Character Interview: Azriel

Here’s the Character Interview I’d promised a while back. Sorry it took me so long. As with all interviews, this is technically non-Canon. It also contains potential spoilers for nearly all currently released Book of Deacon stories, and my just hint at things to come. I also decided to try something else with this one, and write it in second person, present tense. So YOU are the interviewer. Enjoy!

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Image by Bri Mercedes

Ahead lies a door, built from stout wood and aged to a pleasant gray color. Mounted in its center is a heavy brass knocker. You grasp it, feeling the cool metal in your grip and let it fall. The crisp, sharp knock prompts a muffled stirring from within.

As you wait, you take in your surroundings. It is a gorgeous glade, idyllic. The sun is warm, but lacks the harsh bite of the deep summer. The grass is a rolling carpet of feathery blades, extending to the mountains in the east and plunging down to a forest to the west. You stand barefoot upon a pathway of cobble stones, smoothed by the centuries. And before you, the cottage, wholesome and cozy, its thatched roof the playground of chirping birds and scampering squirrels.

The door opens to the dim, flame-lit interior of the cottage, and a woman steps forward to great you. She is at once matronly and grand. Her face is creased with the lines of many years, and yet strangely ageless. She looks upon you with a knowing, welcoming gaze and gestures for you to enter. In sweeping her arms to invite you inside, she spreads her billowing robe, jet black and embellished with white flame that shifted as though it truly burned.

“Welcome,” she says. “I have been expecting you.”

“You have?” you say, stepping forward and trying to take in the cottage’s interior.

Your mind is slow to place the strangely unsettling feeling the place gives you. There is nothing terrifying or foreboding about it. A small side table stands before the crackling fireplace. It is set for two, simple clay mugs waiting to be filled from a teapot, steam curling from its spout. Slices of brown bread and dishes of butter and jam lay upon a tray, waiting to be served for the forthcoming chat.

It isn’t until you turn about and take in the rest of the cottage that you realize the source of your unease. It is large. Larger by far than it would seem from the outside. Doors lead to rooms filled with book cases, and others offer glimpses to things that look like art galleries or trophy rooms. There is motion within one of the rooms, the half-heard turning of pages and thoughtful murmurs of someone deeply in study.

“Sit,” she says. “I have some time for a chat before I continue with my duties.”

“Yes… Yes, of course,” you say.

You take a seat on one of the chairs. She sits in the other. With a gesture, the pot rises of its own accord and pours out a delightfully aromatic herb tea into her own cup. When it shifts to fill your cup, you find the warm liquid has changed. It looks and smells precisely of the precise warm drink you’d been craving for ages.

After a sip confirms she’d somehow plucked a beverage from your memory, you glance down to find notes upon your lap. They are the notes you’d gathered from your own curiosity of her life and history and from others like you. Though you remember jotting the notes down, you don’t remember placing them on your lap.

“When you’re ready,” she says sweetly.

There is no threat in her words, but you feel oddly compelled to avoid further delay.

“I suppose a good place to begin would be your name.”

“Azriel,” she says. “Arch-Mage Azriel, if we are being formal.”

“Is that your full name? Do you have a family name?”

She sips her tea. “No. No family name. Not a permanent one, at any rate. It is difficult to say I truly have a home—I traveled quite a bit in my upbringing, but my parents spent much of their lives in a village in the Eastern end of the Daggergale Mountains. They had something of an odd tradition, one that I’ve grown quite fond of in the years. They felt that you do not belong to anyone or to any place at the time of your birth. Though you may have a family, and though you may love them, and though you may take great pride in the land of your birth, as a child you are not who you will become. Only time can uncover who you truly are, and where and to whom you truly belong. Thus, your proper name is earned, it is revealed by the choices you make and the things you achieve.”

She took another sip. “I am told it is a tradition that comes from the dwarfs of those mountains. It shows, I suppose. Half of them are Ironhammer this and Copperworker that.”

“Then what name did time uncover for you?”

“Ah, yes, of course. I’d wandered a bit there, didn’t I. The mind tends to travel a few extra garden paths when I think of the old days. It can be fairly said that Entwell is both my home and my greatest achievement. Azriel of Entwell then. Again, more formally, Arch-Mage Azriel Num Entwell Num Garastra.” She shook her head. “A terrible mouthful, that.”

You spread some jam on a piece of bread and take a bite. It is startlingly good, once again like the most delicious breakfast from your memories has been plucked free for you to relive.

“I seem to remember Deacon having a similar reply regarding his own name,” you say, doing your best not to spray crumbs as you speak.

“He has a good head on his shoulders, that one.”

“You… you aren’t his mother, are you?”

She chuckles. “No. I’ve not been terribly interested in dalliances of the sort that might result in children for some time. Well before his birth.”

“I see. I wonder, would you care to share what your upbringing was like? Your teenaged years?”

“My teenaged years? Odd to focus on those. Aren’t we all little more than animals at that point? Excepting, of course, fairies. By their teens most of them are as wise as they are likely to get. But, if you must know, those years were spent much as the rest of the first thirty years or so of my life were. My parents had seen in me an aptitude for magic, and so I was sent to apprentice to the best practitioners in the world.”

“So you were always as powerful as you are today?”

“I was born with the potential, certainly, but if I’d not been pushed to pursue it. I might have ended up sweeping alleys or cooking stews if the keen eye of our local conjurer hadn’t seen a strength in the spirits of my family. We had the means to develop it, for my sister and I, so off we went.  Kenvard, Vulcrest, Tressor. I was even lucky enough to spend a few years working my way up from the tip of South Crescent and back. By then I was in my twenties, mind you.”

“How did you manage that?”

“I was a court wizard for the King of Kenvard at the time. Situated as his kingdom was on the wrong side of the continent to have any contact with the Crescents, he decided I should represent the kingdom and financed my trip. Quite a forward-thinking man.”

“And you’d mentioned Tressor. Was that not problematic, with the war?”

Again she chuckles. “It is delightful to have one’s age so thoroughly underestimated. This was over four hundred years ago. Well before the Perpetual War.”

“Ah, that’s right. It is easy to forget that, since. Well… a word, if it isn’t to bold, about your appearance?”

She raises an eyebrow. “So long as it is diplomatic.”

“As a wizard, as ancient as you are powerful, surely you are able to choose how you appear.”

“One need not be particularly ancient or particularly powerful to achieve that. Manipulating one’s appearance can be learned quite early in one’s career if one is not so foolish as to turn one’s nose up at the treasure-trove of Gray Magic.”

“What I mean to say is, though I have seen you appear both young and old, why do you prefer to look as you do?”

“As you see me is as you see myself. When my feelings change, so too does my appearance.”

“But why not always appear young?”

“What, precisely, makes a youthful appearance preferable? And more to the point, if one is not limited by the whims of nature to one’s appearance, why limit oneself to a single appearance?”

“I hadn’t thought of that…”

“Few young people have.”

“I’d like to speak about when you first entered the cave of the beast. What were you seeking?”

She sighs. “Ah… I wish I could tell you it was something more complex or noble, but I came seeking the same foolish nonsense that most others did. I sought to earn the glory of defeating the Beast of the Cave. I felt it would establish to all, and perhaps most importantly to myself, that mine was the greatest power, the greatest knowledge. A waste of time, honestly. But again, the greatest trick our creators played upon their children was to curse us with so many, many years before we finally reach the age of reason.”

“And what age is that?”

She smiles. “I am not entirely certain I’ve reached it yet.”

“And the beast, it existed even then?”

“In so much as it ever existed. Dozens of the greatest warriors had sought to do as I had done. None had returned. If the cave’s treacherous nature can truly be considered the beast we all believed we were braving its depths to find, then I imagine I can rightly be called the one who finally bested the monster. When I dragged myself, barely alive, to the place we now call the belly of the beast, I could see that I was the first to discover it.”

As you listen, you enjoy another slice of bread, this one spread with the most delightfully creamy butter you’ve ever tasted. You almost hate to pause long enough to ask your next question.

“You have had an eventful life. Seen many sights, met many people, encountered many creatures. Some have been good, others evil.”

“Most assuredly.” She sipped her tea.

“If it isn’t too forward to ask, where do you stand on that spectrum?”

“On the spectrum of good to evil?” She sets down her cup. “That is a matter of perspective, don’t you think?”

“From your perspective, then.”

“From our own perspective, we are all on the side of good. I suspect I am a good deal nearer to the center than most would prefer.”

“Why do you say that?”

“My focus can be quite narrow. I seldom feel compelled to inflict my considerable will upon the world, in one direction or the other. For those who feel the weight of justice upon their shoulders, I am sure my inclinations can be frustratingly neutral.”

You take a breath. The hesitation must be showing on your face, she prompts you.

“Please. Despite what you may have heard of my temper in the past, you are not a student of mine.” She rolled her eyes. “I am between students at the moment, thanks to a minor disagreement with the Elder. Regardless, I know not to show my claws to the uninitiated.”

“Where, on the same scale of good and evil, do you feel your sister stands.”

“Ah… And so I understand your hesitation. Turiel is a rather sore subject at present, isn’t she? And where does she stand on the scale of good and evil. A good deal further from the center, I would say.”

“On which side?”

“Again, that depends upon from which side she is being viewed. But I believe she is good.”

You sit forward, disbelief evident on your face. “Good? You honestly believe your sister is good.”

Azriel’s face becomes stern. The world outside the windows dims, as though a dark cloud had rolled past the sun.

“I am always honest, and quite certain of my beliefs.”

Your next words are hasty, and drenched with nerves. “I meant no offense, but… Azriel, you claim you consider yourself to be largely neutral. If I understand you correctly, you consider Turiel to be more virtuous than you are.”

“I absolutely feel that way.”

“But… Turiel summoned the D’Karon. She battled the chosen!”

Azriel shuts her eyes. “She has made regrettable decisions. But good and evil are about intention. There is no denying she brought a blight upon the world. But it was all in the aim of learning, of bettering herself, and to my great shame, the aim of that improvement was to bring closure to the great unanswered question with which I had left her. She wanted, like me, to defeat the beast.”

“But why do you believe she is better than you? Why is she further from the center?”

“Because my own thoughts through most of my life have, as I have said, been largely focused quite narrowly upon myself. Turiel’s thoughts have always been focused upon others.  The darker results of her efforts were hidden from her for most of her life. Her more recent decisions were shortsighted, but even then she truly believed she was bringing about a great good, not a great evil.”

“Her behavior… Azriel, she had no regard for innocent life. Surely that is evil.”

Azriel shakes her head slowly. “Not so. Turiel is a necromancer. Not only does she know the precise value of life, in terms those less versed in her arts could never hope to understand, she comprehends how thin the line is that separates life from death. And she doesn’t view life to be superior to death. This view, I will admit, is a view that pushes her a bit further from pure righteousness than most would prefer.”

“Did you have any clue what she’d done with her misguided anger?”

“Her anger was directed at the creature she believed had killed her sister. In my opinion it was misguided only in that she was mistaken about my fate.”

“But… you say she didn’t see much difference in life and death. Why would your death affect her so?”

“Because she could not feel me. The mountains hit my spirit from her, and hers from me. She should have been able to commune with me, even in death. That she could not, in her mind, could only have meant the beast had imprisoned my soul in some way, or perhaps destroyed me utterly. This was a fate she could not abide for her sister, or a crime she could not allow to go unavenged.”

“Did you have any idea what she was doing on your behalf.”

“In the earliest days, the ones just following my own arrival here, I was barely alive. And in the years that followed, Turiel was barely alive. And as Entwell grew and its possibilities blossomed, it shames me to say my thoughts seldom drifted to her. Again, she is far further along the line of virtue than I, even if her dedication brought about terrible results.”

“That brings me to my final question, and it deals with those very deeds. The arrival of the D’Karon. Why, after they arrived, after you finally learned beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were present and what they intended to do, did you remain behind and do nothing to stop them?”

“Didn’t I? You’ll recall I helped deliver Deacon.”

“Certainly, but you didn’t take any direct action yourself.”

“Didn’t I?”

“… Did you?”

Azriel topped off her cup of tea. “It, I think, is a tale for another time. But for now I shall leave you with this. There are some questions of the Chosen and their victory that have yet to be answered. And for some of these questions, the answer is Azriel.”

“But what does that…”

Before you can finish your question, the world seems to shift around you. The cottage wafts away like colored smoke. The only thing that lingers, and only for a moment, are Azriel’s grinning eyes. For a few seconds you exist in a void of black, then slowly the world resolves again and you are precisely where you had been before you resolved to question the Arch-Mage. You shakily take a seat, and lick your lips, where the flavor of her refreshments remains.

 

The Lone Wolf Anthology

A Dark Fantasy Story Collection

Check it out, a new, Amazon Exclusive book featuring some Book of Deacon lore!

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A while back, a fellow author named Derek Siddoway approached me to make a pair of contributions to an anthology of short stories he was putting together. He was calling it The Lone Wolf Anthology, and thus the theme of the anthology should be pretty easy to figure out. This one’s all about characters who prefer to work alone.

It’s a pretty darn good lineup, so before I talk about my contribution, look at the authors in this thing, here paired up with their most famous series:

  • Introduction by Michael Fletcher (Manifest Delusions)
  • Ben Galley (Emaneska, The Scarlet Star Trilogy)
  • Derek Alan Siddoway (Teutevar Saga)
  • James Downe (Legacy of Ash)
  • Joseph R. Lallo (The Book of Deacon)
  • Jeffrey Poole (Tales of Lentari, Bakkian Chronicles)
  • Timandra Whitecastle (The Living Blade)
  • Michael D. LeFevre (Ghost of the Black Bull)
  • Damon J. Courtney (Dragon Bond)

Nice, huh? It seemed like it would be a fun project, so I put some thought into it and asked a few fans. Naturally one character in particular comes to mind when one uses the phrase “lone wolf” in my stories… though maybe “lone fox” would make more sense. Alas, Lain is still slotted for a few LONGER stories, so I felt the short should focus on someone who has never had the spotlight. Thus, a character which is technically named Rasa but is known by some fans as “The Frozen Chosen” got his moment to shine. I call the story The Rules of the Game.

However, I was asked to write two stories. For the second one, I decided to adapt one of those famous “Bad Idea Exercises” that had clogged my brain for far too long. Originally it was an idea slated for Ivy, but trying to work it into one of the other stories really felt like it was a stretch, so I set it aside. Now it is a standalone story with a musical twist that I call The Dwarfendam Run.

Both are short stories, somewhere in the 8,000 to 10,000 word range, and they join a host of other great tales. Right now the book is available exclusively on Amazon and you can read it for free if you’ve got access to Kindle Unlimited, so check it out!

A New Sci-Fi Bundle

Well what do you know, two newsletters in a row about bundles!

Hi everyone! For a while, I’ve been downright taunting you with a gorgeous cover for the Big Sigma Collection: Volume 1. Well, good news. The wait is over. But, even better news, that book is not coming going to be alone!

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I’m pleased to announce the latest of the bundles I’ve curated for StoryBundle. We’re calling it the Sci-Fi Adventure Bundle, and it might just be the biggest and best bundle I’ve put together so far. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’re already aware of StoryBundle. For the newcomers, here’s the quick version:
StoryBundle puts together collections of books to be sold for a limited time at a price of your choosing. These are eBooks, free of pesky DRM, and usable on just about any ebook platform you’re likely to have. There’s an entry level which you can get for as little as $5, and a bonus level starting at $15 that’ll get you a bunch of bonus books, and you can even designate a slice of your payment to go to one of the associated charities.

So, what have I picked for you good people? Oh, I think you’ll like it. In the $5 base bundle you get:

  • Cyborg Legacy by Lindsay Buroker
  • The Big Sigma Collection: Volume 1 by yours truly (more on this in the next section of this very email.)
  • Undersea by Geoffrey Morrison
  • Shifting Reality by Patty Jansen

If you’re feeling like a big spender and have $15 or more dollars to toss around, you get this whole haul:

  • Brining Stella Home by Joe Vasicek
  • Temporal Contingency by me again.
  • Undersea Atrophia by Geoffrey Morrison
  • Oasis by Dima Zales
  • Stopover at the Backworlds’ Edge by M. Pax
  • Ambassador 1A: The Sahara Conspiracy by Patty Jansen
  • Contract of Betrayal by Tammy Salyer
  • Scavenger: Evolution by Timothy C. Ward

And if you’re on the StoryBundle mailing list, you got TWO MORE BOOKS, Seeing Red by Patty Jansen and The Backworlds by M. Pax.

Pretty good, huh? I handpicked these authors either because the book itself is top notch or because they have proved time and again that they are masters of the genre. “But Jo,” you may ask, “Does that mean you haven’t read every one of these books?” As a matter of fact, I haven’t! Because Cyborg Legacy didn’t exist until shortly before this bundle was ready to launch. That’s right, Lindsay Buroker is debuting that title right here in the bundle. And let’s not forget that The Big Sigma Collection is debuting here as well! Scroll down to read the details about that little title, but not before you pick up the bundle!

The Big Sigma Collection

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Like The Book of Deacon Anthology, The Big Sigma Collection is intended to be a starting point for people who want to read my sci-fi stories but don’t want to have to buy a whole stack of books. The collection includes all three of the first books in the series: Bypass Gemini, Unstable Prototypes, and Artificial Evolution. But rather than just gathering together a bunch of stuff you’ve already read, I also took some time last year to write three brand new stories:

  • Squee’s Day Out – An unlikely short story about Squee the Funk’s mischievous adventure while Lex and Michella are away.
  • Building the Perfect Pet – The untold story of how Solby the Funk came to be.
  • Beta Testers – A novella detailing the first time Garotte and Silo worked together in an unsanctioned military operation.

Combined, these new stories total about 75,000 words. For people who write normal length books, that’s a whole new novel. For people like me who tend toward the longer stories, it’s about half of one. Either way, a few hours of fresh reading for you.

Here’s where the bundle above comes in. It would be a pain to have to buy three books you already own just to get the new short stories, wouldn’t it? Well, if you buy that bundle, whether you get the standard or bonus bundle levels, if you pay the lowest amount, that works out to about a dollar a book. Which means you can get the collection for about a buck, which is a fair price for a trio of brand new short stories, I’d say.

“But Jo,” you might object, “I don’t want to have to pay for all of those other books, regardless of how good you claim they are.”

Well, Mr./Mrs. Doubter, I’ve got good news for you! Once the bundle is over (next month), there will be a very short pre-order and then this book will be available for $7.99 in all the usual places, purchasable by itself on the device of your preference.

“But Jo,” you might further object, “What if I don’t want to have to pay so much just to get a few extra short stories?”

Well, my frugal friend, there’s a solution for you as well, but it involves that rarest of traits: patience. Over the course of the next five months I will be rolling out one story per month as newsletter perks. This will include all three short stories included here, plus a pair of fantasy stories we’ll discuss in the weeks ahead.

So there you go! Pick up the Bundle to get this for a price of your choice (as little as $5 for it and four other books), buy it in February for $7.99, or wait and get the new stuff for free. Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy it!

Looking Back on 2016 and Looking Forward to 2017

It’s been a heck of a year, hasn’t it folks? Don’t worry. This isn’t a post about how awful 2016 was. There are plenty of those to go around. Instead, I’m going to talk a bit about what this year looked like from the point of view of my writing and self-publishing journey. First let’s look at the new releases.

In 2016 I put out four full length titles: Temporal Contingency (Big Sigma 4), Ichor Well (Free-Wrench 3), The Redemption of Desmeres (The Book of Deacon 3.5), and Between. I can’t say any of them were blockbusters, but those of you that have read them all seem quite satisfied. The reviews I’ve gotten are positive, and while they haven’t all made back their cost, they’re still earning, so it’s just a matter of time.

Aside from my direct releases, there are also a few supplementary releases to talk about. I self-financed a reading of The D’Karon Apprentice (Book of Deacon 4). It’s the second audio book I’ve done via ACX, and though I’m thrilled with the narration and the quality of the result, it looks like it’s going to be a long time before I earn back the cost. A good performer costs money, and as it stands right now, the demand for audio editions of my stories doesn’t quite justify it.

Meanwhile, Books in Motion picked up several of my other stories for publication. This year Bypass Gemini and Unstable Prototypes released. Since they paid me an advance, technically I’ve already made a profit on those. Neat, huh?

The Great Convergence was released in Germany and has been quite successful, might I add.

In non-book news, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast, which I co-host with Lindsay Buroker and Jeff Poole, passed the 100th episode. We’re developing quite a following, and I’ve heard from a number of people that it has been extremely helpful, and ranks among their favorite author podcasts. Its humbling to be of value to my fellow author types, and though Lindsay is unquestionably the driving force of the podcast, I’m happy to add what value I can.

Whenever I commission a piece of art, particularly figurines, I always get a bunch of people asking me where they can buy one. In 2016 I decided to give people that option, if they had deep enough pockets. The figurines I commission cost at least $100 a piece (often much more) but thanks to the sculpting prowess Leilia Clay and the digital artistry of Liz Landis, I was able to make Solby/Squee and Myn available in full color or one color 3D prints via Shapeways. You can also get a nifty Myn Pendant and some other stuff, if you’re interested.

While we’re on the subject, I also had some neat stickers printed, and I’ve still got some bookmarks and bookplates. You can only get those by sending me a self-addressed, stamped envelope (international folks, email me to figure out the postage alternative). Send your letters (and goodies, why not?) to:

Joseph R. Lallo
PO Box 190
Colonia, NJ 07067

 

So that’s the year that was. Now, let’s look ahead.

I’ve got a few things already finished and either awaiting an edit or a cover. There’s The Big Sigma Collection: Volume 1, which will release next month (hopefully). I’ve also completed Free-Wrench 4, and a story called Pizza Dragon. There’s also a short story collection called “Lone Wolf” that will include two stories, one of which is in the Book of Deacon series.

Thanks to a vote, at least Book of Deacon 5 and probably The Rise of the Red Shadow 2 will be written next year as well.

There are some new things I’m trying for 2017, too. For the first time, I’m writing something in someone else’s setting. Lindsay Buroker opened up her Fallen Empire series for Kindle Worlds, and I’ve thrown my hat in the ring to write something. I wrote the first words in that project today and I’m going to try my darnedest to get it released for the official launch in April. I’ve also written a children’s book that is being illustrated as we speak.

You can also expect to see Artificial Evolution become an audio book, as well as at least Free-Wrench, if not Skykeep as well.

Aside from the writing, what are my plans for 2017? Well, like everyone I’m hoping to get a little healthier. I wasn’t as disciplined as I’d like to be in almost any way this year, and I’m hoping I can improve that next year. That means higher word counts, and more books overall. Hopefully I can get on a better schedule, too. And frankly, the time has come to start reading more regularly. My brain needs feeding.

That’s about it for me! Hope you had a good 2016 and here’s hoping for an even better 2017.

The Leading Ladies Bundle

The D’Karon Apprentice joins an epic lineup of fantasy stories with non-distressed damsels

If you’ve read just about any of my books, you’ll know that I’m no stranger to the popular fantasy tropes. Dragons, wizards, prophecies, etc. They’re classic story elements for a reason! But one cliche I tend not to use is the traditional “Damsel in Distress.” Let’s face it, ladies don’t always get a chance to be heroic in fantasy stories. Often they exist as little more than the target of courtly romance and/or a McGuffin for the hero to fetch, in either case wearing a thoroughly impractical ensemble. It can make for an interesting story if written well, but that’s seldom been the sort of story I wanted to tell.

It turns out, I’m not alone!

StoryBundle and Charlotte E. English — both of whom I’ve worked with multiple times in the past — have teamed up to produce The Leading Ladies Bundle. This is a limited time, name-your-own-price bundle of stories with a strong female lead or a supporting cast of capable ladies. The D’Karon Apprentice–ironically the book of mine with the most scantily clad lady on the cover–joins works from such heavy hitters as Lindsay Buroker (another person with whom I’ve frequently collaborated), Annie Bellet, and (of course) Charlotte E. English. Here’s the full lineup, plus some words from the curator herself.

In these tales of derring-do, the ladies have stepped firmly out of the background. Not every story is female-led, though many are. In some of these books, they’re taking centre stage and rocking it. In others, it’s a supporting cast of women that shines.

I have for you an aristocratic amateur sleuth and a wayward forest witch from W. R. Gingell; a top mathematician and codebreaker from Lindsay Buroker; and from Joseph Robert Lewis and J. Zachary Pike, elf ladies as we’ve never seen them before. There’s a cursed princess from Annie Bellet, a brilliant scholarly mage from Rachel Cotterill, and a cast of wizards, necromancers and dragons from Joseph Lallo. And from me, there’s a predominantly female team of wily masqueraders with a grand mystery to solve.

These books cover a range of fantasy sub-genres, from comic to epic to romantic to adventure fantasy. They’ll take you to diverse fantasy worlds, and show you how spectacular leading ladies can be.

– Charlotte E. English

The initial titles in the Leading Ladies Fantasy Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • Elf Saga – Doomsday (Omnibus Edition) by Joseph Robert Lewis
  • The D’Karon Apprentice by Joseph R. Lallo
  • Watersmeet by Rachel Cotterill
  • Masque by W.R. Gingell
  • Encrypted – Forgotten Ages Book 1 by Lindsay Buroker

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more!

  • Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike
  • Seven Dreams by Charlotte E. English
  • Gryphonpike Chronicles Volume 1: The Barrows by Annie Bellet
  • Wolfskin by W.R. Gingell
  • Decrypted – Forgotten Ages Book 2 by Lindsay Buroker
Quite a deal, wouldn’t you say? I hope you’ll pick it up! And you can do so starting now over at StoryBundle!

Between Release

It’s time for a new book, everyone! Between is available wherever books are sold. For the first week or so it’ll be $0.99, so if you want it cheap, get it early! After that, the price will go back up to $3.99.

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Here’s the blurb:

Between is a new sci-fi/fantasy adventure from the mind behind The Book of Deacon, Free-Wrench, and Big Sigma.

Philo Middleton wasn’t having a very good day. It began with him waking up strapped to a chair inside a strange, high-tech chamber. His mind was wiped clean, even his own name unfamiliar to him. And yet somehow things went sharply downhill from there.

After being collected by Rill, a three-headed sea serpent with a curious set of dispositions, he learned he had somehow found his way to a place known by its many displaced residents as The Between. It wasn’t so much a location as a lack of location. Time did not exist there. The concepts of direction, distance, and gravity were subjective at best. Worst of all, with laws of physics dictated largely by whim, science and technology were nearly worthless. Those with a mind for magic held all the power, and those unfortunate ‘science-types?’ They did what they were told.

Philo was quickly joined by a cast of characters unified only in their desires to survive and one day return to their homes. Along with Rill, he soon found himself either aligned or at odds with creatures like Trixie the mechanically-inclined demon, Mr. Stubbs the scheming hobgoblin, and the vampiric Duke. They worked as the all-purpose henchmen known as ‘fetchers’ for the adorably nefarious Overseer.

If he wanted to survive, Philo would have to find a way to make himself useful, and if he wanted to escape, he would have to find people he could trust. Too bad the only thing rarer than a useful science-type was a trustworthy fetcher.

This was a fun one. Not what I’d call a major release, because let’s face it, Book of Deacon and Big Sigma are where my bread is buttered, but fun nonetheless. If you’ve not been following closely, then you should know that an unedited version of the first 2/3rds of this story was released on a weekly basis on Wattpad a while back, but when it failed to get traction over there I sidelined it, then finally decided to finish it this year.

As I’ve said before, this was the way I put “The Bad Idea Exercise” to work for me. If I got a bad idea lodged in my head, I would write it down just to clear my brain so I could move on. Often I would just throw that idea way. (Call it preemptive editing.) But sometimes I felt there was the kernel of quality buried somewhere in there, so I’d hang onto it. Eventually I had tens of thousands of words mounded up in that document, so I decided to see if it could be made into something resembling a cohesive plot. And it turns out, yes! I could!

I hope you like the story. And while you’re reading, why not play one of these little games?

Crossover Watch: This story has two subtle-to-not-so-subtle elements that are explicitly crossovers from the Big Sigma and Book of Deacon Universes. You might even spot a Free-Wrench reference.

Origin Hunting: Most of the characters/events in the story and several whole lines were originally rejected ideas from other stories. As you read, maybe try to figure out where a given character came from!

I hope you pick up Between and enjoy it. If you do, let me know. Better yet, let everyone else know with a nice review!

Audio Giveaway and NYCC

Hi folks!

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Just a quick couple of notes today. First, Karyn O’Bryant–a name you’ll know if you’ve been following the releases of my audiobooks–emailed me to let me know she’s got an extra copy of The Battle of Verril on CD. She’s interested in giving it away to a fan of the series, and I’ve got a few copies of the other titles, so we’ve decided to run a giveaway. If you’d like a chance to win, check out the gleam.io giveaway. Contest ends October 12th.

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Also, if you’d like to meet me in person and you’re in the NYC area for New York Comic Con, I’ll once again be attending. Email or tweet me if you’re attending and maybe I can schedule a meetup in Artist’s Alley like last year.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

Updates and Such

Hi folks!

Good heavens, it’s been a while since I did a good old fashioned blog post. It turns out very few people actually check my website for updates, so I divert most of my news to my twitter and facebook pages. But I decided now might be a good time to have a nice blast from the past and dust off the blog.

So, what have I been up to? Well, a while back I was asked to produce a few stories for a fantasy anthology about lone wolf characters. I wrote two stories, tentatively named The Dwarfindam Run and The Rules of the Game. Those’ll be out in the anthology at the end of the year, and eventually will cycle into the newsletter perk list. (A good reason to sign up for the newsletter, if you haven’t already.) One of them, The Rules of the Game, is tied to the Book of Deacon series. The other is a one-off not related to (or set in) the Book of Deacon world. Unless I change my mind about that.

I’ve also got a cover for The Big Sigma Collection: Volume 1, an anthology of the first three books in the Big Sigma series. It will include at least two, probably three short works/novellas. Those are the stories I’m working on now, and like the Lone Wolf Shorts, will eventually make their way into the Newsletter Perks. Wanna see the cover? Here it is, as always, illustrated by Nick Deligaris.

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And so the series has its emblem.

People who faithfully read every ridiculous thing I write will be familiar with Between. It’s sitting in basically unedited, incomplete form on Wattpad right now. It recently received a brush-up and completion, and will be available in novel form “soon.” In this case, soon is defined as after the second pass of the edit is finished and after I get a cover for that too. However, seeing as how it’s likely to be my next full-length novel to release, I’ve been accumulating artwork. Here’s The Overseer by robo-shark.

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As evil as he is adorable, I assure you.

The inimitable spookychan drew a picture of Trixie as well.

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I look forward to introducing the rest of the characters eventually.

And finally, for those of you who entered the audio-book contest, thanks! The winners have been drawn. Keep your eyes peeled for a potential “second chance” contest to get another shot at winning The D’Karon Apprentice in audio-book form!

Thanks for reading!

The D’Karon Apprentice Audiobook Giveaway

Hi folks! Audible gave me a stack of codes for free copies of The D’Karon Apprentice. I’ve decided to give ten of them away via a fancy raffle! If you’re an audible user (or have been thinking of becoming one) go ahead and enter the raffle for a chance to get a code for all 21+ hours of Karyn O’Bryant-narrated Book of Deacon goodness!

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D’Karon Apprentice Audiobook Giveaway

Ichor Well is Available Now!

The third book in the Free-Wrench Series has finally been released!

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Nita, Lil, and Wink, and the rest of the Wind Breaker crew continue their adventures today. If you’re impatient to get to it, pick it up now on Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and everywhere else! And if you haven’t started the series? Now’s a great time to start, because Book 1 is FREE for a limited time on all the same stores!

Free-Wrench continues to astound me with its success. Those who have been with me long enough will know that it began as a NaNoWriMo experiment. Back then the theory was I’d do a new standalone story each NaNoWriMo to stretch my writing chops. You folks quickly put a stop to that, making it clear NaNoWriMo was destined to be “the month of steampunk” for the foreseeable future. Ichor Well is by a wide margin my longest Free-Wrench story, and as you’ll see in the blurb below, I feel it’s got a pretty darn nifty plot.

Ichor Well is the third adventure in the Free-Wrench Series of Steampunk novels.

Ever since Nita Graus left her homeland and joined the crew of the Wind Breaker, the reputation of the airship and its crew has been growing. The destruction of the mighty dreadnought, the escape from the legendary Skykeep, and the inexplicable ability to remain hidden from the ever-watchful eye of the Fug Folk have combined to make her and her fellow crew the stuff of legend. Alas, legendary heroes cannot exist for long without attracting a worthy villain. Luscious P. Alabaster strives to be just that foe.

While he works his nefarious plans, the crew itself is not without turmoil. Captain Mack, already having survived far more years in the hostile skies than he had any right to expect, is making plans for his golden years. The crew is gradually learning all that Nita can teach them, leaving her with the looming decision of whether or not she still has a place among the crew.

Before the matter of the future can be settled, the crew has the problems at hand to solve. And in escaping the webs woven by the cunning and eccentric Alabaster, they may discover the darkest secrets the churning and toxic Fug has to hide.

Followers of my various social media accounts have been treated to some recent artwork of the characters returning or debuting in this story. We’ll start with robo-shark’s recent illustration of Wink and Nikita, two of the adorable/surly inspectors that call the Wind Breaker their home.

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By far the most substantial addition to my character artwork for the Free-Wrench series comes courtesy of SpookyChan.

Here’s Nita.

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And Lil. (This may well be the definitive picture of the maniacally enthusiastic Chastity “Lil’ Coop” Cooper.

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And finally, the nefarious LUCIUS P. ALABASTER! You haven’t met him yet. But you will…

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Once again, this book is now on Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords! If you like it, please remember to leave a review.

The Redemption of Desmeres

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This being the Book of Deacon Newsletter, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind folks that The Redemption of Desmeres, my latest Book of Deacon story, is available now. This one slipped under the radar a bit, what with it’s sudden, surprise release a few weeks ago, but the reviews have been great. If you missed it, pick it up! If you’ve read it, please let me know what you think. If people enjoy the further story of Desmeres, it might be fun to explore other characters, or even further stories of Desmeres and his growing circle of friends and allies.