Setting down the spatula, still laden with chocolate frosting, Elias calmly turned to face his death.
-The Black Magus, by Autumn Rain
Setting down the spatula, still laden with chocolate frosting, Elias calmly turned to face his death.
-The Black Magus, by Autumn Rain
Sometimes I worry that I decided to jump into the whole ‘author’ thing a bit too late. Blogs are, like, totally old hat by now, and everyone has literally switched over to YouTube. Most of ’em haven’t read anything since Fifty Shades of Grey anyway.
The funny thing is, I was planning on retreating for the first half of this year, given that I’m expecting our fifth baby (omg that’s a lot of kids). Instead, the characters in my head have gotten louder, to the point that it’s meaningless to argue that I’ve got my own major life events going on. So, here I am, writing another story.
And I wonder: is there going to be an audience for novelettes posted on some random person’s blog? Even if I put tons of effort into marketing in my own way, will it ever amount to anything? It’s been ages since blogs were the hot new shiny item, and as much as I love fantasizing about being a crazy trend-breaker, I’m not sure if anyone else wants to go along with it.
Am I too late?
In a way, it’s also exciting to discover who’s still out there.
Hello, we’re the weirdos who stubbornly do our own thing, irregardless of where the masses have gone.
Doctor Westley tended to the women of the prison with a small rotation of nurses, and while Alice knew full well that she wasn’t the only pregnant inmate, she was the only one who was personally accompanied to each appointment by the warden – and that made her stand out. He was amiable towards her, in that stiff sort of way that hinted at being unfamiliar with friendliness on the job. The only exposure Alice had to the female population of the prison was a long and miserable walk down the corridor of cells as Hackett escorted her from his office to the infirmary, for a physical examination to confirm the pregnancy that she had claimed on her admissions paperwork. By the time she had reached the end of the corridor, she was terrified at what she had gotten herself into. A few minutes later when Westley pricked her vein to collect blood, the sight of it squirting into a tube had sent her into a dead faint.
Alice had come to with Hackett holding an oxygen mask over her face, and a nurse placing pillows under her feet. That night, Hackett took her up to her room in the tower, apologized for the dust but assured her that the sheets were clean, then locked her inside. She never saw the other inmates or the prison cells again, for which she was grateful.
When she entered the infirmary for her appointment, Dr. Westley smiled at her. “Would you like to find out the baby’s sex today?” he asked.
Alice’s heart thumped. “Yes,” she answered quickly, her hands moving to cradle her stomach. “I want to know right away.”
“Go on with the nurse – you know the routine – then we’ll get set up to find out.” He patted her shoulder. “Don’t be nervous.”
Alice nodded then followed the nurse towards the bathroom. After they finished up with the routine prenatal tests, she returned to the main examination room to find Hackett and Dr. Westley laughing together, though her presence meant their conversation was over. She had seen enough to know that they were good friends behind the scenes, but around her they always maintained the professional distance of coworkers. In a strange way it made her feel left out, even though she had no business trying to be chummy with either of them.
“All right, lets get started, shall we?” Dr. Westley motioned for her to sit in the exam chair. “Don’t be so nervous; ultrasounds don’t hurt at all. We’re just going to take a quick peak inside to see how the baby is doing.”
“And find out the gender,” Alice said, forcing a smile. She didn’t know why her heart was pounding so hard, and she silently reminded herself that practically every pregnant woman found out beforehand, now that the technology existed. But she was scared that she would be disappointed with the revelation, and only have herself for consolation once she was locked in her room once again. Despite the trappings of comfort, she was still a prisoner who had confessed to murder.
Hackett came to stand beside her, and brushed her hand with his fingers. He was watching Dr. Westley, so Alice wondered if the touch had been accidental. She shifted away, but his fingers gently touched her again, and she realized that he was trying to reassure her while maintaining subtlety.
I wish that he was the real father, she thought, then felt her cheeks grow hot with the realization of what had crossed her mind. No, she corrected herself, she wished that the baby’s real father was there, instead of the warden.
Dr. Westley had dimmed the lights, so no one saw her blush. She winced when the doctor squirted cold jelly onto her stomach, then placed the wand against her skin. The screen came alive with movement and strange shapes, and it wasn’t until Dr. Westley stopped the picture that Alice realized she was looking at a leg and a foot.
“Oh my god,” she blurted. “Is that my baby?”
“Sure is,” Dr. Westley murmured in reply, staring at the screen as he began to shift the wand around again. “Looks good. Looks good,” he mused quietly to himself, then finally turned Alice and smiled. “The baby is developing normally, so let’s get to the important part.” He shifted the wand around to the top of Alice’s stomach, and she held her breath as she stared at the screen, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to interpret the image herself but still searching for any tell-tale signs. Her fingers weakly grabbed onto Hackett’s as Dr. Westley said, “Let’s see … the baby is a … girl.”
“A girl …” Alice repeated quietly. “I’m going to have a girl.” Then she broke into a grin as she looked up at Hackett and joked, “Hopefully she won’t turn out like me, huh?”
He moved away, pulling his hand out of hers. “You’re still turning out,” he answered, but Alice didn’t understand what he meant by it.
After she was cleaned up, she said goodbye to Westley and the nurse, then followed Hackett through the winding path back to her room. She knew that he was deliberately leading her through the hidden passages that had been utilized during the prison’s former days as a castle, and it amazed her that he never got lost. If she ever tried to escape, she wouldn’t make it out of that maze.
“Hey,” she said slowly after a minute. “If people really can climb the trees and peek in at me, I’d like to put up some curtains.”
“What color?” he asked.
“Pink, for my baby.” She smiled as she cradled her stomach in her arms. “You’ll fight for me, won’t you? My baby is all I have to live for, and I’ll do everything I can to be a good mother for her. I’ll get an honest job, and I won’t ever have sex again, I swear.”
Hackett laughed. “I’ll do what I can, but ultimately it will be up to you on whether or not you keep her. I can get you enrolled in the education program in the meantime, since that will certainly help you find your feet. You can’t stay here forever, you know, especially with a baby.”
“I know.” Alice couldn’t help but sigh. “I kind of wish I could though. You’re my only company, but I don’t feel as lonely as I used to. I used to always feel like I was … pretending.”
They were quiet for a time, as Alice tried to understand what was going through her heart. Thinking about Damon, and the life that she had shared with him, hurt her in a way that she hadn’t expected. She regretted it, and wished that she could undo every part of it.
“I read a new book,” Hackett said. “I thought that you would enjoy it too.”
“Oh!” Alice exclaimed, surprised by the break in silence. “Good! It’s been a week since the last one, and I missed talking about books with you.”
Hackett patted her shoulder as he smiled. “You have more free time than I do. You should be recommending new books to me.”
“I can’t leave my room to find them.” Alice grinned back at him. “Go ahead and do that education thingy too. It’s not too late for me to get a GED, right? It might help me stop being so stupid.”
“You aren’t stupid.”
“Sure I am.” Alice looked down at the floor. “You don’t know what I was like before I came here.”
“I know that you have good taste in literature,” Hackett replied. He stopped and turned to face her, putting his hand under her chin to look her in the eyes. “I know that underneath everything, you have a good heart.”
He kept walking then, stopping a few feet away to motion for Alice to hurry up and follow.
I’m a hopeless romantic, through and through.
This was perhaps a bit silly of me, but after “The Scion Suit” gained a smidgen of attention on Reddit, I wondered if I should downplay the romance aspect of The Black Magus to make it sound more appealing to the sort of people who would actually read it — after all, I don’t think that I’d gain much traction with Twilight fans. But, I decided that would be rather disingenuous, considering that it’s right there in the very first chapter.
So there you have it: The Black Magus is the ultimate Mary-Sue fanfic, where the main character is a shy nobody who through sheer coincidence gains the attention of the most powerful magus on the planet. He competes against another magus to win her affection in a saucy love triangle, and ultimately pulls ahead by gifting her the most expensive car ever built. The girl, on the other hand, maintains an emotional affair with the other guy, just to prove how strong and independent she is after she’s married …
I’m totally not awesome enough to write that.
It’s not the sort of crap that’s always portrayed in popular romance novels. It’s also not the sort of “singles together” crap that we’re told to settle for because “romance doesn’t exist”. You won’t find any Taylor Swift songs that fit it.
It’s about devotion and compassion. It’s about two people joining together to become a family, and learning how to be there for each other. It’s about real love.
There’s also some stuff about magic and the world they live in, and a few other characters who have some dialogue and whatnot. You know, that necessary story-type stuff, to flesh it out into an actual novel and set up the sequel.
So, I have decided against downplaying the romance aspect of The Black Magus, because it is the entire foundation and structure of the novel. Please, don’t dismiss it because of a few bad stereotypes — I assure you that this story is different.
No promises, no pressure.
Given the current circumstances of my life, I’m not going to claim that this is the same quality of writing that I usually strive for. I might not even finish it.
This story kept repeating itself in my mind, so I’m writing it down.
Set in an alternate world where everything would totally happen as described.
Alice stirred and turned, half opening her eyes at the morning light that streamed in through the window. For a moment she thought she saw a boy’s face and a bright red jacket before the haze of sleepiness overtook her again, and for a few minutes longer she drifted back into the dream world. When she managed to rouse herself from her bed, she walked over to the window to gaze out at the trees and wondered if the vision had somehow been part of her dream. The branches were sturdy enough, but at four stories high she had a hard time imagining anyone climbing up to catch a glimpse of her. Just when she was about to turn back into the room, there was a crash and she caught a flash of red on the ground.
There was a knock on her door, and she slipped on her dressing gown before calling for her visitor to come in. Warden Hackett entered with the breakfast tray, which he set down on the small round table near the door then seated himself in one of the two chairs. Alice hadn’t realized that she had slept in, but she readily joined him and poured them both glasses of orange juice out of the paper carton.
“I thought I saw something just now,” she said after taking a sip. “A boy, outside my window.”
“Possibly. There has been a rumor going around with the locals that there’s a princess locked away in here,” Hackett replied.
“A princess?” Alice snorted. “Me?”
“You’re starting to look the part,” the warden answered, unusually focused on buttering his toast. “Now that you’ve dropped the motorcycle punk act.”
Alice blushed and compulsively glanced towards the one tiny mirror in her room. It had been about five months since she had last bleached her hair, and the pink dye had completely faded. Makeup, of course, was completely out of the question, though she did like the way that her face had recently taken on a healthy glow. But still, she couldn’t imagine anything remotely princess-like about herself.
“You should publicly announce the truth and put all the rumors to rest, then,” she said sullenly. “That I’m actually a murderess, and I deserve to be here.”
Hackett grunted, but didn’t reply. Something about his averted gaze made her feel guilty and wish that she could take her words back, so she remained silent as they ate breakfast together.
Alice still struggled to understand what sort of effect Hackett had on her, despite the fact that he had been her only companion for four months. He was the warden of the prison, built in an old castle that was surrounded by an even older forest, and while he had pulled a number of strings to place her in a private and comfortable room, he had never made any sort of advancements toward her that would explain the preferential treatment. On the contrary, the first time that she had met him she had attempted to seduce him to win a favor, but he had calmly zipped back up the front of her pleather top and said, “I hope that one day you learn how to conduct yourself with dignity.”
She had been humiliated and outraged, and vowed that she would hate Hackett till the day she died for spurning her so coldly. Damon had come through for her shortly afterwards, and the two of them had escaped and ridden free for a few weeks, until …
It was the word ‘dignity’ that had drawn her back to Hackett and accept her incarceration. It had repeated itself over and over in her mind, and created a deep and unknown longing inside of her heart. Dignity.
“You have a prenatal appointment in an hour,” Hackett said as he placed his fork down on his empty plate. “I’ll be back to escort you after I make my rounds.”
Alice nodded, then asked, “Is the board going to let me keep my baby?”
“They haven’t decided yet.” Hackett stood. “There’s only one way that you can guarantee it.”
“What’s that?” she asked eagerly, standing as well.
“Recant your confession and tell the truth.”
This time Alice looked away. “I’m not ready yet,” she said, her voice sounding faint to her ears. He liked to bring the topic up, and somehow she still failed to see it coming whenever he did. She wondered if he cared so much about justice that he would nag her endlessly until the real murderer was found, then thrust her out into the real world with nothing to support her and her unborn child – it was the real world that terrified her now, so she clung to the walls of her tower and the safety of solitude, where there was no one around to know about her. She was not going to recant until she absolutely had to, and the system was obligated to keep her until it was undeniable that she was innocent.
Hackett carefully set everything back on the tray and counted all the cutlery before he picked it up, not bothering to say goodbye as he left.
Alone, Alice busied herself with getting ready for the day, though she couldn’t help but look at the window repeatedly as she washed and brushed her hair. There were no curtains, and before she hadn’t thought them necessary, living in a prison in the middle of an ancient forest. But she had seen the boy’s face clearly.
She walked over to the window and looked out. She wasn’t very good at judging distances, but she guessed that it had to be twenty-feet to the fence that marked the perimeter, and the branches of the tree stopped well before that point. It seemed very far away now that she was thinking about it. Had she really seen his face?
Alice decided that she would ask Hackett for some curtains, to reaffirm her sense of privacy.
She, a princess … It was an absurd idea.
Alice stopped as she looked at the rack of clothing that had been provided for her. Instead of the usual prison garments, she had been given a few plain white dresses, loosely cut so that they easily accommodated her pregnancy, and the exact opposite of what she had worn before her incarceration. When she had asked about it, Hackett had replied that it was for the “psychological effect,” and left it at that. In the beginning she had felt so uncomfortable and vulnerable in them that she had wondered if he had meant it along the lines of “psychological torture.” With a few months to grow accustomed to them, she had stopped thinking about her clothing entirely.
Dressed in white.
Locked in a tower.
Alice laughed then. By confessing to a murder that she hadn’t committed, she had found herself in the center of a fairy tale. Albeit a strange one.
I spent over a year working on the first draft for this novel, and these are the only notes I made on the two main characters.
I confess, I’m terrible with notes, so I often find it easier and more organized to keep all of the information in my head. I don’t create character charts, or worksheets, or blah blah blah, because I make a point of locking everything in my mind.
Which is probably one of the reasons why I don’t fit in with writing communities.
Besides. Most of the time, I just listen to what they have to say anyway.
So, here we are: introducing the two main characters from The Black Magus, my upcoming fantasy romance novel.
Are you as excited as I am?