Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dorrigo Grass Roots Gathering Workshop link...Character and Motivation

Motivation and Characterisation FANTASY FACTION article

Further to the notes from the workshop given at the Grass Roots Writers' Gathering, on Writing Fantasy and World building, this is the article and links referred to during the session.
It has been published on the Fantasy Faction website. A great resource for anyone interested in Fantasy, writing, Fantasy books and authors.
Anyhow... for those who may be interested in further researching how to create believable personality traits and characters, here is the article.

Welcome to 2012. During the holiday season I have been looking over my own manuscripts and delving into the motivation driving my characters.
I believe as fantasy authors, we need realistic motivation to bring our characters to life. Of course, this meant looking further than my own understanding. I have discovered that psychologists believe an early incident in life imprints on a character and can cause reaction and behavioral nuances much later in life. There are articles that describe how the timing of the incident can affect later motivation. The link is below. Following the ‘hierarchy of needs’ from Abraham Maslow, we find there are five classes of motivation. In very simplified terms, we as fantasy authors should find them useful. This translates to meaning…
Wants and desires can influence behavior. Only unsatisfied needs are associated with motivating the character. Satisfaction doesn’t.
Needs can be ordered in rank of importance from basic to complex. For example the need for food, shelter, security, love, to the need for acceptance, understanding and self esteem, achievement and finally self actualization.
Advancing to the next level will not occur until the character’s more basic needs have been satisfied.
Individuality As the character meets the needs at the basic level, moves up toward more complex needs and meets them, he will show more psychological health, humanness and individuality.
So where do our hero/villains/characters find their motivations? What has caused them to become determined and motivated; to partake in their quests? Are they behaving consistently, relative to their background?
Apparently there is a list of 16 needs, or basic desires that guide most human behavior, as listed by Professor Steven Reiss. Click here to see the whole list online. 
Acceptance, the need for approval
Curiosity, the need to learn
Eating, the need for food
Family, the need to raise children
Honor, the need to be loyal to the traditional values of one’s clan/ethnic group
Idealism, the need for social justice
Independence, the need for individuality
Order, the need for organized, stable, predictable environments
Physical activity, the need for exercise
Power, the need for influence of will
Romance, the need for sex
Saving, the need to collect
Social contact, the need for friends (peer relationships)
Social status, the need for social standing/importance
Tranquility, the need to be safe
Vengeance, the need to strike back/to win
The article there is an interesting read. Hmm… Can’t say I am entirely comfortable with the information but then, I write fantasy, I don’t actually study human psychology. I think I feel more confident now though, that my characters are behaving within believable parameters.
Discussing this topic with a psychologist, I was urged to mention that motivation will come from the imprint that occurred earlier in life. Hence I am adding Ericson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. This table is well worth a look.
For a better look at a full version of the table online – click here.
AgeVirtuesPsycho Social CrisisSignificant RelationshipExistential Question
infant -18 monthsHopesTrust vs. MistrustMotherCan I Trust The World?
18 month-3 yearsWillAutonomy vs. Shame & DoubtParentsIs It Ok To Be Me?
3-6 yearsPurposeInitiative vs. GuiltFamilyIs It Ok For Me To Do, Move and Act?
6-12 yearsCompetenceIndustry vs. InferiorityNeighbors, SchoolCan I Make It In The World Of People And Things?
12-19 yearsFidelityIdentity vs. Role ConfusionPeers, Role ModelWho Am I? What Can I Be?
19-40 yearsLoveIntimacy vs. IsolationFriends, PartnersCan I Love?
40-65 yearsCareGenerativity vs. StagnationHousehold, WorkmatesCan I Make My Life Count?
65-and onWisdomEgo Integrity vs. DespairMankind, My KindIs It Ok To Have Been Me?

So, I guess without some incident to leave a mark on our character, the resulting reaction and motivation isn’t going to feel right. It all comes down to the basic rule, we as authors already know…and should adhere to. We need to know each of our characters’ backgrounds, so we can refer, if only in passing, to what happened to them and when it happened, to cause their behavior now.
At least that’s how I see it. What do you think?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

EBOOK Publishing in the 21st Century.

The thing about e-book publishing in today’s digital age is how incredibly easy it is to realise the dream of becoming a published e-book author.

With today’s technology ebooks are becoming more popular and much easier to produce. The cost can be minimal, if not free. But it takes a little research to find the right publisher for your book.

RESEARCH 

Everyone needs to do their research, to find the right home for their work. Today we will go through a few of the topics we need to consider.

Publishing with an ebook publisher v self publishing.

There are several reasons for either option. Control, cost, percentage of royalties etc weigh in favour of self publishing.

Marketing, exposure, creating various formats and distribution are easier through a publishing house. 

Whichever way you decide to go, always check out your choice with sites like Writers Beware. These sites will list any scam or unethical publishers.

Things to consider not in order, but each need thought.


Copyright.  You will need to have a covering statement at the start of your book, protecting you from people copying your work.

Also, beware of using trademarks and names of actual people, quotes, song lyrics and references from text without permission. Unless the quote is in the public domain, it is wise to get permission or create your own version. The large companies will sue. As an editor for a small ebook publisher who doesn't have vast resources, it is one of the house rules, to avoid any threat of copyright infringement. It doesn't matter how small the distribution, if it is out there, with your name attached, take care not to step on any sensitive toes. It can cost.

Images, photos for cover, or as part of the manuscript must have permission for use. It is important to check they are suitable formats for e-publication. Jpeg, grayscale, resolution etc all become important terms.

Introducing your E-Book Acknowledgements, dedication, tag line, blurb and author bios are needed as part of your e-book and sales page. 
A tag line is a twenty word hook to grab a reader's attention.
The blurb is a longer hook. This is where the reader is given a taste of your writing and ability to create interest and share some components of the manuscript.

ISBN.   Most ebook publishers will provide an ISBN  if you want one. If you are just publishing for yourself and are not planning to market or distribute your work, you may not need an ISBN.

If however you plan to sell, distribute and market your e-book, an ISBN is necessary. You can purchase one yourself. They are available and cheaper in lots of ten or so. Again, research will give you the best prices, cost and most ebook publishers will provide one in their publishing package.

Books in print (even self published) with an ISBN also need to have one copy sent off to the National and State Library as ‘Legal Deposits’. It could be worth checking the rules concerning e-books.

Cover.  If you have your own photos, design skills, and ideas, this need not be a challenge. Make sure you have permission to use the images though. Also, ensure you use the highest resolution possible to create your cover. Examples of great ebook covers (Pinterest board) at The Book Designer 

There are places where you can purchase ready made covers. For a price. Some ebook publishers will offer a range of covers. Example of a graphic designer who does ebook covers – includes pricing for covers, book trailers etc 
INDIE Bookcovers

Images are available for purchase from places like Fotolia, Dreamstime, Getty. There are free images available. I was lucky enough to have Rachel Lewis Photography Coffs Harbour  provide the cover images for my books. The cover model was a local Medieval re-enactment enthusiast from Lismore. My CA (cover artist) did the design work.

Remember the cover needs to be impressive even as a thumbnail image. Since that is how it will look on many of the marketing pages. A quick and useful blog post on good ebook cover design is Killer Ebook Covers

Editing.  Finding a crit group, words to avoid, general polishing. Before you decide to show your work to the world, and hope they will purchase it, take the time to make it the best you possibly can.

Find and join a critique group in your genre. It might take a while to find one you can work with. Giving and getting critique that suits your style of writing, your level of commitment and need, may take a few trial and errors working with groups, but it is time well spent when you find a niche.

I joined Writing.com, found a Fantasy and science fiction group who gave critiques, worked with them through each novel, chapter by chapter. Giving feedback is as important as getting it. You can learn from others’ mistakes. A good critique group should offer advice and support, without being derogatory or inflammatory. Levels of critique need to fit your needs. Participating means you need to reciprocate. Be prepared to go the distance.

Get feedback from beta readers who know your genre or who have the qualifications to check your work.

Find an editor to double check your grammar, spelling and continuity.

Try for the strongest writing you can deliver. Avoid passive voice, POV changes within scenes, weak verbs/adverbs, telling not showing. Get yourself a list of words to avoid and learn how to reword sentences to give the reader a richer, more rewarding experience as they follow your story.

Remember to hook your reader in every chapter, page, paragraph. Make your opening as strong as possible. Remember with ebooks potential readers can often ‘look inside’. Make sure you have a perfect example for them to browse. Weak writing in the opening scene will have a reader closing your book.

Formatting. Then there are the formats. This link will explain nine of the common formats
You need a different format for different e-readers. Kindle, Nook, epub, html, pdfs etc. Formatting for each requires different set ups. MS WORD for example has hidden icons that will spoil transition to many of the ebook formats. Word files need to be changed before publication. Most ebook publishers offer conversion programs to ensure your ebook looks professional.

Remember to look at your work in terms of white space... does your writing look appealing, fit easily on the page, invite the reader to cruise through a read. A balance of spacing, indents, easily read fonts and aesthetic appeal is important to grabbing a reader's interest. It isn't only a great story and good grammar.

MS WORD will allow you to save your manuscript in PDF format. This enables you to check for spacing, and formatting problems. FIX them before you publish. (I recently was asked to read an ebook that had occasional words underlined throughout the text. It made the story unreadable. The words weren't hypertext, nor was the underlining relevant. It just led to head-shaking confusion.)

Distribution. The main reason for choosing to publish with even a small ebook publisher, is to ensure your story is available from the largest number of outlets, and readily available for all types or ereaders. There are far too many sites to name, but getting your book onto the most popular sites should be included in any publishing package. Amazon, of course is a favourite, Barnes and Noble, Omnilit, Smashwords… the list is endless.

Individual sites may have hoops to jump through before accepting your ebook. Check before you publish, if the publisher distributes to your favourite marketing pages, or if you are able to upload y our books yourself.  This is where the different formats become important. Amazon accept Kindle ready formats but you are able to create other formats for other sites. Amazon offers many outlets for your ebook with their affiliated sites. Smashwords takes all types and distributes them on multiple sites. Check where your ebook will be displayed and available for sale, before you sign up for any package.

Also, there are literally thousands of sites who will take your ebook to distribute. If you have the time and patience to approach them. Check out their requirements. Some will only take books they publish, others are more flexible. Be aware they may take a percentage of cost, to host your books.

Marketing. Website, blog, twitter, Pinterest, book trailers, Facebook.  Once you have sorted distribution… the marketing is up to you. A minimum for marketing is running a website. Amazon will offer an author’s page. This is a useful tool that incorporates blog updates. As an author you are able to update it yourself. Even if you are with a publisher marketing will be your responsibility.  There are a few basic tools you need to become familiar with.

Website…where people can find you, your books and links to your sales pages. Linking to your Facebook page or blog can help create interest in you as an author and your books. There are free sites, that are user friendly. Or you can pay for a more professional site, without advertising. Depending on your need.
A blog… a great way to spread the word about your book/s and your interests, a place to show off your work, talk about inspiration, share other authors’ books, find readers, and let them know about releases and interesting events. Blogger and Wordpress are both popular.
Ramblings from Lady Rosalie (you are here now)

Twitter… ditto above… in very small doses.
Facebook… marketing through Facebook via groups, pages, sharing posts… time consuming, but it is one way of getting your name and books known to many. It is also a way to keep people informed about launches, releases and awards etc.
And joining groups related to your genre/topic can help reach readers.
Signing book launch coupons, pricing. If you choose to self publish your ebook you can still do book launches and signings. There are several ‘ebook’ signing programs now. Also, at an ebook launch you can hand out postcards of the cover, brochures, and even coupons that enable the reader to download the ebook. If you are with a publisher these coupons should still be available on request.

Autography is one online site offering e-book signings.

Sales, royalties, paypal, credit card management. If you choose to publish your ebook and distribution and sales are NOT included in the package, you can still handle the sales yourself. You will need to implement a secure payment page on your website. There are different programs available. If you are not computer literate, get help!
If you feel confident to create your own online shopping page, this is one example of DIY Sales software I have seen used...E-JUNKIE

With an ebook publisher this side of things is taken care of. This is where you need to do your research. Talk to other authors who are with the publisher. There are so many dodgy publishers out there. Their sites look great but when it comes to payment of royalties, setting prices, specials and tracking sales etc and paying on time and remaining honest, their records are less than impressive.

Doing your own publishing, through a site like Amazon or Smashwords, you can set your own prices. You have control of costs and the large sites will have tracking records for you to follow. The smaller sites need to be assessed individually. It is the ability to set your own prices, claim the higher royalties and monitor sales that makes self publishing more attractive. It is imperative you do your research before signing on. What are you able to do, and costs are involved? 

Even FREE ebook publishing means the publisher will take their cut of sales.


An interesting example of hidden costs. An ebook sold through Amazon to a reader in the northern hemisphere will give a higher return to the author than one sold to Australia. Same digital download. Not sure how they figure that one out. How could it cost more to send digitally to Oz? 

Returns, complaints, reviews. Amazon has a two week return policy. If a reader doesn’t like their ebook they can return it. Then it becomes the author’s problem repaying costs. Most ebook publishers will cover their author’s returns. When self publishing… check the publisher’s return policy.

Complaints downloading the various files and formats is common. If you are working through your own website, this will be your problem. If you are with a larger ebook publisher, they will have policies in place. Check them before signing on.

Reviews. These help with marketing, promotion and sales. Blog tours, sharing galleys before release, beta readers are all great places to get a few reviews for your book. Once you have a few, they make good blog posts, Facebook posts etc. There are forums and online sites that offer reviews for different genres. Beware of sites that want payment for reviews.


Right, that’s enough to think about. Let’s explore the world of Ebook publishing…

Smashwords; Createspace; Lulu… Three popular sites. We now know what we are looking for… let’s see how these three sites stack up. What do they offer? How easy are they to navigate? Would they suit our needs?

 AMAZON    
User name: Coffs Writing Workshop

SMASHWORDS  
User Name: Writing Workshop
LULU
Account name: Coffs Writing Workshop

There is a PDF document you can down load which is a guide to LULU E-book PUBLISHING . Once you have logged in it should be available to download to an email address.


COVERS at AMAZON
 Overview… a blog worth reading. "How To Self Publish an Ebook." 



REMEMBER
If in doubt "Phone a Friend". Google has most of the answers. 






You are invited to join the inaugural 
Anzac weekend. Dorrigo High School $25 registration fee. Three days of workshops and mingling with other writers.
Click link for program details and registration form.
See  you there!!


Thank you for attending this workshop. I hope it has been of some help.

All images on this blog are used with permission of the author's featured, are images I have taken myself, or are from a photo shoot with Rachel Lewis Photography, or from Fotolia. Fotolia.com have provided many useful images for promotion and marketing. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ADRIFT: In Search of Memory... Join the party... Fri 21st Feb


Join the party at 


This sea faring adventure
 is a two part story that
 continues Caleath's journey. 

Here is an excerpt. 
I hope you enjoy it.

ADRIFT: In Search of Memory


“I do declare. I believe the bilge rat is threatening me.” Black Beau doubled over. Clutching her belly, she laughed until tears streamed over leather tough cheeks. “Throw him to my sweeties. I want to hear him scream while they tear him apart.”

Caleath struggled until a dozen hands restrained him.

“We’ll have the pleasure of killing an immortal in a few entertaining minutes, my friends. Once first blood flows, though, we’ll need to reef storm sails. Look to the sky.”

Black Beau’s crew suspended Caleath over the side of The Wayward Spirit. Below him, the ocean boiled with the energy of a hundred frenzied sharks. 

“You look into your future, woman,” Caleath shouted.

“He does go on. However, wait.” Black Beau gestured for a moment’s silence. “Hold on for a moment. What are you saying, Deathbringer? Do you dare presume to say you conjure weather?”

Caleath groaned. “Would I bandy words with you if I could?”

Black Beau laughed. “You can save yourself with a simple spell. One trick, even an easy one and I will sell your miserable hide to his lordship.”

Caleath drew air through clenched teeth. Twisting his head, he watched blood drip from the hole in his hand. An oily stain marred the water below. 

A dozen sharks propelled themselves skyward. Fear evaded him, though his eyes screwed shut when Black Beau’s men let him fall.

******
Adrift is available for pre order from MUSEITUP

 There will be copies available to win at the launch party. Best dressed, most likely pirate, best imitation of a whale singing... To help you get into the mood here are some sea faring images.








Thursday, January 30, 2014

FIVE STAR REVIEW for INVADED: The Darkest Day

Invaded: The Darkest Day-Book Five (The Chronicles of Caleath) (Kindle Edition)
This is a fast paced novel trapping the reader in a full-on experience of the power and intensity that dark magic has, especially on the immortal Caleath as he battles with forces of evil.

In his mission to rescue the Kentorian princess, Corrine, and to save the planet Allorn from invaders, Caleath is thrust back into the deadly game. Caleath becomes`Tag' in order to hide his identity. When exposed, he suffers great physical pain from his enemies, but his impossible struggle to contain the vengeful warrior, Wrath, within himself, ignites a bloodlust he abhors and threatens to destroy his last feeble grip on innocence and compassion.

Ms Skinner's beautiful writing and vivid imagination delivers an amazing other world filled with such memorable characters as Merkatt, the dragon Queen; Tallowbrand, the ghost archmarge; and the dreaded dark lord, Cassius, who wears a cloak that absorbs light and power. We also welcome back Caleath's loyal friends, among them Penwryt the wizard; Gwilt; Raul; Etham; Jenna, the young witch bethrothed to Spider with the mismatched eyes; and Joel a young wizard. Ms Skinner skilfully uses violent Nature as the atmospheric backdrop to the violence in this story, so that Nature is almost a character in itself.

Strap yourself in for another exhilarating, fabulous adventure in a fantasy world like no other, teeming with vibrant life. You'll keep coming back for more of this series The Chronicles of Caleath.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Incisive Interview... Behind the facade...

A Conversation with Rosalie Skinner hosted by John Rosenman.

Thanks for John for his great questions and for allowing me to be his guest.
A great way to celebrate the release of ADRIFT.


Don't forget to enter the contest too.


Thanks.

Monday, December 23, 2013

My Writing Process

Thanks To Wendy Laharnar and Edith Parzefall for including me in this rather interesting blog hop.

Four questions... Can I get them right?

What are you working on at present?

Easy. Editing the final two stories in the Chronicles of Caleath.
Adrift: In Search of Memory and Adrift: The Fragile Sun.
These sea faring adventures have been fun to write and visiting them after such a long time is a great way of seeing where they can be improved.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Right, well, I am not sure I have ever read a science fiction fantasy mix quite like Caleath's story. With influences from epic fantasy combined with a modern look at society's addiction to television 'real life' shows like Survivor and Big Brother I have had plenty to work with.

Why do I write what I do?

I guess when I write about addiction, it reflects why I write. I am addicted to creating, whether that means painting, writing, or something less tangible like spending time with my grandchildren. Every day is a gift. We should make something positive of it.

Science fiction and fantasy offer the scope to explore new worlds, ideas and magic. Relationships, challenges and character development can get a real workout when imagination is let run free. I always try to ground my fantasy in reality, which means a lot of research. Another aspect of writing I enjoy.

How does my writing process work?

When writing a first draft I am like one obsessed. I can think of nothing else. Life gets in the way and I must write. Once the first draft is down I put it aside for a while. I will still be thinking about each character's agenda and reactions and after a few weeks will go through and tweak most scenes. Once happy with the plot I like to leave the manuscript for a while. Months even. Then go back and begin polishing. I will then work with a critique group. I find their feedback helps correct and find the nits.

I am always learning more and wanting to add what I have learnt to my work. It is hardest to walk away and leave the manuscript.

Learning is as much fun as writing, editing, and publishing. I enjoy interaction from other writers, critiquers, and writing workshops. Writing short pieces for  writing group meetings and workshops helps stretch my writing skills. Sharing what I have learnt too, is a thrill.

Now... I have been lax, with two deaths in close succession  my life has been turned upside down. I haven't been organised and apologise for not having more authors tagged.

Hope everyone has a SAFE and HAPPY Christmas.. or holiday season.

 ADRIFT will be released early in 2014.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Artesans of Albia... Fantasy series by Cas Pearce. Blog Tour.

Go into the rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win!



Artesans of Albia series synopsis.
 On a foolhardy foray into a foreign realm, Taran Elijah is attacked by a terrible weapon known as the Staff. Killing its wielder, he escapes into Albia, inadvertantly carrying the Staff.
Concerned by the vicious raids that follow Taran's actions, Major Sullyan of the High King's forces crosses into Andaryon to seek diplomatic resolution to the crisis. She is captured and tortured by Lord Rykan, aspirant to the Andaryon throne.
Slowly dying, Sullyan escapes his clutches. She offers her skills to the Hierarch in defense of his throne, finally confronting Rykan on the field of battle.
Her handsome Captain and lover, Robin Tamsen, embarks on a desperate quest to recover the Staff. But Rykan's greedy General, Sonten, is two steps ahead of him. If Robin cannot lay hold of the weapon before Sonten does, Sullyan's life and the lives of all Artesans are forfeit.
The race for the Staff has begun.

King's Envoy Excerpt.
Taran Elijah's quest for knowledge uncovers a plot that threatens the world...

"Are you quite sure about this, Taran?”

Cal’s voice echoed in the gloom as Taran Elijah closed the cellar door behind them. He raised the lantern and sharp-edged shadows fled up the walls.
Taran glanced at his Apprentice standing three steps below him and ran a hand through his short brown hair. It came away clammy and he wiped it on his shirt. Trying to keep his voice level, Taran said, “I’ve tried every way I can think of to find another teacher. My father was right, there simply aren’t any Artesans left in Loxton Province. Maybe even in the whole of Albia. Entering the Fifth Realm might be dangerous, but it’s the only place I’m going to find other members of our craft.”
Turning away from Cal’s doubts, Taran faced the portway. It was the smallest, tightest structure he could form and it was firmly anchored. There was nothing else to wait for.

He nodded to Cal and drew a deep breath.

Stepping into the portway, he left the cellar behind.

#
Taran was distracted as the Staff skidded to his opponent’s feet. The noble snatched it up and it flared blindingly, blue and green light rippling down its length. He drove at Taran with his sword but even as he parried the blows, Taran felt his opponent calling up power. He stared in shock—the Staff’s flickering tip was pointing at his heaving chest.

A killing bolt of pure elemental energy flashed from the Staff. With a wide-eyed look of horror, totally unnerved by this unforeseen event, Taran only just managed to twist sideways. He was showered with dirt as a sizzling bolt of Earth power pulverized a rock behind him.

Fear and anger goaded Taran and he leaped at his opponent. Taran rained blows onto his blade, striking viciously, trying to keep the noble off balance. There was a discordant clang, and Taran’s sword arm went numb. The noble roared a curse as his sword was sent spinning from his hand.

“Yield,” panted Taran, but his opponent didn’t falter. Raising the Staff, he attacked Taran with renewed ferocity. Huge bolts of Earth energy shot from its tip, forcing the exhausted Journeyman to deflect them.

Taran’s powers were stretched far beyond their straining limits. Terrified, he only had one choice and he grabbed it, throwing all his remaining metaforce into one vast Earth shift. The ground bucked beneath his opponent’s feet, nearly toppling him, and Taran rushed him. Ignoring the Staff’s awful power, he brought his sword around in a powerful backhanded sweep.

The noble’s head suddenly dangled from a half-severed neck.

There was shocked silence.

#
The Count led Major Sullyan to the far end of the hall, where a tight knot of people surrounded a tall, regal-looking man dressed in black trimmed with red and silver. The man in black turned to see who was approaching.

Taran felt the shock that ran through Sullyan as she saw his face. He sensed, rather than heard, her tightly hissed whisper in his mind—Beware!—before her mental shield snapped down. With amazement, he saw the very deep obeisance she accorded this arrogant-looking lord, and watched as he took her hand with a predatory smile. A strange light glowed in his pale yellow eyes.

The Count licked his lips and cleared his throat before announcing, “Most noble and gracious Lord, may I present the Lady Ambassador Sullyan, of whom you have heard me speak many times. Lady Sullyan, it is my privilege to present to you his Grace Lord Rykan, Duke of Kymer.”

The saturnine lord gazed intensely into Sullyan’s face. She had frozen her expression in a smile but Taran could feel tension radiating from her.
“My dear Lady Ambassador.” The Duke’s voice was deep, rich and silky-smooth, and his eyes looked as sharp as an eagle sighting prey. His darkly handsome face was perfectly complemented by an aquiline nose and the very pale gold of his slit-pupiled eyes. Despite his clear middle age, his slim and powerful body positively radiated strength and virility.

He smiled, showing white, even teeth, and held fast to Sullyan’s hand as his raptor’s eyes traveled her body, drinking in her curves.

“The Count has told me of your beauty, Lady,” he murmured, “but at his most effusive he did not do you justice. You are a flawless gem among women. No one here could outshine you.”

“Your Grace is too kind,” responded Sullyan, casting down her eyes. She tried to reclaim her hand but the Duke was having none of it.

He turned, obliging her to fall into step beside him, and moved toward the highborns’ feast table at the far end of the hall.

“Marik.”

The Count scuttled nervously after him.


“Your Grace?”
“It is my pleasure to be the lady’s escort tonight. Make other arrangements for her … companions.”

“Yes, your Grace.”

With much flapping of his long hands, the Count ushered Bull, Robin and Taran to tables at the long side of the hall. Bull and Robin went reluctantly, the Captain clearly unhappy at being separated from the Major. Sullyan, when Taran glanced back at her, seemed to be coping with her shock, for she sat and talked with the dark lord while the other guests found their seats.

“The Duke of Kymer?” hissed Robin. “What the hell’s he doing here?”
Bull shook his head.

“I’ve no idea. All I know is that we’ve been warned about him before. Leaving aside our suspicions as to who’s behind the invasion, Rykan’s probably the most influential and dangerous person in the entire Fifth Realm. He has a reputation for ruthlessness and cruelty and I’ve heard he has an insatiable appetite for women.

“Coincidence it may be, and nothing to do with the raids, but his presence here means there’s something afoot. He’s got under Marik’s skin too, by the looks of things. The Count may be gloomy by nature but he’s not normally so nervy, although I’d expect him to be on edge with Rykan here. The Duke’s a harsh overlord and Marik’s not wealthy.

“Keep your wits about you, lads. Sullyan’s in no danger at present but if Rykan takes a fancy to her, she’ll need all her diplomatic skills to wriggle out of it without giving offense.”
#
Sprinting toward the guard house, Taran ignored the sounds of combat behind him and slipped quietly through the door. The building was deserted. Re-emerging, he saw that Robin had tied his man securely and was helping Cal and Bull, neither of whom seemed under pressure. Swiftly, he looked around, identifying the mansion’s entrance as the only other possible source of danger. He ran around the courtyard, keeping out of the direct line of sight of the open doorway, and sidled along the wall until he could see into the passage beyond. It was clear.

He jumped through the doorway and listened intently in the pale light of a few tallow torches. There was nothing to hear or sense. When he turned back to the others, two of the guards lay bleeding their last on the slick cobbles and Robin was menacing his prisoner, trying to make the demon tell him if there was anyone else inside.

The guard stayed defiantly silent, staring at Robin through pale, slitted eyes until Bull came up behind him and casually sliced off an ear lobe. The demon’s agonized shriek echoed around the courtyard.

“Where’s the Count?” repeated Robin.

“Gone,” rasped the demon, blood streaming down his neck.
“Gone where?” yelled Robin.

Bull laid his dagger beneath the guard’s other ear and the demon flinched, sweat beading his face. “They’ve gone to Kymer,” he spat. “They left two weeks ago.”
Robin and Bull stared at each other.

“Kymer?” said the Captain. “That’s Rykan’s province.” He turned back to the guard and shook him roughly. “Are you telling me Rykan came back for the council meeting?”

Despite his pain, the guard smiled wolfishly. “He never really left. There was a tasty morsel here he fancied.”

Robin stamped furiously on his arm and the demon grunted in pain.
“I knew we shouldn’t have left her here,” raged Robin. “If Marik’s betrayed her, I’ll slice out his heart. The gods know what’s become of her now. Curse Blaine for recalling us too soon.”

Bull frowned. “Calm down, Robin, getting angry won’t help us. We don’t know this is Marik’s doing. And if Rykan’s that enamored of her, he’s not going to do her any harm.”

They became aware of a rasping sound. It was the demon guard laughing at them as he bled. “No lasting harm?” he wheezed. “She’ll be dead by now if I know my Lord Rykan. He’ll have had what he wanted of her ten times over. There will be no stopping him now.”



King's Champion Excerpt.

Trapped in Andaryon and slowly dying, Major Sullyan is determined to find some purpose in the shattered remains of her life...

Branches whipped past Rienne’s face as she clung to the horse’s neck. The darkness and the wind of their speed were unremitting. Horse sweat slicked her fingers. Her arms and legs ached fiercely with the effort of staying on the galloping beast, and neither the wiry arms circling her waist nor the unfamiliar chest pressed into her back were helping. She wasn’t used to riding this fast and certainly not riding double.

A quick glance to her left showed Cal, his horse weaving its own hectic path through the trees. Taran should be just behind him, Robin and Bull even further back. At least she hoped they were there. She couldn’t hear them, couldn’t hear anything above the rasping breath of her horse and the rough slap of branches. She felt rather than heard the pounding hoof beats as they jarred up through her thighs and into her protesting back.

Would this ride never end?

Her laboring horse kept trying to slow, but the thin man seated behind her repeatedly dug his heels into its lathered flanks. Rienne heard the poor beast grunt as it plunged on through the trees. She grimaced in sympathy. How much more could it take? Neither she nor the Count were heavy, but even the stoutest horse would struggle to maintain this pace while carrying two riders. Rienne didn’t like to think what might happen if it foundered.

How long had it been since she, Count Marik, and Robin had brought the gravely injured and unconscious Major Sullyan out of those dreadful dungeons? How long since they had fled Rykan’s palace and the patrols sent to hunt them? Rienne shuddered, trying not to think of Sullyan’s unresponsive face as Robin took her onto his horse. Marik had kicked their shared mount ahead of Robin, desperate to lead them far away from Rykan’s palace. As she passed him, Rienne saw tears glistening in Robin’s indigo eyes. Since then, she hadn’t had an opportunity to gauge the Major’s condition. Was she still alive or had she, as Rienne privately feared, already died? Her injuries were severe; this wild, panic-stricken flight through an unfamiliar forest might be one ordeal too many.
#
Sullyan removed her cloak and jacket, handing them to Robin. Ky-shan’s eyes widened when he saw her rank insignia and battle honors, and wariness showed on his face. He waved his men back to the walls of the compound to make space for the fight. This hid them from the soldiers outside, and Sullyan noticed Robin eyeing the Guardsmen. He would be wondering how long it would be before news of the duel reached the Hierarch. Sullyan could hardly deny inciting Ky-shan. Knowing Robin trusted her, she pushed the thought to the back of her mind, waving him to a position not far from the compound entrance.

As she drew her sword, Ky-shan positioned himself across from her, his heavier blade already balanced in his right hand. Poised on the balls of his feet, he looked angry and dangerous. Sullyan chose a double-handed grip. It wasn’t her usual style, but when the pirate attacked with no warning, she was glad she had. She blocked the mighty swipe and let Ky-shan’s blade shiver off hers, the two-handed grip giving her stability against his heavier weapon.

He came back at her at once, and she allowed him to make contact with her sword, jumping away without striking back. She would test his skill and strength and let him spend the first flush of his anger. Moving easily around the space, giving ground as necessary, she made him do all the work. Yet he was not without subtlety and soon realized what she was doing. After a few testing passes which she parried cleanly, she saw him begin to re-evaluate her. She gave him her full attention, anticipating the real start to their duel.

The pirate lunged at her and she switched to a single, left-handed grip, parrying his thrust and following up with a lunge of her own. The very tip of her sword parted the sleeve on his right arm and she saw a thin trace of blood follow the blade.
His men saw it too and erupted, roaring their anger. It was only a flesh wound and could hardly have stung, but seeing first blood go to her refueled Ky-shan’s rage. He bellowed and pressed her with a flurry of furious strokes. Sullyan parried smoothly, forcing him to circle, trying to tire him out. Where she could, she sidestepped his lunges, letting him spend his strength on empty air, and then followed up with a lightning-fast attack of her own.

Ky-shan’s was the stronger weapon, but it was heavier and slower. His thick, meaty fingers weren’t as flexible as Sullyan’s and his control over his blade not as sure. His was a slashing weapon and his style reflected this, more suited to shipboard skirmishes than the finer art of dueling. Soon he began to tire, his breath coming in gasps. She guessed that her level of expertise had both surprised and infuriated him. Sustaining his anger was sapping his strength. As he fought, he gave a series of grunts and cries, whereas Sullyan fought in silence, only exhaling hard during a particularly vicious cut.

His men were jeering her, yelling encouragement to their leader. Ky-shan altered his tactics and advanced hard on her, attacking with a series of cross-body strokes so powerful they turned his torso from side to side. Each slash was punctuated by a heavy grunt. Sullyan blocked, backing away before him, his men parting to give her room. She was still using a left-handed grip and Ky-shan had the measure of that now, compensating well for the unusual angle of her blade. He was grinning. She moved sideways, parrying awkwardly, sliding away when she could. Ky-shan pursued her relentlessly, pressing home his advantage. His men roared and he swung his sword round to attack her unprotected right side.
Flicking her sword into her other hand, she ducked his violent swing, thrusting swiftly at his completely undefended left flank. Her blade opened a long, bloody cut down his side.

Ky-shan staggered, gasping in pain. As his men swayed forward, yelling their anger, Sullyan pursued him across the courtyard, opening two more superficial cuts before he recovered his balance. Enraged beyond thought now and egged on by his band, Ky-shan chased her back, beating down on her sword, raining blows as fast as he could. He drove her backward on the icy ground where the footing was treacherous, pressing her so fast that suddenly—she went down. With a roar of triumph echoed by his furious men, Ky-shan raised his blade.

#
At the base of a small hill, twenty men crouched in the trees. Their leader gestured and three of them followed him as he began a slow, stealthy upward creep. All had knives in their hands.

On reaching the crest of the hill, they saw a group of four Albians oblivious to their surroundings and totally engrossed in the drama below. The one woman in the group had both hands tightly clenched and pressed to her mouth, the pressure of her huge companion’s arms around her waist unheeded as she stared with blank eyes. Two younger men—one of them the target—stood apart from the other two, closer to the trees. They were far enough away that the man and the woman couldn’t directly see them.

Silently, the leader indicated the two men. His three followers nodded. The Albians had heard nothing and remained ignorant of the danger behind them.
Taran’s sight faded to black as the spellsilver knife pressed in below his ear, shutting off every sense he possessed. Shocked and frightened, he tried to cry a warning to Cal or Bull, but a hand clamped painfully over his mouth, making speech impossible. Weakened, sickened by the spellsilver’s touch, he felt himself being hustled backward into the trees.

“The General wants a word with you,” growled a threatening voice in his ear.
The words sounded oddly muffled, and all he could see were vague, dark shapes. Coldly fearful, he could do nothing as his captors wrestled him away, leaving his companions oblivious on the hill.



King's Artesan Excerpt.

Robin Tamsen sets out on a desperate quest. The race for the Staff has begun ...

With a savage cut to the throat, Robin dispatched his opponent and drew a breath, using the brief lull to glance around him. He was pleased with the progress they were making, but could not understand what had happened to Parren. He and Parren were supposed to be supporting each other, driving Sonten’s forces away from the village and out into the marshy ground around the pond, yet Robin’s command were doing all the work themselves. There was no sign of Parren.

A sudden commotion to his left caused Robin to spin round. With relief, he saw the remnants of Baily’s command come pouring down through the houses to engage Sonten’s flank. This gave him respite to try to locate either Parren or Vanyr. He could see neither man, but what he did see, to his dismay, was the unmistakable shimmer of a trans-Veil portway. Limned against it like a blue halo was a tall figure wielding what could only be the Staff.

Robin went cold. Summoning his strength, he yelled, “Torman!” There was an answering shout from somewhere in front of him. Abandoning caution, Robin linked with Vanyr.

Sonten’s man is opening a tunnel. He’s got the Staff and he’s getting away!
Vanyr’s response was tight with strain. Don’t worry, I’m on him. If he tries to use the tunnel, we’ll follow, but it’s not ready yet.

Reassured that Vanyr had the situation covered, Robin again scanned the mêlée for Parren. There was still no sign of him, but in the slowly growing light Robin could just make out some of his men outside the tavern. Before he could wonder what the sallow captain was doing back there, an Andaryan swordsman aimed a lunge at Robin’s chest. Whirling, he deflected the stroke, his blade ringing on his opponent’s as he sidestepped, avoiding the backslash. There were more Andaryans facing his command now as those from the eastern end were rallying the ones surrounding Sonten. The battle was turning desperate.

#
Vanyr knew he was gaining on the General. He also realized that Heron was not fully in control of the portway. He could feel its instability through the element of Earth from which it was formed. Casting aside thoughts of his own safety, he had eyes only for the two fleeing men and the artifact they carried. As he ran, he tried reaching out with his own metaforce, wondering if he could disrupt Heron’s concentration. If he could wrest control of the Staff from Heron, he might be able to seal the end of the tunnel, trapping Sonten inside. He was aware that Heron was metaphysically stronger than him, but Sullyan’s words concerning his ranking five days ago had given him new confidence.

Exerting his will, Vanyr latched on to the strange signature of the Staff. He could now feel Heron’s pattern of psyche and sense how tenuous his grip on the Staff was. Ignoring the weird sensations the Staff sent crawling through his body, Vanyr succeeded in severing Heron’s connection to the weapon. Triumphant, he saw the enemy commander stumble and then glance fearfully over his shoulder.

Vanyr grinned, but his triumph faded as a strange and ominous rumbling came from behind him. Glancing over his own shoulder, he frowned at the eerie ripples advancing toward him, warping the air. The figures of men seemed to bleed, their shapes flowing like muddy water. Sound warped too, the cries and screams of men swelling and ebbing in his ears. He felt sick.

He grabbed for the substrate, trying to control the strangely fluctuating power. Before he could act, a shockwave barreled into him. The sound of a thousand souls screaming in agony whipped Vanyr around like fluff in a gale, making him gasp in pain. He stared, helpless, as the weirdly augmented scream rebounded wildly through the tunnel, blasting over Sonten and his fleeing men. Vanyr’s eyes widened in horror as the tunnel wavered on the verge of collapse.

He shielded instinctively, turning to yell furiously over his shoulder at Ky-shan and the seamen. “Cover your ears! The tunnel’s collapsing! Go back! GET OUT!”

Without waiting to see if they obeyed him, he plunged his metasenses into the Staff, grasping at the vat of power with no restraint. He took a deep breath, for the ripples of the shockwave had reached the far end and were racing back toward him with mindless fury. He saw Sonten and Heron fall, both men crumpling like slaughtered deer. Clapping his hands over his ears as the wave raced over him, Vanyr fell to his knees. His body was blasted and shaken like a rag, yet his mind clamped desperately over the tunnel’s structure as it shuddered around him, threatening to fall apart. It ripped at his senses and he screamed, fighting to hold it together. The sound wave bounced back once more, punching him flat to the ground, searing his nerves and burning them raw. In anguish, he called upon the power of the Staff, just enough to direct the tunnel’s opening. He forced himself to crawl forward, desperate to snatch the Staff from Heron’s hand. He had to make it out before the tunnel collapsed completely.

Holding his connection to the Staff was agony. Its power charred his barely shielded mind. Needles of hot pain lanced into his eyes and boiling liquid spilled down his face, making him shriek. On hands and knees, he blindly forced himself forward, pace by tortured pace, crying with pain as he grimly held on to the tunnel.

One thought kept him going, distracted him from his agony. It was the image of Sullyan fighting for Bull’s life as the big man lay unresponsive after his heart seizure. She would never have given up on him, and Vanyr knew he could not give up now. Everything she had suffered—at Rykan’s palace, in the arena, and then to save her friends—could not be wasted. Without the Staff, she stood no chance of life.

Vanyr could not let her down. Setting his teeth in a rictus of urgency, he clamped his mind around the disintegrating tunnel.

He had no idea if anyone else was left in the structure. He had no thoughts, no time to speculate, no capacity for anything but this bitter battle for survival. He felt it like a sword in his back when the Albian end of the tunnel fractured, broke, and collapsed. He shrieked aloud as it raced up behind him, tumbling and buffeting his body as it imploded, shattering all around him.
#
Robin composed himself to report to General Blaine. He hadn’t intended to put it off this long. He walked away from where the pirates were getting ready to leave, and sat on a pile of rubble. His quest for contact got the General’s attention immediately, and he ran through the events leading up to his arrival in Hyecombe succinctly. Blaine heard it all without comment. Then Robin described the battle for the Staff. He managed to keep his emotions at bay until he reached the part where the tunnel collapsed. He got as far as describing the Andaryan General’s desperate scramble through the structure and Vanyr’s heroic pursuit. When he tried to continue, however, he choked.

There was a short silence before the General asked, What became of them, Captain? Do you have the artifact?

Shame and sorrow colored Robin’s tone. I’m afraid not, sir. They were all inside when the tunnel collapsed. It would have killed them, sir. I think the Staff is lost.
Lost? Do you mean permanently?

I don’t know, sir. I searched, but I couldn’t find any trace of Sonten, his Artesan, or Vanyr. If they were trapped inside the tunnel when it blew, as I’m sure they were, then it’s gone for good.




Reader Reviews for the Artesans series:
"Better than A Game of Thrones" - SCIFI, Amazon reviewer.  
"Most impressive. Fantastic series ... don't miss it!" - K S, Amazon Vine Voice and Top 1000 Reviewer
"A must-read for fantasy fans" CR, Blogger and Amazon reviewer
"5 stars, but deserves so much more" AA, Amazon reviewer
"Splendidly written in a wonderful voice" RM, Author and Amazon reviewer
"One of the best fantasy books I've ever read" DC, Author and Amazon reviewer

Cas lives in the lovely county of Hampshire, southern UK, where she was born. On leaving school she trained for two years before qualifying as horse-riding instructor. During this time she also learned to carriage-drive. She spent thirteen years in the British Civil Service before moving to Rome, Italy, where she and her husband, Dave, lived for three years. They enjoy returning whenever they can. Cas supports many animal charities and owns two rescue dogs. She also loves to sing and is currently writing and recording nine folk-style songs to accompany each of her fantasy books. You can download all the songs from her website: www.caspeace.com
See the video of her performing live at the King’s Envoy book launch here:
http://www.caspeace.com/cas-peace/the-wheel-will-turn
Find out more at her website: www.caspeace.com

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And here’s the series trailer on YouTube: