The Part That Doesn’t Burn
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Date of Publication: March 23rd, 2016
Number of pages: 319
Word Count: 97,000
Cover Artist: Cora Graphics
In an overpopulated city-state where technology and magic are forbidden by the corrupt church, young witch, Mirabel Fairfax, plots the creation of a deadly plague to cull the burdensome rabble.
That is, until she falls in love with the very alchemist she has been deceiving.
Now, with soul-hungry geists flooding the city, the church scrambling for their prey, and her own mind at war with itself, Mirabel must decide what she's fighting for before she loses everything to the evils of Autumnfall.
Mirabel waited in the darkness. Each passing second made it exponentially less likely the power would return.
“Mirabel? Did we lose power?” Felix’s voice quivered in the darkness.
“It should return momentarily.”
They waited. Mirabel could practically feel Felix’s demeanor evaporating.
“Unbelievable, the singular time I am protecting company on the geistlines, a train dies. We are not coal powered. We are coming to a stop. Perhaps your pessimism rang true. Sour fortune must have followed you from Haugen. We need to leave.”
“L-leave? As in, leave the train, and go out there?”
“Felix, without power the only thing stopping a geist from swooping in here and taking your face off is nothing. One hundred percent nothing. Essentially, we already have the cons of being outside, along with the narrow space of being inside. Not a survivable combination.”
Without hesitation Felix took to gathering his tools, and corralling them into his bags.
“No time for that.”
She tugged him out of their room and through the train car. One side of the car featured the cabins. Asleep and unaware, no one else left their rooms. Windows with their blinds drawn and a faint cyan shimmering through adorned the other side.
“They’re lining both sides of the tracks. How long do we have?” said Felix.
“Geist behavior is a constant mystery, even to me, but eventually some will strike. Even those with eternity run out of patience.”
They reached the door to the next car and Mirabel mashed on the panel. Nothing. No power, no doors. She tried the manual handle, but it wouldn’t budge. If only Miss Perfect-Priestess were here, then the door wouldn’t be able to fly open fast enough.
“Oh bother,” she said.
“Door haunted too?”
“Handle denies me. Seems rusted, and I wonder if they automatically power lock.”
She could barely make out Felix’s nervous wince. “I wouldn’t expect that, Mirabel. Emergency situations would turn fatalities.”
“That is not happening with us.” She put her weight on the lever. It didn’t amount to much, and the lever knew it.
“Let me try.”
Felix consisted of average build and height, if not a tad lanky. Certainly not the strong type. Petite Mirabel stood quite small, a whole head shorter, also not the strong type, but she expected she could generate more strength. The alchemist didn’t have the mind for it.
“Felix, darling, put your hands here.” She directed his hands next to hers. “Press down on three, yes?”
Violet light washed over the handle they gripped before she got to “one.” She didn’t have to turn around to know its source. It traveled up her arms and across the door. If another passenger had opened a blind, the light source wouldn’t be nearing them.
“Three-three-three,” she shouted.
Felix threw down on the handle alongside her. Perhaps he did have the mind for it when terrified. With a shriek the lever punched into the open position, and the partners threw their hands into the crevice at the door’s left.
“Get the blasted thing open. Pull, Felix, do not look back.”
She made a mistake. Everyone looks back when instructed not to. He turned his neck and got an eyeful of something that forced a spate foul language. Such words didn’t suit him. Pulling with whatever force her slender arms could muster, she joined his blunder and looked over her shoulder.
A geist, two-thirds down the corridor, drifted closer. Its face partially lifted from its head, hanging a few inches from where it belonged. The glowing wisp mimicked the body it used to have, but poorly. The translucent skin melted and slid ever downward. She knew the face would contort any moment: the precursor to assault. And it had the gut-wrenching violet hue. Of all the geists to enter first, it had to be a damned giftgeist. She had no hope of generating enough magic to destroy it before it reached them.
The broken door started to grind open. She fit her thin body part way into the opening. Her heels dug into the carpet and her back braced against the door’s narrow edge, with her hands pressing against the wall. “Felix, pull.”
The geist twisted into a monster far fiercer than before; its face warped into elongated grief and its jaw stretched to the side to give a dry, raspy howl. Passengers meandering into the hall heard it. They slung their own screams and ran the opposite way. The worst decision during a geistline incident: running toward the rear of the train. They wouldn’t live long.
She reached above her head and flicked her fingers. “You want electricity, you fromping door? H-have some.” More white flashes fluttered between her fingers with each flick. “Come on, I had this spell mastered yesterday.”
“Mirabel? Mirabel,” yelped Felix. “It’s-it’s coming.”
“Simmer. I am focusing.”
With a final flick, current rushed from the witch’s fingertips up into the door mechanisms. She had no idea what it accomplished, but the lights around the immediate vicinity flashed, including the door panel. Her left hand dropped and swatted it. The door grinded opened halfway before its lights died again. Halfway gave them more than enough space. The partners darted through into the next car. Glancing back, Mirabel saw the geist stop and turn to its side. Another passenger had peeked out of their cabin an arm’s length from the specter. It shot from Mirabel’s view before the rattled cries of a man and woman reached her ears.
Felix stopped as abruptly as the geist had. “It’s attacking someone.”
“Mirabel, you’ve got to do something, there are three cars full of people back there.”
“And we are the only valuable ones.”
"Would you ever give up writing, even if you never made any sales?"
Sam Poling – THE PART THAT DOESN’T BURN
Every writer has something different to tell when they are asked about their motivations. Some do it to advance the art of writing itself, some are compelled by the stories and characters circling around in their head, and others want the career of creative writing to save them from their tedious day jobs. In most cases it’s a mixture of those reasons, and others. But do we give up writing altogether if we don’t make the sales?
No, we don’t give up. I never carried a checklist around with me and asked the question of all the writers across the globe, but I am confident the vast majority of our breed would not stop writing. We simply would not be able to, myself included. The characters don’t stop nagging, the ideas don’t stop coming, and the urge to create doesn’t dissipate because we aren’t being handed money. Art is a human drive, a need. Each of us have that need within us, and it must be expressed. In my case, it is expressed in creative writing.
However, part of the need to create art is the need to share it. It is expression, after all. It is social, and we are social creatures. We evolved to be. For myself, as I expect it is for many writers, sales are more important to us because they show we’ve done this. We’ve shared our experience and made a small change in the world. Deep down, even if just one person reads the novel it feels as though it was worth it.
Failure in sales can be punishing. It can make one feel dejected, to be sure. But that is only because we strive to become better, as all artists do. We want to see that translation, that reflection of the effort we put into our work. And sometimes we don’t always get that. And it doesn’t matter. It’s more room to grow, more avenues to explore. It’s painful, but thick skin and fortitude are what define the writer, if not the artist.
The day job does get in the way. It is important: it pays the bills and brings value to your life as you do your part for society. The day job is honorable, noble, and fulfilling if you take pride in your work. But it still gets in the way when you need to create that next masterpiece. Because of this, sales do take on another meaning. If they grow high enough, they could be the ticket to a life where your most beloved hobby is your career. But that treasure has to be hard fought and earned. And it requires a massive amount of luck.
The link between monetary compensation and art of any kind has always been seeded in this frank, honest relationship. Sales are not an excuse to fail and forfeit; they are fuel to help you grow. They do help, they do encourage, but in the end our human desire to create, teach, and learn supersedes it.
About the Author:
Sam Poling has been writing fantasy and science fiction for the thrill of it his entire life, from short stories to screenplays. His love for each of the subgenres led to dedication to writing genre-skirting fiction with all the elements that make up the human condition. He holds a strong enthusiasm for medical studies and currently works as a medical assistant in a large clinic while taking classing for nursing. He also serves on a health and safety committee, including disaster preparedness and infection control. His interest in epidemiology and medical science tends to spill over into his writing endeavors.
Author’s site: www.samuelpoling.com