Author Interview: Amanda Orneck

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Information:

Author Name: Amanda Orneck

Blog: ImmersiveCursive.com

Facebook: officialamandaorneck

Twitter: @amandorneck

Goodreads: amandaorneck

Book Links: books.pronoun.com/amandaorneck

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

Deus Hex Machina: Inkshares.com

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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.

RasteemCat
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.

burtwonderstone

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.