Saturday, June 30, 2018

Steel and Shocks: An IDIA-TSS Crossover Fanfic

Allo, all! June Doings! and my mid-year book roundup should be posted sometime in the next week, but before then, have a fanfic. This was written for C.B. Cook's fanfiction/fanart contest, based on my thought that obviously the two superhero universes she's worked on— IDIA and the Teenage Superhero Society— had to come together eventually. It's not the best piece I've ever worked on, but I had fun with it. Also, cookies for anyone who realizes what the villains are a reference to. (For the record: they're well aware of who they're referencing, and are doing it 100% on purpose, mostly because they get as much of a kick out of it as I do.)

Steel and Shocks: An IDIA-TSS Crossover Fanfic

I’m sitting on the back deck, savoring the last of a strawberry popsicle, when Lannis’s voice bursts into my head. Art park downtown! At the new statue! Emergency! Now! Masks on!

I pulled the popsicle stick from my mouth. What? What’s happened? No answer; Lannis has pulled out already. I jump up and dash back into the kitchen. “Mom, Lannis called! Gotta go!”

Mom looks up from her cookbook. “TSS business?”

“Yeah. I’ll be careful, don’t worry. Bye!” I give her a quick hug and then head upstairs. I need my costume, and then . . . Darn it, how far is the art park? I can’t take the car . . .

I throw on my costume— leggings, tunic, boots, cape, mask, taser in a belt pouch— finishing moments before Saxon— no, sorry, Watcher; she’s masked up— appears in my room. “Ready?”

“Yeah.” I grab her hand. “Do you know what’s going on?”

“No clue. All I know is that there’s a lot of people screaming.” She shrugs, and the world blurs and vanishes. Seconds later, it reforms, and we stand with our backs to a tall hedge in the Foundry City Art Park. The hedges encircle a pebbled open area with a statue at the center, the latest in a series that’s been installed around the city. This one is a series of stacked silvery bubbles, pretty cool-looking.

Significantly less cool-looking are the crowds running, screaming, away from the statue, not to mention the three people that they’re running from. One of them, the one standing on top of the statue, is literally on fire all over, and he— no, wait, she— is shooting fireballs at the running people. Another, a young teen boy with hair dyed dark blue, is floating in midair, creating an ever-widening cyclone of stiff winds around the statue. The third, a broad-shouldered woman whose skin looks like it’s made out of scale-textured metal, isn’t doing anything yet— but somehow, she’s still the most intimidating of the three. I gulp. Oh, great. Legit Big Bads.

With all the chaos, I don’t realize for a few moments that not everyone here is running for their lives. Nightfire’s circling the statue, redirecting the fire-girl’s attacks back at the wind-manipulator and the metal woman. One woman, I’d guess she’s about Starlight or Lannis’s age, actually has a pistol out and is shooting round after round at the supervillains. She’s not hitting anything, as far as I can tell, but I can tell where some of her bullets are going, and they’re so far off-target that one of the supervillains must be interfering. And there are another two girls, my age, helping to evacuate the civilians. Both of the girls are wearing masks along with their street clothes, one red and feathery, the other shimmery and blue. They don’t look like any supers I know, but I guess that doesn’t mean much.

I finally spy Lannis— Clarity, rather— further along the hedge and run towards her with Watcher close behind. “Clarity! What’s going on?”

“I don’t know.” Clarity’s face is screwed up in concentration. “Nightfire and I were here for the dedication ceremony, for the statue you know, and all of a sudden, these three just showed up and attacked. I’m still working on getting into their heads to find out why.”

“Oh.” I wonder if I should do something, but no one appears to be hurt, and I don’t have any offensive powers. “Is Starlight coming?”

“She’s on her way.” Clarity pauses. “Oh. More people are here.”

She points, and I look. Sure enough, two new guys just appeared near the statue. One looks almost as intimidating as the metal woman: as big as she is, wearing a leather jacket, a grey mask, and a look that says you’d better not mess with him. The other guy is about my age, with fudge-brown hair and a glossy black mask.

Leather jacket guy doesn’t hesitate. He starts towards the metal woman, who grins— and keeps grinning even when he puts out a hand and sends her flying back into the statue. She’s not injured; she just picks herself up and launches herself at him.

Clarity’s not talking, and I still can’t do anything to help with the fight— I really need to buy a good Glock, or learn martial arts, or something— so I join the other two girls my age in evacuating the remaining civilians. There aren’t many of them, but a few have been hit by fireballs that Nightfire couldn’t redirect. I heal those and then return my attention to the fight.

With no more civilians to target, the fire-girl is focusing all her attacks on us supers, and Nightfire’s deflecting them all back at her and her team. Starlight’s arrived— finally— and she and leather jacket guy have teamed up against the metal woman, now without her metal skin. I can’t see Watcher or the younger guy, but bursts of light keep exploding around the wind-manipulator. The woman in the leather jacket has abandoned the fight in favor of discussion with Clarity, so I head towards the two of them, hoping for new instructions. Across the way, I see the other two girls doing the same.

We’ve only gone a few steps when leather jacket guy manages to throw the metal woman at the statue again. This time, however, she flies up before she hits it and flips over the top. I hear her hit the ground on the other side, but she doesn’t reappear. Instead, the statue shakes and then a single piercing note stabs my eardrums. I shriek and cover my ears. The fire girl throws her head back and laughs, pumping her fist— only to be hit by a fireball from Nightfire, a burst of metal projectiles from leather jacket guy, and an explosion of light from who-knows-where all at once.

She topples off the statue, hits the ground, and lies still.

“Dragonsbane! No!” The wind-manipulator whirls in mid-air, ignoring the attacks now turned on him, and shoots a swirl of blue-glowing wind at the fire-girl. It hits and surrounds her with the same blue light. “Healing breath of the heavens, restore my friend!”

Ok, that’s super weird. But weird or not, it works. Dragonsbane gasps, opens her eyes, and then pushes herself back to her feet to continue her attacks. I dash the rest of the way to Clarity. “Did you find out anything?”

She shakes her head. “Not much. Their minds are partially shielded; I can’t figure out how. I know they’re part of a larger group, though.” Clarity gestures at the woman in the leather jacket. “This is Data; she knows more.”

Data nods. “They call themselves the Izado. Their group just started making trouble earlier this year; they got on our radar because the metal-skin one, the one Anvil and your Starlight are fighting, used to work for FOE. Their goal seems to be to eliminate all supers who won’t join them. Unfortunately, that includes everyone here in Foundry City.”

A yell pulls our attention back to the fight. Dragonsbane just hit leather jacket guy— Anvil, I guess?— with a wave of flame. He staggers back, obviously in pain. The metal woman lunges forward inhumanly fast, grey rippling over her skin. She punches him, one-two, a normal fist to the jaw and a metal one to the burned area. Then she turns and launches herself at Starlight.

Starlight starts to dodge, but fast as she is, the metal woman is just barely faster and tackles her with a steel shoulder to Starlight’s ribs. Starlight hits the ground hard with the woman on top of her. The wind-manipulator, still in the sky, whoops. “Get ‘em, Steelscales!”

Dragonsbane aims another ball of flame at Anvil, but Nightfire deflects it so it shoots towards Steelscales instead. She catches it with a metal fist, which starts to glow red-hot. Then, with a grin, she punches down at Starlight. Starlight just barely twists aside, and the woman’s fist grinds into the pebbly ground.

“We have to do something!” I can’t believe that Starlight seems to be losing. I mean, yeah, I’ve discovered since meeting her that she’s more human, more fallible than she seems. But she should be doing better than this. Shouldn’t she? Then again, if she’s already taken several hits . . . Please, God, let her be all right.

The flames around Dragonsbane die down, revealing a wild grin and spiky hair with pink-dyed tips. “Steelscales! Wingwinds! We’re done here; let’s go!”

Steelscales scowls. “Don’t tell me what to do.” But she vaults off Starlight anyway and runs for the exit. Dragonsbane dashes towards another. Wingwinds starts to fly in a third direction, but before he can get far, I hear a familiar yell from the sky. Wingwinds drops abruptly like something’s fallen on top of him.

Watcher appears on top of Wingwinds, clinging to his shoulders. “Hey!” she yells at Anvil. “He’s got metal on him. Pull on it; help me out here!”

He groans but reaches out a hand anyway. Wingwinds drops faster than before, though he struggles and tries to shake Watcher off. Finally, he hits the ground with a smack and a moan. “Owwwwww . . .”

Watcher sits up on top of him. “Hey, Clarity, I got one of their guys. You want to interrogate him?”

“I will, thank you.” Data steps forward. “I’m Data from the International Defense and Intelligence Agency. IDIA for short. We’ve been tracking the Izado for several months now, and when we heard they were planning to strike in Foundry City, we came to investigate. We didn’t expect an outright attack just yet or we would’ve brought more combat-oriented members.” She glances at me. “You’re Remedy, correct? Their healer?”

“Yes.” It takes me a minute to get the hint. “Oh. Yeah. I’ll go do that.” Starlight’s sitting up, one arm wrapped around her ribs, but she still looks like she’s in pain, and Anvil’s laying there like he doesn’t really want to move. I don’t exactly blame him.

I head to Starlight first and crouch beside her— by now, she’s less intimidating than Anvil. “What do I fix?”

“Broken rib. At least one.” She moves her arm as I place my hands on the injured area. “Advice for you. Avoid fighting metal people hand to hand. It’s unpleasant.”

“I don’t really plan on fighting anyone hand-to-hand, but I’ll remember that.” I finish and stand up. “Ok. You’re good. You’re sure nothing else needs healing?”

“No. Save your power.” Starlight stands, wincing despite her words. “Go help Anvil. I’m going to have a talk with these newcomers.”

“Right. Ok.” I glance after her as she goes. She’s obviously still sore; if she was any other member of the team, any other person in general, I’d find an excuse to hug her and sneakily heal the rest of her injuries. But Starlight doesn’t do hugs, especially not surprise hugs— I know from experience— so I’ll just have to trust her.

I move on to Anvil and wince when I see the bright red burns all over his face and chest. His steel grey mask has escaped damage, somehow, and his leather jacket is only scorched, but his t-shirt is a tattered, blackened mess. I kneel next to him. “Hi. I’m a healer. I’m going to have to touch you to heal this, ok?”

Anvil nods. “Go on. Medic back at headquarters does the same thing.”

They have a healer too? I wonder if I could meet her, or him, whichever, but now’s not the time to ask. I gently place my fingertips on the burns and pull the power through me into the injuries. The burns disappear from the middle outward, not even a scar left behind. “Ok, face next.” Those heal faster since they’re smaller. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”

He shakes his head and stands, offering a hand to help me up. Good grief, he’s tall. “I’m Anvil, by the way.”

I take his hand and use the opportunity to send a little extra generalized healing power into him, just in case. “Data told me. Nice to meet you. I’m Remedy— sorry; I should’ve said that earlier.”

“Remedy, huh?” This is a new voice. I turn to find the shorter guy— who’s still taller than I am— standing nearby. He flashes a grin. “Want to join IDIA? We could use another healer?”

“Ummm . . . I, uh . . .” How are you supposed to respond to that?

Thankfully, Nightfire jogs over and comes to my rescue. “Remedy already has a team, sorry. We’re the Teenage Superhero Society. Who are you anyway?”

“I’m Blaze.” He gestures to the two girls I saw earlier, who I now realize are identical save for their masks. “These are Jazz and Pop. Jazz has the blue mask; Pop has the red one. You’ve already met Anvil.”

Before the conversation can go any further, a yell bursts out from the direction of our leaders and captive. We all turn just in time to see Data and Watcher fly backward into the hedge. Wingwinds rockets into the sky. “Who can hold the wind? No one, that’s who! Winds of the western sky, lend me your speed!” With that, he flies away so fast he leaves a breeze in his wake.

I dash towards the group left behind. “Is everyone ok?”

Watcher picks herself up and dusts off her jacket. “I’m fine.”

“We both are, but not for long.” Data stands and heads towards the statue. “I was able to read him and learn the Izado’s plans. This statue and four others around the city hold superpower-neutralizing devices. In an hour and a half, all five will release a blast that will turn every super in the city into ordinary humans. This attack was simply a cover so they could activate this particular statue, the control for all the others.”

I gasp. So do several others. Nightfire doesn’t. “So what? We just destroy the statues. Problem solved.”

“Unfortunately, no.” Data reaches the statue and starts inspecting it. “We can and should eliminate the other four. However, destroying this one will cause the others to go off early. And even one is enough to severely weaken everyone’s powers.”

“So we evacuate everyone?” Pop suggests. “Or, all the supers, anyway?”

“How?” Clarity shakes her head. “We don’t have a way to contact all the known supers quickly unless Starlight has one that she’s not telling us about. And even if we did, there are supers who haven’t revealed themselves publically yet, and we have no way to warn them. Maybe I could broadcast a telepathic message to the whole city, but then everyone would panic.”
“Agreed. Evacuating everyone in time is impossible.” Data glances at Blaze. “Blaze, go get Volt. Wingwinds implied that there’s a computer element to the device; she’ll know how to help with that.”

“On it.” Blaze salutes and disappears. Apparently, he’s a teleporter like Watcher.

I raise my hand. “I don’t know about disabling anything, but I might be able to delay the blast. I can slow down time around this statue to half, maybe even quarter speed. Then we’d have twice or four times as long before the others go off.”

“Unless the others are on their own timers, in which case they could all go off while we’re still standing here.” Nightfire circles the statue a few times. “There’s got to be a transmitter in here, at least. I don’t know about a computer. Does this thing open up?”

Blaze reappears, along with a tall girl whose purple mask matches the dyed ends of her hair. “Here I am. What’s going on?”

Everyone tries to explain at once until Data yells for quiet and recaps the entire episode in a few short sentences. When she finishes, Volt nods determinedly. “Well then. This is doable. Data, did you get anything at all from Wingwinds about how this works?”

Data shakes her head. “Nothing. Apparently, Steelscales designed it.”

“Figures.” Volt sighs, and she and Nightfire go to work.

Data turns to the rest of us. “While they work, we need to destroy the other devices. Then we can mitigate the effects if we fail here. We’ll split into three groups: one here, two others each destroying two statues. Anvil, you’ll lead one team. Starlight, will you take the other?”

Starlight nods once, her face giving no clues as to how she feels about Data taking charge like this. Data goes on. “Jazz and Pop, one of you should join each team and stay in touch with one another. Clarity, I understand that you’re also a telepath. I’d appreciate if you stayed with me and kept tabs on both teams.”

“I can do that.” Clarity manages a smile— not that you can see it since her costume hides the bottom part of her face, but it shows around her eyes. “Anyway, someone has to keep an eye on Nightfire.”

Nightfire glances up from the statue to roll her eyes at Clarity. Both Clarity and Data ignore her. “Watcher, I believe you’re a teleporter, yes? You’ll join one team; Blaze will go with the other. That leaves Remedy.”

I know I’m not really useful in this situation. I don’t have offensive powers, I won’t be much help in destroying the statues, and I’m not a mindreader or a teleporter. Even so, I can’t help feeling like I’m a kid getting picked last for the dodgeball game again. “I guess I could just stay here and . . . um . . . stand guard or something?”
But Data shakes her head. “Go with one of the teams. The more people we have out there who know the city, the better. If another group needs your powers, someone can teleport you there.”

Anvil speaks before Starlight can. “I’ll take her, Jazz, and Blaze.” He looks at me. “I hope you have some idea where the other statues are.”

“They’re probably the other four in the series.” I glance at Starlight. “Right? I know where all of those are, more or less.”

“That seems logical, yes.” Starlight considers. “My team will take the one by the museum and the one on North Central.” She beckons to her team— Watcher and Pop. “Let’s go.”

“Right. See you all later.” Watcher grabs both other girls and they disappear.

Blaze grins. “Come on, can’t let them finish first. Remedy, where are we going?”

“Um.” I search my mental map. “There’s one near the corner of Franklin Avenue and Madison Street. Is that good enough?”

“Perfect. Grab on.” Blaze holds out his hands. I take one, Jazz grabs the other, and Anvil places a hand on Blaze’s shoulder. Lights and colors flash around us. The next moment, we're standing in an alleyway, looking out on Franklin Avenue.

I duck out and glance back and forth. “To the right, I think.”

Anvil steps out after me. “Lead the way.”

I do, hoping I remember correctly. Apparently, I do because a few minutes later, we find another silvery statue, this one shaped like a sphere with a lot of swirls growing out of it and twining together as they reach towards the sky. Anvil studies it a moment, then reaches out one hand. The statue trembles a moment, then implodes in on itself until it’s nothing but a lump of metal no larger than a bowling ball. The few people who had stopped to admire it look around in confusion, but they don’t seem to notice us.

Anvil tucks his hands back in his pockets. “Easy enough.”

“Great!” Jazz pauses. “Ok, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that Volt and Nightfire got the first statue open and found the control panel for the device. The bad news is that the control panel is, for some reason, connected to the internet. And Data touched the control panel.”

Blaze groans. “Oh no. So she tried to download the internet again.”

“Basically. She’s out cold.” Another pause. Jazz scowls. “More bad news. Volt and Nightfire found a timer. We’ve only got fifteen minutes left.”

“What?” I exclaim, unable to hold it in. “But we were supposed to have an hour and a half.”

“Apparently Wingwinds lied.” Another pause. “On the upside, Pop’s team got their first statue too. Pop’s gushing over how Starlight apparently just turned the whole thing into gas. Now they’re heading to their next statue.”

“We’d better hurry too.” Blaze holds out his hands again. “Where to this time, Remedy?”

“Furnace Street. Near the bank.” I frown, taking Blaze’s hand. “I think. It might be Forge Street. I always get those two mixed up.”

“Guess we’ll find out.” Blaze does his thing, and we reappear in another alleyway, this one directly across from the bank.

I peer out at the street. “Oh, good, I was right. And the statue’s right there.” I point. This one is kind of a cross between a flower, a tree, and firework, still in silvery metal but with edges painted gold and purple. It’s a shame we have to destroy it. “Can you crush it from here?”

“Yes.” Anvil reaches out, but before he can do anything, something launches itself off the roof of the building beside us and lands on top of him. He goes down with an “Ooooffff.” Steelscales rolls off of him and comes up on her feet, a smirk of triumph on her face.

Anvil picks himself back up. “I didn’t think you’d be back.”

Steelscales lunges forward, fists flying. “Like I’d let you ruin all my hard work, idiot. I’m here to stop you.”

None of her blows connect. Instead, she skids back— Anvil must be pushing on her dozens of piercings and metal accessories. Then he pulls a handful of small metal pieces and shoots them at her like a hail of bullets. “Why bother? The device will go off in less than fifteen minutes. As soon as it does, you lose your powers just like the rest of us.”

Steelscales spreads her arms. As soon as the first pieces of metal hit her body, her skin ripples and turns to silvery metal. “Do I look like an idiot? When I devised the power neutralizer, I made sure I found a way to shield myself from its effects. How else was I going to test it without accidentally getting rid of my own powers? I’ll be fine, but—” She launches herself at Anvil again. “You? You’re going down, and so is every other super in Foundry City.”

Anvil doesn’t reply, just pushes his hand forward again. I guess he’s trying to throw her back like he did before, but instead, she rockets up, flips over his head, and tackles him from behind. “Just give up already. Tell you what, if you surrender, I’ll let your friend teleport you and the rest of your crew out of the city. You can run around playing Superman a little longer.”

“I am not— going— to lose— a fight— to a girl— made of— metal!” Anvil manages to roll himself and Steelscales over so he’s on top of her. He pulls her arm away from his throat, then pushes himself onto his knees.

Steelscales launches herself back up and grabs his neck again. “Yeah, keep telling yourself that. Meanwhile, I’m going to crush you.”

Anvil grunts and pushes himself to his feet. I bite my lip, watching. We need to do something, but what? It’s a miracle that Steelscales hasn’t taken out the three of us already.

I feel a touch on my arm and hear Jazz’s voice poking into my head. Blaze is keeping us invisible. He does light manipulation, not just teleportation.

Oh. That makes sense. Can we use that somehow? I know my powers still won’t do any good. My taser, though . . . if she’s made of metal or has metal skin or whatever, she’s probably vulnerable to electricity, right? And if I can sneak up on her while I’m invisible.

Oooh. Good idea. Jazz again. Hold on. She’s silent for a minute, then: Ok. Blaze, you hold onto Remedy and both of you sneak up behind Steelscales. Then, Remedy, you get her with the taser and grab her, and Blaze, you teleport all three of you back to Data and Volt.

Got it. I pull out my taser and make sure it’s ready for use. Blaze grabs my shoulder. We both break away from the wall and creep towards Anvil and Steelscales.

As we get closer, Steelscales glances back. “What was that?”

Oh no she heard us. I grab Blaze’s wrist with one hand and lunge forward, jamming the taser against Steelscales’ bare shoulder, and pull the trigger. Electricity arcs between the two prongs and all over Steelscales’ body. She jerks and spasms, unable to control her movements. Anvil pulls free and turns around.

I drop the taser and grab Steelscales’ shirt. “Blaze! Now!” Light swirls around us, almost blinding this time. Then we’re standing by the statue once more.

I let go of Steelscales. “Got her! How long do we have left?”

“Only a few minutes.” Clarity steps forward, peels off one glove, and carefully puts her fingers against Steelscales’ forehead. She winces, and her face twitches. Then she pulls back and announces, “Try 10-r-o-e for the password.”

“10-r-o-e. Ok.” Volt taps furiously on something half-hidden by this side of the statue. “I’m in! And now . . .” She presses a few more buttons. The statue lets out a high-pitched whine, followed by a few cracks and muffled explosions. Volt grins proudly. “I sent a deactivation signal to all the devices, then ran the self-destruct command on this one.”

“Well done.” Data, who’d been lying next to the statue, blinks and sits up. “Blaze, take Steelscales back to headquarters and put her in a cell, one with the power dampener turned on. Then find Trav and come pick up the rest of us.”

“Your wish is my command.” Blaze salutes at Data and grins at me. “Nice meeting you and your friends, Remedy. We should get together again sometime. Tell the others I said bye.”

“Nice to meet you too. You know where to find us.” I smile and wave as he disappears, taking Steelscales with him.

Data stands shakily and turns to Clarity. “Thank you to you and your team for your help. We couldn’t have pulled this off without you. And while I understand that you’re not interested in joining us, Blaze has the right idea. We should try to meet up again and discuss how we could potentially work together.” The corners of her mouth curve up like she’s holding in a laugh. “But next time, we’ll try to leave the supervillains at home.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Fight Song Chapter 19

Last time on Fight Song, Callie hit the streets again— this time masked, costumed, and with a new name: Songbird. This week, she finds what she's been looking for— and, unsurprisingly, trouble along with it. Once again, our guest character appears by permission of her creator. Also, many thanks to that creator for helping me sort out certain aspects of this scene. 

As always, comments, critiques, questions, and suggestions are welcome. I apologize for the fact that I haven't been responding to comments as much as I normally would. Blogger's stopped notifying me of new comments, and I'm still trying to figure out how to fix the issue. Thanks for your patience in the meantime.

Chapter 19: Song and Star

            That night found me on the streets again, mask in place and violin in hand. I plucked a quiet song as I walked, forcing just enough light to go around me to hopefully render me almost invisible. In the shifting shadows of the street, it seemed to mostly work. A few people peered uncertainly in my direction, but the majority didn’t notice me at all. The pair of violent drunks who I chased away from a scared-looking young woman certainly didn’t, nor did the would-be car thieves whose tools became suddenly hot in response to my song— they remained unaware until I changed my tune and suddenly appeared, too close for comfort and already attacking.

            Yet midnight came and went, and my chances of finding Starlight seemed slimmer and slimmer. Finally, weariness overpowered my hopes, and I turned towards home, still picking out my illusion melody. After playing it for hours on end, I was starting to wonder if its advantages were really worth the tedium.

            Then, just as I was approaching the overpass near the park, a scream ripped through the night from under the bridge. I immediately dashed down the slope towards the sound. What’s going on? My sneakers skidded on the slope of grass and rocks, but I caught my balance just in time and made the rest of the descent more carefully.

            At the bottom, I found the source of the scream: a girl surrounded by a group of four men. One had her pinned against an overpass pillar, one hand on her chest and the other at her waist, while the others cheered him on. I scowled. Beasts. Then I raised my violin, let my illusion disappear, and played a staccato burst of notes.

            Light blazed in front of the eyes of the four men, blinding them. The man pinning the girl stumbled back, and the girl slumped to the ground and tried to make herself small. I took two steps towards them and switched to another melody, softening the concrete beneath their feet.

            But they recovered faster than I expected and rushed at me before their feet could sink. I backed away, changing tunes mid note. Flames leapt to life on two men’s jackets, singing their hair and ears. Both yelled and dropped to the ground to try to put out the flames. The third man was nearly on me before I could stop him— but my bow in his eye sent him stumbling back, and a few hummed notes of air brought him to the ground.

            I turned to face the fourth man and had to duck under a punch. I backed away two steps and set my violin bow to the strings again, softening the concrete beneath his feet and beneath the two who’d just managed to extinguish their flaming jackets. The two on the ground sank and were trapped again before they could react. But the fourth man nimbly leapt onto the asphalt and pulled a shining knife. “I heard about your trick, birdie. You won’t get me that way.”

            I didn’t bother to respond, instead humming heat into his weapon. He grinned and held up his gloved hand. “Heard about that one too. Nice try.” Then he lunged for me, swiping up with the red-glowing blade.

            Darn it darn it darn it— I dodged away again and nearly tripped over the two men stuck in the concrete. Darn it! Three notes produced another burst of light before the man’s eyes, not as strong as the last but enough that I could put more distance between him and me. Then I switched my song again, returning to the melody of fire.

            Flames licked along his jacket, but he didn’t drop, just shrugged it off. It fell to the ground and lay there, slowly burning. “You got lucky so far, birdie. But how about you stop poking your nose where you aren’t wanted before you get hurt?”

            “How about no?” I switched songs again, this time to air. “How about you surrender?”

            The man’s eyes widened as he fought to draw breath. He didn’t answer, just lunged at me, slashing wildly with his knife. My song screeched into discord as I jumped back, narrowly avoiding the blade. Nopenopenope— I recovered, but he’d gotten a good breath and came at me again.

            Gotta deal with the knife first. A few notes of light created another brilliant flash to blind him and give me a chance to put distance between us again. I shifted to the sharply ordered song of steel, combined with the rhythm of time, to blunt and wear down the knife blade until it was too dull to cut anything but the softest butter.

            By the time I finished, my opponent had recovered. He circled to the side, more wary now than before. “What makes you think you’re so special, birdie? So much better than the rest of us, that you get to meddle in our business? Do your fancy powers give you the right to tell us what to do?”

            “No. But you’re hurting someone, and I’m not about to stand around and let you.” I played another rapid string of notes— air again, pulled faster than before. At the same time, I hummed the song for asphalt, softening it just enough to put him off-balance.

            He took two steps towards me, gasping, then stumbled and fell headlong, out cold. I sighed in relief and lowered my violin. Then a click from behind me threw all my senses back into high alert. I whirled around to see the man whose eye I’d gotten with my bow. He was back on his feet now, a gun in his hands and aimed towards me. Oh no—

            He pulled the trigger before I could move, but in almost the same moment, I heard the melody of his gun and bullets shift sharply. Both vanished, their only trace an expanding cloud of slightly darker than normal vapor. The man’s eyes widened, and he tried to run, only to hit a wall of solid air.

            I looked over my shoulder, and there she was. Starlight, cape and all, stood on the hillside above me. She nodded cordially to me. “Songbird.”

            I’d wonder how she knows my name, but, well, this is Starlight. I nodded back. “Starlight. Thanks. He caught me off guard.”

            “You’re welcome.” Starlight flicked her fingers. One pair of handcuffs appeared around the man’s wrists; another, slightly larger, connected his ankle to the arm of one of the men trapped in concrete. “You seemed to be handling the situation well.”

            “Definitely better than the last time you ran into me trying to fight off four men, yes.” Did she know that Songbird and Ava are the same person? She must. But I didn’t want to run the risk that she’d missed that. “Did you call the police yet?”

            “I did.” Starlight’s gaze flicked over my beaten opponents. “What were these ones doing?”

            “Tormenting some girl. She’s . . .” I glanced around. No sign of the girl. “Run off, I guess. Smart of her.” I looked back up at Starlight. “Can I talk to you quick?”

            Starlight’s eyebrows rose slightly behind her mask, but she beckoned for me to join her. I started up the hillside, but once I reached her, she turned and headed for the top. Once we were up by the bridge, she faced me once again. “Yes?”

            “I . . .” I hesitated, suddenly awkward. “I just, well . . .” I reached into my pocket and pulled out the USB drive. “I need your help again. With something else. It shouldn’t be much trouble for you this time, though. You already know about Welsh— the man I’m trying to stop. I’m going to confront him— soon. And, well, this is all the information about what he’s done and what I’ve found out and what I’m planning to do, and I was hoping you’d take it and keep it safe?” I offered her the USB in an open palm. “Just in case I fail? Please?”

            Starlight took the USB drive and tucked it into a belt pouch. “I’ll take it back to my base. Thank you for trusting me with it.” She paused, gave me an inscrutable look. “Do you need help in this confrontation of yours?”

            “I—” I blinked. “Are you . . . offering?”

            “I am. Assuming you haven’t told this person that you’re coming alone?” Starlight’s tone suggested that doing so would be a completely idiotic idea. I tend to agree. “I’m certain that he won’t.”

            I shook my head hastily. “No, I didn’t.” And I didn’t tell him to either— that actually was stupid. But Starlight seems to think that it wouldn’t really matter, and she’s probably right. And she has a point. Jonathan and Uhjin both have more or less vital roles to play, but they won’t be much use in a fight— not unless one of them is secretly a black belt or an expert marksman or something like that. “If you’re really willing, I’d love backup. Thank you. But Welsh is mine.”

            Naturally.” Starlight rested her hand on the pouch where she put my USB drive. “Are the time and place noted somewhere on here?”

            “Yes. But I can just tell you too, save you the trouble of searching— there’s a lot on there. I told him to meet me near the Carren Road Motel 6 at eleven o’clock Monday night.” I fiddled with my bow, turning it over and over in my hands. “You’re sure you’re willing to help?”

            “I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t.” Starlight’s gaze drifted towards the street below. “The police seem to be arriving to pick up your criminals.”

            I glanced down. A black car was just turning onto the street beneath the overpass. “Oh. Yeah. I guess I should go talk to them. Thanks again— really, thanks.”

            “You’re welcome.” Starlight nodded once more. “I’ll see you on Monday. Good luck.”

            “Thanks.” I was starting to feel like a broken record, but what else could I say? With a nod that I hoped looked mature and professional, I turned and headed back down the slope. That’s it. Everything’s ready. Better than ready; I had Starlight on my team! Now all I had to do was confront Welsh . . . and survive.

Bonus fun thing: anyone want to know for sure what Songbird looks like? Wonder no more!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Song of Leira Blog Tour: Seek To Do Good

Hey'a, everyone! Today is my last post with the Song of Leira blog tour, though the celebrations will continue elsewhere around the interwebs for the rest of the month. To finish out my part in the tour, I've got a guest post from Gillian in which she talks about one of the major themes in Song of Leira, seeking to do good. I really appreciated this theme; I think it helped make the book's message a little more personal; and I'm excited to read what Gillian has to say about it here!

Seek To Do Good: A Guest Post by Gillian Bronte Adams

“The world, my dear, is a desperate, broken place. We cannot fix it, we Songlings and Songkeepers. We are not the Master Singer, capable of weaving the shattered threads of this world together. What can we seek but to do good with the moments and the gifts allotted to us?”
“’To do good.’” Birdie repeated the words dully. They meant so much … and yet so little. Weak and feeble words compared to the weight of the decisions before her.” - Song of Leira
Does the brokenness of the world ever overwhelm you? I don’t know about you, but all it takes is a few minutes of scrolling on social media to remind me how broken our world is. There was a time last fall when just in my community of online friends, I either know or was aware of people who had been impacted by hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and fires … all in the same week.

With the constant stream of awareness and with the ability to know now what’s going on in our town, the state next door, and across the world, all in a matter of seconds, I think it is so easy to be overwhelmed.

To feel small in comparison to the problem. To think ourselves alone. To wonder how the tiny and seemingly insignificant things we can do could have any lasting impact or make any difference at all.
That’s why I love this quote from Song of Leira. Because it comes from a passage where Birdie, the young Songkeeper, is struggling with her knowledge of the suffering of her world, and she doesn’t know how she is supposed to respond.
“Everywhere there is pain and suffering and loss, and I can hear it—all of it—pounding inside my head. And … I don’t know what I am meant to do.”
Quillan’s response is simple. Frustratingly so for those of us who love "To-Do" lists. He doesn’t give her a battle plan or a “Standard Operating Procedure” for every imaginable situation. He gives her a principle.
“What can we seek but to do good with the moments and the gifts allotted to us?”
This is how the Bible often answers these types of questions as well, with principles and concepts and a heart attitude instead of with a definite list to follow.

Sometimes, y’all, I get hung up on the big picture. The world is broken. And its huge. And there are billions of people. And there is so much suffering and sorrow happening everywhere.

Focused on the vastness of the problem, I start to think about these things as concepts and helping and serving become abstracts. And when that becomes the case, when the brokenness of the world is “everyone” and not “my neighbor,” when serving is something huge that I will do someday and not simply taking out the trash for a loved one, then I miss out on opportunities that the Lord has given me to meet brokenness with love.

It’s usually only a moment. A few seconds where we have the choice to step in or step back. And so my prayer is that I would always be present in the moments and that my eyes would be open to each opportunity.

It is true that you or I alone cannot fix the brokenness of the world.

But God Himself has woven the melody to repair the brokenness of the world through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. And we are not alone. If we are followers of Christ, not only do we have the Holy Spirit, but we exist within the framework of the Church, the body of Christ. And the Church is the hands and feet of Christ where each member serves in unique ways to meet the needs of the body.
So, I firmly believe that God gifts us and fuels our passions and our hearts in different directions and toward different causes, so that as you come with your heart for abuse survivors and music, and I come with a love for missions and writing, and your brother brings his ability to work with his hands and his desire to do repair projects for the elderly, Christ is glorified!

Isn’t that exciting? To me, it is just so encouraging to realize that and to recognize the fruits of that when I meet other believers who have passions and causes and gifts that are so different from mine. Really, it is beautiful.

So, as I go about my day today, I want to think about those two things when I am tempted to be overwhelmed—the moments and the gifts—and I pray that we will all seek to offer good to others as the opportunities arise.

Join the Conversation
  • What are your passions and gifts and how have you had opportunity to use them to serve and love others?
  • Do you tend to get lost in the big picture or are you quick to see the moments where you can step in and act?

About the Book: 

 The Song bids her rise to battle.
Reeling from her disastrous foray into the Pit, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, retreats into the mountains. But in the war-torn north, kneeling on bloodstained battlefields to sing the souls of the dying to rest, her resolve to accept her calling is strengthened. Such evil cannot go unchallenged.
Torn between oaths to protect the Underground runners and to rescue his friend from the slave camps, Ky Huntyr enlists Birdie's aid. Their mission to free the captives unravels the horrifying thread connecting the legendary spring, Artair's sword, and the slave camps. But the Takhran's schemes are already in motion. Powerful singers have arisen to lead his army - singers who can shake the earth and master the sea - and monsters rampage across the land.
As Leira falters on the verge of defeat, the Song bids her rise to battle, and the Songkeeper must answer.

About the Author:

Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, wander-loving fantasy author, rarely found without a coffee in hand and rumored to pack books before clothes when she hits the road. Working in youth ministry left her with a passion for journeying alongside children and teens. (It also enhanced her love of coffee.) Now, she writes novels that follow outcast characters down broken roads, through epic battles, and onward to adventure. And at the end of a long day of typing, she can be found saddling her wild thing and riding off into the sunset, seeking adventures of her own (and more coffee).

She loves to connect with fellow readers and wanderers online through her blog, Facebook page, newsletter, and Instagram.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fight Song Chapter 18

Hey'a, everyone! Ready for another chapter of Fight Song? Last week, Callie, Jonathan, and Uhjin made plans to finally confront Welsh. This week, they continue working on those plans and Callie hits the streets again— but this time, she's got a mask. As always, comments, questions, critiques, and suggestions are welcome! Thanks for reading!

Chapter 18: Songbird

The next week was a rush of activity. I spent several evenings scouting the city for a location where I could tell Welsh to meet me, somewhere public, but not too public, where Uhjin and Jonathan could have relatively safe hiding spots. Eventually, I settled on a small side street between one of the city’s sketchier motels and a line of stores and businesses, half of which had boards over the windows. It seemed as good as anywhere— better than most, since the motel advertised free WiFi.

That piece of my plan now in place, I loaded several CDs and one USB drive with copies of the information Jonathan and I had collected— testimonies, records, camera feeds, everything— along with a letter I’d typed up myself, explaining my plan. I handed off one CD to Uhjin, instructing her to make her own copies and give them to whoever she chose. Another I sent to my grandfather back home with a handwritten copy of the letter— he’d like that, I knew— and instructions for what to do with the CD if anything happened to me. I included other letters with that one too, notes to the rest of my family. Hopefully, they’d never see those letters, but only God knew for sure.

I dropped off the third CD in my pastor’s office Tuesday evening after work, along with a request for prayer and instructions not to look at the CD unless something happened to me in the next two weeks. I spent the next two days half-expecting an email from him up asking if I was all right, what was going on, all that, but nothing appeared. Either he’d lost my message— not exactly unheard of— or he trusted that I knew what I was doing. Who knew which.

Yet even with information in the hands of two people who I trusted to act as best they could, along with whoever Uhjin and Jonathan passed their copies onto, I wasn’t satisfied. I needed others: people who wouldn’t be immediately connected with me, and people who’d be better positioned to act if necessary.

So, Wednesday, at the end of lunch break at the craft store, I pulled Rebecca aside— of all my coworkers at either business, she was the one I trusted most. Granted, there wouldn’t be much she could do herself with the information, but no one, Welsh included, would expect her to have it. Why would they? And maybe, just maybe, she’d be clever enough to figure out where to take what I gave her if worst came to worst.

Of course, I didn’t say any of that, just asked: “Can you keep this for me?” and handed her the stiff cardboard envelope containing the CD. “Just for a couple weeks? And don’t open it unless something happens to me? I can’t really tell you why right now, but there’s a note in there that will explain it all.”

Rebecca took the CD with one hand, but grasped my arm with the other, searching my face with her big green eyes. “Yes, but— are you ok, Callie? Is something wrong? Are you in trouble of some kind?”

“I’m fine. Not in any trouble. Don’t worry. It’s just . . .” I searched for the words to make sense of what was going on without giving everything away. “I have something that I need to do, and I’m concerned that things will go wrong. And if they do, someone needs to know what happened to me. Ok?”

“Ok.” To my surprise, Rebecca wrapped me up in a hug, squeezing me tight as if she were my sister. “If you ever need help, any help at all, you can tell me, ok? I know that you like to keep things to yourself and that you have other friends than just me, but if I can do anything, just let me know. Really. And, whatever you’re doing, be careful, please? I’d miss you if you were gone.”

I tentatively returned the hug with a brief squeeze back. “I’ll be careful.” Well, sort of. I had a plan; that counted as being careful, right? “And thank you. But for now, the best help you can give me is to keep that CD safe.”

“I will.” Rebecca didn’t let go until after I did. “And I’ll pray for you, if that’s ok?”
“That’d be nice. Really nice.” I took a step back. “Well— thanks. Really, thank you. I’ll see you later?”

“Yeah. Don’t forget, if you need anything, just ask.” Holding the CD tight, Rebecca headed towards the staff lockers, probably to put it away.

I waved and set off back to work. Three copies down. Just one left. But that last would be the hardest one of all— and there was one thing I had left to do before I could deliver it.

When I wasn’t at work or sorting out plans with Jonathan over phone and text or handing important information to people for safekeeping or trying to practice the anti­–Death Song as best I could without the actual Death Song to compare it to, I scoured one thrift shop after another in search of— well, I wasn’t really sure what. All I knew was that Starlight had been right and that I’d made my choice. But even I knew: it would take more than a mask to keep my identity safe.

Eventually, after searching what seemed like every thrift shop and clearance rack in the city, raiding both my and Uhjin’s closets, and borrowing a sewing machine off a friend at the craft shop, I managed to pull something together. I picked dark, fitted jeans as a base, paired with black high-top sneakers— I’d considered other options, but I needed something practical, durable, and easily replaceable if I was going to do this long term. Of course, the red-violet top I paired them with, long-sleeved and vaguely Asian-looking, didn’t quite fit that bill, but it was comfortable and added a little excitement to the outfit. Over the top, I wore a sort of short jacket-cape thing that I’d made from a longer jacket. It wasn’t as dramatic as a full cape like Starlight’s, but it had a hood and, trimmed with fabric the same red-violet as my shirt, it looked quite nice. Anyway, unlike Starlight, I couldn’t turn a cape immaterial if it got caught on something.

I finished up the outfit with thin fingerless gloves that I dyed blue using Kool-Aid and, of course, a mask covered in the fabric I’d used for trim. Looking at myself in the mirror with the whole ensemble on, I couldn’t say that I looked a whole lot like the supers I’d seen on TV. But I didn’t exactly look like me either, and that was all that mattered. Now all I had to do was test it.

Hitting the streets in search of trouble again the night after I handed off Rebecca’s CD felt oddly good. It wasn’t the yes, this is what I’m meant to do and everything makes sense here type of good that I felt when I was onstage with my violin, but more of a reckless satisfaction, as if, after hesitating to act for so long, my soul exalted at finally having made a decision, whether or not it was the right one. As I walked down the darkened streets, violin bouncing at my side, I had to resist the urge to sing every song I heard just to announce to the world that I’d made my decision and here I was.

Thankfully, I ran into trouble— not literally— before the desire grew too strong. The pair of muggers who I spotted in an alleyway didn’t even realize I was behind them until it was too late and my song pulled the air from their lungs. They both spun around, allowing the man they were attacking to pull away.

As soon as they were facing me, I switched songs. The pair seemed to regain their courage as soon as they could breathe again, and they showed it by spitting a curse and a threat my way as they started towards me. But their next steps put their feet in three inches of suddenly-soft asphalt. I grinned, shifting the song again, and the asphalt hardened around their feet, leaving them stuck in place.
They cursed at me, but I ignored them, instead calling to their victim: “You all right?”

“Yeah.” He picked up his cell phone and wallet from the ground where the muggers had dropped them. “Who are you?”

I hesitated a moment. A name was the one thing I hadn’t settled on. But he was waiting for an answer, and I had to say something. “Songbird. I’m Songbird.” Before he could ask more, I added, “I suggest you call the police and let them know these two are here, then head home. Have a nice evening, sir.” With that, I hurried away, wishing I had some way to make my departures a little more subtle. Maybe if I could figure out some kind of illusion . . .

I continued through the streets more calmly, having expended some of my excited energy. But save for the mugging I’d already run into, the night seemed unusually quiet. It was as if every rogue and reprobate except for those two had unanimously decided to take the evening off. Finally, I gave up and headed home— but only for the night. The next evening and the evening after, I set out once again. But those nights, trouble wasn’t the only thing I was looking for.

No. I needed Starlight.

For two nights, I searched, roaming the streets for hours after dark. Neither night was as quiet as that first, though there were still hours with no excitement at all. But though I found trouble enough, there was no sign of Starlight. I hoped that she’d hear of me somehow; that she’d learn that another super, masked and costumed, had appeared in her territory and that she would come investigate. But she didn’t appear.

On the third day, I couldn’t wait any longer. So, on my way home from work, I detoured by the library and commandeered a computer that didn’t require a library card. Setting up a fake email account only took a couple minutes, but that just left me more time to type and erase and type again and then stare at the blinking cursor as I tried to think of the right words. How did one challenge a supervillain–serial killer without sounding like one was trying to blackmail him anyway?

Finally, after multiple false starts, I had something that seemed safe enough. Still, I paused before hitting Send and reread the message.

Mr. Welsh,
Though you may believe otherwise, your activities have not gone unnoticed. You have killed and killed again and thought that you could escape justice, but you cannot. Proof has been gathered against you; one small piece of it is attached to this message. All of this will be released to the authorities unless you meet me personally in the street beside the Motel 6 on Carren Lane at 11:00 Monday night. 

Satisfied with the text, I double-checked that the grainy still—inexpertly cut from one of the security videos and transferred from the USB drive I still carried— was attached. Yes, there it was. And the email address was correct too; Jonathan had found it and said that it was Welsh’s personal account. How Jonathan knew that, I had no clue, but I hoped he was right.

I hit Send and watched the message disappear. That’s that. No turning back now, even if I wanted to. Then again, I think I hit the point of no return a long time ago.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Song of Leira Blog Tour: Interview with Gillian Bronte Adams!

Hey'a, everyone! The Lightporter tour is over, so we now return to Song of Leira! For today's post, I got to interview Gillian, which was super fun. But before we get to that, let's recap some info about the book and author.

About the Book:  

 The Song bids her rise to battle.
Reeling from her disastrous foray into the Pit, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, retreats into the mountains. But in the war-torn north, kneeling on bloodstained battlefields to sing the souls of the dying to rest, her resolve to accept her calling is strengthened. Such evil cannot go unchallenged.
Torn between oaths to protect the Underground runners and to rescue his friend from the slave camps, Ky Huntyr enlists Birdie's aid. Their mission to free the captives unravels the horrifying thread connecting the legendary spring, Artair's sword, and the slave camps. But the Takhran's schemes are already in motion. Powerful singers have arisen to lead his army - singers who can shake the earth and master the sea - and monsters rampage across the land.
As Leira falters on the verge of defeat, the Song bids her rise to battle, and the Songkeeper must answer.









About the Author:

Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, wander-loving fantasy author, rarely found without a coffee in hand and rumored to pack books before clothes when she hits the road. Working in youth ministry left her with a passion for journeying alongside children and teens. (It also enhanced her love of coffee.) Now, she writes novels that follow outcast characters down broken roads, through epic battles, and onward to adventure. And at the end of a long day of typing, she can be found saddling her wild thing and riding off into the sunset, seeking adventures of her own (and more coffee).

She loves to connect with fellow readers and wanderers online through her blog, Facebook page, newsletter, and Instagram.





Interview with Gillian:

Hello, Gillian! To start out, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who you are, your favorite books (besides your own), hobbies, anything else you want to share?

Sure thing! I am a writer, wanderer, and wordsmith. I would love to live out of a backpack, provided it was a magical backpack that could fit my bookcase, power my laptop, and run my coffee maker. (That’s not asking too much, is it?)

Some of my favorite books are The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown, and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

In addition to reading, I love riding my wild thing (a high-spirited quarter horse named Ariat), hiking, kayaking, and road trips.

Anyone reading the Songkeeper Chronicles can probably tell that you were influenced by Tolkien's works, but what are some of the other books and authors that have shaped either the trilogy or Song of Leira specifically? 

Yes, I would say that I have definitely been influenced by Tolkien the most. His books were the first novels I ever read, and I read them over and over again over a span of several years, falling ever more deeply in love with the characters and storylines. Of course, Tolkien’s mythology also included a creation song and one of my favorite moments in the Silmarillion was when Sauron and Felagund strove with songs of power against one another. That idea of powerful music seeped into my head and eventually appeared in The Songkeeper Chronicles.

I don’t know if there are any other books or authors that shaped this trilogy specifically, but there are definitely books and authors whose works I have loved and that I have learned from over the years. I love Brandon Sanderson’s worlds and his characters. I love the way C.S. Lewis weaves truth into his tales in such deep and yet simple ways and the feeling of wonder and hope that his stories evoke.

So, I hope to continue learning from other excellent authors as I continue to write. That’s the beauty of being a writer. You never stop learning and growing and being shaped by the books you read!

One of the things I love about your books is the way you weave in deep, inspiring themes without making them seem preachy or unnatural. Generally speaking, do you set out in the beginning to write a story with a particular theme? Or do the themes appear as you write?

Oh, thank you! Themes usually appear as I write. I approach my writing through prayer and it is often deeply influenced by the Scriptures I am reading and studying at the moment. As I figure out my characters and the issues they are struggling with, as well as the events they will face and the choices they will make throughout the book, the themes tend to grow organically out of and around that.
Once the theme has made itself clear, I often give the story another passthrough to see if there are ways that I can strengthen and foreshadow that theme in the story. It’s kind of a working backward and then forward process.

What was the hardest part of writing Song of Leira? The best part?

Because Song of Leira is the last book in The Songkeeper Chronicles, weaving together all of the threads (some of which had been set in place all the way back in Orphan’s Song) was one of the most fun and most challenging parts of the process. There were so many characters to deal with as well as world-changing events to set in motion and wrap up, so the writing process took me a long time.

And it definitely had some moments where I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish or if the story would ever seem cohesive. But seeing how all of the threads finally came together at the end was the best and most satisfying part of writing the book.

Song of Leira is the third book in the Songkeeper Chronicles and your fourth book total. What are some of the things you've learned in your publishing journey so far?

Fear is the enemy of creativity. For a fair portion of my writing career, I have allowed fear to hold me back and to limit my dreams. Fear of what readers will say. Fear of not achieving what other writers achieve. Fear of somehow not measuring up.

But fear completely stymies creativity and can stop you from writing before you’ve even gotten started! Learning to write from an attitude of freedom instead of an attitude of fear has had one of the biggest impacts on my writing and publishing journey. And I know that is just “one thing” and it might even seem obvious to others, but it can have far-reaching effects!

Finally, do you have any plans for new books now that you've finished with the Songkeeper Chronicles?

Yes, I have been working on a new “top secret” project for the past several months. It’s another epic fantasy series, and this one is bigger and broader than anything I’ve ever attempted before, so nailing it down has been challenging. But I am loving every minute of the writing process, and I am very excited about this story and can’t wait until I can share it with people.

Meanwhile, there are a couple other story ideas percolating at the back of my mind, but they’ll need some additional simmering before I’m ready to actually start writing them. All in all, I hope to keep sharing stories with y’all for years to come!

Thanks, Gillian, for allowing me to interview you, and thanks to all of you for reading! Please tell me in the comments: have you read Song of Leira yet? Are you curious about Gillian's top-secret project? Also, don't forget to submit your photos of your adventures with the book to the Take Your Book on an Adventure contest! Winners will be announced during the Facebook  party on June 22.
Have a great day!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Lightporter Release Tour & Hero's Perspective: Blaze!

Hello, and welcome back to the Lightporter release tour and to the second episode of Hero's Perspective, a relatively new feature in which I interview the heroes and heroines of various speculative fiction. (See? I told Jarek that this wouldn't be a one-off thing.) For this episode, we have a very special guest: Blaze, one of the heroes of Lightporter

Now, usually, I would be the one interviewing our hero. However, when one of my own characters, Rebecca from the Teenaged Superhero Society, found out who our guest was, she begged to take my place. I may or may not have let her read the IDIA books, and she may or may not have become a bit of a Blaze fangirl as a result. Anyway, she made a very convincing argument, so . . . take it away, Rebecca.

Rebecca: Thanks, Sarah! I guess now we just have to wait for Blaze to arrive . . .

Blaze: *teleports in* 

Rebecca: Oh! Hi! You must be Blaze! It's so cool to meet you; I'm a really big fan of yours. Oh, I'm Rebecca, by the way; I'm going to be interviewing you for Dreams and Dragons. Thanks so much for agreeing to this!

Blaze: *shakes hand with Rebecca* It's very nice to meet you, Rebecca! It's my pleasure to do this. As my friends usually point out, I enjoy talking about myself. *sits and makes himself comfortable* 

Rebecca: *giggles and sits down in the other chair* Ok, so you should enjoy this first question. I know about you, but not everyone who reads the blog does. Can you share a little about who you are and what you do and a random fact or two, just to kind of introduce yourself?

Blaze: *grins* Of course. Blaze isn't my real name, obviously. It's my superhero code name. I work for a superhero agency called IDIA, and I like to call myself a lightporter. Basically I can manipulate light, and that allows me to teleport. For a random fact... well, I do like to travel, which makes teleportation helpful. I also really like donuts.

Rebecca: Oooh, teleporting! I have a friend who c— who knows someone who says she can teleport and does the same thing, using it to travel. That's really cool! What do you think is your favorite place that you've visited in your travels?

Blaze: *quirks an eyebrow* Interesting. *leans back* Well, I really like most of the places I've visited, although I prefer the ones that aren't infested with tourists. But I'd have to say that one of my favorites is Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. It's very beautiful.

Rebecca: I've actually never heard of that. It sounds nice, though. *glances down at notebook* So, I'm supposed to ask you now about your adventure that C.B. wrote about in Lightporter, how you feel about it and what you wish you could change and that sort of thing. So . . . how do you feel about all that? Was there anything you enjoyed, or anything that was especially hard?

Blaze: Hmm. Well, it's hard to say a lot about it without spoiling it, or what happened afterwards, but... well, most of it was unpleasant, but kind of necessary. I will say that meeting a certain person caught me off guard, a lot. Overall, I feel like the experience taught me a lot.

Rebecca: Ok. *nods slowly* That makes sense. Buuuut since you're an IDIA agent and an actual superhero, I bet you've had a lot of adventures besides the ones actually in the books, right? Can you tell me about one of those? Or are they all classified?

Blaze: Oh, definitely. I've been an IDIA agent for quite a while now. Most of the really exciting missions are classified, but one time I was on a mission with Push and Finch--Finch can morph into birds--and Finch transformed into an ostrich, and Push and I got to ride him. That was a lot of fun. Not very incognito, but fun. That's still the only nice ostrich I've ever met. 

Rebecca: *laughs* Ok, I wasn't really sure what you'd say, but I wasn't expecting that. I guess the why of that situation probably falls in the classified category?

Blaze: Yeah, it does. It was a fun mission, though! Maybe someday.

Rebecca: Aw, ok. So, you don't have to answer this if you don't want to, but can you tell me how you ended up with IDIA? You said you've been with them a long time.

Blaze: I actually can answer this one. I was lucky enough to have parents who have powers, and Data approached the three of us about joining IDIA once she found out about our powers. My parents didn't want to be active, but I went ahead and joined. My family was actually one of the first that Data and her mentor asked to join when they started IDIA.     
Rebecca: Oh wow, I didn't think I'd get an answer on that one! You're lucky to have parents who have powers too, even if they're not active superheroes. A lot of supers don't, after all. 

Blaze: I know, it's definitely been a blessing. Less lying, for one thing. I don't have to keep my powers a secret, and I didn't go through the initial confusion many supers do when they first get powers. Although as a teleporter, I was definitely a problem child. 

Rebecca: *laughs* Oh, I bet. I can just see you teleporting into the weirdest places and using your powers to sneak cookies. But, moving on . . . *mischievous look* I said earlier that I'm a big fan of yours, but I'm not the only one. How do you feel about having so many fangirls?

Blaze: *grins and his face reddens slightly* It's definitely flattering. It would be pretty cool to meet everyone, of course, but I might also regret that. But in all honesty, it's cool, but also really weird, if that makes any sense.

Rebecca: Mmm, yeah, I think so. 'Cause we all know stuff about you even though most of us have never met you; I can see how that would be weird. *glances at notepad again* Ok, last question. Do you have any advice you could give to other young supers trying to find their place, especially those who might not have something like IDIA to lean on?

Blaze: Good question! I would definitely suggest that any supers, especially younger ones, should have at least one person that knows about their powers who can help them, and that they know they can trust. Whether it's a parent or a sibling, a friend, an older mentor, a super or someone without powers, we all need someone else to help us out and sometimes give us advice. So find that person (or people) you can lean on. It will make everything so much easier. And don't be afraid to test the limits of your powers or try to find new uses for them  It can really help you out if you go into crime fighting. 

Rebecca: *nods* That's good advice. I'll remember that. Quick side question, if you don't mind— do you think all supers should go into crime fighting? Or not necessarily?

Blaze: I think it's a personal choice. I don't think that crimefighting is for everyone. Pop, for example, tends to stay at headquarters, and I know Data has several agents that work clean up after missions, who aren't exactly fighting crime. So I really think it's up to the person with the powers.

Rebecca: Ok, that makes sense. Well, thanks again for letting me interview you; I really enjoyed our conversation! Good luck with your future IDIA adventures!

Blaze: Thanks for having me! It's always fun to spend time with fans. Hopefully I'll get to come back to visit. See ya around! *teleports*

Rebecca: And that's it! I hope you all enjoyed meeting Blaze as much as I did! Don't forget, if you want to read more about his adventures, Twinepathy and Lightporter are both $0.99 on Amazon this week!

Thanks, Rebecca. I'll take it from here.

Rebecca: Ok. Bye, everyone! 

Thanks for reading, everyone. As Rebecca said, you can still get the IDIA books for only a dollar on Amazon. And don't forget to check out the rest of today's tour stops! (List below.) 
Have an awesome day!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Tour Stops for Saturday, June 16th (Release day!)

Marlene Simonette – Lightporter Review and Book Spotlight
Dreams and Dragons – Character Interview
Elven Padawan – Lightporter Review