Category Archives: Genre – Fantasy Stories

Fantasy Novels, Novellas, Novelettes and Short Stories for all ages

Storytime Bloghop: Chris Makowski

Usually I only host my own story for the quarterly Storytime Bloghop, but this was soooo good I just had to give it a place. It’s written by Chris Makowski, a fellow student in one of my writing classes. He doesn’t have his own website yet, so I am hosting his story for your pleasure. You’ll find his bio and the links to the other bloghop stories at the end of the post. Enjoy his story:

The Color Of …

Bent, weary, cold; the door pushed open as always, leaving me touching the lock I could never remember unlocking of late. Within, the dimness pushed back by fire – there were no more candles, and our lamp had little oil remaining, it being a miracle it stayed lit at all for as long as it had. The door sighed as I pushed it shut and stamped my boots clean enough to walk on mushroom and russet floors which had been swept clean as always. The window would let in enough light this day, even with …
“It’s nearly May, Father. And the snow is still on the ground.” I gave my wife a weak smile, for I did not know, and did not want to guess … but no, our daughter still sat silent in her chair, bundled in white quilts against the cold, as she had been since the leaves had fallen. The copper teakettle swung over the fire, merrily popping, the black iron pot hung below, warmed always and never allowed to grow cold – the only bit of happiness in our squalid little rooms. My wife would take the last of the roots, the onions and whatever else remained, and coax each morsel to give of itself – she had always been able to bring the full measure from everything she touched. Still, it had fallen from a thick stew to a thin broth, and each day, we looked to our daughter in wonder if this would be …
I turned the hourglass on the hearth. Tea, we would have. Herbal, mint perhaps, but not uncivilized. “Thank you, Mother.” I took the cup. Our daughter never had, never would. She sat there, looking out to the snow and the ice and the forest beyond, sometimes looking at the tightly closed flower sitting forlornly in it’s pot, on the sill by the window. Carefully she would shield it from her coughs when they overcame her.
Each day I looked out at the snow and each day some little thing touched – and ran away.

Tick …
Tick …
Tick …

I could only put on a brave face and ascend again into my attic, where tools, glass, springs, gears, clocks awaited my hands and skill. When dark came, drawing down the grayness, I came down, my fingers aching from opening the shutter and checking barometer, anemometer, hygrometer and thermometer again and again but still no answers. I could give my wife but a vague platitude and a smile I did not feel as I turned the glass again: the warm cup would do wonders for my fingers.

The next day came for worse, shadows growing from the trees as the sky fell from cerulean to cobalt not much past midday. Still, she sat and watched, her eyes never straying from that one tight bulb. My wife nearly called for someone, but no, not yet, just a few more days perhaps. I dared not tell her I had but one repair left, then my work would sit, and we would go hungry.

Tick …
Tick …
Tick …

I sat with my daughter as the sun came up, barely an ember in the sky. Winter barked and scratched at the door, the attic would be far too cold and there was nothing left there.
She took my hand, looked away from her bulb, and looked at the doorway, and smiled. What was there? A hat, a coat – threadbare – a few pegs?
Hanging there as if in answer, my keyring. I had quite forgotten it – four gold keys, from longest to littlest. Could the answer be so simple? Her skin had gone to alabaster; there was simply nothing left to lose. The pot and it’s tiny flower looked up at me, the tiny holes at the base to drain the water upon a simple saucer. Could it be? It would take a fine touch, especially in the cold, a fine touch against the cold and with shaking hand perhaps I could just …
To my attic, in the cold, in the night, in the dark, I said silent prayer and hoped and with only my lightest touch in the cold and the dark reached forth and …

Clickclickclick.
Clickclickclick.
Clickclickclick.
Tick!

I dared not move her as the sun rose – but it rose brighter, brighter than before! A shimmer of light sprang forth and through the frozen window, to sit on the edge of the pot, then a bit nearer, a bit more, a bit –
The light touched the silent bulb, lay there quiet in repose …
And the bulb opened slowly –
Tick-tock …
Tick-tock …
Tick-tock …
Tick!
The petals shifted, unwove, sprang apart, a sniff of perfume filled the air. And she smiled – my daughter smiled! And the ice began to break, and fall, until the window itself stood clear, and the snow upon the ground had begun to sink and slurry and flow under the bright goldenness of a perfect awakening … her skin, her skin, from alabaster it reached to peach, rose in her cheeks, cherries on her lips. She looked up with her perfect blue eyes, and all of her was smiling.

My wife came in, her bonnet set, her smile proud, her back straightening. She cried “Molla, Molla!” My daughter looked and smiled at her name and sat up, took a long breath of that perfect bloom and stood up, the quilts falling away. A bird – or was it two? – sounded outside, the day growing brighter and brighter as we had hoped but not quite dreamed … and I took up my hourglass and remembered … Her dress, celadon now but soon viridescent, flowed about her knees down to her bare feet.

“Father,” she smiled, touched the watch in my vest and took my keys from my hand, and held up the longest. “Please don’t forget again to wind the sun.”

 

Chris was born in the Pacific Northwest and lived briefly in Hawaii before being reared in New England. After traveling up and down and back and forth from coast to coast, he was dragged kicking and screaming in the bonds of matrimony to the State of Texas and has been mostly residing there ever since with his wife, son, two neurotic dogs, and a possessed cat.

 

 

I loved this story and hope you liked it just as much as I did. Now, there are bound to be many more lovely stories in this hop, so you’d better go and read them:

Nightmare by Erica Damon
Pick Up Lines by Bill Bush
The Scorpius Gate by Sandra Fikes
V is for Vortex by Elizabeth McCleary
Deep Dive by Juneta Key
Bugs by Gina Fabio
Secret by J. Q. Rose
Journal of Anah by J Lenni Dorner
The Vineyard at Mar Mozambique by Karen Lynn
Stealing Space by Barbara Lund
The Day I was Clever by Katharina Gerlach
Never kid a kidder by Angela Wooldridge

New Titles for March!

March has been an exciting month. First, at the very beginning of the month, Cat and I attended a workshop together on the beautiful Oregon Coast … our first in-person meeting! It was a delight to get to know her in the real world after all the experiences we’ve shared online 😀

Now, I’m excited to announce that my publisher, WDM Publishing, has released two new titles for March … one for each of my pen names 😀

First, Deb Logan gives us a new Faery adventure. I’m hoping you’ll enjoy this reunion with Claire and Roddy.

OF DRAGONS AND CENTAURS“Dragons”
by Debbie Mumford
Audience: Contemporary Fantasy | Young Adult | Short Story

Claire’s 15th birthday brings a huge surprise: she’s inherited her grandmother’s dragon! Imagine her surprise when the toy her grandmother carries with her everywhere turns out to be a real live dragon. One who looks like a toy when any uninitiated person is around. Life is about to get very interesting.

Buy Now: Amazon | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

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Next, Debbie Mumford gives us a collection of her historical fiction. From the early 20th century to the Highlands of Scotland in the 1400s, we know you’ll enjoy this new edition!

TALES OF BYGONE DAYSBygone
by Debbie Mumford
Audience:
Historical Fiction | General Audience | Collection

From the struggle for women’s suffrage in the early 20th century (“Sisters in Suffrage”) to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in the late 19th century (“Incident on the High Line”) to an account of the Cherokee Removal in the late 1830s (“The Trail Where We Cried”) and ending with a time-travel romance in 15th century Scotland (“Her Highland Laird”), this collection of three short stories and one novella will take you on a journey through history.

Buy Now: Amazon | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

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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.

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New Release: MORE GHOSTS and GHOULIES

Just in time for Halloween, WDM Publishing has released my latest Deb Logan short story collection! MORE GHOSTS AND GHOULIES continues the tradition of spooky fun for younger readers I started with GHOSTS AND GHOULIES. Grab your copy now and be ready for the spookiest night of the year!

MORE GHOSTS AND GHOULIESmoregg-2x3
By Deb Logan

Audience: Juvenile | Paranormal | Short Story Collection

Another volume of spooky, supernatural stories for younger readers. This collection of five short stories includes two Dani Erickson tales (“Family Daze” and “Challenging Daze”), two flash stories (“Rush!” and “On Guard”), and an urban fantasy tale (“Terrors”).

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Electronic Edition Publication Date: October 2016
Buy Now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

News, Releases, and SALES!

My alter-ego, Deb Logan, has been experiencing some really good luck in the last few months! First her short story, TERRORS, was included in an awesome anthology: FICTION RIVER: SPARKS.

Next, another of her short stories appeared in CHRONICLE WORLDS: FEYLAND which hit #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list and really boosted Deb’s author ranking!

Then, she sold a short story to Dreaming Robot Press‘s 2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide which is scheduled to come out early next year!

Hooray for short stories and great anthologies!

Okay, that was the NEWS part of this post. Now we move to RELEASES 😀

WDM Publishing just released TERRORS as a stand-along Spun Yarns short story! *happy dancing*

TERRORS Terrors-6x9
By Deb Logan

Audience: Juvenile | Paranormal | Short Story

Artie Woodward sees the invisible beings that haunt our world. She recognizes their evil but doesn’t know what to do about it, so she’s learned to hide from their notice. Until Jed Kendrick moves to town. Suddenly, Artie has an ally, a friend, someone else who sees the unseen. Only Jed doesn’t hide. Jed fights back!

Electronic Edition Publication Date: July 2016
Buy Now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

FaeryUn-2x3And finally, in the SALES category … Deb is participating in a 53 author Urban Fantasy HOT SALE on July 28 – 30! Just think, 53 books priced at either $0.99 or FREE! Be sure to check it out! With that many authors, there’s bound to be something of interest 😀

Deb’s YA urban fantasy, FAERY UNEXPECTED, will be included in the $0.99 group (down from its usual $5.49!), so grab a copy while the sale lasts!

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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?

Fencing Reputation Now Available in Paperback

The second novella in my series “Shards of Light” is now available as a physical product, right over here.

Shards of Light II - large webI love this plot, this character, this city. For pure joy and fulfillment, nothing in my life beats writing about the Lands of Hope, and there’s no place that’s more true than in Cryssigens, early 2002 ADR. If you read the first novella, The Ring and the Flag, you’ll have an idea what I’m talking about. But not to worry! Captain Justin from that tale starts out at almost the same time as the Stealthic Feldspar in this one, the tales stand alone and you could read them in either order.

Fencing Reputation is heroic fantasy with a flavor of detective noir. Feldspar is the man of a thousand disguises, but no one has seen his real face until today. Including himself. The only thing Feldspar knows for sure is that he won’t let his new, mundane persona take over his life, and he’ll never get involved in politics. Or become attached to any of his new neighbors. Wrong on all counts of course.

 

Some reviews of the e-book format:

An epic fantasy tale with the best qualities of an Errol Flynn swashbuckler. If you enjoy detail-rich settings and mysterious characters, this medieval tale will intrigue you. The anonymous main character’s many faces are fascinating, but none more so than his Feldspar personae, a stealthic of legendary proportions.- Barnes and Noble

I love the way the story mixed humorous scenes with grim ones.– Goodreads

Feldspar is a Stealthic, one of those reckless professional risk-takers like Bildon in Judgement’s Tale and the legendary Trekelny of Three Minutes to Midnight. Like them, when faced with difficult choices, he tie-breaks based on the course of greater risk. {Actually, who ever took a bigger risk than poor Meandar in The Plane of Dreams?} The added wrinkle for Feldspar is that he’s adopted incredible disguises in a city where everyone else is eager to display exactly who they are.

This is a crossover tale, so whichever order you read, the hero in the second book will catch glimpses of someone you’ve already met. And the adventure versus the conspiracy threatening the Southlands will continue in Shards of Light III, “Perilous Embraces” later this year.

I hope you enjoy Fencing Reputation, probably the most suspenseful, and also most humorous tale I have offered to date. Don’t forget to leave a review! I’m ordering a box right now, to use at the Con and other meet-ups this summer: it will be great to have three titles out in paper.

#SPFBO The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016!

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This year is the second Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off or SPFBO! If you enjoy fantasy and you’re looking for your next great read, you should check out this competition, currently underway.

In the next six months, ten book review bloggers will read three hundred fantasy novels. Each blog will choose one favorite book from their stack of thirty, leading to ten finalists. Then all of the blogs will read and rate the finalists to choose a winner. Along the way, they’ll be shining a spotlight on some of the best self-published fantasy novels today. With so many great books to choose from, it’s a fun way to find new books.

There’s no big money prize at the end. The competition’s purpose is to show the high quality of self-published fantasy books being produced today. With so many new books constantly being published on Amazon and other stores, there’s too much to choose from, and it can be hard to weed through to find the books that are well-written and professionally edited. Book reviews help you see what other readers liked, but a lot of reviewers choose not to read anything that was self-published. Many of the judges in SPFBO didn’t read self-published books before the competition. Last year’s contest changed their minds–now they agree that some self-published novels can be just as good as the ones from big traditional publishing companies.

It’s still early in the year-long competition, so only a few reviews have been posted so far, but there’s already a lot of great discussion about the contest. Mark Lawrence, who organizes the contest, keeps a list of all related posts on his blog, or you can find them using the hashtag #SPFBO on Twitter.

There’s also a mini contest of book covers from the 300 entries. See a selection of the best covers and vote for your favorites at the SPFBO Cover Contest!

On a personal note, I entered one of my own novels, A Flight of Marewings, into the contest. I’m still waiting to find out what my reviewer thinks about it, but I’m excited to take part and see what happens. I’ve already seen a lot of books that I want to read in the contest, too, so I’ll be doing reviews of some of the entries on my personal blog. Wish me luck!

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.

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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.

Connect with the Author Online:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnieDouglassLimaAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/princeofalasia

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGoodreads

Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AnnieDouglassLima

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnLinkedIn

Google Plus: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGooglePlus

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Anthologies & Short Stories

This is an exciting time for my alter ego, Deb Logan! First, my short story Terrors has been released in FICTION RIVER: SPARKS, edited by the fabulous Rebecca Moesta.

FR-Sparks-ebook-cover-final
I’ve written several stories about characters who experience the world differently, teens who see the unseen creatures of the paranormal. But I think Terrors may be the creepiest of these tales!

Terrors came to me full-blown. The first draft of the story flowed effortlessly from subconscious to screen, introducing me to two amazing teens. Artie, a misfit girl who knows too much, and Jed, a surprisingly stable and open-hearted boy with an indomitable desire to protect the innocent. I’m pretty sure the world hasn’t heard the last of these young heroes.

I love this story and was thrilled when  Rebecca Moesta chose to include Terrors in this anthology with so many other amazing stories. I hope you’ll enjoy meeting Artie and Jed too 😀

Fiction River: Sparks is available in electronic and paper formats from WMG Publishing, or your favorite electronic bookstore.

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Then I discovered that for a limited time (until April 30, 2016), you can get a free electronic version of SPARKS (in the format of your choice) from Kobo. Here’s how:

1) Go to the link to the book: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/fiction-river-sparks
2) Click on the “Add to Cart” option then go to your Shopping Cart and click on CHECKOUT
3) If you don’t already have an account/credit card on file, select PAYPAL option to pay to bypass entering your credit card
4) Enter the promo code SPARKS into the box that says “enter your promo code here” and hit APPLY

Enjoy!!

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My next big news for Deb is that Wattpad will be featuring Lexie’s Choice as one of their recommended reads today! Major *happy dancing* accompanies this news 😀

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And finally, WDM Publishing has just released my latest Dani Erickson tale: Family Daze!

FamilyDaze-Cover-2x3

Dani Erickson has a secret. She’s a hereditary demon hunter. The seventh child of a seventh child, she was born to battle the nasty monsters she sees infesting her small Colorado town. Unfortunately, her family doesn’t know. The only girl in her family, she thinks her family wants a pretty Pomeranian, not the ferocious Rottweiler Dani knows herself to be. How far will Dani go to protect her secret life?

Family Daze is the third installment of Dani’s adventures. First came Demon Daze followed by School Daze. I’m currently dreaming up Dani’s next “Daze-ing” adventure 😀

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