Title-Into the Fire
Series-Mieshka Files Book # 1
Publication Date- March 23, 2013
Approximately 56000 words
"I've got magic?"
"I'm afraid so."
Secure under its Mage-powered shield, Lyarne ignores the war that has taken the rest of the country.
Inside its borders, refugees are first pitied, then assimilated.
Mieshka knows this well. Coping with the loss of her mother and the grief of her father, she keeps her head down at school and maintains a neutral stance with her new Lyarnese friend.
Things change when she meets the Fire Mage. There's a lot more to this city—and herself—than she could imagine.
And Lyarne's shield is not as impenetrable as the city would believe…
Aiden, the Fire Mage, has drawn a transfer mark on Mieshka’s hand to help her get used to magic. It leeches off of any nearby magical sources.This is her first time in the Underground--the city that is buried underneath her city.
She’d wondered when Jo would bring that up. Dusty naked bulbs strung along a bundle of wire at the top left corner of the brick-and-concrete tunnel. Two pipes ran along the floor, also to the left. A leaking joint in the smaller one had resolved any unasked questions about Underground plumbing. Mieshka tried not to think about the larger one.
“Yeah. Guns.” Except for the tread of their boots and the click of Jo’s mint, the tunnel was quiet. “I don’t know why. My mom was shot, but…”
Her throat clenched around the sore topic. She’d read somewhere that muscles clenched up around injuries. She suspected something similar happened in the mind.
The mint stopped clicking. Jo stared ahead, eyes unreadable. Her jaw muscles tensed.
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
Mieshka heard that a lot.
Silence thickened, each carefully not looking at the other. The tunnel was full of echoes. Some lights hummed in their sockets.
“So, Meese, huh?”
The tunnel shifted, angled down, and ended in a dim doorway. A draft drifted past her cheek.
“City’s getting close,” Jo said.
They entered an old shopping mall. The lights and wire stretched along the right wall. They disappeared into the distance, gleaming off empty display windows. It was cavernous. The lights only lit a very small portion. The rest of the space was lost in darkness.
Mieshka clicked on her flashlight and flicked it left. Their path was edged by a grimy guard rail. Across a shadowy chasm, a second path hugged the opposite side. Escalators descended into the gap, dusty, dark, and dead. On the floor below, a vacant concierge advertised a long expired sale.
Mieshka and Jo followed the string of lights to the right. The occasional mannequin loomed inside shop displays, their clothes long stripped. The quiet was palpable, and smothered Mieshka’s senses like a pillow.
She tried not to think of how far down they were.
They began to hear things. Sounds. Echoes. Mieshka gripped her flashlight hard again, wide eyes trying to pierce the dark. Jo noticed.
“Spooked? It’s just the city. Weird acoustics in here.”
Mieshka nodded. Still, she didn’t linger.
Eventually, the middle chasm ended, and the two opposing paths angled together into a foyer. Four large doors were boarded with plywood. There was nowhere else to go.
Jo held one open for her, revealing a sidewalk on the other side. Mieshka stepped out into the city under the city.
It was a normal, night-time street. An eclectic mix of buildings crowded either side; the oldest were made with brick and wore decorated trims; the mall they had left was an anachronism amongst the century-old community. Bright storefront displays cast squares of light onto the sidewalk, mixing with the diffused glow of streetlights.
A displaced hydro pole stood in the middle of the street, the concrete around its base newer than the road. Mieshka looked up, and her mouth went slack.
Much like the spaceship’s underground hangar, this underground city had a framework to support its roof. It was a hybrid of steel and timber beams, crossing the street midway between the second and third floors of the buildings. The beams rose into shadow. Mieshka couldn’t see the ceiling.
She turned to Jo. “How far—”
“Ten storeys in some places. Here it’s more like five, ground to ceiling.”
Jo’s face was shadowed by the overhang of the mall. Mieshka toed the curb, her eyes following the line of hydro poles down the street.
“Do people drive down here?”
“No. Carbon monoxide isn’t so good. Lots of bikes, though.”
Shops lined the street: groceries, DVDs, clothes. Across was a café, its brickwork a black and red checkerboard pattern. People moved inside. She smelled fresh baking and coffee.
If it weren’t for the ceiling and the antiquated buildings, Mieshka could easily have believed she was in a less-populated section of Lyarne. There was even a draft.
“How big is it?”
“If you include all the outlying tunnels? Big. It’s quite elongated, but the Core itself is roughly seven square blocks. There are other sections—residential, mainly—around the Core: Eastside, Westside, and Southside. We entered near Westside.”
Before the mall, the tunnel had branched several times. Most of those arms had looked rather well-used.
Jo stepped onto the street. “There’s about half a million people down here.”
Mieshka followed. The street curved away from them to the right. The mall’s exterior ended with the city block. Shops had moved into its prime retail space. Farther down, she spotted a cathedral. A light burned outside its door. Supports encircled its spire.
“Let’s eat. This petty cash is burning my pocket.”
They drifted more than walked, Jo quietly letting Mieshka take the lead. A number of people greeted Jo, giving Mieshka curious looks as they passed. Mieshka intuited that she must be well-known down here. After a few blocks, Jo turned her down a cobbled side street. The support beams swooped lower, hung with naked bulbs. The brickwork on either side was black with age. How old had this place been before it was buried?
Jo led her into a café parked on the corner of an intersecting alley. Soon, Mieshka found herself staring out from a lace-curtained window, her shoulder pressed to the glass. Jo sat across from her. A pot of green tea sat between them, with promises of cake to come.
“You’ve been quieter than I expected,” Jo said.
Rather than pester Jo for answers, Mieshka had been figuring out the mechanics behind the place for herself. She stared at the writing on the café’s window.
“There’s a lot more Chinese writing than in Uptown.” She’d been noticing it for a while.
Jo also glanced at the window.
“There’s a lot more Chinese down here. Higher density, anyway. Bit of a racial thing.”
Jo’s chair creaked as she tipped it back.
“The Chinese were the first to be refused housing. Other minorities followed. It makes sense that there’s a large group down here.”
“Why were they refused?”
Jo didn’t answer. Mieshka tried not to move under her stare.
“Your guess is as good as mine. I wouldn’t bring it up down here, though. Bit of a sore topic. Ah,” she said, her eyes lifting up to look behind Mieshka. “I was wondering if he’d show.”
Mieshka looked behind her. The man by the doorway was about as tall as Mieshka, dressed in black, and had a wide-brimmed hat that put shadows onto his face. He looked Chinese.
Mieshka hoped he hadn’t heard their conversation.
“Long time no see, Joanne.”
Joanne? Mieshka hid a smile. As the man drew closer, that smile faded. The back of her hand tingled. Mieshka tensed like she’d seen a gun.
“Not long enough.” Jo’s voice had teeth.
“You wound me.”
“As I recall, we were both wounded last time.”
“An accurate recollection.”
Mieshka felt she was missing part of the conversation. She didn’t have time to dwell on it: her attention was pulled to the edge of her senses, where she’d felt the fire before.
“Is that a transfer sigil?”
Mieshka blinked. He’d come closer while she’d looked away. He stared at the mark.
“It is.” Jo’s voice was vaguely triumphant. “And you can tell your boss that, too.”
“She’s new, isn’t she? What is your name?”
Mieshka didn’t want to tell him. The energy through the mark felt taut, like the spring of a trap. She forced herself to stay calm.
“I don’t believe you’ve told me yours, yet.”
His expression was unreadable. After a moment, he held out his hand.
When they shook, it felt like a weight dropped into place.
“A pleasure to meet you,” he said. “Mind the tea.”
She looked back at her cup. The liquid spilled above the brim, floating in the air.
She let go of his hand. It fell back with a soft plop.
“Are you the Water Mage?”
Jo snorted into her drink.
Roger looked amused. “No. I’m her apprentice. I assume you are Aiden’s?”
Was he the water elemental Chris had talked about? Her jaw tensed. She found herself nodding. He seemed friendly enough now, but it was clear he and Jo had a history.
“That explains the rumours, then.”
Rumours? There were rumours about her?
“Word spreads awfully quick down here,” Jo commented dryly.
Mieshka tried not to look worried.
“I expect we will be seeing more of each other, Mieshka.” With a tip of his hat, he left. He waved through the window as he passed.
Jo and Mieshka watched the transfer mark. They did not speak until the glow had gone.
“So you’ve decided? You’ll be his apprentice?”
“Maybe. What did you mean by ‘wound’?”
Jo took a sip of her tea. “He likes to pick fights.”
Perhaps he wasn’t as amiable as he seemed. Mieshka rethought his last words to her. She decided that she didn’t particularly want to see more of him.
A moment later, the cake came.
Our Author Interview
What would you have done differently if you were the main character of your book?
Given the circumstances and stress, I’ve tried to imagine what I’d do in Mieshka’s shoes. I think that, had Mom died recently, I doubt I would have been much use in school. I would have tried to keep the stiff upper lip attitude, just like she has, but Mieshka has a lot more strength than I do. If I were her, I would have broken down a long time ago.
What was your inspiration behind this book?
This is going to sound a bit silly. I used to role-play with my friends, and our character used an elemental base just like in the book. I’ve modified it for the story, but it’s there. I’m also an avid fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender and, while I was a bit disappointed about The Legend of Korra, I still felt rather deprived when I flew through every episode that existed. I needed to tell my own elemental story, and Mieshka was raring to go.
Why did you become a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be one, even as a little girl. I guess that I’m just taking that step now. Any of you reading this now, if you ever want to be something, go and make that step! It’s worth it!
As a reader and writer I think it is important to get to know your fans and make a connection with them as an author who takes the extra step to hear what their fans think and want in their continued writing is continued success and key to selling more books. Do you agree with that?
I do and I don’t. I would really, really love to get to know my fans. I am determined to connect and make myself available, and I think it is a key part of success. A lot of writer advice out there says to “know your audience”, and what better way to do so than to interact with them?
But six years of working customer service have made me a bit leery to taking advice. I worry that my work might end up more like fanfiction than mine, if you get my drift. It’s important to connect with people. Very, very important. I enjoy doing so. But I feel that if I got too involved, people might get offended when/if the story didn’t go the way they wanted.
Maybe I’ve watched Misery once too many.
Do you have a favorite author or authors?
Oh, goodness yes! Guy Gavriel Kay, Shirley Jackson, Holly Black, Peter S. Beagle, Cherie Priest, Charles de Lint, and Lindsay Buroker, just to name a few.
Do you like to write your books in a continuing series?
Depends on the book. I’m writing for a series right now (I’ve got two sequels planned, so far. And two spin-offs), but I have a couple of ideas for novels that feel like they should be finished in one book. One long book, but just one book.
If you could date any character from any book, who would it be and why?
Em. Hrm. A slightly younger Dean Winchester? Hehe. However, I’ve only seen him on TV.
I think I’d go for Mike Havel from S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series. He’s a strong leader, practical, doesn’t take crap from anyone. We also have a similar taste in humour.
His wife would kill me, though. Literally. With a sword.
What kinds of books do you like to read in your spare time?
All kinds. I’m currently going through Religion and its Monsters and The Dresden Files simultaneously. I lean toward anything under the fantasy umbrella, preferring a healthy dose of adventure or thriller in my book.
Do you cry when writing sad scenes?
I blubber more than a whale. I sniffle through it like through a weird kind of allergy season. Sometimes, I turn to ice cream and cuddle my stuffed animals.
Did you have a Cover Designer?
I use Streetlight Graphics. I also peruse Go On Write for all of his beautiful Pre-mades.
Who is your fictional boyfriend or girlfriend crush?
Eric Northman from True Blood. Or maybe just Alexander Skarsgard who plays him. Yum.
If you were able to dine and have a one on one with your favorite writer/author who would it be?
Charles de Lint. I think I’d want to get a PhD in mythology before I was comfortable having a one on one with him, though!
Do just re-read your favorite books?
I definitely re-read my favorite books. The Haunting of Hill House is sitting next to me right now, having just been references. The Last Unicorn is on its fourth or fifth round through, and I read The Lord of the Rings and all Harry Potter books six times when I was in high school.
There are favorites that I can’t re-read anymore. I’ve grown too much since I read them that I just can’t get into them anymore. The Wind Singer, The King of the Wind, Black Beauty--they shall remain forever on my shelves.
Do you ever get in a reading slump like your readers do?
Not often, but yes. Usually when I’m stressed or when I’ve read too much (it is, unfortunately, possible to read too much). I find that going for walks, listening to music, running, or doing anything to take one’s mind off it will cure the slump.
What is the funniest book you ever read?
One of the Hitchhiker’s Guides. Can’t remember which. Douglas Adams was a genius.
About the Author-
After a year spent living in South-West China, K. Gorman has returned to her life as a university student in Western Canada. During high school, she spent her days ignoring classwork to focus on reading or writing. She has been a voracious consumer of Fantasy and Science Fiction for as long as she can remember. When not reading or writing, she moonlights as a horse-drawn carriage driver, combining her love of history with her long-time passion of working with horses.
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