Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Friday, July 28, 2017

By the Book - La Mission Einstein

Welcome back!

This book review will mark another milestone for this blog; my first review of a french novel. It is a short story compilation created by two different writers, one of which I have the pleasure of knowing today.

I came across this book after meeting one of its authors, Sophie Martin. This publication was part of a writing competition, where the winners had their stories published. Miss Martin was only a teenager at the time she wrote these stories, so they are not as polished as her present day work. It was a great opportunity to experience first hand the progress she has made since then.

The four stories covered in this compilation are about youth and facing life challenges in different forms. The first is a girl coming to terms with the death of a family member, and what she would do if she met the killer. The second is a boy who discovers he is actually a descendant from a long line of vampires, and how he deals with the burdens of this new lifestyle. Then is the story of a young inuit brave who goes on a quest to save his dying mother. Finally, we have the time traveling squire, who leaves his native medieval village to travel to Europe during the second world war.

Image result for einstein sophie martin

Back of the book: (Translated from original)
Changing the fate of humanity by meeting Albert Einstein, boarding the same school bus as an authentic vampire, trying to save his mother from the clutches of death and plunging into the future ... from the 15th century, now that is out of the ordinary. These unusual stories were conceived by two teenage girls who won the "Vents d'Ouest" Youth’s Literature Award. Candid freshness, the talent and imagination of Sophie Martin and Annie Millette abound in complete freedom. Their stories are of those that one dreams to believe, even if the unthinkable, on occasion, rubs off troubling historical facts.

Back of the book: (Original French)
Changer le sort de l'humanité en fréquentant Albert Einstein, monter à bord du même autobus scolaire qu'un authentique vampire, tenter d'extirper sa mère des griffes de la mort et plonger dans le futur... du XVe siècle, voilà qui sort de l'ordinaire. Ces nouvelles insolites ont été imaginées par deux adolescentes lauréates du « Prix littéraire jeunesse Vents d'Ouest ». D'une fraîcheur candide, le talent et l'imagination de Sophie Martin et d'Annie Millette foisonnent en toute liberté. Leurs histoires sont de celles que l'on rêve de croire, même si l'impensable côtoie, à l'occasion, des faits historiques troublants.

What I learned from this book
  • Flow: Because french and english sound so differently, it has a veritable impact on how the story flows. I found that french sounded slightly more poetic in their descriptions, while english feels more appropriate when dealing with action scenes. Of course this may just be the style of the authors, so it will require more study.
  • Experience: The book was originally written by teens, which was somewhat apparent in the story telling. The way the plots unfolded, and how ideas were conveyed showed a certain lack of experience compared to the present day work of the author.  

This was the only published book I could find from Miss Martin and Miss Millette, furthermore their book was not widely published. The only reference I could find of it online is at this address:

However, you can find more of Sophie Martin’s work on the website of the creative writing group she is a member of. Those interested in learning more can find them here:

In closing, I would like to thank my readers for the encouragement they have shown me. And a special mention to Sophie Martin for giving me an inside look at her writing process.

Until next time!


Patrick Osborne

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Inspiration part 20 - Horses

Welcome back,
Animals have made their appearance in stories of all genres, playing many different roles. In some stories, animals have proven to be so charismatic, that they are portrayed as the protagonist. Some play the role of loyal companion, and can be used as a plot device to help the progression of the story. Others have a symbolic role, representing an aspect of society or humanity. Lastly, they are used as visual elements supporting the accuracy of historical stories.
This particular article will focus on one of the most popular animals on the planet; the horse (Equus ferus caballus). Humans began to domesticate horses around 4000 BC, and these creatures have been playing a major role within human cultures ever since. Historically speaking, the horse has served in everything from transportation, agriculture, sports and warfare. Their likeness has also appeared in everything from coats of arms in heraldry, religion of many cultures, mythology and even the Chinese zodiac. Furthermore, many products are derived from horses, including meat, milk, hide, hair, bone, and pharmaceuticals extracted from the urine of pregnant mares. There are more than 300 breeds of horse in the world today, developed for many different uses.
           In order to properly include horses into literature, I recommend doing some research, as there is a lot of facts to consider. Let us take a closer look at various aspects of this animal:
Physical appearance:
Over the course of their evolution, the horse's anatomy developed several traits to better escape predators. A few quick facts about horses; they have a good sense of balance, can reach speeds in the 40 mph range, have close to a 350° range of monocular vision and are able to sleep both standing up and lying down. Horses reach full adult size by age five, and have an average lifespan of 25 30 years.
Image may contain: horse, sky and outdoor
©Ashley Blair

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©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair
Horses move naturally with four basic gaits: the four-beat walk,the two-beat trot or jog, the canter or lope, and the gallop. Besides these basic gaits, some horses perform a two-beat pace, instead of the trot. There is also several four-beat "ambling" gaits that are approximately the speed of a trot or pace, though smoother to ride. These include the lateral rack, running walk, and tölt as well as the diagonal fox trot. Knowing the difference between gaits will help describe their movement in stories.
Image may contain: horse, tree, outdoor and nature
©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair
Horses were historically used for transportation, sports and warfare, from which a wide variety of riding and driving techniques developed. Using different styles of equipment and methods, equestrians honed their horsemanship skills, focusing on control and balance of both horse and rider.
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©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair
The proper equipment is paramount for communication between rider and mount. Horses are usually ridden with a saddle on their backs to assist riders with balance and positioning. A bridle or related headgear is used to assist the rider in maintaining control over the animal. Many horses are also driven, which requires a harness, bridle, and some type of vehicle (example: carts, wagons, carriages or chariots).
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©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair
Ecopy #e000762521 - http://data2.archives.ca/e/e031/e000762521.jpg
Source: Library and Archives Canada/Credit:Ronny Jaques/National Film Board of Canada Fonds/e000762521. ©Public Domain
Humans provide domesticated horses with food, water and shelter. This could be useful when describing the setting in storytelling, using examples such as barns, enclosures or pastures.
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©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair
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©Ashley Blair

Ecopy #a009677 - http://data2.archives.ca/ap/a/a009677.jpg
Source: Library and Archives Canada/Topley Studio fonds/a009677. ©Public Domain
Although mechanization has largely replaced the horse in modern society, there are certain jobs that still require them. For example, law enforcement officers such as mounted police, search and rescue organizations, park rangers or game wardens still use horses as they are effective for certain types of patrol duties and crowd control. Cattle ranches still require riders on horseback to round up cattle that are scattered across areas of rough terrain where vehicles are less effective. Horses and humans interact in a wide variety of sports, both competitive and noncompetitive recreational pursuits. They may also be the only form of transport allowed in certain wilderness areas, as horses are quieter than motorized vehicles and do not disrupt terrain as much. Horses are still being used today for agriculture practices, such as cultivating and logging. And obviously, horses are still the preferred form of transportation in areas of rough terrain where motorized vehicles are ineffective.
Ecopy #a013052-v6 - http://data2.archives.ca/ap/a/a013052-v6.jpg
Source: Library and Archives Canada/Topley Studio fonds/a013052. ©Public Domain
Ecopy #a157798 - http://data2.archives.ca/ap/a/a157798.jpg
Source: Library and Archives Canada/National Film Board of Canada Fonds/a157798. ©Public Domain 
Ecopy #a001310-v8 - http://data2.archives.ca/ap/a/a001310-v8.jpg
Source: Library and Archives Canada/Ministry of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada fonds/a001310. ©Public Domain
Ecopy #e010976130-v8 - http://data2.archives.ca/e/e440/e010976130-v8.jpg
Source: Library and Archives Canada/National Film Board of Canada Fonds/e010976130. ©Public Domain
As you can see, learning as much as you can about horses can be especially beneficial for a writer looking for inspiration. Maybe you need references for a story taking place in the wild west, a secondary character helping a protagonist in a fantasy or maybe clues for a murder/mystery.

That is all for this month's Inspiration post. I hope you enjoyed it and managed to  learn something in the process. In closing, I would like to thank each of you for dropping by, it is truly appreciated. I would also like to extend a special thank you to Ashley Blair, for providing most of the source material for this article.

Until next time.


Patrick Osborne.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Interview - Andy Peloquin (returning guest)

Welcome back!

           Today we welcome back an author I had previously interviewed; Andy Peloquin. We haven’t spoken much in the months following our last interview, so I’m very happy to hear from him again. Andy has been very busy with his current series, and is getting ready to release another book this month; Thief of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 2).

Where you can find Andy:

Link to previous interviews:
So I have the pleasure to bombard Andy, yet again, with a series of questions, both old and new. I’m very grateful for his participation, as it allows those of us with no experience to have some insight in the writing process. We will also get to know a few more personal things about Andy.
I am, first and foremost, a storyteller and an artist--words are my palette. Fantasy is my genre of choice, and I love to explore the darker side of human nature through the filter of fantasy heroes, villains, and everything in between. I'm also a freelance writer, a book lover, and a guy who just loves to meet new people and spend hours talking about my fascination for the worlds I encounter in the pages of fantasy novels.
    Fantasy provides us with an escape, a way to forget about our mundane problems and step into worlds where anything is possible. It transcends age, gender, religion, race, or lifestyle--it is our way of believing what cannot be, delving into the unknowable, and discovering hidden truths about ourselves and our world in a brand new way. Fiction at its very best!

10 Things You Need to Know About Andy Peloquin:

  1. Hot wings, ALWAYS!
  2. I never forget a face, but rarely remember a name.
  3. I'm a head taller than the average person (I'm 6' 6")
  4. Marvel > DC
  5. I was born in Japan, and lived there until the age of 14.
  6. Selena Gomez, Skrillex, Simon & Garfunkel, Celine Dion, and Five Finger Death Punch are all in my writing playlist.
  7. Aliens are real, but it's self-centered of us to believe that they would come to visit Earth.
  8. Watching sports: suck. Playing sports: EPIC!
  9. I earned a purple belt in Karate/Hapkido/Taekwondo.
  10. I dislike most Christmas music, aside from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Favorite Things

  1. Favorite Books: The Gentlemen Bastards by Scott Lynch, The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson, Sherlock Holmes by A.C. Doyle, Warlord of Mars by E.R. Burroughs
  2. Favorite Songs: Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch, Prayer by Disturbed, I'm an Albatraoz by AronChupa, Look Down from Les Miserables, Shatter Me by Lindsay Sterling and Lizzi Hale
  3. Favorite Movies: 300, Red Cliff, Shoot Em Up, Love Actually, Princess Bride
  4. Favorite Comics: Anything with Deadpool, Wolverine or Doop in it
  5. Favorite Foods: Hot Wings, Meat-Lover's Salad, A good sandwich (made by me), Yaki Soba, Sushi
  6. Favorite TV Shows: The Flash, Daredevil, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hawaii Five-0, Brooklyn 99, Firefly (too soon!), The Last Ship, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones
What have you been working on lately?
Oh so much! To sum it up, since our last chat, I:
  • Released Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 1), with Thief of the Night Guild (Book 2) on the way July 18th (pre-order is at $0.99).
  • Released The Last Bucelarii (Book 3): Gateway to the Past in March 2017.
  • Finished writing six short stories featuring mental/emotional/physical/psychological disorders in a fantasy world, to be released (Oct 2017) in a collection titled "Different, Not Damaged".
  • Started putting together an anthology "Ragged Heroes", coming March 2018.
  • Submitted a short story "One Last Time" to the It's a Bird! It's a Plane! Superhero Anthology (coming end of June 2017).
  • Started The Fantasy Fiends Podcast  (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8KnIEoUDWRJkAhJ16CN5Dw)
  • And a lot more that is yet to come!

Did you set any goals for yourself, and did you meet them?
I did set the goal of finishing up The Last Bucelarii Book 3, and I was glad to have it released at the end of March 2018.

Did you encounter any unexpected hurdles/limitations? (deadlines, budget, etc)
Unfortunately, I'm encountering a bit of a setback with The Last Bucelarii Book 4, in that it needs a bit of rewriting to make it good. I had wanted to submit it for publishing before the end of the year, but I may not be able to meet that goal.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently, and why?
Overall, I'd have to say I'm happy with how my year has gone thus far. It's been busy, but I'm happy with the work I've done and the progress I've made—both as a writer and in my marketing efforts.

Has your work process changed/evolved since our last interview?

It has. Since our last interview, I've increased my daily writing output by 30 to 50%, give or take a few hundred words. I'm also doing more marketing and focusing on my reader group, and my mailing list has grown to 7,500 subscribers!

Did the results of your work meet your expectations? (If so, how? If not, why?)
A lot of the progress I've seen has been the result of implementing new lessons I learn in the moment I learn them. It's helped me to grow my mailing list, reach more people, and be more confident in my writing. I didn't set out to make these big changes, they just happen as I adapt to each new challenge.

Did your work cross any new milestones?
I've officially published over 500,000 words, so that's very exciting for me!

Given your recent experiences, do you have any new advice for other writers?
Spend as much time learning the craft of marketing and promoting your work as you do writing. No matter how good of a writer you are, your chances of success are very slim if you aren't well-rounded and able to promote your work as well.

Andy was kind enough to send me excerpts, a cover image, and other information on his new book to share. Thank you for the privilege Andy, and I trust my audience will enjoy it! Seeing your progress is always inspiring. It reminds the rest of us that, though the road to success is not easy, it is still possible. We wish you the best of luck on your next release. Keep in touch!

Until Next time,


            Patrick Osborne
Child of the Night Guild Media fan Kit
Thief of the Night Guild Cover.jpg
Book Info:
Title: Thief of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 2)
Author: Andy Peloquin
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
Paperback Price:
Digital Price: 2.99

Tagline/Elevator Pitch:

Ruthless criminals are made, not born. Queen of Thieves—an insight into the transformation from innocent child to thief and killer willing to do anything to save the ones she loves.  

Book Blurb:

Thief of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 2)
"I am Ilanna, Journeyman of House Hawk. I do the impossible."
A cunning thief of unrivaled ingenuity, Ilanna is determined to secure her freedom. Nothing will prevent her escape from the Night Guild's callous cruelty, not even the most powerful man in Praamis, Duke Phonnis.
Commanding a crew of pickpockets, bounty hunters, poisoners, and assassins, Ilanna schemes to disgrace the Duke. She must survive blackmail, a bloodthirsty rival syndicate, and enemies within her own House to claim her spoils: vengeance for the deaths of her friends and gold to buy independence.
But all Ilanna's skill may not suffice to protect the one person who matters most: her son.
Fans of Sarah J. Maas and Scott Lynch will love Queen of Thieves…

Book 1

Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 1)
"They killed my parents. They took my name. They imprisoned me in darkness. I would not be broken."
Viola, a child sold to pay her father's debts, has lost everything: her mother, her home, and her identity. Thrown into a life among criminals, she has no time for grief as she endures the brutal training of an apprentice thief. The Night Guild molds an innocent waif into a cunning, agile outlaw skilled in the thieves' trade. She has only one choice: steal enough to pay her debts.
The cutthroat streets of Praamis will test her mettle, and she must learn to dodge the City Guards or swing from a hangman's rope. But a more dangerous foe lurks within the guild walls. A sadistic rival apprentice, threatened by her strength, is out for blood.
What hope does one girl have in a world of ruthless men?
Fans of Sarah J. Maas, Scott Lynch, and Brent Weeks will love Queen of Thieves…

  • Title: Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 1)
  • Author: Andy Peloquin
  • Publication Date: Jan 17, 2017
  • Paperback Price:
  • Digital Price: 2.99
  • Pages: 401
  • ASIN: B01N1TC3VW

Buy Links:

Amazon Kindle:
Amazon Canada:
Thief of the Night Guild Excerpts
Excerpt #1:
A click sounded behind her. She whirled, drawing her dagger. The room spun and she staggered.
She caught herself on the stone wall. "I'm fine," she growled.
Concern furrowed Allon's brow. "I can see that." He wrinkled his nose at the liquor bottle. "Smell of that stuff makes it perfectly clear how 'fine' you are." His eyes darted to her dagger. "Want to put that thing away?"
Ilanna slipped the blade into its sheath on the third try. She collapsed onto the bed, not even feeling the thunk of her head hitting the wall. "What d'you want?" She glared at him. "S'not really a good time for me right now."
Allon sat on the bed beside her. "I didn't come for that." He gripped her hand. "I came to check on you. It's not easy to lose friends."
Ilanna sneered. "I don't need friends!" The liquor made her head whirl, her movements clumsy. The last thing she wanted was for anyone—especially Allon—to see her in her current state. "Leave me alone."
"I'm not leaving, Ilanna." He pried the bottle from her fingers. "Not while you're trying to drown your pain in drink."
"What do you care?" She pushed him away. "You're a Hound! They meant nothing to you."
"Fair." He shrugged. "But my House lost a Journeyman today, too. And he's not the first one we've lost. Duke Phonnis has increased his efforts to suppress the Night Guild ever since the Black Spire." He didn't meet her eyes.
The Duke's words swam through her drink-benumbed mind. "You know who you are. You know what you have done. You will not escape me. You will not escape justice. I will find you."
Duke Phonnis knew the Night Guild had breached the Black Spire and this was his response. He'd have his vengeance—if not on her, the thief who had humiliated him, he would make her friends suffer. If only he knew how close the blow had struck.
Worst of all, she could do nothing to stop it. He disguised retribution as carrying out the law. The Chief Justiciar of Praamis, highest authority after King Ohilmos, retaliated by killing her friends before her eyes. The Field of Mercy made a mockery of the “Watcher's justice”, as he called it. No one had ever survived the crossing.
The Duke had declared war on the Night Guild, declared war on her when he took her friends. She would not let it stand.
"You've got that look, Ilanna." Allon's eyebrows drew together. "The one where someone dies."
Ilanna balled a fist. "You're damned right. I'm going to make him pay. I'm going to kill the Duke."
Allon shook his head. "You can't."
"Can't?" Ilanna whirled on him, heat flaring in her chest. "You think I'm not—"
"No!" Allon held up his hands. "What I mean is you can't go after the Duke, not directly."
She bared her teeth. "Why not? He'll die just as easily as…" She caught herself before she spoke Sabat's name. "…anyone else."
"Yes, but remember, he's the King's brother. Kill him, and you'll start a war."
"Not good." He spoke in a measured tone. "Think about it first. King Ohilmos has the Praamian Guard. There're more of them than there are of us. Even if every Guild member stood against the Praamian Guard, we'd lose. We can't wage war on the King. Which means you can't harm the Duke."
Ilanna threw herself to her feet. "Don't presume to tell me what I can and can't do, Allon!" She thrust a finger at the door. "If I want the Duke dead, I'll bloody well put the dagger in him myself."

Excerpt #2:
The Guild Master steepled his fingers and leaned forward. "What brings you before the Guild Council, Journeyman Ilanna of House Hawk?"
Ilanna resisted the urge to draw a breath to calm the fluttering in her stomach. These fifteen people held her life in their hands. She bowed and tightened her grip on the little hawk figurine she'd purchased on her way back from Count Chatham's mansion. "Master Gold, House Masters, esteemed members of the Guild Council. I come before you with an…unusual request."
Master Hawk's eyes narrowed. She hadn't said anything to him, a fact he clearly disliked.
She turned to Bryden. "Tell me, Journeyman Bryden, you are the bookkeeper for House Hawk, are you not?"
Bryden stiffened. "I am. What of it?"
"Do you have record of my total earnings since becoming a full Journeyman?"
He gave a jerky nod. "I do."
When he offered no further answer, she inclined her head. "Could you read out the sum total for the entire Council?"
Bryden's face reddened and Master Hawk's jaw muscles worked. The House records weren't strictly secret, but each House preferred to keep their income private. Only Master Gold saw all the accounts—and Entar, the Guild bookkeeper, of course.
Master Hawk gave a slight nod of his grizzled head and Bryden cleared his throat. "To date, Journeyman Ilanna of House Hawk has earned the sum of ninety-eight thousand, four hundred and ten imperials."
Master Grubber and Master Fox gasped, and the color drained from Master Bloodbear's ruddy face. Ilanna knew from her time spent among the Foxes that these three Houses were fortunate to earn that in a year. The Masters of the remaining three Houses gave no response, but their aides had less self-control. Journeyman Erys, the bookkeeper of House Serpent, peered down at her ledger. Anorria's slim, scarred hands tightened around the black leather tome holding House Scorpion's finances, and Eburgen of House Hound fixed his eyes firmly on the table before him.
Ilanna fought back a smile. "And what, Journeyman Bryden, is the amount I am owed by House Hawk?"
Bryden squinted down at the ledger. "After expenses—food, board, Guild fees, the cost of equipment, and such—Ilanna of House Hawk is owed four thousand, six hundred and fifty imperials."
She let the number hang in the air. The House Masters exchanged glances with their aides. Their personal fortunes far surpassed hers, but they had saved up for decades. They didn't need an abacus to calculate how long it would take her to eclipse them.
"I fail to see the relevance in all this, Journeyman Ilanna," Bryden snapped. "If you insist on wasting the Council's time—"
Master Gold's glare silenced the Hawk. The Guild Master leaned back in his chair, eyes fixed intently on her. "I, too, find myself curious as to the direction of your thoughts. You say you have a question. Ask it."
Ilanna drew herself up to her full height. "I wish to buy my freedom from the Guild."
A stunned silence filled the room. The Masters of House Fox, Grubber, Scorpion, and Bloodbear stared at her with uncomprehending eyes. A smile tickled at Master Serpent's lips. Master Hawk's face could have been carved from stone, but his dark eyes held the chill of disapproval.
Master Gold tapped his thumbs together. "Intriguing." He turned to the others seated beside him. "An unusual request, indeed."
Ilanna spoke before he could deny her. "But not unheard of." She stepped forward. "Precedent has been set, has it not?"
Entar whispered into Master Gold's ear and the Guild Master nodded. "You speak the truth. The previous Master Gold did permit a Journeyman to purchase his freedom. Journeyman Mallen of House Serpent."
Ilanna straightened. "I only ask for the same chance Journeyman Mallen was given." She pointed to Bryden. "As my House Master and fellow Journeymen will attest, there is none in House Hawk to match or surpass my earnings." She turned to the Masters of House Serpent, Scorpion, and Hound. "Perhaps there are a few in your Houses who can claim the same profits I have delivered to the Night Guild, but not in the time that I have." The way their eyes slid away from hers increased her confidence.
Master Gold fingered an ornamental brooch pinned to his vest. "None here can dispute your claims, Journeyman Ilanna. Indeed, the success of your Undertaking has increased the reputation of the Night Guild not only within Praamis, but even as far as Voramis." He picked at a fingernail. "But that begs the question: why would the Night Guild want to pass up such a valuable resource? After all, we would be fools to relinquish our claim to your future earnings."
Ilanna's shoulders tightened. "I have one answer for that." She'd expected the question. "Because it is in your best interest to do so."
Bryden's eyes narrowed, but it was Master Hound who spoke. "Explain your reasoning." His voice, rich and deep, held a note of contempt.
"I hold no illusions that my freedom can be purchased with a mere four thousand imperials." She held Master Gold's gaze. "The Guild has never hesitated to remind me of its investment in me. To purchase my freedom, I must repay that investment." She held up a hand as Entar opened his mouth. "And," she hurried on, "I will make it more worthwhile to release me than to hold me to my Journeyman's oath."
Master Gold quirked an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Ilanna gestured to the sixteen figures seated behind the table. "Can any of you calculate what I will owe to the Guild for the next, say, twenty years? Say I was to barely earn the minimum required to cover my room, board, and Guild fees."
The aides scribbled on their papers furiously, and Journeyman Isseck, the bookkeeper for House Fox drew out an abacus.
"I have it!" Bryden shouted. The other aides shot him glares but he met their spite with haughty disdain. "You will owe the Guild a sum total of one hundred and fifty-six thousand imperials."
"Fifty-six thousand, four hundred and thirty," Anorria added.
"Thank you." Bryden nodded to the Scorpion bookkeeper, an acidic edge to his words.
Ilanna's stomach tightened. That's a bloody lot of money! She steeled her expression. "One hundred and fifty thousand imperials. Not a paltry sum." With what she had in mind, she could pay that off with ease. "Enough to buy my freedom?"
Master Gold and Journeyman Entar carried out a whispered conversation. After a minute, Master Gold turned to the House Masters. "How many of you were present when Journeyman Mallen stood before the Guild Council with the same request?"
Only Master Hound spoke. "I."
Master Gold folded his hands over the paunchy remnants of what had once been solid chest muscle. "Many of you remember my predecessor. He was not a cruel man, simply a pragmatic one. He knew the value of Journeyman Mallen's services. In all of Praamis, none could match Mallen with a blade. His services commanded prices to rival the Hunter of Voramis himself. Do you know how much Mallen paid to secure his freedom?" He paused for effect, then spoke in a measured tone. "One million imperials."
Ilanna's stomach bottomed out. Bloody fucking hell!
Master Gold drew out the words. "One. Million. Imperials." He held Ilanna's gaze. "It took Journeyman Mallen ten years to buy his freedom. But you are younger than he and, as you say, you outearn any other in the Night Guild." He turned to Master Hawk. "What say you, House Master? Is that a fair price?"
Tension lined Master Hawk's face, but he nodded. "It is."
"And you are all in agreement?"
Ilanna studied the Council. The Masters of House Fox and Grubber seemed in shock, as if they couldn't comprehend such vast sums. Master Serpent's finger traced the scar across his forehead, nose, and cheek.
Master Bloodbear leered, delight staining his huge, red face. Since she humiliated Sabat all those years ago, the hairy master of House Bloodbear had hated her. She looked away, stomach churning. His ugly, brutish face reminded her too much of Sabat.
Bryden's expression held a combination of disdain and mockery. The corners of his lips tugged upward, as if he struggled to hide a smile. Master Scorpion's eyes held a hint of pity. A mix of surprise, resignation, and scorn showed on the other faces.
Master Scorpion nodded to Master Gold. "I believe I speak for the other Houses. We are in agreement." His dark eyes fell on Ilanna. "One million imperials, Journeyman."
Though Ilanna's fists clenched behind her back, she forced a smile. The solid feeling of the ebony figurine in her hand brought her comfort. "Done."

Excerpt #3:
Nursing a steaming cup of tea, Ilanna listened to Joost and Veslund's report.
"…guards stayed put the night through. Four squads of three: here, here, and here."
Darreth slapped Veslund's grimy finger away from the temple blueprints, as if completely unaware that the Fox stood almost a full head taller and far broader in the shoulders.
Scowling, Veslund continued. "As I was saying, they got all ways in covered. A patrol goes 'round the outside 'bout once every hour."
"Forty-five minutes, by my count," Joost drawled.
Veslund flushed and opened his mouth to retort, but Ilanna held up a hand. "Close enough. Anything else?"
Veslund dug his fingers into his bushy beard, scratching his cheek. "Nothing I can be thinking of."
Joost scratched the hair on his head, dropping flakes onto the map. "Maybe this helps, but I saw lights come on up here." Under Darreth's glare, his pointing finger stopped just short of touching the map. "Northwest corner, lookin’ out over the plaza, there are windows on the third floor."
"Any idea what's up there?"
Joost shook his head.
"Speaking of…" Veslund's forehead scrunched. "Right about midnight, the temple got a visitor. Hood, cloak, the works. When he came out, I coulda sworn he was Lord Vorrel."
Joost snorted. "And how in the frozen hell d'you know what a nobleman looks like?"
"I seen 'im around town. Ye know, I may not have yer poncy skill with numbers, but I've got a good head for faces. I don't—"
Ilanna snapped her fingers. "Joost. What time did the lights go on in that window?"
"Right 'bout midnight, says I."
"Interesting." Ilanna leaned over the blueprints. "Right here, northwest corner?"
Joost nodded.
"Lord Vorrel pays a late night visit to the Coin Counters. I'd wager the lights came on after he showed up. Means he, like Lord Munder, probably went up to see the Grand Reckoner."
Darreth finished her thought. "The Grand Reckoner's office, you think?"
"Makes sense. The temple's built like a fortress, yet there's a bloody great window on one corner? Seems reasonable the Grand Reckoner's got the pull to claim that for his office."
She tensed at a knock. The tightness faded at the familiar voice. "It's Errik."
At Ilanna's nod, Veslund pulled the door open. Errik's expressionless face revealed nothing but his eyes sparkled.
"You've found a way in!" Excitement set Ilanna's heart thumping.
"I did. And a way to get you in, too."
Triumphant laughter burst from Ilanna's throat. "Excellent!" She smacked the Serpent's back. "How do we do this?"
Errik shouldered his way up to the table and stabbed a finger at the northeastern wall. "There's a second-floor window, right about here. Two hours before midnight, I'll open it for you. Be ready."
"I'll be there." She'd have Jarl set up the anchor under cover of the midday bells. Tight, but it would work. "How're you getting in?"
He gave her a sly grin. "Serpent's secret."
Ilanna wanted to pry but knew better. Every House had secrets of tradecraft they guarded with fierce zeal. She respected Errik enough to restrain her questions.
"Joost, Veslund, be outside the temple before sunset. I'll want you close at hand in case of trouble."
The bearded Fox nodded. "Gotcha."
"Darreth, you got as many details from Allon as you could?"
The Scorpion nodded. "It won't get any more complete."
"Good. Then you're done for now. But don't get busy. If all goes well, I'll be back with the blueprints tonight. We're going to need you for the second job, too."
"As you say."
Ilanna rubbed her hands together, excitement setting her pulse racing. "Gentlemen, tonight is the night!"


"Creative, gritty, and beautifully dark...fantasy addicts will love it!" -- Peter Story, author of Things Grak Hates -- http://peterjstory.com/
"The fantasy world has a compelling new antihero…the Hunter will terrify and captivate you." - Eve A Floriste, author of Fresh Cut
"From the first words on the page this fantasy holds the reader spellbound even after the book is finished…his character is very well-defined even if his past is a mystery. Root for an assassin? Oh, yes, one must!" -- Carol Conley, for InDTale Magazine
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