Mythic Tales: Author Interview

Alex Butcher, the curator of the Mythic Tales bundle, has been doing interviews of the characters that appear in the bundled stories, as well as conducting Q&As with several of the contributing authors. Recently, she posted her interview with me on her website.

She asked some great questions, so I’m sharing her first few questions, along with my answers, in this post on my own blog.

What first prompted you to publish your work?

In 2007, I re-discovered Maddy Prior’s amazing song ‘The Fabled Hare.’

Listening to her powerful lyrics and expressive voice, I grew suddenly aware that time was passing, I was getting older, and I didn’t have forever.

The imagery of the hunter and hounds closing in on the hare made me feel as though death were snapping at my heels.

If there was something I really wanted to do, something I had not done yet, I’d better get going or I might miss my chance entirely.

I didn’t ‘click the publish button’ in 2007, but that year and that song were the beginning of my publishing journey.

Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’?

I do some of each.

I prefer having a skeletal outline at the start of a story. Doing without —pure ‘pantsing’—feels like walking a tightrope over Niagara without a safety net. Very uncomfortable! And yet . . . I’ve done it.

Once I awoke in the middle of the night, so afire with inspiration that I got up out of my bed to write the first scene of what would become the novel Caught in Amber (my title in the Mythic Tales bundle). I didn’t work out an outline until I was a third of the way through the book!

More usually, I sort out the foundational plot line before I start writing. I need to know what happens, but (oddly) I need to not know how it happens. I discover the how as I write, and that keeps the story feeling fresh to me.

Even when I follow an outline, I always feel free to ‘have a better idea.’ Sometimes my outline writhes like a river in flood!

What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey?

I’m going to pretend you asked me about my writing journey. 😉 Because there’s a piece of advice that I really, really needed and didn’t get, way back when.

For some reason, I thought that the process of writing was much more cut-and-dried than it ever could be. Why I thought this, I don’t know. Perhaps because I formed the impression when I was very young, at age ten or eleven.

But the result was that, when I sat down in my early twenties to write my great fantasy novel, and didn’t get anywhere with it, I concluded that I must not be made of such stuff as goes into the bones of real writers.

I longed to write novels, and believed I could not. I spent more than two decades believing this and writing poetry and story vignettes and gaming adventures instead.

And then I listened to Maddy Prior’s ‘The Fabled Hare’ and got serious about my creative aspirations. I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, did every last one of the written assignments in the book, and read several of the titles in its bibliography.

That’s when I encountered Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, and one of her suggestions set me free.

So the advice I wish I’d gotten? Find out how other writers do it! Not just one or two, but dozens. Ask them. Read biographies. Whatever it takes, find out.

Because if I’d learned that there are as many ways as there are writers, I might not have concluded so wrongly that I was not a writer. I might have been writing novellas and novels (as well as poetry and vignettes and gaming adventures) between 1980 and 2007. I might not have been so unhappy in my creative desert.

What are your views on authors commenting on reviews?

Do not go there! Reviews are a reader space. What reader wants to write his or her honest opinion and then discover that the author of the book has been peering over his or her shoulder the whole while?

Sort these into order of importance: Great characters. Good plot. Awesome world-building. Technically perfect.

As a reader (not a writer), I want them all. If the characters aren’t great, I have no interest. If the plot is stupid, I get cranky. If the world-building is unconvincing, I get thrown out of the story. If there are grammar errors, I’m tempted to email the author with the necessary fix. ‘Lay’ when it should be ‘lie’ makes me wild, unless it’s in dialogue, of course. Gah! 😉

I believe I’m known as what one writer calls a ‘fussy reader.’ That’s being kind!

As a writer…what can I say? I go for all four.

For the rest of the interview, I urge you to visit Alex’s site. She asks about my views on research, what my writing space is like, and whether my stories contain a message, as well as prompting me to tell her a little about the novel that I am smack in the middle of writing!

Library of Erana

The Mythic Tales bundle (with 14 titles, including Caught n Amber) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.
 

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Tempus

For another author interview of me, see:
5 Quirky Questions from Shantnu Tiwari

For more about my writing epiphany of 2007, see:
Writer’s Journey

 

Share

Mythic Tales: Tempus

Tempus was the fourth story I read fom the Mythic Tales bundle. It’s a complex tale, and it drew me in so completely that I felt disoriented when I finished and needed to emerge from the world of the book into my own life.

I’m still pondering the story, mulling over the metaphysical arguments that lurk in its foundations, and contemplating the exotic nature of the setting and the vibrancy of the characters. Because it’s a book that’s going to linger with me, I find I don’t want to simply give you the brief, official blurb and skate onward with nothing else. I want to share a bit more.

So I will. 😀

But first, the blurb:

Relive the iconic adventures of Tempus and his Sacred Band through the eyes of Nikodemos, his right-side companion, as Niko seeks his spirit’s balance on Bandara’s misty isles. Five iconic Sacred Band stories from a world of thieves, plus tales available nowhere else. Join the Stepsons from their earliest days.

Nikodemos is a soldier in a mercenary force called the Sacred Band. Niko has come to the town of Sanctuary in the van of his commander, Tempus.

Tempus is an immortal, a demi-god, sworn to the service of the war god.

The novel Tempus tells the story of what happens to Niko in Sanctuary and how the events there shape him, transforming him from boy into man.

That story is interwoven with a frame story in which Niko re-examines his years in Sanctuary in order to see more clearly what transpired there and to learn from his experience.

At the story’s beginning, Niko’s commander, Tempus, is presented as a force for good. Niko says of him that he “never turned away from injustice, never left a problem for another to solve . . . never let the pain or difficulty of an undertaking persuade him not to pursue a resolution his heart thought was right.”

Justaposed against Tempus is Askelon, the sorcerer lord of dream and nightmare and death. Askelon is portrayed as haughty, angry, crushing, and evil.

But Niko, in the course of his scrutiny of the past, realizes that he must reconsider his love and loyalty for his commander, Tempus, as well as his fear and hatred for the dream lord Askelon, who courts Niko’s fidelity.

Along with Niko, the reader sees that Tempus often does great evil in pursut of his principles, while Askelon “brings healing for the tired mind . . . wonder for the ailing spirit,” as well as compassion.

The mood of Tempus is dark and rich. The mythological stature of its characters reminds me of Tanith Lee’s Tales from the Flat Earth series, while its melancholy tone calls to mind Days of Grass, also by Lee. A tantalizing obliquity present in Tempus, similar to that in E.R. Eddison’s Mistress of Mistresses, contributes to its great sense of depth.

For those reasons, it’s a demanding book, but it pays exemplary dividends on what it demands of the reader.

I quite enjoyed Tempus, despite the fact that it verges on being too dark, too violent, and too disturbing for me. Somehow Janet Morris handles the disquieting elements deftly enough so as not to overwhelm.

I will note that the frame story leaves the matter of Niko’s allegiance unfinished. Niko says, “I know what I’m doing. I’m choosing — or choosing not to choose. My heart is still with you, Commander.” By which I conclude that Niko is now a man divided, his head seeing Askelon’s purposes as redeemed, but his love still given to Tempus.

I speculated that the loose threads of the frame story were present to allow for the many sequels that I understood existed, but a little surfing the web proved me wrong in that speculation. Although the sequels are indeed numerous, the chapters of Tempus were originally written as stand-alone short stories, and the novel was created from them later. The interweaving of the chapters with frame story was so skillfully done that the result forms one whole cloth.

But never mind how it was written; Tempus is worth reading!

The Mythic Tales bundle (with 14 titles, including Tempus) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.
 

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Author Interview

 

Share

Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana

I love Alex Butcher’s trolls! They are so exactly the opposite of mine.

Mine possess aching bones and sore joints, along with enlarged ears, curved and lengthened noses, reddened watery eyes, sagging skin, twisted thumbs, and hunched spines. Even worse than the physical deformities is the progressive madness that compels each to destroy all that is good in the world around him or her.

My trolls come into being when a spellcaster in my North-lands forces too much power into a spell, ripping the energetic lattice within his or her being and bringing troll-disease in the wake of this destruction. Greed or hubris or simple desperation—nothing wholesome—lies at the roots of troll-disease.

But in Alex’s magical world of Erana, the troll kind are shapechangers, seers, and oracles who dwell in the secret fastnesses of the mountains and worship the beauty of nature. The gods walk among them, and they are faithful and wise.

One of three mortal races—elves, humans, and trolls—the trolls of Erana are strong and comely. In “The Tale of Treyna the Beloved” (a short story in the collection Tales of Erana) Alex gives this description of the troll daughter Mira:

“A child, golden-haired and dark-skinned stood with her grey eyes wide at the magnificence of the world. Small twisting horns poked from her bright curls and her small mouth creased in wonder.”

I can see her in my mind’s eye, small and sturdy with her face full of reverent awe, her golden curls contrasting with her velvety dark skin, her horns forming a delicate coronet.

I wish I could visit her mountain meadowland and play tag with her!

Tales of Erana is one of the fourteen titles in the Mythic Tales bundle. So if you share my yen to visit little Mira . . . well, you can’t visit her, of course, but you can read the legend of Treyna as her grandmother tells it to her. 😀

To pique your interest yet further, Alex has interviewed the protagonist of “The Moon on the Water” (another story in Tales of Erana). Acionna is a goddess born of rock and running water and snow.

Which book/world do you live in?

I live in the Jagged Peak mountains, they are in the world called Erana by those who live there. I am in a book? I know of books and lore. Then am I not real? – I feel real, and the mountains around me seem real. Is it, perhaps, that I am real here, and you are the myth, you are the imaginary?

Tell us about yourself: (Name, race/species, etc.)

I am an ancient elemental, a Goddess to some. Born of the mountain, and the pounding waterfalls when the world was young and the magic free. It was so long past I could not tell you how many years or centuries of your time. Once there were many of my kind – creatures of magic and wild places but the magic was chased away, corrupted and sickened and many of us fell, or hid, or faded. Now I am a myth, a legend told around the fire and a drop of blood here and there in lineages old and noble. The Plague came and everything changed. The land changed, the magic changed.

I’m an adventurer – why should I recruit you to accompany me?

I have had my adventures, I have warred, and lost all save myself. I have walked the mountain paths and fought with monsters and men who would seek to kill every last trace of magic. Why should I wish to adventure again?

If I were to consent I would bring you elemental magic, of the oldest sort. The Power of the elementals, the Power of nature and the furious waters and mighty peaks.

Tell us about your companions?  How do they see you?

I have none. My mate is long dead, now nothing but a statue and even I cannot undo the curse. My daughter is gone, fallen to wicked magic and I walk these peaks alone. Sometimes the trolls come and bring offerings but they see me not. For I know now that mortals and immortals should not mix.

For Acionna’s views on the future, the past, heroism, and her most grievous mistake, I urge you to visit Alex’s website, where the whole interview is present. Here’s the link:

Library of Erana

The Mythic Tales bundle (with 14 titles, including Tales of Erana) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.
 

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tempus
Mythic Tales: Author Interview

 

Share

Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem

I’ve read and enjoyed several of Leah Cutter’s novels. Poisoned Pearls is probably my favorite to date, although her body of work is large, so I have a lot of pleasurable exploring ahead of me.

When I saw that Cutter had a novel in the Mythic Tales bundle – A Sword’s Poem – it leapt to the top of my want-to-read list. Nor did it disappoint.

The rich world building and compelling story telling swept me straight into the milieu of classical Japan (794 – 1185) and the spirit beings who have stepped out of myth and legend into the wild places within the forests and on the flanks of mountains: fairy foxes, enchanted fish, and the kami of the rivers and glens.

Sword’s mood is striking, possessing some of the melancholy and fatalism of Shogun by James Clavell, but brightened with scintillas of youth and innocence and hope.

The protagonist, a fox fairy named Hikaru, captured and held my interest, but I came to love two of the secondary characters – Iwao (lord and guardian of Mount Shirayama) and Kayoku (his lady) – just as much.

All in all, A Sword’s Poem is excellent. Here’s the official blurb:

Hikaru and her one true love Norihiko defy both their families and kitsune (fox fairy) tradition by getting married.

However, an evil magician kills Norihiko, steals his soul, then reforges it into a sword.

Hikaru seeks the sword, determined to break the curse and bring back her one true love, no matter the cost to herself or her family.

Set in Heian era Japan and composed of three novellas: The Making, The Breaking, and The Reforging.

The Mythic Tales bundle (with 14 titles, including A Sword’s Poem) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.
 

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Tempus
Mythic Tales: Author Interview

 

Share

Character Interview: Fae of Caught in Amber

The Mythic Tales bundle includes fourteen titles:
    • 8 novels
    • 1 novella
    • 4 short story collections, and
    • 1 short story

Thus far, I’ve read Beneath the Knowe by Anthea Sharp, A Sword’s Poem by Leah Cutter, Tempus by Janet Morris, Raziel’s Shadow by Joseph Robert Lewis, and Magic for a Rainy Day by Alexandra Brandt, and enjoyed each very much.

Of course, my own Caught in Amber is one of the novels in the bundle. For those of you who haven’t read Amber yet, here’s a little bit about it:

When young Fae awakens in a locked and deserted castle, she remembers nothing. Who she is, where she comes from, none of it.

Beauty from all the ages graces the castle – medieval towers, renaissance columns, and gothic vaults – but underneath the loveliness a lurking evil stirs.

Fae hates the loneliness and the sense of hidden malice oppressing her. Even more, she hates the feeling that just around some receding corner of lost memory lies the answer to her predicament – an answer just out of reach.

An answer essential to surviving this castle’s dangers – both subtle and not so subtle.

Somewhere in her forgotten past lies the key.

A mythic tale of family and betrayal told with all the twists and moments of sheer joy that epic fantasy allows.

The curator of the Mythic Tales bundle, Alex Butcher (byline A. L. Butcher), has been presenting interviews on her website, both of the bundle’s contributing authors and of the characters who appear in the stories. Just a few days ago, she featured a Q&A with Fae, the heroine of Caught in Amber.

I think you might find Fae’s thoughts (outside the covers of her book) to be interesting. Here are the first few of her answers to Alex’s questions…

What is your name?

Oh, I wish I could remember my name! I wish I could remember anything. I feel so . . . lost, knowing nothing of who I am, where I come from. Yesterday, when I was pretending to be brave, I gave myself a name. It feels right, but it might not be right. How could it, when I remember nothing? But . . . I’m Fae (she raises her chin) and I’m going to pretend to be brave again. I have to.

Which book/world do you live in?

I seem to be trapped in a castle. It’s very beautiful, with marble halls and tall windows looking onto flowering summer gardens. But it’s utterly deserted; I’m all alone and locked in! None of the doors to the outside seem to even have functioning latches and hinges. And when I tried to break a window with a paperweight, it bounced off!

Tell us about yourself: (Name, race/species, etc.)

When I look in the mirror, I look human. But something tells me I might not be. Oh, I’m not anything truly strange, like the creatures in fairy tales or the monsters in myths and legends. Yesterday I thought I might be the granddaughter of a goddess, but that’s not it either. I’m trying to figure it out, because I think that if I can only remember something, that’s the key to escaping this castle and finding . . . home? Oh, I wish I could go home, wherever home is! (She raises her chin again.) But I’ll do it. I’ll figure it out. I won’t give up.

I’m an adventurer – why should I recruit you to accompany me?

Adventurers . . . (Her tone is musing.) I always thought they were ne’er-do-wells, the black sheep of their families. But sometimes they’re soldiers of fortune, aren’t they? I wonder if a soldier—a warrior—could help me? I don’t think so. This castle, this situation, is a puzzle, not a battle. And I’m going to solve it. (She sighs.) But I wish someone were here. Besides me. It’s so lonely. I miss my friends, even though I can’t remember who they are. Oh, I hate this!

I don’t want to steal Alex’s thunder, so I’m not going to reproduce the entire interview here. Instead I urge you to visit Alex’s website to learn Fae’s views on heroism, failure, love, and more. Here’s the link:

Library of Erana

Mythic Tales is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.
 

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Tempus
Mythic Tales: Author Interview

 

Share

Mythic Tales Bundle

I told you all about story bundles when my own Serpent’s Foe was chosen to be in a bundle called More than Human. Now I have another story appearing in a new bundle! Caught in Amber.

To refresh your memory about bundles…

A curator chooses a theme for her collection and then seeks high-quality stories that fit that theme. The idea is to give readers a chance to conveniently and inexpensively try new-to-them authors.

Because I call one of my own series “Mythic Tales,” this new bundle of Mythic Tales made me wonder if the curator had been reading my mind! But many fantasy writers are inspired by the myths and legends of the past, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

The Mythic Tales bundle includes 14 titles, and I’ve enjoyed every one of the four that I’ve read so far. I’m looking forward to the rest! Eight are novels; one is a novella; four are short story collections; and one is a gem of a short story.

My first selection to read was the first title in the bundle, the short story Beneath the Knowe by Anthea Sharp. I’ve read some of Anthea’s work before and liked it, but this story just happens to hit the heart of my taste and I found it especially excellent.

From the official ebook description, here’s a little bit about Beneath the Knowe:

From USA Today bestselling author Anthea Sharp, a magical faerie tale featuring an ancient Celtic setting, music, and the ageless denizens of the Bright Court.

Can music overcome fey magic? When the chieftain’s infant son is stolen away by the fey folk of the Bright Court, Maeve Donnelly journeys beneath the faerie hill to save the child. Her only weapon is a simple pennywhistle, and the music running in her bard-gifted blood…

I plan to say a few words about several of the titles in the bundle in future posts, because there are so many good choices. But I’ll conclude this post with a description of the collection as a whole.

Remember those epic legends of heroes and monsters? Stories of great adventure woven with magic and myth live once more in this collection; read of ancient lore, magic swords, wicked beasts, courageous souls, desperate champions, and unholy bargains. Fairy tales and bold ventures come together in this boxed set.

Beneath the Knowe by Anthea Sharp
Tales of Erana by A. L. Butcher
A Sword’s Poem by Leah Cutter
On the Edge of Faerie by Stefon Mears
Sorcha’s Heart by Debbie Mumford
Tales Fabulous and Fairy by Kim Antieau
Tempus by Janet Morris
Caught in Amber by J.M. Ney-Grimm
The Warden of Power by Karen L. Abrahamson
Beautiful by Barbara G. Tarn
Lost: Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries by Ron Vitale
Tales of the Faie: The Beginning of Days by Diana L. Wicker
Raziel’s Shadow by Joseph Robert Lewis
Magic for a Rainy Day by Alexandra Brandt

Mythic Tales is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.
 

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Tempus
Mythic Tales: Author Interview

 

Share

A New Cover for Troll-magic

I’ve been replacing all my covers featuring the back & white illustrations by Kay Nielsen.

I loved those old covers, but the odd thing is that I find I’m loving the new ones every bit as much. I suspect it’s because I’ve loved the works by John William Waterhouse for almost as long as I’ve loved Kay Nielsen’s illustrations.

I’m particularly delighted with the art I found for Troll-magic.

There’s a story behind that, which I’m gong to share. 😉

You may recall that when I searched the portfolio of John William Waterhouse for art that would fit Fate’s Door, I initially missed the painting titled Miranda, even though it is perfect, depicting a young blond woman in Grecian robes who could be Nerine, the sea nymph protagonist of my book.

Luckily my friend Laura found what I had missed.

The same thing happened with Livli’s Gift, although I self-corrected there. After doing a mock-up based on Waterhouse’s The Annunciation, I noticed The Crystal Ball, which was (again) perfect.

Well, guess what? You know what comes next, right?

When I looked for art that would fit Troll-magic, I didn’t see anything.

It was only when I was searching on behalf of Livli’s Gift that I found myself doing a double take.

“Wait a minute!” I said to myself. “Psyche has blond hair like Lorelin. It’s too bad that the scene in which Psyche opens Aphrodite’s forbidden gift doesn’t fit anything in Troll-magic. I sat back, staring at the painting, feeling something niggle at my backbrain.

“What, what, what?” I wondered silently.

Then I had it! Waterhouse had painted more than one scene from the Psyche and Cupid myth.

His work depicting Psyche opening the door into Cupid’s garden is perfect on so many levels.

The Psyche and Cupid myth (or, in a more Jungian vein, Psyche and Amor) is the root from which the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast grew.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon (the inspiration for my own Troll-magic) is the Nordic version of Beauty and the Beast. An illustration from the Psyche and Cupid myth felt heart-deep right.

On a more superficial level, it was right also. The motif of an unexpected side door, opening onto wonders, occurs several times in Troll-magic, starting with Lorelin discovering such a door in the gardens outside the palace of my Beast.

Psyche Entering Cupd’s Garden by John William Waterhouse was the right art for Troll-magic!

Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of his beast form. Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And straight thinking proves elusive, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s idyllic rambles through the wilderlands. She now loves all things musical. Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own dreams to confront his lethal nightmare? Should he?
 

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse all twist back to its entombing heart.

Troll-magic tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory, dark magnificence, and unexpected significance. The fate of an empire, a people, and a world unfurls from Kellor’s deeds and Elle’s choices.

* * *

The new cover for Troll-magic has made it through the distribution chain to all of the online stores reached by these links.
Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I OverDrive I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols
(I ordered a proof copy of the trade paperback today! It will be ready soon.)

PRAISE FOR TROLL-MAGIC

“…her writing style is unique and engrossing… There’s a light and lilting tone to the prose… Troll-magic is a book to be savoured and enjoyed.” – James J. Parsons, Speaking to the Eyes

“This is the kind of book that you keep thinking about… All through the day you will find yourself hoping for just a few minutes to pick it up again. Loosely based on a familiar folk tale, the world depicted is magical, but the people are very real.” – Smashwords review

Troll-magic was a fun read… This story mixes adventure, romance, life lessons and, of course, magic. J.M. Ney-Grimm has created a fascinating new world. Her detailed descriptions and colourful writing style bring the world of Silmaren and the Norse-lands right off the page and into life.” – Amazon review

“Her work compares favorably with Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip… if you’re looking for an intelligent, fun and interesting read, I highly recommend this book.” – Amazon review

EXCERPT FROM TROLL-MAGIC

Surely there had been words when she cursed him. He could hear the scream of her rage and despair. He could see her contorted face, the splintering acidic light. But words? Even a verse? Something about a maiden who would freely chose?

That hardly made sense. He was alone here.

A maiden who would share his bed? How was that possible? And who would want to?

He wore some terrible shape. He had not yet worked out what it was. His eyes in that shape did not work the way he was used to as a man. And he couldn’t make out his reflection in the mirrors . . .

But worse than his fearful shape, he was half mad as a beast. His curse-twisted mind was incoherent, the thoughts spinning out of all sense. Rage would shake his entire monstrous being without any warning.

He was not fit to live with.

Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I OverDrive I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols

 

Share

A New Cover for Livli’s Gift

I’ve been on a cover tear, so perhaps you can guess what’s coming next. 😀

Sarvet’s Wanderyar once featured a pen-and-ink illustration by Kay Nielsen, but now it possesses art by John William Waterhouse – an oil painting in vibrant color.

Winter Glory, the other novella in the Kaunis Clan Saga, was adorned by a pen-and-ink rendition of Kay Nielsen’s northern skier. Now that ebook also features art in color.

Clearly the Kaunis Clan novel, Livli’s Guft, would need a new cover as well.

My first sweep through the portfolio of John William Waterhouse did not turn up anything that grabbed at me. I considered his Annunciation (even did a mock-up with it), but had reservations about it.

I worked on other things, while I pondered. When those things were finished, I revisited the Waterhouse portfolio. This time I saw something: The Crystal Ball. I suspect the artist may have been thinking about wiccan paraphernalia when he painted it. But another angle altogether comes to view when the painting is considered in light of my protagonist.

She’s a healer. In her culture, she’s the equivalent of a doctor. Which means that of course she studies anatomy, and like many people in the medicine of the past, she scrutinizes the physical clues that people leave behind, such as the skeleton. That’s what that skull is doing on the table in the scene.

The weighty tome is a medical text. And the crystal ball is not actually a crystal ball, but the sphere of light that she sees in her mind’s eye when she exerts her healing powers.

So…I had found the right piece of art. I opened up Photoshop and went to work. Check out the results below!

Livli struggles with a secret she keeps from everyone, even her closest friends, and she must solve the problem at its heart before she’s discovered.

She’s certain the answer lies in a fragment of folklore and magic half-remembered from her childhood. Almost certain.

She wouldn’t need forgotten magic if only the men and women of her secluded mountain culture dwelt together. But the women—and Livli—inhabit their sister-lodge atop its lofty bluff, while the men live apart in their brother-lodge several valleys away.

Unless she can force a change, Livli stands to lose everything . . . including the most precious thing in her life: her son.

A story of secrets, shibboleths, and deep-forged strength told with insight and engaging intimacy.

* * *

The ebook edition of Livli’s Gift possesses the new cover.
Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols
(The new trade paperback is coming soon.)

PRAISE FOR LIVLI’S GIFT

“I started reading and couldn’t put it down. I love the world and the characters she has created.” – Goodreads review

“I have never read a novel that made me feel so good. Mrs Ney-Grimm, you absolutely BLEW MY MIND! . . . It was so unique, so original . . . Usually I blast through the pages of a book that I love, but Livli’s Gift made me want to go as slow as possible, absorbing every moment of bliss.” – Goodreads review

EXCERPT FROM LIVLI’S GIFT

Livli rerolled the scroll carefully, returned it to its pigeonhole, and sighed. The whisper of her breath sounded loud in the quiet space, as had the crackle of the brittle parchment and the faint click of the closing cabinet door.

The tale of The Princess and the Griffon did not have the reference she was looking for. Neither had The Lindworm’s Eyrie nor Triton’s Egg.

“Why am I bothering,” she murmured. “It’s a wild gos chase.”

But she knew why she was bothering. She really, really wanted the information in whatever tale it was.

“I wish I could remember.”

But she couldn’t remember.

Of course, she could ask her birth-mother. Sarvet would undoubtedly reel off an entire list of the folktales she’d told her children at bedtime. But I don’t want her to know . . . what I’m thinking about right now.

Livli sighed again and shifted uncomfortably. Having to pee so often was for the birds. I just got back from the dump-buckets! I’m not traipsing through all three of those long corridors again. At least not right away.

Instead she straightened and moved over to the windows.

The view was incredible. Not so much for its scope – a vista across a snowy valley brushed by clumps of dark pines, bounded by granite cliffs, and presided over by tall mountain peaks was ordinary in Hammarleeding enclaves – but for its wavy presence through glass while Livli stood indoors within warmth. The scroll-lodge of Siajotti was richly supported by all the sister-lodges and brother-lodges, and a library needed good lighting. So Siajotti had glass in its windows rather than hide coverings. And the scroll repository itself had big windows.

A coal fell in the tile stove that stood in the corner between the windows. The building creaked. The day was abnormally still, with no wind to mask the smaller sounds.

Livli paced from one end of the windowed wall to the other and back, her footfalls soft against age-darkened pine boards.

That lost scroll wasn’t her only problem. What am I going to do about Thoivra?

She traced one of the circular muntins holding the small glass panes – it was cool to her touch – and bit her lip. Focus, she reminded herself. One thing at a time. Scroll first.

I need to look somewhere else, but where?

None of the parchments on prayer, ritual, superstition, or even birth described the rite she sought. If it even existed.

* * *

Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols

 

Share

A New Cover for Winter Glory

When I was getting ready to publish my novella Winter Glory, and was contemplating its cover, I longed to feature the illustration by Kay Nielsen captioned with: “So the man gave him a pair of snow-shoes.”

The skier depicted was tall and lean, just like my protagonist Ivvar. He even had grayish hair! (Also like Ivvar.) The landscape he skied through was the snowy arctic of the far north of my North-lands. And the illustration was beautiful.

I tried to convince myself that I could build my cover around it.

But the other two books in the series featured pen-and-ink illustrations – black-and-white, not color – and I really felt that I should keep the branding homogeneous. I started to sigh and resign myself. And then I had what seemed to me a wonderful idea.

I could put the color art on my light table and trace it with a drawing pen, thus creating a black-and-white version of the color piece that I loved so much.

I’ll admit that I was really pleased with the result. So much so that I did not regret leaving the color illustration in my wake. I still find that black-and-white cover beautiful.

But as you may realize from my post about the new cover for Sarvet’s Wanderyar, I eventually realized that beautiful as the pen-and-ink work of Kay Nielsen is, it’s not the right art for my books and my readers. I’m replacing all of those black-and-white covers. Which meant I needed to revisit the cover for Winter Glory.

My first thought was to search the works of John William Waterhouse. I’d found something perfect for Sarvet’s Wanderyar amongst his portfolio. Maybe there would be something equally good for Winter Glory. But there wasn’t. Waterhouse seems to have painted mostly women. The few men in his paintings were decked out in ornate plate armor, and all of them were young.

Ivvar is in his eighties, and while he is a skilled hunter, he does not sally forth as a knight of medieval times. He wears wool and leather.

My next thought was to look through the works of the Pre-Raphaelites who influenced Waterhouse. There I encountered the same problem: mostly women, the few men presented as knights in shining armor. So, no. I would have to come up with another idea.

And it was only then that I remembered that, back at the vry beginning, I’d wanted to use the color piece by Kay Nielsen. Could I use it after all?

When I re-visited the image, I grew enthusiastic. I loved it as much as ever, and a vision sprang into my mind as to how I could marry it to the new trade dress I’d evolved when I worked on the new cover for Sarvet’s Wanderyar.

I set to work!

I must confess that I reveled in Photoshop, having more fun than seems really fair.

And, here it is…

In the cold, forested North-lands – redolent with the aroma of pine, shrouded in snow, and prowled by ice tigers and trolls – Ivvar seeks only to meet his newborn great granddaughter.

Someone else has the same plan.

Traversing the wilderness toward the infant’s home camp, Ivvar must face the woman he once cherished and an ancient scourge of the chilly woodlands in a complicated dance of love and death.

Ivvar’s second chance at happiness – and his life – hang in the balance.

* * *

The new cover is available on the ebook editions at most online bookstores, although (as I type this) it is still wending its way through the distribution chain to Scribd and OverDrive.

Winter Glory as an ebook:
Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I OverDrive I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols

PRAISE FOR WINTER GLORY

“A little atmospheric gem of a novella… interesting, beautifully written, and worth re-reading.” – Amazon review

“In the starkly beautiful North-lands – a place that Ney-Grimm conveys so clearly it’s like watching a movie on the inside of your skull – two people who once knew and loved each other meet up again. This is their story…” – Amazon review

“The descriptive language is nothing short of gorgeous… I love that the protagonists are older… and they stuck with me long after I had finished reading.” – Amazon review

“The writing is lucid, elegant, smooth. Ney-Grimm creates a fantasy world of Norse legends, but with real people…” – Amazon review

“…in the midst of this excellent adventure story comes an insight so brilliant…”
Amazon review

EXCERPT FROM WINTER GLORY

His gaze stopped on a woman sitting alone in the booth at the far left corner.

She wore Hammarleeding garb – wool tunic and leggings like his – hers drab in subdued ecru decorated by patterns of gray and white. She was bony, rangy, likely quite tall when she stood. And old, like him. She’d pinned her long iron-gray braid around her head like a coronet, and she held herself like a queen, straight and graceful as she sipped her cup of tea.

The frontiersmen began a rollicking ballad about bears dancing in the woods, and the Hammarleeding woman turned her face toward them.

Ivvar felt all the air punch out of his lungs.

She wasn’t beautiful, but she drew him. Lightly tanned skin like his own; straight nose, a little on the long side; flat cheeks. Laugh lines framed her firm mouth. Crow’s feet bordered her level hazel eyes. He suspected she’d reached that calm place where life was just interesting, neither a tragedy to be resisted, nor a passion to be exalted. But what was it about her . . . ? She looked genuine and . . . appealing.

The flutter in his innards grew.

Then lagging memory brought another face before his mind’s eye.

Like to the one across the room from him in the here-and-now. So like. But younger; fifty or more years younger. Jaw clenched, hazel eyes hot, and lips tight with anger. His linking-sister – what these lowlanders would call his wife. His former wife. Paiam.

The last time he’d seen her, angry at life itself more than at him, but telling him their linking – their marriage – must end.

How had she grown into this serene old grandmother?

* * *

The ebook links again for Winter Glory (I’m hard at work on a trade paperback edition that will feature the new cover):
Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I OverDrive I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols

 

Share

A New Cover for Sarvet’s Wanderyar

All the work I’ve been doing on the new cover for Fate’s Door has me seeing my covers through fresh eyes. And, much as I love Kay Nielsen’s art, much as I love the covers made with his art, I’ve been forced to see that the covers probably aren’t right for my stories.

The art is elegant and unusual. I really do adore it. But it is also melancholy, a little dark, and enters the so-called “uncanny valley” that occurs when human figures are very human, but also possess some features that are decidedly not human. Like clowns. Or like the attenuated sculptures of Alberto Giacometti.

I like to believe that my stories partake of some degree of elegance. And I’ve been told many times that they are unique (thus unusual). But my characters are as human as I can make them, not uncanny. And my themes are all about inspiration and hope and finding strength in unexpected places. They are not melancholy.

Once I’d progressed that far in my thinking, it occurred to me that of the readers who’ve expressed admiration for the covers of Troll-magic and Sarvet’s Wanderyar and Livli’s Gift, the majority have been those who eventually decided my work isn’t really to their tastes.

I’d been hanging onto their admiration for those covers as a reason not to change them. But elegance and uniqueness are not enough in a cover. It also must speak to the readers who will enjoy the book. And these weren’t.

(Looking at the Kay Nielsen cover for Sarvet’s Wanderyar, my husband – who likes the Kay Nielsen art and considers himself a fan of my stories – said: “You know…it really looks sort of like post-apocolyptic horror.” Eek! No!)

So, as my new cover for Fate’s Door moved toward its completion (I’m not quite there yet), I knew I needed to create new covers for more of my backlist, specifically those books featuring Kay Nielsen art.

Now, I would love to commission new covers from DDD. But the same financial constraints that prevented me from buying a DDD cover for Fate’s Door remain in play here. I don’t have the money for a DDD cover for both WIP and a backlist book.

Luckily, I’ve discovered that the art of John William Waterhouse (which is in the public domain) works really well on my book covers! So I returned to that well to find cover art for Sarvet’s Wanderyar.

The painting titled Windflowers caught my eye as being really right. The model could easily be a teenage girl, which Sarvet is. The setting is windswept, very much in keeping with the mountain meadows where Sarvet dwells. And the overall composition has a lot of energy, the terrain at a slant, the girl’s hair and gown whipped by the wind. It’s easy to imagine that she is taking a long walk, something related to the more extensive wanderyar that Sarvet craves.

I’m really pleased with the cover I created featuring Windflowers, so much so that I plan to create a paperback edition to match the new ebook edition.

Running away leads right back home—or does it?

Sarvet walks with a grinding limp, and her mountain culture keeps girls close to home. Worse, her mother emphasizes all the things Sarvet can’t do.

No matter how gutsy her spirit or bold her defiance, staying put means growing weaker. But only boys get wanderyars. Lacking their supplies and training, how can Sarvet escape?

Can dreams—even big dreams—and inner certainty transform impossible barricades into a way out?

The new ebook edition of Sarvet’s Wanderyar has the new cover.
Amazon I B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords I Universal Link*

(The new paperback is in production.)
 

PRAISE FOR SARVET’S WANDERYAR

“…it’s an entrancing story with a character you care about, and desperately want to succeed… At first I saw Paiam as the clear antagonist, but I came to sympathize with her. This makes for a complex interaction between the two characters that rages almost completely in the subtext–very clever on Ney-Grimm’s part, and very effective… On a side note, one of my favourite things about Ney-Grimm’s work is her treatment of fantastical creatures…the pegasi seem ethereal…creatures of light and gauze that are somehow the most real things in the world.” — Speaking to the Eyes review

“J.M. Ney-Grimm has woven a beautiful, multi-layered tapestry… All the characters, human and otherwise, in her world are well-rounded and believable.” — Barbara Karp, Readers’ Favorite review
 

EXCERPT FROM SARVET’S WANDERYAR

Tense and furious, Sarvet shook her mother’s angry grip from her forearm. “I’ll petition the lodge-meet for filial severance,” she snapped, and then wished she’d swallowed the words, so hateful, too hateful to speak. And yet she’d spoken them.

The breeze swirling on the mountain slope picked up, nudging the springy branches of the three great pines at Sarvet’s back and purring among their needles. Their scent infused the moving air.

Paiam’s narrowed eyes widened an instant—in hurt?—flicked up to encompass the swaying tree tops behind her daughter, then went flat.

“You dare!” she breathed. “You’re my daughter. Mine alone. And I’ll see to it that you and every other mother in the lodge knows it too. You’ll stay under my aegis till you’re grown, young sister, even if I must declare you careless and remiss to do it!”

Oh!

Sarvet only thought she’d been mad before. “You never wanted me!” she accused.

Was it true? Or was she just aiming for Paiam’s greatest vulnerability, aiming to hurt? Because under her own rage lay . . . desperation. Something needed to change. She just didn’t know what, didn’t know how. And didn’t want to be facing it right now, facing her mother right now.

* * *

Here’re the links again:
Amazon I B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords I Universal Link*

*Books2Read provides a link that leads to nearly everywhere an ebook is in stock. More and more online bookstores will appear on Sarvet’s “universal” page at this link as the ebook makes its way through the distribution chain.
 

Share