Twice Upon a Midsummer Night

[Epic announcer voice] In a world where I view reading time as one of my all-too-infrequent reprieves from a life lived in front of a screen [/End epic announcer voice], books on my Kindle app tend to languish unread indefinitely. So while I did at one point or another grab an e-copy of a certain retelling of Shakespeare’s classic “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with gears on it, I had yet to get around to reading it before I recently found myself on the editing team for the novel’s second edition.

(Yeah, I’m totes an assistant editor with Xchyler Publishing now, didn’t you know? :D)

“Oh, you helped edit the book?” says some guy lurking in the back. “Bah. Biased opinions.”

Not so, sir! …Madam? *peers past the blog stage lights* I can’t quite tell. No matter. I’m perfectly capable of disliking a piece of writing, whether I’m entitled to a piece of the profits or not. So be assured that my review to follow is as honest as I ever am in public.

“And just how honest is that?”

You’ll never know.

The Book: “A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk” (second edition!) by Scott E. Tarbet

Genre: Steampunk (surprise!)

Blurb: Pauline Spiegel, a master artificer like her mother before her, wants just one thing: to wed the love of her life, Alexander MacIntyre, a lowly undersecretary of the Royal Household. However, a long-term pact between her parents, and a noble House, stands between her and her happily ever after.

When a priceless mechanoid of unfathomable power is stolen, Pauline finds herself entangled in skullduggery and international intrigue, upon which the fate of nations rest.

Only with the help of her friends, and a brilliant scientist with a swarm of micromechanical insects, can Pauline survive the dark forces determined to destroy her. But will her betrothed and his rag-tag band of semi-mechanical soldiers reveal Alexander’s secrets as well?

Immerse yourself in this Steampunk retelling of Shakespeare’s classic, replete with the newfound wizardry of alternative Victorian technology, mistaken identities, love triangles, and deadly peril, set against the backdrop of a world bracing itself for war, and Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

 

My Thoughts: On the whole, I much enjoyed the story. The plot was rather politics-heavy, for my tastes, so I’d have preferred that a number of the characters’ sermons about international policy and the course of history and whatnot wrap up sooner than they did. Nonetheless, it was a breath-bating adventure. Even going in with the assumption that all would end well enough (the novel is based upon one of Shakespeare’s comedies, after all, not a tragedy), my heart thumped fretfully over the thought of the good guys coming to grievous harm. That “rag-tag band of semi-mechanical soldiers” amused me no end, silly fellows that they were. And I will admit to developing something of a crush on the antagonist’s formidable second-in-command, somewhere along the way. (#TeamShaka)

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Come for the clockwork, stay for the puckish shenanigans, say I!

And now, marvel at the book’s revamped cover.

AMNS Cover, Redesigned

A Delightfully Grave Announcement

Ladies, gentlemen, and assorted rogues! It is with great pleasure and no small amount of authorial pride that I present to you the first look at my latest anthology project with Xchyler Publishing.

Aaaand cue the vid!


 

Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Tales of Love and Loss”, featuring me – not to mention my best friend, Tirzah Duncan. First soul sisters, now anthology sisters, too. It’s a Christmas miracle! …Or, given the book’s release date of October 10th, nearer to a Halloween miracle.

In celebration of the book’s cover reveal, I’m likewise revealing the related Pinterest board that I’ve been assembling since before I even knew for sure that my own uncanny short story had made the cut. So here – have a little library magic, courtesy of “Date Due”.

Also! It’s only a matter of time until we start sending out advance reader e-copies of the book. If you – yes, YOU, sir/madam/your rogue-ship – would like an early read of “Beyond the Wail” for the low, low price of an honest review, give me a spine-chilling shriek of woe! I’ll die of fright. Or hook you up. One of those. ;D

BEYOND-THE-WAIL-front-web

Early Birds, a Wyrm, and Whatnot (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Dawlish, creation of author A.J. Campbell, describes herself thus:

So hey, I’m Dawlish. I’m 15. I like pepperoni pizza and hate diet coke. I live somewhere in the roof-space of Durham cathedral with a load of birds. Actual birds. Jackdaws, mostly. I work for these people called Kate Avery and The Baron – they used to be married or something but they’re not speaking to each other at the moment. Don’t know why. But I owe them big time, and I’m working that off. Mostly by spying on the one for the other. And on this guy called Dick Lampton. He’s kind of an idiot.

“Welcome, Dawlish!” Will greets the girl now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – is that your real name? Or like, a surname/nickname thing? ‘Cause my author’s read through her share of baby naming books, and I don’t believe she’s ever come across the like.”

The girl shrugs, slouching further into her seat. “It’s just a name. It’s mine. I don’t know where it came from. Apparently it’s a place in Devon, but I don’t know, I’ve never been there.” She pauses to pick some of the black polish off her nails. “At least it’s original. Unlike yours. ‘Cause you’re not the same Will Scarlet that the Baron knows, are you? I’ve seen pictures. You look nothing alike.”

Will’s brows arch high. “He knows a me?? Maybe there are parallel universes at play! Lord knows it wouldn’t be the strangest circumstance I’ve been caught up in. Talking of one’s circumstances: What’s it like, having a garret full of Jackdaws as roommates? Come to that, what sort of bird is a Jackdaw, exactly?”

The look on Dawlish’s face is one of disbelief and contempt as she asks, “Where are you from, exactly? Do they not have Jackdaws there? They live, like, all over England, y’know.”

“Well, jolly for England. But it’s been a century or nine since I’ve been there, so I may have missed the species’ discovery. Humor my ignorance?”

She sighs audibly. “They’re birds, about so big… Corvids – that’s the same family as crows and ravens – black and grey. Dark black patch on their head like one of those tiny Jewish things. Very intelligent, very noisy, and they drop feathers everywhere. But I wouldn’t live anywhere without them.”

“What’s a bit of noise and feathers between friends, I always say. Or have never said. I may start saying it. Anyway, these employers of yours – Kate Somebody and The Baron who keeps Scarlet company. If most of your job involves spying on them, you’re bound to know as much as or more than anyone on the subjects. What juicy dish can you share about each of them that won’t get you fired or something? And just what is the nature of the debt you owe them, anyway?”

“I’ve stopped doing the spying thing now. It was getting really boring. Because he’s still blatantly in love with her, and she probably is too only she won’t admit it. It’s like that whole thing on Friends if Ross and Rachel were more sarcastic and English… and probably immortal… and master criminals.”

Will sniggers. “Aw, man, what I wouldn’t pay to watch that TV spinoff…”

Dawlish carries on over him, “They never tell me any of the good stuff anyway – apparently I’m too young or something.” Again, an overly dramatic sigh. “Aaaand I’m not allowed to talk about the debt. Apparently it’s an important plot point or something.”

Will nods, knowing how that goes.

“Also, it’s personal. Look, have you got anything to eat? I was promised dinner if I came and did this, but all I’ve had is some pathetic excuse for tea and biscuits in the green room…”

Off-camera, Allyn says, disgruntled, “What happened to the pizza I ordered in?”

Will turns in surprise. “That was for her?”

“I’d written ‘FOR DAWLISH’ right on the box!”

“Oh. Yeah, I saw that. Guess I was too hungry to make the connection. Sorry about that,” Will addresses his guest sheepishly. “What say Allyn and I take you out for something right after the show? Our treat. We’re nearly done, now. And a little birdie’s probably already told you what the final question is to be. Tell me, what is your author A.J.’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He flashes his legendary smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Dude… I’m fifteen. That would be really weird. And kind of creepy.”

Will coughs into his fist. “…And par for the course. But since I totally ate your pizza, I guess I won’t press the issue. Allyn, how about a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by A.J. Campbell’s ‘Sigil of the Wyrm (Into the Weirding, Book 1)’:

Sigil of the Wyrm, blurb

“As a bit of bonus material,” Allyn continues, “our author’s review of the book is as follows:

Sigil of the Wyrm, my review

You ever enjoy a book too darn much to do more than verbally point and flail? That’s me and “Sigil of the Wyrm”. Fortunately, I had the foresight to scribble down a few of my impressions in real time. So, in lieu of a coherent review, here’s the view over the shoulder of Reader Me:

“Mmm, yum, loving this so far.”

“So lush and English. *elated emoticon*”

“And all the characters are such characters. With smart mouths and secrets and histories. Weirdoes that make you wonder, every one.”

“Delicious, I say! (And if the Baron is legit who I think he is, then the gymnastics of my heart are all the more justified.)”

“So genuinely sad that I’m too tired to continue reading right now. *tragic emoticon*”

“Twists and surprises and cool stuff, and… this is the first of a series, right? Right? Good.”

“Thank you, Allyn – and Danielle,” Will says. “Thanks to you as well, Dawlish. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

<<<>>>

Sigil of the Wyrm, availability

Your copy of “Sigil of the Wyrm” awaits. And don’t forget to enter the tour-long giveaway!

 

Book Release Blog Tour (August 29 – September 5)

Saturday, Aug. 29

Alex Campbell

Perpetual Chaos of a Wandering Mind

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Sunday, Aug. 30

Lurking Musings

Slithers of Thought

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Monday, Aug. 31

The Deep, Dark Library

Cobblestone Scribe

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Tuesday, Sep. 1

Lucy Ayrton, Performance Poet

T.N. Payne, Author

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Wednesday, Sep. 2

Richard A. Usher, Media Creative

Alex McGilvery’s World

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Thursday, Sep. 3

Scott E. Tarbet, Author

Are You Afraid of the Dark

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Friday, Sep. 4

OMega W

Danielle E. Shipley (You are here!)

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Saturday, Sep. 5

R. A. Ridley

Didi Lawson, Author

Musings, Amusings, and Bemusings

The Triple-7 Challenge: “Losers Weepers” Edition

I have been nominated by the always-excellent Samantha Chaffin (a.k.a. my “Best of Luna Station Quarterly” anthology sister) (a.k.a. Batman) to take part in the 777 Challenge.

THE CHALLENGE: SHARE 7 LINES FROM PAGE 7 OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT + TAG 7 BLOGGERS.

Losers Weepers

Challenge accepted! And as one good anthology shout-out deserves another, I’ll be gleaning my excerpt from the short story to debut in Xchyler Publishing’s newest paranormal collection this fall.

The book’s title: Soon to be determined.

The book’s theme: “Losers Weepers”.

My short story’s title: “Date Due”.

In this snippet, our narrator – the keeper of a very unusual library – begins to suspect the significance of the dates embossed on her books’ spines, and so sets out to conduct an experiment.

A bit of rifling through the rooms dredged up a fat spiral notebook, pristine but for the first page-and-a-half, which I summarily tore out and discarded. My kitchen clock read eleven thirty-five. The darkness outside the window read P.M. The date on the wall calendar and the spine’s golden date were twenty-five minutes apart. Back down to the basement and through the door. Library book perched on my stuffed chair’s left arm, notebook and pen in my lap, and the minutes counting down in my head, I sat before the fire and waited.

At the stroke of midnight, I wrote.

This is a test.

And that’s all you get for now, dearies! Stay tuned for more anthology news in the weeks to come. In the meantime, here’s tagging 7 of my fellow “Losers Weepers” antho authors:

A. F. Stewart

Alex McGilvery

Ginger C. Mann

Julie Barnson

L.K. McIntosh

Tirzah Duncan

T.N. Payne

(And any readers who weren’t specifically tagged but want to play anyway, jump in! Link up in the comments so I can hop over for a looksee at your 7 lines. ^_^)

Deshipley, over and out.

The Tour that Keeps On Touring, Part 2

Previously, on the Ever On Word blog

Steel and Bone, cover 3.0

The official blog tour for Xchyler Publishing’s “Steel & Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures” has been over for a few weeks, now. So many tour stops! So much content! So much so, that even I – who had a vested interest in the tour – had difficulty keeping up with it all. Between that and the fact that there’s no guarantee which bits of all the goodies provided by the anthology’s authors will see the light of day, it occurred to me that if I wanted to ensure you guys had the best chance of reading the behind-the-scenes info and extras for my own short story in the collection, Ursula would have to take matters into her own tentacles, so to speak.

(*assumed high-fives from all the Disney’s “Little Mermaid” fans in the house. …and my fellow kraken-lovers, because tentacles*

*double high-fives to anyone whose brain read “Ursula” and for a moment thought “Wilderhark Tales”*)

Keeping the good times a-rolling in this blog space, here’s some more bonus content brought to you by Skycastle, Arcan-Nest, and beyond!*

*Which, as it happens, is totally the name of my “A Mind Prone to Wander”-inspired Pinterest board.

A Day in the Life of Arinwald, Steward of Arcan-Nest

Pre-sunrise – Grooming with the Lord of Wings. (The castle’s master must look appropriately dashing and fierce.)

First hour of sun – Tour the grounds to ensure all is as it should be. (This duty could technically be delegated to the clockwork roc, but it’s good to get out and enjoy the fresh air of the world above the clouds.)

Pre-breakfast – Feed the various birds too domestic to hunt/scavenge for themselves. Gather the eggs of the castle’s laying hens, from chickens to firebirds, and deliver them to the automated kitchen. (Firebird eggs: The cleaner, hotter fuel for your steam-powered engines.)

Breakfast

From post-breakfast to lunch – Clean (and repair, as necessary) the castle’s clockwork staff. Suffer the Lord of Wings’ grumpiness. Wish the lord’s brother were here to deal with him.

Lunch – Perhaps outdoors, if the weather is pleasant.

Naptime – Preferably in the sun.

From post-nap until dinner – Something, somewhere is bound to have broken again, by now; fix it while sniping about the never-ending maintenance a mechanically-run castle requires. Then on to tapestries, draperies, and other laundry. Break up a cockatrice fight. (Belligerent little devils.)

Dinner

From post-dinner to bed – The evening hours are his to do as he wishes. Read by lamplight. Watch the sun set over the cloudy horizon from atop the outer wall. Trade riddles with ravens and sing duets with nightingales. Stew over every pointless death this castle’s ever known. Count down the days until death’s likely to come again. Wish people would stop being numbskulls. Take a long, hot bath.

Bedtime – To dream of soaring among the stars with his heart’s other half. …wherever it may be.

Interview Q’s, Author A’s

Do you have a playlist for your story?

I’m not one to come up with official playlists, though a mental glance at the setting of “A Mind Prone to Wander” may trigger remembered snippets of “Castle on a Cloud” from Les Misérables or Keith Harkin’s cover of Don McLean’s “Castles in the Air”. But if there’s one song I can think of to best represent the overlapping stories of Rowan, Bellamy, and the Lord of Wings, it’s “Taking Over Me” by Evanescence.

Please provide some insight, a secret or two about your story.

The face of the man who hijacked my NaNo...as seen from two angles at once.
A portrait belonging to the “Singer of Skycastle” novel that was[n’t].
I originally intended “A Mind Prone to Wander” to be a novel, but to my utter shock, it simply refused to be written. I must have come at it from four or five different directions over a good two years, my main character giving me hurt and dirty looks all the way. I’ve never had to wrestle through that kind of writer’s block before, and I hope to heaven I never will again! There was never any real question of giving up, though. I’m tenacious to a fault, like that.

How did you come up with the title?

I’d been thinking of this story’s original iteration as “Singer of Skycastle” for so long, it felt weird calling it anything else. But for the purposes of submission to Xchyler’s anthology contest – and, happily, publication beyond – I wanted something a little more artistic. So I wracked my imagination for the phrase that encompassed the most, story-wise. Given that our narrator’s attention was wont to drift into mad tangents (not to mention The Big Secret he learns ere story’s end), “A Mind Prone to Wander” fit the bill nicely.

Anything else you’d like to share with other writers about the process?

Try, try again. And again. And again and again and again. Sometimes it all comes down to a matter of which one is tougher: The story, or you. And the biggest thing that got me through? Letting go of the parts of the story that just weren’t working. From the beginning, my brain kept getting stuck when I got to a certain point in the plot. Maybe it was part of my subconscious trying to tell me something. Maybe no part of me had any clue, and it was just a truth of the story waiting for me to learn it. Either way, now I’ve got a finished short story, and a bunch of ideas cut free to maybe be a part of a different story one day. I call that a win.

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P.S. – Did you see the time Xchyler Pub and I made of vid of me reading an excerpt of “A Mind Prone to Wander”? Click the pic if not, ‘cause that happened!

Steel and Bone, recorded excerpt pic

Play at a Price (FORTE Blog Tour)

Forte_Banner
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Have you heard about Xchyler Publishing’s newest release? ^^ Well, yes or no, you haven’t heard it from Ever On Word yet, so settle in and have a look, ‘cause here’s what’s up:
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Forte_The BookForte_Author

www.jdspero.com

Facebook, Twitter: @jdspero, Goodreads

Forte_ReviewI got the opportunity to read this book early, and it was both an interesting and a frustrating experience for me.

Interesting, in part, because of the unique way the story incorporated some familiar figures from Greek mythology. In all my years of fascination in that area, I’ve never seen Hermes and Hephaestus portrayed quite like this, so that was an inventive spin. I also enjoyed the story’s location. Call me a sucker for a canal and creepy old houses in the mountains.

Frustrating, largely, because of the protagonist’s poor decision-making. I can perfectly understand loneliness and wishing to feel accepted. We’ve all been there. But I have little patience for those who think popularity is worth turning your back on your passions, blatant self-delusion, and either compromising your principles or going flatly against them. My number one thought for most of the novel was, “Sami, grow a spine!

By the finale, though, there was hope for her. Hope for a number of the characters with their own sets of flaws. The story closed on a high note, and overall, the book’s got atmosphere. I wager there’s an audience who can gain much benefit and pleasure “Forte”, particularly if they like a narrative permeated with athletics, or the arts – or, like Sami, desire the best of both.

Forte_Availability

Feel free to grab your copy today (Kindle or paperback), and/or enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Forte_Book Tour Banner

Official Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/569741183164962/

Blog Schedule:

The Tour that Keeps On Touring

Steel and Bone, cover 3.0

The official blog tour for Xchyler Publishing’s “Steel & Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures” has been over for a while, now. …Plus this special character edition post over on Andi’s ABCs, featuring Rowan Charles/Rowena Charlotte from my short story therein. So by all means, go read that, if only to get an eyeful of the fabulous coat he/she wore during my tale’s opening pages. (Seriously. Coat envy.)

But back to my original point. So many tour stops! So much content! So much so that even I – who had a vested interest in the tour – had difficulty keeping up with it all. Between that and the fact that there’s no guarantee which bits of all the goodies provided by the anthology’s authors will see the light of day, it occurred to me that if I wanted to ensure you guys had the best chance of reading the behind-the-scenes info and extras for my own short story in the collection, Ursula would have to take matters into her own tentacles, so to speak.

(*assumed high-fives from all the Disney’s “Little Mermaid” fans in the house. …and my fellow kraken-lovers, because tentacles*

*double high-fives to anyone whose brain read “Ursula” and for a moment thought “Wilderhark Tales”*)

And so here for you, my Ever On Wordians, I present two of my favorite bonus features for my steampunk fairytale, “A Mind Prone to Wander”!

Where It All Began…

Once upon a time, I wished for a story. More than that – central to that – I wished for a character.

“What about me and mine?”

A vision blew in before my mind’s eye: A wash of blue sky, and a white sea of clouds. A proud ship sailing over the thick, misted swells. And riding the rigging, a beautiful young man. Though I could not yet see him clearly, his beauty was clear as anything.

When he saw that I saw him, he smiled, and asked me, “How would you like to work together?”

I thought I would like it very much. But who was he?

“Yet to be determined,” he said, and hopped down from the ship’s rigging. Rather than landing on the deck or in the sea of clouds, his booted feet touched down on the floor of my room, his long coat briefly flaring behind him. A long, stylish coat, tall boots, and a ship… Was he a gentleman pirate?

“No, not I,” he said, brushing his hair back from his face with slim, shapely fingers.

Then why sail a clouded sea?

He tipped his head and looked at me with an enigmatic smile. “Why indeed. What reasons can you suppose?”

I gave it thought, allowing my imagination to wander, rejecting nothing yet, simply searching until I found what felt the truest. Explorer. Adventurer. Spy. Why a spy? What had a spy to do with a sea in the sky? And did this young, beautiful stranger have what it took to be an undercover man? He certainly had the face to be an undercover woman…

An involuntary flutter of his long lashes told me I’d hit somewhere near the mark. Was that what he was, then? A woman trying to pass as a man?

“Not at all,” he said. “A man trying to pass as a woman. Trying, and succeeding. It’s a part of my mission, you see.”

His mission as a spy?

“Would you like that? Espionage seems beyond you. You scarcely read such things, and never write them. Have you any true interest in attempting it now?”

I didn’t, I admitted. He, himself, intrigued me, and I wished to know him better. But was his a story I was fit to tell?

He asked me, “What is the story you want to tell? I have told you, I am yet to be determined. My story is the same. We can determine it together, if you wish it.”

I did wish it. I had wished it. Here was the very character I’d called for, before I’d even known his name. Come to think of it, I still didn’t know his name. What was it? Or was that, too, yet to be determined?

Again, that enigmatic smile. “I have a name. But if you think I’m simply going to tell you now, right at the start, you are much mistaken.”

Would he tell me nothing?

His eyes of undetermined color shined. “I will tell you everything, for it is a tale worth telling. My name, however, is not the tale’s beginning.”

Then what was?

“The tale began,” he said, “Once Upon An Ending…”

Character Casting

Character Casting_Bellamy, Emma Stone

Princess Bellamy / Emma Stone

“Beside me, Princess Bellamy doesn’t fidget. Doesn’t shiver. She’s tougher than winter, and nearly as icy.”

In accordance with her royal parents’ oath, Bellamy has been groomed since her earliest youth to become her people’s savior, along with her twin sister. …until aforementioned sister disappears without notice. With the lives of her kingdom’s women on the line, Bellamy fiercely turns her back on what she views as her twin’s betrayal, the better to focus on her destiny ahead. But the monster she’s sworn to kill may be the least of what she’ll have to face.

Character Casting_Arinwald, John Rhys-Davies

Arinwald / John Rhys-Davies

Arinwald looks at me, and though his expression is as pleasantly neutral as I’ve ever seen it, his dark-golden gaze pierces like a knife point. “Because whatever I told you would essentially be a lie. And do you know how tiring it is to be always hiding the truth?”

Sharp of eye and blunt of tongue, the beastly Lord of Wings’ steward appears to have these primary functions: Manage his master’s castle, serve his master’s guests (*cough* hostages *cough*), and keep hidden his master’s secrets. Regarding the execution of all three without the castle’s visitors dying, the score so far is death = thirty-eight, Arinwald = zero.

Character Casting_Rowan, Unknown

Rowan / Unknown

And there was I, an amnesiac orphan. Unclaimed. Unwanted. Unhinged, though no one seemed to notice. And most importantly, a boy pretty enough to pass for a girl.

Search though I might, I have no idea who is in this photograph, or even whether the subject is male or female. For the young man called Rowan Charles, that couldn’t be more perfect. After all, the whole reason the king and queen chose him to replace their missing daughter is the hope that the Lord of Wings won’t notice one half of this year’s sacrificial pair is not, in fact, a woman. That the femme-faced co-assassin is out of his mind with inexplicable visions is, apparently, immaterial.

Coming soon: A day in the life of my favorite AMPtW character, and selected questions from the blog tour packet interview. See you then!

P.S. – Have you seen the “Steel & Bone” book trailer? Click the pic if you haven’t, ‘cause wowza!

Steel and Bone, book trailer pic