update – October 2019

Hi there!

First of all, huge congrats to my friend and fellow author Jason H. Abbott, who just published his first short story! It’s called Angel, and is the PERFECT spooky read for the season! I encourage you to check it out!

It’s been a rough year, but rest assured I’m still trucking along on Book 5. Work on this book currently consists of revisions and complete rewrites of several POVs, including Kali’s. The discovery draft took me far afield of how the story is supposed to go, so I’ve been reining it back in slowly but surely. (The changes are for the better, I promise!) K.M. Weiland’s site, Helping Writers Become Authors, has been extremely helpful in untangling these pesky plot threads, particularly her series on story structure.

At this point, all of my books have been reformatted and given shiny new covers, thanks to Fiona Jayde. 😍 I keep the posters in my office to remind me that there’s more to life than being a cog in someone else’s machine.

Picture of all three Catalyst Moon book covers on a wall in the author's office.
I never get tired of looking at these.

One day, I hope to be self-employed as an author/editor, but that’s a ways off.

Book 4 is with its second round of beta-readers. If you’re interested in getting a sneak peek (and giving feedback in return), drop me a line: lauren@laloga.com

Also, all three Catalyst Moon books are now available at multiple retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Apple (iBooks), Kobo, and more!

I’ve been wanting to “go wide” for a while now, so this is a huge step forward! The downside is that I had to pull the ebooks from the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program on Amazon. Some indie authors believe one can only succeed in KU, but I’m uncomfortable with the idea of exclusivity, especially when giant corporations are involved. I may not make much money going wide, but right now, it’s worth it to not have all my eggs in one basket, so to speak.

Future Catalyst Moon plans include audiobooks, some sort of wiki/manual for the world, and a short story collection, among other things. I’ll also be attending Infinity Con Tally in 2020, so I hope to see you there!

Until we meet again, take care and stay awesome,

Lauren

Introducing: The Catalyst Moon Fan Collective! 😁

Featured

Hi there!

So, it has been a while since my last post, naturally. Unlike previous times, there is a reason, but I’m not quite ready to share the details of my personal life to this extent. Suffice it to say that much in my life has changed, but I’m still 100% oriented toward all things Catalyst Moon.

Hey, speaking of CM… We have our very own Facebook group! It’s called the Catalyst Moon Fan Collective (though I’m not sold on the name & will gladly take suggestions) and you totally should join the fun! I thought it’d be cool to have one spot where we can chat, rant, gush, etc. about this labor of love. We’re small in number, now, but are vast in spirit!

So if you haven’t already, I encourage you to join the fun! 😊

Link: Catalyst Moon Fan Collective

Until we meet again,

Lauren

on heart v. brain (or, the everlasting struggle)

Nothing is simple.

So, Catalyst Moon #3 is basically ready to go, I just need cover art. I’m trying to get it out to y’all, I really am, but I’ve discovered a divide within myself, namely between what I know is the “smart,” “marketable” path, and what my heart wants.

Conventional wisdom tells me that my best bet to get folks to read my books is to pick a cover that fits genre conventions. The cover needs to convey not so much what the book is about, but what “categories” it falls into, (ie: fantasy, adventure, romance, etc) so the reader knows more or less what they’re getting. It’s why you see so many shirtless dudes on those romance novels, and why there are SO MANY grim-faced fellas with swords on fantasy novels. (Is no one happy in those books? Ever??)

My issue is that I CANNOT stand the standard cover fare for my genre. I’m sorry, but most of them look boring and ugly, and the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on something I find so distasteful… Well, it sucks.

But my brain – my rational side – tells me these ugly covers are the best way to get readers. These are what’s selling now, and if I want to Be Serious about this whole self-publishing gig, then I need to swallow my pride and ignore my desire and go with what objectively works.

But y’all.

I’ve been scouring the interwebs for a cover artist. I’ve talked to a few, but no one’s portfolio has captured my heart. I know how silly and pretentious this all sounds, believe me, (#firstworldproblems), but it’s a truth I can’t ignore. My heart wants a gorgeous “artistic” cover that attempts to convey the story I’m telling, not the categories that Amazon prompts me to select.

This hesitation on my part is for good reason. Waaaaay back when CM 1 came out, my publisher initially took all my crazy notes to heart and commissioned this incredible artwork from Natalya Pushokova:

Stunning. 😍😍😍 I love this so, so, SO much. It’s just…ugh, SO GOOD!!!

But when they tested the cover, no one knew what the book was about. 

So, back to the drawing board. The next version of CM1’s cover is the current one:

Which is fine and seems fairly popular. I’ve gotten a lot of nice comments about it. But it’s a far cry from what the arty gorgeousness my heart wanted. So yeah. Heart v. brain…brain won this round.

Now that I don’t have a publisher to answer to work with, I’m working on finding a way to merge these conflicting desires. The thing is, my “issues” aren’t just about money or art or book sales. They go deeper. Namely: Is what I’m doing worth all this frustration and effort? I consider my writing to be art, but the world is not kind to artists. There are approximately a bajillion other epic fantasy series out there. Is Catalyst Moon really worth all this inner conflict, or would it (and me, by extension) be better served by quietly going along with conventional wisdom in the hope of attracting more readers?

Sorry to be a downer. I’m not looking for a resolution from anyone – that will have to come from within – but if anyone has been in my shoes and can possibly relate, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll try to pull my head out of my own ass and figure this out.

Stay awesome,

Lauren

Many thanks to The Awkward Yeti for perfectly and adorably portraying my inner turmoil.

the only constant

Hello there!

Short but sweet post today. I have a lot to say and a dearth of time, but rest assured there will be much more on this subject later.

As of December 12, 2018, the Catalyst Moon series will no longer be published by Inkitt. I will be self-publishing book 3 and taking complete control (back) over books 1 & 2. Inkitt has elected to no longer publish ebooks, but rather focus all of their efforts on an immersive reading app they are developing. That was not the direction I wanted to take for my work, so we have parted ways. This is an amicable situation and I wish Inkitt the best of luck, but my own career is my priority.

This was an unexpected change. I’m both apprehensive and excited to set off on my own. I feel like this is a turning point in my professional career and am optimistic for the future of my series, my author brand, and my development as a writer/author. That being said, there’s a lot to think about – and do – so here’s a brief rundown of my action plan:

  • edit book 3
  • acquire a cover for book 3
  • figure out KDP/Amazon in order to…
  • publish book 3
  • revamp my author page/blog to one that humans can navigate
  • revamp the covers for books 1 & 2, and possibly #3, depending on how “economical” the initial cover is. In an ideal world, I’d get a gorgeous cover for #3 and use the same designer for the rest of the series, but I think that might take longer than I’m willing to wait before #3 comes out.

There’s more to do, of course, [coughmarketingcough], but this is where my focus is atm.

Other than share this development, my aim for this post is to let y’all know that if anyone wants an ARC copy (and eventually a free published copy) of Catalyst Moon #3, please let me know! (lalogareads@gmail.com) I don’t know how long it will take to get book 3 on Amazon, but I do know that many of you have been waiting for a year or more! So please drop me a line if you’re interested. 🙂 Please also let me know your thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, or whatever else you feel like sharing on this subject!

And don’t worry. Storytelling is the reason I’m on this earth. There will always be obstacles, but there’s a fire in my heart that cannot be extinguished.

Take care and stay awesome,

Lauren

PS: I’m not really a visual artist, but I’ve been having fun with the whole glitch art trend as you can see here:

If you’re into this, check me out on Instagram! @lalogawrites

 

New content sneak peek!

Hiya!

It’s almost Thanksgiving here in the US, and I have so much to be thankful for. In an effort to give something back, and because I love you, here’s a sneak peek of an upcoming Catalyst Moon novella featuring a character you don’t know, but will meet in Book Four. Atanar was originally in Catalyst Moon: Incursion, but his story, while awesome, didn’t quite mesh with the rest of the narrative. So I removed him from that book with promises that he’d feature in another. He was a bit cross at first, but mollified once he learned he’d get his own novella. 😉

Atanar is a Canderi warrior whose impact on the events of the Catalyst Moon series can’t be overstated. I had a blast fleshing out more of the Canderi culture, language, and history, and I’m excited to share the full story with you soon. Atanar’s novella is written, but needs editing and a beta (or two!), so if you’re interested in taking a look, drop me a line at lalogareads@gmail. 🙂 I hope to have his book out after Book Three and before #4.

So without further adieu, please enjoy this sneak peek from my upcoming novella, Catalyst Moon: Exile.

Thanks for reading, stay awesome, and happy Thanksgiving to all my US friends! 🙂

Lauren


(Disclaimer: As stated, this is a relatively rough draft, so please excuse any grammatical/spelling errors, and anything else that feels “unpolished.”)

Atanar stood at the edge of the kulkri camp, hands bound behind his back while Sivoy and Tikaani argued a few paces away.

“He ruined the ambush,” she was saying. “And tried to strangle me!” 

            “In self-defense,” Atanar could not help but reply. He turned his cheek so that the afternoon sunlight fell upon what would surely be a nasty bruise. “And you–” 

            She cut him off mid-sentence. “He’s dangerous, just like I said. Utu, don’t you see now why we must send him away?”

Tikaani’s reply was quiet. “Atanar, what have you to say for yourself?”

Sivoy crossed her arms before her chest with huff, but her grandfather ignored her and kept his gaze upon Atanar. It was tempting to lower his gaze, to sink into that shame, but Atanar kept his chin high. “I will tell you what I told Sivoy,” he said slowly, carefully. “Hunting Aredian merchants is a coward’s ploy. They are little more than children; no doubt young Corvac could best any of them in a fair fight.”

“Hunting as we do is the way of our people,” Sivoy replied.

Atanar shook his head. “Not my people. Not Canderi. We abandoned those ways many generations ago. There is no strength needed to snap twigs and saplings. A true warrior, a true Canderi, only faces foes who are an even match.”

“By that logic, you would not hunt deer or rabbits,” Sivoy shot back. “Are you ‘true Canderi’ cannibals, then?”

Heat flooded Atanar’s face, causing his bruised cheek to burn. “Hunting as you do is lazy and cruel. You may as well steal milk from the mouths of babes. What sort of example are you setting for Corvac and the other young men and women? What kind of pride can you lay claim to when your lives are full of theft and trickery?”

She snorted. “Says the man who lays snares for rabbits and deer!”

“It’s not the same thing.”

“Isn’t it?”

Tikaani raised his hand in a plea for silence. When Atanar and Sivoy looked at him, he rubbed the bridge of his nose before glancing at Atanar. “You laid hands on my granddaughter, on our leader. Some of the others are calling for your death.” Atanar opened his mouth to reply, but the elderly man cut him off with a glare reminiscent of Sivoy’s. “Your own family has cast you aside. While you live among our family, you must act appropriately. You must follow the lead of our samaat, or you will be tossed back into the storm.

“And you,” Tikaani said to his granddaughter, who flinched. “You retaliated in anger. You acted violently and without judgment – do not try to argue, child. That is not the way of a proper samaat.

While Atanar would have liked to take pleasure in Sivoy’s visible discomfort at Tikaani’s reprimand, he could only hear Tikaani’s words echoing in his mind. “Your own family has cast you aside.

The elderly man sighed deeply. “Sivoy is our samaat, but as the clan elder, I have some measure of authority. And I have claimed responsibility for you, Atanar. So, then, Sivoy,” she looked up at her name, “if you wish to kill Atanar for his transgression, you must kill me as well.”

She blanched, then glared at Atanar. “You know I won’t do that, Utu.

“So what will you do?”

She was silent.

Tikaani sighed again before withdrawing a small knife from a sheathe at his waist. With one deft move, he cut through Atanar’s bonds. Blood prickled Atanar’s hands and forearms to life as the elderly kulkri replaced his knife and looked between the two younger folks.

“If we are to be a strong clan,” Tikaani said. “We must learn to work together for the greater good. Atanar is strange to our ways, Sivoy, but he has much to offer us – and you. Atanar, you have no other option than to remain with us; you must learn to appreciate our way of life. I think the two of you together would be like the strongest steel: able to withstand any foe. But you each must take care not to cut each other to pieces.” He straightened. “You are not to return to the main camp until you have reached an accord. Is that clear?”

Atanar shot Sivoy a sideways glance. Surely as samaat, she would object to being ordered? But she only offered a quick bow in the Aredian fashion and a quiet, “Yes, Utu.

Tikaani turned his pale eyes to Atanar, who spread his palms out to his sides in a proper Canderi gesture of assent. Tikaani nodded once before making his way back to the main body of the camp.

Atanar and Sivoy were alone.

The moment her grandfather was out of earshot, Sivoy muttered, “Ea’s tits!”

“At least swear like a Canderi,” Atanar grumbled, rubbing feeling back into his wrists.

“I’ll swear however I choose, vorunn.” She glared at him again, but it was short-lived, for she sighed deeply and slumped against a nearby tree.

Having nothing better to do at the moment, Atanar joined her. “What, exactly, does he expect us to do?”

She startled him with a laugh. “Wed.”

Pride and anger fled. Atanar gaped at her. “Wed? Us? Are you mad? Is he?”

“That’s what he meant with all that ‘the two of you together’ talk,” Sivoy said. “Didn’t you understand?”

Atanar groaned and closed his eyes. “Must have missed that.”

“Well, I didn’t,” she said grimly. “He’s been after me to wed for years. I got him off my back for a while, but I knew, the minute you came to us, he’d bring it up again.”

“Is that why he was so…eager to have me stay?”

She sighed again. “Aye. Well, one of the reasons – at least the only obvious one to me. I can’t see that you’d have any other uses besides fathering fat, blond babies.”

It was Atanar’s turn to laugh, and laugh he did. Unexpected, it bubbled up from some place within his belly and leaped out of his mouth, startling a pair of crows from their roost in the tree. When he glanced at Sivoy, she was frowning at him.

“Why is that so funny?” she demanded.

“Perhaps I could father babies,” he replied, still chuckling. “And in truth, I think I would like to be a father – one day, a very long time from now. But the act of fathering is not one I’m interested in…” He cleared his throat. “Well, with a woman.”

Understanding flashed in her eyes, and a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “You prefer the company of men?”

“Very much so.” He considered her again. “Not that you’re–”

“Oh, shut up,” she replied, waving her hand. “Don’t pretend you like me or care what I think.”

“I have no wish to insult you as a woman.”

“Only as a hunter, a warrior, and leader.”

Atanar sighed. “There are many reasons I would not be a good husband to you.” Or to anyone. He kept that thought to himself.

She leaned her head back against the pine. When she spoke again, her voice was soft. “I would be a terrible wife to you.”

“No doubt.”

He’d said the words without thinking and expected a retaliatory remark, at least a glare, but she only stared up at the needles of the pine tree they rested against. “Though I would like children, too, I have no wish for a husband.”

The tone of her voice gave her away; within it, Atanar heard his own experience echoed. “You prefer women,” he said.

She nodded. “Utu has said it is a feeling that will pass, but it’s not passed after eighteen summers. I see no signs of change.” She sighed again, heavily. “He only wants me to bear children and continue our clan. But…”

The words died in the air between them, but Atanar understood. Too well, perhaps. His reply was slow and halting. “My mother felt the same way.” When Sivoy glanced at him in surprise, he grimaced. “She was the samaat of my clan. She is the one who named me voruun.

Sivoy’s face drained of all color. “But you said–”

“Yes, I murdered innocents,” he said. “But I broke her heart long before that night.” Not until the words left his mouth did he realize their truth, nor the way they cut him to the quick.

Neither spoke for several long moments until Sivoy exhaled and glanced back at him. “Corvac told me how he found you on the cliff. Did you want me to have you killed today?”

No trouble to meet her gaze now; no difficulty to speak the truth. “There is nothing left for me in this world, Sivoy.”

She looked away again. “And you call us cowards,” she muttered, shaking her head.

“I never said I wasn’t one,” he replied.

She grunted in what he imagined was reluctant humor before she turned so that she faced him, leaning her shoulder against the tree and crossing her arms before her chest. “So what happens now?”

“You ask as if I have the answer.” When she did not reply, Atanar glanced away from her, letting his gaze fall across the bustling camp. More than a few kulkri looked away quickly, though a few continued to stare openly. No doubt word of the foiled hunt had spread like fractures on a frozen lake.

Atanar considered a pair of kulkri tending to the horses before looking back at Sivoy. “You know,” he said carefully. “The Aredians do not share our people’s distaste for preferences such as yours and mine.”

Her pale brows arched in surprise, though she schooled her face to disinterest almost immediately. “Why should I care what Aredians think about anything?”

“There was a pair of traders my mother used to favor,” Atanar went on as if she’d not spoken. “Two women. They were married – to one another.” Sivoy sucked in a breath and Atanar felt a smile tug at his mouth. “They brought us some of the finest leather I’ve ever seen; soft as butter. Not to mention the chocolate…”

“Shock-ah-latt?” Sivoy stumbled over the foreign word.

Atanar nodded. “It’s food. I think. Well, it tastes wonderful. It’s made from some sort of bean the Aredians grow in the southern province.”

“A bean?” Sivoy pulled a face. “We have no use for those here.”

“Perhaps not,” he admitted. “But Aredians are quite inventive – as you’ve seen.” He gestured to the kulkri camp. “And many of them are eager to trade with us. Our steel is worth a great deal to them, as are the furs and meat we can easily hunt here.”

She frowned. “Surely even Aredians can hunt for those things.”

“Some of the hardier ones, perhaps. But most of them won’t travel this far north. And none of them would know what to do with an atsuula or caradoc.” He took a deep breath. “Have you ever considered trying to trade with them?” When she did not answer, he added, “Your family has much to offer.”

“None of us can speak proper Aredian,” she said at last, waving a hand in dismissal. “Besides, it’s too much trouble to gather items to trade when we can simply take what we wish.”

“I can speak enough Aredian to trade,” he replied. “My mother often called upon me to take on that responsibility. And as to your sort of hunting…”

He fought back a surge of anger at the notion of the kulkri‘s methods; even so, he felt the stirrings of vorunn within his heart. To counteract the feeling, he laced his hands together and dug his nails into his skin, letting the pain redirect his focus away from thoughts of violence. “How long can you sustain such a practice? Even Aredians have their limits. Eventually, they will come looking for the ones who’ve broken the Avalanche Truce.”

“I’m not afraid of their paltry armies.”

“Perhaps, but you don’t have the numbers necessary to face an army, even an Aredian one.”

“Many other kulkri clans hunt as we do.”

“I know,” he said. “And you are all Canderi in the eyes of the Aredians. If one clan brings the branch down upon its own head, the rest of the tree will surely follow; the damage will spread to the rest of your people.” He allowed his words to sink in before adding, “My mother used to tell me that the most effective leaders often choose not to fight. They put their clan’s well-being above their pride.”

Given Sivoy’s attitude toward him so far, such words were a gamble, but he didn’t have much to lose. If she ignored his counsel – as he expected she would – he would be no worse off. But if she listened, he could save her people a great deal of trouble.

My people, too, he thought, but shook the notion away. He had no clan, nor family. Only vorunn. 

            She was quiet for several heartbeats, her gaze resting on the other kulkri who milled about the camp. Just when Atanar could stand the silence no longer, she sighed. “How would we go about trading with the Aredians? They all but piss themselves when they see us coming.”

He was startled at the strength of his relief, but tried – again – to keep his feelings from bleeding into his voice. “Gather items you wish to trade. Scout along the main roads until you see a caravan, then meet them in the open, with your swords thrust in the ground behind you and your goods spread on the ground at your feet. If they are willing to trade, they will approach. If not,” he could not suppress a smirk, “they will likely flee like rabbits.”

She straightened. “You wish us to meet them unarmed?”

“Not unarmed, just not actively armed,” he said. “Your claymore should be within easy reach, but you should not meet them as if in combat. Such a tradition is passed down from the Avalanche Truce.”

Sivoy shook her head. “What does that mean? What truce do you speak of?”

Now he could not help his surprise, though he tried to conceal it when her eyes narrowed. “The Avalanche Truce is the reason your people are no longer at war with the Aredians. Nearly fifteen generations ago, the Aredians and the Canderi warred constantly – fighting over territory. One such battle took place,” he nodded toward the mountain peaks in the distance, “in the Argus Mountains, at the end of a very harsh winter. Both armies gave their fiercest battle cries, meant to strike fear in the hearts of their enemies and to show their own strength, and the very mountains trembled.

“The leaders of each group – the general of the Aredian army and the samaat of the Canderi – rushed to face each other. When the two women met in the middle, the great battle ensued. But so fierce was the fighting that the mountains could not withstand the force of it, and began to collapse – an avalanche. Both leaders were injured and separated from their armies, and had to rely on each other to survive. During this – and no one knows the truth of how it played out – they managed to form a truce, though they resolved to kill each other when they returned to their armies.”

As he spoke, Atanar noticed how a few of the kulkri, including Corvac and some of the other children, had crept closer to listen. He pretended not to see them and kept speaking.

“Through their combined strength, they found their way back to the others and emerged on a peak high above the battleground. Looking down, they both saw how blood marred the snow, how the bodies of their people lay dead and dying. They realized they could not continue this war. Together, they went down to their armies, who paused their fighting to allow their leaders passage. When the two reached the center, they thrust their blades into the snow behind them, and faced one another in peace – if not quite friendship – and the truce was made.”

Sivoy had been glancing between the others and Atanar, but when the tale ended, she frowned at him in earnest. “Is that true?”

He spread his hands. “That is how it was told to me.”

“Will it work?” Corvac spoke up from amidst a group of boys and girls about his age. “Will the Aredians understand we wish to trade?”

“Surely they’ll just run away,” Kiluan said. Like the others, she’d come closer to hear the story, though Atanar did not miss how she sidled up to Sivoy.

He shrugged. “That is how my clan traded with them in the past. I have seen some Aredians quail at the sight of us, but most are brave enough to at least approach.”

Kiluan glanced at Sivoy. “This tactic would bring them within easy reach. We could–”

“No,” Atanar snarled, causing both women to start. Vorunn clawed at his will, urging for blood, but he fought the feeling back and spoke with more control. “Attacking them after making an overture of peaceful trade would be an act of war.”

“Assuming we left anyone alive to tell their little queen,” Sivoy replied.

Atanar balled his hands into fists. Why could they not see the folly of such actions? “Yes, and so you lure a merchant with the promise of peaceful trade, and kill him. Then you do the same again, and again, and again. But word will spread – you know it will, Sivoy – and the Aredians will come for you. All of you.”

“How long would that take?” Kiluan shot back. “In the meantime, we’d have easy hunting. Winter will come eventually,” she added to Sivoy, who looked troubled.

“It might take weeks, or months, or even longer,” Atanar replied. “But eventually, the Aredians will seek retribution for those you’ve killed.”

Corvac gnawed on his lip. “I heard Aredians lock up their own people for no reason other than they have magic. I’ve heard they even kill those who bears a certain mark on their hand – they call it a ‘mage-mark.’”

A few of the others murmured assent, but Sivoy rolled her eyes. “Those are just stories, Cor. There’s no such thing as magic.”

Atanar had heard otherwise, but kept that thought to himself. Such stories were rumors, unsubstantiated and probably exaggerations from Aredians wishing to appear stronger to the Canderi, who had no magic among their kind.

Sivoy frowned at her brother. “What are you doing eavesdropping, anyway? Get out of here, all of you,” she added, shooing them away. Kiluan gave her a questioning look; Sivoy hesitated, glanced at Atanar, then jerked her chin to the dark-haired woman in a silent order. When they were alone again, Sivoy faced Atanar once more. “Very well. We shall try to trade with them – once. You will speak for us. But do not forget that you are acting under my authority.”

He spread his palms. “I understand, Samaat Sivoy.

Her brows knit as she tried to find sarcasm in his reply, but he only regarded her without expression. It was a trick his mother had taught him well. Too well, perhaps, for Sivoy rolled her eyes and muttered something unflattering about him beneath her breath. Well. That was as good a dismissal as any, so Atanar turned to leave. However, she halted him in his tracks with his name. His name.

When he turned, she was studying him. “Before,” she said quietly. “When you grabbed my neck…”

He grimaced. “I am sorry if I hurt you, but you–”

“No, not that.” She hesitated, then dropped her pitch again. “Your eyes were…strange.”

Something cold formed in his guts. “Strange, how?”

“It might’ve been a trick of the sun,” she said, brows knitted. “But I swear they…shone. Like stars. Just for a moment. Just when you were looking at me, with your hands at my throat.”

Just when you tried to kill me. She didn’t have to say it out loud; they both knew. Atanar felt as though he stood naked on the tundra, in the first moments before a blizzard descended. “You’re certain?”

“I know what I saw.”

Vorunn. He didn’t know how, why, or what it meant, but he knew the two were related. “If you see it again,” his eyes darted to her claymore but he only said, “let me know.”

Sivoy nodded again, then turned away from him. Atanar remained beneath the tree, alone, and did not return to the main camp until dusk.

The music of Catalyst Moon

Hi there!

Some of you might know that I’m a huge audiophile. Not only do I live for live music events like Hulaween (see picture above), music is my muse, my constant source of inspiration, so naturally everything I write has a soundtrack in my mind – and in (virtual) reality!

Here are the Spotify playlists for each Catalyst Moon book, even the ones you haven’t read yet. 😉

Catalyst Moon: Incursion (Book One) 

Catalyst Moon: Breach (Book Two)

Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book Three)

Catalyst Moon: Surrender (Book Four)

Catalyst Moon #5 (title TBD)

Catalyst Moon #6 (title TBD, plus there’s only one song on this, but that will change)

I tend to curate these as I’m writing, so some songs may change, but this is pretty much a peek inside my brain.

What about you? What sort of music moves you? Inspires you? Brings you joy? Music is one of the best things in the world, and though I can’t create it (I’ve tried, and failed), I can’t go one day without putting on a beloved song or artist*.

Thanks for reading/listening!

Stay awesome,

Lauren

*Odesza. Always and forever, Odesza.

Update – October 2018

Hi there!

First of all, some of you know that I live in the Florida Panhandle, which was recently hit pretty hard by Hurricane Michael. Thankfully, my area was spared the worst of the damage, but places like Mexico Beach and Panama City were devastated. I’m so, so lucky that my home and family are okay, but many of my fellow Floridians cannot say the same. If you are able, please consider donating to those affected. (More info here and here.)

Now to business. I’ve been putting off writing this post, but the time has come. Some of you may remember that I had hopes of publishing Catalyst Moon #3 this year. Unfortunately, the publishing date has been pushed back to 2019. 😦 I know, I know, but it’s out of my control. My publisher has the book, but they are busy with other projects at the moment, and won’t be able to edit #3 until January.

While I’m thankful for the care and attention that Inkitt gives all of its publishing projects, I’m disappointed on a personal level because I’ve been really looking forward to sharing this with y’all! But I’m trying to stay positive and focus on the good parts of this, like the fact that I have some more “buffer” between this book and #4 (which is with my beta readers now). But as many of you know, the world of publishing moves at its own pace, which is often a glacial one.

SO! To (hopefully) mitigate some of your disappointment, I offer the following:

  1. The first chapter of Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3) is below. 🙂 I apologize for any formatting issues and grammatical errors – the chapter below is without any professional editing. (Only me & my betas have looked at it.)
  2. If anyone is interested in being a beta reader for #3 or any of the subsequent books, please drop me a line at lalogareads@ gmail, and we can discuss.

I’m so sorry for the delay, but I promise you… Storm will be worth the wait. 😉

Thanks, and stay awesome!

Lauren


Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3)

Chapter One

Snow drifted to Kali’s shoulders and wind teased her hair, but cold could not touch her within the shelter of Stonewall’s arms. She savored the press of their foreheads and the warm kiss of his breath against her lips. They were both mad to stay, but here they were. Together.

She shifted closer, pine needles crunching beneath her boots. He inhaled as if about to speak when a thrall’s scream pierced the air. The otherworldly, high-pitched shriek struck a nerve in Kali’s skull. She jerked away from Stonewall, heart clapping like thunder in sudden terror. They had to run, had to–

“Kali?” Stonewall’s voice was quiet, confused, one hand on her elbow as if to pull her back to his chest.

Breath hitching, Kali searched the shadowy forest around them for sign of the thrall, but only saw the sleeping sentinels, hers and Sadira’s tent, and the mage-made campfire, burning merrily in the filmy snowfall. Even Frost and the other horses stood beside the mage carriage, content in their slumber.

Warning crept up her spine to prick the base of her skull. Sweet magic. She could sense it in her own veins; like catching the delicious scent of something she had never tasted, but dearly desired to. A sense of hunger filled her, too sudden and severe to be her own. She looked up into Stonewall’s serious, almost-gold eyes. “You didn’t hear that?”

Dark brows knitted as he tensed and glanced around them, one hand reaching for his sword. “No. What–”

Another thrall’s scream cut him off. He must have heard this one, for he swore and drew his sword, spinning to place her behind him while he scanned the tree line. The horses started awake, snorting and stamping in their tethers, while the four other sentinels sleeping by the campfire scrambled upright, drawing their weapons.

“Where in the blazing void are they?” Flint said as her eyes darted across the surrounding forest.

Her brother, Milo, surged to the horses and carriage. “We have to go – now!”

The sentinels looked to Stonewall, but their sergeant’s gaze had fallen on Kali. Only when their eyes met again did that prickle of warning grow to a thrill, and she realized the truth. “No time,” she whispered. “They’re nearly upon us.”

Fear flashed in Stonewall’s eyes before the warrior in him took over. “Get in the carriage,” he told her before looking toward the tent, where Sadira had emerged, her moonstone-pale hair glowing in the darkness. “You too, Sadira.”

The campfire’s gentle snapping sharpened to a roar as the other mage hurried to the mage-carriage. Of the sentinels, only Rook shot the renewed flames a wary glance as she nocked an arrow. The rest were converging on the carriage, where Milo had untied the horses so the panicked creatures could gallop into the darkness. With luck, they would survive the encounter and the sentinels could find their mounts again.

A third shriek echoed through the forest, sending Kali’s heart into her throat as Stonewall pulled her to the carriage. But when he tried to shove her inside, she dug in her heels. “I must try and cure at least one!”

His mouth thinned but he offered no argument as he shoved on his helmet. “Protect the mages,” he called to the other sentinels, who immediately drew closer to Kali and Sadira.
“After that display at Parsa,” Rook muttered. “The mages ought to be protecting us.”

“The real danger is out there,” Stonewall shot back. “Everyone will do their part.”

“Aye,” Kali managed. She looked at her fellow mage. “Sadira, will you help them?”

Sadira nodded and flexed her hands; little tongues of flame leapt to life in her palms.

Rook did not reply, only climbed up the side of the carriage to the roof with the grace of a cat and readied her bow and arrow. “There. To your right, Stonewall.”

The group held its collective breath. Throat dry, Kali turned to face their enemies, shoulder-to-shoulder with Sadira. First one, then two, then three pairs of eyes, bright and burning as stars, floated through the darkness toward her and her allies. Never in her life had Kali been so glad to be surrounded by sentinels and near the shelter of a mage-carriage.

“Mara have mercy on us,” Beacon murmured. Like his sentinel brethren, the mender had drawn his daggers rather than his sword, and had positioned his tall, lanky frame in front of Sadira.

Stonewall stood in front of Kali. While she was rigid with fear, his shoulders sank with his deep exhale as he slid into a ready stance, calm and collected – at least from behind. His presence relaxed Kali a tiny bit, so she managed a choked, “Remember: keep as many alive as you can.”

Stonewall inclined his head toward her but addressed the other sentinels. “You heard her: try to disable the thralls, not kill them.”

“Oh, aye,” Flint muttered as the eerie stars materialized into shadowy shapes. “The sodding thralls’ well-being is my biggest worry.”

Milo’s voice wavered, but only at first. “They were people once, relah. We must try to help them.”

“I know,” Flint replied. “I just hope we live to argue about it.”

“Do the best you can,” Stonewall said. “But your priority is to defend yourselves and each other. Kill as a last resort.”

The thralls came on slow, powerful steps, circling the humans in the manner of hunting wolves. The creeping shadows and glowing eyes made Kali yearn to run away. But running had never done her any good, and her knee was aching again, despite the metal brace. She had to stand and fight.

Focus, she told herself, trying to banish her fear. This might be her only opportunity to use her magic to save even one of those poor people; she couldn’t afford to be afraid.

A deep breath brought Kali a tiny measure of calm, enough for her to drop into the concentration necessary to perform magic. A new sense of eagerness swelled within at the mere thought of using her abilities, but she tried to ignore the feeling.

“Sadira?” she whispered.

“I am ready,” the Zhee mage replied as the thralls drew closer. Some were armed in the manner of lower-tiered villagers, with only pitchforks and rusted axes. A few carried swords. Bits of cloth and leather covered every piece of metal that might have touched a thrall’s skin, and a few folks wore gloves. This confirmed Kali’s suspicion that the thralls were somehow connected to the supposedly mythical beings known as the Fata, who could not abide the touch of metal.

“A fireball would be most welcome right now,” Beacon said.

If Sadira replied, Kali didn’t hear. She was lost to magic. She closed her eyes out of habit and reached out with her senses to feel the particles—the tiny specks of energy that made up all things—of the nearest thrall, an older woman who was still several meters away. When Kali’s awareness brushed the thrall, the creature screamed. Its shock sparked through Kali like lightning, though the feeling turned at once to a hunger, a need like she’d never known.

The feeling centered on Kali and came swiftly from not one thrall, but all of them. The sudden weight of the thralls’ emotions hit Kali in the chest like a kick from a mule and she gasped aloud, fighting to maintain her control. If she lost herself to the strange emotions, she would lose control of her magic, and possibly her humanity. But how could she feel the thrall’s emotions? Dimly, she sensed Stonewall moving in front of her, heard the song of steel as his daggers met a thrall’s weapon, felt her other allies press closer. Unnatural heat coiled in the air, making sweat bead at Kali’s back and forehead, rolling down to sting the barely-healed slash at her throat, but she kept her eyes shut.

Sweet magic.

That strange foreign hunger spiked through Kali again, stronger than before, and it took every ounce of strength to resist the urge to grab Sadira, and–

Kali cut off the thought. Focus.

She wrenched her concentration back onto the first thrall’s particles. As far as she knew, no other mage could do what as she was about to, but she had been practicing, so she began to siphon the woman’s energy away, pulling it toward her as one would pull handfuls of coins across a table. Not too much, she cautioned herself. Not enough to kill; only weaken. Only enough to make the sentinels’ jobs easier and hopefully incapacitate the poor woman before someone cut her down.

A few thralls screamed in fury, their anger resonating through Kali’s body like a dozen plucked viol strings. But Kali’s mind was only for the current of magic. Raw power flowed into her body and it was all she could do not to laugh in delight, because it felt so sodding good, because she felt strong and supple, and because there was nothing she could not do.
“Kali!” Stonewall’s voice, thick with effort and tense between clanging steel, brought her back to herself, slammed her into her crippled body like a face full of mud, and reminded her of her task.

She opened her eyes. The thrall had fallen before her, scuffing the loam and snow as she thrashed, trying to break Kali’s grip. Stonewall had kept his place by her side, but faced two other thralls, working to keep himself between them and Kali. Arrows whistled down from atop the carriage. Beacon, Flint, and Milo stood shoulder to shoulder, each wielding daggers as if they’d been born with weapons in their hands. Sadira was busy too; at each approach attempt, little fires erupted at the hems of the thralls’ coats.

Rook swore from the top of the carriage. “They’re breaking off!”

Stonewall shouted something, but Kali did not hear. She knelt in the newly-fallen snow and grabbed at the woman’s arms, but the thrall screamed and jerked out of her grip, not allowing her to get even a cursory look at the woman’s particles. Even weakened by Kali’s magic, the woman was far stronger than she was. With the thrall in this frenzied state, Kali could do no more than try to hang on.

“I need more time,” Kali cried.

Stonewall grunted and the clang of steel rang out again. One of the thralls he had been fighting screamed as he knocked it back. Chest heaving, he prepared to lunge at another thrall, pausing only to call back, “Hurry!”

*

There was no forest, nor wind, nor gently drifting snow. There were no daggers, nor blood pounding hot through Stonewall’s veins. There was neither emotion, nor thought. There was only the fight. Stonewall did not watch his foe drop to the ground, only turned his attention to the next. Sadira’s fire had caused some thralls to retreat, shrieking, but the rest either didn’t care or were too stubborn to go down easily.

Stonewall had that in common with the thralls, at least.

When he found a moment, he shot a glance back at Kali, but she wasn’t behind him. His heart stopped, then he looked down to see her kneeling over a thrall, her face tight with concentration. He had no time to wonder what she was attempting, for Rook shouted a warning and the battle was upon him again.

He tugged his dagger free of the thrall he’d been fighting only an arm’s length from Kali. The creature gave one last gasp before crumpling to the ground. This battle was over. Stonewall’s breath came in pants and gore painted his armor, while his own blood still sang with energy. Although he’d taken a few hits, he felt no pain.

Despite the chaos, he had not lost count of the thralls he and his squad faced. A dozen had tracked the group from the little village of Parsa. Three had fled after feeling the touch of Sadira’s magic. Five had fallen by the sentinels’ blades and arrows; sacrifices to keep Stonewall’s allies safe. One remained under Kali’s ministrations, writhing and shrieking in agony as the mage worked her magic. The burnie twins faced two thralls now, clearly struggling to defend themselves without killing their attackers. But the thralls were vicious and unrelenting; one way or another, the battle would not last much longer. Before Stonewall could intervene, Sadira offered her assistance, and the buckles on the thralls’ belts glowed red, the scent of searing flesh mingling with that of spilled blood and new snow. Flint and Milo exchanged defeated looks and lunged for the last time, and the forest was silent.

Eleven. Stonewall’s heart froze. “There’s one more,” he shouted to the others. “Rook, do you see–”

The mage-carriage rattled as something rammed into its other side. The carriage had no true windows, only ventilation slots near the roof, and one door that Stonewall and the others stood before. But whatever had rammed the thing did so with enough force to shove the carriage a pace forward, making Rook leap down and the other sentinels and Sadira dart out of the way. The carriage would have crushed Kali if Stonewall had not managed to shove her out of the way, but he could not do so for the thrall she had been trying to heal. The carriage groaned as it rocked in the dirt and dead leaves before toppling over onto the Parsan villager.

“No!” Kali cried, scrambling to her feet among the fresh snowfall.

Another thrall’s scream cut off her words as the twelfth and final creature clambered over the fallen carriage to stalk toward them. It was a young woman, with arms bent at odd angles and a black and white cloak, tattered and bloody, swaying behind her. Even though her eyes burned like stars and her face was smeared with dirt and blood, Stonewall recognized her and his stomach dropped to his knees.

“The Cipher from Parsa,” Milo whispered. “By the One!”

Kali lunged for the woman, but Stonewall grabbed her arm to let the others to subdue the monster. Kali twisted back to him, eyes flashing with fury. “Let me go!”

Surely it was his imagination that made her voice sound so harsh, almost piercing with hatred. He released her, stunned at the look on her face: pure rage, a mirror of the thrall. Kali turned away from him to the Cipher, the revered priestess of the Circle clergy, who now lay struggling in the snow and dirt beneath the sentinels’ grasps. Despite what were clearly two broken arms, the young priestess fought against the sentinels, screaming with what Stonewall imagined was pain and anger. Rook and Flint held the thrall’s shoulders while Beacon and Milo held her legs. Sadira stood to one side, body relaxed, face grim. All eyes turned to Kali, who stood still, chest heaving as if she had been running.

After a second of debate, Stonewall dared to touch her shoulder. “Can you help her?”

To his consternation, she looked back at him, tears streaking down cheeks smudged with dirt and blood. All traces of anger were gone and there was only earnestness in her voice. “I must try.”

Kali limped forward. Stonewall followed. She knelt beside the possessed priestess, who snarled furiously up at her, struggling to break free of the sentinels’ grips. Her face, round with youth, was twisted with hatred, but Stonewall felt nothing but pity for the poor young woman. She was not herself. He knelt by Kali as well, ostensibly to keep her safe should the others lose their grips, but mostly because he wanted to be near Kali while she worked her magic. Stonewall had no magic of his own, of course, but he wanted to learn from Kali what he could.

Sadira knelt at Kali’s other side and the three of them studied the Cipher before Kali placed her palms on each of the priestess’ cheeks. “It’s all right,” she murmured, eyes closed. “Everything will be all right. Just relax.”

The thrall screamed again, but this sound lacked that eerie resonance. Heartened, he exchanged glances with Sadira, whose face mirrored his own hopes. Kali was still concentrating, but he couldn’t stop himself from placing a gloved hand against her back, hoping, somehow, to send her his strength, to help her fight this battle he could not see. Kali leaned into his touch, heartening him further still. No doubt the other sentinels would guess the connection between them, but in this moment, he didn’t care.

“The hematite.” Sadira pointed to the multitude of hematite rings and pendants the priestess wore. Hematite – the dispelling stone. It would prevent Kali’s magic from working properly. The sight made his breath catch: this was proof that mages couldn’t have created the thralls! As carefully as he could, given how the woman still writhed, Stonewall removed the jewelry and tucked the pieces into a pouch at his belt.

Kali’s gentle murmurs continued, the words blending together beneath the thrall’s cries, which indeed sounded more human than before. While the others watched the scene before them, Rook met Stonewall’s gaze, a question in her eyes. He caught her meaning at once. They were too exposed here, should any other thralls find them, but Stonewall was reluctant to move.

Give her a few more moments, he thought, holding Rook’s gaze and nodding to Kali. The petite sentinel frowned but resumed her watchful glances.

The thrall was quieter now, though she panted and writhed. But her movements lacked their initial frenzy. Was she better?

Before Stonewall could ask, the priestess shrieked again, making all the sentinels start. She jerked out of their grips as if she were made of stone, and leaped to her feet, eyes blazing, body aimed like a dagger – at Kali. “Sweet blood,” the thrall hissed. “Give it to us. Now!”

The thrall moved before she’d finished speaking. She lunged at Kali, who only stared up, mouth agape, defeat written on her face. No time for hesitation. Stonewall stepped in front of Kali and grabbed the thrall, and dragged his dagger across the poor woman’s throat.
I’m sorry, he thought as the thrall fell to the new snow, unmoving.