EskieMama & Dragon Lady Reads Midweek Spotlight w/Giveaway: Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia

Welcome to EskieMama & Dragon Lady Reads
Midweek Spotlight!

Today we a spotlighting Lauren L. Garcia's
Catalyst Moon: Incursion!

Enter below for a chance to win a physical copy of Catalyst Moon: Incursion
from Lauren L. Garcia!

Lauren L. Garcia's
Catalyst Moon: Incursion!

Kali, a crippled mage who longs to run from the painful memories of her past, travels to Whitewater City to meet with a powerful healer. When her sentinel escort is decimated by monstrous bandits, she is left in the company of a single sentinel, Stonewall, a man with nothing left but his chosen name and his faith in the gods.

But trouble brews in Whitewater City as Talon, the commander of the sentinel garrison struggles to keep the mages captive, even as the magic-users prepare for an escape of their own. Meanwhile, after tragedy strikes his squad, a new sentinel named Milo must decide if the path he's chosen is the right one.

Catalyst Moon: Incursion is an epic fantasy with notes of romance that introduces an old world where magic is new...and rebellion is on the horizon.


Q & A with Lauren L. Garcia about 
Catalyst Moon: Incursion!

Tell us about Catalyst Moon: Incursion:

Kali, a crippled mage who longs to run from the painful memories of her past, travels to Whitewater City to meet with a powerful healer. When her sentinel escort is decimated by monstrous bandits, she is left in the company of a single sentinel, Stonewall, a man with nothing left but his chosen name and his faith in the gods.
But trouble brews in Whitewater City as Talon, the commander of the sentinel garrison struggles to keep the mages captive, even as the magic-users prepare for an escape of their own. Meanwhile, after tragedy strikes his squad, a new sentinel named Milo must decide if the path he's chosen is the right one.
Catalyst Moon: Incursion is an epic fantasy with notes of romance that introduces an old world where magic is new...and rebellion is on the horizon.

What initially inspired you to write Catalyst Moon: Incursion?

Oddly enough, the idea came from my fanfiction. I’d written several timelines for the main characters, Kali and Stonewall, in my Star Wars fanfic, and had yet another idea in mind. This time, however, I thought I’d try to bring the characters into original fiction. In turn, they helped shape the world and story of Catalyst Moon.

I created Catalyst Moon to be sort of a playground for my imagination. I wanted a world I could develop completely: past, present, and future. That means, yes, there will be many more stories set in this world, far beyond the arc starting with Incursion. The current arc will have about four novels, (possibly a novella or two thrown in as well). It’s not extensively planned, but I do have an idea of how it will pan out. However, I know that new ideas and events will crop up - and I look forward to seeing what they are! Beyond this arc, I have rough outlines/notes for about six more novels set in the world of Catalyst Moon, falling across the historical spectrum.

Tell us little about the characters in the world of Catalyst Moon: Incursion.

Sure thing! Here’s a rundown of the POV characters. :)

Kalinda Halcyon, (aka “Kali”), is one of two main characters. She is an atheist mage who lives with chronic pain in her knee but maintains her good humor, compassion, and curiosity. But while these qualities make Kali an entertaining and engaging character, they also make her life difficult; often others don’t “get” her sense of humor, and her curious nature lands her into trouble on more than one occasion. Kali is generally easy-going, but can be pushed into anger, particularly if she feels bullied. Perhaps because she is physically incapable of running very far, she tends to “run” from her problems by simply ignoring them until they prove too insistent. Kali is a “people person,” very much an extrovert who can make friends wherever she goes. Her compassion is boundless. She loves dirty jokes, playing her viol, and teasing Stonewall.

Stonewall is the second main character. He is a sentinel, (a warrior with an unnatural immunity to magic), with many chips on his shoulders. Stonewall had a rough childhood and finds it almost impossible to trust others. As such, he has focused the bulk of his trust upon the gods, particularly his patron-god, Tor. Stonewall’s convictions run deep; he firmly adheres to the sentinel creed of “honor, service, sacrifice.” He knows in his heart that he was granted this life to serve the gods and maintain a strong moral character, to better help those in need. Stonewall is an introverted, stern, and overly-righteous young man, but there is a warm humor within him, one that emerges only when either goaded, (as Kali is wont to do), or when he feels a close connection with another person. Often, it takes him a while to decide on a course of action, but when he sets his heart on something, he does not relent. He was born in a city beside the ocean, and still longs for the sound of the sea.

Milo and his twin sister, Flint, are “burnies:” new sentinels eager to prove their worth to gods and country. Although Milo is not the most intelligent fellow in Aredia, he is a young man of boundless compassion and relentless optimism. He loves animals of all kinds. Milo is a big, strong fellow, but abhors violence.

Eris has big plans. She and her husband hope to escape the bastion where they - and all other known mages - are forced to live. Her greatest strengths are her drive and her ambition; she has been working on transforming herself into a bird, something no other mage has been able to manage. Eris is pragmatic, often to a fault, and has difficulty seeing alternate solutions once her mind is made up.

Commander Talon is the sentinel in charge of Whitewater Bastion, where Eris lives and where Kali and Stonewall are traveling to. Aside from keeping the people of Aredia safe from mages, she has one other goal: maintain order in the bastion. Talon is a pious woman with lofty - some might say impossible - aspirations. But she will stop at nothing to achieve her objective.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Probably the editing process. I started writing it in September of 2012, but it was not published until July of 2016. My writing ability changed (hopefully for the better!) during that time, so when I decided to really shape this book into something I could publish, I realized it needed a LOT of work. Almost an overwhelming amount of work. I very nearly gave up to focus on a new project, but ultimately decided these were stories I dearly wanted to tell. So I did the work. :)

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

Anything with romance or heavy, dramatic conversations. I live for writing character interactions. Action and, not so much.

What are your future project(s)?

The second book in the Catalyst Moon saga, Breach, is on track to launch this summer. All of my beta reader feedback is in, so I’m editing that book now. I’m also drafting book four of the series,  (title TBD), while book 3 is awaiting a first pass of revisions.

There’s also a novella that needs editing, plus another novella I’m drafting. (And one more yet to be written.) All are set in the CM ‘verse.

Now an exciting excerpt from
Catalyst Moon: Incursion!

Kali awoke to the whisper of drawn daggers. Had the sentinel decided she was a threat after all? Wan starlight revealed Stonewall, standing several paces away, daggers raised, facing perhaps half a dozen shadowy figures closing around him. Dressed in darkness, the newcomers wore hoods of inky cloth that only left their eyes visible. More shadowy shapes stood at the hollow's edge, blotting out the stars. “Get back,” Stonewall said. “We have nothing of value, and I promise, you don't want to cross me–” On some unseen signal, the shadows fell upon him. Kali had seen a skilled sentinel in action many times before. But it was different, somehow, watching Stonewall. She could just make out the sheen of his moving daggers; his movements were powerful and filled with grace, designed for maximum effectiveness with minimum effort. Judging by the others' cries of pain, he got a few strikes in, but for all of his speed and strength, it would only be a matter of time before he fell to the swarm of shadows. This in mind, Kali tried to rise, but someone tugged the chain between her bound wrists, jerking her away from Stonewall. Something hard shoved her to a kneeling position where she'd lain moments ago; the ground was still warm. The sudden impact sent a lance of pain through her already unhappy left knee, and she bit her tongue to keep from crying out. Fear stole her breath, but pain quickened her fear into hot anger. It buzzed in her ears and made her want to set these shadow-attackers on fire, turn their bones to ashes. Something. Anything. But she could not concentrate when a strange, gloved hand gripped her neck, nor when someone yanked her braid to pull her head back, so that all she could see were stars. Something sharp and cold pressed against her throat. The furious lash of Kali's heart almost drowned out the new voice, a woman's. “Stand down, sentinel,” the stranger said. Kali caught a flash of hematite as Stonewall turned her way. “Release her,” he growled. “In Tor's name, release her at once!” Someone snickered. The woman who'd spoken before hissed a string of words in a language Kali did not know and the laughter ceased. “This mage is far too valuable,” the stranger said in Aredian. “She's coming with us.” “She's no mage,” Stonewall said, breathing heavily from the fight. “Just a...woman. Let her go.” In response, the strange woman tugged at the chain that bound Kali's wrists. “Do you always bind your companions so? Afraid she'll run from you, otherwise?” How in the void did they know I was a mage? Kali thought as the other shadows chortled. Had these strangers overheard her and Stonewall's earlier discussion? Or had they seen a lone sentinel and taken the chance that his companion was a magic-user? Either way, the hematite binders confirmed Kali's identity. The strange woman drew back the sleeve of Kali's tunic, exposing Kali's arm to the chill air, and something sharp trailed along Kali's wrist and forearm. “Mage, that moon-tainted blood of yours is more valuable than all the gold and hematite in the world, and more effective than thalo.” Kali's mind raced, though it was almost impossible to think clearly, let alone speak. “You have need of a healer?” The shadow shifted in place. “Aye.” “Then my blood alone will do nothing for you,” Kali managed, forcing herself to speak calmly. “I'm more useful to you with my blood inside my veins. I'll help you. Just...don't kill me. Please.” There was a pause – much too long – before Kali heard the shadow again. “You swear this, Mage?” “Yes,” she whispered. “Very well.” The blade at Kali's throat disappeared but the stranger's grip did not relent. “I'll take her to the caravan,” the shadow said. “Get rid of him.” Stonewall tensed as the others moved in again, but Kali shook her head. “Please don't kill him either. He's with me.” 

“He's your captor. What does it matter to you if he dies?” “Because he's...” She faltered, searching for the right words – and the right sentiment. Why should she beg for Stonewall's life too? No clear answer came to mind. “He's sworn an oath to his gods to protect me,” she said quickly. The strange woman laughed. “He's done a poor job of it so far.” Kali could practically feel Stonewall glowering. “Take his weapons, if you want,” she said. “But let him live. Please.” Another shadowy figure from behind Kali spoke in the same, unfamiliar language. Another added his voice, and another, until the lot of them were arguing. Finally, the first speaker, the one who held Kali, barked an order. The others fell silent. When she spoke to Kali in Aredian again, her voice was thoughtful. “Very well, Mage. Neither of you will be harmed – if you cooperate.” Stonewall muttered something beneath his breath, but Kali ignored him. “Aye. We'll both do as you say,” she replied. “You heard your charge, Sentinel,” the shadow said. “Drop your weapons.” Stonewall did not move. The knife returned, pressed closer, but this time Kali refused to give into the thrum of terror that burned behind her eyes. Instead, she tried to find Stonewall's face across the shadows, though she did not know what she thought she'd see within it; fear, perhaps, or anger. His armored chest rose and fell with each heavy breath as he looked at her, then his daggers hit the dirt and he lifted his hands in surrender. The shadows made short work of his freedom. They checked him for weapons, took his sword and roughly bound his wrists before shoving him toward the hollow's edge. The strange woman hauled Kali to her feet and urged her to follow. Her knee protested the rough treatment; she stumbled, but the strange woman held her upright and all but carried her up and over the hollow's edge. The instant Kali clambered out, someone drew a dark strip of fabric over her eyes and tied it behind her head. The heavy tread of boots scuffled the grass ahead of her. “I will warn you one more time, Sentinel,” the shadow said again. “Cooperate, or you will not like what will befall your mage friend.” Stonewall said something Kali did not catch, but the others laughed. If I'd been able to get more rest, she thought as someone shoved her forward once more. I could do something to get us out of this. But she was still tired, more so than she'd ever been from using magic, and it was all she could do to remain upright. They led Kali along for several paces through the thick grass that tangled her legs. The strange woman muttered a curt order and tugged Kali's chain, forcing her to stop. Before Kali knew what was happening, someone lifted her like a sack of potatoes and plunked onto a wooden surface. Stonewall was next. She knew it was so because the others grunted with the effort of lifting him and his armor, and the floor quaked when they dumped him beside her. The thump when he landed had a faint echo; they were in some sort of enclosed space. Kali also could not feel the wind any longer and the air seemed to press closer in a way that reminded her of a mage-carriage. Frowning behind the tight blindfold, she remembered hearing mention of a caravan. More anger swelled in her chest. Well before she'd left Starwatch, she'd been on her best behavior, all in aid of reaching Whitewater City. Like a good little mage, she'd endured being bound and shuttered away like a piece of luggage. She'd lost all of her possessions, including her father's viol, to a pack of Canderi raiders. She'd exhausted herself trying to save her own skin and that of her sentinel captor, who seemed to regard her as a spark that would catch the whole world on fire. And now these monsters claimed to want her fucking blood. This was the final snap in the fraying thread of her patience. “If you're going to steal me by the point of a blade,” Kali heard herself say. “At least tell me your name.” “No.” Footsteps paused before her. Someone lifted Kali's blindfold and she looked around, blinking at the covered wagon. The walls and floor were wood, as was the rear entrance where they'd been brought through. A thick piece of canvas stretched across the top, tied on the corners to provide a makeshift roof in the fashion of Sufani caravans she'd read about. Kali saw little of her captor, only a pair of narrowed eyes behind the dark hood that obscured the strange woman's face. “Stay here and keep quiet,” the woman said. “Do not try to escape. I will not allow you to see where we are taking you, nor to get a sense of our true numbers.” As her captor spoke, Kali considered what she knew of such traditions. “Oh, you're Sufani,” she said, perhaps a bit too pleased with herself, given the circumstances. “That explains a great deal.” “Aye, it certainly does.” Stonewall had been left lying on his side and now tried to sit upright – a difficult task given his bulky gear and his bound hands. “Your kind are liars, cheats and thieves.” “And you're willing to add 'murderers' to that list,” Kali added, glaring back at the Sufani woman. The Sufani's voice was tight, as if her teeth were clenched together. “You made a promise, Mage. For now, you should be grateful for our...hospitality.” “When Tor crumbles,” the sentinel shot back. “Hospitality my magical ass,” Kali added, though with no less vigor. She'd agreed to help them – but not to be nice about it. The nomad ignored them both and slipped out of the caravan, fastening the tarp over the rear entrance and leaving them alone. For a few moments they sat in silence, then Kali sighed. “Well, shit.” “Are you injured, Mage Halcyon?” “Kalinda,” she corrected. “And I'm no worse for wear, all things considered. You?” He shifted again, still trying to get upright. “I'm fine.” There was a pause, then he spoke again, a note of chagrin in his voice. “Sufani, eh? I've never been held prisoner by gypsies.” She could not help herself. “So far, it's not much different than being held prisoner by sentinels.” He was silent. Kali turned her attention to the caravan. How many hours of her life had been spent in similar confinement? She couldn't see the moon between the tarp's open edges, but the stars cast a cold light where the wind fluttered the edges of the canvas. From what she recalled, Sufani lived in these wagons, but this one didn't seem very cozy. Perhaps it was meant for hauling goods – or prisoners. In the background, she heard the sounds of horses, and leather and wood creaking as the nomads prepared to move. “They generally keep to themselves, but by all accounts they're fierce warriors.” Stonewall sighed. “That seems true, at any rate.” “At least you and I found some common ground,” she replied. It was difficult to see his expression in the darkness, but she thought he was probably giving her an odd look, so she offered a thin smile in return. “Our days have turned out equally as terrible.” He was quiet, long enough to make her think he was ignoring her. Then he gave a single, weary chuckle. “Aye. That they have–” The wagon jerked into motion, jostling him so that he collided into her. For an instant their faces were close and she could smell him: sweat, leather, and the faint, metallic tang of hematite, which was unusual but not, in this instance, unpleasant. “Sorry,” he said as he righted himself. She caught the soft thunk of his head resting against the caravan's wall and his next words came with reluctance. “Even if they'd not held a blade to your throat, I wouldn't have walked away from that fight. There were too many.” Kali leaned her head back as well. “You can't win every time.” “Don't I know it.” He was quiet. “You could have let them kill me.” “I know.” “Why didn't you?” “That, I don't know,” she replied. “It just felt....wrong not to try and talk them out of it.” He took a long, deep breath in the darkness before he said, softly, “Thank you.” This time, she did not reply 
The caravan trundled along. Slivers of sky slipped between the gaps in the caravan's makeshift roof, and for a little while Kali busied herself trying to find constellations. But even the stars could not hold her attention. “How's your shoulder?” she asked. “Fine,” he said, as if by route, then he shifted. “Well, the wound hurts a little. I pushed too hard back there.” “You do know you're not made of your namesake, don't you?” Another pause, then he startled her with a chuckle that held only amusement. When he looked her way, the starlight allowed her to see the faintest tint of honey-brown in his eyes. Perhaps it was a trick of the shadows or of the starlight, but she thought there was a trace of warmth in his gaze, fleeting though it was as he looked away again. Eventually, she managed some fitful sleep; each time she woke, she'd glance beside her at the armored man to see if he'd been able to sleep. Each time, his eyes were closed, but at her glance they'd open and flick her way. One time he spoke, his voice low and pleasantly rough against the darkness. “Your magic... Have you rested enough to try and use it?” “Oh,” she drawled, hoping to conceal her surprise at his question. “Now you want me to use magic?” “I...” Sweet stars, she could practically hear him flushing and scowling all at once. At last he cleared his throat. “I acted as best I could, given the...situation. I'm sorry if I offended you, but–” “Stonewall,” she broke in, biting back a chuckle. “Relax. I'm only teasing. Mostly. To answer your question, I'm not feeling strong enough to do much of anything now.” She tried to keep her voice deadpan. “Perhaps if you were free, you could take these binders off...” She trailed off meaningfully and he sighed again. “But even if I were well-rested and unbound,” Kali continued. “I'm not certain I could pull another stunt like the one I did earlier. I'm still not sure how that happened.” Perhaps her sheer terror had awoken a latent ability; perhaps she'd simply stumbled into something new. Apparently there was more to magic than she understood. Stonewall was quiet for a beat; when he did speak it was not to her, not quite. “I thought magic could do anything.” A slip of wind rifled through her tunic, and she shivered. “No, not even close.” Her father's face appeared in her mind's eye. Magic couldn't save the life of a man bound to destroy his own, whatever the cost to those who loved him. Even his gods would not spare his life. There is balance in all things, she thought bitterly. Suddenly she wanted to think of something else, anything at all, so she looked back at her companion. “Do you think Gray or any of the others survived?” “I hope so,” he replied, frowning at her even though he made no remark on the sudden change in topic. “If anyone survived, they'll likely inform the garrison in Whitewater City and send out a search party for us. But even if that doesn't happen, the gods will not abandon us,” he added, straightening. “You can count on that.” For one moment the conviction in his voice made her forget their predicament. One moment. Brief, but it was enough for hope. 

Author Bio:

Lauren has been a storyteller all of her life. She started writing down her stories at the age of twelve; two decades and well over two million words later, she’s still going strong. Lauren’s writing process often begins with a question: what if? Hot on the heels of those two words, other questions like “how?” and “why?” will follow. Inspiration comes from everywhere, though music compels her muse like nothing else. Sometimes a song will strike her, and she won't know why until she’s working on a particular character or scene; then, everything will crystallize in her mind. “Of course! This is how it should go.”
If you spend enough time listening to writers talking about writing, you'll probably hear that there are two kinds of fiction writers: architects, (who plan and structure every detail), and gardeners, (who tend a few seeds of ideas and watch them grow.) Lauren falls into both categories, though she leans more toward being a “gardener.” She has endgames in mind, but often the path to reach them is a quest of discovery!

When Lauren’s not writing, she’s hiking, lifting weights, trail running, kayaking, and dancing at music festivals. Lauren lives in North Florida with her husband of 16 years, two dogs and two cats.

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