At this point, you are probably wondering how many of these drafts I have written. I honestly cannot answer that. It is definitely tens, maybe hundreds. Don’t worry, I have no intention of posting twenty-seven drafts of the same chapter, even if they DO exist. But there are five major revisions, and of them, this is nearly the last. This series will complete next week with the draft I intend to keep. Yay, nearing closure! But in all honesty, I am still posting these long after everyone is bored because I am trying to prove a point: if you are the type of writer who rewrites everything a million times before it makes you happy, you are not alone.
If you are a fan of George R.R. Martin, you are aware that his sixth book has been awaited by fans for years. Every time he is questioned on it, he roars, “IT’LL BE FINISHED WHEN IT’S FINISHED!” Some of his fans probably think he is stalling from sheer wickedness, but you and I know better, don’t we? George is what’s called a ‘revisionist,’ or if you are a hater, a ‘pantster.’ What that means is that the story reveals itself to him as he writes, changing as it goes. He writes ‘by the seat of his pants,’ if you will. When it does change, it becomes necessary to go back and revise the beginning to match the new storyline. Stephen King is another famous version of the revisionist, though I mostly credit his productivity to his beloved wife, Tabby. Seriously, it’s probably a lot easier to write a book a year when you have someone to wrangle your children and cook your dinner. Not even lying, I wish Tabby King would come be my wife for a while. My husband might have something to say about it, but she would be a big help.
I am also a pantster. I have tried again and again to write using an outline, and I just can’t do it. When I commit a story to outline, it feels to me like pinning a bug to a display board: the story dies, but it’s easier to keep your eye on. So I rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. It may not be the most efficient way to finish a manuscript, but when I send my editor a book, I know I’m satisfied with it. Of course, there does come a point where you have to tell yourself, All right, that’s enough revision, you pantster, but we’ll get more into that next week.
This particular rough draft is pretty close to what I finally decided to keep, timeline-wise. I decided the best course of action is to start the new story as close to the end of Lady of the Veils as possible. There are a few benefits to this: I know who the characters are, because I remember them from the last book. There is plenty of story left to tell, because Avalon is in a state of rebuilding, which is more interesting than a state of peace. I don’t have to try to figure out why the villains waited so long to attack, because they didn’t wait. For a while, I even considered using this draft as the final one. It bogged down eventually for a number of reasons, one of which was the fact that I didn’t pose enough questions in the opening chapter and it couldn’t sustain itself.
So here it is. I hope you enjoy it.
The inside of the Avalon International Airport was conspicuous for its lack of ash. It had either been spared the fire which destroyed half the city or been repaired with magical efficiency. The only evidence left of the siege was a deep gouge in the checkerboard tile. Karen MacGregor wondered whether magic or science had caused the scar in the floor.
The only other people in the airport were a cluster of paparazzi, some human and some Fey. They stayed fifty feet away from her as Faerie law required. Karen heard the sound of a flash bulb being tested. Most of the photographers had given up taking pictures for now. She supposed they were saving their film for her mother.
Karen kept her eyes trained on the muted television mounted to a nearby wall. The news was on, and all the reporters looked grim. Were they discussing the new numbers of the death toll or the endless downpour of rain? She had never imagined the Apocalypse would be so wet, but she supposed it was as good a death as any.
David Thoreau stopped pacing to flop into a chair beside her, long legs splayed out in front of him. He threw an arm casually across the back of Karen’s chair and gave her one of his rakish grins. Thoreau was still dressed in colony gear, leather armor and scuffed boots. He had skin the color of light chocolate and curls cut very close to his scalp. His golden, cat-pupiled eyes glittered with humor now, but when he looked out at the paparazzi his eyes went hard. His sword still hung at his side, a scabbarded threat rather than a veiled one. No one was around to ask him to disarm.
“What happened to your gun?” Karen asked.
Thoreau snorted. Accent thick with Texas, he said, “A wise man once told me, ‘You beat the Sidhe with a sword or you don’t beat them at all.’ I left it back at the colony when I found out we were done fighting ogres. Where’s yours?”
Karen recognized the quote. Shannon had once said the same thing to her. He wasn’t wrong, either. A Knight of Summer would stride right through her bullets and kill her for the disrespect. She shrugged. “Lost it.”
For a long moment they watched the news. Karen wasn’t much of a lip reader, but she could make out the word genocide.
Thoreau said, “So, I’m thinking about asking your mom out. If I marry her, I just want you to know it’s cool if you call me daddy.”
Karen barked laughter. “All right, go ahead. But I’m going to tell her about that time you almost married Shannon O’Grady.”
Thoreau’s laugh was so loud it echoed, as if he didn’t care who heard him. He sat up and leaned his hands on his knees. “I did not! He proposed and I busted his lip!”
Karen shrugged. “I’ve always thought it was messed up that you hit him. He couldn’t really be blamed. We both know that in a skirt, those gams of yours go all the way up.”
“Oh, you little rat! I lost a bet! You’re never going to let me live it down, are you?”
“I just feel like my mother deserves to know her new boyfriend is a cross dresser, that’s all.” Karen batted her eyes innocently over her smirk. “I’ll tell you what, we’ll compromise. If you guys get married I’ll call you mommy.”
Thoreau gaped at her. “You are such a pig!”
Karen, gasping laughter, managed, “That’s what all the girls tell me.”
Thoreau balled up a fist and pretended to punch her in the arm before giving up completely and laughing along. They trailed off into chortles and then companionable silence. Feeling grateful to have something to laugh at, Karen leaned her head against his shoulder.
She said, “Thanks for coming with me. You’re a lot better at looking scary than I am.”
Thoreau squeezed her with the arm he’d placed on her chair. “I’m a lot better looking than you are, period.” Karen elbowed his ribs, and he chuckled. “Ow! Would you quit doing that?”
“Probably not,” Karen told him. “What time is it?”
“Twelve forty-five,” he answered, checking the watch on his wrist. “Fifteen minutes.”
Karen sighed and fidgeted in her chair. Her tailbone ached. “This is not going to be pretty. Can we just go? Please?”
Thoreau snorted. “You want to leave your parents at the airport with no ride, in the pouring rain, in a city occupied by the Unseelie Host? Really?”
“No, not really,” Karen said miserably.
Thoreau turned his attention to the television. Karen followed suit. The charred and skeletal remains of the Agromancy wing at the Wizard’s Academy haunted the screen for a moment, and then the camera cut back to another sad-eyed reporter. Karen had loved the city of Avalon since she was old enough to love any place at all. Queen Aynia had not destroyed this beautiful old city when she took it. No, that had been Karen’s doing. She had unleashed the Host on Avalon herself.
She turned her attention away from the television and her eyes caught the furrow in the tile again. She abruptly realized why Thoreau kept pacing.
“How much longer?” Karen asked.
“Fourteen minutes,” Thoreau told her.
Karen sighed again and fidgeted. Damn Julian for getting too badly hurt to come along! She thought. Lucky bastard. “I wish I’d brought a deck of cards,” Karen said.
Thoreau laughed. “It’s just a few minutes, Mac, would you settle down? Watch T.V or something.”
Fifteen minutes stretched into twenty-five before the loudspeaker announced her parent’s flight had finally landed. Karen jumped up, and then sat back down. Beside her, Thoreau stood smoothly and offered her a hand.
“Time to man up, Mac,” He said. “They’re just your parents, for chrissakes.”
“They don’t call my mother ‘The Dragonsbane’ because she’s a good cook,” Karen grumbled. “When she asks me to come back to the states, what am I going to say?”
Karen had left home last November in the middle of her senior year of high school for reasons that, in retrospect, seemed pretty thin. I was protecting Beri seemed like a ridiculous excuse to give her parents for abandoning them. Beri was a wizard-level meteomancer. The idea of her protecting him was like the idea of her protecting a Mack truck.
The worst part was that, if given the chance, she would do it again. She was going to have to justify this whole year to her parents without being able to honestly say I’m sorry.
Grabbing her wrist, Thoreau said, “I don’t know what you’re going to say. But you can’t hide out here forever.” He hauled her toward her parent’s gate while she dragged her feet.
People, mostly human but some Fey, poured into the airport. Many of them held camera equipment or were so attractive they could only be on-air personalities. Karen bounced nervously on her toes and thought, great, more reporters.
At the end of the hallway, something glowed against the wall.
“Holy hell,” Thoreau said reverently.
Her mother and father approached. They stood close to each other but did not touch. Though they often took comfort from physical contact, Karen’s Fey mother had been exiled for marrying her human father. In Faerie it was against the law for them to display their affection in public places.
Marty MacGregor was a tall man with a salt-and pepper beard and dark eyes. He seemed thinner than Karen remembered him, and his thick hair was more gray than brown. He was dressed in a well-made suit and a tie that had rumpled during the flight.
Mirya MacGregor was Daoine Sidhe. She was not tall as her people went, but she moved with an air of confidence normally reserved for much larger Fey. She looked barely older than Karen, though she was more ancient than the city they stood in. Her skin glowed faintly, casting the room around her into gloom. Her sun-golden hair was cut fashionably short and revealed the points of her ears. Karen had always known her mother was beautiful, but now she seemed indefinably sadder. Mom had become breathtaking with her new gravity.
Tears burned Karen’s throat. She shook free of Thoreau without speaking and launched herself at her parents.
Dad caught her. Karen buried her face in his chest, sobbing as she had not done in a very long time. He smelled of laundry detergent and felt like a mountain when he wrapped his arms around her. He shook with sobs.
“My little girl,” Dad whispered, over and over. “My girl.”
After a long time he pushed Karen away, holding her at arm’s length and studying her with red-rimmed eyes. Karen gave him a weak smile.
“Hi, Daddy.” She felt inexplicably shy.
“Hi yourself.” Dad’s voice was gruff with emotion. “Well, look at you! I haven’t seen you in a dress since you were a little girl.”
Karen looked down at the hand-made frock she wore and gave her father a lop-sided smile. “Yeah, I know it. All my jeans wore out in the forest.”
She turned to her mother. Mom clasped her hands against her chest, eyes shining with tears. It struck Karen for the very first time how much her mother looked like Queen Aynia.
Karen had only met the Queen of the Summer Court the day the Fey monarch was executed. She suspected she would spend many years watching the light in those luminous green eyes go out while she dreamed. Her mother was just as lovely, just as glamorous as the Queen had been. Guilt wrenched Karen’s insides. She had assassinated her own grandmother, and this beautiful Fey she had loved all her life was the only one left who might really mourn.
Mom reached out for her, and Karen stepped into her embrace. Her mother smelled of vanilla soap and lilacs. She was suddenly small again.
“Mom,” Karen whispered. “I’m so, so sorry.”
Mom shushed her. “No. I have always known you would come to this, Karen MacGregor. You have had a soldier’s heart since the day you were born. If you had not fought this war you would have fought another.”
Karen drew away to meet Mom’s eyes. “Not for that, Mom. I’m not sorry for that. I’m sorry I killed your mother.”
Mom looked into her face solemnly for a long moment. Karen realized she could hear the clicks of cameras behind her. Then her mother leaned down to kiss Karen’s forehead.
“If anyone else had slain her, my vengeance would have been terrible to witness,” Mom whispered. She pushed a dark curl of Karen’s hair behind her ear. “But child, she brought her death to herself when she made an enemy of you.”
Karen blinked. “You’re not mad?”
Mirya’s lip twitched up just a hint. Her eyes were still unbearably sad. “Mad? No. My heart aches. I wish my mother had dandled you on her knee as a grandmother is meant to do. I wish she could have lived long enough to know how beautiful and brave her granddaughter would grow up to be. I wish she had the courage to love you as I do. I grieve my mother, who was once my Queen. I suppose I always will. But do I blame you for doing what had to be done? No. No, Karen, I do not.”
“Well!” Dad’s voice was too loud, too cheerful. “This is very sad talk for a very happy occasion! Take us to your brother, will you?”
Karen grinned, wiping her cheeks free of tears. Mom gave her a stunning smile and took her hand.
Thoreau still stood several feet away, looking out of place. Karen gestured for him to come closer. His eyes were full of stars as he looked at Karen’s mother. Karen recognized the dazzled look. A Daoine Sidhe of a royal house could be quite a sight the first time a person saw one.
“Dave, these are my parents, Marty and Mirya MacGregor,” Karen said. “Mom, Dad, this is David Thoreau. He’s currently acting as my bodyguard.”
Dad stretched a hand out to shake with Thoreau. “Thanks for taking care of my little girl.”
Thoreau dropped his eyes. Karen smirked. He was probably remembering what he’d said before the plane landed. “Well, she mostly takes care of herself, but sometimes two blades are better than one.”
Karen’s father gave her a measuring look. He said, “When you left home you were a vegetarian. Now people actually refer to you as ‘a blade.’”
Embarrassed, Karen shrugged. “I’m still a vegetarian,” she said.