Jeanne Owens, author

Blog about author Jeanne Owens and her writing


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Solstice Fest – A Short Story For Christmas (Chronicles of Riss)

It’s coming up on Christmas, so I thought I’d share a “magical” holiday short story with you all. This is one of the stories that can be found in my short story collection, Chronicles of Riss. If you like this one, why not check out all the other fun adventures in the book, too?


 

Solstice Fest

There was a definite nip in the air, and I pulled my cloak tighter about me and continued to stroll along the streets of the city of Eastover. As I walked, I watched the bustling crowds and enjoyed the festive decorations of colorful ribbons, holly wreaths, and garland that had been put up over the last few weeks in preparation for tomorrow. What’s so special about tomorrow? It’s the winter solstice, and everyone over the world celebrates it with a big holiday festival known as Solstice Fest. It is usually preferable for there to be snow during the Fest, and if the cold and overcast sky were any indication, there definitely would be snow this year.

As I walked, I couldn’t help but remember the Solstice Fests that I had celebrated with my family when I was a child. We always had such fun singing, dancing, feasting, and playing games. And I always received such nice gifts. I remembered a doll that I was given one year. I loved it so much. I had wanted to take the doll with me when I went to stay with Althor, but he wouldn’t let me bring her. She’s probably destroyed now, I thought sadly. Probably got burned up with the house when the bandits raided…

Finding myself beginning to dwell on the unhappy subject of the death of my parents seven years ago when I was only eight years old, I shook my head to clear the thoughts away and looked around for something to cheer me up. Something like food.

I noticed that I had stopped walking during my reverie and that I now stood in front of a street vendor who sold sweetmeats. The old man behind the cart noticed me. “Hey, miss!” he called to me. “How about some sweetmeats? I’m running a Solstice Fest special. You can get five sticks of sweetmeat for only two gold pieces.”

He calls that a special? I would hate to see his usual prices. I considered lowering the hood of my cloak so the old man could see my blue hair and know just who I was and get a better deal out of it, but I decided not to. I had kept my hood up not only because it was cold outside, but because I wanted my identity hidden. I wanted to enjoy the holiday as a normal person and not have everyone acting scared of me and being overly nice to me because of who I am – the infamous sorceress Marissa Cobalt. Besides, I was hungry, and just didn’t feel like complaining or looking elsewhere. “Deal,” I told him, and pulled a couple of gold coins from the leather bag on my belt and stepped forward to pay the man.

With a smile on my lips and five sticks of sweetmeat in hand, I turned and stepped away from the vendor, only to feel something slam into my side and to find myself sprawled on the ground and my food scattered in the street.

My…my food,” I said sadly as I sat up.

I…I’m sorry, miss,” said a small, shy voice beside me. I turned and saw a small blonde girl only about eight years old pick herself up off the ground. Her little pink dress and gray cloak looked somewhat dirty but otherwise in good condition. “I was in a hurry, and didn’t see you.”

I gave her small smile. “It’s all right, sweetie. No harm done. Run along home now.”

She smiled back. “Okay. Good-bye, miss!” she said, then ran off down the street.

I stood up and looked sorrowfully down at my now ruined lunch. Two gold pieces gone, and nothing to show for it. Maybe the vendor saw what happened and will have pity on me, I thought hopefully. I was about to turn around to talk to the vendor when…

There she is!” an angry man’s voice yelled. “Get her!”

“”Huh?” I muttered, and instinctively looked in the direction of the voice. A group of five big men were running down the street, right towards me.

What did I do now?! I thought, and took off running.

Stop her!” called one of the men. “Stop that little thief!”

Thief?” I said as I ran. “But I haven’t stolen anything today. At least, not from any innocents.”

I turned a corner, and found myself catching up to the little blonde girl who had bumped into me just a few moments earlier. I quickly realized that it wasn’t me they were after, but her.

Hey, you!” I called to her.

She stopped running and turned to look at me. As she did, she saw the group of men turn the corner behind me. Her eyes widened with recognition and fear, and she took off running again.

I chased after her. As I ran, I checked my belt for my purse. Sure enough, it was gone.

I caught up to the little girl after she had turned another corner and grabbed her shoulder, bringing us both to a stop. I could hear the men who were chasing us getting closer.

If you want to get out of this without any trouble,” I told her, my voice low but commanding, “stay quiet and play along. Got it?”

She nodded. I released her and turned around, ready to face the men. They rounded the corner a moment later and stopped suddenly when they saw us standing there.

There’s that little thief,” said the big, tall, dark-haired man in the lead. “Get her!”

I stood in front of the little girl and lowered my hood, revealing my blue hair and identity. The men and the little girl all gasped.

M…Marissa Cobalt,” stammered the men.

What do you mean by chasing my little sister around town and calling her a thief?” I snapped. “You’ve scared her half to death.” Mentally, though, I was casting a spell by picturing runes in my mind.

The little girl took her cue. As I softly whispered the incantation, she stepped up close beside me and grabbed and held on to my arm tightly with both hands. “Big Sister, don’t let them hurt me,” she said softly, putting just the right amount of fear into her voice. That girl would make a good actress one day.

Your sister?” said the lead man. “I…I didn’t know she was your sister, Miss Marissa. She…she ran into me and knocked me down. Then she apologized and ran off. After that, I noticed that my bag of money was gone from my belt. My friends and I took off after her to get it back.”

Well, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you’re confused,” I said, putting a slight emphasis on the word “confused” and waving my hand ever so slightly in the direction of the men. A blank expression formed on their faces. “My sister here is not a thief. She didn’t steal your purse. You probably left it somewhere, or forgot to bring it when you left home this morning. Maybe you should got back and check.”

The men nodded, then slowly turned around and shuffled off back they way they had come.

With a satisfied smile on my face, I turned my attention to the little girl. She smiled up at me. “Well, thank you, Miss Marissa,” she said. “Good-bye!” She started to walk off.

Not so fast,” I said sternly, grabbing her arm.

She stopped and looked at me with wide eyes.

Hand it over,” I commanded.

She blinked at me as if she didn’t know what I was talking about. But I knew better. She should definitely go into acting when she grows up.

My purse,” I clarified for her unnecessarily.

Oh, that,” she said. She reached around under her cloak and brought out my little bag of coins. “Sorry. Here.”

I took my purse from her little hand and attached it back to my belt. “Now the other one,” I told her.

Huh?” she said.

The other purse that you took. You know, the one that belongs to that man who was chasing us. I’ll take it, as well. Both as payment for me helping you out and as your apology for ruining my lunch.”

But…”

No buts. Hand it over.”

She sighed and reluctantly brought forth another leather bag full of coins from under her cloak and handed it to me.

Thank you,” I said. “Now, run along home.”

But instead, she sat down on the ground and started to cry. Rather loudly, too.

Dumbstruck, I just stood there and stared at her. After a moment, I found my voice. “Hey, not so loud,” I told her. “Someone will hear us.”

“But now what will Tommy and I do?” she said. “We needed that money for food. We haven’t eaten in days.”

My eyes went wide. “Who’s Tommy?” I said.

My little brother.”

What about your parents?”

We’re alone.”

I squatted down beside her and put an arm around her heaving shoulders. “What happened?” I asked softly.

We ran away from home. Mamma and Daddy were arguing and yelling at each other all the time and stopped paying attention to us. When they would, it wasn’t like it used to be. After a while, we got tired of all the yelling. And we were afraid Mamma or Daddy might leave. We wanted it back the way it was, before all the yelling, when they paid attention to us. So we thought that if they missed us, they might stop all the fighting and things would go back to normal when we got home.”

I see. And how long ago was this?”

A couple of weeks.”

A couple of weeks?! Why haven’t you gone home yet?”

Mamma and Daddy never came for us. So we’re not going home. It’s just me and Tommy now.”

But don’t you want to go home?”

If Mamma and Daddy wanted us. But they never came for us. So they don’t want us. So we’re not going home.”

I shook my head softly. “Sweetie, I’m sure they want you. I’m sure they miss you. They’ve probably looked everywhere for you. You’ve probably just wandered farther away from home than they would have expected you to. They’re probably sitting at home right now, worried sick and hoping you’ll come home soon.”

She looked at me hopefully. “You think so?”

I know so.” A wistful tone entered my voice as I said, “You know, you’re lucky to have parents. Especially now, at Solstice Fest.”

But you have parents, too, don’t you, Miss Marissa?”

I did. And they missed me a lot while I was gone away learning magic, and were so happy to see me when I would come home for a visit. But they died when I was your age. I loved them very much, and still do. I miss them all the time. You love your parents, don’t you?”

She nodded.

And you miss them, right?”

She nodded again.

So, how would you like to give them a nice surprise present for Solstice Fest?”

She nodded again. “What present?”

You and your brother. I’m going to take you both home.”

Really?!”

Yep. Now, where’s your brother?”

We stood up, and the little girl led me down the street a few blocks to an abandoned building. She opened the door and we entered a dark room that was empty save for a couple of piles of hay. A young blond boy about five years old lay atop one of the piles in a tattered shirt and pants. As we entered, he sat up.

Lyla! You’re back!” he said with a big grin on his face. “Did you bring any food?”

No, Tommy,” she said somberly.

The little boy’s face fell.

Lyla put a happier tone to her voice and told him, “But I brought something better.”

Tommy perked up. “Better than food? What?”

The girl pointed at me. “Miss Marissa. She’s taking us home.”

Hooray!” Tommy cried out. He climbed down from his pile of hay, ran over to me, and hugged me. Lyla joined in.

I laughed. “Okay, okay,” I said as I pried the two kids off me. “It’s time to get you two home. Where are we going?”

Liten,” Lyla said.

Liten? You’re lucky. I was just in that little village the other day. We can be there in no time.”

Really?” Tommy asked.

Yes.”

How?” Lyla queried.

I winked. “Magic.”

Magic?!” the siblings said. “Yay!”

I chuckled. Those two kids sure were cute. As I pictured the runes in my mind, I told the kids to hold my hands. When they had a good grip on me, I pictured the village, said the incantation, and activated the spell by saying “Teleport!”

A blinding flash of white light later, we were standing in the middle of a street in a quaint little village bustling with activity. Solstice Fest decorations dotted the buildings around us. We looked around, and I asked the kids, “So, where’s your house?”

Before the kids could answer, a woman’s very surprised voice cried out behind us, “Lyla! Tommy!”

We turned around to see a tall, pretty blonde woman and a somewhat attractive tall blond man standing just a few feet away from us, hand in hand.

Mamma!” the children cried out happily. “Daddy!” They ran to their parents, who knelt down and hugged them tightly. As I stood there, watching the scene with a smile on my face, I wished I could hug my parents like that again.

After a few moments, the parents stood up and faced me. The father held Lyla and Tommy tightly in his arms.

Miss Marissa,” said the mother. “Thank you so much for bringing Lyla and Tommy home to us.”

Oh, it was my pleasure. Those two are such sweet kids.”

Why don’t you stay with us for dinner and Solstice Fest? It’s the least we can do to thank you.”

Yeah!” said Tommy.

Please stay!” said Lyla.

I laughed. “How can I say no?”

As I followed the happily reunited family home, it started to snow.

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In The Beginning – Tell A Story Day 2016

Well, today is once again Tell A Story Day, but unfortunately, I didn’t remember in time to come up with a story, so I’m resharing this one from last year.

Jeanne Owens, author

So, I found out a couple of days ago that today is Tell A Story Day. I had been playing around with the idea for a story the last few days, so I decided to use it for Tell A Story Day and share it here and treat you all to a BRAND NEW story featuring my mercenary sorceress character, Marissa Cobalt (star of Kismet and Tell and Chronicles of Riss)! Enjoy!

In The Beginning:

An Early Adventure in Sorcery

Sunlight glinted on the blue water of the Incara Ocean. The day was beautiful, bright and sunny. There was a light warm breeze that blew my long blue hair into my face, but I didn’t mind. I just stood at the railing of the ship and stared out at the water. I’d never seen the ocean before, and my fourteen-year-old self couldn’t get enough of the sight.

Sailors and…

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Available Now – Chronicles of Riss: Adventures in Sorcery Paperback Edition

It’s here! It’s finally here! Woohoo!

What is? The paperback edition of my book, Chronicles of Riss: Adventures in Sorcery, that’s what! After debating it for a while, I finally decided to have a paperback version of this short story collection. And now it’s here and Chronicles of Riss is no longer only available as an ebook. Now, those of you who prefer to hold an actual book in your hand to read instead of an e-reader can enjoy this book full of fun, fantastical adventures.

 

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Confronting evil sorcerers. Fighting monsters. Dueling metal golems. Searching for a sea monster. Hunting lost treasure. Finding a missing show dog. Competing in talent contests. Helping lost children. These are just some of the widely varied exploits that the young mercenary sorceress Marissa “Riss” Cobalt shares in this second Adventures in Sorcery book. Riss reveals how she ended up as a mercenary and chronicles some of the many adventures, ranging from fun to serious, that she’s had prior to the events of Kismet and Tell.

 

 

 

 

Get it now on Amazon by clicking here.

You can get the ebook version on Amazon here and at other online bookstores, like Barnes & Noble.


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Early Black Friday Sale – Get My Book, Chronicles of Riss, For Only 99 Cents!

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Join the young mercenary sorceress Marissa “Riss” Cobalt as she recounts some of her early escapades, such as confronting evil sorcerers, searching for treasure, dueling metal golems, finding a stolen show dog, and more.

 

 

 

I’m kicking off the holiday shopping season with my own “Black Friday” sale!

Don’t miss this chance to get my e-book Fantasy short story collection, Chronicles of Riss (the prequel to the novel Kismet and Tell) on Amazon for the low, low price of only 99 cents!! That $2 off the SRP! What a bargain! 😀

Escape the hectic chaos of the Thanksgiving holiday with some fun, fantasy, magic, and mayhem, or get the book as a present for someone you know who’d like it.

Chronicles of Riss will be on sale all week, so you have plenty of time. I will keep it at the $0.99 sale price through Cyber Monday (11/28/2016).

Get Chronicles of Riss on Amazon here.

Get Kismet and Tell on Amazon  here (it’s also available in paperback).


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Character Art – Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS

I’ve always liked art. I love to go to museums and  see all the different paintings. I especially love the old art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Michaelangelo, Raphael, Da Vinci, Monet, Manet, Rembrandt, etc.are some of my favorite artists.  Art History class was one of my favorite college classes. But when it came to actually drawing and painting things myself, I’ve never really been all that great at it. Animals and objects I can do ok, I think,  but drawing people is something I’ve always had a bit of a hard time with.

To give you an idea of what I mean, let me show you a few character sketches I did years ago when I was writing my first Fantasy book, Kismet and Tell. These are sketches of Marissa “Riss” Cobalt, the main character (and also the main character in Chronicles of Riss), and one of the other lead characters, Fiore.

As you can see, they’re not all that great. I wish I could do better, especially with the anime/manga style, but I really believe my artistic talent lies more with writing than it does with drawing.

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This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt, “art”:

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS July 30/16

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In The Beginning – Tell A Story Day 2016

So, I found out a couple of days ago that today is Tell A Story Day. I had been playing around with the idea for a story the last few days, so I decided to use it for Tell A Story Day and share it here and treat you all to a BRAND NEW story featuring my mercenary sorceress character, Marissa Cobalt (star of Kismet and Tell and Chronicles of Riss)! Enjoy!

 

In The Beginning:

An Early Adventure in Sorcery

Sunlight glinted on the blue water of the Incara Ocean. The day was beautiful, bright and sunny. There was a light warm breeze that blew my long blue hair into my face, but I didn’t mind. I just stood at the railing of the ship and stared out at the water. I’d never seen the ocean before, and my fourteen-year-old self couldn’t get enough of the sight.

Sailors and other passengers came and went along the deck behind me, but they wisely didn’t bother me. We’d only be at sea a few days, but everyone had already learned not to anger me.

As I stared out at the ocean, my excitement at being at sea and at the prospect of finally being on my own and making my way in the world waned as my mind drifted back to that fateful day a few years ago…

* * *

“Are you ready to go, Marissa?” my teacher, the sorcerer Althor, asked from beside the front door of the tower we called home.

“Almost!” I called back from the kitchen. “I’m just finishing up!”

I was about to take the last bite of my sandwich when a silver tabby kitten jumped up onto the table next to me. He purred and pawed at my hand, and I giggled and pinched a piece of ham off the bread and gave it to him. He gobbled it up and I gave him a quick pat on the head. “Don’t worry, Aster. I’ll only be gone a few days. I’ll be back before you know it. So be a good boy, ok?”

“Marissa!” Althor called again.

“Coming!” I crammed the last bite of sandwich into my mouth, picked up my travel bag from the floor, and hurried out of the kitchen as Aster gave a small mew from the table.

“It’s about time,” Althor said with a frown on his darkly bearded face. “Honestly, we’ll be there in just a few moments. You couldn’t have waited until you got there to eat?”

I craned my neck to look up at him. I was only a child, after all, and he was a rather tall man. His height, his dark brown hair and beard, and red sorcerer’s robes made him seem a rather imposing figure to any person, let alone an eight-year-old girl. Despite that, I gave him a rather obstinate reply. “I was hungry! I didn’t want to wait!”

He’d been expecting that response and gave me a wry smile in return. “And here I thought you were so eager to get home and see your parents.”

“I am!” I paused and frowned slightly as a thought struck me. “What do you think they’ll say about my hair?” I asked him, worried. “It wasn’t blue the last time they saw me. You don’t think they’ll be angry, do you?”

Althor knelt down, smiled kindly, and placed a hand atop my head. “Don’t worry, Marissa. I’m sure they’ll love it.”

I gave him a small smile. “Thank you, sir.”

He stood back up and grabbed his staff from beside the door. “Alright. Time to go.” He opened the front door and we stepped out. We stood on the top step and Althor turned around and pulled the door closed, then pushed back the sleeves of his robe, place a hand on the door, and whispered a few arcane words. A light blue light glowed briefly around his hand. When it faded away, he turned back to me, took my hand, and called out “Teleport!”

There was bright flash of white light, and then the tower was gone and we found ourselves standing in front of a small house at the edge of a little village.

A pretty middle-aged woman with long brown hair ran out of the house, followed closely by a tall, middle-aged man with shaggy black hair.

“Marissa!”the lady called as she ran up to me. She knelt and gave me a tight hug. The man stood behind her and stared down at me with a big smile on his face.

My mother finally released me, then took a closer look at me. “What did you do to your hair?” she asked in surprise.

“I..uh…I had a little accident,” I said sheepishly.

“An accident?” my father asked.

“Something went wrong with a spell,” Althor said. “She was supposed to turn a flower blue, but something happened and her hair changed instead. We’ve tried to change it back to black, but for some strange reason, it won’t change.”

“Well, I like it,” my mother said with a smile. “It suits you, Marissa. Doesn’t it, dear?”

“It looks very nice,” my father said, though I didn’t think he really meant it.

“Come along inside, now, dear,” my mother said, taking my hand. “Althor, would you like to come inside for a drink?” she said with a bright smile. “It’s the least we can do to thank you for teaching our daughter.”

“Uh, well, maybe just a quick drink,” he said, trying to hide his embarrassment.

* * *

Althor didn’t stay long. He only had one drink with my parents before excusing himself. He was not a very sociable person, after all, and listening to my parents talk about how pleased they were with my progress in studying magic seemed to embarrass him, which he tried to hide with a gruffer than normal attitude. When he left, he made sure to remind me to return to him promptly in a week, after checking that I knew how to do the Teleport spell correctly.

The next few days at home with my parents went by quickly. I had a fun time visiting. I enjoyed catching up with my friends in the village. Well, the few I had managed to make, anyway. Even as a child, I was known to be a bit…temperamental. It was also Solstice Fest time, so the village was decorated for the festival with colorful streamers strung from building to building across the village center, and wreaths hanging on all the doors. Even the tree at the center of the village had been brightly decorated. There was a chilly nip in the air as everyone gathered at the village center to celebrate and exchange gifts, but there was no snow this time. My parents gave me a beautiful blond doll as my Solstice Fest gift, which I loved.

As the end of my visit drew near, things took a turn for the worst.

It was a couple of days after Solstice Fest, and the evening before I was to return to Althor. I had finished packing my travel bag and had gone to bed when it happened.

I was just about to doze off into sleep when I heard yelling and screaming from outside the house. I sat up in bed, called for my mother and father, and tried to make sense of what I was hearing outside.

Getting no response, I slid out of bed and crept to the front of the house. The door was open and there was no sign of my parents inside, so I peered out the door into the growing darkness of evening. What I saw rooted me to the spot.

A least a dozen bandits filled the street, laughing madly as they rounded up the families from the houses next to mine and from across the street. Some bandits held the villagers at weapon-point while a few other bandits went into the houses.

My parents were standing at the edge of the street, facing a couple of bandits who pointed swords at them and were trying to make them kneel, but my parents were refusing to back down and let them into our home.

One of the bandits frowned and said something I couldn’t make out. The next thing I knew, their swords seemed to move in a flash, and then my parents dropped to the ground.

Something snapped inside me at the sight. I didn’t think. I just acted. A growl sounded from my little throat as I stepped out the door. I stalked across the yard towards the bandits, my hands held in front of me, and chanted, Infinite Earth, mother of all, grant me the purifying power of fire. Burning fire of justice, gather in my hand.”

As I drew near the bandits, a large swirling ball of flame appeared in the palm of my hand. I raised my hand, readying to throw it, just as the bandits realized I was there. They grinned evilly at me, then noticed the ball of fire I held. The grins melted off their faces, and I tossed the fire at them as I called out, “Fireball!”

In my anger, I had made a mistake. I was so angry, I hadn’t focused my energy correctly with the spell. Plus, I had only just recently begun to learn the spell and so I hadn’t perfected it yet. So, I sort of made the Fireball a little too powerful. The Fireball also overshot its target and ended up landing in the middle of the street before it exploded.

The resulting explosion wiped out the bandits…along with the villagers who were in the street with them, and destroyed all the houses at that end of the village. The explosion also sent me flying, backwards and away from the unintended destruction.

Needless to say, the rest of the village wasn’t too happy with me. Sure, they were glad to have been spared being raided by bandits, but losing part of the village didn’t sit too well with them. So they exiled me, even though I apologized profusely and even offered to help rebuild. They just didn’t want to take a chance on me losing my temper like that again.

Heartbroken at the loss of my parents and my hometown, I used the Teleport spell to return to Althor.

I stood staring at the front door of the tower for a while after the spell dropped me off there. I didn’t know what to say to Althor. How was I going to tell him what had happened? How could I face him? He would be upset with me for using a spell I hadn’t perfected yet like I had. Would he understand my anger at the bandits, and would he accept that I was sorry for what had happened as a result of my wayward spell? Would he continue to keep me on as his student? Because I really did want to keep learning magic. I wanted to learn all I could, in honor of my parents, who had been so proud of me. And I also wanted to learn more so I could eventually strike out on my own and fight the evils of the world, like those bandits.

Taking a deep breath, I finally reached out and placed my palm against the door. A pale blue light surrounded my hand briefly as the wards on the door lowered. Then I grasped the door handle and pushed the door open. I stepped inside to learn my fate with Althor.

* * *

The sound of a throat clearing behind me snapped me out of my reverie. I turned from the ship’s railings and the sight of the blue ocean to see a sailor standing at attention. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Miss Marissa,” the young man said. “The captain ordered me to inform you that dinner will be served shortly.”

I gave him a short nod of acknowledgment. “Thank you, Jeen. Tell the captain I will be there shortly.”

As he left, I turned back to take another look at the ocean. A lot had happened in the six years since that incident. But I had learned all I could from Althor, and now I was finally on my own and ready to make my own way in the world. Evildoers, beware! Marissa Cobalt is coming for you!

I turned from the ocean and headed back to my room to get ready for dinner.


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Chronicles of Riss – the “official announcement”

Ok. I know I posted about this yesterday, but I’m going to call this the “official” announcement of its release since I have links to all sites now. And so, without further ado…

Chronicles of Riss, the  short story collection “prequel” to my book Kismet and Tell, is now available!

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Confronting evil sorcerers. Fighting monsters. Dueling metal golems. Searching for a sea monster. Hunting lost treasure. Finding a missing show dog. Competing in talent contests. Helping lost children. These are just some of the widely varied exploits that the young mercenary sorceress Marissa “Riss” Cobalt shares in this secondAdventures in Sorcery book. Riss reveals how she ended up as a mercenary and chronicles some of the many adventures, ranging from fun to serious, that she’s had prior to the events of Kismet and Tell.

 

Get it here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Scribd

iTunes

Kobo

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