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urban fantasy

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Street Fair, by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins

Today’s third Boosting the Signal catchup post features another pair of previous guests: the writing team of Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins! They’re on hand to bring you an excerpt from Book 2 of their Fair Folk Chronicles–a series which, since this book’s release, has gone on to include a Book 3 as well! In this short excerpt from Street Fair, two characters have a very basic goal before them: figure out how to get past a barrier. Without exploding. As you do.


Street Fair

Street Fair

After what seemed to Megan like an hour of slow, careful walking and occasionally squeezing through tree roots, they reached the first artificial support. The walls started showing fewer signs of encroaching roots, and the earth appeared more worked.

Not long after that, Ashling stopped them. “We’re getting close. It’s warded. I’m not finding a way around it.”

Megan recalled the pixie’s occasional very precise movements in the tomb before and wondered just how many traps she’d allowed them to avoid, beyond those she’d seen evidence of. “So what now?”

“Two options,” Ashling responded. “Three if we had a handy backhoe and a three-foot-thick concrete barrier.”

“That bad?” Megan couldn’t help but ask.

“Only if we cross this line,” Ashling pointed out an imaginary line on the floor, “Or mess with the ward the wrong way, or mess up with anti-magic, or maybe jump around too much, or breathe really hard in this direction.” Megan and Jude both drew back a little, careful to direct their breath elsewhere, in case.

“So, we have two options. How do we get through?” Megan asked.

“The more I think about it, the more options we have. It’s too bad we don’t have a goblin minesweeper or something.”

“That’s a thing?” Megan knew she was going to regret asking, but had to know now. “What sort of equipment do they use for that?” After seeing the goblin market, Megan was trying to imagine what sort of tech or magic might be involved.

“Running shoes,” Ashling answered cheerfully. “Hopefully really good ones.”


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Raven’s Heart, by Shawna Reppert

Prior Boosting the Signal guest Shawna Reppert is the featured author for today’s second Boosting the Signal catchup post. If you enjoyed Shawna’s previous posts about her Ravensblood urban fantasy series–or better yet, if you enjoyed the previous books–then you’ll be pleased to see she’s come back with an excerpt from Book 3, Raven’s Heart, available now! And if you’ve read Book 1, you’ll be able to tell very quickly that Raven’s goal here ties right back to the events of that story. Because his goal is very simple: take down a very, very bad person.


Raven's Heart

Raven’s Heart

From the Author: In this excerpt, William has just killed a clerk at Raven’s favorite bookstore, although it’s likely that the intended victim was the bookstore owner, Raven’s friend Josiah. Raven, together with his fiancé Cassandra and two Guardians, is trying to figure out who the next targets might be, and how they will ultimately deal with William.


It took Raven a moment to realize that Ramirez was asking for a list of his friends. Once, it would have taken a significant and believable threat of force before he allowed such an invasion of his privacy. Once, the list would have been either incredibly short, or non-existent.

“Cassandra, of course,” he said.

“Of course,” Ramirez agreed.

His tone said don’t treat me like an idiot. Despite the grimness of the conversation, Raven managed a half-smile.

“Sherlock,” he added after a moment’s thought. “But they are less likely to go after either of them, at least until they have run out of easier targets. The same goes for Ana. She taught William’s father a healthy dose of caution in the Mage Wars, and William will not have forgotten.”

Though in other respects, Ana would be a prime target, both as Cassandra’s aunt and as the person responsible for negotiating a pardon for Raven in exchange for his betrayal of William. The thought of Eric picking off the people close to him left him with a sick feeling deep in his gut.

“Other than that, it’s hard to say. It depends on how much William knows about my associates. He’s almost certainly the one behind this, with Eric just his trained attack dog. The fact that Josiah was the first targeted suggests that he is going after personal, not professional contacts, but he might not limit himself. I usually have dinner with Madeline Love at least once when she is performing in town.”

“Madeline Love?” Donovan asked.

“Opera singer,” Raven said. “Famous in the arts and culture community. I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of her.”

“Stop baiting my partner.” Ramirez said it in the same tone one might use to request someone to stop leaving the door open as it caused a draft. “Anyone else? Chuckie?”

“Maybe. We’ve worked together a few times. And of course he was instrumental in helping me prove my innocence in the theft of the Ravensblood.”

“Of course.” Ramirez’s eyes darted away.

Raven had no interest in flogging the man for past crimes; Ramirez did a good enough job of it himself. “As to others, he might target other GII members of the Wing who worked with me last year. He thought a moment longer. “The MacLeans. I would worry about them more if they weren’t all in Australia. Neither Mick nor his boys are easy targets, not by a long shot, but I’m not sure William would know that. However, I doubt William and Eric are going to travel half-way around the world to prove their point.

“Then there are any number of agents of GII I’ve worked with. It might be easier to get the list from Sherlock than rely on my memory. Generally, I am more interested in solving the puzzle than paying attention to the people around me.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” Donovan sniped.

Raven merely smiled as though he had been complimented, deliberately baiting the man. “Then there’s the handful of agents from the pub nights Chuckie finally dragged me to.”

“Pub nights?” Ramirez raised an eyebrow, clearly amused.

“Yes, well.” Now it was his turn to look away. “There were only the two times. Three maybe. Because Chuckie insisted.”

And because he could not deny his debt to the annoyingly cheerful geek mage that Cassandra had somehow managed to end up with as a partner. And because Chuckie did grow on one, though Raven would die before he admitted it.

Ramirez barely stifled a chuckle. “I’m just trying to picture you in a pub. Doesn’t GII usually hang out at the Barley Mill?”

“Usually, yes. If I am to accompany them, however, I insist on the Blue Moon. Though both are, I understand, owned by the same brothers, the Blue Moon has a certain understated elegance that I find acceptable.”

Ramirez shook his head. “Corwyn Ravenscroft in a MacMenamin’s pub. Will wonders never cease.”

“I believe we are straying somewhat from the topic,” Raven said.

“Yes, right. I’ll get the list of agents who worked cases you consulted on from Sherlock. And I’m guessing that Chuckie has a better idea of who was at those pub nights. Just in case they do decide to go after your drinking buddies.”

Ramirez said the last phrase with particular relish. Raven suspected he would be hearing about this for a long time to come.

“The thing we need to do is find William and Eric,” Raven said. “Rather than sitting around twiddling our thumbs and wondering when they are going to strike next.”

“You have any ideas on how to do that, you just let me know,” Ramirez said.

“I doubt he’s had the time to build the strength and resources for a hidden sanctuary like he had before.” Raven said. “My guess is that he’s holed up somewhere in North Portland. If I only could have managed a clearer trace on Eric’s teleport.” He ground his teeth in frustration.

“I’ll get Chuckie doing a search for any homes in the area with ownership that might trace back to William or Eric Blanchard,” Cassandra said. “If the Archmage was clever enough to hide his ownership through holding companies and the like, I wouldn’t put it past William.”

“What I want to know,” Ramirez said, pinning Raven with his gaze, “is can you take him?”

Beside him, Donovan made a choked noise of protest.

“The man is too dangerous to hold.” Ramirez answered Donovan’s objection, but his eyes were still on Raven. “We both know it. I doubt anyone on the Joint Council is going to call for an inquiry if William winds up dead rather than in custody.”

Raven rather doubted it as well. The Pro Tem Archmage had been on the front lines during the Mage Wars and had seen up close and personal what a mage like William could do. Mother Crone, with her Craft practicality, would weigh the greater good over rhetoric and the Mundane President was justly terrified of what would happen to his community if William ever achieved the rule absolute that was his goal.

Or that had been his goal the last time around. He lacked the power base now to achieve such a goal; surely even William in his madness must see that. This time, he must be after pure revenge. Which might make him even more dangerous, since he had little left to lose.

Ramirez leaned forward, deadly serious now. “My question remains. Can you take him?”

On one hand, he had the Ravensblood. And William might still be badly weakened from their last encounter.

On the other hand, William had had several years to recover. And Raven had barely won the last time.

He gave them the only answer he could. “Gods, I hope so. For all our sakes.”


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Black Angel, by Kyell Gold

As I posted earlier this week, I got severely behind on doing Boosting the Signal posts. I will be putting them on a more or less official “soft” hiatus for a while (meaning, I’m not actively recruiting posts but I’ll post ’em if anybody sends me some). But before I do that, I wanted to clear my queue of the posts I did have already! This is the first of these, featuring the recently released Black Angel, by fellow Outer Alliance member Kyell Gold. If you like stories involving anthropomorphized animals, particularly with queer content, Kyell’s got a character named Meg you’ll want to meet!


Black Angel

Black Angel

Hi, I’m Meg. I’m an otter, and I’m nineteen years old, and I’m trying to get a handle on what’s real in my life. I mean that literally as well as—well, I’ll just lay it out.

I’m an artist and I recently got some time to myself and decided to draw this comic story I came up with years ago, about a muskrat who wants to be a voodoo priestess. As I was drawing it, I felt like I went into a light trance, and then the main character of this story talked to me. Or I imagined that, anyway. And now the frustrating thing is that I can’t draw anything else, even the commissions I make a living off of.

To make things worse, I started having even weirder dreams, about some weird Christian cult where girls are forced to marry at sixteen, where I was following this otter who’s attracted to her female best friend, which is of course verboten in this cult.

Those dreams felt really real, but I know they’re not. And I’d like to talk to someone about them, but—well, here’s what’s going on with my friends.

My best friend is probably this grey fox named Athos. We met online while I was in high school, and yeah, he’s older, but not that much older. And no, he didn’t try to put moves on me or anything. We were just good friends. Except the last time he was down here, we were arguing and he grabbed my arms and I just flipped out. I knew he wanted to be more than friends, but I didn’t ever see it as an immediate thing. You know? But him touching me like that freaked me out.

And what we were arguing about—well, I’ve got these two other friends, great guys. Sol is a wolf and Alexei is a fox from Siberia. They both had some experiences the last few months, or thought they did. Sol said a ghost saved him from his abusive boyfriend and stopped him killing himself. Now, I’m all in favor of people not killing themselves, but don’t put it down to a ghost. Alexei then thought he saw a ghost, and Athos thought he saw it too, and that’s what we were arguing about.

Because there’s this thing that happened to me a while ago, put me in therapy for four years and on antidepressants. If there was just one thing I learned from that whole stupid chapter of my life, it’s that ghosts aren’t real.

So you see where my problem is. If these are just hallucinations, I could go back on some kind of pill, but that screwed with my art as well, so I don’t know that I want to do that. Rent’s due at the end of the month and I have to make money somehow. And if it is real—then that other thing from long ago is real, too, and I really don’t want that to be true.

Meanwhile there’s this pressure to decide if I want to date Athos or not (he apologized for touching me without asking, you should know). And the problem is that I can’t even tell if I’m attracted to boys or girls. So I should probably figure that out first, right?

Sheesh. It’s gonna be a weird summer. Hope I make it through.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Here Be Magic Boxed Set, by Various Authors, Post No. 1

Welcome to the first of the special Boosting the Signal run of posts featuring the Here Be Magic boxed set! This is a digital release put out by the blogging group I’m in, Here Be Magic. And while I’m not actually in this boxed set myself, I wanted to give it some signalboosting love, so I invited the participating authors to send me pieces to promote the release. The first of these is from previous Boosting the Signal guest Shawna Reppert, whose story in the set is from her Ravensblood universe. Raven’s Song is set between books 1 and 2 of that series. If you’ve read Book 1, you might have a good idea already of what her protagonist’s goal is: to prove that he is capable of goodness. Here’s Corwyn Ravenscroft on that very topic!


Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

I thought the hard part was over.

No, I can’t say that. It is over. I would never want to live those last dark months again. Watching William descend further and further into blood-soaked madness, terrified all the time that he would discover my duplicity. Terrified that he would win, and that all of the Three Communities would be forced into the hell that his followers had walked into of their own accord. Betraying both my master and my students to keep that from happening, never knowing whether I was buying back my soul or damning it further.

At the risk of tempting fate, I will say that nothing I face again in my life could be worse than those months.

But at least then I fought with weapons I knew. My skill with magic, which is both my birthright and my life’s study. The guile and dissembling gleaned from years of survival within William’s inner circle.

I confess that I hadn’t had any thought then of what lay on the other side of defeating William and gaining my pardon. Perhaps, deep down, I hadn’t expected to survive. In my darkest moments, I hadn’t believed I deserved to.

Now here I am, back in the world. A free citizen. With an agent of Guardian International Investigations for a lover, gods help us both.

I’ve been a dark mage for all of my adult life, minus the last half-year or so. I’m not sure I know how to be anything else. ‘Normal’ isn’t as easy as it looked from the outside. I can pick up the piano again, easily enough. There’s sheet music to remind me of where my fingers go. I can find no guide to making acquaintances not built on alliances and advantage.

As far as anything beyond acquaintance, well… Under William’s tutelage I learned how to seduce, when urge or occasion arose. When the mood struck, I’ve allowed myself to be seduced. When it comes to the sort of long-term relationship that normal people have, the sort based on love and trust and honesty, I can only say that I’m willing to try, for Cassandra’s sake. For my own sake, to be truthful, because I can’t imagine walking into this new life without her at my side.

There are still plenty of people waiting for me to fail. To smile and nod and tell each other that they knew it all along. That there’s no way that a Ravenscroft could be anything other than dark.

I refuse to prove them right. Not only because I can be as arrogant and stubborn as I’ve often been accused of being. But because I’ve fought too hard for this new life to let it go. I have far too much to lose.

And because there are a small number of people who believe that I might succeed. And they matter more.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Asylum, by Various Authors, Post No. 3

Welcome to the third post in this special Boosting the Signal feature week for the 2015 NIWA anthology, Asylum! This post is featuring NIWA member Madison Keller, who I hope to feature in another forthcoming post for her novel Flower’s Fang. Till then, she’s in the anthology with her story “Clary’s Asylum”. And if I had to hazard a guess about Clary’s goal, based on this snippet, I’d say she’s got a real tough time on her hands protecting a certain book!




Clary struggled against the straps of the gurney as the paramedics lifted her into the ambulance. The girl she’d saved, Rael, had already been taken away by another ambulance, which had sped off lights flashing and siren blaring, only a few minutes earlier.

Her friend Gunny, a retired Marine, watched from the dock, a broken cigar clamped in his teeth. Water still dripped from his diving suit and the spear-gun he still had a death grip on. Clary could see her watertight diving bag, which contained her spell book, potions, and protective amulets, lay abandoned on the dock behind him.

Gunny shifted, spat out the remains of the cigar into the ocean. “Clary, don’t you worry. These nice men will get you better, get you making sense again.”

The straps that held her arms thwarted most of her spells. She chanted anyway, feeling the magic surge through her like burning night. At the height of the surge she bit down hard on her tongue. The spell snapped out, inflicting the pain she was feeling ten-fold on the paramedic closest to her. He cried out and fell back, blood dripping from the side of his mouth.

“Gunny,” Clary screamed, twisting her head to keep his face in view. “Blue water black night hides their eyes. The stars are still right. Protect the book-”

While she’d been talking a paramedic had inserted a needle into her arm. Clary’s speech slurred and she drifted away into slumber. Her last thought before she went under was escape.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Asylum, by Various Authors, Post No. 1

Normally I run Boosting the Signal posts on Fridays when I have them to run. But since I’m a member of NIWA, and NIWA does a yearly anthology, I’m running a special feature week to highlight the 2015 NIWA anthology! It’s called Asylum, and features stories by both NIWA and non-NIWA authors, all along the theme of the anthology title. Today’s Boosting the Signal post features a piece from Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins to highlight their story “Bedlam Asylum”. Of this story, Jeffrey says that it’s set one month after their novel Foul is Fair, and it’s a strategic analysis of the emotional needs of disabled pixie Ashling. And as you might guess, Ashling’s goal is pretty much what the anthology says on the tin: asylum.




Humans mistake pixies for butterflies and sprites for moths. Pixies travel and work in glimmers; sprites, in murmurs.

Pixie magic focuses on locations, and sprite magic focuses on events, but the important thing is that it’s always done together.

Ashling’s wings were torn years ago. She relies on a service crow just to fly at all. Her glimmer left her behind a long time ago. She’s worked mostly alone with her crow, or with people fifty times her size. She says she’s fine. She’s lying. Who knows if her friends can tell, but any pixie or sprite could.

An outcast sprite and an outcast pixie will understand each other in ways a half-human sidhe princess and a half-menehune will never fathom, no matter how good of friends they all are.

But Ashling is friends with the princess. The princess whose little clique in Seattle is safely off-limits from Faerie conflict for the rest of the season.

Ashling needs not to be alone anymore, and that’s all the ‘in’ a sprite looking to be granted asylum could ask for.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Girls Can’t Be Knights, by Lee French

Lee French is a fellow member of NIWA, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person when we joined forces to sell books at Norwescon! She’s got several titles out already that I’m looking forward to reading–including her brand new YA release, Girls Can’t Be Knights. Between that title and what I already know of Lee, yeah, I expect to see some stereotypes stomped on nicely. And today, she’s bringing us an interview with her character John Avery, a detective who has a suspect to catch, and who is not happy about it!


Girls Can't Be Knights

Girls Can’t Be Knights

Questions And Answers: Today, we’re welcoming John Avery, a Detective with the Portland, Oregon Police Department. He’s graciously agreed to sit down and talk about his work and home life.

John Avery: Wait a minute. I never agreed to talk about my home life. The divorce is still fresh, and I don’t want to talk about that.

Q&A: Do you have kids?

JA (scowling): Yes, two sons, both teenagers. Again, I don’t want to talk about this. My wife–sorry, my ex-wife–who makes more money than me hired a pricey lawyer and now I live in a crappy little apartment by myself, with no one around to complain when I work long hours. That’s all I’m going to say on the subject.

Q&A: Fair enough. Tell us about the case you’re working on.

JA: There’s a young man I’m looking for in connection with a few minor crimes. He hasn’t hurt anyone yet that I know of, but when I met him, I got that burgeoning serial killer vibe from him.

Q&A: That sounds awful. What’s he like?

JA: I first met him when he was 18. My initial assessment said “dumb,” and I’ve never run across anything to challenge that. He ran away from an abusive home to live with his girlfriend, who he managed to get pregnant right before his 18th birthday. I think she was a year younger. Barely graduated from high school, scraped up a job as a garbage collector for a few months before becoming a Spirit Knight.

Q&A: What’s a Spirit Knight?

JA: It’s a group of lunatic men who think they’re saving the world when they’re actually destroying it. Like the Crusaders. They have these delusions about dangerous ghosts they need to destroy. The truth is, the ghosts are the one thing holding our reality together. Without them, we’d all…(JA frowns) I’m not entirely clear on the specific consequences, but suffice to say it would be unpleasant for the majority of people.

Q&A: You seem to know a lot about this group.

JA: Well, yes. Of course. I was one of them until I discovered the Truth. They’re so insular and paranoid, though, that now I’ve opened my eyes, I have to work against them in secret. Anyway, Justin. He’s one of these deluded numbskulls. Unfortunately, when I’ve met him, I didn’t get his last name, and I don’t know enough to find him. I suspect he might live over the border in Washington state, as that would make it nearly impossible for me to track down anything about him. Without a felony to tag on him, I can’t access databases across the state line.

Q&A: Since he hasn’t done anything serious yet, and you have no proof he’s specifically planning to, why are you chasing him?

JA (scowling again): Because I need him to–ah. Er. Look. He seems harmless, like one of those SCA people, the ones who dress up like knights and beat each other with fake weapons. But he carries a real sword and rides a real horse that he talks to. The guy is deranged. Any day now, he could lose the few marbles he has bouncing around in his thick skull and carve people up for no reason. He’s already stolen an important post-war artifact from a museum in Eugene. I can’t prove it, but I know he did it. Same for several incidents of minor theft from convenience stores.

Q&A: Um, he sounds more like a nuisance level problem. Isn’t Portland kind of known for having weird people?

JA: I knew this was a joke. Captain Travers set this up to prank me, didn’t he? (JA gets up, tosses the chair, and leaves while muttering obscenities)

Q&A: I certainly feel safer now, knowing that Detective Avery is on the job.


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