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Excerpt... I hope

 I'm still not sure I've gotten the hang of this but...
As promised here is a small sample of the BIG novel that will be released as a 10 volume electronic serial. (Please keep in mind that this is a rough draft and as such is packed with sundry errors and misspellings-- kind of like marshmallow treats in kids' breakfast cereal!)

here you go...  

The Rifter

By Ginn Hale

Book One: The Shattered Gates






Chapter One



The letter wasn’t addressed to John. The return address, however, was his. Not that he had sent the letter. He would never have mailed anything off without a zip code and he certainly wouldn’t have wasted postage attempting to contact, “The Palace of the Day in the Kingdom of the Night.”

But his roommate Kyle would have.

John frowned at the yellowed, parchment envelope and the gothic letters scrawled across it. A blood red droplet of sealing wax clung to the back of the letter like a wad of chewing gum on the underside of a school desk. As John turned the letter back over he noticed faint watermarks on the envelope. Crescent moons.

 John could almost see the mailman rolling his eyes as he tossed the letter into the mailbox along with a heap of bills, sale flyers, pizza coupons and a glossy new underwear catalog.

He wandered back to the kitchen sink, pulled the trashcan out and dropped the flyers and coupons down into the mire of orange peels and coffee grounds. He paused a moment to consider the catalog.

Tanned men in an assortment of absurdly small briefs grinned up at John from the pages. What little clothing the models displayed was tawdry and over priced. Still, he lingered on a spread of muscular bodies until their waxed chests and fixed gazes reminded him of too much of store mannequins. Then he dropped the underwear catalogue into the recycling bin and returned to the mysterious letter.

He turned the envelope over, feeling the uneven mass of the enclosed contents. It felt small and heavy like a key. John traced the hard outline, almost embossing the shape into the sealed envelope. It was defiantly a key. A house key. Probably the key to this very house.

He hadn’t seen his roommate Kyle for two weeks, not since the awkward night that they had recognized each other through the crowd of half-dressed men roving the Steamworks. John could still remember Kyle’s expression, how it had shifted from something like appreciation to horror when he seemed to realize that John was staring back at him. Then Kyle had disappeared. Just vanished, as if he’d only been a trick of the dim light, and John hadn’t seen him since.

Which was fine, John supposed. He was a private man himself and he could understand the desire to keep something so personal secret but rent was due tomorrow.

John gazed at the envelope, feeling the weight of it in his hand.

 It would have been like his socially awkward roommate to work out some weird way to return the house key without actually having to tell John to his face that he’d found somewhere else to live.

John shoved the trashcan back beneath the sink with an absent push from his foot.

Assuming this was Kyle’s house key, Kyle’s half of the rent was going to be hard to scrape together. And if it wasn’t Kyle’s key? John shook the envelope and considered how he would explain opening his roommate’s mail.

Kyle obviously hated any kind of intrusion into his privacy. When he first moved into the house with John he fitted his bedroom door with a heavy iron padlock that looked like something out of a pirate movie. Nothing of Kyle’s decorated the living room, kitchen or hall. No books, photos, posters, CDs or tapes. In the bathroom, the only hint of Kyle’s presence was a red travel toothbrush and a bar of soap. Oddly, the soap was still in its paper wrapper and had been from the first day that Kyle moved in. Kyle kept his dishes and food in a locked cupboard, protected from the bad influence of John’s packages of instant noodles and peanut butter.

Sometimes John would look at Kyle and simply not be able to understand how he functioned.

 Returning to the letter, John studied the wax seal. John supposed he could use a heated razor blade to slice through and then stick the seal back down with glue. Immediately the image of Kyle holding the letter few inches below his sharp nose and taking in a strong, suspicious whiff came to John’s mind. It was the kind of thing Kyle would do.

Freezing the letter might weaken the seal. Or John could try cutting the top of the envelope itself and then glue it back up. He would have to be careful with lining the edges back up and there was still the problem of the lingering smell of most adhesives.

“Screw it.” John ripped the letter open and dropped the key out into the palm of his hand.

It was not the house key.

It looked like the key to Kyle’s room: gold and decorated with moons and some faint script.

John stared at it for a few moments, trying to figure out why Kyle would send anyone the key to his room. He supposed that he might as well read the enclosed letter since he had already opened the envelope. Maybe it would offer him an insight into Kyle’s strange appearance and odd behavior.

For a moment, he wondered if he really wanted to know more. There was a certain ease to simply not knowing what Kyle was thinking while watching him slink up the stairs, dressed in a heavy black leather coat, carrying lethal looking knives and a bundle of cloth as long as a human arm. John wasn’t sure if he was prepared for a deeper insight into Kyle’s inner workings.

But Kyle was so puzzling that John couldn’t help being fascinated by him.

He wasn’t bad looking. He stood nearly as tall as John but with a leaner musculature. His dark eyes and full mouth softened his otherwise sharp angular features. He would have been handsome if wasn’t for the scar that sliced out from either side of his mouth, back almost to his ears. How did a guy get a scar like that? And that scar was only one of several that cut across Kyle’s body like red interstate lines on a road atlas. Then there was his long, black hair and the tiny black symbols tattooed across the backs of his hands and his eyelids.

Who, in his right mind, got his eyelids tattooed? How did he ever get a job with tattooed eyelids? For that matter, what did he do for a living?

He claimed to be a milkman but John didn’t believe him.

And what about the two black bladed knives he always carried?

John decided that the knives alone might justify reading this one letter. John pulled it out and unfolded it. The entire page of parchment was blank except for a single word.

It said: Don’t.





Chapter Two


The night air slashed through the black branches of the trees, ripping off spring blossoms and young leaves. It swept over Kahlil, tugging at his braided hair and whipping through the folds of his coat. He drew in a deep breath. The bristling energy of the rising storm filled his lungs. Heavy violet clouds churned overhead.

A low reverberation cracked across the sky. It could have been thunder, but Kahlil knew it wasn’t. The smell of gunpowder suddenly hit the air. If they were lucky up in the convent, the rain would break before the fires could spread. Not that he had the luxury to worry about the nuns. He was still a long way from safety himself.

Kahlil bolted out from the cover of the trees. He leapt across the irrigation channel and sprinted for the apple grove. His pack rocked against his back. Behind him siege mortars roared again and Kahlil heard a crash as the timbers of the temple gate exploded. The smell of burning wood rushed down over him on a warm wind. With it came the quick cracks of line after line of artillerymen opening fire.

“It’s not them guns that kills ya,” a soft voice whispered from his pack, “an it ain’t they bullets neither.”

“It’s the holes that kill you more than either.” Kahlil only mouthed the words, not needing to give them voice when speaking to the bones.

Nestled safely inside his pack, the bones gave out a silent laugh.

Kahlil picked his way between the black trees. The overhanging branches of the apple orchard blocked the distant light of the burning convent. Above him, he picked up the first soft patters of rain beginning to fall. Soon the ground would be wet. It would be hard to keep up his pace and his footing.

“Runnin’ dead, down a hill,” the bones whispered, “smokin’ temple at you back.”

“Little ghost caught a chill, rode it out in a sack,” Kahlil answered silently.

 Again, there came the tiny shaking motions of laughter. He felt skeletal fingers pet him through the heavy leather of his pack and coat. The icy sensation pierced down to his bare flesh.

At the edge of the grove, an open expanse of road wound up toward the convent. A few yards up Kahlil saw the brief flicker of a match as one soldier offered another a light for his cigarette. They stood close, protecting the flame from the rain.

For a moment their faces were illuminated. Their expressions were soft and relaxed. The chinstraps of their helmets hung loose. The barrels of their rifles pointed up over their shoulders, still strapped to their backs. Their coats looked crisp, probably still staining the shirts below with new red dye. Probably neither of them had seen action yet.

“Two only,” the bones whispered. “Cut they throats and shares they smokes with me.”

Kahlil shook his head.

“Idiot,” came the response. He felt the weak impact at his back as a bony little fist swatted him. “They shoot you up against a wall someday.”

“They could call every red ant in their army down on us,” Kahlil mouthed.

“There’s one behind ya.”

Kahlil turned slowly, keeping his body close to the trunk of a tree. The sky glowed dimly behind the tangled black silhouettes of branches and trunks. The soldier behind Kahlil paced in and out of the trees’ cover. He didn’t bother to hide his patrol. None of the Fai’daum forces were expecting trouble this far down the hill.

Their siege mortars, godhammers and experienced soldiers were all deployed against the convent walls. Down here fresh recruits were only catching impressions of war. Distant screams, faint enough to mistake for insect sounds, and the thick scent of burning. From here the vast walls of the Umbhra’Ibaye were just black silhouettes, outlined in yellow flames.

As the patrolling soldier tromped forward, Kahlil noticed the pale dog that followed him. The big yellow animal kept low in the shadows and moved cautiously, catching scents and pausing to listen. Its eyes glinted in the dimness of the surrounding grove. The dog stopped and bent its head down drawing in a deep breath of the moist ground.

“I smell bones,” the dog growled.

Tiny finger bones clutched at Kahlil’s shoulder blades.

The soldier turned back.

“Bones?” the soldier asked.

Kahlil dropped his hands down to the hilts of his knives.

“Oracle bones.” The dog lifted its head and drew in a deep breath.

“Are you sure?” The soldier stared down at the patch of earth as if he expected to be able to see some sign of the scent.

“Kill it now!” the bones whispered.

Kahlil slid his knives from their sheaths.

He closed his eyes, concentrating on the cold deadly space that ran beneath the warm living world. With a flick of his wrist he opened a seam and slipped into the Gray Space. The distant gunfire, the tiny buzz of night insects, every sound went dead. Absolute silence enfolded him .Kahlil opened his eyes and the shadows and rambling wild branches of the surrounding trees returned to him. But now they were only pale gray forms. The ground and sky alike had taken on the colorless flatness of mist.

The knives in Kahlil’s hands were flat black, like chasms cut into the shapes of knives. Then he threw himself forward. The misty forms of overhanging branches split and scattered as Kahlil plunged through them. Trees blew aside in wisps.

The soldier turned, frowning slightly as he scanned the darkness. Perhaps he felt a chill move over him. His eyes almost focused on Kahlil as Kahlil dropped out of the Gray Space and drove his knife into the soldier’s throat. Kahlil released the hilt immediately, letting the black curse blade corrode through the soldier’s flesh on its own.

He lunged for the dog. It sprang to his right and then leapt for his throat. He twisted aside but not fast enough. The dog slammed into him, knocking him to the ground. Searing teeth sank into his shoulder and then jerked back, tearing through his arm. His shoulder screamed as skin and muscle ripped. The dog’s eyes glowed brilliantly and Kahlil felt the slithering sickness of a witch’s curse wriggling from her lips into his torn flesh. He drove his second knife into the dog’s neck. A hot gush of blood poured over his hand as he forced the blade across the animal’s throat. The dog’s jaw clenched down into his shoulder, as the animal choked on blood and half formed curses. Then it went silent and suddenly collapsed on top of him.

 He dragged in a deep breath, steeling himself against the pain of his bloody shoulder and then shoved the limp weight of the dog off his body. He lay still, listening for the sound of more soldiers approaching. No one.

The sharp jab in his back reminded him of the bones. He rolled onto his side. The pack wriggled. Then, the bones slithered free, pulling themselves along the ground on intricately carved forearms and narrow ribs. Countless incantations had long ago been etched into every bone, binding a soul and its power to the ivory remains. Gilded holy symbols and sacred spells crowned the child-sized skull. It lolled slightly to the side, hanging on the copper wires that held the small skeleton together.

The tiny finger bones reached out and gripped the dog’s corpse. Carefully, they felt their way through the thick fur up to the open gash of the throat. Then the bones dug into the wound, climbing into the dead body.

The damp ground and soft patter of falling rain felt relieving against Kahlil’s skin. He curled his hand over his wounded shoulder and waited while the bones put on their new animal skin. At least he wouldn’t have to carry them anymore. That was good. He tried not to think of anything else.

“Layin' on a ground, sleepin' in a stable, wake up an’ run while you able.” The words rolled over him with a strong animal smell.

Kahlil looked over. The dog barred its teeth in a feral smile. The wounds in its throat knit closed as he watched leaving only a stain of blood behind. The dog stretched and yawned.

“Sleepin' in an oven,” the dog whispered, “sleepin' in a pan.”

“Sleep through a war,” Kahlil replied silently, “wake up a dead man.”

The dog snorted at the response. “You gotta move or them ants’ll eat ya live.”

“I know, I know.” Kahlil forced himself up to his knees and then struggled to his feet. He moved slowly and deliberately, first retrieving his knives, and then taking the coat of the dead soldier. Deep burning pain flooded from his shoulder down through his right arm. The witch hadn’t completed her curse, but the remnants of her profane words still twitched in his open wound. He didn’t bother to slide his injured arm into the coat but just pulled it over his shoulders. The wet wool felt like something dead draped over him. It smelled worse.

When he and the dog strode across the road, the two soldiers farther up just glanced at him and waved, mistaking him and the bones for the dead they had left behind them. Kahlil returned the gesture with his left arm. Then the two other men returned to their conversation. Kahlil was careful to walk with the same disinterested, patrolling pace that he had seen the dead soldier move in. He continued down the road a few yards, and then crossed into the uncultivated woods on the other side.

He continued walking slowly. He paced himself, holding off his exhaustion and pain with a steady focus. He concentrated on each step as if his legs and feet were all there were of his body. When he stumbled, the muscular body of the dog pressed against him. He steadied and kept walking.

The woods thickened and the sky slowly grew lighter. At some point Kahlil noticed that the soldier’s coat had slipped off him. He didn’t bother to look for it. Suddenly, the dog stopped. Kahlil stumbled forward a few steps in a daze; then, his hand brushed against a smooth stone surface. Relief washed through him.

Huge marble stones rose up from the forest floor like yellowed teeth. They reached to the treetops and formed a ring. At the center of the circle was a pool. The dog padded between the two closest stones and Kahlil followed it into the water.

The inner faces of the stones shone as if they had been polished. Clear reflections rolled and broke across the water’s surface as Kahlil waded down to the deep center where the dog waited. The water lapped up around his waist. Beside him, the dog paddled, holding its head above the surface. Sluggish ribbons of blood floated out from its fur.

“Hurrys up, or you gonna have a drown puppy whens ya gets there.”

Kahlil wrenched the sword free at last. It was heavy and plain. Only the single black image of an eye marked the pommel. Kahlil threw his weight onto his left arm and drove the blade down through the water and into the earth below him.

“Here is your son, holding his key. Open these doors before me.” He turned the sword in a half circle, twisting it like a key in a lock. The weight of water and silt flowed against it. Then, suddenly, it sank straight down into the waters.

Kahlil clenched his eyes shut. The prayerscars over his eyes seared white hot lines into his darkness. Kahlil pushed the air out of his lungs and dived down into the waters after the sword. Silence and blinding light crushed in over him. He sank fast and farther than the pool should have reached. His lungs burned, and hard pressure closed around him. He felt no up or down, all sense of direction lost in the crushing darkness. Kahlil concentrated on that thread that bound him even across worlds—he felt muscle and bone and a heart beat stronger than his own—and it drew him like filament landing a fish.

Fast images of walls and stairs, pipes and electrical wires whipped past him. Then, suddenly, he broke the surface. He opened his eyes, and for a moment, he floated there, his face and chest rising up until he found himself lying on a wooden floor gazing up at the familiar ceiling overhead. His sword jutted out at an angle from the bare light fixture in the ceiling. Cracks radiated out from where the blade had driven in.

Later today, he should pry his sword free and buy some spackle.

The dog stepped over him and jumped up into his narrow army cot.

Kahlil pulled himself up and flopped onto his side. His shoulder hurt but in a numb way, as if his body was too tired to even bother with pain any longer. He just lay there.

From the floor below, the sounds and smells of mid-morning began to penetrate his senses. The strong aroma of coffee drifted up to mix with the scent of wet dog that filled his room. A radio fuzzed through instants of gospel, serious news voices, and flares of rock music. At last, it settled on an overly excited sports announcer. Some team somewhere had won something. The radio went off abruptly. Bad news, Kahlil supposed.

Kahlil caught the sound of footsteps pacing the kitchen. He easily pictured John, striding through the room, his strong frame almost too tall for the ceiling fan. The breeze of overhead blades tousled his disorderly blonde hair. Then Kyle remembered him wearing only a white towel, glancing back over his tan, muscular shoulder and catching Kyle’s guilty gaze.

What a dangerous and foolish chance that had been and yet it had seemed impossible to resist.

He wondered how much time had passed since then. Even with the key he couldn’t perfectly control the Great Gate. Between two worlds hours, days, weeks, even years could slip past.

 The distinct sound of papers flopping into the yellow can below the sink reassured him that he’d returned to much the same home he’d left. That would be John sorting through the mail. Kahlil wondered if anything had come for himself and then smirked at the ridiculousness of that thought. Nothing would ever come for him, not until it was time to end the world.





( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 28th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
Thanks for the encouragement and don't worry there is much, much more to read!
Jun. 27th, 2009 04:57 am (UTC)
Oh, my God. This is sublimely creepy and beautifully written.
Jun. 28th, 2009 01:06 am (UTC)
I'm so glad that the darker elements went over well. The books have some rather dark moments throughout, but I do try to balance them with the humanity of the characters.
Jun. 27th, 2009 07:04 am (UTC)
WOW! Thank you Ginn! That is...that is...dark, and fascinating and....WOW! Words fail me! No pressure, but when are you planning to publish this please :)
Jun. 28th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
I have a contract with Blind Eye Books to publish the Rifter. I don't have an exact date for release but I've been told that they're shooting for this year and the sooner the better... so soon.

Also they will be releasing 2 books at a time so there won't be too many cliffhangers to endure.
Jun. 28th, 2009 06:18 am (UTC)
2 books at a time?! That's fantastic news!! I wish all writers would release series like that. Yep.
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:23 am (UTC)
Oh, Ginn, you totally got confused. We're going to be releasing a volume of the Rifter every other week starting sometime this fall.
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:54 am (UTC)
Yes, well, there you have it directly from the source! One book every other week.

(I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to have gotten it garbled. Presently my only calendar consists completely of a series of receipts for coffee with deadlines scribbled on them.)
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:46 am (UTC)
Errrr..... uhm Nicole just contacted me and I think I misunderstood her. 2 books will be released each month, so one book every two weeks.

They're full length books so hopefully, you'll just be completing one when the next comes out.

At least that's the plan.
Jun. 30th, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)
That's actually better news! It'll be all about the pacing. ^_^
Jun. 27th, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC)
Corpse-stealing speaking bones! Gates to other worlds! Scarred heroes! Knives and swords and the end of the world! I wouldn't know what more to ask for *g*

I have a serious weakness for creepy and dark stuff, especially if there's a romantic sub-thread somewhere... right? ;)

Anyway, even if this is just a rough draft (really?!) I find it so very interesting... John's description of Kyle/Kahlil ("Who, in his right mind, got his eyelids tattooed? How did he ever get a job with tattooed eyelids?"), of the ways he behaves ("... the image of Kyle holding the letter few inches below his sharp nose and taking in a strong, suspicious whiff came to John’s mind. It was the kind of thing Kyle would do."), of his peculiarities ("... he certainly wouldn’t have wasted postage attempting to contact, “The Palace of the Day in the Kingdom of the Night.” But his roommate Kyle would have.") cracked me up. "And what about the two black bladed knives he always carried?" Yes John, what about them? *g* He's in for a big surprise, isn't it? *g*

Can't wait to read more!
Jun. 28th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked it!
(This is the first audience that has read the Rifter so I'm pretty relieved that the reception has been so positive. I was worried that it might have been way too crazy.)

There is a romantic sub-plot that steadily becomes very central to the overall plot. There are wars, assassinations, revolutions and magical battles, but throughout all of it the relationship between John and Kyle is central.

I'm glad you enjoyed John's thoughts about Kyle. Obviously those change and grow as the books go on but early on John is caught between an under current of attraction and being flatly weirded-out by Kyle. It was also a chance to interject a little humor into what can be rather dark material.

Jun. 27th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
Hooray! Another Ginn masterpiece! I can't wait.
Jun. 28th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
Masterpiece... you crack me up, Astrid. But thank you!
Jun. 28th, 2009 05:43 am (UTC)
I love the talking bones, nice touch.
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:20 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed that. THe bones and the talking dog were two serious challenges for me as an author. It's one thing to write in an outline, 'The reanimated bones crawl into the dead body of the dog-witch...' But dramatizing that was much tougher... I'm relieved that it came across.
Jun. 28th, 2009 06:14 am (UTC)
Thanks for the snippet. This paranormal/horror-ish theme.... totally my thing! =D Can't wait! =)
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)
I'm pleased to serve! ; )
Jun. 30th, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
I love this, and I can't wait for it to be published!

I've never seen two concurrent point-of-views done so well as when I realized that you were giving us a point of reference with the mail being thrown into the trash can. Brilliant! Everyone else I've read, seems to like tedious repetition of the same scene to some extent. You were very concise.

The rest is wonderful! I already love the characters. The world-building is super creative! The tension, mystery and drama are wonderful.
Jun. 30th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
Geez... You're making me blush, (really, my cheeks are flaming pink). Those are lovely compliments to offer an author. Thank You!

I will do my very best to live up to your kind praise for the remaining 1,996 pages! =)
Jul. 5th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC)
Thank you Ginn! I'm rapt at the books being released so close together :)
Jul. 6th, 2009 07:45 am (UTC)
It's pretty exciting for me too! I never thought anybody would take a chance on a story as large as the Rifter. I'm in debt to Nicole Kimberling at Blind Eye Books and Gavin Grant at Small Beer!

Now if I can just get all the edits done...sheesh!
Jul. 10th, 2009 11:01 am (UTC)
Wow... I'm intrigued and delighted by the original and creepy atmosphere you've created, and the rhymes between Kahlil and the bones made me smile. There's no chance I'm not getting this when it comes out - looking forward to it very much.

Jul. 10th, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)
Parts of the story are quite dark, so I'm relieved that no one seems to mind.

Please tell me what you think when it comes out! I took some chances on the long intertwined storylines. I'd love to know if I went too far or made it enough of a puzzel to keep readers entertained and interested.
Jul. 29th, 2009 02:01 pm (UTC)

Hi, Ginn!

I'm leaving a general comment here about your writing because I don't know where else to leave it. In fact I was too lazy to go and find a place where to leave you a comment ;-): I comment on LJ but not usually when I buy a book. Now I just saw you on Josh Lanyon's LJ, so I knew where to go.

Anyway I wanted to tell you that I was blown away from your fic ''Shy Hunter'', so I bought ''Wicked gentlemen'' and I was blown away a second time! I told everybody I know they should read your books.

I think you are absolutely brilliant.

Also this excerpt is excellent. IMO the intertwined storylines are a very good idea. I don't have any problem with the creepy elements. Maybe the rhymes would get a bit too much if there are many more interactions with the bones. But I liked the idea of the oracle bones.

I'm looking forward to buy the books. I can get them all together with Josh's book in December and save shipping costs (I'm in Europe).

I like to have real books in my hands, especially when I know in advance that I will like them. And ''Blind Eye Books'' is producing lovely, quality books, by the way.

A question: I've seen another excerpt here (Lord of the White Hell), and I was wondering if it's possible to read also the first part of the first chapter, I don't find it with the tag lord+of+the+white+hell.

Ooops, now I've seen it, it's here: http://ginnhale.livejournal.com/2013.html
maybe you could tag it as well, to make live easier for your new fans ;-)

Any news on the publishing of this book?

Thank you very much for writing!


Jul. 30th, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
Thanks I'll get on that. I'm pretty dreadful with computers, really.
I'm still looking for a publisher for Lord of the White Hell--With the print market the way it is right now it might be a while. But I suppose I'm developing patience as a virtue if nothing else!
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )


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