Excerpt from The Fire Seer

fireseer_promoHere is the opening chapter from The Fire Seer, available now at Amazon and coming soon to B&N, iBooks, and Kobo.

Chapter 1: Hrappa

Taya trotted her black mare past the flat, unwelcoming stares of the Hrappan townsfolk. She faced forward, reminding herself not to take it personally. It wasn’t who she was that bothered them. It was what she represented.

The sunlight was fading as she rode up to the Hall of Judgment. A haughty-looking servant in belted indigo and gold armbands awaited her on the steps. Taya dropped lightly from the mare’s back and brushed the travel dust from her clothes. She’d come in Coalition regalia, as per instructions. Over her short riding pants, she wore a green robe of soft cotton. A belt of worked silver with a fire agate mounted on the buckle encircled her waist. Her hair was pulled up into a fan-shaped headdress, and her arms jangled with bracelets—silver, since her people did not wear gold.

The servant’s gaze raked her. “You must be the drain-cleaner we sent for.”

Taya blinked in surprise. “No, I’m Coalition.”

“Ah,” said the servant, taking the mare’s reins. “I never would have guessed.”

Taya’s cheeks warmed. Sometimes she didn’t notice right away when a person was being insincere.

The servant straightened. “What am I supposed to do with that?”

Lumbering up the stairs was Piru, her pack elephant. He was a dwarf variety, no larger than her mare, but tame and loyal and incredibly strong. “Put him in a stall next to the mare. Has my partner arrived?”

“He arrived yesterday.”

He. So her partner was a man. Taya didn’t care one way or another, so long as he was competent, but she’d been curious.

The servant circled the elephant dubiously. “Where’s the lead rope?”

“You don’t need one. Just take the mare and he’ll follow her. His name is Piru. Give him a good feed of hay and scratch him behind the ears.”

The servant gave her a look that said, I’d sooner rub a sand viper’s belly.

Poor Piru. Maybe Taya would be able to visit him in the stable herself. “Is my partner available for me to confer with before I see the magistrate?”

“The magistrate wants to see you immediately. Your partner is with him.” The servant pointed. “Straight inside, first hallway on the right, second door on the left.” He whistled, and a boy padded up the steps. The two of them spoke briefly, and the boy took the mare’s reins and led her away. Piru started to follow but hesitated, turning his gray head to Taya in confusion.

“Go on,” she urged, and Piru trotted off, ears flapping. Taya smiled.

She straightened her headdress, noting with exasperation that several locks of her hair had come loose. She tried shoving them back in, but other pieces fell out, and she decided just to leave it be. She wouldn’t make a perfect impression, but how could she be expected to after traveling all day?

Aside from its huge size and arched entryway, the Hall of Judgment was like most Hrappan buildings, a flat rectangle of baked brick. The building was stuffy inside, but now that the sun had dropped below the horizon, it would cool off. Taya turned into the first hallway on the right and looked for the second door on the left. It was guarded by a lightly armored man with a bronze mace at his belt. She caught the guard’s eye and he nodded, granting her permission to enter.

The room was unexpectedly large. A gentle breeze threaded through two windows overlooking a leafy courtyard. A high seat rested upon a raised dais, undoubtedly the chair from which the magistrate handed down his decisions, but it was empty. Three men sat around a table in the center of the room.

One of the men was old and sick—disturbingly so. His stomach was bloated and misshapen, his hair lank, and his face sweaty, as if sitting in a chair was a great effort for him. Taya suspected he was near death.

The man sitting next to him was young and healthy. Both bore the facial tattoos of the ruling caste and were well dressed. The third man, who had his back to her, wore Coalition green and silver and was obviously her partner. Seeing him, her anxiety about the mission eased a little. He looked like the sort of man one could depend on—tall and strong, with a confident manner. He was a quradum, one of the Coalition’s magic-using warriors, and his role was to protect and advise her. Given the hostility of the townsfolk here, she might need protection. As for advice, she welcomed any guidance on her inaugural mission. She hoped her partner was as seasoned as he looked.

The younger man stood to welcome her but the sick man only gave her an apologetic look. Taya gathered he was not capable of standing. Her partner rose, too, with leonine grace. As he turned, she moved toward him eagerly and froze in shock.

She knew that face.

Even if she had been uncertain in her recollection, the facial tattoos were unmistakable. The sunburst on his forehead and the lines just beneath his eyelids, all in dark red, marked him as a member of the royal house. She was looking at Mandir isu Sarrum. Taya felt sick.

Recognition dawned in Mandir’s eyes as well, and he went as still as an onager jack who catches the scent of a lion in the grass.

“Welcome to Hrappa,” said the older man, in a weak voice that carried the echoes of well-worn authority. “I am the magistrate Ashur isu Dayyanum. I’m sorry I cannot stand to offer you a proper greeting. I have been ill these past seasons.”

Taya tore her eyes away from her partner. Manners first. “My name is Taya. I’m sorry you’ve been ill.” She approached the table and held out her hand, pressing her five fingers to the magistrate’s. “Have you seen a Coalition healer for your condition?”

“I have the Curse of Lalan. They can do nothing.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said. If he had the Curse, there was, indeed, no cure. It did not spread from one person to another, but it was lethal.

The magistrate continued, “This is my son and heir, Kalbi isu Dayyanum.”

Taya touched fingers with the son. Their names, Ashur and Kalbi, were interesting. “Traditional” names, the people called them, but since joining the Coalition, Taya had learned that such names were actually remnants of the forbidden language, the mother tongue. Parents had handed them down for generations, having no idea what they were preserving. Her own name, Taya, had no such significance; it was from the river tongue and of modern origin.

“And…you already know your partner?” said the magistrate. “I was led to believe you would be strangers to one another.”

Taya turned to Mandir, folding her arms to indicate she had no intention of touching fingers with him.

“Indeed,” said Mandir, mirroring the gesture. “Taya and I have not seen each other for a number of years, but we trained together as children.”

“Such fond memories,” said Taya. “Mandir almost killed me once.”

Mandir forced a laugh, as if she’d made a joke.

“Ah,” said the magistrate, taking it as one. “I could tell you some stories about my own misspent days.” He indicated the empty chair. “Have a seat. We’ve business to discuss.”

Taya sat, edging her chair away from Mandir’s. How had this happened? Mandir was a year older than her, but he’d entered the Coalition the same year as she had, and he’d been sentenced to a Year of Penance for his crimes. That should have put him a year behind in his instruction. He should not be a fully qualified quradum! In silence, she fumed. Someone had bent the rules for him. Mandir was the son of a prince, and once again his connections had saved him from having to face the consequences of his misdeeds.

She longed to toss a barb in his direction—So, Mandir, how was your Year of Penance?—but she contented herself with shooting him a nasty glare.

He was looking her over in an appraising manner, which irritated her even more. He’d always coveted her body, even as he’d insulted everything else about her. Well, let him look. Let him see the green robe and silver belt that showed she was every bit his equal despite her low birth. Let him see the fire agate that marked her as a fire seer. Caste didn’t matter in the Coalition, only ability.

Boldly, she scrutinized him in return, searching for physical flaws, but she was disappointed. His hair and clothing were perfect, not a strand out of place, and her onetime hope that his gangly teenage body would over-mature into coarseness had not come to pass. Instead, he’d filled out into a man with size and muscle and sleekness, putting Taya in mind of a jungle cat.

His eyes were the color of overripe wheat, his hair dark as a monsoon cloud. She tried to stare him down so he’d know she was no longer a scared fourteen-year-old farm girl he could play cruel games with, but there was more in his eyes than just arrogance. Was it fear? Surely he had nothing to fear from her, unless it was the fact that she would not hesitate to go to the authorities if he overstepped his bounds. The Coalition might not forgive his excesses forever. But that was his problem, not Taya’s. He’d made a mess of his life by messing up other people’s lives. Three people had been expelled from the Coalition, their magic permanently destroyed, because of him. He’d gotten off easy, and he deserved no pity.

Mandir turned to the magistrate and said, “Tell us about the suspected jackal.”

Taya blinked. She needed to focus on the mission, not on her partner, but she couldn’t help noticing, now that she was over the initial shock of seeing him, that his voice had changed. It had deepened into a rich, velvety tenor.

“Three people have been murdered, all of them killed in ways consistent with a jackal,” said the magistrate. “Two by fire, one by flood.”

“Who was the first victim?” asked Taya.

The magistrate’s head dipped. “My younger son Hunabi.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Taya. “How was he killed?”

“Burned alive in the middle of a cotton field.”

“How many children had you?”

“Two sons, Kalbi and Hunabi.” He indicated the young man sitting next to him.

Taya nodded. Until she could clear him, the elder brother, Kalbi, would be a suspect. Ruling-caste families were typically polyandrous, with their sons marrying the same woman in order to keep family estates intact. It was a situation that caused tension if the boys did not get along. “How many years separated Kalbi from his younger brother?”

“Three.”

“What was the nature of the brothers’ relationship?”

“I am no jackal,” broke in Kalbi. “I did not kill my brother.”

“I was not making an accusation,” said Taya. “I’m collecting information.”

“The boys were close,” said the magistrate. “They were in harmony.”

“Were they married, or contracted for marriage?”

“A contract was under negotiation at the time of Hunabi’s death. We have set it aside while our house is in mourning.”

Taya exchanged a look with Mandir. The marriage contract might be significant; it would need investigation. “We’ll need details on the marriage contract. What about the other murders? Who were the victims and when did they occur?”

The magistrate opened his mouth to answer. Then a shudder wracked his body, and he closed his eyes.

“Are you all right?” asked Mandir.

“No.” The magistrate turned to his son. “Fetch my attendants. And Rasik.” Kalbi leapt from the table and hurried from the room. The magistrate continued to speak, his voice thready and weak. “The other two victims were girls. The daughter of cloth merchant Bodhan isu Kasirum and the sister of farmer Zashkalim isu Ikkarum. I will assign Rasik to you. He is my clerk, an educated servant, and he knows all the particulars in these cases. He will guide you around the city of Hrappa as you hunt your jackal.”

Footsteps alerted Taya to Kalbi’s return. Another man was with him, the servant who’d taken her livestock at the front steps. The servant frowned, folding his arms in mock indignation. “My lord, have you been at the whiskey again?”

“If only, Rasik,” said the magistrate. “I require you to place yourself at the disposal of these Coalition representatives. Set them up in guesthouses, see that they’re fed and looked after, and show them around town tomorrow morning.”

Rasik made a face. “Perhaps Sukal, or Illia—”

“I give this task to you. And mind your tongue. You know the Coalition.” He turned back to Taya and Mandir. “Forgive his indiscretions. Servants with his skills are nearly impossible to replace.”

More servants arrived, bearing a litter, which they squeezed through the narrow doorway. Something about the magistrate smelled strange, like rotten fruit. It was disconcerting. Taya was relieved when Rasik beckoned her and Mandir from the room.

Find The Fire Seer on Amazon

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Release day for The Fire Seer!

fireseer_promoIt’s release day for The Fire Seer! This novel, the beginning of the brand new Coalition of Mages series, is available now on Amazon, and is coming soon to Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

It was a funny thing that inspired this book. My younger son was having a bad time in school, so I pulled him out and home-schooled him for a while, just to give him a break from a bad situation. And part of the curriculum was a world history book I picked up, a history of the ancient world, and this book included a chapter on the Indus Valley Civilization.

My son was indifferent to most of the school stuff, but I had never learned about the Indus Valley Civilization in school, so it was new to me, and I was blown away! Here was a civilization from around 2400 BCE, contemporary to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, where they had cities laid out in perfect grids. And they had sewers, and they had flush toilets (!), and they had what looked like public baths. Furthermore, the houses were all similar in size, suggesting a relatively egalitarian society–quite unusual for the ancient world. (In fact, unusual for any civilization anywhere.) But sadly, we know little about their civilization because while they had a written language, scholars have been unable to translate it.

The Indus Valley Civilization is one of the great mysteries of the ancient world. Who were these people? What were they like? How did they lay out their cities so perfectly? And what happened to them, since they seem to have disappeared, leaving their cities intact? While I have no idea what the real answers to these questions might be, I was inspired to write a fantasy novel, with magic, set in this world.

For those of you who have read my Hearts and Thrones novels, I’ll tell you a little about what is similar and what is different about Hearts and Thrones and Coalition of Mages. Both series feature strong heroines. The Fire Seer features Taya, a lowly farmer girl who is favored by Isatis, the fire goddess, and is blessed with powerful fire magic. Both series are also generally bright in tone, with some darker moments.

Where they differ, aside from the setting, is in the series structure and the nature of the hero. The Hearts and Thrones series is a romance series, which each book featuring a different romantic couple. Coalition of Mages, however, is a mystery series. Taya’s romance with Mandir is prominently featured, but the two of them are also Bronze Age sleuths who solve a murder mystery in each book. And every book is about Taya and Mandir. I don’t switch couples in this series.

Mandir is not the type of hero you’d typically find in my Hearts and Thrones series. Generally, the Hearts and Thrones heroes are respectful and kind. Mandir is more the alpha type and a bit of a jerk. He’s a reformed jerk–at least, he’s trying very hard to be reformed–but he’s not going to be perfect all the time, and there are a lot of fireworks between him and Taya. Not always the good kind of fireworks!

This novel won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense in 2012, right after I’d signed the contract for the first three Hearts and Thrones books. I was thrilled when it won, but I couldn’t publish the book at the time because of my existing contract. I am thrilled to be able to bring this book to readers now, and I hope you enjoy it.

View “The Fire Seer” on Amazon

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Spy’s Honor wins a 2014 Prism award!

Spy's Honor final coverI’m thrilled to announce that Spy’s Honor is the winner of the 2014 Prism award in the Fantasy category!

The Prism awards, for those not familiar with them, are given by the RWA special-interest chapter focused on Paranormal romance. The categories include Fantasy (my category), Futuristic, Light and Dark Paranormal, Novella, Erotica, and YA.

Spy’s Honor is a book particularly close to my heart, since it’s the second novel I’ve ever written (I wrote Assassin’s Gambit later), and it’s the novel from which sprang Lucien. It warms my heart to see it honored.

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Cover reveal for The Fire Seer: coming later this summer!

Before Assassin’s Gambit finaled in the Golden Heart and was picked up by Penguin, I wrote a book called Flood and Fire. This was a fantasy/romance/mystery hybrid set around 2600 BCE in a fantasy re-imagination of the Indus Valley Civilization, which was contemporary to ancient Egypt and Sumer. The Indus Valley Civilization intrigued me because on the one hand, we know so little about it, but on the other, what we do know suggests a relatively egalitarian culture quite unlike Egypt and Sumer.

I entered this manuscript in the 2012 Daphne du Maurier contest and it won! Not just the paranormal category; it was the overall winner that year in unpublished manuscripts. So there was much excitement and interest in the manuscript. However, I was legally unable to sell it, because by then I’d signed my contract for the Hearts and Thrones series.

Now that I’ve finished the three books of that contract (I’m working on book 4), I am finally free to publish the manuscript that used to be titled Flood and Fire. It’s now titled The Fire Seer, and I got my cover art for it this week. It is GORGEOUS. Have a look:

fireseer_promo

Is that not stunning? This cover is by Ravven, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Look for The Fire Seer in late July or August of this year!

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New release: “Archer’s Sin” audiobook

AmyRaby_ArchersSin169My first audiobook is out! It’s “Archer’s Sin,” and it’s available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. The narration is by the very talented Lauren Sweet.

I have some free codes for review copies on Audible, so if you’d like to review “Archer’s Sin” on Audible, contact me through my Contact page, and I can send you one.

Nalica Kelden, war mage and world-class archer, doesn’t need love. She’s come to the imperial city for a single purpose: to win Kjall’s most prestigious archery tournament.

Until she meets one of her fellow competitors, and he sends an arrow straight into her heart.

Justien Polini is the man she’s always dreamed of. Like Nalica herself, he’s from the rough country in the eastern highlands. He’s big and strong and handsome, and he’s nearly as good an archer as she is. Best of all, in a country where most men look askance at women warriors, Justien admires Nalica’s talent and strength.

But Nalica can’t let her personal feelings get in the way of her ambitions. The tournament must come first… and there will be only one winner.

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Upcoming appearance: Norwescon

I’ll be at Norwescon this weekend! My appearances:

SATURDAY (correction: I had previously listed this as Friday) 6-8pm Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading. I’ll be reading for 10 minutes from one of my books, along with a number of other fabulous authors. There will be giveaways!

bu norwescon 2014 flyer

Saturday 3-4pm Autographing Session 2. If you’ve got anything you want signed. I’m going to bring some books along to give away as well. While supplies last, I’ve give one to anyone who supplies Justien’s code phrase “lemons in winter.”

Sunday 2:30-3pm Reading in Cascade 1.

Hope to see some of you there!

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Release party and giveaway: $75 Amazon gift certificate

PrincesFire_100DPI3Today I’m at Bitten by Books celebrating the release of Prince’s Fire! Starting at 12pm Central, this link below will go live (it won’t work if you click it before noon today):

Bitten by Books Release Party

At the release party, I’m giving away a $75 Amazon gift certificate! It’s done by Rafflecopter, and you can enter now using the link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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