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Chasing Fae: A Call To Action!

It Is Officially One Month Away From My Debut Book Release!!!!

Hello fellow writers and readers! I am so excited today to say that it is officially one month until release week for my debut YA fantasy novel, Chasing Fae. I cannot believe I have reached this point. Nearly two and a half years ago, I first came up with the idea for the book. Now it’s about to be published and really be out there in the world. This is just a dream come true.

I have been in the process of putting so much together in terms of marketing and outreach over the last few weeks, and today, I want to bring you along for the ride. I am going to give you an intimate look at the marketing strategies that I have employed so far and the plans I still have yet to make.

First, Please Subscribe!

Everyone who signs up for my email list today will receive a free three-chapter excerpt (plus my author’s note) from Chasing Fae! I want every one of my readers to be the first to know when Chasing Fae hits the book market officially. Especially with my publication date not being firmly set yet (damn those pesky logistics!). So please subscribe at this link!

While you’re at it, feel free to keep up with me on the following social medias as well:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CadyHammer

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/fluffaboutfantasy/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fluffaboutfantasy/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/cadyahammer

Book Bloggers/Reviewers Contacted: 52 and counting….

I’m a bit of an email ninja.

As I talked about in one of my recent blog posts, book reviewers and bloggers are an essential piece of the indie author’s marketing strategy. The more buzz an author can generate by having a series of reviews for her debut, even a small series, the better. I did a ton of research, and everyone I have contacted so far makes up only half of my very, very long spreadsheet. I am reaching out to as many people as I can who read YA fantasy and have fantastic review content.

There are so many awesome readers out there who take the time to review the books of their favorite authors, and to all of them, I say thank you! If anyone has any interest in reviewing Chasing Fae, I would be happy to send over an Advanced Reader Copy. Take a look at this summary here, and then send me a message on any of my social medias or at cadyahammer@gmail.com.

Planning Out A Virtual Blog Tour

Given the state of the world right now, I needed to find a unique way to celebrate my launch. I wanted to share this major success with the world while also exposing people to my style of writing. I’m working on pitching to various book blogs, writing websites, and podcasts to find places that may be interested in a guest post or an interview. That is still very much a work in progress, but by the time the end of July rolls around, I hope to have several place to share my work.

If anyone knows any sites or podcasts that may be looking for guest spots or posts, feel free to comment below. I’m still working on amassing my list and reaching out.

Article Series

My publisher is guiding me through the process of launching an article series on Medium. I am actually super excited for it. My editor came up with a bunch of fantastic ideas for deep dives into various aspects of Chasing Fae. Everything from character profiles, to an intricate look at grief in fiction, and several personal stories about my connection to various scenes and icons. I plan on launching the series at the beginning of August and posting once or twice a week on Medium to keep up the excitement and the interest. Don’t worry: I also plan on cross-posting to here so that everyone can keep up with it. Stay tuned for more information on that in the coming weeks!

Goodreads

I am a Goodreads novice.

I have zero idea of how to operate Goodreads as an author. I am hoping that once my book has an ISBN number, I can add it to the library and claim my Goodreads Author Page. Between now and then, I need to do some more research into how to make that platform work for me.

Other Ideas

This is a short list of ideas I am toying with for the future:

  • Instagram Live Stream
  • Facebook Live Stream
  • Video series centered around the characters
  • Video series centered around the Twelve Houses
  • Book Giveaways
  • In person book tour (once Covid-19 is remedied sufficiently)
  • Virtual book talks at schools

I hope to play around with these ideas more as I approach publishing day.

Thanks for hopping along on my little excited book rant today! Remember to please subscribe and get excited for the release of Chasing Fae! Love you all. Happy writing!

The Writing Community Podcast

Hey everybody! Just wanted to take a moment to share that my episode with the Writing Community Podcast is now live! I had a great time chatting with Brian about my book, about writing, and about my potential plans for the fall. Click here to listen to it on the website. You can also find it on multiple platforms: iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher Radio. I hope you enjoy!

An Interview With Roy Huff

Roy Huff

Roy Huff is a Hawaii-based best-selling author, peer-reviewed research scientist, and teacher. After overcoming significant childhood adversity, he moved to the islands and hasn’t looked back. He’s since earned five degrees, trained on geostationary satellites for NASA’s GOES-R Proving Ground, and written numerous bestsellers. He stumbled into writing, but what he didn’t stumble into is his love for all things science fiction and fantasy. Later, he contributed a series of fiction and non-fiction books as well as widely shared posts on how to design life on your terms. Despite early challenges, he embraces optimism, science, and creativity. He makes Hawaii his home, where he creates new worlds with the stroke of a pen and hopes you’ll come along for the amazing ride. I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with him, and I am so excited to share his answers with you.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Writing wasn’t something I grew up wanting to do. It happened by accident when I was
working on my fourth and fifth degree. I had to write a creative paper for an English
class, and one of the students who read the paper said she wanted to read a whole
book on Everville. That became my first book and series.

What does your fantasy writing process look like? What do you find the most effective? What do you find the most difficult? 

I used to marathon write. Now I write in smaller doses but more frequently. Typically, I
write in the morning after my daily journaling. I write in quiet, without distractions while
drinking coffee. I also tend to write new content in the morning and edit in the afternoon.

What is one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

It’s never good enough, so you have to be willing to have the courage to publish. You
must be committed to improving, and it helps to get comfortable with rejection and
negative reviews and feedback.

What is your best worldbuilding tip?

Include all the senses. Read what others have written, and practice your craft.

How many books have you written?

I’ve published four fiction and one nonfiction. That number will be up to five fiction on
July 2 nd , and six fiction likely in August. I also have a first draft of the final book in the
Everville series. At the moment of this interview, I’ve published five books in total and
written seven. I’m currently working on my eighth book.

Can you tell us about your latest project? What inspired you to write it?

I’m currently expected to publish a time travel book, Seven Rules of Time Travel, in mid to late July. Additionally, I just put out the books 1-4 box set of Everville. The Everville series
started from that single creative writing paper. But the time travel book has a lot to do
with my love for both science fiction and fantasy.

I grew up in very challenging circumstances. Both my father and grandfather died young
under tragic circumstances. I struggled under abuse and poverty for much of my
childhood. Fantasy and books were an escape. Thinking about escaping into other
worlds or being able to have knowledge of the future and do things over again was a
way to cope with ongoing trauma.

Who is your favorite author and why?

That’s a question I cannot answer. It’s like asking what’s my favorite food or place to
visit. There are so many, and singling out one would not do the others justice. I’m big on
J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, George Orwell, and others.

How do you market your books? How much interaction do you have with your
readers?

I engage fans on Twitter @realroyhuff and Facebook. I also have a mailing list, where I
email fans periodically about projects and interesting facts and interests in my life at
https://www.royhuff.net I also do periodic promotions, like the massive June 18 th Free
Kindle promo of Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone and the 99 cents Kindle Countdown
Deal for Everville books 1-4 boxed set. I will be taking top spots on Amazon, so be there
or be square.

What words of wisdom do you have for young people who want to start writing
their first book? 

Show up, publish, iterate. Read what others have done. Find a mentor if possible.
Develop constructive habits and a routine. Reflect on your routine. Find ways to focus
and strive to improve that focus. If you get stuck, write anything, but keep writing. Don’t
let others tell you whether you should write to market or write what you want. You can
do both. Do what you want to do. Even if you don’t’ believe in yourself, have the
courage to show up and write anyway. Everyone starts somewhere. Some people may
believe it talent, but talent is just skill. And skill can be developed with deliberate
practice, reflection, and mentorship.

Check out Roy Huff’s books, and follow him on social media!

Social Media

Instagram & Twitter @realroyhuff 

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/realroyhuff

Website: https://www.royhuff.net/salvationship

Promotions This Week!

Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone: Free (June 18-June 22)

Everville Boxed Set Books 1-4: 99 cents (US & UK, June 18-24)

Buy links

Everville: The Fall of BrackenboneAmazon

Everville Books 1-4 Boxed Set

Introduction to Book Bloggers

Hello! I am sorry about the delay in the posting for this week. All of the work that I am doing for the book has been taking up all of my time, so every time I sit down to do a post, there are like fifty other things to finish. I love doing the work, but I am very tired at the end of every day.

So one of the important things I have learned through researching marketing techniques for Chasing Fae is the necessity of reviewers. Personally, I don’t usually read reviews before I choose to buy a book, but I know many people do. Several of my friends skim the first few reviews to see if a book will be any good. Reviews help sell books. They help gain credibility for an author, and they help find you new readers. Today, I’m going to share my best advice for reaching out to book bloggers and reviewers.

First, A Short List of Book Bloggers and Reviewers for Young Adults

Teen Influencers Book Blog Directory

The Book Blogger List

The Indie Book Reviewers List

Young Adult Bloggers, Sites, and More – The YA Bookshelf

30 Teen Book Bloggers, Bookstagrammers, and BookTubers You Should Be Following

Get To Know Your Chosen Reviewer And Their Platform

The key to securing the most opportunities to book bloggers and reviewers is to be organized. Take a look at the resources that I have posted above, and make yourself a list of reviewers that you might be interested in reaching out to. Please make sure to double check that they have had a few posts in the last couple months or so. Then explore the blogs that you have chosen. Explore the selection of their reviews. Get familiar with their work.

Make sure to specifically take note of their review policy. Here, you will find how to contact the person, what genres they are looking for at the time, and most importantly, what formats they want. This can change regularly. You also want to know what information to include in your email or contact form such as the title, publisher, and a brief summary. Here is a great article that is super helpful in learning how to format your emails to reviewers. Don’t forget to include a personal note of why you want this particular reviewer; connect it back to the person or the site.

Take Time To Plan These Things Out

I spent days putting together a good list of bloggers. I have spent days drafting and sending out messages so far, and I have a long way to go before I finish reaching out to everyone. You don’t want to give yourself just one day to get all of this done. It is a process and one that you’ll be spending time on while you revise, market, write, and market some more. Find some times every day to chip away at that long to-do list, and you will see it go down.

Follow Up

I like to keep a table of emails sent and responses received. It is way too easy to get busy with other pieces of the writing and publishing process and forget that you had outstanding requests to bloggers and reviewers. When I receive an email back from someone, I go back and add it onto my to-do list for the day: “Reply to Person X”. I mark it on my table, and then I remember to reply every time. If you don’t hear a response from someone that you’re expecting a response from or don’t hear in the time frame a reviewer has listed on their review policy, feel free to send a second email. Keep it short and polite with all of the impertinent information. And I can’t say it enough, keep track! Check your email regularly and keep updating your list or table (or both).

Happy writing, everybody!

Tips For Character Building

I’m back! I took some time off there to celebrate my mom’s and my boyfriend’s birthdays as well as to finish revisions for Chasing Fae. Last night, I submitted my book for copyediting, and it is one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced. At first, I was really nervous because after this, I can no longer change any content of the book. But now I am realizing that Chasing Fae is ready. It’s ready to be seen by the world, and the story is just perfect the way it is. I can’t wait to see how copyediting turns out!

Now that Book 1 is wrapping up officially, it is time to look towards Book 2. And for me, that means creating new characters and new storylines. Over the past couple days, I have been working on a few secondary characters who will play some major roles in the remaining two books of the trilogy. While I was working on those, I ended up explaining to a writer friend of mine how I like to approach my character building and my thought process during that stage. I thought I would share those thoughts with you today.

Tip #1: Consider your character’s flaws before their strengths.

One of the things that every strong character needs is well defined flaws. Without them, your characters will feel flat and unrealistic. While talking to a writer friend, I have figured out that I like to figure out my character’s flaws before I think about their strengths. Take Grace, for example. Some of her biggest flaws involve prejudice against the Fae, stubbornness, and an inability to trust after her brother’s death. These were flaws that directly related to the plot that I had in mind. All of these components were necessary for the story to progress and for Grace to transform by the end.

When I thought about Grace’s flaws, I felt like they easily lent themselves to finding corresponding strengths. While Grace has a heavy inability to trust, it also means that in the relationships that she engages in, she is extremely loyal. If someone meets her high threshold for trust, she is going to put her faith in them and protect them at all costs. Her narrow-minded thinking in terms of her hate for the Fae allows her to be a very comprehensive planner and disciplined in her training. She doesn’t want to take any unnecessary risks in her mission. This also connects with her stubbornness.

It is an interesting approach, but I have had good results from it, I think!

Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to really get to know your characters, even the little things.

I really enjoy getting inside my characters’ heads. I love to see what they have learned over their lives and what makes them tick. In my opinion, as a writer, it is important to sit down and truly speak with your characters. Ask them questions: not just about the big things, but about the little things too.

I like to give my characters birthdays, and more importantly, to align those birthdays with their zodiac sign. Sometimes I can pull traits from the description associated with those zodiac signs to add another layer to my characters. I’ll ask my characters all sorts of small things like their favorite color, their favorite foods, their favorite games growing up, etc. These details may not be relevant to your story, and in fact, your readers may never see this information at all. But I find that the characters feel more real when they have interests and hates and quirks that define who they are.

Tip #3: Backstory is so important.

One of the comments that I kept hearing from my editors was that there was a decent amount of space to include more backstory. Knowing your characters’ backstories helps to put everything in context for your readers. Understanding where Grace had been and what she cares about from her past moves the entire story forward and clarifies her motivations in a clear way. Backstory has to be incorporated throughout your book in conversations and in your character’s inner thoughts revealing themselves (most likely your protagonist). And you can incorporate a lot more into your book than you might think. Not so much that it consumes the actual plot, but enough to give your readers a sense of where your characters came from. So it is important to create a strong foundational past for your characters. Make sure to dedicate some significant focus to that area, and you should be just fine.

That is all of my insight for the day! Happy writing, everyone.

WE MADE IT!!!

HOORAY!

HOORAY!

HOORAY!

CHASING FAE WILL BE PUBLISHED!

To my followers, thank you so incredibly much! My 60-day presale campaign was a success! Chasing Fae passed its $4000 publishing threshold on the very last day for a final total of $4140! Paperback and digital copies will be officially be published by New Degree Press in July 2020!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I cannot believe it, y’all. That childhood dream I have had for so long about publishing a book young is finally coming true. And it is all thanks to you. Thank you so much for buying, liking, sharing, posting, commenting, and every other method used to get me from $0 all the way to the end.

The publishing journey has been going great so far, and I am looking forward to having some new content for you all soon. I am actually wrapping up my final revisions in the next two weeks. I can’t wait to show you guys some of the cover ideas that are being created by the design team right now! Keep up with Fluff About Fantasy for the latest updates. I love you all. Thank you again.

Happy writing! (And to my beta reader community, happy reading!)

Writing Fight Scenes

After going through my first round of revisions with my editor, I finally feel reasonably competent enough to discuss this subject! Whether it is a simple one-on-one scuffle or a full-scale battle, fight scenes are pretty integral to the fantasy genre. They make up some of the most memorable scenes that your reader will return to over and over again, if done right. Each scene should be approached with care to ensure that the scene feels natural, but intense. Today, I want to share with you my best tips to approaching a fight scene on any scale.

Tip #1: All fight scenes must move your plot and character development forward in some way. Do not include them just to have them.

Enough said.

Tip #2: Make sure you know your players.

Who is involved in this fight? Is it two people, or several, or a large multitude of characters? The more players you have, the more complex your battle is going to be. Before you even think about drafting this scene, think about each character and their fighting style. This is influenced by their size, any weapons training they may have or lack, if they are magical, etc. I also like to take into account my character’s emotions at the time. Are they fired up and ready to attack? Are they trying to escape from something, and this is the fight of their lives? There are often multiple emotions swirling around at once: fear, adrenaline, determination, heartbreak. As a writer, you have to balance these factors as you approach the actual physical process of the fight.

Tip #3: Consider the battlefield and the available resources.

Where is this fight taking place? The battle dynamics will be very different if it is taking place in an open field rather than a forest. Consider what cover is available and where would be the best place for an army to retreat to. When it comes to resources, you need to do some research into what kind of weaponry the characters involved in your fight are using. Each type of weapon comes with its benefits and its drawbacks, and in a big battle, the writer ends up showing a lot of both sides. If this is a fight between two armies, they each may have their own combat style as a group with those weapons. This requires you to understand your world’s history. Who knew so much background research could go into a battle?

Tip #4: Break down the chaos.

In actuality, a battle may only last a few minutes, or it could go on for days. Both of these situations require the writer to break down the moments into digestible pieces for the reader to absorb. That being said, by doing so, a few minutes can stretch out for pages and pages. So it is important to pick the moments to showcase and the times to step back and see more of the complete picture at once. Every movement should be written in an active voice. Make your reader feel every slash and connection of a sword to another’s body or their own. Describe the atmosphere: is the air thick with the smell of blood or smoke? The most important thing to do is to keep things active, descriptive, and fast-paced without making it too manic. Convey the chaos of the fight and the whirlwind of weaponry, bodies, and emotion without letting it all blend together too much.

I may modify this article as I move forward with writing the first draft of my sequel, which involves much more battles than the first. I am looking forward to it!

Happy writing!

Presenting… The Three Realms Maps

Hello fantasy lovers! I am so excited to share something special with you. Recently, I decided to add three maps of the Upper, Middle, and Lower Realm to the front of my paperback book. I had originally wanted to work this idea into my hardcover as a special insert, but when I heard I could do it for the paperback, I just had to jump in. I have been absolutely swamped with exams and exam studying for the past week or so (which is part of why I missed last Saturday’s post). My amazing boyfriend offered to take over the mapmaking process for me to relieve some of my stress. And boy, am I glad he did! He took my ideas and my mockup map from over two years ago and created something truly spectacular with them. He spent hours working with Inkarnate’s map-making software. I hope you all love them as much as I do!

The Importance of Balance

It is absolutely crazy to be going through revisions again!

The entire process has been a whirlwind so far, even though I’m only five chapters in to my revisions as of the time of writing this post. Every time I work through a chapter on my own, it comes back with lots of wonderful comments and markings from my editor, Kristy. She asks lots of questions that makes me think about which sections to elongate and which to elaborate on. Every chapter has new notes to work through, and I’m actually really excited that some are starting to make me sit down and take the time to puzzle them out. Revising takes time. A lot of time. Mixing schoolwork and revising and promoting the presale campaign can be challenging at times, but I really couldn’t be more thrilled doing it.

The most interesting thing about the revisions so far has been the discovery that I held myself back! As a first time author, I was determined to not make any of the pitfalls in my drafts. I wanted to keep my backstories concise and not excessive and make sure I wasn’t describing every new character’s appearance in too much detail. I wanted to make the setting immersive, but not so descriptive that the book feels like more description than plot.

But suddenly, both my editors told me that I could be adding more! I could be doing more! All of that information that I had held back in my notes and kept from my draft can start to be integrated into the book!

Do you have any idea how exciting that is?!

So, as I am learning all of these exciting things myself, let me give you a few tips about what areas are okay to elaborate on, as long as you keep a good balance.

Area One: Character Descriptions

When I was working on Chasing Fae, I was very concerned about mentioning my characters’ appearances. I knew that while it was important to ground your reader through physical description, it had to be done in such a way that it didn’t feel formulaic. You know: hair, eye color, height, etc. all in a few sentences stashed near the introduction of the character. So I actually spread out my physical descriptions over a couple of chapters.

It turns out I did need to rework some of that, particularly for my main characters in order to give more of a physical sense much earlier. Also, it is actually really important to ground your small secondary and tertiary characters with some sort of visual element so your readers can visualize. The more I see the note, the more I begin to recognize the importance of it.

Area Two: Setting

Each moment in space and time can be talked about, even if it is only a couple of sentences. Every time there is a distinct transition in location, I find myself seeing more notes about taking a breath and letting my readers know where we are and what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like. I find that I need to work on expanding my writing on the different senses. I am good at talking about what my characters are seeing and what they are feeling in particular, like a light breeze or the sun bearing down on them. But I could use some work on what my characters are hearing and smelling. It doesn’t need to be in every description of a setting, but I think it does add another layer to the reader’s sense of place in your book.

Area Three: Pacing and Layering

One of the most significant compliments that I received on my manuscript from my Acquisitions editor was that my level of tension throughout the book was spot on. However, I am starting to realize that just because your tension is right doesn’t mean there isn’t more to work on in terms of pacing. My editor has pointed out to me several times over the first few chapters that there are moments where I can slow it down a little bit. I can add a few more paragraphs to clarify setting or character backstory and motivation or just take a moment to let everybody take a breath. My book is on the low end of the young adult fantasy genre’s typical word count (80k), so I have a decent amount of room to work with. The story has space for more layers, and I am finding new ways to add fresh life to Chasing Fae.

I hope that this inspires you to loosen yourself up a little bit with your descriptions in your writing. There is space! And if there isn’t, trust me, someone will tell you. Happy writing, everyone!

A Sneak Peek of Chasing Fae

Hello everybody! There are only a few days left to preorder your copy of Chasing Fae! I wanted to share a sneak peek of the book today to give you an idea if you’d like to purchase now and get to read the entire book early. I hope you enjoy Chapter One!

Disclaimer: This chapter is shown in its raw form. That is, this is draft six and not draft seven that I am working on with my editor. Minor changes may be made between now and when the book releases.

Chapter One

Everyone’s time runs out eventually. Sometimes it comes quietly in the middle of the night at the end of a long life. Other times, death cuts across your timeline without warning.

Today just happens to be my time.

No, I’m not dead. But this is the end for me.

It was a week before the Winter Solstice. It’s always been one of my favorite times of the year. A full feast on the table, as large as money can buy, music pouring out of the windows of every building in Lisden, and family to spend the day with. Mom’s been accumulating canned vegetables for weeks and recently ventured into the market to bring home the best of the fresh fruits in a small bag. My mouth waters just thinking about the blackberries. We never get blackberries in this part of the Middle Realm outside of solstice-time. It’s one of my favorite treats. My older brother Leo was due to be home any day now. He had been gone for six months off on another one of his mercenary expeditions.

When Leo decided to become a soldier, my mother and I were both terrified. She tried to respectfully talk him out of it whereas I threw a fit and stormed out. I was just scared. Anything could happen out on the roads in this realm. He could have been sent to a peaceful town, or he could be sent south to the farm country where they’re fighting for whatever scraps they can get and they don’t care who gets killed. But he held out against both of us. Started training the day he turned eighteen and never looked back.

I was sixteen and he, nineteen when he was first hired to run security out in the trading ports of Bay Point. We cried when he left home, promising to be home in the spring. But we rejoiced when he sent home his first paycheck, and we could afford new clothes and fresh fruit from the market. Leo sent home every copper, outside of his own expenses home to us. He had always said he wanted to take care of us someday like Mom had for all these years on her own, and finally, he had the chance.

Leo bounced around from job to job until six months ago, when he was summoned to city hall with the other mercenaries in his company. I thought maybe the government wanted to offer him a job, but no. It was the higher higher-ups. The Fae.

The Fae have always had a hand in the politics of the Middle Realm; they control the alliances, the trade, the resource distribution. And they all just sit up there in the Upper Realm in their fancy castles and their bountiful homes with their magic and just watch us all run around down here like ants. The Fae needed their worker ants, a group of mortal soldiers, to come run security for a top-secret operation in the House of the Sun. They offered more money than anyone in this realm had ever even heard of, and of course, Leo jumped at the chance.

One more assignment, he said, and then he would be home for the Winter Solstice. Just one more assignment, and he’d bring me back something nice for the celebration. Just one more assignment.

I was lying in bed when it happened. It was late morning: not late enough to be noon, but not early enough for there to be time to get things done. I had been awake for hours, but I liked to lay in bed and just think. Sometimes, I’d read, but today, I couldn’t get myself to focus. Leo was due home in a week, and I was expecting a letter from him soon. He hadn’t written in a few days. I figured the letters must be backed up; communication in between realms is rare and therefore not always speedy. But it gave me an awful sense of foreboding.

A knock from the front door sneaks faintly under my bedroom door. I pull the covers over my head in hopes I can stay in bed. “Can you see who that is, Grace?” My mom’s faint voice calls from the kitchen.

Ugh. She knows I’m awake. I grab a robe and begrudgingly drag myself out of bed, stumbling to the door. I peer out of the hole in the top of the door, and I’m faced with the back of a strange man’s head. He stands rigidly at attention, mumbling quietly. His stance along with the navy-blue uniform marks him as a military man. Then I see the slightly pointed ears sticking out from under his rigid hat. My heart stops.

Fae.

No.

He turns slowly, and I see his face. His mouth is drawn tight into a slight grimace, and his purple eyes bore into mine. The color is too sharp for this realm.

“Mom!” I can’t hide the panic in my tone. I hear a dish clank into the sink as my mom rounds the corner in a rush. I feel guilty for making her worry before she even sees what the trouble is, but my face says it all. She peeks through the hole herself before opening the door. She opened it so slowly. Delaying the inevitable.

The man is a Fae commander. My eyes go to the medals lining his breast and the insignia marking him as such. There’s two others with him, his guards. One of them holds a tightly wrapped scroll; the other holds the universal Upper Realm flag neatly folded in his hands. I stand behind my mother, starting blankly at the lot. I can’t bring myself to move.

“I’m sorry,” the commander says quietly.

My mother collapses to the ground, and I just let her fall. She sobs wildly into her hands. The panic is rising up in my chest. I reach out and take the scroll and the flag, shaking my head over and over again. This can’t be real. I tear open the scroll, ripping it violently in my attempts. Leo Richardson – notice of death.

I drop the flag. The soldiers start when it hits the ground, but the commander stops them from moving into our home. Thank the Lady for that at least. I would have charged them both if they had tried.

Damn them. Damn all the Fae.

I kneel at my mother’s side and pull her to my chest as she begins wailing. I haven’t even begun to cry yet. I’m clinging to her as tightly as I can, trying to shush her before the neighbors come to see what’s going on. Our pain should be ours, not a spectacle for others to gawk at. I stare up at the Fae commander with some sort of dismissive glance, I hoped. His even gaze looks down on me, and when we lock eyes, I’m filled with a blinding hatred.

“Get out,” I hiss. To my surprise, he only nods, and he and his men turn and leave immediately. I wonder how many death announcements he’s had to carry out in his life. It might explain the flash of pity I thought I saw behind his glassy demeanor. I despise his pity.

I see a flash of a red coat before my uncle Nick is kneeling by our sides. His door down the hall makes an audible click as it swings close. “Grace, what happened?” He hugs my mother protectively before addressing her, “Anna, what happened?”

My mother is too incoherent to answer, and I can’t find the words to. I slide the scroll over to him slowly. Nick takes one look at it and his breath rushes out in one go. “Ohhh, Grace.” He hugs my mother tighter and holds out an arm to me. I lean my head into his hand for one small moment until it’s too much.

“Take care of her,” I say quickly as I flee to my room. I’m being selfish, I know, but I can’t take the pounding in my head. I slam the door and pace the room. The sunlight streaming in through the window is too bright, too perky for the moment. I yank the curtains closed, but the heavy fabric tumbles off the walls. More light breaks in. I have no patience for this. My hands tighten in my hair as I look for somewhere to hide. I catch a glimpse of the clothing shoved under my bed, and the rush hits me all at once.

I dive to the floor and reach far under the bed. I’m rummaging through my things, searching for that one box that has… There! I rip the lid off of the jewelry box and throw it across the room. It hits the bookshelf and ricochets off the wall. I cringe and reach to get it, but I stop short when I see the tiny seashell bracelet lying in the case, curled up in the corner.

My hands shake as I pull it out of the box. I toy softly with the pure white shell on the end as I finger the smaller shells lining the string. It was the very last gift I received from Leo. He brought it home to me from the beach on his last mortal assignment in Bay Point.

I can’t even bring myself to put it on. I try to slide it onto my wrist, but it falls to the floor. I pick it up and try again, but my shaking fingers can’t hang on to it.

Finally, my tears come. I scream in my grief, crying out Leo’s name to the heavens, praying that the Lady will see him safely to the afterlife. I cradle the bracelet to my chest and rock back and forth as I sob and heave for breath. Come home, Leo, please come home, you can’t be dead, you’re coming home, Leo; I need you to come home, big brother, please…. Please…

I cry for a very long time. I don’t remember much else of that day or that week, for that matter.

I can’t stand the wintertime now. Too cold. Too dark. Too empty.

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