Please welcome Elizabeth Vaughan to The Qwillery. WarDance, the 5th novel in Chronicles of the Warlands, was published on April 11th.
When the email invitation showed up, I just sat crying, looking at the monitor.
They said I might be invited, and there it was. An invitation to submit a story to the next Valdemar Anthology.
In case you don’t know, Mercedes Lackey created Valdemar with her first book ‘Arrows of the Queen”. She generously opened her world for other authors to write in. The very first anthology ‘Sword of Ice’ was published in 1997.
I am a huge fan, have been ever since I read the first book. And her ‘Last Herald Mage Trilogy’? Oh my God, if I could write half as well. Which is why I sat crying for a moment, and then danced around the room, scaring the cats.
Then, of course, I panicked.
What the heck had I been thinking, daring to imagine that I could come up with a story that would be good enough for Valdemar? For Ms. Lackey? I was out of my mind. Yes, all those doubts crept in and I almost, ALMOST, sent an email back saying I was too busy, making some vague excuse.
But my hands hesitated over the keyboard. Refuse an offer like this and it may never come around again. I could try. I could try as hard as I could to write the best story I could, if only as a gift to Ms. Lackey for the joy her words had given me. Regardless of the possible rejection, regardless of my fear of failure.
So . . . I got out all my Valdemar books. And the Valdemar Companion, which became my bible. And then I re-read a bunch of the anthologies to get an idea of the kind of story that worked well in the world.
Now, I am a tad bit fixated on one character that gets only the slightest of mentions in the ‘Last Herald Mage’ series. Queen Elspeth Peacemaker. A woman who had suffered loss, and sacrificed herself in a loveless marriage for the good of the Kingdom.
Throughout the books there were these quick tantalizing glimpses of her, and the briefest of descriptions. Could I dare to add more to her story?
After putting sticky notes all over my reference materials, checking websites to make sure that I hadn’t screwed up the canon, and re-reading all the anthologies to make sure no one else had written about this character, I dared.
It isn’t a long story. It is really just a moment between two people, in a snowy garden, discussing the past. I made myself cry.
And then I did a very brave thing. I sent the finished story to the editor. And waited on pins and needles, for an indication. Had I offended? Would it be accepted? I held my breath, and probably only checked my email every half-hour.
The story was accepted. ‘Softly Falling Snow’ appeared in Changing the World and Other Tales of Valdemar, 2009.
I don’t make a fortune on these stories. But the compensation I receive goes well beyond the monetary one. In so many ways, I wish I could go back to the young woman reading Ms. Lackey’s books for the very first time and say “You will have a story in her world someday.”
I am honored to have continued to submit stories to these anthologies. I confess that the frisson of fear passes through me each time I hit ‘send’. I have thanked Ms. Lackey in person for allowing me to play in her sandbox. I want to thank her here again, publicly.
And then I am going to get back to work, because I have a deadline for the next story. I will get out all my books, and my sticky notes, and my book-marked websites . . . and try to bring even more joy to a wonderful series.
Chronicles of the Warlands 5
Birch Cove Press, April 11, 2017
eBook, 313 pages
Spring returns to the Plains, and with it, the Time of the Challenges, when warrior fights warrior in a contest for rank and status. For Simus of the Hawk, now is the time to raise his challenge banner, to fight for the chance to finally become Warlord.
But his deadliest challenge does not come from other warriors, or even the sundered Council of Elders. For on the first night of the Challenges, a mysterious and deadly pillar of white light scorches the night sky—instantly changing everything for the People of the Plains.
Now a warrior-priestess, Snowfall, stands before Simus, who dares to speak of peace, of reconciliation. Her knives are sharp, her tattoos alluring, and her cool grey eyes can look through Simus and see…everything.
Now Simus and Snowfall must solve the mystery of the pillar of white light, and protect their people from all the destruction and chaos it brings. Snowfall fights for her place beside Simus, despite resistance from friend and foe.
The warrior-priests have abused their power for many years. Can Simus face the challenge of trusting Snowfall with his honor? And perhaps . . . with his heart?
Elizabeth A. Vaughan is the USA Today bestselling author of the Warlands Chronicles series, now available from Berkley Publishing. She loves fantasy and romance novels, and has played Dungeons and Dragons since 1981, both table-top and the online game. Her most recent book, WarDance, comes out on April 11. You can learn more about her books at www.writeandrepeat.com.