Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 10

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I found Caleb in the most likely place he’d be – the guest house up near the council chamber. I’d flown around the glade a bit before finally going up to his hiding spot, considering what I wanted to say to him, if anything. My aerial pacing had gone on long enough that clouds had gathered in the sky and a sprinkling of rainfall tickled my skin. It was now or not, I supposed – even the weather decided that I needed to make up my mind about which hut I would fly back to.

I could see the silver shimmers through the lit window and blushed when I saw that he was changing his shirt, his well-muscled back to the outside. I held myself on a breath just above the deck and spun to look away, but not before the sound of my wingbeats alerted him to my presence. The flooring creaked softly as he walked to the windowsill.

“If you guessed I was cursed with modesty then you guessed wrong,” he said wryly.

I sighed deeply and audibly, my arms crossed. How did Nan talk me into this, anyway? I looked over my shoulder at him reluctantly. His elbows were rested on the natural wood sill, shoulders bare. I raised an eyebrow, mildly curious as to whether he was even wearing pants.

“I was trying to be-” I caught myself, realizing that my attempt at a heart-to-heart was coming out more like a frustrated child instructed to say ‘I’m sorry.’ “…polite.”

He just blinked at me, unmoving.

“Can I talk to you?” And would you kindly put on a shirt?

“If memory serves we don’t do well with that, you and I. Of course it has been several minutes, so that may have changed.” He paused, as if to pull back from his excessive snark. He began again with a slightly kinder tone. “Sorry. We could try it again if you’re up for it. It would be nice if we established some kind of communication before Tuesday.”

“Tuesday?”

“I just got a text from Cally. She said that you emailed her earlier today and told her you wouldn’t call off the Austin trip.”

“No, I won’t.”

“You’re sure about that?”

I dropped down on the decking, arms still crossed. My body refused to relax no matter what I told it. “What business is it of yours?”

“Cally decided that if you go, I will need to go with you.” He promptly disappeared from the window, sliding to the side to mess with something on the small dresser situated next to the guest hammock. He wore pants, at least – something softer than what he’d rode up in, probably for sleeping.

My jaw slackened while he went about his business. “Does she think I can’t handle it by myself now?”

“You know that’s not it.”

Of course it wasn’t, even if that was the first thing that came to mind. Most likely she suggested it because traveling in pairs would be safer in some ways; someone around to make sure I didn’t disappear for some mysterious reason, as the Fae tended to do in places like Texas. “Bombing or no bombing, I will be fine by myself. I’ve been planning this trip for weeks.”

“And bombing or no bombing, I have a plane ticket to Austin and no interest in losing my job.” He wasn’t looking at me, still. He sat on the edge of the hammock, a jar of what looked like lotion in his hands. “We don’t even have to see each other outside of official business if that suits you.”

I considered asking him if I could come in. I almost did, but at the last minute thought better of it. This was one of my home glades. I could see the whole guest hut already through the window, so it wasn’t like I’d be exposing anything by barging in. I pushed past the generic tapestry and sat my behind in the reading corner, a fair-sized plush chair next to a sparsely stocked bookshelf. The guest hut was well-appointed, but lacking in any sort of kitchen. It encouraged guests of the glade to mingle with the locals.

“Are you an Elemental?” I blurted.

He paused with his fingertips in the jar, his eyes immediately hooded with suspicion. He licked his lips. “Excuse me?”

“You’ll probably lie about it if you are,” I hedged, averting his gaze while I dug myself out of my hole. “I suppose I hoped that if you were lying I would notice, so I may as well ask, then, in case you aren’t. Either way, at least if I say something about it we can stop this passive-aggressive thing, which I guess is more me than you-” I stopped myself. This was getting rambly. “You must think I’m quite odd.”

He frowned, wiping off his hands and setting the jar aside, his task no doubt unfinished. It took a while before he spoke.

“Well, that certainly explains a few things,” he groaned and rolled himself onto his back, the hammock swinging gently from the force. “Let me guess – Dyana is the one who has you worried about all this.”

“Yes,” I said, insecure with the answer. I could have said no, but then I wasn’t sure what good it would do to lie.

He nodded, eyes closed. “Among muses she has a reputation for knowing things she shouldn’t.”

My mouth went dry. “You mean it’s-”

He startled, his eyes fluttering open. “No, no. It’s not strictly true. She would be right that I’ve had intentional run-ins with the Elementals, and it’s true that I’m not one of the people who hate them. I find that the fine line between ‘not disagreeing’ and ‘not supporting’ is difficult for most people to parse, Fae and human alike.”

“You’re saying that you know who these Fae are and you haven’t done anything to bring them to justice,” I replied, hoping for clarification while unable to banish the disdain from my tone. My initial thought was that he was parts each wishy-washy and weak, but I realized that I probably needed more time to think about it than our conversation would allow.

“Not quite like that,” he said softly, his gaze unfocused. “If I’d known they were going to initiate the attack on Birmingham I would have suggested they find something with less loss of life. Barring that, I would have informed the human government,” he paused, “I didn’t know, though.”

“So you’re not… one of them.”

“I can tell you I’m not, but I don’t expect you to believe that.”

I went quiet, watching him rock in the hammock, hands resting on his abdomen, never looking directly at me. I ran down a whole list of things that might be useful to ask before landing on the one that stood out.

“Does the IFA know?”

“Just Cally,” he shrugged. “She seems to understand, at least enough to ignore it so she can benefit from my family’s wealth. The others – the bridgers – I don’t believe any of them know, save for you, now,” he chuckled, “which would make two semi-secrets you’ve discovered about me in as many days.”

“You didn’t have to tell me,” I huffed.

“I’m not certain I would lie if Peter or Alex asked me the same question,” he said, genuine contemplation in his voice. “I suppose I would if it was bothering them as much as it appeared to bother you.”

“You act like you’ve known this whole time and just waited for me to bring it up.”

“I wasn’t sure-” he hissed, and all at once it looked like his shoulders seized up. I found myself jolting to get up out of the chair – to do what, I wasn’t sure. He managed to shake his head when he saw me about to stand, his eyes closed as he breathed through the attack. “…but I thought this might be it.”

“Do you have some kind of medicine for that?” I bit my lip.

He nudged his head toward the dresser. “The salve helps. Cramping usually lets up after a day or so. I haven’t flown that far in a long time.” He pushed himself back up on a sigh, scooting so he could sit cross-legged while he reached for the jar. “Was there anything else you absolutely had to know before the morning?”

I shook my head slowly. It seemed that there were a few other things that might be nice to know before I went traveling across the country with a Fae I scarcely trusted, yet at the same time I felt some relief at hearing him explain things for himself. I didn’t want to believe that he was some kind of shady covert operative.

I wanted to like the guy, for what it was worth. That was the crux of it, I realized, in the midst of all the angst I’d developed in the last two days since meeting him – this need to redeem him in my own mind. Perhaps that was what made everyone adore Caleb McLain; some intangible thing about him that made people hope that he was better than he might really be. As I was thinking I could feel myself frowning. More irrationality.

Just because I wanted to like him didn’t mean I would take his statements at face value. He said I could ask Cally about it, and I had every intention of doing so.

I snapped back to reality when I noticed him awkwardly reaching around his back to apply the salve to his wing muscles. “Would you like some help with that?” I asked – blurting again. Perhaps that was another intangible power of his. I usually liked to think before I let go of my voice.

“No need.”

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. “Just watching you is driving me crazy,” I approached him with my hand outstretched, “here. It’s my fault, anyway,” I smirked, “and I thought you said you weren’t modest.”

He gave me a look that I could only describe as petulant before handing over the salve. “You’ll want to wash your hands after touching this stuff.”

It smelled neutral enough, with the texture of body butter. I used a modified hover to hold myself in a seated position. It gave me a good view of his wing musculature – lean and well-developed, completely normal except for the painful bunching around the four wing stalks, black as the wings themselves. When I brushed my fingertips over the skin he bowed his head.

“What’s in it?” I asked, distracting him as I rubbed the salve in.

“Anti-inflammatories, for the most part,” he replied mechanically. “A family recipe, as it were.”

“How’s that?”

“When I was diagnosed my father spent a great deal of money and time on searching for a cure. We didn’t find one, obviously, but they did manage to come up with some salient therapies.”

I narrowed my eyes even though he couldn’t see my face, swirling small, thoughtful circles with the salve while my gaze wandered the lovely, dark arches of his wings. “Did they… experiment on you?”

His laugh was devoid of light. “Astute. It sounds so medieval when you say it.”

I wondered, all at once, if his outlook on the Elementals and everything else might have been different if he didn’t grow up knowing he had MRPS. Flight was one of the things that defined us, made us different than humankind – our culture was much more accepting and relaxed than their society, and most of us believed it had to do with flight. It was one of the few ancient Fae beliefs that I ascribed to. Caleb had grown up knowing his wings were a curse – something that made my own wings shiver.

“Can I ask how long you have?” I said after a time.

“You can ask anything you want,” his voice was smooth, “twenty years, give or take, before I won’t be able to fly at all.”

Twenty years before the pain becomes debilitating. I knew that was what it really meant. Twenty years was nothing in a lifespan as long as ours. “That’s so… soon.”

“Most cases in our generation are rapidly progressive.”

“You say that like it doesn’t bother you.”

“It bothers me plenty, but what good what it do to get upset over it?” He looked at me from the corner of his eyes, “you could spend your life consumed by hating the color of your wings, but that wouldn’t make them change.” My cheeks betrayed me with a blush. His enigmatic smile blossomed. “I didn’t mean you specifically. Your wings are…” he swallowed, trailing off without resolution. He waved me off gently.

I snapped my wings in close to my back, dropping from my hover. I set the salve on the table. “Will that do?”

He rolled his shoulders gingerly, turning to plant his feet on the floor. “It’s much better. Thank you.”

“Well…” I cleared my throat, awkwardly shifting my stance. “You’re welcome.”

His dark eyes looked me over, as if he was deciding something. I couldn’t come up with anything to put in between the silence, relieved when he finally filled it himself. “Like I said, you should wash that off.” There wasn’t any running water in the guest hut.

“Ah, yes. I meant to visit the water nymphs anyway.” I started to drift toward the door, feeling him watch me. “Landsong will want to have breakfast in the morning. He always does.”

“I’ll be there.”

“Good.” I slipped through the tapestry without another glance at him, and in my head it felt like a retreat.

Muses were such complicated folk.

Kickstarting Diversity in Fiction: An Interview with S.E. Doster

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to connect with fellow fantasy author S.E. Doster, writer of The Alliance Series. Her first book, The Alliance: Bloodlines, tells the supernaturally-charged story of unlikely heroes and their fight to take back their city. Doster is now working on the sequel, Drakon, while she is running a Kickstarter campaign to support her upcoming Sacrifice novel. She, like myself, is a strong supporter of character diversity in genre fiction, and took the time to answer a few questions about the topic and her latest work.

Tell me about Sacrifice and your Kickstarter. What inspired you to go the Kickstarter route?

Traditional publishing can be a hard industry to break into, but trying to find a home for such a diverse novel proves to be even harder. I originally intended my first Kickstarter to be one of my comic book projects, but the passionate enthusiasm of my beta readers convinced me to try Sacrifice first. I self-published the Bloodlines novel with a meager budget and the help of friends, but the overall quality of the product suffered. I wanted to give Sacrifice professional editing, formatting and cover design, but each of those come with such costly fees.

Sacrifice is an Urban Fantasy thriller that involves meta-humans and supernatural creatures. The story includes the romance of a lesbian couple, but that factor doesn’t define the story. There are gay and straight characters of all races, but it’s shown in a community that already accepts equality.


Diversity in literature… what are your thoughts on its importance?

I think it’s very important that we work to increase the diversity in literature. There are so many groups of kids that don’t get to see main characters like them. It sends the wrong message when bookshelves are filled with books that contain mostly straight, white male protagonists. Characters of color or even queer characters seem to fill the much smaller roles in novels, but how does that even make sense? Mainstream literature shouldn’t be filled with primarily straight white characters because the world is not made up solely of straight white people. I have a very diverse group of friends of all races both gay and straight, so I decided to write a book that reflects real life for me.

Over the last few years we have seen a small increase in diversity on television, but the publishing industry seems stubborn to accept the change. This is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken, or we’ll continue to give future generations literature that does not reflect real life or teach equality.


How do you think independent authors impact diversity in literature?

Indie authors have the ability to be their own boss, and choose to include diversity that maybe wouldn’t be accepted with a traditional publisher. They can write without fear of an editor demanding changes to avoid too much risk. I’ve seen many indie authors embracing diversity, some are writers like me that don’t want to wait for publishers to wake up and smell the diversity (pun intended) so they create the stories they want to read.

The one negative impact I see with indie authors is the percentage that lacks the polish of a traditionally published novel. I want to read LGBT fantasy novels, but I’m usually discouraged when I search Amazon or Goodreads for LGBTQ or lesbian fiction. I usually locate novels with poor reviews and covers, which makes me incredibly sad. The stories may actually be wonderful on the inside, but poor editing, formatting and covers can still be a detriment to sales and reviews.

I know how tough self-publishing can be when you’re paying out of pocket, and I understand why some indie authors settle on quality, but this is why the Kickstarter was important for Sacrifice. We need more quality diverse novels if we hope to see them hit the shelves of our favorite book store.


What can readers do to help promote diversity? What can writers do?

Readers can send letters to publishers to demand for more diversity, and support books that are diverse. There are some campaigns right now that promote diversity, and one of them focuses on children’s literature. You can find their site here: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/ This group offers great suggestions for diverse YA and children’s books.

Writers should make a conscious effort to bring diversity into their own stories, as well as supporting fellow writers who do the same.


How can we help with the Kickstarter, and when do you expect Sacrifice to come out?

Every little bit helps with crowdfunding. Like and share the Kickstarter post on social media. Tell your friends and family why diversity is important, and donate to the campaign if you can! Every single dollar helps. If every single person who saw my Kickstarter could donate just one dollar, (which is less than the price of one soda or cup of coffee) and asked/shared with their friends, we could make self-publishing Sacrifice a reality.

The Kickstarter launched on September 4th, and still needs your help to be successful!

Many thanks to S.E. Doster for participating in the interview! I for one am very happy to support her cause for all the reasons she’s given. As I’ve said before, media is an incredible vehicle for self-discovery and change; by promoting diversity in our entertainment we expand our own ideas of who we are and what we can be. Please visit the link above to donate and/or share her message.

Advanced Review – “A Veil of Secrets” by Hailey Edwards

While book reviews are not typically part of my blogging bag (honestly, I don’t know that I have a typical anything on this blog so far), I recently got the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Hailey Edwards’ latest book, A Veil of Secrets, due out in December of this year. Ms Edwards is the author of the Aranae Nation and Daughters of Askara series, both under the umbrella of the fantasy/romance genre. I’ve been a fan of Ms Edwards’ work for a while now – I picked up the first Aranae book, A Hint of Frost, two years ago when I was just starting to expand my literary tastes from straight-up fantasy into stories with more of a romantic twist. I’ve now read every book in between (there are 8 of them at this point, I believe, counting this latest piece) and enjoyed each of them.

Thus it is my great pleasure to offer my review of A Veil of Secrets. If this story sounds interesting to you I’d encourage you to use the next couple months to catch up prior to the December release!

Although I have made every effort to leave out major plot points, there are potential spoilers ahead. You have been warned.


The world of the Aranae Nation, for those unfamiliar with the series, is dark indeed. This isn’t a bunch of fluffy romance, nor is it a plotless pages-long sex fest (though some of the scenes are quite steamy, which I don’t mind a bit). This series has a central plot involving a deadly plague which is wiping out whole towns of people and animals alike. The Aranae themselves are unique, with spidery qualities including fangs and the ability to spin thread. They are divided into tribal groups, each of them with their own codes of honor and skills. The Mimetidae, for example, are a war-like people (think semi-Klingons, if you will), willing to eat the flesh of their enemies, while the Salticidae are relatively peaceful agricultural-types, and obligate vegans to boot. Given the complexity of the world, I definitely recommend reading the preceding books prior to picking up Veil. Veil builds on the plot from the prior books, and offers much insight into the origins of the dreaded plague (you won’t hear those secrets from me, though – you’ll have to read to find out).

On to more book-specific details…

One of the things I love about Edwards’ work – the reason I easily blast through each installment of the series – is that she has a talent for grabbing the reader immediately. She accomplishes this beautifully in A Veil of Secrets, perhaps moreso than in any of her other books. From page one we are plunged into the world of Marne, the female protagonist with a rather unfortunate secret, Edan, her aggressive and super-protective brother, and Asher, a guard who is accompanying Marne and Edan on a journey through the dangerous veil, a sort of metaphysical barrier between where they are and the city of Beltania. Marne and her brother are trying desperately to survive after Marne was turned into a harbringer, a dangerous creature best known for flying around killing and eating people, a reputation of which makes it difficult for Marne to exist freely as who she really is. The difference between Marne and your typical harbringer is that she didn’t make the full transition into paranormal killing machine – she instead walks the earth dependent on injections to keep her alive and sane. She and Edan are seeking refuge in Beltania with the hopes that they will be able to have some kind of fresh start in life, away from their unpleasant pasts.

Now, I started this book while at Penny Arcade Expo, a geeky con for fans of video and tabletop gaming (brief tangent incoming). My husband had gone to a panel on some RTS game that I wasn’t really into, so I was sitting comfy in a hotel lobby with my tea and tablet, pleased to have a little down time in which to read. Within the first several pages I found myself deep in the action, fighting off harbringers with Marne in the veil. It was that lovely feeling when you’re really into a book, and your consciousness is hovering somewhere between you, the pages, and the characters…

…then a siren came blaring through my trance, and when I looked up I was a little surprised that I was still in Seattle. That’s the kind of reader-grabbing that I’m talking about here, and that was when I realized I was going to have a hard time putting the book down.

The romance in Veil is absolutely adorable. As stated above, Edwards likes to write romance with a central plot, so the physical romance is towards the end, but well worth it. Marne is a woman with a great deal of strength who demonstrates a clear arc from relative dependence on her brother to a new-found comfort with her abilities and independence, which I find very appealing in my romancy stuff.  Marne is no damsel; she easily stands beside her warrior male counterparts. Several characters make re-appearances from prior books to good effect; I particularly enjoyed seeing Pascale with Lleu, two side characters who offer bits of comic relief and witty banter throughout.

If I have any criticism (and I add this so I don’t come off as just an excited fangirl) it’s that at times I felt a little lost in the settings – I’m very visual and like to get a better handle on what I’m looking at and where people are, which was occasionally lacking. There’s a balance between being overly detailed and leaving a majority of the setting to the reader, and I feel like Veil is more on the reader-insert-details spectrum. Since my concern is always characters first, this was by no means significant enough for me to down-rate this book.

Want a number? 5 out of 5 stars. Two thumbs up. Too many character-driven giggles to count. Interested? Go read it, folks.


Alright! Hopefully that gives you a little something to go on. In other news, I will be posting a Q&A with S.E. Doster in the next several days regarding the kickstarter for her book (coincidentally named) Sacrifice. Also on my agenda: finishing Forsaken Lands 2 (good gods above please let me finish the draft this month) and another installment in Fae and Folly.  I’ve got 4 more days before I go back to the medical grind, and I plan to spend as much of that time writing as I can. Peace.