Week 7 Finalist – Second Place Winner

Author: Robin Haseltine
Category: Fantasy Romance

“That’s better, isn’t it?” Naomi crooned as she rubbed almond oil into Nesh’s eight feet of coiled lengths. Waves of iridescent red hues undulated and flowed along the shimmering scaled skin, signaling her pet serpent’s pleasure. His soft hiss and tongue flicking in the direction of a plain wooden music box set her to smiling.

She chuckled. “Again? Haven’t you heard that enough for one day?”

Reaching for the small box, she wound it up, opened the lid, and closed her eyes, listening to the metal spokes plink out The Blue Danube Waltz. A gift from her father more years ago than she could remember, the treasure was only the personal item she’d chosen to bring from her New York City apartment when she crossed over for the last time.

Naomi opened her eyes and surveyed the small dwelling bare of all accoutrements save her most treasured spell books, enchanted battle gear, then regarded her scrying crystal. She rose from the floor where Nesh still swayed, savoring the last few tinny notes. After the sounds faded, she snapped her fingers to recreate the music by magic, but her rendition fell flat. The snake hissed disapproval.

“Let’s just hope the mechanism never breaks, Nesh, because I won’t return to the World of Mortals. Ever. Even for a replacement.” She clicked her tongue and extended a hand. “Come. We’ve a coven meeting. Your girlfriend, Soshoona will be there.”

All eight feet and six inch diameter of the snake tried to slither up the folds of Naomi’s burnished copper gown, but she shook him off with a giggle. “Smaller, Nesh. You know I can’t carry you unless you’re smaller.” Within moments, the now ruby-colored pet had shrunk in size and swirled around her foot and up her leg. He settled his smooth scales along her arm, nuzzling his head into her neck. Almond scent clung to her nostrils as she raised her hands, preparing to transport to her witch-sister’s pavilion via the scrying stone.

Showers of rainbow hues erupted from her crystal. The blaze of color and dissonant sound screamed across the sheer rock walls of her chamber.

“Gaudy, tasteless calling card.” Naomi’s jaw tightened.

Her eyes narrowed as a deep baritone voice channeled through the translucent stone and announced, “I’ve come to claim my coven.”

Wispy sparks crackled along her flesh. Not now. Not another one. She swore under her breath.

The disembodied voice swarmed like bees. “I challenge your right to wield the Diamond Sceptre.” Naomi sensed a warlock’s essence in the energy bathing her apartment with arrogance.

“Pompous peacock,” she muttered. She tapped her foot, waiting for his showy splash of power to peter out. His audacity in challenging her directly, instead of through sanctioned channels, churned through her mind. Her nails dug into her palm. When the crystal faded to pulsating blue, she hissed, “Speak.”

The warlock’s voice oozed molten lava down her spine. “Soon, it will be me commanding you, Witch.”

She sniffed. “Really? A bit difficult once I’ve banished you from the World of Power. Forever.” Naomi dismissed his bravado with a well-placed curse, which he batted aside as if swatting a fly. The smell of burnt sulfur, accompanying powerful sorcery, invaded her nostrils.

Her verbal taunts morphed into holographic images rippling in the air. “To what mortal form will I be returning you? A street sweeper in Mexico City? An untouchable in New Delhi? Or a dung spreader in Mauritania?”

“You know I am driven to serve the gods. Charged to restore the balance of power in place since the first male and female emerged from the muck. Witches were created to serve, not command. My master demands warlock domination so I am deposing you from the coven. Just as you will stoop to any ploy to keep the Sceptre, I will rise as high as necessary to honor the gods Who clamor for a return to the Divine Law of Male Supremacy.”

“This is the twenty first century, Warlock. Women’s liberation has arrived in the World of Power. I will enforce the new order. If your gods have a problem with that, I suggest they seek a new metaphysical realm.”

“You will crawl on your knees for my favor, Witch, when I raise the Diamond Sceptre over your head.” The rumble in his voice tugged at her. “Don’t deny the inevitable. All the witches of your coven are willingly sworn to me. You’re next. Next.” As he uttered ‘Next’, a phantom hand coalesced and reached for her. Distracted by the seduction spell woven in his voice, she almost missed the secreted enchantment in the word ‘Next”. With a puff of breath and a Word, she dispersed the shadow hand in a cloud of smoke. But the scent of his virile essence remained.

Wrapping a seductive curse in her reply, she conjured the vision of a fetching maiden perfumed with an alluring vanilla scent. A gleaming Amazon warrior in silver armor, short sword raised above her helm.

“I accept your challenge, Warlock.”

If he stepped within range of her imagery, the unseen enchantment would have closed his throat, rendering him unable to speak and cast his wretched spells.

He chuckled. “You can do better than that, Witch. She’s a tantalizing tidbit to toy with but I prefer to hold out for your luscious lips locked with mine.”

Her cheeks flamed when his counter spell dissipated her carefully crafted witchery.

“All the witches in your coven are sworn to me. You’re the last.” He’d weakened her by seducing her women so she couldn’t draw on their power during battle.

“Sworn to you through an insidious spell you’ve cast on them.” But was it a spell or his charismatic charm? Scrying in her crystal, she’d watched them fall. One by one.


24 responses

30 10 2007

You’ve got great imagery here, Robin. I can see – and almost feel – the magic in the air. The fondness between Naomi and Nesh is a nice touch, too. And the Warlock – love the battle of the sexes you have unfolding. The setup promises lots of tension, making me want to turn the pages to see how these two are going to end up together. Great work!

30 10 2007
Week 7 and Leigh’s in a dither « Chase the Dream Writers Contest

[…] and Rachelle picked a winner, too. Minor detail, […]

30 10 2007
D. Holmes

Where’s the second winner?

30 10 2007
Leigh Michaels

Oops. I meant that Rachelle picked the weekly finalist as she always does, and I picked the winner of the mini-critique — which you’ll find over on the mini-critique page.

30 10 2007

Great imagery, and so very different. Loved it!

30 10 2007
Robin Haseltine

WOW! Thank you so much, Rachelle, for selecting my entry this week and to both Rachelle and Leigh for taking your time to hold this contest for several weeks running! Having read your weekly selections, I feel honored to find my work among the finalists.

What has made this especially valuable for me was the opportunity to try different opening hooks over the course of this contest. I feel as if this, indeed, is a tremendous step towards ‘catching’ my dream.

And thank you, Melissa, for your supportive comments.
I’m glad you could see the fun in my writing.

31 10 2007

Congrats, Robin, you have some strong yin/yang chemistry brewing here and magic used in interesting ways to underscore it. I agree it’s been fun to read the varied hooks/entries each week and apply the lessons, trying out different ideas to find the most effective way to write – so much fun.

Best, Marie

1 11 2007
Marcia James

I usually gravitate towards contemporaries and romantic comedy, but this entry was really intriguing. I would love to read more! Congratulations!
— Marcia James

1 11 2007
Robin Haseltine

Marie — I’ve gotten so much just from reading Leigh’s critiques each week. Of course, that means I keep going back and tweaking my WIP. Glad this is only 10 weeks long…

Marcia — What exciting feedback! Fantasy is not only fun to write, but to read. Hopefully my tidbit will entice you to trawl the fantasy aisles. (And maybe someday my story will be tucked among them.)

3 11 2007


Wow! You got an incredible amount across here. I love these richly-imagined worlds. Good luck–


5 11 2007
Leigh Michaels

Robin, I really like your writing style, and the details — like the snake who likes to listen to a music box — pulled me straight in.

Thanks, too, for the comments about the mini-critiques being helpful. I’m glad to have had a small part in strengthening your manuscript!


20 11 2007

Wow, Great job, Robin!!!!

20 11 2007

Great job Robin! keep up the good work.

20 11 2007

Really enjoyed this, Robin! Loved the dragon bond!

21 11 2007
Lynda Hilburn

Way to go, Robin my friend! I love your writing. I’m glad to see others are joining the club!

21 11 2007
Judy G-S

I love this Robin! I can’t wait to read the whole thing! Great job!
Judy G-S

21 11 2007

Fun read. You create a wonderful word picture that plays in your reader’s head. Best of luck in the finals.

22 11 2007
Robin le Fey

Wow, Robin, this is so much fun. I love the idea of Nesh, and of his ability to become smaller to ride with Naomi. A snake who enjoys a music box? Delightful! Yes, I look forward to buying this book!

24 11 2007

Super Robin! What a unique premise and I love the sparks already eminating from H/H. Congratulations on finaling and good luck!!

25 11 2007

How unusual! I do want to read the rest of the book.

3 12 2007
Paula Eykelhof and Megan Long (editors, Harlequin)

Not really appropriate for any of the Toronto lines, and neither of us is terribly familiar with this kind of fantasy fiction. Try Luna? One comment we have: despite the vivd writing and some nice details and turns of phrase (we like the music box!), we did feel there might be a few too many “gimmicks” (e.g. snake changing size, the Warlock’s “showy splash of power”, channeling voice, etc.) that distract from the power of their confrontation.

5 12 2007
Robin Haseltine

Thanks to all of you who left comments!

And thank you, Paula Eykelhof and Megan Long, for your observations. I’m grateful to have such wonderful feedback to help me shape my writing. I appreciate that you took the time to read it and comment, tell me what works, and how I can improve.

5 12 2007
Elaine English (agent)

I felt that your use of dialogue was very good; however, I found that I wanted to know more about the universe and context for these characters.

13 12 2007
Cheryl Ferguson

The prose is smooth and the characters are interesting, but more world building elements are needed to ground the reader in the story time and space.

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