This post was originally published on the Reviews by Jessewave blog on September 30, 2009. :)
When Wave asked me to be a guest blogger today she hinted, nudged, and generally made me promise to talk about Fires of Ballian, the third book in my Draegan Lords series. Since I don't want her to hurt me, I'm going to dutifully do as I'm told. *g*
The Draegan Lords series--which is about dragon shapeshifters and their struggle to win back their land and lives from the power-hungry sorcerer who nearly destroyed their race one-hundred years before--began in March 2007 as a longish novella entitled True of Heart (Click here to read a blurb and excerpt on my website). It was originally written to be part of an AmberPax collection at Amber Allure. All stories for AmberPax collections must be either short stories or novellas and are required not to exceed 40,000 words. Remember in my earlier post when I said it's very difficult to write a complex plot in a novella-length story? True of Heart was a classic example of that. I got the idea for the story and immediately fell in love with the heroes, Gaige and Keiran, and the juicy plot I had planned for them. Honestly, I don't even know what I was thinking when I assumed I could tell the tale in 40,000 words or less. I think my brain took a holiday that day. LOL! When I hit about 35,000 words, I knew I was in big trouble and there was no way in my wildest dreams I was going to be able to do justice to their story in 40K words. I knew I was going to have to write a sequel. So I tried to figure out a good stopping point that would give some resolution for the plot and characters and satisfy readers, but still leave it open to continue the story.
I decided it was going to have to be kind of like Star Wars. The original movie. Luke and Han blow up the Death Star and fly back to Leia, thereby ending that chapter, but leaving Darth Vader alive and the empire still in charge so they can do another two movies (or five *g*). That's what I knew I needed to do with True of Heart...blow up the Death Star and leave the guys in a good place so they could come back and fight the real, more complicated battle another day. I wrote and wrote and when I was finished, it was about 50,000 words. Gulp. That wasn't going to do. So I cut and wrote and cut and wrote and got it down to about 43,000 words, which Trace Zaber, AQP's editorial director let slide through. I didn't confess to him until later that I'd actually cut about 7000 words out of it before I turned it in. LOL! He knows me too well, though, so I don't think anything I write "long" ever surprises him.
Fast forward to March of 2008. The sequel. Lords of Kellesborne (Click here for blurb and excerpt). I had every intention of wrapping up my story in book 2. Really. I did! This time I didn't have to adhere to any Pax word count limits, so I figured, no problem. I knew it would be a novel, and all would be well. But once again, I got halfway into the book and realized there was no way I was going to be able to finish the story, even at novel length. Having been through the experience once before, however, this time I knew exactly where I was going to end part two. (And I still get grief over it from readers to this day. *g* I know, I know...it was a cruel cliffhanger, but you've got to admit, it had a certain impact to it.)
True of Heart and Lords of Kellesborne are available individually as ebooks. They were combined in one paperback in April 2008, which is simply called The Draegan Lords.
Which brings me to the present day. And book 3. Fires of Ballian. Will this be the last one in the series? All I can say is...maybe. LOL! I *think* I can actually finish the saga this time. I really do. But I've thought it before and it hasn't exactly played out the way I expected (I'm a terrible judge of just how much story = how much word count when it comes to my own work), so I'm leaving the door open. I do, tentatively, expect to be done writing Fires of Ballian (whether it ends the series or not) by late November. Keep an eye on my website, www.mlrhodeswriting.com, on my coming soon page, and I'll try to keep you updated on status and potential release dates there.
Something else I can do today is offer up an excerpt. This will be the very first peek at the story--I don't even have it posted on my website yet. I hope it'll help ease the pangs of waiting for all my readers who've emailed me asking, "When?!" :)
This excerpt comes from a scene near the beginning of the book (and please keep in mind this is the unedited version). Without giving too many spoilers for those who might not have read the first two books yet...to set it up, Gaige Rizik, who's half-human and half-draegan and is now mated with the draegan lord, Keiran Hareldson, began having visions over the course of book 2 brought on by his joining with Keiran. He's becoming a seer like his draegan grandmother before him. In this scene, he's having visions again...of the past and the future.
Gaige Rizik, lying on his back, stretched beneath the covers, savoring the pleasant pull of muscles in his body and the heat of the man lying on his side next to him, keeping him warm in the chilly air that seeped into their tent.
They’d been awake for a while, taking advantage of this rare morning where they hadn’t had to get up and rush off to pressing duties. Quiet, uninterrupted moments like these had become scarce as groups of draegans and humans alike had begun filling camp, seeking the protection of the draegan lord and his draeganjhere. Most days, Gaige and Keiran found themselves busy from well before sunrise until late into the night, often falling into bed too exhausted to do more than spoon together and catch a few quick hours of sleep before starting all over again. But for once, they had a couple of hours to themselves this morning, and they’d managed to find another, much more satisfying, way to start their day than stumbling into the cold dawn to prepare their people for war with the high sorcerer.
Now, in the aftermath of their joining, Gaige felt more relaxed and at peace than he had in days. Being with Keiran had that effect on him. After so many years living and working under Byram's brutal dictates, finally, for the first time in his life, Gaige felt like he belonged somewhere. Like he had purpose and worth. And something else he’d never hoped to find…love. And he owed it all to Keiran.
Keiran’s palm, callused and warm, stroked Gaige’s chest, skimming over his nipples, sending renewed desire, as well as contentment, through him.
“Do you remember what I’ve told you?” Keiran asked. “About draegan magick?”
“What about it?” Gaige turned his head to look at his lover, wondering what had caused him to bring up this subject.
“How it works.”
“You mean by focus and intention?”
“I remember. Why do you ask?”
“Remember how you put up a screen over the entrance to the caves when you helped the families with children escape Thrythgar, to protect them and keep Byram’s troops from finding them?”
Gaige rolled onto his side to face Keiran. One of Keiran’s knees slid between his legs, and his hand moved to Gaige’s back, tracing up his spine, then down again in a sensual motion that, for a moment, made it hard for Gaige to think about much of anything else. “I wasn’t even aware at that point that I was part draegan,” he murmured. “I didn’t know I could do anything like that. I wasn’t even aware I had done it until afterward.”
Keiran smiled, his eyes sparking like rich gemstones, as if Gaige had just made his point for him—whatever it was. “Exactly. Yet you focused on what you wanted, making it happen, even though you weren’t aware you were doing it. You were surprised when I told you about the screen.”
“I was surprised. I couldn’t fathom how I had been able to use magick without realizing it. But you told me the magick had always been in me because my mother was draegan.”
“That’s right. And now you have my blood—draegan lord blood—flowing through your veins as well, Gaige, so you’re capable of even more.” He leaned in closer and stole a kiss. It made Gaige’s skin tingle, and he felt a warm ripple in the air around them, which made him suddenly suspect Keiran was using a little magick of his own to seduce him.
He raised an eyebrow and shot Keiran a teasing smile. ::Are you trying to bewitch me, draegan lord? I’m already your hopelessly devoted servant. What more could you possibly want from me?::
This time Keiran’s grin shot straight to his groin…which was where Keiran’s hand had gone as well. He curled his fingers around Gaige’s thickening shaft and squeezed. ::Who’s bewitching whom? That shimmer you’re feeling? It’s not me creating it. It’s you.::
Gaige’s eyes widened and he experienced a jolt of shock that he’d once again been unknowingly stirring magick. ::Are you sure?::
Keiran chuckled. In a low, husky voice that sent flares of heat through Gaige, he said aloud, “I’m sure. You shouldn’t be so shocked. The magick is yours to use, any time, any place. You just have to believe in your abilities, m’aerlas. You have to believe nothing is impossible.”
The last was said in a whisper just before Keiran kissed him again and pulled Gaige into the warm press of his hard, welcoming body.
The words resonated deep inside Gaige. You just have to believe. Nothing is impossible.
Before he could contemplate further, though, a sudden and gut-wrenching pain twisted through his body, ripping him away from Keiran.
Gaige was thrust into darkness. He reached out, desperate to find Keiran again, touch him, but his hands grasped only cold, empty air.
No! Not again! I can’t lose him again!
Just as swiftly as Keiran had been torn from him, a new scene took shape around him. The bitter chill of winter seared his lungs as he took a breath, and the damp scent of snow-soon-to-fall filled the air.
A man lay crumpled on the cold, rocky ground in the inky black of the night, his dark hair tangled around his shoulders, his body nude and battered, unmoving.
Raw fear surged through Gaige. Oh, gods…Keiran!
Gaige tried to run to him, but couldn’t move. He was paralyzed, his legs frozen in place. He tried to call out, but though the muscles of his throat moved, no sound escaped him.
Desperate, he tried again, this time using the draegan mind speak. ::Keiran! Please hear me. Answer me. Please!::
Slowly, too slowly, the dark head lifted and turned toward Gaige, holding his gaze for a brief second before falling back to the ground.
Pain, sharp and jagged, sliced through Gaige.
The dark eyes and haunted face that had stared at him…weren’t those of the man he loved.
Fires of Ballian excerpt, copyright 2009 by M.L. Rhodes