on Mar 17, 2014

Today I'm excited to welcome Dirk Strasser to The Runaway Pen for an interview. 




1. Hi, Mr. Strasser Thanks for accepting this interview. Can you tell us all a little about yourself and why you became a writer?

I started writing stories from the time I learnt to write.  There was a period when I was quite young when I spent a lengthy stretch in hospital and pretty much all I did during that time was read and write, so I guess that’s when I started.  I remember writing a Superman story at an early age, making copies, stapling them, and then going door-to-door around our neighbourhood and selling them for 2 cents each.  I made enough to buy some ice creams for my friends!  So, I guess I started writing and trying to sell what I’d written from the very start.  I was always writing stories up until school and university study started to take up a lot of my time.  I didn’t get back to it until I had been teaching High School for a few years.  By then, I’d decided to to have a serious go at writing a novel (which ended up being Zenith).


2. Can you tell us a little about The Books of Ascension Trilogy?

I’ve always liked epics – tales told on a huge canvas – and I was very ambitious in terms of the scale of The Books of Ascension trilogy.  I wanted the basis of the world I was creating to be something on a large scale.  I ‘d been reading Dune and the Riverworld series, and I was thinking in terms of enormously large desert, enormously large river, enormously large... er... mountain.  I then did some research on myths where giant mountains were featured, and I came across the legendary Mount Kailās which is sacred to a number of religions including Buddhists, Hindus and Jains, and which has been the destination of pilgrimages for thousands of years.  This was how the whole Eastern mysticism feel came into the trilogy.

The Books of Ascension are set in a giant world-Mountain where three races -- Maelir, Faemir and Nazir -- are battling for ascendancy and where the Mountain itself is a living entity that reflects the damage done by the conflict.   The Maelir control the world through the power of Zenith, the phenomenon of the sun reaching the highest point of the Mountain for nine days each mid-summer.  This control is maintained by the ritual of twins being given a Talisman by the Holy Orders and undertaking an Ascent to the Summit each year.  Atreu and Teyth begin their Ascent from the Base at a time when the Faemir have become a major threat under a new leader, Valkyra, and when the Mountain is at its most unstable, with massive pillars erupting from the surface and giant chasms forming spontaneously, allowing fearsome dusk creatures to emerge.  Atreu enables Verlinden, Valkyra’s twin, to be the first female to undergo the Zenith ritual, and the two manage to unite Maelir and Faemir against the threat of the Nazir.  Finally the sun itself is affected by the conflict and the days grow ever shorter, allowing the Nazir’s dusk-spawn to gain control of the slopes.  The only hope of salvation lies in Atreu’s Talisman, a book whose enigmatic powers enable Atreu to learn the truth about the Mountain; and as the mystery of Zenith is revealed to him, he uncovers the secrets of his own story.


4. Who is your favorite character in your books and why?

I like the windrider Riell for a number of reasons.  He is only a relatively minor character in Zenith, but becomes a crucial player in Equinox and Eclipse.  His Ascent had been judged as failure, and he is unable to enter one of the Holy Orders.  The Maelir system he works within means that he simply has to serve others without questioning anything.  He realises, though, how important a role he and the other windriders play; and he says to the Holy Orders, if you’re not let us join you, then we’ll create our own Holy Order.  (Take that!)  I like the attitude that doesn’t let other people’s mindless rules and conventions stop you.


5. Where do you write? (If you have a picture, we'd love to see it!)

I write in my study upstairs with a view of a number of large trees in our front yard.  I have a writing desk next my computer because, although I write most things on my desktop, I still occasionally write longhand.  There’s a print of The Tower of Babel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder on the wall in front of me as I write.

6. What is one book you wish you could get everyone to read, and why?

Everyone should read a book called Replay by Ken Grimwood.  It is about a middle-aged man living in 1988 who suffers a heart attack and finds himself back in his teenage self’s body in 1963.  He relives his life for the next 25 years carrying all the memories of his previous life, and then dies again, of a heart attack at precisely the same age.  Only to come back to life again in his teenage self’s body life in 1963, with all the memories of both his first life and the second replay of his life.  He then relives this loop over and over.

Some of the books I really love are not for everyone.  I know that.  But this book… well… I’d say if you don’t get something profound out of it, you don’t have a pulse.  What would you do if you were in his position (apart from buying shares in Apple at just the right time, or maybe stealing the idea for Facebook)?  Would you marry the same person?  Would you claim to be a clairvoyant?  Would tell anyone about what has been happening to you?  And what would you do to avoid dying each time at the age of 43?  These sorts of questions are only the tip of the iceberg.  The emotional depth beneath them is enormous.  You might notice some similarities with Groundhog Day, a movie that was released in 1993 and whose reputation has grown exponentially over the years.  Yet Replay predates Groundhog Day, and in many ways Replay is Groundhog Day on steroids!

Replay is, quite literally in my view, a masterpiece.  In fact, it’s that rarest of creatures, a masterpiece which anyone can access.  A masterpiece free of pretensions.  A masterpiece that doesn't show its mastery by highlighting what the reader doesn't know or struggles to understand, but only magnifies the reader's perceptions.  A book that changes how you look at life.

7. If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?

Being able to split in two at will, so one of me can write while the other can do everything else that needs to be done.

Thanks for joining us today, Dirk! I have to admit, that's one superpower I'd love to have too. :)

About the Author


Dirk Strasser has written over 30 books and has won multiple Australian Publisher Association Awards and a Ditmar for Best Professional Achievement. His short story, “The Doppelgänger Effect”, appeared in the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology, Dreaming Down Under. His fiction has been translated into a number of languages. He founded the Aurealis Awards and has co-published and co-edited Aurealis magazine for over 20 years.

The Books of Ascension trailer  |  World of Ascension  |  www.dirkstrasser.com
Twitter: @DirkStrasser  |  Dirk’s Blog  |  Dirk's Facebook Page


About the Books Of Ascension


Zenith - The First Book of Ascension

Can you see the story breathing?
Imagine
A mountain so great it takes a year to travel from base to summit
A sun so powerful it drives you into madness if you look at it
An ascent so vital it determines the fate of the world
A summit so precious it holds the key to the divine

The world of the great Mountain is unstable. Giant pillars erupt from the surface and yawning chasms form unpredictably underfoot. Since the Maelir first stood on its slopes in the distant past, they have sought to still its anger and control its power. Each year, twin brothers are chosen to make a perilous journey to the summit. If they survive they will be witness to Zenith, and the secrets will be revealed to them.

When Atreu and Teyth embark on their Ascent, their Talismans lead them onto conflicting paths that will ultimately set brother against brother. And this time the Ascent itself is in peril as unknown forces that have long craved the power of Zenith will stop at nothing to make it their own even if it means destroying the very thing that sustains all life the Mountain itself.



Equinox – The Second Book of Ascension
Can you see the story breathing?
The Keep
The most beautiful city on the great Mountain
The pinnacle of Maelir culture
The home of the Inner Sanctum
The place where secrets hide

The fate of the Mountain hangs in balance at the time of Equinox, and even the Keep can no longer remain untouched. The Maelir are desperate to defend it, the Faemir to demolish it, the windriders to claim it. But unknown to them all, a dark force has already emerged from the chaos to seize power.

As Atreu and Verlinden strive to decipher the power of the Talisman that has defined Atreu’s Ascent, Teyth and Valkyra are locked in a desperate battle that neither of them can win. At a time when darkness and light are in perfect equilibrium, when Maelir and Faemir must find a way to break the deadlock and avoid annihilation, the world’s fate lies in the Book of Ascension.



Eclipse – The Lost Book of Ascension
Can you see the story breathing?
What happens if after the winter solstice, the days keep getting shorter?
And shorter?
Until there is an eternal night?
What happens as the darkness grows?
And the creatures of dusk take control of the Mountain?
And the quest for the third Book is the only hope?

The Mountain is in its death throes as the Nazir send their wraiths to finish what the dusk-rats and grale had begun. Soon there will be no daylight to protect the Maelir and Faemir, and with each twilight there are fewer places to hide. Will the Mountain finally collapse under its own instability or will Atreu and Verlinden’s descent find the words of salvation in the Lost Book of Ascension?








on Mar 3, 2014
...and pick up your own copy while you're at it!

Hello, fantasy author Melissa Sasina here! I want to be able to offer Defiance and  Falls the Shadow free on Amazon Kindle, but I need your help! Defiance and Falls the Shadow have already been marked for free on Smashwords, but I need your help to get Amazon to match that. The more people who report the free price, the more likely it is that they'll match it! It's just 3 easy steps:

1. Visit one of these pages on Amazon:  Falls the Shadow's Page  |   Defiance's Page
2. Scroll down to click on the "Tell us about a lower price" link under Product Details (it's a bright blue link, just above the reviews section)
3. In the pop up box, check "Website (Online)" for where the lower price is available. It will then let you enter the URL; just paste in me Smashwords link: Falls the Shadow (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/170070)   |    Defiance (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/278433) Shipping and delivery costs are all zero, so just enter zeros on those lines, and hit "Submit feedback"
Done! (And huge thanks!) Then don't forget to pop over to Smashwords and pick up a copy for yourself. 
Please help share this event with your friends. Thank you all so much for your help!

And don't forget to check out the Art Contest! First place winner will receive signed print copies of Falls the Shadow and  Melody of the Dark!
http://www.runawaypen.com/p/art-contest.html
 

on Mar 1, 2014
Today we have a cover reveal for Splinters, a young adult sci-fi / horror read by authors FJR Titchenell and Matt Cameron. I'm not a big horror fan myself, but this description really drew me in...

Splinters

Under ordinary circumstances, Ben and Mina would never have had reason to speak to each other; he's an easy-going people person with a healthy skepticism about the paranormal, and she's a dangerously obsessive monster-hunter with a crippling fear of betrayal. But the small town of Prospero, California, has no ordinary circumstances to offer. In order to uncover a plot set by the seemingly innocent but definitely shapeshifting monsters-that-look-like-friends-family-and-neighbors, the two stark opposites must both find ways to put aside their differences and learn to trust each other.

...Ready for the cover?



....




....



Cover Chatter:

This totally says sci-fi horror to me, and with a young protagonist, it's clearly YA as well. I love yellow-green eerie lighting, though it gets a little bright at the center of the cover. The title font is pretty neat--definitely not something you see everyday. And I really want to know if the kid (Ben?) is wearing gauntlets. Yep. Need to know that.

Giveaway:

Everyone who adds Splinters to their Goodreads to-read list on or before March 7th will be entered to win a $25 Amazon giftcard. A winner will be selected at random and contacted by Goodreads direct message. So click that pretty button up there and add away! 

About the Authors


F.J.R. Titchenell and Matt Carter met and fell in love in a musical theatre class at Pasadena City College and have been inseparable ever since. Though they have both dreamed of being writers since a very young age, they both truly hit their stride after they met, bouncing ideas off of one another, forcing each other to strive to be better writers, and mingling Matt's lifelong love of monsters with Fiona's equally disturbing inability to forget the tumult of high school. They were married in 2011 in a ceremony that involved kilts, Star Wars music, and a cake topped by figurines of them fighting a zombified wedding party.

Connect with FJR here: Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Connect with Matt here: Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter
on Feb 27, 2014

Today I'm excited to share an interview with Caprion, the general of the harpy army, and a seraphim in his own right. You've had a chance to meet Caprion in Volcrian's Hunt, and tomorrow will see the release of his own story, Caprion's Wings. For more info on that and to enter the giveaway, see the bottom of the post. And since I had the honor of beta-reading it, I can guarantee it's a fun but dark, action-packed story that is definitely worth picking up! Without further ado, let's welcome Caprion...



Hi Caprion, thanks for joining us today!

I realize we only have a few minutes with you (you seraphim are busy folk!), so without further ado, here are our top 5 questions:

1. At the beginning of Caprion's Wings, you've been trying for years to earn your wings and failing. You're ready to risk almost anything to gain them. Looking back from where you stand today, do you have any true, deep regrets about what unfolded? Would you change anything?

Looking back, I realize I should have been more patient. Florentine was right all along--if I had just waited for the Matriarch to awaken from her three-week slumber, I wouldn’t have put my queen (and the entire island) in danger. But everything seems more urgent when you’re young. I thought if I waited to consult the Matriarch about my visions, I would lose my chance at finding my wings forever.

2. I understand you had a difficult time with your family growing up, especially your brother. Who in your life do you most look up to and why?

Ironically, I used to look up to Sumas A LOT when I was a child. He was six years older than me, so of course, I idolized him. He would play the usual “big brother” pranks, and he could be cruel sometimes, but he never put my life in danger.

That all changed when I failed my first Singing. Sumas became more aggressive. He seemed to take my failure as a personal offense. I still don’t know if he meant to punish me or just toughen me up. Either way, that’s when the teasing turned into outright bullying.

Now, as an adult, it’s difficult for me to find anyone to look up to. My own people are constantly disappointing me. I was raised to think that Harpies are perfect, but after seeing the cruelty and pettiness of my own race, it’s hard to find any sort of real role model.

3. What is your greatest fear?

I’m afraid of losing Moss--of doing something that might lead to her death.
As a seraphim, I fear that I will be unequal to the task of protecting my people.
Mostly, though, I am afraid of becoming like them. I don’t want to become like Sumas or the Matriarch, who are both bullies in their own right. I don’t want to abuse my power or make others suffer by my hand.

4. What exactly does being a seraphim mean in the context of Harpy culture? (We know that their magic is stronger, but does that mean different abilities, expectations, etc?) And is the Matriarch a seraphim? 

We are especially good at hunting demons. You could say that is our true purpose. Beyond that, a seraphim is a battle harpy, ideal for war. Whereas normal Harpies have only one set of wings, seraphim have 3 sets (6 wings), which makes our magic about 3 times stronger than usual. Still, our physical bodies have limitations and we can die from using too much magic at once. Harpies usually live about two-hundred years, but seraphim bodies are worn down by magic, which gives us an almost-human lifespan.

In the past, a seraphim “manifests” before a great change or a great danger. We’ve been dubbed “the heralds of the One Star.” If a seraphim has manifested, it means war or an even bigger threat lies on the horizon.

The Matriarch is not a seraphim. She has only one set of wings. She is a powerful female Harpy, usually a prior soldier, who is elected by the people when the old Matriarch dies. She is seen as the “mother” of our people and is more long-lived than the rest.

5. What have the Harpies been doing since the War of the Races? And why are you willing to leave them so easily at the end of Volcrian's Hunt, rather than sending some of your own soldiers?

Since the War of the Races, my race has been recuperating. The war shattered our entire civilization and birth rates have been on the decline. You could say my people are keeping their heads down, struggling to hold onto what little they have left.

Honestly, I don’t like other Harpies very much. I feel duty-bound to protect my people, but I don’t feel that close to them, if you know what I mean…? I know I’m supposed to protect them from the Dark God...but I don’t know if they deserve it.

Imagine living your entire life under house arrest--that’s how my life’s been since becoming a seraphim. The Matriarch watches my every move. I wanted to escape for years before Sora ever arrived, then she offered the perfect opportunity. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going, though I’m sure they’ll figure it out soon.

As of Volcrian’s Hunt, I’m no longer on a mission for my people. I’m on a personal quest to find an old friend. The Matriarch has probably cooked up a plan to hunt me down, cunning old crone that she is, but I won’t let her stop me!

Thanks so much for answering our questions. Is there anything else you'd like to share with your readers?

Being the first seraphim since the War of the Races is a mixed blessing. The Matriarch pushes endless responsibilities onto my shoulders. I don’t feel like I’ve earned the right to carry this kind of status among my people. In Caprion’s Wings, you will see my younger self, still naive, overconfident and untried. You will come to understand the events that made me who I am. And I think you’ll get some insight into the next book, Ferran’s Map, and how my story might continue.

Thanks for having me, Intisar! Good luck to you, and the One Star’s blessing!

Thanks, Caprion! It's not every day I receive a harpy's blessing. :)


About the Book






By the age of nineteen, all Harpies know how to fly—except Caprion. He has yet pass the test of the Singing and gain his wings. His family has disowned him in shame and people are beginning to talk. Now an evil voice haunts his dreams, taunting him, drawing out his worst fears—that he will remain wingless forever.

Caprion decides to find the root of this insidious voice, no matter what it takes. He journeys to the secret prisons of the Harpy underground, where he meets a young slave named Moss. In those sunless, decrepit cells, a forbidden friendship is formed. Can Caprion and Moss find the source of the voice? And can Caprion save Moss from a terrible fate?

Join young Caprion as he journeys down, down into the earth, finding his wings and forging a friendship that will change him forever.

*Caprion's Wings is a companion story to The Cat's Eye Chronicles. As a novella, it will be between 40,000-50,000 words long.


Caprion's Wings blog tour schedule and links:
2-23-14 | Spotlight Mimsey Style | Please Don't Feed the Mimsey
2-24-14 | Spotlight/Excerpt | The O'Raven Chronicles
2-25-14 | REVIEW & Theme Song |  Lindsay and Jane's Views and Reviews
2-26-14 | Spotlight/Excerpt | Oh My Shelves
2-27-14 | Character 5Q Q&A Caprion | Intisar Khanani
2-28-14 | REVIEW & Would you Rather w/Caprion | TTC Books & More
3-01-14 | Spotlight/Excerpt | A World of Words
3-01-14 | REVIEW & Spotlight | Genieva's Book Blog
3-02-14 | REVIEW & Author top 10 | Becca Anne's Book Reviews
3-03-14 | REVIEW & This OR That with Moss | Paranormal Book Club
3-04-14 | REVIEW & Guest Post | Alina Popescu Writes
3-04-14 | REVIEW & Interview | Inkspelled Faery 


About the Author



T. L. Shreffler lives in Los Angeles, CA. She loves diversity, fantasy, romance, iced tea, long walks, philosophy, and thrift store shopping. She recently graduated with a BA in Badass (Creative Writing) and her poetry has been published consecutively in Eclipse: A Literary Journal and The Northridge Review. She is author of The Cat's Eye Chronicles (YA/Epic Fantasy) and The Wolves of Black River (PN Romance.)

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon


a Rafflecopter giveaway
on Feb 21, 2014

So, in spite of the fact I had been laughing at them for…well, ever, I finally caved and started reading YA paranormal romance books. They range from Alex Finn’s Beastly to Gracie Ray’s Falling Slowly, to Maggie Strietfver’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. After having read a few, I am faced with this question: Why do the guys get the superpowers?

In Erica Steven’s Captured, it’s Braith who’s the vampire. In The Goddess Test, Henry is the god. In Thirteen Days to Midnight, Jacob’s the immortal. Even in pop culture, Superman is the alien. And their love interests are pretty much normal girls. Yes, all the ladies have something special or unusual about them, but you have to admit, they’re a bit human.


I know that there are series where this isn’t true. In Nikki Jefford’s Spellbound Trilogy, Raj might be a warlock, but Graylee’s also a witch. Then there’s Rachel Morgan’s Creepy Hollow series. Vi’s the one who’s a faerie and Nate’s the human. And I know that there are others.

But enough with the exceptions! I’m talking about the generalizations.

So why is it that the guy usually gets to be the supernatural being and the girl gets stuck being human? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good vampire love interest. But I wonder why the werewolf girl couldn’t fall in love with a human boy more often. (Yes, I know there’s a series where that happens, too.)


Is it that teen girls relate more to an MC who’s a normal teen and falls in love with a fallen angel than a fallen angel who falls in love with a normal teen boy? (Oh wait…that’s been done too, hasn’t it?)

I do see why it would be hard to write the female love interest as the near-invincible beast while her boyfriend is a fragile mortal. (A guy always needing protection isn’t considered a particularly attractive trait.) When it’s the guy who’s the protector, you can get away with more dramatic rescues because men are supposed to protect women anyway. (My dear feminist friends, please do not take offense. I am, after all, exposed to high levels of Arthurian lore on a daily basis.) And I admit dramatic rescues can be kind of awesome when done right…

In Fanged Princess I made Hadassah, or Haddie, the vampire and her boyfriend human, in part because I wondered about this subject. But then in the Argetallam Saga, I am guilty of making Saoven the elf and Janir the one who often needs him to save her.

What do you think? Do guys get the superpowers too often? Or is the way things are just perfect?

Originally posted to Inkspelled Faery
on Feb 15, 2014
I’ve often wondered about the “right” way to conduct a battle. It seemed important to at least know the basics of strategy for my stories and when The Principles of War came up on my required reading list, I found out that it was a great resource for just that. So here are a few important highlights, the parts that seemed most relevant to fantasy writing.


Pawns go first
Clausewitz: We must not be easily led to use [the cavalry] in open combat. Only when the enemy’s disorder or his rapid retreat offer the hope of success, should we use our cavalry for an audacious attack.
While cavalry charges make for dramatic openers to conflict scenes and are very popular in literature and film, they are impractical as an organized infantry force could repel horsemen with devastating consequences (as proven by the Scots). But if the infantry is in disarray, cavalry can easily be the fatal blow.

Wait for daylight—or don’t
Clausewitz: The regular surprise attack (by night as at Hochkirk) is the best way to get the most out of a very small army. But the aggressor, who is not as well acquainted with the terrain as the defender, is open to many risks. The less well one knows the terrain and the preparations of the enemy, the greater these risks become. In many instances, therefore, these attacks must be considered only as a desperate means.
So, to sum up, you shouldn’t attack at night unless you know the battleground well enough that the dark won’t be a problem.


Surrounding them may not be a good idea
Clausewitz: Encirclement of the enemy necessitates a greater deployment of forces in the front line for the aggressor than the defender
Clausewitz: To surround an army completely is possible only in rare cases and requires tremendous physical or moral superiority.
Encircling an enemy spreads the attacking forces thinner and means the surrounded army will be able to draw up into tighter, more stable formation. And we’ve all heard of the (insert preferred nationality) firing squad.

Do not let them get away
Clausewitz: Next to victory, the act of pursuit is the most important in war.
If I remember correctly, one of his general’s failure to follow this rule was what ultimately did Napoleon in. Letting the enemy regroup is a bad idea because it is possible for them to reorganize and renew their attack. Clausewitz also gives a small how-to on this, but that’s for another time.

Always have a way out
Clausewitz: Only when we cut off the enemy’s line of retreat are we assured of great success in victory
Getting cornered will either force a surrender or enable a massacre and has led to the destruction of armies since the days of the ancient Greeks. This might seem a little obvious, but it’s still important enough to mention.

And there you have it—the bare bones of the great Prussian colonel’s advice. I would certainly recommend the whole book itself (whether you’re a fantasy writer or not), but until you can, here’s the crash course.

Originally posted to Inkspelled Faery
on Feb 11, 2014
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis:

Henrietta, the legendary Dragon Slayer of the Kingdom of Bleuve, can't stomach the thought of one more kill. Yet, in order to save her dying mentor, she must go on one last quest. But will misfit companions, seasickness, and an ego maniacal king derail the quest for the healing stone? And will she be able to cut past her conscience and kill the dragon?



Review:

Henrietta is a fascinating character. At 17, she's served in the army, gained renown as a dragon slayer, and walked away from it all. Now, she's made a habit of isolating herself, and while she's an excellent warrior, she balks at killing. Which makes things difficult when set upon in an ambush. The story opens as Henrietta is accosted twice in succession: once by an arrogant foreign knight who demands she accompany him back to his king, who has need of her dragon-slaying services, and immediately after, by a witch who informs her that her old master whom she has been long estranged from is dying. To heal him, she needs the special healing stone one can only win by slaying a dragon.

On this last quest she does not want, Henrietta ends up with a tagalong group of companions she would much rather do without: a girl who needs to be escorted home in return for the witch's favor, a jester who wants to go an adventure with the hero whose songs he sings (poor Henrietta!), and that unshakeable, obnoxious knight who wants to make sure she slays her dragon.

This story will quickly suck you in, even though the action is slow to build. There's plenty of tension--Henrietta is one big ball of tension--and as the story progresses, you begin to understand her more and more. Here's a girl-hero who has been a hero and wants no more of it; she's tired, she's alone, and she's lost her purpose, drifting from town to town and singing her own adventures to earn her keep. And she doesn't want any of it back--but this time she doesn't have a choice, not if she wants to be able to live with herself.

The writing is strong, though the proofreading could have been a little stronger. I did catch a handful or two of typos--not enough to detract from the story, but enough to be noticeable. While there are only a few points of serious action prior to the major climax, the book moves along well, and what isn't sword fighting and sorcery is very strong character development. I did think that we heard about Henrietta's stomach a bit too much, which was more an issue of being made a little too aware of how much she continued to stress and worry over her options and choices. And I thought Henrietta was also a little too slow to grasp what she needed to do in the lead-up to the climax of the book. But, there are plenty of characters who just don't want to see what's before them, so I can understand that.

Overall, this was a well-paced and enjoyable read, with strong character development and a varied cast.

Recommended for fans of epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, fire witches, obnoxious knights, and lost kings.


About the Author


Beth Barany has been making up fantasy and adventure stories all her life. It only took her thirty years to actually start writing them down, then grit and determination to whip them into shape. Her young adult fantasy novel Henrietta, The Dragon Slayer was released Spring 2011. She writes to empower girls and women with her kickass heroines who have to save the world against great odds.

By day she helps authors get their books done and out into the world. She also leads trainings for groups and associations and speaks to groups and conferences all over the San Francisco Bay Area and the United States about motivation, persistence, publishing, craft and marketing.

In her off hours, Beth enjoys cardio kickboxing, stick yoga, reading and watching movies with her husband, author and musician Ezra Barany.

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  GoodReads

on Feb 6, 2014
Rating: 4 / 5

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Epic Fantasy

Description:

After her adventures with the Key of Amatahns, sixteen-year-old Janir Caersynn Argetallam returns home to find Brevia on the brink of war with a neighboring country, Stlaven. Her foster-father and even Saoven—a brave young elf warrior—think it will be safe at the castle where Janir grew up. However, while trying to unravel a looming mystery, Karile—self-taught wizard and Janir’s self-appointed best friend—becomes certain that there is danger in the mountains surrounding Janir’s childhood home and that it has something to do with Stlaven’s most powerful family, the Vanmars…



Review: For my review of Book 1 of the Argetellam Saga (The Key of Amatahns), go here. Warning: if you haven't read The Key of Amatahns, you are about to see some spoilery. So, go read Book 1 now!

I started this book ready for an enjoyable read, and I wasn't disappointed. As with many second books in a series, the story is a little slow to get started--kind of. The prologue, featuring Janir's half-brother Lucan, sucked me right in. And, being a follower of Ms. Wheatley's pinterest boards, I was excited to finally meet someone who I've already got a firm image of in my mind: the healer Genvissa. For all that we only saw her in the prologue, I can't wait to meet Genvissa again and get to know her: kind, wise, brave and in a really bad place, you can't help caring about her.

But I digress. The Secrets of the Vanmars can essentially be broken into two separate halves. The first half revolves around what happens while Janir is waiting to be judged by the King and his High Lords for her role in the death of a duke back in book 1. Once that's resolved, Janir and company return to her foster-father's home, and another adventure begins as Janir and Karile search out the Kryden Road that once ran through the mountains to a not-so-friendly neighboring kingdom. Who is building it and why? What is the Chalice of Malvron? And what will Janir's Argetallam father do when he finds out she's still alive?

The writing throughout the book was relatively strong. Karile, as the perfect obnoxious little-brother-type sidekick, continues to be one of my favorite characters. Ms. Wheatley's descriptions and characterizations have improved over what we saw in her first book, and I have no doubt that The Chalice of Malvron (Book 3) will deliver an engaging story as Ms. Wheatley continues to come into her own as a talented young fantasy author.

Recommended for: fans of epic fantasy, strong heroines, evil patriarchs, frost griffins, and sword and sorcery.
About the Author

Elisabeth Wheatley is a teenager of the Texas Hill Country. When she’s not daydreaming of elves, vampires, or hot guys in armor, she is reading copious amounts of fantasy, playing with her little brothers, studying mythology, and training and showing her Jack Russell Terrier, Schnay.

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on Feb 4, 2014
Hi, everyone! This is Elisabeth Wheatley, newest addition to the collective that is The Runaway Pen. I am very excited to join the group and I thought I'd debut with a post that appeared on my personal blog awhile back. Enjoy!

The beauty of true fantasy is that there are about three rules. You need magic, you need a magical world, and you need a bad guy. Beyond that, there really isn’t a whole lot to restrict the story. But…(yes, the dreaded “but”)…there are three things that are the equivalent of talons on the chalkboard for me.

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Okay, okay, so I admit that technically I can’t take off points if a fantasy book isn’t historically accurate, but these are things to do with the weaponry and lifestyle. So they count, right?

1. Knights being hoisted onto horse’s back via a pulley system


I haven’t seen this one in awhile (I think the last time I saw it was in The Once and Future King), but I will mention it anyway. In reality, a knight’s armor was heavy and uncomfortable, but it wasn’t so heavy that they couldn’t mount their horses. If it had been that heavy, ground combat for knights would have been a death-sentence, particularly if they were going up against lighter footsoldiers. There was the problem of knights easily expiring from heatstroke because metal, of course, doesn’t breathe, but that’s a topic for another time.





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2. Boiling oil poured from castle during siege

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I’m sure we’ve all seen this one, right? The bubbling-hot, pitch-black goo sent raining down on the heads of screaming invaders and then set on fire with a flaming arrow. I think this one was in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance, though I’d have to check. Boiling oil looks really intense and scary and, let’s face it, morbidly cool. But I’ve found mixed reports on this one. Some say that it was used while others say that oil was too expensive for it to be literally thrown out the window. Boiling water was sometimes used, as well as animal fat, heated sand, resin, pitch, and they would have a similar effect. But oil was something that needed to be saved, especially if you were in a siege and didn’t know when you would be able to resupply.

3. “Fired” an arrow

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This one bugs me the most and I can thank my former-Marine, Naval Academy-graduate father for ruining this term for me. A number of writers use this term. Heck, The Lord of the Rings movies used this term a number of times. But I started thinking about it one day and asked my father if it was accurate. He confirmed my suspicions that the term “fire” in reference to volleys, did not come into use until the advent of firearms. Up until that point they said “loose,” which makes more sense, right? I think they did sometimes use fiery arrows, but not enough to make the term “fire” stick.

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Any writer could get away with any one or all of these things. They’re all subjective to how “accurate” the writer wants his/her fantasy story to be. But they still drive me bonkers! Now the question is: Are they going to bug you?


on Jan 16, 2014
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For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she’s never had … until she’s betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies—and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometimes the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

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About the Author

Khanani_Author_PhotoIntisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five.

Intisar currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. Until recently, she wrote grants and developed projects to address community health and infant mortality with the Cincinnati Health Department—which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. 

Intisar’s latest projects include a serial novella project titled The Sunbolt Chronicles, about a young thief with a propensity to play hero, and her arch-nemesis, a dark mage intent on taking over the Eleven Kingdoms. She’s also developing a companion trilogy to her debut novel Thorn, which will feature a new heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife.

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on Dec 17, 2013

Today we're happy to host author Suzanna Linton as part of a blog tour for her fantasy novel "Clara." Without further ado...



One day, my husband rearranged our study, where I do my writing, to make room for some new bookcases.  He wedged my desk between two bookcases, despite my suggestion that it be moved so that it faced the window.  I had imagined looking out at the trees lining the drive whenever I got stuck on a scene, as if the sway of river birches could dislodge an idea.  It seemed ideal.  However, now I faced a beige wall.

I made a face.  I complained.  But my darling spouse insisted that this was the better choice.

“You won’t get distracted, like you would at a window,” he said.

As I thought about it, I realized I could only agree.  If I sat in front of a window, I’d spend more time watching birds and butterflies than actually writing.  And I decided to put the space into good use, taping little sayings on the wall for me to read whenever I felt lost or needed a kick in the rear to get going.  I thought I’d share a few with you, along with my thoughts on them.

Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway

I don’t think Mr. Hemingway meant this literally.  Though, this is Hemingway, so maybe he did.  But since I don’t want to take it literally, I’d like to think that he’s saying, “Write with lowered inhibitions.  Disgorge your subconscious onto the paper.  A drunk comes up with an idea and does it without first checking for any warning labels.  Writers should do the same.  In fact, writers don’t write for anyone other than themselves and they certainly don’t write to please everyone.  Politicians do.”  It’s when everything is out and the first draft is completed that we should then go over it with a critical eye.

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  – Jack London

Every time I hear someone say, “I can’t write today because I don’t have the muse”, I want to throw something, preferably something heavy and preferably at the speaker.  However, that’s a bit hypocritical because I’ve said the same thing.  At the same time, though, I know I’m saying it because I just don’t want to write.  As Chuck Wendig once said, the only way to survive as a novelist is “by spot-welding one’s ass to the office chair every day and putting the words to screen and paper no matter what.”   It doesn’t matter if you want to or whether you feel “inspired”.  Inspiration is not to be waited upon but gone after or just done without entirely.  Writing is hard.  It’s a job.  The sooner you accept this, the happier you’ll be.  Well, as happy as any writer can expect to be.

You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer. – Margaret Atwood

Writing is not for the weak of heart.  It’s more than telling a story.  It’s sharing an important part of your mind and heart.  These characters aren’t just abstract ideas to a writer but real people.  It’s natural to feel some protectiveness.  Also, there’s the fact that you’re opening yourself up to criticism.  So, yes, it does take a good bit of nerve and gumption.  This isn’t a quality that can be had right away, though.  It takes time to develop that nerve.  It takes time to build up those callouses that keep us safe from the barbs of critics.  But once that courage, that nerve, has been attained, then it’s easier to plow ahead.  It's easier to write drunk and edit sober.

The first draft of everything is shit. – Ernest Hemingway

This has to be my favorite quote from Hemingway.  We writers are known for our OCD ways.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak to my own desire to get everything right on the first go.  As Hemingway so succinctly puts it, that’s not going to happen.  The point of the first draft is to get everything out onto paper.  Once you’ve done that, then you can worry about smoothing over the rough spots, cutting away the dead wood, or whatever metaphor you prefer.  The point is, don’t despair if it isn’t Nobel Prize-worthy material right away, and don’t have the arrogance to think that it already is.  The former will tempt you to give up and the latter will bar you from any improvement.

And improvement is the lifeblood of the author.  You never stop getting better.  You should never stop trying to get better.  Finally, it's important to realize that there will always be someone better than you.

I hope these little quotes give you the push you may need to get to writing or perhaps the wisdom to pull out of a rut, if you’ve fallen into one.  However, I think I’ll close with one more.  One that isn’t on my wall but which I think I will add:

Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman

About the Book


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To save a nation, Clara will have to see through both the fog of war, and the fog of her own heart...

Sold into slavery as a child, and rendered mute by the horrors she suffered, Clara's life extends no further than the castle kitchens and their garden. Those who know about her just think of her as the dull mute girl who may be a little soft in the head, not knowing that she carries within herself a precious gift: the ability to see the future. This is a gift she keeps secret, though, for fear of persecution.

However, a vision prompts her to prevent a murder, shoving her not only into the intrigues and gilded life of the nobility, but also into a civil war brewing in her country. As events unfold, and she is drawn deeper into the conflict, she meets an old friend, makes a new one, and begins to unearth secrets better left buried.

Driven to learn the truth about the war, and about her friends, Clara embarks on a journey that takes her from her beloved mountains to the very Capital itself, Bertrand, where she is confronted by an evil both ancient and twisted. The only problem is, her own anger and prejudices are the catalysts her enemy needs to complete its plans. If she is not careful, not only will the entire nation be lost, but her own soul as well.


About the Author



Suzanna Linton was born in South Carolina and grew up in Orangeburg County. In 2002, she attended the summer program in fiction and poetry for the SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. After graduating high school, she went on to Francis Marion University, where she majored in English. In 2013, she received Honorable Mention in the Sidney Lanier Poetry Award Competition.

When she's not writing or working at the local library, Suzanna can be found either reading or gardening. She also loves to watch movies and television series. Right now, she's nose deep in The Walking Dead, White Collar, and Star Trek.

She lives with her husband and their two dogs, Benedict and Scholastica, in Florence, SC.

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