Shadows of the Hersweald

You’ve all heard of it, on and off, but now it’s time for the official unveiling of my third Legends of Light novella, Shadows of the Hersweald, a retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Though it originally gave me much grief, the story has progressed into one of my favorites. Which might mean something except that, so far, the each Legend of Light novella is a favorite as I write it.

They would have to come that afternoon. Haydn glared at the rutted road twisted away from the gate beneath him, slithering into the shadows of the Harsweald. And what was the flaming idea behind leaving him in charge? Tregaron in the hands of a criminal… that would put them all in the good graces of the province governor, no questions asked.

A battered soldier from a defeated army, Haydn knows there is only one end to the arrival of the Prince’s governor. Except he hasn’t counted on the Prince himself. Or the pardon which his recent foe has declared to acquit all those who fought against him.

A pardon Haydn detests.

A pardon that refuses to punish the rebels now threatening his own village. And his sister.

Guilt-ridden from his own actions during the war, Haydn knows there are others who have no conscience at all. Others who are using the freedom of the pardon to forward their own desperate schemes.

With enemies closing in on all sides, a pardon that refuses punishment for the rebellion, and nightmares of murder and fire hovering in the back of Haydn’s every thought, can he save the only ones left he cares about before it is too late?

Shadows of the Hersweald is currently scheduled for publication late March of 2017. I do have a date, but I’m not releasing it yet because it’s possible it may change to early April instead. This will be the first novella I find an editor for, and I’m not sure how long the editing process itself will take…

But I will be accepting beta readers soon! I’ve about a week left of my own corrections, then I’ll send it out. But I’m not going to be having an open form on my blog this time. Instead, I’ve set up a beta reader email list you can sign up to. I only use it to email out beta reading and book review alerts and opportunities. And, just because you are signed up, you will be under no obligation to beta read anything. Anyhow, you can sign up here if you are interested.

I’ve a bunch of fun stuff planned in relation to Shadows of the Hersweald over the next few months, so you can be looking forward to that. And, in the meantime, I must be off because there is writing yet to do, both on Shadows of the Hersweald and Rose of the Oath.

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Beyond the Parchment: Part 4

So, in my serial story, Beyond the Parchment, we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And now she has just leaped through the portal, dragging one of her wounded characters with her, to escape her villain.

But, first, I spent some time starting to get a Beyond the Parchment pinterest board. Here are a few pictures I found. 🙂 No collages yet, but they’re coming.

May Ann

Daraton or Jerinthreo

They are identical twins, after all. *scowls* I should have considered pictures before I came up with that idea…

Anyway, you can read the first parts of the story here:

Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second

Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right?

Part 3: My kitchen will never be the same

I’m Never Doing That Again

Shards of blue light stab through my brain, surging about me, tearing at my hair and clothing like a wild animal. The roar of thunder fills the air, echoing in my ears, strobing a blur of glinting silver and darker shadows behind my eyes.

Nothing exists. Nothing but noise and light and something hard I have clutched in one hand. Then even the thunder is gone. There is nothing. Shadows close on all sides of me. Silence echoes in my ears. Something itches beneath my cheek. My breath is hot against my lips.

Somewhere, as though from a distance, I hear a muffled groan. My stomach churns and every muscle in my body aches. I roll over on my back with a moan, staring upwards at the blur of red and orange flickering in and out of focus.

A torch?

Braceaon! Daraton!

I draw a quick breath, shoving myself into a sitting position. My head spins, the shadowy scene swimming before my eyes. I gasp as I plant both hands on the floor to keep myself from falling. How had the others come through the portal so effortlessly? Because I am not about to go through it again.

Not even to get back home.

Besides that, of course… I blink away the gloom, but there is no sign of a portal. Just a ring of charred earth and glowing embers on the straw of what must be the stall of a stable. Something shifted in the shadows beyond the glowing ring and I stagger to my feet, then stumble forward.

“Daraton!” I drop to my knees beside him. His fingers curl around my wrist.

“What… have  you… done?”

“Saved your life, for starters. Again.” I scowl, my gaze skimming his pale drawn face and clenched jaw. His sword still hangs from his hand, but that is the least of my worries, whatever the suppressed rage surging behind his eyes.

I stretch my fingers toward the slim dagger still embedded in Daraton’s side, then jerk back before I actually touch it. Isn’t there something about leaving such things inside a stab wound until they can be properly cared for so the patient doesn’t bleed to death in the meanwhile.

“You’re… hurt.”

“Which is the only reason I’m still lying here.” Daraton pushes himself up on one elbow, then winces. I press him back, the dark stain about the dagger growing.

I swallow hard, my breath hissing between my teeth.

Come on, think! You’ve hurt characters worse than this before and they survive. Well, sometimes.

Yes, and they all had expert healers or at least friends who knew what they were doing to dress their wounds.

So?

I don’t know what to do! I’ve only ever said ‘his wound was bandaged’ in my own writing.

Lazy research. Serves you right.

“Shut up!” I hiss the words out loud, then blink as Daraton stares at me. “Not you I just… I need more light.” I stumble to my feet and yank the torch from its socket, slipping the stone both brothers seem to view as so important into my pocket as I step back across the sifting ashes. There must be a way to turn the portal back on. Or something… I don’t have time to worry about it right now as I crouch down at Daraton’s side.

His eyes narrow as he watched my face. “You have no clue what you are doing, do you?”

“I…”

He rolls his eyes, then grits his teeth as he props himself on his elbow and drags himself backward so he is half sitting against the stall wall.

“Be careful!” I shove the torch into a rack on the wall and turn back towards Daraton as he yanks the dagger from his side. So much for that.

His fingers fumble with a pouch at his side and I shove his hand aside, unbuckling it and pulling out a strip of white cloth. “You carry bandages with you?”

“You don’t?”

“I will now,” I mutter under my breath, pressing a portion of the cloth against the wound in his side. “So…”

Daraton grits his teeth. “Over the tunic. We’ll get it better later but… we have to get out of here…” He leans his head back against the stable wall, his eyes closed, his teeth clenched. Swiftly I wrap the bandage around his midsection, adding extra wrapping he gives me against his side, then fastening it off tightly.

The wound is low enough, but not too low, and it doesn’t seem extremely deep either… I rock back on my heels as I finish. “The bleeding is slowed down. You should survive.”

“Survive the cut or the poison?”

“Poison?” I bite my lip before I can utter a very unladylike comment. That is so not fair. I never even decided that Varizan dabbles in poisons. Much less that he coats each weapon with them. Quite a personal hazard, I’d have thought, though not a bad idea if…

A distant crunch of hurried steps filters through the night and my head snaps toward the stable doors.

Daraton muffles a groan as he grasps the top of the stall, heaving himself to his feet. “We have… to get out of here.”

“Isn’t this your home?” I demand, throwing one of his arms over my shoulders. His foot slipped and I staggered under the sudden weight. “Shouldn’t we be getting you help?”

“Not here.” Daraton shakes his head. He motions towards the opposite side of the stable, but I am already heading towards the semi-secret entrance. That, at least, is something I know about. “Varizan…”

Right, Varizan.

My mind sifts through one possibility after another as I help Daraton across the stable. Outside, the calls are getting louder.

How had Varizan even known of the portal? Though it wasn’t any surprise that he did, I suppose. He has spies everywhere. I should have known better than to give him so much persuasive charm. Had he killed the old lord then, and set the brothers on each other? But why? I scowl, my breath hissing between my teeth.

Varizan. The one character I’ve next to no backstory on. It is a tragic one, I am fairly sure. Other than that… nothing. Though it probably has something to do with Lord Balstin, seeing he is the only one dead at the moment. At least I hope so… My mind flits back to Jerinthreo. But no. With Daraton gone, Varizan will surely keep Jerin alive. I hope.

We reach the stable wall and Daraton leans against the wall, his hand feeling for the latch. The double doors at the other end other end of the stable are thrown open.

“…can’t be.” The voice is deep, with a drawling accent I almost recognize.

Daraton mutters a low oath.

“Didn’t Varizan say…?”

“I don’t blazes care what he said. Everyone vanishing isn’t natural, even for him. He’ll have got himself in deeper than he meant to this time…”

Daraton eases the door open. His hand pushes me through. My foot catches on a protruding brick. I stumble and, by the time I’ve regained my balance, Daraton is outside as well, silently shutting the door.

A squad of soldiers, their caps lined in the black and silver of Salendria tramp by. Daraton presses me back into the shadows, though I’m already huddled tight against the wall. They vanish without so much a glance in our direction and I move under Daraton’s arm so he can lean on me.

“Where to?”

“The village…” His breath is coming shorter now. Already. The wound or the poison? “We can get help there. It’s…”

“I know where the village.” I turn my steps toward the wood sweeping up against the pastures. A pity it isn’t day. Lord Balstin’s gardens were supposed to be the most enchanting of the land. Though I don’t suppose we’d be able to hide in shadows if it were light out. As it is, the moon is enough to give us away if anyone has a sharp enough eye.

But who is in the village? I hadn’t… oh, right. I almost smirked. Daraton has a secret love interest there. This Ethred I keep hearing about, perhaps?

The shadows of the forest close about us, but we strike a path soon. Daraton’s steps are growing slower, but he presses on, his breath rasping in my ear. The village. How far is the village again?

“Who goes… Daraton?” A lithe figure cuts the challenge short, springing onto the path before us. A quiver hangs across her back and she slips the bow across her shoulder as her hands cup Daraton’s face and she stares up into his eyes.

He manages a tight smile, but she places a finger on his lips before he can speak. “Later. I’ll get you to mother…” Her eyes skim me. “What happened?”

“Varizan.”

Her eyes darkened. “Poison?”

“We think so.”

She moved to Daraton’s other side and between the two of us it is only several minutes later when we break into a clearing just outside the village. Warm light spilled from a window, and in the open door a short, wiry figure stands, waiting. Her white hair hangs to her waist, bound carefully back, and a cloak is wrapped around her shoulders.

“Must you always get yourself into trouble, my dear?” She shakes her head as she scans our small party, focusing on Daraton, then steps aside. “The bed, quickly.”

We deposit Daraton on a wide bed. Staggering back a step, I rub my shoulder as the two woman bend over Daraton, stripping the cloth from his wound, cleaning it, and rebandaging it. The younger girl sits at his head, her fingers brushing away his hair, as her mother finishes the examination. The light gleams gold on her hair and her lips pucker into a charming frown. It’s no wonder both the brothers like her.

Some of the color has returned to Daraton’s face, but he is still pale, his eyes closed, his jaw tensed. But finally his breathing relaxes.

“He’ll sleep for a good bit.” The older lady announces, rising to her feet. “Now,” she turns on me. “How about you tell us exactly what happened?”

“Without even proper introductions, mother?” the younger girl rises, forcing a smile as she rounds the bed.

I return the expression. “My name is May Ann.” My fingers touch the stone in my pocket. “I presume you are Ethred?”

The older lady snorts out a laugh, her frown easing into a smile. “No, my dear, I’m Ethred. That is my daughter, Adella. Lord Daraton’s wife.

 

Well, what say you? I have the basic story outlined now, but what do you think/want to happen next?

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Rose of the Oath and NaNoWriMo

I’m back! Not that it feels like I’ve really been gone since I’ve posted a little on here. But it was relaxing to not have to do the longer posts… Or it would have been if it weren’t for NaNoWriMo.

But I did it! I finished NaNo, with four days to spare!

I actually had my chapters outlined to finish yesterday, but then I got up on Saturday and decided to just get it over with. Nearly 7000 words later, I was done and treated myself to Culver’s onion rings as a reward.

I actually wrote two things for NaNo this year: a novelette and a novella.

The novelette is a prequel to what will be my  new Beauty and the Beast story.

Rose of the Night

Behind every beast, there is a curse. Behind every curse, there is a promise. But hundreds of years before it all, there is a story. A story of a forbidden rose and the smooth voice of a masked stranger. A story of rebellion and sorrow and love. A story of a promise given and of a hope received. This is the story of the Oathkeeper.

The novelette itself is currently in a sad shape. Too wordy in some places (hey, I wasn’t about to work on clipping until after NaNo) and suffering from a lack of emotion and depth. But I’m pleased with the MC’s voice and I can work with the draft… something I’ll be starting to tackle tomorrow.

Then there was my main work, the Beauty and the Beast novella.

Rose of the Oath

With war sweeping Aslaria, Elissa will do anything to save her brother. Being trapped in safety herself was not what she expected the result of her rescue to be. Though, with a mysterious scarred host and the surrounding howls of wolves every night, safe is relative. As one age ends and another begins, Elissa wants nothing more than to return her family. And she is prepared to do almost anything to escape.

I am very happy with how Rose of the Oath turned out. It needs work, mainly because I kept adding things as I wrote, but I’m very excited about it. It will be a bit before even beta readers get to glimpse it though, so here are some rough, unedited clips from the novella to tease *cough* I mean, for you to enjoy. Just forgive any typos, because I’m sure there are some there. My rough drafts can be atrocious.

He stood still, wrapped in the cold shadows before dawn, only the faint twitch of a muscle in his cheek revealing he was more than a statue. A gust of wind tore from the enclosing mountainsides, racing downwards, tearing at his hair and twisting his thick cloak.

He didn’t move.

A wolf howled, the call rising into an eerie pitch before dropping, hurtling downwards. The echo still hovered in the air when another howl replied.

His jaw tensed. His fingers whitened over the hilt of the great sword resting in his hands, the point piercing the turf.

The wind returned, circling around, buffeting him from behind. From the side. Sweeping out before him, then circling around, retreating about a rose which bowed and danced in the center of a sprawling patch of vines.

Roses carpeted the ground, sweeping upward against iron trellises, but his eyes remained focused on the one. No wind brushed its petals, which trembled against the tossing of blossoms and leaves on either side.

His breath slipped between his teeth and he finally lifted his gaze as the wind hurtled off, whistling though the narrow pass which led outwards. Out into the forest. Out into Aslaria.

And he waited.

I choked back a laugh while Eldric fell into a fit of coughs with which he only with difficulty recovered. Moving Helene to his side, he held out both arms, wrapping the around the slim figure. Her arms tightened around his neck as she pressed her cheek against his. After a long moment she pulled back and regarded him with wide eyes as only a seven-year-old can.

“You’ll be home for our birthday?”

“A while nine days? Of course I’ll be back.” Eldric ran one finger down her cheek. “And I can guess what you want for a present. Another of those books, don’t you. Or would you prefer pencils?”

Klara bit her lip, twisting a strand of fair hair about her finger. “I don’t know… They would both be so nice.”

Eldric lifted a helpless gaze to meet my own. “They’ll pauper me, that’s what they’ll do.”

I snorted out a laugh as he rose. “You don’t have to get me anything if that’s a comfort.”

I exhaled shakily, choking back a sudden sob in the back of my throat. “Eldric.” I sprinted for the door the voice had come from. A single light spilled from the torch and bars covered the upper half of a thick door.

“Elissa, what are you doing here?” Eldric demanded, his hands seizing my own as I clutched the bars.

“I came for you, of course.” My eyes roved the door, searching for a lock. There it was. A great big one. “Do you know where the key is?”

“Key?” Eldric stared at me. “You have to get out of here, Elissa. Now!”

I blinked, staring back. “What in all of Alsaria do you mean? I just got here.”

“And now you’re going to leave.” Eldric’s hand tightened over mine. “If you are even able now. You’ve not seen the master of this place. He’s…” his jaw tightened. “I don’t know what he wants, but the girls need you.”

“No, the girls need you.” My eyes fastened on his. “The rebels are advancing.”

Air hissed between Eldric’s teeth. “Still?”

“Yes. And you know I can’t lead them to the safety of the caves by myself.”

“Where are they now?”

“With Mother Karlin. The villagers were leaving this morning. The rebels could be in the village even now…” I closed my eyes, pressing my forehead to the bars. “We need you. And I need a key.” I straightened. “Where is the Master of this place, because I fully intend…” the hair on the back of my neck prickled and Eldric’s jaw tightened as he stared past me.

“Run, Elissa. Run and don’t come back.”

“Never.” My own eyes bore into his, then slowly, my throat tightening until I could barely breath, I turned around.

The figure I’d seen dimly in the vision looked event taller in the confinements of the corridor. A cloak swept about his frame, a hood shading his face. One leg was cocked behind the other as he leaned against the wall, a glinting sword hanging from his fingers. My chest tightened. How long had he been standing there?

My gaze shifted to the door, tracing the smooth grains as they rose upwards, then my breath caught in my throat.

There he was. Staring at me. His arms crossed, his hood veiling his gaze though shards of light reflected off fragments of scars.

“What the blazes?” I stumbled to my knees, snatching up my bow. My fingers fumbled for an arrow, but the smooth wood slipped from my fingers, clattering to the floor.

With a sigh, the man stepped forward, his key twisting in the lock. He yanked the door open and I staggered to my feet, pressing back against the cell wall. The arrow I clutched in my numb fingers.

What did this beast even want? I’d been adamant about Eldric leaving the night before. I still was. He had to get the twins to safety. And he would… assuming the figure standing before me had truly let him go. But what did he want? The danger Eldric was so insistent to protect me from was still present.

I shuddered, my gaze never leaving the man’s face. Where had he got all those scars? And was that blood staining his dark tunic beneath the furs? My throat constricted. But the man stood to the side, inclining his head towards me and held his hand outwards.

I bit my lip, staring at him. “What do you want?”

He straightened, one eyebrow lifting as he watched me. His lips parted, then he grimaced.

“You really can’t talk, can you?”

The man glared at me, but shook his head.

Great. Just my luck. A captor I couldn’t even speak with.

What about you all? How many of you took part in NaNo? What was your final word count?

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