Tag Archives: Reading

Sunday Spotlight! With Fantasy Writer Isa Ottoni

After all is said and done, 2022 turned out to be a great year because that’s when I got involved with the Fantasy Sci Fi Writers Alliance (“Alliance”) and met you and many other wonderful hard working creators offering invaluable support, and so many resources. 

And you published a fantastic story with Funemployment Press. We’ll talk more about Braza and the Funemployment Quarterly in a bit. But to start us off, Can you summarize your highlights for 2022?

Isa – Thank you for having me, Darci, I love your blog and interviews. This is a great way to get to know new authors and projects. Last week’s interview with Madeline was great, it really inspired me to look at how history can shape our stories. 

2022 was the year I came out of my shell, or so to speak. I had been writing for a few years by then, but hadn’t had the courage to show my work to the world. When I found this incredible community in April 2022, everything changed. Their support and unwavering kindness was exactly what I needed to break through the layers of self-doubt I had built around myself. I started sending my stories out and, incredibly, one of them was picked up. Braza was accepted and published in the Funemployment Quarterly Summer edition, my first publication ever and I could never have done it without the Alliance´s help and encouragement. 

Also, in December, my story Dea Sulis Minerva got second place in the FSF Writers Alliance Short Story Contest, which was a most welcoming surprise. 

I´d say that being able to show what I’ve written, and learning to deal with the “ups and downs” of being a writer was the biggest highlight for me. Successes are awesome, they fuel our confidence and all, but I learnt to cherish every step of the way, even rejections, because they mean I´ve been working towards something I love. 

I can already say this month’s conversations with you and Madeline will go down as a highlight for me in 2023. I enjoyed Braza and Dea Sulis Minerva a lot! So, I’m super glad you have come out of your shell. I can’t wait for more. Congratulations again on Dea Sulis Minerva. It had its own elements of history in its setting and mythology. There is more about it below and our audience can click here to read it!

Like so many writers, reading is the passion that started the journey. Your book review reels are awesome, and I enjoy every one of them. What are your favorite reads for 2022? 

Isa – There are three books that I discovered through the Alliance and that had a huge impact on me: Awakening, by Lucy A. McLaren and The Worthy, by Anna K. Moss — Dark Fantasy at its best; and Pariah´s Lament, by Richie Billing — a High Fantasy story with an incredibly compelling plot.

What I love most about stories is the possibility of discussing real life issues through the lenses of fantasy. Awakening, for example, has a cast of painfully human characters with real-life struggles that truly resonated with me. Same with The Worthy, when we follow morally-grey characters, rooting for them to change and impact their world in a positive way. I am always amazed by the universes writers are able to craft. Richie´s world is immense — a study in world building. 

When I read great books, I feel inspired to do the same. 

I also discovered that I love reading short stories, something I hadn’t paid much attention to in the past.  E. B. Hunter´s short horror stories are among my favourite reads, and also your Priss Starwillow & the Wolf. I´ve become somewhat of a “fan girl” again, because now I can chat with authors whose stories I love, and that’s something I could never have done before. It is truly awesome. 

Thank you for sharing what you love about these books, and short stories, Isa! And I totally agree how wonderful it is to avail ourselves of this community and the vast experience it encapsulates and then have the opportunity to give back. Anna and Eric (E. B. Hunter) chatted with me here last year and I really appreciate revisiting their work through your perspective. I look forward to more of our community visiting me in future. I’ll include the links to all books you mention in the titles.

Richie also offers a Fantasy Writers’ Toolshed Podcast and a huge amount of resources on world building and fantasy writing on his website. He even offers free books if you sign up for his newsletter. 

Can you expand on that and tell us your all time favorites?

Isa – I´ve always read fantasy so any book which has magic and compelling characters — I´m in. His Dark Materials, by Phillip Pullman is one the first trilogies I fell in love with and that I still revisit whenever I have the chance. I also love Neil Gaiman. Anything that man writes, I´ll read, but I particularly enjoyed Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Susanna Clarke´s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel makes the top of my favourite reads too, along with Patrick Rothfuss´ still-to-be-completed trilogy, Kingkiller Chronicle

Since I started writing, and more specifically, learning about crafting stories, I´ve been thinking about what makes a story a good one. What is it that makes us root for the characters we follow, what drags us to these new universes and keeps us immersed in their stories to the point we cannot put a book down until it is over?

I came to the conclusion that the answer is the emotion stories bring to the surface, and that it can only be achieved with characters rooted in their humanity. The world and setting might be interesting, the plot engaging, battles and war nerve-wracking, but without humanity there is nothing. Phillip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke and Patrick Rothfuss are experts in humanity, and I think that is why their stories are great. They make me cry as often as they make me laugh, with characters that are real in every sense of the world: they are real because they cause a real effect in the reader, and they live in our minds and hearts forever. 

Wow! I love to get recommendations. Now I’ve got more to add to my TBR. I have to admit, my preferred reads typically fall more into the supernatural romance genre, but I have been slowly building a great epic fantasy story list. You can follow Isa on Instagram for her current reviews and posts.

Isa – I also love a good paranormal romance and great romantic subplots. Give me characters slowly falling in love with each other, and you´ll have me swooning over them. One of my favourite fantasy/romance novels is a duology called The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh, a retelling of Arabian Nights. Book crushes are simply the best. 

Awesome. You made my day, adding a good romance series!

How many books do you average reading a year? Do you like to set goals for the year and if so, what is your goal for 2023?

Isa – I´m a mood reader, as they say, and though I read pretty fast, I don’t have much spare time to do it, while balancing work, writing and, well, living. I genuinely only read what I want to read, and never force myself to finish something I´m not enjoying. I´d say… ten books a year? That’s not a lot, but it doesn´t include rereads, so an average of fifteen in total. 

I also read a lot of short stories — a lot a lot. At least one piece a day, sometimes more, which might be flash fiction, drabbles, or longer pieces. I subscribe to flash fiction magazines and get daily emails with the latest releases. Short stories are like little pocket universes where we get to dive in and surface on the other side with a different perspective, a different mind set. 

Take Neil Gaiman´s Nicolas Was… for example. 

It’s fascinating to realise how a hundred words in a drabble can change your view of an entire celebration. That same awe feeling happened after reading another Neil Gaiman short story Snow, Glass, Apples, a retelling of Snow White. I promise you won’t regret reading it — or you might, because you will never be able to look at the fairy tale the same again.

Another thing that I love doing is beta reading for fellow writers. Stories that are not released yet, in their developmental stage. Sometimes, the briefest ideas can be a lot of fun to work with. One of the most delightful things I find is to discover a new voice who hasn’t even discovered themselves. They share their work with apprehension, not sure if people will like it. Then I get to tell them how amazing their story is, and how much I enjoyed it — it is the best feeling in the whole world. 

My goal for 2023 is to read more indie books and find those secret gems — new authors, new voices, new characters to fall in love with. 

This reading strategy really makes sense. I for one have experienced and appreciated enormously your generosity in reading my stories. And getting your perspective on your enjoyment and the benefits you get from it is a real treat. I’m sure this will encourage others to engage in the same exercise. Thanks for spreading the love, Isa! And for adding more to my TBR list!

Isa – I have to say, Darci, that our beta reading session yesterday was incredible. I am still thinking about the selkie and her lighthouse man. You craft such a beautiful romance — it’s really hard not to fall for your characters. I look forward to reading more. 

Wow! Thank you for that, Isa. Writing powerful romance is my dream. And there is no way I could achieve it without the generous feedback you and the members of the Alliance provide.

When and how did you start writing?

Isa – I’ve been writing most of my life, journals, articles, thesis, dissertations and scientific papers for work. But I had never actually written stories, and definitely not fantasy stories. I consumed them, but also believed I could write something as good as the stories I read. I thought about it, often, crafting tales in my mind before falling asleep, which helped me cope with anxiety and insomnia, something that I´ve been struggling with most of my adult life. I don´t know exactly what changed, but in 2017 something clicked inside my brain and I decided to put pen to paper and write about those characters I had only dreamt about. Things escalated from there. 

I certainly hope the insomnia and anxiety have let up on you, and thank you for sharing that. I don’t know if it’s insomnia for all of us, but I have come to understand more about my fellow writers through our community, and the most surprising thing to learn is that many of us are night owls and really could do with a magic pill that allows us to go on without sleep. There is simply too much writing to be done! 

Who and/or what were your biggest influences?

Isa – My dad used to tell me bedtime stories every single night: I would not fall asleep without them. But instead of fairy tales or tales meant (and appropriate) for children, I’d listen to ancient mythology, Greek and Roman heroes and gods. Funny enough, I learnt as an adult that instead of being rescued and learning his lesson, Icarus (spoiler alert) actually died after flying too close to the sun. See, my dad would change the endings so I´d not be too scared — or scarred for life. 

Mum and Dad were always supportive of my passions, and would take me to the bookshops every month to find a new story, a new book. I grew up in a household filled with books, so it´s not surprising my love of literature. They were, and remain to this day, my biggest influences. 

As for literature influences, I´d say the friends I made in the Alliance. After reading E. B. Hunter’s horror stories, I started studying the genre and tried a couple of horror pieces myself. Lucy and Anna are my role models, strong women whose works I desperately love. I want to be like them when I grow up. 

And the Masters, of course, Neil Gaiman and his uncanny sense of humour, Phillip Pullman and his incredible world-building, Susanna Clarke and her beautiful prose. Giants, who I hope to walk along with one day.

I’m grinning from ear to ear on this one, Isa. Amazing parents indeed! And it reminds me of my childhood and my Dad. He has a fabulous reading voice, and loved to read me to sleep, mostly the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

Isa – I do think that is how a reader/writer is born. First we fall in love with the stories, then we seek them by ourselves. If there is love, nothing can get in the way. 

What drew you to the Alliance? What do you think are the biggest benefits of belonging to a community of writers? What other communities have you found beneficial to your growth as a creator?

Isa – It was one of those happy accidents, I guess. I had finished writing a novel and had no idea what to do next. While trying to figure out what sub genre my novel was, I found Richie Billing’s page and blog. I subscribed to his newsletter, we started corresponding, and he invited me to join his discord channel. There was where I met the incredible people who would soon become the Alliance. 

I believe the biggest benefit of belonging to a community is precisely that: belonging. Meeting people who are having the same struggles as you, who understand your pain, your heart, is something that can change your life forever. It changed mine. I used to feel quite lonely, even when surrounded by people. Friends and family might humour you, listen to your half crafted stories, but they don’t necessarily get what you are trying to do. Being able to have long conversations with someone who is going through the same as you is fantastic. I remember thinking “That’s it, these are my people, here is where I belong.”

A community offers the support we all need to put ourselves out in the world. They offer feedback on your work, help you solve those unsolvable problems that come with every new idea, offer advice on things you are facing or will eventually face. 

Richie´s community and the FSF Alliance are the most supportive groups of people I’ve ever seen. Everything I achieved this past year was because of them. 

I also find YouTube a great source of learning. Not a community, per se, as interactions there are more difficult and one-sided, but there are great booktubers offering amazing advice over there. I often watch video essays on word building or character development, full classes by the master Brandon Sanderson, book reviews so I’m up to date with new releases, and so on. 

As I have never had formal training in fiction writing, I had to find the knowledge I needed somewhere else. YouTube proved to be quite useful, along with reading books on writing, of course. I will eventually enrol in a formal course, that is one of the goals I have for the future, but until then, I will absorb knowledge however I can. 

Thank you for sharing all these resources and insights about community! I want to add here as I’ve done in a previous post that the Alliance recently launched its own website, and there are so many good things to explore, like the book club, and short story contests. Isa contributed to its first blog in addition to her winning short story. Check it out.

Now about Braza. Wow! I absolutely adored it. The stories in the Summer Quarterly by Funemployment Press were all fabulous, and I was truly impressed. I hope you have more stories like that planned. How did Braza come about?

Isa – Thank you, I really appreciate that. Braza was a surprise for me, from the beginning to the end. I had never thought I could write a comedy before a couple of jokes spurred in that piece. Who knew I had a sense of humour? 

I was thinking about the fantasy genre and its common tropes, how heroes are always trying to slay monsters, and how the monsters would probably oppose being slain. Wouldn’t it be sort of funny if they stated so? A dragon who needed a break and refused to be killed by a silver knight felt like a good place to start. I had a plan, but my characters had a different one, and the ending surprised me just as much as it might have surprised you. 

I´m very fond of that story, and ended up calling my dragon Braza, as a tribute to my home country, Brazil (which I dearly miss), and because brasa (spelled with an s) is Portuguese for embers or fire. I really love that story, and I´m really happy you enjoyed it too. 

Dea Sulis Minerva is another short story that uses humour to discuss something important, and it got second place in the Alliance contest. The prompt for the contest was God vs. Mankind, and I knew all those bedtime stories from my childhood would come in hand. I had also watched a documentary about the Roman Bath in Bath, England, called Aquae Sulis, and inspiration hit me. 

Back then, Romans would worship Dea Sulis Minerva as one goddess instead of two, a combination of the ancient gaelic goddess Sulis and the Roman goddess Minerva. More interestingly, citizens used to ask the goddess for revenge, writing petitions in little sheets of lead called Curse Tablets, and throwing them in the holy spring the goddess dwelt. 

The story was there, I only had to carve it out. 

Where can we find more of your stories? What are your works in progress and plans for them?

Isa Dea Sulis Minerva has been published on the Alliance website, so I´d say that is a great place to start. I also keep a blog where I post short stories and news about upcoming publications, so I’d love for you to visit me there. You can also find me on Instagram and TikTok at @isa.ottoni.writes

I´ve been working on a novel, but it’s miles away from being ready for anyone but my writing group. They are the ones who suffer through my edits and help me become a better writer. It´s a passion project, a story I really love, but I still need to improve my writing skills to be able to make it justice. Novels are the hardest thing to write, and I applaud the ones who can make it to the end. I also love writing short stories, so I´ll be doing that and trying to publish as much as I can. 

Can you tell us a little about Funemployment Press and how you ended up submitting a story? What is the magazine’s goal and do they have any submissions opening up this year?

Isa – I saw their summer submission call on our discord channel, and ruminated on the prompt for a couple of days. The theme was Sabbatical, and I tried a couple of pieces before ultimately  dropping them off. I find that forcing a story to happen does not work for me, so I often try more than one project at a time, feeling them out, and choosing the one I most resonate with. Then, Braza was born, and I was really excited about it while also trying to be realistic. I had had so many rejections until then, that one more would not discourage me, but I deeply hoped it would work out. It did, and I got that most expected email saying “We’re very pleased to accept your work ‘Braza‘…” 

I was over the moon. 

The editors are incredibly friendly and kind, and it was a pleasure working with them. I got my hard author copy and a second one too because my husband, without knowing about the author copy, bought one to surprise me. Being able to place a physical copy of something I have written among the loved titles on my bookshelf is a feeling I cannot describe. 

Funemployment Quarterly holds four open submissions a year, one for each season, and you can check their website for information on themes and deadlines. They ask for science-fiction and fantasy short stories, and according to them “We release quality things, some of which are virtual abstractions, some of which are objects you can actually hold. We hope you enjoy your stay, make yourself at home, and find your time here useful!” 

I sure did. 

The cover arts are always fantastic and the story selection wonderful. Within the Summer edition I particularly love Academic Emulators, by Franco Amati; When Death Met The May Queen, by Benjamin Thomas; and Azimuth, by Matt Cantor. 

No matter what edition you pick, you are in for a lot of fun. 

Click wherever Funemployment is mentioned to link to the Press and they are also listed on my website under Communities, Indie Presses. Submissions are open! The Theme is Autonomy.

How do you balance all your pursuits with life and work? Do you have any tips on time management and how to fit in what you love doing with what you must do on a day-to-day basis?

Isa – Organisation is the key, I believe. I have a board on the wall of my study where I place different colour post-its with the different things I have to do throughout the month. That way I can see where my free periods are and make the most out of them. I´m fortunate enough to have a job where the schedule is flexible and I can move things around to fit my responsibilities and my passions. There are days when writing is impossible, and that’s okay, because my board tells me that tomorrow or the next day I will have an entire afternoon just for that. 

Different people will have different goals and different needs, but one thing that I believe unite us writers is the passion for our craft. With passion, anything is possible, even carving time out of a crazy schedule. We write because we love doing so, and I think that is enough. If you can write everyday, great, but if not, great too, because there is nothing that will stop you from finding the time to do it. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Isa – I spent most of my adult life setting goals for myself and my career, working like crazy to meet those ideals — and I have achieved what I had set out to achieve. I have reached a point in my life where I’m perfectly content with what I have so I don’t want to stress over my writing too. I write because it makes me happy, so I´ll be happy as long as I’m doing it. 

That being said, I do want to publish a novel some day, but if that is going to happen in five, ten or twenty years, I don´t know. Whatever happens, happens, and I will keep writing, keep learning, and keep loving every step of the way. 

Thank you so much for visiting with me. Do you have any parting advice for our readers who want to pursue their creative passions?

Isa – Creativity is a strange thing, it may hit you when least expected. I would say that an attentive mind is the key to igniting those creative juices in our minds. 

So pay attention. Pay attention to the people around you, to the silly things you watch online, to the changing seasons. Pay attention to the beating of a heart and the flap of a bird’s wing, to the cold of the morning wind and the warmth of the summer sun on your skin. 

Pay attention to the world around you, think about it, then make it yours. 

For me, inspiration comes in those quiet moments of contemplation, where your mind is still and yet focused, so thoughts spark in your brain and your entire body reacts to it. Did something make you laugh? Write it down. Did it make you cry? Write it down. Did it make you bored? Look again because you´re not paying enough attention.

To pursue a passion is redundant,because if it’s a passion, you will have no choice other than pursuing it. It´s in its nature, this calling that won´t leave you alone until you do what your mind and heart are begging you to do. So do it. Be brave and do it. Even if you´re doing it entirely for yourself – or especially if you’re doing it entirely for yourself. 

Then, you go back to thinking about it. What worked, and what didn’t work? What was it that you needed to make it work? Talk to people, ask questions. Leave the self-doubt behind. Follow the advice that works for you, and ignore the ones that don´t. Do you. Be unapologetically yourself. And love every step of the way. 

Wonderful! I can’t wait to see more of where your passion leads you, Isa. All the best to you!

Commaful – Have You Tried this Story Telling Platform?

Commaful allows authors to tell their stories with pictures. You get a square space for an image and room to put a sentence per page. The story basically advances line by line. You can use this for Fanfiction, Poetry, Flash Fiction and Short Stories. It can be a suspense story, romance, or comedy. The sky is the limit! I’m intrigued. Let me know what you think.

Following are screenshots from a writer’s desktop of a clever tutorial demonstrating the format.

Great Reads by a Fellow Blogger- Enjoy! The Chronicles Of History – A Year In Review: The Top Ten Post of 2022

This year has been a very quick one. 2022 swept by in a blink of an eye and I can barely believe that we are about to enter 2023.  Today will be a …

The Chronicles Of History – A Year In Review: The Top Ten Post of 2022

A Leap Through the Elder Oak, The Conclusion

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  • Click here for Part Two
  • Click here for Part Three

A Leap Through the Elder Oak, Conclusion

Once again, Ray found himself dodging arrows as he leapt over fallen trees and ducked behind live ones. Tsealie would say it was a miracle he hadn’t been poked full of holes long before now. The elves were lethal with their uncanny aim and inhuman strength that sent the arrows flying so close, his skin prickled where they passed.

Another missile whipped by his face, splitting a small birch tree in two ahead of him, right where he’d been about to turn. He spun on his heels and changed direction as he cursed his hair that glowed like a silver beacon in the growing darkness of the shortest day of the year. He’d set out wearing a gnome hat Tsealie’s daughter had modified for him. The conical hat was absurd on such a tall man, but it disguised his humanness and used magical camouflage to make him disappear into nature.

It worked until the cap was snatched by a branch about a half mile back as he traversed a dangerous patch of woods. Not long after, the elf prince and his guard picked up his trail. Thwack! Another arrow lodged in a tree, this time taking a piece of him first. Ray reached behind his neck and felt the wetness of his blood. Another inch and the force would have taken his head.

Before this fateful jaunt into the bizarre, Ray had wished for more excitement in his life. Dropping into the realm of a supernatural race who did not welcome the intrusion wasn’t what he had in mind. Was leaving here too much to ask? He considered throwing himself on the mercy of the elf king. He’d meant what he said when he told Tsealie this was the last time he would risk the gnomes.

If he hadn’t broken so many laws when he first arrived, Tsealie might have managed to negotiate a sponsorship with King Seabrin, which might have gotten him home at the start of this venture. But laws were very different here, and the elves had little tolerance for law breakers, even if they were unwitting ones. Attempting negotiations was too dangerous a prospect for the lesser gnome kingdom to undertake. Once Ray learned about his situation, he refused to let Tsealie try.

He stumbled through a patch of thorny brush and almost fell on his face. He’d lost more blood than he realized, and his vision blurred. He didn’t even let himself dwell on the pain. Too many other worries crowded his mind, like making it to the portal before he passed out. He should try to staunch the blood. The elves had gone silent, which meant he had no idea how close they were, but he needed to rest a minute and bind his wound.

An opening between a spot of thick brush and a boulder provided cover while he crouched on the pungent forest floor and listened for signs of his pursuers. An owl hooted. Something skittered through his hiding spot, followed by another skitter. Twigs snapped under heavier steps. The prince was closer than he thought. As he listened, his vision cleared enough to make out his surroundings in the fading light. His heart thumped at what he saw.

He’d made it back to the Forest of the Fire Maidens and was in the middle of the ancient copse of yews Tsealie described. Ray knew what he must search for next, but he stayed hidden a little longer to drink his fill of water from the gourd on his belt. He used some to wash the blood from his hands, listened again, then pushed on in a direction away from the elves.

He only had to go another hundred yards before he spotted the mound of granite towering over a moonlit meadow, his last marker. An ethereal voice echoed between the trees. “If you don’t halt and turn yourself in, human, it will go worse for you.”

Of course, he kept going. He was so close; the sound of his wife’s laughter rang in his head. She was always ready to laugh, and it was the sweetest sound on earth. It beckoned him and hope gave him strength and stealth, so when he sprinted the last few yards, he made no sound.

He leapt over a log and vaulted around the monolithic rock, then stumbled to a halt. Ray had hashed out every detail of the epic solstice battle with Tsealie the past few days, but it hadn’t prepared him for the sight that met his eyes. Two trees, so tall they blocked the deepening starlight, swung their branches at each other as if they were swords. Their clashes thundered across the clearing, and electricity made its own noise as it crackled between them, growing in intensity.

He couldn’t make out faces because there weren’t any, but he imagined their expressions all the same, and it was clear the giant trees engaged in a fierce competition. One minute, they seemed rooted to the ground, the next, they would raise a gnarled root and step forward with another jab.

Movement caught his eye. It was an opening in the hollow of one of the warring trees, the Elder Oak, and it shimmered in an out of existence. His theory was correct. The portal wasn’t fixed in one spot, it moved around to meet certain conditions. And he watched those conditions unfold in a traditional clash that heralded winter. He calculated the war would end in about twenty minutes.

Before he could make his move, a beam of light blinded him, obscuring the snorting creature rearing up and blocking his path. A stag. He had to leap out of the way and barely managed to stay on his feet.

On the stag’s back was a fierce-looking blue-haired elf with a crown on his head that appeared to be made of water. The glowing being spoke in a deep voice. “Where do you think you are going, human? Do you really believe we would let you return without making you pay for your crimes?”

“My only crime is believing I was smart enough to know what I was doing with the portal. I admit conducting my experiment was the worst decision of my life. I only want to return to my family. I haven’t caused any harm here. Please let me go back.”

“It is the harm you might cause when you return that we are concerned with, and none of this is for you to decide. It is up to the king.” His brows drew together. “There is one possibility that might earn you your freedom.”

“What do you mean?”

“The human who seems set on discovering his way here must be stopped. The king will send you home after you help us with this problem.” 

“I’ve already been missing for six years. Longer is unthinkable.”

“It is either this or be locked away and never go home again.” Ray decided he had another choice and searched for his opportunity to make a run for the ancient oak.

Then, he got help when a familiar sapphire prism pierced the darkness, and snow began to fall. It fell so heavy it soon covered every surface, piling high. The blanketing quiet brought to the fore the sounds of clashing branches. Only a few feet separated Ray from his family.

An owl flew at the prince, flapping its wings around the stag’s head. The stag reared up, this time in defense, nearly unseating the prince. More owls swooped over the guards.

Ray recognized the cues given to him by a wizened old gnome to point him towards another leap of faith. In the winged chaos, he made a zigzag dash, then dove headfirst at the shimmering hollow while the king of the oak trees dueled with the Holly King, both giants oblivious to the drama playing out beneath them.

As he tumbled through a denser darkness than the one now shrouding Undine on the winter solstice, he sent his heartfelt gratitude to a tiny being who had turned out to be the best friend he ever had.

  • Click here for Part One
  • Click here for Part Two
  • Click here for Part Three

A Leap Through the Elder Oak, Part Three

  • Click here for Part One
  • Click here for Part Two
  • Click here for Part Four

A Leap Through the Elder Oak, Part Three

The six-foot four human had given up applying science to the phenomenon of his two-foot-high companion covering distances faster than him, while appearing to stroll. His efforts these days went to keeping pace with the being who barely topped his knee. He was used to the strangeness now, so he was able to listen as they walked and Tsealie explained.

“It will be a process because as kings, the giant trees can move among their subjects. However, there are only so many locations that will accommodate their size, and as you pointed out, the locations are part of the tradition.”

His dark eyes glittered. “I am hopeful we can get you to the right one in time. I will alert the network at once. Then, you, my friend, will need to be ready to dodge the elves and make it there in one piece.” 

When Ray’s face filled with determination, Tsealie said, “Did I ever tell you that you could pass for an Ice Elf with that platinum hair? Especially when your eyes turn steely.”

“You mentioned it a time or two. And if I were to stay longer in this world, I would like to meet the race whose history my ancestors in Scandinavia might very well share, if my theory is correct.”

The two of them continued on, rounding yet another bend in the tunnel, and the yeasty fumes of mushroom ale invaded Ray’s nostrils. He rolled his shoulders and relaxed, inhaling deeper. His favorite soup was on the menu this afternoon. Leek and lentil. Prior to living with these diminutive beings of nature, Ray had been steadfast in his belief he wouldn’t survive on greenery and legumes, though his wife often tried to convince him to go vegetarian with her. It turned out he thrived on the savory concoctions the gnomes liberally dished out.

Tsealie’s smile thinned out his wrinkles. You know I will miss your stories and our games. But I wish this for you as hard as you wish it for yourself.”

“I know you do, Tsealie. And I have a feeling once I’m home, it won’t be long before I will want to come back for a visit, though I can’t see how that might happen. Do you?”

“Before you stumbled unwittingly through a Fae portal and wandered into the fern gardens to trample over my herd of snails, I would have thought not. But with you Raymond Jensen, anything is possible.”

Ray blanched at his words, even as he accepted the humor in them. “I still feel awful about the snails. At least you stopped me before my carelessness grew to unforgivable proportions.”

At last, they arrived at a set of double doors carved out of thick elm. A pair of gnomes, even shorter than their elder, and dignified in their sapphire livery complete with tall, conical caps, made way for them, then stood at attention. Guards were not a requirement in this peaceful realm deep under the earth. The little sentinels made themselves available in this fashion, seeming to appear from thin air, out of respect for Tsealie, who was the oldest among them.

But Tsealie’s age was another logic-bending mystery Ray decided long ago not to spend time puzzling over, so he pushed that last thought aside and bent in half to enter the Great Hall Under the Elm. Thanks to the hollow in the giant tree widening out to unbelievable proportions below ground, he could rise to his full height after squeezing through the door.

Since learning today about the symbiotic relationship between the trees and the gnomes, Ray took time to glance around the natural architecture with new eyes. He let the raucous noise fade away and listened to the sounds of the earth. A trick Tsealie taught him. An array of burls had been turned into small windows that staggered up the great height of the tree, and the dust moted beams of light bathed his face.

Part of him had been aware of the aura glowing off the surfaces of the underground kingdom, but now he could feel the rhythm of life that encompassed more than the tiny people.

Tsealie waited, as if he understood Ray’s need to absorb this new perspective of his surroundings. Then, the elder’s stomach rumbled loud enough to break the spell, and the hall turned lively once again.

Ray smiled and said, “I could use a meal, too. But even more urgent is the need to indulge in at least three pints, and a board game or two to calm me down. You’ve given me my first real hope today.”

“Your clever scientific investigations did that,” Tsealie said as they headed through the throng of citizens, all wearing the signature pointed hat, whether male or female. “Now let’s eat, so we can get to our next round of Lanard. You promised to leave me with a strategy memorable enough to be chronicled in the archives.”

Just then, a sentinel appeared as if out of thin air. His cap was askew, and his eyes were round as he said, “Prince Jonpril’s men are investigating much too close to our entrance, Tsealie. Linton is bolstering the shields.”

Tsealie laid a hand on his guard’s shoulder. “Thank you, Peddrie. You best go back and help him.” It appeared as if the miniature person turned and walked away, but he was simply no longer there. Ray blinked. He still wasn’t used to that.

Ray said, “The winter solstice cannot come soon enough this year for the Sapphire Gnomes. If I don’t make it, Tsealie, I will turn myself in.”

To be continued… stay tuned for the conclusion tomorrow! December 24, 2022.

  • Click here for Part One
  • Click here for Part Two
  • Click here for Part Four

A Leap Through the Elder Oak, Part Two

  • Click here for Part One
  • Click here for Part Three
  • Click here for Part Four

A Leap Through the Elder Oak, Part Two

The gnome stopped walking and spoke in his stern elder voice, gripping his staff hard enough to make the faceted sapphire cast its prisms over the tunnel. “You must have risked capture more than usual today, Raymond, to be the benefactor of so much information. You will want to be extra cautious next time you go topside. The elves might set a trap. They also might realize it is the Sapphire Gnomes  guarding the whereabouts of the human who evades them.”

When Ray opened his mouth to speak, Tsealie held up a hand. “That is all I have to say about that. I’ve taken the usual precautions to hide your tracks. As for the ruby, it is said to be a bloodred stone the size of a man’s fist and in the possession of the Siren of the Undine Sea Caves. If any mortal should survive the vicious tides that rise up at her will and all her other cruel tricks to reach the stone, they will gain immortality.”

Ray said, “From what I know of this man, that would fit with his purpose.”

Tsealie snorted and once again sounded like a carefree gnome. “First, the stone is a myth and not even the Undine Elves believe it exists. Second, humans without a Fae sponsor who are ignorant of the supernatural kingdoms have never found their way here.” He gave Ray the side eye. “Until you. And lastly, the siren who allegedly possesses the stone is deadly to all who cross her path, not just feeble humans.” He caught Ray’s eye again. “No offense.”

Ray laughed. “I am the first to admit to my human weaknesses.” Then, his jaw clenched, and his voice turned serious. “I don’t care what this man is close to doing. Let him risk himself over a grab at immortality. The king can worry about keeping him out. My only purpose is to get home to my family.” 

He inhaled, then let his breath out slowly. “Even though I’ve lived in Undine through the changing of seven seasons and witnessed many incredible things, as a dedicated scientist, I’m struggling to embrace the idea I must find a pair of ancient battling trees if I want to get home.”

“Well, my friend. That may be something I can help you with.”

“You have a way to locate them?”

“The trees and gnomes cannot exist without each other. Do you see what makes up these walls? He gestured around them as they moved again along the winding tunnel. “The interlocking roots are lifelines to the tree kingdom and the gnomes not only shelter within them, but care for them. The problem we will have this time of year is getting the kings’ attention because the two will be focused only on their relentless competition.”

He peered at Ray from under his pointy cap. “It’s not like they will ever be allowed to rule on their respective wrong sides of the year. That would defy the laws of nature. One king must always give way to the other every solstice. But they never stop trying. And they certainly won’t be bothered with human problems while they are at it.”

“They don’t have to be. The portal’s energy will be affected by the clashing kings, opening and closing as the season passes to the victor. I just have to be in the right place at the right time. I’ve waited so long, only to learn my window of opportunity is slim. If I’m too late, I’ll have to wait another year, or find another way.”

“It’s not like you to be negative, Raymond. Just think, you might have discovered this after the solstice. But how in the name of the Sapphire Imp did you figure it out?”

“Believe me, I am just as flabbergasted. But this wonderous place has taught me that science and magic are not so different. They operate on the same principles. And it all starts with miniscule elements that comprise what human scientists call atoms, which form molecules, which cause reactions to the energy around us. An example of that is what will happen at the site of this traditional battle.” 

Ray stopped and laid a hand on the small shoulder. “So, how will we find them, Tsealie?”

To be continued…

  • Click here for Part One
  • Click here for Part Three
  • Click here for Part Four

A Message in the Clouds – a Short Story

A pioneering aeronaut takes on an unlikely passenger and reflects on life and loss as he floats above a gasworks to test his latest invention.

I floated a thousand feet over the Point Breeze Gas Works. From this vantage, one could imagine it was a gothic cathedral, complete with crenelated turrets, sprawling majestically along the Schuylkill River. The industry below, illustrated by billowing towers of black smoke, was muted in absolute silence from this height, adding to the impression of divine tranquility.

Even the Monarch butterfly that stowed away when I fueled our ride with hydrogen appeared to appreciate the stillness as it fluttered in random arcs around the ropes, landing intermittently on the lip of the basket. The slow beating of its wings seemed to speak to me in its need for companionship on our isolated journey among the clouds.

Today’s flight was meant to test my invention, but I welcomed the opportunity to escape up here, relishing the freedom and solitude to mourn the life ended too soon of an extraordinary woman.

My wife would have been proud of my latest patent involving a water gas process that increased the production of hydrogen, ever fascinated when my ideas resulted in record-breaking efficiencies and conveniences for modern living. The smile that would light her face when I shared my ideas was so clear in my mind, she could be standing in this basket with me.

Fluttering movement caught my eye. The more I watched the hypnotic orange wings, the easier it was to believe we were the only beings existing on or above the Earth. Not even a bird disturbed us. The crowds bustling along the streets of Philadelphia might not even be imagined, let alone the 485 men directly below us engaged in shoveling coal relentlessly into hellish, hungry boilers, just one task among many equally laborious ones that resulted in lighting an entire city.

I had to admit my inventions might make things easier for the average city dweller, but not for these men. Still, each of them, called by a piercing whistle, gathered for a break from their labors to watch me take flight today, and each grimy, sweaty face wore a look of pride as the gas they helped produce filled my balloon.

The absence of sound let me reflect on these rhythms of life; the men shoveling, the butterfly’s wings beating, my wife at my side celebrating each milestone of my career, then my pumping heart emptying of all that gave life meaning when she took her last breath.

I began to feel closer to my small, winged stowaway, having arrived myself at the end of a cycle of birth, growth, and metamorphosis. Though the cycle now seemed too brief, I marveled that I would have ceased to exist well before this day of testing another achievement if not for the bravery of my life’s chosen companion during a dramatic period in our lives, the lives of the whole country for that matter.

Absorbing the profound silence let me cast my mind back twenty years and the glimmering river, billowing gasworks, and even the surrounding clouds faded away, replaced by a vivid memory of being stranded on the wrong side of enemy lines.

Two decades ago, President Lincoln appointed me Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corps, and I was proud to operate the first telegraph aerial station for the purposes of reporting on the enemy’s position. My maiden assignment was the Battle of Bull Run under General Irvin McDowell. It went well, but balloons do not always cooperate when they come down.

Exiting my basket in a hurry, so I could finish stowing away what had become a beacon pointing to a spy in the rebels’ midst, I took a wrong step and sprained my ankle. Fortunately, I landed the balloon near a thicket, which allowed me to stay out of sight while I hoped for rescue. My fortune persisted when a Union troop came upon me, but I couldn’t walk with them owing to my injury, and they reluctantly left me behind. Still, my luck continued because they reported my position after arriving at Fort Corcoran. But it wasn’t the army who came for me.

The days and nights that followed, worrying over who might appear next in my little clearing, filled me with a case of nerves worse than anything I’d yet experienced when flying an object fueled by a volatile gas. Then, sounds I both dreaded and wished for made my heart thud as they drew closer to my hiding spot. I braved peeking over a fallen tree where I crouched in the shadows and took in the unlikely sight of an old woman driving a horse and buckboard stacked with canvas covers.

The traveler wore a pendant and at its glint, a jolt shot straight to my heart. I knew that topaz butterfly, and I looked closer at the face set above shoulders hunched beneath a matronly shawl. The blue eyes peering out from the bonnet were those dearest to my soul. I stood and raised my arm in a greeting.

The familiar dulcet tones sounding anything but old whispered across the clearing. “Do you need a ride, brave aeronaut?”

“No one who has ever set foot on this battlefield is braver than you, my dear.”

Orange caught my eye and my mind returned to the silent sky and a world devoid of the soul who had been my partner in every way.

It was time to descend.

Butterfly wings beat in time with the hiss of venting hydrogen, and the giant gasworks loomed closer, its booming, wheezing, and banging sounds displacing our peace.

I peered closer at the tiny creature, then at its topaz encrusted likeness that I pulled from my vest pocket. Maybe this lofty place was not so empty after all, and suddenly, neither was my heart.

This short story is one in a collection I have published in a sweet book called Priss Starwillow & the Wolf and Other Short Stories you can find on Amazon. In addition to being available in a 99-cent e-book, you can find my stories on Vocal.Media.

Thank you for reading. All comments are welcome.

Note: Story inspired by the real-life story of Thaddeus S. C. Lowe.

100-Word Story Challenge. My foray into horror – A minor Starlight Chronicles Vampire character, my inspiration…

Enjoy a Three-Part Supernatural Horror Story – Exactly 100 Words Each

One: Brother’s Maker

Thick rivulets of blood moved down the wall like snakes slithering into Hell. Lucius thought going there himself would be better than mucking out this foul slaughter. Hiding his brother’s crimes from Prince Remus. Death by fire, their punishment if caught.

Linus, too far gone to understand the danger, had killed another valuable hunter. Lucius labored to obliterate the evidence while Linus crouched over an arm sucking out the blood and marrow like a human sucking meat from a crab leg.

Lucius had turned his brother. Watching him deteriorate was penance. Figuring out how to stop it, his only purpose.

Two: Brother’s Keeper

Lucius stared in frustration at the naked female, then grabbed newspaper from the alley trash to cover her. Copious blood soaked through, turning it to pulp. He added more paper. Didn’t help. Blood spouted like a fountain from her torn jugular. He yanked his brother, who’d pounced on her again, away from her neck.

“You couldn’t have gone one more block?” Linus whipped towards him. Lucius stifled a gasp. The nerdy, giraffe-legged brother was there. Then the eyes turned soulless, reflecting the red pooling beneath their feet, and Linus’s stark hunger. Pain stabbed Lucius where his heart once beat.

Three: Brother’s Killer

Lucius cradled Linus’s head in his lap. Just his head… which Lucius had to remove. He stared at the rectangular hole holding his brother’s body, then forced his gaze away to take in the fateful surroundings. The graveyard was damp. Dew glistened on the grass. Dripped from cypress trees and giant yews. None of it made this real. They’d been vampires for five decades, inseparable. But Linus’s self-control had deserted him. He broke too many council laws.

“You never believed you could be ended, brother. Didn’t you once think it would be me who would have to do the ending?”

Had to add this. I love making book covers, even for tiny fiction.

First drafts rejected. But I Keep Trying.

I was happy with my first attempt to do a 100-word story. The publisher, not so much. But that’s okay because I learned a lot in the process. These bits about vampire brothers were inspired by a minor character in my Starlight Chronicles series. I admit, pure horror is a challenge for me, though I love reading and watching it, the darker the better. I read Bram Stoker in my youth, along with Mary Shelly, which means those sweeping, tantalizing, horrific impressions are there, deep down, and now that I’m writing fantasy, I’m compelled to draw from their brilliance.

Vlad the Impaler has been an endlessly fascinating figure in history and fiction for me, no matter how many ways his story has been told. And today’s supernatural fantasy authors are finding entertaining ways to retell the tales. Many of them inspired me.

Luke Evans portrayed an excellent fictional Vlad. Dracula Untold sparked my imagination and gave a feel for the period and setting. I was disappointed with its box office failure, which ended hopes of a sequel. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer.

Please take a moment to read the drabbles above and let me know if I’m on the right track for a story told in exactly 100 words. Better yet, share your own 100-word story in the comments.

Thank you!

3D Art by Ismael Tejero

Guest Spotlight with U.K. Fantasy Author, and Editor, Anna K. Moss

On Fire!

Wow, Anna! You are in the middle of an exciting expansion in your career, a new book out and a new editing business.  From where I sit, you’re on fire. How does it feel and how’s it going?

A. That’s so kind of you! I’m loving full-time work as an editor. I wish I’d made the leap to start my business years ago, but then I wouldn’t have the experience I do now. It’s been a rollercoaster, especially with my book launch alongside Moss Editorial, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I literally feel on fire some days, but don’t we all?

D. I must say I can feel the burn, and I hope it’s catchy. I’m totally thrilled for you. 

For those of us who might be considering offering services outside of being authors, do you have any advice about getting started? How did it all happen for you? And tell us about what you’re offering and where we can find it.

A. I’d encourage anyone who has a dream to work with words to keep exploring options. I studied English at uni, then trained as a journalist, so words have always been at the heart of my learning. However, there are other routes into editing and plenty of introductory courses which enable people to dip their toes into a subject without committing to years of study. Don’t be put off by not having the ‘right’ qualifications, some people have a natural aptitude for things. If you think you can do something, give it a go! 

My services cover everything from developmental editing, right through to proofreading. Most indie authors need support in one or more stages and that’s what I aim to do. It all starts with a free discovery call to work out what they need and then I explain my process. Choosing the right editor is an important step. There’s more info on my website: www.annakmoss.co.uk

D. That’s great advice! All the varied routes to being an author is a popular theme I’ve enjoyed hearing from so many writers, and it’s great to know where to go for guidance. I’m here to tell our readers how welcoming you are, too, Anna.

You recently published your first book, The Worthy. Can you tell us about the story and how it came about? When might we expect Book Two? I love sharing previews. Can you tell us a little about what’s next in the series?

A. The core idea for The Worthy – the creature which infects people with its emotions – only came about during the plotting stage, but one of the MCs, Prince Barsten, has been with me for years. I’m heavily influenced by the likes of Abercrombie and McClellan, and their ability to weave desperately difficult characters into their stories. And Barsten is a difficult character. He’s an absolute arsehole, if I’m honest, but enormously fun to write. Readers will find his arc an interesting one and we’ll see plenty more emotional development from him in the sequel. We’ll also see the vengeful wrath of Jintin, the country that Barsten and his lords plundered in the opening chapters. And did Ailith survive the battle of Simmon’s Godshouse? 

D. This totally has me excited to crack it open! It’s loaded on my Kindle. Now I just need to dig in on those cool fall evenings coming up. And you offer signed copies on your website. Awesome! 

Also, readers… besides the links to Anna’s website sprinkled throughout our conversation, you can click on her book cover to go right to Amazon for a copy.

How did you get started writing fantasy? Is it your preferred group of genres? Do you have a niche there, or do you like exploring or have plans to explore other kinds of writing?

A. Since reading Pratchett and Tolkien as a kid, I’ve been obsessed with fantasy. As I approach my fortieth year and my cynicism has grown, my love of dark fantasy has grown with it. I relish the complexity and political intrigue, coupled with grim settings and fetid viscerality of everyday existence. Give me a character that is part good, part bad, over a shining beacon of virtue, any day of the week. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy classic fantasy anymore, but it doesn’t make me burn like darker tales. And, if I ever need light relief, I’m a total sucker for cosy mysteries.

D. Writing darker, more complex characters is a goal for me. I do tend to enjoy writing the shining beacons, but it is harder to achieve that dramatic arc in a story if they start good and end better (I’m partial to the Hobbit-like arcs apparently). Haha. So, I will be consulting you about that, and it’s another good reason to dig into The Worthy!

LGBTQ+

You create characters that span the LGBTQ+ human experience. Characters drive my writing even more than the story, and I’ve found your posts on writing diverse characters with sensitivity extremely helpful. Can you share more for us here as well as the editing services we can find for help in this area? 

A. I’m so glad you’ve found them helpful! I firmly believe that everyone, regardless of sexuality, should write more LGBTQIA+ characters. We need representation to feel accepted and worthy. I didn’t see anyone like me in books or TV when I was a kid. If I had done, I feel certain my journey to self-acceptance would’ve been radically different. I hope future generations will find their journey easier. If other authors are ever in need of advice on writing LGBTQIA+ characters, I provide sensitivity reads on a chapter or whole manuscript basis. I’m always open to informal chats too!

D. I admit when I started writing late in life a couple years ago, writing diverse characters wasn’t something I gave a lot of thought to, nor what it meant to represent more than the types of relationships I thought of as traditional. But without even trying, really fun romances of all kinds have blossomed through writing my series, and I can’t wait to get them and the amazing individuals into their own stories. Thank you for offering that assistance and sharing your experience. 

FSF Writers Alliance

As one of the founding members of our Sci Fi Writers Alliance, tell us what inspired putting together the alliance and what you find most beneficial about being involved in writing communities. Can you recommend other such resources you’ve found helpful?

A. I absolutely love the Alliance! What a bunch of cracking people. Eric (E.B.Hunter) and I were talking about engagement groups for authors and the next thing I know, he’s created the whole Alliance idea. It was totally awesome! He’s such an inspiring guy. There are another couple of discord groups I can recommend: Indie Authors Unite and Richie Billing’s Community of Writers. 

D. You’ve all been inspiring! It’s great to be part of such a global community, too. 

Readers… To learn more about the Alliance and Richie Billing, click here. And you can meet Eric here. We did a Q&A in September.

WIPS AND TIPS

Can you tell us about your works in progress, any you’re particularly fond of at the moment, and when we might expect to see them in print?

A. I’m currently working on a short story called The Siege of Drenhaven. It’s a siege mentioned in The Worthy which has stuck with me for the last couple of years. I just had to write about it! That’ll be out in the next month or so, provided I have some time outside of editing. The sequel to The Worthy is also in the works, although that’s in the plotting stage. 

D. Awesome. Again, follow Anna to stay posted.

Which of your characters in all your writing is your favorite, and why?

A. Probably Princess Ailith. If she was a real person, and I was single, I’d totally ask her out. She’s a fiercely clever, brave woman, and her dialogue is really fun to write. She says all the witty things I wish I could, but can never think of quickly enough in real life.

D. Okay, so now you’ve given me three reasons to dig into The Worthy!

What has been your biggest highlight of the last year?

A. Releasing The Worthy! It’s so surreal to have characters and settings that have only existed in your head, discussed by other people. The feedback and reviews I’ve had have been beyond my wildest dreams. I feel tremendously honoured to be part of the bookstagram community and hope my writing will continue to develop and improve. I can’t wait to share more with my readers! 

D. Congratulations again! And that reminds me to let our readers know they can find you on Instagram.

What are you most excited about over the next year?

A. Other than moving back to the Westcountry (England) and becoming a fully fledged, cider-drinking artiste, I’m really looking forward to working with more authors. Chatting with other people about their books is my absolute favourite thing to do. I’m so inspired by their creativity and passion. I know it sounds tremendously corny, but art energises art. Editing books is another wonderful way to find doors into other worlds, just like reading. The chance to talk to the creators of those worlds is a real privilege. 

D. Oh, that does sound lovely! Should I admit here that I’m a bonafide Anglophile? To live in a village and hang out at the pub is a dream. Thankfully, I got to travel for a month in the UK but that was ages ago. Sigh. Maybe, I’ll get another shot someday. For now, I will enjoy the online community of artists and your inspiration, which is why I’m so happy to share our conversation today, Anna. Thank you for the encouragement!

Any parting advice for those who dream about becoming a writer or a career in the writing industry?

A. If you ever feel stuck or uninspired, ask for help. There are so many authors out there in exactly the same position as you. They aren’t your competition, they’re your cheerleaders. I’m always open to informal chats too, so reach out if you need some advice about editing or becoming an author.

D. Fantastic and good to know! This has been a lot of fun, Anna. Thank you so much for chatting with us.

At Least My Pod People Could be Immortal

So much of my focus and efforts go into creating my characters (aka my Pod People) and bringing them to life through the written word, that I lose sight of the fact that once they are out there, they might live in the world of mankind forever… or as long as mankind exists, and the digital content or printed copies stay intact and available… But I, as their creator, don’t even have the potential to last too many more decades, maybe not even too many more years… weeks, or days…? I’m at that age after all.

It makes me wonder if that is why I create them.

What do you think about that? Do you write stories so that a piece of yourself will always exist, so long as there are humans out there who might read them? I know we write for many reasons, but I think I will have to admit this is one of mine.

Artwork by Jay Carpenter

When I think about that idea more, it makes me realize my Pod People have the upper hand. I mistakingly believed it was me who had the power over them, but it’s the other way around. That’s okay, so long as they do their job and stick in the minds of my readers.

And they have their work cut out for them…

Artwork by Timi Honkanen

Next Guest: Anna K. Moss – Sunday 16 Oct!

You won’t want to miss this awesome conversation! Join me Sunday when I post my next guest Spotlight Q&A with Dark Fantasy Author and Editor, Anna K. Moss.

Click on Cover to find it on Amazon, and free on Kindle Unlimited

Guest Spotlight with Dark Fantasy Author Lucky E. Noma

I’m so grateful to be able to chat with Lucky on a regular basis. Our conversations have been one of the highlights of my writing journey this summer. I’m so new at the craft, and though he’s from a younger generation, he’s never short on wise counsel and encouragement. So, here is some of that for you.

I’m also pleased to share Lucky’s character sketches from some of his works in progress.

I love the sweeping expanse of your fantasy worlds and epic stories. Can you talk a little about how long you’ve been writing and what inspired you to write fantasy? What fantasy genre best describes your stories?

Thanks for the compliment, nice words are always welcome here and thank you for setting up this Q&A. Where would the Alliance be without you?  

It’s hard to imagine that I’ve been writing for eight years now. It still feels like yesterday… Reading built my desire to write. I enjoyed Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, Glen Cook’s The Black Company, Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen and of course the fantasy bible: The Lord of the Rings. Apart from Butcher’s work, you’ll discover all the authors I mentioned above built vast worlds and their storytelling was top notch, too. So, one day, while reading A storm of Swords by R. R. Martin, I was like, “I think I need to write a book.” My mind grasped that idea and nursed it for weeks. I tried writing some stories but discovered I was writing what I’d read from other Authors and there was no originality… Oscar’s Wilde’s famous quote: “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinion, their lives a mimicry, their passion a quotation,” came to mind and I began to focus on new ideas. It wasn’t easy at first, but I managed to bring my ideas to life. Indeed, while I was influenced and inspired to write by the authors I mentioned above, my real inspiration came from being different. Writing something original. And though it can be argued that the two are intertwined, I believe the latter helped me hone my skills through the years. 

To answer your last question here, I’d like to point out that I love dark stories. Every time I tried to make my stories into sunshine and rainbows, I failed with the plot. Over the years, I tried to perfect the art of dark fantasies, and of course my stories are always high fantasies, too. 

Who is your favorite author(s)? What was it about his/her writing or characters that inspired you most?

Favorite author has to be R.R Martin. His ability to tell a story from ten to fifteen points of view is second to none in my opinion. Plus, like I said earlier, I love huge detailed worlds… and worlds don’t get bigger than Esteros, and Westeros. 

D. You got that right. Well. I think you’re on track for developing worlds in that magnitude!

The New Defeat is such an awesome title.  Can you tell us a little about it and where the idea came from?

The New Defeat… hmmm. December 2019, I wasn’t feeling too well, and was down for about two weeks. While sick, to lull myself to sleep when movies and music failed, I formed up stories. One story stood out which later became the title mentioned above. It was meant to be about a peculiar race, called the Zoryks. Their existence was one of survival as they’d lost their traits or superpowers. They were preyed upon because of this weakness and envied by most around them. Our protagonist had the great destiny to save his world while many only saw his poor mental health. The new defeat was supposed to reflect the sadness of being weak and misunderstood. I for one enjoyed building the world of the be defeat called the Paraworld. A continent made up of six races namely the Zoryks, Lerans, Yubs, Wingyads, Kraskors, and Solbies. Each race had its peculiar trait, and some traits were funny. For example, Zoryks became drunk from drinking honey, and had diseases like the sad sickness, the falling fingers… Other races like the Yuban (Yubs) were naturally bald, head to foot, while Wingyads had the ability to fly. There’s a lot of political intrigue too, and the villains had reasonable personalities. Book two should be out soon. 

D. That’s a great story. Our readers can click on your book cover at the end to link to The New Defeat on Amazon.

I’ve had a chance to preview some of your current works in progress and I’m excited to see them in print. Can you tell us about some of your favorites?

I’m excited about a few stories, like Thirty: Rise of the Dead which is the book of Thirty: XXX released last year. However, I’m more excited about When a Kingdom Bleeds Lords Weep. I’ve been working on this for 8 years. I’m after perfection with this story though I know it’s impossible to write a perfect book. I poured my heart into this up to a point where in 2018 I went through books one and two (over 200k words at the time) and burnt both manuscripts.  Everybody says, “You’re allowed to have shitty first drafts,” but I was having none of that. I started the project again, and I think its release is coming soon.

D. I was hoping you would share this story. When you first told me that, it impressed the heck out of me. You literally burned your manuscript to force yourself to start from the beginning again. It’s the kind of thing many of us might have wanted to do ourselves at one point but lacked the courage. Lucky is giving us a sneak peek at his cover for When Kingdom Bleeds!

The New Defeat is just one of your published books. Where can we find others? Can you point us to your short stories?

Thanks Darci, for this opportunity to point a finger toward my short stories. I have a few available here.

Which of your characters in all your writing is your favorite, and why?

That’s an exciting question, Darci. I’d like to go with Julian Mars-Stalker on this one. He’s the first son of a popular lord in the Province of Samolin. Samolin is a province in the Kingdom of Markia, and they belong to the Sanem Continent. The Continent where When a Kingdom Bleeds is set. His father had high hopes for him, whereas Julian desired the simple things in life. What I really loved about Julian was his ability to rise to every scenario thrown at him. I also liked the way he talked. Sometimes he came off rude, and at other times he was like an angel. My favorite quote from him is: “When the young do their business which the old call folly, the old should stick to their wisdom and preserve their warnings for those without lust.”

D. I love that line. What an elegant way to tell someone to stick to their own business! 

You are also so creative in illustrating your worlds with AI digital art. Is that something you do to relax and want a break from writing, or is it a passion of its own? What other creative outlets do you like to explore? 

Thanks for the compliment again, Darci. I think writing as a form of art should be expressed in other forms too. I love the idea of creating and I’m not good at drawing nor experienced in making state of the art videos. A.I art can come a long way to make it seem like you know what you’re doing when creating, and that’s why I use it as a tool. But if I had the experience or enough dollars to hire professionals, I’d stick to my writing. 

D. What I love about your images is the drama they convey. I’m drawn to the dark portentous things going on and want to know what will happen next. 

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about meeting you and other writers in our Fantasy Sci Fi Writers Alliance is that we are from all over the globe. So many different experiences! How did you first come across the group, and what perks have you discovered from being involved with a writing community?

It was all down to Eric B. Hunter’s effort. He invited me and helped me through with the basics. He’s such a nice guy, and I like the community which grew afterward in the name of Fantasy Sci Fi Writers Alliance. I think the Alliance has been fun. You get to meet nice people from everywhere and it’s been a very supportive community. 

D. Yeah. This is a good place to note that the original group has been around for a while, before Eric and Anna got the brilliant idea to brand us as the Fantasy Sci Fi Writers Alliance. And with that branding and all the current events inspired by it, the group is growing fast. If you want to learn more, click on my Alliance page.

What has been your biggest highlight of the last year?

Being alive. 

D. I’m with you there, my friend. These past few years have been tough. Here’s to celebrating still being around!

What are you most excited about over the next year?

I really can’t say because life changes in a heartbeat. I’ll keep things simple and hope I become a better writer. 

D. That’s a good way to go. And all the best to you.

What are your plans for future publications?

I’m working toward releasing Thirty: Rise of the Dead, The New Defeat two, When a Kingdom Bleeds Lords Weep and The Château between now and next year. A publishing deal? Maybe… Ha, laughs an indie author. 

D. I know you’re close on many of those. Even one publication down will be a huge accomplishment. You’re always reminding me that it will happen in time and that’s good advice. I know it will happen for you, too!

Any parting advice to those who dream about writing?

I’d go with R. R Martin’s advice, which has helped me through the years. “Write every day, even if it is only a page or two. The more you write, the better you’ll get. But don’t write in my universe, or Tolkien’s, or the Marvel universe, or the Star Trek universe, or any other borrowed background. Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings.”

Thank you. 

D. And that does sum up the challenge for a fantasy writer. This has been great, Lucky. Thank you so much for the conversation. All the best!