S.A. Garcia's Mutterings, Whimpers and Rants

S.A. Garcia's Mutterings, Whimpers and Rants. World Domination by 2020. Or 2025. Probably never.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Come Celebrate Canes & Scales: The Novel, With A Giveaway!

The decision to take my first novella Canes and Scales and turn it into an epic fantasy didn’t come easily. In fact, at first I wanted write two more novellas and create a series. Luckily Elizabeth North at Dreamspinner advised me to go for one large novel. Good thing—I’d probably still fuss over finishing the series.

This time I outlined the chapters, not the norm for me. I’ll draft rough outlines, but this time I wanted control. I already struggled with stylistic problems—my writing had changes in the last few years. Of course my main characters Alasdaire and Linden wanted more page time – what character doesn’t want more time to shine—but at a certain point they decided not to play nice with the storyline. They rebelled. Alasdaire and Linden refused to “talk” to me anymore. It’s a wacky but true concept.  The total disconnect drove me batty.

I originally planned to release the novel on its third anniversary.

That didn’t happen since Alasdaire and Linden delighted in shunning me. Fine. I shunned them in turn and worked on other short stories and novels. Ocassionally I’d poke at an earlier chapter that needed work, or realize I needed a strong new character to help the plot. Unfortunately, the novel refused to move past a certain sticky chapter.

Until the EUREKA! evening. A mental orgasm provided the solution. Did I really intend to stage a kidnapping along with more torture? Much of the novel is based around natural magic. Why wasn’t I listening to the book? Why not let the magic work for the characters?

Once I moved past my nefarious plans for Alasdaire and Linden, they worked with me. Together we created an entirely new ending. Everyone felt happy. Alasdaire escaped kidnapping and torture. Linden escaped mental disintegration.

And I escaped from thinking I’d never finish my book!

Here’s an exclusive, never see before excerpt:

 Enterna Afratair, Supreme Duke of the Southern Totandia Empire, stared over his dry, desolate realm. A strong full moon washed light over the land. Twisted analita trees, towering Nerdean roses, and firespike palms created dark shapes against the horizon. Tonight only a few of the firespikes had burst into flame. Deeper shadowy areas showed the many canyons scattered through the realm. In the deep canyon beyond the palace, the dwindling Sira River still flowed, sluggish but supportive to the crops cleverly trained to grow against the canyon walls. If the Sira dried up—Enterna refused to contemplate the disaster. The dry earth had already devoured streams in many other canyons.
He felt his deep frown carve lines into his stern features. The simple act made his dry skin ache. When had be turned into a frail old creature?
He shook his head. Long gone were the satisfying days when the elves had still occupied large parts of Ardaul, living in the ancient forests and deep river valleys in peace. The elves had been free to travel as they pleased, to trade goods and charms. They had bothered no one. They had tended their shrines and lived for the earth.
During his long-ago youth, Enterna had visited every remote shrine hiding under the old oak trees in Southern Ardaul’s Summerlands. The elves had never bothered to establish shrines north of Summerlands. The vast, largely treeless Great Pastures beyond did not call to them. The shrines were ancient constructs, yet still attuned to the elves’ natural world. The journey had been risky but necessary. Every elven ruler needed to keep the shines alive.
Once the Serpents had decided to flex their lethal power, they had driven the elves back to their true realm, to sacred Hast’ntrata, hiding deep in the Nerdean Canyons. The Serpents had tricked those who wanted to remain into slavery. The Serpents didn’t understand elven culture. Instead of learning, they destroyed. They had little tolerance for other races. Enterna found their intolerance ironic. Once the Serpents had been the different ones, after all, marked by random scale patterns and their odd slit eyes. Over time, breeding with humans had removed those traits from all but the royalty. Those warped creatures still celebrated their scales.
In the light of history, banishment did not matter. The elves belonged in this savage land. The carnivorous canes had brought them forth from the earth, and here the canes protected them. Over the years, the Serpent armies had suffered from the canes’ strong protective magic. Under Enterna’s guidance, the canes’ lethal barriers triumphed to keep out the armies led by the slithering Serpent kings. Ultimately the Serpents had retreated.
Unfortunately, Hast’ntrata now suffered from the South Inatoli Desert’s steady northern advance. Viable lands suitable for crops continuously succumbed to sand and the disappearance of surface water. Despite strong sorcery, the underground water sources slowly failed.
Enterna shifted to stare into the north. His frown deepened.
He still mourned for his daughter. What a stubborn female, exquisite and strong. He had never imagined Anadona capable of blocking her existence so skillfully. Years ago, Enterna had felt her death like a stab to the heart. He had warned Anadona not to believe in the aggressive human who had claimed to love her.
He also wondered about his grandson. Until tonight, Enterna had felt Anadona’s son in a random manner—he was hard to track due to his human blood. Enterna reasoned why bother to make peace? Surely Anadona had taught her son to hate her kin.
Anadona’s death had supplied Enterna a name: Alasdaire. He smiled. Anadona had given her son a fine elven name.
Tonight Alasdaire’s use of strong elven magic had burst into Enterna’s mind, awaking him from a troubled sleep. He still couldn’t believe his half-human grandson owned the power to dreamsave. As far as he knew, only he owned the fierce power required to weave such a potent spell. Only profound emotions like hate or love fueled a full dreamsave.
Worst of all, his grandson had saved a Serpent prince.
The concept horrified Enterna. Granted, his grandson’s diluted blood added to his ability to love beyond the elven race, but to save a Serpent? How troublesome. Enterna needed extensive information on this Prince Linden. He also needed to meet his grandson. It seemed foolish of him to feel proud of the half-breed’s magical strength. Perhaps the dreamsave was a fluke.
Or perhaps by fluke his grandson nurtured royal powers that had slowly faded away from the decaying elven court. Enterna suspected one other in his family still cultivated strong powers, but Deniertaire had started to embrace darkness and depravity. He had turned away from the earth. Enterna still wondered whether he should name Deniertaire his heir.
It seemed now he might have another option.
A hot breeze blew sand into Enterna’s eyes. He blinked away the irritation. Was this to be his kingdom’s sorry fate, to succumb to the creeping sand? Why had he pushed Anadona to marry her brother? Enterna had been such a fool. If she had remained and married a strong, fierce noble, Enterna could hope magic might strengthen enough to save the kingdom from the sand. Anadona had strong natural magic in her soul. She must have passed the power to Alasdaire.
Weariness passed through his body. Perhaps the time had come to yield to the Raven Court’s supreme judgment. He had lived for entirely too long. As he sighed, Enterna turned and walked through the struggling royal gardens. The gardeners tried but failed to make the expanse look cheerful. Only the bloodred Nerdean roses looked healthy.
The fantastically carved limestone palace loomed before him, looking eerie in the moonlight. Wind and sandstorms had transformed the walls into wild curves. A few of the tallest towers had been abandoned. The crumbling structures could no longer support habitation. Perhaps the time had also come to live in the canyons along with the remaining elves. His ancestors had constructed the palace long before the sand began consuming the earth. Why struggle to maintain it for the remaining nobles?
A glass of rose wine sounded perfect. Enterna stepped forward.
He stopped.
Dizziness claimed his balance. His sight blurred, softening the palace walls into sand wisps. The sensation of fading away ate at Enterna’s consciousness. The sound of his knees hitting the pale flagstones seemed too loud. How had someone pushed past his strong magical wards? He slumped to his side. His body shuddered. He tried to resist the attack. Somehow the force intensified.
Who dared to…?
Voices sounded around him. The warmth of the flagstones pressed against his cheek. As darkness claimed him, he sought to discover who had dared to spell him.
He fought until a blazing spell signature appeared to him in mocking triumph.
How sad.
Before the hungry magical darkness swallowed him, Enterna focused and willed his power toward the remote elven shrine dedicated to Tadn’nast, the Stormraven. He hoped he could make the journey.
Soul wind pushed him forward, away from his body. Enterna allowed his soul to rise. Borne on the wings of the ravens, his soul fled from his compromised body.
Could he look back? Yes. His body lay still against the flagstones.
The dismal sight urged him on.

Do you have a favorite Elf? Comment and enter to win a selection of my books: two novellas, two short stories and special surprises!

Friday, July 4, 2014

First Time Ever Excerpt from Canes and Scales: The Shadowy Ball

Next week Canes and Scales: The Novel goes live! In the meantime, here's another excerpt from Canes and Scales: The Novel, aka Trauma and Trauma A-Go-Go.

In this excerpt, a festive royal ball turns dangerous for Alasdaire, the tormented Elf who loves his enemy the Serpent.

The Blurb:

Serpent Prince Linden of Ardaul is determined to drag his barbaric, power-hungry country into the modern age by encouraging learning, advances in the sciences, and tolerance. His insane brother Edward, the King, delights in making him pay for his efforts.         

Long years of watching his back, fighting wars, and solving conflicts started by his cruel brother have taken a toll on Linden’s body and mind, and he needs a respite. When Linden meets an alluring young bed slave named Alasdaire, his weary heart responds. Alasdaire is an exotic mix of southern royal Totandian elf and human, and, although he’s also suffered hardship most of his life, his loving personality captivates the Prince.

Despite their differences, Alasdaire, canes—and Linden, scales—unite in body and soul, but their romance is nearly shattered by betrayal. When Linden becomes King, magical assassins, treachery, and threats plague them. They narrowly escape death more than once. The lovers must discover who wants them dead and more importantly, where they can turn for aid. Neither enemies nor allies are what they seem. Only time will tell who means to harm Linden and Alasdaire—the elves, the imprisoned Edward, or something even deadlier—and time is one thing they don’t have.

PG-13 Excerpt Canes & Scales M/M fantasy S.A. Garcia

Gay activity filled the crowded ballroom. Two wild dances I did not recognize passed before us. The dancers moved in kinetic loops. Tonight the music sounded jagged, more feral than what I had heard at Keith’s manor.
I leaned against Linden’s shoulder. “My love, I do not recognize these odd dances. Are they from another country?”
He gestured toward the moving gaiety. “Ah, these are traditional folk dances from the time of the battle of Adwurtein, which was a mighty win for Ardaul five hundred years ago. Imagine, my social secretary Sir Newton took my ball request seriously and scheduled these dances. At the battle of Adwurtein, the mighty Serpent strangled what used to be Istarnor and added the country to the growing collection. Now Istarnor is a peaceful Ardaul province, supplying fertile ground for needed crops along with a prime port. They are part of the Pastures.”
“Oh. How lovely.”
He gripped my thigh again. “Blast, Ala, forgive my unthinking statement.”
“Why should I forgive you? See, at least under your fair and benevolent rule, Hast’ntrata will continue to exist on her own. Someday I might visit there without fear of their reaction to my mixed heritage.” I sighed and shook my head. “Doubtful, but take heart, your rule should impress on other countries that Ardaul isn’t dedicated to relentless destruction.”
His inquisitive stare swept over my sharp smile. Linden pursed his lips and returned to his eating.
I had not intended to insult him. I sensed his years as Ardaul’s royal war hero had made him sensitive about destruction. Instead of asking for forgiveness, I nibbled a truffle and scallop pâté nested in a puff pastry shell. Delicious. Tonight little descriptions sat on the plates, so I knew what I was eating.
I watched the nobles battle decoratively on the dance floor. The old dances provided a barbaric flair, featuring arm flailing and plenty of foot stomping. The dances reminded me more of ancient mating rituals best conducted around a blazing fire.
I concentrated on ignoring the bizarre shadows. They collected even closer to me. Could I banish them? How? I couldn’t stand and try my limited elven magic during a royal ball.
A crashing crescendo ended the barbaric music.
Linden applauded the dancer’s efforts. I sipped my wine.
After the dancing, the small orchestra played soothing background music. Linden blew an exasperated sigh against my cheek. “Ala, tell me what is wrong. Your discomfort pushes at me. Why won’t you tell me what is the matter? What do you sense? Tell me already.”
“Fine, yes, something is amiss, but I don’t know what!” I blinked. “You want the truth? Everything in this room threatens me. I see things that cannot exist in the logical world lurking in the shadows—in fact, shadows exist where none should be. Strange magic hammers at my soul.”
Linden gently grasped my chin. He looked sorrowful. “Then please leave. Abandon the search. I do not want you hurt.”
I could barely form words. The magic ate at my senses. “I fear if I abandon this search something awful will happen. Please don’t send me away, Linden. I need to be here.”
Duchess Curselean appeared by my side. She smiled as she held out her hands to me. “Dear Alasdaire, will you be my partner in the next festive line dance?”
“Yes, of course.” I stood, barely remaining upright. I glanced over to see a regal young lady I did not recognize inviting Linden to the dance floor. Ah, Lady Aless had arrived for her dance. Linden gazed at me with concern until I nodded.
Sickness welled within me. I blurted out a flimsy excuse. “Forgive my nerves, Duchess, but I am not a skilled dancer.”
Alicia squeezed my fingers. “Do not worry, my friend, this is a simple country line dance. I promise to guide you.”
What could I do, rebuff her and create a scene? Perhaps the dancing would confuse the evil shadows gathering around me. After all, hadn’t I come here to touch the nobles? I bowed with stiff acceptance, and let Alicia escort me to the dance floor. Linden stood alongside me across from his partner. Of course, the king would start the dance.
He leaned close. “Are you sure you can do this?”
“Yes.” I looked down the double line. To my horror, the shadows intensified around certain laughing nobles. Before I could run, the orchestra surged into the opening notes announcing the dance. Linden bowed, grasped his partner’s hands, and darted between the double row of clapping nobles. He rolled his broad shoulders. The music captivated him until Linden forgot himself and moved using his customary grace. Caution, my love, caution! When the pair reached the end, I accepted Alicia’s gloved hands in mine and started down the row.
Suddenly the shadows transformed into huge gray snakes. The scaled beasts lunged at our light movement. Terror filled my mind. I halted and almost pulled Alicia to the parquet floor. Hissing snakes crowded around me. I released Alicia and waved my hands against the air. “No! This is not real. I refute what I see.”
Despite my wild protests, the salivating serpents crowded around me. I fell to the floor bellowing like a raving madman, waving my fists against their attack. A fierce golden serpent clad in a festive blue-and-gold suit lunged down at me.
“Ala! Ala, what is wrong?” The words sounded concerned. He tricked me into not pushing him away.
Linden slashed his venom-dripping fangs into my chest. The sharp tips ripped open my clothing. The fangs dug into my flesh, deeper, deeper, until they released burning poison into my body. Fire raced through my veins, seeking to scorch me from within. Pungent putrefaction spread across my wounded chest. I smelled my rotting flesh. Numbness attacked my hips, the sensation swirling down into my legs, halting my attempt to scramble away.
I desperately pummeled my fists against his head. “Stop! Linden, stop hurting me! Stop! Leave me alone. This cannot be happening!”
He hissed at me. A rank stench of decay and despair swirled around me. Pain released a thousand deadly arrows into my flesh. My skin continued blackening and bubbling. Decomposing strips sloughed off my hands.
I was rotting. I screamed as pain defeated my senses. I knew this could not be real, not unless I had gone insane in a blink….
I fell into blackness.