Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cutting Room Floor II

When I edit, I usually make my work in progress (WIP) longer. I'm a very concise writer and am, in fact, too concise too often in my first drafts. (I used to hate school assignments that had length requirements such as 500 words or 10 double-space pages. I could usually say everything that was needed to say in less than the required length.) So after the first draft when I'm doing my edits it's nearly always "Oh, that needs more explanation" or "That needs more detail." I rarely cut.

But sometimes you have to cut. Part of being a writer is knowing what needs to come out.

I am finishing up edits on a WIP (that doesn't have a good title, yet), and I decided I needed to cut out the prologue. Now I loved this prologue. I worked very hard to make the characters sound as if they were in the 19th Century. I loved that it included a character from a later Adept Series novel, Gods of Strife. I loved the historical tie-in. But I had to be brutal with my writing (as all good writers are) and it had to go, all 1,098 words of it.

I've done this before, for the same WIP. That was because I went a different direction with my villain. Sort of the same thing happened again. I went another direction and the villain in the prologue ended up being more of a red herring.

So what did I cut? Well, here it is:


Richmond, Virginia, Confederate States of America
April 18, 1865

"Lincoln is dead," the woman said, fixing her sky-blue eyes on Colonel Rogers. She was small of build and her blonde hair hid mostly under her hat. Despite the ruination wreaked upon the states of the Confederacy by the Union armies, she was dressed in impeccable clothes that looked as if they were the height of fashion this season in Paris or London. She wouldn't have looked out of place attending Sunday services at Monumental Church, Rogers thought.

"Some good news for a change," Rogers growled. He still wore his gray uniform with three stars at the collar.  "Unfortunately, Lee surrendered nine days ago. The Confederacy is over." He looked at the woman he knew only as Ariel. "What is the disposition of Secretary Seward and Vice-President Johnson?"

"Seward was only injured," Ariel replied in a plain, matter-of-fact tone. "Johnson is unharmed. Apparently Atzerodt lost his nerve and did not even make an attempt."

"Damn," Rogers spat. He looked at the woman. "Forgive me my language, please."

Ariel dismissed it with a smile. "Believe me, Colonel, I have heard far worse."

Rogers noticed her delicate features. She was an exquisite woman with eyes that seemed to show an inner sadness.

"Have any been captured?" Rogers asked.

"Not to my knowledge," the woman replied. "Not yet, at least."

Rogers breathed a sigh of relief. That gave him time to escape. Booth was ostensibly the leader of the conspiracy but he knew about Rogers' involvement and planning. Booth may have told the others. Rogers was a soldier in the Confederate Army, of course, but he doubted that would accord him any protection if it were found he was involved in the assassination of Lincoln.

"There is the matter of my compensation," the woman was saying as he thought.

"You were to back up Booth if he failed; he did not."

"Still, I am out time, trouble, money, and am fortunate the Union Army is not hunting me, too. We had an arrangement, Colonel, and I expect you to keep your part of the bargain."

Rogers glared at the woman. He was used to members of the fairer sex keeping their place. This supposed female assassin came highly recommended, but the plot had failed and even though it was no fault of hers, Rogers was in no mood for her insolence.

"It is over," Rogers said. "It is all over. And you want your thirty pieces of silver despite it."

Her blue eyes blazed as she looked at him. "I do not care about your Confederacy or your cause. I am paid to do a job. You will recompense me, Colonel, the $500 in gold I was promised. Promised by you, I might add."

"Or what shall you do, ma'am?" Rogers made his voice drip with disregard.

The woman smiled malevolently.

Rogers felt his body go stiff. He couldn't move, could barely breathe, and only his eyes moved under his own command.

"You will pay me what is due, Colonel," the woman hissed.

Rogers could not talk, could not react.

"Blink twice if you agree," Ariel said with menace clinging to her words.

Rogers blinked twice. Suddenly, his body came back under his control.

"Then it's true," he whispered.

"Yes," Ariel growled. "I am what some mistakenly call a 'witch,' but we prefer the term 'adept one.'"

Rogers remembered hearing that term before and that it was not wise to anger these "adept ones." He opened a drawer in the desk, pulled out a small canvas bag, and counted out 25 liberty head double eagle gold coins with a face value of $20 each. They were Union money, not the worthless Confederate paper dollars.

The woman scooped them up and deposited them in her purse.

"Thank you, Colonel Rogers." She said it in a sweet tone, as if he'd brought her flowers.

Rogers growled. That was part of the money he'd saved to escape to the West after the war was lost.

"Tell me," he asked, "if you have . . . powers, why did you not come to the aid of the Confederacy?"

She emitted a bright musical laugh with a lining of bitterness. "I do not believe in your cause or any cause, Colonel. I am a mercenary. Men have treated me with disregard and contempt my entire life, and you have no idea how long that has been. Now, I do what I wish to do, and I earn money with my abilities."

Rogers wondered what she meant by how long she had lived. She appeared merely twenty-five or so years in age, unless you looked into her azure eyes which seemed to show the pain of a long life. Perhaps these "adept ones" lived longer than normal men and women. He did not know. "But if you wished, you could—"

"But I do not wish," she said simply. "I must go now, Colonel. I thank you for your business."

She turned and walked out of his house, one of the few left standing in the capital of the Confederacy.

Rogers sat back. An idea formed. If there were more "adept ones," and if they supported the cause of the Confederacy, it may be possible to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It would take time, and money. But if he could do it the Confederate States of America would rise again. He didn't even know where to start, and perhaps his best lead had just walked out the door.

But if there were these adept ones in the Confederacy, there must be rumors of them. If he could find one, if they would help him, if they were powerful enough . . .

Rogers scowled. That was a great deal of "ifs." But if there was any hope to save the Confederacy, he'd take it. The rumors were that New Orleans was a favored spot for "adept ones." But that was only whispered gossip about something no one really knew existed.

Rogers counted his remaining gold. It might be enough. Whatever he did, he needed to move south before the Union Army captured Booth, and the man told them about Rogers. Travel would be difficult as the Yankees' campaign of destruction left few passable roads and fewer trains. Plus there would be the occupying armies ready to question anyone they deemed suspicious. He growled, unconsciously touching the Colt Navy revolver in the holster at his right hip. It wasn't a lot of protection, but it would have to do to get him to New Orleans.

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