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Teaser Tuesday: Small Magics and Large

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 - 08:00

This past weekend I tackled the emotionally draining process of going through all my notes and lists about potential reviewers for Mother of Souls and this morning I sent the initial list to my publisher.

It's not a simple process. There are a small number of people who get an advance copy -- though what that means in practice is that they get the Word file with my latest version. In the "real" publishing world, it's all about Advance Review Copies (ARCs) and the majority of serious reviewers won't review a book after the publication date. So for the most part, I don't get reviews of that sort.

The next group are people I've had positive interest from--people who have actively asked for a review copy or who've said yes when I offered one. There's actually a gratifying number of those this time. Their preferred format and e-mail get passed along to receive a copy at release. The third group are review sites that say, "Send us a copy and if one of our reviewers is interested, we might do a review." Those get scrutinized rather heavily to see if their existing reviews suggest a likelihood of success, because I don't like using up my review-request credit with my publisher on pure speculation. The fourth group are reviewers whose website says, "tell me about your book, and if I'm interested I'll let you know." Those get a query and then I pretty much forget about them because I don't think they've ever panned out. I mostly survive this process by burying myself in the geekery of spreadsheets.

The Alpennia books focus a lot on high magic: the Great Mysteries in the cathedral, or at the very least the ceremonies of formal guilds. But there have been a lot of references to smaller, more informal workings: the floodtide "sweetheart divination" that Antuniet adapts for her book-finding charm, everyday prayers for health that are embedded in little rituals, the small magics dismissed as "market-charms", bought and sold in the plaiz and of questionable efficacy. The more precarious one's life is, the more likely one is to place hope in those charms--to eke out one's resources with a bit of luck, to stave off disease when there's no money for a physician, to gain answers to which path to choose. Any time the marketplace is filled with people, they charm-wives gather to offer their wares. And Carnival is a prime opportunity...

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Chapter 13 - Luzie

“I’m freezing again," Luzie said. "If we aren’t going to dance, there’s less wind under the arches and we could have our fortunes told.” And the drifting smoke from the food-sellers would be less noticeable there. Luzie took Serafina by the hand and led her to the covered walk that bordered the plaiz, where they were besieged by market-women with trinkets and charms.

“Ribbons, Maisetra? Fine silks and laces?”

“A candle with a blessing from the Holy Mother, guaranteed to cure the cough.”

The woman who offered it turned away briefly to hawk and spit. It might have been only the smokey air, but Luzie made a note not to trust her cures.

“What would you buy? Combs for your hair, Maisetra?”

Luzie pushed past the more forward of the hawkers to the stretch where the charm-wives gathered. They were less inclined to besiege their customers, and instead waited for a need to be presented before they gathered around to argue the efficacy of their wares over those of their rivals.

Serafina gazed at each of them in fascination. What did she see? Luzie wondered. She leaned closely. “Can you tell which of them can work mysteries and which are frauds?”

“It’s not…” Serafina looked down, realizing that she had been staring. “It’s not quite like that. Some of the charms have power and some don’t. At least from what I can see. But some may only show it when used. And some of the women, I can see that they… Margerit would say they have the ear of the saints. You can see the echo of holiness following them. But that doesn’t mean that all their works have power. It’s complicated. They don’t always know what they’re doing, you see.”

Luzie didn’t see at all. She laughed at the thought. No, she didn’t see at all. “Who shall we ask to tell our fortunes?”

No sooner had the question left her lips than they were surrounded by offers. Luzie looked sidelong at Serafina, waiting for a sign.

“If you want the hope of truth, that one,” Serafina said, nodding at an older woman wrapped in red shawls, sitting behind a barrel that served as a table, back against the building wall.

They were all older women, of course, and a few old men. Who would trust a young charm-wife? And who would try to scrape a living peddling cures and market-charms if they still had the strength for more certain work?

The woman turned sharp eyes on the both of them, looking from face to face, but she didn’t rise.

“What do you care to ask, Maisetras?” She unwrapped a set of cards and began shifting them around in her hands with quick, jerky movements.

Luzie looked at Serafina who nodded at her to go first.

“There is a…an endeavor that I have begun.” Did she really want to know what her Tanfrit songs might become? Why had she chosen that question?

Before she could either offer more details or change her mind, the woman shuffled the cards one last time and laid out several on the barrelhead, keeping a fingertip of her left hand on each to keep the breeze from shifting them.

“Ah, they speak clearly,” the fortune-teller began, tucking away the remaining cards and pointing to those displayed in turn. “It is a long path you’ve set your feet on. You see here? But a dark stranger will help you to your heart’s desire.”

Luzie glanced at Serafina again. They both grinned like schoolgirls. A dark stranger indeed. It didn’t take any mystical visions to suggest that.

“Beware the man who will betray you. He has less power than you think. Not enough to destroy your work, but enough to destroy your dreams. That is all the cards say.”

It was the sort of vague answer that anyone could give, but Luzie pulled a few coins out of her reticule and placed them in the woman’s hand. “Thank you. Serafina, what will you ask?”

Serafina nodded to the woman, almost like a little bow. “I ask nothing now, but if I have a question that needs a true answer, I will return, Mefro.”