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Elza and The Eagle's Heir

One of the things I'm enjoying most about writing The Eagle's Heir with Amy Griswold is writing AU Elza.  (The Eagle's Heir is an interactive novel we're writing with A Choice of Games, due out early next year.)  The premise of The Eagle's Heir is based on a very simple historical change -- France won the Battle of Waterloo because Comte d'Erlon did succeed in reinforcing General Honore-Charles Reille at Hougoumont Farm, thereby forcing Wellington's retreat before Grouchy arrived.  It was, as Wellington later said, "a damned close-run thing" when one choice altered the course of history.  Because of this the British and Prussian forces were divided and Wellington evacuated Brussels and retired to the coast, the usual maneuver for a British expeditionary force that has been cut off.  The subsequent crisis in Parliament caused the fall of Castlereagh's government and the formation of a government that agreed to a much more favorable peace treaty with France than the one Castlereagh had supported at the Congress of Vienna.  Napoleon retained his throne and those territories currently held by France with the exclusion of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.  Europe settled into an exhausted peace.

The Eagle's Heir opens twenty years later, in 1835.  You, the main character of the interactive novel, have grown up with Alexandre Walewski, Napoleon's illegitimate son with Maria Walewska.  You are also Madame St. Elme's grandchild and she is the Emperor's spymaster.

In the real world, Elza had reinvented herself after the Hundred Days not as a soldier or a courtesan but as an author.  Though under the Restoration her books were banned in France and published in Munich or Brussels, she sold thousands of copies of her "scandalous" memoirs that made a popular case for the Empire and a moving account of those she had loved and lost.  She had also written several novels and a travelogue of Egypt.  Yes, Elza went to Egypt, climbing through the cisterns of Alexandria, journeying up the Nile to Abydos, and offering one of the first accounts of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera with its astrological ceiling dating from the reign of Cleopatra.  If the pen was the only weapon left to her, Elza proved amazingly adept at fencing with it.

However, in The Eagle's Heir, her life has taken a different turn.  Fouche was of course never trusted by Napoleon after his betrayal, and he was dismissed from Imperial service in 1815, just as he was in real life by the Bourbons.  Those who had worked tirelessly for Napoleon's return from exile were exalted, including Madame St. Elme, who had carried vital messages back and forth to Elba.  (Really does any reader of her memoirs believe she went to Elba in February of 1815 on a pleasure cruise?)  By 1835 she is the Emperor's spymaster.  It's fascinating to write her as she might have been if her worst imaginings hadn't come true, if she hadn't lost Michel and most of her friends and come out on the other side as a tireless advocate.  What if instead she had won? What if recognition and responsibility had come her way instead of blacklisting?  What if she had Michel at her side and the Emperor's trust?  She's taken a turn more toward Charmian and away from Beatrice, if that makes sense.  And Alexandre is her Caesarion.

The question for you as the main character is: is he yours?  Do you want to put Alexandre on the throne?  Or his half brother raised in Austria, the Duke of Reichstadt?  Or do you want to defy all the powers of Europe by running up the banner of revolution in 1835?  There are many different options to explore of history as it might have been.  What would you choose?  And can you succeed?


A reader asked if I had a list or a plan for other ancient world Numinous World books, that I had made references to lots of places that were tantalizing. I do have a list! Here it is:

Gull 1198-1138 BCE This is the story told in Black Ships

Kadis 1034-982 BCE Kadis is an Egyptian of Nubian descent who is a professional animal trainer. She's the cheetah trainer who Lydias dimly remembers when he first encounters the hunting cheetahs. Her job takes her north to the cities of the coast when Pharaoh gifts a pair of cheetahs to a minor allied king named Saul. There she encounters a court in turmoil and a wind through the world named David.

Amenirdis 719-640 BCE She is best known as Amenirdis II, a Great Wife of Amon, the Divine Adoratrice -- essentially the highest ranking priestess in Egypt. This is Gull stepping back into a more familiar role, but one that tests her utterly when the Assyrians under Sennacherib attack Egypt. She is the one who set the border guard sphinxes that Lydias saw, the one Lydias is drawing on when he's stealing the hearse.

Artazostre 521-457 BCE This is the Persian life just before Lydias. In fact, she is Artashir's great-grandmother. This is the one who chooses to turn away from priesthood as a vocation and to wield temporal power instead. Which makes sense -- Amenirdis has done that. It's time to do something else. She fought at the Battle of Salamis commanding a warship.

Lydias of Miletus 349-277 BCE This is the story told in Stealing Fire.

Bindusara 257-213 BCE I've only begun to touch the story of his life in Ashokan India, but he is a Buddhist monk who travels as a dutas, and as such returns to Alexandria in the reign of Ptolemy III as a monk and teacher.

Charmian 69-30 BCE  This is the story told in Hand of Isis.

I've also done some writing on one earlier than Gull, a boy named Geb in the Amarna Period. I'm planning to put a section of that up on my Patreon on October 2, so if you'd like to see it please consider subscribing to my Patreon.  For $2 per month, the cost of a cheap movie rental, you can rent, er, me.

So what are the links between them?  One thing I see is the constant tension between priestly vocation and the sensual world which is so much the base of this character, not conflict between but integration.  She begins that integration as Gull, in deciding that dedication does not mean being apart from the world and caring for nobody.  It is possible to serve the gods while loving the world.

Kadis begins with Gull's desire to return to the Black Land, and she is an "average person", not a princess or a priestess.  She has a normal job, but her choices lead her into the middle of a war in the Peleset lands, in the mess of the Mediterranean Dark Age following Black Ships, when it's every tribe and every city for itself.  There she encounters Baalthasar, a eunuch who serves Ashteret -- Xandros who is giving a life of service in return for taking Ashterah from that service.  And there of course too is Mik-el, determined to put this harper boy on the throne.  What Kadis comes out of this life wanting is knowledge and power -- the ability to change events rather than simply be part of them.  She wants greater agency.

Amenirdis begins with it.  Like Old Pythia, she's the daughter of a king dedicated as a child to become the Great Wife of Amon, a celibate priestess married to a god.  However, while she is still young and the former Great Wives living, before her sacred marriage, Egypt is attacked by the Assyrians.  In fact, their allies in Judah are already being pressed to the bone, and it looks like this rising wave -- the first of the new great empires after the Dark Age -- may in fact conquer old Late Dynastic Egypt.  Or not.  She has the power.  She also has the person who will be Dion.  And of course Michael.

Artazostre starts on the other side of the border.  That's another pattern with Gull -- in one life she is interested in her opposite number, in the enemy, in the life on the other side of the line.  So in the next life she begins there.  Artazostre is one of the new people, a Persian, one of the people who came into the political void of the dark age, belonging to the new empires and to a culture that is Indo-European rather than old fertile crescent.  Her challenge is to try to bring some kind of balance, some kind of peace between these cultures, to make a bridge.  Unfortunately, that bridge leads through war.  She also explicitly rejects becoming a priestess in favor of marriage and children -- to be a ruler with secular power instead.

Lydias begins in Miletus, which in Artazostre's day is a conquered city that her husband and she rule.  But he is a slave.  Lydias takes a chance and grows into his own power, coming unexpectedly and unimaginably back to the Black Land.  There are more Lydias stories to come.  As Elza said of him, "I carried Ptolemy's banner on many fields before I was old."

Bindusara is once again the flip.  Lydias loved India, and so in his next life he's born there and comes of age as a warrior of the Mauryan Empire.  But Lydias never loved blood, never loved war, though he had no framework, no moral teaching that expressed what he felt to be right.  Bindusara  finds it in the rising new religion of Buddhism and becomes a monk.  But contemplation is not for him.  He's a scholar, an emissary.  This is a role that eventually leads him all the way around the wheel as a teacher sent to Alexandria.

I'm sure there are one or two stories between Bindusara and Charmian.  I don't entirely know what they are yet!

What do you guys think?

Last Lines

Here are my favorite last lines from my books, ones from scenes I really love. Can you guess which book each last line is from?

All the stories end so.

The window was open, and the Hammond passed through.

"Then dance with me until the music stops."

"The navel of the world is home."

And the world was mended.

Beyond, the snow fell soundlessly into the sea.

Stasi laughed, her head against Alma's shoulder, dark against bright, "Anything goes, darling."

"So you did," I said, and kissed him amid the falling snow.

"God help us all," she said, a prayer for the ruin of Ethiopia and for all that hovered in the future, just beyond the door.

Random Memeage

Because I'm trying to remember to update here more often, some random memeage:

What music are you listening to/have listened to most recently? At this moment I'm listening to the soundtrack to Oliver Stone's Alexander. This track is The Drums of Gaugamela.

If you could cosplay with someone else, what would it be? I would love to do Fingon and Maedhros from the Silmarillion with Amy Griswold. I'd be Fingon. I have long, dark hair and hers is red. (Yes, I do have a thing for gingers!)

What books are on your desk? I just cleaned up my desk, so there's only one book on it right now: The New College Latin & English Dictionary. Why? Because I was looking up a name for a gladiatrix in a story/book beginning that I'm playing with.

Coffee or tea? Coffee at the moment. Hot buttered rum coffee in fact. With no real rum. Because the rum is gone.

What's a Jo Graham book?

I was doing a grant application recently and one of the questions stumped me. "What makes it a _____ book? How would a reader know your work out of all the books in the library?" So I put that question to you: What is a Jo Graham book? What makes it different? How would you guess a book was mine?

Patreon and Lydias

A giant thank you to everyone who has already subscribed to my new Patreon! I have 3,000 words of Lydias ready to post next week, but I am still $3 short of the goal. Anybody?

ETA: We're there! Thank you so much! If you'd like to read the new Lydias section and you haven't subscribed, it's only $2, the price of a movie rental.

My new Patreon!

Thank you to everyone who answered my Patreon poll. Because of you, my new Patreon is now active! You can find it here. I'll be posting new content from the Numinous World and the Order of the Air, with possibly some of my new projects as well. The first post will be Lydias five years after Stealing Fire, in what may be the beginning of a Lydias novella, The Throne of Serapis. I'll be posting the first week in September, so if you want to join in, go ahead and subscribe to my Patreon now!

Patreon content

Thanks to your wonderful responses, I'm definitely going to do Patreon! So my next question is this: what would you like to see on my Patreon? The Numinous World? Order of the Air? Other original fiction I've been looking for a home for, like Lifeboat, Haidee, and several other projects? The only thing I can't do is Stargate, because I do not hold the copyright. Tell me what you'd like to see. Pick as many as you'd like, and if there are other things or you'd like to elaborate, please feel free in comments!

What would you be interested in seeing on my Patreon?

Numinous World stories that are not in the time periods of the novels
Additional scenes/edited out material from the published novels
A Lydias novella in progress
Stories in the Order of the Air series
Scenes from upcoming Order of the Air books
A sequel to Cythera
Other original fiction


The Eagle's Heir

I am delighted to announce a new project! Amy Griswold and I have been working on an exciting thing -- The Eagle's Heir. The Eagle's Heir is a fully interactive novel set in an alternate history.

It's 1835. Twenty years have passed since France won the Battle of Waterloo and the powers of Europe gave up on removing Napoleon from his throne. In that time, France has concentrated on technological achievement, notably with giving the inventor Robert Fulton carte blanche to develop his new steam engines. Not only do steam ships ply the rivers, but he has also invented the aeropilé, a steam powered airship. However, nations other than France have been quick to adopt these technological advances as well, especially Britain and Austria. After all, they stand to gain the most from the Emperor's eventual death.

That time is coming. Napoleon is getting old, and his only legitimate child was taken to Austria by his mother twenty years ago. Now known as Franz instead of Napoleon Francis, he will be an Austrian puppet on the French throne, bringing France back into the fold of Hapsburg monarchies and undoing the Revolution completely -- unless he's not Napoleon's heir, or once again France becomes a Republic. However, it is likely that either of those things will trigger the general European war that ceased in the wake of Waterloo.

You, the main character of the interactive novel, are the bodyguard and childhood friend of Alexandre Walewski, Napoleon's illegitimate son by Maria Walewska -- the only other possible heir besides Franz. You are also the grandchild of Napoleon's spymaster, Madame St. Elme. Raised from childhood to be equally competent in the ballroom or the battlefield, accustomed to moving in circles both high and low, the fate of Europe may well rest in your hands! You may play as male, female or nonbinary, or as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual. You may present strictly as one gender, or choose (like your grandmother) to have both a male and female persona. With more than a hundred combinations of endings, you can read/play through with many different choices.

The Eagle's Heir will be published early in 2017 by A Choice of Games, an innovator in interactive novels, who have worked with such notable authors as Max Gladstone. Amy and I hope you enjoy it!

Aug. 10th, 2016

Thank you everyone who responded to my Patreon survey. Based on the responses I got, I will plan to do a Patreon account this fall. More news on that will be forthcoming!

The Historical Fantasy Storybundle ends tomorrow night, so if you love historical fantasies here's your chance to get eleven great books for $15, or five for $5. My books The Emperor's Agent and Steel Blues are in the bundle along with fantastic books I have enjoyed like Stag and Hound, The Armor of Light, and Lord of the Two lands.