Mirror’s Deceit by Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred

 

Mirena hit the ground hard. Rocks dug into the side of her face and her hands stung fiercely where she’d scraped them by instinctively trying to break her fall, even though there was no way she could have anticipated it. Her stomach lurched with the impact as she tried to fight off a wave of disorientation and nausea that threatened to overwhelm her.

A horn sounded. Two quick blasts. Despite herself, she counted them. I made it! I’m home.

She struggled to sit up. The air around her filled with the sounds of doors and windows being flung open as every person in the Stoa rushed to see who had arrived in the courtyard of their hidden College for talented Magi. Mirena grinned; her expression half grim determination and half hard-won pride. She forced herself the rest of the way to her feet and pushed the remaining nausea aside as nearly sixty students and half a dozen staff members barrelled down on her.

The cheering started as soon as they saw it was her and that she was on her feet and relatively unharmed. Mirena’s grin grew wider. I passed my exam in record time. Only four years study to make it to this moment, where most people take decades. The Mentor is going to be so impressed!

The gathering crowd parted to let the aging Mentor pass uninhibited. With his presence, the noise died down, slightly. The grey-haired Mentor smiled at the sight of her, leaning heavily on his cane as he alone out of all those gathered made his way down the steeply curving steps to stand just outside the sizeable ring of tall standing stones.

“Well done, Mirena,” he very subtly drew upon his majik to enhance the volume of his voice so all could hear him praise her.

Mirena beamed and starting running the minute the words were out of his mouth. She crossed between two stone pillars and flung herself at the Mentor, careful to throw her slight weight at him on the opposite side from where he held his cane, so he’d be able to keep his footing.

There was a collective gasp from the crowd that subsided as they realized the Mentor was still standing. “Whoa, there!” he called out, catching Mirena in one arm. “I know you’re excited, but you’re not done yet!”

“I know, but I’ll do the next part with no problems! You’d expect nothing less from your number one student…” She winked at him.

The Mentor shook his head. “Remember what I told you; rushing into things will only lead to a job half-finished. You have to look before you leap.” He put a hand under her chin to lift her blue eyes up to his before tilting her chin to the right. “I dare say that you wouldn’t have gotten these,” he noted the cuts the rocks had left on her cheek, “if you’d been more prepared to make the trip through the Sentinal Stones.”

“I would’ve been more cautious, but I was being chased by a large winged monster!” She exclaimed, stepping back from him so she could wave her arms emphatically. “I had to think fast and perform under pressure, so a slightly bad landing should be understandable…”  

“Tall tales, Mirena?” the Mentor asked, but his tone was light and his words kind.

“No, really. It’s true, it got my back with its claws, see?” She turned slightly to show him the claw marks that marred her left shoulder and the blood that she could now feel running down the length of her simple white dress.

Now it was the Mentor’s turn to gasp. He called back over his shoulder for someone to fetch the Healer.

“It’s okay, I’m fine. Just let me finish my test.”

He furrowed his brow momentarily, but when the Healer didn’t immediately manifest in the crowd, the Mentor had no choice but to step to the side and gesture for Mirena to continue. Nodding once and taking on a serious expression, she faced the spot where the Stoa’s headmaster had been standing moments before and applied her concentration to a line cut into the stone in an impossibly straight fashion.

That line was made by generations of Magi passing this test before me, including last person graduate four years ago; Terrence Lee. He only beat me in total time by a few days at most… I guess it’s not too bad to be second best when you’re being compared to the youngest and most talented Panarch in history!

Mirena returned her focus to the task at hand when she realized that everyone was now waiting expectantly. Everyone is watching. I can’t afford to fail. I have to concentrate!

She furrowed her brow, unconsciously mimicking the Mentor’s usual expression. Feeling the wind in her hair and the moisture riding on it from the nearby crashing of waves against the island on which she stood, Mirena took hold of her majik and felt the power of it build within her. She deftly added strength from the earth at her feet and some heat from the sun at her back and then she added what she liked to think of as the ‘secret ingredient’; a tiny piece of her own essence, her soul. Aiming it all at the space before her, directly above the tell-tale crack, she bent reality to her will and forced it to obey her. Two matched silver rings made up of all the elements spun in the air more expertly controlled than even the best circus performer could have managed, and with a sudden snap they locked together in place and between them she saw herself… from behind.

Mirena grinned once again, showing teeth this time. Opening a portal in front of you to travel to a spot within your viewing takes a great deal of concentration and skill. Let’s see what they all think of that!

The watching crowd gasped in a most satisfying way. Mirena went to take a bow while still holding the portal open with her majik just to prove that she could, when she took note of the Healer rushing down the stone stairway. Why is she running? I’m not hurt that bad… Can’t she see that?

But the Healer didn’t stop at her side, she brushed past her. Mirena whirled to follow the woman with her eyes, dropping the portal spell in her distraction. Behind her in the center of the circle of Sentinal Stones lay a woman dressed in a short light blue dress over black leggings. At first glance she looked to be unconscious and badly hurt; much worse than Mirena had been on her own landing.

Mirena’s first thought was that maybe she wasn’t the only one to pass her test today, as unlikely as that concept was, but she quickly realized that she didn’t know this woman. She wasn’t a student or a teacher from the Stoa, she was a stranger. It’s possible she didn’t know what she was doing. Perhaps she activated the Sentinal Stones by accident, which happens from time to time. Though usually not here…

As Mirena pondered the incident she felt the Mentor brush past her, followed by two other members of the faculty.

“Don’t crowd around!” The Mentor called out, his voice still amplified above normal volume by his majik. “Give her some room. It looks like whatever journey she’s taken to get here has taken a lot out of her. Hemora,” he addressed the Healer, “you’re in charge. Just let us know what you need.”

As the teachers made room for the Healer, Mirena got another glimpse at the mysterious stranger who had stolen her thunder. Despite the bruising on her face and scrape-marks similar to Mirena’s own, the woman appeared to be about Mirena’s age and very pretty with porcelain-coloured skin and long hair so dark it was nearly black. No sooner had she noted these details did the woman’s eyes open suddenly. They were deep blue and piercing and despite all the people in the courtyard and within the shadow of the tall standing stones, the stranger’s eyes locked onto Mirena’s own and held them.

Mirror’s Deceit

by Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred

She’s destined to change the world. Her rival has made a desperate flight to the past to stop her.

In a seeming utopia, Mirena, a gifted student of majik, is on the verge of graduating from a secret college that will give her a leg up in her political career, when her achievements are overshadowed by the arrival of a mysterious woman with an unknown agenda.  Desperate to keep what she sees as her rightful place in the spotlight, Mirena goes to astounding lengths including taking it upon herself to pose as a double agent to investigate a rebel force plotting to destabilize the government. Unfortunately, her actions cost her the trust of those around her, so when she is proclaimed the Dark Avatar of the Destroyer, she finds she has nowhere to turn.
Justine Alley Dowsett is the author of eight novels and one of the founders of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally roleplaying with her friends.

 

Writing Genre: Stephanie Bridges

I have always wanted to be a novelist. I have attempted a couple novels, but have not completed one to date. So, I decided to write a book of poetry, and then I decided to write children’s books to keep myself writing, authoring – journeying towards Novelist. My children’s books are a reflection of my four children and their idiosyncrasies and quirks. I believe being African American is something to be celebrated and not enough of us are creating positive imagery for Black youth. My books highlight Black main characters in a way that is relatable to all.

Connect with the Author

 

Book Review: The Retroactivist

If you enjoyed Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, or even Pixar’s Wall-e  there is something for you in Nate Ragolia’s The Retroactivist. Throw in a bit of nuanced Stepford Wives and a splash of Bellamy’s Looking Backward and you have a sense of the novel: a speculative fiction piece focused on what truly qualifies a society as utopian and a person as happy.

(More below cover art)

The Retroactivist by Nate RagoliaSet in the year 2087, the government has solved hunger, illness, social strife and all major components of societal duress. Citizens travel the world via tube cars and enjoy cocktails made in convenient replicators. Sexual gratification is omnipresent and all activities are scheduled and paid for by the flick of a wifi wristband. The primary goal of citizens – enjoy life.

Society is ‘perfected’, yet perfection leaves main character Reid Rosales unfulfilled.

Akin to Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, Reid finds an underground sect of fellow Citizens with a shared longing for the past. Reid decides to eschew the safety of perfection for the excitement of uncertainty.  He leaves his sultry girlfriend, a cush apartment and a life of leisure in the United Sociocracy of the Americas. He immerses himself in the philosophy, economy, and society of the 20th century.  His newly acquired cohorts band together and take it upon themselves to be ‘retroactivists’.

Revolution ensues.

Ragolia has a knack for presenting the fantastic as believable, unfolding a unique perspective on what it means to be genuinely fulfilled, not just comfortable. I have a sense if Margaret Atwood and Ayn Rand sat down for an afternoon of Chardonnay, they would have lots to say about this novel. Ragolia also gives the reader a treat by nestling into the novel subtle references to the 20th Century that if you are on your toes you will read with a smirk. The Retroactivist reads quickly, has a steady pace and is a tribute to what Indie Authors have to offer. Kudos to Nate Ragolia. Buy it!

Friday Author Review: Rob Cooke

Rob Cooke’s Author Spotlight on IntrovertPRESS

Moonshiner’s Legacy     Sara’s Swamp Blues

Coming soon: The Lost Song of Miriam Landry

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Rob Cooke wrote early scenes of Moonshiner’s Legacy while undergoing treatment for cancer. He took his kids to the library, checked every book about the era in his novels and built the story one page at a time. The whole family was involved. From those research adventures with his kids, his series began. Moonshiner’s Legacy starts with Bo Barnum and his pursuits of handling the family moonshine business. Sara, his daughter, and granddaughter to a Creole Indian, is the focus of Sarah’s Swamp Blues.

Rob’s stories unfold with dynamic roots growing into the deep Southern culture of 1920’s Arkansas and Louisiana. Receiving 5-star reviews, Sara’s Swamp Blues continues the legacy into the violence and tumult of the 1950’s. Rob himself is from Nebraska and has a passion for Depression Era themes, especially the music of that time period. He is also a budding guitar, banjo and harmonica player.

Connect with Rob here. Please re-post and re-tweet to support Rob!

Thanks for visiting the IntrovertPRESS site. We are pleased to spotlight our authors and their literary ventures. If you would like to see the authors supported by IntrovertPRESS click here.

31 Writing Contests in September 2017 – No entry fees

Writers in Oxford CompetitionRestrictions: Oxfordshire writers aged 18-30.  Genre: Fiction, nonfiction. “Submissions are invited of a piece of writing ‘Inspired by Oxford.’ The work can be fiction or non-fiction, up to 500 words in length, and can have been previously published.” Prize: Two prizes of £350 and three prizes of £100. Deadline: September 1, 2017.PEN Prison Writing ContestRestrictions: Anyone incarcerated in a federal, state, or county prison in the year before the September 1 deadline is eligible to enter. Genres: Poetry, fiction, drama, creative nonfiction. Prize: $200 top prize per category. Deadline: September 1, 2017.

Cheshire Prize for LiteratureRestrictions: The writer must have been born, live or have lived, study or have studied, work or have worked, in Cheshire, UK. Genre: Original and previously unpublished children’s story or poem. Prize: £2,000. Deadline: September 1, 2017.

Helen Schaible Shakespearean/Petrarchan Sonnet ContestGenre: Poetry. Prize: $50, 2nd Prize $35, 3rd Prize $15, three Honorable Mentions, three Special Recognitions. Deadline: September 1, 2017.

On The Premises Short Story Contest. “For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which the idea of community (or some kind of community) plays an important role.” Prize: Winners receive between US$60 and US$220, and publication. Deadline: September 1, 2017.

Toni Beauchamp Prize in Critical Art WritingGenre: Scholarly essay. All work submitted must have been written or published within the last year. Prize: $3,000. Deadline: September 1, 2017.

Concis Pith of Prose and Poem ContestGenre: Poems, prose poems, visual poems, flash fiction, micro-essays or what-have-you. Prize: First prize $250 and publication. Deadline: September 3, 2017.

Pitch America  is a pitch contest created by Laura Pohl to focus on submissions and books produced by Latino voices. This contest will feature the first 500 words and the 35-word pitch of completed and polished manuscripts written by Latinos. Please keep it in mind that this exclusively for Latino writers. Prize: Chance at representation. Deadline: September 3, 2017

Young Lions Fiction AwardRestrictions: Open to US citizens 35 years of age or younger. Genre: Novel or a collection of short stories published between January 2017 and December 2017. Submissions by publisher only. Authors may not submit their own work. Prize: $10,000.00. Deadline: September 8, 2017.

Solid Essay ContestRestrictions: Open to high school students. Genre: Essay (See site for topics.) Minimum number of words is 600 and maximum is 800. Prize: Scholarship of $1000. Deadline: September 8, 2017.

Michael Marks Awards for Poetry PamphletsRestrictions: Poetry poetry pamphlet must be published in the UK between 1st July 2016 and 31st July 2017. Genre: Poetry. Prize:  £5,000. Deadline: September 13, 2017.

Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political WritingGenre: Book of literary nonfiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers and has the potential to shape or influence thinking on contemporary Canadian political life. Book must be published in Canada. Prize: CAN$25,000.00. Deadline: Books published between July 5 and September 12 must be received by September 13, 2017.

VCU Cabell First Novelist AwardGenre: First novel published January–June 2017. No self-published books. Prize: $5,000. Deadline: September 14, 2017.

PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer FellowshipRestrictions: Candidates must have published one or more novels for children or young adults that have been warmly received by literary critics, but have not generated sufficient income to support the author. Genre: Book-length children’s or young-adult fiction. Prize: $5000. Deadline: September 15, 2017.

Cha International Poetry PrizeGenre: Poetry. Each poem must be a translation (loosely defined) of a text (loosely defined) from/about Hong Kong or China, written originally in English or Chinese, into a poem that is about contemporary Hong Kong. Prize: First Prize US$1501; Second Prize US$800; Third Prize US$400 and five Commended Prizes, each US$100.  Deadline: September 15, 2017.

The PEN/Heim Translation FundGenre: Book-length works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and drama in translation. Beginning in 2017, under the administering of the PEN/Heim Translation Fund, PEN will also offer the PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature. From the pool of annual submissions, judges for the PEN/Heim Translation Fund will select one project of narrative prose that has been translated into English from the Italian to receive this award, which will come with a $5,000 prize. Prize: $2000 – $4000. Deadline: September 15, 2017.

Outlook Springs Creative Nonfiction PrizeGenre: Creative nonfiction between 1,500 and 8,000 words. Prize: $500. Deadline: September 15, 2017.

Past Loves Day Story ContestGenre: Short personal essay. “Nearly everyone has memories of a former sweetheart. Write your true story of an earlier love, in no more than 700 words. Tell us about someone whose memory brings a smile or a tear.” Prize: $100 top prize. Deadline: September 17, 2017.Good Read Essay ContestRestrictions: Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, age 19 or older at time of entry. Genre: Personal essay. What was the happiest moment of your life? Prize: $3,000. Deadline: September 18, 2017.2017 Inspiring the World Journalism CompetitionGenre: Journalistic article on an inspiring theme. (See site for list of themes and examples.) Word count: 500 to 1,000 words. Prize:  $5,000. Deadline: September 18, 2017.

Kathy Fish Fellowship for Emerging WritersRestrictions: All writers previously unpublished in SmokeLong Quarterly and who do not have a published chapbook or book-length work in any genre (or are not under contract for such) are eligible to apply. Genre: Flash fiction (1000 words max). Prize: $500. Deadline: September 20, 2017. (The contest is free up until Sept 20, but requires fee after that date.)

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers ProgramRestrictions: Publishers recommend writers making a strong literary debut. Authors cannot submit their own work to the program; self-published writers and titles published via print-on-demand or available only as NOOK books are also ineligible for submission. Genres: Literary fiction, short story collections and literary non-fiction, such as travel essays, memoirs, or other non-fiction with a strong narrative will be considered. Books should be intended for an adult or a young adult audience. Prize: $35,000 to six writers. Deadline: September 21, 2017.

Sunday Times EFG Short Story AwardRestrictions: The award is open to any novelist or short story writer from around the world who is published in the UK. Genre: Short story. Prize: £30,000.Deadline: September 28, 2017.

Writers Online Picture Book PrizeGenre: Unagented and unpublished picture book up to 800 words. (No illustrations.) Prize: £200 and critique. Deadline: September 29, 2017.

Lilith Magazine Fiction CompetitionGenre: Story of interest to Jewish women. Prize: $250.  Deadline: September 30, 2017.

Lee & Low Books New Voices Award is sponsored by Lee &Low Publishers. Restrictions: The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a children’s picture book published. Genre: Children’s books – fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Prize: $1,000 and publication. Deadline: September 30, 2017.

Iowa Short Fiction and John Simmons Short Fiction AwardsGenre: Short story collection. The manuscript must be a collection of short stories in English of at least 150 word-processed, double-spaced pages. Prize: Publication by the University of Iowa Press, royalties. Deadline: September 30, 2017.

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest is held four times a year. Restrictions: The Contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Professional publication is deemed to be payment of at least six cents per word, and at least 5,000 copies, or 5,000 hits. Genre: Short stories or novelettes of science fiction or fantasy. Prizes: $1,000, $750, $500, Annual Grand Prize: $5,000.  Deadline: September 30, 2017.

Jerry Jazz Musician Fiction ContestGenre: Short fiction. Prize: $100. Deadline: September 30, 2017.

Solution Loans Short Story ContestRestrictions: Open to UK residents 18 years and up. Genre: Short fiction on theme of “Coins.” Prize: £200 and publication on the Solution Loans website. Deadline: September 30, 2017.

Salisbury Story PrizeGenre: Short fiction (500 words) on theme of “City of Stories. Open to ages 4 and up. Prize: £50 for children to be spent at Waterstones. Free online course for adults. Deadline: September 30, 2017.

Reblogged from Published to Death