cat, fantasy, writing

Writing and Plotting

Cedar Sanderson
Vulcan’s Kittens and Clarke’s Law: technology can look like magic…

I’ve been making good progress with the book this week, enough that I may begin to snippet as early as next week. Or I might stick a bit onto the end of this post. I can’t recall if I have done an early snip of this book, or not. I’d postponed writing it once before, so I may have.

The God’s Wolfling is the sequel to Vulcan’s Kittens, which was my first full-length book, and one I wrote for my daughters, the bulk of it during Nanowrimo. My eldest had been reading Percy Jackson, and she made me read the first book (Sorry, honey, I never did get around to reading the rest of them). My reaction to it was to write her a short story, and since she was away at summer camp, mail it to her in sections. She came home from camp, told me she liked it, and I didn’t hear anything else from her until she’d started school.

Then one day (she was 12, if you want an idea of the bundle of enthusiasm and energy) she came home from school waving a piece of paper. Her teacher had introduced her to the concept of NaNo, and she wanted me to take her short story and make it into a book.

Well, I’d never finished anything longer than 10K words at that point, much less in a month… I did succeed. But as time went on, and the other novels launched, I discovered that the YA novel just didn’t sell as well as they did. Which is why I postponed the God’s Wolfling so I could write Trickster Noir. But Vulcan’s Kittens does have fans, and I had written it intending there to be at least one sequel. When school got out last month, I set word goals for finishing it by the end of this long break- two months to write it, rather than the one for VK – and began anew.

Now the story is flowing well for me, and I have chosen to keep the plot more linear than VK was, in deference to young fans that felt I ‘jumped around a lot’ with that book. Looking at YA novels, I see there is less tendency to ‘braided plots’ than there is in grown-up books. And for this book, it works. My young heroes don’t know what is going on elsewhere, they must focus on the tasks they are given, and not worry about the whole war.

I do plan to wrap up all the loose threads with this book, and don’t plan a third in their universe. Unless something extraordinary happens. Which it may.

Snippet of The God’s Wolfling

Prologue

Nothing lasts forever. The beings who had designed this system had known that, so they had opted for double back ups and redundant wiring. What they had not anticipated was that memories fail. Even theirs. Long before humanity was self-aware, the memories had already started to slip, to become erroneous. The back-up systems needed maintenance, once a millennia or so, but no-one in this galaxy knew that. Perhaps not even in the Other plane, the one the beings had come from.

Contact had been lost for so long, from their home, that those who were called gods, spirits, immortal, became tired, forgetful, and mostly, lost. Some few of them had retreated to this place, whose origin and intention had been forgotten, to sleep for eternity. They believed they could not die, as their ability to do so had been forgotten, just like this prison had been mis-remembered as an asylum from the madness that ran amuck on Earth. Blood spattered, they reached it and sighed with relief, helping one another find rest, so they thought. Dreamless sleep had claimed them for centuries, and the machines that held them suspended hummed on.

The corrosion would have been familiar to any human technician’s eye by the time the machine failed. A grayish-white rust that eroded through wires at a rate of years for each molecule lost, a rate slower than the tech might have understood, but then, when the beings had lain down, that tech would have gaped and mumbled magic at the sight of stasis tanks. Now, here, while the wires were cracking, that man would have at least been able to guess at what they were, and possibly even reverse-engineer them, if not completely understand what they did.

The being in the failing tank began to awaken. He lifted a trembling hand to his brow, brushing rime-frost from his bushy eyebrows, and then looked at it in confusion.
“It’s in the water.” His voice was more a rusty rumble, possibly not even understandable had anyone been listening. He tried to sit up.

It took him a few tries to get out of the stasis box. Far above the chamber, the sun rose and set over a desolate Icelandic landscape. Finally he was able to stagger to the box that held his beloved. He could see her, there, covered in frost and utterly still, but he could not reach her. He clawed at the cover for a release, screaming in frustration and rage when he could not find one. Eventually he collapsed on the floor next to her, half sobbing, his hand caressing the box and leaving bloody streaks from his broken fingernails.

He slept, while the sun rose and set in another day on this accursed planet. When he awakened, he had remembered. He caressed her coffin one last time, and strode away, his slender shoulders set in determination.

The sun was rising again when he emerged, and he shivered in the thin, cutting wind. He cupped his hands and whispered into them while the sun threw shadows all around him, then flung his hands up and out, releasing the message-bird he had just created. With one last word, he gave it a direction.

“Haephestus.” Manannan Mac’Lir cried aloud. “Find the Smith!”

Chapter 1

Linn tried to uncross her eyes for about the hundredth time. Hypatia was a dear, a font of wisdom, but when she got going on a pet topic, Linn could feel her eyes glaze over. She couldn’t just make an excuse and get away, she had to sit and listen as Hypatia was now officially her primary teacher.

Pele and Theta had announced that she would not attend public school on the Big Island. Too dangerous, it had been decided, it was a small world, and an even smaller community, and there would be curiosity. Having grandparents who were gods of ancient times, and a mother who was also fully immortal was cool, but had unforeseen consequences. So Linn had lessons with Daffyd, and Hypatia, and sometimes others who travelled in and out of Sanctuary. It was much easier, she had to admit, and she learned more than in public school. Being taught by the former librarian of the Library of Alexandria was a definite plus.

It wasn’t as though she didn’t have friends. Bes, the dwarf Egyptian god, made a point of dropping by and teaching her self-defense and what he called ‘cunning classes.’ Deirdre shared lessons along with Linn although today she was working, and her cousins took part in some classes. Deirdre was a coblyn, with green skin and long pointed ears, and a very geek mind in between them. All the coblyns were related, Linn had discovered, although some so distant it left her hopelessly confused.

It was just that she wished she were more useful. But ever since the battle on the High Plane, and the installation of the EMP weapon, it seemed to her that the war had gone cold. She wanted it resolved. Heff disappeared on mysterious missions from time to time, and she knew that had to be about the elder gods and the conflict, but he wouldn’t talk about it. She was equally certain that had anything major happened it would have been all over Sanctuary about a minute later.

Linn knew that she was only sixteen, so she couldn’t do a lot, yet. Even though a hundred years ago – or even back in the time of the gods! – she would have been a full-grown adult. Hypatia stopped talking. Linn jumped guiltily, aware that she had not been paying attention.

“Yes?” she ventured, wondering if she had missed a question.

“Do you need a recess?” Hypatia’s smile took the sting out of having been caught daydreaming.

“I’m sorry.” Linn really did feel bad about it. “I’m just… distracted.”

Hypatia came and sat down at the table next to her. “Want to talk about it?”

“I don’t know,” Linn responded. “I guess I just feel useless.”

“You want some more adventures?”

“Yeah. Summer before last was exciting in bad ways at times, but I had a purpose. I needed to get the kittens here, and then Bes…” her voice trailed off as she remembered his terrible wounds.

“But now, nothing happens?”

Linn could hear the laughter in Hypatia’s voice, and she could see that she was being a little silly. She wasn’t important, except as the daughter of Theta, a child of the gods. Children who had the power of the gods were rare, and guarded carefully.

“I know, that’s a good thing,” she admitted grudgingly.
Hypatia shook her head. “I know I am the very model of the cloistered scholar. But I do understand that experience is every bit as important as book learning. I’ll talk to Pele, since Theta is traveling. You need some exercise, both physical and mental.”

Linn couldn’t get excited about this, but she said thank you. Hypatia shooed her out of her office.

“Take Blackie and go swimming,” she said.

Linn made her escape. There wasn’t a big surf at the Sanctuary beach, but she had been learning how to body-surf and it sounded a lot better than sitting in a windowless office. She stopped in the common room, looking for the big cats. No longer kittens, Blackie was easily the size of a Bengal tiger, and Spot not far behind him. The tabby was less heavily muscled, though, built like a cheetah. Unlike house cats, they both loved to swim.

They were sitting and attentively listening to Bes hold forth on something: battle, no doubt. Both boys were obsessed with war. Linn sometimes thought Blackie, at least, ought to know better.

This crossed her mind in an instant, then she bowled into their midst to hug Bes. She hadn’t seen him in ages.
“Here now!” He held her out at arm’s length to look at her. “You’re no taller than you were, so how have you gotten bigger?”

Linn shook her head at him. “I’ve shrunk, just look at the boys.”

She put her hand on Blackie’s head, well above waist height on her. Spot, laughing, reared up and put his paws on her shoulders from behind, knocking her forward. Bes caught her with one hand and cuffed Spot behind the ear with the other.

“I think you need to burn off some energy, kitten.”

“I was going to the beach,” Linn extricated herself as Blackie used his shoulder to shove his brother out of the way.

“Sounds like a plan.” Bes set her down and ruffled Spot’s fur.

“Oh, good, you’re coming with?” She followed the big cats at a distance, as they were now play-fighting their way along the corridor.

“Don’t have anything better to do,” he ambled alongside her with his bow-legged stroll.

She tried to sound casual, “the war has cooled down?”

“Yes and no,” he surprised her by actually giving her an answer. It always seemed to Linn that the adults in her life sidestepped when she brought it up.

“There is no overt action, but little nasty incidents. Someone tried to get into Coyote’s valley, we don’t know who, or why, unfortunately. The Monster didn’t leave us anything but ashes.”

Linn frowned, “Why would they want to get in there?”

“Because his power is very great. He’s older than… I don’t know. Older than I am, but Coyote never gives a straight answer, you know.”

“Crooked as a dog’s hind leg,” she murmured with a smile at her own joke.

“Ayup,” he agreed with an evil grin.

They came out into the bright sunlight at the tunnel’s end and headed for the bathhouse.

Pele kept it stocked with suits in all sizes, for Bes, and other visitors, and Linn had gotten in the habit of keeping hers in there after forgetting it in her room too many times. The big cats were already splashing in the surf. Linn could see there wasn’t enough wave action for surfing, but she wasn’t in the mood for that anyway. She wanted to talk to Bes.

It seemed odd to her, she mused, clipping her long hair up and out of her way for swimming, to be so comfortable when there was a war on. Sure, most of the human world had no idea, but she knew. The beach scene seemed like cheating with what she knew and had seen. She stepped out of the changing room into the sun and blinked.

Bes had beat her into the water. She noted with approval that he was letting his hair go as black as his skin again. She had pointed out to his that he had no real need to look old, and he certainly didn’t act old. Unlike her grandfather.

Linn ran into the cool sea, throwing up a shower of sparkling drops shot through with rainbows, and scooped up a double-handful of water to fling at Bes. He retaliated, and she let her worries go in the laughing conflict of the moment. It ended with her lying breathless on her back at the very edge of the water. The waves lapping at her legs cooled them, but her cheeks burned from the heat of her exertions. It felt nice.

Bes dropped into lotus position by her head. Blackie and Spot came and stretched out into the dry sand nearby.

“Bes?” Linn began, feeling oddly shy.

“Pop out the question, kiddo, before you pop.” He reached down and pulled a strand of wet hair out of her face. She arched her head back so she could see his face. He was smiling a little, and she felt the familiar tickle of irritation at adults anticipating her all the time, like nothing she said or did really surprised them.

“Am I old enough?” she asked finally.

He tipped his head slightly to one side. Linn sighed, and went on, “ok, maybe that was too vague.”

He shook his head. “I think I got it. You are ready to leave the safe place and do something with all that boundless energy. Why have power, and not use it?”

“I want to be useful. I feel like all I am doing here is staying out of the way.”

“In all my centuries, I’ve seen a lot of war. And more peace. Teenager is  a new concept, you know. It wasn’t that long ago when a girl your age was married. A boy your age was working hard to support his family, and you’d be working right alongside him,” he stopped to take a deep breath. “It’s better, now. You get a chance to grow up, to really learn something, before you have to focus on raising a family of your own.”

Linn sat up. “I don’t want a family. I don’t even want a boyfriend.”

He laughed, “good, otherwise Heff and I would have to go talk to him.”

She laughed along with him at the thought of some poor boy having to stand up to the two of them in full parental mode.

“You’re champing at the bit. Nothing wrong with that. You’re old enough to start working and test yourself.” He reached out and tapped her on the nose. “Just don’t go looking for trouble?”

Linn nodded. She had no intention of finding trouble, she just wanted to do something. Her stomach rumbled audibly, making them both laugh again.

“How about lunch?” Bes suggested, just before being bowled over by three teens headed for food.

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