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Rest for the Wicked–A Ravensblood Ghost Story

Set in the Ravensblood universe, this story started out as one of my little holiday vignettes and ended as. . .a longer vignette with a plot structure? It’s set after Raven’s Vow, and possibly partway into the yet-unnamed and -unwritten fifth book of the series. Sorry that the story is late—I meant to have send it out in the Halloween newsletter, but I’m not always great at deadlines and now I’m having trouble with the newsletter plug-in. The story also hasn’t been beta’d, except by you, now.  (Feel free to let me know of any issues you find, as I hope to have a cover made and release it more formally next year on Amazon.)

 

Rest for the Wicked

 

Raven walked into the sitting room and saw the message crystal flashing red.  Urgent.

Had something come up at GII that required his assistance? Worse, had something had happened to Cassandra? Or to their son? He tapped the crystal to play the message.

Mr. Ravenscroft? This is Chester Wood. The name sounded slightly familiar, but Raven couldn’t quite place it. I hate to bother you at home, sir, but something has happened at your father’s grave. I think you might want to take a look.

Ah, that’s right. Chester was the caretaker his lawyer had found to look after the small Ravenscroft family cemetery. He mowed the lawn and did battle with the omnipresent Oregon blackberry vines. His main job, however, was to monitor the wards that protected the cemetery. While Raven’s feelings toward his ancestors were complicated and mostly negative, he was still a Ravenscroft. He would not allow his family’s graves desecrated.

He tapped the message crystal once to respond, and Chester answered almost immediately.

Hello?

“This is Raven. I am going to the cemetery immediately. If it is convenient, please meet me there.”

Raven teleported to just outside the ornate wrought iron gate. The invisible wards that surrounded the cemetery recognized him as a Ravenscroft and let him in.  Inside the black iron fence he turned to inspect the wards, closing his eyes in concentration as he reached out with his will to feel along the complicated weave of magic. They were perfectly intact and undamaged. He looked closer, closer still. No matter how he tried, he could not find a strand out of place, could nor find any place where the ward had been untangled and re-tied in a slightly different style. He checked again, and found still nothing.

Chester waited for him by his father’s grave. He hadn’t seen the man since his lawyer had arranged a perfunctory meeting before hiring him several years ago, and probably would not have recognized him out of context.

“Mr. Ravenscroft, thank you for coming out on such short notice,” the man greeted him.

“Thank you for alerting me so promptly.” He looked down at his father’s stone, a smooth black granite affair with a stylized raven carved over the words Bredon Arthfael Ravenscroft.

There was nothing else, not even the dates. Raven had been a child when his father had been cornered and killed by Guardians at the end of the Mage Wars. He had no idea who had claimed his father’s body and arranged for the burial. Most likely it had been Alexander Chen, who had been his father’s lawyer before he became Raven’s. At least the stone did not say Loving Father or some such lie.

Scrawled across the stone in bright red were the words Blood calls to blood.

No doubt the author meant for the red to look like blood, but Raven had seen fresh blood on many surfaces, and it would not show so brightly against the black nor would it adhere so well to vertical polished granite.

“Paint?” he asked Chester.

“That’s what I thought at first. Would be a bitch to get off the granite, but I know all the tricks. But feel.” He ran his hand over the stone.

Raven hesitated to follow suit. He had never touched his father’s gravestone. Had only properly visited the grave once, and that from a respectful difference. Ridiculous, really. It wasn’t as though the bastard was going to rise up out of the grave. For that matter, Raven now was far more powerful than his father had been in life. He was no longer a helpless little boy facing a dark mage who seemed like a god in his omnipotence.

Deliberately, he reached out and trailed a hand over the cold surface. The cold, smooth surface. He realized now what Chester meant.  There should be a roughness, an unevenness where paint had been applied to the polished stone. He looked up to meet Chester’s gaze.

“No common vandal, then,” Raven said. “Although we knew as much by how he got through the wards.”

Chester frowned and shook his head. “I’d swear that no one has gotten through them before except you, your wife, and myself. Well, and the workmen you brought in to dig those last two graves.”

Originally set by a Ravenscroft ancestor in generations back, the wards were of an old-fashioned type keyed to the family. They recognized Raven, of course, and also Cassandra as a Ravenscroft by marriage, even though she kept her maiden name. They would recognize Ransley as his son without Raven having to key them to accept the youngest scion. Raven had reinforced the wards over the years, but never changed their essential nature. He’d permanently keyed the wards to Chester when the man was first hired and had never had reason to doubt the man. The workmen he had escorted through the wards and back out again. The wards were made to allow strangers to cross if they were accompanied by a Ravenscroft, but those same men would not have been able to return on their own.

The fact that someone dared desecrate a Ravenscroft grave enraged him. The thought of someone walking through Ravenscroft wards as if they weren’t there sent chills down his spine. But he could think of no other explanation.

“Could there be another Ravenscroft that you don’t know about?”

“One directly related to the bloodline?” Raven shook his head. “Cassandra and our friend Chuckie did some pretty extensive research when the Ravensblood went missing. While one can’t prove a negative, I’d bet my life that Ransley and I are the last of the line.”

A line that Raven had thought would end with him, the good and the bad, centuries of scholarship, dedication, and dark magic. He may have mixed feelings about the continuance of the family name, but he could never regret his son.

He ran his hand over the stone, feeling for even a hint of a magical signature. For a moment, he thinks he senses something, like a ghost of a signature. No, not just any signature, but that of a man who has haunted his nightmares since childhood.

And that is how he knows he is imagining things. His father has been dead for decades.

“I’ll add another layer of reinforcement to the wards,” Raven says. “Keep me apprised of any new developments.”

#

Raven spent the rest of the day and far into the night researching in his library, but found no answers. No explanation for how the ward was breached and no explanation for the non-paint graffiti. Normally he enjoyed an intriguing magical puzzle, and at the moment he had nothing but time on his hands. Cassandra was in Seattle visiting an old friend from her General Academy days and had taken Ransley to meet her. Their nanny had taken the opportunity to throw his new tent into the back of his Mundane girlfriend’s ancient jeep and take off camping. Why anyone would want to sleep in the woods in October was quite beyond him, but Tony was welcome to do as he wanted in his free time.

This puzzle, however, was a little too personal. If the mage behind it planned more than a little property damage, Cassandra and Ransley could be targets. And Raven had had quite enough of enemies hurting his loved ones to get to him.

Never again.

The problem was that, even with all his power and learning, he had no idea how he was going to keep that promise.

#

But he hadn’t slept well last night, dropping off with the sheer impossibility of events in the cemetery churning in his brain, only to be woken with a start by nightmares he couldn’t quite remember, until a little after nine in the morning he gave it up as a lost cause and came down to start his breakfast. Usually he was barely out of bed by ten or so. He’d developed the habit of late nights when he was in the service of the dark mage William and, barring the occasional morning consultation at GII, he still had little use for the hours before noon. He wished he could say he was surprised when the message crystal flashed red before he had even finished his tea and toast.

He tapped the message crystal to open the link. “Raven here.”

“Ah, hi, this is Chester. I was expecting to Have to leave a message. I didn’t wake you, did I?

“No, it’s fine. I woke early.” He deliberately did not elaborate. “I take it something happened in the night?”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

The good news was that the previous message was gone as mysteriously as it had come. The bad news was that it had been replaced by a single word. Corwyn.

He could count on one finger the number of people in his life who called him by his given name. “I’m coming out there.”

The cemetery was near enough and familiar enough that Raven could teleport there with little more than a thought. Chester already waited for him, shoulders hunched against the damp in his faded, flannel-lined jacket. The caretaker nodded a greeting to acknowledge Raven’s arrival without taking his eyes from the defaced tombstone.

“The thing is, I spent the night in the cemetery. I swear I didn’t close my eyes for more than a minute or two at a time.” Chester did look up then, blue eyes sincere under his mop of slightly graying curls.

“I believe you,” Raven reassured him. “As far as I know, your job description does not include sleepovers in the cemetery.”

Chester drew himself up, squaring his shoulders. “My job is to make sure that everything within that fancy iron fence is well-kept and protected. You have your professional pride, I have mine.”

Raven bowed his head in acknowledgement. “Indeed. I have nothing but appreciation for your loyalty to your work.”

At the time Alexander had hired Chester, there were few who would accept employment with a Ravenscroft and fewer still who could be trusted to protect the family’s private cemetery.

“Before your lawyer contacted me, I was scraping a living together on seasonal work, with crappy retail jobs in between. This is the first time I’ve had a steady job that suits me and offers financial security and benefits. I work out-of-doors with green, growing things, make my own schedule, and the clients that I come in contact with regularly—” he made a sweeping gesture to indicate the graves—“are pretty quiet and undemanding.”

“If you think I would fire you for incidents beyond your control, incidents that even I have been unable to resolve, you do not know me well.” Raven had a temper, sometimes too much of one, if one took Cassandra’s opinion, but certain events in his life had given him a great appreciation for fairness.

“Nah, man.” Chester said. “I’ve never had a complaint in all the years I’ve worked for you. But I owe you and Chen for the life you’ve made possible for me.”

“Fair enough,” Raven said.

“So, anyway,” Chester continued, seemingly as glad as Raven to step away from the edge of messy emotional expression, “I stayed awake all night. Probably not as close to the trouble spot as I should have been but. . .” he looked down and then away.

“It’s all right,” Raven said. “I am one of the least superstitious men you will meet, and even I would not wish to spend a night sleeping right by my father’s grave. Certainly not this near the night when Craft practitioners say the wall between the worlds grow thin.”

Raven looked down at his father’s polished back tombstone. Seeing his given name, the name of his childhood, in bold red script raised the hair on the back of his neck. He focused on the writing itself. Did it look familiar? Maybe. But it was hard to compare handwriting done with pen on paper to handwriting done—however this was done. The author used strong, heavy, slanted strokes, but so did many others. Superficially, yes, it matched his father’s signature in the Ravenscroft journal, the only sample of his father’s writing that Raven could remember with any clarity. But surely there were others with a similar hand. For that matter, he was not matching signature to signature.  Given the small size of the sample, and the difference in medium, he could not make a conclusive comparison.

And, gods help him, he had been hanging out with Guardians long enough to start thinking like them. If his father hadn’t been lying uneasy in his grave before, that surely would be enough to make the man rise screaming. If the dead did such things, and he was pretty sure that they did not.

Just as he had done yesterday, he reached out to see if he could read the magical signature. He found only a barely-there whisper, maybe a touch stronger than before, though he could not swear to it. Again, it felt vaguely familiar. . .so vaguely that it could just be his imagination. It was probably just the fact that they were standing by his father’s grave that made him so suggestible. Yes, he had encountered enough strangeness in the universe to accept that there were, to paraphrase the Bard, more things on heaven and earth than he had dreamt of. Still, he had no reason to believe in ghosts.

Still, there was very clearly something going on. With both Raven’s father and Raven’s former master dead, it was neither ego nor exaggeration to say that he was likely the most knowledgeable practitioner of Art in the Three Communities, if not the world. Still, knowing more didn’t mean knowing all, and there were plenty of mages in Guardian International Investigations who had their own, specialized skill sets. With all the times he’d worked with GII many of those mages might feel they owed him a favor. But until he saw some indication of a threat to anything outside the family cemetery, this was a purely private matter. He would not abuse his connections to resolve it.

He thanked Chester for his vigilance and started his way home, choosing to walk rather than teleport in the hope that the exercise would help his thought process. By the time he arrived home, he decided that maybe the answer wasn’t in the province of Art at all. He tapped the message crystal to open a link, and reached out to Mother Crone.

“Raven, dear, I was just about to hop over to the Craftlands.”

He cringed a bit at the dear, though part of him warmed just a bit at the familiar appellation.

“This is kind of a busy time for us,” she continued. “As I’m sure you know. We’re still getting ready for the ritual tonight. Is this something that can wait?”

“To be honest, I’m not certain. I have a. . .situation, for lack of a better word. I’ve reached the limits of my own knowledge, and I think it might be more your field. If I’m right in that, the timing plays a part.”

“Oh,” she said. “That doesn’t sound good.”

“Especially if it involves my own ancestors.”

Her sharp-drawn breath came through even on the crystal. “No offense, but that could be a problem, indeed.”

Damn. He only realized now that what he really wanted was for her to tell him that he was being silly and superstitious. “I don’t want to interrupt your preparations.  I could meet you at the Craftlands and if you could give me a few moments while I set up.”

“For you, child, always.”

Raven smiled to himself as he cut the connection. Few people had the nerve to call even a reformed dark mage child. Few people could get away with it as she did.

Mother Crone, leader of the Craft community, had long ago given him permission to walk the Craftlands, and so it was no trouble at all for him to teleport through the wards. Usually he came here for peace and solitude among the ancient trees. Today, however, the woods were bustling with folks of all ages in bright tie-dyed t-shirts, tribal weaves, or organic cotton dyed in earth-tones. Stereotypes, but sometimes the stereotypes were true. And sometimes they weren’t, he thought, as he watched a young man in goth-black leathers and chains help a middle-aged woman in an oxford shirt and a plaid pencil skirt set up one of those temporary pop-up canopies.

Tonight, he knew, the Craft community would be holding a public ritual to mark the night where the walls between the worlds grew thin. Many Art practitioners marked the date more as a holiday than a spiritual experience, but among the European-based Craft traditions, the night had a deeper, more powerful significance.

Raven’s arrival brought a few curious glances but no concern. Because of Mother Crone’s acceptance, the Craft community had ceased to worry about Raven’s return to society much faster than either the Art or the Mundane communities. And lately many among the Art and Mundane communities had, as popular culture would say, stopped putting air quotes around the reformed part of reformed dark mage.

He caught the attention of a slender twenty-something with long, blond hair halfway down her back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He relayed to the older woman the events that had been going on in the Ravenscroft cemetery.

“And you think it may be, what, a ghost?” Mother Crone said when he had finished.

Put that way, it did sound rather silly. “I don’t know what it is, what it could be. You know that I’ve studied a lot of magic but very little in the way of spiritual matters. Are ghosts even real?”

Mother Crone smiled.  “It depends on what you mean by ghosts, and what you mean by real.”

Raven took a deep breath, held it, let it out slowly. This was why he stayed away from the metaphysical. It always left him feeling like he was chasing his own footprints in the fog.

“What happens to the soul, or spirit, or what-have-you, after death?” he asked bluntly.

Mother Crone laughed, though not unkindly. “Oh, child, if I knew that for certain I’d write a book and make millions.”

The image of Mother Crone doing the holy roller lecture circuit caught him by surprise, triggering a snort of amusement.

“If the rumors are true and you practiced necromancy when you served William, you could know more than I do.”

He looked away. “The rumors are true. But I did it as little as possible, and only when William insisted. Mostly we were after what we could do with the unfortunate soul, or what we could learn from them. In a practical sense, not a metaphysical one.”

“I can tell you what I’ve observed, and what I’ve read, and what I believe to be true based on those things. Others have looked at the same things and drawn a very different conclusion. If anyone tells you that they know for absolute sure, they’re either lying or mad.”.

Raven took a deep breath for patience; he hadn’t expected it to be this complicated “What are ghosts, really? I’ve heard everything from just impressions, like a print made from an engraving, to something that’s essentially a person walking around without a body. In your experience, which is it?”

“All of them. Ghost is a single word used to describe many phenomena. Some thing called ghosts are nothing more than build-ups of spiritual energy, or magical energy, if you prefer.”

Raven wasn’t entirely convinced that the two were the same, but he never claimed to know too much about the former. “Like poltergeists,” he said.

“Poltergeists are one form,” she acknowledged. “Usually we use that word for a very specific type of energy that manifests around troubled teens. A place, like a house, a grove, a battlefield, can also be stained with the psychic energy of what has gone before. The effects don’t have to be bad—it’s one of the reasons we like to hold rituals over and over again in the same place. The energy settles in, builds over time. It’s why even an Art practitioner finds the Craftlands so peaceful and healing. But things like unexpected, violent death releases a lot of psychic force. A lot of places rumored to be ‘haunted’ or ‘cursed’ really just need a good cleansing to rid them of lingering dark energies.”

“Would a graveyard full of the bodies of dark mages have that sort of build-up.”

“Hm, maybe. Although usually the deaths have occurred long before the burial, so there’s less psychic bleeding.”

All this would have been rather interesting at another time, but this was one of the rare times he didn’t have the patience to drink in knowledge for knowledge’s sake. “Let me narrow the question. What’s happening with my father’s gravestone. Could it be his spirit, and, if so, how dangerous can he be?”

Mother Crone frowned. “Could it be his spirit, as in a conscious entity, capable of reacting to stimuli, capable of will? There are theories that some ghosts fall into that category.  I’ve never seen any convincing proof of such spirits, but I’m not going to discount the possibility.”

“Would such a spirit be dangerous?” Raven pressed.

She shook her head, but the gesture spoke more of doubt than negation. “Usually ghosts aren’t dangerous in a physical sense. Other than a feeling of cold or a movement of air, spirits really can’t affect the physical world. In rare cases they can haunt someone to the point of mental breakdown, but those cases are rare, and anyway I hardly would think you susceptible. You are one of the strongest-willed and resilient people I know.”

“You said ‘usually.’ So they can be dangerous?”

“In theory, if such spirits exist, the more powerful the person was in life, the stronger they would be in death.”

“Would a ghost be capable of defacing a granite tombstone?” Raven asked.

Mother Crone shrugged. “It would have to be a very powerful spirit indeed. But then your father was one of the strongest mages we faced, back then. Not hard to believe his ghost would be powerful, too.”

“But why deface his own tombstone? And why now?”

“I think you may be asking the wrong person. Or entity.”

#

 

Raven sat on a decorative bench that faced his father’s tomb at a little distance, wondering what ancestor of his thought that granite was a good material for seating. He pulled his long, black coat closer about himself  and thought with dark satisfaction that, whoever had commissioned the miserable bench, their bones were probably moldering nearby in the cold, frost-hardened ground. Shivering despite the thick wool of his coat, he pulled out his pocket watch to check the time. He’d been here since about half-past eleven and now it was nearly midnight. He hadn’t been about to camp out from sundown to sunup. He’d forgotten to ask Mother Crone if there was an optimum time for this sort of thing, so all he’d had to go on was superstition.

This was beyond ridiculous. Ghost-hunting. Probably a prankster had been the one to leave the messages, and was laughing at him even now. The great Corwyn Ravenscroft, sitting and waiting for his father’s ghost like that pathetic blanket-carrying kid in the pumpkin patch in that old-fashioned animation Chuckie and Cassandra had forced him to watch.

Of course, that was supposing a prankster good enough to cross Ravenscroft wards for a lark. And if it wasn’t a lark, but an old enemy setting him up for ambush? He bared his teeth in a smile. They’d better hope they were as good at combat magic as they were at ward-breaking, or he would incinerate them. And if it weren’t a prankster, he wanted to know if the spirit of his father walked in this world once again. No matter Mother Crone’s assurances, such a thing felt too dangerous to ignore.

He checked his watch again. A minute past midnight. He’d give it five more minutes, and then he’d go home and warm his frozen blood with some nice mulled wine, and leave ghosts and spirits and such to the Craft. He got to his feet, pacing to warm up, ready to call it a night—

A sense of damp chill washed over him, noticeable even in the cold of the night. It brought with it something else, something like a memory made real, fear and awe in equal parts, tinged with the sort of helpless rage only a child knows.  Feelings he hadn’t known since Guardians killed his father at the end of the Mage Wars when Raven was just a boy.

Corwyn. The single silent word sounded in his mind.

Raven tilted his chin up. “I go by Raven now.”

Yes, I know. How very Bohemian of you. At least you’re not running around in torn jeans and a rock band t-shirt. I suppose I should be grateful for that.

He wished he had the forethought to borrow a tie-dye t-shirt from the nanny. “I’m not afraid of you.”

I should hope not. I would hate to think I sired a son who was afraid of ghosts. Besides, I know how powerful you are in your own right. More powerful, I think, than I was when I was alive.

“Yes, GII has been very happy to have me as a consultant.” His tone was a challenge.

If you seek to shock me, you’ll have to do better. I know all about your dabbling. And your marriage to the Greensdowne girl. Tell me, how does she reconcile the fact that she is lying down with the son of her parents’ killer.

His father meant it as a barb; Raven refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing it draw blood. “It’s not an issue. She knows I am nothing like you.”

Oh, you were once, though.

“A mistake I have paid for.” And was still paying, would continue to pay. He could never complete wash the blood from his conscience, but he would do what he could to overlay it with something better.

“Why have you come? And how? And how do you know so much about my life?” A shudder ran through him as he thought of the dark mage his father lurking invisible, watching him, watching Cassandra, watching Ransley.

The impression of an ironic chuckle rippled across his mind. I thought you weren’t afraid of me. A pause, during which Raven could practically feel the weight of his father’s dark amusement. But no, death is not like that. I cannot hover over you and your family.

“What is it like, then?” Raven gave into the age-old curiosity.

A long pause. I think, somehow, it may be a little different for everyone who experiences it.  For me, it has been like a long, deep sleep. Sometimes I move closer to wakefulness,  something-or-other enters my consciousness, even as a sleeper may overhear and remember snatches of conversation, or incorporate them into the dream. I know of your wife, your son. I know that William had been your master, that you killed him, and that you buried him in this cemetery. That was well done, by the way. The poor boy had no peace in his life, so it’s fitting if he can find some in death.

It startled him to realize that anyone could think of William as a poor boy, but the most powerful dark mage of recent times would have been only a teenager at the time Raven’s father died.

What his father did to him, let be done to him, was unspeakable.

Raven closed his eyes. “I know. He told me some of it.”  It was a confidence Raven had never violated, no matter how many other ways he had betrayed his former master.

So at least you know I wasn’t the worst father in the world.

“If you wish to damn yourself with faint praise.” Apparently, he got his black sense of humor from his father, as well his power and his rather unfortunate nose. “So, you turning up here and now is, what? Post-mortem sleepwalking?”

Hardly. I had to draw together the last scraps of will left, the last vestiges of the power that used to run through me as sure and steady as the blood that ran in my veins.

“To what end?” Raven took a step back before he caught himself. His father’s plans seldom benefited anyone but his father.

Raven took a deep breath and steeled himself with the words Mother Crone had given him. No matter how evil his father was, he could not harm him, not physically, not anymore.

I have a feeling. . .I can’t explain it. But I think I will be leaving this, this wherever-and-whatever I drift in now. I don’t know what comes next, but I will be farther from this, from you. I don’t regret much of what I did in my life. We had a good run, the Blanchards and I and our followers. Most of the Three Communities can’t comprehend how close we came to winning, to bringing down the Joint Council and obliterating the Guardians. To setting up our own reign of dark magic. It would have been glorious.

The not-voice took the tone of a man recalling the fondest dreams of his youth. Raven shuddered.

“Do you regret killing my mother?” Raven asked. “Do you regret slitting her throat and letting her bleed out while you used the power of her stolen life to fuel your magic?”

No. No I do not.

The words came soft, quiet, matter-of-fact, and they sliced through Raven’s soul like a blade of ice. He found himself shaking, and hated that he showed such weakness before the ghost of the man he so despised.

I do regret that I let you find her body. I hoped that it would teach you the futility of love and the power of darkness, but instead it turned you further against me.

“Did you ever love her?” He hated the vulnerability of the question, but this was his last chance to get the answers that had been missing from his life.

No. Simple, and without hesitation. I have never had need of such frivolous emotion. I believe she loved me once. She was younger than I and very foolish.

Raven remembered how his relationship with Cassandra had started, and flinched. She had forgiven him, but he wasn’t certain he could ever forgive himself.

“So why are we hear, then?”

I’m not certain. It just felt necessary, to see my son once as an adult. I know you don’t think I could be proud of you, but I am. You grew into a powerful mage, far surpassing me in my prime. You are continuing the Ravenscroft line and its legacy of scholarship in the Art. A susurration that might have been a rueful laugh if it had come from a living person. You are continuing it in a direction I would have neither anticipated nor approved of, but maybe that is for the best. The times have changed, and adaption is survival.

“I can’t forgive you.”

I didn’t expect that you would. The voice in his mind grew fainter. Fare well, my son.

Raven suddenly found his throat too think to get words out, which was fine, because he didn’t know what words he would have chosen.  Fare well? Rest in peace? He wasn’t sure he could wish his father peace. But he didn’t feel as ready as he had been to tell him to burn in hell, either.

And then the presence was gone, and it was too late. He finally had answers, but they only led to more questions. What had made his father what he was? Was he a natural-born sociopath or had something happened to turn him into the unfeeling monster who had haunted some of Raven’s earliest nightmares? Or some combination of nature and nurture?

He shook himself and turned toward home. The past was done, and, as his father had said, the Ravenscroft family had a path forward that no one could have foreseen back when his father had met his end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New release and great deals!

Greetings, readers!
I hope you all are having a fabulous summer!
First of all, apologies for not having the next Werewolves and Gaslight Mystery out to you. The year started off a bit rough with some minor but inconvenient health issues.
Then this spring came a far bigger blow. Mary Rosenblum, my editor, mentor, and friend died in a plane crash. Mary was piloting the Piper and was the only one in the plane. She was an expert and enthusiastic amateur pilot and the Oregon aviation community is as devastated as is the writing community. While there is no replacing Mary, I have finally come up with an arrangement for editing that I hope will allow me to move forward and do honor to her legacy. Until I work through the new plan with at least one novel, it’s hard for me to estimate a publication date for Moon Over London, but be assured that I have not abandoned the project. I am hoping for a Fall release.
Since I realized that it was going to take me longer than I hoped to get another steampunk Victorian detective novel for you, I decided to release a stand-alone medieval fantasy. The manuscript for Brother to the Wolf dates back to my days of traditional publishing. It never found a home then, and when I went indie I focused on my series. But I knew that Brother out to you a lot sooner since the manuscript was already complete and had gone through content-editing.
I’m happy to announce that Brother is now out in both Kindle and trade paperback. Order it now on Amazon! It’s .99 for a limited time, https://www.amazon.com/Brother-Wolf-Shawna-Reppert-ebook/dp/B07DHBGYP8/

Read down to the bottom of this newsletter for a little teaser!

But first, as always, I like to give my readers a little heads-up on good deals on good reads.

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One
Worth’s normally placid dun mare snorted in alarm and pulled back, wrenching his shoulder and nearly jerking the leather lead from his hand.
“Stag damn it.” Alf Smithson dropped the hoof rasp as he jumped back from the suddenly panicked animal. Alf’s face was red with anger and exertion, clashing with the rust of his beard. “Thought you were holding her, m’lord.”
Alf only called Worth m’lord when he was upset with him.
“Alf, look.” Worth pointed to the east, over the gray stone walls of his father’s manor.
A column of black smoke rose on the horizon in the direction of their friend’s small holding. It was not the right season for field burning.
“Brun,” Alf said.
The wind shifted, coming now from the east. The acrid smoke the mare had sensed stung Worth’s nose.
He grabbed the mare’s bridle from its hook and slipped it on over her halter. Then he vaulted onto her back—no time for a saddle. The mare raised her head and stiffened; she was not accustomed to being ridden bareback.
Worth looked back at Alf. His friend, a commoner, had never learned to ride.
“Go,” Alf said. “I’ll catch up as I can.”
Worth put heels to the mare’s side, sending her eastward along the wide cart track that went uphill between his father’s hay fields. She pinned her ears, nervous about the smoke and unhappy to be going toward it.
Please don’t buck. He hadn’t ridden without a saddle in years.
The mare broke into a reluctant, but obedient canter—Yes, thank you—and then a lumbering gallop. She was a good Seax horse, bred as much for farm work as for riding. Please, just this once, find some speed. The ground was uneven. The mare stumbled, and Worth slipped. He grabbed mane, and righted himself. He was a decent enough rider, but nothing like a Vainqueur knight who was born to ride—and to kill.
The smoke could only mean a few things, and none of them good. Let it not be Vainqueur. Anything but Vainqueur.
They crested the hill. Too late.
Brun’s small wattle-and-daub cottage was a blackened ghost within the angry flames. The fire popped, hissed, crackled. Worth himself had helped his friend thatch the roof just before Brun brought his bride home from the neighboring holdings. He’d helped with the barn, as well, and that, too, was ablaze. As Worth watched, the hungry fire lapped its tongues at the apple tree beside, catching, devouring.
The chicken coop was down to embers and the stench of burned flesh and feathers battled with the choking harshness of the smoke.
In the barnyard, Brun’s bonnie bride stood pale and stunned, clutching their wailing son, keeping him from under the feet of wheeling, wild-eyed war horses.
The knight in charge rode a great black stallion. Broad-shouldered and clean-shaven and arrogant as any Vainqueur knight, but distinguished by his pale blonde hair, so unusual in a Vainqueur. Sir Gareth of Beaufort, the Baron’s hound.
With a shout like the war cry of a Seax chieftain of old, Worth’s friend came at the run from the far field where he’d been laboring. No, Brun, don’t! But Worth was too far to stop the burly peasant from grabbing the black courser’s reins, to stop him from drawing the short blade he wore at his belt for cutting the binding for sheaves.
Sir Gareth’s sword cut a glistening arc in the sunshine, cleaving Brun’s head from his body. Worth screamed wordlessly as he saw his childhood friend fall.
His mare took him closer to the conflict. Had he sent her forward? He reined her in just short of his fallen friend, close enough to meet the knight’s cold gaze. As well as the fair hair, Gareth had blue eyes inherited from his mother who had been a Seax noble’s daughter. But the knight’s eyes were cold, hard, unlike any Seax Worth knew.
Grief and rage burned through Worth like the fire consuming his friend’s farm. He put a hand to his belt. No sword. He’d been working in the stable, for Stag’s sake. His sword still hung in his father’s hall.
Worth’s ancestors had pulled back from the battle and allowed the Vainqueur to take Seaxland, and now he himself couldn’t defend one poor peasant.
Every muscle in his body tensed for battle, ready to launch himself from his horse and go after the knight with his bare hands.
The knight must have read the intention in his eyes. “Don’t do it, Seax. I’d rather not kill a lord’s son, even a Seax lord’s son, but I will if I have to, and the baron will not censure me for it.”
True enough. Though the truth only fueled his anger, that anger now was wrapped in iron chains of helplessness.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. The baron’s orders were to take the crop and burn the barn and cottage—the man was two quarters behind on the rents, for God’s sake. I would not have killed him, had he not come after me.”
Damn Brun and his pride. Why did he not ask for help? Why did I not see that he needed it?
“And you think it more merciful to turn him out to starve?”
Sir Gareth looked past Worth. “That’s no concern of mine. My duty is to obey my baron, and through him, the regent, and my prince.”
Worth spat on the ground to show what he thought of Gareth’s baron, his regent, his bloody prince.
The knight’s eyes narrowed at the insult. Men had been flogged for less.
So tempting to jump the knight. He’d gone this far, why not finish it? The wailing of Brun’s widow tore his soul.
Worth had stood up for Brun, on Brun’s wedding day. His friend had been so nervous and so proud as the priest had wed them in the eyes of the One God and later, more secretly, before the Stag.
“Don’t do it,” the knight repeated, and though Gareth was better armed, Worth thought he heard more entreaty than command. “You’ll do your friend no good and leave your father without an heir. You know this.”
Worth did know this, but the hot surge of his temper argued against reason.
“Take his woman and the child back with you to your father’s hall. Lord Tilton is generous; you know he’ll find a place for them.”
It was true, and it was sense, and damn but he hated following the knight’s orders. Still he slid from his mare and crossed the hoof-torn barnyard to Avis and poor young Barth, fatherless now at age five. If he had Brun’s unthinking courage, he might have gotten in at least a few blows against the knight before he himself was slain.
If Brun had had his – sense? cowardice? Was there a difference? If Brun had been more like Worth, then he would have lived, and had a place working Worth’s father’s fields, as he had when he was young.
Perhaps his proud friend would rather be dead than give up on the dream of his own holdings. Worth knew what Avis would have chosen.
#
Sir Gareth looked over the fruits of his day’s labors without satisfaction, but without shame, either. The burning of the farm buildings was wasteful, but dramatic, and had been according to the baron’s orders. Aimery felt such a display was more effective in keeping the Seax cowed and therefore controllable.
Gareth would not serve his own position if he started questioning the baron’s orders. He had his own lands and his own people to think of. Without the stipend due him for his service to the baron, he’d not be able to pay his own taxes and the debts his father had left on the land.
With Seax in his bloodlines and his Seax coloring, he had a hard enough time gaining the respect of his Vainqueur peers. He only pretended not to hear the whispers about the timing of his birth, that it came too close to the date of his parents’ marriage for him to have been gotten on the right side of the sheets.
“Sir,” one of his men called. “Should we throw the peasant’s body on the fires?”
Gareth reined Stalwart back; the horse mouthed the bit. “Leave it for the Seax to deal with. We’re done here.”
Brun Woodsby had been a fool, but he had also been friend to Lord Tilton’s son, and there was no sense aggravating Tilton.
Gareth’s eyes fell upon the headless body of the Seax he had slain. The utter lack of emotion he felt might make him a bad son of the Church, or a good knight. If the Seax had kept his temper, Gareth wouldn’t have taken his head.
He refused to end up like Sir Ralf.
Ralf had gone without sufficient reinforcements to serve an eviction on a Seax tenant. The man and his five sons had gutted him and strung him up like a hog. Gareth had been the one to cut him down and to bring the body back to the man’s young widow. He swore then never to let sympathy for a Seax peasant make him relax his guard.
If Woodsby couldn’t make the rents, he didn’t deserve to be a freeholder. He should have gone back to service with Tilton and let his woman work in Tilton’s household. Perhaps the woman and the brat were better off without him. Though by the woman’s ceaseless wailing, Woodsby’s wife wouldn’t agree.
He rode out of the barnyard and turned Stalwart south along the road, heading back to the baron’s castle. Dark clouds gathered on the horizon. With luck, he might make it back before the storm set in.
He glanced once over his shoulder. To the north beyond the horizon lay his own estate, a long day’s ride from the baron’s castle.
He hoped that his servants had finished bringing in the first cutting of hay. The rain would ruin it otherwise, and he needed the fodder to keep his mares fed through the winter. He already had a few of next year’s foals sold on promise, but if he had to buy fodder from a neighbor, it would be a tight squeeze to pay his own duties to the crown.
#
Worth sighted down the arrow, held steady just a moment, and released the string. The arrow hit its target with a satisfying thunk. Worth pulled another arrow from the quiver, and nocked it, imagining Sir Gareth in place of the stacked straw at the far end of the field.
“Worth?”
Worth turned to his father. Lord Tilton’s blonde hair was dulled by gray, now, and years of worries and merriment both lined his face, but still Worth could see in his father the same man who stared out at him from the polished metal of the mirror. Worth still imagined his father as blonde as Worth was, though he knew the gray snuck in day by day, year by year. Hard to see age creeping up on the vital, strong man who had taught him the bow.
“Avis and the boy are settled in with her cousin. They’ll always have a place here, you know that.”
“I do.” Worth’s father was a Seax lord in the old style, as bound to his people as they were to them.
“I’m sorry about Brun.”
Worth nodded dumbly. Brun, like Alf, had been Worth’s friend from back before they were old enough to know what differences in rank meant. Worth’s mother had died in childbirth giving Tilton his first son and heir, and his father had not remarried. Brun and Alf were the closest thing to brothers Worth had ever known.
Worth turned back to the target, drew the bow, sent the arrow speeding again for the center of the target. “I’m going to kill him.”
“The baron? Don’t be foolish.” His father grabbed his arm as he reached for another arrow. “Worth, you won’t even get close enough before you’re caught and hung.”
“Sir Gareth.” Worth pulled free of his father’s hand.
In one fluid motion he pulled an arrow from his belt, nocked, drew, aimed, and shot. The arrow landed neatly between the first two.
“You don’t mean that.”
“Don’t I? If only I had taken the time to go for my sword. Sherard must be rolling in his grave.”
His father shook his head. “Your weapons master, I hope, would have told you a thing or two about picking your fights. Gareth’s just a pawn. Kill him, and there will be another to do the same job.”
“He didn’t have to kill Brun.”
“From what you told me, Brun attacked him.”
Worth shot his last arrow. “He didn’t have to kill him.”
“He’s a seasoned warrior. He was attacked, he’s not going to stop to think about how serious the threat is before responding. That kind of hesitation will get you killed in battle, as I hope you’ll never have to learn.”
Worth stalked down range to retrieve his arrows. His father fell in beside him.
“It wasn’t a battle,” Worth said. “Brun was just a farmer. Why are you trying to defend that murdering Vainqueur bastard?”
His father sighed. “Because I don’t want you to kill him.”
Worth tugged out an arrow. “Why?” Two arrows, three, four.
“Isn’t it enough that I am your father, and that I don’t want to lose you to a life of outlawry, or the hangman’s noose?”
“No,” Worth said. “Not when I sense that there is more to it than that.”
All twelve accounted for, all pulled from the very center of the target. He’d give Gareth as clean a death as the bastard had given Brun.
A hand on his shoulder. “I am your father. Can you not obey me out of love and duty?”
That almost got him. Almost.
“In any other thing, yes. But he killed Brun! You know we might as well have been brothers!”
As well as he knew his father, Worth still could not interpret the expression on his face at that exclamation.
“Come with me to my study,” his father said. “There is something we should talk of. Something I hoped never to tell any living soul. But maybe something I should have told you long ago.”
Worth followed his father back down the archery range, past the stables. They reached the stone manor Worth’s ancestors had built long before Vainqueur haunted Seax shores and Seax nightmares. At his father’s side, Worth climbed the stone steps worn smooth with the passing of generations of Tiltons, walked down the hall and into the study where he used to play as a child while his father worked on accounts. The hearth was cold—too warm today for a fire. Worth was glad for the small mercy; smoke still clung to his clothes. It would be a long time before he found fire to be cheering. From the tapestry above the hearth, the twelve-tined stag looked down on the room, the wolf of the Tilton arms lying at ease in the foreground. Where a Vainqueur might see only a hunting scene, Worth saw the Seax Lord of Forests.
He had felt the judgment in the stag’s eyes the day of his coming-of-age when his father brought him into this study, poured him a cup of strong red wine, and told him of his grandfather’s treachery, how he and other Seax nobles secretly negotiated a surrender to preserve their own titles and land.
Worth had sworn then, as had his father before him, to use the shamefully-kept title and position to aid, where they could, the Seax people their ancestor had failed.
His father’s eyes were just as shadowed now as they had been on that day years ago. Worth shivered despite the warmth of the day.
His father was not a drinking man, but he poured them each a full goblet of strong wine before beginning. Worth, following his father’s example, drank deeply. Vainqueur wine—dry, oaky, velvet in his mouth. Knowledge of decent wine-making was the only good the Vainqueur had ever brought to Seaxland. It came nowhere near to balancing the pain that came with them in their great ships.
Two chairs stood by the carved oak desk, polished with use and age, yet Worth and his father remained standing, staring into the black, empty hearth. Worth let his eyes fall on the tapestry, trying to find benevolence in the stag’s brown gaze, comfort in the wolf that reclined at its feet. Silence lay thick and heavy about them as his father stared into his cup as though it held the words he wanted to say.
“When I was young—a few years younger than you,” Worth’s father began. “A few years before I married your mother, I fell in love with the most beautiful maid I had ever seen. Her hair was like spun gold, and her eyes as blue as the summer sky. Her mother was a Seax, and from her she got her coloring. And her sweet disposition, for surely she had neither from her father, who was a Vainqueur knight of the worst sort.
“Her father opposed my suit, for I was a second son—Aurick, rest his soul, had not yet met with that fateful boar. And I was Seax, and while he had married one of us for the sake of her dowry, he thought to do better in auctioning off his own offspring.
“But still, she loved me. And though she was sweet, and kind, she was still on her mother’s side the daughter of Seax warriors, and strong-willed as the water that carves its path through rock.
“And so we wed in secret before the Stag, although not in the Church, which would have demanded her father’s sanction. And we consummated that marriage, beneath the full moon, on Beltane night.
“I was foolish, and headstrong, to put her at risk so. For even my own father did not know, and she still lived in her father’s house. I believed then that somehow, some way, we would find a way to be together.
“Looking back, I can’t believe how naïve I was. You, at that age, were already so practical, so responsible.”
“All because I had you to look up to,” Worth said automatically.
The tale was riveting, but why was his father bringing this up now? A strange foreboding lodged itself in his stomach.
“What happened?” Worth prompted.
Worth’s father took another drink from his cup. “She missed in her courses, the very next month. And the month after. She was forced to go to her father, and tell him what we had done.
“She hoped that he would bow to the inevitability, or that he might be softened by the prospect of a grandchild.
“Instead he found a Vainqueur lord with title and estate, but with deep debts that might be satisfied with a substantial dowry. That lord was willing to declare the child his, born early, in exchange.
“My Elanor was married in the Church against her will. And I dared not speak against it for fear of what Beaufort might do to her or the child.”
“Beaufort?” Worth’s mind fought the understanding dawning on him.
“Our child was born on Candlemas. Beaufort allowed her to give him a Seax name, I suspect because he planned to murder the child as soon as he got his own heir on my love. But ten months later she brought forth a stillborn, deformed child, and died in the bearing. His second wife did not conceive at all, and she, too, died young. Illness, the priests claimed, though there were rumors of poison, whether by Beaufort’s hand or her own. Beaufort was forced to raise Gareth as his heir.”
Worth drank deep of his wine, trying to assimilate all that his father had told him. It sounded more like a bard’s tale than anything that could have happened to his practical, responsible father. He ached for his father’s broken heart and for the fair Elanor who had died miserable in a loveless marriage. And the child—his half-brother!—who grew up in the house of a man who knew he was not his son.
For just a moment he let go his hatred of the man that boy had grown to.
His father sighed. “Beaufort and I have few friends in common, but still word travels, and bad word widest of all. I knew that Gareth, that my son, was made to pay for my indiscretion. And yet I could do nothing. I could not intervene without naming him bastard, and making his lot in life even worse.”
“But he was lawfully gotten. You were married!” Worth felt a surge of indignation for the man, enemy though he was.
“Before the Stag, but not before the Church. The Vainqueur law can, and would, refuse to acknowledge such a union. And Beaufort could deny my claim. Vainqueur word against Seax; who would win? But he resented raising a child not his own as his heir, and he took it out on Gareth.”
His father took a deep swallow, finished his wine, and poured more. Worth could understand why his father would not want to be entirely sober for this conversation.
“Perhaps I should have acted anyway. Perhaps I am a coward, for letting my own blood be raised by a man who might as well have been the devil himself.”
“Does Gareth know?” Worth had to ask, though he was not sure he wanted to know. Which answer would be the worst—that Gareth had known that he stared down his own brother over his bloodied sword, or that he did not?
“No. Elanor’s maid managed to get a letter to me. Elanor said she would not tell him, and begged me to keep the secret. She thought it could only bring harm to our child if the truth were known.”
Worth paced, stopped, turned. Emotions he could not name churned in him. He wanted his bow in his hands. He wanted a horse beneath him. He wanted a hawk on his wrist that he could cast to strike some hapless pigeon. He wanted to do something, anything, to not have to think about any of this.
But his father kept on talking. Worth listened, He had to know the whole of it.
His father took another drink from his cup. “Gareth must suspect, of course, that he is not Beaufort’s true son. He looks nothing like the man; and though that could be explained away by his mother’s line, there is the matter of the timing of his birth, and that Beaufort never seemed to show any signs of parental affection.”
“There have always been rumors that Gareth was a bastard,” Worth said carefully.
It had been laughed about in the taverns, alluded to in songs, and Worth had laughed along with the rest, not realizing the part that his own father might have played, and not realizing how much his father had heard of the cruel jibes aimed at his eldest son.
“I know. I have heard the jests, the songs. Have heard you singing one or the other of them, from time to time.”
Worth dropped his gaze, feeling a flush of shame on his cheeks. “I’m sorry, I—”
“You had no way to know.” His father refilled Worth’s cup. “The tavern tales were the least of it, I fear. Though I have been to the baron’s court seldom, I have been there often enough to see my son slighted, hear the things said not quite to his face, never enough to provoke an honorable challenge, but enough for him to know that he will never quite be accepted among the nobles, for all his title and his skill as a knight.
“I have seen my son suffer, and bear up under it with a grace that made me proud even as it broke my heart. I know Gareth is far from pure. I know the things he has done, under the baron’s orders. But I also know that he is not the monster he could have become, growing up as he did under Beaufort’s hand.”
Worth had to admit that Gareth was not the worst of his kind. The Seax who worked his fields and served in his household all defended him as a just and generous master, a welcome change from the late elder Beaufort. He torched homes and barns, killed, even, at the baron’s behest, but never outside the rule of law, unfair and one-sided as that law may be. He was not like Sir Brian.
Worth shuddered at the thought of how much worse things could be.
His father put a hand on Worth’s shoulder and squeezed. “Promise me. On your love for me as your father, on the blood we share, that you will not kill your brother, nor cause his death. Already, there is too much tragedy in the tale, and neither the Stag nor the Church condone fratricide.”
Worth hesitated, knowing the seriousness of such a vow. So much woven beneath the simple words. A long-lost brother he’d always longed for. An abandoned child left to grow up as best he could in a loveless house. The knight who cut down Worth’s best friend, who sat there on his horse, looking down on the body with less emotion than Worth felt for a chicken he might butcher and pluck for dinner.
His father’s eyes held pain and deep, bitter regret. It might well destroy the man to see one son kill the other.
“I swear it.”

Buy it on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Brother-Wolf-Shawna-Reppert-ebook/dp/B07DHBGYP8/

Holiday 2017 Newsletter

Feeling pretty seasonal at the moment listening to Whitethorn Crossing rehearse holiday carols and sipping hot, spiced cider laced with whiskey underneath light-up solstice ravens. (Yes, the ravens are my fault and yes, they started out as Halloween decorations.) Anyway, my friends will be occupied with making music for a while, so it felt like a good time to write my holiday newsletter.

I’ve been working hard at getting the next in the Werewolves and Gaslight Mysteries series done. My stretch goal is to have it out for you by late Spring. For those of you he missed the Here Be Magic multi-author boxed set, the novella Raven’s Song will be available as a stand-alone as soon as the cover artist gets me the cover. (We’re tentatively talking February.)

The website www.Shawna-Reppert.com has been given a small facelift. Under the Ravensblood tab there is now a page title Ravensblood Miscellany were you will find links to vignettes, letters, etc., written in that universe, sometimes as guest blogs on other sites.

Meanwhile, in keeping with my tradition of holiday gifts for my readers. I am giving away a two-pack of flash (short-short) fiction in the Ravensblood universe. Duet for Ravens is available through instafreebie at https://instafreebie.com/free/YRQtt  It will ask you to sign up for the newsletter, but don’t worry. You can ‘sign up’ even if you’re already on the list, and the list automatically filters so you won’t get two newsletters to the same email address.

Also, for those of you who have not yet read Ravensblood, the Kindle version will be free on Amazon from solstice through Christmas (12/21 through 12/25). If you already have Ravensblood, this is a great opportunity to introduce your friends to the series. Remember that good word-of-mouth is the best gift you can give a writer!

Finally, because I love to search out bargains for readers, here is another multi-author bonanza featuring free science fiction and fantasy fiction plus a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift certificate! http://sffbookbonanza.com/free-books-dec-2017/ The bonanza is officially over on 12/17, but the links will be active through the end of the month.

Stay warm, enjoy lots of good food and drink, and if you have a holiday this time of year, may it be a merry one!

P.S. for local (Portland, OR) folks: The awesome new Celtic/classical fusion band Whitethorn Crossing will be playing carols at the Pittock Mansion from 2-4 P.M. on 12/17 and 12/27. The mansion will be decorated beautifully for the holidays and music is free with admission. The band includes Mike and Julie Zamudio, who locals may have heard playing my book launch parties. https://www.facebook.com/events/132627114104715/

Orycon Shedule and Special

Schedule for Shawna Reppert
Orycon 39
Moderator is in bold

 I will also be at the NIWA Meet -and-Greet on Saturday at 11 AM and will drop in at the NIWA party Saturday night. There will be signed copies of my books for sale at the NIWA table in the dealer’s room. Hope to see you there! (For those who can’t go to the con, or even if you can, check out Amazon for a week-long  $.99 sale on the Ravensblood boxed set beginning 11/16 at 8 AM Pacific!
Short Stories that Promote Your Work Pendleton Fri Nov 17 12:00pm-1:00pm Some authors write short stories to promote their work by introducing their setting, a backstory for a character, or some other device. What works and doesn’t work, and how to develop short story ideas that will entice readers to the rest of your books while maintaining enough of a standalone feeling to attract editors that acquire short fiction. Shawna Reppert, David Levine, Elton Elliott, Ann Gimpel, Mary Rosenblum
Endings: Cuddling with the Reader Pendleton Fri Nov 17 3:00pm-4:00pm You’ve just blown your reader’s mind with your story’s climax. Make sure they’ll come back for more–give them a good denouement! Irene Radford, Dale Ivan Smith, Esther Jones, Ann Gimpel, Leigh Goodison, Shawna Reppert
Fantasy as Political Allegory Pendleton Fri Nov 17 9:00pm-10:00pm We live in “interesting times” for sure. How does the Fantasy genre speak to current events? The Vorkosigan series, The Others series by Anne Bishop, and the Discworld books of course. What else? K.G. (Karen) Anderson, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Craig English, Shawna Reppert
Backstory: Too Much, Too Little, Just Right Pendleton Sat Nov 18 4:00pm-5:00pm What to use, what to lose, and how to deliver a great backstory without losing the readers that want to read about the here and now right now. Shawna Reppert, Kristin Landon, Mary Rosenblum, Randy Henderson, Sheila Finch
Ghost in the Vegan Bar Lion Kings Den – 266 Sat Nov 18 8:00pm-9:00pm The Pacific Northwest is known for our haunted spots. Where are they? What are their stories? Where is the “proof”? Tori Centanni, Shawna Reppert, K. M. Alexander
How to Write a Series Pendleton Sun Nov 19 12:00pm-1:00pm Where to start, and how long of a series you can (or should?) write. How to make it interesting, different, and hopefully successful, and stay in love with it. John A Pitts, Randy Henderson, David Levine, Shawna Reppert, Sheila Simonson, Dean Wells

Samhain Greetings from Samhain-kitty

Samhain-kitty hopes everyone is enjoying 'her" holiday.

Posted by Shawna Reppert on Dienstag, 31. Oktober 2017

Greetings, neglected readers, from a fellow-sufferer. Would you believe that writer-person went out to hear Irish music and left me all alone on *my* holiday? So I guess it falls to me to call your attention to a cool list of spooky seasonal books in the fantasy, steampunk and paranormal genres, plus a chance to win e-books, print books, and a $70 Amazon gift certificate. Check it out!

http://herebemagic.blogspot.com/2017/10/here-be-magic-authors-talk-halloween.html

Also, while you’ve got your spooky on, I have to admit A Hunt by Moonlight, writer-person’s dark and atmospheric gaslamp fantasy, isn’t bad. Not enough felis catus and too much canis lupus, IMHO, but it’s otherwise a good start to her Werewolves and Gaslight Mysteries. (Don’t tell her I said so)

 

Early September update

The book launch machine is rolling steadily onward. Raven’s Vow is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The special .99 introductory price is only going to last through the first week after release, so don’t forget to buy early and tell your friends! I’m still waiting for the print-version cover, but we should still be on target to have print books available for the official release date of 9/23.

Speaking of the release, we have a great book release party planned, and everyone’s invited. Food once again by the amazing Ebon Morse, the culinary artist responsible for the Victorian tea that launched A Hunt by Moonlight. Irish trad/classical fusion music by Mike and Julie Zamudio of Otter Crossing, possibly with a few extra guests. An even better raffle for door prizes. 4-6 pm on 9/23, 8125 SW Spruce Street, Tigard. No cover. Bring a friend or two.

Wherever you are, you can be part of the release by joining the Thunderclap campaign. Thunderclap is a free and easy way to support a writer. Simply follow the link by 9/22 and, with a few short clicks, you can arrange to have this promo post go out on your Twitter, Facebook, and/or Tumblr feed on 9/23 (“New release in an award-winning urban fantasy series! Take advantage of .99 intro pricing. http://thndr.me/H8ggfg”) Early word-of-mouth is key to a novel’s success, so please take a moment to help.

For those who want to read a little Ravensblood backstory while you wait, Duet for Ravens, a two-pack of short prequels, is available for free over at Instafreebie. Since it also includes teaser chapters for Ravensblood, it wouldn’t be a bad way to introduce friends to the series.

In other news, I am September’s Featured author on the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association website. In the brief article, I talk a little bit about writing Raven’s Vow. Samhain-kitty took over my blog post for the month at Here Be Magic. And, lest my other work be eclipsed by the Raven’s Vow excitement, let me just say that I am very pleased and proud that A Hunt By Moonlight won a silver medal for historical fantasy in the Global Ebook Awards.

Shawna’s Novel News– Free Books Edition

First of all, I would like to apologize to my readers who have been waiting patiently (or not-so-patiently) for the next book in one or both series. While I try my best to not let the non-writing parts of my life to interfere with the writing parts, sometimes life gets the better of me. The good news is that Raven’s Vow is off to my beta reader (best-selling author R. L. King) and, after another round of revision, will be off to the editor. The cover artist is hard at work and I’m excited to see what she comes up with. I’m hoping now for a late August/early September release.

Meanwhile, I’ve started work on the yet-unnamed second book in the Werewolves and Gaslight Mysteries. More dark happenings on the streets of Victorian London! And for those of you who didn’t read The Beast Within in the Gears and Levers 2 anthology, I released it recently as a stand-alone. This short story was the very beginning of the Werewolves and Gaslight universe. If you were curious about how Richard and Catherine got together, this story is for you! You can buy it on Amazon or, through June only, you can claim it for free from Instafreebie.

Speaking of Instafreebie, right now over a bunch of great authors have banded together to create the SFF Bonanza! Over 100 science fiction and fantasy books to choose, absolutely free (The author of the works you choose may request or require you to sign up for their newsletter.) Hopefully you can find some things you like that will keep you busy until Raven’s Vow comes out!

 

instafreebie promo graphic

Ad Hoc Q&A

@ShadowhunterBooks posed some questions to me this weekend via Twitter that I knew I couldn’t answer in 140 characters, so I decided it was timer to return to much much-neglected blog.

 
The first question was whether witches existed in my Ravensblood series and how they differed from mages. Witches, AKA Wiccans, do exist in the alternate-universe world I’ve created for that urban fantasy series. Those familiar with the series will recall that I have imagined three coexisting and co-mingling communities: Art, Craft, and Mundane. Mundanes have either no aptitude for or interest in magic. Art is High Magic, magic for magic’s sake, and tends to be flashier and in some senses more powerful, and its practitioners are mages. Craft encompasses more spiritual, often more nature-based magical traditions. Craft would include Wiccans, shamanic practitioners, and (more rarely) certain more mystical sects of Judeo-Christian and Muslim traditions. Mother Crone is a Wiccan, and she and other Craft practitioners helped hide Raven while he was clearing his name during the second book of the series. Art and Craft seldom mix, although there have been instances of the two being blended, and we will see that happen again in later books in the series.

 
@ShadowhunterBooks also asked for advice on how to incorporated magical beings and pirates into fiction written in a contemporary setting. You see a lot of examples of different approaches to adding in magical beings in urban fantasy and paranormal novels. It’s really not too tricky. You just need to decide what the parameters are during your world-building stage and make certain that you stay consistent. Some questions to ask yourself: Are your magical beings widely known to exist, or are most humans completely unaware? If the former, is this a recent development (as in Charlaine Harris’s vampire novels), or have people always known (as in my Werewolves and Gaslight series—okay, Victorian and not contemporary but the same principle)? Each choice you make has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Pirates are a bit trickier. I’m assuming you want romantic, swashbuckling pirates a la Errol Flynn or Johnny Depp, not modern Somali cutthroats. Since the swashbuckler is so necessarily tied to a certain era and technology level, you have your work cut out for you. Some possibilities that spring to mind: Time-travel of one form or another? Ghost pirates that exist to modern-day? Maybe members of a theatrical troupe that are magically turned into their roles? Immortal former swashbucklers now playing a pirate role at a Renn Faire? Beings from another world or dimension that have a pirate obsession and take cosplay too far?

I’m curious to see what @ShadowhunterBooks comes up with. I do love my pirates.

Yuletide greetings and a Gift

Greetings, all!

 

Joyous Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah—whatever you celebrate, have a good one.

It’s been a little less than half a year since I dig a blog post (confession time: I forgot my password). In that time, A Hunt by Moonlight (first novel in the new Werewolves and Gaslight series) spent some time in the top 100 for steampunk on Amazon, We Don’t Serve Your Kind (an old release, but one of my favorites) hit the #2 spot for science fiction and fantasy short reads during a special promotion week, and Ravensblood spent some time in the Featured Author section at Powell’s City of Books.

I’ve been working on the latest book in the Ravensblood universe. I’m a bit behind due to some Real World challenges, but hopefully you can look for Raven’s Vow sometime this spring and the next Werewolves and Gaslight book in the autumn.

Meantime, for any of you who have not yet picked up Ravensblood for Kindle, it’s free on Amazon from now through Christmas. Raven’s Wing and Raven’s Heart are on sale for .99 during that period. Tell all your friends!

New Series; More Awards!

The biggest news is that A Hunt by Moonlight, the first book in my Werewolves and Gaslight mystery series witl be available on Amazon on August 27.  Preorder now!

About the book:

Something more deadly than werewolves is stalking the gaslit streets of London. Inspector Royston Jones, unacknowledged bastard of a high-born family, is determined to track the killer before more young women fall to his knife. But his investigation puts him in the way of a lord who is a clandestine werewolf and the man’s fiancée , a woman alchemist with attitude and a secret of her own. Will they destroy Royston to protect their covert identities, or will they join with him to hunt the hunter?

 

Book Launch Party!

For local fans, or anyone in the mood for a road trip, there will be a Victorian Tea and Book Launch.

There will be live music by Otter Crossing Music and refreshments catered by the amazing Ebon Morse. I will be reading from the new novel and signing any of my books. (There will, of course, be books for sale!) No cover. (There will be  an extra teapot for strictly optional cash donations to cover food costs.)

Free raffle for door prizes.

Period costumes admired but not required!

I would love to see you there!

 

Join the Thunderclap to support the launch!

 

OK, this has got to be the easiest, most painless way ever to support an author, but it can make *such* a difference! I’m sure most of you have heard me prattling on about my upcoming release.

A Hunt by Moonlight is the first novel of my new Werewolves and Gaslight mystery series. My first series (the ongoing Ravensblood urban fantasy series) and my two stand-alone novels have won awards and gotten great reviews and slowly increasing sales, but my editor thinks A Hunt By Moonlight could be my breakout novel. . .if I can get those all-important early sales.

No money involved, and you don’t even have to write your own tweet or remember when to post it! Sign up, and on release day Thunderclap will send out the tweet, Facebook and/or Tumblr message for you.

The catch is, Thunderclap won’t send out any tweets at all unless at least 100 people sign up. Please consider giving this novel a howl of support!

Just click below any time between now and launch day to

Support the Thunderclap!

Raffle for Launch-day purchasers!

Since first-day sales are so important to Amazon rankings, I am running a special raffle for people who purchase through Amazon on launch day(8/27) (or who have pre-ordered). Simply send me a screen capture of your Amazon purchase (or, if you prefer, forward your purchase confirmation email) to mail(at)ShawnaReppert.com

 

Winner will receive his/her choice of a signed copy of any of my novels except The Stolen Luck (because that one is not available in paperback. Although it you would prefer that one in Kindle or audio format, I can do that, too. I’m flexible.)

 

Void where prohibited; will ship within the US only unless winner agrees to pay shipping costs.

 

Global Ebook Award success!!!

My other bit of news, second only to the launch of the new series:  I am pleased and proud to announce that Raven’s Heart won a gold medal in the Global Ebook awards in the category of contemporary fantasy and Where Light Meets Shadow won a silver!