The Rose Shield – Gannon

rose-shield-gannon

You’ve met a few characters from my WIP, The Rose Shield, which I’m delighted to say is back in play after 6 solid months of editing other books.

This is an intro to Gannon. He’s having a bad day.

Excerpt: The Rose Shield

Gannon woke in a cargo hold, his ankle manacled to an eyebolt in the rocking floor, his body weak as a feathered hatchling. He lay on his back, deep in a ship’s bowels, the vessel a seafaring hulk by the creaking and groaning as it smashed through the waves. Distant voices teased his ears along with a chorus of clanking metal and squabbling seawings.

The hold was dark, but not lightless. Crates and rough sacks crammed timber berths, strapped down with camgras ropes. Oily barrels perched in wooden frames to keep them from rolling. He needed food and water, and he stank to the stars.

He’d been captive in a ship’s hold before. Memories of his torture after the ambush in Mur-Vallis flooded his head. Panic broke out on his skin in a lurid sweat, and his heart leapt into a gallop. “Gah! Help! Ah. Get me out of here! Help! Let me go!” He thrashed the chain, kicked at a convenient crate, and shouted until a hatch cracked open and a spear of sunlight nearly blinded him.

A sturdy woman with chopped hair and a pickaxe nose climbed down the ladder. A scar wrinkled her upper lip, and her eyes shone in the dim light like chips of flint. She wore a black bodice and leggings, snugly fit and bordering on transparent. For ease of movement, a slit parted the front of her calf-length skirt, and her wide belt sported an assortment of bone-handled blades, none of them friendly. Though older than he and far from beautiful, she exuded an alluring confidence.

She was also Kull Bane; he was shackled in a Kull Bane ship.

Her hand dropped to her hip and she held up a key. “I won the wager.”

“Unchain me,” he demanded and shook his leg, clanking the chain. “Get this thing off me.”

“You might be dangerous.” Her eyes narrowed, lips turned up in a mocking smile.

“You’re delusional if you think I can slay you all and seize the ship?”

“Probably so. Still, why risk it?”

His heartbeat slowed its pace, and he stopped rattling his irons. “I give you my oath.”

“Ellegeans break oaths. They broke faith with the Founders.” She considered the key. “However, I’ll accept your word. If you break it, I’ll slice you up and feed you to the sea.”

He didn’t doubt she would. She knelt by his ankle and unbolted the lock.

“What wager did you win?” he asked, rubbing his ankle.

“I gambled on your life.” She hung the key on a nail “We found a sack of poisons on your boat. The others figured you for dead. If you didn’t wake up today, we planned to toss you overboard.”

“I’m glad you won.” He sat up and almost fell over. “I need food and a bath.”

“I’ll feed and water you, and give you a bucket.” She stood up and offered him a hand. “Maybe a fresh pair of trousers. You stink like a grounder’s shithole.”

He grabbed her hand, grateful for the help and unsteady on his feet. The ship’s roll did nothing to pacify the queasy swill in his stomach. “My respects.” He held onto the corner of a crate and managed a crooked bow. “I’m Gannon.”

“No fancy little surname?”

He shook his head. “Just Gannon.”

“A pity.” She shrugged and swung toward the ladder. “I’d hoped to ransom you. We’ll talk when you smell better.”

“Who are you?” He staggered after her.

“Emer Tilkon of the Wandering Swan. Shipmaster to the likes of you.”

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The Rose Shield – Whitt

whitt

The Rose Shield is my current WIP.  I’ve introduced a couple characters with a bit of a snippet: Raker and my main character Catling. Whitt is Catling’s adopted brother. When his search for her fails, this is where he ends up…

A Snippet of Whitt

Whitt crouched at the water’s edge where tangled roots rose in smooth arches, tall and wide as doorways. He’d wrapped his feet and shins in camgras cloth to discourage leeches and protect his skin from curious razorgills. There were fiercer predators in the swamp, though less stealthy and readily avoided.

Sheer veils of fog drifted above the water. He shifted his weight, spear comfortable in his grip and poised to thrust. Though the Kull Sea lay hundreds of leagues south, its tides altered the waterways in Ava-Grea’s swamps no less than the Fangwold snowmelt. Nearly two years after entering the world of the Fenfolk, Whitt navigated the changing landscape with minimal need to drag his raft through the mud.

A pair of reptilian nostrils peeked from the luminescence, two black holes in a sheet of liquid light. Fire-winged blackbirds shrilled warnings through the vaulted branches. Whitt needed to cross the waterway, and the crajek epitomized patience, content to wait a week for a human meal.

With his free hand, he unhooked the snared river rats from his belt. He’d caught the scaled rodents for supper, but at this point, his need to cross the channel outweighed his hunger. Holding the end of the lead, he dipped them in the water not far from his perch and dragged them from side to side. Razorgills surfaced from below and nibbled at the dead flesh. The lethargic crajek sank from sight, a good sign.

He braced himself in the roots, eyes peeled for movement in the channel around the rats. Waterspiders skimmed the surface. The razorgills flashed and fled as the dark shape neared. Whitt licked his lips, steadied, and when the crajek snapped, he rammed the spear’s sharpened point into the rear of the spiked head. The animal whipped around, dislodging the weapon. Jaws still clamped on the rats, it dove, yanking the lead in Whitt’s hand and ripping him from his roost. He splashed into the water up to his knees and froze. The line floated, slack. His spear cocked at his shoulder, he searched for ripples or bubbles, anything to indicate the creature’s location.

At the center of the channel, two wide-set nostrils surfaced, a second larger monster. Whitt retreated a step. The water erupted at his side as a set of jagged teeth gaped and the first crajek leapt at his leg. Whitt slammed the spear into its head. The point scraped over the thick skull and sank through its eye. Splashing backward, he yanked the spear from the body, without any idea where the second creature had gone.

“Foul!” He tripped blindly on the tree’s roots and fell on his ass through an arched gap. His feet flipped out of the water as the second crajek burst from the swamp and clamped its steel jaws on a flailing razorgill. Whitt crabbed backward as the crajek chewed on the spiny fish no more than a foot from his right toes.

The creature ogled him as if contemplating his next course.

The Rose Shield – Catling

catling

The Rose Shield is my current WIP. Last month, I introduced Raker. He’s half mad, but has sparks of unexpected wisdom if you can get over the fact that he converses with the river fog. My main character is Catling, and here’s the start of her story:

Chapter One Excerpt

Hanging Day.

Catling clutched the back of her mother’s wool skirt as Keela picked a path through the market crowd. Head down, she kept her eyes on the bare heels slapping the pavers ahead of her, afraid of a swat if she let go.

“Stop tugging on my dress and tramping on my heels,” Keela said without a glance back. She wrenched her skirt free. “And keep up.”

Catling flinched and scurried to catch up. At six, she was a scrawny thing and easily buffeted by the larger bodies that failed to see her. The market was all shoving and yelling heads off on hanging day, and she wouldn’t have minded if Keela wasn’t in such a hurry.

She spotted a split-copper and darted from safety to pinch it from the crack between two pavers. A pair of scampering boys dodged around her as she ducked back behind her mother with a crooked grin. She slid the coin into her pocket beside her carved waterdragon and considered where she might hide it. All over the warrens, she kept secret stashes of split and clipped-coppers, stowed into crevasses and holes and buried under stones. She was rich and someday she’d collect them in a sack and ride a ferry to the sea.

“Always big crowds Summertide hanging day,” Keela said over her shoulder. “The weather’s kind enough and food’s plenty. Maybe we’ll share a meat tart and catch a couple neck-stretchers.”

The mere thought of a tart set Catling’s stomach growling. During Summertide, the market circled almost all the way around the warrens. Tables, carts, stalls, crates, and planks balancing on rickety chairs were set up haphazard like river rocks that people flowed around. Servants from the tiers sauntered down with their guards and pockets of clipped silver to spend however they pleased.

Riverfolk sold fish and eels by the pier. Glassy-eyed twitchers lolled against a stone wall, begging for anything they could sell for a taste. Smelters and smiths hawked pieces of metal shaped into knives and tools. She passed other guilds peddling rag-cloth and rope, trinkets and baubles, lye soap and tallow candles, and just about everything else she could imagine. Kull Bane preachers traded promises for prayers, and tradesmen from far off Lim-Mistral decorated tables with smooth glass bottles for nighttime luminescence. She caught her reflection in a standing mirror and winced at the sight, the ugly red halo on her face like a permanent bruised eye.

The Rose Shield – Raker

rose-shield-rakerA peek at the start of my WIP. 

Darkest Night.

The ironwood pier below Mur-Vallis pointed like a sooty finger over the Blackwater’s swirling luminescence. Wraiths of fog pirouetted across the surface, trailing veils of white lace. Raker lounged against the piling where he’d tethered his boat, keeping an idle eye out for thieves. Not that anyone would bother his craft this night, not with finer prizes left unattended. Well-rigged riverboats and ferries floated at the wharf, thunking and clinking above the current’s hushed whispers.

With a bone-handled knife, he whittled splinters from a wood waterdragon no larger than his thumb. The solitude suited him, removed from the chaos of the warrens that crowded the dingy expanse below the city’s lowest tier. The welcome there was cold anyway, harsh enough to get a half-blood gutted. His slanted eyes, blue as rime, and three-fingered hands gave his heritage away.

The three pylons supporting Mur-Vallis soared into the vast night sky. Their lighted tiers lay open like petals on an alien flower, soft-edged and overlapping, the upper layers diminishing in size while increasing in opulence.

Or so he’d heard. No one he knew had climbed higher than the first tier, and only for a hanging.

The Rose Shield

Rose ShieldA peek at the start of my WIP. 

Darkest Night.

The ironwood pier below Mur-Vallis pointed like a sooty finger over the Blackwater’s swirling luminescence. Wraiths of fog pirouetted across the surface, trailing veils of white lace. Raker lounged against the piling where he’d tethered his boat, keeping an idle eye out for thieves. Not that anyone would bother his craft this night, not with finer prizes left unattended. Well-rigged riverboats and ferries floated at the wharf, thunking and clinking above the current’s hushed whispers.

With a bone-handled knife, he whittled splinters from a wood waterdragon no larger than his thumb. The solitude suited him, removed from the chaos of the warrens that crowded the dingy expanse below the city’s lowest tier. The welcome there was cold anyway, harsh enough to get a half-blood gutted. His slanted eyes, blue as rime, and three-fingered hands gave his heritage away.

The three pylons supporting Mur-Vallis soared into the vast night sky. Their lighted tiers lay open like petals on an alien flower, soft-edged and overlapping, the upper layers diminishing in size while increasing in opulence.

Or so he’d heard. No one he knew had climbed higher than the first tier, and then only for a hanging.

What’s Up

pixabay

pixabay

This is a new website, but the fantasy books here count 9, so a few of them have been around awhile. 2016 is a busy year with lofty goals for a new series as well as updating previously published books.

I decided at the end of 2015 to take back my books from my traditional publisher. I know readers often use the “traditionally published” achievement as a benchmark for quality, but I’m going to buck that assumption a bit. My books are stuck with typos, average covers, and prices that I have no control over.

As my books fall back into my inky fingers, I’m fixing those aggravating typos, they’re getting fabulous new covers by the talented Jennifer Munswami, and I’m lowering prices! All good news for readers!

So where am I?

The Sorcerer’s Garden – done

The Bone Wall – done.

Five Elements Anthology – no changes here.

The Melding of Aeris – newly released March 25, 2016.

Sunwielder – newly released May 15, 2016.

The Dragon Soul Quartet: was newly released as a four-book “quartet” on August 20, 2016. Myths of the Mirror can be read as a stand-alone, but also kicks off a longer adventure. They are available individually and as a bundle.

My Work in Progress is another four-book serial entitled The Rose Shield (for now). The first book is almost done, the second has gone through two drafts, and the last two are in outline form. Without a hard deadline, they’re waiting until the other books are all updated and ready to go. My goal is to return to them again in July and begin releases at the beginning of the new year.

That’s the update. Stay tuned!