Monday, September 30, 2013


Aspects of Independent Publishing: Part Three - ISBN


What’s with the alphabet soup, Shelton?
We already know what these are.

Okay, so you do. I won’t argue with you. I’m not offering revolutionary information here. Just what I’ve learned through my journey into the independent publishing world. Stick around if you want: I’ll try not to make this too dry a read. 


International Standard Book Number, developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) identifies a book or book-like product. This is the number that reflects globally. An ISBN obtained in the US does not need reissued in the UK, for example. Once an ISBN is assigned, it cannot, should not be reissued since its function is to identify a specific book and a specific publisher. For Canadians, this number is issued by the CISS (pronounced “kiss”), or Canadian ISBN Service System, part of Library and Archives Canada, free of charge.

Lucky ducks.

Americans have a several options we can take advantage of. However, each country has only one distribution point for their numbers. For the United States, that distributor happens to be Bowker. All ISBN issuing sites, including those self-publisher touted “free” ones, originate from this company. Why is this important to mention? I’ll come back to this. First, I wish to break down the ISBN and show you the four parts that make up the 13 digit number.* Why? Because I want to know if anyone out there is as confused as I am about what exactly this number says. And because it's my blog, I can do it if I want to. 

Pick up a book and look at the number, for this purpose we will use one of mine.

The first part – 978 – represents the Universal Product Number (UPC). Well, actually, it represents the Bookland/EAN. A UPC is assigned to anything that is sold around the world. Books get special treatment. Here, the 978 says: this is a product from the non-existent country of Bookland, and so it is, therefore, a book-like product.

Confused yet? Bear with me, it gets worse. 

The next digit – 0 - represents language. In this case, English. This is probably the most straightforward of the parts. Oh, but just to keep it in line with the rest of the post, I’ll confuse you here. This part is actually named The Registration Group Element, and it could be up to 5 digits long for rarer languages, like Ancient Sanskrit.

But wait, does that mean the ISBN is longer than 13 digits?

No. The other sections are adjusted as need be. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t invent the system. If I had, well, knowing me, it would probably be way more convoluted and the resulting number at least 40 characters long.

The next section is The Registered Element, or the publisher. This is very important. This section points to who actually owns the whole rest of the number, and can stretch up to 9 digits long. In my example, I think the whole section between hyphens – 9896698 - is Oldewolff Prints.

Wait, don’t you know?
Didn’t they tell you when you bought the number? 

Actually, this number appears to be quite the guarded secret. You can buy a list of registered publishers and their corresponding code from the International ISBN Agency if you have a spare $2k burning a hole in your pocket. I don't. At least, not right now. And even if I did, is it worth it to me to spend that much money on something that changes constantly? Eh, probably not. It's not something I need to know after all. 

But on to why this section is important. If I were to switch publishers, i.e. drop myself (because Oldewolff Prints is my imprint) and sign on with a different publisher to publish my book, the ISBN would have to change because it doesn’t belong to the new publisher, it belongs to me, er, my publishing company.

So remember when I spoke earlier about the “free” ISBN? It’s free for you, certainly, in that it didn’t cost you anything to get from your self-publisher. However, it doesn’t belong to you either. It ties your book to the publisher. When looking The Trouble With Henry up in the International Bookland Title Magical Database or whatever they’re calling it these days, 9896698 is going to say Oldewolff Prints, not Shelton Keys Dunning. So, that “free” number from CreateSpace? You guessed it. It advertises CreateSpace, and doesn’t mention you at all.

Maybe it’s not important in the scheme of things to you. Maybe you believe having your own ISBN is not worth the cost. But if you plan on printing your book through Lightning Source, you have to have your ISBN already. They do not have numbers, free or otherwise, to assign to you. And it's probably not too hard to figure out if you, say, have a hundred books on your shelves from the same Big 6 publisher. I'll bet the savvy employee of a bookstore could look at the number and tell you who the publisher is. Which led me to ask myself, did I want a savvy employee of anywhere looking at the ISBN on my book and saying "Oh...Another CreateSpace DIYer. Wonderful." I believe in my product, and I decided to put that belief in my own publishing company. And...wait, I'm getting sidetracked now.

If I still have you as a captive audience, you deserve a nomination for sainthood. Just saying.

The fourth section is the item number, or the title of your work, and you guessed it, will be exactly as many numbers as it needs to be to fit the 13-digit profile. I believe, in my above case, the magic number here is 0.

But what about that last number? What’s it do?

That’s the checksum, the Check Number, and it's always only one digit. It doesn’t mean anything. Except, it means absolutely everything. There’s a long, complicated-looking algorithm that the rest of the numbers are put through, and if the number was generated correctly, the sum of the process will equal that last digit. If it doesn’t match, there will be all kinds of errors, from distribution to turtles running willy-nilly, to catastrophic tidal waves the likes the world has never seen before…okay, so I’m exaggerating because I’m not a math person and I don’t understand a lick of the formula.  I just know that for the likes of me, the number isn’t there representing anything in relation to the publisher or the title of the book.

So, Shel, you said Canadians are lucky ducks. Why?

You mean, apart from living in an absolutely gorgeous country with the world's most polite and heartwarming culture? Because ISBNs for Americans aren’t cheap. They’re an expense at $125 a piece that most struggling writers and independent publishers can’t afford. True, like most things in bulk, the per each gets cheaper the more you buy, but you have to be willing to invest a chunk of change to get to that $1/number rate.

If you do decide to buy your own, you can do so as an individual. You don’t need to go through the additional headaches that I did to establish a publishing company first. My humble, non-solicited, un-rewarded recommendation would be to go through the main source at Bowker. They’ve got a few different ISBN packages that make it a tad more affordable in the long run, even linking to a company that will convert your manuscript into eBook format ready to go through the New 3. (Amazon, Apple, and B&N).

If you are planning on releasing your book on more than one platform, you will need more than one ISBN. Convoluted numbering system aside, these numbers are unique to the platform as well as the title. So for each edition: Kindle, Smashwords, Lulu, Kobo, etc., you need to have an ISBN that corresponds. This goes for your print book as well. If I haven't said this enough already, never EVER use an already assigned ISBN for another platform, even if it's the same book. It's not worth the headache.

Now, all of this nonsense aside, the Bowker website is fairly easy to navigate, and the purchase and registration of ISBN are fairly straightforward. The registration process breaks down into small modules, each affording you the option to save and exit without submitting, so if you come across a field that you need to research, you’re not stuck.

A quick note about Amazon before I let you go. The Amazon Standard Identification Number, or ASIN, is something that Kindle Direct Publishing will assign to your book, whether you have an ISBN for it or not. It's assigned for free, and gives Amazon a way to keep track of your metadata. As I understand it, Apple has a similar feature. Apple also has ready to go book templates that you drag and paste to keep it clean and neat. No fuss, no muss. If all you plan to do with your book is to publish it digitally and only make it available through KDP for Kindles, or through iBooks for iPad, then you don't need to buy an ISBN. If, however, you want to market your book through other bookstores, virtual or real, then you'll need to purchase an ISBN or opt-in for a free one from each of your publisher platforms, if offered. 

As with other posts in this quirky series, if you have other questions of a non-legal nature about publishing independently, or if you would like a cheer squad to help you walk through the process, feel free to ask me. I’m willing to help where I can. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not a community to publish a book?

*Since January of 2009. Originally, the number was only 10 digits long.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Interrogation (WoE week 39)

Write at the Merge gave us two pictures for inspiration this week. One is of a crate of what looks like peaches (maybe apricots?) and another is of two loaves of bread.

The idea behind it is to have something from scratch. Something new that leaves one with the same feeling of contentment that freshly baked bread can bring.

Well, I wanted quirky this week. So guess what. Yup, I'm going somewhere completely different.

I offer the following in response: If Interrogation Rooms Could Talk

“And what happened then, Miss Leipsing?”

Lola stopped twirling her hair between her fingers. She wasn’t getting far with femininity. The officer was all flatfoot and no stooge. But, for the first time in her life, she didn’t care. She pushed her chewing gum to the other side of her mouth with her tongue. “He placed a hand where it didn’t belong.”

The officer cleared his throat. “Where did he place his hand, Miss Leipsing?”

She lowered her eyes. “Where. It. Didn’t. Belong. Are you deaf or somethin’?”

“Miss Leipsing,” he growled through a rack of snarly teeth, “I can’t help you if I don’t know specifics. ‘Where it didn’t belong’ doesn’t tell me much.”

“Ain’t you got an imagination, Flatfoot?” Lola smacked her gum. “Do I really gotta spell it out for you?”

“Yeah, I’m dumb. Feel free to treat me that way.”

“Huh, sarcasm. Maybe you've got some imagination after all.” Leaning back in the world’s most uncomfortable chair, she blew a bubble to the point of explosion. “He reached across the couch and he squeezed my real estate.” She cupped her breasts for emphasis.

“No way it could be an accident? Maybe he was reaching for his drink and you-“

“I under-estimated you, Flatfoot, you got an amazing imagination.” Lola leaned forward and tapped her fingernail on the table. “Let me make this crystal clear. He said, ‘nice peaches, baby’ and he man-handled me like he was tuning a radio to Tokyo.”

“And you explained that his touch was unwarranted?”

She coughed and her gum shot across the table. “You bet your ass I ‘explained his touch was unwarranted’, you doughnut-stuffed bulldog. Hence the reason his head broke my best table lamp.”

His eyes crossed above his nose as he picked the lump of saliva and pink from his notepad. “And, ah, how did that happen?”

“I hit him with it.”

He tapped his pencil against the table. “When did the money become involved?”

She waved his comment away. “I didn't say money, I said bread. There was bread in the oven, but that’s not important.”

“Look, I don’t tell you how to, uh, do what you do for a living. Don’t tell me what’s important.”

Lola tried really hard to kill him with her stare, or at least maim him, or she’d even settle for giving him indigestion. “What, you think it’s easy to sit, naked, anywhere and allow addled boys to sketch you for hours on end? It’s always ‘turn this way’ or ‘pout more’ or ‘my, my it must be cold in here’. You try it someday. I started baking bread to keep them distracted and me much warmer.”

He sighed.  “Fine. I apologize Miss Leipsing. What happened next?”

Lola shrugged, “He called me a two-bit floozy then screamed like a little girl.”

“A man his size and he screamed like a girl? Why would he do that?”

“Because I took my derringer and shot his stupid ass.”

MetaData, the New Dewey Decimal System

Aspects of Independent Publishing: Part Two - MetaData

MetaData: the New Dewey-Decimal System

This term is new to me. It was first coined in 1968, but it’s new to me. It’s been haunting me for the last six months of my life, stalking me, hiding in dark corners pretending to be innocent…

It occurred to me that I should know what this term means. I have, after all, spent most of my entire working life shuffling data through data systems. Somehow, the term never came up.

Until I started research on how to self-publish.

This innocuous term is EVERYWHERE now. Websites brandish the term like it means something, and if one is “in-the-know”, then one would understand and if one has to ask, then one doesn’t need to know.

But you know me. I asked. I probably started some wildfires on the internet because the question came up. Some coglet somewhere broke its soldered bond, turned inside out, and then exploded.

Shel, how could you possibly be in the 21st century
and NOT know what metadata is?

Eh, I'm not sure anybody really knows what metadata is. The best answer I ever got from people “in the know” was that it’s data about data. That’s nicely non-specific. But yet, the term exists and appears to be what my dad would label: an answer for which there was never a question, like laboradoodles and those fuzzy hats people insist on putting on toilet seats.

Why, Shel, do you bring up this topic if you find it so ridiculous?

Because even though it’s a new-to-me term, it’s not a new-to-me concept. I harken back to the days of library catalog drawers and those magical little file-cards that helped me find the book I was looking for. You remember those days too don’t you? The days of the Dewey Decimal system? No? Lie to me and say you do anyway. Just so I don’t feel quite so old.

The data-about-data is important, don’t get me wrong. You want a book off the library shelf? You don’t have to go to the drawer to look it up. Libraries are wonderfully accommodating in that you can find the Fiction section and peruse alphabetically through the shelves until you find the book you need or want.


Same scenario applies to everything in life. The end-consumer just wants the new-fangled-jelly-fruit. The end-consumer doesn’t need to know, doesn’t care to know, the launch warehouse, the shipping manifest, the alien-abduction insurance number, or the size tires on the ox-cart that harvested said jelly-fruit off of the mountain. This sort of information is valuable to the market personnel who need to quantify the jelly-fruit, so they can better source a supplier, better display the product, better pair it with a complementing wine.

But where the Dewey Decimal System doesn’t change, the metadata does. It is a fluid term. The metadata at one site isn’t necessarily comprised of the same data from a different site.

How does metadata affect the independent publishing industry?

The same way it does the traditional publishing industry. The copyright page on the book contains data about the data in your book, but isn’t necessary to the story of the book. The front matter, the back matter…this is all metadata of one degree or another. The Bowker ISBN registry will ask you for the metadata behind the process of the publishing of your book, like the names of the publisher, author, and book. Expected right? But it also encompasses the where, when, and how of the sales information. What is the scope of your right to publish? What are the dimensions of the book? The packaging? Is it part of a volume set, or a series? All important information that you as the publisher and marketer need to know in order to bring your book to the end-consumer who wants to read it.

Do your readers care how you published it? The packaging size? The return policy? Probably not. Even you as the author probably don’t really care a whole lot. But you as the publisher, the seller, the small business book distributer should.

My suggestion regarding your book metadata is this: copy down somewhere the information you provide to Copyright Office and/or to the ISBN distributer. Keep it as detailed as possible and as close as possible. Why? Because KDP, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, they all want this information to a certain degree. The more consistent you keep your information, the less likely there is to be confusion during the process, and the more likely your book will reach your reader’s hands without an act of the Universe aligning the stars together. 

As with other posts in this quirky series, if you have other questions of a non-legal nature about publishing independently, or if you would like a cheer squad to help you walk through the process, feel free to ask me. I’m willing to help where I can. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not a community to publish a book?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Indian Summer (WoE week 38)

Write at the Merge gives a quote and a picture this week. First the quote:
August rain: the best of summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.  
Sylvia Plath

And next the picture:

Mason Jars by Rula Sibai via Unsplash

So, my thoughts went to the phrase Indian Summer, which always happened just as kids started up school in September. They'd have their new fall clothes born of east coast fashion and we'd be experiencing another Los Angeles heat wave. Sweat and tears and awkward school-year starts...Ah yes, the so-called Glory Days.

Not my glory days. 

I would like to bring you another installment of Patience's story. Jeb recently taught Patience how to shoot a firearm, a valuable lesson in the wild west, and they're on the move again.

I offer the following in response: Indian Summer 

 The dry wind carved a path through the canyon, casting wayward dust into Indian Territory. Patience missed the moisture long vacant from her eyes. She would cry for the sun scalding her cheeks, if she had any tears left to bargain with.

“Here.” Jeb held his canteen before her eyes. “But don’t git carried away. Few things’r worse than a flood after a drought.”

“Thank you, Mr. Grayson.” She tilted the canteen to her lips and sipped, mindful of his warning. “I thought moving to Brasher was difficult. This…wilderness…the miles of empty without passing a living soul. How can anyone live beyond the edge of civilization like this?”

Patience expected a retort as heated and dry as the weather. Instead, Jeb raised a hand and blocked the sun from his eyes. “This wilderness is far from empty, Boston. And since you missed it, we’ve been followed for the last three or four miles.”

He pointed to the canyon’s ridge and her heart froze as she caught a glimpse of an Indian melting into the trees. She reached for the rifle at her feet; her hand trembling of its own accord. “What do we do?”

“Do?” Jeb shrugged. “Nothing we can do, truth be told, so leave that rifle right where it is.”

“But…” She pulled back, confused. “I’m living life remember? I can’t save my sister if I get killed in an ambush by savages. So just tell me what to do.”

“Now, hold on. We ain’t exactly in the best of positions running this wagon through the canyon. They know it too.” Jeb clicked at the horses. “Since we ain’t already dead, I think we can assume they ain’t gonna kill us.”

“You think?” Patience watched the crest, looking for signs of an attack although unsure what those signs would be. Every movement of the shrub grass seemed to foretell her death. Her fear lodged in her throat.

She heard Jeb moan. “And damned am I for mentionin’ it.”

“Who are they?” Though she was a child, she remembered a tribe's removal march. “Cherokee?”

“The Cherokee are settled westways of here. Not much call for them stalking a solitary couple in a northbound wagon.” Seriousness overtook his features as his eyes shifted to the road before them. “But I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”

She followed his gaze. Before them, three Indians on horseback blocked their path where the canyon narrowed. There would be no avoiding them now. Patience struggled to breathe as her mind failed her. Her thoughts and fears swirled together in a violent storm, driving the blood from her heart to her cheeks. Her body began to go numb and shut down, starting with her toes. And then the canyon went black.

Her hearing returned before her vision did. A stream bubbled nearby and a damp cloth dabbed at her brow. Her eyes snapped open and she looked beyond the few painted, foreign faces at Jeb.

She caught his elusive smile before he turned away. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

To Register Copyright or Not To Register Copyright?

Aspects of Independent Publishing: Part One - Copyrights

To Register My Copyright, or Not To Register My Copyright?

That truly is the question for indie writers going it alone in the world of self-publishing. And, like all United States government websites, the Copyright website looks intimidating and user-unfriendly. When one has to dig to find the correct answers to the questions one thinks one is asking, one tends to want to throw in the towel, shut one’s eyes against the world, and scream “I DON’T CARE ANYMORE” off a mountaintop.

I am not qualified to discuss the legal side of registering copyright. I am not a lawyer, copyright or otherwise. That being said, I would like to share what I've faced on my journey to being published independently. There's a ton of information out there, most of it will probably be more useful to you than this series, but hey. The topics I'm covering are the ones that made me go hmm...

First off, let me state that if you write something, you own the copyright on it. The Copyright Office does not give you this right. Your brain-child has immediate protection under copyright law. Nothing needs to be done. No magic beans need to be purchased. No envelopes mailed through the post office. Nothing. In theory, you can spare yourself the $35 and do what you want with your written work without any further process.

Sooo...What does the Copyright Office do then, exactly,
 if not give you the copyright for your work?

The Copyright Office allows you to REGISTER your already existing copyright. This means you are announcing to the United States that you wrote Insert Your Title Here. This announcement and your work and all your subsequent rights are now a matter of Public Record.

Shel, why would I want my copyright to be a matter of public record?

There are lots of reasons. One is solely for bragging rights. I mean, come on. It’s cool to be on the registry alongside Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. (Look them up; they're both there!) And since a copy of your work is taken at time of submission, you have a copy of your work in The Library of Congress. Cool right? 

Another reason, and perhaps the most important, is to make it easier for the law to work in your favor. I don’t know about you, but $35 seems a small amount to pay to have the weight of public record and the government at your back. So if someone ever did try to claim your work as theirs and make a little money off of it, you can prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that not only are they breaking the law, but you care enough about your work to bring them to heel.

You also need to give careful consideration to what happens to your copyright in the 70 years after your death. Again, here I would urge you to consider obtaining professional legal advice from the appropriate authority for specific answers. But I should think a registered copyright at the beginning would help make the transition from Author’s Rights to Author’s Estate’s Rights a little easier to navigate for your posterity. Since most people cannot predict the hour of their death, I encourage you to set aside time as soon as you are able and commit yourself to the future survival of your work.

So let’s say I've decided to register my copyright.
Now what?

Like most businesses these days, the Copyright Office has a mostly streamlined online process. And it’s the most cost effective method and so it’s the route I went with my copyright application.  The advantages to filing online, beyond the convenience of being able to stay in your pajamas, are lower fees (the $35 I previously mentioned), the fastest turnaround times for your Certificate of Registration (which is still painfully slow at 3-5 months when one is impatiently waiting), and you can actually track your place in the 3-5 month wait.

I will warn you. The Copyright Office might have a mostly streamlined online process, but it's still a government entity. The application is redundant in areas and incredibly specific in others. Be ready to look at the screen and say “what the f-“.  Even getting to the actual online site to file is kind of a pain. Remember the government is designed to put red tape wherever possible to inconvenience you in the name of making things more convenient.

The Copyright Office does have walk-through guides available in varied formats. Brush up on your government-ese and read through it. They do contain answers for all your questions, just not where you think they should be.

Once you get to, follow all the links that say eCO Online. There are a couple, just keep going. On your first visit you will be prompted to set up an online account. I set up an account two months before I was ready to register my copyright. I wanted to poke my nose about on the site and get familiar with it before it was time for me to break out my credit card and fill out the application. I’m glad I did, because it made the actual application process a little easier to navigate.

And yes, there are security settings within the application. So if you want a certain email to be listed as contact with regard to rights options, but a different one established specifically for the Copyright Office to contact you if something about your application is amiss, you can do that. If you write under a pseudonym, there is a place for that, too, so your real name is linked to your author name. Look up Robert Gilbraith. Then wonder, like me, how no one saw A Cuckoo's Calling coming...I guess that's a topic for another discussion.

I cannot speak for all, but if you decide to go through an independent publisher platform, I'm sure some at least can set up your registration for you. Bear in mind, either way you go, you will need to have the most finished, best edited version of your work ready to submit. You won’t need to provide the hard copy if all you’ve got is the ebook format. Any minor changes, like corrections to grammar and spelling, to your work after copyright are still covered without the need to reregister the work. Any plot change, or major change like an extra chapter or character, or a combo package, will need to have a new copyright registered.

If you have other questions of a non-legal nature about publishing independently, or if you would like a cheer squad to help you walk through the process, feel free to ask me. I’m willing to help where I can. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not a community to publish a book?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Servant's Bond (WoE Week 37)

Write at the Merge gave us two options for this weeks challenge. We are to Pitch a TV show Pilot and/or Write an Unusual Backstory.

Now, me, I love a good backstory, while I can take or leave most television shows. Backstory is especially appealing since I have been spending a goodly portion of my time divided between researching my ancestry (So my own backstory) and providing a comprehensive developmental edit for a very dear friend who is fond of writing through backstory.

Backstory, if executed correctly, is woven into the plot with a seamless flow. I like to look at it like dating my characters. If I know everything about a character all at once, then the mystery and excitement is lost. Discovering pieces of my characters in small helpings leave me wanting more so I come back more often.

Does that make sense?

You will find a story of mine, titled The Soldier's Gambit, in the upcoming bestseller Precipice 13. 13 is associated with luck, ill or good, or even fate and so that was the theme for this year's edition. I decided to give you the backstory, or rather I suppose the prequel to The Soldier's Gambit which could be more risky than it sounds. It may have unintended spoilers and those readers who do not like spoilers (I do not fall in that category) may decide not to read this bit.

But I suppose I have given you warning. Travel forward at your own peril.

I offer the following in response: The Servant's Bond

The doge summoned her.

Rumblings of war echoed in the council chamber. The advising dogemen whispered in panicked tones about her as she walked the length of the mahogany table to the doge’s side. The doge aged before her eyes, the stress of the siege embedding into the deepening folds of his gaunt face. “I am here,” she said. “What is your will?”

“The next few hours will likely see us prevail the onslaught, or see us crushed by the Valtirissi as the breach our middle defenses.” The doge bid his charge Anastasia forward with a tight wave of his hand. She emerged from the shadows dressed like a waif, void the sparkle of court. “My will, Servant,” he said, “is that you secure safe passage to the Bonne for my cousin here. Her betrothed will keep her safe, and if we survive, will see us the reinforcements and money required to make us whole again.”

Servant had a name once, until the Omen-Readers stripped her kindred of their freedoms for a broken oath, and bound them to eternal servitude for their penance. All of her belonged to the bargain now, to the doge who knew her name and whispered it upon their first meeting. But, there was always a catch, and the doge summoned her little as a result. “We serve in pacts and contracts, Your Grace,” Servant folded her arms. He should not need reminding. “What do you offer in return?”

“Is it not enough that she serve the crown, my liege?” an adviser spoke. What drove his words she did not know. Many were suspicious of her kind, having fallen prey to ill-conceived contracts driven by greed. The doge, however, had been a shrewd man, conservative and patient.

Servant had been bound tight to the doge for over two decades, a rarity among her kind.

She watched the lines of her master’s face shift and struggle. Would he offer my name in exchange? she hoped

“You will see Anastasia safely to the Bonne,” he said. Sweat beaded across his brow. “You will tell no one her name. You will tell no one her station. And most importantly, you will tell no one of your station either.” The last words were more a threat than a request.

He will not bargain for my name. I shall have to be clever. “This I shall do, and in exchange, you will allow me leverage to do all that I must to fulfill this request. Do we have an accord?”

Advisers rushed with words of caution and warning. The doge silenced them as a new barrage of war-time thunder shivered through the chamber. His look was suspicious, but she left him with little choice.

“Very well, Servant. Anastasia safely to the Bonne, you do not give her name until then. You will not reveal your station or hers until you are certain she is dining with her betrothed. And you may leverage what you need as you see fit.”