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Saturday, March 14, 2015

E-book Release: Mirrors & Mist, Book II of The Oxbow Kingdom Trilogy

Mirrors & Mist, Book II of The Oxbow Kingdom Trilogy 

Jetsam fled Dwim-Halloe as a runaway orphan, escaping both a zealous bounty hunter and a dragon-obsessed fallen knight. Now, the teenager finds himself a fledgling apprentice to the infamous wizard Seryn Vardan, the Oxbow Kingdom’s most wanted fugitive. When Jetsam attempts a heroic rescue during a foray with his teacher, catastrophe strikes as Seryn is captured and slated for execution.

Jetsam vows to free Seryn from his mysterious captors before his public beheading in the city where they are both falsely accused of murder. With his canine companion, Jetsam attempts a risky homecoming by seeking aid from old friends. Can Jetsam save his beloved mentor from certain death, or will he once again be left homeless and alone with a bounty on his head?

CM Skiera has managed to write another spellbinding tale, expanding on the first adventure while also tying in Seryn's past.Shaykitteh's World of Books
A special thank you to my excellent editor R.J. Blain and my wonderful beta readers; Anne Carlson, Jennifer Thompson, Tony Jones, Lee Lyte, Gary Kacmarcik, Ray Nicholson, and Barb Skiera.
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C.M. Skiera currently lives in San Diego, California, a long way from Michigan, where he grew up, graduated from Michigan State University, and started a career as an environmental engineer. He and his wife are devoted dog-lovers who share their home with two rescue Chihuahuas.

Crimson & Cream is C.M. Skiera’s debut epic fantasy novel.  He started writing Crimson & Cream in 1999, and after many twists and turns, 13 drafts, plenty of rejections, the arrival of the 21st Century and  the advent of online self-publishing, the ebook was was self-published on Smashwords and Amazon in 2012. Mirrors & Mist, Book II of The Oxbow Kingdom Trilogy is his latest release, and he is currently writing Warlock & Wyrm, the final book of the series.

An Excerpt from Mirrors & Mist:

Jetsam noticed Tramp’s pointy ears rotate. As the terrier charged toward the ridge crest, keening steel and battle cries reverberated on Jetsam’s eardrums. Ground-hugging foliage stopped Tramp from advancing. With tan paws planted on rusty lichens, his low growl alerted the wizard Seryn Vardan to the faraway din as well.

Jetsam stepped over his four-legged companion and stood in the deep scrub. Gloved hands pushed aside the thick brush blocking his view. Winter retreated from the Kierawaith, but the dry devil’s club branches still swayed barren of buds. Brittle flaxen spines dispersed with his touch, cascading to the mossy carpet at his feet. High in the spruce canopy above, prickly arms waltzed with the breeze.

Jetsam’s palms opened a moon-lit portal through the splintery shrub. This high in the Oxbow Mountains, early spring temperatures demanded winter clothing. Jetsam wore the too-large gloves of the late bounty hunter Yduk Thiern. Even with space in the fingertips, the well-made gauntlets were a superior alternative to cloth mittens or Dwarven ringed mail, and especially bare hands.

With a calm command, Jetsam hushed his terrier, and peered upon the frenetic scene. On this cloudless night, the waxing moon illuminated the hillside enough to discern the forms below.

“Men!” Jetsam whispered. “And . . . beasts!”

Seryn leaned in over Jetsam’s cloaked shoulder and searched down the ridge. As did Jetsam, the mage wore a fur-lined hooded cloak. Both faces were clean-shaven—Seryn’s on purpose and Jetsam’s because he grew no beard to shave.

“Too big for goblins, too small for trolls,” Jetsam continued.

Grimions,” Seryn said. “Bodes ill to see them this far south.”

Jetsam recalled fireside stories Ratboy told in the underbelly. Pitiless monsters, he’d said, head-hunters and flesh-eaters, that’s what grimions are. Jetsam envisioned Ratboy’s serious gaze as he heaped fodder for the urchins’ nightmares. The gray-skins run with humpbacks and goblins, steal orphans in the violet hour, and fashion loincloths from human hair. Though the tales frightened him as much as any of the orphans, Jetsam missed his friend’s harrowing imagery. They kidnap lasses for the Grimlord, and he breeds them to make more grimions.

Or so Ratboy said.

From what Jetsam witnessed beneath him, his former companion’s tales strayed not far from truth.

“They’re killing them!” Jetsam said, turning to the sorcerer. Both he and Seryn saw enough to determine the caravan guards were not faring well. An aimless confusion undermined their efforts.

Then Jetsam’s blue eyes spotted a girl, cowering beneath a woven basket in the rear of a breached wagon. The plunderers ripped open the canvas cover, exposing the lass to the onslaught. Jetsam swore on his life that this caravan girl would not carry a half-grimion child.

Before Seryn voiced an objection, Jetsam scrambled through the thicket, thorny brambles raking his long locks. Tramp barked in dismay and balanced on his hind legs, craning and ears erect, searching for a passage to follow. Only moments ago, Jetsam had contemplated setting camp and bedding down for the night. Now dinner would wait.

Adrenaline overrode Jetsam’s rational thought as he descended the slope. His leatherwork boots kicked up dust from the landscape and sent stones and pebbles bouncing beneath him. He step-slid down the gravelly hillside, his left hand feathering the loose earth for balance. In his right hand, he held Enthran Ashvar’s old staff, poking it into the ground as he worked down the bank.

Jetsam learned a plethora of spells from Seryn this past winter, and his mind reeled to select the most appropriate one for the current situation. A hundred paces below him, the caravan idled on the trail, its dozen guards battling the attackers.

Jetsam counted six covered wagons scattered in a crooked line along the trail. The raiders struck quickly, disabling the caravan before the wagons circled. Jetsam realized the grimions crippled at least one wheel or horse on each wagon. The war party overturned one of the smaller four-wheeled carriages—its well-oiled wooden wheels still spun in vain. The coachman and a pair of road horses lay dead. One sumpter bay bolted, its cargo strewn in its fleeing wake.

Horses neighed, stamped, and tangled in their harnesses as swords, clubs, and claws flew in a frenzied dance. The beleaguered guards made their stand beside the largest six-wheeled wagon; a beached whale in the mountain valley. Jetsam noticed an unfortunate passenger had been dragged out and gutted, but predominantly, the wily ravagers focused on the over-matched guards.

Halfway down the slope, Jetsam halted to scrutinize the vicious assailants. The grimions outnumber them. The war band wore a haphazard selection of what could most accurately be described as armor. A variety of cobbled materials fashioned breastplates, bucklers, greaves, and helms. The grimions brandished clubs and cudgels along with dirks for jugular slashes and scalping.

Jetsam contemplated turning around and racing back to higher ground. Glancing back, he saw Seryn hacking through the brush as it bit and grabbed at his cloak. Tramp hopped behind him, picking his way over the mage’s hasty trail of crushed branches. Their rapid breath frosted in the cool mountain air.

Jetsam returned his gaze to the battle field and found the terrified girl. Upon spying a slavering monster turning toward the cowering lass, he dismissed the idea of retreat. It spotted her! The abomination released a banshee wail and bee-lined for the girl. Gore ran from its toothy maw and bloody claws. My spell must be deadly.

Jetsam focused and set upon an incantation. His outstretched right arm grasped his staff, leaving his left hand free to cast. As the Elven words fled his lips and his fingers danced . . . nothing happened. 

Bugger!
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Interested in reading Mirrors & Mist, but haven't yet read Crimson & Cream? Get a free copy of Book I of the Oxbow Kingdom Trilogy at Smashwords for a limited time with this code: HB78A

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mirrors & Mist Cover Reveal

Mirrors & Mist, Book II of The Oxbow Kingdom Trilogy releases March 15. Today, I'm revealing the cover, which I made primarily using Corel Photo Paint 9 (a 15-year-old software that works amazingly well on my Windows 7 machine). I used the same font and title layout as the Crimson & Cream cover, and tried to keep a consistent look and style between the books. Since Mirrors & Mist will be released as an e-book, the cover will be viewed primarily in thumbnail size, so I focused on large, distinct title and author font size to be readable even at small scale. Ideally, by the release of the third volume of the trilogy, I will have professionally-designed covers for all three books, but for now, I'm still flying in the face of popular wisdom and doing it myself.

Mirrors & Mist is a coming-of-age epic fantasy adventure that continues the tale of Jetsam, a runaway orphan who fled Dwim-Halloe as a fugitive, escaping both a zealous bounty hunter and a dragon-obsessed fallen knight. Now, the teenager finds himself a fledgling apprentice to the infamous wizard Seryn Vardan, the Oxbow Kingdom’s most wanted criminal. When Jetsam attempts a heroic rescue during a foray with his teacher, catastrophe strikes as Seryn is captured and slated for execution.

Jetsam vows to free Seryn from his mysterious captors before his public beheading in the city where they are both falsely accused of murder. With his canine companion, Jetsam attempts a risky homecoming by seeking aid from old friends. Can Jetsam save his beloved mentor from certain death, or will he once again be left homeless and alone with a bounty on his head?

Below is an excerpt from Mirrors & Mist that inspired the scene depicted on the cover:
Jetsam opened his eyes to darkness; the torch burned out. Curled in a ball, Tramp snored beneath the blanket, wedged between Jetsam’s shivering thighs and rumbling stomach. In his sleep, Jetsam coiled his lanky frame, mimicking the canine. 
Groggy and chilled, Jetsam unwound and sat up. He ached everywhere—especially his damp neck. His throat burned raw and his head sloshed full of snot, while the inside of his skull pounded. He sneezed and woke Tramp. The dog poked his head out from under the blanket and stretched, his front paws reaching in front of him with his bottom in the air. Jetsam scratched the terrier’s backside as he tried to clear his head. 
“Feel like dung, buddy boy.” 
Jetsam fumbled to retrieve a fresh torch. Hope that was enough rest to let me cast. With a few Elven words and a finger dance, the brand burned bright. Jetsam stood, his muscles screaming, and replaced the dead torch in the nook. He surveyed the cramped alcove. His clothes remained damp, but no longer drenched. “Must have slept longer than I thought,” he told Tramp. “Think I can cast another spell.” 
Still wrapped in a moist blanket, Jetsam focused. Foremost, the practical Seryn taught him survival spells. Jetsam concentrated, remembering the words, and moved his hands, creating a pulsing cerulean light that grew to pumpkin size. The energy gave off heat, and Tramp backed away, growling. Warmth radiated from the conjuration, heating Jetsam’s chilled flesh and damp clothes. He maintained the spell, letting the warmth spread. Beads of sweat coalesced on his brow. This’ll be the last spell I cast for a while. The warmth felt so good, he fueled the cyan sphere until he was spent. I’m sure I’ll regret that later, but sod it, I’m not shivering.

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