Category Archives: Genre-Fantasy

Storytime Bloghop: Chris Makowski

Usually I only host my own story for the quarterly Storytime Bloghop, but this was soooo good I just had to give it a place. It’s written by Chris Makowski, a fellow student in one of my writing classes. He doesn’t have his own website yet, so I am hosting his story for your pleasure. You’ll find his bio and the links to the other bloghop stories at the end of the post. Enjoy his story:

The Color Of …

Bent, weary, cold; the door pushed open as always, leaving me touching the lock I could never remember unlocking of late. Within, the dimness pushed back by fire – there were no more candles, and our lamp had little oil remaining, it being a miracle it stayed lit at all for as long as it had. The door sighed as I pushed it shut and stamped my boots clean enough to walk on mushroom and russet floors which had been swept clean as always. The window would let in enough light this day, even with …
“It’s nearly May, Father. And the snow is still on the ground.” I gave my wife a weak smile, for I did not know, and did not want to guess … but no, our daughter still sat silent in her chair, bundled in white quilts against the cold, as she had been since the leaves had fallen. The copper teakettle swung over the fire, merrily popping, the black iron pot hung below, warmed always and never allowed to grow cold – the only bit of happiness in our squalid little rooms. My wife would take the last of the roots, the onions and whatever else remained, and coax each morsel to give of itself – she had always been able to bring the full measure from everything she touched. Still, it had fallen from a thick stew to a thin broth, and each day, we looked to our daughter in wonder if this would be …
I turned the hourglass on the hearth. Tea, we would have. Herbal, mint perhaps, but not uncivilized. “Thank you, Mother.” I took the cup. Our daughter never had, never would. She sat there, looking out to the snow and the ice and the forest beyond, sometimes looking at the tightly closed flower sitting forlornly in it’s pot, on the sill by the window. Carefully she would shield it from her coughs when they overcame her.
Each day I looked out at the snow and each day some little thing touched – and ran away.

Tick …
Tick …
Tick …

I could only put on a brave face and ascend again into my attic, where tools, glass, springs, gears, clocks awaited my hands and skill. When dark came, drawing down the grayness, I came down, my fingers aching from opening the shutter and checking barometer, anemometer, hygrometer and thermometer again and again but still no answers. I could give my wife but a vague platitude and a smile I did not feel as I turned the glass again: the warm cup would do wonders for my fingers.

The next day came for worse, shadows growing from the trees as the sky fell from cerulean to cobalt not much past midday. Still, she sat and watched, her eyes never straying from that one tight bulb. My wife nearly called for someone, but no, not yet, just a few more days perhaps. I dared not tell her I had but one repair left, then my work would sit, and we would go hungry.

Tick …
Tick …
Tick …

I sat with my daughter as the sun came up, barely an ember in the sky. Winter barked and scratched at the door, the attic would be far too cold and there was nothing left there.
She took my hand, looked away from her bulb, and looked at the doorway, and smiled. What was there? A hat, a coat – threadbare – a few pegs?
Hanging there as if in answer, my keyring. I had quite forgotten it – four gold keys, from longest to littlest. Could the answer be so simple? Her skin had gone to alabaster; there was simply nothing left to lose. The pot and it’s tiny flower looked up at me, the tiny holes at the base to drain the water upon a simple saucer. Could it be? It would take a fine touch, especially in the cold, a fine touch against the cold and with shaking hand perhaps I could just …
To my attic, in the cold, in the night, in the dark, I said silent prayer and hoped and with only my lightest touch in the cold and the dark reached forth and …

Clickclickclick.
Clickclickclick.
Clickclickclick.
Tick!

I dared not move her as the sun rose – but it rose brighter, brighter than before! A shimmer of light sprang forth and through the frozen window, to sit on the edge of the pot, then a bit nearer, a bit more, a bit –
The light touched the silent bulb, lay there quiet in repose …
And the bulb opened slowly –
Tick-tock …
Tick-tock …
Tick-tock …
Tick!
The petals shifted, unwove, sprang apart, a sniff of perfume filled the air. And she smiled – my daughter smiled! And the ice began to break, and fall, until the window itself stood clear, and the snow upon the ground had begun to sink and slurry and flow under the bright goldenness of a perfect awakening … her skin, her skin, from alabaster it reached to peach, rose in her cheeks, cherries on her lips. She looked up with her perfect blue eyes, and all of her was smiling.

My wife came in, her bonnet set, her smile proud, her back straightening. She cried “Molla, Molla!” My daughter looked and smiled at her name and sat up, took a long breath of that perfect bloom and stood up, the quilts falling away. A bird – or was it two? – sounded outside, the day growing brighter and brighter as we had hoped but not quite dreamed … and I took up my hourglass and remembered … Her dress, celadon now but soon viridescent, flowed about her knees down to her bare feet.

“Father,” she smiled, touched the watch in my vest and took my keys from my hand, and held up the longest. “Please don’t forget again to wind the sun.”

 

Chris was born in the Pacific Northwest and lived briefly in Hawaii before being reared in New England. After traveling up and down and back and forth from coast to coast, he was dragged kicking and screaming in the bonds of matrimony to the State of Texas and has been mostly residing there ever since with his wife, son, two neurotic dogs, and a possessed cat.

 

 

I loved this story and hope you liked it just as much as I did. Now, there are bound to be many more lovely stories in this hop, so you’d better go and read them:

Nightmare by Erica Damon
Pick Up Lines by Bill Bush
The Scorpius Gate by Sandra Fikes
V is for Vortex by Elizabeth McCleary
Deep Dive by Juneta Key
Bugs by Gina Fabio
Secret by J. Q. Rose
Journal of Anah by J Lenni Dorner
The Vineyard at Mar Mozambique by Karen Lynn
Stealing Space by Barbara Lund
The Day I was Clever by Katharina Gerlach
Never kid a kidder by Angela Wooldridge

IMAGINE THIS: Faeries and Families

FaeryUn-2x3One of the first stories I ever wrote was based on the idea of a family curse (?) passed from grandmother to granddaughter down through the ages. It skipped every other generation, so the mother of the next to inherit had no idea about what was happening, but her mother did! I sold that very first story (Deirdre’s Dragon) to an online magazine…my first sale! But that initial story didn’t quench my thirst for the idea. I needed a larger format. A novel! And so, my first novel FAERY UNEXPECTED was born 😀

I still love these characters and may eventually find my way back to Claire’s world and discover just exactly what happened next. But in the meantime, I hope you enjoy meeting Claire in these opening pages…

FAMILIES ARE GREAT, but there are times when they stink. I mean, I love my mom and dad, but wouldn’t you think they’d at least have asked me if I wanted to spend a month on the French Riviera with them? Honestly! I could’ve made arrangements to go, even studied while sunning in the south of France. The first few weeks of high school aren’t that important. But the parents refused to listen to reason. Instead, they arranged for Gran — Mom’s decidedly weird mother who never went anywhere without her even weirder toy dragon — to stay with me while Mom and Dad defected to Europe to laze in the sun. I figured by the time I survived the first week, I’d have earned a vacation of my own.

What a rip. I’d been searching for a solution to my high school dilemma, and they’d handed me the answer and then snatched it away, all in the space of a two minute conversation. Man! My first day at Jefferson High was racing down on me and I still didn’t have a concrete plan for leaving the middle school nerd behind. I didn’t need to be the most popular girl at school, but I definitely wanted to improve my social standing.

In middle school I’d been a dork, and Danielle, the cheerleader-from-hell, teased me mercilessly about my good grades, happy family, and that stupid book report on fairies I’d done in seventh grade. Hello, I’d done my Shakespearean research, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, anyone? But that didn’t matter. She called me ‘Fairy Clairey’ for the rest of middle school. Even got her friends in on it. Made me sound like a complete idiot.

For a whole, shining minute I’d had my answer — before my parents ripped it away by uninviting me on their little European jaunt — but if I closed my eyes I could still picture the beautiful vision: me swaggering through the front doors of Jefferson High three weeks into the first term; my usually pallid skin crisp from a month of sun and sea; my unruly mop of short, curly black hair fashionably styled in the latest Paris do; my outfit straight off a tres chic fashion runway… Danielle would have a cow, and I’d be the reigning queen of the class. I might even have a chance at getting a boyfriend.

But no. Instead I got stuck with crazy Gran and her bizarre stories of dragons and centaurs and the magical adventures of her childhood. Gag!

So here I sat on the first day of September at Portland International Airport with my parents, waiting for Gran to show up. I stared out the window, watching her jet unload. I leaned my forehead against the glass and listened to my parents’ quiet conversation.

“Relax, Emily,” said Dad, a tall square man sporting thick glasses and a warm smile. “She can’t get lost. Everyone from the concourse channels past this waiting area. We won’t miss her.”

I glanced at my parents, but kept my forehead against the cool glass. Mom was dressed in creased gray wool slacks, ice blue blouse and a gray cardigan embroidered with small birds and vining leaves. She smiled and tucked a strand of dark brown hair behind her ear. “I know, but it’s hard not to worry. I just can’t get over feeling like I should’ve gone to get her. She’s so helpless without Daddy. He did everything for her when he was alive…she never even had to fill the car with gas.”

“Yes, he was old-school to the core,” Dad agreed. “But I think he underestimated your mother. Don’t make the same mistake, Em. Deirdre is tougher than you give her credit for.”

A flash of golden light out of the corner of my eye made me glance back at Gran’s jet. For a moment, I swear I saw something hovering over the plane. More than simple heat haze rising from the tarmac, something shimmered in the air above the airplane, like a window into another world. I blinked, and it disappeared. But the green-blue after image burned behind my eyelids…a castle in the sky.

Great. Just the thought of Gran’s stories and I was already getting all stressed out and weird. Give her a month and my elevator wouldn’t go all the way to the top.

I used to love having Gran visit, but that was before I grew up and realized she was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. What little kid wouldn’t love a grandmother who told them dragons were real and made them believe they could ride the wind on the back of an awesome, intelligent beast? Every kid wants to believe in magic.

I scootched lower in my seat, found a cooler bit of window for my cheek, and tried to convince myself that it wouldn’t be so bad having Gran around for a month. I’d be at school all day during the week. I’d just have to make sure I had plenty of invitations for sleep-overs on the weekends. My birthday might pose a problem, though. What if she decided to throw me a party?

Oh. My. Gawd. I could just imagine what my friends would say if Gran started telling dragon stories. I’d have to head her off. Maybe let it slip that my heart’s desire would be dinner and a movie…just us girls!

I didn’t have time to hatch a better plan because Gran came striding purposefully around the corner. My heart thumped, and I jumped to my feet. She might be weird, but she was family.

“Gran,” I shouted above the general din of other sons and daughters, grandkids and friends calling to their loved ones.

“Here, Mother,” called Mom. “We’re over here!”

“Deirdre,” boomed Dad, visibly restraining himself. I knew he itched to grab her carry-on luggage out of her hands, but couldn’t do anything until she moved past the security barrier.

And then she sailed through the gate and we hugged and tugged, a mass of flailing arms and clutching fingers, until we managed to bob out of the stream of excited humanity into our own quiet pool of reunion.

“Claire! Look at you,” cried Gran, breaking from the jubilant tangle to hold me at arm’s length. “You’re practically a grown woman.

“You’ve blossomed, my dear,” she said with a wink. “But I’m pleased to see you haven’t overblown.”

Well! Nice to know my understated cleavage pleased someone.

“You look wonderful, too, Gran,” I said with a forced smile. She did. If you liked the psychedelic look of the sixties crossed with demented dandelion. Gran sported a cheese orange rain poncho, lime green rubber boots, short, wiry gray hair that sprang from her head with no discernible style or direction, and Roddy, the ever-present two-foot long toy dragon attached to her shoulder on his Velcro perch. But her eyes sparkled merrily and her smile illuminated the dreary waiting area.

My frosty welcome melted and I hugged her with genuine appreciation. After all, blood is blood. She might be a dingbat, but she was my dingbat, and I loved her.

“We’re going to have the best month of your life,” she whispered in my ear. “Just you wait and see!”

“Peter, if you’ll get my bag,” Gran said, taking charge. “Claire, bring Roddy, please, and Emily, tell me all your news!” She disentangled herself from me, dropped the toy dragon in my abruptly empty arms, grabbed Mom by the elbow and headed for baggage claim, her head close to Mom’s.

Dad and I exchanged glances, shrugged, and carried out our assigned tasks. I held the toy dragon up to my face and stared into his beady green eyes. “Okay, Roddy,” I said, only half teasing. “Here’s the deal. You stay out of my way and I won’t accidentally knock you into the trash compactor.”

Dad laughed, grabbed Gran’s rolling duffle in one hand and dropped the other on my shoulder.

“You’re going to be fine, Claire. Just fine.”

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The Joys (You Heard Me!) of Revision

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before. I’m revising a novel, The Eye of Kog, by which I mean going about it in the same way most other authors do. It’s an incredible feeling: I’m running with “joy” in my title today but I think the best word might be “stunned”. Thought I’d ruminate on why, and see if anyone else has the same feeling.

Not Writing Anymore!

Astonished1That’s the first thing, the breaking of a habit that leaves me feeling as if I’m constantly stumbling forward against a vanished resistance. I was writing this thing for so long. If you work on several WiPs simultaneously, you may not get this, but I dropped my “other” tale long ago. Every day walking around not hearing the first of half of anything my lovely wife says, every time I miss my turn driving to the store because I’m distracted, every half-hour before sleep, every night: the tale, the chapter I was on, where the characters were and what was going to happen next.

Sure, I knew the tale in the sense of the big picture. I knew it intimately in fact: I have for decades. But I don’t outline, or character-map- there’s no bridge between in-the-head and on-the-paper, just a big leap across that space. It’s a little like having seen Star Wars twenty times: you know it, right? But now you have to sit down and replicate the screenplay, shot by shot.

Anyway, that was an intense level of involvement, and I couldn’t believe how long I went on with it.

Two years.

Of Long Standing

Yes, I was writing The Eye of Kog at that pace for nearly two solid years, and I can prove it. Whenever my author friends and I finish a chapter, we lob it up on our mutual comment Lecturing2board over at Write Stuff Extreme, and then exchange feedback on each others’ work. If you don’t do this, start. Seriously, not one word to me, not one shaken finger about outlining or note-taking or anything. Get a beta group. Don’t make me come over there.

So my first post on the board for EK is dated July 14th 2014. I went back to start my revision and could not believe my eyes. Like Treaman’s party when they first sight the lost city of Oncario, I knew it had to be 2015, at most. Two years? All that time… but this was not a short tale like Fencing Reputation. And it involved several characters whose history I did not know as well as those in Judgement’s Happy2Tale. I bet many of you have felt this, the sense of re-acquaintance with things you wrote, characters introduced, action described. Like a chore you forgot you had done, you walk in and your heart shouts “bonus! winning!”

And then there’s the cousin of that feeling, with the same exultation and none of the recognition.

Really? I Wrote THAT!

I know other authors have felt this way because they’ve told me. Maybe it happens more often when you write longer books, I’m not sure. But there’s that paragraph, the section of 1k or 2k or more that is not yours. It’s just in your book. You know? Oh it’s part of the book alright– carries the plot forward, develops the character, balances dialogue with action. But no way I could have written this.

Usually, I feel that way because it’s good: and when I look at the posting date, more often than not it came out right away, on the next day after the chapter before it. Or even on the same day. That’s really hard for me to do, because I’m a day-job dilettante and can never count on steady time to write. Where did this burst of creativity come from? Too hard to figure out. Much easier for me to assume someone snuck in and tapped on my keyboard while I wasn’t looking. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Thanks, whoever you were, for stopping by. Come again.

The Dragon of Perfect

Bumps along the way, though? Oh hell yes.

Thinking1The Perfect Dragon rears her ugly head– well wait, it’s a gorgeous scaly head, the acme of draconic beauty, I’m sure, but the beholder’s eye in this case is mine, and she’s trying to consume me, so… ugly. She rears her head chiefly in two places. One, in the tiny cramped space within her cave, over wording. The other high in the sky as she flies and flames, at the level of chapters.

Different readers trip on different phrases, and you can’t say yes to everyone. I’m so proud of my grammar, my syntax (whatever the hell that is) my idioms and voice and tense-choices. Anyone, absolutely anyone points out a problem and the Dragon Perfect starts to growl and hiss. Did I mention how defensive I am? See, I ALREADY went over the wording. A lot, man! I re-read my chapters out loud, I swap adjectives, I Astonished1bounce out the present-tense verbs that snuck in when I wasn’t looking. And who does anyone else think they are, to post a comment (private board) telling me the way I wrote it was– I can hardly say it– wrong?

Down, Dragon. Every sentence can take one more read-through, where’s the harm. I have spent half an hour in the cave over a single paragraph, and when the smoke cleared I realized my lunging, clawing adversary was my reflection in a mirror. Back-space, tap-tap, fixed. Yeah, more often than not, they were right. Hey, almost like, like they were trying to help me when they posted it.

But up in the air, that’s harder. This is the part of revision where you have to entertain the notion that your chapters are in the wrong order. Or that there are too many. Dragon Perfect swoops in with a full head of steam against such offenders and again it’s Katie bar the door because my Defensive Shield is set to eleven. MY wonderful opus? Rearrange, clarify or even (gaspity-gasp) cut? Don’t you know that’s a three-letter word around here?

Jealous1Long and short, I usually fend off such suggestions. You have to stick up for your work and my brave beta-readers, as loyal as they were, couldn’t possibly hold the themes, the minor characters, the long breaks between visits, in their memory over the course of twenty-four months with clarity. I’m the guy who’s been walking around with this in his head for two years. I have to trust my judgment (inside joke!) on this one. So yeah, those themes, threads, added characters, and chapters pretty much stayed where they were.

One thing, though, I never expected and it even knocked out Dragon Perfect this time.

Add a chapter, my readers said.

And I was like– crazy beta-readers say whaaat?

Add a chapter. Maybe two.

The Creation Unlooked For

To coin Tolkien’s phrase, I could never have expected the result of feedback would be to Horrified2make my chronicles even longer. Maybe deep down I don’t have enough faith in my tales? But my good friends got to the heart of it. I just hate villains, is all. And I don’t show them much: I hint at them, feint and fake and mention them, or have folks find evidence of their passing, stuff like that. This is epic fantasy, it’s not like they have redeeming qualities!

But the reasons piled up, and I bet other authors know the feeling. Something kindles inside, you start to see possibilities. Nobody shows every second of a hero’s life– when they use the bathroom for instance, though I do show a prince and his squires seeking them. There’s a lot of mindless destruction and bad-doings my villains indulge in, before they finally get theirs. Plenty of stuff to draw on. I’m thinking now about how to advance the plot, increase the tension, improve the tale. AND, by the bye, give you all another much-needed glimpse of a powerful character doing what he does, well worst.

Thoughtful2So again, calm down Dragon. I got this.

Revising is a peculiar joy, with twinges of doubt, wonder and regret flavoring it. Maybe letting go of my daughter’s hand on her wedding day will be a bit like it. I might never think the tale is ready. Pretty certain I’m not. But here it goes all the same.

Have you experienced the joys of revision? Did you read something and wish it had another run before you bought it?

CHRONICLE WORLDS: FEYLAND

Chronicle Worlds_Feyland eBook Cover-finalI’m a huge fan of Anthea Sharp’s Feyland novels, and was thrilled when Samuel Peralta’s Chronicle Worlds anthology series gave me the opportunity to play in her world! Having read every single Feyland story, I’m very familiar with the world’s delights … and its dangers.

“On Guard” was inspired by a family vacation where my twelve-year-old grandson was so entranced by a video game that he lost track of time and had to be coaxed into family activities. I could easily imagine my grandson playing Feyland, but “On Guard” was born when I decided to make his pet Norwegian Forest cat the hero of the tale.

Here’s a short blurb about the story:

Wallace, a fierce Norwegian Forest cat, has guarded the boy since he was an infant. Despite advancing age, Wallace isn’t about to shirk his duty now that the boy is old enough to play a dangerous game. Wallace doesn’t understand his boy’s fascination with Feyland, but he knows a threat when he sees one.

Chronicle Worlds: Feyland is available for only 99 cents for a limited time from Amazon! Grab your copy today 😀

Fun with Book Bundles!

I’m excited to be part of a book bundle over at BundleRabbit! If you’re not familiar with this site, you should really check it out 😀

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An Interview with Annie Lima

Q: Well, harumph. I can’t say I’m happy to be doing a “civilized” interview, after the fun I’ve had in Hahn_critic_1my author interview dungeon. Alas, all the cool stuff has been moved to my home blog now; here on IB, there are only soft, cushy chairs, curtains too thick to use for binding ropes and some completely dull, soft plastic tea cups. How am I going to get any information from this vict- ahm, guest? ::muttering:: It’s been so long since I’ve been polite during questioning.

::game-show face :: We welcome Annie Douglass Lima today to talk about her new release The Gladiator and the Guard. This is the second title in her Krillonian Chronicles series, set in a world where modern life coexists with permanent slavery.

Q: Let’s see, a tale of arena combat? You won’t need to work hard to hook this former history teacher! Of course, in the Roman Empire most gladiators had families, and some were quite young, though we hardly think of that. Where did you get the idea to combine these threads and have siblings face the pressures of the arena? It’s a terrific dilemma, very evocative.

Annie Douglass LimaA: Thank you! The idea grew out of the first book, in which I established the principles of slavery and how it works in the Krillonian Empire, a modern world very similar to our own. Of course slaves would have families, and of course they would be separated from them if they were sold away. I just had to decide how and why people would become gladiators (who are perceived by most of that world as athletic heroes but are really still just slaves). In The Gladiator and the Guard, the arena manager obtains new “glads” primarily by purchasing slaves who are already martial arts experts. He occasionally offers contracts to free athletes, but it’s rare for anyone to accept, since that involves payment in advance and then voluntarily entering into slavery in the arena. Plus, contracts are always for a lifetime (and glads’ lives are notoriously short). In the Krillonian Empire, enslavement (usually involving sale by auction) is the legal punishment for certain crimes, so he also keeps an eye on the online auction sites. When violent criminals become available – or anyone with combat experience or documented martial arts abilities runs afoul of the law – he is quick to place a bid.

Q: This is fabulous, a kind of lifetime slavery that’s not strictly racial. Could you elaborate on the kinds of crimes that can get you dumped into this fate? We seem to be talking about people not born to slavery, and that’s always tricky. {Of course, everyone would like to believe they’d heroically resist, and succeed- but then Stockholm Syndrome was discovered…}. But at any rate, Bensin and his sister didn’t do anything wrong, did they?

A: Bensin and his sister actually were born into slavery. Slavery is hereditary, but there are other ways to become a slave, too. Bensin’s parents were enslaved as kids, when their homeland of Tarnestra (originally an independent nation) became part of the Krillonian Empire. The people of Tarnestra fought valiantly to retain independence, and when their resistance was eventually crushed, tens of thousands of Tarnestrans were ripped from their homes and sold into slavery across the empire as a warning to anyone else who might be tempted to resist imperial progress.

Punishing certain crimes with enslavement (not only for the perpetrator but for his or her family) is the government’s way of motivating people to keep the law. Bensin’s friend Ricky, for example, was born free but enslaved at age ten along with his parents and brother, when his dad (who worked for a government agency) was caught embezzling money from his employer. Other crimes punishable by enslavement include murder, armed robbery, and attempting to illegally free slaves.

Q: These works lie very close to the more orthodox epic and heroic fantasy genres, so that leads me to two questions, both driven by envy. When you laid in the “world-building” of the Krillonian Empire, did you find it necessary to go back and pull some out, move some around, etc. or else lose energy in the plot? And do you think it was easier to describe a setting closer to the Alleged Real World (except for, you know, slavery and people fighting for amusement), or was it perhaps harder?

A: I did a lot of planning and prewriting before I started my first draft of the first book, so I didn’t end up having to make too many changes to the worldbuilding once I had begun. Occasionally I thought of new details that I was able to add in as I went along, but those were mostly pretty minor. For example, since slavery in the Krillonian Empire is not based on race, there had to be a specific way to identify slaves. I knew from the beginning that they wear steel collars that lock around their necks, providing their names and their owners’ contact information. Obviously that makes it much harder for slaves to escape, but there are certainly tools out there (in any world) that can cut through metal. In The Collar and the Cavvarach, there came a point when I realized I needed to establish a reason why anyone with bolt cutters couldn’t just go around freeing slaves. So I had a certain mechanic explain to an inquiring young slave that he had to have a special kind of license to own and use such tools in his car repair shop, and that involved security cameras through which the authorities could be watching him at any given moment.

Q: BTW, try to get a little episode called “Gamesters of Triskelion” on your viewing list. Captain Kirk in his beefcake-prime and slave-collars you’ll really like!

I’ll keep that in mind! As for your second question, it was both easier and harder in different ways to create a setting so close to the Alleged Real World. I have a fantasy series that takes place in a totally different world, and with that one, I was able to make all the rules. But it took an awful lot of worldbuilding to flesh everything out. With this series in the Krillonian Empire, I mainly just combined a couple of modern-day Earth cultures and left it at that, of course with the addition of slavery and a made-up martial art. But then there was the challenge of making sure everything I said was consistent with how things really work in our world. For example, I know very little about firearms or martial arts training or the types of mechanical problems an old pickup truck could encounter, but I needed to make those details realistic in the story. I should say, I knew very little about those topics. Dozens of hours of research later, I’m much more knowledgeable!

Q: I should probably have asked this earlier, but who do you think is the target audience for these stories, in terms of age but also anything else you can think of? And is that your “core” audience, I mean the one you always thought you’d be trying to reach?

A: These books are young adult fiction, meaning they’re geared toward teens and adults. I teach fifth grade, and while I know a few of my students have read and enjoyed The Collar and the Cavvarach, I have never suggested it to them, or to anyone else below middle school, as recommended reading (unlike my fantasy books). The subject matter is dark in places, and while there is no sex or language, I don’t really want my fifth graders pondering issues like why the characters would say slavery is worse for girls, for example. The first book contains just a little violence, and that’s mostly in controlled settings like tournaments, where participants fight with unsharpened blades. But the second book would definitely be rated PG-13 for violence, as well as for a few mentions of blood and gore.

I would say the target audience consists of any teens and adults who like an exciting adventure story. Anyone with an interest in martial arts, or perhaps in the gladiators of ancient Rome, would be especially interested. I never thought I would write a martial arts story; I never used to be particularly interested in martial arts myself, and it had never been my goal to reach readers who are. But then along came Bensin with a story that just had to be told, and martial arts were an inextricable part of it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Q: Can you give us a quick run-down on the gladiatorial combat, called cavvara shil, that happens in the tales? The weapon looks decently wicked, but the cover of Book Two also shows a disappointingly-protective looking helmet. You don’t mean to tell me fighters sometimes survive?

A: The martial art of cavvara shil is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  cavvarachI wanted cavvara shil to be a combination of two or three different fighting styles, involving elements of unarmed combat as well as the use of a weapon. It took a few false starts before I had a fighting style I liked. At first I just pictured using a sword, but I wanted something a little less stereotypical.  The cavvarach, with its hook, ended up being just right for what I had in mind. Combatants try to snag their opponent’s hook to tug the weapon out of the other person’s hand, which is one way to win a duel. (They can also knock it away with their own cavvarach, or kick it away.) Besides disarming an opponent, you can win by knocking them over and pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds. Oh, and you can block blows with your shil, which is like a narrow shield that barely covers one forearm.

In The Collar and the Cavvarach, 14-year-old Bensin competes in cavvara shil tournaments to earn prize money for his owner. Like everyone else there, he fights with an unsharpened blade and wears poncho-like padding to protect his torso and groin in the event of a missed parry. Worse injuries than bruises or the occasional bloody nose are rare at such events. In The Gladiator and the Guard, however, Bensin (now 18) is forced to be a gladiator, and he soon discovers that everything works differently in the arena. All blades are razor sharp, and protective padding doesn’t exist. Most duels are not intended to end in death (that would be a waste; gladiators are valuable), but accidents can and do happen. The helmet you see on the cover is actually for the guards who keep an eye on the combat from a safe distance to serve as referees and (when necessary) bring the injured in on stretchers at the end.

Q: Oh, the helmet is for the guards? OK, then I’m glad it’s been broken! I couldn’t let you go without a nod to your life in the Alleged Real World. You may be the guest who’s come the furthest of anyone to be here on the Independent Bookworm! Assuming of course that “here” is in the US or Europe… pardon me, my ethnocentrism is showing. But do tell us a bit about your world, the one you see when you turn away from the screen.

A: At the moment, when I turn away from my screen I see twenty-six empty desks and walls covered with colorful science project display boards. (My students are out at lunch recess right now.) I teach at Morrison Academy in the city of Taichung, Taiwan. It’s a wonderful job in a wonderful place! My husband and I have lived in Taiwan for nearly nine years now, and we love it here! I’ve enjoyed inserting elements of Taiwanese culture into these two books. For example, some characters chew betel nut, a mild narcotic sold legally in shops decorated with flashing colored lights. When money is awarded as a prize, it’s given in a red envelope. Cheap boxed meals available at “hole-in-the-wall” eateries are a common and convenient meal for laborers or anyone in a hurry or short on cash. New Year is the most important holiday of the year in both places. In Book 3 (which I hope to draft in the fall), much of the action will take place in a different city of the Krillonian Empire, one which I plan to pattern closely after Taichung.

Q: Cities, climate, customs– too much to ask about! Let’s just call this a pause, and perhaps have you back when Book 3 is ready. I’d love to ::cough-cough :: show you my ahm, interview chambers, you’d love the decor. Thanks very much Annie for a terrific peek at an interesting world. Make sure to leave us with your contact links and a blurb about your current release.

=====================================

I’m excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach.

First Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

 What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?

The Collar and the Cavvarach

sword isolated on white background; Shutterstock ID 109466807

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).

Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!

 And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

The Gladiator and the Guard.jpg

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!

 Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats) 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

Connect with the Author Online:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnieDouglassLimaAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/princeofalasia

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGoodreads

Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AnnieDouglassLima

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnLinkedIn

Google Plus: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGooglePlus

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!

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Juma’s Rain – new release

Yes, I know I’m late again. That happens often with authors since we all have ur head in the clouds (actually in stories to tell the truth). I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (= writing a novel of 50K words minimum in a month) again this year (for the 8th time) and have been writing like mad. I managed to get more words down already than in any NaNo I did before. So, please forgive my tardiness in all things aside from that.

Today, I present to you my next book, a YA love story set in Stone Age Africa, Juma’s Rain.

Juma's Rain cover

Yes, I do know that Juma’s buttocks are visible, but people in Africa didn’t wear all that much in the Stone Ages. I assure you though that there is no graphical sex in the book (although a little smooching occurs). The story is about a girl who wants to become the next clan leader but is apprenticed to the village witch instead because she can see the gods. Her talent is urgently needed to wake the rain-goddess and stop the fire dæmon from destroying the earth. Falling in love with the current clan leaders’ son wasn’t part of the plan…

You can pre-order the book on Amazon so that it will be delivered to your Kindle on Sunday 15th of November. Or you can buy the print book if you prefer. And if you like the story, please let me know.

Author Interview: Jamie Marchant, “The Soul Stone”

Will you look at all the dust in this dungeon! How long has it been since the last vict- er, guest author was here? Let me just clear out the worst of it over in this corner, by the sharp things. Gad, if she’s allergic to mites it will be enough just to bring her in here. And by the way, bring her in here.

We are delighted to welcome– yes, that chain around the ankles, fool, have you forgotten your job– Ms. Jamie Marchant, who fell into our clutches during her blog tour for The Soul Stone. I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure previously, but we’ll soon get everything we need from her. Just let me find my favorite bullwhip- ah there, covered in grime. Let us begin.

Q: So where do you come from, author-person? Your location in the Alleged Real World is of no consequence here; we want to know your roots as an author. When you were young and still contemplating your life of crime, whose temptations swayed you the most in reading? Was it always fantasy for you, or did you come to the genre late in life?

Jamie: As is often the case, my family first led me astray, especially my older sister who told me fairy tales and encouraged me to write ones of my own. In my teen years, I fell under the influence of Piers Anthony and Stephen R. Donaldson. As an adult, Mercedes Lackey and Jim Butcher completed my corruption until I was irredeemably a fantasy fan, but as you see, the seeds of fantasy were planted in me before I was old enough to read for myself. I really didn’t have a chance.

Q: I completely understand, blaming others is typical in these cases. Bailiff, fetch us this sister and we shall have a talk next. Tell us a bit about Korthlundia where your tales are set. Your main characters seem neck-deep in royal intrigues, on their guard every minute. Is the world also at war all the time? Do regular folks suffer from whomever it is opposing the goddess who has picked your heroes to help? I mean, what kind of a world are we dealing with here?

The Soul Stone front coverJamie: Korthlundia had enjoyed over fifty years of unbroken peace because of its geographical isolation and the wise rule of Samantha’s father, King Solar. Both the nobles and common people prospered. The troubles in Korthlundia began when Duke Argblutal murdered the king and attempted to usurp the throne. Samantha was only nineteen years old, but she and Robrek put him in his place, six feet under, at the end of my first book, The Goddess’s Choice. However, the nobles aren’t too keen about a young woman and a common young man taking the throne, and the unrest is starting to affect regular folk as well. This is especially true when, in my second book, the Soul Stone breaks loose from its ancient bonds and begins to kill indiscriminately.

Q: Excellent! Always good to hear that a villain with an unpronounceable name is dead. Removes so much worry. Coming back to your heroes, you make it clear that Crown Princess Samantha and Robrek, the common-class sorceror, are from very different walks of life. They have very separate talents too. And busy! Saving the world makes for a crowded calendar, I suppose, but if these two are destined to marry, do they happen to see anything in each other along the way? Or is this going to be a marriage of fate and not the heart? (That is, assuming they make it long enough!)

Jamie: As the crown princess, Samantha had always believed that she couldn’t marry for love. This becomes especially difficult for her when she meets and falls for a common peasant boy at a horse fair. Although she comes to learn that Robrek is a powerful sorcerer and nowhere near as common as she first believed, she thinks an unbridgeable gap divides them. Only in bard’s tales do peasants marry princesses. At the end of The Goddess’s Choice, she is overjoyed when the Goddess reveals Robrek to be her choice for her consort. Theirs is very much an affair of the heart as well as of fate. However, in The Soul Stone, it appears that Robrek won’t live long enough for them to enjoy their love.

Q: You mention getting all geared up on literature in school, but then putting the writing itself on hold for a long time before taking up the pen to write about places like Korthlundia. I accuse the Alleged Real World of criminal trespass into your free time! Bailiff, take the ARW into custody, we’ll deal with it later. But what does the victim have to say? Did you not know this was what you wanted, or were you always thinking about it.

Jamie: I knew since I was a young child that I wanted to be a writer, but this ARW you speak of seduced me with the idea of making money. It took a few years for me to realize I was the victim of a con. Yes, one has to eat, but professional success can’t compensate for the absence of the creative muse.

Q: How would you describe your success so far, and what have been the keys to further exposure in your opinion? Are you happy with sales, with new outlets, and professional connections you’ve made? Are you mainly a paper book author, or did you lean on e-book sales early on?

Jamie: I’m not sure that any author, especially one published by a small press, is ever happy with sales. Getting sufficient exposure for my work is difficult, but I’ve been making progress with connecting with other authors and bloggers via the internet. While my books are all available in paperback, it is the e-book sales that make up the greatest portion of my books sales, which seems to be typical.

Enough, we are satisfied for now and hereby order your release. You may keep the manacle as a souvenir. Just leave us your information, where we can find your confessions (I mean, writing) and the proper links to seek you out for further punishment in the future.

Author Bio: Jamie Marchant

From early childhood, Jamie has been immersed in books. Her mother, an avid reader, read to her, and her Jamie Marchantolder sister filled her head with fairy tales. Taking into consideration her love for literature and the challenges of supporting herself as a writer, she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. But in doing so, she put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. Then one day, in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized that what she wanted to be doing was writing fantasy novels. Her muse thus revived, she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice, which was published in April 2012. The second volume in the series, The Soul Stone, was released this June.

She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her short fiction has been published on Short-Story.Me, and my story was chosen for inclusion in their annual anthology. It has also appeared in the anthologies—Urban Fantasy (KY Story, 2013) and Of Dragon and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds (Witty Bard Publishing, 2014)—The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Bards & Sages.

Links to Jamie’s Books

Black Rose Writing

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Contact Jamie Everywhere

Jamie’s Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter: @RobrekSamantha
Goodreads

 

 

Free Fantasy Story–A Singular Inheritance–Final Episode

This is the last episode of A Singular Inheritance.  Previous episodes are in the three preceeding posts on this site.

A Singular Inheritance

by Sue Santore

continued–part four

“It’s me,” Brina called to them, holding her hands in the air.  “Brina.”

To her dismay, the guards grabbed her roughly and hauled her onto the walkway so abruptly she stumbled.  Conall thrust his massive body between her and the nearest guard and lifted his lips in a dangerous snarl. The guard dropped her arms and backed away, holding his spear in a protective stance toward Conall.
Before he could plunge his spear into Conall, Brina said, “Would you slay Lord Kemble’s favorite hunter?”

The man hesitated and the watch leader came running out onto the walkway and barked a brief command at the guards. They sullenly backed away and gestured to Brina to proceed before them.

She took a few deep breaths to quiet her pounding heart, raised her head high, and walked regally up the log walkway into the crannog, ignoring the spears of the guards.  She would not be intimidated by these guards.  She would not be intimidated by the high druid.  She was needed here.  Why?  She still did not know.  She still could not FutureSee as well as Shylah.  Conall refused to walk onto the causeway until the guards followed Brina.  He trailed along behind them, his soft growls letting them know that he was watching them.

As Brina approached her family dwelling, Lord Kemble, came out and stood before the door, his arms folded across his chest, a stern frown on his face. As she came near, she could see her mother standing in the shadows behind her father.  Then the high druid came rushing out of his dwelling and swiftly approached them.
Before her father could open his mouth to scold her, the faint beating of drums echoed down the road from the west. Lord Kemble’s attention turned from Brina and he shouted instructions to his men.  More guards came running and men spilled out of doorways, holding spears and other weapons.  The drum beats grew louder and chanting voices floated over the water.  The armed men lined up along the protective log walls, at the ready.  As the voices grew nearer, the drums rolled once, twice, then a rhythm beat out.

As he listened to the drum message, Lord Kemble shouted, “My son.  My son returns.” With long strides, he started for the walkway.  Brina raced after him with Conall at her heels. That was Gavin’s personal drum message.  Gavin was home!  Her father’s first son, his favorite son, and her favorite brother.

In the excitement of the returning heir, Brina’s scolding and punishment were temporarily forgotten. Lord Kemble called for a celebration and feasting to begin that very night.  He drew his son into his arms and took him back to the family dwelling, while Gavin’s men scattered to visit their own families.  Conall thumped down outside the doorway of their dwelling and refused to be led off to be penned with the other dogs.

Inside their family quarters, Gavin’s eyes met Brina’s and he gave her a sweet smile.  She could see he had changed.  He had lost his restless, searching energy and had a calmness about him that soothed. Even Mother was glad to see Gavin returned to them and she gave rapid orders to the servants and slaves to prepare a special meal for their evening repast.

Forgotten for now, Brina moved to her small sleeping compartment only to meet her older sister, Bretta, coming from the compartment.

“You!” Bretta twitched her garments aside to keep them from brushing against Brina.  “Why have you returned? You will not take my place!”  She snarled the words at Brina.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Brina replied.  “You know I couldn’t take your place in our parent’s eyes.”

“I’m talking about the high druid.  You were a fool to run from him and stay away.  Now he wants me.”

“You’re going to be his apprentice?”  Brina sucked in her breath.  Even though Bretta hated her, she couldn’t wish that fate on her older sister.

“No, fool, I’m going to be his wife.”  Bretta tossed her head and smoothed down the cloth over her hips.  “I’ll be the most respected woman in the clan, higher than even Mother.”

Brina could only stare at her sister in disbelief, nausea building in her.  “No!” She burst out, “You mustn’t do that!”

“I knew you’d be jealous.  He wants me now,” Bretta said proudly.  “You lost your chance when you ran away.”

“Are you moonstruck?  I wouldn’t marry the high druid if he were the last man on this crannog.”  Brina could not believe her sister could be so blind to the aura that surrounded the druid.

“More fool, you.” Bretta lifted her chin and brushed by Brina.

Brina was filled with fear for her sister and regret that she would never listen to her reasons not to marry the high druid.  Not only did his presence make her skin crawl, but there were rumors about the high druid and women who disappeared in the night.  But surely, if the high druid was going through the bride ceremony, Bretta should be safe enough, as safe as she could be living with the evil entity that dwelled within this druid. Brina shuddered and entered the sleeping compartment

It was filled with Bretta’s personal things.  Where could she rest while staying with her family?  Would she be able to sleep with Bretta’s hateful presence next to her?  She sat on the sleeping furs and drew her knees up to her chin.  Resting her cheek on her knees, she closed her eyes and breathed slowly, calming herself. She remembered the unusual calmness emanating from Gavin.  She reached out with a thread of thought and sought Gavin’s presence.  She found him with her father.  Gavin was telling of his adventures.  She touched Gavin’s aura.  So peaceful, so contented.  Where had he found this?

She must have dozed off, with her early morning rising and long walk tiring her body to exhaustion.  She was awakened by Bretta rudely shaking her.  “Time to eat.”

Brina shook the sleep from her head and rose swiftly to her feet.  Without speaking, the sisters walked to the main room and took their places on the mats around the low table to partake in the family meal hastily prepared by their servants. Torches burned in their holders around the room to push away the coming of night. Brina shivered inside as she saw the high druid sitting opposite from her father.  Bretta sat next to him, preening and full of her own importance.  Brina felt his foul magic probing at her, trying to penetrate her mind, but her shield was firmly in place. Then she began to listen to Gavin’s conversation with their father.

It was all Colum Cille this and Colum Cille that.  Brina was delighted to hear more stories about this new druid.  Shylah’s stories were limited and all old ones.  Gavin had met the new holy man who followed the one God.  He had followed with him for many weeks and had many stories to tell.  A commoner’s only cow was dying.  Colum Cille restored it to health with one touch.  A monster beneath the waters of a lake was taking villagers until Colum Cille banished it with his words, “Think not to go further, nor touch the man. Quick! Go back!” and invoked the name of his God.  One of his followers was weeping over the death of his child when Colum Cille commanded the child to rise and he came back to life.  Gavin even reported he, with his own eyes, had seen Colum Cille walk across a lake without sinking below the water.

Brina found it really hard to believe one man could do all those magical things, but she was fascinated by Gavin’s stories.  Obviously, he believed them even as some around the table scoffed.  She ignored the unbelieving comments and enjoyed listening to her brother talk, until she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye and glanced toward the high druid.  The depth of hate in his eyes against her brother shocked Brina, but as she thought on it, she realized that this new type of druid Gavin was reporting about was a major threat to the high druid.  She had seen their druid do some powerful magic, but never had he raised one from the dead or walked on water.  When the high druid began to speak, she grew fearful for her brother.

The druid faced the end of the table.  “Lord Kemble, I see your son has been contaminated by his association with this man who worships one God.  We know our gods are many, and they have been good enough for us for all our lives and the lives of our fathers and their fathers.”  Then he turned to Gavin, “This man is false and worships a false god.  He has tricked you into believing he can do these magics.  No one can bring the dead back to life.”

“Colum Cille can and he did,” Gavin said firmly.  “I believe his God is real.”

“No!”  The druid shoved back his uneaten bowl of food.  “You are mistaken.  You must leave this man behind you and forget him.  I will perform a cleansing ceremony to purify you from these thoughts.  It will be held tomorrow.”  He turned back to Lord Kemble.  “You must delay the celebration and feasting until after your son is purified.  If he cannot be purified, he must be put to death.  Otherwise the gods will be angry with us at his blasphemy.”

A cold dread settled into Brina at the words of the druid and she looked quickly to her father.  What would his answer be?  Would he allow his beloved elder son to be put to death?  Why did she even wonder at his answer?  She knew he deferred to the druid in all religious matters.

A heavy frown creased the brow of Lord Kemble.  “Is there no other way?”

“If he is too besmirched to be purified, then the law is clear.  He must be put to death,” The Druid stated again.

His hatred seethed beneath the surface of his words and spell binding was underlaying his focus on Lord Kemble. Brina could feel the slimy tangles of his dark magic threading through the room, touching the family members around the table and branching out to the servants.  Was this how he kept control of their village and directed all their lives when he wished something to come to pass?  He had always repulsed her, but she had never been able to feel the workings of his dark magic before her month of working to hone her own power. The foul tangles slipped off of her shield and hovered before Gavin. In a split second she extended her shield to cover him and the foulness that filled the room could not touch Gavin.

Gavin gave a steady look to his father, then to the druid.  “I am not contaminated by Colum Cille.  I will not consent to your ceremony.”  He started to stand up.

“So be it.” The druid made a quick motion with his hand and Gavin fell back down on the floor, unmoving.  Brina cried out, “Gavin!”  Before she could move the druid made another motion and his guards at the door came forward.  They picked up the motionless Gavin and, under the direction of the druid, carried him out of the door. The druid followed.

Brina jumped to her feet and cried at her father. “How could you let the druid take Gavin! He has done no wrong!”

“How would you be able to judge after what you’ve done?” Bretta said. Her eyes were slitted and her mouth contorted. She snarled at Brina. “The druid always knows best. We must not anger the gods.”

“I have done nothing wrong,” Brina protested. “The druid is not always right.  He is a bad man!”

Gasps came from around the room.

“That will be enough!” Lord Kemble rose to his feet and towered over Brina. “You have much to answer for, running away and refusing to return with the high druid and his men.  Now you even question his authority. You will return to your sleeping quarters and stay there until I send for you.”

Brina stepped back.  “No, my lord, I won’t.”

More gasps.

“Ungrateful child,” muttered her mother as she placed her arm around Bretta’s shoulders. “At least I have one daughter who pleases me.”

The remark stabbed Brina’s heart, even though she knew she had never pleased her mother, no matter how hard she had tried, and she never would.

She turned, walked out of her family dwelling, and paced after the druid’s men who were carrying Gavin. Night had fallen and the torches set along the path only lit up a few feet on either side of them.  The tramping feet of her father’s guards followed her. She turned toward them and muttered a freezing charm. They stopped in their tracks, eyes wide with fear. Then Brina followed her brother’s limp body as the druid had him carried into his own dwelling.

She stopped just outside the dwelling and a chill went up her spine. The open doorway reeked of dark magic. Was she strong enough to face down the druid? What would the guards do if she did?  She had to try to save her brother. Taking a deep breath, she wrapped her shield tightly around herself and entered the druid’s dwelling.  She stopped just inside the door and searched the room for Gavin.  He was lying very still on a high altar under the collection of shrunken heads of the druid’s enemies.  The druid bent over him.

As she stood quietly in the doorway, the druid felt her presence and swiftly turned from Gavin’s body.  She felt his glee and hoped she had not stepped into a trap she could not escape from. He dismissed the guards and waited until they left the room before speaking. “Ah. My little reluctant bride. You return to me.”

“I will never be your bride.” Brina spoke in a low passionate voice. “Never!”

“Oh, too bad.  You wish to save your brother?” A smile full of malice broke over his face. “Then you must become my bride.”

“You have my sister.  Why do you need two brides?”  Brina fought hard to keep her voice from shaking.

He made a motion of dismissal.  “Britta is a warm body, but you, my sweet thing, are much more.  I have sensed your power for long while, but now I can taste the power flooding through you.”  He licked his lips and stalked closer to Brina. She trembled at his nearness. “If I lay with you, I can take that power and it will be mine.  Mine to use.”

Even as she trembled, Brina strengthened her shield and reached with her mind down, down, far under the water to touch the earth.  She drew strength and fed the glowing flames of power that warmed her magic.

“You will never have my power.”

“Then your brother must die.”

“I think not.”  Brina said as she pulled the clean earth power into herself until she could hold no more.  She was ready when the druid attacked.  He threw the same spell at her with which he had felled Gavin, with even more force. Her shield held firm and the hard-flung spell rebounded back at the druid.  He gasped and dropped to the floor.  His eyes glittered at her with anger, but he stayed motionless as Brina grabbed some woven grass rope and tied his hands and feet. She stuffed a cloth into his mouth, then she rushed to Gavin, and plunged her earth power into the spell holding him.  With a shudder, Gavin broke free of the binding and sat up. His face was white and he moved slowly.

“Quickly, Brother,” Brina urged him.  “He will recover soon.  We must get you away from here.”
She thrust her arms under Gavin’s shoulders and pulled him to his feet.  Gavin swayed, then he straightened and gave her his sweet smile.  “Thank you, my sister.”  Slowly they moved forward to the door of the dwelling.  “I need a drum.  I cannot leave my men here to the druid’s revenge.”

Brina glanced around the room and saw a small drum lying on a nearby table.  She touched the drum. Detecting no apparent evil, she snatched it up and handed it to Gavin. He began to beat out a staccato rhythm which boomed across the water.

As they moved through the doorway, the guards of the druid stepped forward, their spears raised. “Back!” Brina spoke with command in her voice.  The confused guards lowered their spears. “We are to leave now.  The druid does not wish to be bothered until he calls you.”

As the echoes of the drum beat died away, shouts and running feet were heard all around the crannog. Gavin’s men were responding to his emergency distress signal. As Brina and Gavin made their way to the causeway, they were soon surrounded by his men.  Lord Kemble still stood by the door to their family dwelling.  He lifted his hand to stay his own men, motioning for them to allow the group to leave.  As Brina and Gavin passed, she could see the pain in his face as his son walked away from him.

If only he stayed firm in his protection.  If only the druid did not recover until they were out of spear throwing distance.  If only they could reach the clearing with the sacred well before any possible pursuit overtook them.
It seemed a miracle, but they did make it safely out of the village and all the way to the Herb Woman’s clearing and the sacred well before the druid was able to free himself.  There Gavin and his men left Brina.  Gavin returned many times in the ensuing years.  Sometimes he even brought the Colum Cille with him, and the protection on the clearing was strengthened each time Colum Cille visited.

Brina remained in the clearing, tending to the pilgrims who returned to visit the sacred well, as well as those who sought her out for herbs. She continued to fight the evil influence of the druid. Her ability to See into the future grew as her power developed.  Years later, one vision came upon her as she sat beside the well, looking down into the clear water.  It seemed as though she fell and fell, as down, down many years.  She saw a young girl, dressed in strange clothes, holding the box of power that Shylah had given to herself, Brina, many years ago.  She watched as the strange girl learned to use the powers in the box. She shuddered as she learned what the young girl had to face with her new-learned powers. Then she fell back into her own self and realized that her legacy from Shylah  was only the beginning, that the fight against evil must continue. Brina pondered her vision. “I shall pass the box on to another generation, then it shall pass again and again.”

I hope you have enjoyed Brina’s story.  Thank you for reading.  To read the story of the young girl in Brina’s vision, see The Singular Gift on Amazon.

Judgement’s Tale Climax: “Clash of Wills” is Now Available

Created with Nokia RefocusEven when I knew him, I didn’t know his story.

Once I knew the story, I never dreamed I’d chronicle it.

Now I can hardly imagine doing anything else with my spare time (I know, a fantasy writer for sure if he thinks THAT exists). But now at the release of this fourth volume, the novel I originally envisioned in Judgement’s Tale will be before the readers. Rest? Heck no, that’s for the weary- I can’t wait for the engine to crank up again so I can move the world along.

Clash of Wills: It All Comes Together

It’s a little hard to discuss the book itself because so much has happened in the preceding volumes. Solemn Judgement has carefully studied a couple of problems in his newly-adopted home while staying at the Sages Guild of Conar. One involves a young knight who kneels at the foot of the Hopelord’s statue constantly, and the mortal LoHI_JT_CoW_webdanger Judgement stubbornly believes him to be in. His other puzzle involves a forbidden book, a mystic time-scrying mirror, the ancient sage it drove mad, and a threat to the entire Lands of Hope. Meanwhile, his tutor Natasha has sanctioned him from further study, her friend the actor Alendic spends his every moment teasing the youth, and the patient Elvish Sage Cedrith  can only guess the depths of Judgement’s ambition or the danger he’s courting. In this story, they band together to rescue a comrade and face an ancient foe beyond their worst imaginings.

Meanwhile the Woodsman Treaman has begun to unlock the secrets of navigating the cursed Percentalion and befriended the young dragon Hallah. But his adventuring party falls into a worse escapade than ever before, a series of calamities which leaves them by turns wounded, naked, and finally imprisoned with priceless treasure in the face of a hellstorm of Chaos.

LoH_kg_1_map northern lands

But is it Ever Really Over?

Yes, it’s all starting to heat up in the northern kingdoms of the Lands of Hope. The draft I wrote up several years ago, coming after nearly thirty years of observation and note-taking, Clash of Wills will be in front of you. And the tale is not done. I’m working hard on The Eye of Kog, in which we’ll see the final confrontation involving Judgement, Treaman, prince Gareth, the Chosen Wanderer Renan Altrindur, young Anteris the scribe and many more. Never fear, dear readers, I wouldn’t leave you hanging- for long! Look for more of this epic tale later this year.

And if you want to remain apprised of developments in my chronicling journey, sign up on my website and get a free e-book with two Tales of Hope.

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