Tag Archives: fantasy adventure

Author Spotlight: Montgomery Mahaffey


COYER Book Review: Embers (Guild of the Cowry Catchers #1)

Guild of the Cowry CatchersEmbers (Guild of the Cowry Catchers #1), by Abigail Hilton

Embers (Guild of the Cowry Catchers #1) is an interesting book. I’m not quite sure how it ended up on my TBR list, because I’m usually not drawn to fantasy with non-human characters. The characters in the world of Wefrivain are shelts, humanoid on top and animal on the bottom. Except for a few details, though, I found Gerard, the honorable new Chief of Police for the High Priestess (who is a humanoid-griffin combination), and Silveo, the corrupt, ruthless and damaged Admiral (humanoid-fox) to be very human on the inside. I had a hard time maintaining the visualization of the characters as described with their fox/griffin lower halves and long, pointy ears (I don’t do long pointy ears) so I just imagined them as human to myself, editing that visualization when things like tails or paws were mentioned.

The story is engaging and well-written. Gerard and Silveo, who can’t stand each other, are assigned to work together to find the elusive leader of the Resistance. Understanding and trust gradually grows between them (which, going by the reviews of later books, eventually turns into considerably more) as they face danger and track down clues. I enjoyed their interactions and seeing their characters unfold through the story.

I found a few things besides the half-animal appearance of the characters a little difficult, particularly the fairly bleak nature of the world and the fact that sentient beings hunt and eat other sentient beings.

The book ends abruptly; it’s the first part of a serial, and the reason given for cutting the story into smaller parts is to accomodate the illustrations without making the ebook file too big. So be warned that this isn’t a complete story; this installment doesn’t even have its own complete story arc.

Later installments of the Guild of the Cowry Catchers veer into definite not-my-thing territory, so I won’t be reading on. It’s a good, well-written story; not continuing is just a matter of my own personal preferences. Also be aware that Guild of the Cowry Catchers is very much for adults (not a problem for me, but it appears that other readers have been taken by surprise, not noticing the author’s very direct warning to that effect). I would suggest before starting that you read the descriptions and reviews of all the books to decide if it’s for you. If you do decide to go for it, I would recommend buying the individual installments to get the beautiful illustrations (which aren’t included in the omnibus edition).

See my main Clean Out Your eReader post for reading list and review links.

COYER Book Review: The Case of the Misplaced Hero

The Case of the Misplaced HeroThe Case of the Misplaced Hero, by Camille LaGuire

Camille LaGuire is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I love her Mick and Casey stories (Have Gun, Will Play) and there’s always something interesting going on on her blog, so I decided to give some of her other mystery/adventures a try.

In The Case of the Misplaced Hero, Alex’s eccentric aunt once gave him a special ring and advised him to go jump in a lake. One evening, while escorting his drunk professor, Thorny, home from the bar, Alex discovers what she meant when he and Thorny fall in the river. On the other side, they find themselves in a different world, in the middle of mysterious goings-on involving a train wreck, a missing spy, and an assassination plot.

The action is fun and exciting, with plenty of twists and turns (the story was originally posted as a serial on Ms. LaGuire’s blog and follows that same structure), and the characters are enjoyable and well-drawn. I especially like Alex, Thorny, and Rozinshura, the much-put-upon captain of the garrison in the town where the train wreck happened and where Alex and Thorny washed up to everyone’s confusion. There’s also plenty of humor – “Anarcho-Bureaucracy” is my favorite political system that I’ve ever come across in a novel.

Plots are discovered, mysteries are solved (though there are loose ends which hopefully will be continued in the companion story about the Baronness of Beethingham, aka Plink), and Alex learns that when the time is right, anyone can be a hero. A fun, fast-paced, and enjoyable read.

See my main COYER post for reading list and review links.

Cover Reveal: The Warrior and the Holy Man

Introducing Haveshi Yellowcrow and Latan the Clerk:
I’ve been wanting a better cover for The Warrior and The Holy Man ever since I released it, so I put Mominur Rahman, the artist who did the Daughter of the Wildings and new Urdaisunia covers, on the job, and I love what he came up with. Above is the ebook version; below is the full wrap-around:

Since Warrior and Holy Man is short fiction, at the moment I’m not planning to release a paperback edition. Eventually I’ll put together a collection of all my Estelend short fiction (Haveshi and Latan’s stories, A Cure for Nel, Tales of Azara, and whatever else I might write) and use this as the cover for the paperback of that.The landscape I used for the original cover is cool, but it really didn’t work very well with the lettering, and it didn’t convey anything about the story. For me, stories are mainly about characters, and so I like to see the characters on the cover. Stock art that’s usable for fantasy characters can be hard to find (though I love the work that Design by Katt did for the Chosen of Azara and Sarya’s Song covers), especially if you aren’t using the standard fantasy-type characters, and especially especially if you tend to have a lot of mixed-ethnicity couples like I do, like Silas and Lainie (Daughter of the Wildings), Eruz and Rashali (Urdaisunia), and Haveshi and Latan. That’s where having an illustrator who does amazing work, like Mominur Rahman, comes in handy!

If you want to get to know Haveshi and Latan a little better, check out these previous blog posts:

Character Interview with Haveshi Yellowcrow
Character Interview with Latan the Clerk
Sneak Peek: The Path of Haveshi Yellowcrow
Sneak Peek: The Path of Latan the Clerk

Currently, The Warrior and the Holy Man is available exclusively at Amazon, $2.99 for the ebook or, if you have a Kindle Unlimited membership (U.S. only) or Amazon Prime, you can read it for free!

Don’t have a Kindle? Never fear! You can download the free Kindle reading app for PC, Mac, Android, and iPad/iPod/iPhone; read in the Amazon Cloud Reader, or, since all my ebooks are DRM-free, you can download free Calibre ebook management software to convert my Kindle books into epub format for your Nook, Kobo, Sony, or iDevice.

COYER Book Review: The Stone in the Sword, and Summer Storm

Two more short reviews as I plow my way through the depths of my Kindle during the Clean Out Your eReader Summer Vacation challenge:

PictureThe Stone in the Sword, by N.A. Roy

In this fantasy adventure, sixteen-year-old Charlie is on vacation to visit relatives in Scotland when his life takes a strange turn – he discovers the true nature of the power of Excalibur, has to rescue his brother who has been kidnapped by dark beings, and learns of his own unexpected powers and heritage.

It was hard for me to decide how to review this book; it’s written for a considerably younger audience than the books I prefer to read, but in objective terms, I think middle grade and young teen readers will enjoy exploring the ancient, mysterious Scotland where Charlie’s relatives live and the Sidhe world Charlie finds himself in. The book is fast-paced and not very long, with themes of brotherly love and self-sacrifice, a touch of Arthurian legend, and a thrilling magical battle.

PictureSummer Storm, by Elizabeth Baxter

In Summer Storm, Falen is a princess who wants to be a scientist, much to the displeasure of her father the King. While working on the project she hopes will get her admitted to the academy of engineering, she meets an old man who might have the solution to her problem – or plunge her life into nightmare.

I liked this. I enjoyed the use of science in a fantasy world, and the sense of dark things to come. I had a little trouble with Falen; it was hard to tell how old she is. Sometimes she acts like a petulant young teenager because her life has demands and responsibilities she doesn’t like, but in one scene her father tells her it’s well past time she was married. So that’s my one problem with the story.

Otherwise, Summer Storm is well-written and entertaining. It’s a novella-length prequel to the author’s Wrath of the Northmen series, which I look forward to checking out.

COYER Book Reviews: Degrees of Delusion, and Desolace


Couple of quick reviews today for the Clean Out Your eReader Summer Vacation challenge. (see my main COYER post for reading list and links to other reviews.)

PictureDegrees of Delusion, by Lindsay Buroker

I really enjoyed Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge series and have a lot of her other work on my Kindle waiting to be read. This is an old longish short story unrelated to any of her other work, but I was happy to snap it up when she put it up for sale.

Fortis is a mercenary kicked out of the Imperial army, who finds his unit hired by powerful wizards who want them to take out an Imperial military installation. Faced with the presence of the former lover who betrayed him, whose motivations strike a little too close to home for Fortis, and a sudden crisis of conscience when it comes to killing his countrymen and former comrades, Fortis comes up with an ingenious solution to take control of the base.

Like all of Ms. Buroker’s work that I’ve read so far, this is witty and fast-moving, with well-drawn, vivid characters in an interesting world. Little information is given about the world of this story, but the presence of expansionist wizards makes me want to read more.

PictureDesolace, by Lucian Barnes

Sadly, I had to DNF this. The premise is really interesting: A serial killer catches the attention of an evil power from a world parallel to our Earth, and he and the teenage girl who is hunting him (after he kidnaps her best friend) get caught up into the battle between good and evil in this other world. Unfortunately, I found the book very difficult to get into. The style alternates between a very light YA feel and extremely graphic depictions of torture and rape. Neither of those styles is to my taste, and I found the contrast between them especially jarring. So, not my thing.

Meet My Character Blog Hop: Silas Vendine

Welcome to the Meet My Character Blog Hop! First I want to thank Maron Anrow and Shari Sakurai for inviting me to participate this week.

Maron Anrow grew up in California, came of age in the Midwest, and is now passing time in New Jersey. She lives with her husband, stepdaughter, and three awesome cats. Maron has a Ph.D. in social psychology and has published (under her real name) over 20 scientific articles since 2008. Laika in Lisan is her first novel, and it details the journey of Laika, a private tutor who is invited to study in the mysterious country of Lisan. While in Lisan, Laika struggles with moral ambiguity and a life-changing ethical dilemma.
Meet My Character Blog Hop post | Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Shari Sakurai was born in Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom. After completing secondary school she moved away from further education to work in administration. She is very interested in other countries’ cultures and mythology; in particular Japan. Japanese themes and influences can often be found in her work. Her debut novel Demon’s Blood was released in ebook format on 25th January 2014. She has participated and won the National Novel Writing Month challenge for the past seven years. Meet My Character Blog Hop post | Website | Facebook | Goodreads

PictureAnd now, let’s meet Silas Vendine, the hero of my upcoming Daughter of the Wildings series:

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
The name he goes by is Silas Vendine. He was born Siyavas Venedias, a member of an elite mage family of Island heritage, but he is estranged from his family, and going by an Islander name in the Wildings is a sure way to get yourself hanged as a wizard.

Don’t tell him this, but he’s fictional. He thinks he’s real.

2) When and where is the story set?
Daughter of the Wildings is mostly set in the Wildings, a vast, mostly unsettled region roughly modeled after the American Wild West of the 1880s. The Wildings is being settled by Plain (non-magical) people who have fled from the mage-dominated society of Granadaia, the civilized land along the eastern coast of the continent.

3) What should we know about him?

He grew up in an elite mage family in Granadaia, but he never fit in. When he was very young, he came to realize that the way Plain (unmagical) people were treated in Granadaia was wrong. As he grew up, he had the chance to read some books, smuggled into Granadaia, by foreign philosophers talking about natural equality and rights of all people regardless of their birth or station in life, and he found he believed in this.

Now he works as a bounty hunter tracking down and stopping renegade mages who have rebelled against the ruling Mage Council and come to the Wildings to get rich and/or set up their own independent domains. He doesn’t really care about enforcing the Mage Council’s authority, though; his main concern is protecting the Plain settlers of the Wildings against these ruthless, lawless mages. He does this even though the Plain settlers hate wizards with a passion.

Picture4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

When he comes to the town of Bitterbush Springs, he meets a young woman named Lainie Banfrey, who appears to be Plain but is actually developing very strong magical powers. She wants to learn how to use her power, but is terrified of being turned into a heartless, soulless monster like she believes all wizards are. Untrained mages can be extremely dangerous to themselves and others around them, and the Mage Council’s law requires Silas to either send her back to Granadaia for training or to Strip her of her power, which will leave her mindless and helpless. Or there’s a third option – he could take her with him and train her himself, which would make both of them outlaws and renegades.

At the same time, dangerous plots are in motion among the mages back in Granadaia, plots that threaten him, Lainie, and the freedom of the Wildings.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

His main goal is to protect Lainie. He also wants to protect the Plain people of the Wildings against mages who threaten their freedom and rights. The problem is that sometimes these two goals conflict.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The series is called Daughter of the Wildings. Follow the link to read teasers about the individual books and find links to excerpts, cover art reveals, and a playlist.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?

Good question! I’m aiming for book 1, Beneath the Canyons, to be released later this fall. To be notified when it’s released, sign up for my email alerts.

Be sure to check out next weeks’ stops on the Meet My Character Blog Hop:

Kyoko M is an author, a fangirl, and an avid book reader. Her debut novel, The Black Parade, made it through the first round of Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. She participated and completed the 2011 National Novel Writing Month competition. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit degree from the University of Georgia, which gave her every valid excuse to devour book after book with a concentration in Greek mythology and Christian mythology. When not working feverishly on a manuscript (or two), she can be found buried under her Dashboard on Tumblr, or chatting with fellow nerds on Twitter, or curled up with a good Harry Dresden novel on a warm central Florida night. Like any author, she wants nothing more than to contribute something great to the best profession in the world, no matter how small.
Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Zoe Dawson is the alter ego of Karen Anders, award winning, multi-published author. Her writing journey started with poetry and branched out into fiction. With a couple of college English courses under her belt, she penned a historical, then moved onto contemporary romance fiction. Today, she is happy producing romantic suspense, romantic mystery, new adult, urban fantasy and paranormal novels. The words feed her soul and the happily ever afters feed her heart.
Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Lyn Johanson: A computer science major, Lyn C. Johanson decided to leave the cold world of code lines and pursue her passion for writing romance stories. Now, she mostly lives in the world she dreams up. Except when her husband and sons drag her back to reality—where she enjoys photography, dancing, and spending time with her family.
Website | Facebook | Goodreads

COYER Book Review: Jaunten

(see my main Clean Out Your eReader post)


Jaunten, by Honor Raconteur

I had actually read this before; as I read, I kept thinking, gee, this seems awfully familiar, then I peeked ahead to the end and realized yes, I’ve read this before. Not sure how it ended up back on my Kindle marked “new”; probably from when I was having trouble with the Send to Kindle and tried de-registering and re-registering my Kindle. So I skimmed through the rest of the book just to refresh my memory, and here’s my review:

Jaunten is the story of a teenage boy, Garth, who flees from his native country, where magic is forbidden and mages and their families are put to death, to a neighboring country where he can be trained in magic. Along the way he becomes a Jaunten, one of a small group of people who have generations of accumulated knowledge passed down by blood, bonds with the only living Nreese (a unicorn-like creature), has some adventures, and eventually finds himself in the position to help other mages from his homeland.

The story starts out strong, with Garth on his journey encountering a dying man and receiving from him the powers of a Jaunten so that he can complete his journey and carry out the man’s task of delivering a message to the king. I was especially intrigued by the concept of Jaunten, families who, affected by the aftermath of a magical battle, pass all their accumulated knowledge down to their descendants, and who can also transfer their knowledge by an exchange of blood to someone unrelated to them. I also liked the idea of a boy with magical power fleeing from a land where magic is forbidden.

Things kind of bog down when the story gets into the details of daily life at magic school. I think tweens and younger teen readers (ages 8-14) who enjoy Harry Potter would like this part, but for me the conflict and forward movement in the story fell flat at this point.

The writing style, while clear and readable, is also very young for my tastes. Again, I think this is something that would appeal more to tweens and younger teens. The tense constantly shifts between past and present; the pattern seems to be that Garth’s thoughts and observations are in present tense while the action of the story is in past tense. It’s a little jarring, but I can see the sense in it.

Younger readers who like Harry Potter, and older readers who enjoy middle grade/YA and light traditional fantasy will enjoy this book. It’s the first in a long series, so if you like this book, there’s lots more to follow 🙂

Sumerian Influences on Urdaisunia

(This is an old post from my main site, updated and refreshed to celebrate Urdaisunia’s new cover.)


When I first started writing Urdaisunia back in the early 90s, I was interested in really really ancient civilizations. I also wanted to write something that wasn’t in the usual medieval-European-influenced fantasy setting. Ancient Sumeria fit the bill perfectly. It’s so old it makes Ancient Greece and Rome look like whippersnappers, and had a rich and influential culture and level of development. The physical setting (read about my fascination with desert settings here) offered a lot of possibiities for conflict, and I also found the Sumerian pantheon and mythology fascinating. And then there was the idea of a great and ancient civilization falling into ruin, which is also full of possible stories. We didn’t have the internet back then, or at least not in its current form, where you can find out anything about anything with just a few clicks, but we do have it now, so here are some links to things that have inspired Urdaisunia.


The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has a long-term exhibit called Iraq’s Ancient Past with a lot of pictures and information about Sumeria and the archaeological work that has been done on the sites there. The headress of Queen Puabi, which inspired the headdress of Shairu-Az in Urdaisunia, is the third picture down. Here is more about Queen Puabi, including a video of some museum workers dressing a mannequin in the headdress and jeweled cloak that were found on Puabi’s remains in her tomb. Also on the Penn Museum site is a feature where you can make your name in cuneiform. The picture on this post is my last name the way the Sumerians would have written it.

You can see more of Queen Puabi’s headdress and jewelry at Sumerian Shakespeare. The site also has images and translations of Sumerian writings.

The International World History Project has an extensive section devoted to Sumeria. You can read a rundown of the gods and goddesses, a summary of Sumerian history and culture, and a section of the creation myth which gives a sampling of the divine soap opera the gods and goddesses had going on (a major influence on Urdaisunia!).

And, of course, we have to have ziggurats. The first and third pictures were particularly influential in how I envisioned the Royal Palace and the Temple of Ar at Zir.

A few more odds and ends: some ancient ships, and some Bronze Age swords. In Urdaisunia, these are the swords the Urdai used before the Conquest; the Sazars’ swords are a new model and were inspired by Japanese katana.

Urdaisunia was only loosely inspired by Sumeria, so don’t look to the novel for any kind of historical accuracy. But it was a fun world to play in, and I’ll probably go back to it someday.

Finally, let me leave you with a musical tribute to the ancient world:

Urdaisunia is available from:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo | OmniLit
Smashwords | CreateSpace | DriveThruFiction

Urdaisunia Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek!

I am so excited! After more than a year, I decided it was time for my first novel, Urdaisunia, to have a cover refresh. I love the picture on the original cover, but I felt like it doesn’t do much to convey what the story is about. So I asked Mominur Rahman, who did the Daughter of the Wildings covers, to do a new cover for Urdaisunia, and I love what he came up with!Here’s the full wrap-around illustration, without text:


Mominur Rahman me-illuminated.deviantart.com
And here’s the ebook version, with text:

Mominur Rahman me-illuminated.deviantart.com
The paperback edition is uploaded and awaiting file approval, the ebook version will roll out across the various retailers over the next few days or so.And to celebrate the new cover, here’s a sneak peek into Urdaisunia for the Weekend Sneak Peek! After being parted from Rashali under difficult circumstances, Eruz finds her in a Scorpion Nest (group of Urdai rebels) that’s about to be raided by the Sazars:

“If I can save this Nest, that might make up for the lives I took there. And now that I know you’re part of it—” He pulled her into his arms again. “No matter what else happens,” he said against her hair, “if you’re safe, then that’s something that’s right with the world.”

He was her enemy; he was the man who had sacrificed part of his soul to try to protect her people. And now he was endangering himself to bring her this warning. Rashali pushed back a rush of emotion that made her want to lose herself in his arms and forget everything else. “I’ll warn Kefel, or try to. In truth, he only hears what he wants to hear. Now let me warn you—That drunken Sazar by the bar is one of your uncle’s spies. I knew you, even with the salik. If he recognized you, and notices that we’ve both left the tavern…”

Eruz’s back stiffened. “Damn. He came in right after me—he must have followed me in. I have to get back to Zir before my father hears about this.” He pulled away from her just enough to close his hand around the dolphin pendant that lay against the bodice of her dress. He spoke softly, then breathed on the pendant, briefly fogging the silver. “If ever you need to contact me, for any reason, hold onto that and think of me, then send your message. Be careful not to let anyone else get hold of it, or find out what it is.”

She believed it would work; she had seen him use Sazar magic. “Can you contact me, too?”

“No. The token has to be prepared by the person it’s meant to contact. It’s not difficult to make one, but I don’t have time to teach you now.” Still holding the pendant, he bent his head down and kissed her deeply, hungrily, as though he was a starving man and she was his banquet. The world around them disappeared, and Rashali clung to him, the only solid, real thing she knew.

Too soon, he pulled away from her. “I have to leave now. The gods watch over you.”

For more Sneak Peeks, visit the Sneak Peek Sunday blog.

Urdaisunia is available at:
| Barnes & Noble | Apple
| CreateSpace | OmniLit
and coming soon to Kobo and DriveThruFiction