Casting Shadows The Magicsmith Book 4 by L.R. Braden Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Children are disappearing.
With Purity growing in political power and bigotry on the rise across the Realms, Alex’s short-term goals are to stay under the PTF's radar and as far from the fae Courts as she can. But her plans go up in smoke when May, the younger sister of her good friend Emma, goes missing.
The fae are involved.
Alex will do everything she can to find May, but to mount a rescue she'll have to avoid PTF raids, conquer old ghosts, and risk coming face to face with her fae grandfather again.
War is coming.
Lines are being drawn. No one is safe. To survive, Alex will have to choose a side.
Alex is screwed. She’s due at the fae Court of Enchantment in less than twenty-four hours, but she’s not even close to being ready. Her job is hanging by a fraying thread. There’s a new vampire master in town. And several of her werewolf friends have been captured by the Paranatural Task Force.
She’s their best chance for release before the full moon reveals their secret, but the Lord of Enchantment is not someone you keep waiting—even when he happens to be your grandfather. All Alex can do is call in a favor, hope to hell she can survive the plots of the fae court, and hightail it home to salvage her life.
One mistake at court could change everything . . . .
“Original and riveting.”—Book Likes Blog on A Drop of Magic, Book One of The Magicsmith series
“Great plot. Lovable characters. Heart-pounding action.”—Lauren Davis, Netgalley Reviewer on A Drop of Magic
“A great story of murder, mystery . . . and well-developed characters.”—Margie Hager, Netgalley Reviewer on A Drop of Magic
“A Drop of Magic is a damned fun and original read, with sass, action, hot men, and a whole lot of magic.” —Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of the Diamond City Magic, Magicfall, and Horngate Witches series
Deeper into the shadows. . .
The paranatural community isn’t done with Alex. She’s been summoned to the fae court, and she's got her hands full trying to prepare. But her date with the fae will have to wait. There’s been a death at the gallery, and the man she hoped would be a part of her future is the prime suspect.
Bitter enemies pull her into the middle of a paranatural war for territory that has her dodging police, swords, teeth, and claws—not to mention the truth. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she uncovers, and the less certain she is about the innocence of the one man she wanted to trust.
She thought she was done with murder and monsters, but she’ll have to enter the belly of the beast if she hopes to save her friend.
The war isn’t over . . .
With the world clinging to a fragile peace forced on the Fae by humanity after the Faerie Wars, metalsmith Alex Blackwood is plunged into the world of the half-fae who traffick in illegal magical artifacts. Her best friend’s murder and his cryptic last message place her in the crosshairs of a scheme to reignite the decade-old war between humans and fae.
Worse, violent attacks against her and the arrival of a fae knight on a mission force Alex to face a devastating revelation of who and what she is. To catch a killer, retrieve a dangerous artifact, and stop a war, Alex will have to accept that she’s an unregistered fae “halfer” with a unique magical talent—a talent that would change everything she believes about her past, her art, and her future.
Her world is crumbling around her, and Alex will have to decide who to trust if she and the world are going to survive.
“A Drop of Magic is a damned fun and original read, with sass, action, hot men, and a whole lot of magic.” —Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of the Diamond City Magic, Magicfall, and Horngate Witches series
Born and raised in Colorado, award-winning author L. R. BRADEN makes her home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her wonderful husband, precocious daughter, and psychotic cat. With degrees in both English literature and metalsmithing, she splits her time between writing and art.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Talking about myself is probably my least favorite pastime, but here goes.
I’m a creative, meaning I’m someone who is only truly happy when I am creating something. I’ve tested this theory a few times over the years by taking breaks from my various endeavors. Invariably, after a few weeks of not producing anything, I start to get grumpy and depressed. The curious thing I found though, is that it didn’t really matter *what* I created so long as I was making something. Therefore, I’ve spent a good deal of time on a wide variety of projects, including producing graphic assets for video games, weaving chainmail from ancient patterns for modern jewelry, producing marketing images for businesses, and eventually building worlds from words for public consumption.
For me, the evolution from reader to writer was quite organic. I’ve spent my whole life with either my nose buried in a book or hunched over a drawing pad. When I got to college, I didn’t know what to study, so I just kept reading and drawing. As a result, I eventually graduated with degrees in both literature and studio art. I spent the next few years traveling, working, and trying to figure out who I wanted to be. All the while, I kept reading and creating. Then, one day, while I was absorbed in a particularly engrossing book, I realized that for all the hundreds, maybe thousands of books that I’d read, I’d never seen any of the stories that were in my own head. If I loved to read about the worlds and characters other people had created, perhaps other people could get the same pleasure from experiencing the worlds and characters I created. So, without any idea if I could, and with no formal training in creative writing, I sat down at my computer and started to write. The book that came out was A Drop of Magic, which in its first year became both a bestseller and an award-winner, and the reviews have been enough for me to say with certainty, “Yes, people are enjoying what I created.” It’s the best feeling in the world.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
According to most people . . . pretty much everything. But one thing that often catches people by surprise and makes me stand out is that I design and create my own chainmail jewelry. It started as a hobby when I was in college. I majored in metalsmithing, and for one of my projects (an articulated silver glove) I needed a section of basic chainmail. So I poked around online, found some tutorials, and taught myself how to weave European 4-in-1. After that, I found more weaves and made more complex patterns. Now I make and sell my creations in an etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WimsiDesign. I’m still learning new weaves and coming up with new combinations all the time. Lots of people think I’m insane for staring at something so small and so complicated for so long, but I find it relaxing. Kind of like knitting, but with hundreds of tiny metal rings.
Where were you bornand/or where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Colorado. My parents were from opposite sides of the country and met here in the middle when they were both stationed at Fort Carson. They fell in love with the scenery and never left. I’ve lived in a bunch of different cities, but they were all along the Rocky Mountain Front Range, where I’ve spent many days hiking the trails and exploring the backcountry.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Well that’s depressing, but I’d spend it with my family, making as many good memories as possible. I’d pack a picnic, go for a bike ride, play a board game, and laugh as much as I could. I’d also write a series of letters for my daughter to open on each of her upcoming birthdays for the next decade.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I love to read, play video games and board games, and go for hikes or bike rides. And of course, all those things are better when I get to do them with my family!
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Introverted. Intelligent. Perfectionist. Critical. Creative.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess I didn’t really consider myself a writer until I started getting positive feedback on my first book. Before that, I might mention that I’d written a book as a side note when people asked me what I did, but it wasn’t until that first book was published that I started proudly proclaiming that I was a writer.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I’m not sure about a movie, but I think the Magicsmith series would make an excellent television show.
What is your favorite childhood book?
Hands down, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Suess. I can recite the whole thing from memory.
Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
My family. Without their support, I never would have made it this far. Seems only fair I give them a piece of the glory.
Is there any writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Bradon Sanderson. I love the unique worlds and magic systems he creates, and I’d love to get a look at his brainstorming process.
What inspired you to write this book?
Casting Shadows is all about the buildup of stress and conflict that comes from people focusing on what makes us different rather than ways we are the same—something I think it’s important for us all to keep in mind these days, and always. In my books, those differences are shown through peoples’ abilities rather than the color of their skin or the place they were born. The base conflict, humans vs fae, was set up from the very beginning, but this book also explores the treatment of paranaturals, the people trapped in between those two extremes. They are neither human nor fae, and so are vulnerable to both sides. All this is building up to my next book, where my main character will use her unique position to try to build bridges of communication between these groups in an effort to foster understanding and cooperation before it’s too late.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I currently have two new books in the works.
The first is book 5 in the Magicsmith series and will be the culmination of Alex’s story so far. She’ll have to face some hard truths and put into practice all the lessons she’s learned up to this point. This book will mark a turning point in the series. It is the climax of the original character arc I designed for Alex when I started writing book 1, A Drop of Magic. It will also be the kick-off for the next overarching story arc and set up Alex’s new status quo.
The second book I’m currently working on is a spin-off novel set in Alex’s world following a new main character who will be briefly introduced in The Magicsmith Book 5. This offshoot will be published between books 5 and 6 of the Magicsmith series, and will hopefully develop into further novels depending on how it is received.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters inCasting Shadows?
The main character, Alex, recently discovered she’s part fae, but is keeping it secret from the authorities. A good plan considering the rising persecution those of mixed descent are experiencing. Her good friend Emma recently registered as a practitioner (a human who can perform magic) and has since been disowned by her mother, had her workplace vandalized, and blames herself for the abduction of her little sister--the catalyst that kicks off the story.
Alex’s romantic interest, James, plays a greater role in this book as Alex opens up more about both her hopes and her fears for the future.
This book also explores the past of one of Alex’s enigmatic sidekicks, Chase, a fae who can change shape between human and a small gray cat.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
My favorite part of this book is probably the interaction between Chase and Haru, who have a mountain of unresolved issues between them centered around tragedy and abandonment--both issues Alex also struggles with. I found their sub-plot engaging both because they’re snarky characters who tend toward cutting remarks, and because of the parallels I could draw between Chase and Alex regarding the merits of confronting and moving on from your past. Their story was both a good echo of the lessons Alex was learning and provided a number of entertaining exchanges.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
There’s a character in Casting Shadows named Morgan who has the ability to walk into a shadow and walk out of any other shadow in the world, thereby traveling great distances in only a few short steps. I would love to spend the day with her, traveling all over the world. With her help, I could cross every country off my bucket list in a day!
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
For the most part I’ve got a pretty good handle on my stories. Sometimes scenes move around, and sometimes they take me in unexpected directions, but I always find my way back to somewhere near where I thought I’d be. The one place where my characters get free reign is in dialogue. Sometimes while I’m writing, I’ll find my characters have started chatting, or arguing, or they’ve gone off on some tangent, and I have trouble figuring out how to get them back on track.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
What was your hardest scene to write?
The hardest scene for me to write in this book was Alex’s naming trial. I needed to balance having her revisit events from her past, and therefore from the three previous books, without the encounters becoming boring or repetitive for the readers who may have just read those stories. I also had to make significant challenges for Alex to overcome while keeping her success believable. I ended up writing the entire ordeal twice (not including smaller re-writes), with her facing different challenges each time.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I loved finding ways to make the sup-plots of the secondary characters mirror issues that the main character, Alex, was dealing with. For example, Jynx and Ava deciding to get married despite the fact that one is immortal and the other isn’t played right into Alex’s worries about the future of her own relationship. And Chase’s difficulty in working with Haru because he can’t let go of the past reflected Alex’s trial, which forced her to revisit and overcome her own ghosts.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
After the publication of my first book I had a contract, a deadline, and people writing to tell me they were eager to read my next book, asking when it would be out, telling me to write faster. It was a wonderful feeling, but also very stressful. So the biggest difference to my writing process has been speeding it up. My first book took years to polish and revise. Now, the turn-around for my books is only a couple of months from start to finish. Casting Shadows is the fourth book in my Magicsmith series, and it was published exactly one year after the release of my very first book, A Drop of Magic. That’s four books in one year!
What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?
I think the urban fantasy genre is wonderful because it combines the magic and imagination of traditional fantasy with the fast-paced, action-oriented storytelling of other genres like adventure, suspense, or mystery. I also enjoy the way it melds the familiar and the impossible to create worlds we can almost believe are our own.
Do you see writing as a career?
More and more as time goes on. When I first started writing it was just a hobby, and in some regards a test to see if I could do it. I never wrote with the intention of becoming rich and famous (not that I’d complain if that happened). Now that I’ve got contracts, deadlines, and people asking me, “When will the next book be out?” writing feels much more like a job. It’s a job I love, which is awesome, but I have to approach it with a different attitude than I did in the beginning. I can’t just write “when I feel like it.”
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
Absolutely! I’ve had to slow down now that so much of my time is taken up with reading and revising my own work, but I still manage a few books a month. I mostly read fantasy in all its sub-genres. I also like science fiction and young adult, and I read lots and lots of children’s books with my daughter. I’ll read any book so long as the story or topic holds my interest.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
Definitely silence. I can manage with ambient noise okay if I have to, but people talking (or singing in the case of music) destroys my concentration.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I’ve usually got one book in revision and editing at the same time I’m writing the early drafts of another. I also work on the pre-writing for future stories almost constantly, so even when I’m writing one story I’ll be making notes for several others. I try never to work on more than one first draft at a time.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
Books have brought joy to me throughout my life. I wanted to give that joy to other readers. If even one person enjoyed reading one of my books—which from the reviews I think it’s safe to say is true—then I absolutely made the right decision in becoming an author.
Describe your writing style.
I generally have an idea of what scene or scenes I hope to write when I sit down at my computer. Then I just start typing and see where I end up. Sometimes everything goes smoothly and I hammer out scene after scene and I love them all. Sometimes I agonize over a single scene for hours and never seem to make any progress. Either way, I let the story shift and change as I write because sometimes things don’t come together until I’m mucking about in the details.
What are you currently reading? The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire.
What makes a good story?
There are hundreds of books and courses trying to answer this question, but in a nutshell I’d say: Compelling and believable characters faced with interesting challenges, both inside and out.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
Once I come up with the idea for a story, I spend some time rolling it around in my head. If it sticks around, I jot down notes of important factors, characters, plot events, etc. Since I’m usually in the middle of another project, those notes often sit around for a long time before I can get back to them.
When I’m ready to start working on the project, I make an outline of where I think the story will go and major landmarks along the way. Sometimes I mark where I think chapter or section breaks will be, but those often move around after I’ve finished the first draft. Then I flesh out the main characters and figure out how they fit together and interact. I usually make files for each including backstory, physical appearance, personality traits, etc.
By the time I actually start writing, I’ve got many pages of notes. Then I sit down and write the first draft, beginning to end. I can’t say I never go back and edit a previous section, but I try not to. If I find something that needs to be changed, I make a note about it and move on.
After the first draft is done, I go back and address any major overhauls I made note of. Then I set it aside for a bit so I can come at it again with fresh eyes (assuming I don’t have a deadline looming over me). After that it’s all about revisions and fine-tuning.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I’d say the most common trap for an aspiring writer is how easy it is to get bogged down and lose your forward momentum. There are a million little things that a writer needs to focus on, but the trick is knowing when to move on. It’s possible to spend a lifetime doing the research for a book, building your world in infinite detail, or developing your characters’ backstories to the point that they feel like real people. It’s very easy to get lost in the weeds at this stage and never get the the actual *writing*.
Then, once you do start writing, it’s easy to agonize over what you’ve put down, to go back and tweak things over and over. Again, this halts your forward momentum. You can spend hours a day working on your manuscript without making any actual progress. Ultimately, I think that’s what separates aspiring writers from authors. Aspiring writers have ideas, but authors also have follow-through.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try my best to deliver a story readers will enjoy. If people like a certain kind of story, they will read others like it, and every story will have original aspects just because every writer is different.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
“Don’t obsess.” But I wouldn’t listen.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
At this point it takes me five to six months to write a book that’s good enough to turn over to my editor. Then there’s about another six months while we go back and forth on revisions and proofs and such before the book is actually published. So from start to finish, it takes about a year.
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