Tag Archives: fantasy

Five Star Review for Darkspire Reaches

Digital Cover

Amazon Customer reviewed Darkspire Reaches

Darkspire Reaches had me from the first page July 20, 2016
I didn’t know I enjoyed fantasy novels until I read Darkspire Reaches. I picked up the book because I was intrigued by the cover, but after reading the first two pages, I just couldn’t put it down. I finished it in two sittings because I had to go to work, and even then I managed to sneak out and read a few pages.
Magic, fantastic beasts, mysterious maidens, love, betrayal… Immersing myself into the rich and imaginative world created by CN Lesley felt like a guilty pleasure. The reader roots for Raven, a young girl abandoned at birth, who has to hide her mysterious magical powers to escape persecution by her hostile adoptive clan. A very entertaining and enjoyable ride!

Wildenwold Chapter 2

(I had intended to post this on Monday but that turned out to be not a good day, so here it is.)

“Hush now, I don’t make war on maidens. There is nothing for thee to fear from me.”
Encased in his arms, Ella trembled. He was a lunatic, a dangerous madman. Dangerous, the report said. What part of this was real and what wasn’t? Would she even survive the night?

“You hurt people.”

“They stood in my way. I did ask for them to stand aside.” He marched her over to her chair, pushing her down in it as he released his grip. He turned his chair, straddling it to sit opposite, watching her intently.

“People will be coming. They will check every house. You need to go, right now.”

He frowned. “I will fight if they come for me. Canst thee help me? I will free thee if so.”

What were the rules of a hostage situation? Defying him could create a monster capable of anything, but if she went along with his wishes? He hadn’t threatened her with any weapon. He had said he would release her if she helped him. She wanted to live. How could she get him past the road blocks?

John’s passport, if he had really left it here. He was so disorganized it was impossible to say, but it was a start. Mordred looked close enough to John that she could make him so with her work kit and give herself time to escape.

“I think I can make you look like someone else. I need that big bag I took to my car. Can I get it?” Did she have a chance of jumping in and speeding off?

“We will go together.”

So much for that plan. Now she was trapped by her offer. Once the case was inside, she opened it and started work on his face. Mordred was surprisingly calm while she altered him with her toners, tints, and padding. John was fatter in the face than Mordred, so cheek pads were needed. Then there was the problem of his shaven head and prison clothes.

“Come with me. You need to get out of that prison overall, and I need to find identity documents to match your new look.”

“Clothes would be good, but what are documents?”

“Never mind. Just trust me that you need these.” A small part of her relished depriving John of his needed passport. Spite grew branches. John had more clothes than he needed. One change wasn’t enough for Mordred when she could give him an entire case of clothes.

The steep old staircase creaked under their steps. Mordred’s eyes widened when he saw the bedroom and then narrowed, zeroing in on her, his face a picture of surprise.

“Don’t even think about those thoughts, Buster. You want my help? You keep your distance.”

“Who is Buster?” He looked puzzled.

“That is you, dude. I am off limits.” She opened the wardrobe, getting jeans, a polo neck shirt, and a brown, corduroy jacket out for him. These she thrust into his arms. “Go through the end door and change.”

“No. Turn thy back to preserve thy modesty.” He stared her down until she complied.

Another chance at escape gone, Ella concentrated on another task in hand. Where would John have stashed his passport? She went through the drawer on his nightstand. Nothing, but John had a horror of being robbed. Not the usual places, so where? On impulse, she felt between the mattress and the box springs on his side and felt a package. Out came a thick manila envelope sealed tight. Inside were John’s passport, his driver’s licenses, and a thick wad of notes, some sterling and some dollars. She wouldn’t have to use a credit card that might not work…and she couldn’t be tracked. Maybe this was good, for what if they were stopped? Would she survive a standoff? She could if she could get Mordred through the checkpoints. He promised he would let her go. Would he?

One last finishing touch left. She turned to the armoire and bumped into Mordred. Heart racing, she choked back a scream. Did he have to move so quietly?

“What are these?” Mordred looked at the documents and cash in her hand.

Ella stuffed them back in the envelope. “Things we will need to win your freedom. I also need something from in here. She pointed to the armoire. When he didn’t move to stop her, she opened to doors to reveal a neat row of wigs on stands. John’s vanity hadn’t let him accept his thinning hair. How ironic that this meant the thing she needed most was the very thing to hand. Ella selected the one most matching the passport, a slightly long cut with hair partially over the ears. By the time she had finished with a bemused Mordred, he could have passed for John, although his shoulders were broader and he was far too thin. This point was made when he yanked up his slipping pants, but a belt sorted out the problem.

“Now, stay out of my way while I pack some more clothes for you.” Ella snagged a sports bag and carefully sorted through John’s side of the wardrobe. He didn’t use half his stuff and wouldn’t miss a few items here and there. She hesitated over underwear. No, not that. There were the new shorts she had brought for John at the weekend for his upcoming trip. They went in the bag instead, and Ella derived a small sense of satisfaction from the act. John’s documents and cash went in a side pouch as Mordred would seem more in character if he reached for his own I.D were they stopped. Next, she grabbed a dry cleaner bag to stash his prison garb, including his footwear. It couldn’t be left here, or the police would know who to follow. But what if they were stopped? She would have to trust to luck and hope they could find a dumpster along the way.

“Here, take these.” Ella thrust both burdens at Mordred. Whatever else, she felt safer when his hands were full. He followed her down the creaking stairs in his stocking feet. The next stop was the cellar for recycling. She needed to reassemble a couple of boxes, and this could be the answer to Mordred’s prison clothes. His face was a picture when she carefully packed down his convict clothes under a layer of cereals and dried goods. The other box was for cans and containers with perishables. Fairy Child would be fit to sail without a grocery visit if she chose wisely, but the car wouldn’t hold much more. One last stop at the front porch for shoes, but here she hit a snag. Mordred’s feet were too big to squeeze into anything except a pair of rubber boots, and then his expression became pained. Well, he would just have to put up with it.

“We are going to pack my car. I want the big cases on the outsides, and the groceries in the middle. The heavy one goes first with the lighter one on top. Your sports bag goes on the back seat where you can reach it.”

For a dangerous lunatic, he trotted along, obeying her orders like an obedient puppy, right up until she took the keys out of the now closed tailgate, and then his hand grasped hers.

“Do you want to drive?”

“Not without horses pulling this…” Words failed him.

“Let go of my hand, then. “Horses? Was he for real?

“Thee will vanish in a magical cart and leave me.” His eyes narrowed.

“Look, all my clothes and my papers are in that car. I need them. Why don’t you get in first? I think you could outrun me if I tried to escape.” He towered over her, leaving her little doubt on that score. She herded him around to the passenger side, opening the door. He surprised her by lowering himself inside, but he stopped her when she would have shut the door. Ella walked in front of the car to the driver’s side. She settled into place, slammed the door and put the keys in the ignition.

“Mordred, will you shut your door like I did?” She didn’t know whether to be relieved or not when he did. Was this an elaborate act, or not? “Here is what I hope will happen. We will drive out of the village and take the main road to my boat. That is where I am going. If you want to stop any place along the way, then that is your call. If we are stopped at a roadblock, you let me do the talking. If I say to you ‘John, get your passport out’, this is what you will do.” She demonstrated. “Can you do this?”

“That isn’t my name.”

“No, but it is the name on the document. You will pass it to me, and I will show it to the policemen before I hand it back to you. Do you understand?”

“Thee will try an illusion to fool the evil ones. Yes.” He looked relieved.

She had to strap his seatbelt on for him as he didn’t seem to have a clue. Once they started, the glow of the instrument panel showed his hands as white-knuckled lumps in his lap. He had closed his eyes tight.

All went well until they hit the only road south out of the village. A cordon of police cars waited. “Mordred, there is a road block.” She couldn’t keep a tremor out of her voice. “Pretend to be asleep and let me do the talking. If you must respond, just smile and nod.” Oh God, was this going to be the end? She hadn’t seen a weapon on him, but the report said he had hurt people. A policeman waved her to pull over. She rolled down her window.

“Sorry to trouble you, Miss. Could I have your name and that of your passenger?” The young officer shone a flashlight on Mordred’s face. He winced and opened his eyes.
“John and Ella Harrison. We live just up the road. Is there a problem, officer?”
“The John Harrison?” The guy’s eyes boggled. “From ‘Cut to the Bone’?”

“Yes, that is him. Look, we are in a hurry and have a plane to catch. Is this going to take long?”

The young officer shone the light on Mordred again, who smiled and nodded. “No, you may proceed. So sorry to trouble you, Mr. Harrison.” He stepped back, spoke into his radio, and the barrier was moved aside.

Ella eased the car forward until they were clear. Beads of sweat ran down her neck and into her eyes. Her heart hammered in her chest. What had she done? How would she ever explain this away if they were caught?

Wildenwold

Here is something I am playing with at the moment. It is an urban fantasy of sorts.

“Look, I think it is time to call it quits.” John’s voice sounded crisp, clear and rehearsed on the other end of the phone as if he had studied for the part. “We don’t move in the same circles anymore, and I certainly don’t want noisy brats invading my space. You made it clear that you do.”

A woman’s throaty laugh sounded close to him, too close. Ella started shaking. The room blurred under a veil of tears. A lump grew in her throat. What had happened to her husband? Who was this stranger with his voice?

“I’ve paid the rent on the cottage up to the end of this month, in two days’ time, and I handed in our notice. The landlord just told me it is let, so you need to be out tomorrow. I have also removed your name from my bank account.” More throaty whispers came from the vicinity of the receiver followed by John’s low-toned ‘Hush’.
“I am suing you for divorce on grounds of adultery. Don’t imagine you will get any alimony out of me.”

“That is not true!” Ella’s voice came out in a squeak. How could he say these things to her? She had never even looked at another man since he came into her life and who was that woman with him listening in to a private phone call?

“I have pictures of you with another man, someone who is prepared to come forward. The pictures show a very good view of that disgusting birthmark on your leg. If you try to fight me, I will see to it you never work again.”

He could do that, the big name movie star. He could set people up to act the part, with a little help of Photoshop to reproduce her single blemish, an unusual pattern of freckles shaped like a trident. What was the fate of a make-up artist to film producers by comparison? Why hadn’t she seen this coming? They had been so happy, or so she had thought. Her dream, her illusion, built on the bones of an unknown actor and her with a foot in the industry, meeting and getting together.

“One more thing, do you think you could find my passport? I am flying out to work on location in Australia next week so could you leave it on the coffee table for my agent to collect? Cooperate with me and I might consider giving you a reasonable one-time payoff.”

Money, it was all about money and lust. John had a nasty habit of accusing others of his own flaws in any disagreement. Cold logic began to take over from the pain and shock. He had been caught by the paparazzi with some bimbo. He couldn’t risk his image, so this was going to be her fault for cheating on him. How he must have scrambled to manufacture his evidence. Ella didn’t know this person anymore. Four years of living an illusion of love came down to a moment on the phone.

“I will be gone first thing in the morning. I take it you haven’t canceled the lease on my car?”

“No, I was too late. You have it for one more month, not that you’ll need it for much longer. I imagine you’ll want to go back to the States.”

Ella put the phone down very gently. They were done. It didn’t matter whatever else he might want to say. Through it all the smell of a roast wafted from the tiny kitchen; a supper they were to have shared together by candlelight. The supper he had told her to get ready to celebrate his new contract. Maybe she could salvage it to take with her.

He was right on one score; she was not going to stay on this damp and crowded island, despite the lure of its history. The Tudor cottage, with it blackened oak beams now sharpened her loss. This was to have been their love nest. The overstuffed chintz furniture wasn’t theirs. The place had come fully furnished. She should pack her clothes to make an early start since she didn’t want to see his agent. Move, do something, so she didn’t have to think—do anything.

The narrow stairs creaked when she went up to their bedroom, her bedroom now for just this night. What to take? The tools of her trade for sure, but the rest? Where would she need designer dresses again? She left them hanging, along with her wedding gown. What would fit into the tiny foreign car? Pack the practical work clothes and leave the rest.

Two large suitcases full of clothes later to haul down the stairs and Ella realized she had no idea where she was headed. A person couldn’t simply head to London and jump on a plane. It had to be booked, and she had no money, not now he had closed their joint account. God, did she have to go cap in hand to beg him to buy her a seat? No, there was the boat. Frantic now, she attacked the Georgian bureau for her passport, driver’s license, birth certificate and the deeds for her boat. It was in her name—his gift to her when he had scored his first blockbuster. Fairy Child was ocean going and would fetch a good price, maybe enough to set her up without begging from him. Yes, she could go to the West Country and live on the boat until a buyer came along. If she were quick, she could stock it up with provisions before he thought to cancel her Visa card. No doubt that would be done at the end of the month. Tonight, she had to leave tonight.

Ella hauled the suitcase with her work stuff out to the tiny car, flipping up the tail gate to heave in the heavy burden. Light rain anointed her face with sky tears. Clouds covered the stars and the moon, making for a dark and grim night of driving. She didn’t care. All she wanted was to be away from here. One more case and then put the food in containers to take whatever she could. Yes, she would need that tomorrow. She ran for the door.

A hand snaked out, covering her mouth. An arm wrapped around her, stopping her from moving. Oh God, oh God, nothing more bad, please don’t let this be happening.
“I’ll not hurt thee. Don’t be a fearful,” a male voice murmured, close to her ear.
The shudders came back with a vengeance. If this man was after money, then he was shit out of luck. What if he tortured her for something she didn’t have? John wouldn’t pay any ransom, of that she was sure.

“Pass through the threshold.”

A tanned hand, leading to an arm clad in prison grays opened to latch to let her in. Oh God, a convict. What had he done? Was he a killer, or a pervert? Heart pounding strong enough to break her ribs, Ella did as she was told. Maybe she would have a chance to grab her cell phone, or a knife or something heavy? The door swung shut behind them with a click as the latch settled.

He marched her into the kitchen. “I smell food. If I do let thee go, will thee serve me?”

Something wasn’t right here. Why was he using archaic language? Was this a setup? Would John stoop so low to intimidate her with another actor playing the part of a convict, or was this man a real a convict? How did one manage hostage situations? Ella didn’t know. She nodded.

“That is good. I will be a letting thee go presently. Don’t thee be making any swift movements, or I will not be pleased with thee.” He released her.

Trembling Ella walked to the stove. She dumped the roast beef and roasted potatoes pan on the hob, next to the boiled carrots. What now? Was she to get the electric carver going? What she didn’t want to do was to turn to see his face. If he was a convict, he would have to kill her.

“Thee can get a knife to carve the meat. Don’t try to skewer me with it. I be a warrior and thee might get hurt if I needs to disarm thee. I don’t want to hurt thee.”

Slowly, carefully, Ella reached for the electric carver. She turned it on.
“Odds blood, what be that device?” A hard arm encircled her again. She hadn’t even heard him moving.

This had to be a setup. No one talked like that. Fine, so she would go along with this parody. “You wanted a serving of meat, and I am about to cut it for you if you will let me.”

He backed off.

Ella continued, reaching up for a plate in the overhead cabinet. She had everything now, including the gravy, but how to serve him without looking at him. Was he an actor or not? Her life might well depend on her next move.

“Serve thyself, too. I’ll not be eating alone.”

Ella reached for another plate to serve herself a tiny amount. No way did she want to eat.

“Is anyone else expected to share the repast?”

“No, just you and me.” Crunch time. She couldn’t serve him without looking in his direction. Was John going to get lucky and become a widower? Was this guy for real? Ella took a deep breath and put both plates on her kitchen table. She tried not to look at him, to keep her eyes downcast and then reached into the drawer for silverware. She set their places, still with eyes lowered. Grunts of enjoyment followed.

“Thee not be eating. I did say I wouldn’t harm thee.”

Ella stared at her plate. “Then why are you in my home, holding me a prisoner?”

“Evil people did lock me away and perform black magic on my body.” His voice hardened in tone. “I needs to get away, to my own place. I needs to hide so they can’t find me, and I needs food for strength to fight them if they does try.”
Shocked, she looked up at him. He was a young man, who might have been a blond, judging by his eyebrows as his head was shaven bald. Faint, darker stubble peppered his jaw and cheeks. Once, he might have been a powerful man, but now his prison clothes hung off an emaciated body. Grass-green eyes stared at her.

“Who are you?”

“They be a calling I John Smith, but that bain’t my name. I be Mordred.”

Ella laughed. This just wasn’t real. She had either lost her mind, or he was a very good actor. “Mordred was the son of the mythical King Arthur.”

He frowned, shoveling in a chunk of roast beef, which he took his time chewing before he answered. “Not so. That was a rumor. I be Merlin’s son and his apprentice.”

Yes, she had lost her mind. “Those people were supposed to have lived twelve centuries back. Who are you really? One of my soon to be ex-husband’s friends sent to scare me?

The man finished his meal with obvious enjoyment. He thrust his empty plate at her. “That was good. Could I have more?”

This was getting surreal. “When you have answered my question. Who are you?”

“I be Mordred. I will prove this to thee when I have more strength. Now, can I have another serving of your excellent food?”

Ella complied. She didn’t know what to do with this strange man. If he was one of John’s buddies, he was doing a stellar job on her. On the other hand, what if he was a madman, escaped from an asylum, which his prison grays seemed to suggest?

Mordred wolfed down his second portion with relish. He then looked directly into her eyes. “Do thee have a candle or a taper?”

Ella wasn’t sure what a taper was, but she did have candles. Ones meant to go with this supper. She stood up to get the candelabra from the sitting room, but he was there, breathing down her shoulder before she had reached the doorway.

“The candles are in another room. Can I get them?”

“I’ll be coming along behind.”

He did, shadowing her to such an extent that she wondered about him. Ella placed the unlit seven candle candelabra on the table between then as they resumed their seats.

“There be no lights. Thee agree?”

She nodded. Where was this madness going?”

Mordred lowered his head and shut his eyes. “Watch the candles.”

One by one, starting on the right, they flamed into light. Ella gasped, stunned. She didn’t know what to think. No one could do this.

“Watch.” He commanded.

The candelabra rose above the table to almost ceiling height before it gently drifted down to its former position.

He opened his grass green eyes. “I be Mordred, the apprentice and son of Merlin. Do thee believe me now, or do thee think me moonstruck, like the people in white coats?”

“I think I have gone mad. No one can do what you have just done”.

“I can and much more when I have my strength back. Will thee help me?”

He was serious. He had just accomplished an impossible feat. None of John’s actor friends could have done this, let alone an escapee from an asylum. Yes, this whole thing was a hallucination brought on by stress. She would wake up in the morning to her new, horrendous life, and that would be the end of it. In the meantime, she would go along with this madness. It spared her smashing things or dissolving into useless tears.

“What do you want from me?”

“I need to be where the wild things are, away from people. I can’t be going back to the place of sorcery and torment again.” He reached up to wipe a dribble of gravy from his mouth, exposing a wrist with heavy slash-marked scars slicing across it.

Reality slammed through Ella. She was sitting across the table from an escapee from an asylum, who had tried to self-harm. He wasn’t making sense, and yet the candles …that hadn’t been an illusion, or was it? Just how dangerous was this man, if he were real? She stood, turning to reach for the TV remote. A chair crashed back, and the next instant her arms were locked at her sides by his steely embrace.

“None of that long distance talking to call them to me.” His voice was a rumbled growl in her ear, his breath hot on her neck.

Heavens, he thought the remote was a cell phone. Her world tilted askew again. “I can’t talk to anyone with the device.” Now she had better humor him or else. “It is to turn on the box over in the corner that will show pictures and words from a distance, but not hear any words I say to it. I need to know where the people are who are chasing you. How can I help you if I don’t know what traps they are setting?”

He released one of her arms, still keeping her close against him. “Don’t thee be crossing I.”

Ella flipped through the channels until she had a local one. Halsham manor, a secure mental hospital just five miles away, flickered into view, surrounded by police cars and reporters. The camera zeroed in on a reporter describing a breakout of a dangerous and psychotic patient, who was on no count to be approached by the general public. A picture of Mordred, looking drugged, flashed onto the screen, while the voice reported that he had injured three staff, one seriously. Assurances followed of roadblocks and house to house searches in the immediate area. The man was considered dangerous. Ella killed the screen and gently put down the remote before it fell out of her shaking hand.

Serpent of the Shangrove is live now

 

Serpent-of-the-Shangrove-Digital-Cover-1-641x1024Copper is now a fully grown Drakken, but despite his magical abilities, he is shunned and shamed by his pure-blood kin.
Wandering despondent in the wilderness, Copper discovers a portal that reminds him of his lost crèche mate, left behind when the Drakkens fled their ancestral home. Knowing the portal will only remain open for three short days, Copper cannot resist the challenge to bring the lost maiden to safety, and prove himself worthy of his breed.

But the other world is not what he and his kin expected. The peoples are hostile, the Angressi emperor has not forgotten his grudge, and something is killing Samara Maidens.

In this eagerly anticipated sequel to her bestseller, Darkspire Reaches, CN Lesley transports us back into the world of Drakkens, of Connor and Raven, and of their son.

Deep in the Shangrove—a dark place that feeds on creatures of magic—a new evil is growing, waiting for the perfect mate.

http://www.amazon.com/Serpent-Shangrove-C-N-Lesley-ebook/dp/B01CO4E25I

Politics in Fantasy and Sci fi

Should they be there? Oh, my word yes. Politics is really a set of happenings that determine who will be in charge and what sort of things, based on character traits, will happen when/if they achieve their goal. The character traits are way more important that what they actually promise. Promises are words and words can be denied. Who a person is, inside, is much more indicative.

Frex, in Darkspire Reaches, the Angressi emperor decrees all witches must die. Now it isn’t really as simple as suddenly deciding he doesn’t like them. There is always cause before effect and he has a secret and is none too secure on his throne. He knows witches/wise women can scry, (look into the past and the future through magical means), as his own cousin he tried to have arrested had this skill. He thought he had dealt with the issue at that time, since she disappeared. Whispers have started, so he must remove all of these people with magic. His actions start a series of events, so again effect generated by a cause. In this case, the cause was fear and guilt. He needed to protect his position, which would have become jeopardised if his secret had been revealed, which is part of the guilt. Character traits are everything, for had he been a wise and kind ruler no one would be digging around for a way to displace him.

Very often the motivation is grounded in politics. Something important needs to happen for the continuation or the replacement of a set of circumstances. They are grounded into our lives so, by extension, are part of life that must be present in full in a story to create the living, believability factor. Ss

A New Character Muscles In

This is one of the penalties of being a Pantzer, (a writer who writes by the seat of their pants). Someone can just pop out of the woodwork at any time and then they become a problem.

Is this going to be a spear carrier, or someone of importance? A Pantzer won’t know this so the character has to be developed outside the story. It is not as simple as what they look like and if they are good or bad, oh no. A whole profile needs to be worked up to give their entire history and therefore the possible reasons behind anything they might do. None of this will probably appear in the story, but it must be in the writer’s mind as the words unfold.

Another matter of major importance for the character is are they expendable? If they are not going to be useful further down the line, then the answer is yes, they are. In which case the character has to be adorable to wring out the maximum amount of  angst when they die, unless, of course, they are a bad guy, in which case they have to be even more carefully constructed so they don’t appear like a cartoon bad guy. Even bad guys have needs, motivations and wishes, so there are many shades of gray between black and white.

The major trick is to determine if this is a good guy or a bad guy and sometime this is going to be ambivalent. Not that is part of the fun, the not knowing until it happens.DSCN0195

 

 

 

 

New review for Shadow Over Avalon

Wow! Doing Happy Dance!!! This is the latest review of Shadow Over Avalon, the first book in an epic sci fantasy series. This is currently on sale for 99c. Don’t miss out. http://bookShow.me/B00GAN6HMG

5.0 out of 5 starsA Spellbinding Story
January 30, 2016
Format: Paperback
‘Shadow Over Avalon’ is a science fiction novel which has the feel of being a heroic fantasy novel. This blend works very well. It is the first volume in a series of novels, and it sets a hugely impressive standard for the others to live up to.

Many of the characters in the novel are named after figures from Arthurian legend, and it is hinted that Arthur – and presumably others – are in fact those same people, reborn in the latest of a long line of new lives. There are Ector, Uther, Kai, Morgan at the least mentioned in this first volume. Cleverly, a semblance of their relationships is retained and they are true to their characters, but this is not a tired ‘drag and drop’ operation; the lives they lead in this future world are wholly new and fresh.

The world is a large and breathtaking one, with a technologically advanced city home to a partially amphibious species of evolved humanity beneath the seas, whilst the still mammalian terran humans on the surface endure a harsh existence in feudal conditions. Both are prey to the powerful and inhuman Nestines. The exact nature of the world and its politics, together with its history, is revealed piece by fascinating piece as the book progresses.

Arthur features largely in the novel, but he is not actually the main character, at least not for much of this first book in the series. That honour belongs to a strange woman called Shadow, who becomes the link between the terran and submarine humans. Her story is a dark and tragic one, but also full of courage. There are some really exceptional characters in the novel and some very bleak and threatening situations. It really gets under your skin. I don’t want to give plot spoilers, but some of the twists and turns are quite insidious.

The writing is evocative and assured. For example, the description of the priests is very brief, but succeeds in bringing a sense of revulsion. The story and its environments are very easy to visualise whilst still being fantastic in scope.

The best new fantasy series I have picked up in years.

Snow day May 29 2010 101

Ss

And here it is. The official cover release of Serpent of the Shangrove along with comments from Kristell Ink.

2016 looks to be an exciting year. We have some excellent pieces scheduled for release and today we’re sharing with you the cover for C.N Lesley’s Serpent of the Shangrove, her follow-on novel to the hugely successful Darkspire Reaches.
Evelinn Enoksen has captured (again!) the feel of the novel entirely. Nature, lush yet dark and dangerous.

More details coming soon, but for the time being, C. N Lesley has written a little bit about the book. This isn’t the official blurb, but when we asked her to sum up the story in a few paragraphs, this is what she said:

Given one chance to find the fate of a crèche mate, Copper grasps the challenge to save her and to prove himself worthy to the other Drakkens, who look down on him as a half-breed, despite his full array of magic abilities. The other world is not as he expected and the races living there don’t seem to have honor. Then he finds the Serpent, a creature of pure evil. Who will live? Who will die? One of them will not walk away.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMwPuG0FEys

Widdershins, my nano project Chapter 8

Disclaimer, this had not been edited and may well be modified when it is.

The morning shone clear and the roads were relatively clear, having had no snowfall the previous night by the look of things. Still, Rowan engaged the four by four, aware how treacherous the route through the mountains could become with a simple puff of wind, or an animal setting off an avalanche. Even the Icefields Parkway was closed; something he regretted as he would have preferred the route to Vancouver through Jasper rather than Banff. Still, it meant getting to Kelowna quicker, which was a good thing. Walmart would be open by the time they arrived and the staff probably too sleepy to pay much attention to people. He hoped there wasn’t going to be a fuss about Morgan getting new clothes from there because he really didn’t have time to start shopping at the sort of places the surviving remnants of her clothing indicated that she preferred. On top of that he didn’t want people to notice them and she was a pretty girl. Dress her up right and she would be stunning. A glint of sunlight ground into his eyes from the rear-view mirror; he winced, tired eyes watering.

Morgan lightly touched his arm. “Can I drive? I could use a change.”

“Thanks, but no. You are too new to trust behind the wheel. If you saw a prey beast you may well go off road after it with the truck and then we would be stuck in the mountains. It is a very, very long run to a decent town.” That reminded him, he needed to also purchase kiddie back packs so they could take their possessions with them if they needed to shift into fur. He flexed his shoulders, trying to get out the kinks, aware some were caused by tension. Sooner or later he was going to be cornered into an awkward conversation with Morgan on the subject of clothes and shifting. He had to hope she could be sensible over the choices.

“Why is a vampire head of a mob and how does he get away with this? Don’t the rest of them know what he is?”

Dammit, if only the old bat had not found them last night. Now his puppy had a whole host more of questions requiring answers. He really didn’t want her making them stand out by looking up at the sky every five minutes, like she was doing now.

She poked him in the ribs. “Look, you might as well talk to me. It is a good way to stay alert when you are driving tired.”

Rowan now remembered precisely why he preferred his own space, rather than sharing with a female, who chattered. He guessed she wasn’t about to let up, convinced she needed to stop him falling asleep at the wheel. “If you were in a mob and your leader could drain your blood if you didn’t behave, what would you do? Stand up to him?”

Morgan rooted around in the carrier bag of stuff she had taken from the cabin for tissues and a water bottle. A small mirror with suction cups on one side followed. She tried sticking the mirror to the windshied first, but that didn’t work too well because of the slope, so she stuck it to the glass on the passenger window, to begin wiping off the now cracked and messy makeup. “I thought his bite would turn the victim into a creature like himself?”

“Oh, it will if he wishes.” Morgan sighed, accepting that this was going to be a long session. “He would need to give the victim some of his own blood once he had drained all of theirs. That is how a person would get turned. Borinsky is very unlikely to do that as he would end up having to share power. Sharing is not one of his strong points.”

“But how does a vampire get in control in the first place? I mean, it must be difficult when a person can’t go out in daytime. No banks, no formal documents, as those offices will not be open at night.”

Yes, this was going to make for a very long morning. “He is very old and very wealthy. Internet banking is very convenient for all sorts of reasons and as for documentation, why would he want that if he has people fronting for him? If he doesn’t exist, he doesn’t have to pay taxes. He wouldn’t need a driver’s license, either, now would he?”

“But surely he would need one if it was raining?”

Oh boy, she was going to go into every last detail, while all he wanted to do was quietly think through a plan of action. How could he shut her up? “That is what minions are for. But what about you? Exactly what did you see to land you in this mess in the first place?”

And the floodgates opened. She began her story, starting when she got up on that fateful day, the clothes she chose and who she had intended to meet. Rowan smiled and made encouraging noises while he let his mind drift in the direction of their problems right now.

Rowan had decided to buy an eyewash by the time he pulled into the parking lot in front of Walmart. His eyes felt like they had been rubbed in sand, but he was still alert. By his side Morgan had the window wound down a little and was taking in the aromas. He could smell the meat, too. The Macdonald’s burger joint inside the store was firing up. Yes, they had to eat and soon. He wondered how disappointed the girl would be when she dug into her meal, which brought him to another decision.

“Here is the plan. We go into the store for you to pick your clothes and then you meet me at the electronics, where I will be getting a phone. Once we are done we get a take out from McDonald’s. Figure out what you want while you are shopping and remember they will be serving the breakfast menu. You need things high in protein. Is that clear? So milk over a pop to drink. We go eat in the truck and you change there into your new stuff. Everything we need, or discard gets packed into the Walmart bags and comes with us.”

She frowned. “But why not just leave the old clothes and stuff in the truck?”

“Because we are going to be getting into a taxi and it has to look like we are regular customers. We have shopping bags, then we blend in and become invisible.” Not to mention leaving a messy truck would draw attention to it far faster, but she didn’t need to know that.

Morgan grabbed a cart and scurried off in the direction of womens clothing without a backward glance, or a complaint at having to wear less than high fashion, which both surprised and relieved him. He just hoped she wouldn’t fill the thing as he guessed he would end up being the one carrying all her excesses. Rowan detoured passed kids apparel to snag a couple of backpacks, one with a monkey face and one resembling a black kitten. Not ideal, but the other choices were a blue hippo or a pink elephant. Somehow the color of the last gave a clue as to why the consignment would end up on sale in this particular store. Had the joker making the statement about alcohol through pink elephants gotten themselves fired, he wondered. Whatever, the two he chose would blend in with their fur the best and he trusted he hadn’t lost his hunting instincts to warn if any humans were near, should they have to shift.

The phone proved easy enough as they stocked an android suitable. While he preferred Iphones, there was no way he wanted to spend so much on what would probably be a throwaway item. The choice narrowed to the cheapest and the smallest they had in stock. Now he had to wait for Morgan, as the man serving would need to walk the product to the checkout. Fortunately, she turned up just as the choice had been made, astonishing him.

“That was quick.”

“It is all nasty, so I just grabbed the best of what would fit.” She looked down with disdain at the modest heap of clothes.

He was relieved at her color choices, which were all subdued. It looked like she had confined herself to jeans and t-shirts for outerwear, although he couldn’t be sure as there was more under the initial heap. “Looks like we are ready then. Did you figure out what you wanted to eat, like I said?”

“I’ll have a sausage egg McMuffin with a box of milk, but I can order for myself.”

“I thought you would like to take your stuff to the truck once I have paid for it and stow it away while I get the food.” He hoped she would pick up on what he was really saying, giving that the man carrying the phone was well into earshot. She could get changed without him there if she caught on to the gist of his words.

Morgan looked entirely different when he got to the truck with their takeaway. She had gone more for a college look with designer threadbare jeans and a blue t-shirt with a dragon motif on the front. She also had a goth look for her makeup, too heavy for his taste and yet wildly different from her granny look. Yes, she would do nicely like this. He thought she must have had a lot of practice with different looks in her time of hiding. Smiling, he handed over her package and drink.

“Hey, I only asked for one. There are three in here.”

“Try it. I think you will find out why when you do.” He casually stripped the bun off his own sausage egger leaving just the protein. He had restricted himself to four, explaining to the girl at the counter that they had kids waiting. Whatever else happened, they couldn’t afford to stand out for any reason.

“What is the matter with this? It tastes like mush.” Morgan said, talking around the food in her mouth before she took a big gulp of milk to wash it down.

“We are carnivores. You will find bread doesn’t agree with your taste anymore, which is why I got several of them. Good enough?”

Glaring at him, she stripped the edible protein away from the useless. Yes, sometime soon she was building up to a huge argument about her changed state. He reckoned he was going to hear all about her fury once they were free and clear. For now, all he had to suffer was multiple instances of the stink eye in his direction.

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