Posts tagged with: fantasy

The Magic Christmas Guy

This was a fun story to write.  I’m a sucker for holiday decorations, and I enjoyed creating a situation where the decorations played a central role.

There used to be a young man in our neighborhood who decorated his small house and yard to the max every Christmas.  He had “Merry Christmas” spelled out in lights on his fence, outlined his entire house (including the windows) in lights, and had inflatables in his yard and on his roof.  We loved his Christmas kitsch so much that we drove by several times each year to admire it. Never having met him, we didn’t know his name. We just referred to him as Christmas Guy.

barcelonadecorations1I don’t have any photos of Christmas Guy’s magnificent efforts, but I like this photo of a hotel in Barcelona, Spain, when the city was decorated for Christmas. The red lights at left, about halfway up, are made of light strings in loops, several of them hanging together.  Apparently Antoni Gaudi, the famous architect, used a similar device to create in inverted arches.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for decorations.  Unfortunately, lights don’t always photograph clearly on my little camera.

Anyway, getting back to the story…

Because I so enjoy decorations, I knew I want them to play a big part in “The Magic Christmas Guy,” and the title obviously had to have Christmas Guy in it.  And I wanted to use the town of Wayfarer from my Light Mage Wars series because small towns make a bigger thing of their Christmas celebrations than big cities.

christmastree1The small town near my high school had a Christmas parade every year, and our band marched in it.  My hometown had a big pine tree on Main Street that was decorated with lights every year–until Hurricane Hugo took it out.

So this was going to be a story set in Wayfarer, and the perfect foil for Christmas Guy was a woman who didn’t celebrate the holidays.  She’s not a grinch, but her family suffered a holiday tragedy that led them to avoid all things Christmas-related as much as possible.

Here’s the description:

A Heart Scarred by Loss

Who knew that the small town of Wayfarer, Georgia, was freaking Christmas Central?  Accountant Jenny Bridges, haunted by the Christmas Eve death of her twin sister, plans to ignore the twinkling lights and festivities and focus on her new job, which she desperately needs. Her boss, however, insists that Jenny help her hunky neighbor across the street—who just happens to be a mage like she is—with the town’s annual holiday carnival.

A Magic Man

Deputy Mike McLean loves Christmas. Every wreath, every colored bulb, every ho, ho, ho. Each December for decades, his family has hosted the town’s annual charity carnival at their old Victorian home, and this year his pretty new neighbor adds extra zing. Lo and behold, she’s a mage, too, but as the attraction between them sparkles like the lights on the holiday trees, Jenny sees it, and him, as a betrayal of her sister’s memory.

A Season for Miracles

What Jenny doesn’t know is that along with holiday spirit and magical gifts, Mike has patience in spades. Can the hope of the season heal her wounded soul, and make the kind of magic that lasts forever?

And here’s a look at Mike and Jenny’s first meeting:

Chapter 1

the-magic-christmas-guy-finalMaybe moving here was a mistake.

As the grocery checkout line moved forward, Jenny Bridges steeled herself for the conversation at the register. How could anyone guess that Wayfarer, Georgia, a town famed for its love of New Age woo-woo, would also be totally gaga for the holiday that had scarred her soul?

Anyway, it wasn’t as though she’d had a lot of choices about where to start over. She’d been tarnished by association after her unexpectedly scuzzbucket ex embezzled from a client of the Atlanta accounting firm where they both worked. On top of that, he’d billed hours he hadn’t worked. Jenny’s own records had been scrutinized like a new microbe in a plague zone. They were clean, of course, because she was honest. That had saved her from being fired, but the taint persisted.

Even worse, word had gotten around in the professional community, as word always did, and Jenny had become about as desirable an employee as a mangy dog. If her uncle hadn’t approached an old friend who ran a firm here in Wayfarer, Jenny would’ve been caught in the limbo of a disgraced employee with no chance for advancement and no alternate prospects.

“Merry Christmas, Lissa,” the cashier said to the thin, graying woman picking up her bag. “Happy Solstice, too. Y’all havin’ a party?”

“Not this year. We’re goin’ to my sister’s. Merry Christmas to you, too, Estelle, and Happy Kwanzaa.”

Lissa Whoever moved on, and the lanky guy behind her with the gold wire-rimmed glasses and unruly mop of brown hair stepped up. His easy smile lit his lean, solemn face and made him downright handsome. “Y’all getting ready for Christmas, Estelle?”

“Working on it, Reverend. How’re things at the shelter? You gonna have a full house for the holidays?”

“I hope not. People are happier when they’re settled somewhere.”

He must be the director of the community shelter. Jenny’d heard good things about it in the six weeks she’d lived here. She tuned out the conversation. Two more people ahead of her.

Two more holiday conversations, and then she was up.

But her family’s loss wasn’t these well-intentioned, friendly people’s problem. So she would do what she always did during the Christmas season, suck it up and deal. She would smile and say something neutral and hide the grief that had never gone away.

And she was definitely buying her groceries in big loads until the holiday was over. If she hadn’t forgotten it was her turn to bring the office coffee, she wouldn’t be here this morning.

At last, Jenny reached the register. She set the coffee on the cashier’s stand and braced herself.

“Well, hey, Jenny. That’ll be thirteen ninety-three, please. You all set for Christmas?”

“More or less.” Relaxed, easy tone, smile in place. All good. Jenny passed over the money. “My parents are coming, but we don’t really celebrate the holidays, so there isn’t much to do.”

Estelle didn’t need to know that the Christmas Eve death of Jenny’s twin sister twelve years ago, when they were fifteen, had pretty much demolished the holiday at the Bridges house. Nor could she know that Josie’s death had been caused by the dark magic users known as ghouls. No Mundane, or normal person, could know that. Or that ghouls kidnapped mages and Mundanes as breeders or snacks or just to torment for the hell of it.

Whatever the ghouls had intended for Josie, at least she’d escaped that.

Smiling, Estelle bagged the coffee and handed it over. “Well, there’s a lot to be said for a quiet day or two. You have a good one.”

Jenny thanked her. Hurrying toward the market’s glass front, she let out a relieved breath. That wasn’t so bad.

People did mean well, and the difficult part of the year lasted about a month. If everyone else was as laid back as Estelle, Jenny could deal. She’d come to like this pretty, friendly, somewhat eccentric town.

People were so informal here. The cashier at her grocery store in Atlanta had never learned her name. But cashiers there tended to come and go. Jenny’d heard that Estelle had run the register at Wayfarer Market for more than twenty years.

A man in the khaki shirt, green trousers, brown ball cap, and leather jacket of the Wayfarer County Sheriff’s Department was on his way in. He stepped back, holding the front door for Jenny. Before she could thank him, a faint magical vibe brushed her skin as it resonated with her own power.

He was a fellow mage. What were the odds that she would meet another mage in this town?

When she looked up in surprise, he said, “Hey, neighbor.”

His familiar face stopped her in her tracks, and her heart did a pit-a-pat. “You live across the street from me.”

“Sure do.” He let the door swing shut and extended his hand. “Mike McLean. I’ve been meaning to come say hello, but I’ve been on the night shift. Makes for a weird schedule.”

“I bet.” She shook the offered hand, and the contact generated a little buzz of excitement that had nothing to do with both of them being mageborn.

“I’m Jenny Bridges,” she added, recovering. She tugged at her hand, and he released it. His warm smile, though, said he’d been reluctant to let go and didn’t care that she knew it. He was confident.

And way too attractive. Glimpsing him from across the street, she’d found the view very appealing. Up close, he was seriously hot.

She continued, “The few times I’ve seen you, I’ve been running late, so I didn’t introduce myself.”

“We’ve fixed that now.” He grinned, and Jenny naturally grinned back. He was one of those people whose mood was infectious. His open, friendly smile was such a contrast with her sleazoid ex, Grant’s, calculation.

Mike also had sheer, male presence to back up his broad-shouldered, muscular build and rugged features. The short, brown hair and brown eyes didn’t hurt either. The intense interest in those eyes made Jenny’s heart flutter.

Scrambling for something intelligent to say, she came up with, “Your house is so gorgeous. Victorian, right?” Set on a huge lot, it was a warm shade of slate blue, with white gingerbread trim along the eaves.

“That’s right, and thanks. I grew up there.”

“I imagine you’ll be glad when all the work on it’s finished.”

“Work?” He looked baffled.

She raised her eyebrows. “You know, the electricians and bucket trucks and carpenters and even landscapers in your driveway?”

“Oh, them.” He smiled, and his eyes held a glint of humor. “You hadn’t heard that I host the Wayfarer Christmas Carnival?”

Christmas. Oh, no. Jenny forced a smile. “No wonder things have been so busy over there. I’ve heard enough to know the carnival is a big event for the town.” It was an annual fundraiser for the town’s library and community shelter, but she hadn’t paid much attention. “I’m surprised no one at work mentioned that it was across from my house.”

“Maybe they figured you knew.” He shrugged. “It’ll all be done this afternoon, though. I’ll have the lights on at seven. Swing by, and you’ll see it all.”

“I’m sure it’s beautiful, but I don’t really celebrate Christmas. Thanks, though.”

His smile faded a bit. “Sure. If you change your mind, you’re always welcome.”

“Thanks.” The disappointment in his face was subtle and definite. And flattering. Her own regret was sharper than she’d expected. But no way was she immersing herself in something that celebrated all she’d lost with Josie’s death.

An elderly couple who looked past retirement age started out of the market. Mike grabbed the door for them. They exchanged greetings, and he introduced Jenny. The couple, Bert and Sally Dickson, moved on with a “See you tonight, Mike.”

Mike turned back to Jenny. “You on your way to work?”

“Yeah. I imagine you have, er, perps to catch or something.”

“Not many perps in Wayfarer.” He grinned again, making her pulse, unfortunately, skip. “We mostly get neighborly disputes, the occasional kid shoplifting to see if it feels cool, and some out-of-towners speeding. But I should get back to it. Good to meet you at last.”

“You, too.”

Opening the door again, he doffed the ball cap and jammed it into his back pocket.

Jenny hurried back to her car. He was friendly and hot and a mage, but hosting the carnival meant he was also, unfortunately, a serious Christmas Guy. Just what she didn’t need. He was the first attractive guy she’d met since dumping Grant, and he was all wrong for her. Absolutely.

Too bad.

#

So that’s a brief look at “The Magic Christmas Guy.”  In the real world, we got our Christmas tree today, though we won’t decorate it until the weekend.  That’s when we’ll also pull out the boxes of decorations accumulated over the years and dig out the wrapping paper and really dive into the holiday.

img_1707One of the decorations I always make sure actually goes on the tree is pictured at left, a plastic reindeer I saved when my parents downsized.  I think he used to have eight companions, but he was the last one left.  I saved him because he’s a piece of Christmases past, a tangible reminder of holidays long gone by.  My parents probably got him at a dime store (what we had before big boxes like Target), but he has lasted a long time.

I’ll be back the day after Christmas, aka Boxing Day, hanging out and chatting with whoever drops by.  I hope you’ll be able to pop in. Today, though, let’s talk decorating.  What’s your favorite holiday decoration, either at Christmas or for another season or you celebrate?

Crossing Genres with Alexandra Christian

My guest today is a writer and editor Jeanne and I met at ConCarolina last year.  Alexandra Christian, a South Carolina native, writes in various genres, including romance, and has published novels, novellas, and short stories. Recently, she become a small press editor.  

Welcome, Alexandra! What led you to start writing?

me-and-amy-2I come from a family of writers. My older sister is romance novelist Lucy Blue and the women in my family are incredible storytellers. We’re also avid readers in my family. My grandfather did not graduate from high school, but he read 3-5 books a week. So I grew up wanting to tell stories and imitate the people whom I held in such high regard.

Romance isn’t the only thing you write. Please tell us what your other interests are.

I prefer to call myself a “genre” writer rather than a romance writer because I like to use elements from the whole spectrum of speculative fiction. I’m an avid reader of horror, so I find myself blending elements of the supernatural in everything I do. Recently, I’ve also gotten into writing science-fiction and fantasy which was never something I set out to do when I began writing. I’m also a huge Sherlock Holmes fangirl and have become obsessed over the last year with writing Sherlock Holmes stories.

What is Huntress about?

Huntress is a story about a woman who really doesn’t have a place in the world. She’s consumed by guilt because of the death of her protégé and finds herself in the middle of political intrigue and ultimately confronting her own destiny.

Huntress_1_fullsizeWho are the hero and heroine of Huntress, and what keeps them apart?

Thalia, the heroine, is a dragonslayer and our hero, Malik, is a dragon. I know, I LOVE impossible love stories. Of course, Malik isn’t really a dragon, but a cursed prince who can take a human form. But naturally their relationship is volatile. Not to mention that Thalia is being used as bait by Malik’s conniving brother.

Oooh, dragons–fun! Would you like to share an excerpt?

“Come here so I might see you better.” As she approached, the dragon sniffed the air, taking in her scent. “Hmm… you smell of the Fae.”

“Is that good?”

“I’ve no idea. Perhaps. Fae are very tricky. Ungrateful little beasties.” He quieted, staring down at her with his head cocked to one side as if concentrating very hard. It made Thalia very self-conscious, and she shuddered again. “Are you cold, Mouse?” Not knowing what else to say, she nodded. “Well, why didn’t you say so?” Without another word he turned his head and breathed a plume of fire into the pit beside him. Immediately the coals inside ignited into a spectacular column of flame. Though she was afraid, Thalia moved closer in an almost involuntary movement. She was desperate to find warmth and held her hands out in front of her. “A thank you wouldn’t be inappropriate,” the dragon said.

“Oh,” she said, feeling her cheeks blush hot with embarrassment. “Thank you.”

“No need to be embarrassed. You are, after all a slayer of Tarkin and not used to being gracious to dragonkin.”

“You said yourself that you’re no ordinary dragon.” It was a bit disturbing that he could almost hear what she was thinking. She made a note to ask him about it later if she lived that long. Thalia had never encountered a dragon that could read minds.

“Indeed I am not.” He settled back down with a lazy sigh. Thalia stared at the enormous creature. He was definitely the largest dragon she’d ever seen. And certainly the most intelligent. She’d never encountered one that could speak, much less one schooled in etiquette. Now that the fire was high, she could see the dragon and was fascinated by its body. Glints of color shimmered on his scales in the changing light, but they did not look wet. Underneath, they lightened to the color of ashes but there was a dim illumination visible beneath the armor. It must be burning beneath the skin. Perhaps this was where he drew his fire from.

As she drew closer, she could see that his wings were like those of a bat: leathery with a hard ridge of veins that extended from the sharp talons. A number of horned protrusions highlighted his sharp, serpentine face that was surprisingly expressive. Suddenly, he opened one enormous eye and stared at her. Thalia could actually see the muscle in his eye expand and contract as it focused on her. She got the distinct impression that he was staring as his eye narrowed and his entire body stilled. Finally he spoke. “Do you plan on standing there gawking at me for the rest of the night?”

SHA_finalVery cool! Your release prior to this one was in a very different vein.   What was that project?

I’m so glad you asked! This past year I’ve been involved in editing a Sherlock Holmes anthology called “An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” for Mocha Memoirs Press under the name A.C. Thompson. It was a labor of love and so much fun to work on! Every story is worthy of Conan Doyle but with an added spooky element of the supernatural.

What’s next for you?

Well I’m primarily publishing my romance in a joint self-publishing project with my sister called Little Red Hen Romance. We release 2-4 stories each month, normally short story length, and offer them for 99 cents. Huntress was LRH’s first full length release! But those stories keep me very busy. Later this month, we’re releasing two Sherlock Holmes mysteries with a romantic slant that should keep our readers busy. I’m also continuing to work on a sci-fi novel series that follows Cage St. John, a shapeshifting superspy.

For more information about Alexandra, check out her website and other social media links:

WordPress Site: http://lexxxchristian.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LexxxChristian

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSouthernBellefromHell/

Little Red Hen Site: http://lucybluecastle.wix.com/littleredhenromance

For now, though, let’s chat!  If you have a question for Alexandra, now’s the time to ask!  Or tell us about your favorite dragon, Holmes, or spy story.

 

 

 

 

 

Suzanne Church’s Elements

Today, I’m delighted to bring my Dragon*Con buddy and friend, award-winning author Suzanne Church, to the Lair.  This will be a slight change of pace because Suzanne’s focus is speculative fiction ranging from horror to science fiction to fantasy.  She has just released her first short story collection, Elements

Welcome, Suzanne!  I hear you’re a Game of Thrones fan.  Since many of our regulars also love it, how about telling us why you like?

color_headshot_2012_googleThe HBO series is such a pleasure to watch. The sets, costumes, locations, actors, and scripts are all of the highest quality. Every episode feels like a feature length movie.

 I’ve read almost all of the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels and I’m pleased that George R.R. Martin waited to select the perfect home for his saga before agreeing to the project.

I think the strongest acting performance is Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, but so many other actors dominate their scenes. My favorites from among the list of exceptional actors include Lena Headey (Cersei), Charles Dance (Tywin), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), Rose Leslie (Ygritte), and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne).

Part of what makes the show so appealing to me are all of the strong female characters. Traditionally, epic fantasy stories tend to focus on the male heroes who save the female damsels, but Game of Thrones has plenty of strong women–some you love, and some you love to hate!

Did you read science fiction and fantasy growing up?

 I remember reading “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis at a very young age. Once I had my own children, I re-read the books to them and was able to appreciate more layers of the series that I’d been too young to grasp the first time around.

 In my teens I remember reading books like “Carrie” and “Salem’s Lot” on the sly because I didn’t want my mother or my friends to chastise me for reading horror. Stephen King is such a master of story and with every one of his novels he captured my attention right from the get go.

What role, if any, did these influences play in your decision to write fiction?

 I’ve always wanted to write like Stephen King. His talent for pacing and plot development is spectacular. The hardest part is studying his prose. Even though I begin with a pencil behind my ear, ready to make notes about how he introduced this character or developed that subplot, before I can stop myself I’m so absorbed by the book that I race euphorically through the pages.

 Another reason that I write is to attempt to harness my imagination. My brain seems to never turn off, even when I sleep. I dream so often (usually nightmares) that I sometimes wake exhausted. One of my long-term writing goals is to try and bring even a fraction of those late-night strange worlds and their haunting characters to life.

Elements-5_5x8_5-100dpi-c8Tell us a bit about Elements, please.

 Elements contains 21 short stories — 14 are stories originally published in other anthologies or magazines and 7 are new to the collection. The subtitle for ELEMENTS is “A Collection of Speculative Fiction” and that sums up the project. You’ll find some Science Fiction, some Fantasy, and a little Horror (although it reads more like Dark Fantasy). Overall, the tales are connected to the Elements in one way or another.

 As a sampling, “Storm Child” is a Rwandan myth retelling, “The Wind and the Sky” explores how futuristic androids might react to primitive humans, and “Soul Hungry” is the paranormal story I wrote inspired by Neil Jackson’s fantastic cover art.

Also included in ELEMENTS are three stories from my Couch Teleportation Universe where humans interact with a number of whacky aliens.

Would you like to share an excerpt?

I’d love to. Here’s the first scene in the Fantasy story, “Courting Ice”

COURTING ICE – From ELEMENTS

To an ice courter like Faya, all frozen water was uniquely magnificent, from the great bergs that floated past the cape to the thin skins on late autumn puddles. She adored her gift, for it allowed her a connection as splendid as the love she had once shared with her long dead mother. All her life the ice had proven pure and true, until the spring when she fell in love.

The morning after the spring equinox she stood in water up to her knees, daggers of cold slicing through her calves, her heavy furs piled on the shore several arm’s reaches away. With water all around, she linked with the ice. A large mass had formed in the shallows at the other side of Ranglien Cove. Tendrils of comfort drifted to her from the mass as it felt its way through her. It longed to join with her, to be loved as only ice can be adored by its courter. With arms outstretched, she urged a small piece of it closer, coaxing it to break free from the massive formation. Crevices ruptured, screaming with the effort of separation. Heartbeats later, the separated chunk sailed over to her waiting embrace.

“Nice work.”

Releasing her hold on the ice, she turned to see a man, naked from the waist down. He wore a loose cotton shirt, too thin to provide much warmth, and he had tied the bottom edge in a knot to keep it out of the water.  Settling into the shallows behind her, he washed himself at the edge of the clear, frigid waters.

With a quick return to her task, she rotated, twisting the waist-high chunk onto shore and turning her back on this stranger. He should have been shivering from the cold, yet he cleansed himself with a strange mixture of calm and grace. The water misted above him like a perilous fog.

She said, “A courtship isn’t meant to be shared.”

“Ah, but a courtship is, by definition, sharing, is it not?”

She stepped ashore, courted the piece onto her sled, and wrapped oiled leather around it. “Witnessed, then.”

“Despite your objection, I rather enjoyed the moment. I’m Lebno.” He extended a hand towards her.

She paused, staring at his hand, then stepped back into the water to grasp it. His palm was warm. It felt comforting. “Faya,” she said.

“Pleased to share your courtship, Faya.”

“Aren’t you cold?” This man seemed too content in the water, but with her own abilities, she would have been able to sense if he, like her mother, had courted it.

He shrugged. “I needed solace, and I thought this cove deserted.”

“In my experience, those who seek isolation are avoiding an unsolved quandary.”

“You’re an observer, as well,” he said. “But incorrect. I’m here for a simple rinse. I’ve tasks, not quandaries, to evade.”

“The sooner you’re at the work, the quicker you’ll finish.”

“And now you’re a philosopher.” The water misted, almost boiled as a blush tore its way from his face down.

Despite her courtship with the ice, her legs had had enough of the cold and urged her to exit the water. A gust of wind tore through her. She shivered, not once, but twice. The elements demanded much of their courters.

She returned to shore, finished binding her ice to the sled, and donned her heavy furs. She could not help but look at him. The man’s muscles bulged through the thin shirt. A sprinkling of gray painted his dark beard. He caught her eye and smiled so brightly that if he’d been a fire, sparks would have popped in every direction.

Fire!

Faya slumped to the ground in surprise, hitting her tailbone hard enough to send spikes of pain along her spine. It can’t be. They are so rare, so few.

“You’re a fire courter,” she said.

His face showed no emotion, no acknowledgment.

She hadn’t meant to say it aloud, to speak of his gift so openly. Many of his type had been corrupted by their power, using it to conquer, or worse, to kill. Fear had spread from one village to the next, until the great cleansings had taken many of the fire courters’ lives. The ones who remained were forced to serve multiple communities, while at the same time they lived under constant scrutiny of the ever-watching councils.

She swallowed, and stood, “I didn’t know that Daslak’s council had called you to serve.”

“I’m only here for a short while, to tutor your apothecary. I’ll soon return to Cape Trebnay.”

“Oh.” Pressing her lips shut, she thought, I hope that means I will see you again. Keeping her face as neutral as she could muster, she nodded respectfully, and then pulled the sled’s strap over her shoulders, settling into the yoke. “Well … Good travels to you, Lebno. If I were you, I would finish rinsing soon, or you might lose your feet.” With closed eyes, she sought an inner peace, forcing rogue thoughts back while she carried her load forward.

Very cool! What’s next for you (besides a trip to Dragon*Con 2014)?

 I’m always writing and editing.

At the beginning of the year, I set a writing goal to pen at least four short stories. I’m a bit behind on that deadline, but I’ll catch up.

I’ve been focusing on novels lately. I have two completed novels, although that word “completed” always feels a bit overstated to the inner editor in me.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been planning and outlining a new novel based on the world and characters in “Destiny Lives in the Tattoo’s Needle” one of the short stories from Elements. If all goes well, I’ll complete the first draft by the end of the year.

 Some of the reviews for Elements speak about the many unique and cool worlds you’ve created for the stories in the book. What are the origins of some of your stories?

 Like most authors, much of my fiction comes from tiny fragments of my own life. Don’t get me wrong, these characters are make-believe, but some of the settings and influences trace back to places I’ve grown up or people from my past.

To connect the readers to the stories, I’ve posted origin details including many “Fun Facts” about the collection. Readers can find links to these stories-behind-the-stories from the Table of Contents for Elements post on my blog.

Romance Bandit readers love free stuff! Can you help us out?

 Great, because my publisher, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, would love to offer one copy of Elements to a Romance Bandits commenter today.

 Thanks so much to Nancy Northcott and all the Romance Bandits for inviting me into the lair.

Thanks for being here, Suzanne!  

For more information on Suzanne and her work, check out her website: http://suzannechurch.com/wordpress/ or her Amazon author page.  You can also connect with her on social media via Facebook, Twitter (where she’s @CanadianSuzanne), Goodreads, and Google Plus.

To enter the drawing, leave a comment on today’s blog.  If you like Game of Thrones, tell us why (or, if you don’t like it, why not).  Or you can tell us what stirs your imagination, whether it’s for writing, drawing, crafts, cooking–anything you love to do.

 

 

 

Kylie Griffin’s Wild Fantasies!

by Anna Campbell

It’s my great pleasure today to introduce to you a dear friend and  talented Golden Heart-winning author whose debut romance VENGEANCE BORN is out next month.

Kylie Griffin and I have known each other for years, hooking up through a mutual friend on the breakfast shift at the very glam Langham Hotel in Melbourne back at the 2005 Romance Writers of Australia conference. Kylie was a contest queen and is always happy to help another writer so I think it’s karma (as well as talent) that led to her getting a three-book contract for her “‘Light Blade” series. Nalini Singh, New York Times bestseller and all round cool chick, described VENGEANCE BORN as “unique and filled with compelling mystery.”

You can find out about Kylie and her multi award-winning romances from Berkley at her website: www.kyliegriffin.com

By the way, Kylie’s also a talented photographer. Check out the beautiful shots of the area where she lives and some of the locals that illustrate this post.

Kylie, welcome to the lair! I’ve been so looking forward to your visit, ever since you sold. Great to see an Aussie hitting the big time. Congratulations on the release of your debut, VENGEANCE BORN, the first in the “Light Blade” series. Can you tell us about this story?

Anna, it’s so exciting to be here. Thanks for inviting me over!

VENGEANCE BORN is very much Annika’s story as you can see when you read the blurb.

There is no mercy in the demon realm. No escape. In this place of desperation and conflict, anyone who is not pure bred is virtually powerless. Until an unlikely champion is born…

Annika, half-blood daughter of the Na’Reish King, longs for more than her tormented life among her father’s people. Conceived in hatred and bred as a tool of retribution, she’s gifted with a special talent that can heal as well as destroy.

 With the Na’Reish vastly outnumbering them, Kalan, a Light Blade warrior, knows the future of humankind depends on him alone. Incursions into human territory and raids for blood-slaves by the Na’Reish Horde have increased. As Chosen-leader, he faces the task of stopping the demons—and convincing the Council of aging Light Blade warriors that change is necessary for survival.

When Annika learns Kalan is a prisoner in her father’s dungeon, her dream of escape seems within reach. She agrees to free him in exchange for his protection once they reach human territory. Now, marked for death for helping him, Annika must learn to trust Kalan as they face not only the perilous journey to the border but enemies within the Council—and discover a shocking truth that could throw the human race into civil war…

I think there’s a bit of everything for everyone in VENGEANCE BORN.

For readers who like fantasy world building, there’s plenty of those elements in the plot and sub-plots – creatures, paranormal powers, a deity, conflict between races, secrets unveiled and political machinations.

If you want romance, Annika and Kalan struggle against personal prejudices, flaws and other external hurdles to find love.

There’s intrigue and mystery – some twists and turns in the plot will satisfy this craving. Some secrets you may anticipate, others I hope you don’t see coming.

Action – fighting, a chase scene, death, escaping from dungeons, rebellion…as I said, something for everyone!

Never a dull moment! What were the inspirations behind this book?

The inspiration was the heroine, Annika. She first “appeared” to me exactly as readers discover her in the opening scene of the book – descending into father’s dungeon about to meet a human Light Blade warrior for the first time, about to begin her escape and achieve her goal of beginning a new life.

I played a game of ‘what if…’ to learn more about her. It seems a strange thing to say that I had fun considering the possibilities of a crossbreed child born as the result of a rape. But the idea of a bastard child bred for revenge against an old enemy gave me a huge range of character traits and plot lines to play with.

How would the environment influence her development? Could any one person or influence balance her horrendous upbringing? How could they or it affect her? Which traits would dominate?

I decided that Annika would have strength and courage backed by a determination to free herself – there would be no waiting around for someone to save her (I love a strong heroine) – but, because of her upbringing, she’d also harbor a flawed sense of worth and need for acceptance.

And so, VENGEANCE BORN came into being…

 Can you tell us about the Light Blade series as a whole?

When I first started playing with ideas for this series, I knew I wanted to make it (at a minimum) a trilogy. The scope of the external plot wasn’t going to fit in just one book.

While the series isn’t epic fantasy in its purest form, it does have similar elements. The world is entirely fictional, there are different races (not just humans), the plots employ typical themes such as a quest, a guiding deity, struggles against an opposing force, the threat of world domination, revenge and redemption, but readers also get to focus on a romance between main characters.

Without giving away any spoilers, in VENGEANCE BORN readers quickly learn the Na’Reish outnumber the humans, and that the human race is under threat of enslavement. Annika and the other Na’Chi prove to be the key to humanity’s survival, although no one realises it at the time, and it takes Kalan to engineer a change.

This change and some of the broader themes continue throughout ALLIANCE FORGED and Book #3 in the series, although we see them unfolding through other characters and their personal stories and romances. Readers will also get to learn more about each of the races in these stories.

So if readers like this sort of epic-style story with a good romance then the Light Blade series is one to try.  While each can be read as stand-alone romances I’d recommend reading them in sequence for the full impact.

This trilogy will tie up some over-arching plot threads but there’s plenty of scope to incorporate other threads and extend the series beyond three books. Some secondary characters are already demanding that their stories be told, so I hope I get the chance to tell them.

We love call stories in the lair. Can you give us yours?

Ohh, so do I. Reading how others get the call always encouraged and inspired me to keep persevering.

Where to begin? Let me roll back the clock…to Oct.16th 2010, a little after I’d returned from attending the Romance Writers of America conference, where I’d won a Golden Heart (paranormal section for unpublished writers).

As a result of pitching and querying, I’d received several offers of representation and I was in the midst of organising telephone calls, matching schedules and time zones (no easy feat, especially when daylight savings has just kicked in!).

In the midst of phone calls to agents, I received an email from Leis Pederson from Berkley offering a two book deal for “Bloodborn”, the first book in my fantasy romance Light Blade series. I have to admit to being a little stunned at first, but then thought “halleluia, I did it!” before bursting into tears in front of my computer, some of it was in happiness, most of it was exhaustion from some very sleepless nights.

Long story short, I ended up with seven offers of representation, and it was on my last phone call that I found my new agent – Elaine Spencer from The Knight Agency. I really, really connected with her.

Elaine began working her magic. Within 24hrs she’d sent out “Bloodborn” to three other publishing houses and contacted the two I already had it sitting at as a result of pitch sessions at conferences. We decided to accept Berkley’s offer – and I came away with a three-book deal.

Now, for a bit of an interesting aside, this time concerning Leis Pederson – three years ago I entered an Romance Writers of New Zealand writing competition with the then (only three  chapters) version of “Bloodborn”. It won and Leis was the final judge – she requested the full  but I didn’t have it finished. It took another year and another ms in between before I finished “Bloodborn”. I entered it into the Emily in 2010 – won the paranormal section and Best of the Best. And as the prize for that Leis Pederson critiqued 30 pages. She read my work and requested the full.

So it ended up with her in a round about way a couple of years after she’d first requested it. Things have seemed to have come full circle. Weird coincidence or fate? You decide.

What’s next for you?

ALLIANCE FORGED, the second book in this series, is out in early July, so I’m at the tail end of the publishing process with it as I type this. Here’s the blurb:

There is no mercy in the demon realm. No escape. In this place of desperation and conflict, anyone who is not purebred is virtually powerless. Until a blind priestess lays claim to a half-breed warrior, body and soul…

Hunted and marked for death by Na’Reish demons for their half-blood heritage, the Na’Chi are searching for a new home—something an alliance offered by the human leader could provide. With both races divided by prejudice, when Light Blade rebels brutally attack the Na’Chi, the alliance seems doomed to fail.

Varian, leader of the Na’Chi, a hybrid race of gifted warriors, is cursed with the darker impulses of his demon heritage. Controlling the part of himself that craves the high of the battle is a struggle he’s afraid he’ll lose—until he meets Kymora Tayn, a priestess driven to serve her deity. While he’s unwilling to trust anyone outside his people, he finds himself drawn to Kymora’s strength and passionate nature, and discovers she has the power to calm the darkness inside him.

When the Na’Reish raid human territory for blood-slaves and kickstart a war, the key to the survival of both races—Na’Chi and human— is an alliance. However, when Kymora is kidnapped, pitting human against human, Varian realizes he must embrace his darker half, not only to save the alliance…but also the woman he loves.

And, all going well, Book #3 (untitled) is scheduled for an early 2013 release. Both books feature characters introduced in VENGEANCE BORN.

On the new manuscript/writing front I’m thinking of finishing off a sci-fi/space opera romance that I started just before I received ‘the call’ from Berkley back in late 2010…unless, of course, I’m contracted for more in the Light Blade series!

You live in a really beautiful part of the world – I love the beautiful photos of western New South Wales on your website. I’d love you to tell us about YOUR Australia. Do you think that dramatic landscape inspires your writing?

The landscape certainly provides a peaceful setting for my writing and there have been times I’ve retreated to the great outdoors for a walk to clear the mind or think over a problem. Getting out and away and into nature does help in that respect.

As for my Australia – I’m definitely a country girl through and through. While I love visiting the big cities or larger towns to see friends or family, I’m most comfortable and love open spaces.

I also do a lot of driving to get to places out where I live (I travel an 86 miles round trip to do my grocery shopping & if I want to get to a larger place of 60,000 people, it’s a 186 mile round trip).

Most times I don’t mind the driving as nothing beats being able to look out over the plains and seeing the patchwork of crops and fields, and the volcanic landscape of mountains and hills silhouetted by a sunset or sunrise can be spectacular.

In the summer I love sitting outside in a camper chair and gazing up at the Milky Way. The village I live in has about half a dozen street lights and they’re spaced so far apart they really don’t interfere with stargazing, so you get an awesome, clear view of the night sky. It’s huge!

At these times I’m often reminded of this stanza in the poem My Country by Dorothea McKellar.

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror –

The wide brown land for me!

She certainly captured the heart and vision of Australia and it’s her words I recall when I return home from a trip away.

And when friends and family visit me they often get to see a myriad of local wildlife, some who make themselves right at home in my backyard or under the house – kangaroos, echidnas, lorikeets, koalas (and the odd King Brown snake) – a treat I sometimes take for granted.

I love that poem too! Kylie, is there anything you’d like to ask our Banditas and Bandita Buddies?

Anna, I’ve had a wonderful time visiting you here at the Romance Bandits blog, thanks so much for inviting me and letting me share a little about my Light Blade series and writing. And seeing as we’re talking about epic-style fantasy/paranormal romances, I was wondering do your readers like reading books in this genre? What do like or loathe about it? Do they have a favorite author? What makes their worlds and characters so fascinating? I’d love it if they could share their thoughts on the subject.

Kylie has very generously offered one of our commenters today a copy of her debut VENGEANCE BORN. So get commenting, people! 

Out of the Shadows!

by Anna Campbell

I’ve been really looking forward to introducing you all to my lovely friend M.J. Scott. M.J. is a long-time and very active member of Romance Writers of Australia and it’s always a pleasure to see her at our conferences.

It’s even more of a pleasure to talk about her debut book SHADOW KIN which hits the shelves (and the e-waves) on 6th September. The great reviews for SHADOW KIN are rolling in. RT Book Reviews said, “Exciting and rife with political intrigue and magic, SHADOW KIN is hard to put down right from the start. Magic, faeries, vampires, werewolves and Templar knights all come together to create an intriguing story with a unique take on all these fantasy tropes…the lore and history of Scott’s world is well fleshed out and the action scenes are exhilarating and fast.”

Here’s the blurb:

On one side, the Night World, rules by the Blood Lords and the Beast Kind. On the other, the elusive Fae and the humans, protected by their steadfast mages…

Born a wraith, Lily is a shadow who slips between worlds. Brought up by a Blood Lord and raised to be his assassin, she is little more than a slave. But when Lily meets her match in target Simon DuCaine, the unlikely bond that develops between them threatens to disrupt an already stretched peace in a city on the verge of being torn apart…

You can find out more about Mel and her books and read an excerpt from SHADOW KIN on M.J.’s website: www.mjscott.net

M.J., welcome to the Romance Bandits and congratulations on the release of your debut book SHADOW KIN. Can you tell us about this story?

SHADOW KIN is the story of a half-Fae assassin who has been controlled all her life by some fairly unpleasant people.When she botches her latest assignment and meets someone with a different perspective on the world, things begin to change.

You describe SHADOW KIN as ‘dark fantasy’. Can you tell us about the world your characters inhabit and what inspired it?

I will confess that when I first started SHADOW KIN, I thought it was urban fantasy. But then I realised that they weren’t wearing modern clothes and when the first gun appeared, in my head it was an ornately engraved old-fashioned pistol. Then as my heroine told me more about the world and said that the four races who live in the Half-Light City maintain peace through a treaty, I started to think about what sorts of things a treaty between humans, vampires, werewolves and Fae might govern. The obvious things seemed to be rationing the amounts of iron and silver that are available for use. Which has some flow-on effects on the level of technology the humans have reached. Plus there’s magic to deal with. SHADOW KIN isn’t steampunk but the world is somewhere around an early Victorian level of technology, with some differences. As for the inspiration, I can’t point to any one thing. A lifetime of reading fantasy, science fiction and lots of historical romance, I guess!

Sounds great! What’s next for M.J. Scott?

Book 2, BLOOD KIN comes out in June next year. I’m just finishing book three and am working on other things that I can’t yet talk about.

Here in the lair, we LOVE call stories. Can you please share yours?

My call story is a bit of a saga. SHADOW KIN was the third book of mine that my agent went out with. I wrote it in a year where I was having a lot of near misses, so it was a bit of a roller coaster plus it was a bit of an odd book and I wasn’t sure where exactly it would fit and was feeling gloomy about the whole thing (even though I loved the book). Luckily my agent loved it too and then, when she sent it out, we got the first offer in about three weeks. But it then took another two weeks to get other offers and have a bit of an auction, during which I had to keep quiet about what was happening and didn’t sleep much. Lots of very early morning phone calls and emails given the time difference between Australia and New York. When we got to the actual final result, my agent finally got to make “the call” after nearly three years of repping me and there was much squeeing and snoopy dancing. Then I got to share the good news with the world and have a long nap. lol



I bet that was a very happy nap! Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Stick to it, keep learning and don’t give up. It took me nine years to sell and almost ten years before I finally got to hold my book in my hands but it’s worth all the hard work along the way!

Your heroine is an assassin – did you set out to write a bad girl heroine?

The couple of urban fantasy books I wrote before SHADOW KIN both had heroines who started out more normal and got dragged into darker worlds. When my heroine showed up in my head, standing outside a door, getting ready to go in and kill someone, I realised I was dealing with a whole different kettle of fish. So I didn’t start off to write her that way, she arrived that way and then the hero popped up almost her complete opposite and I had a good guy hero to deal with too. Which was a lot of fun to play with as a writer as things are rarely quite as black and white as they seems.

Okay, Banditas, I had a blast writing a bad girl/good boy story even though it was different to what I’ve tended to write before (as I’m usually a bit of a sucker for a bad boy hero). What’s your favourite romance pairing? Do you like to see the good girl get her bad boy or two charming tricksters go head to head in a bad boy/bad girl heroine or see a good guy get his world turned on its head by a sexy bad girl? Or even see two good people struggle to get it right?

Thanks, M.J. Get commenting, people. There’s a copy of SHADOW KIN up for grabs today! Good luck!

An Afternoon Fantasy

by Tawny

Happy 2011!!! We’re almost halfway through the first month of the new year, and time is steadily rolling along, isn’t it? And if you stop and put your hand to your ear and listen closely, you’ll hear thousands of resolutions breaking LOL.

I always think that January should be that time of taking a sigh and relaxing after the craziness of the holidays. And I’m always surprised that it’s twice as hectic and busy for me as the previous couple of months were. Probably because of all the tasks I put off during the holidays that I now have to catch up on.

So while I am running around like a crazed headless chicken, I started fantasizing (go figure). Yes, a few Johnny Depp fantasies fluttered through my head. And I had a couple of dreamy shoe thoughts, but for the most part, my fantasies focused on relaxation. Not even a week of relaxation (nope, don’t have that kind of time to spare) or even a weekend (Oh, I wish, but can’t) but instead, a single afternoon of relaxation.

One. Single. Afternoon. Oh joy!!!

My fantasy involved a luxurious spa afternoon, complete with a decadent dessert, a serene massage and a long nap.

If you had a single afternoon of relaxation – it could be anything or anywhere (desert island, cruise ship, castle, spa) with anyone (except Johnny Depp. He’s mine *g*) doing anything (Oh my oh my oh my!) – what would your fantasy afternoon include?