It had seemed simple enough.

As a child, one of my characters had run away from home...led an adventurous but dissolute life...contracted a terminal disease. I'd decided he would return home a la prodigal, be welcomed back into the family fold, a cure would be found...and he'd live happily ever after.

It didn't work out like that.

The minute he staggered through the door, it hit me. He's going to die! "But I don't want it this way!" I shouted the words aloud, pushed away from the computer, and burst into tears.

A little dramatic perhaps, but that's the way it happened. I had just killed off one of my main characters--and I didn't even intend to. As I typed that part of the story, I realized it had to be, because his death would influence the other characters from then on.

The character who died? Cash, son of Sinbad's beloved Andrea.

Acashi Day makes his first appearance in Sinbad's Last Voyage. He is fourteen, the son of Andrea Talltrees and the villain Tran li Day-lin, a handsome man-child with his father's startling semi-Asian looks. In that book, Cash doesn't take up many pages. When we meet him, he's sitting on the front porch of his mother's farmhouse, trying to absorb the fact that his world has just collapsed because his father is a fugitive, accused of being a spy and a smuggler named Sinbad sh'en Singh has taken his mother off-planet to prevent her being arrested whlie he searches for Tran. His only other appearance is in the last chapter when he reunites Sin with Andi minutes before she gives birth, but in those few pages, he gives Sinbad a glimpse of future troubles to come.

In Sinbad's Wife, Cash is adjusting to life with Sinbad. He now has a stepfather who is dying and a stepbrother, Adam Lawless, his partner in crime. While Sin is hospitalized, Cash and Adam raid the cookie jar and take themselves to Old Town, to lose their virginity in an evening of teenage lust. When Andi is kidnapped by slavers, they enlist in the Space Guard to help bring her back. Confronted by his father, Cash has to make a choice between killing Tran or being called a coward by the man who sired him. He's saved from being a patricide by Sin's action.

Sinbad's Pride finds Cash a randy sixteen-year-old with hormones in overdrive, just beginning to emerge into the potential of a full-grown Serapian male. He runs away with Sin's concubine, Senset, only to find himself a single parent of twins, abandoned by his love and forced to become an adult overnight as he is faced with the most difficult decision of all--how to provide for his children. Desperately, he sends them to Sinbad, begging him not to make them suffer for their father's sins.

Eighteen years have passed in Sinbad's Triumph. No longer the brash, ready-for-a-fight youngster, Cash is now thirty-seven, a weary but well-known mercenary dying of a terminal disease contracted during an unprotected back-alley encounter with a prostitute. He wants to go home, wants to see the sun come up over the mountains, wants to sit with his little sister N'Sagar as he used to when he would tell the child he was making the sun come up just for her. With the help of N'Sagar and a doctor-monk from the Brotherhood of St Luke, he makes the journey back to Felida. Cash meets his children, Drea and Tran, discovering they consider him a hero. He's makes his peace with Sin, is installed comfortably in his old room, and everyone waits for the inevitable.

EXCERPT:

At last, the day came when Cash began to have trouble breathing. In the middle of a sentence, he stopped, choked, and expelled his breath in a cough.

"Drea." He caught his daughter's hand. "Quick! G-get Mom! I want my Mother!"

By the time Andi got there, his lips were blue, skin taking on a leaden, dusky hue. She held his hand, the fingernails now blue-tipped, while she murmured wordless, soothing sounds.

"I'm here, Cash. Shhh, Mother's here." She had to choke back the tears. My son...my baby...Oh God, no...

"Mom...oh, Mom..." Then he lay so quiet, everyone was frightened.

"Better call the others to say their goodbyes," Cousin Kaz told them, biting his lip as he took readings with the CompuMed.

***
The sun was coming up over the mountains. The first rays came through the window, lighting the bed and the figure on it. Cash turned his head, blinking in the bright light. Briefly, his face was lit with gold, eyes shining.

"Look, N'Sagar--it's the sun! Come up, sun! Come up for Nanny! Laugh for me, Nanny..." He took a slow, deep breath--and didn't let it out. The hands tightly gripping his children's relaxed, and Andi and Drea and Tran began to cry, very softly.

N'Sagar leaned over and kissed his cheek. "It's beautiful, Cash. Thank you." Gently, she pulled a small white handkerchief from her pocket, folded it lengthwise and laid it across Cash's eyes. Then she put her head on her arms and leaned against the bed, shoulders shaking.


I've killed off other characters but none have affected me like Cash's death.
Perhaps it's the fact that he was the first, or that I wrote into his passing my own first-hand heart-wrenching experience of witnessing the death of someone I loved. Whatever the reason, killing off a character you've created from childhood to adulthood is a traumatic thing. It's like losing a friend--and it stays with you.

Sinbad's Last Voyage and Sinbad's Wife are available as ebooks and in print from Double Dragon Publishers, and www.amazon.com. (Voyage is also available as an audio book.) Sinbad's Pride, Sinbad's Triumph, and Sinbad's War are scheduled for later release.

10 comments

  1. Scarlet Pumpernickel // March 28, 2009 at 1:37 PM  

    Toni,
    Very thought provoking post. The emotions you brought to the excerpt were profound. It is always traumatic the first time you kill off a character. I had written romance for years before I ventured into the darker side of romantic suspense and killed a character. Even though the character wasn't a main character I still struggled with the idea! Couldn't I just wound him? Hurt him and let him recover? No, the storyline demanded the character die. It wasn't easy and I had to tell myself it was "Just a story," to get through it.

    Scarlet

  2. Toni V.S. // March 28, 2009 at 3:17 PM  

    Exactly, Scarlet.

  3. Mary Marvella // March 28, 2009 at 3:33 PM  

    Wow! I've never killed off a good guy. I have stories with characters who needed killin'. Sometimes you don't have any other choice for the story to make sense.

  4. Judy // March 28, 2009 at 3:37 PM  

    I can imagine your angst. In book three of my middle-grade fantasy series, Brota, the wolf who accompanies the children through their primitive land dies. I cried when I realized that's what needed to happen. Good that we love our characters! But sometimes, it hurts.

  5. Cyrano // March 28, 2009 at 4:32 PM  

    What a truly amazing imagination you have. I'm in awe. I loved the excerpt and the post!
    Thanks Toni.
    Have a lovely day,
    Tamara

  6. maryricksen // March 28, 2009 at 5:23 PM  

    What a well written emotional scene Toni, it's very touching.
    It had to be, what it had to be.

  7. Nightingale // March 28, 2009 at 8:26 PM  

    It takes courage to kill a hero. Toni, excellent excerpt. I would have had a hard time--maybe even couldn't kill him off.

  8. Mona Risk // March 28, 2009 at 11:44 PM  

    I killed two charcaters in an accident and cried for months everytime I read the scene. They were too lovable. A HQ editor asked me to remove the scene, start the story later and put the accident in the backstory. She too couldn't cope with the sadness and was afraid it would turn off the readers.

  9. Mary Marvella // March 29, 2009 at 1:34 AM  

    It's hard to play God with our characters.

  10. Joanne // April 1, 2009 at 9:18 AM  

    Toni,
    It's hard killing off characters, especially good ones. They become our friends and we hate to let them go. Thanks for the post.