Every now and again I like to hand my blog over to other creators. Guys like Michael Hodges and Rick Grimes and Lawrence Roy Aiken and Eric S. Brown and others. When you're engaged in the lonely work of creating fiction and comics it's nice now and again to have someone try to give you a leg up or a helping hand. Thus, from time to time I'll do an interview or a book promotion for another writer.
Today, I present Jean Lamb, a fantasy writer I have known for a number of years. Her work has appeared in publications as varied as Deathrealm Magazine and science fiction anthologies such as Larry Niven's MAN-KZIN WARS. If you like high fantasy, you will certainly enjoy the work of Jean Lamb.
First of all, I’d like to thank Bob Smith for this promo opportunity. I have a lot more experience at writing than I do at promotion. Also, I want to apologize; I thought my readers would have gotten back to me by now, but apparently everyone is as busy as I am J, so my book hasn’t actually been released yet.
But I’d like to offer you something for your trouble. PHOENIX IN SHADOW is a large fantasy novel with a romance at the heart of it, though many of the branches go off in other directions. It is also the first of a series about the same fantasy world. Lady Idabel is a young woman with strong ambitions of her own, most of which have to do with revenge against the evil forces that destroyed her family, and the city that they once ruled. She has been raised in the Temple in Anyakora, and its leader is using her as a weapon, though she doesn’t really mind. Lord Treasurer Fennoy seeks her hand—but is he really the right man for her? Or should she vow herself to the Maiden, as the Priestess-Mother would like?
Then there’s Tar-Kapel Demytry, who knows he must marry, but hides a sad secret that keeps him from trying. He desires women, especially the tempting Lady Ardry—but fears he cannot have children. Who can heal his heart and release him from this curse? His friends include the aging spymaster Afac Stellin, who protected Demytry when he was a child from his ill-tempered father, and Dar Wolfraven, Demytry’s sword-brother and truest friend.
Demytry and Idabel must find each other in a world full of betrayal, the evil forces from the south who will do anything to keep them apart, and finally, love. There seem to be times, though, when even love might not be enough. They must find the courage to be honest with each other, and to survive the worst that life can deal to them.
This world, unfortunately, is full of graphic and sometimes sexual violence, and there are times when the reader might wonder if those who are guilty of it will receive their just deserts. Still, there is also hope, atonement…and always, there is love.
I’d like to add a brief excerpt from the first chapter:
Idabel never forgot the horror of the burning city.
Cleophis once sat peacefully in the mountains at the southern edge of the Phoenix Empire and overlooked the passes to the land of the enemy. Dar Nidas Idarlo and his Lady Consort Denali ruled the city and the territory surrounding it. Idabel had been a child then. She was excited when her oldest sister Minshall was betrothed to Tar-Kapel Demytry, even though Minshall herself was less enthusiastic.
That had been over half her life ago. She was only eight when Cleophis fell to the armies of General Durchan, leader of the Dramen who lived to the south. Idabel had been the youngest of seven noisy girls. Now she was alone.
As she sat inside the Temple in Anyakora, she relived the bumpy wagon ride barely ahead of the flames consuming her home. Father had wanted to send them away two weeks ago, and Idabel still remembered the argument she’d overheard.
Father had been right. Now he fought with his troops to cover their retreat. Idabel sat in the wagon and saw nothing but the back of her mother’s head. Her sisters huddled together and moaned in fear, despite Minshall’s attempts to calm them. Shouting and the sounds of fighting filled the air everywhere around them.
Idabel was more excited than frightened. Father had let her begin arms training a few months ago. Shosann, one of her other sisters, showed her some of what she had learned of weapons when no one else could be spared to teach her once the Dramen army began their siege. Now they had to run, though Idabel wished they could stay and fight.
Lady Idarlo screamed and lashed the horses to greater speed. Idabel didn’t understand. Mama always told them to be gentle with the beasts. The wagon lurched forward. All of them shrieked in terror when something hit the wagon, and a spear point stabbed through the heavy canvas at the side.
Idabel coughed from the smoke. This couldn’t be real. As if in a dream, the pins fell out of her mother’s hair, except for one at the top. The long, looped braids fell. Streaks of white hair winding through black looked like ribbons. Her mother’s face, usually kind with her olive-skinned, fine-boned beauty, was now a mask of fury.
The wagon stopped. Then it moved again. Idabel could tell they were off the road now. She held her hands over her ears to stop the horrible noise. Wood cracked and popped as something battered the frame of their cart beyond endurance. Gigantic green-skinned warriors on horseback seized the reins from her mother, though Lady Denali struck them with her whip.
Idabel struggled to move closed to her mother, but Minshall pushed her down beneath a leather trunk. Why did she do that? The heavy thing squeezed her, and she found it hard to breathe. She wiggled first one way, and then the other, to escape the pressure. I only want to help! Why won’t Min let me?
The wagon stopped. Idabel heard her mother and sisters shouting, and then weeping. One side of her prison broke wide open, and she slid down to the ground along with the trunk. Dramen warriors in dusty armor rode by laughing, while others pushed her family into the dirt. How dare they! What did they mean by taking turns?
She finally pushed her way out from under the trunk, scooped up a fallen dagger, and flew at the enemy with a scream of rage. They paid her no attention till her blade sank into a soldier’s leg. One sweeping stroke of a spear-butt sent her flying. The last thing she remembered seeing was a torch being thrown onto the shattered wagon.
Idabel never knew how long it was before she opened her eyes again. At first she didn’t understand why she wasn’t in her room. Everything shimmered and her head ached dreadfully. Her dress was partly burned, while one of her braids was charred to a stump. Her face hurt on that side, too.
The wagon—the wagon was gone. A heap of smoldering embers sat in its place.
Idabel struggled to her feet and looked for her mother. Mama would know what to do. The soldiers were gone. She was glad of that.
She looked at the bodies on the ground without understanding at first. One of them had a green skirt, though it was now soaked with blood. Shosann always wore that color.
The young girl was afraid to look at the faces. It was so quiet.
She heard someone screaming. She wished they would stop. Then she realized why her throat hurt. She was the one screaming. She was screaming because the bodies on the ground were her mother and sisters—one, two, three, four, five, six—that wasn’t right. She had one mother and six sisters, that should add up to seven bleeding lumps, not six.
Then Idabel forced herself to look at the faces, the frozen horrible faces. Minshall was gone. Just…gone.
She thought she heard a whisper. Oh, merciful Mother. Mama was still alive.
“Idabel,” Lady Denali murmured. Her mouth bled. “Look in my hair…under the left braid…”
“Yes, Mama.” She gently lifted her mother’s head and searched through the filthy, crusted hair. She found a hard lump the size of a large bean under the braid’s beginning. She was afraid to yank on it. Her mother had other lumps on her head now.
“Take it,” the dying woman said. “It won’t hurt much.”
Idabel pulled it out, like a small bead sewn into a small cloth bag. She held it tightly in her hands, because she knew it was the Rose of Cleophis, a flaming ruby with a tiny flaw in the center like a miniature rose. It had been the talisman of the Idarlos for centuries. She didn’t understand why Papa didn’t have it with him, though.
“Take it to your father,” her mother said. Then the light fled from her eyes. She was like everyone else on the ground now.
It was quiet again. Mama had told her what to do. Where was Papa? He’d told them last night that they were going to Anyakora. Maybe the Tar-Kapel could help—he had a spymaster who told him everything, her father had said. Maybe he would know where Papa was. Maybe he could find Minshall, too.
Anyakora was in the north on the map her tutor had shown her. I want to go home! But she couldn’t. The Rose was her responsibility till she could give it to Papa. Idabel took a few steps and fell down. That was silly, she was much too old to trip like a baby. She stood up and started again.
Jean Lamb is an older woman (just took early retirement, whee!) who is now writing full time, and who lives on the dry side of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest. She has three novels already for sale, and will soon add PHOENIX IN SHADOW as her fourth (look for her author page on Amazon). She has a distressing tendency to think in the six book series length, and promises to add a new volume to one of them this year rather than just starting a new series. Honest! She is a full member of SFWA for SF like “Galley Slave” in MAN/KZIN WARS VIII and horror like “Esprit de Corpse” in GETTING EVEN: WOMEN’S REVENGE STORIES. She spent four years in the Air Force, some time raising a special needs child, four years in the library, and 15 in accounting. She has been married for 42 years and has two grown children, plus one cat and four computers in the house. Oh, wait, five...(she lost count of the number of books some time ago). She has also written fanfic on www.fanfiction.net using the name of excessivelyperky (her husband was a chemistry teacher, so guess which character in Harry Potter she likes…
). She has a lot more books planned to