Sneak Peek into The Underground

Want an inside look into my new story? Strange Waters, a Phoenix Fiction Writers anthology, will be published in October 19th with 9 new stories from some of the best spec-fic indie writers around. Enjoy this small taste of my addition: The Underground.

***

A forceful pounding jerked Hiya from her dream. Heart racing, she sucked in a breath and rose from the mat, trembling.

“What…?” Kef’s form jerked up from beside the dying fire, his features indistinct in the darkness.

“Someone’s at the door,” Hiya said as another fierce pounding jarred her ears.

“Really? I couldn’t tell.” Kef’s irritated tone, perhaps funny during the day, only grated on her nerves. Everything was worse in the middle of the night, including sarcasm.

“Oh, stop,” she said, pulling on a robe and shuffling to the door. The dirt was cool under her feet. “Who is it?” she asked, pressing her ear against the wooden door.

“Something is wrong with Kaila!”

She recognized the voice. Ballan was a neighbor in the adjoining Burrow. He had come this far in the middle of the night? Kaila must be ill.

“Hang on!” she called and reached to unlatch the door. It swung open.

Ballan’s anxious face was illuminated by bright moonlight. “Kaila has taken sick. Please, will you come?”

Kef moved to stand behind Hiya. He was tall and skinny, and only a single cycle younger than her. Still, he tended to try to act like he was the eldest. “It is late, Priori,” he said. “Can this wait?”

Ballan reached as if to grab Hiya, but Kef blocked his arm and shoved Hiya backward. She caught a brief glimpse of Ballan’s anxious face. No, not anxious. Terrified.

“She was attacked. Please! You are the best healer in miles.” He took a few steps backward, raising his arms is if in surrender. He meant no harm, but fear was apparently making him desperate. Why? Kaila was old – at least fifty cycles – and lived alone. Ballan was Priori, of course, and therefore responsible in a civic way for Kaila. But he didn’t carry the bond and responsibility of family; it wasn’t the Raizani way.

“I will come,” Hiya said, more from curiosity than anything altruistic.

Kef cast a sharp glance her way but kept his mouth shut. She held back a smile. They had been taking care of each other since they were children, but he had only recently stopped trying to dictate her life. Maybe he figured she was finally old enough. Five and twenty spans was considered almost old in their society. Death tended to come early for those of the Raized Domains. Death, or slavery. The Unknown Divinity had abandoned them long ago. He had taken the Deep with him. Kef always said that she was wrong, and the Divinity must have a plan. But Hiya dismissed it as fantasy.

Ballan was pacing outside when she emerged after gathering her medical pack. She had dressed hurriedly in her fala and head covering. Ballan dashed into the night as he caught sight of her. She grunted and quickened her pace, trying to keep track of him in the darkness.

The village was asleep, most of the huts built into the hillsides scattering the Green. A cat hissed as they passed; the only sign of life. A curtain ruffled on Juj’s place, but it might have been the wind. Hiya gripped the pack tight and squinted as she jogged to catch Ballan, who stopped and looked over his shoulder. He gestured, and she huffed, gritting her teeth. It wasn’t like she hadn’t just been awakened from a deep sleep two seconds ago. The man needed to relax.

It took them over an hour to finally arrive at his Burrow. The sun was hinting at breaking the horizon, casting gloomy shadows over the tops of the wooden huts. Where Hiya’s Burrow was built into the hills, this one was crawling up the massive trees of the Fathom Forest. Bridges spanned overhead, connecting huts, stores, and breweries. It gave an air of wealth to Fathom Burrow, one Hiya tended to dislike. Just because they lived above ground didn’t make them better than anyone else.

Maybe that’s why she was grumpy. Fathomers only deigned to befriend Hiya’s Burrow so they could use them when needed. Like now.

The sun broke through the trees just as they entered Kaila’s hut. It was on the ground, built around a giant tree, with a ladder leading to the rest of the clan’s dwelling in the branches. Last time Hiya had been here, Kaila told her it was because she was too old to be climbing anymore.

Kaila was stretched on her bed, barely breathing. Hiya scanned her frail body with a practiced eye, keeping her face stoic. Several of Kaila’s family surrounded her, pressing in, eyes anxiously watching.

“Move back,” Hiya ordered, kneeling at the bed. The family tried, but there wasn’t much room in the hut.

Huge gashes lined Kaila’s back, from an animal Hiya had never seen before. Not gashes, really. Had a cutter performed some sort of surgery? The skin from her shoulders, down her sides, to her buttocks had been peeled back, and someone had reattached the skin with crude stitches. So, no. Not a cutter. It looked as if she had been peeled like a fruit and then the skin glued back on.

“What is wrong with her?” someone asked. Hiya ignored them. A terrible feeling lodged in her stomach. She had seen something like this once before, long ago. It brought a surge of fear, so strong it made her dizzy. She laid a settling hand on the bed and took a deep breath. She couldn’t run, not now. Maybe she could finally figure out exactly what had happened to Gro and Gra.

“Everyone needs to leave this hut right now.” She tried to keep the tremor from her voice, so they could hear the authority behind it.

No one moved.

Hiya cast a glance at Ballan. “Make them do as I say, otherwise, I can’t guarantee their safety.”

***

Want more? Joining my mailing list, check out my other works, or comment below!

Story Reveal: The Underground

Coming in October, Strange Waters is an anthology collective published by the Phoenix Fiction Writers, of which yours truly is a member. This group of speculative fiction writers are truly some of the best writers, and people, that I know.

My story, The Underground, is a part of the anthology. Check out the cover and blurb:-)

TheUndergroundfinalcover

What if everything you believed was actually true?

His whole life, Kef has been told he is too idealistic. His older sister, Hiya, insists the Deep is a lost memory. It disappeared from the Raized Domains centuries ago.  Kef wants to believe the Domains haven’t been abandoned, but everything points to the contrary. Their parents mysteriously vanished. People keep turning up dead or missing. And then, Hiya is taken by the feared Dragons. 

Kef will stop at nothing to rescue her, including traversing to the Underground itself to take on the Dragons. What he finds there will change the whole sphere: but will he be too late to rescue Hiya? 

*This story can be read as a standalone. Fans of the Steward Saga will enjoy this tale which is set between part three,The Last Steward, and part four, Soulbound, set to release in 2020. 

Sale! And a new anthology

The Hidden Queen is currently on sale for the rest of August for only 99 cents. That’s less than the price of, well, most things. Grab it while it lasts!

Hidden queen cover ebook

 

But that’s not all. The Phoenix Fiction Writers are releasing an anthology with 9 new, never-released stories. And it’s coming THIS FALL. With some of the best spec fic indie writers around, this anthology is sure to entertain even the hardest-to-please readers. And yours truly will have a short story set in The Steward Saga world. So yeah. You might not want to miss this. You can pre-order Strange Waters next month.

 

Strange-Waters

Voyage of the Pequod by EB Dawson – Review

Voyage of the Pequod by E.B. Dawson

 

4/5 stars

Hello, beautiful cover! ❤

This short story delivers in typical Dawson fashion. I’m not usually fan of retellings, but the author manages to capture the essence of the original with new ideas and a fresh take that is both respectful of the older version yet adds a newness that is refreshing.

Similar to Moby Dick, there is a crew of sailor-talking men who have a sort of awe-inspiring view of Captain Ahab, and his obsession with a ship/alien/other entity (one thing I wish had been more clear) that supposedly rammed into him in space and made him lose his leg. This entity reminded me of a cross between Battlestar Galactica’s cylons (and even one of the characters in this story is called Starbuck. And I’m not even mad about it) and the ship from Alien.

I enjoyed the characters, Starbuck especially, and his loyalty to Ahab that doesn’t keep him from speaking up when he thinks Ahab is wrong. The Metal Worshipers were definitely interesting, and gave me a bigger picture of the world this story is set in. Like most short stories, worldbuilding and character development are very difficult, but I thought Dawson made a good crack at it.

My main complaint with the story was the distant narrative voice that *very nearly* head hopped. But it WAS reminiscent of the classics. Since this story was a retelling set in the far future, I thought maybe a closer POV could have been used, but that’s just personal preference. All in all, I’m definitely looking forward to the promised follow-up!

Grab it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.

Book Review: Red Sister

Red Sister by Mark  Lawrence

 

3.5/5 stars

I’d definitely classify this as dark fantasy. It starts off with the hanging of a child, the capturing and selling of children, and eventually children being sold for ring-fighting. So it’s not a book for those who hate stories about cruelty toward kids. Despite this, it’s a compelling story. Nona is an intriguing main character, with her story coming out in bits and pieces. I generally prefer stories that have more of a deep POV, where the reader knows everything the character does, so the fact that it’s a bit distant took some getting used to. Not a bad thing, but for readers who prefer deep POV, stick with it, because it’s worth it.

As mentioned above, Nona is captured and sold and eventually rescued by Abbess Glass (a fantastically-well done side character) who brings her to a convent to be trained as a warrior. It’s here were Nona learns more about her power and what it entails. I gotta be honest, there were parts of this that were a bit boring, and more than a few scenes that I feel were unnecessary and dragged the narrative a bit. I think what Lawrence was trying to do was let us get to know Nona in more of a normal-type of setting, having inane thoughts and every-day type of experiences. But I feel like there was too much of this. But that’s my preference. I don’t mind slow-building stories, but these scenes didn’t feel important to the plot. But I digress, because there were spurts of genius amid the drudgery.

When the action hits, it HITS, and you go from zero to a thousand miles an hour with barely a blink. The action was so well-written you feel like you are there, experiencing it with Nona as she does (and taking you into that deep POV I enjoy so much).

One interesting thing to note, and that I think Lawrence does very well, is that the word “said” is often left out of the narrative. It gives the story a very distinct feel, with more of a clipped writing style that I don’t think I’ve ever read before. I wonder what the author’s editor thought of that LOL. But it’s unique, and done quite well.

The worldbuilding is phenomenal. The magic system is unique, although I wish we had a better understanding of how it works, but with fantasy, this is par for the course. I’m assuming this comes out more in the following books. And the fact that Nona’s “knives” are like Wolverine from X-men was slightly annoying, but didn’t spoil the story for me.

All in all, this is compelling enough for me to want to keep reading. I really like Nona, and the worldbuilding, and the unique writing-style. I”ll be grabbing book two in the near-future.

Get it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.

Book Review: The Black Prism

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

4.5/5 stars

This book took my by surprise, and in all good ways. I’d heard of Brent Weeks here and there, but hadn’t picked up anything by him. To my SHAME. This story was incredible.

First things first. Gavin Guile is one of those characters that makes you wonder what his ultimate motivation is. The pretty standard trope “is he a good guy or bad guy” initially had me rolling my eyes, but I stuck with the story since the magic system was so intriguing, and Kip was so dang lovable. Thankfully, the trope is turned on its head as things are revealed (don’t want to spoil anything) that make everything he is doing make sense.

And that’s about it with this story. Everything you think you know ends up being something completely different. It’s not just the standard plot twists and turns that are there just for the sake of being there. The plot is just, quite simply, genius. It makes me want to reprimand myself for not reading it sooner (or, actually, listening, since I did the audiobook).

Weeks weaves a tale so spellbinding you can’t put it down. That’s the genius of a good writer. The characters were phenomenal, the plot engrossing, and the worldbuilding masterful. My one minor critique is the overuse of describing women in physical terms. Weeks tended to be more descriptive of what women looked like as opposed to men, and it got a bit *eyeroll* after awhile. But other than that, this whole story was flawless in every respect.

Grab it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.

Book Review: Quelling

Quelling by Angie Grigaliunas

 

Quelling is a fine follow-up to Sowing, in the Purification Era series. What it lacks in worldbuilding and cohesive plot points it makes up for with character development.

Rab and Ri find themselves in the same position as they were in Sowing. Ri is still physically abused by her mother and longing for freedom, but held back from running because of circumstances outside of her control. Rab continues to grow entrenched in the rebel movement, protecting Ri from their mother, and sorting through the trauma of her own sexual assault. The themes are dark without being overdone, and you get a really good sense of the inner struggle in these main characters (one of the advantages of first person POV).

We get a good bit more of the itzalin in this book, which I liked. I still feel there is more info we need to really understand the reason behind WHY they are so feared, besides the reason given in the book(s). I still feel the world is just too small. All the action takes place within one city, mostly behind its walls, so it gives a very limited scope of what this world is really like. If we had a bit more scope, it would bump this up to a 5 star for me, because I absolutely adore the phenomenal characters in this story.

The plot rambles a bit, and lacks some cohesion. It’s more a moment by moment type of style, as opposed to the normal 5 act structure one would expect for dystopian novel. Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what the author is going for. It SEEMS the author really wants to focus on character arc, and worldbuilding/plot falls secondary. So instead of a build-up to a climax, there are sparks of action and intrigue throughout, setting a good pace and yet not really leading anywhere concrete except to highlight the intrigue and relational aspects of the characters lives. Again, not a bad thing, just… different.

As mentioned before, where this story might lack in some aspects, it MORE than makes up for in incredibly well done, intriguing, complex characters. There are a few side characters that might need a bit more to them, but the main characters are fantastic.

Rab/Ri and their endearing love for and loyalty to each other is sooooo well done. They are becoming one of my favorite sister/friendship duo’s EVER. You don’t get this type of relationship THIS well done very often in literature, let alone YA. The author has a firm grasp on who they are as a character. Their voices are unique, consistent, and believable. Ariliah, the youngest, is timid and shy, yet undergoes a steady buildup to believable motivations and an understandable reason for being the way she is. Rabreah is fiery, often impulsive to the point of stupidity, yet has the heart and courage of a lion. Yet we get a glimpse of those walls coming down with Sorek, and it’s heart-meltingly, hits you right in the feels type of development.

Don’t get me started on Masrekah. The complexity of this character is so well-done it makes me sad he doesn’t actually exist. Sniff. I’ll just say this: one minute you’re convinced he’s a good guy at heart, and the next you are certain he’s an arrogant, narcissistic ass who needs to be taken down a peg or two. But that’s just it. He’s both, and the splendid weaving of his story only gets better with this book as it progresses.

All in all, 4/5 for me, and I look forward to book 3. Get it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.