Friday, December 30, 2011

Publishing News

With the holidays and its associated vacations, the publishing industry has slowed these past couple of weeks. One thing really worth looking into, however, is the rumor that Barnes & Nobles may consider not carrying books for which the author's website or blog only provides links to Amazon. Rachelle Gardner, who mentions the rumor, also provides links to other booksellers for authors wanting to update their websites.

Google is filing a motion to dismiss the Author's Guild as qualified plaintiffs for the book-scanning project. Not unexpected; that's been hovering for a while. The basis of their claim is that, because the AG doesn't own each individual author's infringed works, it can't say it had any copyrights violated by Google's book-scanning project, so it can't sue - only the individual authors can. Google is doing the same to the American Society of Media Photographers, who represent visual artists. Even if Google loses, it benefits by draining the pockets of the plaintiffs.

And HarperCollins sues OpenRoad for publishing the ebook of Julie of the Wolves, claiming their contract from 1971 includes e-rights due to phrasing. Jean George, the author, had decided to go with Open Road Integrated Media for publishing the ebook.

In non-local but noteworthy news, Japan's fighting back against Amazon. After seeing Amazon undercut local American competition in e-books, Japan's not eager to invite them in. Japanese publishers are refusing the terms offered for e-book sales.

Everything else is either industry advice or an opinion.

General Industry Advice

Gardner also offers the suggestion that writers should look at obstacles as proof of their determination. How much do you want to be published? Enough to overcome the 'brick wall' of rejection? Then you'll succeed. Because if you let rejection stop you, you didn't want to be published badly enough to keep trying. It's a test of your mettle, and up to you to prove you can pass.

Janet Reid points out two things that make editors raise an eyebrow - in a bad way. Don't write "Please respond" in your subject; don't ask the agent to respond to a different e-mail than the one from which the query was sent.

Carolyn Kaufman on QueryTracker answers questions about dissociative amnesia - what it is, how it develops, and how it might be treated, and how it differs from a dissociative fugue.

Rachelle Gardner offers a suggestion on what agents mean by "the intersection of literary and commercial." She suggests that they're probably looking for is non-genre fiction, well-written and appealing to a broad audience. Non-genre means something that would be titled "general fiction" instead of put in a genre.

Roni Loren offers her 10 commandments for being a successful writer.


Courtney Milan offers her viewpoint on self-publishing versus traditional publishing, and her frustration with self-publishers who bash traditional publishers. She's self-published, by the by. And in the interest of full disclosure, I'm adding her link because I don't want to lose it. I agree with a great many of her points, especially about the possible incipient Amazon monopoly, and will be using the link in support of a post on my wishes for and my predictions of what will happen in the new year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Almost new

The new year is edging in. Exactly one year ago, I quit a job to become a full-time writer. Then I discovered that being a full-time writer just isn't a practical idea for a new writer without an outside source of regular income. People become full-time writers after they're well-known and well-established, with a pile of published books under their belts and royalties slipping penny-by-penny into their bank accounts.

Following my dream lead me to a full-time job doing what I love: editing. Not novels, no - for now, that remains a hobby practiced mainly on my own work - but fixing mistakes and rephrasing sentences for greater clarity in a company that values my work. My own writing has gotten better. And I can afford my rent while spending more than $10 a week on groceries. The former may be more important in the long run, but latter is pretty awesome, too.

More importantly, I've realized that I'm just beginning the road to being an author. I've learned a lot. And I expect to continue to learn a lot. Joining the RWA (Romance Writers of America) and the local chapter thereof is 100% the second-best thing I've done since deciding to take this path. (The best? Actually finishing the book. The third-best? Listening to the feedback I've gotten and using it to revise said first book.)

I no longer expect my first finished novel to be my first published one; most published authors to whom I've spoken have a first manuscript collecting dustbunnies under their beds. I'm revising it, pulling out the editing scalpel with the tools I've learned this year, and making it better. But meanwhile, I'm working on another story. Because the secret to being a successful author is to never stop writing.

I may find an agent and get published by 2013 (you never know). But I'm not counting on it. If there's one thing I've learned in the past year, it's this: In the world of publishing, twelve months in is almost new. I've got the rest of my life to make a career. I've got a box full of ideas, plenty of enthusiasm, good role models, great friends, and plenty of time.

Sometimes, it's good to be the baby.

What have you learned in the past year? What possibilities have opened in the year, because of risks you've taken in the last?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Online Classes

Looking for a last-minute gift for a writer? How about sponsoring them to take an online class?
Looking for a last-minute gift for yourself? How about taking a class to improve your writing?
Looking for a last-minute gift for your cousin? How about a yummy edible arrangement? (What? Online courses aren't a good gift for everyone.)

Some upcoming online classes that may be of interest:
(Descriptions copied, pasted, and shortened from official class descriptions)


INSTRUCTOR: Linnea Sinclair

WHEN: January 2 to January 22


Slink down any interesting back alleys lately? Retired Florida Private Investigator and award winning sci fi author, Linnea Sinclair, invites you to step into the world of private detective work and learn the basic procedures -- and some not so well known tricks of the trade -- that will add a touch of realism to your stories as well as provide plot twists and conflicts. How quickly can a PI locate someone? How easily can things go wrong on surveillance? What happens when a mundane case becomes a murder case? A former news reporter, Sinclair was a licensed private investigator in Florida for ten years and is featured in the nationally distributed instructional video, "PIs". She has also taught investigative methodology for writers at COFFIN (College OF Felony and INtrigue online) and at various RWA and MWA conferences nationwide.


Cost: $20

You do not have to be an RWA member to take this workshop.

Reistration ends Jan. 1.

Title: Hide and Seek: How to Disappear in Today's World

Instructor: Frank M. Ahern

Class Description: The idea of disappearing is appealing and has been used by writers over the years, but the rules of the game have changed. Rapidly evolving technology, social sites and the access of information has become the number one enemy to someone who wants to fade away. To correctly disappear and secure your privacy you need to embrace deception both offline and online.

In this class you learn about
Digital DNA
Digital Genes
Digital Distortion
Creating Fake Digital Identities
Photo Distortion
The Pretext Solution

and many more techniques your character or even you can use to vanish into thin air.

Cost: $30

Registration ends Dec. 27.

Title: The Game is Afoot: Writing the Steampunk Mystery

Instructor: Beth Daniels, aka Beth Henderson, J.B. Dane
Class Description:

Steampunk is a subgenre of a subgenre (Alternative History) of a genre (Fantasy), but it breaks down into even further subgenres of its own. One of those is mystery.

For four weeks – a full month – we’ll not only look at how to build a Steampunk novel, a Steampunk world, but how to make it a Steampunk mystery.

Cost: $30

Registration ends Dec. 27

The Word Loss Diet
Presented by: Rayne Hall

Date: January 1 – 31, 2012

Deadline: December 29, 2011

Fee: $25

Course Description:

Tighten and tone your writing style. Slim your manuscript in four weeks with simple revision tricks. Shed thousands of words without changing the plot!

Creating a Web Presence

Presented by: Casey Dawes

Date: January 1 – 31, 2012

Deadline: December 29, 2011

Fee: $25

Course Description:
This 4-week workshop demonstrates the three steps necessary to creating a web presence: People, Persona and Platform. It covers these topics:
Week One: Identifying your audience (Your People)

Week Two: Defining your brand (Your Persona)

Weeks Three and Four: How to let your people know about your persona (Your Platform) going in-depth on the following platforms

Your website/blog



At the end of this workshop the attendees will have a well-rounded picture of their readers, an idea of the brand they want to project, including what aspects of their personal life they are willing to share and what they won’t, and a plan to join the conversation on the world wide web using website/blog, Facebook, Twitter and more. The workbook will include specific instructions about what’s needed to set up and use these three platforms.

Assignments will be given on Mondays and due on Wednesdays. Answers to comments and questions will be given throughout the course. All attendees will get a free copy of “Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Basics.”

Going Deep: Creating an Unbreakable Connection Between Your Characters and Readers

(Scroll down to the 3rd class listed)

Presented by Toni Andrews

Date: January 1 – 15, 2012

Deadline: December 29, 2011

Fee: $15

Course Description:
We all want to write stories that pull readers in, bond them to characters, and forge relationships that will last to the end of the book. To do that, you must master three basic elements:
Point of View,
Character Voice, and
Showing vs. Telling.

In this workshop, you’ll learn how, handled properly, these three elements can be combined to make your writing more powerful and emotionally rich.

You’ll master simple, easy to understand techniques to identify the issues that are pull the readers out of the story and sever their connection to the characters, and easy ways to eliminate those issues.

Special Workshop Bonus: In addition to being a multi-published author, Toni Andrews is also a professional book doctor. For the first twenty participants to sign up only, Toni will perform a manuscript analysis of their first five pages, a service which normally costs $25 through Book Rx.

The Lessons of Firefly: Learning from the Works of Joss Whedon -- Presented by Jacqui Jacoby

Runs: Jan 2-29

Cost: $30

Although Joss Whedon's television show FIREFLY only aired through the fall months of 2002, it has continued to generate followers through word of mouth, DVD sales and an inexhaustible amount of discussion both at conferences and online in writing loops. FIREFLY, created by the Rod Serling of our generation, was a masterpiece of writing. Each of its thirteen episodes taught character development, dialogue and plotting techniques. Its motion picture sequel, SERENITY, not only touched on these subjects but added relationships, loyalties and loss to it's repertoire. In this workshop, Ms. Jacoby will reveal the lessons of FIREFLY. By using class participation and examples from the episodes, she will translate with words what Mr. Whedon was teaching us on screen. Joss Whedon has reviewed this workshop and has given his permission for it to be offered.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday Writing Prompt: Who's Insane?

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
-Attributed to Albert Einstein

By this definition, who in your story is insane? What are they doing, and what do they want to happen? Why will that never happen?

(Science: expecting the same results, but trying again anyway.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to tie a perfect bow

Time to wrap presents. Just one problem: You're out of pre-made bows, and you don't know how to tie a nice one. Your bows tend to come out lop-sided, or even upside down!

Here's a guide to tying your bows and having them come out straight. I chose to tie mine around an old Teavana box, upside down so the pattern would be less distracting.

Basic Ribbon: Use a satin ribbon, string, twine, or anything that looks the same from all sides.

Tie a knot. Basic knot, any kind of knot, around a vase or on a flat package or on you kid's shoe.

Make sure the ribbon is lying flat against the box, no unsightly twists.

A basic knot.

See how one string comes down, and the other goes up? Good. Make a loop with the lower string.

Note the unfinished ribbon tails? This is how they began.

Wrap the "up" string over the loop.

Wrap over the loop, or your bow will turn out crooked.

Wait, finished tails? Oops; my camera ate some of my
 pictures the first time around, so I had to retake them!

Make a loop with the "up" string, and push it through the hole.

Tighten the bow.

Trim the tails.

Making a "fishtail" end.

Finished bow.

Fancy Ribbons: Use a patterned ribbon that is patterned on only one side, has a discernible "up," or has different patterns on each side.

You'll notice that the "bottom" end is showing its backside.

Tie a basic knot. When wrapping your ribbon around your package, make sure the pattern lies against the package facing up, so people can see it.

See how one string comes down, and the other goes up? Good. Make a loop with the lower string. Make sure the pattern is facing out in the loop.
Twist the ribbon so the pattern is facing up.

This makes sure the pattern is on the outside of the loop.

Here's where it gets tricky. Wrap the "up" string over the loop. Make sure the pattern is facing out in the section that's doing the looping. You'll have to twist the string once to get it to face the correct way.

Twist the string once more to make a loop with the "up" string whose pattern is facing out. Push the loop through the hole.

Twist the ribbon once more, so the pattern on the tail faces down.

Push through the hole. The downward-facing pattern
is now on the outside of your second loop.

This is your basic bow.
On the right, you'll see the backside of your ribbon.

Tighten the bow by pulling from the knot. On one loop of the bow, this will be the back end of the loop; on the other side of the bow, it will be the front side of the loop. Pull both loops at the same time for even tightening; hold the knot with one hand and tighten a loop with the other if one loop needs to be tightened more than the other. This is easiest to do with two hands, despite the photo.

Tighten the ribbon. In this case, the loop on the left's front section leads to the knot,
and the loop on the right's back section leads to the knot.
Don't pull the tails, or your knot will come undone.

My other hand is holding the camera...

Twist the second tail so that the pattern faces up.
You'll want to twist it close to the knot, and push the
twist up into the knot itself so you can't see it.

When the bow is sufficiently tight, you should be able to even out the loops. With one hand, keep a finger in the loop and another finger on the knot. Slowly and gently pull the tail until the loop reaches the desired size. Repeat with the other loop. Then "fluff" your loops and tails.
"Fluff" your loops by sticking two fingers into each one and
spreading them slightly apart to give the loop a rounded look.
"Fluff" your tails by spreading them out. Start close to the knot
and work your way downwards to the ends.

Trim the tails to be even. For a fancy look, cut at a 45-degree angle, or "fishtail" your ends.
To fishtail, fold the ribbon in half. Start at the fold and cut downwards (away from the bow) at a 45-degree angle. Or, start at the edges and cut up towards the fold.

Or start at the edges and cut up, towards the fold.

Look! It's a pretty, finished bow!

Congrats on your perfect bow!

Choosing ribbons:

Left: One-sided ribbon
Middle and right: Two-sided ribbons

Wired ribbons are good for bows, although they tend to be one-sided. Bow loops can be made larger, because the wire will help them keep their shape. However, they do sometimes take practice, and they can be more expensive than unwired ribbon (although you can usually hit the dollar store for spools of holiday ribbon, each spool usually containing 3 ft.)

Unwired ribbons are often less expensive, and come in both patterned and unpatterned versions. Unpatterned ribbons can be simpler to work with for a beginning bow-maker, because it can be hard to make the twists behave. Loops in unwired ribbons will need to be smaller, however, because without wires, the bow can't support its own shape and will droop if it gets too large. Wider ribbons tend to be able to make larger loops, and some ribbons are made of stiffer fabric than others, which also gives them more support.

Pretty much anything that is long and flexible enough to be tied can be used to make a bow. Tulle and raffia both add their own unique touches. A long strip of fabric (you know that dress you had to hem?) can turn into distressed-style bow. And who hasn't tied something up with string at one point in their lives? Or just purchase a spool of wrapping ribbon.

Now go, bow-ninjas, and put bows on things while no one's looking. Because you can.

Some bows require more ninja skills than others.
(Never leave a bow on an unsupervised cat.
They can't untie them, and if the ribbon gets caught on something,
kitty could choke!)

 (Yes, you may pin these images on Pinterest if you'd like, or even use them elsewhere. No worries--I took them myself and this is your permission. Just please include a link back to the post!)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Publishing News

On the news front, Amazon's getting scarier, and publishers are getting sued for price matching ebooks.

Big News

Amazon offered customers a discount (on things other than books) in return for spying on - um, I mean price-checking - competitors last Saturday. It was a short-term savings, but is Amazon's price-check app really a good idea? The downside to Amazon's price-check feature is that it gives Amazon knowledge of competitors' prices without creating jobs or offering discernible benefits to most customers. The app allows customers to scan prices at brick-and-mortar stores, then see what the price is on AmazonStudies show that many people look at books in person, then buy online. But, by out-competing brick-and-mortar shops, Amazon begins to build an monopoly. Is it a good feature for customers? Right now, yes. Is it good for book buyers in the long run? ... But it is certainly a great business move for Amazon.

And it's no surprise that Amazon is also trying to eliminate other e-publishers from the indie market. In this case, Amazon is offering a prize package with strings attached: For a chance at a monthly cash pool, authors must sell their words exclusively on Amazon. No Smashwords, no Apple iBookstore, no Barnes & Nobles, not even their own website may offer the material. It's a direct move to consolidate all the indie authors out there, and I'd be surprised if other publishers don't start making counter-attacks.

At the same time, the U.S. Department of Justice is looking at mutli-agency ebook pricing deals. That's right, a bunch of publishers suddenly moved over to the agency model at the same time, and began setting identical pricing. Price matching across companies is legally discouraged (as in, there's a class-action lawsuit hitting the publishers right now for this practice). This is based on the idea that price matching discourages competition, which is anathema in a free-market economy. The DOJ has extended the deadline to resolve this issue, so it's something that will continue to be discussed in 2012. Oh, and the EU is looking into the same thing.

Weighing in: More sides to the Amazon debate
Charlie Stross argues that the Big Six publishing groups, by requiring DRMs, are cutting their own throats and handing the market to Amazon. DRMs are supposed to help prevent e-piracy. Unfortunately, it also  "gives Amazon a great tool for locking ebook customers into the Kindle platform." That means those ebooks can be read only on Kindles. Makes the Nook a lot less tempting, if Amazon's got a monopoly with tons of exclusive content, doesn't it? Or any other reading platform, for that matter.

Before you decide Amazon is the root of all evil, check out Farhard Manjoo's argument that Amazon, while engaging in sleazy practices, is actually good for the literary community. The problem with brick-and-mortar stores is that they're expensive. Amazon's a little cheaper. People buy books from Amazon. Lots of books.  Amazon certainly isn't a saint, but Manjoo points out that the local bookstore isn't sacrosanct, either - not when Amazon gets more people reading, and more people buying books, than their competitors.
Bookavore suggests a short list of reforms that would make most people stop hating Amazon. Allowing Kindles to download from any retailer, paying taxes, taking away the 90-day exclusivity of KDP Select, and donate to charities, they might actually lose the 'evil' reputation - and maybe even gain a good one.

Author, Agent, and Industry Blogs

Rick Daley, in a guest post on Bransford's blog, explains search engine optimization, SEO: basically, how to appear at the top of Google (and other search engine) results. You need to include key phrases relevant to your novel - not just what it's titled, but also phrases people who have never heard of you or your books might enter into a search engine when looking for a random book to buy.

Nathan Bransford says, "I don't network; I just have friends." Why are you networking? Why aren't you making friends instead? Because meeting people just to use them isn't the basis of a good relationship. You build your 'networks' by making friends, finishing things, and by having things worth saying.

QueryTracker reminds writers to make a professional e-mail account from which to send their queries. Your e-mail address is the first thing an agent sees. Make it count. And make sure the rest of the query is professional, too - no fancy fonts or weird colors. The site also offers advice on writing killer loglines: State the genre, name the main character, name what makes the main character unique. Include the inciting incident and your main character's goal. Add the major conflict and the consequences for failure. Then shrink it all down to one non-convoluted sentence.

Have you done your research? Do you know about the querying and submission process? Then you know not to call an agent's office. Agents don't have time to give you personal feedback over the phone on your query. They also don't take phone queries. And they might not remember you from a single query two months later. Janet Reid also adds that this even applies to writers who have already found a small publisher interested in them. Don't call. Just don't. That's what e-mail is for. Oh, and she explains platform for non-fiction authors.

Professional editor Alan Rinzler talks about when you need an edit, and how he evaluates cost and suitability. Are you thinking about hiring an editor? Because you need to know at what point an editor should be brought in. And there are several stages, as well: brief consultations in the beginning for developmental help, in the middle of a first draft for getting past writers' block, or a full edit at the end.

Author Deborah Niemann talks about overcoming her fear of public speaking. Just because she's done it frequently, doesn't mean she doesn't get butterflies. The trick is to control the fear.

Rachelle Gardner answers the question, "I write multiple genres. How do I find an agent?" She suggests sticking to one genre if you're still building your name, because you have to invest in building your market to two different audiences - and it's hard to build even one. She also addresses the issue of trying to sell a novel that will appeal to a foreign audience - either find an agent in that country, or find a way that it will appeal to Americans and then mention "will probably have high international appeal" as an additional thought.

Rachelle Gardner points out obstacles to avoid when trying to break into publishing. Sure, some authors make it work, but it doesn't really make agents want to represent you. If you can't stay within the recommended word count, are strongly political online, or have no online persona... you're making it harder on yourself.

Her guest blogger, Chuck Sambuchino, editor of Guide to Literary Agents, gives advice about publicity after publishing a book. My favorite take-away? Always carry "autographed" stickers with you, and sign your books whenever you see them. Bookstores can't return signed copies, so it's a 'garunteed' sale. Oh, and it's easier to get an interview on the radio than on television.

And Janet Reid answers the question, "Should I follow the market, or should I follow my heart?" Her answer? Writers who write to write, should follow their hearts. Writers who write to publish should do both.

Edit: Added Friday Afternoon
Because sometimes I don't find links until Friday.

Hachette Group leaks a document explaining why they think publishers are still relevant. What do they offer authors? Talent discovery, funding for writers in the form of advances, sales and distribution help (publicity!), and brand building and copyright watching.

And the Authors Guild files for class certification in hopes of taking on Google for Google's book scanning project. The basis of their rationale is that individual authors cannot practically expect to single-handedly take on the giant that is Google, and that Google's been using authors' works for commercial purposes. Working against them is the fact that, as a guild, there are questions on whether or not they can adequately represent all authors, including those not in the guild. Also, Google will probably be using a fair-use clause against them. Publishers are not part of the action - they've got their own settlement talks going on with Google.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday Writing Prompt: After the Story

Wednesday Writing Prompt: Think of the protagonist in your story. What is your character going to wear the day after the story ends? Why that outfit?

My example:
Carol will be stealing one of Lygos's tunics. (Lygos being the male lead, of course.) She isn't a big fan of dresses, and especially not of the Minoan dresses everyone wishes she'd wear. He'll concede the tunic only after she tries to go outside in her "underwear" rather than wear the underbust bodice and flounced skirt that most women don. Of course, this does have some disadvantages - Lygos gives her one of his dress tunics, which stylishly combines yellow polka dots, green waves, and purple stripes (he's a bit of a clothes horse - in a time period in which people have not yet invented the concept of clashing.) It may come down past her knees, but at least it covers her chest - more than can be said for the Bronze-age dresses.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dreaming in Stories

I have interesting dreams. Story dreams. Dreams with a beginning, middle, end; with conflict and with resolution. Dreams that make it impossible for me not to be a writer, because when you have dreams like these, they take over your imagination and leave you wanting more.

Last night’s dream is a good example. The dreams aren’t crystal clear, of course. Passing time is usually flashes of images that tumble helter-skelter through my mind, and make sense only because my mind decides they do and assigns them scenes.

Meeting the son, for example, was a flash of him standing in the hall and knowing that we sometimes hung out, who he was, what he did in the mansion, what his personality was. Meeting Yugo and befriending her was a flash of me and a girl sitting on a bed, laughing, and knowing her name and that we’d become close friends. Like all dreams, nothing’s explained – I just know it. There were actual scenes, too, longer sections like the training and the jumping into the chandeliers.

It took me a while to write this dream up. In fact, it took about 2100 words. I'm not a conscious dreamer, and I didn't know where the dream was headed when it began. Do you ever dream in stories? If so, what do you do with your story dreams?

When I say I have awesome dreams, this is exactly what I mean:


We stood in the hall, looking left and right and trying to figure out where we were. I think perhaps my brother and his girlfriend had an idea, because they didn’t look surprised to be in the endless marble halls. Tall ceilings were lined with decorative chandeliers, red and gold and currently unlit, thanks to the large windows that brightened this hall.

Then he showed up, the master of the mansion, sable-haired and tall and wearing a battered, floor-length, tan leather trench coat. His dark eyes were older than his face, with a sadness that dodged through the corners of his tired smile. I don’t know that he was handsome, but he was strong – the sort of strength that carries more power than a person should be able to hold, without giving in to the corruption that sort of power usually draws. “I was wondering when you’d get here.”

He clenched a hand, and something flew across the hall. The air between his hand and the flying book felt tight, condensed – different. “This is what you’re here for,” he said, holding up the book. It wasn’t the book we were here to learn.

My brother’s girlfriend stared at us in confusion and a little surprise. I knew immediately that most people couldn’t feel the difference.

He gave us the first lesson right then. “Focus. Concentrate. Close your fist to help you visualize it. Feel it? Now pull.”

I failed the first time, barely generating a spark. My brother did better. He had a lot more power than I did, and apparently a natural talent for using it. When he got it right, it was like an invisible firework went off in his hand, a twisting of light that nobody’s eyes could actually see. A line of power flew from his hand to the object he chose, and like a fishing line, he tried to reel it in.

The Master of the mansion took us to his manservant. The manservant was dashing, taller than his master. His high cheekbones were pale, his black suit with its red trim perfectly proper, but a smile came easily to his beautiful face.

We were to stay out of the way except during our lessons. The mansion should be safe, but sometimes they got through, the monsters. There were safe rooms for the normals and the new trainees to hide. We’d run there, should we be invaded.

The Master’s son was training, too. He was younger than us, twenty years old and light-hearted. Because power didn’t develop until the late teens at the earliest, he wasn’t that much beyond us. He looked much like his father, sans gloom and that powerful intensity. He was very friendly. We sometimes hung out with him, as classmates, as general friendly acquaintances.

It was odd to see the young man near his father. The powers kept away the ravages of age; his father didn’t look more than his mid-thirties. I knew we’d face that one day, too.

We were in the Master’s classes. There were a few graduate students, but only a few, because the school hadn’t been going for very long. The Master did our training himself. My brother impressed him with potential and quick learning. He wouldn’t graduate any time soon, but for a beginner, he was making very quick progress.

I was a slower case. I would never be very powerful, and the focus was difficult for me. I also felt that the Master had too much a burden on his shoulders. I wanted to make him smile, to take some of the sadness off his shoulders, so I goofed off (just a little) in my lessons, and did the silly things I like to do.

I made the Master laugh. He liked my randomness, my sense of humor that just fit with his. And we could talk so very easily. We didn’t like all the same things, but our eyes saw the world in a similar color. I don’t know that anyone had ever managed to find just his shade before. Sometimes I’d pop by his library after dinner, and we’d talk. He was usually busy, though.

Every now and then, I’d catch a flash of silver in his eyes when he was laughing, those rare moments when he managed to forget his sadness and responsibilities for a moment.

The mansion was staffed by normal people, and many of the trainees had brought loved ones. I made friends with one of the maids – Yugo – a pretty young woman with a big smile and a twinkle in her eyes. She did my laundry. She was never afraid of the Master, or any of the trainees, even though she witnessed their powers every day, and knew just how dangerous they could be if they chose to be. I don’t think she envied us, either. That just wasn’t her style.

The manservant was taking us to a lesson when we found out that they were invading. He sent us to join the others for hiding. We couldn’t get to the downstairs safe room; they were already coming through the doors. We ran upstairs instead, and joined a group that mostly made of normals, including Yugo. The room was less protected, but the glass was clouded. There would be no reason for them to assault that room, and the Master and his people would keep them off the stairs.

We were in the back of the group, my brother and his girlfriend and one more trainee. I looked over the rail to see them. They were tall, thin, gaunt. Too-long arms sported fingers two to three feet long, each finger tipped with knife-like, silvered nails. Dark fae? The name seemed to fit.

The Master fought them with steel and power, wielding both equally well. I saw him cut down one and toss another across the hall at the same time. Using power took concentration. And then he was running with some of the elder trainees, out of the room to fight off another knot, as the rest of the battle continued below.

The four of us had dawdled too long. The rest of the normals had already crammed themselves into the safe room and closed the inner door to the pool hall. We followed them, racing the rest of the way up the stairs and slipping as quietly as we could into the small room in which the cues and balls were kept, an outer compartment that barely qualified as room. The fourth locked the outer door behind us.

My brother was about to open the inner door, which was not lockable, so that we could join the others, but something made him hesitate. We heard the sound of glass shattering. Then Yugo began screaming.

The dark fae had chosen to attack the mansion from several points, and as bad luck would have it, they’d chose the pool room – the secondary safe room – as their rear entrance. It would be a slaughter. Trainees and normals had no defense.

It would be useless to go through and join our friends in dying. But we stared at the door for a moment more than we should have spared, wanting to help, knowing we couldn’t do a thing. My brother’s girlfriend broke the spell first, and silently unlocked the door. We ran out and back into the hall.

The stairs led into the main hall, where the invaders were. Behind led to more dark fae, where our friends no longer screamed. It never occurred to me to call for help to those fighting below, or to give them warning – but I think, had we yelled, those behind us would have beaten the help.

I looked over the railing, and found our escape. “The chandeliers,” I said. In the main hall, they ran the length and breadth of the room like banners, the lights encased in beautiful red and gold interlocked chains, curtains of decorative metal. I focused.

It was the heaviest thing I’d ever moved, and I’d barely managed to move anything before, but it was our only chance. And it worked. The chandelier swung close enough to jump onto, and I leapt onto it. Then gravity took hold and it swung back, momentum taking it close to the next. I jumped again, and again, hopping down the line.

The other followed one at a time, each of the lights too fragile to support all of us at once. The fae’s long hands would never allow them to climb the lights. So we moved beyond their reach and waited for the battle to finish.

Most of it passed in a blur, as we clung to the fixtures over the battle far below and tried not to move. We were all crying, and all too scared to scream. A good-sized battalion of dark fae ran down the stairs, not even noticing us. But the defenders were powerful and skilled. The graduates and the higher level trainees held their ground, and gradually began to outnumber the dark fae.

I couldn’t say how long it went on, but I was sore and exhausted from clinging by the time it was over. I saw the Master running up the stairs, following his manservant (who, despite being a normal, was an excellent swordsman and had helped defend the mansion.) The manservant’s face was a picture of tragedy, a deep sorrow that came from knowing what he was about to show his Master.

The Master – denial, fear, anger, horror, disbelief were all writ on his face. He had clearly been told what was in the room. He went in slowly, torn between the desire to pretend it hadn’t happened and the need to know for sure.

The scream that came out was pure rage and self-accusation. The Master came out as if it was his own personal failure that lay behind him, as if his heart was shattered. He leaned on his manservant, clutching his chest and on the verge of breaking. I tried to call out to him to look out over the rail, but I was tired, my throat so sore, that I couldn’t make myself heard. But one of the others clinging to the lights found their voice. The Master looked up.

He saw us there, shaken and scared and holding on for dear life. I saw his eyes dodge from my brother and his girlfriend to the other trainee, and then he found me. The change was immediate. Nothing could erase the grief, but it was like he’d been handed salvation, because the light came back into his eyes, glue sealing his broken edges back together. I was afraid I was too tired to get down without dropping, but under his gaze the fear fled – I knew he’d get me down safely, somehow.

At some point, without either of us actually realizing it, he’d fallen in love with me.

Then somehow I was over there, safely over the rail, and he clutched me to his chest with a “thank god,” before passing me to his manservant to retrieve the others.

It wasn’t okay; there was an aura of grief hanging over us all for the people who were lost, but we went on. We buried the dead and cleaned the mansion. And when the worst of it was fixed, people had to come to terms with the feelings they’d figured out during the attack.

One couple got married. They’d been separated. She was a trainee, and he was a normal, and she’d thought that he had been in the wrong safe room, and he’d been sure she’d died in the fight. He admitted that he’d been in love with her for a long time, and she decided that she was in love with him, too, so they dropped everything and married and went off on their honeymoon.

It was catching, a virus that spread through the halls of the mansion like a cold in kindergarten. I was walking up the stairs not long after when it hit me. The Master’s son was waiting at the top, and as soon as I was within reach, he was dragging me into a small and relatively private room. “I’m in love with you,” he said when we were alone. “Marry me.”

While he was handsome, I certainly wasn’t at the point of returning his feelings. But I didn’t want to hurt the son’s feelings, because I thought of him as a friend. “We really haven’t known each other all that long,” I hedged. “Love isn’t something I’m just going to start feeling.”

He caged me in a corner and tried again. “I’ll make it worth it,” he argued. “I’ll make sure you enjoy every day; I’ll give you everything. You wouldn’t regret it.”

I shook my head. “I don’t work that way. It takes time for me. It’s not something that I can just do.”

He moved back and changed, the youth sliding away until I could see that I hadn’t been talking to the son at all, but rather the Master. “I see,” he said, and sounded sad.

I was mad. Really mad. I made this known to him. It involved a bit of screaming and a bit of cursing and a bit of both.

“I thought you’d prefer someone closer to your age,” he defended himself.

Which meant I had to point out that his son was several years younger than me, and I didn’t like younger men. Also, there were the questions of how he expected to keep his identity hidden, and how he could think I was dumb enough not to notice, nor for anyone else in the mansion to notice, and why he just assumed that I wouldn’t feel anything back for him without even asking me.

He apologized, and left.

A couple of weeks later, we were in a rose garden he’d built to commemorate the lost. We’d moved to an awkward stage of forgiveness, where we avoided one another. But this was more important. I put a rose on the stone monument he’d built in remembrance, on the side that had Yugo’s name carved in amongst the others. And then we left.

We hadn’t said anything, but we both knew that we were going to give a relationship a try.

And that’s when I woke up.