"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Friday, January 31, 2014

Preview of HIGH MAGA: Eolyn and Akmael meet again

In last week's post, I talked a little about the deeper history of Eolyn's world, and how the relationship between Eolyn and Akmael is the embodiment of the struggle to return to a balance between men's and women's magic in Moisehen.

The novel Eolyn focuses on this struggle, and while a full resolution of the conflict is not achieved by the end of the first book, a sort of uneasy truce is established between Eolyn and the Mage King. 

In this scene, taken from Chapter 1 of High Maga, Akmael and Eolyn meet after some three years of having gone their separate ways.  Akmael has now consolidated his power as king, and Eolyn has established her own Aekelahr, with students and followers of the tradition of Aithne, in the highlands of Moehn. 

There is, needless to say, a lot of water under the bridge here. Old passions, desires, and resentments are bound to flare.  But beneath it all, the thread of mutual respect runs strong, and the pain of disappointed love lingers.  Without further ado, here is everyone's favorite maga, and the Mage King whose heart she might still command:


High Maga, excerpt from Chapter 1

There was a knock at the door, followed by Sir Drostan’s muffled baritone. Akmael bade the knight to enter, and kept his gaze steady upon Eolyn as Drostan crossed the room and laid a long package wrapped in well-oiled leather on the table. The knight paused and cleared his throat, looking from High Maga to Mage King as if to say something, but then he merely bowed and took his leave.
Akmael removed the leather wrapping, unsheathed the sword therein and set it before Eolyn. The hilt was inlaid with ivory, the blade shone silver-white. Her throat went dry when she recognized it.
“This? Where did you get this?” she asked.
“I have had it since the Battle of Aerunden.”
Eolyn sat down, so great was her shock. “Kel’Barú. My brother’s sword. All this time you have had it?”
“I wanted to keep it,” he confessed. “It is a fine weapon, and you seemed to have little use for tools of war. But the Galian wizards gave this sword a will of its own, and it has done nothing these past years but weep for you.”
She stood and lifted the sword, one hand sustaining the ivory hilt, the flat of the blade resting on her long fingers.
Eolyn, it sang in the quiet hum of metals. Eolyn, Eolyn, Eolyn.
“I want you to learn how to use it,” Akmael said.
At once she set it down. “No.”
“I will not argue this with you.”
“Stop it!” Every fiber of her body ignited with anger. “Stop it, Akmael. Why are you doing this?”
A moment passed before she realized her transgression. She lowered her eyes. “Forgive me, my Lord King. I didn’t intend—”
“Do not apologize. It pleases me, to hear you say my name. I would have you say it more often.”
There was such unexpected kindness to his tone that the rage slipped through her fingers. She managed a hesitant smile. “Thank you. I mean no insult by questioning your gift, but you know my feelings on this matter. We have no use for knights and walls and swords. This is an Aekelahr, not a military outpost.”
“This is a fragile community of magas cultivating seeds of great power. You are not to go unprotected.”
“Moehn is a peaceful province. That is why I chose it. We are well received here. No one wishes us harm.”
“It is not Moehn I worry about.”
“Who, then? There won’t be any armies emerging from the South Woods, and no one can get through the Pass of Aerunden without crossing the kingdom and defeating you first.”
Akmael let go a slow breath. The turmoil that stirred behind his dark eyes disturbed her; as if there were something of importance he could not bring himself to reveal. He picked up Kel’Baru and proffered it to her.
Eolyn shook her head, hands clenched stubbornly at her sides. “We tried this, a long time ago. You know I have no gift for weaponry.”
 “You are not the frightened girl you were then. You have strength, balance and speed. And you have a sword that loves you. Borten can teach you how to use it.”
“I’ve seen how your men fight. I could never hope to—”
“No, you could not!” He struck his fist against the table and gestured angrily toward the courtyard where his guards waited. “One of those men—trained from the time they were children—one of them could kill you in a heartbeat. But with this blade in your hand, it might take them two heartbeats. Or three. Or fifteen. And that might be enough for someone to come to your aid before it is too late.”
“I am not without defenses. I have my magic and my staff. I can invoke almost every manner of flame known to our people. I have even cast the curse of Ahmad-kupt, though I hope never to use it again.”
“Your magic will not be enough.”
“For what?”
He glanced away, set his jaw. “I want you to have every tool at your disposal, for whatever may come.”
Come back next week to meet the antagonists of HIGH MAGA:
Rishona, Mechnes, and the Naether Demons

Friday, January 24, 2014

Deep History: The story of Moisehen and its surrounding kingdoms

Those of you familiar with my work know by now that history is a fundamental thread in the underlying fabric of Eolyn's world.  Everything that happens in the present moment has flowed somehow from events of the past. 

Even so, I spend very little time putting "backstory moments" into my narrative.  Rather, the history of Eolyn's people is revealed through conversation and shared experiences.  As a result, the reader receives different versions of history, depending on who is telling the story, and there are swaths of history that are never explicitly revealed, even though they impact each and every character in very important ways. 

Once in a while, I like to use this blog to touch upon historical themes that are important to Eolyn's world, even if they are not readily apparent in the novels.  Today I want to talk a little about the deep history of Moisehen and its neighbors, Roenfyn, Galia, the Land of the Syrnte, and the Kingdoms of the Paramen Mountains. 

Early in the story of Eolyn, the legend of the origin of magic is told.  This is one of the defining historical myths of Eolyn's people. The discovery of magic is attributed to Aithne and her lover Caradoc.  By bringing magic to their people, Aithne and Caradoc transform history.  They also ignite the wrath of certain gods, and a rift develops between those gods who support the use of magic (represented by Dragon), and those gods who do not (represented by Thunder).

Generations later, this rift manifested itself in a long and terrible war between the People of Thunder, who refused magic in all its forms, and the People of Dragon, who embraced magic. The War of Thunder nearly extinguished the followers of Aithne and Caradoc. It was not until their darkest hour, when all hope was nearly lost, that Dragon appeared to the mage Caedmon and taught him how to use magic in battle.

It's important to note that this was a cultural revolution, of sorts.  Until Dragon appeared to Caedmon, it was strictly forbidden to use magic as a destructive force.  The advent of the mage and maga warriors, while turning the tide of the war, also introduced important tensions that would persist for centuries to come. 

But I digress.  Between Caedmon's magic and the military prowess of the warrior chief Vortingen, who aligned with the People of Dragon, the People of Thunder were not only defeated, but greatly weakened and reduced in numbers.  What remained of their tribes united to establish the small and relatively inconsequential  Kingdom of Roenfyn.

The People of Dragon, on the other hand, flourished in the centuries that followed.  Three principle kingdoms were born from their numbers. To the east of Roenfyn, the warrior chief Vortingen founded a line of kings in the land-locked and forested realm  of Moisehen.  To the west and south, the powerful wizards of Galia established their own mysterious traditions in a terrain where the fury of volcanoes mingled with the unpredictable moods of the open sea. 

Subsequent migrations from Moisehen led to a mixing with the tribes of the eastern deserts and the emergence of the Syrnte empire, with its elegant peoples and sophisticated cities.  The people of the Paramen Mountains also share a common history with Moisehen, and among all the kingdoms, probably maintain the closest ties with Eolyn's people in terms of bloodlines and cultural traditions. 

The novel Eolyn focuses on the reconciliation of two important factions within the magical tradition of Moisehen:  the Daughters of Aithne, also called magas, and the Sons of Caradoc, also called mages.  Eolyn is born toward the end of a devastating civil war that pitted magas against mages, and that destroyed a millennial balance between male and female magic.  This process, wrought with turbulence and uncertainty, is embodied in Eolyn's relationship with Akmael, which grows from innocent friendship to burgeoning love, and then, tragically, into doubt, suspicion, open confrontation, and warfare.

As Moisehen struggles to find peace with itself, the kingdom is consumed by the broader canvass of history. High Maga brings the Syrnte people back with a legitimate claim to the throne occupied by Akmael.  Daughter of Aithne expands the struggle to include Roenfyn, Galia, and the Paramen Mountains.  In all three novels, beneath the sagas of the individual characters runs the deeper tragedy that a people once united in history and purpose are now pitted against each other in a vicious struggle for power.

But with that tragedy comes hope, and as each character plays his or her part in history, we begin to see hints of a world that might at last hold reconciliation, not only between the Sons and Daughters of Aithne and Caradoc, but ultimately between the People of Dragon and the People of Thunder.

Of course, such an achievement would require the gods themselves to be at peace.  Could such a thing be possible?  Only time, and the novels, will tell.

Next week's preview from HIGH MAGA will include a scene from Eolyn and Akmael's first encounter, some four years after they faced each other as rivals in the Battle of Aerunden.
If you missed last week's preview, click here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

HIGH MAGA: The Scene That Inspired the Cover

Before beginning his work on the cover art for High Maga, Thomas Vandenberg read both the new novel and its previously published companion, Eolyn.  He asked me if I had any preferences for the cover image.  I did have some ideas, but I chose not to share these with him before he had a chance to read the stories.  I wanted to find out what would appeal to Tom's imagination as an artist. In the end, one of the three scenes he proposed to illustrate was also on my list of favorites:  Eolyn's first confrontation with a Naether Demon. 

Here I give you a brief preview of the chapter that inspired the cover of High Maga:  

High Maga

Chapter 9 (excerpt)

The energy of the forest pulsed at their feet, poised to respond to Sir Borten's bidding.

“There is your magic, Sir Borten," said Eolyn. "Now here is what you must do. Bring together all the elements you just told me about, the earth beneath you, the air in your lungs, the water in your cup, and the fire in your heart. Imagine all of it coming together into a single brilliant point of light, and when you see that light, repeat these words: Ehekahtu naeom tzefur. Ehukae.”

The night thickened with Borten's effort. After a moment, magic coursed up from the ground through his legs, filling his torso, wrapping around his heart. The strength of the vortex pulled a second current from Eolyn, and her magic tingled as it passed from her hands into his back. He drew a steady breath and exhaled the verse.

Eolyn withdrew.

Borten turned to face her. Steam rose from the cup of water in his hands. His expression was incredulous, jubilant.

Eolyn clapped in joy. “You see, Sir Borten? It is not so difficult after—”

Agonized screams ripped through her words. With a frightened cry, Eolyn took off toward the girls. She burst into the adjacent clearing and stopped short at the sight of a beast that swayed on long glowing limbs, a set of gaping pits where the eyes and mouth should have been. In one ebony-clawed hand it held Sirena, her chest torn open from throat to sternum, the shredded bodice black with blood.

Eolyn’s vision blurred. Her heart imploded. She clutched at her ribs, breath reduced to ragged gasps, knees buckling beneath her. Borten caught one arm and hauled her to her feet. Their eyes met.

All your senses open.

The knight released her and approached the monster with sword drawn.

Eolyn forced back the grief that had scattered her thoughts.

All your spirit focused on the task at hand.

Mariel crouched in the shadows, clutching Eolyn’s staff. Tears streamed down the girl’s face. Her shoulders shook like leaves on the wind.

“Mariel.” Eolyn’s voice was calm. “Set down my staff and climb the beech behind you, as quick and high as you can.”

“But Maga Eolyn—”

“Do as I say. If this goes badly, you are not to come down until dawn.”

 With a sob the young maga fled up the tree. Eolyn called the staff to her. The water crystal ignited, casting an ivory light over the dwindling fire, illuminating the creature in full. The beast groaned, a needy howl born of insatiable hunger.

Eolyn stepped forward, coming around to Borten’s left.

“Stay behind me,” he ordered.

“Your sword may not be enough,” she replied.

Friday, January 10, 2014

HIGH MAGA: Cover Reveal

At long last, here is the full cover reveal for High Maga!

My apologies for keeping Eolyn's friends and followers waiting on this.  I had hoped to do the cover reveal before the end of 2013, but what can I say?  The devil was in the details. 

Thomas Vandenberg worked very hard on this image to get everything just right.  The scene depicts a confrontation between Eolyn and a Naether Demon, one of many released from the Underworld by dark magic.  Up in the tree, you'll see one of Eolyn's students, Mariel.  Lying on the ground is a knight who did not fare very well in his fight against the monster. 

Naether Demons have an interesting history; as the author, I have quite a bit of sympathy for their situation, even if they are bloodthirsty beasts.  I'll give more backstory on the Naether Demons in a later post, as part of our countdown to the release of High Maga on April 4th. For now I will confess that I was a little wary of putting a Naether Demon on the cover of this novel.  They are amorphous beasts, more ghostly spirit than solid flesh. Tom's rendition is somewhat different from what I see in my own head, and I suspect that every reader will develop a unique idea of what a Naether Demon looks like.  Maybe down the line, a few months after the novel is released, I can host a "draw me a Naether Demon" contest to showcase the diversity of images these monsters inspire.

Our official countdown to the release of High Maga begins with today's cover reveal.  Every post from now to April 4th will touch upon a topic relevant to the novel.  You will meet many of the primary characters, some returning from Eolyn, others newly introduced for this novel.  We'll also have previews of scenes from the novel, maybe a reading or two, information on launch events, giveaways, and more. 

For next week's post, you'll get to read a scene from the chapter that inspired this cover art. Looking forward to seeing you then!