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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Trashy Summer Beach Reading Season Has Begun! Pick Up A Bad Penny!

                 The Tawdry Story Of A Time-Traveling Serial Rapist On A Mission To Save Humanity!

                                WARNING! SEXUALLY EXPLICIT CONTENT! ADULTS ONLY!

When they brought in the handsome man in a straitjacket to the Dixmont Psychiatric Hospital in Pittsburgh, 1958, it was obvious that the patient was not only a madman, but a dangerous, if charming, sociopath. As "Tom Doe" reveals his story to the disbelieving psychiatrist he spins a tale out of the wildest pulp fiction: he's from the future, and he's here to impregnate as many women in the past as he can . . . to save humanity's future! He's a Casanova Agent, employed by the future Department of Public Health in the late 21st century, where a deadly genetic virus has rendered the bulk of the population sterile, and he has a mandate to knock up the cream of 1950s femininity to implant the corrective code. 

As the tale turns from pure sociopathic sexuality and the worst kind of lurid behavior to a paranoid fantasy involving a beautiful enemy agent and a war between competing timelines, the fantastic story of seduction and passion, pursuit and eroticism is laughably insane . . . until Tom produces a penny from 1964 that seems to support his story. With the future fate of humanity on the line, will this madman find a way to free himself and save the world . . . or is he just a sex-crazed pervert spinning the biggest lie in all of history?

Complete with typo in the series title . . . you know it's good!

Tired of Fifty Tame Shades of Mediocrity? Waiting eagerly for the next Spellmonger book, but wishing there was a lot more explicit sex and vintage Cadillacs involved? Consider the book that will likely ruin my reputation! Blatantly pornographic and bordering on sociopathic, this pulpy, tawdry tale is YOUR chance to indulge in a guilty pleasure that mixes bold-faced erotica with intriguing sci-fi time travel adventure! Read the book that's been rejected because no one knows how to market it! Get the opportunity to throw your Kindle down in disgust at just how far the world has slipped into decay! First in a trilogy, don't forget that Amazon Prime members don't have to waste a DIME of their own on this experimental trashy novel! 

And, in case you missed it . . .


You have been warned.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Spellmonger's Yule up, so is Audiobook Spellmonger!

The Spellmonger's Yule: A Spellmonger Series Short Story by [Mancour, Terry]

Spellmonger Audiobook

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Official Audiobook Launch Date for Spellmonger!

I received word yesterday from Podium Publishing that the audiobook version of Spellmonger will be available at on February 7th!  Behold the new, professional cover they came up with!  Delight in the amazing tones of John Lee (incredible work, I'm very pleased)!  Amuse yourself for hours hearing how the character names are actually pronounced!

The cover price will be $39.99, or thereabouts, but that's a lot of hours of entertainment.  Additionally, Podium has graciously allowed me the use of the art for both my Amazon and Createspace works.  That means that you only have a limited time to buy the old version, destined to become valuable collectables after my inevitable death.

In other news, my writing schedule (which was hashed anyway) is undergoing revision, a familiar place for me to be.  I'll be releasing the short Spellmonger's Yule in conjunction with the audiobook, and then turning my attention to finishing up Hawklady before moving on to Trask's Odyssey.  After those, I'll be focusing on Necromancer, which I'm pushing to be out by midsummer.  Or late summer.  Regardless, I won't Martin you.

But there's more to do than merely write: I'm taking some time for valuable Series Development work.  Next week I'm meeting with my creative team, during which we will map out a convention schedule for the next year.  At this point, the only firm date I have is the Baltimore Comic-Con, but I'll be looking at others east of the Mississippi.  I'm also open to panels and such.  If you know a con you'd like me to appear at, let me know - and let THEM know you want me to be there.

The point of this exercise is blatantly and unapologetically commercial: I'm at the point in my career where I have a wonderful, magnificent base of fans, and a work that is primed for Prime Time.  Developing the creative elements of the series into a visual medium - either live-action or animated - is the logical next step.  That means a lot of groundwork, and I've been building a great team for just that purpose.

But wait, there's more . . . more audiobooks.  Warmage will be hot on the heels of Spellmonger, and Magelord soon after.  The smooth and professional way in which Podium does their art should see at least two or three more of the series turned into audiobooks this year.  That also implies some work on my part, because each book requires me to go back through each line and find all of the mistakes and fabricated words for inclusion in the work, so all those mistakes everyone hates get fixed.  While this is great, it takes time.  So scheduling reliably is . . . problematic.

But fear not: Necromancer will not mark the end of the series, just the end of the first third of the series.  I have twenty more novels in the main plot arc to get through.  Plus shorts, one-shots, the Cadet series, and stuff I haven't even thought of, yet.

Plus, there's the Super Secret Project, which will be released suddenly, unexpectedly, and likely to the dismay of some of my fans.   I've kept it on the shelf long enough, though, and I think it's time.  (cue dramatic music)

Thank you to everyone who expressed their sympathies for my father's passing.  He was the greatest single influence in my life, and every word I write originated, in one way or another, from him.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Wisdom of Irv

This is a piece I did ten years ago about my dad, who passed away on January 3rd.  At the time he had just had a scare with a stroke, and I felt compelled to prepare my thoughts against the inevitable day when he would die.  While I didn't use this at his service, in part because it was dated (the lad referenced is about to turn 13) I felt compelled to re-post it here (for lack of a more appropriate space).  He did, indeed, teach me many, many valuable lessons betwixt then and his death.  Including the proper way to die.

But first and foremost, he taught me how to be a dad.  This was written for my 38th birthday, and my 48th now looms.  The sentiment, however, is as authentic now as it was then.

I was struck recently by how good I’ve got it. I live in the greatest civilization the world has ever known, with all the world’s knowledge available for my study in the time it takes to Google, enjoy a standard of living undreamt of by the vast majority of history’s royalty and superrich, and just a century ago the likelihood that I’d be dead by now would be pretty high. It would make a great story to tell you how hard I struggled against overwhelming odds and untold suffering to achieve my current life, but that would be fictional bullshit. I’ve had it good from the start, and I can directly pinpoint the reasons that are most responsible.

This thought occurred to me the other day as I was passing by the playpen where my youngest son, not yet two, had grown dissatisfied with the entertainment value of Noggin and pleaded with me to pick him up, with his customary cry of “Holdju! Holdju!”, accompanied by raised arms and frantically waving hands. Cute.

Just then a flood of comprehension washed across my soul, and the planets aligned, and I had what some would call a quasi-mystical experience. I’d say it was a flashback, except that I was no where near as pharmaceutically liberal in my youthful experimentation phase as most of my peers. I just remembered being in a similar situation when I was around the boy’s age. And that made me appreciate my father, Irv, who himself just had an ostensibly important transitional birthday, his 60th.

If you don’t know Irv, you are the poorer for it. He, like me, is a father to three children, three boys, no less. He was a “Sedimentation and Erosion Control Technician” (read: “Dirt Inspector”) for Durham County for a decade and a half, and had other, less glamorous jobs before that. On paper, he was completely unexceptional: middle class, two-year degree, wife ‘n’ kids. But read between the lines there and you find out just how subtly exceptional he was.

My Dad is the wisest man I know, bar none. While our opinions on many subjects (politics included) have diverged slightly over the years, he remains the most astute analyst of human social interaction and behavior that I have ever known. The lessons he has passed on to me have gone far beyond the “fatherly wisdom” variety, and delved into deep, rich territory.

Unlike the vast majority of his peers, he did not pursue affluence or wealth. Prosperity, yes. Having just enough was enough. “Friends are more important than money” was one of the many, many maxims he instilled in me, and he proved it, over and over again. Faced with the inevitable choices that a middle-class family has to make about expenditure, he consistently chose the path that led to investments in his family, not in things. Oh, he could have, easily, by making the choice to pursue a soul-killing job in middle-management somewhere. But he didn’t, and I am the richer for it.

He was not the typical Boomer Dad, thank the Goddess. He was an outstanding parent, conducting the brain-busting, wallet-draining task of raising three precocious boys to men without investing a shred of self-important ego into the task. He didn’t cheat on his wife, indulge in cocaine or fundamentalist religion, go through some self-delusional pity-party midlife crisis, or any of the other asinine stunts his generation was prone to. He lived life well, a life to be envied, and he had no regrets about the way he did it. If he had disappointments in his life, I rarely knew about them, and bitterness was not in his nature. When I take a survey of my closest friends, I find myself in the enviable position of having the same set of parents, in the same household, that I started out with – which makes me an aberration. I don’t mind.

Perhaps I suffer as a writer because I didn’t experience the agony of “daddy issues”, testosterone-laden competition between father and son, mutual disappointments, constant arguments, or the idea that he “just didn’t understand” me, but I can live with professional mediocrity if that’s the price of admission to greatness.

Irv always understood me. He never tried to dominate me, or live life vicariously through me or my brothers. He never tried to make me conform to an uncomfortable social stereotype, or worry overmuch what other people thought about me. We were never trans-generationally alienated. From adolescence on he treated me like an intellectual equal, if an undereducated one. He never tried to push me into a career, or really do anything but exploit my natural talents and interests. He ensured I learned the skills I would need in manhood, and did it in a non-coercive way. Seeing how my peers were raised, I know full well how lucky I was in this.

I know he had issues with his own father, and that makes his parenting that much more impressive. Faced with an occasionally belligerent and rigid-minded dad himself, he went out of his way to raise us with a healthy dose of affection and demonstrated love. He did not become his father.

I said Irv was wise. That’s not something you hear often these days, that a man is Wise; Wisdom is a highly undervalued commodity in our world, but Irv, in his wisdom, knew that, and took advantage of it. He taught us to look at a situation fully before acting, not act in haste without sacrificing the spontaneity essential for a well-lived life, and stay informed on everything that could potentially help or harm us. He taught us how to make strangers into friends, and friends into allies. He taught the art of the Hat Trick, solving your or your friends’ problems through networking, craftiness, and initiative. He taught us how to tell when we’re being bullshitted. He taught us drywall and auto repair and how to do little inexpensive romantic things to keep your marriage running. He taught us how to pay attention to those with wisdom (that is, learning from the mistakes of others; everyone can learn from their own mistakes.). He taught us to be our own men.

Irv was, and still is, a Boy Scout leader. Despite the issues that have arisen surrounding that organization, it still has tremendous value as a repository for knowledge and wisdom – merit badges are “survival tickets” and the moral codes taught by the BSA, while often viewed through a very narrow, conservative lens, are nonetheless strong and important values that are rarely taught any where else. In his retirement he and my mom have become Red Cross volunteers and Ruritans, because helping out your neighbors in a crisis and making your community a better place is the right thing to do. He taught us that community service isn’t just something a judge makes you do. He taught us that Enlightened Self Interest often looks like pure altruism, if you don’t look too closely.

Irv is a political animal, astute in recognizing power structures and adept at realizing their strengths and weaknesses. He is a shrewd negotiator, mostly because he doesn’t try to “get the better end of the deal” all the time. He frequently views the Big Picture, trying to put local issues in a greater context and seeing how trends in the greater world will have a local effect. During his tenure at Durham County, he became known as “the man with the hat”, and it was rare we attended any public event without at least a few folks shouting “Irv!” gleefully, then introducing their entire family. Irv once confided that the hats he wore were a sort of reverse camouflage – he could go somewhere without it, and most folks wouldn’t recognize him off-hand. He could disappear just by taking off his hat. Ingenious.

Irv is one of those rare and special Boomers who is not technophobic, which pleases me to no end. He gave me my appetite for high technology and science-fiction (he passed me Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones when I was 8, and it changed my life – not that the book was that special, but it was Real Grown Up Sci-Fi). He has a knack for seeing the social implications of a new piece of technology and projecting into the future what effect it might have. At this late stage he is embarking on a part-time job in computer hardware repair.

Irv knows a bargain when he sees it. While we were not the most affluent of families growing up, we usually lived much higher on the food chain than our family’s income would indicate, largely because my Mom is a demon shopper and my Dad can find hidden resources in the unlikeliest of places. He taught us that a two-year old car is better than a brand new car, and that the best car of all is one you got cheap and you can keep going until the wheels fall off. He isn’t above a good scavenge – he taught me that trash piles are unappreciated resources and that everything has value . . . eventually.

One of the most important lessons he taught me was that sometimes you just have to tip your head back and sing! That doesn’t seem particularly earth-shattering – lots of people sing. But in his immediate family such public displays of emotion were heavily discouraged – an unfortunate by-product, along with hard teasing, of our Scottish cultural heritage, I believe. He spent twenty years teaching himself how to play guitar and sing. After twenty years he became a pretty decent guitar player. He never became a good singer. Didn’t improve one iota. Couldn’t carry a tune in a gunny sack. Had little musical talent at all – but that never once stopped him from expressing himself in the media he preferred. He still sings – badly – but he doesn’t play guitar any more.

Which brings me back to the present, and back to my mystical experience, and back to my appreciation of my father in a way I hadn’t fully realized before. A few weeks before my youngest son (“Holdju! Holdju!”) was born, my father suffered his second stroke. The first had been bad enough; it had reduced his range of movement and strength on his right side.

With some physical therapy and determination he had come back to the point where you really had to look to notice any defect. This second stroke, though, struck hard. He is mostly paralyzed on his right side which, among other things, precludes his ever playing guitar again. That’s got to be devastating to a man who had little natural talent to begin with, and whose ability was almost entirely self taught. That was a tumultuous time for us all – my Dad came home from the hospital to live with me and my wife and kids, because they live out in the boonies and I was closer to the hospital, as well as having through no fault of my own a handicapped accessible shower and toilet.

A week later we went back to the hospital for the youngest to be born. He now walks with a cane (“Papa’s Hook”) and a leg brace, and there is just the barest hint of a speech impediment. But he walks, and he talks, and he still sings upon occasion. No, the stroke didn’t make that any better, either. But not much worse.

The reason I bring all of this up is that on my 38th birthday I am realizing that my father’s influence on my life, the lessons he taught me, didn’t stop when I moved out of the house. They continue to this day. The struggle he has faced these last two years have revealed a great deal of his character and his personal vulnerabilities that I was previously unaware of. I’ve seen dark parts of my Dad that I’d rather not have experienced – quite understandable, under the circumstances. He still faces depression on a daily basis, I know. But in facing that struggle, with all of its attendant heartbreaks, disappointments, and profound feelings of loss, my father has taught me lessons as valuable as any imparted in childhood. He has taught me how to face the abyss in your own soul, how to challenge adversity, and how to adapt to changing circumstances.

As he stood in the Ruritan hall at the surprise party my mother had so adeptly arranged (haven’t forgotten about you, Mom, you get your own article), he looked out at the crowd of Boy Scouts and grandchildren and friends, and in that moment he taught me how to age gracefully, love life, and deal with adversity. For a half-paralyzed, retired old man on a fixed income, my Dad remains active: he’s rebuilding a 1960s era John Deer tractor that he dearly loves – one handed. He remains a Red Cross volunteer and Scout leader, as well as an active Ruritan. He has a network of friends and allies that Karl Rove would envy. He has six active grandchildren that he remains very engaged with – he’s the perfect grandfather. For a man with one good leg and a quickly-retrained left hand, he accomplishes a remarkable amount. If that ain’t a lesson, I don’t know what is.

But it all started, if my flashback was accurate, when I was a baby my son’s age or thereabouts, with me looking up to his bearded face (God, when he shaved his beard off once when I was 11 I freaked!) from the daycare center near to Mott Community College where he got his 2 year degree, my arms extended, hands waving, shouting my own version of “Holdju! Holdju!” when he came to get me. And the smile on his face when he reached down and picked me up and played with me in a manner which most manly men would have avoided, clinging instead to their rigid idea of traditional masculinity and the very minor role that babies play in it. I saw that smile reflected back at his 60th birthday party, and now when I look at the long, slow journey of middle age and beyond, with the inevitable conclusion, I know how to handle it. Because Irv taught me. He continues to teach me. And I have many more lessons yet to come.

So I reached over and picked up my last child, hugged him tight, and went all Goofydaddy for a good five minutes when there was probably some important stuff I had to do. Because I learned from Irv that my most important job in the world is making sure that my kids have a happy childhood and that they have a friend, first and foremost, in their father.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Spellmonger's Yule: Excerpt

The Spellmonger's Yule: Excerpt

The Spellmonger’s Yule

Drink the mead.

That phrase haunted me, once I returned to Sevendor after the horrific destruction of Duke Anguin’s palace in Vorone by dragonfire.  It had been uttered by one of my best friends in a moment of crisis, and I probably would have forgotten about it completely in the ensuing chaos if it hadn’t been so damned . . . intimate.

I came back to Sevendor into my lab, instead of the through the Waystone I’d installed in the hall I lived in now.  I wasn’t quite ready to go home yet, I realized.  And it wasn’t the acrid stench of dragon that still clung to my clothes, it was the echo of Pentandra’s – advice? Suggestion?  Mystical direction? – that kept me from going home.  Drink the mead.  As if that would do anything.

My tower was dark this time of night, but with a commanding thought the permanent magelights in the lab sprung into illumination.  The room seemed tired in its emptiness.  I felt guilty, a little, for how intensely I’d used it, searching for a treatment for Alya . . . and then how quickly I’d abandoned it, when a convenient answer proved elusive. 

It was far tidier than I usually kept it, a sure sign of my absence and the diligent efforts of my young apprentice, Ruderal.  The young lad was far more attentive to his domestic duties as my student than had any of his three predecessors been.  I wasn’t sure if that was a sign of success or mediocrity, but I had to admit that seeing my usually chaotic workbench neatly organized was a pleasant feeling that merited a contented sigh.

It was quite chilly in the lab, this time of night, this time of year.  Since the awkward Sixth Annual Magic Fair ended, and I’d essentially abandoned the place in disgust and fled to Vorone for a while.  Ruderal had deactivated the spells that warmed the place without the need of a fire, and the late autumn cold had gotten into the white stones of the tower. 

I wasn’t planning to be here long, but it was too damn cold – even after Vorone – to be at all comfortable.  Instead of re-activating them, however, I glanced instead at the disused fireplace, stacked with logs that had grown dusty.  I decided a fire was more suited to my mood than arcane heat.

It was childishly simple to ignite the wood.  It took me back to the eruption of my rajira when I was a boy. 

The first sign of my magical Talent was when I’d accidentally started a fire with the force of my anger and resentment at my sister.  Since then I’d learned a hundred ways to do it, and fire continued to me the element I had the strongest affinity with.  Draw power, focus it, form the right cantrip in my mind, select the target location, and activate.  I glanced at it, my mind invoked the right combination of runes, I poured power into it until the combination of heat and oxygen ignited . . . and a moment later the yellow flames filled the tiny chamber and began radiating heat into the lab.  I automatically held my hands out to warm my fingers as the orange flames began to lick at the sides of the dry oak logs.

Fire.  It was simple.  I contemplated it, as the light flickered across my eyes and warmed my hands.  Fire was the most intriguing of the Four Greater Elements.  Not a thing, but an event.   When a bunch of energetic matter met oxygen, a party breaks out, creating the plasma of flame which consumed and fed like a living thing.  A tool for telling tales, firing a pot, melting ore, cooking soup, warming fingers, lighting the darkness.  When it wasn’t burning down a palace or destroying your enemies. 

“Well, you’ve certainly had a busy week,” came a familiar feminine voice from behind me.  Not the one I most wanted to fill my ears, but not unwelcome, either.

“It was eventful,” I agreed, not turning around.  Abasing yourself in front of your patron goddess the first time you meet her can be forgiven.  At this point, I was over my awe of divinity.  “The sudden dragon attack was particularly exciting.”

“A gift from Sheruel,” Briga, the goddess of fire agreed.  “Retribution, which is the only way I have a hint of why he did it.  He was unhappy at the recent raids and skirmishes.   Particularly the two fortresses Anguin destroyed on his frontiers.  Some of his human servants overheard, which is the only reason I know about it.  The dragon was revenge for the attack,” she informed me. 

“Which was in response to an unprovoked assault on the Wilderlands, in violation of the precious treaty with Shereul,” I said, still not turning around.  The radiant blaze of heat was driving the chill away, and I lingered until the heat on my chest was almost uncomfortable. 

“An attack he did not order,” Briga replied.  “That was an . . . independent operation by some of his less-disciplined forces.  Instigated by a splinter faction.  Nor does he consider the treaty binding on himself.  That was with the ‘Goblin King’s’ representatives, not his.”

“Are you arguing in the Dead God’s favor of, now?” I asked, amused and irritated at the same time  The radiant heat from the fireplace had almost saturated my chest.  It felt delicious.

“I’m reporting intelligence so that you understand the true nature of the situation,” Briga countered.  “You were supposed to be lured into a full-out assault by the raid, a plan for which neither we nor our foes are ready to consider.  It was not the Dead God’s plan.  It took Sheruel’s loyalists by surprise, as it was organized and executed among disaffected elements.  They serve mostly along the periphery of his power base, closer to the Penumbra and the Hills.  Some of his . . . more energetic auxiliaries were responsible,” she said, choosing her words carefully.

“You are speaking of the Enshadowed,” I nodded, finally turning around.  The time had come for a change of perspective.  My chest was too hot and my ass was getting cold.

“Indeed,” the red-headed goddess nodded.  She looked magnificent in a red mantle that was more red than blood, her multi-hued tresses dancing in the firelight.  “But the attack and Anguin’s response not only took Sheruel’s loyalists off-guard, it confounded their planning. Worse – for them – it sowed distrust among the various factions of the enemy.”

I wasn’t confused by what she said, but perhaps she thought I was. 

“Sheruel felt he had to respond, but couldn’t violate the treaty by sending an army.”

“Yes, I dragons were not covered in the treaty,” I chuckled.  “An oversight I shall bring to Tavard’s attention the next time we meet.  It’s at least gratifying to know that insubordination and disorder aren’t exclusively human traits.”

The pretty goddess nodded, and suddenly there were two silver flagons of wine in front of her on the worktable.  Show off

“Sheruel’s forces have always been advised by the Enshadowed, but now that they have awakened Korbal, raised him and his followers to strength, and granted them the fief of Olem Seheri, it is becoming a point of resentment among the gurvani.  The priests of Sheruel are suspicious.  Particularly as the nascent gurvani kingdom seems far too cozy with them.  Once the urgulnosti priests ruled supreme in fallen Boval.  There are Nemovorti in his court, now, advising and manipulating it for their own purposes.”

“Isn’t the gurvani king kind of a sham?” I asked, skeptically.

“Believe it or not, he’s the gurvani’s way of attempting to adapt to the situation,” Briga disagreed.  “When the invasion began, the goal for most of the gurvani was the recovery of their ancient homelands, the ones they claimed after their rebellion.  Many are satisfied with having achieved that, and are unenthusiastic about continuing the war. 

“The gurvani kingdom was originally conceived as a means of ruling the common gurvani without direct ecclesiastical supervision, while the Black Skulls and the Enshadowed prepared the rest of the war.  A puppet king through which the tribes and factions could all be administered, without the urgulnosti being bothered.

“But instead it became a hub of those who wanted to adapt to the humani civilization, the ruins of which they are now living in.  The average gurvan did not have a good life in the Mindens, the last few hundred years.  Since before the Goblin Wars.  They want to improve the lives of the gurvani within their sphere and elevate them to humani levels.  The King and his court are an opportunity to do that, to their minds.”

“But not those of the human slaves who built the civilization to begin with?”

“They are largely the property of the Black Skulls, except for the Soulless, some mercenaries, and a few experiments.  To be truthful, many new lords of the gurvani kingdom look to their human slaves for guidance and ideas.  They set up the capital at one of the old baronial castles.  The place was crawling with Soulless and human slaves.  They knew how to efficiently run an estate.  The gurvani court started depending upon them for guidance, and started adopting some of the institutions – well-changed for their liking, of course.  But they had established the rudiments of a state, largely dependent upon the advice of their human slaves.

“Or they did, before Korbal started sending his minions to the Goblin King’s court.  Now the Nemovorti are systematically controlling the institution.  They’re the ones who conspired to persuade a number of commanders to launch the summer raids.  Ostensibly at Sheruel’s command, but actually orchestrated by the Enshadowed.”

“I don’t particularly like the sound of that.”  As much as dissension among the enemy counted in our favor, theoretically, recent experience instructed me that the devious nature of the Enshadowed, and their undead allies, were far more insidious than the straightforward genocidal tendencies of Sheruel.

“You are not alone.   It has inspired a lot of resentment among the gurvani most loyal to Sheruel.  And a lot of rebellion among the units and estates of the Penumbra,” she reported  That’s what allowed the raids to be conducted without Sheruel’s permission.  The Enshadowed and their confederates inflamed the honor of the Penumbra troops who invaded, on purpose.  And for their own purpose.”

“You sure get around a lot for a barbarian goddess,” I quipped.  The heat was starting to thaw my backside.

“I can’t penetrate the Umbra,” she admitted, “but even being nocturnal, the gurvani still use candles, tapers, and fire.  More importantly, their human slaves gossip like all servants,” she added.

“I’m sure we can use that to our advantage, somehow,” I said, with a sigh.  “But with Vorone in ashes and Rard obsessing about the rebels in Enultramar, his kidnapped daughter, and his shiny new palace, it’s going to be hard to take advantage of it.”

“Yes, well, that’s human politics,” she smiled.  “That’s out of my control as well.”

“That’s out of anyone’s control,” I agreed.  “But if we don’t get our collective act together soon, then Korbal and Sheruel will work out their differences before we can exploit their acrimony.  And here I sit, without my witchsphere . . . or my wife,” I added, for no particular reason except that I felt like complaining. 

The look in her eyes immediately made me regret it.  When a goddess can’t cure what ails your wife, the guilt you feel begins to take on divine proportions.

“We’re still working on that,” she insisted.  “The three of us . . . persistent deities have each done what we could.  Alya’s body is as well as it could be.  It is her mind that is damaged.  Not even Trygg Allmother has that power, I fear.”

That didn’t seem fair.  Alya had sacrificed herself in the Magewar against Greenflower, in defense of her marriage and motherhood in general.  She never should have been there, but it was lucky for us she was.  She won the battle for us, after magelords and warmagi had fallen to Isily’s cunning wrath.  Now she was lying in a bed in an abbey two domains away, completely unresponsive to all but the most basic stimuli. 

Our children were devastated.  Minalyan was scared of his own mother, and Almina burst into tears at the sight of her.  Their mother’s body might be there, but she was . . . gone.
I could sympathize.  I was . . . well, I didn’t have a more potent word than “devastated”.  Mostly I was just doing what everyone expected me to do.  I did my best to allow myself to be distracted from the aching pit at the center of my soul, but it was hard, these days.  It took something like a dragon attack or a midnight visit from a goddess to keep me from dwelling on the hopelessness.

Once I would have said that it was in the hands of the gods.  Now that I knew some gods, I wasn’t so hopeful. 

“So which of you divinities does specialize in that sort of thing?” I asked, casually. 

“That’s . . . it’s complicated,” Briga sighed, over her wine.  “The gods are bound by the limitations of human imagination and need.  You need to start a fire or bake a loaf or cauterize a wound or gain vengeance on the warrior who slaughtered your family, I’m your girl.  If you want a deity who specializes in restoring higher brain function . . . well, your people should have conceived of one!” she said, a little defensively.

“Not even the Imperial pantheon?” I suggested. 

I’d picked up that the two loose families of gods, each based on a different culture, were often at odds.  The Magocracy’s deities considered themselves superior to their Narasi cousins, due to the great civilization they presided over, I’d gathered.  Meanwhile, the barbarically rustic Narasi pantheon resented the snooty Imperial gods and delighted over their diminution after the Conquest. 

As more than one of the deities worshiped today were syncretic fusions of both pantheons, that produced some interesting divine politics.  It’s amazing what Herus the Traveler will gossip about when he’s drunk.

“Perhaps,” she conceded, her nostrils flaring a bit.  “They had a lot of minor divinities, at the peak of their decadent civilization.  Some were pretty specialized.  But few of those ever incarnated,” she pointed out, quickly.  “The rule of thumb is that the more specialized a deity is, the less vibrant the energy generated by their worshipers.  The Imperials had loads of minor medical deities, but mostly they were personifications of mnemonics or technical gods.  Like Yrentia’s many children: Arkameeds, Nuton, Keplar, Planc, Bor, Haking, that lot.  Or the daughters of the Storm Lord, if you want to get exotic.  Superstition and ritual used to educate and control an increasingly ignorant people during the twilight of their civilization,” she said, defensively.

“What about Yrentia’s children?” I ventured.  The Imperial goddess of science and magic once enjoyed a vibrant cult in the early Magocracy, and many of her brilliant children had even made appearances at times.  “She manifested enough to write a bunch of vital stuff on rocks in Merwyn, among other great feats.  Wouldn’t she know-?

“That was during her mortal phase, from what I understand, something her human seed did before she ascended to divinity.”

I frowned.  “Damn.  Another glorious myth destroyed.”

“Oh, she was vital to the survival of humanity, and what she did – ensuring that the most basic scientific and magical information would not be lost by humanity – was worthy of deification.  Perhaps she could be persuaded to manifest, if you did the right rituals or something.”

“I’ve considered that,” I nodded.  “If you and the other persistents cannot repair her mind, then perhaps Yrentia . . .”

“Well, her consort Avital shows up every now and then over the centuries, but he’s more engineering focused than neural science.  Really, Min,” she said, finally, throwing up her thin arms in frustration, “if there is a god who can put Alya’s mind right, I don’t know who it is.  I’ll keep looking, and so will the other persistent deities, but . . . well, this is far outside of our realms.   If you want to restore your bride, then the answer is more likely found in thaumaturgy than theurgy.  Or maybe the Alka Alon . . .” she said, frowning.

I snorted.  “You think the Tree Folk know more about the human psyche than our own gods?”

“Not them collectively,” she conceded.  “But during the early Magocracy there was a period where they worked very closely with humanity.  Some were enraptured by the opportunity to study you.  Most of that stopped before the Inundation, for various political reasons – that was before my time – but I’ve heard rumors that the Alka studied human beings more intently than we’d ever studied ourselves.  Perhaps that knowledge still exists with them,” she shrugged. 

“None of the Alkans I’ve met seemed particularly concerned with our psychology.  Even the three Envoys were mostly ignorant of humankind when they arrived.  And Onranion has done what he can for her with songspells, but this is far outside of his area of specialty,” I sighed, the pit of hopelessness growing wider inside me.

“Then you must continue to seek, my friend,” the goddess said, softly and sympathetically.  “As will we all.  But . . . beware of your own hopelessness,” she advised.  “So much depends upon you, Minalan.  If you give in to despair and outrage, you may well doom us all.”

“That makes me feel so much better,” I sighed with bitter sarcasm.  “I am doing . . . what I need to,” I stressed, unwilling to elaborate.  She might be a goddess, but a man has a right to his own private spiritual struggle.  “And what I need to do most is find a way to restore Alya.”

“That is guilt speaking, Minalan,” she pointed out, gently. “And desperation.”

“That’s Minalan speaking,” I corrected, firmly.  “If I thought that Sheruel or Korbal held the answer and were willing to bargain with me, I might even consider it.  But I know that they don’t and they wouldn’t, so you have nothing to fear on that front,” I said, perhaps more bitterly than I intended.

“It wasn’t your treason I fear, Minalan,” she said with an irritated snort.  “Can’t you see that?  It’s your self-destruction!”  

And with that she disappeared in an entirely unnecessary and overly dramatic burst of flame.  Briga’s equivalent of slamming a door.

I turned back to the fire, knowing her eyes were still watching me through the flames.  I kept my face stoically set, unwilling to let her even guess my thoughts from my expression.  I briefly thought about extinguishing the flame by urination, but I knew that would be going too far.  I was frustrated, but I wasn’t frustrated with Briga.

Drink the mead.

It irritated me like a pebble in my shoe while I was running for my life.  There were so many, many other things that needed my attention and required my investigation. 

Politics.  War.  Governance.  Gods.  Goblins.  As irritated as I was with Briga, she’d been correct.  Too much did depend upon what I did – or didn’t do – and lapsing into abject despair could doom us all. 

So why didn’t I care more?

I knew why, and the answer was selfish.  Doing all of this without Alya seemed pointless to me.  I’d become so dependent upon her that without her I felt like I was acting on a stage from a script written by someone else, to an empty audience.  And that was selfish.
But I didn’t care.  See why Briga was worried?

Drink the mead.  Pentandra’s unearthly message would not flee my thoughts, not after weeks.  And I was a good enough wizard to know that when your subconscious keeps pointing to something like that, it would haunt me until I dealt with it. 

When Alya and I were married, nearly gotten killed by Censors, and escaped on our honeymoon on a romantic river cruise on Pentandra’s private barge, Pentandra had followed an old Narasi custom and included (among other incredible delicacies) a hamper containing seven bottles of mead.  

Alya and I drank the first six bottles on the honeymoon, and – again, according to custom – saved the final bottle to celebrate our fifth anniversary.

Only . . . the Magewar had intervened, and Alya had fallen before we could complete that happy ritual.  I had vowed not to drink the final bottle of mead until I restored her, and we could drink it together, as intended. 

I felt a little stupid.  It was a silly peasant rite, a superstitious bit of folk religion that helped bond unruly peasants together.  There was nothing magical about that mead.  I could pour the entire bottle down Alya’s throat and it would not alter her condition one bit.  I could empty the bottle myself and, after a brief period of pleasant drunkenness, my problems would be piled in front of me as they were before.

It was a silly solution to an intractable problem . . . but part of me suspected what it meant, if not where it originated. 

To me, by opening that bottle I was accepting the fact that Alya was forever gone.  To drink the mead was to admit that I had failed, that I needed to mourn a wife who was dead in all but name, and move on with my life. 

I had no doubt that there were important lessons and deep spiritual truths involved in the process, but I could not care less about my spiritual health.  Drinking the mead was admitting defeat in the most personal battle of my life.

So, a tiny part of my mind whispered, perhaps you should do that.

That wasn’t a part of myself I wanted to listen to.  But experience had shown that when it spoke, it was usually in my interest to listen. 

I hate that part of myself.

I knew that it was my fear of letting go that was keeping me from doing it. 

I thought of our children, Minalyan and Almina, growing up without their mother.  I thought of the unborn baby we’d lost at Greenflower, and allowed my mind to take me into all sorts of dark places. 

Drinking that mead would be accepting all of that . . . accepting a life without Alya.  I was still clinging to mad hopes and desperate ideas about magically repairing her, but the fact was that I had consulted the best magical minds in the Kingdom already, to no avail.  I had even toyed with the idea of necromancy, but Alya’s problem wasn’t death.  It was . . . beyond madness.  Beyond the understanding of the mightiest minds of the age.  Even Master Icorod, head of the medical order of magi, had told me sympathetically that Alya’s recovery was “in the hands of the gods.”

Icorod is not a religious man, but he wanted to give me hope after his exhaustive examination.

But when the gods themselves declare that they are stumped, it kind of saps your confidence.  And your hope.  Perhaps it was time to face that.

It had been only months since Greenflower, and while I knew that the entire barony was shocked and in mourning over their beloved baroness, there were already whispers – even proposals – that I have my marriage annulled and seek a new wife.  No one had been brave or stupid enough to say the words to my face, but I wasn’t naive.  Or surprised. 

Alya was an integral part of running the barony.  Right now, Lady Estret and Sister Bemia were handling much of her functions, with Sire Cei conducting business as usual.  As if we were just off on holiday somewhere. 

But that was a stopgap.  With Yule approaching in just a few weeks there was a lot of baronial and domain-level work to be done, work that Alya, as baroness, should be conducting.  Yule Court was one of the central ceremonial occasions of the year, when my vassals would be feasted at the castle, gifts would be given, posts would be announced, and fealty would be pledged for another year. 

Alya loved Yule, I recalled fondly. She would be terribly upset to miss it this year.

The absurdity of that thought was what brought me back to my senses.

Drinking the mead would acknowledge the reality I didn’t want to face, but that my loyal subjects and friends were quietly urging me to.

I don’t know how long I sat and smoked and stared into the fire.  All I know is that at some point I went downstairs to our old bedroom (and my current study) and retrieved the leather-cased bottle, sealed up since we returned from our honeymoon.  I don’t even remember doing it, I just recall staring at it in the center of my worktable for what seemed like hours.
Drink the mead.  Whether it was merely Pentandra’s subconscious advice or a message from some other power through her lips, I could not ignore it.

Finally, with tears rolling down my cheeks and despair and hopelessness in my heart, my trembling fingers unsealed the top of the case and pulled the bottle out . . . along with a thick sheaf of parchment.

I wasn’t expecting that.

I stared at the roll of parchment surrounding the bottle in confusion, and straightened them.  They were filled with cramped sentences, some stuffed into margins or written at odd angles.  Most of it, I was even more surprised to see, was in my handwriting.  And Alya’s.  And I didn’t remember writing a word of it.

The leaf at the top of the stack caught my attention, as it was designed to.  It was from me.  To me.

MINALAN – Greetings from your storied past!  Either this will be an amusing tale to tell my kids, or a vital piece of intelligence.  But herein lies the story of what truly happened on my “uneventful” honeymoon.  Hopefully you’re reading it while you and Alya are wildly celebrating.  In any case, there are several details here that, for obvious reasons, you may find interesting or even important.  You are likely wondering why you have no memory of this, or even of writing this account.  Once you read this, you should understand.  Good luck, and may Ishi’s blessings keep our union as lusty and fruitful as it is now! – s. Minalan

Yes, that was my flamboyant signature at the bottom of the page.  I’d written it.  And I didn’t remember writing it.

The bottle forgotten in front of me, I eagerly devoured the tale – which occasionally rambled, as details were inserted or something was explained in more detail.  While it was far from scholarly standards, it was fascinating to read.  And it explained so much I had questions about.

Apparently, my uneventful honeymoon was a bit more eventful than I recalled.

It took me two hours to get through the sheaf, much of it spent tracking down where in the wandering narrative certain things and certain people were mentioned.  By the time I felt like I had a good understanding of the events of five years ago – events I had no recollection of – the roosters in the courtyard of the castle were starting to greet the pale sky in the east.
It was a lot to absorb.  From the sheer unlikelihood of the adventure to the unexpected conclusion, to the removal of the experience from my memory to the point where I had not even suspected a gap . . . it was a lot to absorb.

I was still mulling the details of the revelation when the laboratory door opened, and Ruderal entered, yawning.  When he saw me he stopped mid-yawn.

“Master! When did you arrive?  I thought you were still in Vorone!”

“Last night,” I admitted.  “But I am not staying long.  Fetch me some hot tea and breakfast from the kitchen and send word to Sire Cei to attend me in my lab.  And Onranion, if the rascal is around.”

“He is, Master,” Ruderal assured me.  “Is everything . . . all right?”

“Mayhap,” I admitted, grudgingly.  “Ruderal, I was in the depths of despair . . . but I think I just threw myself a rope from the past.”

Ruderal looked at me skeptically.  “That seems a bit cryptic, Master,” he said, cautiously. 
“It was meant to be,” I decided.  “Tell no one you don’t have to that I’ve returned.  I won’t be here long.”

“What . . . what did you discover, Master?” the lad asked, hesitantly but politely.  He glanced at the parchments, now scattered across the table around the bottle and its case.

“The most insidious thing a man can find, lad.  Hope, Ruderal,” I conceded.  “I discovered a tiny, almost invisible ray of hope.

More to Come, Soon!  

Happy Yuletide and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Court Wizard issue appears to have been resolved...

It APPEARS as if the problems with Court Wizard and Amazon have been resolved.  Please let me know if you continue to have problems accessing the book.  Thank you for your patience.  It was them, not me.

Oh, and I'm planning to release Spellmonger's Yule, a novella, as a preamble to next year's Necromancer.  Hawklady is still in composition, but got slowed down when I lost my job and had to focus on my Podium stuff and . . . well, I have teenagers.  Hoping to still have Hawklady out by the holidays, but I hate to promise.  We'll just have to see how things move along.  Now that the issue with CW is resolved, I need to finish up my edits to Warmage before I send it to Podium (almost done, I swear!) and get the pronunciation guide finished for the book.  Which, in some cases, means I have to decide how some words are pronounced.

Thanks again for your patience.  More Spellmonger (and other stuff) coming up!