I’ve already finished one novel which is currently languishing on agents’ desks across the country, but I felt that it was about time I started the second. Very few people have seen the first book (Diplomancer) yet, but don’t worry, you don’t need to have read it for this novel to make sense.
Basically, this new novel will explain something that is mentioned a lot in Diplomancer but never really expanded. I’m not going to tell you what it is because it won’t matter if you haven’t read Diplomancer (and you haven’t).
What you will find here is the first 1000 words, written today in fact. I want feedback, if you would be so kind. Does it work, is it bloated, have I cocked up some punctuation, anything really. Preferably constructive, as that’s the only criticism that will actually be taken on board.
This is probably the only part you’ll see on this blog, but a novel needs a compelling beginning and I thought it might be worthwhile running it by whoever’s reading this. Take a look and leave a comment if you would, cheers. 😀
Croggley Steinfast was, in all probability, the worst man of the cloth the Catholic Church had ever employed. He wasn’t a deviant in the traditional sense, no illicit meetings with altar boys or anything of that sort, just a single crippling flaw in his appointment. Technically Reverend Croggley Steinfast was not Christian, let alone Catholic.
He’d gone to great lengths to hide this from the church itself, taking full advantage of a system that refused to put its faith in computers by forging documents and cultivating human error within the administration. When he had started out he was little more than a novice at this sort of social manipulation, but he learned fast, so fast in fact that it didn’t take him too long to weasel his way into his own parish.
Occasionally someone would figure out his scheme and confront him about it (three people had done so as of this point), but none of them would believe his reasoning. To be fair to them, it was rather bizarre and illogical reasoning, but that was how Croggley lived. Besides, he had also worked out that telling someone something as peculiar as his particular reasons tended to break something in their brains, making them much easier to manipulate in the future whilst also fostering an extra layer of trust. After all, he couldn’t possibly have been telling the truth could he?
Now, left alone with his own parish far outside the watchful eye of the Vatican, Croggley Steinfast sat in his empty church soaking his long, greying hair in the font. This was part of his weekly routine and had been since he landed himself at the Church of Saint Judy of the Immaculate Complexion almost five years ago. As far as he was concerned it was the most efficient way to create Holy Water and wash his hair. Admittedly the idea to wash his hair in the font had long preceded the idea that it would sanctify the water, but no-one was really keeping track of that stuff.
It was Sunday, Croggley’s most hated day of the week. He didn’t preach on Sundays, not anymore at least. He had spent a year of so weaning his parishioners out of Sunday Mass and, in fact, coming to church at all, but there was still the odd die-hard who would turn up just to bang on the door every Sunday at six in the morning. They came in waves, and he had come to identify them by their knocking. It was almost time for the last wave and, despite Croggley’s attempts to slow time using only the power of his mind, this was the one he could always count on.
Most of the die-hards would come every week, more or less, but there would invariably be something that would slow them down or take precedence and they would miss a week every now and then. As a result there had never been a week where every die-hard had turned up in succession, there would always be one missing. This final guy, however, had never missed a week and was always perfectly punctual.
Lionel Mulally was his name, and the worst part about him was that he wasn’t even that religious. He was the “star” of a daytime TV soap opera, the sort primarily populated by people retiring from more successful soaps because they actually have to travel to them. Lionel was different to those actors, however, due to this being his big break. He had cleverly escalated the popularity of the show to prime time levels, becoming a celebrity off the back of the show’s success. He appeared on all the dreary reality shows purely because it would make him more famous.
Naturally the success went to Lionel’s head, and before long he had experimented with the usual vices, some of which stuck with him. Croggley was under the impression that Lionel only came to church as regularly as he did because somewhere, deep down in what passed for his heart, was the fear that he was going to burn in Hell for his laundry list of sins. Croggley couldn’t fault him on his reasoning.
He looked at his watch. One minute until Mr Mulally arrived for his weekly appointment with a securely locked door. The noise was the worst part. It seemed to him that only the most tiresome people could actually change the tone of a knock. Ordinarily they were rather direct sounds, conveying the expected meaning of ‘Are you in? If you are I would like to speak with you.’ People like Mulally and the others had more irritating knocking messages. Croggley compared them to a child’s whining. ‘Let me in Let me in Let me in,’ they would say over and over again until, eventually, you were forced to relent.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
‘Ah, right on time,’ Croggley said as he stood up, wet hair slapping noisily onto his back.
He strolled across the room at a speed that not even the most optimistic of people could mistake for anything other than a dawdle. The knocking continued, its little drum beat would have been almost pleasant had Croggley not heard it so many, many times. When he arrived at the door Croggley slammed his forehead onto the hard wood with enough force to make a sound, but not so much as to cause him to see stars. It was a difficult skill to master, and one that Croggley had managed purely by accident.
‘Go away. No worshipping today, thank you.’ Croggley shouted at the door. It never worked, but that didn’t mean he was going to stop trying.
‘Come on Reverend,’ came a voice from the other side of the door, ‘It’s Sunday! You have to hear my sins today, it’s like the law or something.’
‘It’s not divine law that I should have to listen to an actor whine about how he neglected to pay a prostitute because her rates were extortionate. God doesn’t want to hear it either. He’s on holiday, get lost.’
There was a pleasing silence from the other side of the door. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, but it was pretty rare. It was the blissful moment that gave Croggley hope that, one day, he could get rid of Mulally. He knew that the silence signified Mulally fighting against himself. Part of him would want to just walk away, admit that he had tried to be a good man but that it was just too much effort. Croggley had seen this happen to other people before (had caused it to happen before) and held out hope that one day this part of Mulally would win. Unfortunately, experience told him that it was infinitely more likely that Mulally would cling onto his last shred of decency and fight tooth and nail to be let into the church.
‘Just let me in, reverend, please!’
Croggley sighed. There was always next week. He unbolted the large oaken door and stormed back across the church to the font. The sound of the bolt sliding across the door must have been loud enough to be heard outside, because no sooner had Croggley turned to walk away than the door creaked open.