The prologue from my forthcoming novel “The Cliffs of Connemaigh”

The prologue from my forthcoming novel “The Cliffs of Connemaigh”, the second book in “The Chronicles of the Starborn”. Enjoy!

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(Photo can be found here)

Prologue

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A Harrowing Retreat

 

The disheveled man kept running. That was all he had done for the past several days now. Days? Weeks?  He didn’t know by this point. He lost his horse just nights before now, and fear consumed his life every night since. Looking down, he kept his feet moving, one foot in front of the other. Dried blood was sprayed upon his dirt-marred jeans. Thus far, the banshee had failed to rip out his guts at every turn. Banshee. The word came to him from nowhere. He knew the name, but did not know how or where from.

I wish I still had the horse. It was the third night out, from what he could remember, that the banshee in their white gowns had ripped the animal apart. He could still hear the screams of the horse in his mind and see the horse’s blood upon the pristine white dresses. There was something about those white dresses that tickled the back of his mind. Looking up to the sky, his lips pulled down at the sight of the heavy dark gray clouds rolling in that threatened to let loose the deluge of water that filled them. If there’s a God above, don’t rain. I need the fire to keep them at bay. East. Due east. I need to get there. I can’t stop. If I stop, I die. Looking down, he could see his fingers twitching. His neck was sore and his heart raced. I must get there! Where is there? I don’t know. Just get there. He wanted to do nothing more than stop and cry right then, but he knew that the banshee would come if he did…  If they come, I’m as good as dead.

Running as fast as he could, he watched his feet as they raced each other. Branches creaked and cracked under his feet, giving away his position. He looked up and in front of him to see what was coming up. A fallen tree and then an open field appeared ahead of him. Yes! A clearing! Now if I can keep a fire going. And stay close enough to it.  He jumped over the tree and broke out into the clearing. A good place to stop for the moment at least. Rest up some. Yeah, I need to do that. Or a tree. I could sleep in a tree again. As much as those bitches will let me anyway.  He had slept in a tree the night before. Or as much as he could sleep at any rate. The creatures had spent the entire night at the base of the tree. Even with those talons, they couldn’t make it up. By some miracle, he hadn’t fallen out of the tree either. The idea of sleeping in a tree tickled his memory as well. It was as though he had heard someone talking about it before. Frowning, he looked around the clearing. No, I need to keep going. Another tree would be better. He ran to the east again, towards the tree line, and into the trees. The scent of rotting leaves greeted his nostrils. Much better than entrails.  He would need to find a tree with great haste.

As the sky grew darker, not just from the failing daylight, but also from the clouds, a muffled cry came from the north. He looked to glimpse the shape of a woman with dark hair and the white dress. Run faster. He dared not look at the woman for too long. He had discovered if he did, the banshee would look at him with those black, pitiless eyes. Don’t look! Coming to a tree that looked like it could bear his weight, he scrambled up it. A screech from the banshee came just after. Close! Too close! Looking around, he saw more of them. Safe for the moment. Safer than the ground. As they began their screeching again he knew that the banshee were not going to let him get much sleep tonight. He knew he had heard that screech even before he had lost the horse. He would need to remain vigilant this night, but as he looked around he noticed something else: the vegetation was changing.  So many more pines, firs, spruces… A slow smile crept across his face as he looked at it. That is a good thing.

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Minor Characters

Cinemagraphic Writing

Recently, in the circles that I’m in, more and more people are asking what to do about minor characters. They want to flush them out, give them their own backstory, their own story, understand their background, and everything that makes them tick, but should they do that? How much attention should we give our minor characters? To address this, let’s look at real life.

There are people you encounter every day that you know nothing about. You go to the gas station, fuel up, go inside to get a snack, and the only words exchanged between you and the cashier are:

“Hello, how are you today?”

“I’m great, thanks.”

“Your total will be $5.98.” A pause as the cashier accepts the cash from you, and then she smiles at you and hands you your purchased item. “Thank you, and have a great day.”

“Thanks. You too.” And you leave.

Now…

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Overview of the Different Tenses

Cinemagraphic Writing

Let’s examine the different tenses. Next week’s post will show how important tense is especially when handling a flashback, but today, let’s familiarize ourselves with the basics.

Tense can be simple or very, very complex—depends on however you want to make it. Simply put, tense tells us when something was or will be done—past, present or future. There four categories of tenses, and each category has a past, present and future tense. This is where the confusion comes in, so let me just show you:

Tense Categories:

Simple

Progressive

Perfect

Perfect Progressive

Simple Tense:

Past: John tried cooking yesterday

Present: Hannah knows better than to let him cook again.

Future: He will burn the house down next time.

Progressive:

Past: John was taking cooking lessons.

Present: Hannah is trying to convince him that pouring oil on a heated pan is not a good idea.

Future: John will be returning to…

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Flashbacks and Tenses

Cinemagraphic Writing

Flashbacks and tenses—what is the connection? It’s very subtle and simply something done naturally. However, flashbacks are complicated, so it bears mentioning.

Some stories are written in present tense. How should a flashback be handled in such a story? The flashback is the past, but the actual story is in the present. We live in the present, but we often think or tell stories of the past, and when we do that, it’s often in past tense. For this reason, flashbacks in present tense stories should be written in past tense, and when the flashback is finished, the tense should switch back to present tense.

Yes, I’m recommending switching tenses in the middle of a story, and this is frowned upon. Handling flashbacks is tricky—especially signaling when they start and when they conclude. In film, this signal is often done by different lighting, but because we can’t use that mechanism…

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Describing Your Characters upon Introduction

Another great one by Kelly Blanchard.

Cinemagraphic Writing

In a sense, there is a ‘camera’ in your story which sets the pace of how the scene unfolds. Description immediately slows down the pace, and too much description makes it almost slow motion. It’s not important to record every detail in order for the readers to get a clear image of the character in their head. Let them imagine whom they will—just as long as the character’s personality doesn’t change. The personality is what shines through and what should remain consistent regardless of how others imagine their appearance.

Once I let someone read a chapter of a story of mine, and she gave me this feedback:

Character development – I very much enjoyed how you are developing your characters. Nothing annoys me more when a writer says here is my character, this is what they look like, this is their temperament within the first couple of paragraphs without giving…

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Determining the Person

Cinemagraphic Writing

Before you write a story, you must know which ‘person’ you will write it in. This isn’t as simple as “Oh, well, I wrote a story in third person last time, so I’m going to write in first person this time.” It might work out that way for you, but when you approach a new story, you must listen to your characters. Listen to the voice of the story.

I once co-wrote a story with a young writer, and our story was written in third person. As we wrote more and more, I coached her in different aspects she needed to improve. One day she revealed something to me, “I hate writing in third person. I only ever write in first person.” On the surface there is nothing wrong with a preference of person. However, if that preference gets in the way of your practice of the other persons, then…

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Notice What You Notice

Cinemagraphic Writing

In my previous post, we discussed the introduction of a character and how to describe them without the writing becoming boring. Now, we can come across the same problem when it comes to describing setting and a scene. I’ve discussed some of this in earlier posts, which I will link at the bottom of this one, but I wanted to touch upon another aspect and basically give you homework (which you don’t have to actually share unless you want to).

I mentioned the term ‘deductive writing’. What is that? Let’s bring Sherlock Holmes back into this. He uses deductive reasoning to come to his conclusions and solve the mysteries. Now, how do we apply this to writing?

Sherlock Holmes is very observant. That is what makes him good at what he does. Not every character will be as observant as he. If your MC is a boy-crazy girl who has…

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Dealing with Procrastination

Cinemagraphic Writing

“How do you deal with procrastination?” I’ve been asked, and I ask them, “Well, what’s your reason for procrastinating?”  Usually I don’t get much of a response except for an indecisive, uncertain answer such as a shrug of the shoulder and, “I don’t know.” In order to tackle procrastination, you must first determine why you do it. It is a means to pass time, but pass time from what? For us writers, usually we’re procrastinating from working on our stories in one way or another. What are some ways and reasons we procrastinate? Here’s a list:

  • Distracted
  • Bored
  • Really just don’t want to do what you have to do
  • Not even sure what you’re supposed to do
  • Don’t know how to do what you’re supposed to do
  • Tired or beyond exhausted
  • Not feeling well
  • Can’t get your thoughts organized
  • Totally unmotivated to do anything
  • Lacking direction
  • Keep getting interrupted
  • Stressed out

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Description Slows Down the Story…or Does It?

Cinemagraphic Writing

The common argument is, “Dialogue is quick while description can slow down a story.” Is this true in regards to description? Yes and no. It depends on the type of description. If the description is body language, this can actually give the story a good, steady pace without interrupting the flow. If the description is narrative, there is potential of slowing the story. Let’s break each of these down, but keep in mind that at this time we are not discussing description that sets the scene or describes a character.

Body language is important to add immediate depth to a character, but some writers hesitate employing it. Yes, too much body language has the ability to slow down a scene, but if you use the proper expressions, it can actually add to the action. Take a look at the following examples:

Dialogue tag without body language:

Are you sure…

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Set the Scene Without Slowing the Story

Cinemagraphic Writing

I was going to move on to another topic this week, but I touched upon something in last week’s post, and I think it’s important to focus on it briefly. Last week we discussed mainly narrative description and use of body language and whether those two slow down a story, but there is another kind of description. This is the description which sets the scene or introduces a character. I’m not going to go into introduction of a character because I’ve already posted about that, which you can find here: Character Introduction.

I’ve also already discussed description in great detail in previous blog posts. You can find them in the following:

Painting Pictures With Words

Movement in Description 

However, in this post I want to focus on the question, “Does scene-setting description slow down the story?” It has the potential to do this especially if it isn’t done right or…

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