Sword of Jashan Excerpt and Goodreads Giveaway

Fantasy readers: there is a giveaway for Sword of Jashan on Goodreads. You can enter for a chance to win one of three available signed copies! Deadline for entries is November 20.

To find the giveaway and enter: you can either search for Sword of Jashan on Goodreads and follow the link to the giveaway, or click on this link.

Meanwhile, here is a short excerpt from Chapter One. In this chapter Ander, the fourteen-year-old heir to the Righan throne, is surprised in the woods by unknown attackers.

Excerpt from Sword of Jashan by Anne Marie Lutz

Section of Chapter 1

“Riders, Lord Ander,” Shar said. Ander pulled up and listened. It sounded as if there were quite a few horsemen, maybe half a dozen. His nerves prickled. His guards pulled closer to him, loosening their swords in their sheaths.

Out of the darkness came the riders, appearing suddenly out of the gloom. As near as Ander could see in the night, their gray surcoats showed no badge of any liege lord.

“Who’s there?” Innes challenged.

There was no reply. Some of the new arrivals pulled their horses back behind the leaders. Then the new men were riding the Northgard group down, two riding abreast in the close quarters of the tree-lined trail.

Ander swore and dragged his horse’s head around. His heels drummed on her flanks, urging her away.

“Get back!” Shar yelled. Both of the Hunters shouldered their mounts in front of Ander, swords drawn to defend him. Metal clashed. Ander pulled his mare away, in the direction his stepfather had gone. But there was already a man cutting off his retreat, grinning at Ander’s effort, his sword ready. Ander grabbed for his own sword, praying to Jashan for aid against the massive warrior.

He heard a panicked shout as one of the horses went down. Hunter Shar was trapped under his mount, screaming as the beast rolled over him. Innes now faced two opponents.

His sword flashed in the erratic light of the moving roadlamp, but it was only a moment until he was disarmed. The sword went flying off into the woods and one of the attackers rode up and slashed the Hunter’s throat.

“Innes!” Ander screamed. Blood sprayed as the Hunter’s body fell too slowly from his horse to lie in the dirt.

Ander shoved down his grief and raised his sword to meet the massive weapon of his attacker. Their swords rang together. It was a good strike, but the older man laughed and shoved his horse toward Ander’s, trying to use his weight advantage to force Ander’s arm down. Ander struck again, aiming for the opening in the man’s mail at his throat. For a moment he thought he would succeed, but then his blade was struck aside.

Ander stared into his enemy’s grinning face. Someone shouted behind him; he was about to get overridden from the rear. He pulled his mare’s head around, trying to find a way around the man, maybe ride away into the woods. Two of the attackers rode past him, heading in the direction Lord Zelan had gone, cutting him off from help.

Ander’s attacker drew his sword arm back for the strike.

Ander had never before used the color magery in violence, though he had been taught to do so. He had only a second to act. He called on Jashan and felt the magery blaze up inside him. Always before, he had controlled the fire; he had spent much of his training learning to control it. Now he loosed his will, let his barriers fall, and blasted all the energy he could at the attacker.

Light leaped from his hands. It lit up the trail and the faces of the attackers and the lower branches of the surrounding trees. His attacker screamed and fell, arching backward as he hit the ground and color magery swept his fallen form, stopping his heart. Ander felt a blow and a sharp pain in his side. He jerked away as a second man pulled back his sword from his strike; pain bloomed up and down his side. He tried to gather his strength, tried to concentrate on the magery, but it slipped away from his control.

His attacker drew back his sword for a second strike. Ander tried to slide down the side of his horse and perhaps get into the woods. His foot caught in the stirrup. He threw his arms over his head in a useless attempt at protection, struggling to focus his magery.

The dark shape of his attacker was suddenly limned in light. The man screamed and fell backwards. Ander’s vision was scorched by the light of color magery; all he could detect were dark shapes, moving in on his attackers. One of them dragged the man back away from him. There were sounds of a brief, brutal fight: grunts, the crack of a bone snapping, and then a liquid gasp. Someone swore behind him, and there was another metallic crash of weapons.

Ander’s sight began to clear. He pulled his foot away from the stirrup and slid down from his mare. Someone else was next to him. He whirled, ready to fight, but it was a woman who grabbed his arm and dragged him away from the battle on the trail.

He let her pull him between the bushes, with his hand held tight to his wound to stanch the blood. On the trail, there was another flare of color magery. He heard someone scream. As he half-fell to the ground, he heard the beat of hooves coming fast on the trail from the direction his stepfather had gone.

“Sit still,” the woman whispered. “Are you all right? You took a blow.”

“I am bleeding.” Ander heard his own voice quaver, and was ashamed of his weakness. He took his hand away from his side and rubbed his fingers together; they were covered in blood.

“I need a light,” the woman said. It was black in the woods. The roadlamp had gone out, and the light of color magery had vanished.

Ander could hear Zelan’s voice shouting on the trail. It was not a battle cry; instead, his voice was raised in anger.

“I think it is over,” Ander said.

A man’s voice called from the trail. “Kirian? It is over. You can bring him out.”

The woman put a hand under his arm and helped lift him to his feet. Once standing, he was a full head taller than she was, but he still leaned on her in the dark as they stumbled through branches back to the trail.

There was more light on the trail from lanterns someone had brought from the village. Five bodies lay on and near the trail, as well as a grunting, terrified horse with a gash in its belly. A thin man held one of the attackers still, a knife to his throat. Lord Zelan and his remaining Hunter stalked toward a tall man with his straw-colored hair drawn back in a warrior’s tail.

“Who the hell are you?” Zelan shouted at the tall man.

“Callo ran Alkiran,” the man replied. “I think you are Lord Zelan of Northgard?”

“You came upon us just in time,” the Hunter said, reminding his lord of where thanks were due.

Zelan gestured at his Hunter, who went to take custody of the remaining attacker from the narrow-faced man who held him. The Hunter searched their attacker, going through pouches and armor, looking for any other weapons.

“We killed one of them who came after us at the village,” Zelan said to Lord Callo. “The other got away. Where you came from, I have no notion. It seems extremely convenient.”

Ander lost track of the conversation as a curtain of grainy darkness began to sweep over his vision. He grasped the woman’s sleeve. “I’m bleeding,” he said again.

“Unknown God, of course you are,” she said. “Sit down. My lord! This boy is wounded. I need light over here.”

Someone brought the lantern. Ander squinted against its light and lay back, allowing the woman to pull his tunic away from his side. He waited for her reaction so he could gauge how bad the injury was, but her face was impassive as she examined the wound.

Then Zelan was looming above them. “Let me help him up. I need to get him to Littleseed for proper care.”

“I am a Healer, my lord. You will do better to let me make sure the bleeding is stopped before we try to take him anywhere.”

“How bad is it?” Ander gasped as she applied pressure—more than she needed to, he was sure.

She smiled at him. “It is not so bad. You were lucky.”

Zelan peered over Kirian’s shoulder. “Ha! That’s nothing more than a scratch, boy. Any righ could bear such a cut. Wrap him up and let’s get to the village.” He stalked away.

Ander squirmed away from Kirian’s hands. “If my father won’t thank you, I will, and also Lord Callo. You have saved my life.”

Callo bowed in his direction. “I am glad we were here. Let us go to this Littleseed and get your son tended under proper conditions, Lord Zelan. I take it that is the village we passed not long ago?”

“Your man should keep a close eye on your captive,” the servant told Lord Zelan. “I believe I have seen this man’s face before. You will want to question him.”

Sword of Jashan is available on Amazon in paperback and in Kindle edition.

Context 26

Today I am returning to real life after a weekend at Context 26.  I’m reminded of how much I like this small convention.  It’s a place where you can actually talk to writers whose work you admire, and discuss writing with published and aspiring authors.

I’ve been attending Context for years. It seems to me it’s a little different every time.  Highlights from this weekend, apart from spending time with the wonderful people from my writers’ group in a non-critique environment, included of course seeing Sword of Jashan on the Loconeal table in the dealers’ room. They were also selling the LocoThology anthology in which I have a short story titled Retirees in Space.

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I enjoyed participating in the signing session. Also got to say hello to Jack McDevitt, one of the Guests of Honor, and tell him I enjoyed his Alex Benedict mystery novels set in the distant future. And I got to say hi to a few people I usually only interact with on social media.

I was able to participate in two panels. The first was about Writers’ Groups — a great topic! It seems every Writer’s Group represented there functioned a little differently in important ways, yet every writer on the panel had benefited from them.

Sunday morning opened with a panel called “What do you Bring to your Word Processor?” with myself, Tim Waggoner, Ron Horsley and Gary Wedlund. That was a pretty fuzzy topic I thought, but it turned out very well.

It turns out — surprise! — that many things vary from writer to writer, everything from what physical writing location helps them be most productive, to how they handle writing opening chapters, to what they think about critique groups.

But for all the writers there, a few things are the same: 1) It is important to produce. Keep writing!  2) Feedback is valuable, but there are cautions about how much feedback you as a writer should seek, and how you should act upon the criticism you receive.

I am already looking forward to the next Context. Of course that hasn’t been planned yet, but I hope I’ll be able to be there.

A Look at Sword of Jashan

A glimpse of Sword of Jashan, available later this Fall — 

Callo’s skin felt sunburned, and there was an acrid odor in the air. He looked around in the dusk and saw that he stood at the center of a blackened ring. He held his fingers up in front of his face and saw that they were blistered, the fingertips cracked and reddened.

The wild magery had escaped his control and burned everything around him. He was fortunate he had not set the mountaintop ablaze.

* * *

The walls Callo has maintained all his life to guard against his dangerous power are failing. Uncontrolled, his magic threatens his sanity and the safety of all those around him – even Kirian, who could be forced away by Callo’s misuse of his power.

Fighting with his own abilities, Callo still resolves to protect the young heir from the intrigues of the King. And Ander himself must decide whom to trust, as he becomes the target of an assassin.

Editing

“Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.”  **

——–

After the last two weeks of nose-to-the grindstone work, amid family emergencies and daily crises, the edits on Sword of Jashan are finally done and off to the publisher.

All the effort made me think about editing. Thus, the quote above. Though there is a lot more to editing than proofreading alone.

Editing is a craft, and an art, much like writing in the first place.

Copy-editing is important. Clunky grammar and bad punctuation are confusing. They can force the reader out of the story while she figures out what the writer meant. A good copy-edit can clear all that up and make the story shine.

Aside from errors, other fixes can be as much art as craft. Replacing a word with a better-nuanced one, or deleting an unnecessary sentence, can make the writing as true to the story and the author’s style as possible.

It’s all part of the rewriting process every author goes through. But when you’ve spent months or longer on a story, rewriting it many times through many versions, it’s sometimes hard to catch your own mistakes — especially subtle ones. So it was that I just spent two weeks drowning in my own words, but trying to read as if I had never seen those words before.

Fortunately I had other people’s input to guide me. An editor, a helpful family member, notes from the critique group I belong to.

And finally it’s done!

**Note: This quote was hard to attribute, since it seems as if it’s been around a while. Here is a link to Barry Popik’s site, where he traces its usage.