Ever the Actor

Act One: Magic in the Air

 

Syawn here. Taking a break from our regularly scheduled 100-word wonders to showcase a piece of my author’s latest work—and mine. She’s revamped the opening of my novel, Ever the Actor, and we want to know what you think of it. All adulation and/or brutal commentary is welcome below. Without further ado, the unveiling.Danielle Shipley's beloved handiwork--an impression of the predatory fox.

*****

I suppose you’re wondering what this is about.” The von guard’s district commander sat with the practiced tension of a man who finds danger in every living minute. His tone was nonchalant but low, though theirs was the only occupied table in the small patio gardenboth parties had backup lurking just out of sight, and such were known to grow too curious for their station.

Not acutely,” Syawn answered with a smile, the redhead’s facade of ease far more complete than the commander’s. “Old friends may call on one another for a pleasant round of drinks without any underlying purpose, may they not?”

Javvin gave him a look that struggled to be wry, but ended up looking simply amused. Javvin had requested his presence in his office at the guardhouse, not at this Kapatak grindery. Sy had returned a suggestion that their meeting take place on neutral ground, and suggested this place according to the man’s preferences. This meeting was not likely called for pleasant conversation, any more than it was likely that a von guard commander would consider the city’s thief lord to be an old friend.

The von commander declined to defend the obvious. “Nevertheless,” he said, “I have called you here on an account of a multiple homicide that occurred this morning, some ways outside of,” the man hesitated, “my district.”

He’d very nearly called it Sy’s district, hadn’t he? Sy concealed a rising grin. “Then is that not outside of your jurisdiction?”

Not entirely. They were all men of your court, which is under my jurisdiction.”

Yes.” Sy frowned. “Talk’s come running, of course, but the rumors are fresh as the best. Seven dead in one instant, broad daylight, hmmn?”

Javvin’s already thin lips went thinner. “Four. Rumor, as is its wont, has lied. The tale of it is truly remarkable.”

Sy raised ginger brows, bright green eyes shining with interest. “Please, tell away.”

The commander gave him a rightly suspicious look. “We’ve reconstructed the circumstance as well as we can from all accounts.” He leaned forward, his grey eyes intense as he settled into some place between reporting and storytelling. “Four fellows, all lower district men, are walking west along Axen Street.”

Sy had known the false-front tailor’s shop they would be making for, and the time they would rendezvous there, even before his lookout and backup had sounded the signal.

They’re stepping into the intersection—right where Vilee’s hotcakes shop is.”

Seeing them, Sy had risen from his crouch on the roof, stepped onto the horizontal awning of the hotcake shop beneath them, raised his bow, and drawn to his cheek. His palms had itched with the prick of quick-racing blood, but his fingers were steady. His quiver hung at his side with more arrows waiting. Absolute speed hadn’t been vital, precisely, but Chance take all, he’d wanted it.

Suddenly, arrows come whizzing ‘out of nowhere.’ The first two men are shot before people can even properly see what’s happening.”

Sy hadn’t needed to use a bow in ages. In truth, he hadn’t needed one then; he could have used knives, gone closer range, and had other fighters with him. But he’d wanted to claim every kill personally, if he could manage it, and with a cluster of targets together in the morning light, bow and arrows from a discreet distance was his best bet.

The last two draw their knives. The first of them is hit before he can throw. The last one manages to orient, spot the assailant, and throw the knife before he’s struck, but his throw misses the attacker. And seconds after it’s begun, it’s ended.

Eyes on the approaching blade’s trajectory—it had been a fine, strong throw—Sy had snapped his torso backwards and out of its path, his feet never leaving the beam beneath him. The blade had clattered against the clay roof tiles behind him and fallen to the cobbles below as he’d righted himself.

Witnesses did get a good look at the bowman, though,” Javvin continued, a new tone to his voice as he leaned back. “He stood still for a moment afterwards, as if he wanted folk to see, then went darting away over the rooftops, moving very swiftly for a man his size. A black cloth masked his whole head, so all we can say is that he’s very large, muscular, and fair-skinned.” His eyelids half-lowered. “Can you give me any leads from that, old friend?” 

Sy shook his head, eyes widening with a slight hyperbole of disbelief. “Outlandish. I can’t think of anyone with such incredible skill and generally attractive body type.”

Javvin merely scowled. “It sounds rather familiar to me. Seems to crop up in a number of reports of late.”

I’m glad your officers know true talent and beauty when they see it, Sy was tempted to say, but deemed it unwise in the current conversational climate.

Their drinks arrived, and both men went quiet. The commander took his coffee, breathing in the exotic scent with reverence. Sy sniffed then sipped at his chocolate, a drink just as foreign, but safer. He’d found the other to make his fingers jitter; not the best effect for a thief lord whose survival might depend on steady hands.

This quadruple homicide fits into a larger theme of killings in the area,” Javvin continued as though they had never paused. “Knives have been the predominant weapon, but they have all been, to my knowledge, members of your court, and all have been killed in (or their bodies removed to) publicly visible spaces.”

They sipped silently for a moment, watching one another through the steam. “Surely,” Sy said quietly, “you don’t need me to draw the lines for you.”

Javvin’s gaze broke as he took another swallow. “No. No you don’t. And your spring cleaning is your affair. But not when it starts touching the public.”

Sy’s full lips pursed slightly. “Touch the public? Sir, I’m ever careful not to. You know I am an expert at avoiding collateral damage.”

The commander rubbed his chin. “To the public psyche, Syawn. I can’t have corpses lying about it the streets, no matter how justly.”

He meant, of course, that he couldn’t have the thief lord displaying his victims like the law was permitted to, or people would begin to question who the ultimate authority was, anyway. It would be best for him if he permitted the von commanders and their chief to assume that it belonged to themselves and the nobility. He looked down into his chocolate for a moment, pondering.

My spring cleaning (or autumnal cleaning, more accurately,) is nearly complete. There is one more display to be made, and it is the most important one. It would not be wise for me to permit the illusion that these dust bunnies had escaped the broom.”

Javvin’s lips wrinkled back from his teeth. “Dust bu—please don’t take my metaphor any further, I might gag on it. You’ve one more kill to make and body to toss about, please don’t mince.”

Sy smirked. “As you like it. I have the usurping upstart himself remaining, and I can’t let people think he escaped me. I’m sure you understand.”

I understand that I’ll not have any more of these publicly displayed bodies.” The commander’s grey gaze was steady and stern. “I’m sure you understand that equally well. Display it within your court proper, if you must.”

Sy frowned. The court was no place for bodies to be flung about. It was to be a place of revelry and sanctuary, not fear-mongering. It would not do. “I don’t like to leave the epicenter dirty,” he said, his voice lighter than the matter at hand. “A compromise?”

What do you have in mind?” Javvin sighed, used to Sy’s wheedling.

The man is a thief, as it would happen. Caught, convicted, sentenced, and escaped.”

Would it just so happen.”

If the von were to find his body in a discreet alleyway, could they not find a way to… put that body with the other executed?”

The man frowned. “You want us to display your example among our examples?”

Sy shrugged one large, rounded shoulder. “He’s an escaped convict. Your people laid hands on him. What difference is it if he’s cold before you do? Most wouldn’t know the difference.”

Your court would know.”

My objective exactly.” Sy swallowed the rest of his chocolate before it could grow lukewarm.

Hmmn.” Javvin rubbed his chin, the afternoon stubble showing grey. “I suppose it’s suitable. If my people find a corpse with convict marks, we’ll place it up with his record.”

Sy smiled. “That’s all I ask. Thank you, Javvin.”

He could see the man struggling against the instinctual“Your’re welcome,” instead grunting and taking another swallow of coffee. “What keeps the peace.”

And that was why the von tolerated thief courts in the first place, when some might suppose they should be against such organized illegality. As any experienced guards of the law knew well, the underworld was going to exist, and it was better to have a finger on its pulse and a hand on its neck, to try to control it and keep things orderly, than it was to try to quash it altogether and make a many-headed monster of the thing. That was where thief lords came in handy. The von always knew who was at the top of the heap, could develop an uneasy relationship with him, could control them to some degree—the danger being, if the thief lord was very good, they would only think they were controlling him.

Sy would negotiate, Sy would compromise, Sy would let them think they had the upper hand. And Sy would get what he wanted. There was a time to seem hard—a time to slaughter four upstarts in the middle of the street, for instance—and a time to seem soft. With the von, he wanted to cultivate respect, appreciation, and a confidence in him with an underlying unease. Simple enough, for an actor who knew what they were about. In fact in a way, it was easier to tether the law than it was to manage his own court.

Sy caught a slight frown at the edge of Javvin’s mouth, a tightening around the eyes, which themselves flicked downward and away. The commander was contemplating something, something Sy guessed was not altogether pleasant, and by the slight shifting in his seat, he was deciding whether to speak his thoughts aloud.

The theif lord reached up to tug one of his own carrot-colored curls, wondering whether there was any good way to draw the man out, then figured that his best bet was to say nothing. A silence between two conversants was a thing begging to be filled.

I’ve heard some interesting news from the chief,” Javvin said, his voice pitched lower than when he’d spoken of quadruple homicide.

Aye? What’d she have to say?”

She was just passing along information from above. I don’t rightly know what she thinks of it… nor what I think.”

Sy only raised his eyebrows again, impressed. News from above the chief? The von, while they served the local nobility, didn’t consider the nobles to be their superiors in a hierarchical sense; a higher caste, but not their officers, as it were. If Javvin’s chief had gotten her information from above, she’d have been referring to the captain of the von of the entire realm of Yaa. This was word from the Crown City.

The new king has decided that he’s going to be taxing you.”

Doesn’t he do that already? And didn’t the old one? It’s a kingly habit.” Sy smirked.

Javvin gave him a sharp look. “What I tell you now, I tell you not as a commander, but as a friend. It is a serious warning, and I would not have you make a jest of it.”

Sy immediately schooled his face in sobriety, inwardly cheering that the man had admitted to a friendship. “I’m sorry, Javvin. Go on.”

Your fronts are taxed, certainly,” the commander went on. “Your money-lending business. Your legal stores and trades. Your brothels. But the court is not taxed.”

Sy straightened his shoulders at this, and the move succeeded in making him look as significantly larger as he truly was. “And who would dare to tax the court?” he asked, warning and steel in his tone.

Javvin frowned. “King Vingorn, it seems.”

And how?” Sy spread his hands on the table. “Who walks into my house and audits my treasuries?” That, Javvin surely knew, would mean war. And just as surely, he would not want an all-out war with the denizens of alley shadow and windowsill crawlers. This would mean the making of the many-headed monster the von sought to avoid, and no agent of the law would be safe, dawn or dusk, street or bed. “How would he dare?”

Mages.”

Sy’s spread fingers twitched. “M—” the word caught in his throat.

Javvin softly snapped his fingers thrice. “Chance knows I think it’s a bad idea. You can’t riddle the government with magic. But there’s no telling his Majesty that; his lover is the head of the Yaa Mage’s Guild—his late Majesty never should have allowed them to band together under the law’s protection, but there you have it. I reckon Vingorn is in her thrall. But he’s sending those unnatural creatures out into the middle of my city, my district, and it’s going to walk into your house and audit your treasuries. And Hag only knows what else.”

Chances Daughters,” Sy whispered, his normally ruddy face gone pale. “I…” he let his words trail out, surrendering the fight to find something to say, and the two men simply stared at one another grimly across the table.

Tell—” Sy cleared his throat. “Tell me, please. What more do you know of this?”

Javvin snapped his fingers once more, then folded his hands deliberately, clearly restraining himself for fear of trying Old Man Chance’s patience. “I know little, but I’ll tell you what I know. Luck save us all.”

Sy leaned forward with fearful fixation that was not feigned, his green eyes growing more desperate with the commander’s every piece of news. The thief lord didn’t believe good fortune could be called by a finger click and wooed by small offerings, but he found himself suddenly wishing it were so.

If he was going to face down what he’d run from at every opportunity, he’d need all the luck on his side he could get.

 

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100 word wonder: Relentless

Hey. Syawn here.

We've decided a picture of me should be posted at the top of the post whenever I'm the one writing it, apparently to make sure everyone understands who's talking. Fair enough, as some newcomers might  otherwise assume that the so-called Inkcaster was capable of writing her own bloody blog posts.

We’ve decided a picture of me should be posted at the top of the post whenever I’m the one writing it, apparently to make sure everyone understands who’s talking. Fair enough, as some newcomers might otherwise assume that the so-called Inkcaster was capable of writing her own bloody blog posts.

I’ve started a weekly challenge for my author. It’s a good way to keep her on track. This challenge will be to write exactly 100 words on whatever subject I’m wondering about at the time, every Tuesday.

Why Tuesday? she asks. Because today is Tuesday, and I’ll not let her put it off for one more day. Why whatever subject you’re wondering about? What about subjects I’m wondering about? the author asks, affronted. Because if I let her pick, she would be all day dithering between one musing and another. Why 100 words precisely? she asks. Because I said so. Why “Relentless”? Because I am. Now brace yourself for three relentless wonderings, no more nor less than 100 words each.

*****

There’s something you should know about me.

 I’m… kind of an anti-hero. A bit of an antagonist. If you hadn’t picked up on that already.

 As my author reveals in Ever the Actor, I have a number of traits most people would not consider ideal, might even think, hmmn, terrible. Like a total lack of empathy, the resultant self-centeredness and capacity to wantonly kill, harm, and manipulate.

 Debatable mores aside, I had (and have) some traits she unabashedly admires. Among these is my relentlessness.

 Once I have my mind set upon a goal, I won’t relent until I gain it.

 *****

 It seems to me that there are more fellow-sociopaths in the world (yours as well as mine) than people who are truly relentless.

 People begin to do a thing, and then as soon as something is difficult, they stop. Or the task is longer than they expected, so they stop. Or they’re not exactly certain how to proceed, so they stop. My author included.

 I just… I just don’t understand. How can the relenting do anything? How is any path traveled if every barrier (or perhaps not every—just the third or fourteenth) submitted to?

 They can’t, and none are.

  *****

 Clearly, shouting the Nike motto has proven inadequate to change things.

In the hope of helping the strugglers out there, especially the writers among you, (*cough*Tirzah *cough*) I have a handful of possibly more helpful things to think when you find yourself relenting.

What would I do if I were an epic badass?

If I knew I could totally handle this, what would I do?

If I were a character who was just like me, except relentless, what would I do?

Basically, ask yourself, “What would Syawn do?”

Unless you’re against murder. To each their own conscience and all that.

*****

100-Word Wonders: Taxes

Hey. Syawn here.

We've decided a picture of me should be posted at the top of the post whenever I'm the one writing it, apparently to make sure everyone understands who's talking. Fair enough, as some newcomers might  otherwise assume that the so-called Inkcaster was capable of writing her own bloody blog posts.

We’ve decided a picture of me should be posted at the top of the post whenever I’m the one writing it, apparently to make sure everyone understands who’s talking. Fair enough, as some newcomers might otherwise assume that the so-called Inkcaster was capable of writing her own bloody blog posts.

I’ve started a weekly challenge for my author. It’s a good way to keep her on track. This challenge will be to write exactly 100 words on whatever subject I’m wondering about at the time, every Tuesday.

Why Tuesday? she asks. Because today is Tuesday, and I’ll not let her put it off for one more day.

Why whatever subject you’re wondering about? What about subjects I’m wondering about? the author asks, affronted. Because if I let her pick, she would be all day dithering between one musing and another.

Why 100 words precisely? she asks. Because I said so.

Why “taxes”? Yes, partly because she’s blearily weary with filing hers after a long night of writing, but mostly because it’s actually a large motivating factor in my first feature-length novel.

So hogging the spotlight today (or giving my author a rest after her late-night last-minute form-filled ordeal, whichever way you want to look at it,) I will soliloquize upon my own story life difficulties, for two precisely 100 word beats.

*****

Ah, death and taxes—those two absolutely promised things in your life, right?

Not for the thief lords. We are a government to ourselves, and while we risk assassination as much as the next leader over, we tax. We are not taxed. How would it be done? Say nothing of cooked books, how could you first pin us down to quibble over accounts? Everything we do is illegal. If you bust us, we’ll fight, flee, and set up somewhere else while we scheme up plans to make you regret your audacity.

Who could walk into a thief court demanding coin?

*****

Apparently, our new king Vingron has such audacity—as the first monarch in generations to be friendly with the most mistrusted people group in the nation: mages.

Wielding his mages and the fear they command, as they in turn wield their arcane arts, the king turns his eye on revenues never before tapped. My pockets. The pockets of my brothers-in-backstabbing arms. The treasuries of the nation’s lords of thieves.

In the boldest entirely legal heist of the century, he’s going to fleece the filchers. Even me.

Unless I can come up with a plan to cheat taxes and death together.

*****

And of course I can. My very name means ‘fox’. My answer to these tax-or-death problems are featured in Ever the Actor, coming soon, but not soon enough…

100-word wonders: Agency

Hey. Syawn here.

We've decided a picture of me should be posted at the top of the post whenever I'm the one writing it, apparently to make sure everyone understands who's talking. Fair enough, as some newcomers might  otherwise assume that the so-called Inkcaster was capable of writing her own bloody blog posts.

We’ve decided a picture of me should be posted at the top of the post whenever I’m the one writing it, apparently to make sure everyone understands who’s talking. Fair enough, as some newcomers might otherwise assume that the so-called Inkcaster was capable of writing her own bloody blog posts.

I’ve started a weekly challenge for my author. It’s a good way to keep her on track. This challenge will be to write exactly 100 words on whatever subject I’m wondering about at the time, every Tuesday.

Why Tuesday? she asks. Because today is Tuesday, and I’ll not let her put it off for one more day.

Why whatever subject you’re wondering about? What about subjects I’m wondering about? the author asks, affronted. Because if I let her pick, she would be all day dithering between one musing and another.

Why 100 words precisely? she asks. Because I said so.

Why agency? Because Tirzah has been thinking about it, and sometimes I’m kind enough to defer the choosing to her.

Why, I’ll even let her go first in the lineup. Have at ye, author, for no more nor fewer than a hundred words of wondering, then I air my thoughts, then she’ll wrap it up.

*****

I was actually wondering how much characters need to have to be good characters.

By agency, I mean a person’s capacity to direct themselves and effect their world, rather than all the direction and effect coming from the outside in.

Can a character be forever pushed about and tossed by the winds of circumstance, and the story still be a good story?

Hmmn, not in my book. The circumstantial winds may blow, but the character needs to effect the story, or else they seem pointless as a character—a simple viewing window into a plot, when I’m wanting a person.

*****

In Ever the Actor, I actually sacrificed a considerable amount of agency, allowing myself to be pushed about by “the winds of circumstance” in the form of a nine year old mage. (Now there was a little girl with a ridiculous amount of agency.)

 However, the agency I sacrificed was for the cause of gaining greater agency, and I still left my mark on the world along the way. I wasn’t so much wind-tossed as… self-directed into being directed by someone else.

By the end of the tale, though… any agency I’d felt I had was thrown to the winds.

*****

Yes, you do start out drifting rather aimlessly in your sequel  (as the title “Scriptless” suggests) but you get the hang of improv fairly quickly, and boom, you’re advising revolutionaries.

 You just can’t help taking ahold of yourself and the world again, even if you don’t know what to do with either. You have more inborn agency than nearly anyone else on your planet.

I don’t think that degree of world-shaking agency is required in a story, but it must be there. The MC, antagonist, bit-parters… A story needs to be moved by its people—or else it’s not theirs.

*****

100-word wonders: Lies

Hey. Syawn here.

We've decided a picture of me should be posted at the top of the post whenever I'm the one writing it, apparently to make sure everyone understands who's talking. Fair enough, as some newcomers might  otherwise assume that the so-called Inkcaster was capable of writing her own bloody blog posts.

We’ve decided a picture of me should be posted at the top of the post whenever I’m the one writing it, apparently to make sure everyone understands who’s talking. Fair enough, as some newcomers might otherwise assume that the so-called Inkcaster was capable of writing her own bloody blog posts.

I’ve started a weekly challenge for my author. It’s a good way to keep her on track. This challenge will be to write exactly 100 words on whatever subject I’m wondering about at the time, every Tuesday.

Why Tuesday? she asks. Because today is Tuesday, and I’ll not let her put it off for one more day.

Why whatever subject you’re wondering about? What about subjects I’m wondering about? the author asks, affronted. Because if I let her pick, she would be all day dithering between one musing and another.

Why 100 words precisely? she asks. Because I said so.

Why “Lies?” Because it seemed an appropriate way to involve myself in your tradition of a “fool’s day” without stooping to the level of people posting idiotic untruths.

I wonder, the author wonders, don’t we all wonder about falsehoods and a world despicably riddled with them, for no more nor fewer than 100 words at a time.

*****

I have never taken to lies or liars. You may find this an odd quality in someone who is a criminal in most other ways, but I believe in truth between comrades. Certainly, I may lie to the von—our country’s answer to your world’s police—but not to my thieves, nor will they to me.

I punish lying more strenuously than I punish any other misdemeanor in my court, and my people know they can take me at my word. We may be thieves, but we’re honest about it; unlike the von, who’ll take from any purse and stand with the law behind them. There’s a reason the people love us better.

 *****

I don’t even… your first book title is freaking Ever the Actor. Your entire personality is a lie, your very emotions are commonly deliberately constructed. You practically invented yourself, and that invention is as changeable as your circumstances.

You’re a living omnitool—and everyone else is a tool to you. You are, as I say so dramatically elsewhere, a lie in the flesh. Do you think you can negate everything our readers have ever read about you simply by telling them now that it isn’t so?

And on top of it all, your section was a hundred and thirteen words.

*****

“Way to spoil an honest attempt to participate in your culture, kid.” Sy shakes his head. “Aren’t you meant to leave the fools to be fooled?”

Cry of the Nightbird: release and review

Hey. Syawn here.

So my author finally published something. One novella, and you can only get it on your computers and phones and Kindles, and it doesn’t even feature me, but hey. It’s a step in the right direction, so I need to be all encouraging and supportive.

In interest of doing just that, I’ll tell you why you should read it even if I’m not in it.

First of all, it’s in my world. Next, it does feature Joreth, the leader of an assassins guild, who has my knowledge of how to play one’s underlings, and my love of knives. (I would like to think my skill level is superior, having begun training at a younger age. In both.)

Unlike me, however, he is a man replete with unwise passions. Tsk. The teenaged lordling in the same novella does a better job of keeping his head; for shame. Ah well, we can’t all be me.

But enough chit-chat. Time for an honest review.

“Wait, a review?” Tirzah asks, startled. “But you’re… isn’t that… you’re in my head!”

Which doesn’t mean I have no objectivity. Brace yourself, author. First, fine readers mine, have the blurb and cover.

*****

“Look—it’s a shadow, creeping on the wall.
Look—it’s a nightbird, feathered, black, and tall.
Look—o’er your shoulder; think ye twice,
Look—out, ye wicked rats, pray he finds ye nice.”

Risen suddenly to lordship of the fiefdom of Cavernad, young Ferlund struggles to fill the shoes —and carry on the marriage engagement— of his late father. Doubly sorrowed by the old lord’s death and his duty to part ways with his common lover, Ferlund also seeks to pursue his suspicion that his father’s death was no accident…

Elsewhere in this fantasy-tinged novella, another man is recently risen to power. Joreth, formerly an assassin by trade, is newly the master of the assassin’s guild responsible for the elder Lord Cavernad’s demise. Wren, a servant girl deeply enamored of her new boss, seeks to gain his favor, and happens upon his strangest secret.

A lone vigilante stalks this landscape of cloak and dagger, sense and madness, and grudge and ardor old and new; the preying Nightbird stands in judgement of injustice masked by night or noble station.

In this tangle of stale bitterness and fresh affection, who will stand justified, and who will fall condemned? And will the cry of the Nightbird sound loud enough to go down as more than a washerwoman’s four-line ditty?

*****

A bit long-winded as blurbs go, if I do say so myself… my full-length novel doesn’t get that much back-o-the-book yattering.

Fortunately, I cannot give the same complaint to the tale in question. The pacing was excellent, with the viewpoint switching very regularly, but no more (nor less) than was needed for the twenty-five thousand word tale of intrigue and adventure to be told well.

The writing style was smooth and largely unobtrusive, but not to the point of blandness, lending a pleasant but mild aroma to the tale itself.

The characters were were well-defined, distinctly themselves–and largely loveable, sometimes in spite of being themselves. Humanly flawed and often confused, but rarely to that point where you want to smack them upside the head for it, these were people any budding thief lords would want to ally with: the high-minded nobleman, the bitter assassin, the “overlook at your own risk” servant girl, and the sweet but desperate pretty one.

(The Nightbird, on the other hand, is a bit more of a wild card. Might be safer just to knock him off if you ask me. Anyhow, jumping back from The Young Thief Lord’s Handbook to the review…)

The action sequences were engaging, walking that fine line between bogged-down-in-detail and what-is-even-going-on-here, and provided the much needed interludes between all the feelings everyone kept carrying on with.

However, I’m not quite certain about Duncan’s portrayal of the ending scene. While certain others who have read the scene make report of crying, I’m not sure what the tears are all about. It was an almost abruptly definite ending to a character arc that could have been stronger.

“It was as strong as it could be reasonably made,” Tirzah protests. “I didn’t want to overplay it!”

Ah-ah-ah, Duncan. Authors aren’t allowed to defend their decisions in the middle of a review. My position is my own, and I think Wren’s character arc ought to have been stronger. There’s a comment section open to take your arguments after.

My objections taken into consideration, I give it four stars out of five. Very nicely done, Miss Duncan. I might even invite you onto The Ink Caster blog for an author interview. Yes, it is gracious of me, isn’t it?

Go, buy it, enjoy it, have your appetite whetted for the superior novel waiting in the wings! And get a sneak preview of my own hitherto-unrevealed prologue at the end of it!

http://www.amazon.com/Cry-Nightbird-Tirzah-Duncan-ebook/dp/B00J3Y6ZOE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395871447&sr=8-1&keywords=Cry+of+the+Nightbird

100 Word Wonder: Failure

Hey. Syawn here.

I’ve started a weekly challenge for my author. It’s a good way to keep her on track. This challenge will be to write exactly 100 words on whatever subject I’m wondering about at the time, every Tuesday.

Why Tuesday? she asks. Because today is Tuesday, and I’ll not let her put it off for one more day.

Why whatever subject you’re wondering about? What about subjects I’m wondering about? the author asks, affronted. Because if I let her pick, she would be all day dithering between one musing and another.

Why 100 words precisely? she asks. Because I said so.

Why “failure”? I don’t know, author, why did you wait until 11 pm to begin our agreed-upon weekly assignment?

Without further ado, the 100-word wonders of myself, her, and us together.

*****

So do you see what I have to put up with? An author who agrees to be coerced into writing 300 measly words every Tuesday, and what does she do, but put it off until it’s barely even legally Tuesday anymore? There are moments a person feels that they shall certainly never be written. This is what comes of nesting in a head prone to failure—saved by the bell? Reminded by the midnight tolling just how altogether lost is our cause, more like. I don’t know what to do with this girl. Would that I could scribe without her.

 *****

I was entirely planning on writing this post in the afternoon, you know that. Then out of the blue, it turns out that I have work in the afternoon, not the evening, and I’m already late, so I rush to do that, and once I return I have well forgotten—this excuse begins to sound less like an explanation and more like a further unfolding of exactly how much I have failed at this day, I wince to note. Remembering tasks to do and agreements made is not my strong point, and my grief therewith fails to mend the ill.

 *****

“S’truth. Tears turn not back the hands of the clock.” Sy nods.

 “Surely you can have some compassion?” Tirzah asks, exasperated with herself, but hopeful of mercy. “Have you not had some pet failure your efforts could not overcome?”

 Sy sits a moment, silent. “Never anything to do with discipline,” he says. “Which is why I so boggle at your incapacity to force your own hand. If I have struggled and failed, it is against external forces. That is, until…” he swallows. “Magic,” he confesses. “Never have I so failed as at magic. Inside me, and at once the enemy…”

*****

Tirzah is displeased at the lack of resolution, the lack of a decent arc. That’s what happens when you started minutes before the deadline, dearest–poor quality. Just suck it up, vow to do better, and post before midnight. You’ve got two minutes.