Behind the Scene: the ethnicity of Damsians and the building of Damsport.

Today I’m answering a reader question about Damsians and Damsport, and specifically the ethnicity of Damsians and how Damsport was built. One thing that was important to me was for Damsport not to feel like it was based on a real world place ( you know, like alternate Middle-East, or steampunk India, that kind of thing) and I did a few things to make sure Damsport got its own sense of identity, which I go over in the video 🙂

Author Interview with Sara Snider

Hi everyone! The lovely Sara Snider and I got together the other day (on Facebook – sadly Hong Kong to Sweden is not an easy distance to cross) to chat about her books and her writing, since she has just released A Shadowed Spirit, the sequel to The Thirteenth Tower. It made for a more relaxed, informal interview than what I normally do, which I actually really enjoyed – we talk about Sara’s books, but also about how she uses Myers-Brigg when working on her characters, genre hopping, and her awesome live-writing project, Hazel and Holly. Hope you enjoy!










CJJ: Hey Sara, so this is fun – and different! Live chatting! Ok so can you give me a quick introduction on the Tree and Tower series, for anyone who’s not come across your stuff before?

SS: This is fun and different! Ok, the Tree and Tower series is basically about a young woman searching for answers. Her search invariably leads her into the forest, but her answers don’t always come in the way that she thinks.

CJJ: And book 2 in the series, A Shadowed Spirit, has recently come out, congratulations! That’s exciting. (I just finished it, for you guys reading this, and it was awesome, go check it out). So what pushed you to write a sequel to The Thirteenth Tower, as I know you hadn’t necessarily planned a sequel originally?

SS: Ok, first, I’m glad you enjoyed the story. That means a lot to me. As for why I wrote it, it’s because after the first one was done and people started to read it, they started saying things like, “I’m looking forward to the sequel.” Not, “Is there going to be a sequel?” So I figured I’d better get on that sooner rather than later.

I was always open to the possibility of a sequel, but I hadn’t actively planned on one until then. I do think the first book in the Tree and Tower series stands alone, but there are gaps, and I’m not sure how much of that was “I’ll leave that for a future sequel” and how much was just my own tendency to leave some things unexplained for readers to interpret on their own

CJJ: What about a third book, is that in the works? And how do you write books by the way, do you outline or do you pants?

SS: Yeah there’s going to be a third book – I’m currently working on the first draft. I’m struggling with it because I’m a total pantser. But… for this one, pantsing isn’t working, and I’m going need to plan a bit, and that’s hard for me. I’ve actually gone back and started re-writing the beginning (basically moving events I had late in the book happening sooner).

Part of me feels like I should leave rewriting for the editing process, but it was creating a wall for me in figuring out what happens next. As a pantser, what happened previously plays a big part in what happens next, and if that’s not right I feel like I’m in a weird limbo. So, yeah, doing some hefty re-writing right now.

CJJ: I definitely agree with that: I can’t continue on very far if I know the earlier part of the story is broken. (and I also really like re-writing, so I’m always up for a bit of editing.) Ok so let’s talk about your characters. What’s your process like when creating a new character?

SS: Characters kind of create themselves to a large extent. Addigan popped fully formed (full name and everything, which is really rare for me) into my head. Others sometimes take bit more work.

Jash, for example (he’s a bit of a rogue character who’s teamed up with Addigan), I developed his personality a bit more by putting him through the Myers-Briggs personality test, as his default personality was a bit flat for me.

Doing that illuminated some personality quirks I hadn’t considered, but it also didn’t change the personality he initially formed with in my head. It just further accentuated what someone like him might act like.

CJJ: That’s interesting, I think you’ve mentioned using Myers-Briggs before on your blog. Is it something you use regularly?

SS: I wrote a blog post about it, and this was the first time I had used the test. The blog post talks about Jash, and I also used it on Enon to see if his personality was believable (which it was, according to the test, which was pretty awesome to see).

CJJ: I bet! Would be a bit of a bummer if he hadn’t come out as believable. I really liked Enon by the way 🙂 I take it he’s an introvert? Actually, first could you quickly explain who he is for those who haven’t come across him yet?

Glad you liked him. For those who don’t know: Enon’s a rather quiet, sullen character who joins up with Siyan on team protagonist (with Addigan and Jash on the antagonist side). He’s not to everyone’s taste though, but I knew that when I wrote him (so it makes it extra special when people do like him). Yeah, he’s totally an introvert. ISTJ personality type, if I recall correctly. Which, interestingly, is the exact opposite of my type, other than the introversion part (which is definitely me). I think I’m an INFP.

And I’m not totally obsessed with personality types, but I do think it’s interesting. J

CJJ: Yeah I agree, I love analysing people and personalities! I actually have a little theory about characters, which I don’t think I’ve floated to another writer yet. For me, all my characters are me. I embellish, highlight, or add on aspects, so none of them are exact copies of me, but I can see myself in each and every one (even the not so flattering and not so nice ones – yeesh). Hence the theory, that I’m the sum of all my characters (of course I have many to come still). Do you think that about your characters too, or are they completely separate from you? Like different people?

SS: No, I actually do think that about my characters. I mean they’re not me, but I can totally see parts of myself in all of them. It’s like each one represents a particular aspect of myself in their own way. I talked about this with my sister-in-law and she just looked at me and said, “So, what you’re saying is you’re schizophrenic?” hehe. She was joking, but it was kind of funny. 🙂

CJJ: Haha, to be fair I think all of use writers are a little nuts. So, if you think back to The Thirteenth Tower and A Shadowed Spirit, in what order do ideas come to you? Do you start with a concept for a world, a character, a scene….

SS: I think it’s mostly premise based, if that makes sense. For The Thirteenth Tower, I had an idea for the beginning and end, and then the premise of the strange things happening and what was causing it. And so everything stemmed from that. For A Shadowed Spirit, almost all the ideas came for that one as I wrote it. I had a goal for Siyan, and I had Addigan and what she was trying to do. Everything else came as I wrote it.

The idea for book 3 is basically the consequence of events from the first two books. I looked at what happened in each one and thought, “What do the Magisters think about *that*?” And so that’s given me the premise. I’m still working on the events that follow it.

CJJ: I kind of wish I could start stories from a premise, I sometimes think it would make life a bit easier, or at least more straightforward. I always have to start with characters, though. I’ve tried to create a story from a premise and it never works. Not sure why!

SS: Which is probably why you have the best characters.

CJJ: aw thank you. I do think that’s also why so far my books don’t fit into a straight forward category. the one I finished recently is another mish-mash of genres, and I think I’m going to have to sift through Amazon categories to figure where it belongs! Do you think you’ll always write fantasy, or any plans to genre hop?

And what’s in store after Book 3 is finished? I know you have the Hazel and Holly story going on, any plans for after that?

SS: Genre mish-mashes are awesome in my opinion, but, yeah, a bit of a pain to market. 😉

I sometimes think about writing a science fiction story of some sort. The idea of it intimidates me, because science. But I find, for example, black holes terribly fascinating, and I think it would be fun to write a story that incorporates them somehow.

After book three, I have a vague idea for a creepy archivist I want to pursue. For this one, I don’t have a premise for a story, it’s the character, so that’s a first I guess. The character is pretty vague though. He’s an archivist and he does unsavory things like dig up bodies and collect bones. That’s all I have at the moment.

HazelHolly_FC_FNL_BNGCJJ: I’m liking the sound of this guy already – creeps and weirdoes are right up my street! Tell me also about your Hazel and Holly project (for those of you who haven’t come across this before, Sara is writing a serial ‘live’ on her blog, posting a new episode each week.)

SS: Hazel and Holly are basically two witch sisters trying to find their necromancer father who’s trapped their dead mother’s soul in a gaes. They’re trying to find him so he can undo it.

As for when it will be done, I have no idea. I was aiming to finish the first draft of it by the end of this month, but… it’s long. It doesn’t want to end! I’m at 90k words now, estimating (maybe) it’ll finish up around 130k (which will make it the longest story I’ve ever written). Maybe it’s the serialized nature of it, but I’m finding it difficult to wrap things up.

CJJ: Wow, that is HUGE! How have you found the experience of writing in public like that, basically letting people see your first draft?

SS: It’s pretty scary, actually, and it wouldn’t work at all for me for some stories (like the Tree and Tower series, that just wouldn’t work). I think what’s made it work for me with this one was I went into it thinking it was just a story I’d have fun with. Yes, there will be small errors, and potentially crappy writing, but I accepted that and figured just write to have fun!

For the most part, I think it’s worked fairly well. Those who read it seem to be enjoying it, so I suppose that’s something.

CJJ: Absolutely! Well this is all great, thank you so much for the chat Sara!

SS: Thank you, Celine!

A Shadowed Spirit:


She used to be called Emelyn. She used to be nobody. Now she is Siyan—a creature of magic known as an And’estar. But Siyan doesn’t understand what that means, just as she can’t control the power that has woken within her.

Addigan worked her entire life to master the Art of magic and become a respected Magister, only to fail her final test. Scarred and desperate to prove her worth, Addigan pursues rumors of trees of power and a mysterious people called And’estar.

When Siyan heads into the dense and dangerous forest searching for answers, she doesn’t realize Addigan is coming for her. In this twisting chase of hunter against hunted, Addigan must choose how far she is willing to go to prove herself. And Siyan must let go of everything she knows—and everything she loves—if she is to gain control over her power. Even if it kills her.

In a journey that follows the intertwined lives of two women, A Shadowed Spirit is a mystical tale that redefines the boundaries between life and death, dreams and reality, and what one is willing to sacrifice to achieve the happiness she seeks.

A Shadowed Spirit is now available to buy at the following places:

Amazon US     Amazon UK    Apple    Kobo

About the Author:

Sara-headshotSara C. Snider was born and raised in northern California before making the move to Sweden at age 25. She is a published author of two fantasy novels—The Thirteenth Tower and A Shadowed Spirit—and the dark fantasy novella, The Forgotten Web, which won best novella in the 2015 Lyra Contest. She has a bachelor’s degree in Archives and Information Science that is largely being ignored as she pursues writing full-time.

Sara’s writing is heavily influenced by nature where she likes to explore the relationship between man and a greater wild world. Her stories sometimes venture into the surreal and metaphysical, while other times remaining quirky and light-hearted.




Deconstructing Damsport: a round the world tour of the research and inspiration behind the creation of the city

bloodless Assassin EbookPicasso famously said: “Good artists borrow; great artists steal.” I won’t go as far as to say that I’m a great artist, but one of the things I love to do is to steal — and I steal a great deal, from all over the place. So I thought it would be fun to take you through a tour of all the influences and steals that went into creating Damsport, the city in which The Bloodless Assassin takes place.

It’ll come as no surprise that I stole from Victorian London, and I purposefully gave a little nod to Dickens in creating Pip, a cheeky chappy urchin. I won’t discuss the Victorian influences though, as I think they’re quite obvious.

The less obvious steals come from all over the world: Hong Kong, Istanbul, Constantinople, Mumbai, Japan, Cambodia, general 17th century Europe, sort of from Colorado, and Macau, at the current count. Often what I stole is utterly random and I doubt you’d be able to spot the inspirations on your own (if you can, bravo!)

Let’s start with the biggest influence: Hong Kong. I live in Hong Kong and grew up in London, so the first thing I did in creating Damsport was to take Victorian London and push it through a Hong Kong sieve. Hong Kong is the banyan trees that grow everywhere, the humidity, the storms, the crookback streets, the smells, the food, the crush of people in the streets. Regarding the banyan trees, the photos below are taken in central Hong Kong. The top one in particular is in Mid-Levels, one of the most modern and built up parts of Hong Kong. Banyan trees can grow anywhere — including out of walls it seems — and the top photo was the inspiration for the rundown house Rory and Jake lived on top of.



Hong Kong is also part of the inspiration for the Wet Market. Fruit/veg/meat/fish markets in Hong Kong are called Wet Markets, partly because the produce for sale is fresh, partly because the floor is always wet, and it’s best not to think too much about what is in the murk on the ground. Especially when you see the gusto with which fish are eviscerated!

(I have a particular walk when wearing flip flops — apparently — which means that with my heels I flick up any mud/sludge/dirt/etc up the backs of my legs. Yes, I’m that ladylike. My many visits to wet markets over the years have made me far more familiar with the wet filth of the ground than I would have liked. It’s grim. Which was why when I had to describe a market I immediately thought of how wet the floor would be.)

We also went to a Wet Market in Cambodia (in Kampot to be precise) that was covered with a hodgepodge of tarps and bits of plastic stretched overhead. It caught most of the rain (it was summer and rainy season) but the water still dripped through the gaps, so that the entire market seemed to be dripping — you could hear the water drip above the chatter of voices. That gave birth to the ‘dripping’ description of the Damsian Wet Market.




The woman sleeping in a hammock among her cuts of meat in the Damsian Wet Market is real — I stole her wholesale:


The book maze at the edge of the Great Bazaar was stolen from Mumbai book sellers, and I still regret that so little of The Viper and the Urchin takes place among the maze of books — stay tuned, this might be the scene of part of a future story! We discover Damsport’s library in The Black Orchid, and I have a bit of an idea for a story featuring scheming librarians, so it’s very much a possibility.

DSC_0032 DSC_0035

I stole the Old Cistern from Istanbul, and of course I bastardised the Grand Bazaar name, although the Damsian Great Bazaar is nothing like the Istanbul version. I also stole Istanbul’s Blue Mosque to make the baths in Spirepass, and while I was at it, used that kind of architecture to inspire the entire area of Spirepass including its name.

From Wikipedia – the Old Cistern

From Wikipedia – Blue Mosque — inspiration for the Damsian baths.

I purposefully made Damsport a port city so that it could justifiably have a real melting post of influences in terms of its architecture and culture. But in working out its political situation, I turned to Constantinople, another port city. And while there’s nothing actually recognisable from Constantinople in Damsport’s architecture, I used it as inspiration to work out how Damsport would be defended. This led to the creation of the Bottleneck Wall, which led me to the Three Day Battle and to Damsport’s current political situation.

Two very random steals came from Japan. I very much doubt anyone will be able to guess where the Japanese influence is, though. The first is the cats in the Damsian cemetery. I was in Tokyo, wandering about on my own, and I chanced across a cemetery. Now I love cemeteries — I find them fascinating. I went walking around the tombs, and I kept coming across these fat cats, most of them white, bathing in the sun and regarding me with that hostility particular to cats. And I thought there was something delightfully creepy about a hostile cat lounging across a tomb and glaring at me as if telling me to leave.

The fun thing about Fantasy is the ability to take something real and twist it into something fantastical — so these cats became the cats in the Damsian cemetery who are voiceless and who appear only at night.

I also stole an old street sweep from Tokyo. I came across an old man with a broomstick that had to be 2 meters long that he wielded in a semi-circle around him to push dead leaves away. Sadly I didn’t take a photo of him but I thought he was too perfect not to steal. I added the vapour lamps hanging from a pole stuck down the back of his shirt to create the Damsian street sweeps. The sweeps are actually one one of my favourite little details of Damsport.

Closer to home — at least digitally — I stole from a fellow blogger’s blog post: from Sammy over at Bemuzin, which technically means I stole from Colorado, I guess. Back in 2014 she wrote about an exhibition she went to see: the stunning Chihuly Garden Cycle show featuring incredible glass sculptures. I thought glass sculptures was such a wonderful concept that I decided to feature glass sculptures as part of the Revels towards the end of the book.

Speaking of the Revels, another act comes from The House of Dancing Water, an incredible show that I saw in Macau. I stole the masts rising from the water from that show (I won’t say anymore to keep the post spoiler-free). If you’re ever in this part of the world, this is one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen.

I also stole and embellished on 17th century European currency. There was a real problem back then of people shaving or clipping the edges of coins, and then melting all the shavings and clippings and making new coins. This problem is what led to our modern coins having edges with writing or patterns on them, so that if the coins were clipped, it would immediately be obvious. I thought that was a fun detail to steal and I decided that Damsport would have the same problem but would deal with it differently. Since the city has both clipped coins and a quantity of foreign currency flowing through it, the logical thing to do seemed to have them deal in coin weights rather than coin values. The expression ‘making change’ then became a fun literal interpretation: Damsians go to smiths to make change by cutting coins up into smaller pieces.

That said I don’t always realise when I’m stealing, and some steals I can’t identify even now. Crazy Willy and his steamcoach, for example: I have no idea where that came from. Likewise for Susie’s coffeehouse and the butterscotch coffee. I detest coffee, so who knows why that idea popped into my head!

Not all steals are successful, either. My most extensive piece of research came to absolutely nothing. I read a large biography of Isaac Newton’s life when I was thinking about how to develop the science of alchemy for Longinus. Newton didn’t just discover gravity, he was an incredible polymath, but he sadly wasted a lot of his time looking into alchemy and I thought I’d find useful inspiration in his life’s work. Turns out Longinus’ alchemy has nothing to do with Newton’s (not a shocker, in hindsight). Not wanting the time I spent reading Newton’s biography to be a complete waste, I put a little nod to him in the form of the prism found in Dr Corian’s place. It has absolutely no bearing on the story, I doubt anyone noticed or remembered it, but it was a nod from me to me, referring to the research I’d done so I could tell myself that I got at least something out of that book.

I don’t actually think reading that book came to nothing — I got some other stuff from it which might be useful some day. Maybe one day I’ll write a new post like this and tell you one of my characters is partly stolen from Newton’s life. Who knows.

So there you have it, all the steals that went into creating Damsport — at least the ones I can remember. There’s bound to be a great many steals that I’ve forgotten about, and a great many more that I can’t figure out. If you’re curious about any other part of Damsport feel free to ask me in the comments and I’ll see if I can figure out where the inspiration for it came from.


The sequel to The Bloodless AssassinThe Black Orchid also takes place in Damsport, and I’ve added a few more steals — more from Hong Kong (I’m milking the place dry!) a very obvious one from Morocco, and I stole from one of my uncles.

Book 3 in the series is already in the works, but it will take place in a new city and I’m currently creating it (oh such fun!). So far I have influences from Indonesia, more from Hong Kong and Cambodia, a very random steal from Beijing, and an unexpected one from Brittany of all places (a place in France. Papa et Maman — it is indeed from Perros-Guirec). I’ve also taken inspiration from the eyebrows of a singer I really like. I’m hoping to have the third book ready and out by the end of the year, so keep your eyes peeled! In the mean time, if you want to check out The Black Orchid, you can find it here on Amazon. I hope those of you who read it will enjoy it!

PS: I know not everyone reads on Kindle. If you have another kind of e-reader but you want to read The Black Orchid, you can buy it on Amazon, email me the receipt, and I’ll send you an epub instead 🙂 you can find me at celine (at)

An Interview with Ravven — Steampunk and Fantasy Digital Artist

I’m really excited about today’s interview. Most of you will remember my book cover (it’s in the sidebar for anyone new to the blog), which was designed by the wonderful Ravven. Well today I’m interviewing her about her creative process.

As someone who has is utterly unable to do anything visual, be it digitally or otherwise, I found it really interesting to dig a little into what goes on behind the scenes when creating digital art. Before we get stuck into the interview, I wanted to showcase one photo in particular that really struck a chord with me. It’s called Medusa in the Boudoir:

Medusa in the Boudoir

Medusa in the Boudoir

Isn’t it wonderful? I saw it and went *wow* — and immediately contacted Ravven to see if she’d be free to do my book cover (lucky for me she was.) This is by far my favourite piece. It’s not just that it’s beautiful, or that it looks like a painting — it’s the story and the emotion that emanates from it that I really love. Anyway, enough of my gushing. On with the interview!

Thanks for taking part in the interview Ravven, and for being on the blog today! Now obviously you do book covers, but you also create pieces of digital art that are unrelated to any book. How do you start working on these kinds of project? Do you already have a full idea in mind of what you want to create and how it will look, or do you get inspired by coming across a particular photo/object/model and build the art work around that? 

I am usually inspired by images, which is why the personal art is easier. When you’re working on a cover you are usually working to a very defined brief, so of course it isn’t as free-flowing. On the other hand, it is when you work within a set of constraints and requirements that the challenge becomes really interesting – sometimes you end up with something very special that you may not have come up with on your own. At its best, a cover is a collaboration between the author’s ideas and the vision of the artist. It’s why I love this work!

At times I need to take a step back and just let the creative batteries recharge before I begin doing commercial work again. It’s nice to have the freedom to do that and I feel very fortunate! This feels like the best of both worlds.

In relation to your question, personal pieces usually start with a central stock image that I fall in love with. Sometimes I want to do something around a concept (loneliness, etc.) but usually I just fall in love with a stunning image and want to create something with it.

The thing that really struck me about your art is that there’s such a sense of story to it (such as in the Dollmaker photo on the left). Of course, cover designs will have that element of story, but even projects that are unrelated to any book seem to be a moment in a story. When I look at them I want to sit down and write the story I can see lurking behind the artwork. Is this something you set out to do? Do you try to create a story or characters, or is it purely visual for you?



For me it is very visual, but the image won’t work unless it develops a story. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it feels as though it unfolds as you work on it and becomes something more – often something that you didn’t originally intend it to! It’s probably a lot like a writer pantsing rather than plotting. Unless it becomes something much deeper than you originally intended, it won’t be as successful. It may be a pretty image, but won’t have any emotion to it.

That makes perfect sense. I think that happens with any creative process, even if there is a plan or outline beforehand. Art in whatever form always seems to take on a life of its own after a while.

Do you only work in digital, or do you also work with more traditional / analog methods? If you work with more than one medium, which is your favourite and which is the most challenging?

Currently I work almost exclusively in digital. I used to do all watercolour (actually, pen and ink overlaid with watercolour), but currently I only work digitally. My drawing skills aren’t at a professional level and never will be, so I can’t satisfy my love of photo-realism. 🙂 Years ago I worked in the art department of a high-end photo studio in Los Angeles and I learned a lot about retouching and subtly enhancing or changing a face. I still use a lot of those skills now, but the work is done in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet. Much easier than working with photo dyes or working on negatives!

Madonna of the Desert

Do you take inspiration from other art forms, like film/books/music/video games?

Always. I think that as creatives of any kind we always take in inspiration from everything that we see and experience. Books, movies, games, art – everything goes into the subconscious hopper and becomes new ideas. There are a lot of movies that mean a great deal to me because they’re so gorgeous visually, such as the Jennifer Lopez movie The Cell. Admittedly not the best film ever (more of a guilty pleasure), but such a dreamlike gorgeous movie!


Could you give us a very quick walkthrough of the process of creating a piece of digital art?

On a book cover project, I’ll normally start with models first. I do quite a lot of mockups for all the models that I think might work, but usually only a few backgrounds/environments. The models are composited with the background to give a feel of what the overall cover will look like, but usually they don’t all have the correct hair or clothing – piecing that together is very time-consuming and I don’t do it at this stage. I have text on the image mainly as a placeholder so I’m not tempted to fill that area up with detail, but it will all be changed later on.

Once a model has been chosen, I’ll do a much more finished version with the correct clothing and hair. This goes back to the author for approval before I start the final paint layers – this will give all of the detail, highlights, shadows, etc. Then we have a final round of mockups with different fonts and text treatments, and we’re close to done. I covered this in more detail here:

Thank you so much for being on the blog today Ravven! I really enjoyed chatting with you. 

Desert Warrior - Ravven

Desert Warrior – Ravven

If anyone’s looking for book covers, I can’t recommend Ravven enough. She currently has a selection of beautiful pre-designed covers that you can find here. Even if you’re not a writer looking for a cover, you can have a browse through her art portfolio here. Finally, you can find out more about Ravven’s custom book covers here.

Connect with Ravven: 


Playing with Swords and Creepy Swamps… An Interview with Lori MacLaughlin

Today I have an interview with fellow blogger Lori MacLaughlin, and we talk about her Fantasy saga Lady, Thy Name is Trouble.

The interview is part of a series of posts where I talk to writers about the interesting things they dig up during their research process. If you know of an indie writer who you’d be interested in seeing featured in this kind of interview, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do. And now, on with the interview!

Thanks for taking part and being on the blog today Lori! Could you please start by telling us a bit about your book?

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 15.32.02Thanks so much for having me here, Celine! Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble is a fantasy adventure novel with a side of romance. Main characters Tara and Laraina Triannon are sword-for-hire sisters, whose exploits are legendary. They get caught in the middle of a surprise invasion of the Dhanarran kingdom, but they manage to escape, along with Dhanarra’s playboy prince (Laraina’s current lover) and a young sorceress whose spells never work quite right.

The invading general sends his executioner, the Butcher, after them, a terrifying wolf-like assassin no one has ever escaped, to keep them from warning the neighboring kingdoms of the general’s marauding ways.

While on the run from the Butcher, they enlist the aid of Jovan Trevillion, a mysterious rogue with an agenda of his own. Sparks fly between Jovan and Tara, though she tries her best to snuff them out, having been burned badly by another handsome rogue in the past.

Many dangers and soul-searching moments test their endurance as they fight to save themselves and the neighboring kingdoms. Through it all, Tara is tormented by nightmares caused by the use of her long-hidden magic. An evil Being, caught in a centuries-old trap, seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams.

Tara must find a way to stop the marauding general’s quest for vengeance, save herself and her companions from the Butcher, and somehow prevent the evil being from destroying her mind and escaping to annihilate the world of Alltyyr.

Looking at the general research you did for Lady Thy Name is Trouble, what are the most interesting/random facts you uncovered?

Most of the research I did for this book revolved around the sword fighting and the army battles. I wanted them to be believable, but, since this is a fantasy, I didn’t want to be tied down by real time period expectations in terms of weapons and tactics. I’ve always been fascinated by swords. The most interesting fact, to me, was that most medieval swords weighed between 2.5 and 4 pounds. Even the two-handed great swords generally weighed between 5 and 8 pounds. The idea that these swords required Arnold Schwarzenegger-type strength to wield is a myth.

I also researched castle terminology to learn more about different types of castles and what the various parts were called, such as barbicans (stone buildings with towers and portcullises, used as gatehouses), battlements (the walkway along the top of a defensive wall for fighting or guard patrol), and murder holes (holes or trapdoors that allowed for attacking the area below). One thing I discovered is that the raised sections that look like teeth on top of the parapet (the low wall atop the curtain wall that protects the battlements) have their own name. They’re called merlons, and the spaces between the merlons are embrasures. Rows of alternating merlons and embrasures are called crenellations. I found it odd that an empty space had a specific name.

That’s interesting about the embrasures – it’s also a French word that means the same as in English, but it also means the empty space within a window frame or doorway (it’s still very much used nowadays.) I guess it must be a leftover from the time the Normans ruled England back in the 11th century. 

Your main character, Tara, is forever getting herself into fights and brawls, which is very entertaining! How did you go about writing the fight scenes?

I broke the scenes down into individual movements and choreographed them in my head, again, wanting to be realistic but unorthodox, too. Tara is not a classically trained sword fighter, by any means. She learned how to handle a sword from a pirate/smuggler who rarely ever followed any rules.

The best part was acting out the scenes (sort of, since I was by myself) to see if they worked and made sense. I own a few full-size swords that are meant to be decorative, but are a whole lot of fun to play with.

You and Charles Yallowitz ought to exchange notes on acting out fight scenes (he does it too!) I love that you own swords — between you and Charles, I’m feeling very inadequate with my lack of acting out fight scenes and my non owning of swords. What kind of swords do you have by the way? 

I have a few replicas of ceremonial swords belonging to historical figures, such as Sir Francis Drake and Charlemagne, a Viking dagger, and a collection of miniatures (about 12 inches long) representing swords through the ages. I used to collect them a long time ago when I had a little extra money to spend. If I ever find myself in that position again, I’d love to get some of the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings blades. They are breathtaking.

032 - Copy

Replica of Charlemagne’s sword, taken by Kari Jo Spear

025 - Copy

Replica of Sir Francis Drake’s sword, taken by Kari Jo Spear

I can understand why you’d act out your fight scenes with those swords – they’re beautiful!

Your characters travel through a rather terrifying place called the Bog, which is populated by all sorts of horrid creatures, including lots of spider (eep!) How did you go about creating such a place — did you use any real or fictional places for inspiration?

I created the creepiest place I could think of, somewhere I definitely would not want to go, and filled it with creatures I would NOT want to meet — particularly the spiders. Just writing about them gave me the willies. The Bog isn’t based on any real place, per se, but I did look at a lot of spooky swamp photos online, some of which were real, some artistically rendered.






Do you have any particular books or websites you go to for inspiration when you need to research something for a story?

One of the books I own that has been useful is The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference published by Writer’s Digest Books. I’ve also found the Lord of the Rings to be inspirational. The battle scenes from those movies are awe-inspiring. I’ve taken bits and pieces from other sword fights I’ve seen in the movies and on TV and incorporated them into my mental library of maneuvers I draw on when choreographing a scene. Things I learned in the self-defense martial arts classes I took a few years ago sometimes make their way into my stories, as well.







As far as websites go, I don’t have any particular one I go to for information. I type key words for what I need to research into a search engine and start reading. It’s absolutely amazing what you can find online.

That’s very true. Well, thank you so much for being here today Lori! 

Lady, Thy Name is Trouble, by Lori MacLaughlin

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 15.32.02

Trouble is Tara Triannon’s middle name. As swords for hire, Tara and her sister Laraina thrive on the danger. But a surprise invasion throws them into chaos… and trouble on a whole new level. Pursued by the Butcher, a terrifying assassin more wolf than man, Tara and Laraina must get a prince marked for death and a young, inept sorceress to safety. There’s only one problem – eluding the Butcher has never been done. Aided by a secretive soldier of fortune, they flee the relentless hunter.

Gifted with magic and cursed by nightmares that are all too real, Tara must stop an army led by a madman and fend off an evil Being caught in a centuries-old trap who seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams – all while keeping one step ahead of the Butcher.

Now Available at: 


Book Trailer:

About the author:

LoriLMacLaughlinLori L. MacLaughlin traces her love of fantasy adventure to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, finding The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara particularly inspirational. She’s been writing stories in her head since she was old enough to run wild through the forests on the farm on which she grew up.

She has been many things over the years – tree climber, dairy farmer, clothing salesperson, kids’ shoe fitter, retail manager, medical transcriptionist, journalist, private pilot, traveler, wife and mother, Red Sox and New York Giants fan, muscle car enthusiast and NASCAR fan, and a lover of all things Scottish and Irish.

When she’s not writing (or working), she can be found curled up somewhere dreaming up more story ideas, taking long walks in the countryside, or spending time with her kids. She lives with her family in northern Vermont.

An Interview with C.D Gallant-King

Today’s interview features C.D. Gallant-King and we talk about his book Ten Thousand Days, a modern fairytale set in a very unique fantasy world.

The interview is part of a series of posts where I talk to writers about the interesting things they dig up during their research process. If you know of an indie writer who you’d be interested in seeing featured in this kind of interview, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do!

Thanks for taking part, it’s great to have you on the blog! First, could you tell us a bit about your book?

newproject_2Ten Thousand Days is a contemporary fantasy, a “modern fairy tale” if you will about a young man named Isaac who doesn’t know how good he has it until his simple life is torn apart by losing his beautiful wife. At first it just seems like a cruel accident of the universe, but as his world falls apart Isaac discovers that perhaps it wasn’t an accident, and that there were dark forces at work against him and his love. He sets out on a quest into a strange Other World to try and get her back, meeting many weird characters and terrible villains along the way.



You created a lot of weird and wonderful creatures for your story. Which is your favourite and why? What was it inspired by? 

I don’t want to spoil too much – a lot of the fun in Ten Thousand Days is the surprise of meeting all these weird and wacky creatures and characters. But one oddball character we meet early on that turns out to be something more than he seems is the garbage man, Frank. Frank appears to just be one of those weirdos who pick through other people’s trash, looking for something worth selling or what not. You see these guys going around on garbage day and think they’re kinda creepy and sad and you assume they’re drunks or drug addicts and they have a lousy life. But I always wonder when I see these oddball people, what is their story? They must have a life outside of just picking through garbage. Who are they really?

Having the mind I do, the backstory I make up for them is usually fantastic. Maybe they’re exiles from a different world, looking for materials to build a machine to communicate with their people. Maybe they’re some kind of monster disguised in human form, and they’re looking for something to eat. Or maybe they’re a mentor, already looking out for our hero before he even knows it…

I really like that. I think it’s so easy for people to pretend those living on the fringes don’t exist, to walk past them and not even glance in their direction, so I really like that you create these cool stories for them.

I know that overall, Ten Thousand Days not a book that required much research since so much of it is fantastical, but speaking of your research in general, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve uncovered? Any cool tidbits to share with us?

The book was written in a fury, so there really wasn’t much time to research, nor as you said, much need. I made up the fantastic parts and the parts that were set in the “real” world were set in Toronto, which is city I lived in for 10 years so I used my own personal knowledge for what little background I required.

However, my next book that I’m currently in the middle of writing is also a contemporary fantasy, this time set much more firmly in “real” Toronto. This has required a lot more research on the history and details of the city, some of which I didn’t know and some of which I thought I knew but was completely wrong about. What I learned was what I suspected – that Toronto is a rich and vibrant city with just as much history and culture as major US cities like New York or Chicago.

I also learned that Canada had a Prime Minster – John Turner – who was in power for like 2 1/2 months back in 1984 that I had completely forgotten about. I was only a few years old at the time so I could be forgiven for not remembering first hand, but I think my high school history class must have completely glossed over him.

Yes, the history of Canadian Prime Ministers may have a (albeit small) part in my next book.

Wow two and a half months is short! That’s a pretty clear message that the Canadian people didn’t like him! 

When it comes to inspiration for setting or fantastic beings, what’s your go to place to get ideas from?

I would say my two biggest inspirations are music and role-playing games, like Dungeons & Dragons.

Music is hugely influential in my writing, helping me set the tone, theme and even the setting itself. The sound of a song is great for getting me in the right frame of mind to write the mood, and the lyrics often give me ideas one where to take the story. For instance, Tool and A Perfect Circle were big influences on Ten Thousand Days. They have the weird, dark, twisted sort of imagery that really helped me get in the correct headspace.

As for role-playing games, I don’t take characters and monsters from the game directly, but the idea of a hero going on a quest is identical in both games and stories. What I take away from gaming that helps my writing is the idea that weird things can and will happen, and you have to accept them and go with it to see where it takes the story. Because role-playing games are often dictated by the whim of the dice or the unpredictable actions of a group of imaginative players, sometimes unexpected curveballs will take a game in an unplanned direction. But a good game will right itself and continue on the new path. I think stories and writing should follow the same ideal. It shouldn’t be too predictable. Sometimes strange things you don’t expect should happen, and writers shouldn’t be afraid to follow those turns.

So yeah, I guess I’m telling you to go pick up a Tool CD and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Couldn’t hurt, either way.

That’s great, thank you for taking part!

Ten Thousand Days by C.D. Gallant-King

Ten_Thousand_DaysThey say love hurts and time heals all wounds.

Sometimes the reverse is true.

Isaac was very good at wasting time. Video games, a mindless job, no responsibilities – he had a simple life and few wants. Despite being hopelessly average, unassuming and kind of useless, he had somehow married the most beautiful, wonderful woman in the world.

He had no idea how good he had it – until it was all taken away.

Time does not like being wasted. It is mercurial, inexorable and carries a wicked grudge. And sometimes, just sometimes, it enjoys playing games with people’s lives. To be perfectly honest, Time is a bit of a jerk.

Isaac had never learned to appreciate what little time he had, and now he must travel to the ends of the universe and face unspeakable evils in a cat-and-mouse game with Time itself for the slim chance to win back a few fleeting seconds of happiness. The price of failure? Only the end of all existence.

Ten Thousand Days is a fairy tale set in the modern day, a fantastic journey of desperate love and horror with a twisted sense of humour. It’s a story of exactly how far a young man will go for love…

Now available at:


In honour of both Canada Day and Independence Day for readers down to the South, Ten Thousand Days is NOW ON SALE FOR JUST $0.99 (or less!). That’s 66% off the regular price, so if you’ve been considering picking it up for your Summer reading list, now’s the time to do it!


Writer, gamer, pro-wrestling aficionado. Dad.

I claim to write stories, but really I just find them in The Closet, dust them off, add a few commas and send them out into the world.

Proudly Canadian, born and raised in Newfoundland, fine-tuned and educated in Toronto and currently residing in Ottawa with a beautiful wife, two wonderful children and various furry four-legged companions.


An interview with Charles Yallowitz

Today I have my very first author interview — I’m incredibly excited! For those who missed the opinion poll, this is the first interview of a series I’m planning, talking to writers specifically about the research they do / have done to write their books.

Charles Yallowitz is my first guest, and we discuss his new short story, Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, as well as the diet of peacocks! I hope you enjoy it 🙂

Hi Charles, thank you so much for being on the blog today! So first tell us a little about your new short story. 

rsz_fullres-_300dpi_imageMy newest release is entitled Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, which is a fantasy adventure short story. The adventure focuses on Ichabod Brooks who is a man known for taking dangerous jobs to put food on the table for his family. As he says, he has to make a living and his wife doesn’t want him getting lazy in his old age. He takes a job to clear out an abandoned village that has become infested by bizarre monsters. Unfortunately, things aren’t what they seem and Ichabod finds himself working a job that he didn’t bring the best gear for.

Haha, I had to chuckle at the line about Ichabod’s wife not wanting him to get lazy! 😉 So tell me, what research did you do to write the story — could you share the most interesting fact that you discovered in your research?

With Ichabod Brooks, I did basic research on medieval weaponry and the effects of certain injuries on people. Since it’s only 27 pages and I have several longer works under my belt, I didn’t have anything really unique to delve into. At least nothing that compares to when I had to research peacocks for Legends of Windemere: Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. This was the last novel that I published and I had a scene where peacocks were part of the scenery. I took an hour to research what they ate and how good they were at flying. The most surprising thing is that I found out they eat snakes, which I had to put into the scene somewhere. Being a fantasy author, a lot of my more interesting research stems from spontaneous curiosities.

I had no idea peacocks ate snakes! I had to google this a bit further, I had no idea peacocks were so badass. As it turns out not only do peacocks eat snakes but they even like eating poisonous snakes. Peacocks will actually encourage a snake to strike out until it exhausts itself, and they then home in for the kill. They’re also quite happy muching poisonous plants — I mean really why eat regular food when you can challenge yourself by ingesting venom!?

So Charles, how do you weave the research you do into the fantasy world and story you’re creating? 

Since the biggest part of research for Ichabod was combat-related, I had to make sure I was having characters move naturally. No acrobatic leaps by dwarves or heavy lifting by the slender huntress. So I always had to stop and think about the motions of battle. This involved standing up to slowly move myself to see if I could even come close to bending center ways and sketching out a few stick figure storyboards on napkins. I wanted the fighting to seem believable even if it was against fictional creatures. An example of this is when a character is injured, which gets closer to spoiler territory here. Without going into details, I wanted this person to get hit in a certain spot. Something didn’t feel right and I did a little research to find out that it was highly likely that the wound would bleed the character to death. That wasn’t what I was going for, so I had to find another spot to use. That sounds a lot more meticulously malicious than I thought.

That’s awesome that you go as far as acting out certain aspects of a fight to see if they’re possible. I wonder how many other writers do that? Do you have any resources that you turn to when you need to do a little digging?

I own a baby naming book, an encyclopedia of magical creatures, and an encyclopedia of imaginary places to help with research. To be honest, I’ve yet to use that last book, but I got it for five dollars. These are what I use for a lot of the pre-writing research, but I do grab them if I need a monster or character name on the fly. For information like the peacock diet and medieval weapon usage, I look for YouTube videos and simply plug the question into a browser. Many times I start with Wikipedia, but I try to confirm what I read there because I don’t entirely trust it. Mostly because I have a few friends that used to enjoy messing around with the articles










Thanks for sharing that, the Dictionary of Imaginary Places in particular sounds quite interesting! And lastly, what’s your research process like when you start a new series or story? Do you start with the research as a way to inform the story and worldbuilding, or does the story guide the research you’ll have to do?

Story tends to guide the research since much of what I’m doing is being made up as I go along with the planning. At first, the only things I really look up are names and weapons. These two things tend to be the more defining parts of my characters when starting out. For example, Ichabod Brooks uses a bow, Luke Callindor (from big series) uses twin sabers, and Nyx (big series) has enough magic to level a small town. The physical appearance comes next and this is just picking coloration and unique markings. Research turns up again when I choose clothing because I have no real sense of fashion. This involves a lengthy on-line search or thumbing through magazines for inspiration. After all of that, I grab information from various places as I need it such as architecture, environments, animal habits, and even going back through my own notes. One of the ‘benefits’ of working with a non-Earth world is that I can make up a good amount of the information as I go along. All I have to do is keep it consistent.

That’s great. Thank you so much for taking part Charles, that was great! 

For anyone interested, Ichabod Brooks and the City of Beasts is now out, and you can find it on Amazon, by clicking here


In a time of heroes, a man will take any job to provide for his family.

Ichabod Brooks has earned a reputation for taking the jobs most men and women fear to challenge. This reputation has brought him to the charred remains of a small village nestled within the hills and forest of Ralian. The ruins are a source of strange monsters that terrorize the countryside and repeatedly elude the local guards and hunters. The few brave souls who have entered the creatures’ lair have yet to come out alive or dead.

The chances of survival are slim, but that generous payment is too much for Ichabod to resist. After all, a man and his family have to eat.

F is for… Funfair

*My theme for this A to Z is Childhood stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are entirely fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger*

A funfair set up on the green near our house one day, all gawdy lights and madly spinning rides. Of course, we went. I had never been to a funfair before.

The air was sweet, smelling of popcorn and candied almonds and cut grass from the green — although nothing smelled as sweet as the candyfloss I held, the first I’d ever had. It was pink, bigger than my head, and I decided there and then that candyfloss was the finest invention of all mankind (except, of course, for Petit Déjeuner.)

I left my parents and wandered around, happily sinking as much of my face as I could into that pink cloud of sugar. Around me people fired rifles at tin cans, threw balls at plastic bottles, aimed horseshoes at cones. A man juggled flaming batons to the delight of the crowd assembled around him.

Behind the dodgems, I spotted a pretty wooden caravan painted with a pattern of flowers. As I got closer I could see that the paint was chipped and faded by the sun (I know what you’re thinking but it’s true. Even the UK sun can bleach colours if given years and years to work with.)

Above the bead curtain that served as a door was a sign that read ‘Special deal today only: £3.99’. In my pocket I had a crisp £5 note, so whatever it was, I could afford it. Intrigued, I climbed up the three steps to the caravan door, pushed the beads aside, and went in.

It was gloomy and looked how I imagined a mouse’s nest would look if that mouse had turned human. A mess of clothes, scarves, bits of fabric, and strings of coloured beads sprouted from open trunks, cascading onto the floor. More beads and fabric hung from the ceiling and the walls, sharing the space with drying herbs.

The caravan smelled of old cigarettes and patchouli.

“Ah, a customer!”

The woman who had spoken was sat in one of two chairs in the only space that wasn’t overrun with beads and fabric. Her hair was long and grey, her face was heavily lined, and a cigarette with a long trail of ash drooped from her lips. She took a drag and pinched the cigarette between thumb and index finger. The ash broke off and scattered over her ankle-length skirt.

“I saw you had a special deal,” I said, trying not to stare at the ring through her right nostril. “What’s it for?”

“Sit, sit,” she said, breathing out a cloud of smoke. She gestured to the chair opposite her. A vague pattern was visible beneath the patina of grime and ash, but whatever colour it had once been was lost to the years, and the chair was now the colour of dust.

I sat and she leaned towards me with a conspirational air.

“I can cure you,” she said.

“Of what?”

“Whatever you want. And not just a temporary cure, no. I do good business. I’d cure you for life. You want to be cured of disease, of ageing? I can do that.” She sat back in her chair, looking pleased with herself. “And for £3.99, it doesn’t get better than that. Today only mind you, so no thinking about it and coming back tomorrow.”

I considered her offer. £3.99 was a lot of money after all, and if I spent it on a cure, that would only leave me a pound and a penny to buy lemon sherbets and sour worms.

“Well I’m not old and I’m not sick,” I said aloud. I’d had a cold, but that was a couple of months ago and I’d already cured myself.

“Fine. I can cure you of failure. I can cure you of bad luck.”

I shook my head. I had candyfloss in my hand and £5 in my pocket: clearly I was both lucky and successful.

“You’re a tricky one,” said the woman. “What about jealousy or heartache? I can cure you of bad grades or stupidity. I can cure you of arguments and problems with your family. I can cure you of bad friends and bad relationships. I can cure your looks, I can make you a future model.”

“I’m not sure my looks need curing,” I said, a little hesitantly.

“Well, you’re no Cindy Crawford,” she replied, squinting at me through the smoke.

I wasn’t sure who Cindy Crawford was — someone prettier than me, I guessed — but I didn’t like the idea of a new face. “No, I think I’m good.”

The woman threw herself back against the chair. “Fine. Fine. You drive a hard bargain. Ok then, I’ll cure you of whatever you want, just tell me what it is.”

I considered this, but all I could think about was the candyfloss in my hand and the sunshine outside.

“Nothing, I guess,” I said.

“You must want something cured. Everybody wants something. And for such a good price too.” She considered me with calculating eyes, scratching the hollow of one cheek with a dirty fingernail. “Money,” she said. “I can cure you of lack of money. I can cure you of poverty and make you rich.”

“I’m not poor,” I replied, thinking of my crisp five pound note. I took a mouthful of candyfloss and it dissolved on my tongue.

“I can cure you of greed,” she said, brightening. “I can cure you of your sweet tooth.”


“Yes, I can cure you of your sweet tooth,” she said, eyes gleaming. “I can make it so you never crave candyfloss again. Or sugar or cake. No fillings for you, no problems with your teeth. No diabetes, no liver troubles, no cholesterol, no obesity. A lifetime of health troubles avoided just like that.” She snapped her fingers. “And all for the bargain price of £3.99. What do you say?”

I stood up.

“You are not taking my candyfloss away,” I said stiffly. “Thank you very much.”

“You should think of the future. I can make such a difference to your life.”

“I am thinking of the future, and it will be far, far better if there is candyfloss in it. Good day.” I turned to leave.

“Ok come back little girl, I’ll figure out what to cure you off.”

I ignored her and headed out the caravan, blinking as I stepped into the sunshine. The woman shouted something else after me, but I didn’t catch what it was. I didn’t care anyway, not if she wanted to take my candyfloss away and charge me a whole £3.99 for the privilege.

I slipped into the crowd, my anger quickly replaced with happiness as I sank my face once more into my pink sugar cloud.


Disclaimer: I should say that this story is entirely fictional. I’ve never wandered a funfair alone as a child, or met a woman like that, and happily I have no fillings, I’m not obese, and I have none of the health problems the women listed, although I do still love candyfloss.

Drum Roll Please – Bound Cover Reveal

Hello everyone!

So today I’m excited to be part of the cover reveal for Bound (Bound trilogy #1), a young adult novel from the lovely Kate Sparkes over at Disregard The Prologue.

The book will be released on the 26th of June 2014, but in the mean time here’s the cover and synopsis, to whet your appetite.


Welcome to Darmid, where magic is a sin, fairy tales are contraband, and the people live in fear of the Sorcerers on the other side of the mountains.

Rowan Greenwood has everything she’s supposed to want from life— a good family, a bright future, and a proposal from a handsome and wealthy magic hunter. She knows she should be content with what she has. If only she could banish the idea that there’s more to life than marriage and children, or let go of the fascination with magic she’s been forced to suppress since childhood.

When Rowan unknowingly saves the life of one of her people’s most feared enemies, a simple act of compassion rips her from her sheltered life and throws her into a world of magic that’s more beautiful, more seductive, and more dangerous than she ever could have imagined.

Now Rowan might just get everything she ever dreamed of— that is, if the one thing she’s always wanted doesn’t kill her, first.

About the author:

sparkes profileKate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with a Mountie, two kids who take turns playing Jeckyll and Hyde, three cats with more personality than most people she meets, and the saddest-looking dog on the planet. Her first novel, Bound, will be released in June 2014, assuming the dragons don’t eat her, first.

You can find her at her blog, over on Twitter (@kate_sparkes), Facebook and Goodreads.

The cover art is by Ravven