The Persian Royal Road

Roads are important in history. Cultures become portable and ideas are exchanged across vast distances when good roads are available. Major trading routes were the interstate highways of antiquity. You might remember learning about the “Silk Road” in school. Your class might even have spent a couple of days discussing how important it was for China to get their expensive and highly prized silk fabrics all the way to Rome. (Like getting the latest iPhone shipped to the Apple Stores on time.) But have you heard of the Persian Royal Road that predates the better known Silk Road?


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
Even though there’s no road to Dodrazeb, a third-century invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with the strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology, including methods for communicating over vast distances that are familiar in modern times. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


SilkRoadMapThe Chinese began making silk fabrics around the year 2700 BCE. Reserved exclusively for use in their imperial court, methods for creating silk were kept secret for more than 3,000 years. But silks showed up in other parts of the world as the Chinese traded it extensively with their nearest neighbors and used it as diplomatic gifts. Early in the first century BCE, silk became prized in the Roman Empire as a rare and exotic luxury. Trading routes were developed and expanded to move the goods from East to West. From Rome, the desire for silk was introduced to other western cultures.

The silk trade was important in moving people and products back and forth across Asia, but it wasn’t the only product in demand. Textiles, spices, grain, fruits and vegetables, furs, tools, religious objects, art, precious stones, and much more made the network of Silk Roads well-travelled through the Middle Ages and into the 19th century. Merchants and traders could choose from different routes that crossed Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Far East. There were also maritime routes which shipped goods from China and South East Asia through the Indian Ocean to Africa, India, and the Near East.

4320c72a0c547bcb6cb81040db971e68--genghis-khan-chariotsMuch more was exchanged along the Silk Roads than just sought after trade goods. The trade routes connected major cities and civilizations, making cultural interaction necessary. Languages and customs were understood and adopted to make buying and selling possible. Religions and cultures developed and influenced each other because knowledge about science, arts, literature, crafts, and technologies was shared across the Silk Roads. By the way, scientists and historians now widely believe that the route was a primary way that the Black Death plague bacteria moved westward into Europe.

8c0389bafcd3607018dc6ff1fa4fc6da7092aafeBefore the network of Silk Road trading routes, there was the Persian Royal Road which would become one of the main arteries of the Silk Road. Before his death circa 529 BCE, Cyrus the Great had conquered a vast amount of territory, uniting many small and large kingdoms and peoples under his rule. His Achaemenian Empire survived for more than two centuries due to his willingness to support local customs and religions of the people he conquered.

When Darius the Great (521-485 BC) rose to power, he realized the Empire needed efficient organization. To prevent his territorial governors from gaining enough power to overthrow him, Darius appointed a separate military commander for each territory. Darius monitored his governors and commanders by using imperial spies. These “king’s ears” kept tabs on both and reported back to Darius through the postal service. The Empire was connected by a network of Royal Roads with stations spaced a day’s travel apart. Like the Silk Road that came later, these routes promoted cultural interaction, uniting disparate peoples in the far-flung Persian Empire.

parthian_cataphractsThe Persian Royal Road ran from Susa, in north Persia (modern Iran) to the Mediterranean Sea in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) a distance of more than 1,600 miles. The postal stations at regular intervals along the route provided fresh horses for envoys to quickly deliver messages throughout the empire and inspired the famous line “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” (see my post Ancient Persia’s Pony Express) Relay messengers could traverse the entire road in a mere nine days, sometimes only seven or eight. Normal travel time for caravans or casual travelers was about three months.

The Persian Royal Road was so impressive that Alexander the Great used it in his invasion and conquest of the Persian empire in 334 BCE. Never underestimate the importance of good roads—and how they can be used.

Sources

https://www.thoughtco.com/royal-road-of-the-achaemenids-172590

http://www.livius.org/articles/concept/royal-road/

https://en.unesco.org/silkroad/about-silk-road

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Silk-Road-trade-route

https://www.ancient.eu/Silk_Road/

https://searchinginhistory.blogspot.com/2014/04/royal-road-highway-of-persian-empire.html

http://www.historyofinformation.com/expanded.php?id=162

https://www.ancient.eu/Achaemenid_Empire/

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Ancient Persia’s Pony Express

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Remember that phrase that everyone thinks is the motto or slogan of the United States Postal Service? It actually describes an ancient Persian system of mounted couriers used to speed messages throughout their vast empire. Yes, the Persians made use of a highly efficient relay-style delivery system more than two millennia before the Pony Express appeared in the American Old West.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology, including methods for communicating over vast distances that are familiar in modern times. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


400px-Pony_Express-1Even though it set speed records for mail delivery and became a well-loved and thoroughly romanticized piece of historical lore, the Pony Express was only in operation for 19 months. In that brief time, it failed to secure a lucrative government mail contract and never turned a profit. Between hostile Native Americans and the completion of the transcontinental telegraph system, the Pony Express was driven out of business and became obsolete in October of 1861.

640px-nyc-post-officeSo, just how did that famous phrase come to be associated with the U.S. Postal Service? The unofficial motto is inscribed in granite over the entrance of the James A. Farley building at Eighth Avenue and 33rd Street in New York City, right in the middle of Manhattan. Back in the early twentieth century, the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White was chosen to design the New York General Post Office building. Construction began in 1912 and it was opened to the public in 1914. The building was doubled in size in 1934 and its name was changed to honor Postmaster General James A. Farley.

Relief_HerodotusWilliam Mitchell Kendall was one of the architects. Kendall, who frequently read classic Greek literature for pleasure, had grown up in a wealthy household with a father who was a scholar of the classics. He selected a passage (translated by Professor George Herbert Palmer of Harvard University) from book 8, paragraph 98, of The Persian Wars by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (c 484–c 425 BCE). The Post Office Department agreed that Kendall’s slight modification of the original translation was suitable for the building, and approved it.

Herodotus: “It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.”

“The method of carrying messages Herodotus describes was a Persian invention and enabled the messengers to travel swiftly. In this fashion King Xerxes sent a message home to Persia that the Greeks had destroyed his fleet off Salamis in 480 BCE.”—George Stimpson, A Book About a Thousand Things.

So, that famous, unofficial motto carved in stone on a famous building in New York City describes ancient Persian couriers. Think about that the next time your mail is delayed due to inclement weather.

Sources

https://uspsblog.com/how-is-new-york-city-related-to-famous-postal-quote/

http://www.bartleby.com/73/1439.html

https://www.infoplease.com/askeds/post-office-motto

https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/mission-motto.pdf

http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-pony-express

Author Interview: Ashley Chappell

AshleyChappellAshley Chappell is the author of the young adult fantasy Dreams of Chaos series (Alice WillTilt, and A God of Gods). She is also the author of the irreverent paranormal romp Of War and Taters, a satire set in the fictional deep south.

Upcoming releases include The Hotting, a Dreams of Chaos spinoff adventure for younger readers; The Rimguard, a new adult urban fantasy; and The Harrows, a gritty adventure in which Hell is a job for life. Or rather, a job for the afterlife.

Ms. Chappell currently resides in Huntsville, AL. When not writing, reviewing, or burying her nose in one of her well-worn Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman novels, she can be found sailing with her husband on their boat ‘Dupracity’ (Fans of Kurt Vonnegut will want to ask her what that means).


Alice WillFourteen-year-old Trotter was still just trying to get the hang of the demi-godding business when the apocalypse began. In a world where the gods have withdrawn from humanity, leaving mortals bitter toward magic, she finds herself constantly torn between her human and goddess sides. When the world begins to fade away and she becomes the prime suspect, her search to find the cause and prove her innocence ends up revolving around a mysterious little girl named Alice. Then Trotter discovers that not all of the gods had been as distant as they seemed… Now, with everyone against her and the gods fighting amongst themselves, Trotter is on her own to save her world and stop a vengeful god from using Alice to destroy everything.

TiltTwo years ago Trotter saved her world and the entire pantheon of Realm from a dark god. Unfortunately, gratitude didn’t stop the gods from banning her from Realm when she refused to declare her dominion as a goddess. Now even her lonely refuge in Aevum is destroyed as something violently tilts the world away from the sun, plunging it into permanent night. Once again on her own to save her home, Trotter uncovers a hidden world forgotten by the gods that faces a similar fate. Unable to turn to Realm for help, Trotter will be forced to finally choose a dominion that will let her save both worlds, even if it means losing one forever. However, throughout her journey she is unaware that the terrifying darkness growing within her means another dominion has already chosen her…

AGodofGods_smAfter stripping Trotter away from the Noevans, the race of people she’d sworn to protect, Chaos forced her into the mythical role of the God of Gods. It is now her job to bring Death to all Creation. But something else is planning to use Trotter’s dominion over Death to alter the ending Chaos chose…
The gods of Realm, terrified of Trotter’s new power, are manipulated into making a deal with devils from their ancient past. After thousands of years of imprisonment, however, the Undreams will stop at nothing to exact revenge on the gods and turn the universe back into a nightmare without end.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. Your Dreams of Chaos series is a young adult fantasy that centers on Trotter, a young girl “torn between her human and goddess sides.” Tell us about Trotter and her story.

Trotter is right at the age of puberty when teens mature mentally so much faster than emotionally, and is driven by a combination of the two that makes her responses and decisions as a character much more unpredictable. She is exceptionally bright and fiercely independent, having been largely on her own for so long already, but she struggles with a dark side born of feelings of abandonment, a lack of identity, and a resentment for the powers that she can’t control. Specifically, that itchy smiting finger that keeps making her life so much harder. She’s torn between worlds and angry at both, but when it comes to facing up to playing the role of heroine, she finds that her life as a human has made her love her world desperately and gives her the strength she needs to be the goddess that she needs to be.

Q. So far you’ve given us Alice Will and Tilt in this series. What more do you have in store for readers in the Dreams of Chaos world?

Well, it’s funny you should ask that! I have “A God of Gods: Dreams of Chaos Book 3” coming releasing October 24, 2017 followed by “A Mother of Gods: Dreams of Chaos Book 4” in Spring of 2019. The Dreams of Chaos series was originally planned to be a trilogy, but with the story arc spanning three realms and over 40 primary characters, it was too much to stuff into three books without making the last one almost 1,000 pages. So my trilogy became a tetralogy and now I just have to hope people don’t think that’s a kind of fish

Q. Do you find it more fun to write heroes or villains? Why?

My personal favorite – the Anti-hero. Part of this may stem from my preference for writing humor and satire even within my fantasy series, but a character that might fall on the Chaotic Good-Neutral end of the scale has so much more potential and versatility (especially for comedic interplay). Their development can so often be unexpected and feel so much more relatable. Think characters like Tyler Durden from Fight Club, Rincewind from the Discworld series, Artemis Fowl, Dexter, Severus Snape even

Q. What do you like most about Trotter? What do you like least about her?

Believe it or not, I actually designed Trotter to be somewhat hard to like for the first part of the series. That darkness and resentment in her makes her far more cynical, untrusting, and much more likely to expect the worst from everyone. It makes it harder to like her or feel sympathy for her sometimes, but for anyone who’s ever been a teenager, however, her feelings aren’t unrelatable. What I do like about her and what I tried to instill in her character is a resiliency and an unwillingness to accept injustice when she knows she can make a difference. She may be more negative and expect the worst from people, but she’ll fight to the death to protect them

Q. Why did you choose to write fantasy? What draws you to that genre?

I honestly can’t remember a time that I’ve ever not loved science fiction and fantasy. There was always something magical to me about using fantastical creatures and worlds and using them as a mirror for our own societal issues and paradigms. Sometimes it’s far easier to convey ideals through this kind of medium where you would otherwise be criticized for being overly moralistic in others. But also…. Dragons.

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other fantasies?

I think a part of the uniqueness of the overall story arc isn’t fully revealed until later in the series. It begins with a bit of a chosen one theme, but the reader finds out by the end of Book 2 that Trotter’s tale is actually more of an “anti-chosen one” story. And I can’t give more information than that without spoilers 😉

Q. Readers may not realize that writers do lots of research, even for fantasy stories, before they complete a book. What kind of research did you do for this series?

This series actually wasn’t as research intensive as some of my other works, but it did lead me on an oddball collection of Google searches. For instance: “What really happens in a tsunami” and “What do drowned corpses smell like” were two searches from the same day. As always – writers should never have their search history too accessible

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced the book? How?

Oh, that’s an easy one! Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman were my primary influencers for the air of absurdity and utter irreverence that pervades this series. Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan were strong influences on the creation of a mythos and centralized conflict that spanned eons and was driven by actors on both mortal and immortal realms reaching even beyond the gods and into Chaos.

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

Hard to say across the series. But if I were to narrow it down, my favorite scenes involve interactions between my favorite characters. Any scene featuring the Erwins/Pratts, Ursula the Bear Goddess, or Ali and Andi (coming in Books 3&4) were usually scenes that had me the giddiest.

Q. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

Fight scenes. Any and every fight scene. This is something that I agonize over for AGES every time.

Q. What inspired you to write this story with these characters?

Surprisingly, when I first started thinking about this series, Trotter wasn’t even the main character. It developed through a combination of brainstorming activities that included fake conversations with characters, what roles would have the greatest impacts in their lives, who they would interact with… etc. It was a very organic process.

Q. Tell us about your other books. Do you plan to write primarily YA in future or branch out into other genres?

I do love YA, but I expect my future works to be 50/50 YA vs. Adult. Not for any reason other than that’s just how my ideas have developed. My next work outside of this series is more of a “New Adult” age range and is also an urban fantasy.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I dabbled for give or take 25 years 😉 It was never a question for me that it was what I wanted to do. I just didn’t focus on truly making the time for it until around 2009.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

I definitely have a love-hate relationship with editing. There’s something supremely satisfying about perfecting your project, but at the same time it can be so hard to finally say ENOUGH and call it ready. I have to step back for a long while until after I have feedback from all my betas just so I can come at it fresh again.

Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing – yet – to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing?

For now 😉 I work at NASA by day which does at least give me plenty of fodder for stories.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

I like to keep myself busy! In addition to my own novels, I’ve also joined the writing team on the Blood Crow Stories Podcast for Season 2 “Blackchapel.” If you haven’t checked it out, I totally suggest it for any horror enthusiasts. And of course I read every spare second I have, but we also spend a lot of time out on our property that we named the Hundred Acre Wood. We’re working to build our off-grid dream in a micro-modern homestead that we’re naming the Minimum Falcon.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

It will sound cliché, but it’s tried and true. Don’t give up. Keep writing, keep networking, and keep querying.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

Oh yes… that we make any money at it! This is quite definitely a labor of love.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Inconsistent characters or ill-defined primary conflicts. If characters suddenly start acting contrary to their development, I’ll usually get bored quickly. The same if the conflict seems to be a moving target. If I can’t define what the MCs are trying to overcome or figure out, then why am I reading their story?

Contact Information:

Author Name: Ashley Chappell

Blog: http://www.ashleychappellbooks.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AshleyNChappell

Book Links: Amazon.com

Author Interview: Philip Ligon

Philip_Ligon

Philip Ligon’s love of fantasy began in earnest when he tried to read The Sword of Shannara for a book report in high school. Though he had to choose a different book for the report, he was forever hooked on epic adventures, quests, and fantastic realms. He proceeded to read every Terry Brooks book he could find, and soon discovered the works of Raymond Feist, Michael Moorcock, and threw in a heavy dose of Orson Scott Card, to name a few. He has received numerous awards for his works, including being a multi-year finalist in the Paul Gillette Writing Contest and a finalist in Colorado Gold. This Strange Engine was a finalist in the 2015 Zebulon writing contest and a quarterfinalist in the 2014 ABNA.

The first two books in his Steampunk series are This Strange Engine and This Mysterious Engine.


Strange EngineThief. Pauper. Magic addict. Alexander Asherton, Ash to his friends, has reached the low point of his life. A once promising future with the Church of England has given way to a clandestine organization which tracks and collects magical items. They provide the elixirs that keep Ash alive, and in exchange he uses the power the elixirs grant to ‘acquire’ what they desire. If he succeeds, he lives. If he fails, he dies. The arrangement is simple enough… until his latest assignment becomes personal: recover an item in the possession of his former wife, Aimee. Ash’s world becomes even darker and stranger as he is drawn into a past he had hoped to leave behind.

Mysterious EngineLove. Betrayal. Revenge. Problems are growing worse for Ash. To save Sheela, the woman he loves, he had no choice but to betray her greatest secret. As a result, she was taken prisoner by Duke Schaever, the man who controls the flow of magic into the English Empire. Although Ash has tried to rescue Sheela, failure after failure has made him desperate enough to accept a new mission from his employers that will strike Duke Schaever at the most personal of levels – by kidnapping Lady Elizabeth Stewart, the Duke’s betrothed. It is an assignment fraught with danger, and as Ash moves closer to his goal, he is pulled deeper into the Duke’s world – a place that reveals the abominations of magic and science, that gives rise to new enemies, and where Ash learns exactly what motivates the Duke. The discoveries test friendships, love, and loyalties, even as it forces Ash to question what it means to live. And what it means to die.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. You’ve taken steampunk to a whole new level with this series! Please tell us briefly about the steampunk genre.

Steampunk is an interesting genre because it has been with us for a long time – from the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to Michael Moorcock – yet has begun to really come into its own in the last 10 years or so.  I like to describe it as the Industrial Revolution on steroids, where steam-powered technology advances to the point where it is the primary source of energy.  And it powers everything from lights to airships to robots.  The setting is typically associated with the Victorian era, though many writers have expanded it to different time periods and to different parts of the world.

Q. Tell us about your book series and why you chose to write steampunk.

The Engine Series follows the (mis)adventures of Alexander Asherton who tries to piece together a broken life.  It takes place in 1860s England, in a town called Campden, which serves as a crossroads of science and magic, due to a portal – the Gateway – having been opened there.  The Gateway leads to a mysterious world full of elves, dwarves, orcs, dragons, gnomes, and other magical creatures.  The introduction of magic to a world with advanced steam technology creates new opportunities for those willing to exploit the possibilities of strange, new powers.  One such person is Duke Schaever, who is determined to combine science and magic for his own ends.  Unfortunately for Ash, he is drawn into the Duke’s schemes…and what he discovers are secrets far darker than anything he could have imagined.

As far as why I chose to write steampunk, I have to say it is primarily because the genre offers many futuristic ideas set in historical settings with alternate timelines and histories…there are lots of possibilities to be explored and lots of stories begging to be put onto paper.

Q. Alexander Asherton is a complicated, driven character. What do you like most—and least—about him?

Ash, as his friends call him, has a lot of admirable qualities.  He wants to do the right thing.  He has a special fondness for those in need, especially women and children.  He is fiercely loyal to his friends.  At the same time, he struggles with life.  Yet he tends to be obsessive, especially when it comes to affairs of the heart.  He wants to see the good in people even when they prove over and over again that they are anything but.  And he is hard on himself for his past mistakes.

Q. Without giving away too much, what can you tell us about your story’s villains?

The villains are driven, determined, and know what they want.  They will stop at nothing, and will let no one get in there way.  Of course, that begs another question – why are they so driven?  For that answer, well…you have to read the books!

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other steampunk works?

This series is different because it is not a pure steampunk work.  In fact, it contains a lot of fantasy elements, and magic plays an essential role in everything that happens.  Part of the overall story is about the implications of what happens when technology and magic are merged.  Good things?  Bad things?  A little bit of both?

Q. What kind of research did you do for this story?

Being set in the time that it’s in, I had to do a lot of research on the Victorian era.  What type of clothing did they wear?  How did the language differ?  What terms did they use?  What was life like in that time?  Those are just some of the questions I had to answer…and I learned a lot more about Victorian dress and socially acceptable etiquette than I ever thought I would know!

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced the book? How?

Being a story set in Victorian England, and being a fan of his work, I would say Charles Dickens had a bit of influence on the series.  His works capture so much of the essence of the era – from the social structure to the political influences to the language.

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

In both books, there are so many scenes I enjoyed writing, it’s hard to choose!  But for the first book, I’ll go with the Duke’s Ball.  It was fun trying to describe the other-worldly nature of the grand event.  Here is a man who is known for his extravagances and this is the one time of the year that he goes above and beyond anything else, and puts it on display for the entire town to see.  For the second book, I’ll go with the finale at Chen’s Dragon Theatre.  I won’t go into detail on it, lest I give too much away…but there are vital decisions that Ash must make against a backdrop of very dangerous magic and science.

Q. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

The hardest part of both books has been the language – how to keep the tone and formality of the Victorian era while writing with a modern style.  There is a balance between the two that demanded a lot of attention.

Q. Do you have plans for more books in this series? Are you interested in expanding into other genres?

I’m currently working on the third book, so yes, there will be at least one more.  Beyond that?  We’ll see.  There could be more stories left to be told with the characters.

I’m definitely going to expand to other genres, particularly Fantasy.  Considering there is so much Fantasy in the Engine series, though, that might not necessarily count as expanding into another genre.

And while it’s not a genre per se, I’m also wrapping up work on a middle-grade Steampunk book.  There are definite differences in writing for an adult audience and a middle-grade audience.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I’ve been at this writing stuff a long time…over twenty years.  Throughout that time, I queried countless agents and editors, and attended various conventions where I met agents and editors, all in the hopes of attracting attention.  Along the way, something funny happened…self-publishing really evolved into a viable option.  It really got to the point where I could spend more years continuing the query and submission process, or I could do it myself.  So I decided to give it a try.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

Editing is a love-hate relationship.  Ernest Hemingway said it best: ‘The only kind of writing is rewriting.’  There is a lot of truth in that.  Writing the first draft can be a journey of discovery that is fun and enthralling.  Yet rewriting – what I’m calling editing in this context – is where the author really gets to shape the story and the characters.  It’s not always fun to work through your book for the fifth, or sixth, or seventh time, but it must be done if you want to make the book as good as it can be.  It’s a lot like the sculptor shaping and smoothing and polishing until a statue is finished.

Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing – yet – to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing?

My undergraduate degree is in Mechanical Engineering (and maybe that’s where the interest in Steampunk really comes from), so I work as an engineer during the day.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

I enjoy watching movies and reading.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

Unless you are a rare writer who becomes published almost from the start, you have to have perseverance more than anything else.  You also need a willingness to learn and grow as a writer.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

Writing is tough.  Filling up page after page of white with all of these words can take a long time.  And it is lonely work.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Bad writing and bad characters, though those often go together.  By bad characters, I mean ones who are not believable or are undeveloped or are unsympathetic.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

This is another tough question.  There are so, so many good books.  Since I’ve already mentioned Dickens, I’ll have to go with Great Expectations (Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is a close second).  Pip and Estella are such dynamic characters.  And the fact that Pip works so hard to make something of himself so he can prove his worth to the girl he’s loved since the first time they met brings a quiet desperation to the entire story that grips the reader.  It’s Dickens at his best.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

MASH.  The show is full of different characters and a cast that goes through so many changes.  One episode will make you laugh until you cry.  The next will make you cry because it’s sad.  There is such a variety of stories for such a small setting.  I never get tired of watching the show.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

Casablanca.  Action, adventure, romance, bravery, deceit…what more do you need in a movie?  It’s a great story with even greater actors giving some of their best performances.

If there’s a theme in these answers to favorite book and TV show and movie…it’s all about the characters.  They are the heart and soul of everything that happens.  And that’s something that any writer should keep in mind.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Philip Ligon

Blog: www.philipligon.com

Goodreads: <https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15283152.Philip_Ligon

Book Links: This Strange Engine   This Mysterious Engine

Author Interview: Morgon Newquist

Morgon_NewquistMorgon Newquist started life by causing an international incident in Central America, and has been marching to the beat of her own drummer ever since. She grew up in the Rocket City—Huntsville, Alabama. After a stint at the University of Georgia to study Latin, she has returned to the place of her upbringing where she wrangles two dogs, a cat, and four children daily. She is an avid fan of fantasy, science fiction, gaming of all types and other nerdy pursuits.

Morgon has worked as a freelance writer off and on since 2007, and written for video game mythologies, table top RpGs, online game guides, and blogs as well as her own short works. She has several published short stories and is currently working on several novels. Her current focus is an ongoing saga of sword and sorcery short stories called The School of Spells and War. The first novella, Down The Dragon Hole, is highly rated and continues to introduce many new fans to the series.


DownDragonHoleAlis was a quiet librarian at the campus library of the School of Spells & Magic—that is, until the sword wielding buffoon Cahan had the audacity to battle a dragon in her library! Now she’s following him off on some foolhardy adventure. As they try to save the university from the mysterious Formless, she fights an equally important battle—to maintain her self-respect! The School of Spells & War is an ongoing collection of old fashioned sword-and-sorcery adventure stories following a wizard and warrior duo as they gallivant across the continent of Thillon. Good-humored, powerful warrior Cahan and intelligent, skilled wizard Alis work together to serve their university, the school of spells and war, by battling dragons, investigating plots against the king, hunting witches, and dealing with the ongoing threat of the ancient and mysterious Formless.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. Dragons! Magic! Swordplay! Tell us about your amazing series and why you chose to write it as shorter stories rather than novels.

As you’ve already stated, my current series is a Sword-and-Sorcery short collection, sort of like the serials of old. It follows the wizard Alis and the warrior Cahan as they have various encounters in the world of Thillon. It’s very DiscWorld-esque, and probably a little reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons.

It kind of became a series sort of by accident; the first novella, Down The Dragon Hole, was written for a short story anthology. The first iteration of the story was a lot more serious and a lot less fun. Then when I rewrote it, I realized I enjoyed the characters and the setting and didn’t want to stop. Digital distribution makes it much easier to release shorts now, so that obstacle was removed. It also meant I could write whatever story came into my head at the length it needed to be, instead of having to figure out how to make it hit a certain length.

Q. Alis and Cahan were sort of thrown together, very suspicious of each other at the beginning. How does their relationship evolve through the series?

Well, I can’t tell you too much of that, because I want it to stay a surprise! But they definitely grow from strangers to a sort of coworker relationship, which then evolves into a real and lasting friendship. As to whether it goes any farther than that, you’ll have to wait and see 😉

Q. What do you like most—and least—about Cahan? About Alis?

What I like most about both characters is the actually the same trait, but each of them is one side of a coin. Cahan is confident – he’s a little older, more experienced, and knows his own skills. Alis is younger, a little anxious, unsure, and still learning. So many stories, in their quest to have a strong female lead, seem to forget that everyone starts out nervous and uncertain and grows. I really wanted to have that arc for Alis – the shy, bookish type finding her legs in the world outside the library.

Least favorite traits of them both stem from the same traits, actually. Cahan can be a little arrogant, sometimes dismissive. Pride is his greatest sin, and is something he struggles with. He also likes to box off the small number of mishaps or tragedies in his life and pretend like they don’t exist. Alis, conversely, doubts herself too much sometimes, and can also be a little self-centered and whiny.

Q. Without giving away too much, what can you tell us about your stories’ villains?

Well, there are several, a few of which move in and out of stories. But many of them only appear once, in a monster-of-the-week sort of format, which short stories lend themselves to. The Formless are the background, overarching villain in the series. They’re a shadowy mass that have no bodies of their own, and seek to steal them from living things. The first book has a dragon in it. We’ll see giant spiders, golems, treasure guardians…magical beings have long been lost in Thillon, but suddenly they’re making an appearance again, so we’ll see a lot of them. One story that I hope to release by the end of the year has the villain that killed Cahan’s brother in it.

Q. What’s different or unique about these stories from other sword-and- sorcery works?

It’s pretty much your standard sword-and-sorcery work, to be honest. That’s what I set out to make it, to be a throwback to the old type of stories you used to see. I think my series villain is interesting and unique, and I want Alis and Cahan to be more than archetypes. I’m trying to take some cues from the Pulp Revolution for the structure and tone, so it will be different than a lot of things currently published, but not from older stories.

Q. What kind of research did you do for these stories?

Since it is in a fantasy world, not a lot. I did some research on what needed to happen for a saw mill to blow up in one of the upcoming stories, but most of it all is coming from me. I have a lot of world notes so I can keep up with everything.

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced your work? How?

For the School of Spells and War specifically, it is definitely influenced by Terry Pratchett. I wanted to go for the same fun, tongue-in-cheek tone present in his books while perhaps making them a little less silly. The wizards of the school were directly inspired by the wizards of the Unseen University.

Q. What is your favorite type of scene to write?

Characters are always what interest me, so important character scenes tend to be my favorite to write. I like the emotional ones! Sometimes I like action scenes too, but those take a lot of work and plotting.

Q. What type of scene is the most difficult for you to write?

Info-dump and/or connecting scenes. How do I show and not tell? Am I going on too long? How much do I need before just skipping to a new scene? That’s mostly what I struggle with.

Q. What inspired you to write these stories and these characters?

I wrote the first story for Silver Empire’s first anthology, which had the theme of manly courage. Cahan is obviously the character that was meant to fulfill that theme. Then it just kind of came together from there, once I decided I wanted to put a little bit of a twist on the normal knight vs. dragon story.

Q. What are your plans for this series? Are you interested in expanding into other genres?

I currently have a 46 story plan that covers the entire Formless arch, and that can change at any time. The great thing about this format is that I can just write a little story and send it out if I am inspired. I hope to have published a couple more stories by the end of the year, and then round them up into an anthology.

I definitely would like to expand into other genres. My other project right now is a superhero novel called Serenity City that I am super (hah!) excited about. Whenever I’m not working on Spells and War, I’m working on that. It’s currently about a quarter of the way done.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

This might be a bit of a long answer! I’ve been writing for as long as I remember. I actually still have a little pink notebook with a note from my grandmother in the front of it, dated in 1996, saying “it was for me to write my stories in”. And then I was supposed to bring the notebook with me when I went to visit them, so she could read the stories.

I wrote stories through elementary school (including a 40 page Star Trek novel with my own characters) and then once I hit middle and high school I kept writing. It was mostly fan fiction, which is still out in the ether of the internet. I had designs on being an author, but various adults in my life chased me away from it as a career because of how little money writers made. I also got several very (I, feel, at least) unnecessarily cruel rejections for my short stories, and decided that I’d keep it all to myself. So for a while it was just a hobby.

I actually wrote short stories and world building info for a Greek gaming company in my early years of college. I was paid a salary and everything, one that wasn’t too shabby for the type of work I was doing. Then when that ended because of downsizing, it went to the backburner because of school. I kept writing – I did a couple years of NaNoWriMo in there.

In 2014, I decided that I wanted to make one of my goals for the year to publish something. I went to work on one of my old novels, but when the end of the year rolled around, it wasn’t done. So I pulled out one of my old shorts, edited it, and threw it up on Amazon on December 31st before midnight. And that’s also when Silver Empire started. Russell decided if I was going to start publishing things, why not go in on it together? And I’ve been writing seriously since then.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

I like to edit, actually. Sometimes I feel like my eyeballs are going to fall out of my head from staring at things so long, but I like the tweaking process. It makes it easy for me to really see and feel the work I’ve done, and it’s satisfying. I usually do several passes to clean up my wording, the text flow, that kind of thing – but not a lot of major work – and then send it off for notes. I don’t want to put too much time into it if there are big changes that need to be made in plot order or pacing. After I get all the notes back I really delve into it, from tightening up the plot to checking for grammatical, spelling, and story errors.

Q. Tell us about your publisher.

Well, my publisher is my husband and I! We run Silver Empire, and as I mentioned in a previous answer, we started it when I wanted to publish my short story. And we’ve been working on it ever since. I enjoy it. We’d like to be known as an independent publisher that really treats its authors’ right.

The upside to being my own publisher is that I can basically write whatever I want and know it has a place, but the reality also is that I’ve got to think about what makes the most business sense to write. Which is why instead of starting a new series after Serenity City is done I’m already plotting out sequels to it.

Q. You have a husband and four small children. Without a Harry Potter-style time turner, how do find time to write?

Well, the honest answer is that I don’t write a lot. That’s one of the reasons the School of Spells and War is a collection of novellas and short stories. I can’t pour a lot of time into it. But now that summer is over, we’re working into a schedule again, and I basically have a couple nights a week that I write. I’ll do it sometimes during the day, but usually I’m being interrupted too much to focus. I’m making the effort to get some regular time in, though, and now that I don’t run my wedding videography business anymore, even more time is opening up for me.

I’ve basically accepted that for now my output isn’t going to be huge, and that my progress may be slow, and that’s ok. Someday everyone will be older and I’ll be able to do more :).

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

I like to game, both video and board gaming. I enjoy reading, though I don’t get to do as much of that as I used to. I spend a lot of my free time writing just because I enjoy it. I also watch a lot of Netflix.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

My biggest bit of advice is to write. Productivity is huge in the current market, and at the same time, the only way you get better is by actually writing. Don’t agonize over editing too much, don’t wait for someone else – just write, get it out there, and keep going.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

Oh, I could write about that for paragraphs and paragraphs. I think the biggest one is how little money most authors make. I mean, everyone knows authors are poor, right? It’s a constant joke. But I don’t think most members of the public realize it is as low as it actually is. In conjunction with that, how few books most authors sell as well.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Lots of info-dump done in a boring way. In this age of self-publishing, when a book doesn’t have at least a minimum level of editing. I don’t really like message fiction – stories that put “teaching you a lesson” or preaching to you above the actual story. I don’t mind meaning in books, or even some politics, but I don’t like being beat with a brick about how I should think.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

This is a hard question. I have a list….I can give you a list! There are the standard ones, like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings. I recently (finally) read Dune and loved it. Some other favorites are Iron Chamber of Memory by John C. Wright, Deerskin and Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley, the Dresden Files, and a whole lot more. Characters are super important to me, so if you can write a good story with exceptional characters, I’ll latch onto it.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

That’s a good question. I watch a lot of TV, and have many shows I enjoy. I think it is a toss up between Babylon 5 and Pushing Daisies. Babylon 5 is deep and layered, and I adore the fact that it had a plan that it more or less stuck to. The show has a real ending, with real closure, and in an age where producers want to keep cash cows going until they die, it’s refreshing.

Pushing Daisies never really caught on – it’s not even on streaming right now – and then the writers strike effectively killed it, but I love it anyway. It is bright, beautiful, over-the-top, touching, and more than a little ridiculous. If you’ve never watched it I’d suggest it. It’s a very unique show, with a distinctive style. The stories are very human and very bittersweet despite their absurdity, and I love the writing.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

This is another hard question. Secondhand Lions has been a favorite of mine for a long time. Other favorites include The Dark Knight, V for Vendetta, Captain America: Civil War, The Prestige, and Moulin Rouge. Characters are another huge portion of why I like those movies.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?

Rome. I would love to go to Rome. I speak Latin and studied classical culture in college, so it would be amazing to go there. I’m also Catholic, so the chance to go to Vatican City and the heart of my faith would be great too. All the good Italian food doesn’t hurt either.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Morgon Newquist

Book Links: Morgon Newquist’s books are available on Amazon.com

Author Interview: Amanda Porter

AmandaPorterA.G. Porter is the author of The Darkness Trilogy, a YA Paranormal Thriller, and Pieces of My Heart, a book of poetry. She is currently writing a spin-off of her Darkness Trilogy characters, as well as her next poetry book. When she isn’t writing, she’s either busy being the coolest librarian on the planet or spending much needed time with her family. Ms. Porter lives in New Hope, Alabama with her husband, Billy, stepson, Brenton, and their 4 dogs.


1TheShadowThe Shadow Rayna Stone is an eighteen-year-old girl from a small Alabama town that just wants to save a little money for college. A summer job at an upscale resort surrounded by snobby, rich folks isn’t her idea of fun—until she meets eyes with the owner’s son, Liam and things begin to look brighter. But then she starts seeing things that she can’t explain and having dreams that are haunted by a being she calls The Shadow. The Shadow shows her things about some missing girls that she wished she had never seen and her dreams seem to be coming true. As if that isn’t enough, she learns that her ability gives her an insight into the feelings of others around her. When Rayna learns that Liam does feel something for her, she wants to tell him she feels the same, but something is warning her to stay away. Not because he is dangerous, but because she is.
2TheForsakenThe Forsaken Six months ago, Rayna Stone came face-to-face with a demented serial killer and survived, but not unscathed. Everyone knows that she is the “girl who almost died.” She’d rather hide, but she tries to live her life, go to school, get a job, and try not to let her Gift overwhelm her. Her nightmares have changed, but they’re still trying to show her something. All she can see are The Eyes and they must be watching her for a reason. Ron is still out there and The Shadow still haunts her dreams. Her Gift is getting stronger and she has obtained very powerful and more deadly abilities. While this might sound desirable, Rayna can’t help but think that means her Gift is preparing her for a war.
3TheRedeemedThe Redeemed Nightmares. The oncoming war. More Gifted emerge and not all of them are on her side. Secrets about her father are revealed. Who are The Children of The Light? Will Rayna be able to resist the powers of The Shadow with Jayce’s help? She had planned to face down her demons with Liam by her side, but now that he’s lost his soul, is he really lost to her forever?
Question after question, obstacle after obstacle present themselves in the last installment of The Darkness Trilogy. It’s coming to an end—the battle, the war. The only question Rayna Stone wants answered is whether she and her friends make it out alive.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. The Darkness Trilogy is a scary young adult paranormal thriller. Tell us about the story and its main characters.

It all starts with my main character, Rayna Stone, when she attends a summer internship at an upscale golf resort in Guntersville, AL. It’s there that her supernatural abilities awaken, putting her and her friends down a very dangerous path with a being known as The Shadow.

Q. Why are you drawn to frightening themes?

I think it stems from my love of the paranormal genre. I’ve always been drawn to it.

Q. Why did you choose to write in the YA genre?

Because I love it. Even when I finally made it into adulthood, I was still reading in that section.

Q. Do you find it more fun to write heroes or villains? Why?

I love my heroes, but villains are fun as well. I think villains are much more intriguing for an author because we are not and never will be, or at least I hope so, that horrific. Especially supernatural villains. They are able to do some very terrifying things and not care about the consequences.

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other YA paranormal tales?

For one thing, my story takes place in Alabama and there really aren’t many southern YA paranormal thrillers. Rayna is also a Christian so she utilizes her faith to help her in her quest to defeat the bad guy.

Q. Readers often don’t realize that writers do lots of research, even for speculative and fantasy stories, before they complete a book. What kind of research did you do for this story?

I did a lot of research in the geography of Guntersville. It’s a real place! I spent a lot of time on the campgrounds as a child, but Guntersville is huge. I wanted to make sure I got the area I was talking about right. I also research myths and legends of different spiritual beings.

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced the book? How?

Definitely R.L. Stine and Dean Koontz.

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

Oh, wow. I’m not even sure. I really like writing a certain character’s scene. Jasmine is this snarky, sassy girl with zero filter. I want to be like her when I grow up so I definitely enjoyed writing any scene with her. Besides that, the epic fight scenes!

Q. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

The end of the trilogy! It was bittersweet.

Q. What inspired you to write this story with these characters?

I actually had the idea for this story beginning in the 9th grade. It evolved when I started to experience sleep paralysis. Look it up!

Q. Do you have plans for more books in this series? Other books possibly in a different genre?

I do. I’m writing a spinoff right now.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I seriously think I just woke up one and told myself that if I ever wanted to finish a book I better start now. I wrote off and on again for years, but that bug bit really hard one day.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

I’m with the despisers. I hate doing it. I will read through my own works to see if I catch anything and just to make sure I didn’t go off the deep end somewhere, but I don’t edit my own writing.

Q. Why did you decide to self-publish?

I went round and round with Literary Agent. It didn’t work out, but I’m thankful for the experience. After that, I decided to go it alone. I have learned so much along the way. I would highly recommend a new author to reach out to other self-published authors so they avoid all the pitfalls. Network! Go to conventions and book festivals. I wish I knew someone when I started out!

Q. You seem to have a dream job for a writer—you are the manager of a branch library! Tell us how being a librarian has impacted your writing, and how your writing has influenced your career.

I think just being reminded on a daily basis that there are people out there who genuinely love a good story, a book, keeps me motivated.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

Sleeping. LOL! I spend a lot of time reading and just being with my family. I also volunteer a lot so I normally stay pretty busy. I have a little one on the way (yay!) so my schedule isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

Just write and write what you want to. It’s OK if the first book you write isn’t great. Write another one. It’s like anything else in life, the more you do it, the better you’re going to be. It’s that simple.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

The amount of time, money, and our souls we put into our craft. We don’t just sneeze out a book. It takes years for some of us and a lot of hard work.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Anything that’s over-the-top explicit just for shock value.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

This is an impossible question to answer! I can name a few series I’ve gone back to and read several times, but to pick one? I can’t. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Odd Thomas, and the list goes on. I like them all for many different reasons.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

There are so many! Doctor Who, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, GoT…

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

It’s probably Jurassic Park or Edward Scissorhands or Terminator 2 or Aliens or A Nightmare before Christmas or anything Disney…see, I can’t pick just one.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?

Ireland! I want to go on a castle tour.

Contact Information:

Author Name: A.G. Porter

Facebook: @TDTAGP (A.G. Porter, Author)

Twitter: @agporter1

Book Links: A.G. Porter’s books are available on Amazon.com

Author Interview: Amanda Orneck

AmandaOrneckBorn in Fountain Valley, CA, raised in a small town called Montrose, CA, Amanda Orneck has never stayed in one place for long – until now. She currently calls Huntsville, AL home, where she spends her days writing, gaming, and loving her family to pieces.

Amanda received her Creative Writing degree from the University of Southern California, learning her craft at the feet of David St. John, Aimee Bender and Carol Muske-Dukes. While at USC, she received the Middleton Creative Writing Fellowship for excellence in poetry.

For seven years she honed her writing craft as a video game journalist, writing for GamePro, WoW Insider, GameGeex, and a handful of other outlets. In 2014 Amanda left the world of blogging behind to focus on her first love, fiction. Shadow of the Owl is her first novel, and she is currently in production on a cyberpunk novel entitled Deus Hex Machina.


Shadow_OwlIn a kingdom populated with nomadic elves and human colonists, pampered princess Mylena lives a charmed life. Her world is thrown into turmoil however, the night her mother loses her throne, her kingdom and her life. Forced to flee the castle, Mylena must live in secret amongst the peasants of a small elven settlement, tending to her wounded father and eking out a living as an apothecary. As she does, a new sort of life rises from the ashes of her old one, a life that includes the kindling of romance with a young elven boy named Fionn. Mylena falls in love with her new life among the peasants, and prepares to spend her days treating illnesses and hiding who she really is.

Until the day the usurper’s minions find her and rip that life to shreds.

Now Mylena’s running from not only the evil sorcerer who wants her dragged back to the castle in chains, but also from those who want her to step into her mother’s position and retake her family’s kingdom. The once pampered princess must choose: Leave behind the simple life she’s come to love and rise up to save her people from tyranny, or stay hidden and watch it all burn down around her.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. Shadow of the Owl is a wonderful fantasy set in a world with humans, elves, sorcerers, and magic. Tell us about the story and its main characters.

Shadow of the Owl is a traditional fantasy novel in the vein of Lord of the Rings and Sword of Shannara. Mylena, the main character, is an exiled princess I think a lot of people would identify with. She’s struggling with growing up in a kingdom under siege, living in secret with her father in a village in the forest. The culture of the world is a bit unique in that the original inhabitants of Shadowhaven were a race of shamanistic elves, each of them born with one type of elemental magic. Add to that a group of colonizing humans who built a society with these elves, and you have a melting pot of a kingdom that is very much in its infancy. Mylena sort of represents this mixture, being half human and half pixie (the race of her mother).

Q. Do you find it more fun to write heroes or villains? Why?

I’ve never been a fan of villains. I used to do my best to write without them, but stories get boring without antagonists, don’t they? I have always rooted for the hero, and I find their stories more compelling to write.

Q. What do you like most about your Princess Mylena? What do you like least about her?

Mylena is incredibly strong willed, and I love that about her. Writing her character I often tried to make her do things in scenes and she just would flat out refuse. “I was raised in a castle, in comfort and luxury, I would never do that!” she would announced. It made writing her incredibly challenging and incredibly fun. I don’t like the selfish streak she has though. She’s the sort of person that thinks of herself first — I guess that comes from being raised as the heir to the throne. She learns to get a bit better on that score along the way, I’m happy to say.

Q. Why did you choose to write fantasy? What draws you to that genre?

I grew up on fantasy. My father was a huge sci-fi and fantasy reader, and one of the first books I remember him reading me was Thurber’s The Thirteen Clocks. I also think an unhealthy fixation with Disney princesses added to that, come to think of it.

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other fantasies?

Mostly I think that I’ve got a unique bunch of people adventuring together. Aside from Mylena Saebariela, you have the orphan Chiave, who’s the only human with a magical ability in the realm, Warrek, the Captain of the Guard who comes home after duty out of the country to find his best friend the king is gone, and I can’t forget Joppa — she’s sharing memories with her dead twin brother.

Q. Readers may not realize that writers do lots of research, even for fantasy stories, before they complete a book. What kind of research did you do for this story?

I did a lot of research into medieval combat and herbology, specially about American plants and how they can be used for medicinal purposes.

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced the book? How?

Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, most definitely.

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

Definitely the swamp scene. You’ll know it when you see it, and you’ll probably agree that it’s the best.

Q. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

Since I started writing this novel when I was a child, combat was by far the hardest thing for me to grasp, so much so that I put down the manuscript for years until I “grew up” enough to be able to tackle those parts of the book.

Q. What inspired you to write this story with these characters?

I’m not exactly sure where the idea came from, honestly. As I said, I began writing it when I was twelve, so who knows where the first spark came from.

Q. Do you have plans for more books in this series?

I do. Most likely two more books in the main series and if there is reader interest, Joppa might get a book of her own.

Q. Do you plan to ever write in a different genre?

I do write in science fiction as well. My current project, which I am doing the final edit on with my publisher, is a cyberpunk novel set in dystopic future California. It’s entitled Deus Hex Machina and sort of answers the question “What if worship of technology went too far?”

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I had sat on SotO for so long I honestly forgot about it. Then a friend published a book on Amazon, and since I was looking for work suggested I write some short stories and publish them as a way to get some income. I started planning some, then remembered I had a novel almost done, and the rest is history.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

Oh I love editing, but I spent many years as an online editor for various websites. I really love the process of taking raw writing and polishing it. I’m editing DHM right now, and it’s a ton of fun to be able to check off scenes as “fixed.” I use a lot of spreadsheets when editing (I also use them a fair bit when writing), to keep me organized and on track.

Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing – yet – to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing?

No, I used to write for a variety of video game websites, but I realized when that work dried up that I was chafing to get back to fiction, so this is my only gig now.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

I love reading (but I suppose that’s part of the craft, isn’t it?) and playing video games, watching movies and TV shows with great stories. Basically, anyway I can consume stories, I do it.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

Make a plan. Deciding which avenue for publishing you want to pursue is a huge step, and once you focus on self-publishing or finding an agent, it will help you focus your energy in the right places. Once you have a book you are proud of, make sure to get as many eyes on it as possible. Honest feedback is the greatest gift your friends can give you, and it’s even better if its from someone who doesn’t care about your feelings. Write a lot, read a lot, and never feel guilty for reading a book instead of doing something else. It’s research for your craft!

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

Publishing today has changed so much, but even before the shift to a more indie-available paradigm, writing has always been seen as easy — after all, everyone can write. We do it every day, so therefore what authors do isn’t really all that valuable. I have recently come to own my role as an artist, and am proud to speak up in defense of writing as an art form. No, it’s not easy. Yes, anyone can type words on a page, but the crafting of characters, structuring pleasing plots and rousing scenes, describing details in such a way that the reader is captivated, none of that is easy. Writing is one of the hardest things I do, and though I often wonder why I pour so much of myself into this endeavor, I can’t stop. It’s who I am.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Oh, great question. My biggest issue with a book is a protagonist with all the tools. If your character has every key to every locked door, how is that interesting to read? If however, they encounter locks that not only bar their way, but fill the room with water every time you try to pick them, then we get to learn something about the character by how they react to the impossible. Give me struggle, and you will own my interest. Sure I want a hero to win the day, but I want to see them sweat a bit on the way.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It won my heart with its magical realism, and nothing has been able to capture the joy of spontaneously appearing butterflies since (although I did try myself).

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

Oh, that’s a toss up between Gilmore Girls and Firefly. Both of those shows gave us amazing characters that were witty and delightful. There’s definitely a bit of River Tam in Joppa.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

State and Main. I love movies about writers, and there is something so charming about this movie.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?

Only one? That’s cruel. I would say Japan is at the top of my list because I’ve traveled Europe a couple of times, but I haven’t yet visited Asia.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Amanda Orneck

Blog: ImmersiveCursive.com

Facebook: officialamandaorneck

Twitter: @amandorneck

Goodreads: amandaorneck

Book Links: books.pronoun.com/amandaorneck

Shadow of the Owl: Amazon.com  Barnes and Noble.com

Deus Hex Machina: Inkshares.com