Please welcome to my blog author Suzanna Rogerson. Her book, Visions of Zaura, is currently special for $1.99 for a limited time.
Please tell us about your current release?
Visions of Zarua is my debut fantasy novel, which I self-published in November 2015.
The novel focuses on the interlinking stories of two wizards who live 350 years apart. The first is an apprentice wizard named Paddren who’s been plagued by visions of death ever since he was a boy. The second wizard, Jago, is a junior wizard who lived 350 years before Paddren’s story begins. Jago returns to Zarua after a five year absence to find a dark undertow sweeping through the city. But the Elders refuse to believe Zarua is under threat, a mistake that has far reaching consequences.
Both wizards must fight to save the realm of Paltria from the dark menace of Zarua’s past.
How did you come up with the title?
I hate picking titles for stories, especially novels. But for this book it was surprisingly easy. The whole concept of the novel is based around a young wizard suffering visions so I really wanted to convey that in the title. The visions are of events that took place in Zarua, so the title practically wrote itself.
What inspired you to write this book?
Visions of Zarua started with a single scene of a woman and her two hounds hunting a beast through the forest, a beast that disappears without trace.
At this point I didn’t know anything about Varnia, but she intrigued me and I wanted to explore her story. From the very start she was a strong willed young woman, and I wanted to have a female lead who could take care of herself. Then her troubled wizard friend, Paddren, turned up and started taking over the story. His visions of nightmarish beasts, and connection with an ancient wizard are what set the whole story in motion for me.
Which of your characters is your favourite?
Of course I love all my characters – troubled Paddren, forced to do the right thing and hated for it. Varnia strong willed and a fighter despite the life she’s been manipulated to lead. Leyoch, an orphan who becomes an unlikely hero in order to marry the woman he loves.
I loved writing Jago’s scenes the most. Writing in the first person gave me the opportunity to get inside his head and I really felt close to him.
I also love Morrin, an assassin who faces some interesting challenges and I love his backstory, but I can’t reveal anything more without spoilers.
Can you tell us a little about the blackest moment in your book?
The blackest moment in the book is when Paddren must decide between saving his friends or doing what’s right for Paltria. He’s been a pawn throughout the book, always compelled to do the right thing to save the Paltrian people, but with his friends lives in imminent danger it makes his decision almost impossible.
Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning?
I didn’t have much of a plan for Visions of Zarua, other than I knew my characters would need to travel to Zarua if they wanted to save the realm of Paltria and themselves. I reached the outcome I expected, but there wasn’t much of a plot plan to get there.
I would love to write to a plan, but when I’ve tried this in the past I get stuck. I need to write to get the ideas flowing, and then I go back and fix things and add in the details later. It does make the writing process longer, and now I’m hoping to start publishing a book a year, I really need to come up with a better strategy.
What’s your next writing project?
I am editing book one of a planned trilogy with a working title of ‘Bloodlines – Search for the Sentinel’. This title has stuck with me for the past 5 years, so it will be hard to come up with an alternative.
It’s about the magical island of Kalaya that’s slowly dying as its people turn their back on magic. Those that still believe and practice magic are exiled to the mountains. Theses mystics must battle to save their island not just from the ignorance of man, but from raiders across the sea as well. With their Sentinel dying, and a Soul Eater feeding on the dead spirits, time as well as hope is running out for the Kalayan people.
Excerpt – Visions of Zarua Chapter One
He stood outside the broken entrance of the citadel and watched the small pyre burn. Bright flames licked high into the night sky and smoke drifted on the breeze, carrying the stench of burning flesh. Twigs crackled and a log split, sending sparks spiralling upwards. The contents of the inferno shifted, giving a glimpse of the blackened limbs within…
Paddren shook himself from the grip of the vision, though the smell of smoke clung to his nostrils and his skin felt clammy from the heat. He massaged his temples as he strode through the market square and made his way to the stall selling herbs.
The leathery-faced stall owner caught his gaze and gave a discreet nod. While the trader continued to gossip with another customer, Paddren sorted through the herbs and spices, picking his usual assortment of foreign plants that wouldn’t grow in the colder climates of Paltria. Among them were dried luca leaves from the distant shores of Seya and a tiny jar of dried starspike flowers from Paltria’s neighbours in the western borderland of Cazonia. He added a small sack of tobacco to his collection before searching through the myriad of fresh cut leaves for purple lentah, the potent herb that grew on the harsh northern shores of Paltria. He picked up a bunch of wilting stems and sniffed them. The herbs had curled at the edges and only a faint hint of peppery scent remained.
‘You’re getting careless,’ Paddren said as he handed his selection to the stallholder.
‘It’ll be fresher next time, I promise.’ He offered Paddren an earnest smile, all gums and crooked teeth. ‘Take an extra ounce of tobacco and tell Master Kalesh it comes with my warmest regards.’
Paddren rolled his eyes and pocketed the tobacco. He watched the hawker’s hands wrap the purchases in a large square of linen, and nodded when the trader slipped a pouch into his palm beneath the package of herbs.
‘I take care of everything.’ The man grinned.
Paddren tucked the linen parcel amongst the other supplies in his pack, while the pouch disappeared into a hidden pocket of his cloak. He counted out payment, adding an extra coin to ensure the herb-seller’s continued silence.
‘See you next month, Master Kalesh’s apprentice,’ the stall owner said with a wink.
Paddren nodded and headed back into the bustling crowd. He patted the small pouch of herbs concealed in his cloak as he threaded his way through the market. The pungent smell of plants gave way to the appetising aromas of hog roast and meat pies, reminding him that he’d missed breakfast.
‘Try a bunton cake, freshly made today…’
‘Sample the finest honey cakes in all Paltria…’
Rival stallholders filled the air with shouts as they competed for passing trade. Paddren allowed their friendly jousting to wash over him and headed for the stables. As he stepped through the unmanned gates of the Redstone Manor estate, a presence shrouded by darkness brushed against his mind. Sharp pain ripped through his skull and white light flashed across his vision. He staggered to a halt and dropped his pack of supplies on the cobbles as a thunderclap exploded in his head. He gripped his skull between his hands, the pain so excruciating he had to clench his teeth to stop from screaming. His mental shield began to buckle, but then the unfamiliar presence retreated as suddenly as it had arrived.
He sucked in a shaky breath and tasted the tang of blood in his mouth. A tremor quaked through his body and his hand shook as he stooped to snatch up his discarded bag.
‘Are you all right, Paddren?’ one of the baron’s stewards asked, detaching himself from the small crowd that had gathered to watch.
‘I’m fine,’ Paddren said, forcing a smile.
The onlookers began to shuffle away. Ignoring them, Paddren tried to envisage the dark presence – certain it had been searching for someone or something. Whatever its purpose, he knew he had to tell his master.
He hurried to the stables and caught the stable boy dozing in the straw. He tapped the lad’s foot.
‘Sorry, Master Wizard, sir,’ the boy stuttered.
Paddren paced the aisle between the stalls while he waited for the lad to remove the empty feedbag and fumble with the girth straps.
‘That’ll do.’ Paddren tugged at the saddle horn and climbed onto his horse. He flipped the lad a coin and then turned the mare’s head and bolted out the stable door. They tore across the courtyard and out the manor gates, scattering several people from their path. ‘Sorry,’ he called over his shoulder.
Switching the reins into his right hand, Paddren searched inside his shirt pocket and gripped the gold talisman brooch.
Kalesh. He reached out telepathically, but something was blocking their link.
On the outskirts of Herristone, Paddren kicked his heels into the mare’s flanks and galloped across the open ground. He continued to press the horse in a brutal dash through the forest that separated the town from Hawthorn Cottage. The miles of beech trees seemed to stretch for an eternity, but finally he broke through the shade of the woods and crossed the clearing towards the oak-framed cottage he called home. Its thatched roof stuck out above the fence of hawthorn bushes, which were just shedding the last of their creamy-white blossom. He charged his horse through the open gate and frowned as he noticed the closed cottage shutters and smokeless chimney. Vaulting from the saddle, he dumped his supplies by the door and gave the garden a cursory glance.
Seeing no sign of his master, or their servant Leyoch, he rushed inside the cottage. The hearth in the main room was swept clean and the breakfast things all tidied from the table. The three bedrooms were empty, and Kalesh’s study door was locked – something he only did when he was going out. Paddren was certain there had been no suggestion of Kalesh going anywhere when he’d left the two men relaxing over their morning brews.
He slumped into a chair by the unlit fire and took a deep, calming breath. Pulling the brooch from his pocket, he traced the hawthorn design that was worked into the precious metal. Closing his eyes, he stroked the golden brooch with his thumb.
Master, where are you?
Be gone, lad, this is not your concern, the wizard answered after a long pause.
Paddren grappled after their faint connection and immediately sensed the dark presence shadowing his master. Master Kalesh, there’s a malevolent spirit…
I know. I’m trying to protect you from it you fool. Now go.
I won’t leave until you tell me what’s going on.
I command you to leave now!
A barrier slammed between them.
Paddren’s eyelids fluttered open and he found himself sprawled on the floor. Forcing down the sour taste of nausea, he stashed the talisman back in his pocket and climbed to his feet, then stumbled to the door of the cottage and leant against the oak frame, waiting for his throbbing head to clear. Instead, the garden blurred as another vision slipped past his resistance.
…the chair toppled and clattered to the floor. A man dangled from the exposed beam, his legs kicking wildly as he clawed at the rope tightening around his neck. In the shadows, a hooded figure watched until the death throes stopped and the man’s body hung limp…
Paddren squeezed his eyes shut and tried to push the vision from his thoughts. He ducked back inside the cottage and grabbed the sword from under his bed, then dashed outside and whistled to his horse. She came at his call and snorted as he tied the sword to his saddle-roll and remounted. From the new vantage point, he reached out with his magic to trace Kalesh’s route, but a blocking spell masked his master’s presence beyond the gates of Hawthorn Cottage.
‘You’re a stubborn old fool, Kalesh,’ Paddren muttered as he nudged the mare onto the path that led back to Herristone.
Two wizards, 350 years apart.
Together they must save the realm of Paltria from Zarua’s dark past.
Apprentice wizard Paddren is plagued by visions of a city on the brink of annihilation. When his master Kalesh dies in mysterious circumstances, the Royal Order of Wizards refuses to investigate.
Helped by his childhood friend, the skilled tracker Varnia, and her lover Leyoch, Paddren vows to find the killer.
The investigation leads Paddren down a sinister path of assassins, secret sects and creatures conjured by blood magic. But he is guided by a connection with a wizard from centuries ago – a wizard whose history holds the key to the horror at the heart of the abandoned city of Zarua. Can Paddren decipher his visions in time to save the Paltrian people from the dark menace of Zarua’s past?
About the Author
Suzanne lives in Middlesex with her hugely encouraging husband and two children.
She wrote her first novel at the age of twelve. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave her the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.
Suzanne loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden, and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.
She collects books, loves going for walks and picnics with the children and sharing with them her love of nature and photography.
Suzanne is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles. But most of she likes to escape with a great film, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.
You can find out more about Suzanne on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
You can purchase Visions of Zaura on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Smashwords or for the Nook.