“There should not be a sheet of cream-colored paper, clean save a single line in a long, trailing hand: Burn before reading.
Red likes to feel. It is a fetish. Now she feels fear. And eagerness.
She was right.”
– This Is How You Lose The Time War, Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Genre: Sci-Fi, Post-Apocalyptic
Categories: F/F, time travel
Description: A post-apocalyptic time travel novel written in a swapping-point-of-view style, featuring letters between the protagonists. Red and Blue are operatives from different factions of time travelling organizations trying to manipulate the worlds and their timelines to their own ends. They’re both the best at what they do, and recognize each other’s skill—leading to them starting to secretly, covertly exchange letters, and slowly start to care about each other. Obviously, that has consequences.
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?
[Author’s Notes / Story Q&A]
Thank you so much, everyone, for coming along with me for A Little Night Magic, whether you joined in or just read. It was enormous fun to write, and I hope you all enjoyed reading it as well.
The final length of this story was 53,200 words (around 125 pages in gdocs)! Once again, we managed to pull off NaNo in October! If and when you want to reread it, you’ll be able to find this story linked from my Interactive Fiction page. Feel free to check out some older interactive stories there too!
If you enjoyed the story and are looking for ways to support me and my work, you can learn more about and pick up my books over here. Read some already? Leaving a good rating or review on Goodreads or Amazon can make all the difference. I’ve also got a tip jar over at Ko-Fi if you’d like to buy me a drink! And please, feel free to follow me on social media to see what I’m up to: Personal Twitter and Book Twitter.
Okay, business aside—let’s do a story Q&A! Feel free to ask me anything you want about the story, whether it’s about what my writing process was, how I got the idea for certain events or characters, things people may have suspected but not had confirmed, other ‘routes’, etc. Wonder what would have happened if you’d done X instead of Y? Ask it here! (Lurkers are totally allowed to ask too, you don’t need to have participated to ask!).
Here’s some starting information: I got the initial idea for this after moving into a new apartment. In the elevator room in the lowest basement, I kept finding dead moths, and at one point I had a conversation with the (perfectly lovely and not-possessed) janitor, who didn’t seem to notice she was mopping up dead bugs instead of leaves. After that, when a moth got into our apartment and got hunted by one of our cats, I kept thinking, what if.
Thank you once again… and happy Halloween!
[Ask Me Some Questions, I’ll Tell You No Lies]
[Completed parts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Day 26 | Day 27 | Day 28 | Day 29 | Day 30 | Epilogue]
“Be reasonable, auntie,” Viv said, with some impatience, into the phone. “I don’t see how telling you that I’d pay you back for the cost of breaking lease is ‘throwing your gift back in your face’.”
Aunt Bethany let out an enraged, tea-kettle sound. “You need the place I rented for you! That’s why I rented it! Do you really think that moving in with a partner within two weeks is a good idea?!”
Normally, Viv would say no. She’d say it both because it was common sense, and because she’d spent her entire life bowing to what her aunt insisted was the right thing to do.
But after the last week? She found herself hard-pressed to be intimidated by her overbearing aunt. “Sure, it’s fine,” she said. “We’re good with it. And my partner really loves the cats.”
“You can’t do this to me,” Aunt Beth groaned.
[Please read the instructions before jumping in!]
Viv drew a deep breath. She couldn’t second guess this. From everything she’d heard, she was the only one who could change what these fae lords might do to her friends.
“Hey! Excuse me, hello!” Her voice only trembled a little as she shouted, drawing everyone’s attention to where she was floating. “Can someone help pull me down there, I’m stuck, but I think I can help clear things up?”
For a long moment, the group—fae and demon alike—just stared at her. Varsha let out a soft, mortified wheeze on the branch next to her and slithered a bit more under cover.
“Very well, miss,” the fae lady said finally, and beckoned with one crooked finger. Viv felt something seize her. It wrapped around her carefully but firmly—there was no escaping this invisible grasp—and pulled her down to everyone else’s height. “Why were you floating?”
“We all float down here? I don’t know, I was just, it sort of happened. Side effect,” Viv babbled. She drew a deep breath and tried to center herself. “So, hey, yes, I’m Thysania’s wife. Hi. That happened, and I have seen everything here, and you were saying that humans couldn’t lie to you?”
[Please read the instructions before jumping in!]
Viv closed her eyes briefly, screwing her courage to the sticking point. She didn’t want to kill someone, but a war would only cause more suffering and death. Even if she actually believed that it would only be between the fae and demons, lots of people would still die, and be tortured, and who knew what.
And she didn’t believe war would just impact those two groups. Wars had a way of growing, and when it was between realms—and between people known to make deals and settle debts with all kinds of other creatures—it would only grow bigger, wider, worse.
She opened her eyes and finished the incantation for her lightning spell.
Electricity rained down from her fingers, sparking through her almost painfully, and hit that darkest shadow square on.
The shadow woman screamed, the sound high and thin and surprised—she had been caught totally off guard in this moment, not expecting a counter-attack from above from someone who had been drowned in her darkness. The shadows that she was casting over them, that sticky, inky blackness that had blinded Viv—all were banished, and the area once more flooded entirely with light.