Mistress of the Elements... I Wish!
People ask me what inspired me to write something as offbeat as The Masters of the Elements series, where Wind and Water and Fire are all living, thinking elements with agendas of their own. I have to say that it just sort of happened, but it is not a coincidence that each of the books is closely tied to nature. I grew up on a working farm and I live on 20 acres with two horses, a huge dog, and five cats, so to me nature is very close and personal. I think something inside would wither if I could not hear the wind moaning around the house on a stormy night or step out and admire the stars, or listen to the voices of rain dripping from the rooftop.
Even when she is most annoying, nature inspires me. My EPIC-award finalist novel Firedancer arose from my ongoing and never-ending battle with the knapweed in my horse pasture. Every time I think I’ve managed to eradicate it in one spot, it crops up again—and then happily spreads to somewhere new. Old Man Fire is like that--constantly sneaking up from below to challenge the authority of the Firedancers whose job it is to keep it from destroying the whole world.
How I wish I could bend fire to my will like my Dancer, Jetta, or spin wind between my hands like my Windrider, Sheshan, or make water dance to my tune like my untrained Water Clan girl, Nes. Being the mere writer, I have to imagine it; they get all the fun!
I doubt they think of their talents that way, though, for their lives are spent on a world forever at risk from something vast and largely uncontrollable, that could sweep everything they love from existence tomorrow. They must stand together to fight for their homes, and to me that is the basis of all good fantasy; indeed, all good heroic stories. Whenever ordinary people discover the spark within themselves and push beyond what they think was possible to meet a challenge, it makes for good conflict and good reading.
I myself can't master the elements, but I sure am having fun writing about those who can. Oh, I want to be able to call Wind to cool my cheek on a hot day! But, in the interim until I learn how, I'll just have to enlist Sheshan to do it for me...
Firedancer is a finalist for the 2013 EPIC award for Fantasy. You can read the first five chapters for free at my website: http://www.sabolichbooks.com/Firedancer1-5.pdf. You can also buy it and its sequel, Windrider, in ebook or print anywhere books are sold. Seaborn, the third book in the series, will be out later this year.
S. A. Bolich is a full-time freelancer with a number of published fantasy stories as well as many nonfiction articles in print. A native of Washington state, she resides there again after serving six years in Germany as a regular army military intelligence officer. She graduated summa cum laude from college with a degree in history, which she confesses was greatly aided by devouring historical fiction of every era and kind through her formative years. She is also a lifelong horsewoman, and shares her knowledge in the popular "Horses in Fiction" blog series at http://blog.sabolichbooks.com to help writers keep their equines from falling into the trap of Hollywood clichés.
Book 1 of the Masters of the Elements series, "Firedancer," was released in September 2011 by Sky Warrior Books, with Book 2, "Windrider," appearing in May 2012. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, On Spec, Damnation Books, Defending the Future IV: No Man’s Land, and Wolfsongs 2, among others, and is upcoming in several more. Currently she is putting the finishing touches on “Seaborn,” Book 3 of Masters of the Elements. Keep up with her at www.sabolichbooks.com.
Teaser for Firedancer by S.A. Bolich
Jetta ak'Kal has always suspected that fire thinks. The Ancient, the strange, living flame imprisoned at the heart of the world, has always seemed to her more than the clever, opportunistic beast the elders of her clan say it is. But how could a beast break the primal power of the Firedance that has bound it from the very Beginning of all things? How could a beast know exactly where to strike to kill Jetta's lifemate and destroy the village she was charged to protect? And how can a beast know her name?
Haunted by the laughing roar of the flames that destroyed her life, her reputation, and her confidence, Jetta reluctantly accepts reassignment to Annam Vale, a village with no experience of malevolent fire--or Firedancers. Jetta and her new Dance partner, Settak, find themselves battling the naive ignorance of Stone Delvers who cannot quite believe tiny Jetta can really save them; the hostility of arrogant Windriders whose mastery of air could kill them both in a breath; and occasionally each other as they struggle to find new and more powerful forms of the Dance. And all the while the Ancient is stealthily testing every entrance into Annam, seeking a way up into the open air it craves. If it succeeds, two Dancers alone will never stop the firestorm that will surely follow.
Excerpt from Firedancer:
“Father Flame!” Settak blurted behind her. “Look at that!”
Jetta was looking, not quite believing what she saw. The Windrider was leaning against a huge boulder with one foot propped on a lesser stone, his shoulders braced comfortably against the rock behind him. His hands hovered at chest height, his fingers moving in an intricate weave that never quite touched the fingers of the opposite hand. Between them, a trio of leaves spun and tumbled around and through each other in no pattern that Jetta could make out, accustomed though she was to the intricate patterns of the Dance. One leaf escaped; the Windrider made a darting move of his right hand and it fell back among the others, swirling ever faster until the eye ached trying to follow it. A faint whuffing noise caught Jetta’s ear. It stopped abruptly when the Windrider looked up and saw them.
He dropped his hands. The leaves tumbled earthward, caught an updraft soaring out of the valley, and flew away. Or perhaps it was the wind he had caught and now released that carried them off. It took Jetta an instant to realize that he had truly been spinning wind.
“Sheshan ak’Kal,” Nuurn said. “This is unexpected.”
“Wyth said you would be here, Nuurn ak’Kal, and that it would be wise to come talk to you.”
Suspicion flamed in Jetta’s brain. What business had a Windrider in closed tunnels where fire lived? Why had the lantern flared so suddenly? Fed on a draft sent by this man?
“Why?” she demanded, before Nuurn could answer. “What wisdom is to be found in Firedancer business, Windrider?”
Sheshan reared upright. “And you are--?”
“Jetta ak’Kal of the Third Rank,” she snapped. “Firedancer to Annam Vale.”
“Ah.” It came out so perfectly neutral that Jetta’s cheeks flamed. He crossed his wrists, palms out, and gave her a graceful inclination of his head, his voice as bland as his tone. “Greetings from Sheshan ak’Kal, also of the Third Rank.”
At least he did not outrank her. But Jetta’s nerves still twitched from the close call in the tunnel, and she went back on the attack. “You haven’t answered my question, ak’Kal. What wisdom does a Windrider seek here?”
Sky-colored eyes narrowed, regarding her through a lengthening silence. Long bones, hair the color of spider silk, ridiculous fluttery shirt--he bore a striking resemblance to the rude Fourth Rank at the inn. His bone-colored skin seemed unnatural to Jetta’s eyes; he looked unhealthy, but there was nothing weak about his voice. It wrapped itself around her like the glacial wind.
“That is Windrider business, ak’Kal. I came to speak with you, Nuurn. If I might have a moment of your time? There is no need to detain these others.”
“These others have an interest in whatever brings you here, ak’Kal.” Jetta jabbed Settak in the ribs when he made an uneasy, protesting movement beside her. “I had to dance against fire just now in the tunnel. It acted strangely. Perhaps because there was a Windrider out here?”