Legendary Giveaway!

So my hawk-eyed, amazing sister Kim pointed out an egregious error in The Itsy Bitsy Spider: The Legend Behind the Myth! Once she told me, I couldn’t believe I and so many others had missed it.

I have five copies left of typo copy, so I’m giving them away!  To win:

Comment here or on Facebook.com/SkipperBooks   with your answer to the following question and I will draw five winners for a free signed copy!

Where did you grow up and how did you sing it when you were young? The Itsy Bitsy Spider or The Eensy Weensy Spider?

P.S. I’m not going to tell you what the error in the book is. If you have one, try to find it! If you’d like a copy with the typo so you can prove you had it first, order it quickly! It will take me a few days to get an updated copy running on Amazon, so get one while they’re available.

Self-Publishing for Author/Illustrators

This post originally appeared on the wonderful writing blog Operation Awesome on September 3, 2015 as a guest post

Writers write. Illustrators illustrate. Publishers publish. Right? Sure. Unless you’re like me and choose “D, all of the above.” I’m all over the place, and I love it.
The first book with my name on it was written by someone else who commissioned me to illustrate. The second was a story my son and I came up with at bedtime, and I couldn’t help but illustrate it and put it all together for him. The third was inspired by niece of mine. It rhymes, teaches a moral, and comes as a package deal with the illustrations (I know, so many faux pas). And the fourth doesn’t even have any words yet, just one full-page illustration and a few ideas wafting around it.
While a writer of children’s or picture books may have at least a rough vision for their story’s illustrations, an author/illustrator may very well be composing paintings in her head while writing. Sometimes the illustrations come before the words are even penned.
Our processes may differ, but I think author/illustrators can agree on a couple constants. First, we couldn’t bear to have the stories of our hearts illustrated by some stranger who will probably get everything wrong. Even if that stranger is a better artist than we are, it would feel as if he were taking the brain out of our baby and putting it into the perfectly polished body of someone else’s baby. It would still be half ours, kind of, and it may be beautiful, but all we really want is our own baby, the way we made her. The other constant among us is that we all want our books to be successful. We want people to read them, and love them. We want to be published.
Unfortunately for author/illustrators, publication means that we need to find an agent and/or a publisher who not only loves our story, but loves our illustration style as well. And if they love both of those, they also have to love them together. Every step of the way, our chances of being traditionally published diminish.
So hold out your hopes for traditional publishing, if that’s your end goal, but I suggest considering self-publishing for the following reasons:
You get to finish your book.
Self-publishing means that you get to see your entire project through on your own terms, on your own timeline, and with your own creative touch on every single aspect. You cut out any kind of middleman and get full rights and total control. I do suggest reaching out and gathering all the feedback you can possibly get, but in the end, all the final decisions are yours alone. Cover art, illustrations, revisions–all of it will be exactly how you envisioned it because you’re in charge. Of everything. Which leads me to the next reason to self-publish.
You get to learn about marketing your book.
Cutting out the middleman does mean more work for you. Even if you are traditionally published at some point, no one will ever care about your book as much you do, and even the biggest publishers will expect you to do your part in marketing. So why not learn what you can now, and get a head start?
Establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and your own blog or website, and start to make friends and build up your networks. Research and experiment and find out what sells for you and what doesn’t. One of my favorite things to do to increase my readership and create publicity for my books is to attend craft fairs and art shows. I sell my art and jewelry and I hold a book signing at the booth for my books. In every event, I sell more copies of my books than anything else.

Contact libraries, bookstores, toy stores and gift shops to set up readings and book signings. You get to negotiate your own terms and percentages. With every meeting and event, marketing and selling yourself and your book will become easier and more efficient. If you ever land a book deal, you’ll have an advantage, and if you don’t, then at the very least you’re already doing something about getting your book out there yourself.

Self-publishing is totes legit.
There was a time when “self-publishing” was used interchangeably with “vanity publishing.” That time is trying to hang on and occasionally puts up a fuss, but it’s on its way out. Saying that you’re self-published is no longer followed up by that look of “Oh… so not very good, huh.”  In this DIY, crowd funded, entrepreneurial, start-up world, people respect those who go it alone, put their best work out there, and let the people judge for themselves. My first book signing was at the Stanford Children’s Hospital gift shop, and even in such an upscale area, people were impressed, and not disappointed, by my being self-published.
When people ask who I publish through and my answer is myself, their curiosity is actually piqued and they want to know more about the process. They then read through the book and almost always buy it. Who cares how it’s published if it’s good? I’ve had a few people buy my books just so they can say, “I knew you when….” Be confident and don’t make excuses for being self-published, but if it helps boost your confidence, use phrases like “cutting out the bureaucracy/red tape” and say “indie author” or “independently published” instead of “self-published.”
If you are interested in traditional publishing someday, be sure to check that your target publishers will accept self-published manuscripts, as there are some who will not. But if they do, and if you’re up for a little adventure, self-publish. You’ll learn a lot about every step of the process, and whether or not a publisher ever picks up your book, you’ll still get it out into the world.

 

Skipper Books in the Gift Shop

All three of my books in the Lucille Packard (Stanford) Children’s Hospital gift shop! The middle one is in Spanish and sold right away, but I’m filling an order for more, so check back soon! (donation to the hospital)! My books are carried in two other book stores, but any book store can order them, so ask for them in your local store  They’re also available online at Barnes and Nobel and Amazon. 

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I have a couple potential illustration projects coming up and I’ve been editing a novel I wrote. I’ll update you on the status of that book, called Near-Life Experience, as things get moving!

 

Don’t Forget to Write For Fun!

I wrote another guest post for Operation Awesome, a wonderful and useful writing blog!

In an ideal world, our first book already made us bucketfuls of cash. We now write as a hobby. It’s something we do purely for self-fulfillment, content to create for the pure joy of it, unencumbered by the need for anyone else’s approval or patronage. If someone out there enjoys reading what we write, all the better. Any royalties coming our way are just a bonus. We write for fun.

But what about those of us living out here in the real world? Maybe we need money to survive, and even hope to make writing a full-time job someday. For me, sometimes saying ‘Oh, you know, I’m just writing for fun’ is an excuse for why my sales aren’t where I want them to be, or a lie to cover up my own insecurity. So what if you need to write for pay? Well then, for you, I have slightly different advice:

…Oh, wait, no I don’t. Write for fun.

Read the rest on the blog here: https://operationawesome6.blogspot.com/2016/11/dont-forget-to-write-for-fun-guest-post.html

Planning a Lego Birthday Party Extravaganza on a Budget

Ok, so extravaganza is probably a bit dramatic. This was really somewhere between a Pinterest win and and epic fail. Like Pinterest for Real People. Someone should start a website. Anyway when your guests are 4-6 years old, their expectations are cake/cupcakes and friends to play with. Anything else is above and beyond, so I say I outdid myself, and it didn’t take a lot of time or money. Here’s what I did, and OMGoodness did the kids have fun!

  1. Life-Sized Legos:  Easy Peasy. I gathered up all the boxes I could find and wrapped them in solid-colored wrapping paper, then drew quick circles on top. That’s it. Total success with the kids. As an added awesome, I bought green bubble wrap and duct taped it to the carpet (I know, classy!) to make it look like they were standing on a giant building plate. Plus they got to walk on bubble wrap. What more could a kid ask for?  The wrapping paper only covered 2-3 boxes per roll, so the uncovered boxes became instant brown Legos. The more boxes the merrier, I say. 20160521_140531 20160520_090538 (1)Sometimes you run out of wrapping paper and Thor and Spiderman get to make an appearance at the party.
  2. Lego-head plates and cups: I bought inexpensive yellow square plates and cups and drew on faces. If you’re not so into art, just two dots and a little curved mouth does the trick. I used some leftover bubble wrap to cover the table. I got the idea from this pin and this one. FYI, the permanent marker does not budge under fruit juice, but hot dog grease will smudge it. 20160520_184506 (1)
  3. Design Your Own Lego Mini-figure station: I printed out some blank Lego guys and put my container of old crayons out. Practically free and super easy.20160521_120317 (1)
  4. Lego cupcakes: I made a couple boxes worth of cupcakes, and of course bought the Funfetti icing with sprinkles. It’s a birthday party, after all. For the toppers I made lego gummies with my lego molds and used this amazingly simple tutorial.  20160521_133443 (2)
  5. Basement Build-Fest: This one was also totally free. I set out all our wooded train tracks, Lincoln Logs, and Duplos downstairs for the kids to build to their hearts’ content. I thought about including an actual Lego building station (setting out my son’s Lego table and Legos), but I foresaw great and uncontrollable chaos sure to ensue. And I’ve stepped on enough Legos for one lifetime. No more.
  6. Pin the face on the Lego head:  Ok actually this one got cut. I’m not a Pinterest Party Planner and I ran out of time, but I would have cut a large yellow head out of yellow poster board, and then cut eyes and mouths out of black poster board. You know the rest. Cost: $1.50. I think it would make for a few giggles, but they had so much fun even without it.
  7. Lego soaps party favors:  Michael’s has easy melt-and-pour glycerin soap base. I have coloring and bath/body-grade scents and essential oils for the yummy smell, so this was easy and cheap as well. One pack of soap made three small Lego soaps for each of the 18 cute party favor bags. Ok, off-brand zip-lock sandwich bags. We’re not that fancy, and as stated in the title, we had a budget.   The soaps actually looked and smelled a lot like the Lego gummies, so after a short internal debate about the pros and cons of letting the kids think they were edible, I made a clarifying announcement. It didn’t entirely work, as later I found a couple discarded Lego soap men with bitten off heads. Yum.

Add chips, air-popped popcorn, lemonade, and a sunny back yard, and you have yourself a party the kids will love!

 

As you can tell, I’m not a full-time party planner. To see the minifigure-scaled work I normally do, check out SkipperBay!

Thanks!

SkipperBay

 

Refurbishing a Beat-Up Coffee Table

First of all, I took a decent amount of before pictures of this coffee table, and then several pictures afterwards and several (hundred) before that. And then, the other day, for no apparent reason, my pictures were gone. I mean, my whole entire camera folder. Every picture I hadn’t edited or uploaded somewhere had disappeared from my phone completely. It was a tragic and shocking realization akin to that moment I noticed that my phone wasn’t in my back pocket anymore…because it was in the toilet.  I’m sure the two incidents are totally unrelated.

The point here is that I lost my “before” and process pictures, but the coffee table looked a little something like this:

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It was part of the same set; it had good bones but lots of wear and tear.

We call our living room “The Museum” because we have pictures and a few artifacts from our travels around the world. And it sounds so fancy. And like a museum, the kids aren’t allowed to touch anything or mess it up. In theory. See the tall wall where I couldn’t help but paint trees here in the mural section. This is when I realized that for a tall person I sure am afraid of heights!

I love maps and globes and travel, and decided I wanted to paint a world map on my coffee table to go in The Museum. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Wipe down the table, ’cause it’s got grubby kid prints and dust on it. We’ll pretend that’s all.
  2. Paint the table whichever color you’d like it. At least the top of it where the map will go, and use paint+primer or chalk paint, because who wants to do more steps than are absolutely necessary? Not me.
  3. Draw a map of the world. Easy enough? Maybe for a cartographer, which I am not. So I traced. I found a great outline of the world, and then downloaded a program called Posterazor to slice the image into several standard-sized sheets so that I could print them out on my regular printer and tape them together to form a coffee-table-sized poster. Pretend you see here an image of a poorly taped up poster of the world. =) So then how do you get the image of the world onto your tabletop? Graphite Paper!  I use whatever is on sale at Michael’s/HobbyLobby, because I’ve used many brands of graphite paper and they’re all the same to me.graphite paper
    How to use graphite paper:

    • Place the graphite paper dark-side-down on the surface where you’d like your image to appear.
    • Place the image you would like to transfer face up on top of the graphite paper. tape this in place so it doesn’t move while you’re tracing.20160516_180748
    • Trace the image with medium pressure. You may want to carefully lift the image and the graphite paper to make sure your image is transferring correctly. If you don’t see anything, make sure you’re using enough pressure (you’ll have to push harder if you are using card stock or thick paper) and that your graphite paper is facing the right direction. The pressure will transfer a line of graphite from the paper to your surface wherever you trace. I like to use a red or colored pen so that I can see where I’ve traced. Don’t throw it away when you’re done, you can use graphite paper many times before it’s all used up.20160516_180820 20160516_180841_20160519162234500 20160509_125217
  4. Fill in your countries. You can technically color in all of the countries with only 4 colors, and have none of the countries share a border with another country of the same color. But that requires way too much planning, so I used 6 colors that I found leftover from other projects. 20160519_152214If you do want to make a four-color map, google “four-color map of the world” and assign a color of your choice to each of the colors in the map you found.20160418_141715
  5. Spray on a clear protective coat. Use the clear acrylic of your choice, and follow the directions on the can. I used a Glossy finish spray, because I added gold accents with a gold leafing pen and I wanted them to be so shiny and fancy.. But you can also use Matte clear acrylic spray for a chalk-painted look, even if you used glossy paint (or just use chalk paint and the appropriate wax).20160519_152913 20160418_141819-1I’m not normally a lover of gold but I thought it looked amazing with these colors and I couldn’t resist. I used two gold pens- one ‘gold leafing pen’ and one gold paint pen. They worked about the same, the gold leafing pen was more expensive but I can’t tell a difference in the finished product. Any imperfections are due to the help of my 3-year-old and my own person. That’s really all. You can try, once it’s totally dry, and before you add the clear coat, to erase some of the graphite lines, but I find it easier to simply paint over them while I’m filling in countries. If you haven’t painted the rest of the table, do that before the clear coat as well.

I just love the way this table turned out, and I ended up buying another small table at a garage sale for $5 (which was also  a little more beat-up than it looks in the picture) and painting it to match. I know they’re pretty much opposite styles, but the paint job will tie them together. What do you think? Oh, and that is not a giant stain on my couch, it’s a spot on my phone’s camera. Grr.

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20160513_100847   20160514_182224

And for much, much smaller paintings, see me miniature wearable paintings and portraits here:

SkipperBay

Pens for Paws Auction

Hello!

I’ve donated a 4×6 pet portrait in watercolor to the Pens for Paws auction, “an online auction with writers and others from the publis1hinpetportg community to raise funds for Fat Kitty City, a no-kill, cage-free cat (and dog!) sanctuary in El Dorado Hills, California.”

Check out the cause here, and happy bidding!

http://pensforpaws.blogspot.com/2016/05/original-watercolor-pet-portrait-by.html

Missed it? Order a protrait here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/268741027/pet-portrait-in-watercolor-gorgeous?ref=shop_home_active_2petport3 petport2

10% of Pet Portrait Proceeds are donated to the Denver Dumb Friends League!

Using TTS to Develop Characters: Operation Awesome Guest Post

I wrote another guest post for the wonderful writing blog- Operation Awesome! Take a look, and if you’re looking for interesting and useful information on writing and publishing, plus some great contests, check out the rest of the blog!

My article: http://operationawesome6.blogspot.com

Here it is as well, but seriously, go see their blog!

Using Text-To-Speech programs to Develop Characters
I tend to talk to myself. Some people like to call it “thinking out loud” but I won’t deny it; myself and I have some great conversations, and sometimes I’m a really great sounding board. But not always. Sometimes I just wish I had someone else who was just as passionate about and interested in my developing manuscript as I am, and could answer me every time I asked something like, “Okay, how does this sound,” or “Does that really sound like something this character would say?” And sometimes I just need other-me to forget they’ve written anything, and read it with fresh eyes. I’m not ready for beta readers, but I need some new insight. How can I cleanse my palate a little bit and get a new perspective on my characters, or on my work as a whole?
Try online Text-To-Speech (TTS) readers. It’s a tactic I’ve found enlightening, not to mention pretty entertaining.  My main character is male, so I worry sometimes about whether or not he sounds masculine enough.   Running his lines through TTS programs have helped me realize which lines really work and which need tweaking.  When I can hear him speak his lines, I get a better feel for his personality, and how he might actually phrase his thoughts.
Here are few helpful TTS exercises you might try:
-Run whatever chapter you’re working on in a UK accent (or an American accent if you’re from the UK). Hearing it so differently from what I hear in my head really puts a new spin on the words and helps me pick up on little things, working and non, that I normally skip over. Plus it just sounds so fancy.
-Try lines for each character in different voices until you find one that is closest to how you think they probably sound. You may be surprised, and learn something something new about their personality.
-Create audio files for each line in a dialogue in each character’s voice, and play them back in order. You will actually hear your characters converse, which is amazing, but you’ll also be able to gauge whether each character is speaking as he or she would.
-If you’re a woman, have a man read your book out loud, and vice versa. It might help broaden your perspective to hear how it sounds to someone who isn’t you.
-Instead of reading a couple paragraphs back before you pick up writing or rewriting for the day, try playing those paragraphs out loud.  You never know what ideas might flare up.
Although TTS programs have come a long way since the MagicSpell wizard used to read your ICQ messages to you, keep in mind that a computer still doesn’t sound like a fully-produced audiobook. It will still sound somewhat robotic, with incorrect cadance and strange emphases. Do your best to listen past the weirdness!
Below are a few free online TTS readers to try out:
http://ttsreader.com/  No character limit, US English is female, and UK English is Male. I like the UK English, and I like this reader because it’s quick and responsive.
http://www.fromtexttospeech.com/ This is one where you have the option to download seperate files for each line.  Also no character limit, and several different voices, including an Indian accent.
https://acapela-box.com/AcaBox/index.php This has the most choices and it’s wonderful for hearing lines from diverse characters! In US English you can hear children’s voices, a teenager (Scott), an old man, a Texan guy (Michah), a child with an Hispanic accent (Emilio), a child who sounds like she’s from France or something (Valeria), a sad guy, a super happy guy, and yes, even a Yoda voice, with which I may or may not have spent my evening playing. Warn you I must: get distracted, you will.  There are also several other choices under British, Scottish, Australian, and Indian English.  If your character is from another country, select any language (Russian, Dutch, German, Japanese, etc etc) and the voice will read your English text with a thick accent.  You can’t download for free from here, but you can listen online.

 

Do you have any readers you love, or any other methods for seeing your work with fresh eyes? I’d love to hear them!

Crafting Fair – March 5, 2016

You’ve been to a craft fair, but have you tried a CraftING Fair?  Come join us for a fun day of classes with local artists and crafters at the Crafting Fair, Saturday March 5th from 10-4:30 at the Ridge House in Founder’s Village, Castle Rock, 4501 Enderud Blvd. Bring a DIY friend, child or grandchild, and learn a new skill together!

All classes require just a $5 deposit to hold your place, and prices range from $10 to $30. Balances due to the teacher at class.

Sign up here!

Below are pictures and class descriptions! for the

Intro to Watercolors: Cherry Blossoms. Get a feel for watercolors and paint your own beautiful spring decor in blue, green, or pink. Learn wet-in-wet and wet-on-dry techniques. Painting is 11×14, frame opening is 16×20 matted to 11×14. – with Taryn Skipper $15 for painting only, $35 includes Mat and Frame. by Taryn Skipper at SkipperBay

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USA Home wooden sign: ($25) USA with heart on Colorado, a couple of different color options. with Laura Critchfield from EverythingLauraJo

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Home Wooden Sign: ($15.00 each)
with Narissa from The Twisted Walnut

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Decoupage Coasters: ($20.00 for a set of 4)
with Annie Murlowski from Rocky Mountain Bliss – Learn the decoupage technique and check out her great blog!

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Card Portfolio  ($10.00)
Includes 4 occasions cards (Hello, Thank You, Birthday, and Thinking of You) with envelopes and a card holder. With Paper and Potions

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Welcome sign ($20.00)
24″x6″ Welcome sign, a couple of different color options. With Laura Critchfield from EverythingLauraJo

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Love Wooden Sign with heart ($20.00)
with Narissa from The Twisted Walnut

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Bath Salts  ($15.00)
with Annie Murlowski from Rocky Mountain Bliss 

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Spring sampler (cards) ($10.00)
Includes one Easter card, one Mother’s Day card, two small treat holders and one large treat holder. Candy included. from Paper and Potions

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Intro to Watercolor: Tree silhouettes ($15.00)
An exercise in negative space. Get a feel for how watercolors layer to build depth and paint beautiful trees in the process- with Taryn Skipper $15 is painting only, $35 includes mat and frame. High-School age and up, or younger with parents help! Any Color you’d like! From Taryn Skipper at SkipperBay

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You’re on Mountain Time wooden sign ($25.00)
with Narissa from The Twisted Walnut

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Cups, Mugs and water bottles. Lots of selection and Cricut in class to cut names, etc. ($15-$18)
Come decorate your own mug, cup or water bottle. This is totally suitable for kids 6+ (please be aware of your child’s abilities and if you think they will need a lot of help please do the project with them or sign up to do it so you are there to help. From EverythingLauraJo

 


 

Body scrub (6) ($15.00)
Includes 2 body scrubs of your choice and one large gift box. Options include: brown sugar lime scrub, lavender salt scrub, or citrus white sugar scrub. from Paper and Potions

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Crochet Dish Cloths  ($15.00)

Includes crochet hook and ball of yarn. With Annie Murlowski from Rocky Mountain Bliss

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Learning the Cricut Machine ($30.00)
I’ve had lots of requests for a class on “learning the Cricut machine” so here it is. This will be for beginners. I will teach you hot to weld, attach, upload fonts and use vinyl and HTV (Iron on) as well as some other materials. Bring your questions. This class will be super fun but I hope to cover a few things and be able to answer your questions. We can talk about where the best places to get vinyl from area and what vinyl is for what and how we can use the machine for several different purposes. I’m NO EXPERT but I use my machine daily and have learnt some really good tricks. Come and hang out for 50 minutes and go home knowing that you are a little better than you were before with the Cricut Explore. from EverythingLauraJo

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Jewelry Making – Bracelets and Earrings  ($10 for one item, $20 for two)
Learn to string and finish bracelets and earrings. Various colors, shapes and sizes available. with Shauna Rossin, great for teens as well as children with parents’ help.

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Flash Fiction contest entry

I just entered my first ever Flash Fiction contest. (Update: I won!) I have really needed to get back into writing mode after the holidays, and this sounded like fun!  It also seemed like a useful exercise at this time when I’m trying to finish a first draft of my first novel, and need practice condensing and cutting out unnecessary words.

The prompt was “Buying a new vehicle” and we had to write a story in 250 words.  I immediately knew I wanted to get creative on the meaning of “vehicle” and didn’t want it to be a car (although there is one awesome entry so far with a car and a surprise ending!).  My mind  drifted over to Star Wars, due to my recent viewing of the latest installment (loved!). But I didn’t want to write fan fiction, and it turned out to be against the rules anyway.  My last contest entry was an illustration, and I went Steampunk (here).  So I stuck with my newfound theme and wrote exactly 250 words of riveting (pun intended) fiction.

Here it is, I’ll update when I find out who won! In the mean time, read the other entries and keep your eyes peeled (I always thought was an icky expression) for upcoming contests and amazing posts on Operation Awesome!


I’ll miss her fiercely,” Emiline lamented, her hand caressing the worn rivets along the tarnished brass hull of the once-magnificent landship.

“We have no choice,” Harrington reminded her. “She’s served her purpose, fought a good fight, and now she’s fetched a full purse.” Emiline was sentimental for a warrior, but Harrington had abandoned all but logic long ago.

“Not full for long,” Emiline countered, glancing toward a battered airship- the lone survivor of the First Defense. “This relic’s overpriced. I understand it’s not the merchants’ war, but why must they lance our pockets so.” She crumpled to the sand, grieved by much more than prices and overwhelmed by the precipice upon which their clan’s existence balanced.

Carmen rested a tiny hand on Emiline’s armored shoulder. “You can do this Emi. You’re the only one left in this hemisphere who can pilot an airship like this, and we’ve already paid dearly. Conrad would have wanted-”

“I know,” Emiline cut in, tears slipping down her resolute face. “I just need a moment to mourn. We’ve lost so much, and everything we’ve gained is because that landship held us together.”

Harrington signed the merchants’ documents, finalizing the trade. Engineered to run with perfect efficiency utilizing minimal puffs of steam, the last working airship took to the sky, and Emiline’s embodied memories shrunk below.

The landship was scrapped for parts long before the clan’s Final Offensive ran the enemy into the heavens forever, but it sailed on immortal in the hearts of grateful generations.


 

Taryn Skipper