Sample from ‘Making of a Warrior’ – Assassination Attempt

“I have received word of important business that will force me to leave the palace immediately. My sister, the Imperial Princess Royal Sofia will be your hostess for the remainder of the celebration. Please enjoy yourselves,” Stela made the announcement as Roderick and Jordan came to meet her.

As Roderick approached Stela, a large ice wall appeared behind him. He turned quickly hearing the noise. An arrow embedded in the ice. He looked around. “Get the Empress inside the castle,” Roderick ordered.

Jordan escorted Stela to safety along with a few guards. Those in attendance began to run in all directions. Felicia retrieved her sword. Harris was next to her, armed and ready.

“We need to remain calm,” Roderick called out to the guests. “We need to stay together for protection.” The crowd stopped running and began gathering in the middle of the courtyard.

Daniella joined Roderick. “What do you think is happening, Roderick?”

“I do not know, Duchess. Please stay close, we may need your help if we cannot find the attacker,” Roderick commanded.

“Of course. Do you think the Empress is safe? Perhaps I should go to her?” Daniella began toward the castle.

“No, stay here. She is safe within the palace. The attack came from outside.” Roderick wanted as few people around his sister as possible.

Sofia rushed down to join Roderick. “Where did the arrow come from, Roderick?”

“I do not know but stay here, get behind me.” Roderick pushed Sofia behind him.

“Use your power, my dear. You can hear him and his plans,” Braynard was beside her. “Concentrate on the voices.”

Sofia cleared her mind and focused, sorting through the voices. ‘I failed. The Imperial Prince Royal will have my head. She got away. I need to take someone’s life for the Emperor Consort.’ The voice was clear.

“He is here on behalf of Edmund, tasked with killing Stela,” she informed the Magister. “Now he just wants to kill someone, anyone.”

“Good, Sofia,” Braynard commended her.

Suddenly the courtyard became cold. The sound was deafening as the outer walls of the palace were surrounded by a thick dome of ice. There was no escape. They had to find the man before he found Stela.

“Roderick, are you okay?” the voice called out. Roderick turned to see Antonio approaching.

“Grandfather, what are you doing here? Hurry before the man strikes you down.” Roderick called out to the old man.

“His arrows are not faster than me. I think that is quite obvious,” the Benedictus pointed to the sheet of ice in front of Roderick.

“You did that?”

“He did, Roderick,” Braynard answered. “He also trapped the would be assassin within the walls of the palace. We just need Sofia to point him out now.”

“Yes, Roderick, I am a Magister. Braynard showed me what was going to happen at the celebration, so I needed to come. He saw you die, the arrow had reached its mark, and I could not allow that to happen.” He hugged Roderick.

“I need you to focus, Sofia. I need you to tell us where the voice is coming from,” Antonio instructed her. “Let the voice lead us to him.”

“What is going on?” Charity joined them.

“I need you to go protect Stela, Charity,” Braynard ordered. “She is alone with only guards. She will need your powers to keep her safe.”

“Of course. Where is she?” Charity asked.

“They took her to her salon,” Sofia responded. “I can hear her thoughts. She is worried about our safety. Let her know we are all fine. Keep her safe.”

Charity rushed off, heading to the palace. She sensed it. She turned as an arrow was headed toward her. She raised her hand, and the arrow met a fire ball. A shower of arrows followed, each met a similar fate. She reached the doors of the palace, they were locked.

“Let me in! The Imperial Princess Royal, Sofia sent me to protect the Empress,” she called out.

“Sorry, Imperial Highness, we cannot allow anyone in under orders of the Empress,” the guard responded through the door.

“Let me in, I have to protect her, you will not be enough.”

No response. She continued to ward off the arrows, which were now coming from multiple directions.

“I demand you open this door now, or I will be forced to take it down,” she gave them one last chance.

The guards on the other side remained silent. She focused, the air around her became heavy, the heat increased. The pressure around the doors grew until they were blown open. The heat rushed into the palace as Charity entered. The guards attempted to stop her, but the air around her had become too hot for them to do anything. She rushed to the salon.

She found Stela and Jordan inside. Jordan raised his sword as she entered. She focused the heat on his blade, he quickly dropped it. “I am here to protect Stela,” she said.

“What is going on out there, Charity?” Stela asked. “Was anyone hurt?”

“It seems the palace is under attack. Sofia claims he is here on Edmund’s behalf. You have to remain here until the assassin is found.” Charity approached Stela. “Everyone is fine.”

“I am sure he is gone by now,” Stela stood to leave.

“No, the Benedictus surrounded the palace in ice, he will have no escape. Sofia is trying to find him. It seems Sofia has gifts as well,” Charity answered.

“I do not know what is going on. The Benedictus too? It seems everyone has some sort of power.” Stela paced the room. She wanted to be out there, not stuck in this room.

****

Astrid joined Roderick and Sofia. “I picked a bad time to visit. Do you know where the arrows are coming from?” Kyle stayed close to Astrid. “Master Scientia, I see now why you wanted me here,” she said, turning to face Braynard.

“Yes, I knew you would be of assistance, Astrid,” Braynard responded.

“It seems there is more than one assassin,” Sofia offered. She was hearing several voices talking about their failure.

Astrid’s eyes fixated on the towers around the palace. Within moments several ravens emerged. They started to circle the palace perimeter.

“There is one up on the north tower,” Astrid advised.

“I see him,” Felicia said. She concentrated on the figure in the tower. ‘Jump,’ she thought focusing on the man cowering behind the stone.

They watched as the man jumped from the tower, hitting the stone below.

“One down,” Felicia laughed.

“There are three along the roofs of the barracks,” Astrid added.

“I got this,” Harris said. He moved from in front of the stands for a clear view. He could see two of them. He turned his hands, palms up as two fireballs formed, growing in size. An arrow was headed in his direction, he was focused on his hands. A sword had met the arrow before it hit its mark. He turned to see Felicia. Her blade inches from his face. He released the flames. The two men on the roof fell to the ground ablaze.

The Benedictus quickly encased the third in ice, eliminating the threat.

‘I will not fail him. I may not make it out alive, but I will have served my love well.’ Sofia heard the voice. ‘I had not planned on killing Duchess Emery, but she leaves me no choice,’ the voice continued. “There is one in the palace,” Sofia yelled. “He is with Stela. Her and Charity are in danger.”

“Who is he?” Felicia asked.

“I do not know, I cannot tell.” Sofia panicked.

“I have this,” Astrid looked up. The ravens quickly dipped in the sky and entered the doors of the palace.

Killing a character, the aftermath

Books have death, characters die. It is a fact of the literary world. I have received a lot of feedback, mostly upset, about a character that I killed in the first book. Deciding to kill a character isn’t usually an easy decision, especially a character like the one I offed in “Making of an Empress”. However, the character was written with the intention of dying. I did not realize, though, how well loved this character would become. I thought, this is an okay character but I wasn’t prepared for the backlash at his/her death. Most of those who have read the book have reached out to me and the first thing they say is “I can’t believe you killed…”

I think, at least for me, I saw this character as likable but not lovable, I underestimated this character’s influence. I knew when this character was developed death was in the cards. I really liked the character myself but this character had served the purpose for which he/she was written; their story had come to an end, though some would disagree.

I have been asked to write a book, or novella, giving this character’s backstory, more insight to the character so many love. It is a possibility once I finish book two that I might focus on this character’s story. I think it is a good story. Believe me, when I say, I am attached to every character I develop and deciding to kill one is difficult for me and not a decision that is taken lightly. Just to forewarn you there are other deaths in the other books.

Stelaphina Onlinger Brandt

Stelaphina is the daughter of Imperial Prince Royal George Onlinger and Her Imperial Highness Madeline Dorman Onlinger. Her father is the son of Frederick, Emperor of Hulsteria. Madeline is the daughter of the former Imperial Grand Duke of Stratton and sister to the current. She is the oldest of the couple’s three children. She has an older brother, Roderick, her father’s bastard, whose mother was a distant cousin of Madeline. Her brother’s birth created quite a scandal.

Stelaphina was promised to Edmund Brandt, Imperial Prince Royal of Xasha when she was in her early teens. The engagement was announced after her father caught Stelaphina and her brother Roderick embraced in a kiss. At the time neither was aware they were siblings. It was this kiss that forced George to claim Roderick as his son.

Stelaphina was happy with the man chosen to be her husband when she realized her and Roderick could never be. Initially, their marriage was a happy one. The couple had three children – Joseph, Edwina, and Alexander. The marriage quickly became stale when George passed away and Stelaphina began spending more time with her grandfather to learn the duties she would eventually assume. Stelaphina tried to make time for Edmund but her duties took precedence over her marriage, leaving Edmund to feel neglected. Stelaphina never believed her husband was faithful, she had heard the whispers, though Edmund swore she was the only one to hold his heart.

Her sisters, Orthia and Sofia, are well loved by Stelaphina though Sofia tests that love regularly. Orthia is kind which causes Stelaphina to see her as needing to be protecting believing she is too naive. Sofia, the self-centered brat, tests Stelaphina’s patience.

She did not feel she was ready for the challenges that laid ahead. However, most who took the throne were not prepared for what they were to face. Her grandfather had faith in her, more than she would ever have in herself. He believed she would be a great ruler.

The struggles that face Stelaphina in ‘Making of an Empress’ would shake her to the core. She detests the hatred and prejudices the “deviants” are subjected to not only in Hulsteria but across Saaveth. Her first task as Empress is to remove the criminal prosecution of the homosexuals, much to the older Imperial and Royal members’ dismay. Her reason for her stance is her beloved cousin, Rupert Turlington. Though never verified, Stelaphina believed him to be a homosexual. She watched him attend events with male companions, introducing them, falsely, as Royals or Imperials in an attempt to have them accepted.

Her Scientia, Thomasine, provided her information on a vision. Thomasine had seen events that would unfold during Stelaphina’s reign. She would face many challenged that would tear her family apart and leave Stelaphina to oversee the realm alone, losing all of those who once supported her. The Scientia saw a child who would cause her great pain, a war upon the shores of Hulsteria, and smoke and fire consuming the great kingdom of Jascaessau. This knowledge brought caution to Stelaphina’s rule, it also bred paranoia in the young Empress.

If I were to give a face to Stelaphina, I see her most resembling Kate Beckinsale but with blue eyes.

Audiobook production begins

People have asked for ‘Empress’ on audiobook. Finally, after nearly two months, I found an interested narrator and production has begun. Jack, the producer, thinks the book will be completed by the beginning of June. I listened to his audition and loved hearing my words come to life.

I will post a sample once the recording is complete.

Update. I have the Review Audio Sample. The sample is available on SoundCloud, if you access it from a computer the link below should take you right there. If you are accessing from your phone you would need to download the app and sign up for an account (it’s free). Please take a listen and let me know what you think.

Making of an Empress Audio Sample

What is a Dowager?

When a woman of title is widowed and the heir is either married or a female, she takes on the title of Dowager. For example, if the King of Raamsfeld were to die and his heir was married, the Queen Consort would be titled Dowager Queen of Raamsfeld. If the heir is unmarried, the widow would maintain her title of Queen Consort. Widows of Kings and Emperors may also fashion their title as Queen Mother or Empress Mother, respectfully.

In Making of an Empress, Madeline, Stelaphina’s mother was never an Empress Consort, she should have retained the title of Imperial Princess. Instead, upon Frederick’s death Stela fashioned her Empress Mother.

Dowagers maintain title and privilege after their husband’s death. Though they lose any holdings that might be transferred to the new title bearer. Typically their child would allow them to continue to live on the estate which they previous held.

The title has also been associated with wealthy and powerful older women who never married.

Explanation of Imperial Titles

I have received some feedback about the titles used in Making of an Empress, so I thought I should take some time to explain them and put them in order of importance.

Several titles were used in the book and will continue to be used in the series. I will review all the titles that have been used and explain those that have not yet surfaced, just to give you insight. Now, they are based on realistic titles but I have made some adjustments, after all, it is fantasy.

Titles can be categorized three ways – Imperial, Royal, and Noble. Imperial titles are the highest title one can receive, followed by Royal and lastly Noble. Within the categories, there is a pecking order, order of importance if you will.

This post will explain the Imperial titles. Imperial titles are hereditary meaning they are passed down a family line. The Imperials are the most respected of the titles.

The highest title is, of course, Emperor or Empress. The Imperial ruler oversees all the kingdoms within the realm or country. He or she is the highest authority (next to the Church). The Imperial ruler’s word is law. The Imperial ruler is not alone in decision making, they rely on a Council of Advisors, typically made up of high-ranking officials from within the realm. Saaveth has four realms, each with its own Imperial ruler. The proper way to address the Imperial ruler would be His or Her Imperial Royal Majesty.

The spouse of the Imperial ruler is known as a Consort. The wife of the Emperor would be known as the Empress Consort. The Consort is not necessarily an Imperial in his or her own right but has married into the Imperial family. Spouses of other Imperials are simply given the title appropriate for their gender, there is no consort.

The children of the Imperial ruler are Imperial Princes and Princesses and are address and Imperial Prince Royal.

Next is the Imperial Grand Archduchy. An Imperial Grand Archduke (IGA) or Duchess is the eyes and ears of the Emperor in each kingdom. The Imperial Grand Archduke is of higher position than the king or queen of his assigned kingdom. Each kingdom is assigned an Imperial Grand Archduke. The proper way to address an IGA would be His Imperial Royal Highness. IGA’s are considered Imperial Princes and Princesses of the realm. The IGA does not command the king but simply ensure the Imperial ruler’s laws are enforced.

The Imperial Archduke oversees a duchy (county) within a kingdom, as such he is of higher rank than the duke of the county. The proper address for the Imperial Archduke is His Imperial Highness.

Imperial Grand Duke is the title of one who oversees the Marques (cities). He is of higher rank than the Marques. His proper address would be Imperial Royal Prince.

Imperial Duke oversees each barony (town). His address would be Imperial Prince.

These are the titles of the Imperials as used in the Hulsteria series. Imperial titles can only be bestowed by the Imperial leader. Not all cities and towns have Imperials. The Imperial ruler uses the titles as a way to reward those who serve him well.

The Middle Ages and Homosexuality

One of the biggest topics I address in ‘Making of an Empress’ is the Middle Ages view on homosexuality. It is well known today what the Church’s stance is on homosexuality. The belief of homosexuality as a sin is well documented in the pages of the old testament. In the Middle Ages, life was the Church. Rulers bowed down to the leaders of the Church, followed its commandments and condemned those who broke the Church’s laws.

If one researches the topic of homosexuality in the Middle Ages, you would see many different acts compiled in the definition. It was not merely the act between two men (or women). It included solitary acts as well. I would figure many would be guilty of homosexual acts if we still lumped any dumping of “seed” to equate to homosexuality.

Before the fall of the Roman Empire (which began the period known as the Middle Ages) sexuality was not something the ancient Romans put much thought into. It was just not talked about. The Middle Ages changed the view on the topic and issued punishment for committing such acts.

In the height of the Middle Ages if one was found guilty of an act of homosexuality he was punished with castration. If he did not learn his lesson his second offense would result in the loss of his “member”. A third offense resulted in burning at the stake.

There is proof, however, of many kings and queens who were known homosexuals, of course, they were never brought up on charges. I wonder if the most powerful rulers of their time were practicing homosexuals why then did nothing to try to change the views and punishments on the subject.

King James I of Scotland (who is famous for his version of the bible) was a suspected homosexual. Many of his time would refer to him as Queen James. It has been said he was a male chauvinist, perhaps it wasn’t that he hated women but simply he loved men. It is said he oversaw some of the translations of the original text of the bible and made sure words that could be interpreted as either gender were labeled as male, thus making the man the dominate gender.

Edward II of England was another king whose desire for male companionship was widely known. Again, as a king did he not have a responsibility to legitimize his own relationships?

In Making of an Empress, Stelaphina takes on the view of homosexuality. Her beloved cousin, Rupert, is a suspected homosexual. She sees nothing wrong with the love he desires but knows the Church forbids such unions. She fights to make homosexuality legal, obviously a forward thinking woman for her time. There is much opposition from the elder Imperials and the Church. It is a battle she is not willing to concede defeat and continues until others agree with her position.

I have to wonder if the monarchs of this world had the strength to fight for who they loved what our world might be like today.

Reviews

Reviews are what make or break a book. Writers can take reviews very personally, after all most have put a lot of themselves in the books they write. I have been fortunate my reviews have been positive up to this point but I know there will come a time when the reviews will not always be positive.

I started thinking about how I would handle negative reviews. After shedding a few tears, lol, if I was smart I would determine if the review provided some tips to improve future novels. If so, I would be stupid to not do my best to address those issues. If the review was just a chance for someone to bash my work for no justifiable reason, I would forget it and move on.

Realize that critical reviews help writers improve. If all a writer ever receives is positive feedback, the writer is lead to believe he is doing well. I want to grow as a writer and constructive criticism will help me achieve that goal. Just remember when offering less than positive feedback, someone has put themselves into the words you are reading. Try to make the feedback, constructive and not destructive.

FE Women’s Club Spring Bazaar

Today was the FirstEnergy Women’s Club Spring Craft Bazaar. It was an amazing experience. I was honored to have fellow FE employee and author Angelica Leigh by my side. We were both fortunate to sell many copies of our books. I was surprised how well the book sold. Angelica sold all the copies she brought, I was so happy for her. I left with only six books left so I was pleased with how well I did as well.

I enjoyed talking about my book with those who stopped by to purchase or just discuss how I came up with the idea. At the beginning of the day I was quite nervous, by the end of the day I felt like a pro. I am so blessed to work for a company that supports local artists, craft people, and writers.

I can’t wait for the fall craft bazaar!

Why Historical Fantasy

I remember when I first started telling friends about my book. The first thing everyone said was “oh like Game of Thrones”. It annoyed me but then I realized most of my friends probably didn’t follow historical fantasy and that was their only point of reference. While it is great for someone to think of Game of Thrones when you talk about your book, it is not Game of Thrones, it is simply the same genre.

I have always loved the medieval period, don’t ask me why I couldn’t really tell you. There was just something about the period that drew me in and has kept me interested all these years. I don’t know if it is the pageantry of the period, the manners of the nobles, or just the simpler times they lived in, something just pulls me in.

There is just something about damsels in distress and valiant knights coming to their rescue. Grand castles with dark secrets. Kings who rule with an iron fist and a lustful heart. It is all just so exciting. Imagine what it must have been like to live in that time. It would suck if you weren’t born into the right social standing but imagine being the child of a noble. The possibilities, the social events, and the chivalry.

As I got older I started studying the middle ages more. I was surprised to find the typical images associated with the time period were nowhere near what life was really like for those who lived it.

Granted we have certainly skewed the true day to day life of those who called the middle ages home. We remove the truth about the unsanitary conditions of most large cities (they were typically built along waterway to allow waste to be easily removed). The streets were typically filled with human waste, combined with the smell of meat rotting in the butcher’s shop (no refrigeration).

The castles weren’t as glamorous as we like to believe either. Indoor plumbing was not yet invented so residents simply relieved themselves in assigned areas within the castle. A simple hole in the floor was their relief. Some castles had these holes lead right to the moat that surrounded many castles (imagine the smells). Others had special staff that were required to clean the holes (certainly not a job I would want). The smell of ammonia was often quite strong in palaces – an attempt to cover the smell of the waste.

Medicine was barbaric and most injuries and illnesses resulted in death. Infant mortality was outrageous and childbirth was particularly difficult on the mother. Science was starting to emerge but religion still dictated much of the medicine practiced. It was believe sickness was brought on by evil spirits so the religious would try to remove the demon, which usually didn’t work out so well for the patient. Leeches were used for bloodletting, the belief was all illness was in the blood and removing the bad blood would bring the patient back from the brink.

Even with the darkness of the time period it remains a favor of authors, readers, screenwriters, and viewers alike. We simply make the period more romantic, more magical, than it actually was. While I have studied what the period was really like, I still love everything about it and knew it had to be the setting for my first book.