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Above: The novel-writing work- and plan-space.

It seems like every novel I write needs an entirely different way of working. The first one was very linear, very simple and I essentially just wrote it from front to back, using images that I printed out for reference. The second one was more complicated, and it needed a lot of planning and notes and back and forth.

This one is even more complex, with various viewpoint characters and all kinds of mysteries and that’s making it break my brain. Oddly enough, it’s about candles and light and darkness and all kinds of things that provide illumination, so you’d think I’d see my way more clearly. But not yet. For now, it’s still scenes and scribbles, bits and pieces, flickers and flames. It’s starting to come together though. Eventually. Surely. I make my way through the darkness.

And here’s a bit of the darkness, pulled to light. Rough draft, out of the middle of the first section of the novel…

***

 

Eighty people he’d invited to his house. All of them had come — who wouldn’t have said yes? He was the newest member of the Corona’s inner ring, after all — and Sebastian couldn’t think of a single one that he actually liked. Or trusted. Other than Collin, of course, and Collin was hardly a guest.

Sebastian adjusted his already straight long coat. Oriental was the style this season, and his coat buttoned with knots in the shape of a lion’s head, the fabric a silky mix of butter yellow flames and vanilla circles. The pants, too, were of fine-woved silk in a softly shimmering shade of gold. Even his mask followed the Corona’s colors, covering the upper half of his face with its waxy surface smooth, its ornately carved design. If Collin had had his way, Sebastian’s hair would have been dyed as well, a honey blonde to replace his normally dark hue. He’d drawn the line there, merely pulling his black hair into a low ponytail.

Even so, he still felt like a boy playing dress-up. He supposed in many ways he was — the poor son of an even poorer slaver should never have risen this far. But that was one of the benefits of outliving most of the people who’d known your family. Everyone forgot that you were supposed to be a ratty boy scurrying underfoot. Everyone, of course, except the ratty boy, who remembered and was eternally surprised to find himself here, dressed in fine fabric, taking the congratulatory handshake of a man who’d never before deigned to speak his name.

“Well done, Sebastian,” the man said. Sebastian recognized him as Theodore Robark, one of only three Lumens, those rumored to have the very ear of the Flame. The man leaned in, and through the gold shine of his mask, Sebastian registered a gaze that was twice as sharp and young as the aging voice. “I voted for you, you know.”

If everyone who said they’d voted for Sebastian had actually done so, he should have gained two seats on the circle instead of just one. But the fact that they were saying such, meant they felt him to be a man to watch. And that was exactly where he aimed to be. At least for now.

“I appreciate your support,” Sebastian said, cupping the man’s elbow as they shook. It was intimate, perhaps too much so, but if he didn’t meet them with strength, they would turn on him as quickly as dogs in a pack.

But for now, everything was perfect. Candle and electric lighting combined to show his guests at their best advantages, in their gossamer gowns, their vanilla tuxes, their ornate wax masks. His house was filled with the highest members of the Corona. Only the Flame herself was missing, and it was rumored that she never left her waxworks, that only a few even knew where to find her. He would find her, eventually. Find her and kill her.
Not now. Now, he would smile at Robark, and he would nod and he would play dress up in his shiny clothes. And no one would be the wiser.

The Lumen’s attention was shifting. Sebastian caught him eying the young women in the far corner, their generous curves coated in wax, only their faces fully exposed to the glances of partygoers.

“Might I?” the man asked.

Sebastian swallowed back a pang of regret; he’d had to bring the women in. It would draw attention if he didn’t, but he’d hoped to keep them safe and unscathed, ornamental only. But he couldn’t very well turn down a Lumen.

“Please, allow me to—” Sebastian began.

A presence at Sebastian’s side. Without looking, he know that it was Collin and that something was wrong. One didn’t match with another for so long and not have a bond with them that precluded words. And Collin, of all these people, was the one who knew something of Sebastian, and that meant he wouldn’t have interrupted if it wasn’t dire.

“I’m sorry,” he said to Robark. “I’m afraid I’ve a pressing matter to attend to. Please help yourself. The women will be happy to assist you.”

“You’re very generous,” Robark said, in a voice that hadn’t decided yet whether he meant it. He nodded to Sebastian, spared little more than a glance for Collin, and then made his way toward the corner. Collin was so far below the man’s radar, a pet, a bit of kindling, that Sebastian doubted the Lumen had even really seen him.

“Sir,” Collin said, pure decorum. In private, he was Sebastian, more often Seb. But here, for this crowd, Collin had to call him Sir, had to be nothing, no one. If it wore on Collin, he never said so. Just one more reason Sebastian felt something far more than gratitude for his match. Around them, men and women in gold and manilla danced and chattered, seemingly unaware, but Sebastian knew all eyes were on him. This was his debut, his coming out, his trial by trail.

Ducking his head, Sebastian nodded for Collin to lead the way toward the foyer, somewhere more private.

Collin, oddly, stood his ground, lowering his voice just enough so that Sebastian could barely hear him. A second later, as Collin’s words echoed in his head, Sebastian saw why Collin hadn’t even bothered to try.

“Your daughter.”

And already, there she was, standing — leaning, rather — in the open doorway of the foyer, blinking rapidly as though his house had grown too bright in her absence. Or as though she’d been hiding too long in shadows. Which, he supposed she had.

While the perfect light did wonderful things for those in shimmered dresses and silken suit, it did nothing for his daughter’s countenance. She looked too thin, dark half moons holding the shadows beneath her eyes. Her thick red hair was pulled into a severe bun that etched lines at the corners of her eyes and made her cheekbones protrude like fists beneath her pale skin.

Uncountable times he’d hoped to see his daughter’s face in his house again. Nights he’d lain awake wishing to see her face again. Days he’d thought of sending someone after her, to test her well-being if not to bring her home. He’d imagined that moment when she would forgive him for what she believed were trespasses, when she would see that everything he did, he did for the thing they both believed in. Their imagined reunion, sweet and bitter, when his daughter came home again after all this time.

But not like this. Never like this.

 

***

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

***

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