Character Interview: Abbi from Deception Peak

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A portrait of Abbi by author-artist Dianne Lynn Gardner

Today, I’m pleased to be interviewing Abbi, a character from Dianne Lynn Gardner’s epic series, The Ian’s Realm Saga.  The first book in the series, Deception Peak, has just been re-released by Rara Avis and is now available from Amazon and other retailers.

A little about the book: The first book of the Saga, Deception Peak is a young adult adventure fantasy about a teenager, Ian Wilson, who follows his father through a portal that magically appears on their computer screen. They travel into a deceptively beautiful Realm, where horses run free, the wind sings prophetic melodies, and their computer avatars come to life. But when the two are separated, Ian is abducted by a tribe of dragon worshipers and is forced to find his courage. As he struggles for his freedom and embarks on a perilous search to find his father, Ian meets the true peacekeepers of the Realm. It’s then that he learns there is a greater purpose for being in there. 

Now that you’ve read about the novel, let’s hear from Abbi!

Gwen: Okay, Abbi, here’s my first question: How did you meet Ian? What were your first thoughts upon meeting him?

Abbi: I met Ian in my freshman class. We were in math together and I was amazed at his skills.
He never spoke much, kept to himself, but whenever he was called on he just rattled off the answers like he was some kind of computer or something. Then he’d just act all nonchalant. The boys laughed at him though and I felt sorry for him.
He’s really good looking and he has the sweetest smile.

I could tell the laughing irritated him but he never did anything, not until Johnny Cramer came along when we were sophomores. John was new to the neighborhood but boy he got a following really quick. He’s full of himself, that dude.

Gwen: So what did you think about when you saw the Realm for the first time? Did that change what you’d thought about Ian?

Abbi: Well, it blew me away when I saw those lights and Ian and his dad disappeared. But I didn’t know it was the Realm, you know. I thought something horrific happened to them. But when Ian clammed up about it not only did it raise my curiosity, but it got me mad because I usually can persuade Ian to talk about things he doesn’t tell anyone else. Then when his dad popped in from the portal I was like…WOW! Once Alex started explaining things I was hooked. It bugged me to no end that Ian didn’t want me there. It hurt. I thought I was his friend.

I guess he was just being his normal self though. It takes Ian a while to adjust to things. I knew things would be okay between us when he helped me back on my horse. But the Realm? uh uh. No…not my cup of tea, not with a dragon.

Gwen: Wait–what do you mean, dragons? Dec

Abbi: That was the rumor going around. That little talking man – who was mind blowing enough -mentioned a dragon and I was out of there. Then when I realized Ian and his dad went back in I’m terrified. I’m really worried about them.

I keep checking their house but no one’s been home and the door is locked. The computer is still on, I can see the stars on the screensaver when I look in the window. I don’t know what to do. I’d hate to report them as missing and get the police involved.

Gwen: What are you going to do now? Do you think Ian and his dad will return?

Abbi: All I can do is hope. That’s it. I’ve been checking their mail. I suppose at some point I’ll have to tell someone. I’m going to give it another week. If there’s no sign of either of them by then, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll tell mom and dad…I’m scared for them and I miss Ian, I reallly do. I hope he’s okay.

Want to find out how Abbi’s story ends?  What happens to Ian and his father in the Realm?  Check out the links below to find out more!

Visit Dianne Lynn Gardner @ Facebook

@ Twitter

@ the series blog

Enter an awesome giveaway for the series here!

 

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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Cover Reveal: Into the Spiral

What would you say if shadows began to speak to you?  That’s the question YA author (and a personal friend of mine), Erin Danzer, explores in the first book of her Spiral Defenders trilogy.  I’m pleased to share her new cover with you along with a few hints about what you can expect when it appears online on Black Friday (and in print later this Christmas season).

About Into the Spiral

Fifteen-year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Lambert wants to get out from under her older brother’s shadow. When Ronnie gets a tattoo and then is struck by lightning, she suddenly finds herself able to see and hear things in shadows that don’t appear to others. Then Ronnie meets Gavin Clearwater, the hot new guy in all of her classes and finds out he can see and hear the same things she can.

Gavin tells her about the Spiral Defenders, a group of warriors that travels through space and time to defend the planets of the Spiral. After meeting the Commander of the Spiral Defenders and realizing his intentions might not be pure, Ronnie struggles between following her destiny to become a Spiral Defender and trying to regain the life she had before being struck by lightning.

 

About the Author

Erin Danzer wrote her first book at 10-years-old for a Young Authors competition, where she was awarded an Honorable Mention and discovered a passion for the written word. She’s written several novels and short stories since that spark ignited. She writes a monthly short story serial, The Cassandra Serafin Chronicles, posting alternately on her blog and in Literary Lunes bi-monthly online magazine. Into the Spiral is Erin’s debut novel. Erin resides in Wisconsin with her husband, two children, and their cat.

Website: http://www.erindanzer.com

FB Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/ErinDanzerYAAuthor

Twitter: @erindanzer

The Lamplighter’s Special {review}

CROWN OF PHOENIX TOUR

Lizzie and her sister are forced to work in a huge manor and on a steamship to support their family.

They are caught up in several mysteries:

The squire’s oldest son cannot leave the attic
An old typewriter seems to move time and space
A passenger hides in a secret room
A beautiful visitor is plotting against them

And Lizzie discovers that she has a strange, new ability.

She and her sister must discover the secrets of The Lamplighter’s Special before their enemy catches up with them.


This story, third in Alison DeLuca’s Crown Phoenix series, was a fun, delightful little read that I found a great relaxation after the rush and bustle of the past two weeks in my life. Sometimes, you need to just dive right into someone else’s world as an escape from your own. This was a world that I had no problems dashing into.

First, a disclaimer–I have not read the other two books in the Crown Phoenix series and came to The Lamplighter’s Special with little prior knowledge of the story. I mention this because DeLuca doesn’t seem to rely on knowledge of the first two novels to establish the story and characters in Lamplighter. There were a couple light references to the others (and I did finish it thinking that I will go back to read the others simply because I enjoyed the third so much) but this is a piece that could be read as a standalone quite easily.

There was much to enjoy about this story. The setting is rich, reminding me of a movie that my daughter loved in her younger years, “A Little Princess.” It is definitely has the character of that period without all of its darker undertones. Though DeLuca does reference some of the problems of the era (class issues, in particular), she doesn’t dwell on them. In some respects, this was for me a slight disappointment as I would like to see what she would do with more emphasis on those themes but at the same time, this is not the novel for that story to be told.

I feel that this book fits neatly into the YA genre. Despite the historical setting mentioned earlier, the characters are likable and the language easy to read without being simplified for our own times (not an easy feat!). Lizzie and Ninnie are endearing characters, ones that female readers especially will relate to with their close relationship. It is the bond of family that adds the emotional impact to Lamplighter, something that kept me engaged throughout the course of the story.

All in all, I found this novel to be a good read and would recommend it to those who like a pinch of magic and mystery with their Austen or Burnett. You can pick it up (along with the first two in the series) at Amazon.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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: In the Shadow of Vesuvius

Author Liz Carmichael has stopped by today with a teaser of her book In The Shadow of Vesuvius

All I wanted then was for Levi to put down the tray and leave. Every delay, even the most minor ones, made me want to scream until I had no voice left to scream any more. The sooner Levi went downstairs and cleaned up the kitchen, the sooner he would go to the slave quarters. Then he and the rest of the house would sleep, or at least be out of the way, and I could leave.

But not today – oh, no. Today, he wanted to talk, and he dropped onto the mat next to Remy with a huge, lop-sided grin on his stupid face. His dark-lashed ebony eyes shone with some inner pleasure I neither knew, nor cared to know about.

‘Don’t you have any work to do?’ I folded my arms across my chest.

‘No, I ate while I helped Cook. Then I cleaned the kitchen while Dominus and Domina dined. I’m all yours for now.’ His ridiculous, broad grin stayed teeth-grindingly in place.

‘Well,’ I snapped, ‘Remy won’t eat with some bug-eyed fish staring at him. And I don’t mean the one on the plate. If he becomes too excited he won’t settle for siesta, and that means he’ll be fretful when I take him to his mother.’ With fists on hips, I glared at him. ‘You know what happens then, don’t you?’

Jumping to his feet, Levi held up his hands in surrender. ‘Forgiveness, Domina Mirabelle. Just trying to be friendly, no need to turn into an old shrew. I’ll leave you in peace. Eat. Enjoy.’ Before I could say anything else he left. That’s when I saw the slices of spiced chicken and olives, with a small chunk of cheese and half loaf of bread next to them. Levi had remembered how I much hated fish – eel most of all – or had Cook remembered? Maybe bringing the fish for Remy was Levi’s way of covering up what he had really brought for me.

 


About the Author

Although born in Scotland and spent time in other countries, Liz is now happily settled in Melbourne, Australia. She is an editor as well as a writer and avid reader – especially historical fiction – who loves researching, though she can get so caught up in research she forgets about the story she’s researching for.

Liz also draws and paints for relaxation, and will do illustrations for her books whenever possible. She walks her daughter’s dog because both need the exercise.

She has a Dip. Art (Professional Writing and Editing), and taught writing and editing for two years until the need to concentrate fully on her own writing took over again.

Her favourite authors, in no particular order, are: Sue Monk Kidd, Sara Donati, Geraldine Brooks, Vanora Bennett, Sarah Dunant, Cormac McCarthy, Markus Suzak, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Robert Harris. For Crime: Michael Connelly, Minette Walters, Jeffrey Deaver, and Dean Koontz for his crime with humour. Newest favourite authors are Anne Obrien and Pauline Gedge – writers of historical fiction, of course.

Author Links:

Website

Purchase on Amazon for Kindle

Purchase on Amazon in Paperback

Purchase on Barnes & Noble

Free literary novel today & 6/8/12 – Sykosa

Readers of A Few Words may recall that some months ago, I posted an excerpt of a YA novel that received a lot of comment because of its “YA for 18+” marker. Sykosa fostered a lot of great conversation on my social networks, including two guest posts from the author Justin Ordoñez on “Defining the Book that Rejects Definition.”

Well, I’m very happy to report that Sykosa, is available on Amazon for free through June 8th.

I’d love to hear what others think, both of the novel and of the concept of defining YA by age. I think as authors further explore this genre, we’re going to see more conversation of this type occurring.

Guest Post: Defining the Book that Rejects Definition; A Genre Question – part 2

Yesterday, I posted the first of two guest posts by Sykosa author Justin Ordoñez. Today, we return to the discussion of what an author does with a book that rejects definition with a look at the YA genre. You can visit the first part of this post here.


Defining the Book that Rejects Definition; A Genre Question

Part Two
by Justin Ordoñez

Let’s take a look at YA.

People say they like YA because it’s short, it’s easy, it’s different, it’s fun, but it so happens the YA hot streak has coincided with a culture becoming ever more obsessed with youth, and a culture that has—in an unfair manner—began to rob children of the right to be young. To say for certain what is happening is hard while living it, but it seems there’s a tremendous downward pressure (by downward, I mean the older applying the pressure to the younger) for the young to become sexualized in an adult fashion, and with this downward pressure has come, in my opinion, an immense need to segment the youth into categories—newborns, toddlers, kids, tweens, teens, young adults—so this sexualization can be coped with and appear implementary. Market segmentation is not a new phenomena, nor it the implication that adults—who fall for logical fallacies like kids doing chores for candy—view most implementary change as change that must have been rationally thought out. If you pay attention, society doesn’t get mad when an entity crosses a line, but when it crosses too many lines. We get angry when the fallacy isn’t present—when it’s obvious we are objects without humanity. (An example of this would be selling thongs for seven year olds). When this happens, society’s response is to create more lines, which might at first seem okay. If there are more lines, then there are more lines to cross, thus less offenses should happen. Unfortunately, the problem is being viewed from the incorrect frame of reference. If one were to plot the downward pressure linearly (in a line), then review this line from a distance, it would still be as long as it has ever been, except the space between lines is shorter, and so it is much easier to cross one line, wait for society to become conditioned to it, then move toward the next—it is easier to create the appearance of implementary change, and to create a change that feels legitimate and true, and so one will find radical change becomes easier and ultimately meets less resistance.

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Guest Post: Defining the Book that Rejects Definition; A Genre Question – part 1

Some of you may recall that, back in April, A Few Words posted an excerpt from a new YA novel called Sykosa by Justin Ordoñez. I received a lot of feedback on that post, especially on the concept of writing YA for 18+. I went back to Justin and asked him to consider writing more for us on genre. He graciously accepted and so we have two fascinating posts this weekend from an “industry outsider” and his take on why he chose the path that he did. I highly encourage you to come back for the rest of the conversation tomorrow.

Defining the Book that Rejects Definition; A Genre Question.

Part One
by Justin Ordoñez

Before we ask the question of, “Is Sykosa YA (Young Adult)?” I have a disclosure. I’m an industry outsider and I don’t know the lingo, the demographics, or what’s “hot” in the market, and until a few years ago, I had no idea what YA was, or that it sold well, and had no use for the term. I was first introduced to the term by YA author Mindi Scott. (Author of Freefall, and due in the fall, Live Through This—both fantastic novels). By chance, Mindi and I worked at the same company, and during one of our quarterly company-wide meetings, Mindi was honored for something—probably being awesome—and her manager said, “Mindi Scott is a writer and she was recently signed by Pulse, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.” It was maybe 2008 or 2009, so I was still toiling away on Sykosa, and I was already resigned to wasting my entire 20s on an unpublishable novel that would inspire every literary agent alive to say, “Yeah, I read it overnight. I was totally sucked in. What? No, sorry, I can’t represent Sykosa.”

(That’s an entirely different blog post, so I’ll stay on point…)

Anyhow, I decided to write Mindi an email and introduce myself. Over time, I came to learn she was an ambitious and serious writer, and what interested me most is that she had gone the more traditional route—attending school to help her hone her craft and working the social networking angle. It took her 5 years, but she finally got a book deal. (This is nothing I look down on, btw. In fact, I admire it, and often wonder why I can’t ever manage to do the same). Eventually, I told her about Sykosa, and her first reaction was, “Is it YA?” After confessing that I had no idea what she was talking about, I offered to let her read the novel, and although she was busy with Freefall, she said she’d read a few chapters. Upon finishing, she told me without doubt, “This is literary fiction. You’re not YA.” I asked her if she was sure about that, and then what happened is what happens to everyone who reads Sykosa; all of sudden you get this feeling in your stomach like, “Actually, no, I’m not sure… It’s just… Your novel is so…”

Finish the sentence however you like.

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Behind the Villain: Ellette of Morning Star

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Desiree Finkbeiner, author of the recently released Morning Star, the first volume in the Ethos series.  Ethos is a great new YA fantasy series that has inspired a lot of conversation between Desiree and I over recent weeks.  Among the things that I find so intriguing about Desiree’s work are the many facets of her characters, particularly the villain Ellette.  Because I had so many questions about the character, I asked Desiree to allow me to “interview” first her villain and then herself to learn more about the concepts behind Morning Star and the world that she has created.

First, I present the interview with Ellette, the fallen warrior of the Ethos series.

Gwen:  Ellette, what is the strongest emotion that drives your actions?

Ellette:  Fairness. Life is cruel and unfair to those who try to do the right thing. I did everything I was told to do; gave up my chance at happiness so that others could be happy, and look where it got me. What’s the point in sacrifice if it carries no reward? The universe is unfair to those who sacrifice, giving the spoils of their labor to schmuck who stands in line behind them with their hands out.

So I’ve taken it upon myself to be the great mediator, the one who makes it fair for everyone. Rather than a select few carrying the weight of the universe on their shoulders, why not force everyone to do their share? No one gets off without contributing to the greater good. Since life will be unfair to everyone, therein lies the fairness. No rich, no poor. Thus, no one will be special and no one will be left behind. I’ve a plan that will be the great equalizer of the people. In my name, all will be fair, unlike the balance of the so-called universe, which is really nothing more than the illusion of fairness.

Gwen:  Creating a fair world, by any definition, is not an easy task and requires making hard decisions.  I imagine that you’ve had to make quite a few in your life.  If there is one thing that you regret, what is it?

Ellette: I regret the time I wasted in the service of others who didn’t appreciate the sacrifice I was giving for them. All the wasted time and life energy I could have used on pursuing my own dreams, wasted on ungrateful souls could who could care less.

Portrait of Ellette by Desiree Finkbeiner.

Gwen:  As you think about all of those that you spent your time on,  was there someone who affected your life profoundly?

Ellette:  Aziza. Her name meant, cherished, beloved. And love her I did, as if she were my own. I met her in Africa while I was on post to watch over the mushroom. Aziza was the daughter of a very rich man, from the tribe of the small village where I traded for supplies. He had six daughters, and she was the fairest, the youngest. Perhaps about four of your human years in age. Never had I met a soul so filled with life and adventure before Aziza. She had given me so much, and filled my heart with love, something I had never experienced before. Because she had given me the gift of trust and friendship, I responded to her love with a gift of my own.

One night, on a full moon, I came to her as the village slept, so she could see me in my true form. I took her for a night fly, soaring high into the sky so she could feel the wind in her face. It was to be our secret, something we shared between us. Each time the full moon came, we did this until her family grew suspicious. She had spoken of my magic to her sisters and made them promise not to tell, but she had broken my trust by breaking her promise to keep it secret.

It broke my heart, so to teach her a lesson about loyalty, I told her I would not be visiting on next full moon. But she came seeking me, snuck out in the night all alone. I told her never to seek me because the land had been plagued with cobras and jackals. She didn’t listen, and it cost her life. Of course, I was blamed for her death and they rounded up a posse of their best warriors to hunt me, calling me the white winged demon.

I was heart broken and I regret ever loving her… had I not loved her, she’d have grown into a beautiful woman.

Gwen:  A tragic story.  Have you kept anything of her–even something that remains secret?

Ellette: I still have a lock of Aziza’s hair, taken from her corpse, as a reminder why love is dangerous.

After hearing Ellette’s story, I asked Desiree to expound upon what her creation was like from an author’s perspective.

Illustration from the forthcoming print edition of Ethos: Morning Star.

Gwen:  One of the most difficult challenges a writer faces is creating a great villain. What was your greatest struggle as you developed her character?

Desiree: The hardest thing was looking back into my past at who I was when I was younger. I absolutely loathe who I was from about age 17 to 20, I was a terrible person and made some poor decisions (wrote a book about it in high school but deleted the file later on, now I wish I could go back and read it). I really do feel that I was a wicked young woman at that time in my life; manipulative, controlling, prideful, stuck-up, attracted to darkness, seduced by the occult and dark arts. I based my villain off of myself. It was a time in my life where I was estranged from God and sought after worldly aspirations. I was spiritually dead to light, lost in a very dark place. But it’s because I have experienced falling and losing my path, that I’m able to craft a dark character from a realistic perspective.

I know Ellette’s demons all too well, for I had created my own hell and it took a miracle (and a lot of prayers) to free me from the prison I had built for myself. And though those experiences are very personal, let’s just say, I’m grateful for those who didn’t give up on me. Ellette is my flipside… So the hardest part was revisiting my past to allow that character to live once more in my fantasy world.

Gwen: Did you find it easy or difficult to relate to the choices that Ellette made?

Desiree: Obviously, I relate completely. I understand heartbreak and what it’s like to desire power over others. I also understand how easy it is to let hatred and bitterness canker the soul. Luckily, I also know what it’s like to embrace light and let forgiveness heal the wounds of past transgression.

Gwen: How do you, as a writer, reconcile yourself to writing “evil” or “dark” characters?

Desiree: Evil is a part of us all. Some of us embrace it, and some of us seek to cast off works of darkness to embrace light. Unfortunately, sometimes life requires embracing darkness before we can appreciate light. One cannot know love and joy without first having passed through loss and sadness. So those two ancient enemies (good and evil) are necessary for us understand the universal question “Why?”. Without evil, there could be no good, and vice versa… so in order for there to be balance in the universe, the two must constantly oppose one another and stand for their cause.

I like to look at it this way. Wherever there is light shining its rays to illuminate an object, there is also a shadow cast by the object where light cannot pass through. In order for something to be completely filled with light, it must first become transparent. But when something is transparent, it no longer has visible form to be considered beautiful by the naked eye. So the shadows cast by light actually create beauty in the world around us. One simply cannot exist without the other. So in order for there to be a hero, there must a villain of equal power to oppose the goodness and light, otherwise, there’d be no adventure… and no point for anything to exist.


Desiree Finkbeiner, author of Ethos: Morning Star

Desiree Finkbeiner attained a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Missouri Southern State University (2006) with a heavy background in business, marketing, music and fine art– She was heavily involved in campus affairs and served actively in several committees focusing on campus entertainment and events. She performed with musical acts/bands in rock and electronic genres, released seven studio albums, performed in 11 states and has written hundreds of songs. Her band, Carbon Star, was a finalist for VH1’s “Bands on the Run” reality TV show in 2000. Then she performed with Pointy Teeth until finally leaving the music industry for the quiet life.

Continuing education is a constant adventure for Desiree with topics of interest ranging from civil and corporate law, history, political conspiracy, homeopathic medicine and spiritual healing. She prefers to read non-fiction, especially on topics that educate and broaden her perspectives on controversial issues.

With thousands of completed art works in her archives, most of which appear in private collections worldwide, Desiree hopes to focus more on publishing, marketing and licensing her work so she can leave a legacy behind.

To find her work, visit her author page at Hydra Publications.  Ethos: Morning Star is currently available on Amazon.