Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Our First Meeting

   Myself and three other writers had our first in-home critique meeting last night, and I think this will work out just fine. Since it was our first get together, we had a chance to go over some ground rules (as it were) such as how often we want to meet and how many pages of material to submit each time, etc. We also had a chance to share what our expectations are for the group and how we envision being helped by the others in our writing.
   One of the drawbacks to a monthly critique with a sizable group of people is that they have a hard time visualizing what a particular writer is trying to accomplish with a larger project. It's easy to comment on a short scene or even a full chapter, but sometimes they lose sight of the overall story from the beginning. For example, the story I'm working on is complex with many characters and spread out over several countries. When I post later chapters for critique, it's obvious that the newer members of the group haven't taken the time to go back and familiarize themselves with the story. Their comments are still helpful, but the questions they usually ask would have been answered if they'd read the beginning of the story. The same thing has happened to the others, that is why we decided to get together on our own.
   An advantage to us meeting like this is even though we have read the beginning of each other's story, we weren't all clear as to where the story was headed. Now we are. Last night gave us the opportunity to share that. Now I have a better understanding of what to look for because I know where the author is trying to go with their story, and can adjust my critique accordingly.
   Like I said at the beginning, I think this will work out for all of us. I'll let you know in a couple of months how successful we are.

   This week I will again share a scene from my book "The Princess and the Apprentice." This is when Odessa first learns she has the power of a Blood Mage. Any comments are greatly appreciated.
   Thanks for reading.

           Odessa held Aldan’s hand as she stood and gazed down at his ashen face. Tears burned her cheeks as fear and helplessness knotted her up inside. A longing for the ability to help him filled her in a way nothing else ever had. She only half listened as the old woman gave instructions for Jon and Derek to retrieve the bodies of the outlaws, lay them behind the barn and remove all evidence from the road.
At a gentle touch on her elbow, the princess turned and stared into the face of a mature woman with glossy black hair and milky white skin. It was the eyes that made her stare. Irises the color of old blood surrounded pupils that were no larger than the head of a pin. A tight, humorless smile revealed a set of perfect white teeth.
Not pleased with the deception, Odessa stood straight and glared at the other woman. “Is this an illusion or was it the other?”
“Both are illusions. My true form is no longer pleasant to look upon.”
“Men are never intimidated by an old, fragile appearing woman but that is no longer important. Come, you and I have much to discuss. You stand at a crossroad in your life and what I have to offer may not be what you truly want.” With that she clamped down on Odessa’s hand with an iron grip and attempted to pull her from the room but the princess refused to move.
“I will not leave Aldan alone.”
“There is enough magic in the staff and tome to keep your young mage alive for now. Whether he continues to live or not depends on you. We haven’t much time. Come.”
This time, Odessa allowed the woman to lead her out of the room and over to the table which now contained a pot of tea and two cups, steam rising from the contents. She refused to drink anything offered; instead she focused her attention on the woman seated across the table.
“Who are you?”
“I am Alicia Gertrude d’Morano, Queen of a kingdom that no longer exists in the memories of men, and a Blood Mage. I have waited for generations beyond counting for someone like you who I could pass on the knowledge I have gained.”
“If you are such a powerful mage, why don’t you just heal Aldan and let us be on our way?”
“I have the knowledge but no longer have the power. You have the power buried deep inside you but not the knowledge. The choice is yours. Accept my offer and Aldan will live. If not, he will die.”
Odessa slumped back in her chair, eyes shut tightly as the realization washed over her that Aldan had become more important to her than anything else. Would it enhance their relationship if they both were mages or just the opposite? She decided it didn’t matter.
“What must I do?”
“Kill me.”
Her chair crashed to the floor as Odessa recoiled in horror as if struck a physical blow. Body trembling, she stared at the once queen, revolted by her words. A moment passed before she could whisper, “I cannot.”
“You can and you will if you wish for that young man of yours to live. Don’t you understand? With every fiber of my being, I want to die. Only by the hand of another mage will my journey finally come to an end.”
She reached under the table and produced a normal sized book, bound in a style similar to Aldan’s Tome of Magic. The Blood Mage stood up and beckoned Odessa towards the bedroom. The princess followed slowly, tears blinding her sight.
Once inside, the old woman laid the book on a table next to the bed and instructed Odessa to remove the tome and staff and place them on the floor at the end of the bed. She managed to lift the tome off of Aldan’s chest but the staff refused to be removed from his hand.
Alicia stood, hands on hips, and stared down at the staff which had begun to glow a weak blue light. “You don’t have any more power left than I do, you old goat. This is his only chance and you know it. Now let go.”
After a brief flare, the glow diminished and Odessa was able to remove the staff. She leaned it carefully against the end of the bed then followed the mage back to the table next to Aldan’s head. Alicia lowered herself with a sigh on to the chair beside the table and pulled out a small, thin bladed dagger. She pricked the end of her finger and squeezed until a drop of blood appeared, then handed the dagger to Odessa with instructions to do the same.
As the drop of blood fell from Alicia’s finger to the face of the book, she intoned, “With this token of my blood, I release all previous claims to you.”
As the drop of her blood landed next to the other, Odessa forced words past the tightness in her throat and spoke as instructed. “With this token of my blood, I lay claim to this book as mine and no one else’s.”
With her features beginning to blur, the Blood Mage gently wrapped her fingers around Odessa’s and placed the point of the dagger against her chest. With eyes closed, she continued, “My life I give freely for the purpose of restoring the life of another.”
Alicia’s eyes snapped open and locked onto Odessa’s. “Now push!”
With a cry of anguish, Odessa forced her trembling body to press the blade through the woman’s ribs and into her heart. The body collapsed in upon itself as a wave of power and euphoria washed over her. The book slowly opened with a sound like rusted hinges and a voice whispered in her mind, “Let us begin.”

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