Writing with Anxiety

It has taken me over twenty five hours to finally write this post. The beginning of 2020 has been quite stressful for my household, especially after we thought this month, this new year, was going to be the start of a better year. We were confident that we were going to start this year feeling good, more secure, like the ground under our feet was going to stop shifting. Turns out, we were wrong. I think everything is going to be okay, but this past week has been particularly hard for us. Lots of surprises we weren’t prepared for and we had to make some difficult adjustments to make things work. Plans had to change. Things aren’t starting off how we wanted.

So yesterday, when I sat down to write this post, things hadn’t yet resolved themselves and I was actually shaking with anxiety. My body felt like I was vibrating. I was sitting through my own personal earthquake and the ground wouldn’t settle.

Monday I’d started the day off feeling pretty secure. Those surprises hadn’t hit yet. So I was feeling pretty good about getting back to the novel I’d started during NaNo. I’d taken the holidays off and given myself time to think about the book and where it was going. I’d written to the end of the outline I’d had done and knew I couldn’t move forward until I finished the outline or, at least, gotten a few more chapters outlined. I finished reading the first 50k words and felt a lot better about how the book was shaping up, realizing it wasn’t as meandering and stretched out as I thought. Tuesdays morning I outlined two chapters.

I know two chapters doesn’t sound like a lot, but I outline in long form, by hand.

See? That takes a toll on my hands nowadays. I don’t know how I used to outline five chapters in a day without my hand killing me. But anyway. I was really happy with my new progress. I thought, hell, if I can outline two chapters a day, in five days I’ll have ten chapters ready to write!

Then new surprises exploded in our email and what we thought was going to be a calm month turned into panic and uncertainty. My stomach knotted up and I couldn’t focus on work anymore. I’d have to be okay with those two chapters while I tried to deal with new issues. My anxiety was so bad that I couldn’t really focus on anything. I couldn’t calm down. I looked calm. Oh, I can look calm like the best of them. But inside? My heart is palpating. My breath isn’t smooth. My arms feel like they’re shaking. It’s like I’m really fucking cold and can’t stop shivering. But you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I can go through the motions like a champ.

I knew things wouldn’t be settled until late morning Wednesday. And, until that happened, my anxiety brain would not calm down. Anxiety is like having nervous cat living inside you. You can try to calm it, give it warmth, sustenance, a place to curl up and relax, but any small movement, any unfamiliar noise, and you set it off and its claws are in the curtains and it is spitting and hissing without warning.

I had work to do though, work I couldn’t ignore. I had a client in the morning and I needed to get this post written. Having someone face-to-face was helpful because I had to deal with them and couldn’t dwell, waiting for news that the ground wasn’t moving anymore. But as soon as they were gone, I was left in the quiet and that cat was shaking and growling low.

Write my post. That’ll help. But no. I sat at my desk and stared, my arms still trembling and feeling like I was sitting in a freezer. Just waiting for a phone call that would tell me if things were gonna be semi okay and not just all out terrible. We were hoping the month was going to be good and now I was praying for semi okay.

I couldn’t write my post. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I actually wanted to post about NaNo and what to do now, but I couldn’t think of what I wanted to say. I looked at my outline and wanted to get the next chapter done. I couldn’t. The characters couldn’t be heard over the growling cat. I was stuck in an anxiety trap. My mind wasn’t racing like it will when I try to go to sleep. I wasn’t thinking of all the disastrous things that could and might happen—though any time something showed up in my email I assumed the worst. I wasn’t crying or balled into a corner. I was just sitting here, right where I am now, and trembling. Waiting.

Anxiety is a monster that can do many things. It can steal your energy. It can steal your happiness. It can make you angry or sad or panicked. Anxiety demands attention like a bank robber with a gun. And even if your rational brain is telling you things are going to be okay and you work things out in your head, anxiety can hold on, claws sunk so deep there’s no pulling them out until the cat is ready to retract.

But now, here I am, nearly 1000 words into this post, and no longer shaking. Things are different than what I hoped and expected in the beginning of the month, but we’re semi okay and I can suddenly move my fingers on the keys and think about this post. And my outline is waiting for me and my characters are still there, ready when I am.

I used to be a write every day kind of person, only taking one or two days off on the weekends. I was terrified of losing momentum once I started writing a book. If I took too much time off, I was scared I’d struggle to start again. And you know what? I was right. It is very, very hard to start back up. And shit like this week happens that totally derails me and I think, if only I’d been working I’d be further along than where I am and wouldn’t feel so shitty about being derailed. But it’s okay. The words will always be there when you’re ready and able to come back. It took me a long, long time to reconcile that in my head. The write like you’re afraid you’ll die before you finish served me really well these last few years, but now, things have changed and so have I. My anxiety is actually a lot worse than it used to be and I’m having to always learn how to listen to it, deal with it, and adjust for it.

If you need the break because you don’t have a choice because that cat’s claws are sunk so deep you’ll just shred yourself trying to remove them, just wait. Let the cat calm down and retract the claws. Your characters, your words, your abilities will still be there when you come back. Not everyone can work in chaos and despair, not everyone’s art flourishes in the dark, and that’s okay. Wait for the sun.

And, if you suffer from anxiety, and reading this post triggered you, let me leave with you a picture of adorable sleeping pups, using the same pillow to try to calm you back down. I highly recommend a cuddly pet if you have anxiety, btw.

It's that time of year… #NewYearsResolution

So, I’ve got a funny story for you. You know last December, when my Scribes post listed all the things I meant to accomplish in 2019? I can proudly report that…

I might not have done so well.

Or at least I’ve been telling myself I didn’t accomplish much. Getting ready for this post, though, I looked over the list from last year – you can find it here if you’re curious – and I didn’t entirely suck.

  1. I didn’t write another book for my agent to send out on submission, but I did self-publish Lost & Found (previously known as L’Ami Mysteriuex), so I get partial credit for this one.
  2. Last January I’d written ~ 1120 #PostcardsToVoters, and today I’m at ~ 1850, which means I’ve averaged ~ 15 postcards per week. My goal was 20. Close enough.
  3. I said I’d spend 15 minutes a day teaching myself French.
    HAHAHAHA.
  4. I meant to write another Trevor story. He’s the hero in The Clockwork Monk & The Christmas Prince (which is still a free download for the next week or so), and while he’ll get another story, it didn’t happen this year.
  5. Next was rewriting the Creepy Doll story. Funny thing, that. I started a rewrite, changing the time period from 1940 to 1900. Then I cut the vampire. Then I moved the location from New Orleans to Seattle. Then…uh…I cut the doll. And then I had to admit I was writing an entirely different book, but it was my NaNo project and I’m about 10k words shy of finishing the first draft.
  6. I promised to keep my senators on speed dial, and I have.
  7. I didn’t get back into Weight Watchers, but I’ve been going to a weekly spin class and taking yoga a couple times of week, so I’m going to count this as a win, too.

Looking back, there were only two resolutions I really did no work towards (and yes, Babbel, I’m looking at you). Here I thought I was going to write a 500-word mea culpa, but in reality, I did pretty good.

Go me!

Now I guess I should figure out what to do to capitalize on this success. A clever person might make another list of resolutions and since I’m nothing if not clever, here goes…

  1. I hereby resolve to use my planner.

Guess you could say I’m aiming to quit while I’m ahead. I do have a mental list of what I want to accomplish, and tbh, using a planner is a pretty big step that will allow me to translate my mental list to action. I’ll let you know how it goes!

I hope your holidays were happy, however you chose to celebrate. Thank you so much for reading along!!

On Community, Drama and Humanity

So there’s a dumpster fire going on in the romance world right now and I’m not going to say much about it, other than the only thing that is keeping me from leaving the national organization is my local chapter, which I love. I’m in cautious wait and see mode to see what national’s next response/move is given that half the board resigned today.

But this is only a part of what is going on in the author world I’m tired of all the drama. I’m not sure if it started in the sci-fi fantasy community with their racism/sexism/doxxing issues or the YA community when they began to eat their own authors alive on Twitter. Or maybe it’s been going on for much longer than that and I just noticed with those two. (We had a minor version in the historical fiction community a few years ago, but that  was pretty quiet and only resulted in a new organization forming.) Then there is the Hallmark ad fiasco (which has apparently resulted in a call on the national organization’s forums to boycott Hallmark Publishing, but that thread isn’t showing when you try to read it) and J.K. Rowling and her comments. I can’t. I just can’t.

Social media seems to be making it all the worse. I’m all for connecting authors, and yes, I know that racism/homophobia/etc. are wrong and should be called out, but sometimes it feels like a pile-on on both sides. The national organization’s forums are the same way, with all the name calling and accusations (again on both sides). Aren’t we all (or at least most of us) adults? Then why are we acting like children? And there is pressure to weigh in, lest your silence look like you agree. It’s a no-win situation.

I suppose this is just a reflection of how far our society at large has fallen in the last three or four years. Everyone seems angry and ready to lash out at the smallest thing (myself included, sometimes) and everything is insulted/offended by everything (sometimes warranted, sometimes not). Civil discourse is a thing of the past and even every day politeness is gone.

I remember long about 10 years ago when social media was great for the writing community, especially Twitter. I met all of the Spellbound Scribes (past and present) on there when we were affectionately known as #TeamAwesome. They are the reason why I am where I am today. Their support helped a fledgling, wanna-be author persevere through a LOT of trials and stay in the game long enough to be almost breaking even. But now that kind of online Twitter community is gone, replaced with vitriol and cattiness.

And it’s not just in the writing community. I was in several Facebook groups for the last year and a half or so for women discerning a certain vocation. But after being shut down every time I asked questions (that is what discernment is for, right?) and told I was not conservative enough for the vocation by the very people who are supposed to be advocates for it, I left. Thankfully, I have since found my purpose, but I will never forget the pain the people who are supposed to represent God and goodness inflicted on me just for trying to understand.

In both cases, the very people who are supposed to be helping new/existing members succeed are driving them away. It’s enough to make one want to become a hermit. Yet community is key to survival as humans. Multiple studies have shown that being around others makes you live longer. And if you’ve ever experienced the feeling of “finding your tribe” you know what a rush it is when you are with others who “get” you.

But nowadays it seems like flocking to those of like mind is considered a bad thing; you get told you only want to hear from others who agree with you. Well, yeah. If we can’t have a conversation anymore in which we agree to disagree, then being around people who agree with me is much better for my mental health than being yelled at and bullied.

So what are we supposed to do? I have no idea. I find myself retreating from people more with each passing day. Yes, I have friends whom I dearly love (and some of us can get into it on certain topics because we DON’T agree), but humanity (or at least Americans) in general are not fun to be around.

I guess the only answer is to try to be the best person you can (says the woman who can be really crabby and bitchy) and pray (literally) that things turn around. As they say, be the change you wish to see in the world.

If you have any solutions, please let me know. I don’t want things to continue this way.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and drama-free 2020.

Unexpected Origins of Christmas

I had a bit of an unusual upbringing, religion-wise. My parents were both lapsed Catholics by way of 70’s-era hippie-inspired Buddhism, with a generous helping of mid-90’s Wicca to further complicate the mix. I was raised in a household that celebrated God, the Goddess, saints, fairies, reincarnation, Greek mythology, the full moon, Hanukkah, transcendental meditation, Sufi dancing, and Christmas. We learned a lot about all religions, without ever really ascribing to any particular one ourselves.

It may sound confusing, but in all honesty it was freeing. Throughout my childhood, I was able to experience elements of all global religions without the pressure to worship anything at all. Religious belief was more of a scholarly pursuit to me, and I was able to hand-pick the elements of religion I felt personally drawn to, and reject the ones I didn’t.

What resulted is a lifelong fascination with religion. The winter holiday season is an especially compelling topic for me, partially because I love Christmas but also because holiday-wise, Christmas is one of the most complex in terms of its religious roots. Whenever a conservative pundit cries “War on Christmas” I have to laugh, because so much of what we consider to be “Christmas” is, in fact, not very Christian at all.

Midwinter Madness

The most ancient and perhaps most important precursor to Christmas is, of course, the winter Solstice–the longest night of the year, before the earth slowly tilts back toward the sun. Most human cultures have celebrated midwinter in some form or another–Shab-e Yalda, Toji, and Dong-Zhi are just a few of the non-Western traditions surrounding the Solstice.

For the ancient Romans, this midwinter festival was called Saturnalia, named for the god Saturn. Saturnalia was celebrated by feasts, the giving of gifts, and symbolic role-reversals. 700 years after Saturnalia was first celebrated, on December 25th, the Emperor Aurelian consecrated the temple of Sol Invictus, creating a holiday called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti – the Birthday of the Sun – officially elevating the Sun to the highest position among the gods.

It wasn’t til around 350 AD that Pope Julius I officially declared December 25th to mark the birth of Christ. There was no evidence that was the actual day of birth; to the contrary, the gospel of Luke, says: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. Shepherds usually watch their flock by night during lambing season, which is the spring. Hmmmm….

O Tannenbaum

As early Christians moved into Northern Europe and introduced the story of Christ to the native Germanic and Celtic peoples, the practices of Christmas were influenced by the practices of those peoples for their winter solstice holidays. Traditions like the Yule log, mistletoe, tree decorating, and evergreen wreaths were soon absorbed or combined with existing Christian beliefs.

One anecdote tells of Germanic tribes who worshipped coniferous trees in winter, believing that their ever-green leaves spoke of a supernatural holiness. Saint Boniface supposedly came upon one such ritual, and wanting to evangelize to the locals, directed their attention to a spruce tree, whose triangular shape more closely resembled the Holy Trinity. Some say this is the origin of our modern-day Christmas tree!

Very Merry Gentleman (and Ladies)

Modern-day Christmas is very subdued compared to Medieval celebrations of the holiday (even if you enjoy your eggnog!). After a month-long period of fasting and penitence, the 12 Days of Christmas were a truly festive time of feasting and revelry, lasting from Christmas Eve until Epiphany. One tradition involved drunks (often dressed as the opposite gender) running down the streets and banging on doors, demanding to be fed lest they loot the house. This two-week bender was so despicable to some that the Puritans attempted to have Christmas banned altogether in 17th century England!

Thanks, Pop Culture

The Puritans thankfully couldn’t keep Christmas at bay forever. But Christmas was primed for a reinvention, and the Victorians happily obliged. So many of the things we associate with Christmas today were popularized by the Victorians: colorful toys, wrapping paper, Christmas cards, and caroling were all part of the new old holiday.

But two seminal works of literature really brought Christmas into the modern era. Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, helped transform Santa Claus from a minor 4th century saint (sometimes associated with Odin himself) into the chimney-spelunking, jolly old elf we all know today. Then, Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel A Christmas Carol (reportedly conceived for the author to make a quick buck) redefined the holiday as a sentimental time of family, food, and good-feeling.

And as a more secular version of Christmas gained in popularity the world over, the more prosaic forces of capitalism and pop culture took the reins. From Coca-Cola’s famous reinvention of Santa Claus as a red-suited jocular old man, to Bing Crosby’s war-nostalgia musical White Christmas, to the Hallmark Channel’s derivative holiday movie spam, Christmas in any era can start to feel too commercialized. But in reality, Christmas is a celebration that has its origins in humanity’s earliest cultures, gathering new meanings and rituals through time. And when you strip away all the cultural trappings, this winter festival celebrates what winter festivals have always celebrated: the triumph of light over darkness and the strength of the human spirit.

And that, my friends, is the meaning of Christmas.

Merry, Happy Reading!

Hey kids. So, you stressed out about the holidays yet? Cuz. You know. I’m not. I’m totally fine. I’m not freaking out that we had the shortest shopping season ever. I’m not looking at my gift list with a shaking hand. It’s ALL FINE. STOP ASKING!

A-hem.

Anyway. Krampus’ Santa’s Helper Shauna is here to help you out. Make things a little easier on you.

You know what makes a great gift? That’s right! Books! I clang this bell every year and I know some people roll their eyes, but hear me out! You ever get a last-minute gift from someone you weren’t expecting to get a gift from? And now you have to follow social conventions and reciprocate? But you don’t know what to get your cubicle neighbor Jan.

Get her a book! You can get an ebook at the very last second and it’ll still arrive on time so long as you have an email address to send it to.

Physical books are amazing gifts because they are so damn easy to wrap. No weird shapes. The bows go on so perfectly. You’ll look like a pro! And you can buy the same book for multiple people if it’s the right book.

And we Scribes have a few wonderful books to help you with that decision making process! We have holiday books and non-holiday books for you to choose from! Some brand new and some for the ages! Just pick your favorites or, you know, all of them and your list will shrink before your eyes!

First up, a holiday romance treat from Liv. If you missed her last post, you can read it here. If you, or someone on your list, is all about those Hallmark Holiday movies, this is gonna be right up their alley!

Ten years ago, Jon’s passion for the piano took him across country to New York, where a demanding concert career consumed his life and left him no time to look back. His father’s stroke is the only thing that brings him home to Seattle. The sick room makes for a dreary holiday until Jon runs into Bo, whose inner light can make anything sparkle.

Bo loves the holidays; the food, the crafts, the glitter! A fling with an old school friend – who grew up to be his celebrity crush – makes a good thing better. The season turns sour, though, when Jon is offered a gig he can’t refuse. He wants Bo to share the moment, but Bo doesn’t fly. Anywhere. Ever. Is this good-bye, or will a handmade ornament bring Jon home to Bo?

You can find A Holiday Homecoming on Amazon & other stores HERE, and on the publisher’s website (for slightly less money) HERE.

Next up, we have a brand new release from Lyra! Her much anticipated sequel to her debut novel, Amber & Dusk, we now have Diamond & Dawn! This beauty is great if you’re looking for something not holiday-centric but rich and beautiful. Don’t worry. There’s always some icy goodness with Sunder around.

And Lyra’s giveaway is still going! Check out her last post for details! This is a great giveaway so don’t miss out while there’s still time! I am lucky enough to have one of the engravings she’s giving away and let me tell you, the artwork is amazing! Just like her books!

Continuing with our non-holiday themed gifty ideas, you need to check out Nicole’s Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy, especially if you’re a fan of the Mists of Avalon, like I am. See where her books land on the Amazon page?

Impressive, right? And her ebook bundle is a fantastic deal! These books will make you believe that this is actually a historical fiction book, not historical fantasy. Nicole will transport you to that magical, brooding world and remind us that sometimes the stories told about women aren’t fair and give you a different look at Guinevere.

Finally, your’s truly! We’re back to a holiday recommendation. I, obviously, love all my books, but I have a soft spot for my favorite wytch for hire, Matilda Kavanagh. One of the reasons why I love her is that she gave me a chance to finally write a Christmas story with a twist. In my book, Yuletide, you’ll get a witchy Christmas with the gang and get to meet Krampus, the OG Holiday Legend with a Big Bag.

Yes, it’s the third in a series, but I promise you, you can pick it up and read it on it’s own and not feel lost. Of course, you’re welcome to pick up the first two in the series and read your way into Yuletide. You know, whatever frosts your holy berries.

So, have a look, shop a little, knock some names off your list. All of our books are offered in ebook format so you can buy some last minute goodies for friends and family, but if you like phyiscal books, order soon so you don’t have to stress about shipping delays!

And, don’t forget yourself! Did you not get what you wanted? Lots of gift cards burning a hole in your pocket? Get yourself a nice little read to enjoy by the fire this holiday season.

Have yourself a merry, happy little holiday!

Bonus Sunday Scribes!!

Happy Sunday! I hope you’re all having a good weekend. This is just a quick post to let you know that my holiday novella, A Holiday Homecoming, went live this morning!
Homecoming is part of Dreamspinner Press’s Advent Calendar series – you can click HERE to see the whole package – along with books by Kim Fielding, EJ Russell, CS Poe, and a whole bunch more.

It’s a great bunch of authors, and a lot of fun reads!

I had so much fun working on this story. It’s a bit of a departure for me; it’s contemporary, which means I didn’t have to figure out how to turn on the lights or how long it takes to get from point A to point B on a horse, and it’s NOT paranormal – nary a vampire in site! So if you’re in the mood for a sweet and slightly spicy holiday romance, this might be your book!

Ten years ago, Jon’s passion for the piano took him across country to New York, where a demanding concert career consumed his life and left him no time to look back. His father’s stroke is the only thing that brings him home to Seattle. The sick room makes for a dreary holiday until Jon runs into Bo, whose inner light can make anything sparkle.

Bo loves the holidays; the food, the crafts, the glitter! A fling with an old school friend – who grew up to be his celebrity crush – makes a good thing better. The season turns sour, though, when Jon is offered a gig he can’t refuse. He wants Bo to share the moment, but Bo doesn’t fly. Anywhere. Ever. Is this good-bye, or will a handmade ornament bring Jon home to Bo?

You can find A Holiday Homecoming on Amazon & other stores HERE, and on the publisher’s website (for slightly less money) HERE.

AND

…as long as I’m here, I figure I’ll mention that Irene and I put Bonfire on sale for $0.99. It’s Christmas with a vampire on the bayou, y’all!

Pick up a $0.99 copy of Bonfire HERE!

AND

…..The Santa Drag is FREE for the next few days. It’s an older short story about a down-on-her-luck actress who takes a job playing Santa in a shopping mall, and, uh, shenanigans ensue!

Grab a FREE copy of The Santa Drag HERE!

Thanks so much, and happy reading!!

DIAMOND & DAWN Preorder Campaign

It’s really wild for me to say this, but DIAMOND & DAWN, the sequel to AMBER & DUSK, hits shelves next week on December 3rd! It feels like no time since I was furiously drafting during last year’s NaNoWriMo, trying to get a disastrous first draft together in time for a tight January deadline. A year later, and a book I’m really proud of is finally coming out. I’m so excited to share this book with my readers!

So excited, in fact, that I’ve decided to run a preorder campaign! I’ve posted about this on my other social media platforms, but thought I’d share with you all in case you don’t follow me on teh interwebz. I curated some really fun goodies based on reader recommendations, so I hope you’ll participate!

All you have to do is preorder DIAMOND & DAWN! This includes hardbacks, ebooks, and even library requests! Then, email your proof of purchase along with your full name and mailing address to: preorderdiamondanddawn (at) gmail (dot) com.

ALL preorders will receive:

• Five (5) stunning full-color character cards designed and illustrated by the wildly talented @phantomrin AND a signed bookplate to personalize your copy of D&D! (This bookplate will match perfectly with those included with AMBER & DUSK in last December’s Unicorn Crate and Shelflove Crate!)

ONE grand prize winner will receive all the goodies pictured below:
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
• custom “Coeur d’Or” candle from @book_and_jane that smells like sandalwood, fig, and ~intrigue~ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
• custom “Ambric Illusion” essential oil bath potion from @tansyandvine that will unlock your highest potential
• amber sun pendant with chain
• exclusive copy of AMBER & DUSK, hand annotated by ME! I’m going to fill this copy with all kinds of fun behind-the-scenes content like deleted lines, what inspired elements of the story, and what my writing process is like!

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The last day to submit is 12/9/19, one week AFTER D&D hits shelves! That means in-store purchases during the first week of sales will qualify for these goodies! International entries welcome.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Thank you so, so much to everyone who pre-orders! Pre-orders are invaluable to authors. When you pre-order a book, it signals demand to both bookstores and publishing houses. Know that I’m forever grateful for your support, and I hope you love DIAMOND & DAWN just as much as you loved AMBER & DUSK! Scroll down for the cover, synopsis, and a sneak peek excerpt!

Synopsis:

Lyra Selene returns to the incandescent magic of Amber & Dusk in a second installment about the corrosions of even the most dazzling dreams, and the strength of hope amidst darkness.

Mirage, triumphant in her coup of the Amber Empire, returns to the palais prepared to take her place as empress. With the support of her friends and a tentative, blossoming romance with Sunder, Mirage is on the cusp of taking hold of everything she has ever wanted.

However, her place in the sun is not as sure as she expected, nor is it quite as bright as she imagined.

When the Empress Severine’s body was recovered from the battle, Mirage discovered she was not dead after all. Rather, Severine is in a coma, her every breath a threat to Mirage’s newfound power. Worse, a distant cousin, Gavin d’Ars, appears at court with the challenge of his blood claim. As Mirage uncovers more secrets from her family’s past, she proposes a series of ancient, grueling trials to determine the most deserving heir. But in Mirage’s fight to defend her vision for the empire, she begins to splinter all of her alliances. Will the battle for control leave anyone untainted?

Excerpt:

I unclenched my fingernails from my palm, crossed to the glass doors, and stepped out onto the wrought-iron balcony beyond. The music of marching wafted up — shod hooves ringing out on cobblestones, the champagne timpani of laughter and trumpets and song. The cortège was nearly the length of the Concordat: a river of riders in uniform — bright red and pale kembric, metal helms and dancing horses. Children ran beside the retinue, and my breath caught in my throat when I saw the soldats tossing coins to the onlookers. The procession was heading straight for Coeur d’Or’s gilded gates, flowing up the shallow steps like a sunlit river.

They finally came close enough for me to make out faces, and that’s when I saw him.

He rode tall and straight at the head of the procession on a prancing chestnut stallion. Even from here I could tell he was handsome — a bright smile laughed in a golden-tan face. Unlike the rest of the riders — who wore pale surcoats splashed in red — he was clad in kembric armor forged so that the sun hammered sparks off it. His dark mahogany hair seemed to glow, as though woven through with threads of ambric.

He shone so bright it was hard to look at him straight on. He looked like —

He looked like the Sun Heir.

“He’s already here,” I breathed.

A wave of sickly heat wafted off Sunder, slapping the back of my neck with the stench of bloody snow and icy metal.

“Here to steal your throne,” Sunder growled.

Where to Purchase:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Indiebound
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀