Hello hello! Having recently revamped LofM's beginning and overcome some issues I was having with the manuscript, I wanted to share a bit that I'm really happy with! Please enjoy this first draft of the prologue of my fantasy series, a retelling of the first frame narrative of One Thousand and One Nights (aka Arabian Nights). I'd love to know what you think of it!
Once there lived, in the kingdom of Mourra, a woman as beautiful as the night sky. Her face was as round and bright as the faces of the moons-in-full, her eyes the pale grey of starlight, her hair as dark as the space between stars and falling in a lustrous veil to her feet, with beads of pearls woven through the strands. Her name was Nur-al-Hayat, and she was a poet and songstress of surpassing ability, her voice so lovely it was said to tame wild beasts and move even stone to tears.
King Haitham heard rumour of this lady and summoned her to his palace to sing for him and his court. Dutifully, she appeared. All attending were much struck by her beauty, and the king not least of all, stepping forward to greet and welcome her himself. Bowing elegantly, Nur-al-Hayat smiled demurely up at him and told him she had composed a poem especially for the occasion, and if the king would give her leave, she would be honoured to recite it for his pleasure.
Gratified by her courtesy, the king graciously bade her feel free.
With a voice as melodious as any songbird’s, accompanied by the skillful strumming of her qanun, Nur-al-Hayat wove a tale of the fall of the Lost Kingdom of Zerzura and the queen of that kingdom, who was called Zarqa’a. With great mastery did Nur-al-Hayat conjure for them a vision of that golden kingdom, illustrious and magnificent, with its great tower reaching for the heavens and its bountiful gardens of lush greenery and fragrant blooms spilling from their bounds.
Nur-al-Hayat’s very form seemed to take on that of Zarqa’a's as she wove her enchanting tale. Her audience exulted as the queen won renown and acclaim for her wisdom and keen sight, and fretted when rumour began to spread that, rather than skill, she had foreknowledge of future events. In growing perturbation they saw her enemies denounce her as an oracle, a mistress of djinn, and with outrage saw them seek to depose and kill her out of envy and covetousness for the prosperous kingdom, the jewel of the continent.
Many were moved to tears as Nur-al-Hayat spoke of how, in vain, Zarqa’a pleaded with her husband and her people, warning them of an enemy amassing in the desert, come to destroy them utterly, and was dismissed, for who could overcome the might of Zerzura? With hearts aching, they grieved as Zerzura was overrun, as Zarqa’a was captured and her eyes plucked out, as she was abandoned in the ruins of her city, with nothing but her sorrow to accompany her.
Her sultry voice lowering, Nur-al-Hayat dispelled the vision, solemnly conveying that though Zerzura was destroyed so utterly that only ruins now remain, and Zarqa’a’s ultimate fate is lost to the sands of time, every one of the queen’s enemies perished within a year of her death, and she alone ascended into the annals of history, to be remembered forever.
Applause thundered through the court as Nur-al-Hayat allowed her voice and her instrument to quiet. She bowed again, smiling sweetly, her eyes on the king, who went to her and raised her up and bowed over her hand, proclaiming her the finest poet and orator of Mourra.
It was with no great surprise that the King married her within the year, so entranced by her beauty, charm, and poetic skill as he was. And for a time they were happy, deeply so.
But it did not last.
Nur-al-Hayat was a woman of great ambition, and she saw in Mourra the potential to be more than just a kingdom, but an empire, and for herself to be more than queen, but empress. It was with envy that she listened to tales of the expansion of Diara, a country to the west that glutted itself year by year on its neighbours, while the King and the Council were uneasy and alarmed by this rapid and terrible conquest. Greatly did she wish for Haitham to put aside his peace-keeping ways and to look to his neighbours, if not in conquering wrath then in cunning alliance that would result in their subjugation to Mourra.
Haitham would not do as she advised him, for every argument of hers which moved the warrior heart of the king was overcome by the cooling, cautionary words of Luqman the Keeper of the Great Library, one of his closest and most trusted advisors. He alone was permitted to scribe within the Chronicles of Mourra, the sacred tomes of history in which were recorded every notable event since the time of Mourra’s founding and which could contain nothing of falsehood.
The queen grew resentful and discontent. She determined that if her husband did not love her nor value her enough to seek her approbation above all others, if he could not and would not share in her glorious vision, then she would find someone who did.
She set her gimlet gaze on the King’s army commander, Yusr, who had long held—and long-buried—a seed of malcontent, for in these times of peace, he had so little to do and despaired that he would ever achieve any glory for his prowess as warriors and tacticians, as his forefathers of old had.
Nur-al-Hayat knew this, and preyed on this, and found in Commander Yusr a man willing to be entranced by her ambitions. For many months, the King was none the wiser as they trysted and as they plotted, for Nur-al-Hayat commissioned a pavilion for herself—ostensibly so that she could compose her poetry without disturbance—and forbade any from disturbing her. There she would meet her lover and co-conspirator in secret.
Together they aimed to persuade the Council on matters of war, alliances, and expansion, garnering support slowly and cunningly in an attempt to achieve a majority vote, and working ever to advise the King to align with their aims. And so things might have continued, if Keeper Luqman and the Wazīr—the King’s younger brother, Imtiaz—had not intervened.
Keeper Luqman had known since first meeting her that Nur-al-Hayat was not to be trusted. Gifted with the ability to see something of the secret aspects of people’s hearts, he knew that the queen was ambitious to the point of imprudence and greed, but knew also that the king loved her so deeply that he would be (and often was) wroth at any suggestion of fault in his wife. Without proof of any wrongdoing, Luqman could do nothing but hold his tongue, watch her shadow, and hope that her love for his Majesty, true as it was, would not be deficient and might overcome her avarice.
The Wazīr, meanwhile, was alarmed at the changing of the opinions of the Council, whose members had begun to whisper, though not yet outright proclaim, that the King curtailed the might of their country and that it was foolish to watch and hope that the Diaran Empire might not soon look to them as a starving wolf looks to a lamb unguarded. That they should demonstrate their might and expand upon it, and thus cow the Empire entirely and—if they could not—then they might at least meet the Diaran’s on equal footing. Imtiaz had traced the source of some of these whispering to the commander, but he knew Yusr must have an ally elsewhere, and a powerful one too, and he was alarmed that he could not discover who it might be.
Together, Luqman and Imtiaz spoke, and Luqman revealed his suspicions of the queen, and Imtiaz believed him, and believed also that she was the commander’s supporter and the spur to his ideas. They might have approached the king even then, with no concrete proof to provide him, had the queen not fortuitously announced that she was with child. The king’s joy was so great that they knew they could tell him nothing of their suspicions, but still, they sought proof in desperate secret.
And then the king began to sicken from a mysterious wasting disease that stripped him of his flesh and vitality, as though he and he alone was struck by a famine. Nothing and no one could avail him of his suffering, though remedies, tinctures, poultices, and medicines from all over the kingdom and even from their neighbours were tried and applied. Luqman looked at Nur-al-Hayat and saw carefully concealed vindictive delight rather than grief in her lovely eyes, and knew then that he must speak against her…or lose his king.
He and Imtiaz approached King Haitham and bade him follow them and witness something that might heal him, though the healing would not come without some suffering, if he had the courage to face it. Neither of them would say aught else, and weakened by his disease but curious, the king submitted to their urging and followed. He was led by secret ways in the palace to the queen’s pavilion, and before he could ask in bewildered unease what they were about, directed to a window carefully screened, and bade him look and see what he might see there.
The king looked within and was met with devastation on devastation. Nur-al-Hayat lay in the arms of Yusr, his commander. They spoke of the king’s illness and named it poison, and laughed cruelly, and hoped that he might succumb to it soon so they could be free to pursue their aims and their love. And as they spoke, Yusr caressed the queen’s quickening form and rejoiced that their child might soon rule Mourra and—if all went according to their plan—an empire.
“And it shall surpass even the might and glory of Zerzura,” Nur-al-Hayat replied exultantly.
She had never looked so beautiful, nor seemed so monstrous, to Haitham before.
The depth of the king’s heartache and betrayed fury cannot be expressed. It was so great, in fact, that he swooned and had to be bodily led away by his Keeper and Wazīr. Devastated, but unable to deny the proof of his own ears and eyes, the King summoned Nur-al-Hayat and Yusr to a private trial attended only by the Keeper and the Wazīr.
In a voice devoid of emotion, he laid out the charges of adultery, to their shock, dismay, and immediate denials. So King Haitham brought forth Yusr and Nur-al-Hayat’s personal attendants, who confessed to knowledge of the crimes committed against king and country. By this, Yusr was silenced and, belligerently shamefaced, he bowed his head and would say nothing more in defense of himself.
The queen, however, persisted in protesting her innocence. With a great display of feigned emotion, she spun a tale of coercion on Yusr’s part and weakness of vanity on her own, naming herself a victim and a fool, implying the affair was because the king had made her feel less esteemed in his affection, and begged his mercy and forgiveness. To this, King Haitham looked to Luqman, who solemnly procured an effigy of the king made of knotted string and hair. At the sight of it, Nur-al-Hayat went red, and then white, and quieted abruptly.
“I might have believed you,” King Haitham said slowly, “Even now, even though I myself witnessed your betrayal of me. But Luqman searched your quarters and your pavilion at my command and discovered this thing, and we know it to be the means by which you have poisoned me. We know you to be a magician of foul arts. We know you to be false to your core.”
At his direction, the effigy was burned then and there, and is it blazed into ash, health and vitality seemed to flow into the king, the hollows of his face filling and the lines of premature age upon his brow fading, the haggard diminishment of his figure vanishing like a mirage in the desert.
“For this and your other crimes,” the King intoned, his voice strong as it had once been but no less cold, “You are each of you sentenced to death.”
Nur-al-Hayat cried out and fell to her knees, swearing by the Creator that she was no magician, that she had created no such thing and knew nothing of it, but the king would not believe her, and his face grew thunderous that she would persist in her lies. And then Nur-al-Hayat knew that all his love of her had been extinguished and her end approached, but still she begged the king for his mercy for the sake of her unborn child, innocent of its mother’s crimes.
So great and terrible was the king’s devastation and wrath that he might have condemned her regardless, for he did not believe this child truly his, even as she insisted it was, and that she had lied to Yusr to manipulate him further for her aims. But Luqman advised the king against this evil; whatever other lies she told, Nur-al-Hayat spoke truly on the innocence of her child.
“You may live,” the king decreed, eyes burning like black flame as he regarded her with loathing and misery. “You may live, but I exile you and yours forever, but your name shall be struck from the Chronicles and you shall be Nameless. Never again will anyone speak it to you, nor call you by it, nor recall that it once belonged to you. You will be forgotten, utterly. I renounce your child from any claim of kinship upon me and mine. I renounce you as my wife.”
At this the Nameless Queen was wroth as a viper. She would have thrown herself at him to claw at his face like a wild creature, but Yusr–spurred by the revelation of her sorcery into realizing her evil—held her back. Tearing herself from his hold, the Nameless Queen spat at the King’s feet and swore by the Creator’s Name that he and all those he held dear would one day rue this day, and that she would be an enemy to him forever, in this world and the next.
And so ended the marriage, and the record, of she who was once Nur-al-Hayat, wife of King Haitham of Mourra.
But it was not the end of their story…
So! November is over! Last post I said I hoped to have a whole--if rough--draft of LofM completed by now, and I really have to laugh and wonder what in the heckity heck I was thinking. A whole draft? A whole draft????
Needless to say that did not end up happening (a whole draft! which would've been between 50 and 70k?!). But I did write, and enjoyed writing, even though it wasn't every day. After all, I went from having nothing at all to having something that I am, crucially, pretty happy with.
I also didn't end up posting excerpts weekly here, though I did share a few on tumblr. I've gathered them all here for your perusal. I also made two posts corresponding with some entries in my worldbuilding encyclopedia, featured below! I love them and am excited to create and share more!
Once, in the oldest of days and times, there were four kingdoms: the kingdom of Men, the kingdom of the Djinn, the kingdom of the Elyoud, and the kingdom of Beasts. I say once, but they are kingdoms still. They are not, nor have they ever been, united, though only two are sworn enemies: the Djinn and the Elyoud, who will have no alliance or consortium with each other.
I’ve waited for this for so long: my own apartment.
It took so many months of carefully saving up, of working crazy hours at both my jobs, of sacrificing opportunities that would’ve cost money to have or partake in, opportunities that would’ve delayed this moment...when I walk into my new apartment and see the enormous windows, east and west facing so I get sunlight all day long, the bare walls, the expanse of uncarpeted floor, the doors leading to a small bedroom and a full bathroom, the arch leading to the kitchen.
I set the last of my boxes down and let myself grin wide and manic.
Finally, finally, I have my own home! A place just for me, that I can decorate how I like, that I can fill with music at whatever volume and of whatever genre I want, where I can stack all my many books on shelves I have yet to put up, where I can cook whenever I want no matter how smelly and leave the dishes for as long as I can stand.
Maybe even get a cat. Maybe even get two.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to own anything in my life, not even my car, which got me everywhere I needed to go, which gave me freedom and mobility I hadn’t had before and sometimes wondered if I ever would.
Look at me now though: I own this place. It’s mine. And nobody can take it away from me. It's the beginning of a whole new life, and my future is wide open and full of possibility!
That same night, I settle onto my couch, tired but pleased and most of the way unpacked, turn on the news...and find out that the worldwide pandemic we’ve been suffering under for the past three years has evolved its worst strain yet.
And now we’ve got a zombie outbreak on our hands.
Just my luck. Guess it's a good thing I love this place then; I won't be able to risk leaving it for a long, long time.
Fictober is an event hosted on tumblr where writers respond to a prompt a day for the whole of October.
You can find the prompt list here.
Many moons ago (lol), I was talking to my friend Trade about Rivener, and they asked me a fantastic question. I'm paraphrasing here because I don't have my old blog with the record of it, but essentially they asked me what the worst versions of my characters would look like. And I said with Wren, she'd be something like Cormac (my main antagonist). Brutal, unafraid of her own power or using it, and utterly devoid of empathy. I said she'd become like that in an alternate universe where she met Cormac while young and was raised by him and his ideals.
But then...as much as I like angst, I couldn't just leave it at that. I love happy endings! No matter how hard it is to get there! (Sometimes the harder, the better, you know?) Anyway, we ended up talking through what would happen if that version of Wren met Kai, how they'd meet, if he would help her change, and what their story would look like. Ultimately, the world would still be the same—post-apocalyptic, though leaning more towards sci-fi than urban fantasy—but certain events would change, impacting the characters and their development.
Several months passed where I stopped writing almost entirely but didn't stop thinking about this, and after some more recent chats with Trade and Hyba, I decided to scrap my first rewrite of Rivener (which, if you don't know, I'd been sort of attempting to do) and properly pick up this AU.
And now it's an actual thing! I've written 6k for it so far over the past couple days, planned a good chunk of it out, and have the writing bug again (such a good feeling, when you just wanna write and write and write, like an itch). It's going fantastically, if I do say so myself. However...
I was (am still? sorta?) a little nervous to share this version of my story (creatively titled Rivener 2.0) because...this Wren is awful. She does awful things and is complicit in awful things. Internet purity culture has me worried about what the response will be to this character who can lightly be described as ~problematic~. She changes, of course. This story is still about two very damaged people healing, the journey they go through together and because of each other. But it's also a lot darker. Or I delve into the darker aspects more.
Wren is not exactly a villain, but she's not a hero either, not for a long while. She is, in fact, closely aligned with the main villain. Not entirely of her own free will, but...well. Some may think she's irredeemable, which is valid. But I think it's rare that people are truly irredeemable. I do believe everyone has the capacity to change, if they want to, if they decided to, if they commit to it and keep trying and learning and unlearning, if they work hard to not repeat their mistakes or the way they've hurt people, if they apologize by word and action.
I don't think anyone is owed forgiveness, but I believe everyone can earn some sort of...grace? I don't know if that's the word I'm looking for, maybe redemption is closer to the mark. So yeah. Wren will have a pretty significant redemption arc. I hope I can do a good job conveying the complicated person she is, with pretty severe faults but equally admirable qualities and depth to her. Her journey is not easy. She can never erase the things she's done. But I hope you cheer her on as she grows to be a better person, even if she can never fully make up for who she was. I hope you understand where she's coming from, even if it doesn't excuse her actions or beliefs.
Now this AU is not all about Wren, and Kai too is changed from the original story. Firstly. we're meeting him in vastly different circumstances, when he's arguably a much rawer character? In the original, he'd been enslaved to Cormac for a while by the time he met Wren, and a few years before that he was "stock" on a "farm" (for spoiler reasons, I won't explain what that means).
In this AU, he meets Wren having just been removed from the farm. He's less docile, but at heart, still the same sweet, gentle, traumatized Kai of the original. They have a long way to go before they like each other, given who Wren is and how they meet in this AU. She treats him pretty terribly. Not as terribly as she could've, and not as terribly as others, but...oof. They have an uphill battle ahead of them.
Still! I'm really excited to write this story, difficult (in topics and tone) as it is! I get to explore the world a little bit more, flesh out Cormac a lot more, and write some scenes I always wanted to, which didn't end up having a place in the original! I hope you guys will come along with me on this journey!
Have you ever written or read a character who starts out as awful and slowly transforms for the better (or the reverse)? How did it go? Do you think they managed to become sympathetic or appealing to the reader, despite their faults? Do comment below, or drop me an email, and let me know! I'd love to talk about this!
In the meantime, have an excerpt:
Cormac listened quietly to this report, and the only indication of his rage was the wreaths of fog coiling around his feet like cats, which swelled and billowed behind him like a cloud before he hissed out a breath and it quieted to nothing more but tendrils of mist, cold and spreading across the floor. Wren braced herself against the reach and touch of it, felt a grim sort of perverse pleasure at the way Threader flinched, the way the others fidgeted, discomfited.
Stay tuned for P.3 of my writing updates, where I will talk about my Glitch wip! Happy reading and writing!
Hello hello! I've been writing and plotting for Chronicles of Mourra, Rivener 2.0, and the Glitch wip, and it has been going incredibly well, due in huge part to my writing buddies! (You know who you are, and I adore y'all).
I've been meaning to let you guys know how and what I've been doing, and I have SO MUCH to share! Which is why this is only part one of the updates!!!! We shall start with...
Chronicles of Mourra
Since very nearly the beginning of this iteration of CofM (which, if you've been following me for a while, you'll know is one I've been working on for about ten years, though this latest version is about two years old) I've been wanting to incorporate a prophecy into the plot. The question was how. CofM is, at its heart, my exploration of the Chosen One trope, and what's a Chosen One trope without a prophecy? (See: King Arthur, Harry Potter, Heroes of Olympus, the Lord of the Rings, Narnia etc).
Anyway, so I managed to write about 40k without said prophecy actually being developed or incorporated in any way, and it was like a rock in my shoe, very irritating but ignorable with some effort. But finally I sat down (literally, by my local creek), opened my computer, and tackled it. About twenty minutes and 700 words later, I had...something. A good something!
A few days later, after talking it out with my friend Hyba, I ended up creating loads of backstory, character development, and a complexity to the overall plot that I'd been missing until then, and I am so excited. Here's a quick breakdown of what I've developed, somewhat spoiler free!
Given all this behind-the-scenes tinkering, the 40k I'd already written needed some adjustments to reflect these changes or plant the seeds of future events! It took me about a week and a half of on-and-off-again writing (twice in a little virtual session with Hyba), but I managed to get what I'd written to a place I'm very pleased with! Here's an excerpt, a little descriptive piece I'm really fond of:
To Halah, it reminded her of the rare expeditions of her youth, when she’d accompany her grandfather to the mountains, where he would retreat to his dwelling there for quiet contemplation (though it was not very quiet with his granddaughter chattering to him and demanding he tell her stories).
I hope you enjoyed this! Let me know any thoughts you have, or any questions! I love to talk about my stories so I will probably answer any questions you have, although I may skirt around spoilers. Anywho, I hope you're doing well! Do let me know.
Happy reading and writing!
So I was flipping through my bullet journal yesterday, looking at the very beginning where I wrote all my optimistic goals for 2020 (hah!) and how many I just uh...didn't achieve. (HA!) And one of those goals, listed right at the top, was to try and write 50,000 words of CofM before 2021. To finally make proper headway with my novel, instead of just thinking about it for oh, I don't know, another ten years (😭).
And I was looking at that goal and the way I couldn't cross it out because while I had written (what is to me a very impressive) 20k, 50k seemed such a long way away considering I...hadn't written anything other than fan fiction in about a month.
I just. Got stuck. Got in my own way, stressing about hypotheticals and plot plans rather than just opening the doc and writing a crappy version of it all, so that at least the words existed on paper, ready for me to improve. But something happened last night.
I was talking to my wonderful friend Hyba (who has a novel coming out this January!) and she really got me so excited and rejuvenated about CofM by both listening and exploring possibilities with me. So I sat down, and despite all my own fear and self-imposed pressure, I opened my google doc, and started reading the last chapter I had written.
As one does, I edited a little bit here and there, noticed certain holes and patched them. (At one point, a character takes her shoes off to climb a wall and never puts them back on, which is a problem because then she runs through the city). Then I got to the heading Chapter Eight, and all the blank space underneath.
And immediately I started feeling antsy and bored, a stress response if ever there was one. I had to stop myself several times from opening Youtube, TikTok, Instagram, and my mobile games. I had to stop myself from getting out of my chair and spur-of-the-moment reorganizing all my drawers. I had to resist the urge to procrastinate with all my might.
But I managed to power through all my uncertainty and fear of failure, teeth literally gritted, just to write the first line, which had been bouncing around in my head all day, fully formed. ...And then I wrote a little bit more. And a little more. I recalled the way I had phrased something in an earlier draft, went to find it, and found a whole section that could fit into this chapter with some tweaking and adaptation. (This is why I try to not delete anything).
And then it felt like I blinked, and looked up, and it was 3am, and I had written 20,000 more words! Putting me at 40,000 words total. Meaning I'm only 10,000 words away from achieving my goal, with thirteen days until the end of December! AAAHHHHHHH!!!!
Which is to say, guys. I might actually do it! I might be able to write 50,000 words of CofM before 2021!!! I can't believe it, I have never written this much for CofM before! I honestly doubted if I ever would! And yet! Here I am!!!
You might be wondering why I'm celebrating now and not when I hit 50k. The answer is twofold. 1) I'm literally too excited to keep this to myself. 2) I am still worried I won't hit 50k, and I'd rather celebrate 40k than beat myself up about it. Anyway, enough about me! Have an excerpt from the latest chapter, featuring Halah, my main character, and my darling Ilyas.
❝ Eventually, Ilyas ventured to make conversation with her, though he began rather abruptly. “Did you have another dream?”
Happy reading and writing!
So I'm a certified night owl and I do some of my best (and also...worst, let's be real) work between the hours of midnight and 4am, when I'm not working and don't have places to be in the real morning. Such was the case with my new work-in-progress Chimken Tendies. (I will be taking no questions about the working title at this time 😃)
Anyways! I was scrolling through TikTok when I saw a POV video of a guy acting as 'your' (the viewer's) bodyguard, judging your choice in boyfriend. My heart went tha-thump. My hands started twitching. My overworked computer fans started pre-emptively whining. And I had an idea.
I'm a huge fan of tropes and archetypes, and I also really love subverting or otherwise twisting those tropes and archetypes. The concept of bodyguards has long been a delight, but also one I have...never written? Somehow? It's a delicious dynamic, and it's a crying shame that I've never put my spin on it!
So I went on tumblr, yelled exuberantly at a friend, added a few other narrative tropes into the mix, and arrived at Chimken Tendies, where Etienne, the very wealthy scion of a very shady family runs away the one day his loyal bodyguard, Sacha, is on leave. His parents (are terrible people) want him home primarily so no one can try and use their son against them, so they hire a shapeshifter named Cipher to double as him. Sacha must, of course, guard Cipher as though he's the real Etienne, all the while worrying about her original charge, and trying to teach Cipher how to be more like Etienne. Cue misadventures (so far indistinct).
Here's what I have so far of this ridiculous fun!
content warning | depictions of violence, blood
Welcome to the blog!
Featuring prompt fills, excerpts from my wips, posts about my writing process, and more.