Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Excerpt: The Wrong Enemy

I'm honored to be closing out a month of excerpts here at MIU's blog. This is for The Wrong Enemy, to be released this coming September.

Back when I was 19, I started creating the book that would become my first published novel. I loved that book and its main characters, and I did my best by them, but let's face it -- when you're 19 or 20, you don't really have the same mastery of the craft you will at 40. Or life. So when I got back the rights to The Guardian from Thomas Nelson Press, I took a look at it and thought, Surely I can do better now.

I rewrote the whole book. I'm not sure three sentences are the same between the two versions, but we have the same characters who broke my heart the first time, the same plot, but written better. And 100% head-hopping free. So answer me this: different title, different author name, different cover, and all different text -- is it really the same book?

Like my previous book with MuseItUp, The Boys Upstairs, we've got a main character and a very close friend, allied against their will to protect children who need them. There the similarities end. 

Meet Tabris: a guardian angel who killed the boy he vowed to protect. And a whole lot of angels who cannot understand why he did it, or why God didn't throw Tabris into Hell.  Tabris has been reassigned as the second guardian over a child named Elizabeth, and her primary guardian (Rachmiel) is frightened because he doesn't trust Tabris not to kill her too.  Tabris doesn't trust himself, either. He's locked down his emotions, and even after weeks with this new family, he won't open up to them. He will barely open his feelings to himself.

I chose this section because it showcases the dynamic between Tabris and Rachmiel. After a fight, Rachmiel has stressed that he wants to work with Tabris as a team, and Tabris is still bewildered that Rachmiel trusts him. 


They sat on the roof afterward, Rachmiel watching the constellations while Tabris focused on the gutters and tried to prevent ice dams.

Rachmiel glanced at Tabris, wondering why the concept of trust had caused him fear, except that maybe Tabris didn't trust himself. It made sense, but then it didn't. If Tabris mistrusted himself, that might mean he wasn't fully responsible for what happened to Sebastian. But that first angel who fled to them, begging for prayers...Raguel and his early explanations...the angels from other households who had been told not to let the pressure build up... All those pointed to a deliberate action.

Maybe Rachmiel shouldn't have insisted on them being a team. Not now, anyway. If he ranked over Tabris, and Tabris had to carry out his orders, then he could have ordered Tabris to talk. You are under obedience to tell me the entire story of how Sebastian died.

No, no. He'd have gotten the information, maybe. But he'd have lost far more than he gained. Tabris having his heart at Rachmiel's mercy would forever preclude trust and would guarantee resentment.

But that left him with the same set of questions and no way of getting answers.

Tabris looked at him. "What?"

Rachmiel frowned.

"You want to ask something."

Rachmiel nodded. "But I don't want to make you angry."

Tabris said, "Try me."

"What happened with Sebastian?"

Tabris went back to work on the ice dams. "What would knowing that do for you?"

Rachmiel struggled momentarily because I'll know how to protect Elizabeth from you didn't sound very trusting on the heels of having said he wanted Tabris coequal to him. He opted for the more tangential, "I thought if I knew, I could help you." Also true. It benefited both of them if Tabris didn't harm her.

Tabris said, "I don't want you to be self-conscious on account of me. This was your job first. You deserve to be comfortable."

"I'm comfortable with you. Most of the time." When Tabris turned, eyebrows raised, Rachmiel said, "Some of the time."

"You keep second-guessing yourself." Tabris shook his head. "You're fine."

Tabris focused again on the ice in the gutter, and Rachmiel looked into the sky, sorting the stars until he found the one he searched for. "Oh, there it is!" He waved while projecting long-distance. "A friend of mine guards it, and it makes her happy when I remember her."

Tabris laughed, and Rachmiel's head lifted. He wondered if he'd heard Tabris laugh before.

The fingers of the wind lifted stray flakes of snow and blew them through the angelic pair. Tabris flexed his wings into the chill, inhaling sharply, then laughed again, a much richer sound than before.

Rachmiel realized right then that Tabris hadn't answered his question about Sebastian. Which in and of itself was a kind of answer.

Tabris said, "Have I told you how much I love the cold?"

Rachmiel projected that he'd guessed. "Where were you before?"

"A suburb of Los Angeles. Disgusting weather, always sixty-eight and sunny. Smog that could make an angel retch, although the people breathed it just fine. I wanted to comb out Sebastian's lungs every night." He shook his head. "Ten million people lived there, and I never understood how they could stand it. No space. No snow. No seasons to speak of."

Rachmiel said, "Some people would say that's the weather in Paradise."

Tabris said, "To me, it said ten million people must believe in Paradise because if they didn't, why spend their lives there? Why wouldn't they be climbing mountains?"

Rachmiel said, "Were you in LA the whole time?"

"Thirteen years." Tabris sighed. "One New Year's Day the radio announcer said they'd exceeded federal smog regulations only one hundred seventy-one days the previous year. And it was an improvement."

Rachmiel flinched.

Tabris spread his wings and lay back in the snow, surrounded by the froth without marking its substance.

Rachmiel gathered himself, and although he radiated nervousness, he said, "So, about Sebastian. How did—"

"Snapped his neck."

Rachmiel withdrew into verbal and emotional silence. Tabris had closed his eyes, and beneath the snow, his hands were fists.

Rachmiel had more questions, so many more. But he'd never get a why now, and even the how was so sparing in information. But to push—Tabris might answer, but at the cost of any rapport.

Tabris finally said, "Rock, do me a favor. If they tell you I didn't love the kid, please—remember that I did. It wasn't what they think. You don't have to defend me to them. In fact, don't say anything at all. Just you remember it."

Tabris arched his neck and looked behind him at the moon. Tension rolled off him, and Rachmiel knew he'd been right to hold back. They had time. They had plenty of time.

Extending a wing toward Tabris, Rachmiel touched him and projected nothing more than his presence. "I never doubted it."

They stayed quiet for a long time. The moon changed position. Rachmiel's friend waved back to him. Headlights passed on the state route. And after a long time, Tabris turned toward Rachmiel with an asymmetric smile. "Thank you."

The Wrong Enemy is available for preorder here.
Jane Lebak's first novel The Wrong Enemy (previously The Guardian) will be re-released this September by MuseItUp Publishing! She is also the author of Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp, 2010). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four children.


Marian Lanouette said...

Jane, loved the excerpt.

CourtneyC said...

Great stuff! Will look for it in Sept!

Jane Lebak said...

Thank you for checking it out! :-)