New Releases!

Howdy, all!

I finally got off my duff and released a couple of stories I’ve been sitting on for a while.

3D bookJerrung and the Kwaad Cavern

This is a chapter book for ages 6-8 and follows the adventures of a young dwarf named Jerrung. Jerrung’s friends have their own adventures, which can be read for free on my website at http://www.lissadobbs.com.

At almost eight years old, Jerrung is sure he’s old enough to be a warrior, to have a real sword. His parents, on the other hand, disagree. They think he’s just a child.

But when Jerrung’s sister is kidnapped by the Kwaad, Jerrung knows his time has come. Jerrung isn’t going to wait for the rest of the village to make plans. He and his friends head into the mountains to rescue the prisoners.

Can the dwarves find their way through the tunnels before the Kwaad find them?

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074VC2721

 

Windows to the Soul

3D coverThis is a short story.

True horror isn’t found on the silver screen or in the pages of books. True horror is found in the mind, in the depths of the soul, the places where light is a distant memory.

​So Amy discovers in the halls of the nursing home where her mother works, and, later, in the eyes of her peers. Horror follows her everywhere until she learns the truth…eyes are truly the windows to the soul.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074WHZJSJ

 

In other news, for the next month, I’m offering free chapter and short story edits, up to 2,500 words. If you have a story you need critiqued or edited, just use the contact form on my Contact the Author page or the contact form on my website at http://www.lissadobbs.com/editorialservices.

 

Best wishes!

Technology in Grevared

steam-train-512508_1920We live in a technological world full of smart phones, computers, and things some of us will probably never understand. For the most part, this technology has gone from point A to point B, not necessarily in a straight line, but moving forward nonetheless.

I was a kid during the reign of Atari and Commodore 64, and the only computer language I ever knew was Basic. Now, my phone has more capabilities than my first computer, and I’m lucky to figure out how to make a blog post. (And it only works half the time.)

Science fiction, fantasy, and steampunk all have their versions of technology, too. Some of it is beyond our wildest dreams, while other parts take us back to the middle ages. Regardless of which genre we’re reading, though, there are those who expect the technology to progress the same way it did in our world.

Grevared doesn’t really work that way, not entirely. For example, I had a reader ask me the other day why a tavern owner used oil lamps if the society had things like steam locomotives and Cold Boxes (refrigerators). There’s a simple answer for that. All electricity in Grevared is run on generators, which are expensive to own and operate. Families and business owners who use electricity must decide what they will use it on, and most choose a Cold Box or something similar rather than light, which can be obtained through other means. No one has installed power lines that carry electricity from place to place because they haven’t thought of it yet. Why not? When our world figured it out fairly quickly? Well…it isn’t our world.

GrevaredResources on Grevared are most definitely finite. The pieces of land exist in a void space, and you can walk off the edge of the world. These resources must be guarded carefully if the world is to survive, so, while they are willing to create some technological luxuries, there are many others that would destroy their world were they to come into being.

However, that isn’t to say that technology aided by magic doesn’t happen. There are creatures called animated corpses that are purely technological, at least in a sense. A small copper chip attached to wires is run through the nervous system and allows the creature to move and follow basic orders. The chip can be removed and read by a machine. Technological, right? Not entirely. There’s a good bit of magic that goes into making the process work. The same is true of the seventh hell demon prison, Brimstone Thunderwatch. There are technological aspects to the prison itself, but there’s just as much magic keeping these creatures confined. Even the mechanical bugs that deliver messages have a magical element to their operation.

So, while Grevared does have steam trains and bionic implants, their technology as we think about it isn’t on the same level with that in our world, and their needs and desires make it unlikely that it ever will be. Even in the Xaggarene Empire, the most technologically advanced of the lands, power lines aren’t likely to become popular. Too much of their technology is dependent on magic.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

 

Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk VintageWe walked down the street in silence. Snow continued to fall, little whirlwinds picking at hair and clothing, and, before long, the streets of Sangeron were covered in a dusting of white. Around us, the society ladies with their fancy ruffs and their parasols scurried by, oblivious of everything but getting home before their hairdos were affected by the snow.

We turned down a side street filled with small shops. The storefronts were a bit more weathered, and the metal on the upper floors was a bit more rusted. The garbage bins were emptied a little less often, and more bits of trash blew in the wind. It wasn’t a poor area, not one of the ones where citizens slept in the streets and robberies were common, but it wasn’t a place my sister would ever frequent, either.

Madam Cora’s was a small tea room that saw few visitors. It was the place I normally patroned, though it was further away from the park than the café I’d visited earlier. For a moment, I wished I had just come to Madam Cora’s. It would’ve made it harder for Elbert to find me.

“A tea room?” he asked.

I nodded and smiled. “One of my favorite places. The Steam Whisper isn’t open yet.”

We entered the tea room, and the weight I’d been carrying lifted off my shoulders. A tiny bell tinkled when we closed the door, and Madam Cora came into the dining room with a tea towel in her hand. She was a slight woman, less than five feet tall, with wide shoulders and hips and a tuft of hair on her chin. Elbert’s eyes widened, and I chuckled at his surprise.

“A dwarf? In Sangeron?”

Madam Cora arched a bushy, brown eyebrow at him, and I nearly fell to the floor laughing. Part of me felt sorry for him because he was somewhat right. While the Xaggarene Empire wasn’t known for its tolerance, there were still plenty of elves and demons within its borders. Dwarves, on the other hand, were known for not leaving The Kingdom of Emerell. They were an insular group that had no love of outsiders.

“Ye’ve a problem with dwarfs?”

Elbert shook his head. “No, ma’am. I’ve spent a good bit of time in The Kingdom of Emerell, and I’ve always found the dwarven folk to be quite hospitable.”

Madam Cora nodded as if she approved then turned back to me. “How’re you doing, Muhulda, dear? What can I get for you?”

“Some tea and cakes would be great,” I replied. “Seeing as how someone took me away from my breakfast.” I shot Elbert a look he couldn’t misinterpret.

“All right,” Madam Cora replied. “You two have a seat, and I’ll be back in a minute.”

We made our way to a table and settled down under an incandescent lamp. Elbert leaned forward, and I suddenly realized he was much younger than I thought he was, much closer to my own age. What I’d assumed were wrinkles were, in fact, small scars. His eyes were a deep purply-yellow, as odd a color as I’d ever seen. His clothes looked like he’d pulled them out of a garbage bin, a weird mixture of sleeveless shirt tied in the front and trousers that looked like they were missing their lower half. His weapons were no joke, though. Knives ringed his belt and stuck from the top of his boots, and a chain with a heavy, spiked ball on the end hung at his side.

“What do you want from me?” I asked. “You’ve been following me around since last night.”

Elbert shook his head. “I’ve been following the ba’soray around for several days now, and it’s getting a little old.”

“Are those the demons with all the tongues?”

Elbert nodded. “I was sent because a nest of them was discovered near the dock.”

“But I thought most of the demons were in Moirena.”

“Most of them are, but these are more like animals than demons. They’re parasites without a lot of intelligence, in case you haven’t noticed. You can train a spitmoller easier than you can these things, and even the other demons try to eliminate them.”

“Where did they come from?” I wanted to know.

Elbert shrugged. “No idea. That’s why I spent most of yesterday evening drinking with them.”

“I don’t get it,” I admitted. “If they’re so unintelligent, how can they wander around drinking Melon Peckers and hitting Bleeding Grim?”

Madam Cora came with our food at that moment, and Elbert waited until she had gone to say more. He dug into the cakes she had brought like he hadn’t eaten in days.

“They have to be controlled by someone,” he said around a mouthful of cake. “The humans are hosts. That’s how they move around.” He took another bite. “That’s why I was with them last night. I was trying to get a lead on where they were going.”

“Then maybe killing them wasn’t the brightest idea you ever had.”

He took a sip of tea and shrugged. “Maybe not, but you don’t want one getting its hands on you.” He gave me a smile. “It was a choice. I think, the right one.”

My tea and cakes remained untouched on the table in front of me. I picked up the cup and took a sip, grimacing because the tea was cool. “Well, I thank you for that, but what does any of this have to do with me?”

He scarfed down the last of his cakes and eyed mine. I pushed them across the table and leaned back, waiting for him to get to the point.

“I asked you earlier why those things were after you.”

“And I told you earlier that I don’t know. I’ve never heard of them.” I leaned up and propped my arms on the table. “I serve drinks to a bunch of lowlifes and try to keep my sister out of my life. That’s the best I’ve got.”

“Friends? Lovers? Anyone who could have a tie with these things?”

I shook my head. “Not unless it’s Bramwell. He’s the only person I ever see besides my sister.”

“And what am I, dear?” Madam Cora asked. “Some ghighet you stop by and feed?”

Neither one of us had noticed her approaching the table.

“No, Madam Cora. I just meant that I don’t socialize a lot.”

She pursed her lips and shook her head. “Well. Would you like more tea?”

“Yes, please,” Elbert replied. He gave her a smile that melted the frown off her face and made my heart skip a beat.

Madam Cora shuffled back to the kitchen, and I turned back to Elbert. “Why would they want me? What do they usually hunt?”

“That’s the thing,” Elbert replied. “There’s no type that they prefer. They’ll go after whoever or whatever they’re sent after. So, who would want you eaten by a bunch of demons? Any enemies? Pissed off anyone lately?”

“Only my sister.”

“Would she do something like this?”

Fury bloomed in my chest like a blood stain on clothing. “How dare you.” I rose to my feet. “She may be a selfish, self-righteous, annoying bitch, but she wouldn’t hurt me. She’d be too worried about it damaging the family name.”

“Anyone else?” Elbert acted like accusing my sister of trying to kill me was nothing.

I plopped back into my seat and banged my hands on the table. “No.”

Elbert leaned forward and tried to place his hand over mine. I snatched it away. He sighed and leaned back just as Madam Cora placed a plate of cakes and a pot of tea on the table. Elbert helped himself and waited, as if I had more information and was hiding it.

“Tell me,” I said. “What’s the sword do? It came out of nowhere and disappeared.”

Elbert continued to eat, and I wondered when he’d eaten last. His bright red hair and tufty little beard were mussed from the fight, and I could see faded scars on his face and arms. He shrugged and took a sip of tea. “It’s the Varunastra of Varuna. It’s a magical weapon that can take any form. I’m partial to the sword, so that’s what it becomes most of the time.”

I leaned forward then, my interest piqued. “What else does it do?” If I could find out about the Shadow Walkers’ weapons, I could sell the story to the highest bidder, maybe even get a job at one of the newspapers, and get the hell out of the Steam Whisper.

Elbert sat his tea down and looked at me with a strange expression on his face. “It does what it needs to do, and that’s all I can tell you.” He rose to his feet. “I’m going to see if I can track down the ba’soray. I suggest you stay inside as much as possible and give a lot of thought as to who wants you dead.” He laid some coin on the table and headed for the door.

I, too, rose and glanced at the coin on the table. It was more than enough to cover our cost, and I thought Madam Cora would appreciate the extra. I wanted to ask more, but he was gone before I could get the words out. Still, I had enough to get started on a good story, and I still had several hours before time for my shift at the Steam Whisper.

Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk Vintage

The café was a small place off the main thoroughfare. The ladies, those who had no need to work at places like the Steam Whisper, sat at round tables, sipped tea, and ate delicate little cookies. Long dresses with lots of frills and elaborate hair styles hit my eyes no matter which way I turned. I loved the café, but the clientele wasn’t my favorite group of people. They were too much like my haughty sister and her ‘husband in need of a secretary’.

I settled into a chair amid sneers of disgust. I was conscious of being different, of wearing trousers and boots instead of a frilly gown, but I was willing to bet I was more educated than any of them.

“Oh, my gods. Do you see her clothes?”

“What’s someone like that doing in here? Aren’t there taverns for her kind?”

The whispers, if they could be called that, cut into my already low self-esteem. I considered leaving, but I wasn’t willing to give the bitches the satisfaction. I took out my parchment pad and pen and shut the rest of the patrons from my mind, but it was no use. I was more concerned about Elbert and the demon than I was about writing. Elbert and the demon. That was it. My pen flew across the page as I detailed all that I had seen.

The door opened, and cold air blasted through the café. The women complained until they saw who stood in the doorway, then their complaints crescendoed to a roar. The man in the doorway didn’t flinch. His eyes raked over the place; the sneer on his face reflected that of the women. With two steps, he was at my side. He grabbed my arm and tightened his grip when I tried to pull away. He dragged me from the café with no regard for my comfort. My parchment pad was left on the table.

“Let go of me.”

He didn’t answer.

I struggled, but he was much stronger than me.

“Muhulda, what is going on here?”

I rolled my eyes and tried again to pull my arm from Elbert’s grasp. He didn’t pause.

“Let go of my sister right now, or I’ll call the Enforcers.”

Elbert stopped and turned around. He blinked a couple of times then realized we were twins. “Stay out of it,” he growled.

Matilda’s boots banged against the cobbles in a staccato beat that echoed my heartbeat. “I will not.”

Elbert sighed and stopped, but he didn’t let me go. Matilda reached us in seconds and raised her arm to slap him.

“I wouldn’t recommend that action.” Elbert’s voice was quiet but cold, and I quit struggling in surprise.

Matilda, too, sensed the danger and backed away. “What do you want with her?”

“We have to talk.” Elbert didn’t say more.

Matilda turned to me, her eyes wide. “What have you gotten yourself into now? Just wait until I tell Mother.” She turned back to Elbert, her hands on her hips and her fur wrap blowing in the wind. “Well?”

“Well, what?” Elbert snarled.

“What has she done?” Matilda approached this the same way she approached everything—with the idea that she could just buy or bully her way out of it.

Elbert looked back and me with questions in his eyes. I just rolled mine. “Tell her or don’t. I don’t care.” He stared at me for another minute then let go of my arm. “Don’t go anywhere,” he said to me. “You’re in danger.” Then he turned back to my sister. “This doesn’t concern you. Period.”

Matilda huffed and tossed a stray end of her wrap back over her shoulder. “Well, I never…” She glanced over at me. “Do I need to call the Enforcers?”

I shook my head and willed her to shut up and go away. No one was more surprised than I was when she did.

“Well, I’ll come by and see you in a bit, Mully.” She stomped away.

I whirled on Elbert. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? I’m not your wife, your sister, or your bitch, and if you ever touch me again, I’ll kill you.”

He stood there with his arms crossed and snow falling on his head. Even in the cold, his arms were bare. “Those demons are after you for a reason. What is it?”

“I don’t know! What part of that don’t you understand?”

Elbert shivered once and looked around the crowded street. “Is there somewhere we can get something to eat around here. It’s freezing.”

I rolled my eyes again. “Come on. We can’t go back to the café, not after the way you barreled into the place, but I know another place.”

 

Freebie and Discount

It’s summer and a great time for reading by the pool. In honor of this time of year, I’m offering a couple of deals on my books.

The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III: A Walker is Born is free through the end of July. It’s a great book for fantasy lovers ages 9-12.

3D Book no shadowEthan is just like everyone else in Land’s End. He helps his mother in her bakery, he attends school at the Arcana Maximus, and he enjoys hanging out with his friends.

But Ethan has a secret, one others want to know. When Ethan is grabbed in the town square, he runs. He races off to see if his secret is safe, but it isn’t enough. He’s pursued wherever he goes. Now, his parents are angry, and his teachers are on his case. All he wants to do is turn the secret over to someone else.

Ethan is pulled into a world he never knew existed, one that shatters his peaceful life. He now must decide whether to keep his life the way it’s always been or to embrace the possibility that has been offered to him. For the first time in his life, Ethan has to make a choice that only he can make, and he doesn’t know what to do.

And for the adults, I have a discount going on Aradia’s Secret through the end of August. Join Gwennyth Grimsbane as she searches for a way to save her people.

Aradia's Secret Cover with BookAs a child, Gwennyth dreamed of taking a ship across the void and seeing the lands of Grevared. As an adult, she’s content to stay at home and spend her days researching magic. But all this ends when her mother Ravyn transposes forms at nearly 900 years old. Though she has been trained her entire life, Gwennyth is sure she isn’t up to the task of leading her people, and when their magic begins to fail, Gwennyth knows she can’t do it.

But there isn’t anyone else. Her siblings have moved on from Crowrest, and Gwennyth is all that is left. With only her best friend Vonner in tow, Gwennyth sets out into the world of Grevared in search of the goddess Aradia. Her only clue to the goddess’s whereabouts is ‘look not in the places of the gods’. But finding the goddess isn’t her only task. Gwennyth must also find herself.

For links to my other books and fun facts about the world of Grevared, check out my website at https://www.lissadobbs.com.

Best wishes and happy reading.

 

Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk Vintage

I dressed and grabbed my parchment pad and cloak. There was a small park just a few blocks from my flat, and I hoped that being outside, even in the cold, would spark my writer’s instincts. Even better if I could see something that would make a story. A good one.

A steam carriage creaked by just as I was leaving. Steam belched from a stack over the engine, and a solitary man sat hunched and shivering on the driver’s seat. The curtains to the carriage were closed, and I idly wondered which of the city’s many hoity-toits was riding around town. Then I let the though pass as the bells from the Arcana Maximus rang the end of morning services. People would be filling the streets, all wrapped in their winter coats and scarves. Some would head straight home for dinner, while others would take time to stroll the parks and enjoy the crisp scent of fresh-fallen snow.

Walking to the park released some of my anger, and, by the time I got there, several others were strolling by the partially frozen creek. I found an empty bench and settled in to watch my fellow citizens.

An older couple wandered by. She wore a long dress with a flaring skirt and plenty of lace on the trim. The navy blue contrasted with her pale skin and made her look old and doughy. He, on the other hand, was a dapper older man in a dark suit and top hat. Watching him walk, I was pretty sure the cane he carried was more for effect than necessity. I smiled. The older citizens of Sangeron, the ones who held onto the ideas of class and culture, never ceased to amuse me. It was the same mindset my parents and sister had, and I often wondered if they realized just how pointless it really was.

From the other direction came a guy, younger than me by a few years. Hair the same deep blue as my own stuck up in all directions. A scar ran down his cheek, still pink and shining, and he wore a long-barreled pistol at his side. Bright eyes the brilliant yellow, so common in the demon races, shone with an eerie light, and I wondered just what he was doing there.

“It’d be a good source for an article.” I muttered the words under my breath and bent to my parchment to make notes.

A shadow fell over me, and I looked up to see the demon. He scowled, an expression that marred the fine lines of his face. From up close, he resembled those I’d see the night before, just younger. It wasn’t so much his facial features as it was the way he carried himself, the slightly ‘off’ look in his eyes.

“What do you want?”

He scowled again. “What’s say you let me show you the town?”

I rolled my eyes and stood, forcing him to back up. “What’s up with all the invites lately? You guys understand that I live here, right? I’ve seen the town.”

He growled, a low, deep-throated sound that vibrated in my blood. Fear inched its way up my spine and oozed into my nerves. I pulled my cloak around me as if I was cold and used the cover to pull the knife from my belt. Inwardly, I sighed. This sure felt like a repeat of the night before.

“Don’t be like that,” he said. “Just let me show you the town.” The more he spoke, the more I could tell that Lethatu wasn’t his first language. He spoke like he was trying to remember the words, like his tongue didn’t want to make the sounds.

I shifted so I could move away from the guy and sighed again. Now, I’m tall, but he towered over me, well over six feet, and I was tired of craning my neck to look up at him. “Look. I had two guys use the same line on me last night. I wasn’t interested then, and I’m not interested now. So, you guys just leave me alone and let me get on with my life.”

I walked away with a quickness. The guy’s boots crunching in the snow followed me. I cursed and turned, ready to fight for my life, but someone else stepped between him and me. I cursed again when I realized it was Elbert. Why the hell was the Shadow Walker following me? How’d he known I would be here?

“You really don’t wanna do that.” His voice had a slow drawl to it, one I’d never heard before, and I wondered if he came from Corleon or Moirena, somewhere not here.

The demon thing mumbled a little, his words mangled by the tongues in his mouth, and Elbert laughed.

“Tough shit. Walk away, and you live. Stick around, and you die. It’s that simple.”

The demon muttered something else and lunged for Elbert. I’m ashamed to say that a girly scream escaped my lips, but I quickly swallowed it. I backed away and let Elbert deal with the creature. I had other things to do, after all, and I had no desire to get mixed up with the Shadow Walkers, no matter how tight their bums were or how gracefully they moved. I could just imagine Matilda’s high-pitched, high-falutin voice telling me how much Shadow Walkers were beneath us with their crass ways and base social functions. I mean, really, they fought monsters, of all things. How gauche.

Elbert looked to be holding his own, so I headed out of the park. I’d really wanted to spend some time writing, but the demon thing with a mouth full of tentacles prevented that. So, I headed toward a nearby café instead. Maybe there I could focus on what I wanted to do without interruption.

 

Book Cover…Grrrrr.

K'duktil and Cavern CoverOne of the things I like best about self-publishing is being able to take control of the process myself. For me, it’s fun to play around with new ideas and try to learn new skills. The operative word here is ‘try’. Damn me for wanting to learn stuff.

While the other covers took me some time and effort to work out, I’ve had a difficult time getting a cover made for Jerrung and the Kwaad Cavern, a children’s book that will be out when I can figure out its wrapping. Nothing I do seems to work and capture the story, and I think I’ve made thirty or forty of them.

That being the case, I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities, the best I can come up with for this particular story. I’ve added the two possibilities and the blurb. I’d appreciate any thoughts on the matter, positive or negative.

Yellow Ogre.jpgAs always, best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://lissadobbs.com

Blurb:

At almost eight years old, Jerrung is sure he’s old enough to be a warrior, to have a real sword. His parents disagree. They think he’s just a child.

But when Jerrung’s sister is kidnapped by the Kwaad, Jerrung knows his time has come. Jerrung isn’t going to wait for the rest of the village to make their plans. He and his friends head into the mountains to rescue the prisoners.

Can the dwarves find their way through the tunnels and back out before the Kwaad find them?

 

Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk Vintage

I turned and made my way back down the alley and onto the next street. I hadn’t realized just how tense I had been until I felt my shoulders relax in the warm glow of the gas lamps. I was only a few blocks from home, and the proximity gave me a sense of safety, real or not.

I was just turning my key in the lock of my flat when I heard boots thudding on the cobbles. I turned, ready to attack if need be, then sighed when I realized it was the Shadow Walker. “Look,” I said when he got close enough to hear me. “I’m tired, and I’m cold, and it’s been one bitch of an evening. Can whatever you have to say wait until the light shines?”

He nodded and gave me a small smile. “Yeah, but I need to know where to find you. There’s something not right about those guys, and I need to figure out what it is.”

“You mean, besides tentacles shooting from their mouths?” I sighed again and nodded. “Fine. Where will you be mid-morning? I’ll come to you.”

“I’ll be at the Shadow Walker guild hall,” he replied. “My name’s Elbert. Elbert Simmons.”

“All right, Elbert Simmons. I’ll come in the morning. Now, good night.” And, with that, I left him standing on the doorstep as the snow began to fall in earnest.

 

*****

 

I awoke the next morning to a light covering of snow over the city. I had to admit that Sangeron covered in snow was a beautiful sight, even this part of town, which wasn’t the poshest. Still, though, it was enough to make me regret telling Elbert Simmons that I would meet with him, so I decided that whatever it was he wanted could wait and curled up with a parchment pad and a cup of hot cocoa instead.

I was halfway through writing an article I wanted to submit to the city’s paper when a knock at my door interrupted my thoughts.

“Dammit.”

I placed the pad on the small table beside my chair and shuffled to the door. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about the intrusion and had a good feeling I knew who was going to be standing on the other side of the door. I had no desire to see the Shadow Walker, no desire to get involved in whatever it was that was going on.

I opened the door and cursed again. I was wrong. It wasn’t Elbert standing on my doorstep. It was worse. Far worse.

“It’s freezing out here. Let me in.”

I sighed and stepped back from the door. The woman brushed by me without so much as a glance, her fur scarf slapping me in the face as she passed.

“Shut the door. I don’t want anyone to see me here.”

I sighed again and closed the door. By this time the woman was in my parlor in my chair and reading the article I’d been working on. I marveled at how quickly she could intrude.

“Are you seriously still working on this drivel? Come on, Mully, you’re never going to make is as a writer. Just come work with me and Rupert and do something more appropriate for our station.” She looked around the room at the worn furniture and the faded wallpaper. “I mean, really…” She waved her hand at the parlor. “This is so beneath you.”

I reached around her and grabbed my cup, one of the few delicate pieces I owned. “I know, Matilda. You tell me this at least once a week.”

My sister, twin, to make things even worse, rolled her eyes at me and plopped herself into my favorite chair. She slung her scarf over her shoulder in that annoyingly pompous way she had and crossed her legs. She dangled a delicate heel and examined long, polished fingernails. I glanced at my own gnawed ones for a moment, then crossed my arms and stood tapping my foot.

“What do you want, Matilda? Why are you here?”

Matilda looked up at me with the same magenta eyes I saw in the mirror every morning. “All right. Look. Rupert has an opening for a secretary. It’s not a glamourous job, but it’s better than the one you’re working now. I mean, come on, having my twin sister work at the Steam Whisper is embarrassing.” She sniffed and patted her hair. “The job won’t be hard. All you’ll do is check in the patients and take their money. Rupert and I take care of the biotics.”

Anger seethed in my gut, and I nearly choked myself trying to swallow it. Why in the hell Matilda had followed me all the way to Sangeron, I’d never know. All I’d wanted was a little peace from the expectations of my hoity-toity family and a chance to pursue my own dreams.
“What’s it to you?”

Matilda rose, every movement designed to keep my attention on her. “It’s simple. We look alike.” She took a step toward me, and it was all I could do not to punch her in the face. “Same hair, same eyes. I get tired of being mistaken for a serving wench in a tavern.”

I took a step back and clenched my fists. “Then dye your hair or something.”

Matilda laughed, a sound that had never failed to get on my nerves. “Why don’t you dye yours?”

“Because I’m not the one with the issue. You are.” I stomped toward the front door without looking to see if Matilda followed me. “Now, I’ve got things to do. You and Rupert can live your own lives and leave me alone to do the same.” I opened the door and shivered in a blast of cold air. “Go.”

Matilda rolled her eyes again and looked at me like I was a ghighet in her trash, then she sauntered out into the snow without looking back. I slammed the door behind her and let off a string of curses that I was sure left a visible cloud in my flat, then I returned to my parlor and tried to get back to my article.

No luck. A low boil of anger and hatred burned within me. My sister had been the bain of my existence since the day we were born. Always wanting to please, always wanting to raise her station, she’d pushed and prodded me to the point that my job at the Steam Whisper was far preferable to anything Matilda had to offer.

 

Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk VintageMuhulda Urswyk is a reporter in the Xaggarene Empire, usually from Sangeron. She claims to have an inside path to the emperor and has a hatred for the Shadow Walkers. She owns and runs The Lock and Key, a publication that spews her particular form of bile (though I haven’t put one out in a while).

I’d meant for Muhulda to put out an edition every month, but time has gotten away from me, and, for some reason, my ability to organize my time has gone the way of the dodo.

I was in the process of creating another edition of The Lock and Key when it dawned on me that I had no idea why Muhulda hated the Shadow Walkers so much. Sure, there are plenty of people in the Xaggarene Empire with prejudice against those of magical blood, but that, alone, didn’t explain it. Not to the extent that she hates this group.

The solution?

Write a story about why Muhulda hates Shadow Walkers.

Below is a snippet from the story. Feel free to comment and make suggestions.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

 

 

The tavern was loud, as usual. I carried yet another tray of Melon Peckers to yet another group of reprobates who had nothing better to do than drink and smoke and pump Bleeding Grim into their brains. If they had brains, that is. I wasn’t sure. They surely didn’t act like it.

“Hey, beautiful, wanna let me show you the town?” His words tangled in his mouth and came out in a mush that I only understood because I’d heard it so often.

“Not tonight, darling. I’ve got to fill the generator.” A classic, cliched line, I knew, but, hell, even if he wasn’t scruffy, half biotic, and drunk off his ass, I still wouldn’t want to let him touch me.

“Aw, come now. Give my buddy a break. He’s done had his heart broke.” This one wasn’t any better. A metal plate covered one side of his head, and a lens had replaced his left eye. I could see wires running from the back of his head down into his shirt, and I wondered what other parts he’d had replaced with metal. He was more human than his friend—whose entire right side appeared to be mechanical—but I’d already brought him three hits of Bleeding Grim, and that was since middle night.

“I wish I could, but the mister’s waiting at home, and he wouldn’t take too kindly to it.” This was a lie, of course. There was no mister, and there wasn’t likely to be one, but I couldn’t let him know that.

“Leave her alone, guys.” This was the third one of the bunch. He’d consumed far less than his buddies, and his only alteration was a ring in his nose that connected by chain to a stud in his ear. He had a tattoo on his cheek of some kind of symbol, I wasn’t sure what, but, otherwise, he looked nearly respectable.

I mouthed a thank you and high-tailed myself back to the bar. It was almost quitting time, and I was ready to leave. Heck, I was always ready to get out of the place, and I hated myself for having to be there to start with. It wasn’t what I’d wanted to do, and it sure as hell wasn’t what I had spent four years in University for.

I set my tray on the bar and gave the place a look. The brazier still glowed a healthy orange, so I knew it had plenty of coal. The floors were mostly clean, and the oil lamps on the tables still flickered. Fans twirled lazily overhead, more to dissipate the smoke from smoke sticks than to cool, and no one had knocked the armor off the wall tonight. Even the sword, supposedly dating back to the days of the first emperor, Arronax Billinghurst, had been left alone. A good night in the eyes of the Steam Whisper.

“Muhulda, you stayin’ or goin’?” asked the barkeep, who also happened to be the owner. He was an ass most of the time, but, every once in a while, some vestige of a decent person shone through.

“I’m going,” I replied. I glanced back at the table I had just served. “I’ve had enough for one night.”

Bramwell nodded once and didn’t say more, and I took my chance and skedaddled before he had a chance to change his mind.

 

Lethatu…Oops.

Ravyn's LetterI’m one of those people who loves to create worlds, and when I create a world, I want to create all of it. I want maps of everything, cultures to inhabit it, stories, history, religion, magic, and language. And I was well on my way to having all of that.

Then I moved.

Somehow, in the process of moving, the notebook I had written the grammar rules and such in disappeared. It’s a loss, I’ll agree, but it also gives me the opportunity to make some changes to the language and make it more in line with what I want it to be. To that effect, I’m not mourning the loss of the notebook. Instead, I’m going to begin at the beginning and make something that was better than the original. The only down side I can see is that the letter Ravyn Grimsbane left to her daughter Gwennyth will have to be a dialect not spoken anywhere else. But that’s okay, too.

What aspects of world-building are your favorite? Do you relish the opportunity to make changes? Feel free to comment.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com