Read Local this Saturday at the Laurel Books-A-Million!

Saturday, February 16, 2019, 12:00 – 3:00pm

Books-A-Million, 351 Montrose Ave, Laurel, MD 20707

Join me and other members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators this Saturday for a literary celebration! Purchase signed books and play games like book bingo, pin the book on the shelf, crazy guessing games, and more with these Read Local Challenge authors:

Lauren Abbey Greenberg, author (The Battle of Junk Mountain)

Deborah Kalb, author (John Adams and the Magic Bobblehead)

Kathy MacMillan, author (Nita’s First Signs, Sword and Verse, Dagger and Coin)

Dagger and Coin by Kathy MacMillan

Jonathon Roth, author/illustrator (Beep and Bob: Too Much Space!, Beep and Bob: Party Crashers, Beep and Bob: Take Us to Your Sugar, Beep and Bob: Double Trouble)

Deborah Schaumberg, author (The Tombs)

Posted in Read Local Challenge, Upcoming events | Leave a comment

8 Weeks of Extras: Week 8 and Happy birthday to me!

I’ve been celebrating the holidays and the new year with my own kind of giving – 8 weeks of extra stories and scenes from the world of Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin. Each week I’ve unveiled a deleted scene or extra story from a different character’s point of view, and it’s all been leading up to this!  Today is my birthday, and I’m celebrating by sharing with you Lilano, a novella from Mati’s point of view that tells the story of what happened to him and Raisa while they were out of town during Dagger and Coin.

If you’d like to see the other extras in this series, you can find them all here. 

I’m not kidding when I say Lilano is a novella – it’s 132 pages long, so buckle in. 🙂  The reason I started writing this story was that Mati and Raisa’s adventures in the south had a big impact on the events in the capital during Dagger and Coin, and writing this helped to clarify timelines, emotional outcomes, and how the events in the two cities were connected.  But I also enjoyed it a great deal, largely because Mati is a such an open-hearted character, and the events of Sword and Verse gave him a lot to contend with.  He’s no longer a king, though he’s been told his whole life that a king was what he had to be.  He’s dealing with his own sense of loss and inadequacy, while at the same time witnessing a transformation in the woman he loves as she grows into her power.

Lilano: A Novella

Mati 

One

I HAD ONLY been to city of Lilano, at the southernmost point of Qilara, once before, at age eleven years old when my father had made me accompany him to the nation of Galasi for its youngest princess’s wedding. We’d stayed in Galasi for just three days; the wedding had been a dreary affair by Qilarite standards, as the Galasan drought had been in its eighth year then. It was hard to say which had disgusted my father more, the skimpy food at the wedding feast, or the way the rooms in the Galasan royal residence—even the king and queen acknowledged that it was not splendid enough to call a palace—were decorated with lines of script from the Galasan holy books of Karem and Doli. My father had pinched me each time my eyes had strayed to the walls during the wedding feast, and he had shown only the barest courtesy to our hosts.

On the way home, we’d stayed in Lilano for a Shining, and Father had been much more satisfied with the accommodations there. He’d made me go along with him when he toured the city. It was a stinking, muddy pit in the rainy season, but the way the people—mainly soldiers—deferred to him put Father in the best mood I’d ever seen him in.

I had less fond memories of that trip; the Commander of the South Company had assigned his best swordsman to work with me every day, and the man, a Scholar who turned out to be Del Gamo’s nephew, had taken an instant dislike to me. He seemed to delight in showing me up, though I was half his age and a third his size, and laughed off my bruises and cuts as training accidents. My father had already begun to call me soft, but after that trip it was a constant refrain. Once, when I was fifteen, he’d even threatened to send me to Lilano to train with the garrison there. Only Tyasha’s treason and subsequent execution had distracted him from that idea.

**

That long-ago trip had been on my mind a great deal while Raisa and I journeyed south along the coast by ship, then in a cart along the southern road. We kept to ourselves, hoping to arrive in Lilano before our absence from the capital was widely known. We travelled with six guards. I’d been careful to choose three Qilarites and three Arnathim, and I’d pulled the three Qilarites, Loftis, Meegin, and Dent, aside before we left the City of Kings to reiterate that I expected them to treat both Raisa and the Arnath guards with respect. And they mostly had, as far as I could tell, though I had sometimes heard one of the Arnath guards, Cauti—formerly of the Arnath Resistance—reminding the other two, Alvi and Liman, that they didn’t have to defer to the Qilarites any longer.

Each night, while Raisa and I huddled together in our little cabin on the ship, she whispered the questions she was loath to ask in front of the guards, and I whispered back all I could remember from my previous trip and the things I had read about Lilano.

When Loftis was in the carriage with us on the road, she pelted him with the questions that she wasn’t too embarrassed to ask, as he’d been born in Lilano and had come to the City of Kings at the age of ten. Maybe that was why he’d been so determined to leave the scribes and become a guard when the opportunity had opened up; Lilano was a city of military men, and that had seeped into his consciousness. That was the reason I had asked him to come, after all; his knowledge of the city, though outdated, might be useful. I’d made sure to have a talk with him up front about how I expected him to treat Raisa, but he’d so far deferred to both of us with a bearing that was more military than Scholarly. And he didn’t even cringe—though I did—when Raisa asked simplistic questions that showed how little she knew of the world outside the City of Kings.

It wasn’t her fault, of course. None of it was her fault. She hadn’t had a chance to learn those things, and here she was thrust into ruling a city, a nation, that she hardly understood. Gods, I hardly understood it and I had been training to rule since I was a child. There hadn’t been time, in the days since the council began, to teach her everything she needed to know. We’d been too busy putting out fires, both literal and figurative, and getting the people of the city fed. I’d brought all the scrolls about Lilano I had been able to find in the still-disheveled library, and she’d been reading them until her eyes were red, but it wouldn’t be enough. She didn’t know enough to do this job. Neither of us did.

The only difference between us was that I was aware of it, and she still had some hope.

At least four times a day, and ten times a night, I told myself that I’d been a fool, that even though an assassin’s dagger had been what sent us out of the capital in the first place, Lilano might be just as dangerous to Raisa for her ignorance and her birth.

**

The guards might have thought I was being overly cautious to insist upon disembarking from the ship at the port before Lilano and approaching the city from the road, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. Whoever had sent that assassin for Raisa might well be waiting in the Lilano harbor. I’d brought her south to keep her safe, and I would make sure we scoped out the situation before setting foot into the city.

And so we rolled in to a barely-respectable inn on the outskirts of Lilano at midmorning, three days after leaving the capital. I had to beg Raisa to wear the full-length veil of a Scholar wife that I had brought along for her disguise; I understood how repulsed she was by the idea of hiding who she was, but we had to lie low until Loftis and Dent returned from inside the city, where I had sent them ahead to do some reconnaissance.

I slipped into my old Scholar manners along with my old clothes, and approached the innkeeper a little ahead of Raisa, demanding rooms for myself and my wife and servants.

The innkeeper, a brawny fellow who might have once been a soldier himself, looked over the four guards behind us, all out of uniform now, and nodded toward Meegin, the only Qilarite.

“That one can stay in the common bunk room,” he said. “The others can sleep in the barn.”

Without looking at her, I reached down and gripped Raisa’s wrist. Sure enough, she’d been stepping forward to protest. But veiled Scholar wives never spoke to men who were not their husbands in public, and even if that had been changing of late, it didn’t seem like something that the innkeeper would be happy with. And, I reminded her with a squeeze, we were trying to stay inconspicuous.

“I’m afraid that won’t do,” I said to the innkeeper, pulling up some of the bravado I had worn as king. It had been a while since I’d had to use it, and it felt like putting on a too-tight vest. “I have heard of the unrest in Lilano of late, and I wish to have my men close by. They will stay in a room adjoining ours.” I pulled out my pouch and slipped him a healthy handful of gyots.

The man looked at the coins in his hand and grunted his approval.

I could practically hear Soraya’s voice hissing in my ear, reminding me that money was tight and I couldn’t afford to be throwing it away, but that was nothing next to the look Raisa would give me if I let the Arnath guards sleep in the barn.

My eyes took in the common room as the innkeeper led us through it and up to our rooms—only a handful of faces at this time of the morning, and all Qilarite. An Arnath girl jumped out of the way deferentially as we turned a corner; I frowned to see her green dress, but I towed Raisa along behind me. She would want to stop and talk to the girl, find out whether she was being treated well, whether the emancipation of the Arnathim had really happened in Lilano as the council decrees had ordered. But now was not the time.

As soon as we were safely in our room and I had slid the lock bar into place, Raisa ripped off the veil. “I’m not stupid,” she said, in a low, heated voice. “I wasn’t going to say anything to that girl.”

“But you were going to say something to the innkeeper.”

“Of course! How dare he act like–”

I stepped close and tugged the veil out of her hands. “I know,” I said. “But we have to be patient. We have to listen first, to find the best way to convince them to change.”

She frowned, and I knew why. That had been what I had done as king: listen, plan, introduce change slowly. It hadn’t been quick enough for her, for Jonis, for the Resistance. But it was all I could do, and it had almost gotten her executed and me deposed. All my machinations had made the Scholars Council that much more determined to make a point by whipping her and sending those raiders to the Nath Tarin. Every time I had tried to do the right thing, it had circled round and become the wrong thing, and I was terrified that this trip to Lilano would end up the same way. I’d wondered, a thousand times on the journey, whether it should have been Soraya and Jonis who came after all, or Jonis and me. Maybe getting Raisa out of the city was only giving the assassins an easier target.

But I also knew my Raisa, and I knew that she would say the same thing I would: we could not be apart again. Nothing good had ever happened when we were separated. It was more than superstition; it was fact. I needed her near me.

Read the rest of the story here: Lilano – A Novella by Kathy MacMillan

 

Posted in Dagger and Coin, Extras, Sword and Verse, Young Adult Fantasy | 1 Comment

Goodreads Giveaway: SHE SPOKE

Enter Giveaway She Spoke by Kathy MacMillan Enter for a chance to win She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World.   This book giveaway is open to members in the following countries: U.S..   Entry period begins on Feb 01, 2019 and ends on Mar 01, 2019

It’s a Goodreads Giveaway! Enter by  March 1, 2019 for a chance to win a copy of She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World!  US only.

Posted in Contests and Giveaways, She Spoke | Leave a comment

8 Weeks of Extras: Week 7

I’m celebrating the holidays and the new year with my own kind of giving – 8 weeks of extra stories and scenes from the world of Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin. Each week I’ll be unveiling a deleted scene or extra story from a different character’s point of view, culminating next week on February 11 (my birthday!) with Lilano, a novella from Mati’s point of view that tells the story of what happened to him and Raisa while they were out of town during Dagger and Coin.

Some of these stories were originally parts of the books, some were writing exercises for me when I got stuck, and some I simply wrote for the fun of developing the world of the books more fully.

This week’s extra is from the point of view of Jonis ko Rikar, and it takes place during the first few chapters of Dagger and Coin, after the attack on Raisa. I love this story because it gives a close-up view of the unlikely friendship that has sprouted up between Jonis and Mati, and gives a different perspective on characters like Adin and Deshti.

After the First Assassin

Jonis

IT WAS PAST seventh bell when I knocked, but I wasn’t at all surprised when Mati answered, and I saw the lamp burning on the desk in the anteroom behind him.

“You’re leaving early tomorrow. Shouldn’t you be asleep?” I said.

“Might be easier if people didn’t knock on my door in the middle of the night,” he tossed back, running a hand through his shaggy hair.

I grinned. “Knew you’d be up.” Didn’t add that anyone with eyes could see that he probably didn’t ever want to sleep again, after what had almost happened to Raisa that evening. The great love story of Mati and Raisa was easy to mock, but even I had to admit that his devotion to her was unyielding. I held up the jug of ale I’d brought from the kitchens. “Drink?”

Mati motioned me in, then crossed the room and shut the door to the bedroom, cutting off the glimpse I’d had of Raisa’s bare leg poking out from under a blanket on the bed. He turned and faced me, eyeing the jug. “Thanks, but…does that comply with Councilor Gamo’s rationing program?” His mouth quirked.

I shrugged. “You two won’t be using up any food while you’re gone. Besides, there’s got to be some advantage to my mother being head of household.” Mother hadn’t minded giving me the ale, when I’d told her what it was for. She, like me, had a soft spot for the man who had saved her daughter’s life.

I threw myself into one of the two rickety chairs. They, along with the desk and a small braided rug, were the only furniture. Made a stark contrast to the way Soraya had decorated her room across the hall, putting in all kinds of fancy, colorful things, even though most of what was available was chipped or cracked or water-stained. Like she couldn’t let go of her old Scholar life.

Mati seemed to have had no problem discarding the stuff of royalty. He wore faded brown trousers and a tunic with a hole in the sleeve, and his feet were bare. Of course, he’d probably been in bed for hours before Raisa fell asleep and he’d come out here to brood, or guard her, or whatever he’d been doing. I grimaced and pushed the thought of what went on in their bedroom out of my mind. I liked Mati more than I had ever thought I could like a Qilarite, but there were still some things I couldn’t stand to think about.

Mati laughed. “Soraya’s probably already redone the rationing chart to account for us leaving.” He sat down across from me and reached for the jug. Before I could offer to uncork it, he balanced it against his leg with his maimed right hand and pulled the cork off with his left. Then he swung it up and took a drink.

“Gah,” he sputtered. “What is that? Are you sure you’re not trying to assassinate me?”

Of course he’d make light of it; that was what he did. I hadn’t understood, when I’d first met him, that his joking exterior hid a deadly earnest man. That was why his enemies had misjudged him when he was on the throne. He was easy to underestimate, if you didn’t look beyond the surface.

“Seed whiskey,” I answered. “Never said it was any good. Blame Councilor Gamo’s rationing.” I took the jug and tilted it to my mouth, managing not to make the noises Mati had. “Think all the good stuff got traded away for grain.”

He nodded and reached for the liquor again. I watched him take a more controlled gulp. Figured he could use something strong tonight.

“How is she?” I asked, nodding toward the bedroom door.

Mati shrugged and handed me the jug. “Rattled, but not as much as she should be. She still doesn’t think that anyone would target her especially.” He shook his head.

“She never did realize how other people see her,” I muttered. When I’d first tried to recruit Raisa to the Resistance, I’d thought her hesitation had only been about fearing for her own skin; now that I knew her better, I understood that it was also about her being unable to fathom that anyone see her as a leader. Even now, when she gave off a practically ethereal glow, so that even a cynic like me had to wonder if the stories about the goddess Sotia showing her favor might be true. Or maybe it was just that she no longer had to hide who she was, that she had found a way to reconcile the parts of her past that had held her prisoner for so long.

Yes, I’d spent a lot of time thinking about it—far more than I should have spent thinking about someone else’s wife. Not that Mati had any reason to worry; Raisa had made it very clear how she felt about me when I had kissed her at the tombs. And she’d never wavered in her support of Mati, even after the news had come about him sending the raider ship to the Nath Tarin. She’d believed in him so hard that it had made other people believe in him too.

And if I’d ever had a chance with her, it had disappeared forever when, believing she’d betrayed the Resistance plans to attack during the royal wedding, I had tried to kill her.

From the look Mati gave me, I suspected he knew all this. But it was one of those things we never mentioned, in the interest of trying to make the new Ruling Council work, trying to set an example for peace. Things like him sending guards after Patic and Ris, and me giving the order to assassinate his father.

Well, most of the time we didn’t mention those things. Funny how an assassination attempt had brought out those old suspicions so readily tonight. I frowned, thinking of what he’d said before and wondering if it had been a joke.

But then, he’d drunk the whiskey.

“Getting Raisa out of the city will help,” I said, “but she’s likely to be a target in Lilano too.”

Mati nodded. “I know. But I won’t let anything happen to her.” His voice was steely, and I didn’t doubt that he meant it. He inclined his head at the bedroom door. “First time I’ve been glad for the bars on those windows. At least I know no one’s getting in there.” The room he and Raisa shared had been Mati’s room when he was younger, and the windows still bore the bars his father had installed on them after he’d been caught sneaking out to see her. With all the other repairs in progress, removing the bars had been a low priority item.

We passed the whiskey back and forth in silence for a few minutes, then Mati said, “Look out for Soraya, will you? She’ll hate being stuck in bed. Make sure she listens to the doctor.”

“Oh, I’ll keep an eye on her,” I said, thinking of the key in my pocket. I’d already taken an impression of it and would be slipping it back into her room before she slept off the medicine. Then there was a smith down in the Web I’d be paying a visit to tomorrow. If Lady Gamo wanted to keep her room locked, fine. But I wasn’t going to take the chance that she was hiding evidence of betrayal. Raisa might trust her, but I didn’t. Of course, the same could once have been said of Mati, and Raisa had been right about him…

Mati frowned at my tone. “Not what I meant. You two have got to find a way to work together.”

Didn’t mean to roll my eyes, but I couldn’t help it. He sounded so much like Raisa when she’d been lecturing us like children.

Not that I had rolled my eyes when Raisa had said it.

Mati shook his head. “You’re wasting your energy on the wrong things. Soraya was a victim of her father’s plans, too.”

Maybe that was true. But he hadn’t had to listen to Miss High and Mighty wax on about his questionable parentage and the myriad ways her father was going to gut him. I’d held Soraya Gamo captive for fifteen days, and it had been a job to keep the others from killing her—she knew how to rile a room.

And she still did. There was something so slippery about her—always more going on behind those pretty dark eyes than she let on. Raisa was like daylight, open and trusting and unable to hide her reactions. Soraya was the opposite, a veiled night full of secrets. The only genuine emotion I had ever sensed from her was irritation. That one I recognized, because it was the reaction I got from her most often.

“Doesn’t exactly try to make friends, though, does she?” I muttered, taking the jug back from Mati. I shook it a bit before taking a small sip, and grinned. Most of the liquor was gone, and I’d made sure that Mati had gotten the larger share. Only felt a little twinge as I handed it back to him and realized that most Qilarites, even now, would probably have died of thirst before sharing a jug with an Arnath like this.

Mati sighed. “She’s scared, though she’d jump in the Aqorin during flood season before she’d admit it. She’s still trying to find her place. Remember, she lost her father and her sister.” He started to lift the jug to his lips, then, seeming to notice how little was left, he offered it to me. Always the gentleman. I indicated that he should finish it off, and he tipped his head back and drained the jug.

I studied him, wondering if he had mentioned her sister’s death to make me feel guilty—after all, he was the reason my own sister was still alive. I’d had many reasons to hate him, but he had obliterated all of them in the moment he stepped between Jera and Rale’s fire-stick.

No, I decided, as he lowered the jug and I saw the unfocused look in his eyes. He wasn’t being manipulative, just being earnest, as usual.

Mati sagged back in the chair a little; the liquor had driven the stiffness from his shoulders. I grinned. It was time.

“Once you’ve met with the southern vizier, what will you do?” I asked.

“Meet with Commander Gage and get the South Company on our side. Same with the Lilano Resistance.” His eyes slid closed, and he sighed contentedly.

“I see,” I said casually. “No other Scholars you’re planning to bring in?”

Mati frowned, his eyes snapping open. “Is that what this was about? Trying to get me drunk and make sure I’m not betraying the council?”

Read the rest of the story here: After the First Assassin by Kathy MacMillan

 

Posted in Dagger and Coin, Extras, Sword and Verse, Young Adult Fantasy | Leave a comment

News and Upcoming Events

My upcoming book She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World was featured on Book Riot’s “30 Must-Read Diverse Children’s Books From The First Half Of 2019” – and it’s in great company! Check out the list here. 

What’s that? You haven’t pre-ordered She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World yet?  It comes out March 1, and you can pre-order at these links:

Preorder now at amazon.com.

Preorder now at BarnesAndNoble.com.

Preorder now at IndieBound.com.

Preorder now from Familius Press.

 

Upcoming Events

Friday, February 1, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm: Book signing at Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt, 2159 York Rd, Timonium, MD 21093

Come on in to purchase signed copies of Nita’s First Signs, Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together, Sword and Verse, and Dagger and Coin! Make a sign language craft and learn to write your name in the language of the gods. Purchase a book and receive 20% off your Sweet Frog yogurt purchase! All book sale proceeds support Deaf Camps, Inc.’s scholarship fund.

 

Saturday, February 16, 2019, 12:00 – 3:00pm: Multi-author Event at Books-A-Million, 351 Montrose Ave, Laurel, MD 20707

Join me and other members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for a literary celebration! Purchase signed books and play games like book bingo, pin the book on the shelf, crazy guessing games, and more with these Read Local Challenge authors:

  • Lauren Abbey Greenberg, author (The Battle of Junk Mountain)
  • Deborah Kalb, author (John Adams and the Magic Bobblehead)
  • Kathy MacMillan, author (Nita’s First Signs, Sword and Verse, Dagger and Coin)
  • Jonathon Roth, author/illustrator (Beep and Bob: Too Much Space!, Beep and Bob: Party Crashers, Beep and Bob: Take Us to Your Sugar, Beep and Bob: Double Trouble)
  • Deborah Schaumberg, author (The Tombs)

 

Little Hands Signing

Sing, sign, play, and learn basic American Sign Language in these fun, hands-on storytimes for the whole family. Children 3 and under must be accompanied by an adult caregiver. All are welcome! Free programs; no registration required. Location: Eldersburg Library, 6400 West Hemlock Drive, Eldersburg, MD 21784

  • Friday, February 22, 2019 at 10 AM: Weather Signs
  • Saturday, February 23, 2019 at 9:45 AM: Our Signing Day

For more information, see library.carr.org

Posted in She Spoke, Upcoming events | Leave a comment

8 Weeks of Extras: Week 6

I’m celebrating the holidays and the new year with my own kind of giving – 8 weeks of extra stories and scenes from the world of Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin. Each week I’ll be unveiling a deleted scene or extra story from a different character’s point of view, culminating on February 11 (my birthday!) with Lilano, a novella from Mati’s point of view that tells the story of what happened to him and Raisa while they were out of town during Dagger and Coin.

Some of these stories were originally parts of the books, some were writing exercises for me when I got stuck, and some I simply wrote for the fun of developing the world of the books more fully.

This week’s extra takes us back into the point of view of Gelti Dimmin. Again, it takes place chronologically during the battle in Sword and Verse as Gelti begins to see how his choices come crashing down on him…laying the foundation for his actions in Dagger and Coin.

No One’s Side

Gelti

A NURSEMAID IN a captain’s uniform—that’s what I had become. Who escorted the king to every council meeting, made sure the king visited with his fiancée every afternoon in the gardens, cooled his heels in the anteroom of the king’s chambers at all hours? That was me, captain of the palace guard. Once I’d thought that post had some power in it, but now I knew—the only power came from those who had given it to me.

Yes, given it to me. I knew I hadn’t earned it, saw now how utterly arrogant and idiotic I’d been, to buy into Rale’s lies about how my superior quality had allowed me to rise to such heights. Rale, as my cousin liked to remind me, had bought me outright, and I hadn’t even held out to make it much of a sale.

Kirol wasn’t speaking to me these days, which made things damn awkward as I was still his superior officer. He was one of the very few guards who remained stubbornly loyal to King Mati, even now, and no matter how often I had privately begged him to at least pretend to take Rale seriously, he ignored the High Priest entirely.

Rale wouldn’t stand for it, I knew, though in the days leading up to the royal wedding he’d been biding his time. Of course. By all appearances, the king had been broken by the news his fiancée brought back from the tombs, that the former Tutor had betrayed him entirely, given herself over to the Resistance and her heart—or at least her body—to their leader. No wonder the king had meekly agreed to marry Soraya Gamo. What choice did he have? Rale and Gamo controlled most of the council and nearly all of the guards. Technically Rale could have seized the throne already—King Mati, as he liked to joke loudly within the king’s hearing, wasn’t doing anything with it. But marrying the king to Gamo’s daughter gave a whiff of legality to the whole business, one that made the councilors less nervous and decreased the probability of riots among the merchants and peasantry.

Or so I suspected. I wasn’t privy to the great plans of the High Priest of Aqil and the western vizier, and the only time I’d observed council meetings in the last Shining was when I had escorted the king to them. It was common knowledge in the palace that the council met without him now more often than not, so there was plenty being kept from him.

And from me. Ever since the whipping—where I’d done nothing but follow Rale’s orders—I’d been shunted aside as surely as the king had been. Because of Kirol? Or because Rale knew that he had me neatly boxed in, so that I could not do anything he did not approve?

Or perhaps he had made me the royal nursemaid to punish the king, to make him deal daily with the man who had whipped his lover.

The king had taken on an icy, regal manner with all the guards, but especially me. He had not actually looked at me directly since that day in the courtyard. It was a shock, how much I felt the loss of that polite, sometimes joking manner, even though I had scoffed at the unkingliness of it before. King Mati’s regard was not something that I had realized I wanted, until I lost all hope of retaining it.

In the days after the Tutor’s escape, he had retreated into silence and solitude. “Grieving,” the guards said to one another in disgust. “Worse than he did for his father, and all for a tialik.”

But when Soraya Gamo returned, he came out of his room, washed and dressed in royal gold. He listened to her tale at the council meeting with an expression of stone, and when he read the message the Arnath girl had sent, his eyes registered nothing. It was as if he had suspected all along that Raisa ke Margara would betray him.

And when the other councilors gave long speeches about her treachery, the High Priest of Aqil even mocking some small mistake she had made in her writing of the letter, the king lifted his head and smiled. There has never been a man who was not heartened by hearing ill words of those who have wronged him, and kings are no different.

The king rose in his place. “Enough talk of the tialik,” he said, and though many councilors flinched at hearing that base word in their chambers, none doubted the conviction with which he spoke it. Whatever had propelled the king to stand between her and the whip had burned away in the aftermath of her betrayal.

What did you expect? I wanted to say to him. She was Arnath.

And so the wedding was back on, and with the information Soraya Gamo was able to give us—the tialiks had apparently thought that a Scholar’s daughter would be as stupid as they were, and not recognize the place where she was being held—we’d sent a force to clean out the tombs and slay them all. We’d sealed the tomb so that any who might have escaped our swords would die in the airless underground rooms. My men had enjoyed themselves with that—though I, of course, was guarding the king as he watched from a carriage at the entrance to the valley, holding his fiancée’s hand. He’d watched every moment with interest, but his fiancée had spent most of her time eyeing the walls of stone around the carriage, only glancing at the battle below periodically. Awfully skittish, for a Gamo, I thought. But then, she had been held captive by those brutes. Probably made her nervous, being so close to them again.

But of all the waiting around I had done in the last Shinings and Veilings, today was by far the worst. The high collar of my dress uniform itched something awful, and I dared not sit and take the chance of creasing my tunic. I’d been standing at attention outside the king’s chamber for almost an hour, and he was taking his sweet time getting ready for the wedding. Having second thoughts? Or just nervous?

I smirked. Maybe he’d never had a Qilarite woman before, and was worried that they didn’t have the same parts as the slaves. But whatever the problem, he’d have to get over it. I was under orders to escort him to the gardens before midday bells, and that I would do if I had to carry him. Once this confounded wedding was over and done, Rale would control the throne in earnest, and surely I and my men would be able to go back to luxuries like leave and shifts that lasted nine hours instead of fifteen. Things had been quiet enough in the city since the raider ships had set out—rumors of them had spread through the Web and the Reach even ahead of the council’s official announcement. By all reports, any among the Arnathim who might have considered taking up where the dead Resistance had left off were frightened into silence.

BOOM.

The floor shuddered in the wake of the sound, which seemed to have come from somewhere below in the palace. I caught myself on the doorframe as a lamp fell off a side table and shattered on the bare floor.

Rian, who’d been standing at the other door, had lost his balance entirely and was pulling himself to his feet. “What was that? A cart crash?”

I didn’t bother to respond to such an inane suggestion—as if a cart crash could have shaken the floor. It had been some time since the city had experienced an earthquake, but I remembered huddling with my mother when I was three, as her prized painted plates fell from shelves all around us. That had to be what this was.

“Make sure this floor is cleared out,” I barked at Rian. “Send everyone outside.” As he sprinted down the corridor, I banged on the king’s door. “Your Majesty!”

No answer.

I banged harder and shouted louder, pushing at the locked door. I wasn’t sure if my sudden panic was worry for the king—protecting him was my foremost duty, after all—or fear of what Rale would do to me if anything interfered with the wedding.

But now wasn’t the time to think about that. I pulled the ring of keys from my belt and unlocked the door, then shoved it open. Rian skidded into the room behind me. “This floor is clear, Captain. Everyone’s down in the garden already.”

The king’s chamber was empty. “Your Majesty,” I called again, my puzzlement quickly morphing into dread.

There was a sound behind me, and the king’s valet emerged from the dressing room. He stopped, wide-eyed, at the sight of my sword—I didn’t remember unsheathing it, but I was uneasy enough that I was glad to have it out. I pushed the man aside with the flat of my sword and stared into the room behind him, but all I saw were rows of tunics and boots.

“Where is the king?” I growled, rounding on the valet.

He looked around. “He was out here, enjoying a moment of peace before his wedding,” he said.

As if the gods themselves were pointing out his lie, there came another BOOM from below, and the walls shook. I braced my legs farther apart to remain upright as a table fell over and splintered to my left, and several items of royal attire tumbled to the floor in the dressing room beyond. The valet grabbed the footboard of the bed. Rian managed to press himself up against the wall to avoid another fall.

When the shaking had stopped, I narrowed my eyes at the valet. He was a slight, wiry man, about ten years my senior, and I suspected that he had covered up for the king before. He’d never liked me, and the feeling was mutual.

“The king,” I said, letting the pace of my words, rather than my tone, carry the threat, “is due at his wedding. Where is he?” The valet opened his mouth again, but I held up my hand. “Think carefully before you speak, for my patience is quite thin. Rian, if he lies again, run him through.”

“Yes, sir!” said Rian, a little too enthusiastically. He stepped closer to the valet and pointed his sword at him.

The valet looked nervously from Rian’s sword to me. “I honestly don’t know, sir, he was here just a few minutes ago—” His words ended in a strangled yowl as Rian’s sword entered his gut.

“He’s lying, sir,” said Rian flatly, as he pulled his sword out of the man and watched him crumple to the floor.

Read the rest of the story here: No One’s Side by Kathy MacMillan

 

Posted in Dagger and Coin, Extras, Sword and Verse, Young Adult Fantasy | Leave a comment

Take the Read Local Challenge!

I’m thrilled to be participating in the 2018/2019 Read Local Challenge, sponsored by the MD/DE/WV Region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators! The Read Local Challenge features traditionally-published authors and illustrators from Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Washington D.C.

We invite all schools, libraries, homeschool groups, scout troops … groups of any size to join us! Take the challenge to read as many of these books from local authors/illustrators as you can, for a chance to win fabulous prizes, such as signed books and free Skype visits with one of our Read Local authors or illustrators. Then visit our websites to find our already-scheduled book signings and events, or to schedule a visit to your school or library.

Nita’s First Signs is featured in the Picture Book Challenge, and Dagger and Coin is featured in the Young Adult Challenge.

All are welcome to take the Picture Book Challenge, the Middle Grade Challenge, the Young Adult Challenge, or all three!  Click here to learn more.

 

 

 

 

 

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8 Weeks of Extras: Week 5

I’m celebrating the holidays and the new year with my own kind of giving – 8 weeks of extra stories and scenes from the world of Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin. Each week I’ll be unveiling a deleted scene or extra story from a different character’s point of view, culminating on February 11 (my birthday!) with Lilano, a novella from Mati’s point of view that tells the story of what happened to him and Raisa while they were out of town during Dagger and Coin.

Some of these stories were originally parts of the books, some were writing exercises for me when I got stuck, and some I simply wrote for the fun of developing the world of the books more fully.

This week’s extra is something completely different – a story from the point of view of Rorie ko Ben, a character who is only mentioned in passing in Dagger and Coin. Rorie, like Loris, is from the island of Longa and is one of the Melarim. Originally he was going to play a part in Soraya’s story, but ended up getting cut. However, writing this piece from his point of view helped me to bring more detail to the Melarim and their experiences.

Caged

Rorie ko Ben

CALLA WAS CRYING again.

Continue reading

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Registration now open for Sign Language for Children in Storytime or in the Classroom eCourse

Sign Language for Children in Storytime or in the Classroom: A Practical Guide eCourse

Instructor: Kathy MacMillan, NIC, M.L.S.

Asynchronous eCourse beginning Monday, April 8, 2019 and continuing for 6 weeks (Participants will have 12 weeks to complete course materials.)

$250.00 (ALA Members $225.00)

Click here to register.

Estimated Hours of Learning: 36 (Certificate of Completion available upon request)

American Sign Language is most commonly used in storytimes for babies, but the applications can go much further. In this new 6-week eCourse, Sign Language expert Kathy MacMillan explores the benefits of signing with all children. In addition to learning basic American Sign Language (ASL) vocabulary appropriate for use with children in library and classroom settings, you will also learn to teach stories, songs, and other activities that incorporate ASL. MacMillan provides you with a linguistic and cultural context to help make your programming more accessible.

After participating in this eCourse, you will:

  • Have a working knowledge of approximately 180 signs (introduced through video)
  • Create two storytime/classroom activities using the featured vocabulary that you can implement in your storytimes
  • Understand relevant aspects of child development and early literacy
  • Understand signing in a linguistic and cultural context

Feedback from past participants:

“One of the most well-organized and rewarding professional development courses I’ve taken.”

“Kathy is an amazing instructor. She made learning online very easy and comfortable. She replied quickly when students had questions and she responded with feedback with videos to help sign better.”

“I am amazed. It couldn’t have gone better. I came away learning many signs I can use and gained some helpful information for my storytimes.”

“The instructor was phenomenal, and I am already incorporating course work into everyday interactions in the library. Everything in the course is relevant and beneficial.”

Instructor Kathy MacMillan is a writer and nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter. She is the author of Nita’s First Signs (Familius Press), as well as the author or co-author of many books from ALA Editions, including Little Hands & Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together and the Storytime Magic series. She was the library/media specialist at the Maryland School for the Deaf from 2001 to 2005 and has worked in public libraries since 1996. She presents storytelling programs introducing sign language through Stories By Hand and offers training and resources for enhancing storytimes through Storytime Stuff. She is also the author of the young adult fantasy novels Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin (HarperTeen).

Posted in American Sign Language, eCourses and Webinars, Professional Development, Resources for Teachers and Librarians | Leave a comment

Upcoming Events

Little Hands Signing

Sing, sign, play, and learn basic American Sign Language in these fun, hands-on storytimes for the whole family. Children 3 and under must be accompanied by an adult caregiver. All are welcome! Free programs; no registration required. Location: Eldersburg Library, 6400 West Hemlock Drive, Eldersburg, MD 21784

  • Friday, January 18, 2019 at 10:00 AM: Winter Signs
  • Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 9:45 AM: Playtime Signs
  • Friday, February 22, 2019 at 10 AM: Weather Signs
  • Saturday, February 23, 2019 at 9:45 AM: Our Signing Day

For more information, see library.carr.org Continue reading

Posted in American Sign Language, Critiques, Dagger and Coin, Little Hands and Big Hands, Little Hands Signing series, Nita's First Signs, On Writing, Sword and Verse, Upcoming events | 1 Comment