Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Character Interview: Kaniev

Introducing Kaniev the Source-Fixer, one of the main characters in Source-Breaker:

1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?
Kaniev Orvig's-son. (It's pronounced KAHN-yev)

2. How old are you?
Old enough to know better, too old to care :-D Seriously, though, I'm 40.

3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?
I have a mother and a father and several brothers and sisters. The men in my family have been fishermen going back generations. I haven't seen my family since I left to begin my apprenticeship when I was 13, but I had a happy childhood in the fiords and have fond memories of them. The only thing I didn't like was the prospect of being a fisherman like my father and grandfather and great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather and so on. I thought it sounded boring. Right about now, though, the way things are going, a little boredom sounds pretty good.

4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?
Her name was... It's been so long, I don't remember. Pretty girl in my village. I was 12, she was a little older, maybe had already turned 13. It was the first of many kisses, and I've loved every single one of them.

5. What is your occupation?
I'm a Source-Fixer. Or, THE Source-Fixer, since I'm the only one. I repair magical Sources that aren't working right. Or try, anyway; lately, I haven't been having much luck. It's hard to believe I'm getting too old for this and my skills are starting to slip. My master was 60 when he found me and nearly 70 when he finally retired. But something's wrong, and I need to figure out what before I run out of money.

6. What are your best and worst qualities?
I'm very good at what I do. Or was, anyway. I'm pretty easygoing and even-tempered; I suspect some people think I'm annoyingly cheerful. I tell good stories. And I've kept myself in good shape, which comes in handy if I'm trying to get to a hard-to-reach Source, and the ladies certainly appreciate it.

On the other hand, I have a bad habit of flirting with every female who crosses my path - only the ones of age, of course. I'm not that shameless. But there have been a few women who thought I was after something more serious than a good time together, and I ended up disappointing them. I do feel bad about that.

7. What quality do you value most in a romantic partner?
I love all kinds of women. But I'm especially drawn to strong, smart, spirited women who can challenge me to keep up with them.

8. What is your favorite thing to do?
Ah. Well. Reading the answers to some of these questions, you can probably guess.

But also, I love my work. I love using magic and my unique talents to figure out what's wrong with malfunctioning Sources and put them back the way they should be. It's always interesting and challenging, and every Source and problem is different, a puzzle to figure out, and putting them right again is almost a work of art.

9. What is your greatest fear?
Losing my magical abilities. They're part of me; I wouldn't be who I am without them. Even when I was a young boy, before my master found me and took me on as his apprentice, working magic came as easily to me as breathing. Which got me in trouble more than once and is why my parents were so willing to let me go.

I also worry about failing to fix a Source I've been hired to fix, which has been happening a little too often lately, and someone getting hurt or killed or some sort of serious damage occurring as a result. Fortunately, that hasn't happened. Yet.

10. What is your most treasured possession?
My magical talents. My good old horse, Mai. My Source lodestone, handed down through generations of Source-Fixers; it's the only one in the world and I couldn't do my job without it. And my freedom. Other than my responsibility for keeping the Sources functioning properly, I have no obligations, no duties, no one I have to answer to.

Source-Breaker, coming soon! For release news and news about special promotions, sign up for my email alerts.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Home on the Range: A Daughter of the Wildings Holiday Story

© Adina Nani | Dreamstime Stock Photos
 Ducking in between bouts of cooking to announce that I've posted Home on the Range: A Daughter of the Wildings Holiday Story, free to read here on my site. It takes place between book 3, The Rancher's Daughter, and book 4, To the Gap. I wrote this earlier this year, then took it out the other night for a quick edit. I think I got all the mistakes and removed the worst of the spoilers. Enjoy!

Wishing you a merry and blessed Christmas, Chanukah, and whatever other celebrations you're enjoying this time of year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Changing the World

My fantasy world, that is. Or at least the name.

Yes, Estelend, the world of Chosen of Azara, The Warrior and the Holy Man, and my two upcoming novels, Source-Breaker and Heir of Tanaris, is getting a name change. A long time ago when I first started developing this world, I just called it Source-World. Easy, and it made sense - the world is based on the idea of magic coming from Sources that are natural features, such as caves, springs, trees, etc. Not a terribly original idea, but it's a lot of fun to work with and offers a lot of possibilities for conflicts and stories, and for characters who are involved with these Sources in one way or another. When I was still doing this writing thing just for fun, Source-World worked fine as a name. But when it came time to start putting these stories out in public, I realized that Source-World wouldn't work because the people living in that world wouldn't think of it that way.

So I went looking for another name. I don't remember the exact process by which I came up with Estelend, but I do remember it involved consulting the etymology section at the back of my trusty vintage American Heritage dictionary. Anyway, so I came up with Estelend and it seemed okay. I wasn't wild about it, but it was better than Source-World. But I've never really liked the sound of it, and I think it looks funny, and that's been bothering me more and more. Another thing I don't like about it is that, to my ear, it seems a little reminiscent of Westeros, the world of Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire. I'll just say that I'm not a fan of those books and I really don't want to have any suggestion of association with them, and I don't want people to think I'm trying to invoke them.

I put off doing anything about changing the name, because it seemed like an awful lot of work and would involve making (admittedly minor) changes in work that's already been published, including to the covers. But I was disliking Estelend more and more, and realized that with two more novels set in the world about to come out, it's now or never - if I don't make the change now, I'm stuck with Estelend.

So I chose the words that express the idea of this world, magic or power and source, and went to a site that lists what words are in lots of different languages. "Magic" is pretty much the same in most languages, and I didn't want something so identifiable, so I also looked for words for "power." I tried out lots of different combinations, then did some Googling to make sure I wasn't using something that was someone's name or had an unfortunate meaning. One of my possible names, when I Googled it, Google didn't recognize it and suggested "Gardevoir" instead. Gardevoir is a Pokemon, and a very cool Pokemon, but I don't want something else coming up should readers Google for the name of my world.

After all this, I finally settled on the new name for Estelend, Tehovir. It means "power source" in a mashup of a couple of different languages, and looks cool; it fits with a lot of the other names I've invented for this world. How to pronounce it? However you want, since it's not a real word :-D In my mind I say it "TAY-hoe-Vir" (short i). But really, you can pronounce it however you want. Right now I'm in the process of making the change on the covers (fortunately, I do my own lettering and save everything in a Photoshop version so it's easy to go in and just change one word) and doing search-and-replaces in the books and stories set in that world. The publishing services at a lot of the stores I sell through are closed/on reduced hours for the holidays right now, so I'll wait until I've got everything switched around to start uploading. In the meantime, I'll start changing the old covers out on the site and also create a new Tehovir blog category and a page for the series. Because the week before Christmas, trying to get the next book out, what I need most is another task like this :-P But it's really a relief to not have that nagging at me any more, hating the name Estelend and wondering if I should do something about it.

In the meantime, if you really want to help make a small change in the world for authors struggling with health or financial difficulties, head on over to the Help an Author Christmas promotion. (Read more about it in this post.) You can browse (full price) books by authors who have donated to the assistance fund, and even make a donation yourself, if you want. The Daughter of the Wildings Books 1-3 and Love and Magic box sets are in the promo, and for each copy of those titles sold during December (whether through the promo or otherwise), I'll make an additional donation to the fund. Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Help an Author Holiday Promotion

Holy cats, it's been a while. What can I say, I've been busy writing.

Anyway. A fantasy and science fiction authors group I'm in got together to raise money to help authors in need. In the words of the founder/leader/person running things, Patty Jansen:

"If you spend any time in spaces where authors hang out, you cannot fail to notice that there are a lot of authors who are struggling with finances or health or both. Why is this? Well, when life gives you lemons, writing is one of the few things that you can continue to do."

I know the truth of this; this is where I am in my life. As disabled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as I am, I'm unable to work outside the home or for any kind of regular working hours. Writing is pretty much the only job I can manage, and it isn't a very dependable source of income. Fortunately, I have a spouse with a steady income, but others aren't so lucky, or are facing situations where even that isn't enough to cover whatever crisis they're facing.

To help these authors, we in the group donated money which will be distributed to authors in need in packages of $250. That amount will pay for a cover and formatting to get the next book published, or for a license to Vellum, a book formatting program, or a year-plus subscription the Grammarly, or a copy of Photoshop Elements and a bunch of stock art for DYI covers, or some advertising. It could also pay a chunk of rent or mortgage, buy some groceries, or pay for some prescriptions.

In exchange for our donations, the authors who have donated get to have books listed on the promo page. You'll find a wide variety of science fiction, dystopian, fantasy, sci fi/fantasy romance, and even a bunch of box sets. These books are full price, $2.99 and up. More books will be listed as more authors donate to the fund. There's also a donate button on the page if you want to throw a little money into the fund. So go have a browse and discover some new books!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Defenders of the Wildings first draft finished!

Today I typed the final word of the first draft of Defenders of the Wildings, the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. It clocks in at 182,133 words, or 451 printed pages (11 pt Times New Roman, double-spaced). Actually 450 pages, because the last page has like half a sentence on it. I hate it when that happens. This is by far the longest single manuscript I've ever written; the combined draft of the six books in Daughter of the Wildings was longer, but I wrote each book separately. Defenders didn't really want to divide up into six nice, neat novel-sized units, so I wrote it as one big thing and I'll work out how to divide it up and release it later. Two volumes of three "episodes" each seems like how it's going to work out. Of course, cover art is still a ways out, so I'll still be using the Daughter covers to illustrate posts about Defenders for a while.

This book also turned out to be much larger than I expected, and larger than anything I've written before, in scope of action and number of important characters. Of course it still centers around Silas and Lainie Vendine, but we'll also meet Torrin, a young ranch hand who discovers his magical powers, Magical Mik the traveling showman, Pazit Mahita, who is more than the ordinary farmwife she appears to be, and Lut Dorbich and Gidejoni Cajali, underministers from the Chardonikan Union (which got a name change about 80% of the way through, which is why I should probably stick to writing series in their entirety before I release the first book). You can get a sneak peek at Dorbich and Cajali here.

Writing this first draft was an adventure in itself. After two false starts, where I nearly drove myself nuts trying to figure out how to piece all the different parts of the story together (see story's refusal to fit into nice novel-length units, above), I finally got it. I had to do a lot of copy-and-pasting from the earlier versions and filling in with new material until I got to the place where I had left off, but once I got there it was pretty smooth going. I was getting frustrated at how long this was taking, because there were a lot of times this summer and fall when I couldn't keep up my daily production, but now it's finally done, yay. Now I'm printing it out even as I type this, and it'll rest while I finish up edits on Source-Breaker (note to self: get page on site for Estelend series set up) and start revising Heir of Tanaris.

This project brought me to 264,744 words for the year, including a number of short stories and the abandoned parts of the first two attempts. I'm counting words I'm not going to use, because all writing counts as practice, but I didn't double-count the words I copy and pasted. For a while I thought I might hit 300,000, but having to re-work the Defenders draft slowed me down. Still, considering my goal was 250,000 for the year, I'm pretty pleased.

Of course, at this point I can't even begin to say when Defenders will start being released. Sometime next year, I guess. To make sure you don't miss out on release news for Defenders or my other books, sign up for my email alerts (no spam, and I won't share your info). In the meantime, onward with Source-Breaker and Heir of Tanaris, and planning for the next series, Children of the Wildings!

...And Defenders just finished printing. Here it is:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Author Spotlight: G.A. Rael

Today I'm happy to welcome G.A. Rael, here on her blog tour with Ultimate Fantasy Books to introduce us to her new book, Boy Meets Witch (The White Cat Chronicles #1):

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: I live in New England, but I originally hail from the South. I'm a practicing witch and all my stories involve magic in some form or another! I primarily write PNR and urban fantasy.

Q: When did you start writing, and why?
A: I've honestly been writing for as long as I can remember. There have always just been stories in my head that I had to get down on paper, and I'm not really sure how not to write at this point!

Q: What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
A: My current series is The White Cat Chronicles, and I'm editing the third book, A Wedding and a Funeral for release around Christmastime!

Q: "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
A: The White Cat Chronicles is set in a world where creatures from pagan myths and Biblical prophecy find a way to coexist while the humans around them are none the wiser.

Q: Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
A: Locke is the one who tends to stand out most. He's the main character's familiar, a cat demon and he's never quite what he seems. Then there's Harper, a reluctant witch who grew up as a faith healer and is just trying to figure it all out. Dennis is probably one of my favorites as the series progresses. He's an anal-retentive lawyer who isn't all he seems, either, and he keeps Darren on his toes.
Boy Meets Witch (The White Cat Chronicles #1):
Harper Adams is a witch on the run--from her past as a faith healer turned accidental arsonist, and from the power she's kept locked away her whole life. She thinks she's finally found a place she can settle down and call home in the picturesque town of Cold Creek, Vermont, but a mysterious white cat who may or may not be bent on taking the curvaceous witch's soul has other plans. Harper's compassion gets the best of her and earns her an unwanted reputation as the town miracle worker as well as the ire of sexy veterinarian and militant atheist, Darren St. Clair.

Cold Creek's residents have a few supernatural secrets of their own, and Harper will have to face the destiny that led her to the last place a witch in hiding needs to be--that is, if Darren doesn't have her chased out of town with a pitchfork-wielding mob before she gets the chance.

Available at Amazon
Add to Goodreads

About the author:
Hi there!

I'm a practicing witch and author of paranormal romance, fantasy and magical realism. I'm also a firm believer that the things that go bump in the night deserve their happily ever afters, too!

When I'm not writing, you can find me watching campy horror films with my husband and our menagerie and hiking in the woods in beautiful New England!

Want updates when I publish a book? Join The Coven (PNR & Fantasy Newsletter.)

Visit G.A. at:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cover Reveal: Source-Breaker

Time for one of my favorite things to do, reveal a new cover! I just got the final version of the Source-Breaker cover art the other day, and I have been so excited to show this off!
Illustration by Mominur Rahman
This is from the full wraparound cover for the paperback, showing the spine area with the left side of the arch. The back of the cover is just dark because there isn't really anything over in that direction to show. The ebook cover will look like this:

illustration by Mominur Rahman

I just love this. I've been having the hardest time visualizing Kaniev (the dude with the sword and the handful of magic), and the artist, Mominur Rahman, and I went over a bunch of different reference photos, different poses of the same model, and this is the final result. When I saw it, I went, Wow, that's Kaniev! Mominur has this knack for capturing my characters perfectly, and it's always exciting to see how he brings them to life.

Here's the short blurb for Source-Breaker (needs work; I'll come up with a better one in time for the release):

Kaniev, a repairman of magical Sources with a series of failures behind him, and Fransisa, a Source priestess who is being displaced by a new Chosen, come up against a wizard conducting dangerous experiments with Source-power that could damage all the world's Sources.

And here's a peek at an early version of the scene where Kaniev and Fransisa first meet:

I'm hoping for a mid-December release for Source-Breaker. I've become frustrated with how long my revising and editing process takes, so I'm going to try streamlining it without sacrificing quality, and hopefully can get this book out the door in less than another month. To make sure you don't miss out on the release and the special limited-time low introductory price, sign up for my email alerts!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November Progress Report

Checking in with a quick update on how my current projects are coming along. I'm finishing up the second major revision on Source-Breaker, the next novel I'll be releasing. After that comes the last few rounds of edits; hopefully, this will be ready to release by mid-December. I feel like it's been going really slow, partly because I've had a lot of disruptions and the CFS is really kicking me in the backside right now, and also because there's been a fair amount of work with adjusting characterizations and things like that. But one I get through the bottleneck of those big changes, it should go a lot faster.

The other major project I'm working on right now is the first draft of Defenders of the Wildings, the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. I'm writing it all at once, like one big book; it doesn't divide up neatly into separate novels like Daughter did. It's more episodic, like a TV serial, and I'll probably end up releasing it that way. Like with Daughter, what I thought would be the end of Defenders actually wasn't and I needed to add a whole other part, bringing the action back to where it started to finish everything off. But now, after a couple of false starts and more than 150,000 words, I'm within 10,000 - 15,000 words of the end, I think. Lot of work still to go, to get it revised and cleaned up and ready to release, but Daughter of the Wildings has been picking up a whole bunch of new readers lately and I'm eager to offer more Silas and Lainie sixguns and sorcery to the world.

And just to prove that yes, this thing really does exist, here's the prologue from Defenders (unedited, straight from my brain to the keyboard):

Amber Bay shone gold, the color of its name, in the lengthening light of the late afternoon sun as three men disembarked from the Sea Dragon, the large sailing ship that had docked just a short time ago. All three of them strode down the gangplank with an air of authority -- they knew they were where they were supposed to be, and they knew what they were supposed to do. One was a tall, portly man in a long, richly-embroidered robe tied with a broad blue sash. His fair skin was burned red by the sun and wind of weeks at sea; a round, flat-topped cap sat atop his white-blond hair. The second man was nearly as tall, thin, with amber skin and curling red hair cropped close to his head. He wore a well-tailored dark suit, in the manner of wealthy businessmen on this continent, as did the third man. This man was short and powerfully muscled, ebony-skinned with a long black braid trailing down his back.

As they stepped off the gangplank, followed by a knot of half a dozen retainers and assistants, a man on shore came forward from the crowd to meet them. He was tall, dark-skinned as though deeply tanned and dark-haired, also wearing a well-made dark suit. His right forefinger sported a broad gold ring set with a dark red stone. He bowed to the three men who had just come off the ship. "Underministers. Welcome to Amber Bay and the Wildings."

The three men nodded to him. "You are Mr. Desavias?" the tall, fair-haired man asked.

He nodded. "I am. At your service, Underministers."

"You have the items that were discussed?" the red-haired man asked.

"I do, Underministers. That is, I have constructed a prototype according to your instructions, and we have procured more of the substance to fuel it." He nodded to his side, and a fifth man stepped forward. This man was of middling height, lean and muscular, with skin a pale lavender bordering on gray and long dark red hair twisted into thick, ropy locks. He wore tanned leather leggings and no shirt, and was carrying a metal-bound wooden box, with sides about the length of his forearms.

"That is the substance?" the fair-haired man asked Desavias.

But it was the lavender-skinned man who answered them, speaking the tongue they spoke in with surprising fluency. "It is. A gift from the P'wagimet people in exchange for the Continental Alliance's considerations in the past and in the future. This is only a sample. Greater quantities are being safely stored in the place where the weapons will be made."

"Excellent," the fair-haired man said, though he still addressed his words to Desavias rather than the P'wagimet man. "And this... material works as promised?"

"It has been extensively tested, Underminister. I think you three gentlemen and your leaders will be more than pleased," Desavias answered.

"Good," the red-haired underminister said, but the third foreigner's brow creased in concern.

"Are we certain that this is absolutely necessary?" he asked his companions. "It seems to me that the cost is far greater than any benefit this tactic might provide. Even considering the generous donation of the key material by this man's people." He nodded to the P'wagimet man.

The other two men looked at him. "If you are having doubts, Mr. Cajali," the fair-haired one said, "please feel free to express your doubts to the Commissioner and ask to be removed from this mission."

Cajali's dark face blanched grayish. "I... of course I'm not having doubts, Mr. Dorbich. If you and Mr. Semov are convinced that this measure is necessary in proportion to its cost to the success of the mission, then I will not argue with that. Expansion and Regulation are your realms of expertise, not mine; I will continue to concern myself only with affairs of business."

"When you gentlemen have rested from your journey, we will discuss preparations for the journey to the outpost," Desavias said. "Of course, because of the difficulties in transporting the devices, they must be manufactured much closer to the Wildings -- what you call the Middle Lands. And it is more convenient to have headquarters there, as well."

Lut Dorbich, Underminister of Expansion for the Continental Alliance's foray into this new continent, looked at his companions. "Thank you. I believe we will be ready to depart Amber Bay in the morning. We have been forced into inactivity during the long journey; it is time to begin moving forward. Are we agreed on that?"

Yugalis Semov, Underminister of Regulation, nodded in agreement. After a brief hesitation, Gidejoni Cajali, Underminister of Enterprise, nodded as well.

"Very good," Desavias said. "I have a carriage waiting right over here, to take you to your hotel. Follow me, please."

Following the mage and the P'wagimet man, the three Underministers walked to a carriage waiting near the busy, crowded pier and climbed in.

Monday, October 31, 2016

A spooky scene for Halloween

Hey, it rhymes! Anyway, in honor of Halloween, here's a spooky scene from For the Wildings, book 6 of Daughter of the Wildings (spoilers redacted).

He walked back out beyond the edge of the town to where Lainie was waiting with Mala and Abenar, who were grazing on some dead grass sticking up through the thin layer of snow. The gloomy sky was darkening to what would be a moonless night, Darknight. The dark of the moon was not a night for lingering in a place of death. Silas shivered, and not just from the cold.

“You done?” Lainie asked, her face still wan. “See anything?”

“Nothing but death,” he answered.

Her eyes strayed back to the town. “I don’t want to sleep this close to… that. Not with all those ghosts around and tonight being Darknight.”

“Me either.” He had said the rites, but on Darknight, the one night of the month with no moon and given to no god, when the gods hid their faces from the earth, it was harder for spirits to find their way to the Afterworld.

They mounted up and rode another league or so away from the town, far enough away that the smells and restless spirits were much less noticeable. There was no sign of livestock on the range out here; neither had there been any in town, unusual for a ranching town. Maybe the cattle let out to range in the area knew better than to come near this haunted place.

Silas pitched the tent. Using dead branches from a small copse of scrub oak, he dredged up a spark of power and lit a campfire. It might attract attention, but the midwinter Darknight was no time to be outside without a fire. He spread out his old coat and blanket by the fire, and practiced using a drying spell to extract most of the water. It was clumsy and difficult, like trying to saddle a horse with just one hand and that hand missing most of its fingers.

He and Lainie ate and then sat together at the fire for a while, deliberately speaking only of ordinary, comforting things – the horses, Mrs. Murrison’s cooking, how much money they still had. Lainie’s face was haggard with exhaustion, and before long her eyes started drifting shut. Though Silas had little desire to face the night watch alone, he kissed her hand and said, “You get some sleep. I’ll sit watch.”

She returned the kiss on his own hand. “Get me up later. Don’t stay awake all night. You need your sleep too.”

“I’ll do that.” He would let her get plenty of sleep before then, though. He could make do with only a couple of hours. He kissed her mouth, a lingering kiss as he both sought and offered comfort, then she crawled into the tent.

Silas settled himself for the watch. He left his mage senses – what there was of them – partly exposed to detect any hint of trouble, and cleared his mind, letting his thoughts flow freely around each other. The anguish of the dead still teased at the edges of his senses, and he sent up another prayer to the Gatherer and the Sunderer to help them find their way on this moonless, gods-forsaken night.

A scuffling in the dirt some distance behind Silas caught his attention. Instantly, he was on his feet, his revolver in hand. Guns wouldn’t do any good against restless, vengeful spirits, but they were still useful against bandits, renegade mages, and angry blueskins. “Who’s there?” he called out.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Light in the Darkness Micro Reviews

I've posted overviews of the twelve novels in the Light in the Darkness boxed set (here, here, and here), but now I want to give a quick rundown of my own impressions of them. There's some good reading in here, from traditional swords and sorcery to contemporary magical realism, from books suitable for younger teens and up to books aimed at a more adult audience. The common thread is that all the books are about good if flawed characters trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances. The price has gone up to $2.99, but for twelve full length novels and a handful of short stories - more than 1.14 million words of magical noblebright goodness - it's still an amazing deal. Content note: while many of these books are suitable for younger teen readers, this is *not* a YA/all ages collection. A number of books also have more adult content, and other books, while containing nothing unsuitable for younger audiences, are not specifically YA; they feature adult characters with adult concerns. I've put my own ideas of the age rating at the end of each review. And now, on with the micro reviews.

The King's Sword, by C.J. Brightley
Kemen, a retired soldier recovering from war, injury, and betrayal, just wants to leave it all behind, but when he comes across a young man on the run and learns of a conspiracy to unseat the rightful ruler and replace him with a megalomaniacal usurper, he can't just leave the kingdom to its fate. Kemen is a wonderfully gruff and tough character dealing with the scars of his past, but also admirably patient with the young man he takes on the job of teaching and appealingly awkward around women. One of those tough but lovable heroes I can't get enough of. Suitable for ages 13+ (clean, but with adult characters and some difficult themes).

The Emperor's Edge, by Lindsay Buroker
Irrepressible law enforcer Amaranthe finds herself on the wrong side of the law, and uncovers a conspiracy to unseat the rightful emperor and replace him with a greedy, amoral cartel. With a colorful collection of assistants, including the notorious, stony, yet surprisingly complicated assassin Sicarius, she launches her own not-quite-authorized plan to protect the young emperor. This is the book that made me a big fan of Ms. Buroker. Memorable characters, exciting and dangerous adventures, snappy humor, a hint of romance. And explosions. Ages 15+ (some sexual innuendo and a fur loincloth).

The Last Mage Guardian, by Sabrina Chase
A young woman learns that her late uncle didn't just leave her a house, but a magical legacy that is not going to be easy to live up to. I enjoyed this tale of a young woman learning to use magic in a world where women aren't supposed to have magic, and her growing, awkward romance with the young man who stumbles across her secret. Ages 15+ (a "curtains-drawn" sexual encounter, with awkward aftermath).

Pen Pal, by Francesca Forrest
A lovely book. Not traditional fantasy; I would call it contemporary magical realism. It interweaves the stories of Em, a 12-year-old girl living in an off-shore community off the U.S. Gulf Coast, and Kaya, a young scholar and activist in an island nation in southeast Asia. The two are connected by a message in a bottle Em tosses into the sea that, against all odds, finds its way to the imprisoned Kaya. Both of them are involved in fights to protect their families and cultures, and end up aiding each other in unexpected ways. Beautiful and thought-provoking, and a stirring yet charming story. Ages 13+ (clean, but with some difficult themes).

Beneath the Canyons, by Kyra Halland
My book :-) A gunslinging wizard, feuds between ranchers and miners, magical mayhem, and romance in a fantasy world modeled after the Old West. If you haven't read it yet, you should, but that's just my opinion. Ages 16+ (swearing, sexual innuendo, an on-screen but not very graphic sex scene).

Into the Storm, by Angela Holder
An emotional tale of a wizard who has finally arrived at a time of peace and happiness in her life, who must make some difficult decisions in order to protect her homeland from an oncoming devastating storm. The courage of Larine and her fellow wizards, and their animal familiars, is moving and inspiring. Ages 16+ (non-descriptive sex scenes; difficult themes)

On the Shores of Irradan, by Ronald Long
This is the start of a follow-up series to the author's previous series, but if you've never read the other series you can still start with this one. One member of a group of companions lost her magic in the last series, and now they're on a quest in a land torn with unrest and civil war to find the tree that can restore her gifts. Traditional companionship/quest fantasy with humans, groups of warring elves, and other magical creatures. Lots of danger and excitement. Ages 13+ (Clean, but with some difficult themes).

Six Celestial Swords, by T.A. Miles
Magical tale inspired by ancient China meets traditional quest fantasy. I found Xu Liang, the mystic and warrior who is the main character, fascinating, especially when the demands of the real world conflict with his mystical ideals. He is joined by a number of other memorable characters, humans, dwarves, and elves, as he searches for the magical weapons that will help defeat a coming chaos. Written in poetic, slightly archaic language expressing the point of view of Xu Liang, uprooted from his native land to the "barbaric" western lands in his search. Ages 15+ (mostly clean, but the themes and language might go over the heads of younger readers; a bit of intense male/male attraction and kissing).

Rise of the Storm, by Christina Ochs
Sprawling, fascinating, complex fantasy based on the beginnings of the 30 Years War. Young Prince Kendryk, the popular ruler of a peaceful land, must choose whether to follow his conscience and embrace the teachings of a radical priest who warns of a coming apocalypse, even though it means defying a ruthless Empress. As the empire and surrounding nations spiral down to war, Kendryk and a number of other memorable characters must find a way to survive and to fight for what they believe is right. Ages 15+ (references to rape; heavy and complex historical themes).

Hope and the Patient Man, by Mike Reeves-McMillan
A gentle story set in a steampunk world, of a mage who tried to curse her cheating boyfriend but accidentally cursed herself instead, who has to find a way to remove the curse so she can have a relationship with the man who loves her. This is mainly a love story, with some other subplots centering on relationships, gnome's rights (because gnomes are people too!), and Hope (the heroine's), er, hopes to advance in her magical career. Ages 16+ (on-screen but non-consummated sexual encounters, and related themes).

Lhind the Thief, by Sherwood Smith
This is the only book in the set I haven't looked at yet, but it's very highly spoken of in other reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, and I'm looking forward to reading it. My impression is that it's suitable for YA audiences.

The Keeper and the Rulership, by Emily Martha Sorenson
Magic is forbidden, but Ranah can't stop herself from growing it. As if that isn't trouble enough, she's at the age to be choosing a serious suitor, but can't seem to get that to work out right, either. Solidly YA fantasy about a young woman trying to find her place in a world ruled by status and laws that she just can't quite fit into. Ages 13+.

Light in the Darkness: A Noblebright Fantasy Boxed Set contains 12 full-length novels and some bonus short stories, and is available for only $2.99 at: 
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Smashwords

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Author Spotlight: Tiffany Current

Today I'm happy to have author Tiffany Current on the blog, to introduce us to Hannah Clark, the main character in her upcoming YA paranormal romance novel My Maker's Keeper.

1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?
My full name is Hannah Clark. There’s nothing significant about my name. My mom just has a thing for palindromes, which is why she named me Hannah.

2. How old are you? 18.

3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?
There’s just my mom and I. Well, my dad too, but he left us about six months ago. Apparently, there was some amazing excavation that he couldn’t say no to. So he chose work over us. But I still have my mom and she’s great. She’s fun, grounded, and always tries to force me out of my shell.

4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?
My first kiss was with Brandon Anderson. It wasn’t great. Maybe it’s because we were more friends than anything else. But it left me wanting more — something real.

5. What is your occupation?
I’m just a regular high school student.

6. What are your best and worst qualities?
Um, worst qualities, how much time do you have? I’m self-conscious, clumsy, and awkward in social situations. Those are probably my top worst qualities. As for best qualities, I think I’m nice and honest. Well, I used to be honest, but I can’t reveal everything nowadays.

7. What quality do you value most in a romantic partner?

8. What is your favorite thing to do?
I know it’s lame, but I like to read books.

9. What is your greatest fear?
Being found out for what I really am.

10. What is your most treasured possession?
My dad’s personal book collection. After he left, I claimed it as my own. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s my way of staying close to him.

My Maker's Keeper
Hannah Clark used to be an ordinary girl. She used to be a lot of things. Until she was bitten.

Five months ago, Hannah woke up in the middle of the woods as a vampire. She didn’t know how it happened or who turned her. She just knew she wasn’t safe in her hometown anymore.

Fort Wayne was supposed to be her fresh start. Her chance to finish high school without any other incidents. But then she met Jackson. Their attraction was instant and awakened something deep inside of her. Her thirst for blood.

Things only got worse when her maker, Lucas, came to town. He might have been sexy, but he was one dangerous vampire. And if Hannah wanted to keep Jackson safe, she had to protect him from Lucas’ ravenous ways. Even though she found herself excited by them.

But Lucas wasn’t there for her. Something sinister was happening in town. Vampires were going missing, and if Hannah didn’t want to be next, she had to work with Lucas to solve the mystery. But could she trust him? Or should she trust Jackson? She had to make a choice—and her life might just depend on it.

My Maker's Keeper on Goodreads

About the Author:
Tiffany Current earned her Bachelor's degree in dramatic writing from Drexel University. Her first book, the self-help relationship guide How to Move in with Your Boyfriend (and Not Break Up with Him), was published by Turner Publishing in 2011.

Tiffany writes paranormal romance, young adult, urban fantasy, and self-help books. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys reading books, watching trashy action movies, and eating chocolate.

Where to find Tiffany:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Snippet: On the Bridge

image copyright gary smith
  I came across this writing exercise I did for Dean Wesley Smith's Originality workshop on YouTube. The prompt was "a character standing on a bridge." (unedited, straight from my brain to the keyboard.)


She stopped in the middle of the bridge and set down her pack, catching her breath after the long walk through the rugged territory that had led to this narrow gap in the mountains. A cold wind whistled down the gorge, setting the bridge to shivering. She shivered as well, and not just from the wind. The urge to look back, just once, was more than she had will to resist, so she looked.

Nothing behind her.

Only the forest, the trees standing so close together, their branches so heavy and dense, that no moonlight could filter through to lessen the thick darkness among the trunks. Nothing else lay that way; everything that had existed for her now lay buried beneath fresh-turned earth.

She looked down, over the thin wooden rail of the thin wooden bridge that creaked beneath her feet. Far below in the gorge, moonlight glinted on the ripples in the narrow, swift-flowing river where it ran over rocks.

Nothing below, except for a burst of pain on hitting the cold water and the rocks just beneath the surface, followed by -- whatever lay beyond that. She had a hard time believing it was anything but oblivion.

Ahead lay more dark forest, as dense and lightless as its twin on the other side of the bridge. A path must lead on from the bridge, else why was the bridge here at all? But she had never heard anyone speak of an end to the forest, of any sort of destination such a path, assuming it existed, might lead to.

So, ahead of her, more nothing as well.

Nothing behind her but loss, nothing below her but oblivion, nothing ahead but the unknown.

Having caught her breath, she stood, considering the three different kinds of nothing. Or there was a fourth kind; she could simply sit down here, in the middle of the bridge, and wait for the end that would come sooner or later. But that would inevitably lead to the same oblivion that awaited her below, less painful but dragged out unbearably slow.

Loss, oblivion, or the unknown.

Finally she shouldered her pack and took a step forward, then another, then another. Of the three nothings, only the unknown held the possibility that it might change. So that was where she would go.


This might eventually turn into something. My brain is working on it, trying it out with other scraps of ideas that aren't quite ready to go.

In the meantime, the first draft of Defenders of the Wildings is progressing nicely (finally, after two false starts), and I'm still working on the second major revision of Source-Breaker. Hoping to have some cover art to show off soon!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Light in the Darkness Roundup 3

Here is the final batch of books from Light in the Darkness: A Noblebright Fantasy Boxed set, which releases October 18. As C.J. Brightley, the coordinator of this boxed set, says, "Noblebright fantasy has at least one important character with noble, idealistic motives who does the right thing out of principle. The character is flawed, but his or her actions are generally defined by honesty, integrity, sacrifice, love, and kindness. The story upholds the goodness of the character; the character’s good qualities are not held up as naiveté, cluelessness, or stupidity, but rather shown to be worthwhile. Good characters can make a difference. Noblebright characters can learn and grow. They can deliberately choose to be kind when tempted to be unkind, they can choose generosity when it hurts, and they can influence their world and other characters for the better."

Note: Because of the size of this collection, 12 full-length novels plus several short stories, the price will have to go up to $1.99 when we upload the final file on Oct. 8. Preorder before then to lock in the 99 cent price!
Six Celestial Swords by T. A. Miles
Inspired by the rising chaos in Sheng Fan, Xu Liang, mystic and officer of the Imperial Court, leaves his homeland for the barbarian outer lands in search of four magical blades to unite with two sacred weapons already in the possession of the Empire. His plan is to bring all of the blades together and return them to Sheng Fan's Empress as a symbol of unity that will bolster the people’s faith in the Imperial family and assist against the surge of dark forces. Complicating his plan is not the finding of the blades, but finding them with bearers; foreigners who have no intention of parting with them and less intention of serving an Empire they’ve scarcely heard of. It becomes Xu Liang’s task to ally himself with these barbarians of the outer realms and unite them with his cause, as well as with one another. Only the complete reunion of all six blades and their fated bearers can stand against chaos, rising like a dragon from slumber beneath the foundation of a nation unprepared.

About the author:
T. A. Miles fell down a rabbit hole ages ago, and nothing more need be said about it.

Rise of the Storm by Christina Ochs
When a renegade priest prophesies an imminent apocalypse, a conflict is sparked which will tip a continent into war.

Prince Kendryk is young, handsome and popular, his kingdom prosperous and peaceful. But in the face of the prophesied apocalypse, he must choose between conscience and power. If he chooses the side of faith, he must defy the ruthless Empress Teodora, ruler of a vast empire, imperiling kingdom and family— but if he chooses the side of power, he risks plunging his world into a darkness worse than war.

An epic fantasy saga drawn from real history.

About the author:
Christina Ochs is the author of historical fantasy series, The Desolate Empire, which is based upon the events of the Protestant Reformation and the Thirty Years War (1618-48). Many of her characters are also based on historical figures.

With degrees in history and business, Christina uses her writing to indulge her passion for reading and research. Publishing as an indie author provides an outlet for her entrepreneurial side and she is an avid supporter of fellow authors, both independent and traditionally published.

Christina lives in a semi truck full time, traveling the United States with her truck driver husband and two cats, Phoenix and Nashville. Website:

Lhind the Thief by Sherwood Smith
Lhind has been on the run all her life.

Stealing what she needs, using magic for disguise, she never stays anywhere long. Lhind even has secrets from herself, for she has few memories, and those are troubling.

But life is good until she gets caught by Rajanas the warrior-prince, Thianra the bard, and Hlanan the scribe. And that's when adventure begins, because someone very powerful wants them all dead.

About the author:
Sherwood Smith was a teacher for twenty years, teaching history, literature, drama, and dance. She writes science fiction and fantasy for adults and young readers. Website:

The Keeper and the Rulership by Emily Martha Sorensen
In a world where both magic and mathematics are forbidden, Raneh is growing magic and she can't seem to stop. She'll face the death penalty if anybody catches her, so she hides it in the weeds of her family's land, pretending to be a typical eighteen-year-old heir. And it works.

Until the Ruler comes to visit.

Now, with the purpose of the Ruler's visit a mystery and not only her safety but her family's reputation in danger, she has to find a way to do the impossible:

Stop growing magic.

About the author:
"I'm a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy, and I write clean books that are intelligent, optimistic, and happy. I write for all age levels.  Picture books?  Got one.  Chapter books?  Got a series.  Middle grade?  Sure thing. Young adult?  Most definitely.  New adult?  Working on a series right now.  ALL of them, no matter what the age of the main character, are both intelligent and clean.  I believe that children deserve smart books, teenagers deserve fun books, and adults deserve imagination, a sense of wonder, and books aimed at them that are G or PG." Website:

Light in the Darkness will be available on October 18. The current price is only 99 cents, but because of the size of this collection, the price will have to go up to $1.99 when we upload the final file on Oct. 8. I know that Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo have pre-order price guarantees where if you pre-order at the 99 cent price that's what you pay. I couldn't find the information for iTunes; if you shop at iTunes, check to see if they have a preorder pricing policy. Preorder your copy before Oct 8 so you don't miss out on the chance to get this wonderful collection for only 99 cents!
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Light in the Darkness Roundup 2

Here's the second batch of books from Light in the Darkness: A Noblebright Fantasy Boxed Set. Reflecting the variety of books in the set, these four books range from traditional fantasy to sixguns and sorcery to steampunk, from all-ages adventure to lightly spicy romance.

Note: Because of the size of this collection, the price will have to go up to $1.99 when we upload the final file on Oct. 8. Preorder before then to lock in the 99 cent price!

Beneath the Canyons by Kyra Halland:
My book :) Silas Vendine is a mage and bounty hunter, on the hunt for renegade mages. He's also a freedom fighter, sworn to protect the non-magical people of the Wildings from ambitious mages both lawless and lawful. It's a dangerous life and Silas knows it, but when he comes to the town of Bitterbush Springs on the trail of a rogue mage, he finds more danger and excitement than he bargained for...

In Bitterbush Springs, Silas meets Lainie Banfrey, a young woman both drawn to and terrified of her own developing magical powers. Though Lainie has been taught all her life to hate and fear wizards, she and Silas team up to stop the renegade who has brought her hometown to the brink of open warfare. The hunt takes them deep beneath forbidden lands held by the hostile A'ayimat people, where only Silas's skills and Lainie's untamed, untrained power can save them and the town from the rogue mage and the dark magic he has loosed into the world.

Into the Storm (A prequel to the Chronicles of Tevenar) by Angela Holder:
Larine's life is good.  She loves her work as a wizard, her best friend is the Guildmaster, her troubled son is finally thriving, and she’s together at last with the man she's dreamed about for years.

Then one hot, sunny, late summer afternoon, a warning arrives.  A giant storm is heading straight for Elathir, threatening everything Larine knows and loves. The Guildmaster has a plan to save the city, but it will require unimaginable sacrifice.

Larine and her fellow wizards face a terrible choice. Some will live and some will die. For unless enough wizards volunteer to spend their lives to turn aside the storm, thousands of people will perish beneath the wind and waves.

(At the moment, Into the Storm appears to only be available in Light in the Darkness.)

About the author:
"I live in Houston, Texas, with my husband Anthony.  I have three children: one is starting high school, one is starting college, and one is grown, married, and out on her own.  I spend a lot of time in Starbucks, drinking vanilla lattes and flat whites and telling stories about my imaginary friends.  I enjoy dabbling in many hobbies, including spinning, knitting, weaving, costuming, hot air ballooning, singing in my church choir, and performing in amateur musicals.  I’ve been a volunteer breastfeeding counselor for over twelve years." Website:

On the Shores of Irradan by Ronald Long:
The land of Irradan was magical and flourishing.


Man’s greed and the growing population of elves is slowing transforming what used to be a thriving landscape into a wasteland. The noble Empire of Enoth to the south and the Kingdom of Darrion to the north have only one hope: the forest that spans the continent.

Those who guard the trees, however, would rather die than surrender their ancient lands.

Ealrin Belouve and his companions have arrived on the continent in order to search for a tree and the link it may serve between the demons they have faced in the past and their current troubles.

But can they weather the storm that is already brewing, or will they be forced to once again determine the fate of a continent?

About the author:
"My name is Ronald Long and I live in San Antonio with my wife and kids. I'm a student minister by day and super dad/husband by night.

"Writing novels came after spending way too much time playing table top war games and role playing games and thinking, 'Hey, I've got a story to tell too!'" Website:

Hope and the Patient Man by Mike Reeves McMillan:
When a promising date ends in head trauma and ruined trousers, Hope must confront the curse she accidentally placed on herself at the end of her first relationship. But can she do so while also qualifying as a Senior Mage, solving the mystery of her parents' toxic marriage, and helping two awkward friends communicate - all while periodically blacking out?

A love story, with engineering. About - and for - smart, nerdy women and the men who adore them.

While it does not depict sex directly, this book does contain "adult situations" and what one reader has described as "delicate eroticism".

About the author:
For someone with an English degree, Mike Reeves-McMillan has spent a surprising amount of time wearing a hard hat. He's also studied ritualmaking, hypnotherapy and health science.

He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, the setting of his Auckland Allies contemporary urban fantasy series; and also in his head, where the weather is more reliable, and there are a lot more wizards. Website:

Light in the Darkness will be available on October 18, but right now you can preorder it for only 99 cents at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

The current price is only 99 cents. That might have to go up, but I know that Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo have pre-order price guarantees where even if the price does go up later, if you pre-order at the 99 cent price that's what you pay. I couldn't find the information for iTunes; if you shop at iTunes, check to see if they have a preorder pricing policy. Don't miss out on the chance to get this wonderful collection for only 99 cents!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Light in the Darkness Roundup 1

As promised, I'll be taking a closer look at the twelve books and authors in Light in the Darkness: A Noblebright Fantasy Boxed Set. To learn about the noblebright movement and for details about the set, you can read this previous post. There truly is something for everyone in this set: sword and sorcery, sword and no sorcery, sorcery and no sword, sixguns and sorcery, steampunk, magical realism, settings from modern day to alternate history to fantasy worlds based on Asian myths, from no romance to romance in a variety of flavors. Light in the Darkness explores a full range of fantasy, featuring good (if flawed) characters doing their best to do the right things in difficult circumstances, with an undercurrent of hope.

Note: Because of the size of this collection, 12 full-length novels plus several short stories, the price will have to go up to $1.99 when we upload the final file on Oct. 8. Preorder before then to lock in the 99 cent price!

And now, on with the first four books:

The King's Sword by C. J. Brightley
A disillusioned soldier. A spoiled, untried prince. A coup that threatens the country they both love. When retired soldier Kemen finds the young prince Hakan fleeing an attempted assassination, he reluctantly takes the role of mentor and guardian. Keeping the prince alive is challenging enough. Making him a man is harder. As usurper Vidar tightens his grip on power, Kemen wrestles with questions of duty and honor. What if the prince isn't the best ruler after all? Invasion looms, and Kemen's decisions will shape the fate of a nation. What will he sacrifice for friendship and honor?

About the author:
C. J. Brightley lives outside Washington, D.C., with her husband and their two young children. When she's not busy writing, she teaches karate, bakes too many desserts, and makes jewelry. She loves to connect with readers!

The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker
Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire's most notorious assassin, is in town. He's tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills... or someone wants her dead.

About the author:
Lindsay is a full-time independent fantasy author who loves travel, hiking, tennis, and vizslas. She grew up in the Seattle area but moved to Arizona when she realized she was solar-powered.

The Last Mage Guardian by Sabrina Chase
Most thought the Mage Guardians simply a myth, but their old enemy knows better--and of their number only one remains to thwart his plan of magical domination and revenge.

Miss Ardhuin Andrews, who ought to be learning elegant refinements at the Metan Seminary for Young Ladies, has instead fooled the headmistress and her late great-uncle’s servants into letting her stay at the old chateau–alone.  The better to avoid dancing lessons and study her forbidden magic.

But then the old chateau is attacked by powerful magic, and shortly after a strange young man, apparently immune to her magical distractions and illusions appears.  Is he connected to the attacks?

About the author:
"By day I am a mild-mannered software developer, making the world a better place for librarians. But when the sun goes down, I make stuff up for fun and profit.

"My background is in physics, where I got to play with killer lasers and synchrotrons. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am constantly supervised in my writing by two cats. If I did something wrong, they probably warned me about it."

Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest
Em is a twelve-year-old girl in a floating community off the Gulf Coast. Kaya is a political activist in a terrifying prison. They are pen pals. Em's wistful message in a bottle finds its way to Kaya, imprisoned above the molten lava of the Ruby Lake. Both are living precarious lives, at the mercy of societal, natural, and perhaps supernatural forces beyond their control. Kaya's letters inspire Em, and Em's comfort Kaya-but soon this correspondence becomes more than personal. Individual lives, communities, and even the fate of an entire nation will be changed by this exchange of letters. "Pen Pal" is a story of friendship and bravery across age, distance, and culture, at the intersection of the natural and supernatural world.

Find out more about the book at
The author's LiveJournal blog

Light in the Darkness will be released on October 18, but right now it's available for pre-order at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

The current price is only 99 cents, but because of the size of this collection, 12 full-length novels plus several short stories, the price will have to go up to $1.99 when we upload the final file on Oct. 8. Preorder before then to lock in the 99 cent price! I know that Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo have pre-order price guarantees where even if the price does go up later, if you pre-order at the 99 cent price that's what you pay. I couldn't find the information for iTunes; if you shop at iTunes, check to see if they have a preorder pricing policy. Don't miss out on the chance to get this wonderful collection for only 99 cents!