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THE MOUNTAIN GODDESS
Author: Shelley Schanfield
Publisher: Lake House
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.
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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
“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
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
“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
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.”
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- This giveaway ends midnight April 28.
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1.) What inspired you to write The Mountain Goddess ?
I’ve long been fascinated by the Buddha, his life, and his teachings, which have given me strength at several very stressful times in my life. When my son and I were studying for our black belts in the Korean martial art Tae Kwon Do, I became interested in the way Buddhism had influenced Asian martial arts in general.
I’m also an avid reader of historical fiction. The story of Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha, has all the elements needed for a great novel: a historical period filled with conflict, a man who has everything and yet remains unsatisfied, and impossible choices between love, duty, and spiritual freedom. Yes, there are novels about him but none that really brought him to life for me. So I decided to write my own!
This required a lot of research. Fortunately, I live virtually (in all senses of the word) next door to great university libraries. With all the skill and passion of my profession (I have a Masters in Library Science), I dove into the history and legends of his time and place, 2500 years ago in northeastern India. I found wonderful tales about the women who followed him. Their spiritual journeys inspired me to write their stories, and to see the Buddha through their eyes.
I’m also an avid reader of historical fiction. For years I searched for a good novel
2.) What was the hardest part in writing The Mountain Goddess?
It’s all been hard, but so rewarding. I had to reinvent characters from the legends, telling their stories in my own way to the point where I sometimes switched their gender! But in the process, I discovered that writing is like yoga or meditation; a discipline that calms and focuses the mind.
Then the process of rewriting, throwing out what didn’t work, rewriting and rewriting again, then sending it off to a professional editor who suggested even more rewriting, all that was very difficult but necessary. I whittled millions of words down to thousands, and the story has adventure, romance, passion, heartbreak, and redemption.
3.) What was the easiest part of writing The Mountain Goddess?
No part was easy. But writing the sex scenes was the most fun.
4.) Which Character do you consider more to be like?
Any resemblance of any character to any real person, alive or dead, is strictly coincidental. That said, every character has some of me in them. Writers are lucky that way: we get to live many lives. (Is this what is really meant by past an future lives? No…yet…could be…) In The Mountain Goddess, the character who most represents my point of view would be Sakhi. She is the best friend of that rebel Dhara, who is a gifted warrior and yogi, and who captures Siddhartha’s heart. But where Dhara doesn’t want marriage and children, this is Sakhi’s dream. And though she doesn’t have Dhara’s warrior spirit, she has quiet courage of her own, and compassion, too. I strive to be like her.
5.) Do you have any upcoming projects coming up and if so can you tell us about it?
The Mountain Goddess is Book Two in The Sadhana Trilogy. Book One, The Tigress and the Yogi, came out in January 2016. Now I’m working on Book Three. Sign up on my website (shelleyschanfield.com) to get updates on its progress!
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.
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