The quote that popped up when I posted my last blog was this:
“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” –Agatha Christie
Hah, I hate doing dishes. 🙂 Maybe that is why my books tend to be so unplanned. Just this evening, (okay, just this minute,) I finished jotting down an outline with which I plan to edit the NaNoWriMo novel I rescued from Hard Drive Hell. I’ve never been a big fan of outlining, but I find I need it. In this case, I’ve done the outline with the majority of the book already written. That way, when I go through each section, I can simply follow my outline, make each segment exactly what it needs to be to fit into the outline, and move along. I can add or tweak a bit more next draft, but this should get my plot more coherent, at least.
I’m also finding difficulty in the task of editing an entire novel because the scope is so big. I am hoping an outline will make each part stand out more, make it all seem like several smaller tasks. I find myself wanting to take on everything at once! and I can only barely read through 200 pages in one sitting, much less do everything I want to those pages! I mean, this must be what someone with ADD feels like. There is so much! And I want to do it all now! And that’s impossible, so I don’t do anything.
I also had been meaning to post a segment here, just for kicks. I think it was the segment from the imp battle. Let’s do that.
“That’s why I’ve never vacationed in Hell. It’s the heat, not the humidity.”
With those words, Ethne slammed on the brakes. The car screeched to a halt, tossing Ethne against her seatbelt and shooting Jezra out through the engine block. He walked back from where he landed and stuck his head through the passenger window.
“At least it wasn’t icy this time.”
Ethne agreed. She’d blown a brake line one night when it was icy, braking hard when some idiot in a truck crossed the intersection from a stop sign right in front of her. She managed not to slide into the other driver, but sure as hell blasted the horn after she’d come to a full stop. Asshat. No one wants a t-bone on Christmas Eve.
“Where do you suppose they came from?” Jezra gestured to the frolicking, rampaging imps breaking off tree limbs and pissing acid against the post of the speed limit sign twenty feet ahead.
“Where they all come from, I imagine.” Ethne drove carefully onto an imp-free portion of the shoulder and put the car into park.
“Watch the car.” She unfastened her seatbelt and hitched up her skirt a bit. She wasn’t the happiest to be fighting a devilry of imps in a skirt and heels, but as long as she kept control, the fight would be easy enough.
“Watch the car, she says. What am I supposed to do if they swarm the car, Eth?”
“Just keep them from shitting in it. The guys at the detailing place won’t touch it again after last time.”
Jezra assumed a grim protective stance near the left headlight. As a ghost, there wasn’t much he could do against imps, really, but if he concentrated, he could kick them away. It would use up more power than he normally expended, though, manifesting physically.
Ethne walked slowly down the road, head ducked against the sulfurous wind blowing down the channel between the trees, counting the imps in her head. Imps usually manifested in multiples of three, usually around twenty one or twenty seven. There had to be at least thirty here, but at least they were scattered some distance away. Well, that was both good and bad. It would take the farther away ones a while to come back once they realized what she was. However, she had no real way of knowing exactly how many had manifested. She didn’t want to accidentally leave a few to perform mischief.
She caught eyes with one picking leaves off a tree branch that hung low to the ground. It snarled to itself after each leaf, as if mumbling, “She loathes me, she loathes me not.” When it realized that Ethne was looking directly at it, truly seeing it, it scurried down off the branch like a flying monkey with a bad case of mange.
Ethne reached up over her left shoulder and pulled her scythe out of nowhere. The blade shone with inner fire, pure light, and it cut through the imp like butter, leaving two smelly, charred halves of imp on the ground. The maniacal screeching alerted the others, though, and they came at her in a rush.
There was a real art to fighting with a scythe. It wasn’t technically a battle weapon. Still, she could catch two or three imps with each swing, if she timed it right. One imp impaled itself on the blade, running at Ethne from just the wrong direction. Its scrawny legs churned as the blade split its thorax. Ethne ignored it until the the sharp heat of the blade cut through the ugly little beast and the thing fell onto the ground, dead. Her scythe balanced again there was another pile of steaming shit on the ground she had to avoid. Her shoes were ruined as it was, drops of dying imp piss eating into the leather.
The scythe sang shrilly as it cut through air and imp. No blood showed on the blade. Either the creatures lacked the ability to bleed due to cauterization or the blade drank the blood of the damned.
A couple of imps dropped from the trees. The first she hacked at in midair, a panicked, flapping bird still clenched in its yellow teeth. The second one she deflected with her left hand, freed from the grip at the end of the shaft just in time. Ethne sliced the bottom half of the imp away, and the three legs ran a distance before finally collapsing into a puddle of thick greenish-brown goo.
Ethne finally remembered to breathe, but was a bit sorry for her deep breath. Dead imps smelled worse than Hell. For all the rotten-egg sulfur in the air when they were alive, the noxious taste of decomposition in the air and the smell of over-flowing outhouse pit were utterly overpowering. Ethne would rather lick a skunk’s hindquarters than smell dead imp.
A few latecomers, whether they were smarter than the first imps on the scene or just farther away, eyed Ethne warily. She swallowed hard, looked threatening, and pretended she wasn’t planning to vomit in the bushes when she was done. She brandished the scythe over her right shoulder. Hardly a trained fighting stance, but it was effective and menacing enough.
Ethne spun at Jezra’s voice, too late. One little bastard clung to her back, biting a mouthful of ponytail like a dog with a chew toy. It hurt only in an annoying way, but the little talons scratching her skin like kitten claws as it clung to her back through her clothes bothered her on a more intense level.
The hold-backs jumped at her while she was occupied with the imp on her back. Ethne had to force herself to deal with the ones in front of her, to not get distracted. If she worried about the one on her back, ignored the several coming at her, she would fall. And no one wanted to be at the bottom of a pile of imps, not even Lucifer himself.
Finally the last little pustule fell in front of her and she could give her attention to the one still clinging to her back skin. Carefully, she raised the scythe over her head like the world’s most dangerous back-scratcher and slipped it through the unsuspecting back of the imp. It fell in twitching pieces to the ground, neatly bisected from crown to crapper.
Ethne inspected the ground and the trees. She had lost count of those that fell, and the remains on the ground clumped together. She listened for snarling or chatter, but after a few moments of silence, heard the birds hesitantly begin chirping in the trees instead. She straightened up slowly, arched her back to stretch it out. Picking her way through the steaming piles of imp remains, Ethne surveyed the damage to her shoes. Well, she examined the one shoe that hadn’t rotten completely off her foot from contact with the mess. She kicked it off towards the side of the road and walked cautiously to the back of the car.
Jezra wordlessly popped the trunk, but kept his gaze alert while Ethne cleaned up. She swung the scythe behind her shoulder again. She felt the wooden shaft in a warm line across her back before it faded into the ether again. She opened the first of several jugs of heavily salted water that she kept in the trunk. The water was bathwater warm from the heat of several summer days, but it hadn’t evaporated yet. She poured half the first jug over her feet to clean them, then the rest over her back to cleanse the imp scratches. The water bubbled and hissed as it came in contact with her wounds. Ethne swore in every known dialect of Hellion (75% of Hellion idioms involved curse words, so it was easy) and continued swearing in languages that hadn’t been invented yet.
Halfway through the second jug of blessed saline, Ethne stopped cursing, except in English. She didn’t have any other clothes in the trunk today. Usually she was prepared, but she’d worn the ones she kept in there the week before and forgot to replace them. Damn imps. Damn smelly imps. She would have to drive wet. And call to postpone the appointment she’d miss. At least she had a pair of pedicure flip-flops she’d accidentally worn home from the spa last week. Ohh, her pedicure. She couldn’t look.
Ethne hefted a third jug in her free hand and went back to where the imps had melted onto the cement. She emptied the half a jug first, diluting and washing away the goo from the road. She tried to estimate the amount of imp goop as she purified the scene. Thirty three was her best guess, a nice round number. Still, a lot of imps for one infestation. She’d have to call Charles again. He was likely sick of hearing her voice today.
Charles was, as predicted, a little underwhelmed by her news.
“So if you’ve taken care of it, why are you calling me?”
“Relata refero,” she said, basically, I report reports. It was the motto bestowed upon Charles when he became head of the local Curia office.
Charles snorted. Ethne wasn’t sure if he was amused or annoyed.
“I’ve made note of it, Ethne. Location?”
“Highway 19 outside Waterloo. Also, could you have Grace call my appointment in Watertown and reschedule?”
Charles made a noncommittal grunt, which he still managed to make sound snooty in an upper-crust British way.
“Anything else Miss Winter?”
“Nope, that covers it.” The line went dead on the other end and Ethne folded up her cell phone.
“You didn’t tell him about your wounds.”
“I’m aware of that, Jez.”
“You’re not going to see the healer? You really should. Imp infections are only treatable in the first day.”
“Aware.” Ethne wrung out her ripped shirt and put it back on. Lucky that traffic was sparse on the road this afternoon. It was unusual, but at least no one saw her fighting the imps and no one got a flash of bra besides Jezra.
“So what are we doing then?” Salted water or not, imp claws were much like the mouths of Komodo dragons. It wasn’t the wound that would kill the victim, it was the disgusting infection that would follow.
When Ethne didn’t answer, just shook out her emergency blanket to protect her car seat from the blood that would inevitably ooze from the imp wounds, Jezra scowled.
“We’re going to see that vampire.”
“You and I both know that vampire saliva is much more effective than anything the healer could do. Hell, it works better than penicillin.”
“You don’t have to convince me. I know I’m not in control of this little cruise to hell.” He picked at her antenna topper, a full-length red foam cord topped with pitchfork prongs. Stellan, that vampire, had given it to her shortly after they’d met and she’d thought it was tremendously funny.
“I don’t want you to be mad about it. I work with him; this is just a piece of the trade.”
Jezra got into the passenger seat of the car, snapped his seatbelt, and crossed his arms. Ethne tried not to get angry with him for being upset; it was a stupid thing for someone to get angry about. She took a deep breath through her mouth, still trying to avoid the lingering smell of imp. When she felt her breathing ease and her heart slow, she got back into the car. Jezra was playing something mournful on the radio, but she ignored it. She started the car, rolled down all the windows and put the vents on full blast. Hopefully her clothes would be mostly dry by Madison.
** excerpt approximately chapter six, rough draft
*** doing edits on the fly, since this is still the rough draft. Totally subject to change.