Excerpt: The Dragon Shield

Today, A Few Words is pleased to present an excerpt from the book The Dragon Shield by author Dianne Lynn Gardner.  Read on to find out more about this wonderful YA novel. 

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“And you say that when you got to the mountain, he was tied. But the scouts saw him run free. Why is that?” He turned to his son, flames in his eyes. “Why, Ian? Why did you let him go if you knew he had power over the dragon?”

What am I going to say? The kid cried and I felt sorry for him, because that’s what happened. “Dad…”

The air was unbearably stiff.

“Man,” Ian beat his fist on the table and stood. “Stop it, Dad. This isn’t right.”

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Spotlight: The Exile’s Violin by R.S. Hunter [steampunk]

It’s no real secret to those who know me that I’ve been easing my way into steampunk over the past few months as I work on a novel that’s something of a foray into the genre.

One book I recently enjoyed was The Exile’s Violin by R.S. Hunter.  As a gamer as well as fantasy author, I appreciate good worldbuilding.  I love stories where the author has put an intense amount of thought into how things work and what the cultures are like within their universe, as well as considered things like character and plot.  Exile is one of those novels where I read it and instantly thought “I really want to play in a game set on Tethys.”  While I wouldn’t want to live on the planet for sure, I think it’d be fun to escape there from time to time.

So a little about the book itself:

Why hire mercenaries to kill an innocent family just to obtain one little key? That question haunts Jacquie Renairre for six years as she hunts down the people responsible for murdering her parents.

Not even accepting an assignment to investigate a conspiracy that aims to start a war can keep her from searching for the key. Armed with her father’s guns and socialite Clay Baneport, she continues her quest for answers abroad.

With the world edging closer to disaster, Jacquie is running out of time to figure out how the war, the key, and ancient legend are intertwined. The fate of the world hinges on her ability to unravel both mysteries before it’s too late.

You can find it on Amazon in e-book format right now.

I myself am also going to pick it up in paperback when it’s out–that cover (not to mention the contents) is one I definitely want on my shelf.  (Though I’m undoubtedly prejudiced as the art is done by the ever-awesome Enggar Adirasa.  Does that name sound familiar?  🙂  )

The Next Big Thing: The Unwilling

A photograph by Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I’ve been tagged for “The Next Big Thing,” a series of posts about the projects that authors are working on.  A big thanks to the ever-amazing Peter Giglio, Scott Bradley, and R.S. Hunter for the tags.

This was actually a really hard meme for me to complete.  I’m working on a number of projects right now.  Closest to my heart at the moment is Efimera but to write about that project truly merits a different kind of post than this.  The Jealousy Glass, next novel in the Artifacts of Empire series, comes out this Saturday so I decided that writing about that wouldn’t be as interesting, perhaps, as talking about my far future project.  So that’s where this comes from.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The book that I’m currently working on has the working title The Unwilling.  There’s a specific reference that I pulled the title from (bonus points to anyone who can figure it out!).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

As a fantasy reader, I’ve noticed that a lot of the tropes with which we’re so familiar come from Tolkien.  I’m intrigued by the stereotypes that seem to have drifted into the common understanding of what cultures and creatures are and wanted to play with that a little myself.  My Artifacts of Empire series is fairly minimal from a fantastic point of view.  While there are magic and certain magical creatures exist, much of that world’s magic was burnt out and you’re never going to see an elf or dwarf walking around Cercia.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

I suspect it will be hard to classify but I’d say dark historical urban crime fantasy with a strong hint of horror.

Let’s just call it… fiction.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This is a tough one and admittedly, I’m bad with naming my characters so I expect that the ones I list here will probably have their names changed by the time The Unwilling is ready to go.  I also don’t always cast people in my head–this story is definitely one of those where I haven’t done (until now).

Liach, a male elven “soldier,” would most definitely be portrayed by Sasha Roiz.  Roiz has done a lot of things but I’ll always remember him best as Sam Adama from Caprica, one of my favorite TV shows.  (And yes, I’m also a huge BSG fan.)  Roiz has a certain clarity and sharpness in his facial expression that would suit this character well.  He could stand to work on the pointy ears but we’ll forgive him that.

Photo by Dorothea Lange. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Daisy, who is the central figure as of this writing, would likely best be portrayed physically by Romola Garai a little older than she appeared in I Capture the Castle.  (Though her emotional and spiritual journey would better be summed up by Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.)  Another candidate for casting would be the elven leader Iryamil—she’s Kate Winslet from her Mildred Pierce days, all the way.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Oh, the dreaded logline!  Perhaps… “How can you live forever if there’s nothing left to live for?”

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I haven’t yet decided which way I’ll go with the book though I’m inclined not to self-publish at this stage of the game.  My other novels have been published by a small press and I found that to be a positive experience.  I’ll cheerfully admit, however, that I already have a cover artist/illustrator in mind if he’ll take the job (and of course, if I end up having a say in the matter).

At this point, I’m not represented by an agent but I’m very interested in speaking to one about this or my collaborative project.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It is still in progress.  I anticipate I’ll have a first draft finished by the end of next year or the beginning of 2014.  I have other projects going that also require my attention and this novel is complex in terms of scope and plotline.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This is The Lord of the Rings meets The Godfather meets The Hellbound Heart.  Which means, of course, that it will feel and act like none of these.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My research on the economic depressions experienced worldwide in the 1930s, my fascination with bizarre facets of history and my curiosity about genre reliance on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

I also give some credit for my attempting to try something like this on my workshopping adventures with R.S. Hunter.  His worldbuilding and outlining abilities are a thing of beauty–I’m incredibly jealous of the way that he develops all of his worlds.  (You can see a great example of this in his Tethys steampunk novels, the first being The Exile’s Violin.)

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Two words: bad elves.

Now, the thing about this meme is that you’re supposed to tag other authors.  So here are a few I read/follow that I’d love to see do it (and I hope that none of you mind the tag):  Matthew Arnold Stern, Melissa Goodman, Michael Turner, M.S. Fowle, and Jack Lewis Baillot.

Behind the Book: The Birds of Anjdur

The city of Aulis, setting for The Jealousy Glass.

When I decided to write my second novel, The Jealousy Glass, one of the things that I considered was symbolism. The Universal Mirror contains a lot of small cultural details that I’d placed in the story but never picked up on–one of them was the use of different motifs for different noble houses in the nation of Cercia.

I loved the idea of retaining that concept as my characters traveled to a different land but debated about what to do with it. The land to which they go, Anjdur, is heavily based on my own research on the Byzantine Empire around the year 1200. Because of that, many of the symbols reflect Byzantine cultural values–emphasis placed on the eyes as a source of power (in this case, magical) and also on the sun. But how could I change that, I wondered, and fit in some of the symbols that had been used in Mirror as well?

That was when I came to the idea of birds. Birds struck me as a symbol of flight and also of travel towards a better destination, a perfect metaphor for one of the main characters of Jealousy Glass.

Creatures of the air, they also seemed to fit the delicate but surprisingly strong empress Irena while also befitting her mysterious sister, the former Empress Sophia. Different birds are woven throughout this story for each Anjduri character–from eagles to phoenixes, the characters with that heritage in their veins each have a bird figure as pivotal to an artifact either belonging to them or interfacing with them at some crucial point. Like the characters, the birds that appear in the Artifacts of Empire universe are sometimes magical and a few will have a recurring role in what lies ahead.

As I continue the series, I hope to incorporate more of these ideas so that readers can follow the threads and begin to gather clues about some of the bigger mysteries yet to come. Will there be more magical animals ahead? Perhaps. 🙂

The Jealousy Glass, book 2 in the Artifacts of Empire series, will be released December 1, 2012. Feel free to add it to your Goodreads list.

This blog entry is part of World Animal Day.  Visit the link below to take part in the giveaway!

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Art Spotlight: Dianne Gardner and Ian’s Realm

I guess the whole Ian’s Realm Saga started from my secret desire to paint a dragon.

If I wrote a book about dragons, then I’d be forced to paint one eventually, wouldn’t I?

I threw the idea out to some of my grandchildren. They were immediately inspired!

So I thought I had better get busy before they get too far ahead of me. This is, after all, a story for them…from me.

So I went to the art supplier in Port Townsend. Our local suppliers don’t carry large canvas and I knew the dragon in this story was going to be big. I mean really big! Well, at least as big as my little Honda Fit can carry. Which turned out to be 36 X 48.

I’ve never painted a dragon before. I knew what I wanted him to look like, kind of. I bought a little plastic dragon sculpture thinking I could study how light might shine on a dragon…but it dropped off my table and the wings fell off before I had a chance to study the lights.

So I scrambled together some sketches, some photos of horses, a rhinoceros and any kind of wicked reptile I could find…lizards, gila monsters…and some excerpts from my story that describe the dragon. Slowly he emerged from the stormy skies.

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Excerpt: Empyreal Fate

I’m very pleased to have an excerpt today from Rachel Hunter’s Empyreal Fate, a fantasy novel that is sure to appeal to those who love the epic works of writers like J.R.R. Tolkien and T.H. White.  This tale of love, hatred, and war begins with a forbidden romance and ends… well, I’ll leave you to explore for yourself.

From the Novel:

Darrion stared, dazed, into Amarya’s face as she loomed above him, concern defining her frame. Lifting himself, he sat, uncertain how he had come to lie upon the ground. He did not remember falling; he had no recollection.

“You did well,” the elf congratulated, extending a slender hand.

Darrion rubbed his head, feeling a tenderness that had not been there before. “What happened?” he asked, taking her hand and rising.

“I saw not of your mind, but from what I could figure, you gained entrance to the thoughts of a rambling oak. I know this to be true, for I could see your eyes swimming beneath the lids. Such does not occur unless a connection is made.” Amarya beamed, eyes sparkling with pride despite her pupil’s faint. With eager strides, she began smoothing the creases of his tunic. “You drifted too far, however – missing the mark. Your focus broke upon more than a single entity; your mind roamed in places it was not meant. As a result, your consciousness receded, and your celestial bond forged hollow spaces to compensate. Once that barrier snapped, the voices of many within the Illex, not merely the trees, poured through you. It was an overload of understanding – most mortals cannot handle such. But no need to fret; you’ve far surpassed the most capable of beginners. I am simply surprised you made contact at all.”

Darrion stepped back, feeling the lightness of his chest. With clouded thoughts, he speculated the feat he had barely attained. Few words could describe his awe – the confusion – that enveloped him. Dizziness clothed him as a tumbled reed.

Resting one palm against the bark of an oak, he listened – intent – as though searching for a beating heart against the trunk. Despite his wavering state, he was glad for Amarya’s tutelage. This feeling… it was almost surreal.

“To my knowledge, never has a human discerned as much as you.” Amarya’s pale hand sought Darrion’s shoulder, and he melted at her touch. “I’m uncertain what it means – for indeed, your ability comes as no coincidence… But the mortal mind proves oft unable to comprehend the spiritual realm. Not that it’s impossible, but man forgets his possession. He knows not of the awareness beyond material senses. You, Darrion, are not like other men. You – you’re different.” She shifted her jaw, examining him as if for answers.

“It’s true… I never knew the depths to which magic strayed,” Darrion murmured, almost trembling from his ethereal venture. “I used to think it all frivolous tricks of the tongue.”

“Not quite,” Amarya offered. “Those who perform incantations, as you suggest, are sorcerers – mere magicians who rely on handholds and false words to create masked illusions. In some cases – nigh, but rare – such illusions become reality. Regardless, the art lacks in form. Words are the derivation of mortals – a human contrivance, unnecessary for understanding. They are not real, as nature is real. Nay, words are but crude concepts – trivial in the matter of divine understanding. What is meant in one tongue may be opposite in another. How can a concept so unsure create something so pure? The answer is simple: it cannot.”

About the Author:
Rachel Hunter has always been fascinated with words and the intricate way in which they combine. Since a child, she has been an avid writer, winding vibrant tales and elaborate stanzas on folded bits of paper. As the years passed, her love of words never died; her adoration for reading fared no equal. Always with her nose in a book, Rachel took fondly to works spanning all genres. Yet it was the compelling grasp of fantasy and science fiction that wrenched her fascination above all.

Find Out More About Rachel and Her Novels:

Blog: http://www.rachel-m-hunter.blogspot.com

Website: http://www.rachel-m-hunter.yolasite.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachel-Hunter/170131499766376

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/young_author

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Empyreal-Fate-Llathalan-Annal-ebook/dp/B007WWB24W

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5762735.Rachel_Hunter