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Excerpts from Brian Libby’s Storm Approaching – Part 3

Hey everyone, here’s the final part of the excerpts I received from Brian Libby’s Storm Approaching! Enjoy!

A continuation of Chapter 2 – Formation:

She bought some scrolls, and continued to read many others in the Institute’s library— tales of adventure, and legends, and history. (It was sometimes hard, even for the authors, to make clear the difference.) She found herself envying the people she read about who had been brave and daring, even though their lives had often been short. What was her future? She could not decide, especially after her adventure in Jagar’s Chapel. I almost died… I made a fortune… I was brave… I was stupid… I could do things… I was lucky… But her predominant feeling was that she had lived more in those few moments than in all her previous life and that she might go mad if she didn’t get out and do something. She was certainly not a future lace-maker. She did her best, but her best was merely adequate: her hands were too big for fine work.

Inspired by the tales she read, she bought a bow and practiced in the walled garden behind the main building. Awkward with a needle, she was more deft with arrows. Many of the girls chuckled. Jin at least did not laugh (much), and Nella would sit on the grass and watch her friend toiling away.

“What’s it for, Andi? Not many girls are mercenaries.”

“Oh, of course not. But I’m not going to make lace all my life, or work in a tavern, or… Oh, by the sun! I missed again.”

Girls left the Institute by their nineteenth year. The great majority married more-or-less suitable young men (and some not so young) of the artisan or petty-burgher classes, men with whom the Institute thoughtfully made arrangements. Some chose to go to the Higher Schools, or to enter the Church or the Federated Society. A few, like Jin, chose other things. What about her?

*

At the beginning of her final year at the Institute Andiriel was chosen to be a prefect, one of the four girls to whom was entrusted the management of a wing in the residence hall. This honor surprised many girls. Apparently the matrons perceived qualities in her that her peers had not noticed. Others might have gotten a hint as to what those qualities were by paying attention to what Jin did after the prefects for the coming year were announced: she moved heaven and earth to transfer from Andiriel’s wing to one that would have a different prefect. (Nella, Andiriel’s roommate, stayed put.)

The ensuing year was one that the young women now under Andiriel’s supervision did not easily forget (although those who spoke of a “reign of terror” were surely exaggerating). She simply enforced all the rules. For example, girls were supposed to devote themselves to silent study in their rooms from 8:00 to 9:45 PM. This usually meant only relative quiet: less scurrying about, gossip, and general malingering than usual. But in North Wing during these hours each girl was at her desk and the silence of a tomb prevailed. Regulations said that girls were to have their beds neatly made and their trash emptied before breakfast. Not everyone took this literally, except in North Wing: Andiriel inspected the rooms while the others were eating, and woe betide the inhabitants of messy ones. In her first week as prefect she assigned twenty hours of detention, six of cleaning, and four of kitchen work. In a couple of extreme cases she closeted herself with offenders for “a few words.” What those words were no one knew, but they were apparently very well-chosen, for repeat offenses were rare.

There was also the strange case of Myria, a fifteen-year-old whose marks and conduct were so atrocious that rumor said she was to be dismissed. The Chief Matron moved her to Andiriel’s wing, where a miracle took place: Myria received second-level honors for the quarter and had only three demerits.

At the end of that quarter four girls urgently requested transfers to other wings and eleven requested transfers in. It was all very mysterious, but the matrons left well enough alone. They didn’t quibble with success. Mistress Perra, housemother of North Wing, told the Chief Matron that Andiriel was the best thing that had ever happened to her, for her own supervisory work was largely eliminated. Perra had never seen such intelligent application of energy in the service of scholarship and order.

Three months into the Andiriel regime North Wing posted the second-highest average in the history of the Institute and won the netball tournament. The next Saturday night Andiriel, Nella, and Jin brought back from town a cartload of food, including three gallons of root-tea, and North Wing had a party (for which Andiriel footed the bill). Even those girls who had muttered curses behind their prefect’s back admitted there were some advantages to the system.

But even prefects make mistakes.

There we go, the first two chapters of Storm Approaching! You’ve met Andiriel, the character that will take you through the book, but there’s wayyy more waiting in the wings, including mercenaries, a clever fox, the politics and counter-politics of Empires, and plenty of intrigue. 🙂

You can order your copies of Storm Approaching from the publisher, Author House, or from Amazon (US/UK). South Africans reading this can also order the book from Kalahari and Exclusive Books.

And for more info on Brian and his work, you can check out his blog and website. 🙂

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Excerpts from Brian Libby’s Storm Approaching – Part 2

Here’s part 2 of the excerpts of Storm Approaching for you! Enjoy!

Andiriel stood outside the Wizards’ House in a reverie. A hundred gold—why, you could buy a horse for ten! She was still standing there when her friends ran up.

“I sold that thing—it’s called a changer,” she told them. “It’s sort of magical.”

“Then it must have been Garjon, not Vomaxx,” said Jin. “How much did you get?”

“Look.” She held out the coins that bore on one side the portrait of a chubby, beardless man wearing a crown, surrounded by the words “Grellin the Fourth, E.W.G.”

The girls gaped. She gave one coin to her dark-haired friend. “Your share, Jin.”

Jin squealed. “Thanks, Andiriel. Mmmm—I’ll meet you back home. I’m going to get some rouge.” She scampered off towards a shop.

“You get two,” she said to Nella.

The pale, plump blonde girl hesitated, then started to cry. “I can’t take them, Andi. Jin and I just teased you about going into that nasty place because you talk about adventures and heroes and we wanted to make you look silly. We never thought you’d actually do it. I felt awful. So did Jin, a little.”

Andiriel kissed Nella on the cheek. “But it turned out all right. I really got a lot more than this. Garjon is keeping it for me, but don’t tell Jin yet. Here.” She pushed the coins into her friend’s hand. “Take ‘em, Nel. I want you to.”

Nella smiled and put the coins in her pocket.

They got back to the Institute at sundown and entered the residential building to find Mistress Verda looking expectantly at both the door and the large clock. “Just in time, young ladies. None of you needs any washing duty, do you? Andiriel, what did you do to yourself?”

“I tripped, mistress.”

“Clumsy as usual, I see. Is your arm very sore?”

“Some, mistress. I stopped at the Wizards’ House. Master Garjon gave me some salve.”

“Go and wash it, and I’ll get you some gauze to wrap it in.” She shook her head. “What is going to become of you in two years?”

“I think about that a lot, mistress. I really do.”

Chapter 2 FORMATION

Andiriel and her fellows were fortunate. Orphans, foundlings, waifs, they might have starved or met worse fates. But thanks to the benevolence of the Emperor and a philanthropic businessman named Rellas Shai, they were in the Institute for the Salvation of the Homeless: taught carefully, clothed decently, fed well, and cared for by people who combined strictness with fairness. Master Shai, who paid half the expenses, did get some return for his kindness: at age ten the girls learned to make lace, and from then on their schedule was fixed: rise at seven, cleaning and breakfast, school from eight until twelve-thirty, dinner, five hours of work in the lace factory, and, after supper, study, and games, and bed at ten (or eleven, for the older girls). Sunday was free, after morning chapel.

The girls became very skilled. The lace was excellent. They were paid about one-fifth of what Master Shai would have had to pay adults.

*

One afternoon a few weeks after Andiriel’s adventure in Jagar’s Chapel, while the girls were busy at their tables in the factory, someone yelled, “Look! Glory Knights!”

Work stopped. The matrons, far from trying to restore order, joined the general rush to the windows.

Andiriel used her strong arms to push forward until she had a good view. Riding by in ordered ranks were fifty men, each wearing mail under a red surcoat emblazoned with a golden sword encircled by a crown.

These were followed by men on smaller horses, younger fellows in white surcoats, their mounts loaded with impedimenta. Two wagons brought up the rear.

A collective sigh arose from the dozens of women and girls crowding the windows. Andiriel and many others called out, “Long live the Order!”

“They’re going to Red Tooth Pass,” said Nella.

“Yes.” Andiriel’s eyes eagerly followed the cavalcade. “The one with the gold star on his sleeve is a Professed Knight and the others are Knight Brothers, or esquires—the ones in white.”

Traffic along the avenue made way for the riders. Pedestrians watched respectfully, the men removing their caps. Some cheered.

“Aren’t they magnificent?” said Andiriel. “And their horses are so big and beautiful.”

Jin giggled. “So are the riders. Wouldn’t you like to marry one, Nella?”

“If only I could.”

“You all know that the Knights of the Sovereign Order are celibate,” said a matron, whose own eyes had never left the cavaliers. “All right, ladies, back to work.”

Andiriel, Nella, and Jin were at the same table.

“Would you like to meet a Glory Knight, Andi?” asked Nella.

Jin laughed. “Andiriel wants to be one, don’t you?”

She had a faraway look in her eyes as she missed a stitch. “I would if I could. They’re so wonderful. They guard the Emperor, they protect us, they’re brave and strong. And their lives aren’t boring.”

“I’d like to see the Emperor again,” said Jin. “I was too little when he came to Javakis. Maybe we’ll go to the Capital some day. It’s not so far.”

“It’s 200 miles,” said Nella. “That’s far.”

“I’ll get there some day,” said Andiriel. “I’ll see our foster-father, and the palace, and the Glory Knights, and… and… Well, I’m not doing this all my life.”

One of the matrons passed the table. “You won’t be doing this for very long at all if you don’t do it better, young miss. A copper off for that poor work. Less talk and start again.”

Jin laughed; Nella frowned. “What are you going to do when we leave, Andiriel?” asked Jin a moment later. “Are you going back to the chapel for more gold?”

“Maybe you should.”

“Me? I’m no hero. I’m going to apprentice to the Javakis Players. I already talked to the manager. It’ll be fun. They tour all over. That’s how I’ll get to the Capital.”

“You’ll be a good actress, Jin,” said Nella. “I’m sure you will. I’m getting married. Mistress Verda said that Mistress Ellana has had three men asking about me for their sons.”

“That’s what you want,” said Andiriel.

“Oh, yes, Andi, I do. My own home and some children. I love children.”

“I know. I’ve seen you with the biddies.” (She referred to the youngest orphans.) “I’m always afraid I’ll drop one.”

“Why don’t you go to the Higher Schools, Andiriel?” Jin asked. “You could get in easy, with your brains. You read the dictionary, didn’t you”

She smiled. “I did read the General Lexicon, but we won’t have a real dictionary until the Commission finishes work and prints it up.” She did some stitches. “I love words, like Nel loves kids. They’re beautiful and powerful.”

“Join the Federation, learn magic words,” said Jin. “Or the Church, and learn holy ones.”

“I don’t think I can be cooped up much longer. I want to see things and do something new. I just wish I knew what. Let’s be quiet now. Master Shai deserves good work.”

Tomorrow I’ll post the second-half of Formation. 🙂 You can order your copies of Storm Approaching from the publisher, Author House, or from Amazon (US/UK). South Africans reading this can also order the book from Kalahari and Exclusive Books.

And for more info on Brian and his work, you can check out his blog and website. 🙂

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2010 in Fiction Post

 

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An Interview with Brian Libby

Hey everyone, yes, I’m finally back! 🙂 After some CRAZY problems with the internet and the bank, everything has been sorted out. 🙂 I’m really sorry that I haven’t been able to update the blog so far this week! 😦

Anyway, back to the interview!

Brian Libby is the author of the Epic Fantasy novel, Storm Approaching (reviewed here) that uses practically nothing that we’ve come to take for granted in the Epic Fantasy we’re used to and still stands as a proud example of the genre. 🙂

I interviewed Brian via email, wanting to get a bit more info about him and the novel, and here’s the result:

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your work:

I’m a historian, age 60, single, who has taught at a prep school in southern Minnesota for many years. I attended Johns Hopkins, UMass, and Purdue (Ph.D. 1977); my fields are European military and diplomatic history and modern Germany.

I have always enjoyed writing; I have a fantasy “trunk novel” tucked away, along with the nice letter Lester del Rey wrote me when Ballantine rejected it in 1978. I don’t really know why I did not continue to try writing for publication, but it was probably because I was too busy teaching. In the late 90’s I published (POD) And Gladly Teach, a satirical novel about life at a (fictional) prep school, which has been well received by a discriminating (i.e. small) audience. But having loved fantasy since I read Tolkien, and many others, in my teens, I decided I wanted to try something along those lines again, so I went part-time in 1999 and took up a pen (literally). The result is four books in the Mercenaries series, the first of which, Storm Approaching, is now out. I was fortunate to get a very good agent for it (the same agent Patrick Rothfuss has, in fact) and unfortunate in his not being able to place it, despite a good recommendation from the first reader at DAW. I decided to publish it myself. I hope to publish Gold and Glory in the next few months, and the others later.

I also write occasional humorous items for the amusement of colleagues, and am now posting these on a blog. (Humor and satire are my favorite genres, although you might not guess it from my answers to these serious questions.)

Will you please give readers an introduction to Storm Approaching?

The first three books—Storm Approaching, Gold and Glory, and Resolution—are a trilogy; the fourth, The Free Lands, is a stand-alone. They are set in a pre-gunpowder world whose society and technology roughly correspond to late-Medieval/early-Renaissance Europe. Storm Approaching concerns a young orphan, Andiriel, who wants to see the world; she winds up being sent on an espionage mission, which gives her more excitement than she bargained for, and getting involved with a broken-down mercenary infantry regiment. (There are no standing armies in the New Empire, so mercenaries are the usual military forces.) Her adventures are set against a backdrop of growing friction between the New Empire and a foreign state, Sarenia. Although Andiriel and her surroundings are the focus of the book, some chapters are set at the Imperial court and do not concern her.

What was the spark, the idea, which gave birth to Storm Approaching?

About fifteen years ago I wrote on a slip of paper, “She was running as fast as she could, but it wasn’t fast enough,” and I said to myself, this will be the opening line of a novel. I do not know why I did this, but I kept the slip of paper. I knew I wanted to try writing something extensive; I did not know exactly what would happen when I started writing. (And that first line was changed, of course, in one of my later edits.)

What themes did you want to explore in Storm Approaching?

I wanted to deal with war and diplomacy more accurately than, so far as I am aware, these topics are usually treated in speculative fiction. I wanted to explore the inner workings of a mercenary regiment. I wanted to look at the importance of friendship, honor, education, and intelligence. I wanted a book that was character-driven, not plot-driven. (The trilogy has a story arch and develops plots, but there is no “main quest”—as I say on the back cover, there are no prophecies or magical trinkets in sight.)

What kind of research did you do for the novel, and how do you approach research?

As a historian, I was trained to do research. But I have not had to do much for the books. I’m conversant enough with my field so that I have little trouble “designing” countries, royal courts, or military units, or including logistics and economics. The polity of the New Empire, for example, bears a resemblance to that of the Holy Roman Empire. The Internet is a very handy source for minor but important matters like the parts of a horse or some detail of heraldry,.

You’ve given readers a fantasy novel that is practically devoid of the usual tropes found in Fantasy – why did you take this risk, and why was it important for you to write this way?

I am very glad you perceive the book that way, because prospective readers, hearing that it centers on an orphan who goes looking for adventure, might well groan, and exclaim, “Ick. Pooh. Not again.” After all, the number of adventurous orphans in Fantasy could populate a small town; they should form a union. But “fantasy” to me means a created world not requiring the inclusion of non-human races or much magic. (Surely dwarfs, elves, etc. have been comprehensively covered by others. None of my major characters is a mage, though magic does exist.) New novelists are told they must do something different, so I tried. They also say to write what you know, and what I know is history: military, diplomatic, political. (And I keep nearby Diana W. Jones’s Tough Guide to Fantasyland, a wonderful prophylactic against clichés.)

I hope that Mercenaries is written with a lightness of touch—not zany or satiric, but with a certain joie de vivre, jeu d’esprit, or other quality we sober English-speakers often use foreign words to describe. My books, though their theme be war and politics, are not meant to be depres-sing. There are enough novels like that in circulation. Good actors, jewellers, farmers enjoy their work. Why shouldn’t good soldiers?

As it happens, I’m writing this on the 203rd birthday of Robert E. Lee, who embodied all that a good soldier can be.

In Andiriel, you’ve created a strong female lead that surprised in more ways than one – what about Andiriel impresses you the most, and has she surprised you in any way, deviated from the path you planned for her?

There are more characters in the books than I expected. All except Andiriel appeared as I wrote; she is the only (human) character I knew about when I started. So her actions have not been too surprising to me, although her, um, friendship with Lana took me a bit by surprise. Andiriel’s sex was not vital; my wish to write about a decent, well-educated person who proves to have talent as a leader could have been done with a man. But I thought that having a young woman in her position, in a society where women are rarely (but not uniquely) found as soldiers, would make things more interesting. Andiriel is not a natural fighter (although she’s good with a bow), nor boisterously aggressive (except on a battlefield), and certainly not like the usual mercenary in a fantasy novel; her strength comes from her intelligence, quickness, and courtesy. Baron Gurlarga sums up her attitude when he uses the famous quotation “No glory without honor.”

The characters who most surprised me in Volume I—first by appearing at all, then by their development—are Lana and Dagget. I’m still learning about them after four volumes.

Lastly, can you give us some info about the sequel to Storm Approaching?

Why yes, I can. 🙂 Gold and Glory finds the Pelicans Mercenary Regiment looking for a contract and getting more than one. Readers who might have been a bit disappointed that Storm Approaching did not contain more war will not be further disappointed. And affairs in distant Sarenia develop in ways that involve some subjects of the New Empire. Gold and Glory is considerably longer than Storm Approaching, and, I guess, contains more “action.”
————————

Thanks very much for this opportunity to speak to a large audience. I hope that your readers will investigate my books, and my blog (http://andiriel.blogspot.com) and website (http://www.blibby.com), or drop me a line if they have questions (brnlbb(at)gmail.com.)

You can order your copies of Storm Approaching from the publisher, Author House, or from Amazon (US/UK). South Africans reading this can also order the book from Kalahari and Exclusive Books.

Brian has also kindly agreed to let me post excerpts from Storm Approaching, which should start appearing on the blog from next week onwards. 🙂

Until then,

Be EPIC!

P.S. I’m meeting Liz and Mark De Jager tomorrow, the fine folk who run the awesome blog My Favourite Books! 🙂 They’re in South Africa for a visit! Looking forward to it!

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2010 in Interviews

 

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Author House Review: Storm Approaching – Part One of Mercenaries by Brian Libby

Brian Libby has been patient while waiting for this review, so I’m glad to be able to finally provide it. 🙂 He contacted me via email a couple of months ago and was kind enough to send me a copy of what proved to be a great fantasy.

Storm Approaching follows the trials and fortunes of Andiriel, an orphan living in one of the many houses for orphans in the New Empire. Andiriel longs for a life bigger than what she knows, and as the book progresses and she finds her path, she also finds out more about the world than she ever bargained for.

Now, one of the first things that I kept an eye out for while reading this book was the normal tropes of fantasy – after all, Brian states at the back of the book:

“This book is warranted to be free of ingredients known to harm originality in contemporary speculative fiction. It has no magical swords, rings, orbs, wands, torques, gems, or other trinkets. Here are no elves, dwarfs, vampires, zombies, golems, imps or goblins. No orphans or mislaid children are the rightful heirs of kings. Nobody discovers hidden Wizardly powers, Dead people stay that way. And there is not one prophecy in sight.”

I can hear you asking, “Well then, what’s there to read about?” For one thing, it’s still a fantasy novel, and a damn good one, for all that it doesn’t have what we are used to when reading fantasy novels.

You see, what Brian does so well is the same kinds of things that authors like GRRM and Robert Jordan do so well: I’m talking about World Building, attention to detail and excellent character development.

The world that Brian creates, being the New Empire, is filled with real history and an interesting culture. As you read, Brian skillfully gives you all the information you need to think of the New Empire -and the towns and cities you will go to- as a place that makes sense, that seems as real and comfortable as the place you’ve grown up in or known your whole life. Brian also achieves the all important Don’t-Deluge-the-Reader-With-Information aspect of making Fantasy good.

Character-wise, Andiriel is, of course, given the most attention, but Brian lets characters from all walks of life have their time in the book and each character is true to themselves; there’s no noble speaking or like a low-born and no low-born speaking of acting like a noble (though that would, probably, be more likely). Everyone has a presence, a solidness, which needs to be there when dealing with as large a cast of characters as grace Storm Approaching’s pages. Some of the stand-out characters for me, other than Andiriel herself, were some of the mercenaries, the Emperor and members of his council, and a cute little fox. 🙂

As good as the book is, it does take a couple of chapters to build up, but looking back, I do see this as a strength. You see, the master himself, JRR Tolkien, took it slow and steady, and this is a path that Brian walks well. There’s no hurrying this book, though do allow yourself some time to get into Brian’s rhythm – it’s worth it. 🙂

Brian also has a good handle on the military aspects of the novel – while characters are learning about formations, tactics, weapons and the like, you are, too, and before you know it, you might find yourself thinking up strategies of your own to use in whatever strategy game you play. 🙂 Case in point, I like Warhammer: Dawn of War and Star Craft, so you can imagine the fun I had. 🙂

Another aspect that Brian excels at is the political aspect of the his world, and this is an important part of any fantasy – a part that needs to be spot on all the time so that it doesn’t come across as dumb or contrived. It’s another aspect of the novel that Brian put a lot of thought into. 🙂

There’s enough intrigue, character development, and mystery in this novel to keep the discerning fantasy-lover satisfied, but if there’s one thing I missed, it’s battles. If you’re looking for two or three big battles, you wont find them in this book, but what does occur in the book is absolutely central to Andiriel, so keep that in mind if you start feeling let down. 🙂

Taking everything into account, Storm Approaching is an incredibly self-assured novel, and an excellent example of what can be still be done in fantasy without using anything that is expected from the genre. Let’s hope that Brian’s work crosses the desk of editor in a big publisher, because Storm Approaching deserves to be on shelves everywhere. 🙂

I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!

8 / 10

To order your copies of Storm Approaching, click here and here for the US, here for the UK, and here for South Africa. 🙂

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2010 in Reviews

 

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