4 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, M.A. Ray, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: The High King’s Will by M.A. Ray

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Title: The High King’s Will (Steel for the Prince: Book One)

Author: M.A. Ray

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 185 Pages

At a Glance: The High King’s Will takes off on an exciting and action packed adventure.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: “The High King’s will crushes all before it. …Fare well, Eagle Eye Wormsbane. If you can.”

Eagle Eye’s world is full of magic. Fairies love him, and his only real friend is the resident unicorn, but since he killed the Worm of Shirith, nothing feels the same. When he collides with beautiful, broken Brother Fox a second time, he knows there’s no going back.

“I’m not in love with him. He needs help, that’s all.”

There’s no shortage of monsters in Fox’s life. The Worm was nothing compared to his own father, High King Beagar. When Eagle suggests an escape, Fox seizes the idea–and he wants Eagle with him.

“Damn propriety! I don’t want a servant! I want you to be my friend!”

The High King’s designs send Eagle and Fox across the sea to Rodansk, a land of summer sunshine at midnight and endless winter dark. Between the two, low-caste Eagle presents the bigger threat to Beagar’s power, and he didn’t even know it. Now that his Prince is giving him so much to lose, he won’t go down without a fight.

“Don’t be afraid. …I’m with you.”

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Review: Filled with magic, betrayal, danger, and mayhem—not to mention a couple of engaging heroes—M.A. Ray’s The High King’s Will sweeps readers along on an exciting high fantasy adventure. Digging into this story, I have to confess I wasn’t sure whether I was reading a fable or folk lore or a fairy tale. It turns out the answer is yes, I was reading a little bit of all those things, and I found this book to be a delightful tale with a New Adult feel.

Eagle Eye has just been named Wormsbane. He’s slain a dragon and saved the life of Brother Fox, the Crown Prince, but feels unworthy of the title that’s been bestowed upon him by the High King Beagar, certain that it wasn’t skill but luck that was with him that day. When the author introduces us to Eagle and Fox (whose names are what kept me wondering at the start of the book if I was reading a fable or maybe the re-imagining of a Native American folk tale), we don’t learn as much about the slaying as we do about the High King—namely that he’s never going to be up for father of the year. He’s abusive in some brutal and heinous ways, and as the story evolves, we see exactly why Fox is so eager to set off with Eagle to see the world when he has the opportunity.

What I didn’t understand for a good ways into this tale is exactly what sort of creatures Eagle and Fox are. I only knew for sure they weren’t at all human—it’s actually a bit difficult to get a good mental picture of what they do look like, at least for me—but the author does make sure we get a clear picture of this fairy tale world inhabited by trolls, dragons, fairies, elves, as well as humans, not to mention the magic and courage our heroes possess. The world-building along with my compassion for Fox and respect for Eagle made for some good binge reading.

As it turns out, the High King allowing Fox to set off on his adventure, accompanied by Eagle as his guard, wasn’t a rare kindness displayed by a father toward his son. There were much more sinister motives involved, and as the boys discover their journey is going to turn into a fight for survival, this story draws you in to all the danger they face, in the classic hero’s journey fashion. The action scenes are well written and fraught with tension, making for a brisk paced read.

Our young lovers have only just begun, and there are more than a few obstacles they’ll have to overcome, not the least of which is that Fox’s life is the stuff of nightmares and there are many things he’s done and had done to him he can’t put behind him. As the book draws to a close, we’re also left on the cusp of change for Eagle… Yes, the story ends in a cliffhanger, so what that change is remains to be seen. I’m looking so forward to book two to find out, and can only hope these boys will find a talisman of good fortune or that fate will throw some luck their way. Something tells me they’re going to need it.

I’m always excited to be introduced to new authors, and if the entire series lives up to the promise of The High King’s Will, M.A. Ray is one I’ll be paying close attention to.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

 

You can buy The High King’s Will here:

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Reviewed by Karen, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, TJ Klune

Release Day Review: The Lightning-Struck Heart by TJ Klune

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Title:  The Lightning-Struck Heart

Author:  TJ Klune

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

Page/Word Count:  400 Pages

At a Glance:  Like the quest they are sent on, this story is EPIC…HaveHeart Forever!

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb:  Once upon a time, in an alleyway in the slums of the City Of Lockes, a young and somewhat lonely boy named Sam Haversford turns a group of teenage douchebags into stone completely by accident.

Of course, this catches the attention of a higher power, and Sam’s pulled from the only world he knows to become an apprentice to the King’s Wizard, Morgan of Shadows.

When Sam’s fourteen, he enters the Dark Woods and returns with Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, and a half-giant named Tiggy, earning the moniker Sam of Wilds.

At fifteen, Sam learns what love truly is when a new knight arrives at the castle—Knight Ryan Foxheart, the dreamiest dream to have ever been dreamed.

Naturally, it all goes to hell when Ryan dates the reprehensible Prince Justin, Sam can’t control his magic, a sexually aggressive dragon kidnaps the prince, and the King sends them on an epic quest to save Ryan’s boyfriend, all while Sam falls more in love with someone he can never have.

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Review:  I honestly don’t even know where to start.

I originally read this blurb and thought, nope not going to be for me. But come on, it’s TJ Klune and you are going to have to read it.  Oh I was so, so wrong. This book was exactly what I needed.  I didn’t think I would ever come across another book that would have me laughing so hard I was crying the way that Tell Me It’s Real did, but this one absolutely did.  The dialogue and banter was super fast and snarky and random and filled with complete awesomeness!

And then there were the feelings…so many feelings.  I may have on occasion while reading gotten a little teary eyed…alright, that is a lie. There was definitely ugly crying going on for a minute or maybe two, which then would turn into uncontrollable laughter.  I am positive anyone near me while I was reading this book now thinks I am an absolute crazy basketcase. It was so worth it!  There were times I wanted to smack the Sam and Ryan upside their heads, they were both so oblivious. My heart would brake but would then be put back together.

Gary and Tiggy…I really don’t even have the words.  Most awesome hornless gay unicorn and half giant ever!  Throughout the entire story I kept flipping between who was my favorite character and finally just decided there was no favorite. I love them all.  There really isn’t a character mentioned that I didn’t love for what they brought to the story.  I can’t even tell you how happy I am that I currently don’t have any books lined up behind this one to review so that I can immediately do a re-read of this one.

Like the quest they are sent on, this story is EPIC…HaveHeart Forever!

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You can buy The Lightning-Struck Heart here:

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3 Stars, Andrew Q. Gordon, DSP Publications, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: The Last Grand Master by Andrew Q. Gordon

Title: The Last Grand Master

Author: Andrew Q. Gordon

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 40 Pages and 350 Pages

At a Glance: The short prequel was cute, and the novel was good, but there were parts that dragged on in the middle after an explosive beginning.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: In a war that shook the earth, the Six gods of Nendor defeated their brother Neldin, god of evil. For the three thousand years since, Nendor and the Seven Kingdoms have known peace and prosperity.

But then a new wizard unleashes the power of Neldin. Meglar, wizard king of Zargon, uses dark magic to create an army of creatures to carry out his master’s will.

One by one, the sovereign realms fall. Soon the only wizard who can stop Meglar is Grand Master Farrell, the Prince of Haven, the hidden home of refugees. An untried wizard, Farrell carries a secret that could hold the key to defeating Meglar—or it could destroy the world.

While helping Nerti, queen of the unicorns, Farrell saves Miceral, an immortal muchari warrior the Six have chosen to be Farrell’s mate. But Farrell approaches love with caution, and before he can decide how to proceed, Meglar invades a neighboring kingdom. Farrell and Miceral find themselves in the middle of the battle. Farrell pushes himself to the limit as he and Miceral fight not only to stop Meglar but for their very survival.

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Review: Both First Love (the FREE Prequel) and The Last Grand Master are being reviewed together, so let me talk about the prequel first.

First Love is a short, forty page story in the Champion of the Gods fantasy series by Andrew Q. Gordon. It follows Farrell visiting his birthplace of Yar-del and falling for Cameron, a handsome Lieutenant. Though short, I enjoyed Farrell’s hesitation with Cameron and the nervousness surrounding a first love. It was sweet, and I hoped to see that in the next novel. Actually, I was hoping Cameron would still be around, but, like most first loves, it clearly wasn’t meant to last, but it gave Farrell a brief respite from his secluded life.

On to The Last Grand Master. The beginning was explosive. I mean, seriously. It starts with Farrell meeting Nerti, queen of the unicorns, and running off to help people being attacked by the evil wizard Meglar. There’s tension, some humor, a look into Farrell’s powerful magic, and world building. We learn of the different races that coexist, the evil that is Meglar, and watch some badass Muchari warriors. We also meet Miceral, the one the gods have intended for Farrell.

I love Miceral. Of all the characters he was the best to me. He’s consistent, strong, puts up with Farrell, and is just all around awesome. At first I was a little wary because he seemed to fall for Farrell so quickly, but given that the gods—who do communicate with the people and aren’t just myths—basically said, hey, this guy is the man you’ve been waiting for and is the love of your life, then I can let it slide.

Farrell, on the other hand, started to drive me crazy. He starts off strong and rushes into action. I loved the tension of those scenes, wondering if he was going to make everything work. But as the middle of the book neared, his character was inconsistent to me. One moment he was a strong, composed leader, the next he was showing off with his magic and playing ridiculous pranks and doing things he’s never done, and then he’s freaking out thinking Miceral is going to leave him because he cried about his dead mother and mentor. I had to put the book down at that point and walk away for a moment. He was overly dramatic and often bemoaned his past. Meanwhile, there are people around him who have lost a whole lot more than him.

He also repeats things a lot, which was distracting, and the tub scenes were overused. It seemed like every few pages Miceral and Farrell would end up in the tub to talk or relax, or fool around. Farrell also sometimes used his magic for mundane things that bothered me. He has a servant who cleans his room, but he can magically empty his tub, move chairs around, conjure handkerchiefs, and the like, but can’t wave a hand and have everything cleaned instantly? I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but sometimes a little less detail is more.

There are a lot of other characters. Sometimes it’s hard to remember who they all are, and sometimes I forgot some of them. But it’s a large world, and the author is going epic level with the series, so that’s to be expected. How the author kept track of them all and never seems to mix them up in the book I’ll never know! Not everyone is important, and some people show up once or twice and then fade away, so don’t worry too much if you read this book and, like me, forget who some people are.

The author doesn’t throw in gratuitous sex scenes, so if you’re looking for that, this is not the book. In fact, thinking back, I don’t think any of the sex actually occurs on the page. If it does, I don’t remember it, but I do know they were quite a few fade to black scenes and some mornings after with gentle teasing, which was cute. But remember, this book is a fantasy, and is not meant to be strictly a romance. It just happens to have two men at the center who do fall in love. Adding sex scenes to the book wouldn’t have furthered any plot. That said, the book could have been a lot shorter—and as a result more cohesive—had the middle section been reduced. Some of the section breaks were only a few short paragraphs and didn’t seem to add much to the story.

Though I seem critical of the book, I did like it. After the middle section, it does pick up again towards the end, and I was drawn back into the story, and the tension rises to the levels it had in the beginning. The ending was sad, as there is a war going on, and not everyone is going to make it, but at the same time it was satisfying. The author clearly left it open for another book, but doesn’t leave the readers hanging so that you’re screaming for him to finish, which is great. And you will want to read the next book because this story is far from over.

Will I read the sequel to this? Yes. I want to know what’s next in store for Miceral, Farrell, and everyone else. I want to see how Farrell grows and matures throughout the series as he becomes more confident in his roles and loses that doubt he sometimes has.

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You can buy The Last Grand Master here:

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Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, Giveaways

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Wolf’s-own: Ghost Blog Tour With Carole Cummings

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I’m so pleased to welcome Carole Cummings to The Novel Approach today, not as an interviewer for DSP Publications’ Genre Talk, but to chat about a subject near and dear to my heart–symbolism–in a series that’s near and dear to my heart–Wolf’s-own. Enjoy Carole’s article, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win a signed copy of Wolf’s-own: Ghost, a full set of the four books in the series, or, the grand prize, a Kindle Fire.

Good luck!

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ALIENS AND OTHER PHALLIC THINGS—ER, I MEAN SYMBOLS IN SPECULATIVE FICTION

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with symbolism in literature. I love finding it. I love analyzing it. But I hate it when I’m told “This is the symbol and this is what it means. It doesn’t matter what the author intended. It doesn’t matter what another might see and extrapolate from the same image. This is what it means and there is no other answer.”

I had a professor once with whom I argued quite vociferously about the symbolism of the white whale in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. To this professor, the whale and its whiteness represented the juxtaposition of Evil hiding behind a façade of Good, how one cannot exist without the other, and just as Ahab wanted to be the instrument by which Evil was defeated, so too would the whale be the instrument by which Good fell with it. And since Ahab ultimately failed, Evil remains in the guise of Good, and humanity continues to fall.

Plausible, certainly. But still. I thought it was bullshit. I thought Ahab was a crazy bastard who had delusions of grandeur, and I saw the whale as something he couldn’t control—something beyond him, something with powers he couldn’t understand, something with motivations that were unfathomable. Something that was, when you think about it, godlike. And it was my theory that Ahab wanted to justify his need to slay his god, to—as mankind always does—exert his own will by thwarting his gods and turning that god into a demon to rationalize his megalomania.

It’s a theme that’s pretty much everywhere. Prometheus and his hubris in his attempt to touch the face of his god and getting brutally thwarted for it. Look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for example, the full title of which is, of course, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. Here, again, a man attempts to wield powers reserved for gods, and not only is he punished, he’s punished by the thing he created with those powers. We see this same theme again in the not-really-a-prequel to Alien, Ridley Scott’s aptly named Prometheus, which was fairly universally hissed at, but thematically and symbolically speaking, it was pretty damned spot-on.

And it’s fitting how the symbolism in Prometheus piggybacks the violent aftermath of that hubris with the subsequent symbolism in Alien and gives us a look at how we keep reaching, and the gods keep trying to cut us off at the knees for it. Because the thread that links Prometheus to Alien is that weare responsible for the creation of the monsters, monsters which then tried to destroy us through symbolic rape. (Because gods throughout history and various religions are, by and large, weirdly rapey.) Seriously—look at the sets and the creatures and… pretty much everything. Penises and vaginas everywhere! And it’s not only about rape but brutal rape. (Not that there’s any other kind.) Brutal rape followed by an unwanted “pregnancy” that really doesn’t end well for anyone.

It gives whole new meaning to that final scene, where Ripley’s getting ready to put herself into hypersleep for the trip home. She’s down to her panties and a tiny tank—obviously asking for it, right?—when the alien drags its giant phallic head out from the guts of the little ship and tries to have its way with her. The fact that it doesn’t succeed, that Ripley thwarts the gods’ revenge, tells us how we’ve evolved intellectually since Prometheus and Frankenstein’s monster, how we’ve become less naïve about gods and their omnipotence, their right to punish us for our curious natures.

Not only does it turn the Prometheus theme on its head, but it says something quite profound about us and our gods, and who really wields the power in that relationship.

And the movie relayed all of it without once preaching at the audience with words that would just as likely have been either ignored or mocked. It did it with images, with subtleties, with symbols the conscious mind might never see clearly, but that the subconscious can’t help but assimilate. Maybe another viewer would never see that symbolism, and maybe, even if they did, they wouldn’t agree it’s there or that it means what I see in it. But that’s the point—that’s what I see. That’s what it means to me. No one has to agree with me for me to see it there and to take the meaning from it that I do.

Speculative Fiction—whether it be literature or film or any other medium—has a rich history of taking these kinds of broad concepts and encapsulating them into symbols that resonate. Tolkien symbolically warning the world of the dangers of Industrialism in The Lord of the Rings. The proliferation of shadow imagery throughout Ursula K. Le Guin’sA Wizard of Earthsea giving us hope because a shadow cannot exist without light. The systematic oppression and attempted genocide of magical people in the BBC series Merlinas allegory for the discrimination of the LGBTQ community. The shadow of a Guinevere slipping ever-so-briefly but still heartbreakingly and inevitably between Arthur and Bedwyr in Mary Stewart’s Crystal Cave series. The hybrid mockingjay in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, accidentally created through the Capitol’s attempt to—quite literally—steal the opposition’s voices, its ultimate failure and then its subsequent neglect. Much like how Katniss herself was created.

Are these symbols definitive? Did the creators put them there on purpose? Do they mean what I think they mean?

Who knows? Some of them, probably yes, since the authors have told us so. But that’s the great thing about symbolism—even if the author put it there and knows exactly what it means and why it’s there and what it’s meant to convey, it doesn’t matter if a reader gets something else entirely out of it. Maybe the shadows were merely moody setting. Maybe the mockinjay was just a pretty bird. Maybe Ishmael was simply telling us the mother of all fish tales. (“No, seriously, it was this big!”)

To me, that’s the best part. It’s all subjective, like pretty much anything that’s interesting and has resonance. The Prometheus theme I saw in Moby Dick helped me to appreciate the tale in a way the Good –vs– Evil theme upon which the professor insisted just couldn’t. It gave new depth to Ahab and helped me to understand him as a person, terribly flawed and kind of awful, but still sympathetic because who wouldn’t like to look their god in the eye, if they had the chance? Who wouldn’t want to rage and scream and throw their harpoons at the unfairness of a force of nature? What I saw in the symbolism of that book took it from an ordinary academic assignment and elevated it to something that has stayed with me for the *mumblety mumble* years since. It showed me that we will see what we will see, no matter what the “right” answer may be, and we will take away from a story what it’s important for us, as individuals, to take away.

I came here today to talk to you about symbolism in speculative fiction, and more specifically the symbolism in Wolf’s-own. And there’s a lot of it—some of it was intentional; some of it I only realized was there well after I’d written it. I had a whole list to go through—the symbolism of twins and how Shig’s arc parallels Fen’s; the real meaning of those petals that keep haunting Fen; Morin and the fish; Fen’s dreams; the scent of almonds; the colors of the moons and the names of the gods; Malick’s hand around Fen’s throat.

There’s more. And believe me, like any author, I could go on and on and on about what all of it means and how understanding it all could enhance a reader’s perception of the overall arcs. I’m not going to do that, though. Because, in the end, it doesn’t matter. The symbolism in Wolf’s-own is really what you make of it, not me. I hope you give it a try. And I hope you get out of it exactly what you want to get out of it.

Me, I’m just going to float off on Queequeg’s coffin and ponder Eve’s “apple”. Or maybe two dragons—one red, one white—battling it out beneath a mountain. Or maybe even the poignant thwip-thwip-thwip of a moth’s ragged gray wings and the pursuit of a freedom that’s being sought in all the wrong places. Maybe none of those things mean anything to anyone else, but that’s okay—I know what all of them mean to me.

For what it’s worth, that professor and I never did agree on Moby Dick. But I aced the class anyway. ;)

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The Wolf’s-own series (Ghost, Weregild, Koan and Incendiary) can be purchased in ebook and paperback through DSP Publications and Amazon, as well as most major outlets.

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carole-cummings-6About the Author: Carole lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Author of the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, Carole is currently in the process of developing several other works, including more short stories than anyone will ever want to read, and novels that turn into series when she’s not looking.

You can follow Carole via her her website, Facebook, blog, or Twitter.

(She also has accounts on Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Pinterest, but has no idea how to use any of them. Shut up.)

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THE GIVEAWAY:

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Andrew Q. Gordon, DSP Publications, Giveaways

Interview and Giveaway: The Eye and the Arm Blog Tour With Andrew Q. Gordon

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Welcome to Andrew Q. Gordon, who has stopped by on The Eye and the Arm blog tour today. Andrew answered a few questions for me about the series and is also offering the chance for THREE readers to each win an e-copy of The Last Grand Master, Book One in the Champion of the Gods series. Just click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Good luck!

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TNA: Andrew, tell us, if you will, a little bit about the world you’ve built in the Champion of the Gods series. What are some of the things that make it complex, unique, and magical?

Andrew: Geez, the history of the world in three sentences?  Nendor is the world where the story takes place. There are seven gods who worked together to create the world. Things were going fine until one—Neldin, the God of the Dead—decided he wanted to be God of everything.  There are unicorns, giant falcons, called Peregrines—who communicate mentally with everyone. One of the main characters—Miceral— is a Muchari, a race that look perfectly human but they’re immortal and have greater strength, speed, endurance, etc.  There are dwarves, wizards, a race I can’t name without spoiling things, and other creatures.

The title of the series refers to the two sides in the war. The gods can’t fight each other directly or else they’d destroy the thing they’re fighting over. Instead the fight is conducted through champions.  Farrell is the Champion of the Six—the six gods who don’t want Neldin to take over.  Nelidin’s champion is Meglar, who we learn early in Book One, is Farrell’s father.

Same sex pairings are seen as no different than opposite sex pairings.

TNA: Because epic fantasy translates so well into epic cinema, if The Last Grand Master and The Eye and the Arm were optioned for film, who would you cast in the leading roles?

Andrew: You know I’m so bad at this. I don’t know that I have a specific person in mind. Andrew Garfield—the actor who played/plays Spiderman now would be a good Farrell.  Miceral is bigger, so I’d go with Chris Hemsworth. (Sorry for the superhero theme working here, but I promise not to cast Robert Downey, Patrick Stewart or Ian Mckellen.)

Kel is not in the movie, but he’s referred to and we do get ‘see’ his image, and since I love him, I going to cast him as well.  I think Victor Garber would be perfect for Kel.

Last I suppose we need to cast the bad guy—Meglar. I don’t see him as an ugly, evil emperor ala Star Wars. He was handsome and charming when he courted Farrell’s mother.  Gerald Butler or Eric Bana would be the type to play him.

TNA: As you’ve written and pictured scenes and settings in your mind’s eye, where would your dream filming location be?

Andrew: For The Last Grand Master – the Rocky Mountains. I think that would be similar to the Trellham Mountains where the story starts.  For Book 2 The Eye and the Arm that’s a bit harder as a lot of it takes place at sea, but for the land setting Rome comes to mind – some place old, warm most of the time, a country surrounded by water  (that’s mostly true for Italy). Dumbarten is an ancient kingdom that has used its geography—it’s an Island nation off the coast of Lourdria, one of the three main continents of Endor—to prosper and become a military power.

TNA: What are some of the scenes you’d most love to see come to life on film? What makes them special?

Andrew: Each book has some that I’d really like to see, but since we’re celebrating the release of The Eye and the Arm, I’ll pick some from there.  (Thought I’ll keep to things that are in the blurb so as to not give away too much.) The first would be the fight scene—everyone seems to love battle scenes—where Miceral uses his enhanced strength and speed in the fight against the pirates. He does a few things in the fight that would play well on the big screen.

The second would be when Miceral and Rothdin—Farrell’s adoptive father who looks like a giant falcon—have to enter Farrell’s mind to free him from the trap he’s in. The scene would play well to special effects, but it’s also one of the emotional daggers of the book.

The last scene would be when Farrell finds an image of Kel—the ancient wizard who was the Champion of the Gods before Farrell.  It’s not Kel himself, but a magical image. I love Kel, he might be my favorite character in the book, even though he’s not really in the book. He’s thousands of years old, powerful, been a king, gave it up, and now answers to no one but the gods.  He’s got a personality to match.

TNA: As both a reader and author of heroic adventures, what do you feel makes a hero heroic?

Andrew: This is a tough one. There are many types of heroes. Frodo was a normal hobbit with no powers, yet he took down the mighty Sauron. Or Ripley in Aliens. Those are certainly heroes.  Then there is Obi Wan, someone who has great power, but sacrifices himself for the greater good.  And there are the Vanyel’s who use their power to protect.

For me, I prefer those heroes who have great power that use it for the greater good. They might or might not make survive, but they fight on anyway.

TNA: Whom do you credit for your love of fantasy? Are there certain books and/or movies that are, and will always be, favorites?

Andrew: J.R.R. Tolkein was my first ‘favorite’ author. I think I started reading him not too long after he’d died. After him there was Stephen Donalson and the Chronicles of Thomas Convenant, David Eddings, Mercedes Lackey and many others.  Lackey is the one who taught me that you could have gay main characters in fantasy—which after the homophobic crap from Robert Adams I read when I was coming to terms with myself, that was something I needed to read.

TNA: What are you working on currently? Will you share with us a bit about WIPs and upcoming releases?

Andrew:  So, what’s next? Oh, how I wish I didn’t have to work full time, the things I would write.  For now I have four things in various stages of being done;Kings of Lore and Legend—which is Book 3 of Champion of the Gods. KOLAL should be out in March of ’16. DSP Publications is going to re-release Purpose in October and I’m working on a follow up novella that will answer some questions raised and not answered in Purpose. Purpose is an urban fantasy novel set in Washington DC. Its main character is the spirit of vengeance.  The novella is scheduled for release in February of ’16. The other two things are contemporary MM Romance. Although this is something of a departure for me, it’s actually the genre where I started writing.  I’ve got two stores in various stages of done. Not sure of a timeline for those two.

TNA: Thanks so much for being here with us today, Andrew. It’s been a pleasure. :)

Andrew:  No, thank you for having me. I appreciate all the support you give me and the other authors.

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EyeAndTheArm[The]FSBlurb – The Eye and the Arm: After defeating Meglar at Belsport, Farrell returns to Haven to recover from his injuries, but Khron, the god of war, has other ideas. He gives Farrell a new mission: free the survivors of the ancient dwarf realm of Trellham from their three-thousand-year banishment. To fulfill Khron’s near impossible task, Farrell will need the help of his distance ancestor, the legendary wizard Kel. But Kel has been dead for a thousand years.

Farrell finds information hinting that Kel is alive, so he moves his search to Dumbarten, Kel’s birthplace. To reach Dumbarten unannounced, Farrell and Miceral disguise themselves as mercenaries on board a merchant vessel. Their journey is disrupted when pirates attack their ship. While attempting to subdue the attack, Farrell is struck down by one of Meglar’s minions.

Unconscious and trapped in his own mind, Farrell’s only chance for survival rests with Miceral and the peregrine king Rothdin entering his thoughts and helping him sort fact from illusion. To reach Farrell, they will need to rely on an untested spell from one of Kel’sspellbooks. If they succeed, Miceral can guide Farrell home safely. If not, Farrell will destroy not only himself, but Miceral, Rothdin, and everyone around him.

Buy Links: DSP Publications | Amazon US | OmniLit/ARe

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1769247Blurb – The Last Grand Master: In a war that shook the earth, the six gods of Nendor defeated their brother Neldin, god of evil. For three thousand years, Nendor and the Seven Kingdoms have known peace and prosperity and Neldin’s evil was nearly forgotten.

But then Meglar, wizard king of Zargon, unleashes the dark magic of the underworld and creates an army of creatures to carry out his master’s will. One by one, the sovereign realms fall as a new war between the gods threatens to engulf Nendor.

Leading the opposition to Meglar is Grand Master Farrell. Young and untried, Farrell carries a secret that could hold the key to defeating Meglar—or it could destroy the world.

Farrell is joined by Nerti, queen of the unicorns and Miceral, an immortal muchari warrior the Six have chosen as Farrell’s mate. As Farrell and his new allies make plans to counter Neldin’s evil, Meglar forces their hand when he invades a neighboring kingdom. Rushing to help their ally, Farrell and Miceral find themselves in the middle of the battle. Cut off from help, Farrell attempts an untried spell that will either turn the tide or cost he and Miceral their lives.

Buy Links: DSP Publications | Amazon US | OmniLit/ARe

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The Eye and the Arm Trailer:

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EyeAndTheArm[The]_FBprofile_OptizimedForFeedAbout the Author: Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.

He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of twenty years, their daughter and dog. In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.

Social Media Links: Website | Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter | Google + | Email

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Andrew Q. Gordon, Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk

Guest Post: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and Andrew Q. Gordon

DSP Publications

Ha, a weekend invasion from a couple of DSP Publications’ misfit toys! Hello, everyone! I’ve got Andrew Q. Gordon with me today, and because he’s awesome and generous, he comes bearing a gift. We’ve got a special price for The Novel Approach readers! So stay tuned ’til the end of the post.

For now, let’s jump right in and let Andrew tell us about his high fantasy novel, Book 1 of the Champion of the Gods series—The Last Grand Master:

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tna-dspp--andrew q gordon for 03-08In a war that shook the earth, the six gods of Nendor defeated their brother Neldin, god of evil. For three thousand years, Nendor and the Seven Kingdoms have known peace and prosperity and Neldin’s evil was nearly forgotten.

But then Meglar, wizard king of Zargon, unleashes the dark magic of the underworld and creates an army of creatures to carry out his master’s will. One by one, the sovereign realms fall as a new war between the gods threatens to engulf Nendor.

Leading the opposition to Meglar is Grand Master Farrell. Young and untried, Farrell carries a secret that could hold the key to defeating Meglar—or it could destroy the world.

Farrell is joined by Nerti, queen of the unicorns and Miceral, an immortal muchari warrior the Six have chosen as Farrell’s mate. As Farrell and his new allies make plans to counter Neldin’s evil, Meglar forces their hand when he invades a neighboring kingdom. Rushing to help their ally, Farrell and Miceral find themselves in the middle of the battle. Cut off from help, Farrell attempts an untried spell that will either turn the tide or cost he and Miceral their lives.

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Carole: Thanks for being here with us today, Andrew. How about we start off with genre, since that’s why we’re here. Tell us about yours.

Andrew: I write in many genres: High Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and some Contemporary. I’ve got a definite Sci-fi story in my head that I want to write, but that’s so far down the future work in progress (FWIP) list that it’s hard to really say I write in that genre. But if I had to pick one genre as my primary one, it would be high fantasy. I’ve been a Tolkien fan for almost forty years and after his books, I read almost any fantasy book I could find. After reading Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series, a story with a positive gay character, that sealed my love of the genre.

Carole: *high five* on the Tolkien! ;) So, was the Lackey revelation part of why you chose to write M/M?

Andrew: For me M/M is not so much a choice as part of who I am. The lack of positive images—and in many cases, no images—of gay protagonists, made me want to write about people like me as the ‘good guy.’ To me it’s personal. It’s who I am. I’ve spoken to other authors—men and women, straight and gay—and it’s the same for them. Either they are gay, or they have a child, sibling, best mate, whomever is important in their lives, etc., who is gay. We—and I include all the other authors in the MM genres—write as much to educate as to entertain.

Carole: Wow, I love that answer. Okay, so tell us about the Champion of the Gods series.

Andrew: The Champion of the Gods is a High Fantasy story that will be spread over 5 books. Book 1: The Last Grand Master was re-released February 10, 2015, and Book 2: The Eye and The Arm is due April 14, 2015. The series is going to follow Farrell, the last good grand master wizard on the continent of Ardus as he tries to stop Meglar from conquering the Seven Kingdoms of Ardus and ultimately the world.

Book 1 introduces us to Farrell, his life partner Miceral. We see them meet, fall in love, and ultimately experience how the war is going to test their relationship. There is a better than average chance Farrell won’t survive the final conflict, and that affects how he approaches his time with Miceral. We also meet his companions, Nerti, a unicorn, the giant peregrine brothers Grohl and Takala, and some of the lesser wizards who are helping Farrell prepare.

Book 2 begins the journey to the other continents of the world as Farrell and Miceral search for weapons to use in the fight. They are also searching for Farrell’s distant ancestor, the legendary wizard Grand Master Kel who disappeared two thousand years ago. Farrell is convinced Kel holds the key to many of the tasks he must complete before the final battle.

Carole: So definitely the highest of high fantasy. Awesome. Now, the Champion of the Gods is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in The Champion of the Gods and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

Andrew: A M/M Romance book means the romance is the primary plot device. Getting the two main characters together and keeping them together is the resolution to the story. That isn’t the case with the Champions series. In Champions, getting Miceral and Farrell together is just the start. Together they are going to take on the enemy who is trying to turn the world into an extension of Neblor (their world’s equivalent of Hell.)

In this, Champions is similar to stories like David Edding’s Belgaraid, or Tolkiens Lord of the Rings. There is an ultimate evil to be fought, and the main character is the one to do the fighting. Unlike those stories, however, Farrell isn’t a normal hobbit taking on the all-powerful Sauron, or Garion, a young but really powerful wizard about to take on a God. Farrell is a powerful wizard chosen by his gods to fight another powerful wizard, Meglar, who was chosen by his god.

So the romance is there, but it’s a small part of the story instead of the main conflict and source of tension.

Carole: Mm, sounds like one of those meaty plots a reader can really sink their teeth into. So tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of Champion of the Gods?

Andrew: Like most stories, Champions didn’t pop out like Athena from Zeus’ head. It took years to fully form. The initial version was a scene that will never make it into the book/series. That was a battle scene where the two sides have been fighting and Farrell activated a defensive spell to bar Meglar’s army from pursuing his forces. Only several of Meglar’s warped creatures scurried through before the wall was dropped. As the enemy pursues the tired rear guard, Farrell sends magical help. In the end, it looked very pretty and what not, but in practice it was completely silly in the context of the story that evolved.

Since then I’ve tweaked and changed and fixed and altered and…you get the idea. One thing I did that I’m glad for, is I wrote almost all five books before I submitted the first one. The end and epilogue are written and all that remains is to weave the final strands into the story and all five will be done. The benefit, I found, was to find ‘problems’ in the earlier books that would have boxed me into a corner. For instance, in book three I wanted to do something, but it was in total conflict with something earlier, but the new twisted needed to remain to keep the story from turning contrived. So, during the rewrite of book 1, I made changes that helped keep the story on track. I’ve also been incorporating those changes as I go over the rough draft and clean it up before submission.

That is when the story started to resemble what you see now.

Carole: Which begs the question: do you have a file of scrapped scenes on your hard drive somewhere, and how often do you use it?

Andrew: I have a fairly large file of ‘unused’ scenes. Pretty much because I wrote the entire series before I started to publish it, I have been pulling scenes out and saving them for future use. Not so much in Book 1, but quite a bit in books 2 & 3. In Book 3 that I’m finishing up the third draft right now, there was a major shift in how I presented a situation. It was more than just a tweak or a change of scene. I ended up fundamentally changing the cause/effect of a fairly key element of the story. It kept the element intake, but it made it more ‘believable’ in my mind. That said, there was a lot of information that I need to work into the overall story in order to get the end to stay on track. Enter the file of misfit scenes.

I’ve cut those sections, titled and put markers in the rest of the text to ensure I know where to find the scenes and more importantly, where to put them. I’ve used a fair number of misfit scenes so far, but I expect several will end up on the cutting room floor.

One last thought on this, there are some scenes that won’t make it into the books but they are nice background stories for the universe. At some point I might go back and use them either as blog posts or short stories to give a bit more depth to the to the overall world.

Carole: And I’m sure you’ve got fans who would just love to get their hands on those scrap files, Andrew. ;) One more question before you go: Why did you feel this story needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?

Andrew: I really can’t say why it was important for the story, but it is necessary for more than just – I wanted a gay character in my epic fantasy story. Suffice it to say, there is a reason why the gods made sure Farrell was attracted to men, and a reason why they sent him Miceral. Anymore and I’d give away something I want to hold onto until book four.

Carole: Perfect, Andrew, and thanks so much for being here with us today.

Readers, as promised, Andrew has generously arranged for a special sale price for you, and we’ll tell you more about in a moment. For now, please enjoy this intriguing excerpt from The Last Grand Master:

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Excerpt: “Prince Jursten.” Farrell’s voice drew all eyes to him. “I’d be remiss in my friendship if I didn’t warn you about your dinner companion.”

Alicia’s jaw tightened so much her lips almost disappeared. Ignoring the daggers she shot him with her eyes, he plastered his best court smile on his face. “She’s an expert conversationalist who will surprise you with her wit. Don’t let the pretty face fool you; she’s even smarter than she is lovely.”

For the first time since Farrell met her, Alicia blushed.

“And how is that a warning?” Jursten turned back to Alicia. “A compliment such as that is hard to disagree with.”

The color deepened in Alicia’s cheeks, prompting her to glare at him. “It would appear….”

“Princess, did you tell Jursten we might go riding tomorrow?” Farrell arched an eyebrow, daring her to risk her invitation.

Peter sniggered next to him, then busied himself arranging his silverware when his sister looked his way. Jursten looked from Farrell to Alicia, then back.

He grinned at Farrell before turning to his new companion. “How badly did you make him blush?

“He was almost as red as Prince Kerstand’s shirt.” She pointed to the scarlet tunic signifying Honal’s royal colors. “But it was an innocent mistake. Twice he answered the door shirtless and sweating. What else was I to think other than my virtue was at stake?”

Miceral roared, but Farrell kept his smile without turning red. “Help me out here. Miceral, what was that comment she made about us being—”

“That was an honest mistake too.” Alicia looked fit to burst as she spoke through clenched teeth.

“Payback?” Kerstand asked.

“Of course.” Farrell nodded seriously. “She delighted in making me squirm. I thought she enjoyed the feeling. I guess I was wrong.”

Jursten took Alicia’s hand and patted it fondly. “Maybe later I can tell you some of the things I said to embarrass him. For instance, the time he met the Count of Durtress’s youngest son. Poor Farrell’s eyes nearly popped out of his skull when he heard the young man was interested in him.”

Farrell rolled his eyes but stopped when he saw Miceral staring at him.

“Son of a count?” He smirked. “How come I never heard this one?”

“Because the oaf had cabbage between his ears and couldn’t speak in complete sentences.” Farrell tried to frown but couldn’t keep it from turning into a smile. “But he was nice to look at and—”

“Oh my.” Alicia giggled. “You can make yourself blush. I’m impressed.”

“To be fair to Farrell,” Jursten said, drawing attention back to him, “Fentar was quite handsome and athletic. If he understood politics a bit better, he might have gone far.”

“What happened to the strapping young Fentar?” Alicia turned her head slowly toward Farrell, eyebrow raised.

Farrell cocked his head to the right, looking toward Jursten. “He did join with the son of that Arvendian clan chief, Gelg, didn’t he?”

“Sub-clan chief,” Jursten corrected. “They counted his strength and athleticism more highly than having an advanced degree.”

“Poor Fentar.” Farrell sighed.

“Why?” Alicia looked confused. “Sounds like he found his perfect mate.”

“Oh, he did.” Jursten laughed. “It’s just, well, Endor is one of the few kingdoms devoted to the God of Wisdom. Fentar wasn’t an especially adept follower and never really fit in at court.”

“If I recall correctly”—Farrell smiled at his friend—“you arranged for Gelg to bring his son to court when you knew Fentar would be there.”

“Your memory is somewhat selective.” Jursten turned to Alicia. “Fentar was very taken with Farrell. I mean, he swooned whenever Farrell came near. It was… embarrassing to his father and my father. Farrell heard that Gelg’s son was attracted to men and was looking for a mate. He let drop that bit of information in a most suggestive way.”

He glanced at Farrell, who shrugged. “What? Your father was about to exile Fentar. All I did was mention how it might be a good match.”

“Wait.” Alicia put her free hand up, leaving the one under Jursten’s. “How did you know Gelg’s son was looking for a mate?”

Jursten smirked. “Gelg wanted to match him with Farrell, who of course had enough of the handsome but dumb-as-a-stone type.”

“So why did you get involved?” Miceral’s expression told Farrell he’d have to give more details up when they were alone.

“Um… well….” Jursten suddenly looked uncomfortable.

“Jursten owed me a favor.” Farrell earned a look of gratitude from his friend. “I ran interference when a particularly obnoxious mother wanted to pair her equally obnoxious daughter with Jursten at a state dinner. I made sure she sat next to me instead.”

“And that helped how?” Alicia seemed amused and kept stealing glances at Jursten.

“Sitting next to the Prince of Haven is an honor every mother dreams of for her unmarried daughter.” Jursten’s chuckle became a full laugh.

“Unless the prince isn’t interested in women.” Farrell tried to look innocent. “Then it becomes a wasted social opportunity.”

“It sounds like you two have quite an interesting history together.” Alicia smiled coyly at Jursten.

“Jursten was my first real friend.” Farrell turned serious but still smiled. “He wasn’t a teacher, mentor, vassal, subject, court dandy looking for something, or any of the other people I dealt with on a daily basis. We were both young, and aside from him trying to fix me up with all sorts of hideous men—”

“Please, you told Duchess Helena I mentioned her daughter to you fondly.” Jursten rolled his eyes. “Do you remember how much trouble we both got in when Father had to deal with the old battle-ax?”

“Not attractive?” Kerstand asked.

“She was forty-three and I was twenty-four!” Jursten pointed at Farrell. “He knew the Duchess was desperate to find a suitable husband for Jonice, and his little comment had the old woman practically sprinting for my father’s chambers.”

“That was the closest Clement ever came to yelling at me.” Farrell nodded at the memory. “But the two-hour lecture on the finer points of marriage diplomacy was enough that I never did that again.”

Alicia turned to Jursten. “You will have to tell me more about your adventures.”

Peter rolled his eyes, but his sister kept flirting with Jursten and didn’t notice.

“After dinner,” Jursten said, smiling back, “it would be my pleasure to regale you with some of our more amusing adventures.”

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Author BioAndrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common, and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.

He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of nineteen years, their daughter and dog. In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.

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Get your copy of The Last Grandmaster for only $.99 (this week only!) at DSP Publications and Amazon.

Want to make sure you don’t miss Book 2 of the Champions series? Follow Andrew via his website, or like his Author Page on Facebook.

You can also follow Andrew on Twitter, Google+, or his personal Facebook page.

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5 Stars, Annabelle Jacobs, Dreamspinner Press, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Alliance (Torsere: Book Three) by Annabelle Jacobs

Title: Alliance (Torsere: Book Three)

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 284 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: King Ryneq and his dragon rider consort, Nykin, return to Torsere to defend the kingdom against the lowland armies already camped along Torsere’s borders. Seran wants the dragons, and with a new witch in his ranks, war is inevitable. Continue reading

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Annabelle Jacobs, Dreamspinner Press

Guest Post and Giveaway: Alliance by Annabelle Jacobs

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Firstly, thank you, Lisa, for having me on your blog today.

The final book in my fantasy trilogy has just been released, and though the story ends here for Nykin and Ryneq, I’ve had such a great time writing them.

The Torsere series follows Ryneq, ruler of Torsere, and Nykin, a dragon rider in his army. They are thrust together when King Ryneq is captured by the lowland armies and Nykin volunteers to rescue him. Their relationship continues to grow and flourish, despite all the external conflict surrounding them as they struggle to forge a union with the elves of Hervath, to gain magical protection for Torsere. Continue reading

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Harmony Ink Press, Lou Hoffmann

Guest Post and Giveaway: Key of Behliseth by Lou Hoffmann

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Hi, Lou Hoffmann here, very happy to be visiting The Novel Approach, celebrating the recent release of Key of Behliseth, the first novel in The Sun Child Chronicles. (Thank you TNA!)I planned to blog about ‘world building’ in a fantasy novel—you know, what goes into creating a world that works differently than our own everyday reality. But, as I began to laboriously catalog the steps in the process, I was tapped on the shoulder, and someone behind me cleared his throat.

I turned, and there stood Thurlock Ol’Karrigh, the wizard who meets up with Lucky, the MC in Key of Behliseth. Now, let me tell you, it is an alarming feeling to find a 1,000 year old wizard towering over you with a scowl on his face. Nevertheless, I attempted to be polite. Continue reading

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4.5 Stars, Annabelle Jacobs, Dreamspinner Press, Reviewed by Lisa

Annabelle Jacobs Brings The Kingdom Of Torsere To Life In “Capture” And “Union”


“It’s a very brave and noble thing, to risk one’s life to save that of another.” – Annabelle Jacobs



Title: Capture (Torsere: Book One) and Union (Torsere: Book Two)

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages/230 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars Overall

Blurb: Over two hundred years ago, when dragons were hunted for their blood, the King of Torsere offered them sanctuary. In return, the dragons bestowed a magical gift on the King’s people, allowing those born with the mark to become dragon riders and forge a mental connection between dragon and rider.
Continue reading

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Amy Rae Durreson, Dreamspinner Press

The Heart Is The Greatest Treasure In Amy Rae Durreson’s “Reawakening”


“The World Changes. Empires fall, oceans run dry … and little desert spirits rise up to challenge the great powers of the world.” – Amy Rae Durreson


Title: Reawakening

Author: Amy Rae Durreson

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 260

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: For a thousand years, since their defeat of the Shadow at Eyr, the dragons have slept under the mountains. Now their king, Tarnamell, has woken. Driven mad by loneliness, he hurls himself south until he finds and tries to claim the Alagard Desert. Unfortunately, the desert already has a guardian spirit, and he doesn’t want to share. Amused by the cocky little desert spirit, Tarn retreats, planning to return in human form.
Continue reading

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Storm Moon Press

On Daydreams and Dragonriders – Please Welcome E.R. Karr & “Dracones”

We at The Novel Approach are happy to be able to play host today to author E.R. Karr, one of the contributing authors in Storm Moon Press’s newest anthology Dracones, a compilation of stories that “brings together seven stories detailing the power and majesty of a dragon’s love.” So, without further ado, take it away, E.R.!

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Hi, all! E. R. Karr here. My story “Two in the Bush” in Dracones is my first Storm Moon Press publication – which really is only fitting, since a short story about dragons is how I became an SFF fan and writer to begin with.

I’d always loved science fiction and fantasy, long before I knew what it was – A Wrinkle in Time and The Chronicles of Narnia were some of my favorite books as a child; but I didn’t realize that these belonged to a greater genre. One of my other favorite books was an anthology of sci-fi stories that for some unknown reason had been shelved in the children’s section of my local small-town library. The first story in the collection was Anne McCaffrey’s “The Smallest Dragonboy”. I had never heard of Pern or read about dragons like these, but I loved the story; I checked out the anthology a dozen times to reread it.

Imagine my thrill the day I wandered into the library’s sci-fi section and came across an old paperback copy of Dragonflight. “Book 1 of The Dragonriders of Pern”, the cover proclaimed—not just an entire novel, but an entire series of novels, about the dragons I loved!

I must have read the original Dragonriders trilogy half a dozen times in the first year I discovered it; to this day, there are passages I can quote from memory. It was my gateway into scifi and fantasy. Lured to that most fascinating section of the library, I devoured Tolkien, Asimov, Le Guin, Adams, Card, and dozens of others. But of all the new worlds opened to me, Pern was my favorite. I was twelve, a shy, awkward, unpopular kid (and oblivious like we all are then to how everyone else was as shy, awkward, and unpopular as myself) and Pern, with its friendly dragons and their special chosen riders, was my first, best escapism. I doodled fire lizards in the margins of my school notebooks, had nightmares about Threadfall, and, of course, daydreamed about Impressing a queen dragon of my own. I didn’t have a clue how to be a cool kid, but I was sure appearing on the playground astride a fifty-foot gold dragon wouldn’t hurt my reputation any!

While I’m still a SFF fan, it’s been years since I’ve read any Pern books; my tastes have grown and changed over the years, as have the worlds I choose to escape to. (And, to be honest, I’m a little nervous about trying to go back and finding I don’t fit there anymore.) But dragons are still my favorites of the entire mythological menagerie, and for all their ferocious nature in so many stories, I can’t help but prefer more hopeful fantasies: dragons not as man’s enemy but allies and friends—or even more than that! So I was excited to hear about Dracones, and the opportunity it offered for exploring more, hmm, advanced dragon-human relations.

It was inevitable that Pern would inform my own story, though the dragons in “Two in the Bush” are worlds away from McCaffrey’s genetically engineered Thread-fighters. These dragons are on our Earth, though hidden and secret, and they are of magic, not science: immortal, immensely powerful beings almost as old as life on this planet, more easily mistaken for gods than monsters. Though Ferdie (he picked his name himself!) is the exception that proves the rule: he’s young, curious, and as fascinated by people as so many of us are with dragons, risking his power and his life in order to live in vulnerable human form. And it’s the human, not the dragon, who’s the telepath in their partnership—David happens to be psychic, which is very handy in the private eye business, but can make things complicated when it comes to personal relationships. Especially when your lover is a young dragon with limited magic and even more limited common sense.

But while Ferdie may not breathe much fire and David prefers to get around in fuel-efficient hatchbacks rather than on dragonback, in their way, they’re as closely bonded as any dragon and rider. This bond will be put to the test in “Two in the Bush”, wherein Ferdie and David discover that going camping in the woods with a dragon means you have a lot more to worry about than mosquitos, moose, or burnt marshmallows…

I hope you enjoy the story, and the rest of the anthology! (And if you ever happen to get hold of an extra fire lizard egg, or are invited to a weyr Hatching… drop me a line?)

E.R. Karr was born in Boston and raised in small-town Massachusetts, and she read The Dragonriders of Pern at an impressionable age. She has two cats, three housemates, and a computer named Rupert, upon which she is currently working on more stories doing terrible and annoying things to characters who probably don’t deserve it. She rather enjoys living in the future (though she still secretly is waiting for her gold queen to hatch). Her latest short story, “Two in the Bush”, can be found in Storm Moon Press’ Dracones anthology. Get your copy today!

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Beau Schemery, Harmony Ink Press

Sometimes Half The Battle Is Believing You Can – The Unlikely Hero by Beau Schemery

Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with. – Brodi Ashton

Renwald Mallorian wants nothing more than to be a Hero. He’s read all the books, after all, so what more could he need? Oh, right. He needs someone to hire him so he can get practical experience; he needs to get himself hired for a Hero’s Quest and prove that all his reading hasn’t been for naught. He even has magic-infused weapons to call upon in battle, elemental weapons of fire and ice that practically guarantee his Hero status. I mean, come on, swords forged of Elven silver? What could be more hero-making than that? The only problem is that the vampire he copped them from wants to be paid for them or to get them back from Ren, and being a little low on funds, with no prospects for Hero-ing on the horizon, Ren has no choice but to surrender his swords and concede the fact that nobody is going to hire a Hero who doesn’t even have his own weapons.

Well, you know the old saying: When a door closes, a window opens? In Ren’s case, it was another door that opened, but it wasn’t the open door as much as it was who walked through it that put Ren on the path to greatness.

Celestrian is a Unicorn, but not just any Unicorn. He’s the Lost Unicorn, and he was taken in as an infant by Mother Dragon, who taught Celestrian many things about life, including how to transform into a man. But now that Mother Dragon has gone, Celestrian must travel far and wide to find what few Unicorns may remain following a war that decimated their population. When he ambles into the Rusty Cutter with plenty of need and more than enough money to procure exactly what—or whom—he’s looking for, Renwald Mallorian transforms into Ren the Resilient, and it’s then and there that an unlikely hero is born.

With a magical emporium of imagination and a menagerie of fantastical creatures, Beau Schemery has created a world that pays homage to fairy tales and folklore and high fantasy, from The Wizard of Oz to Harry Potter to a little Dr. Moreau, and everything in between. It is a battle of good vs. evil, an epic score of danger, intrigue, misplaced loyalty, zealotry, and radical allegiances that also happens to weave together a lot of humor and a sweet—but incomplete—romance in its pages. There’s much more that needs doing here to get Ren and Trian to their happily-ever-after, so don’t expect this episode of their saga to be tidily wrapped up at the end, but do expect to find a story that’s clever and creative, in which both young men become Heroes and prove that fantasy is reality and their reality is the stuff of legends.

There isn’t a single thing about this story that didn’t make me ooh and ah and cheer, and I’m so looking forward to the next book in the series.

You can buy The Unlikely Hero here:

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Harmony Ink Press, John Goode

When Surviving Is Only Half The Battle – Eye of the Storm (Lords of Arcadia, Book Two) by John Goode

Courage is not defined by those who fought and did not fall, but by those who fought, fell and rose again. – Author Unknown

Being heroic doesn’t always mean being the bravest or the boldest or the strongest, or even the wisest. Sometimes acts of heroism are performed by the one who simply doesn’t stop to think at all, but is the one who rushes in when the wisest would run away. The most daring of all heroes doesn’t leap into battle with an absence of fear but with the presence of hope and faith, doesn’t think about sacrifices or the statistical probabilities of success and failure. The most daring are the ones who believe in the power of friendships and family and love’s ability to triumph over all, and then does everything in his or her power to defend them.

There are many heroes on Kane’s journey to the other side of reality, in pursuit of his injured prince. Of course, there are enemies too, those bent toward a single goal: to ensure that the tide of events will turn in the favor of the oppressed, though the aggressor’s motives are far from selfless or honorable. For every wrong there is a price that must be paid. For every wrong that is righted, there is a cost that is often far greater than would seem possible to pay. There are gains and there are losses in this installment of John Goode’s “Lords of Arcadia” series; there are revelations and mysteries yet to be solved; there is strength in numbers that is found in one but shared with all; there is a battle looming on the horizon, a battle of the lust for absolute power that has corrupted absolutely.

This is where high fantasy meets the reality that love and a deep and indefinable connection can be found in the most unexpected of places. It is a journey that defies the precept that only men can be heroes and that women must be the damsels in distress. These are partners and lovers and friends and former adversaries together, who find the will to stand up and fight for their choices through terrific acts of valor and against a slew of dark and deadly magic.

Eye of the Storm is a swashbuckling adventure with epic battles and even more epic resurrections, a blend of fairytale and mythology that the author has woven together into a love story between the heir to the Arcadian throne and the human boy who is proving with more and more certainty that he is so much more. It is a love story that triumphs in the face of the improbable and discounts the probability of the impossible, two souls that have now become one and must now face a formidable foe, one that wants what Hawk has and is willing to do anything he can in order to get it.

If you don’t love to-be-continueds, you won’t love that you’ll have to wait to see what’s coming next for Kane, Hawk, and their band of diverse allies. If you don’t mind a cliffhanger, however, and love a great adventure, then dig in.

You can buy Eye of the Storm (Lords of Arcadia, Book Two) here:

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