Thursday, June 30, 2011

Courage and Creativity

I've recently found on my shelf a book I read many years ago called The Courage To Create by Rollo May. Years ago, this book helped me when I had reached a place where I wasn't sure I could continue to write. I had published a number of short stories, three novels and some poems in a short span of four years. Suddenly the markets were dying and I wasn't sure if I should continue or not. Several of my short stories had been sold to magazines that folded and though I had the money I wouldn't see these stories in print. That was when I took a short hiatus from writing since I felt there was no where to go. I returned to my other career and began working as a nurse.

I had read The Courage To Create during the year it had been published and put it aside. The second discovery helped me return to writing and to discovering new venues for my stories. The book also helped me find that my time as a nurse had brought new stories and a different depth to my writing. I also found electronic publishing because this book gave me the courage to look at new places to show my work to the world.

For me writing isn't money or recognition. Writing is finding new worlds and having the courage to explore them. Finding the courage to continue writing and sharing experiences with others will continue beyond a writer's life and into his or her death. So take that courage and find symbols, old and new and put the words down to people someday will read them and ponder the same way as we do over the writers from the past.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You Can't Burn an E-Book

Today I sat on a bench surrounded by my favorite acres of land on Planet Earth—Central Park. A glorious day—sun burning just right. Humidity was set as if I had a say in the matter and the breeze was almost stereotypically perfect. I would spend my lunch time reading. I confess I am a sucker for a Dan Brown book and was anxiously awaiting to see what edge-of-my seat situation Robert Langdon would be in.

     I reached beside the bench, shooing away a nosey squirrel and pulled one of the half-dozen scrolls from the large canvas bag. I unrolled it to where I had left off last session and began reading. My arms began aching after a moment—the ivory rollers taking their toll. But there is a nostalgic joy reading from a scroll. The smooth, almost liquid feel of the ivory. The soft crackle of the hemp sheet. The artistic swirling of the cursive.

     As Johnny Rotten would say, BOLLOCKS!

     No- I did not read The Lost Symbol from a scroll. WHY WOULD I?  In reality I read it in hardcover and for only one reason- I couldn't wait until the paperback came out and at the time I did not own a Kindle. Which brings me to the subject at hand: E-books and E-book readers.  I will often get this nose in the air, eye-rolling, pishaw! from the "I need to feel the pages in my fingers" paper book snobs. As for me? I love my Kindle. I have not tried a Nook or  Sony reader but as for my Kindle it is how I read 90% of the books I enjoy. Do I miss the feel of paper? No. Why? Do I miss using an abacas to figure out the tip at a restaurant? (I actually use my brain to figure out tips and not my I-phone which further proves my  argument that using electronic devices does not have to make you lazy or stupid.)

     The Kindle is lightweight. It can hold my entire library should I desire so. I love the ability to position the cursor on an unfamiliar word and get its definition (and I read a lot of heady non-fiction so this comes in handy).  I can hear the argument of the book snob now—why can't you just look the word up in a seventy five pound, horse-skin bound Webster?  Ok- next time you need to know what the capital of Iceland is I expect you to head out to your public library and flip through an Almanac. Google? NO! Sorry, that is the lazy man's way!

     It is funny how the first few days of reading with a Kindle your hand, trained by many years of paper book reading, reaches for the upper corner to turn the page. It stops after a few dozen times. It also takes some adjustment going from page numbers to "percentage read". So? No biggie. We all moved with ease from rotary phones to pushing numbered buttons. As you travel through history adjustments must be made.

     I have also found I get through books faster on my Kindle than I do in paper form. Especially longer ones. I think its because seeing I have 90% of a book left to read is far less daunting than seeing, in 3D, the thickness of another 500 pages left to read.

    As an author, I confess I find holding my published work in my hand is sexier than downloading a PDF—but this is something as an author I have gotten over. E-book sales are soaring. I will almost without a doubt sell more e-book versions of my upcoming kidlit novel "Rupert Starbright: The Door to Far-Myst" than I will paperback.

    So like the tube TV, rotary phones, videotapes and vinyl LPs—the paper book (in terms of popular reading) will probably find itself a beloved object of collectors. Hey, you just read this and not once did you feel paper between your fingers.

     Relax, it really is not so bad.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review Exchanges Help Spread Word-of-Mouse

Book review exchanges are a great way to help spread the word-of-mouse about your book. The ebook revolution has resulted in an explosion of new books on the market. Everyone is hungry for those book reviews. I have been a reviewer for Midwest Book Review and Book for five years, and an Amazon Vine reviewer since 2008. I have posted book reviews on my blog, Advice from a Caterpillar since 2007. So when my new middle grade novel, Letters to Juniper was released two months ago I looked for ways to make my review experience work for me. Authors often contact me personally to request a review. Now I write back and offer a review exchange. I will review the author’s book if he will do the same for me. So far no one has turned me down. If you are interested in a book review exchange please email me:

I have also arranged book review exchanges through Registration is free and authors can make connections with other authors with blogs and arrange their own blog tours. From book reviews to interviews to guest posts, opportunities abound at BlogTour. And it’s not just for kids books. There are authors and blogs listed in all categories.

And the book review exchange fever is catching on. Two months ago I was trolling book blogs begging for reviews. Now authors and bloggers are asking to review Letters to Juniper.

In other news –

Letters to Juniper has been nominated for a Global eBook Award in the Children’s Literature – Fiction category.

“I absolutely loved this book! Peggy Tibbetts has captured a wonderful voice with twelve-year-old Sarah Smith, and this middle grade story flows seamlessly from beginning to end … In this fast-paced story, Tibbetts’ dialogue is riveting. I wouldn’t hesitate for one minute to recommend this book. I would only give a word of caution and that is to be prepared to read into the early hours of the morning because once you start it, you won’t be able to put it down. And then there’s the shocking ending. What a twist!”
Anne McGee, author of The Mystery at Marlatt Manor.

"Everyone is talking about eBooks," said Dan Poynter, founder of the Global eBook Awards. "eBooks have reached the tipping point and are outselling books on paper in several categories. eBook are not replacing paper books; they are in addition to. The eReading devices such as the Kindle are increasing the amount of book reading."

According to Joseph Dowdy, the Director of Awards, the category with the largest number of entries so far is Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal. The next largest number of entries are in Historical Literature, Autobiography/Memoirs, and Writing/Publishing Nonfiction. Dowdy observes that Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal is the hot topic this season. Many people are reading and writing in this area due to the phenomenal success of Amanda Hocking and her eBooks. At the recent San Francisco Writers Conference, this was the most popular genre.

The Awards have 79 categories in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, illustration, and multimedia. See: Global eBook Awards Categories

The Global eBook winners will be honored at a star-studded ceremony on August 20 in Santa Barbara, California.

The deadline for application is June 30, 2011, midnight, Pacific Time.

Peggy Tibbetts
Letters to Juniper now available in ebook & paperback at

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Point of View

One of the panels I was on at DucKon 20 this past weekend was “Points of View (techniques of using POV to tell a story)”. As moderator, I listed some of the choices for the audience:
third person omniscient
third person POV (close focus)
first person POV
second person POV

The questions I used to start the panel were
How do you decide which POV to use?
Do you know beforehand that you need certain viewpoints?

The trend in current YA and middle grade seems to be first person POV, while in science fiction the trend has been third person. I knew I was already messing up expectations because I usually write my YA fantasy with a third person limited POV, but I found the rest of the panel was comprised of all first person POV writers. Mystery, horror, science fiction and fantasy were all represented. For most, which POV was used was dependent on how the main character first came across on paper. Others rewrote with different points of view until the story worked. I used third person in The Crystal Throne and Talking to Trees because I used several characters' points of view. Another panelist had several characters, but used first person for each.

Then the audience and panelists were queried as to what POV they prefer to read. Some thought third person omniscient was too distancing and preferred first person. Some liked multiple viewpoints and thought third person omniscient was best for epics. When the discussion got into which POVs were gaining in popularity for writing, some blamed the increase in first person POV stories on texting or Twitter or the popularity of “diary” books.

What POV do you prefer to read or write?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Introducing A New Young Writer: Megan Curd

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting a bright young woman via forums. She has written a book as part of a YA Urban Fantasy series and needs help getting the word out. So I said I'd give her a hand and post about her new book. Without further ado, here is Megan Curd and her new book Bridger.

This is me in front of the Arc of Constantine in Rome, Italy. It was amazing to see all the history, and snowboarding was GREAT! J

 I graduated from Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a degree in Intercultural Studies, but before that, I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. I have had the opportunity to travel to South America and Europe and get to hang out with some great young adults. I even got to snowboard in the Alps! 

I love to write, but when I’m not doing that, I enjoy spending time with my family, snowboarding, and I’ll play an occasional video game.  Right now I reside in Eau Claire, Wisconsin with my husband, two dogs, and next month, our son! J I grew up loving to read, and the jump to writing was a natural one for me. I hope you enjoy the books I write!

BLURB:  Ashlyn McVean doesn’t believe in fairy tales. That is, until Ashlyn is thrown into the crosshairs of grudges her grandmother created long ago.

After finding out she is one of two people able to cross between faerie realms, Ashlyn is faced with trying to understand her abilities, along with navigating a new relationship with her boyfriend, Liam.

As if being on a centuries old hit list and dealing with crazed pixies isn’t enough, her new abilities mean trouble for Liam. Knowing her new life puts everyone she loves in danger, Ashlyn must decide what’s most important in her life between friends, family, love, and ultimately, realms.

If you visit Megan's website, you could win an iPod in honor of Bridger's release.


Silently, a group of young men came around the side of the house.  They eyed Memaw with what looked like caution.  Before I could call out to see what they needed, their faces took on a hungry look, all of them focused on Memaw.  It was unnerving.  Why were these men so interested in an old lady?
As the men neared her, chains appeared around their waists, ankles, and wrists that hadn’t been there a moment before.  Moving forward in seamless synchronization, they each pulled daggers from their hips and charged Memaw.  She was so engrossed in Chris’ theatrics that she hadn’t noticed the danger.
I screamed for Memaw to look out so loudly it hurt my ears.  Instead of running toward her, I hunkered down, unable to watch them murder her.  Would the men come for the rest of our family after they’d finished with Memaw?  Why was this happening?  Hadn’t we lost enough losing Dad only a few days ago?  Terror flooded through my veins, ice replacing the blood.  I was involuntarily rooted to the spot.
Although terrified to look, the thought of not knowing what was happening to Memaw was worse.  I barely opened my eyes to see the outcome of the men’s grisly attack.  My jaw dropped to the ground at the sight.
Where Memaw once sat, stood a gorgeous woman no older than twenty.  Her golden hair was wild and unkempt; her eyes were black as pitch like mine. Smiling at her assailants, she unsheathed a thin bow and pulled three arrows from her quiver, one for each man coming toward her.  In one fluid motion she released all of them at once, each one finding its mark.  The men fell.
To say I was shocked would be the understatement of the century.  The woman kneeled down and pulled her arrows from the bodies of the men while I crept toward her.  She wiped each one off quickly with the hem of her long, white skirt.  As she stood up, the rim of her skirt came into view.  It was covered in dried blood.  She had probably cleaned the arrows in the same fashion countless times before today.  I tore my eyes away from her skirt to look at her face.
The young woman was no longer there. Memaw stood hunkered in her place.  Still wearing the long, white skirt, Memaw dropped to her knees. She grabbed the man closest to her and pulled him to her chest.  She sobbed uncontrollably over his body.
After a few minutes, Memaw let the man fall to the ground, his shirt covered with her tears.
It was my dad.

 If this has whet your appetite, Bridger is available through Amazon

I hope you enjoyed meeting this exciting new young author as much as I did and we all wish you big sales on your YA Urban Fantasy series Bridger, Megan.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Please Accept My Offering

A couple of days ago, Patches, my cat, was chasing something on the patio, so I went outside to rescue what I figured was a baby mouse. Before I could stop the cat she had the baby in her mouth and brought it to me, proud of her skills enabling her to catch the elusive critter. Only it wasn’t a mouse; it was a baby quail.

Of course, I got excited and started yelling at the cat as she attempted to bring her treasure into the house. I shook Patches until she finally dropped the baby that then raced off to escape the evil creature trying to eat him/her. I tried to grab the quail to see if it was okay and take it to the local bird sanctuary if it was injured, but the bird raced into the clumps of liriope and I lost it. In the meantime the stray cat that’s living on the patio (because I’m feeding him) took off after the baby. Moving faster than I’ve moved since I was a teenager, I shoved Patches into the house, chased the stray cat out of the yard, and hoped the quail was in a safer place by then.

Patches is now quarantined in the house as long as I hear the “Bob White, Bob White,” call of the quail in the pasture. She’s ignoring me for spoiling her fun. And I’m keeping a sharp eye on the stray cat.

Okay, if you’re still with me you’re probably wondering has Beverly totally flipped? What does a cat chasing a bird, the normal thing for a cat to do, have with reading and writing? Well, I’ll tell you. (You were afraid of that, right?)

Patches used her skills and talents to catch the bird. She had to work to accomplish her task. The bird was elusive and perhaps didn’t follow the path the cat expected it to follow. It wasn’t easy, but she never gave up. Then she offered me her masterpiece. What did I do? I rejected her offering. And she was crushed. No kidding. She sat at the door and looked outside, as if trying to figure out what she had done wrong. She wanted acceptance. A little praise would have been nice too. Why did I not like the offering she’d so happily given to me?

In much the same way, we writers use our skills and talents to put together our masterpieces. We search for the right characters. We set them in the plot that we think is right for them. For weeks, months, and even years we tag along with the characters as they go different directions. Finally, one day we type THE END, sigh with relief, and offer our masterpiece to the agent or editor that will surely love our story the way we love it. With fingers crossed we wait for our offering to be accepted and, yes, we’d like a little praise too.

Then one “No thanks” arrives. A second “Not right of us” follows. Another and another. We read the letters or emails and wonder what we did wrong. Why don’t they accept our offering? I rejected the cat’s offering because as a bird lover, I don’t want her to kill birds. Agents and editors have their reasons too, but that’s another post. The thing to remember is never give up. No, I’ll never accept a bird from Patches, but someone else might. One editor may not accept my manuscript; another one might. So I will continue sending my offerings. How about you?

Patches likes to read.




Monday, June 20, 2011

To Prologue or Not To Prologue

This subject seems to be popping up recently-- or maybe I'm just in one of those weird cycles, where a particular thing you've never really noticed suddenly seems to be everywhere, you know? It happens all the time with me and words -- I'll see a word I don't recognize, then I'll be seeing everywhere. No? Just me? Anyway, the topic of prologues is often a sore spot and one of those classic 'writer arguments', like outlining or writing by the seat of your pants. It's one of those things that can spark a huge debate and often a flame war between writers.

How do you feel about prologues? Well, I'll admit that I towed the 'party line' about them for a long time -- unnecessary and wrong. If you have a prologue then you've started your story in the wrong place. And I've certainly struggled with starting my stories in the wrong places. Usually I end up cutting pages of stuff until I get to the real beginning. But I've been getting better about it, and plotting (not outlining!) has been a big help. I've heard the advice that you should never submit a manuscript with a prologue. Take the information and weave it into the story, or just call the prologue Chapter 1 and have done with it. And it was advice I followed, because none of my books ever needed a prologue.

Or so I thought.

The manuscript that is currently seeking a home and/or agent, my Steampunk Cinderella, did not have a prologue either when I was first sending it out. Then I had a phone conversation with an editor and he said to me: "This needs a prologue".

I admit, I was a little taken aback by that advice, because it went against everything I'd been told. But he gave me very clear reasons that he thought the story would benefit from the addition of a prologue. And after thinking about it, I agreed. So I wrote a five-page prologue -- not nearly long enough to be a chapter-- that filled the need he described, and then completely re-wrote the rest of the book. The beta reader I sent it to, before sending it back to that editor, didn't say anything about it having a prologue. Another reader sent me a note after reading it, and she loved it. Said it read like a fairy tale, in fact. Which was the goal, so I guess that's a good thing!

What's the lesson in all this? There are no absolutes in writing. Every "rule", once you learn it, can be broken. Things a prologue should NOT be: an infodump, a crutch, a way to completely introduce every single character in the story, or a gimmick. Your first chapter should get us into the story proper, so don't lean on a prologue to give us background that you can put somewhere else. We don't NEED to know EVERYTHING right away; in fact sometimes it's better if we don't. Surprise us.

My prologue has legitimate rights to be where it is, and it occurs nearly ten years before the story starts, so it doesn't fit in as a chapter. If you have something from a non-character point-of-view, or maybe something happens before your Hero is born that directly affects his story, maybe a prologue is a good idea.

As with everything else in writing: do what works for you and the story.  Keep writing!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chicken Syndrome and Free Price of Mercy prequel story - Sylvanna

Ah yes, for months the release date for The Price of Mercy has loomed closer and closer. Unfortunately waiting for the final cover flat pushed many items for marketing crunched up against each other. Make the release as I hit two conventions back to back (while still working a full time day job) and life has been very much the old Running Around Like a Chicken With Its Head Cut Off syndrome. Heh heh.

I even messed up posting on the wrong day for the Free Promo on this very blog! Wheee!

Had great plans for the blog for this week, a topic and EVERYTHING! Then more stuff exploded. (Then this very post did not schedule right!) So instead, I give to you a free prequel story to my new novel.  The story is called Sylvanna. Enjoy!

Like all my books so far, Price of Mercy and the story Sylvanna are safe for young adults and would be rated PG-13.


“If you could have anything, my dearest madam, what would you wish for?”

Sylvanna turned on her side beneath the covers to stare at her lover. A swath of early morning sunlight lay over them both, coming through the wide window of the hidden attic room in the palace. “Children. I’ve always thought it’d be wonderful to have a gaggle of children.”

A panicked look crossed Emperor Narpess’ blue eyes before they turned deadly serious. Before he could say anything, however, Sylvanna laughed. “Don’t worry. You asked me a question and I answered it, it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped taking precautions.” She gently flicked his long nose. “You’ve nothing to worry about.”

She laughed again when his expression didn’t clear. “If you’re going to fret about it so, we can stop our amusements any time you like.” She sat up, her long black hair falling over her breasts like a draped robe. “Then there’ll be nothing to worry about.” A tilted smile took the sting out of the comment. “Tempting as it might be to have a royal bastard, I would prefer to be a properly married woman before creating my throng of offspring.”

Narpess’ expression turned petulant. “I’m not ready for you to leave me. And no one is fretting about anything.” His creased brows disagreed. “I only asked the question as I was thinking of getting you a gift.”

The comment gave her a small thrill quickly followed by a chill. “You shouldn’t, Narpy. You know you shouldn’t. We’ve talked about this.”

“I can be discreet. She won’t find out.” His lower lip pushed out like a spoiled child’s despite his twenty years. “I’m the emperor. I can do as I like!”

Sylvanna shook her head, looking away, surprised yet again how such a man, who could be smart and clever when he applied himself, chose to remain so blind where his mother, his position, and the power of the empire were concerned. “Only within reason. And giving me a gift is not. She gets reports of every expenditure, of everywhere you go, of everything you do. That you stumbled over some of the palace’s secret passages is the only reason we’re able to meet at all.”

Narpess sighed and fell back onto the pillows. “She’s only trying to make sure I’m the best emperor I can be.”

Sylvanna sighed as well, but made sure he didn’t see or hear it. “Yes… It is her duty to do so, of course.” Trillena just didn’t have to go to the extremes she did. But making Narpy understand this was a battle she’d reconciled herself as having lost long ago. Her son would never see Trillena for what she truly was – a tyrant and a master manipulator.

Love could be blind and not just for lovers.

Sylvanna had come to court when she was thirteen. It’d been such an honor to have been chosen to be one of the empress’s ladies in waiting, especially since they’d only met once, and briefly at that. It was only after she’d been here for some time that the truth of why her family had been so honored came to light. Though their duchy was far out in the provinces and her family not all that well off, her father was popular and full of radical ideas. The dowager believed him a little too popular, as it turned out. Having a daughter living at the palace was seen as a mark of favor, but it was also a form of threat.

She fought to hold back another sigh.

Oh, Trillena would never threaten directly, but Sylvanna too clearly remembered what had happened to Kareen. A little dumpy and slow, Kareen had been one of the sweetest people ever to have been forged by the Maker. The only one of the handmaidens who didn’t fawn all over the place, or only thought about how to best better their station in the dowager empress’s eyes. A true and honest friend, only too thrilled to serve. This hadn’t stopped Trillena from ‘losing’ an important item and then having it be said Kareen was the one responsible for taking it. That it was found amongst her things, a clear sign of guilt. So she’d been sent home in tears and covered in shame, ugly welts raking her back from the lashes. Suddenly her father’s new lucrative contracts, which he’d worked to gain independently of the crown, fell through due to the smear. Later, they were conveniently picked up by others more favored by the empress. Those so privileged then in turn increased the empire’s coffers with lavish monetary gifts for the introductions to the foreign dignitaries, of course.

Once the blinders came off, Sylvana hadn’t been able to put them back on - the bars of her prison no longer hidden behind curtains or lace, but clanging with the empress’s every word and action. What had appeared before as stoicism and grace were revealed as total indifference and single-minded selfishness.

She threw a glance at Narpess wondering when and how he’d come to realize his life wasn’t entirely his own, as she had. It was something she’d not dared ask about.

The parties and picnics with the dowager were no longer the glamorous affairs she’d believed them. The lavish presents of dresses and perfumes weren’t true gifts, given only to make them stand out, so those around them would remember what they actually were -- hostages to ensure good and loyal behavior from their parents. Yet the families and the other daughters and sons housed here preferred fooling themselves and those around them, rather than face the facts of their precarious existence.

Sylvanna rose from the bed, the morning chill nipping at her flesh. She reached for her shift, her mood soured. “We should get back. Someone will come looking for you before long and I need to be ready to attend the empress since she habitually rises earlier than her precious son.”

A groan reached her from the bed. “She’s been harping on that lately, but I’m not about to give up on my one and only real vice.” The bead creaked as he rose. “It’s the only way I get to spend any time with you.”

His every waking hour was planned – had been since he’d been old enough to walk. As her eyes had been opened to her real situation, so had they been opened to his. That he’d stumbled upon her as she hid crying behind one of the manicured bushes as he tried to steal a few minutes for himself hadn’t hurt either.

He’d asked her if she was all right, a knowing look in his eyes. Something, which in his position, he need not have done, yet he’d taken the time, even at the risk of being found earlier than he might have. Showing there might be someone living in the gilded cage who actually cared.

Sylvanna had seen a kindred soul in him, someone who understood and didn’t just live the lie, someone in need of help if not a little pity. Compared to him, she had more freedom, more control over her life. She could more easily escape the empress’ notice than he – his shiny prison filled with many invisible chains, unlike her own.

Narpess swept the hair away from her neck and planted a kiss there. “You’ve made life tolerable for me.”

A smile tugged at her face as she turned around. “You’ve done the same for me and more.”

The excitement of their secret meetings gave her something to look forward to. The ability for her to be able to vent her frustrations, safe in the knowledge whatever she said wouldn’t be shared with anyone else. The wonder at the things she learned about the world as she bumbled with him through some of his lessons. The joy at watching a gangly youth grow to a man and the empire’s most important figure – The Maker’s Avatar.

The sex…had been unplanned.

Curiosity mixed with trust and the need for education and relief. It’d worked out well for them.

His kiss migrated to her lips as if agreeing with her.

Sylvanna allowed herself to wallow in the sensation for a moment, then pulled away. “I really do need to go.” She grabbed her green morning robe and slipped it on. “I’ll see you tonight.” She started toward the door.


She glanced back at him, surprised. “Yes?”

He turned his back to her, picking up his own purple robe with gold filigree. “Mother has arranged for a visit.”

She turned to face him. “Another prospective wife?”

“Is there any other kind with her?”

She was surprised she’d not heard of it. But then again with the less than satisfactory results of the last two attempted matches, perhaps the empress had decided to keep the subject private and test the waters first before letting everyone in on the possible match.

“I know she’s only doing this with my best interest at heart, but really. I’m only twenty. Why the hurry?”

Sylvanna couldn’t stop her brow from rising. “You’re the emperor. Your mother and the people expect a secured line of succession, and you can’t get that without marriage and children. You know all this.”

“But I don’t want to marry any of these ‘carefully chosen’ women. Why can’t I just marry you instead?”

“Narpy!” Again that strange thrill and chill wove through her body. “You mustn’t say that. You must never say that! It’ll never happen. We must be reconciled to that.”

A hurt look flashed across his face, and she was sorry for it, but these were the realities of their situation.

He shook his head. “You have noble blood. You come from a good family. It shouldn’t be that unfathomable a thing!” He sat down hard on the bed, scowling at her.

“You mother will not have it. She doesn’t like my family. Not in a thousand years would she think of giving them the power they’d gain by having their daughter become the emperor’s wife.”

“Surely you exaggerate.”

Sylvanna could only stare, a kernel of dread forming inside her. Had she been the one lying to herself all this time? Did he really not understand her precarious placement? Or just didn’t want to? If his mother ever suspected he might want such a thing…

She rubbed her suddenly cold arms.

“Narpy, I’m begging you, if you care for me at all, don’t ever say those words again where someone might overhear.”

Not looking at him, she turned away and fled from the room.

Once out the door, she gasped in surprise, again having forgotten about Narpess’ bodyguard, Lissan. Dark skinned, he blended with the deep shadows in the tight, badly lit corridor. That he towered over her and his skin showed all manner of old scars, didn’t help her feel any easier about him even after all this time. “Apologies…”

She hurried past him, resisting the urge to glance back over her shoulder. He always seemed to know where Narpess was. It never mattered how hard they tried to elude him. Yet her friend never seemed truly concerned. She’d asked about it once and Narpess told her he’d sworn Lissan into secrecy so all was well. He’d insisted Lissan could no more break the oath than she could turn her body into that of a man’s. Despite his reassurances, Sylvanna knew money could loosen all manner of tongues, but after all this time there wasn’t even a rumor of their dalliances, so the oath had been kept.

Lightly touching the wall to count the panels for her turn, she hurried forward.

Often she’d wondered if Lissan were one of the fabled Twelve – the empire’s secret guard. Even living at the palace, she’d never seen any real proof of them. Narpess had never mentioned them, and neither had the dowager empress. But stories of them persisted nevertheless. The Twelve were supposedly creations from before the Age of Blight. Many believed them imbued with powers – as they’d been made before so much was lost to the chaos of the Blight. Though no one trusted magic anymore. Not after what had happened, not after Mad Manta. Those with the aptitude were closely scrutinized and controlled. Yet unlike so much else, the Twelve had seemingly survived and served the empire still, as spies and sometimes assassins, keeping the empire together. Or so the stories said.

But no one had ever seen them. Or if they had, they’d not lived to tell about it.

Sylvanna quickened her steps.


The dowager empress chose to break her fast with her handmaidens in one of the larger gazebos of the extensive imperial gardens. The girls sat at a round glass table beside the dowager’s smaller, more intricate one – a bouquet of bright flowers in taffeta and silk, beside the thin, austere stalk in black.

“You’ve been with me for some years now, haven’t you, Sylvanna?”

The question caught her off guard and made her rattle her teacup as she set it back on its plate.

All conversation at the table died, every last one of them turning to look Sylvanna’s way.

“Y, yes. Almost nine years, Your Highness.” She couldn’t quite keep the slight quiver from her voice at the unwanted attention.

“You’ve been attentive; carried out your duties well. You even keep your tongue in check, which others would do well to emulate.” Trillena’s scathing glare scoured the rest of those at the table and one or two of the girls hunched down in their seats.

They would blame Sylvanna for the rebuke, of course, despite the fact she’d had nothing to do with it -- she was an easier target than the empress. They wanted nothing more than to be seen in the best light possible, not understanding their true standing in this place. It was but one of the many games Trillena liked to play – pitting them against each other.

“Such devoted service should be rewarded, don’t you think?”

Sylvanna cringed inside, knowing such favor would only bring her even more into her fellows’ unwanted attentions. “I live but to serve the throne, Your Highness. No rewards are necessary.”

“Be that as it may, I’m going to insist.” Trillena gave her a small smile. “I’ve arranged a match for you.”

For a moment, Sylvanna couldn’t breathe, the fanciful side of her filled with glee, assuming Narpess had spoken to his mother despite Sylvanna’s wishes and had convinced her to see things his way. But she knew better, she’d always known better. Still, there were worse things than to have your hand given away in marriage with the empress’s blessing. Except, she knew the woman was never kind without hidden reasons, and all of them to her gain. Narpy would be beside himself.

Sylvanna forced her heavy tongue to move. “You honor me, Your Highness.” She slipped off her seat into a curtsey. “Might I inquire as to whom I am to be united with?”

“You may.” The empress’s eyes glittered with barely concealed amusement. “To the handsome Trevor Simille, first son of Duke Simille.”

Sylvanna bowed her head, her chest suddenly tight, her cheeks flaming. The odious woman! Of all the people she could have chosen for a match and it just happened to be someone from the Simille family? She forced in a deep breath and looked up, slipping back into her seat before her shaking legs betrayed her. “That is…an unexpected…choice, Your Highness.”

“Of that I am quite sure, my dear.”

She couldn’t look at the dowager directly. If she saw the smug expression on the woman’s face, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to control herself. Simille, her family’s sworn enemies. And the dowager would be handing her over to them. Fear and anger warred inside for dominance. What slight had her father committed now, or was this just some long term calculated retribution?

“The joining of your two families will hopefully bring an end to the enmities of the past.”

That it would not! And she was quite sure it was the empress’s intention in the first place. This would only incite her father’s anger, divert his energies from anything he might want to achieve politically. It was a cruel distraction. The fact that over thirty years ago a young Duke Partan Simille and some of his cronies had crossed into their territories and run amok in a drunken pillage through one of their outlying villages, despoiling and killing the women, men, and children there and then setting the lot to the torch, wasn’t something they would ever forget. Simille bought off the officials sent for him after her father brought forth charges at the imperial court. The man had even had the gall to spread rumors that her father did this to his own people in order to discredit the Simille family, jealous of their prosperity. It was a point of honor and duty and her father’s main reason for wanting to make changes to policy. Lavish gifts to the crown and her officers should not dictate the justice for the realm and its people.

Her father would be livid at this insult. It would also break her poor mother’s heart. And what would happen to her at the hands of the Similles she shuddered to think about. Nothing good could come of this. And as Sylvanna finally dared glance up at Trillena’s face amidst all the congratulations (some heartfelt and others not) from her fellow maidens, she knew the empress was well aware of all of it.

What she couldn’t understand was what had prompted it. Had Narpy spoken to his mother about them? Or was this some twisted request of the Similles with too much gold being passed to the imperial coffers for the empress to refuse?

Sylvanna tried to smile and appear cheerful though her insides filled with despair.

The reason the empress had done this didn’t matter. It was her inescapable future she should be worried about.


“I won’t allow it!”

Sylvanna flinched as the book smacked against the angled roof of the secret room and fell with a tumble to the floor. “Narpy, there’s nothing to be done. My father cannot refuse. I cannot refuse. It’s an imperial decree.”

She turned her face away, trying to hold back the tears. She’d come to their special place the night before and sobbed herself to sleep, alone. She never heard the door open and had cried out in surprise when she’d been swept into Narpess’s arms. He’d still been wearing a jewel-studded jacket, most likely chosen by his mother to better make an impression on his hopeful paramour.

Though hours had passed since, he was no happier about what happened than when he first learned of it.

“Imperial decree be damned. I am the emperor!” Narpess smashed his fist against his chest. “I am the power here.” He paced the short length of the room and back. “Mother will see reason. I’ll make sure. What’s mine is mine. Not hers to do with as she sees fit.”

Looking upon him at that moment, Sylvanna didn’t recognize him. She’d never seen this hard expression on his face, but had on too many other occasions seen its equal on his mother’s. And rather than give her comfort, it made her more afraid than before. “Please, for both our sakes, for my family’s sake, don’t do anything rash. I beg of you.”

“Have you no faith in me?”

“It’s not that at all! This is just very dangerous. There could be repercussions we don’t know about. To my family, to the empire. The Similles are very wealthy. They wield a lot of power because of it. If she’s already told them of the match, it would be a great insult if it was suddenly taken away for no reason. They could withdraw their monetary support. This could have an effect on the court, on yourself.”

He wouldn’t like hearing it, but Sylvanna went on knowing he must see reason by any means necessary. “Your mother shields you from certain matters.” Something she suspected he was aware of and possibly encouraged, but she never dared ask about. Someone would have taken it upon themselves to inform him and try to profit from it if he weren’t.

“Never from anything actually important.” His nostrils flared. “So what specifically are you talking about?”

“I’ve not heard any of it directly, but there are rumors, and once or twice I’ve overheard comments from visitors after an audience. The empire is not as solvent as it should be.”

He waved at her with impatience. “That can’t be true. She would have told me. And why have you never mentioned it?”

“She’s very protective where you’re concerned, you know that.” Sylvanna shook her head. “And I didn’t want to trouble you. Our time together is to escape from what’s out there. I didn’t want to take that from you by bringing up such things.”

“That explains last night, then…” A snarl marred his face.

“What do you mean?” She was sure she wouldn’t be happy with what he was about to say.

Narpess started pacing again. “My new prospect for marriage – I thought her an odd choice – barely of age and not a foreigner like the others. Mother was even more insistent than usual before the meeting, about keeping an open mind, on making sure of a good impression. The girl’s name is Lareenial Simille.”

Sylvanna gasped, his words feeling like a blow, though they shouldn’t have. That odious family would be tied to the throne? Surely the Maker would not allow such a terrible thing. “Do you see? There’s more than we know happening around us. We must be careful.”

“I will not lose you.” His stare was hard, his body stiff, fists coiled at his sides. “I will not.”

Although she couldn’t quite say why, rather than give her confidence or warmth, his words and manner filled her with dread.


“There you are!”

Sylvanna looked up from her stitching, though in truth, she’d paid little attention to her needle work that morning. Unlike the others, she’d chosen a remote corner of the dayroom – placing herself as far away from the dowager and the other women as she could. Upon her return to her official bedroom that morning, she’d found several of her gowns stained, her pillows ripped, and nails pounded in her shoes. The reprisals and jealous fits had started. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she actually wanted the match, but she did not.

She didn’t recognize the man standing eagerly before her. He was around her age, light brown hair made into a cascade of curls to his shoulders. He also wore more lace than she would know what to do with in a year. His face was round and pleasant, almost pretty, like a slightly overweight aunt’s, which was odd for a man. His clothes were of the newest styles, yet of a dark gray, and looked as if they’d just been freshly tailored.

“I’m sorry, do I know you, sir?” A part of her already knew and wanted nothing but to run, yet the rest of her refused to give him and the dowager the satisfaction.

“Oh, I beg your pardon. I am your future husband -- Trevor Simille. At your service.” Putting one pointed shoe forward, he gave her a sweeping bow, his gaze never leaving her.

So they’d already been told. She shouldn’t have been surprised. If his sister was here, why wouldn’t he be? They were most likely in a hurry to finalize matters before anyone could object. Not that anyone would.

She tried to ignore the hard, nervous clench of her stomach.

“What can I do for you, Monsieur Simille?” Sylvanna tried to keep her tone pleasant, already feeling the curious stares of the others on them. No matter her personal feelings, she must keep this civil, her family the ones who’d be made to suffer for any insult. Had her father been informed of her future fate yet? Or were they hoping to have matters settled before he even knew their plans?

Fear and trepidation crowded in close, perspiration making a cold finger down her back.

“Oh, so formal. But then the very reason for my visit, mademoiselle.” He gave her a small, self-deprecating smile. “If we’re to be joined, I thought it would be wise to get to know each other better and hopefully set your mind at ease as well. You see, I hope we’ll be the messengers of peace between our two families. Bury the deeds of the pasts and make amends if possible. Much will depend on us.”

She couldn’t tell if he meant what he said or if it was only for the benefit of their audience. She supposed time would tell. “Then please sit.” She indicated the far end of the couch she was using.

Trevor sat closer than where she’d indicated, but not improperly so.

“I’m sure our match probably came as quite a shock to you.” He kept his voice low where the others might not overhear. “But please understand, it’s come purely with only the best intentions, despite the fact it will benefit our house. While he will never openly admit it, my father has long regretted the incidents of the past, the ones which put our families at odds. It is a weight I will inherit with his passing, and for which I hope to make amends. I believe the two of us can make up for his error. My family’s fortune used to make the lives of both our peoples an envy to behold. If you are willing…”

Sylvanna studied his face wanting to believe but afraid to. If he truly meant what he said, life for all involved could prove happier than ever before. Her children a mingling of bloods that could make more of what was there. And even if love had no part in it, surely it’d be worth it.

A slight smile tugged at the edge of her lips. “If you speak truly, how could I not be?”

He gently took her hand in his. “You won’t regret this. I swear it.”


“I think it’s going to be all right, Narpy.”

The emperor lounged in a short chair reading a book, his coat and cravat on the floor. “What is?”

Sylvanna hesitated for just a moment, noticing the sunken look to his eyes, and how he was wearing powder beneath them. “The marriage your mother arranged. Trevor, I mean, Monsieur Simille, is not like his father, and seems quite earnest to repair the breach between our families.” She smiled, the memories of the last few days sweeter than she ever expected. “I might be able to have that gaggle of children sooner than I thought.”

“What?” Narpess lunged to his feet. “You’ve given yourself to him?”

She took a step back, startled. “No, of course not. We’ve been chaperoned at all times. Why would you think such a thing? It would be foolish to indulge before the wedding.”

“Then come here and prove it to me.” He slumped back into the chair, beckoning to her.

She stared at him, confused, and didn’t move closer. “Narpy, what’s wrong? Did something happen?”

“I told you to come here.” He glared at her. “I am your emperor, do as I say!”

A chill tiptoed down her spine. “No, I don’t think I will. You’re supposed to be my friend, and I yours. Not a servant to piss on or order around whenever you feel like it.”

He sat forward, his lips pressing together into a thin line. “You’ve never denied me before.”

She stomped her foot. “You’ve never demanded before!” She tried hard to reign in her temper. “Besides, if I’m to be married, it’d be best if we stopped. I’ll always be your friend and we can meet until it’s time for me to leave, but the… the physical exercises should come to an end.”

His eyes narrowed to bare slits. “Just like that?”

She felt a pang of sadness, hurting her friend the last thing she’d ever wanted to do. “You knew this wasn’t forever, Narpy. We can only hide from our duties for so long.”

“Now you sound just like Mother.” His gaze was cold. “Go away if that’s what you want. Go fawn all over your precious Trevor.”

Tears prickled her eyes and she furiously blinked them away. She couldn’t do what he wanted, yet she didn’t have the faintest idea how to ease his pain without making things worse. She’d so hoped they could remain friends, but if this was the cost of saving her family and perhaps helping create a better future, so be it. “I’m sorry, Narpy. I really am.”

Giving him a deep curtsey, Sylvanna left the hidden room for what was probably the last time.

Again she almost ran into Narpess’s bodyguard out in the hallway. “Oh! Apologies.” She didn’t look at him directly hoping he’d not notice her wet cheeks.

“Be careful, mademoiselle.”

The deep gravelly voice surprised her. She doubted she’d ever heard the man speak before. Sylvanna nodded then went on her way, her mind frantically trying to figure out if he spoke of rushing into the hallway, or, as a budding kernel of fear exclaimed, meant something else entirely.


Sylvanna strolled down the path in the manicured garden, oblivious to the colored flowers around her or the sculpted bushes. Still within shouting distance of the others, she’d escaped, wanting a moment for herself.

“You seem troubled, my dove.”

She turned, startled that there was someone with her. Trevor bowed with a flourish and offered her a white rose with red tipped petals.

“How can I help?”

She blushed, though the reasons weren’t entirely clear to her. Was it because he’d noticed or because he’d offered to help or both? The more time she spent with him, the more she believed she could be very happy as his wife.

“It’s nothing, and you’ve already made it better by being here.” Even as she said it, she knew it was true. If only Narpy would understand, if he’d only try to be a little happy for her, her heart would soar. He was her friend, had been her lover, but to her own astonishment this man, this man could possibly be her love. She took the rose and allowed its light fragrance to weave over her.

“My sister, Lareenial, is quite jealous of us.” His eyes glittered for a moment then dimmed. “Though she’s met with the emperor several times now, he doesn’t seem to be warming up to her at all.”

“It must be very difficult for her.” She dreaded to think of the pressure the girl’s father might be putting on her to please Narpy. Guilty conscience or not, she doubted the duke would not do everything in his power to make the match happen. A sad twinge echoed through her. She couldn’t help Lareenial, and thus Trevor, despite all she knew about Narpess’s likes and dislikes. She wouldn’t be able to explain where the information came from. And too much was at stake.

He steered her towards one of the benches nestled in a set of high, shaped bushes which would give them some privacy. “Like I said before, my father is no longer the man people assume him to be. While he’d be overjoyed at the match, he realizes his wants are not always in the Maker’s plans. ”

Sylvanna nodded. “I wrote to my father. I explained to him everything you told me, and that…that I’m not averse to the match, so he need not worry over it.”

Sitting where they were, it felt as if they were in a world all of their own making. They couldn’t stay unchaperoned and out of sight for long, or tongues would run wild, but for that moment, it felt utterly right.

The flashing smile on Trevor’s face even more so. “I can’t wait for us to start our life together.”

She responded with one of her own. “Neither can I.”

When he leaned just a little toward her, she followed suit. Their first kiss was chaste and light, like two rose petals touching. For the next they were both a little bolder and it lasted much longer.

She was about to pull back to catch her breath when she felt someone slide onto the bench behind her and crushed her forward. Trevor’s lips pulled away from hers with a startled grunt. Sylvanna opened her eyes only to see his already open and unnaturally wide. They stared at whoever had trapped her between them. Hot breath coiled at her neck.

“You will not have her. She is mine.”

Recognition slapped her, making her gasp. Fear speared through her cold and hard.

There was movement at her side and then warmth gurgled over her dress. She brought up her hand and it was covered in red. “No…”

She glanced up at Trevor and saw his face grow pale, his eyes dimming.


“Yes.” The glee in Narpess’s voice chilled her soul.

Trevor slumped forward, robbing her of breath as she sat pinned between the two men.

“Look at what you’ve done. But don’t worry, I’ll have mercy on you.”

Then the pressure behind her was gone and she heard the sound of metal striking stone.

Looking down, she saw a bloodied dagger on the walkway.

Holding onto Trevor, her love, her bright future, she pushed him gently back to look into his face again. His eyes were dark, his face slack - all signs of life were gone.

A scream tore across the garden and only belatedly did she realize it came from her.

Hurried footsteps came towards her and she held on that much harder onto Trevor. Other screams tore through the garden and several of the handmaidens swooned to the ground. Hardly able to breathe she watched in horror as the crowd of servants and girls parted as the dowager came forward.

“Help him. Please help him.” She held out Trevor’s unmoving form, hoping, praying someone could do something. “Help him!”

“Mother, stay back!”

The dowager and everyone else present turned in surprise. Narpess came at them, seemingly out of nowhere, with Lissan and a shorter man behind him.

“Woman, what have you done?”

The question, as it came from the one who should know better, almost paralyzed her tongue. Almost. “I, I did not do this! You know I didn’t!”

“The dagger at your feet and the blood on your dress would state otherwise.” She’d never heard Narpess sound so cold. “You won’t be able to talk your way out of this, sorceress.”

Gasps rang all around. Those gathered round as one took a step back, murmurs filling the air.

Sylvanna’s heart skipped. What was he saying? She was no sorceress. They were all tested at birth for the ability; if she’d had it, she would have been given to the care of the guild. Before she could say anything else, Narpess made a gesture at the shorter of the two men with him.

The plain faced man made several odd gestures with his hands. It was then Sylvanna finally recognized him, the knowledge causing fear to punch through the growing numbness. It was the court wizard. But she’d not realized it was him without the robe he normally wore over his clothes. And without them, you’d never give that face a second glance.

He wouldn’t look at her directly.

Sylvanna tried to deny the charge only to find her voice gone. Her hand rose to her throat but no matter how much she tried to speak or scream, no sound came from her mouth.

“Narpess, let the palace guard handle this.” The dowager came forward her keen gaze moving from him to the wizard to Sylvanna to Trevor’s body and back again.

“Oh, I don’t think so, Mother. I’ve left too many things to others for too long. It’s about time I truly took my proper place in the world.”

Sylvanna trembled, as surprised if not more so than the dowager at his degrading tone. Madness. It was all madness.

“You there!” Narpess pointed at two servants standing unobtrusively behind the others. “Take the body to the surgeon’s.”

They darted glances in the dowager’s direction.

“ Do not look at her. I am your emperor. You will do as you’re told now.”

“Narpess, you’re distraught.” Trillena made calming gestures with her hands, but also looked wary as if she did not recognize her own flesh and blood and expected to be bit at any moment. “There are people to handle these things. Let them.”

Narpess ignored her and glared at the servants. “Do as I’ve told you or I will have you whipped!”

The two men rushed forward. Sylvanna shook her head as she held onto Trevor unwilling to part from him. His body all she had left of him.

As the servants hesitated, Lissan strode forward and gently, but undeniably pried the body from her. Under his breath, so softly she doubted he even spoke, Lissan said, “There are worse fates than death.”

Heart suddenly hammering in her chest, she saw the truth of what he said in his eyes, despite the fact she didn’t understand it. As he pulled away and the servants recovered Trevor’s body, she remembered the dagger on the walkway.

She lunged off the bench to grab it and end herself.

“Stop her!”

Narpess’s command rang in her ears as her fingers wrapped themselves around the weapon. A sharp pain at her wrist made her drop it. She stared at the glinting metal, her one means of escape, as she was pulled away from it. Someone held her fast as Narpess came close with quick, curt steps.

The slap across the face shocked her more than hurt her, but made her look into the face of the man she’d thought had been her friend.

“Fool! I’m doing all this for us.” He brought his face close, using the body of the man holding her to keep anyone from seeing. “Stop fighting me!”

Tears welled in her eyes and ran unchecked down her face. How had she never seen this in him? How had none of them?

He stepped back and picked up the dagger, tucking it away. “Frayden, bring her along. Tellos and Lissan, follow me please. Mother, do come as well.” He gave her a wave of his hand as if adding her in were but a bothersome detail, as if she’d not been running and ruling the empire for the decade since his father’s unexpected death.

The dowager straightened, a blank mask slamming over her face.

Sylvanna was grateful for the man holding her, not sure she could have walked otherwise. Perhaps this was a nightmare, one she would wake from at any moment. But even as she thought it she knew it was a lie.

The hallways of the palace were unusually silent as the small group entered inside. Narpess led them to his mother’s office, a place he’d sat by her side often, learning what she deigned to show him of the empire’s business.

Sylvanna was led to a wide chair and allowed to sit. She gasped with surprise as a handkerchief seemed to appeared on her lap out of nowhere. Looking up, she saw the face of them man who’d helped her here, young and blond with very sad eyes, which quickly looked elsewhere. Not wanting to think on it, she dabbed at her face with the kerchief, too numb for anything else.

“Tellon, seal the room.”

The wizard nodded then made more gestures with his hands, never once looking in Sylvanna’s direction. “It is done, sir.”

Narpess dropped into his mother’s chair and draped a leg over its expensive armrest.

Trillena glared at him, her displeasure at his lack of decorum there for all to see, but he only smiled at her, though before such a look from her would have had him sitting up straight. “Narpess, explain yourself.”

“Mother, I’m the emperor, I have to do no such thing.” He sat forward, the leg coming off the armrest, and set his elbows on her desk. “But I will, for you, just this once.” The smile faded and hard lines marked his face. “Because I want no misunderstandings… I’m taking what is mine and you will do nothing.”

Trillena shook her head. “You’re not making any sense.”

But Sylvanna understood and she felt cold, very cold.

Narpess slapped his hand on the desk. “I’ve allowed you to coddle me for too long, Mother.” He stood as if to emphasize the point. “I’m the most powerful man in the empire, yet everything is taken from me. Things are hidden from me. But no more. Things will occur at my whim from now on, not yours.”

“You don’t know what you’re saying-“

He pulled the dagger from his coat and stabbed the table. “Silence!” He shook where he stood as if fighting to restrain himself.

The dowager took a step back. Fear flared on her face then was quickly subdued; her composure back in place, but it had cracks.

Tears prickled at Sylvanna’s eyes. She’d been such an utter fool. They all had.

“Oh, don’t worry, Mother, I will marry that useless girl for her money. I will make the necessary sacrifice for the empire.”

“Why are you talking to me like this? I’ve only ever had your happiness and future in mind. You are my son.”

Sylvanna couldn’t help staring. Had the woman truly thought all her invisible chains and manipulations were in his best interests and not her own?

“Be that as it may, all that’s finished now. I’ve been very busy these last few days. Looking into what else you might not have told me for my happiness. I even found out all I need to know about the Twelve.”

The dowager raised a hand to her chest, appearing surprised. “You had one of them murder Simile?”

“No, Mother. He wasn’t worth it. I did that.”

Frayden appeared at the dowager’s side and helped her sit as she swayed where she stood. Sylvanna blinked sure she’d not seen him move across the room. Was he one of them…? Her temples throbbed.

“And they shall be extensions of my will, as planned when they were first created. And my will alone. They will protect the imperial line, but it is my commands as Melak’s Avatar which they will obey above all others – not yours. Your time leading our people is done. And with them at my side, no one will be able to say different – and live.”

He turned his attention to Sylvanna, dismissing the dowager as if she’d suddenly ceased to exist.

How had this happened? Surely he’d not changed this much purely because she was going to leave him for another! He could not have been dependent on her that much, could he? Guilt and shame rose inside her. But how was she to know? What could she have done differently?

“Dearest, I know everything must seem confusing to you at the moment, but I tell you all is going according to plan.” He smiled and it was a happy smile, one she’d not seen from him in some time. Yet it made no sense to her whatsoever.

She looked everywhere but directly at him.

He pulled a parchment from his vest. “This will makes everything perfect. I signed it yesterday, as certain steps had to be taken before others could happen.”

She didn’t understand the almost underhanded glance he threw in Lissan’s direction.

“But it will be posted soon and be made official throughout the land.”

For a short second Sylvanna’s hopes rose then died. Nothing on that paper could put right what had been done to Trevor. Nothing it said could erase the emperor’s accusation of sorcery before all those witnesses.

Much to her surprise, she found she had her voice back. “What…what is it?”

His smile grew bright. “Your condemnation as a traitor for the murder of Monsieur Simille and also your execution orders.”

Sylvanna blinked rapidly her mind not able to process the words right away, the room swaying around her. Maybe she was the one who’d gone insane.

“Lissan, a drink for our guest.”

The tall bodyguard came forward her holding out a cup. Sylvanna stared at it, not taking it, wondering if she could be fortunate enough for it to be poisoned. Then all this madness would end. Her hands shook as took the offered drink.

“Go on. It will make you feel better. Then we can discuss the rest.”

Her throat grew dry. There was more to this insanity? She drained the cup hoping the dark contents might make her choke. The fine vintage made her tongue tingle – perhaps it was part of the condemned’s last meal. But how could one enjoy it knowing it was the end?

“Good. Good!” Narpess looked even more pleased than before. “Your execution will be faked, of course. And rumors are already circulating about how odd you’ve been acting for sometime -- disappearing from your rooms, keeping yourself aloof from other people, things like that. Basically what everyone will be saying is that you’ve been ill, up here,” he tapped the side of his head, “for a while. Everyone knows how magic warps the mind. The impact to your family will be minimized. The empire will even make reparations to them, for we should have seen the signs and gotten you help before tragedy struck.”

Sylvanna stared at her lap, her chest so tight she thought it might cave in. Her family, her father! Though he tried to sugar coat it, her family would be impacted -- her mother and father would blame themselves for ever having allowed her to be brought to the capital. And reparations? It was more like a bribe to just let things go. “The Similles…”

“They’ve nothing to complain about. I’m going to marry that daughter of theirs, which should more than make up for their loss.”

Cold. She felt so cold. How could he be so callous about all of this? He killed a man! He killed her love, her future! “But why? Why?”

His whole face changed to a brooding, dark expression. “Because you’re mine. And what is mine will stay mine.” Then the weird transformation to happiness again. What had happened to the friend who cared for her? Who thought about her feelings?

“You’re to be moved to a villa not far from the capital. After the wedding is done with and I figure out my routine, you’ll be brought back and settled in a nice place in the city. We’ll figure out how to meet up again then and be as we’ve always been.”

She stared at his face, not sure how he could believe such a thing. Something had broken. But when or how, she wasn’t sure. She’d never thought she could mean so much to him he’d kill to keep her. She wouldn’t stay, however, no matter what he thought. She would kill herself at the first opportunity if need be.

“Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve always been so very stubborn. But it’s too late now.”

The smugness in his tone made her shiver.

Narpess laughed and came to her. Sylvanna cringed in the chair and tried to pull back as he took her hand.

“The pact has been sealed. And it will solve everything to everyone’s satisfaction. Mother need not even worry about accidental children and I won’t worry that you’ll ever try to leave me again.”

She stared at him. She wouldn’t have children or leave him? He was still a fool. “I will not cooperate with you.”

“But, dearest, you already have! You’ve already taken the step to becoming part of the Twelve. And it’s one which can’t be undone.” He looked at the cup still in her hand.

She dropped it, not knowing what it meant, and not wanting to.

Narpess’s smile was very bright. “Fraydin, please show her what she can expect to happen soon, won’t you?”

The blond’s brown gaze locked with hers. She could have sworn he was asking for forgiveness.

For a moment, she didn’t even realize anything was happening. But then Fraydin’s eyes changed color to a bright gold, his face elongating even as his hair was sucked back into his body. Scales wiggled out from beneath his skin like living insects to form a shell around him.

Soon all trace of the handsome young man was gone. All that remained was a monster with slit eyes and a long tongue flickering in the air as miniscule strings of lightning coursed across the scaly skin.

“You will never ever leave me again, beloved.”

Sylvanna screamed.

The End

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic

Which is worse...the monster within or without?
Also, make sure to search for book in Goodreads, FB, and Librarything and sign up for the free giveaways!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Is Summer Really Here?

Well, the calendar seems to think so. At least, it says so on mine. June 21, the first day of summer. Summer solstice. The beginning of summer.

Here? Not so much. It's only gone over 70 once this year. I am still wearing my long pants and layering with short sleeves, a sweater and a coat. It's not very summerlike here.

Still, my mind is on summer. On doing summer things. Another post here mentioned required summer reading. We didn't have that when I was a kid. We had summer. And we had three months of summer. School was out the first week of June and we didn't go back until after Labor Day. It was wonderful.

I remember quite vividly the feeling of immense freedom. Of just being. Of doing. Of peace. I lived on a military base for most of my elementary years. Tons of kids all over the place. No fences allowed between the houses. We knew our neighbors. All of the back yards connected in this one, long, beautiful stretch of green. Perfect for baseball. Or tag. Or kickball. Or watching the clouds. Or neighborly barbecues.

We rode our bikes. We walked to the corner candy store. We had sleepovers. We played in groups and alone. We wandered over to the school and played on the equipment. There was something exciting about being on the playground when the classrooms were deserted. No time limit. We could hang out there as long as we wanted to. No bells ringing to tell us recess was over.

We traveled. Went to Grandma's house. Went fishing. Went swimming in the lakes. Had picnics. Took drives for the sake of taking drives. We only had one television, and it was black and white. It was my dad's domain for the news.

When my kids were small, I tried to give them the same sort of summers I had when I was their age. Only we went more places, saw more things. The zoo. The Science Center. The beach. The mountains. Anything that would stimulate their little minds and let them have fun. That was paramount. If they learned things, it was the icing on the proverbial cake.

We had a huge yard with woods. There were forts and treehouses. Games of tag, of hide and seek. Bike riding. Skateboards. A trampoline. Lots and lots and lots of bubbles blown. Hikes in the nearby woods, on the trails. Picnics. Petting barns. And trips to Grandma's house.

All of that is on my mind right now. My kids are all grown. They work now. Only get a few days off here and there. They are responsible adults. I sometimes yearn for those earlier times. Times of shorts, and bare feet. Of sunshine and Popsicle chins. Of fingers sticky with cotton candy, of little, warm bodies exhausted from the day's activities. Of my babies sleeping with smiles of contentment on their faces. Of summer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Reading

We're winding down our school year here. I know a lot of people are already out of school for the summer, but we have a week to go. And then it's time for fun and relaxing summer reading, right?

Sort of.

Both of my kids have reading assignments over the summer. Nothing too big - they have two assigned books they need to read and they need to write a 3 page essay comparing the two that is due on the first day of school.

In reality, it's not that big an assignment. I remember having longer required reading lists than that, but I don't recall having to write an essay.

But, here's my question. Are required summer reading lists a good thing or not?

On one hand I can see that making sure students read over the summer is important. Reading is a skill like any other, that always benefits from practice and exercise. Children who don't open a book for the whole summer are doing themselves a disservice.

But is it necessary or desirable to require that specific books be read? Why not let summer be the time when students can explore wherever their interests lead them?

To be fair, for the most part our district simply has a suggested reading list for each grade. It's only the honors English classes that need to do the specific assignment.

But that raises another point: the students in the honors classes are the ones most likely to be reading anyway, why force a specific assignment?

So, what's your take? Should students have summer reading assignments or should they be allowed to simply read whatever catches their interest over the summer?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Trailers. So YOU tell me.

I started working on a trailer for my soon-to-be-released kidlit novel, RUPERT STARBRIGHT: THE DOOR TO FAR-MYST. Yep- a trailer for a book. Hey- I've made film trailers before but I confess this is new to me. I think the idea makes sense—creating a movie-like ad for a book to get people excited about reading it.

But then a thought struck me. I have watched a couple of book trailers in my life and found most of them are pretty bad. I also realized I have never actually bought a book for a trailer I have watched!

As I begin the difficult task of generating the 3D graphics (which will take days to render) I wonder, IS THIS A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME?

I wonder if anyone other than fellow authors will watch it and will it have any impact on book sales. So I ask you:

Have you ever seen a trailer for a book and if so did it help push you to buying it? While on the subject, what DOES get you to read a book?

1. Book trailers
2. Familiarity with author
3. Recommendation from friend
4. The cover
5. The back cover blurb
6. A review
7. Bribe by author
8. Facebook posts
9. To shut up an annoying, begging starving writer

So I'll get back to work on my trailer please give me some feedback. WHY DO YOU READ A SPECIFIC BOOK?

As always, please LIKE and SHARE this blog.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I thought I'd repost from an earlier LJ entry I made last week on the whole @wsj YA article.  It caused a lot of uproar and comments in Twitter land. Here's the article:

Also not long after Gurdon was interviewed here:

I read the article and had to roll my eyes. I grew up in a mostly religious home(well my mother anyway) and went to church every Sunday. In the meantime I was being abused by my father. I knew what he was doing was wrong and that something wasn't quite right with him. The one time I went and told a so-called friend, the next day she told me she had to get another friend as her father, who was in the bishopric of our church, told her, "No good girl says those disgusting things about her father."

I was the bad girl.

For years I thought I was to blame for the abuse. It was books that helped me. The Martin Luther King Library in South Sacramento, Ca was my savior during this dark time of my life. Books like THE OUTSIDERS and authors like Judy Blume also spoke to me.

Later, I was asked to share my story. I've written poetry dealing with my abuse. Others though have told me to just get over it. That it is my responsibility to only share uplifting materials with teens.

I can't help but remember when I was at the darkest point of my life. When I tried to kill myself as I couldn't deal with the abuse and holding these secrets anymore. I also think of how some books helped me during those times. How I wished Ellen Hopkins had been around. Her books are powerful and tug at the truth. A truth some adults want to hide.

I read this from that same article and cringe:

...Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures...

Once again, some think if you don't talk about these issues, that maybe they'll go away. How can talking about them, normalize them? I don't get it. When my father was abusing me, that's all I heard. "Don't talk about it." "Just get over it" "You're strong" and even "God choose you to come to that family to help them".

No, these stories need to be told. There are others out there who live in shame, feel they are to blame, and even are bad girls or boys. These books are a life preserver to them.

There are other books out there for teens. If you don't want to read an edgier book that addresses sensitive topics, well, that's your choice. But don't take them away from others. These books are a light for those in a dark place.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Split-Century Personality

In an era of text lingo and cutesy acronyms, everything is shortened. We no longer write long letters with big words—or lengthy expositions to novels. We like short and sweet. We like texts. We like succinct emails. We like to get right to the point. And my point is…?

In April, I took a hiatus from writing fiction and devoted the month to poetry—I read it, I wrote it, I probably even dreamt about it. Then I spent May perusing the free classics on my Kindle. And now I’m reading my manuscript and shaking my head, using the delete button more often than the space bar. My edgy, basketball-playing narrator sounds like a late nineteenth century poetess—and she couldn’t talk smack to save her life. Now I have a character who is suffering from split-century personalities.

You see, I have been Writing Under the Influence of Classic Literature (W.U.I.C.L.), but unlike other under-the-influence crimes, it’s not against the law. You won’t even get a slap on the wrist. You might, however, get some swell feedback from your editor.

So…I have set my classics aside, said au revoir to poetic notions, and started reading a stack of YA fiction. And after devouring a few teen novels, I am brimming with sarcasm and using “like” much too often in the real world, but the good news is, I am ready to finish my “lovely” manuscript—sans the polysyllabic vernacular and seven-line sentences.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Price of Mercy - Giveaways!

To try to make as big a splash as I can, there will be several giveaways for my latest title The Price of Mercy. (Sample chapters, info, and a free prequel story at the website.)

This novel is suitable for lovers of all ages of fantasy with a 17th/18th century feel.

First in the Running is Goodreads:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Price of Mercy by Gloria Oliver

The Price of Mercy

by Gloria Oliver

Giveaway ends July 06, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Also have a Giveaway at Face Book.

And another one over at LibraryThing. Though that one is still waiting for approval so only shows on the pending page at the moment.

If you don't mind, please help spread the word!

Foodie as Writer

When I was a kid, my sister handed me the book Homer and the Doughnut Machine by Robert McCloskey, and I fell in love instantly. Years later I understand that it wasn't just the humor in the story, or the detailed description of the doughnut machine that kept me coming back for more. It was the doughnuts. No kidding. I couldn't eat them, but Mr. McCloskey's description of them -fresh from the doughnut fryer with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar that exploded in a warm, fragrant cloud with each bite- was enough to get me hooked.

As I look back on some of my favorite books from childhood, I realize that quite a few of them involved amazing descriptions of one of my favorite things on the planet: FOOD. Love A Wrinkle in Time? Check out Ms. L'Engle's description of the turkey dinner that Charles Wallace cannot taste until he opens himself up to IT. Ms. L'Engle included a nearly lethal description of the tart cranberry sauce, the sweetness of the green peas, the tenderness of the turkey, the brown richness of the gravy. But it was her blobs of melting butter on the mashed potatoes that about did me in.

Agatha Christie, my first foray into adult mysteries, has a beautiful description of muffins (warm and buttered) and tea in her book, At Bertram's Hotel.

Mary Poppins was all about food, from the healthy stuff like the fresh fruit Bert draws on the sidewalk with chalk (and that the children were able to pluck and eat, "juice running down" their chins to the raspberry jam tarts Mary shares with Bert on her day off.

As for the Melendy family and their friend Jasper? He of the fresh blueberry pies and the glazed marble cakes? I don't go there anymore unless I've just eaten.

I am thus beginning to realize that my books, while fun and infinitely readable in my own opinion (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), could use a bit more food in them, too. True, Jake and Philip go out for pie and french fries at one point in Saving Jake. And my latest manuscript, still seeking a home, details a sit-down family dinner of Filipino proportions during the course of a friendship in the making. But I think I need to include more than that.

Warm from the oven, gooey, sweet chocolate chip cookies, anyone?