Friday, April 15, 2016

The Swan Princess

Twenty-two months after I sat down to write, Five Directions Press has released The Swan Princess (Legends 3) in print and Kindle e-book. For some reason Legends 3 gave me fits, but after a few false trails I found the story and after that, it was pure bliss to write. 

What made Legends 3 so tough in the beginning? Well, first off, it is the middle of the series. Middles of books are difficult, because the setup is done, but the resolution cannot begin, so authors need to find a way to sustain the momentum without resolving the major plot threads and character arcs too soon. Its the same with a series. Then there were the characters, whom I created and love but who must be just a bit farther along their journey to maturity—although not so far that their growth seems implausible or their basic natures changed. A third factor was the Swan Princess herself: the metaphor came to me right away, but figuring out the story indicated by the legend took much longer. In what sense was Nasan a swan princess? What did she need to learn? What circumstances would teach her? How would I keep the new story separate from the old? What role would the political backdrop play in this fundamentally domestic tale?

But that, after all, is what novelists do. And now that I am moving on to book 4, and the phoenix has replaced the swan as my image of choice (but book 4 is already on the down slope of the series), I am looking forward to reconnecting with another set of characters and exploring a new political story and metaphor. I hope it wont take twenty-two months—but if it does, I expect to enjoy the journey.

In the meantime, I hope you have fun with Nasan and her relatives. And if by chance you encounter her first here, do go back and read her earlier adventures. In honor of the formal launch on Friday, the e-book versions of Legends 1 and 2 will be on sale for 99 cents (US, 99p UK) from April 15 through April 17. So if you missed The Golden Lynx and The Winged Horse, this is your chance to give them a try at low cost. To find out more about Legends 3, read on.


In the two years since the events that propelled Nasan Kolycheva into marriage to a Russian nobleman, life has become intolerable. She spends every waking minute learning the skills of household management under the lash of her sister-in-law’s tongue and the cloud of her mother-in-law’s disappointment while mourning her unborn baby and pining for her husband, stationed in the western borderlands to ward off foreign invaders.

When Nasan’s mother-in-law decides that a pilgrimage to a distant monastery may be the only solution for her failing heart, the journey sparks memories in Nasan of a life she has almost forgotten, where her interests and skills serve a purpose lost to her in Moscow. What can a Swan Princess do when she no longer wants to return to the nest? Before Nasan can answer that question, she encounters a once-vanquished foe determined to avenge himself on those he blames for his misfortunes—and realizes she has ridden right into his trap. 


“Lyrical and compelling, The Swan Princess draws the reader into the world of sixteenth-century Russia, a world unfamiliar to many readers, which becomes vividly real in the hands of this master storyteller. The characters of Nasan, Daniil, and the others leap off the page. Perhaps most intriguing is the portrayal of the clash between the two vibrant but alien cultures of the Russians and the Tatars—frequently at war, occasionally bound by an uneasy and watchful peace.”—Ann Swinfen, author of Voyage to Muscovy

“An action and suspense-infused historical adventure that kept me turning the pages right to the end. The characters are so well-drawn, the historical facts so cleverly woven into the narrative, time and place so brilliantly evoked, I felt I was experiencing sixteenth-century Russia firsthand.”
—Liza Perrat, author of the Bone Angel Trilogy

“C. P. Lesley directs her cast of fictional and historical characters with an authority that can only come from a fervent understanding of the cultures and values of the times. With deft strokes she brings the characters fully to life—revealing their psyches and the depths of their motivations—without ever impeding the pace of the story. The Swan Princess is a beautifully written, perfectly balanced historical novel by an author who knows her stuff and has mastered her craft.”
—Joan Schweighardt, author of The Last Wife of Attila the Hun


South of Pechenga, February 1536

Sleet stung his face. Brother Stefan tugged the rabbit-skin hat over his ears and turned up the collar of the worn fur coat—a gift to the monastery, no doubt, from some half-starved priest determined to secure prayers for his soul. Shivering, he squinted through ice-crusted eyelashes at an oval of red topped by a semicircle of bright blue. Against the white/gray Arctic landscape, the patch of color sufficed to identify the Lapp herder guiding his rickety sleigh across the tundra.

“Can’t that beast go faster?” Stefan kicked the front of the sleigh and chided himself for impatience—in vain. His demand for speed was irrational. He’d secured permission for his journey. No one would follow him in this blizzard. He had nothing to fear, yet his whole body urged him to press on, beat the reindeer—or the driver—if necessary. Whatever would increase the distance between himself and that godforsaken excuse for a monastery. He’d wasted months there already.

Getting out of the Arctic blast would be a blessing, but no hope of that for a few more weeks—unless this slug of a reindeer grew wings and took to the air. What a sight that would be!

Off to one side, through the driving sleet, he saw a small hut raised on logs, two of its chicken feet buried up to the ankles in snow, the front two swept bare by the circling winds. It looked like the home of the witch Baba Yaga, terror of his nursery days.

He shivered again—and not from the cold. How could one know, dashing past in a reindeer-drawn sleigh, whether a witch dwelled there?

Bridge and bears play an important role in the story (bridge iStock 509320443; bears © Gledriius/Shutterstock 173103809).

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