a bit of leeway.

A lot of work to do. Not hugely worried I haven’t been churning out the same word count over the last few days. Was working on a timeline, and getting a few resultant small, but major edits out of the way. And I’ve mostly written one of the most important parts of chapter 22 already – it was one of the earliest things I wrote for Tom.

The Pink Book is almost full, by the way. It won’t have enough room to finish Tom’s notes. But that’s okay. Already got some nice new ones to start as soon as it’s full. And a lot of stuff for Tom’s sequel is in the pink book, anyway. A bit of crossover is fine.

Now almost full, it has served me well

Now almost full, it has served me well

So, deadlines. Might seem obvious to set them. I’d recommend it, if you’re not. Once Tom’s done, I’ll have to set a good deadline for the next Treading Twisted Lines story. Think I’m developing a bit of a block against it. Hopefully setting a publishing date will kick me into churning it out.

Behind Glass (section twenty-seven)

Finished sharpening, Pan arranged her arrows neatly in the propped up quiver and jumped backwards, standing at attention as Jacyntha raised her bow. In emptying that quiver, she struck dead centre twice, then scored eight, six, nine, four, and eight, hit the centre four times in a row, and scored eight with her final shot. Pan was sure every single arrow, every score (except perhaps that four), was calculated. Between shots she’d turn to her spectators, flashing confident smiles and laughing.
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Behind Glass (section twenty-six)

From three-thirty, the castle began to fill with rich and powerful men, many come from wards right at the edge of the country. They had arrived days before, and stayed in private suits arranged in the sunniest corners of the castle, or else at their own stylish townhouses. Those who’d enjoyed appointments with pretty and popular women joined men just arrived from the city, congregating in parlours, libraries, and at the Shelves where they exchanged greetings—gentlemanly cordial handshakes between acquaintances, and boisterously enthusiastic hugs and back slaps between close friends long unmet.  From four, taking their tumblers of amber whisky and pungent smoking pipes with them, they began to flow out onto the castle grounds, crowds of common men falling back to let them pass.
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Behind Glass (section twenty-five)

All with early afternoon appointments scheduled, Jacyntha and a few other archers chose to pass their free hour after lunch together, starting in a sunny parlour and progressing to the sunnier rose gardens by the castle’s tightly guarded front gate. Apparently immune to the tense atmosphere the extensive castle guard in black created, armed with pikes and rifles and so many knifes they bristled with silver, the archers amiably discussed the next day’s tournament, though Jacyntha and Jenna in particular chattered in an anticipatory, challenging fashion, making bets as to who would score highest with their first shot, and trying to prise and trick the others’ tactics out into the open. Jared, at Jenna’s side, shot Pan an occasional disapproving, apprehensive look, warning him not to do anything controversial before the other escorts.
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