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Category Archives: Epic Fantasy

My Thing For Dwarves-Guest Post by D.P. Prior

My Thing For Dwarves-Guest Post by D.P. Prior


 by D.P. Prior

 (editor, old school vaudeville strongman, and author of the new series,

Legends of the Nameless Dwarf)

 Dwarves in fantasy may be dour, beer-swilling, gold-digging troglodytes, but there’s no doubt about their importance in myth and folklore. In the Prose Edda, four dwarves (Norori, Suori, Austri, and Vestri) hold up the sky, and there’s even some scholarly speculation that the little folk may have had a hand in the creation of the first humans, Ask and Embla.

 The word “dwarf” (Old English dweorg, Old Norse dvergr) has been linked to the Indo-European root dreugh, which gives us the English “dream” and “trug” (deception), which has important ramifications for the dwarves of my own fantasy world of Aethir.

 Dwarves have been around in popular culture for as long as I can remember (my longterm memory is significantly better than my short, which probably has something to do with my dwarven love of anything that can be drunk from a flagon). The Brothers Grimm recorded the folk tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as long ago as 1812. Tolkien gave us an ensemble of silly-hat-wearing dwarves in The Hobbit (1937), and Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981) had a band of chronologically challenged, diminutive treasure-seekers doing battle with evil.

 Dwarves are often associated with the deep places of the earth. It’s a connection that goes back to the Eddas and is a characteristic of the dwarves of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. In my own universe, the dwarves of Aethir are “created” by the scientist Sektis Gandaw in order to mine the precious ore, scarolite. However, there are darker and older secrets to their nature waiting to be discovered.

 I was always quite ambivalent towards Thorin Oakenshield and his companions in The Hobbit— they are often avaricious to the point of foolhardiness, although it would be hard to deny their bravery. Gimli, in The Lord of the Rings, is perhaps more likable, particularly in his score-keeping scene with Legolas at Helm’s Deep, and his hardiness in the epic battle in the mines of Moria, the quintessential dwarven environment.

 Something of a dwarf stereotype has developed over the years. Some of it comes from mythology, some from Tolkien’s feasting and drinking dwarves, and much from the development of the race in Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer. Despite their often bellicose natures, dwarves tend to provide a touch of grouchy comedy to fantasy tales—“Nobody tosses a dwarf,” says John Rhys-Davies’s Gimli in the Peter Jackson film.

 Various subtypes of dwarf have arisen, numerous clans, but there is almost always an immediately identifiable quality of dwarfishness about them. Generally it’s alcohol, although dwarves are also very much bound up with axes, stoicism, and a love of shiny objects that have to be dug out of rock.

 I don’t know if it’s just me, but dwarves often have a flavour of Scottishness about them, so much so that a RPG figure I once painted for the Nameless Dwarf had tartan britches. Arguably, the trend was taken too far in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, but it’s been a staple of the Warhammer universe, perhaps epitomized by the character Gotrek. Someone once stated they felt the Nameless Dwarf was another Gotrek type. The funny thing is, the Nameless Dwarf has been around since 1979 (when there was no Warhammer), which means he predates Gotrek by nearly two decades.

 Back in the days when I belonged to the legendary Wargaming Society sequestered away at the back of the Archery recreation ground’s public toilets, I was in the unsavoury habit of playing Dungeons and Dragons with a crabby bunch of ne’er-do-wells. We had the back room of the club (the front was for serious gamers in the Napoleonics tradition). We painted the walls and ceiling black, let the cobwebs grow, and gathered around an enormous (black) table with six-packs of Jacob’s Club biscuits for endless campaigns that took us all the way to the Abyss and back.

 There were a few memorable dwarves among the players. One was particularly annoying (I forget his name). He was literally dripping with artifacts, was as indestructible as the Hulk, and had the “my axe is bigger than yours” personality type. The shogger had even been resurrected a couple of times. He just refused to go away. He did go away, eventually, though, when he took a pop at a certain dwarf with no name, who always had the luck of the gods on his side. Chopped the bleeder’s head off, and that was an end to the matter.

 Another player had a fat dwarf, aptly named Falstaff, but all I can remember of him is that he was always lagging behind so he could hit on the party’s only female (an elf of all things!)

 I pretty much always played dwarves. I tried other races, but the minute those characters were killed (and inevitably they were) I got straight back into my comfort zone.

 When my brother decided to DM a particular nasty orc-fest at the club, a super-party was assembled, and I realized I was going to need a pretty special dwarf to get the job done.

 That’s when the original Nameless Dwarf was created. He was nameless back then because he didn’t need any sort of personality. He was a tank, a hack-and-slash superhero. He was the dwarven Terminator (even before Arnold had first uttered “I’ll be back.”) Some time after his creation, I bought a miniature figure called The Dwarf with No Name—a cigar-smoking, gun-toting, poncho-wearing dwarf based on the Clint Eastwood character. It wasn’t quite appropriate for Nameless, but it was a cool figure nonetheless.

 Over the years, the character developed, but he also grew more and more powerful, and that’s never a good thing in gaming. Eventually, I retired him. Years later, I reinvented him, but that was when I learned the hard truth that roleplaying games are for people less imaginatively and cognitively challenged than an old codger like me. I shoved my polyhedral dice in the attic and left Nameless to the Void.

 Many years later, I gave him a cameo in my first fantasy novel, The Resurrection of Deacon Shader. Back then I was into being terribly, terribly literary and reducing all my characters to two-dimensional talking heads. I did the same with Nameless, although a lot of readers were impressed with his first appearance. With barely a word spoken, he scares the crap out of the hero, Shader, displaying some of that elemental violence he’d had as a D&D character.

 When I was staying in Chicago a few years ago I found myself at a loose end while my son was out catching frogs. I sat at a friend’s dining room table and resolved to write a Nameless short story to sell to a magazine. I wrote the 5000 word The Ant-Man of Malfen in one sitting and liked where the character was going. He had elements of Shakespeare’s Falstaff (Henry IV 1&2), Hilaire Belloc’s drinking, singing, and camaraderie, a crippling manic depression, and a smattering of David Gemmell’s Druss the Legend.

 Nameless has some of those stereotypical dwarven characteristics—the axe and the grog, but he’s also a rather unique, complex character who (importantly for me) has some surprising vulnerabilities.

 The story was accepted by Pulp Empire, but then I went on to expand it into a novella. It starts after the Nameless, under the influence of a malevolent black axe, virtually commits genocide. The survivors of his massacre in the ravine city of Arx Gravis flee across the mountains into the nightmare lands of Qlippoth. At last free from the axe, Nameless desperately wants to find them before it’s too late (no one comes back from Qlippoth). He hires Nils Fargin, son of a criminal guildmaster, to lead him to some rather shady contacts who may be able to help.

 That’s where the Chronicles of the Nameless Dwarf start—a guilt-ridden Nameless trying to find the survivors of his race, and knowing he’s the last person they’d want to run into. The series spans five books that take him on a journey with modest Sword and Sorcery beginnings to a truly epic conclusion.

The Nameless Dwarf books have benefited enormously from some great artwork. The first cover was produced by C.S. Marks. Subsequent covers in the first series were painted by Patrick Stacey. Russian artist Anton Kokarev came up with the iconic image of Nameless for the cover of the Complete Chronicles, which has consistently been my bestselling book, and has topped the fantasy charts on several occasions. More recently, Mike Nash, a brilliant English artist, accepted the challenge of producing covers for Carnifex (Legends of the Nameless Dwarf Book 1) and Return of the Dwarf Lords (Book 4).

 The Nameless Dwarf books began as a fun spinoff from the Shader series, which is much heavier epic fantasy. Something of Nameless’s old D&D luck must still linger, though, as the Chronicles have easily outsold all my other books put together. Either that, or it’s just a reminder that the little guys, in spite of all their vices, remain as popular today as they were in the days of yore.

 In 2015, I began work on a follow up Nameless Dwarf story, Return of the Dwarf Lords. Based on this, I was asked by my agent to put together a complete Nameless Dwarf story arc, and so I sat down to write the tragic origins story, Carnifex, and then put together Geas of the Black Axe from some material that originally featured in my Shader series, massively revised and told from Nameless’s perspective, along with approximately 60,000 of new material. Next, The Complete Chronicles were fully revised and became book 3: Revenge of the Lich.

 The new books were released in January 2016. You can find out all about them at:



 For more than a thousand years, the dwarves have hidden away from the world in their ravine city of Arx Gravis.

 Governed by an inflexible council whose sole aim is to avoid the errors of the past, the defining virtue of their society is that nothing should ever change.

 But when the Scriptorium is broken into, and Ravine Guard Carnifex Thane sees a homunculus fleeing the scene of the crime, events are set in motion that will ensure nothing will ever be the same again.

 Deception and death are coming to Arx Gravis.

The riddles that preceded Carnifex’s birth crystalize into a horrifying fate that inexorably closes in.

 But it is in blood that legends are born, and redemption is sometimes seeded in the gravest of sins.

 For Carnifex is destined to become the Ravine Butcher, before even that grim appellation is forever lost, along with everything that once defined him.

Carnifex - Full



Brian Palmer & Jason Rowe Interview



Jason Rowe is a published nonfiction writer and journalist, and has been a creative writer professionally for nearly 20 years. Jason first had the vision for the XII saga in 2001 but it was only after sharing the vision with friend and co-worker, Brian Palmer, in the summer of 2008 that the two decided to join creative forces and give birth to this 8-book series including an imagined future earth, a daunting cast of heroes and villains, and the underlying message of the series as a whole.


Brian Palmer has been a creative freelance writer for print and online publications in the music, literary, film and sports worlds since 2004. He graduated with a degree in English and an emphasis in creative writing from the University of Puget Sound in 2000. The XII saga is unlike any creative endeavor he has ever participated in, and it thrills him to no end.




Here is the blurb for the novel:

A century after the world was predicted to end, it was indeed reborn. Under the leadership of the Overseer of New Earth, minds were united, diseases were cured, and the Earth was healed when population centers minimized mankind’s footprint, and the remainder of the planet was turned over to the will of nature. War was eradicated, the world embraced one religion, and the New Era began.
But darkness rises now, mistaken for a mere shadow cast by the bright light of human progress. It is the time of which the ancients foretold. It is the time when all things must end. …It is the time of The Twelve.
Six men and six women representing all creeds and colors are supernaturally gifted, but the unlikeliest of heroes. They are barely adults by the world’s standards, but still they are called.
Only they can stand against the growing darkness – but will they stand together?
XII: Genesis is the first installment of an eight-book series in the Young Adult / New Adult genres. If action excites you, if the supernatural intrigues you, and if love compels you – then you are invited to join The Twelve in their fight against the growing darkness that threatens New Earth!

What inspired you to become a writer??

Brian: I was at a camp in high school, I think it might have been right before my sophomore year in high school, and they were offering a poetry workshop. I tried it out, dug it, and wrote a lot of poetry until I went to college. I majored in English and did my emphasis in creative writing, and after I took my first short story class, I was hooked and knew that writing–specifically short stories and novels–was what I wanted to do.

Jason: My earliest inspiration was my mother who was a writer, media, and creative talent herself. She instilled a love for reading and storytelling in me as soon as I was old enough to read. So my passion for reading led directly to my passion for writing.


What character(s) of your book(s) do each of you most relate to??

Brian: In a way, I think I relate the most to Juan just because he is not boisterous, and tends to be more introspective than anything else. He also has a habit of getting run over in conversations, which has happened to me on a number of occasions in my life.

Jason: I think there is inherently a part of me represented in each if the characters, make and female – but if I had to pick one, Stone is probably the one I identify with most as his personality, temperament, and mannerisms most closely mirror my own.


How do each of you visualize your stories? By dreams? Inner monologue with your characters, dreams, etc.?

Brian: Usually I’ll get some sort of flash in my mind, either while I am awake or sleeping, that sets me to thinking about what could result from that picture. Is this the beginning of the story? The middle? Who are these characters? What sorts of dilemmas are they facing? Then usually it is a process of freewriting to explore the possibilities while attempting to find the characters’ voices. I also try to think of where this story is set, what I know about the area, what I can add to the background so to speak, and then once I have exhausted those ideas, I determine whether or not I am just going to make up locations for the rest of the story to take place in, or try to use actual settings instead.

Jason: My stories always begin with drama or a vision and are then developed through internal monologue, more story immersion-based day dreaming while away from the keyboard, and then ultimately finished and polished through brainstorming or creative feedback.

What is your individual writing rituals? Music?? Silence? Meditation?

Brian: If I’m solo writing then it’s the film scores of Thomas Newman (American Beauty, The Shawshank Redemption, Road to Perdition, The Adjustment Bureau, Meet Joe Black), or the soundtracks to the Final Fantasy VII, IX and X video games. If Jason and I are Skyping together, that’s a whole other dance entirely! Prayer starts us off in the right direction, and then we hash out the details of whatever scenes we’re writing and pray that we won’t be interrupted too much by our kids!

Jason: I play each scene out in my mind starting at scene one (prologue or chapter 1) before writing it. Then I visualize the next natural step in the story that will most organically, plausibly, and compellingly take it towards the conclusion I have in mind. Because I allow the characters to tell me how they want to get there, I write in silence to better hear their voices. Prayer helps considerably as well.

What inspired you to write & collaborate on XII: Genesis ?

Brian: I’ll defer to Jason on the writing aspect since he had this idea long before he even met me, but as for collaborating, he told me about the idea for the XII Saga and even though it was completely unlike anything I had ever worked on before, I knew I wanted in right away. Even then, four years ago, this story was global in scope and potential, and the challenge of trying to wrap our minds around it all and figure out how we were going to tackle this appealed to me greatly. I was hooked!

Jason: I had the vision for XII many years before meeting Brian. What I envisioned was a dark themed, dystopian future epic with supernatural and heroic elements featuring young and new adults as the heroes. Beyond that, I wanted the story to have a purpose in addition to being compelling entertainment. When Brian and I began to toss around the idea of a collaboration, I shared the XII premise and we knew right away that it was the project with the most teeth and enough content to keep two capable and independent writers sharing the wheel effectively.


If you could be a book genre? Which one would you choose and why??

Brian: Before the XII Saga came around, I would have said that nebulous little thing called literary fiction because that’s what I wrote prior to starting work on this series. Now, I’m siding more with the notion of a supernatural action series like this one!

Jason: I would choose the young adult/new adult genre with a premise pretty much what we’ve created with XII. There’s action, drama, romance, life choices, and using ones unique talents as well as the collaborative strength of partnering with others to overcome evil and leave a positive legacy in the world.


What knowledge do you want to share with aspiring authors like myself??

Brian: Be authentic, be passionate, be dedicated. People will be drawn to the story you write if they can tell you feel like it’s the coolest thing you’ve ever read or written. It doesn’t have to be the next Twilight, it just has to contain a vitality that jumps off the page at the reader in a way that says, “Wow, this author wasn’t just trying to follow a tried-and-true formula to become a National Bestseller, they freaking had the time of their life coming up with this story!” Readers are smart. They can tell if you’re faking it. Don’t fake it!

Jason: I think being a great writer begins with being a passionate reader. You can’t make a great cup of coffee if you’ve never tasted one and writing is just like that. Having good ideas isn’t enough. You have to learn the craft through absorbing inspiration from other writers and then honing your craft through the writing process. Too many talented individuals either give up because they don’t think they are good enough, or they lack the endurance to stick with it through the long and often daunting process of birthing their story and characters into the world. Be passionate, believe in yourself, and stick to it.


if you were stranded on a deserted island, what 5 things would you bring and why??

Brian: A water filtration system, for obvious reasons. A Bible for guidance and peace because that book has helped me through a number of tough situations in my life and I think being stranded on a deserted island would be a pretty tough spot to be in! My laptop complete with a magical battery that could last for many, many years without dying…just in case! And I’ll cheat and say my wife and daughter, that way I wouldn’t be alone.

Jason: My wife because she’s my best friend. A MacBook Pro with Word and satellite Internet connection for my writing. A bible for inspiration. A deck of cards for when swimming, body surfing, fishing, and tree climbing aren’t entertaining enough, and a homing beacon so that I can be found when I decide its time to return to civilization. 🙂

What other books do you have to write or be written in the horizon??

Brian: I’ll let Jason handle the XII-related material we have in the works (which will keep us very busy for many, many years), but I also have ideas for smaller-scale projects like the novels and short stories I wrote before this series started. More along the lines of indie dramas. That said, I do have one or two high-concept novel ideas that I am currently fleshing out in my mind, but for right now it’s all systems go with XII!

Jason: We’re currently working on book two of the series (there are 8 total). There are a number of nonfiction projects I have in development and another fictional series waiting for XII to be fully established on the best sellers list.


If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead? Who would it be and why??

Brian: Tolkien. I would love to pick his brain about how he became inspired to write the works he did, and I would love to hear what he thinks of how his novels have been portrayed in on film.

Jason: It feels cliché to say it, but Jesus. Not because its the answer I should give as a man of faith but because He was and is the ultimate storyteller and I’m sure I would take away more over a meal with Him than countless meals with anyone else I’m a fan of. People disappoint, Jesus never does.


If you could time travel, what time period would you go to and why??

Brian: The 19th Century, just because there was so much going on at the time and so many enormous historical achievements taking place here in America.

Jason: Wow. Just one?!! Probably the 19th Century because it was an amazing period for literature and progress.


How do you write your books?? By the seat of your pants? Or is it plotted out in advance??

Brian: The XII saga is the first instance where I have worked on something that involved plotting. Everything I had worked on before was more of a, “Let’s follow this rabbit down the rabbit hole and see where she goes” type of thing, and to a degree that’s how we began this series. But as time went on and we worked on re-writes, we learned that plotting this sucker out was essential, both to the integrity of the story and to help us keep our sanity!

Jason: I’ve learned to be more proactive through my professional experiences but I’m a dreamer and would be led by my dreams if I could do it without negative consequence to myself and others.


Here is a twist…in a sentence of 5 words or less, what comes to your mind first??

Brian: No day but today.

Jason: Change the world using words.

Brian: One final note is we are donating one-third of all net proceeds from this ebook to a non-profit organization in Oregon that is working to rescue women and young girls from the sex trafficking trade in Mumbai, India. We both used to work for this non-profit (it’s how we met, actually, and learned that we were kindred spirits in terms of our creative streaks, love of music, films, etc.) and I had the privilege of going to Mumbai in 2011 and seeing firsthand the work that was being done to change lives there, so this is an issue that is near and dear to both of us.















Today, I’m welcoming Melissa McPhail to my blog with an excerpt of her new epic fantasy. Unfortunately, I was unable to read this book in time for the tour but it’s definitely on my review pile for one at a later date. If you love epic fantasy, you will love this book!!!


Cephrael Tour Badge

“All things are composed of patterns…” And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:
In Alorin…three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor’s brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D’Lacourte’s mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he’ll have to find him…
In the kingdom of Dannym…the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord…
In the Nadori desert…tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them.


Ean hugged the shadows as he tried to find his way back to le Comte’s estates. He feared they’d hurt his head worse than he thought, for the twisting alleys of the city disoriented him now. He was sure he’d passed the last street corner already once, and he had the uneasy feeling that he was walking in circles.

Trying to break the cycle, he turned into a long and shadowed alley, spotting a streetlamp at the other end. Abruptly a form reared out of the shadows. Ean reached for his sword—


The prince halted with his hand around the hilt. “Fynn?”

“Balls of Belloth!” Fynnlar crossed the distance in a rush and grabbed him by both shoulders, giving him a shake. “What are you doing out here, you wool-brained fool?”

“I might ask the same of you, cousin.” Pushing a hand to his throbbing head, Ean closed his eyes. He’d seen so much death since the last moon…so many lives lost, and for what? He couldn’t fathom the events that spun violently around him, only knowing they somehow had him caught in the whirlwind.

“Ean, are you unwell?”

“Hit my head pretty hard,” the prince murmured, lifting tired eyes to refocus on his cousin. “I’ll be all right.”

“Come on. We’d best keep moving.”

The prince shook off the numbness edging his thoughts and followed his cousin. Fog was rising from the river as they headed back toward le Comte’s villa, fat fingers sliding through the streets to leach the color from the night. They reached a corner, and Fynn paused and looked warily around.

“Fynn, what are we waiting fo—”

But the words stuck on Ean’s tongue, for he heard it then: a strange whispering, the whisk of silk across the rough edge of glass. The sound had prickly tentacles that pierced into the soft flesh of Ean’s inner ear and twisted there, making him cringe.

Something flew out of the shadows and Ean swung his head after it, straining to make out what he’d seen. “What in Tiern’aval was that?”

Grimly, Fynn held his sword before him. “A Wildling—a Whisper Lord.”

The whispering continued, tormenting, growing soundlessly louder until it shrieked inside Ean’s skull, shattering any hope of focus.

The Wildling shot out of the shadows again, and Ean forced his eyes to follow, to find him in the shadows where he hid.


He saw him lurking against the wall, smiling around big white teeth. His leathery skin was pitch black , and his eyes were golden like the desert sands. The man locked gazes with him, and—

Suddenly they were nose to nose. Ean felt the heat of his breath in the same moment that the fiery sting of steel pierced his flesh.

Shade and darkness!

“Ean, he cut you!”

“I’m all right.” But Ean grimaced as he gingerly probed the wound. “Shadow take the abominable creature.” Fynn gave him a long look. “Be ready,” and he rushed to meet the Wildling.

The fight turned instantly vicious. Whisper Lord fought with long, stiletto daggers that speared like claws out of his gloves. His hands crisscrossed with amazing speed, never failing to find their mark on Fynn’s person, while his body twisted and spun. Fynn’s thrusts in turn only seemed to meet with the slashed silk of his garments. So fast did the Whisper Lord dart and cavort that Ean at first felt helpless to join in, for he could barely see the Wildling move until after it had happened, as if the sight had to bounce off the back of his eyes…as if he could only see the man’s reflection.

Then Ean found his focus and rushed to help Fynn.

The Whisper Lord marked him before he even got his blade around, a long swipe at the joining of neck and shoulder that burned bitterly. Ean realized that trying to use his sword alone would get him killed, so he pulled his dagger and dove in again. The Whisper Lord dodged like a jumping spider and managed in the same maneuver to slash a deep cut across Ean’s thigh, his daggers flashing first with the silver of steel and then dark with blood. Ean snarled a curse and staggered into the wall, teeth clenched against the pain, for the wound was angry and deep.

Abruptly Fynn threw himself backwards, himself narrowly avoiding a deadly thrust to his gut. Those spine-like blades sliced a chunk of flesh out of his side instead. The royal cousin clenched his teeth and held one hand to his midriff, using the other to pull himself out of reach.

Ean dove at the creature with renewed determination, his battered head forgotten in his haste to keep the man away from Fynn. He wore a malicious grin as they battled, and his golden gaze was flecked and sparkling against his face of leathery pitch. As Ean’s strength failed, the Wildling grinned even broader and began to chant in a voice like sand, “Tur or’de rorum d’rundalin dalal!  Tur or’de rorum d’rundalin dalal!” Over and over while he pressed Ean on the retreat; gleefully, like a madman.

And then he made a sudden thrust, and Ean jumped to avoid the slashing daggers that barely missed his throat. He came down unevenly on his bad leg, and his knee buckled. Stumbling, he hissed a curse and the man bore down on him. A swipe of his hand, and three spiny daggers cut deeply across Ean’s back with their sharp fire. The Wildling’s other hand darted for his throat again, but the prince veered and twisted so the blades caught his chin and cheek instead. Ean rolled and thrust upward, but the Wildling merely laughed and arched out of his way; the weapon met only the whisper of silk.

Ean lay panting. His dagger seemed lost along with his will, and desperation could no longer drive him on.

The Whisper Lord advanced slowly wearing a grim smile. With the shrieking noise still accosting his skull and the loss of blood and nausea in his stomach, Ean felt only numb acceptance. Shaking, he lowered his head—

A tall form pushed past him, knocking Ean aside as it rushed to engage the Whisper Lord, driving the Wildling back and away, taking the battle out of Ean’s hands.

Ean fell onto his back, gasping as the last of his strength bled out of him, and lay watching his rescuer take offensive control.

The woman’s brown half-cloak floated behind her as she advanced with long, fast strides, forcing the Whisper Lord on the retreat beneath two short swords wielded in a flashing figure-eight.

The Wildling smiled no longer. Every thrust and swipe of his daggers was blocked by the woman’s whirling black blades. She matched him stride for stride, spinning when he spun, darting as he did, dodging as he lunged. They performed a ferocious, twisting dance of death where both knew the steps intimately and took them with ease.

As Ean watched, the Wildling slashed his daggered gloves in a motion that should’ve gutted the woman, but she flipped out of his reach, thrusting long as she landed. Her sword met with the flesh of his side, drawing a hiss as he jumped back. He glared malevolently at her and pressed one palm to his side.

“Merdanti,” he snarled, his golden eyes hot as they assessed her black blades.

Arching brows with a predatory smile, she twirled her blades and lunged for him again, and once more the dance began, the meeting of their deadly weapons a rhythmic beating that seemed in time with Ean’s still-racing heart.

And then—

Ean thought he must’ve dreamed it, his tortured mind inventing an impression for what clearly defied explanation. The woman and the Wildling seemed to shift and slow, their cloaks floating as if suspended on the wind. Then the woman launched out of her turn so quickly that Ean lost sight of her, only to spot her again as she stood squarely before her opponent, blades crossed. With naught but a grimace of effort, she chopped her short swords crosswise through the Wildling’s neck, removing his head completely. His body toppled to the stones at her feet, paying respects to her skill.

Silence hung in the street, a palpable blanket sewn of incredulity fringed with pain.

The woman lowered her dripping blades and leveled tawny eyes on the prince…

melissa mcphail


Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader.  A long-time student of philosophy, she is passionate about the Fantasy genre because of its inherent philosophical explorations.  Her work reflects a deep understanding of human motivations and adventures into the age-old question of good versus evil as modified by context, viewpoint and time.
Ms. McPhail lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats.  Cephrael’s Hand, her first novel, is Book 1 in the series A Pattern of Shadow and Light.







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Tad Williams Interview

Tad Williams Interview

Tad Williams Interview

Picture from Goodread author profile

 Hello all my followers, new and old, today I’m pleased to welcome best-selling fantasy author Tad Williams, author of many epic fantasies and the young adult book entitled Dragons of Ordinary Farm.  His book Caliban’s Hour has been released in digital format and gives a different take on Caliban from Shakespeare’s,  “The Tempest”. It is told from Caliban’s perspective and forms into a tormented story about love, hate and revenge. Stay tuned tomorrow for my review of Caliban.

Book cover from Goodreads book page

Let’s begin with the question that always enters my mind when I read your books.

What/who inspired you to become a writer?

I don’t think any one thing inspired me. I was always a reader, and always a storyteller. I liked to make things and to perform for people. Writing initially lured me because it was something I could do on my own, in my own time, without having to worry about synching ideas and schedules with collaborators. Only later on did I realize it was probably the perfect occupation for me.

Do you have a favorite genre of book that you like to read/write? If so, why??

I like the fantastical because that’s what I grew up loving. I love the freedom. I like the way I can write about ideas and play with reality. And I like genre fiction because it forces me to constrain those ideas into a story that holds peoples’ interest even if the idea itself doesn’t immediately move them.

What helping aids do you use to focus when you write? Music?? Nature???

I use music sometimes to help me think, but mainly because I can block out external noise. I listen to things without words (especially ambient music) because I don’t want the music to inspire me, I want it to isolate me. For me, writing is less about pounding keys and more about the thinking that happens first.

What character(s) of your book(s) do you relate to the most??

I always can relate to your female characters. My favorite is Briony of the Shadowmarch series and Renie of Otherland. Both have spunk and I like that.

Renie and Josua are both like me in many ways — a (perhaps exaggerated) sense of responsibility, a desire to do the right thing, occasionally being hamstrung by the fear of doing something wrong or unfair. Briony has a lot of me in her, too, but I’m so much older and more experienced now she’s kind of like Simon was when I wrote him — a very distant, earlier slice of myself. But all of my characters, even the scariest and cruellest, have at least a little of me in them, although often tremendously exaggerated. That’s how I find the emotional truth.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with aspiring writers like myself?

Don’t just read the kind of books you want to read — in fact, weight your reading to non-fiction, especially history and science. Learn lots of things. If you’re going to create worlds, it helps to know how the one we’ve been able to study works. Also, try to finish things. Most new writers tend to grind the same stuff over and over, trying to make it perfect. You’re missing all the other important lessons of pacing and finishing a story. And last, make writing a regular thing. Doesn’t matter how often as long as you know you’re going to be writing regularly and can think about what you’re going to do when you sit down.

How do you visualize your stories?? In pictures?? Conversations? Dreams?

My work is a cloud of possibility — kind of quantum, really. I keep all the possibilities in my head as best I can, and as I choose which ones I want to use they start to solidify. Only then do I start thinking about how the characters and situations would really look, feel, smell, sound. By the time I’m writing them down, making them real is the goal, but before that it all has to do with choosing among ramifying possibilities to make the best story.

What are your writing goals for the next 5 years??

I’d love to get into a regular rhythm where I’m doing at least one book every year, with some time left over for other projects. Because I’ve been writing such long stories I’ve often felt I was stealing time from my novels to do other kinds of writing. I’d like that division to be…formalized, for lack of a better word.

How long did it take you to write Shadowmarch and Otherland series?? What/who inspired these books??

I think OTHERLAND took about five years. I started it in England and finished it in America, so it’s a bit hard to tell exactly. It was inspired in part by the Fairyland Boat Ride in Disneyland, and my fascination with small, compartmentalized things when I was younger. (Also by my days at Apple Computer getting interested in multimedia and the future of the internet.) Shadowmarch was the same way as far as having a somewhat fractured work timeline. I actually started it long ago as an idea, and then began the online version in 2001, but there were lots of interruptions along the way before the last volume appeared in print. It was originally meant to be a one-location idea that would work as the first real epic fantasy television series.

If you could have dinner with someone dead or alive, famous or not famous, who would it be and why??

It depends. For pure pleasure I would choose someone who was a great wit, like Oscar Wilde or Dorothy Parker, but I’m also a history buff so it would be tempting to meet Akhnaton or Moses and solve some of the great historical mysteries. Socrates might be fun. (I’m assuming we’ll all be able to communicate, because I don’t speak Greek or ancient Egyptian.)

Let’s do something fun…write something about each of the next 10 words in 10 words or less.


I love to think, but only secondarily about myself.


Life. Ideas contained, ready to expand.


I’m expert on the domestic kind. The other I avoid.


What it all comes down to.


Easier to say than to find.


Truths we invent.


My livelihood, my solace, and my weapon.


Imagination’s took kit.


Worth everything we pay for it.


Yes, please.

What made you decide to jump on the E-book trade?? And how do you feel about it??

The rules are changing and we’re right in the middle of the biggest shift in the movement of ideas since the invention of the printing press — maybe bigger than that. It only makes sense to experiment with different ways of doing things. I don’t want to be the last buffalo hunter in the middle of farm country.

If you found yourself on a deserted island, what 10 things would you take and why?

Too general, I’m afraid. Can I take a boat? Laptop? If it’s just books and music, it would probably be Pynchon, Shakespeare collected, The Bible (never read it all the way through) and some other favorites. Music would be heavy on classical, esp. Mozart, and depending on how many other choices I’d be taking lots of pop music too. But if you want me to narrow it down you have to be much more specific as to what I can take and not take.

How do you write your books?? Are you by the seat of your pants writer or do you plot out your books in advance??

Books like mine take both. I have to plan enough that I can foreshadow stuff from the ending in the early volumes, but a lot of the richness comes as I’m writing, so I can’t plan everything. It’s a tightrope walk and you don’t want to lean too far to either side. I try to plan some (but not all) of the big moments, including a general idea of how things might end, then leave it to discovery to fill in the in-between stuff.

And last by not least, if you could time travel what period of the history of future would you go to??

Near-future where the learning curve isn’t too steep and people are still eating things other than krill paste and sawgrass extract, please.

Feel  free to any other interesting tidbits about yourself:)

My current books are about an earthbound angel named Doloriel (earth name Bobby Dollar) who is a minor functionary in the ongoing war between Heaven and Hell, but who has a way of getting himself into the middle of things far too big for him to comfortably handle. The first volume will be called THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN, the second will be HAPPY HOUR IN HELL, and the third should be SLEEPING LATE ON JUDGEMENT DAY.

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