The Dagger of the Sun

A Sunday Tease…

I believe I owe you all an excerpt from my work-in-progress, Dagger of the Sun (or DotS as I affectionate like to call it).

Without further delay…here it is:

The night air was causing gooseflesh to spread over her arms and legs and the flimsy pale blue tunic wasn’t doing much to protect the rest of her either. Delphyne cursed whatever gods had brought the prince back from the barracks tonight of all nights. She judged the distance from her vantage point to the throne room’s entrance to be less than a minute, but the trick would be crossing the crowded floor without being stopped by someone interesting in hearing about a hunter’s tale.

Or I could jump from the balcony.

It honestly didn’t look that high. If she bent her knees on the landing, she would be fine. She leaned over the railing, letting her fingers encircle the cool stone.

“I would advise against it.”

Delphyne swivelled, heart nearly popping out of her chest. “Don’t scare me…I thought you were —”

Apollo raised an eyebrow.

“Nevermind,” Delphyne amended. “Where have you been?”

She had lost track of Apollo seconds after the feast had started. Apollo had noticed a poet friend of his in the crowd and wandered off. After that, it had been difficult to catch sight of him for more than a minute as he flitted around the room like a butterfly.

“Making the rounds,” Apollo said. “But I’m more interested in knowing why you’re standing here peeping at the statues?”

In the moonlight, the statues in the garden behind her looked even more lewd. Not to mention the occasional moans that drifted up from the shadowed maze.

“I was…” She paused. How could she phrase her words so that she didn’t sound like either a coward or a pervert? “I was getting some fresh air.” She finished rather lamely.

“It has gotten rather stuffy.” A pause. “More so now that the prince has arrived.”

Damn.

“You know?”

“Asclepius told me.” Apollo looked at her, a small smile forming on his lips. “Did the prince really ask you to marry him…by telling you that you’d be a good breeder?”

Delphyne gave him a look that implied she would not be discussing this at length.

“And did you really punch him in response?”

Clearly, her look got lost in translation. “I didn’t have my sword with me, so punching him was my only recourse.”

Since this is a work in progress, I am very open to criticism and feedback…any thing that will help me improve. So please, please, leave a comment or suggestion below.

Now it’s back to the writing board!

Rika Ashton (aka Book Hermit)


In The Land of Olympians

greek-chill-apollo-3

Not exactly what Apollo looks like in my novel, but it was such a cool pick I had to share. Photo credit goes to whoever is responsible for creating the picture.

I’ve started writing again (after a bit of a hiatus), and I’m beginning to get back to my usual schedule!!! Not going to lie though, it’s been hard and gruelling and I was very tempted to give up on Dagger of the Sun but after having put so much time into it the previous year, I wasn’t ready to let go just yet. Instead, I dove back into the land of the Olympians and it started undergoing some rewrites (apparently, I was a very, very bad writer a year ago and threw similes and metaphors into every chapter like I was a rapper with unlimited atm access.)

I don’t have anything to share yet excerpt wise, but I’me hoping for something juicy by the end of the week – so keep your fingers crossed.

But I can share that I’ve written almost 25, 000 words and have nearly edited all the kinks in the first few chapters that were making it difficult for the story to move forward. I spent most of July and June editing the previous chapters and looking through the infinite versions of chapter four (there are at least 5 very long, very different versions of this chapter) and deciding what parts I wanted to keep from each and trying to consolidate them into one legible chapter.

I will keep you guys posted with more updates soon and thank you to everyone that has stuck by me on the long journey that is DotS. There will be a notable lack of reviews for a while as I’m trying to focus on my writing, but I will eventually have to take a break for some reading and reviewing so I don’t crash and burn.

But for now, that’s all!

Thanks,

Rika Ashton (aka Woman Currently in Writer Mode)


Connecting the DOTS

As most of you might already know DOTS (aka Dagger of the Sun) is undergoing some changes. The more time I spend in my fictionalized version of Ancient Greece, the more the world expands – in particular, the Underworld. The Underworld in DOTS is actually a world within a world, and in my version it existed long before Hades claimed it for the dead. And unlike the surface world of mortal Greece, which with the exception of supernatural elements, is mostly true to history – the Underworld is almost 99% a fictionalized landscape. I’m having loads of fun naming places and coming up with groups of people who inhabit the different landscapes of the Underworld.

Best of all, I actually get to stretch my creative muscles a bit and create a map of the Underworld. I actually get to draw! (Or at least I like to call all the chicken scratch I’m throwing on paper “drawing.”)

Of course, not all of the terrain with be revealed in the first book, so I don’t get to draw a complete map…otherwise that would be some major spoilage for book two, but what I do get to include is very detailed.

But I have to say: PLEASE, DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH from this map – I am NOT an artist and therefore, it’s going to be a very amateurish attempt at drawing a map.

However, despite the fact that it will be a very embarrassing attempt, I will still swallow my pride and share on the blog.

And for those of you still not deterred and unafraid of having your eyes bleed, I do have a very bad rough draft.

To make up for my bad mapping skills, I’ll share a teaser from DOTS. This is a scene that happens way later in the novel, and features Bae and Kael. The gentlemen are discussing Bae’s rigorous training schedule for Delphyne.

Ben Hill, my inspiration for Bae.

“Do you think I’m being too hard on her?” Bae asked.

Kael thought about the still-healing cut that he had seen running down the length of Delphyne’s right arm. The fabric of the bandage she’d hastily wrapped around the wound had been soaked through. He had been ready to drive his fist though Bae’s face last night, but had been halted by the words Delphyne had whispered to him in the flickering candlelight of their bedchamber.

“I’m still alive, aren’t I?” She had shrugged, not without flinching. “And as incredible as this may seem at the moment, I do plan to stay that way.”

“I think it’s good for her,” Bae continued, dunking his hands into a basin full of water. He splashed a handful of the water on his face, using the clear liquid to rub away the dirt and sweat of the day’s training session. “But I figured if you’re itching to slit my throat, you might as well get it over with so we can both move on.”

A river of fire. That’s how Delphyne’s wound had looked the night before. A vermilion streak over sun-kissed skin. This morning it had been the finest white line. It was healing. Fast.

So much faster than before.

“No,” said Kael. “I don’t want to slit your throat for hurting my wife.”

Bae looked at him in surprise. 

“I want you to keep training her…until she’s strong enough to slit your throat on her own.”

And there you have it! I had to cut out some parts from the scene – because some things that Kael says are spoilers – but I felt relatively safe uploading this.

Hopefully you enjoyed the little snippet, and now I have to get back to writing! 😀

Rika Ashton

(aka The Mapmaker)


A Special ‘Thank You’ and a Teaser

I’m going to try and keep this post short…mostly because I have to get back to writing, but I thought it might be time for a new teaser from Dagger of the Sun. (And this one will be slightly longer than one line, I promise!)

But first I need to give a special shout out to my critique partners, June Hur and Priscilla Shay, for keeping me motivated through the new draft. I have really high expectations for this novel, but sometimes they don’t always translate well on paper. Yet the advice these ladies have given me makes me want to keep writing…even when I feel like tearing my hair out because none of my characters will do what I want.

It seems silly to say this, because aren’t they just characters? But I dare you to write a novel featuring both Apollo (aka Arrogant Sun God) and Delphyne (aka Madame Huntress Extraordinaire) and see how far you get before you want to throw your computer out the window.

The most surprising part is that Kael, my anti-hero, is the only one doing what he’s told…I think he just really wants me to get this novel published so he can share his magnificence with the world. 😉

And he’s not the only one. I also want to get this novel out there as soon as possible so that I can start on the next one. I even have a title: Throne of the Sun…and yes, the acronym is TOTS because I am awesome. But the acronym for the third novel won’t be as fun – Empire of the Sun…EOTS just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Of course, these are just working titles and might change, but for now I like them and I want to get on with these stories…

But I just remember my promise to keep this post short, so no more ranting today.

If anyone has actually read this far, it’s only because they finally want me to get to the teaser, so here it is:

“Isadora talks to me,” Asclepius had said a moment later, mentioning the Spartan war widow who owned

The late Andy Whitfield, my inspiration for Asclepius.

The late Andy Whitfield, my inspiration for Asclepius.

one of the farms near their home.

“Isadora also talks to her plants.”

But he’d shrugged. “She said it helps them grow.”

Delphyne had slanted her head and narrowed her gaze at him. Then she’d smiled and said, “You like her.”

Although he had reminded himself that grown men didn’t blush, he’d felt heat creeping into his cheeks. “No, I don’t,” he remembered saying.

Delphyne had given him that look – the one with a slow smile and narrow-eyed determination. It was the look she got whenever her mind was running through a series of schemes that were likely to spell trouble for him. He had been intimately acquainted with that look since Delphyne had been ten summers old and had begun smiling again. 

The above teaser, completely unedited, is from chapter four in DOTS…the one chapter that was giving me the most trouble, but I’m done with the new draft and I’ll be sending the chapter to my critique partners soon.

Rika Ashton

(aka The Very Grateful)


Life at the Drawing Board and a Teaser from DOTS

It’s back to writing and revamping Dagger of the Sun (DOTS) – yes, I also feel like I do this A LOT!

I felt like I had to revamp my story before submissions for a few very important reasons:

1. Delphyne had no real motive to be involved in any of the action. Don’t get me wrong, I tried to give her a motive. (i.e: She’s Apollo’s friend so she cares, dammit!) But in the end, this wasn’t enough – in Booklandia, friendship can only take a character so far.

2. I HATED the ending. So for obvious reasons this had to change. 

3. I jumped into the action too fast. Great for plot development, not so great for character development – hence, I needed to find the book’s Zen balance. 

4. My cousin – aka Book Critique #1 – told me the first chapter was too bloody, so if someone was reading it and eating at the same time…well, you get the picture. 

5. My other cousin – aka Self-Proclaimed Book Critique #2 – told me the title was too funky. (But I’m not changing this…NOT again. Besides it’s a working title and I don’t have time to agonize over it yet.)

So what’s up with the new DOTS?

Well, in addition to the above changes, I also have to move around all the chapter so they would fit with the new life story I gave Delphyne. (I ended up completely overhauling her life, but I’m satisfied with the new story – it feels right.) Apollo gets a later introduction, but his sons arrive earlier. Delphyne also has a new mentor. Some minor changes included switching the spelling of Lord Kaelus’ name from “Kale” to “Kael.”

I also upgraded some of the armour and weapons in the book. (I was inspired by Kellan Lutz’s upcoming film, The Legend of Hercules.)

Finally, after much agony and torment, I decided on a new first line for the novel – which is actually today’s teaser:

Delphyne woke to the metallic taste of blood in her mouth and the suffocating scent of death. 

So are you tempted to read more?

And now it’s back to the drawing board – although, I don’t really get to draw anything. *sigh*

Rika Ashton

(aka The “Writer”)


Dagger of the Sun Update!

Hi folks,

I’ve finally got some time to write yesterday, so I thought why not post another short teaser from DOTS?

The city center, marketplace and all, was burning – flames ravenously engulfing the landscape. The agora itself was a pit of bright, orange fire. Smoke, that hadn’t been visible from within the alley, was rising into the air like a dark cloud.

And there were more reptilian creatures.

Hundreds.

Behind her, Delphyne heard the clatter of a sword being tossed aside, which prompted her to action.

She had to find Apollo; if anyone knew what was going on, it would be him.

Unfortunately it was easier said than done.

More of the smoke was beginning to rise, mixing with the summer heat, making her eyes water as she ran blindly towards where she had seen Apollo land earlier.

As always, feel free to make predictions about what you think will happen next by leaving a comment below?

Rika Ashton

(aka “I’m so happy to be writing again!”)

P. S: I found a picture of Delphyne the Gorgon – this comes from the Marvel comic book, Incredible Hercules.


Dagger of the Sun: New Teaser (Delphyne)

It’s Friday!!!

Personally, I’m looking forward to sleeping on Saturday – university forces me to wake up way to early the rest of the week. 😦

To celebrate the awesomeness of Friday and the end of the week – a very BUSY week at that – I thought I would post a teaser from Dagger of the Sun (DOTS). I like posting teasers, because it forces me to edit my writing, which I don’t always want to do. I am a very lazy person, as most of you probably know after reading a previous post, so getting down to editing something takes a lot of effort for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE writing! But the first draft is always the best for me – it’s when I get to discover the nuances of the story for the first time. The journey is fresh and new and I want to finish just so I know how everything ends. I like the part of the editing process that allows me to rejuggle the story, but I hate the part about grammer/spelling – mostly because I’m awful at these aspects.

But, now, without further ado – THE TEASER!

Taking advantage of her temporarily stunned state, her captor aimed another kick to her sword hand, crushing her fingers until she was forced to drop her sword. Delphyne felt a hand clamp over her mouth and nose, preventing any hope of breathing. 

In less than second, Delphyne knew she would be unconscious and defenseless. Survival instincts kicking in, she aimed her knee high between her captor’s legs – swinging hard enough that it should have brought whoever had manhandled her to their knees in screaming agony.

Only it didn’t.

I always look forward to reader predictions…so go ahead and speculate about what you think is going to happen in the comments!

Rika Ashton

(aka High on Friday!)


The Music Behind the Dagger of the Sun

Hi all,

Music is a huge inspiration for me, especially when it comes to my writing, so it’s no suprise to me when I develop a playlist for a novel I’m working on. For DOTS, I have about 10 different songs I listen to on repeat when trying to get into character.

1. “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake

  • This one totally defines Delphyne and Apollo’s relationship – although, probably not in the way you think. (Plus, I’m syched that JT released a new album and releasing another in September 2013).

2. “One of Us” from The Lion King: Simba’s Pride soundtrack

  • I often listen to Disney soundtracks – I’m a Disney junkie whose probably seen every movie the comany ever made – while writing and this one was an obvious choice sine exile is a HUGE theme in the novel. I also loved the dark tone of the song and lyrics since it fit so well with the tone of the novel.

3. “Main Theme” from the Game of Thrones soundtrack

  • Instrumental music is perfect for me because I sometimes get distracted by the lyrics of a song and the Game of Thrones theme song has the perfect pacing to write with.

4. “Burn it Down” by Linkin Park

  • This song just thematically fit since a LOT of things burn down in DOTS!

5. “Perfect” by Hedley

  • No one in DOTS is perfect – villain or hero – so this song was another natural fit.

6. “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga

  • Pretty much the only song I listened to when writing the “Kale and Delphyne” scenes in my novel.

7. “Romantic Flight” from the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack

  • Dragons, dragons, dragons! One of the best parts of any fantasy novel are the mythical creatures and the relationship between the hero and his/her creature. This is one of the “lighter” songs that I listened to while writing DOTS, and the melody of this song was good for the less intense scenes.

8. “If I Lose Myself” by OneRepublic

  • I think this song defines friendships with unconditional loyalty and trust and for a while some of the characters had such relationships in DOTS.

9. “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia

  • This song was written for Apollo! No, seriously, just listen to the lyrics!

10. “Grenade” by Bruno Mars

  • Because everyone should think about grenades while writing ancient Greek fantasy novels. 🙂

And that concludes my musical list for DOTS!

I’m always on the lookout for good writing music, so if you would like to make a recommendation just leave a comment below. Thanks.

Rika Ashton

(aka The Musical)


The Red Forest: A Teaser

For the last week or so, I’ve been alternating between working hard and lazing about. We’ve had an ongoing heat wave here on the West coast, so everytime I step into a room without a fan, I feel like a hardboiled egg. Unfortunately, this has also affected my ability to sit behind my laptop and type out chapters – although I’ve been good about writing out chapters in my notebook, which I’ve begun to carry round with me most places I go.

I have not however, been writing under the shade of a tree in a park feeling the breeze – I got close enough to a tree once and saw all the ants crawling up its trunk and turned away. I am NOT a fan of bugs!

But for now, as motivation to keep myself busy, I’m going to post a short teaser from chapter seven of my novel, Dagger of the Sun. The teaser introduces The Red Forest, where the Bone Witch lives:

On her first accidental visit to the Bone Witch’s realm, Hecate had felt the forest shift around her, forcing her to take the one path that would lead her to the witch. It hadn’t taken Hecate long to discover that she had stumbled onto one of the many ephemeral realms that were scattered across Greece. The Red Forest was a shadowed realm that stood between mortal Greece and the entrance to the Underworld. Most mortals avoided the Red Forest, preferring to stay away from the land rumoured to be inhabited by creatures that would prove to be neither pets nor a convenient meal.

Yes, I know, extremely short teaser, but I was hardpressed to find passages in this chapter that didn’t give out spoilers. So, unfortunately, that’s all there is for today, but check back soon because I will be posting more teasers.

Rika Ashton

(aka The Sun-fried Writer)


The Maximus Teaser

Maximus was a HUGE surprise to me, not only is he the first “child” character I’ve ever written, he also appeared out of thin imagination air and plummeted past me at maximum speed.

Hence, the name “Maximus.” (As luck would have it, the name also fit into the Ancient Greek world.)

I had no plans of giving Apollo another child in Dagger of the Sun. According to mythology, Apollo only had four children and the next, Troilus, will not feature in my novel nor any of the others who follow him. But Maximus insisted on being written in and so I eventually gave in to his demands.

Maximus is Apollo’s “secret” child – he never appears in the original mythology, but I will assume that Apollo had children who were not discussed by Homer or any of the other Greek poets.

After I wrote Maximus into my latest DOTS draft, I quickly realized how vital he is to the story. (But I can’t go into the details of his role, because that would spoil the novel. I will give you a hint though – it has something to do with the arch-villain and anti-hero, Kale.)

But now, it’s time for the teaser. Here’s a short excerpt of a scene that involves Maximus, Delphyne and Apollo, after Maximus has been caught for comitting some of his customary mischief:

“Let go of me, you son of a Macedonian goat!” The high-pitched squeal came moments later, and Apollo returned with Maximus.

The boy was hanging, Apollo’s hand firmly grasped around one ankle. Every second breath, Maximus would swing up, trying to reach the spot where Apollo held on to his tiny ankle or trying claw at Apollo’s face. With his free leg, Maximus continued to kick at Apollo’s chest, the latter of who never even flinched.

Delphyne, who remained witness to all this, was both amused and frustrated for the child who could never meet his goal, but was always so close.

On his last swing Maximus saw her standing a few feet away.

“Girl,” he said. “Help me.”

Not quite certain why she didn’t feel irritated at being ordered by a child, Delphyne merely shook her head.

At the same moment, Apollo shook his son and said, “Her name is Delphyne but you already knew that did you not.” It wasn’t a question, but a firm statement of fact indicating that Apollo would not be listening to any falsehoods from his son.

Delphyne, who had experienced that tone of voice from her own father, quietly sympathized with Maximus.

“She never told me her name.”

“It’s true, I didn’t,” said Delphyne, confirming Maximus’ claim. She didn’t want the child getting into more trouble on her account.

“The nymphs informed me he asked about my guest the moment you arrived, and they told him who you were,” Apollo told her, before turning back to his son. “Now that you’re caught, are you ready to explain your actions?”

The boy was sneaky, she’d never suspected he knew her when they’d first met. And what had Maximus done?

Now Delphyne was the one dying of curiosity.

“She deserved it, kept pinching my cheeks and telling me how pretty my hair was,” the boy complained.

Delphyne heard Apollo snort.

“You like it when the nymphs tell you how pretty you are,” Apollo said. “So I ask again, why?”

Maximus remained stubbornly silent and Apollo shook him again. The boy’s blond curls bobbed up and down with the movement and Delphyne had to admit Maximus did have pretty hair.

“I’ll speak, I’ll speak,” Maximus all but shouted.

Apollo arched an eyebrow.

“I was bored,” said Maximus. “All the nymphs kept talking about the man in the bathhouse and no one would play with me.”

“The nymph’s lover, you mean,” Apollo countered. “You were more jealous than bored, brat.”

Maximus began anew his attempts to get free.

Apollo must have realized that she was dying of curiosity, while watching Maximus swing back and forth, because he said, “He stole a love arrow from Eros and poked a nymph, she fell in love with a horse and Maximus ran away.”

Delphyne tried to contain her laughter, she truly did, but part of it spilled forth regardless.

She looked at Maximus and said, “Well done.”

Keep in mind that all of the teasers and chapter excerpts I post on this blog are unedited and will drastically change after my critique partner has gotten a hold of them. That said, however, I hope you enjoy!

And remember to read, review and rave!

Rika Ashton

(aka The Creator of Maximus)

P.S: Maximus is a blond child with pale blue eyes and his perfect real life inspiration is Matt Bomer’s son. Isn’t he adorable? (Maximus is based on the boy on the far left.)