Posts Tagged ‘Minstrels of Skaythe’

Hey, it’s my book anniversary! It was three years ago, on May 15, 2019, that I self-published The Tower in the mist, which turned out to be the first Minstrels of Skaythe novella.

At that time, I had only an inkling of a series taking shape. That there would be a group of mages exploring non-violent resistance to an overlord’s cruel regime. That each adventure would stand alone, yet build into something greater.

Now it’s been three years, and I’m working on the series finale. Happy anniversary to me!

The Tower in the Mist

Mages vs. Amazons vs. Giant Badgers vs. Tyranny!

Zathi’s job is to capture renegade mages, but Keilos isn’t like any other mage she’s dealt with. Her drive to bring him in only leads them deeper into a cursed forest. Together, warrior and mage will face deadly beasts and grapple with decisions that compromise every principle. Until they stumble upon a place of ancient, forgotten magic. Zathi must choose — allow Keilos to claim it, or kill him once and for all.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web siteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Mother’s Day is here (or will be by the time some of you see this). It’s made me think about how, in my own work, family is so often a major factor.

This might not be surprising. We humans are social, and we grow up in families. When we’re writing, a character’s family and upbringing has a major impact, no mater what external stuff is going on in the plot. “Found family” is a major trope in all sorts of fiction, because it resonates with something we all know and need.

In my current series, Minstrels of Skaythe, there is one book that involves motherhood more than the others. That’s The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. Meven (the ice witch) is not looking for a family. She is only trying to save herself. Then she gets targeted by a street kid, both of them unaware that family is about to find them.

I hope you’ll take a look at The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. And, happy Mother’s Day!

The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh

Meven is a renegade, hunted by the cruel regime of master mage Dar-Gothull. Her desperate desire is to lose herself in the treacherous Fang Marsh. Only there can she live the life she wants, in freedom and safety. To reach the marsh, Meven must sneak through the town of Eshur, where her old enemy, the wicked Countess Ar-Torix, commands dozens of spies and guards. It should be no problem!

What Meven doesn’t know is that she’s already being tracked. Ozlin was thrown out because of his emerging magic. Now he’s starving on the streets of Eshur. Caught stealing, he’s about to be imprisoned in the brutal temple school.

Until Meven recognizes his power and intervenes. Suddenly she has a new, desperate desire — to save this mageling boy, and maybe save herself as well.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web siteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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What’s Happening? It’s been a damp and chilly spring, but my cherry tree is in bloom! Those beautiful white flowers are threatened by late frost, though. Despite that, I’ve been buying tomatoes, peppers and geraniums. This weekend I hope to put my first seeds into the ground.

What I’m Working On. The Tale of the Drakanox will definitely be my summer project. It’s grown to 54,000 words and the end is nowhere in sight.

What’s Next? I’m happy to say that I’ve added a few things on my calendar. After Queen Titania’s Court, next month, I have SpoCon science fiction convention in October, and Fall Folk Festival will be in November. It’s not much, but it’s something!

Fun and Games. As a birthday gift, my kid gave me a Pokemon game for the Switch. It seems I am about to go on a Pokemon journey. I find the battles a bit repetitive, and I miss the characters having voices. But it’s keeping me interested.

I hope you’re all enjoying new things this spring, too.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web siteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Yep, I’m still pushing along with The Tale of the Drakanox. I sort of reached the point where my thoughts had focused, and now I’m trying to re-focus toward the ending. Part of this is coming up with new obstacles to prevent everyone from cruising along too easily. I’m consolidating a bit, too.

Shonn and Piyaro had started out each with a separate plot thread, but now they’ve joined forces. They were heading to… somewhere… and they were going to get there too fast, so I had them sight some mysterious ships and have to deal with that.

Duessa has been the POV with the group of fugitives, while Ar-Lizelle has been chasing them. They might have gotten away from her, so I’m bringing in some allies for Ar-Lizelle. This new group is more her rivals than her friends, though. That will lead to some excitement. It should be fun to write.

The evil overlord, Dar-Gothull, is starting to take a personal hand in things as well. I need to make him as sinister and deadly as his reputation, which should be fun in a different way.

That’s the point of all this writing, though. Fun, right?

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web siteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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I’m still on vacation, but I’ve scheduled another teaser for you. This character is from Prisoners of the Wailing Tower.

Flames roared and leaped, as if they would join with the lowering sun. It was a farmer’s hut that burned, the thatched roofing a ready food for the blaze. Just short of the flames’ reach, Ar-Lizelle glared down at the body that lay at her feet. Her former prisoner was still shaved bald, scorch marks crossing the clothing he’d stolen to hide himself among the population. A perpetual grin of madness split the stubbled face.

It hadn’t been an easy fight. The fugitive’s madness gave him wild power. However, Ar-Lizelle had been warden of the Larder, Dar-Gothull’s prison for insane mages. She knew how to deal with the likes of him. Haafeth had died choking, her fire whip snaked about this throat. Not once did he stop laughing.

That was no surprise. Haafeth had been closer to madness as any of the escaped prisoners. Ar-Lizelle had no remorse for his death. The list of his crimes was long even before the peasant farmer he murdered, and the widow he had been terrorizing when Ar-Lizelle caught up with him. It was Haafeth who set their roof on fire, a futile attempt at distraction.

No, her only regret was that she had learned nothing about the whereabouts of the other prisoners who escaped on that horrible day.

Ar-Lizelle clenched her fists, controlling her fury. After years of patient work, monitoring reports and questioning new prisoners, she’d finally had the chance to capture her disloyal younger sister. Lorrah had left their father to die. Worse, she had become a renegade, working against the mages who rightfully ruled over Skaythe. But the hunt’s promised ending was merely a ruse. Lorrah had lured Ar-Lizelle out of the Larder, and while she was gone, a bunch of fake hunter-guards had broken all the prisoners out.

Disgraced by the failure of her security, Ar-Lizelle now lived on borrowed time. Countess Ar-Khoreen of Yergha, where the Larder was located, had made it clear that she must bring those fugitives back, or otherwise deal with them. If she failed, she would be cast into the Larder herself, as a prisoner.

Ar-Lizelle stood rigid, gazing at the flames without seeing them. A ghastly creature haunted the Larder, a revenant with slashing octopus arms paired to a human face. That creature called itself a Devourer. And what did it devour? Mages.

No. No, that fate must not be hers.

“Well, that’s one down,” a man joked behind her.

“Only nine to go,” his fellow agreed.

“Are you keeping score?” She whirled to glower at them, screeching in her high voice, “Do you think this is some sort of game?”

“No, Warden,” Endole hastily replied. He and Groff saluted.

By Ar-Khoreen’s order, only two of the prison guards had come with her on this hunt. The others remained with Captain Morthem, who held the Larder for her return. If she survived to return.

“Let’s go,” she snarled, and turned away.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web siteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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I’m on vacation, but here’s another teaser for you. This character is one you might recognize from The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. Enjoy!

The mage’s tower was deceptively quiet, showing no lights. You could think no one was there. That was the way they wanted it. He shrugged a little, irritated, and jerked around to watch the sun’s last rays creep up the brown rocks that crowned the hills beyond the Fang Marsh.

That tower had been empty for a long time, but it was Addith’s domain now. Shonn remembered how he had worked to help her settle in. Her and the boy she’d said was a foundling. The surly brat never had taken to Shonn. Despite the kid’s interference, he’d almost gotten to her. Shonn grinned a little, remembering the hunger of her kiss. It wouldn’t have been much longer before he laid her down in the sand…

Unfortunately, Addith was never who she said she was. The water clan she claimed probably didn’t even exist. Her real name was Meven, and she was a runaway mage. He’d seen her throwing ice chunks around, when that mudmaw took a strike at the boy. Then the kid lit himself on fire, too. He was a mageling that she tried to train, while they both hid from the regime in the depths of the marsh.

Mages were dangerous, crazy, never to be trusted. Shonn had tried to hide his reaction, but Meven had turned cold and he’d known it was over between them. There was never really a choice, anyway. He’d had to report to the countess’s guards. If Countess Ar-Torix thought the water folk were in league with a rogue mage, she might destroy Otter and everyone aboard her.

That’s what Shonn had told his parents, and the others who protested that he’d turned against one of the water folk. To himself, he could admit the truth. He’d suspected about Meven, and he’d been toying with her, part of the same boredom that still scratched between his shoulder blades. If he won her trust, he could gather more information, something to trade with the city guards. He could even have blackmailed her, forced her to lie with him, or made use of her in some other way. To what purpose, he still wasn’t certain. It had only seemed like a good thing to have a mage at his command.

He could have done it, if not for that brat of hers wandering carelessly on the bank. But the mudmaw’s attack had made it clear the boy would always come first. It grated on his ego to be second best.

Meven’s parting words were clear: “I don’t want to see you again.” Unfortunately for Meven, hers was not the final word. Countess Ar-Torix had made it clear that she still wanted Shonn to be an informant. He had to be sneaky, given his parents’ disapproval, but maybe he’d have another chance at the ice witch after all.

With a final scowl, Shonn turned away from his thwarted vision. The setting sun cast muted pink and gold rays to reflect from the placid waters around the landing. Fish jumped, raising rings of brighter water. As the water became warmer than the air, mists began to creep over the lotus pools and among the dark mangroves. Frogs and crickets and other night creatures raised their shimmering chorus.

A flickering light caught his eye. Shonn glanced over, expecting to see fireflies or a last ray of sunlight on the far hilltops. Instead, a glow appeared brighter among the rocks. It swelled brighter, and then a brief flash. Yellow light streaked down the slope, with sparks trailed behind it, like coals falling from a fire. Shonn blinked. It moved so fast! Was it coming closer?

He heard no sound of hooves or wheels. No flames rose from that spot. The golden streak, soft and vaguely shaped, curved to follow a pale ribbon across the land. Whatever it was, it followed the old silvery scar that crossed the plain beyond the marsh.

The silence was eerie. There should have been a whistling of wind, or some other noise. Shonn heard nothing. After a moment’s staring, he stamped his sandaled foot vigorously on the roof where he stood.

“Oberim, Kannat!” he called to his father and uncle.

Muffled steps came from below, and the houseboat shifted slightly as the two men emerged from the main cabin. Shonn pointed at the mysterious object gliding ever closer.

“Do you see it?”

“Huh,” answered Oberim.

The three men watched in silence. Whatever it was moved swiftly and steadily, stretched out to twice the length of Otter. In a way, it resembled a cloud of mist lit golden by morning sun. There was no sun to light it, and yet it still glowed.

Uncle Kannat murmured, “What moves it? There is no wind.”

“What moves it,” Shonn retorted. “What is it?”

The angle changed as the creature got closer. There were hints of solid form within the mass. Two branching antlers, a wolf’s head with tousled mane, followed by a long body like an eel’s. Yet any shape dissolved almost before he could identify it.

Then it was past, following the curve of the ancient track that went straight across the marsh. By now, other family streaming out of the cabin, crowding to the rail. Soft murmurs of confusion and dismay came up to the cabin roof, where Shonn stood.

“Have you ever seen something like that?” Oberim asked his brother.

“No, but we know where it’s going,” Shonn replied, hiding his glee with grim certainty. “That path leads to the mage tower.”

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web siteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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What’s Happening? Spring break is here! My usual strategy is to spend the break doing heavy housework or yard work such as pruning roses. This year I’m actually taking time off. The housework can wait.

What I’m Working On. I’m still going at the first draft of The Tale of the Drakanox. It’s about 47,000 words now, or half a novel. My goal of 80,000 words is looking about right.

What’s Next? Not much, honestly. I have a few volunteers for Queen Titania’s Court, so there’s that to keep recruiting for.

Fun and Games. Two years ago, I got my husband a game called The Outer Worlds. He hardly looked at it, so I’m giving it a go. Evil corporations colonizing outer space, what could go wrong? Well, our Xbox appears to be dying slowly, which causes a lot of crashes. We’re looking for a replacement but so far they are not to be found. Good thing I have a Switch and can play Animal Crossing also.

Time to get back to packing. My vacation awaits!

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web siteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Work goes on with The Tale of the Drakanox. I’m in a tangled spot right now because a bunch of the characters from the previous novellas are all together in one place after 40,000 words or so. They all need to catch the others up on what went on in those said novellas.

Zathi and the Badgers are explaining how Keilos died and that they know where a massive store of vitalis is hidden away deep in the Hornwood (The Tower in the Mist). Tisha and Cylass are telling how she broke the curse over Seofan Holl (Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts). Alemin is about to go over his bond with the broken tower of the Larder, and how he knows the ancient tales of the Shining Ones are all true (Prisoners of the Wailing Tower).

It’s a lot! And it’s a challenge to keep this section interesting, when basically they’re all just sitting and talking. I need to throw something else in, maybe a suspicion that someone is listening in on them. Something to keep it lively, but without dragging it out even longer.

At the same time, I’m reading a book that’s reminding me why I made some of the choices I did when I planned out the whole Minstrels of Skaythe series. No names and titles here, I don’t believe in trashing other authors’ work. Let’s just say that sexual violence is all over the place, in a book that’s supposed to be a rebuke to misogyny. I guess they felt like that’s how to illustrate the problem.

Or they thought that’s what the audience would want to read, which… really? Mass rape is gross. That’s a big no-thank-you from me. Some of you might recall that I gender-swapped the whole cast of The Tower in the Mist, specifically to avoid sexual violence. Reading this book is a good reminder of why I did that.

There’s also a lot of fat-shaming directed at male characters. The villains, especially, are grossly fat, while the heroes are trim and handsome. This is such a stale approach, and it made those characters fall flat for me.

Finally, the plot should never hinge upon characters doing things that are foolish and/or will blow their secrets wide open, while proclaiming “I have no choice!”

All of which is to say, it’s kind of kicking me into gear to keep on with The Tale of the Drakanox!

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web siteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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The school calendar is full of minor “holidays” to celebrate, it seems. We had the federal holidays in February (MLK and Presidents’ Day), and Twos-day, when the date read 2/2/22. We’ve also had Hundreds Day, marking the 100th day of school, and Dr. Seuss’ Birthday/Read Across America. Then came the switch to Daylight Savings Time (not a holiday, but still a disruption), followed immediately to No-Mask Monday. We’re coming up on St. Patrick’s Day next.

Each of these “special days” requires teachers to come up with games, puzzles and so on that fit the occasion. Students love them as a reason to have class parties and generally avoid schoolwork, but I’m getting a little burned out, honestly. It would be great if we could just settle into a routine for a while, you know?

I should mention, though, that I did include a holiday in the setting for Minstrels of Skaythe. In The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh, Meven travels through the city of Eshur during a Festival of Visitation. The numerous statues of Dar-Gothull (because what’s a tyrant without statues of himself everywhere?) were paraded to the middle of town to be cleaned and polished, plus the loyal citizens all paid a “donation” to the temple. Due to the holiday crowd, Meven was able to to slip through Eshur almost unnoticed.

I guess some special days are useful after all.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web siteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Yes, here’s another taste of my work in progress, The Tale of the Drakanox. Duessa and her friends, who were broken out of the Larder in Prisoners of the Wailing Tower, are finding out exactly why they were rescued.

     “Oh, I think we know the price,” Duessa predicted with grim certainty.
     “Do tell,” came a cool voice from just beside the wagon. Sergeant Zathi, who commanded Badger Squad, reined her sorrel in beside Lorrah’s chestnut. Duessa’s throat tightened with nerves, this was no time to back down.
     “You’re hunter-guards, but you’ve left your post,” she started.
     Zathi parried the accusation. “Hunter-guards don’t have permanent posts. That’s come in handy recently.”
     Her calm was discomfiting. Duessa kept on, “You’re still warriors who serve Dar-Gothull. You must have something planned. It’s a trap, or…” Zathi’s expression said that was wrong. She pushed on. “Then we’re all headed to meet up with your army. You brought us along to fight on your side.”
     “Because we’d be grateful, or something,” Bettain added bitterly.
     Duessa felt as irritated as Bettain when they all sort of chuckled. “I wish we had an army,” said one of the women. It might be Keerin.
     Another one smiled. “If only.” Was her name Giniver?
     Zathi hesitated, when admitted, “Alemin is correct. We’re not as organized as it may appear.”
     The three former prisoners exchanged glances of anger and dismay. “You broke us out, but you don’t have a plan?” Duessa accused.
     “We needed to get Alemin out. We couldn’t leave him there,” Lorrah hastily explained. “But then —”
     “I learned that Dar-Gothull uses the Larder to feed off the mages inside,” Alemin carried on. “So if he’s ever going to be overthrown, we had to take his food away.”
     “To weaken him, we had to let all of you out,” Zathi affirmed.
     “Wait.” Duessa pressed her hands to her temples, shocked by the words. “Weaken him?” Her dark eyes darted, from brown face to brown face, and rested on Alemin’s mild gaze. “This is one of your jokes.”
     “No,” he answered. “I know it’s a lot…”
     “You want to overthrow Dar-Gothull?” Bettain was aghast, yet impressed. Elldri listened, round-eyed. “What, with the six of you?”
     “Seven,” Lorrah corrected.
     “Eight,” Alemin said.
     “That’s … not better,” Duessa choked. However, strange she had ever thought Alemin was, this was far beyond it. “You’re insane! He’s Dar-Gothull. He has the whole regime and all the counts, the temple priests, the hunter-guards, the…” She trailed off, finding herself momentarily unable to breathe.
     “There are more of us,” Alemin went on, soothingly. “We had to split up when one of our friends got a prophecy that he would be captured…”
     “A prophecy?” Duessa shrieked. That was worse than nothing!
     “We were supposed to meet up again after six months,” Alemin continued. “Right now, that’s what we’re doing. I have a sense of another one of our friends. We’re trying to find her.”
     “While avoiding my sister,” Lorrah added grimly.
     “And we’re getting the hell away from the Larder,” one of the others added, cheeky.
     “No. No,” Duessa insisted. “You just want us for canon fodder.”
     “We need allies,” Zathi corrected, irritably.
     “Yeah, no kidding,” Bettain laughed rudely.
     “We don’t have a plan because it’s impossible to make a plan before we know who supports us,” Giniver added from the other side of the wagon.
     “Really, you’re going to try this?” Duessa’s eyes pleaded with Alemin to say no, it was all just tavern talk. The guardswomen were silent for a moment, and then every one of them nodded. “Yes.” “Yeah, sure.” “What, you want to live like this forever?”
     “It’s time,” Zathi said firmly. “Dar-Gothull’s reign has distorted everything. It has to end.”

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web siteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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