Finally Woman!! This morning I completed the line edits and beta feedback review to submit Striker (The Valespian Pact #2) to Less Than Three Press. Yay! #abouttime!
After cuts and edits the manuscript was paired down to 87694 words. The longest story I submitted before this was Dreams of the Forgotten at a little over 64k, if I remember correctly.
I was a little late with this. I had originally anticipated finishing the story by the end of August. With other obligations and working on multiple projects that were due, well it didn't happen. So I concentrated solely on Striker all of September and October, completing the story on October 30th. The first round of edits shaved off 8k and then I sent it out to the beta readers.
I don't know about anyone else, when I look at a manuscript for so long, going over and over scenes and points, by the time I send it to a beta I am ready to claw my eyes out. I have to have break from the story, a couple of weeks at least, to be able to come back with a fresh eyes. If I don't, and I know this from experience, I will cut and slash the ms until it unrecognizable only to come back later and add everything back. It's not pretty and a huge waste of my time.
So last Wednesday I reviewed the beta notes and started line edits (which is an activity that takes up two levels of hell). I had moments when I looked at the paragraph and thought, "WTF. That does not even make since." But it's all good.
The edits were wrapped up and I sent the story in. Now I'm waiting. While I wait I thought I'd share an excerpt. I had to find one that didn't give away spoilers. I thought it would be nice to give a little of Empress Ashari's POV. She's kind and fierce. More than once she caused me to tear up. This takes place in the later half of the book. It's a little long but I have the idea y'all won't mind. :) I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
From the closest vessel a group of Monticore bristling with weapons strode menacingly down the ramp fanning out at the bottom in a semicircle. Their posturing caused her own Basilisc guards to go on alert, closing in tighter around her. She watched their hand signals. A noise at the top of the ramp drew her attention.
Warlord Sohm'lan strode down the ramp in front of six males shouldering long poles baring an oblong capsule made of mother of pearl and encrusted with barnacles and shell fish. Behind them came another six males baring Zeus aloft on a stretcher. Her breath caught even as her stride quicken.
Two. Two sons so close together that her ties to them blended, hiding the presence of one. Ashari blinked rapidly. That they were being carried out did not bode well. Her mind supplied dozens of scenarios of what could be wrong with her young before she had taken two steps. Sohm'lan noticed her and called a halt before meeting her at the edge of the Monticore guard.
"Your Highness, it is a pleasure to see you again." Sohm'lan bowed deep. She thought he appeared haggard but whole.
"Are tired but unharmed."
Ashari slipped through the line of guardsmen and stopped next to the capsule to place an unsteady hand against the smooth, cool side. She had never dared to hope to see him again in her lifetime. She had resigned herself to be content to know Canry was alive. Would he remember her? Did he want to see her? Was he angry because she had not found him? Ashari pushed the tumble of questions away and pressed her trembling lips together.
"Warlord, how is Canry?" She hated that someone else knew her son's wellbeing better than she did.
"He is whole in body and mind. He has grown to become a unique treasure to our people," Sohm'lan replied. When she gave him a questioning glance he said, "It is his and Zeus's story to tell, although I believe their exploits have already made it to the capitol."
She nodded. She heard the outrageous whispers among the guards, hoping half of what she overheard to be untrue. She strode towards Zeus's litter and came face to face with a fierce male with flashing green eyes and golden feline features. A single line of copper hair stood straight up like a bristle brush and dark stripes on either side of the line of hair. Teardrop shaped ears lined with golden hoops and dangling gemstones. About his collarbone rested a symbiote of dark green, the color almost as dark as the robes the male wore.
"Empress Ashari, I would like to introduce you to Prince Zeus's Udens Mahte'lan, Captain Dargon Kal-Turak from the Dar Massaga planet of Hedisa, and his symbiote Alpha."
Valdor told her Zeus had mated but the males' identity had been kept secret for the safety of the younglings they bore. Dargon's expression was wary, telling her he was unsure of the reception he would receive. She would discover why later but for now she held her hands out. "Dargon, I have heard much about you already. I would like to welcome you and Alpha into the family."
He grasped her hands lightly in his. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Empress. Zeus will be overjoyed to see you when he wakes. He has been worried for your safety and even though he received word you had reached Haven unharmed he will not believe it until he sees you with his own eyes."
She matched Dargon's polite grin. He seemed to be having an internal discussion with himself and when he met her gaze next she knew he had made some sort of decision. Retaining the grasp on one of her hands he led her to the head of the litter. The guardsmen gently lowered Zeus so she could see him.
"Zeus overtaxed his body. He simply rests now," Dargon said as she cupped her son's pale face.
His hair had been sheered short, his thick dark lashes rested against his cheeks. She could make out the dots from the warrior's dye still faintly staining his skin. Tenderly she pressed he forehead to his. She had missed him terribly, a part of her heart had been set adrift in space when he left. She hoped he found what he had been searching for. When she glance back to Dargon, she noticed the loving way he gazed at her son, she thought Zeus may have found more than he bargained for.
Stepping back from the litter, Ashari took Dargon's arm. "Thank you both for taking such good care of my son."
To his credit, Dargon accepted her proprietary hold without a second glance. "It is he who has taken care of us, Your Highness. Our mission would have failed without his aid."
Ashari knew there was a story there but did not press. There would be time enough for tales later. "You seem uncomfortable. I would say you are unsure of me or ... I am not certain. I would have you speak frankly, Dargon. You will soon be mated," — she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye — "I guess in a way you already are but soon your union will be official. You will become a part of House Vondorian and I would have us start out on the right foot."
Dargon seemed to contemplate her words before answering. "I agree but this is not a conversation for public consumption. Warlord Sohm'lan has bid me to hold my tongue until he could sit down with your family."
Ashari glanced to Sohm'lan who kept pace a half step behind her. Valdor spoke to her earlier about urgent news Sohm'lan refused to give over the open airways. She turned her attention back to Dargon. "Valdor has set aside time later today. When we get back to the city we will meet with him and hear of this news."
Halfway across the tarmac, a group of riders bypassed the vehicles waiting to transport the Mar'Sani to Haven. Ashari heard the rumors of the returned Valuzial Guardians but had yet to see them. The Fal'Amoric people stayed in a temporary camp outside the city so the guardians did not venture into the city.
Six riders loped toward them. The beasts were hairless, striped with varying shades of brown and black. The tail curved over the back of the creature, the bulbous tip spiked. Intelligent violet gaze searched the crowd but never wavered from their path toward Zeus.
She pinpointed their leader riding in the middle. The female who resembled Zeus did not slip Ashari's notice, drawing out an instinctual possessiveness she struggled to contain. Valdor had warned her the Fal'Amorics had identified Zeus as one of theirs but he attempted to reassure her all would be well. He told her it may help Zeus to know where he came from. She understood, truly she did, but Zeus was her youngling. She would do what was necessary to ensure he was happy but she would not stand by and allow a people who threw him away to try and reclaim him.
The guardian reached a hand-like paw up and assisted the female to ground. Her dress of black feathers caught in the wind to billow about her resembling a flock of birds taking flight. The lavender corset sparkled with gems contrasting with the layered boned necklace and the wood and horned headdress. No matter how Ashari viewed the ridiculous outfit, she did admire the quiet strength she saw within the female.
The Monticore allowed her through their line without question which caused Ashari to scowl.
"Dargon! Is Zeus hurt?"
"No Athena. He is sleeping," Dargon replied.
The female, Athena, gazed affectionately at Zeus but when she attempted to touch him, Ashari hissed a warning. She met Athena's surprised gaze. She would not bare her teeth in challenge — yet.
Ashari straightened her shoulders as Athena gave her an assessing glance. Dargon stepped forward placing himself slightly in front of Ashari, not that she needed the protection, but Athena would.
"Princess Athena, I would like to introduce Empress Ashari Vondorian."
The corners of Athena's mouth tightened. "Then you must be a part of his adoptive family."
"You are mistaken. On Atlainticia we do not adopt people as you would adopt a pet. We take people into our families. They are as flesh and blood to us as those we have birthed. Zeus is my young, he suckled at breast, he bares our name, and he swims where none but the Mar'Sani can."
Athena's ice-colored gaze blazed with anger. "You believe he will not come back to his people?"
Ashari felt Dargon's gaze on her. When she turned her attention to him she realized her answer was important to him. "We raised our son to be good, brave, and just. He has a noble heart. He knows what he wants and does not hesitate to go after it." She turned her gaze back to Athena. "Make no mistake, I may have raised my son well but I will drop all accoutrements of civilization and morality to protect my young. I know every detail of what was done to him by his people before Poseidon laid him at our doorstep. He has a forgiving heart. I am his meme, I do not forgive."
Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for stopping by and reading!!