Welcome to Paula Kennedy Books! It’s great to have you over for a visit!
Thank you, Paula, for inviting me to your blog. My novel Almost Adept was released from Champagne Books on Jan 6, 2014.
Tell us, what was the inspiration for Almost Adept?
This book started developing in my head long ago, after I read Mercedes Lackey’s Magic Price. In the end of that book, the hero dies, heroically, of course. I dislike such endings, so I started fantasizing: what if he didn’t die? What if… One thing led to another, until my adopted hero transformed into someone else entirely, relocated to my imaginary country of Varelia, and acquired a wife and a daughter. Considering that in Lackey’s book he was gay, such a transformation was really drastic. But I couldn’t write about him – he was another writer’s character. So I changed his name, and his daughter became my heroine, Eriale.
In Almost Adept, who is your favorite character and why?
Of course my favorite characters are my two protagonists, Eriale and Kealan. Eriale is a budding mage. At 17, she is very powerful and very well trained but she has no real world experience and no friends. All her life, she was sheltered and loved by her family and her mentor. She spent all her time studying. Now, she is in the real world, among real people. She is a bit confused but very excited and full of hope. She wants to prove herself, but she is much better with magic and books than with people. Think about a genius musician or scientist – a prodigy in her chosen field but often awkward among her peers. That’s Eriale. While magic is a joy for her, and she can do almost anything with it, it takes her some trying (and making mistakes) to learn human interactions outside her family.
Kealan is almost her opposite. He is twice Eriale’s age, an officer of an army that was defeated a decade ago. His country Grumesh is under occupation, and he’s living undercover, always risking discovery. His comrades and himself are under a death sentence from the current regime. For the last ten years, he has been the leader of the resistance movement but he is getting tired of constant fighting, swamped with disappointment. He wants to stop, to blend in, to abandon the struggle. He is ready to sacrifice his life for his people but he doesn’t believe that freedom is a possibility anymore. He wants peace, but some of his former friends consider him a traitor. For him, Eriale is a spark of sunlight in the darkness of his hopelessness.
Who is your least favorite character and why?
That would be my antagonist, the blood mage Udolen. He wants power – magical and mundane. He incites the youngsters of Grumesh to keep the resistance going. He is a strong proponent of terror as the fighting tactics, and he inspires his followers by fiery and beautiful speeches of liberty. His slogans are glowing, and his cause is just, of course, so many are ready to die for him, not realizing that he is a hypocrite and a demagogue. He doesn’t really believe in the ideals of freedom, he just needs a ready host of unthinking bodies to throw at his enemies. The only thing he craves is power and he paves his path to power with lives and blood of others, both friends and enemies, while he paints himself as a hero.
Tell us an interesting or fun fact – or a few – about Almost Adept.
Strangely, when I started thinking about Eriale’s adventures, they came to me backwards. First, I wrote a story about her, when she was about 30 years old. This story exists on my computer as the first draft of a novel. I’m going to revise it soon. Then I wanted to see how she started on her magic path – and Almost Adept got written. I’m working on two more novels about her.
I also have a couple of short stories about Eriale, both happening before Almost Adept. Both stories are available as freebies on my website.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you work through that?
Alas. Yes. I read once that the best way through the writer’s block is to write. Three sentences a day as a minimum. I found it a good advice. You start with three sentences, but then you want to finish a paragraph. And then another thought sprouts in your head, and you want to write some more.
Sometimes, it also helps to switch projects, especially if you don’t know how to continue with your current one. A time away from a story might give you a fresh perspective.
I like the three sentence idea! Think I’ll use that myself. I’m curious, are you a plotter or a pantser?
Definitely a plotter. I need to know what happens with my characters before I write. My writer’s block often happens when I don’t know what happens, how my hero could solve this particular problem. Fortunately, sometimes a story takes over. I would be typing, following my rough outline, and then my hero would meet someone unexpected, and the story would veer into an unforeseen direction. Such little detours often add richness to my stories and my characters, but I always return to my general outline in the end.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Oh, I have one ambition. I want to be able to support myself financially by my writing. I’m not dreaming of millions of dollars or being a bestseller or some such, just a modest income. I know, a naïve dream, right?
Hardly. We all need something to work toward! Good for you! What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to read. I read a lot and write reviews for most books I read. I like watching classical ballet and listening to classical music. Traveling is also nice, but with the current prices it’s becoming harder and harder.
Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?
Not really. Everyone selects her own way to publication. Nowadays, there are choices – a big publisher, a small one, self-publishing. The only thing that’s important is to write well. I’d say: don’t rush into self-publishing. First, make sure that what you’ve written is the best.
Can you share an excerpt of your current work? Why did you select this particular section to share?
Below is the first chapter of the novel. What happened in it started Eriale on her real world adventure; she couldn’t stay home after what she did in this chapter, she had to disappear for a while. So she embarked on her adventure, and I wrote about it in the novel Almost Adept.
Eriale exhaled slowly behind a heavy curtain. Her eyes burned. Her chest hurt. Her small fists clenched by themselves. Magic roiled inside her, straining to erupt in anger, but she yanked it back hard. She had decided to eavesdrop on Gordin and his friends because she hadn’t really believed the gossip. Gosh, had she been wrong! She didn’t want to hear more of their insults but she was trapped behind the curtain. She had no choice but to listen.
“She is a horny runt, of course, but a cute one,” Gordin drawled. Eriale didn’t need her magic to know he puffed up his impressive chest. “I might take her up on her offer. After all, she’s a princess. Sort of.” He snickered. “Half-sister to Queen Tamara anyway.”
The two other young men in the room guffawed readily.
“A bit scrawny for my taste,” said one of Gordin’s companions.
“Your mother is trying to marry you off?” another asked with false sympathy.
“Why not?” Gordin said. “She doesn’t have tits to speak of, but royalty is royalty.”
Eriale tuned their stinging words off. Despicable! She had been such a ninny, fooled by the blond splendor of Gordin’s curls, by his transparent flattery and sly innuendos. Why couldn’t she see through him before? Was that how he really saw her? As a horny runt with no tits? She winced. The cad had just pretended to like her, because she was the queen’s sister. Half-sister. And then he mocked her behind her back. She should’ve known. What else were they saying? She had missed the beginning of the next exchange but caught the tail end of it, pronounced in Gordin’s rusty baritone.
“…what mage? Her father is a mage. She is just a midget with delusions of sorcery. I can tame her. I can tame any bitch, harlots all of them. Mage, my ass.”
Eriale didn’t see him from her hiding place but she was sure he sneered. She stopped listening again. Enough! She would confront him. Why was she hiding? She had nothing to be ashamed of. So she was short and skinny and not a great beauty. Big deal. But nobody could ridicule her magic. Nobody! Her magic was equal to anyone’s. She was the strongest mage in the kingdom. Well, maybe the second strongest after her father, but still almost an Adept, superbly trained. As soon as she lost her virginity she would apply for the Adept testing. Her breath caught, as hatred squeezed her throat. This ignoramus was deriding her magic? Not for long.
She threw the damask curtain aside and straightened to her full, insignificant height. The three young aristocrats loitering in the middle of the room whirled at the rustle of the curtain. Dressed in their finery for the royal ball, they resembled a flock of bright, multicolored pheasants in the royal zoo. Surprised pheasants. Eriale grinned unpleasantly.
Dismay quivered momentarily in Gordin’s blue eyes, but he made a swift recovery. “Eavesdropping, Lady Eriale?” he asked with false nonchalance.
His slightly protruding eyes, together with his patrician nose and the golden fleece of his hair, suddenly reminded Eriale of Chalanian sheep, arrogant, aware of their high breeding. Why hadn’t she seen the resemblance before?
“Lady?” she said contemptuously. “I thought I was a harlot with no tits. Was my hearing faulty?”
Gordin’s two buddies gaped at her, but he only grinned and bowed slightly, one hand extended. “We were just kidding around, princess. Young men do, sometimes. Forgive us, if our mindless words caused you grief. Let me make it up to you and escort you back to the ballroom. I believe they’re about to play our waltz. I hope you didn’t promise it to anyone else. I would be devastated.” His voice, sweet and thick like molasses, oozed sincerity.
Did he think her so gullible? “Your acting skills are good, Lord Gordin,” Eriale bit out. “But your bleating displeases me. I don’t have delusions of sorcery. You dare to mock my magic? It’s quite real, I assure you.”
“But of course, princess.” His hand was still extended, hanging between them. He stepped forward and cradled Eriale’s cheek in his open palm. Suddenly his eyes glinted with anticipation. “Whatever you say, darling.” His thin lips stretched in a lecherous grimace. Abruptly, he grabbed Eriale’s waist with his other hand and tugged her towards a sofa. “Maybe I was too polite before?” A crimson dragon on the tapestry over the sofa leered at them.
“No. You conceited, lying muttonhead.” Magic bubbled inside her, striving to explode in her rage, filling her with swirling, glittering power. It made her giddy. “Let me go. Imbecile!”
“Yes, let’s play.” He squeezed her buttock. “Should we banish my friends and close the door? Or would you prefer them to stay and watch? Participate? I don’t mind sharing.” Gordin’s mouth descended towards Eriale’s. His lips glistened with saliva.
Skirls of waltz music and snatches of laughter drifted in from the ballroom across the dimly-lit hall. Should she scream for help? No, nobody could hear them in this out-of-the-way chamber.
Eriale pushed at Gordin but to no avail. His chest felt like stone, unmovable. She flinched from his touch. His cloying perfume almost caused her to vomit. “Don’t touch me. Degenerate.” The magical noise in her head became a roar. She pounded at him, but her puny fists were no match for his muscles.
“Or what?” he taunted. “We’ll get married soon anyway. Don’t worry, princess.”
“Over your dead body.”
One of the friends closed the door, cutting off the waltz in mid-note. Gordin shoved Eriale to the sofa and sprawled on top of her. She almost suffocated under his weight. One of his hands slid beneath the décolletage of her gown, pinching her breast, rending the fragile silk. His other hand grabbed both of her wrists, immobilizing them above her head. She bucked.
“Small,” he muttered. “Testy.” His closeness was revolting, and Eriale twitched involuntary. When he bit her nipple, the small pain was like a splash of cold water. It freed her to act. Almost choking with rage, she went limp under his abusive hands and mouth.
“Cretin,” she hissed. “Get off me, or I’ll use my magic.”
“Yes,” he whispered. His hot breath felt foul on her flushed skin. “Use it, little sl*t. I might like it.” His kiss was cruel, hurting her. His knee pressed between Eriale’s thighs.
She blocked her mind to his depravations. Fine. If the idiot didn’t realize the danger he was in, it was his own fault. Although her hands and mouth were still Gordin’s captives, she didn’t need them to work magic. The spell formed in her mind, glittering and vengeful. Beautiful. In the last moment, reluctantly, she added a volatile layer. Now, the spell would disintegrate after one week. Pity. Spell-casting complete, she hurled it at Gordin’s blond coiffure.
He recoiled, stumbling off the sofa. His features blurred. He started screaming, but the scream morphed into a gurgling moan. Dropping to his knees, he curled into a ball of misery on the floor, clutching his head with both hands. He couldn’t speak anymore. His human head was slowly reshaping into a sheep’s head. Fleece sprouted everywhere. Miniscule horns popped out.
Blast! She had meant to make him a ram but in her haste provided him with a ewe’s anatomy. She snorted involuntarily. Even better. Would serve him right to spend a week as a she-sheep. His fashionable aubergine doublet, embroidered with tiny pearls, looked weird below the sheep’s startled visage. Gordin’s hands frantically explored his transformed countenance, found the horns, and jerked off, as if burned. The sheep bleated pitifully, its bewildered little eyes on Eriale. The creamy lace decorating Gordin’s shirt almost matched the sheep’s blond curly pelt.
“You are a muttonhead inside. Darling. Be that outside as well,” Eriale announced. She climbed to her feet and glanced towards Gordin’s friends.
Both had backed into a corner, staring at Gordin in horror. One of them retched.
Eriale winced and turned her attention to herself, assessing the damage. Her ball gown was ruined, torn in front, leaving one of her breasts bare. Her skirt was rumpled. She held up the torn flap of silk to cover herself and marched to the door. Her elaborate hairdo had come undone during their struggle. Some of her black hair fell into her face, and she blew it off her eyes. Nobody tried to stop her, although the sheep still bleated.
“Poor, stupid sheep,” she murmured in satisfaction and peeked out the door. No traffic in the hall. Excellent. The waltz was still in full swing in the ballroom; she could escape unmolested. She cloaked herself in the no-noticing spell, stepped into the empty hall, and raced towards the queen’s personal wing and the secret magical gateway home. Her spell held; a couple of servants she met on the way didn’t notice her.
The exhilaration of magic was abating, leaving doubts in its place. Perhaps she had overreacted a bit. She could’ve thrust him away with magic any time, could’ve broken his arms and left the room. But she had allowed his debauchery because she had wanted an excuse to punish him. She had used her magic for revenge. Gosh, she was in such trouble. Her parents would disown her. And Tamara, the queen… No, she wouldn’t think about that now. First, she must escape from the palace.
The stationary gateway was located inside Tamara’s private suite of rooms. The two guards at the entrance didn’t notice Eriale, just like the servants. She clouded their minds with magic for a moment, long enough for her to open the ornate door and slip inside. Fortunately for her, the queen was still back in the ballroom.
The gateway, embedded in the door of Tamara’s walk-in closet, was their father’s creation. Its dormant crimson magic lapped at the walnut wood, carved and gilded in an elegant berry pattern. The spell glowed, beautiful but hidden. Only an Adept could see it. Beside the closet, a flower composition on three multileveled side tables flaunted the blooms’ fragile loveliness.
Eriale activated the gateway, and magic shimmered in the wood of the door, warping the harmony of carved gilded arabesques, until the space contracted. The painful twisting and folding of the ether stopped, revealing a corridor in her father’s mansion, a day’s ride away from the palace. Eriale stepped through and hurriedly deactivated the spell.
Her father would sense the gateway being used, but why would he investigate? Nobody but family knew about the gateway. She could’ve gone home for a hundred legitimate reasons. He would never guess the real reason, although he would find out soon enough. Someone would discover Gordin, or his buddies would tattle. She had maybe a couple of candlemarks before her parents stormed back from the palace. Before she had to answer for her misdeeds. Might as well bathe and change while she waited. She hurried to the bathroom at the end of the hall.
The magical light globe embedded in the ceiling flared to life as soon as she entered. The patterned tiles of the walls, white and celadon, her mother’s favorite color, glittered cheerfully. She filled the enamel bathtub with cold water from a pump and thrust her hand inside the tub to heat it with magic. Then she stripped and climbed in.
She wouldn’t think of Gordin now. Not yet. Bliss enveloped her, as she washed off all traces of his repulsive attention. She lathered herself twice with the lily-scented soap and scrubbed frantically before she deemed her skin clean enough. Stretching her magic to the wardrobe in her bedroom, she pulled out clean underwear and her blue house dress. After she dressed and re-braided her hair, she closeted herself in the library, her favorite place in the mansion.
Light outside the windows had already faded, so she conjured a magical light to hover beneath the ceiling. The shining globe shed light on the old oaken shelves, stuffed with books and scrolls. She pulled out one book at random and leafed through the pages absently, but no words registered. She slammed the tome shut and caressed the calfskin binding. Books never betrayed her. They were friends. She understood them.
Unlike some conniving, bleating sheep. Her breathing shortened at the memory. Blast Gordin anyway! He had caused her to lose control, and now she was in deep shit.
As always, magic rushed in, soothing her agitation, placating her jumbled thoughts. Like a living creature, it sought an outlet, as yet unshaped into a spell but full and vivid; a cloud of sparkling energy. Eriale was always more comfortable with magic than with people. She often landed in trouble because of her magic too. Now she shaped the magic into a flock of illusionary winged sheep and released them into the evening sky outside the window. The sheep flew away, their wings pumping furiously.
“Ha!” she said and yanked her attention back to her problem. Absently, she fiddled with the plump bushy end of her braid. She shouldn’t have lost her temper. Gordin was a scumbag, true, but even he didn’t deserve his newly-acquired ewe’s head. She had misused her power to avenge herself. It was wrong, but what a delicious revenge. And the head would revert back to its former blond glory next week.
What would Tamara do now? The queen had been courting Gordin’s aristocratic clan. She would want to lock Eriale in the dungeon and whip her bloody for spoiling the royal schemes. She would definitely flay Eriale verbally, given a chance. Gordin’s family would want her hide as well. She would be banished from the court forever, with no chance to find someone to take her virginity. With her virginity intact, she was ineligible for the Adept testing. She might die an old maid and still a Journeyman, and all because of that bleating looser. Double blast!
Perhaps she should follow her father’s advice and hire a male whore to take her virginity. But her father would be mad at her now. She might be grounded again, cooped up at home. Should she run away? She wished she were a healer like her mother, not a mage like her father. Then she would never have gotten into this pucker.
“Lady Bareny?” Siena, the kitchen maid, put her head inside the library door, interrupting Eriale’s musing. “You’re home.”
“Yes. What?” Eriale snapped.
“There’s a courier in the hall. Says he needs a magical signature.” Sienna sailed away, her nose in the air, proud like the queen.
Eriale sighed. Siena had been much friendlier before, but she was still holding a grudge. She couldn’t forgive Eriale for the yesterday’s display of dancing kitchen utensils, including carving knives. Eriale had done it as a joke, but the knives had frightened Siena.
“Thank you, Siena,” Eriale murmured. She sent the book back to its shelf with a magical nudge and headed downstairs.
My website and blog: http://olgagodim.wordpress.com
You can also find me at:
The book can be found
On my publisher’s website: http://burstbooks.ca/product.php?id_product=118
Or on other online retailers’ sites.
Thanks again for stopping by, Olga! Can’t wait to read Almost Adept!