Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pale Queen's Courtyard by Marcin Wrona

Pale Queen's Courtyard (Moonlit Cities)
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On Special for June 2011 $0.99
regular price $2.99
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Kamvar, a soldier, has lost his way. Leonine, a thief and sorcerer, has forgotten that he had one to lose.

When the daughter of a High Priest finds herself exiled and hunted across the entirety of conquered Ekka, both men will remember who they are, and the country's invaders will learn that memories, unlike temples, are not so easily torn down.

Pale Queen's Courtyard is the first novel by Canadian author Marcin Wrona, and a finalist in SciFiNow's 2009 War of the Words.

Marcin Wrona is a Polish-born Canadian author, a multiple immigrant, a mustachio-twirling financier, and many other things besides. He lives and works in Toronto.


A quick excerpt from Pale Queen's Courtyard. Leonine has come to steal, and to do so he'll need to seduce a manor's widowed mistress:

“What is this?” Leonine asked, genuinely curious. “I’ve never tasted its like.”

“Wine made from the plum,” she said. “I am told it is a round, violet fruit that grows on the islands that make up Akros. Amashuk introduced me to it… though it is difficult to get. Akrosian goods have been too scarce of late.”

How true, he observed wryly. Akrosian ships only rarely came to Sarvagadis or Adarpa – that was, in fact, precisely why he’d come.

He drained his cup, and grinned at her. “I could be persuaded not to denounce you to the Master of Coin, if you’d be so kind as to pour another.”

“I suppose I’m at your mercy,” she said. Taking up the ewer, Ila-uanna leaned in close to pour another cup. The scent of jasmine and cloves lingered when she drew back.

They played, and talked of inconsequential things. She was born not far away, in Inatum, the daughter of a once well-to-do family that had fallen on difficult times since the conquest of Ekka by the Merezadesh – “your people”, she had called them. He told her that he had grown up poor and humble in Sarvash, and that he learned to play the lyre from a kindly uncle. She spoke wistfully of a marriage she had been forced into and a husband that, over time, she had come to love. He spoke of a life spent single, a traveler with neither the wealth nor the time to attract a wife. As her horsemen struck across the river and attacked his flanks, she told him that she was terribly lonely. And wasn’t he also? He said he was, sometimes.

When she spoke, her rich voice wove strands of pain, joy and regret; a tapestry of a life halfway lived. There was honesty in it. In what he had told her there was little honesty, although perhaps some of the regret was real. He too had lived life halfway.

Interview with 
Marcin Wrona:

N.L. EARNSHAW:  What will readers like about your book?

MARCIN WRONA: It's a character-driven sword-and-sorcery novel with some darkness, moments of joy, and the occasional bit of snark. Unpredictable sorcery, grim spearmen, and thieves with hearts of ... well, not quite gold. Brass, maybe.

N.L. EARNSHAW:  Why did you self publish?

MARCIN WRONA: Mostly, it seemed like the right business decision. I don't like what's happening in traditional publishing contracts at the moment, and the opportunity to take charge of my own career was much too tempting.

N.L. EARNSHAW:   How did you choose your genre?

MARCIN WRONA: I love myth. I grew up reading about Zeus's sexual escapades, hobbits, and all that jazz. I think fantasy is - or can be, perhaps - myth's heir. I like the ease with which speculative fiction lends itself to allegory. I like the way it can make serious points about our place in the world when it's not swashbuckling, grinning rakishly, or pronouncing long-dead languages to bind this demon or that into service.

N.L. EARNSHAW:   What is your writing process?

MARCIN WRONA: It starts with an idea, which I sit on for a few months while writing other things. I let things roll around in my subconscious for a while, to gather some moss. Then I write a preliminary outline, sit on that a little while longer, and then write a more detailed one. Then I put the outline away and start writing from a memory of what the story should look like. The results always deviate a bit, but that's good. Minimal preparation bogs me down because I spend too much time wondering where to go with a story, but I feel that over-preparation doesn't allow writing a chance to breathe.

N.L. EARNSHAW:   How long does it take you to write your first draft?

MARCIN WRONA: At my current pace, a novel draft takes two to three months (and about that long again for polishing, beta reads, edits and so forth).A short story will generally take me two to three days.

N.L. EARNSHAW:   What inspired you to write this particular story?

MARCIN WRONA: Pale Queen's Courtyard was inspired by Babylon. I've always been enamoured of history, and I've always found it a bit strange that we in the western world spend so little time at the very roots of civilization - Mesopotamia gets short shrift outside theological circles, it seems. I knew I wanted to play among the ziggurats.

N.L. EARNSHAW:   What are you working on now?

MARCIN WRONA: Golden Feathers Falling, a stand-alone sequel to Pale Queen's Courtyard. Assassins attack a young woman's tablet house with questions about her father. She hires a band of mercenaries to search for the answers. GFF follows different characters, and a different story, but its events are touched off by some of what happens in PQC. It's a darker book, about finding what pockets of beauty we can in a world that's frequently ugly. It should be ready to go in August.

N.L. EARNSHAW:   I want to thank Marcin for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish him all the best with his career. 

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