Nearly three years ago, on 14 November 2018 according to my writing log, I started writing the first of the four books in my new series, Mage of Storm and Sea. This is actually a story I've been wanting to tell for much longer than that; decades, in fact. It started with the main character in a book I read in high school in the late 70s, who really captured my imagination. I always wanted to know what happened to him next, but there was never a sequel to that book. I thought of writing my own fanfiction sequel, but that didn't feel satisfying. So instead, what I did was I took the seed, the basic concept, of the story and character, a scholarly wizard who is forced into a war because of a personal connection to the enemy and, while he wins the war, suffers a great personal loss, and completely reimagined it in one of my own worlds with a new hero, a whole new background, and all the what-comes-next I longed to know about.
The Mage of Storm and Sea series is set in the same world as the Wildings books, in the Islands where Silas's mage ancestors came from, a few hundred years before the Wildings books, and ends with the beginning of the Island mage migration to Granadaia. It's been really fun to explore more of this world and history and magic system. Some of the things I've learned while writing Mage of Storm and Sea I wish I had known while I was writing the Wildings books! And the Island culture has been a lot of fun to play in. For example, I had a lot of fun with the clothing. Check out this article where I got inspiration for the sharwas, the formal overcoats worn by men of the Islands, from the sherwani and other traditional men's clothing from India.
As for Esavas... Arg. I don't think any of my heroes have given me this much trouble since Roric in The Lost Book of Anggird (Lost Book stalled out for more than ten years while I tried to get a handle on Roric!) Esavas is very much his own person, and I had to do a lot of digging and trial-and-error and rewriting to finally get him right. But now, finally, he's about to make his debut as a young 19-year-old guy trying to figure out who he is in Dreams of Magic, the prequel novella to Mage of Storm and Sea, set 13 years before the main series. And here is Esavas on the cover!
As always, Yuriko Matsuoka amazes me with her ability to capture my characters.
And here's what it's all about:
They called him a war hero. The savior of the common people of the Islands. The greatest weather mage the Islands ever knew. But once, he was a lonely, misfit youth with some impossible dreams.
Assuming everything goes according to plan, Dreams of Magic will be available on November 1. At first, it will be an exclusive free book to current and new subscribers to my email newsletter. Subscribers will also get exclusive bonus scenes, early cover reveals, sneak peeks, and release news about Book 1, Winds of Magic (including notice about the limited time release price, USD $2.99, reduced from the regular price of USD $3.99). After I've got a couple of the books in the series out, I'll put Dreams of Magic up for sale in the stores too.
This past summer, I got the rest of the new covers for the Daughter of the Wildings series done. While I loved the previous covers by Mominur Rahman, I felt like the series needed a refresh to bring it more in line with covers in the epic romantic fantasy genre. I was thrilled with Yuriko Matsuoka's fresh new envisioning of Lainie and Silas!
But the problem with being my own art director is that I don't art very good, and I have a hard time visualizing and describing what I want sometimes. Yuriko did great work on the covers of City of Mages and For the Wildings, but as I updated the book files and sent the covers out into the world, I felt like what I had described to her as far as how to present the characters wasn't quite what I wanted. Fortunately, she was able to make time in her schedule to redo those covers, and now, I'm pleased to present the new updated covers for City of Mages and For the Wildings! I'm in the process of updating the images on the site and uploading the updated book files, so they should go live soon.
Stay tuned for the cover reveal for Dreams of Magic, the prequel to my upcoming Mage of Storm and Sea series, and info about the release!
Time for me to share another book I've personally read and can recommend. (These are not book reviews, just personal recommendations with why I recommend them. I don't do book reviews and I don't take book review requests!)
This time I'm featuring No Man Can Tame (Book 1 of Dark-Elves of Nightbloom), fantasy romance by Miranda Honfleur. Normally, I'm not into elves. Not sure why; partly it's the pointy ears. I just don't do pointy ears. But on occasion I'll make an exception, and I made one for No Man Can Tame because it's an offshoot of Miranda Honfleur's Blade and Rose romantic fantasy series, which I really enjoy.
And I was really glad I gave it a try. Though I got a little frustrated with Aless at the beginning because she clearly had a lot of growing up to do, she really came into her own later in the book. And I thought Veron was awesome from the first moment I read him. He was forced into a political marriage with Aless, but he's willing to do his duty and do what's best for his people (a real hero does what's right even when it's hard), and he recognized that Aless was in his same position and had sympathy for her.
That was one of the things I especially liked about this book, was that the hero and heorine didn't resent each other for being forced into the marriage but quickly accepted that this was their lot in life so they would go forward together and make the best of it.
Another thing I liked about No Man Can Tame is that the "beast" doesn't change his appearance. My sister said about the Disney Beauty and the Beast, when Belle kisses the beast, "And then he turns into a handsome young rock star." 🤣 And I guess in the original versions, he changes back into a handsome human prince. But in No Man Can Tame, he doesn't change his appearance; what changes is the heroine's perception of him. Because, of course, beauty is what's on the inside, not on the outside.
No Man Can Tame is available on Amazon for $4.99 (or the international equivalent), though if you're in the US or UK (I think) you can get it for 99 cents through 31 August 2021. The second book in the series, Bright of the Moon, is also out now.
I'm part of a giant indie fantasy book fair going on right now, in connection with the Indie Fantasy Addicts Facebook group summer reading challenge. The challenge and the book fair go through the middle of September, so there's still time to join the group, join a team, and start reading. Discover more books, make new reading friends, play games, and maybe even win prizes! Or you can just browse the book fair and discover books by a whole bunch of indie fantasy authors.
My personal recs from the books in the book fair are the Witch of the Lake trilogy/Feast of the Mother (Witch of the Lake Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur and Nicolette Andrews, Blade and Rose by Miranda Honfleur, and No Man Can Tame also by Miranda Honfleur. But there are also a slew of books I haven't read yet that I want to! There's something for almost every fantasy taste, from epic fantasy to fantasy romance to urban fantasy, dragons, Asian-influence, GameLit, and more.
A lot of the books are Amazon-only, but if you're looking for books available at other ebook stores, here's a list I made (not 100% guaranteed; sometimes authors move books in and out of Amazon exclusivity): Gatebreaker - Michelle Wilson; Gisela's Passion - Astrid V.J.; Prophecy Tested - Shannon Pemrick; Finding Fae Artifacts - Isa Medina; Rogue Legacy - Jeffrey L. Kohanek; The Priestess and the Dragon - Nicolette Andrews; The Ancient Realms Collection - A.J. Flowers; Prophecy of Convergence - Shannon Pemrick; Dawn Rising - Lisa M. Green; Celestial Downfall boxed set - A.J. Flowers; Diviner's Prophecy - Nicolette Andrews; Dragon Lake by R.L. Davenor; Rotten Magic by Jeffrey Bardwell; Dorelle's Journey - Hannah Steenbock; Divinity's Twilight - Christopher Russell; Kitsune - Nicolette Andrews; Og-Grim-Dog by Jamie Edmundson; Destiny by Shannon Pemrick.
What new book or author will you discover?
I used to do a lot of book reviews. But I stopped several years ago because for various reasons I got more and more uncomfortable with publicly reviewing fellow authors' books. Now, I don't even mark them as "currently reading" on Goodreads any more.
But, I still want to share books I'm excited about and enjoyed, so that's what this feature is going to be about. This will be books I've read and enjoyed and personally recommend, not reviews but just a few words about why I recommend them. (And, btw, I do not take book review requests! This is strictly my own organic reading for fun.) I'll be sticking to my main genres of epic/high romantic fantasy (fantasy with strong romantic subplots) with some fantasy romance (romance with fantasy elements), standard epic/high fantasy, and some weird western mixed in. Mostly indie authors, but also some traditionally-published authors as well.
So, with that intro, my first Reading Rec is the Coilhunter Chronicles by Dean F. Wilson. Weird western in a low-tech steampunk science fiction setting with some elements almost verging on magic.
The Coilhunter Chronicles starts with Coilhunter, and I fell in love with the series right away. Nox the Coilhunter is everything a bounty hunter should be, and more. Tragic past, thirst for justice, quick on the draw, follows a strong code of honor. Plus he's quite a tinkerer and inventor, with lots of awesome gadgets. He has some sidekicks, Mr. Quacky (I don't remember if that's the official name, but that's what fans of the series call it) the mechanical duck, and Porridge, the pilot and scavenger. He's flamboyant, to say the least, but he's also clever and heroic. Lots of great action, suspenseful stories, laugh-out-loud moments, and moments that get me all up in the feels or rip my heart out and stomp on it.
I just finished the latest book, Sixshooter (book 5), and I've loved every book in the series and can't wait for the next book. Each book is its own story, but for optimal enjoyment, I recommend reading them in order. There's a related series, The Great Iron War, that's concurrent with the Coilhunter series and events in it are referred to more often as the Coilhunter books go on, and it's also on my reading list.
Welcome to the Wild North, a desolate wasteland where criminals go to hide—if they can outlast the drought and the dangers of the desert. Or the dangers of something else.
Meet Nox, the Coilhunter. A mechanic and toymaker by trade, a bounty hunter by circumstance. He isn't in it for the money. He's in it for justice, and there's a lot of justice that needs to be paid.
Between each kill, he's looking for someone who has kept out of his crosshairs for quite a while—the person who murdered his wife and children. The trail has long gone cold, but there are changes happening, the kind of changes that uncover footprints and spent bullet casings.
Plagued by nightmares, he's made himself into a living one, the kind the criminals and conmen fear.
So, welcome, fair folk, to the Wild North. If the land doesn't get you, the Coilhunter will.
Last year I got new covers for Beneath the Canyons and Bad Hunting, the first two books of Daughter of the Wildings. I still love the old art, but I have a better understanding now of what makes an effective book cover image, and I really needed to get those two books more on-genre for epic fantasy and epic romantic fantasy, to communicate better exactly what kind of books they are to readers who are looking for that genre. I love what my artist, Yuriko Matsuoka, came up with, and especially her fresh envisioning of Silas and Lainie. She nailed the characters perfectly.
Finally the time has come to do the rest of the series covers to match. We just did The Rancher's Daughter and To the Gap, books 3 and 4, and hopefully Yuriko will have room in her schedule in July to do books 5 and 6. These covers have just gone live; check them out! (And yes, that's Silas without his duster coat on book 4!)
So while I've been working hard on revisions on the Mage of Sea and Sky series, I've also been updating the covers on some of my older books, that I thought needed a cover refresh. Two of them, Sarya's Song and Heir of Tanaris, already had custom cover art, and there were things about it I loved and things that weren't working. The third book, The Lost Book of Anggird, has never had custom art. So I put my artist, Yuriko Matsuoka, on the job, and I love what she's done! Check these beauties out:
And while I'm at it, adding the new covers, I've also been refreshing the formatting on these books and the rest of my catalog, and re-doing the lettering on the other covers (except for the Wildings books, which got this treatment last year), to get a nice consistent look all across my catalog. And I did a re-edit on Heir of Tanaris, to polish up a few things with the writing. The project isn't quite done yet, I still need to update Urdaisunia and my short story collections A Cure for Nel and Mistress of the Mirror.
And I'm not done yet! I'm also getting new cover art for The Rancher's Daughter and To the Gap, as part of updating the Daughter of the Wildings series's look. And once I've finalized the titles for the Mage of Sea and Sky books, I'll start revealing those covers. (Hint: the art, also by Yuriko Matsuoka, is gorgeous!) (Also, subscribers to my newsletter get to see most of these goodies first! Except the Lost Book cover; we just finalized that and I couldn't wait until after my next newsletter to upload it and show it off!)
Finally, Sarya's Song, Heir of Tanaris, and Mages' Home (Defenders of the Wildings Book 1) are all 99 cents through June 30. Don't miss this great deal for some summer/winter reading! Click the titles to go to the book pages and find links to buy at your favorite ebook store.
I'm in this great group on Facebook called Romantic Fantasy Shelf, where readers who love romance in their fantasy books, or fantasy in their romance books, get together to talk about all our favorite magic & kissing stuff. Last month we had a great discussion on the enemies-to-lovers romantic trope, and the Romantic Fantasy Shelf blog posted a list of recommended books featuring enemies who fall in love.
Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorite romantic storylines. It brings in so much potential for conflict, angst, and character growth. When well done, it really addresses the main characters' core values and leads them to expand their world view, and to understanding and respect for each other.
In my preferred version of enemies to lovers, the enemy isn't evil, they just have opposing goals which aren't evil in and of themselves. In other words, just because the characters are enemies doesn't mean one of them is the bad guy. I differentiate between enemies to lovers, where the characters have opposing goals, and villain romance, where one of the characters is actually a villain. Note, there's also a difference between a true villain and one who everyone thinks is a villian but really isn't (I do love this take on villains!).
Anyway, I do have to be able to respect the "enemy." If I have no respect for him/her, I lose all respect for the other character for falling for him/her. Though, of course, there's also something to be said for a good redemption arc.
I also don't like when the "enemy" aspect brings in an unhealthy, abusive situation. If one character is inflicting a situation like that on the other character, I lose all respect for the abusive character and don't like to see the other character falling for the abuser.
A great example of a well-done enemies-to-lovers romance is Beneath Black Sails, by Clare Sager. The hero and heroine are enemies in that they have opposing goals, she's a pirate and he's a pirate hunter, but they both have good reasons for doing what they do and values and standards that I can respect. So I like both characters and respect them, and I enjoy seeing the process by which they come to understand, respect, and eventually love each other.
Another great example is the first book of the Emperor's Edge series by Lindsay Buroker. I love how Amaranthe and Sicarius start out as enemies then come to understand each other and agree to work for the same cause. The romance is extremely slow burn and continues to build slowly through the other 6(?) books of the series, but I especially loved the part at the beginning where they move from enemies to allies.
Among my own books, I think Urdaisunia is the best example of enemies-to-lovers. Eruz is the crown prince of the Sazar people, who conquered Urdaisunia and are subjecting it to a brutal rule. Rashali is an Urdai peasant, whose family has suffered greatly because of the Sazars. So, unquestionably, they're enemies. Eruz doesn't approve of his father's tyrannical rule, but he understands why the Sazars needed to find a new home and he wants to find a better way for the Sazars and the Urdai to co-exist. Rashali wants to drive the Sazars out and restore Urdaisunia's freedom. They both have worthy though opposing goals, and have to find a way to do what's best for Urdaisunia and all the people who live there - while falling in love in the meantime!
Want more enemies-to-lovers recs? Check out this post on the Romantic Fantasy Shelf blog, listing 20 enemies-to-lovers fantasy books (it's part 1; there'll be more to come sometime!)
My own picks from the list:
Beneath Black Sails, by Clare Sager (#7 on the list)
Master of Crows, by Grace Draven (#9)
Identity Revealed, by J.M. Butler (#10) (very villain-y)
Heiress of Healing, by Sonya Lano (#19)
For more book recs, book discussions, and to meet other readers and authors, come join us at Romantic Fantasy Shelf on Facebook! (Or follow the blog if you aren't on Facebook.) Right now, the Blizzard of Book Boyfriends read-and-review challenge is going on. Read books, share your reviews with the group, and enter to win prizes!
I'm in a whole slew of book promotions this month. Rather than posting about each one one at a time on the different social media places, where no one sees them anyway, here they all are in one place! A great way to discover new authors and genres. Some of these end soon, so don't delay!
Feb. 1-28: A small but exquisite selection of romantic fantasy and fantasy romance books.
Feb. 1-28: A huge selection of free fantasy books, from epic fantasy to urban fantasy to paranormal romance to space fantasy. Some downloads may require you to sign up for the author's newsletter.
Feb. 1-28: Science fiction and fantasy visions of alternative worlds and alternative versions of our world.
Feb. 1-28: A wide selection of fantasy, from epic to space fantasy, much of it featuring love and romance.
Feb. 15-Mar. 15: Binge on fantasy and science fiction ebook box sets. Discover a new favorite series!
Feb. 15-Mar. 15: A wide selection of fantasy and science fiction, free to download. Some of the downloads might require you to sign up for the authors' newsletters.
Feb. 15-April 15: Find a new series to binge on with these fantasy, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance ebook box sets.
Seven years ago, I was very excited to commission my first custom illustrated cover art, for the Daughter of the Wildings series. My artist, Mominur Rahman, did a fantastic job and I still love those covers even though at the time I hadn't learned very much about what makes a really effective, genre-appropriate cover image for romantic high/epic fantasy.
Now, seven years later, Daughter of the Wildings is the foundation of my growing career as an indie author, and I've decided it's time to refresh the covers, to bring them more into line with the growing romantic high/epic fantasy genre. I was so excited to get Yuriko Matsuoka, who did the art for the Defenders of the Wildings and Mage of Sea and Storm covers, to do the new Daughter covers, and even more thrilled with what she came up with for the covers of Beneath the Canyons and Bad Hunting!
I'm starting with new covers for those two books, then, as finances permit, I'll get new art for the rest of the books. The wonderful Colleen at Ampersand Book Interiors did the same cover treatments as on the old covers for these first two books. Then, when I get the rest of the series done, I'll re-do all the design treatments on the Daughter series and the Defenders series so they match.
I'm in the process of uploading the new covers. It may take up to a week or so for them to go live on all the stores. If you've already purchased Beneath the Canyons and Bad Hunting and want the versions with the new covers, sign up for my email list and watch for a future newsletter on how to get your hands on them!
Oh, and my newsletter subscribers already got sneak peeks at the Mage of Sea and Storm cover art! (It's amazing!) Sign up to see the cover reveals first, or watch this blog.
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