Lodestones

So, what is a lodestone?

In the real world, it’s a magnet. But in my North-lands, it’s a magical artifact that intensifies the magical powers of a mage.

Different cultures in different time periods and different locations of my North-lands possess different names for mages.

In the Steam Age, the people of Silmaren call them keyholders, the denizens of Fiorish use the term seer, while the citizens of Auberon say patternmaster or enigmologist. There are more variations, but I’m not going to list them all here. 😉

The five lodestones rattling around the “modern”-day North-lands came out of ancient Navarys. So for the duration of this post, I’ll use the term favored by the ancient Navareans: fabrimancer.

The Navareans called their magic energea and their magical focus stones were energea-stones, not lodestones. The lodestones were created at the end of Navarean history, not its beginning, and I’ll get there soon. Promise. But first I must talk about energea-stones.

Energea-stones were crafted from the remains of a meteor fragment lodged in the mountainside of the isle of Navarys. To the ordinary eye, they look like small black pebbles—about the size your thumb-tip—with a shiny finish. (A few were made at larger sizes, but the vast majority were small.)

Energea-stones have been around for almost as long as the Navareans themselves (from pre-history and the age of reed huts). The Navareans learned about fabrimancy (magery) from the energea-stones, rather than fashioning the stones after they developed fabrimancy.

To a fabrimancer’s eye (if he or she is a visual practitioner, not an aural one or a kinesthetic one), the stones hold spiraling patterns of silvery light. This light is the visual manifestation of energea, of magic.

But more important than what energea-stones look like is what they do and how they do it.

In Navarys, an energea-stone would be shaped by a specialist to do a specific task, such as spinning a spinning wheel or a grain mill, tossing a shuttle across a weaver’s loom, or winding the rope of well bucket around a spool. Or the stone might be formed to simply magnify a fabrimancer’s power.

Different stones performed different tasks, but the Navareans especially liked to use them for semi-automating the tasks of craftsmanship. And they wished the stones could be fashioned to permit full automation. It was a sort of holy grail with them.

Energea-stones required the presence of a fabrimancer channeling his or her energea through the stone, almost as though the fabrimancer were a sort of living battery funneling electricity through an engine.

The lodestones were the breakthrough Navareans had been hoping for.

A lodestone looks a lot like an ordinary energea-stone—a small black pebble—except its surface finish is a velvet matte, not shiny. Like energea-stones they can be fashioned in different sizes for different purposes.

But a lodestone draws energea from its surroundings at large, not just from the fabrimancer wielding it. And thus a lodestone permits true automation. It must be forged so as to direct the energea flowing through it to perform the task desired. But once the fabrimancer sets it going, the lodestone does its work until the fabrimancer halts it. The fabrimancer can actually walk away from the work in progress.

Unfortunately, the lodestones embody one serious danger not possessed by ordinary energea-stones.

When an energea-stone is used by a fabrimancer to magnify and concentrate his magical powers, the stone also acts as a sort of overflow valve. If the fabrimancer loses control and summons too much energea—a potentially destructive amount—the excess is channeled away through the stone without doing damage to the fabrimancer.

Lodestones don’t possess this safety feature. Instead, they always carry exactly half of the energea summoned by the fabrimancer. Which means that if the fabrimancer summons a damaging amount, it does damage. Specifically, it tears the energetic structures that underlie the fabrimancer’s physical being.

That damage manifests as the troll-disease that appears in so many of my North-lands stories.

Only six lodestones were originally created. One of them—the largest—sank to the bottom of the great ocean. The other five are loose in the world, creating trouble when they are found.

Skies of Navarys tells the story of the creation of the lodestones, through the eyes of a pair of teenagers.

The Tally Master follows one of the lodestones into the hands of a troll warlord, where an honorable accountant and his assistant determine the outcome of the encounter.

Resonant Bronze shows how a lodestone might turn the tables on the troll horde.

Rainbow’s Lodestone and Star-drake recount the fate of a lodestone used to commit an evil deed.

And To Thread the Labyrinth, due out in March 2019, sees a lodestone returned to a place of proper oversight, although the larger story focuses on a troll-witch hiding her troll-disease.

For more about ancient Navarys, see:
A Tour of Navarys

For more about the magic of the North-lands, see:
Magic in the North-lands
Magic in Silmaren
Radices and Arcs

 

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A Tour of Navarys

A few weeks ago, I took a virtual tour of the castle that features so largely in my novel Caught in Amber. Finding images that fit the mood of the many and varied wings of that vast pile was so much fun that I decided to embark on another such tour, this time to the isle of Navarys.

Navarys is the setting for my novella, Skies of Navarys. It lies far out in the great ocean to the east of the continent hosting the Empire of Giralliya. I think of Navarys as the Atlantis of my North-lands, because the story transpires during ancient times.

The island of Navarys possesses a central mountain, and it’s about the same size as the Greek island Lefkada located in the Ionian Sea south of Corfu. (Lefkada measures 22 miles north-south, and 9 miles east-west.)

This painting by John Glover of Mount Wellington in Australia has the right look and the right feeling, although… If it did depict Navarys, the flat lands in the foreground would need to be ocean waves.

Liliyah, when she sees Navarys from an airship, is amazed by the view.

The ocean surged vast and blue-gray from horizon to horizon. The island of Navarys, stretching away under the noon sun, showed so many textures of green: dark of pine, bright of meadow, and cool of orchard.

The majority of the people living on Navarys dwell in its capital city, located above a harbor on the slopes of the central mountain.

And the city tumbled down the western slopes of Mount Sohlon like an infant’s set of playing blocks: pierced cubes of colored marble and stucco roofed by verdigris copper or olive tile.

Some of the city clings to a very steep slope, as depicted above, but a slim crescent of flatter terrain curls around the the harbor area. Nor does the mountainside climb to its peak in one fell swoop. The king’s royal palace occupies the crest of a foothill.

The beacons at the harbor’s outlet, brilliant like evening stars against the green and orange of the horizon, brought it all back.

One of the modern caravels, powered by energea stones, not sails and wind, passed between the beacons, headed out to sea.

Liliyah’s own home is located well up the mountain slope, but is by no means neighboring to the royal palace. Her friend, Mago, lives nearby.

“I’m up,” Liliyah announced, slithering out from under the net canopy that sheltered her bed.

The gauze of the window curtains tinted her room golden. It must be well past breakfast, if the sun had moved around the corner of the house that typically shaded her windows. She started scrambling out of her nightdress, rifling through the gowns on the wall pegs for something casual and comfortable.

Liliyah and Mago both do a considerable bit of running through the city allées over the course of the story. Mago in particular ventures high on the slope, although not all the way to the royal palace.

Mago paused, panting and puffing, feeling droplets of sweat trickling along his temples. He leaned against the stucco of the lemon house.

Must. Keep. On.

No one paid him any heed. Three couriers dashed by him, undeterred by the hill, headed for the palace. They met and sidestepped a gang of wild-looking young men tramping down. One thrust out a foot to trip the rearmost courier, who simply bounded over it.

The allée depicted in the photo below features very golden hues, but the stone and stucco of the city’s buildings is varied. Some allées share these golden tones, where others boast sparkling white or even pastel colors.

Mago climbed two flights of stairs, feeling the pull in his thighs from their tall risers, to a little-travelled lane cutting across the slope of the mountain. Ranks of flowering almond trees generated a speckled shade, pleasantly aromatic, but the usual quietude was missing. Pageboys carrying messages, porters transporting luggage, families locking their front gates and departing, a bachelor delaying to help an elderly relative make sure the curling tongs really were packed at the bottom of a valise: the scene was busy. Although not panicked, or even hectic, Mago noted.

The view from the front of the palace would take in the whole of the city, stretching down the mountainside and curling around the harbor. Because the palace occupies the crest of a foothill, it also possesses vistas displaying more rural stretches of coastline.

The breeze gusted strongly for an instant. Spray from the fountain misted his face, evaporating and cooling, then drying as the warmth of the sun prevailed.

Mago stared at the horizon where sea met sky. Their house, just like its neighbors, fronted on a sloping allée punctuated by steps at the steepest stretches. But the walled courtyard behind the domicile occupied a slight bluff, giving him a more expansive view of the shore cliffs, rows of palms, and the tumble of mansions climbing this reach of Mount Sohlon.

The interior of the island is largely wild. Vineyards, olive groves, farm fields, and a few hamlets, as well as country estates for the wealthy remain within close reach of the city or the coast.

For more virtual tours of my book worlds, see:
Landscapes of Auberon
A Castle That Might be Amber
Bazinthiad, a Quick Tour

For more about Navarys, see:
Lodestones

 

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Arriving at the Finish

If you’ve been watching the progress indicator in the side bar, you’ll have noticed it creeping upward over the last few weeks. 500 words here, 800 there, and during the last seven days, frequent spurts up into 1,700+ territory.

The novel I’ve been working on is tentatively titled To Thread the Labyrinth, and I’ve been fully immersed in its setting, the characters, and the story.

Indeed, some part of me feels as though I should be able to go to Gate Nine-and-Three-Quarters at the airport and catch a plane to the small “French” country of Pavelle. Once there, I’d hire a carriage to take me from its capital city out into the countryside, where I would find the charming town of Claireau. That’s how real it all seems. 😉

When I first started developing the concept for To Thread the Labyrinth, I’d imagined that it might be a short story that would accompany my coloring book. There would be mention of magic, perhaps a young protagonist learning antiphony, and the intricate designs I’d been drawing for the coloring book would represent the complex patterns required for the antiphonic energy that powers magic in my North-lands.

Naturally, my story grew considerably from there, acquiring an older protagonist in addition to the young one, as well as an annoying little brother, a crowd of bullies, civil disorder, a troll executioner (sort of), and more. By the time I was done brainstorming, I retained no illusions about the supposed shortness of my story. Not only would it not be short, it wouldn’t even squeeze into a novella. This was a full-fledged novel!

Today was my longest sprint of writing in a long time. I wrote fully 3,500 words at my top speed. The scenes were flowing out of mind and through my fingertips on the keyboard as though I were a stream in flood. And when I finally stopped, I’d reached the finish of my story.

I was so excited, I wanted to run to the top of a mountain, yelling, “I did it! I did it!” I suspect that the long hiatus that occurred in the middle of this novel (from October through December I wrote nothing; and from January through May I wrote Blood Silver) made completing To Thread the Labyrinth extra special.

So…how long is the story? I’d estimated it would be 60,000 words. But as I approached the end, I kept having to add a few thousand more to my estimate. 62,000. No, 65,000. No, 70,000. The final count was 77,697.

What happens next?

I clean up a few little odds and ends (like making up a name for that armiger—a policeman—who needs one, but that I skipped over because I was too intent on the scene to stop for him). Then I send the manuscript off to my first reader for her discerning feedback.

You must understand…my revisions usually add words to my stories, because I am far more likely to leave-things-out-that need-to-go-in than I am to put-things-in-that-shouldn’t-be-there. That’s just how I roll. But given that my readers usually say, “Oh! I wish it were longer!” when they finish one of my books, I suspect how I roll is fine.

Did I say I that I’m excited about To Thread the Labyrinth?

I’m excited! 😉

 

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Weep No More

A few days ago, I found myself thinking of the film Sense & Sensibility, the one with the screenplay written by Emma Thompson.

I love Jane Austen’s novels, and find this particular film adaptation to be very much to my taste. I re-read the book nearly every year, and re-watch the film with a similar frequency. Gorgeous work, both.

But the element surfacing in my mind this time was the song that Marianne sings near the middle of the film. The actress portraying Marianne is Kate Winslet, and it is her voice we hear.

Isn’t that lovely?

In my search for the clip, I learned more about the origins of the lyrics and and the melody. Patrick Doyle composed the score for the film, but borrowed a poem from Elizabethan times for the words that the actress would sing.

The authorship of the poem is a little uncertain, but it’s attributed to John Dowland, a court lute player for King James I from 1612 through 1626.

Weep you no more, sad fountains;
What need you flow so fast?
Look how the snowy mountains
Heaven’s sun doth gently waste.
But my sun’s heavenly eyes
View not your weeping,
That now lie sleeping
Softly, now softly lies
Sleeping.

Sleep is a reconciling,
A rest that peace begets.
Doth not the sun rise smiling
When fair at even he sets?
Rest you then, rest, sad eyes,
Melt not in weeping
While she lies sleeping
Softly, now softly lies
Sleeping.

Other composers in addition to Doyle have been inspired by the verses, among them Gustav Holst, who included “Weep You No More” in his lieder, Six Songs Op. 16. Modern singer songwriter Sting composed a version (performed with lutenist Edin Karamazov) which I also found beautiful.

 

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Blood Silver Is Here!

I’m so excited about this!

Somehow the pre-publication tasks for this book felt a little more complex than usual, no doubt because I’ve been trying a few new things. But they are all done now! (Or most of them.)

One of the new things has been the use of an advance review service. I chose Hidden Gems. (Love it that my book is one of the hidden gems they showcase.)

The way the process works is:

1Upload the book’s file to the Hidden Gems website—in three different formats: epub, mobi, and pdf—along with some information about the book

2Await results as they solicit interest from their reviewers from amongst those who enjoy the book’s genre

3Pay the Hidden Gems fee

4Following the date when Hidden Gems distributes the book to its reviewers, watch in wonder while reviews accumulate on the book’s Amazon page 😀

The idea is that these reviews give prospective buyers more information on which to judge whether or not the book is something said buyer might like.

As I write this post, Blood Silver has 23 reviews! It’s been a bit of a thrill to watch them appear. And it’s been lovely to read so much praise for one of my books!

Of course, not every Hidden Gems reviewer loved Blood Silver. But a lot of them did. Here’s a sampling from a handful of the reviews:

“…a nice quick little read. Great characters, interesting story line, good pacing, and well written.” JMD

“…I couldn’t put it down. It reminded me of Le Morte d’Arthur and Mists of Avalon even though it has nothing to do with the King Arthur legend. This author just brought back those feelings…” Tricia Schiro

“…simple and thought-provoking in a beautiful way. …smart and wise. It’s peaceful and otherworldly. I felt like a new fairy tale had been written and that gave me a lot of joy.” Ambrose Crotts

“The characters felt real, like they could step out of the pages…” Stephanie Wachter

“It felt familiar like an old fairy tale, but was also very fresh and new.” Erin K.

So what’s Blood Silver about?

Faie knight Tahaern loves the bright world of mortals, but the darkness of the faie realm under the knowe relinquishes its denizens but rarely.

To learn more, check out the book’s webpage on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, or Books2Read.

Blood Silver currently has the low price of 99 cents especially for its release. After the weekend, this will go up to its normal list price of $3.99.

I hope you’ll take advantage of the deal and immerse yourself in a story of knightly chivalry, faie trickery, and the beguiling beauty of the bright world.

Amazon I B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords I Universal Link

Note: The promotion with its sale price is over now, but many, many of you snapped up a copy for 99 cents. May the story bring you delight! 😀

 

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Kaunis Clan Saga at a Discount

One young woman challenges the shibboleths that threaten her particular bright dream. Two others follow in her daring footsteps…

Edited to add: The sale is over now. I hope those of you who purchased books enjoy reading them! 😀

I’m running a quick sale on my Kaunis Clan trilogy this weekend. If you’ve been toying with the notion of giving the books a read, you can pick up your copies at a lower-than-usual price today and tomorrow.

Sarvet’s Wanderyar is marked down from $3.99 to $0.99, and Livli’s Gift is down from $4.99 to $2.99.

Winter Glory is free on Kobo, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble. Amazon won’t let me make it free on their site (and has declined to price-match the other sites), but it is only $0.99.

I hope you’ll take advantage of the deal and dive into the Hammarleeding saga with its remote mountain people, tribal magic, and determined protagonists.

The links below will guide you to your preferred e-tailer.
Sarvet’s Wanderyar
Livli’s Gift
Winter Glory

 

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Brother Kings

Fairy tales have always been amongst my favorite stories to read and to think about and to dream up sequels or alternate endings for. Immersed in them from an early age as I was, to me they seem an essential part of my foundations. So much so that I sometimes don’t recognize when I am drawing on the heritage of these archetypal narratives.

For example, take the following scene, an early flashback from The Tally Master. I’m pretty sure the reconciliation scene from “The Widow’s Son” in East of the Sun and West of the Moon must have come to mind when I wrote it, but I’d forgotten that connection completely until a few days ago when I stumbled upon an illustration by Kay Nielsen.

Blood dripping down one temple, Erastys wilted against the tree, his brother’s sword at his throat.

“Do you yield?” growled Heiroc, his sword arm tense.

Erastys paled, but shook his head. “No,” he whispered.

Heiroc’s sword arm tightened, and they hung there an instant: the dark brother pinned to the tree, garbed in silver and red, wet with blood; the light brother clothed in bronze and aqua, drenched in river water.

Gael’s vision pulsed in and out as he lay stunned, watching.

Heiroc’s voice an edged hiss, the king commanded, “You shall yield!”

Erastys grew more pale yet, but his eyes narrowed.

“You must yield!” Was Heiroc begging?

Gael suspected his hearing was as injured as his sight and the rest of him. What had happened, there at the end, when something ripped inside him? He feared the answer.

Heiroc cast his sword to the ground, where it clattered against the tree’s roots. “I cannot kill you.”

Swift triumph gleamed in Erastys’ eyes, and Gael would have cried out, had he been able. My king! My king! No!

As Heiroc turned away, Erastys shed his drooping stance—suddenly powerful—and seized his brother by the neck, thrusting him against the bloody bark where, a moment ago, Erastys had languished.

Erastys lifted his sword.

“Do you yield? Brother?” he exulted.

“No,” breathed Heiroc.

“You shall,” gloated Erastys.

“Never.”

“But, yes, my brother. Oh, yes!” Erastys’ teeth gleamed.

“You trade upon my mercy,” snarled Heiroc.

Erastys’ nostrils flared. “I had not surrendered.”

“No. You had not. Nonetheless.” Heiroc’s spurt of temper calmed.

“I shall not be so weak as you. I can kill,” Erastys said.

“I do not doubt it. Brother. Nonetheless. You trade upon my strength, not my weakness.” Heiroc’s tone was stern, and yet something lay under that sternness. What was it, thusly concealed?

“Does that mean you trade upon my weakness, since I trade upon your strength?” mocked Erastys.

Heiroc laughed. Gaelan’s tears!

Erastys tensed his sword arm; and then cast his sword after his brother’s—to the ground—and fell upon Heiroc’s neck in a weeping embrace. Heiroc’s arms went hesitantly around his brother’s shoulders and then snugged him in tight.

It had been love, Gael realized, love beneath Heiroc’s sternness. Even after a year of war, a year of bloodshed, a year of battle after battle. Dastard’s hells!

I must admit that this scene between the brother kings Heiroc and Erastys is one that pleases me greatly.

But now compare it to the excerpt below from “The Widow’s Son.” The provenance seems pretty clear to me. What do you think? Is there a connection?

…but when he went down to the stable where his horse was on the day the wedding was to be, there it stood so dull and heavy, and hung its ears down, and wouldn’t eat its corn. So when the young King—for he was now a king, and had got half the kingdom—spoke to him, and asked what ailed him, the Horse said:

“Now I have helped you on, and now I won’t live any longer. So just take the sword , and cut my head off.”

“No, I’ll do nothing of the kind,” said the young King; “but you shall have all you want, and rest all your life.”

“Well,” said the Horse, “if you won’t do as I tell you, see if I don’t take your life somehow.”

“So the King had to do what he asked; but when he swung the sword and was to cut his head off, he was so sorry he turned away his face, for he would not see the stroke fall. But as soon as ever he had cut off the head, there stood the loveliest Prince on the spot where the horse had stood.

“Why, where in all the world did you come from?” asked the King.

“It was I who was the horse,” said the Prince; “for I was the king of that land whose king you slew yesterday. He it was who threw this Troll’s shape over me, and sold me to the Troll. But now he is slain I get my own again, and you and I will be neighbor kings, but war we will never make on one another.”

And they didn’t either; for they were friends as long as they lived, and each paid the other very many visits.

Of course, the young King and his Horse were never enemies as were Heiroc and Erastys. Nor does the earlier portion of the tale “The Widow’s Son” resemble the story told in The Tally Master. But my scene seems to hold echoes from the end of the fairy tale, don’t you think?

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Gael’s Tally Chamber in Belzetarn
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
The Fortress of Belzetarn
The Dark Tower
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Treasures
Belzetarn’s Great Halls
Bronze Age Swords

 

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Here Be Monsters

The Here Be Monsters bundle is appropriately of a monstrous size—that is, it possesses 19 titles, which is huge for a bundle. Bundles usually have 10 – 12, at most.

I’m looking forward to Here Be Monsters myself, because I checked Amazon’s Look Inside for every story that had one, and nearly every title seems to be one I want to read! It will be a wonderful cornucopia for my summer.

Of course, one of the Monsters titles is my own, A Knot of Trolls. In previous posts about bundles, I’ve included a little bit about my own contribution, but I think I won’t this time. There are too many choices that aren’t mine that I want to feature, for me to spend space on Knot. If you want to learn more about Knot, check it out here. I will just mention that it’s a collection, with 7 shorts/novellas.

I did say that Monsters has a lot of reading, didn’t I? 😉 With 19 titles, one of which collects 7 titles together (mine), that’s 25 total, consisting of a mix of shorts, novellas, and novels. Perfect for a lazy day on the beach or lounging in a hammock in the shade or staying up too late of a summer night.

Edited to Add: No, I was wrong. A Murder of Crows is also a collection. Since it contains 16 tales, that makes 40 total in Here Be Monsters. Good grief! What are we waiting for?! Go click that buy button!

Check out the 8 titles below (of 40), and then go snap up your copy of Monsters. Links follow.

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A young woman discovers her own brand of magic in a pre-World War II Budapest teeming with monsters, vampires, and demons…

Eva Farkas has managed to survive in fascist Budapest despite her heritage and her congenital lack of magic. But after seeking the help of the Vampire Lord of Budapest, Eva comes to realize that mere survival isn’t enough. She must find the magic hidden inside of her, and not just survive, but fly.

The Magic of Fabulous is a novella set in the world of the Lady Lazarus historical fantasy series, and contains both an afterword by the author and excerpts from the other books in the series.

When the deck is stacked against you, how will you play the game?

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A collection of short horror, ghost, and dark fantasy stories for adults, woven together by a flock of crows, telling stories to entertain a girl trying to survive a tragedy…

“It was we crows who took your daughter, in case you were wondering. She didn’t run away. We had—I had—been watching her for some time, listening to her tell stories in the grass behind the house. She would sit near the chicken coop and watch the white chickens pick at the dirt, pulling up fat worms and clipping grasshoppers out of the air as they jumped toward the fields.

“Some of them were good stories. Some of them were bad. But that’s what decided it, even more than any issue of mercy or salvation or anything else. Crows are, for one, possessive of stories.”

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Reaper Hawk—mightiest warrior in all Lysandria—tells the true tale of the minotaur in this gripping adventure of sword and sorcery, monsters and mayhem. Questing for adventure in the far east, Reaper meets the minotaur and becomes embroiled in his quest to recover his stolen humanity and reunite with his lost love. Before they are done, they’ll have to fight wizards and wyrms and overcome their own greatest fears, but if they’re successful, they’ll turn back the tide of chaos and restore order to the world.
 
 
 

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Monsters hide among the suburbs. Roland McReedy knows because he works for one, under duress. “The Rajah.” Roland and his partner Nelson hunt down occult oddities under threat of death for themselves, and worse for their families. Roland and Nelson face the night with only their knives, billy clubs, and wits to protect them.

But the Rajah’s latest demand pits Roland and Nelson against the foulest creatures in the San Francisco Bay Area, including a horror older than time itself.

In a world full of monsters how can mere humans survive?

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Magic has a cost. Sarah Beauhall, blacksmith and dragon slayer doesn’t know just how high. Her lover, Katie Cornett, has finally been overwhelmed by this spiraling cost and her spirit is blasted from her body and flung into a world of nightmares and monsters.

As Katie’s coma deepens and her chances of survival fade, Sarah’s spirit must make a journey of its own through a world of crystalline eaters and malevolent spirits who exist only to hunt and to consume.

Night after night Sarah delves beyond the hidden paths, going from crystalline landscapes into the wild lands and lost worlds far beyond the great sea of dreams.

When the spirit of a long dead murderer—known only as the Bowler Hat man—begins gathering an army in the forgotten lands, Sarah discovers that more than eaters and feeders pursue her.

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Dani’s family is unusual. She’s the youngest—and only girl—of seven. Being the lone female, her family would like her to be all girly and sweet like her best friend Allie. But Dani is a tomboy born and bred, and on her fourteenth birthday she discovers why.

Life is about to get decidedly strange!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Scylla is caught by surprise when her mother, the river nymph Crataeis, shows up unexpectedly. Mother’s infrequent visits are welcome, but also serve as a painful reminder of what Scylla’s life had been like before the evil witch Circe turned her into a hideous, people-eating monster.

The cliff Scylla lives on juts out into a narrow straight of water; an arrow-shot away lives the monster Charybdis, who sucks water – and any ships unfortunate enough to be close by – down a whirlpool and into her great maw several times a day. Mother asks Scylla to allow a ship that belongs to a young man named Odysseus to pass by unharmed a few days hence; that way his boat won’t have to venture too close to the whirlpool. Scylla agrees, on the condition that her mother go to Circe and plead with her to return Scylla to her normal human form.

But when Odysseus’ ship appears, Scylla realizes that perhaps things are not as they seem…

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Private eye Nick Beasley lives in a world where fairy tales ended a long time ago—where zeppelins now soar the skies instead of dragons, and where the first automobiles have taken the place of flying carpets. He’s made a name for himself across the Afterlands by debunking fake magicians and exposing fraudulent monsters. This is the modern age, after all. Magic and monsters are long gone.

At least, that’s what Nick believes. Until he gets magically transformed into a monster, that is.

The only person who may be able to help Nick is Lady Cordelia Beaumont, one of the last enchantresses in the Afterlands. But in order for her to cure him, they’ll have to retrieve a powerful artifact from a ruthless crime lord—who is also Cordelia’s father.

The fate of the Afterlands lies in the hands of a runaway enchantress and a monstrous ex-detective. What could possibly go wrong?

Perfect for fans of Doctor Who, Once Upon A Time, Indiana Jones, or The Dresden Files, the Beaumont and Beasley series features high adventure in a world where fairy tales are history.

We love to fear them and fight them. Monsters come in many forms, from the monsters within to the monsters outside and under the bed. Dare you venture into the caverns and the castles? Dare you enter the darkness of an accursed soul?

An eclectic collection of dark creatures and those who confront them. You have been warned.

Here Be Monsters features 19 tales (really 40) of myths, monsters, and mayhem.

The Here Be Monsters bundle is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

 

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A Castle That Might Be Amber

No, I’m not talking about Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes n Amber. Although maybe I should be! If ever there were an archetype for castle, Zelazny’s Amber would surely be it: occupying a mountain peak, crowned with ranbows, so vast that it’s a city in castle form. Yes.

But I’m talking about the castle in my own Caught in Amber.

It, too, is vast. It’s part castle, part palace. It was built through the ages, so one wing is medieval, another renaissance, one classical, and yet another eighteenth century romantic.

When I went looking for images that captured the place, I found many that seemed to represent elements of the massive pile that Fae explores, but there was nothing close to the whole.

Instead of giving up in despair, I decided to share a handful of the images along with either my commentary or excerpts from the novel.

The first painting I found, “Two Owls” by Thomas Moran, could easily be a portion of the medieval wing. In Fae’s thoughts:

Windows were smaller with round arches at their tops. The thick walls were half-timbered – heavy beams filled in with wattle and daub – or else formed of huge rough gray stones. Massive piers supported the ceilings of large spaces such as the great hall and the place of arms where the knights would have assembled.

Almost, she wished she could see them, in their bright polished armor with their vivid plumes on the helmets. They’d be magnificent.

The central portion of the castle consists of tall white towers with pointed red roofs, the quintessential fairy tale castle. The castle in Disney World is the right shape, but it’s not nearly big enough. However, Křivoklát Castle (photographed here by Svobodat) in the Czech Republic has the red roofs!

…she noticed a painting on their immediate left, a landscape showing a many-towered castle with pointed red roofs and flapping blue-and-gold pennants. Pleasure gardens, lawns, and an orchard surrounded it. A carriage drawn by four horses approached along the splendid esplanade before the castle’s entrance.

I suspect Fae’s bed chamber might be located in a wing resembling Ardencaple Castle (Scotland) as rendered by James Whitelaw Hamilton. Certainly the gardens have the right feeling.

…the doorway of a gazebo with honeysuckle twining up its pillars and massing on its roof. The tan pea gravel stretched away to a low hedge at the courtyard’s border. Beyond the hedge, hollyhocks reached for the sky, their flower-dotted spires waving gently in the still air.

The plume of a fountain splashed in another direction, and two topiary elephants gamboled in another. These were the gardens…

Here’s another view of Ardencaple Castle with a different mood, one more in keeping with the shooting gallery that Fae discovers.

Instead of the white stone typical of so many of the castle’s passageways, this one featured walnut panelling and a parquet floor, combining in its geometric design the dark brown of walnut with red mahogany and blond beech.

Substantial walnut doors studded the walls at regular intervals. Light from the window at the far end of the hall didn’t penetrate far, but the lamp globes – supported on walnut falcon wings – were lit.

Fae could feel the heft of the first door as she opened it. The hinges were solid and well-oiled; it swung easily.

Of course, the complex is as much palace as it is castle. Windsor, as depicted by Alfred Vickers, has a little bit of that palace feel.

She found the great chamber where the lady of the castle would have slept. Her canopied bed, with massive dark pillars at the corners, was curtained in a rich red brocade, the pattern showing a unicorn cavorting in a flowery mead.

Such a stately private space.

But the Palace of Coudenberg embodies more of the magnificence that I have in mind.

All the spaces beyond the concealed door were very grand: vast in size with tall coffered ceilings and impressive colonnades, connected by broad halls and impressive stairways. These rooms were for show, not use. Receptions for heads of state, audiences for ambassadors, award ceremonies to honor heroes.

The capitals of the columns, far overhead, dripped with crystal and gold ornament. Enormous fresco murals depicted…

Yet most palaces and castles are, in the end, simply palaces and castles. You can walk from one end to other in five minutes. The castle in Caught in Amber is more like a small city in size, something like the fortified French city of Carcassone. Imagine that Carcassonne’s center has as many towers as its guarding walls, and you’re getting close.

I can see the castle Fae explores so clearly in my mind’s eye. Perhaps one day I’ll commission a modern painter to translate my vision onto canvas.

In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual tour of my Amber’s castle. 😀

For more about Caught in Amber, see:
Amber’s Suns
Amber’s Inspiration
Character Interview: Fae

 

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Amber’s Inspiration

The fairy tale in which a curious lassie opens forbidden doors has always been one of my favorites.

I remember wanting to write a novel inspired by it back in 1997 or 1998. I got so far as an outline, realized that my outline did not really match the story I wanted to tell, and then didn’t know how to proceed.

So I was delighted when the beginning for Caught in Amber burst into my imagination one evening in 2014, when I was trying to go to sleep for the night.

I got up out of my bed, grabbed my journal, and went into the living room to start scribbling. The scene came pouring out.

Even once I went back to bed, I didn’t get much sleep. I was too excited about my story to drift off into slumber. 😀

So, what was the fairy tale that started it all? It’s called “The Lassie and Her Godmother,” and it is one of fifteen Norse folk tales collected in East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

Because the book was published in 1914, its stories and illustrations are in the public domain, which means I am free to share them with you. I thought it would be fun give you the portion of the fairy tale that inspired Caught in Amber. So, read on!

The Lassie and Her Godmother

Once upon a time a poor couple lived far, far away in a great wood. The wife was brought to bed, and had a pretty girl, but they were so poor they did not know how to get the babe christened, for they had no money to pay the parson’s fees. So one day the father went out to see if he could find any one who was willing to stand for the child and pay the fees; but though he walked about the whole day from one house to another, and though all said they were willing enough to stand, no one thought himself bound to pay the fees. Now, when he was going home again, a lovely lady, dressed so fine, and she looked so thoroughly good and kind; she offered to get the babe christened, but after that, she said, she must keep it for her own. The husband answered, he must first ask his wife what she wished to do; but when he got home and told his story, the wife said, right out, “No!”

Next day, the man went out again, but no one would stand if they had to pay the fees; and though he begged and prayed, he could get no help. And again as he went home, towards evening the same lovely lady met him, who looked so sweet and good, and she made him the same offer. So he told his wife again how he had fared, and this time she said, if he couldn’t get any one to stand for his babe next day, they must just let the lady have her way, since she seemed so kind and good.

The third day, the man went about, but he couldn’t get any one to stand; and so when, towards evening, he met the kind lady again, he gave his word that she should have the babe if she would only get it christened at the font. So next morning she came to the place where the man lived, followed by two men to stand godfathers, took the babe and carried it to church, and there it was christened. After that she took it to her own house, and there the little girl lived with her for several years, and her Foster-mother was always kind and friendly to her.

Now, when the Lassie had grown big enough to know right and wrong, her Foster-mother got ready to go on a journey.

“You have my leave,” she said, “to go all over the house, except those rooms which I shew you;” and when she had said that, away she went.

But the Lassie could not forebear just to open one of the doors a little bit, when—Pop! out flew a Star.

When her Foster-mother came back, she was very vexed to find that the star had flown out, and she got very angry with her Foster-daughter, and threatened to send her away; but the child cried and begged so hard that she got leave to stay.

Now, after a while, the Foster-mother had to go on another journey; and, before she went, she forbade the Lassie to go into those two rooms into which she had never been. She promised to beware; but when she was left alone, she began to think and to wonder what there could be in the second room, and at last she could not help setting the door a little ajar, just to peep in, when—Pop! out flew the Moon.

When her Foster-mother came home and found the moon let out, she was very downcast, and said to the Lassie she must go away, she could not stay with her any longer. But the Lassie wept so bitterly, and prayed so heartily for forgiveness, that this time, too, she got leave to stay.

Some time after, the Foster-mother had to go away again, and she charged the Lassie, who was by this time half grown up, most earnestly that she mustn’t try to go into, or peep into, the third room. But when her Foster-mother had been gone some time, and the Lassie was weary of walking about alone, all at once she thought, “Dear me, what fun it would be just to peep a little into that third room.” Then she thought she mustn’t do it for her Foster-mother’s sake; but when the bad thought came a second time she could hold out no longer; come what might, she must and would look into the room; so she just opened the door a tiny bit, when—POP! out flew the Sun.

But when her Foster-mother came back and saw that the sun had flown away, she was cut to the heart, and said, “Now, there was no help for it, the Lassie must and should go away; she couldn’t hear of her staying any longer.” Now the Lassie cried her eyes out, and begged and prayed so prettily; but it was all no good.

“Nay! but I must punish you!” said her Foster-mother…”and away from me you must go.”

*   *   *

The fairy tale then goes in an entirely different direction from Caught in Amber.

Caught in Amber explores the bond between the lassie and her godmother, whereas the fairy tale follows the lassie as she reaches full maturity and learns that her choices have real consequences.

I must say that as I typed, “and away from me you must go,” I found myself bursting with commentary. I could barely bring myself to remark that my story and the fairy tale diverge radically from that point. I wanted to burst into impassioned speech without pause.

How could these parents, no matter how poor, give away their child? In our modern day and age, pastors don’t charge a fee for baptism. And, furthermore, if no pastor is available anyone can baptize a child (or an adult) in an emergency.

But, of course, the lassie’s christening is meant to symbolize something so precious and essential that no child should have to do without it. Perhaps something so urgently important that no child could thrive without it. What then might a parent do? What if your beloved child required an expensive medical procedure in order to be able to breath? What if you didn’t have either the money or the insurance for it? Then, indeed, you might do what this couple did.

But if the adoptive mother was so good and kind, how could she banish the lassie from her presence? Wouldn’t she have done better to impose a consequence the first time the lassie disobeyed, rather than just scolding and threatening?

But there are my modern sensibilities rising up again.

Modern child rearing techniques were entirely absent two hundred and three hundred (or more) years ago when this fairy tale evolved. Punishments were severe. Criminals had a hand cut off, were stoned or hanged. Children were deprived of food, were given solitary confinement for days, or were beaten. The concept that much smaller consequences can be very effective in teaching a child was entirely unthought of.

If the lassie had been my daughter, I might have required that she thoroughly clean the chamber from which the star had flown. And I would have blamed myself for assessing her maturity level so incorrectly when I left her alone at home. I certainly would not have made the same mistake a second time!

Consider, however, what the lassie did! The sun, the moon, and the stars…more symbols for things infinitely precious. It is understandable that her mother was upset! But mom needed to manage a bit better.

But let’s say mom had managed better, and still the lassie had been recalcitrant. It does happen that way sometimes. What then? Should mom have sent daughter away?

The thing that occurs to me is that in medieval times, children often were sent elsewhere at roughly age thirteen. Nobly born boys went to another castle to serve as a page there, and then to become squire to one of the knights. Nobly born girls went to serve as maid-in-waiting to the lady of the castle.

Children born to artisans went to be apprenticed to another artisan. Or went to live with an aunt and uncle to help out in the house and on the farm.

There was a recognized societal mechanism whereby someone other than mom and dad handled the child during those challenging teen years. The child received some of the independence they were craving, but still had the safety net of adult supervision.

Perhaps the lassie really did need to get away from mom in order to grow and thrive.

But the old fairy tales are certainly blunt! They don’t soften the darker aspects of human nature.

As for my own story…well, it was inspired by the fairy tale, but at heart it is very different, because I am exploring love and hope and courage far more than anger or vengeance. And, honestly, I remain to this day as fascinated by those forbidden doors as ever the lassie was. Really, how could she refuse to explore them when confronted by their closed panels day after day!

At least, that’s my view on the matter. 😀 What do you think?

For more about Caught in Amber, see:
Amber’s Suns
A Castle That Might be Amber
Character Interview: Fae

 

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