fantasy

Excerpt: The Nightward – A Boy Dances

It’s been a while since I proved I was working. So here is a little bit of my current Work In Progress to keep you warm for the weekend!

A burst of applause made her jump, and Viyella realized that her mother had reached the end of her speech.  When the noise died down, the Queen announced, “And now to Gaia’s bountiful feast, while we enjoy the entertainment graciously provided us by my sister Queen, Saline of Kadoomun, and brought here by the Lady Ashwin of Seat Jinn.” 

Her mother inclined her head in the direction of a frail looking young woman seated at the same table as Lady Ilene.  Next to her was a tall, thin Lord Consort, dressed in the white and gold of Kadoomun’s Court, which clashed with his bright red hair.  Viyella smothered a laugh and was surprised to find that his bright green stare sought her out in seconds.   

I hope he didn’t hear that.  Cheeks burning, she turned her attention to the slender young man who had stepped into the open space left between the stairs to the throne and the tables.  His entire body glittered with gold dust and he wore loose white pantaloons that billowed around his ankles.  The musicians began the soft strains of a folk song that made Viyella think of running through the high grass of the lands in front of the Court, and the boy began to move, sinuous as wheat in the wind. 

Entranced, Viyella leaned forward, aware that everyone in the Court had grown silent, captivated by the dipping movements of the golden arms, and the strength in the flashing golden ankles.  More than once, she caught the eye of the dancer–Did he smile at me?–and sometimes she held her breath as he twirled like thistledown in spring, or leaped high, like Dagens at play.  In that endless, powerful moment, she knew immediately she wanted to be a dancer and hold the emotions of others in the palms of her skillful hands. 

When the dance ended, the thunderous applause seemed to lift the roof higher to the heavens.  Everyone stood, some calling down blessings on the anonymous boy.  The Lord Consort of Kadoomun looked around, a strangely satisfied look on his face.   

“Wonderful, simply wonderful,” Viyella heard her mother breathe, and below that, the murmur of agreement from her father.  She continued to clap her hands together, ignoring the stinging that had set in.  The boy bowed deeply to the throne, and then his head raised and his pale eyes settled on Viyella. 

Come.  The voice twisted around her mind, seeped into her muscles.  Come.  Viyella gasped and trembled before the power of the plea; she tried to form a thought and failed.   

Come. 

Something clanged to her right.  She sensed Dagen turn his head to the sound, and Captain Freehold moved to investigate it.  Dimly, she acknowledged that she was moving toward the stairs, still clapping.   

“Viyella?” Her mother’s voice sounded far, far away, drowned out by the whispered plea.  Come to me. 

Something glimmered by the boy’s right hand.  He’s holding a candle?  A torch?  It did not matter. All that mattered was that she obey.  She started to walk faster, her small feet almost tripping on the final stair. 

The boy raised his arm, still smiling, the glimmering thing beginning to take shape now. 

Viyella! 

The thought slammed into her, smashing the command in her mind like glass.  Dagen?  A shout carried across the Court.  She groaned, holding her head and dropped to her knees.  Something went by over her head in a rush of wind, the force so great it tilted her back and to one side. She was forced to put out her hand to steady herself.  She twisted, blinking, and felt her mind clearing, sunlight breaking through mist.  Dagen stood on the stairs, arm back over his shoulder with his sword raised for the throw–but then Viyella saw her mother and that was when she screamed. 

Her mother was staring, bewildered, at the silver spear jutting out of her stomach. She touched her hand to it gently.  Then, red blooming on her pink sari, Queen Elise crumpled to the floor.  

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Have a great weekend!

Stay thirsty, my friends 😉

In Which We Meet The Heroine & Hero Of Our Tale

A bit from THE NIGHTWARD again, because I just wrote a nice section with Viyella and Dagen and thought you should all be introduced to each other. Most words of the week so far on the one day I really didn’t want to do anything. Woot for me!

He checked the rest of the balcony swiftly, but to no avail.  The Princess was not there.  He stood frowning at the top of the stairs, wondering if she’d somehow slipped past him.  No, that’s impossible.  The stairway is too narrow.  But where else could she be?   In his mind’s eye, for an endless, stomach twisting second, he saw a tiny body falling off the balcony.  He darted back to the stone ledge, warped with the cool, slick stems and slightly furry leaves of vines.  But only the faded abstract pattern of the courtyard cobbles looked up at him, red and yellow in the gathering dusk.

If she did not fall, then…     

Behind him, he heard a tiny sound–the silvery jangle of bracelets.  The little beast.  He turned, held out his right palm to the top of the stairway and circled it clockwise, muttering the counterspell Erwyn had taught him under his breath.  A thin mist filled the opening, pearl and coral strands wrapping around itself, coalescing into the tip-toeing form of the Princess.  Dagen grabbed her by the back of her vest and yanked her back, ignoring her gasp of shock.     

“The Princess will refrain from using her concealment spells in my vicinity from now on, or I will talk to the Dowager Mother about several unpleasant alternatives to her magic lessons.”     

Viyella made a little screech of disgust as he started down the stairs and clawed at his hand, kicking desperately.  “I only wanted to see the caravan!”     

“Be that as it may, you have inconvenienced the entire household, and using magic to evade your responsibilities is not something the Queen would look upon lightly.  Also, if you want to be put down any time soon, you had better stop kicking my legs.”

And now I’m off to dinner.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

Because We Are Awesome

Recently I’ve been reading some great, eye-opening pieces about women and our astounding contributions to society. Sometimes women and the great things they do have been acknowledged, sometimes not, but always, we have been here.

Here is a really great piece by Kameron Hurley about how women have always been a living, breathing part of history, whether you knew about it or not.

Here’s an article about astounding women who did not care what others thought about them, and achieved a lot because of it. Yes, it’s got a lot of blue language, but that’s really not the point. The point is, how many of them have you heard of before?

And in case you think these were just exceptions to the rule, take a gander at this brief list of women warriors from ancient history. I saw a much better list a while ago, but can’t remember where. Got to find that one again. It was really comprehensive and included all women of note, warriors or not. And it went on and on and on.

I’ve been interested in this topic for a while, as I grew up in a matriarchal family, so when I started my current WIP, The Nightward (Hand of Gaia), I knew exactly how the society was going to evolve. This little article I found only after I’d come up with the female warrior magicians that play a big part in The Nightward–the Amazores.

I had even come up with the name Amazores before reading this because I wanted to bring to mind the ancient tale of the Amazons. Talk about serendipity. It helped inspire and solidify the idea I’d already been playing around with.

Here is a little glimpse of the Amazores in action from my manuscript:

Darkness gathered at the base of the wall, pooling there and setting off bright red flashes.     

“Ready yourselves, Amazores!” Annan called. 

The archers moved to the front of the walls and drew their arrows.  Wraithlight glowed fire against the Dark that pressed down from above now, making the sky glow red above them.  The hissing had become a steady dissonance that was almost painful to the ears.  Minutes stretched into years as all light turned crimson.       

Light flared into a flash.  Amazores raised their hands to their eyes.  There was a muffled boom and air rushed past them.  Silence followed, like that found in the Dead Woods in the Queendom of Jaleel.  The Amazores blinked and scrubbed at their eyes.     

The hissing began again.  Soft and satisfied.     

“Archers! Fire!” Annan cried.     

Shafts of flame whistled downward. 

The Dark rose up, wave climbing upon wave to meet them.         

Tyra Damn

I know, Tyra, I know.

So what’s my point? My point is, if you’re a woman, if you’re a girl, if you’re sitting out there telling yourself that you can only be this, or that a women can only be that…you’re lying to yourself.

We can be anything we want to be. We have always been anything we want to be.

We are awesome.

We will continue to be awesome.

And we should let absolutely nothing convince us otherwise.

 

I Got Mentioned in The New Watershed Article by Cheryl Morgan!

I’m so excited.

Cheryl Morgan wrote an amazing article about Afrofuturist writers in scifi…and she mentioned me!

Sure, I’m ‘the newest kid on the Caribbean block’, but my interview is on there and everything. And I got mentioned in the same breath as Samuel R. Delaney, Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemisin, Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell. That definitely counts for a lot!

Go read it. It’s a great article about the way non-white writers from Africa, France, the Caribbean, the Middle East and more are expanding the genre in new and interesting ways. I’ve certainly added to my reading list.

*Does the happy dance*

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LEX TALIONIS is Top Twenty in Holland on the American Book Center’s Staff Recommendation List!

Just realised I’m No. 16 on the list of 43 staff recommended scifi and fantasy books at The American Book Centre in Holland!

They carry over 7 million books, so I think being top twenty is something worth celebrating.

I also think it matters a lot when bookstore staff likes you. Those are the guys who really love books and readers and their support means a lot to me.

I sure hope people use the lists. They have some good books on there. I’m in great company!

Review for Shadow Over Avalon.

Taking time out to do a little pimpage for a book I thoroughly enjoyed here–hope you don’t mind.

I had the pleasure of reading this book while it was still in the baby stages. The idea of a retelling of the Arthurian legend, but set in the far future, is not something I’d ever come across before. Better yet, C.N. Lesley came at it from truly unique angles–using a strong female perspective along with Arthur’s POV, an alien culture, Merlin as you never imagined him and a future mankind didn’t see coming.

As the blurb says, this is not the legend that came before–this is what happens next.

cnlesley

A very special birthday present arrived. I am beyond thrilled. Go check it out.

http://readersfavorite.com/book-review/23691

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Excerpt – The Nightward

Here’s an excerpt from my new work in progress. It’s a fantasy set in a world in which women are the stronger sex (they have ‘real’ magic), and modeled on a mish-mash of African, Caribbean and Indian culture. Just so you know I haven’t been lying when I said I was writing these days!

Finally, the Lady said in a hoarse voice, “Do I live?”

“For a while yet.” Frances leaned back in her chair, her hands in her lap. Gretchen turned her head toward her.

“Did my mother send you?”

“Alain begged the favour, not your mother.”

“Alain?” A frown creased Gretchen’s forehead. “Why?”

“Perhaps they trust me. Perhaps they wish to ensure you are treated well.” She dipped the cloth in the vapour water, wrung it out, and laid it on Gretchen’s forehead. Then she took another cloth and began cleaning the smudges from the Lady’s arms. “More likely they think me too old to fight and, therefore, slave to their every whim.”

“Are you?”

“Am I what?”

“Slave to their whims.”

The Dowager Mother’s hands touched a bruise on her shoulder and Gretchen expelled a pained breath. Frances retrieved a pot of salve from the floor before meeting Gretchen’s gaze.

“I was Queen of Kadoomun for many years. I may be Dowager Mother now, but a Queen keeps her own counsel. She is slave only to her conscience.”

Gretchen’s laugh was short and mirthless. “Conscience. Is a Queen even allowed such a thing?”

“The best Queens have one. But a Queendom cannot always be ruled by it.”

No Victims Here – Just Writers

There’s a conversation going on about trauma and PTSD and writers as survivors of trauma here:
http://mykecole.com/blog/2013/03/what-ptsd-is

and here:
http://susanelizabethcurnow.weebly.com/1/post/2013/03/in-response-to-myke-coles-post-on-ptsd.html

and here:
http://matociquala.livejournal.com/1120951.html

That last one was a while ago, but EBear (or, as she’s better known, the Amazing, Award Winning Elizabeth Bear) posted the link in response to the first post by Myke and as it turns out, though I follow her blog, that was the first time I’d read that post.

It got me thinking about how come so many of the writer friends I have turn out to be both geniuses and survivors of trauma, particularly childhood abuse of some sort. As EBear said, we know each other, I guess.

(No, I’m not a genius. At least, I have no idea. I’ve never had a real IQ test. I just pal around with interesting people and bam! They turn out to be bonafide MENSA and I’m like, ‘That’s why you’re so smart!’)

Yes, I’ve been through some…things. I don’t really like discussing them ’cause, as EBear said, it comes off like you’re looking for sympathy, or worse, trying to make yourself out to be the one who REALLY suffered. My philosophy is that someone else–a LOT of someones–has had it way worse than you so shut up already, precious flower.

But I do find stuff showing up in my writing. Sometimes I give people life stories that carry parts of my baggage. All writers do this, I guess. But sometimes I think I might be schizo, because part of me builds characters that see the world so positively, and the other part wallows in the darkness that tainted so much of my life. For all intents and purposes, I’m an optimist. How that happened is still a mystery to me. But I think it’s important it happened because I can write people who have never had a bad thing happen to them, and people who’ve never had a good thing happen, and even some in-between.

I think most people have amazingly screwed up lives you’d never believe in a movie and that everyone has been through something that would make my jaw hit the floor. I’ve been travelling lately and met some inspiring women working throughout the Caribbean in the education and training field in the course of my paying job. One woman is a miner, with her own company, who rescues child labourers and prostitutes from the wild interior of Guyana in her spare time.

I’m not kidding. She does this with her own money. You would not believe the trouble it’s brought her. But as she said to me, she could not stop. You see, she used to BE those kids.

Now that’s a hero.

Sometimes I think that’s why writers write. So we can silence the demons and be the heroes instead of the victim. So we can make the story have the ending it deserves instead of the one reality dealt us. So we can show ourselves what victory looks like.

Because not all of us made it out. And some of us did, but carry scars that will never fade.

So many of us used to be victims.

But when you write, you’re in control. You’re not the victim anymore. You’re God and you have a pen. The world does what you want for a change. And there’s nothing more fun, satisfying, terrifying, illuminating and healing than that.

So keep writing. Keep sharing. Keep on keeping on.

There are no more victims here, after all. Just writers doing what they were born to do.

Share your thoughts and stories below, if you wish. I’d love to hear them.

7/7 Blog Challenge

Thanks for this, Marlene!

The 7/7 blog challenge means I open a current WIP, and post 7 lines beginning with the 7th line on page 7. Or page 77. Then I tag 7 other authors who get their turn. Good times for all.
Marlene’s post is here.

*Quick plug* Marlene is a wonderful person who has several great novels for sale, so feel free to check them out if you’re interested in things like alternate history involving the Titanic, the fey and urban fantasy. Someday, she might even combine them all!*End of Quick plug*

I have decided to go with the beginning of page 77 of my current work-in-progress, ‘The Nightward’. It’s a science fantasy, set in a matriarchal world modeled on a mixture of African, Indian and Caribbean society. Women possess ‘real’ magic, while men have only ‘illusion’ and this has led to women being the more powerful sex. However, there are things in the past of this world (no, it’s not Earth, but there are links), that will not stay dead. And the door to them has been opened in order to dethrone the rightful Queen of the High Court and the Hand of the Goddess Gaia herself.

Viyella is the heir to the High Throne. Today was hers and her twin brother’s sixth birthday. At the celebratory party to introduce the heirs to the other Queens of Gailand, Viyella’s mother is murdered in front of her. She manages to escape the ambush with the help of her new bodyguard, Dagen, a soldier or Daguard, whose future is now irrevocably tangled with hers. They seek shelter at the Seat of an ally, Lady Gretchen. There, they realise for the first time that they face more than betrayal…

“It is the Nightward.” The hand lifted away from Viyella’s forehead and a sudden draft chilled the skin there. “And it comes for her.”

“Comes for her?”

Viyella opened her eyes as the Lady rose to her feet, the wind snapping blue silk around her ankles. She knows.

“Daguard, the Queen must not stay here. In a matter of an hour, the darkness you see will reach Fairye. Once it arrives, it will seek out the Queen–and we will not be able to stop it.”

Hope you liked that peek :-). Below are the seven writers I’ve tagged. Feel free to go visit them and read their snippets too.

And to my friends…Tag! You’re it!

Elizabeth Hull
Drea
K.N.Lee
Anna Kashina
Cindy Lynn Speer
Walter Williams
Susan Curnow

Guardian – New Short Story

So, I have a new story up. This one arose from a writing exercise, although the idea had been in my head for years.

I won a prize of a year of short story writing mentorship from an established editor in a contest on my writing forum and the editor’s first challenge to me was to write a story with the word sacrifice.

Sometimes I need triggers to do things. I’m the worst procrastinator ever. Took me months to get around to those two stories. Thank God the editor was also a dear friend and willing to wait.

*Shameless Plug* That editor is CN Lesley, and her debut fantasy novel ‘Darkspire Reaches’ will be released shortly from Kristell Ink. I’ve had the pleasure of reading the beta manuscript and it was AMAZING! You can find out more and pre-order from her website, http://www.cnlesley.com.*End of Shameless Plug*

Back to your regularly scheduled programme.

I had been kicking around the idea of two star-crossed lovers meeting again after a long time, but they’re on opposite sides of the same war. This is what resulted. Not quite what I expected and I’m not sure I’ll ever publish it. It’s definitely in need of more polish.

But tell me what you think. Go read it and if you decide to vote or like it, thanks very much. It’s really appreciated.

Click right here to read Guardian  

or

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  check out the Trunk and read my other short stories too!