THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN Book Launch

Hooray!

Or, in other words, it’s Launch Day for THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN! (Actually, it was yesterday, and I should have written this post yesterday, but I was too busy falling in love with imaginary characters in Korean Drama).

So. Go and get it! It’ll only be 99c for the next few days before it goes back up to $2.99.

You can get it at AMAZON || KOBO || iBOOKS || BARNES & NOBLE || SMASHWORDS ||

3rd Shards_TheFirstChillOfAutumn

Creating Worlds: Making up Montalier

Okay, so technically, Montalier is not a world.

1It’s a country within a world. But creating worlds sounds so much better than making up countries, so I’m running with it. I created Montalier for my novella TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, the first in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD trilogy. Besides being the home of one of my favourite characters, Montalier is one of my favourite settings. I don’t think it’s because Montalier is any more developed than my other worlds: rather, I think it’s because TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY was a first on so many levels for me.

  1. The first novella I ever wrote
  2. The first longer form fiction I wrote from a male POV (previously, I’ve only written short stories from male POV)
  3. The beginning of my first complete trilogy (as of now, when THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN is due to be published May 31st)
  4. The first book for which I made up pie proverbs

When you build a world you have to think about so many things.

Is this the coolest map you've ever seen, or what?

Is this the coolest map you’ve ever seen, or what? (And in case you’re wondering, Wyndsor is north-east of Montalier, out of sight along the coast. Avernse also doesn’t appear on this map, but that’s because it was a VERY TINY piece of paper)

Political system. Monetary system. History. Religious system (if any). Etymology of names. Proverbs and historical references. Is it a country or an actual world? A monarchy or a democracy–or perhaps both? What sort of military does your country have? How does it interact with the militia of the surrounding countries? Is this a coastal country, or landlocked? Do you have dragons? (Always have dragons). If you’re travelling from country to country, where exactly are your countries in relation to each other? Do you have a map? (Always have a map. With compass. Trust me, you’ll need it.)

There are many other things to ask and formulate, but one of the things I most enjoy making up is pop culture. Well, not exactly pop culture, but you know what I mean. The catch-phrases people use. The in-jokes. The references to ancient (and not-so-ancient) history. The things you forget you say until someone from another country hears you and wonders what you mean.

With Montalier, it was pies.

Tiny pies. Huge Pies. Pies in between. Pie proverbs. Pie references. Pies everywhere! I love pie, so it was a hugely enjoyable (albeit hunger-inducing) part of my world-building. In fact, when I revisited Montalier for THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN, at least one beta reader asked if there would be more pie proverbs. (Spoilers: no. Sadly, there were no words to spare, as TFCOA already weighs in at a smidge over 50k, which is slightly long for a novella).

As a reader, I have three worlds that I’ve found to be extraordinarily well-written.

The first of those is the world Steven Brust has created for Vlad Taltos, his assassin-on-the-run who manages to escape death and disaster by the skin of his teeth nearly every book, while his side-kick Loiosh is making sarcastic comments in his ear. The world-building there is something really special. It grows over the course of many, many books, but each book is so well-contained and explained that I have very happily read them ALL out of order without feeling more than pleased each time I find something cool that slots into my knowledge base for the next book.

Second: Kate Stradling’s Kingdom of Lenore in KINGDOM OF RUSES  and TOURNAMENT OF RUSES. And guys, I know I’ve raved about this book and this author before, but the world-building here is just so deftly done: there is not a single unnecessary word, and the world is richly imagined and filled out.

My third favourite is the world Patricia Wrede created for THE RAVEN RING. It is rich in sayings, understandings, customs, and magic; and it’s done in an understated and completely immersive way. THE RAVEN RING is another book I’ve already raved about, so just go and read it already. (Incidentally, Patricia Wrede’s blog is probably one of the best blogs a writer can read for world-building–and lots of other–advice, too.)

Writers, what is your favourite part of creating a world? Readers, what is the best world you’ve ever read? Let me know in the comments! Or, yanno, just tell me a really great pie proverb?

TFCOA: Entering Phase Two!

THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN has officially entered phase two!

3rd Shards_TheFirstChillOfAutumnWhat I mean by that, of course, is that it’s in the competent hands of a set of very lovely people who have agreed to beta read for me. I’ve already had some amazingly useful feedback, which means I’m plotting and cogitating on changes (or non-changes).

This is the first time I’ve had beta readers (apart from my wonderful Sis and Ma), so it’s been interesting and slightly nerve-wracking in terms of wondering what they’ll come back to me with (like ‘your book sucks and should be burned alive’). As I said a blog post or two ago, my MC, Dion, is fairly different from the heroines I usually have, so I was particularly interested to see what the reaction to her would be.

All in all, the publication time-line is coming along nicely, and if it keeps on going this swiftly, I might even be able to move up the publication date. Maybe. (I’m hoping so, because I really want to share this one with you all, not to mention it being the culmination of my Very First Trilogy!)

In the meantime, have a sample of TFCOA, and don’t forget to preorder!

The First Chill of Autumn

Until she reached the age of seventeen there were four certainties in the life of Dion ferch Alawn.

The first was that her parents were always wise, always right.

The second was that her life would always fall into the same orderly rhythms as it had thus far.

Thirdly, she had no doubt that she would one day be queen.

The fourth thing of which Dion ferch Alawn was absolutely certain was that the tall, ebony-skinned man she often saw in her bedroom mirror meant her no harm.

As it turned out, this was the only thing in which she was entirely correct.

***

Dion was three when the Fae arrived. She didn’t understand much about it at the time, except that these tall, graceful people with their beautifully tragic faces were exotic and exciting. She wasn’t allowed to be excited about it, of course: Crown princesses were expected to be sedate and regal at all times, and even a three year old heir couldn’t gape in excitement. Dion’s twin sister Aerwn wasn’t similarly restricted: she gaped and gasped and bounced to her heart’s content.

The Fae came in small numbers at first, fleeing from a peril in Faery that was talked about in hushed tones. They each asked for and were granted an audience with the King and Queen, and most were settled in Harlech. Dion heard, but didn’t understand the mutters around the castle when it became known that the Crown—and by proxy the people—was paying for their resettlement and daily food.

Before long there was a steady stream of Fae arriving every day. Some of them were settled in Harlech, some in other Llassarian cities, and still more of them seemed to settle right in the castle itself. Soon the maids were all Fae, swiftly and gracefully performing their duties. The footmen morphed from a group of well-trained and orderly men, into a regiment of perfectly starched, perfectly beautiful Fae.

By the time Dion and Aerwn were five, their tutors were all Fae. Aerwn, naturally graceful and quick to learn, blossomed beautifully under their tutelage. Dion, who always felt clumsy and awkward around the Fae, became stiff, careful, and silent. The Fae had a great deal to teach, however; and though Dion grew neither more graceful nor more silver-tongued, she did gain a remarkable proficiency in magic.

 

 

Dion had become so used to the constant presence of the Fae in her life that when the tall, black Fae first appeared in her oval dressing mirror, she didn’t think more of it than to feel in a vaguely embarrassed way that she was intruding. She had only recently turned seven, and her Fae instructors had taught her so well that she knew not to question or challenge the Fae rudely.

Fae thoughts are high and wise, she knew. A Fae always has a reason for what the Fae does. It is not for mortals to question or upbraid.

And so Dion hurried past her mirror whenever she was in her suite, hastily averting her eyes whenever she saw that the tall Fae was back. She was so used to being observed and tested by then that being watched even in her suite didn’t seem unusual. And the Fae, apart from the fact of his actual presence, wasn’t intrusive. He didn’t do much more than stand there, though sometimes he seemed to be talking. Since no sound came through the mirror, Dion assumed that he was talking to the Fae on his side of the mirror, and still abashedly avoided the mirror as much as she could.

They would quite possibly have continued in this way for the next few years if Dion hadn’t sprained her ankle a few months after her seventh birthday. If it came right down to it, as with most things in the twins’ young lives, it wasn’t so much that Dion had sprained her ankle, but that Aerwn had sprained it for her. It was Aerwn who bullied a terrified Dion into climbing into the saddle of their father’s horse; Aerwn who confidently asserted that she could and would climb on right after you, you scardy!; Aerwn who had opened the stable door for them both; Aerwn who seized upon Dion’s foot when their father’s horse charged grimly for freedom, dashing herself and her sister to the unforgiving paving-stones of the stable.

Be that as it may, it was Dion who finished the day in bed, her face whiter than usual and her foot very carefully elevated. The Fae were too sensible to heal human injuries quickly without reason—Dion herself had been taught how dangerous it was for the human immune or reparative systems to be brought to rely upon magic for its healing—and the young princess was put to bed for the afternoon with the promise that she would be better tomorrow.

From the bed it was impossible not to see the dressing mirror, and Dion was in an agony of embarrassment in her attempts not to look at it. First she gazed at the gauzy sweeps of her canopy, then toward the window; now at her bedposts and then at her toes. Looking at her toes had the unfortunate result of bringing her into direct eye contact with the man in the mirror, however, and Dion looked away awkwardly. At last she settled on pretending to read a book, her face carefully shielded from the mirror; and began to feel the stiffness in her cheeks relax a little. Dion liked reading, though if poetry were excluded, there weren’t really many books to read for pleasure. Previously popular books, with their old prejudices and ancient enmity, were frowned upon by the king and queen. The castle had once had such books, Dion knew, but with the Fae had come the Cleansing: the washing away of all previous conflicts and anything that could be used to incite unrest. It was necessary. But Dion remembered some of the tales that had been read to her when she was younger, and the new, correct books didn’t hold quite the same sense of wonder or adventure.

By and by, Dion began to notice a golden glow to the edges of her book. It haloed the wrist and the hand that were holding the book aloft: a soft, magical luminosity that made her reach out to touch it with her other hand. It was ethereal but somehow heavy in the air. Dion caught a breath in her throat and dropped her book, her eyes flying at once to the man in the mirror. He was looking right at her, and on the mirror was an embossing in the same gold that formed curlicues up and down the glass. Dion, her mouth as wide open as her eyes, watched in fascination as the curlicues gained form and structure, and became words.

The words in the mirror said: Don’t they teach you about sound?

“Sound is vibration,” said Dion doubtfully. She wasn’t unsure about what sound was: she was unsure why it mattered. She had been right at first: this was a test. “I haven’t seen– that is, the magic is beautiful. How do you– do you mind telling me how you’re doing that?” He waited so long to respond that she had flushed and added hurriedly: “I’m sorry! Of course, you can’t hear me. How silly of me,” before the golden curlicues reformed to add: What does that tell you?

“You c– can hear me!” said Dion foolishly. “Well, vibrations. You speak, which makes the air vibrate, and then those vibrations play against– oh! Oh, I know!” The glass in the mirror was stopping the vibrations from coming through and getting to her ears. That’s why he seemed not to make any sound though his mouth moved.

Dion wriggled painfully toward the edge of her bed, a pale reflection of herself grimacing and haltingly stumbling forward in the mirror. The Fae, who somehow seemed more real than she did in that reflection, simply waited. Dion’s ankle ached and throbbed, but she continued doggedly on until she could place her palm on the mirror. She wasn’t yet proficient enough with magic to affect things she wasn’t touching, and she regretted it more than ever now.

The Fae waited for her, impassively. He didn’t seem to be concerned with her pain, though Dion thought that he watched her very carefully; and when she at last laid her palm against the mirror, damp with sweat, he gave her a single, short nod. It said well done, though the mirror didn’t.

Vibrations, thought Dion, and sent a tracery of raw magic into the mirror. In the mirror, the Fae spoke, and she felt the vibration of it against her veinwork of magic. The mirror was too thick to allow the vibrations through, and Dion was wary of softening it: Fae though he might be, she wasn’t sure she wanted him stepping through the mirror along with his voice. She left her tracery of magic where it was, and ran a small thread of it through to her side, where it was easy enough to transmit the vibrations again.

It wasn’t until a deep, rough voice said: “Good technique,” that Dion was sure it had worked. The curlicues disappeared, and for the first time she got a really good look at the Fae, unfestooned by gold or seen as a flicker in the corner of her eyes. He was very tall and broad in the shoulders, with a scarred face and a huge broadsword that was bigger than Dion was. It occurred to her, belatedly, that despite the colour of his skin, he didn’t at all look like a Fae. She’d thought of him as Fae by default, for what could an ordinary man be doing in her mirror, after all?

“Your magic is strong,” he said.

Dion, both embarrassed and hot with pain, said: “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me,” he said. “You’ll regret it, in time.”

Dion didn’t like to contradict him, but she was quite certain she would always be glad for her skill in magic. Since that thought verged on rebellion, she quickly pushed it away and said: “Are you here to protect me?”

“Yes,” he said. “And no.”

“Are you here to teach me?”

“Yes. And no.”

That was certainly very Fae-like. Dion, daring one more question, asked: “What will you teach me?”

“Two things,” said the Fae. “How to use your magic. And how to die.”

Calling all Beta Readers!

Calling all beta readers!

(Pic from http://moirakatson.com/2013-in-review/)

(Pic from http://moirakatson.com/2013-in-review/)

Do you love fantasy? More specifically, do you love retold fairytales and light-hearted, character-driven stories?

Then sign up to my Awesome Beta Readers Mailing List! Get first look at all my new books and have your say before they go to market!

[E.T.A: I’ve had an overwhelming and really very lovely response to this request, so I’m now closing this list. If you still want to get early ARCs of my books, please feel free to sign up to my PRIORITY READERS list. It’s a list of reader-reviewers who will receive ARCs and post reviews pre- (or post-) publication. So if you love reviewing and you want first dibs on my new releases, this is the list to be on!]

The third novella in my SHARDS series, THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN, will be ready for beta readers some time in April. I’d love to have you on board!

(Pic from http://www.saraathertonmason.com/blog/beta-readers)

(Pic from http://www.saraathertonmason.com/blog/beta-readers)

I’m looking for lovely people who will read, remark, and answer questions. People who may already have read and enjoyed my work, but would have liked to make that one little correction before the draft was finalised. People who aren’t afraid to talk about what they didn’t like as well as what they did like.

I want you!

GUYS. IT’S CHRISTMAS NEXT WEEK. CHRISTMAS. GUYS.

IT’S CHRISTMAS NEXT WEEK. Seriously, when did that happen?

So WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! FIRE IN THE BLOOD is out December 25th, and is on preorder special of 99c!

Preorder your little heart out!

(Also, help! The exclamation marks are taking over the post!!)

 

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A princess in a dragon-guarded tower. The prince who is to rescue her. The prince’s ensorcelled dragon. And one enchanted keep that might just be enough to kill them all…

It’s widely known that Princess Kayami Koto is held captive in the Enchanted Keep by a dragon of great ferocity and skill. So when the bold, daring and crafty Prince Akish attempts to rescue her, it seems only sensible to bring his own dragon, Rafiq.
But the Keep’s dragon is only the first Circle in the Keep’s Seven Circles of Challenge, and both Rafiq and the prince will have to keep their wits about them if they’re to survive and rescue the princess.

There to help them is the princess’ serving maid, Kako. But why does Kako seem so familiar to Rafiq? Will she really help them, or does she have her own agenda? Rafiq isn’t sure, but he knows one thing: Kako may be the only person who can free him from his bondage to the prince, and that’s worth any amount of risk.

Preorder Is Up: AKA, Git Yer Novella Heeeeere!

Hey guys 🙂 This is just a quick, mid-week note to let you all know that TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY is up for preorder on Amazon. So go preorder now!*

*Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.

1

In Twelve Days Of Faery, King Markon of Montalier is at the end of his tether. His son, Prince Parrin, is afflicted with a rather nasty curse that slaughters, maims, or brutally attacks any woman with whom he so much as flirts. After the rumour that sweeps around the kingdom, promising that any woman breaking the ‘curse’ will be eligible to marry the prince, there is no shortage of willing volunteers. Unfortunately, there is also no shortage of bodies piling up.

Markon needs to do something, but what? Can a visiting enchantress from Avernse help, or is she simply another accident waiting to happen? And will Markon be able to give her up to his son if she does break the curse?

Sneak Peek: Shards Of A Broken Sword

Between Spindle (Two Monarchies #1) and the upcoming Blackfoot (Two Monarchies #2), I’ve decided to release two novellas in my (currently) three novella series Shards Of A Broken Sword. The first, Twelve Days Of Faery, should be published shortly before Christmas, and the second, Fire In The Blood, will hopefully be released just a month or so after the first. As you may guess, that means I’ve been VERY busy. I’ve been using a different process for the novellas, too; and so far it’s been wonderfully effective and quite reasonably enjoyable. Then, in between writing and plotting, I’ve been ferreting through stock images and premade covers to find suitable covers for suitably low prices. When I get bored with THAT, I start picking out excerpts of Twelve Days Of Faery to show you all. Lucky you, huh?

In Twelve Days Of Faery, King Markon of Montalier is at the end of his tether. His son, Prince Parrin, is afflicted with a rather nasty curse that slaughters, maims, or brutally attacks any woman with whom he so much as flirts. After the rumour that sweeps around the kingdom, promising that any woman breaking the ‘curse’ will be eligible to marry the prince, there is no shortage of willing volunteers. Unfortunately, there is also no shortage of bodies piling up.

Markon needs to do something, but what? Can a visiting enchantress from Avernse help, or is she simply another accident waiting to happen? And will Markon be able to give her up to his son if she does break the curse?

Well, that’s it from me! Spindle is on a whirlwind tour with Prism Book Tours, so I’ll be tweeting about that during the week, with a quick post midweek to catch up with all the action. In the meantime, do enjoy this sneak peek from Twelve Days Of Faery!

***

Still, when Markon introduced Althea to Parrin, she didn’t seem particularly coy. She curtsied to him with less depth than she had curtseyed to Markon, and said in an offhand manner: “You’re rather prettier than I expected from the portraits.”

Parrin bowed and smiled, but he looked as though he was no more sure than Markon was that he’d been given a compliment.

“I understand that you have a rather difficult problem,” continued Althea. She was remarkably business-like for a girl who had just been discussing marriage. Not a maidenly smoothing of the hair or sparkle of the eye. “I have a little bit of an idea about it. May I ask questions?”

“Of course,” said Parrin. He was cautiously admiring her, though Markon was pleased to see that he didn’t go so far as to smile. The boy was thoughtless, but Markon would like to think that he wasn’t so careless as to potentially endanger Althea.

“The first two girls, the fiancées–”

“Yes, lady?”

“Both of those were accounted to be accidents, weren’t they?”

“Yes, lady. The countess was thrown from her horse in the courtyard and the princess was attacked by bandits when she returned home from a visit.”

“How long between the betrothal and the death for the countess?”

“A few weeks,” said Parrin, tugging at the cuffs of his jacket. He had been very fond of the girl, thought Markon with a pang: he had also been the one to find her.

“The princess?”

“A few months.”

Althea frowned, a quick, reflexive action. “You weren’t immediately engaged again afterward, were you?”

“No: I met Jeannie at court and we stepped out a few times. She disappeared before it even got about that we were thinking of each other. After that it seemed to take less and less to activate the curse.”

“What set it off most recently?”

“I smiled at the girl,” said Parrin glumly. Markon couldn’t blame him: he remembered what it was like to be Parrin’s age, and the idea of being unable to so much as kiss a girl without something unfortunate happening to her was horrible to contemplate.

“And how long was it before it took effect?”

“A few days,” said Parrin.

“I see,” said Althea. “Stand up, please.”

Parrin did so, looking rather nonplussed.

To Markon she said: “Would you hold this? Thank you,” and pressed something circular and metallic into his hand.  He looked down at the ring, somehow more real in his hand than it had looked on her finger, and took far too long to realise what she was doing. When he finally did understand, Markon started forward, his hand closing around the ring convulsively. By then Althea was on tiptoes with her hands cupping Parrin’s face, kissing the boy with some force and not a little skill if his reaction was anything to judge by.

Markon felt a rush of molten anger unlike anything he’d ever felt before. He didn’t think he moved or even thought, caught up in the stunning heat of it, but that was his hand gripping Althea’s arm with white fingers and tearing her away from Parrin, and that was his other hand shoving the ring back on her finger, his own slightly shaking.

Althea, her eyes rather big but not at all frightened, said a thoughtful: “Ow,” up at him.

It was left to Parrin’s rather frantic: “Dad! Dad, she didn’t mean any harm!” to bring him to the realisation that he’d clutched Althea to his chest, and that he’d not been gentle about it. Parrin was evidently of the persuasion that his father objected to what could technically be called an assault on a royal personage.

Markon, breathing heavily through his nose, released Althea. She hadn’t struggled at all and now merely smoothed her dress and hair as though she hadn’t just put herself wantonly in danger.

“You said you were going to work from the outside!” Markon said furiously.

“No, I didn’t,” said Althea, and there was a suggestion of stubbornness to her mouth. “I said I could if it made you uncomfortable. I also said it would make more sense to investigate from the inside. You didn’t object.”

“I object!” said Markon in exasperation. “I object very much!”

“Well, it’s too late now,” Althea said reasonably. “And it’s proved remarkably useful, too. For instance, I’m now quite sure that you’re not dealing with a curse– well, not in any technical sense of the word, anyway.”

“What?” demanded Markon, in less than cordial tones.

“I was already pretty certain it wasn’t,” she told him. “None of the girls have anything clinging to them—well, apart from some rather nasty magic, totally unconnected with the prince—and neither does the prince. As a matter of fact, they all seem to have– at any rate, I could only be certain that there was no curse by taking off the ring.”

“And putting yourself in exactly the kind of danger I didn’t want you to be in!” said Markon testily. “I’ve a good mind to send you packing!”

“No, you don’t,” said Althea.

“Of course I don’t!” groaned Markon. She’d achieved more in a couple of hours than any of the girls (or in fact any of the enchanters he’d called in) had achieved in the last couple of years.

“Parrin can’t be expected to live his life locked away from women–”

“I should think not!” said Parrin feelingly.

“–and it’s not good for your kingdom, either. After a while you get people making snide remarks about the crown sacrificing the people on the altar of succession, and then–”

“Small disturbances that become bigger ones,” finished Markon, meeting her eyes. “Factions forming across the court and perhaps an accident or two for myself and Parrin.”

Althea nodded. “Exactly. I’m rather good at this sort of thing, actually. Try to trust me a little.”

“You have a fortnight,” said Markon.

***