Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bookish Blog Hops' VALENTINES HOP: Day 12!


It is a truth universally acknowledged that every writer begins first as a reader. Slightly less-acknowledged (and not at all tested, researched, or proven in any way) is the theory that the more prolific one's writing habits are, the more wide-spread their reading habits. Take it from us avid book-enthusiasts: "Bet You Can't Read Just One!"


Leslie Conzatti (Me!)

Not kidding… Anybody who knows me, or has followed this blog for the last couple years can attest to the fact that it is nearly impossible for me to focus on reading just one book, any more than I am capable of plugging away at only one project! Already in the last month I had 2 library checkouts I was reading, a book on iBooks I was reading on my phone, and a book on my Kindle Fire! I regularly do multiple books--just because I have so many books I want to read, anyway… and sometimes I’m just not in the mood for certain genres, so I would really like a book in a different genre. I sometimes start multiple books, just to see which one captivates me more than the others, and that kind of decides which order I’ll read the stack in. But yes, I’m somebody who doesn’t leave the library with less than 3 books. I’m the same way as a writer, too… I get restless if I have to be focused on one project for too long, and my creativity threatens to stagnate… so to keep it fresh, I have multiple projects in varying genres to poke away at when the mood strikes!


I used to read one book at a time. I couldn’t make myself start another one without finishing my current read. But ever since I started joining book clubs and buddy reading with friends, I learned how to read multiple books at a time. Usually read 3-5 books. It’s because I can’t read the books for buddy reading and Book Club in one sitting since their chapters are divided for scheduled discussions. There’s also Netgalley ARCs which I tend to read little by little so I don’t have to post the review too soon. So right now, I’m currently reading 5 books; 2 YA books for my Book Club, 1 for buddy reading, 1 Netgalley ARC and 1 that I personally love.

Jo Linsdell www.JoLinsdell.com




I normally only read one book at once so I can concentrate on the story. If I do ever have multiple books on the go at the same time it’s usually from very different genres e.g. a thriller, and a non fiction.





I tend to have two books going at all times. One audiobook that I listen to while I'm at work and one e-book/paperback that I read in my free time at home. I think having the different formats and a definitive split in the times I listen to/read them helps me keep them separate.


I read one at a time, unless I leave that one at home and I am travelling. Now I always have SEVERAL books checked out on my Kindle. But if it’s a good story, I won’t put it down until it is done, or until my husband comes up and says “It’s 3 am Brandy are you sleeping tonight?” Whichever comes first.

How about you? How many books are on your nightstand/devices just now? Let us know in the comments! 
See below for a complete schedule and links to the other blogs. For more Blog Hops featuring The Upstream Writer, click >HERE<



Day 1: Where is your favourite place to read?
Host: Jo Linsdell (www.JoLinsdell.com)


Day 2: Which book do you wish had a sequel?
Host: ME! (You Are HERE)

Day 3: Who gave you your love for reading?
Host: Laura Morningstar (http://sawdustandspoons.com)

Day 4: Who’s your book crush?
Host: Stormi Johnson (www.bewitchedreader.wordpress.com)

Day 5: A book you bought for its beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too.
Host: Sarah Nowicki (www.paranormalpeach.com)

Day 6: A popular theme, or trope you will never get bored of reading.
Host: ME again! (You are HERE!)

Day 7: A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counterpart.
Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 8: Full on Romance Books Or Action-Packed With A Few Love Scenes? Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 9: Love triangles, yes or no?
Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 10: A book with a heart on the cover?
Host: Jo Linsdell (www.JoLinsdell.com)

Day 11: A book you dislike that everyone else seems to love?
Host: Kim Jacque (www.writersideoflife.com)

Day 12: One book at a time or several?
Host: ME again! (*You Are HERE!)

Day 13: An author you would love to interview?
Host: Lili Marcus (https://lilisblissfulpages.wordpress.com/)

Day 14: Last book you recommended to someone?
Host: Kim Jacque (www.writersideoflife.com)

Day 15: A fictional world you'd love to visit?
Host: Stormi Johnson (www.bewitchedreader.wordpress.com)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Bookish Blog Hops' VALENTINES HOP, Day 6!



Leslie Conzatti (Me!)

I am an absolute sucker for any kind of fairy-tale adaptation or re-telling! So long as it doesn’t take a hard nosedive into “straight-up kinky smut” I am 100% sold on it. I love the quaint thoughtfulness of a good fairy tale, the didactic nature that wasn’t there just for entertainment, diversion, or fetish fulfillment--these tales were meant to get people thinking from a different perspective, to see real-life circumstances in a whole new light through a strong, innately beautiful method of storytelling. The Lunar Chronicles is hands-down my absolute favorite, but I’ve also come across some gorgeous fairy-tale tellers in their own right: Cameron Dokey makes no bones about the fairy tales she re-tells, and most of them are pretty beguiling; Cornelia Funke takes the flavor and atmosphere of a fairy tale and spins something completely new and original for her readers, not just in the Inkheart Trilogy but also her YA series, “Mirrorworld”, and the stand-alone novels she’s crafted. Now, there are dismal failures in that realm, such as Michael Buckley’s ill-conceived Sisters Grimm that could have been such a fantastic launching point for kids who shirk at fairy tales--but for too much emphasis on gross substances or crass habits that adults actively try to discourage in kids… It dumbs down the tone of the story, I feel, shifting right into the kind of immaturity that kids reading chapter-books should be quickly growing out of. But there are some fantastic ones out there, such as books by Shannon Hale, Marissa Burt, and Rick Riordan (though he’s more mythology, not exactly “fairy tale”)!

Forbidden love has to be the top one for me. Location, culture, class or circumstances stops them from being a couple - think Poldark or The Princess Bride. Here, we have a lot of soul-searching, whispered conversations and loaded looks, as well as a heart-swell at the end when the couple stands together against the world and love conquers all.


Kristin F: Jørgensen -- https://luktenavtrykksverte.blogspot.com/
I can't deny I have this thing for books about World War II. I know it's not a cosy and pleasant theme at all, but as it's such a big topic, there's always new angles to check out.


I NEVER liked romance novels, well modern ones anyway. (I like The Bronte’s and Ms. Austin, but there isn’t any sex in them ;) ) Until I caught onto Nora Roberts. I really like the murder/mystery/thriller romance books. I loved Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, etc., and my librarian told me about Birthright and instantly Nora was a favorite. I can skip the Sex if I wanna or read it if I like the couple. But I ALWAYS like a good mystery!






I enjoy a good enemies-to-lovers romance. The banter back and forth and seeing them grow fight their attraction is always a fun adventure. Endurance by Amy Daws and Boys of Brayshaw High by Meagan Brandy are two of my favorites in this genre.




Jo Linsdell -- www.JoLinsdell.com
I love a good "who did it?" The more grey the characters, the better (author Ethan Cross is awesome at doing this). Give me action, suspense, and mystery any day!

I also love the friends to lovers trope. When I get to the end of the story it’s easier to imagine them living happily ever after.


Another favourite of mine is strong, dorky characters. I love seeing them grow and become the amazing character they always were but just didn’t realise it. This is probably one of the reasons why I love the Percy Jackson series so much.


How about you? What are some tropes or themes that never get old for you when you read? Share your thoughts with us in the comments! 
See below for a complete schedule and links to the other blogs. For more Blog Hops featuring The Upstream Writer, click >HERE<


Day 1: Where is your favourite place to read?
Host: Jo Linsdell (www.JoLinsdell.com)

Day 2: Which book do you wish had a sequel?
Host: ME! (*You Are HERE)

Day 3: Who gave you your love for reading?
Host: Laura Morningstar (http://sawdustandspoons.com)

Day 4: Who’s your book crush?
Host: Stormi Johnson (www.bewitchedreader.wordpress.com)

Day 5: A book you bought for it’s beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too.
Host: Sarah Nowicki (www.paranormalpeach.com)

Day 6: A popular theme, or trope you will never get bored of reading.
Host: ME again! (You are HERE!)

Day 7: A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counterpart.
Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 8: Full on Romance Books Or Action-Packed With A Few Love Scenes? Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 9: Love triangles, yes or no?
Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 10: A book with a heart on the cover?
Host: Jo Linsdell (www.JoLinsdell.com)

Day 11: A book you dislike that everyone else seems to love?
Host: Kim Jacque (www.writersideoflife.com)

Day 12: One book at a time or several?
Host: ME again! (You Are HERE!)

Day 13: An author you would love to interview?
Host: Lili Marcus (https://lilisblissfulpages.wordpress.com/)

Day 14: Last book you recommended to someone?
Host: Kim Jacque (www.writersideoflife.com)

Day 15: A fictional world you'd love to visit?
Host: Stormi Johnson (www.bewitchedreader.wordpress.com)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Reader's Review: "The Truth Behind" by Kelly Blanchard


Synopsis from Amazon:
This is a collection of short stories that current before, during, and after the first three books of the Chronicles of Lorrek series. In it, more is discovered about the characters of the books, and events that were merely mentioned in the books are actually shown and experienced in these short stories.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>

My Review: 

Delightful! Want to know the next-best thing to reading another book in the series--or perhaps the best way to bide one's time waiting for the next book? Reading a short story collection! It's almost like reading fanfiction--only absolutely everything is totally "canon" because they are written by the original author!
Such is the case for The Truth Behind. As a writer myself, I can say with certainty that there is a lot that goes into developing a story, and events in the individual lives of key characters, all of which has a definite effect on the way a character responds and interacts, sometimes even in the way certain characters are unable to be in a certain scene, or arrive in time to perform certain actions--but when it comes time to edit, there just isn't reason enough to justify leaving the scene in the draft, so out it comes! Or perhaps (as was the case for me and Princess of Undersea!) there are times when the author has enough of a vague idea of the "behind the plot" event happening to reference it in the novel, but it isn't until much later that the idea coalesces enough to actually firm into a scene that explains exactly what happened... So what does one do with those?
If you're Kelly Blanchard, with her ever-expanding series Chronicles of Lorrek, you put them all in a collection of 4 novella-length "volumes" and bestow it upon your fervent fanbase.

These stories were an absolute joy to read, even if I've only read the first four books. Regardless, they opened my eyes to some of the references I encountered in the books without realizing their significance, and they answered some of the questions I would have as to "what really happened" in those events that had a profound effect on all the characters, but didn't receive a full explanation in the book itself. Fifty-two stories (one for every week of the year) would be a lot to go through, so for the sake of this review, I've gone through each of the "volumes" and chosen my three favorites!

Volume 1: Who We Once Were--Delving into the much-referenced history of the main characters, this volume very much served to provide the background for much of what happened in the first two books, especially as it pertains to Lorrek and his boyhood, coming into magic. My favorite stories were the ones featuring the assassin Vixen, and also the story arc that brought to light the details of the decline of Mordora's father, and how someone so connected to many magic-users could be so dead-set against magic of any kind... We get a glimpse of Mordora herself, who she once was, before the apparent acts of betrayal committed by those she trusted so much sort of soured the relationships she valued. Connecting her to the characters of Tobias and Aiden--both of whom showed up in the main series--did well in fulfilling the title of this collection (something Blanchard is fond of doing, and does very well, I might add)!

Volume 2: The Deeds We've Done--The collection continues with a slew of stories that just happen to pertain to certain deeds committed by certain characters--not the least of which is Loroth's relationship with Vixen--a prince and an assassin don't seem like they would get along very well, but the tenderness which grows between them, and the intensity of their commitment to one another shows very plainly in the choices they make for the sake of one another! This volume also focuses on another favorite character of mine, Ceras (yet another assassin--what can I say? They are some boss ladies!!) who ends up accomplishing some very important deeds in the main series--and my favorite story of hers is when she learns "the truth behind" (HA!) the unintended outcome of a choice she made long ago--and one she chooses to rectify any way she can! I also liked learning more about Atheta and her dealings with the Princes of Cuskelom, since the whole series essentially begins with the fact that she has disappeared and everyone is convinced Lorrek abused her and possibly killed her... a reputation he desires to redeem himself of. Some important deeds happened in these stories, with serious repercussions, and it's always important to know the truth!

Volume 3: The Things We've Said--If one's past and one's deeds are important, one's words must be taken into account as well! These stories feature characters making important declarations, or they are the true stories behind events referenced by characters in the main story--not the least of which is the infamous Rakessat attack that shattered the normal, everyday lives of all six kingdoms in one massive explosion in the Porta Cosmica. My favorite stories in this one were: "Torroth Visits Jechorm", where Lorrek's own father made an important choice that ended up with certain words and decisions being attributed to him, while he remained completely unaware of the agreements made in his name; "Roskelem Returns To Serhon", which provides a deeper understanding of just how far gone the mad king was, how much of his sanity was exchanged for obtaining power that should never have been his... and how much his ambition blinded him to the hate that was brewing in the corner from which he should have received the most support... And also I liked the conversation between Lorrek and his mother, after all is said and done, where she joins him in grieving over the effects of his choices, while at the same time expressing her belief in him. Just that one bit of support is the motivation and the strength he needs to keep him going on his journey to set things right. Wonderful!

Volume 4: The Secrets We've Kept--Possibly the best part of writing is all the little "secrets" that come out as one is developing the plot, secrets that have a profound effect on the plot precisely because no one character has all the information... and now, readers of the Chronicles of Lorrek get at least a small sampling of secrets that various characters knew long before some cataclysmic event brings them to light, or perhaps they never quite got explained properly then, but now here is The Truth Behind those mysterious, hidden deeds! My absolute favorite in this particular section was the whole batch of kept secrets brought to light concerning the entertaining duo Adonis and Skelton. Raised as brothers, they find out secrets about their past that create some very unexpected connections to other key characters in the series--and I am all here for it! I also very much enjoyed watching different characters learn more about the history of the kelliphs--information the readers learn through discoveries made by Lorrek and Radella in isolation over the course of Book 4, but no one else had learned much about it... until now. Secrets long kept are unravelling, some of them leading to more secret-keeping as those who reveal partial information choose to keep some for themselves... What the consequences of such choices might be, only time will tell...

Overall, this was a great collection and a fitting companion to the Chronicles of Lorrek series! I give it a full-on *****5 STAR***** rating, and an Upstream Writer Certified ASSUREDLY RECOMMENDED endorsement as well! If any of my summaries and references (which I tried to keep as spoiler-free as possible!) intrigued you at all, I strongly suggest starting the Chronicles of Lorrek series today, and let the magical worlds (and words!) of Kelly Blanchard sweep you away!

Further Reading: (Epic Fantasy/Strong Series/Excellent World-Building/Short Story Collections)

The Chronicles of Lorrek--Kelly Blanchard 
        -Someday I'll Be Redeemed 
        -I Still Have A Soul 
        -I'm Still Alive 
        -Do You Trust Me? 
The Fair Folk Chronicles--Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
        -Foul is Fair 
        -Street Fair 
        -A Fair Fight 
        -All's Fair 
The Therian Way--Kimberly Rogers
       -Leopard's Heart 
       -Wolf's Path 
       -Tiger's Shadow
The Firebird Fairy Tales--Amy Kuivalainen
       -The Cry of the Firebird 
       -Ashes of the Firebird 
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland 
     -Dance Into The Wyrd
The Cadeau Series--Connie Olvera
       -Who Can You Trust?
The Shaudrey Universe Series--J. E. Mueller
       -Fire's Song
The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey 
       -The Way 
       -The Truth 
       -The Lie 


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Bookish Blog Hops' VALENTINES HOP, Day 2: "Which Book Do You Wish Had A Sequel?"


Leslie Conzatti (Me!)

Far too many books, that’s certain! Both in the indie sphere and the mainstream-published world--far too often I come across a positively stellar book, and it ends up being a stand-alone… or the author simply declined to continue what was so obviously designed to be a longer story arc! That second one is definitely the most aggravating. Take Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, for example. Now, I know he’s plenty prolific, and he’s produced some enthralling gems, so he is by no means “slacking” in the years since that book was published--but I mean, come on!! The events barely scratched the surface of all the potential housed in this one unique premise--and it’s still unparalleled, so many years later! I need more of these chalk-drawing shenanigans!

Jo Linsdell-- www.jolinsdell.com 


There are so many books that I wish had sequels. I’m actually really happy to have discovered that several that would have been my answer for this question do in fact now have sequels e.g. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. MacManus (Two Can Keep a Secret was released in January this year), and Geekerella by Ashley Poston (The Princess and the Fangirl is due for release in April 2019).






There are so many books that I could list here, but I somehow managed to limit it to Keeper by Amy Daws. The entire Harris families is one of my favorite fictional families and I would love to see all of them, but especially Booker and Poppy from Keeper. I don't want to give any spoilers for those of you who haven't read the series, so I won't go into too many details as to why I chose Booker out of all the Harris brothers. I am very partial to Booker and Camden, but Booker is my personal favorite and I would love to see the next phase of his and Poppy's relationship.






I wish that The Collector by Nora Roberts had a sequel. I just really love the pairing of Ash and Lila. Plus Lila is plucky and weird... like me.








<<<<<<<>>>>>>>
How about you?
What book have you read that YOU wish could have continued? Let us know in the comments! See below for a complete schedule and links to the other blogs!
To view other blog hops featuring The Upstream Writer, click >HERE<


Day 1: Where is your favourite place to read?
Host: Jo Linsdell (www.JoLinsdell.com)

Day 2: Which book do you wish had a sequel?
Host: ME! (*You Are HERE)

Day 3: Who gave you your love for reading?
Host: Laura Morningstar (http://sawdustandspoons.com)

Day 4: Who’s your book crush?
Host: Stormi Johnson (www.bewitchedreader.wordpress.com)

Day 5: A book you bought for it’s beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too.
Host: Sarah Nowicki (www.paranormalpeach.com)

Day 6: A popular theme, or trope you will never get bored of reading.
Host: ME again! (You are HERE!)

Day 7: A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counterpart.
Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 8: Full on Romance Books Or Action-Packed With A Few Love Scenes? Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 9: Love triangles, yes or no?
Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 10: A book with a heart on the cover?
Host: Jo Linsdell (www.JoLinsdell.com)

Day 11: A book you dislike that everyone else seems to love?
Host: Kim Jacque (www.writersideoflife.com)

Day 12: One book at a time or several?
Host: ME again! (You Are HERE!)

Day 13: An author you would love to interview?
Host: Lili Marcus (https://lilisblissfulpages.wordpress.com/)

Day 14: Last book you recommended to someone?
Host: Kim Jacque (www.writersideoflife.com)

Day 15: A fictional world you'd love to visit?
Host: Stormi Johnson (www.bewitchedreader.wordpress.com)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

WIP Wednesday: "The Last Inkweaver" Excerpt Comparison--Draft 1 Vs. Draft 2



Author's Note: Boy, this rewrite just keeps dragging along! Not totally lagging to the point that I'm just making up random stuff to fill in the empty spaces, but everything I want to put in is all of a sudden taking so much longer! But I figured it was high time for a "draft-off", a comparison between two similar sections of the novel. 
One of the biggest changes that I see affecting this draft more than I thought it would was the way I rearranged the events of the story. When I was writing Draft 1, I thought that the order of everything made sense just the way it was, and that I could not possibly see it another way, even if I tried.
Applying the Story Circle to The Last Inkweaver helped me see beyond just the events themselves, and discern the meaning behind each part that happened, and therefore, I began to see the events not for what they are, but for how they affect my main character, Callista. Therefore, the scenes themselves may be similar, but they represent a very different phase along the journey for Callista/Shereya and the others. 
In the case of Draft 1, Shereya and her friends had just gone from receiving a Told lamp from a Talesmith in Criansa, to intervening on behalf of three abandoned orphans in an unnamed town--and finally confessing the truth to Belak about what the three girls were doing so far from home, and what they had been following on this journey. In that sense, this business with Tark the Trafficker kind of came out of nowhere, an idea out of the blue that I just tossed together when I couldn't think of what else to do, because it was a chance for Shereya to flex the "storytelling muscles" she didn't know she had, and a way to fill the time until they would reach the enigmatic Moon Valley.
In Draft 2, on the other hand, I had the confrontation with Ronni the Bounty Hunter happen just before this, and in light of the coup they just staged, and the new information Callista received there bolstering her confidence, along with a new sense of respect from Matthias--she hadn't told him everything just yet, but she'd made some things very clear, and promised him the rest at some point. They encounter Tark on their way past a village they had heard of from one of Ronni's prisoners--unfortunately, it had been abandoned after his capture, so there wasn't anything in the village for our intrepid protagonists. Enter Tark, who very well could have been their savior, but ended up quite the opposite, and through her experience in telling a contrived story, Callista learns some important concepts that will help her as they move on to the three orphans--and that part of the story, I recently finished, so the only part left is Moon Valley, which I hope won't change all that much from the first draft... I'm so very nearly done!

Enjoy this look back!

Draft 1

The bandit dragged me all the way back to where Tark waited on a stump in front of a fire.

The bandit stirring a pot of soup hanging over the flames looked up, and I gasped. I had thought the whole group had been a bunch of burly men, but this was a woman! The woman sauntered off at a cue from Tark.
“What have you got for me, Japheth?” Tark growled.
I did not laugh, but it was very difficult to squelch the urge. What was a dirty, ignorant thug doing walking around with a name like that?
Japheth tossed me on my knees in front of the big man.
“This one wants to talk,” he announced.
Tark eyed me. “Bag Girl,” he identified. “Are you ready to tell me how your little frog-sticker works? Or the bag that we can’t open?” He gestured to the knapsack that sat upon a stump near the fire. The proximity of the knapsack was not as disturbing as the fact that it clearly had a huge axe buried right through the center. Had they in fact managed to destroy the tapestry?
Tark saw my horror as plainly as if it was written across my face, and he grinned. “My boys have tried everything possible to open that sack.” He stood and reached the stump in two paces. In a burst of strength he hefted the axe straight out of the log. With his free hand, he picked up the knapsack and hurled it at me. I caught it, feeling the voices tickle my ear just the same as they always had. I searched every inch of the knapsack for the enormous gash I felt sure had come from the axe—but there was not a mark on it except the natural wear from our journey thus far.
I looked back up at Tark, who studied me with his arms folded across his chest. I knew that Greyna would be working her way out of her bonds by now, so I had a limited time to capture and hold his attention so that they could escape in peace.
“I can explain,” I told Tark, “but it concerns this very special journey that we are on, and the tale is a long one.”
Tark glared at me. “I don’t suppose you can give me the short version?”
Not if I can help it! I thought to myself, but on a burst of inspiration I said, “If I do not tell this tale, the knapsack will not open.”
Tark’s face twisted into all sorts of angry shapes as he worked over his greed to get at whatever valuable treasure we must be hiding in the knapsack and the impatience for such things as stories. I had to convince him that listening to my story was really in his best interest—even though at just that moment, I had not the slightest clue what that story would in fact be! I was a bit sore from huddling on the ground like I was, so, with my eyes fixed on Tark to watch for any sign of disapproval or foreboding, I inched my way over to the log he had just been sitting on.
“Have you not heard of the Wordspinners?”
Tark snorted. “Of course I’ve heard of the Wordspinners! Everybody’s heard of them!”
“Do you know how they work their craft?” I challenged him.
His derision disappeared and he regarded me dubiously. “What does that have to do with you?” he demanded, as if expecting me to come out and confess I was one of their number—as if!
I gestured to the knapsack in my lap. “This knapsack was made by an Inkweaver; she told the story to lock it up, and if I can tell the story correctly, I can unlock it again.”
>>>>>>>>
Word Count (total): 72, 163

Draft 2

Friggo tossed me on the ground like a sack.
"This her, Boss," he said, bobbing his bald head like an apple in a water-barrel. "This the bag girl wot had the stuff."

Tark kept his arms folded, an angry sneer contorting his features. "Sit her up, Frig. And take her gag off. I want her talking."

The henchman did as he was bid--yanking me upright by my hair and jerking my head back to wrench the fabric from my mouth. If it had still been tied tightly around my head as it had before, his movements would have probably dislocated my jaw.

Tark held my gaze with a grim expression as he sat down on the stump behind him, resting his elbows on his knees and bringing his hands up in front of him with the fingertips resting against each other.
"Now then, girl," he said. "Supposing you tell me what sort o' magic you have in these fancy pieces you carry." He gestured behind me, and Bert kicked over a few coals. In their midst was Rowinna's lamp, by all appearances cold and empty.

"Exhibit The First," he announced, like an actual peddler displaying his wares, "a lamp that won't light--won't even catch fire, the blasted thing!" As if to emphasize the point, Bert picked up a half-charred log from the fire, lit its end, and held it against the sloshing lamp--but nothing happened.
"And over here," Tark continued, gesturing of to the side, where Naten's exquisite sword lay among bits and pieces of twisted metal and splintered wood, "we have a sword I can't draw." He picked it up and tossed it on the ground in front of me.

"Oooooh!" Friggo jeered, still pulling unmercifully on my hair.

"Which brings us to this," he pointed to the stump between us. "The bag I can't open." He lifted the axe out, and I fully expected the satchel to separate along the cut--but it slipped off the stump, wholly unscathed. Had he really tried chopping it open already? I shook my head as my first thought had not been "How is that thing still intact?"

All my thoughts vanished when Tark suddenly sent the axe swinging right for my face. I flinched, but the edge of the blade hovered a hairs-breadth from my nose.
"So what is it, girl? Are you some kind of witch? You think this is some kind of joke you're playing?"

Friggo gripped harder on my hair, and tears sprang into my eyes. I saw Tark's sneer deepen, as if he thought the tears came from fear and not pain.

Tell him the truth! My logic exclaimed. What could it hurt? After all, everyone thinks the Wordspinner craft is a kind of magic, anyway. Why not give in to his expectations? Tell him it's magic, and be done with it!

"Well?" Tark advanced so the rough edge of the axe blade rested on the tip of my nose. "Are you going to undo the spell or not?"

Spell? There was no spell... My scrambling thoughts coalesced into a simple scheme--simple as birdsong, one might say.

"All right," I gasped out, "I'll talk! I'll tell you everything you need to know!"

Tark withdrew the axe, and waved at Friggo. "Go take care of the horses. I'll handle it from here."

Sweet relief flooded over me as Friggo released my hair and stumbled off toward the wagon. I watched him go, willing Matthias and the others into action as soon as he moved out of Tark's sight. I hadn't seen the brothers at all, but I didn't doubt they would be around somewhere.
"So!" Tark's voice interrupted my surreptitious search. "What can you tell me about these things you carry?"

I looked him in the eye and told the absolute truth, "They are made by Wordspinners." I spoke the name with heavy reverence. "Have you heard of the Wordspinners, sir?"

The ruffian snorted, laying the axe across his lap. "Of course; a bunch of storytelling folk, ain't they? What do they want with swords and lamps?"

I nodded slowly. "It is said that Wordspinners' Tales make things, and that things made by a Wordspinner's Tale are generally more than they seem."

He squinted, his manner cooling a bit. "What's that supposed to mean? What nonsense are you spouting, girl?" His grip tightened on the axe shaft.

"Please! I am telling you what I know, I swear!" I begged, leaning forward as best I could with my hands still tied behind my back. "A Wordspinner designs objects meant only for someone who could hear and understand the Tale they tell. Only those who could hear and understand the Tale would be able to use the gifts."

His dirty brow furrowed. "Hear and understand? What do you mean by that?" His lip curled. "Are you telling me you know this Tale that will enable me to draw the sword and open the pack?" He lifted the satchel and shook it. "You've got treasure in there, girl! I know it--I can hear it and feel its weight! That'll be the price for eating my soup and sleeping in my wagon last night. Tell me what I want to know!"

I sighed heavily, as if yielding my secrets with great reluctance. "All right... I can tell you the tale for these gifts, the way the Wordspinner told it to me when she made them." Lies, all lies--mostly.
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Word Count (so far): 134, 272 words