How many projects? And an excerpt from Pariah
How many projects is too many projects?
This week I’ve been focusing on Pariah, book five in the Starblood series, and it still won’t oblige me by suddenly suggesting another 20,000 words worth of story. I’ve almost finished, with four chapters left to write and 32,000 words in the bag (so to speak) and, all modesty aside, there are some wonderfully rich scenes. I researched Hecate, and Chokmah (on the Tree of Life, or Planes of Existence as my characters refer to it) - I’ll make a note of the books I’ve used in the book acknowledgements, but I’ll also mention them here in case you’re interested.
Circle for Hekate: Vol. 1: History & Mythology, by Sorita d’Este. Avalonia, London (2015).
The Mystical Qabalah, by Dion Fortune. Weiser Books, San Francisco (2000).
However, I’ve also done some editing work on Slice Girls, soon to be published by Nightmare Press, and discussed ideas with my co-writer for Tangled Thorns (aka Shadows of Roses). In the background, I’m also wondering whether I need to add additional chapters at the end of The Witch of Witchwood before the first draft is truly finished. I think four projects might be too many projects, but the creative brain isn’t always logical.
While you’re here I’ll share part of the first chapter of Pariah. It will be edited again and I may add more and/or delete parts, but I hope you enjoy it. I moved the first three chapters around, so it is different from the preview I shared at the end of Ribbons (book 4). I don’t have a cover for Pariah yet and won’t for some time, so I made a placeholder image which you’ll see below. Feel free to comment on how many projects you can successfully juggle in one week, or what you think of the excerpt below.
Pariah, by Carmilla Voiez.
‘You can open them now,’ Edensun says.
Donna opens her eyes and sees the health clinic where her mother works. The doors have been forced open. Donna shudders.
‘Do you want me to stay?’ Edensun asks.
There might be dangers beyond the battered doors, but Donna fears her companion’s reaction to any threat.
‘No. Take Star’s things from the cellar. That’s what you came here to do.’
‘But.’ Edensun nods towards the dark hallway beyond the broken doors. ‘Is it safe?’
‘Look Edensun, you aren’t responsible for me. Cat told me Mum’s alive. I don’t want to have to explain this to her.’
‘You. It’s too complicated, and I don’t want to lie to her. Please, just go.’
‘You need a weapon.’
‘Is that what you are?’
‘I didn’t mean it like that. At least take something with you. It worries me that those doors are open.’
‘Maybe Mum left. She might have gone home.’
‘Do you want me to take you home?’
Donna shakes her head. ‘I’m fine.’
‘Just stay safe, Donna.’
‘You too, Edensun.’
The demi-demon, God of Inbetween, truculent teen or whatever he really is, called Edensun takes a step away from Donna and disappears. She hopes he finds his mother.
Donna strides towards the building in search of her own, Linda McKenzie. The last four years would have been torture were it not for that wonderful woman, and rarely does a day pass when Donna doesn’t count her blessings. That she has survived when her friends have not, is a testament to her mother’s love.
Memories of Star, Raven, Satori and Ivan fill her head, all dead. Star, if the stories Donna’s heard are true, has died more than once. Did it start when Star met Satori? Donna was the only one who seemed to realise the relationship was doomed from the start, but even she never guessed what disasters would unfold. Perhaps it was later that it all went wrong. After all, Star was dating Lilith when she killed Raven, although Donna still has difficulty believing the gentle woman whom Donna adored could be capable of such an act, especially now she knows Lilith’s origins. Had the goddess acted through Star? Was Lilith the guilty party, the real murderer? It seems easier to believe.
When Satori told Donna that he would save Star, her hatred for the man who had stolen the love of her life had forced her to run screaming and yet, after her failed suicide attempt, while Donna was in a coma, she and Satori had worked together to find Star, and when the impossible young man succeeded he brought Star to Donna’s hospital bed.
Donna couldn’t really blame Star for resuming the relationship with Satori after that, but neither could she stay and watch them poison each other as they always seemed to do, so she left Bristol and had spent four years in Exeter living with her mother. Then the rain fell, and she pursued Star for answers and met instead Star’s two-thirds human son, Edensun. With Edensun, Donna met Hecate, fought against Morrigan, and almost lost her sanity in Chaos. Now she is back, and any hope of resuming a normal life lies beyond those doors. She reaches them and the twisted memories release their hold on her mind. The clinic is silent. She hopes that’s a good sign.
Donna knows she is strong enough to protect her mother, nurse her back from any horrors she might have witnessed, and that is all she wants. Her love for Star is unrequited. It is Donna’s mother who needs her.
She steps inside the wide corridor. The reception cubicle is empty and the computer screen smashed on the floor. It doesn’t mean anything, she assures herself. Across from reception are rows of chairs where patients would normally sit and await treatment or reassurance. The television screen attached to the wall is smashed. Beyond, the corridor narrows but is wide enough for a trolley bed not to impede the flow of foot traffic. The first four doors are open and the rooms empty. Donna relaxes a little.
She hears a soft whimper and realises that until this moment the only noises that have penetrated her ears since she entered the building have been the sounds of her own footsteps, her ragged breath and the beating of her heart. She follows the sound to a room near the back of the clinic. The door is shut, and as if sensing her presence, the whimpers become yelps, like that of a rabid dog.
She trembles outside the insubstantial barrier, waiting, expecting to hear something crash against the door at any moment. When this doesn’t happen she turns the handle, holds her breath and pushes it open. Her breath rushes out with her scream. Blood everywhere. Something almost human is strapped to a chair. It lifts its face and bares its teeth while bloodshot eyes roll in sockets that seem wide enough to climb through. Around the mad humanoid, scattered on the crimson soaked floor, she glimpses people and shreds of viscera once contained by bodies. She turns and runs, fleeing the sight even as her mind begins to process it.
She stops when her feet hit the gravel outside, trying to recall the details of the fallen figures, guessing that none of them are still breathing. Four, she thinks, three female and one male, probably. She tries to remember other details, anything that might identify, without the need to return to the carnage, whether her mother is among the bodies.
She slaps the side of her forehead with an open palm, trying to jolt the image to the right part of her brain, where she can analyse the scraps of information. She remembers their footwear, but it doesn’t help. Three pairs of tennis shoes, the style her mother always wears to work, but so do her colleagues. Too much blood to recognise hair colours. Her stomach cramps and she dry heaves.
Hecate told Donna her mother was okay. She tries to remember the witch’s words exactly. It’s easier than remembering the details of the room.
Pale green walls. Someone with a head injury.
She thinks again to the room she escaped. What colour are the walls? Everything seemed red. The thing in the chair then; what can she remember about the thing in the chair? No head bandage, all teeth and eyes. Maybe Donna’s mother was never in that room, or maybe she was.
She has two choices and neither feel good. She can search the other rooms inside the clinic, the silent rooms, and if or when she doesn’t find her mother in any of them she could take a second look at the murder victims, or, she can head home and see if her mother is already there, safe but worried, waiting for a word from Donna. She can walk home in thirty minutes, but she isn’t sure she’ll have the strength to return here if the house is empty.
She hopes the wild man is securely strapped down. Could he have already freed one wrist and be biting through the bonds of the other, getting ready to race through the corridors, into the sunlit car park and do to Donna what he must have done to the nurses and doctor inside that room?
It feels more surreal than her brief but disorientating journey through Chaos. Had Donna really spoken to Hecate, battled with Morrigan side-by-side with a demonic dragon and survived all these brushes with divinity in order to be shredded by a mad man? This can’t be how my life ends.
She really wants a cigarette. Instead she breathes deeply and goes back inside. Most of the doors are unlocked. She knock gently on any which aren’t, but gets no response. On the right hand side, just before the T junction that leads left to the room she intends to revisit last, if at all, and right to places not yet visited, she opens a door and sees her mother.
Purple welts the width of fingers create circles around Linda McKenzie’s throat. She’s propped up against the wall in a seated position, eyes open but lifeless. Donna stumbles towards her. She checks her mother’s wrist and finds no pulse. The flesh is room temperature, chill to the touch. The man with bandages around his skull is there too. They look like two dolls waiting for a tea party. Donna pulls her mother towards her and wraps shaking arms around shoulders that had once seemed strong enough to carry the weight of the world. She rests her chin on the grey hair and rocks the beloved body gently. Had Hecate known this would happen when she told Donna to stay with Edensun and help him? Donna is unable to forgive the betrayal. She screams at the wall, promising to get her revenge.
She hears grunts and movement from the corridor, and resigns herself for a moment to a violent death. Then changes her mind, picks up her mother and holds her in front of her own body. One arm supporting shoulders and the other at the knees. She hobbles under the weight, pauses at reception, where she sets her mother gently on a chair and checks the cupboards for car keys.
The ones she finds belong to a Volvo parked in a doctor’s space. She leaves the rear door open and returns for her mother. It takes some effort to get the body across the back seat, when pushing doesn’t work she resorts to pulling from the other side, but eventually both doors are closed and Donna’s in the driver’s seat, keys in the ignition. She turns them as the freed monster bounds into the car park. Donna floors the accelerator and runs him over.