Posted by: Trisha Leigh | February 2, 2011

Here’s Your Chance: Tell Me What To Do

I need to start a new project, and I just can’t decide which one I want to work on. One is a complete first draft that needs to be rewritten structurally, in addition to other issues. The other is a work-in-progress (WIP) currently around 18K. I’m posting the first 500 words of each below, then please, PLEASE vote in the comments. I’m having an attack of indecision. Thanks, readers!

Option #1 (Heartstrings)

Delphi, Greece, c.39 C.E.

For the love of Apollo, she hated being handed a love prophecy. If given a choice, which she wasn’t, Lydia preferred to deliver news of disease, death, and destruction. Those topics pleased her. Luckily, visions featuring mayhem and madness were far more prevalent given the current state of the Roman Empire.

Today had barely begun and yet bitter frustration had arrived and stood in front of her encased in a pretty, spoiled, and petulant eleven-year-old girl. Lydia resisted the urge to roll her eyes. It had been strongly suggested to her on several occasions that eye rolling was not acceptable behavior from an oracle. Especially not from the Oracle at Delphi, the oracle. She thought, for the millionth time, of something she would rather be doing than sitting here, chatting with…what was the girl’s name again?

Oh yes, Berenice.

Listening to philosophy. Traveling to the northern borders of the Empire. Licking the boots of Roman soldiers. Anything.

She sighed. Freedom had never been and would never be an option for her, though the military had, on more than one occasion, subjected her to indignity and harassment. Soldiers were idiots.

Lydia reconsidered.

All men were idiots. It was not advisable to humiliate or force a woman to lick dirty boots who had supernatural power and influence over your destiny.

She hated this life of drinking the water and inhaling gasses to bring on her strange visions and spout out subsequent prophesies to Apollo’s visitors. Like little Berenice here, whose family stopped at Delphi on their way home from Rome. At one time the Temple and the oracle who resided within it were an essential part of the world. Now she was more of a sideshow, an interesting stop on the path to more serious destinations. The deluge of faithful who’d once trekked up Mount Parnassus had slowed to a trickle, the once thriving city all but abandoned. Only a lone priest, two priestesses, and a handful of merchants remained. Lydia was the Pythia, the oracle. She had no choice but to remain as well.

She must have been silent for too long, for the girl stuck out her lower lip and glared. Lydia forced the serene smile of otherworldly knowledge, which snuck onto her face easily after years of practice and habit. “Hold out your hands, little girl.”

The lip went out farther at Lydia’s condescending tone. “I’m not a little girl. I’m almost twelve.”

Lydia waited patiently, knowing Berenice’s curiosity would eventually get the better of her. After a few moments of pouting she swiped a shiny brown curl out of her eyes and held out her hands.

“Now close your eyes and be still. I need to think.”

The girl froze and Lydia followed suit. This one vexed her. Her distant future lay shrouded in a haze, as though undetermined. For the next twenty years or so, she saw vague visions of heartbreak and strife.  Berenice would endure one holy nightmare after another. Perhaps afterward she would be dead.

Lydia hoped she would be.

Option #2 (Inclination)

I knew from a young age that I should never have been born.

A piece of knowledge like that pretty much changes the way a person thinks about everything else. Even the hard parts of life don’t seem so bad, and even if I did want to complain about them my mother gave me a look; one that said, Fitz, just about anything’s better than being dead.

My mother sure had that look down pat.

Not that I spent much time being ungrateful for what she’d done. When she hid from the Elimination staff the day they’d come to clean me out of her womb, Mom threw her life away. Tossed out the possibility of having more children, of a normal life.

Abandoned my father.

I looked down into her small, hand dug grave, the toe of my worn tennis shoe nudging small crumbles of dirt on top of her rigid body. A smattering of Outsiders slouched behind me. I rubbed my filthy hands together and more pieces of earth balled up between my palms and dropped into the hole. I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Fitz, we gotta close this up and move on. Too many of us out here in the open.”

I turned and met his unseeing eyes, the elderly man I’d known my entire seventeen years. Rolf. For the first time since it happened, tears sprung to my eyes. My emotions reacted immediately to the familiar weight of his hand and the genuine sorrow in his milky, light blue eyes. I blinked them back and swiped a threadbare, soiled sleeve across my face, pretending to wipe away sweat.

The temperature climbed above ninety degrees, another reason we needed to cover Mom up quick and get back underground. The Searchers would be out in full force on a day like today, running down Outsiders who didn’t have proper shelter.

Heavy silence hung over the drab, empty landscape. Rotted tree trunks and small weeds dotted the barren countryside, evidence of the society that had been. When people loved nature, when beings were left alone to come into existence and develop on their own without interference from science and engineering.

Not so much time had passed; the fortieth anniversary of the Shift will be celebrated next month, in September. A hundred, or two hundred years might have gone by. For a kid like me, who never knew any other world, when exactly things changed mattered little.

I’ve heard the Preferred kids don’t know anything of the way it was before. I bet it doesn’t matter to them, either.

My mind wandered as I shoveled the dry, caked earth until my mother’s form disappeared. In no time at all the soil rested more or less back where it came from. I gathered my courage and turned around to face the other Outsiders. Not my friends. Not family. Not even people who would stick their neck out for me.

They were simply people who, like me, would be killed instantly if they set foot inside any of the four Perimeters.

That’s it. Don’t forget to tell me which you think I should work on first!

What I’m watching right this second: Stick It. I already cried over Juno tonight, so I deserve a little lighthearted fun. Don’t judge.





  1. Both are excellent entries, Leigh. Lydia has tons of personality, you capture the setting well and I’m eager to see what happens next, while Fitz lives in what is clearly a 1984/Brave New World dystopia, which is one of my favorite settings of all time. What a hard choice!

    I’m going to say rewrite Lydia’s draft.

    It’s too easy to be lured onto the next project, and the next, and leave behind you a trail of half finished manuscripts. Much better, if you can muster the discipline, to hammer out a finished novel before giving your heart to another. (Btw, I’m being a hypocrite here, given that I’m trying to write 12 first drafts this year. But, you know, not all of us are perfect.)

    • Thank you, that’s an excellent point. I hope YOU take your own advice!

  2. Gah! I like them both!

    Hmm. If I had to choose which one I’d pick up to read first, though, it would be the first one. Lydia’s voice appeals to my inner snark. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated with the Oracle at Delphi. 🙂

    • Lydia is maybe the most awesomely snarky character I’ve ever written…even though she’s the villain and not the MC. Did I forget to mention that?

  3. I love them both and you already know my vote but I want my vote to go on record. 😉


    • Thanks for going on record. I always worry you won’t speak your mind 😉

  4. My vote is for Inclination. I’m already drawn into the story. 🙂

    • Thanks, Kristina. I’m glad Fitz and his world are enticing. 🙂

  5. wow, as I read the first one, I thought – “She can’t top this.” But you did.

    I say, go with Inclination. Heartstring is just great, so you can’t go wrong with either of them. But Inclination really sucked me in in just a few hundred words.

    good luck, Trisha!

    • Such kind words, Patty. Thank you and I am so glad they both appealed to you – they are very different stories.

  6. Heartstrings

  7. I say Inclination.

    • Is that just because you’ve already read Heartstings??

  8. This is a difficult choice, as both present with immediate intrigue. I’m gonna say Lydia by a nose, just because I think there’s some heat in the world of historical fiction these days. But, really, I wouldn’t fret a bit if you end up doing Fitz. Both are really good.

    • I never fret, BC. It’s too girly and weak. 😉

      Thank you for the kind words. They are very different stories and I love them both. That said, Heartstrings is part of my soul. I’m going to work on it, but it may end up being one of those years and years to get it exactly right because it must be exactly right to satisfy me.

  9. The second has the better opening line, but clearly any novel that opens in ancient Greece must be cool.

    • CLEARLY.

      Thanks for the vote, Gary. Nice to have you back online. 🙂

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