Book Spotlight: Sanyare: The Heir Apparent (The Sanyare Chronicles Book 2) by Megan Haskell


Limited Time Launch Week Price Just $0.99 on Amazon!

Her secret is unraveling. One dangerous quest could end it all…

Rie thought she was an ordinary human. After she’s named heir to Sanyaro, the truthseeker and mediator of the nine faerie realms, life becomes a lot more complicated. As she struggles to control her magics, Rie nearly falls prey to a brutal assassination attempt during a public ceremony.

Blamed for the chaos, Rie’s escort, Prince Daenor, is taken prisoner. While Sanyaro tempers the political flames, Rie must once again chase after the truth. As if the threat of another great war and the impending death of her lover weren’t enough, Rie uncovers a dark secret that threatens to crack the very foundations of the faerie realms. When allies fall, can Rie overcome the odds… and the opposition?

Sanyare: The Heir Apparent is a captivating dark fantasy adventure novel. If you enjoy thrilling adventures across nine unique realms filled with wise-cracking carnivorous pixies, then you’ll love the second installment of The Sanyare Chronicles from Megan Haskell.


About Author:

Legend has it, I was born with a book in my hands. When I was a kid, my mom was forced to ground me from reading or I wouldn’t do my chores. To this day, I can readily ignore the real world in favor of the imaginary one lurking between the pages of my current addiction. My dad — also an avid reader — introduced me to Tolkien in my late elementary years, and I never looked back. I love escaping to worlds where magic and monsters are real, especially stories with kick-butt heroines and dangerously attractive heroes.

Despite my voracious book appetite, I didn’t start creative writing until I was working as a number cruncher in a big accounting firm. With an hour plus commute by train every day, and a demanding left-brain occupation, I needed a mobile creative outlet. A pen and paper are about as mobile as it gets! As the pages began to fill, I quickly moved onto a tiny laptop, and a writer was born. Now I get to create my own fantasies!

I currently live in Southern California with my wonderfully supportive husband, two daughters, and a ridiculously energetic dog.

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

Author Website

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Mirta Ines Trupp

mirta-ines-trupp-profile-picI’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Mirta Ines Trupp to Layered Pages today. She is here to talk with me about her book, Becoming Malka.

Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with “un pie acá, y un pie allá” (with one foot here and one foot there). Mirta’s self-proclaimed life’s career has been raising a family and creating a home, alongside her husband of over thirty years. She returned to the world of the gainfully employed late in life; currently in a position which doesn’t require one iota of dramatic flair – just common sense, organization and attention to detail. Rather than being self-deprecating, Mirta lightheartedly concedes that her paper pushing makes a number of people happy, as that bureaucratic busywork ensures that payroll is met and invoices are processed. Besides being an avid novel reader and a devoted Beatles fan, Mirta most enjoys singing choral music and researching family genealogy.

Hi, Mirta! Thank you for chatting with me today about your book, Becoming Malka and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion! Please tell me about your story.

Thank you for inviting me. I am delighted to participate in this interview and am excited to answer your questions! Becoming Malka is a Historical Fiction/ Fantasy. In pursuit of her master’s degree in Imperial Russian history, we find 24 year-old Molly Abramovitz heading to Moscow for a week-long seminar. Never one to miss an opportunity for genealogical research- being methodical and meticulous- she plans a side trip to Ukraine. Molly’s trek to her ancestral home leads to the discovery of a mythical tarot card which transports her to the chaotic year of 1900. She finds herself in her great, great-grandmother’s presence. Surrounded by the history and culture she has studied her entire life and knowing, full well, the fate that awaits her ancestors, Molly is faced with a dilemma of extraordinary proportions.

becoming-malka-bragHow did you decide on the setting for your and what is the period your story is written in?

Being rather a newbie at this scribbling business, I tend to stick to what I know. I have plenty of material in my family background, being a descendant of Russian immigrants and having been born in Argentina therefore; choosing a setting was a no-brainer! The story begins in modern times, in California 2015 to be exact, and we end up in Ukraine just prior to the Russian Revolution.

Please tell me about Molly Abramovitz and her strengths and weaknesses.

Molly is a brilliant young woman, loving and family- oriented, but she is a bit of a control freak. She favor’s her father’s obsession with facts and spreadsheets and looks upon her mother’s love of all things spiritual and esoteric with more than just a bit of skepticism. She is loyal and determined, with a strong sense of right and wrong. Her weakness stems from fear, which unquestionably is the motivating factor behind her need for control. And while she can see heroic or noble characteristics in others, Molly is unable to recognize her own inherent value. She’s afraid that she doesn’t measure up!

What was the inspiration for your story?

I was inspired to write the book I wanted to read! Does that make sense? Here I was, an avid fan of Period Drama and all things Judaic, but I couldn’t find anything to satisfy my cravings for a fusion of these two worlds. There are a few “mash ups” out there- if you look hard enough- but I found most of them to be filled with stereotypical characterizations of the Jewish community. When I did find something of merit, the material was intense, heavy reading… Daniel Deronda comes to mind as a good example. There is a wealth of dark Fiction and Nonfiction that speaks to the atrocity of anti-Semitism throughout the ages, but I was inspired to shine the light on a period of time just prior to the Russian Revolution and to bring attention to the heroic steps taken by Baron Maurice Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association. Rather than being a tragic narrative, I depict an upper, middle class, Jewish community in the 19th century. My favorite reads- my period dramas- speak of the landed gentry, aristocrats and high society; I was inspired to create educated, successful, philanthropic, characters. The Brodskys- the famed Sugar Kings of the South-were a prime example and I based the Abramovitz family on their history. This fictional ‘meshpucha’ (Yiddish for family) lived among the upper echelon and I was excited to bring them to life! I wanted to write about Jewish ladies, fashionably dressed, taking tea in the drawing room of a well-appointed estate. I wanted to present a cultured, well-established family living “Jewishly” in Mother Russia. And of course, I wanted to write about their emigration to the “New Jerusalem” in Argentina, as it speaks to the courage of my own ancestors and countless others who risked everything for the sake of future generations. I added the fantasy element, with the discovery of a mythical tarot card and some discussion of Jewish mysticism, to add another dimension to the story. Who wouldn’t want to travel back in time to meet their ancestors? I know I would! Becoming Malka is a light, entertaining read, but it is not lightweight, by any means. The actual idea for the story came to me in a dream- in a feverish dream! I left work early one day feeling a bit sluggish- dreading the sensation of an oncoming cold. I headed for home and went straight to bed, but as I closed my eyes, the name Malka came to mind. When I awoke, I had the entire concept for the book. As I sketched out the storyline, I incorporated elements of history and genealogy, subjects of great interest to me. As I mentioned previously, I am the granddaughter of Jewish Russian immigrants, so I was greatly inspired to create an enchanting story that incorporated some of their background.

What are some of the emotional triggers for Molly and how does she act on them?

Our dear Molly, with all her education and comfortable home life, suffers from insecurity. Her fear of instability causes her to over plan and strategies. Unlike Queen Elsa, she can’t “let it go!” Being the daughter of immigrants, she is torn by the separation of her extended family and it causes her to question her parents’ decisions, as well as her own. Molly is at times, quick to judge. She needs an explanation for everything; she likes things neatly squared away- wrapped up nicely with a bow, if you please.

What is the mood or tone your characters portray and how does this affect the story?

I hope that I’ve created several interesting and diverse characters; each one bringing their own individual gifts and talents to the story. Bobe Malka, the matriarch, is the epitome of elegance, wisdom. I hope she imparts a sense of constancy and respectability. Her son, Abraham provides some tension: he fears change and clings to the old ways. Josef, Molly’s great grandfather, is full of energy, ready to take on the world and claim his stake in the future. The youngest daughter, Leah, reminded me of Lydia Bennett at times. With lighthearted, teenage humor, Leah throws caution to the wind, and yet, there is a glimpse of the woman she is to become. Molly, although unquestionably knowledgeable and responsible, is the ingénue. Call her a late bloomer; it is her coming of age story. David, young, yet brave, is ready to believe his grandmother when she says that inexplicable is not the same as unexplainable. He represents that part of us that wants to believe in miracles- that senses we don’t need to understand everything. “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Citing Albert Einstein isn’t necessarily in keeping with this Indie-author, but while researching the topic of time travel and the introduction of a mythical tarot card, I found this quote quite set the tone for the narrative.

How much time did you spend writing this story and what was your process?

As much as I would have loved to dedicate myself to writing, I am a wife, a mom and a full-time employee. I’m not quite sure how I managed; I jotted down notes throughout the day and eventually would find time in the evenings and on weekends to settle down and write. In between the mundane and humdrum, I allowed the thoughts that I had been collecting to somehow spill out on paper…or rather, on my P.C. I began with a rough draft and a sketchy outline. I named the entire family and provided birthdates for each one before I wrote the first paragraph. I had to get the genealogy just right! I spent some time researching facts on fashion, architecture, and notable Jewish community leaders of the era. In addition, I explored the fascinating world of Jewish mysticism, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and even discovered an amazing story about “barajas”- playing cards used by Jews hiding from the Inquisition. All in all, the writing took close to a year to complete… then of course, came the “fun” part: Editing.

Where can readers buy your book?

Becoming Malka is available in both paperback and EBook formats on Amazon. My first book, With Love, The Argentina Family~ Memories of Tango and Kugel; Mate with Knishes can also be purchased via this website.

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

The inspiration for both my books actually stem from the same base. I wanted to honor my family- this sturdy, loving, enduring stock made up of Jewish values, Russian ancestry, and Argentine culture. As an immigrant, having the good fortune of growing up in the United States of America, I wanted to honor the sense of history, pride and gratitude, as well.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?

I’ve written a Creative Non-Fiction and a Historical Fiction/Fantasy. Both books speak to Argentine and Russian history, Jewish culture and mysticism. Some people might think that a book about a particular culture or faith would only attract a specific group. But on a deeper level, of course, we are all human beings; we can relate to various universal themes such as tradition, assimilation, acceptance and personal growth. When readers can see beyond the label and see themselves, that’s when the author has truly accomplished something of worth. Once you peel away the labels, whether they are self-inflicted or imposed by society, you end up with the human experience and that makes for interesting reading. And it follows, that the most rewarding aspect of writing for me, is making that connection with others.

How often do you write and is there a particular time during the day your best ideas come to you?

It is my long term goal to write away the hours, but for now- and until I retire-I am a full time employee. During the day, I manage to scribble a few lines here and there during breaks and my lunch hour. I usually keep paper and pen on hand for when I am inspired and suddenly come up with a great line. I was caught unprepared once while traveling on a plane. I had an urge to write a thought- a conversation between two characters- but I didn’t have my tablet or even a scrap of paper. Tired of waiting for the overwrought flight attendant, I reached into the back pocket of the seat directly in front of me and pulled out the handy-dandy airsick bag and wrote an entire scene on the slick cardboard. It just goes to show, if you really want to write, you will find the time! Night time is the best, actually…the house is quiet.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m playing with the idea of a sequel to Becoming Malka. Many readers have expressed an interest in finding out what happened to Malka and the family, so unless I experience another inspirational “fever,” I have some work cut out for me!

I enjoyed our talk very much, Mirta! Please visit with me again sometime.

Author Links:




A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Mirta Ines Trupp who is the author of, Becoming Malka, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Becoming Malka, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 indiebrag team member




Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree G.J. Reilly

Garrith OReilly BRAG II’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree G.J. Reilly to Layered Pages! By day, G. J. Reilly is a teacher of (mostly) ICT and Computing in the South Wales valleys, where he lives with his long-suffering wife and 2.4 cats. 

He has an eclectic selection of hobbies, from playing a number of musical instruments with varying degrees of competence to learning the art of contact juggling and teaching sword-based martial arts. Having gained his degree, he spent ten years working in industry, before deciding to change career and head into education.

With an interest in high fantasy, contemporary fantasy and science fiction from a young age, it comes as no surprise that his first work falls into the young adult contemporary fantasy genre.

Hello, G.J.! Welcome back to Layered Pages. It is a delight to be chatting with you again and congrats on another B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell your audience how you discovered indieBRAG and self-publishing in general.

Hi Stephanie and thanks very much for having me again, it’s great to be back.

I decided to follow the self-publishing route mainly because I was completely new to the industry. I’ve been writing on and off since I was young, but ‘Inquisitor’ was the very first full-length manuscript I’d ever produced. When a friend got in touch to tell me that there was an exciting open submission opportunity a few years back, I jumped the gun a little and sent it out unpolished and unrefined. What really surprised me was how long it went un-rejected! Of course, with the huge number other submissions, I finally received my very first ‘no’ and was surprised to find that it was incredibly polite and sincere. That’s when I discovered the indie writing community. But until I joined the Goodreads Kindle User Forum in early 2015, I had no idea how vast that community was. Well, one thing led to another and I soon noticed indieBRAG’s name on my screen time and again.

After looking at the quality of work submitted by other honorees at the time, I didn’t think that ‘Inquisitor’ would stand a chance of being accepted, so I put it out of my mind. Then, sometime during that summer, another writer friend brought indieBRAG up in conversation again and persuaded me to send my details. So I did. Then I forgot all about it again, so that I wouldn’t be too disappointed when it was rejected.

Well, I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone who’s received that confirmation from Geri how it feels! Now I visit the site every day just to marvel at the company I’m keeping and to check out the blog and read the interviews.

Piper_altTell me about your story, Piper.

‘Piper’ continues the Book of Jerrick story two years from the end of part one. Now a Grand Inquisitor in training (under the watchful eye of the ever-present Mr Catchpole), Tamara learns that Michael is alive and begins to form a plan on how to rescue him from the clutches of the Elder Council.

Meanwhile, having fled from their home at the old Masonic temple, Michael, Anna, and their friends learn that the Flayers – grim, half-dead shadows that lurk in the world between the mirror portals – have been growing in number and that the Piper of legend has returned to settle a score with an old enemy.

When Jerrick is forced to take refuge, things inevitably take a turn for the worst. In his absence, the more militant elders of the Council decide that the time is right to break with their passive traditions and take the war to the Inquisition. Having been ordered to guide a team of would-be assassins back to the academy, events take an even darker turn for Michael, as a heart-wrenching mission becomes a battle for survival.

Please tell me about the new Grand Inquisitor and what is the mood or tone he/she makes and how does this affect the story?

Although Tamara Bloodgood is the new Grand Inquisitor, she is very much the puppet monarch of the Inquisition in Britain until she’s eligible to take up her reign at 16.  In spite of the fact that Tamara’s story seems to take more of a backseat in ‘Piper’, she’s perhaps more important than Michael to the tone of the story.

Tamara’s decisions impact the story from the very first page, bringing the Inquisition closer to open conflict with the Council than we’ve ever seen them. Her intentions are absolutely clear and she even goes as far as brokering a deal with the Piper to achieve her goals. Even when she discovers the truth, Tamara’s still intent on the destruction of the Council once she’s rescued Michael from his ‘captors’.

‘Piper’ takes a very much darker, broodier tone than ‘Inquisitor’, but it’s not all Tamara’s fault. It was intended to reflect the changing moods most of us experience during our teenage years. But I didn’t want it to be the angst-ridden melodrama of some other coming of age stories either. Michael’s rite of passage comes in a single incident, where we can tell the kind of person he’ll be later on, but Tamara’s is drawn out for almost the entire length of the book.

Her attempts to break out from under Catchpole’s shadow only serve to draw unwanted attention from some important people. In a way, her drive to succeed forces the magister’s hand towards the end of the book and leads us into the next part of the story. For me, that’s where the most dramatic change happens. I don’t want to reveal the ending, but I wanted there to be an icy feeling to it that reflects what happens to Tamara. Hopefully, readers will feel the full impact of that change in the next book.

Who is Jerrick and what are his motivations?

Simply, Jerrick is the genie of the lamp. His story is a mishmash of the original ‘nights’ legend and the story of Solomon and the Djin (with a few embellishments). Unfortunately, because of the nature of his imprisonment, he decided long before the beginning of the series that he couldn’t lead the Elder Council any longer and now only serves as an advisor.

His motives for everything from the time we first meet him at the end of ‘Inquisitor’ are driven by guilt. To a certain extent, he was responsible for the beginning of the war and for the creation of the Inquisition. When we next meet him, we learn about his part in the Pied Piper’s tale and why he carries a share of the burden for the missing children of Hamelin.

‘Piper’ reveals a little more of Jerrick’s past, and of how a once compassionate idealist becomes the vengeful trickster of many folktales. He’s is a paradox in that his actions seem to be for the good of the Council and for the people he cares for, but his motivation is his own redemption for past mistakes.

Please share with me something suspenseful in your story.

I’d love to, but rather than hearing about from me, here it is:

“ Michael closed his eyes again, centering on the Inquisitor closest to him. Extending his will, he let it wander until it met the warrior’s defences, feeling an unpleasant tingling in his brain as he came into contact with the barrier. Tracing the line of the wall upwards until the tingling subsided, Michael pushed his mind over the top until he came into contact with the barrier’s caster. The Inquisitor’s head snapped upwards immediately. The sickening renewed tingling broke Michael’s concentration.

Okay, he thought. I can’t attack, but perhaps I can disarm.

Just as he had done time and again, Michael began to draw on his target’s power. He willed it upwards until the ribbon of energy arched over the Inquisitor’s shield and wound towards him. Risking a glance, he was elated to see that his attack had gone unnoticed. He stopped, knowing her suspicions would be raised if she suddenly ran out of power.

Is it possible to do more than one at a time? Michael wondered.

Stretching out again, he began with the woman and spread his attention to the next Inquisitor in the circle. As both streamers rose, Michael felt a noticeable difference in the ease of his endeavour, but it was still manageable, so he moved on to a third. The tricolour of energy felt like a sack of wet sand on Michael’s mind, and when it reached him, the squirming of it made him blanch. His stomach felt like he’d eaten an eight-course meal, and his head spun from the effort of moving so much weight so far.

It’s just like the trials, he reassured himself. If I can move an anvil, I can do this. What did Rupert say: “let’s kick some serious booty,”?

This time, he took a deep breath and let his shoulders drop. Watching through closed eyelids, he drew on the nearest Inquisitor once more, splitting his attentions in both directions. The weight of it was much easier to bear as he directed the ribbons to a space above the centre of the circle and held it there. Extending his will to the next in line, Michael felt a jolt of pressure as he watched the fresh colours mingle with the others.

By the time he had completed the circle, his shoulders were shaking and sweat poured down his face.  He groaned with effort, trying to control the ball of energies that hung in the air above the Inquisitors. Unlike the dull, cold iron of the anvil, the ball felt white hot in Michael’s head, as though he were trying to lasso the sun. It struggled against him, wriggling and twisting in Michael’s mental grasp. At last, he cried out in anguish, shuddering with pain as he let it go.”

(From ‘Piper; The Book of Jerrick – Part 2’; by G. J. Reilly)

What are the mirror portals?

Mirrors have been used in stories for as long as there have been fairy tales; either to see over great distances, tell the future or, most famously, to fuel the jealous rage of wicked queens. But as well as for spying, I use them as doorways that magically interconnect like a vast subway system. The rules for using them are a little complicated, but I hope they’re as realistic as they could be under the circumstances. For example, people can only travel between mirrors they can fit through, so your average car rear-view would be great for putting a hand through to steal something, but no good for travelling from London to Paris. Only highly reflective surfaces can be used for travelling; shop windows are good for spying, but not reflective enough to support a stable connection over long distances. Most importantly, however, the heavier the weight travelling between two destinations, the further apart the portals become, making solo travel almost instant, but group travel a much longer journey.

Will there be another book for this story?

Yes, two in fact: The Cull; The Book of Jerrick Part 3, and the final chapter (no official name as yet). I have outlines for character stories in this universe as well – one for Catchpole and one for Jerrick so far, but I’m planning on a well-earned break in another world before I put pen to paper on those.

Where can readers buy your book?

Readers in the UK, you can get both parts at: Amazon

Readers in the US can visit:

Or visit any of the other Amazon stores supporting Kindle worldwide.

Thank you, G. J.!

You’re very welcome, it’s been a pleasure!

Be sure to check out G.J. Reilly’s B.R.A.G. Interview for his book, The Book of Jerrick-Part I here

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to G.J. Reilly who is the author of, Piper, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Piper, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag team member

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Megan Haskell

Megan Haskell BRAG

Megan Haskell

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Megan Haskell today to talk with me about her award winning book, Sanyare: The Last Descendant.

Hello, Megan! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion! That is wonderful news! How did you discover indiebrag?  

To be honest, I don’t remember! I know that’s kind of terrible to say, but I think I saw the name pop up a few different places back in January, and I looked into nominating SANYARE: THE LAST DESCENDANT for the medallion. Unfortunately, at the time, indieBRAG wasn’t accepting new submissions, so I signed up for the email list to be notified when they reopened. As soon as they did, I submitted, and here we are!

Please tell me about your story, Sanyare: The Last Descendant.

SANYARE: THE LAST DESCENDANT is a dark fantasy coming-of-age adventure about a woman raised by elves in a realm where humans are treated like slaves. After decades of hard work and intense training, Rie has finally earned a post in the High Court messenger service. Still scorned by the high elves who rely on her loyalty, Rie’s closest allies are the fierce carnivorous pixies who travel with her on every mission.

When she’s attacked on a routine delivery by assassins from the enemy Shadow Realm, Rie’s combat training keeps her alive…and frames her as a traitor. Knowing her king will execute her for even the appearance of treason, Rie is forced to forsake her oaths and flee into enemy lands to prove her innocence. With surprising help from a bastard prince and an ambitious blood sidhe, Rie searches for the truth behind the attack. The secrets she uncovers may threaten more than her honor or even her life…for war is looming in the nine faerie realms.

Who are you three top antagonists and please tell me a little about them.

First, there’s Othin, King of the High Court in the upper realm of the fae. He’s a high elf, the leader of what’s known as the glittering throng. It’s his edict that would have Rie executed for having contact with an individual from the enemy shadow realm. Her only choice is to flee her home and everything she knows to travel across enemy lines and find out who was behind the attack. If she can prove her innocence, she just might be able to convince the king to let her live.

The other antagonists…well, they’re a bit of a surprise. I don’t want to ruin anything, so I’ll just say that there is more at stake than just Rie’s life, and the players involved come from all walks of life.


How are your characters influenced by their setting?

In the universe of The Sanyare Chronicles, there are nine realms, each with a unique culture and climate. As Rie travels, she has to adapt to each region and try to blend with the people that live there.

The story begins on modern day earth, and Rie is wearing human clothing. She starts out walking down a beach in jeans and a tank, actually. She’s fairly comfortable in the human realm, because she’s traveled there several times and was trained to move unnoticed through the city.

But when she travels to the shadow realm, she is completely out of place. She doesn’t understand the culture, and doesn’t know how to interact with the people. In fact, throughout her training, the high court promoted an idea that the shadow realm was essentially evil. A huge part of her character development comes through learning about the city and its customs, and realigning her misperceptions to reality.

Describe the High Court.

The high court is all glittering gold, white marble, and reflective mirrors. The light in the realm is soft and shimmery, everything seems to glisten and shine. But it’s also cold and hard, with very little to comfort or cushion — no rugs on the floors, no tapestries on the walls, just stone and intricate gilded wood. King Othin doesn’t like anything to obscure the perfection of his court.

Will you please share an excerpt?

Absolutely! This scene comes from Chapter 1, so no spoilers here…


Two men stood on the beach, directly in her path.  Still at least fifty yards away, they seemed out of place without the surfboards or exercise attire of the usual early morning crowd.  Rie paused, assessing.  The blond one crouched, taking something out of a bag in the sand.  He flipped it once, a shard of light glinting into Rie’s eyes.  The throbbing in her brain burst in white-hot light, leaving her blind to the real world as she entered a vision.


The blond man stands, facing her.  He pulls his arm back, a knife whistles toward her.  Blood streams from her belly, her shirt soaked in seconds, the sand absorbing the overflow.  The sky is all she sees, expansive gray-blue dotted with thin wispy clouds.  A small hand taps her face.  Niinka’s wide black eyes float into view. Then darkness.


Rie gasped, coming out of the premonition.  The blond man rose from his crouch, facing her.  His arm pulled back.

Sending her thanks to the gods for the warning, Rie spun left as a knife passed through the air where she had stood.  Dropping into a crouch, she scuttled behind a large rocky outcropping, just as another knife hit the sand at her feet.  She picked it up, testing the weight as adrenaline surged and her heart rate sped. Fear twisted a knot of dread in her gut.

Curuthannor’s training kicked in. This might be her first life or death fight, but he had prepared her well. She took a cleansing breath, washed away the fear and replaced it with determination. The pixies let go of their hiding spots, chattering in the clicks and whistles of their native tongue.  Rie ignored them, focusing instead on her surroundings, and her options.  Stairs wound up the cliff to her left, heading toward the street above, but a hundred feet of open space stretched between her rock and the first step.  No matter how fast she moved, she’d be an easy target.  If she ran back toward the arch, she’d be similarly open to attack.

Rie grabbed a handful of sand with her left hand, while her right hand reached behind and traded the unfamiliar throwing knife for one of two eight-inch khukuri blades in the horizontal sheath at her lower back.

“What are they doing?” she asked Hiinto.

The little pixie crawled atop the rock, his translucent wings pulled back and naked skin camouflaged to match the color and texture of the sandstone. “They’ve split up, one on each side.  They’re creeping along now, not sure what you’re doing, I think.  What are you doing?”

“Which one is closer?”

“The one near the cliffs.”

“How close?”

“Fifty feet, coming closer.”

“Are you two hungry?”

Hiinto grinned, revealing a mouth full of sharp, serrated teeth, while Niinka rubbed her hands together. “Humans taste almost as good as the elves and greater fae,” she whispered.

“Wait until they are close.  I will deal with the cliff-side man. You two take a bite out of the one on the ocean-side.”

“Yum.”  Hiinto licked his lips.

What inspired you to write a dark fantasy adventure?

Honestly, it’s what I like to read. I’ve been reading fantasy fiction for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always been attracted to stories with high stakes, lots of action, and yes, quite a bit of blood and gore. So I wrote the story I wanted to read!

How did you come up with your title?

Sanyare is a job title, like queen or president or CEO. It means truthseeker in elvish, and the truthseeker is the mediator of the nine realms, a position of great power and respect. I loved the word, and I really wanted to use it in the book title, but I also knew that since most people (including me) don’t speak elvish, it wouldn’t mean anything out of context of the book.

So I started coming up with alternative book titles. I made this huge long list, and then I started asking people what they thought. At some point, someone suggested combining Sanyare with one of the other titles. It was an “ah-ha” moment. So now I have SANYARE: THE LAST DESCENDANT, and the sequel will be titled SANYARE: THE HEIR APPARENT!

Who designed your book cover? I LOVE it!

Thank you!! Nicole at Cover Shot Creations designed my cover. I did a lot of research into the covers I liked and why, and then I found about five different designers that I thought could produce the kind of cover I wanted. Of them all, I felt like Nicole was the best fit, both for design aesthetic, and price.

How long did it take for you to write your story and where in your home do you like to write?

 Including world-building, research, outlining, drafting, editing, and ultimately publishing, it took me two and a half years to produce SANYARE: THE LAST DESCENDANT. The sequel is moving a little faster, and by the time I’m ready to publish, it should be about a year and a half. I’m hoping the third book moves even faster!

I’m a stay-at-home-mom, so writing time fits in during naps, after bedtime, or whenever the girls are otherwise occupied and contained, like snack time. So I have to be flexible in where and how I work. Right now I’m sitting at the kitchen island, typing into a portable Bluetooth keyboard connected to my iPad. But mostly, I work on a laptop wherever I can find space and be comfortable. The couch is often a good choice. Kitchen table is another.

Where can readers buy your book?

I actually just signed up for KDP Select, which means SANYARE: THE LAST DESCENDANT is only available in eBook on Amazon, but it’s a part of the Kindle Unlimited program, so you can read for free if you’re a subscriber! The print book is also available on Createspace and Barnes & Noble.

About Author:

Legend has it, I was born with a book in my hands. When I was a kid, my mom would ground me from reading in order to get me to do my chores. To this day, I can readily ignore the real world in favor of the imaginary one lurking between the pages of my current addiction. My dad — also an avid reader — introduced me to Tolkien in my late elementary years, and I never looked back. I love escaping to worlds where magic and monsters are real, especially stories with kick-butt heroines and dangerously attractive heroes. 

Despite my voracious book appetite, I didn’t start creative writing until I was working as a number cruncher in a big accounting firm. With an hour plus commute by train every day, and a demanding left-brain occupation, I needed a mobile creative outlet. A pen and paper are about as mobile as it gets! As the pages began to fill, I quickly moved onto a tiny laptop, and a writer was born. Now I get to create my own fantasies!

I currently live in Southern California with my wonderfully supportive husband, two daughters, and a ridiculously energetic dog.

Social Links:



Twitter: @meganphaskell


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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree G.J. Reilly

Garrith OReilly BRAG I

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree G.J. Reilly to Layered Pages! By day, G. J. is a teacher of (mostly) ICT and Computing in the South Wales valleys, where he lives with his long-suffering wife and 2.4 cats. 

He has an eclectic selection of hobbies, from playing a number of musical instruments with varying degrees of competence to learning the art of contact juggling and teaching sword-based martial arts. Having gained his degree, he spent ten years working in industry, before deciding to change career and head into education.

With an interest in high fantasy, contemporary fantasy and science fiction from a young age, it comes as no surprise that his first work falls into the young adult contemporary fantasy genre.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

Before I answer that, I have to say that I count my lucky stars every day that I did!

I’ve been writing seriously since 2009, but I’ve only really discovered the indie writing community in the last twelve months. When I joined the Goodreads Kindle User Forum in early 2015, I had no idea how vast that community was, but one thing led to another and I soon noticed indieBRAG’s name on my screen time and again.

After looking at the quality of work submitted by other honorees at the time, I didn’t think that ‘Inquisitor’ would stand a chance of being accepted, so I put it out of my mind. Then, sometime during that summer, another writer friend brought indieBRAG up in conversation again and persuaded me to send my details. So I did. Then I forgot all about it again, so that I wouldn’t be too disappointed when my little book was rejected.

Well, I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone who’s received that confirmation from Geri how it feels! Now I visit the site every day just to marvel at the company I’m keeping and to check out the blog and read the interviews.

Please tell me about your book, Inquisitor; The Book of Jerrick – Part 1

‘Inquisitor’ is a contemporary fantasy novel for Young Adults that centres on an ongoing war between two ancient factions.

The night that Michael Ware is born, his uncle is murdered, leaving him a locked leather book that has been fought over for centuries. In the weeks following his uncle’s funeral, the opening of the thirtieth Braxton Academy is announced. To everyone’s astonishment, they say that they are going to offer scholarship places to any pupil able to pass the entrance examination. Unknown to the general public; the academy is a front for a society of powerful psychics known as the Inquisition, who are replenishing their ranks for their campaign against the nomadic sorcerers of the Elder Council. And Michael soon discovers that the truth depends on your point of view and that comfort and opulence come at a heavy price.

Set in and around an alternative, modern day London, ‘Inquisitor’ draws on inspiration from One Thousand and One Nights and Grimm’s Fairytales but isn’t a direct retelling of any of our old favourites. Instead, as a reader, you’ll be immersed totally familiar, yet with some fantastic differences and unexpected twists.

‘Inquisitor’ is a book that I hope readers of all ages can enjoy as a bedtime story or something to take your mind off a tedious train ride to work although it does have a good subtext for people who like to read between the lines. Each book in the series is a snapshot of the lives of the main characters as they live through an ongoing war.

Without giving too much away, the main theme of this first book is deceit. I’m not talking about little white lies; I’m talking about the whopping great lies that fester and, hopefully, readers will enjoy trying to decide who they’re rooting for before the end of this adventure. I want them to feel the indecision that Michael has to live with. Most of all, I want their loyalties to waver from one book to the next.


How did you come up with the title for your book?

I was looking for a title that summed up the mystery of the story in one word. Inquisitor – for me, it’s a word that has a lot of superstition surrounding it and an almost mythological quality that people still recognize (even if they only associate it with a famous Monty Python sketch that nobody expects).

It also conjures an image in the mind of what an inquisitor should look like. Think about it – what image comes to mind when someone says ‘Nurse’, or ‘Bishop’, or ‘Undertaker’? Given the plot, it might have seemed blatantly obvious to have chosen that particular word for the title, but I must have gone through a list of twenty others before I made the final selection.

Who designed your book cover?

I did. Those hands around that big ball of fire … they’re my hands, wedding band and all. Actually, the photograph was taken by my wife (don’t worry, she gets royalties). I’d been trying all day to get into the right pose during the 5 seconds the camera was counting down. 60 seconds in Bec’s hands and I had the perfect shot! Then it took a lot of hours of online tutorials and a great deal of patience with a well-known photo editing suite to get it looking the way I wanted it to.

Tell me about Michael Ware and how you developed his character.

When we meet Michael the most he has to worry about is how he’ll survive the move to his new school. He’s of that age when everything is full of wonder and the horrors of life aren’t something he should be thinking about, but often does.

Since I’ve been teaching, I’ve heard conversations that would raise a lot of eyebrows in many circles. Young adults aren’t just talking about football (both kinds), games and relationships. They’re talking about politics, pregnancy, marriage, education, economy and immigration. They might not entirely understand those issues, but they’re giving them some serious thought. One or two reviews have mentioned that Michael and his friends seem older than the age I’ve put them at, and it’s true to a certain extent. But I wanted to give them the credit that the people I teach often don’t receive.

I didn’t want ‘Inquisitor’ to be a rags-to-riches story, so I made the Wares a middle-class family. To be fair, most of the young people I teach now come from the same kinds of families, with a few exceptions up or down the ladder. I was also definite that I wanted Michael’s family to be alive and as loving as any other. I think it makes him more relatable, especially considering what he’s going to go through in the future. But above all, I wanted him to be the average person, even after his talents are discovered because I find overtly brave or sensitive characters unrealistic.

During his character development, I tried to give Michael an emotional range that would make him an accessible character for both male and female readers.  In one scene, we see him break down on Tamara’s shoulder after a heated argument with his best friend. In another, he’s about to profess his love but is stopped before he can. A lot of adult readers will read that last passage in particular and feel that those emotions are too advanced for a twelve-year-old, but young adults are more open about their feelings now than they were when we were their age (with each other at any rate).

Unlike your average teenagers, however, Michael and his friends will have adulthood and responsibility thrust upon them, and their later development will depend on just how vindictive I’m feeling at the time.

Can you tell me a little about how your characters are influenced by their setting?

Certainly. Day to day, Michael, Tamara and their friends are surrounded by wealth and power but are treated very much as outcasts by the rest of the school. Even the staff of other houses at the school look down on Solaris, mainly because the Braxton Foundation pays for the education of all of Solaris’s members. Even Rupert, who comes from a very wealthy family, is bullied for being a Solaris student.

Michael’s personality changes quite dramatically from location to location in the book, but it also depends on the company he’s keeping at the time. At home, he’s as relaxed as you’d expect him to be. He even takes the book out to his best friend’s house in his backpack – something he wouldn’t dare do at school. He’s very secretive about what goes on at the academy, however, but mostly because he and Tamara have agreed that knowledge of the Inquisition could have dire consequences for their families. And you have to wonder whether it’s something they’ve been taught at school, or whether it’s a conclusion they’ve drawn on their own.

Most of us indulge in our need for melodrama from time to time, especially when we’re caught up in the moment. Young people have a knack for seeing wonder around every corner, so I didn’t need to make the academy buildings as special as, say, another recently well-known school for gifted children. We also need to remember that they’re not gifted until they reach the academy. So, instead of the immediate wonder of … the other place, I gave them every luxury. Hopefully, it reinforces the sense of obligation that Solaris’s students feel towards the Inquisition. ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’, as they say.

In the Peer Court scene, we get the impression that duty and honour are highly prized at that academy. After all, it’s Michael’s sense of duty that lands him there in the first place, or perhaps it’s the other student’s attitudes towards Michael and his friends that encourage them to look out for each other so fiercely. In the end, though, the academy forces our best friends to grow up prematurely.

When I was editing Inquisitor, one of my biggest concerns was that chapter where Michael visits his sister’s high school. It wasn’t until I’d read the whole book back that I realised how important the chapter was to the rest of the story. We get a glimpse of what could have been – the normality (or perhaps the futility) that would have resulted from his time as a regular teen; even his father’s comments about having to stay late at the office or miss holidays with the family hint to it.

Now, you might think that all of these things have nothing in common. But they make the academy the mysterious, magical place that it is, without giving it paranormal paraphernalia. And ultimately, if we as readers feel that way about the academy, it’s no wonder Michael and his friends do too.

What is an example of Michael and Tamara’s education at the academy?

On the surface, Michael and Tamara’s timetable is like any other school timetable – Math, Science, English etc. But they also have lessons in Lore.

Lore mainly covers talent development. For example, in Inquisitor, Mr Steele (their Lore master) demonstrates his own particular talents – telepathy and telekinesis. But as each pupil’s abilities lie in any of three main disciplines, they are separated according to their strengths for physical training.

Michael and Tamara learn to use their telekinetic abilities in combat, for the most part, learning how to disarm, disable and ultimately dispatch their opponents with the minimum effort- a lot like a martial art. But it isn’t all about the fighting.

In one of my favourite passages of the book, Michael, Tamara and their friends learn about the history of the Inquisition and how their powers came to be. We also learn how Aladdin’s genie was imprisoned in the lamp and how the war began. Most of their information comes from updated versions of Grimm’s Modern Lore, which also helps us as readers to understand more about Michael and Tamara’s world and the magic that exists in it.

Who is Mr. Catchpole?

That’s the million-dollar question! All I can say is that he’s your usual villain. If anything, I would describe him as chaotically good – or willing to do whatever he thinks is right to achieve peace. His story unfolds throughout the series, and I hope that the more you learn about Catchpole, the more interesting he’ll become.

In fact, he is probably the character I find the most difficult to write. I often find his dialog and sometimes his actions getting away from me, and I have to rein him in again. On the days I struggle to get 500 words onto the page it’s usually because I’m writing Catchpole. It’s like a game of chess. I have to be thinking so far ahead of the story for him while keeping his back story in mind at the same time.

For now, Catchpole’s most important role is to be our anchor to the views of the Inquisition. Without him, I couldn’t tell their side of the story.

Where can readers buy your book?

If you’re downloading from the US, you can find it at:

Amazon US

Or from the UK at:

Amazon UK

Alternatively, readers can follow the links from Inquisitor’s page at: indiebrag  which goes a long way to supporting the BRAG community and all of the wonderful things they do for independent authors.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to G.J. Reilly who is the author of, Inquisitor; The Book of Jerrick – Part 1, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Inquisitor; The Book of Jerrick – Part 1, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money



Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Gwen Dandridge

The Stone Lions

Stephanie: Hey, Gwen! Congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion! That is wonderful and what high praise indeed for your story. How did you discover indieBRAG?

Please tell your audience about your book?

Gwen: The Stone Lions is a multi-cultural fantasy that takes place in the late 1300s in Islamic Spain. As a minor note, it also teaches band symmetry so it is idea for the common core curriculum. It can be read as a pure fantasy or used to understand historic Islamic culture or teach symmetry. There are levels upon levels that it touches. Here’s the basic story:

In the last throes of the 14th century, Islamic Spain is under pressure from Castile and Aragon. Ara, the twelve-year old daughter to the Sultan, finds herself in the center of a political intrigue when her eunuch tutor is magically transformed by the evil Wazir.

Can a little girl save her friend and tutor with the help of a Sufi mathemagician? Intertwined in a mystery of math, art and magic, Ara races to find the seven broken symmetries before time runs out.

Stephanie: What genre would you say this falls under and why did you chose the middle age group to write the story for?

Gwen: The genre is fantasy.

I was asked to write a book for younger readers by a Dartmouth math professor that would teach band symmetry. As someone who is wary of any math, I wanted to make the math part so organic to the story that it didn’t feel like a lesson, but more of a mystery or a puzzle.

Stephanie: Are there any messages in your book you would like your readers to grasp?

Gwen: Perhaps two messages. One, that people throughout time and cultures have the same basic desires and hopes. And, two, that math is something other than numbers. Arithmetic is numbers, math is not necessarily so constrained.

Stephanie: Why did you chose Alhambra in the late 14h century for your period and setting for the story?

Gwen: I was visiting the Alhambra with friends when I started the story. I fell so in love with the place and the design work that it tumbled out from there. The patterning on the wall and floors and ceiling were inescapable and awesome. I chose the 14th century because it was a time of flowering for the Islam. They were ahead of their time then, women could inherit (which they couldn’t in Europe), they allowed other religions to exist (as long as they paid a tax), they bathed (European weren’t quite so clean). Interestingly some women in other area of Europe also were veiled during that time.

Stephanie: Tell me about the little Islamic girl named Ara, who is the Sultan’s daughter? What are her strengths and weaknesses and what is an example of her life in the palace?

Gwen: Ara is curious and a little impulsive. She’s a risk taker. She’s someone who has lived a life of privilege within the confines of her time and culture. And she wishes for more: more freedom, more learning and more knowledge. I picked her age as young enough to have some freedom within her world. She not reached the age when she is cloistered with the harem or required to wear a hijab.

Stephanie: How does art/math play a role in your story?

Gwen: The math is the heart of the story. The symmetries within the Alhambra are being broken and Ara must repair them or the Alhambra will fall.

Stephanie: What are the historical significances in your story?

Gwen: Gosh, so much. I tried to be true to the time and culture. Grenada was under pressure from all sides at that time. But it was a time of great beauty.

So many, many of the details that you see in there are lifted from information that I learned during this process.

Stephanie: How did you research the Islamic life in the period this story is written in? And what fascinates you about the culture?

Gwen: I read over thirty books on Islamic culture and history.

I went to museums here in California, in NY, in Spain, in France and England. There I was able to see what kind of art existed during that time period. I took an art history class on Islamic art.

I spoke to a Sufi and she read an early version of The Stone Lions for me. I joined the Medievalist History listserv and looked over their shoulders.

I communicated with an expert of the Alhambra who is a professor in Spain. He helped me with details of what the Alhambra looked like during that time.

During my travels I’ve discovered hidden gems of stories that we aren’t exposed to here in the states. Everywhere you go, whether it’s a small town in Mississippi or deep in the Scottish highlands there are stories waiting to be gleaned. Everyone has a story.

Stephanie: Tell me about the photo shoot of all the images in the original Owen Jones book on the Alhambra you did and how does this relate to your story?

Gwen: When I wrote the book, I realized I would need lots of images for the symmetries. I wanted them to have a connection to the Alhambra. Not all are, but my daughter and her husband helped me photograph each page of the Owen Jones book. Santa Barbara City College did an interlibrary loan for me so that I could have access to that book. I couldn’t remove it from the library but we could carefully turn each page of this delicate and huge book while one of us stood on a chair and photographed page by page.

Stephanie: When you spent two weeks in Spain, what are some of the sites you visited and what was your impressions of them. And did this help you with your story?

One of the cool things we did in Spain was live in a cave, the Sacramento Caves. You can rent them and they have bedrooms and a bath. It is very dark when the light are off.

We also travel to Cordoba and went to the Great Mosque there.

Stephanie: What was your writing process for this story and how long did you take to write it?

Gwen: At that time I worked as a systems’ analyst so I had limited time to write. I made sure to sit down three times a day for twenty minutes each to write. Sometimes I wrote on my lunch break. It took me about nine months to get a strong draft with all the images done. I was pushing a deadline as it was going to be used in a patterning class at Dartmouth.

Stephanie: Who are your influences? What are you currently reading?

Gwen: I read a lot of fantasy.

Stephanie: How much time weekly do you spend on writing and how much time do you spend on research?

Gwen: It depends on the book. The Stone Lions was the most intensive for research. I had to learn symmetry and Islamic history and culture. It took a huge amount of time. Fortunately, a number of my friends are professors of chemistry and math and they spend oodles of time teaching me symmetry so that I could, in turn, explain it to middle grade readers.

Normally I try to write every day, but I also do art, so many things via for time. When I am focused on a book, I do write every day. I drag my manuscript around with me wherever I go.

Stephanie: Have you ever come across anything unexpected or something that caught you off guard in your research?

Gwen: Many, many times. I hadn’t known the Lions’ fountain that is currently in the Court of the Lions was not the original one. It was stolen centuries ago.

Stephanie: How do you organize your research?

Gwen: When I research, I keep notes of anything that I find interesting. I’m not very organized. I do own a lot of books, so I can always return to them when I need a particular piece on information.

Stephanie: What is up next for you?

Gwen: The second book of The Stone Lions (The Jinn’s Jest) is almost ready to fly. I also have a book that is ready, The Dragons’ Chosen. I’m hoping this will be out soon.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon or B&N or most of the online dealers have it available.

Stephanie: Thank you, Gwen!

About Author:

Gwen Dadridge-BRAG

My romance with fantasy was started when at age eight I discovered libraries, in libraries were fairy tale books. After that, I always expected to find a fairy beneath each flower, each rustle of leaves.

From there I went on to Walter Farley’s Stallion books. But my love went into a full blown affair at an Outward bound trip when half-way down the Colorado River one of the men talked about reading the Hobbit. I’ve been hooked on fantasy ever since.

I’ve been the SCBWI co-coordinator for Santa Barbara County and still function as the listserve administrator for the tri-county region.

My degree in psychology has only been used to understand dragons.

I worked as a system’s analyst (Oracle databases) at Santa Barbara Community College but much of my outside work time is spent doing art of various sorts: stained glass, pottery, basketry, large boulder mosaics, silk wall hangings, etc. I have a B.A. in Psychology, a two year certificate in Computer Information Systems and many classes in Writing, Art and Art History. I bake regularly and garden seriously (I have over 40 different fruit trees on the property).

Reading is my passion as is notable by the walls of books in my house.

My golden retriever and my husband keep me active hiking and roaming the Santa Barbara hills. 

Author Links:



Author Website

Author website II

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Gwen Dandridge, who is the author of, The Stone Lions, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Stone Lions, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.





Interview with Author Kate Forsyth

02_Bitter Greens

Publication Date: September 23, 2014 Thomas Dunne Books Hardcover; 496p ISBN-10: 1250047536

Genre: Historical/Fantasy/Fairy-Tale Retellings

The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…

After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

Hello, Kate! It is a pleasure to chat with you today about your story, Bitter Greens. What a beautiful and creative premise. Rapunzel is a tale I have known since childhood…what inspires you about Rapunzel to begin with?

I have been fascinated with the Rapunzel fairy tale since I first read it as a little girl. I was always puzzled by the mysteries in the tale: why did the witch lock up the girl? Why did she have to climb up her hair to get into the tower? How did the girl’s hair get so long? Questions like that niggled at me, and so I began to think up possible explanations for them.

Shamefully, I have to admit I have never paid much attention to the writer (s) of the story and had no idea it was penned by women. What is it that fascinates you about their lives the most?

I am a storyteller as well as a writer, and so I’ve always been interested in the ways stories endure over time, told and retold and retold again. I became interested in finding out the origin of the tale in the early stages of planning my novel, and was hugely excited when I stumbled across the life story of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, who wrote the version of the tale as it was first told while she was locked up in a convent after scandalizing the royal court at Versailles with her love affairs and refusal to bow to societal norms. She was such a fascinating woman and the parallels between her story and the fairy tale she wrote struck me at once.

What were some of the historical events that took place in the setting of this story?

BITTER GREENS moves between two historical settings. The first is Renaissance Venice, and takes in 16th witchcraft hunts, the devastation of the plague, and the extraordinary art of Tiziano Vercelli, best known in English as Titian. The second setting is the sumptuous royal court of 17th century France, ruled over by Louis XIV, the Sun King. Charlotte-Rose de la Force was his second cousin and a maid-of-honour serving the queen. During her life, she saw the cruel persecution of the French Protestants, c alled Huguenots, and the scandal of the Affair of the Poisons, which saw hundreds of people arrested and tortured on suspicion of Satanism and murder.

Selena stands out to me the most. What are her strengths and weaknesses? And in what way does she inspire-if she inspires that is…?

Kate: Selena is a Venetian courtesan and the witch of the tale. Selena witnessed the terrible punishment of her mother, after she was unfaithful to her patron, and so sets herself to enact revenge on those who took part. She studies ‘stregheria’, the Italian art of witchcraft, in an attempt to shape her own life. She is afraid of the passing of time and the coming of death, and so hates clocks and watches, but is also passionate, sensual, and determined.  Although she is strong and clever, she also has a strong streak of cruelty in her and locks girls up in a tower for her own nefarious purposes, so I’m not sure she can be seen as an inspiration!

Could you please give me an example of Renaissance life in Venice? Something romantic, perhaps?

Venice in the 16th century was a place of great wealth, beauty and culture.  Its streets were full of merchants from all over the world, all speaking their own tongues and wearing the clothes of their nation. Women were gorgeously dressed in silks and satins and cloth-of-gold, and wore totteringly high wooden chopines to protect their delicate silk slippers from the water that often overflowed from the canals.  Artists such as Michelangelo, Titian and Bellini created works of startling beauty, and every palace and cathedral was painted and ornamented to within an inch of their life. At Carnevale, men and women dressed up in their finest clothes and hid their faces behind masks so that they could wander the narrow streets and plazas of the many islands, free to love anyone they pleased. Many people began to wear masks all year long, in order to enjoy the freedom of anonymity, until the practice was outlawed in 1797. Mask-makers were revered, and had their own rules and their own guild.

What compels the old nun to tell Charlotte-Rose the tale who is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens? Is there a particular message she wants her to grasp?

I think Seraphina wants to help Charlotte-Rose learn to accept her fate with grace, and to make the most of the life she has been given. We cannot always choose what happens to us in our lives, but we can choose how we deal with it.

What is Charlotte’s personality like?

She is strong-willed, quick-witted, passionate, and very stubborn. She does her best to live a self-determined life, and finds the strictures of the patriarchal society in which she lives very difficult to negotiate. All she wants is to live and love as she chooses, and to write – yet these things are constantly being denied to her, and so she is frustrated and angry, particularly in the beginning of the book. She is also afraid and determined not to show it, and this makes her seem proud and even arrogant. She is also, I’m afraid, rather vain, but then she lives in the royal court of Versailles where everything is about show.

Is there one thing you find remarkable about Venice in 1512?

Venice had always been a city remarkable for its religious and cultural toleration, yet this began to change around this time. The world’s first ghetto was established in Venice in 1516, and other races and religions began to find themselves having their freedom curtailed as well. This was partly as a result of a long-waged war against Constantinople, and partly because of religious fervor caused by terrible outbreaks of the bubonic plague.

What was your process for this story and how long did you work on it?

Bitter Greens was a complex and challenging novel to write, and took me a long time to research. All in all, it took me seven years to write! I began by learning everything I could about the two periods my story was set in, and by studying the history of the Rapunzel fairy tale (I ended up doing a doctorate on this.) I then wrote each of the three narrative threads independently from each other, and then wove them together. It was like writing three novels instead of one!

What do you love most about writing?

Everything! I love the first period, when my mind is alive with story possibilities and I’m reading and researching and thinking and daydreaming. I love the actual writing process, and all the amazing serendipitous discoveries I make. And I love to edit too – that’s when the story really begins to fall into shape.

Who are your influences?

I think every single book I have loved – and there are hundreds of thousands of those!

Praise for Bitter Greens

“Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is an enthralling concoction of history and magic, an absorbing, richly detailed, and heart-wrenching reimagining of a timeless fairytale.” —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival

“See how three vividly drawn women cope with injustice, loneliness, fear, longing. See how they survive—or perpetrate—treachery. Surrender yourself to a master storyteller, to delicious detail and spunky heroines. Bitter Greens is a complex, dazzling achievement.” —Susan Vreeland, New York Times bestselling author of Clara and Mr. Tiffany and Girl in Hyacinth Blue

“A magical blend of myth and history, truth and legend, Bitter Greens is one of those rare books that keeps you reading long after the lights have gone out, that carries you effortlessly to another place and time, that makes you weep and laugh and wish you could flip forward to make sure it all ends happily ever after—but for the fact that if you did so, you might miss a line, and no line of this book should be missed.” —Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of The Ashford Affair

“Kate Forsyth wields her pen with all the grace and finesse of a master swordsman. In Bitter Greens she conjures a lyrical fairytale that is by turns breathtaking, inspiring, poetic, and heartbreakingly lovely. Set like a jewel within the events of history, it is pure, peerless enchantment.”—New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn

“Bitter Greens is pure enchantment–gripping and lyrical. From the high convent walls where a 17th century noblewoman is exiled, to a hidden tower which imprisons an innocent girl with very long hair, to the bitter deeds of a beautiful witch who cannot grow old–Kate Forsyth weaves an engrossing, gorgeously written tale of three women in search of love and freedom. A truly original writer, Forsyth has crafted an often terrifying but ultimately redemptive dark fairy tale of the heart.”—Stephanie Cowell, American Book Award-winning author of Claude & Camille

“Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is not only a magnificent achievement that would make any novelist jealous, it’s one of the most beautiful paeans to the magic of storytelling that I’ve ever read.”—C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen’s Vow and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

“Threads of history and folklore are richly intertwined to form this spellbinding story. Kate Forsyth has excelled herself with Bitter Greens. Compulsively unputtdownable.”—Juliet Marillier, national bestselling author of Flame of Sevenwaters and Heart’s Blood

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About the Author

Kate Forsyth 1

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling & award-winning author of thirty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both adults and children. She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 20 Novelists, and has been called ‘one of the finest writers of this generation. She is also an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers, and has told stories to both children and adults all over the world.

Her most recent book for adults is a historical novel called ‘The Wild Girl’, which tells the true, untold love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, ‘The Wild Girl’ is a story of love, war, heartbreak, and the redemptive power of storytelling, and was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013.

She is probably most famous for ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale interwoven with the dramatic life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. ‘Bitter Greens’ has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’, and has been nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award.

Her most recent book for children is ‘Grumpy Grandpa’, a charming picture book that shows people are not always what they seem.

Since ‘The Witches of Eileanan’ was named a Best First Novel of 1998 by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for numerous awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Chain of Charms series – beginning with ‘The Gypsy Crown’ – which tells of the adventures of two Romany children in the time of the English Civil War. Book 5 of the series, ‘The Lightning Bolt’, was also a CBCA Notable Book.

Kate’s books have been published in 14 countries around the world, including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. She is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, having already completed a BA in Literature and a MA in Creative Writing.

Kate is a direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, ‘A Mother’s Offering to her Children’. She lives by the sea in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.

For more information please visit Kate Forsyth’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Susan Waterwyk


Stephanie: Hello, Susan! Thank you for chatting with me today and congratulations on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell me about your story, “Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy.”

Susan: Lantamyra is a sanctuary world terraformed by Keepers of Akosh (alien caretakers) to give refuge to endangered sentient beings from two nearby worlds, dragons from Lanluong and humans from Eadlan or Earth as we call her. The dragons are giants, carnivorous, and because they learned the secrets of Akoshic crystal power, they are more intelligent than the human population. However, a few select humans are allowed to learn the secrets of crystal powers and link their minds with the myra crystal. They become keepers or wards of the dragons and serve the three great Houses that rule Lantamyra.

Tylya Lansing is the main character (pronounced Ty-lee-ah) a nineteen-year-old that lives in a small town in California. Her grandmother Lenora is a keeper of dragons that was stranded on Earth. After learning her grandmother’s secret, Tylya becomes obsessed with finding the crystal scepter lost in a rugged Sierra Nevada canyon. She enlists her boyfriend, Josh Hamilton. and together they find it. Now Lenora can return to Lantamyra, and Tylya is determined to go with her. Josh is too much in love to just let her go, he desperately stows away. Once there, he joins Tylya in the training for crystal power. They meet friends, have adventures, attend a moonlight masquerade and eventually finish the training. The mind link with the crystal is a dangerous process that almost kills them. It also has side effects that alter the personality. Josh and Tylya acquire crystal power but could end up losing their love.

Stephanie: Is Lantamyra a name you created and how did you come up with it?

Susan: I didn’t want to bombard my readers with a lot of fantasy-foreign words and names, but, I did create an ancient language, Akoshic. I applied a few simple rules and created words and names. Lan means world or mother. Myra (mear-ah)means crystals. Lantamyra means world of crystals or mother of crystals. Earth was called Eadlan meaning garden mother. Lanluong means world of dragons. Atlantis means port of the world.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about, “Keepers of Akosh.”

Susan: They are an ancient race from a world many lightyears from Earth but located in our own    cosmic neighborhood (Sagittarius arm of the galaxy). Myra crystals led to discovering the crystalrealm (dimension of pure energy), and the axiomatic evolution pattern for physical law (Akoshic Ways). Using doorways through the crystalrealm, they traveled the stars searching for living worlds. They became cosmic gardeners that believe the highest form a sentient life can evolve into is gardener. “There can be no higher form of existence, only greater gardens to grow.”

Susan: Please tell me about Tylya and her grandmother. Do they have a special bond? How do they help each other…..?

Susan: Tylya always admired her grandmother, Lenora, as a strong, artistic, and intelligent woman. However, after the tragic death of her father, Tyler Lansing, the bond with her grandmother increased and the bond with her mother, Deanna, decreased. This was partly due to the rebellious stage that teenagers go through with their parents, and partly because her mother blamed her grandmother for her father’s death. He died in an accident searching a rugged canyon for the scepter Lenora lost. After his death, Tylya confronted her grandmother and found out about the scepter. Like her father, she became obsessed with finding it. Right after high school, she moved into her grandmother’s house and worked in Lenora’s curio shop. The bond with her grandmother strengthened to the point that Tylya was willing to leave her mother and her lover, Josh, and go with Lenora to Lantamyra.

Stephanie: Why is Tylya so determined to become,” keeper of dragons”?

Susan: Tylya was an excellent student in High School graduating half a year early. She was intrigued with the idea of linking the mind with the myra crystals and becoming a highly intelligent super-being. When Lenora demonstrated some of her crystals powers, Tylya then became determined to go to Lantamyra and learn the Secrets of the Akoshic Ways from the dragons. All forms of power are tempting to people, but crystal powers and a mind expansion were too tempting for Tylya to resist.

Stephanie: What is your favorite scene you have written in this story and what was your inspiration?

Susan: In Chapter 17, everyone on Lantamyra is celebrating three days of the summer solstice (Litha). The Keeper’s Ball on the Eve of Litha is an elegant formal dance that Tylya and Josh attend with friends. Inspired a little by the story of Cinderella, I spent weeks and dozens of re-writes to craft a dance scene that was believable, beautiful, romantic, and sweet/sad because Josh has informed Tylya that he is no longer the same man that fell in love with her then he ended their wedding engagement. A few minutes later, a song is dedicated to Tylya and tradition requires the couple to dance the first part of the song alone on the dance floor. Josh realizes that this dance may be their last, and he tries to make it as memorable as possible.

Stephanie: Is there a particular message to your story you would like the readers to grasp?

Susan: In every language in the Universe, the strongest word is Truth, and nothing is more precious in the Universe than Life, and, of all the forms of life, nothing is more rare and precious than a living world. It nurtures and protects us all from the harmful radiation of the sun and cosmos; we should always respect our “Garden Mother,” and that’s the truth.

Stephanie: How long did it take you to write your story and will there be others in this genre?

Susan: From the first paragraph to the date of publication, Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy, took seven years and four months. I was determined to produce quality. 2008 was a terrible stressful year. My body suffered several maladies over the next two years including arthritis which disfigured and crippled my hands. My wonderful daughter and my husband helped type the pages for me. A shortage of funds made me decide to paint my own book cover, and that took several months. Two things you can’t hurry—art and old people.

Susan: I have already published A Tale of Two Worlds, which continues the story of Tylya and Josh. At this time, I only foresee one more book: The Prize of the Survivors. I hope to publish it this Fall.

Stephanie: What are you currently working on?

Susan:The Prize of the Survivors is my third book. The living world has awakened. Massive quakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and superstorms threaten to decimate the population of Earth. The Keepers of Akosh cannot prevent the devastation. They can save a few humans and selected species of plants and animals. The final gathering of refugees has begun. The U.S. Government wants to capture a crystalship and/or the keepers that fly them. Keeper Tylya Lansing is in charge of the last mission to Earth. Meanwhile, her lover, Josh Hamilton, is suffering crystal sickness from working in the crystal mine, and the hungry ghosts of dead crystalseekers have been feeding on his living energy. They threaten to trap him in a web of dreams and bleed him to death. “Tomorrow is the prize of the survivors.”

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Susan: My dear, daughter handles most of the marketing. She found out about indieBRAG while surfing the net. She submitted Lantamyra for me. Let me honestly say that being awarded the BRAG medallion is my proudest achievement to date. I know that very few of the indie books submitted are fortunate to receive a BRAG award. The quality standards of indieBRAG are high. The award confirmed my hopes of creating a quality story for readers to enjoy.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Susan: Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy is available at Amazon and at Smash Words

About Susan Waterwyk

Susan Waterwyk 2

As a child I’d make up stories and act them out. As a teenager I made up stories to put myself to sleep at night, something I still do today. My other creative outlets included music (playing the piano), and sketching and drawing pictures, which eventually led me to painting landscapes. My husband taught me how to compose poetry, a real challenge and I struggled for years trying to grasp the various meters used in conventional poetry. I understood meter in music, but iambic-pentameter? What’s that? Anyway, I never thought of myself as a writer, much less an author of novels. However, I loved to read all types of stories, fantasy/sci-fi especially, and an occasional classic. I believe that extensive reading is an author’s best investment. Input before output.

Living in California’s Sierra Nevada, brought me closer to Nature, and I experienced her living beauty daily. Inspiration is a magic spell enchanting us all to create, and I was inspired to create a sanctuary world, a refuge for readers to escape to when the chains of reality are too heavy to bear.

Now, I’m an author and a graduate of the University of Hardknocks, a storyteller first and writer second.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Susan Waterwyk, who is the author of, Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.




Interview with Melanie Karsak

The Harvesting

“The world, it seemed, had gone silent. It was something we knew but did not talk about. We were alone.”

While Layla Petrovich returns home to rural Hamletville after a desperate call from her psychic grandmother, she never could have anticipated the horror of what Grandma Petrovich has foreseen. The residents of Hamletville will need Layla’s cool head, fast blade and itchy trigger finger to survive the undead apocalypse that’s upon them. But even that may not be enough. With mankind silenced, it soon becomes apparent that we were never alone. As the beings living on the fringe seek power, Layla must find a way to protect the ones she loves or all humanity may be lost.

This exciting new dark fantasy/horror hybrid blends the best of the zombie genre with all the elements a fantasy reader loves!

It’s all fun and games until someone ends up undead!

Stephanie: Hello, Melanie! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. You have written a story in a genre that is seems to be all the rage right now. What sets your book apart from others?

Melanie: Thank you so much for having me today. I am so delighted to be a BRAG Medallion honouree and grateful to be asked to stop by to talk about my novel!

So what sets this book about from all those other zombie novels? Well, in The Harvesting, I wanted to consider what the death of humanity might mean if there were, in fact, other being living in our world. What if there really were vampires, and shape-shifters, and fey people . . . all the beings of folklore? If mankind died, what might the impact be on the unknown world that lives in tandem with us? As an academic, the symbolic nature of the zombie trend really intrigues me. I believe it speaks to an inner deadness we feel as a society. I started playing with how other being might symbolically represent other feelings and attitudes about our world. At the end of all this debating and thinking, I ended up with The Harvesting.

Stephanie: Really interesting…I have to admit I’m not into the whole folklore of Vampires fey people and Zombies but your idea to explore a world where they actually live with us is intriguing.

Please tell me about Layla. What are her goals and the conflict she faces?

Melanie: Layla is interesting. Abandoned by her mother, she was raised by a psychic grandmother who was the town’s resident medium, oddball, and “witch.” Layla always felt a bit ostracized as a child. While she did have a very passionate first love (with Ian), she ran away from Hamletville as soon as she could to better herself—education, a career, life in Washington DC. The end of humanity finds her returning to Hamletville, a place she’d rather not visit. In the wake of the zombie apocalypse, she finds herself reunited with her first love, Ian, but slowly begins to understand she is not the same girl who once loved this hometown boy . . . Ian’s brother Jamie, however, is an entirely different story. Of course, Layla also has to face zombies, and vampires, and her budding psychic ability. Most of all, Layla has to learn how to trust the right people. This is a major struggle for her.

Stephanie: Layla sounds like a fascinating character that I think many can relate to.

Is rural Hamletville a real place?

Melanie: Hamletville is my play on words; I was trying to describe the smallest of small towns. The town, however, is inspired by an amalgam of my hometown (a very Hamletville kind of place), Tidioute, PA as well as North East, PA where I worked.

Stephanie: Small towns are always cool to use in stories…

What is Layla’s occupation in this story and how did she learn to use the weapons she wields?

Melanie: Layla picked up a sword at a young age and fell in love. She learned fencing and went on to study the ancient art, becoming a state champion. She studied medieval history in college and is working at the Smithsonian in Washington DC at the beginning of this book. I took fencing as a student at Penn State, and the experience always stuck with me. A reviewer called Layla pretentious because of her esoteric education and skills, but it is those university-born skills that allow her to become a great leader during this catastrophic event.

Stephanie: Is this a stand-alone story or will there be others?

Melanie: I am planning to release The Shadow Aspect, the second novel in this series, in the summer of 2014. There will also be a Harvesting Series novella, Midway, that will release this summer. The novel will conclude with a third book titled The Green World, which will release in late fall 2014 or 2015.

Stephanie: How does your title tie into the story?

Melanie: Layla has a dream in the novel where the figure of a grim reaper takes her to a graveyard, telling her they are there for the harvest. This scene actually comes from a vivid dream my own grandmother once had and shared with me. In a way, a zombie apocalypse is the harvest of mankind. Our time is done. Those who survive have a big job ahead of them.

Stephanie: What do you like most about writing in this genre and when did you first become interested in it?

Melanie: I have always written fantasy novels, but I think I always took myself too seriously. I wrote The Harvesting for fun. I wanted to play. I wanted to pick a topic that was both light and deep all at once and just enjoy writing it. Zombies seemed like fun. I think that makes me sound weird, lol!

Stephanie: Writing fantasy stories are a lot of fun. I’m working on an alternate history one right now that fits pretty close to fantasy. It’s wonderful that you enjoy writing in this genre and are having fun.

Please tell me about your writing process.

Melanie: I’m a planner. I have to know how the novel will go from A-Z before I sit down to write. I usually map out a narrative arch on paper then go from there. My actual writing process doesn’t take that long because I plan so much.

Stephanie: What do you like most about writing?

Melanie: I love to live in my worlds. I love my characters. They are like real people to me. I enjoy spending time in their heads and seeing the world through different points of view. In the case of my steampunk series, The Airship Racing Chronicles, I love that I can invent an entirely magical and different world and give it verisimilitude!

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Melanie: Shelley Adina, a steampunk author whose work I admire, is a BRAG recipient.

Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Melanie: Regarding The Harvesting, if they would like to try a zombie novel that is a bit different (I might even say quirky), they should give the book a try. Many readers say that while they aren’t into zombies, my book is so different that they really enjoyed it! I’ve gotten fabulous feedback on this novel from the book blogger community. It’s a fun, action-packed, book. It’s a fantasy-filled read with a kick-butt heroine, great for a Sunday afternoon.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Melanie: The Harvesting and my steampunk series, The Airship Racing Chronicles, are available at!

Stephanie: Thank you, Melanie!

Melanie: My pleasure. Thanks for having me!

About Melanie:

Melanie Kasak

Melanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania and earned a Master’s degree in English from Gannon University. A steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and zombie whisperer, the author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.


A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Melanie Karsak, who is the author of “The Harvesting”, one of our medallion at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, “The Harvesting” merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Interview with Author C.M.J. Wallace

Sing the Midnight Stars

C.M.J. Wallace is the author of the Rift series and is also a medical editor. She graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science degree and, being a lover of language and not laboratories, promptly transitioned from lab wretch to editor. In 2001, she took a medical editing course taught by the Journal of the American Medical Association’s director of manuscript editing, who then recruited her. She is now a freelance medical editor.

In 1992, she created the rudiments of the Rift series, which she began writing in 2008.

She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and is currently working on another novel in the series.

Her web page can be found here

Stephanie: Hello C.M.J.! Congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, “Sing the Midnight Stars”. Please tell me about your story.

C.M.J.: Thanks, Stephanie!

First, allow me to return the sentiment and give you an accolade. The B.R.A.G. Medallion award is a wonderful service for self-published authors and their readers. There’s a groundswell of demand for some type of indie-book gatekeeper, and indieBRAG is at the forefront of this movement.

And now for my book…

In 1992, I came up with the rudiments of the series, many of the characters, all of the unique magic elements, and the history of Carvel and Torvia, which are the primary country and city in my books, respectively. When I started writing Sing the Midnight Stars in 2008 (yep, I’m a slow starter!), I hadn’t yet created some of my main characters, including my protagonist, Andrin Sethuel. He developed as a result of my asking the question, who is the killer and why? The answer demanded that someone be searching for the murderer, which led to my needing a detective of sorts; Andrin was the result.

I thought it would be interesting to make him flawed. I think it’s more believable to readers and allows them to readily empathize with characters, love them, despise them, etc. Andrin is a drug addict, but not by choice. When he was a child, he was kidnapped by slavers who brutally murdered his parents in front of him. The slavers’ modus operandi is to snatch village children, kill the adults, and immediately dose the kids with mordizánte, a drug that’s instantly and irrevocably addictive. But Andrin is different. His body doesn’t react the way every other addict’s does.

As an adult, he battles with hostility, prejudice, and suspicion on every front, and even though the addiction wasn’t his doing, it leaves him entrenched in self-loathing. Despite everything, he becomes head of the Torvian kingdom’s criminal investigative forces. The story opens with a murder related to others he’s been investigating and follows his hunt for the killer, who scythes magic from his victims to reap power. In theory that’s impossible. But the murderer is growing more powerful with each successive killing, leading him to believe that he’s right about the killer’s motives.

For added fun, someone’s trying to kill him as well, and one of his subordinates is keeping a secret that might be the key to solving the murders.

While all this is going on, Carvel’s ancient enemy is bringing war to the very gates of Torvia, and her king is sinking into madness and is on the verge of betraying his country.

A major plot line involves the rise of unfettered magic (enchantment that isn’t bound by any prosaic means) simultaneously in disparate settings. I carry this theme of magic being freed of its catalysts of stone and sigil throughout the first and second books, but I can’t elaborate because it would entail spoilers!

Stephanie: I love the title of your book. Tell me how it blends in with your story.

C.M.J.: Astromancy is among the types of sorcery that are becoming unfettered, and the way it happens was my inspiration for the book’s title. One of the main characters is an astromancer who has just been granted the gift of unfettered magic. The book cover shows her joining with and learning from the enchantment in the form of a star bolt from the constellation she worships.

Stephanie: I noticed your book falls under the Fantasy genre. Does this story take place in the present time or future and please tell me about why you chose to write in the genre.

C.M.J.: The story takes place in the present.

I love fantasy because it was the first genre to transport me to other worlds through the sorcerous portal of words on paper. I’ve been a reader since I was four years old and was exposed to the likes of Roald Dahl and A. A. Milne.

Fantasy is my preferred genre because it gives me the freedom to make implausible things happen, and I can envision them just as I did when I was a child entering the realms of the improbable. I really like suspense and intrigue, but genres such as thrillers and horror are constraining to me as a writer and often not as interesting as fantasy. With the latter, I can take any elements I choose, such as intrigue, and blend them with my story (which I do!) any way I like.

With fantasy, I’m also free to use beautiful imagery, which you can’t often find in other genres and which seems to be rare in books published now.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about Andrin and his strengths and weaknesses.

C.M.J.: As I said earlier, Andrin is a drug addict, and he views himself as part of the dregs of society. Because of his addiction, he feels constrained to uphold truth. He sticks to his principles, but to the point of rigidity and blindness in regard to the shortcomings of doing so. He’s a loyal friend, but his unrelenting demand that nothing violate his ethics costs him greatly. He’s an excellent detective, loathes liars, and protects underdogs.

Stephanie: Was there any research involved for your book?

C.M.J.: I’m a medical editor, which means I edit articles written by physicians and other health care professionals for medical journals, so I already had a good understanding of disease, wounds, and violent death before I started writing. But I didn’t have the same expertise with medieval terminology and customs, so yes, I had to do research on weaponry, clothing, typical architecture, and the like, although the setting is early enlightenment rather than traditional medieval (Torvia is a huge city).

Stephanie: Is this your first published book and are you currently working on another?

C.M.J.: Sing the Midnight Stars is my first published work. I’ve published two others since, the sequels Flight of Shadows and This Darkling Magic, and am about to publish the fourth, This Strange Magic, which completes all the arcs of the first four books in the Rift series.

Stephanie: Do you work with an outline or do you just write?

C.M.J.: Because my books have many layers of intrigue and several primary plot lines, before I start writing I outline the plot and each chapter. Both outlines are fluid; by the time I’m done tweaking them and writing notes, it looks as if I sacrificed some hapless chicken over them.

Stephanie: Is there a particular writer who has influenced your own writing?

C.M.J.: Stephen R. Donaldson is my favorite writer. I used his Mordant’s Need series to create my writing style, dissecting the books and then emulating what made me love them. Pat Conroy is another author who uses rich prose. And although Thomas Harris’s writing isn’t exactly beautiful, it has the ability to draw the reader right into the story, and his characters are well rounded.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

C.M.J.: I found out about indieBRAG on a Goodreads thread, probably in the Goodreads Authors/Readers group. It includes a lively bunch who discuss many, many issues pertinent to indie authors.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

C.M.J.: Sing the Midnight Stars, book 1 of the Rift series


Barnes & Noble


Flight of Shadows, book 2 of the Rift series


Barnes & Noble


This Darkling Magic, book 3 of the Rift series


Barnes & Noble


A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview C.M.J. Wallace, who is the author of, Sing the Midnight Stars, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Sing the Midnight Stars merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.