Book Spotlight: Excerpt of “Wings Beneath Water”

After our interview with author Yaasha Moriah  yesterday, I’m sharing an excerpt of her novella. Take it away, Yaasha!

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Chapter One

They say if you see wings beneath the water, you get a second chance to live. If that is true, I may live yet. If it is not true, my blood will stain these waters within moments.

The marsh mists swirl around me like transparent hands, chilling the sweat on my forehead as my footsteps explode through the murky waters. I pause, catch a gnarled branch, and lean gasping over it.

The surface of the dark waters shows the face of a boy, with round cheeks and frightened purple eyes. Will the Karagi have mercy if they see me as a child?

No. They know what I am, and they will not waver. They will remain at a safe distance, and shoot to kill. They are master bowmen. I should know. They trained me.

That was before they knew what I am.

According to the wise woman, some say it only happens when you are born to the marshes on a moonless night. Others say that it begins when a child looks into the waters and, unknown to him, the Siyeen looks back at him from beneath the surface of the waters. Still others say it is a gift given to the one who seeks truth above all else.

If a gift results in your death, is it not a curse instead?

I have lingered too long. Even as I move, some instinctive twitch saves me, for a death-breeze fans my chin and a crimson ribbon opens across my collar-bone, the warning of a razor-sharp arrowhead.

I turn, and they are there, emerging like ghosts from the mist, their long dark hair loose around their lean faces, their leather vests leaving bare their muscled shoulders. Emotions stab my stomach, for Uraun leads them, the scar upon his right cheek lit in silver by the wavering moon.

“A child?” one hunter asks, glancing quickly at the foremost of the men.

“It is an illusion,” Uraun says darkly, and draws his shaft to the corner of his lips.

I cannot outrun his arrow. I have watched too many times the stumble of a woodland buck, stricken while in mid-flight by Uraun’s skill. I am also tired, too tired. This hunt has taken all my strength, all my heart.

How do you run away from someone you love?

“Uraun.” My voice carries across the waters. “Please.”

So long as he holds his breath, he will not shoot. Experienced archers release only at the exhalation.

I stand upon a small hillock of marsh weeds. The waters beyond my feet ripple like black silk, for I have come to the edge of the deeper waters, where the bottom is invisible and the feet find no purchase. Many things that have been lost to the deep marshes.

“Uraun,” I say again. The corner of my vision snags upon something, a glimmer in the water, like light reflecting upon an outstretched wing.

It is here.

Then Uraun’s jaw tightens, and, plunging, I give myself to the waters. The arrow’s shaft pierces my side and my instinctive gasp fills my mouth with liquid darkness.

Something smooth slides beneath my grasping fingers, then jaws clamp around my ankle and pull me downward, deep. I struggle, panic-stricken. Have I misunderstood? Did I see a wing, or only the glitter of a marsh eel’s serpentine body?

I spiral downward until my mind becomes as dark as the waters around me and my breath burns and explodes in my head. Then light births, broadens, shimmers, and I rush toward it. Am I swimming down? Or up? I cannot tell.

That is when I see the face staring back at me from the other side of the water.

My face.

I know it is my face because only I among the Karagi possess eyes the color of wild irises. It is the mark of my separation.

 

Author Interview: Yaasha Moriah

Ella Font (EF): Good morning wherever you are. This is Ella Font if the Interdimensional News Network. I’m here today with Yaasha Moriah, another of our 21st Century Authors. Yaasha’s work was popular throughout the first half of the century.

Yaasha, thank you for joining us today. What have you brought to share with us?

Yaasha Moriah (YM): Thanks for having me! I am sharing about my fantasy novella “Wings Beneath Water.”

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EF: Beneath the water? Sounds interesting. Can you tell us a bit about it?

YM: Certainly!

Brother.

Ever since Risha was found on the shores of the river and adopted into the tribe, he and his brother Uraun have been inseparable. But when a neighboring tribe ignites war, killing the boys’ father, their lives start on a path that begins to divide them.

Siyeen.

As the tribe goes to war, Risha’s gift awakens. He is the Siyeen, capable of reading a person’s true nature—and in Uraun’s nature, he reads only vengeance.

Fearing that his gift will endanger Uraun, Risha flees to the marshes. To save his brother’s soul, Risha must learn the secrets of the first Siyeen and seek the redemption that will grant his brother a second chance.

EF: Fascinating. That doesn’t sound like a typical fantasy. Does it fall into one of the other categories?

YM: “Wings Beneath Water” is a sort of “native fantasy.” Think native peoples, all mixed up with supernatural dragons and shape-shifting powers. One of my ARC readers said it had “deeply spiritual themes” and was more in-depth than my other books, which he liked better.

EF: I don’t think I’ve seen many fantasy novels told from the perspective of native people. Can you tell us more about your main character?

YM: Certainly.

Discovered as an infant in the marshes, Risha bears distinctive purple eyes. As he grows up with his adoptive brother Uraun, Risha seems like a normal boy. He trains with the tribal warriors, hunts deer with Uraun, and swims in the river.

Risha cares deeply about his brother Uraun and about the truth. Sometimes the two things conflict, so Risha struggles with the implications of his choices, especially when the power of the Siyeen awakes in him.

EF: He sounds like a complex person. Many of our viewers are curious about how much authors invest in their own characters. Are there any characteristics you share in common with you main character?

YM: Risha and I share a deep love for truth, even hard truths. If you look for comfort instead of truth, you will eventually end up with neither. If you look for truth, even truth that makes you uncomfortable initially, you will eventually find both truth and comfort.

We also share a fierce loyalty to family, even despite conflict. Risha makes hard choices in order to protect his family and, although my choices aren’t nearly so dramatic as Risha’s, I’ve done the same. Family is worth fighting for!

EF: Indeed it is. Let’s see if any of our viewers would like to ask you a question. First up?  Amanda Rekkonwif from Tombstone Colony on Europa. Amanda asks, “If your character actually had pockets, what would be in them?”

YM: Twine to fix a fishing net, arrowheads for his arrows, a knife, a sinew for his bow… Odds and ends that help him survive in the marshes.

EF: I can understand that, but those are definitely not things you’d find in most people’s pockets. Next up? A question from Jerry Mander calling in from Wiggle Road on Charon. Jerry wants to know, “Can you share a line from your work?”

YM: “They say when you see wings beneath the water, you get a second chance to live.”

EF: So you sourced the title from your book from one of the lines in the book. That’s a good way to do it. Tom Katt from Litter Pan Colony on Ganymede. Tom wants to know, “If your character existed in main life, would you be friends?”

YM: I think we’d get along splendidly. Risha would teach me about survival in the wild and I’d teach him how to read and write. An excellent trade, I think.

EF: Where can our viewers find your work?

YM: It just released on March 31st. I’m so excited to share it! You can find it on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Smashwords, and my own website YaashaMoriah.com.

I’m always busy on my website at YaashaMoriah.com. I am also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as Yaasha Moriah. I love interacting with people about all things speculative fiction, so people are always welcome to introduce themselves, tell me about their favorite sci-fi or fantasy book, and why they like it.

EF: That’s great. I’m sure our viewers would like to connect with you online and share about their love of science fiction and fantasy in the early 21st Century. Thanks for joining us today. [Looks into the camera] That’s all we have time for today. Please stop by Yaasha’s internet hangouts and chat if you have other questions about her amazing work. Stay tuned tomorrow when we’ll have an excerpt of “Wings Beneath Water.” For now, this is Ella Font of the Interdimensional News Network. Back to Bob Frapples at the news desk. Bob? 

 

Book Review: Eden’s Gate

Spoiler-free review

Book: Eden’s Gate – Book 1: The Reborn

edens-gate-image

Author: Edward Brody

Genre: LitRPG-Fantasy

Ratings: (1 = Really needs improvement. 5 = Good stuff!)

  • Plot Development: 5
  • Character Development: 3
  • Dialogue: 2
  • Descriptions: 3
  • Wordsmithing: 1
  • Overall: 3

What Drew Me to THIS Book (Out of all the ones out there…)

A couple weeks ago, I listened to a podcast about a relatively new genre: LitRPG. LitRPG involves a person playing a virtual game of some sort that includes leveling, classes, skills, and so on, like you’d find in the old tabletop role playing games or the more modern computer versions. I was a HUGE gaming freak back when. In fact, people familiar with my writing have probably heard the tale about how Remnant in the Stars originated from a GURPS Space scenario. (No, it’s not LitRPG. No game mechanics in the book). I was also a terrific fan of Ultima, Elder Scrolls, and Might and Magic long before the advent of the online versions.

Well, one of the anthologies I was in recently (Avatars of Web Surfer) includes a couple stories (including one of mine) that take place in a game world with characters playing a game. Hey! Pretty close. In fact, add the gaming mechanics, and it’s THERE. So, I contacted the publisher (Travis Perry of Bear Publications) and asked if he’d heard of it. He listened to the podcast and we approached Avatars’ creator (Andrea Graham) to see if she’d be interested in adding the gaming mechanics. She’s giving it a think.

In the meantime, Travis and I started chatting about turning a couple of my ideas into LitRPG. I have one unpublished book (Bird’s Eye: The Novel in Need of a Better Name) and a few ideas that might work for something as quest-based as LitRPG. We decided to tackle Bird’s Eye and outlined a plan:

  • Become familiar with LitRPG conventions
  • Create the game mechanics
  • Rewrite Bird’s Eye to account for those mechanics.

Okay, so part 1, I needed to learn the conventions. First, I found a Facebook group for LitRPG and joined up and spent some time lurking before I actually dove into conversations. Then I looked at a list of the books they have and picked two. My criteria were pretty simple: one science fiction, one fantasy, stick with 1-shot wonders. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this genre, so I didn’t want to dive into a multiple-book phenomenon. If I like it, I’ll go grab one of the series.

Eden’s Gate: The Reborn says it’s Book 1, which implies a series, but so far, it just has one book, so I snagged that one for the fantasy. The other one I grabbed will appear in a future book review.

Things I Like (It has to be really stinky for there to be absolutely NOTHING to like).

There were some things Edward Brody did well. The plot itself is well-designed. The characters are faced with situations that challenge them physically and mentally. The threat is real, even though the characters in the game regenerate if they die. They make difficult choices and deal with the consequences. I’ve read a LOT of stories in which the characters are so over-powered, no threat is sufficient, and I’ve read a bunch in which the character has zero chance of success without divine intervention. Both are boring. Eden’s Gate has a good balance. Yes, the characters get in over their heads sometimes, but wit, wisdom, equipment, and guts get the job done.

Kudos to Mr. Brody for accomplishing that balance.

Things I Didn’t Like (Everyone has room to improve).

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news.

First, there were major word-smithing issues. In addition to the typical typo sorts of problems, there were places where not-quite-the-right-word was chosen. I understand that the field of LitRPG is pretty small right now and many of the works are translated out of other languages or written by writers whose first language is not English. I don’t know if that’s the case with Mr. Brody.

Second, this is a long way from clean reading. The word choices were often quite foul. This would earn an R-rating by the end of the first chapter on that alone. Similarly, some of the violence and descriptions of gore were a little over-the-top. I really don’t need to see the gore flying on the page to understand that the character just died a horrible death. Finally, there were no sexual encounters on-camera, but the author missed few if any opportunities to describe female characters in terms of their physical endowments, regardless of race or monster status.

3 Specific Ways the Author Could Improve (Hey, I’m a teacher. It’s what I do).

  1. Improve your vocabulary. There are ways to express outrage, anger, pain, aggravation, surprise, shock, horror, and dismay that don’t involve the F-bomb. Not only will you reach a wider audience, but you’ll give your characters depth. I’m not suggesting you have characters sound like Barney the Dinosaur, golly gee willackers; but if every response to a problem involves a word that rhymes with duck, the word loses its uniqueness and its force. If you just have to swear, okay, but keep it for the really severe situations when you’ll get more bang for your buck.
  2. Engage a proofreader or editor. Writers are often their own worst editors. They read what they remember writing, not what’s actually there. As an editor, I saw a number of places where a little polish would have made the work more effective. I know, I know… editors and proofreaders cost money. It looks like you’re self-pub, which is fine, but make sure your product is one of the best out there. Some editors and proofreaders will work on a trade-ya basis if you can’t afford to pay them actual money. You critique theirs. They edit yours. There are also some traditional small presses that might be interested in LitRPG. Sign with them, and you’ll get editorial and cover art for free. (If the publisher wants you to pay for ANYTHING in the publication process, run fast the other way). Your cover looks good. Make sure the content is, too.
  3. Give your characters more development, especially in dialogue. You did a good job of making them different from each other personality-wise, but when they’re talking, all your humans sound like the same guy. Give everyone a quirk or two. Use more dialogue tags that communicate personality and relevant actions. This can be tougher to do in first person, but it’s a worthy goal.

Final Recommendation

This is a tough one. I really liked the way Mr. Brody developed the plot. The challenges got progressively harder as the characters became progressively stronger. The story line itself was compelling. I could even overlook the editorial shenanigans to a point without being ejected from the story.

Unfortunately, I prefer clean reading, so I ended up enjoying it much less than I  might have if there weren’t F-bombs on practically every page and if female character descriptions didn’t include what seemed to be an obligatory comment on their physical endowments.

If that sort of thing doesn’t bug you, then do check out Eden’s Gate: The Reborn.

Mythic Orbits 2016

Visiting with us today is Travis Perry, who recently published an anthology containing only stories by Christian authors. Take it away Travis!

 

Mythic Orbits 2016 had a basic motivation as an anthology project: To collect and publish the very best short stories I was able to find by Christian authors, without any pre-defined theme.

Stories first had to be interesting or intriguing. Solid endings with a strong emotional payoff were essential, as they are in all good short stories. Some of those payoffs in the anthology are feel-good, emotionally warm moments. But not all are. A final story moment which challenges preconceived notions, or which is disturbing, or thought-provoking, I accepted as freely as the happier endings.

I love the short story format, by the way. A short story is not a substitute for a novel, only shorter. Not necessarily, anyway. Conflict drives the plot in novels, but short stories have a number of other possible roads to success. For example, they can surprise, shock, or amaze instead of bringing conflict to resolution. I often find short tales inherently more interesting than novels, if written well.

The commitment to good short stories in this anthology came without any specific doctrinal or content tests. Though it happens to be the case that the stories are basically clean. They contain no strong profanity (on a few occasions cuss words generally seen as mild are included). No sexuality is included beyond being attracted to someone and on one occasion, kissing. No violence is graphically described–though there is some violence in a number of the stories.

What really happened is my authors self-edited for content themselves. The only content edits I performed for “moral” purposes was downgrading one curse word to a milder version of the same thing and changing a religious reference into one which unambiguously talked about one God. All other content edits were for the purpose of making the stories make more sense, flow better, or have more powerful endings. (Though one author did ask me how to make his story more Christian, to which I had a specific suggestion–this was for the story “Escapee,” for which I recommended he create an alien chapel.)

I did not want to impose upon this anthology some kind of common theme like some other anthologies I’ve seen and participated in. That’s because I believe the best stories come from authors writing what they want to write about, not from me telling them what I think they should produce.

A question that comes to my mind as I write about the anthology I assembled is, “Why Christian authors? Why not just find a bunch of good stories and assemble that, regardless of whether the writers are believers or not?”

The use of Christian authors I found essential. I perceive the world of speculative fiction (by which I mainly but not exclusively mean science fiction, fantasy, and horror) as not especially Christian-friendly. So for me, the first order of business was to show the world that we Christians are not so bound by conventional thinking about stories that we cannot tell intriguing tales.

I also hoped that the Christian authors involved would themselves use Christian themes in their stories where they felt inspired to do so. I wasn’t disappointed in that. Some of the stories feature Christian characters reacting to worlds of speculative fiction, while some of the stories have themes that explore the tendency of religious leaders to misinterpret the faith, the role of science in human experience, the desire for eternal life, the pitfalls of avoiding pain, the nature of love, the role of empathy, and other, more subtle concepts.

Some of the stories, even if they have an underlying morality, show no direct influence of Christianity at all. You would not necessarily know from reading some of the tales that the author who produced it was a Christian. Which was fine by me–I saw my role in publishing this anthology was to highlight Christian authors, not stories with Christian themes. (As already mentioned, Christian themes showed in some of the other stories.)

So, now that I have commented on the reasons behind creating Mythic Orbits 2016, the next natural question to ask is, “What inspired me to comment about this story anthology in this blog post?” What am I hoping to achieve here?

First of all, I hope all readers of this blog will go out and buy a copy of Mythic Orbits 2016. The stories really are excellent, every last one, and well-worth your time. (Seriously–yes, I am plugging a work I published–but it actually IS awesome. Check it out for yourself: https://www.amazon.com/Mythic-Orbits-2016-SPECULATIVE-Christian-ebook/dp/B01NAIY432 )

But I have a secondary reason–and that is, I hope, God willing, to do this sort of collection next year. And for as many years after that as I can. I want to produce a Mythic Orbits 2017, 2018, and so on.

I will be looking for excellent short stories written by Christian authors in the future. Perhaps among the readers of this blog there’s somebody with an excellent tale already written, the exact sort of short story I’m keen to publish. I hope so.

Feel free to send an email to bearpublicationsanthologies@outlook.com if you have something now. If you don’t have anything yet, perhaps you can write something in the upcoming year and send it my way when its ready.

Eventually (God willing), I will be making specific announcements recruiting authors for Mythic Orbits 2017. Hope you can participate. 🙂

NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts in 2 days. I played a few years ago and ended up with the first half of Bird’s Eye: The Novel in Dire Need of a Better Title. That novel has since been finished, and it is waiting for revision after some feedback from a beta reader.

I’m considering trying it again this year. I’m working on the sequel to Lines of Succession, and I might gain some good ground if I dive into this. I’ve already started it, but I can mark my starting point and count from there or do the new work in another file and then copy it across when I’m done.

Still sitting on the fence about whether to dive in. (I’ll have to hurry up and decide. O.o )

The good things about it?

  • A daily goal will keep me going on this. I’m competitive enough to allow no excuses.
  • I did get some encouragement from the group when I did it before.
  • I’ll get to spend more time with Masika (the computer is in her room).

The bad things about it?

  • The writing I did on Bird’s Eye a few years ago was not my best, even considering the rough draft mode. Cleaning it up might be harder than starting over.
  • The emphasis on word count rather than quality encourages bad writing habits, and I already try to string together too many descriptors.
  • I’m way behind on making Christmas presents because of the Great Northern Move.

Hmmm… Decisions, decisions…

 

Short Stories: Settings

Currently, I have 3 short stories in different anthologies (soon to be back up to 8 then maybe 9). The settings aren’t that complicated for any of them really, so let’s just go for all 3!

First, A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court: The Last Mission was published by Seventh Star Press. “The Last Mission” takes place in a hangar, in two starfighters (briefly), and on an enemy base. Zanforil doesn’t waste any time getting to his mission objective and getting out of there. This, a sci-fi tale, happens in a weird future time when Elves, Dwarves, and Goblins are around.

Second, Hero’s Best Friend: The Hat was also published by Seventh Star Press. “The Hat” takes place in an aviary, a tent, and the stage in a fairground. Cloud practices his hat-snitching trick in the aviary, has lunch in the tent, then flies off the stage during a show at the fairground when he sees the bad guy. I never really locked down a time for this tale. It’s sort of a generic Medieval kind of time.

Third, Medieval Mars: The Dragon’s Bane was published by Bear Publications. This one takes place on a future terraformed Mars. There is a livable ecology there now, and plenty of water (a little too much water in some places). In the lowlands, it’s bit warm and the atmosphere is pretty dense. The higher you go in altitude, the colder it gets and the thinner the air gets. Although there are artifacts here and there from the original settlers in the long-gone “Time of Magic,” the prevailing technology is Medieval, as the anthology title suggests.

 

The Condemned Courier: Setting

The serial version of The Condemned Courier was published on JukePop Serials.

I made up the world for The Condemned Courier after I built a map for it:

Map 1

Condemned Courier

You’ll notice that my map got mutated more than once as I came up with reasons in the story for needing different people in different places. A lot of my maps look like this.

As I often do, I borrow Earth cultures for my story worlds. Schafland borrows name parts and other info bits from Germany. I don’t speak German, but I have a translation dictionary and I’m not afraid to use it … for at least one or two words at a time.

The Aelstrians (blue on the map), on the other hand, are totally made up. I developed their culture and even an accent for them to use when speaking to Schaflanders based on what would make sense for an out-sized bird.

Condemned Courier Cover art CKoepp

The time frame, again, is a Renaissance era analog. That let me play with both rapiers and black powder pistols again.

The expanded novel version of The Condemned Courier will be coming from PDMI Publishing. We’re in the midst of edits just now.