My novel, Dragon’s Pawn, is one year old today! To celebrate here’s a special excerpt from the book, plus a DIY on how to make your own set of Secret Letter tiles like they used in the chapter.
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“I uh…” She really didn’t have time for gaming…then it struck her that Céline and Dara had seemed obsessed by the playing. “It seemed very complex.”
“Not at all. Once you know the rules it’s very diverting,” she tipped her head toward Mia’s guards, a very slight movement, “and enlightening.”
Lonnie came over and took a seat. “It’s really cool, they played a version in the book Anna Karenina.” He looked at her meaningfully.
Mia sat straighter, suddenly alert as to what was being asked of her. She knew the chapter from the book; it was where Kitty and Levin communicate through anagrams during a game of Secrétarie. “Our version is easier,” Lonnie said. “Want to learn how to play?”
“First, you put out a word that will be the topic,” Lonnie explained, “then the other players build upon that word. Mother, you start with a word for Mia.”
Céline nodded and pushed four tiles into place. Dara.
Mia took this as a question, Where is Dara?
“Now Mia you can build upon Mother’s word or dismiss the word by playing your red tile,” Lonnie said.
It was excruciating not to be able to just talk to them, this might take more patience than she had. She didn’t want to upset Céline any more than she was but she knew she should be honest. Pushing the tiles under Céline’s word she answered the woman’s question. Dead.
Céline blinked tears from her eyes and pushed forward her green tile. Lonnie pushed forward his also, and then Mia did the same. End of conversation. Lonnie swept away the tiles. “Your turn now, Mia. You start the next phrase.”
And so it went, for hours they spoke using the tiles. Mia became very adept at choosing the right word to communicate her question or answer.
The Triad had been using Littri Sicreti or “the game of secret letters”, as a way of negotiation and secret communication amongst their family for generations. It was how the treaty discussions had been conducted. Between Céline and Dara, and General Bailey, not Caleb, Jonathan and Michael. Céline’s brothers had been keeping Caleb busy while the real work of establishing a new relationship occurred. Dara had been acting as Red City’s negotiator Céline told her. Dara had been the representive of the city’s true leadership.
Mia’s mouth fell open, hastily she assembled her word: Havenites. Céline pushed out her green tile. Yes.
Mia sat back in her chair trying to come up with a word that would convey the hundreds of questions ricocheting inside her head but before she could the lock on the doors to the suite popped open, the doors swung wide and Caleb swanned into the room. Hastily, Lonnie mixed up the tiles on the table and scrambled any words there.
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When I wrote the above scene I imagined Céline’s Littri Sicretti tiles to be very old, made by hand, perhaps of bone, and passed down by one of the Golden family’s ancestors. It was a bit of trial and error to come up with the right look. But I’m ever so pleased with the results!
I used DAS modeling clay and weighed out 7gr. chunks before rolling them into balls and then rolling them flat. Then using a template I cut them into 2cm x 3cm squares. After drying for about 24 hours I sanded the tiles to create a bevel on all the edges (back and front)
As the tiles are double sided I stamped the letters on (a capital on one side, lowercase on the other) Then I weathered them by tumbling them with used (wet) coffee grounds to simulate generations of use. A clear coat of spray poly on both sides of the tiles and I declared myself done!
A NEW STORY FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE REVEL NIGHT SAGA
Adam wants nothing more than to live a life of quiet solitude, something that’s easy to do in the Trashtown District of Red City. An ex-MECH soldier, he keeps his head down and his mouth shut. Slowly, he’s starting to put the horrors of the battlefield behind him. And then he meets Mia.
The spirited messenger who runs for Lóng Sang more than intrigues him. As they grow closer he feels, with her, he’s found a place to trust his weary heart.
Mia’s time as a humble messenger for Lóng Sang is running out. Like her mother before her, soon she will take her place as a courtesan along side the Glitter Girls and Party Boys of the Tower. Her training has already begun and Caleb Masters, the devious oligarch who is Dragon of Lóng Sang, has taken a keen interest in her.
Mia knows too well what will happen if she and Adam are caught together so she cherishes their stolen moments while hiding her true identity from him.
She’s playing a dangerous game, one she has no hope of winning especially when she finds herself drawn into a conspiracy that threatens to tear Red City apart.