Category Archives: Urban Fantasy and Other Trifles

This is the official FB page for A. E. Lowan. Lowan is a writer of science fiction and fantasy, with projects in paranormal romance. Current project is the urban fantasy “Faerie Rising,” the first book in The Books of Binding series.

Leftovers – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

Jessie St. James felt a grin growing as she watched Justin MacDowell toddle around the worn wood floors of Otherworld Books, the stubby felt feathers on his turkey outfit sashaying with each bit of progress he made. She looked at Brian and found him grinning, too, teeth a flash of white against terracotta skin, before he leaned over and redirected his adopted little brother. “It’s hard to believe how much he’s grown in just a month,” she said, and decided to plant her plump butt in the doorway of the stock room to corral him a little.

Brian chuckled and nodded, bending to collect Justin. “Yeah, it is.” Justin objected loudly, gaze fixated on the Christmas display Brian was in the middle of assembling, and he patted the little boy’s back around the turkey accessories on his diapered tush in an attempt to distract and sooth. He sank onto the floor with Jessie and her insulated bag of Thanksgiving leftovers, and his stomach gave an appreciative grumble. A sheepish smile tugged at his lips. “That smells good.”

“Good!” Justin made grabby hands for the bag, evidently as interested in the smell as his big brother.

Jessie grinned at the toddler. “Oh yeah. About as good as it did the first time,” Jessie said, and gave a definitive nod as she unzipped the large doggie bag that Winter had so graciously provided. “I missed Winter’s cooking, you know, before everything,” she added with a glance over her shoulder, looking out for Norah MacDowell. While Brian’s mom was a wonderful person and incredibly kind, she was human and just wasn’t privy to what had happened in the last month—or some of the things that had come before. Jessie dug into the bag and came up with a Tupperware container and an itty-bitty spoon, handing them to her friend with a wry smile. “Winter also sent Justin some pumpkin pudding. Have to get him started young on that addiction.”

The young Black man laughed. “What else is in your goodie bag?”

“Hmm.” Jessie dug out stacks of plastic dishes, spreading them out between them. “Looks like the whole kit-and-caboodle. Winter likes to set people up in style, you know. Want to help me eat some of it?” It was almost like a date… on the floor… with a baby brother squealing for his share. So yeah, almost. Almost sort of counted when you were seventeen, right?

Now if only Brian wasn’t too good for her.

“It would be a terrible, terrible crime to turn down a Mulcahy plate!” Brian said, playfully scandalized as he got Justin settled into his lap for his snack—the gateway drug into all things pumpkin spiced.

“Wouldn’t it?” While Justin happily nommed away, Jessie took a few slices of Winter’s homemade bread and added some turkey and cranberry sauce before passing it along, feeling deliciously domestic. Then, Jessie’s lips pulled into a thoughtful frown when Brian took the sandwich.

Her friend tilted his head, his long, pencil-thin dreads swinging. “What’s wrong?”

Just as quickly, that frown quirked into a smile. “Just thinking. Wondering how you’re doing now that you’re in the ‘in-crowd,’ so to speak… Do you want to talk about it?” It was at least putting it on the metaphorical table.

Brian adjusted Justin on his lap and set the sandwich on his knee, deliberating in his answer. “I can’t say I didn’t suspect something was going on with you at the Theatre, but…” Brian shrugged one shoulder, “it’s a lot to swallow. I won’t deny that it’s nice to know I’m going to do something worthwhile with my life, and make an impact for the better. There’s more certainty in that than I can say I’ve had before.”

“Why’s that?”

The dark-skinned teen just shrugged, again. “Growing up out there,” he made a vague gesture to the streets with one hand, and gave his little brother another spoonful of pudding with the other, “sometimes you have to wonder.” Another sheepish smile immediately followed. “That’s not to discount what Norah’s done for me—and that’s been a lot. Being a Hero, though… that pays things forward in the best way, if you can believe in Destiny.”

“I do believe in Destiny.” Someday, that Destiny would take Brian from her, but she was determined to get the most of every day she had with him. Jessie found a smile for him and playfully nudged his knee with her sneaker. “But, you don’t have to be a Hero with emphasis on the capital H to be the everyday hero variety. Winter and I are ‘come as you are’ people. You know that. And Norah knows it without the rest of the picture,” she said, and scooted over to eat her lunch with him just in time to catch a flash of flush across his terracotta cheeks. Maybe…? Naw. “Now, after we go Jaws on this bountiful feast, what can I help you with here? Not really in the mood to go home yet.” She was never in the mood to go home, but that was another story.

He laughed, grateful for the excuse to move on. “If you need an excuse to be busy, you can help me with this display.”

“Perfect.”

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Things Fall Apart – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

He sniffed the air. The scent of burnt bones and under it—blood. A lot of it. And the outhouse smell of violent death.

He walked the utility area carefully, reconstructing the deadly dance from a lifetime lived among its devotees. The spatters of brown flecks. The dust-free smears where a body had been dragged, struggling. A broken fingernail caught in the chain-link. The cloying smell of burning hair and garbage, and just a hint of cucumber. Acetone. At least they had destroyed the body, but it meant the attackers were not human. A human gang might have doused the body with gasoline to throw off the authorities, but they wouldn’t have brought their victim all the way out here, and it wouldn’t have been acetone. They’d brought it with them to make sure the body was gone. He sighed heavily. Perfect. He didn’t have time to pity the dead. This was just one of the sites he had been sent to check.

He opened the dumpster, holding his black sleeve over his sensitive nose, wishing the leather were doing a better job of masking the stench. The inside was charred black, the sides a little warped from the heat, but the accelerant had done its job. Nothing remained to mark this victim as different. Just a lumpy sort of ash. Shattered bone fragments and the occasional tooth. He could have his team sanitize the area, but they couldn’t remove the smell. If the authorities didn’t find the body they could smell, there would be more questions than a few teeth, they would never find a match for, would pose.

This city was a mess. Its preternaturals were out of control. Just short of all-out warfare between too many factions. It was getting worse, and more importantly, it was getting sloppy. That was something his masters couldn’t allow. The humans could never know who lived among them. They were a panicky breed and the only thing they liked more than killing each other was killing anything else. It would be open season on them all, and as superior as many preternaturals liked to feel with their extra strength or speed or longevity, there were billions of humans in this world. No matter his people’s advantages, they would lose any concerted war.

He heard a car approach, its tires crunching the gravel. He lowered the dumpster lid soundlessly and scaled the fence behind it, dropping to a crouch on the other side. He heard the ding of the car as the occupants left the engine running and the lights pointed in his direction. He sprinted for the tree line, trusting the dumpster to block him from view. He hurtled past the first line of trees and hauled himself, hand over hand with the ease of practice, into a tall one a few feet into the stand, coming to rest about fifteen feet up. Any higher and his weight was going to be an issue.

He watched from his temporary blind as a man and a woman crossed through the beam from their headlights. The woman wore a long dress and carried a large, floppy bag, from which she was pulling a flashlight and a few small bottles. The man beside her had his hand across his stomach, fingers under his jacket. He would bet most of his not-insubstantial resources that the jacket held a gun. The man’s eyes never stopped moving, searching outside their pool of light—muscle then, which made her the boss.

“I don’t like this. It’s too exposed out here. Let’s come back in the morning.”

“Etienne, it has to be tonight. Do you smell that? Tomorrow this place will be full of families and someone is going to notice the smell.”

The man frowned, and he stopped his scanning to look at her for a moment. “I smell it. Why don’t you go wait in the car? I’ll take care of it.”

She sighed and seemed to be counting to ten. “I know that you think you’re protecting me. You seem to think I’m much more fragile than I am. This is not my first burned body, Etienne. Not my first murdered friend. This isn’t even my hundredth. I appreciate you coming with me, but this thinking that I’m the damsel you have to save has got to stop. This is my city. I’m the Mulcahy now. You have to let me do my job or I can’t have you come with me again. Tell me you understand.”

The man’s body was tense, his face a mix of frustration, anger, and a touch of fear. “Winter, you can’t seriously expect me to—”

“Tell me you understand or go sit in the car. This is my job, Etienne. This is what I do. None of that has changed. I am responsible for keeping as much peace as can be had in this city, and barring that, for keeping things under wraps enough to not have us all killed by the Eldest to keep the Veil of Secrecy intact. Sometimes that means stopping fights before they start. Tonight, it means making sure that a missing lion’s body has been destroyed enough not to raise questions. A fifteen-year-old lion.” Her teeth and fists were both clenched as she spoke. “Who belongs to a very good friend. Tonight, my job is to make sure his body is unrecognizable. Tomorrow, it’s to talk to his Queen and tell her that my need that she maintain the peace is more important than her need for vengeance. So, tell me you understand. Back me up and help me do this impossible job or stay home.”

The man searched her face, and sighed heavily. “I don’t understand.”

The woman raised her hand to point at the car. “Then g—”

He caught her hand gently. “I don’t understand, Winter, but I’m trying to. Do your job. I’ll back you up.”

The woman struggled to control her face, but nodded, and turned toward the chain-link fence.

Winter… this was Winter Mulcahy. Seahaven’s wizard. The man in the trees had heard of her, but never met her. She was out of her depth, but it looked like maybe she was recruiting some help. He hoped it would be enough. Seahaven was winding up on his masters’ radar too often. The Eldest were neither patient nor forgiving. They couldn’t be.

He slipped silently out of the tree and into the darkness beyond. Lions. He couldn’t help Miss Mulcahy comfort her friend, but he could make sure that whoever was attacking the lions was too scared to do it again. His smile was feral as he ran toward where his car was hidden.

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There’s A Monster at the Door – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

The little monster crept toward the door of the enormous stone house. Maybe this was not such a good idea after all. Her friends had dared her to come here. They’d called her weak and scared. She swore she would show them that she was made of tougher stuff than they thought. But standing here, at the end of the mile-long drive, the house gave her pause—squatting here on the edge of the world, nothing but water as far as the eye could see on the other side.

She eyed the door and tried to summon her courage. It was just a house. Nothing to fear. She stepped away from the comforting shelter of the bushes, squared her shoulders, and climbed the stairs. She raised her hand and—

The door swung open. Light poured into the night and framed an angry man holding a struggling grey cat. “You have your own door, cat. Why are you screaming for me to let you out this one?”

The monster froze, her arm still raised like a startled statue.

The man blinked for a moment and set the cat down. The cat apparently changed his mind. He sniffed the monster once, twined himself around the man’s legs, and disappeared into the depths of the house. The man took in the diminutive monster—her horns, her claws, her spotted fur, her row of sharp fangs, and the spiked tail that hung behind her. He studied her with a perplexed look on his face, then turned to call into the house for help. “Winter! There’s a monster at the door.” He turned back to her. “What do you want?”

His words unfroze her and she turned to run back to the shelter of the bushes and away. Who cared what her friends thought? She had come when none of them dared.

A woman came to the door, white hair in a bun. She gave the man an exasperated look and called out into the night, “Don’t go. You’re welcome here, little one.” She reached back into the house and pulled out a small cauldron, filled to the brim with candy.

The monster turned back, uncertain. The woman seemed nice enough. She came back toward the pair standing in the light and held up a sack, uncertainly. “Trick or Treat?”

The woman smiled and held out the cauldron. It held candy, but not the normal cheap kind that most people had. The cauldron was filled with full-sized candy bars. “Take all you want. Very few people are brave enough to venture out here.”

The monster straightened and smiled. She was brave. Take that, third-graders of Room 31! She reached her blue-furred hand into the cauldron and took her favorite, looking speculatively at the woman.

The woman smiled and nodded. “You can take as many as you like.”

The monster grinned and took two more. She tilted her face up to the woman and smiled. “Thank you!” She spun and ran down the steps toward the bushes and her bike. She put the candy bars into her sack but stopped when she saw a glimmer of light—a symbol that glowed for just a moment then disappeared when it touched the other candy. She looked back to the woman.

The woman tilted her head a little but smiled. “It’s alright, little one. It will keep you safe tonight.”

The monster considered that, then smiled at the woman. She put the sack in the basket on her bike and pulled back out onto the long driveway. She called back to the pair, “Happy Halloween!”

The woman, Winter Mulcahy, turned back to Etienne and shook her head, pulling him and the cauldron back inside and shutting the door.

Etienne looked at the candy and back at the wizard. “Is that going to be happening all night, then? Monsters at the door until dawn?”

Winter set the cauldron on the side table and headed back to dinner. “Not a monster. A witch.”

Etienne glanced back at the door. “A witch?”

Winter nodded. “She saw the glyph of protection. She’s one of us. Now come eat.”

Etienne sat and picked up his spoon. The night was a cool one and the stew was warm and filling. He glanced back at the door and the purple-spotted monster. He hoped the little witch would be safe tonight.

A grey form rubbed against his legs under the table. He pulled a bit of beef from the stew, blew on it, and slipped it to the cat.

Winter pretended not to notice.

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Morning at the Vineyard – A Snippet from Ties of Blood and Bone: The Second Book of Binding

Alerich woke up to wintery sunlight filtering in through the gauze curtains and his grandmother’s lady’s maid, Odette, rapping on his door, her pretty, polite voice carrying through it. “Breakfast is served.” Alerich rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. Odette’s presence meant his grandmother, Hildreth, was here. And if Hildreth was here it would be non-stop wedding talk for the next two weeks.

He wondered if there was a trellis outside the window. Was it sturdy? It wouldn’t be the first time he’d escaped out a window and wouldn’t be his first trellis climb, but he was a big man and preferred to not have another one break halfway through his descent.

He sighed and pushed up onto his elbows and then swung his legs off the bed to take a sitting position. It would be no use. His grandmother had a tracking spell on him, much like the one she had on Elspeth. He could feel it, a subliminal tingling at the back of his neck. Hildreth would be able to find him no matter where he ran. He stood and hooked his thumbs into his red boxer briefs and slid them off over his hips, tossing them to the foot of the bed, and made his naked way to the en suite bathroom. A quick shower was in order, then.

After his shower Alerich went in search of breakfast, wearing a clean pair of black jeans and a red cotton button-down shirt with the top two buttons undone, his longish, black hair still damp. The house was large, but not so large that he could not find the dining room in short order. Even still, he was the last one to breakfast and his grandmother’s gunmetal blue eyes narrowed slightly with disapproval as he entered. Bloody wonderful.

“I’m glad to see you have finally decided to join us, Alerich.” Hildreth’s tone was arid, her clipped Dutch accent still present even after decades of living in Britain, and her crisp white hair was pulled up into some complicated coiffure of Odette’s doing.

Quiet conversation around the table stopped for a moment, all eyes on Alerich. His blood ran cold at the shifting sight of the demon, sitting in what passed for its human form near his father’s end of the table eating roasted bone marrow. Today, it seemed to prefer to be mostly male, and his form was something close to stable, though even as he watched it changed subtly.

Arariel.

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Liminal Space – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

Etienne paused within the cold-flame-wreathed rift, within this liminal place between realms. Before him lay the Mortal Realm, and behind him, Faerie. He had spent weeks seeking a rift to pass through. He had wandered alone, his body aching with the agony of knife and fire that still wracked each step. His mind aching with the sting of humiliation, desperation, and betrayal. He had endured it all, looking for this passage—this escape. But now, he paused.

There was nothing for him among the mortals. Not anymore. Not since his beloved Bess had died. Not since the plague that had robbed him of her sweetness, of her kisses.

Of their children.

But behind him he was a hunted man, scarred by his enemies. By his sidhe step-father. Scarred by his allies for his own protection, because a sidhe magician had carved spell glyphs into his flesh—glyphs of compulsion and control—and the only remedy was to brand dwarven runes over each and every one.

And still his step-father hunted him. Still he could not rest.

That was the thought that propelled him forward, even as pain knifed through his chest. He had not set foot in the Mortal Realm since losing her. Losing them. Losing everything. But Bess would not want him to die at his step-father’s hands. She would want him to live, even as hollow as his existence had become.

He would persist for her.

With that, he shouldered the pack over his raw shoulders and threw his lot in with the mortals.

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Uh-huh – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

Elspeth plunked down the last square tile with enthusiasm. “I’m out.”

Alerich eyed the pieces, trying to keep the corners of his mouth from twitching into a smile. He waved at the board. “You’re cheating.”

Indignation gave her voice an edge. “Am not.”

“Elspeth, ‘spong’ is not a word.”

“Yes, it is.”

“No, it’s really not.”

“Yes, it really is.” She picked at a speck of lint on her blouse. “It’s a potions word.”

“Uh-huh.” Alerich settled back in his chair and took a sip of his bourbon, then motioned at her with the glass. “Define it.”

“A spong is a … It’s kind of a … It’s like … “

Alerich was losing the battle with the corners of his mouth. “Uh-huh.”

“Will you shut up, I’m trying to figure out how to describe it to you. It’s kind of a specialty item. You have to know a lot about potions to have even heard of it.”

The corners won and he had to hide the smile in another sip of the bourbon. She was so much fun to wind up. “Uh-huh.”

“Look, I don’t care if you believe me. It’s a word. You can ask grandmother if you want.”

“Uh-huh.”

“God, you’re such a baby! Fine! I’ll just take it off the board. Here, ‘song,’ unless you don’t think that one’s a word either, Mister Never-cracks-a-spellbook-but-thinks-he-knows-every-word-ever-said. It’s a perfectly good word, but no. You have to be such a bad loser. So, fine! I’ll take it off the stupid board. There. Are you happy, Mister Game-police?”

“Uh-huh. ‘S.’ ‘Songs.’ I’m out.”

Elspeth glared at him for a moment, then produced a sound somewhere between a growl and a scream. She pushed away from the table and stomped off through the dim of the library.

Alerich watched her go. She was fun to wind up, but he would be paying for this one for a while. ‘Spong.’ Why does that sound familiar? He took another liberal sip and stood, carrying the heavy glass with him to the ancient dictionary on its stand. He turned the onionskin pages delicately. The smile came back, this time more rueful than wry. “‘Spong. Noun. A projection of land; an irregular, narrow, projecting part of a field.’” He glanced at where his sister had stormed off. She would most likely be in the greenhouse. He took another sip of the bourbon. She might throw a pot at him, and spong was definitely not a potions word. He settled into an armchair by the fire and picked up his book. He might tell her eventually.

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An Excerpt from Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding

With a little over two weeks left before release, we thought you might all like a peek at an excerpt from Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding.  In the next couple of weeks we will be taking a closer look at many of the characters from Faerie Rising as well as releasing a few new flash fictions.  We hope you enjoy the excerpt!

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An Excerpt from Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding

The world shifted sideways. Winter braced herself against the wall with her one good hand, the chalk grinding against the concrete as she fought the initial wave of disorientation. Something was horribly wrong. Within the rift, power was building up, as if someone had just crimped a running hose.

And she was holding the nozzle.

Nine glyphs in the warding, each unique, complex, and time consuming. Each must be drawn with precision, or the whole seal would fail. Winter had never drawn glyphs so fast in her life, her hand frantically scraping the chalk against the wall in her desperate race against… against what? It felt like a tidal wave, rushing implacably toward her. Somehow, something was affecting the balance of power.

She spoke each glyph as she drew it, magic resonating in her voice with each syllable. Six glyphs to go. Its name spoken, the glyph would take on a glow, casting the hole in sharp relief, bringing out each line of exhaustion on Winter’s face.

Highlighting the growing cracks in the cement around the rift.

After the seal went up, the cement became irrelevant. It could be ground to dust, and the seal would hold. Before then, however… the seal needed a matrix, something solid to hold the lines she drew with the enspelled chalk. Before then, the seal was all too fragile.

When the surge hit, it would blow the rift wide open. There would be precious little left of Winter and probably the surrounding square acre or so.

Five glyphs.

She wasn’t going to make it. Winter’s shoulders were burning, her hand beginning to cramp and shake, her hurt wrist felt like it was on fire. The glow of the warding began to fade as her magic was drained by pain and panic and exhaustion. She needed more power. She did not have time to ground and pull power from the earth… leaving only one choice. “Karen!”

There is power to control in a name. She spoke the name with resonant Command, and suddenly the cougar was there, terrified eyes wide on the wizard beside her. Ruthlessly, she pushed aside the older woman’s flimsy natural protections and pulled what power there was into herself. It was wild, and tasted of dark places, pain-filled joy, and kittens warm in the den. This was not a wizard’s gift she used, but came of her mixed blood. The spell flared back to life, and Winter redoubled her efforts.

Four glyphs.

The hole began collapsing inward, little chunks of cement falling into the flame-wreathed darkness.

Three glyphs.

The chunks were getting larger, the cracks creeping closer to her fragile chalk lines.

Two glyphs.

The surge was now audible, a tsunami rushing toward them.

One glyph.

The ground beneath her knees was quivering with the building pressure.

The warding blazed just as the tidal wave of magic rammed it from the other side, the whole ravine shuddering from the impact, then the lettering settled into the cement, leaving the two women alone in the quiet night.


Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding will be available in e-book and paperback April 1, 2017.  Grab your pre-order at http://getBook.at/FaerieRising .

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Sleight of Hand – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

Winter Mulcahy thought the girl by the necklace rack was maybe eleven, probably twelve. She had a bruise peeking out just beneath the collar of her oversized coat, fingermarks if Winter was any judge, and she was an excellent judge of abuse. The girl was heavy in that way that said weight would follow her throughout her life, but she moved easily through the store, caramel eyes flickering constantly towards Winter from behind too-large glasses.

The girl was stealing.

That wasn’t unusual, though. Homeless kids often stole from the stores in the Historical District, trying to fill empty pockets and empty bellies. No, what was remarkable were two things: first, that the girl had found Winter’s store, Olde Curiosity’s Gift Shoppe, at all. It meant she had a spark of magic in her that allowed her to see the store past the misdirection wards covering the front, keeping human eyes away.

More remarkable were her hands. Even though Winter knew she was stealing, she never saw the girl’s hands venture near her capacious coat pockets. She would touch an item and a moment later it would be gone. Winter could feel the flash of raw magic as a jade pendant vanished – childish, untrained, potent. The girl didn’t have just a spark of magic. She had a flame.

She was a wizard, like Winter.

But, little wizard or not, the girl could not be allowed to steal. Winter waited until the last customer left before she took her sturdy broom in hand and stepped around the display, right into the girl’s path. At nearly six feet she towered over the child, and dropped her head slightly to appear less intimidating. “Put them back.” Her voice was low and even, devoid of anger.

The girl’s eyes widened and her freckled cheeks flushed, but to her credit she stood her ground. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Winter drew her focus object on its chain from under the collar of her dress. The ring was a simple one, a slender golden band with an oval opal stone set between two small diamonds. When she moved the ring, the light played across intricate engravings on the inside of the band. The ring had belonged to one of the most important people in Winter’s life, and now it answered to her. Wizards needed focus objects to give structure to their magic and perform more complex spells. That the girl was able to cast spells without one said that not only was she strong, she was probably close to draining the power in her body. She must be protected before she hurt herself.

Winter held the ring between her fingers and her voice became resonant with magical Command. “Empty.” Objects came flying out, more than she had anticipated, and landed on the floor. Hand cream, lip balms, jewelry, anything that the store carried that could be palmed had made it into those coat pockets, as well as some spare change, half of a wrapped sandwich, and a crumpled bus pass.

The girl stared at the pile on the floor for a moment, mouth working, before gasping out, “How?”

“The same way you put them in your pockets, only I’ve had training.”

She looked up at Winter, brown eyes wide. “You’re… like me?”

“I am.”

The girl looked both fascinated and frightened… and then the frightened took over and she whispered, “Please don’t call the cops on me.”

Winter tucked the ring back into her dress and held out the broom to the girl. “Let’s make a deal. I have work here that needs to be done, and I’m busy with other things. If you help me for a few hours, I won’t call the police.”

The girl took the broom, some of the light returning to her eyes. “Can you show me how to do stuff? Like our stuff?”

Winter crouched and began cleaning the items up off the floor. “Sweeping first. Magic later.”

“Magic? Is it really magic?” The girl’s voice squeaked with excitement.

Winter smiled and handed the girl back her things. “Yes, it really is. And my name is Winter. My family owns this shop.”

“I’m Jessie.” The little wizard looked around. “So if I sweep… and then dust… and maybe put some stuff away, then you’ll teach me?”

Winter smiled. “That sounds fair. And remember to sweep in the corners,” she called after Jessie as the girl ran off to begin her chores.

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Seashells – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

The boy was crying under a picnic table, but Winter didn’t know why. He was a lot older than her, six, maybe even seven. She crawled beneath and sat down next to him, not caring that her red and white sundress would get mussed. She’d lost her sandals somewhere but she’d managed to hold on to her red hat. Grandma Bridget said it was important so she didn’t burn in the summer sun.

The boy looked up at her, his expression wary, and wiped his face on his coat sleeve. It was peculiar, wearing a suit jacket to a family picnic. But this boy was a guest and Winter smiled at him, wanting to make him feel better.

The boy did not smile back.

Okay, she had to try harder. She reached out and took his hand, and his black brows rose at her touch.  Her smile widened and she gently pulled him out from under the table and away from the party. They walked in silence through the gardens, pixies flying from flower to flower overhead, until they came out the other side through the garden gates and their feet sunk into the sand of the beach. The black-haired boy looked around, his dark blue eyes devouring the sight of sand and sky and water. So much water.  This was the ‘Cific Ocean, and it was beautiful.

Winter led the boy to the other side of the big dune where it was cool and quiet and where the water brought the scent of salt and fish to pool at their feet. She sat down and took off his shoes and socks, smiling, because she knew it hurt to have sand in her shoes, and shook the sand she found in his out of them, setting them beside him. The boy watched her as if trying to figure her out, and she simply continued to smile.

Winter saw a seashell half-buried next to the boy’s shoes and picked it up, brushing off the sand.  It was a clam shell the size of her hand, pretty and pearly on the inside. She handed it to the boy whose brows rose again, but this time a tiny smile played at the corners of his mouth. Winter bounced up to her feet with a grin. So he liked shells? She could find shells better than anyone!

“Where are you off to?” the boy asked, but she was already back with a spirally shell with a broken tip to offer him. And then she moved a little further away, looking for more shells.

The afternoon passed and the shell pile grew and the boy’s smile widened. Winter brought him squishy seaweed and dune grasses and succulent ice plant flowers and he collected them all, touching and smelling each offering with fascination.

Over the top of the dune appeared Winter’s Uncle Adrien, her Aunt Gwen’s new husband, with a camera in hand. He snapped a picture and smiled down at them in his sad, gentle way. “There you are. Your father is looking for you. It’s time to go.”

The boy looked disappointed but he quickly put his shoes and socks back on and stood, slipping his jacket on and buttoning it, pocketing a shell as he did so. “Ta.” He inclined his head to her and turned to follow Uncle Adrien back to the house.

Winter smiled and waved at him as he walked away, sorry to see her new friend go but determined to show him a happy face as he left.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Other Trifles

A Snippet From Our WIP, Faerie Rising

After a long absence, we’re back!  Now, without further ado, here’s a snippet from Faerie Rising

Guitar music filtered through the foot traffic, and Etienne looked around, finally finding a young man with an instrument that saw more love and attention than his clothing, sitting on the sidewalk between two storefront windows.  His head was lowered over his guitar, eyes closed and long brown curls hiding much of his face as he gave himself over to his music.  Etienne tapped Kian on the elbow to keep him from wandering on ahead without him and made his way toward the street musician, feeling the music pulling at him like a gentle hand.  It was beautiful, even more beautiful than the music played in his mother’s court.  The boy was better than Kian, who Etienne loved to listen to play.
His music reminded him – Etienne stopped short, eyes wide – reminded him of his father.  Chretien de Aquitaine had been a magnificent musician.  His music and his beauty had drawn Etienne’s mother’s attention, much to the troubadour’s misfortune.
The street musician’s hands stilled on his strings, stroked the wood of the guitar, and finally looked up at Etienne through his long curls.  A small smile brushed over his lips.
Etienne was frozen, still struck by his memories.  “Who…?”
The young man shook his head.  “The question you need to ask is ‘Where?’”
Etienne’s brows drew in.
The street musician stretched his thin arm and pointed down the block, deeper into the Historical District.  “What you want is that way.  Across the street and next door to the cupcake place.  Olde Curiosity’s Gift Shoppe.”
Etienne craned his neck to look down the sidewalk, and then snapped back to look down at the boy.  “Did you say ‘Curiosity’s’?”  Arthur’s wife had been named Curiosity!  He remembered!
The boy’s gentle smile widened, and he nodded once.  “Now you understand me.”
Etienne dug into his jeans pocket and dropped the last of his change into the boy’s guitar case.  He turned, eager to pursue this new lead, and then turned back to thank him.  But what came out of his mouth was, “Who are you?”
The boy swung his long hair back behind his shoulder, revealing more of his face.  Pretty, but well within human normal.  “I’m just Stephen.  Welcome to Seahaven.”
Etienne looked more closely at Stephen, and he was indeed as he appeared.  Simply human.  Clearing his throat to cover his confusion he said, “Well, thank you, Stephen.”
The boy smiled and inclined his head with grace.  “Anytime.”  He then set to playing again.

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Filed under Urban Fantasy and Other Trifles