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.
Why Authors Like to Write About Witches
I’m Sam Poling, author of the dark fantasy novel THE PART THAT DOESN’T BURN. Perhaps suiting the title, my novel features a fire witch on the run from being burned herself by a corrupt church. She was a natural character to work with, and active as they come. There’s something about witches in fantasy that make them a reliable and powerful trope for writers and readers alike.
But what the heck is a witch anyway? What breathes sustaining life into the witch subject is simply that it has no solid definition. Sure, zombies and vampires can change from franchise to franchise, but far too much stays the same. Witches can encompass everything the vampire and the rest of the undead enjoy, along with endless other facets. The writer is free to define them from the ground up, and the reader is allowed to learn everything about the dark enchanters all over again, in each new story.
Ancient knowledge, demonology, sorcery, necromancy: everything is on the table. With some many ingredients, the writer can bring back everything they (and their audience) loves, which keeping it original and fresh. Go ahead and redefine necromancy, redefine fate, forbidden love, the concept of time, and perhaps even hell itself. You can pick-&-choose the best aspects of the tropes, and fill in the holes with your own variations at every step. It’s having your cake and eating it too.
What does stick to the witch, however, is the flavor of darkness, misconception, mystery, and danger. That spooky, forbidden “taste” of witchcraft oozes from the pages. Turns out, those who enjoy dark fantasy love their forbidden darkness. And writers can use that to weave a tale capable of anything.
Personally, I feel the element of danger is witch’s most attractive aspect. They live in fear of discovery. The fear losing friends and family, of being burned at the stake, of losing control of their own mind and soul. Perhaps, fear of the craft itself. Witchcraft in fiction is often a power struggle between the deadliest of contenders, and a struggle with darkness itself. It is risk versus reward. Conflict. It is the stuff plots are made of. After all, the life of a fiction witch can never be an easy one. Always trouble.
A strong witch character is a beast of ambition. They are and ought to be active characters with clear goals, not a passive breed of do-nothings. Too many novice and beginning writers fall into that trap of passiveness, but a properly deployed witch will never allow that to happen. They scream for power, for schemes, for masteries, and for peril. They drag the writer along with them, whether for good, evil, or both. In this, they make us better storytellers, as the best sort of characters always do.
I love books about witches and this one grabbed me from the first page. This author has created a world I want to fall into and never come up for air. How wonderful!
Mirabel is a fiesty character filled with spirit and a brave heart-I am turning the pages fast enough to finish this one in the next day or so.
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