Reformed Mage Series

Excerpt Reveal: The Order of the Dark Rose

Good morning everyone! I hope you had a nice long weekend. I delayed my Monday post until today because of the holiday. Here’s another fun reveal day about my upcoming novel, The Order of the Dark Rose. This is still under revision but I felt it time to share it now. Artwork for the novel is still pending but it should arrive soon. So it’s a good day to share an excerpt.

Just a quick note: the book is organized a little differently so the title, The Disgraced Sniffer, is a case so the book is divided into parts. The sub-title is more like a chapter. I’ll get deeper into the book organization in another post but this should suffice for the moment. Here’s the except:

The Cursed Mage Case Files, Book 1

The Order of the Dark Rose

By P. H. Solomon

The Disgraced Sniffer

Proposition from a Stranger

Speaking with a wall never entered my mind when I rolled out of my cot that morning. Fate twisted around oddities as I strolled along the street, its name forgotten to me now. Oddities. I once knew such things like I knew magic. Everyone did. We used it in our technology. Commonplace wonders excited everyone, but few know it. Five years after talking to the strangest oddity, I know that I don’t know magic.

My desperation gripped me at the time, the door of another writing house job having been shut in my face – quite literally. I leaned against a wall and tipped my hat over my face.

“Excuse me, but could you step aside?”

The voice spoke from the wall. I jumped aside and gaped as I face the brick wall of a building like any other in Cal Rindon.

“Hey, just lean back a step either way. Don’t look so surprised, act natural. I don’t want anyone to know I’m here.” The wall spoke to me in a most casual way, the tone intelligent and alert.

“I must’ve drunk too much of something fermented incorrectly.” With a rub of my neck, I shoved my hands in my pants pockets and took a stride.

A hand grabbed my shoulder. “Hold on. You can stay. You were just leaning on me and blocked my view.”

A glance at my shoulder and I tensed to spring. The wall grew a brick-colored hand that grasped me tightly. My heart surged.

“Don’t make a scene. Calm down. Just step aside.” The arm, also brick-like and attached to the hand, pulled me aside.

I stumbled aside with a sudden numbness in my thoughts. A wall talked to me and then grabbed me. What had I imbibed the night before that? My off behavior certainly lost me that job. “Who? What are you?”

“A man like you. Haven’t you seen magic? You know, illusion?” The hand let go me and smoothed the wrinkles from my coat. “Anyway, I didn’t mean to startle you. I just need a clear view.”

“Uh, of what?”

The hand withdrew into the wall. Magic? It ran the trams and lit rooms these days. But illusion? Someone part of a wall? “That private post over there, across the street. Someone might come today that I want know more about.”

“Who are you?”

The wall sighed. “Hold on. Follow me over to that basement stairwell.”

A glance in either direction revealed the sight of the suggested destination. I hesitated.

The sound of footsteps touched my ear, heading for the stairs, then paused. “Well, aren’t you coming?” Shoe-soles clomping on the pavement resumed.

I followed, dragging my on worn shoes along the sidewalk and followed the walking wall. Curiosity gripped my imagination at the thought of taking a walk with a wall, gaining a new friend. Surely, something affected my mind that morning.

Shoes scuffed on the steps and stopped at the bottom of the stairwell. Or so I thought in my addled state of mind. A leg distended from the wall, followed by the rest of a body. I beheld a vagrant slouched in the basement stairwell of a nameless building beneath the slate gray sky in the crisp chill of late Fall that pierced my overcoat and clothing with a sudden gust of wind.

With a frown, I turned away as my face heated with embarrassment and leaned my back against the wall. I sighed as I glanced over the want-ads for writers, my singular talent being words. But both women and the writing houses wanted little to do with a pitiful fellow such as I. Best I look for a job. The paper rattled in my hands as the wind whispered along the street and stirred the actual mists rising from the sewers, mists that half and secure the streets at times. The vagrant played some trick on me, threw his voice or knew some minor beguiling spell. But I knew nothing of magic in that degree. Not that day.

“You looking for a job?” The voice of the beggar in the stairwell sounded clear in the crisp air. Not drunk and that was a wonder. Same voice

“Yes, if you must know. How’d you guess?” My back to the vagrant, I half turned my head to my shoulder as I addressed him. “How did you do that? And why?”

“Heard your stomach grumble from half a block away. And you leaned on me. No trick, at least, nothing aimed your way.”

“Hah! Did you now?” I pressed a hand to my stomach. That loud? My legs wobbled a bit since I’d only eaten a few meager bites of gruel at a charity line that morning. That last fruitless effort at a job left my stomach emptier still with my coin running thin. I sighed. A few more day jobs to earn scant coin appealed only for the food and a barren room in the building full of grasping laborers who drank, gambled their wages and brawled half the night. It was a wonder I was still alive. I carried all my needful possessions on my person regardless, since I often found my door ajar in the room searched for valuables. “What are you doing, then, if not trying to pick pockets from hiding in whatever illusion spell you used? You didn’t hear my stomach and you know nothing about me.”

“Your pants are crisply pressed but the cuffs are worn. Your shoes are shined with a thin coat of spit-and-ink. You carry your belongings in your pockets as if always on the move.” The vagrant stirred in the stairwell behind me.

Who was this odd street cat? He noticed everything about me in the spare moments I’d paused near his perch. “What of it, then?” I rolled my paper, slapped it in my other hand and turned to leave for my next stop. A position undoubtedly filled. Honestly, did I smell so much? I checked my clothing.

A jingle caught my attention from the stairwell. “I’ve a bit of corn for an easy job if you’ve a mind for it. Simple. Easy. Enough to fill your belly for a week or so.”

My consideration of the vagrant’s small purse consisted of a snatch-and-run, so low were my spirits to consider theft in that moment. But the thought skipped my mind as I peered at the figure hunched below me. Behind the smudges of dirt on his hands and face lay a keen face, hidden from casual inspection. Without a doubt, the downcast mien hid far more than a passing glance might discern about this man.

He jingled his purse again. “It’s a simple job and a sharp fellow such as yourself can perform it without trouble.”

I crossed my arms and assumed an air of command which one tried to take with street dwellers. My own stomach rumbled and betrayed my play for control of the situation. “Where’d you get that money? Steal it from someone?” I turned to go to my next employment possibility.

“Suit yourself. I’ll find another man for the job. Hope you eat tonight.” The muffled jingle of coin ceased behind me.

I drew to a sudden halt and wheeled toward him. Best hear him out. The stop for the job would wait. Likely filled anyway. “What you want done and how much?”

“I’m man with long sideburns and wearing a black overcoat will arrive in a few minutes at that private post – shop. You’ll wait in that alley until I give the signal, then you will stroll into the shop.” He lifted a finger. “Mind you, stroll into the shop.”

“Yes, stroll in, then what? Attempt a robbery? I hardly think that wise with a witness. I’m not up for illegalities.” I wasn’t interested in crime, regardless of my stray thought mere moments earlier at the noise of clinking coin. My eyes strayed along the street. The chance of a good meal for several days sounded better than starving on the street. I wasn’t close to that. Yet. I did need the money.

“Hardly that. You wait for the man to do his business. Make note of what he does and says. Once he’s finished, ask for a package for Mr. Blickens. The clerk will have it. I’ll meet you around the corner there.” The stranger pointed for the next corner in the direction I had originally intended. He spread his hands, palms up. “See? Simple. Three silvers for your time and trouble and the information about the man.”

“Who is this man? Why do you want to know about him?” A few people, bundled against the cold, strolled by and my odd benefactor slouched deeper into the stairwell.

After they passed, he looked me in the eye. “No questions. Not here. If you’re in, then head for that alley. He’ll be along in a few minutes.”

I crossed my arms again and tapped a foot. It could be trouble and more of that I didn’t need. “What’s in the package?”

He shrugged. “Useless trinkets.”

“I see.” Now I lifted a finger in warning. “There better not be city guards waiting around that corner or in the shop. I’ll tell them about you fast.”

Now it was the stranger’s turn to chuckle. “You can be sure I’m not with them, nor have anything to do with what interests them. They’ll not help me in this matter.”

I opened my mouth with more questions.

The vagrant forestalled me with a wave of his hand and the purse in his grasp. “I’m in disguise. That man might recognize me anyway. But I need the information. Are you in? If not, I’ll wait for another day.”

I clenched and unclenched my jaw a moment. “You have the claim ticket?”

He reached between the bars of the handrail and handed me that parcel identifier. I took the slip of paper and headed for the alley indicated and stood with my shoulder braced against the corner, out of sight of the street. The paper scrounged earlier in the morning hid my lower face without blocking the view of my accomplice. If this went wrong, I’d disappear down the alley without possibility of recognition. Without enough money for a tram ride or a maged steam-carriage, I’d have to walk fast and take other alleys but I didn’t intend to be caught in an illicit scheme. Months of living in my rat-infested building left me with plenty of tales of witnessed crimes committed by teams of tricksters.

My eyes strayed to the page headline: Sniffers Still in Turmoil after Accident. I scanned the article a moment until motion grabbed my attention. My newfound accomplice signaled from deep in his hole, his face barely visible but his hands pointed along the street, though no doubt hidden from view of his marked man.

I sighed and stepped onto the sidewalk and affected my best casual stroll past a tailor’s shop, then a cobbler before I reached the private post shop. I glanced at the ticket, then at the address as if confirming my location. With a nod to myself, I opened the door to the clang of a bell and entered into a small room with the counter. Various supplies and flowers which a man wishing to buy for a lady’s favor or to affix to his lapel lay in easy reach for waiting package claimants. I queued behind my man and waited for the others ahead of him to conclude their business. He did indeed wear a dark overcoat and his lamb-chop sideburns stood out from his ears distinctly. I observed his salt-and-pepper hair between his collar and his rounder hat.

So fixated was I on the stranger, I almost missed listening to the clerk as he waited on him. “How may I help you today?”

The clerk a balding man with reading glasses on the end of his bulbous nose, brushed loose hair along the side of his head and flicked his gaze at me as I strode to the counter and feigned interest in the flowers. Among the variety within the floral display was that of a rose so dark as to be almost black.

“You have a package for me, I believe.” The voice of my marked man sounded deep in the suddenly quiet little front room and carried what struck me as dangerous confidence. Besides his bushy sideburns, his pale, shaved face bore unremarkable features: a common nose, eyes dark but not piercing, his chin neither protruding nor recessed. Likewise, his cheeks appeared none too prominent nor his lips neither full nor thin. One would never remember him from a crowd. He tilted his head toward me slightly, as if to hide his plainness in embarrassment.

“Yes, your ticket, please.” The clerk wiggled his fingers in anticipation over his running list of ticket numbers that matched to his temporary bins in the backroom. He flashed a quick smile my way as if to instruct me to patience for his service.

I shifted my eyes to my own business as my mark slid a ticket onto the counter. Except it wasn’t a ticket and my averted gaze almost missed it entirely: a card with a darkened image printed on it.

The clerk covered the offered image so quickly I never glimpsed it. The balding man’s face paled in a sudden sheen of perspiration which gleamed on his head in the light of maged lamps. He ducked his head and his hands trembled as he turned from the counter. “I’ll just be a moment.” His throat worked as he swallowed and he ducked into the backroom.

I tapped my foot with a sigh. “Seems a tad slow. Maybe a little peaked, don’t you think?”

The other fellow tipped his hat toward me in the barest of greeting. “Oh, I think he’s more of the skittish type.”

Silence followed between us as a clock ticked on the wall. I returned my attention to the various other merchandise until the clerk returned, his hands still atremble as he carried three flowers in a narrow vase. One was a bright red tulise, the second a yellow caranelle and the third none other than the deep crimson rose.

The deep voiced fellow received the flowers without a word.

“I say, what variety of rose is that? Never seen one like it before.” I spoke as the man turned and I got a good look at the vase and flowers.

My erstwhile employer’s mystery man turned to go without answering the question except with another tug of his hat and the thinnest of smiles. “Good day.” The flash of his dark eyes and his tone meant I should leave him alone. He left and strode away in the opposite direction from which he’d arrived at a quick clip.

“May I help you?” A flush spread across the clerk’s chubby cheeks.

I pointed to the nearby black roses that numbered less than a dozen at a guess. “What were these? Out of curiosity.” I offered a smile of the clerk peered at me in silence for several moments.

The clerk’s fingers drummed on his list of numbers. He cleared his throat. “Actually, they’re maringias, not a rose. A bit rare but I’ve a few clients who have me stock them for special requests. Not for sale, just show, you see?”

“Of course.” I edged along the counter away from the flowers and offered the ticket to earn my pay. “Here for a package.”

Stubby fingers snatched the ticket and the clerk frowned as he read the numbers through the glasses perched on the end of his short nose, then he glanced at me. “Expecting a different man for this one.”

With a lift of my chin, I answered, “I’m his agent.”

“Of course, not seen you before is all.”

Most people used younger men than I for their deliveries and pickups. I certainly didn’t look the part. “Well, I’m new to the job so I’m just getting around to some of the shops.”

“Certainly. Just be a moment.” The clerk consulted his list again and left the counter to me.

My gaze traveled along the list and spied only numbers. My eyelids narrowed. No names, so who was he expecting?

A moment later, the clerk returned with a small box marked with the handling instructions. “There you go. Anything else today?” He waved a hand at the flowers. “Perhaps a flower?”

“Not today. I’m afraid I must move along on my rounds.” I tipped my hat in farewell and exited the post shop, then casually strode toward my rendezvous with my secretive employer. After a short walk to the proscribed side-street, box in hand, I turned left at the corner, then almost halted at the sight before me. A man stood reading a paper near the alley entrance instead of the vagrant who hired me. I reached the alley and peeked along its dank length as several people strode past us. Perhaps he hid in another basement stairwell. I approached the nearest set of steps and found no one there. Befuddled, I glanced along the alley in both directions.

“There you are.” I turned to the familiar voice of the vagrant but beheld the face of the newspaper reading man.

My jaw worked at the change of appearance. No longer did my secretive employer wear a dingy, threadbare coat with stained shirt and patched-kneed trousers. Nor was his face smudged with ash any longer. Instead, he wore a proper suit of gray cloth and his face bore no marks of rough living. “But how did you…?” I pointed to his face and attire.

“Changed, of course.” He held his paper behind his back. “Best not to be recognized.” He glanced at the box in my hands and he pointed to it without touching the package. “You were given this?”

I glanced at the package in my hand and offered it to him, expecting my pay. “Yes.”

“That won’t do. Please follow me if you will.” He strode along the alley.

“But, what about –?”

“Quickly. You don’t want to be caught with that box in hand. Trust me.” The gray-suited man strode to the second basement stairwell and clattered down the length of steps where he whispered and thrust the door ajar. “In here.”

The End of the Excerpt from the upcoming Cursed Mage novel, The Order of the Dark Rose

Copyright 2020 by P. H. Solomon

That’s a revised opening excerpt from the book and I hope you found it interesting. As you can tell, Wish is used to common forms of magic but really has little experience with the more esoteric forms with which he’s presented. I’ll share more information about magic, its uses, the details and the perspectives about it in later posts. There’s much more to come about the book, the series and the world setting.

I also have plans to share more about the upcoming prequel, The Changeling Incident which should be an interesting read for everyone and is almost ready for a release in October.

Thanks for stopping by to read the excerpt today. Please leave your reaction in the comments section. I’m also in the process of building some fan groups for all my books. If you’re interested, here are the links:

Goodreads: Marston’s Station

Facebook: The Broken Bow Inn


Questions, Questions

Hi everyone! First, let me get a few housekeeping items out of the way. Curses Dark and Foul was soft-released on 8/6. I’m scheduling a hard release (meaning I start marketing the book more) on 8/24. Meanwhile, I’ve moved on with several other projects I’ve mentioned previously. However, my main novel of the year the Cursed Mage Case File series (formerly Reformed Mage series) with a working title of The Feral Name which continues to be my most important project.

The manuscript is with my editor and we’ve been conversing about various aspects about the book. Also, the manuscript is being read by a few beta readers. This means the book is in ongoing revision. While I expect to receive full reports about the book in several weeks, there are some ongoing minor phases of the revision which continue for me. The editor and the beta readers do ask some questions.

You might think that questions about the book manuscript are a bad thing. After all, questions mean that the editor or the beta readers are confused in some way. Actually, it’s a good thing for revision. It’s important to get the questions because these help resolve all the problems with the book. Questions and observations tell me as an author where I need to focus on quality and clarity. This leads to the end product – the published book.

While revision questions are trickling to me, there are also more concerns about the completing the book. I’ve made contact with my cover artist and he’s waiting for my written concepts for the artwork. I have some good ideas but the problem is that I don’t like the working title of the book. It really doesn’t grab me so I’m playing around with a variety of titles until I settle on one that hits the correct chord for the type of fantasy book this will be. I like the series title, it’s just the first book that bothers me. I see a lot of titles on Amazon that are poorly chosen. I feel it’s important to get this part correct.

Next, I’ll consider the blurb. Writing a book description is something I’ve studied and worked at for a while so I’m confident I can write it. Yes, I’m a writer but this kind of writing requires a specific skill at communicating the essence of the book well but with brevity. If not done well, readers are not interested and my job is to interest readers. It answers that question we writers get all the time, “What’s it about?” Everyone who finds out you have a book coming out wants to know about it. Answering the question well is half the task of a good blurb.

These are all questions which need answering so I’m taking time to work through them. Answering the title question is not always easy. Neither is the blurb an easy answer. Likewise, finding all the questions a reader might stumble over if I don’t revise the manuscript well is a process. I have several of these reader questions in my mind regarding revision, many of which I can answer and change in short order.

Revision and moving toward publication is fraught with questions. With The Bow of Hart Saga, much of the title and blurb questions were with me for many years, but with a new series there are a set of ideas that I must complete for publication. Now is a good time to begin addressing these aspects of publication to remain on schedule.

Of course, I have several other projects underway through which I plan to progress this month. I just have to keep in mind that the main revision will also need my attention at times. Hopefully, I’ll come up with a title I like, get the cover art completed and write a blurb within a few weeks so the book begins to come together and I can share more specifics. The pace quickens as the pieces come together into a finished book.

Mixed into all this is a prequel, The Changeling Incident. The title and cover are in place. Writing a blurb and completing the manuscript revision are also in progress. Being a shorter book, this will move along faster than the novel, especially since it is scheduled for release sooner. It’s the novel in a micro-state, just further along in the publication process.

Authors are always part of these publication processes but it may not be so evident to readers. As a self-published author, I’m in complete control and it’s my responsibility to produce all the parts that make up the published book. I hope this gives readers a taste of where the book is in it’s current process.

Thanks for stopping by today and reading where my next novel is on the long road to publication. Got questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll respond as soon as I can.


Publication Announcements

Hello everyone. I hope you all had a good week. Mine went fast but progressed well. Revision of the Cursed Mage series (formerly Reformed Mage) manuscript was completed and sent to my editor who begins work on it today. I should have that back at the end of the month after which I’ll begin working toward publication. During this month, I’ll continue work on a host of projects but I’m narrowing down my publication schedule for the next several months as follows:

Curses Dark and Foul is almost ready and should be posted on Amazon within a few days so that date is this week as soon as possible. There are several previous posts about this anthology which can be found at the following links:

The Next Step: Curses Dark and Foul

Curses Dark and Foul – More Background

Curses Dark and Foul – A Personal Story

Curses Dark and Foul – Blurb Reveal

Those should catch anyone up on the book background and the cover. This has been a fun little project to work on recently.


The White Arrow print edition should be ready on Amazon about mid-September if all goes well. I’ll update this with a specific date when I have one. This will complete print for the entire three-book series and round out the main formats being available (eBook, print and audio).

The Changeling Incident, which is the prequel for the first Reformed Mage novel, should be released in October, possibly by mid-month. That is part of the current editing for the full novel so it is a priority when the manuscript is back in my hands. There should be a pre-release link available soon.

The Feral Name is the opening novel of the Cursed Mage Case Files series and my hope is to release it between October 26th and November 16th depending on how much work will be done on the final version. I’ve contacted my artist about a cover and should have that within a few weeks to share here. I will have a pre-release link available as soon as possible. I’m going to print from the start with these novels in addition to ebook. Audio is a desire and I’ll approach my publisher with the manuscript and pre-release sales to see if they are interested in the series. Audio is not immediate release expectation. but I hope to add it quickly after the first book is published and possibly release this format with the subsequent titles if that works out at all.

Otherwise, I’ll begin work on the next book in the Cursed Mage series this month to complete that revision for hand-off to my editor during October or November. Book three of this series should be right behind that and the hope is to release these two books in early 2021, February and April being the respective timelines. My expectation is to complete dictation of the last three books over the interim and possibly release the untitled fourth book during late 2021.

One more series is targeted for initial release during 2021 which is under the working reference of Black Glove. This first in series novel is ready for editing now and I’ll get it on the editing schedule if I don’t give Inkshares a submission with it. It’s my plan to quickly plan the entire series so I can dictate the next several books in the coming months too.

The Broken Shield series and the sequel series for The Bow of Hart Saga are also in the works, the former already having a completed rough draft. I have one other completed rough draft for a fantasy named All Things Forgotten and I hope to plan a full series for it as well during August. I should be busy with all the revisions and planning for dictation this month, but I’ll be ready to pivot to my main title of the year when the time arrives.

That’s all for today. Look for the release announcement of Curses Dark and Foul within a few days. Thanks for stopping by today and reading about the latest updates.