NEW RELEASE Ciara Ballintyne’s Epic Fantasy ‘In the Company of the Dead’

Only a fool crosses a god, but Ellaeva and Lyram will do anything to get what they want.

InTheCompanyOfTheDead_300dpi_1842x2763 FINAL

Title: In the Company of the Dead
Author: Ciara Ballintyne
Series: The Sundered Oath #1
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Fantasy Romance


Chosen as a five-year-old orphan to be the Left Hand of Death, Ellaeva has nothing to call her own—nothing except a desire to avenge her murdered parents. Her duties leave her no time to pursue the man responsible, until both her work and revenge lead to the same place—the lonely castle where Lyram Aharris is serving out his exile for striking his prince.

Lyram is third in line for the throne, and when the castle is unexpectedly besieged, he fears his prince means to remove him from contention for the crown permanently. Ellaeva’s arrival brings hope, until she reveals she has not come for the siege, but instead she hunts the castle for a hidden necromancer dedicated to the dark god of decay.

Within their stone prison, Ellaeva and Lyram must fight to save themselves from political machinations and clashing gods. But as the siege lengthens, the greatest threat comes from an unexpected quarter.


Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Other

Chapter 1
Premonition
Only a fool would split hairs with a god, least of all the goddess of death, but Ellaeva would count herself such a fool and consider it worth it—if she could get away with it.

She leaned across the knife-scarred timber of the tavern table.

“Are you sure?” she asked, her tone even and barely loud enough to be audible over the noise of the flute and the zither. Her work on behalf of the goddess Ahura, adjudicating the small war here in Dayhl, could only be abandoned in favour of a greater threat. If she was going to chase off after the man who killed her parents, she needed to be sure her arguments stacked up. The pursuit of personal justice wouldn’t be enough.

Is it justice or revenge?

No time to worry about that now. She tugged her black hood farther down over her infamous face, even though deep shadows blanketed the common room corner. She’d chosen a table far from the tallow candles mounted in their stag-horn chandeliers. There was no point taking chances; the black hair and porcelain skin of a Tembran would be remarked here among the platinum-haired Dayhlish. Besides, someone might recognise her.

“In Ahlleyn, sure as the spring comes after winter, Holiness.” The narrow-faced man across from her grinned, baring teeth more brown than yellow. The acrid smoke from the candles didn’t cover his pungent breath.

She half-stood, making an urgent, negating gesture as she glanced around, but the hubbub of chatter from the patrons and the music covered his slip. No one even glanced their way. On the far side of the room, away from the two blazing hearths, tables were pushed aside for dancing. She dropped back into her seat, her black robes fluttering around her booted feet.

Ahlleyn lay on the other side of the continent, months of travel by horse. If her informant was right and a Rahmyrrim priest had been dispatched there, he would likely be gone long before she arrived—unless she begged a favour, but she’d not do that for a lark of her own. However, if it meant catching the man who killed her parents, well then maybe she could come up with an argument that would hold water for a god. Old grief and anger, stale from a decade or more, stirred in her gut, and her fingers curled around the edge of the table.

Releasing her grip, she reached to the inner pocket in her robes where rested the smudged charcoal drawing of a man. Hard work and luck had helped her obtain that picture of the man she believed killed her parents—a man she knew to be a priest of Rahmyr. If she decided to act against her standing orders, then she needed to be sure it was the man she was after, and that he was involved in some act heinous enough to attract her goddess’s attention.

“Did you get the name of this priest? Or his description?” An unknown number of priests served Rahmyr, but she knew six by sight—six still alive anyway.

The thin man shook his head. “Nobody mentioned. I got the impression he’s already there, or on his way leastways.”

She scowled. No way to be sure then that this was the man she wanted. Begging favours of Ahura for her personal satisfaction was a risky business, especially if she neglected her duties, and perhaps it would all be for nothing.

With one hand, she flattened the map that curled on the table between them. The patrons behind them exploded with laughter at something unheard. Ignoring the noise, she stabbed her finger at an unmarked portion of the map in the foothills of the Ahlleyn mountains. If he didn’t know who, maybe he knew the what. “There, you say? What possible interest could Rahmyr have there? There’s nothing of interest at all.”

She lowered her voice even further as she uttered the name of the goddess of decay, and glanced around again. That name spoken too loudly would bring unwanted attention. But nearly all the tavern patrons were busy whirling on the impromptu dance floor or lined up to watch the dancers, their backs to her.

The nameless man leaned forward, treating her to another stomach-clenching blast of foul breath, and touched a spot perhaps half an inch away from her finger. A tiny, unlabelled picture marked something there.

“Here, Holiness.”

She squinted at the picture, letting his lapse slide. The image represented a holy place. There was an old shrine to Ahura somewhere in the Ahlleyn Borders, wasn’t there? And a castle built over it. “Caisteal Aingeal an Bhais.”

“That sounds like the name,” he agreed. “Never could get my mouth around them Ahlleyn words. Pink castle, I heard.”

She grunted. That was the one. “There’s still nothing there.”

Nothing of interest to Rahmyr anyway. The shrine wasn’t particularly important, and the castle held no political significance.

“What’s there,” the man said, “is Lyram Aharris.”

The premonition went through her like a blast of icy wind, stiffening her in her chair as the hand of the goddess brushed against her mind. A light caress, but from a giant, and so it sent her mind reeling. She clutched the table for support. Lyram Aharris’s reputation preceded him the length of the continent: eight years ago, at the age of twenty-seven, he’d brought an end to the centuries-long conflict between Ahlleyn and Velena through a series of brilliant military manoeuvres. He’d survived the Siege of Invergahr against near-impossible odds, brought the crown prince safely clear of the conflict, and fought the Velenese to a standstill using their own guerrilla warfare tactics against them. As a novice, she’d covered the tactics thoroughly as part of her studies. The man was a military genius. That he was third in line for the throne of Ahlleyn was the least there was to know about him—at least it was, until his king dismissed him from court. The rumours on everyone’s lips said he murdered his wife, even if no one could prove it.

What did Rahmyr want with him?

Ciara Ballintyne grew up on a steady diet of adult epic fantasy from the age of nine, leaving her with a rather confused outlook on life – she believes the good guys should always win, but knows they often don’t. She is an oxymoron; an idealistic cynic.

She began her first attempts at the craft of writing in 1992, culminating in the publication of her debut work, Confronting the Demon, in 2013. Her first book to be published with Evolved Publishing is In the Company of the Dead. She holds degrees in law and accounting, and is a practising financial services lawyer. In her spare time, she speculates about taking over the world – how hard can it really be?

If she could be anything, she’d choose a dragon, but if she is honest she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House M.D. – both the good and the bad. She is a browncoat, a saltgunner, a Whedonite, a Sherlockian, a Ringer and a Whovian… OK, most major geek fandoms. Her alignment is chaotic good. She is an INTJ.

Ciara lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, her two daughters, and a growing menagerie of animals that unfortunately includes no dragons.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dionne's Blog

My New Dark Epic Fantasy is Almost Here!

Yes, I’m slack. My new dark epic fantasy is coming out soon, and I haven’t even done a cover reveal on my blog. Well, here it is, cover reveal, blurb, links, sample, all the juicy stuff. Drumroll … may I introduce, Tempering the Rose. I will first thank the incredibly talented Robert Baird for my cover. I told him what I wanted, and he delivered with style (lucky me).

tempering-the-rose_ebook copy

I normally write YA fantasy, but I decided to test the waters of fantasy for older readers. I’ve enjoyed writing grittier scenes and language (okay, so that’s me politely saying my characters use the F word). At its core, it’s a story of revenge, love, and redemption, oh and saving the world (hence the epicness). There aren’t any dragons in this one, as far as I can tell (you never know what book 2 holds). I hope you give this one a go if you like fast-paced epic fantasy. And that’s Addy on the cover — my kick-ass main character hell-bent on revenge, and when you hear what was done to her, you’ll totally understand. Will she get her man? There’s only one way to find out😉. The book comes out April 19 on iBooks and the 2nd of May on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. Buy before 19 April and get it for the special pre-release price of 99 cents. On 19th of April, the price will rise to $3.99.

BLURB

A dark epic fantasy series, where one woman’s thirst for revenge will put the entire world in jeopardy.

The only thing twenty-one year old Adrastine wants is revenge against her depraved father—but when she tries to kill him, she is caught and thrown into a holy war for a god she doesn’t believe in. But disaster is coming, and all Adrastine’s problems will seem minor by comparison. Someone, or something, is draining the planet’s lifeblood, killing the land and everything on it at an alarming rate.

Jacob is a shelon, a man who can wield magic, and a spy dispatched by Queen Valtice to find The Rose of Nerine – the only one who can stop the rape of the land and save the people. But when Jacob finds Adrastine, he can’t convince her that she is The Rose, let alone to leave her home and journey with him across the tempestuous sea to Nerine.

Adrastine is drawn to Jacob, despite their differences. But that is a dangerous path, as he is an unwelcome distraction to her quest for revenge. And if she learns his secrets, it will cement her hatred of men forever, weakening powers she is only just learning she has, powers needed to save their world.

CHAPTER 1

Addy crouched on the roof and stared over the parapet to the cobbled street below. A royal seeker stood watchful at the whorehouse door across the street, dim light from a wall lantern throwing his angular features into shadow. The threat of the sword hanging from his hip and his scowl would be enough to keep most people away. But not Addy. Not tonight.

The crisp air burned in her throat. Her thumb caressed the smooth timber of her bow. Back and forth. Back and forth. The rhythm did little to soothe her nerves, and she bit her bottom lip, the sting of it occupying her mind, keeping negative thoughts from sending her into retreat. In her other hand she gripped a cold arrow shaft so hard her nails dug deep half-moon indentations into her palm.

She had dreamed of this moment for the past seven years. Once her arrow pierced her father’s heart, she could get on with her life. At twenty-one, she was young enough to have a future — one far from Pyren, no doubt — but it was more than she had been brave enough to believe in before escaping her mother’s indifference and father’s abuse five years earlier.

What if the murder goes wrong? The searing image of a long-suppressed memory ignited, like a flash of lighting. Her thumb ceased stroking. She missed a breath. Nervous energy spread from her chest into her throat. Addy inhaled slowly to calm herself. She blinked, trying to clear her mind, then refocused on the door, which was still closed.

She would never go back. The nothingness of death was preferable to ending up where she had started — under the care and control of High Seeker Radnok and her addict mother.

Addy tilted her head to one side then the other, stretching her neck. Her gaze never left the whorehouse door. If she missed this opportunity, there would be no other. She would be on the run or dead.

The seeker stepped quickly to the side as the door opened. Harp notes cascaded out with the haze of smoke and two more seekers; the men beckoned to a horse and carriage waiting nearby. The horses moved forward, the strike of hooves on stone breaking through Addy’s focus, making her start.

She stood.

Relaxing one hand took great effort. Addy swiftly nocked an arrow. String taut, she rested her icy hand against her face, the comforting pressure of the bowstring against her cheek helping her focus. Any moment now. You can do this, Addy.

High Seeker Radnok stepped through the gloom. His footfalls matched the clack of hoof on stone as he moved into the light, into range. He was as she remembered him — tall, broad-shouldered, arrogance in the tilt of his head, dark beard framing a sneering mouth.

Addy inhaled deeply then held her breath, trying to temper her racing heart. The carriage moved closer. It would soon block her shot.

No more time.

Radnok lifted his gaze from the approaching carriage and looked right at her, his eyes widening.

Her hands shook. Another flash of memory. Blinded again.

Never going back.

The clop of hooves.

Shouts.

Never going back.

Radnok’s surprise swiftly dissipated.

She reached deep inside for the burning fire in her belly. The cocooning molasses of calm the fire brought slowed the world. Harp notes vibrated longer, became deeper. Her vision intensified — things far away seemed closer. Radnok’s hateful face was so clear, she could even see the smirk line next to his mouth.

Despite the world moving slower for her, Addy’s heart galloped with fear. She saw the triumph in Radnok’s eyes, saw it turn into something worse. He thought he had won.

Between one heartbeat and the next, she released.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Dionne's Blog

Come See Me at RWDU16

RWDU

In just under two weeks is an event I’ve been looking forward to — Readers & Writers Down Under 2016, in one of the nicest spots in Oz. On Saturday 5th of March, I’ll be selling and signing books at the QT Hotel Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. And I won’t be the only author there. Sixty-nine authors will be in attendance – hmm, kind of a magic number😉. If you love reading romance, erotic fiction, paranormal, chick lit and fantasy, there’s sure to be something you’ll love.

Come have some fun with us. There’s the book signing on Saturday and the masquerade ball on Saturday night. Can’t wait to get dressed up and don a mask.

To make sure you don’t miss out on partying with 69 lovely ladies, go grab your tickets now!

Hope to see you there!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Writers’ Unleashed is Here! – Shire Writers’ Festival

Hey! Long time no post; I know. I’ve had things cooking in the background – namely the new comedy web series (not fantasy related) that I’ve written and am producing. But that’s not the reason for this post — that’s just my excuse for not posting for AGES. So, onto the reason for this post.

This coming Saturday — the 14th of November from 9 am – 4 pm, I’ll be attending the Writers’ Unleashed Festival in Gymea, Sydney (Australia, not Canada). There are going to be lots of great author talks and panels, so if you love books, meeting authors, or you are an author/writer who wants to hear about all things publishing/writing related, you can grab your tickets HERE.

I’ll be on a panel discussing self publishing, with Elizabeth Storrs and Helen Armstrong from 3 – 4 pm. We’ll all be selling/signing books afterwards. I’d love to see you there. You never know what awesome writers you’ll meet, not to mention the great information that could help you on your publishing journey.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dionne's Blog

Looking Through Sad

Poetry isn’t my best ‘thing’ but it’s a wonderful way of exorcising intense feelings. I wrote this because someone I love is dying of cancer, a scenario all too common these days. I’m also sending hugs to everyone out there who has lost someone they love to the hateful thing called death.

Looking Through Sad

I’m looking through sad
My heavy gaze
Barely touched by my smile.
Weighed down by sorrow
The press of recollection
Of a truth better not known
That lies at the end
Of everything

6 Comments

Filed under Dionne's Blog

Rejected in a Flash

We writers are a sensitive bunch; okay, what I’m really saying is I’m sensitive. I work hard at writing the best prose I can. It’s an obsession and a passion, and there’s nothing I love more, outside the actual the process of writing, than when a reader tells me they’ve connected with my story — whether they were entertained or moved — that’s my goal. But even so, validation from readers in the industry is something that writers seek—it gives us credibility and helps us believe in ourselves. To this end, I’ve entered a few competitions and generally never gotten anywhere.

Recently, I entered two flash fictions in competitions, and my stories failed to even make the long lists. It leaves me wondering what I’m doing wrong. Why aren’t the judges connecting with my stories? What the hell am I doing thinking I can write? There’s lots of writers much better than me, so why should I keep trying? Because I love it; that’s why. So, rather than spend more than one day moping about it (the time I give myself to deal with rejection), I’ve decided that I’d rather post my stories here for free than pay to get rejected (what other crazy bunch of people does that, right?).

I know some of my readers will enjoy these flash fiction pieces, and that means I haven’t failed. And, to be honest, I could never give up writing, as I love putting words down, one after the other, and see meaning and emotion fill the once empty space. Please enjoy these two flash fiction pieces, ’cause I’ll have to cheer myself up by eating a whole tub of ice cream if you don’t.

Just in Time

Tick . . . tick . . . tick. Elsie looks down at the small clock on the plastic tablecloth. Her eyes, even with glasses, can’t make out the numbers anymore, but the bright-red cherry motif decorating the tablecloth catches her attention, as do her wrinkled hands. Skin so thin, blue veins ghost through—a shadow of life glimpsed behind rippled glass. When did that happen? Her hands rest on the table, each one cupped around either side of the clock. She runs one thumb over the smooth plastic face.

Tick . . . tick . . . tick. “Bill, do you remember when we bought it?” she asks of the empty room. Her faded lips — more the pink of a dried petal than the lively pink of sunsets, lipstick and baby clothes, the pink of then — curl up. She lifts her head and looks away from the clock, her gaze slipping beyond.

Tick . . . tick . . . tick. The chair across from her is pushed in, vacated long ago. Alone is lonely. Waiting is hard. So slow . . . time, it passes so slowly. Will she keep fading until she’s invisible, like Bill? The clock, curved and lacquered black, its white face as pale as death, calls to her.

Tick . . . tick . . . tick. What is it like, in that space between the clear glass and the clock face? Even if she squints and leans closer, the time eludes her. Time eludes her. Blurry hands, blurry numbers. Always counting down to something, yet counting up.

Tick . . . tick . . . tick. So long. She’s waited so long. Her insides feel as hazy as the numbers she can’t make out on the clock face. As hazy as Bill, who now sits across from her. The clock is forgotten as Bill’s silhouette grows stronger.

Tick . . . tick . . . tick. She smiles—his face, it’s good to see his face. She reaches her hand toward him. Instead of cool plastic, she feels….

Tick . . . tick . . . tick. For the first time in so long, she can’t hear it. Silence. The ticking has finally stopped.

 

Stolen

“Goodbye, mum,” Ellen whispers as the first thud of earth strikes the coffin. It feels like there is too much space in her mind, where reality escapes her desperate attempts to contain it.

She is a little girl again, snuggled in her mother’s arms, inhaling the scent of her perfume. Waiting for the bus, icy wind swirls around them. The little girl smiles, knowing the chill can’t break through and take her mother’s warmth. But now, standing at the edge looking down, past her sensible black shoes into despair, her tears join the clods beating a slow rhythm in the crisp July afternoon.

Another bitter wind blows at her back, and she knows it was all a lie — the cold has stolen her warmth. She shivers. Staring beyond the coffin, imagining the confines beyond, loneliness spreads endlessly in front of her, like an arctic landscape. She wraps tired arms around herself.

A warm hand grasps her fingers. Through blurred vision, she looks into her daughter’s blue eyes, so like her mother’s.

“I’m cold,” the little girl says.

Ellen crouches and gathers Ava into her arms, hugs her tight. Breathing deep to steady her voice, she says, “I’ll keep you warm.”

22 Comments

Filed under Dionne's Blog, Short stories

Hope — A Suspenseful Short Story

I haven’t posted in way too long. Sorry about that. This is a short story I wrote a couple of years ago, and it was supposed to find its way into a friend’s magazine, but the magazine is on hold, so I decided to post it here. It’s not my best work, but it will make you think, I hope.

HOPE

Hope stared at her son. It was hard not to panic. She wanted to run around screaming, “They’re coming! They’re coming! Save yourselves.” She stood, legs twitching in denial of her instincts. Her son looked lovingly into her eyes. He trusted her and was happy, and she was grateful for that.

Her gaze nervously flicked between the only way out and her child. What time would they come? She looked around at the other mothers with their children and wondered how they felt, knowing what was coming? Every year they took the children that were not too young, but not old either. They took them away, never to be seen again. The mothers weren’t supposed to know what happened, but Hope had been wandering where she shouldn’t and had seen the children’s lifeless bodies being thrown into a truck.

How could they be so cruel? Didn’t they know how much suffering they caused? Hope knew they were emotionless, heartless; they had to be. What if she could save her son this time? They had taken her two other children, and she never forgot. Never. Her dreams were filled with their faces, their beautiful brown eyes radiating innocent love that had been cruelly disregarded with one slash of a knife.

She moved closer to her son and nuzzled his soft cheek, and he smiled. She lifted her head again and looked at all the children that would be dead by tomorrow. It was too many. Not again. No, she couldn’t let it happen again. She thought about how she could stop it and formulated a plan. Help was needed, and the smartest mother she knew was April. It was time to act.

April wasn’t sure it would work, and she didn’t like the violence Hope was suggesting, but if she wanted to save her son, she had no choice. They risked their own lives in this, but it was worth it. April remembered, just as well as Hope, how she had felt last time her child was murdered. The pain of losing a child cannot be forgotten or diminished; it smothered her life and suffocated her joy, permeating her waking hours and her sleep.

Hope and April waited, staying close to their boys. Between them, they had managed to organise at least fifty other mothers to help. Everyone was arranged around the huge enclosure: another way they had been mistreated—locked up, not allowed freedom to go where they chose. Hope wanted to survive, but the way her life was, she was not afraid to die if she couldn’t force change. No one deserved to live like this.

The silent mothers feigned calm, often looking at each other for support. They were in this together; no one else could save them. They had to do it themselves. Hope looked beyond her comrades, to the open sky, which taunted them, it’s offer of limitless possibilities closed to them, for now. She heard its message in the fresh breeze that puffed up the dirt around her legs, swirling the grainy soil in ghostly whirlpools, which danced among the waiting prisoners.

She watched one wisp of dust sweep towards the locked gate, and that’s when she saw them. They were here already. Her heartbeat raced. Her gaze met April’s. They exchanged small nods; the time was upon them. Hope waited for the gates to be unlocked, for the four humans and their dogs to enter. The humans wore those things they called ‘hats’, which shadowed their evil faces, but Hope could see the hardness and intent seeping from behind their eyes, like the sickly light which oozed through those Halloween pumpkins the humans put around the farm every year.

She knew it was coming, but jumped when April screamed. Hope screamed too, and soon the enclosure was filled with the bellowing of every mother. The humans had just moments to be surprised before the herd stampeded them.

Hope and April led the charge, hooves kicking and stomping, teeth that had never tasted meat bit into murdering flesh. Murderer became victim.

“Oh my god! Ron what’s happening? They’ve gone mad!”

Hope heard them scream, and she didn’t care, just like they didn’t care every time they came to steal their children, snatching them away only to end their precious lives.

Ron didn’t answer; he was on the ground, trampled limbs bent at unnatural angles like broken branches after a storm. Hope pushed her son out of the gate, and they ran as fast as his short legs allowed them. She risked a look behind, but the humans were down. Her friends and their children were cascading out of the enclosure, experiencing their first taste of freedom. Hope smiled at their triumph and pushed on—they had many farms to visit. Watch out world; we will be docile no more.

If you enjoyed this story, I have more suspenseful, much darker stories in Dark Spaces, which you can grab from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks and Smashwords.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Dionne's Blog, Short stories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,980 other followers