Cover Reveal: FIRE IN THE BLOOD and THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN

I was going to wait and be patient to reveal these two covers, but despite the fact that TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY is still two days away from release, I needed to upload the cover for FIRE IN THE BLOOD to make preorder available on Amazon; and I really wanted to add the cover of THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN to my NaNoWriMo page ‘cos it’s so pretty.

So, since they’re out there already, I thought I’d better hurry up and do a semi-formal cover reveal. FIRE IN THE BLOOD is the 2nd novella in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD trilogy, and THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN is the 3rd. Let me know what you think of them!

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Oh No! It’s NaNoWriMo!

Well, it’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is coming up fast (National Novel Writing Month, for those not in the know) and everyone is talking about prepping for their November novel. This will be the first year I’ve participated, and while I don’t think I’ll go so far as to actually sign up to anything, I’ll certainly give it a shot. In my case it’s a little easier: I’m prepping for the second novella in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD trilogy, and at 40,000 words it’s hardly a full length novel. So I’ve got a head start already! (And if I finish that novella this month, as I fully anticipate doing; well, there’s always the third one to write during November!)

Prepping steps:

  1. Cover. Already done! I know, I know, it’s not writing, but I like to go gloat over it every now and then. It bolsters me. And it’s so flamin’ pretty!
  2. Outlining. I do not outline. Never. Ever. Except with this novella trilogy. I tried it out as an experiment for TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, and it worked out so well that I’m going to do the same with the second and third novellas in the trilogy. I didn’t stick to it exactly (I used a few different methods of murder than I’d planned, along with other small differences) but it made things so easy that I’ve had to do very little in the way of structural edits. It helps that the novellas are only a third of the length of what I usually write.
  3. Stickers. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. My stickers are utterly, totally necessary. I get one sticker on the calendar for every 500 words I write. In fact, I’ve had to order MORE stickers because I went through so many, so quickly with the first novella. I love looking at the day’s box and finding it absolutely stuffed with glittering gold stars. They’re even more effective than chocolates for bribing myself.
  4. Beaut Beta Readers. I seriously have the best beta readers. I also have the best alpha reader. Okay, so my alpha reader is my sister. But she doesn’t let me get away with mistakes, and she points out REALLY useful stuff. Not to mention finding all my spelling mistakes and missed punctuation. Lately, she’s also been able to point out when sentences are too long/convoluted/confusing. It’s wonderful! And she has to do it cos I’m her sis. Win/win! My beta readers are the other members of my exclusive cough*small*cough writing group. They help out with stuff like weird comma placement, bad word choices, and character development. (Plus so much weird conversation when none of us feel like writing). I may not always agree with them or take all their suggestions, but they’re an integral part of my process. It would be a huge mistake to run any kind of project, NaNoWriMo or otherwise, without planning on edits, feedback, and revisions.

Well, that’s my planning. What have I missed? What do you guys do? And who else is planning on taking advantage of NaNoWriMo?

1P.S: TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, the first novella, is currently available at the Amazon store on a Preorder Sale for 99c! It’ll be out October 30th, and will go up to $1.99 thereafter, so get it while it’s cheap!

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!

Normal Service Interrupted: Or, Holidays!

You’ve no doubt noticed that my post is late this week. You’ve almost certainly been hankering for the golden words and deliciously witty phraseology that are usually to be found on The WR(ite) Blog weekly. The light has gone out of your life, the glitter from the internet, the sparkle from your-

Okay, I’m probably laying it on just a bit too thick.

If you did happen to notice that my blog post was a little (okay, a LOT) late, the reason is as follows: I’M ON HOLIDAY! That’s right, I’m on holiday in the land of the Hobbit, aka, New Zealand. I have not thus far seen a hobbit (must remember to complain to management about that) but I have seen an awful lot of utterly gorgeous scenery that could have come from anywhere in Middle Earth. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a place as quickly as this. I would move here if I had the money. Heck, I’d probably move without it.

We’ve spent our first two days at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland: a lovely experience that has honestly thrown me a little. This is mainly because I’ve never stayed at a place with room service and concierge parking and a little man who offers politely but firmly to carry your baggage and does indeed carry your baggage for you because YOU ARE A GUEST, MA’AM. It’s delightful and rather terrifying. The room itself is quite lovely, too: large enough to be comfortable and elegant, and small enough not to lose ourselves in.

Ostensibly, this trip is because the Hubby and I have been married for eight years. It’s our anniversary today (which both of us remembered this year – hooray!) and aside from quarreling in the car and driving the poor SatNav lady burko, we’ve been doing an immense amount of driving. We were both very surprised to find that once we left Auckland (in fact, immediately upon leaving Auckland) we were in Middle Earth. I’m not even kidding. Rolling green hills, beautiful scrub land, country fences that you could see Samwise and Frodo clambering over in their quest for the ring. All equally wonderful and accessible. The problem was knowing when to turn around and head back, because we didn’t want to stop driving.

We’ve also done a fair bit of walking around Auckland, which has a thriving nightlife and some really very interesting drunks. The stores are all open to ridiculously late hours, so we never felt unsafe, and almost everything was well lit. There are roughly 50 places we could choose to eat tonight, all within a block or two radius of this hotel. In fact, the hotel even has it’s own restaurant. So where do you think we’re eating tonight? Give you three guesses (HINT: it’s room service).

Tomorrow we’ll head off toward Hobbiton (or at least the Northern half of it) for a tour, and from thence to Rotorua, where we’ll spend two days hiking and mud-bathing and driving out to explore the Taupo National Forest. I’m determined to end up with a hobbit sword. Okay, maybe all I can afford is a pint of something at the Green Dragon. BUT I’LL STILL BE IN HOBBITON, SO THERE.

So far, the only thing I haven’t done is write. I have not written a word of Blackfoot, my new WIP.

Shame on me. Shame on my goat. Shame on the corners of my house.

SIGH.

I guess I better get some words down before room service comes along with my scotch fillet. I’m thinking of trying a slightly different approach with this WIP (more planning, scary!) a la Patricia Wrede’s Post It Notes Method. Wish me luck!

And if you don’t hear from me so much on the Twitter and the Facebook, it’s not cos I don’t love you, it’s cos I love New Zealand more. Posts should be more or less regular as of next week, for those who really were pining (sorry, mum!).

Final Edits for ‘Spindle’

Last night the hubby was watching Caprica. You may be wondering what that has to do with Spindle – or last edits, if it comes to that. What it has to do with both is precisely this: I can’t stand Caprica, or for that matter, Battlestar Galactica. (I’ll have to try the original series- I hated the new but love the old V). It’s nasty, grotty, by far too soapy for my taste, and I don’t think there’s a single character I like. As far as I’m concerned, the Cylons can eliminate the lot of ’em.

So while hubby was watching Caprica, I put on my big, white noise-blocking earphones and searched Youtube for Stuff. I found Lindsey Stirling, which I binged on for a while as I typed away madly at the last few thousand words of Spindle. Then I changed to Evanescence for a while and continued to type away madly. It was probably the easiest, most profitable night’s writing that I’ve done in quite some time. Honestly, the hardest bit was not looking at the music videos as they played (Lindsey Stirling in particular has such lovely, visceral music videos – see Roundtable Rival for my favourite).

I did cheat a few times, skipping ahead to other scenes when I got stuck with the one I was writing, but the writing got done. Which means I’ll be able to send Spindle off to beta readers at the end of the week. Hoots! It also means that I’ll have a two week break from the MS while I go on with Other Things and prepare for Final Edits. Fortunately I do a lot of editing as I go, so only the last third of Spindle will need a second and third round of edits (hopefully). That and the feedback from my beta readers should keep me busy for the next month after my break.

So in celebration of Spindle reaching Final Edit stage, I have another small excerpt for you all! Enjoy, and don’t forget to preorder Spindle.

* * *

                Poly woke the next morning to uncomfortable heat and a distinct feeling of claustrophobia. To add to her discomfort there was a tiny, sharp elbow digging into her neck, which suggested that Onepiece had turned boy some time after he curled up on her pillow but hadn’t moved from the pillow. One of his legs was dangling over the side of the bed, but the other had managed to work its way under the covers. The rest of him was wrapped snugly in what seemed to be . . . hair.

“Good grief!” groaned Poly, giving up the attempt to lift her head from the pillow after one painful effort.

“Oh, you are awake,” said Luck, making her squeak in surprise. He was stretched out at the foot of her bed with an open book in one hand, his boots only just off the quilted blanket; and that, thought Poly crossly, must be why she couldn’t move her legs. “I wouldn’t try that again if I were you: it’s lashed underneath the boards.”

“Yes, I thought it might be. What do I do?”

“Lie very still, I suppose. Poly, the curse is being sneaky again, but I think you might have been sneakier.”

Onepiece stirred and murmured: “Tosh,” but that was more likely to be because it was his favourite word than because he’d understood Luck. Poly was left wondering if she agreed with the sentiment.

“I knew there was something niggling away in the back of my mind,” continued Luck, disregarding Onepiece’s sleepy mutterings. “Your hair is too helpful: it’s keeping the curse at bay by growing. Even if you’d pumped all your magic into it, it shouldn’t be that clever.”

“How does growing keep the curse at bay?” asked Poly. She’d given up trying to explain yet again to Luck that she didn’t have magic, hadn’t had magic, wouldn’t ever have magic. His reiteration was insidious enough that Poly thought she might just come to believe him, in the end.

* * *

That’s it from me! What have you guys been up to this week? And what is your writing music of choice?

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All About Wolfskin

Just a quick note to let you all know that Wolfskin is Finished, Done, Kaputt, Uploaded, etc, etc. It will be available May 1st, and if any of you out there on the interwebs are interested in getting your hot little hands on a review copy of Wolfskin, send me a note via the comments, the Contact tab, or email (gingellwrites AT gmail.com). Reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Blogs, and Kobo are very greatly appreciated 🙂

Wolfskin will be going on blog tour from July 6th, so reviews are welcome any time from May 1st through to July 26th. Later is fine, too, but I’d love to co-ordinate everything together if possible. If you’re interested in having me as a guest on your blog during this time (guest post, interview, excerpt, etc) feel free to contact me by the above methods.

I will also be setting up a Goodreads Giveaway mid-May.

See below for a blurb of Wolfskin, and if you’d like to check out an excerpt, click on the Excerpts tab.

Have a lovely week, all!

“If you want adventure, you have to march right up to it and kick it in the shins . . .”

At fourteen, barefoot and running wild, Rose is delighted to be apprenticed to Akiva, the witch of the forest.  She thinks it will be all enchantment and excitement, and not so much fuss about baths.  The reality is much more sober and practical- that is, until she meets a mysterious wolf in the forest and is tricked into stepping off the path . . .

In young, naive Rose, Bastian sees a way of escape.  Cursed to remain in the shape of a wolf after running afoul of a powerful enchantress, he has lived many decades under a spell, and now he is both desperate and ruthless.  But by breaking part of Bastian’s curse, Rose has caught the attention of Cassandra, the enchantress who cursed him: and Cassandra is by no means ready to forgive and forget.

Meanwhile, wardens have been disappearing from the forest, one by one.  Rose is certain that Cassandra is behind the disappearances, but can she and Bastian get to the bottom of the matter before Akiva disappears as well?  And are Bastian’s motives entirely to be trusted?

Sometimes the little girl in the red hood doesn’t get eaten, and sometimes the wolf isn’t the most frightening thing in the forest.

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Busy, Busy, Busy

It’s been a busy week. And now that I’ve written the word ‘busy’ five times, it’s looking really weird to me. Maybe I need a nap.

But I digress.

It’s been a busy week. My proofs for Wolfskin came in (finally!) but since they’re late arriving I have only a week and a half to check and correct. So there’s that. Then there’s the last 5000-odd words of Spindle that need to be done by next week if I want to keep on target with that particular deadline. And then there’s Memento Mori (the second volume in the Time-Traveller’s Best Friend series). I’ve only just begun it, and though I know roughly what the story arc for the collection will be, and have a few titles and ideas for a few of the stories, I still need to write the thing. By August at the latest.

With all these deadlines, you’d think I’d be madly at work on one or all of them. No such thing. I also got a new idea for a Short Thing for Weekly Fiction’s Open Call For Submissions. Naturally, I started work on that, with a little bit of editing and proof-reading around the edges. Fortunately, Wolfskin is proving much less complicated than Masque was. I seem to have caught most of the errors and inconsistencies and missed words before this point (does that mean I’ve advanced a level? New Power! Error-Free Gained!) and it’s really mostly a matter of a tiny change here and there.

Added to all the above is a busier-than-usual week at work, coupled with an annoying surge of my favourite companion, Meniere’s Disease.

I may just quietly go mad for a while. Don’t mind me. It’s a self-chosen madness after all.

What about you guys? Who else has a murder of deadlines? (Well, what is the group word for many deadlines, anyway?) And are you actually working on them?

Wolfskin Excerpt

Wolfskin is on its final edits and will be published May 1st, 2015! It’s set in the same world as Masque but is a standalone novel with separate characters. I will hopefully be doing a blog tour a month or two after publication, but in the mean-time, here’s a short excerpt for you to get a feel for the book.

Enjoy!

 

When I stepped from the thread to the path leading to Akiva’s front gate, there was a woman between me and it.

She was so beautiful. I’m not sure why I expected her to be otherwise. Her hair was black and glossy, and hung loose to her waist in a sleek, rippling sheet that mingled with royal purple satins and silks that were as sleek as her hair. Her eyes, framed by impossibly long, dusky eyelashes, were of an equally impossible shade of violet. I saw them and my herbs scattered themselves on the path, dropping heedlessly from my nerveless fingers. Those twin violets gleamed with the same darkness I had seen in Bastian’s eyes the first time I met him.  

Horned hedgepigs! I thought, swallowing. It could only be Cassandra.

She looked me up and down with those brilliant, purple eyes while I regretted fervently that I hadn’t been a moment quicker, and then said: “You’re not pretty.”

Her voice was bell-like in consideration; and, like every other part of her, breathtakingly beautiful.

“I know,” I said. Even if I had been as beautiful as Gwendolen, I couldn’t have hoped to compare with Cassandra. I eyed her unblinkingly, wondering why it mattered to her.

“You’re not pretty,” she repeated; a statement, not a question. “I didn’t expect that. He must be desperate.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said, scowling. I was coldly frightened, and that made me angry. Black, tarry magic was stirring around her, creating nasty pockets of corruption in the air that made me feel ill: it was vastly more powerful than anything I had ever seen.

She looked at me contemptuously through the haze. “Beauty is all that matters to him, stupid child. You can only lose.”

“Bastian isn’t here,” said Akiva’s voice suddenly and startlingly. I tore my eyes away from Cassandra’s and saw her, knobbly and infinitely welcome, leaning on a stick behind the enchantress. For a horrible moment it had felt like I was drowning in the brilliant lavender of Cassandra’s eyes.

Akiva hobbled past her and put a hand on my shoulder. I felt a sense of her power, welling up deep inside her, warm and comforting. I think I was still looking up at her with wide eyes when she said quietly: “Go into the house, Rose.”

As I closed the gate with cold fingers, I heard Akiva reiterate: “The wolf isn’t here.”

“I can smell him all over her!” hissed Cassandra.

There was a silence suggesting that Akiva was shrugging; then her old, firm voice said: “I sent him away: he knows what I think about him. Today was goodbye.”

Their voices faded with distance, but as I loitered on the garden path I saw the warm glow of an astonishing and formidable power rising to meet and match Cassandra’s. I recognized it as Akiva’s, hale and hearty, and stronger than I could ever have imagined. After that I hurried to get into the safety of the cottage, feeling the hairs prickle on the back of my neck, because I knew that it was no longer safe for me to be out in the open. Once inside, I plumped myself down in Akiva’s chair, absently staring into the fire and contemplating the extraordinary power I had just witnessed. For the first time in the excitement of my new magical prowess, I felt thoroughly humbled and weak. My own power, puny in comparison to that shown so effortlessly by both Cassandra and Akiva, was pitiful past thinking about. I was suddenly very thankful for Akiva’s protection. In the coldness of the moment, I knew there was no chance that I could ever hope to fight against Cassandra and win.

Wolfskin is available for preorder on Amazon and Kobo, due for release May 1st, 2015.

10 Things I Hate Love About You Writing

I don’t say this enough, but I love writing.

It’s sometimes excruciating, often frustrating, and frequently exhausting. And it’s always satisfying.

Pic from https://thewritersadvice.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/page-hugging-a-person.jpg

There are days when I have to scrabble and scratch for every flamin’ word, glaring into the middle distance for inspiration. There are days when my fingers can’t fly across the keyboard fast enough to keep up with the flow of narrative, and I forget to do simple things like eat and drink. Then there are the days when I can see the whole thing so clearly, but each paragraph is a burden to type out; whether the problem is distraction, laziness, or exhaustion.

I wouldn’t give it up for the world. So without (much) more ado, here are the Ten Things I Love About Writing.

  1. I get to create my own worlds. Ever since I first read The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle, I’ve fantasized about what I’d make if I could create my own world ex nihilo. It’s probably why I loved Age of Empires so much.  

  2. I had a horrible boss once. Threw stuff at me. Bullied all his staff. Trotted his huge bulk behind me every move I made in order to try and catch me doing something, anything wrong. One of his favourite past-times was asking me every day as I wrote through my lunch break, ‘If he was going to be in my books’. Well, yes. Yes he is. I doubt he’d recognize himself, but it’s him all the same. Don’t annoy me, people.

  3. It’s perfectly permissible for me to listen to the voices in my head, and to document what they say. Admittedly when I start randomly snorting with laughter in the supermarket aisles, I get a few strange looks. But by and large, I’m safe.

  4. People buy my books. Guys, there are people out there I don’t know, who are reading my book! That’s the most surreal, delightful feeling you can imagine. And some of them love my books enough to tell me how much they love them, which is embarrassing and scintillating all at the same time.

  5. I love words. I love building them, taking them apart, studying them in different languages. I love crafting sentences with the right balance and the right nuance. I love creating rhythm and punch. I love discovering words like susurration and pulchritude and weasand. (Why, yes: I did use to read the dictionary when I was ten, why do you ask?)

  6. The more I write, the more I appreciate well-written books. (This has a downside, in that I have far less patience for badly written books; but then, why waste time on bad books when there’s so little left for good books?)

  7. Being a writer makes me look at things differently. It makes me look at people differently. Bottom line, it makes me look. It makes me pay attention.

  8. I’m never bored. Never. No matter if I’m stuck on a train or a plane or a bus, I can write. In fact, some of my most productive time (i.e. undistracted time) is when I have nothing else to do but write. I don’t understand the people at my dayjob who complain that an hour is too long for lunch. By the end of my lunch hour I’m usually typing like fury to try and get that last sentence in before I have to go back. My daydream time is precious to me.

  9. I have the most amazing dreams. Seriously. I dream in very often in whole stories, sometimes in vignettes, and even sometimes in snatches of character interaction. The trade-off is that I have very realistic nightmares; simple, terrifying, and entirely life-like. From these nightmares I frequently wake screaming, and only realize upon waking that I was, in fact, asleep. It’s worth it. It’s worth it for the euphoria every time I fly, or discover a forest city, or experience a whole world, background and story in dream. Heck, I’ve even had a subplot in one of my dreams.

  10. The sense of satisfaction is amazing. There’s almost nothing better than the feeling of achievement I get when I’ve beaten my personal record for words per day; or finished the first draft (or better still, the last) of my current WIP; or even finally arrived at that wonderful, euphoric day- publication day. The act of writing itself, is intensely satisfying. The difficulty is in stopping.

I may never reach a point in my writing career when I can quit my day job. I may become rich and famous overnight. I just don’t know (I can dream, but I don’t know). And I’m okay with that. My books are out there. There’s more where they came from, and the exercise of writing itself is so fulfilling that I don’t think I could give it up if I tried.

What about you guys? What do you love about writing?

Excerpt From ‘Spindle’: Current WIP

As Masque won’t be out for another 15 days, I thought I’d whet your appetite for my Two Monarchies Sequence by giving you a taste of my current WIP: Spindle. You may perhaps be clever enough to guess which particular fairytale I’ve messed with this time . . .

Anyone looking for this excerpt after it has progressed down the page need only click on the page Shorts & Excerpts to find it again.

Enjoy! (Bon Appetit?)

Excerpt from Spindle, chapter one

Polyhymnia knew perfectly well that she was dreaming.  Her hair was in pigtails and she was wearing a smock, which pointed to an age of perhaps twelve or thirteen; and the dream itself was a distant memory of a history lesson with Lady Cimone, her teacher.  She had been amused for a brief moment to find herself daydreaming during the lesson: dreaming, as it were, during a dream, while Lady Cimone pointed out the various flaws in Civet’s latest sally against Parras.
Oh, I remember this, thought Poly suddenly.  Parras tossed over one of our outposts, and we walked right into an ambush trying to retaliate.
Pain, in her left ear.  Poly clutched the injured member in surprise.
“Ow!”  She hadn’t remembered that.
“Perhaps you could pay attention to your lesson, now that you’re awake?” suggested Lady Cimone.  She always did prefer boxing ears to using a cane.  Maybe it was her idea of the personal touch.  “This is important, Poly.”
Poly let her younger dream-self murmur the appropriate response, her attention snatched away, because a gold-edged rift was beginning to form in the blue-painted wall behind Lady Cimone.
The lady caught the direction of her gaze and gave a sharp glance behind her.
“Bother!” she said.  She seemed annoyed rather than taken aback.
Before long the perpendicular rift was tall enough to admit a human, and Poly wasn’t quite surprised when a young man stepped through.  He was wearing a long, mud-splattered black coat that looked as though it had seen one too many days travelling, and he had an inquiring, dishevelled look.  His forehead was wide and square, with dark hair springing upwards and sideways from it, and his mouth was both determined and wistful; though the triangular set of his chin spoke more to determination than wistfulness.  Poly shut her mouth, which had dropped open, and took one involuntary step backwards as the man pulled himself fully into the room.  He was fairly glowing with residual magic, which set every alarm bell ringing in her head.
“Shoo,” he said to Lady Cimone, and stepped purposefully toward Poly.
The lady smiled a little grimly and said: “I am no more a dream than you are, young man.  Kindly be polite.”
Poly became her normal, older self in confusion, and the dream-memory of the younger her melted away, leaving Lady Cimone and the young man behind in the resulting void.  The young man seemed almost as bemused as Poly felt, but Lady Cimone was looking, as usual, serene and omniscient.
“I tried my best, but I’m afraid he got you,” she said to Poly.  “You’ll have to go with the wizard for now.  Your parents said they’d try to find you somewhere along the way, but things might be a little more difficult than they realised.  Try not to forget everything the minute you wake up, child.”
“But-” Poly began; but Lady Cimone was already gone.  Poly put her hands on her hips and surveyed the young wizard, who was still standing where he was, disturbingly real for a dream figure.
“Huh,” he said.  “Didn’t expect that.  Come here, princess.”
Poly could have said: ‘I’m not the princess,’ but it didn’t see worth arguing with a dream.  Instead, she said: “I don’t think so,” and slipped up and out of the dream.

It should have woken her.  For a moment, she thought it had.  She was standing in her own small, rounded chamber, stranded aimlessly between her bookcases.  Through her window-slit the outside world looked sunny and normal.  Then she saw the translucent something coating her hands from fingers to elbow, and belatedly felt the odd, sideways pull that had brought her here.
“Bother,” she said aloud.  The translucent something wasn’t quite magic, but it seemed to be the dream equivalent.  In real life, Poly had no magic.  It was the one consistent way to tell dream from reality when her dreams became too realistic.
Poly wriggled her fingers and the translucency shivered coolly across them with a sense of familiarity.  When had she started dreaming about magic so often?  In fact, when had she started dreaming for so long at a time?  She felt as though she’d been dreaming for years.
Time to wake up, Poly decided.  She let herself slip upwards and awake, and again found herself sliding sideways to the pull of something strong and unfamiliar.
Someone said: “No you don’t, darling.  Back to sleep with you.”
Poly gave a little gasp of indignation and fought against the pull.  It was ridiculous to allow her dreams to be hijacked by an unpleasant dream entity of her own creation.  Where was it coming from?
She dragged herself around in the direction of the voice, feeling the reality of her dream-chamber wobble around her.   A nasty quiver of surprise shook her at the sight of the hooded, murky figure that seemed to be more shadow than substance, cobwebbed in the doorway.
To give herself time to become brave, Poly said: “Now, what are you?  I know I didn’t dream you up.”
“You must have,” said the hooded figure, its voice soft and amused.  “Here I am.”
Too smooth for words, Poly thought, sharp with fear.  There was a prickle at her back that made her think the enchanter from the previous level was making his way through to her again.  A panicked, nightmare quality had settled over the dream like a wet blanket, weighing her down, and for a brief moment Poly found herself unable to think.
The same soft voice said: “Darling, you’re being difficult.  There’s no need for things to become uncivilized.  Be a good girl and go back to sleep.”
“I don’t like you,” Poly said experimentally.
“That’s hurtful, darling,” said the voice reproachfully.  “As it happens, I’m really quite fond of you.  However, needs must, and you really need to go to sleep.”

The reasonable tone to the shadow’s voice was hard to resist.  There was her bed, in the middle of the tower room where it didn’t belong, and Poly felt herself take one step towards it.

The sheets should have been cool and smooth when she slid between them.  Instead, they were fuzzy and warm, and Poly felt her eyes gum together in the last warning of approaching slumber, the prickle at her back fading in the warmth.
“Huh,” said a second voice.  “This is all very interesting.  Who are you?  No.  Not who.  What?”
“Undefined element,” said the hooded shadow thoughtfully.  Poly could vaguely see it through her gummy eyes, outlined in the brilliant gold of the wizard’s magic.  “You are not valid here.  Retreat or assimilate.”
“Tosh,” said the wizard.  “You’re what? A remnant?  Go away.”
“No, I don’t think so,” said the shadow; and it seemed to Poly, mired in sleep, that an impossibly strong magic was stirring in the room – no, in the very air – around her.  It was bright, fiery, and entirely translucent.
The wizard said: “Yow!” and did something golden and magical with more haste than precision.  Poly stirred, fighting against sleep, and saw his face briefly appear above her.
He said: “Well, better get on with it, then.”
Poly tried to say: ‘Get on with what?’ but found that she couldn’t move her lips.  It took her a shocked moment to realise that she couldn’t move her lips because she was being kissed. It took another to realise that she was waking up- really waking up.  Gold magic fizzed from her lips to her toes, and everything familiar . . . disappeared.