The Rose Shield – Goddess in the fog

goddess-image2

The Rose Shield is my 4-book fantasy series. The first book, Catling’s Bane, will be released in March. Yikes!

I’ve been introducing the main characters for the past few months. You’ve met:

Raker, the man who hears voices in the fog
Catling, a six-year-old with a rose birthmark around her eye
Whitt, the boy battling crajeks in the swamp
Gannon, captive in the belly of the Wandering Swan
Vianne, an influencer who tortures poor Gannon
Kadan, a boy who contemplates death when faced with his future

Meet the Goddess
(Raker’s voice in the fog is no longer simply a voice)

Raker poled the raft through the narrow channels, wandering his way toward the floating village deeper in the swamp. Morning mists hovered as a forbidding sky scudded eastward, promising sheets of rain. The goddess caressed him, twirled in languid circles, veils of dew flowing from her arms like wings.

She stroked his back with a fingertip. “Your indifference is as disputable as your madness.”

“Am I mad?” he asked.

“No more than you’re indifferent.” She laughed and spiraled behind him, arms encircling his chest.

“I care nothing for Ellegeans, for their tiers or their power.”

“Yet you care for her,” the goddess whispered. “Your destinies are entwined.”

Raker didn’t reply. Catling sat cross-legged at the raft’s lip. Her fishing line trailed in the glowing wake. Scraps of her previous catch baited her hook, luring in yellow-scaled pippets and the blue suckers that trawled the bottom. Jafe mended the holes in the planking and named the fish as she pulled them in, teaching her which to keep and which to toss.

The goddess interrupted his deepening silence, “Gannon’s departure stung, not his reasoning, which she understands, but his failure to bid her farewell. Another rent in a tattered life. Don’t you see? Those private tears blurring her vision are for more than this one man. He’s unearthed old bones, marked another passing, another etching on her burial stone of betrayals. Her allies are strangers, her masters concerned only with employing her skill.”

“What’s her skill?” He put his back into poling them toward the channel’s center. Jafe glanced up at him with a quizzical grin. The rafters believed him mad, and he never felt a need to explain.

“She will tell you her secrets if you ask.” The woman’s lips touched his earlobe, striking a flint to his desire.

Something tugged on the girl’s line, and she tugged back, hooking it. With a yelp, she flew off the raft into the channel. Her head disappeared. Then she broke the surface, sputtering and splashing, the luminescence marbled by stirred up mud.

Raker’s pole dropped to the raft. Three steps and he leapt into the channel beside her. His feet pushed into the ooze, and he stood, water licking his throat.

Still in her hand, the line strained. A snouted head reared from the water, blowing a breath of spray into the humid air. “A crajek!” she cried.

“Waterdragon,” Jafe shouted over the excitement. An opalescent fin sliced through the air. “A yearling.”

“Don’t release it.” Raker caught the back of her underdress as the creature pulled her farther from the raft. He grabbed the line that slid through her fingers.

She clutched Raker’s shoulder, kicking to stay afloat. “A waterdragon?” The creature’s rayed wings fluttered frantically at the surface, its wide fluke slapping the water.

“We need to free it.” Raker gently pulled the yearling in. Catling swam for the raft as Jafe poled it closer.

Something brushed Raker’s leg. A razorgill if he was lucky. Birds cawed overhead, the banks stirred and water rippled. “Crajek!” Jafe yelled.

“Get her out,” Raker barked. His hands wheeled faster. The waterdragon flailed, its scaled neck craning sideways, long tail coiling and churning the mud. Despite its small size, it matched his strength. Spined fins slashed the air, flinging water in his face.

“Raker!” Jafe grabbed Catling by her garment’s shoulders and plucked her from the water.

Raker hauled on the line. He glanced toward the banks, on the lookout for predators. Gods drifted toward the spectacle. The goddess hovered above the waterdragon, delighting in his heroics. “Your blood spills,” she warned.

“Give me time,” he growled.

“Raker!” Jafe pointed down the channel “Crajeks sinking.”

“Do you trust me?” the goddess asked, kneeling on the water’s surface, her gown of mist spreading like spilled milk, hair spiraling above her head. Jafe held the pole ready to strike.

“Do I have a choice?” Raker grabbed the wing and worked the hook. The waterdragon reeled, squealing. Its spiked head bashed him in the jaw, cutting his cheek on his teeth.

Nearer the bank, another pair of knobby eyes blinked and a head the hue of wet bark sank beneath the surface. Jafe shouted, “Crajek, Raker!”

“Goddess?” Raker murmured, ready to let go and scramble for the raft.

“Do you trust me, my love?” she persisted.

His gaze snapped to her face, the daring smile, the eagerness flickering in her eyes. “Yes.”

She flew through him into the luminescence. He gasped at the sensation. The waterdragon ceased its thrashing. Raker exhaled and worked the hook, ignoring the whorls of movement purling around him. The crajeks failed to attack though they surely tasted his blood.

The hook’s barb tore a gash in the fin and slipped free. Raker let the wing go and the waterdragon dove. In one smooth movement, he spun to the raft and leapt. Jafe snagged the back of his trousers and hauled him up.

“The crajeks.” Catling pointed to the water swarming with greedy beasts.

Jafe shook his head and slumped down, the pole across his knees. “I’ll never understand your kind.”

The Rose Shield – Kadan

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The Rose Shield is my 4-book fantasy series planned for March-ish, um, maybe April. Book One actually has a name now: Catling’s Bane.

I’ve been introducing characters for the past few months. You’ve met:

Raker, the man who hears voices in the fog
Catling, a six-year-old with a rose birthmark around her eye
Whitt, the boy battling crajeks in the swamp
Gannon, captive in the belly of the Wandering Swan
Vianne, an influencer who tortures poor Gannon

Meet Kadan

Excerpt from  Catling’s Bane, The Rose Shield: Book One 

The high ward’s residence and offices of governance, including quarters for esteemed advisors, ministers, and influencers, encompassed the entire seventh tier. Covered walkways edged with potted winter greenery connected the various structures, all Founder-made.

An influencer. The prospect of mastering the skills of manipulation tangled Kadan’s stomach into a hard knot. What would his uncle require of him? To ease unsavory negotiations, to inflict torture, to smooth over the murder of children, to halt the beating of an innocent heart?

He walked to the tier’s edge and gazed over the ever-widening layers that petaled outward into shadowy markets hundreds of feet below. The moons cast an eerie light on the evergreen forests and fields stained with freshly fallen snow. The Blackwater coursed through it all, an icy serpent winding to the distant sea.

By inches, he shuffled closer to the rim. His toes extended into the air, and he closed his eyes. For an endless moment, he teetered on the rim of a choice wholly his own. His actions were harmless, weren’t they? Or had he grown cruel, learned the high ward’s lessons of power? He couldn’t abide his life, couldn’t bear the commitment his uncle required. A raw breeze ruffled his hair, and he suddenly couldn’t wait to fall.

A hand grabbed his jacket’s collar. He gasped and his eyes flew open. Fighting for balance, he reeled backward onto the tier. His heart hammered in his ears as he spun and ripped loose of the grasp.

The influencer stepped back and offered a modest bow. “My apologies, I didn’t wish you to fall.”

“I was… thinking.” Kadan straightened his jacket.

“This province isn’t without its beauty,” the influencer said, stepping to the edge. Kadan didn’t move, the young man unfamiliar to him. He wore the blue jacket of an emotive, shaved head patterned with swirling woads.

“Are you here for me?”

The man smiled. “I’m Qeyon, from Ava-Grea. I don’t believe I am here for you, Kadan.”

In truth, Kadan wasn’t surprised that the man knew his name. “My uncle is sending me to Ava-Grea for training. He wants my oath. He wishes to make use of me.”

Qeyon paused to gaze over the high ward’s tier. “Your uncle is a powerful man, and I imagine he is seldom crossed. Wait until you experience Ava-Grea, Kadan, before you decide to leap.”

**

Note: Many thanks to everyone who offered to beta read and to all those who considered it, but just didn’t have the time. This blogging community is immensely generous and supportive. I was successful in finding some willing souls. Stay tuned! ❤

 

Should books for adults have content warnings?

image by digitalspy.co.uk

image by digitalspy.co.uk

I told my mother to skip reading my latest book, The Bone Wall. She’s in her 80’s, and I know for a fact that she would find it gruesome and offensive. She thought my other fantasy books were “horror” and wondered why I was so “angry.”

I’m actually a pretty happy-go-lucky person: a loyal friend, loving wife and grandmother, and active volunteer. I like babies and puppies. I’m “nice.”

image from pixshark.com

image from pixshark.com

At the same time, I’m a fan of Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, and Anthony Ryan, to name a few. I like gritty realism in my fantasy favorites, and my writing tends to reflect my preferences. I have this “thing” about not sugarcoating brutality.

Yet, as a “nice” person, I also have an aversion to giving offense. I want to move my readers emotionally and perhaps make them ponder choices for a moment of two, but my preference isn’t to trigger outrage or upset. My books are meant to entertain.

image by kaleveradaily.com

image by kaleveradaily.com

The Bone Wall pushed my own limits. Living inside these characters’ heads took its toll. I was exhausted, dehydrated, and stressed out. My heart was forgetting to beat, and when I went to bed at night, I wasn’t convinced I’d wake up in the morning. I ended up at the cardiologist with an exacerbated heart arrhythmia.

Oddly enough, after I finished the first draft, all my symptoms vanished. I wanted to warn my readers: DON’T READ THIS! BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH!

Well, as you might guess, I didn’t put that on the cover. I wrote an Author’s Note and tried to make the blurb reflect the content. Why did I stop there? Or go that far?

image by ethicsalarms.com

image by ethicsalarms.com

As I struggled over whether to warn readers about violence, sex, profanity, and religious content, I wondered if I was over-reacting. Will some readers say, “Gosh, Diana, what’s the big deal? You are such a wimpy drama queen.”

And books are supposed to trigger our emotions to an extent, aren’t they? The struggles our character’s endure and choices they make in the face of physical, moral, or psychic danger is part of what draws us in and engrosses us in the story.

The Bone Wall is not a YA novel. As a parent, I understand the desire to monitor content. Back in the olden days, I would have appreciated a rating on the books my daughter read, if only to engage with her regarding controversial subject matter. Though many YA authors seem to agree that content warnings have a place, differences of opinion continue to exist as to what should be included.

image from blogs.kcrw.com

image from blogs.kcrw.com

Adult readers have years of experience and wisdom to draw on. Our tastes and tolerances vary greatly. My husband likes Mad Max and I like Forest Gump. We have the choice to walk out of a movie or put a book down. I’ve done it, more often because it’s boring or vapid rather than too graphic. I chalk it up in the “oh, well” column and move on.

The Bone Wall is out now. I still muse over this topic and wonder what reader/reviewer reactions will be. I’d love to hear your thoughts about content warnings on adult books. Good idea? Bad idea? What’s your experience as a writer, reader, or both?

Thank you, and hugs from the “nice” me.