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To-Dos and Ta-Das. November 28, 2011

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in 2011 plans, 2012 plans, Ta-da, to-dos.
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Time for the round-up.

Sold in 2011

  • Princes of Air (novel)
  • House of Sable Locks (novel)
  • Fools Rush in (short story)
  • Silk Skin (short story)

Rejections:

  • Coffee (poem) – once
  • Bread/Knife (poem) – once
  • Nomad’s Moon (novel) – twice
  • Princes of Air (novel) – once

Revise and Resubmit:

  • Holy Palmer’s Kiss (short story)

Still out in the wild

  • Coffee (poem)
  • Bread/Knife (poem)
  • Nomad’s Moon (novel)
  • Infernal Machine (short story, reprint)

This is the object lesson — KEEP ON PLUGGING ALONG! Keep on writing, and keep on submitting. Period. If you give up, you will never sell it.

End of lecture. On to the To-Do list. Yeah, no fancy title this time. Too tired.

Playing for Keeps is turning into an interesting project. I may not pitch it as an anthology. The world is too intriguing. I may keep this one and develop it into the novel for third quarter 2012 delivery. That would push Willow Sword back to first quarter 2013, though. So we’ll see.

To Revise:

  • Playing For Keeps (short story to launch Tales from the Arena)
  • Holy Palmer’s Kiss (due in January)

To Write:

  • Heart’s Master (used to be Drum Mage)
  • The Willow Sword
  • Sea Prince (To be written with Danielle Jones)
  • Wanderer’s Moon (next book in the Midnight Moon series. Not to be done until we sell Nomad’s Moon)

To Outline

  • Coral Throne (sequel to Sea Prince)
  • Hidden Things (Mystere Book 1)
  • The Lady and the Sword (Mystere Book 2)
  • Ashes and Light (Mystere Book 3)
  • Tablets of Stone (Mystere Book 4)
  • Rainbow Wars (the teach-in idea. Definitely a  YA. And it needs a better title)
  • Holy Orders ( Sequel to Heart’s Master)

To Sell

  • Nomad’s Moon
  • Exile’s Moon
  • Infernal Machine (reprint, sent to Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica)
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LJ Chat, Day four, post three November 21, 2011

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in author chat, Princes of Air.
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Originally posted 11/20/2011 at the Circlet Press Livejournal. Due to the graphic nature of this post, please follow the link!

LJ Chat. Day four, post two November 21, 2011

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in author chat, Princes of Air.
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Originally posted 11/20/2011 at the Circlet Press livejournal

****

Not quite sure what’s happening, or why Princes isn’t up for sale yet. Once it goes up, I’m sure you all will hear me squeeing. 😉

Now, everyone remember Turlach from yesterday’s excerpt? He was not originally going to show up in the third part. He was supposed to die, and there was supposed to be another love interest for Petran, another male character in the second section… who ended up dying. Turlach, wily little fox that he is,survived to win the man.

But he has to work for it. For reasons that I am not going to go into right now because it would be a huge spoiler. Petran has been fighting the mate-bond he feels for Turlach. This scene is where he gives in. One small spoiler in here.

Oh, and as a note:  Petran’s song to Turlach is adapted from two songs found in the book The Love Songs of Connacht, collected and translated by Douglas Hyde, and published in 1904.

****


“I understand now. Except for where I don’t.” He looked at me quizzically. “Petran, we’re bonded already. Even if you decide to never seal the bond between us, it’s too late. We’re mated. I know it. You know it. How does denying it protect you at all? If something happens to me, the bond is still going to be severed.” My jaw dropped, and I realized just how right he was, and just how stupid I had been. Turlach laughed at the look on my face, then leaned over and kissed me gently before saying, “Petran-my-love, you’re an idiot.”

I stared at him in shock, and his lips twitched. A moment later, we were roaring with laughter, great whooping gales of mirth that cut off abruptly when Turlach kissed me, pushing me backwards onto the bed. He straddled me, catching my wrists in his hands and forcing them over my head, pinning me to the bed. I didn’t struggle, even though I could have overpowered Turlach easily. Instead I let him take control, losing myself in his touch and in the taste of his mouth, as sweet and as tart
as good cider. His tongue caressed mine and I moaned against his mouth.

“Turlach?” I heard Diarmuid’s voice and felt Turlach stiffen in surprise. He rolled off of me and sat up, letting me rise so that I could see my brother in the doorway, his eyes wide.

A Ri?” Turlach said slowly, his face crimson. He glanced sidelong at me and tried not to smile.

“I… ah…” Diarmuid started, then shook his head and grinned. “I came to tell you that we heard from Dun-Righ. Your father is fine. He sends his regards.”

Turlach let out a long breath and slumped slightly; I reached out and squeezed his shoulder. He smiled his thanks at me and then turned to Diarmuid. “Thank you, A Ri.”

“You’d best start calling me by my name, I think,” Diarmuid answered. He gestured at the two of us. “I’m glad to see that you two have… settled your differences,” he said, smiling. He left, and I leaned back on my elbows and laughed. Turlach lay down next to me, pressing up against my side and draping one arm over my midsection.

“I’m glad, too,” he said. “Shall we continue to settle our differences?”

“Not here,” I answered, rolling towards him and kissing him quickly. “My house.”

“Why there?” Turlach asked, getting up and helping me to my feet.

I slung my arm over his shoulders and steered his towards the door. “Because my bed is bigger,” I answered. “And because my harp is there.”

“Your harp?” Turlach stopped and looked up at me. “You’re going to play for me?”

“If you’d like that,” I said, tugging him along with me. “You get to decide if you want it first or after.”

“Oh, such decisions!” Turlach laughed as we walked. Inside my house, I let Turlach make himself comfortable while I took my cloak off and laid  it aside, then took my harp from its box. As I lifted the harp, the dried flower fell out onto the floor; Turlach stooped and picked it up and handed it back to me.

“Is that the rose I put in there?” he asked, sounding surprised. I smiled and nodded, sitting down with my harp in my lap. It had been a long time since I’d played, and it took me longer than I’d thought to tune it to my satisfaction. When I looked up, I was surprised to see Turlach stretched out on my bed, completely naked. He smiled and stretched like a cat, posing for me.

“What’s this, then?” I asked, leering at him.

“I thought it would save time,” he answered, visibly preening under my gaze.

“It’s distracting.”

“I could put my trews back on,” he offered.

“No. It’s also inspiring,” I ran my fingers over the harp-strings, just barely touching them with my nails, thinking about Turlach, about what I felt for him, what we could have together. The words rose up within me, struggling to be free. I smiled and started to play:

Oh, love of my love, do not hate me,
For love, I am aching for thee;
And my love for my love I’ll forsake not,
O love, till I fade like a tree.
Since I gave thee my love I am failing,
My love, wilt thou aid me to flee?
And my love, O my love, if thou take not–
No love for my dear love from me.
O dear love, take my love,
Love of my heart, thy love,
Love without fear or failing;
Love that knows not death,
Love that grows with breath,
Love that must shortly slay me;
Love that heeds not wealth,
Love that breeds in stealth,
Love that leaves me sorrowing daily;
Love from my heart is thine, and such a love is mine
Is found not twice–but found, is unfailing.

I finished, rested my hand over the harp-strings to dampen the sound, and looked up to see Turlach staring at me, slack-jawed. I blinked in surprise and set my harp aside. “Turlach?”

“That… that was beautiful,” he whispered. “All for me?”

I stood up and crossed to the bed, sitting down and pulling him to me, whispering into his ear, “All for you. Always for you. I’m sorry, a shiorghra.“

The endearment made him smile, “Forever? I like the sound of that.”

I nodded. “It will be forever. When you become my mate, you take on my immortality.”

His eyes widened, “Immortal. But…?”

“We can be killed, but we stop aging at some point. I think at about forty or so. Diarmuid hasn’t really changed much in the past few years,” I answered. “Now, is forever acceptable to you? You won’t get tired of being married to an old harper?”

Turlach sputtered amusingly for a moment, then stopped and pointed at me, “You… you’re teasing me!”

“Yes. Yes, I am,” I answered, grinning.

He laughed and started tugging on the lacing of my jerkin. “You’re wearing too many clothes.”

Now, this is the last excerpt I’ll be posting from Princes, but there are still two more parts to The Ice Raven. There will be one more part tonight, and the conclusion tomorrow.

LJ Chat, Day Four, post one November 21, 2011

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in author chat, Princes of Air.
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Originally posted 11/20/2011 at the Circlet Press Livejournal

****

 refresh….

Is there anything more sad than a writer sitting there, continually hitting F5, waiting for the book to go live?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

So, while we wait, let’s talk about sex. I know you’ve all be waiting for the sex. After all, this is Circlet. Why the heck have I kept you waiting?

For actual written sex, you’ll have to wait a little longer, until I put up the next part of The Ice Raven. Right now, we’re going to talk about writing sex.

Recently, I did an interview, and I was asked if sex scenes bothered. me. I think it’s kind of obvious that they don’t — if they did, I’d be in the wrong field! What they do is slow me down. When I write a sex scene, it is important to me that I get it RIGHT. There is nothing more annoying (to me, and I suspect to many of the readers of erotica) than a sex scene that doesn’t ring right. I have put books down (and in extreme cases, pitched them across the room), because of bad sex scenes.

I don’t want the books that I write to be pitched across the room. So I do research. Lots of research, since there are a number of things that I write about that I am not equipped to have practical experience with. Now, if you think that means that I get to look at lots of naughty pictures and questionable websites, you’ve got much to go on.  I also I read Fetlife, I check out gay-sex sites and various sex blogs, go through BDSM catalogs (I regularly drool over things at The Stockroom!), and I buy books that would make my mother blanch.

I do think that it pays off, but it also slows me down. So, I have a habit. When I hit a sex scene that requires research, and I’m on a roll and don’t want to slow down, I will write <SEXSEXSEXSEXSEX> in the manuscript, and keep on going with the scene. Which very often leads to me having a completely finished manuscript  with two or three sections of  <SEXSEXSEXSEXSEX>. So far, I haven’t handed a manuscript off to a beta reader or an editor with those sections in place. But if ever I do, it’s because I fell down on my research.

So…. November 21, 2011

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in new books, Princes of Air, Release date, SQUEEE.
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Anybody wanna buy a book?

LJ Chat, Day three, post three November 20, 2011

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in author chat, Princes of Air.
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Originally posted 11/19/2011 at the Circlet Press Livejournal

****

And here we have the next section of The Ice Raven. Yes, there are spoilers here. But no sex yet. For those of you impatient for the smut, it starts tomorrow.  Also tomorrow come the real big spoilers, so it’s a good thing that Princes of Air rolls out tomorrow, too.

On with Oscar and Muirenn.


It being the middle of the night, I had to wait until morning to follow my first instructions. Oscar had pointed to one of the two beds, dowsed the lamps, and thrown himself down on the other bed without another word. I wrapped myself in my cloak and lay down, listening to him breathing in the darkness. What had brought him to the college now? I fell asleep wondering, and woke in the gray hour before dawn with an aching head. Silent as a mouse, I crept out of the cottage and ran to the deserted bath house.

The spells to heat the water were simple ones, and I was soon submerged up to my neck in hot water, attempting to tease bedraggled feathers from my long, matted hair. I had to renew the spells on the water four times before my hair was clean and combed free of tangles and knots; by the time I was finished bathing; the sun was well over the horizon before I made my way back to the house where I’d left Oscar. He was not there, but my belongings were bundled up on my bed, so I changed into my other leine and went looking for my master.

By this hour, the college was awake, full of students and ollamhs going to the morning meal, or on to their classes. I did not see Oscar anywhere I looked, and for some reason, everyone I asked stared at me as if they’d never seen me before. I assumed it was because I was far more presentable than I had been in a long time. Unable to find Oscar, and uncertain if he’d eaten, I decided to collect something for the both of us to eat, and to return to the cottage to wait.

I was carrying a basket down the path towards the cottage when I heard the raven calling behind me. I looked over my shoulder to see the bird sitting on a barren branch over my head; as I watched, it launched itself into the air and flew towards me. Before it had covered half the ground between us, the raven shifted, changed, grew, and Oscar fell in next to me, shortening his stride to match mine, his cloak billowing behind him.

“Ah, you thought to get us something to eat. Thank you,” he said, looking over the contents of the basket.

“Oh… will you show me how you did that?” I breathed. “Is that something I could do?”

He looked at me, and again I saw amusement in his eyes. “Perhaps. We shall see. You are lovely, Wildling.”

His idle complement stopped me in my tracks, abruptly enough that he kept on walking a few steps before he noticed I’d stopped. “What?” I stammered.

He turned to face me. “Looking for complements, Muirenn?” he asked. “Surely you know that you’re a beautiful woman?”

Stunned that he would think so, I shook my head. “No. No one has ever told me that.”

He sniffed. “I’m not surprised. We’re surrounded by idiots. Come along, Muirenn. We’ll eat, and then I will tell you what your next duty will be.” He turned and walked into the cottage, and I followed him in a daze. Oscar, perhaps the most powerful sorcerer in all of Eire, possibly in the entire world… thought I was beautiful?

We sat at the table together and ate the food I had brought, and Oscar served me with his own hands, leaving me even more dazzled. I watched him as I ate, trying not to be seen as I studied him, the sharp planes of his face, and his amazing eyes, which seemed to move between blue and silver-gray. He was possibly the most beautiful man I had ever seen.

“You’re staring,” he murmured. I felt my face grow warm, and dropped my eyes.

“I apologize,” I answered. “I just…”

“Curious?” he asked. “Curious about the freak?”

“What?” I gasped.

“That’s what they call me,” he nodded towards the door, indicating the world outside. “I’m the freak. Or the Ice Raven. Even my own brothers call me that. That one I’m rather fond of, actually. Surely you’ve heard those?”

“No!” I sputtered, shaking my head. “No, I’ve never heard that. And I wouldn’t call you that. You’re no more a freak than…” my voice trailed off. Perhaps that wasn’t the best comparison?

“Than you are?” Oscar finished. “Accepted. Both the sentiment, and the compliment. Thank you, Muirenn. So why are you staring?”

“It’s just… you’re fascinating,” I said, deciding on complete honestly. “And… I’ve dreamed about you, Oscar.”

“Have you?” Now he looked intrigued, as if he were studying me. I looked down at my plate and nodded.

“Yes. For years now. I… I hoped you might chose me as your apprentice.” I looked at him, then asked, “Why have you never taken an apprentice before?”

He shrugged one shoulder and tore a piece of bread into crumbs. “Who told you that I hadn’t?” he asked, not looking up. “Gaynor?”

“Gaynor doesn’t speak of you,” I answered. “I asked the sorcerers here at the college. I forget who told me.”

“Whoever it was, they know nothing,” Oscar said. He sat up straight and looked past me, and I turned on my stool to see through the window a pair of Brehons coming up to the cottage.

“About Bricriu, I imagine,” Oscar said. He stood and walked towards the door, his cloak furling behind him. I rose and followed, standing just behind him, feeling safe in his shadow.

Then my world fell apart.

“Oscar mac Morrigan, you are summoned to answer before the Council,” one of them announced as Oscar unbarred the door and opened it.

“Summoned?” Oscar sounded surprised. “For what purpose? What is it that I’m to answer for? Defending my apprentice?”

“No,” the brehon answered. “For the creation and unleashing of the deamhan aeir. You will come with us.”

Oscar staggered back a step, bumping into me. “Before the Council? Eogan would not…”

“Cathbad ordered it,” the brehon interrupted. “You will come with us.”

“Cathbad,” Oscar breathed, and it was as if he cursed. “Of course. Again…” He stepped back, almost stepping on me as he did so. His eyes met mine, and he took a breath. I saw him hesitate, consider… and then he swept his cloak off his shoulders and held it out to me.

“Keep this safe for me, Muirenn,” he said. “Until I return.”

I gathered the cloak in my arms and held it to my breast. “Yes, Oscar. Should I… should I come with you?”

He hesitated again, and this time, I could see he was wavering. He wanted me with him, for what reason I knew not. But he shook his head and answered me, “No, Muirenn. Bar the door and allow no one in. No one, do you understand me? And… should anything happen to me, bring that to my brothers. They will know what to do.”

A chill ran through me at his words, and I shook my head to deny even the concept. “Nothing will happen to you!” I said vehemently. For the first time, I saw him smile, a real smile that lit up his face, and I wished that I could see that again. To my surprise, he leaned down and kissed me gently, barely brushing my lips with his.

“I’ll be back for you, my wildling,” he told me. Then he turned and strode out of the cottage, leaving the brehons to scramble after him. I watched them go, then closed the door and barred it as he’d ordered. But I could not stay and wait, alone and ignorant. And he had not ordered me to stay, only to bar the door. I put his cloak of feathers over my shoulders and crawled out the window to follow.

#

The Council met in a grove of trees located halfway between the college and the High King’s hall of Dun-Righ; I knew where, and I knew that I could make my way there unseen. I crept through the undergrowth, making no more noise than one of the forest beasts, and so came up to the Council grove. There was not enough cover to hide myself and still hear, so I clambered into one of the towering pines and lay along a wide branch, hiding my face with my hair so that I might not be seen.

Below me in the circle, I saw the half-circle of Druids, Ollamhs and Brehons already gathered, with Cathbad at their heart. I saw, too, that the place at the middle, the one usually taken by the High King himself, was empty. I worried at my lower lip, wondering how they could hold Council without the High King. Unless this was not a proper Council meeting? But then, what was it?

I had somehow gotten here before Oscar and his brehon guard, and so I was was watching as he entered the grove. To my surprise, he stopped just inside the trees, looked up at me, and winked. Then he continued on to the center of the grove, where he stopped, folded his arms over his chest and scowled.

“And what is the meaning of this?” he asked. “Cathbad, this is your doing. Revenge for my revealing your boy’s shortcomings? Or simply another stab in the back for old time’s sake?”

Cathbad’s face went red, never a good sign. “Oscar mac Morrigan, you are summoned before the Council to answer to your peers…”

“Are there any here?” Oscar interrupted. Cathbad turned even more red and continued.

“To answer to your peers on the charges that you, through carelessness and complete disregard for life, have created the… the monster that is preying on the countryside.”

Oscar nodded once, clasping his hands behind his back. He paced across the grove, back and forth, then shrugged one shoulder and said clearly, “Yes.”

“Yes?” I nearly bit my tongue at the sound of that voice — it was Gaynor! “You admit to this?”

“I admit it. I have already admitted it to the High King and accepted his judgment.” Oscar stopped and stood there, tall and proud. “I created the creature, out of my desire for revenge on the mortal man who tortured and imprisoned my youngest brother. I cursed him, and I imprisoned him within the roof-post of a hall that Eogan then ordered burnt. That he is freed now is none of my doing.”

“No, you simply created him, created a monster that lives on mortal flesh and cannot be killed!” Cathbad shrilled. “He admits his guilt, and must be punished! I call for the highest penalty!”

There was a low rumble from the other members of the Council, and I saw visions of the great woven wicker prisons that were used on only the most vile of criminals. I had seen one such execution once, and I still had nightmares about it. That they might do that to Oscar was unthinkable.

“Cathbad, we cannot contradict the will of the High King!” Gaynor called out. Then he asked. “Penalty has already been set, you say? Oscar, what punishment did the High King lay on you?

Oscar raised his chin and said, “I believe he accepted the murder of my brother as punishment enough for my… misjudgment, Gaynor, and he has charged me to destroy the beast, no matter the cost. If he had been summoned to this Council, he could have answered the question himself. Which calls the question. If this is a Council meeting, then why was he not summoned?”

Gaynor frowned and looked at the rest of the Council, who were starting to murmur uncomfortably. “I do not know, Oscar. Cathbad, when you summoned the Council, why was a messenger not sent to Dun-Righ?”

“This is not a matter for the High King,” Cathbad said stiffly. “This is a matter for sorcerers. It should be our justice that prevails, not the High King, who knows nothing of these matters. Again, I call for the bonfires!”

Oscar looked at him, sighed deeply, and shook his head. “Cathbad, this grudge you insist on keeping alive is grown very old and very tiresome. Enough of it. I have admitted my guilt, and my shame, to my King. There is no reason for this… farce, unless it is for revenge for something you know well was none of my doing, and all of yours.”

Cathbad’s face was nearly purple, and he sputtered and stammered until Gaynor stepped forward and asked, “Revenge? Cathbad, what does he mean?”

“Enough!” Cathbad shouted.

“Yes, Cathbad. Enough. Now, I call for justice of my own,” Oscar interrupted. “Gaynor, Cathbad’s son attacked Muirenn last night.”

“Muirenn?” Gaynor gasped. “My Muirenn?” He wheeled on Cathbad; in all the years I had lived with Gaynor, I had never before seen him this angry.

“She’s fine, Gaynor,” Oscar said quickly, laying his hand on Gaynor’s arm. “I stopped him, and that is, I think, the heart of this matter.” He looked over his shoulder, towards where I hid in my tree, and called out, “Come down, Wildling.”

I felt my face grow warm, and I slowly climbed down the tree and made my way into the grove. Any other day, I would have gone to stand with Gaynor, but today was different. Today, I took my place next to Oscar, taking his cloak from my own shoulders and offering it to him. He took it with a nod, swinging it over his shoulders. Then he looked oddly at me.

“Thought I told you to stay,” he murmured.

“You didn’t,” I answered. “You told me to bar the door.”

“So?” I could see his lips twitching, and I couldn’t help myself.

“I went out the window,” I answered. “But the door is barred, just as you ordered.”

Oscar’s jaw dropped, and the look of sheer amazement on his face sent me into a fit of giggles. Giggles that were, apparently, contagious; Oscar started to laugh, and we laughed together like idiots while a dumbfounded Gaynor just stared at us.

“You,” Oscar said accusingly when he could talk again. He pointed his finger at me as he spoke, “You are going to force me to pay attention to what I say, aren’t you?” I smiled sweetly at him, and he laughed again, pulling me close and hugging me tightly. “Thank you,” he murmured into my hair.

“Oscar…?” I heard Gaynor’s voice, the confusion in it. So did Oscar, who let me go, but kept his arm around my shoulders.

“Gaynor,” he said pleasantly. “I believe you’ve met my apprentice?”

“Ah…ah…ah… apprentice?” Gaynor stammered. “Apprentice? You… you’ve taken an apprentice? You?”

Oscar sighed, “Try to keep up, Gaynor? Yes, I’ve taken Muirenn as my apprentice.”

“But… Muirenn?” Gaynor’s eyes flickered from Oscar to me, and then back again. “Oscar…”

I felt Oscar stiffen, and I looked up to see his eyes had gone cold. “Gaynor, I cannot believe that you have any doubts about your daughter’s abilities. Unless you’re like the rest of these idiots, and cannot see beyond the surface, or who think that a woman cannot control magic as well as a man.” He looked past Gaynor to where Cathbad was pacing, and pitched his voice lower. “Gaynor, where is Bricriu?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him.”

“I bespelled him. He’s caught in a truth-telling, that will only be released when he tells what he tried to do to Muirenn to one of the Brehons. I’ve demanded an honor-fine and that Bricriu be expelled from the college.”

Gaynor hummed softly and said, “That won’t sit well with Cathbad.”

“I know.” Oscar went silent, considering, then looked at Gaynor. “Gaynor, tell the Brehons to find Bricriu.”

Gaynor nodded, “Of course. And… I’ll speak to the rest of the Council as well. I do not like that Cathbad is attempting to use us to attack you. Calling for the fires, and without the High King’s say? This is more than an old grudge, Oscar.”

“You know I’ve always thought it might go this far,” Oscar said.

“Yes, I know. But now… if necessary, I’ll go to Dun-Righ and speak to Eogan.”

“Ward yourself, Gaynor,” Oscar warned, making me shiver slightly from the chill in his voice. “Cathbad guards his position like a leithbrágan guards his gold. And is likely to turn as violent when threatened.”

Gaynor nodded soberly, then quirked an eyebrow and asked, “Will he throw shoes like a leithbrágan, do you think?”

Oscar rolled his eyes at the jest.”Be careful, my friend.”

“I will. And you take care of Muirenn.” Gaynor smiled, and there was something knowing in that smile that I didn’t understand. Nor did I understand Oscar’s answer.

“I intend to, Gaynor. I intend to.”

LJ Chat, Day Three, post two November 20, 2011

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in author chat, Princes of Air.
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Originally posted 11/19/2011 at the Circlet Press Livejournal

****

I’ve pulled today’s excerpt from part two of Princes of Air is titled The Courtship of the  Raven King. When I started expanding Princes, I decided to look at Diarmuid first. He’s the oldest of the brothers, and I suppose it’s fitting that we should do the bookends — follow the youngest up with the oldest.

Diarmuid, in my head, reads a little like Liam Neeson. And if you read the review yesterday, you already know a little about Turlach.

In this part,  Diarmuid has decided that it is time for him to take a wife. But first he has to find her, and he’s taking advantage of a royal wedding in the  hopes of meeting the right woman. His brothers have… volunteered him to guard the baggage,  so instead of flying, he’s riding in a chariot. And things don’t go the way they were supposed to (do they ever?)
***

The next day was uneventful, and much more bearable. I spent most of the morning in the air, pacing the chariot and keeping watch that way, until we reached a part of the road overhung with trees. I could no longer see clearly, so I landed and rode with Turlach in the chariot. The previous night seemed to have opened the way for us, and he was much more talkative today, telling me about himself and about the country through which we drove. He was just twenty, he told me,  younger than I’d originally thought. He was the son of a charioteer, and he himself had been a charioteer since he’d turned fifteen. My lack of a charioteer of my own fascinated him, until I told him that I didn’t even own a horse, and wouldn’t know what to do with one if I did.

 

“You’ve really never handled a horse?” he asked, amazed.

 

“What need do I have for a horse?” I asked in response. That drew a laugh out of him, and he offered to teach me to drive.

 

“Not here, though,” he amended. “This road needs watching, and we’ll be in the bogs soon. Tomorrow, in the forest. Now, tell me more about this brother of yours?”

 

“You’re very single-minded,” I accused, laughing. He laughed with me, then graced me with an innocent smile.

 

“I’m a charioteer. The horses do all the work when we’re not in battle. What else is there worth thinking about?”

 

“Petran is twice your age,” I pointed out.

 

He went from innocent to wanton in a moment, leering at me, “Even better. I like older men. They have more experience, and they know so much more. I can’t wait to meet him.” He glanced at me. “Why are you going to Dun-Righ so early? If you don’t mind my asking, that is.”

 

“I don’t mind. I’m hoping to find a wife.”

 

“Ah,” he said, nodding sagely. “And you’re hoping that one of those high-born fillies at Dun-Righ will suit you?” He shrugged, “I watch them, even though they don’t interest me. And you’d be better off looking someplace else. Those girls… all they want are a high-born husband to give them children and status and a baile of their own to rule. There isn’t much… substance to them. They’re all silk and paint and not a brain in their pretty heads. Do you understand me?”

 

I nodded, frowning slightly, “I do. I’ll have to see for myself.”

 

He glanced at me sidelong, then shrugged, “If you think you must. But I’ll warn you. I’ve seen too many good friends taken to bits by those high-born bawds. Guard your heart and your purse, Diarmuid Ri na Fiach dubh.

 

His epitaph amused me. It wasn’t often that people actually called me what I am–King of the Ravens. In my own home, I was simply the oldest brother. In the village of Scath, I was the overlord and protector. Outside that circle, I didn’t know what was said about me and mine. I’d never thought to ask, never had anyone I could ask who would be able to answer me truthfully.

 

“Turlach, what do you know about us? About me and my brothers?” I asked, suddenly curious beyond measure.

 

“Just what they say,” he answered, shrugging slightly. “I’ve heard a lot of things. People tend to talk around us, you understand? This is the most conversation I’ve had while driving in years.” He frowned, obviously thinking. “I’ve heard that you’re all sons of the Battle Queen. I’ve heard that you’re normal men, and that you just claim to be Her sons, and that you make people believe you through trickery. I’ve heard that you’re all great sorcerers, and that you have the High King
in your thrall. It’s the first that’s true, isn’t it?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I thought so. There’s something about you, something… different. You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met before,” he smiled and met my eyes. “Let me know if you ever decide to get a chariot. I’d be honored to drive for you.”

 

I smiled back at him, “And does that offer have anything to do with my brother, the harper?”

 

He managed to look affronted before breaking into laughter, “Perhaps a little. But I like you, too. None of the high-born I’ve driven have ever been so…” he paused for a moment, then shrugged one shoulder, a most raven-like gesture. “…So friendly. Most of them don’t care anything for someone who isn’t as high-born as they are.”

 

I nodded. I had the same impression of many of the people I’d met in Eogan’s court. “I understand. I like you, too. And I’d be honored to have you drive my chariot. As soon as I get one.”

 

He laughed again and drew back on the reins, drawing the horses to a stop, “I’ll hold you to that, too. Now, we’re about to enter the bogs. I’ll need all my attention on the road, and you’ll need to keep a watchful eye. There are bog-men in there who prey on travelers, and we’re too tempting a target for them to let us pass. I’m going to drive as fast as is safe, but still…”

 

“Bog-men?” I looked at the road ahead and stared in shock–there was no road! “Turlach…”

 

“There are markers on the safe passage,” he answered my unspoken question. “I know what to look for but I need to pay attention. And yes. Bog-men. There are safe ways to get a small party through the bogs, but no way to safely bring through a large enough attack force to clear out the bog-men.” He frowned slightly and looked at me, “I’m going to need to go pretty fast, and it will be a rough trip. Will you be all right?”

 

I took one of the light spears from a socket built into the side of the chariot and grabbed hold of the chariot rail with my other hand, “I’ll be fine. Go.”

 

He grinned, then shouted to the horses; the chariot lurched forward and into the bogs.

 

 * * * *

 

I am never riding in a chariot ever again.

 

I still planned to get one, and to bring Turlach into Dun-Morrigan as the charioteer, but I swore in my mother’s name that never again would I ride in one of these torturous contraptions. That was what I repeated to myself as we bounced and jolted through the bogs, following a road that I couldn’t see. I never once saw the markers Turlach mentioned, never knew just how it was that he was navigating without having us end up drowning in the murky waters that I knew lurked under the mossy surface of the bog. I couldn’t see how anyone could ever live in this place–either Turlach was telling tales, having fun at my expense, or these bog-men he mentioned were all mad. But I kept my watch, even though there was nothing to see. The land around us was flat, with few, sparse bushes. There was barely anything that could hide a man, let alone a band of bog-men.

 

Up ahead, I could see a line of trees growing steadily closer, and knew that we’d be out of the bogs soon, and into the great forest where we’d spend our last night on the road. I scanned the area ahead of us, then glanced behind. As I turned, a sudden movement caught my eye–I turned back and saw nothing but more scrubby bushes waving in the breeze.

 

Just as I realized that the bushes we had already passed hadn’t been moving, that there was no breeze, the bog exploded. Men surged out of the water, shedding their camouflage and brandishing spears and swords. I hurled my spear and killed the one closest to us, then had to grab for the rail as Turlach snapped the reins and urged the horses into a gallop.

 

“They won’t follow us into the trees!” he shouted. “We’re almost there!”

 

I nodded, holding on with one hand and taking another spear with the other, watching the way we had come to make sure that there was no one following. I heard Turlach shout, turned, and had just enough time to see the fallen tree that had been hidden from view in a natural dip in the road, and the armed men there. Before I could do anything, Turlach screamed and fell, a spear in his shoulder. I fumbled for the reins and dragged back on them as I’d seen Turlach do, but we were going too fast. There was no way to stop. The horses leapt, clearing the tree easily.

 

The chariot was not as lucky.

 

My last memory was of the chariot hitting the tree, and of being thrown through the air. I’d been trying to save Turlach, and hadn’t shifted to raven form, so I fell, landing hard on my right shoulder. I remembered hearing something crack, then everything was swallowed by pain and darkness, and I knew nothing more.

LJ Chat, Day Three, post one November 20, 2011

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in author chat, Princes of Air.
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Originally posted 11/19/2011 at the Circlet Press Livejournal

****

The other day when I was working at Starbucks, I referred to myself as “that kind of writer.” When I say that,  I’m goofing a little on John Scalzi, because in 2007, he put a book on writing out entitled You’re Not Fooling Anyone When you Take your Laptop to a Coffeeshop: Scalzi on Writing.  I freely admit that I haven’t read the book yet. My stack of writing books that everyone says I simply MUST read is about as tall as my son right now. I will read the whole thing eventually, and I do read his blog.

Here’s what he has to say (from 2004):

5. You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop, You Know.
I mean, Christ, people. All that tapping and leaning back  thoughtfully in your chair with a mug of whatever while you pretend to edit your latest masterpiece. You couldn’t be more obvious if you had a garish, flashing neon sign over your head that said “Looking For Sex.” Go home, why don’t you. Just go.

Admittedly if everyone followed my advice the entire economy of Park Slope would implode. But look, do you want to write, or do you want to get laid? No, don’t answer that. Anyway, if you really want to impress the hot whomevers, you’ll bring your bound galleys to the coffeeshop to edit. That’ll make the laptop tappers look like pathetic chumps. We’re talking hot  libidinous mammal sex for days.

Now, the difference between that writer and me? And why I joke about it? Is that when I go to the coffeeshop, I’m actually writing! Because there are times when the dust is building on the furniture, and the dishes are piling up in the sink, and there is ninety-million-and-one things that MUST be done around the house. But I need to get my words in first. So I take myself out of the house, go the five miles to the coffeeshop, and set myself up there.  I’m not looking for sex, like Mr. Scalzi’s example — I’m writing about it (which gives people who try to see what I’m doing an eyeful, I can tell you!)

Then, once I’ve got the words in, then I go home and do the chores. Everybody is happy.

So, yeah. I’m that kind of writer. I write in coffeeshops.

LJ Chat, Day Two, Post Five November 19, 2011

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in author chat, Princes of Air.
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Originally posted 11/18/2011 at the Circlet Press Livejournal

****

Sigh. This is nice. The boy is in bed. I’m working on my next project (Heart’s Master, the long-awaited Nick and Steven novel. Nick and Steven being the characters from The Hand You’re Dealt and Snowbound, both of which were published by Circlet. Hand appeared in Like a Sacred Desire, and Snowbound was part of the Advent Calendar last year.)

So, as my last post of the night, I’m going to share the first review for Princes of Air, from Simply Erotic Reviews.

I have to say, once I read that review, NOTHING got done the rest of the day. I spent the morning dancing around the living room!

LJ Chat, Day Two, Post Four November 19, 2011

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in author chat, Princes of Air.
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Originally posted 11/18/2011 at the Circlet Press Livejournal

****

Since the rest of my day is about to get crazy (the bus will be here in half an hour), I’m going to get this up here now. And talk about Oscar.

Oscar was, originally, a spear-carrier. He was there to be a foil to Arlaith, and nothing else. At least, that’s what it says here. He had other ideas. He turned into a smart-ass, a pivotal character in the whole thing, and one of the most tragic characters I think I’ve written to date.

I love him to pieces. Which is probably why I whomp on him so much. I’m a student of the Mercedes Lackey school of writing: Create a sympathetic character that everyone loves…. and then drop a mountain on him.

Oscar… has a hell of a mountain.

Personality-wise, Oscar shows my age and obsession a bit. He’s very much a blend of two characters in my mind, the first being David McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin from The Man From UNCLE (like I said. Showing my age).  The second is more recent, and didn’t emerge until I really started writing dialogue for Oscar. That’s when Benedict showed up.  Benedict Cumberbatch — my current obsession. If you haven’t yet seen the BBC production of Sherlock, what ARE you waiting for? It’s magnificent.

Anyhow, Oscar turned into this really fun blend of Illya’s aloof “Yes, I AM better than you are” attitude, and Sherlock’s smart-assery.


It was at the end of that year, on the morning of the Longest Night, that I woke with a fire in my head that would not be stilled, would not be quenched. The magic that Gaynor had long suspected slept within me had awakened, and he brought me that day to the sorcerers, kissed me on the forehead and bid me be a good girl, and left me to their care. It was they would have the teaching of me until I was judged ready to stand among them as a full sorceress. I worked harder then ever I had before, even as a slave in the inn, learning the ways and words of power. Before, learning had come easily to me, but no longer. Now, every day was a struggle to learn, to succeed and prove myself worthy to remain, to not be sent in disgrace back to Gaynor’s house.

Female students in the college were rare. I was the first in a generation, and thus I was considered an oddity. Moreso once the other students somehow learned of my history. Overnight, I became an outcast among those who should have been my brothers. Again, I heard the names I thought I’d left behind; they called me Wild Muirenn, Mad Muirenn, and they tormented me with wild tales of my life with the beasts of the forests. None of this was said where the ollamhs who taught us could hear. Not that they would have done anything to stop it if they had heard. Rivalries were common among the students, and were thought to help strengthen us against the rigors of the world outside the school.

As I grew older, the stories changed. It was whispered from every corner, from every shadow, that Mad Muirenn was not the maid that she claimed to be. I was a wildling, and I had lain with the wolves, they said, as had my mother before me. I was the child of a wolf, and I had taken mates among the packs that ranged in Uragh. I was not human, I was a beast, and beasts had no place among sorcerers, save only to serve them. What they meant by serve was very clear.

To ward off the increasingly more persistent advances of some of my fellow students, I set about making myself as unattractive as possible, and began to affect a wildness that reflected the rumors they told about me. I wore men’s clothing, shapeless garments that were often dirty. I allowed my hair to grow wild, and I plaited it with feathers and leaves and sweet-smelling herbs. I kept my own counsel, and I walked alone in the forests often. Faced with what in truth seemed to be a mad child, a wildling, most of the boys left me in peace. The ollamhs noted my appearance, but none remarked upon it. It became normal, as such things were considered normal. Mad Muirenn, who went with rushes in her hair and mud on her face, the wildling who would be a sorceress. Even the boys who had once pursued me so ardently came to ignore me. All save one.

I was beginning my final year of studies when my dealings with the other students came to a boil. At the heart of my troubles was Bricriu, a boy a year or so younger than I. He was the oldest son of the the Ard Ollamh, the chief among all our teachers. Bricriu was the undisputed prince of the college, spoiled and pampered. Anything that he wanted was handed to him on a platter, and anything he could not have, he wanted. That, somehow, came to include me.

At first, he was solicitous, treating me as if I were a high-born girl, and not one whom he had been tormenting for the past several years. I ignored him and focused on my studies; I had heard that in the spring, the established sorcerers would take on apprentices for advanced training, and I meant to be one of those chosen. I still dreamed of the mysterious Oscar, even thought I had seen him only once since that first time. That once had been shortly after I had started at the college; he had come there with a cartload of prisoners, and had spent hours closeted away with the Ard Ollamh, only to leave in a temper. He had not returned since, but I’d heard tales of his demands for information. Something about a spell that he was trying to break, although I knew no more than that. I wished him well, regardless.

Despite only having seen Oscar twice, I was still fascinated by him, and I had learned more about him in my time at the college. Learned that he rarely came to the college, never taught there, regarded most of the sorcerers there as worthless.
And that he had never once taken an apprentice. In my mind, I would show myself to be better than the others, better than even my teachers. I would show myself to be worth his attentions, and he would take me as his apprentice. After that, my mind meandered into territory in which I had no experience. I knew nothing of men and women. I knew only that when I thought of Oscar, there was a heat inside me, one that felt similar to my magic, yet not the same. I had no idea what it could be, but I wanted it, wanted to understand it, and I knew I could never unlock those secrets without his help.

I should, perhaps, have paid more attention to Bricriu, if only to notice that he had stopped pestering me. But I was lost in my studies, and in my daydreams. I spent long hours with the ollamhs, practicing and reading, often until late at night. It was on one such night, late in the winter, that I gave in to my exhaustion and left my scrolls behind to return to my bed. I knew the paths of the college as well as I knew the lines on my own hands, and I was half-asleep as I made the silent, dark walk back to my lonely cottage. Halfway there, I stopped and looked up at the night sky and the stars, hazy from the wards that had recently been layered and relayered over the college grounds. I remember the ollamhs warning us not to walk alone outside the walls of the college, remembered them telling us of the creature that now hunted in Eire — a deamhan aeir, a nightmare straight out of legend. A chill wind blew along the path, and I shivered and pulled my cloak tighter around my shoulders, hurrying the rest of the way to my cottage, hearing my feet crunching on the snow as I walked. As I made my way to the door, I heard scurrying footsteps behind me. None of the other students lived near me, and there was no reason for anyone else to be abroad this late at night; I turned and frowned, seeing the empty path behind me.

“Is someone there?” I called. The only answer was an owl hooting; I shook my head at my own foolishness and turned, intent on my bed. As I reached my door, I was hit from behind, someone knocking me to the ground before grabbing me and pulling me into my cottage. I may have cried out, but if I did, no one heard. Before I could shout again, he hit me, hard enough that I knew nothing for several minutes. When my head cleared, I found myself sprawled over my bed, a cloth shoved into my mouth, with someone crouching over me, tearing open my leine to expose my breasts. I started to struggle, clawing at his face with my nails; he cursed, and I recognized Bricriu’s voice. I saw him raise his hand to strike me… then he was gone, pulled off me as if by a giant’s hand. I pushed myself up, holding my torn leine closed with one hand while pulling the gag from my mouth with the other. And I saw, silhouetted in the door, a tall, thin figure. I scrambled to light my lamp, fumbling over the fire-calling spell, unable to order my thoughts or control my magic enough to do the most basic of spells. I heard a voice, clear and wondrous deep, speaking the words, and the lamp flared to life in my hands. I turned, and saw Oscar standing there, fury writ plain in every line of him. Of Bricriu, I saw no sign.

“Did he hurt you?” Oscar asked.

“… no,” I answered softly. “I… he did not hurt me. Thank you. Where… what happened to him?”

“I sent him to his father,” Oscar said. “Under a compulsion. He will tell the truth of what he meant to do here. I suppose I should bring you there as well, so that Cathbad knows that this was not some jest.” He stepped back from the door and gestured. “After you?”

I stared at him for a moment, then slowly got to my feet, holding my torn leine closed with both hands. I felt a brush of feathers on my bare arm as Oscar moved past me, then the warm wool of my cloak settled around my shoulders. He pinned it carefully under my chin and stepped back to look at me. He frowned slightly, cocking his head to one side and just… looking at me.

“Is… is something wrong?” I asked.

“No. Just… why all this?” His gesture took in my matted braids and my dirty cloak and gown. “Wildling, you do realize that you’re taking the ‘all sorcerers are mad’ nonsense just a bit too close to heart?”

I blinked, startled, and saw his mocking smile. Saw beyond it to the teasing humor in his startlingly pale eyes. A giggle escaped me; he nodded once, then waved the lamp flame out. “That’s better. Come along. Let’s go see what happens when we stir up the hornet’s nest.”

#

Oscar must have known what the reaction would be, because the area around Cathbad’s rather grand hall did indeed remind me very much of a riled hornet’s nest. Oscar ignored all of the bustling and the outrage, putting his arm around my shoulders and guiding me through the press as if the crowd was not even there. He entered the hall without announcing himself, and led me straight up to the head of the hall, where I could see Cathbad and Bricriu. Bricriu looked like a statue, his eyes fixed and staring at some point far in the distance. As we came closer, I heard his voice, flat and emotionless:

“… attacked her. I forced her down and hit her when she screamed, and I gagged her so she could not scream again. I tore her clothing, and I was going to rape her. Then I was going to strangle her and dump her body in the forest for her beasts.”
I flinched at hearing plans for my own murder, and Oscar’s arm around my shoulders tightened. “So, Cathbad. Do you believe me now when I tell you that the boy is a menace?” he called.

The Ard Ollamh stared at Oscar, then sputtered and pointed at him, “You! You did this! You made my boy say these things! Have you not caused enough trouble…? ”

“Your boy did those things, and would have done more had I not stopped him,” Oscar said coldly. “I’ve brought the woman with me. Her injuries and her clothing will add to the truth that Bricriu speaks. I charge him with attempted rape, Cathbad, and with intending to commit murder. Will you summon the Brehons, or shall I? I should tell you that he will remain in just that state until his words are heard and acknowledged by one of the Brehon judges.”

Cathbad went pale as death, and he shook his head. “He’s my son…”

“And the woman is mine.”

Everything stopped. I heard nothing else, saw nothing save for Oscar’s proud profile. His? What did he mean?

“The woman is mine,” Oscar repeated. “I claim her as my apprentice. Injury done to her is injury done to me. I am within my rights to demand log nEnech, or see him sold as a slave…”

“No,” I whispered, interrupting him. Oscar glanced down at me, one eyebrow raised in silent inquiry. I shook my head and repeated, “No. Not slavery. The honor fine, yes. Dismissal from the college, if you think that necessary. Not slavery.”

He nodded and turned his attention back to Cathbad. “My apprentice has made her wishes known. Before the Brehons, I will demand log nEnech, and that Bricriu be dismissed from the college of sorcerers. See to it, Cathbad.” Without another word, he guided me back out of the hall, leading me down a path and away from the college, towards the cottages where the ollamhs lived.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“I keep a house here, even though I never stay here,” he answered, and I noticed that never once had he taken his arm from around my shoulders. “You’ll be staying with me, as is appropriate for my apprentice.”

I stumbled, and he slowed so that I could find my footing again. “You… you were serious?”

“I never make jokes, Wildling,” he answered.

“You do!” I blurted. “You were teasing me, not even an hour ago.”

I looked up, and in the moonlight I saw the corner of his mouth twitch. “Ah, but that was not a joke. Now, the first thing you will do as my apprentice… what is your name?” When I hesitated, he sighed, leading me into a house. Once inside, he waved his hand once; all of the lamps flared to life, revealing a tidy workspace, and a pair of beds tucked into opposite corners. Only then did he let me go, moving to stand in front of me. “I can’t keep calling you Wildling,” he pointed out.
“Name?”

I looked down at the rushes on the floor and answered, “I… they call me Muirenn.”

“Muirenn,” he repeated, and the sound of my name from his lips sent shivered up my spine. To my surprise, I felt his hand under my chin, and he raised my face so that I was looking into his eyes. “I understand why you’ve done all this, but you needn’t try to hide behind your hair and your past any more. No one will try and hurt you now that you’re under my wings. So, your first duty as my apprentice is to bathe, Muirenn. Comb out your hair. I wish to see you.”

His hand where he touched my skin was oddly warm, and I swallowed once before I could answer. “Yes, Master.”

“Oscar. Call me by my name.”

“Yes, Oscar.”