Been a while, eh?
So remember back in April when I said I was halfway through the first draft of The Gray Kings and hoped to be done sometime in the summer?
Turns out I was way off on that one.
So I’ve finally finished the first draft. What took so long?
As I’ve mentioned, I haven’t been able to write at the same rate I had with my previous books. Real life comes first. So my work-rate was cut in half, and I was only able to get 1,000-1,500 words written a day on average.
Which leads to the other reason, in that the first draft of The Gray Kings wound up being much longer than I had anticipated with a word count of over 330,000 words. For comparison, that’s almost twice the length of The Jinxed Pirate.
So I’ve been busy.
That doesn’t mean the finished book will be that long. It’s just the first draft, and I already know several scenes are going to be trimmed, cut, and consolidated. Once I get started on the second draft, I’ll streamline and restructure to make the book leaner.
I have no idea how long the finished book will turn out, but I would rather it not wind up a doorstop. I’m not getting paid by the word.
I’m also not going to bother trying to guess how long it’ll take to get this finished. Now that the first draft is finally done, I’m going to take a brief break before I read through it, take notes, and begin outlining the second draft.
I plan to get back to work by January, and I’m hoping The Gray Kings will be done and up for sale before the end of 2019. Hoping—not guaranteeing.
If I don’t make it, it won’t be from lack of effort, I promise that much.
Anyway, because I was just writing, I didn’t really have anything to offer this site. I’ve already touched on where the story will be picking up in previous posts, and any more would be going into spoiler territory.
But I do want to leave something. So I skimmed through the draft and picked out random lines and bits of dialogue to post here. No context, no spoilers … just a bunch of selected snips from the first draft—some of which might not even make it into the finished book—to tease what’s coming.
So here’s a peek ….
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when people think they know me.
Why hunt deer, when I could hunt wolves?
She smelled fear come from the old woman along with the stench of urine.
Lily Blackthorn was no hero. She knew that for certain. But she was not without a sense of justice.
“Besides, from my experience, it’s the people who kill for free that you should worry about.”
“Give me a little credit, Doc. This girl’s been half-dead since I found her and she has a hole in her face. I’m not that desperate.”
“My brother and I were entrusted to keep your family safe,” she said with a slight tremble in her voice. “So far … we’ve failed.”
A creature of the Black had caused this and likely killed everyone inside, but what Lily couldn’t guess was what kind it had been. Orcs would’ve left bodies and blood, assuming they didn’t burn the place when they finished. Gargoyles would’ve done the same. Trolls similarly tended to leave a mess behind. Succubi and incubi are never this destructive. Whatever had done this was something Lily had never encountered before.
“Listen to me,” she hissed. “This, right here, is me trying to be nice. So unless you want to walk out of here holding your guts in your hands … Leave. Me. Alone.”
“But are you seeking a new life? Or merely a better death?”
“We were so caught up in finding this kid passed out on the floor, no one stopped to think maybe we shouldn’t have let her in.”
Although it might have been wrong to think ill of her brother, the truth was it was Deck’s fault she should be in this situation.
It seemed for all the good heroes offer, they can’t help but leave ruin in their wake along the way.
Katrina supposed she should be gentle and ease her into the situation, but she found she didn’t have that capacity.
“Well, I’m going to make this easy,” she continued. “Yes, I am Katrina Lamont. No, I can’t prove that. But, it doesn’t matter because I’m not going to help you.”
“Great heroes and heartless cutthroats aren’t mutually exclusive things.”
“I learned just because you aren’t a fighter, that won’t stop a fight from coming to you.”
“Piss off,” she replied. The Dinah frowned and sat at the table with her. “That is the opposite of pissing off.”
“Kinda got blown up for my troubles, but hey, still effort.”
“If I was cunning enough to turn directions to the nearest tavern into a dragon-slaying quest, I should be king of the world.”
I can’t save them, she thought with sobering dread. We’re all going to die here.
Although neither said anything, Lock knew what they were thinking: it’s better to think Cassie’s dead. Even if she wasn’t, better to believe it because the alternative was too ugly and painful to imagine.
Her eye felt strange. She couldn’t see out of it, and it felt like something had been lodged there. She rubbed her socket, and to her horror, a small glass orb fell out and rolled away on the floor.
“You left me to burn!”
“Ah. I suppose I did,” he said. “But you didn’t, so you got that going for you.”
Lock looked toward the horizon ahead and took a deep breath. He wasn’t sure if he was ready for this, but the time had come. He wouldn’t be the brazen hero like Deck tried to be. He needed to be smarter. He needed to be better.
“You got some hate in you, girl.”
She prayed … but didn’t believe anything was listening.
He paused, trying to recall when his name had come up while he was in Seba. “He might want me dead.”
“Might?” she said. “You’re not sure of this?”
Either because of the drug or her own panic—perhaps both—her demonic side came to the forefront. Conscious thought faded and all that remained was instinct. She had been put in survival mode and her only concern at that moment was to attack any threats and escape.
“Aye, I’ve seen this story more than once. No offense, but speaking as a professional, you would be singled out as the weak link.”
Although Cassie never showed an interest in combat, she liked to believe her father would have supported her had she chosen to train. She’d be lying if she said she didn’t once or twice dream of being a great warrior like Princess Katrina or her Aunt Sofia.
“I’ll bet he wants me dead anyway. Most people do.”
They lived in a world of wizards and magic after all. Surely there were stranger things out there than a young woman who could leap across a tavern and up a flight of stairs with only two bounds.
A hissing and snarling young woman who happened to have glowing red eyes, fangs and claws …
“Kings ask for trouble. The only people who dare call themselves King are the guys who try to unite Graylands. And Kings don’t last long in this country.”
“But you are going to kill Trayze before he kills me, right?” he asked. “Me surviving is part of the plan, right?”
“It’s true,” Seifer said. “The things I do … it’s not for everyone.”
Written in large, bold letters were the words, WANTED: LILITH BLACKTHORN.
“Will shut-up right now,” she interrupted. “And don’t call me Katrina. We’re not friends.”
“I guess I’ll just have to take what pleasure I can from screwing with the monster’s pretty little head.”
“They say there’s a man roaming Graylands—a killer of killers. No one knows his name or what he looks like, but they speak of him like he’s the boogeyman. They call him the Plague That Walks.”
“I want to wish you good luck. For what it’s worth, I always thought Vincent Dune was a prick.”
Then again, he thought, it seems Katrina responds to criticism by hitting things, so I guess I can’t begrudge her.
“I’m sorry, Miss,” he said. “I didn’t mean to—”
There was no scream. No gasp or noise of any kind. His voice simply ended, as if he’d disappeared into thin air.
Cringing, Lily darted to the church’s entrance and nearly passed out getting the doors open. She crumbled to the floor as soon as she shut the doors behind her, an assault of agony bombarding her from every angle.
“Yeah. Me and the infamous Krutch Leeroy. Funny sort of day, isn’t it?”
“Maybe I just have shit for luck.”
“Did you just say crumbs?”
“You’re a lord?”
“Not … really,” Lock said. “Even if Vigor was still around, I don’t know how much my ‘lordship’ is worth around here.”
“Since you insist on acting like a dog, you will be treated like one. And in my house, disobedient pets were kept outside!”
“I don’t have a ‘hit-list,’ and even if I did, you would hardly be worth it. As far as I’m concerned, you’re merely an outlaw who should be punished accordingly.”
“So!” said Krutch, shattering the silence. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but I kind of need to take a piss. May I at least be untied for that … or would you prefer dragging me around with soiled trousers?”
“The truth is I’m not entirely sure what the hell you are. I’d be lying if I said conversing with a demon wasn’t a somewhat surreal experience for me.”
“We have a situation,” he said, his voice strained as if trying not to panic. His eyes were wide and skin pallid like he’d seen a ghost. “A bad one.”
“You want to know what I am? You want to know what I do? Go back downstairs, take a seat, and wait. I’m going to give you a show.”
Katrina stood up and walked toward him. She swayed as she walked, clearly drunk beyond recognition. He couldn’t read her face as she approached and felt a sudden urge to flee the tavern out of fear she’d rip his throat out.
“You’re not wrong, child,” he said. “I am indeed a master of the Black. I am a man of evil, and I’ve sown terrible fates on those who’ve crossed my path. However, I fear you and your companions are in a most unenviable position. So the question before you is do you take your chances with the admitted warlock of dark power or the winter night?”
They were in Graylands after all. It was a place for people to escape the old ways and forge something new.
“You’re supposed to help!” she said. “The Katrina Lamont I heard of would never stand aside and let innocent people suffer!”
“Let’s see what you and your abominable weapon can do.”
“To be young and idealistic again. What you feel is not unique, Lord Synclaire. A great many men and women before you have looked out at the world and believed they could be the one to fix it. To make it better, even if just a small bit.”
“Sudden getaways seem to be a recurring thing with you.”
“You might have survived the gods, but you won’t survive me!”
“I’ll tell you what: let us retire to my home and get out of this wretched cold. We can negotiate there and continue acting cryptic and sinister toward one another in relative comfort. Deal?”
“Well,” he said, sounding pleasant and cordial. “It would appear you’ve developed a reputation of starting riots and fires everywhere you go.”
“I’m going to warn you right now,” he added. “Arkady’s faster than you.”
“I imagine it suits Trayze’s purposes to maintain an unknowable mystique. Not unlike the Sebastian Clock you told us about—running the city without anyone actually knowing he was the man behind it all. Anonymity is a powerful tool, as is a feared reputation. If you can somehow combine the two … that is a force to be reckoned with.”
“Shut-up, Mr. Leeroy. It is of no concern to me whether or not you ‘get it.’”
“You know what they say about Graylands winters? They cut you.”
“It is the wise man who knows what he is … and what he isn’t.”
“How many …?” she muttered to herself. “How many more have to die?! How many have to throw their lives away because destiny said so?!”
“Graylands needs a true King. A King to rally the people behind him.”
“What comes next,” he said, smiling, “isn’t for you to see.”
He then slammed the door shut with a hollow echo.
So that’s all for now.
As said, I’ll get back to work later this month. And hopefully we’ll see The Gray Kings up for sale before the end of 2019.
And for something different, try
Ones & Zeroes: A Short Story Collection
Hope you enjoy, and a good rating or review on Amazon and/or Goodreads would be appreciated.
Graylands ©2018 by M. Walsh