Saturday, November 29, 2014

Meet Baen the Caster!

Baen is a massive amüli and a master caster--one who directs a group of magicians. He has a knotted red beard and shoulder-long red hair, which he ties back with a strip of leather. Wings of ruddy red and brown help him fly from deck-to-deck on the sky ship, and he takes orders from no one other than Captain Melroc. The two are close friends, and as the story progresses, it’s revealed that Baen sustained magical wounds during a battle, and that the injuries cannot be healed. Magic can’t heal magical ailments, and so, as the wounds spread closer to his heart, he becomes frailer.

After an accident aboard the sky-ship which magic would have helped prevent, Baen offers to teach Frendyl some magic. Baen’s an honest, at-face-value person, and doesn’t hide how he feels or who he cares about. When he’s upset, he shows it, such as when Frendyl casts a spell before he’s ready and injures himself if the process.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What They're After

The Blood of the Sun is made from the blood of the first amüli king, who is rumored to be the strongest amüli to have ever lived. Due to his power, the gem is fabled to have unprecedented abilities and is rumored to even be able to heal magical wounds. Magic itself is dangerous, and few amüli ever completely master the art; most who study it take great care, as it has the capacity to make them Soulless. Because magic-inflicted wounds never heal—even with the aid of a spell—a gem that could heal such injuries could fetch a high price.

More than its healing abilities draws amüli to this stone, however. The faction attempting to oust the current monarch and replace him with the pretender are driven to acquire the stone so they might undo the bond between amüli and Soulbound humans. This bond was created two thousand years ago, and only the Blood of the Sun is powerful enough to rip it apart.

At the same token, the stone itself is alive, inhabited by a sliver of consciousness of the first amüli king, who is determined to reunite the gem with his bones--which are trapped in the Catacombs. He will do anything he can to force Frendyl into the pitch-black labyrinthine dungeon, including causing the Soullessness of those Frendyl holds dear. The Blood of the Sun feeds off of magic and sustains its life force with the energy the gods provide, but it also must take life in order to keep what consciousness remains intact. Without the blood-price paid, the old king will fall victim to time and cease to be.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Meet Kellyn "Kel" Wynbre

Kel is a Krune on her mother’s side, and has messy, short dark brown hair and dark violet eyes. She’s eight—too young to do more than glide when in the air—and on her way to meet her betrothed, someone she describes as a flightless ninny. Unlike most ladies her age, Kel prefers to dress like a boy when she can, often wearing enormous, dirty shirts, an over-sized cap, and leather breeches. Her wings, which match Frendyl’s and her cousin Melroc’s, are a mallard hen’s and helped her father make a lucrative match for her.

Women are seldom allowed to learn magic in the amüli society, and when she discovers Frendyl is learning, she demands he teach her. Her Cousin Melroc is the captain of the ship, and does all he can to stop her, but she manages to get her way simply due to her forceful nature.

When insulted by Jae during one supper, Kel dumps hot soup on her and leaves, thus beginning a long series of running gags. If Jae threatens to wipe boogers on her, Kel reacts by either dumping something on her—soup, water, broth, milk—or pushing her off the edge of the ship. Regardless of this relationship, Kel views Jae as an older sister, as Kel is the only daughter in a family with eight children.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Meet Jaecrel "Jae"

Okay, so, initially, Jae was a young boy, but I've changed him to be a girl after a long discussion with my fabulous editor, Philip A. Lee, which makes for a more dynamic character. Although Jae remains a strong character, only her gender seems to have changed (I could have made her more effeminate, but I feel like that wouldn't be true to the character herself and the personality that she continues to have).

Jae never reveals her surname, and is eleven. She has sandy-blonde hair, freckles, piercing dark blue eyes, and mourning dove wings. Unlike Navyni, whose seriousness often overpowers his ability to engage in light conversations, Jae will joke about anything—boogers included. Her favorite person to pick on—other than Frendyl—is Kel, Frendyl’s second cousin. She delights in wiping boogers on Kel—until she dumps hot soup on Jae's lap, that is.

While Jae may seem care-free on the outside, she hides a deep-rooted terror—terror that she might become Soulless—lose her soul and live in a limbo-like state of non-being—if she does not do as commanded. Jae’s in league with an amüli known as the pretender, and must find the Blood of the Sun if she’s to survive. When she follows Frendyl into the swamp to search for the stone, she traps Frendyl underground in a mad attempt to steal the gem and to save herself.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Meet Captain Melroc Krune

Frendyl meets so many people on his journey to find the Blood of the Sun, and one of the authorities in his life is his uncle, Melroc Krune, who captains the sky-ship Frendyl sails across the world on. Melroc is only one of a number of authority figures, but he's more like Frendyl than most of the others, and his influence on Frendyl becomes evident in The Soulbound Curse, where Frendyl plays a part in capturing Clae Vojtech for his cousin, Mizendrel.

Captain Melroc, like his nephew, has pale eyes, though his are violet, and masses of black, tangled hair. He wears his hair long and keeps a Viking-esque beard, which is braided at random and has jade and wooden beads woven throughout. Like Frendyl and Kel, he has the wings of a mallard hen. Leather is his choice of clothing—a black leather vest, brown leather breeches, and massive, boiled leather boots. Like all amüli, his clothing is made to fit comfortably around his enormous wings.

Melroc was born into an enormous family. He has two brothers and four sisters; Frendyl’s father is Melroc’s oldest brother and current patriarch of the Krune family. Unlike his brother, though, Melroc—while massive—often refuses to be an imposing person. He prefers to give commands after gaining the respect of others, not through force, and is an avid player of xiangqi, favoring the General. When he’s concerned or in deep thought, he chews on the pointer-finger knuckle on his left hand.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Meet Navyni Yassla

The second of the Meet-the-Characters series is Navyni Yassla, who is the father of Yaranda and Azalie Yassla (both appear in The Soulbound Curse). Because every manuscript and short story I write takes place in the same world, I have the unique opportunity to delve into the minds and actions of characters that may only play a background--or non-visual role--in other parts of the overall story. Navyni is such a character, and others--such as Eblyn (who appears in The Vow of the Four Kings, Frendyl Krune and the Snake Across the Sea, and an as-yet untitled graphic novel series)--help to draw the threads of life together throughout the massive series.

Navyni is thirteen years old and comes from a powerful family in a city called Madirakov. He’s African in appearance, with long, black hair, which is often braided into multitudes of strange shapes, and held in place with clasps and combs of gold. His eyebrows are pierced in gold rings, and he has the wings of a lilac-breasted roller. Because he’s from a much warmer climate, Navyni garbs himself in light-colored, breezy robes, and as the first-born son of a powerful family, he has taken on a momentous task—revenge.

Navyni’s drive stems from a burning passion to reclaim his family’s lands. A cunning cousin of his ousted his family from power, and even froze his only older sister in time while she was pregnant. Due to his path, Navyni is an expert in the art of battling with a double-bladed staff called, “The One who Eats Breath.” He’s drawn to Frendyl’s outgoing nature and the similarity of their personal journeys.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Meet Frendyl Krune

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to introduce you to the characters from Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun, as well as discuss the book and the series as a whole. This week, I'd like you to meet Frendyl himself!

Frendyl is a twelve-year-old boy with wings like a mallard hen’s. He has pale blue eyes—almost white; ghostly eyes such as his are prevalent in his family, as the Krunes were cursed by a king many hundreds of years ago. Due to time and breeding with other families, the curse has lessened, and the Krunes are no longer blind, but do suffer from bad eyesight every few generations.

The amüli people—Frendyl’s people—are tied to humans called Soulbounds, and thus tend to resemble the ethnicity and race of their Soulbound human. As Frendyl’s family is bound to the Li family of China, Frendyl has rather Asian features—black hair, pale skin, and he’s shorter than most. The story takes place in 1722, so Frendyl’s “adventuring” clothing mimics that of the time period: a leather vest, canvas trousers that button to just under the knee, and boiled leather shoes. While it would be likely for his family to wear silk robes, these are too easily worn and torn, and so Frendyl has opted for more durable leathers during his journey.

Due to being a middle child in an enormous family—he has four sisters and three brothers; one brother and three sisters are older than him—he is often outgoing, and not afraid to state his opinions. For the time period, he’s rather progressive, often enjoying the company of strong women. Frendyl also tends to think a great deal, and uses his reflective nature to achieve (almost) anything he sets his mind to. Though he yearns to prove himself and eventually become a knight, he fails at most of his personal tasks, such as casting magic or understanding various people’s nature. Even when he fails, however, Frendyl pushes forward, never once letting that failure deter him from his goals.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Art Book Review: Part One

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of the (AMAZING) How to Train Your Dragon 2 art book from Harper Collins's imprint, Newmarket Press, in exchange for my thoughts. So, this is the first blog of many detailing my reactions to the wonderful art book. Each week, I will add another blog to this series. I plan on releasing them on Tuesdays, so stay tuned!

PLEASE NOTE: This blog contains spoilers from the film, How to Train Your Dragon 2...and if you haven't seen it yet, go. NOW. Thanks!

Before I even opened the art book, I was entranced by the cover. I like to play at being an artist (as anyone who has seen my work can attest to), and the bold colors of the cover took me back to the dragon-based fantasies of my childhood--Anne McCaffrey's work in specific. I was reminded of a hero facing immense odds, and Hiccup's very position on the cover, how he holds himself, and the cluster of Vikings in the lower right corner, ooze the sensation of something more sinister and powerful at hand. The fact that Toothless is flying alone in the sky made me wonder, "Is this reflective of Drogo taking him in the movie? Or does this allude to something else, something that will develop later in the trilogy? Maybe their ability to stand without one another, to be free of that dependence on each other?"

Part of me hopes it is an allusion, but part of me also sees the most tragic part of the film reflected here--the rift that develops between Hiccup and Toothless after Drogo's Bewilderbeast takes over Toothless. The fact that Hiccup looks as though he's going into battle against Toothless resonates so well with the plot that I at first did not notice something more subtle about the cover. Something I've never felt in another art book before--quite literally.

The texture of the cover itself. For those who don't know, the How to Train Your Dragon 2 art book is a hard cover book, like most art books, but what sets it apart and makes it a true pleasure is that, unlike, say, the Avatar: The Last Airbender or Howl's Moving Castle art books, it has a jacket. And what a lovely jacket it is! It's soft to the touch, not slippery or shiny, which I think is a lovely change from the norm of jacketed books. The texture of the jacket is akin to velvet, which when combined with the image on the cover, makes one believe she can almost feel the dust of the battlefield against her skin. The coloration of the cover offers a hint of a dusty sunset or sunrise, and makes one think of a battle about to start. The physical feel of the cover so wonderfully echoes that sensation that it draws the reader in immediately.

After opening the book, I noticed something else that almost brought me tears. Now, keep in mind I received this lovely gift after seeing the movie, so I think the impact the first image had on me was resonant of the film more than anything. Stoick was sitting on Skullcrusher in a rather stylized Viking-esque image, arms in the air, and Skullcrusher is grinning. It's less of a nod in Stoick's honor, and more a giant bow to his character, and to his fans. I was so overwhelmed by this gesture by the layout designer at Harper, that I instantly showed my boyfriend, who, like me, was still broken up over Stoick's death. He, too, was moved, and I feel that Harper's choice of placing this "tapestry" of Stoick doing something he loved--riding his beloved dragon and friend--couldn't have been better positioned. Thank you, whoever you are, because I think fans of the film and Stoick will greatly appreciate it.

Next, I flipped to a gorgeous scene of dragons flying through a landscape. The whimsy of this scene sets the reader up for the freedom of the images and text within. After all, nothing can be freer than flying on the back of a dragon. Nothing. The sense of such freedom is important, not because it allows readers to say, "Oh, hey, neat!" but because we are so dragged down by our day-to-day routines that we crave that freedom, that openness, those wide skies and the notion that anything is possible. In this image--which spans two pages--the reader realizes for the first time how absolutely vast the world around Berk is.

The original film had viewers so centered on Berk itself and the task of training dragons and saving them that we never really questioned what might exist beyond the island. The premise of the second film explores just that; now that the Vikings of Berk have dragons, the world is theirs to explore. Just as the cover reflects the rift between Toothless and Hiccup, this image prepares the reader for everything that exists beyond the known boundaries of Berk itself. And, above all, it invites us with the promise of freedom to explore this world.

Next on my list of this opening blog is the text. Most art books are filled with more art than explanation, because they rely so heavily on the readers having seen the films or shows they center around. This is the exception to that rule...and what a nice exception it is. Instead of bogging down the images with text, or vice-versa, the text of this art books works in tandem with its images, helping readers to understand the creative process of the film. The first example of that is the call-back to the Stoick image at the opening of the book. The Foreword is written by Gerard Butler, voice actor for Stoick. Opposite it is another image of Stoick the Vast, and in its center is a picture of Mr. Butler reading lines for the film.

Now, forgive me, but this Foreword actually made me think it was written before the second film's script was completed, and during a time when Mr. Butler thought his character would live longer than he did. It's probably the only part of the book that jarred me a little, which is fine, but I was half-hoping he would discuss his feelings about Stoick's death, at least a little. He did a great job, and again, hat's off to the Harper team for their great editing of the piece. It flows well, and I love how Mr. Butler discusses accents and language--trust me, this made up for any lack of Stoick-death-discussion...I am a fan of language and how it sounds, appears, and works--in relation to his role as a Viking chief. He made some great points about historical accuracy, as well as the artistic choice made by the actors, directors, and writers (that being the "more modern" children using an American accent to contrast the Scottish accents of the older--and more conservative--characters).

I could go on a tangent about accents and the artistic choices of the film in using them for an entire blog itself (and who knows, I might), but this blog is about the art book, not the film, so let me return to the topic at hand. Mr. Butler's Foreword is a powerful tool, and one of two that the Harper team included in the book.

An Introduction by the film's writer, Dean DeBlois, follows. Mr. DeBlois, in the third paragraph of his Introduction, makes a point I feel some other series could use as advice:
"Too often, sequels feel recycled, disconnected, or unnecessary, but here was a chance to tell a story that would evolve as organically as its hero did, charting Hiccup's coming of age while expanding upon story threads that were set up in the first film, and planting seeds that would flourish in its third and final chapter" (10).

As you may recall from my previous blog on the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, I loved the fact that the team aged Hiccup and that they took so many huge and rewarding risks to expand the film as an art form, and not just to entertain. I'm saddened that this is only to be a trilogy, but also feel blessed that Mr. DeBlois is taking his job as the writer for the franchise so seriously. I'd have loved to hear a word or two from the book's author, though, and her reactions to the massive changes in the film from the original text. Maybe for the How to Train Your Dragon 3 art book, the Harper team might consider including a few words from her near the beginning of the book?

That's it for my first blog on the How to Train Your Dragon 2 art book! Tune in next Tuesday for my thoughts on the next major influence of the film, the research behind setting! This was a rather text-heavy section, but I loved reading every word, and can't wait to tell you why! Until then, Gremlins, write on!

Monday, June 23, 2014

An End and a Beginning

Something tragic has happened, and yes, perhaps that sounds too dramatic for what I'm about to tell you, but to me, it is a tragedy. My friend, Mallory Rock, has ended the Featured Book of the Week program. Well, more accurately, she has put it on hiatus. Not because she doesn't believe in the program and not because the authors complained--they didn't (as far as I know). No, Mallory was forced to put this wonderful program on hiatus because bloggers--10 to begin with--kept backing out and not posting. How could she explain to authors why only 5 or 6 out of 10 blogs were actually putting up the information and staying involved in the project? This forced her into an awkward situation, and while I'm saddened by her choice, I understand and respect it.

To be honest, I thought about withdrawing near the beginning of the program, because I was overwhelmed with work, family matters--ahem, drama--and some personal things, as well as fighting a rather frightening bout of depression, but when she replied to my question about leaving, she sounded worried and upset. I honestly think I was not the first to come to her about it. So, I thought it over and decided to stick with my commitment. I'm not proud of the fact that I almost backed out, but I am glad I stayed with it, because I like to think I helped a few authors out, and I know they helped me. I found some great books through being involved in Mallory's program, and miss blogging about them.

No, my blog doesn't get a huge amount of traffic, but I do enjoy hearing people's thoughts on what I write about. During the run of the Featured Book of the Week program, I saw an increase in blog traffic, and I was excited. People were interested in hearing about these books! Which is why it saddens me to see it shut down. Personally, I hope that other bloggers will step forward and fill the vacancies, and that the program will return.

To substitute the Featured Book of the Week--at least, until it comes back (yes, I am keeping my hopes up and fingers crossed!)--I will continue my Harper Voyager duty and review the books I read for them. I'll do my very best to update every Thursday--the same day as my updates for the Featured Book of the Week--but I've slowed down a lot in reading, so it may take two or three blog posts before I complete a book. I'll still type up my thoughts as I go, and I might even include an author spotlight. I'll see how much free time I have to do something like that.

I'd like to close by asking a favor. If any of my readers know of a blog/blogger who would like to get involved in the Featured Book of the Week program--and who will stay consistent in their posts--please let me know! Mallory said she'd love to bring the program back, but due to the amount of work she has, she doesn't have time to smooth out all of the kinks (i.e., finding bloggers who will post regularly) as well as actively search for blogs to participate.

Thanks so much, and look for my first post on The Taken by Vicki Pattersson this Thursday!

Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2: My Thoughts

***First off, this blog contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the movie, I highly suggest viewing it first.***

Let me begin when the first movie came out in 2010. My life was great; I had just graduated from college and felt oh-so-proud of myself to finally hold a BA in English Literature (little did I know how that would affect my life...). I had also just begun my second internship in publishing, and figured I was headed somewhere amazing as an editor. Maybe Harper Collins, maybe not, but oh yes, I would get there!

Fast-forward to when the first trailers for How to Train Your Dragon began to play on television (I still lived at home, so television was something I still had). "Dragons?" I murmured, excited but uncertain. It was like I turned into a squirrel, and the word dragon made me go all bushy-tailed and bright-eyed. At the same token, I was cautious. I'd seen the few good dragon-themed movies, and even the bad ones (Dragon World or Dungeons and Dragons, anyone?), and none of them could remotely compare to my all-time favorite, The Flight of Dragons. I'd grown up with Gorbash and the others, and I idolized them as a child, so of course, I was mildly apprehensive. Part of me worried it would be a lot like the children's book where a kid finds a dragon and tries to raise it in his house...but worse.

Of course the next logical step was to find out as much as possible about the movie as I could. A half hour or so of research led me to the title the movie was to be based off of, a book by Cressida Cowell. I jumped into my Ford Focus and zipped over to the nearest book store, where I promptly scurried to the back and began sifting through her books.

My heart broke.

At this time, the book How to Train Your Dragon was more akin to a leaflet, a single small tome in a collection of many other delightful early reader chapter books by Cowell. The books themselves were great, but they didn't go into much detail about the world, the struggle the characters faced or the dragons themselves (keep in mind, I was hoping for at least a YA manuscript from the descriptions online). My nervousness crept ever higher.

The only reason, in my mind, why there haven't been many good dragon movies is because dragons are often given the roles of one-dimensional monsters; their personalities are rarely explored in cinema, which is why The Flight of Dragons was such an amazing film. Even Dragon World had its moments...but no matter how charming and cute the book was, I couldn't see it becoming a deep, believable film, and I worried the cinema adaptation would end with dragons once again being dismissed as creatures not worth exploring.

I waited for the film to be out a few weeks before I decided to go watch it, and that was only with the prodding of friends who had already seen it. They had enjoyed it so much that I finally gave in and bought a ticket. I settled in, worried I'd hate it, even as the camera swooped in on Berk. And as the film went on...I loved it. I identified immediately with Hiccup, recognized bits of my cat in Toothless, and found the world of Berk to be exciting and fluid; the characters were real (though I wished more time had been spent on Ruffnut and Tuffnut), their problems were believable, and the growth between Toothless and Hiccup was amazing.

I found a few problems with the film later on (after watching it 3 times in theaters, twice in 3D), such as how the dragons they used for training suddenly were willing to trust the viking children...but I figured that a) the dragons had been removed from their nest; b) they had spent time with these children and may have seen the "fights" as games of some sort, in some way, meaning they unintentionally bonded with the cast; and, c) Hiccup was there to help them along. The other children didn't have to learn all of this on their own, and they had a great mentor. All-in-all, an amazing film, and one I bought the instant it was released (only later to give it to a boyfriend who soon after became my ex...oh well). Happy day! Finally, a dragon movie that could hold a candle to The Flight of Dragons!

That was where things fell apart. A very close family member of mine was diagnosed with cancer in early 2012. It rocked me, and it abruptly changed my version of reality. Anyone could be sick, at any time, with anything...and they might not recover. Ever.

Then, in mid-2013, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, a very aggressive strain, and she was on chemo for months. I'm still recovering from the emotional impact that had on me, and she was finally declared cancer free recently. MRI scans keep us up-to-date, but with two important people in my life having had cancer, it...well, it almost destroyed me. The years following the first How to Train Your Dragon film were emotionally impossible.

Many people passed away during that time; grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles...my cat... A lot of loss, and a lot of difficulty came. So to me, How to Train Your Dragon represented a time in my life when I was happy. Not to say I'm not happy now; I'm just...tired. The first movie came out before my world collapsed into chaos. And now, the second one is released just as I emerge from that chaos. I'm not stronger, but I have a better sense of who I am and what matters most in my life.

When they announced the sequel back in 2011-12, I was nervous, scared, and distracted. I was excited, too, don't get me wrong, but mostly I was absorbed by the other things going on in my life. When the trailers started being released a few months ago, I watched them in hopes that the sequel would be just as amazing as the first. I mean, who can't love a film that gives risky actions consequences? Hiccup losing his leg...brilliant writing. Brilliant. It took the animated film to a whole new level of potential; it allowed a chilling moment of reality to invade an otherwise fairy-tale-esque cartoon. It brought with it a sense of gravity, one which I had yet to see in any other animated film.

Until, that was, the sequel. I kept asking myself, "Why are they showing us that Hiccup's mom is alive? Why are they ruining the surprise?" Well...because another surprise was in store. One which rocked my understanding of the cartoon genre and brought me to tears for the second time in the same movie. I cried when Stoick approached Valka and told her she was as beautiful as the day he lost her. I cheered when they danced (silently, of course, and YES, that song will be at my wedding). I identified with their relationship, because I've felt that loss, that pain, that uncertainty. I almost lost my mother and....well, I almost lost another very important person in my life (by their request, I am keeping their identity secret, but it's hard to talk about it--especially when I need to, but I have a lot of respect for them and their wishes). The reunion of Stoick and Valka was like...it was like seeing happiness again for the first time in years. Like pushing my head out from under dirt and mud and grime and blood and pain, and seeing a blue, tranquil sky, and the sun beating down upon a field of grass and flowers.

That was why I cried. And because...Stoick is, in many ways, like my father. Valka...well, c'mon, she's so my mom. Anyone who's met my mother would likely agree. So their reunion was at once beautiful and heart-wrenching. I saw in them everything I see in my parents: Respect. Compassion. Fear of the unknown and the power to overcome it...and love.

That was why it killed me when Stoick died.

Not just because Toothless did it. Not just because Hiccup couldn't stop it. Not just because he and Valka had finally found one another again...but because it was like losing my own father. Micahl--my boyfriend--and I were stunned to silence, and I wept. A lot. I've rarely cried during any movies, let alone twice. But...damn.

That death...it hung over us for the following few days, which was why it took me so long to write this blog. Stoick...was probably my favorite character from the first movie, because he was the one to undergo the most dynamic change. The hero of a story is supposed to change, and yes, Hiccup kind of changed, but he more came to understand who he was and that he shouldn't change. Stoick...he was the real hero of the first film, and I mean that in the most literary sense, as in a hero of a great novel. He shifted so much and in such a believable fashion that I identified with him immediately in the second film.

The series should continue to surprise and continue to stress the boundaries of children's movies. My generation lost Littlefoot's mother, and there hasn't been a dinosaur movie to come close to that level of emotional attachment to a character in years. In this case, the How to Train Your Dragon franchise is making enormous leaps in the world of film-as-literature. Once again, we have a very real, very painful consequence to the actions of the characters. If only Hiccup had run. If only he had hidden. If only...

But he didn't, and there were consequences. And despite the melancholy I still feel over Stoick's death, I have to applaud the film's writers and artists, for they have set a new limit to what animated film can be. And that, to be honest, is a limit they will likely break in their next installment.

I just hope Hiccup keeps aging. They've done an admirable job of following the life and coming-of-age story of this character. When I was a child, I kept wishing they would make a series of Land Before Time films, but more than that, I wished they would have Littlefoot age with me. Imagine how disappointed I was when he stayed a child. There can be dozens of coming-of-age tales in a person's life, and if DreamWorks proves they can keep the writing solid and the characters believable, they might just be able to prove it with the How to Train Your Dragon series.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dreams are made of this...

As some of you might recall, I had to put my cat to sleep on the first of February this year, and I've been slowly recovering. I finally got to the point where I wasn't in tears every day and I wasn't seeing ghost kitties. Of course, I still think about her a lot and I miss her so much that it hurts whenever someone starts talking about her. It's hard to hear that my mom doesn't miss her, but of course, I wasn't at home for the last few months of her life. I didn't see how bad things really got... But it doesn't make it easy to have someone dismiss your beloved animal so quickly. I know my mom truly does miss her, but she doesn't miss the pain and the medications my cat went through near the end. She doesn't miss giving Nanashi drips of saline water every other night just so she could live, and she doesn't miss injecting platelets into a dying animal to give me more time. I understand that. I wouldn't miss that, either.

Last night, I had a dream where the world was ending. I was with my mom, dad, sister, cousins, aunts, and uncles from my mother's side, and we were trying to do something. Wrap presents for a surprise party for my cousins, I think. Anyway, for some reason, we were in this enormous house set on a hill, near a family who owned a herd of Indricotherium. They were the last ones alive or something...I don't know. Anyway, my cat was there, and she was...well, every ounce herself. Loving, didn't mind being hugged, cuddled, what have you, but she also would just up and walk away if she had too much. She might have scratched me. I don't recall.

The hard thing about waking up after a dream like that isn't having watched people fall into massive holes in the roads, or watching people die, or even watching Indricotherium being struck by meteors. It was knowing my cat wasn't around anymore. That the animal I loved and cherished, the creature who was my best friend for the majority of my life was still gone. The only place she lives on is in my head, and it hurts. It feels like rocks are being shoved into my heart and lungs, while someone keeps saying, "It'll be all right. Just breathe through it, and you'll be fine."

The thing is, I'm not sure I will. It's been almost half a year. I'm trying to play it cool, because to be honest, last year was hell on Earth for me. I've been through a lot; I almost lost my parents, I lost two jobs, lost four family members and one friend, and I've been fighting to keep myself together. I reflect upon last year a lot, especially while I write. The loss of two grandmothers, a great uncle and his wife, and a childhood friend, all in the span of nine months...well, that makes it hard to want to become close to anyone else, especially those in my family. It's terrifying. I guess all of the death just recently "hit my sister" and she's been coping with it however she can. The thing is...it hit me a long time ago. And it keeps coming back with the same force. Those people in my life are gone, no matter what I thought of them, no matter how much or little I talked to them, they're just...gone. And that's tough to accept.

I realize I can't do anything about it. I know I have to move on and I have to get things done...because otherwise, I'll fall into that pit of my dream, and my world really will end. Not in a literal sense, I suppose, but I'll cease being productive. My life will grind to a halt, and I'll never be able to pick up again. Part of me hopes that time will truly heal the wounds from last year, and that I will be able to stop waking up and feeling the crushing weight of so much death and pain, so much loss, and so much exhaustion from it all. Part of me knows that it will never go away. That I'll be ninety, half-mad from Alzheimer's, and I'll be holding conversations with my dead cat.

I guess I can only do one thing, and that's take life one day at a time.

Baby steps, because dreams are made of moving forward.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Featured Book of the Week: Chain of Title by Robyn Roze

Each week authors can submit one book for a chance to be the featured book of the week, and each week one book/author will be selected at random. The winning book each week will be featured on http://www.malloryrock.com, multiple book blogs, and social media platforms from various sources.

Are you an author? Would you like your book to be the next Featured Book of the Week? Check out all the details and entry form here: http://www.malloryrock.com/promos.html.


WEEK OF JUNE 2ND WINNER FEATURE

Robyn Roze

Author of the Romantic Suspense/Thriller, Chain of Title

Book synopsis/description:

~ Heroic deeds. Monstrous acts. Events that will leave one woman’s world spinning out of control. ~

Shayna Chastain’s marriage crashed and burned. She walked away, bruised, but not broken, without so much as a glance over her shoulder at her philandering husband. Oh, his betrayal stung, but Shayna has experienced loss before. She knows it comes for you when you least expect it.

Now feeling a bit past her prime and wanting a new direction in life, Shayna reawakens the woman she remembers being before marrying Frank Chastain. She wants a different life from the one she’s been living. However, she doesn’t have much support from her family and friends who think she’s made a regrettable decision.

Frank Chastain, Mt. Pleasant’s steely real estate mogul, begrudgingly signed the dissolution papers Shayna forced on him. He never wanted to divorce the love of his life. Always believed they could work it out.

She’ll be back.

He’s sure of it. Now more than ever, he needs that to be true. Events have conspired in his life that could blow open the secret he’s been hiding. He needs Shayna to help him seal it shut, but it may already be too late.

Sean Parker owns an Italian restaurant that has become Shayna’s oasis, giving her respite from the swirling storm around her. Their attraction is instant, but the fallout will last a lifetime. Sean’s smooth, handsome exterior hides an unsavory past that he walked away from years ago and has no intention of revisiting, or discussing.

If it’s really in the past, is it even anyone’s business? Sean sees no point in being an open book. What matters is right now. And right now, there’s no way in hell he’s going to lose the only woman he’s ever loved. The only woman he can’t live without.

But life doesn’t always let us keep our secrets. And these secrets are about to explode to the surface with far-reaching, deadly consequences.

How well do you know the people you love?

Even the one's you've known most of your life...

**Mature themes and sexual content for 18+**

To purchase Chain of Title, please visit Amazon.com.

Short author bio:

I am a wife and mom who masquerades as an accountant by day. By night, or whenever I can fit it in, I live my childhood dream and write romantic suspense tweaked with some thrills. The heroines I create vary in age, life experiences and skills, but all are independent and on journeys of self-discovery, which lends itself to a women’s fiction voice, as well. Now you know: I am an unrepentant genre jumper. I may even decide to blend, or jump into, other genres along my writing path. Only time will tell, and that’s the really fun part: seeing, and reading, what happens next.

I hope you will consider joining me. And if you have the time, please visit any of the other web platforms I frequent. I love hearing from readers!

www.robynroze.com

www.facebook.com/robynrozeauthor

www.twitter.com/robynrozeauthor

www.pinterest.com/robynroze/

Excerpt from Chain of Title

“Just tell me which side you work for,” Shayna asked without judgment. A stunned expression colored Sean’s face and then he laughed, shaking his head in apparent disbelief. She knew he was laughing at her naïveté.

His hands reached for her face, thumbs caressing her high cheekbones, his expression now stony serious. “Good or bad? Right or wrong? That’s what you’re asking me?” They were the first words he had spoken, and the deep rumble of his voice expertly plucked the strings wound tight in her body since this nightmare had begun. “You’d be surprised how often you can’t tell the difference. How often they want the same thing,” he said quietly in the dark, pushing her further away.

Shayna felt the cold armor reassembling around him. “I was done with all of this a few years ago. I’d paid my dues and left it all behind, with my ledger in the black. People owed me and I never intended on cashing in. Yes, I have skills that many people—good and bad—want to use, and I know others like me. We’re scattered around and come together when the situation requires it or when it suits us.” He waited, assessing her thoughtfully. “I have contacts higher up than you can imagine and lower than I would ever want you to know about.”

She processed his words as the pieces of the puzzle began to snap into place, and then she suddenly felt awash with guilt.

“I messed everything up for you, didn’t I? If it wasn’t for me, you’d still be in the black right now, but you’re not, are you? You owe someone now, or some people, don’t you?”

Sean huffed indignantly. “First of all, none of this was your fault. Second, if it wasn’t for our paths crossing, I can promise you, you never would’ve seen Danielle again.” Shayna gasped at the harshness of his words and the haunting memory of that same visceral nightmare she experienced nightly. “I need to leave, Shayna. This was a bad idea. I knew I should’ve left, not come here first. I just wanted to see you for myself again…one last time...”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Each week authors can submit one book for a chance to be the featured book of the week, and each week one book/author will be selected at random. The winning book each week will be featured on http://www.malloryrock.com, multiple book blogs, and social media platforms from various sources.

Are you an author? Would you like your book to be the next Featured Book of the Week? Check out all the details and entry form here: http://www.malloryrock.com/promos.html.

Friday, May 23, 2014

RE: I Planted My Self-Published Book on Barnes & Noble's Shelves... And People Bought It

I imagine many writers by now have read this blog by Brendan Leonard, the author who walked into Barnes & Noble Bookstores and placed his book on their shelves to see if they would (or could) sell. I read it a few days ago and a friend of mine, knowing my passion, linked it to me yesterday. So, in my normal fashion, I let the content sit for a while as I mulled it over. After all, many are praising this as a unique and fantastic way to market your book and gain local attention. Sure, you lose a little money, but in the long-run, people will discuss your manuscript more openly, and may not even realize it's self-published.

To be honest, I'm waiting. Not just because Soulbound isn't done, but I would like to see what happens and how Barnes & Noble reacts to this. My boyfriend and I talked it over, and he thinks it might potentially be considered trespassing. If Barnes & Noble does consider it as such, the author could be looking at some major fines and potential lawsuits headed his way. If Barnes & Noble is fine with Mr. Leonard's actions (which, c'mon, they're getting essentially free money off the deal), then it could open up a new massive wave of opportunity for Indie and self-published authors everywhere.

Herein lies part of the problem. Authors are desperate to make money these days, and the self-publishing industry, in my mind, is likened to a gold rush of massive proportions. The first few who did it managed to make a fairly large name for themselves (Amanda Hocking, anyone?), and nearly the moment others realized how quickly they could make money, they jumped in. The self-publishing market became inundated with enormous amounts of poorly written literature, making it nearly impossible for those who have put the time and effort into polishing their novels to be noticed. That's okay, though, because like gold rushes in the past, human ingenuity fought back.

Businesses opened: Marketing firms, editing consultants, you name it. If it has to do with publishing, it's there. True, some of these firms are not as great as they could be, and a number of self-employed editors out there could use a brush up on their grammar (not all, but some), but this is how authors who are determined to write solid literature fought back.

That's okay, because Amazon and other online booksellers offer reviews, where customers can type out their thoughts and feelings after reading a novel. This helps weed out the poorly-written-just-because-I-wanted-a-quick-buck literature from the more professional, wonderfully written pieces. The problem I see, should Barnes & Noble allow authors to drop off their books at local book stores, is that readers have little way--other than reading the first few chapters of a book--to gauge the quality of the product they're receiving. I pray they will read a chapter or two of the book before they purchase, but it won't stop the same money-hungry people from deeming this a quick-fix to getting wealthy.

I feel that, should Barnes & Noble let this slide, they will be opening the gates for a new kind of flood, one which the company may not be prepared for. In a month or so, you'll see dozens of books on the shelves that you don't recognize...and then you'll watch as the staff, instead of assisting you, are busy trying to reel in the massive mess of books their company didn't want on their shelves.

Is this a nightmare scenario? Of course. Is it likely to happen? I don't see it not happening, to be honest. It won't cause massive chaos at first, of course. But human greed is rather overpowering, and I believe that if the same thing happens with Barnes & Noble stores as Amazon, we will soon be drowning in a sea of poorly written books--manuscripts that are, for lack of better words, written for no other purpose than to help the author get rich.

I'd be lying if I didn't say that, yeah, it would be amazing to make a great deal of money off of my manuscripts, but I doubt I ever will. My goal as a writer is to entertain, and to do so with well-written works and round, well thought-out characters. I don't go into this industry with the belief that I will be instantly wealthy, and I think most authors shouldn't, either. That's not how the world works.

So, I will sit back and observe, as I always do, before acting. I shall see what happens to this author, who is the first of his kind--but not the last--to place his work on a bookshelf without consent of the company. And I shall see whether or not a storm comes our way, and what happens then.

For now, Gremlins, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this most interesting article. I'd like to know what you foresee happening to the writing world due to Mr. Leonard's incredible and awesome actions (NOTE: Just because I may not jump on-board right away does NOT mean I don't applaud his ingenuity; this is the kind of motivation we self-published authors need to see, and need to have, in order to make our own way. This author realized no one would do it for him, so he had to try it himself).

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Featured Book of the Week: Smokescreen by Tasha Lessey

Each week authors can submit one book for a chance to be the featured book of the week, and each week one book/author will be selected at random. The winning book each week will be featured on http://www.malloryrock.com, multiple book blogs, and social media platforms from various sources.

Are you an author? Would you like your book to be the next Featured Book of the Week? Check out all the details and entry form here: http://www.malloryrock.com/promos.html.


WEEK OF MAY 19TH WINNER FEATURE

Tasha Lessey

Author of the Urban Fantasy, Smokescreen

Book synopsis/description:

It starts in Washington when a lone gunman enters a busy burger chain and opens fire killing twenty five people. It continues in Paris, London, Sydney and Beijing. Authorities, including FBI agent Jack Rossi find no motive or any connection between the shootings causing fear and panic in the world’s major cities.

As Jack scrambles to get answers, he stumbles upon a secret world of hybrid humans, moles and a threat he never saw coming. One that could lead to the loss of an unprecedented number of lives. Including his own.

To purchase Smokescreen, please visit:

http://www.amazon.com/Smokescreen-Tasha-Lessey-ebook/dp/B00JFF5ANI

Short author bio:

Tasha Lessey is an avid cook and tennis fan. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and worked as a teacher for many years. When she is not writing, she enjoys spending time in the outdoors. She would love to hear from you! Connect with her at www.tashalessey.blendfusion.com or tlessey(dot)author(at)gmail.com.

Excerpt of Smokescreen:

Lauren looked at herself critically in the mirror. The dress was all wrong. The slit of the emerald green dress came too far up her thigh and the square neckline revealed too much of her ample breasts. It was too sexy for an anniversary party. She reached for the side zipper and stepped out of the dress. She put it back on the hanger and went back to her closet. That was the third dress she tried on so far tonight.

Her eye came upon a sapphire sheath. She pulled it out and tried it on. The sheath was form fitting with a cowl neckline and was tapered in the waist emphasizing her hour glass figure. It was tasteful and classy; Georgina would approve. She twisted her hair into a chignon. The simple diamond studs she always wore looked a bit plain. Mrs. De Luca had given her a pair of large gold hoops for Christmas last year which she had never worn. She was tempted to put them on but she knew she couldn’t. The diamond studs were a gift from her father and she had promised him she would never take them off. The studs would have to do.

As she thought of Mrs. De Luca, the familiar pang of guilt gripped her heart. She was surrounded by people who were so good to her—Mrs. De Luca, Jack, Georgina, and yet she was lying to them all. Everything she had told them about her past was a lie. She had longed to be honest with them as she had never felt so accepted and loved in her life. Her father had loved her but it was always on his terms. Once she lived her life in a way he approved everything was fine. Otherwise the disappointed looks and cutting comments flowed freely.

Lauren sighed. She knew she couldn’t tell them the truth. It was too dangerous and even if they knew the whole story they wouldn’t believe her anyway. She better get going or she would be late. She slipped on her black high heeled round toe pumps and picked up a small jewel-encrusted clutch as well as her gift for the happy couple.

When she arrived at the party, Georgina greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. She looked stunning as usual, her petite figure perfectly showcased in a floor length, black strapless gown.

“Happy sixth anniversary!” Lauren said. As she handed Georgina her gift, she looked around the banquet hall. Georgina had done a superb job and the place looked fantastic.

“Thank you.”

“Where’s Tim?”

“He’s talking to his boss over by the bar.”

She glanced at the bar and saw Jack handing Stacey a drink. He leaned over to whisper something in her ear and she laughed. Lauren tried to squash the jealousy unfolding in her stomach and she kept the expression on her face casual. She looked at Georgina and smiled. “You’re radiating joy. I am so happy for you and Tim.”

“Thank you. You know Jack told me the same thing. I never thought I would see the day.”

“Jack is a bulldog when it comes to his family but he is a fair man.” So tell him the truth, her inner voice urged. If he could forgive Tim … She was so deep in thought she hadn’t noticed Tim had come up to them. He was waving a hand in front of her face.

“Lauren? Hello!” Tim said.

“Tim I am so sorry. My mind got distracted for a second.”

“I’ll say. It’s good to see you again,” he said laughing.

“Same here.”

Tim put his arm around Georgina. “Do you mind if I borrow my wife for a dance?”

“Of course not.”

Tim smiled and pulled Georgina to the dance floor.

Lauren saw Reena standing by the buffet table munching on some hors d’ oeuvres and walked over to talk to her. Reena was married to Jack’s brother Jay who was finishing off a tour of Iraq. “You look as uncomfortable as I feel,” she said.

“Well, I am not used to these situations.”

“Neither am I.”

“I saw the shooting on the news today. It’s so horrible. It reminded me of the suicide bombings back home. Are you and Jack working on the case?”

“Yeah, but let’s not talk about that. Tonight is a happy occasion.”

“It sure is when I get to see my favorite sister-in-law.”

At the sound of Jack’s voice, Lauren spun around and saw him behind her, a huge grin on his face. He hugged Reena and kissed her on the forehead. Reena blushed and smiled.

“I am your only sister-in-law. Jay sends his regards. I got a letter from him last week,” Reena said.

“Good to know.” Jack smiled and bopped his head to a song the band was playing.

“I love this jam. Any of you ladies care to dance?”

Reena took a step back and Lauren shook her head.

“Ah, come on,” he said.

“You know your favorite sister-in-law doesn’t like to dance. Lauren, he’s all yours.”

Jack grabbed Lauren’s arm and dragged her to the dance floor. He pulled her into his arms and started swaying to the music. Lauren tried to stay on beat. She’d often fantasized about being in Jack’s arms but it in a different scenario altogether. He twirled her around and from the corner of her eye she saw Stacey staring at them, her face contorted in jealousy. “I think you better get back to your date. She’s trying to kill me with her eyes.”

Jack threw back his head and laughed. He’s so handsome, Lauren thought. She itched to run her hands over his smooth jaw. He kept his face clean shaven which showcased his features perfectly. He had dark brown eyes, tan skin, full lips and contoured cheekbones. His short thick black hair was the envy of every woman in the office. It was shiny and full without the benefit of hours of salon treatments. If only things were different she might have had a chance with Jack. She sighed. If only she would stop thinking about the impossible.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Each week authors can submit one book for a chance to be the featured book of the week, and each week one book/author will be selected at random. The winning book each week will be featured on http://www.malloryrock.com, multiple book blogs, and social media platforms from various sources.

Are you an author? Would you like your book to be the next Featured Book of the Week? Check out all the details and entry form here: http://www.malloryrock.com/promos.html.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Updated Look & New Pages to Come!

Hey, Gremlins! So I have a new look--which I completed about a week ago--and now, new tabs! Right now, the tabs are all empty, but over the next week or two, I plan to fill them with entertaining facts, interviews, and other neat things. I'll be more focused on finishing Soulbound, of course, but I want to have more than just a blog. This morning, I focused on designing a few shot glasses, and once I have the ability, I'll add them to the shop.

I'm also planning to include them in my book signings and raffle off sets of 2 during the signings. Sound fun? I hope so! I'm quite nervous and excited, but due to school (I'm doing a summer session to obtain my Paralegal Certification), it will be a while before I can stock up on more raffle prizes. I'll also be doing raffles on my Facebook, so you might want to follow me if you're not already! And let your friends know about the raffles, too, because the more people who enter, the more variety in prizes I'll offer.

Sorry for the short post, but I need to run and get ready for work. Take care, Gremlins!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Featured Book of the Week: Seeds of Discovery by Breeana Puttroff

Each week authors can submit one book for a chance to be the featured book of the week, and each week one book/author will be selected at random. The winning book each week will be featured on http://www.malloryrock.com, multiple book blogs, and social media platforms from various sources.

Are you an author? Would you like your book to be the next Featured Book of the Week? Check out all the details and entry form here: http://www.malloryrock.com/promos.html.


WEEK OF MAY 12TH WINNER FEATURE
Breeana Puttroff

Author of the YA Fantasy adventure, Seeds of Discovery, The Dusk Gate Chronicles Book One

Book synopsis/description:

The night Quinn Robbins nearly ran over a strange boy with her car, she didn't know that a simple almost-accident could change the way she sees everything.

She didn't know that curiosity could be so all-consuming that it would even follow her into her dreams.

And she didn't know that hiding in her town is a passage to an entirely different world, where she might just discover her destiny.



To purchase Seeds of Discovery, please visit Amazon.com.

Short author bio:

Breeana Puttroff has loved making up stories since she could talk. For many years, her biggest audience for those stories was the fantastic students she had the privilege of teaching.

One summer afternoon, while she was picnicking in the beautiful mountains of her Colorado home with her little girl, she saw an old, broken stone bridge, and she just knew there was a story inside. Six months later, the Dusk Gate Chronicles was born.

These days, she runs a small business and writes from home while planning math lessons, digging caterpillars out of garbage disposals (oops!), discovering how to make new colors out of crayons melted in the dryer, and drinking lots of coffee (and occasionally tea).

She loves it when readers connect with her on Facebook or Twitter, especially if they have new recipes for disastrously good times with kids.



Breeana holds a B.A. in English from the University of Northern Colorado, and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and Literacy from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA.

You can learn more, and connect with other readers of The Dusk Gate Chronicles by visiting Her Facebook Page.

Follow Breeana on Twitter: @bputtroff

Visit the website at http://www.duskgate.com

Or, sign up for the newsletter to be the first to hear exclusive news, upcoming releases, character interviews, short stories, and more. Newsletter subscribers also have chances at fun prizes and Dusk Gate swag. Sign up here and visit Breeana on her Website.

Excerpt From Seeds of Discovery:

When she got to the driver’s side of the car, her heart nearly stopped. The person kneeling outside the car was him. The boy she’d almost run over. And now she knew who he was. William Rose. 

He was a senior at Bristlecone High School, a year older than she was. He must have been really running to get here before her. He was bent over the car’s driver, doing something. He’d pushed the seat back, getting the man away from the deployed airbag. 

“Did you call 911?” she asked. 

William stood up so quickly that he bumped his head on the door frame. When he looked up at her, she got the distinct impression that he wasn’t pleased to see her. 

“No I didn’t. I don’t have a phone.” 

He didn’t have a phone? What senior in high school didn’t have a phone with him at all times? 

“Doesn’t he? Somewhere in the car?” 

“I don’t know, Quinn. I was too busy trying to keep him from bleeding out to look yet.” 

As he spoke, he had already knelt back down in front of the driver, and now she could see that he was pressing a large piece of gauze just above the driver’s barely open eye. It was already soaked with blood. If the man was conscious, it wasn’t by much. A huge gash ran the length of his left arm, too, and blood dripped in little rivulets down past his wrist and to his fingers. 

A little queasy, she pulled her own phone out of her pocket and dialed 911. Quinn. He’d called her Quinn. She was standing here on the side of the road with an almost-unconscious tourist, and the thing that shocked her most was that William Rose knew her name.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Each week authors can submit one book for a chance to be the featured book of the week, and each week one book/author will be selected at random. The winning book each week will be featured on http://www.malloryrock.com, multiple book blogs, and social media platforms from various sources.

Are you an author? Would you like your book to be the next Featured Book of the Week? Check out all the details and entry form here: http://www.malloryrock.com/promos.html.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Soulbound: Chapter One

With only a few weeks left until Soulbound's debut, I figured I should make an offer to the Internet gods and give you a sneak-preview of the first chapter! Now, Soulbound switches points of view throughout the book, and the POVs change from chapter to chapter (think George R.R. Martin's A song of Ice and Fire), but I hope that won't discourage you! If I get enough interest, I'll post part of Chapter Two next week...and do a partial chapter each week until the book is released. ;)

The strain on Eti’s back grew as he bolted through the forest. He darted between the trees, careful to hug the shadows lest sunlight sear his skin. Every breath tasted of blood and tore at his throat, but he couldn’t rest. To stop was to die.

He tripped on a rock, and his face struck the hard earth. The sheathed blade at his side rammed him in the ribs, and he moaned. Had the sword not been enchanted, he would have left it behind months ago. Most ekra had little use for physical weapons, for in the stead of blades and firearms, they battled with magic.

The smell of pine mulch wafted from the ground, turning bitter under the dry scent of dawn. He lay still for a moment, gasping as adrenaline pulsed through his limbs. It begged him to rise, to stagger to his feet and flee the blinding sun, but sharp pain sprang up his leg the moment he shifted.

He groaned as he struggled to his feet. His ankle had been sprained, no doubt, and he sent part of his blood-mite to his foot rather than take time to tend to the wound. Skin and muscle tingled, and the slightest of twitches strummed along his leg as his blood-mite worked.

Blood-mites, masses of congealed, living blood, served as the circulatory system for all ekra, and took residence under their decaying skin, amongst their magic-infused muscles. No ekra could live without a blood-mite, for they couldn't breathe, heal, digest or move unless the mite assisted.

The mite split apart and slipped through his veins, using them as a highway to reach the affected area. The numb tingling of his skin built as agony lessened, and though his foot was not healed, the temporary relief would have to do.

The sun continued to rise, growing brighter and stronger, and the oncoming heat of dawn stabbed through the trees, a warning that sunlight would soon devour his flesh if he didn't find shelter. The way the breeze changed—a sudden shift in temperature, from the cool of evening to the dryness of daylight—sent a thrill of terror through him.

Eti tested his wounded ankle and, pleased at his mite’s work, sprinted on, ignoring small snaps of pain each time his injured foot struck the hard ground.

Just ahead was a clearing, but morning light already swathed the grass and shrubbery within. He swerved to evade it and slammed into a tree, his entire right side numbing from the impact. He lost his footing and rolled down a hillside, smashing into saplings and rocks, his sheathed scimitar jabbing him. Loose sod crumbled in his fingers as he scrabbled for handholds.

As he rolled, his gaze caught the white light of dawn in short glimpses. The sun had risen. His time was up.

He grasped a sapling with a three-fingered, mold-mottled hand, and long, yellowed nails dug into the tree's soft bark. Dirt and rocks tumbled past him, and when dawn’s rays touched his hand, he bit back a cry of agony. The golden light seared his knuckles, peeling flesh away like singed paper.

Seconds later he gained his feet and ran again, cradling his wounded hand as the mite slid into his burnt digits. He tried not to look at the gleaming white bone. The blood-mite lurched, sick from the pain and reek of charred flesh, and his skin bubbled and swelled where the mite worked.

Krávaldîn lie ahead. All he had to do was survive long enough to cross the field beyond the tree line, and he would be safe—at least as safe as an ekra could be in a city such as Krávaldîn. Less than two days ago, bandits had taken his cloak, his only protection against the searing anger of the sun, and they’d been tracking him since. Ekra souls won a high price in illegal trade. Most ekra were safe within amüli cities, where thieves rarely ventured for fear of the law, and Krávaldîn was his only chance for survival—his only chance to find the one.

No other way but to run through the light. If I die, so be it, but I cannot hide away another day with them on my trail. They would find me, even in the forest.

Eti cleared the trees and launched forward. In the open, he was free to use magic, to speed through the grasses and shrubbery, and he cast a quick spell, calling upon the gods to aid him in his race for life. Magical heat surged through his legs, empowering them. Sunlight nipped his flesh, but red walls of stone marbled with white stood less than a quarter-mile away. So close. He was so close. The gates loomed, mammoth in size, yet miniscule compared to the wall of sheer rock that encircled three-quarters of the city.

He struck the gates and shrieked for help as he pounded against the stone.

Two amüli guards swooped from above, their wings thumping against the cold morning air as they descended. Eti clawed at the wall of rock as sunlight bubbled his skin. Flesh popped, sizzled, and smoked, and the fumes of his burning body fogged his thoughts, pain whipping through his form as he sank to the ground.

"Let me in!"

"Open the gates!" roared an amüli.

A loud boom reverberated through the air. Ropes and chains creaked as the gates groaned open, showering the ekra with red dust, and the moment a gap appeared, he squeezed into the shadow of the city wall. Sweat rolled along his brow and between two short horns kissed with dried blood.

The two amüli slipped into the city behind him. Soft and fleshy, the amüli were bipedal creatures, and feathered wings trembled at their backs. Narrowed eyes gazed at him, and they narrowed even farther as he panted on the ground. It was hard to believe these weak-looking creatures made up the strongest country in the world.

Their cities, towns, and settlements blanketed the Northern provinces, and grew larger by the year. They were an infection, a scourge the ekra wished to see fall from power. In addition to their numbers and military prowess, these creatures’ history of violence toward his people surfaced in his mind. Countless had fallen to their greed and expansion, and the ekra clans retreated further and further south, until many lost contact with their sisters and brothers. Those on the eastern continent had not been heard from in decades.

The bastards.

Still, they had let him into the city rather than leave him out to burn to death, which was something he should be happy at, he supposed. Recent years had seen fewer ekra deaths behind amüli walls, but only due to the treaty forcing the Amüli Republic to offer shelter to all ekra who asked it.

"I need your papers, necromancer," said the guard, and he shifted his weight from foot-to-foot.

Necromancer—only an amüli could call an ekra that and make it sound like a curse. Their detestable attitude and inherent belief in their superiority had become a common encounter for Eti of late, yet he considered what a queer sight he must be, with his bluish, moldy flesh and black, pit-like eyes. Two horns jutted from his forehead, crusted with old blood, which cracked and popped, seared like cooking fat from the sunlight. His nails were long, sharp, and yellowed from age, his skin tough and leathery, sewn together with black thread, and gaping pus-filled wounds speckled his arms, neck, chest, and face where the slabs of flesh met.

Yes, he must've looked like an abomination. Many had treated him as such.

Now wasn't the time to debate appearances, though, nor could he rebuke their insults. The two nations kept to a tenuous alliance, and the slightest offense could trigger a war neither could afford. No, better for him to remain low, act the servant, and pray for a quick entry to Krávaldîn. Goddess knew he couldn't face the sunlight again.

Eti withdrew a set of documents from his ribs. Like many ekra, his ribs were covered in the barest film of flesh, and within the cage lived his blood-mite. Dozens of glittering chains of various alloys were strung between his ribs. "Please hurry. I need to find a place to rest."

The guard smiled as he took the papers, revealing white, rounded teeth. "From the Southlands, eh, necromancer?"

"Yes," he whispered.

"I see you’re on official business."

"Yes."

"Looking for something?"

He grimaced in irritation while his mite squirmed at the question, but the symbiont went about its work, trying to heal the boils covering his body. Flesh twined together, stitching tighter and tighter, and he didn't need to look to know that the swelling of his ankle lessened with each passing second, that scabs covered his burnt knuckles, shoulders, and back. Strength returned slowly to his weak leg, like the thawing of a numbed limb, and the ekra straightened. Fully erect, Eti stood a head and a half higher than most amüli.

The guards stepped back and one licked his lips.

"Looking for something, necromancer?" the first asked again, an edge to his tone as he reached for a small, alien weapon at his side.

Necromancer, indeed. "I am on sabbatical." The lie flew from his tongue, just as it had in every other amüli town.

Despite the weapon’s compact size, Eti did not wish for the amüli to draw the firearm. Guns, they call them. Tales of these pistols had flowed southward after an amüli raid on a neighboring clan further north. Since then, many ekra had left their hunting grounds, Eti included, though he had not run in fear.

Some months ago, an elder ekra had come across his clan during their trek north for the summer months and warned them that he had met an amüli with the intent of drawing a goddess, Matrisk, onto the mortal plane. Gods and goddesses could only touch Inrugia, the world of the ekra and amüli, for brief spurts, and only when the Inrugians cast magic.

If what this travelling ekra claimed was true and an amüli sought to bring Matrisk to Inrugia, the resulting destruction could end everything. Matrisk was the goddess of flesh, the source of offensive magic and self-destruction, whereas Ilandere-karais embodied the neutral source. To stop the tipping of power, he and dozens of other young ekra sojourned across Inrugia to find the vessel, the ekra through whom Ilandere-karais could come to the mortal world without shattering it, and end this amüli’s mad dream.

When he’d reached the castle of Ozenrik some weeks before, the ruling amüli lord had demanded to know his business. It was a mistake to answer honestly, for word of his sojourn could spread and the one he sought might flee into hiding. He had succumbed, though, and explained that he searched for an ekra of the Avi caste—a caste reserved to the few ekra who could bind with a god. The amüli lord had asked little else but gold from him before releasing him.

"Ah," the guard murmured, scratching his chin. Hair grew from his face, and that paired with his fleshy features looked so alien. He marked Eti’s papers with a seal, allowing the ekra within the city walls. "Well, welcome to Krávaldîn. How long will you be staying?"

"No more than a week."

"Good. Get going."

Eti took his papers before dashing along the edge of the wall, staying within the deepest shadows. And that was when the enchanted blade at his side reacted for the first time.

He shivered at the vibrations. They were slight, but strong enough to bring him to a stop. He tightened his grip around the hilt, the cool metal easing the warmth of burnt flesh from his aching fingers. Before Eti had left the Southlands, his elder and mentor, Sha’eti, had cast a spell on the blade, explaining that it would only tremble if the goddess’s vessel dwelled within range of the weapon.

Joy mingled with shock; after months of scouring every amüli castle, town, and city, after leaving his sibling and his clan behind to seek someone who might not even exist, and after all but losing hope, the spell on the scimitar had triggered. Only one other place resulted in the slightest reaction from the blade, and that had turned out to be a false positive.

Two months ago, outside of the amüli hub of Reaivyk, the City of Knives, he had expected to find the Avi ekra hiding in the Lacefields. The gigantic blades of obsidian that pierced the air offered the shelter and anonymity the Avi might seek. For weeks he scoured the hellish landscape, and still nothing more came from his sword—no trembling, no reaction of any kind.

Of all places, though, the Avi was here, in the amüli capital, the largest city in the world, a place where anyone could find it—and a place where everyone might overlook it. Eti crouched beside the wall and closed his eyes. The last place I expected to find it, yet here the Avi lives. I have reached the end of my sojourn at last.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Soulshifter: Part One Cover Reveal!

While Soulbound has been taking MUCH longer to finish than I expected (it was supposed to be released last month on the 25th...well, I'll aim for THIS month on the 25th...), I do have some fun news! Last month, I received the cover for The Soulshifter: Part One, the first part in my very first serial novel!

For those who are curious, here is a synopsis for The Soulshifter:
Syncrel is a bounty hunter, one of the best in the Amüli Republic, and she’s been hired by her paramour and High Lord, Nicholas Rybredel, to track down an amüli accused of stealing souls. His kind are called Soulshifters, and their danger comes from more than just their ability to rip a soul from its human host on Earth--Soulshifters are widely-known magic casters, and magic is illegal in the Reublic.

To capture her bounty, Syncrel teams up with a local of Nabrevoi--the Republic’s north-most city--who calls himself Eblyn. Though she has little trust toward him, his is the only lead she has, and she follows him into the desolate wasteland of the Maervydoi Mountains to find her quarry. Not only is she travelling with a man she knows nothing about while searching for a felon, she’s doing it in the most dangerous and isolated part of the amüli world--the frozen Avdenavhin.

The plan for The Soulshifter is to have five parts released over five months, and Part One will be released the month after Soulbound's publication. While The Shoulshifter is being released, I'll also be working on the sequel to Soulbound, The Soulless King. Of course, I have no idea how long The Soulless King will take to write, but I'm aiming to release it around Christmas. No promises, though, because I know it will be longer than Soulbound, which is sitting at a fat 165,777 words right now, and will probably come close to 166,000 words by the time it's done. My guess is that The Soulless King will hit 175,000 words...so who knows. The Soulshifter will be much shorter, reaching a rough 50,000 words (it's a serial novel and a spin-off of the main series...so, yeah. Shorter!).

I have a special attachment to the main character of The Soulshifter...mostly because Syncrel is pretty kick-ass, but not only that, she doesn't conform to a lot of the female achetypes in the Fantasy genre. True, there are strong women out there in Fantasy (Arya Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire, just to name one of the most bad-ass women out there), but Syncrel is someone I hope most women reading the manuscript can identify with. She has a lover, but he's married and from a higher House than hers, so they can never be together as anything more than paramours. She realizes this and doesn't let it rule her life; she doesn't need a man to be happy, but she's happy to keep one around if she wants to have fun. Though her partner out in the wilderness is a man and there is sexual tension, she doesn't rely on him to solve her problems, and actually rescues him a number of times. She's a hero, and she knows how to take care of herself.

At any rate, I'm excited to reveal, at long-last, the cover for The Soulshifter: Part One, which was created by the amazingly talented Mallory Rock of Mallory Rocks Art, Graphic Art & Book Cover Design.

Pretty, huh? I like it, and Mallory did an amazing job of keeping a similar feel with the Soulbound cover without making this one feel like a sequel. She and I talked at length about the colors, and the size of the bird, positioning, and why she chose the background she did, etc. I'm quite pleased with it, because it reflects the cold and isolation of the Maervydoi Mountains, where the novel takes place. The novel is set during winter, too, so the icy white, grays, and blue really add to that feeling.

One of the major problems we ran into is that The Soulless King will have a similar color pallet; each of the eight books from the Soulbound series will have a different High House's sigil and colors for the theme. Soulbound is based on the Aneys House, whose banner is a golden eagle looking right upon a field of sanguine, so the colors Mallory chose were, of course, red and gold. The banner of the Rybredel House, the House featured for the cover of The Soulless King, is a silver crow clutching a snake, wings spread, on a field of dark blue...and for The Soulshifter, I wanted cooler colors, which are, of course, blue and gray. Mallory didn't want the covers to be confused, especially since the bird on The Soulshifter (a yellow-billed hornbill) looks a lot like a crow. I think she did a fantastic job of making sure the two covers won't get confused!

Okay, enough gushing for now. I need to get back to work--Soulbound won't finish itself! I hope everyone likes the newest addition to The Amüli Chronicles cover collection, and I look forward to any feedback you might have!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Featured Book of the Week: Week Five: Nefertiti's Heart by A.W. Exley

Each week authors can submit one book for a chance to be the featured book of the week, and each week one book/author will be selected at random. The winning book each week will be featured on http://www.malloryrock.com, multiple book blogs, and social media platforms from various sources.

Are you an author? Would you like your book to be the next Featured Book of the Week? Check out all the details and entry form here: http://www.malloryrock.com/promos.html.

WEEK OF MAY 5TH WINNER FEATURE

A.W. Exley

Author of the Steampunk Adventure, Nefertiti's Heart

Book synopsis/description:

Cara Devon has always suffered curiosity and impetuousness, but tangling with a serial killer might cure that. Permanently.

London, 1861. Impoverished noble Cara has a simple mission after the strange death of her father - sell off his damned collection of priceless artifacts. Her plan goes awry when aristocratic beauties start dying of broken hearts, an eight inch long brass key hammered through their chests. A killer hunts amongst the nobility, searching for a regal beauty and an ancient Egyptian relic rumored to hold the key to immortality.

Her Majesty's Enforcers are in pursuit of the murderer and they see a connection between the gruesome deaths and Cara. So does she, somewhere in London her father hid Nefertiti's Heart, a fist sized diamond with strange mechanical workings. Adding further complication to her life, notorious crime lord, Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is relentless in his desire to lay his hands on Cara and the priceless artifact. If only she could figure out his motive.

Self-preservation fuels Cara's search for the gem. In a society where everyone wears a mask to hide their true intent, she needs to figure out who to trust, before she makes a fatal mistake.

To purchase Nefertiti's Heart, please visit Amazon.com.

Short author bio:

Books and writing have always been an enormous part of Anita's life. She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.

Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and chickens.

You can visit Anita on her website or on Facebook.

Excerpt from Nefertiti's Heart

The blinds, drawn over the carriage windows, concealed the occupant. She stared at the open door, debating her course of action. This development wasn't unexpected; in fact, she invited it. But his timing was annoying. She had things to do and no desire to be in London any longer than necessary. Picking up the corner of her skirts, she stepped into the carriage and took the bench seat facing backward. The Villainous Viscount, known in society as Nathaniel Trent, Viscount Lyons, occupied the opposite side.

Cara guessed him to be approaching thirty, young for his position in the underworld, but he had spent ten years ruthlessly climbing to the top. He was reputed to be the head underworld figure in London and beyond. His family had no fortune to match their titles, so he set about acquiring one. With a formidable head for business, he established an airship cargo company. It generated a healthy income stream on its own, plus had the added benefit of providing an excellent front for his illegal activities, and extended his reach far beyond London. He simultaneously repulsed and attracted society. He was titled, rich, bad to know, and deadly to cross.

And he's handsome.

He was tall, his legs taking up an inordinate amount of room in the plush carriage. Her eyes ran up over highly polished, black boots and muscular thighs. Heading farther north, she took in his powerful torso in a formfitting, grey frock coat. He wore his black hair short and his sideburns narrow and long, emphasising his strong face and square jaw. A shiver ran down her spine as she met his steel-blue gaze.

"You shot my men."

At least he got straight to the point, no inane social niceties. She would never have to worry about inviting him over for tea, crumpets, and chitchat.

"They were trespassing in my house and tried to rob me." She undid the buttons on her jacket. The interior of the carriage constricted around her; the heat from his dominating presence caused the temperature to rise.

"I've killed men for doing less." His tone was well modulated, with no change in inflection nor any hint of anger; they could have been discussing the weather.

"So have I." She held his gaze. She could play his pissing contest all day if he wanted. He wasn't getting his hands on her father's notebook. Lord Devon sold her into slavery and nearly beat her to death when she escaped. Her father owed her a large debt, and with his notebook secure, she intended to collect a small portion of her due. She was going to enjoy breaking up his valuable collection of antiquities as much as she enjoyed smashing his stupid, precious clock.

"Keep your men out of my house, unless you want to lose them permanently." She shifted on the seat. Her jacket fell open to reveal the shoulder holster with the gun nestled close to her chest. A custom Smith and Wesson with a carved ivory handle, the delicacy of the bone co-ordinated with the cream silk lining of her jacket. She made her threat without blinking. Let him discover she was no blushing English rose. She had thorns.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Each week authors can submit one book for a chance to be the featured book of the week, and each week one book/author will be selected at random. The winning book each week will be featured on http://www.malloryrock.com, multiple book blogs, and social media platforms from various sources.

Are you an author? Would you like your book to be the next Featured Book of the Week? Check out all the details and entry form here: http://www.malloryrock.com/promos.html.