NAVIGATION ASSISTANCE

Hello Readers!

Lately I’ve been linking you like crazy to a couple of ongoing things. For ease of use, I’m going to put them all here at the top of this blog.

  • Fire in the Blood Giveaway! Enter to win free books and more! Next prize level unlocks at 300 entries, and current standing is 163. Runs through October 11th.
  • Fire in the Blood Esigning!Want a signed copy without the gamble but can’t make it to one of the signings? You can order one from this website through the end of November.
  • Extra Life 2014!: Make me roleplay to help sick and injured children. Benefits Seattle Children’t Hospital.
  • Fire in the Blood Release Events!: Signings! Online events! A kickass release party that’s open to all!  Are you excited yet?!
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EXTRA LIFE Excerpt: Varauna Goldfeather

I’m still raising money for Extra Life and still taking votes for which character I should play as. To help you decide, I’m posting short excerpts showing each character in action. They’ll post every Monday.

Today’s excerpt is the only new character in the bunch, Lady Varauna Goldfeather, who appears in Fire in the Blood. (Which means this doubles as a bonus Fire in the Blood excerpt, lucky duckies!) Varauna is awful, but she’s also awfully fun to write about. To vote for Varauna, just donate $15 and mention your vote in the comments!

***

Raedra eyed the edge of storm clouds just visible over the farther wall of the Royal Gardens. They didn’t have long before it started raining again. Perfect, she thought. Everyone would have shot at that point, her cousins would be through showing off, and Raedra would have spent a fair few bells with her retinue—long enough to make certain no one felt slighted and no one thought she was sulking. Four young, hopeful nobles surrounded her, as well as four Purple Dragons and a war wizard—not counting the guards she couldn’t see. And every one of them, to a soul, was waiting for her to crack under the strain of Aubrin’s sudden madness.

“Put your elbow down,” her cousin, Lord Maranth Goldfeather, called to his sister. “Honestly, you look like a chicken trying to shoot like that.”

Lovely Lady Varauna Goldfeather turned and glowered at her brother. “Which of us has thirteen bull’s eyes to her credit?”

Maranth smirked. “It will stay thirteen if you keep your elbow so high.”

The dark-haired noblewoman very deliberately did not lower her elbow. She let the arrow fly, striking just at the edge of the target’s crimson center.

“A miss,” Maranth declared.

“That is within the bounds and you know it, Lord Prissypants.”

“Calm,” Raedra said with a smile. “Varauna, count the shot and sit down.” Maranth gave Raedra a look that clearly said she oughtn’t be encouraging proud Varauna, but Raedra waved him off. “The turn is yours, Sulue.” Meanwhile the storm clouds eased nearer, slow as ladies in heavy ball gowns.

“Thank you, Highness.” Lady Sulue Thundersword gave Raedra a shy smile and took the longbow from Varauna—who rolled her eyes at Raedra. Lady Thundersword, Varauna was fond of saying—often in front of poor Sulue—was so sweet she’d make your teeth fall out. And so Raedra made a point of keeping her close, to make up for Varauna’s barbs.

“Perhaps it’s not your form,” Maranth drawled. “Perhaps your arms just resemble a chicken’s by their nature.”

“That’s not what your fancyman says,” Varauna retorted, taking up a glass of cordial.

“Children,” Raedra said in mock warning. Maranth snorted and Varauna made a sarcastic little curtsy. Raedra smiled and sipped her own cordial. “Tell us then about your latest fancyman, Maranth.”

“If you’ve found one,” Varauna said, “you’re more skilled a hunter than I. This war has created an absolute drought of eligible fellows.”

“Not if you don’t mind commoners,” Lady Florelle Ambershield said. “Isn’t that right, Varauna?”

Raedra pursed her lips to stop the smile that crept unbidden to her mouth. Florelle was no match for Varauna, and had yet to learn it. Varauna turned very deliberately and offered Florelle a winning smile. “My dear, that is hardly the same sport. You’d know if you’d ever managed to take a trophy of your own.” Sulue’s bow twanged as she shot her arrow wide and into a bush of snowspikes.

“All I get lately are desperate fellows who want to make a little trade to clear up the Goldfeather coin they’d rather keep,” Maranth announced. “It seems half of them are far too old, half are far too young. And anyway, I detest desperation. There is nothing so unarousing as desperation.”

“It’s something,” Varauna said. “I’m half ready to insist they let me take up arms, if only for the chance to ride behind some good-looking fellows with decent breeding and better backsides.”

Raedra sipped her cordial. Better to enlist Varauna for her skills with the bow. And keep all the fellows from playing into her “how do I draw this?” act. She wondered what a commander in charge of Varauna could do to keep the noblewoman on task, and decided it was probably a task beyond most of them. Even if Varauna could shoot nearly as well as Baerovus. She watched the clouds creep nearer.

“It seems Raedra is the only one with decent prospects,” Florelle said. “Not that anyone expected windfall from the Northern front, but having your betrothed home is . . .” She trailed off.

Raedra’s heart skipped. She saw the shocked look Maranth and Varauna traded, the way the Purple Dragons stiffened slightly. Only Sulue seemed unaffected, releasing her arrow with a painful twang.

“I would rather Shade weren’t ravaging the countryside,” Raedra said coolly, “than have Lord Crownsilver home.” Florelle paled and gave her a timid smile.

“Of course, Your Highness,” she said. “I didn’t mean—”

“It’s a wonderful blessing,” Maranth said. “That doesn’t mean Shade’s encroachment isn’t terrible.”

“Or that—” Florelle broke off as soon as she’d started.

“Or what?” Raedra said. Florelle shrugged and shook her head, her ash blond curls bouncing.

“It’s gone from my mind.”

Raedra stared at the stubborn clouds. “Could we not playact as if I never hear any gossip?” she said. “That is, I suspect, far worse than discussing it outright.”

For a long moment, no one spoke. Even Sulue’s third arrow waited, nocked in the bow.     “We could have her killed,” Maranth said, in conspiratorial tones that might have meant he was joking, and might not.

“Killing her would mean she was a threat,” Raedra said calmly. And I will not admit she’s a threat, she thought to herself.

“Not at all,” Varauna protested. “Just a nuisance.”

“Send her off to the Tunlands,” Maranth suggested. “Or your betrothed’s wretched little citadel in the hinterlands. That’s what you do with a nuisance.”

“You could do better than him, Highness,” Sulue offered. The others glared at the petite noblewoman and she blushed. “You all think it,” she protested.

“Of course we do,” Maranth said. “She could always do better. This time, last time. There is not a man walking Faerûn’s face who deserves you,” he said to Raedra. “Including Lord Saddlesores. But we all know marriage is about more than whether your friends would bed your husband. Aubrin brings many benefits to the marriage.”

Such as the end of all that gossip, Raedra thought bitterly. At least that had been how it was supposed to work. But now the whispered attacks were worse—fiercer and just as numerous as they’d been in the shadow of her first marriage.

“Aubrin’s decent,” Varauna said. “And he doesn’t care what you do on your own—that’s something. Most men would have a fit at the idea of possible rivals.”

Maranth shot her a dark look at the word rivals.

Raedra glanced up at the clouds just cresting the palace roof’s edge, and drew a deep breath. If she fled now, every one of them would talk, dear as they were. They couldn’t help it.

“Your Highness?” The war wizard, a tall young man named Ilstan Nyaril caught her eye as she turned. “I don’t wish to interrupt, but you have an appointment with the minister of protocol and Princess Ospra very soon. Would you like me to send someone to tell them you’ll be late?”

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FIRE IN THE BLOOD Excerpt: Too Many Imps

Happy Thursday, readers!

There are now just 18 days until Fire in the Blood comes out! Tick tock! Just like with The Adversary, i’m pleased to present to you a series of excerpts to get you ready for the big show. This time, instead of introducing you to the characters, I’m going to introduce you to what’s happening. (If you missed last week’s, find it here.)

This one’s a peek into the troubles with Asmodeus. You might remember in The Adversary, Farideh discovers that she’s one of the Chosen of Asmodeus, which leads her to worry that Havilar might be too. If you guessed she was right, have a gold star! But their powers aren’t quite the same…

***

The air behind her popped. Havilar spun, dagger in hand, and there were the two imps, hanging in the air, watching her.

Glaive on the ground, she thought. She swiped at the nearer one with her dagger. Get it back before—

“No, no, no!” the little red devil said, flapping out of her reach. “None of that!”

“Broken planes, Lady,” the other said. “You’re going to clear the Hells out of imps if you keep this up.”

“I will!” Havilar snatched up her glaive. “Don’t think I can’t.”

The imps looked at each other. “You’re an odd one,” the second imp said. “Didn’t anyone tell you? Put the weapon down.” Havilar did not, but she didn’t swing as the imps landed on the forest floor, well out of her reach, their stinger-laden tails curled over them, as though they were curious cats.

“I’m Dembo,” the second imp said. “That’s Mot.”

“If you’re going to try and kill me like you killed Crake,” Havilar said, “you won’t find it easy.”

The imps traded glances again. Mot shrugged. “What’s a Crake?” he asked Havilar.

“The man who died when you came before,” Havilar said. “Did you put a spell on him or something?”

“We didn’t kill anyone,” Dembo said. “We weren’t even here until just now.”

“Those were other imps,” Mot said. “You sent them back. They won’t be coming around for a while.”

Havilar pulled her glaive nearer. “So what do you want?”

“No, no, no,” Dembo said. “The question is what do you want?”

“We’re here to do your bidding, Lady,” Mot said. It made a florid little bow. “By His Majesty’s grace.”

Havilar’s stomach twisted and her heart started to pound. “I don’t need anything you can help me with.”

Dembo folded his arms. “Contrary to what some people may have told you, we are excellent at helping.”

“And when we’re not,” Mot said, “we are excellent at finding someone who can.”

Dembo looked over at him. “Well, mostly. I mean, there’s limits.”

“But we know people,” Mot assured her. “We’re very important.”

Havilar looked from one to the other. “I’m not evil,” she almost shouted. “I don’t need help with devil things.”

Mot snorted. “Who said evil?”

“We don’t pick what you ask for,” Dembo said. “You order, we act. That’s the deal. You want us to pick mushrooms, we can pick mushrooms.”

“The sky’s the limit!” Mot declared.

“Well, no,” Dembo said. “You can’t have the sky. But what else do you need?” Havilar hesitated, thoughts whirling. She wanted to tell them there was nothing desperate enough to require a devil’s help, nothing she couldn’t fix on her own. She knew whatever she asked for might be twisted into something evil if she asked all wrong.

But then she thought of Brin’s drawn expression, the repeated assertions that she didn’t understand.

“I need to find someone,” she said. “Someone magic can’t even find.”

“Well, that’s no surprise,” Dembo said. “This place’s magic is more churned up than the rulership of the Sixth Layer.” Mot tittered, and it set Havilar’s teeth on edge.

“That’s what I need,” she said. “Can you do that?” The imps considered each other, murmuring in soft Infernal, which made Havilar’s skin crawl.

“Hang on.” Dembo vanished with a pop. Mot sat down on his haunches and grinned up at her.

“Are we doing all right,” he asked, “would you say?”

Havilar frowned. “You haven’t done anything yet.”

***

Want to get a copy of Fire in the Blood for your very own? Check out this contest, this esigning, or your local bookstore! And don’t forget to check out the list of upcoming events.

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Extra Life Excerpt: Mira

I’m still raising money for Extra Life and still taking votes for which character I should play as. To help you decide, I’m posting short excerpts showing each character in action. They’ll post every Monday.

Today’s excerpt is of Mira Zawad from Lesser Evils. To vote for Mira, just donate $15 or more and mention your vote!

***

Mira pulled her haversack from the cart and from it took the book she’d pressed the page into, a relatively crisp and thin atlas of the Sword Coast. The creases had been largely flattened out, and the ink no longer pooled along them as it shifted lazily. She could hear the whispery madness of its speech—ashenath enjareen nether pendarthis. Through rock and flood I’ve come to this.

We will bring you back,” she said in Loross. “Tell us where.”

The ink jumped, as if she’d startled it, but the page didn’t reveal anything new before continuing its regular pattern of scrawlings. The schema had come up briefly the first time she’d offered, but never again. It was time for new efforts. She closed the book and sought out Dahl, sitting alone beside the fire.

The trouble was she spoke Loross, but the modern sort. She did not speak the Loross of Tarchamus, five thousand years old. For all she knew she was offering a pronunciation the page didn’t understand. Or one that threatened or insulted it. For all she knew she might, Mira thought, sound like nothing so much as a madwoman screaming from the street corner.

A blessing she had access to the sorts of rituals that solved such problems.

“Well met,” she said, dropping down beside Dahl. He eyed her warily, but nodded and returned the greeting. “Am I right to understand you can cast a translation ritual? I hear you’re rather talented at it.”

That flustered him. “Yes, well. I can cast it. Yes.”

She opened the book to show the magical page. “I need this particular dialect of Loross.” He studied the page—a necessary sacrifice, she thought. As much as she’d like to keep a tight rein on what the Harpers knew about this mission, she couldn’t restrict everything. If he saw any of the page’s secrets, she’d deal with that later.

“It would be terribly helpful,” she said, after several long moments of his study of the page. “I can read it but I can’t be sure I’m speaking to it. And I’m no ritual caster.”

“I could show you,” he offered offhandedly, “so you don’t need others to cast it.”

Mira smiled and tucked that reaction away as well. “As lovely as that would be, I understand your services are already engaged.” She nodded at Farideh, who stood off at the edge of the grove, stretching a kink from her neck. Dahl’s expression closed.

“She’s not a very good pupil.”

“Really?” Mira asked. “She seems eager enough. Capable. What’s the matter?”

Dahl hesitated. “What she wants to learn . . . I can’t teach it.”

Planar magic, Mira thought. “Can’t or won’t?”

His whole demeanor had shifted, tensed. “Both.”

“I see,” Mira said before he pulled too far from her. “Shall we get to it?”

“You’ll have to wait until he sets the circle,” Brin interrupted. He was still standing on the other side of the campfire, his arms folded. “Won’t she?”

Dahl glowered at him. “I know what I’m meant to do.”

“Well, Farideh can handle that,” Mira said. “You already taught her to lay a protective circle.”

“No,” Dahl said, still glaring at Brin. “Not yet.”

Not yet, but Farideh had said he would teach her back before they left Everlund. Very interesting. Usable.

“Mira!” her father called. “No one’s seen to the horses.

Mira stood and dusted off her breeches, irritated but well aware she couldn’t do any more at the moment. “Sounds like we both ought to attend our tasks,” she said wanly. “But find me later. I could use your help.” She left without looking back, sure that they were both still glaring at each other. At least Brin had stopped watching her.

She was rubbing down the cart horse, contemplating the two younger men, when Maspero cornered her. “This isn’t what you sold me on.” Maspero’s voice was a sheet of lace, so fine and light, it was a shock to hear it coming from such a big man. But if Maspero was talking to you, you’d soon realize the lace was tatted of razor wire, and you would be lucky to live to repeat such comparisons.

“Well met, Maspero,” she said mildly.?“Half as many. Only two of them Harpers, and your father—” “This is better,” she assured him. “You’ll get your weapon.” Maspero grabbed hold of her wrist and jerked her around to face

him. “You said Harpers would be best,” he reminded her. “You said they’d know how to look and what to look for, that you could get ones who wouldn’t ask questions.”

“We’ll manage,” she said, ignoring the pain in her arm. “May I have my hand back? I’m sure you don’t want anyone asking questions about why my mercenary is manhandling me.” Maspero narrowed his eyes. “It’s not as if we’ve drafted a gaggle of idiots. It was they who recovered the page, remember.”

Maspero snorted and released her, and it took all of Mira’s focus not to rub her wrist. “I heard about that,” he said. “Tell me why it is that shitting Graesson knew about the revel and the treasures. I believe I told you to be discreet.”

Mira returned to brushing the horse’s coat. “He already knew. Sent two assassins to kill me and steal it. I just . . . made sure he had the means to continue his search. And keep Adolican Rhand and his guards distracted in Graesson’s normal, dramatic fashion.” She bent to attend the horse’s legs. “The chaos was extraordinary.”

“Godsbedamned Cyricists,” Maspero muttered. “And if he’d managed to gain my treasure?”

She straightened. Maspero was glaring over the cart horse at the rest of their party. “Pernika thinks the Cormyrean boy’s worth something,” he said.

“Tell her to keep it to herself until we’re done,” Mira replied. “The last thing you need is Pernika’s mad plans destroying your allies.”

“So now they’re allies?” Maspero said. “You told me ‘tools’ before. I don’t want Harpers as allies . . . A danger and a weakness. We deal with them as soon as they’re not necessary.”

Mira didn’t blink. “Best of luck with that.”

“Are you implying you aren’t with me, Mira?”

“I’m implying I don’t trust you not to kill me too,” she said simply. “Especially if you’re insisting I ‘deal with’ my own father because he wears the pin. He trusts me, so he trusts you too. Our goals are all in line, Maspero. What we want and what they want aren’t so far off. We get extra hands, extra eyes, and so do they, so why stir the pot? Especially when we all have a common enemy in Shade and Adolican Rhand.”

Maspero narrowed his eyes and muttered a curse for the Netherese gentleman. “If he beats us there, I’ll throttle your father myself for delaying us.”

“Oh, you’ll have to get in line in that case,” Mira said. She handed him the hoof pick. “It would do to look busy.”

 

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