A novel excerpt

Finally polished up one of these things well enough for some measure of public consumption! I sent it off for a contest earlier this week, and am also agent shopping with it, but it’ll likely be a while before it’s properly published. So, I figured I’d let folks take a quick look at a scene from it, to give y’all an idea of what it is I do with my day besides fannish squee, political rageflails and flamewars.

The novel in question is called Harper, after its protagonist, and is a YA modern fantasy.

A brief overview of the story:

Funny how sprouting feathers one day can pretty much derail your whole life.

Harper Reed knows he has it good. Thanks to lucking out in the gene lottery and having the world’s coolest parents, he’s smart, attractive and athletic. Aside from a painful in-game injury, and the occasional bit of racism aimed at him for being half-Egyptian, things for him so far have been basically crisis-free. OK, so there’s the whole liking-guys thing he’s still wrapping his head around—made more complicated by his girlfriend dumping him for it—but still, it’s not like he’s led a cursed life.

Well, actually . . .

According to the mouthy, goth poltergeist that shows up in his room, Harper’s turning into a mythic: one of millions of mythical creatures that secretly exist alongside humans. Oh, yeah, and he also might be the subject of an ancient legend involving the return of the harpies and certain doom. No big deal or anything. 

Jetting off to London to figure it all out, the young harpy picks up some helpful friends—a con-artist faun, a dragon princess and a cute mythology student—and tries to adjust to his new body, new life and new responsibility to save the world.  

Sound interesting? Click the cut for a short scene from the story!

***

Harper, fueled by whatever fermented something was in the glass he’d been nursing, soon faded out of their conversation. The beer was helping add to the delusion he’d been trying to create that this whole adventure really was just some fever dream, and soon enough, he’d wake up, and be back home in his bed, sleeping off a bad case of the flu or something. The constant ache in his back and feet, however, kept reminding him that he most certainly was not anywhere so safe and familiar. He found himself rubbing a little against the back of the seat he was in, trying to soothe the throbbing itch where his skin was healing around his wing joints. He also wiggled his toes; any more talon growth and he was going to need bigger shoes. Or, he thought wryly, maybe he should go barefoot, and show off his new birdy feet to the world.

As Phil and Oliver continued chatting about the intricacies of the mythic criminal underworld, Harper found himself gazing around at the denizens of the pub. He recognized several types right away, just from years of absorbing pop culture and school readings. There were gargoyles, various shifters and lycans, a few vampires, a pointy-eared elf, and even a table of sour-faced leprechauns, none of whom looked a thing like the cheery little guy on the cereal box. But there were also many other creatures he didn’t recognize at all. It was a complicated world he’d entered, and he knew nothing about it. Phil could tell him much, but she had her own agenda, and in any case, he didn’t feel like she really understood him, having been dead for the last three decades, and thus very far away from being human.

That was the species that had no representation here at all, however. As far as he could tell, mythics and humans mixed in everyday life, but only when the mythics were cloaked. Otherwise, their worlds seemed to be vastly far apart. With one exception: he remembered Hanover, and the fact that the old man had once been married to a vampire. So focused had he been on merely surviving, and adapting to this change that he hadn’t really mulled over his love-life bombshell. He glanced back at the lissome barmaid, reconsidering his initial cross-species freakout. But maybe it was a moot point, he considered. It would be hard enough finding someone who accepted the bi thing. Finding someone who accepted both that and this harpy business would be difficult indeed.

Or maybe not. He flashed on the mental image of the exceptionally cute mythology student they’d run into at the library. Tris? Yes, his name was Tris. Harper, for the first time that night, smiled genuinely as he thought of the young man. He hoped Tris would find a way to contact him again somehow. He had no clue whether Tris would be interested—or if he was even into guys—but the idea of at least having a human friend who might accept him as-is was a comfort.

“So maybe we can do that. Right, Harper?” Phil’s voice barely registered for him. “Harper? Hey? You with us?” She nudged him.

He blinked. “Yeah. What was that?”

“Oliver here said he’s going to talk to some folks he knows. Said we probably should contact him again in a couple of days.”

Harper shrugged. “Sure. Whatever you guys say. I’m kind of just along for the ride at this point. I—“ he broke off in a strained groan.

“Harper?” Oliver looked at him with concern.

Harper stiffened and flexed his fingers inside his gloves. Another sudden growth spurt had come over him, and his talons had started poking their way through his flesh. As they grew, they pushed his human fingernails out of their way, ripping the flimsy bits of keratin from the sensitive skin. He’d been passed out, medicated to the teeth when his toenails were replaced, so he didn’t remember that agony. Now, even with a little beer buzz, this transition was excruciating. He tore off the gloves, chewing hard on his lip to try to manage the pain, and dunked his hands into his glass.

“Bloody hell!” Oliver squirmed a little, trying to avoid being splashed by Harper’s beer. “Mate, are you OK?”

“Not really, no.” Harper gritted his teeth. One by one, the nails were falling off, drifting down to the bottom of the glass like coins tossed into a fountain.

“Harper, boyo. Hang on. It’ll pass in a minute.” Phil reached for his wrist. Her touch was cold, as usual, but this time it felt good, the radiating coolness doing at least a little bit to numb the pain. Finally, as she promised, the pain subsided. She released his wrist, and he pulled his hands out of the now-bloody glass. Topping off his new, yellowish and hard skin, the talons shone brightly, even in the dim light of the pub. Thick, and about two inches long, they curved to a sharp point. He dragged his index finger across the surface of the wooden table, leaving a deep scratch in it, as simply as if he’d been drawing a knife through peanut butter.

Oliver and Phil exchanged a significant look.

“He doesn’t know how to cloak yet, does he?” Oliver looked at her with deep concern.

She shook her head. “No. I don’t know how much longer we can hide his transformation. His wings have already cut through and are growing, and his whole back is covered in feathers, now.”

Oliver sighed thoughtfully. “Phil, I hate to say it, but we’re going to have to wait a bit on figuring out this book thing. If your lad here doesn’t learn how to manage his new body, he might not live long enough to fulfill whatever curse or destiny or whatfuckingever he’s supposed to do.”

Phil sagged. “You’re right. Of course.” She rubbed her face. “But I don’t know what to do this time. I’ve never had to worry about that kind of cloaking. I just . . . poof . . . and that’s that. It’s been years since I had to guide a total newbie. Most times, their families have already taught them, and this time, the transformation is a much bigger deal.”

“Don’t worry yourself, Pet. I’ve guided a transformation a time or two before. And considering my profession, I’m probably the closest thing you’re going to find to an expert cloaker.” Oliver grinned confidently, then turned to Harper. “So, what say you, young Padawan? You ready to start lessons tomorrow?”

Harper stared. “Uh. Do I have a choice?” He looked down at his deadly new hands.

Oliver patted his shoulder. “Sorry, mate. Afraid not.”

***

(Copyright 2012 Allegro MediaWorks)

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About Shawna (A Mediated Life)

Writer, singer, parent, fan, media maven, and general ne'er-do-well. Fierce protector of the rights of the disadvantaged and endless pontificator on subjects both ridiculous and sublime.
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