I have an awesome new cover reveal to share tonight! As you know, I’ve been replacing my do-it-yourself images with professional ones as I have the funds. My lastest book to receive attention is The Quill Pen, one of my stand-alones. It’s fantasy, the second book I ever wrote (third I published), and sort of a favorite because writing it was such a long road that taught me so much about the craft. After I finished, I scratched it and rewrote the whole thing…twice!
Here is the beautiful, original, painted creation from the fantastical brain and talent of Mikey Brooks of Lost Treasure Illustrating. Ebook first, then the full, gorgeous spread. I’m still trying to catch my breath!
If you’ve read the book and you’re trying to place the scene on the cover, you won’t. I used the upgrade as an opportunity to write in one more short, magical scene, one final use of the pen that leaves absolutely no doubt as to its evil, betwitching power.
Want to read the new scene? I included it below. (If you haven’t read the book yet and plan to, don’t read on. It gives away a major spoiler. Better to read it in context. The ebook is now just .99.)
Okay, this scene takes place right after the mob burns down Sanjay’s workshop and Sanjay’s big secret is revealed.
The fire burned to ashes, and the sailor went inside the house. The mob would not return tonight.
Micah waited beneath the giant sycamore until the moon sank below the horizon and the sky turned gunmetal gray. He wanted to make certain Sanjay slept so his words would not be overheard.
At last he crept beneath his friend’s window. “Gabby!” he called in a loud whisper.
He heard blankets rustle, then a face appeared behind the mosquito netting. “Oh, Micah, you were right! It was awful!” she quavered.
“I know. I saw the whole thing.”
“You were here?”
“I followed you home to make sure you stayed safe.”
“There was a mob, just as you feared! But my father scared them away. You should have seen him, Micah. He was magnificent.”
“I did see him.”
“Gabby, listen. I saw something else as well. Just before the shop burned, when Sanjay was fighting the men, did you hear a gunshot?”
“Of course I did.”
“Gabby, that gun was fired into your father’s chest at short range. He should be dead.”
Her face blanched in the dim light. “Thank goodness it missed,” she whispered.
“It didn’t miss, Gabby. Your father was hit. I saw the holes in the front and back of his shirt.”
“But he’s fine!” she argued. “I saw him. He took off his shirt.”
“And burned it so you wouldn’t see it. Because he doesn’t want you to know. Gabby, that’s your father’s secret,” he whispered earnestly. “He can’t die.”
Gabby sucked in a breath. “Micah, are you certain?”
“I was fifteen feet away. I saw it happen.”
He gave her time to let the shock sink in.
The quaver returned to her voice. “That would explain a lot of things.”
“He can’t even be hurt, Gabby,” he went on. “A few days ago, when we were cleaning fish, I stabbed at one and hit his hand. The knife sliced through it like water. I thought I was seeing things, but he blew it off. Told me I missed.”
She was quiet a long time. When she spoke, her words struck like lightning. “Then that’s the secret I share.”
Micah had forgotten the tattoo. Like her father, Gabby could not die.
Micah’s eyes pinched into thin, greedy slants. In all his fantasizing, he’d never even considered immortality. If the quill pen could grant eternal life, not only could he own the world, no one and nothing could ever take it away. He’d be invincible!
“Do you think it would work for me too?” he asked, his eyes digging hungrily into hers. “Do you think the pen will repeat a spell?”
She ignored his question. “We have to prove it.”
He looked at her blankly. “Prove what?”
“Our theory. This is huge, Micah, and I want to understand it.” She pointed to her tattoo. “Why did this happen? And what does it mean?”
He shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t fancy testing your immortality only to find out we were wrong.”
“We don’t have to try anything dangerous. I just want to see the pen work again.”
“You think it will answer those questions?”
“It might answer something.” Her face was both eager and cautious.
“Okay. What should we write?”
“I don’t know yet. Do you have the pen with you?”
“Then we’ll think as we walk.” She pushed aside the mosquito netting and climbed out the open window.
Gabby was as fleet of foot as he. The sun hadn’t yet risen before they’d retrieved the pen and returned halfway through the swamp, pausing beneath the safety of the trees.
“Any ideas?” Micah asked.
“Yes.” Gabby looked at him steadily. “I want money.”
Micah lifted his eyebrows in surprise.
“Not for myself,” she specified. “For my pa. Just enough to settle the account at your father’s store. Now that Mrs. Crenshaw’s table burned—” She let the thought hang.
“Is that what this is about? Gabby, I’ll gladly lend you money. I have enough to—”
She stopped him. “No. It’s a practical, safe request. I want to see it happen.”
He nodded and handed her the pen and paper. But when she poised to write, her hand lingered over the page. And began to tremble. Looking up, Micah saw the uneasiness in her eyes. “I don’t know if I dare,” she whispered.
“I’ll do it.” He took the pen and bit his lip, considering his words carefully. Gabby’s idea was a good one, but she thought too small. If they were going to test the pen, they might as well go big. He’d put it to a real test. With a smug smile, he spoke the words as he formed them on the page. “I want enough gold and silver to make this town—to make my father—take notice. And I want it here. Now.”
Gabby’s eyes widened in horror. “Micah,” she whispered, “what have you done?”
The answer began as a stirring in the treetops, a soft murmur of leaves awakening with the first touch of the sun. The children watched in anxious fascination as the breeze began to swirl, gently at first, then with more force, directing a twist of golden leaves about their feet. The quiet rustle soon turned to the clink of coins. The wind rose in violence, buffeting them, snatching at their hair and clothing, catching them in a sparkling cyclone of precious metal.
Gabby screamed. Bent double, Micah clutched her in a death grip, bracing them against the brilliant onslaught.
Then the storm let loose, bursting upon them in all its fury, pelting them with a brutal torrent of coins. They struck their heads, bruised their skin, encased their feet. All that could be heard over the furious rush of air was the pouring down of gold and silver. The children were helpless against the pen’s power.
When the wind had deposited its full burden, it left as abruptly as it came, snaking away to writhe among the trees.
“Gabby, are you all right?” Micah kicked away the heavy pile of wealth that ensnared them to their waists. The girl sank onto the extravagant carpet, her eyes and mouth agape.
With the danger past, Micah let out a whoop. “We’re rich, Gabby!” He flung glittering handfuls into the air. “Rich enough to buy our way out of this town!” Every footfall sang with the musical clink of money. He fell onto his back, laughing, fanning his arms and legs through the fluid treasure.
Gabby sat immobile, stunned into silence.
A last handful of leaves drifted onto their heads along with a single, torn scrap of paper. Gabby picked it up, scanned it, and met Micah’s eyes. “The money came from the bank,” she announced. “Mr. DeWitt’s bank.”
“What?” Micah lurched to a sitting position.
She flung the paper at him. “You wanted the town to take notice,” she snapped. “When the vault holding all their money turns up empty, they’ll notice all right.”
Micah gaped at the note. It was torn from Mr. DeWitt’s receipt book with his signature clearly scrawled across one corner. “No!” He met Gabby’s eyes as the realization sank in. “No, no, no, no!”
“We can’t keep it, Micah. It’s not ours.”
His eyes raked over the pile of riches, reluctant to relinquish his claim. “But, what do we do with it?”
She rose to her feet. “I don’t know. But if we get caught, we’re going to be in so much trouble.”
He sighed. “Why can’t the pen just obey us for once without creating any complications?”
“Because it’s evil, Micah. We can’t manipulate it. I see that now.”
“It can’t be evil,” he insisted. “It granted you eternal life, didn’t it?”
“But at what cost?”
“There is no cost. You’re going to live forever.”
“I’ve been thinking about that,” she said quietly. “Am I going to outlive my friends? My mother? My husband and children?”
“Yes!” he burst out. Didn’t she understand her good fortune?
Her voice was brittle. “Micah, if I outlive everyone I love, think about how many people I will have to watch die. Think who I’ll have to live without—forever.”
He paused, and she gave him time to consider.
“Maybe I won’t even grow to adulthood. Maybe I’m frozen at twelve years old.” Her eyes burned into his. Above them, the branches had returned to an unnatural stillness.
“Will people treat me differently? Will I have to keep moving? Will I be able to make friends? Will I—will I outlive the end of the world?” Her voice rose pleadingly. “Micah, what’s going to happen to me?”
He shook his head. “I—I don’t know.” His mind was just beginning to grapple with the difficulties she had recognized so quickly. “Your father must ask those same questions. I guess by keeping his secret, he’s been protecting you all these years.”
Silence fell between them. A hideous, monstrous silence that devoured the last of his enthusiasm.
“Micah, you need to destroy the pen.” Gabby’s earnest words slapped him out of his reverie.
His eyes popped open wide. “Destroy it! Are you insane?” He’d begun to pin his hopes to it, to depend on it. It was the source of strength he needed to stand up to his father.
“It’s too dangerous. Too unpredictable. Every time you write something, consequences evolve that we could never dream of.”
“My pen didn’t cause your father’s secret,” he protested. “It happened long before I found the feather.”
“Granted, but it spread the curse to me. And there have been other consequences.”
“That’s not true!”
“Yes, it is. Micah, I read the journal. When all those bonnets appeared, you had to spend a day selling them.”
“That was only because my father learned I skipped out on work.”
“But it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t used the pen,” she countered.
“He would have come up with something else.”
“Fine. What about the next time? The luncheon. Because you wrote what you did, the captain and the widow have severed a lifelong friendship. Then your father nearly died after he got kicked in the head by a horse. We’re soon to be wanted for bank robbery. And the tattoo? We can’t even comprehend the magnitude! Don’t you see, Micah? Consequences follow every time.”
He chose not to mention the scrap of smoldering paper beside the widow’s burn pile.
“We’ve underestimated it,” she prompted. “This…power…is beyond our understanding.”
An abrupt vision of Sanjay fishing on the edge of the lake sideswiped Micah, along with the memory of his cautious wisdom. “No, Micah,” the man had said, “I don’t think I would want to take chances with something I didn’t understand.”
Reluctantly, Micah found himself agreeing.
Gabby stared at him a long time. “Micah, this is too treacherous to tamper with. Please,” she pleaded. “Destroy the pen.”
Dawn was glowing through the trees and painting the woods pink. He spread his hands and looked up into her earnest face.