It’s been a little bit since I last updated you all on my novel. Draft 1 is complete! It’s also enormous, a whopping 190,000 words. That’s the length of two standard fantasy novels—possibly even three. I’ve been slowly cutting things down to size in draft 2. I’ve also changed some major plot elements.
Because the story has changed, I’m posting a new snippet of chapter 1 *and* a snippet of chapter 2.
Meet Lia and Damian. She’s hiding from the angels who destroyed everything she cared about. He’s a suspicious angel detective who believes she’s a threat to his city. Together they have the clues to stop a group of vicious killers—if they can learn to trust each other.
Buying salmon in Seattle shouldn’t have been dangerous. According to Lia’s coworker Mario, it would be a simple process: stroll down Pike Street and walk under the red neon Public Market sign. Find the smiling woman with the long black hair and the mini gills that mark her as a hybrid. (“She’ll totally hit on you, Lia, and maybe you should say yes. Even though I know you’re into boys. She’s so cute.”) Ask for the best salmon to make sushi, and make sure to get her recipe because it’s the Best. Marinade. Ever. Take the folded brown paper bag of salmon-on-ice home and proceed to make sushi that’s literally an orgasm on your tongue.
Mario was a vampire, and Lia wasn’t sure why he knew anything about sushi. But he was confident, and he was insistent. So, just past five o’clock after a tedious Wednesday at work, she waded through the commuters in line for buses and headed down the hill toward Pike Place Market. Behind the market sign, clouds were finally lowering over the gray waters of Puget Sound, hiding the snow-capped mountains. Soon they’d cover the tops of the buildings, which fit perfectly into her plans for the evening.
She’d been good. She’d spent four weeks as a new transplant in Seattle, and her feet hadn’t left the ground once. Four weeks memorizing security camera locations, mapping ward barriers on buildings, watching guard rotations, and tracking flight patterns in the night sky. Four weeks patiently cooperating with her new coworkers and not killing her new boss.
Four weeks and she was ready to claw off her skin, her back itched so much. And wouldn’t Sadie laugh at her then.
But tonight she got her reward for all that self-restraint: a nice dinner and a trip to the roof. Which, if the weather followed the forecast, should be wrapped in a cloud bank all night. Lia smiled, imagining the cold, wet air on her skin.
She should have expected the tourist mob snapping pictures in front of the City Fish display, all wearing matching shirts and hats in eye-searing yellow. But none of the humans seemed to mind the color, so she hid her wince as she squeezed through them to hunt down the items on her short grocery list.
Mario was right; New York had nothing like this. Pike Place was like an bigger, indoor Union Square Greenmarket. She found bulk salt at a tiny grocer tucked between a jewelry vendor and a colorful infant-clothing stand. Three types of chalk came from the magical implements booth. Lia picked up a cucumber and an avocado from a produce stand and wove back down the crowded hallway, noting the herbs stand (culinary, not magical) for after she had the marinade recipe.
The fishmongers were still ringing up tourists, so Lia let herself drool over the shiny knives laid out in the nearby smith’s booth. The burly lady behind the table had matched the blades with a selection of sheaths, and she even had a quick-release sheath designed for short throwing knives, which Lia preferred—full-length blades were a pain to hide in women’s clothes. The matching set of 6.5 inch knives was stainless steel and nicely balanced, not what she’d expected from a stall in a tourist trap. Together they posed a real threat to Lia’s last paycheck.
A jowly old man tucked under a black bowler hat leaned over on his stool at the neighboring table and said, “You should buy a hat.”
Lia glanced past him at the last tourists in line, three black-haired ladies thumbing through a translation dictionary and making exaggerated gestures at a patient aproned man. It was almost six, and her back was itching again.
Bowler-hat man smiled kindly, his ruddy face folding into wrinkles. “I have just the one. Not that a pretty girl like you needs help, but a nice hat gives the men something to compliment you on. Let the vampires and stones and all them kill each other. They don’t need humans for that.”
Dating advice from a wrinkled street vendor. It was like a slice of home in this drizzly, introverted city. Lia couldn’t help but smile back at him.
The smith shook her head and snorted. “Humans are turning up dead in interesting ways lately too. The other day a woman walked right out into traffic on I-5, screaming her head off. They said it was a suicide.”
“I didn’t hear about that,” Lia said.
“Yeah, they hushed it up quick. And a man was dry-guyed two weeks ago, not a drop of blood left in him. Some Touched group put up a video claiming credit, but you know the angels made it disappear before too many people saw it.” The smith tossed her chin-length grey hair off her face and glared at the hatter. “So maybe the lady should be looking at the knives—not that it’ll help against all them.”
All them immortals, Lia silently translated. Or maybe all them non-humans.
She’d gotten used to a certain level of violence in New York City. Mortals in New York died in interesting ways often enough that it barely made the news. But Seattle was a smaller town. Maybe two killings by a Touched gang was a big deal.
Bowler-hat man shook his head indulgently at the smith and selected a dark-gray hat with thin lines of white plaid from his display. “Don’t you listen to her. Idiots have been killing each other for as long as there’s been idiots, which is forever. Knives never gave anyone luck. But this—this is a lucky hat.”
The clouds opened beneath Damian, unveiling the gray city. He slipped through the updrafts above the warded skyscrapers, traced Fifth Avenue up the hill to University Street, angled his wings, and dove. The rows of gray windows and white stone on Rainier Tower blurred into dark and light lines as he streaked down to the street. He broke his plunge with several powerful wingbeats in the open courtyard around the narrow bottom of the oddly-shaped skyscraper—it always reminded him of an office building balanced on top of a golf tee—before dropping lightly to his feet outside the crime scene.
He couldn’t escape noticing that the other landmark on the block had gained a new ward. Not only was the gaudy construct across the street blindingly bright to his inner eye, it began sparkling as Damian landed. He grimaced and attempted to screen it out as he folded back his wings.
At the edge of the cordoned area, Stavros leaned down, his long black braid falling over one shoulder, and raised the yellow tape. Damian ducked under with a nod of thanks. “When did they find the bodies?”
“Forty minutes ago. The police blocked off the area quickly, but there was a lot of foot traffic.” Across the road behind SOIA’s senior detective, windows stretched to the sky. Officers stood between the scene and a small crowd of onlookers, but they couldn’t stop the cameras in the brightly colored phones raised in the air—or the ones pressed to the windows above. Stavros tilted his head toward the crowd, and the spelled gold bands nestled in the ridges of his curved horns gleamed as they caught the light. ||There’s no hiding this one.||
||That was probably the point,|| Damian replied. Because of the odd architecture of Rainier Tower, few corners blocked the view of the crime scene; it might as well be on a stage. Forty minutes would mean two o’clock—“Witnesses?”
The jinn shook his head and handed Damian a pair of latex gloves. “Police interviewed the secretary who called it in, but she saw only the bodies. Nothing useful from the gawkers.”
“Of course.” They walked together up to the first black-covered mound. A technician in a white coverall scrambled away as they approached, leaving a wide space for Damian to work. No blood was smeared or splattered around the black plastic; no emotions sharpened the aura trails. The kill had happened elsewhere. ||What do you scent?||
||Usual range from the onlookers—shock, fear, curiosity. Nothing by the bodies. Whoever dumped them felt nothing strong.||
Cool, controlled killers. Passionate murderers might have higher body counts, but mayhem was easily hunted. The methodical ones hid better and claimed a larger toll in fear over time.
Damian reached down and raised the plastic. Beneath it lay a young adult human male, his brown hair parted neatly along the top of his skull, his collar starched, and his plaid tan sweater vest—which was embroidered, for some reason, with small red robots—pristine. His pelvis and legs were missing. Damian crouched, keeping his wings up off the ground, and lifted the trailing edge of the white button-down shirt. Pale skin hung loosely over the cracked end of a spine framed by shreds of muscle. “The other half?”
Stavros motioned toward another black-covered mound across the street. “Organs are missing, but the rest of his body is over there. The other victim was female.”
Damian nodded and checked the victim’s neck. Then he carefully peeled the tape off the eyelids of one eye and peered inside. Dead minds carried no memories, but they held traces of any magic used around them for a certain period before death, absorbed by the structure of the life force that sustained consciousness, like dyes lingering in dry coral.
Instead of these traces, Damian found holes. Large voids in the fabric of the mind, bleached clean of any magical signature—including that of the caster who made the holes. Just like the other victims.