Fan Art Friday: Week 3

This week on Fan Art Friday, in celebration of the release of Mage and Source, I’m offering up two new covers for my own books, The Gantean and The Cedna.

My real book covers feature portraits of my narrators, but for a different concept, I decided to show the magical aspect of the books and the ongoing saga of the Ophirae stones, the connecting plot arc of the entire series of Tales of Blood & Light.

On the cover of The Gantean, you see the mysterious red Ophira stone that Leila brought with her from Gante in her “barbarian” necklace:

gantorb

On the cover for The Cedna, you see the Opal Ophira, which the Cedna awakens during her tragic love affair with Onatos Amar:

cedorb

These two books were originally conceived as a duet within the series, and I like to think these new covers reflect that, with aspects of the images reflecting each other, the watery center of The Cedna‘s stone matching the watery background of The Gantean.

Next week I’ll reveal the Ophirae covers for Sterling and Mage and Source.

Deleted Scene: Random Gantean Backstory

Here’s a little snippet cut so long ago, I can’t remember if it was originally in The Gantean or The Cedna–although I lean towards the Cedna being the one who said this. You may need to refer to the Gantean glossary in either book to make head or tails of this cutting.

More or less, the basic facts of this backstory may still be true, although Gantean prehistory just never became as relevant to the story as I thought it would…

The Ganteans were not just the last remnants of a barbarian culture, as the sayantaq believed. We were the last of the Hanimen, a tribe of people who had lived on the Peninsula that was now Lethemia for eon after eon. The Hanimen were wielders of magic, the basic magic of plants and animals, earth, stone, and water. For a long time, that had been enough. Until a clan discovered the Hinge. The clanspeople had seen something strange around the edges of a cavern of stone. They had entered the cavern, and perhaps they had been the first to walk the Other Layer, and come back to Ijiq to speak of it. Unwitting, these first walkers had opened the Abys Hinge, making the Layers of magic permeable, so that we could move from one to the next if we were willing to pay with a bit of blood. The Hinge made magic possible, so that we could take the spirit of tree or stone or wind or water, and share our will with it. Iksraqtaq, the People, were the Guardians of this Hinge, and it was our sacred duty to protect it, to keep it hidden, safe, and open, and fed. Not just for ourselves, but for the whole of the world, for all the nations who used magic.

Deleted Scene/Lethemia side story: The Writings of Lord Ronin Entila

One of the sometimes-frustrating things about creating a multi-book fantasy world is how much extra world you build that never actually ends up in any book at all. This excerpt is one of those situations. Lord Ronin Entila made a brief appearance in Tales of Blood & Light Book 2, The Cedna, in a flashback explaining how the Cedna herself came into existence. Lord Ronin Entila was her sayantaq father, an explorer/conqueror from the southern lands. At some point in my writings, Lord Ronin wanted to have his perspective known, and so I gave him the opportunity to narrate a travel journal–though it was always pretty obvious to me I wouldn’t use it in any book, and after edits, events in The Cedna ended up contradicting his tales, as in his journal he spends a long time with the Ganteans, while in the book, just a single fateful night. So here are the opening entries of the impossible journal…

A Travelogue, by Ronin Entila

Those who know me well know I am not much of a writer. I am a man of action rather than words, but it seems if I am to explore these cold lands, I must record my impressions, for I have so many thoughts I cannot hold them all tightly in my head. I came north with the blessing of His Highness, King Tryphon I Galatien, in this fine year the 804th of the nation of Lethemia, domain of the Holy Amassis. I came to discern what prospects these lands held for us, if they had any merits for trade or cultivation, and to finally bring the Ganteans under the shroud of our holy country. Too long have the residents of the northern isles been practicing unholy ways. I shall write more of these ways later. But we have long known they practice some strange magic up here.

A family of our own kind, of an evening, might gather together, and the father might read to his brood from the Book of Amassis, or of our history, or even, were he liberal, from one of the great poems. But the Ganteans do not gather to talk at night, or if they do, they do so out of my presence. What I feel from them all is this tightness, this secrecy, this wall of silence. I know we call them barbarians, but that is because of how rough and dirty their life appears, isn’t it? They have no plumbing, no steel, no bitumen, no engines. They live up here in this blasted cold. But it seems to me they have a deep and complex society, full of all kinds of rules and niceties I can barely discern. There are times I feel the fool.

The role of the woman they call Cedna is unclear to me: a queen, a soothsayer, a goddess? All three? To be sure, she holds their magic more than any other, and is often inebriated with their foul plant broths. So, I think, she is a shamaness, a soothsayer, more than anything.

But then I see how she lives, with those around her giving her deference and space, much as we would do with the Queen. She is cared for more than any other, and in a place where life is cold and hard, she is given more: her food is prepared and brought to her by others, her fires made in her stone house before she arrives. These are not a deferent people: each and every one does their own work, and such work it is to keep them busy just to keep themselves alive. (I cannot help but admire the stout and hardy dispositions of the Ganteans. They do not complain.) And so when Cedna sits idle when all those around her scurry about with the exhausting business of her survival, I think of a queen, more than anything (no disrespect meant, of course, to our Majesty Halcyone, whose wisdom precludes any notion that she does not deserve her leisure!)

But there is something more in the way her people treat her, something I have never seen before except in our temples of worship in Lethemia. A heady combination of fear and awe—as if Cedna was to her people as the dread god Amatos is to us. Holy, yes, but terrible, too. A goddess then, in the minds of her followers.

The woman herself is something to remark upon. Her hair is such a glimmering auburn I could best only compare it to a flame, but such cliché would cheapen the reality. She is youthful and yet old beyond her years, she speaks little and watches everything. ‘Twas this young thing who greeted me when I made land, and offered me warmer welcome than I had come to expect. I suspect the other tribal leaders put up with me only because of her apparent liking, but I find it strange she has no lord of her own. No one stops her when she takes me into her stone house at night (and I do not stop myself, though Amassis knows I should! What can I say? Her flesh burns even warmer than her hair, and I have never been one to turn away a willing woman!) Even so I can see the tribal leaders do not like that we share a bed, but they are too in awe of her to put a halt to it.

Every third sennight they perform a ceremony of some kind, and Cedna is away the whole night through. She returns in a drunken state and pale as snow, looking weak, almost bloodless. I cannot explain the strangeness of these nights. There is a flavor to the woman’s kisses that fills me with dread, and yet I hunger for it even more than the touch of her flesh. A bitter, strong flavor, I believe it is the plant drug they imbibe to worship their gods, or whatever it is they do. I know I ought not taste the plant, but I cannot help myself, and following her kisses I spend a sleepless night, wandering in dreams I cannot be having. I can barely recall the elusive madness the next morning, but I know I see her, Cedna, in those dreams. She carries a flame in her bare hand, and holds it against me, so warm in all this ice. Ah, but her tears! So many tears. A thousand tears to wash away the warmth.

Deleted Scene: Miki becomes a Dragonnaire

Here’s my first deleted scene. This one takes place in the series timeline right at the end of The Gantean, after Leila has left Costas and her son, Tiriq, to go after Laith and the Cedna. As you will see it is told from Miki, her Gantean brother’s, point of view. Leila left Miki on the ship with to take care of Tiriq while she was away, but there was some lingering animosity between Miki and Leila’s husband, Costas Galatien. This little scene was part of a prologue I had originally written for Mikien’s book (Book 7), but the big timeline changes I made in the overall series arc made that particular prologue unworkable, as I felt the jumping around in time was too confusing. It also turned out that Miki becoming a Dragonnaire was less central to his story than I had originally imagined, so using this scene didn’t have the story-relevant impact I needed for the opening of a book. Below is just a snippet from the entire scene.

Scene: 

Costas sat down on the bed with Tiriq in his lap, ashen. I shifted awkwardly, wishing I could leave, but the ship was small, and I had no where to go.

“I’ll have to call off my men,” he muttered. “I’ve sent them ashore to search for Leila.”

“They’ll never find her. Leila can blend.” It was a uniquely Shringar talent, that easy adaptation, melding into every circumstance like a drop of water into the ocean.

Costas pulled himself together. “Very well. I will allow her to perform this duty. I practically gave it to her myself. But if she isn’t back in a fortnight, I’m going after her.”

I lifted my brows, suppressing a skeptical snort. “To Gante?” Costas had all the usual trappings of a southerner—the rich, thin clothing he wore would kill him in a second in Gante’s harsh climate, not to mention his thin skin and a preference for weapons and magic rather than raw resourcefulness.

“That’s where she’s gone?”

“Undoubtedly,” I said. “But give her at least a moon. I expect she’ll be back to you by then. In the meantime, don’t you have a city to retake?” All through our sea journey from the harbor of Engashta, where Leila and I had gone to find Tiriq and Costas after they were captured by Xander Ricknagel, Costas had been planning how to retake the High City from Ricknagel’s remaining army. Galantia and Province Ricknagel were the only places in the country still held by those loyal to the man who had usurped Costas’s throne.

Costas stared at me for a long moment. Then he threw back his head and laughed. “How old are you, anyway?”

“Fourteen winters,” I said sullenly. As a Gantean—a small one at that—among sayantaq, I was usually mistaken for a child.

“Leila says you are her brother, but I see little resemblance between the two of you. You look fully Gantean, as she does not.”

“Ganteans do not reckon relationship by blood,” I said shortly. “But I call Leila a sister, and I call Tiriq a brother. I always will.”

Costas gazed down at Tiriq in his arms. “You feel for them both like family, though no blood connects you?”

“This is the Gantean way. Our island is a hard place. We look after one another. We are connected by the land itself.” We were connected by blood, too, but in a different way from how he would understand. All Gantean blood fed the Hinge.

“Interesting.” Costas set Tiriq back down on the bed and began to pace. “Allian told me you killed my mage Oruscani.”

I retracted toward the cabin door. I had feared there might be repercussions for killing the mage once Costas pulled himself together and regained his power. I still had the ulio I’d picked up from Leila, the Gantean ritual blade, stuffed in my back pocket. I scrambled for it and crouched. Once again I wished I’d had some kind of training in the martial arts. I’d seen Costas’s Dragonnaires practicing their moves, and they had looked useful. Costas had easily snapped the blade from my hand earlier, and he had all the training the wealth of the world could buy.

All I had were instincts honed by a lifetime of dangers.

Costas stared down at the ulio that I held in front of me. “Now why would you go and do that?” he wondered aloud. “You’re not stupid, boy. You don’t want to fight me.”

“Allian Kercheve put me in binds for killing the mage. He said there would be consequences.”

Costas laughed again. “You’ve been exonerated. Allian was actually quite impressed with you. He said you were fast. Coming from him, that means something. He was the fastest fighter I had.” Regret tinged his voice. Kercheve had died fighting Xander Ricknagel as we’d rescued Costas from his upscale prison in the Duke of Engahsta’s home.

Costas’s eyes never left the ulio. He moved like summer lightning, springing towards me, then darting to the left, and finally snapping his hand down on my arm.

I didn’t drop the blade; I went with the force of his blow, crouching lower until one shin rested on the cabin floor. I spun on my toes on my standing leg to avoid his next blow and skittered away from him.

“Good instincts,” Costas said. Again he moved, this time in a frontal attack, both hands whizzing through motions too fast to track. With the wall at my back, I had few options. I ducked and somersaulted, coming to my feet behind him. Now he was pinned by the wall.

“Ingenius,” Costas said. “But you’re still outmatched.”

I cast a quick glance at Tiriq on the bed.

“Don’t you dare,” Costas said, his face hardening. “If you touch my son, I’ll murder you with my bare hands.”

“I’d never hurt him,” I hissed. “He’s my brother.”

A satisfied look crossed Costas’s face. He struck anyway, launching into a dizzying array of strikes, punches, and kicks, too fast to track. His foot connected precisely with my wrist and the ulio went flying. Before I knew what had happened, he had me on my belly with two fingers digging into the back of my neck like iron pins, his knee in my back.

“This grip,” he said, “is a secret known only to me and my Dragonnaires. I can push so hard I can knock you unconscious, just from the pressure. It cuts off the blood supply to the brain, you see. If I hold it long enough, I’ll kill you.”

I writhed but he held on.

“Listen to me, Mikien. I’m giving you only two choices. One, I keep squeezing. I can do this for as long as it takes. Two, you agree to pledge your loyalty to me, become one of my Dragonnaires, and have your oath bound by a mage. My men have gone ashore and they will be bringing at least one mage back to the ship when they return.”

“What does that mean, bound by a mage?” I rasped. I could hardly breathe, what with the force of his knee into my ribs.

“It means you will swear your life to me, as all my Dragonnaires do, blood and breath. A magemark will be put upon your arm, written in my own blood. This makes you physically incapable of harming anyone who carries my blood. And you will serve me. We will put these good instincts to better use.”

“I’m Gantean,” I spat. “I will not kneel to a southern king.”

Costas Galatien’s laugh had begun to grate on my nerves. “You’re already kneeling, boy. One way or another. Come now, pick life. I like you too much to have you go to waste. And I fear Leila would never forgive me if I killed you.”

“Will you train me to fight?” I asked.

That grating laugh again. “I most certainly will.”

“Yes, then,” I said as my vision began to blur. “I’ll do it. I’ll take the pledge.”

Tales of Blood & Light Boxed Set

Gantean box

A boxed set for the first two books in Tales of Blood & Light is available now. You can now get both books in one file for your kindle here. I’m not sure how long I will keep this one up for sale so if you prefer boxed sets, get it in the next few weeks. I had fun making a cover mash-up for this project.

January 2016 Goals

In December my goals were:

  1. Finalize The Cedna. Done! It is out and you can get it here!
  2. Promote The Cedna. Well, I did as much as I could stand, but as ever, book promotion is a hated but ongoing task for me.
  3. Sterling revision. Done and sent out to 2.5 editors/readers.
  4. New writing. I read two half-done manuscripts, picked one to resume, and have started daily work on it.

And my goals for January will be:

  1. New Writing: I’m going to devote the next month’s writing days to the manuscript I picked last month. Right now I just call it “Glitter” but that will not be its final name.
  2. LCP flash fiction contest: Luminous Creatures is running a month-long flash fiction contest over on our website. See the prompts here.
  3. Revise Tales of Blood & Light Book Four: It’s a big, sprawling mess.
  4. The Gantean and The Cedna boxed set: I’m making an ebook boxed set for the first two Tales of Blood and Light books, which are really like a “duet” within a series. Still working out some cover snafus.
  5. Flashdogs : TIME: I’m expecting to received the next Flashdogs manuscript any day now. Once I do, I’ll format it for ebook and print! Its planned release date is the Chinese New Year, Feb. 8th.

The Cedna: Emily June Street

Tamara Shoemaker interviewed me about my new release, The Cedna. Here’s her interview blog of several tough questions!

Tamara Shoemaker, Freelance Editor/Author

I have the pleasure of hosting fantasy author extraordinaire, Emily June Street, on my website today, where she discusses her latest novel, The Cedna, with me–its magic system, which of her characters she relates to most, and why she’s put out with me for making her answer the last question. 😉

Come read what she has to say, and then do yourself a favor and look up her books on Amazon. Besides The Cedna, she also has The Ganteanfor sale, and other works such as The Velocipede Races. I highly recommend all of them; Emily is one of the best there is. Follow her on her website or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

brickejs1

1.) In three sentences, tell me what The Cedna is about.

The Cedna is the second book in an epic fantasy series that explores intersections of women, fantasy, and magic.

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