Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review: Sorcerer's Duel

Sorcerer's Duel (The Guardians, Book 2), by W.H. Cann (also see my author spotlight of W.H. Cann and my review of Path to Vengeance)

[I received a free copy of this book as a gift from the author.]

Sorcerer's Duel picks up after the climactic battle at the end of Path to Vengeance. Grogaan and his team head for the Ladorran Republic to rest and put the pieces back together. While there, Grogaan's developing relationship with Ellarna deepens, and they both begin training in magic to become Guardians. Then the destiny which Grogaan has seen in dreams and visions and has dreaded begins to unfold around him.

This book was a lot of fun. It's space fantasy that owns its magic instead of trying to pass it off as pseudoscience. There are wizards good and evil, exciting space battles and shiny spaceships, interplanetary intrigue, and a good dose of romance. The first part dragged a bit; large sections, especially the diplomatic maneuvering after the evil Empire's latest moves and Grogann and Ellarna's magical training, are told in narrative summary. Which actually works pretty well for the training; I find long chunks of people just learning stuff to not be very interesting. But a few more specific scenes to show what they're learning and how would have spiced up that section a bit.

Before long, though, Grogaan's destiny starts to catch up with him, and that's when the pace picks up and it's non-stop to the end as Grogaan faces battles both external and internal, and Ellarna fights to save the man she loves. I really cared about what happened to the characters.

A fun read, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Especially recommended for fans of Star Wars or fans of epic fantasy who want to read something in a non-traditional fantasy setting.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happily Ever After?

Happy endings - boring and unrealistic? Or uplifting and fulfilling? Every once in a while I come across this discussion on one blog or forum or social media site or another. Sometimes I weigh in, sometimes I don't, but it's something I feel very strongly about - I love happy endings. I hate it when I've invested a lot of time and emotion in characters (and, where there's a romance, in their relationship) only to have things turn out badly for them. If I wanted to read something depressing, I'd go read the newspaper. I feel this way about the books I read, and I especially feel this way about the books I write.

Three of the main complaints I've heard about happy endings are that happy endings aren't realistic, a happy ending means the whole book is nothing more than fluff, and the story is boring if there isn't the possibility that one (or more) of the main characters could die.

1. Happy endings aren't realistic - this just isn't true. Yes, there are lots of bad outcomes in real life, but there are also lots of good outcomes. It's just that the bad ones get most of the attention. Also, I think it's destructive to believe that happy endings aren't realistic. If there are no such things as happy endings, then why should anyone even bother trying to make the world a better place or improve their own lives?

Now, I'll admit that a perfect happy ending, where everything is bunnies and rainbows and unicorns and no one ever faces any more problems or challenges for the rest of their lives, isn't realistic. Plus it would be boring. But, to me, a happy ending doesn't mean there aren't any problems still to be faced. True happiness comes in the face of challenges and trials. If you don't know what sorrow and hardship are like, then how can you truly appreciate happiness?

2. A happy ending means the book is lightweight fluff - this just isn't true, either. Like I said, happiness in more meaningful when you've had to come through trials and challenges. Therefore, my theory goes, the greater the problems the characters have to deal with, the happier the happy ending. I make my characters earn their happy endings. When you've followed the characters through a whole novel and all kinds of troubles and struggles and dangers, it feels even better to see them finally get their reward.

3. The story
is boring without the possibility of the main character(s) dying - Life and death aren't the only possibilities in fiction, or in life. Actually, from a narrative standpoint, death is boring (unless the possibility exists for the character to continue developing and making a difference after death). To me, the questions of "HOW are they going to survive?" and "How are they going to live on in the aftermath of everything that's happened?" are far more interesting and filled with possibilities than "ARE they going to survive?"

The one criticism I've read of happy endings that I think is valid is that sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere and just be stuck on the end of the story without regard for plot, characters, world, or the expectations that have been set up in the story. But this is more a problem with the writer's craft than with happy endings themselves. You can also have tragic endings that come out of nowhere and are just stuck on the end of the story without regard for plot, characters, world, or expectations.

Part of the craft of structuring a story is laying down the seeds of the ending from the very beginning. So, for example, you can have something that looks like a deus ex machina (god on a machine, from old operas based on Greek/Roman mythology where at the end, when it looked like everything was lost, a god would suddenly swoop down from "heaven" on a piece of stage machinery and fix everything
) and have it come out of nowhere and have nothing to do with the story, or you can carefully plant the possibility of divine intervention and what the characters have to do to earn or invoke it. Whether the god saves everyone or destroys everyone, it doesn't matter - the important thing is to build the foundation for it from the beginning of the story.

A lot of the "tacked-on" effect might also be due to the author's outlook on life. If an author doesn't believe happy endings are really possible but she feels obligated for marketing reasons to slap on a happy ending, it isn't going to be sincere.
A writer should be true to their own vision, but maybe, I'd gently suggest, a writer whose worldview precludes any possibility of happy endings would benefit not only her stories but herself by expanding her worldview to include more positive possibilities.

Also, I suppose it's possible to write characters who don't naturally gravitate to a happy ending, so that they have to be forced into it, but I guess I don't write those kinds of characters.
One of the common threads my characters have is that they want to take responsibility for their actions and be in charge of their own fate and be free to make their own decisions (even when they're in situations where they feel like they aren't in charge and don't have that freedom; they still long for it), and they want to use this freedom and responsibility to make something good of their lives. Again, this might have a lot to do with the author's own outlook on life. I believe in human freedom and agency and that no matter how bad things are, we always have the power to try, in some small way, to make something good of it, even if it's only in our refusal to give up hope or to let our trials make us into someone less than we are.

I've said before, since my books are partly romance, where Happily Ever After is a given of the genre, it's no spoiler to say that my books have happy endings. The questions isn't "Do they make it through?" but "How do they make it through?" and "How do they go on with the rest of their lives?" The characters have to endure a lot to get to that happy ending, and sometimes it isn't clear how things are going to work out, and there are always consequences from the events of the story - destroyed lands, consequences of their actions, lasting effects from the traumatic events of the story - to be dealt with in the future. The main thing is, they do make it, good overcomes evil and love triumphs over all, and my characters come to the end of the book facing the future and its challenges side by side and hand in hand. This is the payoff that I as a reader hope for when I read a book, and that I as an author like to give my readers.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Where Am I? What Am I Doing? Where Am I Going?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Author Spotlight: Nicoline Evans

Today I'm pleased to welcome fantasy author Nicoline Evans to the blog.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Nicoline and I love to invent new worlds for readers to get lost in. My goal while writing is to create a safe place for people to forget about the heavy things in their own lives, even if it is only for a few hours of the day.

I graduated from Rutgers University - New Brunswick, NJ as a communications major. After taking every creative writing course they offered, I realized writing was my passion.

Random things about me? I am a certified scuba diver, I revel in new adventures, and I believe in all things magical.

2. When did you start writing, and why?I have been writing since I was in middle school. I have some fun short stories in my archives from those days. In high school, I kept a journal that documented my everyday activities (ridiculous, I know) and I had many notebooks full of poems. I continued writing through college, the daily journal stopped but the poetry continued (improving drastically, in my opinion). Writing down my thoughts in short, poetic prose helped me get through some of the hardest times in my life. At Rutgers University, I took as many of the creative writing courses that I could. After I graduated in 2009, I immediately began writing my first novel. “Haemans”, which is available now, is the second novel I wrote. The first is still in editing but should be available soon :-)

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?I write fantasy novels. I enjoy taking real life issues or ideas and putting a whimsical spin on them. Sometimes it’s light, airy fantasy and sometimes it’s dark, twisted, and creepy. In all cases, I like to have a touch of darkness in them. It keeps the story real. It also is the style that’s most fun for me to write.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?“Haemans” is my debut release. It came out on February 3, 2014 and as of right now, it is a stand-alone book. After reading it you will see that there is room for a sequel, but that would come at a later date. I have another novel coming out in the forthcoming months. It is a completely separate story from “Haemans” but it is still a fantasy tale with epic world-building and adventure.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.Russia has a secret and it is the transformation of their people. Hooked on the newest craze brought to light by the reinstated royals, Russians are now known as haemans; morally unhinged addicts with super strength and speed. The rest of the world is clueless to this new development; it has been kept confined within the borders of Russia. The haemans are wicked, filling the country with depravity as they seize control over the culture. While the new royals reign over their loyal haemans, Russians who escaped this newest fad live hidden in the wilderness, away from the dangerous cities. These escapees live each day carrying the weight of loved ones lost and the mindset to survive.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?Sevrick Bykovsky – A non-haeman survivor. He will do all he can to save his fiancée, Arinadya, from the grips of haemanism. From his hiding place in the woods, he makes dangerous trips into the city to check-in on his love, hoping to convince her to see the error in her ways.

Arinadya Tarasova – Haeman. Extremely strong female lead who takes pride in her new lifestyle. CEO of Arkline Advertising, Arinadya is a force to be reckoned with.  She is strong and ruthless. Over the years she has forcibly forgotten all about her life as a human.

Mikhail Romanov – Newly titled prince of Russia. One of the three originators of haemanism. He is callous, cruel, and lethal. His manipulative style has coerced naïve and impressionable Russians into following his lead, dragging them down to his level of immorality.

Milena Romanov – Newly titled princess of Russia. Mikhail’s sister, and the only person he truly loves. Gorgeous in how she portrays her life as a royal haeman, Milena made this self-destructive lifestyle seem fashionable. She influenced the opinions of millions, putting a desirable light upon an addiction that would otherwise be deemed deplorable.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.This story is important to me, as the writer, because it is a reminder to everyone reading that anyone can come undone. No one is perfect and we all have moments of weakness. Some of us are still struggling through our darkest times while others may have a past that feels heavy. No matter the case, we all endure difficult moments that make us who we are today. Just because you have gone through a tremendously hard time, or are still going through it, does not mean you cannot rise above and move forward from it.

8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
Barnes & Noble

By Nicoline Evans

Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Russia has undergone drastic changes. When descendants of the lost royals are discovered, they are thrust into the spotlight. They use their power to corrupt the population, turning those who succumb to their addiction into freakishly strong and morally unhinged individuals. These addicts are known as haemans. Those who escape this terrifying new culture must live hidden in the forested outskirts, far away from the danger that now engulfs the cities. HAEMANS follows the tragic love story between one escapee and one haeman.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Love & Magic Sneak Peek: Bad Hunting

One last post for Love & Magic Week! Here's a sneak peek, with some romance and magic, into Bad Hunting, Book 2 of Daughter of the Wildings (first draft) (this is in the aftermath of a harrowing battle, and something has happened that's going to make things even worse for Lainie and Silas):

Picture “I’m sorry,” she wept. “You got yourself stuck with me, and now you’re in trouble--”

“Lainie, darlin’--”

“It’s all my fault. You had to--”

“Lainie, look at me.”

Sniffling, tears running, she looked across the shallow cave at Silas. Blue light danced in his left hand. “I’m a mage, Lainie. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.”


“I could have sent for someone to come and take you back to Granadaia if I didn’t want to deal with you myself. I didn’t have to try to think of another way. I didn’t have to hang around Bitterbush Springs after we were done with Carden, trying to think of what to do with you and worrying about if you would be okay. And do you really think that your Pa could have forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do?”

“I...” She looked at the mage light in his hand. Sometimes she forgot exactly what and who he was--what and who she was dealing with. Even after a couple of months together, even knowing what she was capable of, the thought still frightened her. “No, I don’t think he could have.”

“I’m in this with you because I want to be. I wouldn’t have turned you over to the schools in Granadaia, to be chewed up and spit out or turned into something you’re not. And I wouldn’t have dishonored you in your father’s eyes--at least not any more than I already had--by taking you away with me unmarried.”

“Is that the only reason why you married me?” she asked, feeling very small and not sure she wanted to hear the answer. He might not have been forced to marry her against his will, but she also didn’t want it to only be out of a sense of obligation.

“Why do you think those other things mattered so much to me? I love you.”

He had said it many times before, but she had never been quite sure whether or not to let herself believe him. “Why?”

He gave a brief laugh. “Too many questions, darlin’. I’m starting to run out of answers. Why do I love you? Because... Because. I can’t not love you, that’s why.”

Love & Magic Sneak Peek: Sarya's Song

Wrapping up Love & Magic Week with sneak peeks into two of my to-be-published works, Sarya's Song and Daughter of the Wildings. First, here's a look at Adan and Sarya's complicated relationship from Sarya's Song (please keep in mind this is still not the final draft!):

Picture As she tried to make her way through the press of people back to the door that led outside, the last voice she wanted to hear called out, "Sarya! Sarya dyr-Rusac!"

Panic drove her to push her way faster through the crowd, but Adan caught up to her and grabbed her arm. "Where have you been?" he asked. "Have you come back to stay?" There was an urgency in his voice as though his questions were a matter of life and death.

She tried jerk her arm away from him, but his fingers dug harder into her arm. "It's none of your concern. I just need to speak to the Council of Masters about a bit of research I need to do, and then I'll leave again."

"You left without a word to me or anyone--"

"I didn't realize I needed your permission to leave." Around them, people were stopping to stare. Sarya tried again to pull herself free from Adan, but he refused to let her go.

"I didn't know where you were or what had become of you. I didn't even know if you were alive or dead!"

"What does it matter to you? You said yourself I don't belong--"

"Damn it, Sarya!" He pulled her close to him and pressed his mouth to hers.

Sarya's legs nearly went out from under her. His mouth was warm and hungry against hers; his upper lip and chin were scratchy with late-afternoon whiskers. She told herself she should push him away or something, anything but melting against him like she was doing while he kissed her as though he were starving and she was his banquet.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Guest Couple: Marden and Th'alia

Next up on Love & Magic Week, I'm happy to welcome Marden and Th'alia from The Shining Citadel by A.L. Butcher:
Picture 1. How did you meet?
*Looks awkward.* Th’alia was my captive. I was an escort on a mission for the Order of Witch-Hunters. Those days seem long ago now, foolish, blind days.

2. What was the first thing you noticed about the other person?
I tried not to like him. I did not confess I liked him but I suppose he was different to the elven men I knew. He was actually quite handsome for a human.
Marden: Th’alia is clever, and there was something I found fascinating, her defiance probably.

3. Did you know when you met that you would end up together?
No, you must understand I was a Witch-Hunter, she was just an elf. The chance of us both surviving what we had to do was small. So much changed.
Th’alia: Of course not. I knew what he was. What I did I did to save my sister and my town.

4. What do you like best about the other person?
She is clever. She does not pretend to be someone she is not. She is proud of her heritage.
Th’alia: Marden is brave. He gave up a great deal to be with me. I suppose I do not appreciate that often enough, to have to change one’s beliefs and one’s life cannot be easy.

5. What is something you enjoy doing together? (Besides the obvious!)
We do not actually have much in common, save a shared history and our son. I suppose we like to assist the people in Tremellic, our new home.
Th'alia: I like to read and keep the records of my people. Marden is still learning.

6. How has the other person changed you?
In my old life I was cruel, foolish and unquestioning. I know that now. Th’alia and the other elves and mages have shown me the law is wrong, the beliefs of the Witch-Hunters are wrong. I never thought I could care for an elf, but elves are also people – they love, they hate, they cherish in the same way humans do.
Th’alia: I have a son now, and perhaps my views on humans is more flattering now.

7. What are the biggest differences between you? How important are these differences?
There are many differences, I think the biggest is what now should be done to free the elves, Th’alia is unrealistic and she wants to simply tell all the elves what we have found, about the Citadel and Dii but I know this would be very dangerous.
Th’alia: He doesn’t listen to me, he thinks he is right when he isn’t.

8. What do the two of you have in common?
Our son, our shared secrets.

9. What does your family think of your partner, and what do you think of your partner's family?
My family would disown me for settling with an elf. My father is very prejudiced and would not see Th’alia for the intelligent woman she is.  He would simply see an elf, a slave. He would undoubtedly ask me to choose.
Th’alia: My twin sister does not exactly approve but if I am happy she is happy. The rest of my family are dead.

10. What role does magic play in your relationship?
I am not magical, and until recently I believed magic is the cause of all which is ill in society but I now know that is a lie. I am learning about magic – Th’alia I believe is what is known as a scholar adept. She can remember what she has read far better than most, and she has an uncanny knack at languages.
Th’alia: Marden is learning, I am more familiar with magic as my sister is a mage.

11. What are your plans for the future?
To raise our son with the best of human and elven characteristics. To protect Tremellic. To protect what we have learned.
Th’alia: To let the elves gain their freedom. To be avenged for Ilthendra.

12. "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" How is this true for the two of you?
Well together we are stronger, that is obvious. I do not know much about elves, or elven lore, Th’alia does.
Th’alia: Marden is a good warrior, he will fight when we need him to.

Love & magic Sneak Peek: The Lost Book of Anggird #2

Love & Magic Week continues! Here's a magic lesson with Roric and Perarre from The Lost Book of Anggird:
“All right, then. I’m ready,” Perarre said. “Let’s get this over with.”

He positioned himself behind her and took her hands in his. She was tense and trembling. “Breathe deeply and slowly,” he said, shaking her hands to loosen them up along with his own. “The most important thing is to not fight it. Be aware of it, the heat, the colors, the nature of fire, but don’t let it have power over you. Do you understand what I mean?”

“Yes,” she said uncertainly.

“Remember what I told you,” he said. He kept up a soothing murmur, reminding her of the things he had told her, trying to encourage both of them as he moved their hands towards the fire. Each time he felt the slightest hesitation or tension in her arms, he stopped and helped her relax again. “Would I be doing this with you if I thought you would get hurt?” he asked.

She looked up at him. “Oh, Roric, I’m sorry. This has to be even harder for you than it is for me.”

“It’s not as hard as it looks.” He hoped he sounded at least somewhat convincing. “Just let the warmth — not so hot as to burn, just warm — just let it flow around you… It helps a great deal if you close your eyes.”

She closed her eyes. Roric tried to make himself keep his own eyes open, but finally he couldn’t watch any longer. Keeping up his encouraging words, he slowly extended their arms, bringing their hands closer to the fire and then into the dancing energy and distant warmth of the flames themselves.

The Lost Book of Anggird is available at:
Amazon | Apple | Diesel
Smashwords | CreateSpace
All Romance eBooks

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Couple Interview: Roric and Perarre

Welcome to another couple interview for Love & Magic Week: Roric and Perarre, from The Lost Book of Anggird.
Picture 1. How did you meet?
Perarre: We met when I interviewed for the position of translating old books for him. He didn't want to hire me, for some silly reason, but I talked him into it.
Roric: I remember wondering, immediately after I engaged her for the position, if I hadn't just made a terrible mistake. As it turns out, hiring her was probably the most intelligent thing I've ever done.

2. What was the first thing you noticed about the other person?

P: His looks. He's very handsome, in a slightly exotic way. And then I noticed that his reputation for being a sanctimonious prig seemed to be completely justified. Fortunately, he's grown out of that.
R: I noticed that she was a woman, which I thought made her unsuitable for the position. Then I took note of her qualifications, and changed my mind. Male or female, I couldn't have asked for a more highly-qualified and competent assistant.

3. Did you know when you met that you would end up together?

R: No. I had no intention of ever entering into a romantic or carnal relationship with anyone.
P: [laughs] I was just hoping that we could work together without strangling each other. I had my sights set on foreign lands and exotic lovers once my work for him was over.

4. What do you like best about the other person?

P: There's a very sweet and gentle side to him that he never used to show anyone. He had his reasons for that, and I felt very privileged that he finally opened up and let me see that side of him. He also has great integrity; he will do what's right no matter how hard it is. He can be absolutely trusted to tell the truth and keep his word. And when he does decide to offer his love or friendship to someone, he is completely loyal. And he treats me with respect.
R: Her warm, straightforward nature, along with the fact that she forgives me so easily for my more difficult traits. And I have the greatest admiration for her intelligence.

5. What is something you enjoy doing together? (Besides the obvious!)

R: In spite of a rather difficult beginning, we found that we work very well together on scholarly research.
P: We also like reading together. Roric has a fondness for the mythologies of different lands, and it's fun to read out of collections of myths to each other. And also, yes, "the obvious."

6. How has the other person changed you?

R: She got me to open up my heart to friendship and love, to start truly living instead of living only for my work and to protect myself.
P: All the things I once thought I wanted - traveling to exotic places and having love affairs with exotic men - started to seem shallow and meaningless. With Roric, I learned to want something bigger and deeper, something greater than my own immediate, self-centered desires.

7. What are the biggest differences between you? How important are these differences?

R: There's quite a difference in our ages. I'm thirteen years older than Perarre. But that doesn't seem to matter; we relate to each other very much on equal terms. And she was far more experienced in some things than I was when we first... when our relationship began.
P: There's also the difference in our personalities. He's very neat, fastidious, really, and reserved, and I'm... not. But I think the differences between us are less important than what we have together. We just seem to complement each other. And anyway, if we were both the same, it would be boring!

8. What do the two of you have in common?

[long silence]
P: Not much. But that's ok.
R: We do share a dedication to scholarly work. We've also been through some unique and difficult experiences together. But mostly what we have in common is our feelings for each other.

9. What does your family think of your partner, and what do you think of your partner's family?

P: My mother didn't think much of Roric when she first met him, but he wasn't at his best at the time, all things considered, and anyway, she was still pushing me to marry a man who was the last man in the world any girl would want to marry, so her judgment is pretty questionable. I'm much closer to my sister Samale and her family than I am to my mother, and Samale and her husband Luka like Roric very much. As for Roric's family, his brother Khaian is a good man. The rest of them, well, with family like that, who needs enemies?
R: My father was horrified that I had married a woman of a different heritage from ours. On the other hand, my brother Khaian and his wives seem fond of Perarre. I quite like Samale and Luka; they are good, sensible people. Perarre's mother, on the other hand, in my opinion, failed as a mother when she tried to force Perarre to marry a young man who was not only unsuited for Perarre but an entirely objectionable person.

10. What role does magic play in your relationship?
We met when I engaged Perarre to assist me in research concerning a difficulty with the magica, the magic power found in the Vorunne Dominion.
P: And then, the first year and a half of our relationship was spent trying to find the roots of the problem and correct it. We went through a lot of experiences, magical and non-magical, that really bonded us together.

11. What are your plans for the future?

R: Raising our children, of course. Also, due to the circumstances surrounding what happened to the magica, I'm considered the foremost expert on how to use magic as is currently exists. So there is no end of courses to teach, lectures to deliver, and books to write. I love my work, so this is a very exciting time.
P: There are also books to be translated, which have never been translated before, and I'm very excited to have the opportunity to do this, and to keep working with Roric.

12. "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" How is this true for the two of you?

P: Working together, we changed magic and the way the Vorunne Dominion is ruled. So there's that.
R: As well, Perarre and I are both better, stronger people together than we are apart. And the two of us complement and complete each other.
P: [smiles at the toddler running around the room] The most important thing is that together, we made something that didn't exist before - a new family.

Love & Magic Playlist

For Love & Magic Week, I've put together a playlist of songs for my story couples. Some of these are love songs, some are maybe not exactly love songs but they go well with the relationships. There's a variety of artists and styles, from old-school Dire Straits to the symphonic metal of Myrath, from country-flavored John Doe to Social Distortion's punk cover of "Ring of Fire."  Whatever your listening pleasure, there should be something for everyone!

(by the way, I'm still experimenting with these embeddable/shareable Spotify playlists, so if anyone wants to drop me a line and let me know how it works, I'd appreciate it!)

And don't forget to enter the giveaway to win a signed paperback copy of Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, or The Lost Book of Anggird!

Songs and couples they go with:

Eruz and Rashali, Urdaisunia:
-I Want You (Savage Garden)
-Silent Cries (Myrath)
-New Dawn (Visions of Atlantis)

Sevry and Lucie, Chosen of Azara:
-Possession (Sarah McLachlan)
-Truly Madly Deeply (Savage Garden)

Roric and Perarre, The Lost Book of Anggird:
-Damn I Wish I was Your Lover (Sophie B. Hawkins)
-Where Would You Like Them Left? (Blaqk Audio)
-Undisclosed Desires (Muse)
-(Silent Cries would also go here again)

Adan and Sarya, Sarya's Song:
-The Golden State (John Doe)
-Another Heart Calls (All-American Rejects)

Silas and Lainie, Daughter of the Wildings:
-Ring of Fire (Social Distortion)
-Angel of Mercy (Dire Straits)
-Summertime (My Chemical Romance)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love & Magic Sneak Peek: The Lost Book of Anggird

For Love & Magic Week, here's a tender moment from The Lost Book of Anggird:

WHEN PERARRE RETURNED to work after being out for a week, the Professor greeted her with a slight lift at the corner of his mouth that might almost have been a smile. “Good morning, Miss Tabrano. I hope you are feeling quite recovered from your cold.”

“I’m feeling much better, Professor, thank you. And you?”

“I’m quite well, thank you.”

“Thank you for helping me that day,” she said. “And for the book.” She wanted to ask if he had recovered completely from his own sickness, but was reluctant to embarrass him by bringing it up. She decided she would leave it up to him to mention if he wanted to.

“You’re quite welcome,” he said, glancing through the papers on his desk.

Perarre took her seat at the work table and began looking through the translation she had been working on, trying to figure out where she had left off. She was wearing her hair in a braid; she was still too fatigued from her illness to wrestle with pinning it up. She wondered if the Professor would say something to her about it.

“It’s good to have you back,” he said after a moment. “I had become accustomed to working with you present, and found it difficult to adjust to working alone again.” He shuffled his papers a little longer, then set them down. “I am not a bad person, Miss Tabrano,” he said, still without looking at her.

“Of course you’re not,” she said, surprised that he would say such a thing.

“I know I’m not popular, or even well-liked, but…” He trailed off awkwardly.

Cold, impersonal, unpleasant Professor Rossony had missed her, and cared about what she thought of him? Perarre suspected that trying to figure it out would give her a headache. “I’m glad to be back, Professor.”

The Lost Book of Anggird, available at:
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Love & Magic Guest Couple: Olek and Ozena

I'm happy to welcome Olek and Ozena, from The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles by A.L. Butcher. And be sure to go check out A.L.'s big birthday and Valentine's giveaway at her site!
1.  How did you meet?
Olek: Ozena came running into my life. Her village was raided by slavers, and her people killed or taken. Ozena herself is a hunter and, fortunately, was in the forest at the time,she ran to my master for help, there was no one else who could have assisted. Elves are not free, even those who live in the forest but not all humans treat us so. We live beyond the law, at least in part. Although my master and friend Lord Archos treats us well and the villagers respect us it is not the case elsewhere. Elves are often taken by slavers simply because they can. It was not the easiest first meeting.

2. What was the first thing you noticed about the other person?
He was kind and confident. Most elves, even forest elves do not have that confidence. It was fascinating. Olek didn’t treat me like a child, I was just nineteen summers, and he was genuinely interested in me. I was very upset about what had happened but he made me feel safe.
Olek: Ozena was very pretty, very fresh, like a forest pool. I liked her innocence, but also she was brave, she would not be forced to do something she didn’t like. She even stood up to Lord Archos when he wanted to leave her behind when we went to the city and so it was she went along with us. I cannot imagine how terrifying it must have been for a young female elf who had never been beyond  a small village to go to the large human city.

3. Did you know when you met that you would end up together?
I hoped so. There have been other women, but no one I wanted to spend my life with.  When we met it depended on the outcome of trying to rescue her companions of course. If the outcome had been different then perhaps Ozena would have returned to her village and we might not have stayed together.
Ozena: No. It was not at the forefront of my mind. My sister was missing and my neighbours dead or missing, so of course that was what I was thinking about. In my village one did not take a lover, it was marriage or nothing, but times were strange. Everything I knew was gone, and with it some of my innocence. Times change. Olek got me through that terrible time, he was my rock and with him I learned to live for each day. My relationship with Olek and my friendship with Dii are a positive aspect from something terrible.

4. What do you like best about the other person?
  She makes me a better man. Ozena is feisty, I have met my match there! Even now she can sometimes be endearing naive.
Ozena: Olek does what needs to be done, even if it is unpleasant. He also makes me laugh and he is very loyal. I have never met anyone like him.

5. What is something you enjoy doing together? (Besides the obvious!) 
Hunting. We will ride to the high hills or the edge of the forest and spend the day hunting rabbits or birds. It is a good way to work together, to keep our skills sharp and even risk danger. We’ve killed a bear, boars and wolves.
Olek: What do you think we like doing together (winks)?

6. How has the other person changed you?

Ozena: I think I am braver now. I will try things I had never dreamed I would do.
Olek: I am probably kinder now. Our work can be…difficult. I kill, I steal, I lie but I know that there is a side of myself which is loved for kindness, for being generous and brave. That means a lot to a man like me.

7. What are the biggest differences between you? How important are these differences?
Ozena is kinder than I am, but she is still very much the forest elf. Sometimes she does not understand the nuances of life with humans, or the life of a city elf. It can cause problems in our work, but Ozena is learning. I am older, and more worldly.
Ozena: Sometimes Olek can be cruel. Not to me, of course, but he sometimes enjoys the darker side of our business a bit too much. His loyalty is to Lord Archos first, then to me. Sometimes that is hard to deal with. I shouldn’t complain, he has been with Archos longer than I have been alive and they are very close, but you know I am his wife.

8. What do the two of you have in common?

Olek: We both like to hunt and explore. We are both loyal and know what must be done.  We both like to tumble.
Ozena: (Laughs) Trust Olek to think of that! We are both elves, well he is a half-elf and we have both lost people we care for.  We like to hunt, we like to swim in the thermal pools and we both like elven lore.

9. What does your family think of your partner, and what do you think of your partner's family?
My family is Archos and Dii. Fortunately he cares for Ozena. Dii and Ozena are like sisters.
Ozena: My family is Olek, Dii and I suppose Archos, although I am never quite sure what he is thinking.

10. What role does magic play in your relationship?
Archos and Dii are mages, and we are adepts. By law we are all illegal, as the possession of magic is forbidden.  We are surrounded by magic every day so to us it is important. I would die to protect any of those three from the Order of Witch-Hunters.
Ozena: My sister was a Spirit Child – a magechild who could converse with spirits. Now I live with two mages and the best weapons-master I have ever seen. I did not really understand about adepts before I met Olek. Basically the magic enhances what we can do. Perhaps I would not be so skilled with a bow if I were not an adept.

11. What are your plans for the future?
We have much to do and many allies to find. There is a war to win.
Ozena: I would like a child but at present the time is not right. We have elves to find.

12. "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" How is this true for the two of you?
Together we are stronger. Ozena is much better archer and wild tracker than I am. I am better in an urban setting and at close quarters. It is good to have some else I can rely on to watch my back.
Ozena: I would agree with that. We both possess knowledge the other does not.

Be sure to check out A.L. Butcher's big Valentine's Day giveaway - tons of books to win!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Love & Magic Sneak Peek: Chosen of Azara #2

Love & Magic Week continues with a peek at a magical moment from Chosen of Azara:

After this, Sevry ignored everything else he saw, all his attention focused on watching for the girl to reappear. The next time he saw her, she looked like she was fifteen or sixteen years old. She was in the same place as before, crouching next to some plants by the path. She looked around at him, then stood, her hand going to the sparkling pendant she wore. She opened her mouth as though about to say something, then cocked her head, as though hearing someone calling her from a distance. As she turned to hurry away, she waved at him.

Again he sought for her, and again he saw her, standing on the hillside path, holding a wide, shallow basket with both hands, and facing him, almost as though she had expected to see him. She was fully grown now, perhaps twenty years old. Sevry noticed the neckline of her pale green dress first; he couldn’t help it, any man would have. The dress was cut low, exposing a generous amount of fair, full, lightly freckled bosom. Then, for the first time, Sevry saw the object that dangled from a fine silver chain around her neck, resting just above the cleft between her breasts: a small crystal vial, crafted in a style that had been lost when Savaru was destroyed.

Savarunan crystal. And, Sevry now realized, despite the red hair, green eyes, and softly rounded features, the young woman had a fine-boned Savarunan face. She could only be the granddaughter or great-granddaughter of Juzeva and the red-haired Madrinan prince.

Sevry stepped towards the young woman, and into nothingness.

Couple Interview: Sevry and Lucie

Next up for Love & Magic Week: Get to know more about Sevry and Lucie from Chosen of Azara:

1. How did you meet?

Sevry: I had been searching for a very long time for a magical talisman that would help me restore my destroyed land, Savaru. I was carrying out the search through magical means that I'm not at liberty to describe when I saw her. We actually met in person some months later when I took refuge from a storm at her father's house.
Lucie: He's never told me exactly what he was doing when we saw each other by magic. I guess he can't, or isn't supposed to. And then it was a huge surprise when he showed up at my father's house! I'd never imagined I'd really get to meet him in person.

2. What was the first thing you noticed about the other person?

L: He wasn't wearing very many clothes - I don't mean like that! [blushes] I mean, I noticed how many scars he has, and wondered how hard his life must have been, for him to have that many scars.
S: I noticed her hair, curls of fire and copper glowing in the sun. And I noticed that she was wearing the talisman I was looking for on a chain around her neck.
L: Now, dear, that isn't all you noticed, is it?
S: [blushes] Well, um, I did also happen to notice that the neckline of her dress was fairly low-cut and that she had a fine figure... But the talisman. That was the important thing.

3. Did you know when you met that you would end up together?

S: No. My options for my life were severely limited by the duty I'd been given, to find the talisman that would restore Savaru to life. Falling in love and marrying were not among those options.
L: I was engaged to someone else at the time, so, no.

4. What do you like best about the other person?
He treats me with kindness and respect, and even though he's had such a hard life he's still determined to always do the right thing. And he's very handsome and has a beautiful singing voice and tells wonderful stories from Savaru from long ago.
S: I love her voice, and how she sings the old songs from Savaru that she's learned. And the way she makes me feel young and hopeful again. And her courage and gentleness.

5. What is something you enjoy doing together? (Besides the obvious!)
We both love music, so we like to sing together.
S: And she's teaching me how to play the lute. I wanted to become a bard when I was a child, but the war prevented it. So now she's helping my dream to finally come true.

6. How has the other person changed you?
She made me feel loved, and gave me something to love and live for besides Savaru.
L: He helped me learn to see beyond myself and my own little world, and to have courage to do the right thing even when it's hard.

7. What are the biggest differences between you? How important are these differences?

S: Well, there's the age difference. I'm considerably older than I look.
L: Although, when the difference is more than a few hundred years, I don't think it really matters any more.
S: If the difference in our ages doesn't bother her, it doesn't bother me.
L: He also had a very hard life, and I had a very easy life up until I met him and things... happened. We saw the world in very different ways and our priorities were very different because of that. But I think what happened is he took the good things from his hard life and I took the good things from my easy life and we put them together to make our new life better. Does that make any sense?

8. What do the two of you have in common?

S: We both love music.
L: And we both want to make Savaru a beautiful place to live again.

9. What does your family think of your partner, and what do you think of your partner's family?
My brothers didn't like Sevry at first, because my fiance at the time was a good friend of theirs. But then Estefan showed his true colors, and my brothers realized that Sevry was much better for me. Now they like him very much. My father, he just wants me to be happy, so whatever makes me happy is fine with him. I think he thinks well of Sevry, too. As for my grandmama...
S: Lucie and I are actually distantly related, and her grandmother is my closest living relative. Lady Lillia didn't think much of me at first, because I was trying to take Lucie away from her secure, comfortable life and the good marriage that was planned for her.
L: I think grandmama has finally come around, though. She lets Sevry call her "cousin."

10. What role does magic play in your relationship?
It was through magic that we were able to find each other across time and space.
L: [sighs] Isn't that romantic?

11. What are your plans for the future?
Raising our family, and restoring Savaru to the beautiful, prosperous land it once was.
L: And learning to play the lute.

12. "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" How is this true for the two of you?
We brought a dead land back to life, and now we're working to give it a future. How awesome is that?
S: I was the last king of the old Savaru, and I'm the first king of the new Savaru. I couldn't do it without my queen.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Love & Magic Sneak Peek: Chosen of Azara

Here's a peek at a romantic moment in Chosen of Azara:

“Lucie, you have to decide now. What will you do?” His voice was quiet but firm.

“I can’t go with you. Don’t you understand that? I’m to be married in six weeks!”

“If we traveled quickly, you could be back here by then.”

Lucie gave a despairing laugh. She was tired of trying to explain herself to him—and to herself. “And do you think Estefan would still want me then? He’s already jealous, and that was just because I was talking to you. What do you think he would do if I disappeared with you for a month and a half? A broken engagement would be the least of my problems!”

“Has he threatened you?” A dangerous edge entered his voice.

It would be too humiliating to admit that she was afraid of her own fiancé. “No, he’s just very angry. But don’t you see? If I leave with you, I would be cutting myself off from my family and friends, I would have no home to come back to, no one who cared about me. No one would want me. My life would be over.”

She tried to turn away, but Sevry caught her arm and she couldn’t pull free. “Lucie—”

“Don’t you understand what you’re asking of me? What I would have to give up? What I’d lose?”

“I know, Lucie. Believe me, I know what it’s like to lose everything.” She looked up at him, and caught her breath at the genuine sorrow and compassion on his face. “Fate, the gods, history, other people’s decisions can all leave our lives in ruins, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “I wish your family wouldn’t choose to deal so harshly with you. I wish their love and concern for you was more steadfast. If I could—” He stopped speaking and stepped closer to her. She was powerless to move away. His free hand brushed her cheek, as though he was trying to comfort her, then moved to the back of her head, tangling in her hair. He tilted her face up towards his, and his mouth pressed down on hers.

As part of Love & Magic Week, Chosen of Azara is on sale at a special low price through Feb. 16:
Amazon | Smashwords (coupon code ZU89J)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Love & Magic Guest Couple: Archos and Dii

For our next couple interview for Love and Magic Week, I'm happy to welcome Archos and Dii, from The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles by A.L. Butcher. And be sure to go check out A.L.'s big birthday and Valentine's giveaway at her site!
The Light Beyond the Storm cover
1. How did you meet?
Archos: Dii’s magic called to me across the Realms of Magic. She had touched and helped a magic Mirror, one of the old elven artefacts even though Mirror magic is rare. That old Mirror called to mine, I had to see who had activated it. As for actually meeting… I only wish it had been in better circumstances, Dii was imprisoned in an Order fort and was very badly hurt. She almost died.
Dii: He saved my life. I cannot remember first meeting as I was unconscious but I recall our first meeting after I awoke. Archos is a powerful man, and I was very daunted. I had been a slave and I assumed I would be his Kept – his bound concubine. He was very kind, he did not treat me like the others had.

2. What was the first thing you noticed about the other person?
By the gods she was beautiful and her magic was like nothing I had seen before. So wild yet so much Power.
Dii: Archos was very kind to me. He is very handsome too.

3. Did you know when you met that you would end up together?

Archos: I wanted her from the moment her magic called to mine. I risked my life and my freedom to find her. We are bound in blood and magic, there is no stronger bond.
Dii: As I explained I had lived as a slave before. If Archos had taken me as a Kept I would have stayed until he tired of me. Elves have no rights, and sorceresses are forbidden. I am so lucky Archos loves me for myself. He does not treat me like a slave. At least here in Tremellic we are equals. It took me a while to realise it.

4. What do you like best about the other person?

Archos: Despite everything which has been done to her Dii retains her kindness. She is also an unbelievable lover.
Dii: He treats me like an equal.

5. What is something you enjoy doing together? (Besides the obvious!)
We do a lot of research together. Magic is very fickle and there is always so much to learn and tame it. Dii is very clever but she looks at it in a different way. I can be over confident and she will ask questions.
Dii: Research, sex and sometimes we will go up to the hills and simply enjoy the open air. Sometimes we will do all three at once.
Archos: Laughs.

6. How has the other person changed you?

Archos: I have never loved anyone as deeply as I love Dii’Athella. She has brought me so much, and assuaged my loneliness.
Dii: I think I am more confident.

The Shining Citadel cover
7. What are the biggest differences between you? How important are these differences?
Dii rarely loses her temper. She can calm me down like no one else can. I am known for my stormy temperament.  She is very much younger than I, so she has much to learn. Her life before I found her was very sheltered, but not to keep her safe. Elves are slaves and cannot move freely so her decision to leave the house of her Keeper must have been difficult, although knowing what he put her through I am not surprised she did, no one should endure it. Consequently she is like an enquiring child in many ways, with an appetite to learn you rarely find.
Dii: Archos is much clever than I am. He knows so much. Of course he is a human, well he looks human so he can move about far more freely. It means he can go to the city, or to our little….trading port without me. I cannot leave Tremellic alone. Although now things are more difficult, even a human can be arrested if there are suspicions he is a mage. Vague suspicious are enough and there are more than vague suspicions these days.

8. What do the two of you have in common?
Magic of course, research, lore. Getting freedom for the elves and mages is very important to us.
Dii: I would agree, although I am not sure we are ready to fight for elven freedom just yet.  The Witch-Hunters will have other ideas. There are many plans to make.

9. What does your family think of your partner, and what do you think of your partner's family?

Archos: my family are here. Everyone adores Dii.
Dii: I have no family but those around me.

10. What role does magic play in your relationship?

Archos: Magic is who we are. Our very being is magical, especially mine. Magic tends to demand much, but it also brings a lot of passion. There is nothing to match sex spiced with magic.
Dii: giggles knowingly.

11. What are your plans for the future?
That remains to be seen. There is much to do, much to learn and many risks to run.
Dii: I would like to live to see the elves free but who knows. As Archos says there are many risks. 
Perhaps we will travel again.

12. "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" How is this true for the two of you?
Magic combined is stronger than magic separated. Dii is skilled in light magic and she is a wonderful healer. My skills are more combat magic, elemental magic.  Working with another who understands what can and cannot be done, and what must be done first is important. Having the woman I love beside me means there is nothing I will not face.
Dii: Archos has many skills I do not, but he sees things in a different way. He is charming but he does not see matters from a woman’s way. Sometimes a woman needs to deal with other women. Many of the women, especially the elven women, have endured terrible treatment at the hands of slavers and they would not confide in a man, especially a human man. My friend Ozena talks to them a lot, but there are some matters which can only be discussed with someone who has themselves experienced it.

Couple Interview: Rashali and Eruz

Welcome to Love and Magic Week here on Welcome To My Worlds! I'm celebrating Valentine's Day and my 1-year publishing anniversary with some fun events. First off, two of my fantasy-romance novels, Urdaisunia and Chosen of Azara are on sale for $0.99 (US) at Amazon and Smashwords until Feb. 16:

Amazon | Smashwords (coupon code QF65D)
Chosen of Azara:
Amazon | Smashwords (coupon code ZU89J)
(Also on sale at Amazon international sites; prices vary.)

There's also some couple character interviews coming up, some romance and magic-themed sneak peeks (including from my forthcoming novel Sarya's Song and the Daughter of the Wildings series, possibly a guest blog or two, a playlist of love songs for the couples in my novels, and don't miss the giveaway down at the bottom, to win a signed paperback copy of
Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, or The Lost Book of Anggird!

Here's the first couple interview for Love and Magic Week: Rashali and Eruz from Urdaisunia:
1. How did you meet?
Rashali: I was preoccupied, walking back to my village after getting water from the river, and I started across the road without seeing him, and he rode his horse right into me.
Eruz: Actually, it was you who walked into Teshkarizaz. I tried to pull around you, but couldn't.

2. What was the first thing you noticed about the other person?

R: All I noticed was that he was a Sazar warrior and nobleman. That was all I needed to know about him, that he was the enemy.
E: Her eyes, full of fear and sorrow but also full of pride.

3. Did you know when you met that you would end up together?

Both: No.
R: The thought of an Urdai and a Sazar together was.. It was unimaginable.
E: Impossible.

4. What do you like best about the other person?

E: Rashali speaks honestly to me, and sees me as a person rather than as just a provider of wealth and prestige, as my former wives did.
R: He's a good, brave, honorable man who is committed to doing what's right no matter how hard it is or the consequences to himself.

5. What is something you enjoy doing together? (Besides the obvious!)

E: We like to discuss the best ways to serve our land and both the Urdai and the Sazar people.
R: We also enjoy walking together in the Jewel of Zir, the great garden behind the palace. It's a very special place to us.

6. How has the other person changed you?

R: Because of Eruz, I have learned to see the Sazars not as faceless enemies but as real people who in truth want the same things anyone else does, a place to call home, safety, a way to provide for their families.
E: Rashali gave me the courage to act on the things I believed, instead of just thinking about them.

7. What are the biggest differences between you? How important are these differences?

R: He is Sazar, I am Urdai; that is the greatest difference. To an Urdai, the idea of being with a Sazar is... disgusting. And the Sazars feel the same way about the Urdai. As though the Urdai are somehow less than human. Also, he was born a prince, heir to the Sazar throne; I was born a peasant, and became a rebel against the Sazars. At first, these differences seemed insurmountable to me, but we eventually overcame them in the face of greater challenges to us and to our land.
E: The differences never mattered very much to me. For me, the barriers between us were more a matter of what was expected of me as heir to the throne. I was expected to choose my wives from a certain class of women - Sazar women, of course - and to adhere to certain ideals about the superiority of the Sazar people.

8. What do the two of you have in common?

R: I lost a young daughter to plague. Eruz has a daughter, about the same age that mine was, so he understands my love for my daughter and my grief. And I understand his love for his daughter.
E: We both also love our land, Urdaisunia. Rashali's people have lived here for thousands of years, while my people only came here seventy years ago. But it's home to both of us, and we both want it to thrive again and become the great land that it once was.

9. What does your family think of your partner, and what do you think of your partner's family?

R: Although Eruz is a Sazar, my sister (the only surviving member of my family, along with her two surviving children and her new husband) is very happy for me, that I've found love again after losing my husband Tigun. As for Eruz's family, I've no use for them. They've been cruel and hateful to him. Except for his daughter, of course. She's adorable, and I love her like my own.
E: My father and brothers were horrified at the idea of me being with an Urdai woman. To them, such a thing is as bad as treason. I don't know Rashali's sister and her family very well, but they seem like good people and I'm glad they're willing to accept me.

10. What role does magic play in your relationship?

E: The first time Rashali truly softened towards me was when I did a small magic trick, making a flower bud come into full blown. Her reaction was unforgettable.
R: It was one of the most wonderful things I'd ever seen. The Sazars worship Kuz, the god of sorcerers, more than the Urdai do, and I'd never seen anything like it. I was amazed that this man who was an enemy could do something so beautiful.

11. What are your plans for the future?

R: To raise Eruz's children from his prior marriages, and have children of our own.
E: And to see Urdaisunia restored to a great land, a comfortable and prosperous home for all those who live there, Sazar and Urdai alike.

12. "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" How is this true for the two of you?

E: We overcame more than seventy years of hatred and prejudice between our people and the vast gulf between peasant and prince in order to be together. We hope that our relationship is a symbol of what the land and people of Urdaisunia can achieve.
R: If an entire land can be saved through love, then we hope that is what we are able to do.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Love & Magic Week, and Saturday Sneak Peek 2/8

Valentine's Day is coming up, and so is my one-year publishing anniversary! (Urdaisunia was published on Feb. 9, 2013) To celebrate, I'll be having a special week of love and magic, Feb. 9-16. Here's what I have planned so far:

And to kick things off, here's a romantic moment (with a little magic) from Urdaisunia: (this scene happens right after this part)

He pulled her into his arms again. “No matter what else happens,” he said against her hair, “if you’re safe, then that’s something that’s right with the world.”

He was her enemy; he was the man who had sacrificed part of his soul to try to protect her people. And now he was endangering himself to bring her this warning. Rashali pushed back a rush of emotion that made her want to lose herself in his arms and forget everything else. “I’ll warn Kefel, or try to. In truth, he only hears what he wants to hear. Now let me warn you—That drunken Sazar by the bar is one of your uncle’s spies. I knew you, even with the salik. If he recognized you, and notices that we’ve both left the tavern…”

Eruz’s back stiffened. “Damn. He came in right after me—he must have followed me in. I have to get back to Zir before my father hears about this.” He pulled away from her just enough to close his hand around the dolphin pendant that lay against the bodice of her dress. He spoke softly, then breathed on the pendant, briefly fogging the silver. “If ever you need to contact me, for any reason, hold onto that and think of me, then send your message. Be careful not to let anyone else get hold of it, or find out what it is.”

She believed it would work; she had seen him use Sazar magic. “Can you contact me, too?”

“No. The token has to be prepared by the person it’s meant to contact. It’s not difficult to make one, but I don’t have time to teach you now.” Still holding the pendant, he bent his head down and kissed her deeply, hungrily, as though he was a starving man and she was his banquet. The world around them disappeared, and Rashali clung to him, the only solid, real thing she knew.

Too soon, he pulled away from her. “I have to leave now. The gods watch over you.”

“The gods watch over you, too.” There was more she wanted to say, but before she could put it into words, he disappeared into the dark tangle of alleys.