Tuesday, March 21, 2017

THE MOUNTAIN GODDESS by Shelley Schanfield Excerpt, Giveaway & Interview

We invite you to Shelley Schanfield's THE MOUNTAIN GODDESS Blog Tour! Please leave a comment to let Shelley know you stopped by and while you're at it, enter to win a free e-copy of THE MOUNTAIN GODDESS! 

Author: Shelley Schanfield
Publisher: Lake House Books
Pages: 471
Genre: Historical Fantasy

A beautiful warrior princess. A tormented prince. A terrible choice between love, duty, and spiritual freedom.

In ancient India, rebellious Dhara runs away to a sacred mountain to study with the powerful yogi Mala, a mysterious woman with a violent past. Flung by war onto an adventure-filled journey, Dhara meets and captures the heart of Siddhartha, whose skill in the martial arts and extraordinary mental powers equal her own.

Worldly power and pleasure seduce Dhara, creating a chasm between her and her husband, who longs to follow a sage’s solitary path. She takes on the warrior’s role Siddhartha does not want, and when she returns wounded from battle court intrigue drives them further apart. As Siddhartha’s discontent with royal life intensifies, Dhara’s guru Mala, who has returned to her life as a ruthless outlaw, seeks her former pupil for her own evil purposes.

Dhara’s and Siddhartha’s love keeps evil at bay, but their son’s birth brings on a spiritual crisis for the prince.  If he leaves his kingdom to seek enlightenment, he turns his back on love and duty and risks destroying his people. Only Dhara can convince him to stay. 


Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Excerpt:

The scouting party found the wild-looking woman at the waterfall, asleep by the pool.
“Stay, daughter,” Dhara’s father hissed. She pulled her pony’s reins and halted next to his sturdy horse.
“Who is she, Father?” Dhara whispered back, unable to look away from this apparition, whose skin was as dark as the fearsome goddess Kali’s. She wore a deerskin around her loins, and long, tangled black hair covered her breasts. Well-muscled arms and legs lay akimbo, as if the woman had fallen in exhaustion. A short sword in a jeweled scabbard was thrust into the faded red sash around her waist and a knife was tied to one leg.
“I see no one else, Chief Dandapani!” A young warrior crashed out of the dry underbrush. Monsoon clouds had yet to thunder against Himalaya’s peaks and drench the Koli clan’s high forest home, and dead twigs and branches crackled as he emerged.
The woman sat up straight, instantly awake. The scouting party drew swords or notched arrows, but she did not reach for her weapons. Instead, she stood up in one smooth motion, magnificent and tall. She swiveled her head with deliberate calm, as if measuring her chances against five armed men.
Who was this creature? Dhara sat proud and tall on her pony, trying to look older than her twelve years. Look at me, she wanted to shout, but the woman gave her only the briefest glance.
The woman and the chief locked eyes.
“Namaste,” she said, putting her palms together with that same deliberate slowness. “I am Mala.”
“Mala.” Dandapani gave a quick nod and shifted on his horse. “I am Dandapani, chief of the Kolis. These are our lands. Few travel them and none without our permission.”
“Chief Dandapani, my guru Asita sent me here to make a solitary retreat. I seek only to practice the Lord of Yoga’s disciplines at the mountain goddess’s sacred cave.”
 “Asita!” Dhara was astonished. She glanced up at Dhavalagiri’s snow-capped peak towering above them. It was hard to imagine that the skinny old yogi who had lived up there when Dhara was a little girl was guru to this woman, who looked more like a warrior than a wandering truth-seeker.
Dandapani cocked his head. “Asita was a great favorite among us Kolis.”
“He spoke highly of your clan,” Mala said.
Dandapani and Mala had not taken their eyes off each other. “You are hardly the first sage to seek shelter at the cave, but you may be the first woman.” He smiled faintly. “And the first to come with such a fine sword.”
Mala’s narrowed her eyes. “A woman faces many dangers when she travels alone. But now I have no further need of it. I offer the sword to you, Chief Dandapani.” 
“A fine gift. I accept.”
“Father,” Dhara said in a tremulous whisper. “We must offer hospitality to a truth-seeker…it’s dharma.”
Before Dandapani could reply, Jagai, the weapons master, spoke. “I don’t like this. How do we know who she is? They say Angulimala is hiding in the mountains with picked men, making bloody sacrifices to Black Kali and plotting against the lowland kingdoms. ”
Dhara took sharp breath. Even the isolated Koli clan had heard the rumors. The infamous outlaw queen Angulimala, who some said was Kali incarnate, had disappeared, leaving her renegade army leaderless.
Dandapani suddenly grinned. “How do we know she’s not a demoness? A mortal woman wouldn’t have dared such a journey alone.”
Mala laughed out loud. Jagai frowned and the other warriors looked startled. A powerful current was passing between her father and this woman that Dhara didn’t understand.
“Either way, we have no quarrel with you,” the chief said to Mala. “What happens in the kingdoms along Ganga’s river is no concern of ours. And even a demoness may seek wisdom.” 
“I assure you, my lord Dandapani. I am a simple yogi, seeking peace and solitude.”
A woman yogi! Seeking the highest knowledge, which once gained would make others strive to learn wisdom at her feet! Not just some clever Brahmin wife like those in the village priest’s instructive stories, who received all her learning from a wise husband but had no real mind of her own.
“Well, daughter.” Dandapani looked at Dhara. “What do you say?”
Dhara’s throat was dry. “N-namaste, Mala-ji.” She bowed her head. “Food and a bed await you in our village.”

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Five winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive an e-copy of THE MOUNTAIN GODDESS.
  • This giveaway ends midnight April 28.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Shelley Schanfield’s passion for Buddhism and yoga arose sixteen years ago, when she and her son earned black belts in Tae Kwon Do. The links between the martial arts and Buddhist techniques to calm and focus the mind fascinated her. By profession a librarian, Shelley plunged into research about the time, place, and spiritual traditions that 2500 years ago produced Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. Yoga, in some form, has a role in all of these traditions. Its transformational teachings soon prompted Shelley to hang up her black belt and begin a yoga practice that she follows to this day.

Because she loves historical fiction, Shelley looked for a good novel about the Buddha. When she didn’t find one that satisfied her, she decided to write her own novels based on the spiritual struggles of women in the Buddha’s time. She published the first book in the Sadhana Trilogy, The Tigress and the Yogi, in 2016 and will publish the second, The Mountain Goddess in early 2017. 




Where are you from?
I aim to be the most famous writer from Excelsior, Minnesota, a town on the shores of Lake Minnetonka (think Lake Woebegon). A great place to grow up, but I was restless and headed for the San Francisco Bay Area for college and grad school (Masters in Library Science—which helped greatly when I began to write). Then a move back to the Midwest, this time Ann Arbor, Michigan (Go Blue!), where I raised two kids, two cats, and where I am still working on making my husband into the perfect man.

Tell us your latest news?
The Mountain Goddess has just been released! It’s Book Two in The Sadhana Trilogy, about the fierce, passionate women of the Buddha’s time and place, 2500 years ago in a semi-mythical India .

When and why did you begin writing?
Several factors in my life converged about sixteen years ago and spurred me to write. Devastating illness struck our family, and with it came the realization that if you have a dream you have to start pursuing it now. You don’t know what the future will bring. I was in a fortunate position: my husband had a good career, so in this difficult time I could leave my own profession and focus on caring for our young children and aging relatives. While that was a full-time job, it was flexible in a way that allowed me to try my hand at writing, a youthful dream that had been shelved too long.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I first opened a lined notebook with the intention that one day I would publish what I wrote there, I considered that I was on the writer’s path. But it is Colette that said, “Put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it." I’ve written millions of words, but only a very small percentage of them made it into the final versions of my novels. So I now consider myself an author.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I love historical fiction, and with my interest in Buddhism, I searched for a good novel about the Buddha. His story has everything: the conflict between power and peace, between love and duty. But no one had written one that satisfied me, so I decided to write my own. A good university library was practically next door, the internet was at my fingertips, and with a librarian’s passion for knowledge, I plunged into research about the Buddha’s era. The legends about the women of his time particularly inspired me, and so I re-imagined them to tell not just the story of Prince Siddhartha’s search for enlightenment, but to show how a woman’s spiritual journey might unfold.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I like to call my genre “historical fantasy” or maybe “mythical realism.” I’m an old-fashioned girl and I love an old-fashioned story line, sprinkled with magic and myth and romance..

How did you come up with the title?
The Mountain Goddess is an actual place in the novel, the mountain peak that guards the village where the heroine, Dhara, is born and raised. She goes on to capture the heart of Prince Siddhartha, who will become the Buddha. But the title also refers to the divine feminine in every woman, the latent powers she has only to recognize to unleash.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
It’s not so much a “Message” with a capital “M” that I want readers to grasp, but the wonder and adventure and wisdom that can be found in India’s myths and legends.

How much of the book is realistic?
Is it realistic for a young woman to talk to a tigress or see a goddess in a forest glade?  I hope readers will think so!  I wanted to bring epic, mythical characters to life as living, breathing, three-dimensional people.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My characters are creations of my imagination, and any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Oh, there are not enough pages to list all of them. I would refer people to my Goodreads bookshelves for an idea of what I like. It’s fair to say that I wanted to write books about the Buddha that made him as real as T.H. White’s The Once and Future King brought the legend of Arthur, Guinever, and Lancelot to life. I wanted to create a world that was as fully realized as Frank Herbert’s Dune. And I wanted them to be as compulsively readable as Guy Gavriel Kay’s historical fantasies or George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones novels.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I’m still searching for that mentor, but I’ve had great support and encouragement from my early teachers, my editors, and my colleagues.

What book are you reading now?

I always have more than one book going. My daughter is living in Morocco, and I recently read Jane Johnson’s excellent historical romance The Sultan’s Wife and plan to pick up her novel The Salt Road, also set in Morocco. I love reading about mythology, and am reading Devdutt Pattanaik’s Olympus, which is an Indian retelling of Greek myths. For a bit of fun, I’m reading Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I recently read the fantasy City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett. Its very appealing heroine, the unassuming junior diplomat Shara Thivani, turns into a woman of exceptional courage. I’m looking forward to reading #2 in this series, City of Blades, which features a woman general called out of retirement to find a missing secret agent.

What are your current projects?
I am currently working on Book Three of The Sadhana Trilogy.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members?
The Ann Arbor Area Writers Group has provided excellent companionship, serious critiquing, and plenty of shared laughter over the years.

What would you like my readers to know?
I hope they have safe and peaceful places in which to read my books and many others, and that they will join me in the prayer that all people in the world may have the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment