Hi, my name is Sam Poling, an author of dark fantasy. For most writers, the writing process involves a multitude of cuts: removal ideas, characters, and scenes. They can be sentences, paragraphs, or entire chapters. The reasons for such exclusions are numerous, but ultimately boil down to the scene simply not being able to justify its existence. Most of the deleted scenes in my dark fantasy novel THE PART THAT DOESN’T BURN are conversations between my primary characters. I would write just to get the “juices flowing,” often starting with random character interactions. Here is one such exchange between the protagonist Mirabel and the deuteragonist Felix (Mirabel’s “Watson”). Please keep in mind it was never revised, so it is gloriously raw. Also keep in mind it was deleted for a reason, though I still find even their deleted interactions to be fun to read.
“Achoo!” Mirabel stole a handkerchief from an end table.
Felix stirred under his blanket. “Mirabel? You’re still up?”
“I told you, Felix,” she said from her under her napkin. “I cannot sleep in this steel coffin.”
Felix’s feathery hair ascended from his cushion and lapsed into its usual curls above his shoulders. He scooted out from his blankets and felt around the end table for his spectacles. “I believe you’re becoming ill.”
Felix settled his glasses on his nose, his bright hazel eyes peering at her past the lenses. His gaze could be almost as haunting as a geist. “Mirabel, growing up cloistered doesn’t provide many opportunities to build immunities. You must have caught a communicable disease from someone onboard.”
“Impossible, I tell you.” Mirabel closed her eyes and in a flash her runny nose was cleaned. “My favorite spell cleans me entirely. What hope would a pathogen have?”
“Perhaps it doesn’t clean your sinuses as well as you think it does. Even witches can get sick. Any facial pain or pressure?”
Mirabel’s mouth drooped. “Yes.”
“Ah-hah, and there’s the crick. I may be able to mix something up.”
“I did not hire you to be my personal physician.”
He rubbed his forehead. “How am I to know that? You still haven’t told me why we’re heading for Autumnfall.”
“You know why. I require your alchemy, and that is that.”
“No, that isn’t that. What if it’s something I cannot accomplish? What if I need more preparation? I must have more details.”
“To be honest, I did not expect to be denied. I did smuggle you out of Haugen, after all. Would you rather take your chances with the church? Think they will have mercy on a heretic?”
“You’re good at avoiding clerics, Mirabel, but you’re even better at avoiding questions. I deeply appreciate what you’ve done for me, but the other alchemists are being hunted down like criminals. I could be helping them; I can’t hide with you and do witchcraft all day.”
Mirabel glared as if to burn a hole through him. “A Fairfax does not need some male fool helping her with her craft. Watch your tongue.”
“If I’m such a useless fool then what good am I to you?”
“I want a repeat of your only accomplishment, of course. My city is on the verge of an epidemic. You must help to develop another vaccine, no matter Tordin’s church feels about it. I vetted all the top alchemists, and you were my choice. Consider it a compliment.”
“That level of science is a team-effort. Have you recruited others?”
“Some, yes. Please, Felix, thousands of lives depend on it. You will try, for me, will you not?”
Felix grumbled like something was caught in his throat. “I guess, but it can take years to find a cure or vaccine, and that’s with the right team and equipment. Do you even know what an autoclave is? A microscope?”
“You will have your equipment, time, and help. I will explain more once we are safe in Autumnfall." Mirabel felt the chill of Goosebumps on her skin. “Have you seen any spirits recently?”
“When? Now, on the train?” he asked.
“No,” said Felix. “And the stewards directed us to keep the blinds shut.”
Mirabel sighed and opened them. Blue light streamed in. There was no wicked face plastered against the glass, but rather a sea of geists lining the track outside. They made no movements, preferring to stand like army at attention. Each expression was different, but all were strained, as if suffering. Mirabel pulled down the blinds.
Felix adjusted his glasses. “What’s wrong, a geist?!”
“I declare: danger seems to be drawn to you.”
Felix hopped from his cot. The attire was barley public acceptable. He sported a wrinkled white shirt and stone gray vest. His trousers were flayed and torn at the bottom.
Felix lifted the blinds, and then took a step back. “Whoa. No, that is not my fault.”
“Something is drawing them to this train,” Mirabel turned to him and smirked. “Perhaps they want the reward for your capture.”
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.”
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