Monday, May 1, 2023

Introducing The Tournament of Princes


Hello, everyone. I'm having an interesting year as I learn to balance my writing schedule with caring for a baby. I've been releasing one chapter each week of The Spectra Crown Tales in kindle vella, which means one full book every six months or so. In quieter moments (I love naptime!), I build up episodes for a second project. Since The Captain's Dowry is now out in the world, it's time to start a new second project.
So, I would like to introduce you to...

The Tournament of Princes 
Impersonate a prince. Win a crown. Stop an Empire. If Collis can enter the emperor's tournament to become his heir, he could create his own legend and stop the war for good. But the legends he loves never mentioned dust or blood, and the heroes had useful companions, not a child without fire abilities, an escaped slave, or his mother. Yet Collis will need them to cross the desert, survive the tournament, and beyond.

The Tournament of Princes started, as most of my stories do, as a daydream--or rather, a series of daydreams. The Vliek Empire is harsh, inside a harsh desert world, and I've set many of my own private stories there. When I first began planning to write it down, I knew that my favorite main character, Trissali, would be the mother of the YA hero of this story, and that she would play a major role (forget damsels in distress, mothers have it even worse, narratively speaking). It may be a bit grittier than my fairytale retellings, but I'm still aiming for a PG-13 rating, if it were a movie.

Inspirations for this story include everything from Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors to Avatar: The Last Airbender (more for plot and pacing than worldbuilding). In the Spectra world, this story takes place between Mira's Griffin and DreamRovers. Some of the six kingdoms have been fully established, but people are still learning and defining their abilities, so some of the politics and magic terminology are different than later books. The Tournament of Princes could be seen as a origin story for the Cole Kingdom.

You can read the first chapter completely free here (though you do have to sign in to your amazon account), and I'll also include the beginning below. The Tournament of Princes is currently exclusive to kindle vella, though I will probably publish it as a full book at some point. I'll be uploading one short episode every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I hope to see you there!
Sneak Peek:
As promised, here is the opening of The Tournament of Princes:

Dust rose over the desert. From the hills, Trissali saw it coming, and knew what it meant. At long last, the Vlieks had come for her tiny village.  

She could have stayed where she was, hidden in the rocky hills in the desert, but Trissali could not abandon her people.  

She raced down cliffs so quickly she seemed to fly. The cloud of dust spread across the entire sky behind her. The first stone houses came into view. Trissali rushed straight to the village center and rang their warning bell, again and again, until the whole village had gathered. 

Her father was the first to come running, holding two spears. He handed her one of them. “The innocents can escape into the hills,” he said, “but they need time.” 

Trissali accepted the spear, and she and her father alone charged the oncoming horde. 

*   *  * 

Collis let the dramatic pause linger. His audience, all children, waited eagerly. He’d loved these stories at their age too, but now they were the ones who needed protected, and he was old enough to help—as long as they were sufficiently distracted. He lifted a toy wooden spear and, for good measure, summoned a ball of fire. The tip of the spear burst into flames.  

Twelve-year-old Tuya bounced where she stood. The girl’s pale hair, so different than the black and brown of the others, flipped into her eyes. “Awesome!” 

“I can’t wait ‘til I learn fire-shaping,” a little boy said. 

Collis grinned and swung the spear. The fire danced, creating glowing orange light on the drab stone walls of the schoolhouse, a major improvement. The kids laughed and cheered. 

The next oldest after Collis, a fourteen-year-old baker's daughter, glared at the spear, and the fire went out.  “Really, Collis? You’d tell them a story like that at a time like this?” 

He hesitated. “They’re having fun.” 

She pointed to the back wall. Some of the children gathered there, pressed close together. “Our parents are going to fight a real battle.” 

“Some of us don’t have any,” Tuya said. She swallowed her sadness and looked desperately up at Collis. “What happened next?” 

The distraction clearly helped some of the kids. Collis edged further from the ones cowering in the back while the baker’s daughter hurried to them. She was only a year younger, but a lot better than he was at minding the younger ones. 

Collis pulled out the box he’d brought with him and opened the lid. Eleven carved weapons, with details outlined in black, charred wood. “I made you something.” He chose a sword and handed it to Tuya. “Why don’t you act it out and see who won?” 

With whoops and cheers, the small horde descended on the box. 

His collection might not survive, but Collis had bigger priorities. The baker’s daughter had everything in hand. There was no reason he couldn’t slip out. 

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