Readers Praise Treasures of Dodrazeb

I-will-kill-the-Viper-bluSword-and-Science Historical Fantasy

The Treasures of Dodrazeb is for anyone who enjoys history with a dash of fantasy interwoven with compelling mystery. It chronicles the adventures of Persian warrior-prince Rasteem when he discovers a secretive kingdom deep in the Himalayas. Inhabited by descendants of an ancient, scholarly society hiding powerful technology, he finds the people and their culture are by turns fascinating and frightening. At once drawn to and confounded by its strong-willed princess, the would-be conqueror has much to learn about the treasures hidden in Dodrazeb—and why the outside world isn’t ready for them.

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key


The Origin Key is the first book in the series.
On a quest for vengeance against a criminal known as the Viper, Prince Rasteem becomes suspicious when his army easily conquers Dodrazeb. Princess Laneffri is desperate to expel the Persian invaders from her kingdom and will stop at nothing to protect its secrets—especially the Origin Key, a powerful, ancient device. When Rasteem learns what the Origin Key can do, he must find a way to make the princess an ally to save both their kingdoms from annihilation.


Recent Reader Reviews on Amazon
5.0 out of 5 Stars  Loved it!
Well thought out thriller full of adventure and pulse pounding action. I loved it and recommend it highly.

5.0 out of 5 stars A good, fun read
This was a bit mystery, alternative history, and a bit romance. The characters were interesting and I found myself involved and rooting for them as they fought and fell in love. The mystery of who was actually the villain was well done. I enjoyed the book and it is well worth reading. I would recommend this book to anyone.

5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing read!
Read it in a night since I didn’t want to put it down. You will thoroughly enjoy! The Origin Key should be added to your READ list.

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Persian Historical fiction with interesting characters and enough plot twists to keep you up late reading.
A good story with interesting plot twists. This is some very well done historical fiction!
The characters are well developed and interesting and the pace is good. The book pulls you in and the architectural descriptions are very nice and helpful.
I’ll be reading the sequel as soon as it’s available, that’s about the best praise a book can get.

5.0 out of 5 stars If you are looking for grand adventure, look no further! This is definitely the book for you!
After a brutal attack leaves their father fighting for his life, two Persian princes seek vengeance marching an army great distances to a hidden city searching for the Viper, the man responsible for the attack. Thinking to find the Viper, King of this city, in residence, they attack with vicious force only to be met with small resistance. The older brother’s rage is held in check by the influence of Rasteem, the younger prince. As he learns more of the peaceful inhabitants of the city, Rasteem is amazed and his doubts grow that it’s king can be the Viper. Filled with all the war and bloodshed of its age, this tale is also filled to the brim with adventure and magic! The hidden city brings to mind survivors of Atlantis with all the wonders that entails. Everything the city holds and all within it are far advanced for their time. They seek to peacefully spread knowledge throughout the world without endangering themselves. If you are looking for grand adventure, look no further! This is definitely the book for you!

Like to sample before you purchase?
Try this excerpt! This chapter takes place near the beginning of the book. It tells how Prince Rasteem and Princess Laneffri first meet, neither realizing the other’s true identity.

Mounted troops rode into the valley and squads on foot went door to door inside the massive wall in a meticulous search.

As comfortable in the saddle as he was leading infantry on foot, Rasteem sat astride Kurush, a glossy reddish-brown stallion with black mane and tail. Handlers from the king’s stables had said he was too high-spirited to be a suitable war horse, just like army officers had believed Rasteem was too reckless and temperamental to become a good soldier. Rasteem and Kurush proved them all wrong.

When he was younger, Rasteem’s outbursts often eclipsed his brother Zardegerd’s. Time and tragedy molded Rasteem into a composed and prudent leader who channeled his uncontrollable temper into ferocity in battle. He had turned his impatience into thoughtful awareness.

Most of the time.

Rasteem rode at a slow trot across a somewhat desolate corner of the kingdom. Kamran was on horseback beside him as they approached another dwelling. The other side of the valley was a bright patchwork of trees, verdant fields, and orchards. Farms there were nourished by fresh flowing water from canals and irrigation trenches. This corner of the kingdom was home to scattered goat and sheep herders. Their livestock grazed on the scant vegetation in the rocky hills. Streams and smaller brooks brought water from the valley’s winding river, but shade was scarce.

At the first dwelling they visited, an old man and woman cringed and wailed while two soldiers kept them corralled with drawn swords and menacing expressions. Rasteem and Kamran went inside, watching as soldiers rifled through the two-room, thatch-roofed hut. What they found inside surprised Rasteem. He ordered his men to be quick and thorough, respectful of the peasants’ meager possessions.

He saw flagstone floors instead of hard, packed earth. There were stacks of glazed ceramic dishes and metal serving utensils, not crude wooden bowls and spoons. Cupboards and chests stored clothing and belongings. The outbuildings were also neat and tidy. Stalls and fodder for the animals, feed for chickens pecking at the hard ground, stacks of raw wool, and farm tools didn’t interest the prince.

The soldiers found nothing suspicious in the hut or the outbuilding. They headed for the next dwelling and found the same type of clean, orderly home. The shrill cries of a woman and two young boys accompanied the search there. To Rasteem’s relief, the third house they visited was empty, long abandoned.

He decided to split his squad and send the men in pairs so they could search faster. He and Kamran headed for the next nearest cottage. They were back in their saddles when a loud rumbling came from the boy’s direction. Rasteem looked at him.

“I’m hungry.” Kamran complained. “I should have raided the larder at that first house.”

Rasteem chuckled. “That bottomless pit of a stomach will betray you one day when you need stealth and silence—like it did on our last hunt. Remember?”

“I would have killed that panther! It would have been my second, one more than Tujee.” Kamran and Zardegerd’s second son were friendly rivals, always trying to surpass each other. Tujee had gone into battle once, but Kamran had earned bragging rights by killing an enemy in his first experience with war. If Tujee hadn’t sprained his ankle during Rasteem’s training session, he would have been in Dodrazeb with Zardegerd and Kamran would have stayed in Argakest.

Kamran became thoughtful. “Why is Uncle Zardegerd convinced Chudreev the Viper is from here? Why doesn’t he listen to you?”

“Because the only Chudreev we could discover, the only one anyone had ever heard of is the king of this valley.”

“But… it was you… you’re better…,” Kamran stammered. “You tracked Grandfather’s attackers and found Dodrazeb.”

Rasteem blew out a long, slow breath. “Zardegerd commands the army while Father cannot. We take our orders from him.” His eyes narrowed. “Zardegerd will be the King of Kings one day, sitting on the Throne of Light—I only offer advice. It is our place to be warriors always loyal to the rightful king.”

“I know—I don’t mean—it’s just that—” Rasteem waited for Kamran’s thoughts to catch up to his mouth. “He usually listens to you.”

“He’s right about one thing. We must find and dispatch the murderers’ leader. We can’t tolerate incursions into the Empire that threaten the king’s life.”

“So the most likely explanation is that this Chudreev is the one.” Kamran was still curious. “Why do you think it might not be him?”

“These Dodrazebbians are not warlike, weren’t prepared for our assault. They don’t dress like the marauders who attacked Father, and they use different weapons. The vandals are shorter and darker, more like the nomads who plague the Empire’s northern provinces.”

Kamran paid sober attention to the lesson. “You didn’t expect to find Chudreev Pranaga here even before our attack?”

“I thought we might find a king named Chudreev—just not one stupid enough to orchestrate an attack on Father,” Rasteem explained. “I’m not convinced the Chudreev of Dodrazeb is the right one. But Zardegerd is. So here we are.”

Brilliant sunshine beat down on them. Rasteem and Kamran slowed their horses to a walk as they neared the next deserted-looking cottage. The back of the dwelling and the dilapidated outbuilding next to it abutted a steep, rocky outcropping dotted with brambles and sparse tufts of vegetation. Its thatched roof needed repair. A crooked door dangled from a loose hinge.

A broad, shallow stream flowed past a cluster of trees near the house and meandered beyond it. The trees beckoned passersby to enjoy a respite from the heat and dust. Sunlight poured through the branches onto the cool water, making the ripples sparkle.

“It looks empty,” Rasteem observed. “We should keep going.”

“Uncle, aren’t you thirsty?” Kamran asked.

“Roasting inside your armor?” A sly grin tipped up one corner of Rasteem’s mouth.

“Well…” Kamran tried to wipe sweat from his brow, hindered by his helmet.

“All right, then. The horses will be grateful for a drink as well.” Rasteem dismounted and led Kurush to the stream. Alert and watchful, Kamran waited as he had been trained before taking a turn at the water’s edge.

Rasteem knelt, dipped his cupped hand into the stream, and drank a handful of water. He plunged his head beneath the ripples, savoring its bracing coolness. He stood up and flicked wet hair away from his face with a satisfied sigh. Surveying the small house again, he shifted his gaze upward to check the sun’s position. “Come on, boy! Be quick.”

Kamran pulled off his helmet to immerse his sweaty head in the water and enjoyed several greedy gulps. When he was done, he threw his head back and shook his dripping curls. “I wish it was deep enough to—”

Rasteem grabbed his arm and turned him to face the small cottage. “Listen to me, say nothing,” he whispered.

Kamran nodded, wondering why his uncle didn’t want to be overheard by the trees.

“Do you see smoke coming from the chimney?” Rasteem asked.

Kamran squinted at the distant thatched roof and shook his head. The horses took a long drink while the soldiers appeared to be engaged in casual conversation.

“Pay attention. I can smell the fire someone has started in there.”

Kamran sniffed the air and detected a faint aroma that might have been a campfire while he studied the sky above the small dwelling. He watched a few faint gray wisps emerge from its chimney and disperse on the breeze. A small, steadier column of smoke soon diminished to intermittent wisps that faded away. “I see it now!”

Rasteem seized the opportunity to emphasize the importance of strategy. “Does that hovel look inhabited?”

“No,” Kamran whispered.

“Then why is someone lighting a fire? Do you still see smoke?”

“No. They must have put the fire out—someone is hiding in there!” Kamran hissed. “And… and they’ve seen us, but they don’t know if we’ve seen them.”

Rasteem smiled. “Here’s our plan. We will ride toward the place as if we intend to search it. When we get closer, I’ll say it appears to be empty and we should move on. Follow me riding past it and stop when I stop. Understand?”

Baffled, Kamran asked, “Why don’t we just drag them out?”

“If they’ve seen us, they’re prepared for an attack.”

“If they think they haven’t been discovered, their guard will be down.” Excited, Kamran almost forgot to lower his voice.

“Exactly.” His uncle’s approval was worth everything to Kamran.

Rasteem didn’t share his conclusion that only one or two men were hiding, a valuable lesson for Kamran with little risk of injury. He didn’t expect the occupants to put up much of a fight.

Kamran jammed his helmet back on and they mounted their horses. Rasteem led them toward the little dwelling at a trot, stopping on the hard-packed earth outside it. Light did not penetrate beyond the broken dangling door into pitch-black darkness.

“It’s another empty one,” Rasteem announced. He gave the place a bored glance. “I’m ready to get back to camp.”

They rode around the steep hill behind the ramshackle old cottage. They dismounted, approached the barren hillock, and peered around it. There was no sign of activity.

Rasteem whispered, “Stay several paces behind me. When I go through the door, wait outside. If anyone gets past me, stop them.” Kamran’s eyes glittered with excitement.

Rasteem drew his shamshir and took a deep breath. He sprinted toward the side of the hut, confident he could take the occupants by surprise. He knew Kamran could be adept at stealth, appearing from nowhere to defeat his cousins in mock battles.

He signaled Kamran. With a burst of speed, he hurtled toward the doorway. The boy followed, sword drawn, hanging back as ordered. Rasteem tore the rickety door from its one loose hinge and launched himself through it with a roar.

Rasteem surveyed the dark interior as his cry swelled. Trying to take in every detail at once, he missed one crucial item: a thin rope stretched across the doorway at ankle height.

The trip wire sent Rasteem crashing toward the floor. A shrill scream echoing inside his skull, he twisted and tried to roll onto his back before hitting the dusty flagstones. Something heavy hit him, sending a jolt of pain through his right shoulder blade. The force knocked him forward onto his stomach and sent his sword flying out of his hand.

Angry at failing to anticipate the trap, Rasteem let loose another roar and flipped onto his back. He could just make out a dark, solid shadow framed in the open doorway. Fearing for Kamran’s safety, he kicked out one foot and tripped his adversary. As the shadow started to fall, he sprang up and grabbed for its throat. When sharp teeth clamped onto his outstretched hand he roared again in pain. Something hard struck the back of his head with an explosive crack and enough force to make sparks dance before his eyes.

With deep pain radiating from his thumb and a throbbing lump on his head, Rasteem saw the shadow dissolve into sunlight streaming through the doorway.

He shook his head to clear his vision and heard a gasp. Instinct advising him to duck, he avoided another wallop from a heavy weapon. Rasteem pounced toward the sound and heard Kamran shout outside the hovel. Blaming himself for endangering the boy, unsteady on his feet, the warrior groped in the dark.

Rasteem made contact with a warm body. He closed his fingers around a hank of hair, twisted it, and pulled his assailant toward him. They struggled, high-pitched screams overlapping his grunts. Something heavy clanked against the flagstones. Holding tight to the flailing whirlwind, Rasteem pushed it toward the door. He wanted to continue the fight in sunlight so he could see what had happened to Kamran.

He crossed the threshold onto the hard-baked earth outside. He didn’t see the boy. What he did see made him loosen his grip on his prisoner.

“A woman!

She preyed on his surprise and wrenched free. She swung around to run away, her long, thick braid of black hair whipping. Rasteem seized the braid with one hand and jerked, bringing her to a dead stop. She screamed again. He grabbed her with his other hand and pulled her to his chest, pinning her hands at her sides. He wrapped the braid several times around his hand and forced her to look up at him. As she wrestled to escape, he saw a mark on her skin behind her left ear resembling a coiled snake. Putting the discovery aside for later, he began an interrogation.

“Who are you? Why are you hiding?” He intended to get answers—by force if necessary. He eyed his captive, trying to understand how a mere woman could have come so close to besting him.

Her long, loose plain muslin tunic and ill-fitting trousers were dirty, the embroidered slippers on her feet tattered and muddy. Under streaks of grime and soot, her face twisted into a snarl, exposing pearl-white teeth. Rasteem had no desire to feel how sharp they were.

“Barbarian devil!” she hissed. The metal scales on Rasteem’s armor tore at the thin fabric of her tunic, pressing into her flesh as she writhed.

“Kamran!” He yelled, trying to look in all directions at once. He spotted the boy’s shamshir in the dirt between the hovel and its dilapidated shed. Cold dread returned.

“How many of you are there?” He jerked the braid still wound around his hand. She cried out again and stared at him with raw hatred, her dark eyes glistening. He felt her heart beating against her ribs, sure it was more from struggling against him than from fear. Rasteem had the feeling she was every bit as dangerous as any lion he had ever cornered in a hunt.

“What will you do with Dodrazeb now?” she demanded.

Astonished by her insolence, he scowled. “The same thing I’ll do with you—whatever I please.” Looking for any sign of Kamran, Rasteem spat out, “If he is harmed, I swear I will—”

“You will what?” A sneer twisted her mouth. Before Rasteem could decide her punishment, they both heard a loud groan. It came from somewhere near the small ramshackle outbuilding.

“Kamran!” Rasteem pulled the woman with him toward the sound.

A helmet rose from behind a pile of debris crowned by a broken stool. Vulnerable without his sword—it still rested where he had dropped it in the hovel—Rasteem braced for another attack until Kamran’s face was visible beneath the helmet. Rubbing the back of his neck, the boy came to his feet.

Kamran took a halting step toward Rasteem and his prisoner. “I wasn’t expecting a wo–”

“Behind you!” Rasteem saw movement in the shed.

The second of distraction was all the prisoner needed. She yanked her braid from his hand and pushed against his chest to get away.

As the woman made her move, a screaming girl in threadbare, dirty clothes burst out of the shed, hands clamped around a rusty pitchfork raised over her head. Rasteem grabbed his prisoner’s arm before she could escape and Kamran avoided the pitchfork’s sharp tines at the last moment. He sprang aside, tripped over an old bucket, and fell face-first on the ground.

Rasteem’s prisoner pulled her right leg back and kicked hard, smashing her knee into his crotch. His face contorted, he let her go and grabbed his groin, reeling, unable to make a coherent sound. Eyes rolling up into his head, he dropped to his knees and fell over sideways.

The woman bolted toward the girl, shouting in a language the soldiers didn’t understand. She dragged her accomplice into the shed without looking back. Kamran scrambled to his feet and recovered his shamshir, intending to give chase. Then he saw his uncle writhing in the dirt.

Rasteem screwed his eyes shut and managed a ragged breath. Incapacitated by the unbearable, radiating pain from the woman’s blow, he tried not to whimper.

Kamran ran to his side. “Uncle! Where are you injured? What did she do to you?” The boy’s alarm escalated when Rasteem moaned instead of answering.

“Was it a dagger?” Panicked, Kamran searched for an unseen wound. “Rasteem! What can I do? How can I help you?”

Rasteem managed a tortured whisper. “… let them get away…”

 

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Secret Stairs: Tales of an Eerie Urban Legend

#1HorrorAnthologyThat’s right—SECRET STAIRS is at the top of the Amazon charts in Horror Anthologies! Early reviewers love it and so will you!

SecretStairsCoverInspired by the spookiest of urban legends, thirty-four authors spin tales that range from science fiction to fantasy, horror to mystery. There’s even a romance! Definitely something for everyone. Click here to buy your copy.

You mustn’t talk about the stairs.
There they stand, surrounded by nothing but forest, pristine as the day they were built. No sign remains of any other structure around them, no ruins of long forgotten buildings. They look… wrong. They feel wrong. Bad things happen if you get too close. Horrible things.
Never tell anyone about the stairs!

My contribution to this awesome collection of stories is entitled CAJUN RAY. Weird things are happening in the woods just outside a small southern town. The Chief of Police and a deputy find something bone-chillingly wrong when they investigate.

SecretStairsBookTrailer

Click here to view the book trailer on YouTube.

The eBook is only $0.99 through Saturday, March 10th. After that, it will be $2.99. If you prefer to hold an actual paper book in your hands while you read (regardless of how many trees must be sacrificed) the paperback version is around 680 pages. That beast will be $24.99 as soon as it’s available.

Please leave a review on Amazon to let others know how much you liked this anthology!

Free ARC of an Awesome Anthology!

Who wants a FREE BOOK? Get the awesome anthology SECRET STAIRS before it goes on sale to the public! Click here to get your FREE copy.

SecretStairsCoverInspired by the spookiest of urban legends, thirty-four authors spin tales that range from science fiction to fantasy, horror to mystery.

You mustn’t talk about the stairs.
There they stand, surrounded by nothing but forest, pristine as the day they were built. No sign remains of any other structure around them, no ruins of long forgotten buildings. They look… wrong. They feel wrong. Bad things happen if you get too close. Horrible things.
Never tell anyone about the stairs!

In return for your FREE Advance Review Copy (ARC), just read it before March 4 and leave a review.

My contribution to this awesome collection of stories is entitled CAJUN RAY. Weird things are happening in the woods just outside a small southern town, and local law enforcement find something bone-chillingly wrong when they investigate.

Get the free ARC copy through @booksproutapp before it goes on sale to the public!

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/

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