A Snippet From Our WIP, Faerie Rising

Scrambling, Winter gave up a few more feet to the goblin’s slashing claws and used the precious seconds she bought to rummage frantically in her massive canvas bag, murmuring the charm to bring a small parchment envelope to her hand while watching carefully for its next move.  She should have had it out before.  She knew that, now.

She had started with a rake to defend herself, but then found out how well the nasty little thing could climb, as the continuous throbbing on the back of her right hand attested to.  She had never actually been trained for this, unlike her cousins and two older sisters.  She was supposed to be a teacher, a healer and a Potion Master.  She should be home, tucked away in her family’s kitchen teaching a handful of little cousins to brew simple decoctions, not doing battle with a pseudo-demon the size of a throw pillow in Karen’s backyard.

And losing.

“Blast!”  It darted to one side, trying to get past Winter and out into the night.  She had to keep it boxed in, just for a few more moments.  If it got loose into the neighborhood, she would be days finding it again, and by then it might have graduated to attacking children.  Only luck, a couple hours of stressful patience and a trail of about two pounds of fresh chopped beef had gotten it into the shed.  She kicked out, taking it in what passed for a midsection, and it bounced against the back of the shed like a large hairy soccer ball.  Tools popped from their perches, and a pot was knocked off its shelf, all raining down on the neatly swept concrete floor.  A burning sensation flared up her right calf, and Winter knew the little monster had scored, too.

Keeping her eyes fixed on the ugly little hair ball, Winter tore the top off the envelope.  The goblin crouched just out of reach, panting in a wheezy sort of way, slime dripping from its broken bottle teeth, all its eyes glittering back and forth desperately searching for a way past her.  Fear seemed to roll off it like a dark fog.  Wherever it came from, it probably had no idea where it was now.  It may have even seen what happened to its little friend.  Winter knew how it felt, trapped and desperate to find a way out, bloody images of her loved ones tearing at her memories.  For just a moment, she felt sorry for the evil little thing.  No one would be coming to rescue the goblin, either…

Then again, she wasn’t the one eating the neighborhood cats.  She raised the envelope…

With blinding speed nearly twenty pounds of goblin impacted with her upper chest.  Winter did not realize she was falling until the autumn-wet lawn struck her in the back, and she grabbed a fistful of greasy, matted fur with her left hand as it made to leap over her head to freedom.

It retaliated by sinking jagged teeth into her pale wrist, right through the sturdy fabric of her uncle’s old Army jacket.

Winter let out a yelp of startled pain, but did not release the frantically scratching beast.  It flailed about, claws raking her chest, her neck, her face, digging bloody furrows into her skin wherever it could find purchase.  She beat against its thick body in panic, the envelope almost forgotten in her clenched fist, and it worried at her wrist like a dog, the teeth digging deeper and deeper into flesh towards bone.

Rolling to her side, she released her grip on the envelope a little, half dumping, half pounding the goblin with red, glittering dust, drew the magic from within herself and through gritted teeth released it in a resonating word of command.  “Bind!”  It was not needed, the spell in the powder was already primed, but she was in pain and wanted to be sure it worked.

The creature froze in place, her wrist still clamped between its jaws.  Discolored teeth remained imbedded in fabric and flesh, but at least it had stopped chewing at the wound.  Winter tried in vain to breathe without smelling.  Wherever the little goblin had come from, it stank, and fear mixed with exertion did not help with the odor.  Her own pain and adrenaline were not helping, and she fought down a wave of nausea.  Grunting with hurt at the jostling, Winter jerked her bag out from beneath her hip and with one hand and her teeth uncorked a small blue bottle.  The acrid smell made her nostrils sting.  The goblin apparently smelled it, too, because it began to drool heavily in fear on Winter’s hand and arm.  She upended the bottle, the thick liquid soaking into the beast’s matted fur, and again produced a voice resonant with magical command.  “Banish!”  Again, the magic in the potion was already primed, but sometimes a little overkill did not hurt.

With a shrill keen and a cloud of noxious smoke the goblin vanished, the release of its weight and jaws painful in itself.  Winter rolled carefully up onto her knees, ignoring with limited success the way her torn stockings neatly wicked up the freezing moisture from the plush lawn to chill her skin.  Without teeth to block up the wound, blood welled up from the torn flesh, black in the suburban twilight, and began to run in rivulets down her hand.

She knelt there quietly, watching the first glittering drop fall silently onto the grass, and sluggishly fought back the roaring rush of exhaustion in her ears.  Darkness crept along the edges of her vision, and she shrugged her injured arm carefully out of her coat sleeve and knelt in the chill in just her long dress and her sweater, which she slipped off to bind about her hurt wrist.  It felt so good, just being still.  Just for a few more minutes.  She remained kneeling in the street-lit yard, watching the weave soak up blood and slime, and found herself fighting back sudden frustrated tears as the pain wound its way to her brain past the kinder adrenaline.  Her older sisters Sorcha and Mirilyn – even her younger cousins – they were so much better at this than she was.  They were stronger, faster, less scatterbrained…  Her wrist throbbed with her pulse, still fast, and the smaller stinging scratches echoing across her face, chest, and arms made her wish she could kick the evil little thing just a few more times.  Sorcha had once taken on an entire pack of hell-hounds that threatened her day-camp, for heaven’s sake.  Granted, Grandfather and Mirilyn had had to rescue her, but they had all three come home in triumph.  A single nasty little goblin would have been no match.  What was she doing wrong?

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The Characters of Faerie Rising – Jessie St. James

When Jessie St. James was twelve years-old she stumbled into Olde Curiosity’s Gift Shoppe, a little family-owned store full of herbal products. After taking a light-fingered look around she attempted to leave with some of the smaller merchandize and came face to face with one of the proprietors, the wizard Winter Mulcahy.  Winter had noticed that the girl was using magic to aid her shoplifting – but put a broom in her hand and had her do chores in the shop rather than calling the police.  At the end of the afternoon Winter rewarded Jessie’s good work with the items she had tried to steal.  Jessie has been Winter’s shadow ever since.

Jessie began training her magic with Winter’s twin cousins, Kelley and Martina, whose offensive abilities were more in keeping with Jessie’s flamboyant style than Winter’s tamer potion making. But that came to an end six months ago, when the twins were killed – the latest in the long line of Mulcahy wizards to die.  Winter has been forced to continue Jessie’s magical education as best she can, but with the crushing weight of her responsibilities Jessie is often left training on her own.  Most days she can be found at Curiosity’s after or, much to Winter’s eternal consternation, during school hours.

Sixteen year-old Jessie’s home life is a mess. Her parents, Joanie and Darryl St. James, are career alcoholics, controlling and verbally abusive towards their daughter and each other, and resent Jessie’s involvement with the Mulcahy family.  Not possessing any magic themselves, they are unaware of the preternatural world their daughter has whole heartedly joined and see Winter as a busybody.  Jessie in return does everything in her power to avoid her parents, taking advantage of their drunken forgetfulness to spend nights sleeping anywhere but at home.

Quick of wit, artistic, and unabashedly outspoken, Jessie has quickly made friends throughout the preternatural community, especially among the vampires of Seahaven. Many nights she can be found couch surfing at their Theatre in the Historical District when she isn’t hiding from her parents in the tiny apartment above Curiosity’s.

Winter is sick, falling apart from the strain of holding Seahaven together alone. Everyone in the preternatural community can see it, and they all talk to Jessie about it.  Jessie is desperate to help her friend and mentor, but Winter won’t let her.

But being told “no” won’t deter a young wizard like Jessie…

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WordCon 2016 – MidAmeriCon II

A little update…

 

MidAmeriCon II now has a website –

http://midamericon2.org/

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WorldCon 2016

A HUGE shout out and welcome to our friends in Kansas City. You did it! You really did it! The voting was tallied late last night in London, our time, and it’s official – WorldCon will be in Kansas City in 2016!!!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/MidAm…07454699343006

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Writing Diversity in Speculative Fiction

“Why is diversity important in speculative fiction?”  There are a few different answers to this, because it is not only important, it’s becoming increasingly important every year.

1) Diversity really is good.  I know this answer gets blown off, but it’s true.  However, it’s also a fast and easy answer, and doesn’t really get to the heart of the “why.”

2) Because readers want to see characters who reflect themselves and their lives.  This is the money answer, and readers vote with their entertainment dollars.  Readers, more and more, really are showing increasing interest in seeing a more diverse reflection of life in genre fiction – they want to see MC’s who are the single mother, the black dragon slayer, the space waitress, the gay squire.  The world, and the reading public, is not made up of straight white farm boys and princes, and they’re getting bored with reading about them.  So why not add richness, depth, and realism to our fiction while attracting readers who are clamoring for just such diversity, because they want to see characters they can identify with?

3) Because these are the stories that don’t get told. And here is the social justice answer – to be honest, it’s our answer.  Media has traditionally “white-washed” out most of the rest of society in favor of the perspective of the Straight White Male default.  Things are getting better, slowly, as eyes open and we realize a more inclusive media is a good thing, but the fact that we still wrangle in discussions like this shows that we are, indeed, still far off from where we need to be as a genre as far as recognition of social issues goes.  Within the umbrella terms of “diversity” and “equality” lie stories that until recently were only told in dark corners.  We, as writers, have the opportunity to bring them into the light.  Just think, we who so often bemoan the dearth of new stories, how many stories wait unheard?  Dark stories, many of them, but also stories of hope, perseverance, and determination.  And we don’t even need to make blatant social statements out of our plots or characters to tell them – in fact, it’s really better if we don’t.  All we need is for our characters to say, “Here I am.  I am a person, for better or worse.”  I think this is especially true for those who write YA, when young readers are desperately searching for characters who look like them, struggle like them, hurt like them.  They don’t need yet another heroic farm boy, they need an MC like them – be they awkward or brown or gay or gender-questioning.

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New Release Today!!!

Announcement Day!!! Some of you may remember the side project we were working on back in March. Well, now we get to talk about it! Today saw the release of the anthology, Songs of The Great Cycle, and one of the seven collected stories is our own “A Cycle of Her Own.” It is the first published story to be set in The Books of Binding universe.

Today’s release is on Amazon, but Songs of the Great Cycle will be also be available on Barnes and Noble and Kobo within the next few days. We’ll make those links available when they do.

 

 

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A Snippet From Our WIP, Faerie Rising

Lana’s mind wandered back to Summer’s Get as she carried the jar back to bed.  What was he doing visiting that strung-out wizard?  She hadn’t used to be so bad, but up until a few months ago there had also been a few more of them running around.  She had heard though the rumor mill that the others had been torn apart by something.

Oh well.  Not her town, not her problem.

Her problem was working on his second joint, his eyes half-lidded.  Maybe it was his third.  It took a lot to mellow out a sidhe as strong as him. 

She did not believe in coincidence.  If Summer’s Get was next door, it involved Senan.  Of that she was certain.  What she was not certain of was how much time it left her.  She had screwed around with this twit for far too long, but she had had to be so careful, and she was dancing on this wire with no net.  One misstep and the fall would kill her.

“Close to what?”

Even with her acute hearing, Lana barely heard his slurred words.  Instincts honed by years of intrigues riveted on those three syllables, and she slid up beside him on the bed.  “What do you mean?” she asked softly, tracing her nails over his skin.

Senan closed his eyes in pleasure and exhaled smoke.  He slurred something incoherent.  His eyes did not reopen.

Lana rocked herself up on one knee and straddled his waist, nails digging in harder.  “Jeremy, baby.  Talk to me.”

The hand with the smoking joint lowered to the bed and a small snore trickled from his lips.  Shit.  Ordinarily this would be her cue to put out the joint, pick up her paperback, and order sushi in.  In the morning she would gush about what fantastic sex they’d had.  Since she couldn’t feed on him without Prince Midhir sensing it, she preferred it this way.  Imagine, a succubus choosing fiction over fornication – but he just sucked that much in bed. 

She frowned down at his pretty, snoring face, hands on hips, and considered her options.  On one hand, her book was getting to a good part.  On the other hand… screw it, something told her she really needed to know what the idiot was talking about.  She knew from months of dating that Senan plus pot equaled taking forever to wake back up, and she so did not feel like spending the next forty-five minutes coaxing him to alertness.  There were much more direct approaches.  A smile stretched her mouth, and she knew it was neither sweet nor inviting.  After all, a rare opportunity to mess with the idiot was really not something she wanted to pass up.

She plucked the joint from his slack fingers, set it in the ash tray before it burnt a hole in her bed spread, and then bit his nipple just this side of bleeding.

Senan woke up with a scream like a stepped-on cat.  “Jesus, bitch!”  His voice was still slurred, but he was definitely awake.  He clasped both hands protectively over his left pectoral, propped up awkwardly on one elbow.

Lana tossed her hair and laughed.  “Aw!  Did I bite too hard, baby?”

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The Characters of Faerie Rising – Kian, the Glorious Dawn

Kian, the Glorious Dawn, earned his name in childhood when it became obvious that he had inherited his mother’s famous beauty.

Edaine of the Waters was the most beautiful sidhe woman of her age.  She was courted by all of the Sons of Dagda, among the richest and most powerful princes of Faerie, but at long last she gave her heart to Prince Eoin, the youngest son.  Eoin was neither particularly rich nor powerful, but he was kind and loving, and his gentleness won Edaine’s love.  They were married and in time Edaine gave birth to a son, Kian.  Soon after the boy’s birth, Eoin fell in battle and rather than live without her love, Edaine chose to fade into mist and memory.  Kian, now an orphan, was taken in by his uncle, King Anluan, who had been one of Edaine’s most ardent suitors, even though he already had a Queen.

Anluan made Kian companion to his own son, Prince Senan, but the boys were raised very differently.  Kian was taught dance, music, and poetry while Senan was taught swordplay and politics.  Rumors abounded that Anluan was grooming Kian to take Edaine’s place in his affections.

When Kian was twelve, Prince Midhir the Proud came to Anluan’s court.  Angry at a perceived slight, Midhir kidnapped both of the young princes.  Senan he took to raise as his own, but Kian was taken to strike at Anluan.  Midhir brutalized and violated young Kian, and then left him for dead in the wilds of Faerie. 

Kian was found by a wandering half-sidhe knight named Etienne.  Etienne, upon learning that Kian’s father was Prince Eoin, a kind figure from Etienne’s own past, swore to protect the young prince and nursed him back to health.  They travelled Faerie for many years together, and finally came to the Mortal Realm where they encountered a group of therian wolves who were members of a medieval recreation group.  The two sidhe were welcomed into this pack and lived among them for a year.

Etienne and Kendrick, the King of the wolf pack, taught Kian many of the things his royal uncle had omitted from his education.  Together, they taught him swordplay, horsemanship, strategy, and warfare.  Kian and Etienne were content among the wolves and would have happily stayed among them much longer if fate had not intervened in the form of a magazine article about a computer securities magnate who bore the face of Kian’s nightmares.  This was the man who had kidnapped him and at his side was Kian’s young friend Prince Senan, who Kian had thought was dead.  Kian convinced Etienne that they must rescue his childhood friend.

Upon reaching Seahaven, Washington, Kian and Etienne realize that they are going to need more help to get Senan out of the heavily guarded Moore Computer Securities.  They seek out the help of a wizard who Etienne had befriended during the Second World War, only to find that he and his extended family are almost all gone.  The only help left is one wizard girl, barely older than Kian, and she has problems of her own.  But even so, she offers help and place to rest, even as danger threatens from all sides…

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Short Story Publication Announcement

We would like to hijack this blog for a brief announcement.  We’re thrilled to announce our first publication! The online fantasy magazine Myths Inscribed Issue 4, released today, has included in among its offerings our short story “Waiting for Yesterday.” Please follow the link to read not only our work but the work of the talented writers we have the honor of joining, all available online.

http://ezine.mythicscribes.com/

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The Characters of Faerie Rising – Etienne Knight

Etienne is a faerie knight, half sidhe and half human – but he will be the first to say he is no hero.

His armor is as tarnished as his honor, and he has as little use for one as he does the other.  He has been called many things – half-breed filth, Summer’s Get, crazy.  He has wandered the realms as an outcast for centuries, hiring on as a mercenary or as a blacksmith wherever there was work to be found and often going hungry.  He finds companionship among others who lived on the fringes of society, sometimes for a day or even two, mostly only in the quiet of the night.  He usually prefers to be alone.

But he had not always been this way.  Once when he was young he accidentally wandered into the Mortal Realm for the first time, and there he met a peasant’s daughter named Bess at a harvest festival.  That night she came to him and told him she would be his wife if he would have her.  He stayed with her, loved her, walked through the nights with crying babies and worked the days at a blazing forge.  And when he lost her too soon to plague, when he was driven from the village by fear and superstition, he was forced to return to Faerie, to the place of his birth, lost and suffering from a broken heart.

Etienne’s mortal wife never knew his scars.

There was no welcome waiting for his return.  But there were enemies.  He was tortured over days as spell glyphs were carved over and over into his flesh, into every exposed inch of skin until his tormenters were certain they would scar irrevocably.  And then they discarded him without activating the magic in the glyphs, a display of their contempt.  Etienne had one single friend, a prince of little power but who had a reputation for making interesting friends.  This prince was able to smuggle Etienne away and to convince his friends the dwarves to lay runic brands over the new scars to negate their magic.  It was as excruciating as the original cutting, but it was pain Etienne accepted willingly.

He never went home again.

Instead he began wandering, sometimes through Faerie, sometimes through the Mortal Realm.  As a half-breed he was eternally at a disadvantage against full-blooded sidhe who were faster and stronger, harder to kill.  Even as the centuries passed and he gained experience in combat, when faced with equal skill those things could be the deciding factor that ended in his death.  It was known that he was friendless and relatively weak, and there were many among the sidhe who would welcome his passing.  Etienne mastered jumping between realms, living on the borders, staying out of sight and out of the way, but even then it seemed to be only a matter of time before his luck wore out.  He needed an advantage.

Finally he found it in mortal ingenuity.

His human blood had granted him immunity to Cold Iron, and Etienne had always held a love and fascination for blacksmithing and mechanics.  He had encountered early firearms during his various sojourns in the Mortal Realm, but while they had been interesting to him, as weapons against preternatural opponents they were useless – an opinion shared by the rest of the preternatural world.  They were simply not powerful enough.  But then the .45 revolver was invented, and Etienne knew he had finally found something with potential.  But as a mortal weapon it still was not enough.  A revolver could do much more damage than a flintlock pistol, but it still would not do enough to do more than anger a sidhe, the real threats to his survival.  He needed more – much more.

He turned again to the dwarves.

In exchange for service, the exact terms of which he does not speak of, they forged for Etienne a named weapon – the revolver Agmundr, The Gift of Terror.  They also created twelve enchanted bullets that would kill any sidhe dealt a fatal wound and a gun rig that would give him speed and strength as if he was full-blooded.  It gave him the ability to kill at range, to negate his relative mortal frailty.  Finally he could force those who hunted him for amusement to leave him in peace.  He killed the next three sidhe lords to face him.

The rest learned to give him a wide berth.

And Etienne was finally content to roam the worlds, to be left alone.  And that was what he did.  Until one day when Fate intervened in his life, and he found a young sidhe boy, little more than a child, who had been brutalized, violated, and left for dead.  Against his better judgment Etienne took the child away with him and nursed him back to health, even after discovering that the boy’s attacker had been one of the most powerful princes in all of Faerie.  The knowledge only made him run faster and further with the boy.   When the boy recovered enough to talk, he told Etienne a tale that changed his life.  His name was Kian and he was a prince’s companion.  He and that prince had been kidnapped, and the prince murdered before his eyes.  And then young Kian revealed that his own parents were dead and his guardian was the prince’s father – and his own father was the very same powerless prince who so long ago had been Etienne’s only friend.  Etienne knew then that he would do anything to protect this boy, and after years of wandering the lonely places finally took him to the Mortal Realm to ensure his safety.

The Mortal Realm has brought with it challenges and discoveries if its own.  As Etienne struggles to survive in the modern world and teach his friend’s son what it means to be a faerie prince in his own right, he discovers that the kidnapper – since turned fugitive – has resurfaced in the Mortal Realm.  This would be enough to drive Etienne back to Faerie, except that he and Kian discover Kian’s childhood friend is still alive and still being held by their attacker.  Now at Kian’s urging Etienne has traveled across North America to the city of Seahaven, Washington, in a quest to rescue the kidnapped prince.

Once in the city Etienne realizes he needs help and goes in search of an old friend, but instead finds a young wizard girl who herself needs rescuing…

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