Writing Sample: The Namesake by Kate Stradling

quote from The Namesake by Kate StradlingConfession: I intended my current project, The Namesake, to be a novella up until Jill and Rachel insisted I develop it properly. The draft has passed 100K words, and the jury’s still out on whether I even like this book. I slog away on it nonetheless.

Anjeni Sigourna bears the name of a legendary goddess, but she’s cultivated sarcasm and bitterness in lieu of the elusive magic everyone expects her to have. In her modern world, such power lacks purpose. In the alien realm where fate lands her, though, it marks the boundary between life and certain death.

And Anjeni, in spite of her cynicism, now must create a legend instead of living in its shadow.

The Namesake: An Excerpt

A warrior has emerged from the host, a massive hunk of black armor and needle-sharp spikes astride the most hideous creature I’ve ever seen. It’s like someone bred a horse with a giant lizard, all scales and claws and hulking muscles.

The monstrous steed screeches as it gallops across the barren valley, headed straight for me. Its rider holds aloft a gleaming morning star.

Great. Not only have I crashed into an alien world, but its inhabitants are going to kill me.

The mutant horse launches onto the hillside with sickening agility. In my attempt to flee, I roll my ankle and pitch back down the incline.

Graceful, that’s what I am. Meeting my impending doom with dignity and poise.

I tumble past my attacker. Claws scrabble against the stones above. Adrenaline courses through my blood as my body stops at the bottom of the hill. I spring to my feet and bolt.

As if I could possibly outrun my killer.

The creature shrieks behind me. On instinct more than anything else I fling myself out of the way. A whoosh passes too near, the spikes of the morning star dangerously close. The army on the right jeers and catcalls, their derision unmistakable. Still the army on the left does nothing.

I catch myself and thrust from the ground, but the warrior is already upon me.

His aim is better this time, too.

Pain bursts on my back as the morning star connects, shredding through my clothes and raking up my ribcage. The force of the blow sends me airborne. I collide with rough earth, my limbs in a heap, my mind gripped in mingled agony and shock.

I’m on my side, facing the jeering host. A buzzing in my ears drowns out their frenzied roars.

The monster passes above my head. Its rider holds aloft his weapon, victorious, fomenting support from his rabid minions. My shallow breath puffs the dirt in front of me.

He’s building up their excitement for the final blow.

I’m going to die here, worlds away from my home, from my parents and everything I know and love.

Why didn’t I just accept the magic classes? I’ve sat through them for thirteen years, so what was a few more months? Why didn’t I just accept them?

It might seem nonsensical, but that is the thought that floats across my mind in these my final moments.

I’m going to die, and it all would have been preventable if I had humbled myself to my parent’s wishes, if I had gone to sleep in my own bed instead of wandering through the night in search of an alternative.

My life pulses through my veins, as sluggish as the blood that coats my back. Death is not acceptable. I can’t die, not when my last words to my own family were full of bitterness and hate. I can’t die when I’ve never even figured out what I want to live for.

I can’t die.

The buzzing in my ears amplifies, and with it, a pressure builds. My sheer will to live screams like a caged animal, feral and desperate to be free. I push away from the dry grass, slowly, staggering first to my knees and then to my feet.

My attacker is too busy with his audience to notice me right away. I can barely keep my balance, my head pointed downward as my vision blurs in and out of focus. The frenzy of his army shifts its tone, and he glances my direction. I watch in my periphery as he circles his monstrous steed around to face me. His weapon, mottled with blood and torn fibers, angles out toward the ground.

The ruthless crowd behind him screams for a finishing blow.

He takes his time approaching, relishing the end.

The first fundamental of magic is that it flows like a river. The energy gathers from a source beyond sight and, like water in its riverbed, courses to its destination. You are the riverbed, Anjeni.

The feral animal within howls for release. I raise my hands, pitifully weak and shaking, palms facing outward, as though I can block the oncoming attack. The rider swings his weapon aloft. His mount picks up speed for this final blow.

You are the riverbed, Anjeni.

The animal within screams.

And I… I set it free.

 

If I ever find the moron who wrote the first fundamental of magic, I swear I will throttle them until they die. Magic is nothing like a river. It’s a volcano: searing, explosive, and capable of obliterating everything in its destructive path.

Author’s Note

I have long hated first person POV. Haaaaated it. But I feel like, as a writer, I need to know the inner workings of my craft. So, here we are. Yay.

I refer to this as “my experimental project” whenever anyone asks me what I’m working on. The style and tone are different from other books I’ve written, and that terrifies me. It’s helping me grow too, though, which makes it worth my while.

And maybe I don’t hate first person POV quite so much anymore. It’s a different beast for sure.

Further Reading

The Namesake is roughly 93% finished. Kate has wallowed in the draft for way too long, but she has the end in sight. Publication goal is Summer 2017.

Until then, check out her other books, available on Amazon.

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