Tag Archives: fantasy novella

Weekly Book Promotion Highlight

For this week’s ebook promotion highlight, I’m featuring the Short Month, Short Fiction ebook fair!

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Enjoy short stories and novellas? This book fair has all sorts of choices across several genres. Don’t miss these inexpensive options!

Short Month Short Fiction Ebook Fair

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I hope you find a good book! 😀

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Thoughts on Publishing – A Video Blog Post – Reading Chapter Nine of Magic’s Stealing

Today I’m doing a reading of chapter nine from Magic’s Stealing, my YA fantasy novella. I’m using my new microphone, plus, I have a few updates regarding some of the other projects you should see coming soon from Infinitas Publishing. 😀

Click here for the link if you can’t see the video.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

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Thoughts on Publishing – A Video Blog Post – Reading Chapter Seven of Magic’s Stealing

Last time, I read The Dragon’s Tree, a short children’s story that my husband, Isaac, wrote. Getting back into the usual trend of Monday video blogs, today I’m reading chapter seven from my young adult fantasy, Magic’s Stealing. 🙂

As a side note, if all goes well, I’ll be using a new microphone with higher sound quality for the next reading.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy chapter seven. 🙂

Click here for the link if you can’t see the video.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

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Thoughts on Publishing – Magic’s Stealing – The Paperback Proof Is In!

Today I’m going to interrupt my usual post with an announcement: I have received my paperback proof of Magic’s Stealing!

It came in a small, cardboard wrap (not quite a box, but not a bag, either), and was delivered to my front door. Upon opening the package, I took a few pictures. 😀

SBibb - MS Proof(( Please ignore the various HeroMachine pictures and cool artwork in the background… those aren’t our personal works (Though if you want a good way to organize the general look of your characters, HeroMachine is quite fun. There’s a whole row of pictures off the frame that we based on one of our campaigns). ))

SBibb---MSproof2

Fancy Title Page

Anyway, this book has 158 pages of content, plus additional pages for the front and back matter, and it clocks in at 170 pages long. Here you can see the the title page (there’s a few pages before it), and further down this post are samples of a chapter page and a regular, full-text page. You can click the images to see them at a larger size.

I did all the formatting in Microsoft Word 2007, and I hope to do a post later on some of the fun tools you can use to add a professional touch to your books. Once I tested a few pages out on my printer for various fonts and sizes and line spacing, I saved this as a PDF, and checked it in the digital proofer on Createspace. Once that looked good, I ordered the print edition.

This particular book is 5.25 x 8 inches (based on a few of my favorite books with easy-to-read formatting), which uses the same dimensions as a 6 x 9, so the cover converted easily. Glossy cover and black-and-white, cream pages. I chose the “bleed” option so that I could use the full page image treatment (pulled from the background of the cover) for the chapter intros and title page.

SBibb---MSproof3

Page Full of Text

I did notice that the words got a tad bit close to the gutter, so that’s something I’ll have to keep in mind for future series, but it’s still readable. Of course, I also justified the text.

This is the end result, and I’m now reading through the book to make sure the formatting is correct before I release the print edition (Amazon only, for now).

I’ve found a couple typos, which I’ve made note of, but if those are all I find, I will most likely let those slide for now so that I don’t potentially mess up the formatting right before ordering a large number of books. If I find a large number of typos, I may go ahead and do the initial revision now.

Though that one I’ve found may keep pestering me…

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll order a second proof, that way I can be sure the formatting looks right and that there are as few errors in the print book as possible.

Anyway, regardless of what I choose to do, I plan to go back and revisit both the print and ebook editions at some point for typos, but I’m considering doing that all at once, when more typos have inevitably been found.

In the meantime, look forward to the paperback edition, coming soon! 😀

SBibb---MSproof4

Sorry, this photo got a little blurry…

I hope you’ve found this post helpful. 🙂

Have you had any experiences with proofing a print edition of your book? How do you decide when to update for typo corrections?



 SBibb --- MS Proof  SBibb---MSproof5 

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Thoughts on Writing – Multiple Character Motivations in One Scene

Though I’ve primarily been focusing on getting the paperback edition ready for Magic’s Stealing (I ordered the proof copy today!) and making edits to The Multiverse Chronicles, I’ve still been thinking about the plot for The Shadow War. My goal is to iron out as many inconsistencies as possible before I get into the heavy writing/editing phase.

Today I’m going to look to look at a scene from The Shadow War and focus on how knowing the multiple character motivations in that scene can help improve the logic of what’s going on.

Warning: There are spoilers in this post regarding events in Magic’s Stealing, along with certain character motivations and the first major event of The Shadow War.

In other words, if you don’t want spoilers, you might want to pick up a copy of Magic’s Stealing before reading this post, then come back to read this post. If you don’t mind spoilers, then by all means, please continue reading. 🙂

Toward the beginning of The Shadow War (the second book) there is a scene in which it is very important that the main character, Toranih, is captured by the shadows. In the current draft of this scene, a city guard requests her presence for legitimate reasons, but once she’s separated from her friends, a pair of shadows ambush her and the guard, then drag her through a portal to where Shevanlagiy (the antagonist from the previous book) is waiting to kill her. Shevanlagiy makes the attempt, but Toranih takes her by surprise and knocks her aside, leaving Lord Menchtoteale (the leader of the Shadows) to try. He attempts to strike her once, but since Toranih knows that shadows can’t be killed by mortal weapons, she grabs the nearest shadow’s knife and strikes her own hand. She falls into the shadow realm, and Menchtoteale again attempts to kill her, this time making what should be a devastating blow with the Wishing Blade, but Isahna (the trickster god behind the shadows, the god Menchoteale answers to) heals Toranih, orders Shevanlagiy to leave Toranih alone, and orders Menchtoteale to train her.

At this point in time, though, I’m a bit concerned that all of that is going to seem rather… confusing.

Why does Isahna prevent Menchtoteale from killing Toranih, and more importantly, why can’t these big bad guys successfully kill an almost defenseless teenager?

(Though I do have to say that Toranih has been working on her magic, and she is good at physical combat. But still… shouldn’t a well-trained sword fighter with a magic sword, or a super-powerful sorceress, manage one partially-trained kid?)

Since I want these scenes to make logical sense, I did my usual day-dreaming to work out the problems with this scene. As a result, I considered the character motivation for each character involved.

Toranih: She wants to get out of this alive. Being caught by shadows? Not exactly conducive to her plans of warning the port city of the upcoming attack. Now, she’s been in the shadow realm before (in a slightly alternate timeline that got erased because of her actions–read Magic’s Stealing if you want to know how that went), so she has a bit of an idea of how shadow magic works. She also knows that–at least according to her memory–she’s resistant to Menchtoteale’s attempts at magic’s lure (basically, a mind control power).

Shevanlagiy: Thanks to events in Magic’s Stealing, Toranih has part of Shevanlagiy’s magic… specifically her resistance to magic’s lure. Before that event, Shevanlagiy could ignore Isahna’s commands (so long as ignoring his commands don’t alert him to her own secret plans). Now that Shevanlagiy has lost part of her magic, she’s not sure how much it will take for Isahna to give her orders that she must follow, which isn’t good when she plans on stealing the Wishing Blade from him later. At this point, she needs to kill Toranih as soon as possible. However, it’s important that she be the one to kill Toranih, otherwise she won’t get her magic back.

Menchtoteale: He’s in charge of wielding the Wishing Blade, and his job is to collect as much power into the sword as possible. He needs an army of shadows (to overrun the Immortal Realm so that he can kill the gods and force their powers into Wishing Blade). Toranih was one of the few mages who didn’t lose her powers when he wished the magic of Cirena into the Wishing Blade, largely because she had the support of a lower-tier goddess behind her. For Menchtoteale, killing Toranih with the sword means finishing that part of the job. Alternatively, striking her with a shadow blade means he should be able to command her. But he knows that someone who looked like Toranih was particularly resistant to his ability to command the shadows. As such, killing her is the more practical option, even though having a shadow mage on his side could be good for the army.

Isahna: His intent is to have Menchtoteale get as much power in the Wishing Blade as possible so that he can eventually take that sword, confront the high gods, then take their place. (It’s a bit of a vendetta after he lost the bid for power to a different god). He’s gotten surprisingly useful information from Shevanlagiy, but he’s certain that she’s playing him for a fool. Unfortunately, he’s not all-knowing, so he’s not sure what her end-game is. He does have an idea that her resistance to his powers may have dropped recently, and has something to do with Toranih. Thus, keeping Toranih around might give him a few insights into what Shevanlagiy has planned… especially since the kid has strong powers (if she can be coaxed into using them) and an interest in military operations (unlike Menchtoteale, who Isahna chose as his general mainly because the guy could forge the Wishing Blade).

There are other motivations behind these guys, as well, but I’m trying not to give away all the twists of this scene. 😉

Anyway, looking at those motivations, let’s take a look at the scene again and at what could happen instead.

First, Toranih must be captured early on in the story (or at least, she needs to be in a position where she becomes a shadow). This is critical to the plot, as she needs to be working against the shadow army from the inside. The problem with this is that, in theory, Shevanlagiy really should just sneak up on Toranih and stab her in the back.

Problem solved (And we have one very happy Shevanlagiy).

But we know from Magic’s Stealing that Shevanlagiy is hesitant to do that so long as Toranih’s other two friends are around. They have an artifact which can effectively wipe out shadows (and is a large detriment to her own powers). Not only that, but one of those people is Toranih’s sister–who has proven to have particularly good aim with a throwing knife and nearly killed Shevanlagiy once before (Shevanlagiy doesn’t die, per se, but she can get thrown into another realm and thus lose all her progress in this realm). The other person is Daernan–someone Shevanlagiy has been working very hard at making sure he stays alive. Putting him in danger isn’t a good idea for her–not yet.

Even if Shevanlagiy simply stabbed Toranih with a shadow knife and commanded her to hold still while she delivered the finishing blow, the possibility that Toranih might get destroyed by the artifact her friends have–thus permanently losing her “stolen” magic–is not a good risk.

So that’s an area I’m still running into issues with. Shevanlagiy needs Toranih dead, so the question is how does she make that attempt?

For now, let’s say that Shevanlagiy still orders a pair of shadows to kidnap Toranih and bring the girl to her. Now she’s putting the shadows–but not herself–at risk. Shevanlagiy’s first goal is still to kill Toranih… just on her own terms. She’s ready to strike when Toranih arrives, and makes an immediate attempt on Toranih’s life.

Since we don’t want Toranih dead yet, this is where we can see Toranih’s growth with magic from the previous story. She successfully thwarts Shevanlagiy with telekinesis… even though her chances are looking bleak if she can’t find a way to quickly escape.

Now enter Menchtoteale. He’s in the same location (which makes me consider… why would Shevanlagiy bring her captive to the same place as someone who might kill Toranih before her? Perhaps he comes back to their base unexpectedly early? Or perhaps Isahna gets wind that Shevanlagiy is up to something, so he sends his puppet along to check things out). Either way, Menchtoteale arrives unexpectedly, realizes Toranih is the same person he saw earlier, and he knows he won’t be able to control her easily. Forget making her a shadow, then. While Shevanlagiy is still dazed from her earlier attack, he attempts to kill Toranih and be done with it… except that Toranih, in her desperation, snags the knife from one of the nearby shadows and prevents her death by turning herself into a shadow. The catch here is that if he uses the Wishing Blade, that would kill her (but she might not be thinking about that)… unless he stops mid-strike because he’s bewildered that anyone would willingly make themselves a shadow.

He’s not the only one. Toranih isn’t sure what to make of her decision, either.

In the meantime, Shevanlagiy has had enough time to get back into the game. Now it’s more important than ever that she kill Toranih. She prepares to make the kill, but is stopped when Isahna shows up and orders them to stop. She can technically disobey his orders at the moment, but deliberately breaking his rules now would make it clear that she has her own agenda, which would jeopardize her later plans. She holds back, though she’s still trying to figure out how to take out her enemy.

Now, this next section needs some work, but this is what I have in mind so far:

Isahna orders them not to harm Toranih. Both Menchtoteale and Shevanlagiy protest, and Isahna makes the case that Toranih might be useful to have around. He orders Menchtoteale to train her, and orders Shevanlagiy not to kill her. When Shevanlagiy expresses her displeasure with the idea, he begins to question her why. Shevanlagiy tries making excuses, to which Isahna starts giving her minor orders with magic’s lure, ones which he knows she will deny if his suspicions about her are correct. Each time she refuses, her ability to resist magic’s lure dwindles, until he finally gives the order not to kill Toranih. This time, he successfully uses his power against her. Not only can he now keep Shevanlagiy away from his new military interest, but he has also discovered exactly where her resistance to his powers ends.

This is important for multiple reasons.

1st – This sets up a rule of magic that we will see throughout the rest of the series, one which Menchtoteale tells Toranih (paraphrased): “Better to accept the little things that Isahna orders of you, and thus be able to resist the commands that matter to you, rather than resist the insignificant things and be forced to do something terrible.”

2nd – We now see exactly why Shevanlagiy is afraid of Isahna… and why she is more desperate than before to push her plans along and find some way to strike Toranih and get her powers back… especially now that she physically can’t unless she takes care of Isahna first. Not only that, but this puts her in a position to ignore Toranih for the time being and focus her attention on Daernan, which gets into the sub-plot regarding glass-stone and protecting the kingdom from the shadows. Shevanlagiy is playing both sides, which makes her, to some extent, unpredictable.

3rd  – Toranih has now seen firsthand how magic’s lure works from Isahna, which affects her decisions through the rest of the series. This is especially important when Isahna offers her a legitimately useful deal later (Though it comes with it’s costs,of course. I rather enjoy stories with villains who can offer a hard-to-resist deal. Probably one of the reasons that I enjoyed Rumpelstiltskin’s character in Once Upon A Time). Along the same token, we’ll also see Isahna offering Menchtoteale a deal regarding Menchtoteale’s own freedom if he can get Toranih interested in trading places with him… and that gets into a whole nother set of character motivations. Needless to say, Isahna is going to try covering all the angles.

In the long run, taking a close look at what motivates each primary character to act, especially early on in your manuscript, can really help to work out the kinks not only in a specific scene, but also in the full length of the plot. Not only that, but you’ll also have more believable antagonists and stronger protagonists, because we can understand what they’re up against.

Now I just have to figure out how much to actually show in the story. On the bright side I’ve already shown multiple points of view in the first book, so it won’t be as odd if we see the occasional point of view from the antagonists.

I hope this post has been helpful. 🙂 Have you ever explored a character’s motivations to solve problematic scenes?

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Thoughts on Publishing – Back Cover Blurb

I’m currently formatting the Magic’s Stealing ebook editions for Smashwords and Kindle, and since I’m determined to get the files uploaded for pre-order tonight, I’m keeping this blog post shorter than usual. But I thought we could take a look at the back cover copy… the little blurb about the book that you see after clicking the cover online.

This little blurb is important, since it tells the reader whether or not they might like the book.

I have a habit of only skimming the blurbs when I’m looking for the next book to read, rather than really letting the information sink in. I’ve noticed this before, but it really became evident today while I was reading The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, when I realized that I had little idea about where the book was going. I flipped it over, read the blurb again, and the puzzle pieces fit into place.

It was like the blurb didn’t sink in until after I’d become acquainted with the world.

The same thing happened when I was reading The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross. I reread the blurb after I’d gotten a few chapters in, and then the blurb seemed to finally ‘click’ for me.

But something in the blurb made me want to pick up the book, so it did its job.

There are also blurbs where I read them after I finish the book, and they don’t quite fit the events of the story. (Or they fit the second book better than the first). The blurb caught my attention, and I enjoyed the book… but it wasn’t really what the book was about.

So today, let’s take a look at the blurb for Magic’s Stealing and compare it to the contents of the book.

For centuries, ribbons of magic have provided the kingdom of Cirena with light, healing, and protection. Then, in a span of minutes, those ribbons fly from their masters, stolen, save for the magic of a few chosen mages. One of these mages is Toranih, a young noblewoman who would rather have a sword in her hand than use her powers to heal or throw fireballs. As a result, her magic skills are lacking. But with former mages dying from magic withdrawal, and the looming threat of an army of shadows who are impervious to mortal weapons, she must either embrace the responsibilities of a mage or watch her home perish.

First off, we have the line about magic and how it gets stolen. This doesn’t actually happen until chapter four, though plenty of stuff happens before then. This is that “start with the action” bit. There’s no fighting yet, but we have tension.

For example, in the first chapter (read it here if you missed it), Toranih’s best friend convinces her to attend a “notoriously magical festival” against her better judgement. She’s conflicted, but ultimately decides to go, leading to her magic being altered by unknown forces. As the story continues, we see her struggling to use her magic (the “her magic skills are lacking” bit in the blurb) and get multiple references to her preference for swords. Once magic is finally stolen, we immediately see the impact it has on mages. Shortly thereafter, Toranih and her friend stumble on the army of shadows in their attempt to find out what happened. Following that, we see Toranih continuing to struggle with her own magic and stubbornness as she responds to the shadow threat.

Though it takes time for the blurb to unfold within the actual story, the main aspects are present. I excluded a number of details from the blurb, such as the involvement of Toranih’s best friend and her sister, the details of the antagonist, and the involvement of time travel (which I may use as a key phrase).

The goal is to give just enough information to entice the reader into reading the first page or buying the book, rather than giving them a detailed synopsis (I’ve read those blurbs, too… in which I knew every major turn of events in the story).

Will this blurb work? I don’t know yet, but we’ll find out soon. If all goes well, expect to see the cover reveal and announcement of a release date for Magic’s Stealing in my next post. 🙂

Have you found any blurbs that didn’t quite fit the book, or didn’t really click until after you started reading? Have you had trouble figuring out what to include in your blurbs?

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Thoughts on Publishing – Infinitas Publishing Status Report and First Chapter of Magic’s Stealing

Where does the time go? My day job started up again a couple days ago, and I’m currently readjusting my schedule to be able to be productive and not spend all my time daydreaming about what happened in the role-play campaign that my husband and I just finished this week. (A main character got a bittersweet ending… not the ending he was hoping for (he’s a fourthwaller), but an ending that left him reasonably happy and with his mind intact).

Anyway, while I’m readjusting my after-work patterns,  I thought I’d do a quick status report on the projects of Infinitas Publishing

When Isaac and I started up our business this summer, we created a rough schedule of when we would like to release our books and games. It’s something we created for our own personal use, which gives us an extra push to actually publish things, rather than getting into an endless loop of editing. It’s also a good measure for us to use in terms of how much time we have until we complete a project, even if we don’t release the prospective dates to the public. This should give us a little more wiggle room for when our planning inevitably goes astray.

For Magic’s Stealing, I’m about a month behind on my goal (Shh… don’t tell anyone), but I’m in the final phase. I’ve already got it formatted as ebook, except for the table of contents (easy to do, but needs to be different between Kindle and Smashwords editions), and I’m working on the final proofread for typos on printed paper. Once that’s done, I’ll put it up for pre-order and reveal the cover. Look for that coming soon… which I also need to update on the main website. A few months after that I am hoping to make the paperback edition available.

For Battle Decks: Trials of Blood and Steel, we’re on par. We’ve already ordered the initial proof copy (which I posted about a while back), got feedback, and made edits. I’ve updated the box title to Trials of Blood and Steel instead of Multiverse: 1953, based on further feedback, along with updated the rules (still needs to be proofread) and fixed the cards for consistency (cards now say +2 ATK instead of +2 attack, etc). Once we have the rules proofed, we plan to order a second copy of the game to make sure all of our edits are input correctly. We also need to recreate the trial edition of the game with rules specific to the trial (that way we don’t confuse players with irrelevant rules, such as how to choose heroes for each faction). Based on our current schedule, we should be able to release Battle Decks as planned.

For The Multiverse Chronicles: Trials of Blood and Steel, we should still be on par, but we’ll see as we get closer to our planned release date.  Isaac is currently working on the rough draft of episode 19 of the 24 expected episodes, though some of those we’ve planned to split, so we may be a bit further ahead (and there may be more than 24 episodes). I’ve gotten ten of those episodes edited and semi-polished, ready for us to do the full read-through and see how everything meshes together. I’ve got partial edits done on episode 11. However, once those are complete we will need to send out the episodes to beta readers to look for errors, and then polish the first few episodes to release online. We also need to prepare the blog site where we’ll be publishing the story. The first four episodes need to be ready to go before we release Battle Decks.

Beyond those projects, which are up for release by the end of this year, I also have plans for The Shadow War, (book two in The Wishing Blade series).The first draft is partially written (but requires changes), and I’ve been plotting the rest of the story and making sure it will flow easily into book three. The upside of my day job is that I have plenty of time to plot while I do greenscreen work on photos.

Once I have a definite date for these projects, I’ll make them public.

In the meantime, please enjoy the first chapter of my upcoming YA fantasy novella, Magic’s Stealing. 🙂

Magic’s Stealing

 

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl ONE The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

Darkness flooded Toranih Covonilayno’s sleeping chamber as she mentally extinguished her magic crystal’s light. She tossed the crystal onto her dresser and hurried to her bed. The silk covers rustled as she slipped underneath, where she felt for the leather hilt of the knife under her pillow.

 

The last few nights had brought strange creaking noises from the attic, soft footsteps and the brushing of rough wool on the edges of the wooden floorboard above. She listened now, waiting to see if the footsteps returned.

 

They did not.

 

Instead, wind whistled through a tiny crack in her bedroom windowsill. She peeked over the covers. A shadow passed by the heavy curtains and she clasped the smooth fabric between her fingers.

 

Ridiculous.

 

She kicked off the covers, knife in hand, and hopped out of bed. She waited, just in case the shadow returned. Then she walked to her dresser, picked up the crystal, and carefully raised the light again.

 

The dresser was pristine, with only an oil lamp sitting in the dustless corner. A small oak chest at the foot of her bed remained locked with steel. Heavy brocade curtains obscured the window.

 

No sign of intruders.

 

So why couldn’t she shake the feeling that someone had been watching her?

 

She dimmed the crystal’s light until the room was cast in an eerie twilight, but the only magic present was her own. The crystal’s faint light revealed thin, lime green ribbons of magic floating around her, while glowing turquoise ribbons darted in and out of the crystal.

 

Her older sister, Siklana, had created the artifact for Toranih when she was little. Few could see magic without a crystal. Whenever a mage used their ribbons to do… well… anything, she couldn’t see the cause.

 

And what she couldn’t see, she couldn’t fight.

 

Toranih sighed. She was seventeen now, and she wasn’t afraid of magic. She just didn’t like it. There was a difference.

 

Something tapped the glass. Toranih shrieked, fumbling with the crystal. She clutched it to her chest and spun toward the window. A cluster of ribbons danced around a small form on the other side.

 

Well, are you coming? Daernan’s telepathic voice flitted through her mind, amused.

 

Of all the times for him to show up unannounced—

 

She dropped the crystal on her dresser, sheathed the knife, then flung open the curtains. “Don’t scare me like that!”

 

A small, brown, ostensibly cute owl peered at her with bright yellow eyes and giant black pupils. Daernan, judging by the white ring of feathers crowning his left eye.

 

The owl shrugged and puffed out his plumage like a feather duster. Not my fault you’re so jumpy.

 

Toranih crossed her arms. Though dim in the moonlight, the crystal’s twilight revealed various blue and yellow and pink ribbons swirling thick through Daernan’s owlish body.

 

Coming? The pink ribbons carried Daernan’s thoughts to Toranih’s mind, and she fought the urge to swipe them away.

 

Toranih knelt beside the window so that she was eye-level with the owl. He tilted his head and blinked. She snorted. “I’ve been expressly forbidden from attending the festival,” she said in the most high-and-mighty voice she could muster. “So, no. I’m not coming.”

 

Not that she minded missing the event. Too much magic and too many people teasing her about when she and Daernan would make their courtship a formal engagement.

 

She turned from the window, lit her oil lamp, and then mentally killed the crystal’s light.

 

The ribbons vanished.

 

Let me guess. Your father wasn’t happy that you challenged Lady Ikara to a duel, then respectfully threatened that she ought to let her fiancé fight for her, lest you knock her off her high horse onto her—he mentally coughed for effect—her lazy ass?

 

Toranih shrugged. “She insulted you. Good excuse not to go.”

 

The owl sighed, best an owl could, before tapping the window with his beak. Can I at least come in?

 

She obliged him with a flip of the latch. Then she plopped onto her bed. The owl swooped inside, changing as he went. By the time he landed, the owl had morphed into a young man with shoulder-length brown hair. A patch of white hair ran through his bangs above his left eye.

 

Daernan stood from his crouch and shook himself like a dog that had just run through a pond. He looked as he usually did, no more dressed for the festival than any other day. Only a simple cotton tunic and loose fitting breeches, along with a leather belt that Toranih had helped to etch and dye. That belt had been an experiment, to say the least. Daernan proved much better at drawing the various creatures than she had. An owl, a shaggy dog, a horse… his favorite changes.

 

He tossed her a green velvet satchel. “I know you don’t like this holiday, but that’s for you.”

 

She scowled, dangling the satchel by its cords. “Really?”

 

If Daernan had brought her spicy cocoa flowers, like last year, she would swear to Shol that she’d make him pay the next time he tried to duel with her.

 

Daernan shrugged and leaned against the dresser, perilously close to her oil lamp. “Don’t worry, it’s not flowers or ribbons, or anything silly that you wouldn’t like.”

 

“I didn’t get you anything,” she said. Well, technically she had, but she’d planned to give him the owl-shaped ginger cookies she’d bought for him tomorrow, when the gift wasn’t linked to Aifa’s Night.

 

“In that case, you could make it up to me by coming to the parade.” He smiled hopefully.

 

Toranih raised an eyebrow. She dug into the satchel and paused when her fingers touched cool metal ridges. She withdrew a brooch made of sterling silver. The metal had been crafted into a raven that held a wreath of flowers in its talons. Small and not particularly gaudy, the piece would look nice pinned on the pouch she normally wore on long horseback rides.

 

Daernan rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously. “I might have lied about the flowers. I hope you don’t mind.”

 

“It’s…” She let out a breath and smiled. “I like it. Thanks.”

 

He grinned. “I commissioned the crafter whose goods you keep eyeing.”

 

“I do not!” Toranih had done her best not to let anyone catch her eyeing the metalsmith’s jewelry… just his weapons. They might think she’d gone soft.

 

“Sure you don’t.” Daernan chuckled, then glanced around the room. “Redecorated?”

 

“The room was cluttered. I cleaned it.”

 

“You? Clean something?” Daernan raised an eyebrow. “Who are you and what have you done with Toranih?”

 

She scowled. “There were too many things someone could hide behind.”

 

His smile faltered. “You still think someone’s watching you?”

 

“I heard noises last night. I checked the attic, but nothing was up there. I even used the crystal to look for magic.” She kicked her feet against the bed and sighed. “I know I don’t have enemies, but someone’s been in here.”

 

“Lady Ikara, maybe? She isn’t exactly friendly towards you.”

 

“Oh, please. She could run my ear off but I don’t think she could tell the difference between a dagger and a dirk.”

 

“She doesn’t have to know the difference to stab you,” Daernan pointed out.

 

Toranih punched his shoulder.

 

“Ow! I’m just saying!”

 

She snorted. He wasn’t helping. Lady Ikara wasn’t the kind to go snooping around the manor, and Toranih’s father, Lord Covonilayno, had relatively few enemies. Though he was officially a viscount who oversaw the day-to-day proceedings of Viyna, he was also tasked with guarding the kingdom’s armory, so most nobles chose to stay on his good side.

 

Daernan sighed. “The parade is starting soon. If you really don’t want to be seen, we can go as owls. There’ll be dancing…”

 

“Which we can’t enjoy since we’ll be owls.”

 

“Free food…”

 

“As owls? Do you want mice? Besides, you get free food anyway. Everyone likes you.”

 

“They like you, too,” Daernan protested.

 

“They bow and curtsy to me.”

 

“Unless you challenge them to a duel.”

 

“There is that.” Toranih grinned and eyed the raven brooch. Lady Ikara could sniff the air all she liked, but she wouldn’t keep calling Daernan a street mutt. Besides, he did have claim to noble lineage, even if his father wasn’t around to prove it. His mother permitted the commoners to tend to their estate in return for access to a small cottage inside the city. No one paid attention to the fact that she had married into nobility.

 

Seemed that was how she liked her life.

 

“And we’ll get to watch all the mag—entertainment.” Daernan closed his mouth quickly.

 

Toranih rolled her eyes. “Magical entertainment, right. Know what? You go. Report to me in the morning about all the beautiful light showers and flashy streamers, and don’t forget to tell me how the gracious Aifa blessed the newlyweds. If you get back here before sunrise, you might even beat Siklana to the story.”

 

Her sister always did like magic. She cast enough for the two of them.

 

Daernan groaned and tugged Toranih’s arm. “Come on—it’s no fun if I go by myself. And everyone’s expecting us, even if we are owls. You should come.” He beamed, giving her his kingdom-class puppy-dog eyes.

 

She swallowed uncomfortably. “This is a bad idea.”

 

“Please? It’ll be fun. I promise.”

 

Toranih sighed. Sometimes she wondered if he had ribbons of the persuasive nature, though she’d never caught him. Wasn’t likely, anyway. That kind of magic was rare.

 

She rose from her bed and set the raven brooch beside her prized lamp. Then she raised her crystal’s light until it was just right for seeing magic. After she extinguished the oil lamp, she focused on her royal blue ribbons and stretched her arms, her palms open to the ceiling. Tickles rolled through her fingers, then her hands, then her body. Blue ribbons swirled around her, merging into a thick smoke that rushed to her toes. She shrunk. Her bones mended into the form of an owl. Her magic glowed bright, twisting and fading with a heartbeat of its own.

 

 Ready? Daernan asked, already perched on the windowsill.

 

Toranih killed the crystal’s light and hopped toward the window with her leathery feet.

 

She preferred raven form— though it wasn’t much better—but at least now she could see.

 

Daernan hooted. Let’s hurry—the show should be starting! He dropped off the windowsill, his wings outstretched, and caught the air with a quick swoop.

 

Toranih cringed. What would happen if she hadn’t made the change properly? What if she didn’t actually fly?

 

The ground teetered beneath her, perilously far from the ledge. She spread her wings, prayed to Shol she wouldn’t crash, and dropped into the night.

* The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl *

 

A cloaked figure knelt beside a sprawling sycamore near the young woman’s sleeping chamber, her eyes trained on the two owls.

 

Finally, they were gone. She climbed the tree, bark catching on the tips of her leather boots, then slipped inside the open window. The room was dark, save for moonlight, but it was just enough for her to see that the young woman had rearranged the furniture since the night before.

 

No night table or pile of books, and her usual set of sparring knives didn’t hang from the wall. Probably locked in the chest at the foot of her bed, or buried under the mattress.

 

She didn’t bother to check, though, instead stopping beside the dresser and stroking her fingers across the light crystal. It responded eagerly, and turquoise ribbons flared to life.

 

She quickly extinguished the crystal and peered into the distance, waiting to see if her own sight revealed the magical ribbons that would signal the two’s return to investigate.

 

The night remained empty.

 

The only magic she saw was her own. The rest of the family was at the parade.

 

But there was something new in the room. Ashen moonlight shone through the oil lamp at the edge of the dresser. Skewed light reflected onto a metal brooch—a brooch with a raven and a wreath of flowers.

 

The intruder held her breath, reaching her fingers toward the jewel piece, then quickly withdrew. She couldn’t leave any trace that she’d come. That meant leaving objects where they’d been found.

 

She left the sleeping chamber for the hallway. Bronze wall sconces flickered with pale, turquoise light across elaborate tapestries. The crystals cast shadows along the crimson throw rugs, each one embroidered with curling gold patterns.

 

She paused, recalling the two owls flying into the night.

 

Always strange to see the young woman, but stranger still to see Daernan alive.

 

She wrapped her cloak tight around her shoulders, then traveled the familiar stairs downward, downward, and deeper—under the manor and into the kingdom’s dwindling armory.

Stay tuned for cover reveal and release date! 😀

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