Author Interview: 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! 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


Goodreads: <

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! 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

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! 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


Facebook: officialamandaorneck

Twitter: @amandorneck

Goodreads: amandaorneck

Book Links:

Shadow of the Owl:  Barnes and

Deus Hex Machina:

Announcing: The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient cultures. Give me a good documentary on the ancient Hittites or the Egyptian Sphynx or an article about the latest theories regarding the Olmecs in Mesoamerica, and I’m in heaven. I’m a die-hard Indiana Jones fan, and not just for handsome Harrison Ford.

A brown-haired, blue-eyed Persian, like the warrior-prince Rasteem in The Origin Key.

So no one should be surprised that my first novel is about a third-century Persian warrior-prince who discovers a mysterious hidden kingdom that appears to be some kind of Shangri-La. In this place, everyone is healthy, content, and well-educated—NOT the reality of our world in the third century. So how did they achieve this ideal? Do they have magical abilities? That got me thinking about Clarke’s third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

What if, I thought, this place kept itself isolated from the rest of the comparatively barbaric world because they had developed and routinely used advanced technology that we take for granted in the 21st century? Technology that in the hands of savages could be used to destroy on an apocalyptic scale? Technology that looks like magic to outsiders?

That’s the premise of my story, an adult fantasy that blends elements of science fiction to deliver an adventure grounded in actual human history.

The book didn’t happen overnight. On the contrary, it took over a year of hard work, research, bouts of furious pounding away at the keyboard interspersed with wordless dry spells to produce a first draft. Then there was feedback from readers, innumerable editorial redlines, new and improved ideas to strengthen the story, and heartless murdering of beloved darlings.* It seemed to take forever.

When I thought I had a publishable product, I started looking for ways to turn my story into an actual book. Fortunately for me, I made the acquaintance of Russell Newquist, the owner of Silver Empire Publishing. I had attended a panel discussion at a local literary festival where Russell addressed many of the pros and cons of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and indie publishing. Afterward, I approached him and (metaphorically) threw my manuscript at him. Luckily, he (metaphorically) caught it and, to my astonishment, did not fling it back at me in disgust.

So now my bucket list needs editing, too. I’m going to be a published author! I signed a contract to publish my book with Silver Empire! Since then, there has been more feedback, more redlines, and more refinement of the story.

It is with infinite joy that I make this announcement: My debut novel The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key will be available this summer! I’m thrilled to be working with Russell Newquist and everyone at Silver Empire to make this happen. Stay tuned to this blog and social media for further announcements about a release date. Until then, get a taste of the treasures to be found in Dodrazeb in the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. Two of my short stories are in it and you can pre-order it now directly from Silver Empire.

Oh, and one other thing. The Origin Key is the first in a series of novels detailing the adventures of my Persian warrior-prince in the mysterious kingdom of Dodrazeb. There will be more!

*In writing, “to kill your darlings” means to ruthlessly eliminate any sentence, paragraph, chapter, or piece of writing that does nothing for the story you are trying to tell, no matter how well it is written.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Image_square_webby Susan

2013, Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin. Screenplay by  Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley,  directed by Don Scardino.

On a scale of one to ten, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone rates about a twelve for purely hilarious absurdity. Carrell (Burt Wonderstone) is priceless and Carrey (Steve Gray, the street performer specializing in outrageous stunts) was born to give us his own unique type of physical comedy. Buscemi (Anton Marvelton, the magic act second banana) and Arkin (Rance Holloway, the elderly stage magician) are wonderfully quirky personalities who find Burt’s inflated ego and refusal to accept the reality of diminishing ticket sales too much to bear. Olivia Wilde shows a nicely understated flair for comedy and James Gandolfini is everything you’d expect from a Las Vegas entrepreneur.


Burt and Anton have a “magical friendship” that they have turned into one of the most successful stage shows in Las Vegas. But it’s been a while since they’ve introduced anything new to the act and audiences are finding it stale and unimaginative. When a masochistic street magician’s shockingly atrocious antics grab the spotlight – and most of their audience – both the act and their friendship suffer. Burt’s reluctance to participate in a “risky stunt” leads to all sorts of complications while the competition continues to grow more viral online with each new act of self-inflicted violence.

Will Burt and Anton find a way to match the shocking and horrific tricks of Steve Gray that the public wants to see? Or will they find a way back to what made them fall in love with magic as children? Can they pull off that one big trick that they have always dreamed of performing? Anything is possible if you are willing to be dazzled – and don’t spend too much time analyzing the illusions.

While the plot may be a little thin, the characters are full-fledged, delightfully funny, and endearingly eccentric. The real magic in this movie is the journey to find the awe and wonder that an accomplished prestidigitator can inspire.

Three boxes of popcornRating: Triple Serving 

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)

Reviewed by Mandy

Written by Deborah Harkness (Goodreads Author)

As a librarian, I could immediately appreciate the major role that the library played in the book. Seriously, people, take care of ancient tomes!

Diana Bishop is a powerful descendant of a powerful familial line of witches. After the death of her parents, she shuns the art and practice of witchcraft, though the power courses through her veins, demanding to be released. Losing herself in history and scholarly research, she lives as human a life as possible. Everything is going well, until one day the air shifts around her as she opens a long-lost and enchanted book from deep within the library.

Suddenly creatures from all around are drawn to the library, and to Diana. She has unwittingly found a very powerful, very old and infinitely desired secret amongst creatures. The only person who makes sense to Diana is Matthew Clairmont, a gifted and well-respected geneticist and scholar at Oxford. He’s also the only person who SHOULDN’T make sense: he’s a vampire, and a natural enemy of witches, practicing or otherwise.

Thrown in to an ever more dangerous conflict, Diana and Matthew must fight against not only other creatures but their growing attraction to one another. As more secrets come to light, the danger mounts and both will have to challenge not only societal pressures from the magical community, but their own deepest feelings and fears.

The Night Circus

by Mandy


What if your first kiss was held suspended in time, bestowed as all in the room succumb to the power of magic?

There’s no doubt Erin Morgenstern has created magic. In her debut novel, two opponents fight in a lifelong battle of skill versus skill in a mysterious challenge that threatens to rip the world apart. Well, some of it anyway.

The black and white tents of Les Cirques des Rêves appear without warning, suddenly occupying space that was empty the day before. Drawn by its mystery, townspeople enter and are enthralled by nights filled with mystery and feats of extraordinary talent. But who is behind it all?

Bound as children to a contest they do not understand, raised without love by men they barely know, Celia and Marco are rivals in an arena that defies convention. It is a dreamland, one that speaks to the hearts, souls and imaginations of not only the audience, but the creators of each exhibit. Dazzling and intricate, the circus is a living thing, and perhaps Morgenstern’s most brilliant invention. Every decadent page speaks of love, betrayal, hope, mystery and magic. It’s a love story, but it’s so much more. As pawns trapped in a cruel wager between two powerful, magical and proud men, Celia and Marco must not only discover the nature of the challenge, but how to play and ultimately win. Each tent is not only a display of immense talent, but a secret token of affection to one another. Poetry runs down the trunk of a tree, an ice forest grows and blooms and a reflecting pool transcends grief and loss.

I was drawn in by the early buzz, but skeptical of the label “Harry Potter for adults.” I take issue with this. It is a desperate plug for publishers and entertainment houses in a post-Harry Potter and Twilight world to gain what they love most: money. First of all, Harry Potter is just as much for adults as it is for kids and teens. It’s just that good. Tread carefully when invoking Harry’s name, people! Anyway, I received my copy, and from the very first line, I was entranced. The hook is fantastic. It’s a confident work, and I will smile whenever I see splashes of red alongside black & white. I’m certain it will be a trend, with the book generating its own rêveurs. The book is not for the impatient: though the chapters are brief, each slice of the circus is delivered leisurely. Glimpses are provided through different characters, descriptions of challenges created and answered and through the players themselves. It’s slow, but maddening only because the desire to know more about the circus is so strong.

I want to say more, but some tents are left better explored at one’s own pace. Enjoy.