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Blog Tour: Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag

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From the publisher:

It is eight years after Colleen Cavanaugh’s home world was invaded by the Derichets, a tyrannical alien race bent on exploiting the planet’s mineral resources.

Most of her family died in the war, and she now lives alone in the city. Aside from her acquaintances at the factory where she toils for the Derichets, Colleen makes a single friend in Jann, a member of the violent group of rebels known as the Chromatti. One day Colleen receives shocking news: her niece Lucy is alive and in need of her help. Together, Colleen, Jann, and Lucy create their own tenuous family.

But Colleen must decide if it’s worth risking all of their survival to join a growing underground revolution against the Derichets … in Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag’s Shattered Warrior.

My thoughts:

Colleen lives in a world ravaged by war. The survivors are basically enslaved by the alien race and live in constant fear. She still lives in the half-ruined grand old mansion Avon, in which her family used to live, isolating themselves from the poorer families except for the annual parades when they would toss gold coins to the masses. Now she is one of the masses, struggling daily to earn enough money for food and avoid the notice of the Derichets, who regularly make people ‘disappear.’ This is what happened to her sister and niece, Lucy. When she is able to retrieve Lucy from the Derichets, her anger over what has happened, both to her sister and Lucy, but also to her world, motivates her to begin to resist the Derichets.

At first glance, this world seems so different from the one in which we live. Indeed, it is easy for me to avoid acknowledging this same world exists in places on our own planet. It is an effective and brilliantly written and illustrated way of introducing this world to those of us who are fortunate enough not to live in it, while saying to those who do, “I see you.” Even in our own country, there are young people who are basically enslaved by minimum wage, lack of child care, lack of access to medical care, etc. They live in constant fear, both of the authorities and of the criminals the authorities should be policing. They struggle daily just to provide food for their families and a safe place to live. One wrong step, one unfortunate circumstance, and it could all come crashing down around them.

In short, Shinn and Ostertag have done an amazing job in creating a classic science fiction narrative which both imagines new worlds and shows us the realities of the one in which we live. While I’d highly recommend this title for any collection serving teens in grades 7 and up, I’d also recommend it as a possible class read for a high school civics, modern history, or world cultures class as a way to introduce these concepts and foster discussion.

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SharonShinnSharon Shinn has published more than twenty-five novels, one collection, and assorted pieces of short fiction since her first book came out in 1995. Among her books are the Twelve Houses series (Mystic and Rider and its sequels), the Samaria series (Archangel and its sequels), the Shifting Circle series, and the Elemental Blessings series. She lives in St. Louis, loves the Cardinals, watches as many movies as she possibly can, and still mourns the cancellation of “Firefly.”
MollyKnoxOstertagMolly Knox Ostertag grew up in the forests of upstate New York and read far too many fantasy books as a child. She studied cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and now lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys the beach year-round but misses good bagels. While at school she started drawing the award-winning webcomic Strong Female Protagonist, which continues to update and be published through Kickstarter and Top Shelf Comics. She draws comics about tough girls, sensitive boys, history, magic, kissing, superpowers, and feelings.

Thank God It’s Monday! Blog Tour: My Best and Worst Mondays

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Today we’re participating in the Thank God It’s Monday! blog tour to help celebrate the upcoming release of Jessica Brody’s book A WEEK OF MONDAYS. You can read Jessica’s guest post about her book here. My review is coming later this month.

You can check out what other bloggers are saying about their best and worst Mondays by following the hashtags #TGIM and #AWeekofMondays on social media and by following Jessica on Twitter @JessicaBrody. Tell us about your best and worst Mondays, too! They can be real or your made-up dream/nightmare Mondays. Here are mine:

 

MY WORST MONDAY EVER

My alarm doesn’t go off and I’m late for school. My mom’s a teacher and my dad’s the principal (is this sounding WORST enough yet?) at my school, but apparently they left without me and now I have to walk to school. I get there and try to sign myself in saying I had an appointment, but my dad’s office is right next to the attendance desk and he busts me. The secretary makes a tsk as she marks me absent on my record (a record she, in real life, would go on to make a photocopy of and present to me right before graduation, noting I had the dubious distinction of being in the top ten in my class both academically and for most absences–thanks, two rounds of mono, a deep hatred for high school, and a journalism pass that allowed me to leave for lots of “assignments”). I start to head to my locker but can’t seem to remember where it is. I finally find it because I remember Jenny has plastered the front of our lockers with pictures of Michael Stipe and a countdown for going to see REM. I can’t get in my locker. Of course. I try to sneak into my class unnoticed (like that is even possible) and get called up to the board to solve an algebra problem. I put on antennas and talk about sending a potato through a potato machine, which seems to satisfy my teacher. I’m unprepared for every class and panic because I am NEVER unprepared for class. I can’t find my notes, there are tests in every subject, and I can never get into my blasted locker—sometimes the handle is gone and I can’t find a way to open it, or a new wall has gone up and my locker is now behind it, or I just can’t remember the combination.

 

The worst part? I know I’m not supposed to be here at all.

 

I know I graduated a super long looooong time ago. I have a master’s degree! I tell my teachers. They don’t care. Apparently I missed some requirement and have to go back. Just for today? I wonder. No. I have to redo all of high school or my college degrees are revoked and I have to pay back all my student loans all over again (now we’re really talking WORST, right?). I remember how terrible high school was the first time around, but at least then I was surrounded by equally angsty and miserable peers. Now I’m nearly 40 and no one will be friends with me and it’s not just that I’m in high school but that I’m in high school AGAIN. So I continue to take tests that I bomb, and go to class without my textbooks, and wonder what I did to end up back in high school, knowing I apparently have four more years of this nightmare. And the day ends, but I know I’ll have to do it all over again tomorrow. Worst Monday ever.

 

 

MY BEST MONDAY EVER

My alarm goes off at 5:45 and I wake up immediately. I nudge my husband awake and say, Good lord, I had that dream again where I’m sent back to high school because I missed some requirement. Then I wonder why I never dream about elementary school or graduate school. Is it because I so desperately hated high school? Because I live in a world of YA books set in high schools? Or because we never stop reliving the trauma of adolescence? Who knows. All I do know is that this Monday doesn’t hold unexpected tests or forgotten locker combinations or anyone grading me. I’ll do some reading and writing, I’ll hang out with my husband, kid, and dachshunds, and I’ll be forever grateful that no one can actually send me back to high school.

 

Oh yeah–my 20th high school reunion is this weekend. I can’t go because I don’t want to. 20 years is still not far enough removed for me to feel any kind of nostalgia for that time. Maybe once I stop having nightmares about high school, I’ll reassess my feelings. But for now? I’ll leave that time in my life to half-remembered dreams, old journals, zines, mixtapes, and boxes of pictures. Waking up and remembering that I’m 20 years removed from high school? Best Monday ever. 

 

About A WEEK OF MONDAYS

week of mondaysWhen I made the wish, I just wanted a do-over. Another chance to make things right. I never, in a million years, thought it might actually come true…

Sixteen-year-old Ellison Sparks is having a serious case of the Mondays. She gets a ticket for running a red light, she manages to take the world’s worst school picture, she bombs softball try-outs and her class election speech (note to self: never trust a cheerleader when she swears there are no nuts in her bake-sale banana bread), and to top it all off, Tristan, her gorgeous rocker boyfriend suddenly dumps her. For no good reason!

As far as Mondays go, it doesn’t get much worse than this. And Ellie is positive that if she could just do it all over again, she would get it right. So when she wakes up the next morning to find she’s reliving the exact same day, she knows what she has to do: stop her boyfriend from breaking up with her. But it seems no matter how many do-overs she gets or how hard Ellie tries to repair her relationship, Tristan always seems bent set on ending it. Will Ellie ever figure out how to fix this broken day? Or will she be stuck in this nightmare of a Monday forever?

From the author 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and The Unremembered trilogy comes a hilarious and heartwarming story about second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. Because sometimes it takes a whole week of Mondays to figure out what you really want.

Jessica Brody is the author of several popular books for teens, including the Unremembered trilogy, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, and The Karma Club, as well as two adult novels. She splits her time between California and Colorado. Find out more at jessicabrody.com. Jessica is on Twitter @JessicaBrody.

 

ISBN-13: 9780374382704

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication date: 08/02/2016

Thank God It’s Monday! Blog Tour with Jessica Brody

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Guest post by Jessica Brody

 

ELLISON “ELLIE” SPARKS: An idealistic, ambitious sixteen-year-old junior with a lot on her plate.

 

Those were the first words I ever wrote about Ellie Sparks. They were written in a synopsis for my publisher when I was first trying to sell them on the idea for a book called A WEEK OF MONDAYS.

 

Of course, you can’t write an entire book about a one-sentence character. Just like you can’t live your entire life as a one-sentence person. But every character has to begin somewhere. And this is where Ellie began for me.

 

As an idealistic, ambitious sixteen-year-old junior with a lot on her plate.

 

In my mind, this is who she had to be. I thought, if you’re going to write about a girl who relives the same horrible Monday over and over again, trying to “get it right,” these are the adjectives that must describe her. She has to be idealistic enough to think she can fix everything in her life. Yet, she also has to be ambitious enough to try it. And how else are you going to fill seven Mondays with interesting storylines if the main character doesn’t have a lot on her plate.

 

So there was Ellie. And there was me, ready to write her, thinking I understood her. Thinking I knew everything I needed to know about her.

 

This is the writing process for me. I start with an idea of who someone is. I draw a box around them, like an identity fence. I stuff them inside and I lock the gate. I tell them, “This is who you are. Don’t try to change that. Don’t try to be or do anything else. I don’t have time for detours. I’m on a deadline.”

 

I never learn.

 

A WEEK OF MONDAYS is my tenth published novel and I’m still trying to lock characters inside fences. Eventually, though, they always break free. They always get bigger than their boxes. And even though I try to adjust, I keep drawing bigger and bigger boxes around them, trying to contain them to the world I built, the world I envisioned, they never quite want to stay inside. Just like people. You can try to identify them, label them, build a fence around them that makes you feel safe, and yet they’ll always surprise you. Because no character—no human being—fits inside a box.

 

One of my favorite reviews of A WEEK OF MONDAYS says, “Watching Ellie relive her horrible day is something like peeling an onion. Each Monday, a piece of her people-pleaser facade melts away, revealing more of her real self.”

 

I smiled when I read that because it wasn’t until then that I realized exactly what had happened in the writing of this book. I had done it again. I had tried to put yet another character in a box, and she had slowly, word by word, page by page, Monday by Monday broken free.

 

This book is ultimately a story of self-discovery.

 

Seven days. Seven chances to completely reinvent yourself. Wear different clothes, make different choices, explore different paths, say different things, be different people.

 

Because sometimes it takes a whole week of Mondays to figure out who you really are. And when you finally do, you may find yourself thinking ‘Thank God It’s Monday’ after all.

 

For the next five Mondays, blogger friends across the internet will be sharing their best and worst Monday. Follow along with us online with #TGIM and #AWeekofMondays, because whether a Monday is memorable for good reasons or memorable for bad reasons, we stand to learn a lot about ourselves.

 

Meet Jessica Brody

Jessica Brody - High Res_credit Brian BraffJessica Brody is the author of several popular books for teens, including the Unremembered trilogy, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, and The Karma Club, as well as two adult novels. She splits her time between California and Colorado. Find out more at jessicabrody.com. Jessica is on Twitter @JessicaBrody.

 

 

 

About A WEEK OF MONDAYS

week of mondaysEllie is having the worst Monday of her life. She messes up her school  speech for the class vice presidency position, she manages to take the world’s  worst school picture, she bombs softball tryouts, and the icing on top  of this awful cake: her perfect boyfriend who is in a high school rock band dumps her. At the end of  the day, Ellie wishes she could redo everything. When she wakes up the  next morning, she discovers that it’s Monday again! She has six more chances to redo the day in the hopes of having everything go exactly the way she wants. But in the process, she just may find out that what she really wants and what she actually needs are two very different things.

The Fixer Blog Tour: The Science of Fiction, a guest post by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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We are happy to welcome Jennifer Lynn Barnes to TLT today. She’s stopping by on the blog tour for her new novel, THE FIXER (published 7/7/2015 from Bloomsbury USA). 

 

The Science of Fiction 

One of the questions I get a lot as a writer who has a double life as a psychology professor studying the science of books, movies, and television shows is whether or not my work looking at the psychology of stories affects the way I write them. And the answer is that everything I learn about the power of stories from a scientific standpoint changes the way I write. So I thought I’d take the FIXER blog tour as an opportunity to give readers a look into the way my scientist and writer selves work together when I sit down to write a new book.

 

Part Four: The Peak-End Effect

There’s a famous experiment that looks at people’s perceptions of pain. The gist of the experiment goes something like this. In one condition, people are asked to put their hands in painfully cold water for sixty seconds. In the other condition, they’re asked to put their hands in painfully cold water for sixty seconds and then to put their hands in slightly less cold, but still painful water for another thirty seconds. Afterward, they’re asked which of the two experiences they would rather repeat. Logically, the answer should be the first one—it’s identical to the second, except that it has thirty second less pain at the end.

But that’s not what people choose.

People prefer the second option. The one with more pain. Why? Because it ends on a better note. You get similar results with positive experiences: everything else being equal, people prefer the thing that ended on a higher note. In fact, there’s reason to believe that when we evaluate experiences, we’re really only evaluating two things: the most intense moment and the last moment. This is called the Peak-End effect.

What does that mean for writers and readers? Well, one thing that it suggests—to me—is that if you’re writing comedy, it’s more important to have one super hilarious laugh-until-you-cry moment than it is have to have a ton of different moments that make people chuckle. If you’re writing tragedy, making someone sob hard once is going to leave more of an impression than making them tear up a dozen different times. If you’re going for plot twists, one HUGE surprise will have more of an impact than a dozen tiny ones. And if you can stack two HUGE surprises close enough together that they encode as a single moment, all the better. When readers look back on the reading experience, by and large, they’re going to evaluate that experience based on the most intense moment and the last moment.

Knowing this, I spend a lot of time as a writer asking myself “What are the most intense moments in this book?” and “how should this book end?” When I sat down to write The Fixer, there was one moment that stuck out in my head, one that I knew from the very beginning would be one of the most emotionally intense scenes in the entire book. That was the moment that made me want to write the book. That was the moment that made me want to understand these characters. But ultimately, even though each reader is going to evaluate the book largely based on the most intense point and the last point, as a writer, I also know that one big moment and a good ending isn’t enough. Different readers can and do have different reactions to the same scenes, so that intense, defining moment may well be different for each person, and part of creating an intense reading experience is the way that intense moments build on each other. So the challenge, as I sat down to write The Fixer, knowing that I was building to a very specific scene, was to figure out what my other big moments were. They had to be surprising. They had to pack an emotional punch. They had to involve characters we cared about. And they all had to build to an ending that did everything I wanted that ending to do—including setting the stage for book two.

For me, a lot of this happens in revision. Three or four of the biggest, most intense moments in The Fixer weren’t there in the first draft. In fact, other than The Moment That I Always Knew I Was Going to Write, I’m not sure any of the biggest emotional, plot twisty moments were in my first draft. For me, the purpose of revision is to make sure that every scene is doing multiple things, that instead of having SURPRISING MOMENTS and EMOTIONAL MOMENTS, my big plot twist moments are my big emotional moments.

And those moments are brought to you by the Peak-End effect.

 

Further Reading

Do, A. M., Rupert, A. V., & Wolford, G. (2008). Evaluations of pleasurable experiences: The peak-end rule. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15(1), 96-98.

Kahneman, D., Fredrickson, B. L., Schreiber, C. A., & Redelmeier, D. A. (1993). When more pain is preferred to less: Adding a better end. Psychological science, 4(6), 401-405.

 

 

FIXERAbout THE FIXER:

When sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick is sent to live with her older sister, Ivy, she has no idea that the infamous Ivy Kendrick is Washington D.C.’s #1 “fixer,” known for making politicians’ scandals go away for a price. No sooner does Tess enroll at Hardwicke Academy than she unwittingly follows in her sister’s footsteps and becomes D.C.’s premier high school fixer, solving problems for elite teens.

Secrets pile up as each sister lives a double life. . . . until their worlds come crashing together and Tess finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy with one of her classmates and a client of Ivy’s. Suddenly, there is much more on the line than good grades, money, or politics, and the price for this fix might be more than Tess is willing to pay.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for more in this exciting new series.

 

FIXER2About Jennifer Lynn Barnes:

Jennifer Lynn Barnes has written several acclaimed young adult novels, including the Raised by Wolves and the Naturals series. She has advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science. She received her PhD from Yale University and is now a professor in psychology.
www.jenniferlynnbarnes.com
@jenlynnbarnes

 

Blog Tour and Giveaway – Firebug by Lish McBride


We are so pleased to be a stop on Lish McBride’s Blog Tour for her upcoming novel Firebug! In case you missed it, you can read my review of it here. (OMG, you guys, dream. come. true.)

Firebug will be available next Tuesday, September 23! Lish joins us today to answer some very silly and somewhat personal questions that have been weighing heavily on my mind…

Congratulations on the new baby! Are there any books you got so sick of reading to your first baby that you’re planning on hiding them before this one is old enough to ask for them?
 
Thanks! He’s certainly been a dramatic little guy so far!
As for reading material, no—we get rid of those books as soon as the baby turns around. And for the new ones we get, well, we’ll ask our ten year old to read those. You know, until he catches on. I did read Goodnight, Moon so many times I memorized it, though. It always makes me think of the Simpsons where they had Christopher Walken reading it. 


I love it when you post about the bookstore on Twitter! Describe the most interesting customer interaction you’ve had at the bookstore. Or, if you’re not allowed to do that, what item is most frequently stolen from the bookstore?

 
We get a lot of great people in the bookstore. For those that haven’t been there, the idea behind Third Place Books is centered on one of Ray Oldenburg’s essays where he states that the first place is home, the second place is work, and the third place is community. So a large part of the bookstore is surrounded by this giant commons area where people can eat, knit, play board games, and meet up for language groups. A lot goes on there. The downside is…sometimes you see an odd side of people. I’ve seen some really weird stuff there. Really weird. Tales I probably shouldn’t tell. Let’s just say I’ve seen the cops a great deal for being in such a nice neighborhood and working in a bookstore. Personally, though, I’ve had ladies start randomly running their hands through my hair as I walk them to a section, and I had to stop wearing my name tag for a while because I got tired of people asking me if my name is short for “delicious.” (It’s not.)


I’ve seen topless guys shaving (and singing) in the men’s bathroom, there’s a lady who really likes our bear statue (she brings it presents) and I watched a guy OD once. That was sad. As for stuff getting stolen, I’m not sure we have a top item. Art books get stolen a lot, as does Graphica, which is one of my sections. Inventory is always off there.


Other than that, just normal bookstore stuff—like that time a customer wouldn’t believe me that the book she needed to get her daughter for school was in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section. She kept telling me, “No, no—it’s a classic. She needs it for school.” And I had to keep saying, “Yes, I know. It’s a popular book for High School English classes. Trust me, it’s a classic. You should read it when your daughter is finished with it. There are a lot of classics in that section.” After the third round of that, and her thinking that maybe she had the wrong book, she finally said, “Are you sure? And it’s in Science Fiction?” Then I just walked her back and handed her the book and cried a little inside.
The book was Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury.


Do you like to travel? You get to do an author event anywhere in the world – where do you choose to go?

 
I do! Not a huge fan of planes, but I like going to all different kinds of places. If I could chose, I’d like to go back to either Ireland or Scotland. Love those countries.


You discover you are a were creature – what do you become? (Bonus – as this were creature, what is your most powerful ability?)

 
I’d become Keanu Reeves, because I think he’s my spirit animal. No, not really. I mean, I love Keanu, but he’s not an animal. He’s a man. So…I don’t know. A raccoon? An otter? Something small that gets into stuff. Man Friend says I’m a lot like Stitch from Lilo and Stitch, because I communicate mostly through hissing and pointing, and I like to destroy things, but Stitch is a made up creature, so I probably can’t use that. 


My most powerful ability would be super rabies if I were a raccoon, or the ability to hold things in my tiny paws, which works for either. Also maybe to look so cute people would get distracted, and then I’d take their wallets.


You are haunted by the spirit of a historical figure. Who is it and why are they haunting you?

 
Probably Charles Dickens, because I always say I want to go back in time and punch him. And that’s not nice, so he’s demanding an apology. Touché, Dickens. I’m sorry I said I wanted to punch you. I need to learn to use my words instead of my fists.


What is your favorite breakfast food?

 
So breakfast is sort of my nemesis, because I have several favorite foods, so every time we got out to eat, it becomes this showdown between waffles, French toast, and eggs Benedict. That being said, if the restaurant happens to have vegetarian biscuits and gravy (that does NOT involve mushroom gravy, as I am not a lover of fungus) then I usually order that. It’s hard to do a good vegetarian biscuits and gravy. My mom can do it, even though she must think it’s somewhat of an abomination. Because really, it should involve actual sausage, but she kindly indulges her weirdo vegetarian daughter. (My mom has always been quite supportive of my vegetarian ways.) One thing I miss about living in the south is the abundance of biscuits. They don’t eat them as much up in Seattle, and it’s just not right.

Enter here for a chance to win a free hardcover copy of Firebug: 

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Get started before it comes out – download the first 5 chapters here


For the record, I would also like to punch Dickens.

Blog Tour: The Jealosy Glass by Gwen Perkins

Available in ebook from Amazon
The Jealousy Glass by Gwen Perkins
 
“We came to stop a war before it came to Cercia.  And it seems the war has come to us.”
Responsibility and patriotism spur Cercia’s new leader, Quentin, to protect his beloved country at all costs and he assigns Asahel and Felix to serve as ambassadors and secret agents to Anjdur. Their journey quickly turns awry and Asahel and Felix barely escape a devastating shipwreck, walk a tightrope of political tension, and rescue an empress before they learn they must face an enemy closer to them than they thought.
Will they be able to uncover an assassin’s plot before it’s too late? Will Asahel be able to unearth a secret that is vital to their mission? Will Cercia survive its own revolution? In The Jealousy Glass, Perkins boldly continues a series of unforgettable characters and events that will leave you begging for more.

 
 
EXCERPT

From Chapter 1

The white monster swooped down.

  
All that Asahel could see was a cloud of pale feathers as the Rukh lashed out at the cannon that had fired.  Screams throbbed around him as the Rukh lifted, golden talons now rusted with blood.  Broken bodies lay on the wood, ribs smashed by the weight of unearthly claws.  The men were too distant for Asahel to put faces to as he fell to the deck, heart pounding at the sound of the wings beating once more.

The Rukh dove again, its beak rending the ship’s prow.  The heavy timbers cracked like bones against the pressure.  A slow tearing sound cut through the haze of chaos settling over the ship as panic took hold.  Spice spilled out of the hold the beast had torn open.  Pungent scents of oil and cedar clouded the air as chests smashed against the bow, breaking apart into the water below.

Asahel crawled on his knees toward the heart of the battle, his eyes stinging red from the spices in the air.  The Rukh thrashed as another cannon fired its shot, black powder belching into the fading light.  Angry cries from the monster above filled his ears as it lurched down, plucking a sailor off the deck and squeezing its talons tightly around the man’s midsection.  Another series of screams began as the ship’s port side blazed into flames, but he kept moving toward starboard, trying to reach the first cannon that had been fired.


“Zuane!”  He called, hoping that the captain was near.  When that failed, Asahel shouted out for others.  “Felix!  Nicolas!”  His knee edged forward as he crawled, the coarse wool of his trousers suddenly damp.  He looked down to see the blood of the fallen pooling in the cracks of the boards.

He was near the side of the Serenissma.  Asahel stood, crouching each time the Rukh let out another shriek.  Black smoke surrounded him, choking his lungs as he turned.  The white beast had grown dim as the wall of fire leapt up, flames feeding on the ship’s planking.


“Soames—” 

Asahel turned but did not see who could have called him.

“Where are you?”  He whispered, afraid to raise his voice.  He saw a pair of hands gripping the railing.  He reached out, his own strong fingers clutching them and pulling the man toward the deck.  He could feel Felix shudder as he came up over the rail, his thin body battered.  The older man began to cough almost immediately as Asahel helped him back to the deck.  They stared through the flames at the carnage.

The Serenissma wrenched sharply to the right.  The Rukh cawed as it rose, white wings blotting out what was left of the sun.  Water splashed across the wood, shooting up from the hold as the lower decks flooded.


“We’ve got to get out of here,” Asahel said.

“There’s no rafts.” Felix coughed and leaned back against the rail.  His eyes were bright with a fear the other man had never seen. 

“Aye.”  The fire was close enough to warm them both.  Which will it be?  Asahel thought.  Burning or drowning?


“I can’t swim.”

“Sure, and now you tell me.”  Asahel steadied his expression for Felix’s sake, more nervous than he let on.  The Soames family had been merchants and traders for generations.  Unlike Felix, Asahel had been raised at water’s edge.

“I never expected it to come up.”  Felix grimaced.  “I know.  We’re on a boat.  Clearly, I was being an optimist.”

           

“Ship,” Asahel corrected gently, looking over his shoulder at the waves.

“Grave—if we don’t do something shortly.”  Felix inhaled, his body clenched as he turned his back on the flames.  The Serenissma was moving downwards rapidly.  The remaining sailors leapt from the deck, disappearing into the churning tides as they plummeted through the darkness.  He looked at Asahel, his mouth twisting into a crooked grin.  “No time like the present.”

Felix climbed back up on the railing, sweat trickling down his forehead, his skin mottled with bruise and shadow.  Asahel followed, his own ungainly body slower to take action.  The two men looked at one another a last time, then back at the burning ship.

With one breath, they jumped.
 
About Author Gwen Perkins
Gwen Perkins is a museum curator with a MA in Military History from Norwich University. She has written for a number of magazines, exhibitions and nonfiction publications. Her interest in history fueled the creation of the world of The Universal Mirror, inspired in part by people and events of the medieval and Renaissance periods.
Twitter: @helleder