annathepiper: (Book Geek)
Catalyst

Catalyst

A bit delayed on this, but it’s taken a while to get enough titles queued up as acquisitions to actually make it worth doing a post! I’ve been focusing lately on reading the books I actually own versus buying a whole lot of new ones–and as a result, I’ve actually built up a sizable credit balance on Barnes and Noble’s website. Which is kinda funny, given that I’ve stopped using them as my major source of ebooks!

But ANYWAY, here’s some recent titles I’ve picked up.

Acquired in print:

  • Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, by James Luceno. This is exactly what it says on the tin. More specifically, it’s the prequel story to the events of the movie Rogue One, getting into the backstory of the Erso family, and how Galen became involved in building the Death Star. I felt this sounded like fun, and to my pleasure, Dara gave me a hardback copy for my birthday.

Acquired in digital from B&N.com:

  • Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor. SF. Grabbed this because it’s the sequel to Binti, which I enjoyed quite a bit.
  • Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, by Seanan McGuire. Grabbed on general “because it’s Seanan McGuire, duh” grounds, but also because a) I’ve been enjoying reading novellas lately, and b) I liked the base concept of this, a ghost who’s working on a suicide hotline.
  • Passing Strange, by Ellen Klages. Another Tor.com novella (see previous commentary re: enjoying these lately), which I have grabbed because why yes, a story about queer women in San Francisco in 1940 has my attention.
  • The City, Not Long After, by Pat Murphy. SF. Got this on the strength of James Nicoll’s review of it. It sounds like a surprisingly pacifistic post-apocalyptic scenario, and given the times we live in, that feels strangely reassuring. This’ll be the second thing of Murphy’s I’ll have read and while I was ambivalent about her Hobbit pastiche, I liked it well enough that I’m willing to try another book of hers.

This’ll make five so far for the year.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Castle and Beckett and Book)
The Tropic of Serpents

The Tropic of Serpents

Acquired at VCON as freebies in my and Dara’s swag bags:

  • Far Arena and Avim’s Oath, by Lynda Williams. SF. These happen to be books 5 and 6 of her Okal Rel Saga, so there’s some question as to whether I could read these without having read books 1-4. I went and found the author’s website, where I learned that this saga is apparently a shared world effort. So I pinged the relevant Twitter address and am informed that I should be able to read these, though I may miss some backstory as a result. We’ll see what happens.

Acquired as a freebie from Audible:

  • The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi. SF. This is Mr. Scalzi’s latest novella release, and as he describes in this post on his blog, it’s currently available as a free audio download from Audible. (A print and ebook edition will be coming later.) I heard him do a reading of part of this at Westercon this past summer, and found it quite entertaining, definitely enough to get me interested in hearing the whole story. Plus, I want to hear how Zachary Quinto handles audiobook narration!

And, acquired as ebooks from Kobo:

  • The Tropic of Serpents, The Voyage of the Basilisk, and “From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review”, all by Marie Brennan, all part of her Memoirs of Lady Trent series. I have already plowed through Tropic of Serpents, and have enjoyed it immensely. 😀 Basilisk is Book 3, and chances are high I will be acquiring this in print ASAP. The last title of these three is a Tor.com short, and takes place right after Book 3. I went ahead and snagged it to support the author, even though it can be read on Tor.com here.

50 for the year.

ETA: Whoops, forgot this month’s Tor.com ebook freebie: Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear. Make that 51 for the year.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)
A Natural History of Dragons

A Natural History of Dragons

Picked up from Kobo electronically:

  • The Gate to Futures Past, by Julie E. Czerneda. Book 2 of her Reunification series. Picked up on general “Because I Love Julie Czerneda’s Work” principles!
  • “The High Lonesome Frontier”, by Rebecca Campbell. This is an SF short story that I read over on Tor.com, and which I found quite delightful thanks to it being about something as simple as tracking the history of a song across about a hundred and fifty years. You can read it for free on Tor.com here, but since I liked it so much, I wanted to buy a copy to support the author.
  • A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. This is book 1 of her Memoirs of Lady Trent series, which I’ve had my eye on for a while and which I’ve finally begun delving into. I very much enjoyed this book and have reviewed it here.
  • The Family Plot, by Cherie Priest. Because new Southern Gothic-flavored novel by Cherie Priest? Why yes I WILL have some.

Picked up digitally from Project Gutenberg:

  • The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World, by Margaret Cavendish. Grabbing this because Tor.com had a post up about it here, and as a result, I’m quite intrigued by the notion of reading a very early forerunner of the SF genre. Particularly given that this was written by a woman!

And, picked up in print from Third Place:

  • A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, books 1 and 2 of the aforementioned Lady Trent novels. Because I liked book 1 well enough that I need them in print as well as in digital. 😀

44 for the year. (Counting A Natural History of Dragons twice since I bought it in both forms!)

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)
Ghost Talkers

Ghost Talkers

Earlier this year, y’all may recall, a lot of ebook customers got a lot of credit from the settlement of the lawsuits pertaining to ebook pricing. I’m still annoyed that agency pricing has returned as fallout from this, because it’s put a big dent in my ebook buying.

On the other hand, it also means I got a boatload of credit from Barnes and Noble for my history of purchases with them.

Part of me is a bit wry about this, given that I have moved my ebook purchasing by and large over to Kobo. But hey, I’m still willing to go scarf books on barnesandnoble.com if I don’t have to pay for them, so hey! It took me a while to decide on the titles I want to get. I have however finally finished up spending that credit tonight, so here’s a roundup of all the things I got as a result of the credit drop.

Purchased from bn.com in print:

  • Elfquest: The Final Quest Volume 2, for generally obvious “because it’s delightful to be able to buy new Elfquest graphic novels again” reasons. I’ve been buying the individual issues in digital form direct from Dark Horse, but I absolutely wanted print copies as well. So I’m racking those up in print as they come out.

And, here are the ebooks I’ve gotten over the last several weeks, most of which were acquired tonight:

  • The Bone Whistle, by Erzebet YellowBoy. Contemporary fantasy. I had my eye on this story way back in 2007 when it was originally published by Juno Books, with the author using the name Eva Swan. I never was able to get a copy, though, before Juno shut down. She later released it herself under the name Erzebet YellowBoy, so I finally was able to grab it in ebook form.
  • Le combat des dieux, by Élodie Tirel. High fantasy. Book 3 of her Luna series for young readers. This is of course the third of the series I’ve been reading in French to try to improve my reading comprehension in that language, and since I enjoyed the second one (at least what I could pick up of it), I’m moving onward to the third. I continue to be rather charmed by how the series seems entirely unrepentant about hitting all the classic fantasy tropes hard. 😀
  • Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. Historical/WWI fantasy. Grabbing this one because I’ll pretty much grab anything Kowal chooses to release, and this is her latest novel, about a squadron of mediums whose job it is to get intelligence on the front from the ghosts of recently slain soldiers.
  • Arabella of Mars, by David D. Levine. SF. Pretty much my entire feed of followed blogs and social media pals lost their minds over this release, so yeah, the buzz, it is strong with this one. And it sounds like great fun, with a blend of SF and steampunk viewed through a lens of English colonialism. Sure why not, I’ll have some.
  • Radiance: A Novel, by Catherynne M. Valente. SF. This is another recent title in the vein of SF with a heavy side helping of classic/pulp flavor, only this one also throws in a hefty dash of classic cinema flavor as well.
  • An Accident of Stars, by Foz Meadows. Fantasy. Specifically, portal fantasy. Grabbing this because I’ve read several of Meadows’ blog posts and appreciate her way of expressing herself. And also because portal fantasy with several leading female characters? Fuck yeah, I’m on board!
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. SF. Because again, the buzz is strong with this one, a novel that started life as a self-pub release and later got itself a formal book deal. Plus any SF novel that invokes Firefly in its buzz is pretty much bound to get my attention.
  • The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle. Horror/Lovecraft pastiche. This one got a lot of attention because of revisiting Lovecraft–and specifically, one of his most racism-steeped stories, “The Horror at Red Hook”, bringing an African-American perspective to the events that story mentions. Since I’m one of the folks who likes Lovecraft’s worldbuilding but has a hard time dealing with his racism, I expect to particularly appreciate this one.
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson. Another Lovecraft pastiche, this time bringing in a female perspective. Given that I very much liked the She Walks in Shadows anthology that came out last year, I expect to like this too. Particularly given how I came out of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath with a very strong “WTF DID I JUST READ?!” reaction!
  • The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match, by Juliana Gray. Historical romance. Picked this up because I saw it favorably reviewed on dearauthor.com (you can see me in the comments on that link). And because I’m charmed by the idea of a romance featuring older characters.
  • HEX, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Horror. This is the English translation of a best-selling Dutch horror novel, which I saw get some positive buzz on Tor.com, such as this review here. This story sounds like it blends the modern and the gothic very well, and I liked what I read of excerpts, so I’m going to dive into the full book. Plus I appreciate being able to read something that originated in a non-US market.
  • False Hearts: A Novel, by Laura Lam. SF. Picking this up again because of seeing it plugged on Tor.com (really, those folks at Tor.com are a large contributor to my book purchasing decisions!), and specifically, because I saw this nice little short story set in the universe of this novel. Between that and being intrigued by the premise of a pair of (originally) conjoined twins as the protagonists of the story, I wanted to pick this up.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm, by Greg Keyes. Bought because I’ve quite liked the two movies in the current Apes franchise, and because I wanted to see what the prequel story setting up the plague we see in Dawn would be like. Also, because I’ve read stuff by Keyes in the past so I know he’s capable of laying down a good story.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, by Alex Irvine. This is the official novelization of the movie which came out a couple years ago. Because hey, I liked the story! And I do still like a movie novelization every so often!
  • It Takes Two to Tangle, by Theresa Romain. Historical romance. This went onto my queue a couple years ago entirely because of this review on Smart Bitches Trashy Books. And, now that I’m refreshing my memory about the book and see that I had in fact dropped a comment on that review, I am pleased to be reminded about this novel’s delightful opening line.
  • Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho. Steampunk/fantasy. Yet another strong-buzz book, with Tor.com contributing heavily to my hearing about this one. I particularly like that both of the lead characters are people of color.
  • The Last Witness, by K.J. Parker. Fantasy. I heard about this one through Tor.com because it is in fact one of their releases! The protagonist is someone who makes his living by ridding people of unwanted memories. Except now he’s been targeted by someone because of one of the secrets he now holds. Sounds fun!

This roundup all by itself doubles my total of acquired books for the year, taking me up to 36.

(And I should note for the record that some of my ebook settlement credit went to things that are not books: namely, two MST3K DVD boxed sets! But I think that any of my fellow fans of cheesy movies will agree that more MST3K in one’s library is always a good thing.)

ETA: OH HEY I forgot one. I also grabbed Jo Walton’s The Just City, because Tor.com has an ebook club now and that was this month’s freebie. Make that 37 for the year!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

I got tagged on a couple of writer-related memes going around Facebook. I don’t do memes per se, including tagging people on them, as I’ve said before. But I will absolutely use them as an excuse to write up something here on this blog! First, there’s the Influential Authors meme, on which I got tagged by Shawna Reppert.

From her post:

The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. List 15 authors (poets included) who have influenced you and who will always stick with you. List the first 15 you can identify in no more than 15 minutes. Tag at least 15 friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing the authors my friends choose.

Let’s do this thing. These are not in any particular order.

  1. Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. Julie Czerneda
  4. Tanya Huff
  5. Doranna Durgin
  6. Anne McCaffrey
  7. Naomi Novik
  8. Rachel Caine
  9. Susanna Kearsley
  10. Wendy and Richard Pini
  11. A.C. Crispin
  12. Patricia Briggs
  13. Mercedes Lackey
  14. Terry Brooks
  15. Esther Friesner

And I know I am probably fudging on things to list the Pinis here, given that Elfquest is a comic book series, not a book series. But I take the liberty of including them because a) as I’ve mentioned before on this site, they are a huge influence on my perceptions of what elves ought to be like in my stories, and b) if you wanna really get technical, there are Elfquest stories in book form, so there. I do have all the Blood of Ten Chiefs anthologies, as well as the novelizations of the first three graphic novels!

Tolkien is on this list for reasons which are similarly obvious to anybody who knows anything about my personal history as a reader as well as a writer; noting him among my influences for worldbuilding as well as language geekery. Likewise Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters, who is a formative influence on what I like in leading men in a story, and the level of romance and suspense I want.

Anne McCaffrey’s influence on me cannot be understated–I did, after all, spend years in Pern fandom, both offline and online. And I still have a lot of Pern fanfic on my hard drive, as well as all my surviving roleplay logs from PernMUSH. All that time I put in playing F’hlan, bronze Tzornth’s rider, and his daughter Mehlani was character practice, you guys!

Julie Czerneda and Tanya Huff are both on this list on general “I want to write like them when I grow up” grounds. I love Czerneda’s worldbuilding and rich portrayals of alien species. And Huff’s here because a) she is awesome, b) she’s a fellow Great Big Sea fan and HOW CAN I NOT LOVE THAT, and c) she was my initial introduction to how you can have queer people in a story and not have the fact that they are queer be full of OHNOEZ DRAMA!

That said, Lackey is on this list because she actually beat Huff to the punch in alerting me that you can, in fact, have queer people in a story. Shoutout to all my fellow readers of my generation who were gutted by Vanyel. Second shoutout to all my MUSH-playing pals who wanted to get a Valdemar MUSH going, and could not.

Doranna Durgin is here because before she wrote paranormal romance, she wrote a lot of fantasy, and her earliest fantasies are among my favorite of her books. Her urban fantasy as well. To this day her A Feral Darkness ranks very, very high on the list of pinnacles to which I aspire when I wing out urban fantasy of my own.

Novik is here because good lord I love me some Temeraire, and in particular I love her handling of the dragons in her world as characters in their own right. I love her dragons even more than I loved the dragons in the Pern books. She is a glorious example of how to write non-humanoid characters.

Rachel Caine is on this list because I would gleefully sacrifice a few pounds of flesh to gain her ability at pacing.

Kearsley is kind of an extension of the influence of Michaels/Peters. I deeply admire Kearsley’s pacing, though hers is much different from Caine’s; while Caine pretty much sets a plotline on fire right out of the gate, Kearsley takes more time and gives you a lot more atmosphere. I love Kearsley’s way with building atmosphere, as well as her skill at setting up relationships that eventually charm my socks off. The Shadowy Horses, I am looking straight at you.

A.C. Crispin, gods rest her, is here because her glorious Han Solo backstory trilogy, even if it’s relegated to non-canon status along with the rest of the Star Wars EU, was everything I ever wanted in Han Solo backstory. The new forthcoming movie is going to have a REAL high bar to clear to top her stories, I’m just sayin’.

Patricia Briggs is here for reasons very similar to Durgin–in that I found her before she turned to urban fantasy and in many ways I actually prefer her earlier fantasy novels. What I like about her in particular is how she set up secondary world fantasies that nonetheless were very relatable to contemporary eyes. She’s arguably some of the influence on how I wrote the Rebels of Adalonia books.

Terry Brooks has to get props for being some of the earliest high fantasy I ever read, since I found him at the same era of my childhood when I found Tolkien. And some of my earliest surviving writing has a lot more to do with Brooks than Tolkien! And unlike a few other high fantasy authors of the era (e.g., Eddings), I actually still periodically hunt down Brooks novels I haven’t read yet. I’m still working my way through his setup of the backstory for the Shannara world.

Last but not least, Esther Friesner is here as another early influence on my urban fantasy and in particular on my portrayal of elves. In particular, her books New York by Knight and Elf Defense had early resonance on my budding writing brain!

***

So there ya go. As I said, I don’t usually tag people on these things, but if you’re a fellow writer and you want to play too, go for it! And drop a link in the comments to your own post, so anybody who finds mine can find yours.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)
League of Dragons

League of Dragons

Short but sweet, just because I’m cleaning out my inbox again and wanted to file the receipts for these! Picked up from Kobo:

League of Dragons, the final Temeraire novel by Naomi Novik. Picked up because duh, Temeraire! \0/ My love for this series has been long-running, from the very first day I heard it pitched as “Patrick O’Brian meets the Dragonriders of Pern”. I mean honestly, how could I not love a series that’s what you get if you take Aubrey and Maturin and make Maturin a dragon?

Tor.com says that League of Dragons sticks the landing, and Dear Author liked it too. (And I may not often comment on Dear Author but yeah, if they’re going to go and review one of my favorite fantasy series even though they’re usually a romance site, fuck yeah I’m going to speak up in that comments thread. 😀 )

And Tor.com has a lovely Temeraire reread series of posts that Kate Nepveu just did. Her reviews of the books lit a fire under me to finally get caught up on the series. I found Crucible of Gold very satisfying, and Blood of Tyrants uneven, despite it involving an amnesia plot (and I am a known sucker for amnesia plots). I’ve started League as of today. More thoughts on this to come.

(And also, let it be noted that I am sad, SAD I TELL YOU, that I apparently cannot acquire the entire Temeraire series in French in ebook form. I went looking, because once I eventually finish doing Harry Potter in Trilingual Form, Temeraire would be a very strong contender for another multi-lingual reread!)

Meanwhile, I also scarfed Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway while it was briefly available for $2.99 in electronic form. (Its standard price is $9.99 right now and that’s a little more than I’m comfortable paying for a novella.) But! I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about this story (including a lot of buzz at the aforementioned Tor.com), so I’ve been wanting to give it a go.

This makes 18 titles acquired for the year.

(Which, for those of you who pay attention to these posts, may strike you as a surprisingly low number given my book-buying history; here we’re halfway through the year already and I’ve barely cleared two digits. This would be because I am disgruntled at the return of agency pricing, which has made ebooks a lot more expensive from the big publishers again. So I’ve been making an effort to get caught up on reading books I already own, and for newer things by authors I don’t know yet, I’ve been checking those out from the library.)

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)
The Jewel and Her Lapidary

The Jewel and Her Lapidary

Recently acquired from Kobo:

Temptations of a Wallflower, by Eva Leigh. Historical romance. Third in a romance trilogy by the author Zoe Archer writing under a new name.

The Jewel and Her Lapidary, by Fran Wilde. Fantasy. This is a novella release from Tor.com, and I grabbed it since I liked the sound of the blurb and really liked the cover art. (Relatedly, I also really liked this post on tor.com, in which the artist describes the process behind the cover art’s creation! It’s a pretty neat exploration of how cover art can be made in this digital age we’re in.)

Breaking Cat News, by Georgia Dunn. Comics. Grabbed this after seeing Dear Author review it. It’s a glowing review, and all I needed was one look at the included sample page in that review to go YEP I NEED THIS. It’s a brand new collection, the first released by the artist, who posts on Mondays and Thursdays at breakingcatnews.com. As of this writing, I have already read both the ebook and the entire archive on the site. Recommended. ^_^

16 for the year.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)
Strange Terrain

Strange Terrain

So I was poking around doing some googling, trying to get an idea of what plot points I could use for the forthcoming novella starting Caitlin and Gabien–and I discovered a couple of books written by a lady named Barbara Rieti. She’s apparently done considerable research into the folklore of Newfoundland, which, why HELLO THERE relevance to my interests.

And heh, I feel like I leveled up a bit in Writer, buying books for actual research and stuff.

Thus, picked up from ISER Books (for the print) and Kobo (for the ebook):

Strange Terrain: The Fairy World in Newfoundland and also Making Witches: Newfoundland Traditions of Spells and Counterspells, by Barbara Rieti. For general “finding all about things that the Warders of Newfoundland need to know about” purposes.

Also picked up from Kobo:

Atlantis Fallen, by C.E. Murphy. Another self-pubbed title from her this year, a heavily reworked version of a book she wrote some time ago. Picked up for general “because Kitbooks!” purposes.

13 for the year.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)
Magic & Manners

Magic & Manners

Picked up from Kobo:

  • Magic & Manners, by C.E. Murphy. Fantasy. This is userinfomizkit‘s first release in two years, her take on what Pride & Prejudice would have been like with magic. Naturally I had to check this out! Because I mean honestly, there was no way I was NOT reading this. 😀
  • Forest of Memory, by Mary Robinette Kowal. SF. And speaking of Austen-esque authors, this is a new novella by Kowal, and naturally I had to read this too.
  • The Wild One, by Danelle Harmon. Historical romance. Grabbed this because Dear Author had a review up for Book 5 of this series, which sounded like fun. But I don’t like to start a series that far in, so I went to find this one instead. And it’s actually available for free right now, so bonus!

10 for the year.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)
Winterwood

Winterwood

First book acquisition post of 2016! A bit delayed, since these books have been acquired over the course of the last several weeks. Purchased in print via Amazon CreateSpace:

  • First Daughter, by Caitlin Clare Diehl. Fantasy. Got this because she’s another member of NIWA and I liked the sound of her plot blurb. Also because I was curious to see a book that’s a direct product of CreateSpace!

Purchased digitally from Amazon (for values of ‘purchased’ meaning ‘I got it for free, actually’):

  • The Legend of Yan-Kan Mar, by Holly Jones. SF. Grabbed this because Holly is a relation of mine and I wanted to support a family member with getting the word out about her work. That she was celebrating the release by handing the book out for free didn’t suck, either!

Purchased digitally from Kobo:

  • Unbound and Revisionary, by Jim C. Hines. Urban fantasy. Books 3 and 4 of his Magic Ex Libris series. Gotten since Book 4 just dropped and I need to get caught up on these!
  • Winterwood, by Jacey Bedford. Book 1 of the Rowankind series. Historical fantasy, in the Napoleonic era. Grabbed this because I really liked the sound of the plot pitch when I saw this getting talked up on Tor.com, because the cover is gorgeous, and because the words “cross-dressing privateer captain” had me ON FREGGIN’ BOARD.
  • The Witch Who Came in From the Cold and Tremontaine, both of which are ebook serials from Serial Box. I’ve been seeing these folks get talked up on Tor.com lately, as they issue stories in serial form in both audio and ebook forms, and I really liked the idea of a spy adventure in 70’s Prague featuring witches. Likewise, the Tremontaine serial is set in the same universe as Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint novels and I am on board with revisiting that setting, absolutely. So I grabbed the first episode of both of these stories to see if I’ll want to read the rest of them.

7 total for the year so far.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

And, finally (albeit wrapping around from last week, the last of the Boosting the Signal feature posts for the Here Be Magic Boxed Set! I’ve got one more doubleheader today for you all. The first of the two posts features yet another prior Boosting the Signal guest, and yet another bestselling Carina author: Cindy Spencer Pape. Cindy’s story in the set is Devil of Bourbon Street, and she’s offering up an excerpt to tease your fancy. Her hero, Detective Quinn Carling, has a nicely understated goal in this scene: doing a good turn for a street busker. Or at least, on the surface. Check out the scene for what he’s really after!

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Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

“Come into the café and I’ll buy you lunch—no strings attached.” It was something Toni would have done, and it seemed a good way to honor her memory today.

Her lips, devoid of makeup, quirked. “They won’t let me in—I have a dog.”

He brushed aside a vine and peered through the fence. Sure enough a big mutt—Labrador sized, maybe, but with something long-haired and spotted in its background—thumped its tail by the street singer’s feet and grinned up at Quinn. A battered plastic bowl near its head was half full of water.

Quinn smiled back at the dog. “Doesn’t he scare away the customers?” He noticed her guitar case was on a concrete bench, a good four feet to her left—probably just out of reach of the big guy’s leash.

“Nah, Olaf’s pretty mellow.” She continued to strum her guitar as she chatted, nodding her thanks to a couple who dropped some change into the guitar case. She was sort of ordinary-looking for a street performer in NOLA—no fake vampire makeup or voodoo beads, she wore faded jeans, a yellow T-shirt and battered canvas sneakers.

“Well, tell me what you want, and I’ll bring you out your meal.” Now that he’d gotten the idea of feeding her into his head, it wouldn’t let go. He could sit on the bench out there and listen, as well as in here.

“Why?” she asked easily, as if the answer didn’t much matter. There was no accusation in her tone, just simple curiosity. Tiny smile lines around her eyes suggested she was older than she’d looked at first—maybe in her mid-to-late-twenties. “Am I your good deed for the day?”

He shrugged. “Maybe.” The truth was that he had no idea and didn’t really care to analyze his own thought process too deeply. “It’s been a day. I suppose I wouldn’t mind having someone to talk to while I finish my lunch. We’re on a public street, so I’d guess you’re pretty safe.”

“Fair enough.” Giving him that same, crooked smile, she asked for a coffee, two ham sandwiches, and an order of beignets.

Quinn doubled the order, in case she intended to share with her dog. If not, she could stash the extra away and have dinner tonight as well. He’d almost swear he heard Toni’s voice in the back of his head, urging him on. Then he took the singer’s food and his refilled coffee and wandered out to sit on the bench beside her guitar case. “Been doing this long?”

“Playing guitar, or singing on the street?” She moved the case to the ground, laid her guitar inside, and slid it under the bench. The dog moved with her, plopping his shaggy butt down on the ground in front of the center of the bench—making sure he was between Quinn and his mistress.

“Either. Both.” Quinn sipped his coffee and watched her tear off a big chunk of the first sandwich and feed it to the dog. “Name’s Quinn. And you two?”

“Darcy,” she said with a mouthful off bread and ham and cheese. “And Olaf.” After another bite, she added, “Nice to meet you, Quinn. Thanks for the food.”

It might have been a polite brush-off, but Quinn decided not to take it that way. He leaned back against the fence behind the bench. “I was enjoying your music. Seemed like a fair trade.” Quinn snitched a beignet from the second basket and bit into the hot, fried dough, dripping with powdered sugar. God these were amazing. He’d never been able to duplicate the flavor back home, no matter how hard he’d tried, despite the fact that he was a pretty decent cook.

“Works for me.” She split another chunk of the sandwich with Olaf. “I’ve been playing guitar—just not very well—since I was a kid. I’ve only been trying to make a living at it for the last few months.”

“What’d you do before that?” Quinn had no real idea why he found her so fascinating. He just did. And it wasn’t only because she was a pretty young woman, though he’d have to be blind to not notice that. He was honestly curious.

“I worked at a day care center.” One of the sparrows chose that moment to land on her shoulder, and rather than recoil, Darcy laughed, making her deep brown eyes sparkle with an amber glow. “I love these guys, but dude, you are not getting any of my beignets.” To Quinn’s surprise, Olaf seemed to completely ignore the birds.

“They are pretty persistent,” Quinn stopped himself from wiping a dot of mustard from her upper lip. When she flicked out her tongue and got it, he nearly groaned. Yeah. As soon as he got home, it was time, past time, to get his sorry ass back into the dating pool.

“But they add character—something that’s very important here in the Big Easy.” She winked at him. “Mind you, I’m a Detroit girl by birth, but I’ve been here long enough to have figured out some of the basics. Where are you from? Your accent is hard to place, but you don’t strike me as a tourist.”

“Philadelphia, now” he said. “Maryland, originally. But I lived over in Metairie for a while in my misspent youth, then here in the Quarter for oh, five years or so.”

“Just here visiting old haunts?” Her eyes widened and warmed. He could have sworn she was sensing his pain.

“You could say that, I guess.” He closed his eyes and inhaled. Haunts, indeed.

“No, really. Whatever brought you here wasn’t a happy thing.” She reached over and brushed some powdered sugar off his knee. The intimacy of the touch sent a jolt through his system. “Sometimes it helps to talk to strangers—and I’m as strange as they get.”

Quinn chuckled at that, but under her determined gaze, he caved in and sighed. “My late wife is buried here. After three years of beating myself up day in and day out, I’ve finally realized that her death wasn’t entirely my fault. So I came down here to make my peace. I took flowers to her tomb today—and after all this time, I really said goodbye.”

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Page Turner)

The Boosting the Signal special feature run for the Here Be Magic boxed set continues! With this post, I welcome back yet another previous Boosting the Signal guest: Veronica Scott. Veronica’s story in the set is Healer of the Nile, and she’s sent in a character interview to highlight her heroine’s goals as well as her general personality! Check it out.

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Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

1550 BCE

When Pharaoh sends injured warrior Tadenhut home to die, his noble family asks Mehyta, the local healer, to ease his path to the Afterlife. Mehyta discovers he’s trapped between Life and Death, caught in the dreamspace. Touched by his fighting spirit and will to live, Mehyta vows to use all the powers Shai, god of fate, gave her. Together Tadenhut and the brave healer battle to overcome his injuries, as well as threats from devious family members. While struggling to rescue her patient, Mehyta comes to realize he matters more to her than any man ever has before. But even if his life can be saved, what do the omens say about a match between a highborn soldier and a simple healer?

Today we’ll interview Mehyta, but without giving away any spoilers!

What is your idea of perfect happiness? As an Egyptian, I subscribe to the principles of ma’at, that if truth, order, law, morality and justice can be kept in balance, then the world is in harmony. For myself, I’m happy at the end of the day if I’ve done well using my healing skills to benefit others. And if I can have a peaceful dinner with the man I love each evening, talking of the events of our respective days, that’s ideal. He’s my best friend! Sometimes we go for a sail on the Nile, which is a rare treat as well.

Which living person do you most admire? Pharaoh, of course! May the gods grant him life, prosperity and health.

What is your greatest extravagance? Buying special herbs and plants from other lands, that I may try new remedies and methods of healing. I have a garden where I grow as many as possible but some foreign plants fail to thrive in Egypt, despite the bounty of the Nile and richness of our soil.

On what occasion do you lie? I misled many people when I was trying to save Tadenhut’s life, not by telling outright lies, but by not explaining everything I was doing. Allowing people to think what they wished and not correcting their misunderstandings. I always told Tadenhut the hard truths, however, about his injuries.

Which talent would you most like to have? I’d like to know how to run the estate effortlessly, to know all the proper protocols for entertaining Pharaoh and his nobles. To know how much food and wine to order for a dinner, how many entertainers there should be, how to ensure the entire house is ready at the appointed hour. Fortunately there are others I trust to arrange these things on the Hunting Cat estate, leaving me free to concentrate on using my healing gifts. I’m a very shy hostess!

What is your most treasured possession? My pouch of omen stones. They were passed down to me from my grandmother, who was a true daughter of Shai, god of Fate. I don’t have all the powers she possessed, but I can read the stones and tell people their fortunes. I have beautiful spheres of many precious and semiprecious stones and usually when someone asks a question, I put my hand into the pouch and withdraw five or six stones. The right ones will come to my hand, whether the answer is going to be favorable or ominous. Then I cast the chosen stones onto the ground and interpret the pattern. When it came to Tadenhut’s fate, however, I had to cast all the stones, more than once, and seek the counsel of Shai himself.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Being separated from Tadenhut for more than a day!

What historical figure do you most identify with? It is said in the time of the pyramid builders there lived a wise and beautiful female physician, Peseshet, whose knowledge of cures and spells was unparalleled. She was lauded in her son’s tomb as having been the “lady overseer of the female physicians.” I would so love to sit under the palms with Peseshet for an hour, asking questions. The scribes keep much knowledge from the past in the scrolls but I never learned to read. And often one can glean more by talking to someone anyway, rather than merely reading the dry accounts. Tadenhut has put forth word that he will pay dearly for any papyrus related to her teachings but as yet none have been located. Even Pharaoh’s library fails to provide anything more than her name and reputation.

What’s your personal motto? The ancient proverb, “There is no one who can ignore Shai.”

What is your most marked characteristic? I think most people, including Tadenhut, would say I’m stubborn. Once I decide on a course of action, I won’t give up, no matter how many obstacles are placed in my path. I’ll find a way.

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Good Book)
The Day the World Came to Town

The Day the World Came to Town

Forgot to get this posted in a timely fashion, so here it is at least to finish off my book acquisitions for the previous year.

Acquired in print:

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland, by Jim DeFede. Picked this up from the gift shop at the Seattle Rep, the night I saw the play Come From Away. Because I figured a) reading this was obligatory to better appreciate the play’s context, and b) the purchase would help support the Rep!

Acquired from Kobo:

The Force Awakens, by Alan Dean Foster. This is the official novelization of the new Star Wars movie, which I wanted to pick up despite the ebook being pricier than I usually like. (The wait list on the library queue was unacceptably long, and I wanted to read it NOW.) I have in fact read this now as of this writing, and can report that while it was generally a straightforward adaptation of what we all saw on screen, there are a few additional details that I wish would have made it into the final theatrical cut.

And that puts me at 79 total for the year. Which is pretty low for me, historically!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

The second post of today’s Boosting the Signal doubleheader features fellow Here Be Magic author Rebecca York. I’m quite honored to have her on my column tonight, given that I’ve got a few of this lady’s paperbacks on my shelf! Her entry in the Here Be Magic boxed set is the novella Terror Mansion, and she’s sent me an excerpt from same to run for you all here now. Her character Wyatt Granger’s goal? Find the mysterious woman he’s certain needs his help.

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Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

This wasn’t Wyatt Granger’s routine nightmare. Usually he had a clear vision of some unfortunate future event that he might or might not be able to alter.

Instead he saw a confusing swirl of murky images with shadowy figures appearing and disappearing, mostly at an old building near the dock in a seaside town. More confounding were the scenes in what looked like a house of horrors, filled with distorted mirrors, a laughing but menacing clown and places where the floor dropped out from under your feet, sending you to the depths of hell.

But always at the center of the whirlwind was a beautiful young woman with terror in her wide-set blue eyes and her blond hair in a tangle around her heart-shaped face.

When his own eyes blinked open, he lay with his heart pounding, fighting his way back to reality. But the here and now kept slithering away. What he saw instead was the woman’s face floating in his mind, the most indelible image from the nightmare.

“Who are you?” he whispered as he sat up and thrust aside the tangled bedsheets.

Although she wasn’t there to respond, he had no doubt that he was going to meet her soon, and the encounter was going to change his life.

A dramatic way to put it? Maybe, but he knew to the marrow of his bones that the dream had been about his own future—even when his prescient nightmares had never been personal before.

“Crap,” he whispered under his breath. He stood up, pressed his feet against the cold floor and walked naked to the window of his condo, where he stood clenching and unclenching his fists as he looked toward the glimmer of dawn on the horizon.

He ached to shake off the vivid confusion of the dream.

But instead of the bare tree trunks outside, he saw the woman’s face, pale and intense and beautiful.

“Who are you?” he asked again, but he heard only the throbbing of the blood in his veins.

He might not know her name, but he had to find her. He could have fought the feeling of urgency that threatened to choke off his breath, but the truth of the dream was burned into his soul, even when he had no way to cope with it on a logical level. All he knew was that he had to go to her. And then he had to take her in his arms and protect her—even when he knew she was going to mount a savage denial that she needed his aid.

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but this is what happens when you spend most of your workday dealing with computer crankiness. But my delay is your gain, because this means y’all get to have a doubleheader today in the week-long Boosting the Signal feature on the Here Be Magic boxed set! Today’s post brings a new name to the Boosting the Signal author list: fellow HBM member Linda Mooney. Linda’s contribution to the boxed set is the story Tall, Tall Trees, and she’s offering up a deleted scene from that tale for you today. Her characters in that story have the very straightforward goal of surviving to save their lives and their love, while in this piece, the medicine woman Aunty Vo has a more immediate goal: withstanding the wrath of Pellera’s father.

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Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Aunty Vo stared at the collection of personal items she’d managed to gather to take with her. Her old bones told her the upcoming rains would result in a flood unlike anything anyone had ever witnessed or survived. To say she was frightened would be a mistake. She was terrified beyond words, and almost beyond thought.

“Old woman! Where are you, old woman? Answer me!” A voice bellowed from the front room. She immediately knew who it was.

She took her time making her way through the curtain to find Maton and two of his cronies standing by the fire. They were armed with clubs and axes. By the expressions on their faces, she could tell they had a more sinister purpose for being here than asking for a hunting spell. She knew why they’d sought her out, and hardened herself.

“Watch your tongue, Maton. I do not like your tone,” she informed their leader.

“I demand to know where my daughter has gone,” Maton ordered. “Give me the information I seek.”

“I do not know where she’s gone,” the medicine woman replied coolly. It was the truth. She had only given Pellera and Oron her blessing and advice. She had no knowledge of what they did after they left. However, Maton refused to listen.

“You do know, old woman. Cortab saw them leave here not long ago. Where were they going? To the treeber home compound?”

Aunty Vo did not attempt to hide her disgust. “I did not say I hadn’t seen them. Only that I do not know where they went after they left.”

“Why were they here in the first place?” The man continued to irritate her.

“You know I am not obligated to tell you anything. What I do or say to those who seek my help is sacrosanct. But this one time I will tell you they were seeking my blessing on their union. Something you had no intention of giving. Now go away and leave me in peace.”

She turned to exit the room. She never expected Maton to lunge for her and grab her arm with bruising fingers.

“Tell me what I want to know!” he hotly demanded.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Let me go, Maton. I am telling you nothing more, and bullying will not work on me.” She glanced at the other two, who’d retreated to the front door flap to watch in uncomfortable silence. “If you continue to follow this man, you will be met with death. Heed my warning.”

The fingers squeezed more tightly, making her wince.

“You are a cruel and unjust man, Maton. Your forthcoming death will be beneficial to this tribe’s welfare.”

The man paled but he remained absolute. “Are you threatening me?”

She never flinched. “Are you? Don’t forget, Maton, I have the ears of the gods, and they have mine. They’ve whispered of your demise, and they are taking delight in it. Go look for your precious child…before it’s too late.”

“What do you mean by that? Before it’s too late?” He gave her arm a shake.

“Maton?” One of the men by the doorway interceded. “Maton, we need to hurry if we’re going to make any sort of headway before dark.”

Aunty Vo gave him her best shadowy smile. One she knew struck fear in men’s hearts whenever she graced them with it. “Yes, Maton. You’d best hurry. Your hours are numbered.”

Her soft prophecy had the effect she was seeking. The man shuddered, and he removed his hand.

“Hours? You mean years,” he tried to correct her.

“No, Maton. You heard me correctly the first time. Your time among the living is being measured in hours. I strongly suggest you to put them to good use, beginning with trying to make amends with your own flesh and blood before it’s too late.”

Jerking her arm from the man’s grasp, she left the outer room where she soon heard the men depart. After wrapping the few precious items she could not bear to leave behind, she bundled them in a sling and placed it over her head where it rested on one shoulder and across her body. Tying a flask of water and a bag of food around her waist, she grabbed her bowl of light and began her journey through the deep recesses of the caves where she would find shelter.

There, she would wait out the aftermath of the flooding rains, and the devastation they would bring.

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

Welcome to the first of the special Boosting the Signal run of posts featuring the Here Be Magic boxed set! This is a digital release put out by the blogging group I’m in, Here Be Magic. And while I’m not actually in this boxed set myself, I wanted to give it some signalboosting love, so I invited the participating authors to send me pieces to promote the release. The first of these is from previous Boosting the Signal guest Shawna Reppert, whose story in the set is from her Ravensblood universe. Raven’s Song is set between books 1 and 2 of that series. If you’ve read Book 1, you might have a good idea already of what her protagonist’s goal is: to prove that he is capable of goodness. Here’s Corwyn Ravenscroft on that very topic!

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Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

I thought the hard part was over.

No, I can’t say that. It is over. I would never want to live those last dark months again. Watching William descend further and further into blood-soaked madness, terrified all the time that he would discover my duplicity. Terrified that he would win, and that all of the Three Communities would be forced into the hell that his followers had walked into of their own accord. Betraying both my master and my students to keep that from happening, never knowing whether I was buying back my soul or damning it further.

At the risk of tempting fate, I will say that nothing I face again in my life could be worse than those months.

But at least then I fought with weapons I knew. My skill with magic, which is both my birthright and my life’s study. The guile and dissembling gleaned from years of survival within William’s inner circle.

I confess that I hadn’t had any thought then of what lay on the other side of defeating William and gaining my pardon. Perhaps, deep down, I hadn’t expected to survive. In my darkest moments, I hadn’t believed I deserved to.

Now here I am, back in the world. A free citizen. With an agent of Guardian International Investigations for a lover, gods help us both.

I’ve been a dark mage for all of my adult life, minus the last half-year or so. I’m not sure I know how to be anything else. ‘Normal’ isn’t as easy as it looked from the outside. I can pick up the piano again, easily enough. There’s sheet music to remind me of where my fingers go. I can find no guide to making acquaintances not built on alliances and advantage.

As far as anything beyond acquaintance, well… Under William’s tutelage I learned how to seduce, when urge or occasion arose. When the mood struck, I’ve allowed myself to be seduced. When it comes to the sort of long-term relationship that normal people have, the sort based on love and trust and honesty, I can only say that I’m willing to try, for Cassandra’s sake. For my own sake, to be truthful, because I can’t imagine walking into this new life without her at my side.

There are still plenty of people waiting for me to fail. To smile and nod and tell each other that they knew it all along. That there’s no way that a Ravenscroft could be anything other than dark.

I refuse to prove them right. Not only because I can be as arrogant and stubborn as I’ve often been accused of being. But because I’ve fought too hard for this new life to let it go. I have far too much to lose.

And because there are a small number of people who believe that I might succeed. And they matter more.

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

I hope y’all enjoyed the special run of Boosting the Signal feature posts that I did for the 2015 NIWA anthology, Asylum! Since that seemed to do pretty well overall, I’m going to do a similar one for another recent release by a group I’m involved with: i.e., the newly released boxed set by my fellow bloggers at Here Be Magic.

This is a digital boxed set, and you can read up about it right over here on participating author Linda Mooney’s site. I’m not actually in this boxed set (I was going to be, but was not able to finish a novella for it in time), but since this is a release by my Here Be Magic peeps, I wanted to give it some signalboosting love regardless. And if you’ve been following my periodic HBM posts, or the HBM blog in general, you’ll know that the authors in this group are a mixed bag of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and fantasy. The boxed set reflects this!

What’s the difference between a boxed set and an anthology, you might be asking? Fundamentally speaking, not much, actually. This is one gigantic ebook that contains multiple stories, but in this case, the stories are longer than the short stories you’d expect to find in an anthology. We’re talking novellas here, folks.

I’ve got a few pieces from participating authors that I hope will boost your interest in checking the release out, so stick around. These posts will start TOMORROW.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Castle and Beckett and Book)

This post was supposed to go up on Sunday, but this is what happens when you are hit with SURPRISE CRITICAL SERVER MAINTENANCE! Which took us until Monday night to really resolve, so now I can finally bring you all the seventh and final special Boosting the Signal post for the 2015 NIWA anthology, Asylum. The final featured author is Walt Socha, whose story in the anthology is “The Seventy Percent Solution”, and he offers you a small prologue for that story now! (And Walt is now the second Boosting the Signal guest I’ve had whose piece stars non-humanoid protagonists, too! With a nice tasty goal of GTFO, always a classic.)

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Asylum

Asylum

Prologue to “The Seventy Percent Solution”

“Your food cravings will cause trouble,” Adur chittered. “Think of the future.” He wiped a paw over his face.

“Future?” M’rist shook her head, whiskers quivering. “We People are bred to be sacrificed to the whims of the Two Legs.”

“Stealing food from the nest of the Two Legs worker will not help.”

“But the dark food is very tasty.” M’rist lowered her gaze. “Makes me feel good.” She looked up. “Is there no hope of communicating with them?”

“We have discussed that. Remember our non-talking smaller cousins? One ran the maze quickly without pretending to be confused.” Adur shivered. “The chief of the Two Legs cut his head open.”

“Even if they knew we can talk like them?”

“We hear their low pitched sounds and understand them, but the Two Legs can not hear our higher pitched words. Even if they could, I doubt they could understand.” Adur sat, licked the back of his paw, and brushed it across his face. Even if they did establish communications by sound or by inking the sound symbols on paper, what would the Two Legs do? Could they trust creatures who cut their prisoners heads open for merely running through their primitive mazes without hesitation?

Letting his grooming falter, Adur let out a deep breath. The Peoples’ only hope was to escape this prison of pain.

But what then? The People did not even know what lay beyond the hard metal doors. They had mastered the many sheets of symbols stored in the nests of individual Two Legs. But even with visual images, it was difficult to interpret the descriptions of the outside world.

He resumed his grooming.

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Good Book)

And now, the sixth post in the special Boosting the Signal series for the 2015 NIWA anthology Asylum! Making her Boosting the Signal debut is today’s author, Connie J. Jasperson. Her story in the anthology revolves around Billy Ninefingers, the Rowdies, and the fundamental idea of asylum—the concept around which the town of Limpwater has grown. The Fat Friar, Robert De Bolt, pushes Billy to widen his horizons and take on a bad job in this wandering tale of snark and strange majik. Here now as a prelude to that story, Connie offers this bit of flash fiction: “The Fat Friar”.

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Asylum

Asylum

“The Fat Friar”

Billy Ninefingers, captain of the mercenary band known as the Rowdies, stood behind the bar at Billy’s Revenge. His inn had only been open for three days, but already he was doing good business. Several merchants he’d never met who were traveling the trade road stopped there, promising even more business for his Rowdies.

A rather portly looking man entered, wearing the robes of a Brother of St. Aelfrid.

“I’m looking for Billy Ninefingers.” His voice was deep and clear, the sort that would resonate at a naming ceremony or a funeral, bringing comfort even to those in the back of the chapel.

“Who shall I say is looking for him?” asked Billy.

“Oh, sorry. Robert De Bolt. I was told the church could buy some lots from him. I’ve been sent here to—what is this town’s name, anyway?”

“Limpwater. I’m putting the signs on the trade road today. I’m Billy Ninefingers,” replied Billy, holding up his maimed hand to forestall the friar’s onslaught of words. “I’d be happy to sell you what you need. Have you some idea which lots are you interested in?”

“I suppose we should look at them.” The friar looked longingly at the mugs on the shelf behind the bar. “But perhaps we might quench our thirst first?”

“It’ll cost you a copper,” Billy poured a mug and handed it to the friar. “So you’re building a chapel here in Limpwater.”

“And also an infirmary,” replied Robert, savoring his ale. “I’ve the plans with me. Mother Agnes will send sisters for healing from Hyola once I get the chapel open for business.”

“You’ll want at least two adjoining lots,” said Billy.

“Eight. This will be a larger infirmary as it has to serve Dervy and Somber Flats too,” Robert said, smiling broadly. “But I’ll need to build a double-cottage, one side for me, and one for the sisters. Separate entrances and all. I’ll make the sisters’ side of the cottage spacious, as several healers and their apprentices will be sent here. The Patriarch and Mother Agnes expect this town to grow quite rapidly.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” replied Billy. “The nearest Sisters of Anan were in Somber Flats, but they were run off.”

“I know about Somber Flats. The church is taking a dim view of that, which is I why I’m here.” Robert held his mug out again. “I’ll need a room here until I get the chapel built.”

“The lots cost five golds each, because I have to figure out how to get the streets paved and sewer catches installed. I don’t have enough gold for that right now. Selling the lots covers those costs. We’ll have water piped to pumps at the street corners so everyone has good clean water. That means the water system will need to be cleaned every year and repaired, and so we’ll have to have an annual subscription for that. Folks need access to a sewer-catch on each street to dump their chamberpots. James Holloway, the king’s architect, designed the sewers, but maintaining them costs money. I’ll have to levy a small fee for that.”

“That’s fair. I spoke to James before I left, because you’ll need to expand them soon. You’re smart to plan ahead for maintenance.”

Billy looked ill. “How soon? My pockets are empty these days.”

“Next year, by the look of things.” Robert set his mug down. “Don’t worry. I’ll help you find the golds. But I’ll have to wait until later for another mug.” Sighing, he said, “My stipend is small, and my appetite for ale is over-large.”

Billy chuckled. “Well, let’s get you set up in a room for now and talk with the carpenters. Builders and thatchers have come from all over to work.”

Robert said, “I noticed you’ve a lot of refugees from Lanqueshire and Somber Flats here and they can’t feed themselves, much less pay for the lots.”

“I know, but I can’t turn them away. Once they get settled they’ll be able to pay their way.” Billy grinned. “I’d have nothing if not for the men and women from all over this sad, bad world who have come here looking for refuge.” He looked away. “I’m hard-pressed to feed us all, but the river is full of fish, and it was a good year for turnips.”

“I’ve some ideas you might be interested in, to bring more coins to town. We’ve a lot of raw material to work with here that will provide income for your citizens and pay the fees for your projects. And I’ve a large shipment of beans and dried peas on the way from Harlynde, courtesy of the church.”

Billy smiled, feeling one burden lifted away. “Everyone has pitched in, and we’ve a stockpile of root vegetables for now, but our beans didn’t do well this year. That will help get us through the winter.” He drew the friar a mug of ale. “You just earned yourself a mug on me!”

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

The special Boosting the Signal week for the NIWA 2015 anthology Asylum continues! Today’s featured author is Pamela Bainbridge-Cowan, whose story is “Going Sane”—and whose unnamed narrator is seeking to escape The Facility. (And oh my no, a name like The Facility is not the SLIGHTEST BIT OMINOUS.) Before that, though, there’s a goal of figuring out how to cope with life, and Pamela’s sent me an excerpt in which her narrator and her friend Vo discuss how the narrator has had to cope with what life has thrown her up till now, via painting.

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Asylum

Asylum

I had one friend at The Facility, maybe one friend anywhere. Of course the universe, with its ironic sense of humor, made sure that he—the least likely to help me—would be the only one who could.

Vo Danielson. Unless you’ve spent your life beyond the Milky Way you’ve heard of him: the best musician of our time, maybe of all time. And also that guy who wrapped his hands around a transport slide wire which discharged, melting his hands into unrecognizable lumps of useless flesh.

I remember the first time we talked. It was late and we were the only ones in the community lounge. Earlier, the walls of my room had felt like they were shrinking. I was having one of my manic nights, a dish of self-pity served with a side of rage.

Brazenly I stared at his hands, balled up into fists on his lap. “They say you didn’t know the wire carried enough energy to fry your hands. Did you?”

I was sitting at one of the carved mahogany tables. Had been reading. He was sitting on the end of one of the tastefully horrific white and pink silk couches my mother had donated. Had been doing nothing. He looked up and smiled. “I knew,” he said.

Later, he asked about my family.

“My family…” I repeated as I thought about the question. “My family is brilliant and unique. My mother, before she retired to be my business manager, was in genetic R&D with Myer-Hoy. She designed me when she was sixteen and perfected her work at nineteen when she got her first breeding license. She hadn’t wanted me to be conventionally pretty—there were far too many pretty people. Instead, my pattern was a truly heteromorphic design. As you can see, she made my features stark and angled, my eyes sharply slanted and of course just this lovely slash across my face for a mouth. She also wanted me tall, but since my torso is about average she put most of my height in my lower legs. Then, to make things more symmetrical she designed my forearms to be extra-long. She thought she was creating a really new exotic, not an ugly freak who looks more like an insect than a human.”

Sometimes Vo made me forget what I was. Forgetting is a set up. It’s like drinking, or drugs, or dreams. It’s a temporary fix that takes you up and drops you so you hit the ground again. It hurts when you hit the ground because you can remember the last time and the time before that: all those bad landings. The aggregate should kill you—but it doesn’t.

Vo eventually asked me why I paint the things I do.

I didn’t want to talk about that, but I didn’t want him to go away again either. Finally I said, “When I was thirteen I saw a dead raven beside a garbage can. It was an old bird, feathers ruffled, not bleeding, not shot. I thought maybe it had a broken neck, some sort of natural death. I wanted that to be true. Someone had tied a wide pink ribbon around its legs. Maybe so they could carry it without touching it too much. I don’t know. And why a ribbon, something so pretty? It was death and beauty. It was black and pink. Rough and smooth. I ran home and painted it. Everyone thought it was amazing. My mother saw it as my first truly creative moment. It was proof that she’d done everything right. Not just my design but all of it—not marrying, giving all her passion to her work. It was affirmation.

“She took it to a gallery and they wanted more. So for five years, I painted dead birds. Dead birds with ribbons around their feet or their necks. Dead birds covered with flowers, hung from twisted ivy in the branches of trees, heaped on the shores of breathtaking lakes. I got sick of dead birds. One day I painted a bird without feathers. Raw sinews and tissue purple with blood, feathers torn off and thrown down. I was having a tantrum. And they loved it.”

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

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