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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What Happens After...

A happy day today.

No sooner had my fourth novel Song of the Beast been published than readers started asking me if I was ever going to write a sequel.Song. my only standalone novel, told the story of Aidan MacAllister - musician, singer, visionary, cousin to the king of Elyria, a man imprisoned just as his fame was approaching its height. The story actually begins on the day of Aidan's release from that seventeen year imprisonment and tells of his slow recovery and his search for the reasons behind it. No one had ever bothered to tell him. I'm certainly not going to tell here what he discovered or what he had to do about it. I told inquirers that I liked where Song ended, and that I would not write a follow-on unless I had something important to add to Aidan's story - a new idea. I wasn't just going to say how he was doing.

Then, a few years ago, I was asked to do a story for an anthology of romantic fantasy - romantic in the larger sense - called Lace and Blade, and somehow Aidan came to mind. I had to search that fantasy world inside my head to find out what he was doing...and in that search for the story that could take me back into his world, I realized that the search for a hero long after his story was over Was the Story.

So I wrote a short story called "The Heart's Coda." It was all set to  be published in the third edition of the Lace and Blade anthology. But Things happened, the publisher postponed the book three years in a row, and the story came back to me and sat in my trunk. And sat.  Nagging at me. Every once in a while I pulled it out and as I learned more about writing in general, totally rewrote it, stretched it into a novelette, rewrote the ending.

And then last year I hear from the lovely editor Deborah Ross, who says that Lace and Blade is now a part of the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Trust and did I have a story for the newest edition? Aidan waved his hand at me and said, "What about me?  It's about time." And so it is.

Fifteen years have passed since Song of the Beast was published (and it is still in print), but only three years have passed in storytime. A young Elhim named Glyn has been sent to find Aidan after he vanished into the west with some very dangerous companions.

Here is the opening of this very special story....

After a lonely month's slogging through that chilly, rainy, miserable wilderness, one might expect the excitement of my first royal mission entirely exhausted. But as I approached the summit of yet another steep rise, anticipation still shivered my skin. Would the legend be waiting beyond this crest? The Dragon Singer, Aidan MacAllister, beloved of the gods? Would he dwell in a temple or palace or a fortress of dragon bones? Or would I top this verdant, boulder-strewn slope and walk straight into one of his visions?

            Tales said that at the height of his fame, before he was thrown into prison and broken, Aidan MacAllister's music could transport your soul right out of your body. No matter how terrible your circumstances, for that one moment you would exist in a place of beauty and harmony. What a wonder that must have been.

            I scanned the clouds lowering over the crags and stretched my hearing into the unsettling quiet.

            Then again, I might only find the Singer's beasts beyond the rise. The dragons. Perhaps I'd find naught but the Singer's scorched bones.
            A belching, world-ripping bellow rumbled the misty upland, as if to illustrate my worst imaginings. My boots tried to reverse course on their own and take me directly back the long way I'd just come.
            So newly emerged from the Elhim Covert, I had been spared the horrors of dragon warfare—or any warfare, to be honest. I'd never so much as laid an eye on one of the beasts, save those sketched in my books and carved or painted on every wall, column, and lintel in Elyria. Images were terrible enough.
            Despite seventeen years in the barbarous prison called Mazadine, MacAllister had found his voice again and sung the dragons free of their own cruel enslavement, ending five centuries of dragon wars. Then he had followed the beasts into these wild lands west of Elyria, vowing to return them to sentience if it took another five hundred years.
            Another braying screech near melted my liver. I backed into a standing boulder twice my height and held still until my heart unclenched.
            Good Davyn, my worthy progenitor, who had dispatched me on this mission, had tried to make his assurances of dragon intelligence and MacAllister's intimacy with the beasts so solid that I would not falter when I heard their bawling.
            If these are the cries of free and cheerful dragons, please, O One Who Guides, honor those who survived our past with hearts, souls, and livers intact!
          Sucking in my courage, I hunched my cloak around my shoulders, striving to appear small and uninteresting. Then I commanded my reluctant feet to climb a little farther. I could not, must not fail...

Happy Valentine's Day, dear readers!

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