Friday, July 18, 2014

Guest Post by C. P. Lesley

I'm happy to invite one of my fellow authors C. P. Lesley onto my blog today! We both published new books recently, so we decided to do a little blog trade, and I asked her to write a guest post in correlation to her new release The Winged Horse. Today she's going to be talking about the process of writing characters!

C.P. also featured my guest post on writing historical paranormal novels on her blog in correlation with the release of my new book, Wolfsblood. Check it out here!




Those Pesky Characters

What’s more appropriate for a guest spot on a blog called Character Purgatory than a post about fictional people? Like any novelist, I wreak havoc on my characters, constantly thinking up ways to complicate their world, get them in trouble, mess up their relationships, force them to grow whether they like it or not—until they reach that magic place where they have achieved what I set out for them to do and I can release my grip and let them enjoy life for a while. We novelists are sadists, ever on the alert for new types of suffering to inflict on our characters. It’s our job.

But not all the pain goes from authors to their creations. Although imaginary people, characters can attain an amazing level of reality. Some of my best ones prove to be stubborn as mules, laden with techniques for getting their own back. They hide in the shadows, refusing to reveal themselves (we call this writers’ block). They take time to develop, just like real people. They go off on their own, surprising me with their insistence on solving a problem in this way, not that. I find myself arguing with them, as if they were teenagers with attitude, patiently explaining that in that time and place they should be more independent or less, should take the privileges of their gender or class for granted, should be gentler or meaner, more religious, better educated, more eager to swing a sword or ply a needle. They laugh in my face and go their own way, and if I want to see where they will end up, I have to trust them to lead me there.

If you’re a writer of fiction, you probably have encountered this phenomenon yourself. If you’re not, you may be searching the local directory for the number of a nice psychotherapist to recommend. But bear with me, please. Of course, I don’t really believe that my characters maintain an existence separate from me. I create them and their world, and they represent facets of myself (yes, even the baddies). But the human subconscious is a strange and marvelous place, and a smart writer takes advantage of its capacity to weave seemingly disconnected elements of personality and life into a rich and coherent story—sometimes in ways that the conscious mind cannot immediately comprehend. A decision that a novelist makes on the fly for practical reasons—to kill off a character’s mother, say—may turn out to hold the key to that character’s whole personality. When one of my fictional people gets balky or an image nags at me or a plot element keeps butting in, I’ve learned to go with the flow, confident that the story will benefit as a result.

The same point applies even to titles and central images for each book, as illustrated by my ongoing series, Legends of the Five Directions. The first two novels are out, the third roughly plotted (with luck, I will finish it in about a year, unless the Magic Book Fairy blesses me with an independent income that allows me more hours to write), while the last two remain vague collections of ideas corralled by titles and cover pictures. The title of The Golden Lynx refers to a creature of the Russian woods but also to a piece of Scythian jewelry given to the heroine to remind her of the past she has reluctantly left behind; more deeply still, it evokes the heroine herself, a small but determined fighter against injustice. The Winged Horse represents the forces of air, the element linked to the east in Chinese and Turkic cosmology, as well as the hero’s main antagonist and the personality changes the hero must make to succeed; the horse flies between this life and the next, both literally and figuratively. The swans of the Russian north are pushing their way into The Swan Princess as I write, urging the heroine toward loyalty, toward commitment, toward the fierce defense of those she loves. I’m not sure yet how she will get there, but based on my past acquaintance with her, I suspect she will fight me all the way, insisting that she knows where she’s going, thank you very much. And I will shut up and listen, hoping with fingers crossed that she’s right, while beating back the phoenixes and shamans demanding my attention for books 4 and 5.

Maybe that’s why we writers torture our characters: because we are equally convinced that they are torturing us. But it’s an honor and a privilege to map out their journey, even if our subconscious, in the end, turns out to control the wheel.
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BIO
C. P. Lesley, a historian, has published three novels: The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel, The Golden Lynx (Legends 1: West), and The Winged Horse (Legends 2: East). She is currently working on The Swan Princess (Legends 3: North). For more information, follow her blog. http://blog.cplesley.com You can find links to her books at her publisher’s website. http://www.fivedirectionspress.com/books


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The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel
A modern-day graduate student enters the virtual-reality world of an eighteenth-century novel. Her life—and the novel—will never be the same.









The Golden Lynx
16th-century Moscow hums with rumors about its newest hero, the Golden Lynx. Everyone knows the Lynx must be a man, but “everyone” may be wrong…









The Winged Horse
Dispatched to collect his almost-forgotten bride, an inexperienced Tatar prince must overcome a deadly rival to obtain his inheritance and secure his future.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Books of Note: June Reads

Well, I didn't read as many books as I wanted to get to this month due to trying to get a few writing projects finished, and then going away for a long weekend, but I did get more than I probably would have otherwise, thanks to the Sweet Summer Read A Thon I was able to take part in which was really fun.

Complete June Reads List:

Curse of the Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen (3 stars)
Game (Jasper Dent #2) by Barry Lyga (4 stars)
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel (4 stars)
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer (3 stars)
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin (4 stars)
The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood and Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud (4 stars)
Moonshine (Cal Leandros #2) by Rob Thurman (4 stars)
Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer (4 stars)

Books I Bought:

I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent #1) by Barry Lyga
Nightlife (Cal Leandros #1) by Rob Thurman
Moonshine (Cal Leandros #2) by Rob Thurman
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
The Falconer's Knot by Mary Hoffman
The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds
Shelter (Mickey Bolitar #1) by Harlan Corban

Favorite Reads of the Month

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


Review

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I never read Sci-Fi, but I had it on good authority that this series was good, and I love any retelling, and this one was so strange I had to give it a try, and it turned out that I was glad I did, because I ended up enjoying it very much.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I do like the cover. It pretty much makes you realize it's going to be a Cinderella retelling, but since you can see the cyborg element in the leg, you can tell it's not going to be a normal one.

Characters: I really liked Cinder right off the bat. She doesn't have an attitude, and when she gets angry, it's really for understandable reasons. Her stepmother and oldest stepsister are really horrible. I liked how she was resourceful and could take care of herself, but was also not afraid to ask for help or welcomed it when it came unexpectedly. Kai was also a great character. He was so sweet and had just the kind of character I love seeing in princes or your rulers. He was humble and yet he was also willing to do his duty and what was best for his people. There was a lot of great supporting characters too. I really didn't know how I felt about Dr. Erland until probably the very end of the book. I still think he's kind of creepy though, I never got over my initial reaction. Peony was sweet and a great little sister character. Levana, the Lunar queen was super creepy, but I loved her character. She reminded me of the classic fairy queens with her domineering attitude and her glamour. I also almost never like robot/android characters (except in Star Wars) but I did like Iko, she was adorable.

The Romance: I actually ship Cinder and Kai a lot. I love them together, and I think they are just adorable.

Writing Style: I guess there's not anything majorly special about the actual writing style itself, but the way the story is told and the world it is set it was awesome. I usually don't like future-set stories (In fact I can't even remember reading one before this) but I liked this because it didn't portray society as completely destroyed. It was more like a Star Wars setting, which is the kind of Sci-Fi I like, so I appreciated that. It seemed normal and okay, and not freaky and disturbing, is what I'm trying to say. I would not mind living in this future apart from the plague outbreak. But the descriptions were great, and I was able to visualize it all very easily. I loved how the author worked in elements of Cinderella and yet gave us a really fun twist to the original story as well. It's a pretty action-packed book, but you also get to learn a lot about the characters too, which I like. There's also bits of rather subtle humor which I always appreciate.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable. But again, I liked the world building, and as far as that goes, I guess it kind of is a pretty believable future setting.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing major, only personal preference. I hate plague books, I don't like reading them, and I hate medical experimentation. But apart from those bits, I had no problem with the book and none of it was as bad as I feared either.

Conclusion: 3.5 stars. I enjoyed this book, and I'm very glad I decided to give it a go. I think the author has something really unique here, and I hope she continues to write more of this calibre.

Recommended Audience: If you are getting tired of normal retellings, try these, because they're unique. Probably more a girl read than a guy read ages 13 and up.



Victor Frankenstein leads a charmed life. He and his twin brother, Konrad, and their beautiful cousin Elizabeth take lessons at home and spend their spare time fencing and horseback riding. Along with their friend Henry, they have explored all the hidden passageways and secret rooms of the palatial Frankenstein chateau. Except one.

The Dark Library contains ancient tomes written in strange languages and filled with forbidden knowledge. Their father makes them promise never to visit the library, but when Konrad becomes deathly ill, Victor knows he must find the book that contains the recipe for the legendary Elixir of Life.

The elixir needs only three ingredients. But impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Victor knows he must not fail. Yet his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science and love—and how much he is willing to sacrifice.



Review

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I've been wanting to read this one for a while, but finally waited until I had read Frankenstein itself before I did so. I've not read a Kenneth Oppel book I didn't like, and this one was no different.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Yes. While it has a character on it, I really love the cover. It has a very cool gothic feel to it.

Characters: I'm one of the people who actually felt sorry for Victor and liked him inFrankenstein so I enjoyed reading a book about him when he's younger (though this is really only a few years before the original book takes place.) Victor is an interesting character, because he is a wonderful brother and a wonderful friend but he also has a jealous streak that makes him a little dark at times. In contrast, his twin brother, Konrad is the sweet one, and works well to keeping Victor on his feet. I really enjoyed their relationship, that undying loyalty that I love to see in brothers. I liked getting to see more of Elizabeth and I have always liked Henry, so while there wasn't much of him, I enjoyed having him along. Polidori was also a very interesting character (view spoiler)

The Romance: This was the only problem I had with the book. While I love Kenneth Oppel's stories, he sometimes has the penchant for introducing love triangles and this one being between Victor, Elizabeth and Konrad and I can't stand it when brothers fight over a girl, it always goes bad. It this case, it didn't play a huge role in the story, but it was still more than I liked, and the fact that whenever I wanted to shake my head at Victor the situation had something to do with Elizabeth, also made it someone intolerable.

Writing Style: As usual, Kenneth Oppel presents a wonderful adventure story with a dark, gothic feel. This is probably the darkest book I have read by him. I always love his writing. This one reads like a classic, and I loved Victor's first person narration. Everything seemed to fit the time period well and I have no complaints about that whatsoever. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes for a quick read. It actually fits pretty well with Mary Shelly's novel in style, though of course isn't exact. But I liked how it kind of gave backstory for the original and gave a reason for why Frankenstein did what he did.

Accuracy/ Believability: I really don't know much about Germany during this time period but it seemed all right to me. Anything that seemed a little fantastic, was obviously meant to be, and I liked how science was pretty much regarded how it was back then, as magic and alchemy. The things that they used and did actually made sense to me.

Problems/What bothered me: Apart from the love triangle, I didn't really have any complaints.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I enjoyed this a lot, and even though it's sad and I cried at the end, it will just be another favorite by Kenneth Oppel.

Recommended Audience: If you liked the original novel, you'll probably enjoy this. Anyone who enjoyed gothic adventure novels should try it. Girl or guy read 16 and up.


(Read this review with Spoilers on Goodreads

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .


Review

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I always love a good ghost story, and what's better than professional ghost hunters? I thought this book had a really cool twist to the traditional ghost story and was overall a really awesome adventure with cool characters.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Yes! I really love the cover. While there are people on it, you can't see any definitive features and I think it works. It has a cool ghostly look to it to indicate the kind of book this is.

Characters: Lucy is the protagonist and narrator of the story and I really liked her a lot. She's a sensible heroine, she knows what she's doing and when she does make mistakes it's more in the way that people are human and not because she does it out of stupidity. In fact, usually her mistakes ended up being for the better in the long run. Lockwood was also a totally awesome character. I loved him; he's just the kind of guy character I love to read about. He was humble, somewhat quiet, and not afraid to speak his mind. He was a very mature individual and he also had an awesome fashion sense ;) George was your typical quirky member of the group, the geeky one, but he definitely stepped up to the plate when needed, and despite his shortcomings, I liked him as well. What I loved most about them was that there was no romance at all between them. They worked as partners and had a very familial relationship which was totally awesome. I'm not going to say much about a lot of the supporting characters because I don't want to give away spoilers, but I liked the supporting cast a lot too, and the baddie while not totally present was creepy even if he did monologue a little more than needed.

The Romance: None!!

Writing Style: I really loved the writing style; Lucy's narration is awesome, because she has a very dry sense of humor which I always love, and though the book never really became actually scary, at least in my opinion (but it takes a lot to creep me out) it had a really almost noir feel to it. The book is actually set in modern days, but it has the feel of a Victorian novel. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself it wasn't, even though modern technology does show up. Apart from being a ghost story this was an awesome mystery and I loved how all the seemingly unconnected bits fit together. The story itself is set in kind of an alternate version of our world; it's all the same places and everything, but for some reason in Britain, there has been an influx of ghostly activity and that's why they have to create ghost fighting companies. Since Children are able to see ghosts better than adults, they make up the most of the companies. It was all a very clever and unique idea, even if the reason for all the ghostly activity is never really explained. No one knows why in the book either, so it didn't really bother me, and is not entirely relevant to the plot, at least not in this book. It also had a very British feel to it which I loved. My only complaint, which isn't even really a complaint because it's not the author's fault at all, was that when the book was published in America they Americanized it and I HATE it when they do that. It sounds so wrong to have American words in place of British ones that should be there and it kind of took the feel away for me on occasion. I never understand why they do this anyway, it's not that hard to figure out. It will teach kids something. Kids aren't stupid, after all. I was also insulted when people spelled things out for me in books when I was a kid.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable. But the ghostly lore from what I've known prior is pretty traditional; iron, salt, that sort of thing, but I loved the gadgets they used too. Very fun!

Problems/What bothered me: No problems, I enjoyed the book a lot.

Conclusion: 4 stars. This is the first book I have read by Jonathan Stroud and I can't believe I haven't read any of his books before. I really enjoyed this a lot, and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

Recommended Audience: If you enjoy ghost stories, this is a great one to add to your shelves. Girl or guy read 12 and up.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Wolfsblood Release/ Giveaway

This is the official release of my new novel Wolfsblood!

Genre: Historical/Paranormal
Number of Pages: 336
Description: Alexandrus has been hoping for his promotion to centurion for a while, not only for his own personal gain, but to make his father, a wounded veteran, proud. However, promotion does not come in the way he expects.

He finds himself posted to a frontier fort on the Northern Border, commanding a cohort of Celtic auxiliaries. Chosen for this particular job because his grandmother was British and he speaks the language, he sets off for his new posting, leaving behind a disappointed father and the relatively comfortable life he has known in the south.

When he reaches the fort, he finds it the most horribly run place he has ever seen. Men are sleeping on duty, no one seems to be motivated to do anything, and the decurion is "currently indisposed". He soon makes it his duty to join with the other centurions and whip the men into shape, but it proves difficult, for the fort is full of troublemakers, both well-meaning and otherwise. But the lack of discipline is not the only thing strange about the new posting. Where are the horses if it's supposed to me a cavalry cohort? Why do most of the men seem to have strange golden eyes, and why is it that most of them have bite scars? It can't be that they were all so unlucky while hunting for wolf skins, could it? Alex disregards an old story he hears about a Druid curse, but when it comes to the night of his own initiation, he begins to wonder whether there is truth to it after all.


Purchase Links
(I will also be publishing it as an ebook through Kindle and Smashwords shortly!)


Excerpt



Chapter One
m

It’s strange sometimes to look back on those few moments in life that seem to start out as nothing and end up as major events when you later realize their full significance to your fate. That’s how I feel now when I look back to that day I earned my promotion to centurion. I remember it so well even after all the years that have gone by, made longer for the events that took place between them.
I had been training in the field with the men, before I returned to the mess hall for the midday meal. I left my kit on the table with a sigh and my centurion looked over at me with a smile.
“Cheer up, Crispus, there’s only a little bit longer to wait before you’re out from under my wing. Legate Gallus won’t leave you languishing long.”
“The wait might be shorter than you think,” said the senior centurion, Aulus, coming into the mess with a tablet in his hand. “You’ve been summoned to see the legate at your earliest convenience, Crispus.”
I smiled despite myself. I had known promotion was coming, the legate himself had hinted it to me. As soon as a position was open, he promised to give me my centurionate. I had been looking forward to it for a long time, as had my father. My father perhaps more than I.
“How do I look?” I asked, causing the other men to laugh at my sweaty appearance. Maximus slapped me on the shoulder.
“You look fine. Gallus will hardly expect any different. Go on then, my optio of only a few more moments.”
I grinned and ducked out of the room, crossing the fort compound to the officers’ rooms where the Legate’s office was. I knocked on the door when I got there, jittery excitement coursing through me.
“Enter,” came the voice from inside.
I did so, saluting the legate smartly as he stood to greet me before waving me to a chair on the other side of the desk.
“Sit down, lad, I’ll not stand the whole time; I’m far too old for that!.”
I smiled as I took the seat. Legate Gallus was quite a bit older than most legates normally were, but he was well loved by those under his command, for he commanded like a father and to the younger officers, more like a grandfather, which is what he had always seemed to me. He was kind and had been there to help me from my first day as an optio, having known my father well when he served. He set me up with Centurion Maximus, who, being only a few years my senior, became like an older brother to me, and taught by example, and was always kind even though he wasn’t afraid to tell me when I did wrong. I would forever be grateful to Gallus for putting me with him for I didn’t think I would be half the solider I was today without Maximus’ guidance. I was sad that this was Gallus’ last year as legate, but if I were to change legions anyway, I supposed it would hardly make much difference.
“I suppose you probably know why I called you here, Optio Crispus,” he said with a smile, his eyes bright.
I forced myself to keep from smiling back, trying to stay professional. “I might have an idea, sir.”
“Bright lad,” Gallus said with a wink and picked up a tablet from his desk, opening it to scan the words. “And I think you will be proven correct, I am happy to say. You will be a centurion within the hour.” I felt my heart soar but heard in the legate’s voice that there was another part he had yet to say. “However, I am afraid it’s not exactly what you had in mind.”
“Sir?” I enquired, a sinking feeling entering my stomach, mixing with be bewilderment.
The legate closed the tablet and leaned across the desk to me, his hands folded in front of him. “I’ve had reports from Legate Lucretius—he’s up north, Crispus, you probably have never met the man. He says there is a fort on the frontier that has been having problems. Issues with the men, the officers are having trouble keeping them in line, the normal thing. Anyway, he’s afraid they will revolt or desert, and you know the kind of pressure that is put on the rest of us when there are fears of revolt. Most of them are British auxiliaries or at least part British, quite like yourself, but not from the south where even the natives have become civilized; they’re from the north. That’s where your grandmother came from, I believe?”
“Yes, sir,” I replied, my feelings still sinking.
“Anyway, to the point: Lucretius wants the legion disbanded, but myself and several other officers decided it would be more prudent to find a competent officer to go up there and whip the men into shape instead of shipping potential deserters and troublemakers out to other legions. Jupiter knows we have enough problems as it is in these parts. I know what this sounds like, Crispus, and I know the kind of officers who usually get sent to these sorts of postings, but believe me when I say I mean no offense by it, but rather that I choose you out of the highest respect. The men, the Wolves as they are called by everyone, will be disbanded if they cannot be pulled together, and their posting is vital to the frontier, and if anything bad happens to that cohort, no one will serve there willingly again. You know how superstitious the troops are. You are a fine young man, Alexandrus, and you will make a fine officer. You, of all the men I know, can get these men into some sort of military semblance.”
“Sir,” I inquired, hoping I didn’t seem ungrateful. “I apologize, but why me over another? I can’t possibly be a better choice than Maximus or Decimus or the others. And surely someone with more experience would be a better pick.”
“Perhaps,” Gallus admitted. “But you speak the language and you have British blood in your veins. The men will be more willing to welcome one of their own, than a foreign young rip right off the ship from Rome.”
“I might have British blood, sir, but I was raised in Roman ways. I think they would resent me more for that,” I replied, unable to help speaking the truth, even though I knew I was arguing when I shouldn’t be. I knew Gallus meant well; as I said, he had ever been kind to me, but this task he gave me would be quite a thing to handle. And my father… What would my father say about it?
Gallus stood up and I followed suit as he came around the desk and placed a hand on my shoulder kindly. “I know this isn’t what you were looking for, nor is it the one I would have chosen for you in normal circumstances, but there wouldn’t be another position for months, perhaps not a year, unless someone met an untimely end. Think of it this way, dear boy: if you can make it through this, you shall be able to make it through anything. And if you do a good job, it will be easier to find a better position when your mission is completed—and I assure you that there will be one for you if you distinguish yourself. I have great faith it you, Alexandrus. I think the posting will benefit from your leadership.”
I forced a smile. “Yes, sir. I thank you for considering me capable of it.” I didn’t know what to say. I had thought the day I got my promotion would be glorious, and joyful, and I would ride home to my family in my new uniform and bring the news to my father and see how proud he was. Now, I feared telling him the news. I might have been able to get through the disappointment myself, but my father’s disappointment and shame would nearly kill me.
“Here are your orders,” Legate Gallus said, handing me a sealed tube. I took it and tucked it into my belt. “You will leave in the morning.” I was glad of that, at least. I wouldn’t have to sit around under my father’s disapproving eye more than one night.
“Go see the quartermaster about your new kit,” Gallus told him. “Then you may say your goodbyes and go to your family for the night.” He smiled then and patted my shoulder once more. “I wish you the best Centurion Crispus. I know you will do well.”
“Thank you, sir. I wish you the best as well. And I must thank you too, for treating me with kindness.”
“Your father is an old friend, and I see much of him in the son,” the old man said fondly, his eyes glazing over with thoughts of far off battles beside old comrades. “If fate had not been so cruel we would serve together still.”
“Yes,” I replied quietly, then saluted again. “Sir.”
“Centurion Crispus,” Gallus replied in farewell and I turned to leave the room.
As I walked to the armory, my thoughts were a jumble of feelings. In part I was still excited to be a centurion, and now that I knew what was ahead of me, I would try and make the best of it. But another part of me also was still disappointed, and I knew it would be so much easier to live with this if it wasn’t for my father and his anticipated reaction that I could foresee all too clearly.
I picked up my new gear and made my way back to the barracks. As I entered I found Maximus and Decimus, two of the other centurions, taking their ease for the part of the day they had no duties to attend to. They hooted as I came in bearing my new gear, and stood up to greet me.
“What’s this? New togs? Should you be needing help figuring out what goes where?” Maximus asked in jest and I couldn’t help but grin as I dumped the things unceremoniously onto my cot.
“Hey there, you can’t be treating it like that until it’s seen action,” Decimus said in mock seriousness. “What’s gotten you in such a mood, oh newly minted officer?”
“I’m posted to the frontier,” I said, sitting down on the side of the cot and accepting the glass of wine Maximus handed to me.
“Frontier?” Maximus asked incredulously. “Bad luck! What did you do to get on Gallus’ bad side? I thought you two got on well.”
“It’s not about getting on anyone’s bad side,” I said. “Apparently the post needs someone to go in and clean things up a bit, and Gallus thought I’d be the best man for the job. It seems I wouldn’t have gotten a chance at promotion otherwise, unless one of you two got kicked off.”
“Well, that’s nice, and after all we did for him,” Decimus said, jesting.
The two made a face at me, but I could tell they were sympathetic to my plight. No one wanted to be told they were going to be sent to a frontier posting. It was something of a stigma in the legions.
“It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for my father,” I said grimly.
“Ah,” Maximus said in understanding. “I can see how that might prove a problem. But I think he’ll understand once you explain it to him.”
I wasn’t so sure, but I didn’t want to contradict Maximus, mainly for the fact that an hour ago he had still been my superior, but also for the fact he was my friend and I knew he was only trying to cheer me up. I finished my wine and stood up, reaching under my cot for my things.
“I should probably be going. I need to leave early tomorrow morning, and I want to try and get some sleep tonight.” I packed my things up and began to don my centurion garb. Maximus pretended to wipe away a tear.
“Ah, what shall I do without my brave little optio? I still remember nursing you on my knee when you were hardly but a babe…” I threw an extra sandal at him to shut him up.
“If I was a babe when I came here you were hardly more than a boy. If I recall, you had only just been commissioned at the time.”
Maximus grinned. “Oh yes, I was that. I wasn’t too much of a tyrant, was I?”
“Oh, you have no idea,” I told him.
“Well, you learned from the best then. Make sure to use some of my skills while you’re whipping those troops into shape up north. It will take a hard hand. Do not favor the staff.” He picked up my vine staff and cracked it menacingly into his hand. I took it back from him as he adjusted my cloak and checked the straps of my breastplate. He rapped his knuckles against my helmet. “May as well make a good impression for your father. We’ll even see you out in honor.” We shared a brief embrace, forearms clasped.
“It was an honor to serve under you, Maximus,” I replied honestly.
“Oh tush,” he said, but I could tell he was secretly pleased. “I wish you good journey, Alex.”
I said farewell to Decimus as well and continued to gather my things while the others went to gather the men to apparently see me out. Once I had packed all my things, I stood in the room with the beds and took a deep breath. The fort on the frontier would likely look much like this, but with foreign faces and certainly ones that held no fondness for a southern officer come to put them to rights. I knew I would not be welcomed, and perhaps it would be easier because of it. I wondered if I would ever see these men again.
I left the barracks and found my horse waiting with a stable hand outside. I secured my bag to the back of the saddle and swung myself up, nearly getting tangled in my new cloak as I did so, and burning with embarrassment, glad Maximus and Decimus weren’t there to witness. I kicked the offending garment aside and clicked my tongue to urge my horse into movement. I couldn’t help the grin that spread across my face as I saw my comrades lined up on the parade of the fort in fine order, knowing that this was likely the last time in a long while I would see such fine military form. I saluted them, and they saluted back as I rode out of the gate. Even Legate Gallus had come out to see me off and I nodded respectably to him.
“Fortune go with you, Centurion Crispus,” he said as I rode out the gate.
I told myself I wouldn’t look back, but I did. Just once, and felt heavy in my heart because of it. I turned around swiftly and urged my mount into a canter as I made my way down the road for home.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Wolfsblood by Hazel B. West

Wolfsblood

by Hazel B. West

Giveaway ends July 20, 2014.
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