Friday Snippet: HTCB — Meet Cady

Cady in Hunting the Corrigan's Blood

Cady in Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood

I realized that, because of the small printing HUNTING THE CORRIGAN’S BLOOD got when it came out in 1997, and the fact that it sold through its initial printing in about four months and then was never reprinted, even most of the folks who read my other books have not had a chance to read this book.

So even though it’s a reprint, I’m going to treat it like a new release, and give you some snippets from it over the next several weeks. And when I bring it out on the multiple platforms with its new Afterword and the first chapter from WARPAINT included, I’m also going to give my readers a 99¢ intro price. The book won’t stay at that price, but if you’re signed up for my list, you’ll get the release date and the “price good until” date.

Cadence Drake is my personal favorite of all the many, many characters I’ve written, and she deserved better treatment than she originally got. So this time I’m going to do what I can to give her a chance to keep her ship flying.

So, meet Cady as I met her, as she introduced herself to me on the first draft, on the first page I wrote of Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood, which I should have back in print plus Kindle, Nook, and iBooks in early July.

Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood is © Holly Lisle. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The corpse’s left eye squinted at me from mere centimeters away. Decomposition lent her face an increasingly inscrutable expression. The first time I’d regained consciousness, when I found myself tied to her, she looked like she had died in terror. After a while, she started leering at me, as if she had reached the place where I was going and took perverse pleasure from the thought that I would join her there soon. Now, having had her moment of amusement at my expense, she meditated; beneath thousands of dainty auburn braids, her face hung slack, bloated and discolored, the skin loosening. Threads of drool hung spiderwebbish from her gaping mouth. Her eyes, dry and sunken and filmed over beneath swollen lids, still stared directly at me.

For a while, when I’d been hallucinating, the corpse had talked to me. She’d whispered that they would come back and throw me out an airlock, into the hard vacuum of deep space; that my vile mother was stalking me; that I could never run hard enough or far enough to find freedom–that death would be my only freedom. But my mind was clear now. No hallucinations. No talking corpses. Just me and horrible pain and aching, tantalizing thirst and a stench that even several days of acclimatization couldn’t minimize; the stink of decomposition, of piss and shit, of the gangrene that I suspected was starting in on my right leg. Me … and all of that … and the body of the young woman who had waited on me during my business dinner with Peter Crane in the members-only club Ferlingetta.

I think it’s important not to overlook her. She and I, after all, were sisters of a sort. Kindred spirits. She was dead, and I was almost. We were bound together by our plight, and by flexible moleibond-braid wrist restraints that had been spot-grafted to our skin. And I figured we were where we were because we had something more than that in common. I didn’t know what, but something.

I guessed that I had been without water for almost three days. I could see the shifting of the station’s light cycles through the slats in the narrow metal door against which my rotting companion and I leaned. I recalled two separate spans of darkness and two of light. Two days that I knew of, plus whatever time I’d spent unconscious, and that felt like a lot. The gag in my mouth–permeable to air moving in but not to air moving out, so that I wouldn’t suffocate as long as I could exhale through my nose–didn’t prevent my tongue from turning into an enormous ball of hot sand. The worst thing was that my thirst didn’t distract me at all from my pain.

I hurt–but such plain words cannot convey the depth of my agony. Fire stabbed through my right side, a fire that burned hotter and more horribly with every breath I took. I’ve had broken ribs before, and I had them again. Whoever did this to me had fractured most of the bones in my right ribcage. My right hand throbbed, and when I tried to move it, the fingers didn’t respond. Perhaps my attackers jumped on it until they felt the bones give way and grind themselves into pulp. If that wasn’t what they did, it was what it felt like they had done. A million needles buried themselves deep in my thighs; my lower legs throbbed as if they had swollen beyond the capacity of the flesh to stay together and as if they would now burst. My left leg was bent so that my knee jammed into the metal wall behind the corpse, while my broken right leg twisted backward at an angle so acute the shards of my lower femur poked forward from above where my kneecap should have been like fingers trying to claw their way out my swollen, tattered flesh.

I wondered if Badger would ever find me. I didn’t think he would find me alive. Not anymore. But I didn’t want him never to know what had happened to me.

I beat my head against the metal door jammed up against my right side, and listened to the booming echoes thundering away into a cavernous, uncaring silence beyond. The first time I came around, I’d pounded myself into a stupor trying to get free or to get someone’s attention. But whoever had grabbed me had made sure I wasn’t getting out on my own … and equally sure that no one would wander along and rescue me.

My attempts at screams for help came out as throaty little whimpers, my thunderous head-banging left nothing but unbroken silence in its wake, and finally, with my head throbbing and flashing lights whirling behind my eyelids, I gave in and let darkness descend.

Giggling woke me.

The corpse was staring at me, but now she was awake, too. The warmth of our tiny cell hadn’t done her any good.
“You’re dead,” she told me. “Just like me. Now that we’re both dead, they’re going to come back and break your bones and suck out your marrow. They’re going to eat your body, and drink your blood, and beat drums with your bones.”

Delightful. It was so nice to have company.

“Nobody’s going to rescue you,” she told me, and her grin grew wider. “It’s too late for that. You and I will never tell our secrets.”

I knew all about my secrets; I hadn’t planned on telling them anyway. But I did wonder what hers were. I tried to ask her–subvocalized around the gag, but she just laughed at me.

“That’s why we’re here. We had such juicy secrets.”

I hated being dead. I hadn’t wanted to die, and I really hadn’t wanted to die at twenty-eight, beaten, shoved into a locker with a snide corpse, and deprived of the chance to make twenty million rucets.

That money would have let me pay off the loan on my ship, a refitted single-crew fantail corsair with a full-sized cargo hold and berths for twelve, a ship I’d named Hope’s Reward.

And all I’d had to do for the money was find a missing yacht, Corrigan’s Blood, that had belonged to Peter Crane, the owner of Monoceros Starcraft, Ltd., and bring it back.

The corpse flashed a wide smile; it kept growing wider as her face started to rip. The bones bulged out, and her jaws came at me, teeth gnashing. I heard them whirring and clicking and thumping … clicking … thumping … whirring …

I beat my head against the door again. Pounded it hard, trying with all my strength to break free from the hungry, grinning corpse, fighting with everything in me …

image_pdfDownload as PDFimage_printPrint Page

About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

26 comments… add one
  • Courtney Boland Sep 10, 2012 @ 14:17

    I remember buying this when it first came out. I loved how stark and different it was, I loved Cady’s universe. This book has haunted me for years, and it was driving me crazy that I couldn’t re-read it. (Moved twice in that time, and not all books could come to the new place.) Then I found your website, and the Kindle edition.

    Happy, happy camper, right here. I’m looking forward to WARPAINT very much!

  • Tim King May 11, 2012 @ 7:12

    Catching up on email… This is one of my favorite intros. And HTCB is also in my list of favorites, though Talyn is still my top all-time Holly-Lisle favorite— so far. When I read HTCB, however, it upset me that the story ended and there wasn’t a sequel. That sucked. Glad that situation is being remedied. 🙂

    -TimK

  • Louise Sorensen May 6, 2012 @ 10:51

    I can hardly wait to read the rest of the book.
    Be sure to let us know when it’s available.
    Thankyou!

  • Mike May 6, 2012 @ 9:27

    Wow, what a great opening, Deliciously gory.
    I think I’ll wait a bit before I go have lunch, though.

    • Holly May 7, 2012 @ 7:29

      😀 There are times when when being an ex-RN, and having spent the majority of that career working ER, comes in damn handy.

  • Claudsy May 5, 2012 @ 18:22

    Oh,yeah, definitely gonna hafta get this on Kindle. Go, Holly, That was an opening like no other.

  • R.C. Mann May 5, 2012 @ 17:47

    You just made a sale. Hot… umn…. yeah. I knew you had a somewhat ruthless imagination, but that is BEAUTIFUL!

    • Holly May 7, 2012 @ 7:31

      Thank you. And you’re right. I have no ruth.

  • PG May 5, 2012 @ 16:40

    Oh Yeah!

    I *need* to read the rest of this …

  • Sheila May 4, 2012 @ 15:06

    Show don’t tell. Holly you have just demonstrated how to grab a reader and keep them reading right to the last page.

    • Kassandra May 4, 2012 @ 19:53

      Amazing! I can’t wait until I can download it onto my kindle!!

  • MegC May 4, 2012 @ 12:50

    When I picked up HTCB a month or so ago, the opening scene hooked me instantly. I started reading right there in the bookstore while I waited for DH to finish browsing. That, and a random sample from the middle that mentioned the origami drive & a little of its premise. Fabulous. I am so looking forward to reading more of Cady’s adventures.

    • Holly May 7, 2012 @ 7:30

      Where in the world did you find it? I think the publisher only printed about 10,000 copies (I’ll have to check my royalty statements on that title to be sure), and those sold out in the first four months the book was out. And it was never reprinted.

  • April Leigh May 4, 2012 @ 12:26

    This by far the -barnone, hands down- BEST book opening EVER!!!!!

    I am so buying this book when it is reprinted! Please let me know when it will be available. Please??? ;-D

  • Lynn Light May 4, 2012 @ 10:26

    Awesome opening. Very gripping indeed. Can’t wait to read the rest.

    My characters used to come to me that way too. I had a space epic at one point that spanned at least 4 novels and I ended up deleting it all because a few test readers said it was too graphic and that it would never sell. Upon reflection, I probably should not have deleted them. While the novels are long gone, the characters still run around in my mind, trying to coerce me to re-write it all. Your delicious descriptions here tempt me to try it.

  • Lauren May 4, 2012 @ 10:24

    I’ve never read any of your work, Holly; I see I am going to have to make up for that error. Can’t wait for the next snippet and I’m definite going to buy the Kindle version. I have more ideas for stories than I could write in a lifetime; your step-by-step method is exactly what I was looking for. That and your down-to-earth style. Thanks

  • Stephen Douglas Lewis May 4, 2012 @ 9:50

    Awesome, Holly. Loved this book and will buy it the day that it comes out. Can’t wait.

  • Dennis O'Neil May 4, 2012 @ 9:04

    I’d forgotten about this book until I started to read the snippet, now can’t wait to re-read it. Get it on Kindle/Nook SOON!!! (please?) Thank you 🙂

  • Texanne May 4, 2012 @ 8:34

    Like Elizabeth, I find this to be the most irresistible opening of any book I’ve ever encountered. I’ll always miss Badger, but I look forward eagerly to following Cady’s further adventures. :)TX

  • Benjamin May 4, 2012 @ 8:07

    Thanks for that. Now I have to ignore all my plans and dig through my boxes of books to hunt my copy of Corrigan’s Blood. So, if you release it on Kindle sooner, that would be cool.

    A great beginning to a book and I hope I can write a beginning that good for a story some day. Can’t wait to read this book and the next one.

  • Deb Gallardo May 4, 2012 @ 7:46

    Your descriptions evoked visceral reactions in me. I think I want her to be rescued as much as she does. I certainly don’t want to have to keep reading about this “uncomfortable” environment. (I’m a wimp, okay?) The whole scene is vivid and believable and almost made me nauseous from the odors.

    A couple of questions:

    1. When a character is introduced and in such extreme circumstances, how much personality should come through their narrative, especially in the first person? Other than Cady saying, “Delightful. It was so nice to have company,” she was straight forward in describing her physical condition and environment.

    And yet, the stench and her agony come through loud and clear. I’ve tried deconstructing what you did, but I haven’t been successful at figuring out how you managed it. If I were to read it aloud, as an actor I couldn’t possibly deliver those lines dispassionately. Horror, disbelief, groaning and moaning would come out of my mouth spontaneously.

    2. Two paragraphs near the end we get a sudden list of four names following the description of her ship (I have no idea what a corsair is, but that’s okay, as I probably don’t need to). Since I have a reunion mystery with a “cast of thousands” that I’m trying to introduce so as not to overwhelm my reader, how does one handle this?

    What’s the best way to introduce people and ships (and pets, dragons, horses, businesses, space stations, towns, countries, planets, etc.) all of which have names and which need to be referenced more than once? (Otherwise why name them?) And what’s the rule of thumb for naming non-people? How much is too much? At what point do we just say “his cat,” “their wombats,” etc. to keep from clogging our readers’ brains? (Readers of SF and Fantasy are more used to dealing with this than those of other genres, IMHO.)

    The four names in those two paragraphs weren’t overwhelming, but I’m sure I’d have to flip back if they were mentioned again out of context.

    Hope’s Reward
    Corrigan’s Blood
    Peter Crane
    Monoceros Starcraft, Ltd.

    You also previously mentioned the name of the club, Ferlingetta, and someone named Badger.

    Peter was mentioned earlier, so this mention is reinforcement. “Corrigan’s Blood” is the book’s title, so that’s not new.

    I wondered at first why you didn’t name the corpse, but eventually reasoned that naming her would make her more human, which a decaying corpse is NOT.

    When I dug in to analyze this excerpt, I really was struck by your authorial brilliance. Had I just been reading for enjoyment, I would have missed it, but I think that’s okay. We don’t want to see and hear the author. We want to see and hear the character.

    Nicely done! You truly know what you’re doing.

    • Holly Lisle May 8, 2012 @ 11:39

      1. When a character is introduced and in such extreme circumstances, how much personality should come through their narrative, especially in the first person? Other than Cady saying, “Delightful. It was so nice to have company,” she was straight forward in describing her physical condition and environment.

      And yet, the stench and her agony come through loud and clear. I’ve tried deconstructing what you did, but I haven’t been successful at figuring out how you managed it.

      In this case, that IS character development. Cady is a bit of a smartass, and in emergencies is capable of stepping outside her situation far enough to look at it dispassionately (which is what you have to do in an emergency if you hope to live through it).

      Her voice carefully detailing the horror of her situation in a dispassionate voice is her dealing with the emergency in survival mode.

      2. Two paragraphs near the end we get a sudden list of four names following the description of her ship (I have no idea what a corsair is, but that’s okay, as I probably don’t need to). Since I have a reunion mystery with a “cast of thousands” that I’m trying to introduce so as not to overwhelm my reader, how does one handle this?

      My rule of thumb: Excluding minor exceptions where I do “verisimilitude by specific detail,” if the character or the item is not critical to the plot, he, she, or it does not get a name. Everything named in the few paragraphs above forms the core around which the entire novel revolves. Including the restaurant.

  • Elizabeth May 4, 2012 @ 7:21

    This wasn’t my first Holly Lisle book, but this definitely my very favorite opening scene of *any* book I’ve read. It’s a great attention-getter for sure! 🙂

  • Stephen B. Bagley May 4, 2012 @ 7:09

    Wow! What happens next? WHAT?

    • Holly May 7, 2012 @ 7:31

      Lots of things. 😀

  • JAPartridge May 4, 2012 @ 6:37

    This was the first Holly Lisle book I ever read and I remember really enjoying it. I had heard your name, probably from one of your articles and found this book in the library. I’m glad I’ll finally be able to own a copy and look forward to more of Cady’s adventures!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.