Thursday, February 20, 2014

Disciple, a gritty fantasy romance by L. Blankenship

 Today my guest is L. Blankenship, author of Disciple. Check out an excerpt below, and if you like it, get the entire first part free. Links below.

Announcing the Disciple Half-Omnibus!
Disciple is a six-part gritty fantasy romance by L. Blankenship -- Part IV will be out on March 1st. The Disciple Half-Omnibus collects the first three parts of Disciple into one hefty ebook and is on sale now at all major retailers!

Snow still fell when Ilya shook me awake in the middle of the night. The patter of flakes on the overhead tarp blended with anxious whispers and sharp coughs. A pony puffed nearby and hooves shifted.

“Ulf says stay close,” Ilya whispered in my ear. “Get the bedroll off and flat so nobody trips. Careful of Acorn, he’s right here.”

I blinked and rubbed at my eyes and a whiskery horse nose nudged my cheek. Acorn shifted away as I struggled out of my bedroll and to my feet. I put my arm over his neck for balance as I kicked the heavy blanket off and tried to spread it flat. Puck snorted, close by too.

The fire, half sheltered by our tarp lean-to, had lowered to glowing coals. Ulf and Sir Kiefan stood on the far side with their backs to it, one with bow and nocked arrow, the other with sword in hand. Kiefan asked something of the woodsman and he muttered a reply. Beyond them, the black forest waited, crusted by a layer of snow that glowed blue when moonlight fought through thin patches of the clouds. Tumbling flakes kept up a quiet patter as we all fell silent, even the ponies.

Fear drove off the lethargy of waking so late, but there was nothing to see in the clusters of squat pine trees and thickets. Ulf and Kiefan moved a few steps apart, tense and alert. I wanted to ask what was wrong.

Lantern eyes lit up beyond the fire, paced by, and vanished. A shape moved across a snow-laden pine branch. That coughing sound came again, from the moving shadow, and it was answered from behind me.

Ilya, holding Acorn’s bridle beside me, whispered, “Mother Love, we’re surrounded.”

I sidled closer to the middle of the tarp, though it meant letting go of the solid mass of the pony. Ther Boristan stood holding Puck. A few steps out from that side of the lean-to, Bjorn faced the forest with bow and arrow ready. Beyond him, another pair of eyes caught the light.

“I could stoke up the fire,” Ilya raised his voice to a murmur.

Ulf answered, as he was closest. “They’re not afraid of fire. Whatever you do, stay together. Stand and fight.”

Back cover
War is coming. Kate Carpenter is only a peasant girl, but she’s determined to help defend the kingdom and its bound saints against the invading empire. Her healing magic earned her a coveted apprenticeship with the master healer; now she must prove herself ready to stand in the front lines and save lives.

She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though. This is no time to be distracted by romance — the empire’s monstrous army will tear through anyone standing between them and the kingdom’s magical founts. All disciples must put aside their tangled feelings and stand in the homeland’s defense.

Available at AmazonB&NMore retailers

DISCIPLE, PART IV arrives on March 10th!

Or try out PART I for free!
FREE at Smashwords (Kindle & EPUB) • B&N  AllRomance

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Werewolves in the Renaissance Blog Tour

Today meet author Tracy Falbe and read about her novel, Werelord Thal: A Renaissance Werewolf Tale and the world it inhabits. This fascinating novel kept me up all night. Read my review below.

The Medicinal Herb Garden of the Witch in Werelord Thal

By Tracy Falbe

Some scenes in my new historical fantasy Werelord Thal: A Renaissance Werewolf Tale take place in the medicinal herb garden of Gretchen his deceased witch mother.

The plants valerian and comfrey are mentioned in the novel. Although these are minor details, they still required research to make sure they were historically accurate and appropriate to what I was saying about them in the novel.

In choosing these herbs, they needed to meet these requirements:

1. Conceivably be present in a garden outside of Prague in 1561.

2. Able to grow back after being cut and trampled. In the story Gretchen’s garden is destroyed by the men who hauled her away to torture and death because the garden was seen as a source of her wicked potions. (She actually just made medicine, but truth can’t stop an angry mob.)

3. Have a medicinal use appropriate to what they are being used for in the novel.

Let’s start with valerian. It’s a perennial native to Europe and Asia. Its recorded history goes back to ancient times when it was described by Hippocrates and Galen. Valerian was also known to be used in the 16th century. It typically acts as a mild sedative. My catalog from the Oregon-based company Horizon Herbs described it as a standard item for a medicinal herb garden.

So how did valerian fit in the story? First of all, it’s a perennial which means it grows back every year. Therefore I could realistically describe it as growing back after being cut and trampled. In Werelord Thal I actually don’t mention its medicinal properties. It’s simply noticed by the heroine Altea when she visits the burned out cottage and ravaged garden of Gretchen.

Moving on to comfrey I confirmed that it is native to Europe and has a long history for speeding the mending of bone fractures. A traditional name for it is knitbone. It is also described as impossible to remove once established. I grow several specimens of this wonderful plant and can attest to its vigor. One of its primary uses is to generate fertilizing mulch, which means it’s meant to be cut over and over. I whack mine down about three times a season and it always come back. Bumblebees utterly adore its flowers by the way.

In the novel, Thal applies comfrey after setting broken bones. He harvests the comfrey from his mother’s abandoned garden where it has indeed grown back.

I can personally attest to the power of comfrey. Late last winter I injured a finger. It was bent at the last joint, but I never went to a doctor. I braced it for weeks but it would not return to straightness. I eventually gave up on the splint and accepted that I would have a crooked finger. But spring had come and the comfrey was shooting up, so I broke off some leaves and rubbed the sap on my finger. Immediately my finger tingled. I continued to apply the comfrey regularly and noticed a rapid improvement in my finger. It is now straight and troubles me not at all.

Please note that comfrey is poisonous if ingested. Topical use only gentle readers.

Thank you for letting me to share these snippets from my historical research for Werelord Thal: A Renaissance Werewolf Tale. I believe an adventure in a historical setting benefits from well chosen little details meant to summon the past.

Book Description:

Werelord Thal: A Renaissance Werewolf Tale

by Tracy Falbe

Thal is wanted for Devil worship and shape shifting but still boldly walks the streets of 16th century Prague. Jesuits hunt him. Mercenaries fear him. Musicians sing his praise, and women are captivated by his alpha swagger.

Born of a witch and a sorcerer, he is summoned when his desperate mother casts the werewolf spell before facing torture and execution. Burdened with her magical call for vengeance Thal seeks the men that killed her. His hunt is complicated when the Magistrate’s stepdaughter Altea Kardas crosses his path. Horrified that her community is burning women to death, she can confide her doubt and fear only to Thal.

He desires her greatly but knows he will bring ruin upon her. Across Bohemia and beyond people who are different are labeled heretics in a restless world hobbled by tyrannical ignorance. The Renaissance has thrown the Holy Roman Empire into turmoil. Printed books are spreading radical ideas. Firearms are triggering a new age of warfare. And the human spirit is shaking off obedience.

Thal embodies the ancient magic of the pagan past. He challenges a world conquered by a spiritual system that denies the flesh and forgets the Earth. And he awakens within Altea recognition of these truths. She believes any risk is worth loving him until she becomes the bait in a trap set by Thal’s enemies.

My Review: 

This one kept me up all night. Set in Renaissance Bohemia, Werelord Thal has a host of fascinating characters and interesting historical detail. Thal Lesky chose to live his life as a wolf, but is called back for vengeance when his mother is burned at the stake as a witch. His quest for vengeance is complicated by his falling for the Magistrate’s daughter. The novel has adventure, romance, and isn’t too terribly bloody.  It does have some weaknesses.  There are a lot of unanswered questions: Why did Thal chose a wolf’s life to begin with? Why would his mother be so set on vengeance when she is portrayed as a kind and generous woman?  Why does Thal inspire such loyalty? People are also a little too nice. But despite its flaws, it is a fascinating story that I couldn’t stop reading. I give it a solid four stars.

You can read the first four chapters for free at Slideshare: I urge you to check it. You'll be hooked as I was.

Discounts available:

$3.99 (kindle, epub, or pdf) Available worldwide from Brave Luck Books
Save 25% - enter discount code WLT25 at checkout here (expires 3/31)

$12.99 (6x9 trade paperback 356 pages)
Save 20% - enter discount code CU9KJ3E3 at checkout here

Also available at other retailers (Coupons only work at links specified above.)

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