Sneak Peek Friday

OWS Summer Reading List

The Official Our Write Side (OWS) Summer Reading List is out, and I was so surprised to see that Journey to Aviad is on it! Fellow author Renee Scattergood also made the list with her Shadow Stalker series. Congratulations Renee!

51J6aQb160L__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_So in celebration, this week I’m featuring an excerpt from Journey to Aviad, which is permafree as an ebook. If you haven’t read it yet, you can easily add it to your summer reading list.

This particular excerpt came to mind, as the horrific event it mentions also plays out in Into the Shadow Wood, but from a different perspective. Watch for my upcoming cover reveal and release date!

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The caravan was slow and cumbersome, and strangely silent. The only voices to be heard were those of the younger children playing together in the carts. There was no singing, or storytelling, or idle conversation to pass the time as one might expect on a journey of that sort. All wore a haggard look—eyes red-rimmed, and expressions numb. Elowyn thought these people looked very much like animals stunned by a predator’s venom, stumbling about in shock and confusion, slowly and unwittingly marching on towards their inevitable demise. Elowyn realized that she probably wore the same expression, exhausted from lack of sleep, and unable to forget the image of the troll and the watchman being eaten alive. That moment in time kept replaying itself over and over in her mind, until the images became so surreal and strange that she wondered if they had really happened at all. She could almost convince herself that it had been a nightmare, except there she still was, marching along with a group of complete strangers, on a road she had never traversed before. If it was only a nightmare, she was still in it, praying desperately to be wakened.

When after a long day of walking the group finally camped for the night, Elowyn lit her own fire a short distance away. She was weary of the crowd and of feeling the weighty burden of everyone’s sorrows crushing down upon her soul. But she found that Morganne’s company was equally mournful. The fire had been fed and stoked many times before she would say anything at all, and even then she spoke with a broken voice.

“I never knew such things existed before today. Even had I known … I don’t think that I would have really understood without seeing. And as horrific as the trolls were, from what Gareth told us, the Hounds are far, far worse. I know in my mind that his word is true, but I fear that without seeing, I do not truly understand their danger either, and that frightens me even more than what I have just witnessed.”

Morganne grew quiet again for a few moments, and then with great brokenness said, “I am sorry. I should never have brought us. Nothing our mother could do would ever come close to the terror I saw unleashed by a single troll, let alone a Hound. It was wrong of me to think that I could make this journey, that you and Adelin were safer away from Tyroc. What I do not understand is why you came. You have seen a Hound—you were nearly slain by one. You knew the danger in a way that I could not, and yet you came.”

Elowyn gathered her thoughts carefully for a few moments, answering truthfully, “Tyroc was not so safe as you imagined it to be. Our cottage was no stronghold, and our mother no sure protector from danger. It is around Tyroc that the Hounds gather their strength. When they have overrun the woodlands, and Braeden has darkened the skies, who there would be strong enough to protect us?”


What’s on your #summer #reading list? Here’s our top 25! #ourwriteside #amreading


Sneak Peek Friday

Coming SoonThis week I’m featuring a brief glimpse into my work in progress, Into the Shadow Wood. Watch for my cover reveal in June, and an announcement with the final release date.

Interested in having your book featured here on Sneak Peek Friday?  I’m always happy to support my fellow authors.  Just contact me through my blog or my author Facebook page.

Surrounding the central room were darkened cells secured with iron bars and locks. We could not yet tell if anyone was inside, but there was no sound or movement save our own footfalls and rapid breaths. My commander brought his torch over to one of the cells so that he could peer in. The first was empty. There were no comforts to be found. Just a hard, cold stone floor scattered with dirty straw, a small basin for water, and chains firmly anchored into the wall. I shuddered at the thought of being kept prisoner in such a place.

We checked the next cell, ready to liberate any unfortunate soul we might find. But what the next cell contained made us quickly step back. Lying on the floor was something the size of a man, yet it was not a man. It had sickly blotched skin and a strange mark branded onto its forehead. I instantly recognized it as the beast I had mistaken Alaric for the night he wandered away from our camp. How had my mind conjured up the image of such a beast I never could have imagined on my own? This one was apparently dead. Its large red eyes were opened and vacant. The smell coming from within the cell left us gagging and gasping for air. I had to cover my face with my sleeve just to bear it.

But someone had been working on the beast, either before or after it died. Its body sported multiple bandages and one arm was immobilized against a wooden splint.
“Why would one bother to bandage the dead?” Alaric asked.

“More importantly, why would one keep a dead body shut away in a locked cell?” our commander asked.

“Because according to his journals, this necromancer has found a way to resurrect the dead,” I said. I did not doubt that it was true. Though the beast gave off a rank odor, it was not the smell of decaying flesh, nor did the body seem to be decomposing.

We stepped back from the cell. Clearly there was no need for a rescue attempt.


Sneak Peek Friday

JTA BC 150Every Friday on my author Facebook page I will be featuring a sneak peek from one of my books.  Read it on my blog to get a longer version!  This week’s excerpt is from Ancient Voices: Into the Depths, which was released in November.

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The melody of the monks’ song was simple, but strong and haunting, with harmonies building slowly, layer upon layer, until they were so tightly woven together that no one voice could be distinguished from the others. They passed beneath Morganne and Elowyn’s window early in the afternoon, and through the open shutters, their strong, clear voices filled the room.

Elowyn thought their song seemed to belong more to the heavenly realm of Aviad than to the earth, its captivating power making her scalp tingle and her arms break out in goose bumps.  Morganne at first sunk to her knees in awed silence, then ran out to follow the procession through the village. Never had Minhaven been so still and quiet. No one dared to break the flow of the monks’ music, which cried out like an anguished prayer from their lips directly to the listening ear of Aviad.

No one worked, including Wyman, who closed the tavern. Fasting was the order of the day. They ate only vegetable broth with salted fish that Idna had made the day before, dry bread, and raw vegetables. People drifted in and out of the chapel, where the monks continued a litany of musical prayers. Their songs, dedicated to Immar, would not cease until the next sunrise. They rotated in and out so seamlessly that there was never a break in the music, not even for a moment. Morganne spent a great many hours huddled in the dank chapel, enrapt and seemingly lost in her own unspoken prayers.

Elowyn stayed for a while, but had difficulty sitting still for very long on the hard wooden seats. She found herself drifting away from the village, seeking out the Ancients in her own solitary way. She walked across the open field behind Morganne’s shop, where she had first met Cailean, and down the well-worn path that led to the sea. Tyroc’s coastline had been flat and sandy, crammed full of docks, boats, and smelly fishmonger’s stalls. Minhaven’s shoreline was very different—rocky and treacherous, with only a few small docks and no harbor. Getting supplies and people back and forth by boat was difficult, even when the weather was calm.

But the sea’s fearsome beauty was captivating. Powerful waves continuously crashed against the rocks, sending plumes of spray far up into the air. When the tide went out, it left shallow pools behind, full of glistening seaweed, twists of driftwood, shells, and sometimes fish. Those who dared to brave the frigid waters would sometimes wade out and catch them with nets. One had to be careful not to get caught too far from shore when the tide returned, for fear of getting stranded and swept out to sea.

Elowyn came here when she most needed time for quiet reflection. The rhythmic pulse of the waves and the lonely calls of the sea birds were mesmerizing. When she allowed her churning thoughts to ebb away with the retreating sea, she usually found treasures in the calm that was left behind; moments of clarity that she gathered as speedily as she could before the dark waters of uncertainty reclaimed them.


Today is Tell a Story Day!

Though it would seem this day was made just for writers, you don’t have to be an author to tell a good story. The idea behind this day is to get people to tell, and listen to, each others stories, fiction or non-fiction, history or mythology. Everyone’s stories are unique. What are yours to tell?

In honor of the day, and just for fun, I’m sharing an old tale from my book world’s history. It is one that might have been re-told around the fire in Morganne and Elowyn’s generation, while the listeners wondered if it was real, or merely legend…or maybe a mixture of both. Enjoy!

snowy pathDelevan’s cheeks stung as he lifted his face to the first icy pinpricks of snow.  The harsh mountain wind forced its way down the hood of his cloak, making his lungs gasp with shock and his whole body shiver.  Its bitter edge had caught him by surprise.  He quickly looked down again, pulled his cloak more tightly around him, and quickened his step.  He knew he must get to the monastery before nightfall or suffer a freezing night out in this wilderness.

As he climbed, higher and higher along the twisting road, Delevan tried to warm his heart with thoughts of home.  Closing his eyes for one blissful moment, his vision danced with the sway of lush meadows and farmers’ fields bursting with ripened grain.  Harvest time was almost here.  The familiar sights and sounds of his home village brought a smile to his lips that faded all too quickly.  Despite his efforts to push them away, other thoughts surfaced with them, darkening his pleasant memory.  The rasp of bat-like wings in the dark…sudden bursts of flame…a barbed serpent’s tail crushing thick stone walls to rubble and dust.  The wyverns had come, from where no one could say.  All Delevan knew was that those beautiful fields of grain had been consumed by fire, and it was too late in the season to replant them.  His idyllic home, nestled into the green valley below the mountains, would never be the same.

That was how he had come to find himself heading alone into the cold northern mountains, whose white peaks had previously been nothing but a distant wonder.  Beneath his cloak, Delevan clutched a satchel protectively against his pounding chest.  Through its slightly opened neck he could smell the strong musk of ancient leather and parchment…a continuous reminder of his mission, and his duty.  The monks of his village had entrusted him with the only thing of value they had salvaged from the wreckage of the wyvern attack—an old tome of wisdom, scribed hundreds of years ago and carefully passed down through many generations.  It was one of humanity’s irreplaceable treasures, and he had been charged to deliver it to the monastery in the mountains for safekeeping.

The snow was falling more heavily now, sticking to his cloak and eyelashes, and draping the limbs of the trees with a web of intricate lace.  He struggled to keep up his quick pace on the slick road, but his resolve was still strong.  Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he detected a shadowy movement in the thick of the trees.  He peered anxiously into their depths.  Nothing was there.  He tried to calm himself, but remained alert, glancing about as he walked.  Something didn’t feel quite right.  The monks had warned him that the frigid temperatures and the hazardous terrain were not the only dangers he might face.  He had not given their warning much thought at the time, but now wished he had paid better attention.  Again, he sensed a quick, stealthy movement, above his head this time.  He drew his gaze upward into the sky.  Were the wyverns stalking him? They usually cloaked themselves in the dark of night, spreading unimaginable fear and chaos.  If not the wyverns, what was following him?  His stomach sickened and his mouth went dry.  Perhaps making this journey was a mistake.  Was he really risking his life over a book?

The sense that he was being followed increased with each step.  Delevan was convinced that he saw shadows between the trees and passing overhead, but each time he turned to get a true look, he saw nothing but the blinding whiteness of the snow.  Cold though he was, his brow began to drip with sweat and he had to restrain himself from breaking into a run.  One bad slip could easily send him down the side of the mountain to his death.  A low hissing sound brushed past his ear, sending a chill through his soul that was colder than any mountain wind.  He had not imagined it.  The dark shadows taunting him did indeed belong to something real, and that something was pursuing him.  Oh please, Aviad, he prayed silently. If you can hear me at all, protect me from this fear that would devour me.  He wasn’t certain if his plea had been heard, but he continued onward with trembling legs.

The wind turned colder than Delevan had ever imagined was possible, penetrating even his fur lined cloak, and driving the snow into his numb face without mercy.  He wanted so much to stop and rest, but dared not.  He nibbled on some hard cheese and drank from his waterskin while he walked.  Though his physical trials had not relented, at least for the moment there were no more shadows.   Delevan began to think again of home.  He had never been so far away before.  His neighbors would all be working hard to clear away the rubble, rebuilding their world stone by stone.  Should he not be there helping them?  Guilt weighed heavy on his heart. For the first time he stopped, turning to look down the road from where he had come.  His desire for home grew so strong that he could hardly bear it.  There were a hundred reasons why he should return, and so few to compel him forward.  His longing was almost a tangible presence in his mind, urging him, pressing him…assuring him that no one would think less of him for abandoning such a treacherous journey.  But deep down, he knew that voice was false, and that he should fight against it.  The shadows had returned, this time lurking not amongst the trees, but in the dark places of his mind.

Perhaps this quest was not simply about saving a single book.  Protecting the tomes of wisdom was one way in which men sought to preserve their past and secure their future.  Delevan’s village was not the only one to face calamity in recent years.  Other parts of the realm had been decimated by wars, famine, and disease.  Shrines and monasteries were being razed by dark armies of terrifying creatures, their master a being of such evil no one dared to speak his name.  His purpose was the complete destruction of humanity, body and spirit, and he pursued the tomes so that he might extinguish the light of hope they brought to men’s hearts.  That was the enemy who pursued Delevan now, he was sure of it.  His heart fell.  He turned his face to the heavens in his despair.  What chance have I against such a powerful foe? Words of comfort filled his mind, but there were words of warning as well.  His trials were not at an end, and he must brace himself against them.

Swallowing hard, Delevan began walking again, but not toward home.  The skies suddenly opened up as if to tell him that he had made the wrong choice.  The snowfall was so heavy he could barely see where he was going.  Layer upon layer, the road and mountainsides were being covered by a thick wet blanket that clung to his boots, weighing them down.  Delevan gritted his teeth and pushed onward, testing the strength of his will.  He closed his eyes and imagined it was spring.  There was no time for rest, no room for complaint, though every muscle ached and his hands were sore with opened blisters.  The warmth of the sun would not wait to do its work, and the seeds must be planted.  Delevan’s hands were on the plow, his back bent against the hard brown earth that must be broken up for planting.   The snow was no match against that.

For hours he continued along a seemingly endless path of white, twisting upward into the sky.  Delevan’s stride weakened and he began to wonder how much farther he could push himself.  Yet he knew he must, or he would surely die in this blinding storm.  More than once his footing stumbled on hidden stones and branches, or slid on patches of ice.  Not a single soul passed him on the road, nor had he seen any homes, or distant plumes of smoke to offer him hope.  If he collapsed into a snow bank, who would ever find him?  The monks had told him that the road ended at the monastery, but they had not told him how long the road would be.  Perhaps the shadows had stopped pursuing him because they knew he would never make it.

Delevan’s limbs were dangerously cold.  He could barely feel his fingers, even though he wore thick, protective gloves.  His toes burned, and a fearful expression was frozen onto his raw, sore face.  His legs only continued to move because he forced them to.  Worst of all, daylight was beginning to wane.  Delevan had ceased to care about his oath or the tome.  Had he means to make a fire, he would have gladly burned its pages just to warm himself for but a few moments.  His remaining determination was focused on survival alone—the shadow pursuing him now was death.

He began to wonder what it felt like to freeze to death…would it be more painful than his present torture?  Or would it be like slowly falling into a cold, dreamless sleep?  He was close to giving into his despondency when he thought he saw firelight ahead.  He stumbled forward, nearly falling face first into the snow in his haste.  At last, there was a small village.  Tears swelled in his eyes as he took in the tiny cluster of humble homes, and the delicious scent of burning hearth fires hanging on the air.  He ran up to the first house and knocked heartily on the door.  No one answered.  Desperate, he knocked again, harder this time.  Still nothing.  He went to the next house, and the next with the same result.  Finally he approached the last house, his only hope for shelter from the elements.  He knocked, his heart fairly breaking when the door remained closed.  What sort of strange place was this?  Where was everyone?

He pounded hard on the door in a moment of frustration.  The door, apparently not securely latched, opened on its own.  Delevan called out one last time before peering inside.  There he saw everything he had been dreaming of.  A thick fur rug was spread before the hearth, which boasted a roaring fire that popped and hissed invitingly.  Off to the side was a table heaped with breads, cheeses, meat pies, and dried fruits.  He began to peel off his wet things in front of the fire, then fell upon the food as a wild beast might, devouring handfuls of it so rapidly he barely had time to taste it.  He hoped whoever lived here would forgive his desperation.  When his stomach was full, he spread out on the soft rug and let the fire’s heat soothe his tired body.  His eyelids were heavy with sleep.  He would reach the monks tomorrow—surely they would understand the delay.  But Delevan’s mind would not let him rest.  Deep within his heart, he knew something was terribly wrong.  The monks had not said anything about a village along the way, let alone an empty one with a ready fire and fresh food just sitting out for the taking.  But the thought of putting back on his wet cloak and boots…going back out into the driving snow with evening soon descending…left him feeling completely defeated.  He had finally reached the end of his will and his strength.  Please, Aviad, help me one last time, for I cannot finish this quest on my own.

Delevan began to hear voices, muffled and distant.  Finally there was someone who might be able to help.  He strained his ears, and gradually the voices came into focus.

“I saw him coming up the road when I went up into the bell tower to call for evening prayer.  Just before he reached the gates he stopped, fell to his knees in the snow, and didn’t move…just stared.”

“Will he be all right?” another voice asked with genuine concern.

“His body is still warm enough—I’ve seen worse.  Take off his wet things, and get him a blanket.”

“He carries one of the tomes with him,” exclaimed yet another.  “I suspect that the worst of his hardships had little to do with the weather.”

Suddenly the illusion clouding Delevan’s vision peeled away, and he realized that he was sitting before a warm fire, not in an empty house, but at the monastery surrounded by three kindly looking monks.  He had reached his destination after all.  The shadows had preyed on his desires, leaving him to freeze to death on the very threshold of the monastery.  Through chattering teeth, he thanked the monks for saving his life and handed over the tome, relieved to be rid of it.

“Such a dangerous journey to make alone.  Did you not bring any companions?” one monk asked.

“I had no companions,” he replied thoughtfully. “But even through the darkest moments of my journey, I was never really alone.”

Sneak Peek Friday

JourneytoAviadThis week’s “sneak peek” is actually a “meet the characters” post that was featured on the Read Tuesday blog.  The voice is Morganne’s from Journey to Aviad as she both reflects back, and looks forward into an uncertain future.  Enjoy!

Journey to Aviad is now permafree as an ebook. So if you haven’t read it yet, what’s holding you back?
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It was a hard beginning, growing up in Tyroc. The city covers evils of all types, as a fresh snow covers a dung heap; pungent and waiting to trap the unsuspecting foot. Only its exterior is shrouded in white, the pretense of innocence. In the city, none care to look beyond the surface, for the hidden darkness is too overwhelming for one soul to carry. The city trapped me, trapped all of us…and my mother knew it. I lost the innocence of my youth at the sharp edge of her cruelty before I finally made my escape, while those who knew my suffering simply looked away.

Some memories fade slowly, until they are only wisps of smoke that dissipate into nothing when you try to catch hold of them. Others stay with you, like the details of a recurring nightmare. A smell, a sound, a flash of light can catch you off guard and take you back to that place you wish you could forget. There are nights when I close my eyes and I can see the tiny one room cottage my mother, my younger sisters, and I once lived in. So many years have passed that it is probably long gone now. But in my mind it continues to stand, just as it was when I was a girl; the smooth, cold gray stones of the floor…the wood beams of the roof, stained black from the hearth fire. A trestle table, some stools, and my mother’s loom were the only furniture.

My mother would sit there for hours on end, her light brown hair swept up away from her face, her fingers working with forceful precision. The curve of her back shut us out as she embraced a world of her own design, carefully constructed of hand-spun threads. Anyone who pulled her away from it was met with a ferocity that betrayed the seething anger consuming her soul. And so my sisters and I spent our days treading carefully around her, trying not to break the dreadful silence.

I remember, too, the small fingerprints that dotted the walls. Most of them belonged to my sister, Elowyn, who only seemed happy when she was covered in dirt from the surrounding woodlands. She often disappeared for days out there. Mother barely noticed, but my stomach always churned with worry over what might become of her. Somehow she always returned, carrying one small treasure or another. Her whole being glowed with a peaceful contentment that I envied at times. There was certainly none to be found at home.

Then one day Elowyn returned with an unusual object—a coin it seemed. But it was old, with markings that made me wonder about its origins. Our lives changed that day, though I had yet to realize it. It was a change that brought adventure into our dreary existence; and with it both danger and the joys of freedom. More than just our lives, the whole world began to change. History, legend, and prophecy were becoming real before our eyes, leaving us at the mercy of an impending storm no one could stop. We had a choice; to believe in Aviad’s truth and join in the fight to save our world, or to do nothing and let the growing darkness swallow us whole.

I will not tell you what we chose, though you can probably guess. Our story is not here on this page—it has been written elsewhere, and by a more masterful scholar and scribe than I shall ever be. But I hope that through those writings you will join us as we make our journey of hope, of courage…sometimes of pain and despair…but always with faith. Where it shall end, even I do not yet know.

– Morganne



Medieval Monday: Archery

I’ve always been fascinated by medieval archery.  It is a skill I would love to learn one day, but until then, I’ll just have to shoot vicariously through my book characters and marvel at the real-life abilities of others.

archer detailSeveral types of bows were in use during the Middle Ages.  The short bow was predominant during what we would consider the Dark Ages, but mainly for hunting.  It was not an especially powerful weapon, and had difficulty going through battle armor.

Crossbows came into use after the 11th century and were more powerful and more accurate.  They could shoot 100 meters further than the short bow.  However, there was some controversy surrounding the crossbow’s use.  The Lateran Council of 1139 put a ruling into effect that would excommunicate anyone using a crossbow against Catholics or Christians.  Even though this was not generally enforced, there were still consequences for using one.  One source I found cited that “despite the eagerness of most kings to use crossbowmen and despite the wage of a crossbowman being twice that of normal footsoldiers in France, they were treated as common criminals if ever captured in battle.  In fact, during the Baronial revolt, when one baronial garrison surrendered to King John, he was willing to ransom all men-at-arms except crossbowmen, whom he ordered to be hung for killing so many knights.”

By the 13th century, it had been refined and reduced in size, becoming a popular weapon for hunting that could be used while on horseback.

Archer1The bow that really changed history was the longbow, which could shoot long distances and was powerful enough to penetrate all types of armor.  A law was passed by Henry I declaring that any archer who killed a man when practicing should be absolved. Mandatory archery practices were enforced under the orders of Edward III.  And in 1365 good archers were of such value that a royal license had to be granted before any archer was permitted to leave England.

Enjoy this short video where medieval weapons expert Kevin Hicks demonstrates how to handle the longbow—an amazingly graceful, fast, and deadly weapon. I really want one of these!

Sneak Peek Friday

JTA BC 150Every Friday on my author Facebook page I will be featuring a sneak peek from one of my books.  This week’s excerpt is from Ancient Voices: Into the Depths, which was just released in November.

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Morganne still marveled each day at how her fortunes had changed in such a short time. But in the face of her fears, none of that seemed to matter anymore. And as much as she loved Elowyn and Adelin with all the ferocity their true mother should have, carrying the burden of their well-being alone was wearing on her. She was painfully aware that if anything bad befell either of them, the fault was her own for bringing them with her.

In that moment, Morganne felt more like a frightened child than an adult, and wished, as she often had when she was very small, to know the shelter of a loving father’s protective arms. All her life she had clung to a faint memory that she believed was of her father. It was so fragile that trying to hold it in her mind was like grasping at a wisp of smoke. The harder she peered into its shifting haze, the more it dissipated, until she could do nothing but let it slowly gather itself together again in the back of her mind.

There was blinding sun, warm against her face, and a salty, ocean smell. She was playfully lifted up high in the air by two strong hands, then embraced tightly. She could not see who had picked her up, however hard she tried. But the vibration of a man’s booming voice resonated through her as she pressed herself against his chest. In that moment, she had felt loved, and secure, more so than at any other time in her life since. She could remember nothing more.

The memory was one that had often comforted her in her darkest moments of despair. Yet it had also tormented her to the point of tears. Somehow, she had lost him. Why had he left her? Where had he gone? And why hadn’t he come back? Perhaps her mother’s anger had driven him away, unless it was his absence that had left her so bitter that she could no longer feel any love in her heart. Like Elowyn, Morganne had pressed her mother many times for answers without success, and she had always hated her mother for her stubborn silence. Morganne would have given anything to feel that embrace again, brief though it might have been.

Morganne sobbed silently into her night clothes, trying not to wake Elowyn and Adelin, for she had no desire to reveal her innermost sorrows to them. She was resolved that they would never witness her moments of weakness. She would hold her younger sisters in the protective arms that she had always longed for, even when her outward strength was only an illusion she created by sheer will alone.