Five Things I Learned Writing My First Novel (and what you should avoid!)

Did you know roughly 80% of Americans aspire to write a book? Also, that most (some disparagingly high percent I won’t bore you with) of them–like millions of people–will never write the book burning in their hearts. While that number is high and surprised me when I first heard it, the stat that most people never end up writing that novel did not. Why?

Because writing a book is damn hard.

Did you know roughly 80% of Americans aspire to write a book? Also, that most (some disparagingly high percent I won’t bore you with) of them–like millions of people–will never write the book burning in their hearts. While that number is high and surprised me when I first heard it, the stat that most people never end up writing that novel did not. Why?

Because writing a book is damn hard.

And, in my opinion, writing your first book is the hardest of them all. The inertia of writing the first book, which is usually not so great compared the subsequent ones (especially after the first draft), is difficult to overcome and most people simply can’t/won’t/don’t want to do it.

Fair enough. There are lots of things I can’t/won’t/don’t want to do in my life, but writing books is not one of them! Still, I honestly think more people can write that book burning in their hearts if they simply prepared themselves for the realities of what writing a book means. Hint: Not usually romantic days at the coffee shop, occasionally staring out the window, and then typing out gold. Though, good grief I wish it was!

As I’m currently writing my seventh novel (three of which are in current stages of drafts), I feel like I finally have enough perspective to communicate what I learned writing my first. Some of these tips, specifically the last three, may be more suited to an indie author, but I think they’re all valuable. So, here it goes!

  1. It will take WAY longer than you think to write that novel. Like exponentially longer. This is one of the hallmarks that makes a first book stand out from the ones that come after. And the reason why it takes longer is simple:

You are learning gobs about writing a book by actually doing it.

This is the best way to learn (IMO) but takes so damn long. And can be very disheartening. Especially, when you get to the end of your first draft, which probably took years, and realize it’s not very good (there may be some exceptions to this, but I haven’t met any).

Just know, you’re in good company there and that most of the writing is actually editing anyhow. Once you start editing that sucker you can make it better, what you want it to be, what you dreamt it would be. But it won’t just spring into existence like that, especially not in a weeks time, or hell even a few month’s time!

If you think writing is for you just know now, you must be patient with yourself.

2) Not everyone’s an expert. 

Once you have that first draft done and have gone through it a few times it’s time to find some beta readers!

SIDE NOTE: PLEASE never ask anyone to beta read your first (Hell, even your second draft, unless you’re doing a beta swap). Like I said, the first draft of your first novel probably isn’t very good, and I consider it disrespectful to ask someone to put in their time reading something that the author has barely edited. If you do this, be prepared for those who offered their time not to finish reading your work.

Now that that’s out of the way!

Finding beta readers can be fun, and a lot of people can be a pleasure to work with and learn from, but there’s always two sides to every coin. For Prophecy of Three, my debut novel I had about 15 beta readers. I felt having so many opinions could only help me make it as good as it could be.

Man, was I wrong.

Yes, a lot of readers had great input and I took their advice into consideration and I believe it made the book better. But some people–some people–let me tell you, they just want to hear themselves talk. These are often the people who are the harshest (not constructive, just cruel-which I’ve been lucky to avoid for the most part), or say the exact opposite of what others say. However, in my opinion, the worst beta readers to have are people who do not understand or enjoy the genre you are writing.

For example, one time I had a beta reader continually comment on the lack of romance in a novella I was tinkering with. Then, when it got to the end and hinted at a romance said the novella should have started there, at the very end. But my novella wasn’t about the romance, it was about one woman’s journey through a tough time . . . the romance would come later and I wasn’t really interested in that. This woman, as you may guess, is a romance writer, whereas I am a fantasy/paranormal writer who dabbles in romance from time to time. My work is not about romance, nor did I tell her it was (that’s another thing, be clear to your beta readers what they are signing up for!). Her expectations were unrealistic and therefore I had to discount much of what she said. Not a win-win for either of us. I feel like if I was a newer writer and less confident in my ability I would have taken all her advice to heart along with my other beta readers good advice and been very confused. Side note: Every other beta reader understood the story as a non-romance and liked it, so I don’t feel like discounting her opinion is out of line in the slightest.

Be clear about what you’re writing (stick to 1-2 genres when describing), find beta readers in your genre, and don’t give them your crappy first draft.

3) Your novel is not a multi-cross genre novel, and if it is, there’s probably a problem. 

I see this ALL THE TIME, and I DID IT TOO. 😉 We write our first novel and think there are so many unique elements of all the genres we’re ever read. It’s fantasy-sci-f-historical fiction-womens adventure-AND-crime thriller all wrapped into one. It will appease all audiences! It will sell!

Nope.

You’re just going to confuse a hell of a lot of people. Also, if you’re considering indie publishing this is terrible for your marketing. Probably it isn’t great for pitching agents focused on traditional publishing either. Like I said, too confusing, and people don’t want to be confused when they read a book. They want to be swept away! Entertained! Immersed in a different life! Learn something (non-fic). Not think: What the hell was that I just read?

Let’s put it this way, you’re trying to please everyone with one mega-book. But it will never work (maybe if the book is a million pages long but whose going to read that?!). Instead of trying to please everyone, please a niche you love.

So, instead of putting all your amazing ideas into one book, probably making it harder on yourself, why don’t you just pick a few? A few ideas that fit nicely within the parameters of 1-2 genres and go from there?

You’ll have a much easier time finding an audience and that’s a major key to a writers success.

4) Keep your expectations low and you’ll be much happier with your results.

Of course, everyone, and I do mean everyone, wants that spectacular, best-selling debut novel. And because everyone wants this novel and the experience that comes along with it, that means it is very unlikely you (or I-oh wait this already wasn’t my experience!)  will be the one to get it.

I believe the lightening-strike, millionaire-making debut thinking is even more prevalent in the traditional publishing community. Which is unfortunate, since the fact is that most debut novelists in the traditional publishing industry do not even earn out their advance, let alone become a bestseller.

At least in indie (independent author) community, there’re subcultures such as the 20 books to 50K community, where the numbers tend to think of their writing career as a marathon, not a sprint. Something to build over time through hard work, learning from each experience, and growing with your craft. This is the belief I subscribe to as well.

In fact, I did not want my first novel to be the best thing I’ve ever written, the thing people knew me for, the shining star in my career. Because after that the only way to go is down and I figured it would be pretty anti-climactic and sad to peek before I knew what the hell I was really doing. To be honest, as I was nearing the end of my drafting of Prophecy of Three the idea of keeping my expectations low for my first book launch seriously saved my mental health when I actually launched the book.

I’m not saying my book flopped. It still sells, and will continue to sell; I hope even more so when I begin to experiment with paid advertising. It’s a good book, and I know it. But it’s probably not the best book I’ve ever written or will right. And that’s OK because I was prepared to grow with every book, and not have a mega best seller the first time around. I didn’t expect miracles to happen or hordes of crazy fans to come out and buy it or to make it on the Today Show. I expected to sell my book for years to come, fulfill a lifelong goal, and launch myself into a new career.

And, if you want a healthy author career that spans years, perhaps even decades, I suggest you think of your career as a marathon and not a sprint as well.

5) Probably one of the most important things I learned from publishing my first book and the thing I wish I’d done more of, was to give away as many books as possible to strangers.

Yes, I know, you (and I) spent years working on this one project. Shouldn’t we be paid for it? The answer, of course, is yes. Artists should be paid for their work. We should not be expected to entertain people for free just as starlets are not expected to star in movies for free and athletes are not expected to play in arenas for entertainment, while the team owner reaps all the financial benefits. But seriously, that post for another day. And while I believe we should be paid for our work, I also believe that as a new author, on your first, second, or even third book (depending on your specific scenario), it’s in your best interest to get your book into as many hands as possible. Get as many eyeballs on it without making it a hassle for those eyeballs.

This means giving away your book for free.

And before you start wailing about it, just remember, the traditional publishing industry has been doing this for YEARS. Why? Because it works. People talk about things they love or hate. If you want people to talk about your book, you have to make it easy for them to get it. If they don’t know you, this may mean flat out approaching them (or more likely posting about it) and offering that book up for free! No barrier to entry.

Since Prophecy of Three’s release, I have learned to give out more advanced reader copies. And since I’ve done so, my sales have improved. With each free copy given, the chance that a reader reviewed it was higher. With that review being public, another person is more likely to hear of my book and buy it. In short, if you give out a free book and that reader has any sort of social media or friends or family or voice that they like people to hear (who doesn’t?), it’s possible they will tell someone else about your book. And that is how you get the ball rolling on the best form of organic marketing–word of mouth.

Honestly, I could go on. There are many more things I learned after publishing my first book, but those are probably the top ones and I can’t go on writing for forever because I have books to write, you know? So, I’ll leave it there for the day and save any other tips for future articles. If you’re already an author, or are an aspiring writer, and would like to leave a comment or question, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What was the biggest thing you learned about publishing? What are you discovering for yourself if you’re writing your first novel?

And please, now that you’ve read about my experience, try not to make the same mistakes I did. 😉

Happy writing!

Writing with Color – Representation in Writing

As a writer, I get asked about whether or not I think representation in novels is important A LOT. It’s second only to the question “Where do your ideas come from?” <– (Answer: EVERYWHERE.

As a writer, I get asked about whether or not I think representation in novels is important A LOT. It’s second only to the question “Where do your ideas come from?” <– (Answer: see the previous blog post!) To answer the first question you need only read one of my novels, all of which include POC and LGBTQ peoples in important roles. While some writers (generally white-cis-writers) may shy away from writing people from other backgrounds and cultures I think it’s of the utmost importance. Why, you ask?

Because I write to reflect the world around me, and that world is full of diversity. Even in my upcoming series, The Bonegates Series, which is set in Faerie and therefore I could literally make the world as I wanted it, I could not conceive any other way of writing. In fact, in The Bonegates Series, I took it a step further, giving unnatural hair, skin, and eye colors to certain characters because- why not? It’s fantasy!

The argument is constantly brought up that writers do not want to offend those of other cultures by portraying them incorrectly and while I see where they are coming from I believe it far more offensive to delete them entirely. A monochromatic, cis world, where everyone is able-bodied becomes unrealistic. Perhaps for historical fiction or very, very small town settings, it could work but overall, the world is full of color and writing should be too.

Now, as for portraying people incorrectly/rudely/stereotypically, there’s a really simple way to avoid this (if that is your intention). Ask someone from whatever group you’re writing about and talk to them. ASK if what you are writing is offensive. I recently had this experience with a fellow writer who uses a wheelchair. I asked her to read my work and pay special attention to how I portrayed the character in a wheelchair (Alistair from The Starseed Trilogy). She was very pleased to read and was a great help at giving me insight into how a person using a wheelchair may take one of my character’s dialogue. Don’t know anyone from the particular group you are trying to include? Find a writers group on social media and put yourself out there. I’m sure someone will be happy to help.

Another reason I believe it’s incredibly important writers write a diverse cast is because what we write trickles into other industries. If my books ever get made into a movie, I want there to be no question that certain characters look a certain way. If the cast is white-cis-washed it will not be because I didn’t do what I believe is right.

Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, I believe there need to be more characters of color/minorities because I’ve had the experience where a reader of color actually said “I don’t think any of these people are dark skinned” when I used the term “tall, dark, and handsome.” Well, actually, one was. He was even described (briefly-but I don’t believe in banging the reader over the head with such information either. That’s annoying as heck!) as such, but that did not register. I don’t blame the reader for this, I blame our culture. We’ve been white-and-cis-gender-washed for so long, that now, readers simply insert cis white man/woman in their mind even if the author explicitly wrote the character as a POC/minority/perhaps has a prosthetic limb. This tells me we need MORE diversity and we need to say it OUT LOUD, not just in our mind or imply it softly. We need to make this mainstream. To do that, more writers need to get over their fear and simply write the world as it is. Big, diverse, full of color and love for all.

Where do you get your ideas?

Where do you get your ideas? I think it’s kind of a funny question, to be honest.

Where do you get your ideas? This has to be the question writers, and probably other creatives (a term I define fairly broadly), get most often. I think it’s kind of a funny one, to be honest. For me, I never feel a shortage of ideas. I’m currently only three books (of five) into writing The Bonegates Series and already I have another fantasy-dystopian-esque series, concerning Portland, witches, a plethora of tattoos, and talking crows brewing in the back of my mind!

But still, people ask it, so I’d like to try and answer where my ideas come from. Clearly, this is different for different people, so don’t take this as prescriptive advice. It’s merely my situation.

  1. My most influential source of ideas is other books. Or audiobooks (found for free at your local library or pay for an audible subscription) for those people who are about to tell me they don’t have time to read but have a commute and a smartphone. Guess what? You also have time to read! Personally, I believe to be a writer, especially a fiction writer, you have to be a reader and you have to read widely. That being said, many people disagree with this idea. They claim that if they read other people’s works they won’t be able to come up with original content. To that I say, “Do you really think your work is that original?” I can’t think of a single book, show, movie, etc that is NOT derivative of SOMETHING. Let’s cut the BS. It’s all been done before, stop being so precious about being creative. What hasn’t been done is your (or my) particular spin on what has been done before. No one other person on Earth has had your exact life experience and you bring your particular experience to your story. Your experience, your words, your life, and your spin are what makes the story special.
  2. Film is another hotbed of ideas. Sometimes, when I’m actually trying to study pacing (which I think film gets right more often than novels because they have to) or a character I know is particularly well done in a film and I want to emulate I’m all attention, taking it in. I’ve even been known to take a note or two. Most of the time, however, when I watch a movie or show my brain is off. I read all day and to just be able to sit back and not actively work to take in a story is a really nice reprieve. Still, my brain is working when I’m trying to be a vegetable! In fact, just recently, I watched a movie and a single line said as a joke by one particularly annoying character spawned an opening scene of a novel I’d like to write one day. A single line out of thousands! That’s pretty amazing and I bet that if you let your mind wander where it will on whatever interests you in a movie/show you too could easily find inspiration to create.
  3. Folklore/religion/myths are personal favorites for sources of inspiration because I try to inject a little bit of them into every project I write. Even my most urban and contemporary ideas will have something, a line, a subplot, a character which harkens back to one of these cultural aspects. It’s how I make my world richer, more full. I may never tell the reader explicitly that is what I did (though I often do), but I’ll know, and perhaps a few very perceptive readers will catch it. In some of my works like The Starseed Trilogy, my love for mythology and studying religion is quite obvious.
  4. Writers can often be known for being hermits, and I’m not going to lie, I do like being at home, alone, in the quiet and writing. I like it a lot. But if that was all I did how would I ever be able to accurately represent the world around me? You could say other books and film but those are only a person/person’s spin on what is around you. Easily manipulated, just as your worldview is. And maybe that’s OK to write from another person’s worldview, but not for me. I want to write from mine and to do that, I have to get outside. Walk your neighborhood, go to a coffee shop, watch and listen on the metro instead of staring at your phone, do whatever is accessible to you! The outside world is rife with inspiration, but you have to get out there to find it.
  5. Podcasts are a wealth of inspiration! Even after I listen to the purely informative/business ones I usually come out with an idea for some sort of project (it may veer more towards marketing – but that’s still creative right?). If you don’t listen to podcasts specializing in the industry you are interested in, you are really missing out on a wellspring of free, accessible if you have a smartphone, usually well researched (do your homework people, don’t just listen to any Tom, Dick, or Henrietta), and you can listen on the go.
  6. Kids. I don’t have kids, but I do watch children at a daycare occasionally. Not to mention, many of my friends have kids and let me tell you, they are never without some sort of crazy inspiration! If you’re uninspired sometimes it helps to look to someone who is inspired. Look to your child, go to a park and sit on a bench and just listen to what they are saying (in a non-creepy manner please). You can find some gold nuggets in those tiny-humans because their imagination is limitless and often, they have little filter. If you’re not into the idea of hanging around kids, perhaps try to invite a sense of child-like wonder into your day. Do a cartwheel just because. Color. Sprint down the street grinning. Do anything you’ve ever seen a child do, perhaps it will spark a bit of inspiration in your own life.

I could go on, but those are definitely my tops sources of inspiration. I think the key is to keep your eyes open. LISTEN more than you speak because if you’re busy talking how are you ever going to notice anything else happening around you? If you listen now you can use your voice later, like when you want to launch your awesome new creation into the world.

Now, go forth and create.

Rising of Three Teaser

Villains are just like us. They have motivations and beliefs, things they love and hate, and things that make them tick. Noro, of The Starseed Trilogy, is no exception.

Hello!

Disclaimer: This post may contain spoilers for those who have not read Prophecy of Three or Souls of Three.

We’re about two months away from the release of Rising of Three, Book Three of The Starseed Trilogy and I CAN’T WAIT to share Sara’s story with you all! She’s just bursting to step out of the limelight of her older sisters Lily and Evelyn.

But to be honest, Sara will just have to wait because today, I wanted to take a twisty little turn and give you a brand new point of view. The villain, Noro.

Noro is a nasty piece of work to be sure, but like the rest of us, he isn’t without his own insecurities and motivations. If you’ve read Prophecy of Three or Souls of Three, you may have caught them. But perhaps you didn’t, and if not, here’s a little insight into what makes Noro tick.

Rising of Three Excerpt:

Noro swooped down the sloping hill through the frost-covered trees, his pace quickening as he approached the abandoned zoo. In the short time since he’d left the new fata of Earth to replenish their magical stores, much had changed. Noro and his First Order Acolytes had furthered the fata cause more in two weeks than they’d managed for millennia. Infiltrating power systems, claiming humans, and creating a current of chaos to effectively undermine human confidence was a splendid start.

The humans won’t need to worry themselves over their fate much longer. Noro flew faster and the largest hut in the park, King Dimia’s personal quarters, came into view.

Learning that his first children, powerful beings sculpted into exactly what Noro needed, had perished at the hands of Eve’s sisters was the last straw. No longer would Noro make concessions for those magical creatures who did not welcome the reign of their ancestors. Nor would he hide in the shadows, skirting around weak humans. No, he would use them as they used the land they were born to. The land they seemed to have little respect for. The same land that made them powerful. The land he would take.

No one born on Earth knew how sweet their world was. They’d never seen their home die as Hecate was dying. Never witnessed the plants and creatures within it wither to nothing. The magic fizzle from their souls.

Soon, the creatures of Earth would understand. And as humankind’s power dwindled before their eyes, the fata would take up their reign.

The witches will pay for what they’ve done. If only Seraphina had consented to help, none of this would have happened. I would not still be called a fool. Fata would not dare gossip behind my back, even as I toil to make them powerful once more. I’ll show them. He shot fifty feet above the trees and magic born of fury flew from him, splitting the tallest oak in the park like lightning.

No matter the amnesty Dimia promises I’ll see to it Amon and Empusa receive vengeance. Dimia does not yet understand how his daughters have changed. How their human blood has tainted the fata within them. How they are no longer his. I shall make him see

End excerpt.

Did that change your perception of Noro? Let me know below!

All the magic,

Ashey

P.S. You can pre-order Rising of Three NOW, right here!

Rising of Three Cover Reveal!

Cover reveal for Rising of Three, Book Three of The Starseed Trilogy, the final book in series. Did I just say that?

Hello!

You guys, I cannot tell you how happy I am to show you this cover. There were a few hitches trying to get it designed and it took much longer than I expected. What is it they say? Always expect the unexpected? Well, I sure learned this when trying to get this cover made! But enough living in the past!

Scroll down to see the cover of Rising of Three, Book Three of The Starseed Trilogy! OMG, yes, I just said the final book in series! Eek!

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previewactualcover

Do you like it? Isn’t Sara so badass looking!? I can’t wait to share her journey with you.

If you want to be the first to know when Rising of Three hits retailers on August 28, 2018 make sure to sign up for my exclusive newsletter The Coven (link in sidebar). If you’re not into email, consider liking my Facebook Author Page to keep in touch.

All the magic,

Ashley

Hawk Witch, The Bonegates Series and update on Rising of Three!

Imagine this: The Throne of Glass series but set in Faerie, with a VERY different, witchy protagonist, Lana Shea and her hawk familiar, Naela. I say very different because Lana is not only a loner, but she’s an illuminator, a rare type of light witch and not a very good one at that! Here’s hoping she grows into her power, because Faerie sure has a lot riding on her talents. 😉

Hello!

Today, I’m introducing my newest series, The Bonegates Series! It’s a secret The Coven (my exclusive mailing list) has known about for some time but now I’m ready to spread the news far and wide!

Imagine this: The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas but set in Faerie, with a VERY different, witchy protagonist, Lana Shea and her hawk familiar, Naela. I say very different because Lana is not only a loner, but she’s an illuminator, a rare type of light witch capable of using the entire electromagnetic spectrum. At least in theory. Lana’s not quite there yet. Here’s hoping she grows into her power, because Faerie sure has a lot riding on her talents. 😉

And if that isn’t enough to entice you, here’s the full blurb for the first book in series, Hawk Witch.

Soar, Surrender, or Die. 

Lana Shea is a mediocre witch, lackluster student, and loner with no direction in life. However, when a messenger delivers a scroll bearing strange clues to her father’s whereabouts, one thing becomes clear. She must search for the father she’s never known. 

 Lana races across Dublin, Ireland solving the obscure clues until finally, she is transported into a bleak kingdom in Faerie. A kingdom her father rules.

 When asked to participate in Faerie’s violent royal tournament known as the Successional, Lana accepts, as do thirteen of her new siblings. To earn her father’s attention, she must win.

 Under the tutelage of her handsome guard Garret, Lana learns Faerie is darker than she ever imagined and as a competitor, there is more than just her father’s love at stake. 

 Can she master her magic in time to survive? Is Lana willing to spill the blood of her newfound siblings to find her purpose?

 

Sounds sweet, right!? Well, I think so, and hope you do too! Now, for a quick update on Rising of Three, Book Three in The Starseed Trilogy. I’m currently frantically editing it to get it to my editor by next month and am hoping for an August release! That’s right, only a couple months away! Between then and now, make sure you’re up to speed on the series and I’ll let you know when Rising of Three has it’s own page on Goodreads so you can add it to your TBR list! I’ll also be sharing the covers for Rising of Three and Hawk Witch very soon so stay tuned my witchy peeps.

As always, if you are interested in becoming a member of my Street Team let me know! Members of the Street Team read and review my books before they are even available to the public. We even have a private Facebook group full of wonderful fantasy readers to chat with. Let me know if you want in!

That’s it for now!

All the magic,

Ashley

Rising of Three Excerpt

Hey all!

I have great news! Rising of Three, Book Three in The Starseed Trilogy is officially off to beta readers which means a July release is in the works! Can you say BEACH READ (I know that feels impossible right now, but summer is coming-said in Game of Thrones voice)! That being said, I wanted to share a bit of the book with you here. 🙂 A teensy teaser if you will. So without further adieu —>

Excerpt from Rising of Three:

Sara padded softly along the creaky wood floor in an effort not to wake those still asleep. Stopping before the stone fireplace she fingered the stocking stitched with her name before extending her fingers to the wood laying in the hearth.

“Flampila,” she whispered and a bright orange ball of fire rolled from her palms to catch on the wood. Heat caressed her face. Sara sighed and pulled her fuzzy robe closer. She’d enjoy the chilly winter morning while she could, bundled up, a fire roaring at her back, with a cup of hot tea in her hands.

A toppling stack of papers on the dining table caught Sara’s eye as she rounded the corner of the hearth separating Fern Cottage’s living room from the kitchen-diner. Mary seriously came through, she thought picking up the plastic sheath encompassing The Guardian as her eyes roved over the dozens of other publications.

She spun on her heel, not ready to dig into current events and set about making a cup of cinnamon spice tea.

***

Two hours later the table was covered in papers from all around the world and Sara’s hands were black and sticky with ink.

This isn’t looking good. She chose a journal of questionable quality to skim next. An article on the second page jumped out at her and Sara stifled a laugh at the title.

Aliens Brand Woman for Spaceship Cleaner in Her Sleep

Sara’s copper eyes ran down the words, widening as she took in the subtext of the article shaming a woman brave enough to tell her story, no matter how ludicrous it may sound.

Mrs. Leslie Leeteral from Hackney claims to have received an early Christmas present. One she isn’t at all sure she wants though like all tattoos we acquire once we’ve had a few too many drinks, this one is sure to stick.

The London native claims to have had a couple gins to celebrate her husband’s Christmas bonus and gone to bed early the night of the nineteenth of December. She had big plans to finish her Christmas shopping the next day and take herself out for a solo lunch and pint while her husband watched their three children. It isn’t often you get alone time as a mum so this part of her story, at least, we understand.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Leeteral, her night of rest did not go as planned.

She awoke with a start in the wee hours to find a ghostly figure leaning over her.

“He was massive he was. And bright yellow, like the sun. I thought he actually was the sun at first. Still asleep you know. But then I saw how close he was and figured I’d be dead if the sun came in me room. Well, he saw he’d woken me and he came—he flew—closer, which had me in a right state as you can imagine. Me husband was working the night shift, and I was all alone, defenseless with the kids in the next rooms! I scrambled up as fast as I could and grabbed the lamp to fend him off. Bit stupid really. How do you fight a ghost with a lamp? Like I said I didn’t have me head on straight. He was inches from me when I realized I couldn’t see through him and I thought to meself this can’t be a ghost. When did anyone ever talk about a colored ghost? They’re always white ain’t they? He had to be an alien.”

*At this point in the interview Mrs. Leeteral looks up at the sky and shivers.*

“The alien came right up and looked at me. He had huge black eyes and a round, black mouth. At least I think that’s what they were. He stared at me for what musta been ten minutes and then . . . He touched me.”

*Mrs. Leeteral pulls up her shirt sleeves to reveal cut deltoids and a small, yellow tattoo that looks a bit like the moon.*

“He marked me with this! Looks like the moon doesn’t it? I suppose that’s where he musta been from. No idea why he marked me though . . . Perhaps he was looking for a good cleaner? I’ve been in the business twenty years and you never hear of cleaners on spaceships. Musta gotten tired of living in all that filth.”

And there you have it, folks. The aliens are coming and they need help cleaning up. Or perhaps Mrs. Leeteral should check her bank cards as one may contain a charge to her local tattoo parlor. Gin is a hell of a drink.

A small, nondescript photo of Mrs. Leeteral’s mark was at the bottom of the page. Sara’s chest fluttered wildly as she studied it. Shhhh, calm down. It’s a photo, she thought and her pneuma, the bit of fata soul she’d recently learned had been living inside her since birth, stilled.

It did look like the moon. And she could see the drunken tattoo as well. But Sara knew better than to believe the mark was either. If that reporter only knew how close Mrs. Leeteral was to guessing the truth they’d be peeing their pants.

“How long have you been up?”

Sara jumped in her seat and directed her hands at the door.

Evelyn held up her palms. “Sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you. But really, do you believe anyone is getting past Mom’s wards?” She quirked an eyebrow and headed for the pot of coffee Sara had taken the liberty of making for whoever was up next

Sinking down into her seat Sara let out a long exhale. Of course, I didn’t hear Evelyn. She still doesn’t weigh enough to make noise. “No, I’m sorry. I’ve been jumpy lately. Even meditation has been hard. And no, I don’t think anyone could get past Mom’s wards, but what I think isn’t always right.”

“Touché,” Evelyn filled her cup with coffee. “What’s all this?” She gestured to the pile of papers on the table.

Sara pulled a handful of newspapers closer to make room for Evelyn. “Papers. I asked Mary to drop them off a few days ago. It looks like she may have enlisted Morgane’s help too. They don’t carry all of these in the village shop. They’re so we can keep in the loop.”

“In the loop? Don’t you think we’re a little beyond what the average person knows?” Evelyn pulled out the heavy wooden chair across from Sara with a visible effort.

She’s not getting stronger as fast as Fiona hoped she would. Sara eyed her sister’s lank blonde hair, skeletal arms, and visible ribs. At least her magic has returned a little though. It’s the first step, Sara sighed. “There’s no doubt we have more information on what’s happening, but we’re clueless to what the fata are doing now that they’re on Earth.”

Evelyn scowled and looked into her cup.

“But these papers can help. Most of them are the typical drivel but read this.” Sara handed the page to Evelyn who scoffed.

“You can’t be serious. You know what this is right? Or does this kind of crap not make it onto military bases?”

Sara rolled her eyes and pushed the paper into Evelyn’s hand. “It does. Read it.”

Evelyn opened it and her sapphire eyes skipped over the page, fast at first, then slower as she took in what it meant. “Well, shit. They’ve begun claiming people as their own.” Evelyn set down the paper.

Claiming people. Sara shivered. “It appears that way. These papers are filled with all sorts of wild things. Natural disasters which I’m sure are in no way natural, an increase in missing people all over the world, wild accidents or man-made structures failing. An entire highway in L.A. cracked the other day. The fissure was ten feet wide. They’re blaming it on the San Andreas Fault line but . . .”

“It’s not that.”

“Nope. This journal had the most obvious article. And if this woman was claimed she can’t be the only one. She’s probably just the only one willing to step forward, and this journal is the only one crazy enough to print it.”

Evelyn smirked. “My dad would die if he heard you call this rag a journal. You’d no longer be ‘my level-headed, smart sister’. Too bad you’re not interested in business. He’d hire you in a second. But you’re right, none of these things are normal and that mark is definitely a fata brand. Even worse, it’s not Dimia or Noro’s which means regular fata have started claiming.” She sipped her coffee and looked around. “Where’s Lily? She’s usually up before me.”

“She was up late last night texting. One guess who.” A lopsided grin spread on Sara’s face lifting her freckle spattered cheekbones.

A low whistle ran through Evelyn’s red lips. “That girl has got it bad.”

 

End Excerpt

Hope you enjoyed that! The cover reveal will be soon, I hope within the next two weeks!

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