Sunday, July 28, 2013

Daughter of the Wildings Series Overview Posted

Picture I finished the draft of Book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings the other day, at around 41,500 words - a good bit longer than I thought it would be. Since I tend to "write short," I'm sure it'll end up longer after revisions. I'd had the ending of that book in mind for a long time, even before I knew exactly what that installment would be about; I knew where I wanted it to hit on the overall series story arc. It was fun to finally write that scene. I've also had the first few scenes of Book 5 worked out for just as long, and now I'm developing the rest of that book. Should be ready to start writing soon. The series has developed in some surprising ways since I wrote Book 1, which I didn't even intend to be the first book of a series; I've always written stand-alones, and it was supposed to also be a stand-alone, but it didn't work out that way! Anyway, I'm kind of pleased and surprised by how well all the different story threads are pulling together in my planning, and it seems like every day I get a new insight into how everything in the series works together.

Of course, these are things I didn't have in mind when I wrote the first couple of books. So once the draft of Book 5 is done, the plan is to revise the entire series as a single unit, as though it was all one book, to go back and make sure all those different bits of story are the way they should be early on. That's an advantage of writing the whole series before you start to revise or release any of it; you can let the story develop how it wants to and then after you get to the end you can go back and make the earlier parts match up with the later parts, why certain things happened, what's going on in the background, and things that turned out to be important that you didn't think were all that important at the time. I'll go back to the beginning and bring it all together so the whole series is solid and consistent and hangs together.

Now that I'm planning Book 5 and have a pretty good idea of what actually happens in it, I've written quick blurbs or teasers for every book in the series, so you, my readers, can get an idea of what's in store. For now, it's on the Still to Come page, but I hope to soon be able to get Daughter of the Wildings set up on its own book page.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Daughter of the Wildings Book 4, 5, and Beyond!

Updates on Camp NaNo progress with Daughter of the Wildings Book 4:
I crossed the 30,000 word mark yesterday with still a good chunk of story left to go, so I raised my word count target to 35,000, just to keep it interesting. After today's writing, I'm at 31,902/35,000 words.

Like I keep saying, this series has been incredibly fun to write. Silas and Lainie are probably my favorite characters ever - I love all my characters, but there's something special about them. And I never thought that writing about a cattle drive could be so much fun, either, but it is, especially when you throw in a little magic and a little romance. So I'm coming up to the end of Book 4 and starting to plan Book 5, and feeling both a little excited and a little sad because I don't want to be done with Silas and Lainie. And then while I'm figuring out the central conflict for Book 5, which is the main conflict that the whole series has been driving towards, I get an idea for a follow-up book, or maybe even a series! I don't want to make any promises right now; the idea will need some story development to see if it really has the potential to go anywhere, but the central story question of Book 5 brings up some interesting issues involving the larger world that the series is set in. It would also veer somewhat into steampunk-ish territory, which is a genre I haven't read a lot, except for the Emperor's Edge series by Lindsay Buroker (which I highly recommend!), so I'll need to add some to my ever-growing reading list.

I'm also getting near the end of the analysis phase of the first major revision of Sarya's Song. After some close plot and world-building analysis, I'm pleased to say that the Plot Hole of Doom, which kept this story in limbo for 18 or 19 years, has indeed been successfully eradicated :-D In the words of another one of my favorite writers, Scott Lynch (author of the Gentlemen Bastards series):
"Some errors can be rectified with the Painless Scalpel of Minor Adjustment. Others require the Burning Sword of Righteous Rearrangement. This particular knot in the story will have to be handled by the Sherman Tank of Paradox Eradication."
And so, onward.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Author Spotlight: Lana Axe

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Introducing fantasy author Lana Axe:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a Missouri native who grew up strongly influenced by Mark Twain. All of my life I've been an avid reader. I even won a scholarship based on the number of books I read in high school. I studied literature and foreign languages in college and eventually fell in love with all things fantasy. I've been stuck there for quite some time.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
Many years ago I fell in love with the fantasy worlds featured in video games, on television, and, of course, in books. I started writing fan fictions which were eagerly accepted by internet communities and eventually, I started creating my own world rather than writing about someone else's.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write high fantasy, sword and sorcery novels. I love escaping from reality and delving into the minds of my characters. I get to follow along as they learn and grow and experience a whole new world through their eyes. Above all, I write because I love it.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My first published novel, A Story of River, is part of my Tales from Nol'Deron series. Each book stands alone, but features some of the same characters. My next book, War of the Wildlands, is due to be released this fall.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Welcome to the world of Nol'Deron, where magic and adventure await. There are three separate races of elves: Wild Elves, Westerling Elves, and Enlightened Elves. The Wild Elves are creatures of the forest. They live in separate clans throughout the Wildlands. The Westerling Elves live at the base of the Wrathful Mountains on the banks of the Blue River. They are gentle, good-natured elves who have a care for all living creatures. Among them lives a powerful water elemental. The Enlightened Elves live on the islands and prize learning and magical strength above all else. Also in Nol'Deron are three different kingdoms of humans: Na'zora, Ra'jhou, and Al'marr. Dwarves are also present, living high in the Wrathful Mountains and keeping mostly to themselves. All manner of fae live within the Wildlands, surviving unseen by human eyes.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Aelryk is the king of Na'zora. He is a loving sovereign who will stop at nothing to protect his people. As his kingdom falls under attack, he enlists the help of two Wild Elves: Mel and Thinal. They are two young elves with opposing personalities. Thinal is bright and happy while Mel is cynical and distrusting. They journey together to the Westerling Vale to find River, a mysterious water elemental.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
It has taken me 8 years to finally put it together and release it to the public.

Picture 8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
http://lana-axe.com/

My book is available in all ebook formats as well as paperback. It can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and Smashwords. Links to purchase are available on my site at: http://lana-axe.com/a-story-of-river/

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Author Spotlight: Steve Cypert

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Introducing Steve Cypert, here on his blog tour with Saskia Book Tours!

Steve V Cypert was born in Los Angeles, California.  At twenty-four he moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where, two decades later, he continues to live. At age 34 he found and married his beautiful wife, Katie. Today, at age 40, he and his wife still live in Utah with their toddler and Shih Tzu. Steve graduated from the University of Utah in 2003 where he graduated with a 4 year degree.

For as long as he can remember, Steve has loved to come up with creative and far-fetched stories. In 2011 Steve finished his first novel, a work of historical fiction. He wrote Port of Errors in just three months. However, it took him ten years of research, editing and putting the missing pieces together.  In 2012 he wrote a second novel, the first in a series of four. Though, this time it was a YA paranormal fantasy. The title, at first, was The Son of Nicholas Namely, but Steve soon changed it to Scapemaker, which is also the name of the 4 book series. As of January 2013, the outline for the second book in the series was completed.

Steve loves photography. He shot weddings for a few years, but loves wildlife and landscape; he also loves volleyball and hiking; he has a mountain bike, but never rides it; finally, he is a self-professed indulgent and fanatically addicted big screen movie junkie. His favorite color is green. He loves steak and prime rib – medium rare or rare. His “lucky” number is 4. His favorite ice-cream is mint chocolate chip. And he loves horseback riding and country swinging – which he is very good at… sloppy, but good!

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Matthew is the son of Mr. Nicholas Namely, a local high school teacher. But unbeknownst to Matthew, his father is a dreamscaper whose classroom is connected to the dream-world. From his classroom, his students enter the halls of Scapemaker, a dream-world high school for young dreamscapers.

Following a couple of heartfelt tragic events, Matthew is compelled to investigate the unbelievable mysteries surrounding those events and is propelled into a whole new world. Matthew and his mother, Mae, are soon coerced into moving across the country for his father's strange medical needs. While attending his new school, Matthew comes to know the secrets that Daedree, an annoying girl from his former high school, has locked away. Matthew also meets Amber, a beautiful enigmatic girl who leads him to Mr. Xoner's classroom. While there, he learns the art of dreamscaping (which has been in the Namely bloodline for thousands of years).

Matthew will come to know of Nox Celare, otherwise known as The Sandman, who is after a special element called Magineum. Neck deep in skinwalkers, sandsleepers, zombies, soul feeders, ghosts, dream-world criminals known as “night terrors” and more, Matthew learns he is in over his head. Matthew must not only solve the mysteries surrounding those tragic events, but he will also have to protect the Magineum with his life and find a way to be with the one girl of his dreams. Filled with secrecy, mystery and a forbidden tangle of young love, this new life will lead Matthew to unbelievable characters with the most extraordinary abilities he could never have imagined.

Scapemaker will keep you grounded in the real world while at the same time make the fantastical world around it that much more possible and enduring. This tale of young adult paranormal fantasy will keep you guessing and wanting more.

Available at:
Amazon.com
Smashwords

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sarya's Song Cover, and Silas Quote of the Day

I now have in my hot little hands (on my hot little hard drive?) the cover illustration for Sarya's Song. I think I said something once about "luciously dark and romantic," and oh my, it is! It's gorgeous! I'll reveal the cover on Saturday; watch for it!

For my Camp NaNo project, Book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings, I'm up to 23,252/30,000 words. Like I've mentioned before, the drafts of these books are fairly short, but I tend to "write short" in my first drafts and then fill in when I revise, so I expect them to end up in about the 50,000 word range by the time I release them.

Silas is always good for a quotable quote, and here's today's:
"Lainie, wait."

She looked back at him, anger in her face.

Silas didn't know what to say that he hadn't already said. That however badly the Mage Council might want him, whatever they might do to him if they ever got their hands on him, they would want her even more and do even worse to her? That he was going to drag her to safety by her heels, kicking and screaming? "Do whatever you want," he finally said. "But if you get yourself killed, I'll hunt you down through all the heavens and all the hells, and then give you the whupping your Pa would want me to give you for getting yourself killed."

She grinned now, a hard, challenging grin. "Same to you, Vendine." She heeled Mala in the sides, sending the mare galloping back to the camp.
Now, I really hate it when in books there's some kind of dangerous situation that has to be faced, and the man says, "I am the man and you are just a girl and I must protect you and keep you from going into danger because I am a manly man, and I don't care that having you along might actually be helpful or that you'll feel as bad if I get killed as I'll feel if you get killed." And the woman says, "Silly man, you can't tell me what to do because I Am Woman and no stupid man can tell me what to do even if it means I put myself in danger unnecessarily and make things harder for you because then you have to worry about me in addition to yourself."

I mean, I really hate that.

But I don't think that's what's going on here. Lainie and Silas are both in a pretty precarious situation with the law (as represented by the Mage Council), and a dangerous confrontation with some other mages is coming up. Lainie believes that Silas is in just as much danger as she is, plus she has certain skills that can really help in a situation like this (that is, saved his butt more than once before), and yes, she would feel just as bad if he was captured or killed as he would feel if something happened to her. On the other hand, Silas has reason to believe that Lainie has seriously underestimated the danger to herself, and that any display of these special skills will only make her situation worse. He has no intention of getting himself killed; he just wants to deal with this situation as quickly and efficiently as possible, and then take Lainie and get the hell out of Dodge (if Dodge City existed in their world). She, however, has equally compelling reasons for not wanting to run away.

Anyway, I was trying to come up with a satisfactory way to top off this argument, and that quote from Silas kind of came out of nowhere (as Silas's best quotes usually do), and I like it, along with Lainie's rejoinder at the end - she can give as good as she gets. So I really really hope I'm not doing that thing that I hate.

Author spotlights coming up Thursday and Friday, and then don't forget, the Sarya's Song cover reveal on Saturday!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review: The Metaphysical Detective

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The Metaphysical Detective, by Kirsten Weiss

Kyra's star ratings:
Story: * * *
Characters: * * * *
Writing: * * * * *
Emotional engagement: * * *

The Metaphysical Detective is kind of two books in one. It starts out as a noir-ish paranormal murder mystery in San Francisco, with Riga Hayworth as a magically talented PI who has her own mysteries (HOW long has she been hired to house-sit for?!?) trying to untangle a series of seemingly-unrelated but way too coincidental deaths. I love the atmospheric descriptions of San Francisco (a city I've only visited twice but loved it both times) and the increasingly intriguing mystery. Riga's mysterious admirer, Donovan Mosse, is pretty awesome in an arrogant-but-he-deserves-to-be-so-arrogant way, and I really enjoyed the parts with Brigitte, Riga's gargoyle friend and companion.

Then, when things are really getting interesting, the action switches to Mt. Olympus and Greek mythology and a locked-room murder mystery in Zeus's palace. That part was fun too, and the gods were pretty entertaining. This is also where Vinnie, a minor character from earlier in the book, really comes into his own, and I found myself liking him quite a bit.

But the two halves of the book just didn't seem to fit together. There's an explanation of how the gods (who exist as Archetypes) found avatars in the mortal world and were playing out their dramas among humans, but it still seemed like two completely different stories. They were both very entertaining and well-written, but it was kind of jarring switching from San Francisco noir to Mt. Olympus cozy mystery/divine soap opera. More foreshadowing of the importance of Greek mythology in the first part of the book would have helped, as would matching the tone of the two halves a little more closely.

I still recommend this book. The prose is excellent, and the characters are intriguing enough that I was willing to follow them through this adventure and will certainly be checking out Book 2 in the series.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Author Spotlight: Miv Evans

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Introducing Miv Evans, whose soon-to-be-released book How I Exiled My Inner Bitch I reviewed not long ago.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm British and relocated to LA in 2005. I'm a freelance journalist and write film reviews for Entertainment Magazine and Yahoo!

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I started writing in 1990. I was the only female car dealer in the UK, and the male car dealers made me the butt of their humor. I started making notes and a few years later I wrote a TV comedy drama titled The Metal Movers which I sold to BBC TV.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I have written two TV shows, six screenplays, 200+ film reviews and now a book. I love the fact that an hour seems like five minutes when I'm writing. I would call it a state of bliss.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My debut novel is How I Exiled My Inner Bitch.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
My novel is about an anti-social woman who tries to hide her imaginary friend from her boyfriend and his hormonal daughters.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
The main character is the (inner) bitch. She says what's on her mind and, as acerbic as she is, she's truthful. The male character lives in denial, and I have witnessed that so many times it feels therapeutic.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
I haven't exiled mine.

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8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available. www.howiexiledmyinnerbitch.com

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Progress Update: Camp NaNo and Other Projects

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I guess it's been a whole week since my last Camp NaNo report; been busy with author profiles and book reviews and of course the reveal of the amazing cover art for Beneath the Canyons, Book 1 of Daughter of the Wildings. Anyway, progress is being made; I'm working steadily through the last major revision of The Lost Book of Anggird, still hoping for an October release date, and the first major revision of Sarya's Song. Hoping to get that out to the test readers in, hmm, October or November? Sooner would be nice, but don't know if that's doable.

Here's the report on this week's Camp NaNoWriMo production (I'm writing Book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings):

7/6 - 1369 words; 8609/30,000
7/7 - day off
7/8 - 1475 words; 10,084/30,000
7/9 - 1523 words; 11,604/30,000
7/10 - 1741 words; 13,321/30,000
7/11 - 1712 words; 15,033/30,000
7/12 - 1888 words; 16,921/30,000
7/13 - 1328 words; 18,249/30,000

Silas quote of the week (being taunted by some very offensive people who accuse him of cowardice because he says he isn't big on killing people):

"I don't like killing people, because I've usually got better things to do," Silas said. "But it happens I'm bored right now."
And now, time to get back to work.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review: How I Exiled My Inner Bitch

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How I Exiled My Inner Bitch, by Miv Evans (watch for an interview with Miv coming soon!)

Kyra's star ratings:
Characters: * * * * *
Story: * * * *
Writing: * * * *
Emotional engagement: * * * *

(I received a free advance reader copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review.)

How I Exiled My Inner Bitch is, hmm, I'd call it a chick lit (in a good way; some people seem to see the term as derogatory, but to me it conjures up breezy, hip, fast-paced tales of young women making their way through the tangles of relationships and careers in the modern world) with either a fantasy twist or a psychological edge, depending on how you look at it. Since the age of ten, Dionne, neglected by her mother and bullied by her older sisters and everyone else, has relied on Lionne, her imaginary friend, to get through life and protect her feelings with an attitude of, well, bitchiness. Lionne is very real to Dionne (and to the reader), and has her own distinct personality and style, but no one else can see her, which leads Dionne to live her life without allowing herself to get too attached to anyone or anything else. Until she meets the perfect man - then she's forced to choose between living her life Lionne's way, as she's done until now, or taking the chance of getting hurt, and learns that there are more ways to live life on your own terms than by pushing everyone else away.

All the characters are distinctly and vividly drawn, even Dionne's three triplet sisters, and I found myself loving or loving-to-hate all of them, or even, in a few cases, going from one to the other as the character grew and changed, or even both at once. I really wanted Dionne to find a way to find real happiness in her life, and was particularly affected by her growing relationship with Georgia, Greg's (her boyfriend) troubled younger daughter. Lionne came just to the edge of being annoying enough that normally I'd be tempted to put the book down, but apparently Dionne had come to feel the same way about her at that point and that's when she started to take control of her own life.

The writing is crisp and fast-paced. The author has a background in screenwriting, and the book reads in a very immediate way, as though it's playing out on a screen in front of you. For my taste, it got a little breathless at times, and the pace made it a little hard for me to really get absorbed into the book. Otherwise, though, the writing style is very clear and polished.

How I Exiled My Inner Bitch is a quick, fun, well-crafted read with an uplifting message that in order to really live, you have to be willing to take some chances.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Author Spotlight: Kirsten Weiss

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Introducing Kirsten Weiss, author of the Riga Hayworth paranormal detective novels. I'll be reviewing her book The Metaphysical Detective soon.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I had a long career doing overseas aid work - microcredit, specifically. And it sent me to a lot of out of the way, weird places. It was an interesting career, and I'm glad I did it, but after over a decade of it I decided I wanted a more normal life and came home to California. Unable to figure out what else to do (how does one transition to an office from aid work?) I fell back on my childhood ambition: writing mystery novels.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I started writing when I was just a kid. Later, in my twenties, I tried my hand at mystery writing - great plotless sprawls which did not deserve to be published. I gave up for a time, then came back to it, a bit older and wiser, and hopefully a better writer.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I love mystery and adventure and humor and romance, and I try to combine them all in my books. But what really gives my books their "seasoning" are the paranormal elements I bring to them. I'm writing books that I want to read, which makes writing a pleasure. But of course, ultimately I want other people to read and enjoy them, too.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My latest book is The Infernal Detective, book four in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels. It's an urban fantasy, set in Lake Tahoe. The heroine, metaphysical detective Riga Hayworth, is on the verge of getting married, but obstacles - living and dead - are getting in the way. And right now I'm working on book five in the series, tentatively titled The Elemental Detective.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
The Riga Hayworth series are urban fantasies, so they're set in the real world with paranormal sort of hidden in the shadows. Without giving too much away, Riga loses her grasp of magic at the end of the first book, and throughout the next three books she's trying to figure out how to - or even if she should - get it back. But I discovered that it's a lot more fun and suspenseful reading about someone's magic going haywire, or occasionally failing, than reading about Riga as a superhero. She's fallible. She doesn't win every fight. And I think that makes her more likable.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Riga Hayworth is a no-nonsense metaphysical detective, who's actually a skeptic about magic even though she uses it. Basically, just because she believes in some things, doesn't mean she believes in everything. What I love about her is she doesn't care what people think about her, and she's very confident. I'd like some more of that myself.

Her sidekick/familiar is a stone gargoyle, Brigitte, carved centuries ago in a French ghetto. She is also very "tell-it-like-it-is." Sometimes a bit too much for even Riga's comfort. Brigitte is the comic relief.

Riga is romantically involved with Donovan Mosse, a casino owner and self-made man. He can be a hedonist, and I use a lot of very primal imagery around him to express that sensual side. He's tough, but he's also an honorable, responsible person who cares about those around him.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
Each of the books in the Riga Hayworth series explores a different type of magic practiced today.  The first focuses on the archetypes, the second on alchemy, the third shamanism, and the fourth necromancy. And yes, necromancy is practiced today! Originally - i.e. in ancient Greek times - necromancy simply meant communing with the dead in order to ask them about the future. That's still done today, with some modern day necromancers (or witches) using spirits of the dead to help fuel their magic spells. There are some darker aspects as well - sacrificing small animals or using one's own blood to fuel magic. Book five features Hawaiian magic, which I'm still in the process of researching.

Picture 8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
You can find me at http://kirstenweiss.com and I also have a Tumblr at http://kweiss01.tumblr.com/. The Infernal Detective is exclusive to Amazon through August 15th, after which you'll also be able to find it on B&N and Kobo. The other three books are already available on all three platforms.

Book trailer for The Infernal Detective: http://youtu.be/kRNYxh2Pf44 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Book Review: Grace Under Fire

Picture Grace Under Fire, by Frog and Esther Jones

Kyra's star ratings:
Story: * * * * *
Characters: * * * * *
Writing: * * * * *
Emotional engagement: * * * * *

Grace Under Fire is a wild ride through a world filled with tricky magic and lurking threats with two amazing characters. Grace is a Summoner with only middling powers but mad rune skillz who is sent to deal with a difficult problem that the other Summoners in her local group (Grove) would really rather not have to deal with. While trying to figure out what wiped out the entire Grove of Summoners in Spokane, she runs across a teenage boy, Robert, a foster kid who has just discovered his own Summoning powers, to disastrous effect. Summoning is one of the worst crimes there is in this alternate version of our world, and Grace and Robert have to keep out of trouble with local law enforcement while battling a giant, evil, massively powerful, orange raccoon-porcupine demon from another dimension (dubbed "Rick"). It sounds absurd, and it is, but that thing is also one of the scariest monsters I've ever come across.

The book almost bogs down a little at the beginning, when Grace is explaining how Summoning and runes work, but her voice and the problem she's trying to solve are engaging enough that I kept going, and then she found herself stuck with a much bigger problem. And then it gets to the first chapter in Robert's point of view, and that's where the book really takes off, and never lets go until the end.

The story is told in alternating first-person point of view, which can be hard to pull off, but Grace's and Robert's voices are so distinct and the characters are so engaging that it works beautifully. Robert's voice and outlook especially made the book for me. He's a band geek (as a former band geek myself, I always appreciate finding one as the protagonist in a book, which doesn't happen nearly often enough), a smart kid, world-wise in some ways from being shuffled through the foster-care system for all of his teenage years but still very much a little boy in other ways. Grace is a fun character too, with her interesting combination of skills and obsession with good food.

The magic system is complex, and the one minor flaw in the book is that sometimes the explanations of how it works are a little complicated, but they're integrated pretty well into the action and once I got the hang of the idea behind it, it was pretty easy to follow how it worked.

The action is wild and suspenseful, and even when the fight against Rick the Demon Raccoon lets up for a bit, you still know it's out there and you're wondering how in the world Robert and Grace are going to deal with it. The ending fight is long, but the action is nonstop and constantly escalating, and I couldn't put the story down.

The writing is clear, smooth, and vivid, with a wry sense of humor and a lot of understated emotion.

The book seems to be aimed at an adult audience, but I think older teen boys would also enjoy it very much.

I highly recommend Grace Under Fire, and am looking forward to the next book in the series and more adventures with Grace and Robert.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Author Spotlight: Joshua Winning

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Meet Joshua Winning, whose book Sentinel I reviewed recently.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a British journalist and author who drinks far too much herbal tea. I just released my first book, a dark young adult fantasy called Sentinel, which is the first instalment in the Sentinel Trilogy.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I started when I was very young, basically as soon as I could read. It's difficult to remember that far back (feeling old), but I think I started as a way of exorcising all the random stories and characters floating around in my head. Wow that sounds more dramatic than I intended...

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write fantasy, which is just the way my brain is wired. My imagination is dangerously over-active. I grew up watching films like Neverending Story and Labyrinth, and my go-to authors were CS Lewis and Robin Jarvis. I just can't get enough of it.

Fantasy got a bad rep for a while; only 'nerds' were allowed to like it, but that's swung totally in the opposite direction now (thanks to a certain boy wizard and Game of Thrones), so it's a really exciting time to be writing fantasy.

What I enjoy most about writing is finding the hidden depths. The little details that make a person tick. Why do they talk the way they do? Why do they react that way? I find that fascinating - especially when you figure out a way to put your character in a bad situation that really shows what they're made of.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
Sentinel came out on 1 May 2013, and the sequel, Ruins, is reducing me to a shadow of a man as we speak. Though I love writing, it's easy to forget how tough it can be sometimes when you're trying to break a story that's being obstinate. That's also part of the joy of it, though.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
The world of Sentinel looks just like the world you see every day - except there are things lurking in the darkness, just out of sight. It's a world you, hopefully, believe really could exist. I know I do.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Nicholas is our Luke Skywalker. He's young and naive (on the cusp of 16), and totally unprepared for the adventure he's about to go on. Luckily, he's pretty bolshie and has a smart mouth, which should help him out along the way. I worried for a while that he was too 'normal', too much of an average Joe, but now that's what I love about him. The fact that he feels like a real, overdramatic, tantrum-inclined teenager gives a little edge to Sentinel. And, of course, there's more to him than meets the eye…

Then there's Malika, a sultry immortal who likes getting her way. She's just one of the kick-ass females in Sentinel, but she's also a villain. Her motives are mysterious and it's unclear exactly where her loyalties really lie. She's really fun to write; I get to engage my inner warrior princess and just her loose.

Possibly my favourite character is Isabel. But you'll have to read the book to find out more about her...

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
Sentinel took me 16 years to complete, which either means it's really good, or it's really bad. Hopefully the former. [Kyra sez, I'm going with really good!] I'm not planning on taking as long with book two - I'm already seven chapters in, so it's looking good!

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8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
http://www.thesentineltrilogy.com
Amazon (UK), Amazon (US)
Twitter: @SentinelTrilogy
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SentinelTrilogy

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Author Spotlight: Nikki Broadwell

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Welcoming Nikki Broadwell, who I'm hosting today on her book tour with Saskia Book Tours!

What have you published recently?
Over the past year and a half I’ve published three books of a Celtic fantasy trilogy—“The Moonstone”, “Saille, the Willow”, and just this month, “The Wolf Moon”.

How, and when, did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always loved writing from the time I was in grade school. In college I majored in English and Art, going back and forth until I had enough units for a degree in both! However, I didn’t do any serious writing until about seven years ago when I took a writing workshop. The moonstone, first book of the trilogy, was begun from a writing prompt in that class—from then on I’ve been hooked!

Where can we find your published writing?
I have several short stories up on my Goodreads site and my books can be found on Smashwords, Amazon, as kindle or paper, and can be ordered from any bookstore.

What is a typical day like for you as a writer?
I don’t keep any particular schedule but usually I’m at my desk by eight or nine a.m. If I’m working on a project it’s hard to pry me away from my computer—I’m one of those who types rather than writing longhand. I leave my desk to eat and sometimes to take a walk or a yoga class but I can easily write for six hours in a day. What I have to watch out for is not writing into the evening—if I do I’m often plagued with insomnia as the characters parade through my mind willing me back to my desk.

What are your favorite characters that you have created? Tell us about them.
The first one that comes to mind is the antagonist who has a part in all three books. He’s a priest gone bad, a complex character with a history of abuse and a twin sister who is a seer. He and his twin were once so close that they could communicate telepathically, but now Brandubh is taking his orders from their sorceress mother, a woman who feeds off others to retain her youth. MacCuill, a druid is another of my favorites—he’s a wise sort of Gandalf-like character who literally has magic at this fingertips! I also made up a race of people called the Crion who are the ‘keepers of the wisdom’ in the Otherworld. And of course I’m very fond of the main character, Maeve, a young woman faced with a destiny she didn’t bargain for. She needs to find inner strength in terrifying circumstances.

Do you find you “mentally edit” other writers’ works as you read them? Does doing this help you or bother you?
OMG. YES! I am always doing this even when reading authors who are on the best-seller list! I worked really hard to edit mine and it irks me to find typos and mistakes. Of course there are always a few that slip by, but it’s obvious when an author hasn’t hired a proofreader. And dealing with the publishing companies such as Createspace or Lightning Source can be maddening when the formatting adds even more mistakes!

What music do you listen to, while writing?
It is too distracting for me to listen to music while I write—especially songs with lyrics! If I listened to any it would be new agey with a drumbeat or rhythm—something to get my second chakra going…(creativity)

What do you eat while writing?
I bring in breakfast and lunch sometimes, spilling crumbs into my keyboard and making it filthy and greasy. I also drink espresso and if I’m not following my ‘no writing after five’ rule I bring in wine.

Five for Fun:

What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink? 
Caffe latte

What is your favourite cartoon character?
Hmm..I’m sure this will date me, but I would have to say the roadrunner. I don’t watch cartoons now so can’t even think of a more current figure unless it was a character from Studio Ghibli, the Japanese anime`—if you haven’t seen them, they’re remarkable!

What is your favourite movie of all time?
Would have to say ‘”The King of Hearts”. I also loved the first three “Star Wars”, “Matrix” and “The Lord of the Rings” and many many more.

What do you like to do for fun or just to relax?
I love watching series and movies and I love reading. I also love to hike in wild places with my dog. Yoga and meditation are a big part of my life as is going out for lunch and having a glass of crisp chilled wine!

Where can we find you on the web?My Website: www.wolfmoontrilogy.com
My blog: http://niksblog-authorinprogress.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nikkibroadwell
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nikki.broadwell
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5321050.Nikki_Broadwell
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/nikkibroadwell

About the Author:
Nikki’s college education centered on English and Art and she graduated with a B.A. in both. While her children were in middle school she began a greeting card business and then later, when they were out of the house, she began painting on silk, selling her scarves and wall hangings to high-end galleries in California and Oregon .Now she writes full time, working on a sequel to Wolfmoon as well as a fictionalized version of her parent’s life based on journals her father kept during his time as a POW duringWW2.

Having recently located from Portland Oregon, Nikki has become a resident of Tucson, Arizona where she lives on a hill at the base of the Catalina Mountains with her husband, and standard poodle, Buddha and Eesa, the cat.

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The Wolf Moon (Wolfmoon Trilogy Book 3) By Nikki Broadwell

It is close to the winter solstice when Maeve Lewin’s simple trip to Scotland to re-unite with her mother throws her headlong into a dangerous world.

A prophecy written centuries before seems to describe her as ‘the one’, and despite Maeve’s insistence that this couldn’t possibly be true, her mother and grandmother both agree.

What Maeve doesn’t know is that her boyfriend is part of her destiny, mentioned in the ancient text as ‘the one of noble birth who will stand by her side’. But Harold’s only plan is to join Maeve Scotland for the New Year before the two of them fly home to the States.

The night of the winter solstice brings Maeve face to face with a terrifying reality, but it's Harold’s arrival that forces her to come to terms with the truth. He seems to have lived in this parallel world before and his part in future events has been sealed as surely as hers.

With dark forces hunting her relentlessly and confronted with a fate  she didn’t choose, Maeve must come to terms with her future and somehow find the strength to fulfill the perilous task set before her.

Available at:
Amazon

Other Books by Nikki Broadwell
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The Moonstone (Wolfmoon #1)

Available at:
Amazon

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Saille the Willow
(Moonstone #2)

Available at:
Amazon

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Review: The city of the Mirage

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The City of the Mirage, by Jerome Brooke

Kyra's star ratings:
Characters: * * *
Story: * * * *
Writing: * * * *
Concept: * * * *
Emotional engagement: * * * 1/2 (I like deeper emotional engagement, but there are good reasons why the story only touches on the surface of the emotions.)

(I was provided with a free copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review)

The City of the Mirage is an interesting book; an epic in scale but novella-length collection of shorter episodes that tell the story of a nameless military pilot, referred to only as The Conqueror, who is shot down in combat over the desert and, while being pursued by the enemy, finds refuge in a city that appears as a mirage in the desert. There, he becomes a warrior of renown and eventually enters the service of the goddess Astarte.

The writing is deceptively spare and simple, but also evocative; the images and feel of the story are still lingering in my mind well after finishing it. The story only touches on the surface of the main character's emotions; he mentions once that he would like to go back to his world, and he is repelled by some of the things that are done in Astarte's service. I would have liked to go deeper into his mind, but the story is presented as incidents recorded for Astarte's chronicles, and the lack of deep emotion adds to the mythical feel.

For some reason, I'm not sure why, this book seemed reminiscent of older-school fantasy. It kind of put me in mind of Andre Norton's WitchWorld novels, which I read probably about 35 years ago and don't remember all that well, but this just reminded me of them, maybe partly because of the stranger in a strange land premise.

The book could use one quick edit to correct a few minor mistakes in punctuation and word usage.

Many of Mr. Brooke's other writings are erotica; The City of the Mirage is not erotica, though it does contain some mature themes and situations such as concubines and extreme violence. However, this content is not graphically described, and I would say that the book is appropriate for adults and older teens.

If you want a fast-moving read that's different from most of the fantasy available now with the feel of mythology and that will stick with you after you've finished, I definitely recommend The City of the Mirage.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Camp NaNo and stuff

Taking a break from the character interviews and author spotlights and book reviews just to do a quick update on what's going on in Kyra-land.

I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo again this month, writing Book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings. Having tons of fun with it; I just love Silas and Lainie, it's always fun to dive into a new book with them. (In fact, once the series is ended, I don't think I'm going to be able to let them go!) The rest of the series story arc is developing nicely, and I can mostly see my way through to the end. This book involves a cattle drive, which is something I previously knew nothing about, so it's been fun researching it. Two of the resources I'm using are The Log of a Cowboy, by Andy Adams, who was a real working trail cowboy in the 1880s, and the blog Wild West History, particularly the linked post on daily life on an old west cattle drive.

Here's my daily progress so far:
Day 1: 1266 words, 1266/30,000
Day 2: 1563 words, 2829/30,000
Day 3: 1347 words, 4176/30,000
Day 4: 1459 words, 5635/30,000
Day 5: 1606 words, 7240/30,000

The novels in this series have been fairly short so far, novella-length, but I tend to "write short" in my first drafts and expect they'll get considerably longer in revision.

The Lost Book of Anggird is undergoing its final big revision, with line-editing and proofreading to follow. I'm hopefully looking at an October release. Sarya's Song is in the initial revision phase. So far I'm very encouraged; it really isn't as bad as I was afraid it would be. Looking at, hmm, early next year for that to come out.

I'm also working on proofreading the proof copy of the paperback version of Chosen of Azara, and will put up buy links once I approve it and it becomes available for purchase. Just a reminder, for a limited time you can read Chosen of Azara for free, serial-style, right here on the site!

And finally, July 1-31 is the Summer/Winter Sale at Smashwords! During this month, you can get Urdaisunia and Chosen of Azara for 50% off! Just follow the links and use coupon code SSW50 at checkout.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Book Review: Sentinel

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Sentinel, by Joshua Winning

Kyra's Star Ratings:
Characters: * * * * *
Story: * * * * *
Writing: * * * * *
Emotional Engagement: * * * * *

(I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review.)

"Sentinel" is the story of a fifteen-year-old boy, Nicholas Hallow, who, when his world falls apart, learns that he has abilities and a heritage that he never dreamed of. Evil beings who were long held at bay by the Sentinels have begun to gain a foothold in our world, and Nicholas finds himself the object of the stuggle between the Sentinels and the servants of the Dark Prophets.

This book grabbed me from the beginning and didn't let go till the end. The sense of menace never lets up - even when Nicholas finds refuge, the danger is still out there, waiting. The descriptions of a world where evil is gaining power are chilling, as are the antagonists themselves. The characters are vividly drawn, and I found myself loving the good guys (and girls) and loving to hate the baddies. The book is also emotionally gripping - I felt the highs, lows, fear, relief, and shock right along with the characters.

"Sentinel" is described as "dark YA fantasy," but it hits that sweet spot of having a teen protagonist and being appropriate for/interesting to teens, while also being written with a deeper, more sophisticated adult voice and outlook and featuring some adult point-of-view characters. I'm not a big YA reader, preferring adult characters and an adult voice, but I found myself deeply engaged in and satisfied with reading "Sentinel." Besides being a good example of YA-adult crossover, I think this book would appeal very much to teen boys who enjoyed the Harry Potter books.

It isn't perfect; there are a few bits of the story that didn't quite hang together for me, though it never lost my attention, and the author occasionally uses words to attribute dialogue that don't really work as substitutes for "said." There's also a technical editing glitch (looks like a search-and-replace mistake) that I brought to the author's attention and will be corrected soon if it hasn't been already.

Other than those tiny nitpicks, I thought "Sentinel" was fantastic, and enjoyed it immensely. (Plus it gives a whole new meaning to the term "crazy cat lady"!) I highly recommend it, and I'm definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Author Spotlight: Frog and Esther Jones

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Introducing husband-and-wife paranormal/urban fantasy authors Frog and Esther Jones (I'll be reviewing their novel Grace Under Fire in a few weeks):

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Esther and I have been married for almost eleven years now.  We met at college, married right after graduation, and then she tolerated me through law school.  Now we write books, review books, and practice law.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
Purely by accident.  My wife, Esther, began doing writing prompts with a friend of hers.  One thing led to another, and eventually she was entering the writer’s competition at Spocon.  She and I were commuting to work together at the time, and we began talking about this world where people could rearrange force and matter.  Working such magic was necessary to hold the world together, but it was also considered evil and felonious by the population at large.  We conceived of criminal organizations called “Groves” who operated much like the mafia of prohibition times, trying to keep the fabric of reality together.

Honestly, I was driving and talking, just trying to pass the time.

Then I read her short story, and I was amazed.  “Honey!”  I called down the stairs.  “This is crap!”

A discussion ensued, the details of which I am sure we can simply gloss over.  The result of this discussion, though, was that I ended up editing her story prior to submission.  We went over it a couple of times, and we produced a much better story along the same lines.  It won the competition.

The problem was, it didn’t deal with hardly any of the major issues we’d invented.  It was far too short to touch on the entire world we’d built.  The next day in the car, we realized that we were a heck of a team for writing, and The Gift of Grace series was born.  Now apparently I’m a writer.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
The Gift of Grace is an urban fantasy series.  We went with that based on the “write what you know” theme.  Our story is set in the Inland Northwest, largely in the Spokane Valley and surrounding areas.  We often take road trips to look at what’s actually there in order to incorporate it into our book.  The mall-fight scene that we’ve got posted as a sample chapter actually came from Esther, our Proofreading Panda, and I walking around the mall to get a sense of what could happen in the fight.  Every store described is exactly in the right place (or, at least, for 2011.  Stores change).  Later on we have a big set piece at the Post Falls Dam, which was great fun to go check out.  That dam is pretty interesting in the way its set-up, and the canyon after it was just...

No, you know what?  Just read the book.  You’ll see it.

We’ve got some other, more standard fantasy pieces waiting in the wings, and I’ve been trying to get some writers together for a shared-world anthology of fairies in cyberpunk, but The Gift of Grace consumes most of my writing time these days.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
We’ve got a number of short stories in assorted anthologies.  Book 2 of The Gift of Grace is entitled Coup de Grace, and it’s coming out later this year.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Well, we’re dealing with an urban fantasy, so at its root the world doesn’t look a whole lot different than our own.  The major difference is, of course, the existence of magic.

Now, magic at its base involves manipulating the substance of reality, called the Weave, in order to transport something (force and/or matter) from point A to point B.  That’s it.  Our magicians are called “summoners,” because that’s the only kind of magic they can do; they cannot create, they cannot destroy.  They can only move forces and matter around.

Now, summoning is important because of that Weave I mentioned.  It’s the thing that holds our reality together, but like any woven fabric under stress it gradually frays.  Summoners have to exist in the world in order to continually keep the Weave in good repair, lest we get invaded by other worlds or unravel the reality of this one.

That said, the populous at large doesn’t really grok that.  So summoning’s been felonious ever since Hoover blamed the Depression on summoners (one of the few catastrophes that can’t be laid at their feet, as far as we know).  So illegal, underground organizations called “Groves” have sprung up like a magical mafia, intent on preserving the world while getting away with this serious crime.  Of course, the problem with illegal, underground organizations is they end up looking like and being run a lot like the Mafia, which tends to be less than forgiving or gentle.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Well, the book begins with Grace Moore.  Grace was born into the Grove system, and she’s a smart-mouthed and savvy summoner.  She was born without a great deal of talent for the magic, but she’s made up for it with rigorous study.  Grace is a hard worker, and proud of it.  She’s also a devout foodie, and at many points throughout the story Grace will summon a gourmet meal in from a restaurant out of her little black book of restaurants.  On the other hand, Grace is not exactly a “people person,” and in a system like the Grove that’s the sort of thing that gets you sent on a suicide mission.  Which is what happens in Chapter One.

Our other main character is Robert.  Now, Robert’s parents died in what I assure you was a perfectly-normal-not-to-be-suspected incident.  As a result, he’s been raised in the foster care system, not the Grove.  He’s got a massive amount of latent power, but at the beginning of the book he doesn’t know it.  In fact, he’s adopted the popular belief that summoning is a great evil.  Of course, when his heart gets broken and then the local jock steps on it, he does something rash that kicks off the plot properly.  Robert means well, but he’s got some impulse control issues, and above that his abandonment issues have abandonment issues.

Beyond them, we have Detective Frank Allen and Captain Carlenos, the law enforcement officers who are tasked with dealing with the problems.  They aren’t stupid, and they aren’t hapless.  They’re skilled law enforcement officers doing their best to do the right thing, in the best way they know how.  As the novel progresses, their beliefs are challenged as much as Robert's, and they’ve got some pretty critical choices to make before the end.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
All references to Redwood that occur beyond chapter 7 of that book are the sole fault/credit of our editor, SA Bolich, who has developed an odd attraction to the character.

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8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
Blog:  http://blog.jonestales.com
Book is available at:
    Amazon
    Smashwords
Fun bonus!  Sky Warrior Books, my small press publisher, is participating in the July Smashwords sale, July 1-31, 2013: enter the coupon code SSW25 for a 25% discount.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Character Interview: Estefan

Picture Okay, so Estefan from Chosen of Azara got really annoyed with me because I haven't interviewed him. And I quote, "How come that SOB who keeps trying to steal my fiancee gets an interview and I don't when I'm a hundred times more awesome than he is?"

So, just to get him to leave me alone, here's Baron Estefan Mirenne.

1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?
My name is Baron Estefan Lesander Danel Mirenne. The "Baron" part isn't a name; it's my title.

2. How old are you?
I am 25 years old.

3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?
My father died when I was ten, and at that time I inherited his barony and his title, though I didn't take full possession of them until I reached my majority at age 20. My mother is Lady Alise Mirenne. I also have some aunts, uncles, cousins, and sisters.

Petir and Pavel Barille are nearly brothers to me. After my father died I was fostered with their family, and grew up with them. A man couldn't ask for better friends.

4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?
It was... No. Wait, let me think. That dairymaid with the [censored]? No. Hmm. It must have been the little blonde, um, what was she? Actually, it might have been...

I'm afraid I don't remember, but I know I liked it.

5. What is your occupation?

Look at question 1. I'm a Baron.

6. What are your best and worst qualities?

I've won more than my share of summer tournaments the last several years. I'm good with a bow and arrow, and a dueling sword. [cue sniggering from Petir and Pavel] I also ride well, and have a fine voice, and the ladies don't seem to be able to resist me.

7. What quality do you value most in a romantic partner?
I like a girl who's got a figure that gives me something to grab on to, who's lively in the hay or between the sheets and none too fussy about how and when, and...

Oh, you mean... Okay. Right.

I am engaged to marry Miss Lucie Barille. I grew up with her brothers and they're still my best friends. The Barilles are one of the best families in the Lower Districts, along with my own, so it's a good match. She has a nice figure and a pretty face, and stands to bring a good-sized dowry to the marriage. She's a bit empty-headed and eccentric, and not as agreeable as I would like, but my mother will take her firmly in hand and make sure she knows everything that's expected of her once we're married. And she adores me. Of course, I made the arrangements with her father before anything about our engagement was said to her, but then Baron Robart insisted I actually ask her if she wanted to marry me before he gave the final approval. Well, I knew even without asking that she would want to marry me. Why wouldn't she? But he made me ask anyway, and I have to say it was gratifying to see how flattered she was that I was personally asking her to marry me.

8. What is your favorite thing to do?
I like a good hunt, a good tournament, a good beer, and a good tumble with a lively girl.

9. What is your greatest fear?

I can't think of anything that I need to be afraid of. Maybe that I'll never get this new bow I just bought working right. Something's wrong with it, and I can't figure out what.

10. What is your most treasured possession?

I'm fond of my sword [cue more sniggering from Petir and Pavel]. I mean the dueling sword I inherited from my father. It's old fashioned, but perfectly balanced and I've won a lot of tournament duels with it. And I've got a fine hunting horse, best in the Lower Districts, everyone says. And my manor house. It's the newest house in the Lower Districts, only being fifty years old, and has all the latest comforts and conveniences. It's the envy of the Lower Districts.