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Added another snippet for The Gracarin but have yet to get the pre-sale date set. Still waiting on final edits.

Did go see an interesting film yesterday, The Kitchen, and will review it later. In the meantime, Voranna-Vos nagged to be noticed. As I’ve said before, the people in my books are real to me, and she’s a forced to reckon with on the page and inside my head. I like quirky characters.

 

 

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After a reading at the last writer’s group meeting it was suggested that a map of Gracarin would be helpful, which is why one was already made. Plugged it in as a new page. Cover reveal coming soon.

Fantasy fans understand, and often expect, complicated plots, lots of characters and heavy doses of weirdness. Toss in a cast with unusual names, some creepy creatures, swords and sorcery. You’ve just whipped up a fantasy. So with this fourth (not in chapter order) snippet, I added the book’s map, which will have changes and additions with each following book.

The Gracarin will be released in September. Date for pre-release in a few days.

Thanks for following!

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

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Snippet #3

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Chapter 3

Judgment Court

A scent similar to the fflorin’s filtered down the long corridor that connected the Garrison to the Temple compound. A phalanx of Cavalry warriors, the only military allowed inside the Temple, waited at its end to separate the wharf and hill country contingents. With the exception of Lorin, the Cavarly was made up entirely of women. They were known for their fearlessness, fierce dedication to the protection of Temple members, and unbreakable loyalty. Torak admired those qualities and sought them for his warriors, rather than mere fighting skills.

Other than during the investiture, he’d seen only one of the famed fighters up close. A handler of their Cavalry mounts had traveled to Gracarin to purchase wild charger mares, due to inbreeding problems. She’d not had the height and strength of the women of his country, but had about her a quiet menace that made shoppers on the wharf keep their distance, even though she hadn’t brought her charger. If she had, a glimpse of the military mount would have emptied the harbor.

Wild chargers looked similar, the serpentine heads smaller and usually brown-spotted, not all over black. Gracarin chargers had none of the training that made them living machines of war. All Temple entrances and exits were large enough to accommodate the beasts, since charger sentries roamed the Temple inside and out at night. There were none with the warriors today.

It was ironic that his first time inside the Temple was for a hearing in its Judgment Court. He strove not to gape, while wondering about the venue. Most legal actions were heard in the one of the city’s municipal courts. Only violent crimes were judged by the Temple’s leader. The present High Priest used facts and discretion. The former priestess could read minds. So it was said.

This could be to his advantage, if she were present. The evidence against Kilamok was strong but verdicts from the former High Priestess were never questioned, and hers were potentially deadly if it involved premeditated cruelty.

The clatter of armor and heavy footsteps rattled up and down the wide corridors. The Temple’s wealth had diminished during its temporary abandonment after the Dawn That Bleeds. There were no indications of any restoration work being done to its interior. Some of the gem-studded murals remained unmolested on the ceilings and high up on the walls. The Temple’s distinctive scent became stronger as they moved deeper into the maze of hallways, the smell similar to that of the fflorin, but more herbal and not as sweet, sparking the memory of incense.

They halted in front of what he initially assumed was a metal door with no handle, only a handprint embedded in its center. As he moved closer, he discerned that it was highly polished wood, opened from the inside by a warrior. A long line of them stood on red-carpeted steps leading down into the sunken courtroom. Beneath the high-vaulted ceiling, white marble pews encircled the chamber. Torak and Jaekl were escorted down and seated in the first row. Kilamok and his entourage were taken to the opposite side. A dark, uneven smudge marred the floor’s gleaming white.

There was no seating for judges, priests or official scribes, prompting Torak to murmur, “An odd sort of courtroom.”

Jaekl nudged him in the ribs and gestured sideways with his chin. “What do you make of that?”

On their left, the remainder of their marble pew had been warped, buckled into lumps of white stone. “Looks melted,” Torak murmured. He asked the warrior standing on the steps across the aisle, “What happened there?”

The insignia on her armored chest stated her rank and her proficiency in hand-to-hand. The shield was absent from her back, and she wore a saber in the belt that secured her Cavalry blue tunic. Since they were riders, they usually wore trousers, but today, all the warriors wore knee-length tunics and high-strapped leather sandals with a side-sleeve for a knife.

The warrior preceded her reply with a smirk. “Someone displeased Her Highness.”

“You mean Lady Sha?”

The warrior’s expression hardened. “Lady Sha is forever High Priestess to us. Be advised that there will be no talking once the High Priest enters.”

“And what about that dark spot on the floor?”

The warrior gave the blemish a glance and smiled again. “Where Her Highness ended the Mastema.”

“Mastema. Doesn’t that mean drechleth? I thought she killed it out on the steps.”

She gave him a suspicious glance, most likely due to his proficiency in Omirrian and his slight knowledge of Temple language. As a boy, he had preferred weaponry training. His mother insisted on learning about neighboring cultures. As he matured, he became grateful for her demand that he also learn their languages.

The warrior shifted her attention from him to the opposite pews before giving an answer. “Her Holiness and my Lord Sha killed the Threat From the North on the Temple steps. That spot on the floor is where she destroyed the Oracle, the one known in the Portends as the Mastema. His evil filth has been difficult to remove.”

She stood straighter and placed her hand on the saber’s hilt. “Silence. His Highness is about to enter. You will stay seated and silent until directed to do otherwise or you will be punished.”

How the warrior knew that High Priest was about to enter was in no way apparent, but a door on the opposite side of the court underneath the pews opened. A warrior entered first, followed by Ladnor, Medra, and the High Priest. Torak’s heart started to thump inside his chest when the most lethal person in the world, a small, white-robed figure entered last.

The warrior escort stood to one side with Medra and Ladnor. Both were armed The scrape of a sword being withdrawn slithered through the silence as the High Priest and Lady Sha moved to the courtroom’s center. The guard stood well back in the attack-defend position, feet planted, sword pointed up and at the ready.

Lady Sha stood directly on the smudged spot, giving Torak the eerie impression that she enjoyed standing on it. He allowed one side of his mouth to lift with a half-smile. He liked her, even though she was rather puny for a woman renowned for her power. An annoying compulsion had him glancing sideways at the melted marble.

High Priest folded back his cowl, revealing sharp features and skin paler than most Omirrians. He also had a thin line of beard along his jaw when all the men of Omirr were clean-shaven. His night-dark eyes glinted aggravation. So this was the half-breed Gryff of Sha, the unlikely heir decreed by the Temple’s former leader to rule.

“We are here because uncivilized men could not contain their violence during a meeting convened to bring nations and peoples together in common understanding. Beyond that, a challenge was issued by Lord Torak for the return of his countrywoman. As crude and uncontrolled as it was, it remains an accusation and one, due to its heinous nature, must be immediately addressed. We are aware of the matriarchal aspects of your laws and religion, but you are now in Omirr and will be adjudicated by ours.”

Kilamok started to speak and was silenced when a warrior’s blade pressed against his neck. Salmysis was clever enough to keep silent and still. High Priest ignored the incident and moved closer to where Torak and Jaekl sat. He studied them with a gaze steady and uncomfortably piercing.

“Jaekl of the Coldblood Clan, do you speak Omirrian?”

“Yes. More fluently than my Lord Torak”

“Was that your sister among the harem?”

“Yes, Highness.”

“And you are positive that she was not with them of her own accord?”

“No. She was taken while shopping at the wharf.” With pride he added, “It was reported that it took five men to bring her down.”

High Priest glanced at Torak, who couldn’t contain his the hot hatred of his stare at his enemies across the room. High Priest returned to ask Jaekl, “Your sister appeared to be drugged. Do you concur?”

“Highness, that was my sister, but not. They have done something to her.” Jaekl swallowed. “You know how we revere our women.”

“Yes, Jaekl, we are aware of all religious doctrines and comprehend the aspects of your matriarchal culture. Therefore,” he turned and moved to the small figure in the center of the court, “we will decide this matter in a manner where there can be no misunderstandings, no opposition.”

Across the room, Kilamok raised his hand and High Priest responded. “You have a question?”

“Why do they have the right to speak and I do not?”

“Because you were not requested to speak, and you are not the offended in this matter. It was hardly the smartest political move to flaunt a crime, particularly one so abhorrent to the strictly religious of the Gracarin faith. And a crime that is more than loathsome to Omirrians.”

He turned to the warrior standing beside Medra. “Bring Jaekl’s sister. She doesn’t need to be coherent.”

Sheathing her sword, the warrior turned, jogged across to the door under the pews and exited. Hand raised again, Kilamok stood. Before he could speak, the warrior shoved him down on the pew.

Salmysis remained still, caught in a staring contest with Medra. Torak sneered. What incredibly stupid behavior, aggravating the nation’s Lady Protector. Salmysis was the worst sort of soldier, one who would not protect his master. Jaekl would have somehow intervened.

With bored impatience, High Priest demanded, “What is it now, Kilamok?”

“My lord priest, we have a witness.”

“One was not requested. It is expected that you act as your own witness.”

Kilamok’s furtive glance to the center of the courtroom darted away from the small, silent figure. He would never succumb to an interrogation from her. She would comprehend all of his perfidies. The Temple couldn’t outright execute a foreigner, but there were many other ways to punish.

Kilamok answered, “I was not present. There was a merchant who saw it all and will verify that was not abducted.”

High Priest turned away, looked up, and spoke to the warrior guarding the courtroom entrance. “Have their witness brought here.”

The courtroom guard returned through the door under the pews. A burly warrior followed, carrying Jaekl’s sister, who’d obviously been given more drugs. Her limp arms swayed as the warrior brought her to the High Priest.

Torak sensed his second’s distress, saw Jaekl’s white-knuckled grip curled around the edge of the pew. Because he couldn’t speak, Torak placed a steadying hand on Jaekl’s thigh, digging into tough muscle to pin him in place, and felt him flinch when the High Priest brushed aside his sister’s veils and cupped her cheek in his palm.

When her eyes fluttered open, High Priest gently said, “Hush. I am healing you. The poison you’ve been given will be erased from your body.” The court remained silent until Jaekl’s sister inhaled a sudden, deep breath.

The priest gently asked her, “Your name?”

“Feldspa.”

“Feldspa, are you able to stand on your own?”

“I am not sure, my lord.”

High Priest took her from the warrior, who backed away and exited under the pews. He held her in his arms for a moment then gently set her down. Feldspa weaved in place for a second then straightened, shoulders back, head up. She yanked off layers of veils and kicked them aside until she stood in a short, filmy tunic.

Not realizing that she wasn’t allowed to speak, she looked at the High Priest, a glare sparked by outrage. “May I kill them, my lord?”

He responded first with a dark, disturbing chuckle. “No, Feldspa, only we are allowed to do that here, but we do commprehend your provocation. Remain silent and join your brother. He looks about to explode if he doesn’t get you safely in his hands.”

She scowled and whipped back flowing dark blond hair. Familiar with Feldspa’s easily provoked temper, Torak wasn’t surprised when she tugged off delicate, gem-studded sandals and aimed them at the wharf rats before she stomped across the courtroom to her brother. Jaekl clutched her in a rough embrace until his sister shoved free, kissed his cheek, and sat in glowing discontent.

While Feldspa glared death and destruction at her former captors, the High Priest looked at Medra with a lop-sided smile. They shared an extended visual conversation—hers not amused, while his, oddly merry. Torak experienced a moment of understanding and surprising envy; theirs was not a political alliance but a true marriage.

Their silent interchange was interrupted when a warrior led a man down the steps into the courtroom. Crackling power rippled throughout the chamber when Lady Sha lifted back the hood of her robe. Torak had seen her from a distance, too far away to distinguish her strong-featured face. Hair the color of old blood, braided Cavalry style and streaked with silver, coiled around her head. The sly cleverness of her gaze spoke of a confidence so complete that there was no hiding from her perception. High Priestess she had been in the past, but in her eyes, he saw that all of her faculties remained as sharp as ever. And as terrifying.

Her husky voice filled the courtroom, sending a chill down his spine, when she asked the witness, “Do I have your permission to touch you?”

Visibly trembling, the slender, well-dressed man nodded. Shaking back a billowing sleeve, she placed her palm on his brow. The man buckled to his knees, leaving her hand in the air.

She instructed the warrior who’d brought him, “Take him away. He is of no use.”

Kilamok again opened his mouth but choked off the words when the warrior guarding him stuck the blade under his nose.

Lady Sha turned to address the wharf contingent. “You have presented me with nothing to verify your assertion. Feldspa was indeed compliant and subdued when she and your soldiers passed the vendor’s booth. That proves little. She could have been coerced to behave in other ways besides employing a quick acting drug. Feldspa was drugged again before being brought here.” She asked over her shoulder, “I presume it was hallucinate in composition?”

When High Priest nodded, Lady Sha sent a smile to Jaekl’s sister. “You did not make it easy for them, did you, Feldspa? They were bloodied when they passed that vendor’s booth. Good for you. Now that we have established how and that she was abducted and held against her will, we shall determine the Hill Country contingent’s assertion regarding this issue. Lord Torak, come here.”

Torak got up, stepped down, and crossed the courtroom floor, amazed at how large she appeared from a distance but in reality was so small up close.

She squinted up at him. “It is rude to swagger in this place, Lord Torak.”

“May I speak now?” When she jerked a nod, he replied, “Apologies, but it is my usual manner of walking.”

High Priest and Ladnor must have taken his remark as insolent and stepped closer to her. Lady Sha backed them away with a shake of her head and a cluck of her tongue. “Leave us be. Gryff, go torment Medra. You also, Ladnor. Stand back. I dislike the two of you hovering.”

“He’s a bit of a brute,” Ladnor warned.

She snorted at that and again waved them off to eye Torak up and down. He should feel petrified. This woman had melted marble like wax and obliterated an entire Marin horde with a sweep of a sword. All he could think of doing was cuddling her until she squealed. He couldn’t help it. Except for being half her size, she was so like his mother that he was unable to mask his sympathy.

“You are weary from healing, Holiness.”

“I am Lady Sha now, and what would you know of healing, Lord Torak?”

“My mother is a healer.” He paused to grin down at her and added, “Lady Omirra-Sha.”

“You are impertinent. And speak Omirrian well enough.”

“My mother taught me.”

“Good for her. I assume you give your permission?”

When he nodded, she flicked her fingers, an impatient gesture for him to lower his head, and muttered, “You Gracarin hill people are impossibly tall. Worse than my husband.”

Warmth and comfort soaked through the palm she placed on his brow, sinking down into his soul, weakening his legs. From somewhere far away he willed himself to stay standing. When her touched lifted, he blinked to reorient.

Wise eyes, hazel and gold, studied him. A film of sadness, brief with understanding, dimmed the alertness of before and created a queasy feeling, as if his most secret thoughts had been exposed. He’d had no choice. She’d given an order. There was no other alternative but to obey. He could only pray that she hadn’t seen his darkest secret.

“Lord Torak, you and your second have reason for your grief. Return to your seat and say nothing. Remain after the others have left.”

Relieved that she showed no change in her opinion of him, he smiled. “It will be exactly as you wish, my lady.”

He bowed, suppressing a chuckle at her annoyance when he added a bit more swagger to his walk. She clicked her tongue as he sat and waited for the drama to unfold. She had to have seen his homeland, its magnificence destroyed, the vileness of the wharf king and his lords, the suffering of Jaekl and his family when Feldspa disappeared. The strapping, sassy-mouthed girl was the pride of the Coldblood Clan.

Lady Sha glided across the courtroom to stand in front of Kilamok and Salmysis, whom she addressed first. “Lord Golivaris, our Lady Protector’s animosity stems from a nasty incident that was actually none of your doing. Someone impersonating you presented himself as a suitor.”

Lady Sha glanced over her shoulder at her scowling daughter. “That was enough to set up her back. She has a difficult time casting off a grudge. Even though her present animosity is unjustified, you, Salmysis, are not an honorable person. Your soldiers got their teeth loosened when they abducted Feldspa. If I should ask her, she would never admit to rape, but I am positive that it occurred.

“As for you, Kilamok, I will not give you the respect of your title. Since I am no longer priestess, I am not subject to specific limitations and can say and do as I please. I am tempted to unman the both of you, but instead, will ask our ruling High Priest to ban you from our country. If either of you dare to enter Omirr, either by water or by way of Marin lands, you will die. That is all. Warriors, escort them to their ships. Take your chargers. If they speak or create any disturbance, have your mounts remove their heads.”

She turned to the High Priest. “Have I overstepped?”

He nodded a bow. “As Lord Torak so eloquently stated, it will be exactly as you wish. She has spoken. Let it be done.”

Torak put on his most gloating smile as the wharf rats were taken by sword point from the courtroom. Salmysis glared revenge. Kilamok stared straight ahead, red-faced and too overwrought with frustration to do anything but focus on each step up the carpeted aisle. There would be retaliation. Torak looked forward to it.

Prickling on the back of his neck had Torak returning his attention to the courtroom floor. Ladnor had crossed the courtroom floor. Narrowed-eyed and amused, he said, “They dropped themselves right into your hands, didn’t they?”

Before replying, Torak addressed the High Priest, “May I now stand and respond, Highness?”

Gryff unbelted a fringed, blue sash and shrugged out of a layer of robes. “Court is over. Say what you like, but I have an idea of what you will say. All of us do, but we should go somewhere else to discuss it.”

When Jaekl, Feldspa and Torak left the pew to step down onto the courtroom floor, Ladnor sent his wife a scowl, because she tucked her hand into Torak’s elbow. She held him to a leisurely stroll, companionable, deceptively friendly. Torak wasn’t deceived but was mildly surprised by her first comment.

“Tell me about your mother, Lord Torak. Then we shall see about this plan of yours to become the king of Gracarin, not just its wharves.”

He concealed his dismay that she had seen everything he had planned. “My lady, I was beginning to think that you were like her, but perhaps not.”

Behind him, he heard Ladnor mutter, “You have no idea what holds you by the arm, Torak-en-Doarth.”

Her laugh sent a slither of awareness down his spine. “My husband delights in spoiling my little amusements. Pay no attention. I saw that you came directly from your ship to the conference. You may join us for a meal. The family keeps a villa nearby. A dwelling too luxurious for my taste, but necessary for impressing those who liked to be impressed. It has a view of the city that I never tire of looking at. Ladnor, find Sorda and bring her to me.”

“She’s heading to Sha with Lorin and Rynn.”

“Tell them all to delay the trip. Off you go. Now, Lord Torak, I believe your country is partial to fish and bison. We are blessed with plenty of the former and none of the latter. My husband and children would gnaw on a haunch of meat every day if they could,” she ended with a delicate shudder.

From the corner of his eye, Torak saw Ladnor veer off and go down another corridor, as the diminutive tyrant with a scary grip on his arm whispered, “Very clever of you to suppose correctly that you could entice my husband over to your way of thinking by offering cattle.”

Dread’s chill trickled through his belly. So far, she hadn’t referred the one thing he wanted no one to know about him, but he kept that so deeply hidden he rarely thought about it. Had she seen his political and salacious interest in Sorda? He looked down. Lady Sha wore a smile some might judge as soft and complacent, but he saw something entirely different.

 

THE GRACARIN snippet #2

Chapter 2

Seducing Royalty

Torak sensed it the instant Sorda glanced his way, her attention fixed on the weapon strapped to the right side of his belt. So were the combined blue glares of the Lady Protector, and her father, Lord Ladnor, directed at his weapon on defiant display. They watched as he and Jaekl crossed to the empty seats, staring in a way that felt loud with distrust.

Heeding Jaekl’s advice, Torak closed his hand with slow and careful deliberation around the sword hilt, shifting the blade out of the way so that he could comfortably sit.

They’d taken seats with their backs to the wall. Jaekl poured them chalices of chilled wine. Torak lifted his chalice to Ladnor before tasting then studied the attendees to divert himself from the temptation of getting up and abducting Sorda. Better to think of what to say when he requested a private audience with the imperious Ladnor-Sha. He avoided looking at Sorda even though he felt her attention on him. Let her look and wonder. Best to keep his intentions secret for now.

Latecomers, dignitaries and delegates, kept streaming down the steps until there were no seats left to be had. A delegation from Vos came in last. Disappointed, he’d hoped to see the famed Lady Vos and judge the resemblance between mother and daughter. It would have been amusing to rile the older woman with flattery, which he’d heard she adored, and a prerequisite to become a member of her stable of young men.

Before the meeting could commence, a clang from the herald’s staff interrupted. “His majesty and ruler of the Gracarin wharves, Kilamok-en-Hoarth.”

Jaekel’s hand gripped Torak’s wrist, digging deep, using fingernails when he tugged for freedom.

“Now is not the time, sire.”

Torak glanced beyond the entrance. His men had been moved out of the way as the enemy of his people arrived on a gilded litter. Ahead of him, perfume sprayers drenched the clean air coming in from overhead with cloying scent. In their wake, a throng of garishly dressed sycophants followed by wives and a dozen favorites from his harem, blatant blasphemy. The wharf king bragged of his harem, the flouting of his partiality of debauchery and the breaking of Gracarin law of a single spouse.

Even more revolting than the wharf king himself was Kilamok’s second, Salmysis, Lord Golivarus. He stood nearby, smirking and secure in his beauty, when the litter was set down with a clunk on the marble floor. A movement on the dais pulled Torak’s attention from the men he’d vowed to destroy. Behind the High Priest, the Lady Protector was clamping a bar of metal to a jaw piece above the chin of her helm. Before she sealed her lips over it, he had a glimpse of what looked like a metal-shaped smile. Ladnor and High Priest had turned in their seats to look at her.

Torak’s extraordinary senses allowed him to hear Ladnor’s whisper, “What is it, Medra?”

With a stare as cold-blooded as her father’s, she unclamped her teeth from the whistle’s mouthpiece and answered without muting her voice, “That is Salmysis, Fa. Remember what he did to the stable boy.”

The High Priest murmured, “No, Medra, that wasn’t Salmysis. It looked like him. You have to remember what that incident was about. It was the Oracle’s trickery.”

Her stare never left the accused. Salmysis wore his customary conceit and leering sneer. Torak longed to gut the man, almost as much as he lived for slaying the wharf king. Whatever Salmysis had done to aggravate Medra-Xur had to have been heinous. It was not her place to incite attack without a direct threat or an order from the High Priest.

Torak suppressed a grin. Medra’s grievance against one of the wharf lords opened an unexpected opportunity to maneuver. The enemy of one’s enemy adage would work well to win her support. Kilamok’s gloating enjoyment of creating a disturbance was doing nothing to ease the mounting tension.

Torak mastered his disappointment when Medra relented, stepping back. Ladnor and the High Priest faced forward in their seats. It looked as if the brief incident was going to be put aside until Kilamok snapped his fingers. With a level, taunting look at Torak, Salmysis grabbed the arm of the nearest concubine and hauled her forward. Yanking off veils, he revealed a bowed head, red hair streaked with the color of honey, shorn so short only a scruff remained. The tall girl lifted her chin. This time, Torak had to hold back his second. The woman uncovered was Jaekl’s missing sister. Her warrior’s topknot had been sliced off, a military shaming tactic.

Jaekl screamed abuse at Kilamok while his sister struggled in the grip of Salmysis and another guard. Hill country women were never weak. Her sluggish movements showed that she’d been drugged. Torak wrapped his arms around Jaekl’s chest, whispering for restraint. Then Kilamok made the mistake of laughing. That was all that was needed. Torak flung Jaekl aside and drew his blade. Attendees reacted, shrieking and jostling for escape.

“Silence!” The High Priest’s command stilled the room.

As the exhilarating haze of aggression cooled, Torak noticed someone standing nearby. He turned his head slightly to discover his nearest opponent, Sorda, now positioned between the royal table and him. As if he were a threat to them.

The rule was no weaponry at the conference but she held an unopened scymtar, the gleaming circle of its two curved blades arcing from her hand. Where had she hidden it? Unopened, it looked harmless, merely a metal circle. Thrown with skill, a scymtar could decapitate or slice to the bone when the curved blades clamped around a victim’s throat, leg or arm.

He flicked a glance at the dais. Lorin and Ladnor were both on their feet, holding weapons that had to have been hidden underneath the table. Oddly, Medra, the person responsible for the safety of everyone in the nation, stood without a weapon in hand, and then he heard it, a faint whistle.

Sorda stayed fixed in place as the room erupted into screams and a scramble for a way out, only to be blocked and pushed back by Garrison guards. A mass of blue dropped down through the wide hole in the ceiling, landing with a thump. The spicy scent he’d smelled earlier now saturated his senses. Even though small for his kind, the fflorin shrunk the room with his size. He rose up, not quite rampant, white wings folded close to his smooth blue body, but with a hand raised. Black talons sprang from three fingers and a thumb. His head swiveled, black eyes sparkling with mischief and menace. Upturned nose lifted, pretty ears laid flat, he exposed spiky teeth with a mocking smile, while scanning the room for the nearest threat.

Torak stepped back, his rump bumping into the edge of the table. The fflorin fastened a narrow-eyed gaze on the sword he held and broadened his smile to reveal the full array of his thin teeth. Fflorin didn’t like the taste of humans but had no aversion to chomping off body parts.

A gruff female voice quietly ordered, “Release the sword, Gracarin.”

Torak did as he was told, allowing it to clatter onto the marble floor, then regretted it, when the fflorin’s nose swung toward the speaker, Sorda. His heart thumped inside his chest as the great head neared her, but the fflorin nuzzled her neck, crooning a plaintive tune before swinging back to confront Torak. Obsidian eyes narrowed, the fflorin snapped at his naked belly and hissed a warning into his face, a sweet-smelling gust that ruffled his hair back off his shoulders.

A second command from Medra’s whistle had the fflorin lowering into an uncomfortable looking squat in the center of the room, where he glowered distrust at the assembled. He didn’t retract his claws.

High Priest stood. Everyone’s attention shifted to the Temple leader. “This conference will reconvene tomorrow. I will speak with the leadership of the Gracarin contingents in the Judgment Court. There will be no delay, no argument.”

Torak grabbed Jaekl’s arm to hold him back from going to his sister. Empathizing with his second’s suffering, they watched her being led away with the harem. It wasn’t like a hill country woman to act so passive. Something beyond drugging had to have occurred to render her submissive.

As everyone filed out of the conference hall, he, Jaekl, Kilamok and Salmysis were directed to another exit. With a glance over his shoulder, Torak watched Sorda give the fflorin’s belly an affectionate scratch before she followed the royal party out of another door. He wasn’t happy about leaving his only weapon behind, but had no choice. With a swift snatch, the fflorin had confiscated it and was using the blade point to pick his spiky teeth. That wasn’t as bothersome as the creature’s expression—an obvious smirking taunt that as much as said out loud that the fflorin now claimed ownership of the sword—Torak didn’t—and wouldn’t be getting it back.

He nodded to the fflorin, looking on the positive side of this change of events. Throttling Kilamok could be as satisfying as evisceration.

 

 

 

 

 

SEASONS OF WAR

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It’s a good thing to have someone to nag and knock one about the head. My critique partner, Judi Lynn/Judy Post has a pretty good aim. Sometimes there is ringing in the ears, which is not a bad thing, because it makes me pay attention. And as it was written in the Haggard novel, when She Who Must Be Obeyed speaks, you’d better listen.

SWMBO has been nagging me about doing snippets (among other things) and today’s mini-post is a heads-up just to prove I listened. The snippet thing is a fave of the delicious Ilona Andrews, and if it’s good enough for her…and so on.

The trilogy Seasons of Time made its debut in paperback in 2003, when I was told self-published works were a waste of time, would never sell, would never get reviewed, would essentially get laughed off the face of the Earth. I’d had encouragement from a publisher, but as traditional houses are wont to do, they wanted changes. The vision of the story was too important for me to change it to fit someone else’s format. It went on to sell many thousands of copies, win an Honorary Mention in a Writer’s Digest International contest, and receive an excellent review from Midwest Book Review.

Back then, I did book events where I talked about e-publishing and the digital future where hundreds of books could be stored and read on a device not much larger than a postcard. I was given pitying looks from the attendees, but it didn’t bother me. They all bought the book.

Today’s snippet is the opening of The Gracarin, Seasons of War. I’d been asked to write more about the world created in the first trilogy, so I am deep in that process. The interior map is almost done. It needs a few tweaks before sending out into the world. The cover is being created and a cover release should happen any time now. The notes from three beta readers have come back, which means it’s almost time to send it along to SWMBO.

Thanks for following. Because if it’s good enough for Judi/Judy and Ilona, it’s good enough for me.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

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Three Movies in Four Days Part 3

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Rocketman

Spoliers? Are you kidding? Who doesn’t know about Elton John? Familiarity with his music, and a growing appreciation of his present day style, had me thinking I might pass on this one. That would have been a HUGE mistake. On and off throughout this film I made comparisons to La La Land, which had none of Rocketman’s brilliance. Yes, I liked some of the dance numbers in LLL, but they are mediocre compared to Rocketman, especially Saturday Night’s exuberance. This is what a ‘Hollywood’ musical is all about and hasn’t been seen in way too long.

Elton John’s stage persona was/is bigger than life, but that becomes secondary in this homage to his music and Bernie Taupin’s lyrics. At some point it becomes apparent that Taupin’s lyrics are so well-woven into this story about Elton’s life and his eventual triumph over addiction, loneliness, and self-hate that it leaves one awed. And somewhat overwhelmed by the writing and production as a whole.

Look for Taron Egerton’s name in the Oscar nominations and on the fast track to win. (Haven’t seen the rest of the year’s contenders, so not sure about his ‘win’ yet.) All of the performances are superb. Richard Madden is deliciously vicious as a soul-sucking user. The always marvelous Gemma Jones warms the heart as his grandmother. Steven Macintosh as Elton’s father is a heartless creep, and Jamie Bell is subtle and true as the faithful Bernie Taupin. Elton’s brash mother is wonderfully done by Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of Ron Howard. (Remember her as pie-eating Hilly in The Help?)

A reason for my initial hesitation to see this film was because of inaccuracies that usually accompany biopics. Then I learned that Elton was a producer. NPR interviewed him a few years back. He talked about his mother being a gunner in WWII, the influence of the Royal Academy of Music, the happiness he’s enjoying now.

For many this will be a dance down memory lane to what you were doing, or where you were, when you heard each song. Tiny Dancer shot me back to younger years in LA at the parties that went all night, sometimes for days, and the look in Bernie Taupin’s face when he said that the next day he’d be going to Paradise Cove. Back then, it was a private beach, placid and gorgeous. Now, it’s paved over, impersonal, clogged with gawkers, much like Elton’s life was about to become after that party.

Since this is a musical, something must be said about the music. Giles Martin deserves every speck of attention that must be given to what he has created with the score of this film. He has done everything possible to enhance the genius of Elton’s music without being intrusive. It’s voluptuous, reverent, electrifying and eloquent as required. He does what the very best accompanist does and that is provide a safe platform for the vocalist to shine.

Don’t run to see this film. Slap on a rocket and blast off. Elton would appreciate that kind of entrance.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

https://www.facebook.com/Julia-Donner-697165363688218/timeline

Three Movies in Four Days Part 2

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John Wick 3 (no spoilers)

OK, so I’m just going to get it out of my system. We all have our favorites and Keanu Reeves has been one of mine since I first saw him as dopy Ted. Then came the conflicted Neo, and later my all-time fave movie of his, Destination Wedding.  He flings himself into all sorts of career risks and all of them work in his favor. Because Reeves in person is so laid-back and gentlemanly, it’s easy to overlook his history, unless an avid fan. (Passivity is not in the lexicon or personality of anyone who yearned to play pro hockey.) The eclectic range of genres in his film history is all over the place. He personifies my personal adage of: If you can do comedy well, you can do anything. He swings from courtly aristocrat (Dangerous Liaisons) to deranged avenger (JW2) without a misstep.

Anyway, I liked JW3. I wasn’t too impressed with 2, as you can tell, but 3 has incorporated some very creative and outré enhancements to a genre I don’t usually pay to see. And it has Reeves in it, so off I went to the cinema, especially after seeing The Impossible Dream trailer.

What stood out:

Halle Berry. You have to see to believe the kick-ass-ness. And her dogs.

Next, fight scenes with numerous opponents attacking separately. What we are usually served is a situation where the hero/heroine is surrounded by assailants coming at them one at a time. Not in this flick. It’s all pile on the rabbit, if you remember that old Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Angelica Huston as a Russian mafia queen

Xbox addicts are going to mainline this puppy. Their fingers will twitch through all the shoot-em ups. I loved the unique use of music for the finale shoot-out underscored by Vivaldi. Classical music, for me, allowed for suspension of belief and enhancement of the choreography needed for sustained violence. After a while,  constant glass breakage and auto weapon discharge sags into over-the-top sensory overload.

Much of what occurs in films of this genre has to be taken with a sense of humor or a chunk of salt. I mean, how many times can you get kicked in the head, ribs and chest and still function?

Worry about the story arc started to nag about halfway through. I know what I hoped to see and started to lose confidence in the plotline. The worries got resolved by the film’s end when I understood the reason for the red herrings.

Thumbs are up for JW3.

On CD: Destroyer

Nicole Kidman does a tour de force in this grim odyssey of a cop’s relentless pursuit of a stone cold criminal in order to expiate her mistakes of past and present. Kidman is remarkable and believable, almost unrecognizable. She would have benefited from a less heavy-handed makeup artist. That was overdone, and I think unfair to Kidman, and because of that bit of distraction, stole from her ability to relate all that the character was and going through, without slathering on the makeup with a density more appropriate for stage than screen. Kidman’s work in this film is a revelation. I got lost in her, not the story.

Next up: Rocketman

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

https://www.facebook.com/Julia-Donner-697165363688218/timeline

Three Movies in Four Days

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Part 1: The White Crow

Overall, the time and money spent on this film was well worth it. If you love the ballet, it should not be missed. Since the primary subject, Rudolph Nureyev, was not a pleasant person, the emphasis on controlling an artist’s artistic freedom became an important, if not imperative, subplot. No apologies were made for the less attractive aspects Nureyev’s personality. He was what he was and no attempts were made to mask that aspect of the man.

Not many actors can be as gifted a director as they are as an actor. Fiennes is marvelous as Nureyev’s dance instructor but not quite there when in come to direction. Or maybe he needed a better editor. There were moments when the story came to a halt in the attempt to mine a juicy dramatic scene, especially when Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko) slogs through the decision to defect. The agonizing internalization goes on too long. Care with this kind of scene needs to be carefully considered and rendered. When emotions don’t translate across the screen, an actor can look constipated instead of in dire emotional turmoil.

On the other hand, the dancing is absolutely brilliant, exhilarating. Ivenko is splendid, a joy to watch. Nureyev had an aggressive presence on stage but Ivenko has the grace and beauty. I did appreciate the attempt to ease viewer transition from original fifties footage to present day cinematography.  That was cleverly done. The production departments caught the era and settings effortlessly, from the brutal poverty in Russia to Parisian elegance and self-satisfied sophistication. Nureyev’s absolute arrogance combined with his thirst for art in all its forms must have confused Parisians, perhaps as much as his hunger for the arts fascinated and made for appreciation. This is a must-see film for anyone interested in dance.

Finally got to watch: My Dinner with Harvé

Before Tyrion, there were so many other roles Dinklage performed that I am always in search for his works. It was well publicized that he was interested in Villechaize, who led an extraordinary and wretched life. As a person, Villechaize was ruthlessly objectified, misunderstood, and ridiculed. In doing so, the public never got to know an intelligent, well-educated and talented man.

Since I never watched Fantasy Island, I had no interest in Tattoo and knew little about him. Thanks to this HBO film, I learned that Villechaize was also a gifted painter. That was an upside, and the rest of his life, largely horrific. He did have a marvelous father, but no matter how he searched, he never found emotional relief for his mother’s disdain and disappointment, but he never let that or anything else stop him. Per Villechaize,“Just because a man is small he doesn’t have to act it.” He was proof that big brains can come in small packages.

This film is worth seeing for its touching performances and its backstage eye-opener about Fantasy Island. Dinklage and Jamie Dornan, as Sacha Gervasi, director and writer of the biopic, are excellent in their individual roles. It’s not a happy film, especially due to Harvé’s eventual end, probably due to his ironical conclusion that people are the same “addicted to the fantasy that something or someone would take away the pain of life.”  He resorted to pain relief with a gun.

Next up: John Wick 3 (no spoilers)

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

https://www.facebook.com/Julia-Donner-697165363688218/timeline

Tale of a Story: Marked

What happens when you refuse to quit.

Finding Faeries

*pulls blog out of the land of the forgotten*

HI!

I’ve missed my little piece of the blogging universe. So, I’ve returned to share past writing victory. My very first published work and how it came to be.

Back in the world before writing groups and critique partners and Twitter-writer-verse, I wrote a story called “Across the Purple Sands”…probably around 2007. I entered it in the Writers Digest Short Story competition. And it failed to place.

My mom and sisters read it (like I said this was pre-critique partners), and their comments got my creative brain going. I started it in the wrong place. THAT HAPPENS. A lot.

My mom also suggested that I change the title.

So I rewrote it. I added a new beginning. I set up the story and characters better. I changed the title to “Marked”. And I submitted it to a magazine. I took a…

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Q & A for Julia Donner (M.L. Rigdon) for writing historical Westerns

Writing friends are the best! And Judi is too modest to mention that she recently hit the USA Today bestseller list! Still down’ the happy dance.

Judi Lynn

I’m happy to have Julia Donner (M.L. Rigdon) on my blog today to tell us a little about her newest novel, NO EASY STREET, the second book in her Westward Bound series.  It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now.  NO EASY STREET and AVENUE TO HEAVEN are historical Western romances, and I enjoy them every bit as much as the Regency romances she writes.  Welcome to my blog, Julia!

Thanks for inviting me! I love the Americana 1800’s era as much as the Regency period. Since I’m a horse lover, I can relive the years riding the California canyons and fire trails.  And to start off the second book in this series, there is a Goodreads giveaway for AVENUE TO HEAVEN from February 16th until the 26th!

Here’s the link for the giveaway: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36554481-avenue-to-heaven?from_search=true

  1. So, Julia, would you like to give us a brief idea of what…

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