Monday, November 28, 2011

New Release: Cast of Illusions

I'm thrilled to announce the release of my new historical-fantasy novel, Cast of Illusions. Independent of the Shadow Fox series, this novel is tamer and a bit more, well, literary. While it does not take place in a real historical setting, it is based on Elizabethan England, during the rage of playhouses and theater, and would best be described as a Shakespearean fantasy. Here's a synopsis and a peek:

Jonathan Wilder is about to make a name for himself. His plays and troupe of actors are considered among the best in Salsima, and he is on the verge of building his own playhouse. However, when his latest play greatly offends the king, he and his troupe are forced to impersonate a royal party to infiltrate the exotic and presumably savage people known as the Selphyn, an elfin-like race with a special bond with animals. In over his head with politics, Jonathan will find himself in an intrigue worthy of one of his plays, with mistaken identities, treason, assassinations, kidnapped princesses and feverish passions. Just what a misanthrope with social anxiety needs.
JONATHAN WILDER HAD died one-thousand, four-hundred-and-thirty-two times, give or take a few. The majority of these deaths had been by stabbing, either with a rapier or dagger. Two hundred had been by poison, sixty by hanging. He’d also been beheaded, thrown from a tower, trampled, choked, smothered, and, on one memorable occasion, simply died of fright. He preferred dying by the sword, as smothering and choking usually occurred when he was a woman. This was not always the case; eighty-four times he’d stabbed himself with a dagger as Lady Macmaren. That was the only benefit of getting older: those days of donning gowns and wigs were behind him. Regardless of the manner of his death, the only ones that mattered were the ones that garnered applause or cries of dismay. The quiet deaths could mean the death of his company: too many and he’d lose his audience to the King’s Men. But never had a death mattered more to him than today. The future of his career depended on it.

His feet thundered on the hollow wooden stage as he danced in the choreographed duel with Thomas, and twice he narrowly missed stepping on a groundling’s fingers. Six groundlings were sitting on the stage, leaning forward in complete absorption. Thank heaven they were a fairly disciplined crowd; the last thing he needed was for lusty audience members jumping into the final duel, their real swords drawn. Usually he welcomed audience participation, but not with this play, not today.
Sweat poured into his eyes but he didn’t dare wipe it away and risk throwing Thomas off. And so he let his eyes sting and blur, relying more on his memory of the choreography than sight. When it was time for the killing blow, he “fell” for a feint, throwing his arms up to block a head attack that didn’t come. Instead Thomas’s dulled rapier sliced under his arm. He gasped and fell to his knees as Thomas yanked the blade free. Blood pooled, a crimson stain on white silk. There was a feminine yelp from the audience, and a deeper, gruffer voice yelled, “No!”

Thomas dropped next to him, pulling his head into his lap. “Forgive me.”

It was all Jonathan could do not to smile up at him and say, Did you hear that woman squeal? Did you hear that yell? He blinked the sweat out of his eyes. “There is nothing to forgive. She loves you. The strife between our houses is mended in your love for one another. May God…grant you…joy.”

Jonathan’s eyes closed, and for several moments there was no sound but a dizzying and deafening thumping in his head. He waited, holding his breath. Someone reached out and touched his shoulder, one of the groundlings presumably. Finally there was a thunder of applause. Thomas pulled him to his feet as the cast assembled behind them, waiting for him to lead the bow. But he was still remembering the stage kiss in Act Four, the shock of a woman’s lips instead of a ten-year-old boy’s. I will not yield to your will, but by bending yours to mine shall I have you. The line, written with Gregory in mind, came out more forceful than intended with Miranda standing opposite. He had seized her shoulders and for three full seconds crushed her lips against his; she pulled away with a gasp and dropped her next line.

Behind the curtain it was all awkwardness, none of the heated passion from their onstage exchange. He shook her hand and muttered congratulations, only to go absolutely rigid when Thomas threw his arms around him, picking him up off the ground.

“Well done, a great success!”

“Please put me down.”

“Very well, but I doubt your health would suffer greatly if you displayed occasional elation.”

“My heart grows weak at this very moment.”

He pulled off his blood-stained shirt; the sewn-in pig’s bladder wasted with the rent of a sword cut. His ribs were sticky with blood that was still wet to the touch. He heard distant applause above him in the galleries of the Unicorn, and a lady’s handkerchief, whether by design or accident, fluttered down in front of him. Thomas picked it up and smelled it, closing his eyes. “Attar of roses.” He studied the embroidered letters. “Sweet RF, I am yours.”

“And half the ladies in Diernioch,” Jonathan said.

Cast of Illusions is now available on Amazon Thanks for checking it out!