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Archive for April, 2013

Oops. Got busy writing and almost forgot to blog.

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

So, now that FIRE AND EARTH has been launched, let’s get back to the new story. This is the one that was supposed to be just something short to work on while I got ready to write my weird Oz story. It’s approaching 50,000 words, so yeah, not that short.

Anyway, I’m in the middle of the romantic complication. This time, I’m trying to write a love triangle, something new and different for me. Right now, my main character should be thoroughly confused. I’m sure I haven’t gotten that strong enough, yet, but that’s what first drafts are for. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect the first time through. It has to be as close to perfect as you can make it the last time through.

So, coming up in the next couple of chapters are the places where the rivalry between the two love interests will really heat up and . . . the choice. Should be fun. Also, a challenge. I have to keep both guys as credible choices even though I know which one will ultimately get the girl. At least, I think I do. This story has surprised me twice already. Well, that’s what keeps writing interesting, isn’t it?

Also, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available on wattpad.

FIRE AND EARTH finally showed up on Barnes and Noble.

And there’s a giveaway of a copy of FIRE AND EARTH on Goodreads.

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As part of publishing FIRE AND EARTH, I tried something new.

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

For the first time, I also made a print version available. Print on Demand services like Amazon’s CreateSpace make this possible, now. Nobody has to pay for a large print run. Copies are printed when ordered.

That’s not to say it’s just as easy as uploading a file. Neither is e-book publishing, come to that. There are various formatting issues that have to be solved with e-book publishing and those aren’t immediately obvious the first time or two. But then the learning curve kicks in and it gets easier.

Formatting for print, without having access to desktop publishing software, has its challenges. Certain quirks of MS Word made it more interesting. It wasn’t until I got the proof of FIRE AND EARTH that it finally became clear to me. What word showed as the left-hand page was reall, in print, the right-hand page. Ah. No wonder I hadn’t been able to make sense of the margins. (You see, you have to leave a larger margin on the inside so the print doesn’t run into the binding and disappear.)

Well, now that I’ve figure it out, I might as well capitalize on the learning curve. So, in the near future, I will be adding a print version of BLOOD WILL TELL and also probably a collection of the three shorter pieces I currently have available as e-books, “Heart of Oak”, “The Music Box”, and “Becoming Lioness”.  In fact, BLOOD WILL TELL is almost ready to go. I just want to tweak the cover a bit. That dragon bothers me just a little when the cover is blown up to 6″ x 9″. The edges are a little rough.

Blood Will Tell Cover

In other news, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available on wattpad.

Next post, back to work in progress, MAGIC AND POWER (which is likely going to need a new title). This one is now over 46,000 words, so, yeah, it’s going to be a novel.

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It’s finally here. The launch day for FIRE AND EARTH.

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

Seventeen-year-old Casora has been raised to be a fearless warrior, commander of the faceless war band known as the Deathless. Nevertheless, she and her company are helpless to stop the invasion of their homeland. Without a country, the Deathless offer their services as mercenaries to the next land attacked by the same raiders who conquered their nation.

As the youngest prince and the one least likely to be of use in the war, Tiaran is about to be forced into a political marriage to a girl he hates. Rather than be used to secure the loyalty of an opportunistic general, he secretly goes off to fight in the war himself. His first battle is about to be his last when Casora rides in to rescue him.

When these two unlikely partners join forces on the battlefield, they’ll shake the foundations of kingdoms.

You can find it in these places:

Amazon ebook

Amazon print

It hasn’t turned up on Barnes and Noble, yet, but it is on Kobo.

Please, spread the word.  There’s nothing like word of mouth.

As always, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are also available free on wattpad (but it’s going to take you a long time to read it that way).

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First, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available on wattpad.

The files for the print version of FIRE AND EARTH, to be released along with the e-book version on the 21st, are finally ready. That was an interesting process. So, in honor of that, here is one more deleted scene:

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

The northern scouts had nothing to report and the southern scouts had not yet returned. Casora worked out her impatience by taking the berserkers for a training drill. The horses tended to be restive after the long winter and they were even worse with a berserker on their backs. It was almost like learning to ride all over again and they had to be able to fight from horseback as well as on foot.

They were executing a wheeling maneuver, more raggedly than Casora liked, when she spotted the riders. The flash of flying red hair was all she needed to identify her returning scouts and the dust cloud behind them explained their hurry. At her signal, Casora’s berserkers formed up into a flying wedge and galloped into place behind the fleeing scouts, covering their retreat.

Casora’s unit slowed, letting the lightly-armed scouts outpace them, and turned to hold the road. They waited while twice their number of Yriri became visible through the dust of their headlong gallop. As she braced herself for the conflict, Casora took a hard look at the Yriri’s mounts. Skeletal faces were topped by one, two, or three horns. What kind of beasts did these Yriri ride? She took a deep breath. Whatever they looked like, they smelled like horses. Narrowing her eyes, she took a closer look. Masks. The Yriri’s bridles were attached to fanciful masks. She sat back. Horses that had become accustomed to berserker riders weren’t likely to be spooked by that.

The Yriri pursuers shouted their war cry “Yririri” and clashed their weapons, eager for battle. Casora smiled. They thought their superior numbers would carry the day. They were in for a surprise. She gave the signal and the berserkers spurred forward.

The skirmish was mercifully short. Only two of the berserkers Changed, although all the others were caught mid-Change when the last opponent fell.

They’d have to stay out here until the berserker madness passed off for at least most of them. Casora did lead them half-way back to camp, though. The Change would be quicker from here, away from the overpowering smell of blood and shit and battle. Eager as she was for the news, she’d have to wait to get the scouts’ report.

Most of the berserkers were well on their way to being human again by the time Derian rode up with a relief force. Totally unnecessary, but she appreciated that Varana had kept her head and her priorities straight. Make sure of the battle first.

“Good,” she said to Derian. “There are enough of us now to keep the berserkers under control. Let’s get back to camp. I want to hear what the scouts have to say.”

“It looks like Artria,” Varana said as soon as they rode back into camp, not even waiting for Casora to dismount.

Casora smiled. The Deathless had a direction and a purpose again. “Derian, oversee the breaking of camp. The Deathless are going south.”

“What about Lord Haver? He’ll come back and find nothing but hard-packed ground,” Varana said.

“Serves him and Feloria right. It’s all they deserve from us, now.”

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First, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available on wattpad.

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

FIRE AND EARTH is on track for publication on the 21st–next Sunday. In honor of that, here’s another deleted scene from what used to be the first chapter.

Casora made her way back to her new desk at the back of the command tent and found an envelope on top addressed to her. News from home was always welcome. Normally, looking for and opening that letter would have been the first thing she did. She’d been distracted by the change of command and then by taking leave of Marcian and Varana. She sat back in the big chair and tore open the seal.

Casora,

You are probably cursing me for calling back so many of the experienced Deathless just as you take command. It’s not an easy task I’ve left you, I know, but you are equal to it.

The battle experience of those I have called is needed here. The mountain scouts brought word of an army of Yriri raiders on the march from out of the north. If they climb the mountains, they will be here before winter closes the passes. We need more young men and women to defend Astraea.

I am confident you will be able to pull the band together and train them over the winter.

Keep scouts to the north, in case the Yriri skirt the mountains and slip past us.

Your mother and brothers send their love. Grita sends hers, too. She’s glaring at me as I write this because you won’t be home for her wedding. She’s marrying the farmer’s son from up the road on Star Night.

Lead with Honor,

Your father

Casora’s throat constricted with worry. Marcian, Varana and the others weren’t returning home; they were riding into battle without her. And they didn’t even know it. Her father’d probably expected her to read the letter before they left and relay the information. She’d have to send a rider after them, to warn them. And set a scout to the north to safeguard the camp. “Ravan, send me two scouts.”

The young man twisted around in his chair. “Two scouts, Captain?”

She did her best to imitate Ledan’s command tone. “Did I stutter?”

“No, Captain. Right away, Captain.”

Casora sat back and read through the letter again. It didn’t make sense. If Astraea was under attack, why not send for all the Deathless? There was only going to be maybe one more skirmish here until spring. This border dispute wasn’t even Astraea’s war. The Deathless were only here to support their ally, Feloria. Well, that, and to get actual battle experience for the Deathless. If there was going to be a real war back home, surely that’s where they belonged.

She could almost hear her father’s voice, “Think like a commander, Casora.”

Well, then. Strategically, the reason a general would leave a fresh unit on his flank–potentially on the enemy’s flank–was as a reserve. Such units could turn the tide of a battle. Was that what Pa had planned for the Deathless? But winter was coming on and the passes would close soon. They wouldn’t be able to get back to Astraea until spring. It was to be not a single battle but a long-run war, then. And the Deathless were not only held in reserve, they were sitting right at the border with Astraea’s closest allies.  

Remembering how young some of the new replacements had been, Casora realized one more purpose. Some of the youngest and least prepared had been gotten out before the battle started. All right then, it was her job to see that they were all trained and ready come spring. She was good at training and she’d have all winter to work on them. She could have all the Deathless in tip top shape by then, ready when they were called into the battle.

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First, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available on wattpad. FIRE AND EARTH is on track to be published on the 21st.

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

And now, for the rest of that deleted scene I posted on Sunday.

From her desk at the front of the command tent, Casora watched the large group of riders approaching. She wore the regulation leathers and enough of her armor to disguise her slender body. By reflex, she reached for her helmet to hide her face as well. No outsider ever saw the face of a Deathless.

The tent stood on a little rise overlooking the camp, where the flag bearing a circle of seven stars on a dark blue field could be seen for miles around. It was also above most of the mud, although the smell of wet earth, damp horses, and manure still reached her on the stiff breeze that whipped the flag above her.

The rise gave Casora a good view of anyone arriving at the camp long before they reached her. More than enough time to note that these riders were all redheads, not a common hair color outside of Astraea. Casora grinned and set her helmet back on the corner of the desk. They were replacements. No need to hide her face from them. They were about to become Deathless themselves and they wouldn’t be shocked to find that the second in command of the famous war band was a girl only a couple of years older than they were.

As the riders made their way down the central road, between the orderly rows of tents, she took note of their condition and readiness. The horses looked good. Someone had thought to stop and groom them before riding in. Very shortly before, by appearances, since the mud from the recent rains didn’t rise above their fetlocks. The riders’ spears had been polished and sharpened, too. Replacements usually tried to make a good impression.

The effect was spoiled by the ease of the riders and their ragged line, strung out like a hunting party. And the shiny weapons were held too loosely. In a skirmish, they’d be overwhelmed before they could get those spears into position.

The new ones always thought they’d been trained back home, but they always had so much still to learn when they got here. It’d be Casora’s job to figure out what that was and see that it happened right quick, before they had a chance to get themselves or a comrade killed.

Training, she knew. She was good at that. She grimaced as she thought of all the other work these riders would mean: billets to be found, supplies that the veterans would already have, armor to be refitted, paperwork. Casora hadn’t come close to being comfortable with that part of her new job as second in command of the Deathless. She’d only been moved up from the much smaller job of commanding the archers when the last group of replacements arrived two months ago.

Then again, maybe all that would be someone else’s worry. It was an unusually large group of replacements. Thirty people would be going home, nearly a tenth of the band. Maybe Casora would be one of them this time. Winter was coming on; this would be the last batch of replacements before the passes closed. If one of them wasn’t carrying her name, that would mean another dreary winter in camp, without even any fighting to liven things up while the snow was on the ground. The honor of being among the longest serving of the Deathless was frankly wearing a little thin.

Four years was a long time to be away. She’d be seventeen this winter. Grita would be marrying any time now. Casora’d like to get home before her sister up and fell for some plowboy or cowherd and moved away. Grita was lucky. She could marry whoever and whenever she chose. Having been born free of the Curse, Grita wasn’t required to be a warrior. Casora and Marcian would have to wait until their duty permitted more.

Others of the war band began to gather around the command tent, shouting greetings but too disciplined to ask the question on everybody’s mind. Anybody who’d served for more than a year hoped this might be their ticket home.

The replacements rode right up to the command tent before dismounting and Casora got her first good look at them. They looked barely old enough to be allowed to ride over the mountains and into a foreign country on their own, let alone fight a war. It seemed like the replacements got younger with every batch. Seven gods! Had she ever been that young and that green? Must have been.

Casora drew breath to bark an order when she heard Captain Ledan step out of the tent behind her. Casora exhaled soundlessly. Not her place to give orders in the Captain’s presence.

“Report!” Ledan’s order cut through the chatter like a blade. The more experienced Deathless quieted immediately; the replacements looked around with wide, frightened eyes. Green as grass.

“Beran, here to replace Captain Ledan,” the first one said proudly, as if replacing the commander somehow made him special. The effect was somewhat spoiled when his voice squeaked through a half-octave change in the middle of it.

Won’t make you the commander, boy. Not by a long road. A chill swept down Casora’s back as the full impact struck. No, it’d make Casora the commander. Seven gods! She’d have to be the one to lead the Deathless into battle, make the decisions that could get some or all of them killed. Her stomach knotted. She wasn’t ready for that. Casora bowed her head to hide the panic in her eyes. A leader couldn’t show fear; a leader had to be strong and confident for the band.

There had to be some mistake. Sure, Casora did most of the training, but that was a long way from leading them into battle. For a dizzy moment she was positive the next name would be hers. The generals back home had to know that she wasn’t ready for this. They’d sent someone else out to take over. She didn’t even need to look at those fresh, young faces to know that wasn’t true. None of the replacements would be carrying her name. They simply would not call back the first and second in command at the same time. Panic warred with disappointment and won.

Maybe, with Marcian and Varana to support her, she could manage without making a complete ass of herself. Maybe.

She could almost feel the breath being held by every member of the Deathless, waiting for the next name.

“Telar, to replace Deathless Marcian,” the second boy said, snapping to attention much better than the first boy had.

Gods, what have I done to offend you that you would leave me here in command of this circus and send my love back home? It’s going to be a long, cold winter. Absently, she rubbed at the tiny scar above her right eyebrow. She bent her head over her work, recording the names of the new replacements and those called home in separate columns on her tally sheet.

Her head almost snapped back up when the fourth replacement spoke in a high clear voice that had to belong to a girl of maybe thirteen. “Dalora, to replace Deathless Varana.”

Her best friend, too? Casora looked back down at her list. None of those called home had only a single year of service. All of them had as much time as Casora or nearly as much. Ledan, of course, had more. They’d called home all of the most experienced of the Deathless–all except her.

Perfect. Marcian was–or had been–also her logical second. Him or Varana. Now it’d have to be Ravan. She spotted Marcian at the front of the watching Deathless, grinning fit to split his homely face and staggering from the others’ hearty slaps on his broad back. His smile faded a little when their eyes met. Casora forced a smile herself, unwilling to spoil his moment.

As the band broke up, drifting back to their individual tasks or dragging both the new recruits and those about to go home away for a celebratory drink, Ledan’s hand fell on Casora’s shoulder.

“I felt the same way when they called Keltan home and left me in command.”

“You had more than a couple of months as Keltan’s second.”

“True,” Ledan said. “You’re readier than you think you are, Casora. Don’t let them see uncertainty.”

Casora gulped and managed a nod.

“Come on, we have work to do before we can help them celebrate,” Ledan said.

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Housekeeping out of the way first. New chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are up on wattpad.

Now, in honor of the release of FIRE AND EARTH in two weeks, here’s a deleted scene (or part of one, it’s actually a very long scene).

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

This used to be the beginning of this book. It was cut because it took too long (and too much of a diversion into setting up the world) early. It’s still a good scene, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more of this deleted scene in the next couple of weeks.

Casora stepped into the practice circle and grinned as she saluted her opponent. The sword was not her best weapon, but the chance to spar with Marcian was too good to pass up. The only sanctioned time they could touch was during such training duels. Oh, they could hold hands occasionally, but anything more would have to wait until they’d completed their required service in the war band known as the Deathless.

Of course, there wouldn’t be much chance to touch in a sword match, either. On the other hand, if she disarmed him, he could turn it into a wrestling match. Naturally, he’d win. Her speed and agility wouldn’t be much use against his size and strength in that kind of fight, but there’d be plenty of touching. Every inch of her skin tingled at the thought.

Marcian returned her salute and took up his stance, giving her the first move. She took a moment to admire all those muscles. This was going to be fun. She closed in with a move intended to lock Marcian’s sword, then danced aside when he countered with an attack. Evidently, he hadn’t thought of turning this into a wrestling match. He winked at her. Or else he was going to try to at least make the sword fight look believable first. Casora could go along with that.

She rushed forward and spun at the last instant to hit Marcian from the side with the flat of her blunted practice sword. She’d learned that move from her oldest brother and she didn’t use it very often. With real, sharp-edged weapons, it was too risky, leaving her open to her opponent’s back stroke, if he was quick enough.

Marcian was faster than he looked, but she’d taken him by surprise with that move. In trying to follow her spin, he’d left himself open. Casora took advantage of that by dropping low and pressing the point of her sword against Marcian’s belly. It was then that she noticed the edge of his blade resting beside her neck. If this had been a real battle, they’d both be dead.

She reached up and rubbed at the little scar above her right eyebrow. Maybe she should have remembered how Marcian had given her that scar the last time she tried a trick move. She’d acquired other scars since then, of course, but that had been her first. And it had become something of a joke between them.

Marcian looked down at the sword pointed at his gut and shrugged. Casora stood up and took her stance, waiting for his move. A horn blast made them both turn toward the road that ran past their camp. At the cry of “Riders coming!” Casora dropped her practice sword and dashed to her post.

 

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