It’s that time of year again, folks! November: crisp fall air, cozy sweaters, nice hot mochas, fallen leaves crunching like a carpet under foot, the final big push for the semester… and, of course, NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month, one of the biggest events for writers around the world. It starts at midnight October 31st and ends at midnight November 30th. Writers everywhere pledge to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch within that time frame. It’s a crazy month all around, but worth it to most – even the lost sleep.) I wasn’t sure if I would participate this year, with everything else I’ve been doing, but decided last Thursday that I would at least make an attempt. I’ve been struggling with some writers’ block on my other projects, and figured working on something new for a bit and getting back into the habit of writing a couple thousand words a day would serve to break the ice. After making the decision to move forward, I dug around in my rabbit hole (a notebook I keep ever on me to catch the wild plotbunnies that ambush me for later use) and found an idea I’ve been itching to work on for a while now. Two hours of plotting, story boarding on Pinterest, and laying out the cast later, Summer Heat was born.
So, without further ado, allow me to introduce my new project for November! Instructions for BETA signup are below, for anyone interested.
Long ago, the Summer and Winter kingdoms ruled in harmony. But when the Summer King committed an unforgivable act, the slaughter of a family of mixed-blood Spring beings, the treaty was broken. In the years since, war has ensued. The fire warriors of the Summer kingdom move in on an ever-shrinking Winter kingdom, where the few remaining Fall and Spring beings have taken refuge.
Young Winter orphan, Immy, was raised up by one of these small fugitive colonies. Now a young woman, she uses her Winter talents to help keep them safe. That is, until one day, when a blizzard separates her from her pseudo family. By the time she returns to the campsite, the fire warriors have struck, carrying them to the fate worse than death awaiting them in the Summer kingdom. With the help of her strange new friend, Teague, Immy must track down the warriors and release their prisoners, or lose the only family she’s ever known forever.
The wind ruffles my feathers like a soft, cold hand, crisp with the scent of frostbitten pine. My eyes squint against the frozen flakes peppering the cloudy sky, thumping lightly against my face and beak, frosting my silken white and tan down. The world is veiled by a pure ivory blanket extending to the heavens, enveloping me with every swoosh of my long, tawny wings. Pearly freedom, everywhere I look – the silver expanse of air my own shining citadel upon a hill.
“Immy, come on! Stop messing around, we’re supposed to be gathering firewood!” Alister calls, a hint of bitterness in his voice. I scan the forest below, the long black trunks and the dark evergreens attempting to hide him from view. With my sharp eyes, it takes only a short time to find his shadowy form beside the big black draft horse with thick, fringed legs iced over and wet from the deep snow. With a sinking feeling in my chest, I begin my descent, circling tighter and tighter, dropping from the fresh, cool sky.
The trees and their long branches reach out for me like eager children, and I engage in their game, dodging between them, letting the tips of my wings brush clumps of slushy white to thump lightly on the ground, rustling the sharp needles as if I were a great gust of wind. Alister watches me with a look somewhere between awe, longing, and disdain, and I accidentally bump the branch directly above him, showering his dark head with sloppy wet snow.
“Hey! Cut it out, Immy.” He yelps, jumping back and whipping his unruly hair back and forth to shake the cold, wet clumps out. I laugh, a soft clicking sound from my beak, and swoop in. diving toward the horse’s back. Just before I ram into his withers, I pull up, flipping in the air and shifting simultaneously. Jadis, the black steed, lets out a low snort as I land softly on his back, my legs pressing into either side of his round barrel, wild blonde locks pouring down my back and spilling over my shoulders. Alister rolls his eyes, but I can’t wipe the grin from my wind-licked face, a shiver of delight running down my spine.
“Sorry Alister. It’s just such a beautiful day, and it’s been days since I’ve had a nice relaxing flight. Besides, Bebai told me to keep a good eye out for any trouble. There’s no better place to spy it than from up there.” My voice is hoarse and rushed, edged with that grit only adrenaline can cause.
Interested in BETA Reading?
If you would like to be on the list of first people to read each chapter as I write it, the rules are very simple.
1) If you offer to be a BETA reader, you are also offering your criticism and feedback. This can be as short or as in depth as you wish, but be prepared for questions about the story. There are no bad answers, of course, I just need feedback on the writing to know if I’m doing my job.
2) After reading each update, I ask that you remove the document from your computer. This is simply a safety precaution for me. I know none of you are fiendish enough to plagiarize, but I have to cover my bases.
3) If you are so inclined, you are welcome to talk about Summer Heat through all forms of social media, but I do ask that you tag my author pages in these posts. For direct quotes, please ask permission first and give credit where it is due.
4) Finally, please be honest. As much as I love getting positive feedback, I can’t improve without knowing my weak points. This is a NaNoNovel, which means it will be a much rougher first draft than usual, and therefore I will ask you to be gentle (especially where typos are concerned), but where plot, characters, and so on are concerned, I want to know how you really feel.
Still up for the challenge? Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line Summer Heat BETA, with your name and a sentence about why you want to be a BETA. (This will get you past my spam filter.) You will be added to the list, and begin receiving updates with the next chapter. At any point in time, you can email me requesting to be taken off the list, and I am always available to answer questions.