Archive | November, 2011

Here’s the cover of my first published novel!

19 Nov

Daughter_of_the_goddess_lands_pod_cover_only_500w_777h_jpg_scaled500

Sample of Daughter of the Goddess Lands

19 Nov

Daughter of the Goddess Lands is available in print and Kindle at Amazon. 

 

“But what does he mean?” asked a young woman, whose plaintive tone reminded Kalie of a sheep. “People cannot be owned! Women or men, it makes no difference. Can’t you just explain that to him?”

Kalie sighed, tired of answering the same question, no matter how many different ways it was phrased.

“Well?” demanded the man seated next to the speaker, his arm around her. The meeting was being held in the largest shrine in Riverford, much larger than the one Kalie had met them in the night before. Perhaps eight hands of people were crowded inside, with several times that number waiting anxiously in the courtyard outside.

Kalie looked at the young couple, afraid that if she tried to explain yet again, she would say something that she would regret.

She was spared having to answer by Maris!
. “Whether we like it or not,” the ancient healer said in a voice that belied her age, “we have been called to deal with people who are entirely different from any we have ever encountered. Or imagined. Kalie has explained this notion of ‘slavery’ to us. Refusing to believe it will not change the fact that it is.”

“I will gladly hand over the gold and cloth,” said Yelene. “Even weapons of metal, though I shudder to think of those tools in the hands of such creatures. And as for food, I say give them our honey and wine and every bit of seed grain we have. All of that can be replaced! But I cannot give them human beings! I cannot ask any one of us to even consider such a sacrifice.”

A heavy silence settled over the room. Kalie knew it was now or never.

“There may be a way,” she began. “Yelene is right when she said that material wealth can be replaced. But now that they know of us—of great wealth in the west, held by people who know nothing of war—they will return, and in greater numbers. If the lands of the Goddess are to survive, I believe that the answer lies within Haraak’s demand for slaves.”

There was a roar of protest, but Yelene silenced it with a glance. “How?”

“What I am going to suggest will sound like madness—and it may very well be.” She faltered, suddenly unsure of how to continue.

“It’s all right, child,” said Maris. “The words are in you. Just let them out.” She whispered to the apprentice beside her, and the young woman brought Kalie a cup of something steaming. Kalie thanked her and sipped carefully. A rich, flowery tea greeted her tongue, and while she was trying to guess the ingredients, inspiration struck.

“There is a story I learned while I lived with the healers at Hot Springs.” Kalie’s voice took on the cadence of a storyteller. “Far in the north, where the snow never melts, there lives a bear that is pure white. When it stands on two legs, it is the height of three men, and no spear or arrow made by the hand of man can kill it. But the people who share this bear’s domain have developed an unusual weapon, for such times as when a bear ravages a village, or when hunger makes the people desperate.

“They take a ball of fat, softened by fire, and into it they slide a double bladed knife, folded together, and held in place by the fat as it hardens. They then leave the ball by whatever water source the bear drinks from. The bear usually swallows the ball whole, and goes on his way.”

“And when the fat melts inside his stomach…” Maris took up the story. “The knife springs open and kills the bear—from the inside.”

“A rather cruel way to hunt,” said Yelene.

“Killing is often cruel,” said a man across the room. “As much as we might seek to make it otherwise. But when threatened, all creatures will use whatever means are available to be the one who survives, even if another must die.”

Yelene fixed Kalie with a piercing gaze. “What do you have in mind, child?”

“Haraak has demanded slaves. I say we should give him slaves. Women, willing to sacrifice their lives to save our world from his. We will be the knife swallowed by the bear. We will destroy their world—from within.”

Where there had been painful silence moments before, the room was now in uproar. And while many shouted down her idea as impossible—or wrong—others wanted to know the details of her plan, and, to Kalie’s surprise, many were volunteering to be part of it.

“I do not know exactly what can be done,” Kalie said when order was restored. “Or what things people might be willing to do. We should make several different plans, and recruit those with as many different skills as possible. I know the tribe these beasts belong to is probably the largest of its kind. It is ruled by a man named Ahnaak. When that king learns of our land; of what we have…”

“He will send more of his warriors to ravage our homes,” Karnac finished.

“Or he will lead them here himself,” said Kalie. “And perhaps this time, they will decide not to leave at all.”

Her words brought a new kind of fear to everyone in the room.

“I would risk my life for such an undertaking,” said Valen. “But what, exactly, is it that you think we can do?”

“First,” said Kalie, “our party must consist only of women. Any men we send would be killed immediately.” Before Valen could protest, she continued. “And I think we must remain there for many moonspans, to learn all we can of our enemies; find their every weakness. It may be that simply by killing their strongest leaders, we can sew enough chaos to keep them from our homes for many years.”

“And how are we to kill them?” asked a young woman. Kalie remembered her name was Marika, a refugee from one of the burned villages to the east.

“As slaves, we will prepare much of the food that the men eat, as well as making their clothing. There are poisons that can be added to food, and rubbed into cloth—”

“You are suggesting we ourselves become as these monsters?” a young man asked.

“Only those who are willing,” said Kalie. “And only those who understand the risks: as slaves, our lives will be filled with pain and degradation. We may die in that land without accomplishing anything. I want no one on this mission who cannot fully accept what it means. It may be that I myself am the only one who qualifies.”

“We would not let you do this alone, Kalie,” said Yelene.

“Even if we wanted to, those men will not leave without many more than just you,” said a young priestess. “And now that we have seen for ourselves what is at stake—“

“I will go,” said the young woman beside Maris. “I cannot promise to kill anyone, although I fear Kalie may be right when she says it is necessary. But I will do all I can to bring the light of the Goddess to these men, and to show them that!
there is an alternative to coming to our land as enemies.”

Maris smiled at her apprentice. “My young Alessa speaks the truth. These men are sick, in their minds and in their souls. Yet in demanding slaves, they have given us the key to our salvation—and possibly theirs as well.”

Alessa smiled. “They did insist that we come with them,” she said softly. “So it could be argued that any…change…we bring to their land was at their own request.”

“They are not inviting us to come as teachers!” Kalie said pointedly.

“True,” said Alessa. “But it may happen anyway.”

“We must go to their land to destroy them!” Kalie struggled to keep her voice soft; her tone reasonable.

“I would be willing to slay them,” said Marika. “After what they did to my village and my family, I truly believe, the best use of our lives is to slay their leaders while they sleep—if they are truly foolish enough to sleep beside women they have violated and named ‘slaves’?” She looked at Kalie for confirmation.

“They will do so,” Kalie insisted. “They will do it without fear that a woman could strike back—or even imagine it.” She stood and addressed the room. “What I am suggesting could well mean death for all who come with me. But it may be our only chance to stop these beastmen from destroying the Land of the Goddess! From doing to every village and city what they have already done to—“

“And I believe,” Maris spoke softly. “That our greatest chance lies not in slaying these beasts, but in transforming them.” She smiled at Kalie. “You speak of tricking a beast into swallowing the knife which will kill him. I speak of tricking that same beast into swallowing medicine that will heal him. Yet in either case, it is the women of the Goddess who must be swallowed by the beast for the change to occur. And the future of our world—and perhaps theirs—depends on that transformation.”

“And all the w!
hile, we must seek to reach the women among them,” said Alessa. “For they seem to be victims as well.”

“Then why do they stay with such men?” demanded an exasperated priestess.

“That we shall learn when we are there,” replied Maris. “And perhaps, teach them that they do not have to.”

It was then that those assembled in the temple realized that Maris intended to go with them. “Good Mother,” Valan said slowly, “these men have demanded young women…”

“And they have demanded fifty as well,” said Maris. “Yet when the time comes, I think they will take what they can get and leave.”

“And what, exactly, do you expect the rest of us to be doing, while you risk your lives on this deadly expedition?” demanded a young man, one of the few survivors of the village of Three Hills, two days to the east of Riverford.

“Pray,” said Maris. “And bring word of this threat to all who live in this land. And to prepare some sort of defense in the event that we fail.”

“Perhaps other cities could be rebuilt along the lines of Riverford,” suggested Valan.

“Our city was built this way to keep out floodwaters!” cried Karnac.

“But it has effectively kept out the beastmen as well,” said Yelene. “Perhaps the Goddess guided the hand of those long ago builders, knowing this day would come.”

“If Maris is to go,” said another priestess. “I would ask that Kalie step down as leader, and not go on this journey.”

Kalie’s jaw dropped. “I make no pretensions of leadership,” she sa!
id quickly. “But I must make this journey! I am the only one among us who has lived with these beasts! I speak their tongue, and am the only one who can prepare the others…”

“I was told that when you stumbled into the village of Tall Oak seven years ago, you did not even know your own name!” the priestess interrupted. “Even now, I understand that you suffer from nightmares; that you have never fully regained your memory. To subject yourself to these horrors a second time is more than even the Goddess Herself would ask.”

Yelene nodded. “Truly, Kalie, you have done enough. Remain with us, and complete the Healing you have sought for yourself these seven years.”

Others in the room nodded. Kalie was touched by their concern, but knew she could not remain safely behind in Riverford while others laid down their lives at her urging.

“Kalie must come with us,” said Maris. “As must my own apprentice, Alessa.”

No one seemed willing to argue with Maris. A new energy filled the people in the shrine as, for the first time in days, they had something to do. Under Yelene’s direction, they broke into groups. Some were charged with gathering the ransom goods, while Kalie met with the volunteers willing make up the group of slaves.

Several she rejected at once as too young, too frail or lacking the patience to endure all that slavery would mean. But in the end, she had to accept most who offered, and they still had only thirty women.

When everything—and everyone—was assembled on the highest rooftop, Yelene gazed down at the beastmen, then turned to address those who were about to leave their home, and their world, for possibly the last time.

“Of all the blessings that the Children of the Goddess have known and rejoiced in, going back to First Woman and First Man, perhaps the greatest gift is the power to make our own choices. The strangers who have come to our land, bringing death and pain, live in ignorance of that gift. I can see that now when I look at them. They do not think that we have the power to make choices, once they believe they have made those choices for us. Perhaps that will turn out to be their greatest weakness: they underestimate what free women are capable of.”

Kalie began to feel better than she had in a long time.

 

Sample of Shadow of the Horsemen

19 Nov

Shadow of the Horsemen will be released in print and on Kindle in 2012. Here is chapter 2 of Shadow of the Horsemen:

 

Kalie lay in her furs in the darkness, wondering why she was suddenly awake. The stars told her that it was nearly dawn, but it would be some time before Altia declared the day begun with her usual round of curses and blows. All was quiet, but for the lowing of the sheep and goats, and the soft hooting of an owl.

Kalie sat up. It was too close to dawn for an owl…

A shriek split the night, and horsemen spilled into the camp. They carried torches. Suddenly, everything was burning.

Kalie sat in the middle of it all, as warriors shook off sleep and grabbed their weapons, while women and children ran screaming into the night. Some of the men who had been on sentry duty were already mounting an effective defense, but there were clearly more attackers than defenders. The battle seemed to be as chaotic as the women’s attempt to flee, and Kalie could see no safe place to hide.

Then she saw Varena running straight into the path of a charging horse, and her own safety didn’t matter. She wasn’t aware of moving; wasn’t aware of anything until the moment she landed on the hard earth with Varena under her and a horse leaping over her back.

“Are you all right?” she shouted over the noise, while the girl screamed hysterically. Varena seemed unharmed, but before Kalie could even begin to examine her, something tightened around her neck, stopping her breath.

She landed on the back of a horse, just as she realized in was her own felt robe that was strangling her. The pressure eased as her captor released her, the better to heave a spear with the hand he had used to snatch up Kalie, blocking an attack with his other.

“Not again!” Kalie moaned while the battle raged around them. She was aware that the stench emanating from this new beastman’s body was different from Maalke and the others, whom she had apparently gotten used to. She tried to sit up and figure out how she was going to get off this horse, but her captor only laughed and struck her hard enough to keep her slumped over the horse’s withers.

Kalie watched as the ground moved beneath her, back and forth for a while, and murky with smoke, then more quickly as the beastman urged his horse away from the ruined camp. This new group apparently had what they came for and now were leaving—taking Kalie and who knew how many others with them.

The smoke was gone, allowing Kalie to take a gulp of clean air. She had just decided to attempt a rolling leap from the horse, when the clatter of another horse chasing, then gaining on hers reached her ears. The ho!
rse beneath her slowed, then turned, then reared up with an angry squeal. Kalie hung on, trying to choose the best moment to leap free, while the sounds of weapons clashing and men shouting filled the air around her.

Then there was the meaty thud of a spear striking flesh, and Kalie’s captor fell to the ground. The horse slowed to a stop, and Kalie slid indecorously down the other side of it—only to catch her foot in the stirrup, and find herself hanging upside down, her head just inches from the earth.

“Let me help you the rest of the way off,” said a man’s voice, rich with laughter. “You’re safe now. He won’t be bothering you anymore.”

Back on her feet, Kalie looked down at the dead man. He was smaller and darker than the men of Aahk—and dirtier, if that were possible. He wore a combination of badly made felt and uncured animal skins.

She turned to the other man, and found herself staring into Riyik’s laughing gray eyes. He stood beside his horse looking proud and smug; he seemed to be waiting for something. For the woman he rescued to fall at his feet in gratitude, perhaps? Kalie felt a bu!
bble of laughter at that. Then she realized how far they were from the camp.

“If you’re going to rape me, just get it over with!” she snapped hoarsely.

Riyik’s expression changed abruptly, and Kalie could have sworn he actually got smaller.

“I thought I just rescued you from that fate,” he said quietly.

“Yes, and from what I’ve seen of you beastmen,” she spat the word, “that makes me your prize.”

“You belong to Maalke. He may choose to reward me for saving you—although why he would want to is beyond me at the moment. But I don’t assume any liberties beforehand.”

“Well, aren’t you just the noblest beastman!” Somewhere inside!
, Kalie knew she had lost her last connection to sanity—but she couldn’t have stopped herself if the Goddess Herself commanded it.

Riyik seemed more puzzled than angry. “Actually, I think I am. Most women would show some gratitude after such a rescue—and few men would have this much patience for your reaction.”

“Gratitude!” Kalie was more than spitting—she was nearly foaming at the mouth. Maybe she could pass off her behavior as rabies. “You think being beaten, raped and enslaved by your people is somehow better than being beaten, raped and enslaved by his?” She gave the corpse a vicious kick. It felt wonderful.

Riyik took a step back. “You were putting up an impressive fight. I thought you didn’t want to go with him.”

“And since when does what any woman wants matter to one of you sick, Motherless bastards?” she demanded.

The renewed sounds of battle drew!
their attention. Riyik mounted his horse in a graceful leap. “Others may be more needful of my help. It seems clear you can get back to camp safely by yourself—although I pity any enemy warriors you meet on the way.” He wheeled his horse and raced back to the battle.

 

Shadow of the Horsemen

19 Nov

Shadow_of_the_horsemen_cover_mock_500w_774h

Shadow of the Horsemen is the sequal to Daughter of the Goddess Lands, the unforgettable saga of Kalie, a courageous young heroine born into the untamed beauty of prehistoric Europe.

Kalie has survived a full year as a slave—and spy—among the tribes of Aahk.  While her skills at healing and storytelling have raised her status, Kalie fears that she is no closer to learning the secret of how to destroy her enemies than when she first arrived.

But when the king dies under mysterious circumstances, and a weak and untried prince is placed as a puppet king for a ruthless traitor, Kalie knows she must act soon to prevent the conquest of her peaceful homeland.  She is joined in her quest by Riyik, whose crippled son Kalie has been caring for.  Riyik, too, opposes Haraak, and while their reasons are different, Kalie and Riyik find soon find themselves working together.

While Haraak struggles to gather the tribes into a vast horde, ready to sweep wes!
tward, Kalie, Riyik and their followers must take a desperate gamble to defeat Haraak and destroy the alliance.

Shadow of the Horsemen will be released in print and on Kindle in 2012.

 Click here to read a sample chapter of Shadow of the Horsemen.

Daughter of the Goddess Lands

19 Nov

Daughter_of_the_goddess_lands_pod_cover_only_500w_777h

Daughter of the Goddess Lands is the unforgettable saga of Kal!
ie, a courageous young heroine born into the untamed beauty of prehistoric Europe.

Kalie’s peaceful life is shattered when a brutal attack by horsemen from the east leave her scarred in body and soul. As the sole survivor of the assault, Kalie makes her way home, and warns her people to prepare for the invasion that she knows is coming. But the goddess-worshiping farmers of her home have no concept of battle, and dismiss Kalie’s warning.

When the marauders strike again, they cut a swath of destruction and death that prove too late the truth of Kalie’s words. Then Haraak, the leader of the invaders, demands a tribute of gold, grain and women in exchange for sparing her village. Yet it is in Harak’s cruel show of power that Kalie sees a chance to save her people–and gain revenge for herself.

Kalie leads a group of volunteers to infiltrate the horseman’s society, and then destroy them from within. Once she is among them, Kalie uses her skill as a storyteller, and her knowledge of healing to penetrate the horsemen’s inner circle and to discover the secrets that could lead to their destruction.

But Kalie discovers that price of revenge is high, and that a quest for vengeance can become a journey of healing and redemption.

Daughter of the Goddess Lands is available in print and Kindle at Amazon.

Click here to read a sample chapter of Daughter of the Goddess Lands.