Catalyst Moon: Exile (Part One)

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As promised, here’s the first installment to this unreleased Catalyst Moon novella. Enjoy! 😁


ONE

Atanar held Ruuk’s gaze and prayed the snow lion’s death would be swift. Although he could not hear Ruuk’s thoughts, he knew the proud beast’s heart and saw the fear in those vivid blue eyes – a mirror of his own.

Be at ease, my friend, Atanar thought, willing Ruuk to understand, willing his own terror not to affect his friend any more than it already had. It will be over, soon.

The snow lion, a caradoc, in the Canderi language, stared back. His breath still came fast, steaming the late winter morning air, but only Atanar’s ears rang with the memory of his roars, for the snow lion was calmer now. Even so, the half a dozen Canderi warriors that held the ropes binding Ruuk regarded him warily. The other Canderi who had come to watch the execution and exile kept at a safe distance, easily done on the flat tundra.

Atanar longed to place a hand upon Ruuk’s snowy mane; though he and Ruuk were separated by Atanar’s fellow Canderi, he could still feel the thick fur between his fingers. But the strong hands holding Atanar in place would not release him. Yet.

The samaat, the leader of Atanar’s clan, lifted Atanar’s blade—though Atanar would never touch it again—and the audience held their collective breath.

Atanar fought not to squeeze his eyes shut. He would not dishonor Ruuk by looking away. His blade descended.

Winter wind cut through Atanar’s furs and struck him as though it was the claymore he’d once carried every day of his life; the same claymore now slit his caradoc’s throat. The bond between them severed; Atanar felt the loss as if his own soul had been stolen. In a sense, it had. With a snarl of surprise, the massive gray-spotted lion collapsed in a heap of fur and bright crimson stained the snow beneath Atanar’s boots.

The samaat turned her cold blue eyes to Atanar. Though he’d faced that gaze many times, there was something different there, now, something he could not name. She pointed his claymore at him and said, “Vorunn.”

Atanar had known this was coming, so why did he flush at the shame, the degradation? He was cursed, had been so since that night. Vorunn. Now he had no soul, no ties to Cander – his home, his blood. Now, he was alone.

The other white-clad Canderi who surrounded them shifted at hearing the term, but none spoke. Only the wind dared to dart through the mountains that stood sentinel all around, kicking snow flurries over the snow lion’s carcass and those that watched alike. It was a mournful wind, and it whispered, Vorunn.

Ever since he’d awoken that night, Atanar had known this was coming, but somehow, hearing the word aloud was worse than everything else – even his beloved Ruuk’s death. Perhaps his mother had been right, and at twenty-two summers he was too young and proud and headstrong to know when to bow to fate. But no longer. Now he shut his eyes and dropped his head, as much in acceptance as from a desire to look anywhere else. The word echoed through his bones like a shout in a mountain pass. Vorunn.

But deep within him, where anger warred with bitterness and collided with grief, something else stirred. The edges of his vision blurred a little more with each increased beat of his heart, and the world seemed strange, dull and distant – just for one moment. His breath caught. No, not again.

Yes, again. Yes, always. He was cursed – he was vorunn.

The samaat cleared her throat and brought him back into the moment. Atanar looked up and the elderly woman gestured with the sword behind him; the crowd parted, giving way to the broad expanse of Cander tundra. Beyond the tundra was the Iyer River. Beyond that…

No. This was not supposed to be his fate. But what choice did he have? An honorable death was too good for him. Throat tight, Atanar looked back at the clan chieftain. “Please–”

But she cut off his words with a wave of the claymore; in her sixtieth summer, she may have been, but she held the sword as if it were a feather. “No, Atanar.”

The use of his name startled him. He wasn’t the only one. The surrounding Canderi of their family glanced at each other, bewilderment on their faces, but still kept their silence.

Perhaps sensing her misstep, the samaat raised herself to her full height and struck him again with that cold glare, though her eyes were red-rimmed. “You have killed your own kind. You have slaughtered an innocent–”

Her voice cracked, betraying her outward calm. But she composed herself almost immediately, she was the samaat, after all. “Your name will be forgotten,” she said as the wind lifted her graying hair. “Your voice will not be missed. You will die alone, and not even the crows will mark your passing.”

Atanar dropped his head again as his bonds were cut. Someone shoved him backwards, sending him stumbling, but he caught himself before he fell. “I heard you,” he couldn’t help but mutter. “I’m going.”

“Go faster.” She shoved him again, towards the borderlands that divided Cander from Aredia.

  The others echoed, “Vorunn.”           

 “Go,” the samaat said one last time.

He went.


Three days to reach the Iyer River. Three days without food and only a few sips of water from the flask he’d been allowed. Only enough to leave Cander. Once he left, he would not be allowed to return. Every morning, Atanar awoke in a cold sweat, heart racing, searching for the warm familiarity of those he loved, but he was always alone.

At last Atanar stood above the snow, atop a boulder at the river’s edge. It was swiftly flowing, but shallow, racing over smooth round stones to an end he could not measure from the skull of the world. The Iyer River might have served a better purpose if it were deeper, or if he could not swim.

If he had a blade, he could have ended everything days ago.

For what surely must have been the hundredth time that day, Atanar looked behind him at the mountains; blanketed with snow, distant and untouchable, but somehow comforting in their invincibility.

 No longer. That tight, painful knot of memory and grief that lived in his heart seemed to coil tighter at the thought of home.

Ancestors help me, he thought, then winced. He was vorunn: cursed, exiled, less-than human. He had no past, nor future, any longer. “Vorunn,” he said aloud. “That is all you are. You have no home. Go.”

The river only came up to his knees, so he forded it easily. Too easily. Once on the opposite, shore, he paused to inhale deeply, but the air smelled the same in Aredia as it did in Cander. Strange, that he’d thought it would be otherwise.


Next time: He was vorunn; he could not find peace with his ancestors, but perhaps there was something for him in what waited beyond.

But the boy spoke up again. “Are you hungry?”


Did you enjoy? Let me know what you think in the comments! 😊

Legal mumbo-jumbo:

Copyright © 2019 by Lauren L. Garcia.

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Author’s note: Exile is supplementary reading to the larger story of Catalyst Moon. The events of this vignette collection take place before Catalyst Moon: Incursion. However, Exile may be read at any point prior to Catalyst Moon: Surrender.

Update – May 2019

Hi there!

First off, this is a gentle reminder that Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3) is now available on Amazon! Massive thanks to those who have purchased it so far! 💜 If you are able, I humbly ask that you leave a review so that other readers know what they’re in for.

Second, in case you didn’t hear the news, Catalyst Moon: Incursion (Book 1) is the Spring Book of the Month over at F-BOM! I’m thrilled beyond measure to have my work featured among the likes of other awesome, feminist authors (and readers), so please do take a look at what Cecelia & Lindsey are doing, because it’s important and amazing. Even if you already own Incursion (and if you don’t, you should!), there’s going to be a ton of great member-only content on their site, including multiple interviews by yours truly. (We had a blast recording them! I could quite literally talk for hours about writing, feminism, and Catalyst Moon.) Check out F-BOM today! 😍

In actual writing news, one of my betas has finished her read of Book 4. I’m pleased to report that, other than a LOT of continuity issues on my part, (plus my tendency to ramble), the book seems to be in fairly decent shape overall. I still need to do a lot of work to make it palatable, but let’s not worry about that right now. 😉 Of course, my other beta is still working through, so she may have a different take. Time will tell.

As I’ve reported in a previous post, Book 5’s discovery draft is done, although the story is far from written. I’ve completed my first read-through and it’s…rough. There are a lot of unnecessary elements that clog the narrative and will need to be reworked, which means that probably 60% of the book, (if not more), will be rewritten. Honestly, though this task feels a bit daunting, I’m excited to tackle the rewrites because the story will be better: more satisfying and more cohesive.

Book 6 is still very much in the planning stages. I’ve decided to rein in my usual barrel-forward-at-all-costs approach and try to, you know, PLAN these next three books as sorta their own trilogy, even though they are the continuation of elements set up in books 1 – 3. This may seem like an obvious solution, but for the author who is up to her eyeballs in Catalyst Moon, this was a revelation. In any case, book 6 should be the final installment in the current story arc. I have MANY plans for the next story arc, so stick around; the best is yet to come. 😁

In self-publishing news, I’m working with the talented Fiona Jayde on redoing Book 1’s cover, and plan to redo Book 2’s as well. Marketing has unfortunately had to take a backseat due to 2019 being a battering ram; I have to be judicious with my time and energy, so most of both are saved for my family and the actual creation of content, (ie: my books.) In a perfect world, I could do it all, but alas…

Lastly, if you’re in the North Florida area on June 29th, stop by Infinity Con and say hi! 😘

Until we meet again, stay awesome,

Lauren

Update – March 2019

The discovery draft (ie: the rough draft) of Catalyst Moon #5 is DONE. It needs a lot of work and love, but holy cats…I made it, y’all. My world has changed dramatically since I started writing back in September of 2018, so it’s been quite a journey for me as well as my long-suffering characters. The last 10k words were probably the hardest; there’s a lot of complex stuff happening and I struggled with portraying it “well.” I was worried that my writing was crap, that the story was terrible, etc. The usual bout of writerly self-loathing. But in the end, I gave myself permission to write garbage, which oddly freed me from my hesitation and made me push on. (I also bribed myself with glittery eyeshadow, which worked marvelously.)

If you’re interested, here’s my word count log for this book:

Behold my chicken scratch! But you can see that some days I busted my ass, while other days, I fought for a single sentence. Writing is often a slow, painful grind, but for me, the challenge is its own reward. Plus, you know, it’s nice to have another book under my belt. 🙂 I’m going to sit on this one for a month or so while I address some other outstanding projects (a couple novellas), then do my first read-through and figure out exactly how much of a mess I’ve gotten myself into, and what in Ea’s realm it’s gonna take to fix it.

In other news… The cover for Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3) is also DONE, and it’s fabulous. No – it’s AMAZING!!! Fiona Jayde did a fantastic job, and I cannot wait to share it with y’all! My trusty ARC troopers (@ me if you get the reference) are doing a final check, and I anticipate launching the book around the end of this month.

So that’s it for now! Next post will probably be about the cover, and then expect me to ask/beg y’all to share news of Book 3’s release to your social media buddies. [insert hopeful smile]

Until we meet again, stay awesome,

Lauren

PS: On April 3rd, I’ll be doing an AMA on the reddit Fantasy book forum, so come say hi!

 

on heart v. brain (or, the everlasting struggle)

Nothing is simple.

So, Catalyst Moon #3 is basically ready to go, I just need cover art. I’m trying to get it out to y’all, I really am, but I’ve discovered a divide within myself, namely between what I know is the “smart,” “marketable” path, and what my heart wants.

Conventional wisdom tells me that my best bet to get folks to read my books is to pick a cover that fits genre conventions. The cover needs to convey not so much what the book is about, but what “categories” it falls into, (ie: fantasy, adventure, romance, etc) so the reader knows more or less what they’re getting. It’s why you see so many shirtless dudes on those romance novels, and why there are SO MANY grim-faced fellas with swords on fantasy novels. (Is no one happy in those books? Ever??)

My issue is that I CANNOT stand the standard cover fare for my genre. I’m sorry, but most of them look boring and ugly, and the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on something I find so distasteful… Well, it sucks.

But my brain – my rational side – tells me these ugly covers are the best way to get readers. These are what’s selling now, and if I want to Be Serious about this whole self-publishing gig, then I need to swallow my pride and ignore my desire and go with what objectively works.

But y’all.

I’ve been scouring the interwebs for a cover artist. I’ve talked to a few, but no one’s portfolio has captured my heart. I know how silly and pretentious this all sounds, believe me, (#firstworldproblems), but it’s a truth I can’t ignore. My heart wants a gorgeous “artistic” cover that attempts to convey the story I’m telling, not the categories that Amazon prompts me to select.

This hesitation on my part is for good reason. Waaaaay back when CM 1 came out, my publisher initially took all my crazy notes to heart and commissioned this incredible artwork from Natalya Pushokova:

Stunning. 😍😍😍 I love this so, so, SO much. It’s just…ugh, SO GOOD!!!

But when they tested the cover, no one knew what the book was about. 

So, back to the drawing board. The next version of CM1’s cover is the current one:

Which is fine and seems fairly popular. I’ve gotten a lot of nice comments about it. But it’s a far cry from what the arty gorgeousness my heart wanted. So yeah. Heart v. brain…brain won this round.

Now that I don’t have a publisher to answer to work with, I’m working on finding a way to merge these conflicting desires. The thing is, my “issues” aren’t just about money or art or book sales. They go deeper. Namely: Is what I’m doing worth all this frustration and effort? I consider my writing to be art, but the world is not kind to artists. There are approximately a bajillion other epic fantasy series out there. Is Catalyst Moon really worth all this inner conflict, or would it (and me, by extension) be better served by quietly going along with conventional wisdom in the hope of attracting more readers?

Sorry to be a downer. I’m not looking for a resolution from anyone – that will have to come from within – but if anyone has been in my shoes and can possibly relate, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll try to pull my head out of my own ass and figure this out.

Stay awesome,

Lauren

Many thanks to The Awkward Yeti for perfectly and adorably portraying my inner turmoil.