For any who are interested, I’m gathering a list of beta readers for my upcoming fantasy novel, Journey to Landaran. (YA/New Adult fantasy for ages 14+)Editing has been going well and I’ll be through the second round by the end of the week. Copies will be available in pdf, epub, and mobi versions.
I’m giving beta readers one month to read the book and return to me with feedback, so basically the month of November. (Yes, I know it’s Nanowrimo month. If you’re participating and need more time, let me know. I can be flexible.) I should have copies ready by Friday to send out.
Beta readers are an important part of the writing process, whether you are self-publishing or even submitting your book to a traditional publisher. Stephen King himself uses one (his wife and a few others) and has said it has helped him immensely. Without a beta reader, Carrie would have ended up in the trash.
Pointing out typos, awkward sentences, etc. is fine, but know that a beta reader is NOT an editor. They help just to make sure the story works as a whole, to point out plot holes big enough to drive my Camry through, to help find continuity errors, and just to give me general reader feedback. How did you like the story? The characters? What didn’t you like? And so on.
Twins born of a magical heritage.
The power to read minds. To possess bodies. To travel inside dreams. In the world of Ernid, Spirit is the ultimate power.
Aidah and her brother Tavish have grown up hidden away from the political maneuverings of mages born and bred to rule. That is about to change. They say Spirit Mages are either angels or devils, and Firestarters are ruled by emotion.
Nations will go to war over them.
Just to give a little teaser, here’s the Prologue.
Journey to Landaran
Prologue: New Life
Night fell over the city of Landaran as Korva Liam dragged her aged body up the tower to her magic-working room. Long velvet skirts hampered her way on the steep stone steps, and she had to pause to disentangle her cane from the folds, uttering a curse as the movement sent a stab of pain through her arthritic hands. Upon reaching the top, she rested to regain her breath. Muttering, she struggled to get the key to turn in the heavy iron lock, then pushed the door open on groaning hinges.
The room was small and circular, with a desk to the right, a small bed to the left, and a book stand on side opposite the door with a large volume opened to a detailed genealogy chart that spanned several generations. She crossed to the book and ran her finger down the page, halting as she came upon a name: Arlene Dell. Beside the name was a tiny scribbled note, written in the same flowing script as the rest of the page, “Married to Darrant Dernholt, expecting baby by Mid-December.”
Late November, more like it, Korva thought, shivering. And here she was up in this damn drafty tower with no fire and a window whose shutters could never seem to close properly. She was crazy to be trying this tonight, when there was chance of snow. But she had to see the birth. Only then, at the first moment of life, would she be able to See the magic potential with accuracy. After that she would have to wait until puberty.
Korva tapped a finger on the Book of the Magic Line, a book she herself had created over the span of her life, nearly two hundred thirty years long now, which listed the names and relationships of her descendants. She tried to bring to mind the face of Arlene Dernholt, a great-seven-times-over granddaughter who, as she recalled, lived with a sheep herder in the Morgaine Highlands of the Doane, far to the north and west.
The picture came to her mind with difficulty–the last time she had visited Arlene, the woman had been fourteen, and sadly, while rich in potential, no Talent had materialized in her. Hopefully her child would carry the Life Talent. Korva was tired, so very tired of being the only one of her line able to defend; named the so-called ‘Great Protector’. Death called to her, but she could not go just yet. She would have to continue taking her yearly sacrifice to extend her life until her replacement could be found.
“Arlene, Arlene . . .” Muttering the name helped; into her mind came the vision of a young woman with straight dark brown hair framing a tiny heart-shaped face and large green eyes. She was a diminutive woman, like many in Korva’s line, and had seemed a bit timid in Korva’s view, but then, her own ornery traits couldn’t breed true every time.
Once she’d managed to make a clear image of the one she wanted to visit, Korva stretched herself across the little bed, and pulled the thick fur coverlet over herself to make sure she was comfortable. She despised coming back to herself to find a crick in her neck or a limb fallen asleep. Just as she got herself perfectly settled, a gust of icy wind blew open the shutters of the room’s only window, sending them slamming against the gray stone walls. Korva groaned.
“I’m not closing you now that I’m finally warm and comfortable. You’ll just have to go close yourself,” she said with a growl at the shutters, and amazingly they did close, with a bang.
Must be life in them yet! She thought, chuckling. Life forces within wood rarely responded to her Talent, and in a piece that old–well, at least she wouldn’t freeze now. Time to trance.
She closed her eyes, focusing on her life energy, her whole consciousness. Carefully she separated it from her physical body, disconnecting each energy point: eye, ear, brain, heart, gut, womanhood. When she felt each point was detached, she thought upwards, and soon shed the cumbersome weight of her decrepit body.
Sensing the conical roof just above her, Korva opened her “eyes.” She floated over her body, her ethereal form a sinuous ghost, glowing softly in the dark room. So tiny, she thought, looking at the frail thing below her: pale skin covered with wrinkles, flesh sagging off the bones and white hair falling like a river down the shoulders and across the covers. That hair had once been a glorious gold, but now, well, there wasn’t much left of her former beauty.
Concentrating on her destination, she rose through the roof and flew out over the walled city, heading north towards the peaks of the MorgaineRange. To the east stretched the foreboding red waters of the CrimeanSea, the main barrier between her people and the Enemy–her father. May he die and rot in the Underworld.
She could not stand looking in that direction, so she turned away and passed over the city and up the rocky foothills, up to the higher peaks, already covered in a thick blanket of snow. Faster than any bird, she flew over the range, noting settlements here and there nestled in the valleys and along the rivers and lakes, heading northwest. In a mountain valley before a towering crooked peak, she found her destination, a village of perhaps fifty low buildings, many of them with large pastures of sheep. Hamstead.
She swept downwards, checking for a house whose lights were still burning at this wee hour. One cottage on the outskirts of the village was lit, resting beside an old thatched roof barn. Memory stirred. She remembered this humble abode–it was the same Arlene had grown up in, her grandfather’s house. Poor dear Bevan; he’d been such a crusader, but he was dead now. So many descendants, dead and buried. It was frightening to dwell too long on it.
She landed at the front door and drew near the window, just to make sure it was the right house. It would never do to spy on strangers. She recognized Bevan’s son–Arlene’s father, Ethan Dell. He paced the small bedroom as a midwife bent over to wipe the forehead of a woman in the bed, her knees drawn up under the blankets.
She looks like she’s going to pop! Korva thought, noting the size of Arlene’s belly. After seeing several generations of births, Korva knew an unusual birth when she saw one. She hoped all would go well, but if it was required, she would use her Life magic to aid. She dared not help, however, unless she absolutely had to. Her father would be watching for any unusual use of her Talent. And she would let a Talented child die before she let it fall into his hands.
Korva used one of Arlene’s contractions as a diversion to slip inside where she didn’t have to put up with gusts of wind going through her body. Since she had no body she couldn’t really feel heat or cold, but the mind didn’t always remember that. She tried to keep in the background. Arlene’s potential for the Life Talent was high enough that she could sometimes see magic at work, including those traveling out of body.
Once Korva had found a comfortable spot, she waited. The labor drew on and Ethan left to pace outside while the father-to-be took up a place by the fire, nervously untwining a bit of rope. The midwife stayed by Arlene’s side, mopping her brow and soothing her when the pains came. She did not seem overly concerned. Korva looked around for Arlene’s mother, then remembered the woman had died a year earlier–she remembered writing the entry into her book. So many dead. But life went on. New life came to replace those lost, as it was doing now.
The real labor pains hit, and the birth began in earnest, the midwife removing the covers to check for the head. Sure enough, it was visible. She ordered the two men into action to ready the hot water. Korva slowly came forward as Arlene grunted and groaned, allowing the young woman to see her, to know she was with family; if not her mother, then at least a greater-than-great grandmother.
“Grandess!,” Arlene whispered, reaching out a hand to her, amazed. Korva felt the hand pass through her. Arlene’s eyes widened as she realized she was gazing at a spirit. “Are you dead?” she gasped.
“No, I’m perfectly alive, just too old to travel in body here. Now push, child. It’s almost finished. Push hard for me,” Korva softly urged, smiling down on the woman with a tenderness she rarely let show. Arlene screwed shut her eyes and did push, on and on, for nearly a candlemark, before at last the baby came out, howling with indignity.
Korva leaned over the midwife’s shoulder as the woman cleaned the babe, frowning as she determined its sex. A boy. Boys were dangerous, she had learned; too often she had lost her Talented boys to the call of her father. And this one would definitely be Talented, of that she was certain. The glow of magical ability surrounded him in a hearty orange glow to her Sense, showing great strength, though in which of the three spheres, Life, Fire, or Storm, Korva could not determine. Amazing that such a glow should come from such a small infant–this one was quite tiny, perhaps only five pounds, with a head full of dark hair and a turned up little nose. It looked healthy, thankfully, very healthy. And loud.
After the umbilical was cut, the baby was shown to its proud father, still crying lustily. Korva chuckled to herself. With vocals like that, the child promised to be a lifetime of trouble for his parents. She wished him all the luck in the world.
Things seemed to be settling down now as the first light of day broke through the room’s only window, throwing beams of light across Arlene’s happy face. Korva prepared to leave, to make arrangements for when the child’s powers appeared in truth, some eight to fourteen years from now. Then Arlene doubled over in pain.
The afterbirth, Korva thought at first, as did the midwife, until she went over to check. From her vantage point, Korva could see little, but the midwife gasped and began frantically waving Arlene’s father over to help. “Twins!” She said breathlessly by way of explanation.
Korva returned to Arlene’s side and they began the whole ordeal again, Korva urging Arlene to be strong, don’t think about the pain, push, push. But Arlene was tired, and this baby did not seem as eager to leave the womb. After a couple of hours when Arlene moaned that she did not have the strength to push any more, Korva resorted to her Talent. With a wave of dizziness, she sent strength from herself into Arlene’s battered body.
Korva could feel her thoughts grow sluggish as the energy left her, threatening to dissolve her ties of spirit holding her together. She fought to stay focused. The gods grant that she had not given too much of herself to be able to return to her body, that this effort not be in vain for the sake of the child and Arlene. And that this interference had not been noticed from afar.
With renewed vigor, Arlene sat up in the bed, screaming in pain and frustration, pushing with all of her might. Finally the head appeared, and the birth came swiftly after. This second child was even smaller than the first, and all too fragile-looking. Korva immediately noticed that it was a girl, light-haired and silent. That changed after the midwife gave it a smart slap on the back and it began to wail, but even its wail sounded weak. A faint glow, violet, surrounded it, suggesting magic potential, but nothing definite. Korva swallowed with disappointment. This one looked too weak to be of any help to her.
And Korva was exhausted now, and frightened, expecting the touch of her father’s eyes on her at any second. After giving a swift kiss to Arlene along with her blessings, Korva limped out of the cottage and drifted up to a safe altitude, flying back as quickly as her tired spirit could manage.
Over the mountains, back to the tower she floated. As she passed over the city she felt something foul which could have been her father’s probings, or perhaps only the whiff of a late sleeper’s nightmare. There was always such a thin line between reality and the dreamworld while in spirit form, it was difficult to tell. But she was not challenged, and managed to make it back to her body, settling down into it to open her real eyes and feel the ache in her legs as well as the beginnings of a shock fever from having used too much power. She had enough energy to send a mental call to her aides to come fetch her. Then she sank into exhausted slumber.
At the edge of unconsciousness, she thought she heard her father chuckle.