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Grace the Mace: Cover Reveal!

Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.

Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.

But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.

Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?

*****

Now to meet the face of the franchise, a word I here use in its loosest sense:

Grace the Mace Cover

My thoughts, numbered, but in no particular order:

1. Give me those boots. Give them to me. And throw in that breastplate while you’re in a generous mood.

2. I feel like if you zoomed in on the shield and enhanced, you could spot the photographer. (You can’t. I tried. The CSI shows lied.)

3. YES. That’s my girl, alright. That’s her attitude, all over her face, which is totally her face! Maker take her, what a bitch! 😀

4. Ooooooh, colors and lighting and framing! Ooooh, stone textures! Yeah background!

5. This art is way better than most fantasy cover art. Imma be real; most actual paintings (not talking about the airbrushed photos) on fantasy covers look kind of… weird. Someone’s face always looks stupid, some basic physical proportions are always off. Not here. Not with this. This baby is perfect.

6. A thousand and one thanks to DarianaLoki, the artist responsible.

Grace’s thoughts:

1.  “It’s a good likeness.”

2. “My gear isn’t horribly misrepresented. Thanks.”

3. “What, am I supposed to come up with six things, too? It’s nice. It’s good. It’s, what’s the word, professional. What do you want?”

Guess I’ll have to rustle up three more thoughts somewhere else.

Grace’s Mum’s thoughts:

4. “Oh, what lovely work! Isn’t she beautiful? And so… fierce-looking.”

5. “Are those chrysanthemums? I can’t tell, but they brighten the place up nicely, don’t they?”

6. “Grace isn’t in… trouble, is she?”

Ohhhh, my sweet summer child.

*****

Excerpt I

Excerpt II

Excerpt III

 

 

Grace the Mace excerpt III

Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.

Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.

But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.

Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?

*****

Grace the Mace – Excerpt III

The track became busier, people from the outlying farms and villages trotting towards or away from the city, sometimes with horses, mules, carts. Farmers working to bring in their harvests looked up at the mercenaries, giving them the flat stares of folk used to strangers, but no less wary for their familiarity. Dalvin nodded and waved to them, smirking at the narrowed eyes she got in return. Like a fearful waterfall. Well should these serfs and civilians fear her.

As they drew up to the city walls, somewhat impressive shrines dueled on either side of the city entrance, one an ornate well to Old Man Chance, the other, with the brass motif of Unicorns in obeisance, an altar to the Maker. Vec reached in his purse for a pair of Yaa copper pups, skillfully slinging one into the center of each.

“Hedging your bets?”

“I prefer to play it safe, when it comes to forces beyond the blade,” the man said, rubbing at his stubble. “If a copper will sate ‘em, why not try it?”

Grace snorted. “I play it safe by keeping my coin to myself,” she said, patting her own purse.

“It’s only a couple of coppers.”

She shrugged, letting the matter fall as they drew up to the gate guards. The greensmen on duty eyed them suspiciously up and down, calling for them to halt, herding them to the side. Dalvin smiled tightly, slowing to a stop and spreading her arms away from her body, letting her cloak open up to freely reveal her leather armor and the mace-and-chain. She met their eyes, challenging.

Von officers hated to let mercenaries into their cities, but for all the trouble they caused, they brought too much revenue to the taverns, inns, and brothels for the cities to afford turning them away. The two in front glowered and questioned them about where they’d been, where they were going, and how long they intended to remain in the city. A third stalked around behind them, looking them up and down.

Her pride blistered as Vec answered, but these were gate guards. What do you think you’ll find—weapons? Dalvin wanted to say, but held her tongue. Besides the lead-cored batons carried by regular patrol officers, these also bore nasty blackwood staves, for dealing with anyone with swords, spears, or polearms trying to rush the gate. It was their right and their responsibility to ensure that the armed parties that entered their cities were not at that time under the employ of enemy nations, and to see that suspicious numbers of them didn’t enter at a time.

Dalvin’s stomach rumbled as the interrogation continued, and standing still with her cloak hitched back over her shoulders and her hood down, the chill started working through the layers. Her smile turned to a bare-toothed grimace, and one booted foot began tapping against the earth. If they kept her here until she started shivering, she’d—she’d—well, she’d continue to grimace at them and otherwise do nothing.

At last—after Vec said for the fifth time that they were heading home for the winter, told the name of their band, that they’d come from Nor’Hiymar, that they were headed to Urynad and Southhold respectively, that they intended to remain two nights in the city—the von waved them through. One swept his stave as she passed, swatting her rear with a loud crack. The others snickered as she kept her face smooth of a wince, her hands seizing into fists to prevent them from reaching for her flail.

She waited until they turned the corner, then snarling, she reached back to touch the broad welt. “Rot-spawned, seedless, plague-ridden midden heaps,” she snarled, loud enough that several passers-by glanced at her in surprise, but not so loudly that the gate von would hear. “I’d like to shove those greenies’ staves through the brains in their assholes. Chance’s Ill Daughter and a goat, that hurt!”

Vec gave her an amused look. “I’ve seen you take worse in sparring without grousing with such a concentration of obscenity.”

She only growled, her cheeks flushed. It wasn’t about the pain. Well, it was halfway about the pain. It was the insult of it, and her inability to answer the insult. It was infuriating to know she could likely have clobbered any one of those men senseless, but to be barred from the brawl by their greens and the medals of office on their chests.

“Calm down.” Vec tried to sling an arm around her shoulder, but she sidestepped. “Come now, Grace. I know the von are a bitter brew to swallow, but you simply must let it go.”

Of course she did. Because they were too powerful. However strong she got, there were still, there were always those that were too powerful. Too connected. The greensmen in each city reported only to the city’s lord, which reported only to their high court and king. Who was a mercenary in all that?

As she stewed, a skinny youth darted across their path, stumbling against Dalvin and muttering a hasty apology before darting into a side alley.

A surge of energy jolted through her, and, silent, she lunged into the shadows after him. An outlet for her rage! Her hand closed on his shoulder and she spun him around, slammed him back against the wall, and covered his mouth with her hand. They were of a similar size, but she had lean muscle where he had slack skin over thin bones. She caught his knife hand and stripped the blade from it, not caring that she nicked her fingers, and flung it into the recesses of the alley. She rammed an elbow up into his sternum, then reached for the purse he still clutched in his other hand.

As she yanked it away from him, he sagged, going limp in her hold. She growled, looking at the sliced leather cord. The reparation would cost her. She pinned it under her arm, her hand going to seize his throat. She squeezed and lifted, glaring as he looked back at her with hopeless eyes.

“Weak,” she growled. “You’ll never get anywhere without some fight in you.” She spat and released him, and he sank down against the wall, cringing. “Fire and famine. You’re not worth two copper pups,” she told him, pulling open the mouth of the purse and fishing out two of the coins. She flung them at his feet. “You can’t just give up when it’s all gone to rot. You’ve got to look for the salvage. Maker take it, man, you’ve got to want to survive.”

She took out another coin and scraped it against a buckle, then checked its edges. It would be a fine thing, giving a speech like that, to later find that he’d switched her purse for a pouch of coin that was shaved or painted.

“Idiot,” she told the cutpurse, who hadn’t moved. “What are you lying there for? Think you’re getting anything else off me? Scat, thief.”

Grabbing the pair of coppers, the cutpurse ran, scrabbling to snatch up his knife as he did. Grace glowered after him, shaking her head. “Some people don’t deserve to live.”

“But you gave him—”

The girl whirled on her fellow-mercenary, who’d followed her down the sideway. “Shush. Not in the mood, unless you’re telling me those von are behind us on bended knee, offering me their skulls to crack. Let’s resupply, then get smashed. I want to leave first thing after my hangover in the morning.”

*****

After talking about other people and their works for as long as I have, I’m not sure how to say this, but…

It’s mine! That’s the work of Tirzah Duncan, my own self. That’s the from my novella. Here’s the opening.

Now Available! 

Headshot_Ireland

Grace the Mace – Excerpt II

Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.

Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.

But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.

Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?

*****

Grace the Mace – Excerpt II

Cresting a rise, Dalvin called for a rest. Stepping to the wooded side of the path, she cast about for a rock or log to sit on. Selecting a moss-covered lump of firm but indeterminate nature, she sipped from her water flask. Vec leaned against a tree nearby, studying the terrain ahead of them.

Their path wound down between lower foothills, with grasslands sloping to the east, and rocky woodlands rising to the west. The path, its track either faintly visible or painted by Grace’s fancy, rose up through a multi-green patchwork of farmland, then to a walled city, dark on its hilltop.

She breathed in deeply, and the open mountain air smelled sharply of conifers and matted late-autumn leaf litter, of the grasses to the left of their path, of good earth and damp stone and the age of the hills themselves. She didn’t mind cities, with their closeness, commerce, and crowds, but they smelled worse than a soldiers’ camp: stale with the stain of humanity.

Even so, she didn’t mind occasionally trading the freshness for walls and a real mattress. She studied the city in the middle distance. “We’ll make that by, what, early evening? Early enough to resupply and still have plenty of time for drinks and dice?”

Vec looked up at the sun, two hours past its zenith. “If we’re brisk, and if you don’t dally here.”

She took one final swallow and stood, shifting her pack’s strap from one shoulder to the other. “Let’s haul.”

They were still several days north of Urynad, but they’d started early enough to keep ahead of winter’s onset. Grace’s back and shoulders ached under the weight of her pack, its strap digging into her shoulder and chest. Her face and hands stung with cold, and her feet ached in spite of a good pair of boots. Wish I had a horse, she thought, stretching with a sigh. Or at least a pack-mule. She’d been taught how to care for either, and even knew a bit of her way around mounted warfare, but she wasn’t even close to having the money for any such thing.

Even so, she grinned up at the birds that flew in wedge-formation, arrowing their way to warmer lands. The day was crisp and beautiful, her body was young and strong and hale, she’d eaten breakfast and lunch and marched now towards drinks and dinner. Mounts and packhorses or none, hers was about as good a life as any but nobles and merchants could expect.

Vec let out a gusty sigh as they reached the lowest point, his eyes tracking up over the foothills before them.

“Tired, old man?” Dalvin grinned across at him. “Need me to take your pack?”

He snorted. “I wouldn’t say no. But nay, I’m just not looking forward to going home. Don’t mishear me; I like walls and a hearth in winter as much as the next fellow. Even the herbs that old woman stinks the place up with aren’t so bad after a few days, and she can patch up a fever right well enough, which is a boon.” He made a face. “She’ll just be expecting me to go to market for her, and gather any winter herbs, and take care of the firewood. And I’m not looking forward to any winter babes. You’d think people would want to bear their children in the comfort of their own home, but not everyone does. All that, and the only pub of any real size is a two hours’ walk from our door.”

The girl grimaced. “At least I’ve got a city, or I’d go snow-mad. Village folk are such skittish, clumsy fawns. Why do you keep going back?”

The older mercenary shook his head. “It’s where I’ve got to go. I haven’t had a lady for years now, and who’s got the coin to hole up in an inn for a whole season? I talk like I want her to pop off, but once she’s gone, I’ll be one of the poor sons of famine who winters with the band.”

“Your mum’s not passing you the house?”

He shook his head. “That’s going to her apprentice, along with all her coin, she’s made clear to me every winter for the past ten years. Anyway, I wouldn’t have any means to keep the place up in the other seasons. Will you get your Mum’s place?”

Dalvin grunted. “I hadn’t thought about it. I expect she’s willed it to me, but I should probably make sure.” Their one-room house and the small garden around it was one of the few things that had always been there, through thin and thinner; that precious wood-and-plaster barrier between starving on the streets and simply starving. Mum had gotten it when her own da died, and it had never been sold, because without it, she could grow no flowers, and without flowers, she wouldn’t have even the slim trickle of income that she did manage. Paying the taxes on the thing had been an annual miracle.

“I don’t know what I’ll do with it,” Grace realized aloud, “once it’s mine. I guess I’ll just sell it.” Once it’s mine. She took a deep breath against the strange stitch in her chest. She didn’t like to think of losing that one thing she’d never lost. She didn’t like to think of losing Mum. “Ah, what am I saying? I’m a soldier of fortune. I’ll die long before she does.” That brought another odd stab with it. Who will look after her, then? Who will bring home coin to stretch through the winter?

“That’s what I thought, too, when I first ran off to join the Yaa army,” Vec was saying, chuckling. “I was, what—fifteen? I figured I’d fall young and handsome in a hail of javelins. And here I am, near on three decades later, marking my kill-count in dozens instead of ones, and I’ve not lost so much as a limb.” He snapped his fingers. “Chance’s Fair Daughter must like me.”

The girl shook her head sadly. “The Fair Daughter has poor taste.”

He smiled sideways. “No poorer than you.”

She smirked. “I’ve never boasted of my taste in anything but weapons, armor, and teachers.”

“Oh, you only want me for my skills, is that it?”

Dalvin swatted his arm, the muscles of it hard as packed earth. “Of course. Winner takes all. And I want to be the winner, so you’ll show me what you know.”

He grinned, reaching up to straighten his headband. “You’re as strong as any youth I’ve known, girlie, and more skillful than most your age. They think they know all they need know, already. You’re always scrabblin’ for more and better; I’ve seen it, even before you turned to me. If you do live, you’ll have a real name.”

“I’ve already got one.” She smiled. “Grace the Mace.”

“It’ll do.” The older merc scratched at his stubble. “Aye; it’ll do, and folk will learn it. You move like a waterfall—the fearful sort. Not that you don’t have plenty room to learn.”

Her smile grew more satisfied. “Aye, sure,” she said to both sentiments. Not knowing how else to take the praise, she fell silent as they began to pass farms and orchards.

*****

After talking about other people and their works for as long as I have, I’m not sure how to say this, but…

It’s mine! That’s the work of Tirzah Duncan, my own self. That’s the from my novella. Here’s the opening.

Another excerpt to follow!

Cover reveal to follow!

Now Available!

Headshot_Ireland

Inspired – The man behind the lightbulb

Welcome, readers–Syawn, here, with a brilliant guest. Let’s all give a round of applause to my fellow character-muse, Lucianíel. Before we get started, Luc, let’s take a look at the blurb and cover for your newly released novel!

*****

For a muse like Lucianíel, one story’s end is another’s beginning.

In the wake of his author’s sudden death, Luc takes ownership of her surviving creations—four fantastical characters with tales yet to be told—saving them from unwritten lives crumbling around them and giving them a second chance at a literary future.

Luc finds that chance in the unsuspecting mind of Annabelle Iole Gray, a quirky teen with her head in the clouds, nose in a book, and imagination ripe for a brilliant muse’s inspiration.

Or so he hopes.

Neither Luc nor Annabelle, however, realize all they’ve undertaken. Even with a to-write list including accounts of a shape-shifting cat creature, gentle knight-in-training, vigilante skater girl, and a mystery boy smothering in unspoken fear, the most remarkable saga created between author and muse just may turn out to be one stranger than fiction.

Their own.

*****

 

I, Sy, have a few questions for my fellow fantastic fictional male lead. So glad you could join us today, Luc. Though as I hear it, that’s not too tough for you—is it true that you have the power to be in multiple places at once?

Even if I didn’t, it would yet be my pleasure to visit your author’s blog. You’ve done fine things with the platform, Syawn. But as it happens, yes, that is within my power. As a being of light, I can move with light’s speed; tens of thousands of miles per second. Zipping back and forth between a few spots of interest quickly enough that nothing’s had time to change since I left is, for me, as easy as it would be for you to pace around the room.

Quite the talent, that. I could certainly have used such a device in my own story—though I’m not sure I would have been willing to give up my material existence to acquire it. 

In your story-world, you’re a muse, the acting liaison between a writer and her stories. How different does it feel to be a character in a story of your own?

It’s a refreshing change, I must admit. Not to say that my work behind the scenes ever felt limiting or inadequate, or that I pined for the recognition proper characters are far more likely than a muse to receive. Still, as I judge my story to be as worthy of print as any, it is rewarding to have it told. And if I do say so myself, I make a remarkable character.

Having read your tale in its earliest stages, I would quite agree. (Indeed, if I recall, I was with my author in suggesting you play more of a role at certain points.)

Now you mention it, I believe you’re right; I could name one scene right off that may never have entered the book otherwise. My thanks to you and Tirzah for your own bit of muse-like inspiration!

It’s never mentioned in the pages of Inspired how such a remarkable being as yourself came to be… well, inspired, in the first place. Do you remember your origin?

That I do. Ideas beget ideas. When a creative mind imagines, it generates the matter of which muses are made. Over much time and many ideas, the matter accumulates into a being which can imagine for itself, at which time it can take any form it fancies. …or any form it suspects its creator will fancy. A muse does well to ensure his artist’s mind stays active, you see. One must look to the continuance of one’s species.

You have four strong characters under your wing—your children, as you call them. Are you the sort of “parent” to choose favorites? If so, which is your favorite?

I’m not above favoritism, no. Truth be told, one of my precious four is particularly dear to my heart. But in the interest of precluding any unfortunate sibling rivalry between them, I shall withhold the name as one of my necessary little secrets. Readers are, however, welcome to speculate.

That… that is enigmatic; that is textbook enigmatic. If you’ll not answer that question, then, will you at least step up to this next challenge? Describe each of your four children of the imagination, in single sentences—one sentence for each.

Now, there’s a request I can gladly oblige. Going in order of their introduction in “Inspired”, I’ll begin with Abishan. He’s a pampered pussy cat of a god who cares for nothing so much as his own comfort and those who contribute to it.

In contrast, Wilbur thinks of himself last of everyone, all the young man’s kindhearted attention devoted to those around him.

Uri, meanwhile, prefers to affect an air of utter apathy, partly to do with her being a teenager, but primarily as a defense against the pain and confusion that comes with trying to give a damn in a corrupted world.

And little Yves is as a wisp of flickering flame, dancing in a gale of adversity that shall either blow him out or fan him brighter, in the end.

If you could claim credit for any other fictional creation (not one in Annabelle’s universes, nor in Danielle’s), who would you wish you could call your own?

Hmm! An intriguing question to which I’ve not hitherto given much thought. If I could name but one (and at the risk of seeming to have been influenced by Danielle’s list of fictional favorites), I believe I would choose Sherlock Holmes.

Intelligent, complex, highly influential, and enduringly popular. He was so beloved in his day that his author couldn’t get away with keeping him killed off, and he is no less adored more than a century later. Such staying power is a rare and exquisite thing. How proud I would be to have him for a child! Though, I expect he would make for a better feather in my cap than he would a son. For all that I envy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s muse his triumph, I would not trade my family.

A brilliant choice, one of which I’m sure Holmes, Doyle, and Doyle’s attendant genius would heartily approve. That said, your loyalty to your fictional family, even over and above such literary success, is extraordinarily admirable. I wish your book the best of luck—and who knows where it might sit in people’s hearts, come a century, eh? Only a hundred years will tell…

So true. I look forward to learning how my story stands time’s test. And that goes for your story as well, Syawn, when it at last goes out into the world. Until our next meeting, gracious host: Farewell.

 

Let us hope the man fares well indeed, himself. Inspired is available for purchase at Amazon in paperback and Kindle forms, Barnes and Noble for you Nook users, and on Kobo.

War is in the Wind

Yesterday, I reached my goal of writing 50,000 more words of my second novel. By my reckoning, the draft is still a good 25,000 words from completion, but it’s satisfying to have such a good chunk written.

In celebration, I’m going to let you see a sneak preview of Scriptless. What’s this, an excerpt from Scriptless before Ever the Actor is even released? Yes, I’m crazy– not least because I’m letting you, my lovely viewers, read a section of a first draft. I’m sure I’ll regret this once I wake all the way up.

Couple things I should clarify before tossing this out at ya:
The Mynore are a conquered people, essentially serfs on their own land, and the “Crows” are what they call their mage masters. And this is a first draft, I reiterate.

*****

Harn forced his heart to be as stone, keeping his eyes on his work as the pair of Crows watched him. His axe, a small woodcutter’s axe, not his waraxe, thunked with rhythmic repetition into the trunk. The pine shuddered each time he drove it home. For a moment, he imagined that he was burying the axe head into the Crows’ hearts, but he quickly dropped the fantasy. The tree deserved better in its final moments.
“What have you got here, twenty logs?” One of his unwelcome spectators asked.
Te gule h’n chark, kein. May you be pinioned and de-beaked, bird, Harn thought in the Old Tongue. Aloud, he answered mildly in Kapatak, “You can see well enough for yourself, sir.”
A buffet of air smacked his head from behind, nearly causing him to stumble forward into the tree. “We know that, hoary-headed fool. I asked you your count. You give me a number.”
Blinking against the bright patches that spotted his vision, Harn turned to inspect his handiwork. Yes, twenty-five logs, all loaded onto the cart, ready to take home. He would hew this last and call it good.
“Twenty-five,” he answered, still mild. “Twenty-six, if you count this one.”
“Get on with it, then,” the Crow answered. “Then bring it to the fortress when you’re done.”
Harn swung the axe again, trying to bite his tongue. He failed. “The tax is eighty-five percent, is it not?”
“Yes?” The Crow had a dangerous edge to his voice, but Harn’s tongue carried on in spite.
“So I’ll be bringing you twenty-three logs.” The Crows demanded that they round up.
Another clout of air. “Don’t be selfish, man—the load will be deducted from your overall taxes.
Harn clenched his teeth, knowing it never would. “Yes, sir.” He drove the axe into the trunk a final time, then withdrew and stepped back to watch it topple. Instead it stood, wavering against the natural tilt. It twisted oddly, then gravity took over, bringing it down towards him. He just managed to scramble out of the way, his heart in his throat as the pine crashed into the ground half a yard shy.
The mages who’d caused this phenomenon snickered. “Better learn your  trade, woodsman, before you turn to pulp yourself,” one said. “Be sure we see that at the fortress gates before the sun sets, man,” said the other, before both turned and strolled away from clearing.
Harn swung the axe with a fury, letting it bite deep into the fresh stump. It was the only way to stop himself from charging those complacent fledglings. He closed his eyes, breath coming hard as tears tried to rise. That was exactly that attitude that had killed his wife.
“Patience, love,” he had told her at least every day, as he dragged her away from one Crow or another. “Patience. Havr merz,” he would whisper. War is in the wind. And, soothed by the Old Tongue’s sentiment, she would reel her hatred back inside, letting it build for the battlefield.
Until the day he couldn’t stop her. He had always feared that such a day might come.
It had been the law against white. The Crows knew the wearing of white held a special place for the Mynore, and so like every good thing—like dancing and drums and his sweet violin—they outlawed it. So in the presence of their overlords, there were no pelts of the white bears. No white rabbit skins stitched together, no white wool and no white cotton. Of course, every Mynore family kept some piece of white cloth in their secret cache. If it had been special before, white was now a sacred symbol of rebellion.
But it wasn’t the hidden roll of white linen that killed her. It was the grey. The great problem with the law against white—the great advantage, as the Crows saw it—was that white was a debatable color. There was rarely cloth as pure white as fresh fallen snow, so shades just off of white were also outlawed. And maybe shades just off of that. And maybe a pair of Crows patrolling through the village glanced at a medium grey cloak and decided that, though they’d walked past it without comment for the three years it’d been around, today it was white.
“That’s against the law, you know,” one had told her, his magic yanking Harn’s wife to a stop by her hair. “I could bring you in for that, but I’ll let you off easy.” And the cloak had burst into flames. She’d dropped to the snow and rolled, of course, but every time she put it out, it would ignite again, until the whole thick wool cloak had burned to ashes, and the clothes underneath fared little better. And all the while, the Crows stood and watched and laughed.
Harn, running towards the scene from the time he saw the flames, had dropped to his knees in the melting snow and reached to help her up. “Havr merz,” he’d whispered, afraid the Crows would overhear the Old Tongue, more afraid of what would happen if he didn’t say it. “Havr merz, darling.”
But the phrase had worn thin, and no longer bore her fury. With a snarl, she yanked out of his hold, suddenly throwing herself at the Crows.
Thanks to the element of surprise, she snapped the neck of one before the end. Then there had been an unexplained flash of red, a twist of horrible magic, and her head and body had lain separately in the snow, leaking liquid bright as cherries. Harn had been unable to move, and that had surely saved his life, for he’d have gone the same way if he could’ve.
But now he was here, many years a widower, gripping an axe handle with shaking hands and still telling himself that havr merz.

*****

Facebook and a Fictional Arm-Twist

I’ve now got a facebook fan page for Ever Actor! For those of you who know naught of Ever Actor, here’s the scoop:

In Ever Actor, Syawn, a thief lord with many masks, has everything under control.  The crowds love him, the nobles and upper class love his undercover persona, and the local Law doesn’t even know it’s under his thumb.

Then a new tax law  threatens to topple his carefully manicured empire, with the aide of the one thing Sy can’t control: magic.

Desperate to keep his underworld throne, Sy  decides to apprentice himself to a mage — an easily controlled mage. So he joins Mysst, a naive mage child on a hero quest to save her doomed tribes. But can she help him grasp magic,
his keystone to power, or will it destroy him?

To see some excerpts, check out the Novels page on my website.

If that’s not enough to sway you, how’s this: pictures of redheads!

Black-and-white pictures of a redhead!

“What she’s trying to say,” Syawn buts in, “is that I’ll be there. And I know your people say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I’d think a writer would know better.” He shoots an amused smile my way. “The poor girl is soft in the head. She thinks everyone will go running just to see carrot curls. Certainly it has allure,” —he runs his fingers back through his hair— “but surely wry wit is more of a draw than happy accident of nature.”

“In any event,” he continues, “you should know that I take the liberty of posting my own updates, most of the time– that decreases the risk of my little author botching things, aye?”

So go! Visit the page! Like! Win! …Not that there’s anything there to win (yet!).

“And that’s the kind of foolish botching I’m talking about,” he drawls, chin propped on fist. “Honestly, with words like that, I can see why she went with pictures instead. Good job her noveling is better. Be that as it may, I’ll be ever so grateful for your support.” Green eyes lock on the screen, and he smiles almost-sweetly. “I expect to see you there.”

“Remember,” he adds, standing to leave, “my author may not know where you live, but I’m fictional. I can find your dreams. Click a couple buttons, save yourself a couple night terrors.”

O_O … Uh, I’m Tirzah Duncan, and I in no way endorse my character’s  message. B-but please go like the page anyhow?

By Cunning and Craft

“When instinct and technique merge seamlessly, I call the result cunning.”
-Peter Selgin

It looks like a secret manual on an ancient art.
This was my first thought upon being handed this small volume, upon first running my hand across the intriguing matte cover, upon first reading those alluring words:
By Cunning and Craft.

That’s the opening of my Amazon review for my pet favorite of writing books. You can read the whole review here.

You should probably go just to look at the cover– a dusky orange border framing a beautiful depiction of Aesop’s fable in which the fox tricks the crow into dropping the cheese.
What I don’t mention in the review is that I have a natural bias towards anything to do with foxes and cunning craftiness. What can I say? I’m Slytherin-hearted.