For the first time I have a guest on my blog. Gail Z. Martin has graciously consented to be interviewed and to post an excerpt from her latest novel.
Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in her new The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) and The Fallen Kings Cycle ( The Sworn and The Dread ). She is also the author of two series on ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Series. Find her online at http://www.AscendantKingdoms.com.
Q&A with Gail Z. Martin, plus an excerpt from Reign of Ash
Q: Do you write primarily in one genre, and if so which genre, or do you write in various genres?
A: Most of what I write is epic fantasy—sword & sorcery, magic, action and medieval mayhem. That covers my Chronicles of the Necromancer, Fallen Kings Cycle and Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series, including my most recent novel, Ice Forged, and my upcoming book, Reign of Ash.
One of my ebook short story series, the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, is also epic fantasy. Jonmarc is a major character in my first two series, and the short stories give readers a chance to get to know him before the action begins in The Summoner.
My other ebook short story series, the Deadly Curiosities stories, is more of an urban fantasy series spanning about 500 years. (Hey, if it happens in a city and it’s fantasy, then as far as I’m concerned, it’s urban fantasy.) I started doing stories in this world for anthologies, and really enjoyed the change of pace, so I began writing them for ebook.
I’d love to get to play in some other sandboxes, like steampunk. But epic fantasy is near and dear to my heart, and I’ve just signed with Orbit for two more books in the Ascendant Kingdoms series, so there will be more epic books coming!
Q: What inspires you to write?
A: There are stories I want to read that no one else has written, which means it’s my job to tell them. That’s my strongest inspiration. I want to get to read the stories once I’m done!
Q: What is your newest book and what specifically was the inspiration for it?
A: Ice Forged is my most recently published book, which launched in January 2013. It’s a medieval post-apocalyptic story, when war not only destroys a kingdom but also causes the magic to fail. Losing magic for the people of Donderath is a lot like it would be for us if the power grid went down permanently. Sure, there are ways to do things without magic (just like there are ways to survive without electricity), but those methods are more difficult and it’s been so long, people don’t quite remember how they worked. The only man who might be able to restore the magic is a convicted murder and disgraced lord exiled to a prison colony in the arctic. Reign of Ash is the sequel, and it will come out in April, 2014.
My inspiration was thinking about “what if a culture depended on magic the way we rely on electricity, and the magic failed?” The more I thought about it, the more ideas came to mind for where the story could go. And I liked the idea of doing a post-apocalyptic story in a medieval setting because there are so many end-of-the-world stories set in modern times. I wanted to do something different.
Q: Tell us a little about your upcoming book.
A: Here’s the recap for Reign of Ash:
Disgraced lord Blaine McFadden returned from exile to restore magic after a mage war devastated his homeland of Donderath. The king is dead, the army is scattered, and the once-powerful kingdom has been reduced to chaos and rubble. Blaine may be the only one who can bring back the magic, so it’s up to Blaine and his small group of ex-convicts to save the kingdom, but the price might be their lives.
Q: Please tell us about your other books and where to find them.
A: The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven and Dark Lady’s Chosen make up my Chronicles of the Necromancer series. The Sworn and The Dread are books one and two of my Fallen Kings Cycle, which continues the characters and setting from the first four books. Ice Forged, and in 2014, Reign of Ash, are the first two books in my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series, which is an entirely different fantasy world from my first books. All of these titles are available wherever books are sold as paperbacks, ebook and audiobook.
Every month I bring out a new short story on Kindle, Kobo and Nook for just .99. It’s a cheap thrill, and a good way to get to know my writing if you haven’t read one of my books. In the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, so far we’ve got “Raiders’ Curse,” “Caves of the Dead,” “Storm Surge,”and “Bounty Hunter”. In my Deadly Curiosities Adventures, so far the titles include “Vanities,” “Wild Hunt,” “Steer a Pale Course.: You can find these online wherever ebooks for Kindle, Kobo and Nook are sold.
Q: What are your favorite things to do besides writing?
A: I love to read. It de-stresses me! Because I don’t want to accidently be influenced by another author, I tend to read out of the genre when I’m writing. Now that I write full-time, that’s become a bit of a challenge!
In addition to reading, I love to spend time with my husband and three nearly grown-up kids, plus our two dogs. I love theme parks and hanging out at the pool or water park, and escaping out of town for a quick day trip whenever possible!
Q: What advice do you have for new writers?
A: Never give up! Even though it’s a long slog to get published, you’ve got to stick with it and do what it takes. It feels so good to see your book in print or ebook, and even better to have someone tell you that they read your work and enjoyed it!
Reign of Ash by Gail Z. Martin
“Give us our weapons back.” Blaine demanded. “If we’re being attacked by talishte, then Reese won’t stop until he’s taken us. That’s what he’s after. I don’t know if we can win, but we can damn well give him a good fight.”
Niklas Theilsson nodded, and bent to retrieve the weapons his men had confiscated from Blaine and his friends. Blaine paused when he had belted on his sword. “I’m sorry that we brought this on you.”
Niklas shot back a roguish smile. “Why apologize? It’s like old times. You, me, and trouble.”
“But do there have to be vampires?” Piran grumbled. “I hate fighting vampires.” Kestel caught Blaine by the arm as he moved for the doorway. “You’re not going out
there are you? If you die, the magic might be gone for good.”
Blaine met her gaze. “I’m not going to let Niklas or his men get killed on my account. What’s my option? If it’s Reese out there, he’ll find me, no matter where I hide. I can’t outrun talishte. At least in a fight, I’ve got a chance.”
Piran clapped him on the shoulder. “My thoughts exactly. Let’s go whack off some vampire heads, shall we?”
Niklas had already sprinted from the tent, shouting orders as he rallied his men. Blaine and the others followed, weapons at the ready. Outside, the camp was in chaos. Blaine caught a blur of motion out of the corner of his eye, and saw one of Niklas’ soldiers thrown a dozen feet as casually as a child might toss a rag doll. The soldier lay crumpled where he fell. Across the camp, soldiers shouted and cursed as they tried to fight an enemy that moved too quickly for them to see.
Tents appeared to explode, ripped from their moorings and thrown up in the air. Torches were doused with dirt or water, giving the advantage to the talishte who did not need light to see. Somewhere above the fray, Blaine could hear Niklas attempting to rally his men against an unseen enemy.
A few feet away, a soldier screamed as he was lifted a dozen feet into the air, vainly attempting to strike at his attacker with his sword. With a rush of air, the man fell, landing with a thud. A few tent rows to the right, another man rose screaming into the sky, his attacker seeming to be no more than shadow. He, too, fell back to the ground, screaming and flailing.
Blaine and Piran headed one direction, while Kestel and Dawe headed in the other. Verran ran low, keeping to the shadows, scouting for trouble, his knife clutched in his hand.
Blaine caught movement out of the corner of his eye and slashed with his sword, anticipating his attacker’s movement. The blade caught and held for a moment, though Blaine saw only a blur before the sword came free, its edge bloodied.
“You got one!” Piran shouted.
“No good if you don’t take the head or heart,” Blaine grated, glancing around him warily.
Movement caught his eye, close on the left. “Run!” Blaine shouted, as he and Piran began sprinting toward the center of the camp, where the fighting was heaviest. Around them lay the bodies of injured soldiers who lay where they had been thrown from the sky. Tent canvasses littered the ground, flung aside as the attackers ripped them from their tethers, or kicked to the side as desperate soldiers fought to free themselves when the canvas dropped like nets from above.
Piran stopped to bend over an injured soldier. “Where are you hurt?”
“Leg’s broken. It twisted when I fell.”
“Were you bitten?”
“Gods, no! I’d know, wouldn’t I? By Esthrane, I’m not going to be turned, am I?” For an instant, fear surpassed his pain.
“You’d know,” Piran said grimly. “I’ll send someone back for you when I can,” he promised, then rose and sprinted to rejoin Blaine.
“If it’s Reese attacking, he’s changed his tactics,” Piran observed. “Compared to how his people fought the last time, they’re playing nicely. No head-ripping, no throat gouging.”
Blaine and Piran were fighting back to back, barely keeping the swiftly moving attackers at bay. Blaine’s mouth set in a hard line as he swung his sword, and more than once, he managed to strike an attacker on the shoulder or arm despite the talishte’s greater speed.
“They don’t have to stop until dawn. But we can’t keep up the fight that long,” Blaine replied through gritted teeth.
Just then, a hoarse scream cut through the night air. Blaine turned to see Dawe in the grip of one of the talishte attackers, struggling to get free as his assailant lifted him into the air above the melee. Kestel grabbed Dawe’s fallen crossbow, but there was no way for her to get off a clean shot without striking Dawe, and by the potent curses she screamed, it was clear that she realized the stand-off. Blaine steeled himself, expecting the talishte to drop Dawe as the attackers had let all their victims fall, but this time, the vampire kept rising, disappearing into the night sky with Dawe in his grip.
“They’re looking for us,” Piran said as a trio of talishte came at them. “That’s why they took Dawe instead of dropping him.”
From across the commons, Verran gave a sharp cry as he was lifted into the night. “Get out of here!” Verran shouted, twisting in vain to get loose before he and the talishte ascended too high for a safe fall.
Around them, men scrambled to evade the fast-moving talishte, only to be seized and dropped. Across the vista of flattened tents and ruined wagons, Blaine saw men struggling to rise from where they had fallen or limping away from the thick of battle. Some charged back into the fray despite their injuries. Yet as Blaine surveyed the damage, nowhere did he see heads severed from bodies or throats torn open. In fact, he realized, he saw no corpses at all, just soldiers injured enough to take them out of the fight.
“It’s not Reese,” Blaine said. “These aren’t Reese’s men.” “How in Raka can you be sure?” Piran shouted above the noise.
Blaine stepped away from Piran and let his sword fall.
“What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?” Piran shouted, rushing to interpose himself between Blaine and a talishte who was heading their way.
“Nobody needs to get hurt,” Blaine said. “It’s a misunderstanding.” “Reese is messing with your mind, Mick. Get your godsdamned sword!”
The talishte stopped just out of reach of Piran’s sword. “We’re here to get your people out safely,” the vampire said. “Geir’s waiting.”
“Geir?” Piran said, lowering his sword just a bit.
“That’s why the soldiers aren’t getting killed,” Blaine replied. “Why they aren’t fighting like Reese’s men. They’re just trying to get us out of here.”
“Call off the attack,” Blaine said, turning to the talishte. “The soldiers are on our side. We’re not captives. No one has to get hurt.”
“Geir won’t believe it unless you tell him yourself,” Piran said, lowering his sword the rest of the way. “Go. Get Geir to call off his troops, and I’ll find Niklas and get him to have his men stand down.”
“Ready?” The talishte asked. But before Blaine could reply, strong hands seized him in a vice grip. They lifted up from the ground so quickly that Blaine felt his stomach lurch, and then the movement made everything around him a dark blur until finally, the talishte set him down lightly at the edge of a copse of trees not far from the camp. Geir was waiting for him, looking worried. Verran and Dawe were behind him, and from the sound of it, they were already arguing for a cease-fire.
Geir stepped toward Blaine. The talishte was tall and slender, dressed in all black, with dark hair that fell shoulder-length. He took in Blaine’s appearance with a worried look. “What’s going on? I found shelter for the day when you were hidden in the barn, and when I woke, you were captives. I feared the soldiers belonged to Pollard, so I returned as soon as I could gather enough of Penhallow’s brood in the hope I could free you.”
“Great idea. Much appreciated. Only the soldiers turned out to be good guys. Captain’s an old friend. We need to stop the attack. They’re on our side—or they were, before this,” Blaine replied.
Geir’s eyes took on a distant look, and for a moment, Blaine wondered if the other had heard him. Then the talishte roused, and returned his gaze to Blaine. He looked skyward, as several dark shapes grew closer, then set down near the forest’s edge. “All my men have been recalled.”
Blaine let out a long breath. “All right. Now somehow, we’ve got to explain to Niklas that you were trying to save us from him, after his soldiers saved us from Pollard.”
Geir winced. “My apologies, although that is insufficient.”
Blaine shrugged. “You came to a logical conclusion. Under different circumstances, I’d be grateful for the rescue. Now, we’ve got to patch things up because if Reese and Pollard do attack, it would be helpful if your people and Niklas’s soldiers all know they’re on the same side.” He met Geir’s gaze. “But we’d better get back, or if I know Niklas, he’ll send a war party after us.”
Within half a candlemark, Blaine and Geir stood within sight of Niklas’s encampment, far enough away to be out of range of archers. They stood side-by-side, with Verran and Dawe behind them. A line of soldiers stood on guard, and after a moment, Niklas Theilsson stepped out in front. Just behind the line, Blaine spotted Piran and Kestel.
“What’s going on, Blaine? We were trying to protect you.” Niklas looked as angry as Blaine had ever seen him.
Blaine moved forward. “And these particular talishte were trying to protect us from you. They knew we’d been taken away from the barn. The last soldiers they’d encountered were Pollard’s.”
Niklas glared at Geir. “I’ve got men who were dropped out of the sky or thrown across the compound, a camp that’s been torn apart, and you’re telling me it was all just a mistake?”
“No one got killed, Niklas. Geir’s talishte were being careful. They could have made it a bloodbath,” Blaine said. “If they’d have walked up to the camp and asked nicely, what would your guards have done?”
“Put a quarrel through their chests,” Niklas growled. He eyed Geir and the other talishte as if he were unconvinced that the action might not still be warranted.
“While we stand out here yelling back and forth, we’re vulnerable to a real attack,” Blaine replied. “Will your men accept a truce? It’s still a long way home, and we’ll be stronger together.”
It was plain from Niklas’s expression that he wasn’t happy with the idea, but after a moment, he turned and shouted orders to his men. It might have been years since Blaine had last seen his friend, but he had not forgotten just how stubborn Niklas could be, especially when he did not want to do something.
“You have your truce,” Niklas snapped. “But it’s probably best if the talishte keep their distance until tempers cool and we get the camp functioning again.”
Blaine turned back to Geir. “Since we’re the cause of the attack, the least my people can do is help them put the camp back together. Tomorrow, if things have cooled down, I hope to convince Niklas to ally with us.”
“Raising an army?”
“Why not? Pollard and Reese have their own soldiers. And they’ll be back to attack us. Niklas needs a lord to serve, now that the king is dead. We could use the help. Better to have them with us than go it alone.”
Geir nodded. “I can’t fault your logic, but I’d feel more sure of our next steps if Penhallow were here.”
“Does your bond give you any idea of where he is?” Blaine watched Geir for a clue to the talishte’s thoughts, and as usual, saw nothing.
“Whatever situation had put him in danger, I had the distinct feeling that Penhallow and Connor escaped,” Geir replied. “And an impression that they would rejoin us, after they accomplish … something.”
“No idea what?”
Geir shook his head. “As I’ve mentioned, the kruvgaldur is imperfect, especially at a distance. Flashes of strong emotion, brief pictures send much better than actual words.”
Blaine grimaced. “So they’ll show up when they show up,” he said, making no effort to hide his impatience. A sudden thought struck him. “Geir, did your party encounter any scouts?” Geir frowned. “Two. I put the glamour on them to put them to sleep. I thought you might want to question them. They’re unconscious and bound just beyond the tree line.” He seemed to see something in Blaine’s expression that made him wary. “Why?”
“One of them is my brother.” Blaine turned to Verran and Dawe. “Go give Niklas a hand on the clean-up, and tell Kestel and Piran what’s going on. I’ll be there as soon as I see whether Carr is among the guards.”
Dawe and Verran strode off toward Niklas’s camp, while Blaine accompanied Geir back to the forest. Two men in tattered, dirty uniforms lay bound and gagged on the ground. As Blaine approached, he found that he was holding his breath.
Carr was just a child when I was exiled. Would I even recognize him? Blaine wondered, feeling his stomach tighten.
He looked at the two unconscious men. One man was pale as moonlight, his face framed by lank hair the color of dried blood. No recognition stirred in Blaine’s mind, and his worry rose. He turned his attention to the other man. The second man was tall and lean, and while he was still shy of twenty seasons by several years, his body had been toned and hardened by war. Muddy brown hair fell across one cheek, but even so, Blaine felt his throat tighten at the surge of recognition. “That’s Carr,” he said, his voice tight.
Geir lifted the first man in his arms as if the soldier were a child. “I’ll take this one out where the others are, and I’ll lift the compulsion on your brother. Give him a moment or two to rouse. And be careful if you cut his bonds: he may wake fighting.”
“One more thing we have in common,” Blaine murmured, thinking of how many times Piran and Dawe had complained back in Edgeland that Blaine often woke from dark dreams thrashing and struggling.
Geir disappeared among the trees, and Blaine was glad for the privacy, though now that the reunion awaited, he found himself at a total loss for words. With a sigh, Blaine knelt next to Carr, who was beginning to stir. Drawing his knife, he cut the bonds on Carr’s wrists and ankles, and took Carr’s sword and the long knife that hung from his belt, then stood back. He sheathed his knife, but stood ready for an attack should Carr suddenly launch himself at his “captor.”
Carr struggled awake as the talishte’s compulsion cleared from his head. His eyes blinked, and he sat up quickly, defensive and reaching for his missing weapons.
“You’re safe,” Blaine said quietly.
Carr’s eyes were wild with fear and rage. But as he fixed on Blaine’s features, Carr sat back down with a thud and the blood drained from his face. “Oh gods above, I’m dead, aren’t I?”
“You’re not dead.”
“Blaine? You can’t be Blaine. My brother’s dead, gone to Velant. People don’t come back from Velant.”
Carr reached again for his weapons, and this time, he met Blaine’s gaze with suspicion. “Why take my blades, brother?” There was no mistaking the skepticism and mistrust in the last word, and Blaine winced.
“I’ve woken a time or two fighting my way out of nightmares. My mates objected to getting slugged for no fault of their own,” Blaine said with a shrug. “Your weapons are here for you.”
“Why did you come back?” Now that he was fully awake, Carr studied his brother with a dark glare.
“Long story better told when we’re somewhere else,” Blaine replied. He toed the weapons closer to Carr and stepped back. “Niklas will want to know you’re safe.”
“Does he know about you?” Carr moved for his weapons without ever taking his eyes off Blaine, still alert for deception.
“He knows. And before you ask, the talishte who captured you are on our side. They meant no harm. They thought Niklas had captured my friends and me.”
Carr snatched back his weapons and moved backwards, out of reach. “Our side? I don’t know whose side you’re on yet.”
“There isn’t time—“
Carr’s expression twisted with anger. “I was on patrol and got attacked by a pack of bloodsuckers. Now I wake up and my “dead” brother is back, talking to me like I’m still a child. For all I know, those damned biters got inside my head and you’re not even real.”
Blaine extended his right hand. “I’m real enough, Carr. But we need to get out of here.”
Carr sprang from where he crouched, landing a fist to the side of Blaine’s jaw hard enough that Blaine staggered back a step. Blood started from his lip. Unwilling to harm Carr,
Blaine fell into a defensive stance but did not draw his sword. Carr stepped back, flexing and clenching the fingers of his right hand at the pain of the blow.
“You’re solid. Doesn’t mean you’re real.”
“By Torven’s horns! What was that for? I’m your brother, for the gods’ sake.”
“The brother who left us to starve? Dammit, Blaine, I know why you killed father. I know he dishonored Mari. Gods above, I was sick enough of his beatings. But without father, and without you, Aunt Judith and Mari and I had nothing left. The scandal meant that almost no one would trade with us, sell to us, buy our surplus crops. We were outcasts, unwelcome at court, and even the village peasants spit when we crossed their paths.” Carr was shouting now, and while his face was red with anger, tears glistened at the corners of his eyes. “We lost everything.”
“So did I.” Despite himself, Blaine’s temper rose. “The king took my title, my claim to the land, and the sentence took Carensa from me,” he returned. “My betrothed married another man, bore his child. I spent three years in Velant, starving and freezing, under the Commander’s boot. Three more years starving and freezing as a colonist, in the mines or on the boats. I would have preferred that Merrill execute me. But at least I went to Velant knowing that at least I had stopped father from beating you and raping Mari, and that was enough.”
“And after six years, you show up out of nowhere and want it all back?” Carr challenged.
“Keep the godsdamned title, if that’s what matters to you,” Blaine snapped. “But Glenreith is still my home. Aunt Judith welcomed us. That’s where we’re going, if I can ever get your stubborn ass out of this forest before we’re attacked again.”
“Us? You brought a bunch of convicts back with you? How wonderful. Did Judith tell you we sold the silver to pay for food, so there’s naught left to steal?”
Blaine’s fists clenched at his side, and it took all his will to keep himself from landing a punch. “There are bigger things at stake than your hurt feelings,” Blaine grated. “By Charrot! Grow up.”
Carr fixed him with a baleful look. “Oh, I grew up, Blaine. I grew up working like a man in the fields when I was naught but a slip of a boy. I grew up hearing Judith sob herself to sleep because we had no food and no money to buy any. I grew up seeing my sister marry beneath her station because no one wanted the taint of the McFadden name. And I grew up with every kill I made in the name of king and country on the front lines.”
“Damn you! I mourned you, at first, and then I learned to hate you for what you cost us. So now you’re back. To Raka with you! We learned to get by without your help. Go back to Edgeland. We don’t need you. I can’t imagine why in the name of the gods you came here.”
“Because I may be the only one who can restore the magic.” Blaine met Carr’s angry gaze as the other took in the words. Disbelief gave way to an angry smirk.
“Have you figured the cost, dear brother? I’ve been saved once by you, and the price was too damn high.” With that, Carr strode for the edge of the forest, shoving his way past Blaine and disappearing into the darkness.
Reign of Ash, Book Two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga will be available from Orbit Books in 2014 wherever books are sold in print and ebook format. For more about Gail Z. Martin’s books, follow her @GailZMartin on Twitter or visit http://www.AscendantKingdoms.com
Excerpted with permission from Reign of Ash © 2013 Gail Z. Martin, all rights reserved. May not be copied or published in any form without written permission by the author.
The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event includes book giveaways, free excerpts and readings, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 21 awesome partner sites around the globe. For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit http://www.AscendantKingdoms.com.
@GailZMartin Book Giveaway on Twitter—Every day from June 21 – June 28 I’ll be choosing someone at random from my Twitter followers to win a free signed book. Invite your friends to follow me—for every new 200 followers I gain between 6/21 – 6/28, I’ll give away an additional book, up to 20 books!
Thanks, Gail, for being my guest. I know you’ve made me eager to read Ice Forged and Reign of Ash, as well as others of your books, and I think the readers of this blog will feel the same way.