NaNoWriMo, and a Book Release!

Yep, it’s that time again. This is my 8th year doing NaNoWriMo and I’ve written scores and scores about this already, so I’m not going to go there again. Y’all know the drill 🙂 If you’re doing it, please drop me a message and feel free to add me on the site. I’ll also be doing 50k Day One again, and you can follow along on my progress here as well as on Twitter.

Book Release: Capturing Devonshire

And speaking of my Twitter, you may notice I’ve linked @authorhelenrose and not @africanstardust. That’s because I have actually finally published my first novel, Capturing Devonshire, and I will be publishing many more under the name Helen Rose. Thank you to all of you who have followed along and supported me throughout my writing journey – I wouldn’t have gotten here without you.

Helen Rose is also on Facebook and Instagram, and I will be blogging under that name as well. As an indie author, likes, shares, and reviews on any of these platforms are crucial to success, and your continued support would mean so much to me. Love your faces ❤

Good luck, me maties, yo ho!

The Beginning, and Some Honest Thoughts

NaNoWriMo begins tonight at midnight! As usual, I will be taking a nap this afternoon so that I’m fresh and ready for 50k Day One. I have managed to convince a few others from my region to join me, so we’ll see how we fare. If you want to follow my progress, you can do so here, as I am planning to update the sheet every hour. Here is last year’s, for comparison 🙂 We will also be tweeting and instagramming under the hashtags #50kKillMeNow and #50kDayOne, so feel free to follow there as well (my handle on both is africanstardust, big shocker). As always, encouraging messages throughout the day are so appreciated and I love you all for sending them! I may not reply right away (because the typing) but believe me, I read every one.

I’ve realized over the past few days how much NaNoWriMo has gotten me through. I do it because I love it, yes, but it means so much more to me than that. The first year I did it I was so isolated and alone because of extenuating circumstances, and it gave me a beautiful community of random strangers who made the effort of checking my blog to encourage me and urge me on. Two years ago, I was dealing with emotional trauma and feeling like my whole world had fallen apart, and NaNoWriMo was literally the bridge that helped me get to the other side. And this year, I’ve had so many ups and downs, the accident, feeling utterly overwhelmed with academics, and dealing with depression and hopelessness.

NaNo is the time of the year when we give ourselves a gift: the gift of permission to lose ourselves in writing. It’s when we set other things aside and look after our creative souls and make time for this precious, beautiful thing, no matter how busy we are. It has played a huge part in restoring me to myself in the past, and I hope that, wherever you are and whatever you’re going through, it does the same for you. Let yourself sink into the beauty of what writing is and what it means for your soul. Allow yourself to grow and push and go to new places you haven’t been before. Set yourself free. So, from me to you: happy writing.

Veronique / africanstardust

NaNo TB-non-T: 2013

NaNo 2011 was a total crash and burn, so much so that for the longest time I couldn’t even remember what my novel idea was. Blame it on the first year of university. Anyway…apparently I wrote about 2,000 words of the novel I restarted in 2012, Prin Ten Arken: Before the Beginning. So, moving on to 2013, since I already posted a 2012 TBT.

2013 was The Hilt and the Blade, which is also part of the Kirael series and takes place right before the Shard trilogy.

Excerpt 1

Adyah glared at him with fiery eyes, her weapon ready in her hands. The fierce wind blowing up from the chasm and swirling around them was deafening, and it was dark except for the moonlight. She felt vulnerable without Alerone, but she also knew her own capabilities. She had not been sent as the representative of her clan to the Red Clearing for nothing.

“Who are you?” came a deep, loud voice, strong enough that she could hear him over the noise of the wind. “What do you want?”

“It is no business of yours!” she replied, shouting as loudly as she could. “All that I require of you is to let me pass!”

“I cannot,” came the answer. The man began inching his way closer to her, fighting against the wind.

She grasped the hilt of her sword tightly, refusing to back down. “I will not yield,” she warned. “I will not flee from you. I will fight.”

He was close now. “That is what I intend.” He raised his sword above his head and brought it down with a great, resonating clang as it met with her blade. The strength he felt in her arm as she wielded the sword impressed him, and he realized he had perhaps underestimated her. For a moment, neither of them moved. A cloud that had been shrouding the moon gently glided away, and the full light of it washed over them, lighting their eyes with that strange blue flame that only moonlight can bring. Immediately her eyes fell to his armor, and abruptly she lowered her blade, staring at the insignia on his breastplate. Something deterred him from taking advantage of the situation and finishing her off, and he waited to see what she would do.

“Are you of the Crystal City?” she asked, raising her eyes to his.

“Yes,” he said slowly. “I thought you knew that.”

“Quick,” she said, grabbing his wrist, “I need your help.”

Before he could protest she pulled him towards the rim of the basin, surprisingly agile over the jagged and loose rocks. He held back and jerked his arm away from her, and she turned to face him, a look of mixed annoyance and puzzlement on her face. Another cloud passed over the moon and he could only see her silhouette.

“What is it?” she asked somewhat impatiently.

“What do you mean, ‘what is it’? A moment ago it was my intent to kill you, and apparently your intent to kill me, and now you want my help. I am not unwilling to help you, but then you must tell me who you are. For all I know you are an enemy.” He could not see her face in the shadows, and she stood perfectly still and silent for a few moments.

“I am a servant of the Crystal Blade and of the one who created it. Is that enough?”

He stared at her figure, surprised. What an odd way to answer a question…surely if she were the enemy, she would have had a much more common explanation. And to speak in such a way, to sound like the legends of old…

“Very well,” he answered finally. “Lead the way.”

Adyah turned and continued up the slope to the basin’s rim, very aware that she was being foolish by turning her back on someone who had just tried to kill her and who still had a ready weapon in his hands. But she was desperate. They were able to go faster and faster the further away they ran from the chasm and the wind, and finally they pulled themselves up over the rim and were happy to feel solid ground beneath their feet again.

Excerpt 2

Adyah, with her whole head wrapped in a white bandage, was sitting upright on one of the beds, arguing with a perfectly well meaning physician who clearly knew better than she did about what state she was in, but who was apparently unable to convince her. At the sight of his sister so badly injured and blood seeping even through the thick bandage Jack was filled with dread and pity, but hearing her argue so vehemently he was sure that she would be all right.

“I’ve told you, you cannot possibly continue fighting-“

“I’m sorry, do I have some sort of time limit stamped on my forehead? Do I look like I can’t keep fighting? Because I can keep fighting.”

“It’s not a question of fatigue, it’s a question of-“

“What?! What did you say? Fatigue? Are you saying I’m too fatigued? I’m not too fatigued, you hopeless, uneducated bumpkin. I don’t get fatigued. Do you know who I am? I’m going to fight, and I’d like to see you stop me.”

“As I said, it’s not a question of that, but with that head injury and how severe it is, I simply don’t see-“

”I can see you don’t see! If you could see then you would be able to see that I’m not tired at all and that it’s only a minor head wound and I can keep going! I can’t even feel anything! How can you tell me it’s a serious head wound when I can’t even feel anything?

“It might have something to do with the bottle of medicinal spirits you downed thinking it was brandy!” the physician said, raising his voice for the first time.

Jack decided it was time to step in. “Hello, Adyah. How are you feeling?” He eyed the pool of blood soaking into the bandage and knew that the physician was right and there was no way she could continue in the battle.

“I’m perfectly fine, as I’m trying to tell this physician of yours. Shouldn’t you be more carefully about who you allow to treat patients in this place? I mean honestly, he doesn’t know what he’s doing and he’s telling me I can’t fight, and I know I can fight. I know I can.”

Jack looked at the physician. “I am sorry. Would you excuse us for a moment?” he asked.

Gladly, sir. Gladly.” With that the physician stepped away and went out of the tent.

“Adyah…” Jack knelt in front of her and looked her in the eye. He knew she knew, but he also knew that she was a lot like him, and he knew he would be saying the same things if he were in her position. “You know he’s right.”

Her eyes became moist and she winced again, for the first time showing her pain. “Ugh. I know. I feel like a cannon ball was shot into my skull.”

“It’s all right. There will be other battles. For now you have to rest, all right?”

She nodded. “If you say so. Just tell the doctor to mind his own business and stop yelling at me. It hurts my head.”

Jack nodded. “All right. rest.You’ll be fine.”

He left the tent and grinned at the physician. “She says she’ll rest.”

NaNo TB-non-T: 2010

I’m not going to post excerpts from my very first NaNo (2009) because, quite frankly, it’s a mess. These excerpts are from my two 2010 novels, neither of which are even close to finished. The first is from City of Sand, and the second is from Spare Me Over, which should probably be a short story instead of a novel. 2010 was a NaNo “fail” because I was adventuring in India the whole month and not writing very much, but I still got some words down so it’s a win either way 🙂

Excerpt 1 (City of Sand)

I awoke to the most horrible sound I’d ever heard in my life. In between sleeping and waking I thought it must be cats screaming, but the horror of it gradually came upon me as I became more and more awake. People. It was people. I shot up from the bed and barely noted that it was dark outside. The house was eerily quiet, except for the occasional cry. I hurried out. None of the torches were lit, but whispers of rustling material and soft padding feet told me the whole house must be awake. The cry came from Rashid’s chamber, and this made me hesitate; but I recognized Nefertari’s voice and hurried toward the door.

I stood at the post, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness. Ramses was holding Nefertari’s shoulders, and she was on the floor, hunched over in an almost grotesque posture, her whole body giving in to her cries. On the bed was a white sheet, which I did not understand; where was Rashid? but then I saw the form of a man beneath it, and knew; he was dead.

Now the cries in the city again reached my ears. The whole of Thebes seemed to be mourning. All for Rashid? That didn’t make sense. What could have…

Moses. Unable to control my terror I let out a cry and quickly covered my mouth.

Both of them looked up as one, their heads snapping up. I was shocked by the glint of hatred in their eyes. I reminded myself that it was only dark; they didn’t hate me. Why would they?

But then Ramses stood and walked toward me, and I knew I’d been right. He gripped my arm tightly, painfully, and pushed me backward so quickly that I nearly stumbled.

“I’m sorry, I – “

“Silence!” his voice was hoarse and strained. I flinched at the hate in his voice. He wasn’t my father, but he was the only father I’d ever had. What had I done to make him so angry?

“But – “

He threw me against the wall. “You will leave this house and not return,” he said through gritted teeth. I was reminded of the night Rashid had attacked me. “Your people have done enough damage. May you all die in the desert, scorched by the sun and slaughtered by the nomads.”

“Please,” I pleaded, going to my knees. “Let me stay, I beg you! I want nothing to do with them, I don’t even believe in their God-“

“Did you not hear him?” came Nefertari’s dry, cold voice. She stood still like a statue, her arms crossed. “Leave. Nsiri will bring your gold.”

I frowned. “I don’t…I don’t understand…”

“Pharaoh has released you. And Moses demands our treasure.”

Again I shook my head, and crawled nearer to Ramses, clutching the hem of his robes. “Please, I – “

“Don’t touch me.”

I realized, then, that they were beyond hating me, and they would never not hate me. Their son was dead. That was enough. Despair gripped my chest and I let out a dry sob, my body heaving with it, but I stood. Intense hatred of Moses made my blood boil. This was my home. This was my family. This was my life, and I loved it. And now…now I was destined to roam the desert until we all dropped dead like flies, the laughing stock of Egypt and anyone who heard of us.

“I’ll take the gold myself,” I said bitterly.

“And the horses.”

I stared at Ramses. “What?”

“Take them all. What use have I for them without an heir? Without a son? Take them!” he bellowed, the whole house echoing with his ferocity.

Now I was afraid, for while he had been shouting, his hand had dropped to his waist, to the hilt of his dagger.

I ran.

I ran to the stables, but heard him behind me, and I knew he would catch up to me. Without thinking or stopping to consider I threw open the nearest stall door and pulled myself onto the back of the horse inside, gripping its mane.

“Go!” I shouted, kicking its sides, and the horse leaped forward, more out of fear and confusion than because of my ineffective command. Around me the cries of Egypt echoes in the night, and I prayed to whatever gods there were that the sound of galloping hooves beneath me would drown out the agony I felt in my bones.

Excerpt 2 (Spare Me Over):

Death stood on the peak of a 14,000 foot, snow-covered mountain, overlooking the city. Breath was something he’d had to get used to, and he was still fascinated by the puff of white fog that showed his warm breath turn to mist.

He felt something behind him; not a presence, exactly, but a fragrance; and shivers ran down his spine. Another thing he’d had to get used to. How many millions of neurons the human body carried; how sensitive and fragile and feeling it was. He did not turn around.

“Your winter is magnificent,” Death said in a low voice.

“It is. All my creations are magnificent.” The voice was like nothing he’d ever heard on earth, except sometimes in the pattering of rain on lush green leaves or in the lonely song of the wind.

“When can I come home?”

There was a pause. “Everywhere there is, I am. Everywhere I am, you are home.”

“You know what I mean.” He did not usually speak this way to the Key Holder, but he was desperate. Things had happened that he had not been expecting and he wanted to go home before they became too big of a problem. Surely the Key Holder must know; he knew everything.

“When my purpose with you has been fulfilled here, you may return home.”

Death nearly turned around then. He felt hopeless and broken. “I don’t understand. You sent me here because I was too arrogant; because I did not understand your love for humans. Because I thought them a useless waste of air and soil. But I have come to see; I have come to love them myself. Wasn’t that your purpose?”

“My purpose,” said the voice, sending the fragrance swirling all around Death in a comforting cloud, “is my purpose and not yours. You could not know my purpose if you believed your most incredible dreams.”

Dreams. Before being human, Death had never had dreams. Now he couldn’t imagine never having them again. The fragrance slowly faded from the cool mountain air.

Day 26 and Things Get Deep

The madness is slowly but surely nearing its end. And being a reflective person, I thought this would be a good time to do so.

don-t-panic-i-m-not-crazy-i-m-a-writer

Why do I write? This NaNo has reminded me. I’m not sure exactly when I forgot this, but the important thing is that I’m going to do my best not to forget it again. I write because, quite simply, I must. Writing is It. Not It as in “all I need,” but It as in “the thing I have to do.” I have said this in the past, but through all my many phases of life and changing and growing and what not (and there have been many phases), the two things that have always stayed with me are God and writing. There have been rough patches, of course, with both of them, but I’ve never managed to get away from either. I’m not an expert with either, and I make mistakes with both, but there it is. So I hope that after November ends, I will remember this and not neglect my writing again, no matter how busy things might get next year.

hiloniqueThings have also gotten deep in the actual story. Scenes that I have been unsure about, struggling with, and changing for eleven years have fallen into place. Plot holes have been filled in – well, the important ones, at least. And I have stayed true to that book that I wrote in Estes Park, Colorado when I was twelve and busy chasing after fairies and hobbits with my lovely friend and fellow writer, Hilary. This book is so sentimental and nostalgic to me; it’s the first thing I wrote, the thing that opened up this whole world of writing…so I guess it’s fitting that it’s this book that has reminded me of the things I mentioned just now.

Anyway, enough of that…NaNo victories so far!
1. This is the first NaNo where I have not relied on extensive battle scenes for word count.
2. I’ve written almost every day of the month, except for two days when I intentionally gave myself a break. Usually I only write on 10-15 of the days, so this is big.
3. So far I’ve written over 40,000 words more than I ever have in a month before.
4. My typing speed has increased, which is always a plus and helpful for more things than writing fiction.

NaNo non-victories:
1. I am now drinking more coffee than I was drinking even during exam time. I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m going to blame it on NaNo.
2. That’s really the only negative here, and I’m not sure I’m really counting it as a negative 🙂

We’re seriously almost there! Let’s do this, people.