Sparring: Of the Arbour teaser

He was exhausted.

His muscles trembled when he moved, hopping back and scraping his feet on sharp rock. Lifting his arms was a challenge, but he had no choice—he had to keep going. When it came, and steel crashed against steel, he felt the vibration in his very bones. They seemed to grind together in his hands where he gripped the smooth leather hilt; but he felt no pain in his flesh, where the skin had grown thick and tough with practice. He knew his soles bled—he had seen the smears of brownish red on the stone floor—but he felt nothing. Aside from hot streaks of salt where the sweat slid down his temples and his chest, his flesh was numb; the pain he felt was etched into his bones, coursed through his muscles with each movement.

But he had to continue. What small part of his mind that wasn’t overwhelmed by his exhaustion knew that he had no choice but to keep going.

The crash came again and again. His breath was loud in his ears, and sweat stung his eyes; he blinked it away and pushed back, giving himself even a fraction of a second to catch his breath.

Cain’s cheeks were flushed mottled scarlet, and his curls were plastered to his skull with sweat. Sage could have smiled, if he had more energy. It came as something of a small relief to know that Cain was just as worn out as he.

The reprieve was brief. Eyes narrowed, sword hilt clenched in both hands, Cain let out a guttural roar and pushed forward off the rocky floor. Sage only had a moment to react, and then their swords were once more locked together. One more step back; another swing and block; and the screech of metallic song that made his ears ring.

As he danced around Cain’s attacks, blocking almost mindlessly, he wondered how long they had been at this. Sunshine streamed in dusty beams through the open mouth of the cave. Sage’s sword met Cain’s once more, and when he shoved it away he hopped backwards several steps, both in an effort to dodge Cain’s relentless blows and to better see the sun.

An hour at least since they began the fight. An hour of the most brutal training of his life.

By the gods, how he wanted it to end.

But there was no end. There would be no end until blood stained one of their blades, and Sage had sense enough to know that it couldn’t be his.

Of the Arbour news: a rewrite!

© Jessica Marshman
© Jessica Marshman

I’m thrilled to announce that as of June 8, Of the Arbour has begun its first rewrite.

I adore the characters and enjoy the story, but I felt that the style of writing was juvenile. I have definitely improved since I finished writing it, which I think is one of the main reasons I’ve stalled in writing about Sage and Co. This new rewrite is already 5000+ words and two chapters in, and I’m very pleased with the way it’s going so far. Already I can see that it’s going to be a vast improvement on the initial manuscript.

The work of an author is never done, even when they think it is.

I’ll be sure to post snippets of the new version as I write them. More regular bits that I’m proud of appear on occasion on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed. So, you know, check them out and stuff.

Authors are a sick breed

Authors – and anyone who creates a character – are a twisted group. Why? Because they literally play god for these characters and can do to them whatever they please.

Of course, this does include the niceties. Happiness, wealth, romance – most characters get these at some point. But in order to make a story interesting, there must be some devastation. And that devastation usually happens to the main characters.

Authors like to watch their creations squirm.

It isn’t that we’re a terrible group of people – but life simply isn’t a long trail of ups. The downs have to happen as well. But when an author thinks of something bad to happen to a character, they can sometimes enjoy it.

We are perverse. Continue reading

A basic writer Q & A

Because they can be insightful, because I have nothing better to do that’s a lie, I should be developing the world of Changeling more, or writing more Abomination, or editing Purity, or starting on the rewrite of Of the Arbour, or–

And hey, maybe it’ll give everyone else more of an idea of just why I do what I do, and where this all comes from.

Taken from the deviantART page of Elisa Nuckle.
1. When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing stories for most of my life. I cleaned out my closet recently and discovered so many little half-baked stories that I’d come up with when I was younger than ten. I’ve known I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 13, but only recently have taken the major steps toward that goal, and actually written something worth publication.

2. When you were a beginning writer, what did your write primarily? What do you write now, primarily?  (i.e. romance, fan-fiction, poetry)

I wrote plenty of Star Wars fanfiction that will never see the light of day. From there, I began to write sci fi stories that were based closely on Star Wars. In grade seven, a friend and I wrote a novel about vampires called Tears of Blood, which was completely scrapped save for one character: Fane, the son of Dracula, who now resides in Purity. I now usually write fantasy, high and epic. Continue reading

Naming a book

And what a bloody process it is.

The title of the book is, obviously, one of the most important parts of the writing process itself. If you have a stupid name, despite how good the book may be, people are going to judge it and be less likely to pick it up or buy it.

Being that I work in a bookstore, I encounter some pretty heinous book titles quite often. Namely, romance and mystery titles. They’re often punny or just straight up ridiculous.

Ideally, you would name your book something enticing that relates well with the plot or characters. For example, my favourite book, Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, is called Outlander because the main character, Claire Randall, is nicknamed Sassenach by her confidante Jamie Fraser; Sassenach is a Scots Gaelic word meaning, you guessed it, outlander (at worst; at best, it means Englishman, which Claire also is).  Continue reading

The process of writing

Everyone does it differently. Some people write passionately with pen and paper, and only pump it into the computer once there’s a significant amount. Some take notes and plot the entire story out before even writing the first word. The goal is the same – write the story – but getting there is different for everyone.

I write by the seat of my pants. The one time I can remember plotting out entire points throughout a story, I veered so drastically off course from the timeline that it could have been a different story altogether. I learned then that plotting out every detail is not for me. So I changed it, and I gave up trying to write down what I wanted to happen. If I stuck to a single idea, that was all well and good, but if not, hey, as long as I ended up liking the story, I really didn’t mind.  Continue reading

Putting oneself into one’s characters

Everyone who writes is guilty of this. It isn’t bad, of course. We can relate better and work better with a character we know, who is derived from ourselves. But even if we strive to avoid putting too much of ourselves into our characters, it still happens, and it comes as a big shock when we notice.

For example, the main characters of my three main muses are Sage, from OtArb, Aisling, from Changeling, and Caitlyn, from Purity. Sage, despite being male, is very much like me – or at least, he certainly was when I created him a few years ago. Generally pretty quiet, a little awkward, agnostic, and something of an insomniac. He represents my solitary side, and I’m fully aware of it. It’s similar with Caitlyn. She’s more of my goofier side, with immature jokes and a girlier nature. Continue reading


I’ve been away for a coon’s age! Or at least it feels that way. I haven’t had access to my computer in a few weeks, because of reasons. I still had internet access, but only through my iPod so I couldn’t exactly update the old blog all up on there. So lately I’ve been reading a lot, socializing some, and playing a lot of Draw Something (play with me!)

Unfortunately, being without my computer meant that not a lot of writing was accomplished. There was a few thousand maybe written in my leatherbound notebook for Abomination (the tentative title of the Changeling sequel I’ve started) so  Continue reading

A Sordid Past: Of the Arbour teaser

“I gotta question for ya, hero.”

Sage took a moment to count under his breath and convince himself that no, he did not have to murder Malachi, then turned back to the scoundrel. “Make it quick. I have things to do today.”

Malachi smirked and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his trousers. “You and me, we both had ‘em bounties on us by the Mad King. Where’d ya hide all that time? Ya can’t have been in a city. Don’t seem wrong enough in the head.”

There was nothing Sage wanted less than to have Malachi know where his family lived. He would have thought it was obvious, but Malachi had been in deeper hiding, his bounty having been one of the highest in recent history. He wouldn’t have been caught up on the news.

“It could have been a city. Why does it matter anyway? We don’t have bounties anymore.”

“No, ‘cause you killed the Mad King. It’s honest curiosity. Just ‘cause there are things in cities ya can’t find in the countryside.”

Sage glanced over Malachi’s shoulder. Kymbry had slunk silently from the crow’s nest and stood next to Stride. The two were near the dinghies, listening to the conversation with interested and expectant expressions.

“Just get to your point, Malachi. I need to go.”

Malachi had an incredibly mobile face. With one twitch at the corner of his mouth, his sneer was at once curious, lewd, and knowing. “We-ell, ‘member how you met your dear, darlin’ sweet wife? ‘Member how she was a whore in Wanderer’s Point, beggin’ for a fuck to get her fix?”

A muscle jumped in Sage’s jaw. “Say one more word, Malachi.”

“I’m just sayin’, hero, cities are dangerous. Things can happen.”

A hand clapped on Malachi’s shoulder, and the scoundrel snapped his jaw shut. “Maybe you should go, Malachi,” Stride said. His voice was level and cool, but there was something dark lurking in the depths. He loved Maia. Everyone who knew her did. Sage relaxed somewhat, knowing Malachi wouldn’t get away with his insults.

Malachi rolled his shoulder out of Stride’s grip and winked at Sage. “We’ll talk later, hero.”

They remained silent until he meandered away, whistling a bawdy tavern song as he went. Stride waited until Malachi was gone, then set a hand on Sage’s arm and towed him to where Kymbry stood. She moved behind him and began combing out his hair with her fingers without bothering to ask.

“I don’t know why you haven’t just killed him yet,” Stride remarked, watching her fingers move deftly through his son’s hair. “He deserves it, just for that alone. Was he asking if Maia had—?”

Sage’s face heated up and he stared at the clear blue waters beneath the Boar so he didn’t have to look his father in the eye. “Yes. She was a whore, Stride. You know that. Everyone does. She was in Wanderer’s Point for a long time.”

Stride’s eyes widened. “But you and the children—”

He wouldn’t have thought it possible for his blush to deepen, but it must have, for he suddenly felt like somebody had dunked his face in boiling water. “I know,” he snapped, and his abrupt gesture made Kymbry lose her grip on the braid. She smacked his head and started over. “But I don’t. And the children don’t. And Maia is fine.”


Kymbry quickly finished up the braid and patted Sage’s head where she had hit him. “Wandering caravans from the Dunes have remarkable healers,” she said vaguely, and not for the first time, Sage wondered about her part in Maia’s sordid history with Malachi. “Maia is fine, and we would know if Sage was ill after all this time. It shows more readily in men than women.”

Stride winced and a hand automatically went to his groin. “By the One. Don’t get me wrong, lad—I love the girl, but she has some questionable life choices behind her.”

“Please don’t talk about it when we get back.” Sage ran his palm down the bumpy ridge of the braid. He couldn’t wait to get Flynn and go home, partially because these constant braids were emasculating. “Maia is… sensitive. And if Ash found out about her past, he’d never shut up about it.”

His father nodded, but his unease was plain in his eyes.

Loss: Of the Arbour teaser

Sage stole a glance at her bunk. She was invisible beneath her blanket, but he could hear her gentle sighs as she slept, interspersed with the occasional snuffle and snort. It seemed the only time she was at peace now was when she slept, and even then she often woke, sweaty and tearstained, from nightmares.

Sage had forgotten to ask Briar to marry them. And during the Siege of the Arbour, when Cain the Mad invaded the Nation’s last safe haven, Keelin had been escorting a group of five year olds—the Arbour’s youngest students—and Sage’s three children to safety. In the confusion of battle, she had been killed—and Siras, heartbroken and devastated, had blamed Sage.

He stood and trudged to his bed. Siras has spoken little since the Siege, and smiled and laughed even less. There was no real indication she had forgiven him, but none that she hadn’t, either. He looked at her once more as he shed his shirt and crawled beneath his thin quilt. Her face was relaxed in slumber, but not peaceful; it could never be so, drenched and marred as it was with scars and sorrow.

Once the cabin was dark and the only sounds were Siras’ breaths and the creaks and thuds of the ship around them, Sage shut his eyes and began the process of taking inventory. Stride had suggested it, partway through their voyage, as a means for Sage to sleep. It didn’t often work, but the habit was ingrained into him now.

Not one for praying—a habit he found rather ridiculous, but wisely kept quiet when the subject was approached by his more religiously-inclined companions—he simply went through a mental list of those he loved and wished them well wherever they might be. Stride had told him it was similar to a prayer when he suggested it, only the thoughts weren’t directed at any deity. And that suited Sage just fine.

First and foremost was his family. Maia, Ash, and Isobel, back at the Arbour—how big would Ash be now? How much had Bella’s vocabulary grown? And Flynn, somewhere in this scattering of verdant islands, afraid and alone.

His father, Stride, and mother, Carol; Galvyn, former Master of the Arbour, the paternal grandfather he hadn’t known was his until after the old man was murdered.

Briar, across the hall. Siras, sleeping less than a metre away. And with a small pang of regret and loss—Keelin, murdered by mistake.

The professors at the Arbour. General Shal, Commander Ren, Countess Elin, Knight-Commander Vian; his allies during the Revolution.

He sighed and opened his eyes, exhausted but unable to sleep. He was exhausting his list, but there were still a few more names and faces he could use; maybe by then, his body and mind would be tricked into slumber.

His heart clenched as he began the next segment of his habit. The image of a young man, with tousled blonde hair and warm brown eyes, and fingers picked and chewed to nothing; one of his oldest friends, his own firstborn’s namesake, and Maia’s elder brother: Ash. He had been murdered many years ago, at the dawn of the Revolution, for his involvement in an expulsion during their final year at the Arbour—but it had been much more than that, hadn’t it? They hadn’t realized it at the time, but…

Sage rubbed his face and fidgeted, trying to get comfortable on the hard bunk. There was one name left on his list—one that he often touched on in passing, coming to him at random times during the day. It wasn’t unpleasant, but he would rather the ghosts of the past leave him alone, literally and figuratively.

Once upon a time, King Cain the Mad had been a brilliant student—albeit with anger issues—studying at the Arbour alongside Sage. They had never been friends, but their many altercations had been memorable. It had only been at the end, however, with Sage’s dagger buried in Cain’s chest, that all that lay between them had been set aside; because of it, Sage could truly mourn his loss.

He glared into the shadows above his berth and grumbled, “Why can’t you just leave me alone, Cain? I did nothing to you that you didn’t deserve.”

The night passed slowly. Sage lay awake, listening to the wooden creaks of the ship and the sea sloshing against the hull, and the snorts and sighs of the sailors in cabins around them, all peacefully lost in slumber—something that seemed especially determined to elude Sage.