All posts for the month July, 2016

Meet Patrick Hood: Part 2

Published July 31, 2016 by nruhwald



The following is a continued section of my novel The King’s Children. If you missed the first installment, it’s available to read here. Or read it at my Sneak Peeks page.


The house at the fork in Hawes River was legendary among the Hawestone children, and adults alike. Many villages had such a house. Once grand, and fallen to ruin with only a lonely old man living in it, and rumoured to be haunted. Unlike most of these houses, the children of Hawestone never dared each other to sneak across the lawn or ring the bell and run away. This house really was haunted, by a strangeling no less.

Patrick smiled when the house came into view as he crossed the bridge over Hawes. A place of whispered horrors to others, it had always been a place of refuge for him.

The grizzled old sea captain sitting in the rocking chair on the porch stood up when he saw Patrick coming.

“Hello, Father,” Patrick said.

He called Neville father, because Neville liked him to, but privately Patrick could not think of him that way. Patrick knew too well who his father was.

“Where’ve ye been, lad,” said Neville.

“The river folk set off today. I was helping them leave.”

“Funny, I heard tell a group of the younger men went out trying to catch a strangeling. They’ve been gone all day.”

Patrick raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. “Really. Do you think they succeeded?”

Neville tried to look stern but the laugh lines around his eyes gave him away. “I expect not.” Neville beckoned to him. “Come on inside.”

Patrick followed Neville into the house.

“Someday this place is going to come crashing down on us,” Patrick said.

Neville let out a guttural cough of a laugh. “It’s stood for a hundred years and it’ll stand for a hundred more. Place is as stubborn as I am,” Neville said. “Unless some fools decide to set fire to it someday. Wouldn’t be surprised with this blood-child business. Can’t be over soon enough.”

Neville’s bushy gray eyebrows furrowed up as he scowled at the crack wooden floor.

“What’s wrong?”


Something was wrong, and it took a lot to get Neville worried.

The captain released a deep sigh. “In the morning, I want ye to follow them river folk. Go where ever it is they go and hide ‘till this is over.”


“I need you to be safe, that’s why.”

“I am safe. The villagers have been trying to kill me for years. They’re not going to succeed just because there’s a blood-child.”

“It’s not just them.”

Harnesses jingled, horses hooves clopped on the ground, and the wheels of a carriage crunched in the gravel road leading up the bridge.

“Someone’s coming,” said Patrick.

Neville snorted. “See? This is why we don’t need a dog. Not with you around.”

“Why would anyone take a carriage up here? They must be lost.”

The captain sucked in a sharp breath. “Get out of here, Patrick. I mean it, far as ye can.”

“I’m not leaving you.”

“They ain’t after me. I promise. Now get out.”

Twice the captain had lied to him in the last five minutes.

With a bewildered glance over his shoulder, Patrick left out the back door. But instead of leaving, he climbed up the side of the house, and jumped into the old oak. No one would see him there.

The carriage rattled across the bridge and stopped in front of the house. On its side the carriage bore the mark of the king’s guard. He should have known. But why had they come at night? What did they want this time?

The sorcerer stepped out from the carriage first, dressed in the despicable black robes of the Inner Circle. He was followed by three other men in the red uniform of the royal guard. Patrick could see Unseelie faeries, creatures that looked like serpents with clawed feet, slithering all over the sorcerer and the men.

The sorcerer was a fascinator, able to bend the minds of others to do his bidding, but only because the faeries did it for him. No one else, not even the men themselves, were aware of the faeries’ presence. But Patrick was Seelie and they could not hide from him.

Neville stood on the porch, his arms crossed over his chest. “What’re ye doing here?”

“I’ve come to clear up a misunderstanding. I am told you refused an order from the king,” said the sorcerer.

“No misunderstanding, then. I won’t be part of sacrificing an innocent girl. Me nor Patrick. Ye won’t be rid of us so easily.”

Patrick’s eyebrows rose. They wanted him and Neville to go on the blood-child’s voyage? How stupid of them.

“Hm, I think not. Where is he, by the way?”

“He ain’t here.”

“I find it difficult to believe that your pet Black Dog would abandon you so easily.” The sorcerer gave a wicked smile. “Shall we whistle for him?”

One of the guards drew a pistol from his belt and pointed it at Neville, while another walked up to the captain and struck him, forcing the captain to his knees.

Patrick flinched. His fingernails dug into his palms and his teeth were bared in anger.

“Fine then,” said Neville. “Take me, but leave him. The boy has nothing to do with this.”

“On the contrary, Captain Spens. The strangeling has everything to do with this,” said the sorcerer.

“Doesn’t matter. He ain’t here, I told ye.”

“Then you’ll finally get what you deserve.”

Patrick swallowed. One of the guards carried a long hollow pole, with a rope threaded through it, looped at one end. The peacekeepers used something similar to control dangerous animals. He knew who it was meant for. But he had no choice.

“Shall I count to ten?” The sorcerer said.

Patrick dropped from the tree.

Neville swore.

“Good.” The sorcerer smiled.

Patrick looked away. He stiffened, but did not move when the guard slipped the loop of rope over his head. The rope tightened around his neck, and the pole pulled him to the ground. He didn’t struggle, but the rope dug into his neck. He gasped, barely drawing air into his lungs.

“Stop it,” Neville barked. “Whatever ye want. I swear it will be done.”

“You will captain the voyage into the gulf, and this strangeling will guide it.”

Patrick clawed frantically at the rope crushing his windpipe, to no avail. The pain in his neck grew until it seemed to fill his consciousness.

“Yes, I swear.”

“That’s good.” The sorcerer watched with idle fascination as Patrick struggled fruitlessly to breathe.

One of the guards kicked him in the stomach, and darkness closed in over him. He heard Neville bellowing at the sorcerer, but it seemed to come from far away.

They’re trying to kill me, Patrick thought. Am I dying?

The world returned to him with a suddenness that made his head ache. Life-giving air flooded his lungs, eclipsing all else for the moment. Gradually awareness returned to him, and with it came pain. His hand moved to his neck, and he could feel the impression left on it by the rope.

When he opened his eyes, the king’s men were climbing back into the carriage. The sorcerer still stood outside. One of the phantom serpents crawled across his face.

“I would have liked to kill the strangeling. Remember that, should you consider breaking your word.” The sorcerer climbed back into the carriage

Neville stood shaking with rage, staring after the carriage rattling out of sight with murderous intent burning in his eyes.

“Ye alright, lad?” said Neville.

A deep, wolfish snarl erupted from Patrick’s tortured throat. He sprang to his feet, but staggered when the world spun.

“Someday, I swear,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Shush now, don’t talk. Come with me.”

Still dizzy, Patrick let Neville help him into the house, where Patrick fell into a chair in front of the cold hearth.

“Soon as yar able, ye go to them river folk. And this time ye leave.”

Patrick rubbed his aching neck. “I’m not going anywhere. Except into the gulf, evidently.” A smile touched his mouth. “I have a plan. They’ll regret this.”

“You have a plan,” Neville scoffed. “Why’d I go to all the trouble of saving ye from the gulf if yar bound to throw it all away going back?”

“I won’t repay you by letting you die. If I go they’ll kill you.”

Neville waved his arms in an angry, dismissive gesture. “Ah, I should’ve murdered ye then, ye wicked boy.”

Patrick took no notice of Neville’s ranting. “Yes, you probably should have.”


Thanks for reading. I will be posting new snippets every month until the novel’s release in the summer of 2018.


Writing Fundamentals: Adjectives and Adverbs

Published July 24, 2016 by nruhwald

how-to-writeGood writing shows rather than tells. Good description is the means by which writers do the showing.

Verbs and nouns, as I will explain a bit later, can be descriptive too, but our main descriptors are the adjective and adverbs.

Today I’m going to show you how to use these words properly.


Or, in the case of adverbs, how to seek and destroy them.

Adverbs are words which modify a verb. Basically, anything that ends with -ly. Although I suppose some -ly words are adjectives too, but don’t use -ly words even if they are adjectives.

For example, let’s examine a sentence: “He chuckled grimly in the dank chamber.”

A very bad sentence. We’ve established that all adverbs are bad, so lets get rid of the -ly adverb and see what we get. For practicality’s sake, I’m going to call the character in the sentence Stan, even though I’ll just use the pronoun in the sentence. Okay, let’s try out the adverb-less sentence.

“He chuckled in the dank chamber.”

We just made it worse. Now Stan sounds like a yo-yo, giggling in an underground room. The readers still wonder why someone’s laughing in such a place, but now they’re giving him a weird look. Not good. Unless Stan actually is a bit of a nut ball, but let’s assume he’s not.

We need the “grim.” With it, Stan could be a prisoner, plotting revenge. Or he could be an antagonist, thinking about what he’s going to do to the protagonist. It gives the reader something to wonder about and implies conflict. So, we turn “chuckled” into “chuckle” to make it a noun, which makes “grim” an adjective instead.


Now we have: “His grim chuckle echoed in the dank chamber.”

Much better. The sentence is still dramatic, and now we have added an additional description in the form of a strong verb. The chamber is now large and echo-y.

There is some controversy about adjectives, however. Now of course I agree that strong verbs should be the backbone of a good sentence, and adjectives cannot really help a sentence with a pathetic “to be” type verb (was, had been, had, would. etc.) But adjectives have their place.

It is not enough to simply say that your character has eyes, a chin, cheekbones. Well duh they do (unless stated otherwise). You must say what color and/or shape the eyes are. What sort of chin and cheekbones. Not that you have to use those specific details of course.

Some people advocate not describing characters at all, but in my experience readers don’t like this. I have read some fiction in which you could picture the characters perfectly just from what they said and did, but not every writer can (or even should) achieve this. Most writers do describe their characters, and to do so, they need adjectives.

Clearly, there are some instances in which adjectives are downright essential, and other instances in which they make description stronger. But could we remove the adjectives from our chosen sentence?

If our sentence came in the middle of a scene, and we had already established that Stan is a creepy guy, and that the chamber is rather unpleasant, we could do something like:

“His chuckle echoed in the chamber, sending shivers down my spine.”

However, if the sentence comes at the beginning of a scene, the earlier adjective-laden version does a much better job of establishing setting and creating atmosphere.

So, to sum up, when using descriptive words, get rid of adverbs and use adjectives deliberately, when needed.

I Dub Thee: Writer

Published July 19, 2016 by nruhwald

man-1465441_1280Many of us, including myself, struggle with deciding whether or not we are worthy to be called a writer. Or whatever your chosen title is. Artist. Singer. Blogger.

But we wonder…are we to be taken seriously? Am I a writer? Are you? Or are we simply “people who write”?

The answer occurred to me recently, and it’s much more encouraging than I thought it would be. The difference between a writer and a person who writes is simply this: the one who writes thinks writing is easy.

The person who writes. The dabbler.

The one who thinks, of course I could do this too, if I only had the time. As if time was all that is required. Obviously, writers don’t have full-time jobs, or children. Writers sit about all day writing and sipping tea, and publishers are happy to publish their work, and readers are happy to read.

The writer knows how difficult it is. The writer pores blood, sweat, and tears into her/his work, never knowing if s/he will ever find an appreciative audience. Or if said audience will continue to be appreciative.

Now, many of us may be amateur writers. But there is no shame in being an amateur writer. All professional writers were amateur at some point. An amateur simply has farther to go, and less promise of reward than a professional.

Writing Fundamentals: Ex Machina

Published July 9, 2016 by nruhwald

frog-1446244_640Many of you know what an ex machina is already (and why to avoid one) but for those of you who don’t, I’ll explain.

Ex machina is a shortened form of deus ex machina, which means “god out of the machine.” In ancient Greek plays, the major conflict of the play would be resolved with a god being lowered to the stage (via a machine), who would then fix everything.

Though popular in ancient Greece, this plot device is no longer encouraged. In fact, don’t do it. Ever.

Your readers spent all this time watching your protagonist fight the antagonist, and they want to see your protagonist triumph in those efforts. They don’t want your protagonist to win because of some coincidence or the intervention of a third party out of the blue.

It’s no fun. And it’s often a sign that the writer didn’t think through the plot enough to know how the protagonist was going to triumph. For example:

“Oh, my character is in a sword fight, but the villain is way better than my character. I know, the wall they’re fighting on crumbles at the right moment and the villain falls to his death.”


Fortunately, if you find you’ve got an ex machina, it’s not all that difficult to fix. Granted, you may need to do some serious rewriting, but you don’t have to come up with something totally new.

All you need to do is make sure your protagonist has some agency in the situation, and make sure that your reader already knows that an event like the one you have planned could happen. Agency + awareness = fixed ex machina.

For example, the latest Jurassic movie, Jurassic World contains what some have so wittily described as a dino ex machina. Just when the bad dinosaur seems like its going to kill the good dinosaurs, a mososaur jumps out of the water and eats the bad dinosaur.

They could have fixed this easily without losing too much shock value. If our friends Blue the velociraptor and her buddy T Rex had seen the mososaur cruising hungrily in its pen, and pushed the Indomitus Rex towards that pen…

Voila. No more dinosaur out of the machine.

It’s not even necessarily a bad thing for your conflict to be resolved this way. Some may have preferred to see Blue and T Rex kill Indomitus Rex themselves, but there are all sorts of reasons you might not want your protagonists to be the ones who kill the antagonist (assuming the antagonist has to die).

Your antagonist may be immortal for some reason, and therefore the only way to “kill” it/him/her is for demons or other things to drag the antagonist back where ever it came from. As long as it’s not a coincidence that these gatekeepers showed up just then, and your protagonist has some part in getting them to show up and do what they do, you’re good.

This happens a lot in Disney movies, where parents don’t necessarily want their children looking up to a character who has killed somebody, but the villains in these movies are often evil enough that they deserve to die. Anastasia and the new Frog Princess movie both end this way.

So if your antagonist must be defeated by a third party, (angels, a crumbling wall, a hungry dinosaur) just make sure your reader knew it could happen, and that your protagonist helped make it happen in some way.


Why Do We Write?

Published July 5, 2016 by nruhwald

I mean really, why?

It takes forever to get to the good parts. You have to deal with either writing when you’re not feeling inspired or feeling guilty because you’re not writing. Even when you do write, it often isn’t what you hoped it would be when you envisioned the scene in your head.

And then there’s the re-writing, and the editing. And the re-re-writing, and the re-re-re-writing, and you get the picture. Finally, when you think it’s good, not perfect, but good at any rate, and you send it to someone to get their thoughts on your dearly beloved masterpiece.


They hate it. Well, not really. But along with the (you hope) sincere encouragement meant to keep you from quitting writing forever, comes with a heap of criticisms that, surely, a writer as good as you should be immune to.

But then you realize they were right. That was a terrible sentence. Your writing doesn’t make any sense. And plotwise, oh goodness how are you going to keep the reader’s attention when your characters aren’t doing anything?

And don’t even get me started on trying to get published.

So. Why do we do it?

Because after all the freaking out, the sobbing, the ice cream and chocolate, the existential crisis (if I’m not a writer who am I? Why did my english teacher ever tell me I was good at this?) After all that, you tentatively return to your work, and your characters turn to you and say “hi, I missed you.” And somehow it’s all worth it.


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