Today I’m fortunate to present Mary R. Woldering author of Children of Stone.
Hi Mary, thanks for agreeing to this interview.
Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?
The United States
Question 2) What do you think makes a good story?
Strong characters and their interaction with each other
Question 3) What inspired you to write your first book?
I don’t recall. I just wrote a story when I was about 14.
Question 4) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Chaotic and full of distractions, but I manage.
Question 5) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
No idea what you would consider interesting or a quirk. I do a lot of research & Googling.
Question 6) Give us the title and genre of your latest book.
Opener of the Sky – Book 3 of the Children of Stone Series.
Question 7) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
That I have very few readers. I think the story is a great one and so do my few readers, but news of the tale is just not spreading.
Question 8) Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?
Sure! I preceded it with the blurb.
Children of Stone Book 3 – Opener of the Sky
I had grown fierce and hard
Thrilled by death, torture, blood…
the madness of it when I tasted its warm saltiness
A warrior god.
… from the poem Howl by Mary R. Woldering (as told by Raemkai-2012)
Marai, a former shepherd, who discovered a fallen ‘star’ and was gifted with amazing abilities by the unearthly Children of Stone, has been separated from those he loves.
Turned sojourner, he begins a desperate mission to find them, but the spectre of wickedness and corruption is never far behind and his journey to wisdom becomes even more uncertain.
While Opener Of The Sky, the third book in the Children of Stone series, is the continuing story of Marai’s magical search for his companions, it is also the story of Maatkare Raemkai, a sadistic shape-changing warrior-prince, whose twisted relationships once propelled him into power, then nearly destroyed him.
Through sorcerous manipulation of the women Marai loves, he has planned his own revenge. The sojourner Marai is just in the way. Will he be too late to save those he loves or will he welcome them in victory?
In this excerpt from Sokor and Khmenu, Ariennu and Naibe attempt an escape from the clutches of their captor Prince Maatkare one day away from the king’s palace. He, being part wolf/dog tracks them, manipulating them into the very temple where he offers sacrifices. He’s intent on teaching them both a lesson.
(Reader’s note. Ariennu is nicknamed MaMa and Naibe is called Baby, but they are not mother and daughter.) 18+
Ari stared at Maatkare Raemkai as he chatted, noticing Deka sat next to her prince oblivious to the surroundings. She had done the same thing in Little Kina Ahna when everyone had lived with Marai. That much of her personality had not changed. For Ari, Maatkare was much more interesting.
So good looking though. He was even fun to drink with last night before it got to be too much; watching him show off for his men. Ariennu mused, a slight smile on her lips. Maybe not the worst idea in the world, except having to share him. And whatever he did to Naibe this afternoon was uncalled for, knocking her out like that.
She paused, tucking in her thoughts, when she saw the prince glance her way as if he had heard every one of them.
The signal to Naibe was a yawn.
Ari leaned to a servant.
“Where is your privy? My friend and I need to…”
The servant glanced at the priest who spoke to the prince.
Maatkare, his eyes glimmering a little in recognition of something, motioned for an older guard to follow them. He raised a forefinger, then lowered it in a quiet but mystical gesture.
Don’t be gone too long, ladies. His thoughts whispered as he pulled Deka a little closer.
The shaded stall with an open half wall provided just enough room for a person to squat. After a moment, Ari rose and gestured to Naibe that it was her turn:
I’m going to cover myself and stand over you. If you just concentrate on getting to the king and not being seen, I think it’ll work.
She wrapped the prismatic illusion around herself like goddess Nut’s mantle, hugging Naibe up into her arms and slipping away past the guard who paced just a few feet away.
As soon as she reached the causeway to the river, she let Naibe down and dropped the illusion. The two women gasped and then caught their breath, shrinking back into the shadow. Once there, they tried to get their bearings.
“Do you think he saw which way we went?” Naibe whispered.
“No, but we have to keep moving down the river. I’m sure the guard has already told…Oh Goddess…fast. The bastard knows already.”
Ari stopped and crouched with Naibe as guards with bobbling torches erupted from the gate to priest’s house.
“Bring him out here. Stupid bastard let them run off.”
He whirled as two men dragged the guard who had been set over the women out to the wall near the water in the causeway channel.
Naibe and Ariennu crouched lower, wrapping secrecy around themselves.
“Highness. They used sorcery. Gone in a flash.” The guard pleaded, then accepting his fate, whispered: “Have mercy…”
“I do have mercy on you, because you have served me well.” The prince replied. “And I have mercy on your children.”
The shup sound of a blade striking hard into a body was followed by a groan. A shadow drifted over the three figures who supported the fourth, followed by a snapping sound. It meant the man’s neck had been broken in a quick gesture of mercy.
Ari clapped a quick hand over Naibe’s mouth to keep her from squealing aloud in horror.
“Take our unfortunate old friend to the open edge of the water. He has been given a message for Lord Sebek. What you men will know” the hand gesture again, as if he was imprinting the men with a different story, “is that as he was chasing the women, slipped at the muddy bank and the crocodiles got to him before we could. I will write a message to his family of his noble deeds in my service and award them his pension. Be careful of the crocodiles yourselves. They can be keen on those who break the rules or bear tales.” He grew silent as the guard’s body was carried away.
Ari faded herself into the color of the wall. She couldn’t make out everything the prince was doing but it seemed to be additional ritual gestures, followed by the spiritual howl of a wolf-dog. It grew in piercing volume overtaking Ari’s heart and filling her heart with uncustomary terror.
Naibe’s mouth opened in a silent cry.
Maatkare stopped, as if he noticed, and sniffed the air.
For a moment, Ari thought she recognized the flash of shiny fang teeth in an eerie grin but realized it was an image of warning he had conjured up so that he would appear as a beast before her eyes.
I know you are near, ladies. I can smell your scents. Because you decided to run away, you now see a little more of how I am. I will find you before dawn. I hope the chase will leave me feeling less upset by that time. The prince’s thought voice was calm and unruffled, just as it had been when he spoke to the unfortunate guard. He moved back up the causeway, scenting and searching for them.
As soon as Ari saw he was far enough away to appear the same size as a shabti doll, she silently grabbed Naibe and darted around the perimeter of the priest’s home and into the first entrance they could find that didn’t seem to be part of the building complex.
The path became a shrouded tunnel.
Ari saw two sentries at the open gate entryway.
Another temple, maybe? She thought, hurtling by the men with Naibe in tow. The sentries stirred as if they sensed something, stared at each other, then they closed the gate behind the women who were still moving deeper inside the passageways. Ariennu relaxed, her image becoming visible. She waited with Naibe in the dust and dark, while they caught their breath.
“Killed the guard, the bastard did, just to teach us a lesson. He set the whole thing up, because he knew we were up to something. I don’t even think N’ahab would have done that, goddess curse his soul.” Ari spat at the ground, then pulled Naibe to the left branch of the path when they came to a division.
The new hallway was close and torch lit with paintings on the walls. At intervals there were more paths and arched hollows that became other tunnels, but Ari was certain they would find the way out of the other side at any moment.
A right then another right then a left. Um. She paused to stroke the stone in her brow, hoping to clarify any message her Child Stone transmitted.
Where am I supposed to go? Damn. I’m going to get us lost. She froze. City of the Dead, Sokor. A Labyrinth, and I led us both in here. She turned to Naibe. “Let’s just try to be calm and quiet. They will help us. They just have to.”
“Um, Ari…” Naibe paused, her hand staying the older woman’s hand. “You do know where you are going don’t you?”
“I just know we have to go deeper in. I can still feel his thoughts, Babe. He’s looking around down here…tracking us. He can smell us. If we keep moving in where the burial boxes are, there are enough of them and dust in the twists. I want his nose confused over what he thinks he smells. He can’t stay past dawn. Sooner or later he’ll have to give up on us and keep moving up the river. He’ll have to leave us. Then we can get out and get down the river to Our Father Menkaure. If he’s going to keep showing me how he is ‘Prince Dangerous’ and killing people over nothing, we’re not safe. I’ll curse my own soul if I ever let some man kill me, whether he was glorious on his couch or not.”
“I didn’t like it, Ari.” Naibe admitted, just above a whisper.
“No? Really? I thought he was one wild hump! That El of his knew how to seek out every single part in my belly and womb like it was made for it. Mmm…Mmm…I wish I didn’t have to get away. I’m getting another itch for it, just thinking about it working me.”
Ari turned every way she could, realizing the underground complex must have been huge. So far she hadn’t found any two passageways that looked alike.
“With me, he put up a wall over his soul instead of becoming open to me. Devils came out of his eyes the more I sent up my loving to him. He just sucked it out and still gave nothing back. It was as if he was broken and couldn’t love me like a normal man. He could give the pleasure twice over to fill in that missing part and I was screaming for it, but then I couldn’t stop thinking of my Marai and how much I missed the real love he had for me…and then I couldn’t breathe. I fainted.”
“No I saw everything he did when you first came in. Read it off your stone when you were crawling around the cabin floor all shocked. Bastard choked you hard enough to end you and then painted night in front of your eyes…said he would drink your heart for saying Marai’s name to him.” Ariennu stopped walking and sat by the wall where five corridors branched out in the dark.
Now which way? She asked herself.
Naibe shuddered as if she wanted to gag in worry.
Ari she tapped the nearly imperceptible rise in the middle of her forehead just at the top of her nose. “Come on little one… some help here. Show me those little balls of light Marai told us about that led him in the dark to your boat of wonders so long ago, if this is still real…”
“It’s alright MaMa.” Naibe petted Ari’s shoulder.
“Still my fault we’re having to run like this. We should be at the palace soaking in asses milk, not having to get away from someone who’s no better than a slave master.” She saw the small lightened area in one of the corridors. “There. That way. I see those lights, I think. We have to go.” Ari got to her feet and pulled Naibe up.
After a series of twists and turns and more walking, the elder woman slowed, realizing the lights might have been an illusion born of her own fatigue.
Push on if you must
Or go this way
A voice exploded just under her brow. It was louder than the usual whisper-like singing to which she had become accustomed.
“Finally! Ouch, damn. Naibe, watch your step, there’s something back here. I thought it was a wall but there’s something out in front.” She murmured, then felt the lid of a low stone box with some carved object on top.
A Stone box. It’s like my dream when I saw Marai lying dead in that black box somewhere. She felt for the edge for a moment but realized the box in her dream had been plain and slick to the touch. This one was smooth but not as finely polished
“I can feel a draft coming over the top so maybe it’s in front of a hall that leads us out of here the back way.” Ari couldn’t see much in the dark until she paused and became calm enough for her eyes to switch into a kind of night vision.
In the back, a niche containing a platform for offerings. Something furred, broken and wet with gore lay in the dish. Her hands leapt up away from whatever it was as if they had been lightning struck. Atop the lid was a carved image. She felt the shape: Animal. Legs, haunches, muzzle and upright ears of Wepwawet as Guide of the Dead.
She gasped, realizing the irony of the place she had entered with the younger woman. The prince’s words from late last night rang in her ears.
I’m the Lord of the Dead by the Blood of Aset…the Lord of the Dead
She remembered the revelry of the party, and the way a very drunk Maatkare cried out his howling lament about his ill-fated marriage to the king’s daughter. Women always tryna put a collar on me.
That was the moment she knew she had to get him away from the king’s private area and onto his boat.
Well damn me she thought.
Ari suddenly realized the prince was here on more than business. This was a centering and safe place for the disciples of Wepwawet who presented as a wolf/dog.
He must be from the wolf school with all his skill with a bow, the howling, the…Oh goddess…shape shifting that’s so fast no bones bend or skin stretches…he just is. I led us both to his safe space…He came here to cleanse himself? Our dinner host was his witness while we were cleaning up?
Ariennu sensed something wasn’t right in the tonality of the Children’s voices. Sounds like a man imitating…like…She tensed, all the hair on her arm rising as she heard the great wolf/dog’s panting approach to the opening of the chapel.
The sound of his clawed feet tip-tapped on the hardened earth floor of the path. The panting merged into an evil titter; breathing in the dark; a faint growl that grew stronger and more threatening.
Push on if you must
Or go this way
Either way leads to pain
You see, I know what they sound like,
Your little friends
These voices in your crystal eye.
The black furred hand/paw touched her arm just before it faded into illusion.
“MaMa!” Naibe cried, panting. “He’s finding us. Hide!” Naibe ran around the stone box. This time she grabbed Ari and hid in her cloaking arms. The women clung to each other, wide-eyed and silent. Before the shroud of silence covered them, Ari saw the silhouette of a black wolf/dog thin like smoke. In its place, Ari thought she saw a gold armlet flashing in the slight available light of a distant torch.
Oh. He’s here? She hardened her resolve, crouching and ready to fight.
In the distance, the women heard a faint scampering snapping, growling, yodel-howling, circling and finding the way.
They’re coming Ari. Dogs…He has power over dogs. He’s sending dogs. Naibe grabbed Ariennu harder, as if it would help her gain more invisibility.
I know Baby, I know…the elder woman listened silently for a long time as the sounds circled, grew louder and finally paused outside the room where they had become the most confused.
Maatkare stood in the doorway, golden wrist and arm bands glimmering in ambient torchlight.
“I know what you tried to do.” He began to pace, trying to seem thoughtful “Maybe I would have done the same thing too if I had been in your situation. But now you’ve caused a good man to die, because you outwitted him with your little trick.”
The sound of dogs growling grew louder. His thought voice growled too, half human half dog as if he had become one of them.
Easy brothers…he started, then spoke aloud “Perhaps I should let them come at you. They are my trick, Red Sister. See if you like it.” Maatkare’s dark hand swept the air in front of him. Ari sensed an almost-whisper.
Suddenly, black ravenous shadows emptied past him around his torso and over his shoulders; into the chamber pouncing, snarling and biting. Ariennu felt herself knocked back hard by the weight of several animals standing around and towering over her. She shrieked angrily, struggling against their bodies.
“Call them off! Damn you!” she swung, kicked and shoved, but accomplished nothing.
“You’re afraid…tsk, tsk…fearless Lady Ariennu…worried by some puppies.”
“Am not…get them off me…”
“About to soil yourself, you naughty ka’t” he chortled, toeing the threshold and gesturing. “Just a very small sample of what I can do, if you come to annoy me.”
Puppies? Ari froze, her eyes clearing a little.
The clawing and biting beasts had become gregarious, yipping puppies. They frolicked happily about her prone body then left, heading past the prince and out the doorway as they vanished.
It had been a magnificent illusion.
Question 9) What can we expect from you in the future?
The last 2 books in the series Book 4 “Heart of the Lotus” and Book 5 “The Lake of Memory” plus some spin-offs in other time periods including a Steampunk Crime novella “Miss Hattie and the Hoppers” and an autobiography of sorts. There are other plans in other times and places.
Question 10) What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Createspace covers. They are very professional looking.
Question 11) How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
Website: Palace intrigue, murder, madness, confusion, bizarre twists and plot turns…dangerous hookups, evil geniuses, punk sorcerers, traitors…