Guest Author Jamie Marchant

I am very happy today to welcome Jamie Marchant to my blog today. Jamie is celebrating the release of her new novel, The Soul Stone.

JamiesoulFrom early childhood, Jamie has been immersed in books. Her mother, an avid reader, read to her, and her older sister filled her head with fairy tales. Taking into consideration her love for literature and the challenges of supporting herself as a writer, she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. But in doing so, she put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. Then one day, in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized that what she wanted to be doing was writing fantasy novels. Her muse thus revived, she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice, which was published in April 2012. The second volume in the series, The Soul Stone, was released this June.

She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her short fiction has been published on Short-Story.Me, and my story was chosen for inclusion in their annual anthology. It has also appeared in the anthologies—Urban Fantasy (KY Story, 2013) and Of Dragon and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds (Witty Bard Publishing, 2014)—The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Bards & Sages.

You can visit Jamie at the following links:

Website: http://jamie-marchant.com/
Blog: http://jamie-marchant.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jamie-Marchant-Author/164706710298768?ref=hl
Twitter: @RobrekSamantha
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5258855.Jamie_Marchant

About The Soul Stone

The Soul Stone front coverThe Crown Princess Samantha and Sir Robrek struggle to solidify their rule in the aftermath of the king’s murder and Duke Argblutal’s attempt to usurp the throne. They are thwarted at every turn by those who seek power for themselves and desire to prevent their marriage. Just when they think their problems are solved, a deadly curse begins to spread throughout Korthlundia and Samantha becomes pregnant.

Samantha must fight off priests, enemies, and her closest advisors while Robrek discovers the reason the goddess chose him as king, to defeat the Soul Stone, a stone capable of sucking the soul out of its victims, which threatens to obliterate all life in the joined kingdoms. Their archenemy, the Bard Alvabane, awakens the Soul Stone and plans to use its power to reclaim Korthlundia for her people (a people driven out over a thousand years ago by the hero Armunn). Armunn had to sacrifice his life and soul to contain the Soul Stone. Will Robrek have to do the same? Will the young couple have only a few short months to love each other?

Purchase your copy today!

Black Rose Writing: http://www.blackrosewriting.com/sci-fifantasy/the-soul-stone

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Soul-Stone-Kronicles-Korthlundia/dp/1612965466/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1435314904&sr=8-2&keywords=jamie+marchant

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-soul-stone-jamie-marchant/1122191714?ean=9781612965468

Excerpt from Chapter One

Clutching the note Darhour had left pinned to the door above Argblutal’s corpse in one hand and Robbie’s hand in the other, Samantha approached the room where the king lay dead. No, Father! You can’t truly be gone! Their steps echoed off the stone floor in the vast emptiness, reminding her of the emptiness of her own life. The air seemed to thicken about them, and she slowed. If she never reached the king’s bedroom, maybe she could make his death a lie.

After a few moments and an eternity, she stood before the king’s chambers. She hesitated and then squared her shoulders and pushed open the door.

The king lay on his bed, his eyes closed as if merely asleep. His body had been washed and dressed for burial. Seeing him lying there reminded her of when she’d had nightmares as a little girl; she’d come to him and crawl in bed for comfort. He had held her, stroked her hair, and told her stories. She’d snuggled against his long white beard until she fell asleep.

Will I ever feel that safe again?

She was certain she wouldn’t. Not when Darhour, too, had deserted her. Darhour had been the captain of her guards, her friend, and as she’d discovered only a few days ago, her true father. Now, according to the note left near Argblutal’s body, he’d left her. “My final gift to you,” he’d written. “From one unworthy to serve you.” How dare he think of himself that way?

She forced thoughts of his betrayal out of her mind and looked around the room—everywhere but at the king’s body. Above the mantle across from the bed was a portrait of her sitting in her windowseat and looking out at the palace grounds. Every two years the king had had a new portrait of her painted to hang in his bedroom. He’d told her he wanted her to be the last thing he saw before he fell asleep.

Maybe it’s all a mistake. Praying for life to flow back into him, she knelt beside the bed and took the king’s hand. It was freezing and felt more like marble than flesh. Robbie laid his hand on her shoulder. “Can you do something?” she asked him.

To ask anyone else the question would have been absurd, but Robbie was the most powerful sorcerer Korthlundia had seen in centuries. He’d saved Darhour’s life when he’d taken an arrow through the heart. Could he not heal her father’s heart now, through which Argblutal had thrust his sword?

He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Sam. Maybe if I’d been here at the time. But I can’t bring back the dead.”

“Holy Sulis, how can I go on without him?” She let go of Solar’s lifeless hand and rested her cheek against the coverlet. She wanted to sob, to wail out her grief, but the man who’d always soothed her tears was dead. Robbie knelt beside her and put his arm around her. He didn’t tell her the lie that everything would be all right or say any of the trite things people say to comfort those in grief. He just held her.

“Damn Argblutal!” she choked.

Before disappearing, Darhour had done a thorough job of killing the duke—eviscerating, castrating, and decapitating him. Still, she wished Argblutal was alive, so she could kill him with her own sword, rip his heart out of his chest with her bare hands. But nothing she could do to Argblutal could heal the gaping hole in her own chest as she knelt beside the greatest king Korthlundia had ever known and the best father a child could have.

Eolyn: Round Two

Links for Eolyn

The original Hadley Rille Books imprint of EOLYN, featuring cover art by Jesse Smolover, will soon be replaced by a second edition.

Thomas Vandenberg, who did the cover art for High Maga, has started on a new work depicting a scene from my first novel, Eolyn. I wish I could share the preliminary sketch with you, but a premature unveiling would be unfair. So let me just say: It’s phenomenal. My plan is to use this artwork for a second edition of the novel.

Don’t worry, Eolyn purists, I will respect the story you’ve come to love! The second edition will not have any major overhauls. But it is time to go in and clean up a few things. For example, there are some anachronisms that I was too inexperienced to catch the first time around. And I’ve had it in my head for a long time to rework the opening chapters with an eye toward improving the pacing. Most of all, a bit of dusting off and cleaning and polishing here and there never hurts. Also, I want to update the electronic edition with chapter headings and other features that have become popular in the years since Eolyn was first released.

I started going through the opening chapters this past weekend, and have already made changes that I’m excited about, and that I hope will meet with the approval of my writers group, critique partners, and most of all, my readers.

The revamping of Eolyn is a natural consequence of the upcoming release of Daughter of Aithne. As many of you are aware, my first book was written as a stand-alone, with no concrete vision or real strategy for the development of a trilogy. Not necessarily an error in my mind, but now that the reality of Eolyn’s journey has changed – encompassing three full volumes that are closely related to each other – the task of marketing her journey must be adjusted accordingly.

I still don’t have dates set, either for the relaunch of Eolyn or the launch of Daughter of Aithne. But from here to the end of the year, there will be some big news regarding both, so please stay tuned. In the meantime, be aware that the original Hadley Rille Books imprint of Eolyn, featuring the lovely cover art of Jesse Smolover, will not be around for much longer. If you’ve ever considered gifting this edition to a friend, or would like a print copy for your own shelf, now is the time to purchase it.

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Sunset on the north shore of Oahu. Photo by Julie Anne Duay.

Last week, I was at a conference in Hawaii that kept me away from the internet. Hence, no posts until now. This week, I’ll be starting a 10-day road trip to the Badlands, the Black Hills, and Yellowstone National Park. Once again, internet access may be unreliable.  Still, I’d like to share some of that trip with you (and it’ll be vacation, not a conference), so I’ll try to post as often as I can while we’re on the road.

I also have some guest authors scheduled for the coming weeks. Jamie Marchant will be here on July 29 to talk about her new novel, The Soul Stone. (What a great title!) After that, look for sister-at-Hadley Rille Books, Vanessa MacLellan, who will be debuting her historical fantasy Three Great Lies in early August. Three Great Lies is set in ancient Egypt, and also features cover art by Thomas Vandenberg.

Wow. I just realized that after that, summer will be almost over.

But let’s not think about that right now. Let’s enjoy a little more fun in the sun…

50 Years of Dune

tumblr_m589qrFffi1qbaom0There were many reasons to celebrate this past Fourth of July weekend. One that caught me by surprise was the 50th anniversary of the publication of Frank Herbert’s DUNE.

I first read DUNE in high school. While I often sing praises of Tolkien and Martin, if I’m to be honest with myself I’d have to say Herbert was perhaps the single most influential author in my long journey toward writing speculative fiction.

Herbert’s story brought together two major elements that excited my imagination at the time: a medieval-style feudal society coupled with the advanced technology of interstellar travel. There was also love, war, family, betrayal, and bloodshed. Strategic manipulation of deep spiritual desires. Space ships and giant sand worms, and a knock-out drug, spice melange, that facilitated interplanetary travel while turning your eyes blue. Women were not only important part of history, they dared to challenge the men at controlling it. Herbert’s novel absorbed me in a way that no other had before and that few have done since.

My favorite character of Dune, as you might guess, was Jessica, wife to Leto Atreides and mother to Paul. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but Jessica was unusual in the then male-dominated milieu of science fiction literature. Few authors had granted women the kind of agency and power Jessica would exercise over the realization of her son’s fate.

Jessica was an initiate of a powerful sisterhood called the Bene Gesserit, who wove their own schemes inside a decidedly patriarchal galactic order. The Bene Gesserit had plans for Jessica and her offspring as part of their eugenics-inspired effort to breed a savior who could topple the evil galactic emperor. Jessica defied these plans by giving Leto a son, but she also came to believe Paul could be the savior the Bene Gesserit had been waiting for. Thus began her long journey at Paul’s side to see that prophecy fulfilled.

I don’t think I’d seen anything quite like the Bene Gesserit sisterhood when I first read DUNE. The idea that a sisterhood could be so much more than a cloistered group of humble women was entirely new to me. Their internal mythology, their psychological and physical control, their cunning intervention in galactic politics, and their mysterious powers that verged on magic provided a fascinating subtext for the larger story. Even today, I find myself reciting their litany against fear in moments of duress:

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Lady Jessica, interpreted by actress Francesca Annis in the 1984 film DUNE.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

It’s safe to say that the Bene Gesserit were the earliest inspiration for the Magas of Eolyn’s world, though the Magas are not nearly as well organized or entrenched in their loyalties. A maga, while she loves and serves her sisters, is essentially a free spirit and will always be respected as such. The Bene Gesserit, on the other hand, keep their members under very tight rein.

That being said, there are echoes of Jessica’s story in the journey of Eolyn and her predecessor, Briana of East Selen. Both Eolyn and Briana love a king who their sisters insist should not be loved. Both struggle with the decision to give that king a son. Both in their own way defy the teachings of their sisters and pay a heavy price to see their own dreams fulfilled.

Of course, the context in which Eolyn and Briana make their choices is very different from the circumstances faced by Jessica. Partly as a result of this, their motivations are also worlds apart. (Pun intended.) But if we were to throw Eolyn and Briana into the world of DUNE, I have no doubt they would both become Bene Gesserits. And if Jessica had been born in the Kingdom of Moisehén, she would almost certainly have been a Maga.

I’m curious to know whether there are other fans of DUNE among my followers. If you read and loved Herbert’s epic tale, what about the novel resonated with you? And for my writerly friends: Do you think Herbert’s world has had any influence on your own stories? If yes, tell me more.

On Summer, Magic, and Dance

6075d73138659c7c3591c577c5510ea6This is the first full summer I’ve spent in Kansas City since…Well, since high school. I’m enjoying it immensely, in a way I probably wouldn’t if I’d been here every year from the age of eighteen. Long days and warm nights. Fireflies at dusk. Intense storms that build over the plains, unleash their fury, and then fade toward the east.

Summer break magnifies the sense of leisure. While I have work to do, I have very few schedules to keep. No alarm clock going off in the morning. No class to get to by 9am. No exams to grade by next week.

An added bonus of staying in Kansas City this summer has been the opportunity to participate in flamenco workshops organized by my teacher, Tamara Carson. We’ve had two over the past month. The first focused on bulerias por fiesta, taught by Juan Paredes. The second took us into the more intense but equally lovely caña, taught by Vida Peral.

Dance has meant so much to me all my life, and at times I think it’s remarkable that even now I continue to practice and discover it as an art form. Dance brings me the opportunity for renewal, like a flower that constantly blossoms with new colors and fresh possibilities. Flamenco in particular, with its passionate celebration of everything raw and painful and beautiful in the human experience, has given me many blessings in recent years.

A friend of mine once made the observation that I am never happier than when I dance. I don’t think I would have noticed that on my own, but now that it’s been pointed out to me, I believe it’s true. Though “happy” might not be the right word. Connected, perhaps. To other dancers, to music and rhythm, to something greater than the sum of its parts. I’m never alone when I dance, even if I dance when nobody’s around.

Should that sense of companionship be surprising? Dance in so many ways is a language of the universe, a ritual that builds bridges between us and everything else out there. Through our movement we create patterns reflected in the natural world, from the spinning of atoms to the stately swirl of galaxies. We speak to all of those wonders, and through dance those wonders can speak to us.

When I’m feeling down, I turn to Dance for healing. When I’m feeling up, I use Dance to celebrate. Wherever I go, Dance is with me. When I can’t dance with my body, I dance inside my mind. Even in my dreams I dance; and in dreams it’s more fun because the rules of gravity don’t apply. When time came to build a system of magic for Eolyn’s world, Dance earned a place of honor as an ancient and powerful form of magic.

Do you have an art form, hobby, or past time that keeps you company, that helps you heal and celebrate in equal measure? Would you also dare to call it “magic”? If so, tell me more…

 

This week’s treat: A video of caña, the dance form that I had a look at in last weekend’s flamenco work shop. We didn’t use the shawls or the long skirts, but this will give you an idea of the music, the passion, and the movement. Enjoy!