My SF novel Water to Water is due out on October 17th, so it's high time I posted an excerpt.
Well, more than one, really. First, you'll need this bit from the Preface to understand the excerpts proper.
Nitpicky note (for all the excerpts): the formatting here is not identical to either the ebook's or the paperback's.
When a Vushlu reaches the age of adulthood, its family, or if it has none, respected community members, take it to the ocean. Traditionally, it will never have been there before, unless its family catches sea creatures for a living. Often many families will travel together, a pilgrimage of celebration.
On its last day of life, a Vushlu swims out to sea, or if too weak to swim, wades in and lets the waves carry it. The ocean swallows its front legs, its rear legs, its back, its torso, its arms, its shoulders, and finally its head. Immersion in the water softens its living armor, its exoskeleton, until the plates sheet off and wash away, followed by the soft flesh within.
No Vushlu has ever returned to its home with this process incomplete. But Vushla splashed with seawater report no pain.
Now for the first Actual Excerpt, a short one. This comes early in Chapter 1, and introduces us to Honnu, one of two major Vushla characters.
Honnu squatted by the campfire, all four legs comfortably sunk in the sand, his lower armor sealed tight to keep sand out, and watched the procession approach the sea. It was a small group, with only one young Vushlu among the older ones. A funeral, then. The young one must be the son or daughter of the Vushlu, aging or ailing, whose funeral it was.
Honnu turned away before the group reached the edge of the water. He knew, of course, what would happen, but he had no wish to watch. After all, he lived with the ocean, lived from it, rode out every day to toss the nets and haul them back. He and his family depended on the ocean. But he often thought he must feel like a farmer with a very, very large and powerful bull. Such a useful animal — it sired strong beasts like itself, and it pulled plows through earth too sticky for pull-cycles. But it could, any time it chose to, trample the farmer into jelly. The farmer could hope that the bull would never turn on its master. Honnu lived with the certain knowledge that one day, the ocean would reveal itself as the largest possible beast, and devour him whole.
No, he had no need to watch it happen to others, not when he would be paddling the boat out again tomorrow morning.
Here's one more excerpt, a longer one. It starts shortly after the first, and switches partway through from Honnu's POV to that of Kititit, a visiting peddler. (Kititit is a Weesah, not a Vushlu. The two species' anatomy differ substantially, a fact to which Honnu makes a passing reference.)
The last taste of dinner was fading from Honnu’s mouth. Even food was different when the peddler came. This very night, around this same fire, they had roasted and eaten plump sausages spitting with juice, made from some crawling creature that pushed through underbrush and rooted in the earth of far-off forests.
Honnu stretched his arms and upper body to soak in the warmth of the fire, welcome as the end of hot season brought cooler night breezes. Which of the peddler’s tales might actually be true? Honnu had never traveled farther than the nearest market town — far enough away from the shore that the sea could not be seen, but not too far for its smell to carry, competing with the smell of the fish he sold and the pastries and spices and flowers in the stalls all around him. Were there really trees so tall that a Vushlu would have to rear back on its hind legs and lean against something sturdy in order to see the tops? Did mountains soar even higher? Did rivers of water pour out of those mountains? Did the mountains rise above the air itself, so that the air strained and grew thin, and one could look down and see the thicker air below? Did fountains of fire leap up from hidden places to consume travelers? Did birds, glowing as bright as any fire, swarm over the fields in springtime, keeping farmers from sowing seed until the birds had flown away? Did a species of giants, giants who never came near the ocean, giants with two legs and two arms like the Weesah but each limb twice as thick as a Weesah’s trunk, raise beasts for farmers, never leaving their ranches, requiring farmers to come to them? Were there places where the sky was always red, and others where the sky was always black?
Honnu’s family must know the answers to those questions, or to some of them, but his aunt never wanted to talk about it, and his grandfather changed his story from one time to the next, and his mother said none of it was true. Honnu refused to believe that.
Unless he found a way to go see for himself, he would never know.
Now he heard sounds of movement and conversation, and tires pushing through sand. The procession must be leaving, with one of its members gone forever into the sea. They would probably not go very far in the dark. There was an inn serving such travelers in the market town. But by morning, they would be on their way back to wherever they came from. To one of the many, many places Honnu had never seen.
* * * * *
Kititit looked at different Vushla in turn as he told the story about buying a beast from a giant and tricking the fellow into lowering the price. The Vushla’s armor mostly left their faces bare, so you could see them drink the story in, especially the young ones. All right, maybe his mate’s uncle’s cousin wasn’t exactly a giant, but he was big enough that none of his neighbors gave him any backtalk. Kititit had come out of that exchange well enough to enjoy bragging about it, even if he did embellish the details a bit for effect.
It was a fine way to spend an evening. It would have been, even if the breeze hadn’t been a trifle nippy. He’d always liked campfires, but he particularly enjoyed them in villages like this. Vushlu armor wasn’t exactly reflective, but almost, enough to catch the firelight and play with it a bit. And while he always liked the smell of a campfire, it mingled especially nicely with the unique tangy smell of the sea. As for the traces of fish odor, he didn’t mind them. He did wonder, looking around at the Vushla, how much of it all they could smell with those small holes in their faces. His big mesh-covered nostrils had to do a better job, unless they somehow didn’t.
He caught the fisher lad’s eye for just a moment before the lad looked away. A bit shy, that one, but with thirsty ears, always soaking in whatever story Kititit chose to tell. Kititit’s oldest son had been like that, when he was a good bit younger. And when the boy and his sister had come with Kititit on his journeys, there had been plenty of time for telling tales.
Naturally the boy, or rather the proud young father, had started staying home now that he had a mate and little ones. And Kititit’s daughter, once proud to be included, had lately been more like willing. A good-hearted lass, ready to help her father in case he was too old and feeble to handle things alone; but it was time for her to live in the center of her own life, and Kititit to go back to how he used to travel, enjoying his own and the beast’s company.
Still, it was nice to have a youngster or two around the campfire.
Well, what do you think? Want more? The ebook, and possibly the paperback, will be available for preorder on Amazon if their website starts cooperating just a little better. Stay tuned!