This 8 sentence blog hop is hosted by The Weekend Writing Warriors. (Click the link for the list of participants, or rules if you want to join!)

This is a snippet from my yet-to-be-completed NaNoWriMo story, Black Ink Plague, a fantasy about inkbloods, people who were left at the roots of a magic tree as babies, and can use charcoal from those trees to write and cast spells. Now introducing the main character, the inkblood called Liar.



Liar stood on the roof of a ramshackle two-story building, having clambered across rooftops to gain a perch where she could watch the man she intended to kill today. Cin, the leader of the oddly named gang, Dirt, lacked ambition, but not everyone was content under his rule.

He strutted down the street, sneering at people who scuttled out of his way, faces averted. As they passed a fruit stall, one of the men hoisted up a street child by his shirt, an underfed boy of perhaps seven years. The man shook the child so hard he lolled bonelessly with each motion, a piece of fruit falling free, which the man caught, polished on his filthy tunic, and returned to its place.

The shopkeeper fawned over the group, and Liar wondered if he really thought the punishment fit the crime—multiple bruises for one small misshapen piece of fruit. Cin accepted his accolades with a grin, exposing crooked teeth with several gaps already darkening his smile. In a few years, he’d be past his prime, but he wouldn’t get to have those years.

*    *    *

Black Ink Plague is set in a world similar to ours, with the addition of the Rakau tree, which has magical properties–charcoal or ink from the tree can be used to cast spells. However, only inkbloods, babies who were left overnight at a Rakau tree’s roots on their first full moon, can harvest and use the tree. The price they pay for their magic is that the ink infects them, staining their skin and eventually forming words from the spells they cast on their skin. These words change their lives in unexpected ways.


About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

31 responses »

  1. Love the scene you’ve set here! And Cin seems like a guy anyone would enjoy killing.If you enjoy killing, that is. 🙂

  2. Gemma Parkes says:

    Poor urchin, hopefully Cin will get his comeuppance! Well written snippet.

  3. Terrifying scene. You’ve set it up so well, my skin crawled with the injustice. Exceptional writing.

  4. Liar is definitely an intriguing character. I wonder why she’s after Cin and want to know more about her.
    I love the scene, but I had to read it a couple of times because I wasn’t sure who was doing what. Is the shopkeeper, the owner of the fruit stall the boy stole from, shaking the urchin? Or is it one of Cin’s men and that’s why Cin accepts the accolades? It’s probably just me, but you may want to see if you can make things a little clearer.

    • caitlinstern says:

      Yeah, you’re quite right, thanks. I’ll take a look at the original and see if I can clarify it–sometimes it’s hard when you have several unnamed characters of the same gender.

  5. ralfast says:

    So is she an assassin or an avenger?

  6. Carrie-Anne says:

    That sounds like a difficult, harsh world to live in. Cin’s murder will be well-deserved.

    • caitlinstern says:

      The whole world isn’t like this, of course. But Cin and Liar live in a seedy, poorer sort of neighborhood, with a large homeless population.

      I have a hard time killing fictional people who don’t deserve it–easier to make then cruel, right?

  7. Alexis Duran says:

    I love the opening line- it really grabbed my interest, to say the least. This is a very interesting world and you’re doing a great job of bringing it to life.

  8. What a wonderful scene you’ve set! I like the name fo the main character as well… wonder where he got it from. Great snippet!

  9. Great concept of the tree and the words forming on the skin of those who cast spells with it.

  10. Sarah W says:

    This is just such an amazing concept, caitlin. I love the world and the consequences and everything about it. 🙂

  11. Liar is certainly an intriguing character and I’m totally on board with her plans for Cin, who seems pretty repulsive. Great snippet!

  12. Liza Barrett says:

    I quite enjoyed the scene you’ve built up here. Some quick feedback:

    This sentence threw me off — I think it’s the comma before Dirt that got me, but a tiny bit of rewording the bit about the name of the gang might help:

    “Cin, the leader of the oddly named gang, Dirt, lacked ambition, but not everyone was content under his rule.”

    Also, it almost feels like Cin is the one thinking that he wouldn’t get to have those years, just because of the sentence before it. Throwing in something like a “Liar thought” or something to that effect in the last sentence might add some clarification.

    “Cin accepted his accolades with a grin, exposing crooked teeth with several gaps already darkening his smile. In a few years, he’d be past his prime, but he wouldn’t get to have those years.”

    I REALLY want to know more about Liar and what she’s up to! This sounds like a fun read 🙂

    And I think I might have to get into this Weekend Writing Warriors thing — seeing what people think of a small, isolated piece of a larger work would make for some excellent improvement in how we write our scenes. Thanks for sharing!

    • caitlinstern says:

      I have this burning need to fit a cohesive chunk into my 8 sentence snippets that doesn’t always serve me. For example, that sentence actually reads like this:

      “Cin, the leader of the oddly named gang, Dirt, lacked ambition. Content to rule his small kingdom, a handful of streets full of crammed together homes, shops, and an odoriferous tannery, Cin clearly felt all was right in the world. However, not everyone was so content under his rule.”

      I will absolutely go in and add something to the “past his prime” sentence though, I see how it’s confusing. Thanks!

      Oh, yes, do join us! It’s a great deal of fun, and sometimes you get some really useful big picture feedback, if you’re stuck on something.

      • Liza Barrett says:

        Ahh, that blurb makes much more sense, and it reads quite well 🙂 I understand, though, why you condensed it for this the way you did.

        I have something drafted for next weekend; I actually managed to fairly quickly find a legit 8 sentence passage that’s not too bad out of context, so we’ll see how it goes. Maybe it will actually get me actively writing again!

  13. chellecordero says:

    Terrific world building and I love the premise of the consequences of the spells they cast.

  14. Kate Warren says:

    I for one am not going to miss Cin at all! You’ve set this up nicely. The details are great.

    • caitlinstern says:

      He’s not very lovable, for sure. Cin was just like that kid, beat and starved, before he clawed his way up to the top of his gang. Which doesn’t excuse his behavior, but makes me feel a *tiny* bit sorry for him.

  15. burnsmillie says:

    Caitlin, you have an astonishing imagination that never fails to captivate me!

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