Welcome Sue Bolich, our Writerly Wednesday Guest.
I have put my NaNoWriMo up and am a verified NaNo Winner for 2011. Because, I wrote a sort of anthology of Walls that Talk, I may add one House at a time as a blog post during the next year. I hope I can manage to revise one passage a week.
I want to say Way to Go to all the other Nano Participants, 2000 words or 80,000.
Now, Here’s Sue!
My website is: www.sabolich.info
Barnes and Noble:
S. A Bolich is a fulltime freelancer with a number of published fantasy stories as well as many nonfiction articles. A native of Washington state, she resides there again with two horses, a dog, and four cats after serving six years in Germany as a regular army military intelligence officer. She holds a degree in history, which she confesses was greatly aided by devouring historical fiction of every era and kind through her formative years, and much of her work takes a historical slant. Her first novel, “Firedancer,” was released in September 2011. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, On Spec, and Damnation Books, among others, the anthologies Wolfsongs 2 and Defending the Future IV: No Man’s Land, and is upcoming in Tales of Moreauvia and Witches and Pagans. Currently she is working on “Windrider,” the sequel to “Firedancer,” as well as an alternate history series using an unexplored explanation of what really happened in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.
Since the Beginning of all, the Fire Clans have fought the Ancient, the elemental fire at the heart of the world, with the binding power of the Firedance. But suddenly, the Ancient has grown clever and bold, and the Dance has begun to fail. Now fire is running rampant in the village of Annam, where the Delvers mine the precious containment stone that is the only other safeguard against fire. Only Jetta ak’Kal, a failed master, and
her partner, the most inept journeyman in all of the Fire Clans, stand in its way–expendables, she bitterly believes, a stopgap while her people find a way to counter the Ancient. To her horror, fire isn’t the only danger in Annam. Windriders live there, masters of air, the Ancient’s most deadly fuel. With danger riding on every breath of wind, if Jetta fails, no place will be safe from the deadly firestorm that will surely follow.
Excerpt from chapter 1 :
This fire was malicious. Jetta felt it the instant she stepped through the door of the flaming houseplace. Fear struck her like a raptor, draining her strength as if great claws had pierced all her veins and bled her life away. Heat blasted the naked skin of her arms and legs; smoke stung her nose. Startled, she took a step sideways, and shied again from hot grit crunching under her bare feet. She stopped just inside the door, heedless of the flames running up the lintel beside her, reaching hungrily for the carved ceiling. Shuddery cold swept through her, for all that the hot breath of the fire was in her face, a reek of charred wood and scorched stone that swept her straight back to a damp spring night laden with screams and the smell of destruction.
I can’t. Not this time. Not again.
Fire exploded from the wall on her left. Jetta spun toward it, and shied back from the sight of white stone crawling with flame, paling rapidly from sullen red to eager gold. Here was no tame hearth fire escaped from its bondage to take vengeance on its captors. Only the deep fire, the heartfire of the world, the Old Man himself, could eat stone.
The Ancient was coming.
She retreated a step, shaken so badly that for an instant even her training deserted her. All she saw was fire writhing in febrile, hungry curtains. Like last time. Reaching for her…like last time. Out of control. Like last time.
She stumbled back, flinching from flame curling hot fingers over her toes, and turned blindly for the door. Two steps, and she would be free of fire forever.
A scream reached her, high and frightened, piercing the laughing roar of the fire like a thin-bladed knife. She jumped, and all around her fire leaped back. Jetta spun all the way around, instinct greater than fear rooting her in place. The fire retreated, uncertain now.
Shame drove through Jetta’s fear. She took a step—forward, not back. Fire recoiled out of reach. The smothering heat suddenly lessened as though winter had breathed on the flames. Jetta laughed and stepped into the Dance.
Bare feet ground soot and ash underfoot, the flagstones cool now against her soles. She shoved off from her right foot into a leap and spin, completely over a knee-high flame trying to sustain itself on bits of a charred chair. Fear spun away with the turn; Jetta landed on smooth-polished stone and twirled on one foot, arms raised, exulting in the sudden cool rush of power swirling up through her from the ground under the pale stones laid over Earth Mother’s thick skin. All at once the air tasted of damp earth and the green density of living forest.
She stamped an infant flame into non-existence, the smoke of its death curling impotently around her legs. Step, step, turn, shoving more smoke out of her way, her arms stretching now toward the ceiling in mocking imitation of the enemy, now outward in the demanding arc that drew a line that flame could not cross. Fire leaped and roared around her, licking eagerly into the air that was its goal, its life, its escape from its prison in the earth. Flame squeezed up through the joins of the stone floor and walls and raced eagerly toward exposed lintels and furniture and draperies sweeping into peril from window rods. Jetta shoved her palm toward the threatened ceiling. Smoke parted in front of it; the fire that had been crawling into the irreplaceable Fornay carvings recoiled. Step, turn, step, caught up in the ancient, soaring power of the Dance.
Another scream, fainter. Jetta faltered. Heat suddenly blasted at her; smoke tasted bitter on her tongue as the sustaining cocoon started to shred around her. Malicious fire….
Memories of death, and pain, and screams, and a fire that laughed, a deep coughing roar as it consumed….
Training and a lifetime’s conditioning shoved down the memories, forced phantom pain from her left arm, her leg. Jetta clapped her hands and pirouetted in place, willing the barriers of the Dance back up around her. She looked closer at the flames running over the pallid stone, and saw that this was surface fire still, pale, but not yet the white heartfire no water could quench. She heard no hissing pop of collapsing rock as flame consumed the air in the porous windstone. This fire was malicious, aye, but as yet it was only the forerunner of the ancient fire that lived in the deepest core of the earth; it was not the foe itself that the Fire Clans had hunted since time began. The yellow of these flames was well diluted with the base red that spoke of uncertainty. This fire had not learned—yet—how to use its malice.
Jetta closed her eyes, drawing reassurance from the quicksilver feel of the Dance shivering like a lightning storm along her skin. It all but shoved her straight up off the littered floor to defy the fire eye to eye where it roared over her head; she moved, for time now was precious, before the fire learned to call its terrible parent. Now, while a Third Rank master could still hold it alone, now while the Dance ran in her like a flood, the only flood that could tame heartfire.
She aimed for the door across the room, knowing where the screams had come from; she had run the halls of this place since she was a child. Flame spat at her; belatedly she remembered the meaning of the positions her body shaped without thought, and made a barrier of one leg stretched behind her, toe touching the littered floor, threatening the flames behind her even as she bent her arms into the open crescents that would trap flame into a tight, contained circle in front of her. The fire retreated instead, fleeing toward the walls.
Another step and leap, and she was across the great room and into the corridor beyond, reaching for the door of the nursery where old Minna had cuffed and applauded the stray brats roaming here as impartially as she had her own grandson Kori. Jetta shoved the hot wood of the door aside with the heel of her hand. Smoke and flame curled out of her way, exposing a small boy standing rigid in the center of a tiny clear space, short legs spread, guarding a smaller figure yet, who cowered and sobbed in abject fear. His gaze found her through the smoke, childish blue and wide with fear in a small, grimy face. Relief flooded his expression, but he did not lower his arms from their half-instinctive, half-trained barrier stance.
“Good, Tekko!” Jetta called. “Stay as you are. I have this now.”
With deliberate speed she danced, turn and turn again in a widening circle around the children. The girl had stopped screaming and was watching her now, her eyes streaming tears from the smoke, her face red and running with sweat. Tekkorin’s skin was as dry as Jetta’s, though he was gasping from heat as much as effort. Jetta felt neither heat nor the acrid bite of smoke in her lungs. The Dance sustained her, a weapon forged over eons to balance the hunger of the Ancient: Dancer against flame, builder against destroyer, order against chaos. With each step the flames drew back, and everywhere her foot touched the fire died for an arm’s length around. She began to sway, feet planted solidly on stone perilously warm underfoot. Straining outward to the farthest extent of her arms, she shoved the fire farther and farther from the children. With the flames in retreat she followed, stamping each foot down, the shock of it jolting power through every nerve, building and building until it felt as though it must flash out and consume fire and house and all. Jetta held onto it, building the shell of protection around the children, forcing the fire back. She moved on instinct and memory of this room, her head thrown back to eye the ceiling, spinning at every third step to prevent a bold rush. In one round of the room the fire sank to half the height of the walls; in another the space was clear, dark where it had been full of burning light.
“Tekko, come!” Jetta called, her mind stretching beyond the wall to the fire in the hall, which was trying to launch a new assault.
Without a word Tekkorin snatched the girl up by one arm. She came, stumbling but determined now that the way to the door was clear. Jetta leaped into the doorway. Fire had reclaimed the path she had forged to this spot, surprising her. Flame was rarely so bold, to claim a Dancer’s footsteps. But then she heard the roar, a deep vibration more felt than a sound in the ears, underlying the sharp crackle of the flames running up the walls. Laughter.
“Jetta!” It came out a frightened wail, terror from Tekkorin at last…
1. In three days, all power will go off, everywhere for a very long time. What will you include in your author survival kit?
A “long time” for some people is two hours, but assuming it will come back on at some point before the riots start… A year’s supply of canned goods, flour, sugar, and other staples. A winter’s supply of firewood. A generator with lots and lots of gas, or a solar charge unit I can convert to pump water for my horses and the house. A cow. A lantern with lots of replacement gas bottles. A stack of notebooks and pens for when the laptop inevitably becomes impossible to charge. Chocolate. Gotta have chocolate.
2. Where did the idea for the work you are promoting arise?
The first line just popped into my head and made me really curious: “This fire was malicious.” Huh? That immediately led to fire that thinks, and the concept of elementals at war with the people who live on the planet they’d just really like to own without conditions. The underlying struggle against an enemy you can never quite beat comes from my years-long efforts to rid my pastures of knapweed. I have been fully as frustrated as Jetta, my heroine, on many, many occasions. Fortunately, knapweed is unlikely to consume my house and kill me.
3. What do you like to read?
I read a lot of history, a lot of fantasy, and SF by authors who aren’t completely hung up on the technology. The occasional mystery. Thrillers by WEB Griffin. Historical fiction. Non-fiction includes staying abreast of the publishing world and how it’s changing, politics, current events, the truly weird news stories that spark ideas. More history…
4. Tell us about the most exciting place you have ever visited?
Hmm. I’ve been all over Europe, the Caribbean, the US, and Canada. Exciting to me is a place that evokes awe, and that is usually related to the layers of history clinging to it. When I look at a bakery in Germany with the date of its founding over the door, and realize it’s been a bakery on the same spot, in the same building, since 1485, well, that’s pretty cool to me. Verdun left me in tears. I’ve stood on the cliffs at Normandy and atop ruined watchtowers in Germany and watched buffalo bulls charging each other on the Bison Range in Montana. Everywhere is exciting. My favorite places are way back in the Cascade Mountains, looking at the world the way God made it.
5. What is the most mundane, day to day, thing you can share about yourself?
Oh, my, I’m boring. I write. It’s what I do. The laptop is pretty much permanently glued to my lap when I’m not riding.
6. What scares you the most?
Having all the stories and books I’ve written in my lifetime end up unread in a dumpster when I die.
7. Tell us anything but keep it G rated.
I am constantly amazed by how essential horses are to fantasy worlds, and how few writers get them right. I am contemplating switching the focus of my blog (http://blog.sabolich.info) to tips for writing believable horses and getting the most from them as characters.
Firedancer, S. A. Bolich, Sky Warrior Books, fantasy, other world fantasy, alternate world fantasy
Thank you again!
Thank you, Sue. Gary W. Olson will be here next week. Drop back in.