15.10.13

Cindermaid Released to Amazon



CINDERMAID makes its debut this Tuesday–and the winner for its Amazon release day copy has already been notified! As a special thanks to everyone who entered the contest, the book will be available for 99 cents for a limited time, starting Wednesday, October 16th through the 23rd.  

There will be more chances to win for future and current positive reviewers on retail sites for those of you who are signed up for the newsletter/reader’s circle. We’ll be posting more details and sending them in the newsletter as we approach the next cycle of The Dark Woods Series.

Can’t wait to see what’s inside the latest book? Glance below for one more sneak peek before CINDERMAID’s  official debut:


“Would you like to know how I came all this way?” he asked.

“If you wish to tell me,” she answered. She took a tinderbox and lit the candle on the sideboard as the ones lighted upon the table now flickered low.

A spider crouched on its web in the corner drew away from it; legs slowly winding a struggling fly in threads of silk like the hollow bundles swinging lifelessly around it. Empty forms swaying from single threads along the web's edge.

“There was such outrage when his cottage door was found broken and the woman gone. Every place was combed, every wood and vale and rotted stable. All hope was lost -- there were stories of a strange widow -- one villager saw her and swore it was the same -- but then she disappeared.”

“But then,” he shifted his position more comfortably at the table, “There was a letter.”

Madame Levier's fingers were very still as they held the flame to the wick, although the light had already begun to burn. She was listening closely; he could see it in her eyes, perhaps.

“A young lady had come into the employment of a widow with two children. She had heard rumors in the past of a mythical husband and a prostitute masquerading as a noblewoman at some time or other. But she did not believe it until she lived a long time in the house of her employer.”

In the brightness of the candle’s close light, Madame Levier was as pale as death. In one hand, she held the candelabra; the other lifted a decanter of wine from the scant row of liquors upon the sideboard.

“There were certain strange things that made her believe that here lay the key to all those stories. And when a time came that she could bear the secrets no longer, she sent a letter of them to the magistrate in the village where the murder happened.”

Reaching into his coat, he drew out a folded piece of paper, a broken wax seal upon its topmost edge. “This is the letter, Madame. For my employer, the merchant, is the magistrate.”

As he unfolded it, scrawling words were revealed inside, blue ink which seeped in places as if the hand which penned it was unsteady. “She informed him of the place where her mistress dwelled -- but then, the lady in question was removed from there suddenly. It took me a great deal of time to again find the home of the widow and two children.”

The wine decanter sat before Madame Levier’s wine glass from dinner, the candelabra on the table between them.

“You do not speak of the whole story,” she said. “There was nothing in your tale of the windows nailed shut and the doors locked by key. Nor of the chamber windows painted over and the torment within.”

“This is not the tale of a country maiden of poor prospects,” he answered.“This is a matter of ingratitude. Of suffering inflicted upon those who depended upon a man’s life and fortunes.”

From the cabinet above the sideboard, Madame Levier took two glasses from the row of poor crystal, a pair the same color and size as the ones which had served the suitors of her daughters. She placed one before Monsieur Lappo and one before her own seat.

“Let us speak plainly.” Her gaze was cold, although her voice held a faint quiver of emotion. “What is it that you want?”

“Do you intend to bribe me?” he asked. “Is that your intention, Madame Levier? I think you hardly have the means to do such a thing, else the quality of your table would be better.”

“Then why are you here?” she asked. “You know everything, it would seem. What more is to be had by confronting me?” She seated herself at the table again and poured a glass of wine.

He filled his glass from the decanter, then took a draught. “You have not suffered for your crimes,” he said. “I wish to see you hang for the murder of Monsieur Bespierre. The man whom you gutted in his own bed.”

“And you have come all this way to force me to suffer this fate,” she asked.

“I was cheated of seeing the hangman put a rope around the neck of my master’s murderer,” he said. “There is nothing else that would satisfy me or his friends in all the village. No amount of gold or silver could compensate me for it.”

“You have seen my daughters,” she answered. “Is there no pity in your heart for them?”

He snorted. “Had he lived to see his child, he might have been pleased to do something for her -- she is pretty enough, certainly. But it is you, Madame, who doom them both with your destruction.”

She was silent. “But what if I refuse and deny these charges?” Her voice was low. “What then? You have nothing except the letter in your pocket, Monsieur. And its author is dead.”

“Then I shall speak to the magistrate of your own village. I will write to my master and tell him where I am -- he will send soldiers at arms if he must.”

“Then you have not written to him already?” Madame Levier’s face was pale, but not as pale as the man before her, whose glass was now nearly empty.

“Not since Toulec,” he answered. “But will it matter, when I bring you to him?”

“Unless I found a means of persuading you to go without telling him of me.“

3.10.13

Cover Reveal for Cindermaid


As newsletter readers know, the release date for CINDERMAID has been announced -- mark your calendars for October the fifteenth. 

For those of you who have left four-star or higher reviews for Charming (and are signed up with the newsletter/Reader's Circle), don't forget that it automatically qualifies you for the drawing to win a free copy of the book on the day of release! Automatic entry for the drawing will continue until Oct. 14th -- we'll contact the lucky winner in advance of the gift copy's arrival in their email inbox.

And speaking of CINDERMAID, here it is, folks -- the big reveal for CHARMING's conclusion, the almost-finished cover to its sequel!


 
 
I like this cover design above, but there's an alternate version below which has definite charms, and which is also a strong possibility:
 


 
 
The great part of the one above is the "magic" appearance of the glass shoe ... so we're not sure which one will be the final version, but now you've seen the master images of the cover-to-be. In the coming two weeks before the book's release, we'll continue to post excerpts and share news about future Dark Woods titles.


30.9.13

Special Giveaway for CHARMING Fans


 
Thanks to all the fans that downloaded a free copy of our latest release CHARMING on Amazon.com this past week.  Those of you who have left a positive review for it on Amazon of four stars or more and who've signed up for the Reader's Circle or Newsletter will be entered to win a free Amazon gift copy of CINDERMAID!

The lucky winner will receive the copy on the book’s release day (which will be announced in the next week).  Just to get everyone started, here’s a new excerpt from the book  below:

Sneak Peek at CINDERMAID:

There was no one in the shop. Its shelves seemed bare, compared to the magicians and conjurers he had visited in the last year or so, whose shelves or cramped chamber were always crowded with wares and all manner of gruesome or innocuous discovery.

Here, there were only three dried bundles hanging over the bare wood counter. On its surface, a stubby black candle, its curling wax sinking inwards like deformed fingers trying to grip themselves and having no luck in the effort. Beside it lay a tinderbox.

There was no bell or chime, but Jack did not look for them. He struck a flame from the flint, sputtering in the shop’s semidarkness, touching it to the wick.

It flared to life. A glow was cast across the scarred wood, a semicircle of light which gleamed in the surface of its cheap brass holder. And then he saw her.

She might have come from the shadows of the shop, but even its darkness could not have concealed the form so evident to his eye. There was no curtain separating another chamber, no boards which might swing away to reveal a hidden door. She was simply there.

“You can light the lamp also.” A voice soft and clipped with the accent of the south islands, like a music lifting words into soothing speech and rocking them slowly. She drew closer, revealing a smooth, round brown face, its features scarcely memorable beneath the great many small black braids hanging thickly around it with their painted wooden beads.

A bright orange headwrap and wrapped dress of linen once dyed brilliant and now faded with grime and age into barely discernible patterns. Around her neck were several strange necklaces crowding each other: teeth and beads, knots of human hair and carved bone like intricate charms. A leather cord with a small pouch tied at one end; a small head hanging by a few strands of hair, flesh shriveled like a carved apple shrunken beneath the sun.

He had not noticed the lantern hanging above his head until now. He obeyed her, lifting the tinderbox to light it as well. Now his own profile could be seen in the light, her eye studying him with interest.

“A handsome face upon this one,” she said, her accent softening th to d in its rhythm. “A sailor of the Twins’ House be he, once.” Her eye was upon the right sleeve of Jack’s leather coat as if she saw through it.

“Once, yes.” He flushed, his color quickly fading away in succession. His right arm had born a tattoo of the celestial sign for this astrology house, but even if she could see through his sleeve, there was nothing which remained of it but a scar. Grimewalde had burned it from Jack’s arm, ignoring the cries and oaths which the act drew forth. Destroying it in the same manner he had destroyed anything he feared would identify Jack’s mercenary past -- for the bodies of royalty did not bear painted marks.

“But dat was a long time ago,” she surmised, as if reading his thoughts. “Come and tell me what you are here for.”

The words came forth without him even realizing he spoke them. “A map to the pool of the fairies,” he said.

He had spoken that thought aloud? In surprise, he felt his lips part again, although no sound came out this time. The calm expression of the woman before him had not been altered by these words.

“Let me see de palm.” At her command, he held out his hand. A brown one slid beneath it, a worn, dry thumb paring his fingers back from the center.

She did not trace the lines; a faint click and a soft sigh, spaced apart from each other, were the only sounds which came from her throat as she studied it. There was nothing in that expressionless dark eye which would tell him anything.

“It is a strong thing that binds you,” she said, softly. “You are afraid of its power, I see.”

“Yes.” His voice trembled. She had released his hand, so he withdrew it.

“And so you wish to go to de fairy pool to find dem,” she continued. “Because de magic of fairy spirits is very strong also.”

“It would take it off, I was told.” Jack ventured. “If it were one of the powerful ones living among humans. Is it true?’

“It is true,” she answered. “And you have found such a one.” Jack shivered again at these words, as the woman continued speaking. “But if you don’t hurry, it will all be gone.”

“Gone,” repeated Jack. “How?” He pictured Faenwick vanishing in the blink of an eye, returning to some existence of fairies and magical beings beyond the reach of human travel.

“Because de powerful ones give it all away to one person.” The fortune teller tapped her finger on the table, a jagged, dirty nail hewed short. “Dey know only when dey see de one. Dat is always true. If it has power now, it will not have it tomorrow, perhaps, if de moment comes.”

Blood thundered in Jack’s ears. “How soon?” he asked. There was nothing of this in the fairy book of the magician who breached their world that he recalled from the translator’s readings this night past.

“Who knows?” The fortune teller shrugged, her head tilted to one side. “Dey don’t know, perhaps. But if you force dem before --“ she lowered her voice, “-- dat is another matter.”

25.9.13

Charming Free on Amazon.com!

For a limited time, our newest novel in The Dark Woods Series, Charming: A Cinderella Prequel, is available for free and it's already in the top fifty free downloads on Amazon.com! To snag your own free copy, click here -- this book will be available for free until Saturday night.

BTW, don't quit reading at the end of the story -- this volume includes a special excerpt of its sequel (coming in October) at the end of the book.

6.8.13

Charming Now Available on Amazon

Charming, the first in a two-part Cinderella Retelling is now available on Amazon for Dark Woods fans to experience.


 
 
 
Ugly is a great many things. Warty, buck-toothed, crooked-lipped, long-nosed. Plump, squinty, thin-haired, or squat...So what was Jode? Not beautiful. Not plain; no, plain would have been a mercy, a boon. A mere pity is plain for one as young and poor as he....



Homely, awkward farmboy Jode Lintwich has always longed for adventure and greatness: two things which can't be had in his humble village and which don't happen often to anyone like himself. But desperation can change anyone's destiny–and Jode is desperate enough to try.

A visit to a local witch, a few coins, and an inadvertant promise transforms Jode into something beyond his wildest imaginings; and also causes him to be cast out of his own village for good. A wanderer turned loose in the world, Jode must learn the truth about the magic upon him and embrace a destiny greater than any ever before conceived by his mind. If he wants to survive, he must find the one key to his ultimate happiness and escape the danger inflicted upon him by the two-sided coin of the witch's magic.

From a pirate ship to the sands of the desert, from a mercenary knight to a monarch's deceptive pawn, the adventures of Jode-turned-Handsome-Jack are as a varied as his namesake's tales ... and as far from his true fate as he could possibly imagine.

Book One of Briggs and Steinbrenner's retelling of CINDERELLA spins a tale of multiple threads as varied as their characters' fates: an awkward boy spun into a hero by magic, an unhappy orphan girl languishing in a house filled with secrets, a homely witch of unexpected powers and a coldblooded noblewoman of mysterious past. A tale of magic makers and fortune tellers, of con artists and criminals, bandits and sultans, artists and peasants, servants and monarchs, all bound by the common thread of one boy's existence.


 


11.6.13

The Canon From Whence A Story Comes...


SPELL, unlike FIRST BITE or GINGERBREAD HOUSE, is not the retelling of a famous tale. Unlike THE FAIRY GODMOTHER’S APPRENTICE, it’s not the beginning of a more famous tale, either. It is, for the most part, an original novel; its basis is a series of minor but much-beloved tales from our childhoods, which made this book in part a work of literary love.

It’s cobbled from folk tales which the folk index Aarne-Thompson classifies as 4.2.2, or tales about enchanted or supernatural people and those who either aid them or are aided by them – such as Beauty and the Beast, the most beloved, or the lesser-known story of the Red Calf.

A favorite example? Hans my Hedgehog (adapted for Jim Henson’s The Storyteller).

The tale of the Hedgehog in particular was an inspiration for SPELL, especially with the beautiful (if now cheesy by CG standards) imagery created by Henson’s version of the story. Henson’s Storyteller fits very well with The Dark Woods world, which is why I often watch and re-watch episodes during a book’s outlining or idea phase. There’s something about his method of storytelling which I find fascinating, along with a series of other gifted directors, writers, and illustrators of fairytale and fantasy works.

You can read more about the folk index here on Wikipedia, which also explains the historical and geographical connection which was identified between variations on folk themes. The enchanted relative tales are ripe with storytelling potential. The plight of sweethearts, husbands , and wives cast into other shapes or worlds – and the wonder of learning the truth behind a supernatural or magic being’s commonplace form.

28.1.13

Spell Now Available




The first book in the second cycle of The Dark Woods is now available to readers via Smashwords and Amazon.


Spell (The Dark Woods Trilogy, Second Cycle) 



 "There are sticks and stones which can bind a witch, but not kill her. They can't be drowned as some thinks. Killing one by flame is the only way to destroy the bone and blood..."

In a time when magic makers and spell casters roam the countryside, there are men who earn wages by hunting them. Burning them for their crimes, facing the peril of spells and subtler dangers from dark servants skilled in evading punishment...

Among them, Neel is the greatest of all. A legend in his prime who tracks even the most cunning of witches who plague the land, he carves a mark for each sorceress or warlock of power burned at the stake by his hand. Calculating and hard by nature, a loner and wanderer by trade, he and his services are demanded by king and commoner alike. Any who has a grievance against a magic maker and the coin with which to pay the hunter's services.

A request from a queen to track a witch of no name takes him across the vast countryside in pursuit of a sorceress whose spell is unmistakable–and whose curse takes a hideous form each time it is cast. Three victims in all, three tales which span consequences from abandoned thrones to lovers divided by pain. Three sufferers who describe a witch whose physical appearance and power seems to change without explanation, until the witch hunter knows his pursuit is of a witch possessing no ordinary magic.

Three sufferers, three separate fates, one spell.

9.1.13

Goodreads First Reads Giveaway for Spell Softcover


For fans who want a chance to win a copy of SPELL – and by this, we mean an authentic softcover edition – the signup for the Goodreads’ First Read Giveaway has begun!

The winner will receive a pre-release softcover edition of SPELL (autographed by both of us) before the scheduled January release date. The link to visit Goodreads is here – and while you’re signing up, feel free to explore the many books and authors whose works are reviewed, praised, and criticized by readers like you, since Goodreads is a book recommendation site made by and for readers rather than authors.

8.1.13

Spell




As many of you know, 2013 is the release year for The Dark Woods Trilogy’s all-new cycle – beginning three new books with three new story variations on traditional tales. The first one, SPELL, is scheduled for release in January. 

Unlike The Wicked Queen’s Tale, or the first book in our first cycle, this one relies less heavily on a famous fairytale and more upon shades of lesser-known tales drawn from the same canon of folklore as Beauty and the Beast. Like Fairy Godmother, it’s a tale within a tale, a cast of original characters and not familiar or famous faces. There are definite shades of the same worlds, a distant illusion to the “daughter of Lilith” at play, and a hero instead of a heroine.

Here’s the book description which will appear on retail sites soon:

There are sticks and stones which can bind a witch, but not kill her. They can't be drowned as some thinks. Killing one by flame is the only way to destroy the bone and blood...

 
In a time when magic makers and spell casters roam the countryside, there are men who earn wages by hunting them. Burning them for their crimes, facing the peril of spells and subtler dangers from dark servants skilled in evading punishment...

 
Among them, Neel is the greatest of all. A legend in his prime who tracks even the most cunning of witches who plague the land, he carves a mark for each sorceress or warlock of power burned at the stake by his hand. Calculating and hard by nature, a loner and wanderer by trade, he and his services are demanded by king and commoner alike. Any who has a grievance against a magic maker and the coin with which to pay the hunter's services.

 
A request from a queen to track a witch of no name takes him across the vast countryside in pursuit of a sorceress whose spell is unmistakable -- and whose curse takes a hideous form each time it is cast. Three victims in all, three tales which span consequences from abandoned thrones to lovers divided by pain. Three sufferers who describe a witch whose physical appearance and power seems to change without explanation, until the witch hunter knows his pursuit is of a witch possessing no ordinary magic.

 
Three sufferers, three separate fates, one spell.


The print copy of Spell will be available the same month as the e-Book’s release, for paperback lovers, so no delay in the fashion of the previous Dark Woods volumes.

3.1.13

Cover Reveal for the All-New Dark Woods Trilogy


The first book in THE DARK WOODS TRILOGY’s second cycle is now finished. And this –



 
 
Spell (The Dark Woods Trilogy, Second Cycle, #1)
 
 
 
 
 
–is its cover!
Postscript:  As we’ve been asked, the “Dumbledore” wand in the picture is real and not a plastic or man-made version of a natural form -- but (sadly) it’s not really magical, despite this fact.