"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, February 28, 2014

An Evening of Wine and Friendship

The official date, time, and place has now been set for the launch party for High Maga:

Saturday April 12th
at the
Whitfield Center
Avila University Campus
11901 Wornall Road
Kansas City, MO 64145
The event will start at 5pm and end at 7pm, or when we run out of cake, whichever comes first.  (After the cake runs out, we are likely to proceed to the nearest pub.) I'll post an announcement in the side bar of the blog soon, but please mark your calendars.  If you're in the area, I'd love to see you at the party.  The event is free and open to the public, and books will be available for purchase and signing. 
Of course, April 12th is a full eight days after the official launch date.  If you can't wait a week to get your copy, don't worry!  The book will be available through Amazon starting April 4th.  Also, next week I will start a Goodreads Giveaway for High Maga, giving you a chance to win a free signed copy. (If you haven't entered the giveaway for Eolyn, now is your last chance! That giveaway ends on March 4th.)
My editor Eric T. Reynolds has been released from intensive care at the hospital and moved to a rehabilitation center closer to home.  We are all really happy with the progress he is starting to make, and look forward to his continued recovery. 
Heather McDougal is just about done with the full cover design for the paperback edition of High Maga, so this time next week you may get to see it.  The cover is magnificent. I am not exaggerating. I could not be more pleased with how the front and back cover art have come together, and I cannot wait to share it with you.
Sometime in the coming weeks, I will also post a full preview of the first three chapters of High Maga.  So stay tuned for that!
Speaking of previews, onto our feature for this week.  Last Friday, you met Eolyn's sisters in magic, Adiana and Renate.  Today you get to join them for an evening of wine and friendship. This is one of my favorite scenes; it is light-hearted, gossipy, and full of charm, without undermining the deeper conflicts that plague Renate, who tells this part of the story.  Enjoy, and thank you, once again, for accompanying me during the countdown to High Maga

High Maga

Chapter 11 (Excerpt)

“I speak in earnest, Renate.” Adiana’s words were slurred by drink. “Borten would be an excellent suitor for Eolyn. He’s good man, a considerate lover—”
Wine escaped Renate’s lips in a sputtering laugh. “How would you know Borten’s a considerate lover?”
Adiana shrugged. “I can see it in his face.”
Renate let go a high pitched cackle and shook her head. “See it in his face? I’ll wager you’ve seen more than his face. You’ve been restless as a lynx in heat since Eostar.”
Adiana gave a mock cry of protest and struck Renate playfully on the shoulder. “How dare you! One does not have to be a maga to see into the hearts of men. I learned a few things working the taverns in Selkynsen, you know. I can read a man as surely as Eolyn reads her books.”
“As surely as Eolyn reads her books in bed,” Renate replied in crisp tones.
Adiana flopped back on the blanket with an indignant harrumph. They had settled in the courtyard for an evening of wine and companionship, after having tucked the girls into bed. Days had passed since Eolyn departed for the South Woods, and the week would likely see its end before she returned.
 “And you accuse me of inventing stories and gossip!” Adiana complained. “Even if I had ‘read Borten in bed’, what would it matter? The magas always had untamed teachings with respect to that sort of thing. Isn’t aen-lasati the source of a woman’s greatest magic? I swear to the Gods, Renate, sometimes you seem too much of a prude to be a maga.”
A prude. Renate rolled the word over her tongue as she swirled the wine in her cup. Yes, that’s what she was. Tight inside, dry as autumn leaves underfoot. Forever bound by the failures and disillusions of her past. “The Magas of the Old Orders were disciplined women, not harlots at a summer festival. To lay claim to their understanding of aen-lasati while ignoring all their other teachings does their memory a disservice. It’s precisely that sort of myth that led us to the pyres in the first place.”
“Oh, Renate.” Adiana groaned, sat up, and reached for the wine skin. “Why must you take everything so seriously? It’s finished, remember? The war, the purges, the rebellion, the prohibition. We’re free now. The magas have been restored to their rightful place in Moisehén. We’ve got a proper Aekelahr, aspiring young magas, the protection of the Mage King, and a nice little regiment of handsome guards. Even you could have some fun, you know.”
The thought of her tired old body wrapped around one of the King’s men made Renate giggle until the giddiness shook her ribs and broke upon her lips.
 “That’s the spirit!” said Adiana. “Here, have some more wine. And tell me, which one of the guards do you like the most?”
“Oh, for the love of the Gods, Adiana!” Renate was laughing uncontrollably now, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I am an old woman.”
“Age is meaningless for a true maga. That’s what Eolyn says.” Adiana rested her head on Renate’s shoulder.
The older woman returned her warm embrace, inhaling the sweet smells of night mingled with Adiana’s vibrant aroma, of primrose and summer winds, of the riverside city that had once been her home. She envied her friend in that moment, not so much for her youth and beauty, but for her continued faith in the possibility that anything could be finished. Someday time and experience would break that faith. Desire and loss, terror and death, treachery and abandonment, all of it stayed with a person until the end of her days, animating the shadows at night, invading dreams, stealing away tranquility in the lonely hours before dawn.
Adiana gave a happy sigh and lifted her cup to the sky. “I love this moment, when the wine makes the stars shine brighter than ever. Gods bless the vineyards of Selkynsen!"

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sisters in Magic

I found this 19th century work by John Everett Mallais a while back,
and it kind of spooked me out with the similarities between these
women and Eolyn's fledgling coven in Moehn.  From left to right:
Tasha, Adiana, Mariel, Renate, Catarina, Ghemena, Eolyn, and Sirena.

No one gets by alone in this world, and magas are no exception.  On today's installment of our countdown to High Maga, we meet Eolyn's sisters in magic, Adiana of Selkynsen and Maga Renate. Both appeared as minor characters in Eolyn; both assume more important roles in this second novel.  Adiana and Renate teach music and magic, respectively, as part of Eolyn's new coven. They each bring unique gifts to the Aekelahr, and they are each dedicated, in their own way, to the restoration of women's magic.

Adiana of Selkynsen

Adiana was born to a family of wealthy merchants. Her parents recognized her talent for music when she was very young, at a time when the purges of the Magas were in full swing. Though Adiana was not a maga, her parents feared knowledge of music would ignite dangerous suspicions, so they sent their young daughter to a neighboring kingdom to complete her studies.

While Adiana was away, the purges claimed her parents. Her mother was burned at the stake and her father beheaded. At the age of fifteen, Adiana found herself orphaned, denied of her inheritance, and left to fend for herself.

Adiana’s fate turned for the better thanks to her father’s former steward, who rescued Adiana from the streets and took her in as his own daughter.  Some years later, Mage Corey recruited Adiana into his Circle, where she quickly established herself as his most valued musician. 
By the time we meet Adiana in High Maga, she has become Eolyn's closest friend. In many ways, she is the co-protagonist of the story. Though war separates them, their paths remain connected. Adiana does not command magic like her friend, but her extraordinary music confers its own power, and its own promise of salvation.

Maga Renate

Renate was trained in magic during the last years of the Old Orders. A youthful woman when the war started against Kedehen, she survived the purges that followed through somewhat shady circumstances. She chose to betray her sisters in magic and to publicly renounced her own powers.

The bitter burden of this failure haunts Renate for the rest of her life.  In the wake of the purges, she finds an uneasy peace as a dance mistress for Corey's Circle. Here she meets Eolyn, who eventually invites her to help renew women's magic as part of the fledgling coven of Moehn.

Renate brings to  the coven a wealth of knowledge from the kingdom's oldest traditions of magic. She is strict in nature and demands the highest standards of discipline from all her students. 

She believes that one day the Gods will exact a price for her cowardice and failure during the purges.  Every morning and every evening she reflects upon this expectation, and she prays for the strength to meet her moment of ultimate sacrifice with dignity, humility, and courage.


I had thought to introduce you to Sir Borten this week too, who is another important character of the Aekelahr, but I've decided to hold off on that just a little longer. 

Next week, another preview of the novel with a scene featuring Adiana and Renate.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bad News and Good News

Another break from the regular programming today.

I wanted to touch base with all of you and let you know what is happening behind the scenes at Hadley Rille Books.

Those of you who are in touch with HRB through other channels have probably heard by now that our editor-in-chief, Eric T. Reynolds, has taken very ill. We're hopeful and confident that he will recover, but it's going to take time, patience, and a lot of support.

For a press as small as HRB, the loss of one person is a big blow. The loss of the MAIN person is like a crater shot through the moon.  The hole left is so big sometimes you can't see around it, only through it.

Questions are starting to trickle in with respect to the short-term future of HRB. Terri-Lynne DeFino, who is now acting editor-in-chief, will be posting a formal announcement in the coming days as to where HRB will remain active and where it will suspend activities until Eric's return.  Not to steal her thunder, but I can say, for example, that HRB will move forward with audio editions of several of its titles, including Eolyn. Also, the Ruins Anthology is still a go, with the deadline for submissions set for February 28th.

Most relevant for visitors to this blog is the future of High Maga. It's been a little touch and go the last couple of weeks as we have been sorting out what has been done, and what is left to do, to meet the release date.  Just a week ago, I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but now I can say with confidence that the Kindle edition will be released, as planned, on April 4th.  The paperback edition will be available on or around the same date. 

I have a lot of people to thank for this.  Most especially, Terri-Lynne DeFino who has stepped up in an amazing way to organize the press in the wake of Eric's illness.  Heather McDougal will be working with Thomas Vandenberg to finalize the cover design.  Eric's wife Nancy has assisted us with accessing crucial files on his computer.  But most of all, I am so very grateful to Eric, who really had everything pretty much ready to go, leaving us with very little to worry about as we start the final stretch toward the publication date. 

I miss Eric. I miss him a lot. I hope he recovers soon, and that he will be able to enjoy the roll out of High Maga with the rest of us. In the mean time, we are working in his spirit, giving everything we can to bring you high quality electronic and print editions of HRB's next great title.  As always, we appreciate your patience and enthusiastic support, and on this occasion, we also ask for your positive thoughts and prayers toward Eric's recovery.  I will keep you posted as things develop.

In other news, it's been a while since I've pointed you over to Heroines of Fantasy. We've been having very lively discussions there this past month or so.  Also, the blog has started a Wednesday book review series.  Please stop by to join the fun when you have a chance.
Hadley Rille Books is sponsoring a Goodreads Giveaway, which you can join by clicking the "Enter to Win" button on the right hand bar. Win a FREE signed copy of Eolyn for you or for a friend. The Eolyn giveaway ends on March 4, and soon after that we'll start a new giveaway for High Maga.
This Friday, we'll continue the countdown to High Maga with character bios for Eolyn's closest allies and friends: Adiana, Maga Renate, and Sir Borten. See you then!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Syrnte Magic

As promised, this week we have another preview from High Maga, this time a scene between everyone's soon-to-be-favorite villains, Prince Mechnes and Queen Rishona. 

I gave brief bios on both these characters in last week's post.  This scene is taken from early in the novel, when Rishona's plans for invading Moisehen and claiming its crown are just getting under way.  I hope you enjoy this sneak peek of the novel.  Next week, we'll continue our countdown to the release day with a look at Eolyn's friends and allies: Renate, Adiana, and Sir Borten. 


High Maga

Excerpt from Chapter 6

Once they were alone, Rishona unclasped her cloak and flung it to the floor at Mechnes’s feet. “You are not to question my wisdom or my will in public. Ever.”
Mechnes could not help but smile at the sight of his niece, now a grown woman pretending to give him orders. “With all due respect, San’iloman, I am your military advisor. It is my duty to speak my mind when the weight of my experience contradicts your rather naïve instincts.”
She moved to strike him, but he caught her wrist and forced her arm until she gasped. “It is a little early in the day to start with these games, my Queen. But if you desire a spark of conflict to brighten this weary morning, I am more than willing to please you.”
Rishona kept her eyes hard as stone and her voice taut  with menace. “Speak your mind, Mechnes, but do so with discretion. I will not have our disagreements heard by those who would use them to spread malicious rumors against me. Nor will I have our men, who have struggled long and hard up this wretched pass, fall victim to any suspicion that our unity of purpose is wavering.”
He brought her body tight against his, let his breath fall upon her silky skin until he felt a shiver pass through her, followed by the softening of her shoulders and the almost imperceptible tilt of her face that always preceded that ardent kiss.
Before their lips met, he released her. “We must open up this road if we hope to bring a proper army through it.”
“We cannot bring down any more trees,” she insisted. “We are undermining the power of this forest. We need its magic for everything that is to come.”
“This is a very big forest.” He drew out one of their maps, passing his hand over the moss green crescent of impenetrable woodland that swept north toward East Selen and south along the foothills of the Paramen Mountains. “And a very small pass.”
Rishona stared at the map, lips protruding in that familiar charming frown. She rubbed her arms to ward off the damp chill. Noting her discomfort, Mechnes retrieved a dry cloak and placed it about her shoulders.
“I hope you are right,” she said. “It is just that every time we bring down one of those trees, I feel strength torn out of the earth. I fear I went too far by clearing the valley where my parents died.”
“You are Syrnte, Rishona. Your magic derives from the air.”
“Yes, but these creatures were not banished to the Underworld by Syrnte magic. They were imprisoned by the mages and magas of Moisehén, and they must be summoned by the same powers. I will need the air to anchor my spirit when I summon them, but without the earth I cannot control them.”
Mechnes narrowed his eyes. “If you have doubts regarding your ability to manage these beasts, you should have mentioned them before now.”
“I have no doubts.” She looked up at him, defiant. “I know how to gratify the Naether Demons and bring them into our service. But there are many elements involved, and they must be integrated carefully. No one has attempted this before, uncle. Or if they have, they failed miserably, and hence we know nothing of their fate.”
“Are you ready to summon these beasts or not?” He did not bother to hide the threat in his tone. Already he had poured tremendous resources into this conquest. He would show no mercy if she had deceived him.
Rishona straightened her shoulders, expression resolute. “Yes, I am ready. For tonight, I am most ready. And for what is to come, I have time to prepare.”

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Guest Author: Katharina Gerlach

We're going to take a break from the regular programming today to welcome Katharina Gerlach, who is celebrating the release of her latest novel Swordplay.  I met Katharina through the Magic Appreciation Tour. She is an author of historical fiction and fantasy, and an avid blogger. I am very happy to have her as a guest.

Katharina's blog tour includes a giveaway!  So after you've read about Katharina and enjoyed an excerpt from Swordplay, don't forget to enter to win a FREE copy. 

Without further ado, here is Katharina Gerlach:

I’ve been telling and writing stories all my life, but only two years ago, with the success of eBook publishing, I became an Indie author. I never looked back. Sure, my manuscripts have found praise with traditional publishers, but no one had the courage to publish something they couldn’t neatly stuff into a labeled box.

Well, just like my books, I don’t fit one box. I’m the daughter of a forester and a studied forestry myself. I’m sister to three brothers, and a mother to three daughters. I’m a tomboy at heart and simultaneously tidy and chaotic – I can’t be any different with my Muse (the creative part of me) dragging me in one direction and my Editor (the neat, logical side) pulling in another.

There are three things in this world I love more than anything: my family, stories (mine and those of others) and nature. The best thing that can happen to me is when someone I don’t know leaves a review for one of my books telling me how much (s)he liked it.

About Swordplay
CSI with magic but without the gore

Despite her obvious lack of magical talent, nineteen year old Moira Bellamie apprentices with the Gendarmerie Magique, the magic police. She puts all her effort into solving a burglary at the National Museum where antique weapons have been stolen, to keep the hard won job. Falling for her partner Druidus wasn't part of the plan. When more and more people are murdered with one of the stolen weapons, Moira must tame uncontrollable magic, or the people she cares for will die, her partner first and foremost.
For lovers of Fantasy and Mystery from 14 years up

eBook on Amazon: German, Englisch
and Smashwords:    German, Englisch
other retailers will follow
Paperback in German or Englisch on Createspace (Beware: postage), Amazon (no postage) will follow soon and can be found through the eBook pages

Excerpt: Moira encounters Druidus for the first time

When the sun set behind the houses with colorful ribbons, she got up to walk the final distance to her work. She hadn't quite reached the park's exit yet when the trees in front of her reflected the green sheen of all-round green lights. She evaded a patrol car that floated past her silently. It stopped beside several more patrol cars on a meadow where a sizable shrubbery had been fenced off. Behind it, Moira could just about see the sparkling of a stasis spell. A broad-shouldered young man got out of the patrol car and stepped through the fencing spell. He talked quietly to a gendarma.

Curious, Moira stepped closer but didn't touch the fencing spell. She didn't want to complicate the gendarmes' work by destroying their magical barrier. An elderly woman with a dachshund on her arm pressed her nose against the spell.

She asked the old lady, "What happened?"

"A pair of lovers found a body. I think he might have lived in the park somewhere. I never thought that possible. Living in the park, I mean. I tell you. Something like that never happened in my time." The woman answered as if someone had pressed the play button on a dicta-nerl. "When they still had work houses, no one had to live in the streets. But the way things have been lately, something like this had to happen sooner or later. It's said someone cut the guy's throat." The woman's eyes glittered. "Imagine that. What a mess. I just hope the park warden will wash away the blood when the Gendarmerie has left. I'm flabbergasted that something like this happened in my park. I will…"

Moira mumbled a short thank you and left in a hurry, leaving the woman to her babbling. She didn't like being near a person who didn't have a single word of pity for the victim. Slowly she walked along the barrier and watched the gendarmes search the area for evidence. Her heart longed to help. Near the park's exit, the barrier ended. Two strong gendarmes carried the coffin with the victim and loaded it into a black carpisto with an extra-long boot and floral drapes in the windows.
Moira had half passed the carpisto, when she recognized an approaching voice.

Semra said, "Come on, Dru. Your mother behaves as if you belong to her. Tell her she can't call you when you're on duty."

"She only wants to protect me." The man's voice was low and deep. A warm sensation rose from Moira's stomach and her heartbeat accelerated. What a sexy voice. Hoping she could hear it again, she stopped and pretended to tie her shoelaces. She wasn't disappointed.

"My mother loves me, and I'm happy about it even if it's slightly annoying from time to time," the voice said. The door of the carpisto groaned as it was opened.

Semra snorted. "I would use a different word for a mother who's interfering with my life all the time. You will have to get away from her apron strings, Dru, or you will be nothing but her son for the rest of your life." The door slammed shut again.

"I know." The man sighed. "It's just hard to affront someone who loves you this much."
"You'll have to find something worth fighting for." By the sound of Semra's voice, Moira realized they were on their way back to the crime scene. She retreated into the dark hastily. She didn't want to be caught listening in on a private talk. Biting her lower lip, she suppressed an urge to pant. Only when she reached the street that led around the park, could she breathe freely. Her gaze fell on a clock hanging over a shop window. A nerl was just pushing the minute hand to half past nine. She'd have to hurry to reach the Gendarmerie in time. She tried to forget the talk she had overheard but the voice seemed to run on in her heart and didn't let go.


Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a free copy!

Giveaway for "Swordplay – A Gendarmerie Magique novel"

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Villains of HIGH MAGA

As we approach the release date of Eolyn's next great adventure, I want to introduce you to the cast of characters that made this novel so fun and challenging to write.  Among these are Eolyn's antagonists: Rishona and Mechnes of the Syrnte, and their allies, the Naether Demons. 

In the early drafts of High Maga, I had some very interesting responses from my critique partners regarding the villains of the story.  Many of them found the dark witch Rishona unsympathetic, manipulative, and untrustworthy. Mechnes, on the other hand, was rather well-liked, and some readers nurtured a stubborn hope for his redemption, no matter how heinous the acts he committed.

As the author, my feelings toward these two were quite the opposite. Rishona was at once an admirable and tragic figure, and her uncle Mechnes the kind of villain I love to hate.  I am very curious to see how readers respond to both, once High Maga is released. I suspect that no matter what, these characters will ignite strong reactions, both positive and negative, among all of my readers. 

Rishona of the Syrnte

This illustration, artist unknown,
captures the essence of Rishona's
dark beauty and compelling
sensuality. But don't be fooled:
She is a warrior queen extraordinaire.
Rishona was born under tragic circumstances. Her parents, Prince Feroden and his Syrnte wife, the Princess Tamara, were slaughtered while attempting to return to Moisehén to claim the throne. 

Tamara was pregnant with Rishona when they were attacked, and gave birth as she died.  Gifted with the extraordinary power of Syrnte sight, Rishona remembers this moment in all its horror and bitter pain.  A forester rescued the baby Rishona and returned her to the Syrnte, where she was raised by her uncle Mechnes. She grew up determined to avenge the death of her parents and to claim the throne of Moisehén.

The Syrnte are a sophisticated and complex culture, ruled by an extended royal family whose wealth, hunger for power, and capacity for corruption know few bounds.  While Rishona learned to thrive as part of the royal family, she also in a very deep way despises them.  In this she takes after her mother Tamara, who also longed to escape the twisted ways of her family and to establish a new life on her own terms as Queen of Moisehén.

By the time we meet Rishona in High Maga, she has tried every avenue available to fulfill her ambitions. Every avenue, that is, save one: the path of dark magic.  It is out of desperation that she turns to the Naether Demons, and once the crown is rightfully hers, she intends to erase this stain upon the earth and in their wake, weave a world that is just and whole.

Will she succeed?  You'll have to read the novel to find out.

Prince Mechnes

Rodolfo Sancho, interpreting the role of
Ferdinand of Aragon for the TVE series Isabel,
is a close approximation to my mental image
of Mechnes.  Except, he's much younger, with
fewer scars, and altogether not nearly ruthless enough.
Mechnes is a force of nature.  Brilliant and ruthless, a conqueror of nations. A master of violence, manipulation, and sensual pleasures.  Like Rishona, he carries the gift of Syrnte sight; unlike her, he uses it without restraint. For Mechnes, people's hopes and dreams, their ambitions and fears, their strengths and weaknesses, are all meant to serve his own ambitions.

Mechnes has no doubt that privilege should accrue to the powerful, and as a powerful man, he believes he deserves every manner of privilege within his reach.  Life is a game Mechnes is fated to win, the people of this world his pawns to do with as he pleases. 

Does Mechnes have any redeeming qualities?  I'd probably be better off letting you, the reader, decide. As the author who "created" him, I appreciate Mechnes' fondness for music and his suck-the-marrow-dry approach to life.  He is, if nothing else, charismatic.  In another life, under different circumstances, he might have been a good man.  But in High Maga, he is simply the feared and respected Prince Mechnes. 

Naether Demons

How to make a Naether Demon (author version):  Take the predatory look of a praying mantis, mix in Edvard Munch's The Scream, stuff it all into the giant body of an angry skinned predator, and voila!  You've got terror in the countryside.

How to make a Naether Demon (mage and maga version): Banish a living creature to the Underworld, allow it to be twisted by darkness, fear, emptiness, and hunger for centuries, then summon it back to the earth through blood sacrifice and watch what happens.

Naether Demons are beasts of burden for Rishona and Mechnes; creatures summoned for the sole purpose of aiding in the conquest of Moisehén. But they have a story of their own: They thirst for vengeance against the people of Moisehén, who banished them to the most terrible of prisons.

Of course, it was not the intention of the mages and magas that the Naether Demons survive the Underworld.  It was hoped, when the curse was cast upon them, that the very essence of these monsters would fade into nothing, and that the threat they posed would disappear from all realms forevermore.

These predators, however, proved to be very hearty. Locked in the Underworld, they learned to prey on the Lost Souls.  They hunted spirits rich in magic and by feeding on them, became stronger. At the same time, the Naether Demons were driven mad by the very realm they came to master. After centuries of imprisonment, only rage and unbearable hunger remain. 

This what Rishona unleashes when she calls the Naether Demons to her aid.  Their alliance is fragile, and Rishona's hold over them not always certain. But the Naether Demons provide the key to certain victory against the Mage King and his High Maga. In this way they are an irresistible temptation for our warrior princess and her ruthless uncle.

Next week: Another preview from the novel, featuring a scene between Rishona and Mechnes.