Wednesday, April 5, 2017

FIVE DAYS OF DRAGON INTERVIEWS, DAY 5 - AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID JONES!

Hello Eager Readers!  Last day for sharing the guest posts written by the authors featured in the PLAGUE OF DRAGONS anthology (Now Available!).  Today's feature author is DAVID JONES!


Tell us a bit about your story.

The Sky Hunter is a sci-fi military story that introduces us to Ilana, a human warrior who was raised by the Ociel, a race of dragon people, on their islands in the sky. Her past is a mystery, even to her, and that’s partly because of the Ociel, so she resents them. Ilana is relatively new to being a Sky Hunter, and wears a special suit of armor called the Aether Suit that allows her to keep up with her fellow warriors. She descends to the surface world, which is absolutely foreign to her, with the intent to fulfill this final mission for the Ociel elders, and then go off on her own. This story essentially blends Metroid, Mega Man X, Jurassic Park, dragons, and Little Shop of Horrors together in really fun ways, and Ilana is by far the strongest, most badass character I’ve written to date.


Have you written any other dragon stories?

The first book I ever wrote is called Onyx The Half Hero Dragon. It’s still unreleased, but it’s a story that I’ve always loved. I’ve grown a lot as a writer since I started work on Onyx, which has had a ridiculously long development history, but I have every intention to release Onyx by the end of the year. Onyx The Half Hero Dragon is a coming of age story about a young bionic dragon who grew up on a mythic island, and was raised by a mechanical engineer named Sheila. They set out to explore the island they live on to hunt down components for a powerful new weapon, and quickly find themselves caught up in war. There's much more to the story, obviously, but I'm not about to spoil everything here.

Will there be a sequel to The Sky Hunter?

I would love to write a sequel to The Sky Hunter. Ilana's world is full of possibilities, and even I don't know where she's headed.

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Thank you for the guest post, David!  You can find out more about David Jones on his website: http://davidjonesart.com/

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

FIVE DAYS OF DRAGON INTERVIEWS, DAY 4 - AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL K. ROSE!

Hello Eager Readers!  For the next few days, I'll be sharing a post a day written by one of the authors featured in the PLAGUE OF DRAGONS anthology (Now Available!).  Today's feature author is MICHAEL K. ROSE!


Tell me a bit about your story.

“Brutality” is the story of a young man living on a remote island that is terrorized by dragons every generation or so. It’s written as a first-person narrative, because I wanted the reader to experience the dragon attack through his eyes. My stories generally tend to be pretty fast paced, and “Brutality” is no exception. Once the action gets going, the tension doesn’t really let up until the climax.

Are there any aspects of dragon lore—and, subsequently, modern dragon fiction—that you particularly like or dislike?

I like the idea of dragons as manifestations of certain human traits, and it’s something my story touches on. Think of the Norse story of Fafnir, the dwarf who is transformed into a serpent or a dragon by his greed. In this aspect, dragons are similar to many other creatures of folklore and literature: the vampire, the werewolf, even Frankenstein’s monster. All these creatures reflect the darker things lurking below the surface of our rational human minds.

Are you fond of films like Dragonslayer that depict dragons as mindless, violent animals, or do you prefer your dragons with a bit more intelligence and, perhaps, kindness?


I like both, and there is room for both. While historically, dragons have had very specific roles in human culture, modern writers and audiences have adapted the idea into something much more expansive. The same has been done with the creatures I mentioned a moment ago: vampires and werewolves. And perhaps because they started as aspects of the human psyche, it’s only natural to see ourselves in them and, in many cases, make them heroes in their own right. That being said, I wanted to make this story’s dragons fit the more traditional narrative, although they do have intelligence, which is something the islanders in “Brutality” have to contend with.

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Thank you for the interview, Michael!  You can find out more about Michael K. Rose on his website: http://www.michaelkrose.com/

Monday, April 3, 2017

FIVE DAYS OF DRAGON INTERVIEWS, DAY 3 - AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEXIA PURDY!

Hello Eager Readers!  For the next five days, I'll be sharing a post a day written by one of the authors featured in the PLAGUE OF DRAGONS anthology (Now Available!).  Today's feature author is ALEXIA PURDY!


Do you have a favorite dragon from legend, literature or film?

There are two. One is the dragon from The Neverending Story. I always loved the concept of a “luck” dragon and I think I based Catori around this. Though her life has been kind of rough up until this point, she is a catalyst of sorts for those around her, and I think that as time goes on, this will stand out more. The second dragon I admired was the one from the movie Reign of Fire. It scared me and became truly a post-apocalyptic scenario that could frighten anyone about dragons. I loved the way people dealt with the mythical creature and how they survived its wrath. It made more “real world” to me.

Will there be a sequel to Lucidium?

Yes. Lucidium is part one of the story, and I have plans to continue the series in the near future. I don’t have a title for part 2, but I plan to extend part 1 into a novel-length adventure if possible and then put out book 2 of the series. We’ll see how it goes.

Dragons are inherently magical; they cannot exist in nature. That being said, did you give any consideration to natural or physical limitations when you were dreaming up your dragons? Why or why not?

I did make my dragons smaller than the usual sized dragons you see in the movies. Mine was more the size of Falkor in The Neverending Story for the one reason that I don’t believe that a person can truly shift their body into a much larger mass than their body. I didn’t want them the exact same size, but not gigantic like one would think of when thinking of dragons. Though several times larger than a person, they aren’t that much bigger than an elephant. I think keeping them smaller makes sense and works in my story better than making them huge.

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Thank you for the interview, Alexia!  You can find out more about Alexia Purdy on her website: http://www.alexiapurdybooks.com/

Sunday, April 2, 2017

FIVE DAYS OF DRAGON INTERVIEWS, DAY 2 - AN INTERVIEW WITH JASON LAVELLE!

Hello Eager Readers!  For the next five days, I'll be sharing a post a day written by one of the authors featured in the PLAGUE OF DRAGONS anthology (Now Available!).  Today's feature author is JASON LAVELLE!



Dragons are inherently magical; they cannot exist in nature. That being said, did you give any consideration to natural or physical limitations when you were dreaming up your dragons? Why or why not?

I think the idea has always been that because dragons are magical, they cannot exist in nature, that they can’t be real. That seems like a reasonable, adult idea, but I challenge you with this question: Is there anything that exists in nature, that lives either among us or in some faraway place that isn’t powered by some kind of ‘magic’?

Are there any plants or creatures on this earth that were not created by ‘magic’?

You yourself, humanity, are we not the product of some kind of ‘divine magic’ or science that cannot be explained?

Everything on our planet, and in fact, life itself is magical, and I’m not talking about some hippy-dippy bologna, I’m talking about the very mechanics of how life works – we know a heart pumps blood, we know a lung draws air, we know a brain sends and interprets electrical impulses that control everything from motor functions to our thoughts and memories, but what actually breathes ‘life’ into life? It’s magic! Something we will never understand but that exists nonetheless.

So, do dragons exist? I have no idea! Could they exist? Of course! Just because something is ‘magical,’ and we haven’t seen it yet, doesn’t mean it isn’t still out there, waiting to be discovered… or perhaps, avoiding discovery.

The dragons in my story are not so different from us, they have hopes and fears, they experience pain and they feel joy. In their human forms they have the same physical limitations as we do, and while in dragon form, they have a completely different set of physiological traits. Even when writing in a fantasy world, I try to give my characters the dignity and respect they deserve by not only endowing them with gifts, but with limitations as well. No animal is perfect, not even a dragon, and they must live within their limitations to survive. What happens when two different, intelligent creatures, such as humans and dragons are thrust together? You’ll have to read A Cold Fire to find out.

How many average-sized adult sheep do you think the dragons in your story would have to consume per day?

Everything has to eat to survive. Humans are omnivores, we eat a bit of everything. Some creatures eat only plants, and plants consume nutrients and sunlight. There are bacteria on this planet that consume things that we wouldn’t normally even think of as food, such as atmospheric gases, and even electricity. So it would follow that dragons have to eat too. My dragons eat like a human would, consuming meats, fruits and vegetables – on a little bit larger scale. While the average human needs about 1,800 calories a day to survive, one of my dragons needs closer to 130,000, or roughly two adult sheep.

The dragons in your story are shapeshifters. In many shapeshifter stories, people lose their humanity while in their animal forms; werewolf tales are a well-known example of this. Do your dragons retain all aspects of their humanity when in dragon form?

Regardless of their physical form, whether it is the cold-blooded reptilian dragon, or the warm-blooded human, my shapeshifters remain intelligent and reasonable, capable of complex thought and careful decision making. Whether or not they will use those skills, well, that’s a different story.

Are you fond of films like Dragonslayer that depict dragons as mindless, violent animals, or do you prefer your dragons with a bit more intelligence and, perhaps, kindness?


My favorite dragon movie is Reign Of Fire, a post-apocalyptic story where the dragons are the tormentors and human-kind has been hunted to near extinction. The movie stars some very kick-ass fire-breathing dragons, Christian Bale (before he lost it) and a buff, tattooed Matthew McConaughey.

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Thank you for the interview, Jason!  You can find out more about Jason LaVelle on his website:http://darkhorsestudios3.wixsite.com/lavelle

Saturday, April 1, 2017

FIVE DAYS OF DRAGON INTERVIEWS, DAY 1 - A DRAGON REFLECTION BY KATIE SALIDAS!

Hello Eager Readers!  For the next five days, I'll be sharing a post a day written by one of the authors featured in the PLAGUE OF DRAGONS anthology (Now Available!).  Today we're going to start with the fabulous KATIE SALIDAS and some thoughts regarding dragons ;). 


Let’s talk dragons, shall we?

Why don’t we see many dragons flying around or burning down cities? Probably because they, just like us, have had to grow and adapt with time. Rise beyond the firebreathing image to something a bit more…

Maybe dragons exist and we just don’t know it. And that is the kind of thinking that led me to dragons as shifters in the story, Molten Heart.

Dragons belong just as much to the human world as we do. And really, calling it the human world might piss them off, because they think we’re a bit irresponsible with the world we’ve taken over. So let’s maybe just stick to calling it earth. It will make life easier on us all. Trust me. Most dragons are good, but piss off the wrong one….

Anyway. Back on point. Dragons could possibly be the very first breed of shifters. Over time as they grew and adapted with time, maybe they learned how to change forms. All creatures on earth have had to grow and adapt over the years or risk extinction. And though dragons might seem like the king of beasts, there is a greater beast on this earth that strikes fear into the hearts and minds of all creatures who share this planet… man!

Was that too preachy? Sorry. Moving on.

That leads us to the question of their (the dragons) nature. Are they beasts? Are they thinking and feeling beings. And if the answer to both of those questions is, yes. What is dominant in them and how does it work when they shift between forms?

 I’d have to answer that with turning it back around on humanity. We’re thinking and feeling beings who act absolutely beastly without shifting into a twenty-foot tall firebreathing creature, so why would a dragon who has the ability to swap forms be any different? In both their impressive drake form and in their tiny (by comparison) human form, the character is the same. Their minds stay intact as well as their ability to reason and understand their surroundings. It is merely their appearance, and fire-proofing, that alters.

Why do they change then, you might ask?

Well, who doesn’t want to be able to take to the sky? Admit it, if you could sprout wings, you would.

As far as my dragons are concerned, their drake form is their natural form. They take on the human guise to keep their truth secret from the savage humans who rape and pillage the earth they live on.

Humans are a pretty damn scary race!

But, that might be giving too much away. Let’s chat about more fun dragon facts, like what they eat.

My Dragons are actually omnivores (because of their dual forms) but because of their massive size need more protein than their human counterparts. That of course leads to quite a bit of meat consumption. They’ll eat pretty much anything that moves. Sheep, cow, pig, etc… Fish too, for the water variety (the hydras). And when you have a colony of dragons around, there had better be quite a bit of available food.

How much do they eat? Well, that’s a great question. On the island they live on herd of wild sheep and ponies are pretty prevalent so that is the natural meal of choice for a dragon on the hunt. Bunny en flambé though is a favorite snack. Food is energy for the dragons, not an indulgence. Participating in the circle of life (cue the Lion King music), means that the dragons only take what they need when they need it. Could a dragon glutton himself on six or seven fully grown mountain goats with a side of squirrel every day? Of course they could. But eventually overhunting leads to extinction, and they know that. They are thinking and feeling creatures, remember.

On average, a male drake will sustain themselves on one meal a day consisting of two to three large prey animals.

I know what you’re saying. Dragons are fantasy creatures. They cannot exist in nature. Why are you spending so much time pretending that they’re real?

That’s my job. As the author I have think of all the little details and physical attributes necessary to validate my dragons. Even if all of these details do not end up in the final story, the world and character building has to be there first. Laying the foundations so that I can tell you a believable story. Do I think dragons exist? Doesn’t matter. But if for one second, just one, I can make you suspend your belief, then I have done my job!

Hope you enjoy reading Molten Heart!

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Thank you for the guest post, Katie!  You can find out more about Katie Salidas on her website: http://www.katiesalidas.com/

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Plague of Dragons is Almost Here!

Hello Readers!

We are now only one week away from the release of A Plague of Dragons!  I'm so excited to be part of this anthology project with my five other, immensely talented writing buddies (Michael K. Rose, Katie Salidas, David Jones, Alexia Purdy, and Jason LaVelle).  There will be plenty of online events and what not in the coming days and weeks, so be sure to keep a look out for those over on my Facebook page.  Also, in case you haven't heard already, five of us authors will be present at Phoenix Comicon this year with copies of A Plague of Dragons as well as all our other books, so I hope to see you there as well.

If you receive my newsletter, then you got an early, sneak peek at Chapter One of Flame and Form, and if you like my Facebook page, then you've seen the snippets I've been posting once a week.  Since the release date is just around the corner, I'm posting the first chapter right here (plus a little bit more from Chapter Two ;)), for you to enjoy as you await the main release.  Happy reading and don't forget!  You can still pre-order your copy today.

- Jenna


PRE-ORDER LINKS

Add A Plague of Dragons to your Goodreads reading list!

AND NOW, A SNEAK PEEK AT FLAME AND FORM - A NOVELLA OF THE OTHERWORLD ...

Chapter One

Brienne drained the last, bitter remnants from her tankard and set the empty vessel down before her.  The tavern was crowded with raucous locals, farmers by the most part, enjoying a drink to celebrate the final days of their harvest.  Late afternoon light worked its way through the two dirty windows facing the street.  A small fire in the hearth, a few lit candles scattered on scarred tables and a half dozen cracked, sooty lanterns hanging along the walls merely enhanced the shadows rather than driving them away.  The perfect setting for those trying to blend in.

Despite her relative certainty she would not be noticed, Brienne pulled the hood of her thick cloak farther down her face, not wanting to give away her gender.  She wasn’t particularly afraid of any of these men, and her skill with a blade, be it sword or knife, would surely protect her against those used to swinging a scythe or pushing a plow.  But she didn’t need the extra attention and could do with an evening of rest.  Besides, she hoped to rent a room in this very tavern tonight, for clouds carrying early snow swelled on the horizon, and she was tired of camping beneath trees whose leaves had all but fallen for the fast-approaching winter.

“Another ale for you, sir?” a serving maid asked.

Brie smiled beneath her hood, shaking her head in refusal.

The young woman gave a slight duck of her chin and took the empty cup away, sweeping up the coins Brienne had dropped on the counter.  Once the tavern worker disappeared back into the kitchen, Brienne stood.  She was tall, even for one of the Faelorehn, so it was easy for others to think her a man.  If she kept her hair and face hidden, at least.  An easy enough task.  The tavern keeper was wiping down the long counter, so Brie headed in that direction, wondering whether or not she should try to pitch her voice low and keep up the facade of being male.  She never got the opportunity, however.  Before she could even take one step, the front door banged open, and a young man came tumbling in, his trousers caked with mud up to his knees, his shirt and vest torn.  He took several gasping breaths as the patrons stared silently at this unexpected intrusion.

“Dr-Draghan!” he rasped, throwing his arm out behind him.

The sudden hush grew even more profound, just before the tavern burst into shouts and bodies scrambling to flood out into the street.  Brienne stayed exactly where she was, not moving an inch until the entire place had emptied.  Even then, she took a few moments to gather her bearings before joining the rest of the villagers out in the square.

Had the young man really said draghan?  What in the name of the gods and goddesses was a draghan doing in Eile?  From what she understood of such creatures, which she would admit was very little, was that they didn’t possess the mental capacity to figure out how to pass through a dolmarehn to sneak into her world.  Perhaps it was some other large beast the youth had mistaken for a draghan.  Or worse yet, one of the Morrigan’s dreaded faelah.

Not wanting her mind to go in that direction, Brienne cast another look at the open door and worried her lower lip between her teeth.  She should stay in the tavern, but curiosity was gnawing at her and not joining the rest of the crowd would seem suspicious.  Taking a deep breath, she headed toward the door and ducked out into the late afternoon light.  The townsfolk, many more than the number which had occupied the tavern, stood in a large crowd, their gazes fixed on the road leading south from the village.

“I see them now!” the same young man from before shouted.  “They’re coming over the rise!”

People jostled to get a better view, not taking care to avoid the mud puddles.  A large wagon, most likely meant to transport hay, creaked down the rutted road and came to a stop in the wide town center.  The villagers had moved just enough out of the way to let the driver and his team of draft horses pass, their eyes and attention fixed on the large creature tied down with chains in the back.

Brie caught her breath as gasps and small screams skittered about the crowd.  It was a draghan.  One of the legendary winged, fire-breathing reptiles from Firiehn.  Not for the first time in her life, Brienne’s extra height gave her an advantage.  She did not have to shove people aside or stand on her toes to see the monster, so she could study it from a safe distance.  The beast was black as soot, but sparked with undertones of bronze where the torchlight played against its scales.  About the size of the draft horses pulling the cart, Brienne was surprised the wheels hadn’t splintered beneath its weight.  A triangular head decked in a crown of dark horns rested against powerful forearms ending in claws of a similar color.  She couldn’t get a good look at its wings, for they were folded close to the monster’s body, held in place by the chains, its tail similarly curled and held close.  Instinct told her the creature was injured, perhaps badly.  Its eyes were shut, and its breathing was labored.  She would bet all the money she carried with her the chains were not even necessary to keep it in place.

The voices of the crowd started to rise again, but before the men could even begin their inevitable demand that the creature be destroyed, she knew where this situation was headed.  If they didn’t kill it outright, it would be sent to the Morrigan as tribute.  That’s how things were done in and along the fringes of the war goddess’ territory.  And this creature would keep her pacified for a very long time.  Pity crashed into Brienne’s heart like a blacksmith’s hammer striking hot iron.  She had been born into her servitude; had never known freedom but craved it with every fiber of her being.  This draghan, by its very nature, was a wild creature never meant to be enslaved.  If it became the property of the Morrigan, its spirit would be crushed.

One of the bystanders, a hunter or warrior from what Brienne could tell by his height and build, lifted a huge battle axe and roared above all the chatter, “Kill it before it regains its strength and flames us all!”

“No!  Let us release it and make sport of it!” another interjected.  “We managed to muzzle it with chains, and it is injured.  The beast will not make it far.  The man or woman to bring it down can have the head and hide!”

“Don’t be absurd!” one of the women cried.  “Bring it to the Morrigan!  If she discovers we had such a treasure and just wasted it, she will force us all into her army.  Or worse, extract our glamour and discard us like husks.”

That set the crowd into a chorus of nervous rumbling, everyone shouting their own chosen demise for the draghan, each suggestion worse than the one before.

Brienne had seen enough suffering, enough death.  She had been with the Morrigan long enough to know that people, and creatures, were not always what they seemed.  Villains might be draped in expensive silks with alabaster skin and music in their voices.  And those who wished to help you, or those simply wanting to protect the ones they loved, might appear on the outside as monsters.

She shot her gaze back toward the draghan and jumped in surprise to find its eyes had opened.  The one she could see was a molten gold color, bright with intelligence and what might have been rage.  But there was also a spark of fear there.  Brienne narrowed her own eyes, holding the draghan’s regard a bit longer, and let her glamour feather outward.  Her magic wasn’t as impressive as most in the Morrigan’s army, but she could sometimes filter out emotions.  Anger, resentment, pride ... and hopelessness.  It was that final bitter feeling, one she was so very familiar with, that snapped her into action.

“So much for keeping a low profile,” she muttered as she stepped forward, her right hand going for the pommel of the sword hanging at her side.

The mood of the crowd had shifted while she’d been considering the draghan.  Apparently, a decision had been made, and that decision involved delivering the beast to the Tuatha De Danann goddess who terrorized their lands.

“But who will take it to the Morrigan?  We are all busy with the harvest!” one man managed to shout over the general clamor.

“I cannot go, my children are sick!” a woman put in.

One by one, the villagers cried out with some excuse or another, age-old terror coloring their words.  They feared the goddess who watched over their territory, but they feared her wrath more.

Brie wrapped her fingers around the grip of her sword and drew it in a long, dramatic arc that was more for show than anything else.  The people closest to her shouted in surprise and jumped back, knocking into those standing beside them.

“I will take the creature!” she cried out above the noise.  “I will deliver this draghan to the Morrigan.”

The conversation ceased as every pair of eyes in the village square turned to study this cloaked stranger.  Brienne kept her hood up.  If she could manage getting away without leaving them with a face to remember, she would be grateful.

“Why should we believe you?” one of the men asked.  He had been the one to drive the wagon into town.  “How do we know you do not wish to take it into the next town to demand a bounty?”

Shouts of ascent skittered through the crowd.

For a small moment, Brienne hesitated.  What was she doing?  Did she really want to risk leaving these people with a memory they could easily report to any of the Morrigan’s henchmen should they come searching for her?  She loosened the iron grip she held on her sword, letting the tip sink further to the ground.  Before she sheathed the weapon she glanced at the draghan once more.  It was watching her, those ember-hued eyes wary and almost desperate.

Brie, you know more than anyone what it is to be enslaved.  Can you really go on living with yourself if you allow it to happen to another creature, when you had the chance to stop it?

Brienne squared her shoulders and took a deep breath.  She could convince them she meant what she said, that she’d bring this creature to the Morrigan.  It meant they would remember her if her enemies came questioning, but she would just have to take that risk.

“Here goes,” she hissed to herself, as she reached up and pulled back her hood.

The crowd gasped, several people in front of her taking a step back.

“You should believe me,” she said softly, her pale blue eyes surveying the crowd, “because I am bound in service to the goddess of war.”

The woman closest to the cart lifted a hand, as if to run it over the side of her face, then snatched it away.  Brienne fought the urge to do the same.  She was used to the stares and looks of pity.  The questions were always in the eyes of those who saw her ravaged face, though.  Had the scars come from a wild animal?  A horrific fire?  Had her husband or lover taken his anger out on her and burned her face with a torch?  No.  The truth wasn’t as noble as any of that.  She had refused a direct order from the Morrigan, and she had been thrown into the fire as punishment.  Somehow, she had rolled out with damage done to only one side of her body, a few of the faelah in the camp adding a few more ugly marks by raking their claws at her as she rolled to put the flames out.  That had been two years ago, but the agony still felt fresh.

“Dear gods . . .” one of the men murmured, pulling his young sons close and backing away.
“If this is not enough to convince you,” she added, gesturing to her damaged skin, “there is also this.”

She flung her cloak free of her left shoulder and reached up to pull her collar down, just enough to reveal the top of a disc-shaped tattoo staining the pale skin between her breast and collar bone.

More gasps from the crowd.

“Morrigan’s get!” an old woman hissed.

“Faeduihn!” another added.

Brienne shot her pale eyes in the direction of that accusation.  Her soul may have been stained because of her association with the goddess of wrath and ruin, but she knew the dark glamour had not infected her yet.  She didn’t correct them, however.  If she could get them to fear her, or at least believe her claims, the better her chances of escaping with the injured draghan.

“As you have said, my mistress desires creatures such as this.  I will take it off your hands, so that you might get back to your own work.”

After a long moment of near silence, and a few quietly exchanged words between them, the cart driver said, “Very well.  But we want this thing out of here tonight.”

Brienne fought the urge to release a heavy sigh.  Instead, she nodded once.

“I can leave right now.”

Chapter Two

Brienne drove the draft horses a mile or so south of town.  Her own horse, the one she had stolen from camp when she’d made her escape a week before, secured to the back of the cart.  When they came to a crossroads she turned them left, choosing a path that would eventually take them back into the northern mountains, but hopefully, clear of any curious villagers or spies of the Morrigan.  The sun had set, and they had maybe a half an hour before full dark settled in.  She didn’t like the idea of making camp so close to the village, but they really had no choice.

Movement to her right caught Brie’s attention.  A large white wolf with a ruddy tail and ears darted in and out of the scraggly wood before approaching them.  The horses, already on edge because of the cargo they carried, snorted and pulled at their harnesses.  Brienne only grinned.

Scout out a safe, secluded place to settle in for the night if you can, Mynne, she sent to her spirit guide.

The wolf cocked her head to the side, a habit she had picked up since losing both her eyes to the Morrigan’s soldiers.  It had been part of Brienne’s punishment, a wound which had hurt her more than the burns had.  In the end, Brie could harbor some gratitude, however.  At least they hadn’t killed Mynne.

I believe there is a meadow of sorts up ahead, the wolf sent back through their mind connection.  A place travelers often use for resting.  It is surrounded by thick trees and a few standing stones.  No one should bother us this night.

Within fifteen minutes, the team of horses had moved the hay cart clear of the road and into the shallow hollow of the small meadow.  Brienne pulled on the reins and pushed the brake lever forward before hopping down to survey the area.  It was wide, but mostly flat and protected by trees and stones on three sides.  So long as no one happened by them in the night, they should have nothing to fear.

Brienne glanced up at the sky, wondering if those clouds would shed freezing rain or snow.  Or perhaps nothing at all.

Best get this fire started then, if you wish for it to burn through the night, Mynne sent.

Brienne pursed her lips, then turned to eye the hay cart.  She had been avoiding checking on the draghan.  The beast had been so silent and motionless during their time spent on the road.  She feared it had either died or was readying itself for an attack.  Now that there was only one Faelorehn woman to challenge it, she wouldn’t be surprised if the creature sprang suddenly to life, spewing fire and swiping deadly claws.  The very thought sent shivers of bone-melting dread through Brienne.  Fire was a necessity of life, but ever since almost dying by it she had harbored some anxiety whenever it came time to kindle a flame, whether it be to light a candlewick or start a bonfire.  Nevertheless, she would accomplish this task just as she had every night since her escape.  After observing the draghan for several minutes, Brie concluded the creature was of no immediate threat.  In fact, the cold weather was probably affecting it more than anything else.

Brienne spent ten minutes gathering what firewood she could find, grumbling over the fact that most of it was soaked through from a recent rainstorm.  After several attempts with her flint and knife, she couldn’t get the damp leaves and twigs to catch, so she rummaged in her saddlebags for a section of old cloth, hoping it might work better as kindling.  The dry wool and linen caught, but the green wood stubbornly resisted the licking flames.

“Cursed spirits!” she hissed, balling her half-frozen fingers into fists.  “Mynne, I might need you to sleep close tonight and hope the clouds don’t drop ice upon us.”

The white wolf sniffed and inclined her head.  Of course.  It might be better not to have a fire anyway.

Brienne couldn’t argue with that.  If the Morrigan’s generals considered her valuable enough to track down, then a fire would only draw attention to their location.  She rocked back into a half crouch, one knee pressed into the damp earth, her elbow resting on the other, and peered back at the draghan.

“I am sorry we don’t have better cover, or a source of heat,” she said, regret tainting her words.

She only hoped the creature could withstand the chill.  Or maybe it would succumb.  That might actually be a sort of mercy.  She hadn’t been able to get a good look at the beast’s wounds, but she didn’t doubt their existence.  Perhaps even infection had settled in and that was why the draghan hadn’t moved.

As if in open defiance of those very thoughts, the monster decided at that moment to emerge from its delirium just long enough to crack open one eyelid.  The iris melted into molten scarlet rimmed with deep red and focused in on her, the full attention of the draghan sending a nervous twinge through Brie’s body.  The creature slowly lifted its head.

Brienne stepped back, afraid she had offended the beast in some manner.  Had it heard her internal musings?  Had she angered it?  She held up her palms as it narrowed both eyes in her direction.  The draghan drew in a deep breath and exhaled, a stream of heat and flame the color of a distant, pale blue star careened toward her.  Brienne gasped and leapt aside, old, instinctual fear pumping adrenaline through her blood.  The stream of fire slammed into her pathetic pile of wood with a hissing crackle of sound.  The draghan kept up the jet until the once damp pile of logs and branches danced with orange and yellow flames.

With an exhausted huff, the creature let its head drop back against the cart bed, the chains weighing it down clanking ominously.

Brienne blinked, shocked at what had just occurred, her chest rising and falling as she tried to subdue her panic.  She eyed the fire, the wood no longer smoking.

Mynne trotted up beside her, almost making her jump out of her skin.

Looks like you won’t freeze to death after all.

Brienne nodded out of habit, then returned her pale gaze to the draghan.  The beast was utterly still, its eyes closed in pain once more.  Only the tiny rise and fall of its flank told her the creature lived.  When it first lifted its head and spit fire in her direction, Brienne had thought the draghan meant to turn her to ash.  But that had not been the creature’s intent at all.  Now it lie still, the cold of the night even more oppressive now that she had the heat of the fire to warm her numb fingers.

“But I fear the draghan will,” she murmured, in response to Mynne’s comment.

That can’t be helped, Mynne offered.  You’ve done what you can for the monster.  Removing it from the clutches of the Morrigan was the best thing you could ever have done for it, even if it should now perish.

Her spirit guide was probably right, but guilt ate away at her anyway.  The draghan had clearly used up what little energy it had left to help her.  There had to be something else she could do.

Brienne glanced around the clearing, now barely able to make any colors out in the dark.  But she knew exactly where the fallen trees had been on her earlier hunt for firewood.  She went back to her horse, now secured to a tree far away from the draghan, and pulled out her small axe.

What are you doing? Mynne questioned, her head tilted to the side as she tried to listen to Brienne’s movements.

“I’m going to try to help,” was her response.

Two hours later, Brie had managed to build a moat of larger logs around the wagon.  The draft horses, still in their harnesses, had been secured to a massive oak near her own horse.  She checked her ring of firewood, adjusting it so that it would be as close to the cart as possible without the risk of setting it on fire.  She had taken some of the burning branches from the draghan’s fire and managed to get a few places smoldering.  By the time her own exhaustion knocked her off her feet, a ring of flames encircled the trapped beast.

“I’m sorry I cannot do more for you tonight,” she said to the creature, “but I hope the fire takes off some of the chill.  Tomorrow, I will see what I can do about the chains.  I simply do not have the energy or the strength now.”

And that was the truth.  Her fingers and toes were like icicles and spots swam before her eyes.

In response to her voice, the draghan opened one of its eyes again, a dark, slitted pupil rotating in her direction.

Brienne tried a smile, but her lips felt numb.

“Until the morning, then,” she promised, collapsing onto the sleeping roll she’d tucked beneath the wagon.

Despite her apprehension about being surrounded by flames, Brie settled down quickly, her exhaustion stronger than her unease.  Besides, the logs were already burning down to hot coals, and soon, they would simply radiate heat until going out completely in a few hours’ time.

Mynne joined her after giving the draghan a suspicious glare, curling up beside her familiar within the wall of smoldering coals.

Brienne welcomed the familiar warmth of her spirit guide, her only source of comfort in a world that had so far offered her only cruelty.

As she waited for sleep, she thought of the draghan again and how it watched her with those smoldering citrine eyes.  Of the way it had used its strange and potent flames to start a fire she could not.  The creature was a stranger in this world, and clearly, it had been treated badly.  As far as the draghan knew, she could be just as terrible as those who had chained it to a wagon to offer up as a sacrifice, yet, it had helped her just now.  Brienne set her jaw, thinking of the men and women under the Morrigan’s control who had used and abused her.

I won’t let that be your fate, she vowed.  If you survive this night, I will find a way to return you to your home.
* * *
THANK YOU FOR READING!
Flame and Form will be available on March 31st in the Plague of Dragons anthology.  Flame and Form is intended for a mature reading audience (age 18 and up) and is a complete novella at 33,000 words (for reference, novels are a length of 50,000 words or more).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

LIVING LIFE AUTHORLY

No. 3


Hello Readers!  Here is the third edition of my Living Life Authorly reflection.  In this piece, I talk about what you, the reader, can do to help your favorite authors and their books find success.  Readers play a very important role in the life of a book and its creator, especially for us indie authors.  If you've always wondered how you can take an active part in making a book more popular, read on!  And as always, happy reading and writing ;)!
- J.E. Johnson



The Care and Feeding of your Favorite Authors

For the most part, authors are strange, reclusive creatures by nature.  We lock ourselves away in our writing caves and glare through the blinds should a neighbor dare to mow the lawn whilst we are trying to concentrate on a scene.  We thrive on caffeine, chocolate and the perfect soundtrack for our writing time.  During the day when we must skip off to our day jobs (yes, most of us need day jobs in order to stay afloat), we do our best to pretend to be normal.  Fortunately, we can pull this off because we know about characters and how play the part.  In a nutshell, we are odd creatures who live to tell you a story and I'm going to go out on a limb and claim that 100% of us dream of the day we can do this book writing thing full time.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult for authors (especially the many of us who are independently published) to make a mark in the world of literature.  Even with a great story, wonderful editing, superb formatting and a gorgeous book cover, it can be difficult to get our books seen if we don't have the money for marketing.

I know, that's a lot to take in and all you probably want to do is read our books and not worry about the business end of things (and believe me, most of us authors are in the same boat - we just want to write those books for you and not have to worry about marketing and getting the word out).  But, for those of you who would like to help, there are ways to do so without spending a dime.  In this edition of Living Life Authorly, I am going to focus on two ways you, as a reader, can help out your favorite authors.

1.) WRITE A REVIEW

Let's say you've read a new book by a new author and you really liked it.  You know purchasing their next book is the best way to keep supporting them (more book sales = more royalties = author getting closer to their dream of writing full time), but you can't afford to get their next book just yet.  Don't fret.  Writing a review is just as important, if not more so, as purchasing their next books.  By writing a review, you are telling other potential readers that this book, this author, is worth checking out.  It's free and doesn't have to take a lot of your time.

If you want to keep it simple, ask yourself these two questions: 1.) Did you enjoy the book?  2.) Would you recommend it to others?

Your review does not have to be spectacular.  It can be one sentence long, or several.  And writing a review does not have to take more than a few minutes to complete, and those few minutes can really help a book's visibility.  I've read a few articles stating that once a book receives 50 or more reviews on Amazon.com, it starts getting more exposure.  So the more reviews, the better.

Short reviews are great, but if you really want to expand on your review, I always follow this outline: 1.) In one to three sentences, what was the book about?  2.) What did you like/what did the author do well?  3.) What did you dislike/what could the author have done better?  More detailed reviews tend to be more helpful and helpful reviews are even more appreciated by potential readers.

Whether or not you write a quick or detailed review is entirely up to you and what you feel comfortable with.  Like I said above, ANY review is appreciated (even the negative ones :)).  The fact that you took the time to give feedback tells me the story had some impact on you and that alone is a great encouragement.

Another thing to consider is if you have accounts on multiple sites where books are sold/discussed, you can post the same review in all those places.  If you purchased your book on Amazon, you can leave your review there as well as Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Google Play and Goodreads.  You can also rate the book on Wattpad if you are a member on that site as well.   

2.) SPREAD THE WORD

If you discover a new book, share that news with your friends.  Tell them why you liked it, let them know it would be perfect for their son/daughter/niece/nephew/cousin/aunt/uncle.  Inform them their next book boyfriend lives in that book and, OMG, they just HAVE to read about him! . . . You get the picture ;).

You can tell your friends in person when you meet up for your weekly coffee date.  Suggest it as the next book to read in your book club.  Donate the book to your local library when you've finished reading it or give it to someone on the subway or the bus who looks like they might enjoy it.  There are so many ways you can help spread the word about a book.

Another easy way to help share the love is, if you follow your authors on social media, share their links and posts.  On your own wall, on a Book Lovers' page, by tagging a friend who might find the book interesting ...  Pin their book cover art to your Pinterest page or share images of places and things that remind you of the book or series.

Of course, I'm sure there are many other ways you can help your favorite authors, but hopefully these are some good places to start.  Before I sign off, I want to express how much I already appreciate you all and everything you do to help me and my other author friends become the best writers we can be.  When you believe in our stories and characters as much as we do, it gives us even more purpose and drive to finish that next book or to begin a new one.  To not give up on that dream we can see so clearly in our minds.  I am forever honored to have you all as members of my readership and I hope to bring you even greater stories in the future.  Until next time, happy reading!

- Jenna