Thursday, December 20, 2012

Latest News

Well, I hope everyone is having a good holiday season and getting to do whatever it is they want to do. I'm on vacation until the new year, so I'm getting some writing and art and the like done. It's nice.

I have some news to give. Apparently people have been asking me questions on my Facebook page without Facebook managing to tell me (and I'm famous for forgetting the site exists, which means I don't check it), so I'm answering some of those now. For those who have asked me questions in the past without my answering, I'm sorry about that. It wasn't intentional. I never mean to not answer someone. I just get easily distracted....

Amazon is going to rerelease the first three books in the Sylph series in the new year. I don't have an exact date, but I know the covers will be the same. They'll just be under the Amazon imprint. They'll also be released as paperbacks that you can buy in actual bookstores or order online, so that's a huge step up from what Dorchester did at the end with the uber expensive trades. This includes book three, QUEEN OF THE SYLPHS, which I know a lot of you weren't able to get hold of.

On the subject of e-books, I don't know that they'll be released as anything other than kindle versions. I haven't been able to get an answer on that, so it's not looking so good. Alas.

A couple of people asked about books four and five on Facebook. They're listed on Goodreads.com and actually have ratings (don't ask me how), but there's no picture or description or whatnot.  For those of you who don't know, those books exist. I wrote them quite a while ago but didn't sell them to Dorchester because I wasn't happy with how Dorchester treated QUEEN. I mentioned them in a blog entry once and someone put them on Goodreads. They're not an illusion or a tease, promise.

In the good news, Amazon is actively reading book 4, THE SYLPH HUNTER. I have hopeful expectations that they'll buy it and later on, buy book 5, WAR OF THE SYLPHS as well. It just takes insane amounts of time for this sort of thing to happen.

Amazon is also looking at one of my other fantasy series, HUNTING THE RAPTURE, for their fantasy imprint. I've also got Del Rey looking at that one, so I'm hoping someone picks it up (for the sake of politeness, I won't say which company I'd prefer....)

That's all I've got happening publication-wise for the moment. I've been considering releasing a book of short stories onto Smashwords, but someone who shall remain nameless has been talking me out of it, so that's still in the pondering stages. I'm also past the 85,000 word count mark in writing my book CALLED.

Here, have a painting.



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Onwards

I've been bad about updating this site for a while. I've been tired lately. Most days I get home and I'm too tired to do anything other than sit and read. It's the winter. Short days and a lot of darkness always get to me that way. That and the cold. I'm not in one of the truly frigid parts of Canada (not anymore at any rate) but I never liked the cold. It gets into my back and drains me. I'm more of the hot house flower type.

I have passed the 75,000 word mark in CALLED, however. Slow going but still, going is good. I think this is going to be a long one. I don't even feel half finished yet. The Sylph books, by the way, average between 90,000 and 100,000 words each. I've also written a few short stories, including one I'm working on where this idiot mercenary trio (you haven't met them yet. I like them. They're full of snark) runs into Medusa. If you've ever read the mythology, that women really gets screwed over by the gods.

I haven't heard anything new from Amazon. They have the physical copies of my books to make their versions from, the covers won't change, they will be available as paperback, and they're coming out sometime in 2013. I don't know if they'll buy four and five yet. It really does take this long to find out. It took nine months before I heard if the first one was going to be published when I first got into this business. It's been less than three months so far this time. Frustrating but true. I think it'll happen though. I hope. I've got a contact there, but I haven't been assigned an editor yet. Hopefully I'll get someone as great to work with as Kris Keesler was back at Dorchester. That makes a lot of difference.

I have today off, so I'm enjoying the sunlight coming in the window and trying to get some writing done before the treadmill I ordered shows up. Then I'll be in the hell that is trying to figure out how to put it together. I've set up a little home gym in my basement since I don't want to exercise at work (I'm military. We get an hour for PT a day, but I don't like the gym much and it's all self-directed. Plus the change room is fifty years old and smells). At home I can run exercise programs on my IPad and not feel like everyone's staring at me. Just the parrot, who insists on coming downstairs with me.

You know you need to exercise more when a four ounce bird decides to fly over and land on your head while you're in a middle of a dumbbell squat and you can't get back up....

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Soldiers

I wrote this poem on November 10, 2002, in about an hour and a half when I was in Saint-Jean, Quebec at the Mega. The Mega's a huge building where the Canadian Forces trains new soldiers. I'd finished my training by that point, but was on the Personnel Awaiting Training platoon at the time because I'd managed to blow my wrist out and needed physiotherapy before I could do the fitness test requirements.

I don't quite remember where the genesis of this poem came from - I think I might have dreamed snippets of it - but I've rarely had anything come out that fast and that well. Almost nothing's changed from how I originally wrote it out.

I think of this poem every year on Remembrance Day. I've showed it to a few people before and read it to my platoon back in 2002, but this is its first public appearance. Feel free to repost it, print it, do anything that doesn't make a profit, but leave my name on it, please.


THE SOLDIERS


LJ McDonald
November 2002


The soldiers stand there watching me,
on the blood-soaked ground.
They never tell me who they are
or where that they are bound.
I tried at first to pretend
that I saw them not,
moving through the cold barbed wire
where the men have fought.
They are untouched by battle,
these soldiers that I see,
in uniforms of older wars
never fought by me.

I see them walk the battlefield,
while I hide inside my trench,
afraid of the artillery
and the bloody stench.
Upon the battlefields of war,
I cower and see ghosts,
fearing for my life and mind
from dead or living hosts.
I alone do see them,
alone in barricade,
for my buddies now are dead
and scattered round me laid.

Why is it that I’ve come here?
Why do I fight this war?
Why have I come so far from home
to fight and kill some more?
My buddies died for strangers,
sent here for policy,
wasting out our blood and lives
for things we’ll never see.
So now I sit amongst my dead
while older dead do walk,
in unseen ranks upon the field,
my sanity to mock.

“What is the point?” I rose to scream.
“What point is there to fight?
“You all fought in a thousand wars,
“but war still thunders bright.
“There is no end to tyranny,
“there is no end to hate.
“My buddies died for nothing but
a war that won’t abate.

“Why can’t I throw my weapon down?”
I shouted from my hole.
“Why can’t I live a normal life
“with an unsullied soul?
“The tanks they ran across our lines,
“the bombs fell from the sky.
“There’s been no silence for a week.
“We’ve naught to do but die.

“Why can’t I be the coward?”
I asked once I was done.
“What is the point of staying here
“when I would rather run?”

The soldiers then did look at me
and did not say a thing,
in their thousand uniforms
with weapons all agleam.
Instead their ranks did slowly part
To columns tall with pride,
to show me just exactly why
these men all risked to die.

Behind them stood the echoes –
not ghosts for they weren’t dead –
the memories of all the lives
these men died to protect.
I saw a million women
smiling down at me,
children playing at their feet
by men who all were free.
Beyond them I saw even more;
descendants in a line
that stretched out to eternity,
so wide and deep and fine.


My eyes went wide with startlement
to see these murdered men
outnumbered so by lives they saved,
of those they never met.
That was when I understood
why good men go to war,
and clutched my rifle close to me,
a glad weight I now bore.

The soldiers grouped around me,
blocking out the strife,
until I looked down and I saw
my trench carried no life.

Now I walk on battlefields,
or where once battles fought,
reminding soldiers why they fight
these wars that are our lot.
Wear uniforms for memory
of those of us who died
for millions who did never choose
oppression, fear, and lies.
Never falter, soldier,
there are those of us who see,
who know you for the man you are
and the hero you could be.

Friday, November 2, 2012

News and Poetry and maybe a new ebook?

Hi, everyone.  It's been a bit since I posted anything to this blog. Sorry about that. I didn't really have anything to say.

I've been writing a lot lately. The pressure has slowed up at work, so I'm not coming home anymore feeling too tired to think, let alone be creative. I've also been on leave all this week, which has been utterly wonderful. I've got several chapters of CALLED written, including figuring out a plot point that was fighting me. I've also written a few short stories. Hopefully I'll find a venue for them to be published, or perhaps put a bunch of them together and try them out on Smashwords. Would anyone be interested in buying an ebook of my short stories that way? Let me know.

In Sylph book news, the only new thing I've heard is that Amazon is planning to rerelease the first three Sylph books in the new year. I don't know when. I also don't know if they're going to buy book four. This process always takes a painfully long amount of time.

Yesterday (okay, today at about two am), I was inspired to write a poem. Figured I'd toss it up here for you to enjoy. Hope you like it.

If I do publish a book of short stories, would people be interested in my including some of my poetry in it? I have a few that are epics and storyline based.


INSPIRATION IS A FICKLE BITCH

Shall I make it difficult
To drag out from the dark,
With screaming wails and lashing sobs
An inspiration spark?

It never has been simple
To harpoon ghostly whales,
Who crest and blow and then are gone
'Neath black and depthless veils.

'Tis sometimes like to waiting
In a blind for morn,
And the rapid beat of waking wings
Risen by the horn

So many say the bait to use
Is bloody red for ink,
Drawn from the very heart of thought
 And bottled, drained, and linked

It's true if it's not difficult
Then none will see the point,
And will not strive for greater peaks
And risk the disappoint.

Or perhaps it should come easy
A flowing from the pen,
To keep you coming back for more
When stripped away again.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Red Hot Review

A while ago, I was asked to write a blog entry for Red Hot Books on a book I'd recommend. It was intriguing, since blogs usually ask me about my own books, not other people's. I had fun writing it though and if you want to see what book I recommended, then the link to the article is here.

What's up in writing news...? Wrote a story including the winged woman from my last post and three mighty *coughyeahrightcough* warriors. Now I think I'm going to go work on CALLED for a while. Or go to sleep, I'm still deciding.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Three sets of wings make sense, right?

I created a digital painting the other day. I really like the way it turned out. Enough that I think I need to write a story on who this woman is. I'm curious as to what she has to tell me.  :)


In writing/publishing news, I've heard a little bit more on what's going on, but not as much as I want to. I asked the Amazon team a bunch of questions, most of which they've answered. The one big one they didn't is whether someone can download ebooks on a platform other than kindle.

Here's a bit of what they sent me, trimmed off all the irrelevant/personal stuff.

We are currently collecting materials and do not have a schedule for when titles will be released in ebook for Kindle or paperback. We do not currently have plans to make changes to the interior or cover of previously published books. International distribution will be based on your contract, amended contracts will be sent out shortly.

Your books will be available for mass distribution through Ingram and Baker & Taylor.  Any bookstore or outlet that has access to ordering through these channels can stock your books.  Also, our dedicated sales force at Brilliance leverages their contacts to get titles into stores and distributes for us as well. We are always looking for ways to improve and we are always working to increase our physical distribution.


In writing news, CALLED is up to about 64,000 words. I took a bit of a break from it to write a short story about a superhero who's down on his luck. Not a lot of creativity going on, sadly. Its been crazy busy at work and I'm mostly too tired to do anything but watch episodes of Supernatural when I get home. I have the entire long weekend off, however, so hopefully that'll help recharge the old mental batteries.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Amazon has purchased Dorchester


I got this email the other day. Woohoo!


Dear (former) Dorchester Authors & Agents –

I write to you with terrific news!  We have officially closed the deal with Dorchester Publishing.  The announcement has just been released (see below), and we are gearing up for the next steps.  Next week we will send you your Welcome Packet, which will include lots of information and best ways to reach us for any of your future questions.  I wanted you to hear the exciting news from us first.  Thanks again for all of your help in making this deal so successful.  We are thrilled to bring you into the Amazon Publishing family.  Stay tuned for more information.

Thanks again,
Caroline Carr

Caroline Carr | Rights & Licensing, Amazon Publishing

Amazon Publishing Acquires Publication Contracts to Over 1000 Books from Dorchester Publishing

SEATTLE—August 30, 2012—Amazon Publishing today announced that it has acquired through an auction the publication contracts of over 1000 books from Dorchester Publishing. As part of the process, Dorchester authors were offered the opportunity to join Amazon Publishing and receive the full back royalties that Dorchester indicated were owed. 

“Working with the Dorchester author community during this auction process has been a tremendous experience for all of us,” said Philip Patrick, Business Development Director at Amazon Publishing. “We are happy to be able to pay their back royalties and we’re thrilled to welcome them to the Amazon Publishing family.”

“Amazon Publishing is breathing new life into my series, and I’m very excited to see what the future holds,” said Tracy Madison, award-winning author of the Gypsy Magic series.

“I am excited beyond words about being offered this chance to join Amazon Publishing.  I cannot thank them enough for stepping in and giving former Dorchester authors the chance to move ahead,” said Deborah MacGillivray, author and agent of the late Dawn Thompson, author of The Ravening. “Dawn literally lived for her writing. Amazon Publishing is helping me safeguard Dawn’s legacy, and to see that new readers can continue to find her books,” said Dawn’s sister, Diane Thompson.

“This new relationship will enable the works of countless talented fiction writers to serve their established readers and reach new ones across the globe,” said Gregg Loomis, author of The Bonaparte Secret.

“The transition from Dorchester to Amazon Publishing means that our authors will now be able to reach so many more readers and markets worldwide than they ever could before.  That truly is something to celebrate,” said Vicky Piekarski and Jon Tuska, co-owners of Golden West Literary Agency, in a joint statement.

Going forward, the acquired Dorchester titles will be published under the appropriate Amazon Publishing imprints: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror titles to 47North; Romance titles to Montlake Romance; Mystery and Thriller titles to Thomas & Mercer; Westerns and other titles to AmazonEncore. Titles will be available both in print and as Kindle books. Under the terms of Amazon’s bid, any former Dorchester Publishing authors that chose not to work with Amazon Publishing will have their rights revert back to them to pursue other publishing opportunities including self-publishing via the Kindle Direct Publishing platform.

Amazon Publishing is the publishing arm of Amazon.com. Amazon Publishing’s West Coast Group includes imprints AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing, Montlake Romance, Thomas & Mercer, and 47North. Amazon Publishing’s East Coast Group publishes adult trade, children's and young adult titles. For more information about all imprints of Amazon Publishing, visit www.amazon.com/amazonpublishing. Amazon Publishing is a brand used by Amazon Content Services, LLC.

About Amazon.com
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle, opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth’s Biggest Selection. Amazon.com, Inc. seeks to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices. Amazon.com and other sellers offer millions of unique new, refurbished and used items in categories such as Books; Movies, Music & Games; Digital Downloads; Electronics & Computers; Home & Garden; Toys, Kids & Baby; Grocery; Apparel, Shoes & Jewelry; Health & Beauty; Sports & Outdoors; and Tools, Auto & Industrial. Amazon Web Services provides Amazon’s developer customers with access to in-the-cloud infrastructure services based on Amazon’s own back-end technology platform, which developers can use to enable virtually any type of business. The new latest generation Kindle is the lightest, most compact Kindle ever and features the same 6-inch, most advanced electronic ink display that reads like real paper even in bright sunlight. Kindle Touch is a new addition to the Kindle family with an easy-to-use touch screen that makes it easier than ever to turn pages, search, shop, and take notes – still with all the benefits of the most advanced electronic ink display.  Kindle Touch 3G is the top of the line e-reader and offers the same new design and features of Kindle Touch, with the unparalleled added convenience of free 3G.  Kindle Fire is the Kindle for movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, apps, games and web browsing with all the content, free storage in the Amazon Cloud, Whispersync, Amazon Silk (Amazon’s new revolutionary cloud-accelerated web browser), vibrant color touch screen, and powerful dual-core processor.  

 Amazon and its affiliates operate websites, including www.amazon.comwww.amazon.co.ukwww.amazon.dewww.amazon.co.jpwww.amazon.frwww.amazon.cawww.amazon.cnwww.amazon.it, and www.amazon.es. As used herein, “Amazon.com,” “we,” “our” and similar terms include Amazon.com, Inc., and its subsidiaries, unless the context indicates otherwise.

Forward-Looking Statements
This announcement contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Actual results may differ significantly from management's expectations. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that include, among others, risks related to competition, management of growth, new products, services and technologies, potential fluctuations in operating results, international expansion, outcomes of legal proceedings and claims, fulfillment center optimization, seasonality, commercial agreements, acquisitions and strategic transactions, foreign exchange rates, system interruption, inventory, government regulation and taxation, payments and fraud. More information about factors that potentially could affect Amazon.com's financial results is included in Amazon.com's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequent filings.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The sylphs have a new home

Well, it looks like they do.

I've signed a contract with Amazon for the sylph series. If they win the auction at the end of this month (I think they will. I don't know of anyone else bidding), then the first three sylph books will be rereleased and, from the sound of it, the fourth and fifth books will come out as well.  So woohoo!

So, more books, books that people can actually FIND in a bookstore, and hopefully many more readers. :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

New Character Art

This one took a long time. One, because I have bronchitis and can't do much of anything for very long at all, and two, because I have a horrid time painting skin tones and redid the whole colour painting about four times.

Here's Leon and Ril, pretty close to how I see them in my head. Just me trying to improve my art.

CALLED is past the 45,000 word mark, by the way. Slow but steady.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Not the kind of inspiration I wanted

Ugh.... I've been sick since last Tuesday. Took two days off, dragged myself in for half a day on Friday, relapsed, and have been in bed since I got home. As of last night, I have a cough so bad I can't even lie flat. I hate being sick.

The only good thing about it is that, apparently, at two am when I can't sleep or speak for coughing and am sitting in my recliner drinking neo-citran, I get inspired to write poetry.



The Cold

I find while lying in the dark
Wracked by violent episode,
My thoughts do turn to hope of peace
And wish that all the world were slowed.
The fires of thought do run as strong
As raging storms and fleeting steeds,
Never stopping for a breath
But crashing on in wild stampedes.
Still I sit here shadowed by
Lack of company and rest,
Unable e’en to lie me down
And find the softest dream’s sweet breast.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I can finally almost say I'm going to be published again!

I've heard from my agent. Amazon is working at getting everything ready to buy Dorchester's assets and once they do, they'll issue new contracts to us authors (I don't promise I'll sign it until I see it, but it already has me getting bigger royalties than Dorchester ever paid me, plus I'd get all the money still owed me).

The four books I have out already will be reprinted and reissued, apparently both as print and as ebooks. The biggest part of it, as far as all of you are concerned, is that once the deal is signed, they want to talk to us about issuing new works. So if I do sign on the dotted line, then HUNTER OF THE SYLPHS and WAR OF THE SYLPHS will very likely be released.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Three Sylphs on a Ledge

I was working on my art again today and figured 'what the hey' and drew three sylphs. The colouring is simple because I was losing my mind just managing this level of disaster. O.o

Who can guess who these three are and what the scene is?


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Called - Chapter One

I have edited this...once. Once edited work is really not considered finished, so bear that in mind. :) Considering I want to see this published, I really hope people like it.




Chapter One
When he looked back on the day it all started, Slan decided that the best thing to happen during it was the unexpected and violent attack of bandits that outnumbered his men four to one.
“Get to the horses!” Slan shouted, drawing his sword even as the filthy, ill-garbed men poured out of the woods and across the newly sprouted field towards them. The farmers who lived in the hamlet he’d been inspecting ran in fear, leaving Slan with only four men against twelve.
“At least they’re lousy ambushers,” Targ muttered from beside him while the other two guardsmen ran for the animals they’d tied to a fence at the edge of the hamlet.
Slan didn’t bother to answer. Their attackers must have grown impatient waiting for them to approach the woods where they’d been hiding. If they’d been willing to wait another hour, Slan and his men would have ridden to the next hamlet down a path that went straight into their ambush. 
Still, even aborted and uncoordinated like this, the bandits had the advantage of numbers. There was nowhere to hide - the straw and mud houses wouldn’t stop anyone determined to get in - and they couldn’t run without leaving the farmers without any defences.
“Looks like I’ll get some of the rust off my sword,” Targ said.
“Good,” Slan replied and charged. Targ ran at his side, his boots heavy on the hard ground.
Both of them were in armour. Slan hadn’t expected a bandit attack inside the borders of Luach Lundan, but he’d been a fighting man for a very long time and he wasn’t one to take chances.
The bandits weren’t expecting their victims to attack them and Slan waited until they were close enough and bunched up enough that they wouldn’t have time to spread out before he and Targ sprinted forward. He ran in among them, bellowing a challenge of his own, and slammed his round shield in the face of one with a resounding smash while he stabbed straight forward with his sword. The bandits’ armour was haphazard and poor, and the point of his blade punched through the man’s tunic, stopping him with a shock that ran up both the blade and Slan’s arm and into his back. He pulled the sword out as the bandit started to fall, before he could take the blade with him, and swung it sideways at a second bandit who tried to block, but was too busy back-peddling and tripped over his own feet. Slan took off three fingers from his upraised hand and half his scalp.
Targ was already back to back with him, cutting at the surprised bandits with his sword and using his shield to protect his left and Slan’s right side. Slan did the same for him.
“Come on!” Targ shouted. “Cowards! Come on!”
The bandits were surprised by their attack and the deaths of two of their members - three as Targ took the leg off a man that fell screaming - but they were too close to retreat easily and too angry to consider that their inability to fight together meant their numbers weren’t a match to Slan and Targ’s skill. If they had caught them in an ambush, it would have been very different, but they hadn’t and Slan wasn’t going to forgive them their mistake.
A snarling man with both front teeth knocked out and breath like the back end of a basilisk swung a pitted sword at Slan’s head. It was easy to bring his shield up to deflect the blow and then shove it forward hard into the man’s face. The bandit reeled and Slan stabbed him in the gut before kicking him off his sword. 
It had only been seconds since the fight started. Slan had dropped three men and from the sound of events behind him, Targ had taken two. That left seven men, but they hadn’t been expecting this kind of resistance and Slan suspected that one of the first he’d killed must have been their leader.
The rest of them started to pull away, running away across the field in the direction they’d come. Even those few seconds had left Slan covered in a fresh sheen of sweat and with old pain stabbing through his back. He didn’t chase them, not on foot. There was no point and they were less than a quarter of the way back to the trees when Slan’s men reached him with the horses. He grabbed the reins of his dapple gelding and pulled his aching body into the saddle with a wince.
“After them!” he called.
Younger and less battle scarred than he, Slan’s men kicked their mounts into a gallop after the fleeing bandits. He followed them, his horse snorting as it raced to catch up, steel shod hooves digging up the tender crops below it. It was better the farmers lose some of their yield than their lives, however, for the bandits were not known for being merciful to their victims. Slan just hadn’t expected them to be so arrogant as to attack openly and in broad daylight this way. Until now, Luath Lundan’s borders hadn’t been breached so deeply and the thought of what that meant was deeply disturbing.
His men ran the bandits down, their horses trampling the screaming men under them while the guardsmen laid with their swords to either side.
“Take one alive!” Slan shouted as he came up behind them, turning his horse to cut around and to the other side, just in case one of the bandits was able to break free and make another run for the woods.
None of them did. Slan drew his horse to a halt and hid the wince of pain his back gave him as he looked down at the only survivor of the bandit group. He was a measly little man, kneeling on the ground with his hands clasped behind his head. Targ stood behind him, one hand clapped on his shoulder and his sword ready.
“Mercy!” he whimpered.
Slan frowned at him. “Mercy only if you give us the information we want,” he told the man. One of the guardsmen handed him a rag and he took his time cleaning the blood off his sword. 
“Are there any more of you?” 
“None, my Lord,” the bandit said. Targ raised his sword. “I swear it!” he yelled, frantic. “Not here! There was just the dozen of us!”
Slan doubted the man had either the courage or the native intelligence to lie. “Why are you in Luach Lundan? I was under the impression that you haunted the eastern roads.” Which was bad enough.
The man swallowed. “We... It isn’t safe over the border.”
Targ raised an eyebrow. “Not safe for bandits? I thought all of you were so dirty the monsters in Gunsail Nam wouldn’t want to eat you. What do you have to worry about? Other bandits? Have the king’s troops come through?”
The bandit shook his head. “No, the Horseman is hunting us.”
Targ and Slan looked at each other. “That’s a name we haven’t heard in a while,” Targ said. 
“No,” Slan agreed. He looked beyond them to the hills that surrounded Luach Lundan, thick with forests and wild gorges. It was a name with a lot of memories attached to it, far too many of them bad. If Daleas and Ren were in the area, it wasn’t a surprise that the bandits decided to look for new territory. 
“Bring him,” he ordered and turned his dapple to ride back to the hamlet. They’d get whatever information they could out of him about any other bandit groups and where their hideout was and then they’d hang him. Slan owed protection to the people who worked his land and he was not going to shirk that responsibility, not for any warped sense of mercy for a man who’d already proven he had none.
It was hours before they were done at the hamlet. It took time to calm the vassals, who were justifiably frightened and needed reassurances, as well as the promise that Slan would send guardsmen to them to ensure there were no retaliatory attacks. He promised as well that his men would search the woods for more bandits and that was no idle promise. Slan had no confidence in any of the truths their captive purported to tell. A den of thieves, driven by the Horseman out of their usual territory along the roads that ran along the border around the wilds of Gunsail Nam and down into the valleys of Luach Lundan. A threat to his vassals instead of his trade wasn’t an improvement in Slan’s mind.
After the hours of talk, he was even more tired than the fighting made him. His back ached with a tension that wouldn’t give way and he felt dour and moody, making it an effort to keep his temper in the face of his frightened vassals. They weren’t fighters, he reminded himself. This was why they’d sworn themselves to Lords, even one come late to the title such as himself. His duty was to protect them.
They finally mounted their horses again as dusk began to fall, the vassals content, the prisoner bound and seated in the saddle of one of the horses while his rider doubled with another. Slan kept his face impassive, but Targ eyed him knowingly as he pulled himself onto the dapple.
“Back?” he asked.
Slan looked at him. It wasn’t something he wanted to admit to, but Targ had known him a long time and even if he hadn’t, he made it a point not to lie when he couldn’t avoid a question.
“Yes. I’ll live.”
Targ smiled. “I’m sure you will. But I’ll order a hot bath drawn for you when we get back to Blathgled. That’ll help.”
Slan nodded. It would, fortunately enough. Back troubles were far too frequent a complaint for him in the last few years.
They rode home at an easy canter, their horses rested and eager to return to their stable. The men were eager to get home as well. They’d won the fight without any casualties on their side, but Slan was far from the only one to realize just how lucky they’d been. In the decade since he’d come to take rulership over Luach Lundan, there hadn’t been a bandit attack on a hamlet this far inside the borders.
He supposed it was a good thing in a way, in that it at least showed that Daleas and Ren were having an effect on the bandits of Gunsail Nam, but that didn’t leave Slan feeling particularly grateful for the Horseman’s efforts.
Blathgled lay near the northern border of Luach Lundan, the great keep built at the top of a sloping hill. It was a sprawling affair, old and grey with thick walls and worn ramparts. When Slan first arrived, it had been abandoned for years, but the work of him and his people had made a home of it and a heart for their once struggling territory. 
Slan rode at the head of his men up the sloping road to the gates of the keep, the prisoner awkwardly sitting his horse directly behind him with his hands tied to the saddle horn and Targ holding the reins. The other two men rode together on the last horse at the rear. By this point it was well past dark and the moon was up, but the gates were open and well lit by torches, men moving hurriedly around inside the first courtyard. For a moment, Slan thought they were waiting up for him, but something felt wrong. Something had happened in Blathgled while her master was absent and tension sent pain shooting down through abused muscles in his back.
Voices shouted from the ramparts, carrying the word that the Lord of Blathgled was back and the flurry of motion increased inside even more. Every man sworn to his name seemed to be there, carrying and lighting torches.
Slan reined in his dapple next to the closest group of men, just inside the gate. “What’s happened?”
“Slan!” 
Slan looked up at the sudden shout. His face was mostly in shadow, even with the intermittent light of the torches, but his dapple was distinctive and he watched his wife holding her skirts up as she hurried down the steps from the main door of the keep and ran across the courtyard towards him. Slan’s mouth went dry and he dismounted. 
“Oh, Slan!” Canara ran up and threw herself into his arms, her usual poise completely gone. Her face was splotchy from crying and Slan’s gut went cold.
“What’s happened?” he asked, frantic and tempted to shake her. 
“Sorith is missing!” she cried.

The Writing Process

I had a reader ask some interesting questions in the comments on my last post, so I thought I'd answer them here.

I'd love to read more of your writing. Bring it! Know what else? I'm curious about your writing process. Do you write on your lunch hours? After work? Weekends only? Do you write longhand, then transcribe everything? Even when you don't feel inspired, do you make yourself sit down and write? I'm an unpublished writer and it always interests me how authors bring their stories to life.

Your artistic/creative abilities are astonishing. Thanks for sharing. --Mudpiequeen


As for when I write, it depends on my mood/where I am/what's happening. I don't write on my lunch hour much because I get interrupted a lot and I'm usually trying to destress then. I'm more likely to write when I get to work (which is early due to car pooling) and afterwards when I'm waiting to get picked up. I'll also write in the evening at home and on weekends. I type my books into my little mac air which is portable as all get out, so it goes everywhere with me.

I do a combination of longhand and typing. I type books because otherwise it takes too friggin' long to finish one. I longhand write my short stories and novellas. That's because I enjoy the process of physically writing something down and because by using two separate techniques to write, I seem to get less writer's block on each.

If I don't feel inspired, I don't do a thing. >.> I'm bad that way, but I do have a full time job, so I do need my down time. Plus I find that trying to force it doesn't work very well for me. That said, if the break is going on too long, then I will sit down and try to make it work. Mostly, if I'm stuck on the book, I'll write a short story. If I'm stuck on a short story, I'll write a book.

I also tend not to write flat out. I'll write a little, then read a little, then write a little, then watch an episode of Sherlock or something, then write a little, then raid the fridge, then write a little, then web surf, then write a little, then draw something.... you get the idea.


BTW, here's the finished Daleas, in clothes and thanks to my husband's encouragement, in  colour as well.

I'll have to remember the technique of drawing the full figure and then drawing the armour overtop on a separate layer. It worked really well. I had to use some references though, sadly. Folds suck.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Teasers versus cruelty and some art

I've been working lately on my newest book CALLED, which has passed the 35,000 word mark and so far has been just me taking the time to write out the scenes. There hasn't been any fighting or changing my mind or beating my head against the wall, which is normal to a greater or lesser degree when I write. I haven't had that happen since I wrote THE BATTLE SYLPH.

I haven't posted any snippets from my writing because A: you'd get an unedited version because I can't do a fully polished story until the whole thing's done, and B: because I can't make up my mind whether it would be cruel or not. I rather think it is personally because I haven't sold this novel and there's no guarantee I will. So far my career has been a slow osmosis that's mostly concerned my sylph novels and the chaos that has become Dorchester.

I put it up to you. Do you WANT to see a scene from CALLED? Do you care? Or do you want it to remain unseen until it's in the store and fully polished and edited? Let me know in the comments and I'll decide whether to post any of it based on your decision.

In other news, I've been actively trying to improve my art, which many of you know. I've been trying to draw out of my head and do original works more than pieces based on photo references because I honestly want to get to the point where I could do a comic layout of something I see in my head or from a book, and design characters who look like what I see when I write them. I don't necessarily want to be uber realistic, but I do want to be able to look at it without cringing.

Towards the goal of doing so and thinking that 'focused' would work better than 'random' in the creation of characters, I've started to draw the characters from CALLED. This is just my interpretation of them and in the writing of them, I've actually very deliberately not gone into detail on how they look so that the reader can see them as whatever size/weight/race they want. I've made a few exceptions to this, but only for very specific reasons (okay, someone's short).

But I've drawn a few of them, since it seems to be easier on the whole art creation level. Below is Daleas, one of the characters. He didn't start out life as a centaur, but he does end up as one. He doesn't actually run around in the all together. He normally is fully dressed and covers his horsiness with a sort of blanket so you can't see anything. But in the drawing of him I started out with the basics so that I knew i had the proportions right and I liked the way it turned out. So here's the beefcake version. I'm still working on all those darned fabric folds and armour.


Yes, I do want to draw the Sylphs, but until I really get good at this, I don't want to be going around bastardizing them. Besides, right now I have the characters from CALLED on the brain.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Is it called fan art when it's for your own stories?

In my slack and idle wanderings today, I decided to practice my digital painting. To that end, I decided to see if I could paint a scene from CALLED, the book I'm currently writing. This is my sad attempt to do so, as the hero Slan rides his dapple war horse into the wild lands of Gunsail Nam, and he and his companions that I was too incompetent to paint see a trio of giants walking on the horizon. This is shortly before one of the heroes does something dumb and the giants decide to thump them.

This used no references, so for that at least, I'm quite pleased with it.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Restoring Faith in Humanity

This page gave me a wonderful feeling of "Aww...."

http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/pictures-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-humanity

This page made my giggle purely because I wrote it (It's one of my husband's favourite sites. I didn't tell him I submitted anything and the reaction when he read it was priceless. Apparently I'm 'evil'.  :p

http://notalwaysromantic.com/losing-the-name-game/22063

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What's your favourite book title?

Titles can make or break a book. Well, I think they certainly help. And they are quite often hard to come up with. I mean it. Oy, that can sometimes be harder than writing the book!  At least for me.

The reason I'm rambling about this is because I'm working on my latest novel (I shelved the Cuckoo series because it's still being evil to me and am 20k into this one in a week. Gah). Its title is CALLED, which I rather like, but I don't know if it really grabs at you and makes you want to look at the book. 

It has got me thinking about books I've read in the past where the title really hooked me. ONCE UPON A GARDEN HOSE is a kids' book with a great title, it really is. My favourite title though, so much so that I remember it decades later, is a book titled OUTNUMBERING THE DEAD. I don't remember who wrote it or what it was about, but I remember that title. I wish I'd thought of it. I'd have written a book around that title.

So what is your all time favourite book title? I'd love to get a list going in the comments.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My kingdom for a tax expert!!

Well, maybe not my kingdom, but certainly my eternal gratitude.

I'm trying to figure out the IRS tax forms to basically set myself up so that I don't have to pay US taxes on the income I get for anything I publish through Smashwords. Canada will be sucking enough tax out of me all by itself, thanks.

So, I've got the pretty letter from Smashwords that I'm supposed to attach to my W-7 form thing. Unfortunately, my brain blew up in my skull and is currently leaking out my ears and over my keyboard.

I'm not actually expecting help, but it would be really nice if I had a reader who's maybe a USA tax expert that can tell me if I screwed this up as badly as I think I have. Winces of sympathy would also be good.

Okay, whining over. Thanks for listening.  :p

*goes back to trying to figure out what a treaty article number is...*

Friday, June 15, 2012

An Interview with Lazy Literature

Hi, everyone. I just want to tell all of you about an interview I did with the wonderful owner of the site Lazy Literature. She's running a contest where the prize is THE SHATTERED SYLPH in German. Woot!  I had fun answering the questions.

The site itself is German, but I'll put the link here to the English version of the interview. The contest runs from today until the end of the month. Check it out!

http://www.lazyliterature.de/interview-with-l-j-mcdonald-2012-english/

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I really want to show this off! Come see!

When I went to the Ottawa Comicon in May, I met a wonderful artist by the name of Mike Rooth. We got to talking and I commissioned him to draw a picture of one of my characters.

For those of you who've read "The Lord of Winter", here's Del in his armour. Del's one of the characters in the story and I won't say anything about him for those who haven't read the story yet. However, I love Mike's version of him. He is utterly gorgeous. My plan is, when I put something else on Smashwords, Mike will be doing the cover.


Check out Mike's site at mikerooth.com

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Joy that is Goodreads

I have eighty-two fans on Goodreads. This is awesome and slightly confusing since I only have fifty-three fans on my blog, thirty-five on Twitter, and I have no idea how many on Facebook (I can't figure out the interface). So I'm less than totally unknown! Woot!

I like Goodreads. It's a highly dangerous place to be with all its recommendations and the easy ability to spend way too much money instantly downloading them all. Periodically I like to go randomly through people's lists and go "Hey, I read this" *rate*. Makes for better recommendations from the site, though there are some books I don't want to publicly admit I like and have read multiple times *CoughKimDare'sDuckCough*. Plus, I often just slap stars on a book because I don't always feel like writing actual reviews. I'm lazy that way. I have also decided that I'm not going to write any bad reviews or put less than three stars on a book. If I didn't like it, I just won't rate it. I get all sad when people write bad reviews on my work, so I won't do that to anyone else. I'll just rant about them to my husband like I usually do. He's used to it. ;p

The reason I bring all of this up, other than my attempt to have more content on this site and the fact that I've been meaning to plug Goodreads for a while now, is the fact that in the last couple of days I've received some invites to join certain author groups on Goodreads. This is all flattering and nice, but so far, I've been invited to groups for authors I haven't actually heard of before.

I don't want anyone who sends me these to think I'm snubbing them or anything for not joining, but I haven't heard of these authors before. That said, I am checking them out. So yay, more to read!

BTW, if anyone felt like making a Goodreads Group for me, I wouldn't mind. >.>

In writing news, still plugging away at THE OMEGA and working on a short called Coyote Paper. Mostly I'm just lazing around. It's been a long week.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I have a new hobby and other excuses that slow down my writing

Apparently the knitting, drawing, painting, reading, and gaming isn't enough. I have a new hobby! (I guess I can't really call the writing a hobby anymore since I periodically get paid for it).

Now that I pretty much exclusively read all books electronically on my kindle, I've taken up bookbinding. I quite enjoy it and the books are useful since I write shorter pieces by hand and they do serve as a handy sort of 'Crap, I need a present to give to (insert name).'


This is my latest book. I'm actually making it for a coworker's eight year old daughter, hence the massive amounts of pink. It's scrapbook paper glued around a board cover with canvas I painted pink for the spine. The inside paper is just plain white paper that I sewed together. I actually like the way it turned out, even with all the pink. If she doesn't like it, I'm taking it back.  ;p


This is the inside front cover of the same book. I always glue something in to cover the board and the edges of the cover and I just rather liked this soft pink. The colours were all picked by the father, by the way.


This one I made for me and will write a story in once I think of a plot. I glued the doodads on the cover to it. They've only fallen off twice. Apparently the solution to that is 'more glue'. This one is lined. It's just high smoothness photocopier paper that I can run through a printer. The spine is this lovely velvet paper that makes fantastic spines since it doesn't tear or wrinkle.


Here are the other books I made since I don't want to inflict them all on you one at a time. The top one and the purple one are made from this gorgeous Japanese paper that I can't remember the name of. Makes fantastic covers. 

I've been wondering if people would like to have one of these. I'm pondering running a contest where the prize is a handmade book with something in it. Maybe some writing or poetry or both, I dunno. I don't know if anyone would want it. It'd be a contest prize, but that makes me wonder what sort of contest to even run.


In writing news, I've passed the 41k word count mark in THE OMEGA, which is still crawling along as glacial speed. I haven't heard anything about Dorchester yet.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Life is good and the muse has earned a cookie

My muse is apparently in a good mood.

I woke up this morning and the entire plot for a brand new novel dropped in my head. I've spent a lovely hour typing out plot ideas for it, which is an utterly wonderful feeling, it really is.

The working title for the book is CALLED and once I finish writing THE OMEGA (which is still being a resistant bastard), it's likely next on the list. I won't say much about it, but it's playing with the concept of nature versus nurture, a father's love for his young son, and massive heaps of magic and the threat of total destruction to the universe and everything in it. You know, the usual.

Good muse. Keep it coming *offers muse a cookie*

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The truth about writers

I saw this on the inter webs and giggled unsanely until I thought that it was hitting way too close to home. Hee!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lord of Winter Excerpt

Here's the sneak preview for "The Lord of Winter" that's available on Smashwords. I've put a page dedicated to it off my My Writing page, but for some stupid reason I can't get the links to it to work on that page. I blame me.

At any rate, you can buy the entire story here.

Enjoy the excerpt.




Whether due to death or desertion, half of them never reached the castle.
For the ones who did, their triumph only came after miserable weeks of struggling through deep snows, battered the entire way by the frigid winds of the northern plain. They made their slow way over ice that rose in a sheet a league thick, uneven underfoot and cold. It seemed endless, broken only by cracks and fissures that forced them to detour around wide, dark chasms. Even when it looked safe, the ice was fragile enough in places to open without warning beneath them.

After the disaster that killed three of their members and all their horses, it would have seemed madness to continue, but it could be argued it was just as much a risk to go back, given how far they’d come and how many of their supplies were on those animals. Six of their group decided to take the chance anyway, making the painful return to Tygate with their fellows' scorn sounding in their ears. Another nine died, whether from accident or cold or the increasing attacks of the creatures that served the Lord of Winter. Born of ice and wind, they were lethal and relentless, and it was only the determination of the survivors that kept them going until finally they reached the castle, a stone monstrosity rising above the ice. It would have seemed an impossible thing, or perhaps an illusion made into a trap, but they’d based all their hopes on this. Their entire mission was born from the legend that the castle still existed, built as it was atop a stone cliff taller than the glaciers that came south to surround it.

"There it is," their leader gasped. Porl was a burly man, heavily bearded and short three toes from frostbite. He shaded his eyes and studied the dark edifice, his face nearly hidden in the furs of the massive, thick coat he wore. "The castle of the Lord of Winter."

Exhausted and at the end of their stores, the remaining survivors from Tygate stared. The castle was tall and intimidating, its ramparts and towers covered in snow. Still, the sight of it eased the growing worry in Porl’s chest. Finding the castle had become more than a matter of fame and wealth. When they lost the horses, they’d already been far enough away from safety that they didn't have enough supplies for everyone to make it back. Despite the half dozen men who’d taken the risk of returning, Porl knew the castle and its rumoured stores was their only real chance. If the legends of this place proved to be wrong, they’d pay with their lives. They’d understood that possibility from the start, but it was different to be starving to death because of it. Still, the ones who hadn’t risked turning back had faith that the histories were right.

For five hundred years, the Lord of Winter pushed his glaciers south, burying the lands underneath endless snows and killing their people, sending monsters made of wind and snow against them when they tried to fight back. It was said that if the Lord of Winter so much as set a single foot off of the glacier and onto plain ground, ice covered it. Humanity had gone to war for centuries, learning the magicks locked in fire in order to fight back and survive. This castle had once been that of the High King, lost along with him and his entire family during a battle that had been humanity’s greatest defeat. Many of the histories of the time spoke of the despair and hopelessness of those who fought back, until the war abruptly ended a hundred years ago, when the ice retreated and warmth returned to the world. Now the glaciers, while still farther south than they’d been before the war, no longer moved and the Lord of Winter's monsters stayed with them.

"No one’s seen this place since General Daigal led his army here a hundred years ago," Janelle finally breathed. “Everything’s still here.” She was a tiny thing, but tough as any of them and more useful then men twice her size due to the fire magic she controlled. Without her and her sister, they would all have frozen to death long ago. Porl nodded at what she said but didn’t reply. It was only after Daigal led his ten thousand men onto the glacier that the ice withdrew and he was credited as a hero for saving them all. Still, not one of his men ever returned and the adventurers looked at the immense, silent castle on the empty plain before them as if expecting to see their frozen bodies scattered around it. There was nothing, just an expanse of flat ground with gusts of wind idly blowing the snow above it. The glacier had bent around the castle and the cliff it stood on, but devoured the city that used to exist below it. Vague shadows deep in the ice were all that remained of the long buried streets and buildings. The sky overhead was clear and the cold intense. Mountains in the distance were so pale as to be nearly invisible.

"Let's go while it's still light enough to see," Porl said at last and started forward, his little band following him with excitement stirring them again. The castle, while even bigger than they’d imagined, was abandoned, with nothing stirring at their approach. What had drawn them on this adventure so far into frozen lands was the very fact that no one had come here for such a long time. The stories of the five hundred years’ war against the Lord of Winter spoke of how, at first, the southern cities tried to buy his mercy with offerings of gold and gems. That worked for several centuries, until the Lord of Winter decided that the only offerings he wanted were ones of frozen blood that he would take himself. He’d swept south, consuming towns, farmlands, and the High King’s city, until the General finally stopped him.
Since no one ever returned with any of those centuries of tribute, Porl reasoned that the riches were still here, in the castle Winter took as his own. Since no one else had ever dared to take the risk, Porl gathered the men and women with him now in order to seek it out. Even if only a tiny percentage of the tribute the Lord of Winter was given were here, it would be wealth past counting. Even the pittance they'd be able to carry out by hand would make them rich beyond any of their wildest dreams.

They crossed the last stretch of plain, fifteen men and women who'd become closer than family after the pain of their long ordeal. Nothing attacked them. No frost dogs, no icemen, not a single snow demon or banshee at all. The castle was dark, its tower windows empty above the high walls as they approached, and Porl found himself grinning at the sight. He'd brought together the best people he could, but he'd never imagined they could fight the kind of forces Winter was said to control. This entire trip was based on the supposition that the Lord of Winter was destroyed in that last desperate battle and his castle and treasure abandoned.

The castle was stone, covered in a lattice of frost with snow piled high in the corners of the courtyard. Statues of elegant women and noble warriors rose out of the snow and lined the road that led up the shallow side of the bluff to the castle, most of them covered in ice. The only thing that moved were the drifts of white snow and Porl and his group walked unnoticed right up to the front gates, which stood open and twisted, broken down by Daigal's army.

They walked through, weapons and magic ready just in case, and the wind that had been cutting into them despite their heavy furs and the fire mages' warming spells suddenly died, stopped by the high walls.

They were in a wide courtyard, piled high in the corners by snow but otherwise untouched. Except for the shattered gate, there was no sign of the battle that had been fought here a hundred years before.

"It's so quiet," Janelle's sister Morah whispered.

"Be glad of it," Aliston growled. "It would be a lot worse if it weren't." That was one of the only things the ranger had said since his wife was lost to a fissure that opened underneath her. Porl had expected the man to give up and try the risky trip home with the others, but Aliston wanted to see if they could find the Lord of Winter's corpse, just so that he could spit on his face.

Morah nodded, shuddering a bit, but Porl was pleased. It was exactly as he hoped. The castle was deserted.

"There better be food," Silthe muttered, always the pessimist.

They crossed the courtyard. On the far side were steps leading up to a door, both closed and locked. Matas was able to pick the lock despite his cold fingers and they went inside.
Within, it wasn't nearly as cold. It was hardly warm, but there was no snow and Porl pushed his hood back to get a good look. The walls were bare stone, forming a corridor that led deeper into the castle. They could see despite the dim light, but so far there was nothing to look at.

"Seems like there's only one way to go," Porl decided and took the lead, the heavy mace he always carried at the ready. They followed the corridor until it branched, still seeing and hearing nothing. Halfway down one branch, they could see the arched opening of a stairwell.
A small, beautifully detailed chair sitting against the wall across from the stairwell decided them on that direction. Janelle and Morah ooed over the fine carving of the chair, but Porl paid it little attention. It would be immensely valuable back in Tygate, but they had no way to carry it.

They walked through, weapons and magic ready just in case, and the wind that had been cutting into them despite their heavy furs and the fire mages' warming spells suddenly died, stopped by the high walls.

They were in a wide courtyard, piled high in the corners by snow but otherwise untouched. Except for the shattered gate, there was no sign of the battle that had been fought here a hundred years before.

"It's so quiet," Janelle's sister Morah whispered.

"Be glad of it," Aliston growled. "It would be a lot worse if it weren't." That was one of the only things the ranger had said since his wife was lost to a fissure that opened underneath her. Porl had expected the man to give up and try the risky trip home with the others, but Aliston wanted to see if they could find the Lord of Winter's corpse, just so that he could spit on his face.

Morah nodded, shuddering a bit, but Porl was pleased. It was exactly as he hoped. The castle was deserted.

"There better be food," Silthe muttered, always the pessimist.

They crossed the courtyard. On the far side were steps leading up to a door, both closed and locked. Matas was able to pick the lock despite his cold fingers and they went inside.
Within, it wasn't nearly as cold. It was hardly warm, but there was no snow and Porl pushed his hood back to get a good look. The walls were bare stone, forming a corridor that led deeper into the castle. They could see despite the dim light, but so far there was nothing to look at.

"Seems like there's only one way to go," Porl decided and took the lead, the heavy mace he always carried at the ready. They followed the corridor until it branched, still seeing and hearing nothing. Halfway down one branch, they could see the arched opening of a stairwell.
A small, beautifully detailed chair sitting against the wall across from the stairwell decided them on that direction. Janelle and Morah ooed over the fine carving of the chair, but Porl paid it little attention. It would be immensely valuable back in Tygate, but they had no way to carry it.

They walked through, weapons and magic ready just in case, and the wind that had been cutting into them despite their heavy furs and the fire mages' warming spells suddenly died, stopped by the high walls.

They were in a wide courtyard, piled high in the corners by snow but otherwise untouched. Except for the shattered gate, there was no sign of the battle that had been fought here a hundred years before.

"It's so quiet," Janelle's sister Morah whispered.

"Be glad of it," Aliston growled. "It would be a lot worse if it weren't." That was one of the only things the ranger had said since his wife was lost to a fissure that opened underneath her. Porl had expected the man to give up and try the risky trip home with the others, but Aliston wanted to see if they could find the Lord of Winter's corpse, just so that he could spit on his face.

Morah nodded, shuddering a bit, but Porl was pleased. It was exactly as he hoped. The castle was deserted.

"There better be food," Silthe muttered, always the pessimist.

They crossed the courtyard. On the far side were steps leading up to a door, both closed and locked. Matas was able to pick the lock despite his cold fingers and they went inside.
Within, it wasn't nearly as cold. It was hardly warm, but there was no snow and Porl pushed his hood back to get a good look. The walls were bare stone, forming a corridor that led deeper into the castle. They could see despite the dim light, but so far there was nothing to look at.

"Seems like there's only one way to go," Porl decided and took the lead, the heavy mace he always carried at the ready. They followed the corridor until it branched, still seeing and hearing nothing. Halfway down one branch, they could see the arched opening of a stairwell.
A small, beautifully detailed chair sitting against the wall across from the stairwell decided them on that direction. Janelle and Morah ooed over the fine carving of the chair, but Porl paid it little attention. It would be immensely valuable back in Tygate, but they had no way to carry it.

They walked through, weapons and magic ready just in case, and the wind that had been cutting into them despite their heavy furs and the fire mages' warming spells suddenly died, stopped by the high walls.

They were in a wide courtyard, piled high in the corners by snow but otherwise untouched. Except for the shattered gate, there was no sign of the battle that had been fought here a hundred years before.

"It's so quiet," Janelle's sister Morah whispered.

"Be glad of it," Aliston growled. "It would be a lot worse if it weren't." That was one of the only things the ranger had said since his wife was lost to a fissure that opened underneath her. Porl had expected the man to give up and try the risky trip home with the others, but Aliston wanted to see if they could find the Lord of Winter's corpse, just so that he could spit on his face.

Morah nodded, shuddering a bit, but Porl was pleased. It was exactly as he hoped. The castle was deserted.

"There better be food," Silthe muttered, always the pessimist.

They crossed the courtyard. On the far side were steps leading up to a door, both closed and locked. Matas was able to pick the lock despite his cold fingers and they went inside.
Within, it wasn't nearly as cold. It was hardly warm, but there was no snow and Porl pushed his hood back to get a good look. The walls were bare stone, forming a corridor that led deeper into the castle. They could see despite the dim light, but so far there was nothing to look at.

"Seems like there's only one way to go," Porl decided and took the lead, the heavy mace he always carried at the ready. They followed the corridor until it branched, still seeing and hearing nothing. Halfway down one branch, they could see the arched opening of a stairwell.
A small, beautifully detailed chair sitting against the wall across from the stairwell decided them on that direction. Janelle and Morah ooed over the fine carving of the chair, but Porl paid it little attention. It would be immensely valuable back in Tygate, but they had no way to carry it.

"This is creepy," Matas said at last. "I kind of expected bodies, but not like this."

"I know," Porl muttered, staring at the man. It was obvious he hadn't been a stranger to violence, but there was no obvious sign of what killed him. Porl reached out, put a hand on his cold shoulder, and pushed him onto his back. The man fell over, his head turning towards the women.

Then he sighed.

Janelle and Morah both screamed, Aliston and Lestal jumped and cried out, as did Porl. Matas howled and bolted over to the doorway, staring back in at them with his eyes wild as he barely held himself back from fleeing. "It's an iceman!" he shouted. "Kill it!"

An iceman. A human taken by the Lord of Winter and turned into a slave, unstoppable in battle and merciless, cursed with ice powers weaker than those of the Lord of Winter but still deadly. Porl saw the man take another breath, his blue-tinged chest rising with every invisible breath he took while theirs puffed white before them, and with a curse, Porl swung the mace up and over his head.

The iceman opened his eyes.

Porl should have struck right then and crushed his skull before he could act, but the expression on the iceman's face stopped him. He stared up at Porl in terror, his ice-crystal eyes wide and his entire body rigid. Porl hesitated, surprised by that reaction as he was still shocked by this whole encounter, and the man’s eyes moved to look around. His fear only became more obvious when he saw the rest of them, Lestal and Aliston with their swords drawn and Janelle and Morah with their glowing hands. He scrambled back against the headboard, far enough that they could see he'd been sleeping in the nude.

"Kill him, Porl," Aliston growled, glaring from beyond the foot of the bed.

"He's not armed," Porl protested. He was no murderer.

"He doesn't need a weapon!" Aliston shouted. "He is one!"

So the histories said. They were filled with stories about what the icemen could do. Unstoppable, unreasonable, unkillable by anything but overwhelming damage or fire. Porl shot a look at his two fire bringers, both with flames wreathing their hands...