#SPFBO4 Interview with Alice Sabo, author of High Barrens

black

Today I’m pleased to welcome to my blog Alice Sabo, author of High Barrens.

Hi Alice, thank you so much for not only taking part in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off but also for agreeing to take part in an interview.  

It may seem a bit of an overused opener but can you start by telling readers a little bit about yourself and a short introduction to what your book is about – something that isn’t lifted straight from the bio already available on line if possible.

I grew up in New Jersey but have lived all over the country. I blame my wanderlust on nomadic ancestors. The Celts migrated through Hungary, where my father was born, and continued on to Ireland where my mother’s people are from. I’m the family genealogist and spend way too much time researching people that I might be related to. It gives me a lot more stories that I want to write.

High Barrens is set in the high desert. I lived in New Mexico and Colorado for a while. The desert there fascinated me. The landscape is so rugged and parched. Ultimately, it was too dry and hot for this east-coast soul.

The main thrust of the book is about a young woman, Flint, learning about herself and her skills. She’s grown up in a dangerous frontier town and feels that she can handle anything. But once she gets out into the world, she encounters things that are so far outside of her experience that she’s at a loss. However, Flint is a strong, resourceful person. Even when she is caught in the middle of a battle, she can keep her head and lend a hand.

The magic in this world is all controlled by specific gods which each have a certain skill set. For example, Bhanur is the god of healing and his followers, called Hands, run temples that serve as hospitals. There are some odd cracks in the overlap of the various gods’ domains. A few skills are not beholding to anyone, including Flint’s ability to see a person’s soul. The why of that is something that Flint wants to pursue, but she gets sidetracked by other things.

The book is just Flint’s story and I think of it as a standalone. That doesn’t mean it’s the last time we’ll see her. But the next book in the series will be someone else’s story.

I love the sound of Flint’s frontier beginnings and look forward to reading about her adventures.

desert2

So, I can see where the influence for your setting came from.  How about the character?  Did the story come first or the character?

The main character, Flint, has been around for a long time. It’s a story that I originally started decades ago. It was part of a much bigger story and I didn’t have the skills to pull it off. But I learned with a different book to scale down and decided to pull this character out and give her a smaller story. I ended up changing the name and then the gender. That gave me enough distance to separate her from the rut of the old story line. Then I could create something new.

It’s interesting that the next story will be from a different character.  Do you worry at all that that might be risky – readers can become very attached to a character after all?

I left Flint in a good place that also had a jumping off point. In fact, someone left a review stating that they knew what the next book would be about. That made me chuckle because it does seem obvious. She will be around and she might get another book of her own down the line. The next book will deal with people that were introduced in the first book. They were side characters, but hung around for awhile. I can only hope that readers found them interesting enough to want to know more about them.

You mention that High Barrens will be a standalone with a new character featuring in the next book – will that be from the same world?  Do you envisage that Flint might put in an appearance at some point?

Yes, this is all in the same world. I named the series Tales of Haroon specifically because I wanted to be able to spend time on different aspects. I’ve always loved the huge epics, but sometimes they get so confusing. When I started reading Game of Thrones I felt like I needed a flowchart to keep track of all the characters and their affiliations. Also I was hanging out on a readers forum for a while and several said that they didn’t like being forced into a series. Especially one with long arcs. That got me to thinking that it might be better to wrap up the story in one book. It’s sort of an experiment but also the best way for me to do the stories in this world.

When did you first start to write and how many books have you written so far?  

I started writing things down when I was pretty young. It never occurred to me to write a book because I was more focused on art. I started writing after the death of a dear friend as catharsis. When I got that out of my system (and that story will always stay in the drawer) I decided that maybe I could write a book. I started writing seriously about 2005. My 11th novel came out Aug 23rd.

What happened to your earliest attempts at writing – did you feel that they were successful or did you shelve them?

A lot of what I started, I couldn’t finish properly. Many of the stories were episodic, the adventures of a bunch of friends. They were mostly written for fun. I go back occasionally and find an idea that I want to develop. Some of it has morphed into new projects.

If you could go back and give yourself some advice about your earlier works what would that be – would you want to make changes at all?

It’s hard to say because those stories come from a younger, less experienced version of myself. I guess I would just say to keep writing. Practice really does improve your skills.

I notice that you write in a number of genres – do you have a particular favourite?  How easy, or not, is it to keep all the different books and series compartmentalised?

I read in all those genres, so I wanted to write in them also. The favorite is usually the one I’m working on. I like to jump into a completely different world when I’m done with a book. I’ve just finished a mystery and I’m starting a new book in my post-apocalyptic series now. It’s a relief to let go for awhile. I do keep a very detailed bible of each world, the characters and some plot points. So if I forget if someone has blue eyes or green, I can easily find it. Genre-jumping isn’t recommended for building an audience because sometimes there is little crossover – a reader of mysteries might not read scifi and vice versa. So it’s taken me a lot longer to build any kind of following.

I’m intrigued by your first answer where you mention that Flint had been around for about a decade and was part of a much bigger story.  How difficult is it to come to such  a conclusion that something isn’t working and to decide to start over in this way?  Particularly after you’ve invested such a lot of work already?

I’d put that story on the back burner a couple of times because I just didn’t know where it was going. If you can’t finish a story, that’s a dead giveaway that it’s got issues. I started noodling around with screenplays for awhile and was astonished that there was actually a formula to this stuff. Who’d a thunk it? Then I started writing a mystery and that has a formula to it also. It’s much looser, but ultimately it’s about a crime that needs to be solved and a killer arrested. When I went back to some of my rambling, episodic writings, I could see how it needed more structure. Once you can understand the overall structure of storytelling, you can spot the problems in a story. A lot of the work I put into world building and character profiles could still be used. It gave me a terrific foundation to start with. And since some of the story was so old, I couldn’t remember half of it. So I wasn’t constrained by the old plot lines.

Starting over immediately on a bad story isn’t always a good idea. Put it aside and let it rest. Get your brain working on something different. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, and maybe new skills, it’s easier to see solutions.

I noticed on your blog that you studied Fine Art – is that something that you’re still interested in or has writing filled that creative need in you now?  Is there time for both in your life?

I haven’t done any artwork in awhile. I don’t rule it out, I just haven’t had the urge to draw or paint for awhile. The creative energy is probably going into my writing. Also I don’t really have a space to work. But the workmen have started on my office and I foresee some painting in the near future.

Does the artistic side of you mean that you become involved in the cover process at all or do you leave that to others?

I tried doing my covers but there is a big difference between graphic art and painting for the fun of it. The learning curve for some of the programs was daunting. And there is a whole lot of information that a graphic artist just knows from experience that I don’t. I floundered around until I connected with Alex Storer. He’s done all but one of my covers. Sometimes I have a specific image in mind and he works up some sketches based on my input. Sometimes I don’t have a clue and I just give him a list of story elements that he can incorporate. Then I look at the rough sketches and give him feedback. He usually has a winner for me in the 1st or 2nd try. We have a very good working relationship.

I think having a background in art helps me to envision the completed image from the sketch. It also helps me to explain any changes I want, slight color shift or moving an element that gets closer to the image in my head.

HighBarrens

Finally, you may be relieved to hear, and on a lighter note, do you have any stories you could share or experiences of something crazy that you’ve done?

The craziest thing I’ve ever done…there’s been a lot of that, but I’ll go with a G-rated one.

I was living in Boston, back in my early twenties, and had just gotten back from an extended vacation. I had quit my job before leaving, so I needed to find work right away. I don’t even remember how it came about, but I signed up with this guy to be a Sandwich Witch. That meant I had to wear this awful hazard-orange, bibbed hot pants sort of thing and sell sandwiches out of a big wicker basket. It was a revolting outfit that wasn’t the least bit sexy on me. Also, it was made out of some sort of heavy plastic and it was the summer, so that made the thing even more uncomfortable.

The tricky part was that he told me to go into the high rise buildings and hawk the sandwiches in all the offices. Since I had never done anything remotely like it, I was ignorant of a slew of laws. I was quickly caught by security who demanded to see my peddler’s license. Which of course I didn’t have. And it turned out – neither did my boss. The security guy was nice enough to not call the cops on me for who knows how many different violations. (I didn’t even ask where the sandwiches came from, and was kind of surprised anyone would actually buy them.) I quickly handed in my outfit, but it had leaked orange dye all over my blouse and underwear. And I didn’t make a cent for all my sweat and aggravation.

Lesson learned about taking odd jobs and I still have an aversion to the color orange.

Alice, thank you so much for taking part, for being so patient and for sharing your experiences.  I really enjoyed our interview and I wish you all the best in the SPFBO.

For more information about Alice check out the following:

Website
Twitter
URL

 

 

Advertisements

#SPFBO 2018 : Batch 2, Books 4-6

Posted On 16 September 2018

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

Comments Dropped 15 responses

black

As mentioned in my post here as part of the SPFBO competition I’ll be randomly choosing six books per month for the next five months, which I will then aim to check out at least the first 30% of each book during that month.  I’ll post information about the first three books at the start of the month and then about the remaining three during the mid way point with a conclusion around the end of the month about which books will be going forward or eliminated.  The conclusion for my first month’s reading can be found here.  Ultimately, the aim is to choose one book from the thirty I’ve been assigned – that chosen one will then be my finalist.

Books 4-6 in my second batch are:

the lost1. The Lost Sentinel by Suzanne Rogerson

The magical island of Kalaya is dying, along with its Sentinel.

The Assembly controls Kalaya. Originally set up to govern, they now persecute those with magic and exile them to the Turrak Mountains.

Tei, a tailor’s daughter, has always hidden her magic but when her father’s old friend visits and warns them to flee to the mountains she must leave her old life behind.
On the journey, an attack leaves her father mortally wounded. He entrusts her into the care of the exiles and on his deathbed makes a shocking confession.
Struggling with self doubt, Tei joins the exiles search for the new Sentinel who is the only person capable of restoring the fading magic. But mysterious Masked Riders are hunting the Sentinel too, and time, as well as hope, is running out.

Against mounting odds it will take friendship, heartache and sacrifice for the exiles to succeed in their quest, but is Tei willing to risk everything to save the island magic?

Follow Tei’s journey through the magical land of Kalaya and the Astral Plane in The Lost Sentinel – Book 1 in the Silent Sea Chronicles

 

Rebel's2. Rebel’s Blade by Frost Kay

NOTHING IS BLACK AND WHITE

Secretly trained, swordsmith Sage Blackwell steps up to run her family’s forge when her father falls ill. Sage desires to help the neglected Aermians but is bound by duty to provide for her own… Until, that is, she’s offered a chance to make a difference.

THE REBELLION

Sage knows the risks; imprisonment or death, and yet, she’s still willing to take them to protect her family. But when plans unravel, Sage finds herself facing the devils themselves, her sworn enemies, the princes of Aermia.

THE CROWN

Tehl Ramses is drowning; crops are being burned, villages pillaged, and citizens are disappearing, leading to a rising rebellion. As crown prince, and acting ruler, Tehl must find a way to crush the rebellion before civil war sweeps through his beloved kingdom. He’ll do whatever is necessary to save his people. Yet, his prisoner is not at all what he expected.

ONE STORY. TWO SIDES. ONE GOAL: SAVE AERMIA.

 

3.Savage Swords Savage Swords by Viel Nast

This is the first tale of my tribute to the great old one series, where I will honor writers and artists that cultivated my love for heroic fantasy, while I present my fantasy world Land of Oyr.

The character created will be used in more stories and play a further role (as well as their descendants) in the history of my world and the kingdom of Tarantis in particular.

The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker #SPFBO

pathofMy most recent book for the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off was Phil Tucker’s Path of Flames.  To be honest, I expected to like this one before I started.  The glowing review of the blogger who submitted this book to Stage 2 was so convincing that I actually went and bought book No.2 simply with the expectation that I would be in love and would want to continue on.  Thankfully that very much proved to be the case.  This was both compelling and fast paced.  To be honest I was captivated by the characters and found myself driven to keep on reading even into the early hours of the morning making this a speedy read indeed.

The book gets off to a great start, literally bursting out of the gates with a dramatic battle sequence.  From there we quickly build up a picture of the world and it’s inhabitants as the author weaves together a rich story with protagonists that I really cared for and great world building that really helps to set the scene.

I don’t want to really elaborate on the plot as I think that way lies the path of spoilers.  It’s probably easier to expand on the story simply by discussing the world building and characters.

Obviously when you read quite a few fantasy novels it’s easy to start to make comparisons and this book is no exception.  For me this had elements of Tolkien, Martin Feist and Sanderson thrown into the mix.  Not that the story was the same just that there were elements that put me in mind of certain books – but in a way that made me smile and that brought out my inner youngster – the one who first feel in love with fantasy after reading Lord of the Rings.  This is well done and has a definite 80s type feel, there is strong world building and the author sets the scene well.

The story is told through a number of POVs.

We start with Asho.  Squire to Lord Kyferin he may be but it isn’t a position that brings him any joy.  All his peers despise him and his Lord and master, having raised him from the life of a slave on a whim, would like nothing more than to see him fail.  Asho is stubborn though and although he’s set up to fail he’s determined to succeed.  Asho is from Bythian – which, in a world where the religion is based on caste, placed him at the very bottom of the ladder.  His life should have been one of slavery and therefore his elevation in life is greatly begrudged by many.

Lady Iskra.  *Slight spoiler ahead*.  Finds out fairly early on in the story that her husband has died in battle thereby releasing her from a very unhappy marriage.  To say Lord Kyferin was not overly popular with most people is something of an understatement although among his knights he seemed to be well liked.  I liked Lady Iskra, or more to the point I felt terrible for her – or just terribly annoyed on her behalf.  she lives in a world where women are chattels and although she is quite a steely character she finds herself being mistreated and betrayed in a way that leaves her virtually stranded, in a dangerous world, with few belongings and a scant few friends to aid her.

Kethe – daughter of Lord and Lady Kyferin.  Longs to be a knight!  She spends all her free time, training in secret and when the time finally comes to prove herself she enters and is given permission to take part by her mother, a tournament.  I confess that I loved this section of the story.  Up until this point I think Kethe came across a little spoiled – yes, she wanted to break the mould but if she didn’t have such a privileged upbringing she would hardly have had the opportunity to scarper off to the forest to practice swordsplay at every opportunity now would she – a fact that she seems blissfully unaware of.  But, her participation in the tournament was so well done.  She doesn’t just rush onto the field and kick everyone’s butt – which is the one thing I was scared of, in fact she finds herself unceremoniously knocked to the ground.

Audsley is the bookish character of the piece.  He’s a magister and his one aim in life is to be well read.  He carries along a bag of tools of his trade and is followed by his faithful and fiery firecat.  He’s not the most courageous of the book, at the start anyway, but he pretty soon finds himself pulled into the adventure, probably against his own better advice, and soon becomes rather fundamental to the survival of the group.

Ser Tirón is the dark character of the piece.  Well, he has good right to be so.  For the last few years he has spent his time imprisoned for trying to kill Lord Kyferin’s wife and daughter.  Of course he didn’t simply wake up one morning with that notion.  Rather it was brought out of him as a need to avenge himself for the death of his own wife, at the hand of Kyferin – a murder that was carried out simply as a result of petty jealousy.  Tiron is released from prison by Lady Iskra because she basically needs all the help she can muster.  Whether she can trust him remains to be seen but he is an interesting character.

The final character who we follow is Tharok.  Tharok is some kind of Orc (I think).  His is an interesting story that sees him, after a long pursuit and a fight to survive, discover a sword and headband that seem to imbue him with strength and power of thought.  From here we see Tharok as his plans and ambitions start to take shape.  I must admit that I was puzzled about his involvement until much later in his story when he buys, and then frees a human slave – a woman with a connection to one of our other POV characters.  It will be really interesting to see how the two stories come together.

I really did have fun with Path of Flames.  Admittedly, it’s not particularly ground breaking but even so it is very entertaining and kept me quite riveted. Gates that are used to travel between different realms, battles, tournaments, dark magic, and all sorts of critters.

I certainly recommend Path of Flames without hesitation and I shall be moving onto book No.2 shortly.

 

 

My 8th book: Final Stage: #SPFBO 16

FullSizeRender-10November 1st saw the start of the second stage of the SPFBO – the Self Published Fantasy Blog off organised by Mark Lawrence.  All the details can be found here.

Today I’m highlighting the seventh book that I will be reading for the SPFBO.  All the books have been drawn randomly.  My books so far:

  1. Shadow Soul by Caitlyn Davis, review here.
  2. Paternus by Dyrk Ashton (review here).
  3. The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French.
  4. Larcourt K A Krantz ( Fire Born, Blood Blessed #1) My review is here.
  5. Ráth Bládhma (Fionn mac Cumhaill #1) by Brian O’Sullivan, review here.
  6. The Music Box Girl by K.A. Stewart.  Review here.
  7. The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker.  Review to follow

My next book (only two remaining now):

The Moonlight War by SKS Perry:

moonlight warThree caravans have vanished traversing the Cowcheanne Way. The legendary Tahsis platoon, warriors thought by most to be invincible, are dispatched to investigate and are never heard from again. Rumours of native uprisings and bandit armies grow wilder and more widespread every day, while the more devout whisper about the return of the Horde, a mythic foe from ages past.

The truce between the warring Kael-tii and Ashai nations is put to the test when a new caravan is outfitted and they are forced to travel The Way together. As an ancient evil is unleashed upon them, a group of heroes, friend and foe alike, must band together for survival.

When the true nature of their mission slowly comes to light, the growing distrust between the Kael-tii and Ashai camps threatens to tear the caravan apart. Can they set aside their differences in time to combat the menace that imperils them all, or are they doomed to join the ranks of lost souls claimed by the cursed Cowcheanne Way?

The Music Box Girl by K A Stewart #SPFBO

fullsizerender-10.jpg

MusicboxThe Music Box Girl was my sixth SPFBO book (details here.).  This is a book that borrows very heavily from the Phantom of the Opera story but brings something new to the tale with the addition of steampunk elements and a most unexpected ‘phantom’.  To be honest I had a good time with this one.  It’s got a good pace, the focus isn’t all on the musical elements, which I did worry about going in but needn’t have done so, and whilst there is a bit of a cheesy feel to the ending I found this a quick and enjoyable read.

At the start of the story we make the brief acquaintance of a couple of characters sorting through the clutter in an attic when they come across an unknown manuscript and this is where the story begins.

We start with a hopeful young man called Anton as he follows his dreams to the Opera House hoping to become the next tenor.  The role is currently filled, albeit it by a fellow who is past his prime and is also something of a prima donna to boot.  Anton ends the day without an audition in sight but with a job under his belt working with the stage crew.  Anton has a wonderful voice, full of promise, if in need of a bit of tutoring.  Waiting in the wings, of course, is the character that everyone believes to be the ghost of the Opera House, a character that wants the performance to be perfect and sees in Anton the opportunity to accomplish that goal.  All Anton needs is a few lessons from a master performer.

I won’t go too much more into the plot, this is a fast paced book that makes for a remarkably quick read so there’s no need for me to be throwing out spoilers left and right.

The characters – the primary focus is Anton and of course the woman who reappears in his life, an adventurer known as Bess.  These two were childhood friends but as their relationship began to develop, and perhaps teetered on the edge of something more, Bess was sent away to school by her mother who was only too aware of the inappropriateness of such a match.  For years Bess has travelled the world, taking part in adventures with her stories being written about on a regular basis in the newspapers back home.  She doesn’t want to stay at home and wear corsets – and who can blame her – she longs for something more, only returning begrudgingly home to recharge her batteries after her last jaunt went a little bit pear shaped.  Of course, the fates intervene and not only does Anton find himself performing on the opening night but Bess, accompanying her old friend and husband on a rare night out, find themselves with box seats.  And voila – the two are reunited.

Again, I won’t go into the mystery character – other than to say here lies jealousy, obsession and danger.

The setting is Detroit.  A bustling hive of activity.  Home to the invention of automatons that are now used far and wide it has become the centre of innovation and culture.  The Opera House is the gleaming gem in the Detroit crown.

What did I like about this, there’s mystery and intrigue, secret passages, ghosts, steampunk elements, a mild romance, jealousy, murder and chase scenes that end in escape by dirigible.  This is a fast paced read, the pages just fly by and I found myself wanting to read on to find out what was really going on.  There is enough attention to detail to put you into the frame without being overdone and the author manages to create a lingering feeling of creepy suspense and provides the place with a touch of old fashioned gothic.

Did I have criticisms.  Yes.  This could have used a little more finesse.  Certain elements were rather cheesy, particularly the ending.  The characters are not particularly deep and certain elements of the story didn’t entirely make sense, or at least certain actions of some of the characters.  I think if you were of a mind to, you could probably pick a few holes here and there but to be honest, I wasn’t of a mind to – I was, purely and simply, enjoying the fact that I could so easily sink into the story and enjoy the entertainment.

A good read, not particularly ground breaking I suppose but a new twist on an old tale with plenty of action and drama to help you power through it.

 

Next Page »