The most popular posts of 2016

Well, it’s been a long year, but it’s almost over. In a lot of ways it’s been a great year. I published four books, a lot of really good movies came out and I started taking better care of my skin. In a lot of other ways, though, it was a crappy year. Politics were dirty and disappointing. Lots of innocent people died in ways that made me angry. People in my area can set their tap water on fire. Lots of celebrities that I love died.

At the end of the year, though, all I can do is control my own actions and attitude.

Meanwhile, I’d like to celebrate the ten most popular posts of 2016. I did this post last year and I really enjoyed it. It’s fascinating to see what’s gotten the most views over a whole year. Sometimes I get caught up in the little details of the blog. It’s good to see the big picture.

Anyway, here are the ten most popular posts of 2016.

10. Flash Fiction

I’m surprised this one made it onto this list, only because it was a pretty straightforward piece of educational writing. I am glad you all liked it, though.

9. A Review of Nightblade

I am really glad this one was popular, because it was a good self published book. I need to do more reviews like this, and I intend to in the coming year.

8. Macro and Micro Planning

This was a really fun piece to write, because I’m a weirdo who loves planning. I hope this helped you guys, though.

7. Seventeen Years

Oh! This was my great big bragging piece that announced that Broken Patterns was finally getting published. Thank you guys for liking this one so much.

6. Seeming, Episode One

I am so glad that you guys liked Seeming so much. I’m always touched when my fiction writing ends up on this list. Since it did, I have a surprise for you. You Can’t Trust the AI will be starting here on PBW on February 15th!

5. Write a Burlesque Poem.

For real, this one was number five on last year’s list, too. You guys are nasty. But then, I’m the one who wrote it.

4. Writing Fantasy Characters We Aren’t All Sick of Seeing.

I was really proud of this piece. I’m glad you all liked it too.

3. Being Flexible Vs. Not Having a Plan.

This is an important distinction. I hope this article helped you.

2. My 17 before 2017 List

Update! I did almost everything on my list except get my hair permed and making a meditation spot in my office. Those things are going to have to go on my January list, I think. Getting your hair permed is expensive, and there are more boxes in my office then I realized. Enough that I might get crushed under them. Pray for me.

1.Tolkien Already Did That

I have to say, I’m really proud of this piece. Probably the most proud I’ve been of any piece I’ve done for PBW to date. So I’m really happy that all of you like it, too.

And that’s it. Thank you guys again for another great year for Paper Beats World. Don’t forget that Days and Other Stories is available for absolutely free as a gift to all of you. See you in 2017.

Goodbye, Ms. Fisher

I’m really about done with 2016.

I was just innocently reading through Facebook when I found that Carrie Fisher died. She was only 60 years old.

Yes, I say only. Mostly because women in my family tend to live into their 90s.

Carrie Fisher played Leia in Star Wars. I’m sure all of you know that. You probably also know that she suffered from mental illness and a past drug addiction. The reason that you know this is because she was open and upfront about it. And that’s why she’s my hero.

Yes, she was an amazing icon for women. She played a tough, brave character that I loved as a child. She was a princess that kicked ass. I loved her, and always insisted on being her when I played Star Wars with my friends. That wasn’t hard, I was the only girl. Leia was a politician, a diplomat, a rebel. Most recently, Leia was a general. But Princess Leia was a fictional character.

Carrie Fisher was a real human woman. Really human. She didn’t lie about who she was, even when who she was wasn’t nice. She didn’t sugarcoat, nip, tuck or shy away from. She was a real human being.

Let me tell you the lessons I learned from Carrie Fisher. The lessons I want to give to my daughters.

  • Be honest about your weaknesses. You might be inspiring someone who suffers like you do, and is ashamed. Admitting an addiction is the first step to healing.
  • Mental illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Politics are for girls!
  • Don’t feel shame about what time and life do to your body. Smiling and sunshine will wrinkle your face. Children will cause weight gain, even if you didn’t carry them in your womb. (Diets and exercise are hilarious jokes to most parents.) But your sags and curves are yours. You owe no one a damn apology for your body.
  • Finally, don’t forget that women can suffer from heart conditions just as much as men. Ladies and gentlemen, pay attention to your heart health. Keep your yearly checkups and tell your doctor about anything strange.

My prayers are with Ms. Fisher’s family and friends today. I lost a hero I never met, they lost a loved one.

Thank you for inspiring me, Ms. Fisher. May the Force be with you.

Making Healthy Goals

Alright, Christmas is over now. I’m enjoying a week of getting my ass back to work after my vacation.

I’m also writing out my 2017 goals.

You’re probably doing the same thing. This is going to be your year! You’re going to lose weight, get a better job, become closer with nature, climb Mt. Fuji, breed eyelash vipers in your basement. Whatever you want to do.

I know I have some big plans for the year. I got the Your Best Year 2017 Planner by Lisa Jacobs, and I’ve been carrying it around with me like a favored toy since it came in the mail. It’s really helped me focus on what I want to accomplish this year.

Of course, I want to do more than just succeed in writing this year. I want all sorts of things.

If you’re making your list of 2017 goals, do me a favor. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Keep these things in mind when you’re making your list.

Be realistic. I would love to do so many things this year! I want to learn to speak fluent German, code my own website, write a ton of books, go on a great vacation, quit my job and buy a boat.

Only some of that is going to happen. It’s ridiculous to expect all of this of myself. It’s like that great part of Sylvia Plath’s book, The Bell Jar, about sitting under a fig tree. Each fig represented a fantastical future. She couldn’t decide which she wanted, and so instead watched as each of the fruits wither and drop away.

It made me sob the first time I read it. Don’t do this. Pick a fig. Pick a basket full. But know that you can’t pick them all.

Remember why you’ve failed at this goal before. I be you have at least two or three goals on your list this year that have been on your list before.

I do. Confession time, I can’t drive. I’ve only been behind the wheel of a car twice in my life. Every year I put learning to drive on my list. And every year I get a copy of the PA license test book, then get distracted and forget about it.

So this year, I’m putting that goal front and center. I’m questioning why I haven’t gotten this done yet. Mostly, I think it’s because studying driving rules is boring and I’d rather be doing just about anything else. For real, though, I’m turning 31 this year. I need to make this thing happen.

Don’t make goals based on things that are out of your control. I’m feeling like I gave you this advice last year, but I’m going to say it again anyway. I won’t be making any goals about how many copies of books I want to sell this year. Because I can’t control if you buy a book or not. I can produce a good book. I can make sure that you know it’s there and remind you about it sometimes. I can hold sales, go to cons, do book signings and do any number of other things. But I can’t make you buy that book.

Consider why you want to meet this goal. What will this do for you? D you want to lose weight? Why? To be healthier, or look better? Do you want to join an athletic team? What are you putting all of this effort in for?  Because sometimes, you’re not doing this for you. Sometimes you’re doing this for someone else. In that case, see below.

Do this for you, not anyone else. There may be people in your life who think they know what’s best for you. Sorry, but they probably don’t. You know what’s best for you, not anyone else.

Disclaimer! There’s one big exception to this rule. If someone who loves you is worried that you have a substance abuse problem, there’s a chance you do! The addict is always the last person to know. And this isn’t an easy discussion to have with anybody. So if your loved ones are suggesting that you’re maybe drinking too much, don’t dismiss that.

Other than that, though,you’re probably not going to do something you don’t want to do. Even the best of advice isn’t going to mean as much as a realization of your own. For instance, I can type until my fingers bleed about how important it is to be organized. You probably won’t do it until your sick of missing bill due dates and dentist appointments. Though if you do want a kick in the ass about that, go ahead and add up all of your late fees and missed appointment fines. That should encourage you to grab a damn planner and a pen.

Basically, no change in your life is going to come unless you want it to. Keep that in mind as you plan out your next year.

Christmas Traditions

This is going to get a little personal today. Just warning you.

Holiday traditions are a big thing this time of year. It can be a special food, an event or a decoration that means the whole world to you. If you’re like me you’re probably stressing a little bit making sure those special traditions take place this year.

Maybe you’re also like me, in that Christmas brings back great and bad memories. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas was good at my place when I was a kid. It was just me and my mom. We’d open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas morning I’d come downstairs to find one more big gift. Then we’d go to my great grandmother’s house along with my grandmother. Grandma would have excelled at being a slightly out of touch gift giver who was trying. Except the year she gave me the first four Harry Potter books. That was a win. This is balanced out by the year she gave me Duma Key. Thanks Grandma. My great grandma would give everyone money in those special holiday envelopes the banks give you if you ask. I still have the last one she gave me.

The problem is that, when I got pregnant my loving family changed. I had done something bad and deserved to be punished. That was made clear to me many times over, but never more than Christmas.

Add to this the fact that my first few days on my own weren’t great. I was in a bad relationship, broke as hell and totally suffering from depression. Bad, bad depression.

My daughter’s first Christmas was bad. I worked my ass off, scrounging together as much money as I could. I think I got like thirty bucks. Just enough to get a Shel Silverstein book, a three foot tree and a stuffed fish. After she opened all of her presents I laid down in bed and cried. I kind of didn’t stop crying for about two years.

Then all of my family moved away and left me and my daughter all alone in the state. I actually do have family around here still. They just don’t talk to me.

That left just me, with a boyfriend who wasn’t thrilled with holidays. We also weren’t in a place where we were ready to do family stuff with our kids yet. I was feeling lonely and abandoned. My seasonal depression was kicking in, hard. I was despretly trying to make my Christmas better than the Christmas my daughter was going to have with my ex. (I did win that. I know it’s not a competition, but I still won.) But I didn’t want the kids getting attached to this whole complete family thing if the boyfriend and I didn’t work out. A part of me, a really big part, didn’t want to be stuck with a guy because of kids. So we decided to not have Christmas Eve or Christmas morning together.

Instead we settled on Christmas Eve breakfast. I went out and bought breakfast at a little diner and brought it back on the bus. I brought Strawberry waffles, my step daughter had never had strawberries on a waffle.

That night, my daughter and I opened crackers and watched ‘Merry Christmas Charlie Brown’. The next morning, I made a pot of special coffee I bought my own damn self for Christmas, then watched my daughter open presents next to my brand new six foot tree. After the girls went to visit their other parents, the boyfriend and I got together and watched Bad Santa.

This Christmas will be the ninth one I’ve celebrated with the boyfriend, now the darling husband. We do Christmas Eve morning together, with my mother in law. It was my former mother in law before she moved out of town. Then we spend the day goofing around, or running around fixing little last minute things. The kids open pajamas, and sometimes a movie. Then we open crackers and watch the Santa Tracker before the kids go to bed. I wrap presents, because I love doing it and the darling husband hates it. The last thing I do is put out the St. Jude charity bears the kids get from Santa.

Christmas morning I make special coffee that I bought for my own damn self. Then we open gifts. My daughter in law goes to visit her mom, and we all goof off for the rest of the day.

The point is, I wasn’t fortunate enough to inherit heartwarming traditions. I made up some of my own, the crackers and the Christmas morning coffee. (This year I got sneek a doodle.) The best ones, though, came about all by themselves. Christmas Eve breakfast. The night of the wrapping paper. The bears from Santa. Traditions that are all ours.

Behind the Scenes for Broken Patterns.

Broken Pattern’s publication marks a milestone for me. It’s the first book I’ve had traditionally published, instead of doing the whole thing myself. Each time I’ve put out a book myself, I’ve done a behind the scene’s article about it. Now that I’ve experienced the other side of the coin, I want to share that with you as well.

First off, Broken Patterns is coming out cutesy of Solstice Publishing. I can’t tell you if other companies do things the same well, but this was my experience.

The first step was getting Broken Patterns to an editor. She and I ping ponged the book back and forth for a few months, revising and discussing everything from word choice to structure. Silly me, I thought the book had been done before. It was a lot tighter after a fresh pair of eyes had gone over it, though.

While we were working on that, we were also designing the cover, writing blurbs and making decisions about categories. I was involved in every step, which was great. You know, my greatest fear was that a publisher would take the book and run with it, doing whatever they thought best despite my opinion on the matter. That wasn’t the case, though, and I am relieved.

Finally, Broken Patterns went to a proof reader. We both went over the book one last time and did simple, line edits. By this time, I was a little sick to death of it. I’ve put it through five edits and a line polish myself, then re-read the whole thing during the editing process. Now, I had to read it one final time, searching for even the slightest mistake.

Even so, I was thrilled to see the whole thing, polished and ready for publication.

Now that it’s out, the real fun begins. I’ve got some copies of Broken Patterns on their way to me, and I get to start scheduling book signings! It’s been a very long journey to this point, and it’s not done yet.

Stay tuned.

My Self Published Year

At the start of 2016 I was fed up with traditional publishing. I’d been trying and trying at what felt very much like a rigged game for years. So I decided to try the life of an indie writer for a year, with the exception of my novel, Broken Patterns.

Turns out that was a good call.

After a full twelve months of being my own publisher, I have a very different perspective on the world of writing in general. And I’m ready to give you the full report.


Let’s just get this out of the way right now. While no writer writes for the money, none of us return checks.

In 2015 I made no money attempting to sell my writing traditionally.

In 2016 I made $3 selling my writing myself.

So if we look purely at profit, without including business costs, independent publishing made me more money. Most of the money that I spent on my writing this year was on things like pens and notebooks. Things I would have bought either way. The one exception is that I hired an artist for the cover of Seeming. Which, I have to say, was totally worth it.


In 2015 I published one story, in an anthology called, How To Trick The Devil.

In 2016 I self-published three books and published so many short stories on PBW that I lost count.

If we’re just basing success on how much writing I was able to get out into the world, self-publishing won, hands down. I could put up anything I wrote, and people read it. That made me feel awesome all year, and you guys were a huge part of that. So, again, let me say a great big Thank You to all of you.


The good part of this year has been the level of control I’ve had over my writing. It has been absolute. I controlled every single part of my writing from artwork to publication dates. I loved that.

It also made me feel really accomplished. I felt like I was writing for a purpose. Like no one could tell me no, so I was going to just kill it.

However, I don’t love that I had no restrictions. I worry that my writing got really lazy this year. I was mostly just pleasing myself, writing fluffy work without solid foundations. When I’m not trying to write the best of stories, I tend to write what will amuse me a little. I need to fix that.

Final thoughts

I’m glad I spent a year doing my own thing my own way. I’ve gained a lot of perspective and had a lot of fun. But I think, after a year of purely traditional publishing and a year of purely self- publishing, the best path for me is both. To that end, I’m going to spend 2017 self-publishing Station 86 stories. I’m hoping to get two out. I’m going to write short fiction and send it to markets, but I’m also going to write short fiction to put together a new collection for you. In addition to that, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to work with my publisher to get out another Woven book.

After all this time, I’m learning all over again that I’m a true Gemini in all things. I don’t think I’d ever care to just write one genre, or just publish one way. Am I saying that this path will work for everyone? Of course I’m not. But it might. And it’s something to consider.

Broken Patterns Preview, Part Three

Broken Patterns is now available! Click here to order.

Chapter Two

Devon Mestonie had lived in the palace of his uncle the king for most of his life. His father had a castle and lands of his own, of course. But in all of his fourteen years Devon didn’t think he’d spent more than a handful of months there. His papa said it was because there was a lot of work to do in the capital, and he was needed. His mamma, Lorna, said it was because Samuel and Issac were too close to stand being parted for very long.

In all that time, Devon and his brother Octavian had shared a room in their cousin Michael’s suite of rooms, as royal cousins and first in his court. Now, Octavian was being moved into Michael’s room. But he wasn’t going without making noise.

“Michael’s been dead for only two weeks, and we just can’t wait to shove all of his things aside and move on, can we?” Octavian cried at the head manservant, Peter, as he oversaw the move. Lighting was crackling along his shoulders, a sign that he was losing control of his magic right along with his temper.

“Prince Michael has gone to the arms of The Creator, and your father has been ordained king,” Peter said with a sigh. “That means that you, sir, are the new heir. This was never Prince Michael’s bedroom, it was the bedroom belonging to the heir of Septa, our next ruler. That is you. If you don’t like it, go and speak to your father the king.”

That, Devon decided, was the bit that was bothering him most. “Your father the king.” It had always been your uncle the king before. That left his father to just be papa. To Devon, it felt like their father didn’t belong to them as much as he had before.

Deciding that he wanted none of the fight that was brewing between Peter and Octavian, Devon ducked out into the hall. Sadly, there didn’t seem to be a single quiet place to be found in the whole palace.

He went first to the training rooms, to play with the bows. There he found Dennis Synthia and Oliver Castille, two of the noble boys of the court. Dennis was Lord David’s son, and he looked like it, being the tallest of the court, with the biggest nose. Oliver was, in Devon’s opinion, too pretty for his own good, with hair that he was too fond of caring for.

Devon selected a bow, and started to fit an arrow to the string. “Bet your papa wants you to take up sword work now,” Oliver said.

“Bugger that,” Devon replied. “I’m terrible with a sword.”

But it’s more princely,” Dennis said, firing his bow.

“I’m not,” Devon replied.

The indoor range was near the conference chamber. The lords and ambassadors were there, apparently having another argument.

“What are they on about now?” Devon asked, listening to the men’s voices rising and falling.

“That man that stayed from the Montelair soldiers,” Oliver said. “My papa thinks that he’s a spy, and he wants him hung.”

“Lord Lewis thinks we ought to march on Montelair,” Dennis said. “He said that we’re taking the word of someone we know nothing about that this wasn’t an act of war on King Kurtis’s part.”

“Except when he said it, there was a lot more swearing,” Oliver said.

Devon fired his bow, sinking the arrow into the very edge of the red target in the center of the butt. “I was hoping for a bit of quiet,” he said.

“Then don’t go out to the outside range,” Dennis said, “Hank and Howard are out there, sparing.”

“Oh, Creator defend us, I wish they’d stop that,” Devon said. “They only get started fighting, and Hank gets mad if Howard uses his magic, even though he knows he’s got no control over it.”

The door to the conference room opened, and the ambassador from Coveline came out. She was a large dragon, thin in body and green in color.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to dragons in the palace,” Dennis whispered.

“Does Ambassador Lau look different from that language master she brought with her?” Oliver asked. “Isn’t she shorter, and fatter?”

“Of course she does,” Devon said. “Ambassador Lau’s a Vondrai dragon. They’re the ruling class. Mistress Risus is a Monnor. They’re more common.”

“Probably shouldn’t call her fat, though,” Oliver laughed.

“I’m going to go find Lenore,” Devon said

“Think she’s in the tower,” Dennis replied.

“How d’you know that?” Oliver asked, smirking.

“Because she’s with Hannah, and Papa likes me to know where my sister is, arse!” Dennis replied, blushing a little.

“Right, I’ll see you later, then,” Devon said. He set the practice bow back in place, and nearly ran to the tower workroom set aside for the thread mages in the palace.

It was Devon’s favorite room. It was circular and huge, with two great fireplaces to keep the cold away in the winter. Every available bit of wall space was covered with hooks that held thread and yarn in all different colors and weights. Great chests were placed beneath them for even more yarn and thread. Comfortable chairs were set around the room for the mages to sit. As his mamma had been the highest ranking thread mage in the palace since their grandmother died, this room did not change hands, and looked just the same as it always had.

Lenore was there, along with Hannah, Ramona and Victor. Hannah was a heavier girl, with a thick braid tucked over her shoulder. She sat next to Lenore, stitching a bright green vest.

Ramona was the head of the royal nursery. She was an older woman, with a stern face. She knelt before a loom, weaving a tapestry that showed birds flying across a blue sky. Thanks to her magic, the birds were moving.

Lenore sat in the sunlight near a window, spinning the light into her thread.

Victor’s appearance had changed a lot since the first time Devon had seen him. His hair had been cropped short and neat, his facial hair shaved. He dressed as most other men of Septa did, the same sort of cloths that Devon wore, with a jacket, undershirt and breeches, with high polished leather boots. He stood next to Lenore’s chair, watching her spin with a look of fascination that amused Devon.

“Hello, Prince,” Ramona said when she saw Devon.

“Please, don’t call me that,” Devon replied. He came to her side, and sat next to her on the floor.

“But that’s what we are now, prince and princess,” Lenore said with a grimace. “As though it does us any good. Octavian will be king, and you’ll be his adviser, I’m sure. But I’ll just have more of the lords after me for their sons. Disgusting, as though I’m nothing more than a means to an end.”

“Oh, stop,” Hannah said. “Being a noblewoman is an important calling. We’ve got lands to run, and families to look after. It’s not like you’ll ever be bored.”

“One can be busy and bored at the same time, if the thing one is doing is boring,” Lenore replied.

“Nurse, can I use your hand loom?” Devon asked.

“Sure,” Ramona said.

“You weave?” Victor asked. “Boys do not weave in my country.”

“Boys don’t weave here, either,” Lenore replied. “Just my little brother. And I wouldn’t allow it, but he’s not bad. You just cannot tell Papa.”

“And how am I to avoid telling him anything, being sworn to him and all?” Victor asked. “A man is not a man if he does not take his vows seriously.”

“Well, I don’t think he’ll ask you direct,” Ramona said. She set the loom in front of Devon, and he started to set it with base yarn. “Besides, a talent is a talent, even if it’s unusual.”

Devon smiled at her. “Thank you, Nurse.”

The five of them sat in silence for awhile. Victor wandered around the room, glancing out of windows and looking bored, but otherwise everyone stayed still. With the rest of the palace in such a rush with the funerals and Samuel’s coronation, this was a mercy.

Devon’s fingers started to itch while he wove. He stopped to rub his fingers on his breeches, then went back to work.

“Does the king know a group of Montelarians are coming up to the palace?” Victor asked, looking out the window.

“I don’t know,” Devon said.

He does, and he said so yesterday,” Lenore said with a sigh. “Honestly, Devon, you are so hopeless. Papa sent a messenger up to Kurtis about the attack, and this will be the answer.”

Devon was pulling colors from Ramona’s rag bag at random. He looked at the fabric strip he was making, which should have been a simple striped pattern. Instead, it looked vaguely like a crossbow bolt, black with a thin arrow head and wooden fetches at the back in place of feathered ones. Around it was a pattern of flames.

“How did I do that?” he whispered.

Ramona looked down at his loom. “Well,” she said, “that is a clever little pattern.”

Lenore and Hannah bent over to see as well. “That is a manly thing to weave, I suppose,” Victor said.

“That is good,” Lenore said. “Well, if you can’t sword fight, and you aren’t a mage, at least you are good at something, little brother.”

“Wish my brother did something quiet,” Hannah said.

“Let’s go down and see the people from Montelair,” Lenore said, putting her spinning away. “Maybe Papa will let us sit in on the meeting.”

“Why would you want to do a thing like that?” Lorna asked. “They will only talk about boring matters of state. Surely you would be more interested in going to visit the hounds?”

“I am tired of hearing things secondhand,” Lenore said. “Besides, I’m sure Victor will want to know what’s going to happen.”

“I would like to know later, when the nobility of Montelair cannot see me and have me gutted,” Victor muttered.

“Come on,” Lenore said. Devon shoved his loom back into Ramona’s bag, and followed after her and Hannah.

“Here,” Hannah said, offering Lenore a bit of fabric. “I stitched that, so I’ll be able to hear anyone who talks into it. They’ll probably let you sit closer than me.”

“You ladies really are interested in politics?” Victor asked.

“This is history in the making. How is that not fascinating?” Hannah asked.

“I just want to know what’s going on,” Lenore said. “Men are always making all these decisions and they act like it’s not going to concern us poor little girls at all.”

Samuel and his lords were coming from the conference room as Devon and the others came around the corner. “Papa, may we come meet the delegates from Montelair with you?” Lenore asked.

“Oh, Bug, you’ll be frightfully bored,” Samuel said. “Devon, I didn’t think you had any interest in this sort of thing.”

“I do, Papa,” Devon said.

“And so do I,” Lenore said.

“You may come, but you may not speak,” Samuel said. “Montelair has a different opinion of ladies, and I can’t trust them to act like gentlemen to you, dear.”

“I won’t say a word, Papa,” Lenore said.

They fell into step behind the lords. “How do men treat women in Montelair?” Devon asked Victor.

“Not very well,” Victor replied. “I have not lived here long, but I am already seeing that men are more gentle with women here. You would not like Montelair, I think. We are not gentle with many things.”

The gondola holding the Montelair group was pulling up next to the boardwalk in front of the castle. “I will never get used to not having proper roads here, instead of all these canals,” Victor said.

“I can’t imagine living any other way,” Lenore replied.

“Thought we discussed no talking,” Samuel said.

A man was getting out of the gondola. He looked as different from Victor and the other Montelarians Devon had seen as it was possible to be. He was thin, and so pale that his veins could be seen on his face and neck. His eyes were watery. He wore a red velvet coat, and a large decorative velvet hat, encrusted with gold along the rim.

“What’s the matter with him?” Hannah asked.

“He’s inbred, like all the other aristocracy,” Victor whispered. “Stupid kuo i, weakening their whole line because they think their own people to be inferior.”

“What does that word mean, Kuo I?” Lenore asked.

“It is a not so nice word, Princess,” Victor replied. “I believe in Septa, you would say ass.”

The man looked around. Devon was sure he’d heard Victor. If he had, though, he made no mention. “I am Vitaly, official ambassador sent by King Kurtis of Montelair,” he said.

“I am Samuel Mestonie,” Samuel said. “I welcome you to our land, and I hope that we can move past the hostilities of the past to a better future for both of our countries.”

Vitaly smiled, “I hope so as well. I see that you’ve contained one of the Broken Chain men for us. Thank you. I’ve brought guards, we will take him into custody.”

Victor hissed. “Should have known I wasn’t getting off so easy,” he muttered.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Samuel said. “That man is my daughter’s bodyguard. He’s working off a debt to the family.”

Ah,” Vitaly said. “In the interest of friendship, King Samuel, I want to caution against that. These commoners, they are like stray dogs. They will wag their tails for a meal, and happily sleep at the foot of your bed. But in the end, they will always belong to the person who feeds them best.”

“Well, also in the interest of friendship,” Samuel said, crossing his arms over his chest, “let me tell you that Victor knelt under my blade and swore fealty to my family. I don’t know what that means in Montelair, but in Septa we take a man at his word. That’s a Septa man you’re insulting right now, and if you want this conversation to remain ‘friendly’, I’d advise you to stop.”

Vitaly gave the king a gentle wave of his hand. “Of course. No offense meant, I assure you. My apologies.”

Devon’s attention was drawn to the wall. There was movement there, beyond the rhythmic back and forth of the guards marching. One of them had stopped, and was holding a crossbow. It was aimed at Vitaly.

“Papa!” Devon cried, pointing towards the man. Everyone looked up, just as the guard fired.

Samuel’s sword was out in a moment and he swung, throwing a wave of fire at the arrow. It caught, and fell to the ground in cinders. Victor was pulling Devon and Lenore back, as the guards on the wall grabbed the attacker. They pulled his helmet away, to reveal long blond hair.

“That’s one of the men that attacked us,” Lenore cried.

Vitaly’s guards were steadying him, and helping him to brush the ash from his cloths. “That was some very fast magic work, Sire,” he said, with a shaky laugh.

“I think we found your rabid dogs,” Samuel said. “It’s my turn to apologize, I thought we’d swept the palace before your arrival. Come inside, we’ll get you settled with a nice brandy.”

“Yes, that does sound like a good idea,” Vitaly said with a nod.

The king led Vitaly inside, a hand on his shoulder. The others followed, Lenore falling into step beside Devon.

“An arrow,” she said, looking at him sideways.

“What of it?” Devon asked.

“An arrow surrounded by flame,” Hannah added.

“That nice little picture you made, Prince,” Victor said. “Rather prophetic, don’t you think?”

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Lenore and Devon. You can continue their story right now, Broken Patterns is on sale today.

Broken Patterns Preview, Part Two

Chapter One

Lenore Mestonie pulled her little brother, Devon, close to her. She tried to catch her breath. The boy who’d saved them scrambled to his feet, and ran towards the canal. She wanted to scream for him to come back, that there were other soldiers who might still hurt them, and she still couldn’t even see her brother Octavian, but then she realized how foolish that was. She didn’t even know this boy, after all.

Devon was struggling out of her grasp. “Michael was hurt, Lenore,” he cried. “We’ve got to check on him.”

“What are we going to do, stupid?” Lenore snapped. “Just stay here with me until we see Papa.”

Septa soldiers were running through the garden, trying to round up the Montelarians. Lenore saw some of them get away, and she hoped that they all drowned in the canals like their leader.

Samuel, her father, was running out into the garden, followed by the other men of the court. He was a tall man, with broad shoulders and a head and beard of thick black hair. He was looking around, as though trying to figure out what was going on. Lenore had to admit that it was very difficult to guess, given the chaos.

A guard was kneeling over Uncle Issac. He looked up, his face pale, and announced to no one in particular, “The king is dead!”

“Prince Michael, too!” someone cried. Lenore looked toward them, to find that it was her younger brother Octavian, the middle of the children, holding their cousin Michael in his arms and sobbing.

Lenore looked back at her father. His strong face was ashen. He took a deep breath, and then another. Finally, he walked over to her. “Bug,” he said, kneeling in front of her, “tell me what happened here.”

“Uncle Issac brought Devon, Michael and me out to see the bats leave the tower,” Lenore said. “Then the wall, well, it just sort of exploded, and those Montelair soldiers came running through. The biggest one shot some sort of light ball at Uncle Issac, Aunt Grace and Michael. I grabbed Devon, and we hid here, but the soldier saw us. He would have killed us, but that boy over there saved our lives.” She nodded her head towards the boy kneeling next to the canal.

“Papa, I thought we were at peace with Montelair,” Devon whispered.

“No tears, Devon,” Samuel said. “Look at your sister, she’s not crying.” Lenore thought that was a very near thing.

“I know that we were at peace with Montelair, and I’ve no idea why they’ve decided to attack us now,” Samuel said, getting to his feet, “but we will find out.”

“It was not Montelair,” said the boy.

Everyone looked towards him, as he rose to his feet, and turned. “It was not the king that sent us,” he repeated. “It was the Brothers of the Broken Chain. My older brother, Calvin, he was leading them. I was only along to try to stop him.”

Samuel pulled his sword, and swung it, lighting the blade on fire. “Not another step closer, not yet,” he said. “It was your brother who was leading, so it was him that killed my brother, the king?”

“And it is him that is now dead, at the bottom of your canal,” Victor said. His Montelarian accent was thick. Lenore had thought that he was a boy, but looking at his face she realized that he had to be at least twenty-three. His roughly cut blond hair hung in wet strands around his face.

“Papa, don’t hurt him,” Lenore said. “He saved us.”

“Who are you?” Samuel asked.

“My name is Victor Olendae. I was a member of the Brotherhood of the Broken Chain.”

“And why did you save my children?” Samuel asked.

“Because I did not want to see more innocent lives taken because my brother could not tell an enemy from a bystander. Because it was the right thing to do.”

“So, what am I to do with you now?” Samuel asked.

Lenore was astonished at how calm her father sounded. She wondered if anyone else noticed how his hands were shaking on the handle of his sword.

Samuel walked up to Victor. “I’ll make you a deal, Victor Olendae. You swear your fealty to me, and I’ll spare your life. I’ll give you a job, and a place in my household. Otherwise, I’ll hold you accountable for your brothers’ crimes.”

“So, my choices are death or slavery?” Victor asked.

Fealty isn’t slavery,” Lenore snapped. “It’s a promise of loyalty and service. A slave is a bought and paid for possession, and slavery is a filthy practice. There haven’t been any slaves in Septa since my family overthrew the old church.”

One of the noblemen, Lord David, cleared his throat. Lenore looked over at him. He was a taller man, with more nose than his face really needed. “Prince Samuel, we are awaiting your orders,” he said.

“Oh,” Samuel said. “I suppose you must be. Yes, Victor, please look after my children while I get this mess sorted, will you?”

He wandered towards David, calling for guards to collect Issac and Michael, to sweep the grounds in case any more rebels were hiding, and to rouse the ambassadors.

Victor walked up to Lenore, who was just getting to her feet, pulling Devon along with her. “Your dress shines,” he said.

“I am a thread mage, I spin light into yarn,” Lenore said. “Thank you for saving us. I am sorry that you lost your brother.”

I am sorry that you lost family as well,” Victor said. “I tried to stop the whole thing several times on the way here. This is not how my people should gain their freedom from our king.”

Octavian stumbled up to them. “Lenore,” he asked, “is Papa the king now?”

Lenore looked at him. For a moment, she had a hard time remembering what the words he’d used meant. King wasn’t a title, king was her uncle.

Finally, though, she said, “I think so.”

Broken Patterns, Chapter One

So, Broken Patterns is coming out on Friday. So, I wanted to give all of my PBW readers a sneak preview. Here, then, is Chapter One. I’ll be posting Chapter Two on Wednesday and Chapter Three on Friday. Hope you like it.

Part One


I have been so alone for so long. Since the other one had cheated me, leaving me in the darkness and cold, I have been alone. I had tried to find another place to bear my egg, my child, but there are precious few warm places in the darkness of the universe. There was nothing I could do, but hold it close to me as it died.

The other one’s child has flourished. Upon it, thousands of species had grown, warm and safe in the light of the sun. The sun that should have been mine.

I can bear this no longer.

Calvin Olendae didn’t believe in me, but that was all right. Men who didn’t believe were just as likely to hear my voice. They are just as likely to call me by my name. I’d spoken to him since he was young, whispering of the sins of Septa, and what he should do to stop them. Now, tonight, it was time.

He led his men through the cold, black waters of the canals, right up to the side of the palace walls.

Makes you sick, boys,” he whispered, “Those fine nobles snug and warm while our babies freeze to death in the night?”

“I still do not see how starting a war after five years of peace is going to fix that,” Victor muttered from beside him.

“Shut up, Vicky,” Calvin hissed. “Now I know you are not very bright, but I would think this plan was simple enough to understand. Do you think you can manage to take orders for once?”

“Yes, Calvin,” Victor muttered. There was one I would have to keep an eye out for. There was too much light within him.

Without another word, the men crawled from the canals, and took oiled cloth bags out from under their cloths. Even after nearly an hour of swimming through the dark waterways that served Septa as roads, they were still dry inside, thanks to a bit of magic from Calvin’s woman. It was a good thing too. The Septans were far more likely to believe they were actual Montelair soldiers if their red coats weren’t soaking wet.

The men stripped their wet coats, and pulled on the uniforms. Then, Calvin led them to the wall that surrounded the palace.

A guard on the wall saw them coming. “You there, stop!” he yelled, training a crossbow on them.

“Victor,” Calvin said.

Victor walked to the wall. When the guard fired, he held up one hand that glowed blue. The bolt hit it, and bounced off.

Calvin clenched his own hand, and a ball of the same blue light formed. More guards were running along the wall. Calvin waited until they got closer, then tossed the light at the wall.

Even his own men jumped when it burned away in a blast of blue light and dust. He ran through, with the others on his heels.

Inside of the wall, there was panic. I had made sure that Calvin would recognize King Issac Mestonie on sight. He stood in front of his wife and son, holding a sword. As Calvin watched, he swung the sword, and it lit with fire.

“That is a cute trick,” Calvin said, “but I have an even a better one.”

He clenched his fist again, and threw another ball at Issac. The king and his family were dead, just like that.

Guards were yelling, and men were running out of the palace. “Calvin,” Victor gasped, “that was a boy you just killed. He could not have been more than fourteen years old.”

“And now he will not reach fifteen,” Calvin replied. “You need to steady yourself for this, boy. This is what war is.”

A nobleman was running from the palace. He drew a sword, and set it afire just as the king had done. “Look, see?” Calvin said. “The nobles are just like weeds. You pull one, and there is always another to take its place. That’s why you have to rip them out by the damn roots, Victor. You take that one.”

Victor swallowed, and nodded. He walked towards the man, his hands glowing. Perhaps I could use him eventually. Calvin turned his attention to the guards. The other Brothers worked their way through them as well. Soon the pretty lawn was painted red with blood.

As Calvin stopped to take a breath, he noticed a flicker of light from behind one of the garden trees. He looked, and saw a young woman, no older than fifteen, and a boy of roughly thirteen. They were hugging each other, and obviously trying just to keep out of sight. That was never going to be possible, with her dress decked out in embroidery that light up like a lantern. The blessing of The One, the one they called The Creator was on her. They were nobles from the looks of them, with that same Mestonie curly black hair.

Calvin started towards them, already pulling together another ball. The girl saw him coming, and held the boy closer. “You get back!” she said.

“How like a noble,” Calvin laughed. “Never knowing when to stop giving orders.”

He started to pull his arm back to throw, but suddenly someone grabbed him from behind. He looked, and saw Victor.

“Let me go!” he yelled, wrenching his arm free. What was he doing?

“Calvin, you can’t cannot keep doing this!” Victor yelled. “Think about what Da would say if he knew you were killing girls.”

“I do not give a damn what Da would have said,” Calvin said. “Any noble that is left over can start this whole mess over again.”

Victor stepped in between him and the children. “This was not the plan! We were supposed to just attack, make them think we were soldiers, and leave. You already killed one child, will you kill two more? Look at them, Calvin, that girl is the same age as June!”

“And if I have to kill her to make sure June and my other children survive, I will do it!” Calvin cried. “Now move!”

Victor held up his hands. “No,” he said.

Calvin swelled with fury. “How dare you?” he hissed. “How dare you chose these noble hounds over your own family? Who raised you after Da died? Who put clothes on your ungrateful back?”

“That is why I’ve got to stop you. How much innocent blood do you want on your hands?”

“There is no innocent blood on my hands, little brother,” Calvin said. He threw the ball.

Victor caught it, and it knocked him back into the noble children. The girl tried to catch him, but all three of them went down. Victor cried out in pain as he landed, but he still didn’t move away from them. “You would really kill me, just to kill them?” he yelled.

Calvin looked down at him. “I do not even have to think about it that hard.” He raised his hand to form another ball. Before he could, though, he was hit from the side by an arrow. He gasped in pain, and another arrow struck his leg. He turned to run back toward the canal, and another arrow hit him in the back. Calvin stumbled, and fell into the black water. In too much agony to swim, he sank into the darkness.

Damn. And I had wasted so much time on him. Oh well, at least there was the other one. But, then, there was also that girl. There was light in her, yes. But perhaps there was room for darkness as well.

Domino Days

I want you to imagine something for me. Imagine your perfect morning. Not like, waking up in a fancy hotel on your way to Universal Studio kind of morning. A get the kids to school and adults to work and things went really well morning.

Have you thought of yours? Good, here’s my perfect morning.

I wake up when my alarm goes off and spend fifteen minutes playing with my time management games. Then I get up, and dress in the outfit I picked out the night before. I can walk right into the bathroom and do my makeup, because my makeup bag is in the bathroom where it belongs. Then I go downstairs and turn on my coffee pot that’s already loaded with coffee. The house isn’t immaculate, but it’s picked up. My lunch is in my bag, I know where my keys are. I remember to take my vitamins because I’ve remembered to put them right next to my travel mug, which is clean and ready to go.

All of these things set me up for a good day. I feel more energized, I get to the day job with time to spare and I feel more confident. Since I feel so good, I’m more likely to do things that I need to. I’ll get things done, I’ll do laundry. Most importantly, I’ll do the things that I need to do to make the next morning another good one.

This is the domino effect that a good day can have, if we follow through with it.

Now, picture a shitty morning. You know the mornings I mean, we all have them.

I just can’t wake up, so I don’t have time to play my games. I have to scrounge through the bin full of clothes I didn’t have the energy to put away and maybe find some wrinkled shirt. At worse, I might be stuck with some less than fresh underthings. I’ve got to take time to make my coffee and scrounge something for lunch. If I have the time left after all that, I’ll toss on some BB cream and mascara. I’ll rush to the day job, arrive just in time to clock in and hit the ground running. I hate that. Oh, and of course I’ve forgotten to take my vitamins, if I even knew where they were. By the end of the day, while I know it will only lead to another bad morning, I’m more inclined to crash on the couch and watch cartoons than I am to do the things I need to do. I’m also frustrated because, when I make my to do list for tomorrow, I’m just rewriting the exact same list again. I’ve made little to no progress, and that makes me feel like crap.

This is the domino effect that a bad day can have, if we let it.

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