Professionally, I’ve been a financial analyst and a visual basic programmer. I also have a paralegal certificate, although I’ve never worked in that field. It’s anybody’s guess what I’ll be when I grow up.
Imagining stories and writing have always been an important part of my life. It’s one I finally could get serious about while I cared for my mother who had Alzheimer’s disease.
Book title: The Shaman’s Curse, Dual Magics Book 1
Genre: Sword and Sorcery/Epic Fantasy
The two kinds of magic have always been totally separate. Until now.
Vatar risked his life to try to save his friend–and failed. Now he has an implacable enemy in the shaman, who blames Vatar for the death of his only son. He’s forced to flee his home, at least until the shaman’s thirst for revenge cools.
Taking shelter with his mother’s people in one of the coastal cities, Vatar learns more than he bargained for. He agreed to learn to work iron and steel, but he never suspected to find a magical heritage as well.
And that’s a problem. A huge problem. Because unlike their own Spirit magic, his people regard the city magic as the work of Evil Spirits. If the shaman ever found out about this, it could be the weapon he needs to destroy Vatar.
And yet, finding a way to accept the other side of his heritage may be the only way Vatar can ultimately defeat his enemy and win more than his freedom.
Publish date: July 2014
Extract up to 1000 words:
Vatar collapsed, exhausted by his effort. The adrenalin leaving his body left him shaky and weak. Vatar sat down to collect himself. When he gathered himself and stood up, the sun had set. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed. It felt like hours, but he was sure that it hadn’t been that long. Vatar looked longingly toward the shore, but the moon, only at first quarter, wasn’t bright enough to illuminate the rocky beach. Vatar couldn’t tell whether the tide was coming back in or not. He was trapped here until morning, now.
Vatar turned back to explore the small islet. The moon cast enough light to glint off of the copper torc set on top of a rock near the center of the small island. Vatar picked it up and put it on, feeling that he had truly earned it. The islet was tiny and mostly rock. Near the center there was a small hollow with a tufty patch of beach grass which appeared to be the softest place available. Vatar settled onto the grass.
There was no food or water on the Dragon’s Skull. Now that he had accomplished the hardest part of his task, Vatar was acutely aware of not having eaten since before dawn. He was nearly as tired as he was hungry, though, so he decided to try to sleep.
Despite his exhaustion, Vatar slept fitfully. The grass barely softened the abrasive rock of the islet. He was hungry and thirsty. The wind had picked up after the sun went down, making him shiver in his wet clothes. The chill sea wind seemed to seep into his very bones with every breath. The salt, drying on his skin and clothes, itched and his cuts still stung fiercely. He had never spent a more miserable night. And he was lonely. He realized that he had never spent so much time totally alone before. Even the dimly-felt Spirit of the Lion didn’t help.
Before dawn, Vatar gave up and just sat waiting for the sun and low tide. The moon, such as it was, had set. There was only starlight reflected on the water and the rhythmic sound of the waves washing the islet. It was hypnotic.
As Vatar sat there in the dark, he felt himself slip into a calm, focused state that he had previously only experienced while working at the forge. His thoughts slipped away to the east, to the people he cared most about. He could picture Pa and Mother, lying close together in their double bedroll. Across the room, his sister Kiara curled on her side. Even his cousin Arcas snoring slightly on the opposite side, where Vatar usually slept. He almost felt he could touch them and smell the familiar scents of a Dardani sod hut. Enough to recognize the slightly different odor of the sod at the autumn village.
He could be there right now. Safe, warm, fed. At the Lion Clan’s autumn village, he wouldn’t even have to worry about Maktaz and his crazed suspicions. He wouldn’t have had to even think about that until the clans gathered again next summer at the Zeda waterhole. Just thinking about Maktaz made the hairs on the back of his neck rise and the peaceful, reassuring scene began to dissolve. Vatar reached, trying to sharpen his focus and hold onto the dream. It was the closest he’d felt to his family since they left him here.
For an instant, the scene seemed to sharpen. Then his view shifted. He saw someone else in his mind’s eye. A girl with flame-red hair and green eyes. She seemed to focus on him, too. There was interest and curiosity in the beautiful green eyes.
“Who are you?”she asked. It seemed like he heard her voice inside his own head.
“Vatar of the Dardani,” he replied aloud. “Who are you?”
“Thekila . . .”she answered as the vision faded.
Vatar gave himself a shake. He felt odd, not quite like himself. Older. He must have dozed off. It was dawn and the tide was going out. He stood up and waded back to the beach. Going into the water was not nearly as hard this time, even the waves seemed to be pushing him back to shore.
What a wonderful. excerpt! Thank you and welcome to Behind the Pages with Author Meredith Mansfield! Come sit, get comfy, and let’s talk about … well, you!
What other writing have you done?
In addition to the four books and two short stories of the Dual Magics series (The Shaman’s Curse, The Voice of Prophecy, Beyond the Prophecy, and War of Magic, plus “Modgud Gold” and “Becoming Lioness”), I’ve written and published seven other novels and a few shorter works.
The two novels and prequel novella of the Become series (Become: To Catch the Lightning, Become: To Ride the Storm, and Become: Brothers) inspired by the Greek legend of Hercules.
Three stand-alone young adult novels—one sword and sorcery (Fire and Earth), one historical fantasy (The Bard’s Gift), and one fantasy romance (Daughter of the Disgraced King).
And two books in the Chimeria series, a portal fantasy/urban fantasy/paranormal romance (Blood Will Telland Blood Is Thicker). Don’t be fooled by the titles, they’re not vampire stories.
And, of course, a few things that weren’t quite good enough—at least not yet.
What makes your writing unique compared to others in the genre?
No two people given the same idea would write the same story. Still, unique is a big claim. Let’s see:
- Rather than letting my characters put their lives on hold and go off on a quest, I tend to make them have to deal with real life—falling in love, making a living, raising children—andgo out and save the world, or at least their corner of it, at the same time.
- The world of the Dual Magics has six different cultural groups, who interact with each other in different ways—or sometimes don’t interact with each other at all.
- And there are two entirely different kinds of magic—one inherited and externally focused, the other gained by initiation and more internal, perceptive. And the two kinds of magic are possessed by two of those groups who don’t normally meet each other at all. Until one young man ends up with both kinds of magic, with some surprising, synergistic results.
What’s the story behind your book title?
Titles are hard. The title of the first book in the series, The Shaman’s Curse, can have three different meanings in the story—the difficulties the shaman’s vendetta causes for Vatar, the way pursuing the vendetta damages the shaman himself, or the actual curse he attempts. The series title refers to the two, completely different, forms of magic in this world.
Have you used any real events or places as inspiration for your writing?
Oh, yes. For one thing, having lived all my life on the West Coast, I seem to be constitutionally incapable of creating a world map that doesn’t have the ocean on the west and, often, a mountain range to the east. Also, places I know or have been turn up in my world building, too, not just coastlines. It’s not as obvious—or specific—in the Dual Magics series. In the Become series a major part of that world is modelled directly on Princess Louisa Inlet, BC, Canada and the forests of that area. With the addition of some giant sequoias, which, in the real world, occur much farther south and at higher elevations, but I’ve taken a little liberty, there.
I’ve used a few . . . well, I wouldn’t call them historical events. Not in the sense that I’m drawing inspiration from, say, the Wars of the Roses. But aspects of history, cultures, and historical institutions all get picked up and stirred around into new combinations. Well, except for that one historical fantasy, The Bard’s Gift. I tried to keep as close as I could to the actual way of life—as far as it’s known—in that one. Of course, aside from the fantasy elements.
Do you have another job outside of writing?
Yes. I presently work part-time as a crossing guard, making sure kids get to and from school safely. This leaves a good chunk of the day for writing. And, for bonus points, gets me outside and walking. Of course my dog, Sadie, does that, too.
What are you working on now?
I should be working on Mage Storm, the first in a new series. A world in which a mage war killed most of the magic users, but the magic is still there and occasionally . . . infects new mages who then have to scramble to learn to control it before it destroys them. If they can manage that, they might be able to heal some of the damage done by the mage war. I hope to make some real progress on it over the next couple of months.
What do you do when you have writers’ block?
Good question. Usually a block indicates something wrong with the story. Either something I haven’t thought through enough or I’m trying to force a character to do something he or she just wouldn’t do. Or something else along those lines. So, generally, taking a step back and giving myself a chance to figure it out—and how to fix it—usually works.
Otherwise, I might start working on another project until the breakthrough occurs and I know what I need to do to get around the block on the first project.
Sometimes, neither of those work and I have to go play in another creative sandbox for a while.
How did you go about developing your cover artwork?
I do my own covers. I started out that way because at the time it was all that I could afford. Honestly, those first several covers were awful. And, unfortunately, they will live forever on Goodreads. But I learned to do better.
Now, I go on a search for images, usually on Dreamstime.com. Of course, I usually have something in mind. And just as usually, I can’t find what I’m looking for. Sometimes I see something else that catches my eye and save it, either for that book or for later. Sometimes the search turns up an image that leads me off in another direction.
The Shaman’s Cursewas particularly hard. I had *pauses to look at my directory (where almost nothing is ever deleted)* sixteen different mock-up versions. Some had landscapes, or an image of the character, or horses (these tended to look more like a Western genre than fantasy). Some had all three. The final cover is composed of two separate images. The background with two colors of lightning colliding nicely symbolizes the two kinds of magic finally coming into contact with each other. The spear . . . well the spear represents something important from the book and helps to brand the story as fantasy. I used the background colors—either lightning, smoke, or flames—for all four books of the series, though the foreground images are specific to each story.
What is your favourite quote?
“Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can’t trade for your heart’s desire is your heart.” Lois McMaster Bujold, Memory.
Where do you like to travel to?
Living five miles from the ocean, I usually want to go visit the mountains. Or, really, anyplace with a lot of trees. Redwoods of either variety a bonus.
What’s your favourite pet?
Well, the obvious answer to this is my current one, of course. Sadie is a five-year-old Cardigan Welsh corgi. (Picture included as resident home office dog.) I’ve only had her a few months. She’s my third cardi. Until recently, I’d have said that my first cardi (and second dog ever), Aliza, was my heart dog. And Aliza was that, but Sadie has been steadily worming her way into that same space. I think I have a second heart dog, now.
Besides the dogs, I’ve also had several cats over the years. Of those . . . oh, my. I don’t think I can pick just one or two. Christian (after the character in Cyrano de Bergerac, because he was mostly silent), Beethoven (who wasn’t silent), Peso (shiny as a silver dollar), Buttons (who had to be hastily renamed when we realized he wasn’t a female after all). Probably I should stop there.
What’s your experience of the Fantasy Sci-Fi Readers’ Lounge?
It’s a great place to find out about authors and books I hadn’t known before.
Quick quiz for the readers to get to know you:
Favourite thing to cook: Probably vegetable beef soup. Everyone seems to like that and compared to the cooking time, the prep time is relatively small. And, since I make a big pot, I don’t have to do much other cooking for a while. But that’s a hearty winter food and it’s summer, now.
Best holiday spot: Possibly because vacations for me have almost always been road trips, skipping from one place to another, I just can’t pick a single destination.
Most played song: That’s far too dependent on my mood. Now, for the one I most often played on my harp (way out of practice at the moment), probably “Greensleeves”.
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser? Pantser, mostly, but I tend to map out a few signposts (major plot points) before I start and I often use a sort of rolling outline three to five chapters ahead. The actual ending, the denouement, almost always comes as a surprise, though.
Do you prefer to read SciFi or fantasy: I like both, but I read more fantasy than science fiction. In science fiction—well, in both, really—I prefer character-driven stories.
Best superpower: I’m a crossing guard. I stop cars with a flimsy red sign. (I’m still waiting for the model with the magical force field.)
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: I have always wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand.
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