That gorgeous cover, by Paul Young, will grace my next book from DAW, Masks, written under the pseudonym E.C. Blake. I just got it this week, and now I’m doubly excited about the book coming out.
Here’s what DAW has come up with for the book jacket flaps (Masks is coming out in hardcover, my first hardcover novel, so it actually has flaps). Now all I have to do is live up to it!
Masks, the first novel in a mesmerizing new fantasy series, draws readers into a world in which cataclysmic events have left the Autarchy of Aygrima—the one land blessed with magical resources—cut off from its former trading partners across the waters, not knowing if any of those distant peoples still live. Yet under the rule of the Autarch, Aygrima survives. And thanks to the creation of the Masks and the vigilance of the Autarch’s Watchers, no one can threaten the security of the empire.
In Aygrima, magic is a Gift possessed from birth by a very small percentage of the population, with the Autarch himself the most powerful magic worker of all. Only the long-vanquished Lady of Pain and Fire had been able to challenge his rule.
At the age of fifteen, citizens are recognized as adults and must don the spell-infused Masks—which denote both status and profession—whenever they are in public. To maintain the secure rule of the kingdom, the Masks are magically crafted to reveal any treasonous thoughts or actions. And once such betrayals are exposed, the Watchers are there to enforce the law.
Mara Holdfast, daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, is fast approaching her fifteenth birthday and her all-important Masking ceremony. Her father himself has been working behind closed doors to create Mara’s Mask. Once the ceremony is done, she will take her place as an adult, and Gifted with the same magical abilities as her father, she will also claim her rightful place as his apprentice.
But on the day of her Masking something goes horribly wrong, and instead of celebrating, Mara is torn away from her parents, imprisoned, and consigned to a wagon bound for the mines. Is it because she didn’t turn the unMasked boy she discovered over to the Night Watchers? Or is it because she’s lied about her Gift, claiming she can only see one color of magic, when in truth she can see them all, just as she could when she was a young child?
Whatever the reason, her Mask has labeled her a traitor and now she has lost everything, doomed to slavery in the mines until she dies. And not even her Gift can show Mara the future that awaits her—a future that may see her freed to aid a rebel cause, forced to become a puppet of the Autarch, or transformed into a force as dangerous to her world as the legendary Lady of Pain and Fire.
I also had to come up with a short segment of the text to put on the back cover. This is slightly edited from what’s actually in the book, but then, it’s intended as an appetizer, not the full meal deal:
“Mara Holdfast,” the Masker intoned, “you have reached the age of fifteen years. It is now the will of the Autarch that you become a full citizen of Aygrima, and serve him and his heirs for the rest of your life. Do you accept the will of the Autarch?”
It was hard to say “I do” through the lump in her throat, but all too soon the Masker stepped forward with the beautiful copper-colored Mask in his hands. “Then I welcome you to full citizenship, to adulthood, and to the service of the Autarch: and I present you with this Mask, symbol of your devotion, guardian of your thoughts!” The Masker settled the Mask onto Mara’s face.
It was the most beautiful, wonderful, joyful moment of her life…
…and then it all went wrong.
The Mask squirmed and wriggled like a basket full of snakes, faster and faster, harder and harder. Mara gasped, then screamed, as she felt the skin above her cheekbones rip, the skin of her forehead split, her nose break. She fell to her knees, eyes squeezed shut, scrabbling at the Mask, tearing at it with her fingernails, but it wouldn’t come off, it was going to kill her—
The Mask shattered. A dozen pieces fell away from her face and crashed to the dais. Her blood, shockingly red, splattered the white tiles. She coughed and choked and spat out scarlet-laced saliva and mucus. Gagging, she peered up through bleary eyes to see the Masker looking sternly over her head. “This candidate has failed the Masking. She cannot be made a citizen. In the name of the Autarch, clear this place!”
She heard her mother screaming her name. What’s happening to me? Nothing made sense.
The door to the Maskery slammed closed, cutting off her mother’s screams.
And finally, here’s the E.C. Blake bio:
E.C. Blake was born in New Mexico, “Land of Enchantment,” and the state’s nickname seems to have rubbed off: he started writing fantastical stories in elementary school and wrote his first fantasy novel in high school. He’s been a newspaper reporter and editorial cartoonist, a magazine editor, a writing instructor and a professional actor, and has written (under another name) more than 30 works of nonfiction, ranging from biographies to science books to history books, but his first love has always been fantasy. He now lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, with his wife and a daughter whose favorite stories all involve “sword-fighting princesses.” Come to think of it, so do his.
Lots more to come as the months tick down to release…