Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Author Spotlight: A.L. Butcher

Today I'm happy to welcome fantasy author A.L. Butcher to the blog.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, and thanks for having me today:) I’m A.L. Butcher (Alexandra), British author of fantasy, fantasy romance, mythic and short stories.

2. When did you start writing, and why?

I’ve always been creative, making up stories and imaginary friends and worlds so I guess that means forever;). If you mean when did I start writing professionally that would be about 2012, although technically that was when I first published. The actual book took about a year.
Why do I write? It keeps me sane, it helps me cope with anxiety, stress and it makes me happy. Also I write because I have stories to tell. A writer is who and what I am.

3. Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I grew up in a little town in the South Eastern UK. My family liked to read a lot, and we were encouraged to be creative. Both my father and grandmother made up stories, and my mother would take us to the theatre quite a bit.

I have a sister who’s an English and drama teacher, one whose an artist, and a grandmother who was a local historian.

4. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

As I said I mainly write fantasy fiction – for the most part it’s definitely adult – sex and sorcery as it were, but some of the short stories have less of the adult scenes. Much of my work is heroic fiction/mythic fiction. I’ve just produced a short collection of fairytale-esque stories (not adult rated – suitable for all), and that’s just been made into an audio book.

I’m also a poet, but that’s mainly written just for myself. I have a couple of horror short fiction stories, which have been produced for anthologies.

5. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
The Kitchen Imps and Other Dark Tales is my latest. It’s a collection of darkly humorous fairy tales featuring the titular imps, a rather bemused god, an enchanted kitchen and a canny thief who outwits a greedy king. The last is a retelling of an ancient Egyptian tale.
Hopefully the imps and their friends will return in later stories.

I’m also working on the second edition of my second novel, which should be republished shortly and in audio later this year. It’s be re-edited, and expanded slightly.

Currently I have two novellas in progress. The first relates back to an event in book II – but from a different perspective, and the second is an expansion of a story written for an anthology, featuring a bard who becomes a reluctant hero. Both of these will be part of the Tales of Erana series – the companion series for my novels.

6. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Erana is a fantasy world where magic is illegal and elves live as slaves. Magic is everywhere, it neither knows nor cares it’s illegal, for the rules of men are of no consequence to it. Unfortunately for those who are magical – the mages, adepts, musician adepts and magical creatures they must hide what they are or risk imprisonment or death at the hands of the ruling Order of Witch-Hunters. There are elves, trolls, humans and magical entities such as elementals, gods, and semi sentient objects. It’s a pretty dark world, run by martial law, and ruled by fear. Even the humans are not safe, for the Witch-Hunters and the slavers basically do what they like and anyone who defies them ends up enslaved or dead. It doesn’t stop the resistance, but it does make it a lot more dangerous.

Book I follows a young elven sorceress who runs away from the house of her wicked slavemaster; she must survive in a world where her very existence is illegal. During her adventures she helps rescue some other elves taken by slavers, meets a mysterious and powerful nobleman who is not all he seems, and has to come to terms with who she is and what she is.  Book II continues their adventures when they seek out a lost city, and magic box which might just turn the tables for the resistant. They must battle a foe long thought gone, and find out some terrifying truths. There is intrigue, betrayal, love, magic, lies, truth, battle, passion and monsters.

Book III follows some of the characters from book II as they try to find the source of a mysterious illness and the disappearances which have taken the lives of friend and foe alike, and the main character must prove her worth to lead her tribe.
7. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Book I:
  • Dii – Dii, or Dii’Athella is the elven sorceress. She’s pretty naïve in book I – she’s been a slave most of her life and knows little about the world. She’s clever, kind and very troubled.
  • Archos – he’s a human (sort of) sorcerer, resistance leader and nobleman. He’s charming, passionate and deadly.
  • Olek – he’s a half-elven ‘servant’ to Archos. In truth he’s a thief, assassin and spy.
  • Ozena – she’s a young forest elf whose village is raided by slavers. Archer, hunter and tracker she brings help and then must seek out her sister, who was taken in the attack. She’s also pretty naïve, life in a small forest village does NOT prepare one for the harsh reality of rule by the human overlords.

Book II:
All of the above, plus:
  • Marden – a human warrior and Witch-Hunter playing a very dangerous game.
  • Th’alia – an elven scholar sent to seek out Dii and Archos and captive of Marden.
  • M’alia – twin sister of Th’alia – and a captive mage who must not only survive her incarceration but keep the Witch-Hunters on the wrong trail.
  • Talfor – Trollish lord, warrior and bear-changer. The son of the local troll Shaman he accompanies the above group and is instrumental in the adventures and discoveries.

Book III:
M’alia, Talfor plus:
  • Mirandra – sister of Talfor and heiress to the Shaman of Var. She must survive her proving to lead, and discover the whereabouts of her missing kin.
  • Ephany – half-elven thief/whore who works for the resistance and acts as ‘bodyguard’ to the trolls in the human lands in the Emerald Valley.
  • Gregori – human merchant and adventurer who seeks knowledge of his kin and to right a perceived wrong.
  • Danyan – elderly human mage in hiding residing in the Emerald Valley who sets out to also answer the question of the mysterious disappearances.

8. What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Creating people and places.
About the Author:
A. L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles fantasy series, and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genres.  She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys.  Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as evocative.

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A. L. Butcher's books are available in ebook, paperback and/or audio at:
Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | CreateSpace

Read on for excerpts from The Kitchen Imps and The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles:

The Kitchen Imps and Other Dark Tales – six short tales of mayhem and mischief.
Naughty imps, missing socks, cunning thieves and baffled gods feature in this collection of short fantasy fiction.

The Kitchen Imps: The Joy of Socks

The Round Door of the Machine opened and once more the Offerings were placed inside; although there were many sizes and shapes, they were all white, and all deliciously filthy. The Bringer of Offerings poured in the Fragrant Powder, but as tiny bulbous red eyes watched and sharp-teethed mouths chuckled, the imps knew it would not be sufficient to eradicate the glorious stench they so craved!

Tiny clawed, three-fingered hands gripped the edge of the Door of Many Holes, and with a push it swung open to reveal the faces which owned the red eyes and the sharp teeth. Water poured in, and gleefully the imps squeaked and slid into the pile of dirty-white Offerings, hands grabbing and pulling to see what had been brought. They were hoping this time there would be the wonderful stench, the pungent odour of the Socks, as the last lot of Offerings had been most disappointing. Imps loved Socks! The taste, the feel of the crispiness of a week-old foot cover. The stinkier the socks, the more they adored and craved them. The thought of rolling around in such a cheesy, foul stench was what imps lived for.

“I love the smell of dirty socks in the morning!” Bunter crooned hopefully.

“I love dirty socks anytime at all, day or night!” said Gleego.

“Gimme socks for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” shouted Knot.

Rolling and bouncing as the water washed over them, seeming to be able to ignore the rushing torrent, the imps sniffed, hoping to find what they sought. Although the Offerings were indeed rather smelly, what the creatures looked for was not there. Bright blue tongues licked, tasting the grime and feeding upon the dirt, the stains and the lumps of grease. Hopefully they snorted and desperately they searched, only to find meagre and most unsatisfactory gifts. The odours of sweat, a myriad of foods and even the scent of something much more unsavoury filled their pointed noses. But their squeaks of displeasure echoed within the Round Cavern: these were not Socks! Such high pitched squeals went unnoticed by the Bringer; the human ear is too feeble a thing to hear the high-pitched voices of imps, so all the man heard was the rumble and roar of the Machine.

The chief of the imps, Ikthik, banged a tiny matchstick upon the glass of the Round Door, and at once the Machine ceased its rolling.

“Now gather ’round, you boggles, bugs and boogers!” he commanded.

The imps slid and swam to sit upon the pile of white Offerings, now soaking and foaming.  Ears swivelled to listen, and all were quiet.

Ikthik grunted, squeaked and squealed, waving the matchstick wildly in his tiny clawed hand.

“What’s this? What’s this?” he wondered. “This ain’t right!” Poking a nearby lump, he jumped upon it, angry and despairing.

“No socks? Where’s the socks? There ain’t no socks!” yelled Knot.

As one, many small heads nodded, teeth gnashed hungrily, and Gleego and Bunter scooted backwards towards the Door of Many Holes. Dragging it open, they pulled from the stash of inferior Offerings lingering beyond the door a large, bright blue pair of boxer shorts. Bunter looked at them longingly, for he liked these particular items, and this pair was especially disgusting, being of the two-weeks-between-washes variety. The imp dreamed of such items, but of course reminded himself that these were not Socks. Still, such treasure should not be sacrificed. Swiftly Bunter shook his head and then received a questioning glance from Gleego. Bunter shrugged and kicked the underpants away before pointing to a bright red and rather shredded pull-over.

“Bring that to me!” said Ikthik the chief.

The two imps dragged the item through to squeaking cheers and clapping of clawed hands, and placed it at the feet of Ikthik. Slinking away backwards, bowing and scraping, Bunter and Gleego exchanged the shared glances of a job well done and a secret kept. Ikthik held aloft the item of crimson red, displaying a strength that was most surprising in one so tiny. With a joint cry of revenge, the imps slithered and slipped back to the Door of Many Holes, disappearing into the darkness. Chief Ikthik again waved the matchstick in the air, and the Machine began to roll and rock once more.

“Victory is ours!” cried Ikthik.

Sometime later the Bringer fetched out the abandoned Offerings, groaning as he held aloft a pink-stained shirt and formerly white underpants that were now a most fetching, pale shade of rose.  Grunting, he pulled the ruined load from the Machine, his face wearing a look of anger and confusion as the faded, red pull-over tumbled out.

It was an article of clothing he did not even own.

Excerpts Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles - Book I
In a dark world where magic is illegal and elves are enslaved a young elven sorceress runs for her life from the house of her evil Keeper. Pursued by his men and the corrupt Order of Witch-Hunters she must find sanctuary. As the slavers roll across the lands stealing elves from what remains of their ancestral home the Witch-Hunters turn a blind eye to the tragedy and a story of power, love and a terrible revenge unfolds.
rated 18+

Excerpt One:

Shivering, Dii pulled her old wool cloak around her and looked at the sky, the stars now fading into the grey dawn. Mages could sense the weather, so Dii knew that more rain would follow this day; even now she could sense the pressure in the air. Hunger made her belly grumble, and as she looked at the thin tent, she knew it would not protect her from the late autumn weather much longer, or indeed the many other dangers which stalked the night. Dangers which were very real for one such as her; an elf, a woman and a mage, for as such, she was not free. Freedom in the land of Erana was rare. It could be bought and sold for some, although many did not have that luxury.

Pulling a very stale half loaf of bread from her cloak pocket, the elf toasted it and poured a little water from her water-skin into the metal pot to boil. Food was food after all. Luxury was another rare commodity. Tossing in a handful of dried leaves and herbs, she sweetened the tea with the few berries she had scavenged. The smell of the toast and herb tea revived the young elf’s spirits and suddenly the dawn did not seem so cold, or the future so uncertain. The small wooden box she carried contained a few herbs from her previous store, both for healing and refreshment, the land around providing much if a body knew where to look. Such plants could heal and fortify and often were of more value than coin, which one could not eat, nor would fight infection.

Dii was a skilled herbalist, surprising for one of her station, but she was clever and had an enquiring mind that searched until it found answers… She considered for a moment. The only good thing about her Keeper Joset's estate was Malana’s herb garden, which was by far the finest in the area and the most bountiful. Regretful for a moment, she thought about the woman she considered her mother, the only one she had ever known: a kind human woman, also a mage and a Kept, or slave, of Lord Joset Tremayne. Malana had taught her a little when she could, including the herb-lore, and loved her a good deal. Education was not the norm in Erana, especially for elves, but somehow it had suited her Keeper to allow her to learn, perhaps it increased her price. Sighing at that thought, Dii returned to her tasks.

Pulling the small purse from her cloak, she examined the meagre coins therein. Dii knew those few coins would not last long, and an elf with a bulging purse would certainly draw attention. She had spent the best part of the small amount she had been able to acquire on the tent and camping equipment, and that had drawn more notice than she had been comfortable with. Dii knew she had been overcharged, but also knew there was little she could do, she had handed over the coins and made her way swiftly from the stallholder’s sight.

Dii was well aware her Keeper was a nobleman, and thus rich and powerful. He was a man of influence, but she was also acutely aware of where a lot of that money had come from. So she had taken the few coins she had managed to hide unseen from her Keeper. Dii could have taken more; she knew she had more than earned it, but somehow felt wrong taking the gold of her Keeper, although after all he had forced her to do, she could not understand why she felt that way. Perhaps, she thought, it was simply self-preservation: half of her hoped he would not seek her, but were she a thief, he might be more inclined to do so. The young elf was many things, but a thief she was not. So Dii had left with a few meagre possessions and a small bag of coins. Everything else remained in her Keeper's house. More afraid of what lay within than without, she had risked her life to flee, both in physically doing so and to be out in these lands alone. So far she had been lucky not to have been spotted by anyone unfriendly to her kind, and she thanked the gods for that. Not knowing the trails and roads well, she had nothing to trust but her luck and her skills.

A Kept owned nothing by right, but Dii knew her favours paid well. Her lovers would sometimes give her coin or trinket if she had pleased them, or a grateful villager would pass on a few copper coins for the potions or herb-lore she distributed. Most of the common people had little healing knowledge beyond basic remedies passed generation to generation, and many communities did not have an apothecary. People often turned a blind eye to the local “wise folk,” although this was not always the case and many a mage had found themselves in the “hospitality of the Order of Witch-Hunters” due to a failure to heal someone, or from mere spite or fear. To be in possession of magic was illegal and, in many cases, meant imprisonment or even death.

Excerpt Two:

The staff hovered nearby; Archos muttered something as it floated to his command. He tossed it across his back, where it was easy to reach and he could release it with a word. Gently, he wrapped Dii in the blanket and lifted her in his arms. For a moment, his vision swam again and he breathed heavily, gasping in air to try and clear his head. Glancing down, he smiled at the soft form and felt her Power, weak as she was, flutter around him. Never had he felt such an attraction and longing for any creature; nor quite such a resolute Power and strength in one so young and untrained.

“Do you wish me to take her?” Olek said with concern, noting Archos' pale countenance.

“No… No, I have her now,” Archos replied softly and motioned him towards the door. Olek saw the look on his face, which said nothing would part them now.

Olek stepped into the passage, relieved to be out of the cell. Moving quickly, he led them back towards the door. Archos followed with only a fraction of his attention on where they were going. He was tired and knew he needed his magic for a while longer. As he walked, he trailed the storm behind him and slowly unravelled. Out in the darkness, he let it go and suddenly the full fury of the storm was allowed to rage.
“Run,” he breathed. “Run now!” Although by now his muscles ached and were not too obliged to respond without protestation.

They ran as the clouds raged in the sky and released rain in huge drops that froze. Whipping water determined to soak everything it could find, it was a rain that obscured the vision and chilled the bone. Wind roared in from the south, battering the banners and slamming the casements of the upper windows, raining glass in shards. The storm twisted in a tempest in the courtyard, sucking up stones and wood and slamming them into walls, ground and people without prejudice. Angry clouds spat forked lightning, cleaving the sky like the vengeance of the gods and grounded within the walls of the fort and on the roof, splitting tiles and bringing fire even in the driving rain.

As they reached the coach, the horses skittered in fear and Olek pulled the door open and jumped up, almost dragging Archos and the girl inside. He hastily pulled one of the soft rugs onto the floor, then leapt out and up to the seat as the thunder rolled and lightning sliced the air just behind them. Archos would trust no one else to drive in such a situation, and besides Simon had business elsewhere. The horses began to run in fear and it took all Olek’s skill to bring them under control enough to steer. Looking behind him, he saw mayhem. The roof burned and he could hear the sounds of panicked men and terrified horses, even at this distance. Three mounted riders rode out of the fort towards them. As the carriage picked up speed, he steered it to the forest trail.

Archos heard the storm rage and the frail breathing of the girl beside him. He flipped up the window and grinned when he saw the chaos of the storm unleashed. He felt a little hollow for having held the storm for so long and he saw the horses panic as thunder rolled close. The hoof beats behind them grew closer and he knew Olek was struggling to control the carriage as it rocked and bucked around him. As they approached the forest path, he looked down at Dii and gently he touched her, feeling her Power even now and it gave him strength.

“I bloody well hope you have a plan, my lord, those riders are gaining on us, our horses are terrified and your storm seems bent on killing everything!” Olek screamed back to him.

Closing his eyes, Archos tried to calm himself and summon the Power he needed. “Just drive for the gap in the trees, off the road,” he yelled back.

Olek looked around in the darkness and the mayhem of the storm. “Gap? What gap? Oh gods, if it was any man but you I would think you mad. I hope you have Power enough left for this.”

“So do I, my friend,” muttered the Archmage.

As the trees rapidly approached, Archos drew his Power and slammed his staff into the floor. “Wood to my will, let us pass where there is no gateway. Wood to my will, hide us from sight!” he cried into the darkness and the rapidly approaching trees.

As the spell ended, a gap appeared as branches turned and trees bent aside. The carriage plunged into the dark wood as the greenery slammed back behind them.

A. L. Butcher's books are available in ebook, paperback and/or audio at:
Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | CreateSpace

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