Writing Tip Blog Swap with Sara Jayne Townsend

Sara Jayne Townsend and I have swapped blogs to share writing tips today. She stopped by in June to talk about writer insecurity. You can read that post here. Today she’s talking about the struggles she had finishing her first novel and getting it published. Along the way, she drops several lessons she has taken from her experience.

I’ll also give some writing tips on her site. My post focuses on what I’ve learned writing a series. So after you finished reading this post, hop over there to see what I have to say.

 

LEARNING CURVE

By Sara Jayne Townsend

sara-113-Web (2)

 

My newest release with MuseItUp Publishing is a supernatural horror novel called SUFFER THE CHILDREN that will be hitting the virtual book shelves in late spring. This particular novel is a re-release and has a special place in my heart. Not only was it my first published novel, but it and I have been on a very long journey together.

 

The journey began in the early 1990s when I wrote a short story called ‘Kiddiwinks’, inspired by a creepy-looking abandoned house I used to pass on my way to work in those days. The story was about a group of children who dare each other to break into the neighbourhood’s creepy house, telling stories about the witch that allegedly lives there, and they discover too late it is indeed occupied by an old lady who eats children. I put the story to my writing group and they encouraged me to turn it into a novel. Which I did. I started the novel in 1994, and it took me ten years to finish.

 

I learned a lot of lessons in writing that novel, one of which was that anyone who wants to be published shouldn’t take ten years over one novel. One of the main reasons that it took me so long was that in those days I didn’t plot properly. I’d started with a concept and a set of characters. I knew where I wanted to begin, and I knew vaguely where I wanted to be at the end, but I’d given no thought as to how I was going to get there. Unsurprisingly, I got halfway through and had no idea what was going to happen next. I put the manuscript away in a drawer and got on with writing other things. Then I got to a point when I decided I was going to finish this accursed manuscript if it killed me. I went back through what I had and made copious notes, and then I wrote a three-page plot summary, detailing everything that had to happen, from beginning to end. From there I broke the plot down even further, into a chapter-by-chapter summary. Between that and having some time off from work one Christmas, during which time I was able to hammer out 10,000 words, I was able to get to the end of the first draft. And this was another important lesson: plotting. I am now a meticulous plotter, drafting out plot summaries and chapter breakdowns before I even begin writing chapter one. And I no longer get ‘stuck’ halfway through a story.

 

SUFFER THE CHILDREN was finally finished in 2004, and I started sending out the manuscript. Unfortunately, by then horror had fallen out of favour in the UK. Many of the rejections I collected claimed that the novel was YA, which I didn’t agree with – after all my inspiration was Stephen King, who has written many books with kids as main characters, and he’s not a YA author.

 

At the beginning of the 21st century, the increasing popularity of e-books saw an increase in the number of small e-presses who did not require an agent as gatekeeper and were more likely to take a chance on a new writer. I started submitting to them, and there’s another lesson: literary agents are not the only way to go. Eventually the novel got accepted by Lyrical Press, but they gave me a condition: the character of Leanne had to be 18, because they didn’t deal with YA. I eventually relented, re-wrote the novel and signed the contract. You have to pick your arguments – another important lesson.

 

SUFFER THE CHILDREN was released by Lyrical Press as my first published novel in 2010, but the contract was for three years. When the rights were returned to me I commissioned an artist friend to design a new cover, and self-published it. Finally, when I signed on with MuseItUp for the Shara Summers series, they expressed interest in more of my work and I sold the rights to them. SUFFER THE CHILDREN will once more be available later this year – and with the label of YA I resisted for so long. And there’s possibly the most important lesson. Don’t get too hung up on labels, especially if your publisher is suggesting how to market your novel.

 

SUFFER THE CHILDREN – blurb

 

Orphaned at eighteen, Leanne’s life is adrift in a sea of grief and drug use. She washes up on the shore of estranged relatives, the Carver family, struggling with loss of their own. The transition from her South London council estate to her new home in the Surrey middle-class suburbs is difficult for Leanne.

 

But beneath the respectable veneer of the quiet neighborhood, something terrifying lurks. Displaced and troubled teenagers are disappearing. Leanne recruits her cousin Simon and his girlfriend Carrie to help get to the bottom of the sinister mystery. Can the three of them stop a creature of unimaginable evil before Leanne becomes a target?

 

About the Author:

Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror, and someone tends to die a horrible death in all of her stories.  She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there.  She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris.  She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.

 

She decided she was going to be a published novelist when she was 10 years old and finished her first novel a year later.  It took 30 years of submitting, however, to fulfil that dream.

 

Learn more about Sara and her writing at her website (http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com) and her blog (http://sayssara.wordpress.com). You can also follow her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/sarajtownsend) and Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3500282.Sara_Jayne_Townsend), and buy her books from Amazon (UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B003QROE8S and US: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003QROE8S).

 

The Squire and the Slave Master–Cover Reveal!

Two of the most exciting days for an author are the day you get your cover and Release Day. Well, the first has finally come for The Squire and the Slave Master. Not only am I going to reveal the cover for the first time, but I’m also going to share an except. I originally shared this excerpt as a short story titled The Message on Lightning Quick Reads in July which had a theme of Freedom.

Before I get to the fun stuff, I have a little business/self-promotion to get out of the way. Muse It Up Publishing, the publisher for Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud and The Squire and the Slave Master, is celebrating its 5 year anniversary. From now until October 4 you can enter the coupon code 5YEARS2015  in your cart and get 50% off your total order. So take some time to browse around. While you’re there, you may notice Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud is already on 50% sale for $2.75. So with this coupon code you can have it for less than $1.40. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the perfect time before The Squire and the Slave Master’s Release Day.

Okay, I’ve put it off long enough. Here’s the cover. Just like the first book, C.K. Volnek also designed this one.

The Squire and the Slave Master 333x500

Blurb

The award winning Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud (CLC’s Best First Novel 2014) chronicled Yara, Owen, and Cedric’s quest to revive King Kendrick from a dark, magical spell. After the adventure to save King Kendrick, for Yara, everyday life has grown monotonous. The dull work of learning her father’s blacksmithing trade, and the pressure from her parents to decide what she plans on doing with her life, has her nerves so stressed she snaps at her father’s slightest teasing.

Lucky for her, a surprise messenger from the castle brings the king’s request for her to join a collaborative mission between the Central and Western Domains of Wittatun to stop a recently discovered slave operation in a land to the west. King Kendrick and Owen want her to accompany the mission as a secret weapon disguised as a squire.

She has to keep secret not only her magical abilities from any possible traitors, but also her gender. The people of the Western Domain have a superstition prohibiting girls from sailing. But a chill wind carries the distinct odor of sabotage. Can one girl survive to destroy an evil rooted much deeper than mere slavery?

And now the excerpt:

“Sir, the third ship has arrived.”

Casimir didn’t turn from the window. “Yes, Bronislaw, I’ve seen it. Prepare your men for battle. Hold a few back as guards. If any of the slaves turn against us, execute them.”

The sound of Bronislaw’s footsteps faded as he exited the chamber.

A bird flew past the upper chamber and caught Casimir’s attention. I thought I killed all the birds. Oh well, I’ll get rid of this one too.

He raised his staff but lowered it when the bird redirected for the temple. A scroll of parchment dangled from its ankle. The bird landed on the altar in the center of the room. Casimir approached it with caution. It held up a leg, and he removed and unrolled the scroll. The letter didn’t have a signature, but it didn’t need one. He recognized the handwriting from years of correspondence.

I’m free. I understand what you plan to do, but it must stop. You aren’t powerful enough with magic. The temple will open a portal to the underworld, but you’ll never manage to close it and whose body do you think he’ll take? Someone so powerful won’t survive in a body with no magical experience. He will exhaust it in less than a day. Surrender your plan and join me in the swamp in the Southern Domain. Argnam already built the necessary accommodations there.

The paper flashed into flames on his palm. “You had your chance. I have a plan and a reasonable backup plan, which is more than you’ve ever had.”

The bird pecked at a pair of tiny beetles scurrying along the wall. With the flick of his staff, a green orb of light shot and hit the bird. A singed smell and a few feathers were all that remained.

From the window, he could see troops following the path from the beach to the temple. He watched the ships for the sign. A few flashes of light came in quick succession from the southernmost ship.

“Damn!” He thought back to the note. “It’s all right. I can still do this even though he doesn’t have the magician.” He held his staff high and returned a message in flashing lights. “Change of plans. We have to capture Mansfield. Alive.”

Three lines of slaves faced east in anticipation of the troops coming through the woods. Perfect.

Casimir closed the towering double doors as he exited the chamber. With his staff and a brief incantation, he placed an invisible barrier on the room. He took a piece of stone from a pile of rubble in a corner and tossed it at the door. In a flash, it became dust and smoke. Smiling, he left in search of Bronislaw.

Outside the door of the temple, the slaves waited for the pending battle. Bronislaw had taken a spot on high ground where he could overlook the battle soon to unfurl.

Casimir strolled up to him. “We have a new arrangement. They lost the magician. I need Mansfield alive. If you find him, bring him to me.”

Bronislaw nodded and signaled to his lieutenants.

He returned to the entrance of the temple and watched the battle unfold. The first troops emerged from the forest to an onslaught from the slaves. They had probably expected to hit them with a surprise attack, but the slaves had known. Casimir had known. Casimir always knew.

The second group emerged with their swords and shields at the ready. The slaves matched them well in strength but outlasted them in stamina. Most of the fishermen from Beroe had little or no battle training.

Mansfield’s men had one major disadvantage that greatly outweighed even their lower endurance or their lack of training. Twice Casimir noticed the soldiers relinquish an opportunity to slay their opponents.

They don’t want to kill. They see my slaves as innocent victims.

Another group emerged from the trees. They almost exclusively donned long beards and, barring their sunburns, looked a lot like many of the more recently acquired slaves. Some of the slaves hesitated; others dropped their weapons.

Now we’ll identify my dedicated servants, those who recognize what they have gained by coming here.

Several slaves, most of them having significantly different appearances to the men from Beroe—taller, more muscular, darker skin, some thin with scraggly beards—turned their attention to the traitors. With their weapons lowered, they had no defense. A distant voice shouted, “No!” Heads and limbs splashed into pools of blood as men turned on each other, betraying their former lives for the promises of their master.

Guest Post: Kai Strand’s Takes on Publishing

Today, I’m very lucky to host one of my friends (at least in the online sense of the word) who happens to be one of my favorite authors. Shortly after I signed the contract for my book, I started cyber-stalking. No, not in the creepy, obsessive, you-need-to-get-professional-help-before-you-hurt-yourself-or-someone-else sort of way. Instead the subtle, and more socially accepted, way of passively observing what other authors were doing. When I cam across Kai, her book Beware of the White caught my attention. First, it had an outstanding cover (CK Volnek, who did Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud’s cover, also did Beware of the White). The story also sounded interesting, so I read it. Not only did I enjoy it immensely, when I finished it, I realized it also had the same editor as my book, Katie Carroll. Maybe that’s just one of the fun quirks of being with a small press. I’ll let Kai tell you more.

Eeny, Meeny, Miny Moe – Today’s Publishing Options

It used to be that you could be a fantastic writer, but if none of the big six publishing houses or any of their imprints wanted to publish your work, your story was dead in the water. Today there are more small presses than ever before, including many that are taking advantage of electronic publishing and doing a good job of it, and there is accessibility and affordability in self-publishing. It is a great time to be a writer. The power of publication has shifted more into the author’s hands than ever before.

A book is a collaborative deal regardless of which route you take. With a small press, the collaboration is more intimate than if you were with a large publishing house and less over-lording than if you self-publish. You usually have good communication with your editor, input into your cover design, and can get answers to your questions from the senior editors or the publisher.  Though it is less likely you will get an advance from a small press, your royalties might be slightly larger, especially on the ebook. Their overhead isn’t as big as a large publisher, so they tend to give more back to the author where they can.

Of course there are drawbacks. Because small press keep their staff lean, the employees are often overburdened and might miss deadlines, pushing back your release date. Small presses often don’t even provide a solid release date because of this, leaving the author unable to prepare a ‘launch’ for their book or having to postpone a previously planned one (that can be embarrassing). Small presses usually don’t provide much support for promoting your book. Sometimes not even a Facebook page or Twitter, which costs the company nothing if they can get their authors to add the content for them. While small press can be the answer for publishing a niche story, they can often be limiting for the author as their career progresses, which is why I am published with four different presses. Not one press I’ve published with publishes all the books I write because their line up is more specialized than a larger house. And finally, small presses go out of business frequently, which can result in your book rights bobbing around for a while or your publication never coming to fruition. Do your homework on the company before submitting to them and if you choose to accept a contract and the company isn’t what you thought…move onto the next book with a different publisher. You usually will have a chance to snag back your rights after three years and then you can take the book elsewhere or self-publish it.

Small press fits my current publication expectations. I like working with people who know more about the aspects of publishing a book than I do. I love that I can have multiple books being prepared for publication at the same time while I keep writing new stuff. Last year I had two books publish within a few weeks of each other and this year there were only a couple months between book releases. It is much harder to do that if you are self-publishing, because it is all up to you.

Going forward, I don’t know that I will only publish with small presses. I hope my career will be long and fruitful, and my goal is to hit all the options eventually. However, I am enjoying my experience publishing with small presses and I’m learning a lot about the business of writing for children.

Thanks for joining me today, Kai. I had hoped to finish reading King of Bad before this went live so I could spend a paragraph saying great and wonderful things about it. Alas, I failed. But I will say I’ve enjoyed the first quarter of the book before moving on to your blurbs.

Beware of the White FinalBeware of the White: middle grade fantasy adventure

As is tradition, Terra learns on the Saturday past her twelfth birthday that she is a Natures Spirit. It is her legacy to serve in the peaceful underground city of Concord. Learning she is named in a prophecy and being threatened by the leader of the death tribe…that part breaks tradition.

The Trepidus are the death janitors of the Underworld, responsible for delivering fatalities with a smile and cleaning up after themselves until Blanco, recent leader of the Trepidus, decides the day of reckoning for his species is coming. He begins organizing the creatures and leads them toward an uprising. The prophecy says there is one person who can stop him. Terra.

With Spirit of Security, Frank, protecting her, Terra attempts to complete her training and discover her Spirit talents. Together, they go on a rogue investigation to learn how to defeat Blanco. In the end, it comes down to a battle of the minds. The future of Concord is at stake. Will Blanco, the older, more experienced being win? Or will Terra, the young, new Spirit earn back the peace of the city?

Buy It:

MuseItUp, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Or look for it on iTunes

King of BAD COVERKing of Bad: young adult fantasy

Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA.

He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the Supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?

Buy it: Whiskey Creek PressAmazonBarnes and Noble Add it to Goodreads

Kai StrandAbout the author

When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died, the end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers and short stories for younger children Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Visit Kai’s website, www.kaistrand.com, to browse her books, download companion materials or to find all her online haunts.

My Thoughts on Alan Moore’s Advice About Publishing

You don’t have to spend much time on social media sites frequented by authors, most notably Twitter, before you discover a rift between traditional publishing and self-publishing. A few months ago, I wrote a post called, “Can Self-Publishing Authors Destroy Literature?” It came in response to a blog post I read where the author tried to claim just that. His argument had some serious loopholes, but what really upset me was his accusation that everyone using social media to promote their book has written a piece of garbage (I’m generalizing here). In my retort, I tried not to minimalize the role of self-publishing while still stating that my personal goal, as an author, was to have a publishing company accept my work. Basically, anyone can self-publish a book, but I needed someone else to say my work was good enough they would publish it to achieve my goal of becoming a published book author (I had already published several short stories and articles).

This was the right decision for me, and I’ll never question the route I took. But the other day I came across a video of Alan Moore, an author I hold in the highest regard, addressing unpublished authors. His advice is to self-publish, and he lists sound reasons. He states that being published doesn’t mean anything. To prove his point, he lists some authors who have sold millions of copies of their books, but who, according to Mr. Moore, aren’t talented writers. I could put together my own list of talentless bestselling authors–but I lack the confidence in my own work to make my opinions public.

Knowing what I do about Alan Moore, I would say he has an aversion to most things mainstream. It’s an aversion I don’t share. Although I mentioned my list of bestselling authors lacking in the talent department, one of my favorite authors is about as mainstream as you can get: Stephen King. And he’s certainly no stranger to voicing his opinion of pop-culture he thinks fails to pop. But something Stephen King frequently does, and this practice I have tried to mimic in my young career, is praise his editors for their hard work in making his writing better.

I’m sure this four-minute video of Alan Moore is incomplete, and maybe he goes on to stress the importance of editors. He does tell writers to go over their work and make it better, then go over it again and make it better (I’ve seen some self-published work I suspect is a first draft). I think part of the reason (possibly even the main reason) self-publishing is receiving such a bad reputation is the frequent lack of editors. I’ll read this post three times before I hit the publish button, and I’m certain I will still miss errors. You cannot undervalue the worth of another set of eyes on something you wrote. So this is my public service announcement: If you’re going to self-publish your work, please hire an editor. And I’m not talking about your mom or your favorite uncle, I don’t care if they are high-school grammar teachers. I mean a professional editor, trained in writing styles and grammar, and willing to give you constructive criticism. And then take that criticism. Remember, the editor’s always right.

How Eric Price became a YA fantasy author; plus an excerpt

The following is a re-post that originally appeared on the MuseItYoung & MuseItYA Blog on May 1. In case you missed it, here it is again.

How did I get here? I ask myself that same question several times a day, both in my fiction writing and in real life. We’ll focus on real life for now, and mix in the fiction when it fits.

I was born and raised in central Illinois, about thirty miles north-east of St. Louis, Mo. I lived there until I graduated high school and moved to St. Louis for college. Somewhere between birth and graduation, probably about seventh grade, I decided I wanted to write a story (I hadn’t decided I wanted to write a lot, that comes later. For now, just a story). Up to that point I was a reluctant reader. I read slowly, and I didn’t read aloud well, so I didn’t like reading. You may wonder how a reluctant reader became a writer. Two important events happened around this time which made me like to read, a friend introduced me to Stephen King, and my English teacher introduced me to Edgar Allan Poe.

Fast-forward to college (I know that’s an old term from the days of VCRs. Younger readers, I mean scan or skip ahead). This is when I decided I wanted to be a writer. OK, we need to backtrack a little. I wrote some stuff in high school I thought was pretty good. For assignments, I mean. I even wrote a speech which won third prize in a VFW contest. At this time I had also started reading a lot of comics, so I started writing comics. This was my first step into fiction, but I did it for my own entertainment with no intent of publishing. That changed in college.

In my Freshman English class I had a professor whose name I no longer remember. I wrote for him what I thought was the masterpiece of my academic life. He returned it to me full of red ink contrasting my black font. I don’t remember everything he wrote on it, there was too much, but he did tell me I was a horrible writer. You may find it hard to believe a college professor would tell a student something like that, but if you knew where I went to college, you’d know I’m not writing fiction now.

Maybe it’s the romantic in me (I can use that term when I don’t mean candles and flowers, right?), but part of me thinks he thought I had talent, and he wanted to push me to reveal it. The realist part of me thinks he was another name for a donkey. But the comment did motivate me, and I did start writing more, just not complete works.

I had a notebook full of comic strips, story ideas, and first pages by the time I transferred to a much better college, where the professors cared about the students, to finish my degree in biology. While at this new school I wrote a lot more, but I still never finished a story.

Fast-forward a couple more years (there’s that term again), until after I met my wife, Allison. On the bulletin board of the grocery store I saw a flyer for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I took it home, talked it over with Allison, and we decided I should at least take their admissions test to see if they liked me. I did and they did. I took their “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course and learned a lot about writing and marketing. One of my assignments became my first published short story, “Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast.” Of course it was a horror story, remember that bit about King and Poe? But I kept it PG as I wrote it for kids.

Just before I sold that story I applied and was accepted to write a quarterly column for the county paper where I lived in St. Louis. I also started entering stories into contests. Three of them have won honorable mention in the CrossTIME Short Science Fiction Contest. Yes, I switched from horror. But not to worry, the story I started a few weeks ago scares the socks off of me. And it’s aimed at adults, so no more PG.

I went on to write the column for two years before my wife and I decided to move away from the city. We both grew up in small towns and wanted to raise our two sons in a like environment. An opportunity came up to move into the house my wife grew up in, and for me to work with her father on the family farm. We took it.

After moving to the farm, I started writing agriculture advocacy articles to do my part to combat all the anti-agriculture groups out there. If you’ve never looked into it, there are a lot of people who want to shut down agriculture as we know it. You’d be amazed. Similar groups have worked their black magic even more successfully on the EU. Although these articles seemed the right thing to do, they also became WORK. I want to write for fun. I want to write to escape reality for a few hours. So I gave it up.

Instead I started writing new stories and going through my old ones. I came across a young adult fantasy I wrote for the second course I took from the Institute of Children’s Literature, “Writing and Selling Books.” “The Stargazer’s Son,” as it was then called, was good, but not great. I had meant to revise it and submit it to publishers, but much like George McFly in Back to the Future, I had a fear of rejection. Instead of wasting time rewriting it, Allison suggested I send it to some publishers and see if anyone is interested first. I gave it a quick coat of polish, renamed it “Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud,” and sent it to Muse It Up. They essentially replied, “It’s good, but not great.” I used their suggestions, rewrote it, resubmitted it, and got it accepted. So here we are, and that’s how I got here.

Thank you for putting up with my ramblings for this long.You can find me on the web at authorericprice.com and Twitter @authorericprice. I guess you deserve a reward for reading my life’s story, so here’s a brief excerpt from my upcoming release, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud.

CHAPTER 1: THE FESTIVAL

The setting sun glared in the young warrior’s eyes. Squinting, he could just make out his opponent’s outline. His ever tightening leg muscles cried for rest with each step he took; yet he continued to circle, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. After a long day of dueling, and what felt like each battle starting as soon as the previous one ended, Owen’s whole body needed a rest. But he wanted nothing more in the world, at this precise moment, than to win this championship bout.

Owen knew Edward had to be equally tired. They had each fought four previous matches, and every contestant entered in the tournament stood a chance of victory. Edward, Shield of the King (the commander of the King’s Sentry, the strongest army in all of Wittatun), constantly received praise for his skill with a blade. Owen had defeated two Sentrymen earlier in the day, but to hold the position of Shield, Edward would surpass them in skill.

The fighters continued to circle one another. Sunlight gleamed off Edward’s brilliant metal chest plate and helm, and as Edward began to squint due to the shine of the westering sun, Owen saw his opportunity and sprung. He feinted a slash attack toward the commander’s shield hand. When Edward raised his shield and braced for impact, Owen redoubled his attack. He spun and sliced his blade at his opponent’s neck. The loud clang of steel on steel resonated throughout the courtyard as Edward raised his sword to parry. Owen felt the vibration transmit up his arm, but he finished his compound attack by kicking the Sentryman in the chest plate. The judge blew a whistle to signify the landing of the first blow in this best-of-three veney.

Edward wasted no time mounting his counterattack by gaining the measure and reestablishing just distance. He made several quick jabs at Owen’s head and chest, which the defender parried away with ease. Owen countered with a testing jab which Edward sidestepped. Edward stepped back in line and when he raised his sword to the en guard position Owen noticed his shied drop ever so slightly. But this tiny gap in defense may have provided the opening needed to finish this battle. Owen lunged and instantly recognized the move as a mistake, but his forward motion could not be stopped. Sharp pain shot through Owen’s left shoulder, and he barely heard the judge blow the whistle through the anguish. Edward had lowered his shield as an invitation for Owen’s attack, and when the younger fighter took the offering, the elder’s stop-thrust found the only week point of the armor. The tip of the sword slid between the hinge where the chest plate met the shoulder guard and dug into the muscle.