Witchfinder — Free novel — One

Witchfinder cover


*I’m going to start posting a novel here, a chapter a week. This is being posted as I write it, so it’s in pre-earc (for those from Baen) or in close-to (but not quite) -first draft state. Once it’s finished it will undergo editing and then it will be published in some form. I’m going to put this up with its own category so you can find it. And yes,there is a donate button on the side of the blog, to your right– those who donate $6  WILL get this, revised, when it comes out. I’m also going to have another cover for this soonish. Until then, bear with me. Yes, those of you who are in Baen Diner have seen two chapters of this before. The difference is, this time I finish it “in public” which is a bit of a window to you on how things work out. Oh, yeah, this is a fantasy set in the same universe as the Magical British Empire, but not in the same world (at least to begin with.) And it uses a Scarlet Pimpernel archetype, which I ALWAYS wanted to do.*

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers.  Yes, this is a serialized novel.  No, it’s not quite final and depending on the day you will find a few typos.  If you wish to come back, I’ll post a chapter every day on Friday (except this week when I thought Thursday was Friday.  I was in Writer Time or something.  Two things before I get out of your way and let you read 1)Yes, the cover is horrible.  It’s a place holder while I find or draw a better one.  2)donations aren’t necessary, I’ll continue the story whether or not the writer’s bowl is full, but they are (needless to say) appreciated, since baby needs med school books.  (And shoes.  Size 16 shoes!)  Oh, a third thing (Nobody expects the writer inquisition) the novel is sort of what would happen if Heyer fell into Diana Wynne Jones at meteoric impact force.


Sarah A. Hoyt

Flash And Fire

Seraphim knew it had all gone wrong as soon as he emerged from the mage-portal.

He hadn’t been sure where the alarm had sent him, but he knew it had indicated several children in distress. And that meant there had to be a world on the other end.

There was no world. Only the grey, empty nothingness that mages called Betweener.

For a moment, in a panic, he wondered if he’d done something wrong, if perhaps his casting and his spelling had gone wrong, if he’d lost himself through his own stupidity.

His heart beating painfully in his chest, his throat dry, he tried to go over in his mind the coordinates the alarm had shown, the coordinates of his spells and his foreseeing and casting of parameters.

Three children. In danger of death. And it was supposed to be 185 by 240 by… No, he’d done that.

His lungs were going to burst. The Betweener looked like a foggy morning, the fog so dense and white you saw nothing behind it. But it didn’t contain much that you could breathe. Stay there many minutes and you died.

As his brain grew cloudy, he tried to reach for his coordinates again and cast his spell. 185 by 240, by…

There was nothing there he could grasp at to open the gate forward. But the gate back was not completely closed. He’d go home and regroup.

He reached back and tried to open the mostly closed portal that had brought him here. Magic was never two-way, and going back was harder than coming here.

He had to use his whole will-power, his whole concentration, and his head was starting to pound with a headache that told him he didn’t have enough oxygen.

By the powers he thought. This was a trap. It was always a trap. Those coordinates were never reachable.

And then the portal behind sprang open.

At that moment, as though called by that magic, a dagger appeared out of the blind fog. Seraphim spun. It should have hit his heart, but instead, it buried itself in his shoulder. As he struggled to keep the portal open and dispel the dagger, it cut a vicious path down his body.

He shoved through the portal, then commanded the dagger to drop.

Standing in his dressing room, his grace Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, realized that his suit was not only torn, so was his body. Blood was seeping through the superfine cloth, dripping from his hand onto the floor.

And he was late for his own engagement party.
His Grace

Chapter One

If anyone were looking closely at the gentleman as he approached the double doors of the ballroom, they would have noticed he held himself somewhat stiffly. Not as though he were injured or embarrassed, but more as though he were excessively careful of all his movements.

The two uniformed footmen exchanged a look before opening the doors. His grace, the look said, had clearly been out drinking. Which explained his being so late to the ball.

Neither of them would have dared say it was just like His Grace, and – if it came to that – a lot like His Grace’s deceased father, but it was plain that they both thought it.

As his Grace, Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater paused in the doorway, in the full glare of the brilliant magelights positioned all around the walls, all eyes turned his way.

This was not because of the exquisite tailoring of his green evening attire, that showed off his muscular body to great advantage, or his commanding height and stately bearing. That he was possibly the handsomest man in the room, with his thick, raven black hair, aquiline features, and dazzling emerald eyes, was a part of it, as well as the fact that he was His Grace, Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, one of the oldest and most prestigious magical houses in the kingdom, not to say in the world.

No. The real reason his entrance gained the attention of all in the room was because this party was being held in his honour, and he was unfashionably late. His mother had almost given up all hope of his appearance, as had his betrothed, Lady Honoria Blythe.

The betrothal had as yet to be formalized but everyone present expected the announcement to be made sometime approaching midnight. Whispers that he planned to cry off had already traversed the room.

After a pause that was so silent it was almost as if the orchestra had stopped playing – which it certainly hadn’t — the conversation and dancing resumed.

Darkwater walked into the room, still moving with exaggerated care, reached for a glass from a tray held high by a passing footman, and tossed the champagne back in one swift move.

From across the room, his mother saw it and flinched. The Dowager Duchess of Darkwater was a petite woman. Her mother had been French, and Lady Barbara showed it in her small oval face, her dark eyes, her clearly marked, arched eyebrows, and in a certain air which showed a quick temper, quickly tamped down.

She approached her errant son, maintaining every appearance of outward calm, even if her gaze couldn’t help but reproach his lateness and his state.

“Really Seraphim!” she said as soon as she could be sure of not being heard by other people. “After I have gone to such trouble putting on this ball for you, the least you could do is arrive in a timely manner. Dearest Honoria has withstood it all without a crack in her perfect demeanour, but I have been ready to faint from anxiety.”

Darkwater glanced across the room to where Lady Honoria stood, the picture of poise and elegance. She smiled at him, a calm smile that showed no emotion at all, neither anger nor relief, neither disdain nor caring. He sent her a stilted bow and a smile that gave as little away as her own. “She is to be commended for her good sense,” he replied. “And you, Mama, are to be commended for not fainting. That would have set the tabbies’ tongues wagging.”

His mother clutched his arm and he winced and reeled a little, as though the force of her small hand clasping his sleeve were enough to unsettle his carefully guarded poise. “Seraphim – tell me you are happy with this match. If you are not, you should not go through with it. There is time to back out now, without injuring Honoria or the Darkwater pride.”

“Back out?” he asked as he stepped away from her. “Why should I want to do that?”

“Because you are not in love with her. I have always wanted a love match for you, not to see you give yourself up to increase the family fortune. Our magic is still strong, and with your brother’s new inventions, our fortunes will rally.”

“Father expected otherwise,” said Darkwater curtly. “An alliance between Ainsling’s Arcana and Blythe Blessings was the old Duke’s greatest dream.” He reached for a sparkling crystal glass from another passing tray. “Love is a fairy story, at any rate.”

“So instead you drink yourself blind?” asked his mother. “You are making a good job of hiding it, but I can see you are unsteady on your feet.”

“Hardly, Mother. Please do not fret.” Almost reeling, he managed to visibly exert utmost control upon his rebellious body, bowed politely to his mother, and turned to cross the room. “If you will excuse me, I believe Honoria is entitled to at least one dance with me.”

Seeing him bow to Honoria and offer his hand to be enveloped in her cool, gloved little one, his mother could but clench her two hands together. What she had endured from her husband – his careless disregard for her and her position – only she knew. She had exerted her discretion, her pride, the very last shreds of the love that had once drawn her into an unadvisable marriage, to keep her husband’s missteps secret.

His debts at the gaming tables, she’d covered without a word, his frequent inebriation, she’d hid by talking of his “complaint”, his mistresses he’d paid off, his byblows, she’d taken care to set in the way of good positions, his children she’d borne without complaint.

And all that time, her one consolation had been that neither Seraphim, nor his ten-year younger brother, Michael, nor even her single surviving daughter, Caroline, Michael’s twin, showed the slightest tendency to imitate their father. Michael was perhaps the steadiest of them all – his mind given very early over to the perfecting of magic and the creation of magical engines to improve daily life.

But Seraphim, though a rather more spirited boy, forever climbing trees and riding out on horses that were too impetuous for any other rider, had shown early enough a tendency to assume responsibility for the family, and to respect the worth and importance of his title and position.

Only in the last ten years, it had all fallen apart. Rumors of his wild gaming and wenching, his uphazard living, his pride in his riding and shooting prowess – a prowess no one else could see a shred of – had reached even the ears of his mother.

No one had asked her to settle his debts. Yet. No one had laughed openly about his mistaken pride in his physical abilities. Yet. No light skirt or edge born baby had sought her protection. Yet.

But in that ballroom, watching her son hold himself too stiffly and carefully, Lady Barbara Ainsling, Dowager Duchess of Darkwater felt much like syssiphus, who, having pushed the rock up the slope sees it rolling back again.

Seraphim, his early character not withstanding, was turning into a copy of his father.

For the next chapter look here

36 thoughts on “Witchfinder — Free novel — One

  1. So you keep posting qualms about this crowd sourced editing thing and now here you are doing something very similar to it.

    If I was a cat I would have a caption over my head that read “CAN I HAZ HAT TIP?”

    Oh and way to start with a bang. I’m hooked.

    1. well, if you mean crowd sourcing as in contributions to the WRITING… um… I’m a LOUSY colaborator — I can do it, but it takes effort. Crowd sourcing as in money? I don’t expect a lot. But would you believe it’s easier for me to do a novel chapter than a non-fiction post? Because it is.

      Thank you, and there will be more next Friday. Also, I realize — gah — I forgot to update the free short story, because I’m away from home, and I’ve been out of normal step. I’ll do it this Sunday. Oh, and I love your new profile pic.

    2. Travis Lee Clark, Sarah hasn’t posted this for crowd source editing. What she is doing is putting up what is basically an unedited version of the novel. It’s sort of a carrot to tempt her fans and win her new ones. It’s not a request for help editing it. Believe me, she has an exceptional freelance editor — and not, it’s not me. I have more than enough on my plate with NRP to take on freelance work — to help with the final edits.

      And, Sarah, I don’t know that I can wait a week for the next bit of this. If I promise you a new kitteh, will you post sooner?

      1. If I accepted another kitteh my husband would leave me, and I like him better than kittehs (Yes, that means I love him a lot.)
        And now that my head has cleared a bit — yeah, Amanda, and no Travis. I didn’t mean for this to get crowd-source edited. I suspect I’d end up abandoning it if it were. I did that with my first Jane Austen fan fic. I.e. I posted and changed direction when people said “but I want this to happen.” The end is a mess that can’t even be edited, so it’s never been finished. (It was called, for those who hung out at the austen fan fic site By Her Arts And Allurements — if I have a chance later, I might go in and just write that again from the beginning.) Beyond all, this novel is outlined. I know where it’s going.

        Now, will I completely ignore comments? Uh… depends. Typos? Probably. Phrasing changes in final edits, and sometimes entire pages change, so hunting typos at this stage is futile. “You forgot you left him with his foot hanging out the window in the last chapter” will go into a notebook, to be fixed when I finish because it’s the type of detail that MIGHT escape me. BUT here’s the thing – it doesn’t escape my editor. (Not just copy editor, editor.) He’s exceptionally good, astonishingly competent and is willing to work for what I can afford as a great favor to me. Of course, he also gets to employ high-grade sarcasm on my characters, but that’s okay. And he’ll be getting this once it’s finished and I’ve given it a few more passes.

        Does this mean you shouldn’t comment? Heavens no! Even the type of comment one gets in fan fic boards “I hate this” “I love this” “Don’t let him die” is an ENORMOUS lesson/learning experience. While it’s not crowd sourcing, it is “reactions from readers in real-reading-time” And while distorted by being once a week, it still helps me figure out what other people see of the world inside my head. I often tell people austen fanfic was THE single most effective course in learning how to write for someone else.

        I just realized I could do a whole post on what I expect from this experiment, and I think I will. Tomorrow.

        1. Oh, and even when I don’t answer those, I LOVE “more” comments. Or comments that say “this or that” LOL or “this or that” cry. They all tell me I’ve hit the mark.

      2. In other words – you will accept the comments you like and not the ones you disagree with….and that isn’t crowd sourced…even if the comments you accept came from the crowd…because… Ok you lost me again. LOL.

        Ok first, people keep making my original statements on crowd-sourced editing into more than what I actually said. Go back and read what I actually wrote. I never advocated a free-for-all or a collaborative writing jam, far from it.

        Secondly, everyone seems intent on slicing the baloney as thin as they can slice it to avoid the obvious, which is this: This was posted online in rough form for public consumption. Comments will be posted. Heck, they are even encouraged. These comments will come from a “crowd.” This crowd is not a group of professional readers or editors, BTW. The writer will assimilate those comments, rejecting some and accepting others. Editing will occur.

        I don’t understand why this is so controversial.

    3. I think “crowd sourcing” is such a new term that its limits aren’t well defined.

      “No, I’m just getting quick opinions from the people most likely to buy the book” verses “Cloud sourced reactions” is just semantics. Personally I think half of Baen’s Bar is cloud sourcing of one sort or another, we just called it snippeting, or bouncing ldeas off a few Bar Flies, or group brainstorming, or preaching to the choir, or research. And being an established group, I suspect we’ll resist being pigeonholed as a “SF writers cloud source emporium.”

      They all involved a self selected group in a basically free open access group giving help and opinions to people who asked for it.

    1. Sanford
      I hate the name Kyrie for a girl character. TECHNICALLY it means “Lord” of course she’s Kyrie Grace, which makes sense for a baby found in front of a church. I also stole the name from a friend’s kid which I hate even more. But I’d been trying to write that book and I knew the character’s name had a K and an i or y. I’d tried everything. Kris Kristine Krista and, in a fit of strangeness, Kryna but I couldn’t write the character because that wasn’t her name. Then I got a birth announcement…

      Seraphim came with his full name. Am I happy with it? no. To be honest, most people will call him Darkwater. Not happy with that either, but I presume there’s a reason for his name which I haven’t figured out YET. Like Athena Hera Sinistra. I hate the nickname Thena. Girl with that name in elementary was… not nice. BUT my character was Thena. And she was Athena Hera Sinistra. And I didn’t figure out why until ALMOST the end of the book. :/ Writing from my subconscious — or perhaps the lint between my toes — is an issue at times.

  2. Seraphim is plural! O:D (Whiiiiiiich does not mean I don’t have one of my own tucked away somewhere. Which is why I have a halo on my smiley. >_>) But names, they have much oddities to them anyway. (Is it a historical one, then?)

    I hope you get that Donate button up soon. Though the wait will let me double-check that my account will not be too broken by it. (I’ve been buying ebooks, see, and Paypal is even more convenient than the Dread Card.)

  3. The character so far is really rather multivalent. He’s a noted rounder, doesn’t love his betrothed, has daddy and mommy issues, so Darkwater is a good name. But something else is happening. He’s hiding a wound and another life, perhaps a quest. Seraphim Darkwater is a perfect dickensesque name for him then. Possibly angelic, possibly not. It screams “fallen angel” and anit-hero, but could also be a man on a mission of redemption. And we don’t yet know if we are supposed to love him, or love to hate him, (my only advice is don’t let us decide too soon!) but he is interesting.

  4. Okay, guys, I’m tired and cranky after a weekend workshop, but where in the name of all that is holy do you get the idea that Sarah is cloud source editing this piece? First of all, her own internal editor is one of the best I’ve seen. Second, she has a wonderful freelance editor I wish I could afford. She doesn’t need to conduct any sort of experiment or group project in order to get a manuscript ready to publish.

    What Sarah is doing — and I will use short words whenever possible so there is no misunderstanding — is snippeting one of her works in progress. It isn’t any different from an author snippeting his or her work in an online forum such as Baen’s Bar. Is it the final version — hell, no. But it also doesn’t mean she wants advice on what she should — or should not — be writing.

    What she wants is how you react to the scene she has posted. It isn’t a call for ideas. For one thing, trying to keep track of who suggested what would be impossible. Then there are the legal issues involved should she actually take an idea someone put out there. Or, worse, should someone claim they suggested something that made it into the final work. Boys and girls, there are reasons authors don’t want to see unsolicited stories written by their fans. Too many authors have been sued by “fans” claiming their ideas have been stolen by the author.

    So, if you like a scene, let Sarah know. If a scene doesn’t work for you, let her know. But don’t offer fixes. Don’t offer plot ideas. Do NOT offer suggestions on sentence structure or punctuation and spelling. This is a pre-E-ARC, nothing more. No experiment in cloud editing. No fancy game of community collaboration. This is a freebie from Sarah who thought you might enjoy seeing how a book is born.

    If I’ve stepped on toes here, sorry. As I said, I’m tired and cranky and Sarah can take this down if she wants. But please, quit trying to put words into her mouth or there is a very real chance you will ruin this for the rest of us by forcing her to quit posting the excerpts.

    1. Again, if you only apply an extremely strict and narrow definition of crowd-sourced editing, your reply makes sense, but applying such a narrow definition is pointless, so it doesn’t.

      Also, again, read EVERYTHING I’ve written. I’ve never suggested she lose control of the project and toss it out to the rabble.

      Finally, crowd-sourced editing is far different than crowd-sourced WRITING, and everyone keeps confusing the two, including you. This isn’t a free-for-all, with a community making a universe, she’s in charge and everyone knows it, but still, she is putting it out there. A crowd is making comments. She will ponder, accept and reject those comments as it suits her. Editing will occur. It IS crowd-sourced editing.

      I have no idea why this is soooo controversial.

      I think perhaps that people think that if you put something in public, get a suggestion you like, and accept it or modify it, that it takes the special magical author “sheen” off of you, but it doesn’t. Anyone can make a suggestion. It takes genius to actually make it happen. I can suggest novel ideas all day, but I may never be able to turn them into a working novel.

      1. First I want to say that I think the world of Sarah, not just for her books but for her writing advice which is invaluable.

        I was also thrilled when she responded to my original post on crowd-sourced editing and her post had a lot of worthwhile advice.

        But when she responded to the specific issue of crowd-sourced editing, she didn’t really respond to my post. Instead she set up a bit of a straw man and tore it down with an analogy about a bunch of kids painting an elementary school in a free-for-all, which isn’t an apt comparison at all. I think she was responding (and she can correct me) to what others had suggested and not necessarily to my comments alone.

        You can see her post on it here: https://accordingtohoyt.com/2011/09/04/hammering-the-tall-poppy/#comment-3250

        My original post which inspired hers is here: http://jonahhewitt.blogspot.com/2011/09/crowd-source-editing.html

        And you can also see my response to her post in the comment thread.

        Everybody is shooting past the original mark, and reacting I think a bit defensively.

        I also think that the comments thread is not the best place for this discussion. We are falling into all the high-school debate team “gotcha” moments that all thread comments fall into eventually and it’s really unprofitable.

        So why not set up a web symposium on the topic? I can put up my ideas of what I think crowd-sourced editing is and isn’t and then we can haggle over the definition and try to come up with something a little more useful than “something I don’t like/do” which is really where this is at the moment.

        Any takers?

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