New Year Calls: 2019 + Writing Ishness of 2018

Happy New Year, my dearest Roadlings! *throws confetti cleverly shaped like little 2019s*

This is the obligatory new-year post but it’s a little different because it’s two weeks late not all goals and accomplishments and resolutions. (Though there’s some of that.)

New Year calls and I’m terribly tempted to pretend like Bilbo that I’m not at home. XD *cough*

We’re already 2 weeks into 2019 and I haven’t figured out all my writing goals yet and . . . I feel a little stressed about that. The pressure is on when the new year hits to figure out All The Things and set goals etc. And I simply haven’t. (Particularly for my writing, which is slightly awkward because this is a writing-ish blog.)

But you know what? It’s okay.

I don’t have to know all the things I want to do this year RIGHT NOW. I do know the next thing I want to do, and that should be enough for this moment.

And if it isn’t, it ought to be.

(*shoos list-aholic self to sit somewhere in the back row instead of booing in the front one* Ahem. >.>)

I’m sitting here wondering why I’m so stressed and thinking how I should let it go . . . and I just glanced at the writing journal I finished minutes before midnight brought in the New Year and it made me pause and reflect, because I’d totally forgotten about it.

Here’s an excerpt of my quietly-excited New Year’s Eve self, inking dreams for the future:

“. . . that the windings of the road of this writer will bring me to wondrous places and tales of the fantastic and of the heart. I don’t know for sure my goals for 2019. But I hope to meet it with a deep breath and a soul ready for the wild adventure of this road that calls me onward to new horizons of pen and paper and imagination — and the love of worlds to touch our souls and show us the stars. Whatever goals and dreams await, onward — let’s rise to meet them with the dawn beyond the horizon. The stars and the sky of imagination await! Happy New Year and may 2019 be filled with words of wonder!”

As I’ve been stressing out these last few days, I’d totally forgotten I wrote that — I suppose that enchanted hour before the turn of the year was closed in the final pages of the book that was 2018 and I forgot to open it and look at it again until just now.

Granted, it’s a little dramatic (I don’t always write like that in my journals, I promise. XD), and may be harking back to my steampunk WIP world, but it’s the feeling that remains.

That girl sitting in the light of the Christmas tree scribbling her soul down before the new year arrived . . . I want to be her. She was so excited and full of hope, and even though the future was strange and she only had a faint idea of what might come next, she was ready to embrace it and make it beautiful to the best of her abilities.

She wrote those words and then went out and stood in the cold under the stars, and watched fireworks ring in the New Year and talked and laughed, and saw a falling star, and the night was full of magic.

So I don’t know my goals. And that’s all right. I have vague inklings of possibilities and I’ll hopefully pick some of them and goal-ify them at some point . . . but here are a few.

Goal Options

  • I know I want to finish The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (KW2), since I’m still a couple of chapters from finishing. I’m so close that I can taste the final scenes but I haven’t quite dared to sit down and actually go for it. The pressure. (New Year’s Eve me thinks I should just get on and DO it already. In time, in time. Tare will make sure it happens, I don’t doubt . . .)

After that . . . I don’t know, exactly.

  • I should like to do something with The Siren and the Skyship, but I don’t know what its next step is — whether that’s working on rewriting it or carrying on with starting the next book in the series. Decisions, decisions.

  • I will probably end up working on something in Tare’s series after I finish KW2, but there are many options there, so again, I don’t know. (I should probably edit KW2 as well, which is a slightly scary thought. At least editing the new parts to be beta-readable . . . which is more doable.)

  • The Other Half of Everything lurks patiently and occasionally tackles me and makes me write a snippet or part of a chapter here and there. So I might work on it more — it always plays second fiddle to whatever my main project is, so someday I suspect it’s going to work its way into the spotlight of my main focus. We’ll just have to see when that might be.
  • And I have a few short stories I’d like to finish.
  • Plus, there are always other novels lurking, in case I’d like to be kidnapped by one of them, although the three above have been my Big Three for the last while.

So you see, I have plenty of options. I just don’t know, after this one goal (last 2 chapters of KW2), which option is going to pick me. (Because sometimes it feels that way instead of the other way around . . .)

Non-Story Goals

  • I’d like to a.) blog a fair amount, b.) actually do something with the newsletter list I started (*nervous laughter*), and c.) I’d love to go to Realm Makers again if I possibly can. (Which raises another question regarding what I should do before then, with which novels, for what next steps, if anything can happen on time — which is doubtful — and all of that’s a little too terrifying for me to want to think about just yet.)
  • Book reviews and my copyediting business will also continue, hopefully, so I’m excited for that. 🙂

It’s all very well to pretend you’re not home when the Sackville-Bagginses come calling, but who knows if 2019 might not be, instead, a whole bunch of dwarves and a wizard, waiting to take us on an adventure? We might miss out. So I think I’ll answer that door anyhow, even if I don’t know my dreams and goals yet. 😉

Speaking of dreams and goals, here’s a quick run-down of accomplishments of the last year, from my 2018 dreams post, since I’m curious how I did with them!

Dreams from 2018 that came true

  1. Finish a novel (possibly The Siren and the Skyship) — CHECK! This was definitely a highlight, finishing in the midst of NaNo.
  2. Start Instagramming — Done! I’ve already posted over 100 bookish pictures there since starting in July and it’s the. most. fun. thing. ever!
  3. Start a Facebook pageCheck! Though I should definitely get back to posting on it more . . .
  4. Set up my official website — DONE! This was one of the hugest and most exhausting but also rewarding things. I did it all by myself and it was hard but I’m super happy with how it turned out.
  5. Spend more time writing stories/characters I love most — Check! Tare and The Other Half of Everything and The Siren and the Skyship definitely qualify.
  6. Get my freelance proofreading/copyediting business off the ground — Done! I spent a lot of last year editing fabulous stories for Kyle Robert Shultz, mostly. (My new title is The Editor of the Afterverse.) I’m excited for the projects I have lined up to hopefully edit this year. I adore polishing novels and short stories, catching all the typos in my typo-net. ❤ I’m calling it a very successful first year of editing. 🙂
  7. Have a giveaway or two — Done! I love giving away books so I hope to keep doing that.
  8. Go to the Realm Makers 2018 conference — YES! When I wrote that as a “dream” I had no idea it could actually happen, but it did and was the most amazing experience! (A post and another post about it.)

Half Accomplished

  1. Start a newsletter — Check! Ish. I set it up but haven’t really sent one out yet, which is slightly awkward. (But it’s terrifying, okay!) Setting up the list itself is a start. I hope to figure out the grand art of newsletters soon-ish. (And hey, if you sign up for it you get a free flash fiction, and will get to read my first newsletter I send, whenever I do! XD)
  2. Just write (no more perfectionism/not-starting) — Sort of? I’d say 50/50 on this.
  3. Letting myself have writing time — Not really? But at the same time I did write a fair amount. I do need to work on these two more, though.
  4. Develop the Siren and the Skyship sequels — Part of me is tempted to say I accomplished this, given that the two sequels have exploded and changed and switched places and also stolen parts of book one. So they’re more developed, but definitely not enough to actually write. So, again, half.
  5. Be open about writing dreams/thoughts on my blog — I did at times, but I also didn’t blog here nearly as much as I usually do, since I was rather busy living life, so I feel like I didn’t have much of a chance to talk about these things.
  6. Get closer to publishing something — The writing, learning, and network building that I’ve done this past year is definitely getting me closer to this elusive goal, but there’s still nothing definite. So I’m calling this half-accomplished.

Didn’t Do

  1. Finish the short stories I started — Nope. But I nearly finished two novels so I’m okay with this. It just wasn’t their time, apparently. 😛
  2. Figure out what I plan to do about publishing — I’ve learned a lot more in the last year about publishing, both traditional and indie, but I’m still no closer to a decision about what I’m going to do with my own writing.
  3. Write more blog posts — Heheh. Not really. XD
  4. Gather publishing/marketing info as a list of tips — Nope. Would still like to do this someday, maybe?

Well! I’m pretty happy with how many of those dreams I managed to track down and haul into becoming a reality! 🙂

A few other highlights:

Writerly Highlights: 2018

I wrote 103K words in 2018! Which makes me happy. (I usually average around that much but had quite a bit less in 2017 so I’m happy that my slump went away. XD)

This included:

  • 51,600 words of The Siren and the Skyship and finished it at a total of 95K!
  • 42,700 words of KW2 (which is currently at 123K and almost finished. *cough*)
  • 4,000 words of The Other Half of Everything, including finishing the first chapter (even though I have about 18K of the book total; I write out of order . . . it’s complicated.)

Other writing stuff that happened:

  • My 2013 NaNo, Underground Rainbow, decided it’s actually a trilogy and split itself into three parts. (This means the first book is suddenly finished, even though I didn’t write any extra. How beautiful is that?)
  • The two sequels to The Siren and the Skyship exploded and then switched places, so that book 3 is now book 2, and book 2 is now book 3. It broke my brain but I’m excited. I also had major breakthroughs about the Sky Voyages series in general.
  • Tare’s series had a couple of interesting developments regarding side stories.
  • I did some major plotting for The Other Half of Everything.
  • Tare and a KW side character nobody’s met yet, along with the purple-haired painter/artist Kevin Johnson from Undercavern Rainbow, as well as Ivan and Lulin Aurelius from The Other Half of Everything, and a raven-shifter fellow, have all decided that they want an urban fantasy novel mashup with all of them in it, and that they’re going to team up for a magical heist, and EXCUSE ME why did none of you guys tell me your books existed in the same world?? HELLO. O_O (Pushy characters. I tell ya.) Anyway, that happened. It’s called The Portal Heist and I’m super excited. I do, awkwardly, have to finish several other books before I can get to this one, but it gives me something to look forward to. 😉

I also:

  • Won a flash-fiction writing contest
  • Was a finalist in another flash-fiction contest
  • Did Camp NaNo in April and passed my 10-hour goal
  • Participated in (and won) NaNoWriMo in November for the 9th time. I wrote 58,323 words, which is the most I’ve written in a single month, ever.
  • Won the Indie E-con word-war with over 10K words in a week. XD
  • Kept my 9th writing-journal and wrote in it every week
  • I mentioned this, but I expanded my online platform with my new website, Instagram, Facebook and Facebook page, and newsletter.
  • Had many lovely get-togethers with delightful writer friends, including workshops, a writer retreat in a cozy cabin over a weekend, Realm Makers (!!), NaNoWriMo events, and just getting together in small groups and chatting. ❤
  • Ran a local NaNo region for the 6th year
  • Wrote 92 blog posts (across my two blogs), including a guest post about Draft Zero
  • And it’s not exactly writerly, but I went on two major roadtrips this last year (one to Realm Makers, one to visit family) and they were both awesome. We can call that research?

Whew! I had no idea so much awesomeness happened. I’m very glad I decided to write this post after all and found out. XD

I’m going to call 2018 an EXCELLENT year in the writing department, and look forward to the new year.

2019.

*tastes how it sounds*

Let’s make it a good one, shall we?

I’ll leave you with my new bullet journal (bjournal, as I Nordic-ly call it) and my new writing journal — a fabulous steampunk cat!

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Know the Novel: Writing and Beyond (Siren and the Skyship & Tare)

It’s time for another Know the Novel post — hurray! The third and final in a series of writer linkups from my dear blogging buddy Christine @ Musings of an Elf!

You can check it out here and read my two previous installments here and here.

Once again, I’m answering with The Siren and the Skyship (S&S; my YA steampunk-fantasy Little Merman novel) and The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (KW2; wintry contemporary fantasy), since those are what I was writing for NaNo and they’re the only things my brain has been thinking about. (*pretends this is true and casually pushes aside other jealous novels who are looking over my shoulder waiting for their turn*)

Onward to the questions!

1. Firstly, how did writing this novel go all around?

S&S: Considering that I wrote it in about a year, which is fast for me, and that I actually got to the end, SPLENDIDLY. Though, on the other hand, it kept switching directions, which is going to make the rewriting a total headache. But I can’t really complain because each time it changed, it got so much more awesome. Overall, I totally loved writing it! It was fun almost the entire time and I had an absolute BLAST writing this thing!

KW2: I . . . don’t know for sure since I still haven’t finished it. *hangs head in shame* I’ve written nearly a thousand words since NaNo but have just been too busy to write these last couple of chapters and finish! But overall it seems to have gone pretty okay, other than taking years to write and wanting to be written out of order and stuff. XD Still, it’s been fun because I love these characters!

2. Did it turn out like you expected or completely different? And how do you feel about the outcome?

S&S: I really don’t know because I haven’t had a chance to look at it since finishing. And I know it’s a terrifying mess and needs to be seriously rewritten. XD I think I’m pretty pleased, though. It’s just a rough draft so I’ll know more once I get to the rewriting stage. *hides* I think the main thing I’m surprised about is that I thought it would be basically a standalone, wrapping up most things, with the two sequels just following other characters we’ve met. UM. AHAHA. NO. There’s a whole lot left hanging and the books are so interlocked now and eeeee I’m really excited!

KW2: Again, can’t quite answer this since I haven’t finished. And given that I originally thought it would be a small holiday novella, and it’s currently at 120K+ and not quite finished, I’d say it turned out quite different. XD I do wish the plot would cooperate more and that the villains weren’t hiding all their villainous secrets until the end, though. Ahem.

3. What aspect of the story did you love writing about the most? (Characters, plot, setting, prose, etc.)

S&S: CHARACTERS. I adore them all and they’ve been so much fun to write. Although, actually, the setting takes a close second, because this steampunk fantasy world with rocky pillars and mist and skyships and clockwork dragons and cloud cities IS MY FAVORITE.

KW2: Definitely Tare and the Chess Club. ❤ I love them so much.

4. How about your least favorite part?

S&S: I don’t know if I have a least favorite part of the writing. It was just fun, I tell you!

KW2: I don’t know… All the times I got stuck, I suppose. XD

5. What do you feel like needs the most work?

S&S: ALL OF IT. *collapses* Probably the main plot-lines of Auren and Tasmania, and just fitting everything together properly. The fact that it kept changing hugely as I wrote it, and then I’d keep writing as if I’d fixed it, has made it quite the patchwork story. It’s going to need a ton of work. But I’m excited too, because I love it so much and can’t wait to rewrite it to its full potential!

KW2: The length, the meandering plot, and the villains not being active enough. All due to thinking it was going to be a novella and then it got huge. XD And the fact that I hardcore hoarded plot-reveal-secrets. At the moment I just want to finish and get on to the next adventure, though! I’m writing this one for fun so at the moment I’m learning what I can but not bothering too much about making it The Perfect Novel — yet.

6. How do you feel about your characters now that the novel is done? Who’s your favorite? Least favorite? Anyone surprise you? Give us all the details!

S&S: I lurve themmm. My favorite would be Rook (haha. Don’t be too surprised, everyone . . . *cough*), BUT I have so many other favorites too! Like Tasmania and Gerias. Xasper, Rook’s little brother, surprised me by being so fun and sneaky. Noya surprised me by being kind of tense and awesome. Tasmania’s twin brothers surprised me by gaining their own personalities and being totally different — like how Durward apparently loves food. XD And Auren and Keller have surprised me by being totally different than I thought they were, which is awkward, given that they’re the main characters of books 1 and 2 and I kind of have to rewrite them now. 😛 As for least-favorite . . . we can give that one to Captain Haversham, Rook’s new boss, who is blackmailing him and is TOTALLY SLIMY. Okay, and the Sorcerer of the Mist, because eek.

KW2: I kind of don’t make any secret of the fact that Tare is my favorite character. 😉 I do have new favorite characters but they’re spoilers. The Chess Club are fun, of course, and I really liked getting to do more with Adrian and Ivy — love them! And how Lavender is kind of almost like a little-sister for Tare and slkdjflkdj she kind of looks after him and it’s the cutest. Least favorite would be Greg — yeesh. I think I was surprised how Harold “Perfect-Teeth” was less straight-up villain than I thought; like, he’s a jerk but he’s kind of mild about it. Or maybe it’s just the comparison with Greg. And both the new characters are surprising me a bit, just because I hadn’t met them before. And I had no idea Robin would be quite so bouncy. XD Also there’s a side character who is like “by the way, there’s something up with me” and I’m like “excuse me, you only just arrived and there’s only like two chapters left so there can’t possibly be anything at all up with you; and anyway you’re not important” and said character is like “fine, I’ll just disappear and be a loose thread, then” and I’m like “??? RUDE?” Writing. I tell ya.

7. What’s your next plan of action with this novel?

S&S: Let it sit for awhile while I cry over what a mess it is let it simmer on the back-burner. After that . . . well . . . maybe I’ll start the major mess that is trying to rewrite it? *sound of characters laughing at me* Or possibly move on to writing the sequel instead. *cough* (What? I need to know what happens later so I can make the series make sense . . .)

KW2: FINISH IT. AAAGH. I’m so close. So. close. After that, I don’t know, but I might lowkey move on to sequels on this one too . . .

Thanks, Tare. I did have Christmas, you know. …Aaand you don’t care, do you.

8. If you could have your greatest dream realized for this novel, what would it be?

S&S: Have it re-writtten just right, published with a shiny cover, and sitting on shelves — and people enjoying it. 🙂 Having it be super popular wouldn’t go amiss but is not 100% required. XD

KW2: I don’t even know. Probably having it make sense (*editing sobbing*) and maybe published? I don’t know… This series I just started for fun but in the long run I’d like it to be out there someday. 🙂

9. Share a snippet of one of your most favorite scenes!

S&S:

“Hear that, Durward?” Percival called across Tasmania’s shoulder as their brother walked past them with a crystal glass in one hand and a plate of some kind of pastries in the other.

“Mmm?” Durward said, pausing and turning with eyebrows raised, in mid-chew on something delectable.

Percy repeated the appointment: library, midnight (ish) or as soon as they could get away from the ball, the three of them, talking.

Durward nodded. “Will do. I had my heart set on a night of real sleep, but”—he sighed dramatically—“I can sacrifice it for the good of the country so you can fall asleep at your coronation tomorrow.”

Percy snagged a pastry from Durward’s china plate, saying, “Is that so,” while Tasmania was laughing and trying to say she’d been saying the same thing.

“Now put those down. We need to find you somebody to dance with,” Percival added.

“Not a chance. I’m starving. All that paperwork makes a man hungry.”

“But we have already decided to find you a partner,” Tasmania said.

Durward smiled winningly. “Already have one.”

They paused, blinked, and stared at him in silent questioning.

He gestured with his drink at his plate.

They groaned.

“Food and I. True love. Won’t find me a better.”

“You’ll need to sign on as my cabin boy after this,” Tasmania said mock-seriously.

“And why’s that?” he asked, somehow munching on another pastry while still holding his refreshments in both hands.

“For the exercise, of course. Nothing like climbing rigging to keep a man fit,” Tasmania said innocently.

“You don’t see Percy doing that sort of thing,” Durward remarked placidly.

“You forget that all I’m ever doing is constantly running around after matters of state,” Percy said. “So much exercise. You’d be wise to take Mania up on her offer if you’re set on your true love and all. You’ll get fat sitting behind a desk doing paperwork and doing nothing but eating pastries.”

“Bah,” Durward said cheerfully and ambled off through the crowd.

KW2:

(The Chess Club and Tare are locked down in a cold, dark, underground room.)

Lavender sighed. “I wish we had our phones.”

“Me too,” Ivy said. “We could call Adrian.”

“We could call Mr. Larch,” Marie said.

“We could call both,” Jake added gloomily.

“You could call neither,” Tare said.

They all looked up at him and there were some noses wrinkled in annoyance.

“We were just getting comfortable with light and wishful thinking—don’t rain on our parade!” Baz complained.

“I’m not raining on anyone’s parade,” Tare said. “Just saying. No good. There’s no signal down here.”

“And you know this exactly how?” came Ivy’s skepticism.

Tare reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a shiny black cellphone, which he waved slightly. “Because I checked.”

They were taken aback. “You have a cellphone?” Marie said, catching onto the unspoken question from the others and voicing it for them.

“No, I have a magical box I keep in my pocket which can surf the Internet. Of course I have a cellphone; what’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing, but . . . you have a cellphone,” Lavender stammered.

Tare sighed, slipping it back in his pocket. “Not this again.”

“No, really,” Baz said. “How did this happen?”

“Someone gave it to me.”

“Now that I find hard to believe,” Ivy said.

The corner of Tare’s mouth twitched. “Long story.”

10. Did you glean any new writing and/or life lessons from writing this novel?

S&S: Draft Zero is still magical. Write in quick scenes like it’s a movie — you don’t have to connect everything because that’s boring. Keep going to the end because it won’t look the same when you get there. And once you get to the end, you’ll know how the rest needs to go.

KW2: I probably learn all sorts of life lessons from writing Tare. XD But a writing lesson I learned the hard way is make sure that big-important-things happen early on and keep happening — don’t hoard plot-reveal-secrets (okay, hoard a few for the end; but sprinkle some throughout!). And don’t write long books. *cough* Also, writing out of order is simultaneously the best and worst life choice ever. XD


I hope you guys enjoyed this look at how the writing went! I don’t know when I’ll find time to finish KW2 but here’s hoping it will be sometime in the next month! Let me know what you think in the comments below, and thanks so much for reading!

Guess Who Finished A Novel?? (Know the Novel 2: Within Siren & the Skyship and Tare)

NaNo’s almost over and it’s time to answer the super fun questions for the second round of Christine Smith’s fabulous writer linkup, Know the Novel!

I’m doing the two novels I’m writing for NaNo, The Siren and the Skyship (“S&S” — YA steampunk-fantasy Little Merman), and The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (“KW2” — wintry contemporary fantasy sequel). You can read my answers to the first round of questions introducing the novels at that link!

1. How’s the writing going?

STUPENDOUSLY.

I hit a very exciting point on the night of the 27th:

I HIT 50K AND WON MY 9TH NANOWRIMO!!! 😀 I’m super excited. ^_^

It was super hard just to stay on track the first week or so, simply because life was SO BUSY, but I somehow stayed on par for the first 8 days, just barely.

On November 9th, I wrote over 8,000 words (beating my personal record for a single day) and FINISHED The Siren and the Skyship!!!

Guys, I’m so happy! This is my fifth finished novel, but I hadn’t finished a novel (novellas/short stories don’t count) in 5 years and just… the thrill of finally doing so again and getting to the end of this story I’m so in love with was absolutely amazing! ❤ It’s 95K words long, a total and absolute mess of writing, with draft zero bits scattered here and there, and is going to need a complete overhaul and rewrite because the story kept changing itself on me… but I still absolutely adore it AND IT’S DONE FOR NOW.

I’m so, so happy. ^_^

Bucky is grouchy because some random writer girl’s stats bars are hitting him in the chin. (gorgeous art/spreadsheet credit to Svenja Gosen)

So the first 9 days of NaNo, I worked on S&S and wrote 21K on that.

On November 10, I switched right over to working on The Secret of Kedran’s Wood. I’ve been making SERIOUS progress on that and it’s absolutely glorious! I’ve written 33K on it this month and finished part 2 and I’m in the final homestretch of the novel. AAAHH!

And, as I mentioned, I hit 50K for the month on Tuesday! 😀

I’m actually STILL writing, though, because KW2 is not over yet and I probably won’t finish this month but I’m close enough that I want to keep writing anyway! (Let’s just pretend the novel isn’t 118K already and not quite done. *dies*)

SO YEAH. At the time of writing this post, I’m at 55K for the month, and I don’t know if I’ll get much more done before December 1st hits, but it’s been going great and I’ve been having a blast!

a write-in I hosted

2. What’s been the most fun aspect about writing this novel so far?

S&S: The characters I love and the steampunk-fantasy world and getting to write the ending! ❤

KW2: Getting to write scenes I’ve been looking forward to getting to for ages — and writing characters I love so much. ^_^

3. Has your novel surprised you in any way?

S&S: Given that I didn’t actually know all the details of the big-ending-stuff and how it would happen until I was this close to having to actually write it . . . I’d say yes. It’s been surprising me the entire book because I keep thinking it’s going to be a certain way and then the story veers off completely and leaves me going “OKAY THEN” with my mind blown but really excited about the new direction. It’s just going to make it really hard to rewrite. *cough*

KW2: I’m surprised at how it’s coming together finally because I thought I’d never get to this point. XD But I’m really excited!

4. What do you think of your characters at this point? Who’s your favorite to write about?

S&S: I LOVE THEM ALL. Rook is definitely my favorite to write (hence why he stole the show and then proceeded to get a sequel), but Princess Tasmania is really fun to write too, and so are her brothers (love themmm!) and street-thief Xasper and sky-pirate Keller (who is also stealing a sequel for himself and earned an AHA epilogue at the end of this one), and even Gerias (young Sean Bean) and Noya who’s kind of intense and I lowkey ship her with Rook. ANYWAY. I love all of them and honestly the entire cast is a blast to write. 😀 I’m already really excited to write more about all of them in the two sequels!

KW2: I obviously lurve all of my characters in this, given that I am nearly done their second book when I was only originally going to write one book! 😉 Tare is definitely my favorite to write, being my favorite ever, but I’m also really enjoying a couple of new, spoilery characters, including one I just met the other day and am absolutely ecstatic about because I’ve been dreaming of meeting this person for AGES.

5. If you were transported into your novel and became any one of the characters, which one do you think you’d be? Would you take any different actions than they have?

S&S: I’m never good at this question! I’d probably be a random crew member on the Star Dreamer? If I had to be a major character I’d be Tasmania but I’d be terrible at being as awesome and brave and no-nonsense as she is, sooo yes, my different actions would consist of sitting in the enormous library at the palace in the sky city, devouring books and scones and tea, instead of doing action and quests, and there would be no story. XD

KW2: Well. I’d like to think I’d be Tare but honestly I’d be no good at that despite our kindred souls, so I’d doubtless be Lavender, and since she’s kind of a timid, cautious kind of person, I’d probably do about what she does… Or maybe I’d be somewhere between her and Marie.

6. Give us the first sentence or paragraph and then 2 (or 3!) more favorite snippets!

Probably because I’ve been writing near the end of the books, most of my favorite lines are terrible spoilers so I can’t share them, but let’s give this a go…

S&S opening:

Princess Tasmania Peckham-Archley fell through the clouds.

This was not usually a problem. Normally, she could catch hold of ropes hanging from her skyship—and anyway, her personal clockwork dragon was programmed to swoop down and catch her when she fell.

Normally.

Unfortunately, normal didn’t cover it this time.

***

S&S snippets:

“I didn’t even know he had a brother—step-brother,” Tasmania amended quickly before Keller could correct her, “until we ran into you. I thought Gerias was an open book.”

“Oh, he is,” Keller said breezily. “You just weren’t reading the right chapter.”

***

“I don’t know,” Rook stammered, running his fingers through his black hair. “I don’t remember. I don’t even know… That is… Do I know you? And who’s Rook?”

***

The front bell tinkled and Xasper clattered in through the door. “Noya, get going—we’re going to be late,” he said by way of greeting.

You’re going to be late if you order me around—late for what?”


KW2 opening:

Sporadic sleet and a biting December wind conspired to form a day not fit for man or beast. Marie Valerian and her brother Jake, being neither, were of course out in it.

KW2 snippet:

“Are you okay?” Lavender asked automatically.

“Sure. Fine,” Tare said.

“You’re tied to a chair,” Baz pointed out.

“Oh, really? People keep telling me that.”

Lavender skidded to her knees in front of the chair on the concrete and reached for some of the ropes, holding out her other hand. “Baz, give me a knife.”

There was a pause. She looked up to see Baz hovering uncertainly. Lavender dropped her hand and her shoulders slumped a little. “Seriously? I thought all boys have pocket knives.”

Baz coughed. “It’s been awhile since my Boy Scout days. I might have some gum if that helps any . . .”

Tare sighed and kicked his foot a little. “In my right boot.”

7. Have you come across any problem areas?

S&S: Um, how about THE ENTIRE BOOK? *headdesks repeatedly* Honestly, it keeps switching direction and is so full of inconsistencies, due to my continuing writing while acting like I’ve already addressed them, that it would make less than zero percent sense if anyone else were to try to read it right now. 😛

KW2: *sweeps sudden gaping plot holes and entire lack of a plot under the rug* Nothing to see here… *innocent whistling*

8. What’s been your biggest victory with writing this novel at this point?

S&S: FINISHING IT! ❤ I’m seriously so, so excited about this, even though it feels like a long ago thing of the past since it was in the first third of NaNo. XD *cough* And a few mind-blowing plot pieces clicking into place. 😉

KW2: Finishing part two, which I feel like I’ve been writing FOREVER and was a huge milestone for me, and getting to meet a certain character… And honestly just getting SO CLOSE to the end of this thing! I still have big ending stuff and wrapup to do, and honestly no clue how to do a lot of that, but it’s still closer than I dreamed of getting on this thing. ^_^

9. Be honest, have you killed any characters off yet?

ER. SPOILERS, HELLO. (I mean, if you know me, you might have a guess… so probably not. *cough*)

10. Take us on a tour of what a normal writing day for this particular novel has looked like. Where do you write? What time of day? Alone or with others? Is a lot of coffee (or some other drink) consumed? Do you light candles? Play music? Get distracted by social media (*cough, cough*)? Tell all!

It depends but I usually end up writing in the evenings, and I’ll often see if any friends are online word-sprinting. I really like doing wordsprints even if it’s by myself. For S&S, I’d usually have Stay Till the Daylight by Skillet (Rook’s themesong for the sequel) or Skyworld on repeat while writing, with my earbuds in and a wordsprint timer open in one window, and Scrivener in another.

For KW2, it’s the same layout but I usually listen to Kate Price’s Planxty Amblade-Cruso (the themesong melody for KW2 because it feels wintry and just fits it). OR, lately, I’ve been listening to an assortment of various songs I like on youtube, most noticeably this GORGEOUS version of Rewrite the Stars from The Greatest Showman, done by the Piano Guys, which I had on repeat for forever. ❤

Also, I’ve been wearing my new fingerless gloves when it’s been cold, which I crocheted one week while I was procrastinating writing. 😉

At a write-in — and one of the rare times I had a coffee because peppermiiiint from Starbucks since I had a giftcard to use. Hence this “classic” writer photo. XD


Whew. That’s it from me today — I hope you enjoyed this look within the WIPs and hearing about my NaNo! How are YOU doing, NaNoers or otherwise? If you’re doing NaNo and still need to write, GOOD LUCK TO YOU!!! YOU CAN DO IT! Even if you’re nowhere near hitting 50K, keep writing all the same because it’s still writing! ^_^ Congrats to any fellow NaNo winners — you rock! And also to all you people not doing NaNo: we’re almost done flailing about it and getting back to normal life, promise. XD

One more day, guys!

Thanks for reading and lemme know what you think of the snippets or… anything! 🙂

Tare & Steampunk Little Merman: In Which I Go Rebel For NaNo 2018 (Know the Novel Intro Linkup)

(Just to clarify on that silly post title: Tare and the Steampunk Little Merman are not in the SAME story. XD)

Today I’m joining in on Christine Smith’s fun new noveling linkup to share about my 2018 NaNo project!

But first, a little about my plans.

I’m officially going all-out Rebel for NaNo this year.

There, I said it. 😛

Fun facts in list form (because lists!):

  • We’ll see if it goes according to plan, but I’m currently hoping to work on two different books I’ve started before.
  • So I’m… like… a double Rebel. XD (Since you’re “supposed to” start a new work and only write one thing.)
  • This will be my 9th NaNo. (Whaaat?? Where did time go?)
  • PLUS, this is really my first purposeful time of going Rebel for NaNo!
  • I’ve rebelled two other times, but both were by accident. 😛
  • One year I got halfway into the month and totally scrapped the book, realizing I’d need to rewrite it, and so worked on two other things.
  • And then last year I wrote a short story as well as starting a new novel but that was kind of a last-minute decision.

At the moment my goal is to FINISH (or at least get quite close to their endings) TWO novels I’ve been working on:

1) The Siren and the Skyship (steampunk-fantasy YA Little Mermaid — I mean Merman — retelling) — I started this for NaNo last year, got 40-some thousand words written (because of said short story which filled in the rest of the 50K) and have been working on it all year since. It’s now up to 73K and I’m hoping that I can finish it next month.

2) The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (YA contemporary fantasy, book 2 in a series, featuring Tare — my favorite character. Shh, don’t tell anyone else. …Eh, never mind. They know already. 😛 ) — I’ve been writing this since… erm… 2014. *cough* It’s currently a monstrous mess of about 86K words, including snippets and bits all over the place and I really want to get those sewn together and the book finished up finally.

I have in my mind about how long I’d like them both to be, and to fill that up for each would be a combined total of about 50K. (I’m 10000% aware that my novels love to laugh in my face and be way longer than I planned. But at least I can make SOME progress??)

SO YEAH. No exciting new novel to announce this year — sorry! Just continuing on two old favorites of mine. Which, honestly, has me super excited because I love them. ^_^

Usually, I spend NaNo starting new books and not finishing them, so this year I figured I’d try something new.

But also, endings are scary and hard and whyamIdoingthistomyselfhalp, so… wish me luck. *bites nails*

SO. I’m going to do Christine Smith’s exciting new novel linkup, Know the Novel, to talk a little about both of these! I know I’ve rambled about both books before, but I’m excited about these questions so I’m going to talk more about my precious book brainchilds — so there. 😛 Hopefully y’all won’t mind. 😉


Giveaway Winner

OH! And last week I shared some NaNo writing tips and ran a giveaway for a copy of “No Plot? No Problem!” by NaNo founder Chris Baty, and today I’m excited to announce that the winner is…

Lilian S.!

Congrats, Lilian! I’ll be contacting you shortly. 🙂

Thanks so much for entering, everyone! ^_^


Now, onward to the Official Linkup Questions!

If you want to know more Tare things or stuff about my steampunk Little Mermaid book (including NEW AND IMPROVED BLURBS — YAY! — for both books), then read on!

Know the Novel, a writers linkup by Christine @ Musings of an Elf! Image from her post.

(Abbreviations: The Secret of Kedran’s Wood = KW2. The Siren and the Skyship: S&S.)

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

S&S: The idea of a Little Mermaid retelling in the sky instead of in the sea, with a wind/cloud siren instead of a merperson — and the siren being a guy, while the heroine is a princess and a skyship captain… because steampunk. >:D So yeah.

KW2: After writing the first book (which was supposed to be a standalone — hahahaHAHAHA — ahem), I still had adventures to explore with Tare and the Chess Club. I loved them too much to stop writing them. Originally there was going to be one sequel (which is now book 3) but then I had an idea for a fun little wintry/Christmassy short story or novella between the two, since I had some fun winter scenes in mind. So I started writing that. Then it became book 2 and is currently a monstrously long novel. Figures. 😉

2. Share a blurb!

The Siren and the Skyship (Sky Voyages Ever After, #1)

Searching for his father’s killer, Prince Auren the Cloud Siren needs to be more substantial than a wind spirit. But to become human he must make a trade. Who needs a voice, anyway?

Princess Tasmania Peckham-Archley of the Royal Skynavy finds her life thrown into chaos when assassins strike. She’ll do anything to stop a war from erupting between the sky city states and tearing apart what’s left of her family.

Fighting to forge a new life for himself in the skynavy after everything he holds dear is ripped away, Stirling Rook holds the most dangerous secret of all—one the Sorcerer of the Mist will be happy to take off his hands.

Assassins prowl cloud city rooftops, the pirate king terrorizes the skies, unknown death lurks down the misty ravines where no one goes, and the Sorcerer of the Mist keeps collecting things that don’t belong to him . . .

Tasmania, Auren, and the Star Dreamer’s crew may soar through the clouds on skyships and clockwork dragons, but have they traded away the only thing that can defeat the darkness?

One thing’s for sure: they’ll need all the magic, tea, and true love they can find.

***

The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (Kedran’s Wood, #2)

All that monster stuff the Chess Club of Kedran’s Wood went through in the summer is absolutely and completely over. Totally. Isn’t it?

There are mysteries afoot in the town by Kedran’s Wood. Mr. Larch’s sister is visiting, but the rest of the Chess Club haven’t actually seen her. What is the connection between the Wildlings and the new guy around town and his goons? And why are they looking for Tare?

Speaking of which . . . the resident leather-clad stranger (no longer so strange) returns from his absence one snowy December day. Tare does some investigating of his own into the people looking for him, but he’s haunted by nightmares and the approach of a night that might make his worst fears a reality.

Harold Starrford and his step-father aren’t going to stop until they know the information Tare possesses, and they don’t care who gets caught in the crossfire. Tare’s not going to have that — not in his town. Throw in a mysterious dog that keeps popping up around town, and a legend of a dark faerie (which might not be so legendary), and it’s business as usual around Kedran’s Wood for the Chess Club and Tare these days.

And, oh yeah, Christmas is coming. How is the Chess Club going to find time for gingerbread house making contests? And what on earth are they going to do for Tare for Christmas? If all of them can make it that long, that is . . .

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

S&S: IN THE SKY in a fantasy world. I absolutely love having floating cities, skyships soaring through clouds (and clockwork dragons to ride instead of boats/shuttles/helicopters/whatever), and mysterious pillars of rock all over the place hiding in the mist that skyships have to sail through. Plus creepy ravines nobody goes down because you… kinda die if you go down there. *cough* And I also love the steampunk-flavored touch to this fantasy world, with cool old-fashioned clothes and coats and ball dances and clocks and gears and steam-rifles and the occasional magical gadgetry and especially skyships. The skyships are my favorite. 😀

KW2: In a small town in modern-day America, next to a wood. Kedran’s Wood itself has to be my favorite part of the setting (it’s kind of mysterious and just so neat), but I’m also partial to using abandoned warehouses etc. for the villains to lurk in. And Tare lives in the deserted side of town in his own cozy “lair” as the Chess Club have named it. I kind of want to live there…

4. Tell us about your protagonist.

S&S: *nervous laughter* Which one? XD I kind of have three. 😛

Auren is a cloud-siren prince (okay, so he’s the seventh son, so not that important) which means he’s an insubstantial air spirit. Or, he was. Now he’s human, and he’s not at all used to it. XD He’s got white hair and he’s seventeen and super cool. I actually need to rewrite his entire plotline, and his personality also just changed, so I’m going to move to somebody else here. (But it’s his story, pretty much. He’s the “little mermaid” er… merman… er… siren. I mean, he’s neither little, nor mer, nor a maid, but it’s still a Little Mermaid retelling, I promise. *cough*)

Princess/Captain Tasmania is the princess of a city in the clouds, but since she has two older brothers in line for the throne (twins, actually; one the crown prince, one in charge of the sky navy — they’re awesome, by the way), she’s free to captain her own beloved skyship, the Star Dreamer, in the Royal Sky Navy. She flies around with her motley crew she’s put together (including Auren and Rook now… bwahaha), doing various missions. And she’s like seventeen too, and has curly red hair.

If I tell you about Rook I’ll be here all day because he’s my favorite and keeps stealing the show, but he’s in the Royal Sky Navy and is really cool, and if you ask him he’ll let you know that his author is super mean. *cough*

(Me: Stop stealing the spotlight in this book already, won’t you? I already promised you a sequel!

Rook: And then you made it book 3 instead of book 2. I’m only saying.

Me: Blame Keller! He’s a sky pirate! Of course he stole your book!)

KW2:

The Chess Club are kind of the protagonists, but, again, it would take awhile to introduce them all… Briefly, there’s shy Lavender, rambunctious Baz (the pun-master), fiery Ivy, confident Adrian (who clashes with Tare sometimes), and the siblings, solid Marie and cautious Jake. There’s also wry Mr. Larch (the only one who’s not a teen), and Small Occasion the little fluffy white dog. 😉

Tare is honestly the real protagonist, though. He’s my favorite character I’ve ever written, so… I can’t really sum him up in a paragraph. *cough* I can start, though. He’s 19 (ish… it’s complicated), has black hair and always wears a black leather jacket (usually carting a fair number of weapons in it to deal with any… situations that might arise, though his fists would work just as well). He’s a little mysterious and shady-seeming, with a dark past (like… Khazad-dum dark… Don’t even think of going there.) but honestly he has a heart of gold and you want him on your side in a pinch. Just don’t expect him to be social.

I will direct you to previous interviews and such if you would like more of a glimpse at what Tare is like. XD Here, here, and here to start with.

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

S&S: The Sorcerer of the Mist, who’s… kind of like the stand-in for the Sea Witch of the original tale, but is actually a tall, thin man in a long coat who’s kind of elegant and totally creepy. He’s the main antagonist, but there are also sky pirates and assassins and a traitor sky navy captain (who is a total jerk, ugh) and some danger lurking down the misty ravines which makes no one ever return… There’s a lot of antagonistic forces in this one. I like to keep things interesting for my characters. *cough*

KW2: There’s more than one antagonist in this as well, and… er… awkwardly, one of them is Harold “Mr. Perfect-Teeth” Starrford (the nickname is what the Chess Club called him before learning his name. XD), the guy who’s dating Mr. Larch’s sister Robin. So yeah. But the other one is Harold’s kinda-shady/ominous secretary-slash-step-father, Greg Nobody-really-remembers-his-last-name. (Aaand there may be an evil faerie involved. I’m just sayin’.)

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

S&S: ALL THE THINGS. Literally. The characters (I love them all so much, okay?), the world, the complicated plot now spilling into three books, the fairytale retelling aspect, the steampunkery and fantasyness… I LOVE IT ALL. I’m absurdly in love with all of the things in this book. And writing this blog post is making me even MORE excited! Like… can it be NaNo already? (I’m not ready, honest, but still.)

KW2: My favorite character, Tare, being awesome… as well as getting to meet A NEW CHARACTER I’m rather excited about. But really I love continuing this series. And at the moment, I’m just really ready for this second book to be DONE! (…So that I can hasten onward and write book 3 which has been attacking my brain lately. Not that I’ll complain. ;))

7. Is this going to be a series? Standalone? Something else?

They were both SUPPOSED to be standalones and are now series. XD Go figure.

S&S: This is the first in a fairytale retelling trilogy. Originally they were going to be standalones, just with a few recurring characters… but now they’re an awesome tangled mess of plot threads following all my favorite characters and being all interconnected and I’m so excited. Currently book 2 is a Jack and the Beanstalk/Snow White/Rapunzel book about a sky pirate by the name of Keller. Book 3 is about my fave character Rook (YAS!) and will feature The Snow Queen… and possibly Beauty and the Beast or East of the Sun, West of the Moon? I’m not sure yet. It’s being stubborn. They’re a bit more “inspired by” fairytales than straight-up retellings, but still fun. (Oh, and book 2 and 3 recently swapped places so MY BRAIN IS CONFUSED but don’t mind me.)

KW2: This is book 2 in a contemporary fantasy trilogy… with extras on the side. I’ve written book 1. Book 3 is going to feature the Chess Club and Tare on summer vacation, and scary agents and new characters and more secrets about Tare’s past and stuff. I’m excited. Then I have a smattering of short stories and novellas with the same characters, so yeah. Lots to write with this one! But it’s so much fun, I have no complaints. 😛 (There’s also the fact that Tare and another side character in the series recently teamed up in my head with some other side characters from two other books of mine to make me promise I’ll write a crossover Urban Fantasy heisty novel about all of them together. So there’s that. *cough*)

8. Are you plotting? Pantsing? Plansting?

Er… some of both, for both. I have a lot of scenes in my head, and a fair amount of notes, but I’m not nearly as plotted as I’d like to be for an actual NaNo month. I do have a rough idea of where things are going, though. And I technically have a list of the rest of the scenes in each, all divided up into 30 days of writing, so in THEORY I should be okay… until it all falls apart. XD I’m just hoping both of them will listen to me and let me get to the end. *sound of both books laughing at me in the background* (Me: Stop it, guys.)

9. Name a few things that makes this story unique.

S&S: Hopefully it’s a unique take on The Little Mermaid, and I like to think the setting is unique too. 🙂

KW2: This one’s unique because it’s about modern teenagers but WITHOUT THE TEENAGED DRAMA/ANGST/LOVE-TRIANGLES yay! XD Um. I’m sure there’s other unique things too. *cough*

10. Share a fun “extra” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

Well, for both, here’s a handy pinboard I always set up for NaNo, with various inspiration and stuff.

S&S: Drop by my Pinterest board for a look at the sort of “feel” of it! 🙂

And imagine a kind of Lindsey Stirling esque soundtrack going on. XD

KW2: And then I also have an inspiration board for this one.


SO. There you have a look at the two stories I’ll hopefully be immersed in for the following month!

And thanks to the ever-awesome Christine for the splendid linkup with the great questions! I’m extra looking forward to NaNo now, ready or not. 😀

Talk to me! What do you think about my NaNo plan? Learn anything new about my WIPs? Are YOU doing NaNo this year? (I’m HERE if you’d like to be buddies!) If you’re not NaNo-ing, I half-envy your sanity and hope you won’t mind a smidge of NaNo flailing going on this time of year — sorry. *cough* How is NaNo almost HERE?? :O HALP. #cuepanic

Tare and the Puppies (or) The Dragon of Kedran’s Wood {A Short Story}

The Dragon of Kedran’s Wood

Otherwise Entitled

Tare and the Puppies

by Deborah O’Carroll


Autumn leaves fell around Tare and the Chess Club and crunched underfoot as they set out on a hike through Kedran’s Wood. A cold wind swept through their hair and rattled the mostly-barren branches overhead. Beyond the branches, dark clouds lurked as the little group made its way through the trees: Lavender and Baz hand in hand, as were Ivy and Adrian, and wandering in and out were siblings Marie and Jake. These six were the Chess Club proper, merely missing Mr. Larch; he wasn’t a teenager like they were, so he didn’t always count. A damp Fall scent filled the air and made them want to go off on adventures.

“It’s a Tookish thing,” Marie said.

This particular excursion was a vague Chess Club scheme to get out and tell spooky stories while clambering around near the minor set of cliffs looming deep within Kedran’s Wood. Tare, who was not officially a member, but often lurked around, had come along for some reason.

“Keep you from breaking your necks,” he had said—though he didn’t actually need such an excuse. If he was going to be honest, he rather enjoyed their company, even if he never told them this. They were glad to have him along (though Baz protested that necks were far more difficult to break than, say, wrists, and that he didn’t intend to break anything).

“You should know better than to hike around in the woods the evening before November first,” Tare said comfortably, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his black leather jacket. “The night of Samhain, the Celtic New Year, when the veils between worlds are thin and you might run into a Faerie . . . or something less pleasant.”

“Like Kedran?” Adrian asked, referring to the legend of the Faerie after whom the wood had allegedly been named. Adrian helped his girlfriend Ivy hop over a crevice in the rock at their feet. “Or are we talking about something else?”

“Ghost stories!” Baz said happily, clambering around a large boulder on the rocky path.

“Faerie stories,” Tare corrected. “Much more interesting—and, I might add, more accurate.”

“But ghost stories are creepier,” Baz pouted. “And that’s the point of spooky stories on hiking or camping trips, especially on Halloween. I defy you to come up with something scarier than a ghost story.”

“Don’t!” Lavender said hastily, wide-eyed. She was just here for the sweater-weather and the leaves and the company. Spookiness was not her favorite thing, and she definitely didn’t want Baz daring Tare like that—both because she didn’t know how Tare would take it, and for fear that Tare might rise to the challenge and come up with something scary.

Jake, too, looked uncertain, but more undecided than specifically against the idea. The youngest teen in the group, he was cautious, but also liked a thrill at times.

Marie and Ivy, as well as Adrian—who was nearly as old as Tare—were made of tougher stuff and didn’t care either way.

Tare knew far scarier things than ghost stories, but wasn’t about to bring those up. Some memories were best left undisturbed. “I read a legend about a dragon in these woods, back in Kedran’s day. It’s a scary story if you want one,” he said casually.

“Dragons are awesome, not scary,” Baz said.

“They can be both,” Marie put in firmly.

“Well, I bet this one isn’t as scary as my ghost story,” Baz went on, skipping further up the path in a blur of blue jacket. “It’s about a— YAAHH!” Baz’s sentence—and Baz himself—disappeared abruptly, leaving only his startled yell and a swirl of leaves.

“Baz!” shouted several voices in alarm as the Chess Club rushed toward the hole he had disappeared into. Tare was there almost instantly, before any of the others, peering down into the dark.

“I’m okay!” Baz’s voice echoed up out of the rocky hole. “I think.” He coughed, and added, “I’ve found a secret cave! I wonder if it’s haunted . . .”

The Chess Club laughed in relief.

Tare grunted, muttering about priorities, and swung down into the hole, landing lightly in a crouch at the bottom and glancing around.

It wasn’t a very far drop, easy to climb back out of, and Lavender, Adrian, Ivy, and the Valerian siblings clambered down after Tare.

“I didn’t even break my wrist,” Baz remarked, on his feet and dusting himself off. He was dirty but unharmed. “Oh, look, there’s a passage,” he added excitedly, clearly having forgotten his ghost story. “Let’s explore it.”

“Mmm.” Tare eyed the shadowy opening in one wall of the cave. Despite knowing the wood and cliffs quite well, he had never been in here before, but caves had certain unpleasant connotations in his mind from an incident in his past. Some instinct suggested an edge of danger involved, which made him want to get the Chess Club out and safe first, and investigate it by himself, before they could go rushing into harm’s way.

The Chess Club, however, were chattering cheerfully, getting out flashlights and preparing to explore.

Tare stepped in before them, leading the procession. If they were going to go about this whole thing, as least he could be there to keep them from—well, from breaking their necks, or getting lost, or any other shenanigans they might get up to.

It was the Chess Club: there was sure to be something.

They weren’t accident-prone in particular, but things tended to happen around this wood nowadays, and Tare was normally there to get them out of one scrape or another—often when they poked their noses where they shouldn’t have. Like in Tare’s business. Or when they thought they were “helping” him. For all that, he wouldn’t trade them for anything—he just never said so aloud . . .

Rough brownish stone with uneven floor, walls, and ceiling, formed the tunnel they crept along. Shadows clung to the edges despite the flashlight beams Adrian and Jake shone in front of them. It was very dusty.

“I wonder if anyone’s ever been in here before,” Ivy said, ducking to avoid brushing her red hair against a cobwebby low spot in the ceiling.

“Maybe— Whoa,” Adrian began, and broke off, shining his light around as they stepped into a more open underground chamber, and stared around with many oohs and aahs.

The stone room yawned hugely, with an even floor, and was roughly circular—no, exactly circular, Tare noticed. He narrowed his eyes as they pierced the shadows, not needing the light from the flashlights since he had excellent night vision. Nature didn’t, on the whole, produce perfect circles, which meant someone had made this place. And something about it bothered him.

“Wait,” Tare said sharply, lurking by the wall as the six others wandered into the open space.

They stopped near the center, training their flashlights on him. “What?”

“There’s something . . .” Tare trusted his instincts—they’d kept him alive this long against some pretty extreme odds—and right now they were acting up something fierce. “I can’t explain. Just stay put a minute. Don’t move.” He padded carefully around the chamber.

“But—”

Tare half spun and sent a Look over his shoulder. “Stay.”

“Just as if we were a lot of puppies,” Baz muttered.

“The thought has crossed my mind,” Tare said dryly as he continued letting his gaze wander around, looking for—something.

“Now I’m just imagining us all as little puppies,” Baz said.

Adrian grinned. “We’d be adorable.”

Lavender and Ivy laughed. Jake and Marie grinned too.

“Yapping and being annoying,” Ivy said, smirking. “Is that how you think of us, Tare?”

More or less, but he didn’t say so.

“I can just imagine us all running around as puppies in here,” Marie said, sticking her hands in her pockets and looking around.

“Or we could wag our little tails, sitting in a circle,” Baz said, “right here—” They had unconsciously been moving around a little, despite Tare’s directive, and were gathered near the center. Of course, a perfectly round room would have an exact center . . .

Something clicked in Tare’s mind and he instantly spun toward them. “Don’t—!” he began.

But just at that moment, Baz and the others had all stepped right into a faintly-etched circle on the floor, directly in the middle of the circular room. Tare dived toward them, but too late. There was a clicking sound as the circle of stone indented slightly, and a sort of POOF. A cloud of purplish-grey smoke instantly appeared, enveloping the little ring of six people standing in the circle. A moment later, it cleared away, and . . .

Tare’s gaze moved downward.

Six pairs of eyes looked up at him from much nearer to the ground than they had been a moment before . . . as six puppies sat on the circular stone in the floor and blinked. All of them were thinking one collective thought, which somehow Tare heard from six startled minds at once:

Oops.

Tare stared down at them and blinked twice. “You have got to be kidding me.”

* * *

It was a very interesting thing, being suddenly turned into a small dog. Yet another interesting thing was the fact that, while they could not exactly speak, they seemed to be able to hear each other’s rapid thoughts in their minds. And Tare, being in the room and somehow connected, despite being still in his natural form (thank goodness), could hear their thoughts too.

Instantaneous puppy-transformation and telepathy. Well then.

Adrian seemed to be a golden retriever puppy, very yellow and furry. Ivy had become a little red setter—no wonder, with her hair. Jake was a young black lab, like a bundle of fluffy-silky adorable midnight. Marie was a poof of grey and white as a Siberian husky puppy who could have killed with her cuteness. Baz was a chocolate lab puppy, all big paws and velvet ears. Lavender seemed to be some sort of white puppy, with bristly fluffy fur and a little trembling black nose.

They were all aggressively adorable.

Their reactions were something like this:

Adrian: I’m a dog! I love dogs and I’m a dog now! Whoa. This could be cool. (Examining paws.) Granted, a very small one. (With some disappointment.) It was rather odd going from being an eighteen-year-old to a small puppy. (Pause.) I’M A DOG! Followed by excited panting and attempts to get his new tail under control.

Lavender: Oh my goodness! What just happened? Where are my hands?

Ivy: Oh, great. What am I going to tell mom?

Marie: Hmm. This is interesting. I wonder if I can smell— Yes, I can smell everyone and they have distinct scents. Fascinating.

Jake: Halp! I’m a dog! This is weird. And creepy. And . . . kind of awesome.

Baz: COOOOOL.

Non-dog-Tare: (Mentally face-palming.) What did I do to deserve this.

All the puppies paused in their frisking about, to glance up at Tare.

Oh, hey, I can hear what Tare’s thinking—awesome! was a collective sort of general thought from them all.

Tare blinked and instantly closed off his mind so they could no longer hear his thoughts, while he could still hear theirs. His experience with mind-communication in another world made him able to do this, while the Chess Club had no such abilities.

It was like slamming a mental door in their faces, and affected the Chess Club puppies acutely. All six of them sat right down, staring mournfully up at Tare with tragic eyes, ears drooping.

It was absolutely devastating.

Tare blinked down at them. But he didn’t let them back into his mind. He cleared his throat. “Now, what am I supposed to do with you all?”

A confusing mixture of responses followed this, jumbled up in the mental pathways like a traffic pile-up, so that it was difficult to discern who was thinking what. And some of it had nothing to do with his question.

Play?

Oh, wait, how about we figure out how to turn us back.

Being a puppy could be fun!

I’m so short.

Fix it, Tare!

It’s scary and dark in here.

Where’s the flashlight? Oh, over there on the floor . . . but I guess I can see better as a dog.

Ooh, I wonder what Tare’s boot lace tastes like . . .

How do I work this tail thing?

My paws are cold. Wait, what? Must focus! I’m a person.

Maybe we could change back if we go back in the circle?

This is too weird.

Make it stop!

Tare, help!

This last was repeated several times by different Chess Club puppies.

“Okay, hold it—hold it!” Tare held out his hands, and the thoughts quieted down. “You’re going to have to be more organized. We’ll figure something out. And stop panicking.”

You’d panic too if you were suddenly a dog, Lavender thought, tail wagging worriedly in little jerking motions.

“I like to think I wouldn’t. Now calm down, and we’ll—” Tare broke off as an eerie sound of booming laughter echoed through the cave. He glanced around, instinctively in a fighting stance.

The puppies whimpered, tails and ears down, and crept to crouch near Tare’s feet where it felt safer.

“Who’s there?” Tare said warily, ready to reach for a gun or knife hidden away in his leather jacket—weapons he still kept handy, despite the lack of monsters of late. There were friends—well, puppies—to defend.

No one answered, but the laughter went on and seemed to be moving overhead and toward the entrance to the passage they had come through. An indistinct shadowy cloud—left from when the puppies had appeared—lurked there, concealing . . . something. Whoever—or whatever—was laughing, exited through there, and the voice faded away.

Okay, I’m scared now, puppy-Baz announced to their minds.

I was already scared before the creepy laughter, Lavender thought.

Can we go home now? Jake asked.

What? We can’t go home like this! Ivy spluttered.

Yeah, my dogs might not like me . . . Adrian mused.

We need to change back first, somehow, Marie thought.

They all looked hopefully up at Tare, shiny button-black noses quivering.

Tare sighed. “Look, I don’t know how to fix this right now. Let’s get out of here to start with, while we can get out.”

A short while later, Tare climbed out of the hole in the cliff with six little puppies clambering after him on clumsy paws too big for them, and down a little stony path to the autumnal forest floor of Kedran’s Wood.

The change was instantaneous.

A thousand sights and scents—from the trees, underbrush, leaf-strewn ground, and wildlife—kaleidescoped in a crescendo of new experiences for the heightened puppy-senses of the erstwhile Chess Club members. Everything smelled new and different and exciting, in desperate need of being investigated at once. They shot off into the wood, scampering about on overgrown paws, sniffing everything and yapping happily, their thoughts running as wild as their furry bodies, in a confusion of excited curiosity mixed with the half-obscured thoughts from their human selves, buried deep, who kind of knew better.

Tare put a hand over his face, muttering, “Why. Why did I get saddled with Chess Club puppies.”

We’re sorry, it’s just—

It’s so exciting, and there are all these smells—!

“I don’t want to know.” Tare made a half-hearted move to go after them, made difficult by the way they were scattering. “Now would you get back here?”

There followed a somewhat chaotic scene in which Tare attempted to herd them back together where he could keep an eye on them. There were also some awkward moments where they wanted him to throw sticks for them. He didn’t. They needed to get together and talk about this, but it was like their attention spans (already rather short, to Tare’s mind) had suddenly gone extinct. It was basically hopeless.

Tare finally gave up other methods and instead sent a stern mental message to the effect of “You. Back here. Now.

It worked.

They instantly transformed into meek, obedient puppies, and trooped angelically back toward him, a little sheepish.

Sorry . . .

Tare shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Don’t—even apologize.” Then he drew back and leaned against a tree, looking down at the small dogs. “All right. We need to figure out how to turn you back into . . . yourselves. Which means we have some questions to answer. Like how, and why, you got turned into a bunch of dogs.”

Puppy faces turned to look at each other in conference.

We were just imagining being dogs—talking about it—and suddenly we were, Ivy thought.

And we stepped into that circle in the middle, Marie added.

“Ye-es . . .” Tare drew out the word meaningfully. “And?”

And you told us not to? Lavender asked, with a guilty tilt of her ear.

Which means you guessed something was up, thought Adrian.

“It was just a bad feeling.” Tare folded his arms. “I’m no more certain about the cause than you are, though I do have a couple of hunches.”

Baz went on, Then there was that creepy laughter . . .

I didn’t like that. Jake shook his fur. It made my paws cold and my hackles go up. . . . Sorry, too doggy.

Tare quirked a wry eyebrow. “If dog instincts are all you’ve got, that’s better than nothing.” He straightened. “I was wondering how far you could get. So far, I’d gotten that stepping in the circle set off something—a transformational trap, if you will—and it had to do with what you’re thinking about at the moment. No one else was in the cave before that, so it also seems to have released someone, or something—whatever was laughing—which seems to have left and is presumably at large now. I bet it came through from somewhere else when you set it off—because the Faerie world’s veil between our own is thinner around now, like I said.”

Are you saying it’s a faerie, or just from Faerie?

“I’m saying I don’t know what it is, but I have suspicions. And whatever it is, it probably shouldn’t be wandering around in our world. What we—I—need to find out is where it is, what it is, how to stop it, and how to get you turned back. Because I’m not going to dog-sit you lot forever, or explain this to all your families,” Tare added forcefully.

Their little pink tongues lolled out as they sat and panted, grinning puppy grins up at him.

But we’re so adorable.

Don’t you just want to pet us and keep us forever?

Tare rubbed a hand over his mouth to cover a grimace—or some other facial expression.

Anyway, we can help—with our noses, and our detective skills.

Tare snorted.

Several puppies looked hurt. (Never underestimate the amount of devastating that six sad puppies can pull off.)

We’re not doing too bad . . .

Tare conceded this for the sake of getting anything done. “You’re not doing too bad. At least your brains aren’t totally gone.”

Ivy bristled, annoyance clear in every line of her fur. Well, thanks for—squirrel!

The gaze of five other puppies shot in the direction her nose pointed. A second later they were off again, crashing through the underbrush and dead leaves, yapping and panting, delighted with the chase.

Tare rubbed a hand down his forehead and over his eyes and left it there. “This is going to be a long day.”

* * *

In the end, it was the rain that allowed Tare to herd them together this time. The overcast clouds which had been threatening rain up beyond the looming, clutching, half-bare autumn branches, at last made good on their threats, and the rain started coming down.

All at once there were several alarmed puppies who hated being wet and didn’t like thunder at all looking for shelter—the nearest of which seemed to be Tare. They scampered back to him and he suddenly found himself with six damp puppies all trying to somehow hide by his boots under the partial shelter of him and his leather jacket.

Tare sighed. “Come on, let’s find somewhere dry.” He marched grimly off through the trees, while the puppies tried to stay as close to him as possible. It was likely only his fighter’s grace that kept him from tripping over six little round canine bodies all pressed against his legs—certainly anyone else would have ended up flat on their face on the forest floor a few times before they reached their destination.

It was not far: an old abandoned house in the woods. They stopped just under the eaves of the building, not quite out of the rain, before the door, looking up at it.

Because coming to the haunted house on Halloween is a great idea . . .

Oh, be quiet—it’s dry in there. Adrian reared up against the old wooden door, scrabbling at the tarnished doorknob, which didn’t help. Okay, hands are useful. He turned and blinked liquid brown eyes up at Tare. I hate to ask this, but—

Let us in—let us in—let us in! One of the puppies—who shall remain nameless—bounded up and put eager front paws against Tare’s leg, leaving large amounts of extremely wet mud on his black jeans.

Tare’s eyebrows were as formidable as the sad-puppy looks were devastating. “Down.

The unrepentant puppy frisked out of reach. The others hunched in the rain, looking wet and miserable.

“Fine.” Tare relented and opened the door.

The puppies bounded up and rushed inside, joyously, paws pattering across the unsteady floorboards, which creaked hollowly as Tare stepped in after the erstwhile Chess Club.

What now? asked several thoughts, as blunt claws clicked on boards (leaving muddy pawprints all over) and curious noses sniffed and pointed cautiously toward different shadowy corners.

“We wait out the rain. Unless you want to stay here while I see what I can figure out.”

There was alarmed yapping and several of them jumped up against Tare with their front paws. Don’t leave us alone in the creepy house in the rain!

“Mm-hmm. Didn’t think so. Now what did I say about down.

He didn’t seem about to leave, so they complied.

Tare lowered himself to sit cross-legged on the floor in the open doorway, looking out at the rain.

At least it’s dry in here . . . Still cold though. And we’re so wet Adrian planted his four paws firmly on the floor and—

“Don’t do it,” Tare said.

All six puppies briskly shook themselves, sending rainwater everywhere. (Hint: everywhere included Tare.)

Tare sat grimly where he was, wordlessly wiping water from his face. The six little furry critters came up to lie down to either side, leaning against him—more or less in his lap, but not quite. Tare remained unmoved, and in a few moments they were all cozily situated close to him. They smelled like wet dog, but they were cute—and also impossible. Tare wasn’t sure quite what to do about them.

Especially when a few of them started spontaneously licking his face as if they couldn’t help themselves.

Tare recoiled. “Don’t even—!” He pushed their soft furry heads back down, hands petting slightly-damp velvety ears in the process.

Purely by accident.

Of course.

Tare pulled his hands back and quickly folded his arms.

Sorry. It just happened. They didn’t sound sorry at all.

Tare gave a wordless noncommittal grunt.

You said you’ve thought of us as puppies before, Tare. Admit it, this is far worse.

“This,” Tare conceded evenly, “is far worse.”

With contented little puppy sighs, they settled down in the shelter of the old house next to Tare, and stared out at the falling rain along with him.

The peace did not last long.

A sudden roaring sound came in a rush of air through the rainy trees, with a cracking of branches. There was a kind of crashing, groaning noise, shaking the floor and walls as if a large thing had just landed on top of the “haunted house.”

What was that?

Tare had gotten enough of a glimpse as it passed overheard to know what it was. He was on his feet instantly. “That was a dragon, and we need to get out of here now.”

What?!

And why would we leave shelter to run around in the open?

“Because it already knows we’re here and will just burn the house down around our ears and pick us out of it like a buffet if we don’t get out.”

Tare jumped down from the threshold into the rainy forest again, with the puppies scrambling at his heels, hoping this was some sort of joke to scare them—

Nope.

They spied a large scaly green dragon perched on top of the “haunted house,” bat-like wings half spread, peering down at them through the rain.

Hello, my fluffy little succulent morsels, the dragon thought to them.

Okay, Tare, your dragon story is scarier than my ghost story, Baz thought, all the puppies shrinking away to hide behind Tare’s legs while they peeked out at the dragon.

“It’s not my dragon story,” Tare murmured. Then, louder, to the dragon, he said, “What do you want?”

Lunch. Being stuck in a Faerie cave for a few centuries until some careless people let you out is a hungry business. These little things look like just the thing as a small appetizer before exploring the neighboring villages for a few dozen people for lunch. You look a little tough for my palate, so I have no quarrel with you, if you’ll just step aside.

Tare stood his ground in the rain. “No.”

The dragon’s tail swished across the roof, carelessly, rather like a cat’s. Its red-gold eyes narrowed and a tiny wisp of grey smoke drifted up from its nostrils. Is that so?

Tare watched the creature evenly, and kept his mind closed off against the dragon, but opened it to the Chess Club and sent them a mental message. I need you to run. Run as fast as you can and make it back to cliffs. Find some small cave too small for a dragon, and too far in to get burned if it found you. I’ll handle this.

The puppies, although almost radiating fear, were not so easily persuaded.

No!

We’re not leaving you here to face that thing by yourself.

Tare kept his gaze fixed on the dragon—not looking directly into its eyes—but a muscle in his set jaw twitched. Don’t be difficult. What are you going to do? You’re puppies. Now get somewhere safe. Don’t worry. I won’t let you get hurt.

The Chess Club puppies stood their ground too—they could be nearly as stubborn as Tare sometimes, and that hadn’t changed in their smaller, fluffier forms when faced with something like this.

We’re sticking with you!

The dragon heard them, though it seemed not to have heard Tare.

How touching. But ultimately misguided. You should have run while you could. The dragon laughed as it pushed off from the roof and floated lightly down on its wings to land heavily on the ground in front of Tare among the trees. It was not as huge as they’d thought at first—of course, it must have been slender enough to make it through the passage they had come out of—but still loomed a few feet taller than Tare, curling its wings in to get them out of the way of the branches. It moved sinuously forward, serpent-like, tail curled around a nearby tree. The wet ground hissed with steam where it touched. Now I only have to get through this one, and you’ll be mine. It spoke to the Chess Club puppies, but watched Tare with its sinister gaze.

Tare faced the dragon and was unmoved. “Why don’t you pick on someone closer to your size? Like me.” He pulled a handgun from inside his jacket, leveled it at the dragon’s head, and fired.

The bullet struck the dragon’s forehead. It blinked, then shook its scaly head. The bullet fell to the ground, leaving a slight dent between the dragon’s eyes, like dented armor, without bothering it. The dragon blinked balefully at Tare.

“Didn’t think that would work, but it was worth a shot,” Tare remarked.

Literally, thought Baz.

“Don’t go punny on me.” Tare holstered the gun, pulled out two long knives, and charged at the dragon, yelling over his shoulder, “Get out of here!”

The large creature breathed fire at him. Tare rolled neatly out of the way, and then he was beneath the dragon, slashing and stabbing. Sparks flew from blades and scales, but the knives couldn’t pierce its natural armor. Then the fight was on in earnest with a mixture of flames—which Tare dodged—and slashing claws and tail and knives, whirring about with startling speed. The rain fell on them, hissing on the hot dragon and the patches of flames where the forest floor caught on fire.

I SAID— Tare’s thought reminded them.

The puppies looked at each other, formed a collective Chess Club agreement—which Tare and the dragon were far too occupied fighting to listen to—and made their decision.

Over here! they chorused at once, in the equivalent of a mind-shout. Come get your lunch! And they scampered off into the woods as fast as their paws could carry them.

Roaring (not laughing now) the dragon took to its wings, crashing through the trees, which hampered its movements. It broke off large branches as it went. Tare ran after it, attacking, distracting, while the Chess Club puppies drew it on toward the cliffs and caves.

In here, you ugly scaly thing! the Chess Club puppies taunted, and dived down into the hole leading into the passage and cave where everything had started.

The dragon hissed in rage and dived in after them. Tare grabbed its tail and yanked it back, burning his hands. That gained them a moment. Then it shook itself loose, tossing him against a tree, and disappeared after the sound of the Chess Club’s taunts echoing inside the cave.

“Idiots,” Tare muttered, rolling to his feet and ignoring his bruises. He sprinted down the passage after them. But he suspected what they might be doing, luring the dragon back here in case they could get it trapped again, and it was something he’d considered trying himself—with the Chess Club safely out of danger’s way, of course. But they never knew when not to get involved. How he ever kept them alive was a mystery to him.

He dashed into the cave and attacked the dragon before it could crisp the puppies, which were on the other side of the large circular cavern. The dragon roared in rage and batted Tare away with its tail again, sending him sliding into the middle of the room.

NOW! the Chess Club puppies thought loudly, as if they had been counting down to something which Tare had been too busy to attend to. Groaning and trying to roll over and get up, Tare vaguely heard them thinking very specifically of dragons. Black dragons. Dragons—

What? Tare suddenly found himself enveloped in smoke, and figured he was probably dead—except the smoke hadn’t come from the green dragon . . . Oh.

Tare rose to his feet—all four of them—and spread his wings and lashed his tail, staring the dragon down with eyes now as fiery as its own. He had landed in the middle of the circle in the center of the room, and the Chess Club had been thinking very hard about him being a dragon—and consequently he was vaguely thinking it too—just like they had been thinking of puppies, which had turned them into their current furry shapes.

Tare was a dragon.

He was smaller and more lithe than the green dragon, and his scales gleamed black with an almost purple-ish glint. But he was a dragon, and that was what counted.

Don’t mess with my Chess Club! Tare roared, blasting fire at the green dragon and attacking it.

The puppies sent up mental cheers and then stayed crouched out of the way while the two dragons fought like a whirlwind of furious . . . well . . . dragons.

They rolled around over and over on top of each other, clawing, biting, breathing fire. The stone chamber echoed around them and lit up in sporadic red flashes of light. Smaller and more agile than his enemy, Dragon-Tare managed to wrestle the green dragon over and shove it directly into the circle in the middle of the floor.

The green dragon gave a roar of thwarted anger and vanished in a flash of light and smoke.

Sudden silence fell.

Tare spun to be sure the Chess Club were all right—they were still puppies, but alive and well. Tare breathed out a long breath.

Then he looked down at himself.

Still a dragon.

He looked back at them—a large black dragon towering above six small puppies who ought to be afraid in the presence of such a creature, but instead radiated content, relief, and a feeling of safety, along with some mental cheers.

They clearly weren’t thinking about the fact that they were still puppies and that Tare was now transformed too.

Now look what you’ve done, Tare thought to them.

You’re a dragon—that’s awesome!

Dragon-Tare growled.

The puppies wilted very slightly.

Sorry, but getting you turned into a dragon was all we could think of so you could defeat it without—you know—dying? they thought uncertainly, and tilted their little soft ears, as though wondering if they were in trouble or not.

Tare’s dragon shoulders slumped. He sighed and slid down to lie on the floor, front claws folded, great head resting on them, and black wings furled tight against his scaly back, tail curling around his side.

The puppies hesitantly approached, and they tentatively put their paws on his tail. Tare didn’t mind. They climbed up him and curled up on his back together in a little pile of fluff.

Sorry you’re a dragon, Lavender thought. But you do make a nice one.

I could get used to it, Tare grunted. I’m just not sure I want to.

At least you’re not freaking out like we were, Baz quipped.

How do we change back? Marie asked.

I don’t want to be a puppy forever, Jake mourned.

Don’t worry, you’ll grow into a big dog someday, Ivy thought dryly.

That’s not what I meant! Jake wailed.

Adrian licked Jake’s head. It’s okay. We’ll figure it out.

We’re getting more dog-like all the time . . . Baz thought.

I know. It would be awesome if it wasn’t so ominous, Adrian answered.

Wait, are you going to start getting more dragon-y? Lavender asked Tare in alarm.

Yeah, like hoarding gold and wanting to eat small puppies and getting super smart and cunning and living in a lair by yourself? Baz contributed.

He’s already super smart and living in a lair . . . replied several thoughts.

Right. My bad.

Tare grunted and heaved himself to his feet, with the puppies still on his back. Thanks. I think. And no, I’m not going to eat you, and hoarding gold is not on my list of things to do in the near future; who has time for that. Besides, I don’t plan to stay a dragon long enough to get any more dragon-y than (you claim) I already am.

I wish I was me again, Baz thought forlornly. It was fun at first, but I’m with Jake.

Me too, thought the others, ears drooping as they lay flopped sadly in their pile on Tare’s back while he prowled across the room. I wish I was me again. I wish I was me again . . . they repeated in their minds.

And Dragon-Tare stepped into the center of the circle, and merely thought: I am Tare.

POOF.

The next instant, Tare, Adrian, Lavender, Ivy, Baz, Marie, and Jake all tumbled in a tangled heap on the floor—in their own human forms again. There was no sign of a repeat performance of a dragon returning.

“Whoa,” Adrian said, getting quickly to his feet and pulling his backup keychain flashlight out of his pocket for a little light. “I can’t believe that worked!”

Several of the others laughed in relief, trying to get untangled.

“I’m me again!”

“I have hands!”

“Yesss, no tail!”

“I’m kind of a person again.”

“You’re kind of on top of me,” Tare grunted.

The others hastily stood and stepped away, a little awkwardly.

Tare climbed to his feet, stretched his limbs a little stiffly, and rotated his neck. “Dragon-fight aftermath,” he explained when they looked at him anxiously. “I’m fine, though.”

“Oh.”

“Good.”

“Um. Thanks for, you know, saving us from being eaten.”

Tare straightened his leather jacket, possibly shrugging in the process. “It’s an occupation. Thanks for being nuisances and helping out.”

They laughed. “Any time.”

“But wow, puppies and dragons,” Jake said, wide-eyed

“Won’t we have something to talk about,” Baz laughed.

Tare cleared his throat. “We never speak of this again.”

The Chess Club looked at each other and grinned.

Then Lavender sighed and said, “Let’s go home.”

* * *

It was still raining—which fortunately had put out the small fires the dragon had started—but they made it through the woods back to Mr. Larch’s house, where they usually gathered for meetings. It was light and warm inside, a welcome change to the cold, wet, somehow currently spooky-feeling woods.

“Ahh, I have hands again,” Adrian said as he opened the door.

“Yeah, let’s put them to use—anyone for chess?” Marie asked.

“Hi, everyone,” Mr. Larch called from the kitchen.

“Hey,” the Chess Club chorused.

Yapping barks met them. Small Occasion came barreling over to greet them enthusiastically—he was their actual puppy, fluffy and white, and they found themselves laughing, realizing they’d never look at puppies quite the same again . . .

It was also a little weird to switch from communicating mentally to not hearing each other’s thoughts, but they were pretty good at understanding each other without that, like they always had, so it was all right. (They never knew what Tare was thinking, but that wasn’t new; and they hadn’t much while they were puppies, anyway.) It was also nice to be tall again and be, well, people. They left wet coats and muddy boots by the back door and ambled into the living room.

Small was catching some odd smells about them, and didn’t know what to do with these. Puzzled, he followed them over to the couches, where they collapsed comfortably, tired from all their adventures. They started setting up a couple of chess boards on the coffee table.

“Staying?” Ivy asked Tare.

He shrugged, draping his leather jacket on the back of a chair. “For a bit. ’Til the rain lets up.” He dropped into the chair, stretching out his long legs.

“So how was your day?” Mr. Larch asked them, sitting in the easy chair at the head of the room, and letting Small hop up onto his lap.

“Fine,” Tare said noncommittally.

The rest looked at each other over the chess pieces. “It was . . . interesting.”

Baz grinned innocently. “Nothing happened. Nothing at all.”

Tare quirked an eyebrow and sent him a resigned “Really? That’s how subtle you’re being?” look. But he didn’t seem to really mind.

Mr. Larch smiled while Small Occasion tried to lick his owner’s long nose. “Sounds like there might be a story here . . .”

* * *

The next day, there was a piece of news on TV.

There has been a report of the aftermath of a small forest fire in the woods just outside of town. The fire took place sometime on October 31st. Locals found several fallen burnt branches and patches of burnt ground, near an abandoned house. It appears to have been started by lightning, although there are no eye-witness accounts. Fortunately, the rainstorm seems to have contained the fire and kept the damage from spreading. There were no injuries.”

“Weren’t you out hiking in the woods yesterday with your friends?” Lavender’s dad asked her as she passed through the living room.

Lavender paused on her way to her room. “Yes, why?”

He nodded at the TV and repeated what the reporter had said. “I guess it must have been somewhere else in the woods, or at a different time.”

“Mm,” Lavender said.

“How terrible!” Lavender’s mom said. “At least no one was hurt. I’m so glad you were safe.”

Lavender smiled. “Me too.”

Humming, she went upstairs to her room, dropped her school backpack on her bed, and pulled her window curtain aside to look out at the woods just beyond her back yard. Was it her imagination or was there a faint wisp of smoke rising, left over from a fire in the woods?

As she looked, a dark patch of movement caught her eye. Tare came into view, walking past within the fringe of trees at the edge of Kedran’s wood. A dog from the neighbors’ house bounded up to him. Tare picked up a stick and threw it off into the trees for the dog, who chased after it. Tare stuck his hands back in the pockets of his black leather jacket and walked on.

Lavender let the curtain fall back over the window, and she smiled.


Note: I’m posting this (extremely late) in honor of Jenelle Schmidt’s #Drachtober story challenge. “The Dragon of Kedran’s Wood or Tare and the Puppies” belongs to my contemporary fantasy series work-in-progress Kedran’s Wood, which (if for some reason you are new to my blog or live under a rock and have never noticed me talk about–JUST KIDDING) you can read more about here. Thanks for reading—I hope you enjoyed. 🙂