Category Archives: Book Announcements

Book Blast: Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

I offered to post information today about a book that’s releasing soon and already has very high praise. Read on to see. I’ll be reviewing this book and have the author on for an interivew in July! I look forward to reading it.

02_Lilli de Jong

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Nan A. Talese
Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages
Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her. Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns.

But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive. Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers.

“So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”


Available for Pre-Order/Order –

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell’s

Praise for Lilli de Jong –

“Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father’s selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father’s apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli’s story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it’s a testament to Benton’s skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist’s struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It’s not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it’s also important . . . Lilli’s life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

Author Janet Benton, Biography –

03_Janet BentonJanet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Announcements

Book Blast and Sale: Hakon Haraldsson and his quest in Viking Age Norway

Raven’s Feast

by Eric Schumacher

Publication Date: May 1, 2017
eBook & Paperback

Series: Hakon’s Saga, Book 2
Genre: Fiction/Historical



Raven’s Feast is the sequel to God’s Hammer, the true story of Hakon Haraldsson and his quest to win and keep the High Seat of Viking Age Norway.

It is 935 A.D. and Hakon Haraldsson has just wrested the High Seat of the North from his ruthless brother, Erik Bloodaxe. Now, he must fight to keep it.

The land-hungry Danes are pressing from the south to test Hakon before he can solidify his rule. In the east, the Uplanders are making their own plans to seize the throne. It does not help that Hakon is committed to his dream of Christianizing his people – a dream his countrymen do not share and will fight to resist.

As his enemies move in and his realm begins to crumble, Hakon and his band of oath-sworn warriors must make a stand in Raven’s Feast, the riveting sequel to God’s Hammer.

“At its core, Raven’s Feast is more than a story about a young king holding firm to the power he has won in Viking Norway,” said Eric Schumacher, author of Raven’s Feast. “It is the story of a young man holding true to one’s self and convictions in the face of extreme challenges — something to which, I hope, many people can relate.”

Order your copy today on Amazon!

To celebrate the launch, the prequel, God’s Hammer, will be available free-of-charge on Amazon in the US, UK and Canada from May 2-6, 2017.

Praise for God’s Hammer (Hakon’s Saga, Book 1)

“Eric Schumacher has created the most evocative tale in his stunning novel — God’s Hammer. This book completely drew me in. The research that has gone into God’s Hammer has to be commended, and it is incredibly rich in historical detail. It was as if I was looking through a window into the past as I read the pages of this remarkable story. Hakon’s portrayal is both realistic and believable. Schumacher has obviously researched the life of Hakon in great detail, and this certainly came through in the writing. Schumacher brought Hakon back to life. Well Done!” – Mary Yarde, the author of The Du Lac Chronicles

“Author Eric Schumacher put together a rousing story of warfare, religious strife and tested friendships.” – Mercedes Rochelle, author of Godwine Kingmaker and The Sons of Godwine

About the Author

Eric Schumacher was born in Los Angeles in 1968 and currently resides in Santa Barbara, CA with his wife, two children and dog. He is the author of two historical fiction novels, God’s Hammer and its sequel, Raven’s Feast. Both tell the story of the first Christian king of Viking Norway, Hakon Haraldsson, and his struggles to gain and hold the High Seat of his realm.

More information on Eric and his Hakon Sagas can be found on his website. You can also connect with Eric on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and AuthorsDB.

04_Ravens Feast_Book Blast Banner_FINAL


Leave a comment

Filed under Book Announcements

Russell James Pens Suspense Tale of the Sea for Kindle Scout – Need Votes!

Hey everyone! My client and friend Russell James, who many of you have heard of through me or know yourself to be a writer of thrillers and horror, has stepped outside that writer’s box once again to bring us a different type of thriller – a Young Adult/New Adult novel that features mermaids, mystery, suspense, and even a little romance that can be read by both teens and adults.

BUT Russell needs our help to get this new novel published via Kindle Scout. We need votes and helping spreading the word for votes in THIS FINAL WEEK to make that happen! Below you’ll find all the information you need to do both. I’ll be continuing to spread variations of this content to as many targeted readers and bloggers as I can over this last week of voting so feel free to us any part of it you might want to as well to help spread the word too! It has a beautiful cover and I can truly say that Russell is an outstanding writer!


Marissa Anselmo and the City Beneath the Sea

Marissa Anselmo and the City Beneath the Sea is by Russell James and is up for a Kindle Scout deal for another week! This beautifully written book is a Young Adult novel, but is great for adults who enjoy island and water stories too! The cover is beautiful. If you vote for this book for a Kindle Scout deal it could possibly be published by Amazon. If that happens, and you voted for it, you’ll get a free copy!

Marissa Anselmo and the City Beneath the Sea, Synopsis

Is a mermaid’s life in Atlantis all it seems?

Marissa discovers that her mystery father was a merman from Atlantis. Her hybrid status attracts agents who want her physiological secrets and Atlantis’ hidden location. Guardians from Atlantis whisk her to their city beneath the sea. Eric, her boyfriend, has his own epiphany as his father reveals a heritage pledged to Atlantis’ destruction. Bio weapons and hydrofoil warships threaten to annihilate both sides, and only Marissa can stop the cataclysm, and save the life of the boy she loves.

Want to go ahead and vote NOW?

Want to know more first? Read on….

So what is this book about? Russell has answered a few questions to give a better overview.

Q: What inspired you?

Russell: I love visiting the Florida Keys. The islands are low and small, and so I feel like you are close to the sea all the time. It seems like everyone boats or scuba dives or swims and the water is an integral part of life. That started me thinking about writing a story where that might actually be true. What if someone truly lived half in and half out of the water? Well, that led to mermaids.

But the heart of the story is about the impact of family on an individual’s future. Having a rich heritage as a springboard for life is wonderful, but what if it that heritage is dark? I thought of children growing up in societies steeped in hatred for other cultures, or child soldiers forced into militias. Could they break away, alter their future path? Could they bring others along on that journey? Marissa and Eric both find out that they are expected to be warriors for causes they do not understand. How they react drives this novel.

Q: What was your writing process like?

Russell: Writing this book was a lot of fun. I could keep all the fast-paced elements I love to do in my paranormal thriller stories. And while my novels usually have something unreal happen in the real world, in this novel I had the freedom to create unreal worlds: the mermaids’ underwater city of Atlantis and the shadow society of the satyrs. I researched the world of ancient Greece, the time period where sorcerers had altered both civilizations, and fixed that as the building block for their cultures. It was exciting to create how the Atlantisians, consciously shunning technology, would realistically live under the sea, scavenging from wrecks and harvesting the ocean for food.

Most of all it was great to go back to explore the purity of love, of experiencing the thrill of sharing of one’s soul with another. That power fuels Eric and Marissa’s belief that against long odds, they can make their relationship work. After writing a lot of dark stuff, it was nice to write more in the light.

Q: How does this compare to the other genres you write in?

Russell: I’ve had seven novels published and they were all paranormal thrillers, usually lumped into the horror category, I don’t see Marissa Anselmo and the City Beneath the Sea as being in a different genre as much as being in a subset of the same thriller genre. There is still a lot of action, still cliff-hanger scene endings, still plenty of suspense. There are just a lot fewer decapitations. In dialing back the horror, I also made the whole story family-friendly, with milder language and softer violence than you’d see on network TV. That left more room to explore the characters.

Want to vote NOW?

Thank YOU!!

Russell James Biography –

Headshot Erin Marissa Kindle ScoutRussell James grew up on Long Island, New York, surrounded by water from an early age. Despite many weekends spent on Long Island Sound, he never saw a mermaid. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida. He spent five years flying helicopters with the U.S. Army.

A technical writer for a Fortune 50 company by day, he spins fiction at night. He has written seven paranormal thrillers, several novellas, and has been published in six science fiction short story collections.His works have been praised by Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and the Midwest Review of Books. Dark Inspiration was an Amazon #1 Best Seller.  Q Island was selected as the Editor’s Pick in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.

Visit his website at and read some free short stories.

Follow on Twitter @RRJames14, Facebook as Russell R. James, or drop a line complaining about his writing to


1 Comment

Filed under Book Announcements, Children and Family

C.W. Gortner Releases Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel about Coco Chanel

C.W. Gortner’s latest release, Mademoiselle Chanel, has just published today (3/17/2015)!! All the information you need to know to buy, add to GoodReads, and enter to win one of three fabulously chic, Chanel-style black and white beaded bracelets is below!

Congratulations, Christopher! I’m so looking forward to finishing up this book, so stay tuned for my review next week! I’ve loved Coco Chanel for so long. She has been such an inspiration to me as a woman, a fashion icon, a creative, and her story is so interesting! If I wanted to read another book about any woman, it would be Coco!

02_Mademoiselle Chanel Cover

Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel

Publication Date: March 17, 2015

William Morrow/HarperCollins
Formats: Hardover, eBook, Audio Book

Genre: Historical Fiction

Add to GR Button

DRAMA, PASSION, TRAGEDY, AND BEAUTY: C.W.’s new novel stunningly imagines the life of Coco Chanel—the iconic fashion designer whose staggering creativity built an empire and made her one of the 20th century’s most influential, and controversial, figures.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her sisters are sent to a convent orphanage after their mother’s death. Here, the nuns nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel her into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. Her little black dress, her signature perfume No. 5; her dramatic friendships, affairs, and rivalries with luminaries of her era increase her wealth and fame. But as the years pass, success cannot save her from heartbreak. And when Paris falls to the Nazis during World War II, Coco finds herself at a dangerous crossroads, forced to make choices that will forever change her.

An enthralling portrayal of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel is Coco’s intimate story.

Release Graphic

Praise for Mademoiselle Chanel~

“In this deliciously satisfying novel, C.W. Gortner tells the epic, rags-to-riches story of how this brilliant, mercurial, self-created woman became a legend.” (Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train)

“In a novel as brilliant and complicated as Coco Chanel herself, C. W. Gortner’s prose is so electric and luminous it could be a film, and not just any film, but one of the grandest biopics of our time. Divine!” (Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl)

“A richly imagined, deftly researched novel, in which the ever fascinating Coco Chanel comes to life in all her woe and splendor, her story unfolding as elegantly as a Chanel gown.” (Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Painted Girls)

“From her heart-wrenching early years through her decades of struggle and glory, Gabrielle Chanel was fascinating—as is C.W. Gortner’s Mademoiselle Chanel. Coco lives again in this rich tale of brilliance, determination, and fierce self-creation.” (Ania Szado, author of Studio Saint-Ex)

“Gortner brings to life a woman who was as alluring and captivating as her signature scent. ” (Historical Novels Review)

“Gortner brings history to life in a fascinating study of one woman’s unstoppable ambition.” (Booklist)

“Well-written and historically accurate . . . An homage to a couture icon whose influence is still powerful today.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Buy Mademoiselle Chanel~

Barnes & Noble

Author C.W. Gortner, Biography~

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

C.W. recently completed his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about Lucrezia Borgia; the third novel in his Tudor Spymaster series for St Martin’s Press; and a new novel about the dramatic, glamorous life of Coco Chanel, scheduled for lead title publication by William Morrow, Harper Collins, in the spring of 2015.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.

For more information visit C.W. Gortner’s website and blog. You can also find him on FacebookTwittterGoodreadsPinterest, and YouTube. Sign up for C.W. Gortner’s Newsletter for updates.


Three Chanel-style black and white beaded bracelets will up for grabs during this blast, follow along for chances to win!

Click here to enter—-> Mademoiselle Chanel Book Blast Giveaway


Notes for Giveaway~

– Giveaway starts on March 17th at 12:01 a.m. and ends on April 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EST.
– Must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

Winners will be notified via email and have 48 hours to claim prize, or new winner is chosen. Giveaway run by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and not Hook of a Book.

Hashtags: #MademoiselleChanelBookBlast #HistoricalFiction

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @cwgortner

04_Mademoiselle Chanel_Book Blast Banner_FINAL


Filed under Book Announcements

Open Road Media Releases Victoria Strauss Popular Fantasy E-book Titles + Tweet to Win

E-book Release of Two Victoria Strauss Titles: The Burning Land and The Awakened City

straussburningland_132340842247The Burning Land by Victoria Strauss was released as an e-book for the first time on February 24th, 2014, along with its sequel, The Awakened City! They were first published in 2004 and 2006 to fantasy lovers rave reviews.

In honor of this e-book publication, there is a giveaway happening for a short time in which if you buy The Burning Land, you can enter to win its sequel! See more below about it, right after the excerpt!

In The Burning Land, Gyalo is a devout priest—but he is also a Shaper, a powerful mage with magic unchecked by the law or religion. Sent across the desert to recover refugees from a vicious war, he soon learns a shocking truth that may destroy him and everyone he holds dear.

Victoria Strauss, who holds a degree in Comparative Religion, builds a unique world both religious and fantastical, culminating in “a deeply felt and richly imagined tale that explores issues of faith, destiny and the fallibility of human nature” (Jacqueline Carey, author of Kushiel’s Dart).

Strauss, a one-time judge for the World Fantasy Awards, is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the Passion Blue series. A prolific book reviewer, her work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, among other magazines. In 2009, she received the Service to SFWA Award for co-founding Writer Beware, a publishing industry tell-all guide for writers.

See more:


After four months of travel, they came to the most hostile landscape they had yet encountered: a vast plain of pebbles packed flat and hard as pavement, polished by time and the elements to the reflectiveness of glass. A wind blew off it, like the breath of a furnace. Even the most desolate of the dunes had supported some vegetation, but there was none here, nor any other sign of life. Far away at the southern horizon, a range of twilight-colored mountains poked up into the sky, some of them showing the flattened cone-shape of volcanoes.

The party made camp, while Teispas dispatched scouts to survey the terrain. They returned exhausted and sunburned, with tales of infernal temperatures and light so intense they had to bind their eyes. They had traveled for two days, and seen no sign of change.

There seemed no choice but to try and go around. To the east the plain curved north, so the party turned west. After a day and a half the plain’s margin dipped sharply south, and the mountains drew closer, revealing fold after fold of fire-colored cliffs descending from their flanks. Now, suddenly, the Dreamers’ Dreams acquired definition, producing an array of symbols that, according to Rikoyu, meant human life and work–still south, somewhere beyond the pebble plain.

They had, it seemed, found the lost Âratists.

But the plain ran on, and scouts sent ahead reported no end in sight. After a week of this, Teispas called a meeting. He and his second in command, Aspâthnes, were present, as were Gyalo, Rikoyu, and Vâsparis. Outside, the sun was slipping over the edge of the world in a glory of gold and orange cloud; its fading light filtered through the canvas of Teispas’s tent, enveloping the men in a ruddy gloom.

“We’re sure now that what we’ve been sent to find lies on the other side of that plain,” Teispas began. “Probably in those mountains. Do you agree, Brother Rikoyu?”

“Yes,” said Rikoyu hoarsely. He looked terrible, his hollow cheeks covered with an unkempt beard, his scalp patchy where skin rashes had caused his hair to fall out.

“But it’s been over a week, and still the plain goes on. And the Dreamers have begun to lose focus again.”

Rikoyu nodded.

“We have supplies for only a year. We’ve been traveling more than four months, and it’ll take us at least that long to return–longer, if the lost Âratists are with us. We have no time to waste. But that is exactly what we’re doing–wasting time. For all we know, this ash-cursed plain goes all the way to the sea.” He paused. Like all of them, he had lost flesh; he had not had much to spare to begin with, and now was gaunt as a ghost, his clothing hanging on him, his skin stretched tight over the bones of his face. With his tangled hair and overgrown beard, he looked like a castaway rather than the leader of a military expedition. “We must try and scout a crossing.”

For a moment there was silence.

“There’s bad places in the Burning Land, but no place crueler than the pebble plains.” Vâsparis sat crosslegged, his hands resting on his knees, self-contained and easy as always. Of all of them, the journey had changed him least, for he had been whip-thin and sun-black long before it began. “There’s a little one west of Thuxra City. My partner and I tried to cross it once, but we had to turn back. ‘Twasn’t for lack of supplies or water–it was the heat. The sun pounds down on those stones till you’d swear you were frying on a griddle.”

“We can travel at night, and take shelter by day.”

“That’s fine for men.” Vâsparis shrugged. “But what about the camels? Nothing for ’em to eat or drink out there. They can go maybe ten days like that–and only if there’s good forage at the end of it.”

“We can’t carry more than ten days’ supply of water in any case,” Teispas said. “So their limit and ours is the same. We’ve seen rain clouds above the mountains–it seems likely there’s good land there. The scouts can try at the most southern point, where the Dreamers’ Dreams were strongest. If they can break through in eight days, it shouldn’t take the main party more than ten.”

“And if the scouts can’t break through?” asked Aspâthnes, Teispas’ second. “Or if they don’t return?”

“Then we’ll move on and try another route. And if that one doesn’t work, another.” Teispas fixed Aspâthnes with a hard black gaze. A strained quality had come upon him over the past weeks, a kind of wire-strung tension, as if the barrier of the plain was finally more than his stoic endurance could support. “And if that one doesn’t work, I’ll concede defeat, and we can go back to slogging along the edge of this bloody plain, until our supply situation forces us to turn tail and go back to Arsace without completing the mission that right now, this moment, is finally within our reach.”

“Very well,” Aspâthnes said. “If the scouts can cross in eight days, and find good land at the exit point, I agree it should be tried.”

“And you, Brother.” Teispas turned that gaze upon Gyalo. “What do you think?”

The question was only a courtesy–Gyalo was in charge of the vowed Âratists, but he had no voice in the mission’s command, and any disagreement would be overruled. But he did not disagree. Since the Dreamers had begun to Dream, a blazing excitement had filled him. He was as impatient as Teispas to break past this final barrier and confront the truth they had sought so long.

“Crossing will be risky,” he said. “But every day we travel the Burning Land is a risk. I agree we should try to find a way.”

“Good.” Teispas’s nod was approving. He looked toward Aspâthnes. “See to it. Two men. They’ll leave this night. We’ll follow in the morning.”

The scouts departed, with four camels and ample water. The main party came on at a slower pace, until they found the red and gold marker the scouts had planted at the point at which they had decided to try a crossing. There was good camping close by, a small oasis where water bubbled up to form a pool and a grove of ghost oaks cast a whispering shade.

The party waited, using the time to patch tents and clothing and repair frayed harness, and to increase their food stores by hunting the large lizards Vâsparis called greenback dragons. On the fifteenth day the scouts emerged, exhausted but triumphant, to report that it had taken them seven nights to reach the far side of the pebble plain, and that verdant land such as they had not seen in all their months of travel waited on the other side.

They set out the night after the scouts’ return. The water barrels were full. Inessential items–spare canvas, clothing, cooking pots, the remaining marker posts–had been unloaded and left behind, and the difference made up with green fodder for the camels, to buy extra crossing time should it be needed.

They rode till dawn beneath the cold-starred sky. The waxing moon stared down, a half-closed eye; around them the plain lay flat and featureless, glistening with reflected moonlight like a plaque of beaten silver. There were no variations, no landmarks, nothing at all with which to measure motion–a monotony as difficult to bear, in its way, as any physical hardship.

At dawn they halted. Looking back, Gyalo could see no trace of their starting point, nor any sign of the land ahead other than the hazy mountains. Tent pegs could not be driven among the packed stones, so they spread the canvas of their tents across the camel-saddles, and beneath this low shelter passed the broiling day. Gyalo dozed and woke and dozed again, tangled in dreams of fire and suffocation. When evening came, the blankets he had lain on were soaked with sweat, and the stone of the plain burned his feet through the soles of his boots.

The camels bore up well for the two nights the fodder lasted, and for two foodless, waterless nights after that. On the fifth night they began to slow, raising the possibility that the journey might take longer than the nine nights Teispas had estimated. The water allowance was reduced (except for the Dreamers, for whom nothing was ever rationed); the thirsty men grumbled, but were not ready to listen to Vâsparis when he suggested, seriously, that they drink their own urine–a survival technique, he claimed, that more than once had made the difference between life and death for him.

At sunset on the seventh night, the travelers crawled from their sweaty burrows to begin the labor of saddling and loading. Gyalo was unhobbling Cirsame–not that she really needed hobbling, for she was by now too depleted to wander–when he heard a shout:

“Look! Over there!”

It was one of the camel handlers. He stood beside the water barrels, pointing south, toward a peculiar disturbance in the sky. Above the plain the air was trembling, shimmering like the heat-haze above a sunstruck rock. The margins of this area were blurred with iridescence.

“What do you think it is?” Sittibaal, who had spread his canvas nearby, came to stand beside Gyalo.

“I don’t know. It reminds me–”

“Of what?”

Gyalo shook his head. What it recalled to him, strangely, was Shaper sight: the air around a substance about to be transformed often looked just so.

Faintly came a long roll of thunder. Storm clouds, thick and gray and turbulent, began to unfold at the disturbance’s center, slowly compounding and enlarging. They pulsed and shook with sullen lightning. A swirling irregularity appeared at the storm’s eastern edge; after a moment a column of cloud slid smoothly downward, like a long black finger. It touched down, lifted, touched again.

“I’ve never seen a storm like that,” Sittibaal said. “Have you?”

“No. No, I haven’t.”

For a while they stood watching as the cloud-finger investigated the ground, sweeping east, then west, then slowly east again, almost as if some invisible hand were shepherding it. At last they returned to their preparations. Gyalo had forced Cirsame to kneel and was loading her when the thunder suddenly boomed louder. He looked up and saw the storm had grown, eating up much of the southern sky. It was still expanding, the clouds swelling, the black column engorging, like a bladder pumped with air–

No–not expanding. Approaching. The storm was coming toward them, racing along the pebble plain at unbelievable speed. In the instant Gyalo realized this, the first winds struck, pressing his clothes against his body, lifting the canvas behind him. The air darkened. Wetness struck his face–rain?

Another clap of thunder split the air. Cirsame bellowed and tried to rise; he pulled her traces, attempting to hold her down. There was a confusion of running men, of shouting–“Bring the camels down! Bring the camels down!” “Hold the canvas!” “The god save us!”–and then the storm struck, a screaming madness of wind and rain. Lightning flashed, blinding; the thunder that followed was like the earth cracking in two. The wind tried to pick Gyalo up; he wound his wrists with Cirsame’s traces and hung on for his life.

There was another flash, another crack. The wind wrenched him savagely around. Pain burst in his shoulder, like nothing he had ever known. Something struck him, crushing him to the ground. And then there was nothing in the world but agony and the storm.


If you go get The Burning Land, you can enter to win The Awakened City!

From now until March 1, anyone who tweets with the hashtag #BoughtBurningLand will be entered to win one of 10 free download codes for the 2ndbook,The Awakened City. Be sure to follow @OpenRoadMedia so we can contact you if you win! Full rules here:

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Announcements