Release Day Fun: THE BOY WHO FELL FROM THE SKY by Jule Owen

Fellow writer and ALLi member Jule Owen’s debut novel, THE BOY WHO FELL FROM THE SKY is out today! So without further ado, here is Jule Owen to tell you all about her debut novel, Cli-Fi fic, and The House Next Door trilogy. Stay tuned at the end of the interview for an exclusive excerpt of THE BOY WHO FELL FROM THE SKY.

boy who fell from the skyAbout The Boy Who Fell from the Sky (The House Next Door Series)

Mathew Erlang’s future is coming to get him.
The world is falling apart in 2055. Another flood has devastated London and it’s the eve of the First Space War. With the city locked down, sixteen-year-old Mathew Erlang is confined to his house with only his cat, his robot and his holographic dragons for company.

Desperate for a distraction from the chaos around him, Mathew becomes fascinated by his peculiar and reclusive neighbor, August Lestrange. Mathew begins to investigate Mr. Lestrange, turning to the virtual world of the Nexus and Blackweb for answers. But as he digs deeper, Mathew realizes that Mr. Lestrange doesn’t seem quite human.

When Mathew accidentally finds himself trapped in Lestrange’s house, he opens a door and falls four hundred years into the future—a week before the end of the world. Unwittingly, he starts to destabilise the course of human history.

A 1984 for a new generation, The Boy Who Fell from the Sky delves into a future where climate change and technology have transformed the world. It is the first book in The House Next Door trilogy, a young adult dystopian science fiction action adventure. Mathew’s story continues in Silverwood.

Click to download The Boy Who Fell from the Sky here

The Boy Who Fell from the Sky is the first book in the young adult dystopian science fiction action adventure the House Next Door trilogy. Mathew’s story continues in Silverwood.

 

About Silverwood

 Mathew Erlang’s mother is dying. He’s the only one who can save her. Thirty-five years in the future.silverwood

 When Mathew Erlang’s mother, Hoshi, becomes seriously ill, he’ll do anything he can to save her. He knows his future self would too.

Breaking into the house next door, the one belonging to his peculiar neighbour, August Lestrange, he activates his holographic games room, which doubles as a time machine, to hack into his own future. Alone in an England afflicted by extreme weather, biological warfare and civil war, Mathew needs to find his older self before Lestrange catches up with him and takes him back to his own time.

 You can download Silverwood, the sequel to The Boy Who Fell from the Sky HERE

***

Interview with Author

Jule Owen

What made you want to write YA time travel fiction?

I love books like the Hunger Games and Divergent. I also love books like Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking and Chuck Wendig’s Heartland Trilogy.  They are all exciting, deeply engaging dystopian action adventure series. They all make you stop and think. So I wanted to write something similar. But I’ve been reading about futurology and climate change for years and they have seeped into my subconscious. I liked the idea of exploring possible futures based on the non-fiction I’d be reading. To do that I needed Mathew Erlang, my main character, to be able to jump forward into the future to see how things turn out.

Why specifically write teen dystopia? Why not write for adults?

I’m not sure I am specifically writing just for teens. I read a lot of young adult fiction and I’m certainly not a teen! But when I built the world and the much bigger story that Mathew’s tale exists in, he happened to turn out to be a teenaged boy at the beginning of his series.

You describe your books at cli-fi. What does that mean?

Cli-fi means climate change fiction. It’s a spin on sci-fi, of course, but it’s a type of dystopian science fiction or speculative fiction that specifically deals with the impact of climate change on the people of the future.

Why did you want to write about climate change?

It’s the big issue of our times and the biggest challenge we’ve faced as a civilisation. There’s a huge scientific consensus about the fact that climate change is man made and that it is likely to massively disrupt our lives in the future, but lots of people don’t believe in it. I read an article a while ago in The New Scientist (which is my favourite magazine) saying that the climate change lobby needs more artists and writers to go and spread the message. Frighteningly, young people, who are likely to suffer the most in the future, are particularly not engaging with the issue.

When will the next one in the series be out?

The Boy Who Fell from the Sky is part of the House Next Door trilogy, a series of three dystopian science fiction novels. Silverwood, which is the next is the series is already available. The third and final part, The Moon at Noon will be out in December 2015. Look out for the box-set in early 2016.

So is there a bigger story beyond Mathew’s then?

Oh yes. There’s much bigger story and more books to come! You need to find out more about the Lamplighter, the Kind and understand more about who Mr. Lestrange really is.

***

An exclusive excerpt from The Boy Who Fell from the Sky

The House Next Door Series — by Jule Owen

At first he spins. The sky and the trees below spin too, and his stomach lurches. Then he is parallel to the horizon, arms and legs spread-eagled like a skydiver. The air pushes at his limbs. He extends and flexes his fingers, lifts his head and looks across the treetops at the breath-taking scale of the forest, the unbroken canopy of green stretching into the misty horizon and cloud-covered mountains in the distance. The assault on his senses and instincts is overwhelming. Beauty, joy, exhilaration, and terror all at once. The ground is pulling him towards it at an alarming rate.

I’m going to die, he thinks. Then, This isn’t real. This is not real.

As the trees rush towards him, as he nears the ground, he passes close to the side of a rocky cliff face, pounding white water throttling down, and he is like a stone in the waterfall. The spray soaks him to the skin. Fighting fear, he dares glance below. There is a lake where the falling water gathers: a blue pool, pale at the edges, shading to sapphire in the centre.

I hope it’s deep, he thinks as he breaks the surface, feet first.

He plunges until the water finally catches hold of him like firm hands, and he is slowed, for moments on end, still and hanging, suspended in chains of bubbles escaping to the surface. It is dark and cold. Visibility is limited to a few feet ahead. Staring into the darkness, he half-expects a monster of the deep to snatch him in its jaws or tentacles. Without even realising it, he is clawing his way towards the air, his arms reaching around and down, the pressure of the water helping him, forcing him towards the world. Light refracts on the surface, glistening and dancing.

Breaking through to his own element, he takes great gulps of air, his chest shuddering painfully, his arms thrashing. His head goes under and he swallows water; he emerges coughing and choking and thrashes some more, plunging under, panicking, until some strange, calm voice in his head tells him to stop, to be still, to lie back in the water, to trust, to get control of his breath.

Then he is suspended on the top of the sapphire pool, arms and legs outstretched like he is skydiving in reverse now, floating, waiting for his heart and the blood pulsing in his ears to quieten. The sky is a cloudless blue above him. There is a curtain of green in the corners of his eyes.

The sun is hot and already burning, but the water has chilled him, and he enjoys the sensation of his skin and his bones thawing. The water laps his ears with the wet, round, unknowable sounds of the lake. Bobbing in and out of the sounds of the forest, there’s a wall of noise, of birdsong and the calls of strange animals, and he tunes in to the clamour and distinguishes whistles, clicks, buzzings, individual songs, and angry cries.

Turning his head, scanning, he spies a bank of smooth rock and swims towards it. The water is much shallower at the edges, and he is able to stand and wade onto dry land. He sits on one of the rocks and takes off his boots, drains them of water, and sets them and his socks aside to dry, flattening the sodden wool against the hot stone.

He gazes at the waterfall and the empty air above it.

There is no door. Nothing.

He has literally fallen to this place from the sky.

This must be a game, or a virtual reality world. Admittedly, it would be the most sophisticated one ever invented. It is so real. He taps the rocks with his knuckles – it hurts. It genuinely hurts. The sensation of falling, of hitting the water, of swimming, of almost drowning – well, it was remarkable. His throat is still sore from choking.

Still, this is the most obvious explanation: He has logged into Mr Lestrange’s Darkroom, which happens to be playing the most remarkable virtual world ever made.

Now all he has to do is to find a way to leave.

There is no possibility of going back the way he has come.  But there is no rush. It is a lovely spot, with the sunlight pouring in, the rocks hot under his skin, the sound of the birds, and the roar of the waterfall.  Lying back, he closes his eyes and dozes off.

And wakes with a start.

Something disturbing – life-threatening, even – has pulled him from his dreams. But when he sits and looks around, nothing has changed except the position of the sun in the sky, which is now much farther to the east and casting longer shadows. It is still hot, and the air still sings with birds and insects.

Discomfort registers in his brain. His arms and feet are red: burnt. Stupid, he thinks. And he wonders again at the advanced nature of this world, making him believe he is sunburnt. Virtual world or not, his skin hurts like hell, his head is sore, and he is parched. The water in the lake, he supposes, is fresh. Wading a little into the shallows, he bends and takes a couple of tentative sips, cupping the water to his mouth with his palms. It tastes good, and he gulps more.

He ponders what he should do next. Where to start to search for the door? Remembering his view of the canopy of the forest – it stretches forever. The door might be anywhere. Or maybe Mr Lestrange will come home from wherever he has gone to and pull the plug on the game, take the skullcap off his head. That’s the most likely scenario. In which case, he should make the most of this enormous playground.

If this is a VR world, he thinks, then there should be a map. He calls his Lenz to try the Nexus and sees a list of available networks. They are all in a strange alphabet. He tries one and is prompted for a password, and a warning message flashes. He closes it and tries the Blackweb. It is not there. He doesn’t understand.

I’m really on my own.

Wading back to the shore, he sits to pull on his boots. They are dry outside but still damp on the inside. There’s no choice but to put them on. His feet are swollen from the sunburn, and it hurts to pull his socks and boots onto his feet. Cursing, he ties his laces.

All around the perimeter of the lake is an unbroken wall of creeping, thriving green, with no obvious way through the jungle. He needs something to beat a path in front of him. He finds a long pole, wide enough to be substantial but thin enough to grip, breaks some smaller branches off and tests the weight of it in his hand. It’s good.

The lake empties into a small river, which he decides to follow. It’s bound to lead to people, to the coast or something else.

It’s easier going than he imagined, although he has to veer away from the stream to walk around trees and bushes. His feet chafe in his wet boots. The pain from the sunburn on his feet and arms is persistent. It’s humid.

He stops to drink again from the stream. The water pooling in his hand has bits floating in it. He swills his hand and tries again, this time scooping closer to the top where it runs faster. It tastes fine. If this was real, if he was in Elgol, hiking into the wild mountains surrounding the community, he would never be so bold, but he needs to drink. His clothes are soaked with his own sweat.

His ears are assaulted by the sounds of life all around him, but he sees only an occasional flicker of movement of birds in the trees above. Flies swarm about his face, attracted by the salt on his skin, and beyond the path he is beating for himself he is aware of small life, insects cutting leaves, crawling amongst the humus of the forest floor, gathering dying and decaying things for their food. He tries to block them from his mind.

The light is dimming, and he starts to reflect on what he will do at night for warmth and light. Although he certainly doesn’t need the heat, a fire would give him light and keep animals away.

The filtered greenish sunlight in the forest suddenly curdles yellow, electricity charges the air and there is a crack of lightning and then thunder, rumbling under the ground towards him. Another round of the same and a large raindrop breaks on his nose, then another on his hand, his arm, his neck, his head.

He’s experienced a lot of rainstorms in London, but this rain comes in drops so large they hurt. As the storm gains momentum, it is like whole buckets of water are being thrown over him.

Water rolls off the green, shiny leaves all around him onto the ground in rivulets and streams.

Drenched anyway by his own sweat, the rain cools him and plasters sodden cotton to his skin. Carrying on, he tries to ignore it, but drops pound on his head – it’s hard on his scalp, like a persistent finger prodding him.

Eventually, he stops and searches around for somewhere to shelter. He gets under a plant with large, long leaves, but the rain comes through as the branches bow with the force of the water. He grabs a leaf and twists and yanks to snap it off – then breaks off another and another and props them against the trunk of a tree, managing to build a makeshift shelter, like a half-tepee. He just fits inside if he crouches into a ball, his knees drawn to his chin. It is not totally dry, but at least it keeps the pounding off his skull. Then he sits and waits, staring at his boots, worrying about his feet and grateful for the opportunity to rest. When he’s still, they don’t hurt as much.

In his peripheral vision, he catches something moving on a leaf, near his face. Something slow. The hair on the back of his neck stands. Without moving his head, he turns his eyes.

There is a spider, the size of his hand, walking across a leaf hanging beside him. It stops. It is waiting, watching, smelling, or whatever deadly jungle spiders do. He doesn’t dare move. He doesn’t dare breathe. Then, as silently as it arrived, it moves off into the undergrowth. He lets go of the breath he was holding.

The rain eases, then stops, and he crawls from his shelter. It’s getting dark. The forest is dripping.

Even if I knew how, he thinks, I’ll never make a fire in this dampness.

Less exuberantly, he starts to walk again, thinking it’s best to keep moving. The stream becomes a river.

Then he hears the noise from his dream. He remembers it now: a primal, horrifying sound, a deep, guttural growl. Angry. No – beyond angry – amoral. . . . More than anything it sounds hungry.

Stopping dead in his tracks, he surveys around. Nothing. But he knows now for sure, something in the forest is watching him. He strains to detect movement, the crack of a twig, the sound of branches or leaves brushing against a body. His ears pulse with the sound of his treacherous heart, louder than the birds and the insects. Sweat drips off his nose as he stares into the forest. Leaves bob as rainwater drips from higher branches.

It’s getting dark, and he doesn’t want to be walking in the forest when this growling creature might come at him from anywhere.

He is standing beside a tall tree. Long, thick, sinuous vines hang from its branches. He grabs one and uses it to pull himself up, his feet walking up the side of the trunk, wincing with pain. The vine rope slips in his hand, the muscles in his shoulders and arms burn, his arms aren’t strong enough.

Why didn’t he spend more time playing in the holovision gym?

He loses his grip and falls. Trying again, he finds footholds between branches and in knotholes, grits his teeth, and wraps the vine partially around his arm to gain leverage. After a few falls, he climbs the tree, swearing all the way. Twenty feet up, there’s a gap between the branches big enough for him to fit in if he scrunches into a ball.

He’s breathing heavily; the dripping forest pelts him with drops of rain still running off leaves and branches. At first he ignores it. He rests his head on his hands, his knees drawn up to his chest, and closes his eyes. The drips are less frequent but they are large and hard. Every time he starts to feel himself drifting off to sleep, one breaks on his head or his face. After a long hour, he is wide awake staring at the sodden wood of the tree. He doesn’t want to have to climb down from the tree again.

I’ll never sleep like this. I have to find a way to cover myself.

Grabbing the vines, he lowers himself from the tree and collects the same kind of leaves he used earlier to shelter himself from the rain.

He finds some long strips of supple bark to tie the leaves into a bundle and climbs again, slightly more adept this time. Once he arrives and secures his seat by wedging a leg to push his body back against the trunk, he hauls his parcel after him and unties it. He lays half of the long leaves in the fork of the trunk that is acting as his bed. The rest he wedges between branches above him, making a rough kind of roof.

It’s pitch dark now, and he tries to get comfortable. All around, plants and animals slither and move. He listens for a long time, his eyes open, staring into the creeping blackness.

What is this place? It can’t be real, can it?

The same question churns over and over in his mind. It muddles and twists and blurs.

Finally, miraculously, he falls asleep.

The Editing Blues

I’ve been writing poetry again. YOU’RE WELCOME.

The Editing Blues

It’s editing time again
-what a lark!
I’ve mounds of paper to spare!
Print out the MS
-a walk in the park!
The paper has jammed- but where??

My hot pink editing pen
-oh so bright!
Has caught out that, and and but
Echoes of repeated words
-what a plight!
I’m certain I’ll have to cut

that beautiful, deathless prose
-what a bore!
Surely I’ve started to bleed!
There must be an easier way
-or four
to make this book fit to read!

Now it’s a badly formed sentence
boo hiss
I didn’t write that, I swear!
That ‘humorous’ dialogue?
-hit and miss
And shouldn’t that pair be pare?

Markups in hot pink
-all over the page!
I think there’s more pink than black!
My back is a wreck
-I’m sure that I’ve aged
And likely started to crack.

But there’s tea for the weary
-ah, what joy!
And doughnuts allay the stress
as my poor typing fingers
-I employ
To lay the edits to rest.

It’s not like that’s all there’s to do
-that pink
But it’s a milestone, yanno?
The changes are added to file
-just think!
‘Only’ the proofing to go!
(oh no!)

Have Pen, Will Edit

Have Pen, Will Edit

Preorder Is Up: AKA, Git Yer Novella Heeeeere!

Hey guys 🙂 This is just a quick, mid-week note to let you all know that TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY is up for preorder on Amazon. So go preorder now!*

*Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.

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In Twelve Days Of Faery, King Markon of Montalier is at the end of his tether. His son, Prince Parrin, is afflicted with a rather nasty curse that slaughters, maims, or brutally attacks any woman with whom he so much as flirts. After the rumour that sweeps around the kingdom, promising that any woman breaking the ‘curse’ will be eligible to marry the prince, there is no shortage of willing volunteers. Unfortunately, there is also no shortage of bodies piling up.

Markon needs to do something, but what? Can a visiting enchantress from Avernse help, or is she simply another accident waiting to happen? And will Markon be able to give her up to his son if she does break the curse?

Cover Reveal: Twelve Days Of Faery

I’m so excited! Today is the day for the Cover Reveal of TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY! I’ve been wanting to blog this ever since I commissioned it, got it back, and saw how amazingly gorgeous it is. Of course, if you were part of my mailing list you would already have seen it…

But I love you anyway, and I’m really happy to be sharing it with you!

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If you want to check out a couple of samples of TDOF, click through here and here! Preorder will be up on Amazon shortly, and I’ll be sending out review copies very shortly.  In other words, if you want a review copy, now is the time to ask!

I’m Obsessed. But It’s A Good Thing…Really…

I’m a little bit obsessed at the moment. I’ve been having so much fun writing TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY and it’s so very nearly finished! As a result, I’ve been taking the ‘big computer’ to work every day and sitting down at lunch to ignore everyone with my ipod plugged into my brain, then coming home with said big computer just to sit down and ignore everyone here, too. My reward for this is a very nearly finished novella and a slightly messed-up brain, plus the joyous satisfaction of having written 1000 words per day on my off days, and 3000+ on my on days–an unheard of burst of productivity that I’ve never before managed.

Thusly, and in celebration, I’m gonna post another excerpt of TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY here for you guys (cos I just know you were slavering at the bit for this). Enjoy, and tell me what you think!

(Oh, and keep an eye out on Monday next for the Cover Reveal! I’m so excited!)

Excerpt from Day Eight

                “Unseelie again,” said Markon, peering into the soft darkness of the Door. “I’m beginning to sense a pattern.”

“There’s not too much difference between Seelie and Unseelie when it comes to humans,” Althea said. “To them we’re more like talking dogs than anything. The Seelie are just as happy to murder us as the Unseelie: the only difference is that they’ll do it with a smile instead of a wink.”

“Ah,” said Markon, grateful for the twin iron bands around his wrists. “Speaking of murder, which particular bit of magic do we have to thank for bringing us to this piece of Faery?”

“Sal was showing me some of the sights yesterday afternoon,” said Althea. “I found a few remnants of magic where Parrin’s first sweetheart and one of the ladies who tried to break the curse were last seen. It’s– well, it seems familiar, but I can’t place it.”

“Does the room look familiar?”

“I couldn’t even tell it was a room,” said Althea, reaching for Markon’s hand. “Familiar or otherwise. Are you ready?”

Markon wrapped his fingers tightly around Althea hand, said: “Oh, about as much as usual,” and stepped through the Door with her.

At first there was only confusion and soft darkness, while they stood together hand in hand to get their bearings.

Then a male voice said: “What a delicious surprise!” from somewhere in the velvet darkness. It was soft, smooth, and entirely seductive.

Althea said: “Bother!”

“Sweetness, that’s not very kind of you,” said the voice reproachfully.

Markon, his teeth set on edge, flexed the fingers of his free hand in an instinctive desire to wrap them around the throat of the speaker. He couldn’t make out anything in the darkness, but as he frowned into the shadows a flare of silvery light burst into being and swiftly formed a swirling ball that gave light to the entire room. In its light, a rather annoyed Althea could be seen, her gaze directed toward the rumpled bed where a half-naked male fae was lounging. He yawned and stretched sinuously for Althea’s benefit, then rolled lightly across the wine-coloured bedspread and to his feet.

“I thought I recognised the magic,” said Althea. “I should have picked another sample.”

“You cut me to the quick,” mourned the fae. His eyes flicked over her in a way that immediately doubled Markon’s desire strangle him, but it wasn’t until the fae strolled over and curled one arm around Althea’s waist that he said curtly: “I take it you know each other?”

“Oh yes,” said the fae, lowering his head in what Markon had no doubt was an attempt to kiss her.

Althea, putting one hand on his bare chest to push him away firmly, said: “Not particularly. Carmine, if you try to kiss me again, I’ll–”

Through his teeth, Markon said: “Again?”

“Sweetness, the company you keep is slipping decidedly,” said Carmine. He released Althea but still stood by far too close.

“This isn’t a social call!” said Althea. She sounded harried. “Markon, this is Carmine. He tried to buy me some years ago. Carmine, this is Markon. He’s my human, and if you even think about–”

“I’m not your human,” said Markon grimly.

Carmine said: “I wanted to marry you, sweetness. There’s a difference.”

***

[Insert Blog Post Here]

I should be here writing a blog post. In fact, you probably think I am. And maybe I am, just a little bit. But the fact of the matter is that I’m sick, I don’t feel like writing a blog post, and I’m more than a little caught up in the novella I’m finishing off this week (hopefully), not to mention the novella I’m plotting.

Happily, I have the good fortune of blogging to an audience of both readers and writers, who have great imaginations. So please, imagine a fantastic, thought-provoking blog post here. Shade it with all the colours of the imagination, and admire the careful strokes of its immense profundity.

Thank you.

Now I can get back to Markon and Althea, and that dashing and perennially shirtless fae, Carmine. You’ll thank me later.

P.S. If you haven’t signed up for my mailing list, you really should. I’m doing a cover reveal for TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY in the latest edition, and you’ll otherwise have to wait another week or two -gasp!- to see it in all its beauteousity.

Spindle On Tour: AKA, Sharing Is Caring!

Fantasy Banner New

SPINDLE is on tour this week with two other wonderful books: SERVANT OF THE CROWN and THE FREY SAGA.

SPINDLE - 2000Hencely (yes, I did just make up a word. I do that) you can catch up with myself and SPINDLE for a guest post at Mythical Books (What If…?), an exclusive excerpt of SERVANT OF THE CROWN byServant Of The Crown pic Melissa McShane on Brooke Blogs, and an exclusive excerpt and sneak peek for book four with THE FREY SAGA by Melissa Wright on Beck Valley Books.the frey saga pic

You can also enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway to win a copy of each of the books and a $30 Amazon gift card at any of the links above, so yay!

Many thanks to everyone who already entered, and to all the fabulous people who shared links and retweeted tweets! You’re all fantastic!

Sneak Peek: Shards Of A Broken Sword

Between Spindle (Two Monarchies #1) and the upcoming Blackfoot (Two Monarchies #2), I’ve decided to release two novellas in my (currently) three novella series Shards Of A Broken Sword. The first, Twelve Days Of Faery, should be published shortly before Christmas, and the second, Fire In The Blood, will hopefully be released just a month or so after the first. As you may guess, that means I’ve been VERY busy. I’ve been using a different process for the novellas, too; and so far it’s been wonderfully effective and quite reasonably enjoyable. Then, in between writing and plotting, I’ve been ferreting through stock images and premade covers to find suitable covers for suitably low prices. When I get bored with THAT, I start picking out excerpts of Twelve Days Of Faery to show you all. Lucky you, huh?

In Twelve Days Of Faery, King Markon of Montalier is at the end of his tether. His son, Prince Parrin, is afflicted with a rather nasty curse that slaughters, maims, or brutally attacks any woman with whom he so much as flirts. After the rumour that sweeps around the kingdom, promising that any woman breaking the ‘curse’ will be eligible to marry the prince, there is no shortage of willing volunteers. Unfortunately, there is also no shortage of bodies piling up.

Markon needs to do something, but what? Can a visiting enchantress from Avernse help, or is she simply another accident waiting to happen? And will Markon be able to give her up to his son if she does break the curse?

Well, that’s it from me! Spindle is on a whirlwind tour with Prism Book Tours, so I’ll be tweeting about that during the week, with a quick post midweek to catch up with all the action. In the meantime, do enjoy this sneak peek from Twelve Days Of Faery!

***

Still, when Markon introduced Althea to Parrin, she didn’t seem particularly coy. She curtsied to him with less depth than she had curtseyed to Markon, and said in an offhand manner: “You’re rather prettier than I expected from the portraits.”

Parrin bowed and smiled, but he looked as though he was no more sure than Markon was that he’d been given a compliment.

“I understand that you have a rather difficult problem,” continued Althea. She was remarkably business-like for a girl who had just been discussing marriage. Not a maidenly smoothing of the hair or sparkle of the eye. “I have a little bit of an idea about it. May I ask questions?”

“Of course,” said Parrin. He was cautiously admiring her, though Markon was pleased to see that he didn’t go so far as to smile. The boy was thoughtless, but Markon would like to think that he wasn’t so careless as to potentially endanger Althea.

“The first two girls, the fiancées–”

“Yes, lady?”

“Both of those were accounted to be accidents, weren’t they?”

“Yes, lady. The countess was thrown from her horse in the courtyard and the princess was attacked by bandits when she returned home from a visit.”

“How long between the betrothal and the death for the countess?”

“A few weeks,” said Parrin, tugging at the cuffs of his jacket. He had been very fond of the girl, thought Markon with a pang: he had also been the one to find her.

“The princess?”

“A few months.”

Althea frowned, a quick, reflexive action. “You weren’t immediately engaged again afterward, were you?”

“No: I met Jeannie at court and we stepped out a few times. She disappeared before it even got about that we were thinking of each other. After that it seemed to take less and less to activate the curse.”

“What set it off most recently?”

“I smiled at the girl,” said Parrin glumly. Markon couldn’t blame him: he remembered what it was like to be Parrin’s age, and the idea of being unable to so much as kiss a girl without something unfortunate happening to her was horrible to contemplate.

“And how long was it before it took effect?”

“A few days,” said Parrin.

“I see,” said Althea. “Stand up, please.”

Parrin did so, looking rather nonplussed.

To Markon she said: “Would you hold this? Thank you,” and pressed something circular and metallic into his hand.  He looked down at the ring, somehow more real in his hand than it had looked on her finger, and took far too long to realise what she was doing. When he finally did understand, Markon started forward, his hand closing around the ring convulsively. By then Althea was on tiptoes with her hands cupping Parrin’s face, kissing the boy with some force and not a little skill if his reaction was anything to judge by.

Markon felt a rush of molten anger unlike anything he’d ever felt before. He didn’t think he moved or even thought, caught up in the stunning heat of it, but that was his hand gripping Althea’s arm with white fingers and tearing her away from Parrin, and that was his other hand shoving the ring back on her finger, his own slightly shaking.

Althea, her eyes rather big but not at all frightened, said a thoughtful: “Ow,” up at him.

It was left to Parrin’s rather frantic: “Dad! Dad, she didn’t mean any harm!” to bring him to the realisation that he’d clutched Althea to his chest, and that he’d not been gentle about it. Parrin was evidently of the persuasion that his father objected to what could technically be called an assault on a royal personage.

Markon, breathing heavily through his nose, released Althea. She hadn’t struggled at all and now merely smoothed her dress and hair as though she hadn’t just put herself wantonly in danger.

“You said you were going to work from the outside!” Markon said furiously.

“No, I didn’t,” said Althea, and there was a suggestion of stubbornness to her mouth. “I said I could if it made you uncomfortable. I also said it would make more sense to investigate from the inside. You didn’t object.”

“I object!” said Markon in exasperation. “I object very much!”

“Well, it’s too late now,” Althea said reasonably. “And it’s proved remarkably useful, too. For instance, I’m now quite sure that you’re not dealing with a curse– well, not in any technical sense of the word, anyway.”

“What?” demanded Markon, in less than cordial tones.

“I was already pretty certain it wasn’t,” she told him. “None of the girls have anything clinging to them—well, apart from some rather nasty magic, totally unconnected with the prince—and neither does the prince. As a matter of fact, they all seem to have– at any rate, I could only be certain that there was no curse by taking off the ring.”

“And putting yourself in exactly the kind of danger I didn’t want you to be in!” said Markon testily. “I’ve a good mind to send you packing!”

“No, you don’t,” said Althea.

“Of course I don’t!” groaned Markon. She’d achieved more in a couple of hours than any of the girls (or in fact any of the enchanters he’d called in) had achieved in the last couple of years.

“Parrin can’t be expected to live his life locked away from women–”

“I should think not!” said Parrin feelingly.

“–and it’s not good for your kingdom, either. After a while you get people making snide remarks about the crown sacrificing the people on the altar of succession, and then–”

“Small disturbances that become bigger ones,” finished Markon, meeting her eyes. “Factions forming across the court and perhaps an accident or two for myself and Parrin.”

Althea nodded. “Exactly. I’m rather good at this sort of thing, actually. Try to trust me a little.”

“You have a fortnight,” said Markon.

***

Points Of View: Who Are You Blogging For?

It’s a sentiment I see quite often. One I’ve seen at least twice in the last week and usually a couple times every week as a regular thing. It’s something I kinda agree with but never thought too much about until it occurred to me that I also kinda disagree with it.

The gist of this sentiment is that if you’re a writer with a blog, You should be blogging for readers, not other writers. You should be putting out content that readers find interesting. You shouldn’t be writing blog posts on how to do a great kickstarter, or how to build up that email list. You shouldn’t be putting up blog posts on which advertising efforts worked for you, and which ones didn’t.

Which is all very well and good, and I totally agree that as a blogger, I want to be pulling in new readers.

However.

I think we’re all forgetting one very important consideration, and that is this: most writers are readers. We love reading. For most of us, reading was the gateway that led to writing. And we’re always on the lookout for our next good read. So I don’t think we should be afraid of blogging for writers once in a while.

Also, if you want an example of a talented and very successful writer who blogs almost exclusively for other writers, check out Lindsay Buroker‘s blog. It’s been immensely helpful to me personally, and you can’t say that it’s a blog for readers. Yet Lindsay is doing remarkably well for herself.

It all goes to show, as Chuck Berry said, that ya never can tell…