Let’s Talk About Fantasy

My writing career started with Sedition, a fantasy novel about a pair of brothers trying to Sedition-WEBrescue their mother. The book went through several revisions – and so many titles it hurts my head to think about  – but in January of 2011 its story line was set in stone.

(Mostly because the publishing house would have smacked me if I tried altering anything after the Galley Proofs were done.) 

When I first started writing it, I was doing it for fun. I enjoyed stories and wanted to tell one, so I started writing snippets on 3×5 cards that I carried with me wherever I went.

Fans of the novel might be surprised to learn that Trenna Croften was not the original hero. In fact, the book began with Brigetta Isleen Chridhe – the woman magically abducted from home and dropped in the middle of a political war between a King and his sons.

I learned about Kiavana – the kingdom where the first book takes place – through Brigetta because she was just as new to the stage as I was. At the time I knew very little about writing, so I stumbled through the countryside right along with Brigetta, encountering senile knights who continually “squired” whoever happened to be the most helpful, and a prince who hid his motivations under a veneer of disinterest and materialism.

As I began to uncover the secrets of the world I was creating, Trenna Croften emerged. In fact, her first appearance was the scene where she interrupted an assassination attempt on the eldest prince. When she asked if assassins were paid well, she made me laugh, and essentially stole the book from there.

Saboteur-WEBOr… well… a whole series, as it turns out.

Saboteur, the sequel to Sedition, was released in January of 2012 and in February we will see Usurper make its way onto virtual shelves.

While Brigetta may have been reduced to a minor character in the original novel, I’m happy to report that she has a much larger role in Usurper. I had thought that writing her would be easy since I knew so much about her origins, but as it turns out I was wrong.

For the timeline of the novels, it has been over 20 years since we last saw Brigetta and she has undergone quite a few changes. She’s a Blood Mage, for one, and for another… she married an assassin. (Because apparently I can’t get away from assassins in these novels.) Her voice is different because she has changed as a character, so I had to re-learn who she was in order to portray her correctly.

Now, I recognize that it has been many years since Saboteur was released and I do UC front cover-sample-2apologize for that. Usurper was a joy to write, it truly was. But between school and being a full-time single-parent and working full-time and… ahem… my other novels (Is it weird I feel like I cheated by writing all that science fiction in the interim?)… I just didn’t have enough time to do it all.

I should take this moment to mention that there is at least one other book – Warpath – that I am constructing. It isn’t on the list for this year, but will be next year. The good news is that much of Warpath is already done because part of my problem with Usurper was that I was trying to pack two books into one.

 

 

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Camp NaNoWriMo – July 2017

Camp-2017-Winner-Profile-PhotoThis year for Camp NaNoWriMo I chose to focus on revising/rewriting the ending of Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped. I gave myself a modest goal of 30,000 words, which I surpassed.

However, sitting 3 days away from the end of the July I can say that the first week of August will have to deal with the last chapter or so of the book. Even if I could ignore the fact that I’m a parent and let my child live off Ramen noodles and chocolate donuts, I’m not sure I can write 4 chapters in three days.

Well … maybe I could, but they would be 4 really awful chapters and that would defeat the purpose of revision/rewriting.

So while the word count goal was met, the overall goal of revising the entire novel was not. I still verified my word count and earned my little banner and whatnot from Camp NaNoWriMo because I did participate and … rewards are important.

To anyone else who may have participated this month … Congratulations! Whether you met your goal or not, you got words on paper and that’s what’s important.

To anyone who is flirting with the idea of participating in one of these … I hope you do. I can encourage you to check out NaNoWriMo in November because that’s the big one everyone participates in. And yes, I’ll be there again in November, tackling a completely different project.

For now, however, I have 4 chapters to complete on Dead Weight, new words to write on Song of Swans, and Trenna fans will be pleased to know that the editor got back to me on Usurper so I am knee deep in revisions there as well.

Usurper is scheduled for release in February 2018 and will be available in all digital forms as well as paperback. It is the third installment of the Sedition series featuring Trenna and her husband Nelek as they battle through politics, magic, war, and perhaps the most frightening of all; family.

Since Usurper is put out by Wings ePress, it’s all on the publisher’s schedule and more information will be relayed as it comes to me.

 

Cork-Board Mayhem & Camp NaNoWriMo

Well! It’s more than halfway through the year and I am nowhere near where I wanted to be in terms of deadlines. So! I got to rearrange my cork-board and took a great deal of time deciding what project was going to come after Persona  — because yes, I am still working on that one.

The re-writes for Persona’s ending have been challenging. I am stepping outside of my comfort zone and delving into far darker territory than I am used to. However, in reviewing the outlines and watching it progress I can honestly say it is a far better book now (even in its incomplete form) than it was when I started.

Because the mood has been so dark, I have been working on Usurper on the side. Trenna and company always tend to make me laugh, so it’s been a nice counter-balance. That said, with Camp NaNoWriMo having officially started, I’ve decided to use the month of July and the Camp as a means to try and push Persona over the finish line.

This means my cork-board has to be re-arranged and Usurper will be left to the side until August. I only have a little left on Usurper anyway, so this should work out just fine.

Fun things!

Super fun things!

For the first time ever, I’m going to submit one of my novels into the Epic Award Contest. I might actually submit both Deviation and Tapped, since you’re apparently allowed to do that. We’ll see, though.

And now … in celebration of the 4th of July … Here’s some free content straight out of the pages of Usurper …

Brigetta tilted the bowl over with one finger, barely listening to the fight in the corner.  A gooey, glumpy substance filled the bowl, looking oddly doughy.  She wasn’t a cook, but Bree would bet someone had been trying to cook something before they were called away.  By process of elimination, she determined either the General Herself had been attempting the feat, or the woman’s daughter was to blame for the culinary catastrophe before her.

A body crashed into the table, sending it scooting across the room toward the open hearth.  Bree had just enough time to withdraw her hand before Faxon threw two blades at the ill-fated Eldur man.  An instant later she heard the small daggers hit their marks and suppressed a shudder.  The meaty, visceral sound of a blade sinking into skin wasn’t something she thought she could ever get used to.

The Eldur blood in the air was a welcome distraction.  She felt the slowly dying beats of their assailants heart strum against her skin as magic was released from the man.  Like glistening sand in the sun it hovered in the air, waiting.  Magic knew what she could do with it, that it had been summoned for a purpose, she only needed to give it the command.  What she was about to do, however, was far more dangerous than she cared to admit.

Faxon moved to retrieve his blades, nodding to her as he crossed the room. “Now or never, Bree.”

Sighing, she closed her eyes and focused.  With one hand she beckoned the magic closer, pulling it toward her face, toward her eyes.  Reciting the commands first in her mind and then out loud, Brigetta automatically translated the language inherent to all Eldur.  The language of the high born nobles, whose bloodlines traced back to the first Eldur King; a language seldom taught anymore; the gremoth.  Many of the high born knew of it, but not how to speak it.  Only the Blood Mages had kept it intact, guarding the words in a jealous attempt to maintain some sort of power in Dyngannon.

“Caraloomessa act all et teh,” Bree repeated, wafting the magic still closer.

Warm light filtered past her eyelids, an odd tickling sensation running over her eyelashes, and then she traded her sight for the vision of a low-flying hawk.  Magic itself picked which hawk.  The odd twist to Blood Magic was that it often had its own ideas of what should be done.  The magic in use only knew she’d wanted something in the air, something close by that could give her a clear view of the island, and it had accepted the price of her own vision for a time.

The only problem was that she wasn’t certain how long magic would keep her eyesight.  She could be rendered blind for months if it so chose.

Shoving that worry firmly aside, Brigetta concentrated on the hawk’s vantage.  It wasn’t far from the little cabin they were standing in, flying disconcertingly close to the treetops.  Bree wavered and reached out for something to steady herself on.  Faxon’s hand clasped her own and she felt him step closer.  His body heat warmed her left side and she tried to relax.

Because she had only traded sight, the vision came with no sound.  This made things even more disorienting, since she could still hear everything in the room, to include Faxon’s quiet breathing.  Exhaling, Brigetta battled the weird sense of vertigo and focused more.

The bird turned in a wide circle, scanning the forest floor in search of food.  Unfortunately for the hawk, its hunting grounds were being intruded upon.  Bree counted Kaden, the Duke, the General, the Human boy named Troy and the reckless girl who had been in the tavern.  The five of them were moving steadily toward the clearing that held their cabin, which confirmed for Brigetta that she’d chosen the right place.

Happy Holidays – Round Robin

The assignment for this month’s Round Robin Blog Hop was to give something special to our readers writing-wise. And after much deliberation I opted to take a piece of Usurper and post it up here. I’ve given snippets and such before, but nothing of this length and it is designed for all the Trenna fans out there.

Fans of the Sedition series have been stuck waiting for Usurper’s release (which will definitely be in 2015 once I’ve gotten the edits complete) so I decided this was the best gift I could give.

Thank you to everyone who has braved the inner workings of my rather fantastical mind and read my books. You’re all awesome. Happy Holidays, however you celebrate them.

Usurper 

“I kissed Evaliana.” Troy let the statement fall between them and tried not to cringe.

The memory of the heated kiss intruded on him, his body suddenly torn between an aching desire to go find the woman again and the anticipation of violence from the man before him. He fully expected Kaden Dyngannon to fight him over the infraction; one did not kiss Evaliana without her brother taking offense, so Troy had prepared himself for this moment.

Under normal circumstances Troy would have argued that who Liana decided to kiss was her own business, the young woman was far too independent to appreciate the protective nature of her older brother. But because Kaden was his closest and dearest friend, Troy had felt the need to confess.

That and he wanted to do it again.

His fingers could still feel the slight curve of her waist and his mind was suddenly overwhelmed with the taste of her.

“Oh?” Kaden tossed an empty net onto the deck of the ship. “Did she kiss you back?”

The question brought Troy back to the moment. “I beg pardon?”

Kaden chuckled and started spreading the net out, inspecting for holes and the like without looking up at him. “I asked if she kissed you back.”

“You’re not going to hit me?”

“Not unless you want me to.” Kaden laughed, brighter this time and Troy started to relax.

Cautiously, still puzzled at the lack of violence, Troy began to help with tending the net. Their little fishing boat swayed under the light rock of ocean waves, but both men were accustomed to the constant movement. Metallic silver streaks meshed into the otherwise black hair prominent in his friend, a trait that might have looked abnormal were it not for Kaden’s long, pointed ears. Troy kept Kaden in his peripheral vision as his fingers started searching the net for weak spots, but Kaden’s lean, tall form was relaxed, his thin mouth quirked up into a half-smile.

“You’ve throttled every other man who’s gotten close to Liana before.” Troy found a thin bit of rope and reached for the mending kit beside them.

“Bah. They were all dogs. And most of them wanted far more than a kiss.”

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want more.”

Kaden stopped what he was doing to look at him, “Just how much more?”

And there was the violence he’d been expecting, sudden and fierce, held under tight control. Troy met his friend’s deep green eyes and fought down his momentary terror. He wasn’t afraid to fight Kaden – he might even win if he tried hard enough – but the repercussions could be devastating. Boyhood friends, damn close to brothers were it not for the difference in races; Kaden was undeniably Eldur and Troy was Human. Regardless, they had a bond. A bond that went deep and could never be replaced.

“Gods honest truth, Kaden, I’d marry the woman if she’d let me.”

All at once Kaden relaxed and gave him a charismatic grin. “I thought so.”

“You’ve been expecting this?”

Kaden nodded and continued his inspection. The man couldn’t simply hold a conversation, he had to keep moving, to divide his focus, which normally didn’t bother Troy but today they were talking about Liana and hopefully a long courtship leading to a possible marriage. Now that he thought about it, this particular conversation probably shouldn’t have been done on the deck of the Bitter Croften with a bucket full of fish guts an arm’s length away.

“The two of you have been dancing around this romance for years now,” Kaden stood and stretched. “A little advice, though?”

Troy finished with the net and followed his friend to his feet, “Of course.”

“Mother won’t mind the kissing but don’t mention it to Da.” Kaden smirked and squinted up at a low-flying gull. “Liana’s his gem and all, you know? He won’t like it.”

Troy glanced out at the harbor where Nelek Dyngannon was headed their direction. “Do you think he’ll hit me?”

With a laugh and a wink, Kaden scooped up the mended net and tossed it onto the growing pile near the center mast. “He might.”

The older Eldur man paused his progression over the harbor to make some laughing conversation with a fellow fisherman. For a moment Troy was transfixed by the blatant differences between Eldur and Human. Nelek Dyngannon was over twice Troy’s age – a ripe twenty-three years – but the blessing of Eldur longevity seemed to tease around Nelek’s person. He was a well-formed man, trimmed with the daily sword practices he demanded of his children; which on most days included Troy.

More often than not, Nelek wore some form of hat or bandana to cover his long, pointed ears. Troy had come to understand it as a matter of safety rather than shame. Many of the Humans on Vakeshmeer Island were friendly with the Dyngannon family in spite of the fact that they were Eldur, but there were a select few who were not. Hiding their ears put the Humans at ease, which lessened the chance of confrontation. At present, Troy noted the beige swatch of cloth tied around Nelek’s head and frowned.

It seemed unfair that the Eldur would need to hide at all.

Evaliana rarely did so. Troy had to fight back another memory as the girl’s father approached. There was something distinctly wrong in thinking about her mouth; sweet and warm and supple under his own, when Nelek was so close. Troy had lived among the Eldur long enough to know that they couldn’t read minds, but both Kaden and Nelek were all too keen on interpreting facial expressions.

“Hello, boys,” Nelek stopped just short of the boat and inspected the deck. “Are we ready for tomorrow?”

“Ready and clear, Pops,” Kaden made a limber jump from the boat to the harbor.

“Excellent.” Nelek paused to consider Troy, one dark eyebrow quirking upward. “You look like I just caught you with your hand in the honey pot, Troy’vest Mavon.”

Kaden’s laugh bellowed over the harbor, which made Troy squirm all the more. Nelek glanced between them and Troy could see further suspicion climbing into the man’s face. Before another question could be raised, Troy leapt from the boat and to the harbor. A hard knot of fear clenched in Troy’s gut for a disconcerting moment, but another form jogged up to them and Nelek was distracted.

“Oy, glad I caught ye.” The familiar, grungy presence of Sessmess Kuhl, Harbormaster, managed to help Troy relax, “Thought as ye might like to know that some newcomer’s asking about yer boy.”

“Newcomer?” Nelek frowned.

“Cesper Villant brought in a boat load of visitors from the mainland.” Sessmess nodded his balding head toward the Big Hearth Tavern and Inn. The building commanded the western side of Harbor Street, its girth expanding out in a massive circle. “Rumor has it there’s just one asking. Male. One of those sorts as you wouldn’t let near your daughter at midday in public, ye know?”

“Human?”

“Aye, but I cannot be sure on his companion. She’s a pretty one but her hood’s stayed up since her arrival.” Sessmess shuddered and wiped the sweat off the back of his neck, “Wouldn’t be surprised if she were Eldur, though. There’s something queer about her.”

“Thank you, Master Kuhl.” Nelek slipped a few coins to the Harbormaster, who grinned his semi-toothless appreciation before moving off.

Troy ran his tongue over his teeth, involuntarily checking to make sure they were still in place. It was rude to think it but, good gods; he prayed he kept his teeth longer than that poor soul. Watching Sessmess’s retreating back, Troy suppressed a shiver and tried to wrap his mind around the information. When he looked back to Nelek and Kaden, the father and son had identical, grim expressions and Troy caught on to the trouble.

“You don’t think this could be that Blood Mage, do you?”

Kaden looked to his father and shrugged.

Nelek squinted at the Inn, his mouth making a firm, straight line across his face. “No, this couldn’t be Noffi.”

“How do you know?”

“Because Noffi was gods-awful ugly,” Nelek smirked at him. “Not a soul alive would have called her pretty. Her teeth alone could frighten children.”

“What is wrong with her teeth?” Kaden perked with interest.

Nelek motioned to his mouth, “They’re pointed.”

“What? All of them?” Troy wrinkled his nose in distaste.

“Hurt like hell when she bit you, too.”

“Ugh. Why did she bite you?” Troy gave the Inn a furtive glance.

“Blood Magic,” Nelek gripped Kaden’s shoulder. “Eldur have to bleed in order for a mage to be useful.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“Shall we go see who they are?” Nelek grinned and waggled his eyebrows. “Hate to have them come all this way for nothing.”

—-

The Blog Hop Continues!

Ginger Simpson http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Rachael Kosnski http://the-doodling-booktease.tumblr.com/
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.webs.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/
Lynn Crain  http://www.awriterinvienna.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

Connie Vines connievines.blogspot.com

Usurper Update

A lot of people have been asking me about Usurper lately. Which, let’s be honest, makes me happy since it means everyone really, really likes Trenna’s stories and wants to see what happens next.

So! For this week’s post I’m going to go ahead and give an update on where I am and … because everyone has been so very patient … I’ll include a snippet at the end.

I am right at the end of Usurper. And I do mean right at the end.

All the pieces are in place. All the characters have made it to their destinations and are gearing up for the final battle. All I need to do now is finish that final battle. But battle scenes take the longest for me to write.

They’re also my favorite bits to write, but they still take the longest because it’s hard to bring clarity in the middle of swords clashing, people screaming, and wounds being inflicted. Every character has a different set of motivations that become all the clearer amidst bloodshed — remember the end of Sedition?

I will have Usurper’s draft completed by the end of April. It will go in to my publisher/editor people on May 1st. After that, we’ll be waiting on the publisher and all that jazz, but this publisher tends to be very quick about getting things done so … Yes, you will (should, most probably) have Usurper in your hot little hands before 2015.

But I should warn you … there’s a lot of action in this one. Trenna’s back at her prime and getting her hands dirty.

Well … see for yourself … (Please remember, this has not been edited yet. Any and all grammatical errors are the hazards of the craft.)

She spotted the assassin first. Sitting at the table nearest to the hearth, Faxon Mylonas was profile to her, looking almost exactly as he had twenty-odd years prior. Trenna felt real fear curl in her gut at the sight of her son and husband sitting near the man, but her anger overtook that emotion when she spotted Troy. Trapped between the assassin and a woman whose occupation could only be that of a Blood Mage, Troy’s eyes were puffed and swelling and he was holding a bloodied handkerchief to his face.

Liana was moving before Trenna could stop the girl. She saw Faxon tense and knew he was preparing for Liana’s advance.

“Big T, thank gods,” Barmy stood from his stool. “I tried to warn them …”

“Thank you, Mister Friggs. May I borrow your stool?”

“My stool?” Barmy’s face creased in puzzlement.

Liana drew her cutlass, which sent a hiss of alarm through the already tensed room.

“Well, yes, I suppose …” Barmy stopped when he spotted Liana’s advance, gasping with further horror.

“Thank you.” Trenna grabbed the stool and started forward. She waited until Faxon stood, until he had his full focus on intercepting Liana, before she flung the chair over her shoulder with all her might.

It struck the Blood Mage on the side of her head, startling everyone at the table. Trenna took her advantage and rushed forward. The red-headed Mage fell against the table, dazed enough that she wasn’t prepared for Trenna’s second assault. She got to the table before the mage could find her wits, grabbed a fistful of spiky red hair and slammed the woman’s head into the hard, pitted surface.

With the flick of her wrist, Trenna snagged the dagger from her belt loop and held it to the unconscious woman’s throat in clear warning.

Faxon didn’t move. Whatever attack he’d planned against Liana had ceased and his wild, golden eyes fastened on Trenna. Nelek, Kaden and Troy had moved during the attack. Nelek stood with the boys flanking him, not entirely out of harm’s way, but at least they’d have a sporting chance now. Liana’s advance had been stalled as well. Trenna saw her slide toward Troy.

“Hello, Trenna.” Faxon still didn’t move. “Nice to see you haven’t lost your civilized touch.”

(And to answer … yes, I mean the Faxon you met in Sedition.)