Posts Tagged ‘excerpts’

As I continue to try to make real headway on the rewrite of MAGE STORM,

Mage Storm

here’s a snippet from BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM, which releases in ten days:


Having lost his memory, Gaian has been living alone in the forest, trying to wipe out the bandits whenever he can find them, and completely unaware that others are now looking for him. Rose is a girl he rescued from some of those bandits a few chapters back:

Gaian stopped and crouched to stare at the ground, trying to decipher what he was seeing. The tracks of the stag he’d been hunting were completely demolished by the tracks that crossed them. Not that he couldn’t pick up the deer’s trail on the other side. But first he needed to understand what had happened here—and decide if he needed to do something about it.

He followed the tracks for a little distance. Five—no, six—men. Bandits, most likely. Which was very much his business. Headed toward the south side of the forest. He hadn’t been that way in perhaps too long. That much was easy. It was the sixth track that gave him pause. The others walked in a reasonably straightforward manner, varying only a little to adjust to changes in the terrain or to avoid walking into trees or bushes.

The sixth man’s steps weaved like a drunken man’s. Gaian stopped to study a place where that man had fallen and been dragged for a short distance before he got to his feet again.

An injured man? Bandits weren’t known for taking care of their own wounded, in his experience. Gaian cocked his head studying the prints in front of him. And even a wounded man would instinctively put out his hands to catch himself when he fell. Unless, of course, his hands were tied behind him. A captive, then. Bandits didn’t usually take captives, either—not male ones, anyway. But the signs were clear.

That decided him. Hunting for food could wait. It was time to shift to hunting bandits and rescue their wounded captive. Then backtrack and see if there were any other wounded or dead to be taken care of. He was reminded of Rose’s warning. Might these bandits have found this other fellow, the one who looked something like Gaian? Then why take him south? Well, no matter. He could solve those mysteries when he caught up with them.

The tracks were hours old. He’d need to hurry. Tracking, stopping to find the trail where the marks were not as clear as they were here, was inherently slower. On the other hand, their injured captive might slow these men down, too. He could hope.


Gaian ran, the lion’s-head hood of his cloak pulled up against the afternoon drizzle. He’d lost the trail twice over dry or rocky ground, losing too much time. He was sure now that his quarry was making for the very edge of the forest and he had to catch them before they could leave the cover of the trees, because he’d never managed to go beyond that point.

There they were, ahead of him, surrounding a staggering man with bound hands. And much too close to the last of the trees. Gaian redoubled his speed, shouting a war cry. If he could get them to turn and fight, they wouldn’t get a chance to step beyond the forest boundary and he could still rescue their captive.

The rearmost of the men turned at his cry. “Rot! What is that? It has the head of a lion and the body of a man!”

“Never mind what it is. Run! Run for your lives!” another cried.

They dragged their prisoner off his feet, pulling him forward.

Gaian stopped, just within the shadow of the last tree, frustrated, every muscle straining to keep running and complete the rescue. But he stopped. He didn’t understand it. All he knew was that leaving the forest would cause greater harm than allowing these bandits to escape with their captive. He didn’t know what, but it seemed he’d always known that truth. Something very bad would happen if he left the forest. Or . . . something bad would happen to more people before the right time—whenever that would be. He roared his frustration, though.

He quickly slid his bow—already strung from hunting that stag—into his hand and pulled an arrow from his quiver. He might not leave the forest, but that didn’t mean his arrows couldn’t. The first shot took out one of the two men dragging the prisoner away. His fall swung the captive and the second man around. Perfect. Gaian nocked a second arrow to his bowstring, taking aim on the second man.

The captive looked up toward the forest and his eyes widened. “Gaian! Gaian, you’re alive!”

Gaian stared back, for the moment forgetting his target. This man knew him? The name sounded right—more right than the name he’d given Rose. The face looked familiar, somehow. But he couldn’t remember . . . .

And then, suddenly, he did. The face he remembered was younger, the man barely out of his teens, if that. Not in a forest. Mountains. High mountains. And a cave. Fire. And a  . . . a dragon!

Gaian took several steps back into the dense forest, dizzied by the abrupt onslaught of such a vivid memory. Backing away as if to gather himself for an attack on—or by—the dragon. Lightning flashed. Wind swirled. Thunder cracked and boomed. And Gaian fell to his knees, overcome with a vision . . . a memory. Too real. Too . . . . much. Everything faded into blackness, punctuated by bright flashes of lightning or dragon fire and thunderous booms or the roar of a dragon. Gaian could no longer tell which, only that he was overwhelmed by it.

Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays, if you prefer)



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Mage Storm

I haven’t made much progress yet on getting back into the rewrite of MAGE STORM. Mage Storm

Here’s a taste, anyway:

Mastan closed his fist to cut off the trickle of red magic he’d been using to fuse the latest boulder to the top of the dam. Closing his eyes, he could picture what this had been like before that rogue mage, Grevin, had blasted this gap between the cliffs. A towering waterfall had cascaded from above like a gigantic, braided strand of pearls and diamonds, with a roar like the ocean during a storm. The white of the foaming water contrasted against the dark rock in an ever-changing, ever-fascinating column. Now, even standing at the top of what little he’d managed to rebuild, he could feel the height of the remaining cliffs towering above him to either side. Even with the addition of this boulder, he hadn’t raised the dam a tenth of the height of those cliffs.

It’d take much longer than the remainder of his lifetime to repair the damage and restore the waterfall and the lake beyond. And he still wouldn’t have done anything for all the other destruction the wild mages—and those who fought them—had caused. And yet, the world created magic every day, whether he wanted it or not. Much more than one old man could ever channel. Mastan had to do what he could to use at least some of it up before it ran wild and did even more damage. This was as good a way to do that as any—and better than some.

He stood up to stretch his aching back and saw the storm bearing down on him. Mage storm. One of the biggest he’d ever seen. And he was already tired. Clouds of cinders in white, yellow, green, and red roiled above and rained down destruction on the land below. Well, except that fortunately there wasn’t much below it at the moment to be harmed.

Mastan took an apple from his pocket and bit into it. The sweetness—and a long drink of water—would help him recover from the magic he’d already done while he waited for the storm to reach him.

There was no question the mage storms were getting worse with each passing year. Those with little understanding of magic—which was just about everyone, since the catastrophic end of the Great Mage War—thought that the storms were the ashes of the mages killed in that war. If only that were true, the storms would have burned themselves out long ago. No, as with most things concerning magic, the truth was more complex than that. Only the white cinders were the actual remains of mages. And they were the least harmful—well, except for the uncanny . . . sentience they lent the storms.

Which was why this storm was moving across the wind and headed straight for the river valley below, where it would rain destruction on farms and towns.

The real source of the mage storms was the untapped, unfocused magic of the world. With next to no mages left to focus and use the magic, there was nothing for it to do but run wild. That magic would destroy the world someday, if something wasn’t done.

Mastan sighed at the thought, accepting the necessity though he didn’t like it. For a while after his horrible failure with his only apprentice since the war, he’d tried to find a way to destroy the magic, once and for all. But he knew now that even a circle of a hundred mages didn’t stand a chance of accomplishing that.

No, the only solution was more mages. Some should develop spontaneously, just as they had before the war. There had to still be people out there with the magic lying dormant in their blood, just waiting for something to wake it. He snorted. The old mages had never been more virtuous than anybody else—especially the itinerate mages. There’d be descendants of the old mages, maybe several generations back. But some, at least would have inherited the capacity for magic. But prior experience proved that such random initiations were at least as likely to occur in the wrong people, those prone to going rogue and only making the problem worse. He’d needed some way to select for people who would want to heal the world, not destroy it.

And then he’d just have to hope that some, at least, of them found their way to him or learned to control the magic on their own before the magic killed them and added their ashes to the mage storms. Mastan didn’t like the risks he was forcing on who knew how many unsuspecting people without their knowledge or consent. He just couldn’t see any other way to save the world.

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Nemean Lion

I said in my last post that I was about to write a scene in BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING that echoed the Herculean story of the Nemean Lion.


Well, here it is (in first draft, anyway). A little background, first. Gaian is that name of my Hercules-like character. Mariel is his wife of a little over a week at this point. They’re on their way to visit some of his relatives along with four others. And, for reasons you’ll need to read the story (when it’s done) to understand, certain people in this fantasy world have small grey cats that act as their guardians. Gaian and Mariel each have one–named Greykin and Kitty, respectively.

Gaian had just dried off and pulled on his clean trousers when he heard Mariel scream. He dropped his tunic and ran, leaping down the small drop of the waterfall without slowing. He hadn’t stopped to grab his sword, laying on the bank of the pool, so he grabbed a tree branch as big around as his upper arm and wrenched it from the tree as he ran.

As he neared their camp, he took in the scene even as he continued to run. He owed that to battle-trained reflexes, but he didn’t think his heart had ever pounded this hard in any battle he’d ever been in, especially as he realized the danger.

Dornan and the others were still fighting their way through the panicked horses. Their spears leaned against the tent and two of their swords lay nearby. Except for Dornan. Goddess bless the man, he still wore his sword no matter how inconvenient it was when trying to hobble horses. But Dornan was also flat on his back, gasping for breath, felled by a vicious kick from Benar’s Tolaro. Couldn’t blame the horse for going into battle mode under the circumstances. Shouldn’t anyway.

Across the campsite, Mariel had her back to the tent wall, staring death in the face. Death in the form of the most gigantic cat Gaian had ever seen. Brave Kitty stood before her, back arched and every hair on end, growling at the monster. Greykin sped past Gaian to stand beside Kitty and add her yowl to the warning. Neither seemed to worry the big cat in the least.

Mariel grabbed one of the spears and pointed it at the big cat, though it was clear to Gaian that she had no clear idea how to use it. Brave, but he had no room for the flash of pride. Not yet. The spear clearly didn’t impress the beast crouching in front of her any more than the smaller cats did. With a terrific leap, Gaian landed in front of her. With the full force of his momentum as well as his strength, he swung the branch at the head of the big cat. It connected with a satisfying crunch.

As the monster collapsed, Gaian dropped his makeshift club and dove in, grabbing the cat around the throat and squeezing until he was certain there was no life left in the beast. Only then did he stand and gather in a sobbing Mariel. Their cats wove madly about their feet.

This is, actually, very much the way Hercules was supposed to have killed the Nemean lion–but not for the same reason.

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Plan B

Well, I was planning to share a sample of the audiobook of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, but apparently WordPress won’t let me do that. 😦

TSC Audio



Here’s a little glimpse at another brotherly relationship–not between Gaian and Benar (the subjects of BECOME: BROTHERS)–that will have a huge impact on the plot:

Benar left the nursery, shaking his head. Father and Gaian were still in there, watching the infant sleep. While Benar was honored to have been asked to act as foster father—Goddess forbid that the need should ever arise—he couldn’t grasp the fascination of watching a baby sleep. Frankly, the tiny, squirming little thing hadn’t been that interesting when it was awake. He had enough younger brothers—and wasn’t that far from his own childhood—to realize the baby would get more interesting as it grew. But, right now, watching grass grow held about as much interest. Then again, he had to admit, he might feel differently someday, when the child was his.

He turned toward the stairs, to find his full-brother, Cordan, apparently waiting for him. Benar slowed his pace to allow Cordan to keep up with his stiff right knee, the result of an early riding accident that had never fully mended despite all the healers could do.

Benar shook his head, chuckling softly. “Out of all of us, I would never have expected Gaian to be the first to become a father.”

“No,” Cordan agreed. “You realize that this changes everything?”

Benar stopped and turned to face his brother. “Everything? How so?”

“He’s going to need to provide for his son. A home, at the least. What other home does Gaian have? And where could he give his son better training? He even has a son to follow him as king someday.”

“No.” Benar shook his head. “You’re wrong. What Gaian wants is to spend his life with Kalindra. She’s practically all he talked about all summer. He can’t do that and be king.”

“And if Kalindra dies?” Cordan asked.

Benar made a warding gesture. He liked Kalindra. “Goddess forbid! But she won’t. Mother Thedra said that the healers expected her to recover fully.”

Cordan cocked his head to the side. “Perhaps. This time. What about the next one, though. Because you know Gaian isn’t going to stop doing what brought this one along. I wouldn’t. Neither would you, if you’re honest.”

“I expect they’ll be more careful in the future. Anyway, I don’t see the point in speculating about such things.”

“Only this, brother. Gaian’s willingness to step aside for you may not be quite as strong as it was last summer. Just a word in your ear. You should keep your eyes and ears open and be prepared. Just in case.” Cordan turned and limped off in the opposite direction.

Benar watched him go for a moment before shaking his head. Cordan just didn’t know Gaian as well as Benar did. Gaian was not a man to go back on his word. And Cordan didn’t know about Gaian’s real goal, either.

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In researching the Greenlanders for THE BARD’S GIFT,

TheBardsGiftCoverSmallof course I ran across their legends about sea monsters. One of those monsters was hafgufa.

Translated as “sea mist” or “sea reek”, hafgufa was a sea monster of the Greenland Sea between Greenland and Iceland. Hafgufa was supposed to lie on the surface to feed. The stench of its belch drew in fish, which the hafgufa would then consume, along with anything else in the vicinity, including ships. Only Orvar-Odd had ever escaped, because he knew the beast rose and submerged with the turn of the tides and was able to get his ship out of range just in time.

Hafgufa was usually seen as only a pair of rocks said to be the beast’s nose. Sometimes hafgufa was equated with the kraken. Others attribute the stories of hafgufa to underwater volcanic activity and the release of methane gas.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 20 of THE BARD’S GIFT. To set the scene: it’s foggy and Torolf is alone in a small boat (a faering, 0r small fishing boat). A few strange phenomena (attributable entirely to deep ocean volcanism, not sea monsters) start his imagination running wild.

Torolf paused, lifting the oars out of the water. He was closely tuned, now, to the background noises of the sea around him. He’d swear he’d heard a sound that didn’t fit. There it was again. A sort of gurgling noise that wasn’t like anything he’d heard at sea before. A whale diving? No, he’d heard that before and it didn’t sound like this. In fact, more than anything else in his experience, this sound reminded him of a kettle on the boil–which made no sense at all.

The skiff rocked as a wave struck its side. That was wrong, too. The waves should be following from behind the skiff. It wasn’t a storm wave; there was still no wind to speak of. The wave came from the same direction as the strange sound.

The air moved slowly in this fog, slower than sound, so the stench reminiscent of rotten eggs reached Torolf last. Magni’s wild stories about hafgufa came back to him at the same instant. They didn’t seem so wild right now.

Sweat ran down his face despite the clammy fog and his pulse raced. What now? The only thing he could think of was that the monster only surfaced at the turn of the tide and stayed on the surface until it turned again. Orvar-Odd had sailed through safely because hafgufa had just surfaced and he had time to get out before it submerged again, sucking everything in the vicinity down with it. It wasn’t so easy to determine the turn of the tide out here in the open ocean. When had it turned?

He clutched the oars hard. Did it matter? He could hope at least that the splash he’d heard was the creature surfacing. Well, obviously. Otherwise, he’d already have been sucked down with the monster. So, his only hope was to get as far away as he could before hafgufa submerged.

Torolf drove the oars into the water so hard he almost lost control of them. He drew a deep breath and set up a steadier rhythm as fast as he thought he could maintain.

After what felt like hours, but was probably little more than one hour, he had to stop to rest a little and eat something, especially to drink water. He flinched at every sound or slightest movement. The fog seemed a little thinner and he thought he felt a breath of air. He hoped that wasn’t only wishful thinking. Being able to raise the sail was his only hope of making real distance. The faering could almost fly over the water with enough wind to fill its sails.

Another gurgle sounded off to his left and Torolf grabbed up the oars again, pulling for all he was worth. He rowed until he thought his heart would burst. When he couldn’t row another stroke, he shipped the oars and sagged against the gunwale, breathing heavily. His throat felt like he’d tried to swallow sand and his shoulders burned. He fumbled for one of his precious water skins and drank deeply.

He wasn’t far enough. Not nearly far enough. He was sure of that, but he couldn’t row anymore. Not to save his own life. A breeze ruffled his hair and cooled his sweaty face. Torolf looked up. The fog had lifted and he’d been too intent on rowing to even notice. The breeze ruffled his hair again. He lifted the little pendant that had been his mother’s, halfway between a cross and a Thor’s hammer, to his lips. It wasn’t a strong wind, but it was enough to put up the sail. He could rest for a while and still keep moving.

Torolf raised the sail, forcing his aching arms to the task. Then he collapsed in the bottom of the boat, too tired to move another muscle.

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