Friday, July 21, 2017

Fight Song Chapter Six

Hey'a, everyone! This has been a bit of a crazy week for me, with the end result of a lot of boxes and no Friday 5s. I do, however, have the next chapter of Fight Song! Last week, Callie got a bit of downtime that ended on an ominous note. This week, Callie discovers that superpowers don't make you invincible (unless your superpower is invincibility). 

Disclaimer: Audrey appears here by permission of Irisbloom5. I do not own the character.

As always, comments, critiques, and suggestions are welcome! Thanks for reading!



Chapter 6: Broken Music

I was halfway home and hoping that I'd make it all the way without incident when the Death Song tore into my mind. I gasped and instinctively clapped my hands over my ears— but only for a moment. Then I took off running towards the Song, clutching my violin case. I doubted I'd be in time to help the victim; the force and harshness of the not-notes told me that the Song was about to crescendo. But maybe I could still catch the killer.

My chase led me away from my original route, past graffiti-scrawled walls and broken streetlights, and finally to an alley where I knew at least one homeless man spent his nights. I paused a few feet away from the alley as the Death Song declined, losing force but not harshness. Definitely too late for the victim. I pulled a bandanna from my back pocket, wrapped it around my face, and removed my violin from its case. But not for the killer. 

My violin and bow at the ready and an air song on my tongue, I crept towards the alley and peered around the corner. I don't know what I expected to see, maybe the aftermath of a deadly fight between members of enemy gangs, maybe another mugging gone wrong-- I saw enough of those. But I know what I didn't expect to see: Damian Welsh standing over a ragged-looking man like he had over Lacey that night in the hotel two years ago.

He didn't wear a suit this time, just a button-up shirt and dark jeans, and a fedora that shadowed his face. But the black ring sat on his finger, casting such a strong anti-glow that it hid the victim's face. I could see Welsh’s face, though, shadowed as it was; could make out a smile of grim pleasure.
It's my second chance. Welsh didn't know I was here, and so long as I kept my distance, I could easily overpower him. I could capture him. Keep him here and call the police.

Or serve out justice myself. But the mere thought of that made my stomach twist. Welsh deserved death, I knew as certainly as I knew the notes of my favorite song. However, I knew just as well that it wasn't my place to deal out punishment like this.

However, that didn't mean I couldn't or shouldn't act. Stepping away from the wall, I raised my violin. I had no doubt about which song to use, even if it was normally forbidden. I needed Welsh to stay here, under my control— and I wanted him to confess all the wrong he'd done.

The first notes of the peoples’ song escaped my strings. With them I sent my silent command: Stop. Let him go. Face me. 

And he did. The anti-glow flickered away; the last notes of the Death Song cut off abruptly. The homeless man slumped, staring blankly before him, his chest slowly rising and falling. Damian Welsh turned stiffly towards me; stared at me. I mentally prepared my next command.

But before I could issue it, Welsh opened his mouth and spoke a single word: “No.”

The song choked off. Notes splintered and shrilled into fractured pieces. My violin strings snapped with a twang. And the power that I commanded just a moment ago broke from my control and instead wrapped around me.

Welsh advanced towards me. “Drop the violin.”

My mind resisted. My fingers did not. My violin and bow clattered to the ground. I winced, hoping that neither was damaged too much. Then again, I'm probably about to be damaged too much! With this thought in mind, I turned to run.

“No,” Welsh said again. My feet moved without my permission, and I faced him once again. He continued to stride towards me with slow, casual steps. “Well. Some of my associates warned me that someone might be after me. Is that you?”

Don't speak. Don't say a word. But my mouth wasn't mine any more than my feet were. “Yes.” And since I already said that much, I added, “You're going to face justice one of these days for what you did. You can't run forever.”

“Do I look like I'm running?” Welsh stopped in front of me and crossed his arms. “No one would believe what I've done, even if they found out the truth. Your chase has been doomed all along. Maybe you know that and that's why you came after me with your little song, trying to steal my power. Is that it?”

“My chase is not doomed,” I muttered. And then, because he hadn't told me not to, I sang air, pulling breath from his lungs.

Stop,” he gasped. The power in his voice, even with all the smoothness choked out, hit me like a punch to the throat. I broke off mid-note and stood with my mouth open.

Welsh took several deep breaths. “And be silent.” My mouth snapped shut. “You are wrong. Your chase ends tonight, mockingbird. I end it and take your life and your power to strengthen myself. Kneel.

I started to obey. Then red-orange light lit the street and a burst of fire rushed over my head. Welsh dodged backwards and to the side, and I felt his control of me snap. At the same moment, a girl's voice behind me yelled, “Run!”

I grabbed my violin and bow, stood, and took off all in one motion. A second fireball rushed past me, and I heard Welsh cry out in pain. This time I spotted the fire’s source: a red-haired girl in a t-shirt the color of the shadows and well-worn jeans. Another flame balanced on the palm of her open hand. “Follow me!” She tossed the final fireball at Welsh, turned, and dashed down the street.

“Got it!” I caught up and glanced over my shoulder. Welsh rolled on the ground, trying to put out the flame on his sleeve. He paid us no attention, but I wasn't about to take chances. As we ran, I shifted my bow under my arm and plucked an pizzicato melody of light and on my violin strings. At the next intersection, as we turned right, three other versions of my rescuer and me split off from us. One turned left and another went straight ahead, while the third disappeared into a sketchy-looking corner store.

My guide and I ran several blocks and finally stopped near an apartment building that looked like it should've been condemned years ago. I leaned against the wall, gulping down air, while my rescuer bent over, panting, hands planted on her thighs.

She recovered enough to speak first. “You ok?”

“Yeah.” I nodded, still breathing heavily. “Thanks to you. You ok too?”

“Yeah.” She straightened up. “Who was that guy?”

“A murderer. I've been hunting him.” I grimace, realizing anew how close I came to both success and death in that encounter. Why was I so stupid? If only I had used a different song, hadn't gotten caught up in my desire for his confession, I might be turning Welsh over to the police right now. Instead, not only did he get away— with a few burns, sure— he nearly killed me just like he did Lacey and so many others.

My rescuer's voice broke me out of my self-reproach. “A murderer?” She perked up, almost excited. “Who'd he kill?”

“A lot of people.” I lifted my violin to examine it in the dim light of the streetlamp. It was a bit scratched up, but aside from that and the broken strings, there was no damage. Thank God for that. I carefully replaced it in its case and turned my attention back to the girl. “That was cool, by the way. Your thing with the fire.”

“Thanks.” She held up her palm, let a flame spring up there and watched it dance. “You seem to have a thing too. With music?”

“Yeah.” The confirmation felt odd in my mouth. I hadn’t dared admit the secret out loud, even to myself, since I left home. Even then, no one but Grampa knew anywhere near the full truth of what I could do, and he only knew because he’d been there when I found out myself. There were plenty of people I would’ve loved to tell, sure- my parents, my siblings, Uhjin, my youth pastor back home, the worship leader at my church here in the city. But I didn’t want to risk losing them; didn’t want them to think I was a freak; didn’t want them to ask questions I couldn’t answer. So I kept silent.

But this girl already knew my secret, and I knew hers. So I sang a brief strain of notes and the flame in the girl’s palm took the shape of a dancing woman who leapt and pirouetted and then disappeared into a firework-burst of sparks.

“Cool.” The girl closed her hand and the remnants of the flame disappeared. “You were out busking earlier, right? By the statue? My friend and I saw you. You’re good. Were you doing your thing then?
“Thanks.” Am I that recognizable, even with the mask? I tugged my bandanna down around my neck before adding, “And yeah, a little, just for fun.”

“I thought so!” The girl grinned triumphantly. “Lannis thought there was something odd going on too, but I wasn’t sure if we were imagining it. So are you a real super? You know, like Starlight?”
“No.” I shook my head. “Just a girl with weird powers. You?”

“Same.” She shoved her hands in her pockets, disappointment flavoring her tone. “Anyway, will you be ok getting home now?”

“I’ll be fine.” I wasn’t hurt, thanks to her. Just shaken. “Just tell me how to get back to Archer Street and I can make it from there.”

“Archer Street?” The girl thought a moment. “Ok, you want to go three blocks down that street—” she pointed— “make a left, walk one block, then take a right, walk another block, and you’ll hit Archer. Got it?”

“Three blocks, left, right, one block. Yeah.” I adjusted the strap of my violin case and stepped away from the apartment building. “Couldn’t I just go four blocks down the first street?”

“You could, sure, but I don’t think you want to.” The girl shook her head. “Not unless you want more excitement tonight.”

“I’ll pass, thanks. And thanks again for your help. You seriously saved my life.” I suppressed a shudder, thinking again of what could’ve happened to me. “See you around sometime?”

“Hopefully.” The girl headed for the apartment building door. “Be careful.”

“I will.” I headed down the street she’d told me. Please God, get me home safely. I’m not ready for another near death experience tonight! 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fight Song Chapter Five

Last time in Fight Song, Callie met up with Jonathan again and formed a partnership that she hopes she won't regret. This week, she goes out and does a lot more stuff with her life than I ever do, and gets a chance to enjoy herself a bit in the process. As always, critiques, comments, and suggestions are more than welcome; please let me know what you think!


Chapter 5: Progress

            I don’t think I had a spare moment during the two weeks after that meeting. I worked long hours at the craft and music stores every day except Sunday, when I went to church with Uhjin and then used the afternoon to catch up on my share of the housework, cook something with enough leftovers to last me the week, look over the week’s findings in my investigation, and sometimes squeeze in extra practice on my instruments. Even on Sundays, however, evenings were as busy as the days. Some nights, Uhjin, stretching end-of-semester celebrations as far as they’d go, dragged me out to do something fun. Tuesdays I packed up my guitar and equipment and headed to the café to perform, and of course on Thursdays, I had practice with the worship band at church. But many of those nights I spent trekking across the city to meet with those on Jonathan’s list of people who might know something. Throughout the day, I checked every chance I got to see if people had responded to my requests to talk.

            Some were eager to answer, eager to tell me why the official reports got it wrong. One bereaved mother of an intern broke down crying midway through her story and protested again and again that, yes, her daughter had struggled in some ways, but she never would have killed herself. A frustrated father ranted about how his son had been shaping up lately, pulling his life back together after going down a bad path, even getting a job at his uncle’s shop; the boy couldn’t possibly have gone back to drugs, and he couldn’t have gone back that much, not enough that it killed him. The man’s wife sat silently by, clutching her husband’s hand, their fingers entwined, as if he were all that stood between her and utter despair.

            Others, I had to coax information out of. A group of teens, most just graduated from high school, admitted reluctantly that, yeah, their buddy liked a few drinks even if he was underage, and, yeah, sometimes he drank a little more than he should- but not that much. A single mother in one of the poorer sections of town demanded to know why I was asking so many questions and why it mattered what her son had been doing if he was already dead, and snorted disbelief at my claim that I was trying to uncover the truth so he could have justice. “Girl,” she said, “no one cares about justice for us. You should know that by now.” After that interview, I spent another two hours pacing the streets near her home, trying and failing to find some kind of trouble to stop, desperate to prove her wrong somehow. To show that someone cared. Even those who were willing to talk wondered why I wanted to know; after all, they’d already told the police everything. And next to no one had actual information on Welsh or on what might have really led to the victims’ deaths.

            Despite this, I did notice a few common threads in the stories. Everyone reported the same thing I’d noticed about Lacey: the victim had acted off for a few days before their deaths. “Zombie-like,” some said; “out of it,” reported others. The victims had responded slower than usual, tired more easily, and seemed generally lethargic. More than one night, I lay awake, theorizing about what that might mean about how Welsh had killed them. If he had some kind of power to suck the life from people, like I guessed, and if he truly killed them three or so days before they seemed to “die,” which the presence of the Death Song that night years ago seemed to indicate, why were people still walking around a few days after? That they’d be tired and slow made sense, but it seemed to me that they should’ve been unable to do much more than lay in bed.

And I picked up another theme besides that. Not only had Welsh often picked off those who would hardly be missed, whose deaths could be explained away, many of his victims had claimed they’d gotten help, that their problems would be gone for good soon, a few days before they seemed to die— around the same time Welsh would’ve made his move. Some even seemed cheerful or quietly happy during those days, at least during the first day, said the friends and family I talked to. I couldn’t help wondering: how many of Welsh’s kills had been premediated; how many of his victims he’d lured into a position where they’d be easy prey. How many he’d promised he’d help so he could instead kill them.

            Jonathan and I discussed these similarities at length during our three meetings in those weeks, but agreed that they weren’t enough. We needed solid evidence, or at least a testimony other than my own, but even as the list grew shorter, we still didn’t find one. Despite this, we emailed each other the day’s findings each night and met three times in those two weeks: once at Starbucks, once at the café, once at the park by the café, plus we made two excursions to interview people together. None of the meetings were especially productive, except that I grew to like Jonathan more and more as I spent more time with him, and especially as I watched him interview other people. Reporter or not, he had a good heart, and he respected people— not just his own sort of people, but all people. I still wasn’t about to tell him all my secrets, but I felt better about working with him.

            With work and investigations occupying so much of my time, I had to fight to squeeze in practice on my guitar and violin. I dragged myself out of bed early each morning to play for an hour or so on each in preparation for my gigs at the café, both of which went better than I expected, though not as well as I hoped. I felt I was preparing for something else as well, though I wasn’t sure what. Maybe for an eventual confrontation with Welsh; when that time came, I’d have no weapons but my music and my knowledge.

            By the third Sunday after I met Jonathan, we’d whittled our list down to the last half-dozen people, those who were still reluctant to talk to us or who Jonathan still hadn’t managed to track down contact information for. Uhjin was out of town that weekend, back home for her sister’s birthday, and she’d cleaned more than her share before she left to make up for the fact that she wouldn’t be able to help me at the normal time. And so, unexpectedly, I found myself with a free evening and less work than usual that afternoon.

            Now, I don’t work Sunday afternoons, no matter what. My parents raised me better than that. But busking isn't work, and the day was a pretty one. There’d be plenty of people out and about, which meant I might actually make some cash, something I could always use. So, after church, I rushed through cleaning, tossed chicken in the crockpot for the week ahead, packed a sandwich and a half-dozen water bottles for that night, grabbed my violin, and headed downtown.

            When I arrived, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one to decide today was a perfect day for street performances. A guitarist had already set up in the spot I wanted, just outside the fence around the city courthouse. I huffed and walked to my second choice, a modern art installation several blocks and two turns away. There, under a tree at the edge of the half-circle of brick surrounding the statue, I set up: laid my violin case open in front of me, stowed my water and lunchbox behind the tree, ran resin along my bow. I took my time tuning my violin, trying to attract a crowd. And then, finally, I raised my bow and started to play.

            Now, I’ve played plenty of pieces and plenty of places since Grampa first put a violin and bow in my then-eight-year-old hands. I’ve performed Christmas carols in candlelit services at my church back home and classical concertos with the college string quartet in the echoingly huge auditorium. I’ve played old folk songs and spirituals and hymns with Grampa and Gramma in their cozy living room and pop music in school talent shows in dim school auditoriums. I’ve experimented with mixing melodies and styles in the privacy of my own room, and even dabbled in jazz so I could jam with my junior year boyfriend, a sax player, when I came over to his house.

            My favorite place to play, though? Right where I was: out-of-doors on a brilliant, breezy spring day. Playing indoors meant being careful. It meant keeping a close grip on the music I played and, more importantly, its effects. Just about any song I played contained at least a few other songs in it— the sort of song that let me do stuff like trap a mugger’s feet in concrete. Sometimes those other songs were barely there, and then I could relax, but that was rare. And my favorite songs to play were often the ones that carried the most power, which made them the most dangerous to play indoors, especially in front of people. Usually I could keep the weirdness under control: suppress what I could; channel what I couldn’t suppress into things like making the lights a little bit brighter, the breeze from the fan a little bit harder. Sometimes I lost control, though, and had to step carefully for weeks afterwards for fear that someone would realize that I’d been the one who made all the sprinklers in the auditorium go off or who caused the power surge that knocked out electricity for an hour solid.

            Outdoors, though— that was another story! Outdoors, I could play what I wanted, whether it was Paganini or pop; spirituals or Lindsey Stirling; and never mind what other songs those might include. I could use them; turn them into a thrum in the ground like feet stamping to the beat of the song, breezes brushing through the hair of passersby, dots of circling light like fairies or fireflies, or whatever was appropriate to what I was playing. None of it couldn’t be explained away by natural causes, or as a trick of the light or the ears or the mind, but all of it attracted passerby attention and enhanced the experience for both me and my listeners.

            And there’s another reason I love playing outside: the ways people react. Some people— most people— didn’t seem to notice me at all, just kept walking past at the same quick pace, chatting with friends about shopping and dinner and gossip. But others slowed as the song caught their ears, picking up the tune in their pace as they passed. And still others stopped altogether, shutting their eyes and swaying to the tune and cheering when I finished the song. One grandpa and his grandkids stopped to listen for a solid seven songs, at the end of which the old man handed each of the kids a five and a couple crumpled ones and nudged them forward to toss the money into my violin case and say thank you.

And, yeah, a few people tossed rude comments my way as they passed, sometimes catcalls, sometimes outright insults. One woman even stomped up to me and ranted in my face about how I was “wasting taxpayer dollars” by “making trashy music instead of getting a real job”— never mind that I was playing classical music at the time— interspersing insults about my race and my parents’ relationship, employment, and work ethic or lack thereof to make her point. But those people were a minority, and, well, I’d heard worse.

Except for a quick break to eat my sandwich and use the restroom in a nearby shop, I didn't stop playing until blue twilight shaded the streets and shadows stretched between the golden circles of light from the streetlamps. Only then did I wipe down my violin and scoop the coins​ and bills out of my case so I could put away my instrument. I didn't count the money, but I could tell that my listeners had been generous, so much so that I guiltily wondered if I had accidentally played the peoples’ song— though surely I'd know if I had.

I kept a defensive song on my lips as I hurried down the darkened streets, my wallet and coin purse heavy in my jacket pockets. I knew enough to avoid the worst parts of the city, but the part between me and home still wasn't the best once the sun went down. A girl like me— alone, carrying a violin case over her shoulder and a lot of money in her pocket— looked like easy prey to plenty of people out here. I'd had more than one close call before.

But I wasn't the one the predators were after that night.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Fight Song Chapter 4

Hey'a, everyone! We're back with another chapter of Fight Song! Last time, Callie contemplated life and avoided making decisions about her future. This week, she meets a familiar face from a few chapters ago, gets information, and makes a plan (as well as some movie references). Also, for those who've read the Teenage Superhero Society blog, yes, this is the cafe you think it is.

As usual, comments, critiques, and suggestions are welcome. I'd love to hear what you think!

Chapter 4: A Bargain

Jonathan didn't reply to my email until the next morning. Same time is fine, he wrote back. But can we meet at the cafe by the park instead? He added an address, one I recognized as the cafe where I'd be gigging this summer. Hopefully he doesn't go there often . . . 

I responded in the positive and headed out. Saturday or not, I had work to do: six hours at the craft store and then another three at the music store. I wished occasionally that it could be the other way around, but I was lucky to have the music store job at all. Sometimes it seemed like every freshman and sophomore music major at college wanted to work there as well. And I had to admit: the craft store was a much easier environment; the temperamental musician might be a stereotype, but it’s sometimes an accurate one.

Both stores were busier than usual, with hardly a slow minute all day. If I wasn’t running the register, I was being called to work stock, and if I wasn’t doing that, I was helping Rebecca Coburn with the kid’s craft demo— friendship bracelets today— or trying to explain to high schoolers that if they’re going to mess around with the music store stock but not buy anything, then they should at least be careful.

After my shift at the music store ended, I had just enough time to run home, change, put on my makeup, grab a sandwich, and dash out the door. I ate on the move, walking as fast as I could, but even so, I reached the café nearly ten minutes late. This time, however, Jonathan was alert and watching for me. He waved me over when I entered, and when I reached the table, I found an extra mug of coffee on the empty side of the booth. “For you,” he explained, waving a hand at the mug. “Kenyan blend, with cinnamon.”

“Thanks. Do you usually buy random strangers coffee?” I sat down and raised the coffee towards my mouth, but didn’t drink. Instead I sniffed. No odd scents, just delicious coffee and cinnamon. Was it really just a nice gesture, then? Nothing sinister?

“You seem like you could use it, no offense, and this place’s Kenyan blend is amazing.” Jonathan shrugged. “If you don’t want it, I’ll drink it.”

“I wouldn’t turn down free coffee in a million years, thanks.” I sipped the hot brew. Jonathan was right; it was good. “So, what more did you have to tell me?”

“Give me a minute to pull it up.” Jonathan tapped keys on his laptop. “By the way, did whatever you had to rush off for work out?”

“It . . . it turned out fine.” His tone suggested that he knew . . . something. About my powers, maybe? About what I’d been doing? He can’t. There’s no way . . . I was careful. Wasn’t I? Not careful enough, maybe. But how do you draw the line between saving others and keeping yourself safe?

            “Glad to hear that.” Jonathan glanced up from behind his laptop. “So, yesterday I told you about how Welsh’s travel seems to line up perfectly with various insufficiently explained deaths, including the one you told me about— which was in my records, by the way, but none of the reports I read suggested anyone had seen anything suspicious before the girl’s death. If they had, I would’ve tried to reach out to you sooner.”

            “I told you I called the police. They just thought I was imagining things. It happened in the middle of the night, after all.” The fact that I didn’t tell them the whole story probably didn’t help matters. “Anyway, you also said that you had more information, and some kind of . . . offer.”

            “Right.” Jonathan turned his computer, showing a similar spreadsheet to the one from yesterday. This time, however, the list of names was shorter, and all of them seemed to be located in Foundry City. “You see, I believe Welsh committed one of the classic blunders—”

            I couldn’t resist. Business or no business, that was too good an opportunity to pass up. “He got involved in a land war in Asia?”

            Jonathan rolled his eyes. “I walked right into that one, didn’t I? No.”

            “Oh, so he went up against a Sicilian with death on the line?”

            “Good grief.” Jonathan gave me a distinctly annoyed look. “Do you want my help, or do you just want to quote The Princess Bride at me?”

            “Yes. I do want your help. Sorry.” I tried to look and sound contrite, but I was pretty sure I failed. “What classic blunder did he commit?”

            “Potentially commited, and he killed where he lived.” Jonathan flipped back to the spreadsheet he showed me last night. “Almost all of the kills that I think can be attributed to Welsh occurred in other towns and cities, places where he was known by few and was passing through quickly enough that he would remain unknown. All, that is, except these ones.” He clicked back to the shorter list. “Some of them worked at his company; it’s possible that he killed them because they got close enough to figure out what he was up to. Others . . . there isn’t a connection that I can see, but I’m working on a theory about that as well.”

            I took another sip of coffee. “Which is?”

            “I’m not ready to share it yet.” Jonathan glanced around distractedly, found his own coffee, and pulled it closer to him. “They all do fit the description of those he killed elsewhere, however: outsiders, people who would never be missed, or at least who wouldn’t cause much of a stir if they died because they’re already living on the edge.”

            “Makes sense.” It occurred to me that, if I hadn’t seen Welsh kill Lacey, I would probably think Jonathan was crazier than I was. Nearly every death on either list could be easily explained by other causes. Some had apparently been homeless; others, hard partiers and addicts; still others, old folk living along; and others again, decent folk who, evidence suggested, had been in abusive homes or relationships. But for each person, Jonathan also listed reasons why their deaths didn’t add up: someone supposedly dead from drug overdose had been on the road to recovery; a teen supposed to have killed herself hadn’t shown any signs of being suicidal. “How did you get all this information anyway?”

            “Plenty of hard work and bothering people until they answered my questions.” Jonathan took a drink of his own coffee. “Knowing where to look helps as well.”

            I guessed I wasn’t going to get more information than that. “Right. Well . . . you mentioned you had an offer. What was it?”

            “Simple.” Jonathan sat back in the booth. “I continue to share information with you. In return, you help me with the legwork, and I get first claim on whatever story comes out of this.”

            “Sounds fair.” More or less what I’d be doing anyway, but with direction and a partner. “What kind of legwork are we talking?”

            Jonathan gestured at the list. “For one thing, speaking to the friends and family of the deceased, particularly those who don’t fit the usual pattern and who had connections to Welsh. I have a list of those too that I can give you. It’s possible that some of the deceased might’ve mentioned something that can help us. Beyond that, keep doing whatever you’ve been doing and share your information with me. Agreed?

            I considered a moment— but only a moment. Jonathan seemed trustworthy enough, even if he was a reporter. And he had resources I needed. “Agreed.”

            “Excellent.” Jonathan turned his laptop to face him once again. “I’ll send the information I have to you, along with a ranked list of those who I’d like one or both of us to interview. Look over the list and tell me who you’re willing to try to contact; I’ll take the others. We can keep up to date on each other’s activities via email, then meet back here in, oh, let’s say a week to touch base and plan our next moves.”

            Well, you certainly take charge. I couldn’t really argue, though. And it was kind of nice to have someone else taking the lead. “Thanks, by the way. Are you sure you’re willing to keep going with this, though? Digging too deep could be dangerous for you.”

            “I’ve come this far; I’m not about to stop now.” Jonathan looked up from his screen. “I can’t just let a murderer run loose without doing something to stop him, nor can I stand by and let a girl do the dangerous work for me.” He paused. “Er. Not that I meant to suggest you’re incapable, it’s just—”

            I cut him off. “You’re fine.” With a bit of a grin, I added, “I’m all for being a strong, independent woman and all that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate chivalry.” Goodness knows I don’t get offered it much.

            “Good.” Jonathan cleared his throat. “From a more selfish perspective, releasing a story on the investigation and capture of a rampant serial killer would do wonders for my career.”

            “I bet it would. Might even top Jason Keller’s super scoops.” I forced a laugh. The last thing I needed was for Jonathan to realize and report that I have powers. I'd have to be doubly careful whenever I worked with him. “Well, I guess you probably need to get going? Stories to chase down and that sort of thing?”

            “Not really, no. There aren’t a lot of big stories going down right now. Now, if I could figure out who super sank a mugger four inches into the tile at Fifth Street Station, that would be something.” Jonathan gave me a look I couldn’t read. “It doesn’t fit Starlight’s M.O., and no other known supers have that kind of power. I don’t suppose you saw anything after you ran out last night?”

            “Not a thing.” I silently ask God’s forgiveness for that blatant lie and wonder if He’s sick of hearing me pray the same prayer over and over yet. “I’d guess whoever did it didn’t want anyone to know, if they didn’t stick around.”

            “Probably not. Still would be nice to know, though.” Jonathan took a long drink of his coffee. “Since you asked . . . do you need to go?”

            “Sort of, yeah.” I stood, picking up my coffeecup. “I should probably look through your list, if you email that to me. And there are other things I need to do.” Actually, I just want to get out of here before he asks too many probing questions, but I’m not about to tell him that. He needs to think that I have nothing at all to hide.

            “Right.” Jonathan resettled himself in his seat. “Well, have a nice night.”

            “You too. I’ll keep you updated with who I can talk to and all that. Thanks for the help.” With that, I headed for the door. I officially had an alliance now. Maybe even a partner, if you could call it that. I could only hope I wouldn’t regret it later.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Mid-Year Book Freakout 2017

Original picture via
Hey'a, everyone! We're halfway through the year, which means it's time for the first half of the "Best of 2017" roundup. As you might remember, last year, I did the Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag instead of the standard Top 10 list. Although I haven't been tagged again this year, I decided to do it again anyway, because answering a list of questions is a lot easier and more fun than trying to sort out my top ten books from however many I've read up to this point.

That number, by the way, is 62, which is pretty close to what I'd read last year around this time. Again, the number is probably off by a little because of webcomics and anything I reread in January. I think I need to raise my Completely Arbitrary Challenge to 111 instead of 99 . . . oh well. Anyone interested can see my full challenge at Goodreads.

1. Best book you've read so far in 2016:
. . . Wait, why did I think this was a better idea than a list? I still have to pick. Help. 
Oh. Wait. There's a very obvious answer here.


I am still convinced that Genevieve Cogman's The Invisible Library and its sequels were written specifically for me; they pack so many of my very favorite book-things into each deliciously devourable volume. There's dragons and intrigue and steampunkery and mystery and a magical library and amusingly-dramatic-but-also-creepy villains and brilliant endings and fabulous characters and did I mention the magical library? The only thing that could make me happier than rereading this book (which I plan to do in the next week or so) would be living in it.

A couple other books which I loved:
Hexwood was strange and confusing and delightful and brilliant, as befits a Diana Wynne Jones novel. It's sort of sci-fi and sort of King Arthur retelling and sort of fantasy and sort of a bunch of other things and 100% awesome.
The Firethorn Crown by Lea Doue is a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, "The 12 Dancing Princesses." It's not as good as Entwined (what is?), but it has dragons and sisterly sisters and a creepy villain who I don't know what to do with. Oh, and I've said this before, but I want to be Neylan, because anyone who's fabulous enough to have dragons sitting in their hair is obviously someone worth aspiring towards.

And Plenilune was magnificent, though rather dark in places. The prose is beautiful, the story is full of simmering suspense, and Dammerung is just amazing. I don't think you can review Plenilune without mentioning him, because he's possibly the best part of the book. I did sometimes have trouble keeping names straight, but . . . such is life.

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2016:
Oh, that's an easy one! Hands down, the answer is Samara's Peril by Jaye L. Knight.
The Ilyon Chronicles definitely get better with each new release. I absolutely loved Samara's Peril: the focus on family, the plot, the epic battle at the end, the adorableness of Jayrin, and Jace's character development (and other stuff relating to Jace that made me immensely happy), and the theme of atonement and there's just a lot of awesome, ok?

Also, speaking of books that have a lot of awesome, the sequels to The Invisible Library, The Masked City and The Burning Page are both just as amazing as the first book. Just saying.
3. New release you haven't read yet but want to: 
I don't know why I haven't read Thick as Thieves yet, but I think I'm going to blame the library, 'cause I'm 99% sure I requested it but it didn't come in for some reason, and so I had to request it again and now I'm hoping very, very hard that it arrives in the next couple weeks. I need more Eugenides, people. 
Also, almost everything on my Spring 2017 Reads list would qualify except for Dragonwatch. I would be done with the whole set by now, but I sort of got distracted by the Invisible Library books . . . I regret nothing.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:
Oathbringer Oathbringer Oathbringer give me my Oathbringer please! It's supposed to release in November, and I can't wait! I haven't had new Sanderson in a whole year. I'm hoping very hard that it doesn't get pushed back, but I haven't heard anything really about it since the cover released so I'm a little worried? But I need more Sanderson, and White Sand volume 2, which also releases this fall, isn't going to cut it.

I'm also super excited for Lightporter, the newest IDIA book from C.B. Cook.
That said, I already read the book (perks of being a beta reader/friend of the author!) so I mostly just want it to come out so I can properly fangirl over it. For now, let me just say that it's better than the first book and I had a theory but the theory was wrong but it was still awesome.

5. Biggest disappointment:
Can we count rereads? If so, I was kind of disappointed that I didn't enjoy Showdown more. I mean, it never was my favorite Dekker book, but I'm pretty sure I read it twice, so I must've enjoyed it to some degree. But this time it just seemed . . . lacking. Also I realized I disliked most of the characters, so that didn't help.


If we're going with new-to-me books, I guess Coralina. Again, I didn't expect to enjoy it that much in the first place, since Coralina and I never got along in the first book either. But I hoped I would like it more than I did.
6. Biggest surprise:
I'm going to go with another Nine Princesses novella: Heidel by Anita Valle.
Heidel is definitely my favorite of the Nine Princesses now. She loves cooking, she has a temper and no interest in dressing up or romance or whatnot, she's practical and competitive and she's just fun, ok? I think we'd be buddies. And the story is fun- not perfect, but fun, and I enjoyed the plot.

Another surprise was The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud.
After The Hollow Boy, I nearly gave up on the series because of Lucy's angst, but now I'm glad I didn't. We've got character growth and answers and questions and revelations and just a lot of fun. If the rest of the series is more like this than The Hollow Boy, I'll look forward to the books a lot more!

Finally, while I expected to enjoy Nimona, I didn't expect how much I'd love it:
It's an urban fantasy graphic novel with a pair of villain protagonists- one considerably more honorable than the other- and it's kind of sad in some respects but it's also a lot of fun. It's got science and magic and shapeshifting and sharks and yeah.  
 
7. Favorite new-to-you author:
I think y'all can guess this, but: Genevieve Cogman, author of the Invisible Library series. Which, as previously mentioned, is amazing and awesome and Made For Me. Y'all need to go request the books from your library now, ok? Just trust me; you won't regret it.

8. Newest fictional crush/ship:
Leilani and Brick from Beggar Magic are adorable, ok? Brick is deaf and uses sign language, and Leilani is into languages and gets him to teach her sign language (slowly) so she can talk to him and he's so loyal and protective and I love them to pieces.

As for fictional crushes- for once I have one that I can entertain without feeling vaguely guilty, because Marcus Altair from the Ilyon Chronicles is currently unattached and he's definitely my type and if he were real, I would date him in a heartbeat.

9. Newest favorite characters:
(See? There's an s on the end. I totally didn't add that just now. Why in the world would I do that? Just because I don't want to choose . . .)
  • Irene from the Invisible Library series is basically what every bookworm aspires to be (capable, confident, trained as a spy, able to gallivant about different magical and sci-fi worlds and access a magical library containing at least one copy of every significant book ever), but she's still human and relatable.
  • Also Silver from the same series, even though he's an antagonist, because he's dramatic and creepy and witty and has a strange enemy-mine relationship with Irene and is just generally fun to read.
  • Dammerung from Plenilune is just awesome and intense and surprisingly funny? But also Fey and terrifying and yeah.
  • Mordion from Hexwood because, well, he's Mordion. He's possibly the best part of the book. He needs a blanket and a large mug of hot chocolate. I can't really explain him; you just have to read the book so you can meet him.
10. A book that made you cry:
***ERROR****BOOK NOT FOUND***ERROR***QUESTION INCOMPATIBLE WITH SUBJECT'S PERSONAL HABITS***ERROR***

11. A book that made you happy:
Beggar Magic by H.L. Burke was absolutely delightful. It has steampunk and mystery and an adorable ship (see the aforementioned Brick and Leilani) and a lovely friendship between Leilani and Zebedy and a very interesting magic system. I'd quite like a sequel, but I have a suspicion I'm not going to get one.
12. Favorite book to film adaptation you've seen this year:
Um. Do comic books count?

If so, Doctor Strange, which featured time-based superpowers and an egoistic, skeptical hero who basically does an entire about-face by the end of the movie, without losing what makes him interesting, and reality warping and generally a lot of awesome.


If comic books don't count, we're going with Merlin again, 'cause it's awesome and I need a modern-day reboot please.

13. Favorite post you've done so far this year:
As per the usual, I can't pick just one, but a few favorites:
  • My Mistcloak Tutorial, because it's a project I wanted to do for a super long time.
  • February Beautiful People: Couples Edition because I got to write Jared and Bianca interacting again.
  • March's Character Encounter, in which I met my characters and a bunch of author-friends at Indie E-Con.
  • Also, I started posting Fight Song, and if you aren't reading it, you should be. Or, at the very least, I'd appreciate it if you read it. Prologue is here, if you missed that.
14. Most beautiful book you've bought/received so far this year:
I actually haven't bought or received many books yet this year. I guess in terms of cover, I'm going to go with Storm Siren, which my roommate gave me for Christmas (but I didn't actually get until January):


15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
There's plenty of those . . . but a few of the top ones:

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan  
(and however many other Wheel of Time books I can manage)

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig
Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner

Shadow Run by Adrianne Strickland and Michal Miller

Exiles by Jaye L. Knight
Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
I'm not going to tag anyone, but feel free to steal the tag anyway if you feel like it. Or, if you don't want to make your own post, I'd still love to hear your answers in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

June 2017 Doings!

Wow. That was a long month. On the upside, that means I've got plenty to say here. On the downside . . . are we sure that was just one month? We are? Ok then. Guess that means I'd better get started on this post, 'cause there's a lot that happened since my last Doings!.

Writing!

  • Did I actually beat both my writing and editing goals for June? Yes I did!
  • Well, more or less, anyway. I wrote almost two new scenes for Destinies and Decisions, so that counts towards both writing and editing. I'm quite happy with the scenes, but I think I need to cut down one of them, because Ariana's backstory and me trying to create culture kind of took over everything and it's sort of sidetracking the actual point of the scene, which is that someone is getting poisoned.
  • And then I got tired of working on Destinies and Decisions (or possibly just didn't want to face the fact that I need to cut down that scene), so I went back to working on Fight Song and edited about two chapters, took a couple weeks off, and edited another two chapters. So now I have about a month's worth of buffer, which means that I should be able to post chapters regularly all through Camp NaNoWriMo. Which is this month. What even.
  • I also started compiling worldbuilding information about my different worlds on my phone so I'm not just storing it all in my head and a notebook that I usually forget to take places with me. At the same time, I'm working out how I can connect my major storyworlds into a multiverse, since I've already established that several different stories have multiple worlds and that'll save me some trouble later on because I won't have to keep inventing new worlds when people worldhop; I just have to decide which existing world best suits my needs (and, if necessary, create a new continent in that world because so far, there's exactly two worlds where I have sort of established that there's multiple continents and exactly zero where I've developed those other continents). But that also gives me the opportunity to do cameos and crossovers if I want, which I think could be super fun. Even without those, it's been pretty cool working out how the different worlds relate to each other in terms of magic levels and when they were created and how much people travel to and from them, plus I realized that one of the worlds that's I've only mentioned and haven't actually visited would logically be either pretty sci-fi or pretty dystopian or both and now I'm super excited to write a story set there, if only I had more time.
  • Of course, if I spent a little less time on Pinterest and Candy Crush and a little more time editing and writing and stuff, I probably would be able to get a lot more done. But oh well.

Reading!

  • Huzzah for another good reading month! All but four of those books I read during my hiatus, which isn't surprising; I almost always get a lot of reading done in the mountains. It's a definite highlight of June.
  • The other highlight of the month was reading The Masked City and The Burning Page, which, if you missed my post yesterday, are the sequels to The Invisible Library and are every bit as awesome. I seriously cannot rave enough about this series; it's all kinds of fabulous and unlike some of my other favorites, the books are short enough to read in an afternoon. I would say more, but you're going to hear me rave about them a fair bit when I do my Mid-Year Book Roundup, so . . .
  • Going back to the start of the hiatus, I intended to go on a Great Dekker Reread. About five years ago, I counted Dekker as one of my favorite authors, mostly because of the Circle and Paradise trilogies. However, I hadn't read his books in a while, so I decided to reread them and see how they held up. Sadly, it wasn't great. I still enjoyed the Circle trilogy the most, but compared to Sanderson and Stengl and Tolkien, his books feel almost shallow, driven too much by emotion and passion to suit me. (Don't get the wrong idea; there's still some excellent stuff in there, including some unique ideas and a fantasy world that's a nice change from the standard medieval Europe setting. They just aren't as great as I used to think they were.) Saint suffered more; it's supposed to be a thriller, but this time around, I didn't get much of a thrill. The best part of the book was honestly the villain, which is something I don't say very often. As for Showdown and Sinner . . . Well, I DNF'ed Showdown after remembering how annoying most of the characters are and how ew-please-no creepy Marsuvees Black is, and once I did that I didn't bother with Sinner.
  • All that said, while I don't love Dekker's books as much as I used to, I'm glad I read them when I did. They shaped who I was then, and just as importantly, they shaped my writing and led to some of my favorite stories I've written. Without the Circle trilogy, I would have no Berstru Tales because Rachelle wouldn't exist. Without Saint, well, Between Two Worlds would probably still exist but it wouldn't be the same story it is today. So, yes, I'm not the fan of these that I once was, but I still owe their author a great deal.
  • Aside from invisible libraries and not-so-great rereads, the rest of the month's books were good, but not spectacular. As expected, I quite enjoyed Beggar Magic (steampunk! mystery! fun friendships!), The Lord God Made Them All (an excellent end to the series of biographies, particularly since we get to meet Herriot's kids), and Thief of Time (Discworld weirdness, as usual, but there's Susan and there's time-related powers, so that's awesome). More of a surprise were Dragonwatch (which I didn't expect to like as much as I did), Heidel (which is officially my new favorite of the Nine Princesses novellas), and The Creeping Shadow (which definitely redeemed the angst of the previous book). The only new-book disappointment of the month was Coralina, since it's really hard to enjoy a book when you can't root for the heroine through most of it.
  • On a final book-related note: I also listened to an audio drama of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was fun. I was already familiar with the story, having listened to a heavily abridged kids' version of it many times when I was younger, which was a good thing because sometimes the voices were rather difficult to keep straight. I enjoyed the story, and I'm quite pleased to have slightly expanded my Shakespeare experience . . . even if some of the lines I remember best are, quite honestly, Helena and Hermia's fabulous insults for each other in one particular scene.

Watching!

  • Has been canceled because I had no time to watch anything in June. I thought about re-watching Avengers: Age of Ultron and found a site where I can watch Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, and Serenity, though. So that's something?

Life!

  • The month started out with my yearly hiatus/cabin camping trip. As usual, that was a lot of fun. While I love the internet and technology and wouldn't want to live without it, it's nice to take a break now and then and enjoy nature. We did plenty of hiking (though not as much as we have in some previous years) and shooting, I took lots of pictures (which I still need to edit), we roasted marshmallows, all that fun stuff. I think this was actually one of our better trips; the weather was surprisingly nice, which meant we spent much less time walking in mud and debating whether or not to go out and risk the rain and freezing while Daddy set up to take pictures at some scenic overlook, and much more time enjoying ourselves.
  • As usual, on our way back from camping, we stopped at my grandpa's house for a couple days to rest and recuperate and do laundry before making the long drive home. While we were there, we drove into Pittsburgh for an afternoon. We didn't do much there, just walked along Mount Washington and rode the incline and, once again, took lots of pictures. Again, I still need to edit them . . . in my defense, I've been busy, plus my mouse broke a few months ago and I was waiting until they went on sale for back-to-school to get a new one.
  • And then we got home! Finally! We were all pretty tired, and we knew we'd be traveling again in about a week, so you'd think we just stayed comfortably at home until that next trip. Right?
  • Wrong! Because that Tuesday, look where we went . . .
  • That's right, Niagara Falls! When I was younger, I really wanted to see Niagara Falls, but we were in Virginia and we never made it up there. But in New York, we're close enough to make a day trip out of it . . . in the sense that we were back home within 24 hours of when we left, anyway, not in the sense that we got back home the same day. We did all the usual things: walked around to the different overlooks, went through the Cave of the Winds (which is not actually a cave but which was cool enough to make up for that disappointment, because you're almost right under the falls in some spots), rode the Maid of the Mist (also very cool, and the falls look waaaay bigger from the bottom), took lots of pictures, all on the American side and all before dinner. Then after dinner . . .
  • I went to Canada! Which is mostly just exciting because it was the first time I'd been out of the USA, not because Canada was all that remarkable, at least the bit I saw. It honestly seemed a lot like the USA, just with more French and a different view of the falls. (On that topic: I will admit that Canada has the more scenic view of Niagara Falls, but you can get more exciting pictures on the US side, at least in my opinion.) That said, I'm sure Canada is much more exciting when you're more than a mile from the border. And we did get to see fireworks over the falls while we were there, so that was cool.
  • We finally got back at 2:00 the next morning and had a couple days to rest and recuperate before leaving once again, this time for Virginia, on a Top Secret Mission. Actually, it's not especially secret because I think a few of you either know or can guess what we were doing there. But as far as anyone who doesn't know (or is an internet stalker person) is concerned, it was Top Secret. It also lasted just over a week, which was rather longer than we hoped, but that's ok because look what I got:
  • If you can't read the titles: that's four Wheel of Time books, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Howl's Moving Castle (because my copy was falling apart when I got it and I found a really pretty copy of the same version), The Queen of Attolia, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (all four books! hardcover! in really good condition!). Our trip lasted just long enough that I could go to the big library book sale that happens every July, so I ended up spending ten dollars for nine books (or thirteen, depending how you look at it), and it was marvelous. I almost got Dune as well, but decided to wait until I'd actually read the book to buy it, just in case.
  • And then we went back to New York for a week of welcome rest and planning for more trips, because let me tell you, July's going to be plenty busy. Speaking of which . . .

July Plans!

  • There will be much travel. I can't say more, but we're going to spend a lot of time packing, which I don't look forward to, and a lot of time in the car, which is actually sort of a good thing, because the other major thing that's happening in July is, of course . . .
  • Camp NaNoWriMo! I'm working on a Snow White/Goose Girl retelling for the Five Poisoned Apples contest. I think it's going to have an Asian-inspired setting and feel, so that the whole "black as ebony, white as snow, red as blood" thing makes slightly more sense (because paleness equaling beauty was a legitimate thing in ancient China and Japan, and literally the only other way I can think of to justify it is to make Snow White a vampire and I'm not sure how well that'll fly with this contest). I'm sure I'm not the first person to come up with that idea, but oh well. Hopefully it'll turn out well; right now I'm second guessing basically everything about this potential novella. (Of course, the decision to procrastinate serious planning on it until two days before Camp NaNo started probably didn't help matters . . .)
  • Those two things will probably keep me pretty busy, but if I happen to get bored, I still have plenty of summer reading to catch up on, plus some spring reading that I didn't realize was out. And there are several books I want to reread if I have time . . .
  • Also, I really want to go blueberry picking, because there's a farm that does that not too far from my house in NY, and the blueberries are so much better than storebought. Plus you can pick blueberries with minimal bending down or accidentally reaching into spiderwebs or anything like that, and you can eat while you pick. And then you have fresh blueberries at home for ages afterwards. What's not to like?
How was your June? And what are your plans for July? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fight Song Chapter 3

And we're back, after . . . Oh stars, it's been a month, hasn't it? I'm sorry. I'm possibly a terrible person. Or maybe I'm just a busy one. We're going to go with that and also going to try to post more regularly in future. We'll see how it goes. 

Anyway. Last time, Callie stopped a mugger in his tracks- literally; with her songs, she left him stuck in the floor of a Foundry City subway. This week, Callie gets a bit of downtime and contemplates both her past and her future. As per usual, comments, critiques, suggestions, and questions are welcome in the comments.

Chapter 3: Past and Future

The remains of my adrenaline rush coursed through my veins as I trekked back to my apartment, meandering a bit in case anyone happened to be following. I sipped my coffee as I walked. It had gone lukewarm, and I probably should've tossed it, particularly if I wanted to get to bed early, but I couldn't stand the thought of wasting good Starbucks.

At least the evening had been a productive one. I knew who I was looking for, and would hopefully get more information on him soon. And my encounter with the mugger proved that all my practice had paid off. I could control the effects of the songs, not just as a party trick, but effectively. Next time Welsh and I met, I'd be able to defend myself and, if necessary, his intended victim.

All the same, the encounter left me-- well, not drained like the first few times I ran into this kind of thing, but off-balance. The mugger's insults stuck in my head even when I finally turned down the street to my apartment. "Think you all that just because your mother sold herself to some mad scientist?"I knew it wasn't unheard-of on the streets, a pregnant woman or new mother with no home or money letting a crackpot scientist more interested in what he can do than what's right experiment on her child in return for enough cash to pay rent and buy food for a few months, even a few years. Usually the experiments were unsuccessful. Those that weren't, well, the kids probably would've been better off if they had failed.

I reached my apartment building and started up the steps. Just because that happens to some people doesn’t mean it happens to everyone. The mugger had just been plain wrong about that. Dad was a scientist, yeah, but a legitimate one, working for the government on some kind of space-y thing that had nothing to do with supers. And sure, there had been that one time when I’d been visiting and something weird happened— I’d been too young to understand what— and everyone freaked out, but my powers hadn’t showed up until years later. Dad had nothing to do with it.

Of course, that didn’t mean I didn’t get tired of people assuming he did.

I dug my key out of my pocket and opened my apartment door​. No one greeted me, naturally. Uhjin, my roommate, would be out celebrating until tomorrow morning. I'd learned that well in our two years of friendship: if there was a social event, or an excuse for a social event, Uhjin would be the first there and the last to leave.

I, on the other hand, still wanted to fall into bed early. But I had things to do first, and my coffee had kicked in at full power. So instead I fetched my ancient laptop from my room, scrubbed off the heavy makeup I wore to keep from being easily recognizable, and settled on our worn couch. Opening my email, I skimmed the list of unread messages. Nothing important, so I typed a quick note to Jonathan: Sorry about tonight, but thanks for the info. Can we meet again tomorrow? Same time, same place? By then, I'd be off work at both my music and craft store jobs, since I changed my hours now that class was over. And I should have time to eat and hopefully practice too before I head out.

Next I checked the news. Nothing much there was especially interesting either. I scanned headlines and clicked a few articles: one about refugees from the Middle East, one about Starlight and another superhero, Swordsman, chasing off a not-so-Big Bad who very briefly tried to establish his rule over Foundry City, and one editorial wondering just how many unknown supers are out there, living ordinary lives and trying to keep out of the public eye. The author reached the conclusion that there could be that many, that anyone with powers was guaranteed to take action as either hero or villain eventually. I laughed at that, yet I had to admit: she might not be wrong.

After all, look at what happened tonight. And this was hardly the first time. Freshman year, these kinds of incidents had been rare. I'd spent most of my time on-campus, and though I'd tried to search for​ information on Welsh, I really hadn't known where or how to look. This past semester, on the other hand . . . Well, Uhjin and I had moved to a cheap apartment because it cost less than dorm housing, but as my search started to bear fruit, I spent more and more time out and about. It was easy to stay out late when no one but Uhjin asked where I'd been, and half the time, she was out later than I was. And the longer I stayed out, the more I saw or heard trouble and found myself getting involved. At several points, I found myself actively seeking it out. I felt I could make a difference that way.

But I knew it couldn't last, not like this. I wasn't a real superhero. Not like Starlight or Storm in real life or Black Widow or Wonder Woman in the movies. Eventually, someone would see me and recognize me, and I'd have to go into hiding or something in order to have a halfway normal life. Or else I'd cross the wrong person and have someone hunting me while I hunted Welsh. Or I'd mess up and get myself hurt or killed. There were so many things that could go wrong, and I knew something had to change.

I just didn't know what.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer 2017 Reads

Hey'a, everyone! Summer is officially here (even though it feels like it's been here for a while), and with the new season comes a new books! Even though I'm still catching up on the spring releases, I'm pretty excited about some of the novels coming out in the next few months. And, as usual, I'm using today to showcase some of the ones I'm looking forward to the most.

Before I get started on that, though, a quick note: I plan to do Camp NaNoWriMo this July despite the fact that I'm probably going to be running all over the place throughout most of that month. If anyone is interested in being in a cabin with me, please tell me in the comments!

And with that, this summer's releases!

Summer 2017 Reads

1. The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson (June 1)
Ok, this one's technically already out? Which I didn't realize until just now. But June releases count as summer and I am definitely looking forward to this book. It sounds like it might be urban fantasy, which I really want to read more of, but I think it also has a touch of portal fantasy? And I'm generally super curious to find out what it actually is. Also, I don't judge books by their covers, but that cover is gorgeous.

2. Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser (June 6)
So this one is also already out, but in all fairness, I didn't even find the book until recently. It does sound pretty unique, though! Pirates and politics and ship-board fantasy- all things I've read a little bit of (or a lotta bit of), but generally not all together. I look forward to seeing what this holds.

3. Exiles by Jaye L. Knight (July 14)
Prince Daniel! We get to see more of Prince Daniel! I can't wait! Hopefully that'll mean twisty court intrigue as he tries to avoid his sister's attempts to discredit him, but even if it doesn't, I really like Daniel, I was quite disappointed that he didn't show up that much in the last two books, and I can't wait to see more of him here. It sounds like he gets his own subplot, basically, so yay! Of course, I want to see what the rest of my favorite characters are up to as well, especially Jace and the Altair boys. Well, Altair men; Marcus, Liam, and Kaden aren't really boys at this point. And maybe this'll be the time that I buy the book when it actually comes out instead of getting it half a year later . . .
4. The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell (July 18)
So this has urban fantasy and historical fantasy and time travel and heistiness and secret societies and if not for the fact that it also sounds like it'll be kind of dark, I'd say it was another of those books that could've been written just for me. Dark or not, it sounds awesome, and we've got magic in modern New York and in early 1900's New York and a heroine who can manipulate time and travel in time and just give me the book now please.
5. The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana (July 18)
 So the reviews for this book on Goodreads are not exactly fabulous. However, the premise is pretty cool. It's got an Indian-ish setting, which is definitely different and something I'd love to see done well, and a magical library, which is always a good thing. Apparently one of the characters, Thala, is also especially cool? We'll just have to wait and see how this goes.

6. Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody (July 25)
Again, this sounds like it'll probably be pretty dark. I mean, anywhere called the "Gomorrah Festival" can't possibly just be sunshine and daisies, you know? But it's also a fantasy murder mystery set in a circus-city and it sounds absolutely fascinating. I am always down for a good fantasy mystery. Let's just hope it doesn't get so edgy that I have to set the book down . . .

 I'm mildly confused by the fact that there are apparently no books coming out in August that I'm looking forward to? I mean, yes, there's enough coming out in the previous three months to keep me busy, but still, usually August has something. Do you know of anything I missed, in August or another month? If so, please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Three Sleeping Beauties Cover Reveal

Hey'a, everyone! So, my hiatus ended up lasting a little longer than anticipated, due to unexpected traveling (among other things). But I'm back now with another cover reveal for not just one but three fairy tale retellings! These retellings by Kendra E. Ardnek, Morgan Huneke, and Rachel Roden focuses on the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty" and take three very different twists on the story.

First up, we have Kendra's story, Poison Kiss, which is the one I'm most excited for. Not only does it feature a very different look at the classic tale, but it also combines the story with "Puss in Boots," and let me tell you, I absolutely love a good mash-up retelling.



About the Book

Everyone knows that Sleeping Beauty's curse is triggered when she pricks her finger on a spindle and that she is awakened by true love's kiss ... but what happens when the wicked fairy decides to switch things up?

Edmund didn't mean to put Auralea to sleep, but now it's up to him and the famous Puss in Boots to figure out how, exactly, a spinning wheel is supposed to awaken her.

About the Author
Kendra E. Ardnek is a homeschool graduate who picked up a pen at an early age and never put it down. The eldest of four, she makes her home in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her parents, younger siblings, giant herd of giraffes, and honor guard of nutcrackers. 

What do you hope readers will love best about your story? 
The plot. I never write a straightforward story, and this book is no exception. I keep the story twisting all the way through.  

Find Poison Kiss on: Goodreads || Amazon 
  
Find the author on: Website || Blog || Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Pinterest

As a note, Kendra previously wrote a "Sleeping Beauty" retelling: the first in the Bookania Chronicles, a humorous and surprisingly twisty series of fairytale mashups. She just finished rewriting that book, entitled Sew, It's a Quest, and the story is currently up for free on Smashwords. Eventually she plans to make it free on Amazon as well, if anyone is interested.

Our second story, Twisted Dreams, is by Morgan Huneke. I haven't read any of Morgan's previous works, though I have a few of them on my Kindle. However, this take on Sleeping Beauty sounds pretty fascinating, featuring alternate worlds and the promise of drama.


About the Book

“I, Calandra, of the Wingans, do bestow upon you, the Princess of Hanover, a gift. You have been given long life. I cannot interfere with that, but when you are sixteen years of age, you will prick your finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into an everlasting sleep.” She stepped closer so that she could be heard only by Liesel and her parents. “Then you will at last see the truth. Be wary. Be wise. Your fate rests upon yourself.”

On her sixteenth birthday, Princess Liesel Rosanna falls victim to a sleeping curse—but wakens in another world, a prisoner of war. As the bait in a trap for her fiancé, the crown prince of Hanover, Liesel longs to escape back to the fairy tale world. The world where she is only wanting a true love’s kiss to set everything to rights.

As situations quickly grow dire, Liesel must choose which story to live, which life is real. The fate of her country rests on her decision.
About the Author
Morgan Elizabeth Huneke is a homeschool graduate who lives in Georgia. She has enjoyed creating characters and writing stories since early childhood. Books have always been a big part of her life, never more so than when working at the local library. Her other interests include reading, playing and teaching piano and violin, and politics. She is the author of Across the Stars and The Experiment as well as the Time Captives fantasy trilogy.

What do you hope readers love best about your story?
Probably the characters. No story is really worth reading without great characters, no message really means anything without them. I hope readers will come to love Liesel, Will, and Matthew, that they will find inspiration and characters they can relate to in these three…though considering what I have planned for their futures…  

Find Twisted Dreams on: Goodreads || Amazon
 
Find the author on: Website || Blog || Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Pinterest

Our third and final retelling, Rosette Thornbriar, is the debut of Rachel Roden (who happens to be Kendra's mum). I'm not sure if this is fantasy or not, but it is western, and it sounds fantastic either way. 



About the Book

Once upon a time, way out west...

Back when they were young'uns, Fleur Guardstone proposed to Rosette Thornbriar with a cigar band ring. However, not long after, she disappeared back into the forest and hadn't been heard from since. However, when Fleur hears reports of smoke coming from that woods, he's determined to find out if it is, indeed, his dear Rosette. If he can get past all of the briars.
About the Author
Rachel Roden is a natural story teller, capable of weaving the most hilarious of fairy tales. She fell in love with the Lone Ranger in her teens, but ended up with a basketball referee instead. Together, she and the Ref homeschool their four children in the Piney Woods of East Texas, as well as any other odd kid who ends up in their house. She might also be the sole human who still uses math after college.

What do you hope readers will love best about your story?
I really have not thought much about it. I hope readers love my story, of course. But since it is a fairly short story, it is hard to say what they might love best. It is a light-hearted western full of humor but tries to tell the story without the element of magic. I hope they like the "fun" that I put in. 
 

Find Rosette Thornbriar on: Goodreads || Amazon

Find the author on: Blog || Twitter || Pinterest

All three novels release on August 7th. For more details, keep an eye on Kendra's blog, Knitted by God's Plan.

Which of these stories are you most excited for? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)