Iverbourne in Audio

There’s going to be a lot happening in the next few weeks, so to kick things off let’s celebrate with new audiobook covers of the Iverbourne series!

The Realm of Giants audiobook is nearly finished, narrated by Jacob Bucholz, the same narrator who did Prince of Sylvan. He has brought such life to Novak, and all of the characters. The banter between Tzel and Novak is fantastic, and by Gods is Tzel terrifying. It’s funny, because the last time I heard Novak in Jacob’s voice, he was experiencing the best time of his life. Not so much in Realm of Giants, and his loss of sanity is done wonderfully.

And don’t even get me started on Alvis.

Princess of Terra is currently up for audition, but I have high hopes for the same narrator who did Children of Iverbourne.

If you want to dive into the world of Iverbourne, you can check things out here.

Audible

Iverbourne Series

Crew of Misfits Newsletter

When Witches Sing is out!

“Could you show me some magick?”

Oh,” I whisper, then nod quickly. “Yeah, okay.”

I clear my throat and stand, then sit back down, because I don’t want to stand over him. He’s already so much shorter than me, I feel like a giant just sitting next to him. He tentatively presses a hand to my arm, lips parting, and I startle. He pulls back, not taking his eyes off me. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you nervous.”


“Oh, I’m not. Nervous, that is.”


Felix chuckles. “Okay. Well, you don’t have to make yourself smaller, for me.”


“Oh,” I say, then stand and straighten to my full height before him. The leaves and petals in my hair and along my skin stand to attention, and I blush at the image of preening like a fucking peacock.


“Wow,” Felix says, staring up at me with wide eyes. “You’re really tall.”


I almost lean down, but he takes my hand. This time, he doesn’t let go. “No, don’t.” Felix stands beside me, my hand in his. I stare down at our entangled fingers, then back to his face. His neck is craned and it looks painful, but the determination in his eyes is almost frightening.


I squeeze his hand, then let go. I put my hands up, smiling wide. “Okay, have it your way, tchotchke.”


Oh, how he smiles at that. He pretends to be affronted, but that smile. It’s perpetual, blinding. “I am not a small thing.”


I shrug, turning away from him. I bring my hands to chest level and smile upon coming up with an idea. I close my eyes and murmur, “Abracadabra.”


Have fun with swamp witches, chaos witches, root witches and musical witches. Just, all of the witchery and tomfoolery there ever could be. Happy Yuletide friends.

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Paperback

Put your talons up.

Welcome to Thitwhistle’s, a place where you can let your tail down and stretch your wings out. There’s Monster Hot Cocoa and sugar bombed pastries for the were-pups, we don’t mind fangs or claws.

There’s been a rumor that a well to do, mysterious investor just bought out the place and isn’t changing a thing. Except doubling what they bake, in order to account for their voracious appetite.

Why don’t you put your talons up and stay awhile? The Witches don’t bite.

Much.

Excerpt from Phantom and Rook.

We enter the open and spacious cafe section. The barista counters and refrigerated display cases are centered on a raised, half moon plaza that dominates the head of the cafe.

The once white tiles of the dias are painted cobalt and spattered with star dust clouded constellations. Vibrant colors of the night flow beneath our feet, extending into a river that swirls around the raised area and spreads out to blanket the rest of the wood floor in starry clouds.

The lapis astronomy theme accented by gold continues throughout the shop, much different from the earthy tones Mrs. Thitwhistle used, but I think it’s a rather nice touch. The lofty ceiling of the entire place is filled with golden galaxies and meteors, milky ways and dying planets. More paint detailing shows up in random places, the artist’s touch reaches every subtle inch of the room.

Lines of planets along the edge of a table, shooting stars over top of a curving window frame, explosive golden bursts of light that make my heart ache.

Curtains drape alongside each of the unique round windows facing the street, which are quite a few. The heavy, royal blue fabrics are embroidered in simple gold along the edges and match the upholstered lounge chairs and couches nestled by the fireplaces. Dual hearths rest on the east and west sides of the room, accompanied by chess boards, small tables, and the furniture which the college kids are currently taking advantage of.

Enormous groups congregate around both roaring fires, laughter rolls through the gossip and small talk thickens the warm atmosphere. Thitwhistle’s feels like someone’s grand study open to the public rather than a bookstore, complete with coffee beans and scones, and I’ve never felt more at home. The crowd is equal parts magickal beings and humans, young, old and everything in between.

There are a few older folks tucked into a corner, eyes crinkling and steam curling around mugs which hide their smiles. A set of half-shifted werewolf pups tug on their mother’s sleeve, begging for the ‘Monster Hot Cocoa’ complete with candy and whip cream on top. She rolls her eyes with a smile, in humanoid form, then orders three of the drinks and half a dozen donuts for the bus ride to Full Moons Field.

Thitwhistle’s

I run to him.

Belatedly, I recognize this for what it is. A dance, Calen is leading me into a dance. Stars, when was the last time I did this?

With Arlo, I had told him I couldn’t handle loving and losing him.

My breath hitches, but that’s all the sadness my heart is allowed before Calen quite literally sweeps me off my feet. They are marvelous, erasing my disadvantage that is unfamiliarity with such a simple act as dancing. The notes seem to swirl around us, no—through us— and I laugh. It starts off small and unsure, but then Calen is laughing too, spinning me in circles upon circles in the middle of the kitchen.

Silas calls out over the music, “Don’t break his hip birdie!”

And it goes on and on, the laughter and music and sun.

Sunlight streams in through the colored mosaic of windows overlooking the backyard, casting reds, blues, golds and purples onto our moment in time. Calen’s soft cheeks burst with happiness when Pesto joins in, prancing around us on those little hooves. A breeze moves through the room, bringing with it the distinct scent of wet earth. I stumble to a stop and nearly topple us both over, but thankfully Calen keeps us upright.

Lysander, Felix and Arlo stand just inside the backdoor, bringing snow covered boots and flushed smiles with them. Felix grins wide at me, stands on his tip toes and gives Lysander a kiss on the cheek, then practically throws himself into Silas’ arms. Silas takes it in stride, situating the witch across his lap and burying his face into Felix’s chest.

And Arlo—oh my stars, Arlo.

He’s looking at me like I’m something.

Like I mean something.

Like I exist.

Like this is it, this is ours and he’s mine and I–

I run to him.

How could I not?

It’s like the first day of my new life all over again. I kiss him, and kiss him, and kiss him.

He laughs against my lips, big palms settling on my cheeks. His hands are so cold, but I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all. His fingers slide across my jaw, tangling themselves into my hair. Heat courses up my spine when he opens for me, allowing my tongue to find his. The same thought that occurs every time we kiss swims in the background.

Can he feel how much I’ve missed him?

The solid, fast paced rhythm of his heart that matches every beat of mine proudly affirms yes, yes, yes.

🌲✨🏳️‍🌈❤️‍🔥

Only a couple of weeks left, have you signed up for the Crew of Misfits to get this for free?

All aboard

A Yuletide Special

Phantom and Rook – Release Day

MM Modern Fantasy, Found Family, Immortal x Man, Grumpy x Sunshine, Guy Witches, a Magical Coffee Shop and Second Chances

“Then I will love you with everything I have, right here, right now, and I will be here when you return.” Arlo promises, like it’s a given. I close my eyes, and he shakes me again until I open them. “I will not forget you again. I promise.”

“You can’t promise that,” I cry, staring deep into twin pools of simmering gold. “You’ve forgotten me once. Everyone does. It’s … a side effect. It’s something I’ve been fine with until I met you.”

He smiles, wet and breaking and brilliant. “I’m pretty great, aren’t I?”

Arlo Rook has decided it’s time to move out of Garren Castle, home for orphans of all races, magical or not, at 100 years old.

It’s not the first time he’s left home, but after a setback that landed the Hedge Witch in the hospital a year ago, he ended up right back at square one. But now he’s ready to strike out on his own, despite his friend’s worries that he’s not ready for the ‘real world.’

Then, he crashes into a mess of copper curls and bright eyes, sending apothecary goods and his life into a chaotic mess. Thatch is a mysterious and incredibly wealthy benefactor of Levena, only spoken of but never seen. He requests a night of Arlo’s company and a tour of the city, which Arlo immediately declines.

But that’s not the last time they see each other, and it certainly wasn’t the first. Arlo doesn’t remember him, no one remembers Thatch after he visits, but Thatch never forgot the Witch with a familiar soulmark on his face.

Thatch Phantom is an immortal, the last of his kind and perpetually bored. When he’s not closing inter-dimensional rifts and corralling demons, he’s visiting his favorite city of all, Levena. Centuries ago, when life was particularly dull, he set up a scavenger hunt for a starving village, providing them with a year’s worth of supplies.

He anonymously returned year after year, upping the ante and providing less practical things, as the village had become a city and was wealthy beyond belief. Festivals were thrown in his honor, and have continued every year since. Hundreds of years later, The Game is still put on by the fabled ‘Scarlet Illusionist’, but no one has figured out who blesses them with the puzzles.

Once again, Thatch is listless and has decided to throw a wild card into this year’s Game. Whoever discovers him will win one wish of their choice, no restrictions. Aside from the obvious, such as no falling in love, murder or resurrection.

What he didn’t anticipate was crashing into the one person whose soul mark flares like a beacon when Thatch is around, teasing the immortal with the one thing he wants most.

Someone to call home.

What follows is a wild chain of events filled with magical coffee shops, villains with vendettas against cheese makers, moving tattoos, grand puzzles, and second chances at love, and life.

Phantom and Rook is out in the world today! Thank you to everyone involved in getting this off the ground, I’m beyond happy with how it came out and glad to have a rest for a little while. The audio book by Kirt Graves is in the works and will be out later in the month. Any and all shares are greatly appreciated, and if you’ve read the book don’t forget to leave a review!

Goodreads

Amazon

Signed Copies

Playlist

EMERGENCY BROADCAST

LEVENA EMERGENCY BROADCAST

2:22 AM

OCTOBER 31st


People of Levena,

It has been brought to my attention that the Games in previous years have been subpar, at best. I feel that I owe it to you, the why, for as you all know I pride myself on bringing you puzzles and entertainment of the highest caliber.

I have to admit, I did not put these past decades of Games on myself, atleast, not in an up close and personal sense. Think of it as freezer meals that you pop in the microwave. They’ll do the trick, but they’re unsatisfying. It is not by choice that things have been this way, and I cannot tell you why.

I cannot tell you who I am.

What I am.

Why I’m really here.

But what I can tell you is that I love playing this Game with you, and this year, I’ve concocted one that benefits the both of us.

If we play our cards right, all those questions will be answered, and the most precious treasure will be awarded to the first person who solves the Game.

One wish.

Now, of course, there’s the obvious.

No resurrection.

No striking anyone down.

No forcing people to fall in love.

Ask for anything else, and it’s yours. As long as you solve the puzzle.

Await further instructions, and as always,


Let’s play, my friends.


 -The Scarlet Illusionist

🎃🦉🌌

✨ Two More Days ✨

Check out the mask that Bear Pettigrew made for the Illusionist, isn’t it gorgeous 🥰😍

Real people.

One of my favorite things about Phantom and Rook is how messed up the characters are. And I mean that in the most realistic, and best of ways.

Most people I know in my personal life have mental illness, and I have supported people with a wide range of disabilities my entire adult life. In short, there is no such thing as normal. To think living as a cis, healthy person with not a care in the world is normal, is a rather absurd thought.

This is something I did not come to terms with until later on in life. Later on life, I learned that it’s okay to take medicine, or not. That it’s okay to talk about it, or not.

That it’s okay to need help.

That it’s okay to not BE okay.

And I feel, now, that it’s pretty common to not be okay with being yourself until later in life. I most certainly did not know how to be an adult and realize the other shoe wasn’t going to drop until my mid twenties. Don’t forget to throw in the gender crisis that was repressed for far longer that it should’ve been.

What I’m trying to say is that these are the type of people in this book. Adults, with adult problems. Of course there’s magick and unrealistic things, but the characters are the most realistic shreds of imagination I’ve ever put to paper. That’s why these lines in the reviews so far make me so happy.

‘I also loved the examination of mental health and healing. I loved the acknowledgement that while Arlo was on his own journey of healing, his actions had a HUGE impact on his loved ones as well, and this story was as much about them healing from it as it was him.’

‘I’ll start by saying I loved this book. If a book manages to make me laugh, cry, feel angry, etc it will always be a good book in my eyes.’

‘Arlo’s friends play a big part in helping the reader understand him and his past, and I definitely appreciate the focus on his mental health needs while destigmatizing mental illness. It’s so rare to find that as a main focus in a book.’

And just because it made me happy,

‘This is the first book from this author I have read and to be honest I was absolutely blown away and have fallen in love !’

Phantom and Rook Cover Reveal

Sure you’re ready ?

When An Immortal Falls In Love With A Witch

How many details can you spot?
Words will never be enough to describe how beautiful this cover is and how much I appreciate the hours upon hours of work the artist, Bear Pettigrew, put into it. Thatch and Arlo are spectacular and I WANT Arlo’s sweater! Scroll down for a full spread with the spine and back.

Everything has been submitted to Ingram and Amazon and in a few days the pre-orders will be available on there, but if you want a signed copy with prints and all that fun stuff, check out my bookstore.

Kirt Graves is narrating the audio book which will be coming out a couple of weeks after Phantom and Rook releases in print (November 2nd) and I’m beyond excited to listen to it once it’s all done.

Did you know this is already on Goodreads?

In all it’s cozy glory.

Bear Pettigrew has done several covers, comics and sells original artwork in the form of prints, stickers and other cool things. You can check them out here.

Witchtober – Glitter

Today’s witch is brought to you by the prompt Glitter.

I’ve officially decided glitter is an asshole.

Witch House is empty, a rare thing these days. I managed to convince Dad–Arlo, that I’m not feeling well, not that I would need much of an excuse to stay home from school. He knows I like going, so if I want to stay home, there’s a good reason.

But I’m not sick.

Oh, my nerves are shot and my glued together fingers shake. That’s only because I didn’t sleep last night and pounded a half a pot of coffee the moment everyone left for work or school. An hour later and the caffeine hasn’t relented, but whatever. 

This has to be perfect.

I stand on wobbling legs, the sensation in my toes long gone from sitting cross legged too long. I hold the banner up, inspecting my work. Excess purple and silver glitter cascades down my front and I frown at the drooping letters. A few of the pasted on, gigantic letters flop to the floor with simultaneous wet slaps, leaving behind a partial message.

‘HA PY B RTHD Y A LO’

“Fuck.” I mutter, blowing out a heavy breath.

“Don’t let Arlo hear you talking like that,” A distorted voice says softly, scaring the fucking shit out of me.

The banner goes flying overhead and I squeak. Magick flares and rattles the paintings on the walls. I inhale sharply and contain my energy before causing a disaster. Again.

Silas tucks his chin into his left shoulder, but instead of the usual loud hum that follows the movement, he laughs. In the few months we’ve been living together at Witch House, I’ve never heard the sound. It’s … probably frightening to anyone that doesn’t know him, but I like it, screechy rasping and all.

“You’re supposed to be at school,” I mumble, hurrying for the banner now cast across the craft table behind me. Before I can crumple it into a ball, Silas’ hand falls on mine.

“Don’t do that,” He says, and I frown.

“It’s not good enough.”

Silas shakes his head. Thick white bangs sweep back and forth across the bridge of his nose, hiding his eyes from me. Another thing Silas doesn’t let the world see. His hair is longer now than when we first met. The near translucent tresses cast well beyond his shoulders as he takes the banner from me. I reluctantly let him have it with a huff.

Silas studies the mess of a banner that I intended to hang in the kitchen downstairs before Arlo and the others got home, but at this rate it’ll never happen. He gently lays the banner down on the craft table, allowing rivers of glue, glitter and panel to flow onto the paint covered surface that hides what was once dark wood. The metal covering his pitch black, wrist to ankle ensemble jingles as he moves. All bracelets and chains, harnesses and necklaces.

He asks, “It’s Arlo’s birthday?”

“Yeah.” I nod, rocking back and forth on my sock covered heels.

Silas’ fingers twitch. “He didn’t say anything.”

I roll my eyes. “Yeah, well, that’s D— Arlo, for you. He didn’t …” I gesture vaguely, searching for words that won’t betray him. “He didn’t get to celebrate last year, for his centennial. It’s … kind of a big deal I guess, turning a hundred.”

To my surprise, Silas snorts. “So old.”

I blink rapidly. “Did you just … make a joke?”

Silas lifts his head and gives me a look, or at least I think he is. His lips push together like they usually do when he’s not impressed, and he crosses his arms. “I can be funny.”

Right.” I say, unsure what to do now.

“Can I help?” Silas asks, gesturing to the banner. “We can make a new one. You were using too much glue. And glitter. Less is more with these things.”

“Oh,” I say dumbly, not expecting that. It’s not that we don’t get along, we just kind of … exist next to each other. I’m always being weird and breaking shit, he’s always on the outside looking in, aloof but not in an unkind way.

Silas turns away with something reminiscent of a soft chuckle, but to others it could be considered an evil villain laugh. “If we take this downstairs, I can bake and give you directions on how to properly make a birthday banner. Two birds with one stone, as they say.”

Without warning, heat swarms my cheeks and neck upon remembering the cake Silas made for me in the fall. It was really good.

I nod. “Yeah, okay. If you’re sure you want to help, I’d like that.”

It starts with a slow, upward tugging of the corner of his pale lips, but a wide smile lights up Silas’ features. “I want to help.”

Twenty minutes and five trips up and down the stairs later, we’ve set up shop in the kitchen. I was afraid of making a mess in here, and frankly after last week’s debacle with the stove, I try to stay out of the kitchen as much as possible. Silas assures me that it’ll be fine, so I leave it to him to clean up any wreckage I leave in my wake, which he agrees to with another smile.

Weird.

While the oven preheats, Silas helps me roll out another length of six inch wide paper on the floor, this sheet a bright pink. We make it long enough to fit the open archway separating the kitchen from the dining room, then Silas suggests we write the message in glue and spread glitter over it, instead of cutting out and individually pasting each letter to the banner.

Why didn’t I think of that?

“Will it have enough time to dry?” I ask, and Silas nods.

“It should. I’ll start on the cake, if you’ve got this.”

I wave him off. “Yeah. Good idea, by the way.”

Silas opens his mouth, closes it, then starts again when he gestures to the banner. “Shouldn’t it say Dad or something like that?”

Heat flushes my cheeks and I shift uncomfortably. “Oh, I don’t … It’s, you know …” I chance a look at Silas, who hasn’t moved a muscle, waiting patiently. “It’s early, isn’t it? Shouldn’t I wait?”

As the words tumble out in a rush, a weight falls from my shoulders. I’ve been wrestling the word Dad farther down my throat ever since Arlo adopted my, not wanting to seem too—

“Says who?” Silas counters, and I scoff.

“I dunno,” I snap, crossing my arms. “Aren’t people supposed to be–”

Silas puts up a hand. “I’m going to stop you right there. Anything involving the words ‘supposed to’ is generally a bad idea. Do you see him as your Dad?”

I nod, grumbling. “But won’t he feel uncomfortable? What if he doesn’t see me as … As his son?” I admit, near quiet and breakable.

“Felix, you are his son.” Silas says, incredibly soft and strained. He extends his hand to me, then retreats. “Don’t worry about it, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.” I shrug, unfolding my arms.

Silas dips his head but says nothing, retreating to the inner kitchen where counters and appliances reign. I sigh, then settle on the floor, facing the banner. I carefully write the message in a large, flowing script that I’ve been told multiple times is exceptional, but I think it looks messy.

I take my time like Silas said, laying down one letter at a time in glue, gently spreading glitter over it before going on to the next. I have to blow my hair out of my eyes a few times. I’ve decided to try growing it out and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. While mine doesn’t grow as fast as Silas’ does, it’s long enough to be in the way.

We work in companionable silence and I glance at him a few times, only able to see the top of his head from my place on the floor and the counter island separating us. He appears to be in his own little world. Hair bouncing softly as he enjoys the music that must be blaring in his earbuds now. I do want to know more about him, and maybe become friends, but I have no idea what to say to him. On the bad days when I can’t separate other people’s thoughts from my own, I’ve stolen glimpses of Silas’ mind.

It’s loud.

That’s why I don’t feel so bad for not pursuing conversation and allowing him to take the lead. Or so I tell myself, which sounds better than being the clueless kid everyone sees me as. While I’m not an adult, I’m not a kid anymore either. It’s easier to talk now than it used to be, but not always. I had thought I would’ve grown out of it, but … here we are.

I decide to be a little brave. If Silas didn’t feel like interacting, he wouldn’t have offered to help, right?

“When’s, uh, when’s your birthday?” I ask, head ducked as I work on Arlo’s name.

He doesn’t say anything.

I peek up, finding him standing with his back to me, in front of the oven. I don’t ask again and he doesn’t move, so I go back to work. A few minutes pass in silence, then the gentle thud of Silas’ boots cross the room towards me.

I swallow heavily, pretending that I don’t notice.

But then he sits cross legged across from me, hands gripping his knees. I warily look up through my hair, shaking it out of the way so I can see him better. His back is ramrod straight, head tilted as he watches me. One side of his lips twitches into an almost smile.

“What?”

“You should let me pin your hair back, you’ve got glitter and glue all in it.”

I balk, reaching up to inspect the hair in my eyes, realizing a moment too late that’s a bad idea. I groan, setting down the glue with my other hand. I glare at Silas and he chews on his bottom lip to keep from smiling again. I itch to throw him off, just a little.

“Fine, only if I get to do yours.” I say without a second thought, then am immediately horrified. I’m good at braiding hair, Kleo made me do hers all the time, but Silas doesn’t seem like the kind of person who enjoys being touched.

Silas hums in a short, loud burst, the sound of it reminds me of an aborted laugh. I imagine if I could see his eyes, they’d be widening. He lifts his left shoulder and rubs his cheek on the peak of it, then regards me once more. I never flinch from his movements or noises, and the others don’t either. At least not on purpose.

Silas’ outbursts can be sudden and there’s been a few times when he’s been especially startled. His magick lashes out like my own, breaking things, but it’s always an accident and it embarrases him. So I don’t flinch.

I shrug, picking the glue back up. “I’m just joking. You can … You can fix it, if you want. It’s kind of in the way, I don’t know how you do it. You don’t have to, though.”

Silas scoots back, allowing space between him and the banner. He crooks a finger in a ‘come hither’ gesture. I oblige, leaving the glue behind. My cheeks flush and I sit in front of him, unsure what to do.

“I don’t have any pins,” I say.

Silas reaches into his pants pocket, revealing a handful of bobby pins.

I nod once, giving him a sideways smile. “That’s handy.”

“Do you mind if I listen to music while I do this?” Silas asks, drawing his hand back.

I shake my head, drawing my knees to my chest. “No, you don’t gotta ask. Thanks for letting me know.”

Silas nods, tapping the side of the earbud buried in his hair. His mouth twitches and he doesn’t move, so I close my eyes.

A moment passes.

Then, ever so gently, cold fingers brush against my forehead. I fight the shiver threatening my spine as he twirls a patch of hair, then pins the twist back against my crown. He repeats the process, my hair not quite long enough to be fashioned in any neat sort of way. I’ve never had my hair done before.

I breathe.

And he breathes.

I tilt my head, the subtle sounds of Silas’ music reach my ears. I strain to hear it better.  It must be wicked loud if I can hear the interwoven harmonies of a violin and an electronic beat. Silas doesn’t resume his work and I clear my throat, opening my eyes.

He grins. “I can see you.”

“You’re one to talk.” I roll my eyes, huffing out a laugh. I gesture to his own hair. “Ready?”

Silas tenses, then nods. I don’t ask again, because I have to believe that he’ll tell me if he’s uncomfortable. He reaches into another pocket, then offers me a hair tie. I’ve never seen him use either accessory, I wonder why he carries them around. Before I can ask, he turns around and puts his back to me. I drop my knees, spreading my legs out on either side of his curled body.

“Okay.” He says, looking anything but.

I roll my bottom lip between my teeth. Chocolate fills the kitchen and I fill my lungs with the warm scent, then exhale a question. “Would you mind if we … listened together?”

Silas sharply glances back at me over his shoulder, throwing white hair from his eyes. For the briefest of seconds, I catch a glimpse of icy blue.

“You won’t like it.”

“How do you know?”

He shrugs, turning his attention ahead once again. I take that as answer enough and gently touch his shoulder before moving to his hair.

“Tilt your head up,” I ask softly.

Silas doesn’t move, atleast, not in that way. He reaches into one of the side cargo pockets, taking out a phone. After a few seconds of messing around on it, music begins to spill out from the phone’s speakers instead of the earbuds. Sure enough, an energetic violin is accompanied by a modern, electric beat, forming a refreshing melody. He sets it down on the ground outside of my legs framing him, then tilts his face to the ceiling.

“Thanks,” I say, then gather three incredibly soft fingerfuls of white at the base of his temple. Silas shudders and I pause my movements. “You alright?”

“Yes.” Silas says immediately, then hums long and low before answering again. “I’ve never had my hair done before.”

I laugh quietly. “Me either, until now. Trust me, I know what I’m doing. Kleo loves her hair being done.”

I wait another moment, then start braiding Silas’ hair.

It takes longer than it should have, and not because of how long and thick his hair is, but because we both can’t stop moving to Silas’ music.

It started with Silas. He would bob his head or his fingers would dance on his thigh, then stop, as if catching himself. After the third time he cut himself off, I softly began tapping my toes on the floor and swaying back and forth, gentle as to not pull his hair. I added humming for good measure, but otherwise kept the silence between us.

With each noise and small movement that I made, Silas’ shoulders lessened and lessened until he was happily moving in place and humming along with me. Then, he started to tell me about each song that came on, all by the same violinist.

And I listened.

Now, I secure the tail of the main braid. A masterpiece, if I do say so myself. Numerous plaits begin at the front of Silas’ pale head. A main one in the center and three on either side which interweave with each other, snaking back and forth until meeting again at the base of his neck. The end of the singular, thick braid running down his spine comes to an end between his shoulder blades. I gently lay the white locks against his black shirt.

“Finished,” I say softly, not moving any further. I haven’t paid any attention to Silas’ face, not even when I uncovered it bit by bit, braiding his bangs back into the center section. I wanted to wait until all his hair was restrained, but now a swell of nervousness rushes over me.

I take a deep breath upon realizing the feeling is not mine.

“How does it look?” Silas asks quietly, staring straight ahead.

“Well, not to brag, but I think it’s pretty epic.”

Silas snorts. “I better go check the cake.”

“Oh, right.” I say, watching him stand and walk away from me. I sit there, feeling empty and a little disappointed, but unsure why. I decide not to dwell on it and be thankful that he trusted me to be in his space, to share his music. I spin in place on the floor, checking out the banner that was once behind me.

I smile at how beautiful it turned out, poking the glue to ensure it’s dried.

I stand with the banner in my hands and turn, coming face to face with Silas.

Oh.

“What’re you guys doing?”

I startle out of my skin and throw my hands up. Before the banner can go flying Silas is there to steady me, hands blanketing mine. Both of us look at the man standing in the open doorway separating the kitchen from the backyard.

An incredibly long silence follows.

I scrape my brain for something, anything to say, but of course, Silas saves me.

He gently releases my hands, then waves to Arlo with eyes so bright my heart does a weird little flip that hurts. Silas says, “Happy Birthday, Arlo. You’re supposed to be at work.”

Arlo raises a brow, the smirk upon his face widening. “Thank you, and you’re supposed to be at school.” Arlo’s emerald eyes slide from Silas to me and I awkwardly wave.

“Hey, Dad.” I say, lofting the formerly unspoken name into the air like a bomb. I inhale sharply and my heart pounds in my ears. It’s soon overwhelmed by the sparkle in Arlo’s eyes and the soft laugh that bubbles from his chest. I smile then, and add, “Happy Birthday.”

What did I do differently?

What did I do differently this time compared to the first time I published a book?

Well, I’m not using KU for Phantom and Rook. While it was a good idea at the time for TEM, and it obviously works for lots of people, I hated the exclusive thing. Now I can offer my ebooks to libraries and a LOT more distributors using Draft2digital, their setup is so much friendlier and it feels better getting away from Amazon.  Obviously the ebooks will be listed there, but everything for me is right on D2D.

I comissoned a cover (in the works) from Bear Pettigrew, a fantastic artist. While I’m happy with my self made covers (for a series I hurried to get out there), I KNOW that my books would have done better if I had someone else do the cover.

Speaking of time, I have spent a little under a year on this book. Much more feasible than doing it in three months. Again, everyone works different, but I really needed that time to let it sit between edits.

Also, I got the ball rolling on an audiobook narrator much sooner, and again, I moved away from exclusively Amazon. I love the narrators I worked with on the Iverbourne books and was very lucky to collaborate with them using royalty share, but I like the idea of this book being *mine* to distribute where I want (libraries included).

Not to mention I was able to snag an AWESOME narrator who is a favorite of mine.

And my pre-orders are much cooler 😎
Three maps, wax seal, all the prints, bookmarks, Misfits pin, signed book and stickers. The Game announcements will be included in print as well.

ARCs were sent out earlier, I was much more selective this time and I’m not sending EVERYONE HARDBACKS. So, so, SO much money and I never heard from people again. I’m guilty of taking two months to read an ARC at times when my brain is mush, so this way no one is pressured.

In short, I spent ALOT more time and money. Like, alot alot. It’s terrifying, but that’s how much I believe in this story, these characters, my writing. What works for me may not work for you, but if I can say one thing, is take your time. Invest when you can and do your best with what you have at the time, because your story deserves to be told.