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FROSTBORN: THE FIRST QUEST now free on Amazon (and a few other places)


I am pleased to report that FROSTBORN: THE FIRST QUEST is now available for free at Amazon, Amazon UK, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, and Smashwords.

If you’ve been curious about the FROSTBORN series, but haven’t given it a try, now is an excellent time!

I’m working on getting it free on Barnes & Noble. If you don’t want to wait for that to happen, if you download the EPUB file off Smashwords and sideload it to your Nook device (directions available here), you can read it immediately.


when will I begin GHOST IN THE ASHES?

Now that SOUL OF SWORDS is out, quite a few people have asked when I will begin GHOST IN THE ASHES, the next book in THE GHOSTS series.

Actually, I have some good news on that front.

SOUL OF SWORDS came out on June 1st, but I finished it about a week before Memorial Day. I decided to hold off on releasing it until June because it’s not a terribly good idea to release a new book either on or around a major holiday, as people are traveling or visiting family and not too interested in books.

So while waiting for June 1st, I decided to put the time to good use by starting the rough draft of GHOST IN THE ASHES. I’m on chapter 17 of 25, with about 57,000 words written, and I suspect the rough draft will be around 85,000 to 90,000 words long. If all goes well, we’ll see the book out in July.


Thursdays of Sword & Sorceress 26: the J.C. Hsyu Interview

This week’s interview is with J.C. Hsyu.

1.) Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and raised in Los Angeles; a few years ago I moved to San Francisco. I worked in animation and FX studios while writing at night, but I’m getting better at saying that I’m a writer who’s worked in animation and FX studios. I write speculative fiction short stories and novels, and when I’m not reading or writing I like to watch action movies and anime, terrorize my cats, and kick my husband off the Xbox so I can play The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.

2.) How did you get started writing?

It started with reading. Fairy tales, folk tales, and Greek mythology led to Lord of the Rings, Dune, Neuromancer…then I started coming up with stories when I wasn’t reading, and then I started writing them down. Those early stories are so awful – and wonderful in their awfulness – but what a rush to see my words on paper for the first time! I realized I wanted to share my stories with people, in the hopes of capturing their imaginations the way mine had been captured.

3.) Why write fantasy fiction?

The joy and the freedom – and the challenges – of world-building. Also, to paraphrase what others have said before, creating relatable characters/situations in fantastic settings, figuring out the tension between them and how to resolve that tension in a single compelling narrative by exploiting their differences.

And fantasy and science fiction are what I love to read, so I guess it was inevitable that my own stories would have speculative elements; I tried to write a police procedural a long time ago, and I tried to make it as authentic as possible. Looking back on it now, it was pure magical realism and an entirely inaccurate police procedural, but I had so much fun writing it.

4.) There’s been considerable upheaval about ebooks within the publishing world. Do you think ebooks are good or bad for readers?

I will always prefer to buy physical books, not just for the content but the look and feel of them, the tactility, the heft. And I’m a sucker for a great cover. Nothing makes me happier than bringing home a bag of new books to read, and adding them to my library. I prefer to travel light, however, and I’ve found that ebooks are convenient on the go; so I think ebooks can be good for readers, but only as an alternative to the real thing.

5.) Do you think ebooks are good or bad for writers?

This ties in with my answer to the previous question. I look forward to the day I can hold a book with my name on the front; I’m not averse to seeing it on a screen but I’ll go for the paper first, because it is what I know and love. What works for me will not work for other writers, of course. I can’t say which distribution model will work best; in publishing, and in other grand traditions, there are things that work and things that don’t, right? I have hope, though. The music industry underwent – is still undergoing – a painful transition to the digital age, but it is showing signs of adaptation and survival. There will always be a demand for good music, and there will always be a demand for good books.

6.) Tell us about your S&S 26 story.

”The Hungry Ghost” is about a young Chinese woman who can see ghosts, and has taken on a job subduing malevolent ones during the Ghost Festival each year, when the living pay their respects to the visiting dead. I wanted to observe ancient traditions in a modern context; I grew up with scary Chinese folk tales and these incredible wuxia adaptations about ghosts menacing the living, so I tried to imagine one of the ways this rich, venerable mythology could be honored in a progressive, urban setting like Beijing.

This story is also very special to me, because I have several of the early Sword & Sorceress volumes in my old bedroom at home – so I am thrilled and honored that my first short story sale will be in the 26th!

7.) Can you share a brief excerpt from your S&S Story?

High Minister Lin handed out their masks. Mei stared at the fierce visage of Zhong Kui, painted as the red-faced, angry old man of Peking opera, the hongsheng. Fierce black eyebrows angled down over glaring pupils; the scraggly black mustache and beard framed the hard curve of a perpetual frown. Another year, another chance, Ma-Ma, Mei thought, and put the mask on. She looked out through its eyes and felt its edges seal themselves against her skin. The nostrils and lips parted to let her breathe. Warmth surged through her muscles and bones, a hidden wellspring of strength that would lend her supernatural grace and power for this one night of the year. In response, the handles of her swords warmed in her hands.

Every year Mei-Li Chang’s second job culminated on the night of the Ghost Festival, July 15th. It was a night she looked forward to, more than cleaning up after animation artists every other day. She didn’t get any sleep, and sometimes she got hurt, but she didn’t mind. She didn’t receive a second salary, because her second job served the people and was therefore a reward in itself, according to the Politburo Standing Committee; but she didn’t mind that either. She did mind hiding the true nature of her second job from her mother, but she knew that she would quit soon — maybe even tonight, given the chance — and Ma-Ma would understand eventually. The prospect of Jincheng Wu would certainly help Ma-Ma get over it.

For Mei-Li Chang could see ghosts, and every year she looked forward to the sweltering summer night where she could run through the streets of Beijing, swords out, and send ghosts back to the underworld.

8.) Recommend one other science fiction/fantasy book (other than your own).

That’s a tough one to answer. If you’ll indulge me, for science fiction I would recommend anything by Ian McDonald – Desolation Road, Brasyl, River of Gods, and The Dervish House for starters. I’m so inspired by his characterizations, plotting and world-building; the amount of research, speculation and cultural insight he puts into each book is staggering. He has the ability to create these incredibly intimate portraits and moments among the most complicated settings and situations, all with style and grace and edge. Great, great stuff.

9.) Recommend one non-fantasy book.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Aside from its indelible story, its historical significance and the haunting, concise elegance of the prose – this was the first strong, compelling female narrative I had come across; I was in high school at the time, and I’ve read it every year since. I can only follow in its footsteps and aspire to write a character like Scout, on a journey like hers. With a sword, of course.


Thanks, J,C., for the interview.

Check out our interviews with past S&S contributors – Sword & Sorceress 22, Sword & Sorceress 23, Sword & Sorceress 24, and Sword & Sorceress 25.

And the trilogy of novels featuring my S&S character, spy and assassin Caina Amalas, are now available in all ebook formats: Child of the Ghosts, Ghost in the Flames, and Ghost in the Blood. Child of the Ghosts is available for free at Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.


Wraithblood: The Elixir, Episode 15a

You snatch one of the acid vials from your pocket, break the seal, and dump it upon the daevagoth’s leathery, hairy hide. At once the acid sizzles, and the daevagoth springs backwards off Khaenset with a scream, blue-glowing eyes wide. The spider-creature swivels to face you, face contorted with rage, smoke rising from her hide.
“Did the Master buy you, too?” hisses the daevagoth. “Did you replace me in his bed? I’ll…”
The creature’s diatribe comes to an end when Nasser’s scimitar comes down in a steely arc and severs her head. Black blood jets across the stone floor, and the head rolls away. Silver light engulfs the carcass, and when it clears, the naked body of a young woman lies upon the floor.
Nasser lets out a long sigh and cleans off his blade.
“What the devil was that thing?” says Azaces.
“Formerly, one of Callatas’s slaves,” says Nasser. “Should one of his slaves displease him in any way, Callatas will…transmute them. The lucky ones, he only transmutes into statues. The less lucky ones…” He gestures at the dead woman. “The College of Alchemists does not count kindly men among its ranks.”
“And it killed Khaenset,” you say, turning towards the corpse.
Only to find that Khaenset is standing, the ghastly wounds in his neck shrinking. Blood soaks his collar, and yet his face shows neither pain nor pleasure, only the usual blankness.
“That is highly improbable,” you say.
“The Alghol,” says Azaces, “are hard to kill.”
For a moment something almost like an expression comes across Khaenset’s face. “You cannot kill that which has already died to the world.”
“Come,” says Nasser, “time is limited. We must move.”
Nasser leads you through the gleaming marble corridors of Callatas’s mansion, and you pass a dozen slaves in orange kilts or shifts, lying sprawling unconscious upon the floor. Evidently Riordan and Tarquin succeeded in drugging the wine.
A few moments later your reach the mansion’s great hall.
It is a huge space, three stories high, built of gleaming red marble. Hundreds of niches line the walls, holding statues of crystal and marble and granite. And every last one of the statues wears an expression of horror or fear, some of them on their knees, others of them with their hands outreached in supplication.
Callatas’s enemies, you realize. Men and women and children he turned to statues of crystal and stone…save for those he transformed into daevagoths.
Riordan and Tarquin wait near one of the statues. Riordan seems calm as ever, but sweat pours down Tarquin’s face, so much that his orange slave’s robe is stained with darker patches. You wonder if he is about to snap from the terror.
“There you are!” says Tarquin. “What took so long? We’ve been waiting for hours!”
“It was six minutes,” says Riordan.
“Did the drug work?” says Nasser.
“Aye,” says Tarquin. “I slipped into the the wine. All the slaves and guards drank it as soon as the Master departed, and slipped into stupor. No one else is left awake in the mansion…”
No sooner do the words leave Tarquin’s lips then you hear the sound of boot heels ringing against the marble floor. Someone is approaching a pair of double doors on the far side of the great hall.
“What is this, eunuch?” says Azaces, lifting his bow. “You said you drugged all of Callatas’s slaves!”
“I did!” says Tarquin. “All of them! I don’t know who else is here!”
“You’re planning to betray us,” says Azaces, “and…”
“Silence,” says Nasser, his eyes narrowing as he begins to come to a decision.

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