Climbing into the Light
(Icarus Down Passes 65,000 Words)

Valahnjukur, Iceland

The photo above is entitled Valahnjukur, Iceland and is by the Flickr user racoles. It is used in accordance to his Creative Commons license.

Icarus Down Scorecard
Word Count: 67,109
Increase Since Last Report: 19,259 (Feb 14)

Things have been up and down in the writing department. March Break was a complete write-off. Do you folks have any idea how much productivity you lose when your kids come home from kindergarten a whole week? Well, priorities, priorities. Erin and I counted it a success that the kids stayed happy and active. We picked up again the next week.

Looking back, and at the scorecard above, I can see that I have made good progress on Icarus Down. I’ve recently put together a complete draft of the first sixteen chapters of this story, and currently plans seem to call for a total of twenty, although that might change. I am closing in on the end of the second act of this story. Simon has been cast out of his city and has spent time in the fog forest, and he’s learnt the truth. He’s had his hero quest. In act three, he takes what he knows back with him to confront the evil-doers who cast him out of his home.

I have some hope of having a draft of Icarus Down complete by Victoria Day. This is a purely arbitrary deadline, brought about by some writers in an online critique group I belong to working on a communal goal to finish their manuscripts by Easter. Then people started to say that Easter wasn’t possible, but maybe Victoria Day? I was one of those people. But these things are fun, foster a sense of community, and are actually an inducement to get stuff done.

Once the first draft is done, I’ll sit on it, and send it off to a selection of trusted readers for their full and frank opinion. Then I’ll take their comments and my copy of the manuscript and write the whole bloody thing from scratch again.

I’m serious. Oh, I’ll have the first draft manuscript beside me and I’ll be working from that, but I’ll be writing this whole thing out a second time. Yes, all 75,000 words or however many words it turns out to be. I took this approach with The Dream King’s Daughter and The Night Girl and I was startled at how much better the stories became. Indeed, I may not be finished with The Night Girl, which could go under another full revision.

Anyway, here’s a sample from near the end of Act One. Simon has learned about the Grounders and has seen the Mayor’s Office start to crack down. They’ve learnt that the mayor’s brother and chief of security, Nathaniel Tal, might be staging an act of sabotage on the anchor of Iapyx, in order to discredit the Grounders and give the government the excuse it needs to throw them all in prison. The anchor, incidentally, is the big slab of metal that connects all the wires holding Iapyx a kilometre off the fog forest bottom of the chasms, to the cliff wall. Here, Rachel and Simon, now the only two Grounders who haven’t been arrested, are climbing the outside of Iapyx, to try to get to the anchor in time.

And the deadly sun is rising towards solar maximum.


Rachel and I half-crawled, half-climbed up rungs stretched between two inch-thick cables rising in tandem through Iapyx’s web of metal. I kept my head low to avoid hitting the ribs of the metal cage that surrounded us, and I tried not to look through the rungs at the clouds below. Eventually, I just focused on being able to breathe.

We emerged from the gantries, in the middle of the loom of cables that rose from my city to the anchor, the house-sized hunk of metal protruding from the cliff-face ahead, near the cliff’s cap of fused silica. Though we were still in shadow, the heat seared my back through my tunic, as though the sky looked down at me and demanded that I burn.

Ahead, Rachel called to me. I looked up. “What?”

“Watch your eyes,” she shouted, jerking her head, indicating something over my shoulder.

“What? Why?” I looked behind me. “Ow!”

Behind me, the semaphore rose from Iapyx’s dome, both arms down in the inactive position for solar maximum. Made from hull metal salvaged from our external shields, it was one of the few things in the city that could handle direct sunlight. Coated in anti-reflective paint, it still shone brighter than a beacon.

The sun was rising higher. The top of the cliff face behind me glittered. Up and down the chasm, more beams caught off the silica cap and reflected into the clouds below, raising steam devils.

I paused a moment, blinking, trying to get the spots out of my vision. I realized then that the Grounders were right. What in the creator’s name were we doing up here? Why should we so fear the ground when it was clear where the real danger lay?

I looked ahead. Rachel was already several rungs ahead of me. I scrambled to catch up.

We were close enough that we could see people on top of the anchor, but nobody looked down at us or shot at us. I just saw the backs of heads and grey-clad bodies as the security officers moved about, slowly, deliberately, between the chrome utility boxes that lined the edge.

Suddenly, there was a commotion. Shouts carried down along the wires, followed by a scream. Then someone, wearing white, toppled off the anchor and hit the cables, tumbling over and over, towards the edge. My heart leapt. I thought of my father, and I thought, if the clouds catch him, they won’t give him back.

Then the white figure caught his arm on the cables and lay limp. Rachel and I looked at each other, then we squeezed through the metal bars of the cage enclosing the ladder and climbed carefully along the cable loom to where the white figure lay. When Rachel got close enough, her hand went to her mouth. “Oh, no!”

I came closer, and my eyes widened. “Aaron! Aaron, are you…”

Aaron stared between us, focusing on nothing. “He… stabbed me,” he said, his voice almost childlike at the wonder of it. “Nathaniel. He just… brought out his knife and stabbed me. I can’t… I can’t…”

I didn’t like the way his eyes were glazing over. “Rachel,” I said, “You stay here and—”

“It’s too late,” she said, her voice taut. I looked from her to Aaron, bewildered. Then I realized that Aaron wasn’t blinking anymore. Nor was he breathing.

I straightened up. My hand shook as it gripped the gantry. I looked down at Rachel as she reached out and closed his staring eyes. She looked up at me, her face pale.

“Nathaniel Tal,” I said, each word a separate breath, “is going to pay for this.”

“Ms. Chan! Mr. Daud!” Nathaniel’s voice cut across the thin, crisp air.

We flinched, then looked up. The chief of security was standing at the edge of the anchor, holding onto one of the utility boxes, looking down at us. We looked at each other, then back the way we’d come.

“Don’t even think of turning around,” Nathaniel called. “I have a clear shot from here. So, come on up.”

I looked back at Rachel. “Did we have… any sort of plan for when we got to the anchor?”

She gave me an apologetic look. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”

“Come now, Mr. Daud, Ms. Chan,” Nathaniel called. “Don’t keep us waiting.”

I held out my hand to Rachel. “We’d better do as he says. We’ll make the truth come out, somehow. I promise.”

She swallowed, but clasped my hand and pulled herself to her feet. “I know.”

We clambered back to the ladder, slipped inside the cage and, grimly, climbed the remaining rungs to the platform.

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