Jan 08

Interview with Prince Tarik

In Which I Interview Prince Tarik

So, when the lovely S. Usher Evans hosted me for her Fall for the Indie 2014 awesomeness, I wrote up two possible blog posts for one of the days. One was a discussion of fantasy world-building, which got published (you can read it here), but today I’m sharing the other one with you. It’s a never-before-seen interview with the one and only Prince Tarik. He’s not a fan of interviews, so expect a fair amount of attitude.

Don’t worry, there are no spoilers. It’s a Madness Project time-frame interview, so no spoilers about Scion!


tarikI find Prince Tarik on the terrace, standing in the snow with just a suit coat on. He is expecting me, but he doesn’t turn to acknowledge me. He’s the prince, I’m a newshawk, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

“Your Highness? Are you still willing to answer some questions?” I ask.

He lets out his breath — I only notice because it smokes in the cold air. “Willing enough,” he says, and turns to face me. He’s taller than I expected, and his face is a mask, hiding his thoughts, letting him see straight through me. “What do you want to know?”

“I haven’t been in Cavnal long,” I say. “What can you tell me about your nation?”

He laughs and leans back against the balcony rail. “It’s a bit mad, but what place isn’t?” He gives me a penetrating look. “Look, do you want the sugar-coated version I’m supposed to tell, or should I tell you what I really think?” Before I can answer he holds up his hand and says bitterly, “Never mind. I’m the Prince. I suppose my inner thoughts qualify as state secrets.”

“What sorts of things would you talk about if you could say anything?” I ask, feeling a bit sly.

Apparently it amuses him. A mischievous look crosses his face — a hint of the madcap I’ve heard rumor about. “I suppose I might talk about the fracture of society,” he says. “Everyone around me is obsessed with science. The latest technology. The newest machines. The most advanced inventions. We honor scientists the way some places honor military prowess or aristocratic blood. But no one in the high streets wants to look beyond the Oval Wall. Face the fact that so many citizens have been pushed into the slums, just because they had the misfortune of being born with the gift of magic? What’s the justice in that?”

I shift my weight. I know enough of Cavnal to know that these are dangerous sentiments. “Why do you think people dislike mages so much?”

He puts his hands in his pockets, staring at his feet so long I begin to think he’ll never answer. Maybe he realizes he’s already said too much. “It’s not just that mages have power that other people don’t,” he says, quiet. “It’s that they stand for an older world, and it doesn’t fit with machines and steam and science. Magic is tied to the earth…from what I gather, anyway. It’s rooted. It’s a responsibility as much as a gift.”

“I’ve heard rumors of rebellion here in Brinmark,” I say, sensing he wants a change of subject. “Is there any truth to them?”

That doesn’t seem to be a better question. He jerks his head up, fixing me with such a fierce look that I want to turn away, but I can’t. “Rebellion, in the city?” he asks, then shrugs smoothly. “Is that anything new? I rather think most countries have rebellious elements in their capital cities.”

He knows more than he is saying, but I let it slide. “Prince Tarik, rumor has it you were recently traveling. Have you been anywhere interesting?”

“Not particularly,” he says, a little too quickly. “Most places are all the same. Loud, dirty, boring.”

“Have you been to Istia?”

He almost flinches. I barely catch the motion before he hides it. “No, but I suppose it would be interesting enough. Of course, given that they’re accusing my father of assassinating their Godar, I doubt I’d be welcome as a tourist.”

“Is the accusation true?”

He looks at me and doesn’t answer.

“Well,” I say, uncomfortable. “Here’s a question all the ladies want me to ask. Is there a special someone in your life?”

“I don’t suppose you’d have to ask me that if there were,” he replies with a strange sort of smile. “The gossips would have the news all over the city before you could even ask.”

“I’ll take that as a no, then.”

“If you like.”

“Your best friend Griff is an aviator, I’m told. Have you ever flown an aeroplane?”

“Stars, no,” he says, throwing his head back. “He’s a madman. If I had to fly, I’d want to do so like…like a bird. Not trapped in some mad hellish machine.”

I smile, because I’ve heard rumors of the Prince’s distrust of machines. “If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?”

“Gad,” he says, giving me a keen look. “I’m the Prince. Isn’t my life supposed to be perfect already?”

I return the stare. “That’s not an answer, Your Highness.”

The muscle in his jaw tightens. “We all wear masks,” he says, and I’m surprised by the roughness of his voice. “I wish for once we didn’t.”

He pushes away from the balcony rail and strides into the palace without another word or backwards glance. I suppose that means my interview is over, but for some time I stay where I am, in the cold with the snow falling all around me. Everyone had warned me that the Prince was a rogue, that he lived for attention, that he was shallow and flippant and self-absorbed. I wonder now if we meant the same Prince, because Tarik is nothing like that. I’m not sure I understand him. I’m not sure anyone ever will.

Dec 02

Teaser Tuesday #3 – Scion

This time for Teaser Tuesday I’m going to give you guys a real teaser…a sneak peek at a scene from Scion. This is from Tarik’s POV, from when he first arrives in Istia. He’s at the home of Agnir, the Istian sailor who brought him from Cavnal.



The door slammed open behind me. I jumped and turned as a young man strode into the hut, wind blown and coated with ice, wearing no coat but a width of fur over his shoulders. I doubted he was much older than me, but he came in like a conqueror of old, with a sparse beard and his hair bound in knotted cords in a way Minister Batar would have called p-p-positively barbaric. He strode past me without even a glance and tossed a heavy-bladed knife on the table.

“Smells good,” he said to Agnir, leaning against the black stone slab. “Nika is seeing to the horses. She said don’t wait.”

“Iskari,” Agnir said, “show some courtesy.”

So, I thought with a little sinking feeling, that is Iskari.

Iskari’s eyes flickered toward me, disinterested, before returning to his father. “So the sea spat out another one,” he said, and shrugged. “Is the soup ready?”

“Not yet. I’ve only just come in myself.” Agnir stirred the cauldron a moment without speaking, then, without looking up he said, “We lost the boat.”

Iskari froze where he was, his gaze drifting back to me. “Too much baggage?”

“Iskari! That is Taumir Eyidson. That is our Godar.”

Iskari stared at me steadily a moment, then without the slightest hint of emotion he turned back to Agnir and said, “Anything we can salvage from the wreck?”

“We’ll have to wait and see.”

Iskari and Nika

I slowly lowered my legs so I wasn’t hunched up on the chair like a child, masking the motion by stretching my hands toward the steam vent. It didn’t matter; I knew I didn’t fool Iskari. More than that, I knew it didn’t even matter.

A moment later the door swung open again in a gust of wind that scattered papers around the hut, and Agnir’s daughter walked in from the dark. I stared; I couldn’t help it. She wore her hair knotted like Iskari’s, but hers was pale gold, almost as light as Shade’s. She had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen—the bluest, and the coldest. She took one look at me and shifted her gaze to meet Iskari’s, and some shared meaning passed between them that made me feel suddenly small and insignificant.

“Here’s the word from the clan,” she said, pulling a rolled piece of paper from her courier bag and handing it to Agnir. She had a rather low voice, as cold and hard as her eyes. “The meet will happen in two weeks.”

Agnir glanced at me as she said it, so I ventured to ask, “What meet is that?”

“The one where we decide if you will continue in your current role,” he said. “Or if we will vote in a new Godar to replace you.”

“As if there’s a question,” Nika said, low, as she passed me by.

Agnir darted an anxious look from her to me. I wasn’t sure if he thought I’d be offended; I wasn’t even sure if I thought I should be offended. Part of me had no doubt the Istians would replace me at their earliest opportunity, and I wasn’t sure it bothered me that they might not even give me a chance. So I met his gaze evenly for a moment, then went back to studying the steam vent, as determined to ignore Iskari and Nika as they seemed determined to hate me.

I felt Nika’s stare fixed on me, and resisted the urge to smile. She at least had expected to offend me. Sometimes I wondered if not caring made me weak, but right then, I knew it made me strong. Or at least it made me feel strong, and that was enough. I crossed my arms and braced a foot against the stones of the vent, settling a little deeper into the chair.

“You have to forgive them,” Agnir said after a long silence.

“Forgive them for what?” I asked.


I smiled, faintly. “Candor is all that matters.”

Iskari circled around to a low seat opposite me, dropping onto it and leaning onto his knees to study me.

“Candor?” he said, with a ruthless sort of smile. “Strange to hear that from you, if the stories are true.”

I winced. “What stories?”

He didn’t bother to answer me. Instead he leaned back in the chair and crossed his boots at the ankles, folding his arms over his chest. “Everything about you is a lie,” he said. “Godar.”

I leaned forward, slamming my hand on the rim of the vent. The lamps winked out, not one by one, not slowly, but all of them, all at once.

“Not everything,” I said.

Jun 03

Wanderings – J. Leigh Discovers Travel Writing

So, I’ve decided that this is a great time for me to combine two of my biggest passions — travel and writing — in fun and adventuresome new ways.  Since I want to keep some distinction between my fiction and non-fiction writing, I’ve got a new blog up for my travel-related writing and photography.  Check it out!

Lone Girl Wandering

I just got it up and running, so there’s not a lot of content yet, but I’ve got a Bucket List USA going on that I’d love to get comments on — share your favorite US destinations and I’ll add them to my list!


May 19

The New Lost Road Chronicles Editions are Out!

dalr_SM_webThe Lost Road Chronicles Just Got a Face Lift

The brand new paperback editions of the Lost Road Chronicles are now out on Amazon.  The Kindle version of Down a Lost Road is also available, and the Kindle versions for Subverter and Prism are on their way.  Check them out!  Down a Lost Road is the only book with any significant changes — it features some expanded scenes, an entirely new chapter, and the Kindle version also has a couple of Yatol extras, including Imprisoned and a new  chapter told from Yatol’s perspective.  They are included at the end of the book, but there are hyperlinks within the novel where these two extras fit in, so you can easily navigate to the extras and back to the place you left.

The paperbacks are a little hard to find on Amazon right now because they’re still linking editions, but you can find them here:

Down a Lost Road 



Apr 22

Teaser Tuesday #2

Here’s a sneak peek form the beginning of Madness Method #2.  Chapter 2, actually, which is Hayli’s first chapter.



The stupidest thing I ever did was try to run from Dr. Kippler’s men.

I can’t remember how far I’d got when I heard the gunshot.  Obviously I hadn’t got far enough.  I know I saw the front door of the Science Ministry standing open at the end of the corridor, still too, too far from me when I went down.  Then I didn’t see anything else until I woke up, in the dark, in the cold, alone.  They’d bandaged up the hole in my side and put me in a cell like a hospital room except the door locked from the outside, and left me without any notion of where I was or how long I’d been out.

Maybe I’d only been out a few hours, or maybe days had passed and Shade was already dead.

And the worst part of it all was, she wouldn’t talk to me.

For so long now, I’d got used to having the crow there in my thoughts, with her smart comments and the way she saw the world so clearly.  But now, no matter what I did, or how hard I tried, I couldn’t lure her out again.  I couldn’t Shift, and my hands weren’t even tied.

Some months ago, if I’d thought I might be free of my Shifting, I might’ve been glad.  I wouldn’t have missed the sky and the wind and the glow of color that I saw through her eyes.  Now the thought of losing it all was the most terrible thing I could imagine—save one.  Save the fear that somehow I’d put Shade in danger.  Shade, and Derrin, and Coins…if any of them got hurt because of me, I’d never forgive myself.

I struggled to sit up on the narrow bed, pain gnawing at the ragged edges of my wound.  Luckily the bullet had only grazed my side, but it felt like I’d got a hole punched straight through my ribs.  I gritted my teeth and clamped one hand against the bandage, using my other hand to shove and pull myself upright.  A minute and I just sat on the edge of the cot, taking shallow breaths while a red haze pricked my vision.

Come on, I thought, prodding at the corners of my mind, searching for the crow.  Where are you?  Dan you go leaving me here by myself!  

I bit my lip and waited, but nothing happened.  She didn’t answer.  When my sight cleared up I staggered to my feet and shuffled, careful-like, through the shadows to the door.  I could barely see it, just finding its outline by the pale gleam from the city lights filtering in through the tiny vent of a window behind my bed.  The door had a window in it too, but the hallway beyond it was unlit, leaving nothing for me to judge my situation by.

I reached for the door handle, but my hands faltered over smooth metal and found nothing to hold.

“Oy, that’s not even fair,” I muttered.  I hesitated, wishing I could kick the door, knowing how stupid I’d be to try.  Instead I pushed my fists against the metal and shouted loud as I could, “Hey!  Is anyone here?”

For a second nothing happened, then suddenly someone let out a scream so terrible the hairs on my arms stood straight on end.

“Get away!” the voice shrieked.  It sounded like a man’s voice, even pitched high with terror, and it came from close by, maybe the room next to mine.  “No, no, no, I’m not here!”  The voice died a little and moaned, “I’m not here, I’m not here…don’t look at me!”

“There’s a grobbing wall between us,” I hollered, once my heart had slowed down a tick.  “How would I look at you even if I wanted to?”

“The voices!  Oh God, the voices are calling me again…”

I limped over to the wall and pounded on the plaster as hard as I could.  “I’m right next to you.”

The man shrieked again and something crashed on the other side of the wall.  “The ghosts, the ghosts, the ghosts…ah God, thayoi in the walls coming to eat my soul!”

He’s insane! I thought, though I think I knew that all along.  Well, that just figures.

“Listen, mate,” I said.  “I’m no thayo.  My name’s Hayli.”

“They’ve never had names before!” the man said, so quiet I almost didn’t hear the words.  “Must be she got trapped here…poor soul!”

I ground my teeth and slumped back onto the bed.  “I’m nicked away in a cell with a lunatic for company,” I muttered, out loud because it didn’t much matter.  “I’d rather talk to the voice in my head.  Blimey, maybe I’m just as much a nutter as this bloke.”

“Little voice, are you still there?” the man called after a few moments, tapping softly at the wall behind my head.  “Little Hayli person?”

“Yeah, still here,” I said.  “Don’t suppose you ken how to get out of here, do you?”

“Well, reckon you got killed by some fellow, so now you can’t figure a way out…”

“I’m not dead!” I cried.  “I’m sitting in the room next to yours!”

“What room?” he asked, sounding alarmed.  “There is only this room.  Nothing else exists.  Maybe I’m imagining you.  How do you know you exist?  You’re just in my mind.  Why are you tormenting me?”

My mouth dropped open, then I closed it again and scowled a bit.  “I’m not here to torment you, and you’re not imagining me!”

“You just want me to think that!  It’s a trick.  My mind is playing a trick on me.  Testing me!  What are you trying to prove, mind?  I won’t be fooled by you!”

For half a second I just sat in bewildered silence, then I tipped my head back against the wall and laughed.

“Ha!” the man shouted triumphantly.  “I told you it was a trick!  Defeated you!  I win!”

“Yeah,” I called.  “You win.”

Silence.  Then, “Hog monkeys!  She’s still there.”

I’m going to go nutters if I listen to him much more, I thought.  Unless I already am, of course.

“You’re not a bird, are you?” I asked.  “Because I lost the bird in my head a while ago and I’m not sure if she’s coming back.”

I waited, and waited, but for the longest time the man in the other room didn’t answer.  Then he said, a bit slowly, “Young lady, sounds like you need help.”

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