Another Excerpt and a Bit of Preaching

Hello again my few but faithful followers. Followers, ha, it makes me sound like some cultish priestess in a B-rated fantasy. Bwahahaha hack hack cough wheeze.

Ahem.

Well, after my last rather snarky post, it’s time to get back to the writing. It seems it no longer costs money to create an author page on Amazon, so I have been actually engaged in pursuits beyond my rather slow typing. I only wish I could find a way to make me seem more exciting.

Which is why this blog is not about me. It is another scene from the sequel to Magic’s Guardian, The Hunt, though it features some familiar characters. It’s a sequel after all, with an overarching story arc that will involve all, so they had to make an appearance. Besides, I missed Puck.

Court life was slow, stuck in a season of late spring blooming with flowers and fruit and honey. Days consisted of gathering food, the few chores not accomplished by magic, and practicing to control her powers. After—how long had she been here now? She couldn’t remember, not that time was always a sensible thing here—even with Maclyn at her side, Terra was growing a little restless.
In a moment she was wishing for the quiet peace. She winced when the Circle crackled, flashes sparking across the shifting colors. A rumble too rhythmic for thunder made her stiffen. The bear stirred and a low growl whispered from between her lips.
Puck grabbed her arm and shook his head, his eyes on the Circle where a massive black horse and an equally massive rider materialized.
Terra wasn’t happy to see the helmeted, leather-clad figure who dismounted, but she was held back from her instinct to attack not by Puck’s hand or Maclyn’s murmured warning, but by the tattered bundle the big man cradled so tenderly in one tree-sized arm.
“Please,” he said as Oberon and Titania joined them. “Please, I request the services of your Healer. I will pay whatever price she sets.”
Rosebud turned to leave but Thistledown and Lomas were already hurrying towards them.
“Please, she’s badly hurt,” the huntsman said, sounding breathless.
Even confronted with the sight of the limp woman he held, the words prickled Terra’s anger to life. “Why would we help a bloodthirsty barbarian like you?” she hissed. She ignored Titania’s raised eyebrow and Maclyn’s hasty nudge. “After what you did to the gryphon and her family . . .”
“Family?” The hunter’s brow wrinkled. “We never saw her family. We trapped her after finding her alone.”
“But she showed us her memories. They were slaughtered.”
“Not by us, I swear it. Even at his worst the Huntmaster wouldn’t do such a thing.” He frowned. “The other Court assured us they had no intention of harming the beast.”
“That may have been true, by your definition of harm, but she fought with us. They killed her,” Maclyn told him, deathly cold.
“Things get worse,” the hunter muttered. “You have no reason to believe me, but I am truly sorry. She was a worthy opponent and a magnificent creature who did nothing to bring about her fate. But please,” he said, holding his bundle tighter. “She had no part of what happened. She fell and her leg was crushed by a boulder. She lay there alone for . . .” he shuddered and shook himself. “She’ll die without help.”
Oberon and Titania stayed silent. Terra’s eyes kept falling to the sad figure hanging limp in his arms. “Maybe, Your Majesties, just once . . .” She withdrew under their glare.
Hooves pounded the ground so hard they all felt the impacts. Flyght skidded to a halt beside Terra, Tempest and Puck’s usual partner Desert Willow flanking her. /She must not die!/ Flyght said, rearing and squealing.
Oberon crossed his arms. “The Hunt is not welcome here,” he said, growling almost as darkly as Terra.
“May I speak to your Healer?” the hunter asked, bowing to Thistledown.
Titania glanced in the Healer’s direction. Thistledown nodded.
“Speak,” Titania said.
“I offer an Obligation,” he said. “An unnamed Obligation.”
“That could be a high price. I could ask anything,” Thistledown whispered.
“I know. I will pay it, anything in my power.”
“It’s up to you. If you want to accept his payment, you may,” Titania told her.
We need to hurry,” Thistledown said decisively, looking relieved.

So my old friends haven’t been abandoned yet. I’m sure this, and every other scene, will have some heavy editing before it sees the public eye, but it gives you an idea about the depth of feeling Aidyn is only starting to see from the big guy. I know, I know, awww how romantic. I have been told in no uncertain terms that my stuff is “chick lit,” and I’m okay with that. I’m a chick after all, even if not a very girly one most of the time.

So keep writing, keep looking for that publishing deal, and never stop, and above all don’t let anyone tell you, especially another author, to stop writing. Yes, that still bothers me. Rude, unethical, and stupidly self limiting since practically every professional author will tell you one of the best ways to learn to write is to READ, READ, READ. Which has never been a problem for me, or any of the writers I personally know. I think it’s natural for a writer to start as a reader.

All right, enough of the soap box today. Have a good night my readers, writers, publishers, agents, whatever part you play in the world of books is important. Remember that.

As usual, I almost forgot my links.
Website: http://llynkc.wix.com/kacie-llyn#
Book through Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/magics-guardian-kacie-llyn/1114134634?ean=2940015956313
Book through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B0KHUW0
Free Short Story: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333840

The Hazards of Being an Indie Author

No excerpts today, I’m going to pause in my cheating and write on an actual subject. Yay! (Aw, c’m on guys, I can hear the boos.)

Well, it’s been over a year since I self-published. The people who’ve read the book have given me good responses, at least so far. One actually said she had trouble putting it down, another told me there was a point where the story exploded for him. No better feeling than getting responses like that. 

But the readers are so far very few. I simply cannot afford actual advertising so focus on social media, which might work better if I’d started with the hundreds or thousands of Facebook friends some have and tens of thousands of Twitter followers, but I simply don’t. I have found a number of free sources of promotion, but every one of them requires you to have a minimum rating of 4 stars on Amazon and a minimum of 10 total ratings. So, essentially, to find a format through which to sell books, I need to  . . . sell books. I suppose I could ask friends and family to read it and leave reviews, but there are two issues with that. One, it is frowned on in all of the forums I have encountered on the subject, seen as chintzy if not outright cheating. Two, I don’t think I actually know enough people to find ten that would be willing to do it. Narrowing the list of possibilities down to the readers, then narrowing it further to the fantasy fans, then even more to the female fantasy fans (yes, my male reader did admit that, exploding plot or no, it was a bit girly and best suited to being promoted as chick lit. Which I am fine with, as I am a chick and had asked him to read it to find out his opinion on just that subject.)

Funny, it never occurred to me that being shy and increasingly introverted would affect my writing career, unless I actually made it big enough to be invited to a con somewhere and froze during a speech, or threw up on stage out of nerves, or something even more humiliating.

Not that I thought it would be easy. Writing isn’t easy and despite what too many people think, it is work, and marketing is work on top of that. Without a big press behind you, it becomes even more work. You have to get people to pay attention to something completely unfamiliar. Sometimes I think it might be simpler to actually start a publishing company. It wouldn’t be the first I’d run into started for just that purpose. And I could help out some contacts that are also self published and also having problems getting the attention.

Part of the problem is that Indie authors still don’t have the respect that traditionally published authors do. We put just as much blood into our pages as the “real” writers do, sometimes more, but without the big names boosting us up, it is assumed that we are not worthy of that traditional contract. And sometimes that is true. I don’t have the distance to judge my own work as worthy or not so I’m not going to give an opinion one way or another. (It’s good read it if you like fantasy and faeries and elves and magic ahem sorry consider this a subliminal message. Did it work?) I have most certainly read Indie books that you could call dogs. Bad story elements, bad grammar, bad punctuation, I’ve seen every kind of woof on paper. Some would have been so easy to fix. If you’re not entirely familiar with the technical part of writing, either learn or get someone to edit it for you. The harder ones, the story elements, are for me just as hard to get past. I was reading the first book in an independently published series that was actually very good, until about halfway through the main character did something so completely stupid that, though I am curious about how the story turned out, I shall not read any further. The situation the character was thrown into was something so completely avoidable that it ruined it for me. And I have read real gems that did inspire me into buying that second book by the same author.

So, just like in traditional publishing there are good and bad authors. The worst dog I have ever read was traditionally published, and it was one that had the harder to fix kind of errors. I do notice a few more typos in self published works. (My favorite, which by the way was in one of the stories I loved, was during a scene where one of the characters is riding a horse in a hazardous area. Instead of worrying about his horse finding a pitfall, he is worried about his horse finding a pratfall. Of course the first picture in my head was of a giant war horse slipping on a banana peel in classic Vaudevillian over-the-top style. I laughed out loud. Then kept reading.) Since I’ve been taking writing seriously, I’ve noticed typos in every single book I’ve read, including ones written by the biggest names, published by the biggest houses, but the professional editors really do get rid of the majority, while an Indie author usually can’t afford the thousand or more dollars it takes to have it done without that magical contract. The best most of us can hope for is a friend or family member to borrow us a fresh pair of eyes. (I’ve actually got a volunteer for my next book, for which I am so incredibly grateful).

So, in my experience, you are slightly safer with a traditionally published work as far as readability, but only slightly. And the Indie books tend to be–I was going to say cheaper, but that’s only half true. Those published as ebooks are definitely cheaper, usually by a lot. The print books, not so much. I did find that I could have mine produced in print profitably for around a comparable price to a traditional novel. My plan was to sell that cheaper too, but to do that I would have had to pay people to buy my book. Yeah, not gonna work. I priced it at the smallest margin I could get to make a profit through any supplier, so I guarantee that my profit margin is tiny in comparison to one of those “real” writers. All the books I’ve sold have been in ebook format, but there really is something about pages between your fingers. Especially when those pages came from your own brain.

And I digress, as per usual. As I was saying, in my experience as a reader I haven’t noticed a huge amount of difference when it comes to quality. True I’m careful about what I purchase and skip over any with egregious errors in the descriptions, but I really haven’t been disappointed any more often than I have with books purchased at a bookstore.

So maybe if you run into one of us, you’ll be willing to give us a chance even if we can’t wave those comfortingly familiar logos at you. And maybe you’d be willing to go onto one of those merchant websites and leave one of the magical golden tickets known as a rating or a review. We are writers too! At least most of us are.

Thanks all, and pleasant reading, writing, editing, ect.

Links are below, including a free story.

Website:  http://llynkc.wix.com/kacie-llyn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EnchantmentsEndgame?

Twitter: llynkc@gmail.com  Rassilon27

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B0KHUW0

Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/magics-guardian-kacie-llyn/1114134634?ean=2940015956313

CreateSpace: https://www.createspace.com/4397796

Free Short Story: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333840

New Story

Well, I’m back and slowly getting closer to finishing the first draft of Enchantment’s Endgame: Book Two, The Hunt.  Yes, I know, such an imaginative title.  But it’s short and pointed. It’s a new story, but the characters did appear in Magic’s Guardian in a couple scenes, so there is a connection.  I think I might like this story better, partly because I love stories about the Wild Hunt and they’re pretty rare.  So far I like the way the story is going, and the outline of where it’s going.  Of course that can always change, and usually does, so even I will have to wait to see what happens.

Before then, here is a sample from the first chapter.  I still feel like I’m cheating when I use excerpts as blog entries, but here it is anyway.  Maybe seeing this in a new format will give me some ideas.  I’m afraid I’ve made the lead female come off as weaker than I intended, less independent and capable.

Chapter One      

For he comes, the human child                                                       
To the waters and the wild                                                        
With a faery, hand in hand                                                        
From a world more full of weeping than
he can understand
                                                                                        “The Stolen Child” W B Yeats                                                  

Aidyn Forrester’s heart wasn’t broken, it was shredded. White hot fire and burning cold streaked alternatively through her chest, leaving a numb void in their wake. She felt half-erased, like her limbs floated through a dark quagmire of pain that shrouded her perception. Reality was skewed on its axis, unbalancing her. She watched through a sickly green fog as the world spun slowly, leaving her behind. Exhaustion pulled at her yet she couldn’t sleep. Every time she tried to lie down and close her eyes, she envisioned Seth with her.

     A fresh, prickly sob burned in the back of her throat but Aidyn refused to let any more escape. She was lost and alone, yes, beaten and betrayed, but she still had herself. Setting her shoulders straight and square, she raised her chin high, facing her future with a façade of resolve. Maybe herself was all she needed, was all she’d ever need. Yes, that felt right and good. She didn’t need to open herself to hurt; alone was the best way to be, locked away and untouchable . . .

     The self-made stiffness in her spine wilted away before she reached the next street light. Why, oh why had she agreed to relocate with her fiancé? Dumb, dumb, dumb move! Perhaps she was as innocent—make that gormless—as her large, doe-brown eyes made her look. Seth had said more times than she could count that he loved her. Then along came that slut Jen. Beautiful slut . . . Aidyn shook the thought away. Just because the girl was model-lovely, possessed of perfect hair, perfect cheekbones, a perfect body, and huge blue-green eyes to go along with everything else, didn’t mean she was a better person. Nor did the fact that she’d open her legs at any opportunity to any man available, especially if he wasn’t available.

    Aidyn had wanted to wait for their wedding night, only two months away. Seth decided not to

wait with her. She tugged hard at her shoulder-length cherry wood-colored locks, trying to use physical pain to drive away the memory.

     And then there was that bosom . . .

     The street was deserted, all its resident businesses closed for the night. Aidyn welcomed the solitude. Her vision swam and her face felt flushed, and tight, and wet. She paused, scrubbing angrily at the damp streaks before stumbling on, too mired in depression to hear the bay of hounds ringing loud from every direction.

     Aidyn was surrounded before she even noticed them. A pack of gigantic, wolfish dogs swarmed the sidewalk, scruffy fur, lolling tongues, and gleaming teeth pressing close and hot to her legs. Aidyn stopped in mid-step, her heart lurching painfully when one of the animals whirled on her, snapping. Its teeth were long and shining white, its eyes reflecting the illumination of the streetlights like fire, giving them a reddish, flickering glow. Then she heard the hollow clatter of hooves on pavement and felt the impacts under her feet as they came closer, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the snarling, milling pack long enough to dare a peek at whatever else was coming.

     “The witching hour,” a deep voice intoned somewhere to her left. “Not a good time for little girls to be out alone.”

     “I thought the witching hour was midnight,” Aidyn whispered haltingly.

     The speaker’s laughter was a pleasant, almost musical sound. “Only to the, how shall I say, magically illiterate.”

     Slowly, terrified, the girl turned to face her tormentor, not sure she wanted to see what nightmare fantasy her fevered brain had created. When her gaze had travelled the considerable distance upwards, her worst suspicions were confirmed; the sight that confronted her wide eyes was insanity itself. A huge figure, dressed in furs and leather, sat atop a monstrous war-horse. His garments, which put her in mind of something out of the dark ages, or even earlier, were splashed here and there with what had to be blood. A helm that culminated in a pair of tall antlers curving into the night hid the rider’s face, all but his coarse, cruel, wide-lipped mouth. The mount underneath him, a bay with a coat so red it looked like it had blood in the highlights and a mane, tail, and legs the color of burnt gore, was as large for a horse as its master was for a man. Snorting, the titan stallion pranced nearer, exposing teeth that just didn’t look right in a horse’s mouth. He pawed savagely with hooves that seemed big enough to crack the sidewalk, making Aidyn wince with each booming strike.

     The picture they presented was so attention-focusing that it took Aidyn a moment to register the other riders gathered behind the horned figure. They were a big, rough-looking lot, wearing bows across their backs and helmets on their heads. Swords hung from their leather belts and assorted dagger hilts jutted from the tops of their heavy boots. The barbarian faces they turned towards her were feral and fierce, their eyes gleaming with the same light as the hounds’ frightening orbs.

     When Aidyn’s attention drifted back to the first, most imposing figure, her heart began to slam erratically. He was close, and staring down directly at her. His helm was tilted back to expos his brute face and where his eyes would be, red lights burned like mirrors reflecting hellfire. Her legs went weak and folded under her despite her stubborn attempts to lock her knees. I am not fainting. I will not! I refuse! But she couldn’t convince her body. The hallucinations caused by stress and sleep deprivation and no food were too much. The scene wavered in front of her, mercifully disappearing as she crumpled.

 

So . . . I hope you didn’t find Aidyn wimpy or annoying.  I’ve already been told her name is pretentious, or at least the spelling is, but the meaning seems appropriate and the spelling more feminine than Aiden or Aidan.  Of all characters, her name has been the most difficult and has changed the most times, so unless I find something truly awesome that is just too perfect to pass up, it isn’t changing again.  But now she needs to live up to the name.

And dear readers, since the temperature is dropping, the floor of my computer room is cement, and I can no longer feel my toes, I will leave it here.  I wish you all the best for the new year, in your writing and everything else.  Take care and enjoy playing with words, whatever form that play takes. 

 

I really should know better than to copy and paste from Word by now. Oh well, it’s sort of fixed now.

Here are some links, including to the free short story Kingston. I have gotten some good personal feedback for it.

Magic’s Guardian Amazon (print and ebook)
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B0KHUW0
Nook (so far ebook only, should include print copy soon)
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/magics-guardian-kacie-llyn/1114134634?ean=2940015956313

Kingston Smashwords (links to multiple formats, ebook only)
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333840

Author website
http://llynkc.wix.com/kacie-llyn#

Typing and Covers and Designing, Oh My! (Oh, Brother.)

So . . . I am preparing to seriously start typing.  Not writing, typing, completely different.  Though to be as honest and accurate as possible, I will do some editing as I type.  I always do, can’t help it.  I am addicted to editing.  But, as moving the words from paper to my computer is my least favorite, almost (not quite, but very close) disliked part of writing, it takes me the longest of any other task.  And no, don’t tell me to just type it in the first place.  Too much of my writing is done in places where a computer is not feasible, often not allowed, or liable to get wrecked if I try. 

But to make it faster, I’ve finally come up with the most brilliant of ideas.  Much of what I loathed about the typing was that I had nothing to hold the notebooks, so typing consisted of a lot of picking up, putting down, typing a few words, starting it again, craning my neck to try and see without picking it up . . . I spent more time wrestling with my notebook than actually moving words.  Then today, out of a blank brain occupied not with writing but with helping to make the annual family Chex Mix, the idea explodes.  The old music first I then my sister used in school.  So my sister dug it out of her closet and handed the battered old thing over.  The right size, the right height, it holds the pages.  Perfect!  And for once, my idea really was perfect, see below.

 

musicstand

If any of you are still old fashioned luddites dependent on pen and paper and find yourself with the same problem of nowhere convenient to put your notebook, it works. It really, really works, and a used music stand shouldn’t be too hard on the pocketbook.

So The Hunt shall be out soon. Of course soon is relative when you’re talking about finishing a book, months instead of minutes. Still, the sequel is coming along.

In anticipation, I’ve been playing with cover designs. Here’s the updated cover for Enchantment’s Endgame: Book Two The Hunt. One wishes that one could actually make writing a semi-lucrative career so one could obtain a program with a few more functions, but Printmaster Platinum has done all right for me so far.

The Hunt ebook-001

And I’ve even started updating the cover for the third, Moon’s Children. I’m liking it so far.

moonschildrenebook-001

I have been encouraged by several people to let others do my cover design, but for anywhere between $100 and $1000 dollars, I think I will continue on my own. I don’t think they’re terrible. I was even pretty pleased with my first attempt, the cover for Magic’s Guardian. The final result isn’t too far off others I’ve seen, at least I don’t think so. Of course I’m a writer not an artist, so I could be totally wrong and they may want to make you want to tear your eyes out. Please tell me if that’s the case.

Does anyone else do their own cover design? Or is it just poor deluded little unprofessional me?

Ta for now, all you authors and agents and publishers and readers. I wish you all the best, all the luck, and all the profits you deserve. Just remember not to lose all the fun.

As usual, links to other stuff follows.

Magic’s Guardian on Kindle and in print http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B0KHUW0
Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/magics-guardian-kacie-llyn/1114134634?ean=2940015956313

Kingston (free short story)
Nook
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kingston-kacie-llyn/1115373226?ean=2940044633025
Sony Reader Store
https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/kacie-llyn/kingston/_/R-400000000000001085499
Diesel ebook store
http://www.diesel-ebooks.com/item/SW00000333840/Llyn-Kacie-Kingston/1.html
Kobo
http://store.kobobooks.com/pt-us/books/Kingston/uqly087luUyfUTznXLT17w
Smashwords
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333840

Author Website http://llynkc.wix.com/kacie-llyn#

Facebook fan page https://www.facebook.com/EnchantmentsEndgame?

I Got ‘Er Done . . . Almost!

So, it exits. It really exits. It’s, like, got pages and everything. See?

Magicpic1

I can’t help wondering if I’m the only author that has problems seeing it as MINE once it is in a form outside of my head or an electronic file. It’s not quite there yet, just a proof copy that needs to be read and corrected, but when I dare put a mark on those pristine pages, it feels like the book, and every librarian I ever encountered, is staring at me.

But I’m forcing back that inner ruler-bearing librarian and getting it done. It will be a couple weeks at least before it will actually be available in beautiful, actual print. Most of the pages so far look something like this:

Magicpic2

Not all of them, of course, but a lot of them. And there are some corrections to the cover that need to be made too. The front came out oddly off-set, though I may leave it that way because the more I look at it the more I kind of like it. The back needs a couple tweaks I can’t avoid. And I might adjust the spine just a bit. Inside is going to be the most work for sure. (I just hope the spacing issues are in the actual manuscript and not a result of the publishing site’s computers hating mine. My manuscript I can fix.) I suppose some would find me silly for spending money on a proof copy for the actual proofreading, but it seems easier to see any issues when it’s on paper instead of a screen. Still, it feels . . . naughty. This pretty thing that I can actually touch can’t have anything to do with me, can it?

But it does. Somehow it feels more real, like I’m actually a writer now, or will be once it’s actually available. I like my Nook fine, but I’m a pages-between-my-fingers kind of girl. The ebooks have been available for months already (I’ve even sold two! Woot!), but this just makes everything true. I may not sell any more than the two ebooks already purchased, but pages make everything perfect.

So, back to work. Then comes the sequel, then the sequel to the sequel, then . . . well, the writing never stops, does it? It’s in you down to the bone, and deeper.

So. Here are the links to the soon-to-be first edition ebooks.

Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B0KHUW0
B and N Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/magics-guardian-kacie-llyn/1114134634?ean=2940015956313
Author Website: http://llynkc.wix.com/kacie-llyn#
Twitter: @LlynKC
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EnchantmentsEndgame?

and links to my free short story Kingston.

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kingston-kacie-llyn/1115373226?ean=2940044633025
Sony Reader: https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/kacie-llyn/kingston/_/R-400000000000001085499
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/pt-us/books/Kingston/uqly087luUyfUTznXLT17w
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333840

info on cover art for Magic’s Guardian:
Design by ME!
Tree image from: http://www.stockfreeimages.com/© Magicinfoto | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
Eyes image from: http://www.stockfreeimages.com/© Joseasreyes Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

‘Night all! Sweet dreams and may they inspire your words!

To Print or . . . I Won’t Finish That

Good evening, fellow bloggers, writers, publishers, ect. I am starting to feel like a real writer. I read that to be real, you have to be willing to do all nighters, and I did an all nighter last night. Well, almost, the tank finally failed at about 5 am. But it was close. And I feel awful. Somehow I don’t think it helped the creativity flow. So, don’t think I’ll do it again, unless I start another big project that I think will take an hour and it ends up taking more than ten.

Publishing in print is a lot of work. But at least it only costs the print price of the books, plus shipping. Unless it’s sold through Amazon, then I actually get a royalty. Yay me!

It would be nice to sell a few. Somehow the two I’ve sold so far just doesn’t seem what I would call any kind of personal victory.

But I digress. Well, I really don’t since I haven’t actually gotten to the subject yet. No sleep brain will do that to you.

So yeah, Magic’s Guardian may be available in print form at some point in the future. I hope so, since as a book-in-my-hands girl, I’ll feel much more legitimate with pages and a cover. A real cover!

In looking for a scene to tap into today, I was looking for something a little more exciting, yet something that won’t give the whole story away. So here is Terra’s return through the Faerie Circle. It gives a preview of what they’ll be facing, has a little more of the Puck-Titania dislike, and a hint at the trouble heading Maclyn’s way. It’s not really long, but it has a bit more action than the last excerpts. And this time I’m going to be smart enough to format it instead of blindly pasting. Yes, I know there should either be a break or an indent, but I’m not ambitious enough to change every single line. So you’ll just have to deal with both. Nya, nya, nya. If you want it correct, buy the book. I think. It was correct last time I downloaded anyway. I do not trust computers, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it had logged in without me and changed everything. Computers do that, you know. Kind of like that way typos breed.

Of course they way the blog changed what was pasted from the manuscript, it might none of it be an issue. If not, sorry. Ignore above.

All right, now I really do digress. Story below.

“Take the next turn, we’re almost there,” Puck instructed.

She followed his direction, taking them onto a less-travelled road mercifully free of traffic.

“This is going to . . .” Puck was cut off by a heavy impact from behind. They both grunted and Terra clutched the wheel, pulling the truck out of a wild fishtail.

“I didn’t see anything,” she said through white lips, slowing the truck. “Did a deer . . .”

Something large and black loomed in the windshield, crawling up the side of the truck onto the hood. It reached out a—paw? hand?—and shattered the thick glass with a single tap of its three-inch claws.

Terra screamed and slammed on the brakes, fighting to stay up on four wheels. The thing leapt off her truck, landing lightly in the road in front of them. Terra’s pickup struck the huge creature, or the creature hit the truck, Terra wasn’t quite sure which, and the front wheels left the pavement.

It felt like being on a wild roller coaster. Terra’s gut lurched. Puck shouted something but she couldn’t hear over the rushing wind and the cries of her frightened dog. Then the truck hit the road on its side, sliding for what seemed half a moment less than forever, sparks raining as metal howled out its misery. Fiery pain lanced Terra’s abdomen when the entire dashboard broke away and the steering wheel slammed into her stomach, knocking her breath out in a single gagging grunt.

The pickup finally came to rest in the ditch, rocking gently and letting out mechanical moans of pain. Terra’s world was grey for a few seconds while her diaphragm unfroze. When she could draw a large enough breath she coughed, smelling and tasting smoke, oil, and the cooking grease she still used in place of gasoline. “Puck? Flyght?” she called in a hoarse voice.

A bark and a groan were her answers. Reaching down, she managed to unbuckle her seatbelt with hands that shook so hard she looked palsied. Twisting an arm under what was left of her seat, she found her tire iron, gripping it with white knuckles. She turned to her passenger, who had a trickle of blood snaking down his face and a blackening bruise on one cheek. “Puck? Can you get out?”
“I think so,” was his groaning reply.

Grimacing, Terra hauled herself out through the windshield. Broken safety glass scratched her legs, but that pain was nothing compared to her stomach. It hurt to move, even to breathe, and she could barely stand; ignoring it as best she could, she gained her feet and took a defensive stance, the tire iron raised. “What was that?” she asked Puck, who was pushing an unscathed Flyght out through the window and pulling himself free in her wake.

Flyght growled low in her chest, her fur on end. Terra turned to follow her enraged eyes, the tire iron held over her head.

The creature was sniffing at them cautiously, crouched low in the dry grass. It was pure black, a black that was more a total absence of light than a color. There were no highlights in its fur or glints where its eyes would be, only a patch of shadow like a hole through the bright sunshine. Terra’s eyes watered, wanting to skip over it, but she forced them to focus, though it gave her a headache.

Something like a cross between a man and a bear, the beast exhibited the worse aspects of each. “A gargoyle,” Puck hissed. “Damn. What is it doing here?”

The gargoyle bared teeth that were as black as the rest of it and moved towards them slowly. It took Terra a moment to recognize that it was stalking them like a lion after choice prey. Terror charged through her, making her tremble. Then, suddenly, fury took over, fury at the situation, at the creature, at Faerie-kind in general, and her own teeth were bared. Hot rage well over the edge of sanity, an emotion so intense it was almost a living thing itself, began to build the way it had so long ago. Her pain was nothing more than a distant distraction. She noticed Puck and his drawn sword only distantly as familiar red veiled her eyes. “You bastard,” she snarled at the creature, brandishing the tire iron like a medieval war club. “I just finished paying for that truck!”

The pickup whooshed into flames. Terra shrieked a wordless challenge, goading the creature to charge. Terra lurched in front of Puck and swung the iron as she had swung the sword those years before, using the weight of her body to add power. Heavy talons scored the flesh of her upper arm, leaving deep gouges, and the sharp end of the iron smashed into the beast’s eye.

The monster screeched and clawed at its own face, black blood that smelled of infection spraying Terra and Puck. Flyght jumped at the gargoyle, her claws finding purchase on the thing’s bowed back, her teeth tearing into its neck. Terra swung the iron again, this time an overhead swing that brought the curved end down on the creature’s head, splintering the thick skull and driving into its brain. Flinging its head back, the gargoyle howled, a high, splintered sound like claws on crystal. Terra swung again, tearing into the front of its throat.

Convulsing, the gargoyle fell to its knees. Flyght leapt from her perch, shaking her head and pawing at her muzzle. Watching the thing twitch and die, Terra only felt satisfaction. Blood, both red and black, dripped off various parts of her body in thick rivulets. The black fluid steamed wherever it touched her bare flesh, leaving red, tender blotches like sunburn. Puck stared at her, his unused sword hanging loose at his side. “Remind me never to get you angry,” he whispered.

Terra faced him, all their shared laughter hiding behind an icy visage. “Cold Iron,” she whispered back, her voice hoarse with pain and anger. “I wondered why I was so fascinated by mythology, especially anything Faerie. I guess now I know. I also know that the Faerie Circle is a trap, the Fey can be incredibly nasty, and your greatest enemy is Cold Iron.”

“You’ve been studying. The wrong things, perhaps,” the elf murmured thoughtfully.

“Don’t threaten me.”

Puck took a startled step back. “I didn’t mean it that way. Terra, you . . .”

The girl cut him off with a wave of her hand. “How far is the Circle?”

Puck shrugged. “Not far, especially since we don’t have to stay on the roads.”

“Let’s go.”

“But your car . . . I’m good, one of the best, but I can’t hold Glamour from that far away. The authorities . . .”

Terra stared him down and he trailed off. “Let’s go,” she said.

Flyght whined, still wiping ineffectually at her muzzle, but followed her mistress, her leash dragging behind her. Puck frowned at the girl, but Terra was in too much pain to notice. She just wanted to get somewhere she could sit down. Or better, lie down.

Fortunately it was only a few minutes to the Circle. Even for such a short walk, Terra had to stop twice and close her eyes against dizziness, shaking off Puck’s hands before continuing on. Just as the familiar shifting lights came into view, a loud explosion sounded from near the highway. Puck flinched, but Terra just kept walking, her face turning whiter with every step, cold sweat beading on her brow and upper lip.

Inside Faerie Underhill, the appearance of Puck accompanied by a human girl and a mortal dog, all liberally splattered with gore, caused more than a stir. Even Oberon blinked silently for a long moment, his regal jaw hanging loose.

“Terraceleste!’ Titania cried, too shocked to show either pleasure or unhappiness.

Terra’s eyes automatically sought a dark-haired figure, terrified to see but ravenous for a single look.

Maclyn sat with a young red-haired elf. He looked up at his mother’s cry and his mouth fell open, a mirror image of his father’s expression. The goblet he had been holding to the pretty faerie’s lips crashed to the ground and shattered in a spray of silvery clay shards and deep crimson droplets. The younger faerie covered her mouth with one hand, clutching Maclyn’s arm with the other.

Did you really think he’d wait for the impossible? Wait for you? Terra tried to ask herself, but logic didn’t help. Emotions that should have been seven years old were too new and too confusing after stewing and bubbling in her subconscious. Her face stretched in a grimace that wasn’t all physical pain.

Maclyn stood as if jerked by marionette strings. “Terra . . . “

At the sound of his voice whispering her name, she flushed then went pale, then turned an ugly combination of the two. She stared at her former lover sitting with the shapely female, still gaping and clutching his hand, and felt her heart try to break.

She was too weak to stand the pain that flared across her chest. Everything around her shimmered and changed color. She thought for a moment that she was leaving the Circle, being forced out again. She hoped so. She didn’t want to remember any more. Then she wasn’t thinking anything at all.

*

Maclyn leapt the instant Terra’s eyes began to roll; she crumpled into his arms utterly limp and cool to the touch. Her body convulsed once in a retch and blood bubbled up to coat her lips. Puck landed on his knees next to them and reached out to touch the girl’s grayish-yellow face, grimacing at her blue lips. He leaned down, putting an ear to her mouth, looking up at Maclyn in a panic.

Maclyn could feel her breathing raggedly, but each breath was shorter and there was a longer pause between each one. “Where is Thistledown?” he rasped at his mother, his voice shaking as hard as the rest of him.

Thistledown appeared before Titania had time to answer, motioning for Maclyn to lay the unconscious girl out on the ground. “It’s close,” she murmured. Laying her hands on Terra’s chest, she closed her eyes. A white-blue aura appeared around her, rising from her in misty swirls and slowly seeping over Terra. “She’s bleeding inside, from more than one place. She’s ready to tip over the edge . . .”

The onlookers were silent as Thistledown concentrated. Puck and Maclyn stared into each other’s eyes, the same thought echoing between them; they had found their old friend only to get her killed. Maclyn’s lungs constricted until he couldn’t breathe.

The not-exactly-glow around Thistledown faded and her eyes blinked open. “She will live,” she said wearily. “If she had come here a minute later . . . but she is here. Puck, why did you let her walk when she was . . .”

“I didn’t know,” Puck snapped. “How could I? We were attacked by a gargoyle. It sent the car flying, and Terra killed it after she climbed out of the mess. How was I supposed to know how bad she was hurt? She killed the thing! A gargoyle! By herself!” Each sentence was more hysterical than the last until he stopped, sucking in deep draughts of air.

Maclyn scooped Terra gently into his arms. “I can believe it.”

Oberon’s mouth was tight. He gave Puck one look that insinuated a coming interrogation, but he focused on a different subject. “A gargoyle. So we were right.”

“Apparently,” said Puck. “But we still don’t know why. I apologize for not staying longer, but I didn’t know what to do. She . . . she saw me and remembered.”

“Impossible,” Titania gasped. “No mortal can resist the Circle’s magic without help. You must have done it.”

Puck shrugged, calm patience aging him considerably. “Believe what you will, but she saw through my Glamour. Has there ever been another human do that?”

“You did right,” Oberon interceded, signaling for Titania’s silence.

Maclyn ignored the conversation as he carried Terraceleste to his bed, the girl he had been sitting with following worriedly. “Thank goodness she’s going to be all right,” she said.

“Yes.” Tucking her firmly into the pile of pillows and blankets, Maclyn made sure Terra was well covered. “Stay with her,” he instructed. “Don’t let her get too excited if she wakes up. I’ll be back soon, but I’m sure Father will want to talk with me.”

And of course Maclyn is right. So there we go, a little more dirt and blood. There’s also something a bit darker I have offered for free, a story abou8t a pet of a different color. Links are below. Sorry, this one won’t be in print. Not even sure the outfit I’m using could do something so short.

Kingston Nook
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kingston-kacie-llyn/1115373226?ean=2940044633025
Kingston Sony Reader Store
https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/kacie-llyn/kingston/_/R-400000000000001085499
Kingston Diesel ebook store
http://www.diesel-ebooks.com/item/SW00000333840/Llyn-Kacie-Kingston/1.html

Kingston Kobo
http://store.kobobooks.com/pt-us/books/Kingston/uqly087luUyfUTznXLT17w
Kingston Smashwords
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333840

It will also, somewhere, somehow, but on Amazon eventually. But Smashwords does have a Kindle download file so it’s available.

So, good night, good writing, good publishing, and stay thirsty, my friends.

Oh, wait, that’s not me.

I am going to bed.

Signing off,

Kacie

Theories, Writing, and an Adult Scene

It’s a little early this week, but I’m putting up my blog now before I lose the energy. After not having caffeine for 18 hours for a stress test (my heart is normal, no such worries about the rest of me), I made up for it and now I am too wired to sleep. Not that I’d me sleeping yet anyway on a Friday night. Nope, I’m usually staring at my computer screen, editing or writing, tweeting, Facebooking, usually watching a movie or catching up on a TV series . . . hmmm, maybe there’s a reason it takes me forever to get my books typed up.

Yeah, I hate typing. Love the writing, love the editing, but when it’s just typing . . . ngk. Perhaps someday I shall stop being such a luddite and use something besides a notebook. I don’t know. I seem to think better with a pen in my hand.

Anyway, back on subject. Yeah, that one, the one I haven’t mentioned yet. Still sticking with my intention of posting excerpts of my work. I still stand by the theory that my fictional lives are far more interesting than my real one. And no, Fate, that wasn’t a complaint. I am also trying a slightly different method of copy and pasting, so maybe the formatting will make it into the blog. Fingers crossed. And toes, legs, arms, eyes . . .

Yeah, yeah. I know. I don’t do humor.

This scene is a little later in the story. Terra has just met Flyght, a Faeriesteed. Here they find out that she’s not exactly a typical mortal, though no one guesses who she really is, least of all her.

Warning: This part of the story includes an adult scene that some might find graphic, so if you are easily offended, stop reading here, please. Thank you.

Flyght nudged her shoulder. Terra looked into the huge laughing eyes; the steed tossed her head, giving a single high-pitched whinny. With a whoop, Terra hauled herself onto the wide back and they took off at a wild gallop.

Looking back over her shoulder, Terra laughed. Puck and Maclyn both sprinted for their steeds, yelling at them to catch the disappearing pair. The brown faerie paused only to snatch Rosebud from the king. Thistledown had no choice but to follow, but it was with an indulgent smile.

Heartbeat pounding in her ears, Terra leaned over her mount’s neck. Hearing more hooves rumbling close behind them, she leaned closer, her arms and legs moving with the steed’s rhythm. Flyght flattened her ears, increasing her speed. She did not speak, but Terra could feel a twinkling in her head that felt like delighted, girlish giggles that effervesced and tickled, bringing an echo of it from between Terra’s lips.

Flyght kept just ahead of her nearest pursuer until their progress was finally halted by a lake, but the faeriesteed didn’t stop until she was plunging chest-deep in cool, fresh water so clear that Terra could see every grain of silt that the steed’s charge kicked up. Flyght reared, splashing with her front hooves, striking at the glittering light that reflected from the small waves that lapped leisurely towards shore.

Trumpeting, Maclyn’s black stallion followed her in and crashed into the mare, flinging her off her feet and sending her underwater with Terra still clinging to her back. Sputtering to the surface, Terra glared up at Maclyn, lunged, and grabbed his leg, pulling him in before he could react. Puck, Thistledown, and Rosebud arrived moments later, just in time to be doused in a water fight between a faerie, a human, and two steeds. They joined with relish.

“You could have woken me up when you left this morning, you know,” Terra grunted, shoving Maclyn and kicking his legs out from under him.

He sat down hard, the water coming up to his neck. “I couldn’t do that,” he protested, surging at her. “You looked so sweet and peaceful.” He set his shoulder into her middle and lifted her in a fireman’s carry. “How appearances do deceive!” Laughing at her outraged squawk, he tossed her into deeper water.

Puck laughed at that. Rosebud performed a nimble side-kick to the back of one knee, collapsing his leg and turning the laugh to a gurgle.

Spitting, Terra rose to the surface and attacked, dunking him thoroughly. Catching her wrists, Maclyn planted a firm kiss on her mouth, then his hand on top of her head, pushing her under.

Hours passed before they realized it. The sun was starting to dip on the evening side of the sky when, soaked and mud-covered, they all climbed out of the water and all but collapsed. Lounging on the shore, they let sunlight warm the chill out of their skin. “How big is the Faerie Circle?” Terra asked lazily. “I know there aren’t any lakes near where I was camping.”

“It’s as big as it needs to be,” Thistledown answered, her voice dozy. “And this isn’t really the Circle, but the lands past it. Some called it Underhill, others called it the Faerie Mound. The Circle is the place where our world meets yours. If you had but come out from behind a different tree, you never would have passed through and found us.”

“There wasn’t much chance of missing you noisy lot,” Terra chuckled. “Lights, music . . . I have to admit I was a little annoyed when you woke me up.”

“You saw the Circle? You heard us from your side?” Puck exclaimed, sitting up to stare.

“Of course,” Terra said, propping herself up to aim a perplexed frown in his direction. “It wasn’t exactly subtle.”

Puck looked confused, gazing at her with a peculiar twist to his features. “But . . . you’re mortal . . .”

Maclyn cut his friend off with the sharp wave of a hand. “What does it matter? She’s here.” He smiled, the warm look in his eyes for Terra alone.

Terra smiled back, warmed by the real fondness on his face even more than by the sun. It was muted by a vague chill when she noticed Thistledown frowning in their direction, her expression puzzled, maybe even a little sad. She took a breath to ask what it meant, but the sadness kept her silent.

Puck cleared his throat, brushing wet hair out of his face. Strangely, his expression matched Thistledown’s almost exactly. “You know, we haven’t sparred in a while,” he remarked a little hastily. “It’s a good time.” He smirked. “It would give me a chance to show off.”

Terra’s pulse stuttered at Puck’s change of topic. Maclyn only snorted. “You just want a rematch.”

“I can’t let a boy two hundred years younger win, can I?” Puck said with a shrug and an utterly wicked grin.

“Just because I actually use my sword outside of your games once in a while . . .”

“Wait a minute,” Terra interrupted, her eyes wide with disbelief. “Swords? Why swords? You all seem so . . . I don’t know, weapons just don’t seem to go with this place.”

“We have enemies,” Thistledown said, momentarily grim-faced. “We cannot afford to become complacent and vulnerable.”

“Oh.” A violent note in the pretty woman’s voice kept Terra from asking her to elaborate, but she wondered who could be the enemy of these mischievous but happy people. Judging from the usually gentle Healer’s reaction, Terra would be happier and probably healthier if she never found out.

The others scrambled up onto their steeds. Terra followed, exchanging glances with Flyght as she mounted. The mare’s gaze was cool and amused as though she was laughing at everyone behind her deep spring eyes. It was not a comforting expression.

Their trek through the hot, drying sun back to the gathering of shelters was longer than Terra remembered, even accounting for their slow pace. Once they found their way back to the ring of shelters, she stayed on Flyght’s surprisingly comfortable back as she waited for her new friends to gather what they needed. The three adult faeries found their swords, each with a beautifully wrought, unique design, double-edged yet slender pieces with narrow furrows running from hilt to tip on each side. Maclyn even grabbed a sword for Rosebud, a tiny, knife-sized blade with a very real edge. Terra waited for Thistledown to punch him, or at least put up a protest, but she only examined it with appreciative approval as the tiny girl waved it over her head.

The elves wrapped sturdy leather belts around their waists and sheathed their swords in attached scabbards that were embossed with realistic images of the surrounding forest. Their steeds stamped in anticipation as they mounted, taking off before they were securely aboard. Her own curious excitement growing, Terra hung on while Flyght followed, content this time to keep in the center of the pack.

They found an open spot in the trees where Maclyn and Puck squared off while Thistledown knelt by her daughter, showing the girl how to hold a sword in her doll-sized fist. Terra settled under the largest tree. The steeds grazed around her, cropping mossy grass and paying little attention to her, wagering with each other in quick thoughts as sharp as the flashing blades.

Terra was enthralled, especially by the way muscles in Maclyn’s shoulders and arms flexed when he hefted his sword. She watched, fascinated, as he and Puck circled each other, blades clashing, each swing and parry becoming more concentrated, more in earnest. She winced when Puck slashed Maclyn across the thigh, slicing his pant leg with razor precision and leaving a thin trail of blood that widened, soaking into the leather. There was an odd tinge to the fluid; she wondered hazily if it had anything to do with the term “blue blood.”

All laughter had drained from Puck’s face and Maclyn looked truly vicious. It was enough to make Terra glance towards Thistledown, but the woman only shook her head with a faintly pained look on her face.

Despite the Healer’s lack of concern, Terra’s interest was tainted by a little fear when Puck finally caught Maclyn with his sword in an awkward, indefensible position. The point of the shorter man’s weapon stayed pressed against Maclyn’s throat for so long that Terra was afraid the blade would actually pierce flesh. Then Puck lowered his sword and was suddenly Puck again. “Gotcha,” he said cheekily.

“This time,” answered a disgruntled Maclyn, pushing Puck’s sword away with the tip of a slender finger.

“Always.” Puck motioned to a wide-eyed Terra. “You look whiter than your own hair. You didn’t think we meant it, did you?”

“You made it look good,” Terra admitted. Her achingly tense shoulders loosened and she aimed slit eyes at Maclyn. “Very good.”

Pink actually spread across the prince’s high cheekbones and his expression was both pleased and boyishly sheepish.

Puck laughed. “Come on, give it a try.”

“But . . .”

“Come on,” he coaxed. “I know you’re not afraid.”

The teasing challenge would not let her decline. Swallowing her misgivings, Terra trotted across the glade to join the men, stopping for a moment to watch Thistledown cross her blade with Rosebud’s to explain something about grip in quiet, motherly tones. Listening with a hungry gleam in her bright eyes, Rosebud shifted her hand, paused, and corrected herself again before Thistledown could say anything, nodding as she flexed her fingers around her blade’s haft, a look of thoughtful concentration on her face.

Puck handed Terra his sword, stepping behind her with a smirk she didn’t entirely like. He positioned her grip on the hilt and guided her hand as she swung it experimentally. Rosebud, halting her own lesson, giggled at Terra’s clumsy attempts, which were more hampered than helped by Puck’s hand planted over hers. Maclyn rolled his eyes in disgust. “The only thing you’re teaching her is how to let herself be gutted,” he snorted.

Puck’s face twisted sourly. He backed away, motioning for Maclyn to continue in his place, his arm swinging wide in sarcastic invitation. Maclyn pushed the elf out of his way and took a stance opposite Terra, lifting his sword and giving it a little encouraging wave. Copying his pose, she held Puck’s sword at a forty-five degree angle to her body, waiting for confirmation. Maclyn studied her critically, then nodded acceptance of her certainly amateurish attempt. “Like this,” he said, swinging his sword so it tapped hers smartly.

Stepping back, Terra swung the sword once, then again, harder, paying attention to the way it balanced almost by itself. When her mock swipes looked easy and mostly under control, he motioned for her to take position.

Terra obediently shifted into the ready stance he had taught her. She was careful at first, brandishing the sword with slow, gentle thrusts, her blade hitting his with soft tics when Maclyn blocked her nervous blows. “Ready?” he asked after a minute or two of the simple action.
“Yeah, I guess,” Terra replied, tightening her grip.

When Maclyn finally swung at her with a half-speed blow, it created a shockwave that traveled up her arm, twisting the sword out of her hand. Every head in the glade turned to watch it fly several feet and not even have the dignity to land gracefully point-down in the ground, instead tumbling clumsily flat in the grass. Terra flushed.

“Grip,” Maclyn commanded.

Retrieving the weapon with a frown, Terra took position again. Rosebud’s lesson flashed in her mind, and she adjusted her hold to match the way the little girl’s tiny fist had twined around her dagger-sized blade. Almost immediately something felt right; Puck’s sword fit her hand perfectly and was light enough for her to handle with one arm, the reach and balance ideal for someone of her height. Swinging back at Maclyn, the blade caught his with a satisfying clang. Maclyn nodded, pleased, and showed her a number of different moves, the block and parry as well as the attack.

Terra practiced each one for a time, becoming more confident with every swing. When Maclyn made a surprise swipe, she blocked it neatly. Maclyn backed off. “Not bad,” he encouraged. “Here, try to block the higher strokes, too.”

Terra blocked each swing with fair accuracy. “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” accused Thistledown. “You’ve taken fencing at least.”

“Never,” Terra said while trying a series of swings and jabs.

Maclyn attacked with sudden swift ferocity and Terra jumped back, blocking a powerful overhand swing, bringing her blade up at an angle to his to knock the blow away. Maclyn’s next swipe nearly caught her across the face and he winced, his own face a grimace of chagrin. “Sorry.”

Growling, Terra lunged with a fresh jab. Her sword slipped off Maclyn’s as he blocked, and the very tip of his blade bit into her wrist. It was only a scratch, but Maclyn looked abashed, stuttering an apology. The girl didn’t even pause; her teeth were bared and her return swing ferocious. Maclyn was taken aback for a moment, but returned the swipe with equal determination.

Terra, however, was beyond determination. She could feel everything, the breeze, the sun, even the surrounding stares. She could smell her own blood, a sweetish-salty, copper odor that coated her mouth and nose, and the headier, spicier sent of Maclyn’s.

A strange feeling fell over her, a sensation of being bound, but she didn’t know what was holding her or how to release it. Rage built, rage at her inability to escape whatever it was that held her, and she needed it, needed it so bad she would die of it. She glanced down at the tiny wound on her wrist and the blood filled her eyes until she saw through a film of red. The world around her faded to the one bright spot that was the focus of her battle, a figure she no longer recognized as anything more than an enemy. Her swings became wilder and she whirled with every strike, using the whole weight of her body to add force to her attacks. That feeling built in her, a feeling of . . . power, of something wanting to escape, a trapped feeling that frustrated her beyond any influence of sanity, that took over everything and left room for nothing else, nothing . . . human.

*
It took Maclyn a moment to see that something was wrong. His eyes widened at the sight of true madness in the girl’s expression and he backed away from her. “Terra!” he called, lowering his sword in an attempt to submit, but she didn’t seem to recognize him, or even really see him.

Terra leaped toward him and knocked the blade out of his hand with a wild slash that left a deep gash in his forearm, then sent him to the ground with a lunge and lifted Puck’s sword over her head, point-down and aimed straight for his heart.

“Terraceleste!” Maclyn cried the girl’s name again with a cracked voice, closing his eyes.

The three watching faeries screamed, Puck stumbling towards the battling pair; Flyght acted more quickly. She jumped for the combatants, rearing and kicking Terra’s blade away just before it cut into Maclyn’s unprotected chest. Terra was thrown off her feet, most of her wind knocked out by a hoof to her gut. She hit the ground with a hard thud and Maclyn winced for her even through the burning of his own arm.

Rosebud squirmed out of her mother’s restraining hold and was the first to reach the pair of downed opponents. Miniature arms enfolded Terra’s neck as Thistledown shrieked, trying to tear her away. The tiny creature clung like a vine, wailing. “No! No! No!”

Thistledown relaxed when Terra made no move but to pat Rosebud’s back. Her face was blank and slack, but it was shock, not the terrifying madness. Disentangling her daughter, the Healer whispered assurances in one pink pointed ear while she watched sharp-eyed for signs of injury or a resurgence of violence. Terra sat gasping for breath, reason slowly returning to her green-tinged face. Her skin turned chalk-white, ghastly under the nauseated flush on her cheeks, as she looked at Maclyn who was now sitting next to her, a dark look in his silvery eyes. Blood ran heavily down his arm to drip off his fingers. “Berserk,” he said to Puck.

Puck nodded solemnly. “Rarer in humans, but it happens. She must have some warrior blood, Viking perhaps. Are you all right?” he asked both of them.

“I’ll heal,” Maclyn grunted. His arm twinged and he shivered, staring at the ripped sleeve of his shirt, and the blood soaking into it. “I was almost anything but all right. She surprised me at first, then I didn’t want to hurt her, then . . . Flyght, I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t acted.” He faced Terra, laying his good hand on her shoulder. “Terra? Are you all right?”

Terra’s white-ringed eyes stared forward. “I would have killed you,” she whispered, tears rising to gather at the corner of each moss-green eye. “I didn’t even know who you were.”

Though it was a grim expression, Maclyn smiled. “I noticed. I’m sorry, it was my fault. If I had any idea . . . But that wasn’t what I meant.” His hand brushed through her hair, the back of his fingers grazing across her cheekbone in an affectionate, tender gesture that only made her flinch. “I want to know if Flyght hurt you.”

Terra shook her head, her breath already coming easier. “Flyght didn’t hurt me. She saved me. But I don’t know what happened . . . it was awful! I don’t ever want to feel like that again.” Her eyes lifted, grazing past his shoulder to Thistledown. “What’s wrong with me? Am I crazy?”

Thistledown knelt beside her. “No, dear. You’re not crazy. There’s not really anything wrong with you, just . . . inappropriate for the times. A Berserk has an extreme reaction to battle. Has nothing like this happened to you before?”

Terra blinked, still slow to react. “Once,” she finally answered. “There was a boy in school, an older boy. He called me names, snow freak and polar bear and more. One day he pushed my best friend Chad and tried to steal his lunch. I was too small to really hurt him, but . . . I scared him. He left us alone. And I got detention for a week.”

“I suggest you stay out of any kind of combat,” Thistledown said, nodding. “Even pretend. But you didn’t do any permanent damage.” She winked at Maclyn. “He doesn’t damage very easily, anyway.” Tapping the side of his head with one knuckle, she smirked. “Rock, you know.”

Maclyn laughed, pushing her hand away, then frowned in worry when Terra didn’t even smile.

Puck helped the girl to her feet. “I suggest we clean up so we don’t kill Maclyn’s parents when we return. Or be killed by them. This shirt was a gift from Oberon.”

“Yes, I think that’s a good idea. It’s been a long day,” Thistledown agreed. “Here Maclyn, let me see your arm. I can ease your pain and slow the bleeding, even if I can’t heal it entirely.” Glancing at Terra, she sighed. “Unfortunately, I can’t completely heal injuries caused by iron. Something in the metal stifles our magic,” she explained. Still, it was only the work of a moment to help Maclyn’s wounds along their way. Thistledown reached for Terra’s scratched wrist next, but the girl shook her head, leaning away and hugging herself.

*

Quietly, much more solemn than on their first visit, they returned to the lake, where even Rosebud came out a shade or two lighter after a quick but thorough scrub. Terra was silent the entire time, refusing to talk to or even look at any of the others. She didn’t know what to think of herself. What they were thinking she didn’t want to know.

After being unable to draw a response, Flyght nudged Thistledown’s shoulder.
The woman nodded and hefted Rosebud onto her violet stallion’s wide back. She collected Puck and his mount; they retreated quietly, leaving Terra and Maclyn alone with Flyght and Tempest.

Terra desperately wanted to call them all back, but remained silent, suffering the vague idea that she deserved whatever he did or said.

Maclyn splashed through the ankle-deep water, boots in hand. She kept her eyes down, dabbling in the warm water while he waited for her attention. When she didn’t give it to him, he sighed, bending to scoop her into his arms. She squeaked, helpless as he hefted her as though she were no more than an extra-large pillow. He lifted her onto Flyght’s back and climbed up behind her, one strong arm around her middle, holding her tight.

Without asking for direction, Flyght started to walk, following the shoreline, Tempest following at a short distance. Terra stayed lax, watching the mare’s ears swivel and flick, tilted back towards her riders.

Their slow pace along the water reflected Terra’s mood, but the motion began to ease the stiffness from her shoulders. “I’m sorry,” she finally said.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Maclyn answered. “If anything, it was mine, and maybe Puck’s. Everything has been a bit much.” He reached up to ruffle her hair then stroke it back into place. “I’ve never met a human who could even see us as we are, and it’s been a long time for those who have. And you don’t just see us, it’s almost like you’re one of us. We all forget this is new to you. And you’ve had to deal with much stranger things than most.”

His light, ironic tone did nothing to alleviate Terra’s mood. “I could have hurt you,” she murmured, keeping her voice low and controlled.

“But you didn’t.” Glancing at his gashed arm, Maclyn amended his statement. “At least not much.” He nuzzled the back of Terra’s neck. “Certainly no more than Puck did. Nothing’s different. I just won’t let you hold a sword ever again. Or a club, or spears, or knives, and I think I’ll be careful when it comes to spoons, too.”

Terra’s mouth trembled into a small, wavering smile. It brightened quickly at the warm glow his casual words caused and the tingle of pleasure his touch left wherever it strayed. But when Maclyn’s hand drifted upward from her waist, she gasped and stiffened. “There are witnesses!” she cried.

Maclyn laughed. Flyght and Tempest joined him, their whinnying chuckles ringing out over the lake. “In some ways,” Maclyn said, slowly untying Terra’s top, “the faeriesteeds are much like any mortal animal. This is totally natural to them, and they don’t understand our obsession with privacy, human or faerie.”

To prove Maclyn’s point, Flyght looked over her shoulder at Tempest, nickering quietly. Maclyn slid himself and Terra off the mare’s back. The steed’s posture shifted slowly, muscle by muscle, into something undeniably provocative, her haunches bunched and her tail flagged. Tempest arched his neck, prancing over and using his outthrust chest to push gently at the mare. Flyght laughed, but her eyes took in only the beautiful black form. /Males,/ she said, /are the same in any species. We shall leave you to your comfort./ She trotted slowly away, her tail raised and swinging loosely behind her. The stallion followed as if hypnotized, his ears stretched so far forward it looked painful.

Maclyn turned his attention to Terra, his mouth dropping hard over hers. Guilt melted away under the gentle ministrations, passion taking its place until she was afraid the lake would boil from the heat radiating between them. They slipped under the gentle waves, but Terra’s fear was of drowning in sensation, not liquid.

Blood from their still-leaking wounds mixed in the water, the crimson and purplish drops swirling together unheeded, blending more intimately than their bodies as it was swept away into the sunlight that played and sparkled on the deeply blue water. Maclyn laid Terra on the bank, half in and half out of the waves. He unfastened her trousers with one hand, stripping off the wet leather with a growl. Terra helped him with his ties, her fingers craving the feel of his flesh as much as deeper things. She nearly wept when he thrust into her, arching her back so high that he was lifted off the ground. She made desperate sounds, frustrated that she couldn’t take more of him, all of him, every cell and fiber of his body to mingle with hers. She clutched him angrily, her nails digging painfully into his back, growling and nipping in her aggravation.

Smirking, Maclyn rolled them over, grasping her hips to keep her sheathed over him. Terra stilled in surprise and a little uncertainty until the new position sent sparks racing up and down her nerves along different paths. Maclyn groaned and took her hips in both hands, encouraging her; gasping, she spread her legs wider and shifted in his grip, crying out when he was pushed even deeper, so deep it felt like it was bruising her inside. Her cries came louder and faster when he rolled her hips for her, showing her how to move until she followed his rhythm on her own.

And it doesn’t end there, but it’s a place to stop. I was hesitant about publishing Magic’s Guardian as my first “official” book, as it was the first novel I actually wrote. It’s gone through numerous edits and rewrites and tearing-apart-and-putting-back-together-ings, so it is definitely improved over the first draft. So much was changed it’s probably its own second cousin by now, though the basic plot stayed the same. Still, it’s a scary step, calling it finished and throwing your work out there to the sharks, hoping they bite, but not too hard.

So I hope somebody enjoys the words I threw together and mixed up, brought to a boil, froze, thawed, kneaded, beat, and mixed up again. And I hope all of you writers out there luck in getting your own words into the world.

Good night, sweet writers, and the best of wishes.