I’ve been flying a bit under the radar for the last few weeks, which wasn’t really planned. Yes, there was a lot of political argument going on that I was trying to stay out of the way of. Yes, work got manic in the run-up to Christmas. But in the end it was simply a choice between doing my work and keeping up with stuff, or doing my work and writing fiction.
I’ve also read a rather good book, Deep Work by Cal Newport, and I think I may have started to reap the benefits of his approach. In the last six weeks I’ve averaged 10k of fiction per week on top of the day job and alongside the edits for Leap of Faith. That’s exceptionally good going for me, seeing I didn’t write a word during the whole edit cycle for House Hunt…
Instead, I’ve been working on The Seeds of Glass and Steel, Burned Once (the sequel to Leap of Faith) and Jack & Gareth’s next book. And then, while I was giving the website a new look and thorough rework, I got bitten by a brand new plot bunny. So yeah, life is crazy and crazy good, and once it’s all settled down a little I’m hoping to get back to regular blogs and Saturday rainbow snippets and the odd story here and there…
And for next year? I’m shooting for three submissions… which is a rather steep challenge. So let’s see how we go. Meanwhile, as a sort of lopsided apology… have a little sneak peek at the brand new plot bunny. It’s urban fantasy mixed into the suspense I love, and damned persistent.
Unedited Snippet from The Lightning Foil
“Boss? Are you sure this is the right woman?” Damon zigzagged through the crowd of pedestrians clogging the pavements up and down Regent Street. Grainy slush matched the sky in colour and made for slippery footing, just as the hint of freezing fog in the air made for a thoroughly unpleasant afternoon.
Damon ignored the cold. Fists rammed deep into the pockets of his sturdy, fleece-lined jacket, he followed a bobbing blond ponytail, avoiding collisions through instinct, long practice and a hefty dose of luck. He’d expected traffic to be evil this close to Christmas, but the crowds of shoppers rushing this way and that were particularly obtuse today. Damon reckoned he could burst into flames right in the middle of the pavement and nobody would take a blind bit of notice.
No, scratch that. There was one woman who’d notice. Three hours of following her up Piccadilly and down Regent Street was long enough to be certain.
“Boss?” He tapped his earpiece for good measure, even knowing it would sound like a drum beat at the other end.
“Why do you think she isn’t the woman we want?”
“For starters, because she’s a girl.”
Only two years younger than he was—really? He’d been miles off in his estimate then, when his judgment was usually so accurate. “And she’s sorta… good?” Damon struggled with the concept. He’d never met anyone who acted like this. Well, okay, he hadn’t actually met her yet, either, but he rarely came across people who thought of others before they thought of themselves. And she’d done nothing but think of others in the three hours he’d followed her around as if she had him on a leash.
“Yeah. Like giving up her seat in the tube to someone else good,” Damon grumbled, half embarrassed. “Like buying a tray of coffees for the homeless guys at the corner of the underground station good. Helping people good, yanno? And–” He broke off and wondered whether it was wise to mention his most damning observation.
Yeah, he’d opened his damned mouth just a tad too wide. Time to put up now, or shut up for the rest of the op. And Damon just wasn’t convinced. Yet. “And despite the traffic and the weather and the crowds, despite being jostled and yelled at and pushed and prodded….she’s not once gotten angry. I’ve never,” he made sure he emphasized the word enough to make it through the noise around him and the static on the line, “I’ve never met a lightning wielder who was so Zen. That just isn’t normal.”
A long exhale was the only reply. It brought a wave of relief in its wake. Raven knew him well enough, trusted him well enough to listen. Damon had been with the BPA, the Bureau for the Prevention of Accidents, for eleven years. He’d been seventeen when he’d started, the youngest adept ever to join.
Most of the people he worked with either feared him or hated his guts, but his reputation as an investigator was sterling. One of the reasons why—even though he was unpaired—he’d ended up working directly for Raven. The Bureau for the Prevention of Accidents wasn’t at all what it sounded like, and its director—Raven—was more powerful than the corkscrew-haired goof currently calling himself the Prime Minister. If Raven told the man to jump, he didn’t ask why. Damon knew that one for a fact.
So having Raven stop and review a case at his say so… yeah, that felt good.
After all, he knew what he was talking about. He’d been maybe two-and-a-half and by all accounts a cheerful, mischievous toddler when the lightning had first found him. He couldn’t remember that far back, couldn’t remember a time when his parents and sisters hadn’t given him that sideways, fearful, scared-deer-in-the-headlights look. For most of his childhood, they’d barely spoken to him. He’d always had a place to sleep and he’d never gone hungry, but he knew nothing about joy and companionship and all that other stuff Raven kept throwing at him. How to grow up lonely in the middle of a large family… that he knew about.
Predictably, his folks had thrown him out, just days after he’d turned fifteen. They never knew what Damon had learned not so long after when puberty hit and his powers surged: that he was something even rarer, something more feared and sought, than a lightning wielder.
Damon Sandhurst was a lightning foil.