Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Debut: Walker's Run by Mel Favreaux



Today, we're celebrating the release of Walker's Run by Mel Favreaux!  Drop by the Muse and take a look, and make her feel welcomed, folks!  *G*

 

Back Cover

Was a life dealing with the pressure of photographing an A-List crowd really what she wanted to be known for? Casey Maynard decided a trip home was called for: a camping trip into the wilds of North Western Montana. Growing up, she’d spent as much time in its vast wilderness as she had in her own home. The weekend trip with her father and brother fell through, but undeterred; she’d gone alone.

But Casey finds herself in the middle of a twenty year vendetta against her father for killing the Alpha of a pack of werewolves who hold a Sanctuary deep in the mountains of the Cabinets. In a battle for her life, Casey finds herself falling for the new Alpha of the pack while he shows her how to handle and communicate with her own wolf.

Upon discovering the wolf spirit who chose her was the Mother of all Weres…more treachery thrives. Finding love and true bonds that know no bounds, her life is turned upside down.

From a deep family secret to a two thousand year old murder, will Casey’s link with the Silver Wolf be enough to save them all?

Excerpt

Casey was afraid to give voice to the one term that would describe what she’d seen. What...he was. “So...you’re a...werewolf?”

“Yes.”

She saw the truth in his pale eyes. “The bite?”

Braedyn looked away from her.

Her mouth went dry. She put her right hand on his cheek and forced him to look at her. “Am I...?” Unable to finish the question, her heart thundered in her chest.

Anguish once again filled his expression. Reaching up, he grasped her hand in his. Casey knew in the pit of her stomach she wouldn’t like his answer, even though he managed to look reassuring at the same time. “Yes, you were lucky. Not many survive the first day after being bitten.”

“You said not all of you can change. What does that mean?”

He sat down in front of her, still holding her hand. “Those of us with a human parent have a more difficult time learning to transform. It’s incredibly painful. Those who never acquire the ability can only change with the lunar cycles. Not everyone can handle being able to do it at will.”

Her mind whirled, trying to understand what he was saying. “So...your father was a werewolf and your mother...is human?”

Braedyn nodded. “Yes, a Native American. She’s a healer; a practiced homeopathic physician and herbalist. My father adored her.” He gave a soft smile. “He truly treated her as if she were a queen.”

Casey noticed the expression on his face. Though he spoke of his parents love it was obvious he’d worshiped his father. The pang of his death hit her again, even more now that she knew the truth.

“What am I to expect now?” She looked down at their joined hands. His tanned skin was such a contrast compared to hers. Casey had never considered herself pale, but the richer russet tone in his skin made hers look nearly alabaster.

Braedyn cleared his throat. “I can’t lie. This won’t be easy on you. While your wound heals you will feel like you’re on fire inside. It will continue until the first night of the full moon. During the three days the moon is full, you will change into your wolf form at sundown. Urges will build inside you. It’s not blood you’ll crave, but the hunt. Eventually, you will learn to work with the wolf, even control it.”

“I have only killed for food and to protect myself.” She shuddered, tears welling in her eyes. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“You are a kind and decent person, Casey. You may have to fight the wolf on occasion. The rage that comes from nowhere needs to be held firmly in check. I normally request the death of someone who’s been changed against their will.”

She searched his face. “You’re the alpha now?”

He nodded. “Those changed against their will usually go rogue, with or without the proper training. You can imagine, having a rogue running loose puts those of us who walk amongst the humans unnoticed, in danger.”

“Do you think I can learn?” Casey watched him smile when he reached up and stroked her cheek.

“If I didn’t believe it, I’d have...spared you this life.” Braedyn shook his head. “I’ve watched for many years whenever you came back to the forest, protecting you from my sister. As the years drew on and visits became infrequent, I...missed you.” He dropped his hand from her cheek and fidgeted.

Noticing his cheeks redden a little, she raised her brows. “Me?”

He gave a gentle laugh and nodded. “Yes. You were the first human to play with me in my wolf form and not be frightened. My first human friend.”

She watched his pale gaze travel over her face before locking with hers once more. “I can promise you, I’ve looked for you each time I’ve come back to the forest, wondering what had happened to you.”

His hand ran through his hair. “After what happened to my father, I was wary. Too afraid to approach you as you were never far from your father or brother.”

Casey shook her head feeling the pain of that night all over again. The guilt she’d carried for so long. “I’m so very sorry for what’s happened.”

“No, it was just as much my fault.”

Tears pricked her eyes, and she hung her head. “I’m worried...” She shivered, unsure if the cold or fear was the cause.

“I know and you have every right to be, but I promise I will be with you every step of the way,” he vowed. “It’s my fault this happened, I should’ve kept a better eye on you.”

“You’ve protected me all these years. Why?” Casey looked in his eyes again, searching for the answers there. She noticed he looked uncomfortable under her direct gaze.

“Because...somewhere along the years, I began to feel more than just protective...when it came to you. I’ve watched you grow and learn to live off the land. Seen the enjoyment in your eyes when you took in the beauty of the forest. Knowing that beauty hasn’t been lost on you no matter how infrequent your visits became…it...touched something in me.” He shook his head and smiled. “I’ve never met another woman quite like you.”

Over the last four days, Casey had found herself admiring Braedyn more while he’d tended to her with such tenderness for a man his size. Not once did he waiver on any of the responsibilities he’d taken upon himself. Now that she’d learned he was the alpha it made her wonder if he was shirking his duties for her. Was he afraid he would have to kill her or was it something more?

Casey shifted a little to give him room when he sat down next to her and opened the bottle of water. “I’m scared, Braedyn,” she whispered, leaning against him, resting her head on his shoulder. She needed his comfort.

He placed a reassuring arm around her. “I know.”

She closed her eyes.

Worldbuilding: Cultures



I’ve been thinking about how to differentiate one cultural group from another in writing.  For me, this is a really important thing because I generally write about the interaction of cultures and subcultures and age groups and… Well, we all know I’m a nut for interactions, but I also think that this is important in any story wherein more than one culture is present.  Which, let’s face it, is just about every story.  Whether it’s modern literary or secondary world fantasy, life is such that we all basically come from our own unique culture.  Now, of course, the individual cultures of two people from the same region will necessarily be more similar than the individual cultures of two people from opposite sides of a planet.  However, even in people from the same region, differences such as class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. can create massive difference is personal culture.

But how do we display those differences?  It’s far too easy to fall into cliché and stereotype, to take what we have seen done—good and bad and absolutely horrible—and apply it to our own characters and then consider it finished.  But I think we all know that’s not what we want to do.  (If you want a deeper discussion of why we don’t want to, check out A Rant on Stereotypes, Clichés, and Tropes).

So, how do we then create characters that are lively, and real, that are not two-dimensional or based on stereotype?  And then differentiate their culture from the cultures of the other three-dimensional, non-stereotypical characters?  Details, details, details.  The more nuanced, well-considered, and fleshed out your character, the more real they will feel to the reader.

Of course, if you’re writing a character that belongs to one or more cultures that exist in our world, this means research.  You can’t get around it, you can’t ignore it.  If you’re writing about a culture you don’t know intimately, you’re going to have to dig in there and research.  But there’s more to it than that.  Because you can’t just look it up on the internet the way you can a fact, and that’s because every single person has a different experience.  Also, remember it is never anyone else’s obligation to educate you on their experience, ever.  What you can do is immerse yourself in that culture.  Read a wide variety of people’s thoughts and posts and comments and articles and essays (which, honestly, is something you might want to be doing anyway, right?).  But this research should be focused on the culture you’re trying to write.  Read as much as you can about the experiences of people from that culture.  Watch the TV that is popular.  Watch the TV that isn’t popular.  Read the thoughts and opinions as to why those two things are the way they are.  Read, research, and immerse yourself.

Now, that’s harder if the character you’re writing is historical, because they very well might not have had TV, and even if they did it’s unlikely they left their opinions about it floating around on the web.  So, you’ll have to dig a little deeper.  Find historical sources; read, read, read.  Read so much that you begin to think that, if somehow zapped back to that time, no one would guess you were anything but a proper resident of the time line.  *nods* Don’t just stop at the surface.  Find out how people felt about the way the world was.  No matter who, no matter what setting, there are always some people who feel differently than the “mainstream” (the most prevalent and socially acceptable point of view), but it is often the “mainstream” that gets the most attention from historians.  That’s understandable, to some degree, because in the beginning historians are trying to sketch out a whole culture, and we secondary world lovers know just how tough that can be.  However, over time, as historians specialize more and more in a given culture (because the general overview has already been given, we get more and more specific information.  Additionally, the perspectives, opinions, and accomplishments of women, people of color, and LGBT peoples (among many others) have generally been ignored, downplayed, and demonized.  So, consider all of this as you step through the research, and your final results can be much richer for that consideration.

But, with research, a lot of it—usually the detail—is taken in subconsciously.  We take them in when we look at picture after picture, when we soak in the way the vehicles look, the way the clothes looked, the way the people styled their hair and thought about themselves, and thought about others.  That’s good in that it helps you reproduce these details and the feel of the place, sometimes without being aware of it.  However, what do you do when you’re creating a world, and there’s no material to research?  Nothing to study?

Well, I like to start with the details I know, the bits that I’ve already worked out.  I generally think about an idea for a while before I begin working on it in any real way.  I have an idea of how the characters are dressed, something of the kind of world they live in, the look of the place, etc.  So, that’s where I start building.  I think more deeply about these aspects, and compare them to cultures in the real world.  Do the buildings look like Mayan?  Is the setting dystopic?  Are the clothes shabby Victorian, or upper class Roman?  The comparison may only be artificial, but it gives me a starting point.  Why did those people wear the clothing they did?  Obviously, because they think it looks good, but these things symbolize something.  The “royal purple” of Rome was rare, very expensive, and probably stunk a bit, but its rarity made it something only the very rich could afford, and that made it a status symbol.  It is a common theme with human civilizations, so that can create an “in.”  What’s rare?  What do people who value wealth use to show their wealth?  If you’re writing science fiction, it’s quite likely technology.  So what technology?  To do what?  This is probably also linked to your culture’s view and values.

For instance, in our culture media is a huge deal, being able to take it with you wherever you go a big thing.  Being able to move it from device to device is another.  In some circles, being able to produce it is also big.  Health technologies are a huge area of differences, and transportation technologies are often another area where you find differences.  Even worlds without such advanced tech, tech differences exist.  Home heating and cooling methods—often a function of architecture in lower tech worlds—are one possible status symbol, as well as the housing itself, of course.  So, once you find an “in,” you just follow it wherever it takes you.  Let it be a line that guides you deeper into your own culture.  And, if you hit a wall on one line, look for another “in.”  And just keep doing it, over and over, until you’ve built up all the cultures in your secondary world.

But, once you’ve figured all of these things out, it’s quite likely you’ll have to do some tweaking to make things consistent and workable.  A good way to do that is to consider each culture in relation to the other cultures, and the governments you’ve built around the given cultures in relation to the other governments.  Having the groundwork laid makes that possible.

What makes one group different from those around them?  It’s the differences that are often the easiest things to see, but don’t let them blind you to the similarities, either.  Their similarities will affect them just as deeply.  They may decide to ally against someone they feel is a common enemy, and that can be huge for the path of the cultures, the nations.  But, start with the differences.  If cultures are different, they should read different, feel different.  Even if the reader doesn’t know the story behind the differences, they should be able to see them.  We can portray these differences in a number of ways.  Some of those ways will be visible to the reader, such as in tattoos or physical differences, jewelry or clothing.  Those are the easier ones.

The harder ones require thought and work.  Making two different groups of people speak the same language in different ways is a particular challenge for me, but there’s also their ways of looking at things, their names for given places (each culture might call a given mountain by a different name, etc.).  Cultural differences can make for those really perfect moments in a story, those moments of clarity where one character finally comes to understand another.

What’s your favorite way to show the differences between cultures in your writing?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Debut: Warrior's Psalm by Thomas Rowe Drinkard

Today we're celebrating the release of Warrior's Psalm by Thomas Rowe Drinkard!  Which you can find on Amazon!

Blurb


Freya and Kalev are the newest members of an elite warrior clan, the Recondos.  They are a unique reconnaissance team, since they are true telepaths who can link their minds and communicate silently, over extended distances.

On their initiation recon, they see the enemies of their civilization for the first time: The Deciders and Protectors. They also witness a brutal execution ordered by the Deciders.

From that day, their courage and faith will be put to severe tests as they rely on their gifts and face a cruel enemy and the challenges that young women and men encounter as they begin to mature.



Excerpt



“Listen. They’re coming.”

Kalev shuts his eyes and diverts the power of all other senses to his ears.

Nothing.
He relaxes, counts to thirty, and then focuses again on hearing.

There. A brush of tall grass against britches; whisper of branches pushed aside into leaves of others. Slow, but closer.

“Four. I saw them cross a clearing. Not Hivers—armed.”
 
Kalev hears Freya’s voice in his mind as clearly as if she’s sitting on the tree limb beside him.  There is no sound and she, too, is in a tree, probably several hundred yards away. Closer to The Hive.

“Coming this way. I haven’t seen them yet. A game trail runs in their travel direction. They’ll probably use it,” Kalev.

They are using the trail. The sound of their boots on bare earth is louder than if they were walking on grass.
“Use the Shopper anyway, don’t take a chance that they’ll see you,” Freya.

In an inside pocket of his leather vest, Kalev finds a device the size of a thick fountain pen. He uncaps both ends and spreads a conical fan from each. He points the larger cone at a point on the game trail where someone, looking up in the trees, could see him. The smaller cone is aimed over his shoulder. If anyone on the ground looks up, the only visible sight will be a picture gathered by the device and projected. They’ll see the tree limbs and oak leaves behind him.

“They’re on the game trail, not looking up.  I’ve got the Shopper putting out a false sight anyway. What are they searching for?” Kalev.

Through summer oak leaves, thirty feet below and fifty feet away to the east, four men in green and tan mottled camouflage walk the trail, their tread—virtually noiseless. They’re armed with stubby automatic rifles and grenades hang from their belts. Protectors.
“Don’t know.  After they’re far away, let’s go closer to The Hive. Something’s happening there. Protectors don’t normally come to The Hive,” Freya.

Kalev focuses all sensory power into his ears, listening to the diminishing tread of the patrol.  When only silence touches him, he relaxes.

“Freya, send a locator.  I’m coming to you.”

Immediately a silent, but strong, pleasant song, like a solo violin begins.

“Like the sound?” Freya.

“Yes.”

He slides, limb by limb, to the ground. His feet touching with no more sound than a falling leaf. Lithe as a whip and maturing, he moves with easy grace.

He turns, seeking the music. If he veers off course, the song fades. Never traveling on trails, he reaches the base of an immense beech when the song reaches a crescendo. The trunk is probably five or six feet thick. There are no low-hanging limbs.

How to climb?

“You don’t need to go up.  I’m here.”

Freya had moved behind the trunk when she sensed his approach.  She appears from behind the huge tree’s base, smiling, her head cocked to the right—a mannerism she’s shown Kalev since they were six.

Author Bio




Thomas Rowe Drinkard the University of North Alabama with a degree in English.  Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the  U.S. Army  Within two years he completed parachute school and was selected for the U.S. Army Special Forces (the Green Berets). He spent more than ten years with the fabled unit.

After active duty, he found his way into teaching and writing in the securities exam preparation business. Many of his articles and texts are currently in use.

Tom is now a full-time writer/part-time editor. He is the author of the novels; Piety and Murder, Where There Were No Innocents, Overload and Devil’s Blade as well as the novellas, V Trooper -First Mission and V Trooper-Second Mission, The Demon. He is also the author of a chapbook of Vietnam poetry, Finding the Way Home.

His newest work is a Science Fiction novella—the first in a planned trilogy—titled, Warrior’s Psalm.

Reviews

And look what others are saying about Warrior's Psalm!

"A well crafted fantasy thriller." - Rich Weatherly