Friday, November 21, 2014

The Importance of Ghosts in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, Barb Caffrey

Hi, folks!

This holiday season we are featuring guest blogs from a number of authors. We want to offer you cool books to check out for yourself or gifts, and also give these great authors a chance to crow a little about their works!

Please help me welcome Barb Caffrey today, where she discusses ghosts in her new book.

Aaron Lazar
www.lazarbooks.com

The Importance of Ghosts in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE


copyright 2014, Barb Caffrey

When Aaron Paul Lazar approached me regarding holiday guest blog opportunities, I wasn't sure what to say. What haven't I talked about yet with regards to my comic young adult urban fantasy/romance novel AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE?

And then it hit me. Ghosts. I haven't talked about them, and they play an important part in the ELFY duology (AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is book one, with book two scheduled to come out in April of 2015).

"But Barb," you protest. "Your book sounds like it has so much going on as it is. It's a comedy. It's a romance. It's a mystery. It's an urban fantasy. It has alternate universes—" (I wrote a blog about this a while back, and it's a good one.) "And now, it has ghosts, too? How do they fit in?"

Yes, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE has ghosts. Specifically, there's a ghost character named Egbert who takes an inordinate amount of interest in my hero Bruno the Elfy and his romantic companion Sarah (formerly known as Daisy). And it's partly because of Egbert the ghost that Bruno and Sarah have a chance to win the day.

But he's not the only ghost in play. (Nope; that would be too easy!) There are other ghosts alluded to in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, including Bruno's parents and possibly a few of Sarah's relatives…and they all matter.

You see, Bruno can communicate with the dead. (Me being me, I called him a Mage of Communication, the shorthand for that being—you guessed it—a Communicator.) And that's why these ghosts can help him out…or at least interfere in his life.

http://www.amazon.com/Elfy-Loose-Barb-Caffrey-ebook/dp/B00JMSPR5Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414180733&sr=8-1&keywords=an+elfy+on+the+loose
The reason this intrigued me initially is simple: Bruno had no idea he could communicate with the dead before he came to our version of Earth. He also had no idea that he was an Adept of an unusual kind, that his powers were both formidable and dangerous, and that he had many enemies—nor did he understand that the aircar accident that had badly injured him and killed his parents had been engineered by a high-ranking member of the Elfy High Council in his home Elfy Realm…someone who has some rather unusual ties to Egbert.

So here he is; a short, magical Elfy in the Human Realm (otherwise known as our Earth). He doesn't know what's happened to him. He doesn't even know why he's there. But he meets Sarah, he's immediately drawn to her— and her to him—his teacher Roberto the Wise tries to rescue him (with disastrous results), Sarah hides Bruno, a Dark Elf shows up…

And then we meet Egbert. We don't know why he's there, either, as he doesn't identify himself right away. But we know he's friendly, we know he has taken an interest for some reason in both Bruno and Sarah, we know he understands the Elfy Realm (even if we don't know why), and we know that he, too, has power. So he can, indeed, affect the outcome—years after his own death—and he can help Bruno figure out exactly why Bruno is in the Human Realm at all.

Now that I think about it, there are some few parallels between Egbert and Charles Dickens' character The Ghost of Christmas Past. Like Dickens' ghost, Egbert knows what happened in the past. And he wants a better outcome for the living…while they still have time.

Granted, my characters Bruno and Sarah are being threatened by a Dark Elf, a being inimical to Elfys and humans, not their own past as is Ebenezer Scrooge. Bruno in particular is under immediate threat due to Sarah's parents' hostility toward all Elfys. And there's a reason Egbert cares about these two—a pressing, compelling reason that I refuse to spoil.

But there are parallels nonetheless, because in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (as in Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL), ghosts matter. Only a few remain able to make their wills be known and their wishes understood, but those few continue to be important and influential.

In our world, of course, the only way a person can matter after his or her death is in our memories. Or, if you believe in the positive Afterlife, perhaps our deceased loved ones can do something there that helps us out in some way we'll never understand until we rejoin them.

But in my conception, ghosts—at least some of them, like Egbert—can still do things to bring about positive change. That creates more drama, more suspense, more surprises…and sometimes, more laughs as well. Because in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, some people are so irrepressible that even death itself cannot keep them down.

In conclusion, if you've been looking for a magical, heartwarming, suspenseful, romantic, and riotously funny story—with ghosts—that's like no other this Christmas season, look no further.

Because AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is here.



BARB CAFFREY is a writer, editor and musician from the Midwest. She is the author of the humorous urban fantasy/romance AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, and is the co-author of the Adventures of Joey Maverick series (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey). Other stories have appeared in HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD, STARS OF DARKOVER, and BEDLAM'S EDGE. Barb is a huge baseball fan (Go, Brewers!), reviews books at Shiny Book Review, follows politics, is mystified by the Maury show, and wonders when her little dog will ever stop doing "the paw trick."  Find her at Elfyverse, Facebook, or Twitter.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Writing the Tough Stuff (or Killing the One you Love)



copyright 2014, aaron paul lazar

For those of you who write fiction—novels, to be precise—have you ever written a chapter where you killed the one you love?

Of course I don’t mean your actual spouse or lover. I mean the wife, husband, or sweetheart of your main character.

I have. And it tore my heart out. That’s what I mean by “writing the tough stuff.” Sam Moore is very much like me, except he’s twelve years older and retired with enough money to putter around in his gardens all day.

I hate him.

Okay, so maybe that’s a little harsh. Shall we say, I am exceedingly jealous of his lifestyle. Although Sam was a family doctor and I was an engineer, we’re still a lot alike. We both love to plunge our hands into the soft earth and grow things. Lots of things. We both love our grandkids so much it hurts. And we both have spouses with multiple sclerosis. There are plenty of differences, too. I cook, I write, and I take photos. Sam doesn’t.

In spite of the fact that he’s not real (at least not in the traditional sense. LOL),  I relate to this man and feel his pain when he’s hurting. Sure, you say, you feel ALL your characters’ pain. You have to, to get into their heads and really do it right. Right?

But I’ll bet some are closer to your heart than others.

Sam’s wife, Rachel, shares many qualities with my dear wife, Dale. They both endure MS, they both love to read, they are both chair caning artists. Some of their symptoms are the same, but that’s where they split off. Rachel loves to cook (that’s my job in our marriage), she’s in a wheelchair, and she stays pretty upbeat, considering her challenges. She’s a tribute to Dale. But she’s actually her own woman, too, and I love her deeply. (Sorry, honey!)

In the first two books of the Moore Mysteries series (Healey’s Cave and Terror Comes Knocking) Rachel sticks by Sam’s side, supports him when he’s overcome with grief and is plagued by strange paranormal events, and loves him enough to keep him sane.

In For Keeps, the third book in the series, life takes an awful turn. Rachel is murdered, and it puts Sam back in the psych ward, the same place he was thrown when his little brother disappeared without a trace fifty years earlier. Desperate to fix things, he calls on the power of the green marble, the talisman his little brother Billy controls from afar that whisks him back and forth through his past.

Unlike real life, Sam gets a “do over.” He flies back in time to desperately try to fix the problems that lead up to this gruesome act, and over and over again, he attempts to tweak the past to bring his dear Rachel back to life.

For Keeps won’t be out for a few years, but since I’m doing a little polish on it right now, I thought I’d ask you folks if you’ve ever had to write such a chapter? If so, feel free to share it in the comment section, below. Let us know how it made you feel, or paste a sample for us to read. Following is my attempt to write the “tough stuff.”

Here’s the setup. Sam has just picked up his son, Andy, from the airport. Andy finished his second tour of duty in Iraq, and this is his homecoming. Sam ignored the insistence of the green marble, which has been searing Sam’s leg all day from his pocket; little brother Billy was trying to “warn” him.

***

http://www.amazon.com/For-Keeps-Moore-mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B008OXZLR2/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=0EGY3RDRC84VMJ3NK23T
          
Sam raced toward the laundry room in a panic. Rachel’s wheelchair sat abandoned in the hall, and his son froze in the doorway, hands clenching and unclenching at his side.

Andy’s voice thickened. “Maybe you shouldn’t come in here.” He spun and held out both hands to keep Sam out of the room.

One of Rachel’s shoes lay beside the doorjamb. The brown clogs. Slip on. With lambs wool lining. She loved them so much she wore them even in summer.

Sam drifted closer, terror pooling in his stomach. As if in anaphylactic shock, his throat tightened and threatened to close off his air. His heart beat wildly now, in his throat, ears, chest.

Sam barreled past his son and stumbled into the room, his voice hoarse. “What happened?”

Rachel lay on a basket of laundry, her eyes wide open, looking with blank surprise at the ceiling. Sam’s garden shears protruded from her heart. The image danced before him like heat waves on tar, shimmering with unreality. Blood ran from Rachel’s floral print blouse to the sheets stained red in the basket, pooling on the white linoleum floor.

The room tilted. A series of screams of No No No No No resonated in his head. Or maybe he yelled it aloud. He couldn’t tell as he shoved Andy aside and collapsed beside her, checking for the pulse that evaded him like a cruel tormentor. Neck. Wrist. Ankles. No beating met his probing fingers.

“NO!” He drew the shears from her chest, sickened by the soft sucking sound it made, then wadded up a compress of pillowcases and held it over the wound to stem the flow. More blood dribbled from the wound and curled around her pearl buttons. He realized with a start that she was still warm.

He looked wildly about the room, as if a solution lay beneath the neatly folded piles of towels and linen. “Call 911. Hurry!” He cradled Rachel in his arms, smearing the blood between them, and feeling her arms dangle away from him, as if she didn’t have the strength to return his embrace.

Andy cried out, anguish pinging across the small room. He squeezed between his mother’s body and the washing machine, holding his hand out to his father. “Dad. It’s too late. She has no pulse. I checked, too.”

“NO!” Sam’s mind reeled, his vision clouded, and the scent of blood tasted metallic on his tongue. “Who did this? Is he still here? She’s still warm, Andy. Find the bastard!” He stiffened when his brain repeated a phrase he’d heard during some of Rachel’s favorite shows.

Don’t disturb the evidence.

Panic slewed over him, boiling inside his head, freezing his arms and legs.

My garden shears. The killer took them from the barn. Used them on my Rachel. And my prints are all over them.

A great gulping scream filled his throat, tearing out of him like a primal scream. “RACHEL!”

Her head slumped sideways when he moved away, as if she was rejecting him. He checked her pulse again, muttering under his breath. “No way. No. No.” In a sudden manic thrust, he stood and reached for the marble, searching his pockets, patting madly at his pants and shirt. “My God. Where is it? What did I do with it?” Sam asked aloud. “Billy! Why didn’t you warn me?”

Inside the double-stuffed world that batted him between reality and nightmare, he remembered the marble’s insistent throbbing all morning. Billy had tried to warn him, had tried hard.

“Dad, come on. You can’t help her now.” In spite of Andy’s two tours of duty in the heat of battle in Iraq, the bodies he had seen and possibly created, and his soldier-toughened soul, he wept. Loud and strong, he wept and choked on his words. “Dad. Please. Leave her be. It’s over.”

Andy pulled him to his feet. Sam stared at his son as if he’d never seen him before. His eyes widened, trying to piece together a puzzle. Who is this nice young man? And why does he look so familiar?

Andy took him by the elbow and started to shuffle him toward the living room.

“Come on, Dad. Let’s go sit down.”

“No. Please. My wife needs me. She has multiple sclerosis, you know.”

Andy’s eyes popped open. Tears still streamed from them, and he shook his father’s shoulders as if he could not only snap him out of it, but maybe bring back his mother, too. “Dad! Come on. Hold it together. Don’t do this.”

Sam stopped and stared at his bloodied hands. His legs weakened to jelly. He stumbled, then braced himself against the wall as sobs wracked him in waves of increasing amplitude. He slid to the floor and buried his face in his hands.

Rachel.

Dear God.

Not Rachel.
***

Get your copy of the first book in the series, the award-winning Healey's Cave here. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Celebrating Our Veterans

Today we remember your sacrifices, honor your dedication, and thank you for your service and our freedoms.



Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Simplistic Step-by-Step Guide on How to Prepare Your Ebook Novel for PRINT, by Aaron Lazar


http://www.amazon.com/Sanctuary-Tall-Pines-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00MU76KCS/ref=sr_1_53?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1414676568&sr=1-53&keywords=sanctuaryHi folks.

I have struggled a lot with my print book formatting. It seems every time I do it, I forget a step or just plain forget how to do it. Sometimes I feel like a real dummy!

So, I thought it might be nice to record a list of steps I use when converting my eBook to print book format (ultimately to a pdf file). My references below are based on books I wrote created with a docx file, using Microsoft Word on a MacBook Pro. But if you’re already proficient with Word and have created your own eBooks, it shouldn’t matter which platform or computer you’re using.

You may want to read another article I wrote a few weeks ago first, however. It covers the timing of the release of your book versions (eBook, audio book, print), because it really does help you cut down on typos, and the whole process is easier if you go this route. Here's the link.

The following guide assumes you have already successfully formatted your book for eBook usage, that you use headers for your chapter headings, and “normal” text for the body of your book. If you haven’t done this yet, I strongly suggest you watch the many videos on YouTube that will teach you how to create a mobi, ePub, and pdf version of your eBook for Amazon or other venues. And be sure you have done it all correctly by using the Preview feature to page through every single line of your eBook before you release it. Of course, if you goof up, it’s not biggie. You can fix it by reloading a new file.

Depending on your book, this article may be too simplistic an approach. But if you don’t have photos or graphics, if you’re producing a straight-forward novel, and if there’s nothing else “fancy” about your book, this could help you. If you’re creating a cookbook with recipes and illustrations, you will need much more in depth knowledge than I share here!

http://www.amazon.com/Betrayal-Tall-Pines-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00N2134W0/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=12S0W4NJGB0JWN2B9CY0
You may also look up many videos on YouTube which help with this process. I use CreateSpace, an Amazon company, to create my print books, and I am very happy with them.

I’m assuming if you’ve already learned how to do the eBook part of this process, you will have no problems registering and following all the steps at CreateSpace. If you do, however, use their support system via email or phone. They are very good!

I’ve had unique issues from time to time with footers (strange spacing issues), special fonts, creating a nice image for the title font, or other weird situations. But today I’m just going to give you the basics, and if you have strange things happen on the side, search for an answer online. I’ve found help that way which thankfully saved me and helped me solve some bizarre issues.

A Simplistic Step-by-Step Guide on How to Prepare Your Ebook Novel for PRINT
 copyright 2014, aaron paul lazar

1)   Decide what size print book you want. I usually choose 6”x9”. It has a very nice look and feel. Go to your “File/Page SetUp” menu and choose “manage custom sizes.” Then enter 6” x 9” (or size of your choice). If you already have a slew of books, especially if they are in a series, think about uniformity and how they will look stacked together on a shelf. You want to keep the sizes the same, if possible.
2)   BE SURE TO SAVE THIS FILE WITH “PRINT BOOK” in the title, or in a new folder, so it doesn’t change your eBook file!
3)   Select the main body of your text and change it from “left justified” which you probably used for your eBook, to “justified,” so it spreads out evenly across the page from left to right. There is another way to do this more globally, using styles. But many folks aren’t familiar with that process, so I’m using the manual example here.
4)   You will have to go back to your title page, dedication page, acknowledgments page, chapter headings, etc. now to be sure they are centered. (Again, you can do this globally by using the header style setting – but that’s another whole article. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that show you how to use the Styles features in Microsoft Word if you are interested.)
5)   Next go to “Format/Document.” On the “Margins” tab, click on “mirror margins.” You can use whatever spacing you want within the Create Space guidelines, but I chose the following, and it works well on my book size of six by nine inches.
 
a.     Top: 0.57” 
b.     Bottom: 0.57”
c.      Inside: 0.91”
d.     Outside: 0.57”
e.     Gutter: 0.0”
f.      Header: 0.50”
g.     Footer, 0.50”

6)   Double check all your Headers, such as Chapter Names/Numbers. Be sure that you don’t have a tab on this line, because the chapter heading will not be centered properly if so. Remove all tabs for centered headings.
7)   If you want to fancy up your text a little, take the first few lines of each chapter (beneath the chapter heading) and make them into another font. I use Copperplate Gothic Light, which is quite nice.
8)   If you use scene breaks, you might want to make them “prettier” than just three asterisks in a row or whatever character you use to separate the scenes. I use the wingdings 2 "e and f” in series. It looks like like a nice scrolled design. Be sure when you center this that there is no tab which will offset it’s centered position!
9)   If you have links to your social media in your eBook, you will have to spell them out in your print book. I realized this too late and now have to go back and update a bunch of my print books. But we live and learn, and I make no claim to being brilliant, LOL.
10)  I use hyperlinks in my eBook, which just show “Facebook,” for example, with an embedded link. When they click on the link in the eBook, it takes them to my author page. But in the print book, you need to spell it out, like this:
 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aplazar2
11)  Headers and Footers are next. They can be a real challenge, and it took me a long time to get it right. I’m not sure I still have it right, but here’s what I do: 

a.     Go to page 2 of your book, and hit “View/Header and Footer.”
b.      In the Header/Footer formatting section, select, “Different odd and even pages” and “Different first page.” (you don’t want headers or footers on your title page!)
c.      From my observations, the author’s name goes on even page numbers, and the book title goes on odd page numbers. When I hold my books in my hand, that means the left side page has my name on the top, and the right side page has the book title on the top. If you want it reversed, then just switch the following directions.
d.     Go to the first even page header. Type your author name in the header section. Put one line break beneath it, to separate it a bit from the text. I usually make the size one or two sizes smaller than the body text. Center it, and make sure you have no tabs active so it will really be centered on the page. I use the Copperplate Gothic Light for the header texts.
e.     Go to the next page (odd). Type your book title there, with the same instructions as above for font size and type, spacing, centering, no tabs, etc.
f.      Hit Footer.
g.     Select “different first page” and “different even and odd pages.”
h.     Choose a page numbering format that you like. There are many canned formats. I’ve seen page numbers on the “outside” of pages on the header and/or footer, or centered in the footer. Your choice! Be sure you select this for both even and odd pages if you want it on the “outside.” You’ll need to customize each footer and make the even page “left justified” and the odd page “right justified.” 

12)  Save the file as a pdf. Be sure to organize this file and your new “print” file separately from your eBook files. I suggest dating the file name as well, because you will likely have iterations. I name mine, for example, “Sanctuary, Print DOC, 10-30-14, a” because if there are errors in your formatting, you will have iterations on the same day. Using the a, b, c, denotes the changes, and you can erase the previous ones when you’re done. I also put the DOC and PDF in the titles, even though the doc type shows it. It makes for less errors. And don’t forget, you won’t edit the pdf version if you have errors, you’ll edit the doc version, then resave it as a pdf. Saving as a pdf keeps your special fonts from disappearing. Create Space doesn’t have all the fonts you may use. For example, if my characters are reading an entry from an antique diary, or reciting poetry, or singing a song, I usually try to pick a different font to make it stand out. Using the pdf preserves these fonts.
13)  Now comes the really important part. After you register your account on Create Space, enter all the pertinent data for your book, and load your book file, you have to check it out, page by page. Use the “Launch Interior Reviewer” to do this. If you get an error, don’t feel bad. I’ve had errors almost every time I format a print book. I have to go through the whole process, fix my mistakes, and reload the book to their site. It’s an iterative process at best, but maybe you’ll be lucky and nail it the first time!
14)  Book Cover Caveat: I use a professional cover designer to make all my covers. One of the files she gives me is for the print book. Just before you load your cover up to Create Space, you will have to tell your cover designer several things: Black and white or color image, white or cream paper, and number of pages (as determined by final file in Create Space, not what you see on your docx file.) She will send you a new file custom formatted exactly for your number of pages. This is important, as the spine size has to be “just right.” If you are better than me at all this, you can buy books on how to create your book cover, or, once again, go search on YouTube! Maybe I’ll learn this eventually, but for now, I like the look of a professionally designed and formatted cover.
15)  After you are certain your book looks good, and after you have paged through it religiously to be sure there aren’t any extra blank pages or improperly centered chapter headings, then save it, and order one (1) proof copy. You really need to examine the print book in person before you order any more for your next book signing.
16)  It might be a good idea to have your spouse or a friend review the print book, too. Once you’ve approved the print book for sale, it’s “out there,” and all your mistakes will be forever printed on customers’ copies.
17)  CreateSpace will have to approve your files, usually within 24 hours. If you are 100% confident that you have done it right, if you’ve made no changes that you haven’t proofed AGAIN with one physical copy of the book, then order your books for your book signings, etc. The prices are really reasonable (I pay about $4-5 including shipping for a book sized at roughly 250-300 pages.)
18)  Your readers will be able to order through Amazon and other platforms if you choose that option when you set it up. Be sure to fill in the section for the BISAC code, including author bio, synopsis, and tags, so your book can be sent to more vendors for sale.
19)  Remember, if you are on Kindle Select, your eBook only sells from Amazon. But your PRINT book can be sold at Barnes and Noble or anywhere else that CreateSpace sets up for you.


http://www.amazon.com/Devils-Lake-Aaron-Paul-Lazar-ebook/dp/B00LNFP8XU/ref=pd_sim_kstore_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1173Z3BKYEXN12GYA132

Good luck and happy formatting!

Aaron Lazar


Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. A bestselling Kindle author of 22 books, including three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com and watch for his upcoming release, UNDER THE ICE. Aaron has won over 18 book awards for his novels and finds writing to be his form of "cheap therapy." Feel free to connect with him on Facebook or his website; he loves to connect with readers.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Excerpt from Fires of Nuala, by Cat Kimbriel

Hi, folks!

This holiday season we are featuring guest blogs from a number of authors. We want to offer you cool books to check out for yourself or gifts, and also give these great authors a chance to crow a little about their works!

Please help me welcome prolific author, Cat Kimbriel, who shares an excerpt from Fires of Nuala.

Welcome, Cat!

Aaron Lazar

www.lazarbooks.com

 Fires of Nuala—Cat Kimbriel


http://www.amazon.com/Fires-Nuala-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B004A8ZSTG/On the planet Nuala, the scam that beguiling free-trader Silver has come to join has just been blown to the skies, along with the throne lines of three separate sovereign nations.

The last male heir of one throne line, Sheel Atare, is unprepared to rule, but he's quick to seize allies wherever he can—like the beautiful and dangerous Silver.

Now Silver has to choose: stick to the scam, or get sucked into the struggle to save Nuala—and Sheel Atare's life.

* * * * * * * * *
Mailan had reached the terrace when she heard the crash. Instinct took over; dropping her assorted bundles, she drew her cat knife and threw herself through the open doorway.

A jumbled scene littered the floor. Seeking Sheel first, Mailan found him on his knees, a cat knife gripped tightly in one hand. He had the tip of the blade pressed into the throat of a guaard. A guaard? Glancing around quickly, she saw Jude crouched, both knives held in throwing position, her gaze on—

"Crow?" Mailan's surprise sounded shrill. Vision widened, taking in the entire room. Pressed against the inner door, the off-world woman waited, the color of her face rivaling alabaster. Crow was almost as pale—and confused. He clearly had no idea—

"Seri?" Mailan ventured, wondering if she should speak, and if so, what were the proper words. Sweet Mendülay . . .

"Did you send him here?" Almost conversational, Sheel's tone.

"No. I sent him to the palace to speak to your sisters."

"Did you tell him where we were?"

"No."

"Then what" —Jude, rising now, her exasperation evident— "were you doing creeping around in the bushes?" Her voice easily rose an octave from start to finish, even as she gestured for Mailan to close the terrace doors.

Afraid Jude would lunge at the young man, Mailan quickly said: "Crow . . . how did you ever guess? . . ."

"Common sense. I checked a few other places on my way. Where you spent the night was not important—the current location was the major thing. And unless you went to the Ragäree's retreat—" The knife pressed closer, and Crow stopped his careful recitation. "I doubt anyone else would guess.  I have met you after duty before, Mailan. I knew where to look."

"Why were you creeping around the windows?" Again, that gentle speech pattern, which always meant Sheel was fighting anger.

Crow actually rolled his eyes. "Because I did not want anyone to see me sneaking around the temple grounds, of course. I did not intend for the entire guaard and local enforcers to find the place. Mailan wanted it kept quiet."

"Then why did you come?" There was no way for Mailan to warn Crow that his life depended on the answer to her question. Why Sheel was acting this way was unimportant. To those who knew him, he was on the edge of violence.

"Because . . . whatever you were doing, you needed help. You were—are—a mess, and one alert guaard on an heir is not enough." The youth was completely relaxed as he directed the last to Mailan; he had even dropped his knife, drawn instinctively when he was jumped, if his story was true. If? Could she doubt him? Why had she not confided in him?  In more lucid moments she would have known he would read her worry.

"Seri . . . what do you need?" Mailan started, still afraid to move.

"The oath will do."

All three guaard stared at him a moment. Mailan was lost. . . . What oath? Did he . . .  

Glancing over at Jude's defensive posture, Sheel drew his steel away from Crow's throat and reversed the blade, holding it point down between them. Crow did not risk looking away; his gaze still meeting Sheel's, the young guaard reached to wrap his right hand around the offered hand and hilt.

"On this I swear," Crow began, the whisper slowly gathering volume, "by life and honor, by blood and trust, that with this oath I will serve the son and daughter of Atare, obeying all words and following all leads, shielding their line and prizing their secrets as Mendülay guards mine own, for so long as they hold to their charge."

Mailan's knees felt weak. That oath—the sharing of oaths, the duty accepted by each at the feet of their Atare, the moment they were chosen to become guaard.

Sheel responded by folding his left hand over Crow's. "On this I swear, by life and honor, that I will take you as a guaard to serve Atare within the bounds of your oath, holding your trust as I hold to my charge—head, hand, and heart of the heirs, now and forever."

The group remained frozen in their tableau for several moments. Finally Mailan moved, reversing her grip on her cat knife. Noticing her action, Sheel sat back on his heels and shook his head.

"No, Mailan. I only ask for that oath once. And you . . . ‘spoke’ . . . for Jude." Grinning suddenly at Crow, he released his grip and added: "You did not have time to speak for him." Standing and turning his back to Crow, Sheel stretched, loosening massively constricted muscle. Glancing at the off-worlder, he said in Caesarean: "It is all right. No one is going to die."

***
About the author:

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel reinvents herself every decade or so. The one constant she has reached for in life is telling stories. “I’m interested in how people respond to choice. What is the metaphor for power, for choice? In SF it tends to be technology (good, bad and balanced) while in Fantasy the metaphor is magic – who has it, who wants or does not want it, what is done with it, and who/what the person or culture is after the dust has settled. A second metaphor, both grace note and foundation, is the need for and art of healing. Forthcoming stories will talk about new things that I’ve learned, and still hope to learn … with grace notes about betrayal, forgiveness, healing and second chances.”  A Campbell Award nominee.



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