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High Fantasy, Low Price: The Crimson League

thecrimsonleagueGreat news! If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, sword and sorcery fantasy, urban fantasy (minus the vampires), or if you’ve ever wanted to give fantasy a try: now’s your chance.

For a limited time (in celebration of its new cover), THE CRIMSON LEAGUE is on sale in ebook format from amazon.com for only 99 cents!

Join Kora Porteg as she joins a resistance movement fighting against the sorcerer-noble who slew the royal family and stole Herezoth’s throne. Her story has magic, adventure, and even a bit of romance.

Check it out, and spread the word!

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How to deal with life in the resistance

cl2Enjoy fantasy? Then enjoy this snippet from the first novel in my Herezoth trilogy, THE CRIMSON LEAGUE. It’s on sale right now in e-book format for just 99 cents. In this selection, Kora helps her fellow resistance member, Kansten Carder, deal with the strain of life constantly threatened. (Fighting a sorcerer-dictator isn’t the most peaceful existence.)

On the way back to the lodging house, Kora and Kansten stopped at eight more fortunetelling shops. They found nothing. Kora saw a chipped china saucer at one place, but the imperfection hardly qualified it to be an enchanted tome. Some stores had rare herbs hanging from the walls; others sold only books, or only cups for reading tea leaves. Some tellers offered to read their cards, much like Markulas, or even pleaded, which made the blood leave Kansten’s face. Kora had to refuse for both of them because Kansten lost her voice at those moments.

Hansrelto’s book evaded them, but Kansten did come across one thing that caught her eye. She bought an amulet from one of the last shops. Its stone was oval in shape, carved from jade. The woman who sold it said it was supposed to absorb basic spells.

“I can’t say it’ll work,” said Kansten, when she and Kora stepped outside. “Even if it does, the spells I come up against won’t be basic ones, not if they come from him. I feel better having it, though.”

Even after eating at a cheap, crowded tavern, they were the first back to the League’s rooms. Kansten collapsed in a chair, her head dropped, while Kora lit a fire. The blonde mumbled, “It can’t be. It can’t. It won’t happen that way.”

The fire began to crackle. Kora turned around. “What won’t happen?”

Kansten’s head did not rise. “I’d die before they capture me, Zalski and his hounds. I’d kill myself if I had to. Publicly hanged, after who knows what torture…. I’d kill myself first. I’ve always said that.”

Kora brought her a glass of water; that was the only kind gesture she could think of that Kansten would not reject. Kansten held the cup steady, a good sign, and Kora hazarded, “Do you ever wonder if the fight’s worth it?”

“How can it be? We’ll be dead in a year, every one of us. Six months if Zalski snags the Librette. I’m almost glad it’s too late to turn back, or I’d be tempted to leave.” Kansten, who had yet to sip the water, spilled some of the glass’s contents as she slammed it on the table. Kora jumped. “Why the hell did you join us? What’s wrong with you? Everything we do, it’s hopeless. Can’t you see that?”

Kora froze for a moment, taken aback by the verbal assault. Then she remembered what Lanokas had told her that first night with the League: that Laskenay had not smiled in weeks before meeting her; that maybe, giving hope was enough by itself.

Kora tapped her fingers on her leg. Finally she asked, “Do you remember my first card?”

“The triangle,” said Kansten. “Secrets. That sounds about right. I would have asked you about it, but all I’ve thought about all day is that damned cage. Look, there’s something odd about you. I’ve known it from the first. Your family’s in hiding, but you won’t say what for. Laskenay trusts you over me on practically no basis….”

Kora pulled off her bandana. Kansten toppled her seat. “You? The Marked One? You, of all people?”

“You can think that if you want to.”

“How many people…? Who knows about this?”

“Laskenay. And Lanokas and Bennie, they found me on their scouting expedition. Sedder too, of course. He was with me. To be fair, I guess I shouldn’t leave Zalski out either.”

Kansten’s face darkened. “Zalski knows?”

“It was all so sudden. I met the League by chance, completely by chance, you have to understand that, and we were set on right after by Zalski’s elite guard. Some of them got away. That’s all it takes, isn’t it? They’d lagged behind, or they were a second patrol. We think they saw me. At least, they ran from us. I’m not sure why.”

For some reason, Kansten’s demeanor changed. Her negative air dissolved. “The League could’ve killed them, that’s why. They had news to get to Zalski, and they thought that was most important. Listen, it doesn’t matter. You found the League first. You could have found the guard. They got away, but they didn’t drag you with them. I’m almost glad Zalski knows of you. I hope it disturbs his sleep!

“Kora, you really must be the Marked One. The terror, the forced allegiance, the taxes that’re causing ruin: you’ll end it all, every bit of it. Zalski won’t let the word get out, of course. Not to the people. They’ve been praying for the rise of the Marked One for years. Can you imagine the uprising? He’s frightened, Kora, frightened of you, and when people are frightened they do stupid things. He’ll trip himself up. We just have to wait our chance…. You have to tell the others what you are.”

“I will,” said Kora. “Or I, I’ll let them see the ruby. I’d appreciate it, though, if what happened with Markulas stays with you.”

“The same goes for me,” said Kansten. “We shouldn’t say a thing, not a thing. There’s no way to know there’s any truth to it.”

“No way at all,” agreed Kora. After having her fortune told, Kansten distrusted the art to some extent, and her loss of respect made perfect sense to her companion. In fact, her refusal to deem the cards accurate made Kora, who was tempted to believe, feel better about that tombstone.

Kansten righted her chair, then noticed one of the stools across the room. “Someone left some parchment on their seat,” she said. Kora picked it up. It was untitled, a list of some twenty-odd names.

“That’s the hit list Menikas found. I saw Laskenay reading it this morning.” Kora held out the parchment to Kansten. “She thinks they’re all from Hogarane. Take it. I might recognize someone, and I don’t want to.”

Kansten scanned the list, struggling to read, focusing so intently that Kora’s last words passed over her. “Fo…. Foden, would that be? I like that. They had a nice name, poor devils.”

Kora’s heart skipped a beat. “What did you say?”

“Foden,” Kansten repeated. “Sounds familiar somehow. Two of them.”

“Let me see that.” Kora almost ripped the parchment. She let her eyes skim the list until she found what she was looking for near the bottom, beneath Mr. Gared’s brother’s name. Her stiff arm dropped the sheet.


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Friday Snippet: THE MAGIC COUNCIL

It’s been a while since I posted an excerpt, but my second novel, “The Magic Council,” will be FREE January 7-11, 2013 for download from Amazon.com. As that’s the case, I wanted to share a piece of it with you: In this scene, Sorceress Kora has to confront the fact that her children, like her, have magic, which means that they, like her, could well suffer great losses and rejection in their life as a result.

That night, when the children were in bed, Kora stepped outside with Parker. They took a walk down deserted and moonlit dirt roads not unlike the ones Kora remembered near her childhood home outside Hogarane.

Kora was not in the habit of keeping secrets from her husband, and she told him everything: how she had been seen, how people said the king had fathered her children, how the king had followed her to Triflag and what had passed between them on the beach. She told him about Kansten’s lack of magic. As for herself, she revealed a plan to transport to Traigland City if need be, to turn to Parker’s best friend should she need to hide.

“You and the children aren’t in danger. I’d never have gone back if my doing so threatened you, never. If they do come for me, and that’s unlikely, no one could legally touch any one of you.”

“Don’t you worry about our family. None of us is going anywhere. It looks like Vane and Zac’ll be the ones leaving Triflag, to help out Rexson in his jam.”

“Parker, the king’s feelings for me aside, because I, I’m not sure they’re not still stronger than he’ll admit even to himself…. There’s nothing between him and me. Nothing.”

Parker slung an arm across her shoulders. “I know that, Kora.”

“You’re the one thing that’s kept me from turning bitter, you know. From turning horribly, nastily bitter. I can see that looking back on my time here. When we first met in that general store, you knew who I had to be, but you didn’t gawk, or run terrified, or worse, ask for some display of magic like so many have. You just helped me lift that sack of rice that was too heavy for me, even when that idiot yelled for me to move it with a blasted incantation, what else was my magic for? You’ve put up with so much when you had no reason to: the insults, the people who stopped coming to you for horseshoes at the beginning…. And you’ve never once complained, implied that I owed you something for it. You’ve made my life bearable here, much more than bearable. My mother and Zac could never have done that. As much as I love them, they could never have stripped the resentment from my soul. You did that. I don’t deserve you, I don’t, and I know I never will.

“Parker, I should be bursting inside at the thought of Zac going home. I should be hurt, and angry, and jealous beyond belief, and maybe part of it is that I did go back, if only for a day, but I can’t feel any of those things. All I feel when I think of Zac leaving is how blessed I am that you’re here, and as much as I despise Triflag some days, I know that if I could live in Herezoth without you, I’d never. I’d never, I just couldn’t.”

Parker kissed her on the cheek. “Life sure has its sense of humor, doesn’t it?”

“Where are you taking this?”

“I’ve always felt like I never deserved you. It wasn’t just your homeland the Crimson League fought for, you know. It was mine too. I may have been here all that time, but….”

“You might as well have been with us. God knows you know everything we went through. Each nightmare that’s woken me through the years, each flashback, you’ve made me confront them.”

“You haven’t had one of those dreams in quite a while.”

“Six or seven months. The last one was that conference with Zalski: handing him that chain, admitting how I’d used it to stalk him.”

“That was always one of the more frequent ones. I’ve been telling you for years it would probably go away if you told Zac the whole story.”

“Yes, well, Zac knows now, thanks to Lanokas. He’ll feel guilty and obliged for the rest of his life because he knows I risked torture to get him amnesty.”

“Zac’s no idiot, Kora. He’s got to know Zalski would have tortured and killed you if he’d been able, necklace or no.”

“You’d have to have met the man, Parker. It would have been worse for me after that confession. I made things personal invading his mind, and he wanted his vengeance, he…. I can’t even describe him. You’d have to have met him, and Zac did. Zac will understand. Zac will understand now why Zalski didn’t kill me straightaway in the courtyard when we attacked….”

“Honey, is it so terrible he knows?”

“I suppose not,” said Kora. “I guess it’s not, considering what could have happened in the last three days alone. Considering that even here one of the king’s sons…. Thank God my mother healed him. Parker, what if she hadn’t been able? He’d be dead. The boy would be dead.”

“That boy is just fine, all right? Him running across that snake was a freak accident. You could never have guessed that would happen. No one could, just like this situation with Kansten. I’d have bet our house she was a sorceress. I never considered she might not be, not after your stories, after what you told me about your bloodline and Mayven way back when.”

Mayven was an ancient sorceress, one of Herezoth’s best-known heroes. She was also Kora’s ancestor, and specifically, the woman to remove the sorcerer’s mark from her descendants.

Kora asked, “So how do we handle this?”

“It doesn’t matter to me whether Kansten or any of the kids can cast a spell. I care that it’s upset her, that’s all. You said it has?”

“Very much so.”

“So we’ll keep an eye on her. I’ll take her to the river to fish. I’ve been meaning to do that, you know, and she would love it. She’s never been. I want to take the major role here, if that’s all right with you. I’m the only person in the family Kansten has who, like her, can’t do magic. At least, I’m the only one we know for sure. Her siblings, they probably can?”

“I would think so. I wish I could say otherwise. I can test them tonight, so we won’t have to wonder…. Yes, take Kansten fishing. That’s a wonderful idea.”

“Kora, she’ll come to terms with her disappointment.”

“I know she will. She never gives in to anything, fights tooth and nail to….”

“Gets that from her mother. You may have been a good bit older, but you came to terms with worse.”

“Thanks to you,” said Kora. “Only thanks to you.” Parker smiled, and Kora stood on the balls of her feet to gain an extra couple of inches, so she could throw her arms around his neck and reach his height to kiss him. She always complained about having to do that, but secretly, she would not have things any other way. That was, perhaps, the one small thing she never would confess to him.

When the two returned home, Kora went straight to Kansten’s room. She wanted to start with Kansten, because she knew what results her spell would have and was sure they would calm her rapid pulse. The girl lay on her side in bed, facing the wall, covered with a single sheet due to the heat of summer.

Before her return to Herezoth, Kora had heard of no incantation to test someone for magic power. After Zacry had cast such a spell on the kidnappers, his sister had asked him about it, and after Kansten’s adventure in her uncle’s library, Kora had to know about her children; there could be no waiting. “Aberigwa Podair,” she whispered, and Kansten shivered a bit. The girl stretched out an arm, but did not wake. As expected, there were no sparks.

Then Kora went to the boys’ room, careful not to step on the various objects that covered the floor. Walten lay on his back on the top of two bunked beds, and jerked as though he were dreaming when his mother cast her spell. She clenched a fist in resignation as soundless sparks flashed above him and just as quickly disappeared. The same occurred with Wilhem, and then it was on to the girls. Laskenay, four years old, mumbling softly in her sleep, proved a sorceress, as did Kora’s baby, her sweet Tressa only two years old, resting in her crib.

Parker was waiting for his wife in the cluttered parlor. “All of them,” she whispered. “All of them but Kansten.”

He took her in his arms and said, “They won’t suffer what you have, Kora. Not for their magic, not here.”

“Good God, I hope not,” was all she could respond.

I have a sale going on right now. The first novel in my trilogy, The Crimson League, is only 99 cents through January 11th. Like I said earlier, second novel, The Magic Council, is FREE starting January 7. Make sure to check them out if you’d like to. It’s a good deal!