Posts Tagged ‘The War Ender’s Apprentice’

What is a trunk novel? The Story of The Martlet

So after posting about The War Ender’s Apprentice last week, I got a few questions and specifically the one I am going to answer is What is a trunk novel? (Or more specifically: why the hell did you keep a decent novel in your back pocket in the days of self publishing?)

The definitions of a trunk novel are: 1) a non-publishable novel the author finished early in their writing career (2) a novel they never sold.

The original The Martlet novel was both. It was inspired by a short story I wrote while I was waiting to hear back from publishers about Other Systems back in 2011. I sent it to a literary magazine who rejected it, but gave me a long feedback letter. They loved it, but felt like it was part of a novel. Specifically they loved the idea of the central character: a person who stops wars before they get started and they loved the relationships that I showed. So I sat down and wrote the novel using my drafting process.

Roark

Original Character Sketch of Lord Roark 

I originally thought this was a swashbuckling adventure book with mass market appeal so I sent it out to publishers. The rejections started piling up from big and small publishers–including 48Fourteen who published Other Systems. Only one small publishing company showed any interest, but I hesitated and the opportunity was gone.

I sent The Martlet to beta readers, the overall feedback I got was that everyone loved the characters, but felt the A plot and B plot was overly complicated. Thinking there was something wrong with the beginning, I wrote a new beginning. And I tried to smooth out the A Plot, by adding shorter adventures so the characters could solve things while continuing to work on the big plot which takes years. (Yep, I literally made it even more episodic!)

SIDE NOTE: if The Martlet was my only project I might have come to the conclusion to break up the novel earlier, but during this time, I also finished the third book in Faminelands, the final episodes of Out for Souls and Cookies, I wrote and 48Fourteen published The Light Side of the Moon, I wrote and self-published The Grove, and I spent six months collaborating with Jennifer Brozek on the graphic novel version of her short story The Prince of Artemis V for which we’re shopping for a publisher right now

However, The Martlet kept calling. Between projects, I’d work on it. Try to see if I could clean up the prose or add a chapter here or there. I added a frame story at one point. I sent it to other beta readers.

I couldn’t turn away from the central cast of characters, especially Roark. I wanted to publish it so it would stop haunting me, yet I knew I would regret publishing it too early.

With every project under my belt, I learn another lesson and The Martlet was now screaming at a fever pitch in the back of my mind. So I started fresh. Now I don’t want to give too much away, but I noticed there was no inciting incident which starts Roark on his path, because it happened when he was much younger than he is in the original novel.

These two points are from Roark’s Background:

Age 13 – 19: During Roark’s apprenticeship, he sees his master [Alana] pulled two ways. Her Martlet vows and her War Ender vows. Personally, he is tired of her do-gooding, when she is breaking laws to do it. 

Age 16: Alana rescues Eohan from a slave ship due to “one of her more idiotic” visions.

This is from Eohan’s Background:

Age 18: Alana rescues [Eohan] from a slave ship. Though unsure about Alana’s methods and Roark’s instincts, the young men become friends.

I started asking myself about other things readers would want to know, like why/how were Eohan and Kian enslaved. If slavery exists: what does that mean for the societies in this book? And where do the War Ender’s come in? Why would a society stop wars, but turn a blind eye to the atrocity of slavery?

Now if these pieces were additions to a novel, The Martlet would become another longer work. As an author and artist, I am always trying to challenge myself. If the problem is that it’s episodic, then I should turn it into interconnected episodes!

What might be a good novel might become a series of epic novellas!

The War Ender's Apprentice copyNow that The War Ender’s Apprentice is out, I have a little more to do with The Assassin’s Twisted Path before I send it to the editor in early January.

Long story short: Though I tend to be a “let’s get it done” type author, sometimes just getting it done isn’t the answer. I needed time to explore the work and discover it’s potential. I’m glad I took that time.

If anyone is pushing you to publish a work, you know isn’t ready, don’t listen. Stick it aside, and work on another project.  Or stick it out and figure out what’s wrong.

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The War Ender’s Apprentice is HERE!

As many of my readers know I have had a trunk novel for an embarrassingly long amount of time which I LOVE called The Martlet.  Now with a few books under my belt, I can see how episodic the entire story is. I see now why though I got a lot of great feedback it wasn’t ready for publication.

Over the past six months, I decided to break up the novel in to a series of novella-length stories. Each story is approximately 150 to 200 pages. If you like epic sword and sorcery fantasy with a bit of necromancy, this series might for you.

The first novella is The War Ender’s Apprentice and comes out today! 

The War Ender's Apprentice copy

In the chaotic universe, many intelligent species are on the brink of war, but the Guild holds the violence at bay to foster peaceful trade. The most renowned War Ender is Lady Alana of House Eyreid. Alana hopes to train her beloved nephew, Roark, in her vocation.

It was supposed to be a simple training mission aboard an Interrealm slave ship. However, when Alana find her people enslaved, she murders the crew and rescues every slave—whether criminal, dishonored, or stolen. A fleeting vision of Roark’s future tells her to offer the newly freed Eohan a War Ender’s education.

For her vision to come true, Alana must rescue Eohan’s young brother who was sold in the last port and lost somewhere in the Realms, but first, they have a war to end.


Excerpt

Clouds rolled in, casting the Realm in deep shadows. The last sun dipped into the ocean. They pushed away from the shore on an unlit boat painted black as pitch. The sea was calm enough for Alana to steer the rudder and Roark to row without hindrance until they drifted into the current behind the larger ship.

At twenty-five paces, they dove into the water with a length of rope. As instructed, Roark carefully tethered the rowboat to the stern. Alana edged along the wooden hull. Wearing spiked gloves, she climbed to the upper deck.

Goddess, it stinks. A horrid mix of feces, bodily odors, vomit, blood and greasy pottage filled her nostrils. Over the hatchway stood the overseer holding a scourge of nine twisted thongs. His ill-fitted, ragged clothes looked as if they might rip any moment. His white hair was cropped short, but unwashed and ashy patches of skin flaked off his knees and elbows. She might have felt pity. However, a slave’s moan sang out into the air; the overseer hit his whip upon the grating. His eyes expressed eagerness to apply it upon the flesh of his victims.

Alana’s deceased aunt reminded her conscience, “We don’t kill for vengeance, Alana Mira Eyreid.” But her mentor was dead; she was the Guild Master now.

Alana slid to the deck, removed her metal spikes, hid them in a lifeboat and waited for Roark’s signal. He slipped aft to find the purser. Alana crawled into the captain’s night compartment — a dank, private room one deck below.

In the dim twilight, Alana observed an emaciated Fairsinge woman loosely chained to the wall. Her neck was restrained by a tight iron collar. Her once smooth white cheek branded and ebony hair cropped to her scalp. Upon closer inspection, her body did not look as fully formed as a woman’s, but Alana did not know if that was malnutrition or age. Her eyes were crusted with dried tears, and her reddened nose had left a trail of snot to her mouth.

Knowing the sheer stupidity of such an action, Alana knelt before her and pulled off her face mask and exposed her three-pointed ear.

A hint of life came back into the girl’s eyes.

“You must be quiet and hide.”

The girl mumbled and nodded in agreement.

Alana picked the lock. Once freed, the girl scampered to the far corner and pressed her branded face into her hands.

Replacing her mask, Alana glanced in the dirty mirror to ensure her auburn and silver hair was still covered.

As her dossier said was his habit, at eight bells, the captain entered alone. He undressed. Ribs and knobby joints were stretched across his mottled flesh.

He pulled at the girl’s chain. Holding the other end, Alana leapt from the shadows.

His last words were: “What in the devil?”

She tackled him and clamped his ankle in the iron, then shoved a dirty sock in his mouth. Alana could have killed him quickly. Instead, she pierced one lung and let him gasp.

Alana knelt on his chest and whispered, “You should not brag you don’t pay your debts, Captain. The Guild does not allow malingerers to engage in Interrealm travel. It’s bad for business.”

Alana grabbed his wrist and, using her saber, chopped off his hand which she placed in a tarred sack on her belt. Bleeding and gasping, the captain clutched his stump closer to his chest as she stood.

She opened his desk and found a small box of coin, though not nearly the amount needed for the debt. She opened the ledger. Damn me to the lowest Realm!

Her dossier had suggested the northernmost port in Daouail would be the ship’s first stop for the arena trade. Unfortunately, the ship landed in Dynion’s Port Denwort where several children, aged ten to thirteen, had been sold as house slaves. She pressed her hand to the ledger. Unsure if she would ever be able to right the wrong, she ripped out the page and shoved it in her emergency sack.

She unlocked the captain’s sea chest and dug for money and other valuables. She found a vial of perfume from the Fairhdel province of the same name, but little else.

“No wonder they made an early stop. The ne’er do well probably holds a debt in every Realm.” May he be resurrected as a toad.

Alana threw the branded girl a linen shirt from the chest and a wool blanket off the captain’s berth. The girl didn’t respond, even as the fabric landed on her.

Pressing her finger to the girl’s lips, Alana tried to prod her out of the corner. The girl was frozen. Alana put the linen shirt over her head and covered her in the woolen blanket. She still didn’t budge.

Alana stomped on the captain’s torso. She punctured his other lung and scabbarded her blade. With the hope his gasping was gratifying to the girl, Alana hoisted her up in her arms. In seconds, the dead weight aggrieved her aging shoulders, but she crept up the ladder and sternwards to the first of the four lifeboats without fail.

“Hide here until we free the others.”

Shivering, the girl lay at the bottom of the boat, covered in the woolen blanket.

Moving silently, Alana redrew her saber and slid behind the overseer. Seeking a faster death than the one she gave the captain, she stabbed him in the jugular. Blood sprayed onto the decking. Below the wretched creatures — elfkin, human, and dwarves — shouted, clapped their hands, and shook on the metal grating as he collapsed.

Approaching footsteps. Four sailors raced towards her with clubs and ropes, ready to beat back any slave uprising. They did not expect a Guild War Ender. Alana’s saber twirled towards her first opponent, the telchine sailor. She cut towards hir chest, seeking the earthen heart. She found her mark. The telchine crumbled back to the clay from which sie was formed. Alana always found the sort of clean, yet ostentatious death throe of the telchine, gnomes, giants, and dwarves particularly satisfying.

A rope slashed across her forearm, ripping the weave away. Ignoring the pain, she drew her offhand dagger and rotated towards the next sailor, a human. Her first cut was smooth as it sliced the flesh of his arm, the second hit an artery, spraying more blood on the deck and his earthen colleagues.

Roark appeared from the shadows, the head of the purser held high. He threw it to the surviving sailors who stepped back from the sight.

Alana did not pity them. Her two blades struck their flesh; the sailors fell quickly. Blood and earth spread across the decks.

Grabbing the keys off the overseer, she unlatched the first hold.

A young man pushed on the grating from below as she undid the chains. His face was hidden by a long, tangled mane of black hair, but he wore no beard, not even fuzz. He was at the edge of adulthood, his shoulders still slender, but with the promise of muscularity. Though he spent months in chains, he was not faded, his posture was still erect. No doubt bound for the arena.

The slaves made a wild scramble to the weather deck. They reached towards the sky, embracing their freedom as if it were a physical entity. Alana noticed the young man again, searching the crowd. “Ma! Kian!” he called.

She threw the young man the keys to the lower holds. “There are more below!”

He raced down the ladder.

Alana signaled Roark to prepare lifeboats and went below to where weaker slaves were kept. While those bound for the games were kept healthy, less valuable slaves were so emaciated they could barely stand.

Many hung their heads in hopeless dejection; mothers lay unmoving, cradling babes covered in filth. A closer look revealed these children were already dead or dying.

The young man she had given the keys wept over a middle-aged woman’s corpse.

“We must move quickly.”

“My mother …” He stared at the corpse with red-rimmed eyes.

Alana took the keys and unlocked the chains. “I’m sorry for your loss, but get those who still hold life. Once safe, we mourn the dead.”

Withered women struggled to rise and climb to the upper deck still clutching dead offspring.

The young man didn’t move. “I can’t leave her here. I can’t leave my brother.”

“What’s your name?” Alana asked.

“Eohan, Son of Aedell.”

“Eohan, would Aedell want you to die with her corpse when I abandon this ship to the depths?”

The youth sniffed. “No.”

“It would bring your mother honor to know her son saved these other mothers. Get them to the lifeboats.”

“Lifeboats.” As if the young man came out of a daze, Eohan leapt to his feet and unchained the nearest woman who clasped her dead baby. The woman moaned as he cradled her in his arms and tore out of the hold.

Alana grabbed another woman unable to walk and carried her to Roark who organized the five lifeboats and lowered them one by one into the sea.

She was proud her nephew had the good sense to organize each boat with a mix of healthy survivors and weakened ones. Some slaves dove into the sea and grasped the sides of the boats and other survivors, unwilling to be separated from their families again, clasped each other. Just as well, there wasn’t enough room on the lifeboats anyway.

Four more trips to the bowels of the ship, before she and Eohan were able to save all of the survivors. Every bunk, every corner, every chain, Eohan shouted, “Kian, Kian!”

Once the last survivor was out, Alana grabbed his arm before he went below again.

“My brother…”

“We have to go!”

“My brother … He’s a kid!”

“Children were sold in the last port, if you ever want to see him again we must go!”

He glanced toward the hatch.

Alana grabbed an oil lantern off its hook and smashed it across the deck.

“Come on!”

The boy didn’t move, but screamed, “Kian!”

Alana almost left Eohan to the flames, but heard Alana Mira! Somewhere deep in her mind, through the smoke, she witnessed an adult version of Eohan tossing a squealing auburn-haired child into the air and catching her.

Damn it. The boy was destined to become a man. A man with a child. 

The vision of the child turned to face her. The resemblance to Roark was unmistakable, but she saw something else deep within the blue eyes. Something wild and violent. She was unsure if her vision was literal or figurative representations, but somehow Eohan was bound to the future of House Eyreid. Damn me to the lowest Realm!

“Ki–!” Eohan choked as smoke filled his lungs.

Flames rolled closer to them, eating the decking.

Alana rammed her left index and middle finger into a pressure point deep within the boy’s shoulder and gripped his ear with her right hand. “Move.”

*

 


Want to read more? The War Ender’s Apprentice is available at Amazon in Paperback and on the Kindle! 

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