Monthly Archives: June 2013

Author Spotlight: Jerome Brooke

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Introducing author Jerome Brooke. I will be reviewing Jerome’s book The City of the Mirage in a few weeks – watch for it!1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Jerome Brooke lives in the Kingdom of Siam. He is the consort of Jira, a princess of the lost Kingdom of Nan. He has written The City of the Mirage (Books to Go Now) and many other books.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I  have been writing poetry for about 20 years – fiction for 10. I began to write because I wanted to create art and beauty.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I have two children. I hope they, their children and future generations will see my work. I also have cousins and nephews. I also write family history, and want to preserve more than basic facts like birth date for the future. Poetry can be beautiful, as can fiction. I like for people to see a poem or fiction text, and to enjoy the work.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
I have a book on contract with Books to Go Now – the book is a erotic paranormal set in Haiti of the Colonial period. The title is Lover of the Voodoo Priestess. I used the pen name Joan Barron.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
and
6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

The book tells of a young French man of letters in Haiti of the old days. He falls under the spell of a Voodoo priestess and her daughter. She causes the death of her rival (a Frenchwoman).

The book is erotic, with relationships between a European and slave women. The paranormal aspect is the Voodoo element.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
I am married to a much younger woman (23 years younger). She is from Nan in the Highlands north of Bangkok. Nan was long an independent kingdom, and still has its own royal family.

8. Website/contact info:
http://runesofthebard.wordpress.com/
jeromevbrooke@yahoo.com

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The City of the Mirage is ruled by the Divine Astarte. She has called the man who comes to be called the Conqueror to her service. Astarte was born on our own world.

Astarte rules a vast empire of the multiverse. Her race seeded many worlds with life over the eons. The Conqueror leads her legions to victory in a war against forces led by her brother.

The City of the Mirage
is available at Amazon.


Book Review: Desires, by R. Rose

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(Just a reminder, this isn’t a book review blog and I don’t take book review requests.)Desires: A Legacy Novel, by R. Rose

Kyra’s star ratings:
Story and characters: ****
General premise and inspiration: *****
Writing mechanics: ***
ebook formatting: ** (may not be the author’s fault, but I found the formatting in this ebook distracting – all dialogue in block quotes, could not change font face)

(I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review.)

“Desires” is the story of a young woman, Elean, who is the mortal manifestation of the Goddess Brighid, and the two young men, Liam and James, who are her best friends and protectors. Early on, in desperate circumstances, she is forced to choose one to be her husband. I could never quite get over the feeling that under duress she chose the wrong one, which only added to the poignancy of the love story. The other one is still in the picture, and they both remain devoted to her through thick and thin. The novel is based on Irish folklore and mythology, which provides a rich foundation for the story and which I found interesting.

The characters are likeable and engaging, although I did find myself wanting to smack Elean a few times (for insisting on sneaking out by herself even when she knew from hard experience that it was dangerous and even though the people who cared about her kept warning her not to, and also when she stayed mad at someone for over a month just because they took measures to make sure she did something that she desperately needed to do.) This reaction to a character is usually when I stop reading a novel, but I really wanted to see how the story turned out. Plus, I generally have that reaction to teenage characters acting like teenagers (don’t get me wrong, I love teenagers, my offspring include a current teenager and a former teenager) so I try not to let myself be prejudiced by it.

I also didn’t understand why, when one character came under an evil influence and became a threat to Elean, the whole clan full of warriors who were presumably loyal to her didn’t stand up and defend her. They knew this one character had become dangerous, but no one besides Elean, her nurse, and her warrior were willing to step up and protect her.

And finally, well, I hate it when that happens to a character at the end! *cry* Even though I did see it coming.

The book is very nicely illustrated. However, I found all the dialogue being set into block quotes distracting and disruptive to the flow of the story. (I don’t know if it was the author’s choice to do it this way or the book formatter’s choice.) The book could also use a close edit to clarify and smooth out the writing and to fix some grammar and punctuation problems.

Overall, though, “Desires” is an emotional, engaging novel. I think teens especially will appreciate the characters and the love story (although there is some sexual content that may make it inappropriate for younger teens), and anyone who’s interested in Irish folklore and mythology will enjoy the setting and story premise.


Cure For Nel Free on Amazon; Chosen of Azara News Update

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Just a few news updates. First of all, my short story collection, A Cure For Nel, and Other Stories, is free on Amazon through June 30. This might be the last time you can get this collection for free; I’m thinking I’ll take it out of the Select program at the end of this 90-day period and replace it with something else. If I do this, Cure For Nel will become available through other outlets, but I won’t be able to do the free promotions for it any more. So if you haven’t downloaded it yet, now’s your chance to get it for free!

Also here:
AmazonUK
AmazonCA (Canada)
AmazonDE (Germany)
AmazonFR (France)

Right now, it’s at #48 in Fantasy Short Stories and Anthologies in the Kindle Store on Amazon US. More downloads will raise the ranking, which will give me more visibility.

But, you say, I don’t have a Kindle! Never fear: if you don’t have a Kindle, you can get the free Kindle reading app for your computer or device, or, since my ebooks are DRM-free, you can use the free Calibre software to convert the book into epub format for other ereaders (Nook, Kobo, Sony, Apple).

In other news, Chosen of Azara has been approved for the Smashwords premium distribution, which means that over the next several weeks it will become available on the Barnes&Noble, Apple, Sony, and Kobo websites. I’ll add buy links as those go live.

And finally, if you want to try before you buy, or your budget won’t allow you to buy right now, you can read Chosen of Azara for free for a limited time right here! I’ll post a chapter 2-3 times a week, with up to three chapters available at any one time. When I get to the end, it’ll come down once the last chapters have been up for a week or so, but the free sample will remain on the site.


Author Spotlight: Holly Dae

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Introducing another new and exciting independent author, Holly Dae!

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m twenty-two, a senior in college, and majoring in English. I’m the oldest of seven children (six girls and one boy) and a little bossy because of it. Okay, so I’m very bossy, but my family does nothing to help me tone that down. My other hobbies are gardening, reading, cooking, and at the moment obsessing over Teen Wolf.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I started writing when I was like seven. The first book I ever put together was about what happened when my second little sister was born. After that, it was just kind of a hobby I did. Nothing serious. Then when I was ten and my mother noticed I was writing stories a lot more than any of my friends did and they were long stories she said, “You really enjoy doing this? You should be a writer when you grow up.” That was when it first occurred to me that people write all the books on the shelves in the book stores and libraries. I’ve been practicing and honing the craft ever since.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write YA Fantasy and Paranormal, mostly featuring teenage female protagonists that are of some type of African-American descent. I do so because while I don’t really care what race or gender the characters in books I read are if the story is good (Harry Potter is my favorite series ever!), I wanted to read a book about a character, who, like me, might be worried about her hair getting wet in the rain because it would shrink into a tangled unmanageable mess, without the book being about that character being African-American and I had a hard time finding books like that when I was a child. For that reason I almost exclusively write ya fantasy and ya paranormal because that give me the opportunity to use character from very diverse backgrounds and settings, yet their races have absolutely nothing  to do with plot or the story that’s being written.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My latest series is a YA contemporary fantasy called The White Rose. It’s self-published and I’m in the process of trying to gain a following for it. Right now it has two books. The first is called The Seal of Oblivion and its sequel is Plague of the Black Akantha. They feature Laqiya (the q is pronounced /k/) and she’s, African-American, thirteen and able to control the forces of nature and has to use them to keep oblivion sealed and the antagonists from shattering the seal. I’m hoping to finish the third book in the series, Revenge of the Illusionist, by this fall so I can send it out to betas and get it edited for a mid to late winter release. Right now, I’m working on Going Lucid which is a YA Paranormal featuring Malakha, a seventeen-year-old who can cross an invisible divide and enter Hell at will. The release date for that is tentatively August 10th 2013. That’s very tentative.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
So The White Rose is a YA fantasy set in I guess it would be an alternate contemporary world. There are a lot of familiar places mentioned in it (The United States, Georgia, Atlanta), but the city it’s set it is actually the fantasy version of Macon GA, where I was forced to move to when I was a child. When I say fantasy, I mean that Roselyn City is everything I wished Macon was when I moved there as a child. It’s in the exact geographical location, but very modern, mildly busy, big, very diverse, and contains most of the action of the series even though sometimes the characters travel to Atlanta and come back. Although I changed the name and made the city bigger, I did want it to be a little recognizable to the city it’s based off of so it also has two or three big fairs that come into town that really define the city much to the bafflement of the main character.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
There’s the protagonist of the White Rose series Laqiya and at first she comes off as a bit of a spoiled, bourgeois-y rich girl, who wants nothing to do with being anyone’s hero. In fact she hates her power to control all the forces of nature and is very vocal about wanting to be normal and that sometimes annoys the people around her. But her most redeeming quality, and the quality I like most about her, is when she finally does set her mind to do the things she knows she has to, but has been running away from doing, it is very hard to deter her from doing it. She has a good heart. The problem is she’s thirteen.

Then there’s my favorite character of the series so far, and that’s one of Laqiya’s best friends, Sakura. She’s part Japanese-American and part African-American and she’s always very whiny and scared. The thing that I like about her most though is that when it comes time to face her fears, she doesn’t run away. In fact, she’s probably the bravest character I’ve written.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
I’m really into anime, especially the magical girl genre, and I always try to find a way to tip my hat to the genre in my books. For instance, there’s this scene in The Seal of Oblivion where the antagonist manages to summon oblivion and when she does the characters draw attention to the fact that there are no fancy words, fancy movements, or special items to do it, which is a direct contrast to the bright colorful transformations and power up sequences and rituals in magical girl anime. So there are a lot of things that inspire The White Rose series that come from magical girl anime, but without all the theatrics and tropes. The books wouldn’t have been the same without my enjoyment of magical girl anime.

8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
My blog is thesealofoblivion.wordpress.com where you can find more info on my books and excerpts from the books I’m working on.

I’m also available on Goodreads.

All my books are available on Amazon.


Character Interview: Sajur Golu

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Haven’t done a villain interview yet. Introducing Sajur Golu, from Chosen of Azara (boo, hiss):1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?
I am Sajur Golu. “Golu” is a title signifying that I am a high priest dedicated to the service of a Source in the Madrinan Empire. Ordinary priests are also known as golus, but they are not entitled to bear the title as part of their name.2. How old are you?
Only petty-minded people allow themselves to be limited by such a thing as numbers.

3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?
I am descended from the Old Madrin nobility, a people superior in courage and intellect who gave rise to the Madrinan Empire.

4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?
I don’t see why something like that should be important enough to bother remembering.

5. What is your occupation?
I am the High Priest of Source Dar, the Source on which is founded the capital of the Madrinan Empire and the most powerful Source in the Empire. I am also chief advisor to Dansat, the ruler of the Madrinan Empire and, should something happen to him and his older son the Crown Prince, I fully expect to be the Regent in his younger son’s place.

6. What are your best and worst qualities?
I possess extraordinary intelligence and a bold and fearless vision of the future. I am also gifted with a keen perception of others’ thoughts and emotions, and with the ability to persuade others to do my bidding. As well, I have a matchless ability to take in Source-power and to use it, and the courage to go beyond the limitations that are imposed by the small-minded.

My worst quality? I would say that I regret not having the ability to actually read minds. I am also not as young as I used to be, and aging is somewhat of an inconvenience to one with my drive and ambition.

7. What quality do you value most in a romantic partner?
Golus in the Madrinan Empire are generally expected to remain celibate. A rather petty limitation, adhered to by those who are too conventional to fully explore all the avenues by which power can be gained and experienced. I have rather unique and sophisticated tastes in this area, unconstrained by petty ideas of morality or romance, and I savor the times when I can find a participant for my activities who has the proper attitude towards them.

8. What is your favorite thing to do?
There are ways of using Source-power that most workers of magic would not dream of or dare to use if they did know of them. My research in this area is always intriguing and fulfilling.

9. What is your greatest fear?
Why should I fear anything?

Although, I will admit, it would be a rather annoying inconvenience should those on the Imperial council who are petty-minded enough to not share my grand vision and to object to some of my methods and objectives persuade Dansat that I should be removed from my current positions.

10. What is your most treasured possession?
Power – both magical power, and power over the minds and hearts of men – is what gives life meaning. Life can only be experienced to its fullest through the exercise of power.


Chosen of Azara Now Available on Amazon and Smashwords

Picture And, yay, Chosen of Azara is now live on Amazon and Smashwords! The next step is to do the paperback version; that should be available in a few weeks. In the meantime, the files will go through the approval process on Smashwords for expanded distribution and once that’s done the book will become available for sale at Barnes&Noble, Sony, Apple, and Kobo. Watch for buy links as the book goes live on those sites.


Quick Update: Chosen of Azara

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I finished the proofread on Chosen of Azara yesterday, and the formatting is (so far; knock on wood) going well. Yesterday afternoon and evening and this morning I got done what it took me a week to do last time. It helps that I have my stylesheet and templates already set up – I’m using the same stylesheet for each book so that my books will have a consistent look and feel to them – and that I decided not to try wrestling with constructing the entire ebook by hand (see “command-line programs are not my friend” under this post). Last time, I wrote out a general workflow, which is making this easier, but this time I’m making sure to write down all the tips, tricks, and shortcuts that will make the formatting go even faster on future books. Not making any promises, but I anticipate Chosen of Azara going live on Amazon by early next week, with other stores to follow as I get those formats done.

In the meantime, if you’re anxious to get a peek at Chosen of Azara, or want to read some before you decide if you want to buy it, you can read a sample here on my site. It consists of the first scene or two from each of the three sections of the book (instead of just the first 10-20% which is what you get when you download the free sample from ebook stores), with spoilery bits removed. Check it out, and meet Juzeva, Sevry and Lucie!

I’ll make an official announcement when Chosen of Azara becomes available for purchase, and will add buy links as they go live. Stay tuned!


Author Spotlight: R. Rose

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1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a California native and have lived here my whole life. I love to research myths & legends from around the world, which is where I get the ideas for most of my stories. I am a registered veterinary technician and wildlife rehabilitator, preferring to work with wildlife and exotics. I think I can safely say that I have been bitten or scratched by more species of animals than anyone I know. I think it also a safe bet to say that I have had more different species of animals living in my home than most people. My children have experienced living with everything from opossum, birds of prey and coyotes to scorpions, hissing cockroaches and bird-eating spiders. I guess it’s no wonder none of them went into veterinary medicine.
2. When did you start writing, and why?
I was always making up imaginary stories as a kid, but I didn’t really get the writing bug until I was in college. My college English teacher (who was actually the Psychology professor) asked us to write five pages in the format of a romance novel. I had been reading romance novels for quite a while and couldn’t wait to see the “A” on my paper. When it was graded, he returned it with a note saying “No man could make love all night after being shot in the shoulder.” Well…obviously the man had never picked up romance novel in his life. He must have been projecting his inadequate manly prowess onto my buff and totally hot character (who was only winged by the bullet). I received a “C” on the paper, but I was hooked on writing. While doing genealogy research I came across a bulletin board called “Clancy’s Pub” for those with Irish roots. Out of shear boredom one night I wrote a post about coming into the pub and finding it empty, but having the feeling I was being watched. Other like-minded people responded to the post in such a way that an impromptu adventure story was launched. We did quite a few after that, but “Desires (A Legacy Novel) is my first book in print.
3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I like to write fantasy and paranormal fiction with my core ideas coming from the myths & legends I research. Currently, my books are in the young adult category, but that might not always be the case. I just happen to read a lot of YA, so that is the path I chose to follow with the Legacy series. I have also been asked to write a children’s book about a pony that is given to family therapist that uses the horses to work with children. Only this little pony that was raised with long-horned cattle and doesn’t really know she is a horse. She finds it hard to fit in the herd of horses that are a part of the program. The proceeds from the sale will go to therapy horse programs. I think the part I like most in my writing process is when the ideas come to me. It is like watching a DVD on the big screen; everything just rolls through my head like a movie.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My current book is “Desires (A Legacy Novel), which is the first book in the series. Fantasy artist, Julie Fain designed the cover and the Celtic art in the interior is by renowned Celtic artist, Jen Delyth. I am currently writing “Malevolence” which will be the second book with “Sacrifices” being the final book. There may be a novella between books two and three. Julie and Jen will continue with their art in the series, plus they will be joined by fantasy artist, Delight Prescott-Spall to bring a unique touch to the books’ interiors. Also to be released this year (I hope) will be a book or series based off of a Native American legend from the Pacific northwest and, of course, the children’s book.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Most of “Desires” takes place in the Glens of Antrim in Northern Ireland during the early Iron Age. The village of “Ballybog” was created by a warrior that was given the task of protecting the heir of the Goddess Brighid. He and his mercenaries travelled into the mostly uninhabitable bog lands to raise their families in safety. The men know the leader of their clan has been entrusted with the guarding of an Otherworldly treasure, they just don’t know it is his wife. There are also glimpses into Tara and the Otherworld.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Eléan – Her maternal bloodline carries a spark of the Goddess Brighid’s soul. They were created to keep the Goddess in the hearts of mortals and are considered her daughters.

Liam and James – Warriors and adopted brothers, their father is the best friend of the King (Elena’s father). The three of them have a special bond.

Morrigan – the Goddess uncontrollable lust and killing rage. She has decided the best way to get even with Dagda over a perceived insult is to kill his daughter Brighid. But she cannot do that out-right, so she directs her rage at Brighid’s heirs in the Mortal realm and their warriors.

Greagoir – born to peasant parents, he just knew it was a mistake. When he dreams about controlling a powerful goddess from the Otherworld to get all he wants, Greagoir is sure it is the answer to his prayers. Like they say…”Magic always comes with a price.”

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
I do my best writing when the weather is stormy, but I live in the center of sunny California. My writing routine includes putting a fireplace DVD on the TV in my office, as thunderstorm CD on the computer, a pot of tea on my desk, and I darken the room and light all the candles…instant winter even when it is 110 outside.

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8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
Website:  http://www.take2creativestorywriters.com/desiresalegacynovel.html

Can be purchased at:
Amazon. com | Powell’s Books
Barnes and Noble.com | Abbott Press Bookstore


For My Dad

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So, it’s Father’s Day. I never know what to get my dad for Father’s Day. Anything he doesn’t already have, either I can’t afford it, or he either goes out and gets it himself or just doesn’t want it. I always send my mom flowers for Mother’s Day, but my dad’s not really a flowers kind of guy. So what do you give the dad who has everything? A blog post dedicated to him, of course!

Here are things I learned from my dad (that’s him in his college days in the picture), and ways he influenced me, to make me what I am today (and I consider what I am today to be a good thing!):

1. He and my mom always emphasized education and had high expectations for me and my three siblings. These high expectations were kind of hard to deal with sometimes, but it became ingrained in me that I’m capable of excellence if I work at it. I haven’t always been very good at the whole work ethic thing, but when I do find something I want to work hard at, it’s there.

2. He read “The Hobbit” out loud to us when we were little kids, along with other books – I seem to recall “The Wind in the Willows,” and definitely “A Christmas Carol.” He and my mom also gave me a box set of the Earthsea Trilogy when I was 11 or 12 years old (either for my birthday or for Christmas, I don’t remember.) This launched my love of fantasy and imaginative literature at an early age and let me know that it’s ok to explore the imagination and to invent worlds and things that don’t exist in the “real world.”

3. Although he made a career as a research physicist and physics professor, he has always worked with his hands. He grew up working as a carpenter with his father and grandfather, and has continued to do carpentry along with vegetable gardening and yardwork through his adult life. That taught me that manual labor is as fulfilling and worthwhile as work that’s done with the mind, and any kind of work done honestly and to the best of your ability is something to be proud of.

4. He did also teach me – I’m not sure if this was inadvertant or not – that some jobs just aren’t worth doing and that you want to do whatever it takes to make sure those kinds of jobs are not your only option. When I was 11 or 12 he strongly “encouraged” (I recall it as “forced” but my memory might not be correct on that) me to get a paper route. The old-fashioned kind, where the kid rode around on a bike tossing papers onto driveways and then knocking on strangers’ doors once a month to collect the money. For the afternoon paper. In Phoenix, Arizona. In the summer. I hated it. I delivered papers for two or three years and hated every minute of it. And the pay worked out to maybe pennies per hour. It’s worth it to do whatever you have to do to learn and acquire skills so that a crappy job like that isn’t your only option. (Sometimes you have to take whatever you can get in order to pay the bills, but you want to be able to move to something better if the opportunity comes along.)

5. He’s very musical (so is my mom; they first got to know each other in their high school pep band; not sure how my mom, being a pianist, fit into that, but that’s what happened) and music was important in our home. When I was in 5th grade, he “encouraged” (there’s that word again) me to take up the flute. I enjoyed music and got pretty serious about it, with the result that I majored in music in college and that’s how I met my wonderful husband. So, thanks for that, Dad 😀

6. Even after he retired from his position as a professor, he still remains a scientist and a teacher, with the motto, “You retire from what you do, not from what you are.” Because of this, I’m able to think of myself as a writer, even if I don’t make any money at it (which isn’t the case, I am making some money, not a lot so far but some) and even if some external agency or organization doesn’t validate me with that title.

7. There’s a saying that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother, and my dad embodies this. He and my mom have been together as friends, sweethearts, and husband and wife for probably sixty years now. Because of this (and because of my own marriage), I believe in true love and happily ever after, and that’s why I write about those things. Some writers say that happily ever after is unrealistic – it doesn’t work that way in love or in life. Yeah, life is hard, there are always going to be challenges, and in my books, even when the hero and heroine end up happily together they still face challenges and difficulties. But challenges are better faced with your best friend, lover, and sweetheart at your side, and you come out stronger at the end for going through them together.

8. When it comes to politics, my dad and I disagree probably 95% of the time (the one thing we seem to agree on consistently is on having no desire to belong to a political party). From my dad, I’ve learned that someone can disagree with you and still be a good person.

9. My dad gave me my first computer as a combination First Mother’s Day/Grad School Graduation gift in 1989. It was one of those where you had to start it up by inserting a 5-inch floppy with the OS on it. When I decided to try my hand at writing novels some months later, I quickly discovered how much easier it is to write stuff on a computer than by hand or on a typewriter. I still have my original writing from that old computer, transferred from disk type to disk type and format to format at least five or six times since then. Some pretty darn good ideas, too, including my first two complete novels which one day I will revise and release. Urdaisunia was initially written on that old computer, too.

10. My dad’s faith has always been an inspiration and example to me. He’s a scientist, and probably the most intelligent person I know, and he’s living proof that reason and intelligence and deep, devout faith are perfectly compatible – not just that, but they build on and increase each other. I wandered a bit for some years in my early adulthood, but I eventually came to fully embrace the beliefs and faith that he and my mom taught us and raised us in, and that’s a gift as great as any other he’s ever given me.

Picture Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Love you!
(And here’s one more picture of him, doing science stuff. He’s the one on the right.)


Character Interview: Lucie

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Introducing Lucie from Chosen of Azara. (That’s her on the cover.)

1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?
My name is Lucie Barille. I don’t think there’s anything really special about it, but I like it.

2. How old are you?
I just turned 20.

3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?
My father is Baron Robart Barille. I love him a lot, and he spoils me. My mother, Rinata, died when I was 11. I still miss her every day. Her mother, my Grandmama Lillia, lives with us. She came to help my mother take care of me when I was little, because my mother was sick for a long time, and she stayed with us after my mother died. So I wouldn’t be alone in a house full of bullheaded men, she says. I’m very close to her. I also have two older brothers, Pavel and Petir. They’re both really annoying, but I do love them. Even though I wish they weren’t quite so annoying.

My great-grandmother Varena, Grandmama Lillia’s mother, had a really interesting story. She was a wandering foreign woman with a baby daughter who took shelter at Meadowlook one winter, and the Baron there, Baron Arnaud Ellande, fell in love with her and married her. I think that’s so romantic! He also adopted my grandmama, and raised her as his own. I never knew him, he died about ten years before I was born, but I think every man should be like him.

4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?
My first kiss was with my fiance, Estefan. I liked it, of course. Although… It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It wasn’t really even on my mouth, more on my cheek, you know? He tries to be discreet, but I’ve seen how he kisses other girls, like the maids, and it wasn’t anything like that. I suppose it wouldn’t really be proper for him to kiss me like that until after we’re married. (To be fair, Estefan isn’t the only one who kisses the maids and kitchen girls, my brothers do it too. Estefan’s mother, Lady Alise, says all men do that sort of thing.)

5. What is your occupation?
I’m the daughter of a Baron, and since my mother is no longer living I help my father manage his household. When I’m married I’ll be a Baroness, the Lady of Hart’s Leap, which means I’ll be busy managing Estefan’s household and raising our children. I can’t wait! 🙂

6. What are your best and worst qualities?
Well, I sing well, and I play the lute and the harpsichord, and I’m very good at gathering herbs for the healer in the village, and I’m kind and cheerful. And my hair – does my hair count as a good quality?

On the bad side, I never paid very much attention in my lessons, and my brothers think I’m silly but they’re even sillier so what do they know? And Lady Alise, my future mother-in-law, thinks I’m eccentric because I like to be outdoors a lot. And my nose and bosom freckle in the sun. Which I guess wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t spend so much time outside. But that’s okay, I’d rather be outside.

7. What quality do you value most in a romantic partner?
My fiance Estefan is wonderful, of course. He’s very handsome, and strong and manly, and has a fine voice, though I do wish he had better taste in songs. And his house, Hart’s Leap, is one of the most modern and beautiful houses in the Lower Districts of Ceryria. I’m very lucky that he wanted to marry me.

Though, I suppose I do wish he paid more attention to me and less to the housemaids. And I wish he wasn’t always telling me what to do and what not to do. Except for those things, though, he’s practically almost perfect.

Except sometimes I wish he was more like… Well, never mind that. And also a little more like my step-great-grandfather. But really, I’m very lucky to be engaged to him.

8. What is your favorite thing to do?
I love to go walking through the woods near my father’s house. There’s just something magical about them, and I feel like that’s where I belong more than anywhere else. I especially like it when — um, never mind that, too. Estefan doesn’t think it’s proper for me to go wandering around the forest, especially by myself, and I promised him I’d give it up after we’re married, but until then, as long as my father doesn’t forbid it – and he almost always lets me have my own way – I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can.

9. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear? I don’t know. Maybe that my Grandmama will die? She’s old and in poor health, but I don’t want to lose her. Also that Estefan might decide he doesn’t want to marry me after all.

10. What is your most treasured possession?
I have this crystal pendant on a silver chain that my mother gave me when I turned 5. I guess that’s awfully young for a gift like that, but my mother told me that it was a treasure that belonged to my great-grandmother Varena and that I must take the very best care of it, so I’ve always been very careful with it. I don’t know what’s special about it besides the fact that it belonged to my great-grandmother, but my mother gave it to me and it’s one of the things that remind me of her the most.