The print edition of my new horror novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak, is now available for purchase at CreateSpace and Amazon:
The e-book will be out in the next few months in one volume. I’m delaying it because I’m not sure what I want for the cover and will probably do a special sketch or papercut for that.
Here’s the cover blurb:
Trouble is brewing in the province of Ling-xiu when the murder of an elderly queen sends young Princess Bingsong into exile at a forgotten mountain villa. When a series of hauntings begins and she finds her father’s old diary, Bingsong, her handsome bodyguard Azuma, the villa’s mysterious steward LimTamm, and teenage servant girls Peitho and Lysithe are drawn into a 400 year old murder mystery hinted at by a string of small nightingale paintings. Bingsong’s struggle against an arranged marriage merges with the sinister history of the villa, the site of a massacre spurred by the rivalry between two temple acolytes. As corrupt security forces led by the province’s head magician Kimon are poised to take over the capital and eliminate Bingsong’s puppet king father, Kimon awakens an ancient evil in his quest to find the ruins of the drowned palace of Zu-bai, once the home of the world’s most powerful magician. As the epic battle between the spirits on the mountain is set to span two provinces, Bingsong and her friends must delve into the ancient history of the neighboring province of Zu-dang in order to lay to rest the grudges of the past. Set in the world of the Vulpecula Cycle with the same Silk Road sensibility, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak is inspired by popular monster horror films of the 1930s and is a cross between “Dark Shadows” and Chinese literary classics like The Dream of Red Mansions.
Note that although the book is only around 546 pages, I had to adjust the font down so it wouldn’t end up being 800 pages in two volumes, so it’s denser text and therefore a little more expensive than The Vulpecula Cycle. This will be the last novel I write for a while, but I’m pleased with the results. It’s pretty dark fantasy horror, but I consider it suitable for ages 13 through adult, though I don’t technically write for kids. This blog was set up based on the novel’s setting, and my blogger handle Lady Xiansa is a minor character in the book, but she’ll be easy to miss if you don’t read carefully.
Here is an excerpt:
“Is it safe to be out?” she asked, hesitating to get too close to the shadow.
The shadow coalesced into a figure in the starlight, and Bingsong could see that it was an old man, stately and stern, but somehow he seemed more fragile and silvery than the delicate light. He turned to look at her. She didn’t recognize the man as anyone among their servants that she had met since her arrival. Yet he did look familiar. She felt more intimidated than ever looking at his cold face, and she dared not disobey. What sort of man would make her feel so afraid of his displeasure? Only her father the king had made her as afraid of the consequences of disobedience as this man. She followed a few paces behind him as he led her up the stairs to a squat, broad pavilion some distance from the main plaza level buildings.
As they arrived at the stairs to the pavilion doors, she noticed it looked rather decrepit. Unlike the rest of the palace, it was not so well maintained. She saw the signboard over the doorway with an ornate inscription, “SILKY RAIN, SPICY WIND.” How intriguing! She was so puzzled by the inscription that at first she hadn’t noticed the man had opened the doors and disappeared inside. Following quickly, the lanterns blazed alight as soon as she stepped over the threshold.
Now she could see the old man in the bright light, and he seemed grayer than ever. Dressed in tattered black robes and a tall, filmy black cap, he appeared very dour. His stern appearance made her more self-conscious of her own, and she carelessly stroked her long, loose black hair in an effort to look more presentable. She was a little mortified. It was unseemly to appear so before a man in her nightclothes, especially an elder.
“What is this place?” she asked, regaining some of her composure and sounding a little more like her usual self.
“This is the palace library,” the man said, his voice sounding as if it came from a grave in the mountain cemetery.
Looking around the entrance area, she saw a few short tables and luxurious couches. The statue of a plump golden bird on an ornate pedestal sat near the darkened doorway across from the entrance. Beyond that doorway, she could make out the shape of racks of scrolls and shelves of books, perhaps a few longer tables, in the next room. This was a library? So we were coming here to read tonight? How stupid, Bingsong thought.
“Yes, my dear, we have come for an important task since you have been inconvenienced by your exile.”
The old man knew exactly what she was thinking and seemed coldly amused. That thought irritated her all the more.
“What task did you have to wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me about? Couldn’t it have waited until morning?”
The old man smiled now, but it was more like a smile a wolf might give his prey rather than something warm and grandfatherly. She immediately reconsidered her attitude, remembering that she was at a disadvantage in this lonely place in the middle of the night.
“The task is easy enough, Princess.” His amused tone didn’t change, but he walked over to the next room past the statue.
For reasons she couldn’t explain, Bingsong didn’t want to walk past the bird statue, though she walked a few more steps toward it. As she neared it, she thought she felt a chill and stepped quickly through the doorway to the next room and peered in. The lanterns flared to light as she entered the room with the scrolls and books.
The man turned to face her, his towering form seeming even taller beside the doorframe, blocking out some of the light and leaving the room crisscrossed with long shadows.
“This is the library, and it was gathered centuries ago by the former inhabitants of this place,” the man said mournfully.
This statement surprised Bingsong. All she knew about it was that it was her father’s neglected family villa in the remote mountains. The king never visited it since she was born, and only the staff had lived here for many years. Who were these people who compiled a library in this shoddy pavilion? She would have asked more questions, but the strange man didn’t seem to be in the mood.
“I see,” she said cautiously. “What does this have to do with me?”
“Since you are trapped here, Princess, perhaps this is a worthy use of your time.” The old man smiled ruefully. “Those whose lives were devoted to its keeping would welcome your attention to their legacy. On this shelf here you will find what you need.”
“So all I need to do is come back to this place and read a few dusty scrolls? Is that what you’re asking? That sounds easy enough.” She glanced at the front of one of the books he pointed to, trying to memorize what was written there.
The old man did not answer her, but the lanterns in the far room blew out abruptly, plunging it into darkness. The golden bird twinkled a little in the blazing light of the room in which she still stood. She was uncertain if she was now alone since the old man had disappeared. One by one, the lanterns started to go out in the entire pavilion.
“Return to your bed, Princess, to the Hall of Winter Frost as your quarters are now known,” the man said, his soft voice floating away on the wind that was methodically extinguishing the lanterns. “You can begin your task tomorrow. For now, sleep.”
The last lantern blew out, leaving her alone in the darkness. She screamed, and found herself laying in her bed in her room, the blanket she had pulled out now spread over her.
Details on the e-book will be forthcoming. I also have a new author Facebook page where I will discuss some of my English-language influences on the novel: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wendelin-Gray/1599652066960945
Now that the new novel is out of the way, we can get back to regular programming.