fantasy

Ill Met by Moonlight: Chapter 3

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

unnamedThe Subjects

[Project Oberon: Day 3, 07h50m] Subjects have shown activity in Broca’s area, suggesting some semblance of speech or communication is being carried out in the dormant state. Whether or not this simultaneous reaction indicates a significant finding as a response to stimuli remains to be seen.

[Project Oberon: Day 3, 0810h] The second trial has been completed. Photos of a sea monster were shown to subjects 315 and 526; subjects 536 and 325 were exposed to a photo of a banshee; subjects 335 and 345 were removed from the trial to provide a baseline measure. Results varied by subject, though again subject 526 showed a delayed return to normal range of vital signs.

Though it is still too early to form any conclusions, discussion currently leans towards a positive outcome of results for the study at hand.

The next trial begins at 1900h.


I don’t bother waiting for Josh as I storm down the lane, no matter how much I hear him wheezing behind me. He asked me to slow down once, but  hasn’t again since it became clear that I wouldn’t. If he wants to follow me, that’s his prerogative, but after the stunt with the lake monster, I’m not about to accommodate him.

I have no idea where I’m going — I just know I need to get away from that cabin and the disturbing lake. The forest looms to my left, the shadows stretching out towards me, and as I follow the curving path, the beach falls farther and farther away until it vanishes from sight.

The moon follows us overhead, never seeming to move, a fixed point in the sky. It’s odd, the way it just sits there. Like it’s watching me. I shiver and wish it was gone, and then just like that, it is. Instead of the moon, a bright sunset has taken over the sky, spilling reds and golds across the fields and lush trees.

The light doesn’t make the forest any more welcoming.

“This is weird,” Josh pants behind me. “Don’t you think it’s weird?”

“It’s a dream. Of course it’s weird. This whole thing is weird. Or did you not get that from both of us being in the same place? However that happened.”

That is the question that has plagued me since I accepted it was true. It’s enough to make me wonder what the scientists are doing out there in their lab. Are they crossing wires? Messing things around so we won’t know who we are when we wake up?

Either they have no idea, which means they might not know the repercussions, or this is on them, which hardly seems ethical. Not for the first time, I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.

With this thought, I finally let go of some of my anger towards Josh. Sure, he might have tried to sacrifice me to the lake monster to save his own skin, but the fact is we’re in this together. Both of us trapped in our own psyches. It’s an experience not many people get to claim.

So I slow down and allow him to catch up. His duster blows in a non-existent breeze, and I turn in the direction of the wind in time to spot movement coming towards us.

“Get down!” I hiss, and shove Josh into the bushes along the side of the road.

He grunts and starts to protest my manhandling, but I clamp a hand over his mouth and point at the two figures coming up over a slight dip in the path. He ducks farther down, his eyes widening over the edge of my fingers.

For a full minute, we remain silent and still, watching these people approach. At least, I think they’re people. As they get closer, I find myself unsure. The figure on the left is male — tall, broad-shouldered, dark skin, wearing a pair of faded jeans and a grey T-shirt, with a denim vest overtop  — but his eyes are that of a wolf, and his nose is crinkled as he scents the air. Something that looks like a machine gun is slung over his shoulder.

The woman beside him is moving with a lithe, cat-like stride. Her long black hair reaches her waist, and her dark skin catches the bizarre sunset in a way that makes it look like she’s glowing from within. Her eyes are a piercing green, and she wears a sword strapped at her hip over a pair of beige corduroy pants and a long green T-shirt.

I raise my hands in front of me and test the powers that have twice presented themselves in my time of need, using my mind to move the trees around us to create a screen.

“Josh, I’d arm up if I were you.”

His mouth falls open. “Are you serious? I can’t do that.” He gestures vaguely at the trees that have folded around us.

I try not to roll my eyes. “You’re in a dream. Come up with something.”

He blinks a few times, wrapping his head around what I’m saying. Then he squeezes his eyes shut, his entire face contorted with concentration. He reaches towards the ground, and when he pulls his arm back, he’s wielding a wooden hammer the size of his head. I raise an eyebrow, impressed, and he shrugs.

At least now I feel more confident finding out who these new people are, though I have my guesses.

Keeping my hands raised, I step onto the path. Immediately, both people on the road draw their weapons. They exchange a glance and adjust their stances, as though not sure how to react.

“Who are you?” the man asks. Seeing them up close, I place both of them in their mid-twenties, though it’s hard to tell with their eyes the way they are.

“My name is Regan,” I say, opting to skip over the second round of confusion. “This is Josh. We’re part of a dream study, and I’m going to take a wild stab that you two are, as well.”

The two exchange another glance, and the woman nods. “I’m Mary-Ann, and this is my brother, Mark. We’re twins, so we figured we found each other because of that. But if you’re here…”

I understand their expressions. Everything seems to be making less sense as it goes.

“I’m not sure where you’re headed,” I say, “but I’d steer clear of this road. It goes to the lake, and thar be monsters.”

Mary-Ann frowns.

“Then I guess we’re between a rock and a hard place,” says Mark. “We just fought off a Banshee in an old warehouse. I don’t think she’s coming back, but there could be more.”

Josh groans. “So I guess that leaves…”

The four of us turn to face the field stretching away from the forest, and we make out the wide arena of a baseball diamond. On the other side of it, two more figures approach.

“I would guess they make five and six,” I say, but just in case, we keep our weapons ready.

Two women come into view as they cross the field. One of them is shorter, with bright blue hair, and dressed in leather pants and a black T-shirt covered in skulls. A series of knives line the belt at her hip. The other woman is tall and willowy, with long silver hair and a kind of paleness that hints at illness or a complete loathing of the outdoors. She’s the only one dressed in what appears to be normal clothes: a white sundress that almost fades into her skin. She looks as though all the colour has been leached out of her.

“Are you the rest of them?” Blue Hair asks.

I’m relieved that we don’t need to go through the whole conversation again as I confirm that we are. Blue Hair introduces herself as Clare, and Colourless as Andrea.

“Any reason we find you standing in the middle of a baseball diamond?” Clare asks. “Planning a bit of in-dream sports?”

“Thinking about it,” Mary-Ann says. “Thought we’d invite the banshee and the lake monster to join in. You have any partners you’d like to sign up?”

Andrea turns paler – if that’s even possible – and Clare frowns. “I can’t even pretend to know what you’re talking about.”

“What about the rats?” I ask.

I worry Andrea’s about to be sick, and this time even Clare reacts, her throat bobbing with a hard swallow. “Yeah, those we’re familiar with. Suckers came out of nowhere. A whole whack of them darting in like flies.”

Andrea shakes her head. “It was the size of my hand and ran right up my leg.” Her voice is soft, barely above a whisper. “I felt it in my hair.”

She runs her hand over her head and tears fill her eyes.

It strikes me as odd that we’ve all seen the same thing, but interpreted it in such different ways. Add in the lake monster that two of us saw and two didn’t, and the banshee that had revealed itself to only two others.

“They’re playing with us,” I say. “Whatever the scientists out there are doing, they’re dropping these images into our heads and seeing what our brains make of them. That’s why the rats were all different.”

“But what about now?” Mark asks. “We’re all here, seeing the same thing.”

“Are we?” I wonder. “Or are we all seeing the same scene in slightly different ways?” I wish there was a way to test it, but for now the baseball diamond is empty. Probably for the best. I don’t want another run-in with the lake monster. Speaking of which… I look to Clare and Andrea. “So there were no monsters the way you came?”

Andrea shook her head. “I was in the old school when Clare found me. I didn’t want to leave, but she wanted to see what else we might find.” She dropped her chin. “And I didn’t want to wait there alone.”

“If we know that way is clear, we should head in that direction,” Josh says.

“And do what?” Clare asks. “Go back to the school and pick our noses, waiting for something to happen?”

“I doubt we’ll have the chance to get bored,” says Mary-Ann. “Not if these scientists want to get a reaction out of us.”

“And if that’s the case, I think we should stick together,” I say. “I doubt banshees and rats are the worst things we’ll see around here, so it might not be a bad idea to have each other’s backs.”

Mary-Ann’s eyes widen, and her gaze tracks something over my head. A shadow passes in front of the setting sun, dousing the baseball diamond in darkness.

“Funny you should mention it,” she says.

I don’t want to turn around and see what’s coming for us now. If I’d known that signing up for this study would mean walking into a two-week nightmare, I doubt I would have signed up.

If I ignore it, maybe it will go away. I repeat the thought to myself even as Mark and Mary-Ann take a few steps backwards. Clare turns to look and jumps away, but appears otherwise unfazed, while Andrea’s lips wobble and I brace for her to faint. Josh glances over his shoulder, then grabs my arm. I feel nothing where he touches me, and the experience is so bizarre that I’m tempted to shove him away.

Unable to remain in denial, I finally turn around to get a look at what everyone else has seen.

Looming in the sky is a black shape. At first, I can’t make it out. It’s a blob. A smear in the clouds. But the longer I stare at it, the more it takes form: a wide, gaping mouth opening wide, red eyes glaring down at me, staring right into my soul. Long arms stretch out from either side of it and reach towards us.

Josh tugs on my arm – a gesture I see instead of feel – his eyes are wild, and his feet are already moving towards the road. There’s a panic in his eyes that spreads to Andrea, and my own heartbeat responds with the need to flee.

The shadow hands try to grab me, and although I know this is only a dream, and that it would be wiser to face it and fight, all I can think is that Josh has the right of it when he gives me a final tug on the arm and shouts, “RUN!”

Does Regan run or fight the shadow monster?

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Ill Met by Moonlight: Chapter 2

unnamed
The Cabin
[Project Oberon, Day 2, 1800h] The following scenes are now on display on the test room walls:
 
  1. A forest
  2. A cabin
  3. A lake
  4. A warehouse
  5. A school
  6. A baseball diamond

Each subject has been faced in the direction of a different scene to determine whether imagery seen during a state of unconsciousness can influence the dream experience. Subjects were shown the images three times for 0010s increments with 0020s rests. The scenes will be moved at random points throughout the study to gauge how the change of scenery affects the dreamer’s state.

[Project Oberon, Day 2, 2100h] The first trial has been completed. Photos of rats were shown to each subject three times for 0010s increments with 0020s rests. Reaction time varied by subject from 0025s to 01m36s. All subjects showed increased stress reactions. Subjects 315, 536, 325, 335 returned to stable heart rate by 02m55s. 526 returned to stable heart rate by 04m27s. 345 returned to stable heart rate by 06m35, which falls above the parameters of the study. Discussion as to whether subject 345 should be pulled from the study. Decision: as heart rate remained within normal range for someone of her age and overall health and dropped without medical intervention, subject is deemed safe to continue.

The second trial will begin at 0800h.


I scan the beach and debate between the boat and the cabin. The boat would allow me to explore the island and find out where exactly I am, but I can’t bring myself to go near that lake. Even the thought of it sends chills down my back.

I turn away from it and head towards the cabin.

As I approach, my steps slow of their own volition. Dark windows stare back at me and the door is slightly ajar. Although I know this cabin is in my own head, I’m leery about barging in. After that run-in with the rat-bear, I’m not eager to discover what else might be lying in wait.

The porch is draped with dried-out vines that cover the view of the lake. I’m not sure what’s worse—the creepy stillness of the water, or the dead screen blinding me from it. This whole place is off, like it was designed based on a magazine picture, but seen from all the wrong angles.

I reach the door and push it open, staying outside until the doorknob hits the back wall. Moonlight spills across the floor, revealing a sparse interior furnished only with a rickety kitchen table. Cabinets and countertops line the far wall. Some of the cupboards hang open, with small unidentifiable lumps within. Two windows let in a little more light, highlighting a single door to my left and confirming that the rest of the room is empty.

I don’t want to go in, but the thought that I might find something to arm myself with offers solid motivation. That rat-bear might be the only threat I face here, but I don’t want to take that chance.

Steeling myself, I step into the cabin. The air feels thick and close, though when I take a deep breath, I notice no change in the quality. If anything, I catch a whiff of bleach and sterile wipes. I wonder if I’ll reach a point in the next two weeks where I forget this is a dream, but so far all it feels like is a broken version of reality.

Nothing jumps out to grab me as I make my way through the room, but I keep my back to the wall anyway. If movies have taught me anything, it’s that the enemy can come out of nowhere if you give them the opportunity.

The window on the far wall is partially blocked by the same vines that cover the porch, but I can glimpse the lake beyond, and I swear there’s something skimming along the surface. I shift my position to better make it out, but by the time I have a full view, whatever it was is gone.

I continue my exploration of the cabin. The table is bare except for a thick layer of dust, and when I reach the cupboards, I discover the unidentifiable lumps are just old dishes. The rest of the cupboards are bare, and all I find in the drawers in terms of a weapon is a single wooden chopstick.

I leave it to continue its slow decomposition and am about to continue the search when a thud echoes from beyond the door at the other end of the room.

I curse myself for not checking first and leaving myself vulnerable, but now I’m stuck. To return to the front door would mean passing by that room.

Silence falls as I wait for the noise to repeat. At first, there’s nothing, but when I strain my ears, I pick up what might be a wheezing breath.

This is my dream, I tell myself. I have control here.

I cross the room, wince as a floorboard creaks under my heel, and pause outside the door. The breathing gets louder, a definite whistle on the inhale. Whoever it is, they’re afraid. I just hope there are as many weapons accessible in there as there are in here.

I debate whether it wouldn’t have been smart to grab that chopstick.

With no other reason to delay, I turn the handle and push the door inward.

Just as I take a step, a figure cries out and jumps in my face. I scream and jump backwards, creating space between us. My hands fly up as I prepare to use the same trick on my attacker as I did on the rat-bear, but they don’t come at me again.

My heart is racing, my chest aching with the speed of my uneven breaths, and I keep my hands raised as I take in the guy in front of me.

He’s an inch or so taller than I am, about the same age, and stands on the scrawny side. Bleach-blond hair lies over molten-red eyes. His clothing choice seems even more bizarre than my own: an ankle-length duster over a pink T-shirt, jeans, and a pair of steel-toed boots.

“Who are you?” I ask.

“Who are you?” he shoots back, a pillar of creativity.

Seeing no reason to keep secrets from someone inside my own head, I answer. “Regan.”

There’s a flash of panic and confusion in his eyes, and I realise he might not know his own name. Is that weird when he’s supposed to be a figment of my subconscious?

“Josh,” he finally says, with a hint of relief in his voice.

“What are you doing here, Josh?” I ask. Is he supposed to represent some part of my unconscious? Someone I’d long ago forgotten, or even a symbol of my self doubt?

“I—I’m here for a study. I don’t really understand what’s going on. I’m supposed to be dreaming, but this all seems so… real.”

I burst into a laugh. “I guess I must be more thrown by all this than I thought if I need an outward projection to tell me this is messed up.”

Josh frowns. “What do you mean?”

“This is my dream. You’re in my dream. I’m the one in the study.”

He blanches. “That’s not possible. I’m me. I can’t be in your head.” I worry for a moment that he’s about to faint, he looks so thrown by my statement. “I remember my mother dropped me off at—at… I don’t remember where. And there were tests, and then I woke up outside. In the trees. I was attacked and ran in here, but I never woke up. Now you’re here, and you’re telling me I only exist in your head?”

The alternative is too farfetched to even consider.

Yet the confusion in this guy’s eyes… the fear. I don’t feel that afraid, do I?

“How is it possible we’re both in the same place when we’re supposed to be in some medically induced daze?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” he says. “But unless you’re the one in my head, somehow it happened.”

Did the researchers know this was possible? Is this all part of their study?

“What did you think of the rat thing?” I ask. If I’m supposed to trust my brain in this place, I need to know what’s real and what’s not. I bring the memory of that rat-bear to mind, the way I’d flung it through the trees.

But I don’t feel as horrified by it as Josh clearly does. His face has gone white, and he backs up against the wall. “You saw it too? It’s what made me run in here. It was closing in on me so fast. I swore it was going to swallow me whole. Is it still out there? If it is, I’m not leaving.”

His answer leaves me reeling. “It’s not possible.”

But what other answer is there? Somehow, my brain and Josh’s have crossed. My mind is no longer my own.

The room suddenly feels too small, too closed in. Even if I can’t feel the wind on my skin, I need to get out of here. I run out the door and down the porch steps towards the beach.

“Wait! Stop!”

I don’t listen to him. I can’t. I need space to think.

I reach the water and bend over, bracing my hands against my knees. Every cell in my body is urging me to fight, to run. I don’t like it here. I want to wake up. I grab a chunk of skin on the back of my upper arm and squeeze. There’s a sense that there should be pain, a vague psychological reaction, but I feel nothing and I’m still here.

Out of frustration, I release a yell over the lake.

“I don’t think you should do that,” Josh says, close behind me.

I don’t care. I shout again.

The creature jumps out of the lake before I can make out what it is. Water splashes against my face and the green mass zooms past me towards Josh. He grabs my arm and jerks me forward, blocking his path so the creature hits me full in the face, heavy and squelching. The weight shocks me into action. Raising my hands, I imagine the creature rising above the sand. I hear Josh’s gasp as my imagination channels the image into reality and the creature soars away, writhing and fighting against the force of my mind.

With an effort, I fling it out over the water, far enough that I still can’t make out whatever horrors might have greeted me on closer inspection, then let go. It hits the water and goes under, leaving only the barest splash before the surface goes still again.

I take a moment to let my heartbeat settle, but fury settles under my skin, a warm and uncomfortable layer. Slowly, I turn around to face Josh. “What the hell was that?”

His red eyes widen. “It was coming at me. You yelled and it came at me. I—I didn’t think I just…”

I glower at him, disgusted, then storm off towards the road. There’s nothing for me in the cabin, and I’m not about to stick around here and wait for that lake creature to come back.

“Wait! Don’t leave me alone here. Let me come with you.”

Josh is jogging after me, and he’s already wheezing. I stop and glare at him. How can I trust him when he just threw me to that monster? What would he do if we’re attacked again? As I’m already learning, not even my own mind is safe, and I don’t know how far these researchers will push it. I’ll need to stay alert and ready to defend myself. But how can I live with leaving him alone to face that monster?

I’m starting to get the feeling that these next two weeks are not going to be the forgettable experience I was expecting…

Continue to Chapter 3

Ill Met by Moonlight: Chapter 1

unnamedThe Project

[Study 16487-D, referred to from this point as Project Oberon. Day 1, 0800h] Six subjects arrived on schedule. Subjects seven through ten have made no communication subsequent to the initial orientation — decision: the study will proceed with a total of six subjects. Following discussion, the majority (8-4) has agreed that six is sufficient to gain the data the study aims to collect over the course of the next two weeks. Testing for conditions and to eliminate incompatible subjects will commence at 0900h.

[Project Oberon, Day 2 , 1400h] Testing has been completed and subjects have been tagged as follows:

315: female, 24, 5’6, 145lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear

526: male, 22, 5’8, 237lbs, previous history of asthma but no current symptoms — decision: no concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear

536: male, 25, 6’3, 205lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear

325: female, 27, 5’8, 125lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests showed slight anemia — decision: clear

335: female, 24, 5’3, 130lbs, hospitalization for pneumonia 4x in last twenty years — decision: no concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear

345: female, 23, 5’7, 105lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests showed increased blood pressure and heart rate — decision: no immediate concern; will monitor status and remove subject if required, blood tests clear

[1500h] Subjects have read and signed all documentation. Informed consent has been granted. All have agreed to the conditions and have given full permission to the study heads to perform the following:

  1. Induce a coma using an injection of propofol
  2. Alter the condition of their physical surroundings to monitor any effect said changes have on their physical/physiological status with an aim to determine whether dreams can be manipulated by external conditions

Subjects have also sworn to maintain confidentiality at the end of the two weeks, per the confidentiality agreement, or risk legal repercussions.

For the part of the researchers, our responsibilities are:

  1. To ensure the safety and well-being of our subjects at all times
  2. To end the study at any sign of serious effects on the well-being of our subjects
  3. To remain within the ethical mandate of our study and only apply the changes of condition necessary for obtaining the data required

[Project Oberon, Day 3, 0900h] Subjects have been assigned beds 13 through 19. Subjects have again been briefed on what the study will entail and what they might expect once the propofol takes effect.

[1100h] Propofol has been administered. Subjects’ conditions are stable, and testing can begin.


I open my eyes at the shout of crows somewhere overhead. A breeze drifts over my skin. I expect to shiver, but don’t feel the cold.

It takes me a minute — maybe longer than it should — to realize I don’t know where I am, and another few moments to realize that if I want to figure it out, I need to sit up and look.

My body feels strange. Kind of light and distant, like I’m not really here, so I move slowly. I start by digging my fingers into the ground beneath me and am confused when they sink into the surface. Dirt? I rub my fingertips together to confirm it.

So I’m outside. That’s a start.

I run my hand over the ground and recognize the familiar sensation of grass on my palm, tickly and light. It still feels strange, but gradually I think I’m coming into myself.

Carefully, I sit up and have to blink into the darkness surrounding me. The bright moon highlights the tops of the trees ten feet ahead and the water twenty feet to my left. I seem to be standing on the edge of a beach, where the grass gives way to a fine sand. Reflections of the light on the water cast rippling shadows across the beach and over my hands when I hold them out in front of me. I’m still not certain of where I am. Or even who I am.

My name is Regan, that much I remember, but if someone asked for my birthday or the names of my parents, I don’t know if I could tell them. It’s there. I feel the information in the back of my mind like a distant memory, but when I reach out for it, it vanishes. But maybe that’s okay. For now, I’m all right with just being Regan.

I look down at myself and my confusion increases. These aren’t my clothes. The Regan I know myself to be would never wear these clunky army boots or cargo pants. The black T-shirt is familiar enough, but it hugs my body in a way I wouldn’t be comfortable with if I were walking down the street.

A niggling sense of explanation tickles the back of my mind, but disappears before I can latch on to it.

For now, I let it go and turn my attention to the rest of my surroundings. The water appears to be a clear, calm lake, without even the ripples of fish making their lazy way under the surface. It’s eerie. Lifeless. A shiver runs down my spine, and I’m relieved to feel a natural response from my body. This sense that I’m wrapped in gauze refuses to go away.

I turn to look at the woods. Despite the cries of the crows, the trees are as still as the water, untouched by the breeze or anything living within.

I don’t like it here. My stomach clenches as I take another pass and realize there’s nowhere to go. A boat sits at the end of the dock stretching over that still, seemingly empty water, and I spot a cabin at the end of the path, its windows dark and unwelcoming. But there’s no car, no signs, nowhere that tells me how to get home.

I rub my arms, expecting goosebumps, but there are none.

At the height of the silence, I jump at the sound of a high-pitched squeak behind me. I whirl back towards the woods and for a moment there’s nothing. It’s only when the bushes to my left rattle that I make out what’s there.

The taste of blood fills my mouth as my heartbeat races, and I raise my fists, though I don’t know what that’s supposed to achieve.

In front of me, creeping out of the bushes, is what looks like the result of a bear romancing a rat. The size of a cub, its fur is matted and thick, its pointed nose twitching as it scents the air.  Red eyes glare at me, and in them is nothing but malice and hunger. I back away, but it follows. My lungs can’t seem to suck in enough air, and I wish beyond anything that I was somewhere else. That someone would appear and help me. But I’m lost and I’m alone.

The rat starts to run, but I’m already on the edge of the water. I back my left foot into the lake, and although I can feel the water lapping against my ankle, there’s no cold, no wetness.

The beach is empty of weapons. Not even a branch I can grab to fend this monster off. It’s grinning at me now, its sharp teeth catching the glow of the moon. A sharp hiss emanates from its throat.

It lunges.

I raise my hands and squeeze my eyes shut. I imagine the rat flying away from me, into the trees.

There’s a loud shriek and the sound of branches being broken.

I open my eyes and stare across the empty beach. The rat is gone, and in the distance I hear it scurrying away through the woods.

What just happened? I stare down at my hands, but they’re just my hands.

The truth hits me like the weight of that rat against the trees. The dream study. This world, this night, that rat, me, none of it is real.

Was this what was supposed to happen? I’d been told that I would be put into a medically induced coma, and that the doctors would attempt to manipulate my dreams. But although I feel strange, my consciousness is far more aware than it is in even my most lucid dreams.

I stare at my hands again. Had I really made that rat fly into the forest?

My lips curl into a smile as I walk up the beach. Cool.

But if this is my home for the next two weeks, I might as well get comfortable.

Once again, I turn my attention to the world around me and start off to explore.

Continue to Chapter 2

It’s Giveaway Time!

As I was going through my books after all the outdoor events I did in July, I discovered a few that didn’t quite survive the rain and constant transportation. A few water stains and crinkles pages here, a folded cover there. These books are no longer pretty enough to be sold for full price, but is that any reason to cast them to the curb? NO! So I’m giving them away! Over the next couple of months, keep your eye here, on my newsletter, or on my Facebook page to see what books are up for grabs. While open, click the link to head to the Rafflecopter giveaway
This month: enter to win a signed copy of Evensong, book 1 of the Meratis Trilogy! If you haven’t already, dive into Andvell, a world of magic, dragons, and characters who will capture your heart.

After you’ve entered, head on over to my Facebook page and share your “shelfie” in the comments of the giveaway post!

The winner will be chosen on August 23. Good luck!

Book Release: Death at Peony House

The ghosts of Peony House have awoken, and you can finally find out why – Death at Peony House is officially available on Amazon!

peony_promoThis urban fantasy with a mystery twist follows the story of Daphne Heartstone, the sorceress and journalist first introduced in The Invisible Entente prequel novella that was released last month.

Eight months later, one of the most powerful sorceresses of her bloodline is now wary of her own magic. Losing herself to her power would bring Daphne back to the dark path she once walked, breaking promises to her family, and taking away her chance to build a solid life for herself.

But, of course, the best laid plans rarely happen as we want them to. One night, on a tip, Daphne heads to Peony House to dig up the next morning’s headline. Unfortunately, she finds herself facing the shadows of her past and has to find out whether she’s strong enough to stare through them without getting sucked back in.

Death at Peony House is available for $3.99 (less than a speciality coffee!) or free through Kindle Unlimited!

Grab your copy today

 

Grab a Free Novella

To celebrate DEATH AT PEONY HOUSE’s book birthday tomorrow, I’m trying to get as many people as possible to start right at the beginning.

To achieve that end, THE INVISIBLE ENTENTE prequel novella is FREE to download on Amazon until September 22.

entente_promo“If you’re reading this note, I’m already dead.  I find even more pleasure in the idea that one of you will soon join me.”

At the precise moment of warlock Jermaine Hershel’s death, seven strangers are transported into a magically sealed room with only a letter from the dead man to explain. If they want to go home, the way out is simple: discover the murderer — and kill them. Tensions rise as each stranger reveals their connection with Jermaine, but the puzzle isn’t so easy to solve. At least one of them is lying. In an unlikely alliance, they have to act quickly to unravel the mystery before the murderer acts first.

This 130-page locked-room urban fantasy mystery introduces you to the team of unlikely and reluctant heroes that make up The Invisible Entente.

Spread the word, grab your copy, and step into a version of our world where even the smallest coincidence might be a part of  greater, growing pattern.

Once you’ve finished, come join the party! Every birthday needs a celebration, and book releases are no different.

Tomorrow, from 4pm – 10pm EST, I’ll be hosting the Facebook launch party. Choose your favourite snacks and chat with a fantastic group of authors and have a chance to win some great swag. Hope to see you there!

Questing at Can-Con

Last weekend, I had a chance to check out Can-Con, the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature. This is an event I’ve been wanting to attend since I first learned about it two years ago, but schedule conflicts and only hearing about it at the last minute prevented me from walking through the doors.

This year, I was determined.

On the weekend I was preparing to buy tickets, I received a great opportunity to attend as part of Error 404: Show Not Found and conduct a series of interviews, getting a behind-the -scenes look at what, in my opinion, is one of the most important growing conventions in Canada (the video of our explorations will be available shortly).

Why do I have that opinion? Because as a Canadian fantasy author, I feel that my voice is sometimes a whisper in the crowd. While the internet is a great place for blurring those lines of nationality, it’s still difficult for someone north of the border to draw the attention of, say, a New York literary agent (and sometimes even to hook readers if the setting is a small town in Ontario).

Can-Con offers an opportunity for new Canadian genre writers to shout out. Not only is it a collection of speculative fiction authors getting together to rub elbows and share their experiences AS Canadian spec fiction authors, it’s also a chance to check out panels hosted by some big names across a whole bunch of genres, and this year organizers Derek Kunsken and Marie Bilodeau invited a New York agent to answer questions and accept pitches.

RIGHT HERE IN OTTAWA!

This year, the event was held at the Novotel, right across from the Rideau Centre. The event took up two floors, with scheduled signings, a vendor’s room, and different rooms for the panels (discussions included the evolution of the genre, of gender and diversity in gender, on how to adapt your work to film and TV — seriously, so much great stuff). The event itself was an RPG game. On registration, you rolled for your character and kept the card with you throughout the event: a fun and creative way to get to know the competition your colleagues.

The vendor room was full of books (all the books!), local crafts, and products that complement reading to perfection (like locally made tea and coffee).

Can-Con has existed since 1992. It went on hiatus for a while, but returned in 2010 and has been steadily growing ever since. Each year, the organizers bring in incredible research resources, such as doctors and scientists, to answer your questions on any number of subjects (want to know about the spread of the Zika virus? They’ve got you covered). There are opportunities to get your pitches critiqued, to chat with small press owners and, of course, to chat with some of the most well-established writers in the genre.

I missed meeting Tanya Huff, unfortunately, but did grab a chance with speak with (and interview) Charles de Lint, an author I very much admire. These two shared a panel about the fantasy genre, and as they both have been instrumental in developing the genre in the country, are not voices to ignore.

This convention deserves the attention it’s getting and I look forward to watching them grow. Walking through the event, I saw nothing but people excited to be there: to meet fellows in their trade, to learn tricks and tips on how to make a go of the business themselves, or simply to be surrounded by books. So many books. It was wonderful.

Events like this are crucial. Writing is a solitary business and sometimes it can feel like you’re floundering without any anchors. It’s reassuring to know that’s the norm (hurray!), and that there are resources and supports there when you need them.

So next year, make sure to follow them on Twitter, on Facebook, on their website (link is at the top) and get thee to the convention!

The Invisible Entente has come to play

As I continue to my spontaneous BLOG POSTS ABOUT EVERYTHING streak, I figured I might as well take the time to blog about my new book release. Because, y’know, I have one. S’cool. No biggie.

NO! WAIT! DON’T WALK AWAY! I’m actually REALLY EXCITED about this book release, because it marks my first steps into official urban fantasy. I’ve played with the genre in private for years, but I’ve finally worked up the courage to slip into a non-epic genre and build castles in a new sandbox.

entente_promo

“If you’re reading this note, I’m already dead.  I find even more pleasure in the idea that one of you will soon join me.”

At the precise moment of warlock Jermaine Hershel’s death, seven strangers are transported into a magically sealed room with only a letter from the dead man to explain.

If they want to go home, the way out is simple: discover the murderer — and kill them.

Tensions rise as each stranger reveals their connection with Jermaine, but the puzzle isn’t so easy to solve. At least one of them is lying. In an unlikely alliance, they have to act quickly to unravel the mystery before the murderer acts first.

Don’t get me wrong – I love and miss my Andvell gang, but the Invisible Entente is a brand new kind of trouble. Supernatural and mythological figures trapped in a locked-room mystery, tempers being tested (and when you have the power to set fire on things with your mind, that can be dangerous), and alliances being formed.

This prequel introduces the characters I’ve spent the last couple of months with and launches the first in a 7-book arc as it goes through each of the characters and culminates in…well, you’ll find out when you get there.

These characters are witty, dangerous, powerful, conflicted — all the good things you want to see in a bunch of reluctant heroes — and I hope you fall in love with them as quickly as I did.

The novella (130 pages) is available through Amazon for 99c or through KindleUnlimited for FREE, so grab a copy, brew a cup of tea, and then leave a comment below to let me know who your favourites are.

Grab your copy now!

If you’re not sure yet, you can read an excerpt here

A First Look at Bladelore

*dances*

My beta notes came back yesterday, which means I now get to start the final steps to get the final book of The Cadis Trilogy ready for publication.

If all goes according to plan – and how often do plans go awry, right? That’s why it’s a plan – ARC copies will go out at the beginning of next month (interested in getting a review copy? Email me with links to your reviews for either Bloodlore or Blightlore to get your name on the list!)

To celebrate my progress, I’m offering a sneak peek into Bladelore, the wrap-up to assassin Venn Connell’s misadventures. Enjoy it? Leave a note in the comments!

*** Note: there are a few spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books ***

Chapter One

Venn Connell ducked under the edge of a swinging sword.

The blade lodged into the trunk of a tree on the side of the road, and she swept out her leg. Her foot connected with the Margolan soldier’s ankle. He lost his balance and staggered backward, frantically tugging on his sword hilt to free the weapon from the thick bark. Using the distraction, Venn drove her knife under his arm. Blood sprayed from the slashed artery, and the soldier dropped to his knees.

She spun out of his way and launched herself onto the back of a second soldier. He’d raised his sword to strike Maggie Stanwell while the enchantress was focused on protecting the rest of their company. Venn dragged her blade through the soldier’s throat, and his blood spattered across Maggie’s white tunic.

The soldier sagged to the ground. Venn rolled off him and scanned the fight for her next target.

The Margolan soldiers had come out of nowhere. The road had been empty except for the marching Andvellian army and occasional fleeing deer or pecking bird. In the span of a blink, fifty soldiers appeared to block their way. Their armour shone with fresh polish, and none of the horses appeared road-worn. They looked as though they’d set out that morning for a leisurely ride and had endured none of the month-long journey it should have taken to reach so far west of the border.

Brannagh’s behind this. He has to be.

She scanned the crowd again for the familiar red hood that shadowed the cold, dead eyes of Margolin’s captain of the queensguard. If the man had used the Meratis incantation to transport the soldiers through the veil into Andvell, she suspected he’d want to stick around to watch the bloodshed.

But if he was close, he hid himself well.

Of the fifty soldiers who met them, only ten remained, with close to a hundred Feldall soldiers having joined the fray. Corpses in both colours scattered the ground, but Margolin had taken the hardest hit, and Venn watched three more fall under Jasmine Reed’s arrows and Jayden Feldall’s sword.

Princess Ariana fought at her husband’s right side, guarding the blind spots caused by his missing eye and arm. Behind her, Thom Foley and Frederick Larimer, a Margolan soldier and the previous captain of the Margolan queensguard, battled their own men with no lack of ferocity and determination.

Will Stanwell, Maggie’s son, and Bruce McKay, a Cordelayan enchanter, stood on the edges of the fight, both chanting the same words as Maggie to bolster the strength of Feldall’s men. The Margolans had brought no magic with them, and the disadvantage had hastened their downfall.

A stray soldier escaped Ariana’s defenses and charged towards Venn. She braced herself, pulled a second knife from the band of sheaths at her hip, and met him halfway. Maggie shouted a word behind her, and the soldier froze for a single heartbeat, long enough to delay him raising his sword. Venn took a running leap towards him and, after they crashed to the ground, thrust one of her knives under his chin. She pressed her weight onto her arms until the hilt hit his jaw, her other blade tight against his upper thigh as he thrashed beneath her.

By the time he fell still, the rest of the battle was over and the only sounds remaining on the road were the cries of Feldall’s injured troops.

Venn eased herself off the dead Margolan and jerked her knives from his flesh. Maggie stepped closer and helped her to her feet.

“You all right?” she asked.

“Peachy,” Venn replied. She stooped to wipe her blades on the dead soldier’s sleeve before sheathing them. Brushing the sweat from her forehead with the back of her arm, she stared out across the devastation they’d left behind.

Jayden and Jasmine stood talking with Ariana and Larimer in the middle of the road, and although Venn couldn’t make out the words, the frowns and determined pointing in different directions hinted at a serious debate.

Thom came up beside her and slid his sword into its scabbard. Will followed close behind him, returning a couple of unused vials of enchantments to his satchel.

“What are they bickering about over there?” she asked, with a nod in Jayden’s direction.

Thom glanced over his shoulder. “Trying to figure out how we didn’t see the soldiers coming. Lady Feldall and Prince Jayden are trying to explain the concept of the Meratis incantation to the captain, but I don’t think he’s wrapped his head around it yet. He’s ready to blast the scouts for not giving us any warning of their approach.” He frowned. “I also don’t think he’s happy we responded to the attack with force instead of calling for peace talks.”

Venn snorted. “Would they have stopped to listen?”

Thom nodded. “I know. I think he knows that as well, but I’m sure you can understand his position. Those were his men. We’ve already lost so many people in this war.”

He looked away, and Venn stared over his shoulder into the trees. She didn’t want to deal with the emotions his words evoked — the heart-clenching pain of grief that had followed her from Feldall’s Keep. She shoved the feelings to the back of her mind and forced herself not to think of what she had lost.

Larimer broke away from the circle to walk among the remains of the men who had been under his command for twenty years. He would have trained many of them as raw recruits, boys he’d watched grow up. From everything Venn had heard of Larimer before she met him, and everything she’d seen since, his career was his life. His queen and his station in her court were his greatest pride. They had been stripped away from him by forces beyond his control — namely by Guy Danos, the foreign stranger who had elbowed his way up the ranks to become the queen’s first counsellor in a matter of months — but that hadn’t stopped him from doing his best to save his country from destruction.

Staring at his fallen men, he probably believed he’d failed them.

He’s welcome to join the club, she thought. None of us feel like winners right now.

Hazel eyes and a warm smile flashed in Venn’s memory, and her heart ached.

She steeled herself against the pain and walked away from the others towards Larimer. With no idea what she would say — if she would say anything — she felt an urge to walk through the dead with him, wanting to centre herself in reality instead of losing herself in the nightmare of what was coming.

***

Like what you see? Sign up for my newsletter to get the first news of Bladelore‘s release, as well as a few Andvell Saga free short stories. http://eepurl.com/GIJkz

 

The Year Plods Onward – March in Sum

Before we get too far into April, I guess I should take a look back at March.

First off: HOW IS ALREADY APRIL?! (I have a feeling this will be a frequent message for the blog posts)

Second: It’s April, dammit, WARM UP!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. March.

Goal: exercise 20 mins a day (10 hours/month)

This one I seem to have knocked out of the park this month at 19h30 for the month. Most of this is walking now that I don’t need to worry (or at least, worry less) about falling and hurting myself. I should be using my standing desk more than I am during the day, though, so I’ll try to work on that.

(Psst. The more people who buy my books, the closer I am to getting the perfect sit-stand desk that will allow me to write even MORE while staying healthy. Win-win!) 

Goal: read for pleasure 30 mins a day

While the goal to get my exercise in as been great and super helpful, I think tracking what I’m reading and having reading being on my to-do check list each day has made a huge difference. I went from reading fewer than 10 books last year to (I think) having already reached that so far this year.

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chodron is a book my dad got me. He offers courses in mindfulness and meditation, and is always trying to get me to slow down. (DOES HE NOT KNOW WHO I AM?! But really, he’s right). This book was an amazing read. Very quick, and one that I’ll likely pick up again going forward when I need a pick-me-up. Among other wisdom, I picked up two wonderful mottoes that I now have written up on my bulletin board.

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

It’s right up there with “My father used to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast” from Alice in Wonderland (movie), but I find the statement stirring. At any point in the day, you can make a decision that could change your life. Even if you’re not aware of anything changing or moving, something in the background could be falling into place the launches you forward to get you where you want to be.

The other:

FAILURE IS AN OPPORTUNITY

It gives a whole new spin on something not working out the way you wanted it. You COULD see it as an ending, or see it as a new foundation to build your next step. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me with a lot of plans going awry, so this was a lesson I needed to read.

Other books I read:

The Secret Country by Pamela Dean. This one was recommended to me by a friend. She said it reminded her of the premise of my Meratis Trilogy is she was very right! It’s the story of five cousins who create a game over the summer…and then find themselves living in. But things aren’t quite as they imagined. I had some trouble getting into the language of the game (very classical fantasy) and the characters were distant but the story kept me engaged and I’ll be continuing on with the series.

And Then There Were None and 13 to Dinner (or Lord Edgware Dies) by Agatha Christie. That’s right – I went back to Christie, as I said I would. I first read And Then There Were None in high school, and the re-read lived up to my memory.

The Martian by Andy Weir. I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I’d heard all the hype about the novel and the film, but doubted I would be interested. I’m a fantasy girl, not a sci-fi reader! But it hooked me. I stayed up into the wee smas to finish it off and  loved every page.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Decoded by David Day. This book was everything I wanted it to be. It looked at Alice from satirical, theosophical and mathematical levels and broke down the symbolism of every character and every speech. Did you know the shape of the rabbit hole Alice falls down matches the pattern of a Fibonacci sequence? And the feud between Carroll and Alice’s father, the Dean of Christ Church, was rampant all through the text.  A fascinating read and I recommend it for any history buffs who like digging deeper into the text.

Goal: read 1 craft book/month

Achieved! I read Susan Kaye Quinn’s The Indie Author Survival Guide and wondered how I hadn’t read it years ago. Concise, casual, and full of information on all the basics, as well as tips on marketing and production, which I hope to put into effect.

Goal: 2 social events/month

I squeezed this one in at the last minute, but I achieved it! First was my niece’s third birthday party, which was wonderful fun; then I had an impromptu breakfast with a friend I haven’t seen in far too long; and finally, two other friends and I went out to the opening of a tea room nearby. The Vanitea Room is a cute little place with pretty great food and reasonably priced tea service. The wait times ran on the long side, but it was packed because of the opening, so I would go back and give them another try.

What else have I been up to?

Editing. March was a full month of editing. Remember in my last post when I talked about learning through errors? Well March was a month of dealing with the consequences. The delay in Bladelore edits led to a rushed first draft of Death at Peony House, which mean that when I got DaPH back from my alpha reader, I had to rewrite a bulk of it. So I pushed through Bladelore edits to get it to a second beta reader, and then pushed through DaPH edits to make sure it got to my editor on time.

So I’m finally breathing. I mean, not completely easily, because I got the brilliant idea to jump into CampNaNoWriMo this year, so April will be spent drafting book 2 in the Invisible Entente series. But at least it’s light and something fun. I’m really enjoying this new series.

I promised all kinds of WIPpets and previews, and they are all coming. I’m going to start sharing the first chapter of Bladelore next week, for one thing. I’ll break it up into three sections and hopefully by the time the third section is up, the book will be in the process of going up for purchase!

*deep breath*

What about you? How did you pass your March?