Monday, December 16, 2013

Third Daughter (Chapter 1), by Susan Kaye Quinn

Chapter One, Third Daughter (The Dharian Affairs #1) – steampunk fantasy romance

The cloudless night whispered sweet promises to Aniri.

Below her stone rooftop, the shadows of the forested grounds danced in the summer’s breeze, their small rustlings calling to her like a lover. The sound was the perfect cover for escape into the darkness and the warm arms she hoped to find there. No one should notice her absence. Of all the guards, handmaidens, and many silent keepers of the royal household, none would venture up to her private observatory this late in the eve. But she still had to be careful. Even this close to her birthday, the Queen would not be forgiving if she was caught.

Aniri scanned the palace grounds to make sure it was clear of any witnesses. The manicured lawns were empty: the only sign of life came from the distant embassy windows where gas lamps flickered and soft music trilled from late-reveling partygoers. Aniri pressed the leather eyecup of her aetherscope to her face, slowly turning the brass knobs to bring the party into focus. The instrument was meant for watching the rise of the twin full moons, but it worked well enough for spying on the Samirian ambassador and her assemblage of guests.

Their shiny new automaton was thick-legged and awkward, but the Samirian tinker’s design was still clever: the steam-driven mechanical wonder actually danced, albeit just one clumsy pirouette after another. When it came to a graceless stop, the guests snapped their fingers in appreciation. The faint sound of their applause drifted over the lawn, but the party continued on. With the grounds still empty, Aniri swung her aetherscope to the forest. The broken edges of the river snaked through the darkened trees, slipped under a stone bridge, and then flowed past the red sandstone walls of the Queen’s estate. A black shape darted out from under the bridge, then disappeared into the shadows between the trees.

Time to go.

She peered over the edge of the balcony. No sense in being caught by someone who snuck out for a dalliance in the dark. With the way clear, she opened the leather satchel at her feet and uncoiled the sheet she had twisted into a rope. Always check your knots, Aniri. Her father’s voice accompanied her on every climb, but she had to wonder what he would have made of this particular one. She rechecked the knots. It would cause quite a stir if she plummeted to her death while climbing down the palace wall.

The massive stone lion that guarded the parapet served as an excellent anchor. She looped the rope around it, then stood on the edge of the wall and leaned out over the blackness. Loop the rope under and between your feet, Aniri. It will carry your weight. Practical advice, but knots would impede her progress, and speed was of the essence. She lowered herself, hand over hand, bracing her feet against the wall. A mossy spot, hidden by the dark and slick with dew, sent her silk slippers pawing rapid-fire several times before she found purchase between the giant stone blocks.

Always use the proper equipment. She took a deep breath. Her father would probably disapprove of her attire. Silk nightclothes were hardly climbing wear, and she couldn’t find any plausible excuse to wear her climbing shoes to bed. Her handmaiden, Priya, was far too clever for that—and already suspicious when Aniri wanted to retire to her observatory alone. At least she had her fingerless climbing gloves, and on every climb she wore the thin, braided bracelet her father gave her. For luck. She thought he would approve.

Hand over hand, Aniri continued her descent. Halfway down, a sudden clacking broke the quiet and rose above the scrapings of her slippers on the treacherous walls. She held still against the cool stone, hands gripped tight on her rope of sheets. A lone two-wheeled surrey ambled out of the shadows of the Samirian embassy and headed toward her dark corner of the Queen’s estate. Aniri held her breath and silently cursed the full two-moon night. If the carriage came much closer, the occupants would surely see her clinging to the side of the palace like a spider on her thread.

The six-hooved beast pulling the surrey slowed as it neared the giant stone statue of Devkasera. The mother goddess of ancient Dharia loomed larger-than-life, threatening the carriage with a sword and a scroll—the powers of destruction and creation—clasped in two of her six hands. The Queen loved the ancient traditions, so the goddess held a place of respect in the middle of the palace lawns. Aniri preferred the clean streets and steam-driven inventions of modern Dharia to the unwashed feet and mystic religion of her country’s past, but that didn’t stop her from sending a silent prayer to Devkasera—for invisibility for herself or perhaps a sudden loss of sight by the persons in the carriage.

The surrey paused at the statue, then veered right and headed for the far wall that enclosed the estate. Aniri repressed a laugh—perhaps she should pray to Devkasera to bring her birthday sooner as well. Her arms ached from holding her position, but she waited until the carriage had passed through the palace gate. Beyond it, the lights of Kartavya, Dharia’s capital city, winked through the coal-smoke haze as if giving her an all-clear signal.

Her muscles rejoiced when she moved again, working her way down the last half of the wall and dropping the final two feet. From there, she scampered over the surrounding manicured hedgerows as if she had fled the palace a hundred times before. Her unbound dark hair flapped behind her, and the cool night breeze fluttered her black silk nightclothes against her skin like a thousand butterfly wings. It was the feeling of freedom breathing against her, and she had to clamp her teeth against the giggle that threatened to ruin her escape.

She slowed and picked her way through the darkened brambles of the forest grabbing at her legs. The first time, she slipped away from dinner in her normal evening attire—a midnight-black corset latched with brass clasps, a starched skirt of blood-red silk, and a sweep of silk over her shoulder for the traditional touch the Queen required. Aniri thought the dark colors would ease her escape, but she had stuck to the needled branches like a royal pincushion. The second time, she cast aside the bodice and most of the silk, keeping only her short bloomers and camisole—essentially running through the forest in her unmentionables. That had been deliciously decadent, but also very chilly. This time, her nightclothes were proving the most suitable costume yet for midnight escapades.

She smiled and slipped through the forest like a phantom, black on black, silent and stealthy. The faint trace of coal smoke gave way to the fresh scent of leaves mixed with river mist. She breathed it deep: the lushness of it always captivated her. The Queen had imported trees and beasts from the barbarians in the north to recreate the Dharian forests long ago swept away by agriculture. Fortunately, her majesty favored the gentle animals sacred to the gods. Aniri was careful not to disturb a long-tailed bandir hanging from a branch, eyes closed and peaceful. She didn’t believe the superstitions about waking one, but she couldn’t afford the screech it would let loose.

Aniri broke out of the forest and onto the wet rocks bordering the river. The footbridge ahead was a silent sentinel over the constant chatter of the river. There was no sign of movement. Was she too late? But then Devesh stepped from the shadows, showing his face to the moons as if he had nothing to hide.

She skittered over the slippery rocks and flew into his arms.

“Aniri,” he said, but she was uninterested in wasting precious moments with words. She shut him up with her lips pressed fiercely to his. He closed his dark, humor-filled eyes, and wrapped his arms around her. Being a courtesan, he was well-trained in courtly conversation, but the artistry of his lips moving slow yet urgent against hers made her forget her own name.
Book & Author Details:
Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn
(The Dharian Affairs Trilogy #1)
Publication date: December 13th 2013
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Steampunk
The Third Daughter of the Queen wants her birthday to arrive so she’ll be free to marry for love, but rumors of a new flying weapon may force her to accept a barbarian prince’s proposal for a peace-brokering marriage. Desperate to marry the charming courtesan she loves, Aniri agrees to the prince’s proposal as a subterfuge in order to spy on him, find the weapon, and hopefully avoid both war and an arranged marriage to a man she does not love.

Third Daughter is the first book in The Dharian Affairs Trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter). This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance takes place in an east-indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.
Susan Kaye Quinn grew up in California, where she wrote snippets of stories and passed them to her friends during class. Her teachers pretended not to notice and only confiscated her stories a couple times.

Susan left writing behind to pursue a bunch of engineering degrees, but she was drawn back to writing by an irresistible urge to share her stories with her niece, her kids, and all the wonderful friends she’s met along the way.

She doesn’t have to sneak her notes anymore, which is too bad.

Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as a much as she can handle.
Author Links:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Simply for the Love - Fun

I'm down with a virus, which makes it a good time for this video. Not my normal type of music, but there's something about this song, and this video, and the way it builds and builds and fills with a sort of resilient joy. Carry on.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Flocks of October

The sun is bright and the air is cold and outside my window a flock of birds flies in endless coils as if it is made of smoke.

The flock is not going anywhere. They stay in the same area. The flock is sinuous, as if it is one thing and not many. It boils upward, spiraling and flowing and rising until some invisible signal sends it downward. It turns around itself, coiling like a half-substantial snake, feathers and flashes of air as ephemeral as smoke, as mist, as the cold October fogs in the early mornings. The birds do not follow each other, as there is no time for following, only time for being. The flock is itself, but it’s not going anywhere.

I wonder if there is something wrong with the birds. Perhaps they should be flying south as the cold air smuggles itself in from the north. Birds have a sense of the world, of the magnetic poles. They are pulled. Except this flock of smoke is not going anywhere; it is stuck in an endless loop.

Perhaps the flock’s compass is broken. The glass is cracked and the needle is dancing and the flock twists and turns in emulation of a needle pointing nowhere.

I see the flock and I wonder if it is not so different than most of us. We think we’re following an arrow forward, but we’re really flying in circles, doubling back again and again until we’re tied in invisible knots. Our compasses are broken, and we do not take the time to think, to stop and consult a map (a map that may not exist), and instead we just move, a flock of feathers and hungry beaks searching for a horizon that we’ve forgotten we were looking for.

The frost at the bottom of the window melts as the flock of smoke wings about, and I wonder if I’m wrong; I wonder if the flock knows itself—knows itself so well that it will take this time to rejoice and dance and twirl because it feels the cold air and knows the journey is upon it, a journey that is long and hard, a journey that not all the flock will survive. Members of the flock, little bits of itself, will fall from the sky and not rise again. But the flock will live and journey and continue onward and a destination will be reached. And there will be another journey and another destination after that. And there will be small deaths and cold air and a new spring and flight, flight—always that.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Facebook vs. Blogger

So, as some of you may have noticed, I have not been too active on Ye Olde Blog over the last couple months. But! I have been somewhat active on Facebook, which I had recently joined. And the experience has led me to think about a few things.

The two forms, to me, seem decidedly different, which makes a comparison of the experience interesting. And the differences between the two have something to do with my activity levels on each.

Facebook is basically the online version of joking around with your friends. Yes, sometimes Facebook can be more. Sometimes important things transpire on Facebook and filter through to social consciousness (of groups either large or small). But, basically, it's sitting about and having fun with a few of your friends. The serious bits are like the occasional intrusion of depth into a conversation that mostly revolved around making fun of Miley Cyrus. Facebook is about everyday stuff (Hey, how's it going? Have you been to Tru's lately? They have a great new sandwich on the menu) and one-liners.

Blogs are more about content. Now, obviously, there are a few jokes and bits of stupidity and silliness on blogs, too. But, overall, the focus is still on creating some sort of content. It is about a writer making a conscious attempt to write about something, to speak their mind, and to share something of themselves. This, I think, is what I still love about blogs: the focused attempt to say something. There is conscious meaning in blogs.

But this focused attempt to speak and share is also more demanding. It demands more in terms of time and thought. The emotional expenditure is steeper. This makes blogging, in a sense, more difficult.

Over the last few months, things have been busy. Four growing kids, busyness at work, and (yes!) some actual writing, rewriting, and revising of fiction. Throw in health concerns and there was little time or energy left for crafting blog posts.

Facebook, on the other hand, is sort of easy. You check in, glance at what people are doing, and then write a few quick comments in a natural way, whether making a joke, offering condolences, or shouting out some encouragement. Facebook is sort of fun (and a bunch of other things, too, some of which are not so nice). It's easy, it's quick, and you can enjoy some good times with friends. Videos of velociraptor pranks are also acceptable.

But I miss blogs. As a writer and reader, it's nice to step up and say something. And it's nice to sit down and read something.

Conversation is wonderful. I love conversation. Facebook is a sort of conversation. You joke, you laugh, you get annoyed, you occasionally want people to shut up. Reading blogs, though, is a bit like stepping into a book day after day. It, too, is a communication, but one that has been shaped by the writer's will and passion and values. It's often the stuff that wells up from underneath, the stuff that you have to talk about even though it's hard to fit in a conversation.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Under the Microscope - Provinces of Night

Provinces of Night

Provinces of Night, by William Gay, is a brilliant and dark country noir, but one so beautiful in its bleakness that it almost glows in the dark. Poverty, music, the frayed and brutal ties of family, the possibility of life, and the approach of death all play a part in this story spun out on the dirt roads of the back country. There's drinking here, and the power of stories and myths (the kind told about us and the kind we tell about ourselves), and characters that slink through our brains, unwilling ever to completely leave the stoops of our imaginations. Why leave? Not when there's a song to be played and a few more drinks to be had.

And yes, yes, prose so perfect it makes you want to drink a little yourself.

Friday, February 8, 2013

We're off to see the Zuckerberg...

So I discovered this strange Oz-like world called Facebook. I think I'm the first human to stumble upon it. However, if you follow my small footprints and trail of crumbs you'll either discover my kitchen or this fabulous new world of Facebookery.

If you do make your way to this magical realm, feel free to friend me. This is me:

I think so, anyway. There are all sorts of bizarre rules and legislations in this new land, and it is always better to travel as a pack (for the feral minded) or a group of companions. So feel free to friend me, particularly if you are a dog, a girl with ruby slippers, a lion, a scarecrow, or a tin man. Flying monkeys acceptable upon proof of good hygiene.

And yes, "friend" is being used as a verb. This new world blows my mind.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

100 Favourite Movies Challenge

The 100 Favourite (or Favorite, if you're American) Movies Challenge! Nathan Bransford has laid down the challenge. Who am I to refuse?

Thus, the list (which would probably be completely different tomorrow):
1. The Usual Suspects
2. Good Will Hunting
3. 12 Angry Men
4. Band of Brothers (can I count a miniseries?)
5. The Princess Bride
6. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
7. Willow
8. Inside Man
9. Bella
10. Beauty and the Beast
11. Robin Hood (animated)
12. Apollo 13
13. You've Got Mail
14. The Nightmare Before Christmas
15. Braveheart
16. Pride and Prejudice
17. L.A. Confidential
18. Blackhawk Down
19. Elizabethtown
20. The Passion of the Christ
21. Finding Forrester
22. The Lost Boys
23. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
24. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
25. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
26. Ghostbusters
27. The Dark Knight
28. No Country for Old Men
29. Empire Strikes Back
30. Star Wars
31. Return of the Jedi
32. Unstoppable
33. The House of Flying Daggers
34. Hero
35. Gladiator
36. A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott)
37. Arsenic and Old Lace
38. Charade
39. Sense and Sensibility
40. Conspiracy
41. Blood Diamond
42. The Fellowship of the Ring
43. The Two Towers
44. The Return of the King
45. The Bourne Identity
46. The Bourne Supremacy
47. The Bourne Ultimatum
48. V for Vendetta
49. The Shawshank Redemption
50. Seven
51. The Silence of the Lambs
52. Good Morning, Vietnam
53. Casino Royale (remake)
54. Office Space
55. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
56. The Birds
57. The Fall
58. Gallipoli
59. Tigerland
60. Walk Don't Run
61. Snatch
62. Reservoir Dogs
63. The Big Lebowski
64. Ocean's Eleven
65. Minority Report
66. Tombstone
67. Gosford Park
68. Sliding Doors
69. Love, Actually
70. The Book of Eli
71. True Grit
72. Kill Bill
73. Run, Lola, Run
74. Pulp Fiction
75. Wonderboys
76. Phone Booth
77. Enemy of the State
78. Howl's Moving Castle
79. Saving Private Ryan
80. Apocalypse Now (NOT the Redux version)
81. Sherlock Holmes
82. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
83. Seems Like Old Times
84. Shaun of the Dead
85. Coming to America
86. Fletch
87. Once Upon a Time in the West
88. 9
89. The Ghost and the Darkness
90. The Great Escape
91. Foul Play
92. Harlem Nights
93. Contact
94. Slumdog Millionaire
95. The Untouchables
96. Thirteen Days
97. The Children of Men
98. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
99. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
100. tie The Taking of Pelham 123 (original), The Children of Men, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Departed, Groundhog Day

Simply for the Love - Young the Giant

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Live-Action Mindjack Book Trailer Reveal
(from the bestselling Mindjack series by Susan Kaye Quinn)
With the help of over 20 cast and crew members, award-winning director Beth Spitalny has brought the concept of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy to life on the screen. When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Please share!
Ways you can share the trailer:
1) Watch the trailer on YouTube (or here)! (more views=higher visibility) 2) Post it to Facebook (copy & paste below) Check out the live-action Mindjack Book Trailer (from the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy by Susan Kaye Quinn): When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. 3) Post it to Twitter (copy & paste below) When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. Watch the live-action Mindjack Book Trailer 4) Share to Google+, Tumbler, Pinterest, and more Go to the trailer on YouTube and click the "share" button. Click the arrow to expand and see all the options. Easy peasy. (While you're there, click "like" on YouTube, or leave a comment!) 5) Post the trailer on your blog Grab the embed code from YouTube or email me for a copy of the HTML for a complete post announcing the trailer and ways to share!
Thanks so much for sharing!
To celebrate the release of the trailer,
I'm putting Open Minds on sale!
$2.99 now $0.99
for one week only

$9.99 now $7.99
for one week only
THANK YOU to everyone who is sharing the trailer today!
An EXTRA SPECIAL THANKS to everyone involved in making the trailer a reality, including Director Beth Spitalny, Producer Angel Acevedo, Director of Photography Lance Kaplan, lead actor Nikki Flemming (Kira) and the many fine actors, crew members, and post-production staff who donated their time and talent to the project. For the making-of the trailer, see the Mindjack Trilogy website.

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Series, which includes three novels, three novellas, and a trailer. She's currently writing a steampunk fantasy romance, just for kicks. When that's out of her system, she has ambitious plans to embark on a series about the Singularity (the time when computers become more intelligent than humans) that should appeal to fans of the Mindjack novels. Or possibly play on Facebook all day. Could go either way.