Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Parting- official release!

The Parting, book two of the Chronicles of Azaria, is available today as ebook! Paperback coming soon. 

When your feelings are false, what's left to believe in?

After the revelation of Ryan's secret, Eliza is determined to purify her tainted heart. Her only hope lies in the Holy Runes- the mysterious symbols linked to the Binding spell that originally cursed her. Now with her best friend Adam and the haughty Lady Navinka, Eliza must journey across Azaria to forge a power great enough to break her curse.

The Binding won't go down without a fight, though, and the runes have dangerous effects of their own. As if that wasn't enough, Eliza's also running from a vengeful cult, and she must confront her feelings and realise whom she truly loves. Struggling on all fronts just to survive, Eliza's freedom will be hard-earned, but the final price might be too much to pay.

Click to read an excerpt

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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Encyclopaedia Azaria #2: The Tale of The Binding

Welcome back to the second installment of Eliza's Encyclopaedia Azaria! Each edition, Eliza and her friends will delved into the vast and ancient kingdom of Azaria and tell you a multitude of interesting facts.

With The Parting, the second book, due to come out on 15th December, I've encourage Eliza to tell us about one of Azaria's most famous fairy-tales, the Tale of the Binding...

Background: Final Fantasy DS from Spriter's Resource

Encyclopaedia Azaria #1: The Iasometer

Encyclopaedia Azaria #3: The Gladier-Farrontine Feud

Encyclopaedia Azaria #4: The Binding Spell

Encyclopaedia Azaria #5: The Noble Houses of Azaria

Encyclopaedia Azaria #6: The Goddess Shrines

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Bandit Book Bloggers Tour- The Art of Forgetting (Rider)

As part of the Bandit Book Bloggers Tour Group, every month I'll have an awesome book to promote. October brings us Joanne Hall's novel The Art of Forgetting- Rider. It offers a lot more than your usual fantasy, so take a look:

  “Rhodri!  Rhodri, leave him!” Jime’s voice cut through the roaring in his head. “It’s not worth it!  Let it go!”
  “I’ll kill him!” Rhodri thrashed wildly, but Jime’s grip was firm. “I’ll bloody kill him!  He said --”
  “It doesn’t matter what he said, let it go!”
  “I heard what he said,” Nik supplied, “and it was foul. He deserves it.”
  Dru sat up. His hand was clamped over his eye, blood trickling between his fingers. He started towards Rhodri, and at Jime’s nod the inhabitants of the destroyed tent piled in to restrain him.
  “You leave him alone,” Jime told him. “Lay off, or I’ll let him go, and watch as he beats the blue out of you. You and you,” he clicked his fingers, “get those tents picked up. You, fetch a healer. Bron, if he’s free. Rhodri.” He put his arm round his shoulders and steered him away, gesturing for Nik to fetch a drink. “Your nose is bleeding.”
  “Is it?” Rhodri dabbed his nostril, and sniffed, feeling the blood clog like mucus at the back of his throat. He coughed bloody sputum, and wiped his mouth with his thumb.
“How’s your leg?”
His calf felt sore, and when he pulled up the leg of his breeches a long ugly burn blistered on his shin. Jime forced him to sit, and pressed a hip flask into his hand. The adrenaline was wearing off, leaving Rhodri sick and light-headed. His shaking hands spilt ale down his torn shirt.
“Hey!” Jime protested. “Don’t waste it!”
  “Sorry.” His throat was raw.
  “Nik told me what Drusain said. He deserved a punching. I would have hit him if he’d said that to me.”
  Rhodri stared at the ground, watching as the steady drip of blood from his nose stained the grass black. His leg throbbed. “It’s more than that,” he muttered.
    “Something personal?” Rhodri shrugged, refusing to be drawn. “I won’t pry. You wouldn’t beat on a man twice your height without good reason. You’re not a fool. Here’s Bron, show him your leg.”
   Bron hurried towards him, Captain Garrod strolling in his wake. Rhodri hung his head, ashamed of his outburst. He had betrayed the trust the Captain had shown in him, but he was cursed if he would apologise to Dru.
  “That’s right, keep your head down. Pinch the bridge of your nose.” Bron’s deft fingers explored Rhodri’s skull. He winced as they smoothed over a bump. “Nothing broken. Any other hurts?”
  “Only my leg.” His voice was distorted by the pressure on his nostrils. He could see up to Captain Garrod’s waist.
  The Captain drummed his fingers on his sword hilt as he surveyed the carnage. “Jime, come with me. The rest of you, get this mess cleared up, or its extra drill for the lot of you, is that clear?”
  Rhodri looked up in surprise, to see Jime departing with the Captain. Bron pushed his head down again. “Sounds like you’re reprieved,” he said in a low voice. “Don’t make a fuss. Did Drusain start this?”
  “He said something I didn’t like.” It sounded pathetic, put like that.
  Bron sighed. “So you decided to stick one on him?  Even though he’s twice your size?” He finished bathing the burn and sat back on his heels. “You never seem to learn, Rhodri. You’re not a boy anymore.”
  “I know.”
  “You’ll get a reputation as a man of violence. Is that what you want?”
  “Of course not!” Rhodri jerked away. “Is that what people think?”
  “Hold still!” Bron wrapped a hand round the back of his knee, forcing his leg straight. “I can only speak for myself. I know you’re mourning Astan, but this isn’t the way to heal your wounds. How’s your nose?”
  Rhodri wiped it experimentally, dragging a long smear of crimson across the back of his hand. He sniffed, feeling the blood bubble in his nostrils. “Still bleeding.”
  “Head down, then.”
  Rhodri watched Bron dress the burn, thinking of blood. “Bron?  Can I ask a question?  It might sound foolish...”
  “A foolish man doesn’t ask, and pretends he knows,” Bron said, tying off the bandage. “That should be fine. Make sure you keep it clean. What was your foolish question?”
  “About blood... Can an inclination, for violence or sadness, be passed down through the blood?”
  “From father to son, you mean?” Bron scratched his head, puffing out his cheeks. “I wish I could tell you, Rhodri,” he said. “I’ve seen men brought up in violent homes who couldn’t swat an insect, while their brothers go out and commit murder. The sons of violent fathers tend to be more aggressive, but whether that’s their blood, or their upbringing, I couldn’t tell you. Your guardian was harsh to you, I recall?” His eyes narrowed.
  “Only when I deserved it. I caused a lot of trouble when I was a boy. I was thinking of my real father... His blood is my blood, and I don’t know what he was like, not really. What I remember of him... it’s the memory of a little boy whose father could do no wrong. It might not be the truth.”
  Bron patted him on the shoulder as he rose. “Remember this,” he said. “You are not your father. You’re your own man, and make your own choices. You can’t blame your misdeeds on your heritage. If there’s violence in your blood, it’s up to you to find the strength to control that urge.”
  Rhodri looked around, at the disturbed campsite, the tents being repaired. Drusain was having his eye stitched, just below the brow. His leg stung from the salve, and his shirt hung in ribbons. His loss of control had caused chaos, and the strength Bron spoke of felt far beyond his grasp.

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Monday, 30 September 2013

Encyclopaedia Azaria #1: The Iasometer

Welcome to a new feature of the blog: Encyclopaedia Azaria! Each edition has Eliza and her friends tell you something about the vast and ancient kingdom of Azaria...

Stock credit:
The iasometer in action...(chapter seven, The Binding)

“Ryan?” No response. Frowning, I pressed my knuckle against his breastbone, the way Father did when he assessed someone unconscious. Ryan groaned, but didn’t waken. Sighing, I laid him onto his side, so his back faced me. A dark patch of blood stained his coat on the left side. I frowned. Whatever missile had hit him had fallen out. That would make identifying the toxin more difficult. No simple projectile would have turned him so stuperous so quickly.

I reached for his buttons, unable to stop my wry smile, but as my fingers neared I hesitated. I needed to see the wound, but that meant I’d have to remove his shirt. Just the thought of it made my heart rumble. A momentary glance and the Binding would drown me with its false desire. And I was exhausted. Even if Ryan was so out of it that he’d probably not remember anything, the curse wouldn’t be so lenient with my memory.

Maybe I could compromise…

My hands fumbled with Ryan’s coat, pulling his arms from the sleeves. I began to tremble as I loosened his shirt from his trousers. My gaze lingered on his belt for longer than I was comfortable with, before I turned to lift the fabric to his shoulders.

A bloody pinprick at the edge of his shoulder-blade marked the entry point into the skin, and a bluish-purple substance oozed from it. I wiped it with my finger, and the odd hot-cold sensation made my eyes widen.

He’d been hit with tranquilliser serum.

I exhaled slowly. I was expecting poison, or worse. This was simple enough—I’d dealt with it many times myself. Ryan’s own body would vanquish the toxin, and by morning he would be back to normal, save for this little inconvenience. Lucky for him, I was a healer’s daughter.  But I still had to take this seriously.

First, I unbuckled the iasometer and strapped it around the front of his elbow, so the brass pin sat above the major artery. It clicked and whirred, and the dials began to flicker. Moments later, they settled on their final readings. His pulse was in the amber, but his blood pressure and temperature remained stable.

Relieved, I reached for the hunting knife in Ryan’s belt, making sure I didn’t look too closely. I grabbed the spare shirt and sliced off the collar and a sleeve. The former I folded into a square, while the latter I ripped the seams, making a long band of fabric. Hoisting up the bloody shirt, I tipped some water onto the wound. Ryan hissed at the cold, but didn’t otherwise move. Once I’d washed out most of the serum, I took the skin balm from the medical pack, and rubbed a generous amount over the cut. Then I placed the folded collar on it, before I bound it tight with the opened sleeves.

Once done, I pulled down his shirt, and checked the iasometer again. His pulse had settled into the green, and I wiped my brow. That had taken a lot out of me. I was shivering, too, and not just because of the Binding. We might’ve been out of the snow storm, but we may as well have been in an ice cavern. It wasn’t long before Ryan started trembling, too. I had to keep him warm.

I closed my eyes for a long while, gathering my strength, then unfastened the iasometer and tied it back to my forearm. He didn’t need to see that in the morning. Then I staggered to the packs. Cielo had retreated from the entrance as far as he would dare, sheltered between a pair of stalagmites. He was shaking, too. I groaned. I would have to clean the sweat off him, otherwise he’d freeze.

Night owl, indeed.

Encyclopaedia Azaria #2: The Tale of the Binding

Encyclopaedia Azaria #3: The Gladier-Farrontine Feud

Encyclopaedia Azaria #4: The Binding Spell

Encyclopaedia Azaria #5: The Noble Houses of Azaria

Encyclopaedia Azaria #6: The Goddess Shrines

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Bandit Book Bloggers Tour- The Reluctant Prophet

As part of the Bandit Book Bloggers Tour Group, every month I'll have an awesome book to promote. September brings us Gillian O'Rourke novel The Reluctant Prophet, so go check it out ASAP:

There’s none so blind as she who can see . . .

Esther is blessed, and cursed, with a rare gift: the ability to see the fates of those around her. But when she escapes her peasant upbringing to become a priestess of the Order, she begins to realise how valuable her ability is among the power-hungry nobility, and what they are willing to do to possess it.

Haunted by the dark man of her father's warnings, and unable to see her own destiny, Esther is betrayed by those sworn to protect her. With eyes newly open to the harsh realities of her world, she embarks on a path that diverges from the plan the Gods have laid out. Now she must choose between sacrificing her own heart’s blood, and risking a future that will turn the lands against each other in bloody war.

The Reluctant Prophet is the story of one woman who holds the fate of the world in her hands, when all she wishes for is a glimpse of her own happiness.


Before settling down in the Emerald Isle with her husband and three dogs, Gillian O’Rourke lived in Melbourne, Australia. She received her first fantasy book from an English teacher at the age of fourteen and has loved the genre ever since.  Although she writes fantasy, she occasionally dabbles in the paranormal.  Gillian currently works in the healthcare sector, helping adults with disabilities live as independently as possible.

LINKS paperback paperback

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Monday, 2 September 2013

Bandit Book Bloggers Tour- Shadow of the Wraith

As part of the Bandit Book Bloggers Tour Group, every month I'll have an awesome book to promote. September brings us Ross Harrison's novel Shadow of the Wraith, so go check it out ASAP:

It sounds like a simple assignment: track down the mysterious Star Wraith and put an end to its rampage. But when Travis Archer and his team of inept soldiers find themselves the most wanted people in the galaxy - hounded by assassins, terrorists and their own military - they realise the Wraith is just a symptom of a much larger problem... Finding war raging between one army intent on destroying an entire species, and another that will destroy the galaxy, Travis must put aside his fears and his past to uncover the truth behind it all. To become the hero he's always imagined.

Shadow of the Wraith is the first book in the NEXUS series.

About the Author:

Ross Harrison has been writing since childhood without thought of publication. When the idea was planted by his grandmother to do so, it grew rapidly, and after a bumpy ten years or so, here sits the fruit. Ross lives on the UK/Eire border in Ireland, hoping the rain will help his hair grow back.


Purchase Links:


Moving silently and keeping his eyes peeled, Travis took cover behind the nearest overturned table. With no apparent provocation, one of the pirates opened fire into the second-storey balcony, which ran all the way around the bar. Startled by the sudden shots, the others opened fire too.
          Travis could pick out nothing up there in the shadows, and hadn’t even heard anything before the shooting started – had Draak forced too much herb into these men? Were they hallucinating? Perhaps they killed their fellow crewmembers themselves.
          Eventually, they ceased firing and stood listening for some time, their eyes wide with fear. All Travis could hear was silence and a dull ringing after the gunfire.
          After a while, they began to relax. They lowered their weapons, relieved smiles forming on their lips. Clearly, they thought they’d killed their attackers. Travis watched enough holofilms – in fact, possibly too many – to know this was inevitably the point at which their enemy would strike.
          Sure enough, as they turned to their fallen leader, two long black knives flew out of the shadows and plunged into two necks. As the pirates slumped to the floor, Travis crept forward towards the next overturned table to get a better view of the balcony. Thanks to his curiosity, he neglected to watch his footing, and before he’d gone more than a couple of steps, a shot glass burst under his boot.
          Synn spun round, roaring in terror and defiance, and opened fire on him. Travis made a dive for the cover of the thick metal bar. The pirate’s shots broke the mirror on the wall, and the bottles, showering him in alcohol and glass, both solid and molten.
          To the relief of Travis’ eardrums, Synn had already depleted much of the three-hundred-shot power cell. As soon as he heard the click of the empty weapon, he raised himself just enough to put his arm across the bar top and fire a single bullet into Synn’s forehead. The Izarian fell limply to the ground as blood started to trickle down his face.
          It would be unwise to assume the invisible assailants would be friendly towards Travis. ‘The enemy of my enemy’ was a phrase that got many killed.
          Unwilling to give them any breathing space, Travis vaulted over the bar like a magnificent, tubby gazelle, reaching to his new utility belt. As his boots hit the floor again, he pulled out a small, jelly-coated sphere and threw it with all his might at the ceiling. The orb thumped against the plastic ceiling tiles, the shock activating the device. The jelly became adhesive, keeping it glued to the ceiling. At the same time, the centre of the sphere came alive, radiating bright light into every shadow in the bar.
          In the brief ten seconds of light, Travis scrutinised every inch of the balcony, where a band usually played for patrons. There was no sign of any living creature in the bar. Perhaps the attackers really were invisible.
          The device flickered and died, dropping to the floor. Darkness poured eagerly back into the corners and recesses.
          The bar was silent, almost calm. Around the balcony, the remnants of the wooden banister smouldered.
          What now?
          Travis had put himself in the open, certain his clever trick would reveal his rival and give him the advantage. Now, he was simply in the open.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Tormented Artist Syndrome

This post talks about an issue that I'm sure plagues pretty much everyone who's ever had a creative thought of any kind- what I've unofficially termed 'Tormented Artist Syndrome'. I'll briefly go through what it is, why it arises, and ask whether it's harmful or helpful.

'It's never good enough!'

So, what is Tormented Artist Syndrome? Well, it's very nicely summed up with this illustration:

(taken from here)

Basically, whatever idea or image you have in your head, it never comes close to putting it into physical form. Hence the 'Tormented Artist'- we are constantly 'tormented' by falling short of our initial goal. This is most obvious with artists using visual mediums, but it also applies to writers who feel they can't get scenes right, actors who feel their performance isn't quite 'there', or musicians who can’t figure out lyrics or chords.

This isn't anything new. Virgil, the famous Roman author of the epic Aenied, hated his work, and wanted it all burned, never to be seen by the public (thankfully that never happened, and we're left with a great piece of Latin literature!), and I'm sure there have been plenty of other examples since.

Personally, I've suffered from this for a long time. As both a writer and a digital artist, I find it affects my artwork most. I can never quite get down what I 'see', and it can be extremely frustrating. This isn't helped by several factors, such as my lack of time to practice, my jealousy over other artists I consider much more talented (never mind that some are professionals who do it for a living, rather than a hobby like me), and being a perfectionist at the best of times.

So why should this feeling of 'torment' be so common? We are often our own worst critics, but why do artists especially seem to measure themselves against an unattainable benchmark? And if others don't see the flaws we do, is it worth the anguish?

In favour of the Tormented Artist Syndrome is that it provides strong motivation to improve. The more we try to capture the image in our mind's eye, the closer we'll get to it. This is, of course, one of the many facets of creativity- to communicate to others what we hold in our imagination. It also holds us in check so we don't become arrogant or think we're better than we are, or worse, better than others doing similar work.

Against the syndrome, however, is that it can be crippling. If we are constantly comparing ourselves to an impossible ideal, it can only be damaging to our confidence and self-esteem. Comparing ourselves to others is no better, either, as we all have difference talents, experiences and mastery of differing things, and we're all at different stages.

So how can we stop the inner Tormented Artist taking over?

The first step, cliched as it sounds, is to keep trying and never give up. Every failure is an opportunity to learn from mistakes and move forward. So you tried to draw a dragon and it looked like a diseased camel with scales- look into why it didn't work and try again. Hold the ideal goal in your head, but don't be disheartened when it doesn't work the first time.

The second is not to look around you for benchmarks. Comparing your self-taught Photoshop skills to someone who does professional magazine covers for a living isn't going to show you how to progress. By all means, use it as inspiration to improve, but again, don't throw it all in because your 10th attempt is still miles away. The 10, 000 hour theory holds for most technical skills, so keep going! And thanks to the internet, there’s a wealth of information out there to help you hone your craft, so use it.

The Tormented Artist Syndrome exists for a reason. Listen to it when you need to, but don't let it rule you. If you can tease out its benefits and reject its downsides, it'll be a vital tool for all your creative endeavours.

Have you ever had to wrestle down your Tormented Artist in order to finish a project? Tell me!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Bandit Book Bloggers Tour- Season of the Dead

August; the month of long school holidays, warm summer weather (mostly), and when new junior doctors start hospital work for the first time and cause an unprecedented rise in mortality (kidding!). So, in honour of all this, why not take a peek at Season of the Dead? It's filled with chills that'll make your AC look like a radiator...

"It is said that unto everything there is a season...these are the stories of a group of survivors during the season of the dead."

Four individuals fight to survive as the zombie apocalypse crashes over the world in a wave of terror and destruction. Color, creed, and social standing mean nothing as the virus infects millions across the planet.

Sharon: a zoologist from Nebraska, USA, has worked with the virus, and has seen the effects on the human mind. She knows more about the virus than nearly anybody alive, and far more than she wants to. Gerry: from Ontario, Canada, he gets his first taste of the virus from inside a prison cell. Locked up after an anti-government riot, his prison guard transforms before his eyes into a flesh craving zombie. Lucia: a chemist from Pittsburgh, USA, flees from a furry convention dressed as a giant squirrel, and escapes from the city in a Fed-Ex van. She's a girl who knows when to run and when to fight. Paul: thinks he can sit out the apocalypse in his apartment block in Dublin, Ireland, until the virus comes to visit, bursting his bubble and leaving him with no choice but to face reality or perish.

All four begin perilous journeys in mind and body as they face daily trials to survive: Four threads, four different parts of the world, one apocalypse!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Top Ten Female Fantasy Characters (Part Two)

Top Ten Female Fantasy Characters Part Two

Continuing on from last week's post, I'm charting a course through my favourite ten female fantasy characters. There are some novel additions here, so please do go and check out their stories.

6. Darcie Lock (Darcie Lock series)

I love the way Julia Golding presents her characters- perhaps why I've got two of her creations on the list. But Darcie is as far removed from Connie (number 2) as you could expect. First off: a FEMALE kickass spy! Another trope sadly lacking these days. Darcie is resourceful, clever, and energetic, yet at the same time hindered by her lack of experience and sometimes lack of confidence. The stories also tie in very heavily with Golding's work as a diplomat, so her locations and settings are very believable.

Darcie comes off as a great character. As an inexperienced teenage spy, she runs into a lot of problems, as you'd expect, but she does try her best to figure things out on her own, she's got a keen eye for detail, and a decent memory to boot. She has a charming friendship with SAS soldier, Stingo, too, and the usual teenage-troubled relationship with her parents. However she has to train to acquire her skills, so she's anything but perfect.

Romance of course has a part to play, but thankfully it's not the focus of the plot and it (usually) doesn't derail her character. She is only 14, after all. She's at her best in Empty Quarter, where she gets mixed up with a spoilt President's daughter, and has to use her wits to survive the brutal Sahara. I have yet to read Deadlock but I'm sure it will continue to show Darcie growing as a character, and I look forward to it.

Favourite quote: "Why choose a life where everything is a lie?" - Julia Golding, Empty Quarter

7. Princess Alyrra (Thorn)

The princess of a tiny kingdom on the fringes of her world, Alyrra has always tried to keep out of the limelight, after an incident involving her brother and one of the noble's daughters. However, when she's betrothed to a prince from a powerful kingdom, things start to change. Along with an enchantment cast by a witch, Alyrra has to learn to cope with a new way of living and a new way of seeing herself, yet she can't quite become a different person.

Alyrra was a strong character as, like others on my list, she undergoes real development. Though she initially tries to run from her destiny, even denying it entirely, she eventually confronts it and meets the challenges expected of her. Her inquisitive nature isn't so impulsive that it gets her into trouble, yet it guides her not to take things at face-value (which is one of the key messages of the book). She also managed to be a resilient protagonist whose features weren't defined by the characters around her.

All in all, Alyrra's journey is a great read, and she's a prime example of how characters can and should be written.

Favourite quote: "I know...that, having been born to power, it is my responsibility to see it handled well by myself, by those who come after me." -Intisar Khanani, Thorn

8. Kestrel Hath (Wind on Fire trilogy)

Long before Hunger Games ever existed, this series of books painted just as brutal a picture of a fantasy kingdom as modern dystopian books do for Earth today. And Nicholson, also writer of the famous film Gladiator, does just an impressive job with his novels as with his screenplays.

Kestrel, or Kess, is a rebellious, somewhat impulsive girl, sick of living under the strict rules of her home city, Aramanth. One day her rashness gets the better of her and she goes on a journey with her twin brother Bowman and another boy named Mumpo to try and change her city's ways. Five years later, having succeeded, she's then the sole survivor when Aramanth is sacked and her people taken into slavery. In the final book she confronts her destiny, along with Bowman and her family.

Kess has a lot going for her, but it's her flaws that drew me to her. She shares a psychic connection with her twin brother, cares deeply about her family and is willing to use any means to protect them, almost going too far at times. She's very loyal, as well, and is another rare example where her character isn't defined by her gender. However, she's also hindered through keeping her suffering to herself, and not being as kind-hearted as her twin; traits that lead her to her final choice in the third book.

Favourite quote: “You’ve been kind to me, and you’re very beautiful, but if you hit me again I’ll kill you.” -William Nicholson, Slaves of the Mastery

9. Nikki (Bardo)

Her young life cut tragically short by an accident (no thanks to a certain dog), our young protagonist Nikki ends up in the Bardo, and has to reclaim all pieces of her soul if she wants to escape and reincarnate. Which she's certainly not happy about. What follows is a fun-filled frantic adventure in exotic settings, but will Nikki succeed before her time runs out?

Nikki is a great character, vibrant, reckless, and with a great sense of humour. She's able to puzzle things out, too, with limited information. She works through her various challenges, managing to overcome them, but she also fails a few, too, showing her weaknesses. However, when it comes to the ultimate test at the end, she prevails, having learnt from her experiences. Again this makes her dynamic, and though there's a tiny tiny piece of romance thrown in there, it doesn't interfere with her as a character.

Favourite quote: "We were always taught at school to lead by example. That is why I am now outside running in the field and being chased by an excessively large hawk who, incidentally, happens to be me."- Chris McKenna, Bardo

10. Catherine Baker (Blood, Smoke and Mirrors)

Cat is an estranged Witch, going against the pacifist morals of her clan with her somewhat more 'proactive' tendencies. Working as a waitress, she's thrust into a magical conflict of epic proportions in the kingdom of Faerie when asked to run for a powerful political position. Along with an ex-boyfriend and her warrior faerie friends, she finds out some none too pleasant facts about the candidate she's running against...her father.

Cat is a witty, sarcastic heroine who isn't afraid to speak her mind. She's pretty sharp, too, and knows how to look after herself. Although there are portions of the book where this seems to contradict itself (not really the character's fault, more a bit of author indulgence), I enjoyed her struggles and how she got herself out of all manner of scrapes. Her voice is what kept me glued, though; you feel like you're really speaking with her in the narrative. Her special power, too (no spoilers), is pretty unique and clever, and just gives her that extra edge when she's facing more powerful opponents.

Unlike some of my other choices, she doesn't develop all that much (a bit like Sabriel), but she provides heaps of entertainment, and her none-too-radiant background makes her all the more fun.

Favourite quote: "Great idea, Tybalt. 'Invoke Apollo'. You lit me on fire, damn it!" -Robyn Bachar, Blood, Smoke and Mirrors

And that's it!

Tell me, who are your favourite fantasy heroines and why?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

FREE! The Binding ebook from 7th- 11th August!

In honour of starting my first year of GP training, I thought I'd celebrate by making The Binding free for five days! That's right, from 7th - 11th August you can download the ebook version for absolutely nothing!

And not only that, you can also have some free fan service while you're at it.

So what are you waiting for? Get it while you can!

Click on Adam for the US ebook, and Ryan for the UK ebook.

    Adam (US)                        Ryan (UK)

Friday, 2 August 2013

Top Ten Female Fantasy Characters (Part One)

Top Ten Female Fantasy Characters

Fantasy females who aren't helpless love interests have been hard to come by these days (perhaps with the exception of Hunger Games), but there are still some great characters with the double X chromosome out there. So, in this two-part blog post, I want to share my favourite ten female fantasy characters.

Of course, this list is highly subjective, so you might not find some of the very popular characters. I've also tried to pick out what makes these characters unique, and how they fit into their respective worlds. Feel free to check them out in their respective stories- you won't regret it!

Here are numbers 1-5 of my top ten fantasy heroines:

1. Sabriel (Sabriel)

Perhaps an obvious choice (especially if you read my previous blog post on my favourite novels) but Sabriel really does deserve the top spot. Cast into the Old Kingdom on a quest to save her father using powers she hardly knows about, Sabriel's pretty much thrown in the deep end and left to sink or swim. Along with the help from some unlikely allies, Sabriel must face an ancient enemy, and accept her mantle as the Abhorsen.

I like Sabriel because she's strong willed without being impulsive, she isn't crippled by her doubts yet has an awareness of her limits, she's willing to accept help without being helpless herself, and is caring and kind without being soft. She is definitely the epitome of my ideal heroine.

Of course some argue that Sabriel is a bit bland in this respect, as her flaws aren't that deep, and while it's true she doesn't really develop massively as a character, she doesn't really need to. She comes to accept her new position as Abhorsen, despite barely knowing the depths of her power, faces her own grief at personal loss, and shows great courage when she needs to, learning to believe in herself. Pretty staple YA fare, but it's rare to find such a balanced lead character who's female, especially these days.

And Lirael can't hold a candle to her :P

Favourite quote: "She knew it like she knew her times tables, but the Charter marks just wouldn't come, and why was twelve times twelve sticking in her head when she wanted Charter Marks..." -Garth Nix, Sabriel

2. Connie Lionheart (Companions Quartet)

The Companions series is more middle-grade than YA, but it has some wonderful ideas and concepts, along with a great cast of characters. Connie Lionheart is (unknown to her at first) a Universal Companion- someone who can communicate and bond with all mythical creatures, rather than just one like most members of the secret Society for Protection of Mythical Creatures. This makes her special, but also feared, as there hasn't been such a companion in years and the previous ones have had a historically poor reputation.

Connie's a great protagonist, stumbling through as she learns about her powers and her responsibility as Universal Companion. It's a hard slog for her, as unlike most books, she has no real mentor, and faces a lot of criticism from her allies more than her enemies. She's certainly not got it easy!

Throughout the series we see Connie grow into the leader she's meant to become. She always rises to the challenge, and has a fresh perspective that often riles the older, more established Companions. She makes mistakes, too, but she learns from them, so she's not stupid like some heroines. I also never hated her for her choices, as even if they weren't the correct ones, her reasoning and motives were always solid. This made her very real to me. Her powers, too, were pretty novel, and her relationship with the other characters was believable. In fact she influenced me so much I wanted her story to continue, and have done so on a fan fiction basis. She's a likeable character with very real flaws that she learns to overcome, and is a firm favourite for me.

Favourite quote: "I will not do your work for you. I will not become the monster you want me to be." -Julia Golding, The Gorgon's Gaze

3. Eona (Eon)

Okay well I suppose this is a *spoiler* but you do learn very early in the first book that Eon's a woman, who has had to conceal her gender as she trains to be a Dragoneye, a mystical sorceror who can tame the power of one the twelve Zodiac Dragons. Rooted in ancient Chinese mythology, this book is a brilliant fantasy tale, again with memorable characters and plenty of gender-challenging issues, which is hard to do when you're in a set historical era where women have no rights.

Eon stood out for me in a lot of ways. She's a product of her time, knowing that revealing her gender could cost her life, and doing all she can to conceal it. Throughout the story she's a very careful planner and thinker, and yet it all comes undone when she learns of a plot to overthrow the Emperor. Watching her coming to terms with her past, her destiny, and her friendships was very moving, yet at the same time she's no helpless heroine, either.

The second book really shows her coming into her own. Initially she's crippled by the fear of her uncontrollable powers, and causes some horrible disasters, but she confronts her weaknesses and carries out her duty, no matter how heart-breaking or unfair it seems. Despite a life filled with treachery, deceit and lies, she still makes the right choices, showing that light can still flourish in the deepest shadows.

Favourite quote: “I found power in accepting the truth of who I am. It may not be a truth that others can accept, but I cannot live any other way. How would it be to live a lie every minute of your life.” -Alison Goodman, Eon: Dragoneye Reborn

4. Maerad (Pellinor Series)

Maerad stunned me in a pleasant way. A FEMALE protagonist in an epic fantasy that ISN'T reduced to convenient love interest? Kudos to Alison Croggon! Granted, the books are pretty staple high fantasy and have a lore as encompassing as Tolkein's works, just having a female main character made so many new elements possible. Maerad has learnt to be careful and cautious, having lived as a slave after her homeland was sacked, and having recently lost her mother. Her world changes though when she's inadvertently rescued by a man named Cadvan, and he introduces her to her heritage as a Bard.

Maerad was interesting because she truly underwent a transformation, both in terms of her magic and her personality. She doesn't get her powers for a good chunk of the first book, which was a wise choice as you can see her frustration at her helplessness. Yet she has her own way of surviving, showing she's not reliant on her magic, either.

The second and fourth book impressed me as she was shown to push her limits in a dangerous way, almost enjoying abusing her power, along with the anxiety this caused those close to her. This made her a very realistic character with blurred morals, which you don't tend to find in epic fantasy which favours a very black and white 'heroes vs. the Dark Lord' mentality. Her relationship with Cadvan was well-done, too. Although Croggon says she was inspired by Tolkein, the books give off much more of a Greek epic vibe for me, another reason why I found the series so enjoyable.

Favourite quote: "For those moments she had felt invulnerable and immeasurably dangerous; the power which surged through her seemed infinite, as if she had to merely crook her finger and entire cities would crumble at her whim." -Alison Croggon, The Gift

5. Princess Holly Blue (Faerie Wars)

A kickass Faerie Princess? Yes please! Faerie Wars is full of memorable characters, and while Prince Pyrgus is my favourite, his sister Blue is a very high-ranking second. The books chronicle the ongoing political struggle between the Faeries of the Light and Faeries of the Night, the adventures of animal-loving rebellious Prince Pyrgus, and how a human boy Henry is dragged into the conflict. Blue is the second eldest in line for the Peacock Throne, and only daughter of the current Purple Emperor.

Blue is everything her brother Pyrgus isn't; she can play the political games, has her own spy network, amongst other things, but her curiosity can get the better of her and land her into trouble. Yet at the same time she has a somewhat more innocent side, particularly when it comes to relationships. As such this made her vulnerable when she needed to be. This is played to good effect in the ending of Faerie Lord (I won't spoil it for you).

However, there are moments where she's really weakened for the sake of the hero, which annoyed me a little. Sometimes her potential is downplayed, but the scenes where she does shine are pretty decent. So, while Blue might not be a main character, she's certainly got plenty going for her as a major support character, so check her out.

Favourite quote: "Fortunately I sometimes find it possible to think for myself." -Herbie Brennan, Faerie Wars

Next week, part two will cover numbers 6-10 in my top ten list...

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Binding Giveaway! 22nd July- 22nd September

Hey everyone, I've got good news. From today until my birthday, I'm going to be hosting a giveaway! I have five signed paperback copies of The Binding up for grabs.

The giveaway is limited to UK residents only this time around, but international residents will have their revenge come December :).

So what are you waiting for? Enter now for a chance to win!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Binding by Sam Dogra

The Binding

by Sam Dogra

Giveaway ends September 22, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Friday, 19 July 2013

Bandit Book Bloggers Tour- Darkspire Reaches

As part of the Bandit Book Bloggers Tour Group, every month I'll have an awesome book to promote. First for July is Darkspire Reaches, published by Kristell Ink.

Darkspire Reaches
C N Lesley

The wyvern has hunted for the young outcast all her life; a day will come when, after being rejected by civilisation and the tribes, she must at last face him. 

Abandoned as a sacrifice to the wyvern, a young girl is raised to fear the beast her adoptive clan believes meant to kill her. When the Emperor outlaws all magic, Raven is forced to flee from her home with her foster mother, for both are judged as witches. Now an outcast, she lives at the mercy of others, forever pursued by the wyvern. Soon her life will change forever.

A unique and unsettling romantic adventure about rejection and belonging.


Elizabeth Hull, writing under the by line of C.N.Lesley, lives in Alberta with her husband and cats. Her three daughters live close by. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth likes to read and to paint watercolors. She is also a keen gardener (despite the very short summers) and now has a mature shade garden. Once a worker in the communications sector, mostly concentrating on local news and events, she now writes full time, and fusses over her cats. She was senior managing editor of FlashMe Magazine and now is assistant flash fiction editor for Abyss and Apex. 


Author of ‘Love, War and Magic’, Artema Press
Raised in the world of Darkspire Reaches to heal the sick and fear the wyvern, Raven is an immediately accessible and lovable character, for whom the road from servitude to motherhood is paved with persecution, betrayal, and ultimately a showdown for who will command the loyalty of her mate.  At times, the book is heartrendingly brutal, and, at others, filled with a tenderness that inspires happy tears.  Comic relief, in the form of Raven and Connor’s wit, not to mention the antics of Kryling, a much smaller cousin of the wyvern, raises the book another notch from excellent to brilliant.  With layers of complexity that attain additional depth each time I return to the story, this is a book to be read again and again.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.

In C.N. Lesley’s “Darkspire Reaches”, when Emperor Chactar order the death of witches by burning, Raven and her foster mother, Margie, leave their village and seek shelter from the very man who is responsible for their misery. In exchange for a secret that Margie threatens to expose, they are granted shelter by the wicked emperor. From that moment onward, Raven’s life continues to change, and she will learn so much more about herself, about Samara Maidens, a Drakken male and the beast Wyvern that has plagued her mind like a nightmare.

I love the cover art by Alex Boca which grabs my interest right away. The dialogue was confusing at first until I figured out the difference of a ‘peasant talk’ and the normal speech that Margie and Raven use. The author’s beautiful writing style easily sparked off interest and my imagination about the story. I rooted for Raven from the beginning as I felt her pain and sympathized with the harsh life that she had to endure. Honestly, I didn't like the things that happened to a protagonist that deserves so much more. I couldn't find it in me to like Connor, the Drakken male, at all. Only when Raven accepted him that I followed suit. A tumultuous but otherwise entertaining read, this is an adult fantasy novel with solidly-built worlds, characters and creatures. If you love dragon-themed tales like me, the Wyverns are definitely on par with the dragons as a large, mythical winged creature.


Available in paperback and digital form from the following.

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