Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Category: Writing (Page 1 of 9)

Series ends

No, not mine. This post actually came about because I read a book last night that represented the end of a series. Usually, if I’ve stuck with a series all the way, I feel regret to see it end. In this case, not so much. The reasons why are things I hope I can keep in mind as I work on my own series and bring them to an end.

I’m going to start by noting that this series is one of several from a best selling and traditionally published author. I started reading this particular series from her by accident. How, you ask, did that happen? Easy. I wasn’t careful when checking her Amazon author page and wound up buying one of the books in the series when I was actually looking for a book in another series.

That’s problem number one. The series titles (two different series) were close enough to cause confusion, at least to a sleep addled, pre-coffee brain. But, that’s okay. I enjoyed the book. Not as much as others she’d written but not every book can be hit out of the park.

Anyway.

What I came to wonder as I read the books in this particular series is simple. The series was set in the same town as another series. The characters from that series made appearances in the new series. Some of the characters in the second series were related to characters in the first.

Okay, that’s fine. I’ve seen it happen before and it has been done well in some cases and not so much in others. This series, unfortunately, would have done better (in my opinion) by completely removing it from the first series. There were simply too many similarities between characters and plot points. Add in the same basic setting and, by the end of the series, it felt as if the author was just phoning it in.

I get falling in love with your characters or setting but you can’t do it at the expense of putting out new and interesting material.

There were two other issues I had with not only this series but the other one. When you write a book, or books, where your lead female character is initially a strong, independent woman, don’t turn her into someone who no longer is capable to looking after herself just because a man has now come into her life. Sure, having a partner, male or female, will change a person’s life and how they think about things. After all, you are no longer the only person you have to think about when planning a course of action. But going from independent to dependent without cause is one of the surest ways to drive readers away.

I will admit, the author didn’t do it as much in this second series as she did in the first. For one, the women in this second series were more flawed than in the first. However, that made it all the more glaring when she did it in the last couple of books with the most independent of her female characters. Especially in the last book. Suddenly, the one woman who had been the rock turned to anything but, at least for the first half of the book. The foreshadowing of the earlier books in the series led to one secret, but it was minor. There had been nothing to prepare the reader for the real “weakness” in the character. Considering the relationship between her and the other characters in the series, this threw me out of the book.

I guess this is all a way of reminding myself of what not to do when I start wrapping up my different series. The last book needs to be as satisfying — if not more so — than the first. Otherwise, the reader will hesitate to buy anything else from that author. I know that, after two series endings that were disappointments because of the way the characters were developed and the plots were rolled out, I will hesitate to buy anything else from this particular author. Sort of the old “fool me one, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” adage. I hope none of my readers ever feel that way.

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If you have ever wondered what an author most wants, it’s reviews. So give an author a gift today. Write a review and post it to Amazon and, if you are so inclined, on your blog or Facebook. It really does help.

Back to Work

At least I think I am. I still need to decide on new themes for this site as well as my “official” site. But that’s the sort of thing I can do when I take a break from writing. I’ll be honest, I hate doing that sort of thing. To me, it’s like picking a fabric for a sofa or chair from a swatch or tile for a floor based on one single tile. I simply can’t visualize what it will look like until it’s installed. So, I tend to postpone it until I can’t stand it any longer.

Fortunately, writing isn’t like that. Writing is, to me, as important to my existence as is breathing. Oh, I can do for days without actually putting words to paper (or onto a hard drive). But that doesn’t mean my brain isn’t working on something even as I’m doing something else.

I’ve found some of my best brainstorming is done when I’m busy working with my hands — digging in the yard, building something, painting. Those almost mindless physical activities allow my creative side to run wild. So, that has been part of what I’ve been doing in the week since I released Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2).

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. Part of it is because I have to keep busy or I will continually flip between the product page and the sales page to see how the book is doing. Most authors, if they’re being honest, feel that same tug. So we find ways to distract ourselves.

However, it’s helped as well because I needed to finalize in my head where Nocturnal Rebellion is going and if this would be the last book to feature Mackenzie Santos. Before anyone writes a nasty comment, no, it isn’t going to be the last book (assuming you guys like it and want more). But it will be the last book in the overall story arc that was hinted at from the beginning and really took root two books ago. And that is all I’m going to say about that. Otherwise, I’ll get into spoilers.

It has also allowed me to figure out how I’m going to move forward with the Eerie Side of the Tracks series and tie it in more closely with Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks). The solution, when it came to me, surprised me but in a good way. The one thing it means is there is a very definite publication order that has to be followed. Now to make the notes so I don’t forget anything.

Not to worry, I finished working out in my head what needs to be done with the very rough draft of Victory from Ashes and figured out the plot for Battle Wounds, the next short story in the Honor and Duty universe.

What this means is I’m going to be doing a hell of a lot of writing for the rest of the year. I like it that way. Of course, I know Myrtle the Evil Muse will ambush me somewhere along the way and disrupt my schedule. She always does. But that’s okay. Just don’t tell her that. I don’t want to give her ideas.  😉

Getting back in the swing of things — slowly

After finishing a project, it usually takes me a week or so to catch up on things like sleep, cleaning, etc. That’s been true this time as well. Of course, Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) isn’t quite finished as a project. I still have the print version to finish putting together. But that is something I can do while working on the next project, Nocturnal Rebellion. Better yet, I know that I’m about ready to start back writing Rebellion.

How do I know?

That’s simple. I spent the morning digging through my office, clearing off the desk, cleaning and putting away all the research, etc., that I’d used on Dagger. Now the desk is clean and everything is set for me to sit down and get back to Challenge.

Of course, as I noted in yesterday’s post,I’ve also been hit with the basic plot ideas for the next 3 or 4 titles for the Eerie Side of the Tracks series. Plus, the basic draft for Victory from Ashes is done. Everything looked great when I posted that and I felt sure Myrtle the Muse would let me work according to my schedule.

She still might. . . but. . . .

Last night, Sarah A. Hoyt messaged me. It seems she had been hit with an idea for a cover and it wasn’t something she had planned. She told her muse, it must be one of my books. So she put this together.

I’ll be honest. I love this cover. It absolutely fits for the next novel in the Eerie Side series. Of course, it also means that book is starting to get loud. The fact it can’t be written quite yet doesn’t mean a darn thing to Myrtle the Muse. At least Mac and Company are louder right now than Myrtle and all the rest of it.

Anyway, I’m off to relax after digging out the office. Back later.

Release day is here!

Today is the day all writers look forward to and fear in pretty much equal shares. It’s release day. Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is now available for download. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered the book. If should be in your download queue (if not already on your devices). For those of you who haven’t bought it, why not? (Just joking folks. Remember, nervous writer here.)

There is one more thing — well, two — you can do for me. After you’ve read Dagger, I’d appreciate it if you would leave a review. Reviews do several things. The first is they help other readers by letting them see what people think about the book. Even if they don’t read the reviews, people do tend to pay more attention to books with more reviews than they do to books with no reviews. The other things reviews do is, once we reach a certain number of reviews, they bring the book up on those “If you liked this, you might like that” or “other readers bought” lists.

Also, for those of you who prefer print, I will be getting the print version out over the next couple of weeks. I’ll be honest. I’ve held off because of some changes it looks like Amazon is implementing on their print side of things. Now that the book is out, I need to sit down and do some deeper research on the changes, potential upsides and downsides, and then determine whether to go with Amazon or perhaps try out Lightning Source or some other option.

In the meantime, thanks again for your support. Now it’s back to work on the next book: Nocturnal Rebellion.

Of Mondays and time changes and pre-orders and more

I want to go on the record here and now that I hate the time change. I understand, sort of, why the government instituted it back oh so many years ago. But now? Sorry. I don’t like it. Let’s choose a time and stick with it. I know that I’m going to be dragging the rest of the week as I adjust to the new time and I feel for all the parents out there who have to drag their kids out of bed, kicking and screaming because they’re still tired. I remember those days and do NOT miss them.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I hope you guys had a great weekend. I’m moving slowly today, not only because of the time change but because I spent the weekend doing prep work and then painting part of the interior of the house. It was supposed to be a small job. When we replaced the HVAC last month, they moved the thermostat. That, in turn, left a hole in the wall. Said hole had to be patched which required the paint being touched up but. . . .So, the hallway had to be painted.

And, in the way of all things in my household, that lead to much more than the hallway needing to be painted. Well, needing isn’t exactly the right word. You see, Mom is of the mindset that you stop painting when you come to a closed door — a closed door into a room that is painted another color. Except there are only two rooms in the house painted in another color.

You get the idea. Over the next week to 10 days, I’m going to have a lot of painting in my life.

But that’s okay because it gives me time to plot and plan the next couple of books. Nocturnal Challenge is well on its way. I know the next book after that should be Victory from Ashes but I’m not sure that’s how it will work out. I could force it but I’d rather write the book when it is ready to be written. I know that doesn’t make sense but I learned a long time ago that I write better when I’m not trying to force a book to come. I think that’s why, on occasion, I get waylaid by books I hadn’t planned on writing. Those books wind up being a lot of fun and they give me a fresh mental slate for the books that really need to be written.

Something else the next week or so will include is reading. Not reading to do research but reading for pleasure. I look forward to the week after I finish a book because that I when I give myself permission to not worry about putting in a certain amount of time at the keyboard every day.

Reading’s important for a writer. At least I believe it is. We need to know what is going on in the genre(s) we write in. We need to know what is selling — and I don’t mean what makes the NYT best seller list but what Amazon and the other retailers report is selling. We need to look at other writers’ styles and compare it to our own. It helps us learn and when a writer quits learning her craft, she might as well turn off her computer and walk away.

Which is why I get more than a bit perturbed when I hear other writers say they don’t read. Some are proud of it. They talk about how they don’t want to spoil their voice by reading other people because their voice is so unique and special. It might be but if you don’t read, you don’t know what is out there and you sure as hell don’t know what readers are responding to.

Then there are those writers who say they don’t have time to read. This I can buy more than the other but it still is a crock. If you have time to watch TV or sit in the morning reading blogs, you have time to read. You don’t have to read a book all at one sitting. But read. You have to. As I noted above, you need to know what is going on in your genre, you need to know what readers are being exposed to and what they are buying. Besides, reading exercises your mind and that is something we all need.

Okay, climbing off my soapbox with apologies. Mom has GMT on this morning and Danielle Steele just said she didn’t have time to read anything but her own books and that set me off. So I’m backing away from the TV to finish up this post before getting to work.

Finally, don’t forget that Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is available for pre-order. Publication date is — gulp — in two days. I’m so proud of this book and where it takes the story begun in Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). I also had a blast writing it. I think that’s why I’m biting my nails. I’m hoping you enjoy it as much as I did. Anyway, here’s the blurb.

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

Countdown – 6 Days

The edits are done. Input from beta readers and editor have been reviewed and incorporated.  Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) has been converted into ePUB and one last read-through has begun. Later today, I will upload the final version in preparation of release on the 15th.

It is different reading the book on a tablet in e-book format than looking at it on the screen as a Word doc. My brain thinks more about it as a “book” instead of work. Yes, it does let me see little things that might have slipped past me — as well as the others — on the Word doc but it does something else. It lets me think about it as reader and not so much as a writer.

All I can say is, damn. Do I put my characters through a lot in this book.

I’ve had a blast writing the book. I already know what happens in the next book, at least the general outline of it. If it plays out the way I think it will, the next book will be just as much fun to write — and to read, I hope — as this one has been.

Now, I’m off to find another cup of coffee and finish checking the ePUB version. Once the few proofreading changes are applied, I’ll upload the final file to Amazon. Then I’ll take a day or two before getting back to Nocturnal Rebellion.

Don’t forget, the picture and the link above will take you to the pre-order page. Have you bought your copy yet? (Hey, don’t hat the writer for doing promo. I have kitty kibble to buy. BratCat has this thing about eating several times a day and he’s looking hungrily at my ankles right now.)

Tuesday morning thoughts

It’s going to be a short post this morning, mainly because I’m blogging at Mad Genius Club today. Go check the post out. I talk about Books-a-Million and their indie publishing print platform as well as some of the changes over on the KDP side of things.

The other day, I posted a brief snippet of what I thought might turn out to be the opening to Nocturnal Rebellion, the next book in the Nocturnal Lives series. I’ll be honest. I had hoped by writing the scene, the muse would be satisfied and let me finish the final tweaking on Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). But noooo, the book has taken hold and the muse is demanding my attention. So, it looks like the next couple of weeks will see me splitting my time between the two. Fortunately, all that is needed on Dagger is minor tweaking and the final check of the print file before taking the book life. For now, however, the e-book is available for pre-order and, hopefully, the print book will be ready to go by the time the e-book goes live.

If Rebellion continues as it started, it is going to be a roller coaster ride. When I started figuring out the plot for the book several months ago, it did not look anything like what is happening now. Of course, as I’ve said before, my muse is an evil bitch and she is loving not only throwing me for a loop with the book but also in not letting me know what is happening more than a few pages ahead at a time. So far, it’s working — or so my alpha readers have said. Well, they also told me I had to keep writing it, so I guess something is working right.

Now I’m off to find another cup of coffee — idiot dog and BratCat decided 0430 was a wonderful time to get me up. It didn’t matter that I disagreed. Sigh.

Later!

Monday morning, oh how I loathe thee

This is the morning so many employers dread. Super Bowl Monday. The day when employees drag in, suffering from too little sleep, too much over-indulgence and either too much bragging because their team won or too much angsting because their team lost. Those who supported the Falcons — or at least wanted to see the Pats lose — might admit it was a great game, especially the last few minutes. But, there is still the fact the Falcons lost after holding a 21+ point lead at one point, something no other team has done in history. So, Falcon supporters have ruffled feathers, adding to the Monday morning blues.

As for me, I started the day off much too early — thank you, BratCat — and have already been to PT. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am firmly convinced physical therapists are frustrated sadists in their private lives and they take it out on their clients. All I can say right now is OUCH!

Which is also sort of what I’m feeling right now about my muse. Myrtle has never been an easy muse to live with. But, right now, she is taking great glee in causing me problems. Normally, when I finish a project, I need a week or so to recharge the batteries and get the new novel’s “voice” in my head. Except this time, Myrtle has different plans. I’m not officially finished with Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). Sure, it’s up for pre-order. Yay!. But there are still a few tweaks that need to be made and I need to finish the print set-up because I’m not happy with how it looked when I did it earlier. But is Myrtle letting me do it? Nooooo.

As you saw yesterday, she has ambushed me with the next Nocturnal Lives opening scene. Except now it is scenes. And, let me tell you, the book is already throwing me for a loop. Not only because I hadn’t planned on it being the next book I wrote but because of how it starts off. Worse, as I think I said yesterday, I don’t know where this is going. Myrtle is hiding more than the next few pages from me. Sigh, someone come take my muse on vacation for a week or so. Hell, I’d be happy if you’d just take her out for drinks and let her spend the night with you.

Why do I feel like Rodney Dangerfield right now when he would joke, “Take my wife — please”?

I guess I don’t need to sleep.

One more thing before I head off to do some work — after finding coffee. If you haven’t read Dave Freer’s Mad Genius Club post today, do so. He hits it out of the part with this post.

Have Some Free Promo

(This post originally appeared at According to Hoyt. I’m reblogging it here not only because I know and highly recommend most of the authors listed but also because it has a link to — wait for it — Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). Yes, it is finally live for pre-order on Amazon.)

Once more unto the breach comes the promo post! Reports of my demise may have been slightly embellished. On the contrary, the Oyster Clan has recently grown by one more minion. Granted I may look somewhat dead now, but I assure you I still have a pulse. But! Back to the matter at hand: BOOKS! In my hiatus I’ve received several new submissions. We have a new series launched, a series finished, a couple others continuing; life is good in indie Hun fiction land. Go grab a book and a nice cuppa, and enjoy the lovely winter weather from the comfort of your couch. If you’ve already read everything on offer, give a shout in the comments for some recommendations. As always, future promo post entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Karen Myers

ON A CROOKED TRACK

The Chained Adept Book 4

SETTING A TRAP TO CATCH THE MAKERS OF CHAINED WIZARDS.

A clue has sent Penrys back to Ellech, the country where she first appeared four short years ago with her mind wiped, her body stripped, and her neck chained. It’s time to enlist the help of the Collegium of Wizards which sheltered her then.

Things don’t work out that way, and she finds herself retracing a dead scholar’s crooked track and setting herself up as a target to confirm her growing suspicions. But what happens to bait when the prey shows its teeth?

In this conclusion to the series, tracking old crimes brings new dangers, and a chance for redemption.

THE CHAINED ADEPT

The Chained Adept Book 1

A STRONG WIZARD WITH UNANSWERED QUESTIONS AND A CHAIN AROUND HER NECK.

Penrys’s past is unknown, but she’s got a better grip on her future: find out where she came from, discover what happened to her, and figure out how the unremovable chain around her neck makes her different from other wizards.

What any of this has to do with the renewal of an ugly war between neighboring countries, half a world away, is just something she’ll have to sort out, along with the rumors of wizards where they don’t belong.

Assuming, of course, that no one removes her as a threat before she can find her footing.

All she wants is a firm foundation for the rest of her life, with a side helping of retribution, and if she has to fix things along the way, well, so be it.

Laura Montgomery

SLEEPING DUTY

Waking Late Book 1

Gilead Tan and Andrea Fielding survived their stint in the military, got married, signed up to emigrate to a terraformed colony world, and went into cold sleep for the journey from Earth. While they slept, the starship went through the wrong fold in space and settled for a different world, a wild world. Three centuries after the founding of a colony on the uncharted planet, Gilead awakens to find humanity slipped back to medieval tech and a feudal structure. Worse, the king who wants Gilead awake won’t let Gilead awaken his wife.

Amie Gibbons

PSYCHIC UNDERCOVER (WITH THE UNDEAD)

A Paranormal Mystery

Vampires aren’t the only things that go bump in the night…

Singers are a dime a dozen in Nashville, so despite her mama’s urging, psychic Ariana Ryder’s working her way towards a career in law enforcement at the FBI, one tray of fetched coffee at a time, instead. She’s got an extremely handsome boss, a dancing partner among the lab techs, and a solid year as the team rookie under her belt…

Right until the director gives her a big break, working undercover as a singer at a club to investigate why it’s being targeted by a serial killer. This might have worked better if the club didn’t happen to be a vampire nest.

Now, with the vampire’s investigator, Quil, on her case, the jurisdictional battle isn’t the only thing heating up as they race to solve the case before the killer strikes again!

Cyn Bagley

DRAGON BOY

Hilda’s Inn Book 2

So who or what is Davi Dracson?

If you’re down on your luck, come to Hilda’s Inn for a game of dice and cheap ale. The hundred-year-stew has been stewing for a hundred years and the fire never burns out.

Except Hilda’s Inn is under new management, and Hilda is on the run with Davi, a dragonling. There will be dwarfs, ogres, dragons, and magical trinkets between Delhaven and Koenigstadt, the king’s city.

Don’t forget that the woods are not a safe place—the Draugr is lurking and hungry. And, he has a taste for magic.

Henry Vogel

THE UNDERCOVER CAPTAIN

Captain Nancy Martin Book 2

Unwillingly drawn out of her annual drunken stupor, Captain Nancy Martin, Retired, finds herself involuntarily reactivated. Her assignment is to help Special Agent Erica Hampton solve the disappearance of an entire school’s student body. Hampton’s superiors suspect a slaver ring has kidnapped the children, to sell them on a rim world beyond the Terran Federation’s borders.

When Nancy and Erica discover the truth behind the abductions, they realize their deadline is quite literal, and much closer than they thought. When the gloves come off, the missing children couldn’t have anyone better fighting for their lives.

It will take every bit of skill Nancy and Erica have to track down the villains behind the disappearances. Defeating them will be a different matter entirely.

Amanda Green

DAGGER OF ELANNA (SWORD OF THE GODS BOOK 2)

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Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

A Tease

I’m not exactly sure where this scene will occur in Dagger of Elanna. Well, that’s not quite right. I know but I’m not telling. VBEG.

A cold wind, as cold as his master’s heart, whipped through the trees. The moisture in the air, not quite frozen but near enough not to matter, felt like knives cutting through his exposed skin. Snow covered the ground for as far as he could see. What he would not give to be warm.

Shivering, he pulled his hood tighter around his face, swearing as he stumbled over something hidden by the snow. Plodding along at his side, the dappled gelding whickered in ill-temper. Neither of them liked being out. Unfortunately, he had no choice. If he wished to continue living, he had to do as he had been told.

Twelve hours earlier, he had been warm, well-sated and safe inside his small cottage. Then a knock sounded at his door. Little had he known that simple action would change his life and not for the better.

Not that it had been unexpected. He had known the summons would one day come. That was the price he had to pay for practicing the black arts. Blood magic was only part of his repertoire and that would earn him death should he ever be brought before the Imperial courts. But should the Imperium discover his other talents, death would not come fast enough. So, when his master sent for him, he knew he had no choice. He either did as instructed or he died. The choice had been an easy one, at least at first. Now, knowing what he did about his master, he wished he had refused.

Slogging through the snow, he knew the chances of successfully completing his mission were slim. Had it been otherwise, he never would have been sent for. His master preferred keeping him and his pets close to hand. What he had not known when he left his cottage was how bad the situation would turn out to be. Now he feared he would not be the only one to suffer his master’s wrath.

Death would be welcome compared to what his master would do to him and all those he cared about should he fail in this mission. A mission he never would have been forced to accept but for the failure of that bastard son Wolf. If his master had asked sooner, he would have told him not to trust anything so important to a skin walker. They were well-suited for violence but not for stealth or patience. Their bloodlust all too often led to them making mistakes. The fact Wolf and his pack were now dead, Gareth knew his prediction had been right.

Wolf and his pack would not be the only ones to die. Their failure to complete their mission would soon result in the deaths of all they cared for. Their master would see to it. When failure happened, those responsible, should they still live, tended to die painfully as did their families. Those who successfully did as instructed were, on the other hand, well-rewarded.

Not that it helped him any just then.

As he neared the edge of the tree line, he glanced across the wide open area of fields and training rings. Beyond them lay the Citadel. The home of the thrice-damned Order of Arelion had been built to be easily defended. Resting atop a tall hill, almost a mesa, three sides formed cliffs leading down to the river. The fourth side, the side he currently surveyed, was nothing but open land, easily watched and guarded. Anyone approaching, either across the fields or by the trade road, would be seen long before they reached the main gates.

His master knew that but cared not. He had given Gareth one order: watch the Citadel. Report who came and went and, should the opportunity arise, kill the girl.

All of which would be easier said than done, as Wolf and his pack discovered. At least he had one tool Wolf had not. He had his pet.

At the thought of his only companion other than his horse, he turned to the gelding. A slight smile touched his lips at the sight of the black raven perched on the pommel of the saddle. Except, when one looked closely, they would see it was not a raven. In fact, it was not alive, not in the strict sense of the word. The bird was a construct, something created from blood and magic. His blood and his magic, as well as the blood of others. Bound to him, the construct was as much a part of him as was his heart or brain.

That alone was enough to turn his blood cold as he looked once again toward the Citadel. Whatever his master might do to him should he fail paled when he considered what the Order might do should they discover him spying on them. To begin, the would destroy the construct and that would be like destroying a part of himself. It would very much be like stripping him of his soul.

The Order did not understand the glory, the power, of blood magic. They were too bound to the Lord and Lady, too blinded to the power they could wield if they would just allow themselves to stray even a little from the Codes. Because of that, they would strip him of his magic, of all that made him. He had no doubt if he failed to answer their questions, they would imprison him or worse. They might allow him to live, a pale shadow of himself, but his family would not be so lucky. If such an existence could be called lucky. No, his master would make sure those he cared about suffered as he should have.

He couldn’t even run. Damn his luck. He should have trusted his instincts the day before when the knock sounded at his door and the messenger said their master wanted to see him. It had been years since the man, if he could still be called such, had issued such a summons. In that moment, every instinct had screamed for him to run and hide. It had warned him not to answer the door. But, unfortunately, his had become over-confident. Ego had overridden common sense and now he found himself in a situation with only two possible outcomes — death or worse.

Standing in the shadows of the trees, he closed his eyes. For a moment, the world seemed to shift under his feet. A moment later, he looked out of this construct’s eyes. He heard the sounds of the forest around them through the construct’s ears. It was time to set the raven to watch. Then he could locate a safe place to set up camp.

A few moments later, he opened his eyes and extended his arm. He watched as the construct hopped onto his gloved fist, much as a living bird would have. The raven cocked its head to one side as he held it close. The feathered head rubbed against his cheek and he smiled slightly. The bond between them was strong and growing stronger. That meant the raven could keep watch on the Citadel while he remained out of sight. That was the best plan, the only plan, he had been able to come up with on such short notice. His master might not approve but his master was not the one risking life and limb watching the Order.

“You know what to do, my pet.” His fingers caressed the construct’s head. “Watch them. Let me see any who come and go. Look for the girl. She is our target. Find her. Our lives depend on it.”
The construct nodded, almost human-like, and unfurled its wings. A moment later, Gareth lifted his arm and watched as the bird took flight. It would keep watch and let him know if trouble neared.

As the construct wined ever closer to the Citadel, he turned and moved further into the trees, the gelding pacing after him. If he wanted to be warm that night, he had best find some place to set up camp. The last thing he wanted was to be forced to cold camp, especially with more snow moving in.

Hopefully, there would be a cave nearby he could ensorcel, one where no one could see his fire or sense his magic. Then he would be safe to practice his craft and find a way to complete his mission without it costing him his life.

***

Dagger of Elanna is the second book in the Sword of the Gods trilogy. Here’s some information about the first book in the series.

Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1)

War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.

Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.

Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

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