Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

Dreamless City Writing Excerpt – Breaking Rules

Since I have introduced Nissa, I figured I should go ahead and introduce the rest of the love triangle. Reynard Triannon is the super-serious head groom of the Stagunner stables. Tall and fox-faced with freckles across the bridge of his nose, Nissa isn’t sure if what to make of this rules monger.


The stables were quiet. All the horses were bedded down for the night. After dinner, Nissa was back in the tack room with Reynard, the head groom, companionably going about their separate chores.

Never mind it was because of Reynard’s stupid rules Nissa had broken that she was not warming her feet by the fire, fleecing schills off the other stable hands playing cards. The spoiled pony had eaten grass with a bridle on, junking up the bit with green slime and weeds. She’d been cleaning bridles for so many evenings that she’d given up being mad about it.

Nissa was slowly making her way down the long row of hanging bridles. As she hanged the most recently cleaned and reassembled bridle back on its peg, she realized she was closer to the end of the row than she was to the beginning.

“Look, Reynard,” Nissa said with an impish grin. “I’m finally making some progress.”

The head groom glanced up from the awl and stirrup leathers he was repairing. “I’m not worried. I’m sure you’ll mess something else up and be back in here. The saddles are all in need of a good going over. I’ll expect to see my face shining in them by morning.”

“You have too many rules. I think you do it on purpose,” Nissa said, shoving her shaggy blond hair out of her face with an exasperated gesture.

“Hardly. How can you think I enjoy ruining the blissful solitude of my tack room with your constant nattering?” Reynard asked.

“Nattering?” she asked, her voice rising an octave. She grabbed the next bridle off its peg and turned to face the tall lad, eyebrows raised. “All this time I thought you were enjoying my stories, but now I discover you’d rather suffer my company in silence.”

“And suffering is undoubtedly what it is, especially listening to your off-color tales. Not the sort of fare we indulge in the respectable Hightown ranks,” Reynard said in a snobbish accent. He had a hint of smile at the corners of his lips. Nissa was shocked that this serious lad was trying to make a joke.

“I’ll admit my stories from the streets are pedestrian at best,” she said, inwardly proud of her witty turn of phrase. She crossed the narrow room to the table where Reynard was working on the stirrups. She could smell his wintergreen scent over the leather and hay of the stables. “However, I am well aware of what Hightown lads indulge themselves in, so I would consider my stories rather tame by comparison.”

The smile disappeared from Reynard’s face so fast that Nissa instantly regretted teasing him. “We aren’t all like that,” he said with a serious face.

“I know you aren’t like that,” Nissa said with what she hoped was a dramatic huff to break the tension. Reynard really needed to lighten up sometimes. “After all, I work for you. I can’t imagine the head groom would ever do anything so scandalous with one of his stable hands.” She rolled her eyes at him.

“Indeed,” Reynard said, a faint flush high on his cheeks. Nissa noted how tightly he was gripping the awl in his hand. “I would never break the rules and do anything so scandalously untoward. Not even if I could dream it.”

As always, comments and constructive criticism regarding my work-in-progress are welcome, even encouraged.

2 comments on “Dreamless City Writing Excerpt – Breaking Rules

  1. Przemek Kucia
    February 13, 2013

    So if I may feel encouraged ;) Taking into an account that I’m not keen romance fan, I’m still a fan of “conversational jujitsu” and body language subtleties behind it and this was a solid read considering :D

    If I may be encouraged even more I would like to recommend you a great book by dr Paul Ekman – Telling Lies, or more available Emotions Revealed. Ekman is a pioneer in decoding face expressions, so when you want to get into these details, he is your guy. And the books are well written – informative without being overwhelming with scientific language :)

    • tracycembor
      February 14, 2013

      Thanks for the recommendation. i will certainly look into it. I am trying to improve my dialogue and show-don’t-tell skills.

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Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

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About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
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