Excerpt Monday: Sorcerer’s Daughter #1

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Is it that time again? Time flies when you’re on deadline! Well, um, self-imposed deadline that is.

Excerpt Monday was started by two lovely writers: Bria Quinlan and Alexia Reed. It revolves around a group of unpublished and published authors who post their excerpts once a month on a Monday. More are always welcome!Visit the other links for some interesting reads and if you’d like to join up for next month, take a look at the main site: The Excerpt Monday blog.

November brings us the opening to a series that I’m hoping to be able to flesh out once Across the Silk Road is done. You can see by the less than sparkly title, that this is still in pre-production. It’s my first attempt to plot a historical paranormal series revolving around five swordsmen in secret service to the Emperor.

The Middle Kingdom, 9th century

Over the last rise there was silence. Tai Shen expected the sounds of the night to surround them out in this wooded area; the whirring of summer crickets or the coo of an owl. His hand trailed to his weapon, and his sword brother Jin mirrored the gesture.

“Do you sense anything?”

Jin grew still, breathing slowly in and out, before shaking his head. He remained tense however, poised for danger. Tai Shen didn’t comprehend the ethereal forces that Jin sought. Their shifu referred to it as a subtle light.

The outline of a cabin stood ahead. The scent of camphor and sandalwood grew stronger as they approached until it hung in the air like a veil. A strip of paper hung on either side of the doorway, displaying the spider-like brushstrokes of an incantation.

The Taoist master Yang had retreated to this remote stretch of forest nearly a decade ago, losing himself in isolation like so many seekers of the Way. But Tai Shen needed the help of a master now, a true sorcerer who could call the spirits and bend heaven and earth.

A sliver of light seeped out from around the door. Tai Shen peered through the opening. An elderly man lay still upon a mat at the center of the room. Too still.

Tai Shen felt his throat close tight. His insides ground to dust. Master Yang was dead.

A woman in mourning robe of bleached sackcloth knelt beside him. She balanced a writing tablet in her lap and held the calligraphy brush between her first and second fingers. Her brush danced down the strip of paper in one fluid stroke.

“It’s Song Yi,” Jin whispered.

The sorcerer’s daughter.

Song Yi finished the final stroke before glancing up. A white veil framed her fine-boned face.  Her eyes were swollen and rimmed with red, but any tears had long gone dry. “So the demon hunters are finally here.”

They were intruding and adding insult to the trespass by spying. Tai Shen pushed the door open to pay his respects properly. His blood went to ice.

Hundreds of talismans covered the walls, ground to the ceiling. Cinnabar ink stained the yellow paper like blood.

“They come for him every night.” Desperation crept into her voice. “They want him, I know it. I can barely hold them back.”

Had she been taken by madness? “Who comes for him?”

The night breeze began to howl behind him. Jin gripped his arm.

Guǐguài,” she whispered.

Demonkind. The paper talismans on the walls burst into flame.

Sorcerer’s Daughter Excerpt #2

Sorcerer’s Daughter Excerpt #3


Exceprt Monday Participants:
Note: I have not personally screened these excerpts and they may contain material that is not typical of my blog. Please heed the ratings when browsing the excerpts.

So, to kick it off, your hosts:

Alexia Reed, Urban Fantasy (R)


Bria Quinlan, Rom Com (PG13)

Joining us this week:

Jane Bled, Yaoi/M-M Erotica/Vampire/Paranormal/Horror (PG 13)
Danie Ford, YA Urban Fantasy (PG 13)
Heather S Ingemar, Dark Fantasy (PG13)
Babette James, Fantasy Romance (PG13)
Cynthia Justlin, Contemporary Romance (PG 13)
Kaige, Historical Romance (PG 13)
Julia Knight, Fantasy Romance (PG 13)
Jeannie Lin, Historical paranormal romance (PG 13)
R.F Long, Fantasy (PG13)
Shawntelle Madison, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
Debbie Mumford, Fantasy (PG 13)
Bria Quinlan, Rom Com (PG13)
Megan S, Paranormal (PG 13)
Rosalind Stone, Women’s Fiction (PG 13)
Jo Lynne Valerie, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)

Kendal Ashby, YA (R)
Jax Cassidy, Contemporary (R)
Cate Hart, YA Paranormal (R)
Inez Kelley, Romantic Comedy (R)
Aislinn Kerry, Fantasy (R)
Jeanne St. James, Contemporary Erotic Romance (R)
Cherrie Lynn, Paranormal Romance (R)
Jeanette Murray, Romantic Comedy (R)
Christa Paige, Paranormal (R)
Michelle Picard, Fantasy Romance (R)
Mary Quast, Contemporary Romance (R)
Alexia Reed, Urban Fantasy (R)
Zora Stout, Contemporary Erotic Romance (R)

Sara Brookes, Erotic Sci Fi (NC 17)
Emily Ryan-Davis, Romance (NC 17)
Ella Drake, Historical Paranormal Romance (NC 17)
Angeleque Ford, Erotic Dark Urban Fantasy (NC17)
J.W. Hankins, Dark Fiction (NC 17)
Annie Nicholas, Paranormal Romance (NC 17)
Kim Knox, Erotic SF Romance (NC17)
Michelle Polaris, Erotic Futuristic Romance (NC 17)
Bryl R. Tyne, Contemporary M/M (NC 17)

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Worldbuilding at its best: Interview with R.F. Long


One of the hardest things to do as an author is create a living, breathing world in which characters can grow and interact. When an author tries to force an unnatural setting onto the page, it becomes obvious and the effort falls flat in the worst way. Fantasy author R.F. Long, author of the upcoming book The Scroll Thief, has an amazing ability to spin out magical worlds with effortless grace in every story. I am pleased to have been able to interview her for this blog.

Tell us about your inspiration for Scroll Thief. What made you want to tell this story?

For a long time I was working on a very traditional epic fantasy and associated stories. I love this sort of thing but there are a lot of them around. The Holtlands were born from this first novel, so was my novella The Wolf’s Sister. But one day I was wondering about the other lands surrounding the Holtlands – what they might be like, what their history was and how they interacted with the people and lands about which I was already writing. One of my characters, Bareda, starts off that epic, in Klathport which also set me thinking about what her life was like there. She’s a minor character in The Scroll Thief, but that story was never destined to be her story.

Mdina, the "silent city" of Malta. According to the author - "It captured something of Klathport for me, the way I imagine a once opulent, desert city."

Mdina, the "silent city" of Malta. According to the author - "It captured something of Klathport for me, the way I imagine a once opulent, desert city."

I’d always loved stories like Arabian Nights, spent my honeymoon in Andalusia in Southern Spain and everything started to gel together once I came up with the character of a young thief with far too big an opinion of himself. Initally Malachy was going to be hired to steal a religious artifact by the Mahailian sect, the only way the peaceful worshipers of the Goddess could get it back, but then… well frankly, he wouldn’t take the job. It was going to take a fair amount of bullying to keep him in line. Halia fitted the bill exactly. Malachy’s older sister, the former courtesan and sometime criminal mastermind, was initially intended to be killed off, but my husband, on reading the first chapters, wouldn’t let me.

What was your process for research?
Mainly I tend to look things up as I go along, getting the information as and when I need it. However, because of my great love of the art and architecture of Andalusia and the mythologies upon which I often base my writing, I sort of spend my life in a perpetual state of research. I work in a library, so I don’t find research of any kind onerous. I also really enjoy and make use of television documentaries as a quick way of gathering information which I can later build on. I love Celtic legends particularly, but I’m starting to read up on Norse legends of late. The Internet offers a vast array of information, some sites more reputable than others, so I feel it is important to check the sources and follow up on references. Cross referencing is vital. I have a few books at home which I use constantly – Rollestone’s Myths & Legends of the Celtic Race, Encyclopedia of World Mythology, Everyday Life in the Middle Ages etc. I’m always on the lookout for things like that – books, sites, artwork, music – anything that will provide both research possibilities and inspiration.

Many authors stay in one world for an entire series after they’ve created it because it takes so much effort and research. I’m always amazed, however, at your ability to recreate a world with each new story. How do you do it?

The lost village of Iliz Koz in northern Brittany - swallowed up by sand in the 15th century and rediscovered in 1960.

More inspiration: The lost village of Iliz Koz in northern Brittany - swallowed up by sand in the 15th century and rediscovered in 1960.

Well, The Wolf’s Sister, its sequel, The Wolf’s Mate and The Scroll Thief are set in the same world, but only the first two in the same land. I think its important in any fantasy world that the countries and races are not just carbon copies of each other, or indeed exact copies of our world in the middle ages with extra magic. My forthcoming novel Soul Fire, is set in our world and the world of the Sidhe of Irish folklore. I love playing with new ideas, and with worldbuilding, even at the most subtle level. Whether building a new world with landscapes, history and mythologies of its own, or altering our own world to allow the magical and fantastic to creep through, the key thing for me is a combination of consistency and believability. I always ask myself why a character might do something, and so by extension why a country might have a law banning magic, or why iron might drive away faeborn people. Once I have a reason for something, I make sure I stick to that reason throughout the novel and treat it as a fact of existence, rather than something I’ve made up.

You live in Ireland which to me is a magical place in and of itself. How much does that play into your creative process?

I think very much so, for a number of reasons. Ireland has a long tradition of story telling – you just have to sit down and ask someone how their day has been in order to get a story out of them. Its a recognised entertainment. Ireland’s mythology comes from an oral tradition and many stories, particularly when you reach the folklore, were written down from oral sources and that tone has carried through. “Once of a time” many of them begin, a small step away from “Once upon a time”.

As one of my inspirations is music, particularly Irish traditional music, much of the rhythm of my writing and the songs to which I listen as I write tie together.


Colimore Harbour with Dalkey Island in the background. Dalkey is the author's hometown.

I’m a nut about the craft of writing. Can you give any pointers on specific techniques or devices you use? (Don’t feel like you have to spill all your secrets, just a little hint)

I plan out a plot, but only lightly – no more than a paragraph for a chapter, a line or two per scene. It gives an overview of the story arc, but still allows me the freedom to let the story take me where it will. Usually if I get stuck with a story, I’ve tried to push it in a way it didn’t want to go. I have found that I need some sort of guideline (otherwise the story just runs on and on and I end up rewriting an enormous amount) but it still need fluidity and freedom to go where it will.

One technique I find particularly useful in constructing scenes, particularly in a fantasy setting, is to try to engage all five senses. The human sense of smell is one of the most evocative tools, so if I describe Cerys the healer’s hands smelling of lemons, the reader instantly knows what that is. Some readers will also know of the antisceptic properties of lemon juice, its use in early medicine, and that too is consistent with the character. She has both a reason to smell of lemons, and a scent that readers identify easily.

Following on from that, the same is true of sound, taste and touch – as writers we often overuse sight descriptions, whereas if you take a moment out of your busy day to just stop and experience the world around you, you will hear traffic or birdsong, or a conversation in the next room, of the hiss of a gas fire beneath the noise of the television. You will feel the cushion at your back, or the breeze running through your hair, or the blush of heat in the cheek turned towards the sunlight. You may taste the remnants of that chocolate you had earlier, or the slight aftertaste of berries in a glass of wine. There is more to experiencing the world than what we see. I think its important to bring that in to writing as well.

The vacation pictures were a lovely bonus and they have convinced me that I absolutely must travel to exotic locations as part of my Adventures in Romance. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it. Thank you for the interview and the tiny peek into your creative process!

The Scroll Thief is available February 24, 2009 from Samhain Publishing. I know I’m clamoring for a copy.  More information about the magical worlds of R.F. Long can be found at: http://www.rflong.com