Friday, January 29, 2021

A snippet from HIDDEN MAGIC

Snippet from the middle of Chapter One 

Background: Garrick Willyun is the Lord of Cold Spring and is waging a war to unite all the manors of the valley of the River Wystan under his leadership because he is convinced the neighboring city-states intend to invade the valley. He recently defeated Richart Tallengen, the very young Lord of Esterby, in battle, and he holds him and some of his men prisoner at Cold Spring Castle. Richart's older sister Maura has come to Cold Spring to see her brother. The snippet begins a few hours after her arrival..


GARRICK flinched as he buttoned his newest shirt. The stiff collar pinched. There came a knock at the door. “Come.”

The door opened to admit Osmund Radulf. The steward bowed. “You asked me to report to you, my lord, after the young lady had seen the prisoners.”

Garrick sat down to pull on his boots. “Yes, yes. Come tell me how it went.”

“She was happy to see them all, my lord,” Osmund said, coming farther into the room. “There was one young man in particular—I believe he was the son of the older woman who accompanied her—that she embraced very heartily.”

The thought that the woman of his choice might already have made a choice of her own annoyed Garrick considerably. “How old is he?”

Osmund coughed discretely. “I should say that he was about your own age, my lord—a very striking man, with black hair and blue eyes.”

Garrick couldn’t hold back a frown as annoyance grew to anger. If she were truly attached to this man, it could be an obstacle.

Osmund cleared his throat.

“Yes?” Garrick said.

“If I heard correctly, my lord, the man asked his mother to convey his regards to his wife and children.”

Relief set in. “And there was no other she favored?”

Osmund held out his hands expressively. “Not that I could observe, my lord. She was concerned with each of them—she made note of messages for wives and parents and other loved ones—but she herself didn’t seem unduly attached to any of them.”

His way stood clear, then. “Excellent! And she’ll be at the supper table?”

“Yes, my lord.” Osmund flinched just slightly. “Provided you don’t object to the presence of her companion. She was quite firm that she would go nowhere without the other woman.”

Garrick reached for his waistcoat. “I have no objection.”

Osmund’s shoulders sagged with relief at this acquiescence. He bowed again and left Garrick to finish dressing.

A few minutes later, after one last glance at his own reflection, Garrick left his room. He met his mother on the stairs and offered his arm. 

She cast a skeptical eye over him as she took it. “Why are you taking all this trouble for a captive lord’s sister? Are you hoping to use her to win her brother over?”

Garrick smiled and cast a glance over his shoulder to be sure no one was in earshot. “Not at all. In fact, I mean to marry Maura Tallengen.”

His mother’s arm went rigid under his hand. “What?”

“I mean to marry her.” Garrick patted her arm. “It’s time I found a wife, and she has everything I need in a consort—brains, strength of will, and courage.”

Lady Quilla blinked and shook her head. He had never seen her so stunned, not even when his father died. One hand went to her mouth as she struggled to compose herself. “You’d do better to find someone else. You have too much of a handicap with this woman.”

“Perhaps,” Garrick said as they descended the stairs. “But I don’t think so. Once she understands my goals, she’ll come around.”

“You’re assuming,” Lady Quilla said, her dry tone sounding more like herself, “that she’d be willing to devote her life to the same cause you espouse. You’re not offering her employment, you’re proposing marriage.”

“That’s why I don’t intend to say anything to her yet.”

His mother’s eyebrows lifted in a skeptical frown. “And how will you court a woman who lives almost at the other end of the valley? Even in high summer you can’t get to Esterby in less than a day of hard riding.”

Garrick had already thought this out. “I’ll have to be certain I make a good impression on her before she leaves here. And I’ll have to win over her brother. Once he’s my liegeman, it should be easier to control the logistics of the situation.”

She gave him an appraising look. “Are you quite certain, Garrick, that it’s her brains you admire so much?”

Garrick laughed as they went down the last steps. “Now, Mother, you taught me yourself that the best goals are those that satisfy more than one ambition.”

Thursday, January 28, 2021

HIDDEN MAGIC has launched!

 My new fantasy romance Hidden Magic has launched on Amazon! The paperback version will be available other places soon but the ebook version will only be on Kindle, at least for a while, so that it can participate in Kindle Unlimited. 

Don't you just love the cover!

From the back cover:
The valley of the River Wystan is isolated from the rest of the world.  Many years before it had been united under the Lord of Cold Spring, who had suppressed the practice of magic. But when he died, his son wasn’t strong enough to hold the other lords’ loyalty. Now Lord Garrick, the new Lord of Cold Spring, means to resume his grandfather’s role of overlord for the whole valley.  Young Richart Tallengen, newly minted Lord of Esterby, tries to fight off Lord Garrick’s men, but he’s captured and carried to Cold Spring Castle

When his sister Maura comes to Cold Spring to see her brother, she catches Lord Garrick’s eye.  Lord Garrick is as attracted by her courage and her brains as much as by her looks, but he is very surprised to discover that there is more to Maura than meets the eye. She has magical abilities, even though she doesn’t know it. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Writing in a series, and finding a good surprise

 Writing in a series has at least one basic difference from writing a standalone:starting with book 2, you have to allow for the reader not having read book 1 in a while, or even never having read book 1 at all. Therefore, you may need to explain things from time to time. The tricky part is, you don't want to bore the reader who has read book 1 recently (or who read it a while ago, but has an excellent memory). If a story keeps telling the reader things he already knows, he will get bored with it. It's basically a balancing act between  the need to move the story forward and the need to make the reader understand what's happening and why.

Another big difference is, in a series you can follow one character for years, if you can keep coming up with interesting things for them to do. That's a real plus if you have a character you want to grow and change with time.

Readers who fall in love with one or more characters tend to love reading a whole series about them. This can be a problem for the writer, who wants to move on. Personally, I've never sat down to write a book that hadn't already sprung  to life in my head. My first published work is 2-book series set on the panet Haven , I have another 2-book series (not yet published but coming soon) called the Nameless World series. They are very different in the way there were written. I thought of the Haven books as two stories while I was writing them; there is a nine year gap between the two books, for one thing, and characters who were secondary in book 1 come front and center in book 2 for another.  Ergo, I ended book 1 before I moved on to write book 2.

The Haven Series

The Nameless World books were written as one story but it was so damn long (240,000 words!)  that I eventually decided I had to cut it into two books. I found a place where a few months elapsed, and added a little additional text to give the book some resolution, I  made that the end of book 1. I also had to add some text to the start of book 2, and I had to edit the rest of the m.s. carefully to allow for the non-reader of book 1 (see first para in this post).

Cover at for Nameless World, Books 1 and 2

My three-book series set on the planet Wakanreo was kind of an amalgam of the other two series. I saw it as two books, one about the relationship between a human woman and a Wakanrean man, and another one about their children. However, on writing it, the "second book" turned into books 2 and 3. 

The Wakanreo series

I usually end a series because I have no more story in my head for that setting and those characters. That's not a problem until readers express a desire for more books in that series. This has happened more than once with the Wakanreo books in particular. I remembered starting  a fourth book, but as I recalled, it was only a few chapters, more of a short story than a novel. I published Alien Bonds in 2018, but I wrote the first draft more than 20 years ago, using a DOS-based software called XyWrite. I went looking for those few chapters and discovered to my surprise that the file was actually 56,000 words, nine and a half chapters! Luckily, I had transferred it into MS Word so I could read it. 

Now I have to decide if I want to return to Wakanreo with a book 4. But first I have to remember how I planned for the book to end! 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Amazon and Self-publishing: Start to Finish, Good and Bad

Some people would argue otherwise, but I say that the self publishing revolution started with the introduction of the Kindle in 2007. Amazon was selling their own line of hardware, and they needed a plentiful supply of inexpensive ebooks to make buying a $400 device seem reasonable. Publishers were alarmed when Amazon priced the Kindle version of their books mostly at $9.99 and they revolted and now control the Kindle price which is usually at least as much if not more than the paperback. One side effect is, this made more reasonably priced self-published books more attractive to Kindle owners.

Kindle 1

The Kindle price came down, and the Kindle line expanded from one basic model with 3G connectivity and an e-ink screen to several different models with different features, including wifi and front lighting. The Fire tablet was added to provide color and multi-use functions, but the e-ink versions are still sold. Lots of people read on tablets or even smart phones now.  I refer e-ink, but to each his own.

In 2008, my son was in the hospital for a week or so, and while I sat by his bedside, I read books on my Kindle 1. No one knew what it was back then. It's a new world now, and ereaders are everywhere. Also, self-publishing has benefited from ereaders and tablets. It's difficult to compete on price in print publishing, but it's easy to do with ebooks. Amazon still dominates ebook sales, as every self-published author knows. The Kindle Unlimited (KU) problem requires that authors a) only have that ebook for sale on Amazon and b) be paid by pages read rather than per title. A lot of authors, me included, often make more on KU than on sales. This and the smaller number of non-Amazon sales make KU attractive, for certain genres. especially romance.

Amazon may be a soulless giant corporation bent on dominating the market, but they made self-publishing possible. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

ALIEN BONDS, a story that works on two levels #MFRWhooks


My novel Alien Bonds is undeniably a love story. It concerns two people, a human woman and a Wakanrean man, who meet at the beginning of the story on his world, called Wakanreo, and instantly mate from a  biological reaction that occurs only in Wakanreans. But even though Dina goes home with Kuaron that night, she does not love him.. You cannot love someone you don't know. It is over the next several months that her love for him grows, as does his for her. But at the same time, the story explores the culture and history of Wakanreo. It's an attempt to show what a world would be like if looks didn't matter—if people had no choice in who they paired off with. and thus sex had nothing to do with morality.  How would this uncontrollable mating affect the societies that formed on this unique world? In human history, much of the stratification of society was achieved by people only marrying within their own social order. What if it wasn't possible to enforce that kind of discrimination? 

Read the book to find out! Alien Bonds  is available in paperback and on the Kindle, and it's free in Kindle Unlimited. 

Excerpt from ALIEN BONDS:

The Wakanrean stood in front of her. He glared down at her, his face contorted into a scowl, his amber eyes glowing with contempt.
“I beg your pardon.” Dina tried to keep the quaver out of her voice. “Do I know you?”
He was so close, she could feel the heat from his body. Either that, or the room had gotten suddenly warmer. Dina felt herself flush from head to foot.
He didn’t answer, but all at once it was as if his anger was a physical thing, an invisible mass, pushing against her. She stepped backward, stumbled, and almost fell.
She reached for the mezzanine railing behind her, and in the same instant, the Wakanrean grabbed her arm.
Dina froze, utterly baffled. The orientation had said clearly that Wakanreans would always avoid touching a Terran, and yet here was one not only touching her, but holding her firmly by the arm and helping her to stand.
The orientation had also failed to warn her that a Wakanrean’s touch was so warm it almost burned. Dina could feel a flush of heat on her arm where his hand still gripped it. She stood straighter and looked into his face. He had typical Wakanrean features—an arched nose, large round eyes, a wide mouth.
His expression changed as she watched. His anger faded to confusion. He looked almost stunned. His nostrils still flared, but from the way his eyes had opened wide, Dina knew he was surprised rather than angry.
Neither of them had taken a step since he took hold of her arm. Dina swallowed once, conscious of discreet glances and overt stares from those around them.
“I’m all right,” she said finally, wondering if she was speaking the truth. The dizziness had passed, but she still felt lightheaded. “Thank you, but you can let go now.”
He loosened his grip but didn’t release her for a few seconds. When he did, he brushed her bare arm with the back of his hand. Dina was amazed when it sent shivers of anticipation up her spine.
“This is unexpected.” His wonderfully resonant voice had a rich, warm timbre to it that made Dina’s shivers change from anticipation to yearning.
“Yes,” she said, unsure of what he meant, but afraid to give offense.
“Where do you live?”
“I have an apartment in the off-world sector,” she said, wondering why she was answering him. She fought the urge to close her eyes and just listen to that wonderful voice.
“My house is in the cliffs outside the city. Let’s go there instead.”
“All right.”

It took Dina a moment to realize that she had agreed to go home with him.