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Infinitas Publishing – Status Report

Yipes… is it really that time again? Well then, I guess it’s time for the monthly Infinitas Publishing status report! An unexpected event at the beginning of the month (May) shifted some of our original plans off schedule, but now we’re mostly back on track.

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Glitch: The proof copies of the Glitch saga print editions are on order. Finally got the formatting done. All that’s left is to receive the copies, check for any issues and make sure the covers look correct, and then approve them for sale.

Once that’s complete, I intend to create an ebook “box” set with the complete mini-series.

Fractured Skies: (Book 2 of the Distant Horizon series). I’m about halfway through the current round of revisions on Fractured Skies. Removed one of the subplots and I’m primarily trying to tighten it up before sending it out to the next round of beta-readers.

The ebook cover is officially complete.

Distant Horizon: Waiting for the proof copy to arrive of the updated print edition.

Lily’s Story: (Distant Horizon series spin-off novel) Isaac and I figured out a rough outline. Still need to make a formal outline, but the majority of the ideas are now in place. Next step is to tighten up the outline and write the rough draft. I’m thinking this might be a July project, but we’ll see.

The Multiverse Chronicles: On hold. That being said, I did manage to finish editing another episode. Still a few episodes remain to be edited before this project is ready to come back to the front of the projects list.

Little One: Isaac has read through my current draft of Little One and given me notes. It’ll be a little bit before I start revisions (I need to finish editing Fractured Skies and Magebane first) but now that I have notes, I can move this up on my to-do list.

Magebane: (Book Three of The Wishing Blade series) Once I’ve finished revisions for Fractured Skies, this is next on my list. After I finish those revisions, it will need to go out to another round of beta-readers. It’s also clear that Magebane relies heavily on the first two books, and will not read as a stand-alone.

Wind and Words: (Book 2 of Stone and String). Complete! The ebook edition of Wind and Words is now available, and I’m currently waiting for the proof copy of the print edition to arrive. I intend to make both the print edition for Wind and Words and “Stone and String” available on Amazon (as well as in person, when possible).

Stone and String 3 (and assorted Wishing Blade short stories): Currently plotting this and two short stories (or novellas… we’ll see) prior to this one. Working on creating the immortals’ fictional language so I can create the Ancient Cirenan language (more on that in this blog post), which should have at least a small feature in these stories.

Plus, I have an idea for a short story set in the snowy region of Reveratch, north of Cirena. Not sure when these will get written, but I’m in the pre-writing stages of development.

Cyberpunk / Dystopian Snow White Story: On hold.

Game Design: On hold… though Isaac and I have been fun playing an “epic” version of our Legends of Cirena mini role-play game. All tiles, all expansions, all bosses, and a few story-line style quests. It’ll be a while before this is complete enough to release to the public, but hey, we’ve been having fun with its potential.

Marketing: Got to participate in a Facebook launch party for Michael W. Huard’s Sisters of the Dawn’s Early Light with several other authors. That was fun. Did a couple giveaways there. Also, I’ve been including a lot of behind-the-scenes details in my newsletters, so if you want to stay up-to-date, don’t forget to sign up for them (details on the sidebar).

SBibb’s Photographic Illustration: Now that formatting the books for Infinitas Publishing is complete, I have a formatting project I’m currently working on, plus a couple book covers slated to complete in the next month for other authors.

LitRPG / GameLit Story: While I had hoped to get the rough draft completed, that didn’t happen. However, I’ve been working through a round of revisions on the second portion of the story, and I have an idea for how to complete the climax and resolution (which wasn’t what I originally thought it was). Also, I have a cover completed and a blurb, which is a plus. Also, I have the title. Just need to finish the actual story so I can send it out to beta-readers and figure out a catchy tagline.

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I kind of feel like I might be missing something, but that’s all I can think of for now. I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Infinitas Publishing – Status Report

And it’s been another month! Busy… (especially with a seemingly random case of an allergic reaction at the beginning of the month — nothing too major, but still not sure what caused it), but progress has been made!

Meanwhile, the snow is almost gone, despite the piles of snow here and there. I’m sad to see it go, but having warm weather is nice. Back to walking without heavy winter coats!

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Glitch: I had intended to get the print versions formatted by the end of the month, but that didn’t quite happen. The interior formatting for Whispers in the Code is just about complete (I’m working on finalizing it), and once that’s done, formatting Ghost of a Memory and Spirits of a Glitch should be a bit simpler since most of the major pieces have been put in place. Once the interior formats are complete, I’ll need to create the print-edition covers. With luck, I’ll have the print versions approved by the end of May.

After that, my next step will be putting together an ebook “box set” with all three books for those who prefer to have the complete series in one ebook file.

Fractured Skies: (Book 2 of the Distant Horizon series). I should be getting feedback from my beta-reader soon, and then I’ll start on the next round of revisions. After that, Isaac and I will assess whether we’re ready to move on to finalizing the book or whether it needs to go out to another set of beta-readers.

In other news, I’ve pretty much finalized the ebook cover, so I’ll be revealing that soon. 🙂

Distant Horizon: The updated print edition is almost complete. There’s still a couple tweaks to be made to the interior file, and I’ll need to finish the print edition of the cover, but it’s almost ready for ordering a proof copy.

The Multiverse Chronicles: On hold, though I’ve got a few ideas for how we may want to proceed with this once we finish edits to the remaining episodes.

Little One: On hold.

Book Three of The Wishing Blade series: I have a title! Presenting: Magebane.

Isaac is the one who came up with the title, and given the large role that charlago/magebane plays in the book, I think it’s fitting.

This project took up most of my month with revisions, re-reading the first two books to find missing plot points, and then doing another round of revisions to fix revision smudge. Anyway, I sent it out to beta-readers a few days ago.

The other good news is that I’m starting to get an idea of how to tie everything together in the next book.

Wind and Words: (Book 2 of Stone and String). Waiting for Isaac to look over this now that his school year is wrapping up. Hopefully I’ll have more news on this soon. Also, I’ve started plotting the third book in this series, though I haven’t outlined it yet.

Cyberpunk / Dystopian Snow White Story: Kinda-sorta on hold? I haven’t touched the related short story yet, and I’m wanting to move on to revising this, but I also have Fractured Skies in queue… so it depends on how smoothly revising that one goes as to how soon I get back to this.

Marketing: Continuing with the newsletters (if you want more frequent updates, behind-the-scenes info, and sneak peeks about our worlds, check out the sidebar). I’m hoping to get involved with fairs/craft shows again this year, but we’ll see how timing/money pans out.

SBibb’s Photographic Illustration: Finished one book cover, have another book cover coming up, and have a formatting job to complete.

LitRPG / GameLit Story: Didn’t make quite as much progress with this as I’d hoped (I’d wanted to finish the rough draft this month, but Magebane took more time to revise than I expected). Anyway, it’s now sitting at 64,000 words, and I think I finally figured out how to end it for a satisfying conclusion, at least for the first book.

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That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Infinitas Publishing – Status Report

Another month has passed. Not quite as much done this month, but that’s in part due to taking care of things like taxes and going on a trip to Missouri for Spring Break (visiting family, friends, and enjoying the anime convention my husband and I like going to).

We still have snow. It’s now a mixture of snow and ice, due to yesterday’s warmer day, but the snow still triumphed! It’s spitting snow now. 🙂

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Glitch: Whispers in the Code and Ghost of a Memory are both now available, and Spirits of a Glitch releases this Saturday! That means the mini-series will be complete!

With those books published, my next step with the Glitch Saga will be to create the print editions. With luck, I’ll have that done in April. But I still need to create the wrap-around covers and format the interior for print, as well as order proof copies, so I’m not setting any release date for the print editions just yet.

Fractured Skies: (Book 2 of the Distant Horizon series). I finished the latest round of edits and revisions a couple days ago, and I’ve sent it out to the next beta-reader. Depending on their feedback, this one might end up with another reader before it’s finished, or it might move on to the read-aloud stage. We’ll see. I feel like all the story elements are in place now, but there may be some pacing issues that still need to be resolved (especially since it’s currently sitting at 161,000 words).

Distant Horizon: When I create the print editions for the Glitch Saga, I also intend to update the print edition of Distant Horizon so that it has the new cover.

The Multiverse Chronicles: On hold.

Little One: On hold.

Book Three of The Wishing Blade series: This is my next big project. With the Glitch Saga complete and Fractured Skies out to beta-readers, I am now set to tackle Isaac’s notes and wrangle this one into a cohesive book. Oh… and I might finally have a title for it. Keep an eye out for news about that. 🙂

Wind and Words: (Book 2 of Stone and String). Out to beta-readers. After I get their feedback, I’m going to do one final pass and then hand it over to Isaac.

Cyberpunk / Dystopian Snow White Story: I’ve gotten feedback from beta-readers, so I’m ready to start work on this. It’s in the queue after I finish edits on book three of The Wishing Blade series. In the meantime, I still need to revise the related short story.

At the moment, I think these will stand alone, but I have ideas of what else I can do in this world if readers show interest.

Warrensburg Readers World Book Signing - March 2018

Marketing: While in Missouri, we stopped by the Warrensburg Reader’s World and did a semi-impromptu book signing (Thanks for having us, Sai! 😀 ). I think it went well. 🙂

In the meantime, I’m continuing to build our newsletters, and I’ve been releasing the Distant Horizon Universe and The Wishing Blade Universe newsletters every other week (I end up writing one newsletter a week).

 

Check out the top of this blog’s side bar for the updated newsletter section. It now has links for all three newsletters.

SBibb’s Photographic Illustration: Finished creating a banner related to the logo I created earlier.

LitRPG / GameLit Story: Got beta-reader feedback on the first 44,000 words, and I’ve decided to go ahead and make it a full-length novel. It’s currently sitting at 48,000 words. Slow going, especially with all the other projects I’ve been trying to finish, but I’m thinking about making it my CampNaNo project.

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That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Infinitas Publishing – Status Report

Well, this month sure flew by fast. But it’s been productive (aside from both me and Isaac catching a cold). At least, as productive as a launch month tends to be, while still figuring out the loops and holes that come with a launch.

Also, there is snow. There is a lot of snow. Really fluffy, pretty snow. A lot of it.

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Glitch: Whispers in the Code is now available! (You can download it for free if you sign up for the Distant Horizon Universe newsletter). In the meantime, Ghost of a Memory just released on Monday, and the third book (previously titled For We Are Many) now has its official name, Spirits of a Glitch. We hope to release it in mid-to-late March.

Isaac and I are progressing through the read-aloud phase of Spirits of a Glitch, and then I’ll format it, proofread it, and then upload it for pre-order. I also need to do the final touches on the cover.

Fractured Skies: (Book 2 of the Distant Horizon series). I’ve gotten notes back from my beta-reader, and I’m now in the process of editing. Then it will go out to another beta-reader.

The Multiverse Chronicles: On hold.

Little One: On hold.

Book Three of The Wishing Blade series: I need to review Isaac’s notes and then begin revisions. Hopefully this will start after The Glitch Saga is complete.

Wind and Words: (Book 2 of Stone and String). Got feedback from my beta-reader. I finished a round of minor edits, and then I sent it out to another beta-reader. Next, after I’ve made those revisions, I’ll hand it to Isaac to look over with developmental notes.

SBibb’s Photographic Illustration: Got a book cover done and created a flier / finished a logo.

Game Development: On hold while Isaac works on obtaining his PhD.

Marketing: Increased newsletter subscriber count by taking part in several giveaways on BookFunnel and InstaFreebie. I’m going to do at least one more month of BookFunnel, and then we’ll see if the newsletter translates into sales or not. Depending on the results will determine whether I try using InstaFreebie and/or BookFunnel giveaways as a long-term plan.

If you want to sign up for the Distant Horizon Universe newsletter (and download Whispers in the Code for free), click here.

If you want to sign up for the Wishing Blade Universe newsletter (and download “Stone and String” for free), click here.

If you just want to be informed of new releases and events, sign up for the Infinitas Publishing newsletter by clicking here.

Cyberpunk / Dystopian Snow White Story: I hadn’t planned on making progress with this, but since I haven’t had a chance to look at the notes for the third Wishing Blade series book, this sort of got shuffled upward on my to-do list. I’ve finished the first pass of revisions and it’s now out to beta-readers.

I still need to make revisions to a related short story, and then that can go out to beta-readers, too.

In the meantime, I created a proof for a potential cover for the main story, and I’ve been developing ideas for a possible continuation of the story into a series.

LitRPG / GameLit Story: Slowly making progress on this. I got feedback back from a beta-reader who read the first 20,000 words and confirmed it is going in the right direction (once a few tweaks are made), so I’m continuing to write this. It’s slow going since it’s a side project and the other projects take precedence… and because working game mechanics into the story means it takes me a little longer than usual to write the rough draft. I want to get the mechanics right the first time… rather than having a cascading effect of failures if I mess up the stats early on.

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That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Thoughts on Writing – Flash Fiction – “Unicorn”

I recently met Charli Mills, a local author who introduced me to her website, Carrot Ranch. There, a community of writers respond to weekly prompts for flash fiction, which, for their purposes, is fiction with an exact count of 99 words.

This week’s prompt is “Unicorn.” I very much enjoyed researching the mythology of unicorns when I was in junior high and high school, so I decided to take part in the fun. First, with a darker variant on the idea of the unicorn, which was inspired by stories in which the unicorn was used in courts to determine if a criminal was guilty or not. (You can blame these stories for the version of the chesnathé mentioned in The Shadow War, a brutal, bulky, immortal equine who tends to pass judgment on “lower beings.”) Second, I also wrote a lighter variant (following a more European story).

Enjoy. 🙂

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“Judgement”

His curved horn meets with flesh and another criminal meets his fate. A sinner. A thief. No more shall he steal. The crowd roars their approval. The unicorn raises his bulky head and swings it side to side like a bull. They cheer for him and his judgment.

He flicks his tail, slender like a cow’s, with a tuft of brown hair at the end. The rest of his fur is black. His horn is tri-colored. Black at the base, cinnamon in the middle, and red on top. Stained red… it would be brown, but the blood never dries.

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“Captured”

Her fingers pass through the creature’s mane, which is silky white, like threads dipped in the morning dew. He is in chains. She slides her fingers under the delicate silver.

“You will be free.”

His ears swivel, listening. She strokes the damp fur of his neck. He breathes hard from the chase.

“Do not worry. I will return.”

She disappears, her slippers padding through the rain-flushed grass. When she returns, her gossamer gown whispering around her calves, the unicorn raises his head. His blue eyes regard her, pleading.

She reveals a pair of wire cutters and smiles. “Be free.”

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I hope you enjoyed this post. If you want to participate, head over to Carrot Ranch for their Feb 22nd prompt. 🙂

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Infinitas Publishing – Status Report

Wow… busy month. Not a lot of writing done, but progress has certainly been made. As such, it’s time for the monthly Infinitas Publishing status report!

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Glitch: (Spin-off series following Tim from the Distant Horizon series). Read-aloud proofing for Whispers in the Code and Ghost of a Memory complete. Proofreading and formatting for Whispers in the code complete–and it’s now up for pre-order!

It’s official. Whispers in the Code (the first book in the mini-series) will be released on February 8th, 2018! Yay! (Though you can read it now, for free, if you sign up for the Distant Horizon Universe mailing list).

For the second book in the series I still need to finish fixing typos found while proofreading, and Isaac and I still need to do the read-aloud proofing of the third book, For We Are Many (tentative title). The plan is to release each of these books about a month apart, so there shouldn’t be too long of a wait between each story. Progress made!

Fractured Skies: (Book 2 of the Distant Horizon series). Currently out to beta-readers.

Distant Horizon: The new cover is now up! Check it out here if you haven’t seen it yet.

The Multiverse Chronicles: On hold.

Little One: On hold until Isaac has a chance to read it and make notes.

Book Three of The Wishing Blade Series: Isaac has finished reading through my current draft, and one of my next big projects will be reviewing his notes and making revisions. After that, I’ll be sending this out to beta-readers.

Stone and String 2: I just finished polishing the current draft and it is now ready for beta-readers! Its working title is “Wind and Words,” but we’ll see if that sticks. (In my fictional Cantingen language, that would be “Van si casime,” which usually gets used as an expression stated in exasperation or shock, and references the god of language and wind, Ruetravahn).

SBibb’s Photographic Illustration: Plugging along. Got a couple book covers done and started work on a logo concept.

Game Development: On hold while Isaac’s focused on his PhD… though I’ve been delving more into the LitRPG/GameLit genre. More on that in a moment.

Marketing: The Distant Horizon Universe website is complete! While it’s still sparse, I’ll be updating this as new books in that universe come out. In the meantime, I also figured out how to do automation with Mailchimp’s newsletter service, and I’ve set up reader magnets (Glitch: Whispers in the Code) to draw attention to our new Distant Horizon Universe newsletter! (Alternatively, you can get the first half of Distant Horizon for free by using this link… but I haven’t set it up yet to where you can get both Whispers in the Code and the free sample of Distant Horizon. I do plan to make both available to anyone who subscribes to that newsletter, but I haven’t gotten that part set up yet. In the meantime, I’ve signed up for Book Funnel and plan to do the trial month of Instafreebie, so I’ll be participating in a few joint book promotions soon.

Cyberpunk/Dystopian Snow White Story: On temporary hold, since I’m primarily focusing on getting Glitch published and I plan to make revisions to the third Wishing Blade book (I’ve really got to come up with a title). But it’s on my to-do list, and I’ve been thinking of possible ways to continue the series, all very loose ideas at the moment.

New Story Idea: So… I’ve become fascinated with LitRPG/GameLit, and I’m currently reading books in the genre. Of course, that doesn’t come without story ideas and plotting, and a couple days ago I finished a detailed outline for what might become my first book in a GameLit series. (By “detailed outline” I mean that it contains every major event, has occasional moments of character dialogue, notes about what clues need to be planted where, and which game mechanics need to be involved. The outline clocked in at a lovely 10,000 words, a short story unto itself).

I’m not sure if I’m going to proceed with this idea yet, especially since I want to read more books in the genre before publication, and I’m not sure yet whether I’ll publish this under Infinitas Publishing with the rest of my books, in order to focus on targeting a specific audience, but it’s a project I’ve been working on in the background to feed my creativity while working on all the formatting/marketing/proofreading stuff for Glitch.

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Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with our latest book releases and promotions, sign up for our Infinitas Publishing Newsletter! Now that we’ve created the Distant Horizon Universe newsletter, the Infinitas Publishing newsletter will primarily be used to announce when a new book is coming out, rather than give sneak peeks into the different books. But you can be on both lists if you want. Enjoy!

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Runners & Riders Blog Tour

Today I’m participating in a blog tour for fellow author, Jordan Elizabeth. 🙂

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Runners & Riders

Companion to the Treasure Chronicles

A young adult novel of gangs and love in a steampunk world.

Runners & Riders - Book Cover

Juliet loved growing up at the seaside, although it meant lonely hours chasing after the other beach rats while her mother worked as a seamstress. Juliet never expected her seaman father to inherit a fortune and move the family to New Addison City. Suddenly her mother is a socialite and Juliet is best friends with a strong-willed girl who actually likes her. When Juliet’s new friend welcomes her to the Runners, a gang that has plagued the East Coast for years, Juliet sees it as the opportunity to fit in, learn tricks, and make eyes at one of the hottest members. What the gang does isn’t really wrong…right? She’s used to being a pawn for the Runners, but she starts to question what she sees as harmless fun when the gang uses her to attack a young officer.

 

Jonathan Montgomery vowed to end the Runners after they murdered his family. He joined the Riders, an elite police force dedicated to stopping the Runners’ crime spree. They have put him in New Addison City, but rookie mistakes follow Jonathan as he struggles to accomplish his goal, until a young woman feeds him inside information to bring down the Runners.

 

Between murders and secrets, Juliet will need to find her strength to help Jonathan, before the founder of the Runners crawls up from the sewers amongst her inventions to burn down the city.

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RUNNERS & RIDERS is available now on Amazon from Curiosity Quills Press.

Check out early reviews on GoodReads!

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Runners & Riders Banner

Can’t wait to read the next installment in the Treasure Chronicles world?  Check out the first chapter:

A figure ducked behind the work shed where the glow of the back porch gas lamp didn’t reach. Jonathan shielded his eyes so he could see more clearly through the bedroom window, but the backyard lay still. The white sheets the maid had hung fluttered in the evening breeze.

 

His uncle would have a ghost story to tell about those.

 

Another dark shape bolted across the yard; this one crouched in his mother’s flower garden. It might have been one of the boys from school come to throw pebbles at the pale blue siding until Jonathan sneaked out, but they seemed too tall for eleven-year-olds. The one in the flowers crept closer to the house.

 

Movement in the woods drew Jonathan’s attention farther across the yard, where two more shapes lurked. They had to be grown men. He gulped as he crawled away from the window to the hallway where the light from the living room glowed up the stairs.

 

“Found you.” The maid grinned from his parents’ bedroom, a stack of table linens in her arms. “When we play hide-and-seek, you ain’t supposed to come out till I call for you. We gotta practice the rules again? I was gonna come looking soon as I put these cloths away.”

 

He grabbed the railing. “There’s people out in the yard.”

 

Her eyes widened before she clicked her tongue. “Ain’t nobody out in this cold. I’m dreading my own walk home. Bless your father if he gives me a ride.”

 

“I saw them. There had to be ten, at least!” Jonathan took the stairs down two at a time.

 

His uncle sat in front of the living room hearth, the fire crackling to stave off the autumn chill, with Jonathan’s sister nestled in his lap. “The old king rose up tall as that old oak out by the water pump, and he waved his scepter as if he was a wizard.”

 

“Uncle Henry,” Jonathan interrupted. “There are people out back.”

 

“What’s that? You get to bed already?”

 

“What?” His uncle never made them sleep as early as his mother did; they usually got to stay up until their parents came home from the opera house.

 

“You must have had a nightmare.” Uncle Henry chuckled, and the little girl giggled from his lap.

 

“No, I saw them. They were slinking through the yard.” Jonathan pointed toward the rear of the house. His uncle would appreciate “slinking,” as if the word had fallen from one of those mystery novels he read them.

 

Uncle Henry glanced at the clock on the mantle. “Your parents shouldn’t be much longer. It must’ve been them you saw.”

 

“There were a bunch of people. Lots of them. Fifteen at least!” Jonathan’s heartbeat increased. Some of the natives – those Bromi warriors – from out west might have crept across the country. Pirates might have invaded from the sea. His parents whispered about those when they read the newspapers.

 

“Fifteen, huh? Well, you keep an eye on them for me. If they come too close, we’ll build a fort around the house.” Uncle Henry adjusted the pink afghan wrapped around the toddler.

 

The doors were locked, but the enemy might break through the windows. Jonathan’s father kept the guns sealed in a case, but he did have an emergency pistol in a box under his bed. They’d be proud if he protected his family.

 

As Jonathan reached the top of the stairs, someone knocked on the front door. He froze, one sock-clad foot on the landing and the other on the top step. Pirates and natives didn’t knock. They invaded; they were evil.

 

The maid swept past him, lifting her ankle-length brown skirt. “I hope that’s my dear papa come with the pony cart. He won’t let his little girl walk home in the frost.” She winked at Jonathan, but he gulped. She wouldn’t know to be afraid. Even though she played games with him, she was sixteen, old enough to think the world was perfect. Only he knew enough to find danger in shadows.

 

“If that’s your father, invite him in for some coffee,” Uncle Henry called.

 

“Will do, sir.”

 

Jonathan crouched beside the railing and clutched the rungs. If he bent his head enough, he could see the front door. The maid wiped her hands on her apron before she opened it.

 

“Oh, hello. Can I help you?” Her final word fell away in a scream as a man shoved her inside. His black coat buttoned to his chin and a black knit cap covered his head.

 

Jonathan’s own scream strangled in his throat.

 

“This the Montgomery residence?” the man barked. Three more men shoved into the foyer, all of them dressed in full black. The tallest of the bunch seized the maid by the shoulders and slammed her into the wall.

 

“Y-yes, sir,” she stammered.

 

“What’s going on here?” Uncle Henry burst in from the living room while two more assailants stepped inside. Jonathan’s sister started to wail.

 

One of the men drew a handgun from his belt and aimed it at Uncle Henry’s chest. “Where’s the laboratory?”

 

“Get out of this house,” Uncle Henry said. Jonathan had never heard him speak with such calm finesse, the laughter gone from his voice.

 

Jonathan’s hands trembled where he gripped the polished wood. His uncle would handle everything. Take that, bad guys.

 

“Well now,” the attacker drawled, “that wasn’t the answer I was looking for.”

 

“How about you, girl?” the man yelled at the maid. “Take us to the lab.”

 

As soon as the man released her, she sank to the floor, her shoulders shaking with sobs.

 

The man crouched in front of her to grip her chin. “What’s your name, girl?”

 

“R-Rose.”

 

“You the scientist’s daughter?”

 

Jonathan stiffened. Uncle Henry would protect them, and if Jonathan needed to, he could leap over the railing onto the man’s back.

 

“N-no, sir. I’m just the maid. It’s a common name here. Rose. We have that rose festival and all. We have the famous rainbow-colored rose.”

 

He slapped her across the face and jerked her to her feet. “Shut up, bitch. Get us to the lab or you won’t be making no more noise.”

 

“You’ll release her now.” Uncle Henry lunged forward, and a crack split the air. He staggered, rasping, and dropped to his knees. Blood appeared on his chest, the circle growing, morphing into something that dripped and twisted without pattern.

 

“Mack, what was that? You shot him.” One of the men chuckled.

 

“No,” the maid shrieked.

 

Jonathan squeezed his eyes shut. Perhaps he had fallen asleep waiting for Rose to find him. It had to be a dream. Uncle Henry is fine. Were all fine.

 

When he opened them, his uncle lay on the hardwood floor in a pool of red paint. Red paint. No, not paint. Blood.

 

The men stomped through the house toward his father’s laboratory off the kitchen, and the maid’s sobs mingled with his sister’s cries. He had to protect his sister. He’d get the pistol, grab her, and he’d run for the neighbor’s farm.

 

Jonathan ran for their bedroom, the door still open from when the maid folded away the tablecloths. With only the light from downstairs, he crawled to the bed and lay on his stomach to reach the box. Nothing should have invaded his perfect house, with its two chimneys and dark blue shutters, with the flower garden and those ghost sheets flapping on the line.

 

He pulled out the box and flipped the hook on the lid to remove the pistol. He’d seen his father polish it, but he’d never known it could be so heavy. How do I hold it?

 

A door slammed below him. He would have to point the gun and pull the trigger, like what the villain had done to his uncle. The bullet would save him and his sister. It would save the maid. If he found her, she could use it better.

 

He crept back downstairs, but the commotion came from the laboratory. Glass smashed and heavier things crashed. Another gunshot seared through the house.

 

Jonathan ran for the armchair where his uncle had left the toddler. “Rosamund, be quiet.” Her pale hair stood out against the seat’s green velveteen. “Please, Rosamund.”

 

“Well now, who’re you?”

 

Jonathan twisted around and did his best to aim the silver weapon at the man lounging in the doorway. He couldn’t be much older than the maid; how could someone so young do such evil? Jonathan couldn’t picture the boys at his school shooting anyone with anything more than a slingshot.

 

“Get out.” Jonathan’s voice squeaked.

 

The young man chuckled. “I reckon you’re the man of the house now. Good luck with that.”

 

“Get out!” Jonathan pulled the trigger.

 

The pistol clicked, but no bullet ripped through the villain. Jonathan cocked it again, his heartbeat echoing in his ears.

 

The man laughed harder. “That thing’s out of bullets, kid, but don’t worry, we’re leaving. Runners don’t mess with kids.”

 

Jonathan pulled the trigger again, but only that click answered him. Tears burned his eyes as he threw it down.

 

Runners. Next time he met one of them, he’d have a pistol full of bullets.

 

#

 

Jonathan rested his elbows on his knees and sighed. The sun shouldn’t be so bright and the few leaves that had begun to change to gold shouldn’t glow so much. At least the crimson leaves fit his mood.

 

He gazed at Rosamund as she sat beside the few marigolds that hadn’t given up on summer, petting her kitten’s gray head. She looked so happy, with her hair in two short braids. They’d let him dress her in white – black made him shudder now.

 

The Runners wore black.

 

“What do you suppose will happen to the house?” Mrs. Rogers’s voice danced through the open kitchen window. Airing out the rooms wouldn’t help banish that lingering stench of blood.

 

“I don’t know,” Miss Lea answered. He’d always loved his teacher, but she hadn’t said much more than a few sentences, as if she didn’t know how to console.

 

“I don’t suppose anyone will want a house where two murders took place. Shame, since this place is so pretty. Biggest home in all of Rosedale.”

 

Jonathan scrunched his eyes shut. How could they stand next to the laboratory where the maid had been shot? How could they even bear to be inside?

 

“All for that invention,” Mrs. Rogers continued. “You really think a motor for a ship is worth all the trouble they went to?”

 

Trouble. As if murdering his parents in their steamcoach on the way back from the opera house counted as trouble. Trouble meant forgetting to study for a spelling test.

 

“Who knows what those Runners think.”

 

“Blasted Runners. Don’t they care about the suffering families? Couldn’t they have spared all those folks?”

 

Jonathan clenched his hands into fists. He’d hunt them down. They couldn’t take his family away and laugh about it.

 

Miss Lea mumbled something he couldn’t hear.

 

“Are you going to keep the two mites?” Dishes rattled. Jonathan’s mother had never trusted Mrs. Rogers; he had a feeling he would never see those porcelain plates again.

 

Who cared what happened to the belongings?

 

“The neighbors will take him now that their daughter’s so far away. The Ashers are good folk.”

 

Jonathan jerked his head up. The neighbors, that old man and woman who never smiled much? Why would they want the Montgomery orphans, as Mrs. Rogers had dubbed them? He expected they’d live with Miss Lea since they didn’t have anyone else.

 

Miss Lea is nice enough; she’ll take care of Rosamund.

 

“It might do that old Rider a favor having some sprites around,” Mrs. Rogers said. “Come help me wrap up these teacups. Wouldn’t they look darling in my china cabinet?”

 

Jonathan plodded to the water pump to see if he could spot the neighbors’ barn through the trees. Riders hunted down the Runner gangs that plagued the east coast. If he got to live with a Rider, he might learn some tricks.

 

Jonathan sneered.

 

Runner beware, for the mark of the Rider will shine.

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Author - Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Elizabeth became obsessed with steampunk while working at a Victorian Fair.  Since then, she’s read plenty of books and even organized a few steampunk outfits that she wears on a regular basis (unless that’s weird, in which case she only wears them within the sanctuary of her own home – not!). Jordan’s young adult novels include ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, COGLING, TREASURE DARKLY, BORN OF TREASURE, GOAT CHILDREN, and VICTORIAN.  RUNNERS & RIDERS is her fifth novel with Curiosity Quills Press.  Check out her website for bonus scenes and contests.

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