ROSEHEAD excerpt, draft 3

by Ksenia Anske

I have finished writing ROSEHEAD, my 2nd novel! I have finished it, I have finished it! It took me 7 months, with 2 interruptions (traveling to Russia) and 3 drafts. Final draft came at 85K words. As is my tradition, I'm posting an excerpt from the final draft. You can download the whole thing for free to beta read, if you want. The manuscript is off to my awesome editor Colleen M. Albert. I think I will get it back maybe around January, depending on Colleen's schedule, so to those of you who pre-ordered the book, it might be a little longer, sorry! Here are some Interesting numbers. SIREN SUICIDES took me 5 drafts and 12 months to write. Although I did break it up into 3 books, I still count it as one. ROSEHEAD took me much faster. I'm taking a break for Christmas and New Years (perfect timing, eh?) and starting IRKADURA fist week of January. Wonder how long it will take me. My goal it to write at least 4 books a year, if not more. Anyway, here is the promised except. Enjoy!

Photo by  noël-michèle

Photo by noël-michèle


A novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 3

Excerpt from Chapter 1, The Grim Arrival

Lilith Bloom had a peculiar feeling that the rose garden wanted to eat her. She surveyed it through the open car window, unable to look away. The garden surveyed her back. It looked enormous. Its red blanket surrounded a solitary mansion at the end of Rose street, Rosenstrasse in German, as it said on the sign. No other houses stood in sight, only a distant forest. Apart from tires grating on the gravel, it was eerily quiet, too quiet for a hot summer afternoon.

Their rental sedan pulled into the motor court in front of the mansion, joining a long line of cars. A sudden gust of wind washed over Lilith’s face. She expected it to smell like roses. She was wrong. It reeked of rotten sweetness, as if something died and slowly decomposed. Lilith rolled up the window.

“Panther,” she whispered.

No answer.

“Panther Bloom Junior! Will you kindly wake up?”

She shook a black shape curled to her left. The shape yawned, revealing a long tongue and rows of pearly teeth, then promptly sat up, blinking innocently. It wasn’t exactly a dog, not in the most typical sense of how one would describe it. It was a cat in a dog’s body, or, in proper canine terms, a whippet, Lilith’s pet and only friend. He possessed a unique gift. He talked, as Lilith ascertained her parents. Of course, they refused to believe her.

Lilith’s father, Daniel Bloom, an avid whippet breeder and dog race enthusiast, deemed Panther as the runt of the litter. Too softhearted to part with the puppy, he gave it to Lilith last summer for her twelfth birthday. Since then they became inseparable, disappearing on long walks in Boston neighborhoods and arriving this fine sunny day in Berlin, after Lilith point blank refused to go anywhere without Panther, especially not to Bloom family reunion at her grandfather’s house.

“You’d think a herd of elephants died here.” She whispered.

Panther raised a brow.

No matter how much Lilith pleaded with him to talk in front of her parents, he viciously disapproved of the idea, lest they decided to parade him in some freak show like an otherworldly miracle.

“Don’t look at me like this. I hate it when you don’t answer.” Lilith said dejectedly, loud enough for her parents to hear. They exchanged a painful glance.

“Here we are, my puppies. Looks like we made the cut.” Said Daniel Bloom cheerily, attempting to diffuse the mood. When nervous, he spoke in dog show lingo.

“Lilith, did you take your pills?” Said Gabby Bloom, twisting in the passenger seat and gazing at her daughter through metal-rimmed glasses, her fingers momentarily paused from knitting.

Panther studied Lilith with interest.

Lilith studied the seat in front. “I thought we agreed that pills are for sick people, mother. I must assure you that currently I don’t feel sick in the slightest.”

“Don’t take that tone with me, missy. Look at me when I talk to you. I asked you a question. Did you or didn’t you?”

Panther continued to study Lilith.

Lilith continued to study the seat.

Gabby’s lower lip began to tremble. She looked like a lost squirrel perched on top of a roof, not knowing how she got there and how she ought to get down. Her brown hair could pass for fur standing on end. A couple knitting needles were stuck behind her ears from where they liked to drop at most inconvenient moments.

“Lilith, don’t be puppyish. Answer your mother.” Daniel muttered, patting his pockets in at attempt to look busy.

Awkward silence filled the car.

“I flushed them down the toilet, on the plane. By accident. They’re excruciatingly slippery.” Lilith said with an innocent face. She liked using sophisticated words like excruciatingly when purposefully annoying her mother.

“You what? Daniel, are you listening? Did you hear what she said?” Gabby faced her husband.

He squinted at something out the window. “I’m sure she didn’t mean for it to happen, love. We just crossed the Atlantic, effectively gaining six extra hours. She can skip a day, can’t she? For time adjustment purposes?”

“That’s ten dollars down the drain! Have you forgotten what happened last time?” A frenzy of activity followed. Gabby’s hands performed an intricate dance of opening her bag, taking out rolls of wool, one half-knit sweater, another half-knit sweater, a handful of needles, and an orange vial of pills.

Lilith and Panther exchanged a glance.

Gabby stuffed the vial into her daughter’s hands and watched her reluctantly open it and take out two blue capsules.

“Now.” She said.

Lilith stuck the pills under her tongue, miming a fake swallow.

Meanwhile, escaping his wife’s mounting fury, Daniel stepped out of the car and busied himself with the luggage. Tall and scrawny, he looked like a whippet himself, missing perhaps only the tail.

Eager to spit out bitter tablets, Lilith made to follow.

“Wait a second, missy. Show me your tongue.” Gabby leaned in for closer inspection.

Lilith opened her mouth and, without dislodging the pills, said with a practiced smile. “Sorry, mom.”

“Do not do this again.”

“I won’t.”

“Good. Out you go. We’re late as it is.” Gabby hurried out of the car, her motherly duty done.

Lilith and Panther exchanged another glance and clambered after, looking around.

They stood at the end of a perfectly round court crammed with cars of all types, Bloom’s inexpensive rental the very last.

Panther pretended to scratch at something on the ground. Lilith squatted next to him, pretending to investigate. After a moment she stood, wiping her mouth, a triumphant smile on her face. Slender and petite, she dressed meticulously. Taking forever to pick out clothes calmed her whirring mind, although it caused Panther to lose his. Today she sported a navy skirt, a striped sailor shirt, red Mary Janes and a matching beret knit by her mother.

Lilith had a collection of these. A rosy one for ballet lessons, a black one for walking Panther, a blue one for reading, and a red one for special occasions. Festive outings rarely happened in her life, but whenever they did, she always wore red, for confidence.

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ROSEHEAD excerpt, Draft 2

by Ksenia Anske

It's my tradition to post excerpts from each new novel draft. I started writing 2nd draft of ROSEHEAD last Monday and should've done it then, but have completely forgotten. Don't kill me, because I'm cheating. I'm prepping a big huge humongous blog post (to come out after this one) on everything I learned about self-publishing, how to do it, how much it costs, etc, and there seems to be little else that can occupy my brain at the moment. So... I will throw in a twist. My boyfriend suggested that instead of posting an excerpt from Chapter 1 like I did for 1st draft, I should post his favorite scene from Chapter 6 (he reads my daily writing every night). In case you're wondering what ROSEHEAD is all about, here is a summary for you. Hopefully you will enjoy this.

Photo by JenniPenni

Photo by JenniPenni


A novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 2

Excerpt from Chapter 6, German Breakfast

Bloom was a very large family, its legacy firmly rooted in the gardening business. Naturally, most living Blooms were floral experts, cousins and second cousins and third cousins to Lüdke Blome’s direct descendant, Alfred Bloom. Him and his late wife Eugenia had one child, Daniel Bloom, who in turn had also only one child. Lilith. That meant one day Blooms’ mansion and its rose garden would belong to her. Lilith froze, thunderstruck. Could this be what grandfather announced yesterday? The thought never occurred to her until now, and it made her even more determined to uncover his secrets. There was no way she’d consent to owning a deadly garden that used people as a fertilizer.

Forgetting all about counting and lost in thought, Lilith pulled out an unoccupied chair. Immediately, all people at the table turned to look, calling out their good mornings, where as the day before hardly anyone noticed her. This confirmed her guess. On top of it, Schlitzberger twins arrived and sat next to her.

“We heard you got lost yesterday…” Daphne said with a nasty smile, stacking her plate with waffles.

“…in the rose garden.” Gwen added with a snigger, grabbing a roll.

Daphne slapped her sister’s hand. “That’s mine! I saw it first!” They proceeded bickering at each other in German.

Lilith gulped, desperately searching the table for Ed. He wasn’t there. Disappointed, she turned to face the twins.

“Incidentally, one of my favorite pastimes is searching for bones of dead people—” she said icily, “—you know, skulls and stuff. The best specimen I cover in fluorescent paint and dangle at night in front of people’s windows. It took me a while to find one yesterday. It’s a nice once, still has all of its teeth intact. What room are you staying in, by the way?”

Daphne’s face lost color. “Mutter!” She squealed, pointing at Lilith and firing off a whining string of German words.

Irma Schlitzberger, clad in a tight purple sweater no doubt of Gabby Bloom’s handiwork, leaned over her plate to see better, same purse next to her pudgy hand. Lilith wondered if she could snatch another peacock feather from it.

“Tsk-Tsk, Daphne. It’s not nice to speak in German in front of your friend, when your friend doesn’t understand a word of it. Am I right, child?” Said Irma loudly. Other guests watched this exchange with interest.

Lilith’s face turned hot. “Excuse me. I thought I mentioned it before. I’m not a child…” She began.

Aber mutter, sie…” Daphne interrupted her, throwing shrill accusations at her mother, which Irma returned with scolding remarks. Meanwhile, Gwen stole the roll from her sister’s plate and quickly stuffed it in her mouth.

“Hello.” Someone tugged at Lilith’s sleeve. She turned.

A boy around ten stood by her chair. He had a very smart look about him, dark sleek hair parted on one side, eyes narrow and lips pursed. He was dressed in a suit with shiny shoes, and he smelled like hair gel.

“Um… My name is Patrick. Patrick Rosenthal. It’s very nice to meet you, cousin.” He stretched out his hand in a practiced movement, his round face splitting into a practiced smile. Even his speech sounded practiced, with very little accent. It was obvious his parents sent him.

Und… Um… This is my sister, Petra.” He pushed a little girl ahead of him, barely seven, her dark hair gathered in a ponytail, her tanned arms and legs sticking out of a festive red dress. She had an aura of sugary sweetness about her. It was the girl who demanded more cake, Lilith remembered.

Hallo!” She said brightly. “My name is Petra Rosenthal. What is your name?” The girl grinned, showing a missing tooth, and it was the first genuine smile Lilith saw since her arrival in the mansion.

“Lilith Bloom.” Lilith said automatically, astounded at how well both of them spoke English.

Petra suddenly pressed a piece of paper into Lilith’s hand. “It’s from my cousin Ed. It’s a letter. I like letters.” She kept grinning. “Is it a love letter? My cousin Ed—”

“Petra!” Her older brother said sternly. “He’s not our cousin, he’s step-cousin. We’re not even related. Mom told you not to talk—“

“Sabrina. Sabrina Rosenthal. Delightful to meet you.” A tall dark-haired woman was shaking Lilith’s hand, and Lilith recognized with horror the face of one of the heads, same angular jaw, same highly arched eyebrows.

“There she is, the lovely girl. You were hiding from us, weren’t you? Norman. Norman Rosenthal. I happen to be your father’s only second cousin.” A round heavy-set man, the grown-up version of Patrick, with the same smart look about him, was shaking Lilith’s hand now. Lilith felt numb. His face belonged to other head, same hair parted on one side, same narrow eyes. The woman and the man were, indeed, a couple, and they strongly smelled like dentists.

Holding on to her chair for sanity, Lilith soon found herself surrounded with more relatives who were eager to chat.

“Trude Brandt, young mädchen.” Introduced herself the old lady, Lilith’s neighbor, suddenly sweet and charming, her soap scent not as revolting.

“Hanna Haas, degree in botany.” A mousy looking woman with on odor of soil, large teeth and even larger glasses pushed forward a wheelchair. “My mother, Heidemarie Haas.”

Heidemarie resembled a dried out ghost sitting amidst blankets, a whiff of decay around her, her eyes milky and blind. She promptly seized Lilith with shaky hands, palpating her face and relaying something in German to Hanna.

“My mother says you look just like your father, when he was your age. My mother says—”

Ten guests total, thought Lilith, tuning out. Wait… the math doesn’t add up. Ed and the owners of two other heads are missing, but that makes it fourteen guests, not twelve.

Hanna was asking something, as was Petra, and Patrick, and Daphne. Their voices turned into a blur, smells mixed into a suffocating reek, when the same horrible sigh reached Lilith’s ears. She not so much heard it as she felt it, nearly jumping from freight. Nobody seemed to notice a thing. Her heart thumping wild, Lilith began gorging up on food, eager to escape into the garden to continue solving its mystery.

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