Guest story by Elva Birch

You can also view this guest story as an email here. It went out on my mailing list this morning.

Elva is a longtime friend and fellow writer who also lives in my hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska; we often get together for write-ins or lunch. Since the next Keeley book is still a couple of months out, here’s a little something to get your urban fantasy dragon fix! The first book of Elva’s unique and original series is currently free, and I thought my readers might be interested in it. 

The Royal Dragons of Alaska is a paranormal fantasy series set in a fascinating alternate Alaska ruled by a dragon shifting monarchy with magic, adventure, and romance. Something to Do is a short prequel story for The Dragon Prince of Alaska, which is free until Tuesday!

Something To Do

Outside the palace, the autumn hills framed distant blue mountains that were just starting to show a rosy twilight alpine glow. It was September, nearly equinox, and the endless summer daylight was giving way to the inevitability of night and the coming winter in Alaska.

The windows to the informal dining hall were open. The breeze coming in was cool and comfortable, and it smelled of fresh air and dry moss. All of Toren’s brothers except for Kenth were gathered at one end of the table, along with Captain Luke of the Royal Guard.

“Toren could do that,” Tray suggested.

Toren looked up in alarm. He’d been liking posts at his fanpage on Facebook and hadn’t been paying any attention since the family meeting started, so he had no idea what he was being volunteered for. Since Tray was trying to get out of it, it probably wasn’t a fun job.

He racked his brain for an excuse to avoid the task, but since he wasn’t sure what it was, it was challenging to come up with something that would disqualify him.

“I’ve already got…ah…something to do?”

Not that he actually did. He might see if he could talk one of his brothers into playing some hockey, or watch some television. Maybe he should go into town and pretend he was blending in when he really wasn’t. Pretty girls would recognize him, and that was always flattering. He could even go flying.

“You weren’t listening at all, were you.” Fask, sitting at the head of the table where their father ought to be, didn’t make it a question.

Toren gave a shrug and a crooked smile. “Weren’t you? One of us ought to be paying attention to these things.”

Their oldest brother was definitely the responsible one. With their father in what the media was calling a medical coma, Fask was the one keeping Alaska running. He was the one doing bureaucratic stuff, managing the cities and villages, talking to the press, being diplomatic with the royalty of the other Small Kingdoms countries.

Fask gave a long-suffering sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. “The wards were activated. There’s a squatter on royal lands a few hours past Angel Hot Springs. Someone needs to go scare them off.”

Normally, the Royal Guard took care of interlopers. But the road past Angel Hot Springs was the middle of absolute nowhere. It would take hours to drive there, and hours back, occupying an entire day for at least two guards, just as they were getting the capital city ready for an equinox celebration.

It was a much simpler task for a dragon who could fly there.

Most of Alaska did not realize that The Dragon King was more than a fanciful affectation for their beloved monarch; the media had seized on it as fun and slightly frivolous, but dragons, and magic altogether, were dismissed as fiction, and officially treated with disbelief.

But there was truth to the title.

Literal truth.

The sleeping king and all six of his sons were shifters, sharing their souls and their shapes with dragons.

Magic was real and most magic of all was the Compact. What was officially a trade document binding the Small Kingdoms was actually a magic spell, meticulously exact in every detail, not only establishing the terms of their agreement, but enforcing it.

It was seven hundred pages of tiny script, every line carefully crafted to protect each of the kingdoms, dictating their military and humanitarian responsibilities to one another. It also outlined their order of inheritance, selecting for each destined heir a fated mate, called as needed. They would know each other when the time was right and the need was great.

Personally, Toren drew the line at mates. He knew that the magic of the Compact was real, and the dragon that shared his head and could shift his skin was certainly undeniable. But mates? Specifically mates selected by magic to fulfill a grand destiny?

It was more likely that the Compact was stuck with an heir—it was almost always the eldest child—and randomly found someone they wouldn’t dislike as a partner. No one had been called on anything remotely resembling a quest in several lifetimes now.

Toren opened his mouth to fabricate a reason that would keep him from having to do the unwelcome task of scaring off the squatter. As the youngest of the six brothers, he could often get out of his duties simply by feigning incompetence.

We have to do this.

Toren shut his mouth and blinked in surprise.

Usually, his dragon simmered in the background of Toren’s head. He sometimes spoke up to keep Toren from the worst kind of trouble, or offered wry observations about the frailties of humans, but otherwise, he didn’t bother much with casual conversation.

He certainly had never offered an opinion about chores before.

Why? Toren wanted to know.

We have to, his dragon insisted unhelpfully.

Fask had taken his silence for agreement. “Try not to show them your dragon,” he said, tapping his notes into a tidy pile. “If you can just show up and order them off, that would be the best way.”

“I know that,” Toren said, stung by the reminder. Did Fask think he was completely incompetent? He might be the youngest brother, but he was still a prince of Alaska, and he was capable of ordering around some long-haired lost hippy hermit without resorting to his dragon’s might.

“Wear a uniform,” Fask said mildly. “You’re representing Alaska.”

Was he afraid that Toren would show up in pajamas or something? Why would a squatter even care?

Their meeting was apparently over, the brothers and Captain Luke shoving their seats back and standing up.

This job wouldn’t be so awful, Toren thought, standing up and pocketing his phone. It was autumn, the trees were all in their showiest colors, and there was good weather for flying. No one would notice or care if he took a few extra hours, maybe even stopped at the hot springs for a soak. He could put it off until afternoon and—

Go, now!

Toren couldn’t remember the last time his dragon had been this focused on something.

Don’t get your scales in a twist, he protested. We can go now if it means that much to you.

Appeased, his dragon subsided and Toren bumped shoulders with his milling brothers and bemusedly went to put on a uniform.

Well, this would be something to do.

Elva Birch writes cross-your-legs funny and feel-good fantasy and paranormal romance that is diverse and full of rich world-building and adventure. She is the author of The Royal Dragons of Alaska, A Day Care for Shifters, Shifting Sands Resort (as Zoe Chant), Suddenly Shifters, and Lawn Ornament Shifters. Take a fun quiz at her site to find a book to start with, or get Better Half, a free novella, for joining her mailing list!

Guest post: Maria Schneider

Remember when I used to have guests posts, back in the day? I have one this week! Maria Schneider of Bear Mountain Books has been wonderfully supportive of the Keeley series, and I thought her magical, genre-crossing books might be interesting to some of you, so I asked her to give me something special. Over to you, Maria!

It’s gardening season again! I go out every morning to water and plant. Had just started the sprinkler, when I realized a bird had become tangled in the support strings hanging off the tomato cages used to prop up large tomato vines.

Upon closer inspection the fluttering, frantic “bird” was actually a baby dragon. “Not again,” I muttered. Dragons were so temperamental. Birds couldn’t singe me while I freed them either.

“Okay, you. Hold still.” I shut the water off, leaving the poor baby dripping. His dark blue head feathers hadn’t yet hardened into spines. Most of his iridescent scales were a mix of brown, light yellow and white. Later in life he’d probably turn more beige and sage to match the desert terrain.

I retrieved clippers from my garden cart, an old rag that used to be a kitchen towel and approached slowly. The dragon’s eyes were huge, wide orbs staring piteously up at me.

“You’re gonna hafta hold still,” I ordered. “I’ll cut you free.” Scissors would be a better tool, but I hated to leave him there, dripping, sad, and at his young age, vulnerable.

“Do not flame me,” I instructed, cutting at string behind him. This particular piece of twine wasn’t holding him at all, but he needed to adjust to my intent. Snip, Snip. The string frayed instead of cutting clean, but I kept at it. The dragon’s snout was wide open in distress.

“Gimme a couple of minutes and you’ll be free.” I ran the old towel down his back, squeegeeing his scales and accidentally smashing down a few feathers. He looked worse for it, but he barely dripped anymore. I finally freed one clawed foot. Predictably, he tried to fly, but his wing still had a cotton string running under and around. I latched onto it and half pulled, half cut the threads. He shredded the rest of the string and left a pretty good sized trench in the back of my hand from a toothy, smokey strike.

“Dammit!” I snatched my hand back. “Ease up, little one!” More cutting and suddenly he squawked, much like a bird, and bounced off the wire gate. He was still pathetically wet and in such a hurry, he splatted rather ungracefully onto the ground face-first.

A large shadow covered the sun, putting me and the little dragon in a gloomy, dark shade. The baby bobbed onto clawed feet, trilled an excited call and stared over my shoulder.

I swallowed hard, still leaning over the little guy. The clippers were a visible, threatening, but inadequate weapon.

With my heart making more noise than the baby dragon, I dared turn my head and only my head. Like a giant scaled bear sitting on her haunches, there was mom dragon. Her gray snout wound between two juniper trees, easily capable of taking a chunk out of my butt, which was inconveniently still high in the air. I knew the rules. Humans who saw what they weren’t supposed to see had to die, lest the magical others be discovered. “Never saw a thing,” I said. “Wouldn’t dream of telling a soul.”

Her diamond eyes seemed small compared to those of the baby dragon, but that was because her head was longer than my leg. She didn’t blink, letting slit, golden eyes convey a very nasty threat. She didn’t let loose with flame, even though a mysterious forest fire that cindered me, my house and my garden would likely be blamed on an errant lightning strike. Her gaze did search the sky hopefully, but the desert of New Mexico is often devoid of clouds.

“Not a soul,” I repeated, while baby dragon fluttered, fluffed and hopped over to his mother.

A tail many times larger than the largest of rattlesnakes snaked out from behind a pinon pine, gathering junior dragon inside protective scales and muscles. His protesting squawk was a direct result of her hurry and displeasure.

I straightened. No sense dying in a bad position.

She regarded me with solemn focus before one giant, black talon stepped back. Scales rippled with desert colors, reflecting gray-brown tree limbs mixed with mottled green and blue sage speckled with chamisa yellow.

“Nary a word,” a dry, hot wind boomed.

My hair blew straight back, and the ends split from the sudden heat. “Not a word,” I agreed with a very emphatic nod.

Of course I was lying. In the dark of the night, behind closed doors, I write about dragons all the time. Dragons of Wendal is the first book of one such series. Sure, it’s billed as fiction. No need to have mom dragon come back looking for me!

You can find Dragons of Wendal on Amazon and also available as an ebook on Google Play.

Maria E. Schneider writes cozy mysteries (Executive Lunch – Sedona
O’Hala series), romantic fantasy (Dragons of Wendal series), thriller
urban fantasy (Under Witch Moon – Moon Shadow series) and the odd book that fits nowhere. Her books are sold across retailers. You can find her at her blog: