Saturday, December 31, 2022

A Reason to Be Here [A New Year's Eve Short Story]

'Tis time for my annual New Year's Eve short story, and y'all, I actually finished this one well BEFORE midnight. In fact, it's 3:30 when I'm scheduling this, though it won't go up until the evening. As usual, this story should work on its own, but it's also a continuation of what we've seen in my previous New Year's Eve stories. Enjoy!

A Reason to Be Here

Why had he ever agreed to this?

Tamison sat with his back to a crumbling plaster wall, watching the doorway and listening as the coughing from the room behind this one mixed with the furor of shouts and shots and occasional crackling spells from the streets outside. Had they gotten louder in the last half-hour? Or was it just the squeezing pain in his head that made him think so?

He glanced across the room at Laelia, the one person in their group who hadn’t ended up sick within hours of stepping into this world. “Are you sure this place is safe?” The words scratched in his throat like sandpaper, and he wished for a drink — but the plumbing up here didn’t seem to work, and if he went downstairs to find a working pump or facet, he wasn’t sure he’d have the energy to make it back, assuming that he didn’t get killed by an errant shot or spell while he was there. Better to conserve what he and Laelia had managed to bring up earlier — better to save as much of it as possible for Carrie and Willow, both of whom were too sick even to sit up.

Laelia took several moments to respond, but at last her pen — scratching in her notebook like it always did whenever they had a few minutes to spare — stilled. She nodded once. “I told you already, I’m almost certain it’s the one I read about. It looks just like the pictures.”

Almost certain was not the reassurance Tamison had looked for, but he suspected it was the best he was going to get. To think that their entire safety relied on one fragile memory! The same fragile memory that had gotten them stuck here, for that matter.

Though, then again, that wasn’t entirely fair. True, it had been Laelia’s suggestion to come to this world, Cotirus. She’d recalled that it had been one of the last worlds to end trade and travel relations with Darachan. And from that memory had come the thought that it might hold information on what had caused the destruction of Darachan’s capital — a question that could have been solved with simple time portals except that no one wanted to get caught up in the event itself — and what had become of Xenoth’s Archive, a record of magical experiments and discoveries by a particularly long-lived and inventive, but secretive, wizard that Carrie wanted for research purposes. She’d even been the one to work out when the best time to find that information might be.

So, all this had been Laelia’s idea. But Carrie had been the one who decided to jump worlds and times in one portal instead of making two separate jumps like Tamison had wanted. She’d insisted that adjusting for two sets of coordinates would be no more difficult than one would be. She’d argued that one complex portal would be more magic-efficient than two simple ones, and hadn’t Tamison and Willow been harassing her about overdoing it?

And now here they were: in Cotirus, as intended, but half a century earlier than intended, at what Laelia thought was the tail end of a revolution so dramatic that a whole world changed their calendars over it, declaring the day after it ended the first day of a new year and new era. To make matters worse, there seemed to be a minor plague running rampant, one that primarily seemed to affect wizards, which made Tamison suspect that it was less a real plague and more a biological attack by one side of the revolution or the other. It had been sheer luck that they’d managed to find shelter here, in a house Laelia identified as having stood long enough to make it into history books as a monument. She’d said something about someone important having almost died and miraculously survived here, but Tamison had been too miserable to listen closely.

The clamor outside was definitely getting louder, and that meant the fighting was getting closer. Tamison groaned and pulled his knees up so he could rest his extended arms on them with his fingers held ready for a shielding spell. Assuming he could summon enough magic to do more than a bit of fizzing lights, that was. This sickness seemed to affect his magical reserves worse than any other part of him, which explained why Carrie and Willow — who’d been managing most of their travel — were so much sicker than he was. How any other wizards in this world had enough magic to do anything as dramatic as what he could hear outside was beyond him. Maybe they’d figured out how to store power outside themselves like the Chanian inventors did.

He glanced over at Laelia again. She’d gone back to writing in her notebook, scribbling as if the world would end if she didn’t write down every detail of everything that she’d seen and encountered since she joined their group. Sheer misery provided enough motivation to force words up his throat, “Why are you here?”

Her pen stopped faster this time. “What do you mean?”

“Why did you come?” Tamison let his head sink onto his arms, trusting his ears to give him enough warning if he needed to shield anything. “You didn’t have to. Willow didn’t have to. You had good lives back when and where you were. Why’d you leave?”

Laelia looked back down at her notebook. “I want to discover things. I want to do or find something that’ll matter. Why are you here?”

Good question. Why was he here? Why had he even accepted the assignment that led him to meet Carrie in the first place? He should have asked for anything else. Tentacle beasts from the Lost Realm would’ve been less difficult to deal with than all these years of getting dragged into her adventures. Even bears would’ve been preferable. Bears didn’t have revolutions, and they didn’t timeport you so the tower you were standing inside of suddenly became rubble some fifty feet down. It wasn’t as if he’d done anything particularly useful all this time, just argued with Carrie in an attempt to hold back some of her madness.

But on the other hand . . . he knew why he was here, and there was a photo in his pocket that told him why. He sighed, then coughed several times before answering, “I thought it would matter. Now I just think I’m fated to be caught up in all the trouble Carrie gets into.”

Further conversation was forestalled by the sound of raised voices and running footsteps downstairs, with a few shots here and there. Tamison tensed and raised his head, trying to make out words. He wished he still had Myrd with him; the pocket dragon was stealthy enough to do excellent reconnaissance even when they were in a world that didn’t naturally have dragons. But Myrd had elected to leave the adventuring life after a particularly harrowing brush with a flock of Netherpests early in Tamison’s acquaintance with Carrie, and now he lived comfortably with Tamison’s sister, her husband, and their children. Lucky dragon.

So, Tamison strained his ears and wished he could see through walls as the footsteps moved up the stairs and into the hall outside. A moment later, a figure in a knee-length blue coat and red cap burst into the room. The gold trim on his coat suggested he had been someone important, perhaps still was, but the dirt, gunsmoke, and blood smattering his face and clothes told a far clearer story.

The man glanced back where he’d come, where more footsteps and angry shouts still sounded. Then he looked frantically from Tamison to Laelia. “Are either of you wizards?”

Laelia blinked and shook her head, gaping at the man as if she wasn’t sure what she was seeing. Tamison kept his mouth shut, trying to think strategically through the pain squeezing his mind, wishing he knew how to tell friend from foe.

“Please —” The man took a step further inside. “I need to live. I’ve lost my weapon. If you can protect me, I’ll make it worth your while —”

The footsteps were getting closer. So were voices, most of them yelling about how the man should come out so they could kill him. Blast it! Tamison groaned. “Not sure I can help — I’m mostly drained.”

“Here.” The man was across the room before Tamison could warn him that he was sick. He thrust something into Tamison’s hand: a metal cylinder, like the flashlights that Darachan had occasionally imported from Earth, but with glass on both ends and what looked like dozens of tiny crystals behind the glass, all glowing faintly. “I took this from — from a friend of mine, after he died. He was a wizard; he said this held power. Can you use it?”

Could he? Tamison focused on the cylinder, feeling along its length. His fingers found a series of indents along the side, and as his fingertips settled into them, he felt the magic welling up within the device. Could he pull from it?

Lights sparkled above his hand as he discovered that he could. But there was no time to wonder how. Figures appeared in the doorway, guns in hand. One let out a shout as he spotted the stranger and aimed his weapon.

Tamison focused, flicking his fingers to summon a shield. It flashed over the door just in time to send the first bullets bouncing back at those who’d shot them. Then, with a practiced twist of his wrist, he multiplied the energy of the shield and sent it bursting down the hall and through the rest of the house. The attackers fell to the ground unmoving in its wake.

Tamison heaved a sigh and let his head drop back onto his arms. “They should be dead,” he mumbled. “The house is clear.” He extended the magic-holding device back towards the man. “Here.”

The floorboards creaked as the man stood. “Keep it. I can’t use it, and it’s fair payment for saving my life. Use it to try to get out of here, if you can.”

Could he? Tamison turned to blink up at the man. “What about you?”

“I still have work to do here.” It was the sort of line you’d hear from a hero in a play, but the man sounded like he meant what he’d said.  “Go. And thank you for your help.”

He headed back out the door before Tamison could protest. A few minutes after he’d gone, Laelia finally found her voice. “Do you know who that was?”

“No. How would I? We’re still in my future, even if it’s your past.” Technically speaking, Tamison was fairly certain he was long dead in his own world right now. Assuming he was going to survive long enough to make it back there.

“He’s going to end this revolution,” Laelia said. “In a month, this city gets renamed after him. Because you just saved his life.”

“Good for him.” At least something beneficial had come of this whole ordeal. Tamison looked again at the magic-holding device in his hand and then forced himself to his feet. “Come on.”

Laelia stood, tucking notebook and pen into an oversized jacket pocket. “What are you doing?”

“I may not be Carrie, but I can manage a portal. I’m taking us back to Darachan.” The words felt good in Tamison’s mouth, though they hurt coming up. “We’ll find somewhere there to recover, and then, if you and Carrie want, we can come back to this world — the right way.”

Friday, December 30, 2022

December 2022 Doings!

Hello all! It's the last Doings! post of 2022, with only two days left in the year — or one day, depending on whether or not you count today, a question that might depend on when in the day you're reading this. It's been a busy month, as one might expect given that it involved both a book release and the biggest holiday of the year. Hopefully January will be a little more peaceful . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's wrap up December before we move on to the new year, shall we?


  • Through a Shattered Glass is officially out! And, judging from what I've seen people posting, y'all seem to like it just as much as I do, so THANK YOU. If you haven't already picked up a copy, you can order it in ebook or paperback from Amazon — and if you've already ordered it and read it, would you mind taking a minute to leave a review either there or on Goodreads? Reviews are a big factor in helping authors get more visibility and convincing others to read a particular book. It doesn't even have to be long — just a rating and a sentence or two will do if that's what you have time for, and you'll earn yourself the heartfelt appreciation of this author.
  • (That doesn't just apply to my book, by the way. That applies to all the Broken Mirrors and also whatever books you may or may not have gotten for Christmas.)
  • Aside from Through a Shattered Glass, work on Bastian Dennel book 4 is coming along slowly, but progress is progress. I finished Chapter 22 this week, which means on one hand that I only wrote about two and a half chapters this month, but . . . y'know. Release month. And Christmas. I do think I'm getting close to the end of the book, and my writing speed always picks up around the climax, so there is that.
  • And on the D&D front, we basically had one session and that was all. On the upside, that meant I didn't have to do additional prep, which left me free to focus on other things . . . like my family's Christmas letter, a task that fell to me several years ago and which I always manage to get more stressed about than is really necessary. I always have high hopes of getting it written and finished early, and that absolutely never works out. Alas. But the important thing is that it did get finished before Christmas.


  • This month has been a mix of Christmas reads and ARCs/new releases, with a couple mood reads and unsuccessful attempts to finish various series before the year ends mixed in.
  • I've already posted about all my ARCs — Snowfield Palace, Shattered Reflection, Of Ice and Roses, and Christmas Games. The other two new releases this month were Between Friends, a collection of City Between short stories by W.R. Gingell, and Illuminare, a heist-adjacent novella set in a sort of fantasy-Venice. Both were very good, but I don't think it'll take a genius to guess which one I loved more. Between Friends contained several short storied I'd read before and loved, as well as some new stories that were absolutely lovely and gave us a look at characters' lives after the series ended. In this category, I particularly loved "Pins and Needles" . . . but you'll have to read it yourself to find out why.
  • Christmas reads were A Christmas Carol, Hogfather, The Villain Who Saved Christmas, and The Enchanted Sonata. All of those are (I believe) rereads, so I don't have much to say about most of them other than that they're all as good as ever. A Christmas Carol is the one I do have a comment on — I read this via email subscription (Dickens December, to be precise) and highly recommend that reading method. The compiler sent out a short scene or two per day, timing it so the Christmas Day and day-after-Christmas bits would fall on the appropriate days, and it was just quite a fun experience.
  • And finally, we have the miscellaneous other reads: Artificial Condition and Rogue Protocol, which are books 2 and 3 in the Murderbot series of sci-fi mysteries, and Power Play, book 2 in H.L. Burke's Supervillain Rescue Project series. I enjoyed all three of these, but especially Power Play. The plot is essentially "teenage superheroes get trapped in a D&D game while their guardians try to get them out), and it was just really fun.
  • As for the last few days of December not included? I'll probably be reading a mix of short stories, poetry, and possibly more Fullmetal Alchemist, since I have the next several volumes out from the library. We'll see what happens.


  • As I'm sure you would expect, most of what I've watched have been Christmas movies. We hit all the usual favorites — White Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph, Charlie Brown Christmas — plus Home Alone, which isn't quite a favorite but is fun. I also watched The Man Who Invented Christmas, which was very good. I enjoyed both the exploration of Dickens's personal character and life and the way the movie showed the writing and inspiration process, though I'm glad that my characters don't behave quite as badly as his did, ha! I also didn't know before watching the movie that Dickens basically self-published A Christmas Carol, so that was cool to learn.
  • The only non-Christmas thing I watched was more Fairy Tale rewatching. I should probably get back to new-to-me shows at some point, but for now, revisiting these stories and characters is pretty relaxing, and I have needed that this month.


  • Most of this month was super busy with a combination of book release stuff and Christmas stuff. On the upside, I did get to take a bunch of time off work because I had use-or-lose leave, which helped cut down on a little of the stress. The fact that I had two cheese Advent calendars (wherein you open the window to reveal a little piece of cheese in various fun varieties) also helped; cheese makes many, many things better. I had one last year, which I enjoyed, and this year two stores offered them, so I bought one and received the other for my birthday. Both were, as you can imagine, delicious. The best cheeses were probably the Double Gloucester and the smoked paprika gouda, but there were a lot of good ones.
  • Christmas, of course, means that my sister came home on break! She got back a little later than usual, due partially to her class schedule and partially to the fact that she had to attend a friend's wedding before she could come home. But it's been nice to have her back.
  • One new adventure this year was attending the Lessons and Carols service at the church where I work. I always hear a lot of wonderful things about this service, which is a blend of hymns and carols with Scripture readings and features the full choir and bell choir and guest musicians, so I wanted to experience it myself. And it really was lovely! The church I attend has a very modern worship setup, so the traditional choir and all that was a nice change of pace, and the whole service was just lovely.
  • Christmas baking this year was all very last minute, but I did make three different types of Christmas cookies, one and a half of which were new. Naturally, I made my favorite gingersnaps (as usual). My half-new recipe was chocolate-mint pinwheel cookies, which are like the mint checkerboard cookies I've made the last couple years, but have the different doughs rolled up instead of assembled in squares. The general consensus was that, taste-wise, both were about equal, but the pinwheels were prettier. Of course, they're also more frustrating to roll up, so . . . we'll see what happens next year. The other difference was that we dipped these cookies (instead of just saying how good they would be dipped), which we are definitely going to do again next year because that was delicious. The final cookie I made was cranberry orange icebox cookies, which are almost shortbread-like and very tasty. In other cookie highlights, my mom made both ladylocks and peanut butter balls (like buckeyes, but fully chocolate-covered), both of which were absolutely wonderful.
  • As per the usual, I also spent a good bit of time stressing about what to get people. About half of my gifts for my family didn't even get ordered/purchased until Christmas week because I couldn't figure out what to get. On the upside, everyone seemed to like what I got them, and I did manage a few surprises (always a struggle). I hoped that this would be the year that I finally didn't have a craft-based gift that I was working on up to the very last minute, but . . . nope. I crocheted my sister a little stuffed mole (because it's cute and also it's a chemistry joke), which I was still finishing up Christmas morning. Whoops. It did get under the tree before she woke up, though, so there's that.
  • Getting to the actual Christmas Eve/Christmas Day: things this year ended up a little . . . weird. My grandpa came down to spend the holiday with us, but because of the winter storm and cold front and all, he decided to drive down on Christmas Eve instead of the day before that. That meant that we ended up doing about sixty percent of our normal Christmas Eve stuff on the day before Christmas Eve so we wouldn't be at church or getting pizza when he arrived. And that did work out fine (even if I was a bit disappointed at the switch), but it did mean that the actual Christmas Eve felt weird and unmoored from time. Not that weird, though; we were too busy to feel terribly adrift. And it was a lot of fun to see my grandpa again.
  • Christmas Day was pretty chill, on the whole. We ended up taking so long to get breakfast cleared up, get dressed, take pictures, and get everything set up that we had to take a cookie break before we even started opening presents . . . not that I'm complaining. (I never complain about cookie breaks.) As I said, people seemed to like the things I got them, and I was quite pleased with my gifts, including my own copies of some of my favorite books from this past year and a couple new planners (one for work, one for home). My former roommate actually got me another gift I was pretty excited about: little silicon creatures that perch on the rim of your mug and keep your teabag in place! They're both cute and a clever solution to an overlooked problem, which is delightful. I've also been contemplating the fact that, at some point in most people's lives, the much-maligned gift of socks actually becomes rather exciting . . . though I suspect that depends somewhat on whether you're getting nice, soft, cozy, colorful socks (which I did) or boring, uncomfy ones.
  • On the non-Christmas side of things: my family has been attending the Saturday night service at our church for the last several years, but the church recently decided to stop offering that service to reduce the strain on their pastors and staff. So, we've been trying out the other service times to try to figure out which new one works for us. Of course, with the holidays, things have been irregular enough that I don't think we've made a final decision.
  • We finish out the month with a fairly chill week between Christmas and New Year's — well, chill except for the fact that my workplace decided to switch a bunch of systems over to work with the cloud and that was unexpectedly stressful and frustrating (and means I'm going to have to work with OneDrive on a daily basis, ugh — I recognize that it has its good points, but it's caused me enough trouble that I had to factory-reset a laptop to get rid of it). But New Year's Eve means Bible Study celebration, which is always a fun time.
  • All in all . . . it's been a good month. A crazy month, yes, but still good, and a solid end to 2022.

January Plans

  • I would like this month to be chill, in the relaxing sense and not the temperature sense. Unfortunately, I suspect I will get the latter, if either.
  • I have several writing projects lined up: continuing work on BDPI #4 and my D&D campaign, a short story or two, possibly poking at a novella/novelette concept that I recently came up with. We'll see which ones end up taking precedence; some of these have firmer deadlines than others, and deadlines for a few are . . . weird.
  • At work, at least, January tends to be a somewhat calmer month, so that's a relief. Most of the excitement the last couple years has come from people retiring, which no one is doing this year. I'm hoping to finish up several projects that've been in a holding pattern for a while, though, and that will keep me busy if it works out.
  • On the reading front, I have several 2022 releases out from the library that I want to read (particularly Moira's Pen and The Lost Metal), and I have some ARCs to catch up on. I also want to finish up some of the series that I'm in the middle of either reading or rereading . . . of course, it's equally likely that I'll be in the mood for something else and end up distracted and read half of another series instead.
  • Otherwise? Like I said, I'm hoping for chill, ideally enough so that I can take some evenings to watch shows or movies or do some gaming. Of course, realistically speaking, if I have that much time off in the evenings, I should be using it to exercise  . . .
  • I think that about covers it . . . Technically, I have another thing that I could talk about that starts in January, but I'm going to hold off on saying too much about that in case something goes wrong and it doesn't work out.

How was your December? Any exciting plans for January? Did you get or give any especially fun Christmas gifts? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Broken Mirrors Release Party: Interview with Erudessa Gentian [Christmas Games]

Merry Christmas Eve! Tomorrow is Christmas, but today is the release day for the last of our Broken Mirrors stories, Erudessa Gentian's Christmas Games, a short read set in the world of her Kynaston Royal Saga series. I haven't read the main series, but I am kind of interested to give it a try now! As always, you can read my full review over on Light and Shadows — or you can stick around here for an interview with the author herself. Oh, but before we move on, I just wanted to remind y'all to enter the giveaway on the release main page if you haven't done that already! (Also, if you ordered Through a Shattered Glass yesterday, make sure you request your character art stickers!) With all that said, let's get on with the tour!

About . . .

Christmas Games

Beware the harmless Christmas Gift.

When a group of friends decide to play a new immersive role playing game, exciting fun turns into a glitchy mess.

Larkspur’s real-world superpowers interfere with a simple, in-game mission. Discovering they’re unable to exit gameplay, the team scrambles for answers. When their leader and most experienced player, Conan, is kidnapped by the game’s main Boss, it’s up to Lark, Joshua, and Shamira to save him … and themselves.

Join the beloved Kynaston Royal Saga cast in this short Snow Queen retelling.

Find it on: Amazon || Goodreads

Erudessa Gentian

Erudessa Gentian is a firm believer that clean entertainment can be powerful. Inspired by her love of cultures and learning, she produces dynamic art to spark imagination and touch souls.

Erudessa writes in multiple genres, but specializes in fantasy and science fiction. She posts about lifestyle, travel and so much more on her blog.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || YouTube || Newsletter || Instagram || Amazon 

Interview with Erudessa Gentian

Welcome to the blog! To start out, please tell us a little about yourself. Who are you, what are your favorite hobbies (aside from writing) or favorite books (outside your own), and do you prefer coffee or tea?

I am Erudessa Gentian, lover of the arts! I have way to many hobbies, but I've been trying to get better at scuba diving recently. I prefer tea over coffee, specifically with sugar/honey and sometimes milk (depending on the tea).

Oooh, scuba diving sounds cool! But I'm on a question limit, so let's get to the book talk. Where did you get the initial idea for your particular twist on The Snow Queen, and how (if at all) did the concept shift from its original version?

The characters in Christmas Games are from my established science fantasy world, mostly set on a terraformed planet 2,000 years in the future. It's more science than fantasy, so this short story special was an opportunity to throw in a lot more fantasy, while exploring what gaming technology might look like in the future. My original vision was more like wisps of moments, most of which I managed to keep in the final version, so most of the changes would be expanding on the original ideas.

Ah, yes, I can relate to the "wisps of moments" inspiration. What was something you learned (whether it's about writing, about yourself, or just a random thing from your research) while writing this book?

My husband plays video games, and I'll watch sometimes, but I've only played a handful myself. So I discovered while writing this story that the health bar is nearly always red (red for blood/heart).

Important knowledge. What's another fairy tale you'd love to retell but haven't yet gotten to write your take on?

Beauty and the Beast has special meaning for my husband and I, so some day I will tackle that story...

Nice! That's one of my favorites! Finally, can you tell us a little about what you're currently working on and what we can expect from you next?

I'm working on getting audiobook versions of nearly everything I have available now out the first half of 2023. I also plan to release several short stories, including another retelling or two, and a multimedia project that will incorporate some of my music. Of course I will be working on book three of my science fantasy series (Kynaston Royal Saga), but I'm a slow writer, so we'll see when that is ready.

All of that sounds awesome! I look forward to seeing how it all turns out. Thanks, Erudessa, for joining us! And thank you to all my readers for stopping by!

Did you enjoy the interview? Does Christmas Games sound like something you're interested in? Please tell me in the comments! And, again, don't forget to enter the giveaway!
Thanks for reading!