My fantasy book is set for release on June 4th and is currently open for pre-order!
Read more and enter my giveaway to win a copy and a Laceria prize bundle! Ends May 31st

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Of Ash And Dew - Eight

   Mítrei felt silly. She understood that 'civilised' folk liked their excessive decency, but she saw no purpose at all in the skirts that she and the women around her in Dumas's market were wearing. She couldn't break into a sprint if she needed to - she could barely even hurry anywhere - and if she had to climb over something she would be quite stuck.
   The men all wore seamed legs, and she couldn't work out where the decision to divide such clothing between genders had come from.
   But she had no right to complain. It was either a skirt or damp skins, and she didn't want to stand out any further than her white hair already allowed, so she wore what Edwin had given her.
   But despite her discomfort, she couldn't help being overwhelmed by the bustle of the market. It was incredibly busy to the point of being unable to move, regardless of ridiculous long skirts that tried to trip her every step, and as she looked around at the nameless, faceless mass of people, she wondered just how she had any chance of recovering the amulet - if it was even here.
   She decided after a deep breath to check the stalls first and see if she could spot it amongst merchants' wares, but that proved quite hopeless. She turned her focus then onto voices, trying to pick out any useful words during haggling conversations and louder peddling cries, but there was too much to make any sense of.
   She had no choice but to ask around.
   People looked at her warily as she stopped at stalls or tried for the attention of merchants, and all seemed anxious for what she might do. But rather than ignore her or shoo her away as she feared, they answered her questions readily, either none too concerned she would truly cause any trouble by herself, or perhaps too frightened to risk it. But none were able to help, and a few seemed more than a little regretful at that fact.
   After an hour of searching around the market three times and receiving eventually suspicious looks, she began to realise with a heavy heart that the amulet simply wasn't there. She'd genuinely - foolishly - believed she would find it, but Dumas was only a suggestion made by someone who couldn't possibly know for certain. It had still been her best lead - without it she wouldn't have known where to turn at all - but that only made the matter worse. It had been her best lead, and it had turned up nothing.
   She felt hopelessness begin to creep up into her heart, but she pushed it aside. There were other markets, and it was also possible that the thief hadn't arrived there yet, perhaps he'd hit other places first to build up some kind of stock. She was ashamed at her hope for that. He'd killed her family for one trinket. He would kill others for theirs.
   Anger began to replace her hopelessness and propelled her through the market for a fourth time. Her mind turned inwards to dwell on it, even fuel it, to avoid feeling the shame and despair that would otherwise stand in its place, and so she didn't notice the man until she'd already walked quite aggressively into him.
   "Stupid cow," the man growled, "watch where you're going."
   "Sorry..." Mítrei mumbled, but her eyes were wide and glued onto what was clasped in the man's hand.
   He frowned at her and suddenly began to try to hide the silver, but she only needed one glance to know what it was she was looking at.
   Her heart jumped and her hand moved on its own, lashing out to snatch the amulet away from him as her mind turned white with impulse.
   He recoiled, of course, and growled at her, calling her a thief, and only then did her eyes rise to his. But this was no man who had purchased what he thought were honest goods. There was a darkness to his eyes and an aggression to the snarl on his lips that suggested he would fight harder than most to keep his possessions, perhaps because he had done so to obtain them in the first place.
   The market, she realised, had gone quiet, and though all eyes were on the two of them, her hand still switched towards her dagger. 'I'm sorry, Edwin.' She had no choice.
   And yet even as she gripped the hilt of her dagger, she didn't act. There was a voice of doubt in her mind - a very small voice - but they weren't words against action that stayed her hand, but of self-preservation.
   He stared at her as she weighed her options, but his dark snarl turned to a smirk, and he laughed.
   Her eyes flashed and a roar ripped free from her throat before she could stop it, and she found herself lunging towards him as fury overrode all of her senses. No one else moved - perhaps they believed it to be a tribal issue, or maybe this detachment was normal, or her presence alone had upset things. It didn't matter. Had she noticed, she'd have been pleased that no one sought to interfere.
   But despite her effort, he easily dodged and avoided her careless attack and all those that followed.
   Her mind was empty but for a fire of rage. She'd forgotten all that Tarui had taught her, but she was certain she would hit him. She couldn't miss. She couldn't. Just look at him, smiling in amusement. Did he smile like that when he butchered her family? Did he call them weaklings and vermin like he was doing to her as he side stepped and parried her clumsy blows with his own surely bloodied dagger? Did he laugh at them?
   The sickening sound set her hairs on end, her skin crawling, her blood steaming.
   There were voices shouting around her. She barely registered them beyond their impact against her eardrums. They didn't matter. Nothing mattered. She saw nothing and heard nothing but the mocking smile and laughter of the man in front of her.
   Her blade finally struck.
   She cursed.
   It had hit, but it bit deep into his leather vambrace instead.
   She growled. A burning light grew in the distance behind his head, a manifestation of her fury. But, she belatedly realised, his expression had dropped. He was unconcerned by the strike, or by her. It fueled the fire within her when she realised his attention was on the sky rather than on her and his defence.
   But then she heard the shouts, the ones that had been surrounding her throughout her chaotic attack.
   "Dragons!"



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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Of Ash And Dew - Seven

   Mítrei's heavy eyes opened to blurred vision, and two large, green orbs stared back at her as if the eyes of a woodland spirit, filled with a curious innocence that suggested she was the only thing of concern in its present existence. But as she smiled wearily up at it, it gasped and jumped back.
   "Dad!" It shouted as it scrambled away, sending shock through Mítrei's suddenly pounding head, and she found herself lying not in woodland boughs but in a bed - a real bed.
   She pushed herself up and spun around in a panic, tangling herself in the sheets. Not only was she not in the forest, she was not even in any tribal home. There were too many decorative wares with too little meaning - a needlepoint of a field of flowers hanging on the wall, a small trinket box carved with scrolls standing on a chest of drawers, and a cushion set on a chair too small for it to be of any comfortable use, as if the sight of it would be homely enough.
   A girl hurried over to her, one with green eyes, and leaned over the bed to stare closely again, a frown creasing her young brow. "Are you okay, miss?"
   A man hurried in behind her, and though Mítrei sensed no threat from him, the mixture of relief, curiosity and caution in his eyes kept her on edge.
   "I'm fine..." she replied, though she realised she'd rasped the words, and the child handed her a glass of water. She looked at it uncertainly, but she knew water when she saw and smelled it, and she suddenly felt intensely thirsty.
   "Take it slow, miss," the man said softly, stopping beside the girl, and he looked down at her with unchanged eyes.
   She considered him for a moment, then set the glass down. "What happened to me? Why am I here?"
   "I was on my way home from hunting last night when I found you washed up on the riverbank," he replied just as gently. "You must have gotten swept up in the storm. It was quite rough. I brought you back here and Lilian has been watching you all night, though I've told her countless times to go to bed." He shot the child a disapproving look and her little cheeks reddened. Evidently, she thought he hadn't known. He turned his eyes back to Mítrei. "Do you remember what happened to you?"
   Her heart dropped in shame. Yes, she remembered. She'd dared to try to cross an overhang despite it having recently receeded, and it had collapsed beneath her weight. It had been her own foolish fault.
   She smiled briefly and shook her head."I don't." Discomfort crept into her eyes and she glanced towards the door. "Thank you for looking after me last night, but I have no way of thanking you..."
   The middle-aged man raised his hands and shook his head, waving her words away. "We need nothing. But you should be wary. Tribals are not as welcome in Dumas as they used to be."
   So she was already in Dumas. She frowned. "Why not?"
   He mirrored the crease in her brow. "You don't know? I apologise, I thought you were of the water tribes..."
   "I am."
   His frown only deepened. "Then what about the conflict between your people and the fire tribes?"
   "My tribe is small," she explained easily, "uninvolved simply for being out of their reach. But I am aware of it." Realisation suddenly aged her young, tanned face. "It's this close?!"
   The man nodded regretfully. "It's been going on for a month around here. It started as name-calling and arguments between the tribals that frequent the town, then it grew into fist fights, and now it has escalated into organised attacks and we are all caught in the middle." He looked briefly to his daughter, and she returned his gaze with equal weight. "I hear it's worse towards the north and the east, but I fear it's only a matter of time before Dumas goes the same way."
   Mítrei watched him for a long moment. "Then you took a great risk in taking me in."
   He nodded, making no effort to brush over the fact. "I did." He looked back to her and smiled, though the weight in his dark eyes remained, merely masked for perhaps all their sakes. "But you should be well enough to leave. Here." He handed her a bundle of clothes that were folded by the bedside. "Take these, they might help to disguise you in the town."
   Mítrei frowned and looked down at herself, and found her own clothes replaced instead by a simple gown.
   "They were wet," the child informed her.
   "They belonged to my wife."
   "Will she mind?"
   "I can get leathers and skins easily enough; replacing them will be little trouble." He stepped towards the door and urged the girl to follow. "I have to head out; there is food in the next room, please eat your fill before you leave, you'll need your strength. And be careful." The weight returned to his eyes. "If anything happens out there, don't get involved. Keep your head down."
   She nodded in firm understanding. "Thank you so much for your help once again..."
   "Edwin." He smiled. "And you're welcome." He stepped out of the room, the girl followed, and he closed the door behind them to leave her in privacy.
   Mítrei hurried to the window.
   Dumas.
   Was the amulet here?



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Monday, 23 May 2016

Of Ash And Dew - Six

   Mítrei shook despite the blankets wrapped tightly around her, tossing and turning in a feverish sleep, mumbling beneath her breath. As her mind tore through senseless dreams of water shattering against jagged rocks, monsters with foot-long teeth emerging from white foam, fires burning in her chest and deafening roars, the room around her was spitefully still and silent, occupied by a single young girl besides herself who watched her vigilantly.
   Sweat beaded across her forehead and the child was quick to mop it away, and when another mumble left Mítrei's dry lips, she peered closely upon her to see if she was waking. But she was left disappointed once again.
   The door opened quietly behind her and her father stepped inside. He spoke softly, but the girl shook her head, and he turned concerned eyes down at the near-drowned woman. But he didn't stay; after another quiet word to his daughter, the hunter turned and left and the girl shortly followed, sending a hesitant glance back towards her.
   Mítrei heard nothing as the door closed. She was lost to her nightmares, held in the same torturously deep sleep she had been since the hunter had found her, washed up on the nearby river bank. How she was still alive no one could say, but she was surely lucky to have avoided being the eighteenth victim of the storm, just as she was lucky to have not been found by slavers. She would recover. She needed only rest and warmth. But what she would do when she came around was one of the hunter's concerns. It was a risk to take her in at all, but he couldn't leave her out there to die. He could only keep her hidden.



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Friday, 20 May 2016

Of Ash And Dew - Five

   The rain is thundering down, the air is crackling, the sky flashing. It feels as if the Nocol river has been removed from its bed and dropped from above, then collected and dropped once more. I've found shelter beneath an overhang, but I won't be able to linger. It will surely collapse before too long. But I don't wish to step back into the storm until I must; every drop feels like small stones hammering upon your skull.
   It isn't natural.
   Tída has unleashed her fury upon the region. It is true that I crossed the bridge out of water tribe territory yesterday - which was an ordeal in itself, as the old stones came crashing down without warning and I had to scramble to get across before I was dragged into the rushing water below - but I didn't realise it would be so dangerous beyond her protection.
   But even so, this doesn't strike me as the norm. Something has angered her, of that I am certain, but just what, I cannot say.
   I admit that I'm afraid - or, more so than usual. I'm crossing into an area that neither I nor anyone I know has ever been. But I admit that I've put myself into this situation voluntarily. The old man wouldn't help me, but Tarui assured me the one I sought - my family's murderer - wouldn't be far, and I might have some luck if I tried Dumas, the neutral market town nearby. People from tribes and 'civilised' places meet to trade, albeit uneasily, and he suggested that someone may know something there. Perhaps someone overheard something, saw someone, or perhaps the thief even tried to pawn off the necklace there.
   The thought frightens me, but with every passing day I wade deeper into this murky situation, and every forward step makes it harder to turn around.
   I do not want to turn around.
   Unless it was to go back to Tarui and bring him with me. Somehow I feel safe in his company, comfortable. I can fend for myself, but outside of familiar terrain, away from familiar threats, familiar beasts and familiar waters, I find myself suddenly dependent, as if I've become a child once again who needs a mother to hold my hand because I've passed the edge of the garden. I cannot read his mind, but he exudes confidence, even despite the doubts he carries. He seems real, like I can trust his decisions, that they were carefully weighed.
   Which is why I'm out here right now in the middle of this storm. Tída help me, I'm so far out of my depth.
   The overhang is beginning to crumble. I must move. How I wish I was a priestess like my great grandmother, I might be able to save myself. But now all I can do is pray that Tída will notice me down here amongst the trees and not shrug me off as an acceptable loss against whatever has so angered her.
   I will search for a cave. Hopefully I can wait it out. But how long it will last, I don't know. The lightning is close and only growing more furious, the air is shattering beneath the flashes and I can feel it cracking within my ribs.
   But I have no choice. I must take my chances...



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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Archguardians Of Laceria Book Release + Giveaway

   Looks like it's all happening sooner than I thought!
   After two years of writing, 6 months of revision and 5 months of literary agency submissions and subsequent publishing preparation, my debut fantasy book, The Archguardians Of Laceria, is finally set for release. On June 4th, it will be made available for download, and is currently available to pre-order at £4.99/$7.50. It will be exclusively available on Amazon until September, when it will be made available on other platforms. You can find it on Amazon UKAmazon US and similar on other regional Amazon websites.
   Amazon have a free Kindle app for use on PCs, Macs, laptops, smartphones, iPhones, tablets and iPads, and it is easy to download, install and use, and you can purchase Kindle books straight from Amazon to be delivered to your app's location just as you would your Kindle. This means anyone can read it, whether they have an e-reader or not. There's more information on how to download and use this feature at the bottom of this post.


   It is a monarch's task to lead and protect their people, and few take this responsibility as seriously as Queen Rysana Vokun. Since ascending to the throne almost twenty years ago, she has fought a war against violent beasts of stone beneath her people's feet and without their knowledge, holding at bay the aggressors who seek only chaotic destruction.
   But while the gargoyles' predictable attack is usually held off with ease, their recently increasing aggression has given Laceria's five archguardians the push to bring the matter to a swift and final end.

   Queen Rysana, only the latest in the 400 year old line of archguardians, along with the help of three others set out to do just that, but when a storm leads them to discover the gargoyles' true intentions, their plan is tipped upside down.
   As a war of men is waged in her name and a battle between gods overshadows them all, Rysana must descend into the maze of tunnels and caverns that lie beneath Laceria's entirety to save the creatures she sought to destroy if she is to protect her people.

   
   The Archguardians of Laceria is a dark fantasy suitable for readers of 15 up; teens, YA and adults, with magic, royalty, gods and secrets abound, with a couple of dwarves and gargoyles thrown in for good measure. The book is a complete edition rather than being broken down into multiple installments, so it is quite long, but it makes for a deep read, a perfect book for the summer holidays.

   And now for the giveaway! It will run until May 31st and 4 winners will be contacted and announced immediately on June 1st, 4 days before the book's release. It's open worldwide, and all four winners will receive the same goodies:
• an 8x12 copy of the map of Laceria, printed on aged vellum
• a vial of rakikik, either as a necklace or a keychain
• a small jar of Alvetha's jasmine tea
• a sticker featuring the cover of the book
• a copy of the ebook
   The book will be available for pre-order during this time, and for 3 days after the winners have been announced, so if you don't win, you can still pre-order the book and have it ready for download on the release day. All the rules can be found at the bottom of this post.



a Rafflecopter giveaway



Downloading The Kindle App

   You can read Kindle books without a Kindle device using Amazon's free Kindle app. It can be downloaded onto smart phones, tablets, laptops and PCs, and is supported by android, apple, google play and windows.
   Download it for free straight from Amazon either by:
1. Going onto the product page of any Kindle book and clicking 'read with our free app' to the right of the product image.
2. Going onto Amazon, hover over 'department' at the top left, hover over 'Kindle e-readers & books' and then 'free Kindle reading apps' on the right.

   The download is small, quick, and safe as it comes directly from Amazon, not a third party.

   On Kindle ebook product pages it will give you the option to 'buy now', and beneath it 'deliver to: [wherever your app has been installed]'. The book will be available for download as soon as you click 'buy now' and will then be added to your library, accessible right away on your app.
   I made sure to go through the process myself as I don't have a Kindle either, and it's a quick and painless process. So there! You have no reason not to read it!! It's good, I promise!


Giveaway rules: Winners will be chosen at random via the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted via the email address associated with their entries - either their Facebook email, or email address used to sign up. All entries will be checked upon choosing the winners, so false entries, such as 'commenting' without commenting or 'tweeting' without tweeting or deleting the tweet shortly afterwards, will be disqualified, and all other entries from that individual will equally be disregarded. Four winners will be chosen on June 1st and contacted immediately to accept their prize.
Disclaimer: The winner is chosen by myself entirely, and this competition is in no way affiliated with Amazon or Kindle. Prizes are made and supplied by myself, and shipping fees are also covered by myself. The free ebook will be supplied as a unique code to be used on Amazon to claim a free copy. The winner is under no obligation to leave a review for the book on their own blogs or on Amazon.