annathepiper: (Book Geek)

Kinda awesome how, if I put out a reminder call for Boosting the Signal posts, I can get some! Today I have a post to share with you from a fellow NIWA member who hasn’t been here before: James D. Macon. James released Purveyors and Acqurirers, Book 1 of his Phosphire Journeys fantasy YA series, in November of last year. His piece today gives a glimpse of the mysterious organization known as The Trade. What are their goals? And do their stated goals align with how they truly function? That’s the ticket, as the Interested Party investigating them discovers in this scene.

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Purveyors and Acquirers

Purveyors and Acquirers

Interested Party, (IP), paced in the well-appointed room waiting for his guest to arrive. A dampened fire burned in the hearth and provided an unneeded warmth. The open window allowed a view of the rising moon. The door to the chamber opened and he saw a gentleman stylishly dressed in sky blue from head to toe, and wearing a wide brimmed hat sporting a blue feather from a bird IP did not recognize, walk in. The fellow smiled broadly and closed the door behind him.

“Hello, my name is Qwen. I am a Practitioner of the Arts and member of the Trade. I assume that you are Interested Party?” Qwen gestured with the fingers of his left hand and spoke softly, Aspscon Diatail Soni Visu.

IP stepped back. “Yes, I am. Welcome Master Qwen. I appreciate your agreeing to this interview. I am curious, did you conjure just now?”

“Only a small warding to keep our visit private.” Qwen answered pleasantly. His eyes darted about the chamber before settling on IP. Qwen said to no one in particular, “Please keep a look out for me.”

IP momentarily wondered who Qwen was talking to. IP gestured toward two chairs and eased into the one nearest him. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but tell me what you know about the Trade?”

“Well, if I go into too much detail, then I would have to kill you. Don’t worry, it would only be business.” Qwen’s smile broadened as he sat.

Startled, IP stammered, “Ah, ah, I’m sorry. I was under the impression that this would be a candid discussion.”

Qwen assumed a listening posture with his head tilted to toward his shoulder. “Oh, that’s right, he’s supposedly safe from retribution. What was the Trade Master thinking arranging this interview?”

“Perhaps we should start with you telling me more about yourself.” IP decided a subject change was in order. He could push for more information on the Trade once his subject was no longer distracted.

Qwen leaned back and crossed his legs. “Earlier I stated that I was a Practitioner. What I didn’t say is that I am also a Tzefire, a person with an affinity to the element of air.” He glanced upward. “Yes, I was about to tell him about you.” He turned back to IP. “I have been privileged to be able to associate with beings from the Terrene of Air.”

IP was starting think Qwen was a bit eccentric, or worse. “No offence, but you seem to be conversing with the space above your shoulder. It is rather distracting.”

“Lean forward please.” Qwen conjured, Praesen Adspectis. He touched IP on the forehead.

IP looked with wonder at the four creatures he saw undulating in the air above Qwen. Serpentine in shape, their supple bodies were without appendages. Heads had large oval eyes and a maw that appeared and disappeared from view. IP thought it was nice to know that Qwen wasn’t touched in the head after all. “What marvelous entities.”

“They are known in our sphere as Zephyrs, although that is not what they call themselves.” Qwen informed IP.

This is fantastic, IP thought. What a story this may turn out to be. “What is most important to you, Master Qwen?”

Qwen sat thinking for a long moment before saying, “There are a lot of wrongs being done. Some by people with good intentions. If one could right just one of them, then change for the better can happen.”

“I see.” Now was the moment to get back to the purpose of this visit, IP thought to himself. “A source told me that the Trade has begun to have dealings with children. Is this true, Master Qwen?”

“It is not what you think. There is no nefarious plot for you to dig up. The children are orphans who have been offered apprenticeships. We are only doing our part to help the underserved of Arlanda.”

“Placed in that light, you make it seem as if there is nothing needing investigation.” IP intended to look into Qwen’s claim.

Qwen leaned forward. “How would you like to interview one or more of the children? I could broach the topic with the Trade Master if you wish. Better still I suggest you discuss your concern with Matriarch Izlan at the Temple of the Ladies of Life where the children live. You could even make a donation toward the children’s education. Any amount would be appreciated.”

“I’ll get back to you on that.” IP hadn’t planned on parting with his coin and didn’t want to admit to Qwen that he wasn’t comfortable around children.

A fifth Zephyr entered the room through the open window. It flew around Qwen’s head. Qwen stood. “My apologies Master Party, but my associate has brought an important matter to my attention. We will have to reschedule. By the way, nothing we discussed leaves this chamber.” Qwen didn’t conjure. He assumed the form of a Zephyr and sped out the window accompanied by his companions.

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

The special Boosting the Signal feature week for the 2015 NIWA anthology continues! Today’s post features another previous Boosting the Signal guest, E.M. Prazeman, who now offers us a bit of a prelude to the story “Travail”. See below for the author’s own intro, and a bit of backstory for the jester Pick, in which Pick faces the goal of not only acquiring a messenger boy—but also surviving keeping him.

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Asylum

Asylum

Travail takes us back in time, about three hundred fifty years before the events in The Lord Jester’s Legacy trilogy. In this era, Jesters, the masked courtiers that do the dirty political work for the noble class, wear bells to warn of their presence, and knights in armor are given a piece of a king’s or queen’s soul and sworn to dispense the monarchy’s justice.

Pick is a jester to a minor lord. Strong, tall, and quick-witted, he has a somewhat undeserved reputation for skipping the bribery, scheming and trickery associated with his trade and going straight for the throat of the matter. Unlike most of his compatriots he prefers gaining the trust of people who have great skill, intelligence, learning, or preferably all three, regardless of accident of birth.

#

I made my way through the broad, cluttered alley where merchants store their empty crates and barrels that will later be filled with goods to be traded at the Amendsday market. In daylight this was an innocuous place, but I traveled at night with a lantern that burned too low to serve well. I had the wick set that way on purpose. If I thought I could get away with no light at all I might have tried it. It’s so much easier to intimidate someone when they can’t get a good look at you. I had height, strength and a good sword on my side, but that only really meant that whoever might try for me would either have me outnumbered or they’d ambush me. So much for height and strength.

“Pick?”

The relief rushed out of me like a wintry gust. “Gary.” The artfully-named little boy, Gary Gray, moved into the light. My relief was short-lived. He had someone with him, someone burly. No. Two men, one close behind the other.

Lovely.

“You didn’t say he was a jester,” one of the men said.

“You didn’t tell me you were bringing friends,” I added. I turned my head just so and allowed the bells on my steel-beaked mask to ring as I did it. “Is there a problem?” I listened carefully, not to them but behind me. That’s where the real danger would come from. Two men in an alley I could handle. An axe through the back of my skull, on the other hand, would fell me. It’s a weakness of mine.

“You have him running messages and he’s no messenger,” the man informed me, as if I didn’t know. “So yes, there’s a problem, jester.”

“I’ve heard of you, Pick,” the other man said.

That wasn’t good news. “Gary gets paid for his trouble.”

“Will you pay his corpse when whatever you’re tangling him in gets him killed? He’s only a child, for pity’s sake.”

Hmm. That didn’t sound like concern. My guess? They found out he was getting money and they wanted him to get more so they could take it from him. The air in the alley didn’t carry much but I would have bet my bells that they smelled like wine and shit. The sort that took a small boy’s bread money usually did. “It’s better than begging, wouldn’t you say? But you’re right. I’ve been taking advantage and that’s wrong, so wrong of me that I should like to make amends. It is Amendsday, now that it’s after midnight. How does ten ar sound? And I shall never trouble you to carry messages for me again. Unless.”

They took in so much air in anticipation of my next offer that I wondered that there was any left for me to breathe.

“You would like to keep carrying messages for me. For an ar each?” I had no intention of paying that rate, of course. To a beggar boy? That, not my messages, would get him killed once word got out. Word usually did, too. I kept listening behind me. Someone was there, I was fairly sure. They hadn’t been there before. They must have hidden well away and had only now reached the alley to cut off my escape. My nerves lit like lightning inside me.

“Tell you what,” the first man said. “You pay ten ar now, for the trouble you’ve brought him so far, and he’ll run those messages for an ar a week. Won’t you, Gary?”

“Yes, please.”

“It’s one or the other.” I had to make some sort of show of resistance or they’d catch on too soon. It might have been my growing fear that I wouldn’t get out of this alive but I thought they tensed. Maybe they already knew. “Consider. Ten dangerously attractive ar now in ten silver coins, versus an ar, dispensed in cupru so that it doesn’t draw too much attention, at least once a week for as long as he cares to carry. You’re the boy’s father. Consider his future. That’s a decent living for him.”

“He’s not my father.” Gary’s small voice released the lightning.

In the end it was just Gary and myself left standing in pure darkness, for the lantern had gone out in the midst of my attacks. I bled, I hurt, but we were both alive. I braced against the wall, gasping for air, and he braced alongside me. He’s a smart boy, Gary Gray. He might have invited those men to rob me or coerce me. But he didn’t grieve for them, and it seemed we were friends, for now.

“An ar a message?” he asked.

“I have a better, truer offer,” I told him. “I’ll be your patron, if you’d like to become a real messenger.”

“They’re rich,” he whispered.

“And they live in nice houses, and travel to see the world. Unless you’d rather have the ten ar.”

“No. I want to be a messenger,” he said quickly.

“Good boy.” With my wind back, I stood back up. “Did you deliver my message?” I asked.

He gave me the answer into my hand.

I knew then he would serve me well.

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

Earlier this week I did a cover reveal for Lee French’s new book Al-Kabar, and I’m pleased to report that that book has now been released! BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE–Lee has agreed to let me do a giveaway for this book, so if it sounds intriguing to you, drop a comment on this post by Monday the 21st, and I’ll choose a commenter at random. The winner will need to specify what digital format they’d like to get. If you don’t want to get in on the giveaway, you can actually buy the ebook for 99 cents until next Saturday! And what character goal can you expect to be pursued in this story? Peace. No matter what the cost!

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Al-Kabar

Al-Kabar

“What I really want is peace across Serescine. It would be magnificent to avoid all these ridiculous, costly wars.” From the second floor balcony, Zavin watched the sun slip below the horizon, painting the sky orange. The day’s heat would break soon and he’d leave the palace to wander the city streets in disguise for a few hours.

His lover rested a delicate ochre hand on his shoulder, her gold bangle bracelets clinking together. The smooth silk of her flame-red dress teased his dark skin and he gripped his olivewood staff tighter to avoid temptation. Its topaz crystal pulsed with dim light to echo his concentration.

“My husband–”

“Must you call him that in my bedroom?” He glanced over his shoulder with a scowl and found Mahdis smirking at him.

“Caliph Korval has proven receptive to your ideas so far. There’s nothing to worry about.” She slid behind him and kissed the bare skin between his shoulder blades.

“There’s always something to worry about.” At the moment, he worried about losing track of time in the throes of indulgence and passion. “The path ahead will have Korval taking the mantle of Sultan. Many things need to be prepared for that to become a reality.”

“Are you sure it can be done? There hasn’t been a sultan for a long time.”

“Of course I’m sure. I’ve devoted years of my life to setting this in motion. Korval will be the Sultan and I’ll be his right hand, ready to step in should an assassin ever manage to penetrate his security.”

Mahdis chuckled. “I’m sure that would never happen.”

Zavin bared his teeth in a feral grin. “No, of course not. There will be peace across Serescine, no matter how many lives I have to spend to make it so.”

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

Boosting the Signal is directly inspired by John Scalzi’s Big Idea column and Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit. But given that I’m a much lower-profile author than either of them, I don’t usually expect to get any feedback about the books I feature. Imagine my surprise, then, when an author I saw featured on My Favorite Bit emailed me out of the blue to ask if she could also be on Boosting the Signal! “YES”, I said, particularly given that I’d already noticed her cover on Kowal’s site and thought that that sounded like a book I wanted to check out. Dynamically posed characters of color? Yes please I’ll have some. Particularly when the author serves me up an intro to their villain. I do so love me some villain POV pieces! So here’s Cain’s villain, telling you all about how his dastardly plans are of course entirely for the good of the kingdom.

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Stormseer

Stormseer

You should already know me, but on the off chance that you’re a foreigner or from some remote village in the far east of the kingdom, I’ll introduce myself. My name is Arisanat Burojan, and I am Lord of the First Family, cousin to the king of Tamnen.

That’s right, cousins. That’s how the Families work, you know. Well, of course I love my cousin. He’s a misguided fool, but I do love him. The same goes for Prince Razem. He’s only a few years younger than me, and I know I can count on him to keep this war with Strid going as long as possible. But the problem is, he’s still not in it to win it, so to speak.

Oh, I don’t doubt that he hates our enemies. After all, he still thinks they killed his sister, Princess Azmei. I certainly haven’t told him I was the one who arranged for the assassination. Why would I do that? Right now he trusts me. He thinks we’re on the same side.

What side am I on? Why, I’m on Tamnen’s side, of course! I’m only doing this for the good of the kingdom. You think I want to murder my cousin’s family? What sort of monster do you take me for? I practically grew up with Prince Razem and Princess Azmei. I wept for her after I paid the assassin.

But the royal family has lost its edge. The king is actually talking about peace! Peace, after all the atrocities those Strid dogs committed on our people. After the sacrifices our people made in this war. After my brother died at the hands of those murdering Strid. The king talks of peace.

It’s intolerable. I will not allow it. And since there is only one other nobleman on the council willing to speak out, I must go about it another way.

I didn’t mean for things to turn out like this. But my cousin gave me little choice.

I embarked on this path three years ago, after Venra died. My brother died in the war, and how did Princess Azmei respond? She agreed to an arranged marriage with a foreign prince–despite the tenderness and affection between her and Venra, despite how she must have known he intended to speak to her father about an alliance. She had to have known how much Venra adored her. But she shed pretty tears at his funeral and then sauntered back to the capital where she agreed to marry a same-loving boy she’d never met.

Oh, I know that isn’t nice. I don’t really care if the Amethirian prince loves men instead of women. But Azmei’s arranged marriage was just one more demonstration of how weak the Tamnese throne has become. We agreed to marry our princess to a foreign empire so her husband could crush Strid for us. If that doesn’t show how ineffective my cousin’s rule is, what does?

So I arranged to have Azmei removed. I didn’t anticipate how angry Razem would be, how he would blame our enemies for it, but that’s certainly a bonus. But now that the king has finally decided to pursue peace by other means, it’s time for my plan to come to fruition.

First, the death of the king. Second, the prince.

And then I will be king.

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Page Turner)

The first piece for Today’s Boosting the Signal doubleheader comes from fellow NIWA member E.M. Prazeman! She’s the author of the Lord Jester’s Legacy trilogy, and having laid personal eyes on her covers, I can report that they got a LOT of attention at Norwescon this past April. I’m looking forward to checking out her work, although from what I’m seeing in this piece, one will clearly want to tread lightly around her bad guys. She’s going to let you into the head of one of them now.

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Oubliette

E.M. Prazeman writes secondary world fantasies with strong historical leanings. Current works include The Lord Jester’s Legacy Trilogy (Masks, Confidante, and Innocence & Silence) and a short story which will appear in an upcoming anthology that will go on sale in November. Current works in progress are The Poisoned Past (Oubliette, Penumbra and A Dark Radiance), sequel series to The Lord Jester’s Legacy, and The Kilhellion, a sword and sorcery fantasy. The Poisoned Past will go on sale this summer. Oubliette looks good for an early June release! Now, please let me introduce to you a certain person from Oubliette whom you would not want to meet under any circumstances. If he succeeds, you’ll all get to see him again in Penumbra.

***

I’m a villain. I like it, and I’m good at it. I wouldn’t have become one, if people weren’t slow, stupid liars. Are you afraid? I don’t care if you are. Not anymore. I used to like fear, and blubbering, and people pissing themselves. I’m not sure what happened. For a while I thought I got bored with it, but honestly … don’t you look for a way to escape when I’m talking to you. I thought you weren’t as idiotic as the others, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with you. That’s a compliment, and a gift. You’re exceptional. Too bad for you, hmm?

Anyway. Years ago when I raped a man, something went wrong. He liked it, in a way. He killed himself later, but that wasn’t what changed me. I’m pissed that he changed me, by the way. He and his wife. I can’t stop thinking about that look in his eyes. Release. A strange joy behind his fear, as if I’d set him free. He wanted to die then. I didn’t want to kill him. Fuck, I wanted more from him. I wanted to make him mine forever.

I find it curious that both people I harmed who liked it were men. I should have enjoyed it better, I think, if they were women, but a hole is a hole when it all comes down to it, don’t you agree? No? It’s all right if you disagree. I don’t mind. Truly. As if I would care what people think of me.

Anyway, since then, for the most part, I kept my work simple. I interrogated, mainly using my wits and their lack thereof. I tortured people sometimes if I thought they’d respond in the way that normal, rational people do when they’re in pain, but that seemed risky to me. I should have trusted my instincts. Because that boy.

That boy.

I can still hear his exquisite voice calling my name softly down the dungeon hall. Cock. His mouth cupped the word like he wanted to take me in. A Trace. A lover’s whisper. Cock, a trace. Cockatrice.

Oh for pity’s sake you didn’t know who I was? Am? Whatever. It’s so obvious to anyone who’s paying attention. They called me Cock in school. I deserved it, earned it, both for the good and the wicked reasons, though they tried to humiliate me and make fun of it. And then, when I graduated, I took the name Trace. Cock. Trace. I have no idea why no one makes the connection between Trace the Master Jester and Cockatrice, the dreaded highwayman. It’s not even that clever. What can I say? I was young and I think part of me wanted to give the people who hunted me a little help because I didn’t feel hunted. I wanted to play the fox to their hounds and I wanted them to get close because that is about as thrilling as you can imagine. But they never got close to catching me, no matter how many sacred guards they sent after me. Now I’m employed rather than a free agent. I work alongside sacred guards every day. My employer would protect me if I was accused, but the pathetic nut rubbers that try to play mavson these days still haven’t caught on.

The boy, you ask? None other than the infamous regicide, that dreaded and feared little boy, Lord Jester Lark. Have you seen him? He’s as short and slight as they describe, with his angelic little innocent face. You’d never dream he was dangerous at all, especially when he’s not wearing his jester’s mask. I made the mistake of hurting him. And oooohhh, how he yielded to me, gave in to the pain. How he took strength from his endurance. I wanted to whip him bloody and then force myself upon him.

I’ve gotten quite carried away. Hand me that drink.

Thank you.

He got away and I want him back. I don’t want you. But I need you. Not like I need him. I need your skills. Track him for me. They say he ran off into the woods. That’s rather like saying he sailed away across the wide ocean, isn’t it? But you’re going to find him for me. It shouldn’t take you long. I know where he began, and I think I know where he’s going. We need to intercept him. And when you find him for me, I’ll be so preoccupied with my prize you’ll be able to slip away from me. I won’t care. I’ll happily let you go. Here. I’ll even pay you in advance.

Ha! You’ve never seen five sol together in one palm? Well now you have, in your own hand, my friend. I might give you another five if you find him.

But. If you don’t find him, I’ll have to take my money back and try to satisfy myself with you. For this boy does inspire a strange lust in me, and the closer I get to him, the stronger my lust becomes. Now, don’t you worry about him. He’ll be far more interested in me than you. He might be strong enough to kill me, which will be a great relief to the living world. But I’m betting he won’t hurt me. I’m betting that he felt the same thrill I did when I gripped his hair so hard that some tore free from his scalp, when I forced him against that cold, hard stone.

A shame we were so rudely interrupted.

Compared to him, you’re not at all interesting. But if you’re all I’ve got, I will use you. So go get him for me. And make it quick. I’m more patient than I was as a youth, but that does not make me a patient man.

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Buy the Book: Oubliette is not yet released, but follow the author for news on when it becomes available!

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Good Book)

Nicole Luiken is one of my fellow Carina authors who actually writes fantasy, and so I’m quite happy to feature her on Boosting the Signal today for her latest YA release. Nicole’s here to tell you about the difficulties her characters face surviving in a volcanic landscape.

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Through Fire and Sea

Through Fire and Sea

For my fantasy series, Otherselves, I created the True World and four Mirror Worlds. Each Mirror World is named after an element: Water, Fire, Air and Stone. (BTW, the True World isn’t our world (Earth). Our world is Water because we have so much ocean.) I had a lot of fun designing the four worlds and their magic.

Book one, Through Fire & Sea, features two worlds in detail: Water and Fire. It also features two girls. Holly is from our world, Leah is from Fire World. Although the girls are otherselves (mirror twins) of each other, they’ve each been shaped by the world they grew up in.

Imagine a landscape with a blood-red sky, dominated by volcanoes. That’s Fire World. Leah grew up in a castle in the shadow of a volcano named Grumbling Man. The Volcano Lords are quarrelsome Fire elementals and have ominous names like Grumbling Man, Thunderhead, Poison Cloud and Cinders. People scratch out a precarious existence in the valleys between the volcanoes because there is no other habitable land. How do they survive? The hot-blooded nobility have a magical talent that allows them to speak to the Volcano Lords. The Volcano Lords become quite attached to their dukes and the dukes are the only ones who can soothe them when they grow angry and tremble on the edge of eruption.

Early in the novel, Leah is forced to leave the castle and travel to the home of the sorceress Qeturah. I based Qeturah’s Tower on the weird volcanic rock formations found in Cappadocia, Turkey. Hundreds of years ago these were hollowed out and inhabited.

At a later point in the story, Leah has to pick her way across a cooling lava field, using her hot-blooded senses to tell her where it’s safe to step and where molten lava flows beneath a seemingly solid thin black crust.

When researching, I discovered that other signs of volcanic activity include hot springs, geysers and mudpots—areas of boiling mud, such as can be seen in places like Yellowstone Park or Iceland. I found the mudpots so cool, I had to use them in the story. Two characters have a dangerous duel on the narrow path between two mudpots, where any misstep will mean an ugly death.

I also populated Fire World with some exotic critters. I invented some nasty insects called fire wasps which spawn in mudpots and can set things on fire, and oh, yes, dragons. You knew there had to be dragons, right? Dragons are the off-spring of Volcano Lords and humans and are very rare. When a black dragon appears, it upsets the precarious balance of Fire World and sets the whole story into motion.

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Blurb

Mirror mirror, hear my call…

In the Fire world, seventeen-year-old Leah is the illegitimate daughter of one of the realm’s most powerful lords, able to communicate with the tempestuous volcano gods that either bless a civilization or destroy it. But then Leah discovers she’s a Caller, gifted with the unique—and dangerous—ability to “call” her Otherselves in mirror worlds. And her father will do anything to use her powers for his own purposes.

In the Water world, Holly nearly drowns when she sees Leah, a mirror image of herself. She’s rescued by a boy from school with a secret he’d die to protect. Little do they know, his Otherself is the son of a powerful volcano god at war in the Fire world…and he’s about to fall.

As Leah and Holly’s lives intersect, the Fire and Water worlds descend into darkness. The only way to protect the mirror worlds is to break every rule they’ve ever known. If they don’t, the evil seeping through the mirrors will destroy everything—and everyone—they love…

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Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Page Turner)

As I promised in the Boosting the Signal post for Well of Sorrows, here’s the companion post for Book 2 of the series, Leaves of Flame! And since this is Book 2 of the series, the Colin of this book has far different goals than the Colin of Book 1. As you can see in the piece Joshua has sent me for this book! Enjoy!

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Leaves of Flame

Leaves of Flame

I wanted to thank Angela Korra’ti for the chance to signal boost my novel LEAVES OF FLAME, the second in the series, here at the blog. This is an epic fantasy, with the first book called WELL OF SORROWS (available now) and the third book, BREATH OF HEAVEN, written but not yet released. Here’s a little scene featuring Colin, the main character, and what’s motivating him in LEAVES OF FLAME. If it piques your interest, then check out the books, available from Baen in ebook format, and on the Kindle and Nook. Hope you enjoy!

*******************

The White Fire of Aielan’s Light burned bright and cold in the depths of the mountains of the Alvritshai. The flames licked upwards from the stone, without source, tendrils brushing the ceiling, acting exactly like a regular fire, but silent and a pure white that caused Colin’s eyes to ache as he stared at them, entranced. But if the Alvritshai knew he was here, inside their most sacred shrine—if they knew his purpose—

He shook himself, then knelt, pulling his backpack from his shoulders and setting it on the floor. From within, he drew out a bundle of cloth, which he laid on the floor, shoving the pack aside. He tugged the cloth aside, revealing a length of heartwood, gifted to him by the forest itself, as long as his arm. It had been soaking in the waters of the Lifeblood for years in preparation for today. Tonight, he intended to forge it in the white flame, in Aielan’s Light. He needed to imbue the heartwood with the fire’s protective power. He hoped that the Lifeblood would give it the wood the strength to survive the forging process.

And if he succeeded . . . if he succeeded, then the three races of the New World—human, Alvritshai, and dwarren—might have a chance against the destructive darkness of the Wraiths and the Shadows.

Reaching forward, he grasped the length of heartwood, felt a pulse of response from deep inside as it recognized him, recognized the power that flowed through him, and then he stood. Holding it before him, he closed his eyes and gathered himself before stepping into the white flames. They wrapped around him, enfolded him in their cold silence, seeping into him, judging him. He’d stepped into their fires before, been judged, so now he reached out into the fire’s presence, formed his intent in his mind and beseeched the fire to help him.

The races needed protection. The Shadows had awoken, had learned to expand their influence beyond the prison of the Well within the forest. They were a plague upon the land, led by Walter and those that had been turned by the Lifeblood to their cause—led by the Wraiths. The races were vulnerable, were being attacked on every side as the Shadows fed upon them. They and the Wraiths needed to be stopped. They needed to be destroyed. They needed to be imprisoned again. And only Colin could do it. But he needed the Lifeblood and the Fire and the permission of the forest. He needed their sanction.

And so he asked, and permission was given. The forest provided the heartwood, the vessel, and the bane to keep the Shadows and Wraiths at bay. The Lifeblood provided the healing, the strength to sustain the warding for decades, for longer if necessary. And the Fire provided the soul, the consciousness to recognize those tainted by the Well.

He felt that consciousness seeping into the heartwood. Reaching forward, he guided it with purpose, felt it take form, felt it merge with the heartwood, with the Lifeblood, combine into something more. But it needed power. It needed to last, and so he forced more and more of the flame into the wood. It surged through his body, throbbed from his fingers into the wood, until the wood was engorged. Yet it needed more. If it were to last, it needed more, and so he let the flow continue, until he felt the heartwood trembling beneath his grip, until his arms began to shake. He fell to his knees, tears streaming down his face, gasping, the Fire around him billowing higher in utter silence—

And then the heartwood split beneath his fingers with a shivering hiss and exploded.

Crying out, he stumbled back out of the flame and collapsed to his side. Lifting himself up, he roared in defiance, hands clenching into fists over the splinters of wood that remained, then sagged forward into hitching, frustrated sobs.

An hour later, he picked himself up and gathered together his pack. He stood staring at the White Fire of Aielan, jaw set, teeth clenched. He would have to try again. And again and again and again, if necessary. Because the three races still needed protection from the Shadows and the Wraiths. Because they were still dying by their hands, by Walter’s hand. And no one understood how devastating the Shadows and Wraiths could be. Would be. Because no one, other than Walter and the Wraiths, had drunk from the Well and knew its insidious power besides Colin.

And he meant to stop them, even if it meant sacrificing his own humanity to do it.

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Buy the Book: Baen | Baen Bundle With Book 1, Well of Sorrows | Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo

Follow the Author On: Facebook | Twitter | Official Website

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Castle and Beckett and Book)

I don’t often do Boosting the Signal posts for books that have been released via traditional publishing–but for Joshua Palmatier, I’m making an exception! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Joshua a couple of times, and more importantly, I’ve had the pleasure of reading his book Well of Sorrows. (You can find my review of same here.) The problem? Not enough people have had the same pleasure. When Well of Sorrows was released, his publisher had, due to prior sales numbers, asked him to release the book under a pen name, Benjamin Tate. Now that series has a new home at Baen, and the first two books of the series have been re-released under the Joshua Palmatier name. If they sell well enough, Baen will release Book 3. And I’m here to tell you: if you like epic fantasy, give this series a look. Joshua’s here today to introduce you to his character Colin! And stand by–a post is coming for Book 2, Leaves of Flame, too!

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Well of Sorrows

Well of Sorrows

I wanted to thank Angela Korra’ti for the chance to signal boost my novel WELL OF SORROWS here at the blog. This is an epic fantasy series, with the sequel called LEAVES OF FLAME (also available now) and the third book, BREATH OF HEAVEN, written but not yet released. Here’s a little scene featuring Colin, the main character, and what’s motivating him at the beginning of WELL OF SORROWS. If it piques your interest, then check out the books, available from Baen in ebook format, and on the Kindle and Nook. Hope you enjoy!

*****************

Colin chucked a rock at the chunk of driftwood bobbing in the ocean waves along the strand near Portstown. It missed, plopping into the waves shushing onto the pebble beach. He reached for another, but heard Karen calling, “Colin?” from behind him.

“Here!”

He waved and she headed toward him, the breeze coming off the water flinging her hair behind her. He couldn’t help but smile as she settled down onto the salt-bleached log beside him, grabbing her own handful of stones.

“Have you heard?” she asked, excitement threading through her voice as she threw her first rock. “They’re going to send everyone in Lean-to out onto the plains to form a new settlement! My father’s already packing up our things. What little we have.”

“I know. My father’s the one they want to lead the expedition.” He should be more excited. They’d traveled across the Arduon Ocean to the New World, leaving Andover and the brewing Feud between the Families behind, only to discover that the feud had already spread to the newly discovered continent. The land of freedom and opportunity had been anything but, the age-old prejudices alive and thriving here.

The new expedition would give Colin’s family—and all of those in Lean-to—the chance to escape it all, to head into the unexplored plains to the west in their covered wagons and create a new beginning for themselves, one without the Families looming over them. Some of the Portstown representatives would be with them, of course, and the trading company that was funding the settlement, but it wouldn’t be like living in Portstown.

If you could call it living.

And he’d be rid of the governor’s bastard son, Walter. Colin rolled his shoulders, still aching from his stint at the pillory. His skin felt tight from the sunburn, pulsing with its own heat, but the pain was fading.

Karen lobbed another stone and they both heard it knock hard into the wood. She cried out in delight, leaping up and dancing in the sand before dropping back down beside him in laughter. It faded into gasps, then settled into steady breathing as they both stared out over the dark water sparkling with sunlight.

“Maybe this is what my father needs,” Karen finally said, her previous exuberance tainted with faint sorrow. “You know, to get over my mother’s and sister’s deaths on the ship.”

He twined his fingers in hers. “It will help. I’m certain of it.”

She smiled and squeezed his hand, then abruptly stood, pulling him up after her. She was taller than he was, and half the time he didn’t know what to say to her, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except getting her, her father, and his mother and father away from this gods-forsaken town and its bitter governor. Even if it meant heading onto the plains, where anything could be waiting for them.

“There’s so much we need to do,” Karen said, dragging him toward the blade-grass that lined the beach, toward the ramshackle Lean-to built by the refugees from Andover that the governor wanted nothing to do with. “So much to plan, to pack.”

She pulled him up the dune and stood tall at the top, staring out over the rumpled land that spread out to the horizon, her face lit from within by a desperate hope. Colin saw that hope and felt his chest filling with a hard determination. This was their chance. This was what they’d been waiting for. The governor had tried to beat it out of them, had tried to force them to leave Portstown, but they’d held on. And now…

Now he’d been forced to give them what they wanted. And there, at the top of that dune, Colin vowed to himself that he’d do everything he could to keep Karen and his own family safe, that he’d protect them as they forged out onto those plains and started fresh. He’d protect them no matter what.

Even with his life.

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Buy the Book: Baen | Baen Bundle With Book 2, Leaves of Flame | Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo |

Follow the Author On: Facebook | Twitter | Official Site

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Page Turner)

Jake Elliot is a fellow member of NIWA, and he gets today’s second Boosting the Signal post so he can tell you about his ‘mock-epic’ fantasy The Wrong Way Down. What’s a mock-epic fantasy? I’ll let him explain! Take it away, Jake!

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The Wrong Way Down

The Wrong Way Down

Thank you, Angela, for giving me a place to talk about my ‘mock-epic’ fantasy, The Wrong Way Down. What is ‘mock-epic?’ Many characteristics of this series hold true to the fantasy genre, however, it reads with a different spin. My heroes could be heroic and have the right stuff, but they can’t quite become heroes. In fact, their mission is so dire, and the world needs them to win, but every foot forward is one step closer to their graves. So therefore, this tale is ‘mock-epic.’

In chapter three of The Wrong Way Down, the story’s heroes receive two scrolls to be delivered to the nearest military garrison. The first scroll is read, but the second one is never opened. These are the words written upon the unopened scroll—

Dear Priest Betrum, my old friend,

I don’t know how to begin this letter, for it tells the worst of misfortune. Without easy words, High Priest Marcel was murdered this morning before dawn. I know this information is staggering by its own weight, but the ‘why’ of his death is far worse.

We are in deep trouble out here. I don’t know anyone else within the Church who I can turn to with this, so I’m turning to you, my most trusted brother in faith. I entrust you to invite whichever Superior you feel can adequately respond to the gravity of our situation. I am at a loss as to who to contact. The holy scepter we’ve been entrusted to keep secure is gone. LeSalle’s Grace was stolen this morning.

It is a delicate line we stand on, protecting Grace while continuing to display the divine relic has been a tradition provided at our temple for over 400 years—now broken. This morning, thieves using a hook and rope climbed into Grace’s display room, where subsequently, they murdered Marcel as he prayed. Marcel—our friend and teacher for twenty-four years—cut down in cold blood.

We are still at a loss to figure out how this crime transpired. We were awakened at the time of occurrence. The room to LeSalle’s Grace had been barred from the inside. It took Priest Horace several attempts, but on the third thrust he broke the door-jam with his shoulder. There, through a window no bigger than a crawlspace, at least one burglar escaped down a rope tied to a grapple. Now Marcel is dead and Grace is gone.

Truly, by the blessing of the divine, we found one thief lying unconscious in the middle of the room. My best guess is she—the unconscious thief—touched LeSalle’s Grace. As you know, holy power of that magnitude will sunder the ‘misaligned.’

Maybe thirty minutes ago she regained consciousness, but her only response to our questions is a mouthful of obscenities. As if she were spawned from a devil, she tempts us to break our vows of pacifism. My subordinates are on a slippery edge—I’ve had to call them back twice. By the gods, Betrum, I saw the animal rise within my own clergy—our compassion is but a shallow well.

Since this woman refuses to cooperate in any fashion, I’ve decided to have her escorted to Blackmire Garrison. By the time you’ve received this letter, the woman will have been broken by the garrison inquisitor. I’ll send instructions to the fort commander to forward the interrogation report directly to you. She’ll act tough for a bunch of priests, but I doubt she’ll last a minute under an inquisitor’s blade. God, please forgive my betraying thoughts. However, it is quite possible you’ll receive the inquisitor’s report at the same time this note arrives.

Call upon me as needed, I am in ever-loving service to our God and Church. I will tend to the spiritual injuries of my staff, and as any new information arises, I will keep you informed.

My prayers keep you in mind,
Ellund Saiwel,
High Priest at the Temple of Dawn’s Mystery

Popalia is a young priestess. She is the unlucky girl to be assigned the mission of delivering two letters and a rebellious thief to the local military outpost. Assisted by a servant at the temple, Popalia’s mission is a long-shot that goes horribly wrong—and after that, it gets worse. They’ll be waylaid by a backward group of wild elves, chased through the woods by a relentless bear, surviving all of this only to be duped by a gang of shifty thieves, finally seeking uncertain protection with the unscrupulous Ascolan Brothers’ Mercenary Team. This fun story begins when the heroes fail—over and over.

Welcome to The Wrong Way Down.

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Buy the Book: Amazon (Digital and Paperback) | Barnes & Noble (Paperback)

Follow the Author On: Official Site | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Alan and Sean Ordinary Day)

Dragonwell Publishing has had a few titles featured here before, and they’re back now with another: Jonathan L. Ferrara’s new offering, The Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin. If you like some angels and demons in your reading, you might want to check this one out. And as villains go, you don’t get much more old-school than the original fallen angel himself.

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The Blackwell Family Secret

The Blackwell Family Secret

Thousands of years gone since I fell from grace, condemned for eternity in the City of Demons. Humans fear me, demons worship me, but Nicholas Blackwell threatens me? The orphaned brat with nothing but his family’s dark secret to haunt him thinks he can stand a chance against the first fallen angel? Protected at his school by my noble brother, Gabriel; these days blending within humanity as a janitor of a Catholic boarding school. He is more pathetic than I remember him to be. Never fear. I have a plan to lure Nicholas to me. An ancient trick I’ve used before: the forbidden fruit. One bite and he will unleash the Seven Deadly Sins, sending him on his journey through Demonio. I wonder how he will handle himself against my Princes of Hell while hunted by demons, and terrorized by evil. But if he succeeds, perhaps he is more valuable to me groomed as my appreciate rather than another soul trapped in the Valley of Death. Let’s see if Gabriel can protect him now.

But the girl who accompanies him on his quest against sin… She troubles me in so many ways. She knows more than she leads on. Amy—a teenage girl, or perhaps something more? Either way, my true concern lies with Nicholas’s affection for her. She teaches him the virtue of humility when it is the sin of Pride that must conquer him if he is to embrace his family’s legacy.

It’s not just Amy, it’s those betrayers hidden in my city. They call themselves the “Risen”. Stupid fools who think they’re clever. I was the one who devised defiance! It was I who began the rebellion! Yet these “Risen” believe they can do what I did to my Father? They had better pray they find their inner divinity before I pick them off one by one.

Nicholas Blackwell, what foolish lies his parents led him to believe. So naive it was to trust them. They kept so many secrets from their precious boy; a secret that has fooled the entire world for centuries and has the power to change life itself. Nicholas, make rightful your sin from indulging in the forbidden fruit. Find me and I will reveal to you the secret your parents took to their graves. All it takes is just one bite. I, Lucifer, await you.

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Buy the Book: Amazon | Dragonwell Publishing | Barnes & Noble

Follow the Author On: Official Site | Facebook | Twitter

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

Y’all may remember Anna Kashina from one of Boosting the Signal’s two inaugural posts, when I featured her book Blades of the Old Empire. Now Book 2 has been released from Angry Robot, and I promised Anna I’d get her post up this past Friday. But I’ve been swamped working on Victory of the Hawk. So here it is today instead! More regularly scheduled posts will resume once I finish getting Victory out of my brain.

In Anna’s first post you met Nimos of the Kadim Brotherhood. Now meet Kara, and what she seeks to do following the events of Book 1!

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The Guild of Assassins

The Guild of Assassins

My name is Kara. I am a Majat warrior of the Diamond rank. Very few in existence are capable of matching me in a one-on one fight, and they all are my fellows in rank. Diamonds.

My skill makes me a spearhead of the Majat force, and one of the most cherished guild members. People in the Majat fortress treat me like royalty. I can have anything I want. All in exchange for one thing—obedience. No matter what, I must obey the Code of my Guild.

I have no memory of my parents, or of any other life. The Majat Guild is my home, my family that trained me to fight, kill, and obey, ever since I was five. I’ve never had a problem with this life. Being a Diamond Majat is in my blood, and I fit my role well. Or so I’ve thought.

I am not permitted to love, even though the Majat Guild encourages us to explore our sexuality during our training. When I felt an attraction toward the man I was hired to protect—Prince Kythar Dorn—I was prepared to suppress these feelings. But when an enemy hired me by name to kidnap Prince Kythar and deliver him to his murderers, I found, for the first time in my life, that I was unable to follow my orders. Instead, I secretly escaped from my Guild and delivered Prince Kythar to his friends and protectors.

I knew the price I must pay of this. My life. I knew exactly what awaits me. A Majat assassin would be sent to execute me. He would be specially trained to target my secret weakness, known only to my trainers and the people who raised me. He would strike me down, and there would be nothing whatsoever I could do about it.

And then, the impossible happened. The man my Guild had sent after me, Mai, chose to spare my life. He had disabled me and made it seem as if I was dead. He had me in his power, but he let me live.

Now, I am the first Majat warrior in the history of my Guild free of my obligations. The Majat have no Code to cover my situation, which had been considered to be impossible before. But sooner or later my Guild will find out what happened. They will send another killer. This time, after Mai.

I owe him my life. I will not abandon him to pay for his actions that gave me my freedom. I will follow him and fight by his side till the end.

Mai is my destiny now. I will not betray him.

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Buy the Book: Angry Robot | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Random House

Follow the Author On: www.annakashina.com (official site and blog) | Facebook | Twitter

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

Y’all may remember Anna Kashina from one of Boosting the Signal’s two inaugural posts, when I featured her book Blades of the Old Empire. Now Book 2 has been released from Angry Robot, and I promised Anna I’d get her post up this past Friday. But I’ve been swamped working on Victory of the Hawk. So here it is today instead! More regularly scheduled posts will resume once I finish getting Victory out of my brain.

In Anna’s first post you met Nimos of the Kadim Brotherhood. Now meet Kara, and what she seeks to do following the events of Book 1!

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The Guild of Assassins

The Guild of Assassins

My name is Kara. I am a Majat warrior of the Diamond rank. Very few in existence are capable of matching me in a one-on one fight, and they all are my fellows in rank. Diamonds.

My skill makes me a spearhead of the Majat force, and one of the most cherished guild members. People in the Majat fortress treat me like royalty. I can have anything I want. All in exchange for one thing—obedience. No matter what, I must obey the Code of my Guild.

I have no memory of my parents, or of any other life. The Majat Guild is my home, my family that trained me to fight, kill, and obey, ever since I was five. I’ve never had a problem with this life. Being a Diamond Majat is in my blood, and I fit my role well. Or so I’ve thought.

I am not permitted to love, even though the Majat Guild encourages us to explore our sexuality during our training. When I felt an attraction toward the man I was hired to protect—Prince Kythar Dorn—I was prepared to suppress these feelings. But when an enemy hired me by name to kidnap Prince Kythar and deliver him to his murderers, I found, for the first time in my life, that I was unable to follow my orders. Instead, I secretly escaped from my Guild and delivered Prince Kythar to his friends and protectors.

I knew the price I must pay of this. My life. I knew exactly what awaits me. A Majat assassin would be sent to execute me. He would be specially trained to target my secret weakness, known only to my trainers and the people who raised me. He would strike me down, and there would be nothing whatsoever I could do about it.

And then, the impossible happened. The man my Guild had sent after me, Mai, chose to spare my life. He had disabled me and made it seem as if I was dead. He had me in his power, but he let me live.

Now, I am the first Majat warrior in the history of my Guild free of my obligations. The Majat have no Code to cover my situation, which had been considered to be impossible before. But sooner or later my Guild will find out what happened. They will send another killer. This time, after Mai.

I owe him my life. I will not abandon him to pay for his actions that gave me my freedom. I will follow him and fight by his side till the end.

Mai is my destiny now. I will not betray him.

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Buy the Book: Angry Robot | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Random House

Follow the Author On: www.annakashina.com (official site and blog) | Facebook | Twitter

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

This is the final Boosting the Signal post for Friday the 23rd/Saturday the 24th! Heading into a long weekend in the States means y’all get THREE posts. And I’m putting this one up on Saturday morning just to help make sure people see it.

And this one’s a special one too, since it’s actually about an anthology! Bad-Ass Faeries is a title you may have seen in the post I put up about Danielle Ackley-McPhail. It’s an ongoing anthology series, and this post is featuring Kimberley Long-Ewing, who’ll be one of the authors in the forthcoming fourth volume, It’s Elemental, due in September of this year. I call the entire concept of badass faeries entirely acceptable.

Kimberley’s story in the anthology is “Spin, Weave, and Measure”, and her character Yarrow’s goal? Well. If you’ve got a bad-ass faerie loose among humankind, what do you think she’s out to do?

ETA 6/6/2014: Correcting the spelling of Kimberley’s name! My bad!

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Bad-Ass Faeries 4

Bad-Ass Faeries 4

My sisters and I have watched you for millennia. You were, for the most part, quite boring. Then you invented weaving and spinning. We learned. We watch the patterns of eternity in the weft and weave of our cloth. We wove our own patterns, subtly nudging and shaping the world.

All the world’s a stage and the gianes work in the shadows, behind the scenes. Rose, Thorn, and I moved to Britain in the pockets of a sweet girl from Sicily. We set up shop and, on our whim, would draw in a creative soul to loan a little token of our esteem. Later, we followed a snippet of our cloth across the ocean to America. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of our clients —Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Thomas J. Watson, Nolan Bushnell, and…well, perhaps I shouldn’t list too many of them. The agreement is that we will bestow our blessings by weaving reality in the clients favor. We will hold that pattern for seven years. Then they are on their own. Yet you’d think we were the oath breakers when we call for our token. We had to become quite adept at recovering them. We are of shadow, shape shifters and master trackers. The few who succeeded in thwarting us learned the error of their ways. We are, after all, on good terms with the Furies. What fools these mortals be.

Oh what a tangled web we weave and none greater than the world wide web. I love spinning bits into threads that Rose then shapes into, well, all sorts of things. Poor Thorn spends so much time snipping away at stray information strewn across the Internet. Rumors of our existence irk her most. Rose just smirks and says that Thorn actually loves playing whack-a-mole. I think Rose just enjoys tormenting Thorn. It’s not just Thorn she taunts with her cloth of data. Upon my tongue so many slanders ride. So many rumors, so little time.

It passes the time anyway. You try spending millennia with your sisters. I think we ran out of novel topics of conversation after about year twenty. Oh, there are new toys you develop which hold our interest but awhile. But I can already tell you what Rose and Thorn will have to say about them. So predictable. At least Rose explores new poets. Not that any of them compare with Shakespeare. I appreciate her efforts and perhaps one day she will find one worthy of my attention. Thorn, on the other hand, never moved past Sappho. Imagine having the same poetry quoted at you for centuries. It is so tiresome.

Now Thorn is giving me one of her looks—the one that says it’s time to work. We’re spinning a web to bring in our next victim client. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble and all that. You know. Off to spin thread. Let’s see who we attract today.

~Yarrow

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Pre-Order the Book: Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble (Paperback) | Dark Quest Books

Follow the Author On: Official site | Twitter

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

This is the final Boosting the Signal post for Friday the 23rd/Saturday the 24th! Heading into a long weekend in the States means y’all get THREE posts. And I’m putting this one up on Saturday morning just to help make sure people see it.

And this one’s a special one too, since it’s actually about an anthology! Bad-Ass Faeries is a title you may have seen in the post I put up about Danielle Ackley-McPhail. It’s an ongoing anthology series, and this post is featuring Kimberley Long-Ewing, who’ll be one of the authors in the forthcoming fourth volume, It’s Elemental, due in September of this year. I call the entire concept of badass faeries entirely acceptable.

Kimberley’s story in the anthology is “Spin, Weave, and Measure”, and her character Yarrow’s goal? Well. If you’ve got a bad-ass faerie loose among humankind, what do you think she’s out to do?

ETA 6/6/2014: Correcting the spelling of Kimberley’s name! My bad!

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Bad-Ass Faeries 4

Bad-Ass Faeries 4

My sisters and I have watched you for millennia. You were, for the most part, quite boring. Then you invented weaving and spinning. We learned. We watch the patterns of eternity in the weft and weave of our cloth. We wove our own patterns, subtly nudging and shaping the world.

All the world’s a stage and the gianes work in the shadows, behind the scenes. Rose, Thorn, and I moved to Britain in the pockets of a sweet girl from Sicily. We set up shop and, on our whim, would draw in a creative soul to loan a little token of our esteem. Later, we followed a snippet of our cloth across the ocean to America. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of our clients —Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Thomas J. Watson, Nolan Bushnell, and…well, perhaps I shouldn’t list too many of them. The agreement is that we will bestow our blessings by weaving reality in the clients favor. We will hold that pattern for seven years. Then they are on their own. Yet you’d think we were the oath breakers when we call for our token. We had to become quite adept at recovering them. We are of shadow, shape shifters and master trackers. The few who succeeded in thwarting us learned the error of their ways. We are, after all, on good terms with the Furies. What fools these mortals be.

Oh what a tangled web we weave and none greater than the world wide web. I love spinning bits into threads that Rose then shapes into, well, all sorts of things. Poor Thorn spends so much time snipping away at stray information strewn across the Internet. Rumors of our existence irk her most. Rose just smirks and says that Thorn actually loves playing whack-a-mole. I think Rose just enjoys tormenting Thorn. It’s not just Thorn she taunts with her cloth of data. Upon my tongue so many slanders ride. So many rumors, so little time.

It passes the time anyway. You try spending millennia with your sisters. I think we ran out of novel topics of conversation after about year twenty. Oh, there are new toys you develop which hold our interest but awhile. But I can already tell you what Rose and Thorn will have to say about them. So predictable. At least Rose explores new poets. Not that any of them compare with Shakespeare. I appreciate her efforts and perhaps one day she will find one worthy of my attention. Thorn, on the other hand, never moved past Sappho. Imagine having the same poetry quoted at you for centuries. It is so tiresome.

Now Thorn is giving me one of her looks—the one that says it’s time to work. We’re spinning a web to bring in our next victim client. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble and all that. You know. Off to spin thread. Let’s see who we attract today.

~Yarrow

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Pre-Order the Book: Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble (Paperback) | Dark Quest Books

Follow the Author On: Official site | Twitter

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Page Turner)

Fraser Sherman is another of my fellow Drollerie Press alums, and he’d like to tell you all about his collection of four fantasy short stories, including “Original Synergy”, “Red Moon Rising”, “Jack Be Nimble” and “Learning Curve”. This post features Serena Dean, protagonist of the story “Original Synergy”.

And did I just hear several thousand Browncoats cry “WHAT DOES SERENA KNOW?”

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Philosophy and Fairy Tales

Philosophy and Fairy Tales

If you’re wondering why I joined the Knights Templar, you can blame my mother.

“Serena,” she told me, “a new business owner needs to network. And becoming a Templar will get you much further than the Lions Club.”

I wish. Sure, it sounded sensible. The Templars covertly manipulate the world economy, they could certainly help my new business MeetSmart (“When you fail to plan your conference, you plan your conference to fail. Call MeetSmart today!”). And it’s been eye-opening learning how the world really works: why the Buffalo Bills must never win the Super Bowl and the real reason Fox had to cancel Firefly.

But what I didn’t realize is that every time the Templars launch some bold new venture, we cross paths with another conspiracy—the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission, the Men in Black—operating at cross-purposes. The end result is that nothing gets accomplished on either side.

So now the Templar Grandmaster has a solution: Synergy 21, the conference that will bring together every secret conspiracy, from Skull and Bones to They (as in “That’s what They say.”), to work out some sort of common ground for us all. And my tight-ass superior, Master Reginald, just told me I’m going to handle all the arrangements. A great break for me, right?
Except that I have two weeks to pull it all together. In Florida. At the height of the tourist season. No conference rooms booked, no suites reserved, nothing.

Of course, as a Templar, I have resources and methods no ordinary meeting planner does—and the help of a very sexy Illuminati—but still, that’s not much time. And if I fail, Master Reginald has told me, my head will roll.

He’s not using a metaphor.

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Buy the Book: Smashwords | Barnes and Noble | iBooks

Follow the Author On: Official blog

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

Luna: La cité mauditeLuna: La cité maudite by Elodie Tirel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a challenge to properly review this on the grounds that I’m very new to the French language–and this was the first book I tried to read in order to practice my reading comprehension with Quebecois French! So I have to comment on this book with the caveat that my understanding of it is therefore decidedly imperfect.

But that said, I was very pleased to be able to follow the broad strokes of the plot even though I missed a lot of the detail. Right out of the gate we start with a prologue in which the elf Ambrethil, a slave of the drow, is giving birth to a child. She’s scared out of her wits that her child will be born half-drow and a girl, which will run a huge risk of the baby being raised in the evil cult of the spider goddess Lloth. Ambrethil will have exactly NONE of this, so she arranges to have her baby smuggled out of the drow city, Rhasgarrok.

Commence the A plot, fast-forwarding twelve years, to when our young heroine Luna is being raised by wolves. Like ya DO. Her only bipedal family figure is a solitary mage, Le Marécageux, who taught her how to speak, read, and write. When her adoptive wolf pack is attacked and apparently wiped out by a drow attacker, Luna learns the truth of her origins from Le Marécageux, and resolves to venture into Rhasgarrok in search of her mother.

Meanwhile, over in plot B, the warrior Darkhan is also infiltrating Rhasgarrok on a mission of his own. He’s promptly captured by the sorceress Oloraé, who forces him to become a gladiator. Again, like ya DO.

I was entirely unsurprised that plot A and plot B eventually intersected, but was pleasantly surprised by what transpired then. Luna, despite her initial introduction being quite cliched (because of course she’s unbelievably beautiful and looks exactly like her mother, yadda yadda yadda), was quite a bit more mature and clever than Darkhan was willing to give her initial credit for. Sure, the whole “oh this sweet innocent young thing I must protect from the awful things in this city” thing is another heavily used trope, but Luna and Darkhan both carried it out in a surprisingly likeable fashion. Which is the overall thing about this book; it uses a lot of heavily used tropes, but it does it surprisingly charmingly.

And, despite how my ability to follow the French was rough at best, I was able to pick up on how there’s some surprisingly grim bits with Darkhan in the gladiatorial bouts. My rough impression of the interactions between Darkhan and Oloraé suggested there was probably innueundo there, too. But overall this certainly seemed appropriately written for a YA audience.

So if you’re an Anglophone looking to practice your French, this would be a fun way to do it. I’ll be checking out more books in the series, since they’re digitally available to US customers on a few different sites. I’ll give this one four stars, mostly out of pleasure for the language practice, but also for finding it generally charming.



View all my reviews

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Castle and Beckett and Book)

Isabelle Santiago is another fellow former Drollerie author, who’s taken the series she previously published with Drollerie and re-packaged it on her own to sell–much like I did with Faerie Blood, in fact! She’s about to drop Book 3 of this series, and so the piece she’s sent me for Boosting the Signal is meant to tie Book 2 and Book 3 together, using the POV of a minor secondary character.

The series is YA fantasy with some romantic elements, so if you’re a YA fan, I hope you’ll consider checking these out!

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The Guardian's Mark

The Guardian’s Mark

His dreams were a strange kaleidoscope of colors. A touch of the rainbow broken into pieces of shattered glass. It took her a while to realize they were actually gemstones–cut, carved and shaped by his loving hands. When she went deeper, further into his subconscious, she found a world she could get lost in, a place of rolling green hills and rich brown earth. A mountain range decorated the horizon and the blue sky stretched as far as eternity.

His world smelled of earth and bark and iron. There was a hut, his own private little place at the very end of the dirt road, past the little village with stone cottages and wooden roofs. Within it, she found a scorching, suffocating heat.

Items forged by his own powerful hands hung from the walls. Intricate swords with gemstone-crusted hilts. Sculptures and vases crafted of clay, heated and glazed. Jewelry with stones in every color, hanging like wind-chimes, glistening in the sunlight that broke through the small window.

He stood at the far end, his naked back to her, the strong curve of his dark shoulders angled as he rolled a glowing, golden ball of molten glass across the table with a blowpipe. He looked like some sort of god, his back and arms streaked in cinders, glistening with sweat as he sculpted and formed something so delicate, so beautiful.

There was a kind of purity to his mind, one that she had yet to find in any of the other Guardians. His memories were not polluted by remorse or jealousy, unrequited love or the burden of unwanted destiny. The walls of his dreamscape seemed infinite, as though his soul had no bounds, and just as clear as the cooling glass, as the very Air she personified.

She smiled. He was everything she’d expected and more. Much more.

He turned, sensing the breeze, and put down his tools.

They stared at each other for a long, silent moment.

He took a step toward her, a flare of recognition in his molten gold eyes, though they had never met. And when he stopped right before her, her breath caught, just a moment, in her chest.

The Guardian's Choice

The Guardian’s Choice

“Do you know who I am?” she asked, feeling foolish. Her cheeks flushed warm.

“Yes,” he said, on an exhaled breath. He reached out to take her hand.

Her skin was a pale, translucent alabaster, compared to his dark, sun-kissed brown. Her hands were soft and small, looking delicate and frail in comparison to his, so large and callous. He twined his fingers with hers, pressed his hot palm to her cool one, and looked into her eyes as though he saw her very soul.

Air blew between them and around them, caressing their hair, dancing through their arms, pushing them together. Two halves of a whole, separated for so long. Earth and Air, united like the earth and the sky in that distant place on the horizon.

He smiled. “I’m glad to finally meet you,” he said, and that shy, earnest look on his face warmed every part of her. “I’ve waited for you for a very long time.”

“So have I,” she said, wilting in return. “So have I.”

***

She watched him work from the shadows, hidden within her Element, exploring him as she could not in flesh. Her stomach fluttered, a cluster of butterflies scurrying to break free. He pounded at the red-hot metal of a steel blade with a large mallet, his naked back and shoulders slick with sweat. She traced the ancient script of his Mark with her eyes, from his neck down the length of his spine, stark black against the warm caramel of his flushed, sun-kissed skin.

His muscles tightened with each mallet swing. The four walls of the tiny, sweltering workshop quivered, ready to buckle, to bow to his power.

Bianca glanced at the room she’d long committed to memory–a room that had felt like a glimpse into his brilliant soul, full of trinkets made of blown glass and gemstones, carved of marble or stone, forged through fire.

Now, she noticed suddenly, those trinkets were gone. Cluttered with tools and raw materials, the room still felt bare, devoid of the life its craftsman had once breathed into its walls, giving them color and depth.

Something was wrong. Something had changed since they last spoke.

The Guardian's Fall

The Guardian’s Fall

Enki turned as though he heard her thoughts. She startled. A dark bruise marred his jaw below his cheekbone. A red gash split the corner of his full lips. Bianca gasped, losing her cover, materializing before him.

“I thought it was you,” he whispered, his mouth tilting into the ghost of a smile. He removed his work gloves and placed them on the table behind him. “I can always tell when you’ve appeared. You bring the smell of springtime and sunflowers wherever you go.”

“Enki,” she breathed out, taking a careful step in his direction, unable to rip her gaze from the unsettling nature of his bruises.

“I have missed our meetings greatly,” he said and she saw the truth of it in the molten amber of his eyes.

“What happened?”

“I tried to save her,” he said, but his thoughts were far away and his voice was soft and haunted. “I tried to save her but I failed.”

“Who? Who did you try saving?”

He looked away, clutching the edges of the table to steady himself. “Much has changed since we last met.”

Bianca swallowed hard, holding back tears, mourning days spent in the shed talking of sunflower fields and freedom or of a grandiose courtyard in the shadow of a glittering marble temple. It all came back to her at once, the smell of coal and fire on his skin, the warm sunshine coming through the open shutters of his windows. His smile; so earnest, so true.

They’d shared the entirety of their lives here between these four small walls, filled in the spaces where their paths had diverted so they could reunite and be as they were meant to, Earth and Air, two halves made whole.

“It doesn’t have to be different,” she said, desperate, letting Air caress his skin.

“But it is. And I’m afraid the things I’ve done have carved a hollow I cannot refill.”

Her heart broke for him, for the innocence lost, for the boy she’d first met and the tattered remains of the man that replaced him. His soul was still pure at its core, but she felt the differences in him, swallowing him.

The violence. The guilt. The regret.

She should have known. It was only a matter of time before this World got him too.

“I’m sorry, Bianca.” He broke, and she wrapped her arms around him then, breathing in his scent, letting her Element cradle and soothe him. “I am not the man you knew. I have the blood of many men on my hands. It sings to me from within the soil. Reminding me. Cursing me.”

“What have you done?” she asked him, clutching him tighter, wishing just this once that she was as solid as he felt.

“I tried to save her,” he repeated. “But I failed.”

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Buy the Books: Book 1 – The Guardian’s Mark |
Book 2 – The Guardian’s Choice | Book 3 – The Guardian’s Fall, available March 31

Follow the Author On: Facebook | Twitter | http://twistedfairytale.net/

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Good Book)

Caitlin Claire Diehl is a fellow member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association, and it’s through NIWA that I first heard about her novel First Daughter. It’s on my queue to read, and I look forward to getting to know Caitlin and her work better!

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First Daughter

First Daughter

You must help me! My mother, the Queen, is ill, bespelled by some sorcery that has left her insensible, removed from the cares of her people, of her only daughter. I am only an apprentice Web Weaver and can do nothing to help her no matter how many nights I pore over the ancient texts. The magic entrapping her is too strong, even for N’era, the only Keeper of the Web left to us, now that my mother is gone.

The need to free her is urgent, not just for me but for our land. Dark Forces stalk our borders and all the Queen Regent, my aunt, wants to do is wave her sword about and look important. I may not be the seer my mother is, but I have glimpsed the Threads that weave the future and I know with all my heart that swords will not defeat our enemy, not this time. Only no one will listen to me, though I am First Daughter to the Queen. My aunt thinks I am too young, too inexperienced to know anything. Sometimes I hate her.

My heart is heavy, grieving for my mother just out of reach, fearful of the danger threatening our land and our people. And I have a secret. Can I tell you? In the dark reaches of the night, in the Great Tapestry that has yet to be woven from the Threads of all our lives, I have glimpsed a golden thread, a young man foreign and strange, that calls to me in a way I have never felt before. Please don’t tell anyone. I have never had time for boys, for what are men but bigger boys?

Without your help, turning the pages of my story, my Threads will never be woven into a Pattern that can save my mother or our people. I will be left here, alone and helpless, poised on the brink of something… some destiny that surges through me and begs to be released in a grand Weaving of such power that nothing ever after will be the same.

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Buy the Book: Amazon

Follow the Author On: Facebook

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

Authors that write fantasy and SF, with or without a side helping of romance, are a bit thin on the ground at Carina Press. Which is why I’m particularly happy to welcome Shawna Thomas to Boosting the Signal. Take it away, Shawna! Or should I say, Shawna’s villain, Bredych? Anybody besides me hear Tom Hiddleston reading this speech, or what?

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Journey of the Wanderer

Journey of the Wanderer

In Bredych’s Words:

Most stories are told from the hero’s point of view. Mine is no different. I have been known by many names, but you may call me Bredych. Have you ever stopped to consider the broader picture? I have. They say history is told by the victor. Well, then, if that is true, who are the heroes? Those with ideals and noble intentions or simply those who have penned the words recounting the tale of what was done and by whom?

Are the heroes those whose ideals have won the day and anyone who challenged them are considered villains?

I have been cast into the role of antagonist. I have been called evil, manipulative, and greedy. It’s a role I accept for now. Not because I think that my ideals, my goals, are less worthy than those who dare oppose me, but because my enemies’ thoughts about me are irrelevant. It changes nothing.

I have worked tirelessly through the years, meticulously placing every player where I need them. I have built and rebuilt my kingdom from the ashes. Some worship me, some love me, and some hate me, but all fear me. Fear is the great motivator. Fear is necessary. After all my goals are noble. I, too, will unite Anatar under one ruler. I will bring peace to the land. I will drag these backwards peasants into the light kicking and screaming if necessary–for their own good.

And Ilythra? Yes, she pretends to be a hero. She plays at nobility and merely speaks of honor and love. But what does she offer that is of use? War? Death? The killing of the innocent? She seeks to reunite the stones, and she calls it justice. Where is the justice in handing all that power over to Ewen and the Siobani? And once the Siobani have it, what then? Will they use it to better mankind? History proves they will not. They chose to disengage, to retreat into legend rather than dirty their hands in human ways. I know. I was there.

I will reunite the stones. I will bring and end to suffering. Anatar will be united under my rule. In the end, all will see that my way is better, including Ilythra. We bear two of the great stones; the Siobani possess only one. If she will not unite with me, then she will fall with them. This is not something I desire–I do not wish to destroy her–but if she continues to oppose me, then it cannot be avoided. Rulers must make hard decisions and cannot let personal feelings cloud their judgment.

I accept the role of villain because history has yet to be written, and I plan to be the one who writes it.

I invite you to read these chronicles and decide for yourselves.

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In Shawna’s Words: Excerpt from the Novel:

Bredych approached the map with reverence. He inhaled the scent of ink mixed with smoke from the poorly ventilated fire. A single lamp haloed the ivory surface, lending the map texture and depth as the flame flickered. Without quite touching the thick parchment, he traced the southern coastline with his finger, up across deserts to mountains and valleys. In a very real way, the map represented a lifetime of work, of careful planning. He followed the vivid lines to the far south, where the clans there still worshiped and feared him, up and to the east to Rugia, where the tribesmen feared and hated him. He shrugged. There was little difference really. It was the fear that drove them. In the end, it didn’t matter if he was offered tribute out of adoration or to appease him.

He moved his finger to the west coast. The villages there were unorganized and ineffective. They would be easy prey for the southern clans. Further north, built on a peninsula, the great city of Edriel stood waiting for him to pluck it. Maybe he’d make his seat of government there. He smiled. It had a rich history, he wondered if the king of Edriel knew that the Siobani had built the city and abandoned it with the rest of Anatar to the humans. He reviewed what he knew of King Jaryn. No, he had vast libraries at his disposal but he doubted the king had yet to crack open one book.

To the right of Edriel, across the plains, Bredych had very carefully placed small wooden figurines on several of the larger kingdoms. He stared at each one in turn, remembering the satisfaction of placing the piece there after the kingdom had come under his command. Each king in those places merely waited for his command. Each had been promised a place in his empire. Depending on how they served him in the coming conflict, he’d keep his promise.

He remembered the day he’d been reading through the Siobani histories and found out that he’d been lied to. The Siobani had kept the greater power for themselves. They didn’t use it, but kept the secret locked away from even him, a stone keeper. The elder race had treated him no better than an outsider, a beggar on the street.

That day he had decided to bring them down. To make them grovel at his feet. He clenched his teeth together. And that day was coming.

He wondered what Ilythra would do if she knew Ewen had a way to defeat him and simply refused to use it.

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About the Author: Winner of an RT award for her debut novel, Altered Destiny, Shawna Thomas has been writing since she can remember. She currently lives in California with her husband and seven children. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s playing in the garden, developing new desserts or sitting back with a cup of coffee and a good book.

Buy the Book: Carina Press | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

Follow the Author On: shawnathomas.com | Blogspot | Twitter | Facebook

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

Anna Kashina is a fellow former author from Drollerie Press, and I’m pleased to feature her as the second of two posts for my doubleheader Boosting the Signal premiere day! Her newly fantasy novel, Blades of the Old Empire, has just been released by Angry Robot and is her first novel with a major SF/F publisher–and here, she gives us a look at her antagonist Nimos.

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Blades of the Old Empire

Blades of the Old Empire

I am Nimos, a member of the Kaddim Brotherhood. I am gifted with mind magic, which enables me to bend people to my will, pry into their thoughts, and affect their judgment. I taught other Kaddim Brothers the basics of this magic, but no one else is as good as I am.

In the days of the old Shandorian Empire, our brotherhood rose to power and was able to place our leader, the Reincarnate, on the imperial throne. However, our timing had been unfortunate and a group of renegades was able to overthrow us, leading to the bloodshed that is now referred to as the Holy Wars. The empire fell, and our brotherhood was forced to retreat into shadows, gathering enough power to rise again.

And now, our time has come. Once again, we stand strong, and we are in a great position to restore the glory of the Old Empire out of the scattered kingdoms that formed in its place. The Kaddim are formidable warriors, wielding rare and exotic weapons–orbens–that no one is able to resist. The only warriors to match us are the Majat, but they, like everyone else in the kingdoms, are susceptible to our mind powers. Through the anti-magic laws that our brotherhood helped to put into place during the empire days, everyone with a magic gift had been carefully weeded, leaving us with virtually no opposition to our plans.

And then, a problem arose. Prince Kythar, the heir to the throne of Tallan Dar, had somehow escaped the magic control laws. His inborn gift grants him control of the elements and a unique ability to focus, rendering him immune to the Kaddim magic. Worse, as we became aware of the problem and gathered efforts to capture the prince, he was able to pass his immunity to his Diamond Majat bodyguard, Kara. As long as she is by his side, we cannot possibly defeat him.

Kythar’s magic is rare, and fortunately he has no idea yet how to use it to its full power. Time is of essence. We must take care of the prince before he figures it out. But to do that, we first must take care of his bodyguard Kara, and this is a task no Kaddim warriors are able to accomplish. Her weapon skill makes her nearly undefeatable.

Fortunately, I have a plan. If we cannot take care of Kara, all we need to do is pitch her against her Majat Guild, and they will have no problem finishing the job.

A lot of mind control work went into carrying out this plan. And now it is all in motion and nothing could probably stop us.

Mwahahahahaaaaaaa…

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Genre: Fantasy

Buy the Book: Angry Robot | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Random House

Follow the Author On: www.annakashina.com (official site and blog) | Facebook | Twitter

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

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