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Reflections on an Epic

Kat has me so happy over on my own site I’ve seldom posted here in the past year or so, but today I’m thinking about a major milestone in a chronicling career, celebrated this week. It’s just another book, I suppose. But The Eye of Kog is that most fabulous of monstrous beasts, that legendary chimera so many seek and never find.

It’s an epic fantasy sequel.

Hooked from the Start… Make that Tangled

jt-full-amazon-webThink about two tales, two seemingly-separate plot lines. That’s what I thought I had, when I finally decided to chronicle the Lands of Hope back in 2008. As I was drawn into Solemn Judgement’s early days, and looked more closely at how he came to Hope and began to influence the history of the Lands, I figured there would be a novel-length tale about his deeds. Other things were happening, there’s always more. But my dull brain couldn’t see beyond the part that was “Judgement’s tale” at first.

It was just the ending that was killing me.

All’s Well, When it Ends with All

By the time Solemn does his best against the worst, I could no longer ignore the fact that there were these other guys around. A whole party of them, candidly. And even more frustrating, the people Judgement met on his journeys, when he walks a circuit of the northern Kingdoms in the second half of the tale, kept popping up and… well, doing things,  things that were important to understanding the stakes, dare I say the theme of the darn thing. Assuming it all belonged in another book somewhere, I kept trying to juggle some excuse to introduce them in the last few pages. Long entries in the Kingdom Chronicle– ahm, no, even the Children of Hope don’t read that thing before Anteris takes it up. I tried for the minimum– no soap, each element of summary and recap just pulled on threads that extended further and further back, into “Judgement’s tale”, but really not separate from it.Created with Nokia Refocus

I broke down at last, of course. Two novels, entwined, telling both stories at once (well even that’s a simplification, telling the whole story in order). Without Treaman, Gareth, Linya, Pol and the others, I would never be able to show the story of Solemn Judgement at all. Sleeves rolled up, shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone… just try getting any work done in that position! But then I sat my butt down and started to type. All the threads into one tapestry: and I think the results have been worth it.

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Even today, every time I think to myself “that tale is told” I feel a kind of shock, as if I’ve gone over a hill on a rollercoaster. I re-read the whole thing on the polishes, and again on the edit, and each time I’ve had that wonderful feeling authors get, that strange sense that someone else must have written about your characters. {Oh yeah, that bit where two knights and two squires fight a pair of giants by the salt pool, that was pretty good stuff!} Why did that poor girl in Hollinsfen have to die? You’re telling me she’s a ghost now too? And how ironic, when the Chosen Wanderer is down and wounded, only a grey-clad gate-walker who’s tramped five hundred leagues can get past the knight’s fierce warhorse to help him, because Solemn knows Quester by name.

All here, woven together: the lost city of Oncario, travel through time, the curse of lycanthropy, miracles of restoration in the middle of the chaos-lands, a falling crimson star, warriors who can disappear at will, one king crowned and another going without; and naturally, a desperate race againVuth2.JPGst time and the odds. There’s a lot more than “Judgement’s tale” in The Eye of Kog: Solemn is still there, a bright grey thread that runs through the center. But now he’s in his proper place, sojourning in search of knowledge beyond the world that has not yet adopted him, a drumbeat to the symphony ushering in the Age of Adventure for the Lands of Hope.

With this book, most likely the longest and most complex chain of events that needs to be told about my world is on paper. Hardcover first, for anyone who likes to prop open a fire door after reading. And I dedicated this sequel to you, the readers, because with all my heart I believe that this, reading an epic, is an heroic feat in today’s world. I hope you will attempt it, and believe you will find the effort well rewarded. I know I have.


The Joys (You Heard Me!) of Revision

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before. I’m revising a novel, The Eye of Kog, by which I mean going about it in the same way most other authors do. It’s an incredible feeling: I’m running with “joy” in my title today but I think the best word might be “stunned”. Thought I’d ruminate on why, and see if anyone else has the same feeling.

Not Writing Anymore!

Astonished1That’s the first thing, the breaking of a habit that leaves me feeling as if I’m constantly stumbling forward against a vanished resistance. I was writing this thing for so long. If you work on several WiPs simultaneously, you may not get this, but I dropped my “other” tale long ago. Every day walking around not hearing the first of half of anything my lovely wife says, every time I miss my turn driving to the store because I’m distracted, every half-hour before sleep, every night: the tale, the chapter I was on, where the characters were and what was going to happen next.

Sure, I knew the tale in the sense of the big picture. I knew it intimately in fact: I have for decades. But I don’t outline, or character-map- there’s no bridge between in-the-head and on-the-paper, just a big leap across that space. It’s a little like having seen Star Wars twenty times: you know it, right? But now you have to sit down and replicate the screenplay, shot by shot.

Anyway, that was an intense level of involvement, and I couldn’t believe how long I went on with it.

Two years.

Of Long Standing

Yes, I was writing The Eye of Kog at that pace for nearly two solid years, and I can prove it. Whenever my author friends and I finish a chapter, we lob it up on our mutual comment Lecturing2board over at Write Stuff Extreme, and then exchange feedback on each others’ work. If you don’t do this, start. Seriously, not one word to me, not one shaken finger about outlining or note-taking or anything. Get a beta group. Don’t make me come over there.

So my first post on the board for EK is dated July 14th 2014. I went back to start my revision and could not believe my eyes. Like Treaman’s party when they first sight the lost city of Oncario, I knew it had to be 2015, at most. Two years? All that time… but this was not a short tale like Fencing Reputation. And it involved several characters whose history I did not know as well as those in Judgement’s Happy2Tale. I bet many of you have felt this, the sense of re-acquaintance with things you wrote, characters introduced, action described. Like a chore you forgot you had done, you walk in and your heart shouts “bonus! winning!”

And then there’s the cousin of that feeling, with the same exultation and none of the recognition.

Really? I Wrote THAT!

I know other authors have felt this way because they’ve told me. Maybe it happens more often when you write longer books, I’m not sure. But there’s that paragraph, the section of 1k or 2k or more that is not yours. It’s just in your book. You know? Oh it’s part of the book alright– carries the plot forward, develops the character, balances dialogue with action. But no way I could have written this.

Usually, I feel that way because it’s good: and when I look at the posting date, more often than not it came out right away, on the next day after the chapter before it. Or even on the same day. That’s really hard for me to do, because I’m a day-job dilettante and can never count on steady time to write. Where did this burst of creativity come from? Too hard to figure out. Much easier for me to assume someone snuck in and tapped on my keyboard while I wasn’t looking. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Thanks, whoever you were, for stopping by. Come again.

The Dragon of Perfect

Bumps along the way, though? Oh hell yes.

Thinking1The Perfect Dragon rears her ugly head– well wait, it’s a gorgeous scaly head, the acme of draconic beauty, I’m sure, but the beholder’s eye in this case is mine, and she’s trying to consume me, so… ugly. She rears her head chiefly in two places. One, in the tiny cramped space within her cave, over wording. The other high in the sky as she flies and flames, at the level of chapters.

Different readers trip on different phrases, and you can’t say yes to everyone. I’m so proud of my grammar, my syntax (whatever the hell that is) my idioms and voice and tense-choices. Anyone, absolutely anyone points out a problem and the Dragon Perfect starts to growl and hiss. Did I mention how defensive I am? See, I ALREADY went over the wording. A lot, man! I re-read my chapters out loud, I swap adjectives, I Astonished1bounce out the present-tense verbs that snuck in when I wasn’t looking. And who does anyone else think they are, to post a comment (private board) telling me the way I wrote it was– I can hardly say it– wrong?

Down, Dragon. Every sentence can take one more read-through, where’s the harm. I have spent half an hour in the cave over a single paragraph, and when the smoke cleared I realized my lunging, clawing adversary was my reflection in a mirror. Back-space, tap-tap, fixed. Yeah, more often than not, they were right. Hey, almost like, like they were trying to help me when they posted it.

But up in the air, that’s harder. This is the part of revision where you have to entertain the notion that your chapters are in the wrong order. Or that there are too many. Dragon Perfect swoops in with a full head of steam against such offenders and again it’s Katie bar the door because my Defensive Shield is set to eleven. MY wonderful opus? Rearrange, clarify or even (gaspity-gasp) cut? Don’t you know that’s a three-letter word around here?

Jealous1Long and short, I usually fend off such suggestions. You have to stick up for your work and my brave beta-readers, as loyal as they were, couldn’t possibly hold the themes, the minor characters, the long breaks between visits, in their memory over the course of twenty-four months with clarity. I’m the guy who’s been walking around with this in his head for two years. I have to trust my judgment (inside joke!) on this one. So yeah, those themes, threads, added characters, and chapters pretty much stayed where they were.

One thing, though, I never expected and it even knocked out Dragon Perfect this time.

Add a chapter, my readers said.

And I was like– crazy beta-readers say whaaat?

Add a chapter. Maybe two.

The Creation Unlooked For

To coin Tolkien’s phrase, I could never have expected the result of feedback would be to Horrified2make my chronicles even longer. Maybe deep down I don’t have enough faith in my tales? But my good friends got to the heart of it. I just hate villains, is all. And I don’t show them much: I hint at them, feint and fake and mention them, or have folks find evidence of their passing, stuff like that. This is epic fantasy, it’s not like they have redeeming qualities!

But the reasons piled up, and I bet other authors know the feeling. Something kindles inside, you start to see possibilities. Nobody shows every second of a hero’s life– when they use the bathroom for instance, though I do show a prince and his squires seeking them. There’s a lot of mindless destruction and bad-doings my villains indulge in, before they finally get theirs. Plenty of stuff to draw on. I’m thinking now about how to advance the plot, increase the tension, improve the tale. AND, by the bye, give you all another much-needed glimpse of a powerful character doing what he does, well worst.

Thoughtful2So again, calm down Dragon. I got this.

Revising is a peculiar joy, with twinges of doubt, wonder and regret flavoring it. Maybe letting go of my daughter’s hand on her wedding day will be a bit like it. I might never think the tale is ready. Pretty certain I’m not. But here it goes all the same.

Have you experienced the joys of revision? Did you read something and wish it had another run before you bought it?

Summer Holidays and Writing

As long as your kids are still in school, summer holidays are a recurring feature. For me that means a lot less time to write but much more time to read. The reason is simple. While my kids accept that I need to work, their constant needs and questions (whom I love to answer) stifle my creativity. So I tend to do revisions or proofreading when they are around.

This year however the holidays started so early that they’re nearly over already. What ate into my writing time the most was the fact that my middle daughter is getting braces. For them she needs two teeth to be pulled (which I had to arrange), visit the dentist specialist 3 times (once for the mold, next for the brace, and last because one of the little metal bits didn’t stuck to her tooth. It came off last night and we had to go back again), and another visit to the normal dentist to get the teeth cleaned professionally. I just hope all that driving around will be over soon.

Strangely enough, this year I seem to be struggling more than the other years. Maybe it’s because of the additional hustle, or maybe it’s because the holidays started so early, I don’t know. I do know that I have to adjust my daily routine. What are you doing to get through holiday times (whether with or without kids)?

What Independence Means to Me (As An Author)

July 1st was Indie Pride Day to celebrate independent authors. Today is Independence Day in the U.S., a holiday that many of my neighbors like to celebrate by grilling in their backyards and setting off illegal fireworks. While I hide inside with my frightened cats, I thought I would take the time to reflect on what it means for me to be an independent, or self-published, author.

I’ve been a writer since I started dictating stories to my mom at age five, but I didn’t have as much interest in traditional publishing. I enjoyed sharing my stories with others but I liked to keep control over them. When the internet took off, I switched from swapping notebooks with friends to sharing on fanfic groups, but a few negative experiences led me to creating my own website for my writing so I had control. Meanwhile, I researched traditional publishing markets, but I was turned off by the heavily restricted contracts. I liked the internet’s freedom to connect directly with readers throughout the world, even though I wasn’t getting paid a cent. No one could tell me what to write or how my stories should be presented.
Three years ago, I finally took the plunge by self-publishing my first novel, Small Town Witch. I spent eighteen months preparing and did a lot of research before I uploaded that book, but I quickly found out how much I still had to learn. Even today, I spend a lot of my time learning about writing, editing, covers, marketing, and everything else that goes into publishing my own books. It’s a lot of work, and since it’s an always-changing world, there will always be new things to learn. I’m far from an expert, but I see that even the most successful and smart indie authors are constantly adjusting to keep up with the demands of readers, new technology, and different conditions on various ebook stores.
But I haven’t regretted one moment of this journey. I know that trying to do everything myself means I’m the only one to blame for my mistakes, but I like the process of trying new things and learning. I’ll never fail, because ebooks never have to go out of print and I can keep improving. I’m not a bestseller by any measure, but every book I put out is a little better than the last, and my sales are growing. Doing the work myself means that I also keep the largest share of the profits. And no one can make me do something that I don’t want.
Could it be easier if I’d been accepted by one of the big traditional publishing houses? Yes, but that’s no guarantee that my books would sell any more copies than they are right now, or that they’d be the same books at the end of the process. I know that my stories aren’t quite mainstream or have a wide enough appeal to sell millions of copies. I’m okay with that. I don’t need to be the next Hugh Howey or Andy Weir. But if there’s a hundred people out there who like my quirky stories, then I’m happy to find them. Independent publishing lets me share my stories with the readers who like them, so I’m proud to be part of this self-publishing movement. And I’m happy that I can also work with other authors like those here at the Independent Bookworm.

Playing with Words: Sword & Sorcery

I recently wrote a story to submit to a “sword & sorcery” anthology. I wracked my brain trying to think of a tale to tell that met the requirements. Finally, I decided to revisit a character I created several years ago. Some of you may remember Kaitlyn from “Ensorcelled.” Here’s how her new story begins:

Kaitlyn felt him die. Felt his spirit depart this world, though it had been years since she’d seen his beloved face.

She stumbled, though the path through the white-barked aspen trees was well known to her and the morning clear and bright.

Fear and grief assaulted her mind.

She felt his power return to the reservoir of ambient magic. Felt a cresting wave of urgent desire break against her will as the magic in the very air around her ebbed and flowed, seeking a new balance.

The Firestone awoke, scrabbling for energy as it tried to claim more magic, claim more of her life.

She collapsed to the bare ground, bracing herself against the rough trunk of an aspen. Dropping her gathering basket, she hugged her knees beneath scrunched and disheveled skirts and petticoats.

“No,” she whispered through gritted teeth, sweat beading her forehead. “No. You will not advance. I refuse to allow it.”

Closing her eyes, her brow furrowed in concentration, she weathered the magical spike, struggled against the fingerless golden glove that covered her right hand and forearm, against the slender tendrils that sought to extend toward her elbow. With gritted teeth and clenched fists she fought for control…and won.

The fine tendrils retreated, the golden glove quieted. The magical storm calmed.

Tears slid down her heated cheeks. Partly in relief that she’d once again mastered the Firestone, but mostly in mourning for her dead friend. Aelfric, the master sorcerer to whom she had once been a contrary and headstrong apprentice.

She rested her head on her knees and reflected for a moment on her loss while her pulse slowed and her breathing quieted, becoming even again. Aelfric was gone, the master who had guided her through the turbulent adjustment after she’d so rashly used the Firestone to defeat the evil wizard, Darius. She’d won a war and saved her brother, but at a terrible personal cost.

King Lorien had hailed her a hero, but the common folk had the right of it—they named her the Solitary Sorceress.

For that was the price the Firestone had demanded of Kaitlyn, that headstrong fourteen-year-old apprentice. She had dared to summon the powerful talisman from its resting place and it had come to her in its quiescent state, a simple gold ring. But when she had claimed its power to defeat Darius, when she had placed the ring on her finger, it had bonded with her flesh, sending tendrils into her very bones, wrapping her hand and wrist in a golden sheath that had extended to her forearm before the battle ended.

The Firestone made her invincible.

It also made her untouchable.

Playing with Words

I’ve been writing short stories recently and part of that, at least for me, is playing with openings. Sitting down, writing whatever comes into my mind, and then discovering whether or not that opening holds the seeds of a story.

Just for fun, I’ve been posting some of these experiments on my website. I’ve named the series “Prompt Openings” because I often use a prompt to get the words flowing. (I keep a spreadsheet of words, phrases, objects, pieces of titles that catch my fancy and then use the entries as prompts.)

So, here is a recent opening that has become another Dani Erickson tale. The prompt? “Brothers and demons.” Yeah. That was pretty much destined to be a Dani story😀

High school. It’s a totally different world than what I expected when I first stepped through the glass-paned front doors last year. Back then I’d just discovered my destiny as a demon hunter and was still focused on the mundane issues I’d always anticipated when entering the big-leagues of public education. You know what I’m talking about: bullying upper classmen; cute boys who didn’t know I existed; cliques of mean girls; cute boys who would break my heart; teachers intent on writing tests filled with the most tedious details imaginable; cute boys who wouldn’t return my affection. The normal problems of a teenage girl’s life.

What I hadn’t expected to find were kids just like my six older brothers who were demon-ridden. Literally. Teens with small, rat-faced demons riding their backs, claws firmly embedded in necks and scalps, draining their victims’ life force while whispering evil suggestions into their psyches.

That was then.

Now, my high school was a much happier place. I’d defeated hundreds of personal demons and enough of the larger, humanoid demons that the vermin were wary of stepping foot on my territory, and Longmont High was very definitely my territory. Consequently, kids were kinder, more gentle than the national average. Teachers — many of whom were also demon-ridden when I arrived — were more inclined to be helpful, more willing to explain difficult concepts multiple times, seeking alternate examples to get their points across.

Now, I’m not claiming that my school was a utopia once I’d exterminated the demon pests, but it was, on the whole, a calmer, more civilized environment than anyone had a right to expect … and that was largely due to me.

Even my youngest older brother said so. Jamie had been at Longmont High for a year or two before I arrived. He definitely noticed the difference. Of course, he also knew all about my demon-hunting abilities. He’d learned my secret when I rescued him from a horde of demons who were using him as bait last spring. And to my eternal surprise, he’d kept my secret.

For a price.

“You want what?” I asked, my eyes bulging and my face heating. “Wick doesn’t do charity work.”

“That’s my price.” Jamie folded his arms across his chest and stared at me with familiar belligerence. “You want me to keep your secret. Fine. I’ll risk the Wrath of Mom, but I expect something in return. I want Wick to teach me how to fight. If you can do it, so can I.”

I shook my head and stomped onto the little bridge in the center of Loomiller Park. We’d needed privacy for this conversation, so we’d headed to the park where we could see anyone approaching long before they could hear what we were saying.

“And just what are you going to do with said fighting skills,” I asked, not bothering to keep the sarcastic tone out of my voice. This was Jamie, after all. The closest brother to my age. We were rarely civil to each other, even without the excuse of personal demons.

He frowned, but his jaw jutted out at a stubborn angle. “Once I’m trained,” he said, “I’ll help you fight demons. Make sure you don’t get yourself killed, ‘cause if you did and Mom found out I’d known anything, I’d follow you to the grave in about a heartbeat.”

I laughed out loud. “Help me fight demons?” I said. “When you can’t even see them? How’s that going to work?”

An Interview with Annie Lima

Q: Well, harumph. I can’t say I’m happy to be doing a “civilized” interview, after the fun I’ve had in Hahn_critic_1my author interview dungeon. Alas, all the cool stuff has been moved to my home blog now; here on IB, there are only soft, cushy chairs, curtains too thick to use for binding ropes and some completely dull, soft plastic tea cups. How am I going to get any information from this vict- ahm, guest? ::muttering:: It’s been so long since I’ve been polite during questioning.

::game-show face :: We welcome Annie Douglass Lima today to talk about her new release The Gladiator and the Guard. This is the second title in her Krillonian Chronicles series, set in a world where modern life coexists with permanent slavery.

Q: Let’s see, a tale of arena combat? You won’t need to work hard to hook this former history teacher! Of course, in the Roman Empire most gladiators had families, and some were quite young, though we hardly think of that. Where did you get the idea to combine these threads and have siblings face the pressures of the arena? It’s a terrific dilemma, very evocative.

Annie Douglass LimaA: Thank you! The idea grew out of the first book, in which I established the principles of slavery and how it works in the Krillonian Empire, a modern world very similar to our own. Of course slaves would have families, and of course they would be separated from them if they were sold away. I just had to decide how and why people would become gladiators (who are perceived by most of that world as athletic heroes but are really still just slaves). In The Gladiator and the Guard, the arena manager obtains new “glads” primarily by purchasing slaves who are already martial arts experts. He occasionally offers contracts to free athletes, but it’s rare for anyone to accept, since that involves payment in advance and then voluntarily entering into slavery in the arena. Plus, contracts are always for a lifetime (and glads’ lives are notoriously short). In the Krillonian Empire, enslavement (usually involving sale by auction) is the legal punishment for certain crimes, so he also keeps an eye on the online auction sites. When violent criminals become available – or anyone with combat experience or documented martial arts abilities runs afoul of the law – he is quick to place a bid.

Q: This is fabulous, a kind of lifetime slavery that’s not strictly racial. Could you elaborate on the kinds of crimes that can get you dumped into this fate? We seem to be talking about people not born to slavery, and that’s always tricky. {Of course, everyone would like to believe they’d heroically resist, and succeed- but then Stockholm Syndrome was discovered…}. But at any rate, Bensin and his sister didn’t do anything wrong, did they?

A: Bensin and his sister actually were born into slavery. Slavery is hereditary, but there are other ways to become a slave, too. Bensin’s parents were enslaved as kids, when their homeland of Tarnestra (originally an independent nation) became part of the Krillonian Empire. The people of Tarnestra fought valiantly to retain independence, and when their resistance was eventually crushed, tens of thousands of Tarnestrans were ripped from their homes and sold into slavery across the empire as a warning to anyone else who might be tempted to resist imperial progress.

Punishing certain crimes with enslavement (not only for the perpetrator but for his or her family) is the government’s way of motivating people to keep the law. Bensin’s friend Ricky, for example, was born free but enslaved at age ten along with his parents and brother, when his dad (who worked for a government agency) was caught embezzling money from his employer. Other crimes punishable by enslavement include murder, armed robbery, and attempting to illegally free slaves.

Q: These works lie very close to the more orthodox epic and heroic fantasy genres, so that leads me to two questions, both driven by envy. When you laid in the “world-building” of the Krillonian Empire, did you find it necessary to go back and pull some out, move some around, etc. or else lose energy in the plot? And do you think it was easier to describe a setting closer to the Alleged Real World (except for, you know, slavery and people fighting for amusement), or was it perhaps harder?

A: I did a lot of planning and prewriting before I started my first draft of the first book, so I didn’t end up having to make too many changes to the worldbuilding once I had begun. Occasionally I thought of new details that I was able to add in as I went along, but those were mostly pretty minor. For example, since slavery in the Krillonian Empire is not based on race, there had to be a specific way to identify slaves. I knew from the beginning that they wear steel collars that lock around their necks, providing their names and their owners’ contact information. Obviously that makes it much harder for slaves to escape, but there are certainly tools out there (in any world) that can cut through metal. In The Collar and the Cavvarach, there came a point when I realized I needed to establish a reason why anyone with bolt cutters couldn’t just go around freeing slaves. So I had a certain mechanic explain to an inquiring young slave that he had to have a special kind of license to own and use such tools in his car repair shop, and that involved security cameras through which the authorities could be watching him at any given moment.

Q: BTW, try to get a little episode called “Gamesters of Triskelion” on your viewing list. Captain Kirk in his beefcake-prime and slave-collars you’ll really like!

I’ll keep that in mind! As for your second question, it was both easier and harder in different ways to create a setting so close to the Alleged Real World. I have a fantasy series that takes place in a totally different world, and with that one, I was able to make all the rules. But it took an awful lot of worldbuilding to flesh everything out. With this series in the Krillonian Empire, I mainly just combined a couple of modern-day Earth cultures and left it at that, of course with the addition of slavery and a made-up martial art. But then there was the challenge of making sure everything I said was consistent with how things really work in our world. For example, I know very little about firearms or martial arts training or the types of mechanical problems an old pickup truck could encounter, but I needed to make those details realistic in the story. I should say, I knew very little about those topics. Dozens of hours of research later, I’m much more knowledgeable!

Q: I should probably have asked this earlier, but who do you think is the target audience for these stories, in terms of age but also anything else you can think of? And is that your “core” audience, I mean the one you always thought you’d be trying to reach?

A: These books are young adult fiction, meaning they’re geared toward teens and adults. I teach fifth grade, and while I know a few of my students have read and enjoyed The Collar and the Cavvarach, I have never suggested it to them, or to anyone else below middle school, as recommended reading (unlike my fantasy books). The subject matter is dark in places, and while there is no sex or language, I don’t really want my fifth graders pondering issues like why the characters would say slavery is worse for girls, for example. The first book contains just a little violence, and that’s mostly in controlled settings like tournaments, where participants fight with unsharpened blades. But the second book would definitely be rated PG-13 for violence, as well as for a few mentions of blood and gore.

I would say the target audience consists of any teens and adults who like an exciting adventure story. Anyone with an interest in martial arts, or perhaps in the gladiators of ancient Rome, would be especially interested. I never thought I would write a martial arts story; I never used to be particularly interested in martial arts myself, and it had never been my goal to reach readers who are. But then along came Bensin with a story that just had to be told, and martial arts were an inextricable part of it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Q: Can you give us a quick run-down on the gladiatorial combat, called cavvara shil, that happens in the tales? The weapon looks decently wicked, but the cover of Book Two also shows a disappointingly-protective looking helmet. You don’t mean to tell me fighters sometimes survive?

A: The martial art of cavvara shil is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  cavvarachI wanted cavvara shil to be a combination of two or three different fighting styles, involving elements of unarmed combat as well as the use of a weapon. It took a few false starts before I had a fighting style I liked. At first I just pictured using a sword, but I wanted something a little less stereotypical.  The cavvarach, with its hook, ended up being just right for what I had in mind. Combatants try to snag their opponent’s hook to tug the weapon out of the other person’s hand, which is one way to win a duel. (They can also knock it away with their own cavvarach, or kick it away.) Besides disarming an opponent, you can win by knocking them over and pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds. Oh, and you can block blows with your shil, which is like a narrow shield that barely covers one forearm.

In The Collar and the Cavvarach, 14-year-old Bensin competes in cavvara shil tournaments to earn prize money for his owner. Like everyone else there, he fights with an unsharpened blade and wears poncho-like padding to protect his torso and groin in the event of a missed parry. Worse injuries than bruises or the occasional bloody nose are rare at such events. In The Gladiator and the Guard, however, Bensin (now 18) is forced to be a gladiator, and he soon discovers that everything works differently in the arena. All blades are razor sharp, and protective padding doesn’t exist. Most duels are not intended to end in death (that would be a waste; gladiators are valuable), but accidents can and do happen. The helmet you see on the cover is actually for the guards who keep an eye on the combat from a safe distance to serve as referees and (when necessary) bring the injured in on stretchers at the end.

Q: Oh, the helmet is for the guards? OK, then I’m glad it’s been broken! I couldn’t let you go without a nod to your life in the Alleged Real World. You may be the guest who’s come the furthest of anyone to be here on the Independent Bookworm! Assuming of course that “here” is in the US or Europe… pardon me, my ethnocentrism is showing. But do tell us a bit about your world, the one you see when you turn away from the screen.

A: At the moment, when I turn away from my screen I see twenty-six empty desks and walls covered with colorful science project display boards. (My students are out at lunch recess right now.) I teach at Morrison Academy in the city of Taichung, Taiwan. It’s a wonderful job in a wonderful place! My husband and I have lived in Taiwan for nearly nine years now, and we love it here! I’ve enjoyed inserting elements of Taiwanese culture into these two books. For example, some characters chew betel nut, a mild narcotic sold legally in shops decorated with flashing colored lights. When money is awarded as a prize, it’s given in a red envelope. Cheap boxed meals available at “hole-in-the-wall” eateries are a common and convenient meal for laborers or anyone in a hurry or short on cash. New Year is the most important holiday of the year in both places. In Book 3 (which I hope to draft in the fall), much of the action will take place in a different city of the Krillonian Empire, one which I plan to pattern closely after Taichung.

Q: Cities, climate, customs– too much to ask about! Let’s just call this a pause, and perhaps have you back when Book 3 is ready. I’d love to ::cough-cough :: show you my ahm, interview chambers, you’d love the decor. Thanks very much Annie for a terrific peek at an interesting world. Make sure to leave us with your contact links and a blurb about your current release.


I’m excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach.

First Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

 What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?

The Collar and the Cavvarach

sword isolated on white background; Shutterstock ID 109466807

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).

Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!

 And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

The Gladiator and the Guard.jpg

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!

 Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats) 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

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Leipzig Book Fair

The last few months have been extremely busy and this blog got too little attention from me. I’m sorry for that and hope to change it again. I like the variety of authors we’ve got here. Today, I’d like to introduce the best book fair for interacting with German readers to you: Leipzig Book Fair.

Leipzig Book Fair Logo

There are two big book fairs in Germany every year (and tons of smaller, more targeted ones), one in Frankfurt and one, lesser known, in Leipzig. The book fair in Frankfurt is a lot bigger than the one in Leipzig, and it’s more focused on the publishing professionals. Leipzig is more cozy and fully aimed at readers. So if you plan on connecting with readers, Leipzig is the place to go.

I joined a group of German Indies who all received the Qindie (a quality badge for Indie publications) and we set up our booth for the second time. Last year was successful (with quite a long tail of sales after the fair) but flawed. This year, we came better prepared.


Here are a few tips on how to visit a book fair as a presenter:

  • no more than 2 authors at the booth or there’s no room for readers
  • put several samples, flyers, bookmarks etc. into one folder, readers like to take those along much more than loose booklets or pieces of paper. We spread nearly 1000 of those
  • know at least the basic gist of the books on display so you can help readers to find the right book; even if they don’t buy yours, they will remember the friendly face and maybe recommend you to a friend (happened to me) and also, the other author will help to promote your books if he notices your efforts
  • if possible walk around the fair and look at other booths so you can talk about the fair in general with the people stopping at your booth- enjoy yourself; getting a booth usually is expensive and you will most likely not make the money back during the fair, but the increase in visibility will help you long term
  • bring food since buying it at the fair is expensive


Now to the Leipzig Book Fair in particular.

lbm2016_0869There are 5 halls connected with glass tunnels. Usually one of the halls is reserved for Comics, Mangas, Anime, and Cosplayer. Naturally the Cosplayer spill over into the other halls too, so you’ve always got something to look at with awe (I’ll be posting the nicest costumes on my author blog soon). Be prepared for crowds, especially in the reading arenas, often many people squeeze together to listen to a presentation. I really enjoyed all the halls, but spend only little time with the school books. One thing to take into account is how tired your feet grow when you move around the halls for any length of time.

This year 260,000 visitors came to Leipzig, and of those 195K entered the halls (96K for the Mangas and Comics alone). Despite there being more people than last year, I think they spread out better. I was able to move through the halls on every day. Last year I got stuck in the corridors and tunnels. In total there were0 2.250 presenters from 42 countries.

If you plan to come to the next Leipzig Book Fair (as a visitor or a presenter) please contact me. I’d love to meet you there. And now, tell me if you’ve been to a book fair in your home country. What was it like? And if you haven’t, what’s preventing you from it?

to valentine or not to valentine

v-day muse partyI’m not very romantic at all. That might come as a surprise to those who know that I’ve been true to one guy since my 17th year in RealLife(TM). So, maybe I am romantic after all and my definition just doesn’t fit. Hmmm. I need to think about that some time soon.

For now, I decided to participate in a Valentine/Anti-Valentine bloghop to present to you the love of my life (no, not my husband. Didn’t you listen? I’ve only had him since I was 16 and 3/4. It’s my Muse I’m talking about — the one entity that has been with me since I found my consciousness and probably will be with me [I pray daily that I won’t get Alzheimer’s or something similar] until I die).

Here is my Muse and the answers we came up with for the bloghop. Enjoy, and leave comments if you have questions. And if you feel like it, please visit the other participants and read their answers.

1. Who did you bring to the party? Is he/she your Valentine or anti-Valentine?

My Muse – Valentine (most definitely). She’s the best Valentine ever despite being a same gender as me. We’re a pair but not lovers if you understand what I mean.😀

2. Which one of you is the more romantic person?

Oh, that’s me, says my Muse, and she’s right. My idea of a romantic gift is a new pair of jeans for my husband. I prefer the practical.

3. What gift are you giving to your (anti) Valentine?

Hmmm, that’s a hard one. How about some more writing time?
That’d be fun. I so love to play with your emotions.
Stop messing with them.
Nah… your stories would be boring without, and you owe it all to me, right?
Opps, I think we sound a little …  strange? … crazy!

4. Are you guys wearing red or pink (or black…)? 

green — yes, green is best for both of us. It makes us look less bulky.

5. Did you bring any Valentine’s Day treats? 

Chocolate pips. They’re our favorites (yummy) but a little bitter, so it’s not for everyone.

6. Name a song for our Love Playlist or Anti-Love Playlist (or both)! 

Weißt du denn gar nicht, wie schön du bist – Sarah Connor:

7. Got a great anti/Valentine party game? 

Nope. We’re both not very keen on playing.
Unless it’s in one of our books. We’ve got so much fun with your characters, don’t we?

8. Feeling the love or just feeling nauseous? How will you have fun at the party?

I think we’ll sit in the corner for a while and discuss…
the next scene of that novelette where they swap the queens.
That novelette isn’t due before 2017. We’ve got to publish John & Marge (Hänsel & Gretel), The Challenge (The Cold heart), Bellarosa (Sleeping Beauty), and Flight (The 7 Swans) first.
Coward. It’s just because you don’t like to write about wars, but I’ve (muffled sounds)
Ok, back to the questions…

9. Has your muse been a good Valentine? 

Mostly – stern glance – but it’s always dangerous to let her off the leash, although it’s also very, very stimulating. I think I’ll now need to go and find out about that war. Have a good day… (turns and walks away)
Don’t forget to visit the other participants:
Click here to view this Linky list…

On Writing…The Habit of Putting Words on the Page

For the past few years I’ve begun each year writing short stories for an anthology workshop. Those of us participating spend six weeks writing a story a week. We’re given a theme on Monday morning and the story must be submitted by midnight the following Sunday.

The first year, the schedule terrified me. What if I couldn’t come up with an idea and get it written within the allotted time? Aaaggghhh! But I managed to meet each deadline and even sold one of the stories! (Two more eventually sold to other venues.)

Last year I succeeded in writing all six stories again and this time sold two to the anthologies they were written for…and sold two others later to other venues. Not bad!

But the problem came after the writing. Once we finished writing our own stories, we were asked to read all the others in order to prepare for the workshop. Now, this is an awesome opportunity! To get to read all those professional level short stories? Absolute coolness! Unfortunately, in order to accomplish all the required reading AND continue to live my normal work-a-day + family life, the awesome writing habit I’d established fell by the wayside. Both years!

THIS year, I’m determined to change that outcome. I’ve completed my six stories for this year’s workshop and am now deep into the reading phase. However, this year I’m making time to continue the story-a-week habit I’ve begun.

I’m proud to say that I finished a flash fiction story yesterday…and then read another bunch of amazing stories by my fellow workshoppers!

I’m 5 stories for 5 weeks so far in 2016! Wish me luck in continuing my streak. After all, while it’s great to START the New Year well, what matters is maintaining the writing habit I’ve established.

Here’s to a successful and productive 2016!

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