The writing retreat was absolutely fantastic. First of all, it’s always nice to get out of the heat of an Arizona summer in the Phoenix Valley. Thankfully, it’s never more than a few hours drive to get to higher elevations, greener scenery, and cooler temperatures. Then, we stayed at the most beautiful cabin I have ever seen. I wish I had pictures. The place had a spiral staircase with a stone wall where you could stop in the middle and imagine you were in a castle. It had a humongous, beautiful and fully stocked kitchen that was a joy to cook in (though I only had to do that once). It had plenty of bathrooms for 30 ladies to share. It had an amazing wrap around front porch and a very functional gazebo in the back. It even had a little library and a pool table. All the ladies agreed that we definitely would not mind coming back to the same cabin in future years for the retreat. If we do, and I actually happen to be published, I would love to bring a copy of my book to leave in the library.
And of course all the writing time was fabulous. I don’t feel like I got as much done on Hunter Hunted as last year, but I’m really feeling the strain of editing and rewriting. It’s hard, ya’ll! However, I did also help some of the ladies from my ANWA chapter on their projects, which I didn’t do at all last year. One of my friends achieved her goal of finishing her non-fiction LDS self-help book (She should be submitting it today. Everyone send her positive waves that she’ll get a positive response!) and I helped her by editing the last section, and then guiding her through in-text citations and a works cited page. Fortunately for her, these are things I teach my freshmen. But still, it’s summer vacation. I’m not supposed to be doing these kinds of things! (Just kidding, I was totally happy to help!)
Another of my friends wrote a great story for a writing contest a blog is having and I looked that over for her as well.
Then I spent the rest of the time getting the current section of Hunter Hunted to work. I’m not through it yet. It’s really being difficult, but I did make some progress. Here’s a sample from what I worked on.
“Ann, I would speak with you.”
Ann froze where she sat by the fire pit with Dyan, eating a morning meal. Jace exchanged a look with Dyan who retreated into the cave, leaving the two alone. Ann cast her gaze to the half-eaten meal in her lap.
“Why were you alone in the woods last night?”
Ann’s head shot up. She looked at Jace with wide eyes.
“You knew the werewolves were in the forest. What would make you willingly go into the woods?”
Ann’s mouth moved but she couldn’t think of the words to explain. Her magic roiled inside her. She couldn’t tell the truth. What could she tell him?
“It’s not really something I can explain,” she finally responded.
“Seeing as I saved your life back there, I’d appreciate if you would explain.”
“And seeing as I’ve saved your life twice now, I’d appreciate if you’d leave it be,” Ann replied in a rare moment of defiance.
Jace sighed. Ann closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. She hated when people asked questions. That was usually the point when things got complicated and she had to move on.
“I cannot put my pack in unnecessary danger. If you are running from something, then I must know so the pack can be warned.”
Ann thought of Vincent and his haunting laughter. Had he followed her here? Wouldn’t he already be here if he had?
And if he did find her, would he turn on the pack once he’d killed her? She couldn’t let that happen. Not after all that they’d done for her.
“I won’t stay long. I can leave today,” Ann assured, plans of where to go next already formulating in her mind. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to cross a border, get into another kingdom.
Jace raised his eyebrows at her. “Is such knowledge so terrifying that you’d leave instead of sharing it?”
Ann looked at him, then at the ground. “I can’t be sure, but if I was followed, then I have a Hunter on my tracks.” Ann screwed her mouth up. Her hands fidgeted in her lap. Finally she added, “From a Legendary Family.”
Jace raised his eyebrows and frowned as he leaned away from her for a moment. He stood and walked around to the other side of the fire pit. He put his back to her so she couldn’t see his face. “This puts my pack in danger, which I cannot have.”
Ann stared at his back. She didn’t know what to say.
“No matter how many times you save my life, I have to put them first. I cannot knowingly put them in such danger.”
“But you’ll have them go against Tarque.”
Ann bit her lip after she spoke. She had no right to be insolent.
Jace spun around and hit her with a burning stare.
“What my pack chooses to do is none of your business. I thank you for what you have done for me, but you are a guest and you have no say in my pack.”
“Even with your greater numbers, Tarque is still a threat. He acts as if he’s unstoppable, un-killable. He takes risks no sane person would. He would’ve killed you last night if I hadn’t…”
Ann fought against herself to hold Jace’s gaze.
Why are you fighting him on this? Why don’t you just leave like you always do?
Because leaving usually meant preserving her safety and her secrets. But this time leaving meant wandering the forest alone with the chance of running into Tarque or her uncle.
“How does a plain girl come to such observations?” Jace narrowed his eyes as he studied Ann. “You, who resembles a Legendary Family herself, and yet has the eyes of an Uthuru, sees things no ordinary person would.”
Ann looked away. “I’ll leave. I don’t want to bring harm to your pack.”
“More of your secrets,” Jace said in a low voice, though he didn’t sound angry.
Ann threw her uneaten breakfast in the fire as she stood and turned toward the cave. “I’ve told you what you need to know. The rest doesn’t matter. I’ll go.”
Jace sighed. “The forest is dangerous, what with unfriendly werewolves and Hunters possibly roaming around. I cannot make you face that by yourself. Not after what you’ve done for me.”
Ann turned to look at the older man. She knew her surprise showed plainly on her face.
“You really are a fool.”
Jace and Ann both turned toward the forest where Randon and Chandra stood. A sneer marred Randon’s face and Chandra stared daggers at Ann. Jace straightened to his full height as he faced Randon. Ann resisted the urge to step away from Jace. He had done so much for her. The least she could do was stand by him as he stood up for her.
“You would allow her to lead a Hunter right to us?” Randon snarled. His hands clenched into fists and his lips were drawn back to show his teeth.
“She should leave. Now.” Chandra growled.
“That is neither of your decisions,” Jace reminded them.
Randon made a disgusted sound in his throat. “Why don’t we ask the rest of the pack? They deserve to know.”
Randon raised his hands to his mouth and howled. Shivers rippled up and down Ann’s spine at the sound. Jace stood motionless and wordless. He did not take his steely gaze from Randon and Chandra.
In only a few moments, Dyan and two other men appeared. One of the men had dark skin with hair and eyes to match. He stood tallest of all with broad shoulders and arms so thick Ann could imagine him squeezing a man to death. The other man was thin but lean, with scruffy blond hair and beard and an air of indifference.
Jace and Randon continued to stare at each for another couple of uncomfortable minutes before Jace turned to Ann.
“Tell the pack what you told me.”
Ann took a deep breath and exhaled, but like Master Cor had always claimed, it did nothing for her nerves.
“I’m possibly being pursued by at least one Hunter, perhaps a whole group.”
It was short and to the point, and if anyone tried to ask why as Jace had done, she would simply refuse to answer. The two men and Dyan responded as Ann expected them to: eyes wide with surprise.
“The one Hunter is a member of one of the Legendary Families,” she added.
The blond man’s mouth dropped open.
Ann waited for the rest of the reaction she expected: the immediate demand for her to leave. She couldn’t blame them. Most people avoided Hunters. She made it her life to avoid Hunters. She’d ask herself to leave in the same circumstance.
“I understand if you don’t want me here. It’s me the Hunter is after and me he’s looking for.”
“He’ll come through here looking for you. Don’t know of many Hunters that would pass up the chance to kill some werewolves,” the blond muttered and Ann recognized Lowell’s voice.
Ann shook her head. “He wouldn’t waste the time if he thought he was close to catching me.”
“Unless he thought we could help him find you,” the dark-skinned man-Chakor-said.
Ann stiffened. She hadn’t thought of that possibility.
“Or she’s his partner,” Randon accused. “And she’s leading him right to us.”
Randon glared at her with vitriol in his narrowed eyes. Ann stepped back.
“No. I promise that’s not it at all. He really is hunting me.”
Chandra snorted. “What would a Hunter care about a simple girl?”
“If you don’t want me here, I’ll leave.” Ann’s voice wavered.
“That’s exactly what you should do,” Randon stepped forward, never taking his eyes off Ann.
“She saved Jace’s life. That warrants her our gratitude,” Chakor looked meaningfully at Chandra.
“A Hunter’s not a good thing, and a group is worse, but six werewolves are pretty formidable, eh?” Lowell stated.
Dyan nodded in agreement.
“You would risk our safety for her?” Chandra asked looking like she’d been betrayed.
Ann hands balled into fists, wishing they held knives. She left them in their hiding places. Pulling a weapon might not be the best move at this point.
Jace stepped in front of Ann. “Four to two says she stays.”
“At least until the next full moon,” Chakor added quiet and serious, rising to his feet.
“And once we’ve taken care of Tarque,” Ann said softly. She wanted them to know that she meant it, but she didn’t know how to prove it.
“And you would help with that?” Randon raised his eyebrows.
Ann lifted her chin and dared herself to meet Randon’s dark, murky eyes. “I would.”
“It’s more than you’ve elected to do,” Lowell commented with a grin.
“Because I see no point in risking my life for her,” Randon turned toward Lowell, who merely raised his eyebrows in response.
Ann thought she could see hairs rising along Randon’s neck.
Chandra scowled at her pack and folded her arms across her chest. “Why do you choose her over us?” Her voice dripped with disdain.
“She’s already proven herself a better friend,” Lowell said as if the answer was obvious.
Randon growled at him, but was cut off by Jace’s next announcement.
“The decision has been made.”
Jace and Randon stared at each other, neither man willing to be the first to back down. Ann resisted the urge to step away from Jace. He had done so much for her. The least she could do was stand by him as he stood up for her.
“Now we discuss Tarque.”
Chakor and Dyan nodded in agreement. Lowell continued to look bored, but Randon practically snarled with rage. Ann expected to see foam come out of his mouth at any moment. She wished she could disappear.
“We should do no such thing. Tarque is none of our concern!”
“This is not your decision to make, Randon.”
“Well, it should be!”
Ann caught Lowell rolling his eyes in a “not again” sort of way and even Chakor turned away from the two as if such confrontations were a common occurrence.
“I don’t have time for such challenges. We will deal with what you think should or shouldn’t be later,” Jace stated, turning away from Randon and preparing to address the others.
In that moment Randon transformed. Not the slow transformation Ann had seen Tarque go through. This transformation was instantaneous. His clothes shredded into tatters as dark brown fur sprouted all over his body. A loud, ripping sound accompanied the change, like some strange sounding thunder.
Snarling, he leapt for Jace.
It was really hard to leave Saturday morning, because I thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by so many talented writers and getting to know many of those great ladies. It also helped that two nights in a row we played a super fun game called “The Game of Things” which you should totally check out. We all discovered that we have a mutual love for Hugh Jackman (but then that really shouldn’t come as a surprise).
And lastly, yesterday as I was checking my Google reader, I came across a post from another writing blog advertising a writing contest and I think I want to enter. It’s sponsored by Writer’s Unite to Fight Cancer and this is their first contest. It’s a fundraiser for the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center and the theme is Courage to Thrive. They even have a Science Fiction / Fantasy / Paranormal category and I realized that I recognize one of the judges from ANWA.
I have a month and a half to write a 4000 word short story, get it edited and submit it. The deadline for submissions is August 15th. You can check the contest guidelines at their website if you’re interested as well.
Guess I better get writing!