Using KDP to Notifiy Customers of New Version … not quite as easy as you’d think

So as part of my initial launch for Swift Magic, I’ve also done another brush-up on its predecessor Feral Magic. Feral Magic has seen a few revisions in the past, but the biggest number of sales came from it’s first-ever incarnation. Which is rather bad, because by now it’s far better than it used to be on account that I’ve learned how to write better. So my thought was, ‘Hey, I’ve seen occasionally in Kindle where you can download a new version. Why isn’t my book automatically doing that?’

Why didn’t I stop to think of this before? I know, I know. Sometimes I’m so brilliant.

Anyway, I googled the question and came up with this answer. Which sort of helped me. I basically e-mailed KDP and asked how much detail I needed to go into, pleading typo fixes.

KDP e-mailed me back (they were nice, polite, and the tone didn’t sound annoyed at my ignorance) and said that while they didn’t need a full list of typo’s, they needed at least a few to verify and to proceed with informing customers.

Fair enough, but still not as easy on my part as checking a box. No wonder more people don’t bother to do it.

Now I’m waiting to hear back from KDP again (I just sent my reply minutes ago) and hopefully, they’ll have found my response entertaining. There were some seriously ridiculous typo’s. It’s amazing how they can slip by. It’s also amazing how very many there were in the first draft, because I wasn’t good at paying attention to how accurate I was at the actual process of typing.

Just thought I’d share my experience.

Till later,

Nicolette

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Swift Magic Excerpt

swiftmagicChapter One

The thing I remembered above all else of Gregor Cole’s death was the foul stench of burning hair.

Encompassed in darkness, I had nothing to distract me from the things I might have dreamed, might have remembered. Cole’s spell book which in some versions had a bookmark of finger bones, in other versions a bookmark of a fleshy finger. The walls bled and cried, subjected to wearing the gouges of a dark Unwritten spell upon their wallpaper. I fancied what it was like to die, and to come back again. Every now and again there was a fight with the shadow dragon. It was odd, that I was being asked after the method of Cole’s death—a thing I had been very much awake and aware for—but I was being haunted instead by when he had killed me.

If he hadn’t fallen for my trick, I hated to think what he would be doing now. What other black arts he’d be practicing and hiding. So it was a good thing he was gone. After all, he’d killed me first, even if he had bungled the job. The courts didn’t need to know that particular tidbit, so I hadn’t mentioned it. My coven had been a huge boon, providing all kinds of support for the case known in the papers as Gregor Cole v. Feraline Swift.

It was things like this that I remembered and relived while doped up under the weight of the trial’s spells. Afterwards, I was restricted to my home, and while there I was either sluggish or put under by the Council’s seashell. Even frying an egg was impossible to do with that thing in the house, forget spell-casting. It was illegal to tamper with the seashell, but I’d tried anyway. So far, no luck. It had become a personal goal of mine, to interfere with its function in some manner. I hadn’t even managed to smash it. So I hadn’t been sleepy when I’d wrapped up in a blanket for the night and laid my head down on the pillow. My lower back ached from the cheap mattress, and I wondered what the start of bedsores looked like. It felt wrong they could strip me of my life like this, but they had told me—it was this or the dungeons.

The Coles were planning something, and whatever it was, it was going to happen before the verdict was passed tomorrow at 3:15 pm. I should have realized that without Mordon sleeping alongside me, I would be unprotected. After all, all the wards in the world mean nothing if there is no one at hand to mind them. But, then again, the wards were in place to keep me inside. Not to prevent visitors. Maybe I could blame the spells for muddling my thinking, but in truth, I’d felt safe. I’d become used to having my fiance fire drake hanging around to scare off the things I’d rather not outwit.

“Rrrrrrrrruuuuuuushhhhhh,” sounded the seashell, a constant reminder of why I’d never be able to poke around the wards myself. Perhaps the one advantage of so much sleeping and so little doing was that my house stayed clean.

And I could daydream of us.

Of Mordon and me, doing certain things together. It was safe to daydream, and it gave me other things to think about when an interrogator tried to dip into my mind for a juicy tidbit I might be keeping from the court. I smiled in bed, remembering how one woman had forgotten her argument, turned bright pink, and surrendered the floor to the defense attorney earlier today.

The house creaked, the exact source of the noise was impossible to track. It was windy outside, or it had been when I’d last looked at the trees, so I assumed the sound was from the storm. I snuggled a teddy bear up to my chest, its button eyes cold under my fingers. Who was it a gift from? I told myself it was from Mordon, but that might not be right. I heard voices in the hallway.

“What’s on the schedule today?” I tried to ask, but it came out all muffled and slurred together.

The voices stopped talking upon hearing my words. I licked my lips. It must be a random night-check, if they weren’t knocking. A light turned on in the hallway and I wondered if it was morning again, or if they’d gotten word and my wrongful death case had been resolved.

The thought made me feel nauseous, and all I wanted to do was hide under the covers and wish that it would all just go away and I would never have to find out if my life was officially over. The chicken and nettle soup I’d requested for dinner now seemed like a poor choice. I should have eaten nothing, just settled for a hot shower with Lilly’s assistance.

One of the truth spells gave me cottonmouth. Drinking water only gave me a sore throat. Spell burns healed beneath layers of salve and wrappings which covered more of my skin than my lightweight nightgown. Lilly said they wouldn’t scar, even so Mordon still winced in sympathy whenever he saw the bandages or the blistered skin beneath.

Leif and Lilly, as judges in Merlyn’s Market, couldn’t be sitting on my case but they knew how the Merlyn’s Market Court operated. Constable Barnes knew how to manipulate it, and he was sly with sneaking in nips of homemade brandy. Then there was Mordon. Should all else fail, I could go live in the drake Kragdomen Colony with him, but I had been raised human. The desire to be with other sorcerers was strong. And I shouldn’t fret about what the others called ‘going through the motions’. The very worst the Cole family could charge me with was wrongful death, which was what they had done, and the case they were losing.

Yet I still worried. That I’d be found guilty. That I’d go to the dungeons. Did they divide men and women there? What was a magical prison even like? I didn’t want to find out this way. But according to Barnes, the wards they’d put up on my house at the expense of the Council wasn’t enough for the Coles. And so the Cole family had paid for dungeon-level security to be put in place. So far it was impressive security. Not even the combined efforts of my coven could conjure up a way to break out.

A greater worry was the Cole family. Maybe they didn’t know what Gregor had done, what he’d become. Or maybe they were in it with him. In any case, they’d been too calm during proceedings. It felt wrong.

He’d been a monster, a grotesque distortion of what a man once was when he pursued my illusion over the sheer rock face and plunged to his death. Cannibal was too tame a word to call the likes of him; the sorcerers used the term wendigo. Gaunt skin stretched too tightly over a protruding skeleton, long claws, nearly impossible to kill, armed with money and power and magic.

That any of us had survived the encounter had been a miracle.

A loud scraping of keys in the doorknob roused me. It must not be anyone from my coven. They knew we kept the inner doors unlocked. A wedge of bright white light sliced through the blackness of my room, sweeping across the floor and one wall before finding my bed. Seized in the spotlight’s beam, my eyes burned with the intensity. I squeezed them shut and drew the covers up to my nose.

I gathered all of my strength together, and rolled onto my other side. I pried my eyes open. Would it be Council members this time, or was Mordon with them? And if he was with them, could I contrive a way to be alone with him for a short time? We’d only kissed the once and I felt guilty about pushing him away recently, even refusing to talk to him when I was upset. My life consisted of sleeping, food, court proceedings, more food and sleeping again. I just wanted an ounce of normalcy again, to sit across from him with a cup of brew and the Thaumaturgical Tribune discarded to the side as we talked about nothing.

“Get up.” The woman addressing me sounded accustomed to being obeyed. I squinted at her. Sleep interruption was forbidden, not on behalf of my well-being, but to prevent me from being able to take action. While I was still thinking this, the woman caught me by the wrist and hauled me to my feet. I stumbled forward, pain blazing through an unprepared ankle. As I took my first trembling steps in her wake, I dragged my blanket with me.

Eyes tearing, I flicked my gaze to the floor as the woman led me down my hall towards the dining room. She tripped over the fold in the runner carpet, but I didn’t laugh. It was hard enough to stand on my own two feet. The woman snared my elbow and half-carried me. Sluggish as I was, the air was growing thick and oppressively scented with honeysuckle. My magic trying to come to me, an unwieldy jumble of energy waiting to be told to do something, anything. It was as clumsy as when I’d first gotten it back, and I doubted I could have shaped it into a spell even if I’d had my wits about me. My feet touched the cool floor of the dining room.

Winded from the effort of essentially half-carrying me, the woman tossed me into the nearest chair. The mismatched shabby-chic décor which Lilly had largely picked out for me was an absurd contrast to what could only be an illegal interrogation or cold-blooded murder. When I had the thought, I didn’t panic. The knowledge was oddly disconnected to the experience. Was it the seashell at work, or had all my recent experiences with the court desensitized me?

As I remembered, my house was spotless. Very unusual. Also very pretty. It made me wonder where they’d put all my projects and if I would get all the pieces back in the end if this very pretty-cleanliness didn’t end up as a crime scene. Behind me the sun room overflowed with plants which were miraculously thriving despite my care. Piles of books rested on end tables and on the shelves Barnes had secured to the walls while watching the contractors put up the wards. Gas sconces hissed on the walls, turned up to what I now knew was mid-level, showing my mint-green fridge and stove.

My guard woman kept staring at them as if they might spontaneously explode. Which meant she wasn’t used to electrical appliances, which meant she came from the upper-end of the sorcering community who believed that unless inventions were made by fellow sorcerers, it was not acceptable to own any of those inventions. It was probable that the man sitting across from me came from the same sort of people as she did as well.

I shivered, causing my chair to rattle against the table. Sleep still clung to me like the aftermath of a disease. I wrapped my legs in the blanket and realized that I clutched the teddy bear. Who it was in front of me, I couldn’t tell. He and the woman both had disguise spells on them, so I couldn’t look at their faces without glancing right on by.

What I could gather was that he might have been a bit on the short side. They both wore dark clothes, either black or very dark blue, maybe uniforms. The woman was heavier and stronger than the man, and I had the impression she was the brawn behind the operation and he was the brains. The implication perhaps should have terrified me, but I was beyond caring.

I was conscious of my nightgown. The way it wasn’t opaque, so darker skin showed through. I positioned my teddy bear strategically across my chest. Scraggly hair hung in strands down my back. And I shuddered so much my teeth chattered and my heart started to skip beats.

“So, you are the famous Feraline of the Swift Clan,” the man said, his voice surprisingly welcoming. Hearing my name only made the hair stand up on my arms and my entire body start trembling. He folded his hands in front of himself and said, “I have been looking forward to meeting you for some time.”

I focused on keeping my teeth pressed together. If I did that, I found I wasn’t tempted to volunteer comments when it wasn’t needed. Being silent would force him to do the talking.

He didn’t speak for quite a while, choosing to just look at me instead. Despite that I was shaking, I was also starting cold sweats. He said, “You’re not what I expected.”

I raised my eyes to his, but that obscuring spell got in the way, and my gaze came to rest on the table again. Despite the cleanliness of the rest of the house, the table showed signs of life. It was like a breath of fresh air, a reminder that I wasn’t stuck in some dreamworld where I picked up after myself. Used coffee mugs, tea cups, and even a beer bottle riddled its surface. Then there was the conch shell. Stupid thing. The only other item on the table was a small glass vase filled up with irises and sweet peas. Those I knew Mordon had brought me. Red and orange and various hues of blue. They scented the entire room.

“You are to be tried for the wrongful death of Gregor Cole,” the man continued, his finger tapping on the back of his hand. “Do you know why it is that I am here?”

Voicing my suspicions would either backfire or cut short the time I would have from letting him explain, so I drew on what I’d learned from listening in to the others. “I do not know. Would you tell me?”

And what I’d learned could be summed up in two short words: plausible deniability.

Many people didn’t believe that I could have ever defeated Cole, no matter if I tricked him with an illusion or not. It was arrogance which I was willing to embrace.

“You mean to tell me that you have no idea what has brought me to your home where I have to be subjected to this infernal noisemaker?” His jab at the seashell was the first sign I’d seen of his irritation.

“No.”

He straightened his back and tapped his finger against the table. “Then make a supposition. Why do you think it is that I have been sent here?”

I tugged my blanket closer to my shoulders, hiding a reach for my necklace with the trinkets I still wore to bed out of habit. “The only reason I can think, after enduring the Merlyn Market Council’s wrongful death trial, and being in anticipation of a resolution in my favor which would displease the Coles very much, is that you have been sent under their authority to do what the Council surely will not. By which, I mean you could only have been sent to kill me.”

The man stopped tapping his fingers and the woman sucked in a quick breath. I’d surprised them. I kept from using my trinkets.

“Then,” he said,. “What reason would I have for this interview?”

“Perhaps you intend to torture or torment me.”

“Is that what you would expect of me?”

“It is what I would expect of certain members of the Cole family.”

The man’s voice was musing. “You do not hold their name in high esteem.”

“Gregor Cole was a wendigo. A cannibal with insatiable hunger for flesh and power. I would be very surprised to find that the apple had fallen far from the tree.”

“You hunted him.”

I spoke calmly, just like I did before the court. “It was not I who did the hunting. As a predator, he should have been wiser about his prey.”

The man resumed his finger taps. “If all this happened as you say, then why have you ignored the summons?”

I frowned, hiding my surprise. He had to be taunting me, confusing me with conversation and redirections, a way to get me to contradict myself. “You do realize that anything I say here holds no sway in Merlyn’s Court when it next convenes. Besides, arguments are concluded. I have nothing more to do other than wait.”

“Feraline of the Swift Clan, has it ever occurred to you that there may be other parties who have taken an interest in your actions?”

“I fear that ever since the thing you call an infernal noisemaker has entered this house, not much has occurred to me. Even now,” I yawned, “even now it’s putting me to sleep.”

“Is that what it does?” The man paused, evaluating me. Having decided that I did look ready to fall asleep in the chair, the man raised his staff and brought it crashing down on the seashell. The silence following its destruction felt perversely incomplete and eerie. The man sat down again. “There. Does that improve the situation?”

“As much as I want to hug you and call you a friend for life, the Council won’t be happy about it,” I said.

“I do not take the sorcerer’s council into consideration with regards to my actions. But now tell me, can you think of no others who would be interested in your guilt or innocence? Have you had no correspondence?”

Now that my head was clearing, I was beginning to wonder. “If you want to see all my letters since moving here, they are in the top drawer at the end of the kitchen.” The woman immediately found them and began to shuffle through the envelopes. “The Council has been regulating my mail. It is possible that things have been sent to me which I did not receive.”

“You still wonder if I was sent to assassinate you?”

“It would be odd of you to ask after my mail if that were the case,” I admitted. “But I cannot think of who else you might represent. The drakes have expressed no desire to pursue a sorcerer’s problem. The sorcering community itself I have addressed and am enduring their rules. I cannot think …”

“Does the title Vanguard of the Battalion mean anything to you?”

My brow furrowed. “I haven’t heard reference to the Vanguard in years.”

The woman glanced our way.

“It’s clear,” she said. Then she made her way to where I always did my structured spells on the floor of the sun room. She seemed to be starting on a portal, but how she intended to break out of this place, I had no idea.

“Well,” the man said. “This would be why we never received confirmation.”

“You’re feys. From the Verdant Wildwoods.” I looked between them, very puzzled. “I didn’t think they wanted to have anything to do with me.”

“It was wise they sent us first, instead of the Hunters,” the woman said. “Though it was a courtesy in respect to your family, and not routine. I am glad we will not have to force you to return with us.”

“I cannot leave with you now. If I go before the sorcerer’s council has given their verdict, I will be a fugitive. Can my arrival before the Feys be postponed until tomorrow afternoon?”

The man balled his hand into a fist. “We have our orders. I am sorry. If the Wildwoods finds you innocent, you will be granted asylum there.”

Leaving everything I had worked so hard to build here was not an option, but arguing with these two would likely result in my incapacitation. So I shuffled to their spells. “You can’t just portal out. The wards are the same as the ones on the dungeons.”

The woman replied, “We would not have come if we did not first have a way out.”

Wordless, I got to my feet and stood behind her, reading what she put down on the bricks. Seeing that I wasn’t fighting or running—not that I had anywhere to run to—the man joined her and worked in synch. There was a portal, but there was also an area attack spell, and a modification which would direct the full force of the attack in one direction. The portal contained the same directions and a slight delay.

“You mean to pierce through the wards and follow after with the portal?” I asked.

“It has worked before,” the man said. “If you would remain quiet, please. The details are important to be correct.”

I nodded and watched as they became involved in their calculations and mathematics. And when they spoke to one another, I slid my fingers down my necklace, found the invisibility ring, and I put it on, glad that I’d argued that there would be no harm in allowing me to keep a few of my trinkets. They had been my link to the sorcering world when I hadn’t been able to use magic of my own, and now they supplemented my limited strength and control. I stepped out of the blanket and stood in the corner of the room.

Something made my hair stand on end, but it was just a feeling, a premonition. I’d never go so far as to call myself a Seer, but I had a pretty good knack for knowing when things weren’t adding up right. While I was looking at the feys and trying to understand what was wrong, the door the watchmen used opened. But it wasn’t the watchmen. Their uniforms weren’t made of cloth, but of some pliant plate armor which reflected like dark hide yet shifted like metal. Five people wearing full black fatigues entered my home. They froze upon seeing the Fey Vanguards, and the Vanguards froze upon seeing them.

“Ah, Blackwings,” said the fey man. “Always a minute too late and over-encumbered with weapons. Tell me, what honor is there in slaying a sleeping girl?”

The Blackwings had a reputation as being the hired thugs for the sorcerer’s ruling class members, but I knew little else about them. They were perhaps like a privatized SWAT team. I had no doubt at all that they had been hired by the Coles.

“Lyall Limber,” said the first Blackwing, easing a wand out of his uniform. “This night has already improved when I can add your head to my trophies.”

Lyall lost his disguise spell and he smiled. “I share your enthusiasm. Run along while you still can.”

I decided to take that as my cue. I made for the french doors which would portal out into the commons lounge which I technically had permission to enter in case of emergencies. If this didn’t classify as an emergency, I didn’t know what did.

“Give us the girl. We haven’t come for her head,” a different Blackwing said. I hesitated, then decided to keep moving.

The man stepped forward as if to start a fight, nearly bumping straight into me as I cut across his path. Heat skimmed through my veins. Trust me to get between two feuding forces. Then I relaxed fractionally when I was on the french door side of the room.

The wind stirred the gauzy curtains on the door. I tried to quiet my magic, but it wasn’t happening. They’d notice it soon. I reached for the door, planning on wrenching it open and flinging myself through the opening. And I’d just hope against hope that my coven was still awake on the other side, that the room wouldn’t be empty, that they’d be able to fend off the unexpected arrival of the Blackwings and maybe the Vanguard. Lyall had told me to run, right?

“Halt!”

A bolt of electricity singed through the air and struck the door I was about to touch. I jumped, but instead of withdrawing, I pushed myself forward. The doors opened as there came the scuff of boots behind me. I felt my feet lift from the floor as there was a grunt and other spells showered me. The glass panels cracked. Something hit my back, propelling me forward.

Chaos exploded behind me.

I knew they would fight each other to get to me, but they would prefer to lay hands on me first. The portal itched as it passed over my skin, and I felt it against me as I never had felt a portal before, as if it were an elastic barrier considering not letting me through. Sentient spells were strange to me, I’d heard of them once or twice but never before seen evidence of them being real.

“Come on!” I didn’t know if I said it or just thought it. Had someone modified the portal so it wouldn’t let me through? The Blackwings had entered through the usual official entrance, they’d been let in by someone. Had cutting off my escape route also been part of the plan?

“Lyall!” I didn’t know why I called to him, I didn’t even know how much time had lapsed, just that I didn’t seem to be going forward and I couldn’t turn my head to look back. If it was another prison spell, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

There was a muttered word right behind me. I felt a groping hand snatch the thin fabric of my night gown. A bit of teal green collided with the portal.

With a jolt of white-hot energy, I yanked myself out of my pursuer’s grasp. The portal enfolded me, suffocating in its presence, utterly unlike anything I’d experienced before. But I was going somewhere. And now I found myself wondering if that somewhere would be a place I wanted to be. Would it take me to my coven, the way it should, or had someone changed it?

Who had sent the Blackwings?

Why did the Wildwoods want me?

And how was I going to keep from watching my life fall apart again?

I felt a hand on my arm, but there was something between us. Soon I slipped away and I was being dragged through space even as the portal rocked with another spell and my hand seared with the after-pain of an incapacitation spell. What made my heart lurch, though, was that I saw to the end of the portal—and it wasn’t the commons lounge with its beige and blush interior.

It was a dark place with thick trees and filtered moonlight, a place at once breathtaking and ominous, a place that could be nothing other than the Verdant Wildwoods.

Feral Magic Excerpt

Feral Magic CoverChapter One

My last conscious memory was the final Amazonian life leech larvae falling from my tweezers into the earthenware spice dish, where it wriggled with the rest like animated saffron stamens. After this, incoherent maybe-dreams.

I’d been in a spook house with Railey, there had been a ghost hiding from us, and it had been a nice house, a sorcerer’s house. I remembered it was strange to see a ghost, even that of a child, living with spell-casters. The two seldom mixed. And there had been a secret room with black magic written on the walls and a book depicting ceremonial bones, and the landlord had found us and killed me, then I ran and was chased all over the country but I could never say who was chasing me, but even now I remembered the way the bones oozed foul magic when I smashed them.

Incoherent definitely-dreams. I rubbed my forehead, discovering that my hands were coated in mud and dirt was packed around my nails.

The moody silence of squirrels and chittering robins must have woke me. Wind howled through the valley and there was the taste of rain in the air. Above me, the morning sky was being lost to clouds as dark and as fast as ink dropped into a rinsing cup. An orange glow marked the sun, but that was soon masked and the world turned gray.

When I sat upright, a grasshopper chewing tar on my chest went his own way with the click of wings. I lay at the edge of a field outside the barn which was both my workshop and living quarters. My back hadn’t appreciated the dead grass I’d slept on.

I coughed, a dry cough, tasting sour wine on the back of my throat. A sunburn pinked my exposed right side and dew stuck my clothes to me like a clammy second skin. It came to me, after I had finished coughing, that today was a new day so the appointment had happened yesterday. That could account for my present situation.

Or had it actually happened?

Yes, it had. I knew the witch doctor had arrived and the appointment had been kept. I also knew I had been returning home, but I had no notion of where I had been.

I hadn’t walked to the pioneer’s cemetery while tripping out on the witch doctor’s potion, had I? I looked again at my dirt-encrusted nails and remembered my dreams about bones. The cemetery was a couple miles off, I doubted I could have sleep-walked all the way there, but it wasn’t completely impossible.

“Railey?”

My voice was a croak, weak and scratchy. Aside from the wind rustling through the grasses and disturbing the trees by the creek, the countryside was still and hushed and bigger than it ever had been before. There was no one else here.

Neither was there the close hug and awareness of magic, like I’d hoped to feel again.

I let my head fall on my arm, disappointed. Ah, well. At least there had been a cute guy in my dreams. He’d been chasing me, and not in a good way, but he’d been there. What he looked like, I couldn’t recall. Just that he hadn’t been the standard mainstream hunk. A bit of chill wind snuck through my shirt and made me shiver.

The first few fine flicks of rain sent up tiny bursts of dust on the ground beside me. I knew that I checked the other ingredients: the chamomile flowers, ox blood, eye of newt, mandrake root, and the two fungi known by names I could not pronounce. None of them were bad, so the potion shouldn’t have done this. Unless it had something to do with the way the witch doctor had neutralized the fungi and larvae. All the trials I did proved that the mixture was split-second heart stopping. But what had she done? I couldn’t remember. Not now.

I climbed to my knees, finding prickly seed heads of weeds with my palms and knees. At last I pulled myself onto a rock, still cold from the chill of a desert night. Sun peeked between the clouds and struck the tops of trees as I began to loosen my muscles.

I’d only ever been hung over once, on tequila and buttered scotch—not a combination I would recommend—and that had nothing on the stiff pain that ached through every muscle in my body right now. I felt like I’d eaten a bowl of broken pins and needles then washed it down with fire. I longed for the soothing cascade of a hot shower and maybe after that, maybe, I’d manage a slice of buttered toast and poached egg.

The witch doctor must have made me drink the potion. Usually the mandrake dreams were more scattered than this, but I often enough had lucid dreams. The pain had been real, but time and trauma are not friends to bearing accurate witness. I could have walked out here by myself and spent the night under the stars, but I really doubted I could have made it to the end of the rather long driveway, much less all the way out to the cemetery. Still, I’d done some digging somewhere, and the soil wasn’t native.

“Railey, you ’round?” I asked.

The crests of wheat grass waved about my elbow in place of a reply from Railey. I sighed. I hadn’t been expecting her voice.

“Guess the old woman knew what she was doing after all,” I grumbled. Old. That triggered the start of a memory. Old in the magical world meant dangerous.

I groaned, the barn seemed so far away, but storm clouds darkened the sun again, this time they meant business. I was being melodramatic. The day before had probably gone something like this: the witch doctor arrived, we talked, did the treatment, she saw me to my bed and eventually left, and after that I’d gone sleep walking and took a nap under the stars. This was my usual stargazing spot, after all.

With a flash of lightning, it started to rain. It rained like it always did in the desert, with gale-force winds whistling through the tin roof and the crack of thunder making the hair on my arm stand up.

Before me stood a barn door, square and with the boards in the center arranged like a Z. Its chipping red paint was peeling. The door wasn’t latched when I touched it. It rocked inward of its own accord, grating over the floor.

Spider webs met my face when I stepped inside. A faint glow of stormy skies lent my home a haunted sheen made ghostly when a flash of white lightning illuminated the recesses, showing my books had been pulled from their shelves and piled onto a clearing in a wreckage of broken trinkets. Several books were laid open, the pages lifting and falling in the brush of wind. My herbs scattered across the floor, leaving only a few sprigs and bits of twine dangling from the rafters.

Great.

That had to have been one bad mandrake trip. Or the witch doctor had used it as an excuse to search through my stuff. I hadn’t thought of that, usually I was so careful.

Just fantastic.

I stumbled towards the table and bopped a paint can with my bare foot. I hissed in pain before I actually felt the expected sting. Where was my shoe? The stubbed toe felt warm, numb but warm. Numb was a good word to describe all of me. Electricity ran through my nerves coupled with the thought, Railey hasn’t gone poltergeist, has she? A chill ran down my back, and I felt like this was happening to someone else and I was just an observer.

“Railey!” I meant to call her down and demand an explanation, to see if she was her usual ghostly self or just a shadow of what she once had been, but the effort of yelling caused a sharp pain in my chest.

It forced me to sit and breathe. Back to coughing. Rain on the tin roof, pattering away the minutes as I focused first on calm breathing then on subduing the sudden tremors in my limbs. My leg hurt, a lot. I knocked a vial off the work counter and onto the floor as I reached for my music player.

A couple minutes later, big band swing burst from speakers. I discovered the cause of one of my pains was a hand-sized burn on my calf. How did I get that? A boiling cup of water? But it didn’t look right for a liquid burn. Nor like something I’d get from an ember. Like a spell burn? I was beginning to feel a little afraid. Untwisting the top of a jar of salve, I realized that my hands were still encrusted with grime.

I hobbled over to the utility sink, wondering: should I be panicking? Should I be afraid? I didn’t know. But the burn was hurting and my hands were shaking and I wasn’t feeling like eating anything any longer.

“Railey, any chance you can tell me what happened?”

I might as well be speaking to air. The ghost was gone more often than not these days, but for some reason this time it felt more complete. Like she wouldn’t come back.

The wind wrenched open the shutters to the window above the sink, thrashing a few plump tomatoes to the ground as the shutters clattered against the siding. Rain rushed inside, sending flurries of icy drops across the counter. I scrambled to seize the shutters, fighting with the tomato planted outside—and that was when I realized what was wrong with it.

The tomato had become bushy. Suckers had sprouted between the main stalk and the leaves. Last time I had pruned it was the day before the old woman had come. That would have been probably the day before yesterday. Why did I see at least a week’s worth of growth on the plant? It was hard to deny the overripe tomatoes which had been green, and the sudden abundance of yellow flowers splayed up and down the plant.

“Must have had a warm couple of days,” I told myself. Tomatoes grew fast in good heat. But now a buzzing disbelief threatened to overtake reason.

A week!

It took me four tries to twist the knob for hot water.

How could it have possibly been a full week?

I knocked over the soap bottle.

Impossible. Straight-up impossible. Just get cleaned up, eat something, you’ll feel better, Fera, that’s what Railey would tell me. To stop my yammering and come down to planet Earth.

Bubbles stung like salt in an open wound, but I scrubbed down my hands, arms, face. I really was starting to feel better when I took off my outer shirt, and my fingers went through holes.

I stared at the gouges down the back, at the slashes which I had ignored when wrestling the shirt over the top of my head. Gouges which looked like a beast had drawn three sharp claws against it.

The water in the basin was pink and there were drops of scarlet blood. My stiff back took on new meaning and instantly began to radiate stinging pain. I grasped the sink to steady myself.

What had the witch doctor done to me? Had she made me her scapegoat? That’s the thing about mixing lambs with magicians, the non-magic-users can be taken advantage of. And on my calf there was the burn, could it be the burn left by a paralysis spell meant to stop a fleeing suspect?

Something was wrong with my breathing, was it too fast and too shallow, or was I breathing at all? Which way did I need to breathe to counter the heat rising in my cheeks?

“Oh,” was all I could say, feeling a bubble of dizziness press against my vision. “Don’t faint. Not now.”

Fainting wasn’t something I was prone to do, but I didn’t want to waste time passed out on the floor. Panic waves washed through my belly, sweeping up my chest and arms, seizing my throat. My shaking grew uncontrollable. I tried to drop the shirt, to free myself from that tainted reminder of what I could not remember, but it snagged on the rough edges of a broken nail.

Breath coming in frantic pants, I shook my hand. Shook it harder. And harder. Until I smacked it against the sink and the wet shirt slapped concrete floor and soaked my shoe and one bare foot. Slowly, as if a puppeteer had taken over and was guiding me, I felt my knees bend to the concrete in one smooth motion. I watched myself untie my shoe and take off my sock, then my jeans and other clothes, leaving brownish blood streaks on everything as I tossed one item after the other into the washing machine.

The storm raged on, the wind battering through cracks in the walls, and I was lost in it like a leaf tossed in its fury. Naked, I stepped into the metal grain silo which I’d converted into a shower, let the tepid water pour down, watching blood and gritty soil spiral down the drain. Eventually the water heater kicked on, choosing the boil-my-skin-off setting all by itself. I didn’t bother to turn up the cold water, just slumped on the floor and lathered up the soap, getting rid of the evidence. As thinking intruded on the peace the puppeteer had given me, I scrubbed more frantically and more and more until I was raw with pain and panic.

A million thoughts eddied through my mind like a tempest smashing a ship against rocks over and over again until nothing made sense and the battered remains of my thoughts were the ruined wreckage of reason. Eventually, my breathing calmed and my vision cleared.

I was curled up on my side in the shower, the water had cooled to a reasonable temperature again. My back, when I felt it with my fingers, was bruised and had been scratched though it was not even a full skin break. I’d been lucky. Once I realized this, I was lax with relief and could think again.

So I listed the facts. Things I knew for sure.

  1. I had no solid recollections of the days prior.

  2. I did have a long-standing meeting with a witch doctor right before this black-out.

  3. I thought I knew what happened during this meeting.

  4. But maybe I had it wrong.

  5. Worse, I seemed to have come in contact with the magical community. It was entirely possible I’d been used.

  6. And if I had been used, it was to achieve a nefarious end.

  7. Which meant that either the Constabulary or the witch doctor would be banging down my door at any second.

  8. Or the maybe even witch doctor’s other victim. The one I’d been used to commit a crime against.

  9. Or I had taken a bad mandrake potion. That could have happened, too. …and, acquired my injuries how, exactly?

My eyes returned to the burn, staring at it as if it could somehow speak to me and put everything into place.

“Do I have to go to the Constabulary?” I asked myself, feeling my tentative control crumple like a piece of paper ready for the fire.

No, I reasoned. Not so long as I didn’t want to. I turned off the water, dried off, and applied half a jar of salve from toes to head. The bleeding stopped, scratches healed. Not too many deep wounds, however the burn on my calf blistered. The rain pounded harder on the roof trickled through a spot I thought I’d fixed. I put a cup on the counter to catch the drip. Thunder again.

Determined not to fall to pieces, I tried to re-assemble what I knew had happened—or what I thought I knew, at least as I dressed in clean-smelling clothes and fed myself cold cereal with milk and trail mix. And I chewed down one too many painkillers, too. Next to bear arms, both of the magical and knowledge kind.

On wobbly legs, I climbed onto the counter and reached on top of the rafters. My fingers found a small box with the best trinkets I had. When I opened it, I found my appointment and note book. I flipped to the witch doctor’s appointment and instead found a note written in white ink on black paper. A crow feather fell out of its fold.

Miss Feraline Hope Swift,

I usually do not aid my agents but I feel this case is an exception. Allow me to give you a few tips. First, you have one more use of your compass. I recommend you read the papers before deciding where to go. Second, I recommend you read the headlines, but not the articles. I fear the articles themselves are inaccurate. Third, your after-life is mine to use as I choose. No significant action needs to be taken on your part, except to behave as nature so inclines you to do. I have handed you this first case, but for the ones following, you need simply to watch for circumstances which break the natural order of life.

Make me proud.

-Death.

P.S. Do not die again. It is terribly troublesome.

I sank down to sit on the counter, where I remained for several puzzled minutes, feeling again like the leaf in the wind or the boat being cast against rocks. The letter crumbled in my hands, breaking apart into feathers, the writing becoming the shine of light playing over them. I sort of stared at them for a long time before I resolved to take these feathers to the Constabulary, show them what I had, ask for their help. See if they could get to the bottom of this.

…but the papers, those nagged at me. Holding the compass, I jumped down from the counter and found my stack of Thaumaturgical Tribune. The most recent paper boasted a picture of me on the front page within an article issued by the Magic Constables.

It was a want ad.

Then I realized today’s paper said Thursday, and the last paper I remembered reading was Sunday’s. Which meant I was missing three days. Coincidentally, the ad had been issued for the last two days. It said simply, Report any sightings immediately.

Almost simultaneously, I was hit with three instincts. Run and hide, run and beg Uncle Don to take me as his client in case there were any charges to be made, and lastly to investigate my missing days. But the words “volatile and highly dangerous, do not approach” would definitely put off any potential interviews.

I didn’t even understand how I could be considered volatile and highly dangerous. I had lost my magic years ago. Yes, I owned trinkets and things with enchantments, but a decent sorcerer should not find that dangerous.

Clearly I was in trouble. If I wasn’t, then there wouldn’t be a want ad. There wouldn’t be a reward. I didn’t know what to do. I’d never had so much as a speeding ticket before.

This wouldn’t be so terrifying if I could fight the charges—whatever they were. But I couldn’t. I didn’t know if I was guilty or innocent. I could have done whatever it was. Suppose I had done something to warrant a nationwide want ad. Would they listen to my pleas of “I swear, Constable, I don’t remember doing anything”?

I wouldn’t. Sounds like a crappy lie.

Then I heard the bubbles start rattling in a blue willow kettle, and it began to whistle, corporeal steam issuing from its spout. For an instant, my spirits perked up: I’d bought the thing from a fair booth and had not been so certain of its alleged speaking capabilities. I lifted my head and listened as it said, “They are coming! They are coming! Leave now, Master, leave now!”

Warning enchantment, or did it cry out for other reasons, too? I debated staying or running. If it was the Constabulary, I’d be better off not fleeing from the law. I put on my best trinkets from the mess on the floor and slipped on some shoes, my blood pulsing with hot adrenaline. There was someone outside!

Collecting my thoughts, I listened to the shuffle of people outside adding to the din of the storm…a storm which suddenly seemed mute compared to their every movement. How many there were it was hard to tell, but they hadn’t spoken a word, and I thought all law enforcement had to identify themselves. Yet still, I waited, dreading when I’d discover who had tracked me to my home.

I readied myself, seeing one escape route after another closed off. Too many people to try to fight, no matter how I did it. Hiding in the loft would buy a few minutes, tops. I knew that I’d have to face these intruders, that even if I ran away and somehow reached the Constables alive, I would still have to face the law and hope they believed my story. The more I knew, the more convincing I’d be. My heart raced in my veins, I envisioned that someone stood at the main door, facing me, and motioned to the others that their victim was inside.

There was an explosive crash and splintering wood as a spell shattered my door and an icicle shot through my tea pot. Mist filled the room and the temperature fell, making me shiver on the spot. In the clatter of falling bits of door and pottery, I remembered reading but not acknowledging the single word: REWARD.

There came noises all around as they surrounded the building and I felt time creak by slower and slower, knowing they, too, were going to cover all my exits. Still I had doubts. Was this the law, or was this a bounty hunter? The mists cleared.

It was a tall man in black robes, but he had a spell hanging about him which made my eyes drift over him. He reminded me of the figure in my dreams, the one who had killed me.

“Feraline Hope Swift,” he said. Our eyes met through the spell for just a second, and though I could tell nothing else about him, he looked like a man who would do anything to not lose everything. Then he curled his hand in the start of a spell. “You are dead.”

Heat flooded my body. That wasn’t something law enforcement would say. I rushed the side door, meeting it with flat hands and all my weight.

The hinges were rusted as thin as a leaf so the door toppled with me on top of it. Whoever was on the other side broke my fall, grunting as they were smashed into the dirt. I doubted they were injured.

“Stop right there!” I heard the man shout from behind me.

I didn’t. Several feet away, the barnyard turned into a pit where the farmers of days gone by had pushed all the big boulders together and I entered this pit just as a spell skimmed my shoulder. The boulder cracked.

I yelped.

I knew they would come right after me. I also knew they’d outrun me. I sprinted behind a boulder where the ground was too hard for footprints, muffled my breathing, and found my invisibility ring.

“Get her! Which direction did she go?” The man sounded disgusted when no one responded immediately.

I thought frantically. I’d gone in the wrong direction for my car, and they’d probably hit it with a spell when it went down the very straight driveway, anyway. There was no time to make a proper portal, not that I could power it without magic, and definitely no time to rig up the compass to act as the power source. This meant I’d need to use the compass to go someplace I
already knew—it was a good trinket, yes, but it had its constraints. I had to assume that the compass was only good for one jump, and that jump had to take me where I could ditch the trackers when they did find me again.

A single lonely place came to mind.

I heard the men yelling and someone scuffing gravel. Loud footsteps coming in my direction.

Almost out of breath, I withdrew the compass and closed my eyes. The wind kicked up around me, and I knew the magic would attract their attention soon. An hour ago, I had been out here, a bad potion the worst thing on my mind.

Now I was wanted for doing something to someone I’d never met before, a powerful someone who had enough money to send a task force to hunt me down. Now I had fled the scene.

Now I was scrambling to stay alive.

A man in black rounded the corner and saw the distinctive dust devil marking my portal. His eyes bulged and the last thing I saw was his lips moving in a spell, then brightness and I felt like a freight train had smashed into my car as the portal tried to take me away.

Swift Magic Uploaded, soon to go live everywhere

swiftmagicThe long-in-coming Book number 2 of Swift Codex is (finally) here! Don’t worry, number 3 is not going to be so long in production. Its deadline is the end of next month and I’m writing the final few chapters in between maintaining uploads.

These last couple of months have been making me scramble around, in a good way. I’ve had two or three Blissed episodes every month for two months now and I’m getting in general more confident in playing with key words and summaries.

This also means that I now need to update the back of Feral Magic to add the following backmatter:

Thank you for giving Feral Magic a read. I hope you enjoyed the story!

For a limited time, I’m giving away a review copy of Swift Magic, the second book in the Swift Codex series, to anyone who posts a review of this book on Amazon or Goodreads. Just email me the link to your review and let me know if you would prefer a Kindle or ePub file: nicolette.jinks@gmail.com . If you just can’t wait to get started reading Swift Magic, you can grab a copy right now at Smashwords and soon, everywhere else, too.

Want early access to future fantasy novels, giveaways, ect? Then sign up for my newsletter at nicolettejinks.wordpress.com . Thank you!!

Yep, yep. That’s me being a tad bit annoying. The obligatory filler material, you know.

And good grief, I’m freezing my fingers off in this house! It’s October, sure, but I haven’t turned on the heater and wow my hands are cold and clumsy. Really makes doing computer-stuff a chore.

My day isn’t over yet, either. I have Episode 3 to publish on SoundCloud this weekend, too. Busy days, busy days. But good days.

Hang out in a few more minutes and I’ll have a couple of excerpts added!

Your dearest Nicolette

Swift Magic Cover Art

Drum roll please… Swift Magic cover art is now shown. SwiftMagic copy

I will likely make a few final tweaks between now and release, but as a whole, this is it.

I’ve used the same eyes as in Feral Magic cover, but have played with the text-image interaction more. It’s based on a pencil sketch I did, though that one has a terrible face and perhaps a little bit better hair. Revisions from here will probably be to smooth out skin texture a little more. Drawing/painting humans is still a new thing to me. I may also make the S bigger.

As far as the text goes, I’ve got a couple of things to round it off. Nothing too major, thank goodness, a re-working of chapters 2, 3 ,4 to be the most substantial.

Excited to have this out to beta readers this week!

Till later

Your dearest Nicolette

I saw / sort of met Joanne Harris at Beverley Literature Festival, and announcing Lady Luck and over 500 downloads

I hadn’t noticed before that my release of Lady Luck (Blissed #3) would coincide with the Bev Lit Fest. Let’s try not to remember that Joanne Harris’ topic was on Loki, Norse trixster god. Hmm.

BlissedLadyLuckSo Joanne Harris is best known for writing Chocolat which later became a movie with Johnny Depp. But she’s also written something like fifteen other books, so don’t forget those. I went to an interview with her about why she chose Loki, and came away with some interesting points she made during her answers. I didn’t ask her anything myself, as I am sort of shy at random times. But she did autograph the birthday sketchbook my husband gave me. 🙂 This is BevLitFest’s brochure. For however long the link lasts, it lasts.

I also went to a workshop about adapting books to theatre today, and I’ve got mountains of notes from that, but I’m not going to share them yet as it’s all half-scribbled nonsense.
In publishing news, Lady Luck has made an appearance on  Barnes & Noble   Smashwords  Amazon  and Kobo. Scribd is always a little slow on putting new titles up in comparison with the rest, and I have yet to try to find anything on iBooks.

Further publishing news, I have now reached over 500 downloads. All but 4 of the total numbers came in within the last 30 days. Each dramatic peak comes about as a result of a new release.

30 days of downloads
30 days of downloads

I’m pretty pleased with how things have started to shape up. Now, this chart is from my Smashwords account, and I don’t use them to distribute to Amazon. Though I do wonder what would happen if I decided to use their Amazon channel…

Anyway, so above is for the last month. Below is for the last 90 days.

90 days downloads
90 days downloads

This chart is taken when Lady Luck hasn’t yet said “hi, world”, so it doesn’t appear on the charts. I’m showing this as a sort of complete disclosure thing. Before last month, I was pretty much a no one on Smashwords and everywhere else. Fascinatingly to me, it’s the first book I ever did which is shining the most. However, it’s not as lop-sided of a pie chart as I would have expected. It’s about half downloads going to Feral Magic, and the rest is pretty equally split between the remaining titles.

This of course means I need to get Swift Magic proof read and out ASAP. But that’s OK. I’m working on cover art today, I started it last night and I’m getting excited–but I’m having a hard time this go-round with doing hair. Specifically, with not making it too dark. I should be able to have art to show the world soon, but not yet.

Well, I think that’s about all for this post.

Till next time,

Your Dearest Nicolette