WIPpet Wednesday: Introducing “The Phoenix Feather”

Lately, when it comes to writing, I’ve felt like I’ve been running in place. I’m a big believer in just writing, moving forward with a story and saving revisions for the second draft, but my current WIP just hasn’t worked out that way. I was stalled for a while, writing and rewriting the first chapter and a half until I figured out the problem: I’d started too late in the action—the opposite of the problem I often have, starting too early. Now I’ve gone back in time a few hours and the story is—finally!—progressing. So here’s an excerpt from my new WIP, “The Phoenix Feather.”

This is another installment in WIPpet Wednesday. The brain child of K.L. Schwengel, WIPpet Wednesdays offer writers a chance to share excerpts from their works in progress, with only one stipulation: the post must relate in some way to the date. Click here to see other writers’ WIPpets.

Today’s math: 2+4+2+0+1+5=14. Here are 14 paragraphs from “The Phoenix Feather.” Some background: Katrina St. George is house-sitting for her eccentric millionaire boss, Sir Henry, when his two dogs start behaving strangely. She goes to investigate.

They reached the library doors and paused, glancing back at her and barking. Luther clawed at the bottom of the door, as if driven by some desperate need to open it. She wished she had a baseball bat or a can of pepper spray, but aside from one of the many swords and daggers and one ancient-looking battle axe, she couldn’t think of anything that Sir Henry owned that would be of use.

She put her hand on the doorknob and sucked in a deep breath, steeling herself. It was probably nothing, just the storm. She’d show the dogs the room was empty, let them sniff around, and then go back to the world of hobbits and dwarves and trolls for the night. No harm done.

She twisted the doorknob and opened the door, flipping on the light as she entered, the same way she’d done a thousand times.

A man stood before her, a tiny red and gold object clutched in his hand. He seemed as frightened to see her as she was to see him.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, surprised by the force of her words.

She realized then what he held in his hand—the phoenix feather. She cursed Sir Henry’s antiquated beliefs. Why couldn’t the man have an alarm system?

“The window was open,” the man said, faltering.

She raised an eyebrow. “Well why don’t you just pour yourself a cup of tea, fire up a movie in the media room, and make yourself at home?”

“I’m sorry.” He raked one hand through his wet hair. His gray shirt, partially unbuttoned to reveal a white t-shirt underneath, was dotted with rainwater. His shoe squeaked as he pressed it into the floor. “You don’t understand. This feather. It’s important. More than you could ever possibly know.”

“You have sixty seconds to explain yourself before I call the cops. And that’s being generous.”

“I’m really sorry.”

“You’re apologizing for breaking in?”

“No, not for that. Well, yes, for that, but mostly for this.” He held out his free hand. “Debilitat.”

She opened her mouth to ask him what the hell he was talking about, but her lips felt as though they were frozen shut. She tried to move, but her feet seemed frozen to the floor. What had he done to her?

Lastly, a midweek ROW80 check-in…

(A Round of Words in 80 Days, founded by Kait Nolan, is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.)

Writing goals

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Wrote 3,182 words in “The Phoenix Feather.”

2.) Read four books on the craft/business of writing. 2/4. Continued reading “Beginnings, Middles, and Ends” by Nancy Kress.

Social media goals

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. On track to meet this goal.

2.) Blog twice a week. On track to meet this goal.

3.) Comment on three-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. On track to meet this goal.

Life goals

1.) Do yoga or tai chi or meditate three times per week. 0/3.

2.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. On track to meet this goal.

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15 thoughts on “WIPpet Wednesday: Introducing “The Phoenix Feather”

    • Yeah, she sure does. This story is my first attempt at using Latin-inspired spells–usually my characters use more incantations than single-word spells. But I’m branching out and trying something new. Glad to hear that you liked it. Thanks for commenting!

    • Glad you liked it, Abigail. I’m trying something new with the Latin-inspired spells/incantations. Usually I’ll have my character say a quick rhyme, but I wanted something different for this story. It just fits better.

      Thanks!

  1. Well, at least he’s apologetic about burgling the house she’s looking after… Though I imagine that’s cold comfort for her now. I love Katrina’s snark though, and that last line…! I’m hooked already.

  2. I’m with you on the “write it and fix it later” thing. And agree with you that there are exceptions to it too. I just started a novel Wednesday and today (Thursday) I went back and reread everything and edited as I went along. I want to blame the fact I spent the last month editing, but the truth was, like you, I needed to go back and fix things to get proper traction and a good start. Maybe by Monday I’ll be back to “just write it!”

    Hope it keeps going well in the future now that you’ve got the right start! Keep up the great work on your goals.

    • Gloria, I see the first chapter or two as foundational. They don’t have to be perfect, but they should at least be close to the starting point you want for the story. I’ve had two stories lately where I started too late in the action (as opposed to too early, which is what normally happens). Going back in time and grounding the reader–and myself–in the character’s world has helped a lot. With every work I write, I learn something new about the process, and I’ve learned that there are some things I need to fix right away if I want a cohesive first draft.

      Thanks!

  3. I want a phoenix feather (but not if I have to steal it). And how come the dogs don’t do anything after the door opens?

    Hmmn….

    I love the concept, but I think she should have grabbed that battle axe – or maybe that would have just made things worse…

    You do seem to be moving along nicely. =)

  4. Could the dogs have a spell placed on them? Great beginning – I want to read more!
    I tend to write a chapter and then type it up, when I also edit as well. I have always done this. Once I am finished the whole novel (hopefully next week) I will then have to really revise and expand. All the best for this new novel.

  5. You know I was snacking on popcorn as I read this and it was like watching a really good movie (but clearly reading a really good snippet). It is really an absorbing read. Great work!! 🙂

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