Rough Drafts, Fair and Foul, Part 1

Now that The Storm Prince is finished and living with the gorgeous and talented Denise Bartlett (my editor at Gypsy Shadow Publishing,) I am free to begin the next book in the Knight of Avalon series. Yay! Sounds fun, right? What if I told you I have started this book somewhere between ten and twenty times? I have even finished it once. Starting to sound less fun, amiright?
But that’s all part of the process for me. Sometimes, when things are working, they just flow and I finish a whole book in six months. Other times, I plod along in gloom until I realize I’ve made absolutely nothing and I start over. In any case, it leaves me with millions of random files scattered throughout my computer that I’ve created while I try to home in on what will, eventually, be the real book. Good news: I have restarted the next book in the series (still nameless) and it feels really good so far. I am (at least I hope I am) getting better at realizing what works and what does not work. I hope to have a real first draft finished by next October (2014.)
This blog is about honesty. I want to help other writers by presenting as true a representation of real writing as I possibly can. Fact: all writing includes multiple drafts. No matter how far into your career as a writer you might get, you will always have to refine. Even The Storm Prince, which has, so far, been my easiest novel, had four different drafts. All you NaNoWriMo winners, take notice! You’ll have a novel at the end of the month, but it’s going to need more work than just writing it down. Next come the rewrites.
In the spirit of honesty, I would like to share a few of the roughs I have written. Here goes!

This is the first chapter of the very first draft I ever wrote of Knight of Avalon II.

Chapter 1
Lady Karen MacGregor and Sir Corali Misslo walked into the office they shared. Rain still sparkled in their hair from that afternoon’s downpour, but neither of them seemed to mind. Karen took her coat off and hung it on the coat tree. She was laughing at something Misslo had said as they’d come down the hall. Her partner hung up his coat, too, and called to their secretary, “Hey Jana, any new calls?”
“Only one,” said the pretty leprechaun. She snapped a compact shut and reached for a pink post-it note that she had stuck to the side of her computer. “A Detective Shorliss called. He wants you to call back immediately. He says you have his number.”
Karen and Misslo exchanged looks. Karen knew that if Shorliss was calling them, it couldn’t be good. He was a homicide detective with the local police. A sense of dread settled in the area above her stomach. Someone was probably dead, and on top of that they were never going to get any other work done.
Misslo apparently noticed the look of consternation that flitted across her face, because he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and said, “It’s all right, MacGregor, if all else fails we can split up. I can deal with Shorliss and you can meet with the Italian ambassador this afternoon.”
Karen sighed darkly. “You’ve been talking to the ambassador more than I have. If I showed up without you I think we’d lose some credibility. Besides, this probably has something to do with the vampire clan or he wouldn’t bother to call us.”
Misslo smiled again, dazzlingly. He was half Daoine Sidhe and half Selkie, so he was extraordinarily gorgeous. His smile was a credit to the hard work of his godparents. He said, “I know how much you love vampires. You can take this one for now and I’ll call your cell after I meet with the ambassador.”
Karen turned from the pin-neat reception area into their office, leaving her partner to flirt with Jana. These human vampires were the bane of her career. They had been created when some Leanan Sidhe had decided to find out whether the old blood ritual worked the same way on mortals as it did on the fey. Unfortunately for all of us, she thought bitterly, it did. These new vampires seemed to be completely without the sense of propriety that governed the old ones. They were a Human-Fey Relations nightmare. She dropped her irritated thoughts and dialed Shorliss’s number from memory.
The phone rang twice, and on the third ring Shorliss answered. “Detective Shorliss,” he announced, sounding harried. Karen told herself she didn’t pity him. She disliked him too much.
“This is Lady MacGregor,” she announced. “My secretary said you called.”
“I did,” Shorliss said. She could hear him rustling papers. “I need your input on something. Can you get away?”
“You know, I really can’t,” Karen told him, feeling stubborn and a little dishonest. “I have an important meeting with an Italian ambassador this afternoon. Can I send one of the apprentices?”
Shorliss made a noncommittal sound. “I wouldn’t think you’d want to. It looks like the work of a vampire. “
Karen barely restrained another sigh. “Should I meet you at the station?”
“No, the morgue,” Shorliss said. “In about twenty minutes?”
“See you then,” Karen told him, and hung up the phone. Her lunch had been so pleasant. The rain had been warm, but had cooled the shimmering heat of the California summer. She had sat on the right side of a plate glass window and watched it fall while Misslo regaled her with the story of how he’d once rescued a girl from a glass tower again. She had heard the story before, but it seemed to be the biggest accomplishment of his knighthood, so she always listened politely. But now, her afternoon had been turned irrevocably unpleasant.
She hadn’t sat down, so Karen straightened some of the papers in her inbox and then went back into the reception area. Misslo and Jana both looked at her curiously. She said, “Yeah, I was right. It’s a vampire murder. I swear, a few more and I’m going to go rogue and hunt them all down.”
Misslo laughed musically and said, “I wouldn’t be at all surprised. You seem to have issues with them anyway.”
Jana gave Karen a curious look. She could feel the secretary’s green eyes sliding across the silk scarf she wore wrapped around her throat, so she grabbed her coat and said, “I’ll see you two later. Call me when you find out what’s going on with the Italians, would you?”
“Naturally,” Misslo agreed, as Karen closed the door and made her way to the elevator. The door slid open as soon as she pushed the button, and she got in. It upset her that Misslo found the vampires so amusing. After two floors, the elevator stopped and Loqui from Iron Tolerance got on.
“Hey,” he said, in a bored tone.
“Hey,” Karen agreed. “Working hard?”
“Not particularly,” Loqui said. “What’s new in Relations?”
Karen shrugged. “Well, we have a pixie in Italy who’s been smuggling coke from Brazil, and we’re trying to negotiate the deportment. Also, it seems that we have yet another vampire murder.”
“Lovely,” Loqui said, still using the jaded tones of an old courtier. “Here’s my floor. I’ll see you later.”
“Bye,” Karen told him. Loqui stepped out of the elevator, and Karen continued on to ground level.
When Karen reached the front door, she saw that the pleasant rain had stopped. She stepped outside and made her way to her Beemer. It was in the parking garage across the street. Karen pressed a button on her key chain. The car alarm voiced one shrill beep as it disarmed. She pressed another button and the locks clicked open. Karen got into her car, smelling new leather and the vanilla air freshener she had hung from her rearview mirror.
She thought I hate my job. If my partner weren’t so pretty I would send Beri my resignation. But she knew she wouldn’t. If something suddenly happened to Misslo that made him hideously ugly, she would still spend the rest of her life in Human Fey Relations. She had bled for this knighthood. Just because she couldn’t be on the King’s Guard anymore didn’t make it likely that she would give up her title. The thought of the High King caused an ache in Karen’s heart that reminded her startlingly of tears. She turned on her radio loud enough to drown out her reflection.
The morgue was not as grim as Karen had expected it to be the first time she had seen it. It was a low, brownstone building with grass so green it glistened against the still cloudy sky. She parked the Beemer next to Shorliss’s unmarked Caprice and got out. Bright flowers lined the cement walk, yellow and pink against the wet, black earth they had been planted in. She turned her eyes away from them, annoyed at the attempt someone had made to brighten the atmosphere. Then she smiled. She had worked herself into a foul mood so quickly that she almost hadn’t recognized it.
My, are we bitter, Karen thought. She didn’t really hate her job. She just hated the circumstances under which it had been given to her. When she allowed herself to be perfectly honest, she didn’t even hate the vampires. They made her life interesting. Besides, most of them were perfectly law abiding. She opened the door to the morgue and went into a clean, well-lit lobby.
Shorliss was a middle-aged human man with thin blond hair and a red face. His chest and arms still seemed strong, but his belly was beginning to go a little plump. He wore a thick blonde mustache and a tie that didn’t match his shirt. He regarded Karen with eyes that were nearly colorless, busy, and shrewd. His partner was a younger black man in a neat suit with an open, honest face. He was new. Karen didn’t think she had ever met him before.
“Lady MacGregor,” Shorliss greeted, stepping forward to shake her hand. “This is my new partner, Detective Bryce. Bryce, this is Lady MacGregor, from the Human Fey Relations department.”
“How are you?” Bryce asked, stepping forward to shake her hand. He had an intelligent, educated voice.
Karen shook and said, “It’s nice to meet you, detective. What do we know about this thing?”
Shorliss chuckled and clapped his partner on the shoulder. “What did I tell you about her? She’s right to the point. She’s tough, too.”
Karen gave him a half smile and said, “I appreciate your kindness, Detective. Now, can we…”
Shorliss chuckled. “Sorry, didn’t mean to stall you. We’re just waiting for the coroner. She’ll be here soon.”
Karen nodded. “So, what can I expect when I go in there?”
Shorliss said, “The victim is a young girl, about eighteen, with all the signs of being bled out by vamps. We found her with no identifying documents or marks. Her clothes had been taken and she’d been left in an alley nude. Right now we have officers canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses.”
Karen nodded. She had a strange feeling that no one was going to have seen the girl die and she was going to have to go talk to Charlie Perkins, the Clan Lord. Perkins would probably be annoyed. She already knew what he would say. He would insist that he didn’t stand behind every moron who took a mortal lover to make sure he didn’t slip up. She just hoped they would have some DNA. For a brief, stunning instant, she longed for the courtly manners of the old vampires, the Leanan Sidhe. Karen could picture the look Sir Quay, her old teacher, would have on his face at this moment. It would be delicate, beautiful, and scornful. He would never inadvertently kill a mortal. She could also picture the way he would slam Charlie’s head against a wall the first time Perkins called him a fairy. Seeing that would be worth dealing with the obnoxious former human.
Shorliss said, “Care to share the joke, MacGregor?”
Karen realized that she was smiling and said, “I’m sorry. I was thinking about what my old mentor would have to say about our little vampire problem.”
“What would he say?” Bryce asked curiously.
Karen thought, He would say, ‘Give me a torch and I will burn them all right now.’ She said, “You don’t want to know. He’s Leanan Sidhe, and very particular about the way a vampire should behave towards his prey. He’s sort of a stickler for decency.”
Shorliss made an interested sound and said, “That’s strange, MacGregor. I didn’t think you had any use for vampires.”
Karen turned her smile to him and said, “Use for them? I rode with the Host at Avalon. I have lots of use for the good ones.”
A short, plump woman wearing a fashionable haircut and a pair of scrubs stepped through the door. “Hi,” she said. “Are you here about the fey girl?”
Shorliss and Bryce agreed and produced the needed credentials. They followed the coroner through the door. The hall was blindingly clean, with floors that had been waxed until Karen could have checked her make-up in the surface. Their shoes squeaked across the white tile. Karen smelled formaldehyde, floor wax, and several less recognizable things.
They made their way down the hall and into the fourth door on the left side. The coroner had left the body under a white cloth. She uncovered it quickly, and Karen saw that the victim had been young, with chocolate colored skin and hair as white as starlight. Her open eyes were solid black, with no hint of another color. While she’d lived, she’d been a very pretty girl. She was at least half Drow, Karen realized. She was so good-looking because she was descended from nobility. The wound on the side of her throat was little more than two neat holes, circled with dark purple bruising. There was another on the areola of her left breast and one on her inner thigh.
The coroner said, “She was killed at about one-thirty this morning. She died of blood loss: typical vampire stuff. The rape kit came back clean. We did not find a single hair on her, or a particle of skin under her fingernails or anything. We’ve sent the culture from the wounds to the lab and it will be back on Thursday. Because of the neatness of the punctures I thought it was just a lover that had gotten a little carried away, then freaked out and dumped her. Somebody went through a lot of trouble not to leave traces, though. If they were just fooling around I don’t think he would have been as careful.”
Shorliss said, “We don’t even know who she is. He took anything that might have identified her to strangers.”
Karen nodded. “Well, we have one thing. A half-Drow isn’t easy to miss. If any of the vampires in the city knew her, then we’ll be able to find out pretty quickly. It’s not every day you meet someone that has the guts to kill second generation Unseelie nobility. If her fey parent is still around he‘ll be both pissed off and powerful enough to do something about it. We may want to keep our eyes open for dead vampires.”
Bryce said, “Do you think her parent will want revenge?”
Karen snorted. “Are you kidding me? It doesn’t take much of a push to make a Drow kill someone. I’d say if we don’t find the killer before her parents do we’ll be scraping him off the sidewalk.”
“Oh boy,” said the coroner. “I can’t wait to do that autopsy.”
Karen smiled at her and said, “I think I’ve seen all I need to. I appreciate your work here.”
She smiled back at Karen and said, “Anytime. Good luck to you guys.”
“Thanks,” Shorliss said. They walked out of the examining room and back down the hall. Shorliss looked at Karen and said, “Well, do you have any ideas where we should go from here?”
Karen nodded. “I think we should go down and talk to the Clan Lord. He might know if any of his people were dating a half-Drow. At the very least we can rule out an accident during sex.”
“I assume you know the Clan Lord,” Shorliss said dryly.
“I do,” Karen agreed. “We’ll have to wait until the sun sets, but if you like I can call you.”
“That would be great,” Shorliss said. “We’ll see you soon.”
“Thank you for your help,” Bryce told her. Shorliss’s eyes went wide and he shot his partner a look so filthy that Bryce immediately did a double take.
Karen felt as if someone had just said a swear word that she hadn’t been prepared for, but she only smiled. Bryce probably hadn’t known that the fey considered it impolite to say ‘thank you.’ “You’re welcome,” she told him. Karen was half-human, after all. She knew that he hadn’t meant to offend her. She trusted Shorliss to correct him before he made the same mistake in front of someone who would be bothered by it. “I’ll call you guys after the sun goes down.”
“See you then,” Shorliss said. Bryce had managed to extricate himself from his partner’s grip, but he didn’t seem to know what he had done wrong, so he was saying nothing. Karen waved over her shoulder and went back out.
Karen reached into the pocket of her slacks and pulled out her cell phone. She dialed Misslo’s number, and when he answered she said, “Misslo, it’s MacGregor. How was the ambassador?”
“Perfect,” Misslo said. “He’s given us permission to send someone in next week.”
Karen almost whooped. Three months of hard work had ended in success. Instead she said, “Nice job! You have got to let me buy you a drink.”
Misslo chuckled warmly and said, “I wouldn’t miss it. What time?”
“Tomorrow,” Karen told him. “Tonight we have to meet with the Clan Lord.”
Misslo sighed. “I had hoped you wouldn’t say that.”
“Sorry,” Karen replied. “I have to.” She quickly caught him up on the details he had missed. “I’m going to bring Shorliss in, too. You know how he is. He has to see every step of the case himself.”
“Naturally,” Misslo said. “Look, let’s meet back at the office; we’ll finish up some of the paperwork we have to do, and then head out there. We can discuss this further at the embassy.”
“Great idea,” Karen agreed. “I’ll see you there.” She got into the car and put it into gear.



  1. chalaedra Said:

    Interesting. I particularly like your assessment of the rough draft vs. final draft. Many a novice writer thinks they are the same and that the story must stay true to its rough draft, never evolving into what might, in the end, be an entirely different can of worms. Through the process of writing, evaluating and changing, you hone your craft and make your work shine. Thanks for a look at this rough draft.

    • mljohn Said:

      Thank you for reading it! This particular draft is about 250 pages long, and it is actually associated with a much earlier version of Lady of the Veils. I’m glad someone found it interesting.

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