Also, I have to give a big shout out and thank you to Chersti Nieveen for hosting the First Line Contest over at her blog, where my first line for Dust to Dust won me a query letter critique from fab lit agent extraordinaire, Mary Kole! So I've been getting that all super spiffy to send off to Ms. Kole, and it was an amazing opportunity and I love how creative and proactive and supportive Chersti and all the others in our little blogosphere are! You all rock!
And also in terms of you all rock, I continue to be blown away by reactions to Dust to Dust. Between that contest, and comments and responses to the Show Your Voice Contest and March's Secret Agent contest, y'all are making me feel so happy and confident about Dust to Dust that its just....its just like crack to a writer. Or this writer anyways. And since you all know I love me some crack (shifty eyes, don't read into that, totally kidding, etc, etc) and because a few people have asked to see some more of it, and because its Writing Wednesday already in some time zones but still my birthday in this time zone and that means I can do whatever the hell I want, here's a scene pulled at random from Dust to Dust. I don't want to spoil anything in case you all do get the opportunity to find it in bookstores someday, so all I'll say is this exerpt may or may not be a scene from my scratch file, and may or may not have actually made it into the final book, and either way, its not actually spoilerific though it looks like it could be. ;) Mostly its just Serena being badass and a little bit scary, with hints of creepy. Because well, that's Serena for you. Enjoy!
I dropped to my knees, choking - but it wasn’t his grip on my neck that had me gasping for air. His magic was a sandstorm swirling in my lungs. Every breath I took stabbed the walls of my throat with shards of spells and broken glass. Paul grinned down at me through the white spots dotting my vision and I batted at his arm, trying desperately to break free. Dude was on steroids or I was really just that scrawny, but either way, I was still going to die here. Young. Virginal. Alone.
Epic fail, universe. Epic fail.
And then winter came early.
The sharp crackle of ice knifed through the empty food court like an overactive toddler popping bubble wrap without supervision. And if you don’t like my similes, blame my brain’s current lack of oxygen. Paul let his magic and me slip free and I slid bonelessly to the floor, wheezing and flopping around like a geriatric trout with asthma and a smoking problem. I raised my head in search of whoever had kicked the AC into overdrive and found my sister standing regally at the top of the escalator.
God. She was such a drama queen.
Serena was soaked head to toe from her impromptu swim in the fountains earlier, but if it bothered her you’d never know. A silent wind tossed her raven hair behind her, and an endless stream of water dripped from her t-shirt and jeans, pooling around her bare feet and cascading down the steps of the escalator in far more quantities than her clothes could have ever contained. Her face was pinched tight with cold fury, and a chill leaked from her bone-white skin. Frost coated the railing of the escalator beneath her hand and three frozen tears tracked slowly down her cheeks. Big Sis was pissed, and I was just glad that for once it didn’t seem to be at me.
I scooted out of the way just to be on the safe side.
“I think you‘ve been a pain in my family‘s collective asses long enough.” Serena announced into the vastness. Only the rhythmic trickle of water rushing forth from her kept her voice from echoing like a bell. Like a death knell. “And no one gets to kill my baby brother except me.”
Now that was just unnecessary. I frowned. “Okay, see, stuff like this is exactly the reason Megan’s my favorite sister.”
They ignored me in favor of making angry eyes at each other. Serena started slowly down the escalator. One frozen tear dripped free of her cheek and fell into the water puddled at her feet, freezing it over in an instant. It spread forth from there in a river of blue-white light, rattling like dancing ice cubes. Unlike the glaciers they resembled, there was nothing slow moving about either her anger or her magic. The ice coated the escalator in seconds and raced towards Paul.
He swore and leapt into the air, twisting, shimmering until he was nothing but fog and mist. Pale smoke riding the wind. Serena smiled, showing teeth, and raising a hand to her cheek collected a second frozen tear on her fingertip. She flicked it at the rising fog and Paul crashed into a near table, all tangled limbs and solid, weighty flesh. He scrambled to his feet but the ice reached him before he could take a step. It locked him in place and kept climbing slowly up his legs.
“Bitch -” he snarled as Serena reached him. She silenced him, pinching his lips together between her fingers. His eyes bulged, furious, but the ice had reached his arms by then and locked them at his sides.
“What do men like you really think they‘re proving with that word?” She asked rhetorically. “All it really says is we both know I’m bigger and badder than you are. And where’s the insult in that?”
Paul tried to shout something between smashed together lips, but Serena just reached her finger to her cheek again and collected her last tear, placing it on the tip of his nose.
“No more talking now,” she whispered. His eyes widened but too late. The ice rushed over his face and down his chest, pale blue forks of frost burrowing deep beneath his skin and replacing his veins. In moments he was completely translucent. Not just covered in ice, but become ice. Serena pushed gently and he toppled over backwards, shattering with a sharp screech like a single, stunted scream.
“Well I could have done that,” I said into the sudden stillness, peeved. “Okay, maybe not that exactly, but I could have just turned him into dust or something!”
My sister stared at the broken pieces of Paul, face unreadable. “Then why didn’t you?”
“Umm, because killing people is baaaaaaaad.” I stretched out the syllable extra long for good measure. I hadn’t realized I was talking to a five year old.
“Not when they’re trying to kill you.” Serena sighed and walked off towards the entrance. “Grow up, Micah. It’s the twenty first century. There’s no place for martyrs anymore.”
“But, but -” I sputtered for words, because seriously, what the hell do you even say to that? I settled for scrambling to catch up with her. Given the choice between magical corpse and magical corpse-maker, it was a toss up which was better company, but I had promised to at least try and make nice with my siblings. And Paul did try to kill me, and its not like he was family or cursed either, so there was that. Douche bag.
“It’s called survival of the fittest, little brother. It’s hardly my fault if you’ve neglected your schooling.”
“It kinda is,” I muttered. “You’ve tried to kill me more than anyone else.”
“Token efforts. If I really wanted you dead, you’d be dead.”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh stop, you’re making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”
“I just saved your life. Must you be such an ungrateful turd?”
“Must you be such an ungrateful turd, Micah?” I mimicked. And then a little resentfully: “I totally could have handled it myself.”
“I’m sure you could have, baby brother.” A ghost of a grin swept across Serena’s face, there and gone again in an instant, like a patch of fog glimpsed by moonlight. Still there all the same, just long enough to picture her as she had been, once upon a time. Wild, dancing and fey. The girl who made the sky cry just so the flowers would grow. It seemed like a very long time ago.
I lunged forward on a sudden whim and wrapped my arms around her. “I missed you.”
Even if she was a super scary magical corpse maker now.
She tensed in surprise, but her arms wrapped tentatively around me in response. “I missed you too, baby brother.“
I couldn’t be sure, the way my face was buried in her back, but a sound suspiciously like a sniffle made me think that maybe she wasn’t a total super scary corpse maker. Maybe she was still a little bit Serena too.
“Now tell anyone I said that, and I’ll kill you, you little shit.”
Then again, maybe not. With my family, who can really say?