Beware, beware, fair child,
do not wander from your mother’s side.
Or slip passed the boundary stones.
Beware, beware, sweet child,
of the Snatcher’s grasp,
To be bound for the block,
beyond the hooded wood,
and the roots of the Mire,
and the mountain deeps.
Bound for the block
in the Goblin City.
Bound for the highborn
monsters in silk and gold
Beware, beware poor child
for none return from Avergard.
Beware, beware the eye of the lords,
for their hunger never ends.
-A lullaby, remembered by Oswin Brixby
Sequels are hard. When I first had the seed for this series, it was a very different beast than it is today. As time went, many aspects of the Gate Cycle changed, however, the overall story arc at the heart of the series is still on track, despite real life falling apart at the seams. To tell you how much has changed in this book, there are, maybe, two thousand words from the original 30k draft I started working from last year. I went into the rewrite confident of where I was going and where it would end up.
Then we had a worldwide pandemic and I was sideswiped by some hefty realities. Coming into November, it is still a miracle to me that this book reached completion. That is something I am proud of (and immensely grateful to the team I had behind me the whole way). With the release date closing in, I find myself ready and hopeful as I begin work on book three.
So where did the Gate Cycle come from? It might seem slightly cliche, but it all began with a dream, or more specifically a nightmare. One of feathers and too many eyes, where the first Winnowrook came screaming to life in my subconscious during the dead of winter. Is it any wonder the monsters came first? I wrote them down, the ones I saw, of piecemeal creatures, aberrations of crow and spider, of witches who could see the death of stars and spin power through blood. I dreamt of men with seven hungry mouths that tasted magic, and hybrids of insect and human. The monsters came first, and then one night I dreamt of a wolf and a girl…
The very first scene I actually wrote for Marrow Charm involved an early version of the City of Shadows and Dust. If you haven’t not ready the book, (SPOILER ALERT), in the original scene of the empty city, Kai was still a wolf, and it was far more surreal. I didn’t have reasons to root the characters in the scene yet, but this was the starting point, where I walked it back in my mind and pieces began to click into place. The world of the Gate Cycle began to take shape, a sprawling vast continent, before I winnowed the focus to Azzy and Armin, our central siblings.
Where the first book focused on the sprawling wilds of the Above, Skin Curse takes us into the city of Avergrad, a twisting mix of power and darkness. Where the chaotic magic of the wilds is civilized, though violence still lurks beneath the surface. What makes a monster? What is redemption? These are a few of the paths Skin Curse explores as Azzy’s story picks up from book one. I am excited to introduce you to the characters, new and old, that populate this world, as the journey continues.