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(The Dragon Riders of Fiorenza Book One)
by Melinda R. Cordell
My father's been kidnapped.
The kidnappers demand an impossible ransom. If they don't get it in two weeks, they will kill my father.
Mama won't survive his murder. She's already fallen unconscious.
If we can't pay, my brother and sisters will end up homeless.
So I've pulled my assassin grandmother out of retirement.
Together, with my dragon, we're going to find the kidnappers and rescue my father.
And we're going to make those bastards pay.
Set in an alternate medieval Italy with dragons and magic, ASSASSIN'S BLADE is for fans of the Venatrix Chronicles by Sylvia Mercedes, or the dragon books of Ursula K. Le Guin and Anne McCaffery. You'll love taking flight in ASSASSIN'S BLADE.
Excerpt from Assassin's Blade:
“Little girls shouldn’t play with bows and arrows,” one of the Fiorenza friends said sanctimoniously.
“Little?” Fia said scornfully, hands on hips. “We’re twelve years old. We’re not little.”
“And little girls shouldn’t wear their hair in that heathen style, and they shouldn’t be talking back to their elders,” the man added.
Grandfather tore off another piece of bread. “I am what you would call a heathen,” he said mildly through his pepper-and-salt beard. “And in my home country, we allow women to shoot bows and arrows, and hold public office, and write books, and choose who they want to marry. If Fia were my grandson, you would be praising his aim and saying, ‘Boys will be boys!’”
Grandfather’s friend grumbled, eyeing Fia darkly. “All the same, this city-state is under the sway of the Pope. The holy Church in her wisdom says no to all those things.”
“Your faith is cousin to my faith,” Grandfather said. “I prefer my faith, for we treat our women as citizens, not chattel.”
“And the girls can be assassins,” Fia said to Neva, just loud enough for the other man to hear.
“I still think you shouldn’t have shot that arrow,” Neva whispered.
Fia just bumped lightly against her side the way they did during Mass when they were bored. “Come on. Let’s go play the Elder of the Mountain and his Many Assassins. We can be just like my grandmother, my teita Anna. I promise I won’t make you shoot anybody.”
“I want to be the old man of the mountain.” Neva pulled her blonde hair into two sections, then brought them around to the front of her face and held them under her chin. “See? Now I have a white beard. Whitish.”
“The Elder of the Mountain should have had a dragon army,” Fia said.
“You’re just saying that because you want to be a dragonrider,” Neva said. She fluttered her beard at Fia, still holding her hair in front of her face. “We’re assassins. We don’t need dragons. You can’t sneak around stabbing people with a dragon that’s fifty cubits tall standing right behind you.”
Fia rolled her eyes. “I don’t care. I’m going to have a dragon. She will be a stealth dragon.”
“Oh, so a fifty-cubit dragon is going to sneak around on its tiptoes?”
The great, hollow concussion reverberated in the air, a sound that Fia had never heard before. Her breath caught in her throat and she stopped in her tracks.
Neva dropped her hair. “What was that?”
All around the marketplace, talk died away and people raised their heads, looking around them. Even the sparrows in the trees around them stopped their chirps.
Now a single-throated roar as of a thousand voices rang out from that direction of the boom.
Fia stood frozen on her feet. Inside the walls of the market, she could not see what was happening in the distance. Neva clutched her wooden sword. Fia took her best friend’s hand as if to protect her.
“Fia, Neva,” her grandfather called, leaning on the table for support as he got to his feet. “Both of you, go home at once.”
“What’s happening?” Fia asked.
“We’re in danger. Go.”
BOOM. A second one, echoing through the houses and walls of the city. Another many-voiced shout.
“It’s the city gate!” somebody shouted from the top of the market wall. “They’re breaching the gate at the Via Paloma. To arms! To arms!”
“Who is breaching the gate?” Fia cried, but her voice was drowned in the chaos that broke out. Women screamed for their children. Shopkeepers started to their feet, drawing swords, some throwing their wares quickly back onto their mule carts. Heavy wooden shutters slammed shut over windows.
Suddenly, at Fia’s back stood Teita Anna, her grandmother, so swiftly that Fia jumped. Teita Anna was barely taller than Fia, wearing her sand-colored scarf over her black hair. But her grandmother’s presence made Fia suddenly feel safe, despite the panic rising around her, despite another BOOM that shuddered the air, followed by screams.
Teita touched a sash that she always wore as she watched the piazza intently. Fia knew that her knives were under that sash. Even all these years later, Teita kept several knives on her person, even though she hadn’t worked as an assassin for years.
“What’s happening?” Neva said nervously.
“The Sienese army is at the gates,” Teita said. “You must go home at once.”
“The Sienese army?” Neva gasped, her eyes lighting.
Fia quickly nocked a blunted arrow on her bow as the panic grew around them. If the Sienese army was here – another BOOM at the city gates chilled her blood – then that meant…
“That means the exiles have returned,” Fia whispered.
“Yes,” said Teita. “The exiles are trying to force their way back into the city.”
Meet Author Melinda R. Cordell
I write YA and MG fantasy. After 20 years of trying to be traditionally published, and after many times when I got so close, I went over to self-publishing in September 2016 and before I knew it, I had 22 books out in the world, and I am having the best time ever.
My latest series is the Dragonriders of Fiorenza, about Fia, an enterprising dragonrider, and her dragon, Ryelleth, who are trying to rescue her kidnapped father and stop an all-out war. Assassin's Blade, the first book, will be out on May 7th!
Interview with Melinda R. Coredell:
Q: Hi Melinda! Tell us a little about yourself please. Did you always want to be an author?
MC: Hello, I’m Melinda R. Cordell. I hail from northwest Missouri, and right now I am trying to focus on dragon fantasy and also gardening books, at the same time. I’ve been writing stories since I was four years old, and yes, I always wanted to be an author. I’ve been sending out stories since 1996, when I was a hotshot writer in college. I had always paid attention to craft, had read widely, I researched my genre – did everything I thought I was
supposed to do. Even though I got multiple revise and resubmit offers from agents and editors, and got very close to getting a few publishing deals and agents, I never was able to get to a solid yes. I did manage to get one traditionally published book, about women in the Civil War. (I love
doing historical research.) I earned an MFA for writing in 2012, which was super-cool, But even after my degree and my publication credit, I could not get an agent. Finally I rage-quit traditional publishing and went to self-publishing in 2016. Holy cow, guys, it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I published my whole backlog of novels that the agents said no to. I published a bunch of gardening books (I used to be a horticulturist) which are my bread and butter. I have been having a complete blast, churning out books. Now I’m trying to concentrate on publishing in one genre at a time (technically, two genres) and do some proper marketing. I’m kind of an ADHD gal, have been all my life, so it’s tough for me to stick with one
thing at a time. I have about 15 shiny story ideas trying to distract me from my Dragonriders series right now. Such is my life.
Q: Why fantasy? What drew you to the genre?
MC: I’ve always read fantasy novels since I was a kid. The Borrowers, the Earthsea cycle, the Dragonriders of Pern, all of Robin McKinley’s books. I’d try reading contemporary fiction but those books bored the socks off me. I went after books that built amazing worlds filled with incredible magic. I loved books with people running like hell everywhere they went. I love wisecracks. Me and my husband and kids love the Marvel movies because of the characters are wonderful and there’s all this funny stuff, but
also the stakes are larger-than-life. I’m doing my damndest to write books like that, because that’s what I love to read.
Q: For those who are new to your books, what is the story about?
MC: It’s about Fia, a wily dragonrider, who sees her father kidnapped before her eyes. The kidnappers demand a ransom that will bankrupt her whole family – her mother falls into a coma – so Fia pulls her retired assassin grandma out of retirement to hunt down the kidnappers and rescue her father. Fia has a lot of other crap being thrown at her. She’s been promised in marriage and her future father-in-law, who’s kind of a dick, is trying to move her marriage date up because he wants her dragon as her bridal-price. “If you’re good, we’ll let you ride it sometimes,” says her husband-to-be. The book is an alternate version of medieval Italy, about Dante’s time. Guys, that place was nuts. I’ve been reading for years about the infighting between the city-states, the nations, and the Pope and
the kings, and even all these years I’m still confused as hell about what was going on, only that everybody seemed to be at everybody elses’ throats. So into the fray goes Fia and her dragon Ryelleth, and those two make the ultimate team and they love each other so much, but everybody is
trying to tear them apart.
Q: Is any part of your story or the characters based on personal experience?
MC: Well, when it comes down to it, everything we write is, don’t you think? Because “I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’ Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin faces
For ever and forever when I move.” All Tennyson aside, no I don’t have a dragon (I wish I did). But as I was reading about the history of
Florence, I often wondered how I would have fared in those days – forced into an arranged marriage, not taught to read, stuck with doing only women’s work, my worth measured by how many babies I could crank out. I feel fortunate that I live now, where I’ve been able to get my master’s degree, work a man’s job, ignore housework, and buy enough books so I could make a fort and live in them. I only hope that I would have had Fia’s grit. (I probably would have, but it would have all come out in
passive-aggressive ways, which would make a boring story lol.)
Q: What is a typical writing day like for you? What inspires you?
MC: A series of distractions that are perpetually interrupted by different distractions. I have a seven year old kid who wants me to play with him, an 18 year old kid, and a husband who’s recovering from a long
hospitalization. Also various pets, including a few chickens. To add to the fun, I have a full-time job, and I make feeble attempts to keep up with housework and cook something like a meal so we make good use of our quarantine food. I have to hide in the bedroom to write, and then everybody comes back and sits down and starts talking. Guys! Go clean the house for me, I’m trying to write! Geez!!
Q: Where can our readers find you? (Social media, website, etc.)
MC: I’m on Facebook at @rosefiend, on Twitter at @rosefiend. My website is Melindacordell.com.
You can also find me in Missouri, but I’d advise against it since there’s a pandemic going on right now.
Thank you, Melinda!