This week Rys Rising: Book I goes to war.
I entered its cover in the Cover Wars competition at Author Shout.
To show your support for my stunning epic fantasy cover that features Amar and his magical mistress Onja, please visit the cover wars page and cast your vote. It only takes a wee bit of time. Your vote will actually count toward something, and you won't have to hold your nose while you do it.
Vote for Rys Rising here October 16 through 22.
If my cover gets the most votes, I'll have a chance to gain extra exposure at the Author Shout website. As any author knows, connecting with readers is all about exposure. The huge number of books on the market coupled with many barriers to visibility online make invisibility the number one problem of authors trying to promote their books.
Just think of all of the good reads that you never even know about!
Places like Author Shout provide venues of discoverability where readers can serendipitously run across new stories.
Rys Rising: Book I is also a free ebook. It provides you with a zero-risk way to sample my fiction and find out if the Rys Rising series could be your next reading addiction.
Get the free ebook at:
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Excerpt from Rys Rising:
Amar drew his good sword and approached the altar. Onja followed him, captivated by everything she beheld. Cybar trailed them, stalling fearfully. Amar waved the birds away from the altar with his sword. The tormented man squinted into the sun. Amar, silhouetted by the brightness, was fuzzy to his bloodshot eyes. He tried to speak, but his dry thirsty throat barely made a sound better than the coarse crows.
Cybar called to Amar, “His life is for Preem. You must not interfere.”
Amar studied the man on the altar. His brown skin glowed red from the burning sun. His lips were cracked and darkly clotted. His chin length black hair with a deep widow’s peak was dirty and stringy, and blisters mottled his forehead, nose and cheeks. He had only been left clothed in a linen tunic and loin cloth and his bare legs showed the wounds of many probing pecks.
Upon hearing voices, the condemned tried again to speak. “Mercy,” he groaned. “Mercy. I do not deserve this.”
“Amar, we must go,” Cybar insisted. “Do not give him swift death.”
Amar had initially thought to end the man’s suffering with a merciful blow, but now that he looked at him, he changed his mind.
“I would free him,” he said.
“Preem will punish you,” Cybar warned.
Amar dismissed the threat of Preem’s ire. “I seek no forgiveness for anything that I have done. One more thing will not matter,” he said and then looked to Onja, seeking her opinion.
She came beside the altar. “Free him,” she concurred.
The bronze chains that draped the altar were old and corroded, but still firm enough to restrain a tortured man. Amar found a particularly weak link and smacked it with his sword. Three strokes and the link broke. Amar pried the link apart and then pulled the chains off the loop set into the stone.
The condemned man watched Amar with amazement. The young wanderer bore no resemblance to anyone he knew and he certainly lacked the appearance of a Nurati. With the chains loose from the rock, Amar looked at the manacles on the man’s wrists and ankles.
“I can get those off him,” Onja said.
The condemned man turned his head toward her lovely voice. “Sweet lady….” he started to say in a voice as rough as split logs but then he stopped. He did not understand what he saw. He fainted when her eyes began to glow with blue fire.
The bolts of the manacles softened as Onja precisely heated them. Amar pulled the manacles open and freed the man’s limbs. Amar gathered the limp man into his arms. He was slight of build, and Amar was able to place him over a shoulder. The man smelled terribly, and Amar turned his face away from his wretched body.
Cybar had retreated outside the ring of stones. From the shade of an oak he watched Amar approach with the unconscious man. Cybar shook his head insistently. “Put him back,” he advised urgently.
Onja tugged on Amar’s sleeve to stop him. “He truly fears what you have done,” she commented.
“He will get over it,” Amar said, unconcerned about Cybar’s opinion.
“The others truly fear this sky temple,” she said.
“The Gods are to be feared, Onja,” Amar replied matter-of-factly. “You are born. You die. The Gods are always there.”
She contemplated his simple words and then asked, “But you do not fear your Gods, Amar?”
Amar would have shrugged if he had not been burdened with a stinking half-dead man. “I do not care,” he said and continued toward Cybar.
Onja lingered in the sky temple and studied the faces carved in the stones. Their blank eyes now looked at her invitingly, welcoming her into their mysterious club.
So simple, she thought.
She set a hand on a monolith. The stone had been cut from the Rysamand and somehow the humans had dragged it up this butte. The effort that must have taken astounded her. So very strange that the humans would work so hard for something that benefited them not at all. Most of them lived in little huts and enjoyed no luxuries. Why did they not put their efforts toward making better shelters for everyone?
Onja looked at the men under the oak tree. Amar had set the man down in the shade and was dripping water onto the man’s ragged lips. Cybar frowned over them with worry.
There is power in fear, Onja realized.
A crow flapped over her head and landed on the nearest monolith. He squawked at Onja irritably, apparently blaming her for the removal of the sacrifice. She looked up at the impertinent bird. He turned his head and regarded her closely with a perfect black eye that glistened with intelligence. Onja shifted her attention entirely to the sentience radiating from the shiny black bird. Her wondrous mind that knew no bounds connected with the bird’s alien awareness.
“Yes, I took your prize. Forgive me this once, and I will make it up to you,” she told him mentally.
Utterly surprised by the communication, the crow tucked his dark beak against his feathery chest and peeked at her shyly. Onja lifted a blue hand and invited him gently with a twitch of her white-nailed fingers.
The crow looked back at his mates that were strutting across the altar stone, complaining among each other. Tentatively the crow on the monolith opened his wings, and, after one more encouraging gesture from Onja, flapped down to her hand. His feet dug into her skin but did not pierce her flesh. She stroked his neck and purred to him lovingly.
“You shall have to tell me your name someday,” she told him.
He squawked and took to the air. He landed in the oak tree over the men tending the victim plucked from Preem’s justice. Onja watched the indentations left in the skin of her hand fade before she joined her companions.
Amar made Cybar help him carry the man down the steep steps of the butte. The other men were distressed at Amar’s audacious theft from Preem.
But Amar scolded them, “We claim to be brother outlaws yet you would leave one to the judgment of the law-abiding. Whatever this man did, he is one of us now.”
Delirious, the man moaned and turned his head from side to side on the ground. He was grizzled, sunburned, and filthy. His body was thin and his hands were soft. Clearly he was no laborer.
Amar said, “I think this man has some quality.”
They took him to the little stream in the canyon and washed him. The cool water roused him from his burning torment, and he drank greedily, which made him retch. Amar rolled him away from the bank so that he could no longer slurp like a mad animal.
Clearly the group was not going to travel more that day, and Vame gathered firewood. While Amar nursed the man, Cybar answered questions from Kym and Vame about the sky temple. His Kez brothers often glanced warily at the quiet butte. The circling vultures were drifting away. Preem’s servants would go unpaid today. A debt perhaps that would not be forgotten.
Onja sat apart from everyone, cross-legged upon a boulder at the edge of the stream. She stared toward her mountains, lost in intense thought.
Kym eventually stood over Amar and the man that had been rescued.
“Amar, the priests of Preem might notice that the vultures disappeared when they should have thickened in the sky,” Kym said.
“Priests are slow. We’ll move on in the morning. Do not worry, Kym,” Amar said.
“Your accursed pet will not be able to travel so soon,” Kym said.
Amar’s dark eyes flashed up at the Kez warrior. “I do not fear Nurati priests who chain people and leave them for animals,” Amar said. “This man will ride with me.”
Kym shook his head because Amar puzzled him continually. “Why do you want this man? He’ll certainly make no warrior for Vu. I don’t think he could steal a bowl of porridge to save his life.”
Amar wetted a rag and wiped the man’s forehead. “He might have knowledge and rare skills. Warriors aren’t everything,” he said.
Kym scratched the back of his head, where his stubble was starting to grow in. “I suppose the Nurati are known for scholarship,” Kym granted. He squatted next to the thin wretched man and studied him. “Yes, yes, definitely a Nurati nose. What’s your name, Nurati criminal?” Kym asked.
The man’s eyes were half closed. His lips moved as if he might answer, but the effort to speak seemed to be too much. Amar dribbled at little more water into his mouth and said, “I am Amar. Who are you?”
“Amar,” the man whispered back and his long black lashes lifted. His crusty eyes were craters in a skull covered by tight skin. “I am Urlen.”
“Urlen,” Amar repeated. He liked the name. “What was your crime?”
Urlen shut his eyes as if the answer was difficult to recall. “No crime,” he said. “I did what was right.”
Kym chuckled. “Maybe he is a proper criminal.”
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