Missing Stitches Chapter Three

Victor looked down at his breakfast plate. There sat three soft-boiled eggs, sausage, toast with honey and butter. There was a hot cup of rich tea steaming next to his plate. There had been a time, when he was a poor boy growing up in Montelair, that a meal like this would have seemed an incredible feast.

He dug into his food with relish, ignoring the tutting sounds from his mother-in-law.

“I’m surprised that Stella isn’t with you, Sultiana,” Lenore said.

“She’s gone back to Coveline to visit her family,” Sultiana said, glancing up from her plate. “It was long overdue, I think.”

“Lenore,” Devon said, leaning across the table. “Can I ask you something strange?”

“What kind of strange?” Lenore asked, scratching something out on her date book vindictively.

“Well, Sultiana and I have been feeling something since we arrived,” Devon said, “something familiar.”

“You remember that we had a strange black substance attacking our border with Kussier,” Sultiana said.

“Hard thing to forget,” Lenore said.

“Well, whenever we would stand near that Black, we’d feel something,”

“It made me feel, cold. It reminded me of the feeling you get when you wake up from a nightmare that you don’t remember,” Devon said.

Victor sat his fork down. “Almost like you’ve lost someone, but you’re not sure who, and you can’t find them?” he asked.

“Like that, yes,” Devon said.

“I’ve had that feeling,” Victor said. “Usually at night, when I’m preparing for bed, or waking in the morning.”

“I’ve felt that way, too,” Lenore said. “But it’s always gone by the time I dress. I thought it was just the stress of everything going on.”

“It is probably just this whole mess,” Victor said, taking another bite of his eggs. “It’s hard to feel right about anything.”

But Sultiana shook her head. “It’s not that. This is too familiar to discount. I think we should all keep track of when we’re feeling this darkness. Look for patterns.”

“We can do that,” Lenore said.

The dining room door opened and a palace runner slipped in. “Prince Victor,” he said, setting a tightly rolled scroll next to his plate.

“Thank you, Lad,” Victor said, opening it.

Come to my office, soon as you can, it read.

Victor crumpled the paper, shoving it into his pocket.

“Is something wrong?” Lenore asked.

“Nothing,” Victor said, getting to his feet. “Just a note from the gardener. Slugs are getting into the olive trees in the garden, and he needs me to approve something or other to kill them.”

“And you’ve got to run off from breakfast to deal with slugs?” Lorna asked.

“Well, the head gardener is out sick, it’s just his assistant right now,” Victor said. “Anyway, killing slugs sounds like a fun game this morning.”

Lenore arched her eyebrow. The code word game was often used between the two of them. He hoped that it implied that he’d tell her what was going on in truth later. “Oh, go on, Love. The last thing we need is slugs getting into the orchard.”

Victor plucked her hand from the table to kiss her knuckles before leaving.

He made his way to the lower levels of the palace. He hadn’t gone far, though, when he heard raised voices down a hallway that led to servant dormitories. Hoping that whatever the spymaster had for him could wait, he turned to head in the direction of the disturbance.

Much to his surprise, he found Butrus face-to-face with a palace servant, shouting at each other.

“Hey!” Victor bellowed, hoping just to be heard over the men. “What in the view of the Sky do you think you’re doing?”

“Prince, this man just started shoving me!” the guard said. “He’s gabbling away in that foreign language, and I can’t understand a word of it!”

“Prince Victor, this man was screaming at his wife,” Butrus said in Calistarian. “Am I permitted to discipline him, or do you wish to handle it yourself?”

“Do you speak Septan, Butrus?” Victor asked, also speaking in Calistarian.

“A little,” Butrus said.

“And what led you to believe that he was yelling at his wife?” Victor asked.

“I, well I heard shouting, and he was with––”

“So you just barged in on who knows what? Where is this woman, anyway?” he looked past the men, into the room. There was a woman sitting on the bed, someone he recognized.

“Daisy,” Victor said.

The woman was pulling a cotton dress over her petticoats. Once she was dressed, she smiled at him. “How are you? You haven’t come to see me in a long while, Victor.”

“Well, my lady might frown on it,” Victor replied. “Everything all right? My friend seems to think you were in some trouble.”

“No,” Daisy said, “I had a nice time. All that happened was that Jimmy couldn’t find his boots, and he was scared of being late. We stayed up a little late last night. He was being loud, but not at me.”

She came to the doorway and fluttered her eyelashes. “You know none of Lulu’s girls let ourselves get treated wrong,” she said.

“Good girl,” he said, “Sorry your morning was disturbed. Give Lulu and her old man my best, will you?”

“If she won’t spit it back at me,” Daisy replied.

“James, find your damned boots. And let’s have no more scenes on work mornings, all right?”

“Yes, Prince,” James replied before hurrying back into his room, presumably to continue the search for his boots.

“Butrus, come with me,” Victor said. “Right now.”

Butrus followed after Victor as they headed toward the noble visitor’s wing. “You don’t speak Septan, and you thought it all right to barge into a man’s room and start making a fuss,” Victor said.

“The woman seems to be a friend of yours, did you want her ill-treated?” Butrus asked.

“You did not hear her explain that he was not even yelling at her, because you don’t speak Septan!” Victor said. “Butrus, I cannot imagine that Sultiana needed extra muscle, so why did she bring you along?”

“I am to be the new ambassador,” Butrus said, looking defiant.

“Because you are so levelheaded and diplomatic,” Victor snapped. “I will not tell Sultiana and Devon about this, and you will never let it happen again. If you think that a man in my palace is mistreating a girl, get a guard.”

Without another word, he walked away.

* * * *

Talmadge Grace was sitting at her desk, sipping tea while she read over a stack of parchment. The office was barely recognizable since she’d taken it over. The desk was smaller than the old one, painted over with lacquer that made it glow red. The seats were plain but comfortable. The floor was swept clean around a blue rug that lay underfoot. A good lamp lit the room as there were no windows.

Talmadge herself was different. Her hair, which had been held back before in a messy braid had been cut. It was held away from her face with a steel clip in the shape of a bird. She wore breeches and a tunic with a cream vest, and good boots.

The most surprising change, Victor only saw when she looked up from her papers and stood to curtsy to him. After her bow, she stood straight and looked him in the eye.

“I am sorry to have kept you waiting,” Victor said.

“No need to apologize, Prince,” Talmadge said, “This is nothing crucial. I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk to you since you’ve returned.”

“My fault as much as anybody’s,” Victor said.

“Well, it’s good that you’re back,” Talmadge said. “Both you and the princess.”

“I have gotten some idea of that, yes,” Victor said. He took a seat at the desk. “What is going on with this noble uprising?”

Talmadge shook her head. “Prince Joseph is the trouble, not anyone else. I know that Lord David is angry about his bastard brother’s lordship, but James has been a lord for quite some time.”

“Since King Lyonal’s days, from what I understand,” Victor said, naming his grandfather-in-law.

“Yes,” Talmadge said. “Lord Constantine siding with the prince is easier to understand. He’s always been one too fond of power, and if his daughter is married to Hank, he’ll have power aplenty. But still, it seems strange that so many of the common people have sided with them.”

“When I hear that someone has gained influence so quickly, I hear the sound of gold clicking,” Victor said.

“Generally I agree,” Talmadge said, “and it’s a possibility. I know that the head of the merchant’s guild is unhappy about the changes Princess Lenore’s been pushing for. The last thing he wants is foreign merchants flooding his markets. He’s not too happy about the women inheriting businesses either. I wouldn’t put it past him to throw some gold at the problem.”

Just then, what had appeared to be a solid wall behind Talmadge opened in the center, revealing a small door. A young boy, a chimney sweep judging by the soot in his hair, popped into the room. He froze when he saw Victor.

“It’s all right, Lad,” Victor said.

The boy hesitated for only another second before saying, “Miss, Prince Joseph’s at the front steps of the palace. He’s wanting an audience with Princess Lenore.”

“Lenore?” Talmadge asked, getting to her feet, “What does he want with her?”

“Perhaps he is going to apologize and swear his fealty,” Victor said, causing Talmadge to release a mirthless laugh.

“You’d better get up there and keep an eye on the princess. She’s bound to be too trusting of her uncle,” she said.

“But, Miss, that’s the other thing,” the boy said, “Princess Lenore and Queen Sultiana left. They went into the city.”

“They did what?” Talmadge cried. “Bobby, why didn’t you tell me?”

“That’s what I’m doing now, Miss,” the boy said, giving her an incredulous look. “I only heard that the other prince was here when I was already on my way.”

“Send someone to tail her,” Talmadge muttered. She was reaching for her cloak.

“I will go meet with Joseph,” Victor said. “I grow tired of this family squabbling.”

He hurried to find the king.

Samuel and Devon were in the family sitting room. “Does anyone know where those girls ran off to?” he asked.

“Lenore got an urgent message from the temple just after you left,” Devon said. “Sultiana went with her.”

“I find myself missing Anthony, just now,” Victor said.

“What do we think Uncle Joe’s here for?” Devon asked.

Samuel laughed. “You know your uncle. He’s probably going to come right in as though nothing was ever wrong.”

A guard came to the door. “Prince Joseph Mestonie,” he said, holding the door open for Victor’s uncle-in-law.

Like his older brothers, Joseph was a big man, with a small goatee and mustache, well-trimmed. He wore his dark hair to his shoulders and was dressed entirely in Mestonie blue, save his boots.

He also wore a sword on his belt. Victor wore no weapons, neither did Samuel. The only blade in the room, aside from Joseph’s, was on Devon’s belt.

“Joe,” Samuel said. “Get in here next to the fire, Man.”

Joseph stayed by the door, with two of his own guards flanking him. They both wore the same red owl on their breasts that Victor had noticed through the city. “Samuel,” Joseph said. “I came to see Lenore, not you.”

“Lenore’s indisposed,” Samuel said.

“You mean you’ve hidden her away,” Joseph replied. “What have you done to that girl, Sam?”

“What in The Creator’s name are you talking about?” Samuel asked. “Come in and say hello to your nephews. Lenore will be here when she can.”

Joseph cast a dark look at Victor and Devon. “These men are not my nephews. If you don’t release her, I’ll turn this palace upside down.”

Victor took a step toward him. “I do not think we have met. I am Victor Mestonie, Lenore is my wife.”

“My niece is not your wife, Peasant,” Joseph spat. “Samuel, I am at the end of my patience. You stand there, with your wife’s bastard son as though he’s yours. You allow this Montelarian commoner to hurt our Lenore. You allowed your true son to die, and for what? Did Octavian find out something you didn’t want him to know? Samuel, what are you hiding?”

Devon was on his feet. “What did you just say about me?” he growled. Victor was surprised. He wasn’t accustomed to seeing Devon stirred to anger.

“I said that you are a bastard, the son of some commoner your whore mother entertained,” Joseph said, “Now you’re sitting on the Calistar throne. You’re nothing but a farce. And you,” he turned to Victor. “You animal. I’ll see you gutted for what you’ve done to my niece.”

“You should be glad Lenore is not here,” Victor said. “The things you are saying about her brother may make her forget that she is a noblewoman. Let alone your insinuations about me.”

“You are speaking like a madman,” Samuel said. “Joe, have you been drinking?”

Joseph smirked. Victor felt cold. There was something wrong about Joseph, even more than his actions suggested. There seemed to be a coldness coming from him. Korhzik must have felt it as well, because he clung to Victor’s shoulder, crouched down with his ears laid back.

“If you’ve nothing to hide, let me speak to Lenore. Alone, so that she may speak freely to me.”

“I’m sure Lenore will be happy to speak with you when she is available,” Samuel said.

“No,” Joseph said. He turned from them, his guards hurrying to open the door. “Search the palace,” he said to them, “Everything from the tower to the cellars. I will find her, Samuel. And if you’ve hurt her, I’ll kill you where you stand!”

Victor stormed after them, praying that Lenore was safe at the temple.


Missing Stitches Chapter Two

Devon leaned over the railing of his ship, the StarS Cobra, watching as the afternoon sun and the Great Gate of Septa drew closer. The wind blew through his dark curly hair, chilling his face. He’d forgotten how cold it could be outside of the desert. The skies were cloudy, and the waters of the Dragon Tears River were choppy.

It had been raining when he’d left Septa, too.

In Calistar, where everything was still new and foreign, it had been easier to set aside his grief for his older brother, Octavian. It hadn’t gone away, not by any means. But there hadn’t been painful memories waiting around every corner.

He and Octavian had come out to the bay to fish when the weather was good. Sometimes they’d caught enough for the whole family to eat dinner. Or, if they didn’t, the servants had slipped a few extra in.

He was relieved when his wife, Sultiana, joined him. She put her arms around him from behind, resting her chin on his shoulder. She was only a bit shorter than him, with dark brown skin and a thick black braid that she coiled around her head like a crown. They both wore white silk, the mark of Calistar nobility.

“You look weary, Honored Husband,” she said. “I thought you’d be happy. We’re going to see your family, our new nieces.”

“I am happy, for the most part,” Devon said. “I’m excited to see my mother and Lenore. Even Victor.”

“And your father?” she asked.

Devon grimaced. “That’s another matter. How did you know?”

“It’s my job to know such things. I’ve never understood your relationship with your father,” Sultiana said.

“Of course not,” Devon said. “Your father was perfect. He accepted my weaving, taught me everything he could. His life obviously revolved around you and your sisters. My own father, well. He’s always been a nobleman first.”

“Your father loves you,” Sultiana said.

“I know he does,” Devon said. He turned around to pull Sultiana against him. Around them, sailors and soldiers from each of the five tribes grinned at their king and queen’s obvious affection for each other.

“What about you, though?” he asked, “You look like you’ve been crying.”

She gave him a sad smile. “My courses came,” she said.

“Oh,” Devon said. “Well, I mean, you couldn’t have been pregnant again.”

“No, I know,” she said, nodding. “It’s just a reminder. I’d have been showing by now.”

“We’ll get a baby,” Devon said. He set his forehead on hers and smiled. “I imagine it’ll be lots of fun trying, too.”

“Lots, yes,” Sultiana said, chuckling. She looked toward the gate. “Do you think Chrissie will be all right back home?”

“She’ll do great,” Devon said, thinking of his assertive and strong-minded sister-in-law. “She’s got Kadar, Gia, Shilom, and Sabre to help her.”

Thinking of the people they’d left behind brought his thoughts to the friends that had come with them.

Saja, Sultiana’s chief adviser, was coaxing her falcon down from a piece of the rigging. She was dressed in Smith Tribe red with newly cropped hair, holding a bit of flatbread for him.

Devon couldn’t see Butrus, the bulking Farmers Tribesman who was to be their new ambassador to Septa. But this wasn’t uncommon. Butrus had spent most of the trip keeping to himself.

Sultiana’s assistant, Mergin, was talking with an uncomfortable looking sailor. She wore Smith red as well, a long skirt and tunic. Her skin was honey colored, her eyes heavy with kohl.

“Will you change into Septan clothing while we’re here?” Sultiana asked.

Devon considered his clothes. He wore a pair of white silk pants and a loose-fitting tunic with a vest over it. A cloth belt wrapped around his waist, into which, he’d tucked his ornate dagger. His leather boots were laced over his pants, reaching halfway to his knees. “I don’t know,” he said. “It might be a little cold, wearing this.”

Mergin, apparently done with the sailor, came to join them. “Sire, I wonder if I could ask you some questions about Septa. I’ve never been there. Actually, I’ve never been outside of Calistar.”

Devon almost laughed. It had taken fighting in a war together for Mergin to feel comfortable talking to him. Even so, she did so only when she thought it necessary.

“I wish our people would travel more,” Devon said. “Not just the Scholars and Traders Tribes. Everyone should see more of the world.”

“Do Septans travel often?” Mergin asked.

“No, as a matter of fact, they don’t,” Devon said. “I wish they did, too. I think we’d all be a lot better off if we saw more of the world than where we were born.”

Trumpets started to blare at the Great Gate, announcing their arrival.

The ship pulled into the dock. Waiting for them were the Lords Monroe and James. They were accompanied by a handful of guards, who were keeping a close eye on the crowds on the boardwalk.

Sultiana shivered. “Something feels strange,” she said, looking up at Devon.

“What in The Creator’s name is this?” Devon whispered, looking around the surrounding docks. They were crowded with people shouting at the Calistarians as they left the ship.

“Prince,” Monroe called, waving for him. Devon walked down the plank to meet him. “No,” he corrected himself. “You’re a king now.”

“It’s still just Devon, please,” he replied, reaching out to shake his hand. He and Monroe had faced the Dragon Plague together. He couldn’t bear such formality from him.

“Of course,” Monroe said, grinning. “My friend, I am so happy to see you.”

“Gladder than the city might be,” James said, clapping Devon on the shoulder. “Keep your bow close, Devon. Ah, Queen Sultiana. It is good to see you again, Your Majesty.”

James bowed to her, and she inclined her head politely. “Where is my Honored Father-in-law? Is he unwell?” she asked.

James grimaced. “I’m afraid he is dealing with a situation that couldn’t wait. He asked me to escort you to the palace.”

“What was so important that he couldn’t come himself?” Devon asked.

“We should talk at the palace,” Monroe said, glancing around.

Two gondolas were waiting for them. Devon, Sultiana, Stella, and Mergin joined James in the first, while the others climbed aboard the second with Monroe.

“I was only making a suggestion,” Devon heard Butrus say to Saja. “You don’t need to scratch my eyes out, Woman.”

“You are not my father, brother, uncle, or even a member of my tribe,” Saja snapped. “You’ve got no right to speak to me about my veil, Herdsman.”

Devon turned back, intending to chide them. As he did, someone in the crowd threw something at Saja. She jumped sideways into the gondola just in time to avoid a rotten egg. “Go home, sand whore!” the thrower yelled.

Devon was on his feet, his bow in his hand. He shot toward the man, catching his jacket sleeve and pinning him to the wall behind. He looked back at the other gondola in time to see Butrus raise an eyebrow at Saja.

“Oh don’t say a word. They’d have thrown that whether I’d had my veil on or not,” Saja snapped.

Devon remained standing as the gondola starting moving, his bow in his hand. James did the same. People along the boardwalks shouted obscenities at the Calistarians. He heard a few Sapphic slurs as well, causing him to glance toward Monroe when their gondolas pulled next to each other.

“My secret’s out, yes,” Monroe said. “My dear mother let it slip before she left the court.”

“Your mother?” Devon asked.

“Yes,” Monroe said with a sigh. “I suppose now that Larissa has made such a fine marriage, she no longer saw a reason to hide me away. It’s made getting around town problematic.”

“Honored Husband,” Sultiana said, “I don’t understand this welcome. It’s dishonorable of your father not to meet us himself. And even more so to greet us with a city in such uproar.”

“I agree,” Devon said.

“You haven’t seen the worst of it,” James said, softly. When Devon gave him a questioning look, he added, “You’ll see when we arrive. But Devon, I think Lenore is going to need your help.”

Suddenly a crossbow bolt shot across the front of the gondola, nearly cutting Sultiana’s face. James turned, bow in hand, but Sultiana was already on her feet. She pulled a throwing knife from her sleeve and, with a flick of her wrist, buried it into the forehead of the shooter. “Can a guard retrieve that for me?” she asked. “It was a gift from a friend.”

* * * *

Devon was thankful that they reached the palace with no more incidents. The public lawn was sparsely populated with minor nobility and palace guards.

At the foot of the stairs waited Lady Hannah and Devon’s brother-in-law, Victor. Hannah was dressed all in black. The sight of her was a knife in Devon’s heart. She should have been his sister-in-law. Octavian should be there, meeting them at the dock and furious at the angry crowds.

“Devon,” Victor said. “I am glad to see you. And, um, is it permitted that I speak with the Calistar queen now?”

“It is,” Sultiana said. “We’re working to change our laws back home. Even if we weren’t, you’re family now.”

“Then I am happy to see you as well, Sister,” Victor said. “It is good for Lenore that you are here, I think.” His Montelarian accent was thicker since his visit.

“Victor, what’s happening here?” Devon asked.

“I only know what Lenore tells me,” Victor said, as they headed up the stairs into the palace. “I have been spending much of my time with Queen Lorna, learning how to keep the palace. It is a lot more work than I realized, keeping house. Lenore is with the king right now. We’ll take you to your rooms so that you can settle in. Then, would you like to see the girls?”

Devon realized with a jolt that he wasn’t heading toward the suit of rooms that he’d grown up in. They were going, instead, to the rooms designed for Calistar dignitaries. He was also surprised the first time a guard bowed to Victor in the hall. It was just another reminder that he wasn’t a Septa prince anymore, Victor was. It was a strange thing, he thought, being a guest in what had been his home.

The Calistar rooms were designed to be as close to their own palace as possible. The carpets were made of red, green, orange, yellow, and blue for the five tribes. An altar to the gods and goddesses was tucked into one corner. When Devon went into the bedroom, he found a mattress on the floor, rather than one that was propped up on a stand as was customary in Septa.

“I will let you settle yourselves in,” Victor said.

“Thanks,” Devon said, looking around.

Victor turned to leave but stopped. “Devon,” he said, “are you all right?”

“I feel strange,” he said.

Victor nodded. “I think I may understand. When I went home to Montelair, I felt as though everything I had known, everything I remembered, was different. Places I’d known my whole childhood were alien to me.”

“That sounds just like how I feel,” Devon said.

Once Devon and Sultiana had gotten their things put away and changed, they left the others to settle into their rooms and headed to the family sitting room.

“I didn’t realize this would be so hard on you,” Sultiana said.

“I don’t think it’s just coming home, and everything being strange the way Victor was describing,” Devon said. “There’s something strange here, something wrong. I feel like there’s a shadow over everything.”

“You feel it, too?” Sultiana asked, “I thought I was imagining it. Devon, I feel the same as I did when I stood next to the Black.”

“It does feel that way, now that you mention it,” Devon said.

They entered the sitting room to find Victor sitting with Queen Lorna. An air of uncomfortable silence permeated the air.

“Oh, Devon!” Lorna cried. She stood, rustling her great silk gown. She looked just as she ever had, her thick hair coiled in a neat bun, her clothes impeccable.

“And, Sultiana. I’m so sorry I wasn’t at the dock to meet you.”

“Yes, why weren’t you there?” Sultiana asked, coolly. “It almost felt like a snub. I understand that my brother-in-law is a prince and a great noble, but even he only met us at the door.”

“I am sorry, Dear, but there was quite a lot of activity in the streets today,” Lorna said.

“We did notice that. Someone took a shot at us on the way here,” Sultiana said, “It seems that, if my honored father-in-law knew that this was going on, he should have warned us. We still would have come.”

Lorna looked uncomfortable. “I don’t know, Sultiana, dear. You’ll have to speak to Samuel about that. He and Lenore are in a meeting right now with the city guards.”

At that moment, the sound of porcelain shattering came from the room next to them. It was followed almost instantly by Lenore’s screaming.

“Oh, already?” Devon cried. He hurried next door, Sultiana right behind him.

When they entered the meeting hall, they saw Robert Carr, the general of army recruiting, was holding his hands up to protect himself. A puddle of porcelain and tea was on the floor next to him. Lenore was on her feet, facing him.

“I have had it to the top with your condescending tone, Sir! I’m not some girl in two tails who’s never seen a battle before. And if you don’t watch yourself, I’ll show you some things I learned in Montelair!”

Samuel sat back in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Maybe it’s best that we leave it there for now. In fact, I think a good rule should be that once cups start flying the meeting is over. Can I trust you to stop by tomorrow, General?”

“Of…of course,” Robert said, giving Lenore a wary look. Carr, a man who had been involved in every altercation Septa had taken part in since he’d come of age, nearly ran from the room in his haste to get away from Lenore. From the look on her face, Devon didn’t blame him.

“Devon,” Samuel said, getting to his feet and coming to greet them. “It’s so good to see you, Son.”

“It’s good to see you too, Papa,” Devon said. “Seems like things are a little tense.”

“A temporary nonsense,” Samuel said.

“Bosh,” Lenore said. “We can’t get through the damned streets without someone spitting on my children. Devon, Sultiana, I’m happy to see you. I’ve missed you horribly. Go home tomorrow.”

“Why?” Sultiana asked.

“Because Septa is one misstep away from being a war zone,” she replied. “And the last thing we need right now is more noble targets.”

“It isn’t as bad as all that, Bug,” Samuel said.

Victor snorted. “Sire, I am well aware what an angry populace looks like. In Montelair, they were just hungry. These people think that you’re endangering their immortal souls.”

“Let’s go into the sitting room, and have something to eat,” Samuel said, “Devon and Sultiana just got here. They don’t need to hear all of this now.”

“I’m all right,” Sultiana said. “I’m feeling very alert, actually. Someone tried to kill me on the way here, after all.”

“Which is why I want you to go home,” Lenore said.

“Nonsense,” Sultiana said. She pulled out a chair from the table and sat down.

“Sultiana, please understand that it’s highly improper for us to discuss matters of state with a foreign noblewoman,” Samuel said. “Even if you are my daughter-in-law.”

“Bullshit,” Lenore muttered. “Sultiana, our noblemen are in near open rebellion.”

The king gave Lenore a stern look that she either didn’t notice or ignored. “Lords Constantine and David left for Uncle Joseph’s country estate. Since then, we believe that they’ve been encouraging rebellion within the city.”

“They didn’t leave quietly, either,” Victor said, “David tried to force Hannah to come with him. She scratched up his face.”

“Hannah is David’s daughter?” Sultiana asked.

“Yes, and Daniel is his son,” Samuel said, apparently giving up. “They’ve stayed to serve the court. But they, Lewis, Howard, and Harper are all that we have left.”

“And Joan,” Lenore said. “Which surprised me, to tell you the truth.”

“Our cousin, Joan?” Devon asked, “Joseph’s own daughter stayed?”

“Yes, but Hank and Larissa left,” Samuel said.

Victor took a seat at the table, sighing. “If it were only some nobles in a huff, this would not be a bad situation. But it is more than that. The people are angry as I am sure you saw.”

“What are they so angry about?” Devon asked.

“Sapphic’s rights,” Lenore said, glaring at her father. “Most of the city seems to think that being Sapphic is a sin. Of course, it didn’t help that Papa made it illegal for them to be married.”

“They’re mad about more than just Sapphics,” Samuel said. “They’re mad about the way the war ended. They’re mad about the inheritance laws changing.”

“They’re mad about me,” Lenore said.

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Missing Stitches, Chapter One


Since, the moment that these creeping things started to crawl upon their earth, I have hated them. Slow, stupid, bumbling things. Always at war with each other, always hating their own kind for the shallowest of reasons. Even the ones directly touched by their Creator are gray, drab things.

My own children would have shined, would have dominated the universe.

But, as they’re already bent on self-destruction, I’ll make use of them.

Possessing these creatures turned out to be a far simpler task than I ever anticipated, which opened my mind to all sorts of new possibilities. If I can possess one, perhaps I can gift one, the way their Creator does.

I’ve watched this one for a while. The third brother, not gifted like the two that came before him. His pride has been hurt, and he’s angry. He’s angry that his brother died, angry that his country was invaded. There are more selfish angers. And, of course, there is fear. I can always rely on fear. And so, when I began to whisper to him, he was ready to listen.

“If Samuel had no male heir, you should have been the one to inherit. Instead, he snubbed you and chose his daughter. What right does Samuel have to pass you up? It’s only because she is a mage. She and her common born, Montelarian husband, are more worthy in Samuel’s eyes than you. And now, they’re going to outrank you. That filth, the brother of the man who killed Issac, will be your king. You’ll be expected to bow to him, and his daughters.”

“This is the way of things,” I told him, “in a world run by mages.”

He’s been good enough to remove himself from his family. He’s gone to his country estate on his own lands. This is where I want him, sitting by the fire, sipping brandy, and going over financial records for his lands. Brooding, telling himself what a good landlord he is.

I slipped inside of him. It caused him some pain, I suppose, enough that he dropped his glass and cried out.

“Hush,” I whispered, “you’ll be glad I’m here.”

“What?” he cried.

“I’m going to help you. All of your life you’ve been neglected. Your brothers have always been favored because they were mages.”

“What’s happening?” he screamed.

“I’m helping you,” I said. “They were gifted, not because they’re better, or more worthy than you, but because the one you call your Creator is cruel. Picking and choosing people to bless at random, setting them above His other creations. You’re going to help me fix all of that. And in return, you’ll have power above all, more than you could possibly imagine.”

“Power,” he whispered. He was calm, then. He rose to his feet and nodded. Like a good little puppet.

“Yes,” I answered him. “We must start by killing your brother, and his daughter.”

Part One

Chapter One

Lenore Mestonie stood at the prow of her Uncle Lewis’s ship, the SOS Albatross. It was the flagship of her country, made of dark stained wood with billowing blue sails. It was a fantastic ship, the pride of her uncle. But she wasn’t interested in it.

She was looking for the silver gate, the Great Gate. The gate that led to her city, Septa. She felt as though she was starving, so desperate was she for the sight of it.

In her arms was her firstborn daughter, Eleanor. They shared the same blue eyes and cream-colored skin. But while Lenore had the dark curly hair that was a recognizable Mestonie trait, Eleanor had the light blonde hair of her father.

“Keep looking, little princess,” Lenore said, pointing toward the horizon. “We’ll be home soon. Not soon enough, but soon.”

A chorus of yipping alerted her to the arrival of her hound, Shepard, and her puppies. The baby dogs had inherited much from their wolf father and bore no resemblance to their mother’s brown fur and floppy ears. Instead, their gray coat was darker but not by much. Their ears would likely perk up over time, but for now, they flopped down comically as they bounced around in play with each other.

Shepard came to her master’s side and leaned against her. “Oh, are the babies tiring you out?” Lenore asked, scratching her ear.

“They are certainly tiring me out,” said her husband, Victor, as he joined her. “Worse than our two, these dogs.” He was holding Eleanor’s twin sister, Loralie, upside down to make her giggle. She looked even smaller than she was when her father held her. He was a large man, taller than any other on the ship. He’d allowed his blond hair to grow while they’d visited Montelair, and even now it flopped over his face. Loralie more closely resembled Lenore, with the same curly hair and button nose.

On Victor’s shoulder was a brown rat they called Korzhik. He had recently suffered a bath from Ramona, the family nurse. He looked much fluffier but seemed obsessed with washing the scent of soap out of his fur.

“You have been standing here all morning,” Victor chuckled. “You know you can’t get us there any faster by staring.”

“I know,” Lenore replied, “I’m just eager to be home.” She set a hand on her belly. She hadn’t yet started showing, but she knew it wouldn’t be long. “I can’t wait to tell everyone that we’re expecting another baby.”

Victor grinned. He pulled her and Eleanor close with one arm and kissed her. “And we won’t be on the run, with this pregnancy. We have peace with Montelair, and we will be home. I won’t have to worry every second that you’re in danger, for once.” He glanced around the deck, and added, “I do notice, however, that Anthony seems to have abandoned you.”

“I sent him below deck to pack,” Lenore replied. “I can’t imagine I need to be guarded while aboard the ship.”

A flash of silver caught her attention in the distance. “There it is,” she said, breathing a sigh of relief. In the crow’s nest, a sailor was shouting the news. Soon Captain Lewis and his daughter, Lady Harper, were on the deck.

Lewis, Lenore’s uncle on her mother’s side, was a barrel-chested man who looked more like an old sea captain than a nobleman. His beard was trimmed but longer than Septan fashion. He wore cotton to keep him warm at sea. His face showed the wear of years in the ocean winds. His daughter, Harper, was taller than him by a hand, with a messy bun and a thick wool coat over her shoulders. She wore breeches, unlike any of the other women aboard. She seemed to be in the process of scolding her father.

“No, I don’t think it was warranted at all,” she said. “That woman devoted her life to The Creator, and you bloody well made her cry.”

“I wouldn’t have had to if she’d listened when I asked her to stop fussing over me,” Lewis said. “Daughter Coriander looked over me, and she didn’t fuss.”

“That’s Elder Sister Coriander now. I’m sure she’s going to have something to say to you when she finds out about your behavior. In fact, I imagine she’s going to kick your bum up beside your ears.”

“I am your papa!” Lewis said, “And you’ll not be telling the Elder anything. Unless you want your mama to hear about your pants wearing ways.”

“Uncle,” Lenore said, “we’re nearly home. Are you excited?”

“Not particularly,” Lewis said. “I’ve come home to the Great Gate hundreds of times, Niece. Mostly what I do when I get there is find a new reason to get back on my ship.”

“He’s not allowed fatty meat anymore,” Harper said. “He’s replacing it with being a prat at everyone.”

Lenore stifled a laugh. “I’m going to go check on Tabitha and Lucy,” she said. Leaving Eleanor with Harper, she headed below deck.

Her room on the ship was small, but space on board was always at a premium. The bed was made already, with a thick blue comforter and white satin pillows. Tabitha and Lucy were packing Victor and Lenore’s belongings from the built-in drawers into a trunk.

Tabitha quick eyes darted over to Lenore when she entered the room, not bothering to bow. Years of friendship had put an end to such things. Her wife, Lucy, was a good head taller than her, with a sharp nose. She as well didn’t bow but gave Lenore a quick nod.

Sitting with them was the Montelarian Princess, Victor’s niece, Anna. Several weeks of good meals and good care had been enough to put some weight on the child. It hadn’t yet taken away the haunted look in her eyes. After the childhood the girl had, Lenore wasn’t sure it would ever go away.

From the open doorway, leading into the next room, Lenore could see Anthony, her bodyguard. His long, curly hair was pulled back into a ponytail, leaving his scarred neck exposed. He was going over his bags and gave her a brief nod when he saw her.

“I didn’t think we had that much to pack,” Lenore said. “Didn’t most of our things burn up in the explosion?”

“We’ve only just started,” Tabitha said.

“I’m packed,” Anna said.

“Good,” Lenore said. “Thank you, Anna.”

Ramona, the royal nurse, came bustling in just then. She was a portly woman, dressed plainly in a cotton gown and simple shoes. “Where are the babies?” she asked.

“On deck with Victor,” Lenore said.

Ramona threw her hands up. “I’ve got to get them dressed!” she cried. “Does no one think to tell me these things?”

She hurried out of the room again.

“We’re about to go through the Great Gate,” Lenore said. “Anna, would you like to come see?”

“Are we?” Lucy asked, getting to her feet. “Great, I can’t wait to get off this ship.”

“Oh no, you’re staying here,” Lenore said, “Anna’s already packed.”

Lenore took Anna’s hand and led her upstairs, leaving Tabitha and Lucy to mutter over the packing.

Back on deck, Ramona was fussing over the cotton dresses the girls were wearing. “I can’t believe this is how we’re presenting them to their grandparents,” she said. “Lenore, you and your brothers never wore cotton.”

“We were in a war in Montelair,” Lenore said. “I think Mama and Papa will understand.”

“Well, maybe the king will,” Victor said, “Her Grace might not be as understanding when she sees her granddaughters in common cotton.”

Anna looked startled. “Is cotton not all right? What about wool?” She was dressed in a dark red wool gown, with silver buttons down the front. Her boots were Montelarian leather with fur lining. She wore a rabbit furred hat now that they were out on the deck.

“You look perfect, Dear,” Lenore said, putting a hand on the younger girl’s shoulder. “You’re a princess. Anything you do is noble.”

Monroe, the chief of Septa’s ambassadors, joined them on deck. He looked flustered, which turned to irritation when he caught sight of Anna. “Princess,” Monroe said. “Your brother and uncle tasked me with looking after you. How am I to do that if you don’t stay where you tell me you’re going to be?”

Anna put her hands behind her back. “But I was with Mistress Tabitha,” she said.

“Yes, but I didn’t know that, did I,” Monroe stated. He sighed and looked up at Lenore. “How will you ever look after three of these?”

Victor, who was wiping dirt from Eleanor’s nose, said, “We employ a nursemaid. We also live in a palace full of servants, with my in-laws. I am sure we will manage as many babies as Lenore and I can have.”

As they pulled into Septan waters, the naval fleet came into view. Uncle Lewis, as commander of the navy, moved to the prow of the ship to greet them. Lenore stood beside him after setting Eleanor on her hip.

Lewis gave her a proud smile. “Look at you. The first female heir to the throne, coming home to the city that loves her.”

“I don’t know if my city loves me,” Lenore said, “but I sure love her.”

“I have missed Septa as well,” Victor said, pulling her close.

“Really? You didn’t want to stay in Montelair?” Lenore asked.

“No,” Victor replied, “It was good to visit my motherland, but this is my home.”

The ship pulled into the dock. Sailors hurried to set up a plank for them to disembark. Lenore’s father, King Samuel Mestonie, waited for them. He was a tall man, with no more than a dusting of gray in his dark hair. He was dressed plainly, in black breeches and a blue jacket with embroidery at the hems. But for the silver crown on his head, he might have been any Septan man.

Lenore wanted desperately to run to her father and throw her arms around his shoulders. Since the last time she’d seen him, she’d fought in a war, commanded a military hospital and nearly been blown to pieces several times. She wanted to be a child again, with her father there to watch after her.

Too much time had passed since she was a little girl though. Too many things had been said, and not said between them, for her to run to him like that again.

Instead, she walked to the end of the plank and bowed to him.

“What’s this?” Samuel asked, “Bug, I haven’t seen you in months! Come here.” He reached out for her and pulled her into a tight hug. “I was starting to get worried I wasn’t ever going to see you again,” he whispered.

“I’m fine,” Lenore said, a little stiffer than she meant to. “I’ve missed you too, Papa.”

Eleanor, caught between the two of them, started fussing. This caught Samuel’s attention. “I have missed you as well, my tiny darling,” he said, taking her.

Victor came to the end of the plank with Loralie. “There’s little Lori,” Samuel said, reaching out for her. “Victor, you look well, son. Come, let’s get home so that we can catch up.”

They boarded the waiting gondola. Lord James, the founder of the Dead Eye archers, stood next to the poler. His broad shoulders fit strangely over an otherwise narrow frame. He gave Lenore and Victor a nod, but then returned to scanning the crowd with wary eyes.

It was common practice for commoners to collect to see members of the royal family return home. Lenore had expected it.

What she hadn’t expected was for the people to be angry to see her.

All along the boardwalks, people jostled to see the gondolas and shouted insults. Some people waved greetings, but this seemed to infuriate the others. Several fights broke out as Lenore watched.

“What is this?” Lenore asked.

“There’s been a bit of trouble,” Samuel said. “We’ll talk at the palace.”

“I thought you said things had calmed down,” Victor said. Someone threw something at the gondola. Victor clenched his fist, bringing up a magical shield. A rotten egg hit it, breaking and falling into the canal waters.

“This is calmer,” Samuel said, grimacing.

Their gondola pulled up to the front of the palace. Anthony stepped onto the dock to assist Lenore. Just then, a young man ran from the crowd toward him. His hair was a mess, and his clothes were stained and rumpled as though he’d been wearing them for days. A guard grabbed his arm, but Anthony yelled, “Let him go, I know him.”

The boy stumbled toward him. Lenore had hopped from the gondola herself. “Anthony, who is this?” she asked.

“Princess, this is Heath. He is my son’s lover,” Anthony said.

“I tried to get a letter to you,” Heath sobbed, “but I couldn’t. I’m sorry, Anthony, I’m so sorry.”

“Sorry for what, Boy?” Anthony asked. “Stand up straight and stop babbling in front of the nobility. What’s going on?”

“It’s Adam,” Heath sobbed. “The Underground Path got him!” He broke into sobs and fell to his knees in front of them. “They tore out his guts in the middle of the square!

PreorderFalling From Grace, and be entered to win a free autographed copy of Broken Patterns. Click here for details.

Tolkien Already Did That

Fantasy is the oldest recorded genre. We, as fantasy writers, are part of a great brother/sisterhood that dates back to the first ever recorded story, Beowulf. Centuries of Fantasy writers stand behind us.

This means that everything’s been done already, mostly by Tolkien.

This is terrible! How are we ever to say anything original when we know there’s nothing original to say?

Actually, it’s really rather freeing. If we understand that everything has already been written about, then we can move past that. There’s nothing we can do about it, anyway.

Here’s what we can control.

Here’s how we get past the legacy of our genre, that is both a blessing and a curse.

Different Points of View

We don’t always need to hear the tale told from the point of view of the hero. Or the hero’s bestest buddy, either. What about the hero’s lover, parent, child, puppy, enemy. Why don’t we tell the story from the point of view of the villain?

Different Country

I learned this from Writing Excuses, and it has resonated with me. Most fantasy is written in a medieval European setting. We don’t talk a lot about anything outside of England and France. I based my countries, so far, on Italy, Russia, Japan and The Middle East in  general. I’d love to see more fantasy based on Ireland, Africa and India.

Your magic structure

This is what really grabs me in a fantasy story. What can your magic do?

While I like an all around magic, where just anything is in the realm of possible, I also think it’s a little lazy. But I’ll go nuts for something like Mistborn, where magic is controlled by different metals. Or Avatar, The Last Airbender, which uses martial arts to great effect.

But wait!

Just when we would say that it’s all been done, a new subgenre comes at us like a superhero. Steampunk! The dawn of the industrial revolution blended with magic! Honestly, I am just falling in love with this, and I think everyone else should be, too.

If all else fails you, your voice won’t

I am a firm believer in a writer’s voice. It can’t be copied, it can’t be taught, it can only be achieved by writing until it comes out. Your voice, your word choice, tone and what you focus on, is what makes your writing unlike any other writer’s work since the dawn of time.

Here’s the best news; you don’t have to learn anything. You just have to write honestly.


God Bless the Fantasy Fans

I speak about fantasy fans from two points of view. On the one hand, I write fantasy, and some of the Annie Wilkes level stories frighten me. But I’m also a fantasy fan, and if I ever get to meet Tamora Pierce I might embarrass myself.

So when I say that fantasy fans are the best fans, I’m totally biased. But I can live with that. Though I will also note that a lot of the things I want to talk about today could also apply to science fiction fans. I write, read and watch that too, though.

Fantasy fans are voracious.

Fantasy series are long. The books are big and there are usually a lot of them. Most fantasy fans know that it’s going to be a year or more between books.

We don’t care. And no matter how many books get written it will never ever be enough. If an author creates a world we love, there can never be enough. I still want to read about the Shire, Tortall, Hogwarts, all of them. Please, keep them coming.

We will nit pick you to death.

Do you know how many kinds of different swords there are? I don’t have a specific number, but I’ll tell you if you’re kind of sword doesn’t fit the world around it. For instance, if your world setting is sort of Middle Eastern and your MC is slashing about with a broadsword, I’m going to call you on it.

I will also notice if you mess up your own rules, which is why it’s important to keep track of what you’re doing. I will believe any rules that you make so long as you do.

And we will be picky about it.

We are kind of crazy.

I am not going to lie to you, fantasy fans are a little nuts. We love fantasy. We play games like D&D and White Wolf. We read as much as we can, and play fantasy video games. Some of us take things a bit too far, I’ll admit.

Look, for some of us, your stories are what we’ve got to be happy about. Maybe we don’t make friends easily, or we just live really stressful lives. My life has never been an easy one, and I accept this. But fantasy books have made me smile on days I wouldn’t have thought it possible.

So sometimes we go a little nuts at cons, or send way too much fan art. (Disclaimer: this does not give a reader the right to stalk you. You call the cops about that nonsense.)

We are loyal

When you’ve got a fantasy fan, you’ve got them until the last The End and beyond. Look at Tolkien’s fans, they’re some of the most die hard fans you’ll find.

We will show up at cons dressed like our favorite characters. We’ll create the best and worst artwork you’ve ever seen, write fan fic that will amaze you and make you shudder. We’ll get into fights over our favorite characters, wear their symbol, and love you all along.

I am proud to be a fantasy writer. I am also very proud to be a fantasy fan. How about you?


Fantasy is in the details

Let’s assume you already agree with me when I say that writing good fantasy relies heavily on world building. I mean, would the Harry Potter series be half so amazing if the world built around the story wasn’t as detailed as it is? I don’t think so, and I don’t think I’m the only one who loved reading about trips to Diagon Alley. Would Mistborn be as interesting without the mist in the night, or the fact that green plants are a myth? No, it would not.


Writing fantasy details takes a lot of work. You want them to lure the readers in, but at the same time you don’t want them to detract from the core story. You also don’t want to spend all of your writing time working on the details. Here’s what I do.


The story comes first


Always. The story comes first before anything else. Yes, I loved Diagon Alley, but I wouldn’t have read seven books about it. Have a complete and awesome story before you start worrying about the details.


In fact, I usually don’t hammer out the details until the third draft. The first draft is all about the story, the second draft becomes about the plot and character arches, and I worry about the details in the third draft. Doing it any other way is like putting perfume on before you shower, it’s going to wash off. What if you spend an hour crafting this great scene where your characters are walking through a bazaar, talking about some crucial plot point, that you later cut? I’ll tell you what happens, you’ve created a darling that you now have to kill.


So as crucial as the details are, don’t worry about them until after the story is solid.


Root your world in realistic details


This aids in the suspension of disbelief, which is important when you’re writing a story about magic and dragons. Your reader is more likely to be accept the fantastic details in your world if you’ve given them a solid, realistic foundation.


There will be parts of your story that are completely unrealistic. Depending on your story food, clothing, weapons and environments may be distinctively different from the real world. For instance, let’s talk about transportation in Harry Potter. (I’m going to use Harry Potter as an example a lot this month. I’m re-reading it in preparation for the new one, so please bear with me.)


The magical world has all sorts of magical transportation. The Knight Bus, broomsticks, the ability to Aperate. It’s all very fantastic and fun. But when they have to get on a subway in London, it’s pretty much a subway in London. When Harry’s running through Paddington station, it’s just Paddington Station. For me, an American who’s only ever been to Canada, Paddington Station is a fantastical place. But to the people who live there, it’s just a place you go to get on a train. Even the Hogwarts Express, after you run through the brick wall to get there, is a train, and it acts like other trains.


When it’s done right, you don’t even notice it. But when it’s done wrong, it’s as jarring as a sour note in a familiar song. I don’t have a literary reference for this one, so I’ll point to movies instead. Here’s one that gets me. When someone gets hit on the head hard enough to knock them out, they’re not just waking up after that with a headache!  That causes some damage, you’re not shaking that off unless you’re Wolverine.


Use fantastic details to draw readers into your world.


This is the fun part. It’ spending a week moving furniture around and now you get to decorate the house. It’s baking gingerbread and now you get to ice it.


Here are some tips, that will draw your readers fully into your magical world.

  • Make them believable. For instance, the magical set up in Mistborn. It’s all based on metals, and there are very steadfast rules.
  • Make them desirable. Like the meals served in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Look, I don’t know how the school cafeteria was like for you, but it was some nasty, spiceless food for me.
  • Make your readers feel like they’ve experienced this fantastic thing. Like dragon riding. That’s something that, unless you’re a Blue Angel you can’t really fathom that.


Legendary Stories, What went wrong?

Note: The deadline for this is March 30! It’s short notice, so I wanted to give you a heads up right away.

I just had to tell you about this one, though. The premise is too funny to pass up. Because I couldn’t have summed up what they want for this anthology any better, here’s what they posted in their website.
We’ve all had that day when a spell went south, a glitch ate the code in your doomsday device, and negotiations broke down so  aliens are on the move eat your brains. Okay, maybe we haven’t all had that day. We want a story about what went wrong. Tell us about the best laid plans and what turned them on their ear. Make it dark or funny. Make it sci-fi or fantasy. Just make it something we haven’t seen before. We’re looking for an eclectic mix of stories that are unique and feature strong storytelling.

Genre- See above

Word Count- 2,000 to 8,000

Payout- $30

Submission date- March 30

Here is your link to full submission guidelines. In fact, it’s a list of all the anthologies this company’s putting out this year. So you can plan better than I did.



Plans for March, The Fantasy Genre

It’s March already, and that means a lot of things at my house. It means planting, more park trips, and the start of birthday nagging from the older monster.


It also means we get a new theme.


This month, I want to do a basic overview of the fantasy genre.


Which is to say, I will spend a lot of time talking about different details about the fantasy genre in the months to come. I also talked a lot about fantasy in May of last year when we talked about world building. But for now, I want to just talk about what makes fantasy different than any other genre.


I love fantasy, the whole thing. I love writing it, I love reading it. It is my core genre, after all.  Brandon Sanderson and Tamora Pierce are names you’re familiar with if you’ve read PBW for any length of time.


What do you think of the fantasy genre? Are you all about magic and dragons like me? Let me know in the comments.

Market- Pod Castle

Filling out the ‘Pod’ trilogy of great places to send submissions, this week we’ll be looking at Podcastle. This is a fantasy market, and one that I am very eager to send things to, since Fantasy is sort of what my main focus is. You know, with that fantasy series I’ve been working on for a year and a half now. For your convenience, this is the sister site to Pseudo Pod and Escape Pod.

Right now they’re reading for a theme, called Dirty Jobs. Here’s what they have to say about it on their website-

Every society has them: the hidden jobs that no one knows about, the hard jobs that no one glamorizes, the secret jobs that everyone pretends do not exist.
Every society has them. Every society needs them. Even a society inhabited by magic, myth, and monsters.
Tell me that doesn’t just shoot off ideas in your head.

Genre- Fantasy

Word Count- Same as Pseudo Pod, they want either longer pieces around 2,000 words, or flash fiction at around 500 to 1,000.

Sub Date- Jan 15 to March 15

Wait Time- Unspecified.

As always, here’s a link to the site.

Looking for more market tips?  Check out my Facebook page every Monday for a new literary agent of the week.

Payout- $100 for a longer piece, $20.00 for Flash.

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