A couple of weeks ago, I began posting the sequel to Reapers, tentatively entitled Beyond the Gateway. You can read Part One here and Part Two here.
If you haven’t read Reapers, this series on story development will not be as effective for you, so if you want to keep up, I suggest reading it. 🙂
Here are links where you can purchase Reapers.
(***Huge spoilers for those who haven’t read Reapers***)
Now that I have reminded readers of the back story, and Singapore has given Phoenix and Shanghai the information they need, it’s time for the heroes to evaluate the information and act on it. During their evaluation, I deepen the mystery surrounding the new spiritual revelation so that it is firmly planted in readers’ minds.
I also reintroduce side characters, Crandyke and Tori, who will come into play later. This is character foreshadowing, showing them in an inactive state so that they don’t seem to come out of nowhere when they become active.
The most important reintroduction is Alex, the antagonist. It is crucial to show her strengths immediately. It is always important that the antagonist appears to be stronger than the protagonist so that readers will wonder how the hero will overcome.
Shanghai spoke rapid fire. “We have to help her. Follow her right away. She has no idea that the Gatekeeper wants to throw her soul into the abyss. Sing couldn’t bring Tokyo back even if someone could return from the Gateway.”
“What was that about Sanctae? Have you ever heard that word?”
“Just in a song my mother used to sing when I was little, but I never understood it.”
“How does it go?”
“Let me think.” Shanghai looked upward and began humming. Then, she added words.
Our bridge is lost to fairer lands
O Sanctae build the crossing home
And greet my soul with open hands
No more to wander nor to roam.
When her tune faded, I gazed at her tear-filled eyes. “Kind of melancholy, isn’t it?”
She nodded. “The tune is sad, but it’s kind of hopeful at the same time.”
“True.” I stroked my chin. “Sing mentioned meeting a Sancta. That’s probably the singular form.”
“That was my guess.”
“Okay, we’ll put that aside for now. The first step is to figure out how to use the tracking device.” I withdrew the watch from my pocket and popped open the cover. “This is the only thing Sing’s father gave me. She said to search the watch, but I’ll probably need watchmaker tools to do that.”
“She also said to pay attention to Alex. Maybe she’ll provide a clue.” Shanghai looked up at my apartment where I was supposed to meet Alex. “But here’s the part I don’t understand. Why does she want you to track you? What good will it do her if you find Sing?”
“It’s not about Sing. When Alex was trying to get me to execute Sing, she whispered that she wanted to conquer the Gatekeeper, something about me having a special talent.”
“Your talent is resistance,” Shanghai said. “You already overcame his direct influence. Alex thinks you’re strong enough to get past his defenses.”
“Probably. But I have no idea what his defenses are.” I pushed the watch back to my pocket. “So now we need to talk to Alex.”
“We?” Shanghai pointed at me. “She told you to come to your apartment, not me.”
“I’ll tell her I need your help. We both need an energy recharge.”
She rolled her eyes. “If it’s that joy juice she gave us before, we’ll both need help to stay on the ground. That stuff would make bricks float.”
“True, but we got used to it. We might be immune to the side effects now.” I took her hand. “You’re coming with me to find Sing, right?”
“Of course, but—”
“Then Alex might as well know about it up front. She’ll eventually hear that we’re together anyway.” I led her to the alley opening where people bustled to and fro on the sidewalk as they headed to work or school on this brighter-than-usual morning. The every-present layer of haze seemed thinner than it had for weeks, and the sun, without its normal foggy filter, was almost too bright to view.
I released Shanghai’s hand. “Let’s go in business mode.” I plugged my cloak into my sternum’s valve and raised the hood. Shanghai did the same. Two district hounds together always raised eyebrows, but no one would ask questions if we appeared to be seeking souls.
As the cloak energized, Crandyke … Albert … immediately spoke up from the fibers. “Alex is a force to be reckoned with, Phoenix. Don’t let her sink her talons into you.”
I nodded. Since Alex was an Owl—a powerful member of the Gatekeeper’s Council—the talons reference was appropriate. “We’ll both have to be careful. She was once a Reaper, so she’ll be able to hear anything you say.”
“Okay. Shutting up. But I’ll be listening. You might need my advice. Always pay heed to dead guys who hang around in your cloak for way too long.”
“And girls,” a female voice added.
“Right, Tori. You tell him.”
I smiled. Imagining the souls of a middle-aged man and a young girl commiserating over the discomfort in my cloak was amusing. “Yeah, yeah. Keep complaining. I need the laughs.”
Again using the staff for support, I walked with Shanghai into my apartment building and its vacant lobby. With electricity back in service for the day, we rode the elevator to the second floor and exited onto the hallway’s frayed carpet. Now close enough for Alex to hear us, I pressed the staff down softly as we walked to my unit.
The door stood ajar. Alex was expecting us.
I extended the staff to Shanghai and whispered, “We have to look stronger than we are or she’ll take advantage of us.”
When she took the staff, we lowered our hoods and nodded at each other. We could do this.
Every bone aching, I straightened my body, opened the door fully, and walked in. Each step felt like walking barefoot on hot coals, but I managed to keep my face calm. Shanghai followed close behind.
Alex sat in my reading chair, her gaze on an open book in her lap—my copy of 1984. Her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, she wore the black leather jacket typical of Death Enforcement Officers, open to expose a form-fitting white T-shirt and a sonic gun in a shoulder holster. Next to the chair, a silver gas tank stood upright in a wheeled carrier, a nozzle and tube attached at the top. A first-aid kit lay beside the base of the tank.
Without looking up, she read out loud, “For the first time he perceived that if you want to keep a secret you must also hide it from yourself. You must know all the while that it is there, but until it is needed you must never let it emerge into your consciousness in any shape that could be given a name.” She set the book on the chair’s arm and gazed at me with her metallic eyes. “Phoenix, you are too weak to hide secrets from me. I know how much pain you’re in, so feel free to support yourself with the staff.”
I huffed a sigh. Somehow I had to guard my thoughts from this witch of a woman, but I had no strength to build a wall. I reached for the staff. When Shanghai pushed it into my hand, I leaned on it. “If you’re reading my mind now, I guess you’re not too pleased with what you see.”
She rose from the chair and strutted toward me, her dark pants drawing sleek lines to the floor. “I don’t read minds, Phoenix. I read body language, attitudes, and intentions.” She caressed my cheek, letting the pewter ring she had stolen from Misty rub against my skin. “You cannot deceive me. You cannot manipulate me. And you cannot find the souls of Singapore and Misty without my help.”
I tensed. She knew our plans. She had already taken control of our meeting.
Please post any questions and/or comments.
Categories: Story Development
I reeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaally don’t like her.
If you mean Alex, then good. 🙂
Yep, I definitely mean Alex. The snake woman.
I don’t mean Shanghai, she’s my favorite.
My goal is to get readers to dislike Alex, so … good! 🙂
I agree. Every time you write a villain, I think it’s impossible to detest anyone more…and you manage to outdo yourself consistently. From Devin, to Semiramis, to Drexel, and now Alex. It is as much the villains as the heroes that keep me turning pages. It’s the thrill of the hunt, I suppose.
I’ll be coming back to actually read this post after I get my hands on Reapers, but I have to say I totally agree with Rex! All of your villains are utterly detestable, and just as fascinating. I’m currently reading Exodus Rising. Drexel is, without a doubt, perfectly villainous. 😉
I think Drexel was the worst … until Alex.
Maelstrom and Mictar, too.
It is possible to create a villain who is too over-the-top evil. In my current work in progress, The Scent of Her Soul, I think I did that with the villain, so I pulled the reins back a bit to make him more believable.
Uh oh. Hearing (er, reading) that, I already don’t like her. XD
Tracey, you can read the book in one nice big juicy setting. Skedaddle and go read. 😛
I’m actually going to stop reading these, because I don’t want to know anymore in advance. 0=)
I understand. It’s hard to post story development lessons without spoilers. I might have to end this practice. My readership on Tuesdays dropped dramatically when I switched from the other book to this one.
I love the last sentence! I love/hate Alex. I think I love how entertaining she is. She’s not a typical villain. And I keep seeing the actress who played her in the trailer now. So cool. Cannot wait for the book!