Author Interview: Karen Heenan

Author Interview: Indie Book Spotlight

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1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

Ebooks for me! Far easier on the eyes, and they take up less room in my small house. Beyond that, paperbacks. I like to carry my books with me – another reason for ebooks.

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

I’m a historical fiction reader since childhood. I read widely, but historical fiction will always be my first love.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

It was a book about a family of bears. I don’t remember the name, but I made my mom read it so often that I memorized the words and what pages they appeared on, and then I tricked my parents into thinking I could read. (It was still one of the first books I read, followed quickly by Dr. Seuss).

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. It was about three friends growing up in early 20th century Minnesota. There were grade-school level books and then another set for high school and beyond. I loved the friendships and the book Betsy and the Great World made me want to travel. And I did.

5.      When did you first start writing?

In grade school – second or third grade, as soon as I realized that books were actually written by real people. It seemed like something I could learn to do well, just by reading a lot and writing more, and it didn’t take lots of art supplies or expensive ballet lessons.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

If I didn’t write, the stories would have driven me crazy. I feel the exact same today – once I write a story down, it gets quiet in my head for a while.

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

I’m most proud of Songbird, my first book, because even though I think my writing has gotten stronger with each book, that was the book that finally made it off my computer and into publication.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I published my first finished book. There are several on my computer that have large pieces of plot missing, and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to them. There was some good writing there, but it was good for who I was at the time. If I could figure out how to finish them, they would need such massive rewrites that it would be easier to start fresh.

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

My Tudor Court series is up to 3 books, with 3 more planned. My next book, Coming Apart, is the first in a new series.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Historical fiction has been it, so far, though I do have an idea for a contemporary, and there’s a dual timeline historical suspense lingering in a dark corner of my brain.

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

Writing historical, you can’t escape research. And that’s fine, because I really enjoy it. Reading a lot history and biography gave me enough embedded information that I could begin my Tudor series without doing a lot of research to start with, and the knowledge to know where I needed to research further – not to mention that something I read in a biography of Henry VIII actually gave me the idea for my first book.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

I’m half in, half out of the boat on that one. I plan very loosely – mostly just the beginning and end, and a few points in the middle, and then I let the story take control, knowing there’s a destination in mind.

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

Back in 2015, I got an agent who tried to place Songbird with publishers. After a year with no results, we parted ways and I stepped away from the idea of being published. In 2018, I decided to go over the manuscript one more time, and decided to give it another shot. I participated in a pitch contest on Twitter, and signed a contract with a small press. They published Songbird, and its sequel, A Wider World, but in October, 2021, I requested my rights back and republished the first two books myself, and released Lady, in Waiting in February, 2022. I just realized that I want to be too involved in the process not to be in charge of the whole thing.

14.   Do you currently have a WIP?

Yes! I’m working on the second book in my 1930s series. No title yet, but it picks up in 1933, a few weeks after the end of Coming Apart.

15.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

That would be Robin Lewis, the main character of A Wider World. He appeared in Songbird, mostly as a child, but even as an adult, he wasn’t really likeable. I thought I was done with him (and with the whole Tudor world, honestly), but one morning I heard the words, “They said I would not end well,” and it was Robin, and he wanted to explain himself. It took an entire book. He’s a prickly, introverted man who doesn’t really understand how to people, and following him through life, where all he wants is to be left alone with his books, and the world keeps throwing complications at him, was tremendous fun.

16.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

My Tudor Court series. There are three books, with another two full novels in mind and a collection of miscellany to round it out. There’s a novella about a side character, two additional epilogues, and a few short stories that stem from incidents in the books.

17.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

I love my romances (even though I don’t consider my books to be romances) but I’m going with friendships instead. Robin, who wants nothing more than to be left alone, has two true friends who love him whether he likes it or not. Ned Pickering forcibly befriended Robin when they first began working together, not taking no for an answer, and he is a complete opposite: boisterous, outgoing, a ladies’ man. Sebastian came along when Robin was alone, and becomes almost like a son. When Robin is exiled, Seb goes with him and watches over him.

18.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

I can’t write with music; I’ve tried, but lyrics distract me, and even instrumental music can sometimes get in the way.

19.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

I haven’t had any art made, but I make collages for each project, partly because looking at them is a way of tricking my brain into thinking the book already exists. I write my blurbs first, for the same reason. The collages are locations from the book, or pieces of jewelry or clothing, plus an actor or two for inspiration.

Covers for Karen Heenan's Songbird, A Wider World, Lady, In Waiting. All three are books in The Tudor Court series.
Cover for Karen Heenan's Songbird, surrounded by medieval images.
Covers for Karen Heenan's A Wider World, surrounded by medieval images.
Covers for Karen Heenan's Lady, In Waiting, surrounded by medieval images.

20.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Be as patient with yourself as you would be with a friend in the same situation. Writing takes time, and your book will never look like the shiny idea in your head, at least not without several rounds of edits. Do the work, and don’t expect instant results.

21.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I haven’t entered any specific contests, but Songbird did win the Coffee Pot Book Club’s Book of the Year for 2020. It was entered automatically when I submitted it for a review.

22.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

So many. Too many. In traditional publishing: Dorothy Dunnett (her Lymond Chronicles are my favorite books ever); Barbara Kingsolver; Mary Doria Russell; Marge Piercy; Laurie Colwin. For indie writers: Marian L Thorpe, Laury Silvers, Eva Seyler, Annie Whiteheadd. It’s a privilege being part of the indie author community, because I get to read and meet so many fabulous writers.

23.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

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Universal links for series: Books2read: Tudor Song Bird | Books2read: A Wider World | Books2read: Tudor Lady

#IndiePride: Raina Nightingale – Kindred of the Sea

Kindred of the Sea by Raina Nightingale. #IndiePride

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Kindred of the Sea by Raina Nightingale.

When Corostomir and his partner march into battle and find themselves dreaming the dreams of trees, they know that all is not what it seems. . .

The Valor Alliance has declared war on Elethri, naming it haunt of demons and forest of the nightmare. But when the Valor Soldiers are driven back with enchantments of sleep and not with arrows, his partner, Aderan, and their friend soon convince Corostomir that a nation that will not shed the blood of its enemies, let alone that of its own people, cannot be in the thrall of the nightmare. Corostomir and Aderan must now make a difficult decision, one that is forced when the Valor Alliance sends the Army back to attack Elethri, this time by sea instead of land.

Kindred of the Sea is an enchanting tale about the love and intimacy possible in an asexual relationship and a trope-defying Portal Fantasy.

Author’s Moodboards:

Various images of caves.
A group of knights; a woman in a garden; a forest; a campfire; a cathedral; a ship at sea; candles.

A note from the author:
Everything is not about sex.

A weird thing to start a post for Queer Month with, I suppose. Or maybe that’s just another misunderstanding on my part.

If I remember correctly – and my wording is certainly not the original – someone described ‘Queer’ as meaning that one’s identity is not defined by societal conventions relating to one’s biological gender. I’m wary of communities and afraid of groups, but I figured that was something I could get behind.

Everything is not about sex.

Maybe that’s an odd thing to say, maybe it isn’t. But it’s what it’s about for me.

There’s two sides to this for me: we’re different, and it’s good to be different, but also, I think being aware of our differences and how other people are different can be helpful to us personally, kind of like forests usually aren’t monocultures of just one plant all exactly the same!

I’m asexual. Sometimes, I’m afraid of that label. Sometimes, I’m afraid to use it for anything I do or write. I’m half-afraid of all labels. It’s hard for me to deal with labels. I don’t understand labels very well. I am going to make mistakes in how I use it, from at least one person’s point of view, and probably a lot more than that.

I’m asexual. For me, that means everything is not about sex, in both ways that statement can be read: not everything is about sex, but also, for me personally, nothing is about sex. Romance is a lot harder for me to speak to. I can understand sex and what that is. After all, it involves a biological function. That might not be all it involves, but it’s enough for me to start with. Romance? I’m not so sure. I need to get someone who experiences both sexual and romantic attraction to explain the difference to me sometime, but I also suspect romance is one of those words that means different things to different people.

But what I do know is, not everything is about sex or romance. I’ve always been frustrated by how much gets made about sex – and romance. By how very often, in stories, everyone seems to need to get a love interest or have a sexual – or at least a romantic – relationship. Very often, the two go together. In a way, asexual representation is something that has been deliberate, or at least conscious – though definitely so instinctual I doubt it could have not developed – in my novels, since long before I knew the word – or that so many people were so drastically unlike me and all those romantic and sexual feelings weren’t exaggeration and/or literary license. When I wrote the Return of the Dragonriders Trilogy (at least when I wrote DragonBirth at thirteen), I was still a little stuck on the “main characters are a male/female duo who have something going between them” trope, but Silmavalien and Noren’s relationship is platonic as well as romantic, and they most definitely do not experience what I now understand to be ‘normal sexual attraction’ – so, acespec – and Keya is asexual: she wants a close lifelong connection with someone, and since she has very limited exposure, she thinks that means marriage, but she and Silmavalien are platonic lovers, and gradually Keya realizes she has what she wanted (or as much of it as a person can expect to have anyway) between her friendship with Silmavalien and her dragon. And when I started writing the Kaarathlon Novels, this was a lot more deliberate! I deliberately intended to write a “Christian Fiction” (though this isn’t the only way it differs from most Christian Fiction) that featured characters who did not need sex or romance, and even characters who did not particularly want sex or romance, alongside ones who at least sort of did.

I understand a lot of people have found that, in their experience, most books tend to represent only asexuals who have absolutely no interest in any kind of sexual or sex-involving relationship. I want you all to understand: I am not saying that the books you want should not exist! I am not saying I don’t like and enjoy the books you want. I am not even saying that I don’t write them: I actually have a good number of ace-spec characters who end up in relationships. But what I, personally, have found is that there tend to be two kinds of asexual representation, more or less: asexuals who fall in love with someone more sexual than themselves, and end up participating in that element of the relationship, and asexuals who can be very loving, loyal, caring people, yes, but they don’t seem to be affectionate – they somehow seem emotionally distant, even when their emotions are fierce. And I am not saying either is bad! Both are good things, and it would be a bad thing if none of either existed.

I’ve always wanted stories about people who are affectionate, tender, intimate, and emotionally close – but without sexuality, or even romance, being a part of their relationship. I think it’s good for both asexual people and non-asexual people to see that (just like I can and do read books about people who are pretty interested in sex and romance – and I enjoy them, what I just don’t like are two things: books that seem to make the assumption that everyone needs that and seem to force relationships between characters just to wrap things up and have a nice romantic ending, and, secondly, the fact there are so few books (that I’ve found anyway) that do what I want). Friendship can be close, fulfilling, satisfactory, and affectionate. Friendship can be intimate. Intimacy isn’t all about sex. Friendship can be tender and loyal.

That’s the main thing Kindred of the Sea is about, if I can make such a claim as that there is one main thing! But Kindred of the Sea is probably one of the only books I’ve ever written that I’m half-willing to make such a claim about. It’s a book that says: asexuals aren’t broken, and we’re not missing out on life if we never find a sexual relationship. It’s possible for a relationship that has nothing to do with sex to be fulfilling and affectionate – and even to have qualities many sexual relationships don’t have!

The main relationship in Kindred of the Sea is the one between Corostomir and Aderan, two young men who circumstances and choices brought together as boys some ten years ago, and who discovered that they had some things in common – such as a love of the sea most other people thought was insane – and that they loved doing things together. Over the decade since then, they’ve grown to trust each other absolutely and be vulnerable with each other, and that their relationship is what makes life for them. It may have acquired a dash of romance somewhere along the way (it’s hard to know for sure), but the essence of it is and always will be platonic love. Platonic love as enduring, as committed, as affectionate, as tender, and as intimate as any romance, that gives them the freedom in the trust and vulnerability they have with each other to challenge their religious prejudices.

But there are other important friendships in their lives, too, a Valor Knight named Clindan, Corostomir’s bond to the dragon Aglarath, and the dolphins, Arlas and Adris, and Kindred of the Sea is about those friendships, too, and how they interact with the ‘main friendship’. A lot of times when we say ‘platonic love’ or even ‘platonic soul-mates’, I feel like a certain distance is assumed. Kindred of the Sea is a story that challenges that assumption, and it needs to be challenged. To give people the freedom to find who they are. To know that there are other ways to be life-mates, soul-mates, than romantic attraction. To respect that we’re not broken, and we’re not missing out on the most fulfilling, satisfying experience of human life because we haven’t had sex or don’t experience sexual attraction. I hope Kindred of the Sea provides a glimpse of a fulfilling, satisfying, affectionate relationship that isn’t based on sexual or romantic attraction to both asexuals and others.

(Yes: I know. We need male/female stories like this, too. I’m working on one, or at least I will, as soon as I finish one of my far-too-many Works-In-Progress. Well, ‘like this’ is an overstatement. I don’t expect their relationship to be like that of Corostomir and Aderan, but it will certainly be a very close friendship with no sexual or romantic attraction. I think books like that are desperately needed, but there were reasons that this one had to be male/male.)

Author Bio:
Raina Nightingale has been writing high fantasy since she could read well enough to write her stories with the words she knew (the same time that she started devouring any fiction she could touch). She especially loves dragons, storms, mountains, stars, forests, volcanoes, a whole lot of other things, and characters who can make you feel what they do (up to a point). When she’s not learning and exploring either her fantasy worlds or this one, she enjoys playing with visual art, among other things. She will always believe that kindness is stronger than hatred and that we will never be aware of all the magic in the world. She calls her fiction Dawndark.

Check out the rest of the books and authors being spotlighted for #IndiePride, go here. For the book reviews of the ones I’ve already read and reviewed, go here. For the Goodreads list of the books, go here.

#IndiePride: Dylan Madeley – Prince Ewald the Brave & The Fate of Lenn

Dylan Madeley, Prince Ewald: The Brave & The Fate of Lenn.  #IndiePride

THIS #INDIEPRIDE SPOTLIGHT POST FOCUSES ON Dylan Madeley’s Prince Ewald the Brave and The Fate of Lenn

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Books2Read Prince Ewald: The Brave | Books2Read The Fate of Lenn

Blurb for Prince Ewald the Brave:
“No, father. You have gotten your way for too long. This ends here.”

Meet the Kenderleys, the wealthiest and most powerful family in the world.

The youngest, Prince Bonifaz, takes his lessons and trusts no one. The middle child, Princess Isabel, sneaks away to a secret regency of her own making. Their mother, Queen Dulcibella, watches out for her children just as readily as she watches over them. Their father, King Jonnecht, is a capricious tyrant who hopes to control his family as strictly as he does the largest empire, and his violent rage threatens all under his rule.

Then there’s Prince Ewald, eldest and heir to the throne. No one is more aware of what threat his father poses to everyone. No one has better legal standing to do anything about it. How can he save everyone he loves while upholding his mother’s kind values? He must learn the lessons required to be the best regent, choose allies wisely and earn their trust, and enact a thoughtful and detailed plan.

And even if he succeeds in all that, can one who draws the line and conducts a plan with honour defeat one whose rage, selfishness, and deceit know no bounds?

Can Prince Ewald stop his own father?

A 2021 NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite

Blurb for The Fate of Lenn:
“Like a book already written, turn a page forward or back, read a line or a page, yet all the words in that book exist at once, unchanging; is this how you see it? Like fate? Do we fall no matter what I do?”

Future generations will mythologize Duke Lenn Wancyek, but he is a person like any other. He feels hope, worry, loss, pain, and the weight of a kingdom on his shoulders. When his responsibilities place him in a catastrophic situation from which he may not escape, his values will resonate through his actions more thoroughly than any speech he could ever make.

You will meet everyone who looks to him and you will see their struggles which run concurrent with his: a friend and adviser who wishes to steer him right; three musicians who think they have landed the greatest job in the kingdom; a gardener who does so much yet asks so little; a woman who works to free her people. The list goes on, but time grows short.

You will meet the man who becomes the legend. You will know the fate of Lenn. 

Check out the rest of the books and authors being spotlighted for #IndiePride, go here. For the book reviews of the ones I’ve already read and reviewed, go here. For the Goodreads list of the books, go here.

#IndiePride: Gaia Octavia – Hidden Gem

'In a violent destructive world, can love survive?' Hidden Gem (The Travelers Book 1) by Gaia Octavia. #IndiePride


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'In a violent destructive world, can love survive?' Hidden Gem (The Travelers Book 1) by Gaia Octavia.

Jade has spent the last eight years under the thumb of the sadistic leader of a raiding camp, where he has learned to grow numb, to feel nothing, and it works for him. But everything changes the day he spots a new captive at the camp–a beautiful, green-eyed boy named Emit–who looks at Jade like he is more than just a prisoner.

Emit has grown up within the safety of his family’s camp until the day he is taken by a band of raiders and thrust into a terrifying, hellish world. Just when he gives up hope, Jade risks everything to free him and escape. If caught, both boys will suffer an unimaginable fate, and with the leader of the camp on their heels, Emit is forced to rely on the boy he’s only just met.

Jade has no idea how to navigate through the trauma of his past. Emit has no idea how to navigate the world on his own. Together, they set out in hopes of finding Emit’s family. Slowly, both Jade and Emit learn to trust that no matter what, they will be there for each other. When an abrupt decision alters their lives forever, both are left doubting that there may be a new beginning for them, somewhere at the end of it all.

Author provided trigger warnings: Please be aware that this book includes characters working through trauma. It includes references to past trauma, including child abuse, rape, and sexual assault, which may be difficult for some readers.

Check out the rest of the books and authors being spotlighted for #IndiePride, go here. For the book reviews of the ones I’ve already read and reviewed, go here. For the Goodreads list of the books, go here.

#IndiePride: Kat Kinney – Bound

Bound by Kat Kinney. Blood Moon, Texas Shifters, Book Three. #IndiePride

THIS #INDIEPRIDE SPOTLIGHT POST FOCUSES ON Kat Kinney’s Bound (Blood Moon, Texas Shifters #3)

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My review of Bound.

Bound by Kat Kinney. Blood Moon, Texas Shifters, Book Three.

Teacher by day, fantasy writer by night, West Caldwell was forced to live in secret long before werewolves and vampires accidentally outed themselves on social media, causing a worldwide freak out. One slip of his rare Omega magic bound Topher Greer to him against his will. Now that magic threatens to fracture even further—just as shapeshifters are being abducted off the streets of Austin, Texas.

Topher Greer, EMT and former prisoner of the most dangerous vampire coven in Texas, is one of the few who can sense the presence of undead blood. He’s been marked for death by the Vampire Nation—who hold his brother hostage. Things with West Caldwell are… complicated. Pack law doesn’t forbid relationships between newly changed werewolves and their sires. But West has more walls around his heart than a high-security vampire prison.

To avoid the coming war and save his brother, Topher will have to turn to the most unlikely of allies—and untangle the feelings between him and West Caldwell for once and for all.

Check out the rest of the books and authors being spotlighted for #IndiePride, go here. For the book reviews of the ones I’ve already read and reviewed, go here. For the Goodreads list of the books, go here.

#IndiePride: E.G. Radcliff – The Hidden King

The Hidden King by E.G. Radcliff. #IndiePride

THIS #INDIEPRIDE SPOTLIGHT POST FOCUSES ON E.G. Radcliff’s The Hidden King (The Coming of Áed #1)

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Book review of The Hidden King | Website

The Hidden King by E.G. Radcliff.

Hidden truths. Hidden power. Hidden destiny.

On the shores of a rusty sea, in the streets of a starving city, a young man named Áed scraps to build a life for himself and the makeshift family he loves. Scarred by a trauma he cannot remember, and haunted by the brutal damage it left behind, he has no idea of the courage his future will demand.

When tragedy strikes, a desperate Áed risks a treacherous, life-changing journey in his last chance to save the only family he has left – but an ancient legacy smoldering within him is about to turn deadly. Neither he – nor a kingdom – will ever be the same.

SPFBO SemiFinalist 2020
BBNYA SemiFinalist 2021
BlueInk Notable Book
International Review of Books Gold Seal Book

Check out the rest of the books and authors being spotlighted for #IndiePride, go here. For the book reviews of the ones I’ve already read and reviewed, go here. For the Goodreads list of the books, go here.

#IndiePride: Marian L Thorpe – Empire’s Legacy, Empire’s Bard & Empire’s Heir

Marian L. Thorpe, Empire's Bard (skilfull worldbuilding, beautiful scene-painting, and characters you'll fall in love with - Annie Whitehead, author of To Be a Queen), Empire's Heir (some games are played for mortal stakes) and Empire's Legacy (every choice leaves something or someone behind). #IndiePride

This #IndiePride Spotlight post focuses on Marian L. Thorpe’s Empire’s Legacy, Empire’s Bard & Empire’s Heir

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Author Interview | Website

All of Marian Thorpe's books: Empire's Exile, Empire's Hostage, Empire's Daughter, Oraiaphon, Empire's Reckoning and Empire's Heir. Winning a war is only the beginning of saving a land.

Empire’s Legacy (Empire’s Daughter, Empire’s Hostage, Empire’s Exile):
A country on the brink of defeat. A woman who answers a call to arms. A man to challenge an Empire.

For centuries, women used weapons to kill for food, men to kill in war. Now Lena must break with tradition to save those she loves, but as she steps from her settled world into one of battle, intrigue and politics, her lover chooses banishment. Lonely and afraid, each decision Lena makes brings more terrible consequences, until even her own people turn against her. Her partner in exile, the enigmatic diplomat Cillian, has no survival skills. Lena’s quick wit and prowess with knife and bow keeps them alive as they search for a lost Empire of immense and ancient power. But how much will Lena sacrifice for a hopeless cause before the price is just too great?

Individual Book AwardsEmpire’s Daughter: B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree; Eric Hoffer Finalist; BBNYA Semi-Finalist, (all 2021); Empire’s Exile: Gold Medal, Historical Fantasy (2019), Coffee Pot Book Club Historical Fiction Awards.

Trilogy Awards: Reader’s Favorite 5 star Award, 2021; Silver Medal, Historical Fantasy Box Set (2019), Coffee Pot Book Club Historical Fiction Awards.

Body of Work Award (all books): QueerIndie 2022 Bronze, Queer Fiction.

Empire’s Bard (Oraiáphon, Empire’s Reckoning):
Courage comes in many forms.

The northern invaders are defeated, but the price is high. The Eastern Empire, gone from these lands for generations, now rules. For Sorley, the young lord of Gundarstorp, the war and the treaty he signed have stripped him of both his lands and the chance to be a scáeli, a bard. Now it threatens to take Cillian, the man he loves.

Reluctantly accepting a diplomatic role, desperate to stay at Cillian’s side, Sorley is torn between promises: to his country’s leader; to his oath as an envoy; to his closest friend. Taking refuge in his music and the arms of another man, he finds a fragile peace – only to have it shattered by secrets revealed. But there is more than one side to a story, more than one song to be sung – if Sorley is brave enough to listen to his heart.

2020 Book of the Year for Historical Fantasy, Coffee Pot Book Club Historical Fiction Reviews

Empire’s Heir:
Some games are played for mortal stakes.

Gwenna, heir to Ésparias, is summoned by the Empress of Casil to compete for the hand of her son. Offered power and influence far beyond what her own small land can give her, Gwenna’s strategy seems clear – except she loves someone else.

Nineteen years earlier, the Empress outplayed Cillian in diplomacy and intrigue. Alone, his only living daughter has little chance to counter the Empress’s experience and skill. Aging and torn by grief and worry, Cillian insists on accompanying Gwenna to Casil.

Risking a charge of treason, faced with a choice he does not want to make, Cillian must convince Gwenna her future is more important than his – while Gwenna plans her moves to keep her father safe. Both are playing a dangerous game. Which one will concede – or sacrifice?

Author Bio: My books are historical fiction of an imagined world, one that is close to Britain, Northern Europe, and Rome, but isn’t any of them. A world where a society evolved differently after the Eastern Empire left, where one young fisherwoman answers her leader’s call to defend her country, beginning a journey into uncharted territory, in an Empire on the edge of history.

After two careers as a research scientist and an educator, I decided it was time to do what I’d always really wanted, and be a writer. As well as my novels, I’ve published short stories and poetry. My life-long interest in Roman and post-Roman European history provided the inspiration for my books, while my other interests in landscape archaeology and birding provide background. 

Check out the rest of the books and authors being spotlighted for #IndiePride, go here. For the book reviews of the ones I’ve already read and reviewed, go here. For the Goodreads list of the books, go here.

Author Interview: Marian L Thorpe

A blurred image of a woman reading a book. Text says, 'author interview: indie book spotlight'

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1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

Paperback most of the time, audiobook for driving and planes.

2. Pick a genre, any genre!

Impossible. I’m a voracious reader; I lean towards historical and literary fiction, but I will read almost anything under the right circumstances.

3. What is the first book you remember reading?

One of the Janet and John books (these are the UK equivalent of Dick & Jane books, for the uninitiated.) I’m not sure which one.

4.  What book shaped your childhood most?

Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome. The freedom those kids had … (but to be fair, so did I, minus the boats.)

5. When did you first start writing?

Seven? Eight? Somewhere about there.

6. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

Story has been part of my life for as long as I can remember; I learned to read at three, thanks to a bored, retired-teacher grandmother. At first I suppose I just wanted to tell stories. I still just want to tell stories, they just have a bit more depth to them.

7. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

The book I am most proud of is Empire’s Daughter, the first in the series, because it is the one that took me from someone who wrote for myself to someone who wrote for others, the one I was brave enough to send out into the world.

8. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

There are three novels that no one will ever see but me. I call them apprentice novels.

9.How many books/collections have you published so far?

Five novels, one novella, one illustrated short story chapbook. And some short stories floating around on various webzines.  Plus two omnibus collections, one of my first trilogy and one of a duology.

10. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

The novels are somewhere between alternative history and historical fantasy: no magic, but not quite our world. I call them ‘historical fiction of another world’, but that’s not a category Amazon recognizes. All the short stories are urban fantasy, so far.

11. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

I write about a world modelled on Rome, Byzantium, and early medieval Europe. I own enough research books to sink the Titanic, and am very glad I live across the road from a university library. I even went to Rome to research the latest novel. But at the same time, because my world isn’t any of these places, it’s all in my head.

12. To plan, or not to plan your plot?

That’s changed over time. The first two novels were completely ‘pantsed’ – except that I write the ending very early, and have never changed one, so I know what I’m writing towards. The third book was planned, loosely, and reading my notes on the planned arc is highly amusing when compared to the final story. The same is pretty much true of the fourth and fifth – but the sixth, and the work-in-progress, are much more planned. But that doesn’t mean my characters don’t take control and do things I wasn’t expecting, or introduce plot lines I didn’t see coming.

13. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

My first book was accepted by a small start-up, benefited from very good three-pass editing by people who knew what they were doing – and then they went out of business. I decided to self-publish at that point, and wouldn’t do anything else now. My books aren’t commercial; they’re hard to define in terms of genre; they are thoughtful and low on action, described by some reviewers as literary and cerebral. I suspect IF a traditional publisher accepted any of my books, they’d want changes I’m not willing to make.

14. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Mary Stewart’s Arthurian England, as she wrote about it in The Hollow Hills and The Crystal Cave.

15. Do you currently have a WIP?

Yes; Empress & Soldier, which is backstory (more than that, too) of two characters (Druisius and Eudekia) we first meet in my third book, Empire’s Exile, both of whom become very important in later books. So it’s a second entrance point into the series, I suppose, setting up both character arcs and political plots.

16. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

Also impossible: my four first-generation MCs all have different, but equal, holds on my heart. I can’t choose between Lena, Cillian, Sorley and Druisius. It’s like trying to decide among children.

17. What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

Empire’s Reckoning is the least-loved of my books in terms of readership and reviews, but my personal favourite. Readers prefer Empire’s Exile.

18. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

It’s a very tough call, but I’ll choose Lena and Cillian, a love that develops slowly and through hardship and sacrifice.

19. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

I listen to music to set mood, so the songs vary from book to book. For my latest book, Empire’s Heir, it was Leonard Cohen/Sharon Robinson’s haunting Alexandra Leaving.

20. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

No. I’m not a huge fan of character art; I am sparing with description, and I like to let readers imagine the characters as they want.

21. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Read. Read. Read. Outside your genre, inside it, in other traditions, old books, new books, classics, airport books—and think about what you like, what works for you, what doesn’t; absorb the flow and cadence of language, the pacing and structure. It’s how I learned to write.

22. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

Many … with, as usual, mixed results. The one I’m most proud of placing in is the Eric Hoffer Awards for Small, Academic and Independent Presses, where I’ve reached category finalist status with both my first book, Empire’s Daughter, and my latest, Empire’s Heir.

23. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Guy Gavriel Kay, JRR Tolkien, Ursula K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Elizabeth A Lynn, Mary Stewart, Rosamund Pilcher.

24. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Books | Twitter | Goodreads | Website

#IndiePride: Coffee Quills – Blasted Research & Spells, Snow & Sky

Coffee Quills, Blasted Research: A post-apocalyptic polyamorous romance; Spells, Snow and Sky: a polyamorous paranormal romance. #IndiePride

THIS #INDIEPRIDE SPOTLIGHT POST FOCUSES ON Coffee Quills’ Blasted Research & Spells, Snow & Sky

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Blasted Research | Spells, Snow & Sky

Blurb for Spells, Snow & Sky:
Sky needs breathing room. Keeping a photographer on a short leash is, in her opinion, an act of cruelty. Fleeing Florida and landing in Hokkaido might just be the act that saves her sanity, even if it dooms her romantically. Yuki wishes to leave Japan. Not forever, but to at least travel the world for a while with a lover at her side. The hard part is figuring out how a being of ice and snow can survive outside of Hokkaido’s winters. Nyssa needs to find her runaway girlfriend. Too bad she doesn’t want to be found and has turned off her phone. When Nyssa receives a panicked farewell though, all her wants center on arriving in enough time to save her love. It’s going to take honesty, communication, and some heart-felt apologizing for things to be okay between everyone… but Sky’s not going to settle for just “okay” when, with a little push, there’s happiness on the horizon for all of them. A fluffy, cotton candy paranormal romance where being poly is the solution, not the problem!

Blurb for Blasted Research:
Safety is better than happiness, right?

Dr. Jules considers xemself to be lucky. Even if there are venomous thoughts and stagnant governmental practices inside Dome, there are also warm beds, stable food supplies, and an interesting job studying radiation at the Science Center. Sure, xe might not be the happiest person there, but it’s a good life. Better than the wasteland of poisoned trees and mutated creatures xe could have been born into. Then comes xyr newest assignment: go to the nearby Bells River, gather fresh samples, and bring them back to Dome for radiation testing. Looking the bright side, at least this will excuse xem from yet another blind date xyr mother set xem up on. And when they come back, xe’ll receive a raise!

Wasteland adventure? Bring in the experts!

Kirk and Li are the wasteland guides hired to keep Dr. Jules safe as xe gets water and mud from Bells River. Unfortunately, when it comes to Domies and the outside world, it’s easier said than done. Those inside people know nothing about spitting spiders, let alone how quickly the environment can turn against a person. And spotting thieves before supplies are stolen? Ha! For Li and Kirk, the payment is worth the aggravation. Educational and instructive books that’ll help make life easier for their family and future generations.

There and back again, quick as can be.

But the wasteland loves its little surprises and it’s going to take every ounce of determination, sacrifice, and friendship to stay alive… let alone find happiness.

A post-apocalyptic adventure leading to acceptance, hope, and romance, it’s Station Eleven meets Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts!

Author’s Tags: neopronouns xe/xem/xyrs, nonbinary & asexual Jules, bisexual Li, gay Kirk, poly is the solution not the problem, found family, hurt/comfort, knife wounds, spiders, cursing Kirk, self-accepting Jules, Li gets to manage these two (good luck Li), all the gooey feelings, happy ending.

Check out the rest of the books and authors being spotlighted for #IndiePride, go here. For the book reviews of the ones I’ve already read and reviewed, go here. For the Goodreads list of the books, go here.

#IndiePride: Jaimie N. Schock – The Pyre Starter

The Pyre Starter, Book I, The Talisman War by Jaimie N. Schock. #IndiePride


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Author Website | Author Interview

The Pyre Starter, Book I, The Talisman War by Jaimie N. Schock

Exhausted with life, Dakota tries to end his—only to be saved at the last moment by his friend, Terrell, who then drags him into a world of magic and intrigue that’s always been right there, hidden beneath the surface.

Powerful magic users are steadily dragging the planet into a violent war, and evil forces will stop at nothing to take the talismans possessed by Dakota and his newfound family. Dakota soon finds himself deeply in over his head—with love, with family, with fighting for all their lives. 

Check out the rest of the books and authors being spotlighted for #IndiePride, go here. For the book reviews of the ones I’ve already read and reviewed, go here. For the Goodreads list of the books, go here.