Fight Like a YA Girl Book Tag

Wow! Tremendous thanks to Cassiopeia’s Moon for including Vic and A WIZARD’S FORGE in her “Fight Like a YA Girl” list. We’re very honored.

A Very Fantasy Corner of Books

Be prepared for a lot of tips on strong female leads…

So I was not tagged by The Book Prophet to match YA girls to some descriptions, but I saw her do it and really want to do it. I just really hope I’ve read enough YA to have enough characters… Tend to read everything from children’s fantasy to adult fantasy so it might be a challenge. Let’s see how it goes!

Rules:
  • Thank the person who tagged you
  • Mention the creator Krysti at YA and Wine
  • Match at least one YA girl with each of the themes below
  • Tag as many people as you’d like!

It is so important for everyone to see examples of strong women in books, television, and movies. There are so many ways in which women exhibit strength, so this tag is meant to be a celebration of some those strengths.

Warrior Girls

Raisa ana’

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How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover

Nicola at Thoughts on Fantasy puts together an absolutely brilliant instruction manual on how to make a cliched fantasy book cover. #Designtip!

Thoughts on Fantasy

I’m not averse to a few fantasy clichés on a book cover – they let me know at a glance that I’m looking at a fantasy fiction novel, and can be nice if used in creative or appealing ways. As with all clichés, however, they become eye-roll-worthy when used en masse, i.e. when several standard tropes are all packed into the one artwork. If a book tries to cover too many bases, it can start to look a little silly.

I’ve encountered a few covers that take it a bit far, but I thought it’d be amusing to go even further, and have a bit of fun with the tropes of my favourite genre… so here is my recipe for a no-holds-barred, all-boxes-ticked, epic high fantasy book cover (accompanied by examples from the most clichéd design I can muster). I’m no graphic designer, but I imagine that will add a…

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Victory Takes Center Stage–a Guest Post by J.L. Gribble

About a year ago, I met a young author named J.L. Gribble who reminded me so much of myself I began calling her my Internet doppelganger. After an exchange of books and author interviews, we became friends, and I was thrilled to be asked to host J.L. here on my blog.

The Steel Empires series features a vampire named Victory who doesn’t sparkle and can be violent and voracious when the need arises, but who also loves her adopted human family deeply and will do anything to protect them. Victory is a consummate warrior, an astute politician, and a patient and loving mom. She’s my favorite character in the series, so I’m really excited about the release of Steel Blood. In this third novel in the Steel Empire series, Victory faces a whole new load of problems involving political intrigue, imminent danger, and wayward young people. What’s a fanged mother to do?

I also love the world J.L. created for this series, an urban fantasy/alternate history in which Rome and Britain are the world’s two superpowers and in which humans, vampires, werecreatures of all sorts, and elves live openly (though not necessarily harmoniously) in the independent city-state of Limani. The Steel Empires series opens upon the stirrings of a new conflict within this world, but I was intensely curious about the fascinating alternate history we glimpse throughout the narrative. Therefore I asked J.L. to write something about her inspirations and the backstory behind the founding of Limani.


History of Limani

by J.L. Gribble

When I asked my friend and author A.M. Justice whether I could stop by her home on the internet as part of the blog tour for my latest novel, I told her that I was open to write about pretty much anything. She quickly returned with a request for a very specific topic: How the home city in my alternate history world came to be.

Trust me, I wish I could respond with something as amazing as “spaceships,” as in A.M.’s excellent fantasy novel A Wizard’s Forge. Alas, my fantasy series is rooted much more in the, well, fantastical. In a world that has evolved where the common person has always known and coexisted with the supernatural, historical evolution has taken some wacky turns while still staying very much familiar to what we know in our own world.

The independent city-state of Limani, home to the main characters of my series, started life as Greek colony. The alliance of Greek city-states in Europa joined in the rush to settle the “New Continent,” managing to establish a foothold along the coastline near a major bay along the middle of the eastern coastline. They snagged space between the British colonies to the north and the newly claimed Roman territories to the south.

But while the British settlements were funded by second and third children of the werewolf nobility, and the massive Roman plantations were supported by corporations led by wealthy Roman vampire lines, the Greek colonists embodied the nature of their origins. These disparate colonists, from multiple Greek cities, maintained the ideals of equality and democracy that linked their alliance back in Europa. The major factor in their favor was that a larger proportion than expected of the original group of colonists consisted of mages from every elemental faction. These were mages schooled in the Greek magical academies held in esteem throughout Europa, looking for adventure and new beginnings.

And it was what saved Limani, in the end.

Bolstered by resources pouring in from their new territories in the New Continent, the Roman Empire set its sights on expansion at home once again. In a few short years, the last Greek city-states that had existed for thousands of years finally fell. Some fought for their independence to the bitter end and ended up in ruins, while others saw the writing on the wall and signed treaties with Roma that would ensure certain freedoms for their people.

Suddenly cut off from all support from home, as the city-states suddenly had bigger issues to worry about, Limani almost failed as a colony. But the mages, already spread throughout the colony and trying to establish lives for themselves, helped to keep the farms growing food and the small manufactories creating goods needed for the survival of their city. Those who were more combat-inclined helped the colony defend itself from incursions from the north and south. But every time the British and Roman settlements in the New Continent thought they smelled blood in the water, Limani proved itself more than willing to depend its staunch independence.

Later, the British and Romans established Limani as a neutral zone between their lands. Once it heard the news, Limani kind of shrugged and kept going about its day. It had better things to do than play politics with great powers across the ocean. By now, it already had trade deals with the nearby Romans and British and was as self-sufficient as possible.

It might have been easy for the mages to say, “Hey, we kept this city running. We should be in charge.” But Limani never forgot its roots, keeping to the ideals of democracy and fair representation. Over the years, a family of werewolves showed up and sought sanctuary from their noble families who’d disapproved of a marriage made for love. Other werecreatures drifted in, found a society where they weren’t automatically second-class citizens under the wolves, and made themselves at home.

Two vampires moved in one day. One of them started a bar. The other announced plans to found a university. Limani tolerated its eccentric immortals, until they chased off another pair of vampires who killed in the city with abandon. Then Limani heaved a sigh of relief when one of the vampires finally acknowledged that she was the Master of the City. They gave her a seat on the city council with a partial vote, like the werewolf alpha and representatives of the other werecreatures.

Elves had lived in the city since shortly after its founding, but more moved in once it had a functioning university, mage school, and Mercenary Guildhall—three of the modern hallmarks of civilization. Though short a Qin weredragon, Limani was now a microcosm of the greater world. Even surrounded by empires, the city existed as a quiet power in its own right.

The city is certainly not without its share of drama. At one point, the werepanthers fought for equal representation with the werewolves on the city council. Later, a new Roman emperor thought he could march in and take over the city (see Steel Empires Book 1: Steel Victory). The city more than proved him wrong. But overall, it’s been a quiet town on a river, with opportunities for education and occupation. Limani would be happy to welcome you home.


Steel-Blood-Jacket.inddThough the vampire Master of the City leaves Limani for a short time in Steel Empires Book 3: Steel Blood, she’ll never forget her adopted home! About the book:

As her children begin lives of their own, Victory struggles with the loneliness of an empty nest. Just when the city of Limani could not seem smaller, an old friend requests that she come out of retirement for one final mercenary contract—to bodyguard his granddaughter, a princess of the Qin Empire.

For the first time in a century, the Qin and British Empires are reopening diplomatic relations. Alongside the British delegation, Victory and her daywalker Mikelos arrive in the Qin colony city of Jiang Yi Yue. As the Qin weredragons and British werewolves take careful steps toward a lasting peace between their people, a connection between the Qin princess and a British nobleman throw everyone’s plans in disarray.

Meanwhile, a third faction stalks the city under the cover of darkness.

This is not a typical romance. It’s a good thing Victory is not a typical vampire.

Buy links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2pPShZH
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/steel-blood-jl-gribble/1126268372
From the publisher: http://rawdogscreaming.com/books/steel-blood/

 

About the author:

Gribble photo colorBy day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

News from the Front Lines, or Where Have I Been the Past Month?

How is it that a month has passed since my last blog! Well, I’ve been busy putting A Wizard’s Forge in book shows, picking up an award medal, and doing a partial preview release of A Wizard’s Sacrifice on RoyalRoad. Take a walk backward through my calendar of the past several weeks.

Gettysburg

I just got back from chaperoning my daughter’s fifth grade senior trip to Gettysburg, PA, site of the largest battle in the U.S. Civil War. The kids had the time of their lives (my daughter reports it was “one of” the highlights of her life). Not only did the kids enjoy staying overnight in a hotel (four to a room–one great big slumber party and one stalwart vice principal who roamed the hallways all night to put the kibosh on noisy horseplay), we slipped some educational activities in too, at the exhibits at the National Military Park Visitor Center, a guided battlefield tour where I peppered the guide with questions about artillery (a fascination of mine), a walk through the National Cemetery where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, a visit to Dwight and Mamie Eisenhowers’ farm, and my favorite, the Seminary Ridge Museum, complete with life-size dioramas depicting field amputations (I love a good gory wax museum, don’t you?). The kids in our group received battlefield training from both the docents at the Seminary Ridge and our battlefield tourguide.

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A Union canon

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Brooklyn fifth graders visiting monument to the 14th Brooklyn Regiment.

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A bunch of Yankee kids prepare to reenact Confederate General Pickett’s Charge while teachers and chaperones nervously await the onslaught near the Union cannons.

I gleaned some background knowledge that will come in handy for my work on A Wizard’s Sacrifice, which contains some massive battles. Knownearth artillery is medieval–catapults, trebuchets, and ballistae–but it’s still good to learn how the tools of death were employed in real-life battles.

BookExpo

IMG_5254The New York BookExpo and BookCon runs for 4 days and is the largest book fair in the U.S. A Wizard’s Forge appeared on the BookLife shelf through the Combined Book Exhibit. I put Forge in the show hoping it’d catch some attention (especially with it’s shiny Finalist sticker–see below!), although I had some concerns it’d be lost in the sea of books. It almost certainly was, especially since the Combined Book Exhibit organizers put it on a low shelf (authors have no say in books’ placement). Still, I had a good time touring the exhibit hall, chatting with folks from Ingram Spark (my ebook distributor), networking at a publicity firm, and listening to some of the presentations, including a great one sponsored by Tor focusing on women science fiction authors. I also saw this awesome display for an upcoming Spinal Tap book (which I have already preordered for my husband–shhhhh, it’s a surprise!)IMG_5255

Next Generation Indie Book Awards Ceremony

 

The first week in May I received an exciting email: A Wizard’s Forge had been chosen as a finalist in the 2017 NGIBAs! I entered it into the fantasy and science fiction categories, and it made the cut in the science fiction group–I love it when Forge is recognized for its science fiction elements.

June2017_0AWFListingPageA listing for Forge also appeared in Locus magazine, the editors of which correctly identified its genre as science fantasy. This tiny little blurb was almost as exciting as the award, since Locus is the bible of speculative fiction. Fingers are crossed that somebody sees it and thinks, hey, that sounds cool. Maybe I’ll order some copies for my bookstore!

Work on A Wizard’s Sacrifice

AWSCoverRR.v1Several author friends in the Science Fantasy society are regular users of RoyalRoad, a free-read website authors use to build fanbases. In order to motivate myself to finish A Wizard’s Sacrifice, the sequel to A Wizard’s Forge, I decided to put the draft version of the book up on RoyalRoad and to treat readers’ reactions as a kind of virtual focus group/collective beta read (and frankly I’m hoping some RR readers will be motivated to buy a copy of Forge). You can find the first fourteen chapters there now, with more to come. I hope you’ll stop by and tell me what you think (I really want to know!).

 

The Other Stuff Keeping Me Busy

In the midst of all these goings-on, I had a birthday, saw Wonder Woman and loved it (check out Locus Mag’s review), went on a stargazing weekend with my husband and tried out our new Schmidt Cassagrain telescope, found out my award-winning short story has been up on the Writers Digest website since March(!), and started an exciting, high-profile/high-pressure day job assignment.

Coming up I have my daughter’s birthday party, my husband’s birthday, other family events, and…well, there’s a lot more work in the trenches.

Why I Marched in DC, Again

Back in January I drove from Brooklyn to Washington, DC, with my daughter for the Women’s March. As I described previously, there were a host of reasons why I made the 6-hour drive down, but the importance of science for the future of humanity was certainly among them. Sadly, the Trump Administration has proved itself as much the enemy of science as a foe of women’s equality. The President’s funding and staffing priorities are strong evidence that Mr. Trump believes curtailing scientific research is to his benefit.

So, two weeks ago, my daughter and I drove down to DC again to meet up with friends and add our voices to the hundreds of thousands marching in protest of the Administration’s policies.  It rained that Saturday, and we spent a cold, soggy morning waiting in line to get into the rally, then taking shelter in the Kids Place tent where our children made bracelets that changed color when exposed to ultraviolet light (sunlight works best!) and tested different substances for the presence of iodine. The gee-whiz factor worked its magic, but the rain was relentless, and we left the rally to seek refuge in another place of science, the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.

IMG_5079Admission to the Smithsonian museums is free to all–a true wonder to this New Yorker who maintains a membership in the Museum of Natural History merely so we can bypass the line and get discounts on special exhibit admission, and who is used to paying the “suggested” admission price of $20 when I visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (To be fair, the Met admission is a donation, and you can pay as little as you want so long as you can bear the ticket sellers’ derision.) As we entered Air and Space, I wondered how long admission would stay free in the present climate in which military spending is ratcheted up while funding for education and research dwindle. True, a lot of the Air and Space exhibits are devoted to war machines, and even the Apollo spacecrafts were birthed from Cold War conflict, but I still couldn’t help think what a poor business man Mr. Trump actually is, that he would prioritize the short-term profits of the military-industrial complex over the long-term gains of investing in the future of this nation by supporting public education and scientific research. If only the wealthy have access to a quality education, and economic policies concentrate wealth in a shrinking portion of the populace so that fewer and fewer people can gain the education needed to conduct science, then we won’t have the human resources we need to navigate our way through the crises looming on the horizon.

GilaBasic research often doesn’t have an immediately apparent value, but scientific knowledge is incremental, and minute discoveries in one field often have a butterfly effect and can lead to major innovations decades later. (The 1980s PBS series Connections, as well as both the Carl Sagan and Neil Degrasse Tyson editions of Cosmos beautifully describe these linkages.) An example from my direct experience is exendin-4, a protein found in Gila monster venom that was developed into the first glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist, a type of diabetes medication that helps reduce weight and blood pressure as well as blood sugar. I don’t know the exact progression from southwestern lizard biologist to Walgreen’s pharmacist, but it’s a good bet the biologist didn’t set out to find a diabetes medication when he or she started analyzing the composition of lizard venom.

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Thirteen reasons why climate change is important: Dancewave Young Movers Ensemble, April 29, 2017

Because my daughter had a dance performance, we didn’t join the climate change march on April 29, but climate change is the biggest threat humans face, whether we choose to believe it or not. For those who said “no” to the New York Times poll about whether climate change will affect them personally, I’d point to the Middle East refugee crisis and the rise of ISIS, to the increase in tornadoes in the Midwest, longer and more severe hurricane seasons in the Gulf and Eastern Seaboard, and the droughts in the Southwest and California, not to mention the flipside flooding and mudslides experienced by Californians this year. Bee colonies are collapsing, corals are dying, and Zika- and West Nile–carrying mosquitoes are infiltrating farther north each season. Plus sea levels are rising, so coastal property owners would do well to consider the long-term value of a home that might be good only for housing boats in ten or twenty years. (I joke about how the Prospect Expressway, which is a sunken highway running past my front windows, will one day be like the Grand Canal in Venice. It’s not really that funny, because it may well become true.)

IMG_5092What’s the value of all these protest marches? Well, the budget deal wrought in Congress over the weekend preserved funding for the NIH and some other important science-based programs. Environmental regulations are still in severe jeopardy, but incremental progress is still progress. We’ll have to do this one rain-soaked step at a time.

B2BCyCon Fantasy Blog Hop—Stop #22: The Insider’s Guide to A Wizard’s Forge: Politics and Powers

Welcome to the B2BCyCon Fantasy Blog Hop! Thanks for stopping by my blog and checking out my work.

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A Wizard’s Forge is the first in a series called The Woern Saga, and it’s an onion, with a lot of layers of a plot that developed over a lot of years. The tone is dark; the story thought-provoking. Knownearth, the world of A Wizard’s Forge, has complex power structures, both magical and political.

Powers

“What’s your magic system?” is one of the first questions you hear when you’re a fantasy author. Because my fantasy is rooted in science fiction, my first response when someone asks me this question is, “there is no magic system, because there’s no magic.” At least, the people of Knownearth don’t consider their supernatural powers magical. Yet, they do have supernatural powers! In the novel, they’re called mindspeech and wizardry, but we would know them as telepathy and telekinesis.

Mindspeech

When Vic, the protagonist of A Wizard’s Forge, is sold as a slave in the city of Traine, she doesn’t speak the local language, but she can nevertheless understand Lornk, her new master:

“How come I understand you?” she asked flatly. “I hear strange words come out of your mouth, but I know what they mean.”

“I speak to your mind as well as your ears, darling.”

The first people Vic meets who have mindspeech use it as a sort of universal translator to facilitate communication with people from other lands. When Vic escapes slavery and flees to the nation of Latha, she finds a whole society who use mindspeech as their primary means of talking to each other.

“Mindspeech is a nice power,” Vic said. “The people who had it in Traine, they spoke with their thoughts and their voices. But you use only your thoughts?”

Bethniel shrugged. “We do use our voices when we get excited. You heard the children yammering earlier. And we always speak aloud on formal occasions like funerals and on Landing Eve, to honor Elesendar.”

All Lathans use mindspeech for everyday communication, and Vic herself eventually learns to use it as well. However, some Lathans, known as Listeners, have a particular talent for mindspeech. The most powerful Listeners can do more than Hear a person’s secret thoughts, they can implant illusions in their minds.

Vic’s eyes darted to Wineyll. “How many people can you deceive at the same time?”

The girl disappeared. Carl cursed and leapt to his feet as Drak stumbled backward off the edge of the cliff, arms pinwheeling. Vic caught him in a net of air and set him down on the rock. Breathing heavily, he nodded his thanks.

“Do you see her?” Bethniel asked. When Vic shook her head, the princess said, “That’s at least four.”

Wineyll reappeared, and Vic gave her a hard look. “How many illusions can you do at the same time? How long can you maintain them, and in how many people?”

“I’m not sure, Marshall, but this is why you brought me, isn’t it?”

The source of Knownearthers’ telepathic powers is unknown, although everyone on the planet has the ability to learn mindspeech, just as all people on Earth can learn any spoken or sign language. However, some Knownearther scholars have speculated that mindspeech and wizardry share a common origin.

Wizardry

Wizardry is the term Knownearthers use to describe the telekinetic powers possessed by people who survive drinking a concoction variously called the Elixir or the Waters of the Dead.

“Why would they kidnap us?” Vic asked.

The princess shook her head, mouth grim. “I’m guessing the Waters of the Dead.”

“What are those?”

Bethniel cast her a scathing look. “Some history buff. They called it the Elixir in the time of wizards? You’ve never heard of it?”

“Beth, I studied real history, not the fancies of poets and hucksters. Frankly, I only accepted that your mother’s powers might be real last winter, and I’ve been too busy fighting a war to study up on how she might have gained them.”

Bethniel’s glare softened. “Well, the Waters are how. The Kragnashians make anyone who comes to Direiellene drink it.”

“So they make you a wizard?” Vic’s mind leapt at the advantages Elekia’s power, weak as it was, could give.

“It’s not a boon.” Bethniel’s shoulders hunched around her ears. “The Waters are the price of entry into Direiellene, and the price my mother paid for my father’s throne. The merchants who trade with the Kragnashians, they never leave the beach because the Waters kill most people, and it’s a horrible death. Of those who don’t die, most go insane.”

“Your mother didn’t.”

Bethniel shrugged. “I guess she was one of the lucky few.”

The Waters of the Dead contain a neurologic parasite called the Woern, which give those few who survive initial infection the ability to manipulate matter and energy with their minds. Vic can create fire and electricity and move objects as small as atoms and as large as boulders. However, Vic also suffers from severe migraines. She learns the nature of her power in A Wizard’s Sacrifice (due out in 2018):

“How do you feel?” Elekia asked. “Any sickness or headache?”

Vic’s fingers grazed a temple and the hollow space where pain usually throbbed. Her belly growled softly with appetite. “I actually feel normal this morning.”

The queen’s eyes shot to Bethniel, then returned to Vic. “I prayed you would survive taking the Waters of the Dead, but I learned long ago not to depend on prayers alone. That is why I sent my daughter to the desert with you.” Beth’s jaw dropped while Vic’s eyebrows knitted over the stirrings of a fresh headache. Elekia continued, “The Waters contain a parasite called the Woern, which kills most who consume it. Most of those whom it does not kill become wizards, like you and I.”

“But you’re not sick.”

“No. My father traces his family line back to Saelbeneth, leader of the very Council for whom your namesake fought in the war against Meylnara. She was reported to be immune to the ill effects of the Woern, and so am I. Last night I gave you an infusion of my Woern, which Saelbeneth would do for her allies on the Council, and which was said to heal them of their ills. So it worked between me and you.” Elekia nodded at Bethniel. “The Woern can be passed from one wizard to another through sweat, blood, tears, saliva—any fluid of the body. They are also passed from mother to infant in the womb. This is why I sent Bethniel with you—to help you survive.”

“I have no power,” Beth cried aloud.

“No, your Woern remained dormant, which has been a blessing. But you can pass them to Vic.”

Knownearth’s history includes a period when wizardry was quite common, but that era ended when the Wizards Council engaged in a pogrom to kill everyone, regardless of age or degree of power, who possessed the Woern without the Council’s permission. A thousand years later when Vic drinks the Waters, she and Queen Elekia are the only ones in Knownearth with wizardry.

Politics

Knownearth includes seven major nations, each with a different system of government and one composed of a nonhuman species.

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Latha

Latha is a republic with an elected monarch who serves for life, assuming no crimes or misdemeanors force him or her off the throne. The Lathan Senate chooses each succeeding Ruler—usually the designated Heir—but the Senate often chooses another candidate. Latha’s current Ruler, King Sashal, gained the throne through a backroom deal orchestrated by his wife, Elekia, when she was seventeen years old. For almost twenty years, Sashal and Elekia have waged war—or, as they would say, defended the nation—against Lornk Korng, the Lord of Relm.

Relm

Relm is an inherited dictatorship ruled by a single individual styled the Lord or Lady of Relm or, informally, the Relmlord/lady. A Council composed of trade guild leaders, wealthy merchants, and the Relmlord/lady’s spouse—known as the First Councilor—provide advice and oversee government functions. The current Relmlord, Lornk Korng, is well regarded despite the long war with Latha and the fact that Lornk himself was born in Betheljin and only inherited the Relman Seat when his cousin and predecessor died without issue. Moreover, Lornk has never married, and his only heir is his bastard son Earnk. Relmans would normally be outraged by these indiscretions, but Lornk is a consummate politician, and his charisma, ruthlessness, and governing abilities have made him popular with the Relman people.

Insider Fact: Lornk and Elekia courted when they were young; at the same time, Lornk and Sashal were as close as brothers. Then, the brilliant and beautiful Elekia shocked the world by jilting the equally brilliant and handsome future Relmlord in favor of his humble wingman, Sashal. In revenge, Lornk seduced Elekia’s sister but refused to marry her, even when she bore his son Earnk. This scandalous breach of Lathan and Relman customs drove a permanent wedge between the friends and led to the decades-long war between Latha and Relm.

Betheljin

Betheljin is an oligarchy ruled by a single despot called the Commissar. The capital, Traine, is similar to Ancient Rome, with a huge wealth gap between the iron-mine-owning Citizens and everyone else. Coups, rebellions, and backstabbing chicanery are commonplace among the Citizenry. Whereas the traditions and political machinery of Latha and Relm generally ensure peaceful transfers of power from one ruler to the next, the Commissar often must secure his or her rule through violence. When they’re not betraying or killing each other, the Citizens revel in opulence and debauchery, and they keep slaves to perform menial labor as well as to satisfy their basest whims.

Insider Fact: Lornk Korng is a Citizen as well as Relmlord, and he divides his time between his family’s ancestral palazzo in Traine and the Seat of Relm. How does he manage to travel roughly 3000 miles between the two locations with only horses and sailboats? There’s a transporter called the Device in both his homes. Humans have used these portals for centuries, though no one knows who built them or how they work. The Master Device is in the Kragnashian capital, so it is likely the Device is a Kragnashian invention.

Kragnash

A vast, barren desert, Kragnash is the home of Knownearth’s indigenous people, a species of eighteen-foot-tall intelligent insects who possess not only the Master Device but also control access to the Woern. Nearly all Kragnashians live in their capital city, Direiellene, an oasis the Kragnashians created after the Wizards Council destroyed the rain forest that once covered their land. Despite this environmental disaster, the Kragnashians appear to bear no malice toward humans and enthusiastically trade with them. They do, however, force any humans who stray too deep into their territory to drink the Waters of the Dead, which leads to madness and death in nearly everyone.

Insider Fact: The Kragnashians have been waiting for centuries for “the One,” the embodiment of the wizard who freed them from enslavement by another wizard they call the Oppressor. Vic happens to bear the same name as the Kragnashians’ savior: Victoria of Ourtown.

Caleisbahnin

The Caleisbahn Archipelago is home to a seafaring nation of traders, pirates, and slavers. The government is structured along naval command lines, with a head of state known as the First. Caleisbahnin and Betheljin are usually closely aligned, with the pirates acting as a mercenary navy for the Commissar. During the time of wizards, the Caleisbahnin considered service to them a sacred duty, but since wizards disappeared from Knownearth, Caleisbahn society has been mostly closed to outsiders.

Eldanion

Eldanion lies between Latha and Betheljin and is renowned for its wines and horses. A titled nobility famous for their frivolous and extravagant lifestyle leave the governing to the prime minister and parliament.

Semeneminieu

Proud of their nation’s tongue-twisting name, Semena citizens elect their leaders in Knownearth’s only direct democracy. The nation is home to the steeds, a migratory species of giant insects that Semena herders raise for meat and hides.

I hope these insights inspire you to take a closer look at A Wizard’s Forge. It’s available from Amazon and other major retailers.

Thanks for stopping by my blog! To continue along the blog hop, please head back to the B2BCyCon Blog Hop Hub.

B2BCyCon Fantasy “Behind The Scenes” Tour—Stop #8

Guest Post

I’m thrilled to host fantasy writer Suzanna Linton as part of the Brain to Books Cyber Convention activities this week. She’s dropped by here to talk about laying the groundwork for readers to suspend their disbelief (a favorite topic of mine).

Realistic Fantasy

by Suzanna Linton

It doesn’t seem right for reality to go along with fantasy. It’s fantasy for crying out loud. It’s totally fine for things to happen that are unrealistic.

This is true. Up to a point.

Suspend Your Disbelief

In order to get readers to swallow a giant who crushes towns for fun, a writer needs to make the reader suspend disbelief. This means they accept something they normally would not. However, if the giant is the cherry on top of a cake of the unbelievable, then the reader finds it difficult to stay with the story.

For example, in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy a few of the characters run for miles at great speed, for days, without needing rest. This pushes the boundary of credulity, making it hard for readers to accept it, because an average person would not be able to do that. Especially not a person carrying weaponry and wearing armor. The only reason why a reader would swallow it is that these are otherworldly characters and not the average person.

And it’s freaking Tolkien.

If another fantasy writer did that, involving regular humans who don’t make it a habit of running marathons, then credulity would be stretched. Readers would lose trust in the reliability of the author and disbelief could no longer be suspended.

What Should Be Real?

I sent my novel Willows of Fate to beta readers prior to publication, as one does. One of the readers had a hard time with a scene where my main character, Desdemona, is about to bathe. By this point, Desdemona has left our world for a more fantastical world that’s still stuck in the Middle Ages. Prior to her bath, someone gives her an oval bar of soap to use. My beta reader couldn’t swallow it. She could accept they would have soap in a medieval-esque world but not oval bars.

Now, soap-like mixtures have been in use since Sumerian times but hard, cake-like bars didn’t come into being until the 12th century, which fits the novel. I knew I was right about that, though maybe not about the shape. It sounds more possible that the soap makers cut their product into crude rectangles. For the sake of credulity, I changed the scene slightly.

When I wrote my latest novel, Clara’s Return, I made it a point to research how far a horse can reasonably travel in a day. I used that to plan the pacing of the novel. By being realistic about travel, not only was I able to establish credulity with my readers but I was also able to use it to my advantage.

What writers need to get right, as much as possible, are the little details. Most fantasy is based off a real time period. In terms of social structure and everyday life, what can be carried over into the novel? What things would make the fantasy world more believable?

Some things are pet peeves, like carrying swords into battle while they’re strapped to the back. Swords, particularly great swords, may have been transported that way but warriors didn’t make it a habit of wearing them like that all the time, mostly because they would have been impossible to draw. And women’s armor was no different from men’s armor. (Looking at you, Dragon Age.)

Not every reader will know the difference. Not all readers know about the minutia of a particular historical period. However, that doesn’t lessen the importance of research and getting it right, at least in part.

When a writer gets the little details right, it creates a believable world that makes it easier for the reader to accept the bigger things, like giants and magic. Fantasy grounded in reality is not only still fantasy but also makes for a better read.


Suzanna J. Linton grew up in the swamps of the South Carolina Lowcountry, where she was fed a steady diet of books, tall tales, and catfish. She started writing poetry from an early age before transitioning to fiction. While in high school, she was introduced to the Dragonriders of Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Animorphs. From those Suzanna gained a deep desire to write about tough women heroes.

In 2002, she attended the summer program at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts of Humanities and graduated from Francis Marion University in 2007. She has three books published and her latest novel is Clara’s Return. Suzanna continues to live in South Carolina with her husband, their two dogs, and a cat.

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Print [to] Screen

I love movies and TV. In fact, I watch far, far more than I read these days. My readers also know I like to paint pictures in my prose, and I’d love to see this passage framed in film:

Vic started climbing again, her knees scraping against the stone. The rock was cool, smooth, almost clammy, but the handholds offered a solid grip. The darkness of the cleft soothed her eyes, but she forgot the throb in her temples when her head emerged into the light.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Bethniel sat cross-legged beside the opening; the captains lounged beyond.

The sinking sun blazed over a cacophony of arches and pinnacles towering above flat-topped mesas, ragged fissures, fluted ridges. Blue and gold, orange, purple, red, even pale green striped and swirled in intricate patterns toward distant blue peaks capped with white.

I’d also love to see my beloved characters brought to life, and while I’m indulging in the book-to-film fantasy, I’ll give myself a say in who should play whom.

Victoria of Ourtown

Vic sliced open the soldier’s shirt, handing Silla a swath of fabric to force between his teeth. “I hope they find you in time,” she said as she cut. Shrieks muffled, the man jolted and bucked, but her comrades held him. “I almost wish I could be there when the Relmlord sees this. I hope you’re still alive, so he can tell you what your punishment would have been, had it been me you found. Knowing him, he probably won’t tell you—he’ll show you.”

“You’re the one they wanted?” Silla asked over the man’s gagged scream.

Vic pointed to the name carved into the man’s bloody chest. “That’s what he called me.”

“Kara. Like the wizard.”

Vic shrugged, then read aloud the message she’d cut into the man’s skin. “I raped a girl I thought was Kara.” Standing, she touched her tongue to the blade, relishing the iron. “I really hope you’re still alive when your comrades find you. If you are, when you see Lornk Korng, tell him Victoria of Ourtown will never be his.”

Vic is intellectually brilliant, hard as nails on the outside, and fragile as glass on the inside. Michelle Duckett, a London model and photographer, captured that mix of smart, tough vulnerability beautifully on the cover, but who could replicate that on film? Vic is also petite—her diminutive size in relation to her enemy, her lovers, and her extraordinary telekinetic power is a deliberate contrast. I’d love to have Kate Mara or Saoirse Ronan read for the role.

Lornk Korng, Lord of Relm

Lornk had just taken her father from her, as he took her clothes, her hair, her self. Her head shrank into her shoulders, while his eyes grew larger, bluer as he watched. “You want me to have nothing but you,” she said, her voice clearer than she would have thought.

He laughed softly, stretching his arms out, then twining his fingers behind his neck. “I told you once—I want you to crave me. Why do you think that is?”

“So I’ll obey you.”

“Oh, I’ve had your obedience for months. What I want now is your devotion. The day may come when you will have the world in your hands, and I want you to hand it to me, without reservation.”

Lornk is a charismatic sociopath, and he would make a delicious role for any actor to sink his teeth into. In days past, Jeremy Irons or Ralph Fiennes would have played him spectacularly. During the Schindler’s List and English Patient era, Fiennes even looked exactly how I imagine Lornk. Fiennes would still be great, though he has perhaps aged a bit past the role; Michael Fassbender would now top my list to play Vic’s nemesis, even though he’s a bit young for it.

Ashel, Prince of Latha

“We meet again, Highness,” Lornk Korng said. “I regret under less comfortable circumstances.”

Fearing the Relmlord would see the recognition in his eyes, Ashel ducked his head. “I don’t know what you mean,” he said.

“Oh, stop,” Lornk said irritably. “This ruse might have worked if we hadn’t met, but don’t insult me by pretending it to my face.”

“I’m not Prince Ashel—”

“Highness, it’s very simple. I have a document I want you to sign.” The guard held the paper so Ashel could read it.

I, Prince Ashel of Narath, wish for peace between the people of Relm and the people of Latha. I call upon my mother, Elekia of Reinoll Parish, elected Ruler of Latha, who came to her position through subterfuge and malicious intent, to end hostilities and withdraw all Lathan troops from Relman territory.

“You’re mad to think the prince would sign that,” Ashel said.

Committed to art over politics, Ashel loves music and revelry, but as the story unfolds, empathy and courage emerge as his defining characteristics. The actor who plays him must have the presence to stand as Lornk’s equal and opposite, as well as jaw-dropping good looks and a fantastic singing voice. I don’t know whether he can sing, but Ricky Whittle looks like Ashel, and would be phenomenal plumbing the depths of the character.

Los Angeles premiere of 'Pacific Rim'

Ricky Whittle

Geram of Alna

On the edge of the campsite, a Relman with arms thick as a ship’s mast dragged the prince into the trees. A wiry man and burly woman trotted alongside, eyes darting for pursuers. Whatever happens, don’t let him be captured. Idiot. Henrik let a green prince loose in Fembrosh with that stupid harp and tells me, don’t let him get captured. Geram followed them out of the copse and watched from behind a tree as they bound Ashel hand and foot in a dry creekbed. Listening, he picked out the voice of the Relman commander from their memories.

“Daniy,” Geram cried into their minds, “come here!”

The big one jumped and dashed off. Slipping from behind the tree, Geram put an arrow in the woman’s eye and another in the man’s chest. A slice across the throat finished him.

“It’s me.” He knelt and cut Ashel free. “Are you hurt?”

Muffling his thoughts, the prince sat up, rubbing his wrists. Blood seeped from a cut on his back, but he took a stoneknife off a Relman and headed back into the copse.

“No.” Geram held him back. “It’s all over now. We have to run for it.”

Selfless, stalwart, and supremely skilled, Geram is the one you want beside you in a battle or when your worst nightmare unfolds. One of Latha’s strongest Listeners—people with profound telepathic abilities—he’s a consummate warrior, and you can count on him to do his job, regardless of the cost to himself. I’d like to have Nick Cannon or Michael B. Jordan come in and read for Latha’s most loyal soldier and friend.

Earnk Korng

Pallid and sweating, his father raised himself onto an elbow and sipped water laced with harlolinde. In the frigid air of the cabin, he wore only a nightshirt, damp and soiled with seepage from his wound. “You know who did this to me?”

Earnk gazed out the window. “Yes.”

“Do you still think you love her?”

Earnk’s head swiveled to face his father. Lornk was grinning, his teeth and eyes cloudy, his face now shining with fever. Clenching his fists behind his back, Earnk shook his head. “Of course not. I’ve—that was an infatuation.” He cleared his throat. “I know my duty—to Relm as much as you. Count on it.”

“I’d like to.” Father’s smile relaxed, followed by Earnk’s shoulders. “But can I? You’re your mother’s son more than mine.”

Earnk is trapped between his fear of Lornk and his ambition to succeed him as Relmlord, but his unrequited love for Vic gives him the strength to defy his father. The actor who takes this role should excel at befuddled angst. Ryan Gosling or Max Thieriot both have a wounded, dreamy quality that would make them great fits for the role.

Bethniel, Princess and Heir of Latha

“The Senate took my birthright and handed it to my mother. They’re not going to take it away from her, and she’s not going to give it up until she’s dead. It’s what she’s wanted her whole life.”

Vic crossed her arms, a beat of sympathy in her throat. “This could be a suicide mission, and being captured is worse than being killed, when it comes to Lornk Korng.”

“But the title Heir only means something if the Senate agrees to the inheritance. They didn’t elect me Ruler because they believed I couldn’t handle it. I need to prove I can, or when the time comes, the Senate will pass me over again, and the throne could pass out of my family altogether.”

“Lornk broke me into pieces, Beth, and if I hadn’t escaped, he would have put me back together the wrong way round. I’m terrified what he’ll do to Ashel. I do not want him doing anything to you.”

“There’s no reward without risk, not for me anyway.”

Ashel’s sister Bethniel loves fashion and parties, but she hides a will of steel beneath her frivolous mask. Heir to Latha’s throne, she already has a ruler’s willingness to do the unthinkable, if the outcome will be in the national interest. Zoe Saldana looks exactly how I imagine Bethniel, although she is nearly twenty years older than the character (not that you could tell). I’d also like to see Zendaya or Jessica Lucas read for this part.

Elekia, Queen of Latha

“I’ve done nothing but test you since the day you arrived. But you passed, Vic. This is your prize.”

Trembling, Vic retrieved the dagger. Its blade was finer than any crystal; it balanced marvelously in her palm, but the sight of it sent hysteria beating up her throat. “It’s filthy. I can’t.” She sank onto the queen’s bed, itching with the memory of Lornk’s fingers.

“Don’t look at it.” Elekia pressed the velvet into Vic’s hands. “Don’t touch the metal. But when you get to Lordhome, cleanse it with his blood.” The queen pulled Vic’s chin up. Her fingers warm, they soothed the hysteria creeping across Vic’s skin and up her throat. “You are my youngest child, who came to me almost grown. I didn’t bear you, didn’t rear you, but you’re no less mine than the ones I nursed from my breast. I know you have the strength to do what you must, because you have my strength. Show it to Lornk. Then bring my son and daughter safely home.”

Elekia hides her passions and worries behind an impassive hauteur. She’s played a lifelong chess match against Lornk, and will use every tool and stratagem, including her loved ones, to thwart him. Thandie Newton, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Gina Torres all have the presence to portray this ice queen; Torres has the height too.

Wineyll of Narath

“How old are you? Fourteen?” The girl was only a hair taller than Vic, with eyes as wide as a harrier’s.

“I’m sixteen and I’ve been to Fembrosh. Like you, I went early, Marshall.”

“I doubt you went early for the same reason I did,” Vic retorted.

“Show her,” Beth interrupted.

Wineyll nodded curtly, and Ashel appeared in the room. Vic yelped and hopped backward, her stomach lurching. He wore his Guild robes and beamed at her, his eyes fixed on hers. Pulse throbbing, she tore her gaze off the image. “Is that wizardry?”

“Illusion. It’s entirely in your mind. I can trick your brain into seeing what’s not there.” Ashel vanished, and so did the princess. “Or make you think you don’t see something that is.” Bethniel reappeared.

“Wineyll is the most powerful Listener in Latha.” The princess grinned.

A young musician with spectacular telepathic powers, Wineyll is the ringer in Vic’s plan to rescue Ashel and wreak her revenge on Lornk, but this talented teen has a tragic past that may set the stage for Vic’s undoing. The reigning queen of troubled—and troublesome—teenagers is Maisie Williams, and I’d love to see what she’d do with the role.

MaiseWilliams

Maisie Williams

Did any of my choices surprise you? Who would you suggest play your favorite character(s) in A Wizard’s Forge?

Authors: Don’t Rush; Revise

These days, every “how to succeed in as an author” blog you read advises you to release as many books as you can as quickly you can. All successful indie authors (that I know) have multiple books–or series–on the market, and several have parlayed their methodology into side businesses focused on telling other indie authors how to write, publish, and sell indie books–advice that boils down to, “write a lot of books and bring them to market fast.”

This strategy isn’t unique to indie authors. Many traditionally published authors, both famous and obscure, push work out quickly too, especially if they’re writing series. Being prolific works if you want to sell books, and if you can produce a page-turner in six months or less, you’re awesome.

But…

An awful lot of authors can’t really produce a gripping story as a first draft, or a second. When they try, the work ends up being substandard, or not as good as it could have been if the author had taken the time to look critically at the work and address the narrative shortcomings. You especially see this a lot with series, where the first book might be mind-blowingly good, and then the quality drops off.

Exhibit A: the Hunger Games Series

51zkheo7x8LSo, Suzanne Collins wrote this dystopian page-turner called The Hunger Games. It was action-packed, suspenseful, heart-breaking, and thought-provoking–pretty close to a perfect book, in my view. Catching Fire, the sequel published by Scholastic a year later, suffered a bit as a segue story with a cliffhanger ending, but was nearly as suspenseful and action-packed as its predecessor. The following year, Scholastic released Mockingjay. Alas, Mockingjay was loaded with characters talking instead of doing. In the first two books, Katniss, the protagonist, lives at the center of the action, but in the third book, Katniss only hears about many important events during the planning or aftermath stages. Frankly, this read as lazy writing. Collins could have (and should have) rejiggered her plot to keep Katniss in the center of the action; instead Katniss spends many chapters sitting around waiting for news of other characters’ doings. As a result, the third Hunger Games book was the opposite of the first–instead of devouring page-turning suspense, I slogged through a bunch of dull conversations leading to a series of irritating anticlimaxes. Now, I don’t know whether the published Mockingjay text was the first draft or the twentieth (and it still sold a bajillion copies), but I suspect it was an early draft and that deadline pressure from Scholastic, or perhaps just Collins’s own desire to release the book quickly, led to a substandard novel.

Authors: Please Put Narrow Escapes and Important Discoveries in the Book

How many times have you read a story where the protagonist slips into a safe space, breathes a sigh of relief, then discusses that close call with a companion–and the close call itself isn’t in the book! I have seen this reliance on dialogue to convey action a lot, especially in books by fellow indie authors which I know to be produced quickly. All too often, the author releases what is essentially his or her first draft, with only minimal revisions. It pisses me off when I see good writers do this, because I know they can do better, if they’d only invest the time in revisions.

Monkeyyawn

See, I often describe an event through dialogue in my first draft of a scene, and then I have to check myself: “God, that’s boring! Don’t have them talk about that fight–back up and write the fight!” Backstory action can be described through dialogue, but if the event is important and occurs within the timeframe of the story, the author should take the time to craft the scene and weave it into the book. Sometimes this means rewriting the lead-up scenes, so that the main characters remain in the center of the action. Sometimes it means simply taking the time to backfill an action sequence instead of just plowing forward with the plot and getting the book done. Sure, an indie author’s success depends on having multiple books on the market. But if your first book (or your third) is just a bunch of dull conversations leading to a series of irritating anticlimaxes, your readers won’t be likely to pick up your next book, and that defeats the purpose of having all those books out there.