This week I am pleased to interview Epic Fantasy author C.L. Schneider. Magic Price is the first book in her trilogy, The Crown of Stones.
Blurb: For ten years Ian Troy has been running from the blood in his veins and on his hands.
Born of the Shinree, a fallen race reviled for their inherent addiction to magic, Ian is no stranger to scorn. His people, drugged to suppress their magic, are bred and sold as slaves. Some are granted conditional freedom, but only to serve the ruling races. Possessing the magic of a soldier, Ian was conscripted into the Rellan army at a young age and made to fight in their longstanding war against the brutal Langorians invaders.As the years dragged on and the death toll climbed, he tried to believe as his Queen did, that they could win without magic. She was wrong. Defeat was imminent.
Pushed to the brink, Ian defied orders and turned to The Crown of Stones, an ancient Shinree relic of untold power. Ignorant of the crown’s true purpose, he harnessed its magic and brought peace to the realms—but at an unthinkable price.
A decade later, Ian is still haunted by that tragic day. Having turned his back on soldiery and magic, he lives in self-imposed exile. He drowns his addiction with guiltand his guilt with wine.He struggles to leave it all behind.
But the past is catching up.
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Bodies pressed in on me on all sides. More were piled up beneath my feet. The grass, gorged with assorted fluids and trampled remains, squished under my boots as I carved open my opponent’s chest, pushed him aside, and moved onto the next.
There was always a next. The Langorians were a swarm…an inexhaustible, savage, mindless swarm. And we had no choice but to become like them to survive. To become animals, going at each other, mechanically pushing against the tide, battering whatever stood in our way with whatever we had; clubs, axes, swords, knives—our bruised, bleeding bare hands. Fighting for days, months, years, striving to hold out against an enemy that knew nothing of mercy, an enemy stronger, and far more brutal than us, we’d become something less than we were.
And we were still losing.
I grabbed the Queen’s arm and steered her out of the fray. “We can’t take much more of this.” Needing to be heard, I drew her closer. “We should pull back.”
“Pull back?” Queen Aylagar Arcana yanked herself free. She gave me a wild, defiant look. Full of passion and reckless resolve, it made her exotic features come alive. “My order stands. We press on, Troy. As always.”
I shook my head. “Our numbers are dwindling too fast. We can’t win this.”
“We can and we will.” Aylagar raised a hand. She touched my face and the sound of metal clashing and men screaming seemed to fade away. Brushing back the blood-splattered white strands that had come loose from my braid, she ran a finger down the strong line of my jaw. “Trust me, Love. The Langorians will not have Rella.”
“How can you still believe that?”
“Because I must.Because I have faith.”
“Ayla…” I stopped myself. Then I started again. “I saw the messenger arrive from Kabri. I know he carried orders from the King. You can’t keep ignoring them.”
“I can. And I will.” She dropped her hand and backed up. “My husband is a fool. I don’t care how many messengers he dispatches from his throne, he is not out here. The blood of these men bathes my skin, not his. This is my war, Troy. Mine!” she cried. “We fight. We die. We go on until we prevail—by my command. I will not surrender. That is the way of it. That is the only way.”
My throat went dry at the fire in her. The way she stood, outlined by the backdrop of chaos, flanked by the crackling flames that consumed our camp, with sweat beading on her dark skin and battle-lust glazing her stare, I wanted to pull her into my arms. I wanted to go back to this morning, on the furs of her tent, when Aylagar’s flawless, ebony skin was on me. Where status and race didn’t matter and death felt far away. Mostly, I wanted to believe her, as I had so many times, that every battle brought us closer to victory. That persistence was our greatest strength and it would carry us through.
But this was it. King Draken of Langor was throwing everything he had at us, making one final push to wipe us all out. To once and for all, lay claim to the land his forefathers had sought, and failed, to conquer. Surrendering was unacceptable; she was right in that. Yet, Aylagar had lost her way. Somewhere along the line, the outcome had stopped mattering to her as much as the fight, and my affection, my awe of her, had blinded me for far too long.
“Give me the order,” I demanded. “Let me shift the odds.”
Her dismissal was quick. “No.”
“We can’t keep going like this, sword for sword, day after day, until there’s none of us left. Let me cast hell down on these black-hearted bastards.”
“I have given you my answer. And it is no different than the last hundred times.”
I moved closer. “You know what I can do. My magic can give us an advantage the Langorians can’t match. We can stop this fucking, never-ending war, Ayla. We can stop it together, with steel and magic. If you’ll just—”
“You are Shinree,” she hissed. “Your kind are meant to do as they are told. Yet, after six years in the ranks you still push for something that I will never bend to.”
“Then you’re as big a fool as the King.”
Her hand that, only a moment ago, had caressed me, struck my face. “My husband forced your service in this army upon us both. And from day one, when you stood in my tent, a young man, eager to please, drooling with the urge to cast, I made it plain that this conflict would not be solved with magic. It’s dishonorable. I don’t trust it. I forbid it. Now, you are my best soldier. I have given you free reign in my bed, but not out here. Not in battle. Ever. Is thatclear?”
Staring at her, my heart went cold. “I don’t think I can do this anymore. Fighting as half a man. Ashamed of what I am because you say it’s wrong. I’m not just a soldier.” I held up the sword in my hand. I called to the stones embedded in the leather-wrapped handle and they began to glow. Their vibrations pressed in through my skin, down into my veins, and the uncertainty washed away. “I’m a Shinree soldier.”
“Put that magic away,” she scolded. “Do you want to kill us all?”
“I can control it.”
“Can you?” Her eyes were harsh. “Can you promise that when your spell steals the strength it needs to be born, that it won’t steal from one of my men? That it won’t steal from me? Your magic is a disease, Ian. Your need for it, your addiction, clouds your judgment. It threatens us all and undermines my orders.”
“Your orders,” I roared, “contradict my duty to keep Rella safe. I’ve tried to pretend they didn’t. I’ve tried to be what you wanted. But I can’t. I’m Shinree, Ayla. I am magic. And if you don’t untie my hands, we will all die here today.”
1. I got my love of reading from my mother who also had a large selection of books around the house. When did you realize you were hooked and what book(s) did that for you?
With my parent’s diverse ‘library’ at my disposal, I was an early reader. By late into middle school I had dipped into nearly every genre. I adored mysteries, especially gothic. But what I was drawn to that age were the classics. My parents had a beautiful set. They were leather bound with gold on the edges of the pages, and silk ribbon bookmarks. I remember loving those books; the feel, the smell. The look of them lined up on the shelf. Gone With the Wind, Jane Eyre, A Tale of Two Cities, Anna Karenina. There were more. I don’t believe I read the entire set. But those were the books that cemented my love of reading.
2. What made you decide on fantasy and particularly, epic fantasy. Can you tell us the difference between epic fantasy and regular fantasy?
Since childhood I’ve had fascination for all things medieval, mystical, and supernatural. I started going to the Renaissance Fair when I was 8 or 9, I think—in costume, of course. I was the only girl in school who would actually admit to being crazy about sci-fi. In high school, the story of King Arthur captivated me. I read every incarnation I could get my hands on for a while.But it was at age 18 when my brother gave me a copy ofThe Mists of Avalon that I was truly drawn toepic fantasy. It struck such a chord with me. I read it twice in a matter of months. That was the book that made me want to write fantasy over other genres.
Epic fantasy is generally described as a novel set in an entirely imaginary world, completely unlike our own, with environments and societies that are fully explored and realized. As a rule, the story is lengthy and evolves over multiple books. It often includes a large cast of characters and sweeping battles or a journey across multiple realms. The plot is complex and game-changing, leaving the story-world altered on a grand scale and the characters evolved.
3. How is the third book in your series coming along?
Right now, I’m nearing the end of my first revision of the 3rd book in The Crown of Stones trilogy. It’s very bittersweet, wrapping up this series. It’s been a long journey. I’ve lived with these characters for so long. Yet, at the same time, I’m looking forward to something new.
I’ve already received some feedback on the first half of book 3, which is always exciting. I’ve also recently been in touch with my cover artist and communicated exactly what I’m looking for. He blew me away with the covers of the first two, so I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
4. Tell us about your initial publishing experience. Did you try to find an agent or publisher, or did you have it in your mind all along to do it by yourself?
It was always my intention to go the traditional route. I’d carried a dream with my since I was 16 of walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf. So when I finished Magic-Price, I did my research, sent out my query letters, and held my breath. Over the next year and a half I had some interest. I had agents who asked for outlines. Some wanted a short synopsis, some wanted long. Some wanted to read the first 10 pages. Some rejected it outright. It was an exciting time. One man, who was the agent for fantasy at the time, actually sent me a personal response. He said he was intrigued by my query. I stunned. There might have been dancing.
Ultimately, he passed on the manuscript. While he liked my story, he felt “the writing wasn’t quite up to the level he needed for today’s competitive market.” I was disappointed, but I agreed with him. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t ready. I knew I could do better. So I purchased stacks of books on the craft of writing and dove in. I read them all, cover to cover. Then I started revising. I cut thousands of words. I rewrote the entire beginning, improved my characters, and tightened the plot.
The whole time I was reworking the manuscript, my good friend Dawn was pushing me to self-publish. Ebooks had exploded onto the scene. Fantasy was moving into the mainstream. She loved my story andthought I was crazy for waiting on an agent or publisher. Her reasoning was, if I published Magic-Price as an ebook, and it did well, I might attract the attention of a traditional publisher. I couldn’t argue her reasoning, but I wasn’t ready to give up. My dream was to hold my book and see it on a shelf. Not a Kindle.
Finally, one afternoon, I decided to humor her. I pulled out the laptop and headed to Amazon, fully expecting to tell her once again that I wasn’t interested. That’s when I foundCreateSpace. I immediately recognized their print-on-demand self-publishing services and Kindle conversion as the best of both worlds. Not only could I fulfill my dream of a physical book, I could have an ebook, and sell both on Amazon. I created my account that day and never looked back.
Self-publishing was one of the best decision I’ve ever made. It has been an amazing experience for me I have control over my work. I’ve learned so much, and met some amazing people. Readers all over the world have read my words. And I have two beautiful books on my shelf.
5. What do you know now, having published two books, that you wish you knew when you first started?
There are multiple answers to this question. I feel like I’ve learned things with each book, and I don’t expect that to stop anytime soon! One thing that stands out at this moment, though, is the rewards of getting an early start with social media.
I knew I would need to establish an online presence. I knew I would need to market/promote. But I gave no thought to doing so more than a couple of months ahead of time. I also had no idea the tremendous personal benefit I would gain simply from connecting—or how much I would enjoy it.I’d always believedother authors would be the competition, and would treat me as such. That I would feel like a tiny, insignificant row boat drifting oarlessin avast ocean full of yachts. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Once I left my uninformed, lonely little comfort zone, Idiscovered a community that is generous, helpful, full of encouragement, and incredibly supportive. Icouldn’t imagine now going without the regular sharing of knowledge and ideas, the jokes and tips. The tweets/posts/etc., and the people who write them, have become a part of my writing experience. Some have become my friends.
It would have been a huge help to have formed such connections earlier,while I was still working on my manuscript.On the good writing days, I believe it would have encouraged me to finish faster. On the bad ones, I could have used some of those tips and jokes.
It is a vast ocean, but one thing I’ve learned: it’s no fun sitting in the boat alone.
6. For those that are reading this now, what can you tell them about your series that might convince them to give it a try?
The Crown of Stones is an epic fantasy, but I believe it appeals to a broader audience than just the rabid fantasy fans. The story is fast-paced and character driven, and geared toward mature readers (not YA). In telling itfrom the first person POV of our flawed, tortured anti-hero, Ian Troy, my goal is to drag you into the book and make you feel it. I don’t want you to read about Ian. I want you to be Ian. I want readers to discover all the good and the bad his world has to offer right along with him. And in a land that’s been plagued by war and slavery for hundreds of years, there’s a lot of bad.
I’ve also taken an abnormal approach to magic using, making itnot a revered power, but acrippling and deadly addiction. Ian’s entire race is born with this addiction and he enjoys the pleasures that come with casting, as acutely as he feels the pain of his cravings and his guilt.
I’ve had quite a few readers and reviewers admit they don’t normally read fantasy. Having expected long drawn out meanderings and hundreds of pages of backstory and world building, they were pleasantly surprised how much they enjoyed the story—and how quickly they were turning the pages.
I know the Crown of Stones is not for everyone, but I’m grateful for those that give it a try. Afterward, come find me. I’d love to know what you thought of it.
Bio: Born in a small Kansas town on the Missouri river,I grew up in a house of avid readers and overflowing bookshelves. When I was sixteen I wrote my first, full-length novel on a typewriter in my parent's living room. My main focus is adult epic fantasy, but I also write urban fantasy, and the occasional science fiction or post-apocalyptic story.
I am proud to be a self-published author and a member of the #indiebooksbeseen community. My goal as a writer is to stir emotion and make the reader feel, whether it be good or bad. I believe in writing fearless, and that telling a story as it is meant to be told, is far more important than word count.
The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price is my first published novel. The second book in the trilogy, Magic-Scars, was released earlier this year.
You can follow C.L. Schneider at the following Links: