I'm happy to be participating in the cover reveal for Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope. This is an adult fantasy romance. Song of Blood and Stone officially releases January 13, 2015.
The cover of Song of Blood and Stone was designed by James T. Egan at Bookfly Design.
About the Book:
Between love and duty lies destiny
Orphaned and alone, Jasminda is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where she is feared for both the shade of her skin and her magical abilities. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive – an injured spy who steals her heart.
Jack’s mission behind enemy lines nearly cost him his life but he is saved by the healing power of a mysterious young woman. Together they embark on a perilous journey straight into the heart of a centuries-old conflict.
Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.
The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.
Guest Post: Respecting the Muse
People frequently ask authors where their ideas come from. The muse, that creative force responsible for inspiring artists, is oftensaid to be fickle. Mine can sometimes be an outright jerk. Like a toddler who can't decide which toy to play with, my muse throws fits and tantrums, and just might have ADD.
When she's on her good behavior, she tends to show up in the most unexpected ways. I got the idea for one manuscript frommy husband who challenged me to write a "black, female, Napoleon Dynamite." The result bore no resemblance to that film or character, but it was a great starting point.
Another story features a character whose psychic ability manifests via smell. The idea for this one came from my own life. I sometimes smell things that don't belong, but are recognizable. Like the scent of my late grandmother's closets, or my late father's cologne, or ––even stranger–– mothballs. The scents are fleeting, but I wonder if they could be messages of some kind. In that story, my character can tell that something bad is going to happen to the person she smells, but she doesn't know what or when.
The idea for Song of Blood & Stone was born late one night as I was binge-watching movies on Netflix. I was in my Jamie Bell period, watching and re-watching anything I could with him in it. My stroke of inspiration came during the movie The Eaglewhen his character, Esca, first appears on screen. He's a slave in ancient Rome, entering a fight against a much larger and well-armed gladiator. Esca doesn't look scared even though he's outmatched. He looks pissed. http://makeagif.com/i/GEscaw This is the exact expression that Jack wears the second time he and Jasminda meet in Song of Blood & Stone. About six seconds of film was enough to set my imagination on fire. The next day I started writing.
So, what inspires you? How does your muse behave? My muse definitely has a mind of her own. And even when she's erratic, I'm always grateful for the sparks of inspiration no matter how they come.
Guest Post: Reality Bites
When people think of fantasy, many immediately bring to mindto a medieval setting - castles and dragons, wizards and elves. While that time period and those archetypes are certainly very common, thanks in large part to the influence of Tolkien, there are so many other options for creating a fantasy world.
Worldbuilding is my favorite part of fantasy, both as a reader and a writer. I love to see how an author has conceived of the political, economic, social and religious systems in their world and how those structures link with the characters and plot. As a reader, I'm hungry for new and different backdrops, societies and mythologies. With an entire planet full of cultures to draw from and thousands of years of human history in which to place stories, sometimes it's hard to understand why diverse settings are not more frequently created.
Song of Blood & Stone takes place in what I like to call an alternate 1920's-esque world. The technology of that time period is present: cars, phones, and electricity; but there is also magic, called Earthsong, which is possessed by one group. This world has undergone centuries of war, and there is a deep divide filled with mistrust and fear between those who wield magic and those who don't.
The story could really take place in any era, the technology is not the focus, but the early twentieth-century type time periodjust felt right for these events and characters. It wasn't really a conscious decision, but it's one of the few aspects of the story that's been the same since the very first draft.
I love escaping to another place and time and experiencing the very real magic of losing yourself in an alternate world. What's your favorite part about fantasy worlds? What time periods or places would you like to see more of?
Song of Blood & Stone
by L. Penelope
The girl looming above Jack looked like a mirage. She’d marched directly to his hiding place behind a cluster of coarse shrubbery and stood, peering down, head cocked at an angle. He went to stand, years of breeding kicking in, his muscle memory offended at the idea of not standing in the presence of a lady, but apparently, his muscles had forgotten the bullet currently lodged within them. And the girl was Lagrimari—not strictly a lady, but a woman nonetheless—and a beautiful one, he noticed as he squinted into the dying light. Wild, midnight curls floated carelessly around her head and piercing dark eyes regarded him. Her smooth skin was a confectioner’s delight. His stomach growled. When was the last time he’d eaten?
Her presence meant he was still on the Lagrimari side of the mountain range bordering the two lands and had yet to cross the other, more powerful barrier keeping him from his home of Elsira: the Mantle.
The girl frowned down at him, taking in his bedraggled appearance. From his position lying on the ground, he tried his best to smooth his ripped uniform, the green fatigues of the Lagrimari army. Her confusion was apparent. Jack was obviously Elsiran; aside from his skin tone, the ginger hair and honey-colored eyes were a dead giveaway. And yet he wore the uniform of his enemy.
“Please don’t be scared,” he said in Lagrimari. Her brows rose toward her hairline as she scanned his prone and bloodied body. Well, that was rather a ridiculous thing to say. “I only meant that I mean you no harm. I . . .” He struggled with how to explain himself.
There were two possibilities. She could be a nationalist who would turn him in to the squad of soldiers currently combing the mountain for him, perhaps to gain favor with the government, or she could be like so many Lagrimari citizens, beaten down by the war with no real loyalty to their dictator or his thugs. If she was the former, he was already dead, so he took a chance with the truth.
“You see, I was undercover, spying from within the Lagrimari army. But now there are men looking for me, they’re not far, but—” He paused to take a breath; the effort of speaking was draining. He suspected he had several cracked or broken ribs in addition to the gunshot wound. His vision swam, and the girl turned into two. Two beautiful girls. If these were his last moments before traveling to the World After, then perhaps he was not as unlucky as he’d always thought.
He blinked rapidly and took another strained breath. His mission was not complete; he could not die yet. “Can you help me? Please. I’ve got to get back to Elsira.”
She stole an anxious glance skyward before kneeling next to him. Her cool hand moved to his forehead. The simple touch was soothing and a wave of tension rolled off him.
“You must be delirious.” Her voice was rich, deeper than he’d expected. It eased the harsh consonants of the Lagrimarilanguage, for the first time making it sound like something he could imagine being pleasant to listen to. She carefully worked at the remaining buttons of his shirt, pulling the fabric apart to reveal his ruined chest. Her expression was appraising as she viewed the damage then sat back on her haunches, pensive.
“It probably looks worse than it is,” he said.
“I doubt that.”
Jack’s chuckle sounded deranged to his own ears, so it was no surprise that the girl looked at him askance. He winced—laughing was a bad idea at this point—and struggled for breath again. “The soldiers . . . they’re after me. I have to get back through the Mantle.”
“Shh,” she said, digging into her bag. “Hush all that foolishness; you’re not in your right mind. Though I’ll admit, you speak Lagrimari very well. I’m not sure what happened to you, but you should save your strength.”
She retrieved a jar filled with a sweet-smelling substance and began spreading it over his wounds. The constant, throbbing pain eased a notch making it easier for him to breathe.
“What is that?”
“Just a balm. Helps with burns, cuts. Can’t do any more for you right now, but you can’t stay here. Storm’s coming.”
He laid his head back on the ground, closing his eyes to savor the slight reduction in pain. “A quick rest and I’ll be back on my way. Need to keep moving, though. Need to get back.”
She shook her head. “Back through the Mantle?” Her voice was skeptical.
“And away from the Lagrimari soldiers chasing you?”
“Yes.” Her palm met his forehead again. She thought he was delusional. He wished he was. Wished the last few weeks had been nothing but the imaginings of an impaired mind.
“The Seventh Breach ended almost five years ago.” Her voice flowed over him, as cool and comforting as the balm she’d used. “We’ve had peace since then. No way to cross the Mantle from either side.”
He shook his head, aggravating the hole in his upper chest, inches from his heart where an inconvenient bit of metal was still lodged. “There are ways.”
A crunch of boots in the distance set him on alert. He grabbed the girl’s wrist to halt her while he listened. The soldiers were near.
He opened his eyes and looked into her startled ones. “Shh, they’re coming.”
Song of Blood & Stone
by L. Penelope
“Untie him,” Jasminda said, staring at Jack's lashed wrists. “I need to check his wounds.”
Ginko pulled a knife from his boot to cut the rope. The sharp edges of the pain had been bound by whatever spell she’d sung a few moments before, but the weakness in his limbs couldn’t be ignored. The lack of food and water, the days of walking and hiding, had all left him teetering on the edge of his endurance. She too had deep circles under eyes, and he wondered what she’d been doing up on the mountain.
As she settled next to him, his awareness of her pulsed like an extra sense. She smelled of cool mountain air, pine, and something light and feminine that he couldn’t place. He closed his eyes and inhaled her nearness, allowing it to soothe and calm him. He imagined himself far away, in the barracks he’d called home since childhood or maybe even farther away, floating on his back in the Delaveen Ocean, the sun warming his face.
The vision faded when her fingertips grazed his forehead.
“Does that hurt?” she whispered, her voice gentle. He opened his eyes to find her closer than he’d expected. Unable to find his voice, he shook his head.
“Take that off,” she said, pointing to his shirt. He had the absurd desire to chuckle. How many times had he longed to hear a woman ordering him to take off his shirt? What he’d felt of her touch so far had been very soft . . . She must be soft all over. He’d never imagined a Lagrimari girl could be so lovely. The coils of her hair called to his fingertips and—
Tensyn’s oily voice broke through Jack’s musings. “Has your tribute day been scheduled?” He and Ginko stood in the doorway behind him, and Jack hated having anyone at his back. That kind of sloppiness had literally been beaten out of him. He blamed the pain and the fatigue.
His bruised fingers faltered on the tiny buttons as he shrugged awkwardly out of his shirt. Once again, she assessed his injuries impassively, though he suspected things were quite a bit worse than yesterday when she’d seen him.
“No,” she said, answering Tensyn.
“And your family?”
“Dead.” The unexpressive mask of her face slipped for an instant, and he glimpsed a cavernous well of grief in her eyes.
“May they find serenity in the World After,” Tensyn intoned.
Jasminda repeated the blessing. Jack's eyes met hers briefly before she looked away. “Lie back,” she told him.
She dipped a cloth in the water and ran it across his chest, cleaning away the blood and grime. He suppressed a groan at the incredible coolness of the water on his skin, relishing in it until she stopped suddenly. He craned his neck down to see what had caught her attention. The bullet wound was far worse today, the skin black with infection, blood and pus seeping out.
The screen door slammed. He looked up to find the two of them on the porch alone.
“What is your name?” She pitched her voice low, speaking directly into his ear in perfect Elsiran as she continued cleaning his chest.
He took hold of her wrist, stilling her hand. Even the former POWs spoke only a broken version of Elsiran. How had she been able to learn it when no one in Lagrimar spoke the language? She shook free of his grip and continued cleaning his chest and face. Inside, the soldiers chortled, ensuring they would not be overheard.
“Jack,” he whispered, scanning her face desperately. “Are you a Keeper of the Promise?”
She frowned, darting a look at the door. “No. I don’t know what that is.”
“How can you—”
“This is not Lagrimar.” The door opened again, and Ginko emerged, taking a stance with his arms folded while he chewed on a stick of jerky.
Jasminda switched back to Lagrimari, speaking quietly. “I need to cut away the dead flesh from the wound. Otherwise the infection will kill you.”
He nodded faintly, still trying to process her last words. If they weren’t in Lagrimar, that meant they had all passed through the Mantle without knowing it. He’d been on home soil the whole time. That must be why she’d acted as if he were deranged.
Escape was so close. The despair threatening to pull him under faded away like mist in the sun.
Song of Blood & Stone
by L. Penelope
Jasminda led the way, the light from her lantern reflecting off the snow, now knee-deep but swallowed up by the surrounding darkness. Jack leaned heavily on the walking stick as each step became more difficult than the last. Pausing to catch his breath, a coughing fit struck him, leaving red splatters on the pristine white.
When he straightened, he found her staring at the blood on the ground. Almost immediately, the warm hum of Earthsong rippled through him.
“Save it,” he advised. “I’m all right.”
She scowled. “You are not all right. You are worse than when you arrived. Stop being such a fool.” The buzz of Earthsong continued for a few moments before she turned and stomped away.
For hours they battled the storm, their progress arduous. Strong gusts of wind blew against them, sometimes knocking them on their backs and forcing them to stop until the gale calmed some. Icy blasts whipped through Jack’s coat, freezing his fingers until he could no longer grip the walking stick and had to leave it behind.
“Let’s stop here for a moment,” Jasminda shouted, pointing to a notch in the rock wall just big enough for two people. Underneath the rocky overhang, the snow stood only ankle high, and the sidewalls protected them from the worst of the wind. They crouched down together, shaking from the cold. She took his hands in hers and rubbed, bringing some feeling back into them. In the flickering lantern light, worry etched a frown on her face.
Jack rallied, drawing whatever inner strength he could into his depleted limbs. A small hum of Earthsong tickled at his wounds, but he could sense her weakening. He cracked his knuckles and tried to fashion his frozen face into a grin.
“Now’s not the time to grow lazy.” He wasn’t sure she could understand him over the chattering of his teeth, but she nodded and they stood. At a groaning rumble overhead, they looked up. Something large shifted and slid. He moved forward to see what was happening, but she grabbed him by his coat and pulled him back. Her eyes were huge circles of fear as everything around them started to shake.
With a violent boom, an avalanche of snow slid down the mountain obliterating the path that they were on. The motion pushed them back against the wall as sheets of snow and ice crumbled away and slid off the mountain in front of them. Beneath their feet, the ground convulsed, knocking them off-balance. Jack fell forward into the rioting rush of snow.
Where he’d expected his hands to hit the ground, they hit nothing. He reached out frantically, grasping for purchase as his weightless body plummeted into the darkness blanketed by the cold wet pressure all around him.
About the Author:
Leslye Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She's a romance junkie who self-medicates with happily-ever-afters and steaming mugs of green tea. She lives in Maryland with her husband, an eighty-pound lap dog, and an attack cat. Visit her online at http://www.lpenelope.com.
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