Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Castle Design and Sieges Poll: I Need Your Help

I've just started writing In the Company of the Dead, an epic fantasy novel for adults, and I've belatedly realised I need to do some research, something I don't usually find I need to do.

See, the story is set in a castle. Nearly the whole story. A small castle. So I think I need to have a very clear visual myself of the setting in order to be able to describe it, because there's not a lot of space here for me to get creative with, and if I make a mistake, that also means not much space to make excuses with.

I had already decided to loosely base the castle on Caerlaverock Castle in Scotland, purely because I stumbled across it and thought it was pretty. It has the advantage of being really defensible, too, which is important since the reason the whole story is set in the castle is because it's under siege. And we want it to be a long siege or, you know, the story would end prematurely...

So here's where I need your help.

Firstly, I've got most of my castle mapped out, but I have some empty space, and I'd like your thoughts on what else should be included. Here's what I've got:
  • Guardrooms
  • Well room
  • Kitchen
  • Servery
  • Bakery
  • Servant's Quarters
  • Banqueting hall
  • Withdrawing room
  • Lords' suites
  • Gatehouse
  • Library
  • Guest rooms

What else do I need? I'm thinking a small barracks, which was noticeably absent from the plans of Caerlaverock Castle, either because it was in the ruined section of the castle, or came under some other heading like 'public rooms' or 'private rooms'. At least, I assume it must have had somewhere for guards to sleep. 

What about stables? My people have horses, but it could either be inconvenient having the horses in the castle during a siege, or a source of food (blargh...). 

Anything else?

The other thing I need your help on is the siege. Caerlaverock Castle was famously defended for 36 hours by 60 men against 3000. Not long, but the fact that such a small number held out for any length of time against such odds is incredible. At least, the attacking king was impressed, and I daresay he was more qualified to judge than I.

So my castle is being attacked by 1000 soldiers. We'll say they have some small siege equipment, but nothing too huge. As you can see, the castle is surrounded by a moat, which is surrounded by a marsh, so the only approach is front on, at the gate. I want the siege to stretch out for some time, but the odds to be bad enough that the attackers will likely fail before help arrives.

Please do contribute any other thoughts in the comments below. I'm also open to suggestions for the name of my castle, as it remains nameless for the time being.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Club Fantasci Discusses The Daedalus Incident by Michael J Martinez

Here it is, the long-awaited September Hangout for Club Fantasci where we discuss The Daedalus Incident by Michael J Martinez. We also farewell Dionne Lister, who is sadly departing.

We were initially delayed by technical difficulties (I have ongoing internet problems thanks to a heartless telecommunications company) and then Dionne and I were overseas. We managed to get this one working, but again due to technical issues, we had to switch from G+ Hangout to Skype, and while everything seemed fine at the time, now the recording has our lips and voices out of sync *sigh*. Nothing is ever easy... We do apologise for the quality on this one. Don't even talk to me about the dramas I had getting my microphone to work, which resulted in a headset and a desire to smash something!

Michael J Martinez is absolutely lovely, and his books rock. If you haven't read The Daedalus Incident already, go out and buy it now, and keep an eye out for The Enceladus Crisis, coming in (northern hemisphere) fall. Oh, and follow him on Twitter - @mikemartinez72

On a sad note, I must announce that I have been forced to decide to leave Club Fantasci. My husband is part of the bushfire division of our National Parks department, and has been more or less absent for the last 4 weeks fighting the Sydney bushfires, and I don't even have enough time to manage two kids and still work my job. Reading and writing has more or less fallen by the wayside, and I just don't have the time to commit (which is at least part of the reason it was November before we did the September review...). That being the case, it's just not fair for me to remain with the club.

I may be able to revisit my options once the bushfire season is over.

Roughly how my technology has made me feel lately!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Lorna Suzuki Interviews Ciara Ballintyne, Author of Confronting the Demon

Lorna Suzuki, author of the fantasy series The Imago Chronicles, generously invited me to interview on her blog, All Kinds of Writing, and I was delighted to accept.

We talk about my new book, Confronting the Demon, publishing, my writing process, inspiration, and my writing plans for the next 5 years - including the Demon sequels. In Stalking the Demon, Alloran must venture into the very bowels of the first circle of hell!

Join us at All Kinds of Writing to read the full interview.

Lorna Suzuki is the author of fantasy series The Imago Chronicles and The Dream Merchant Saga. Book One of The Imago Chronicles, A Warrior’s Tale, was optioned for a major motion pciture in 2011 is now in development.

You can find her at:

The Imago Books Fantasy Realm Website
All Kinds of Writing Blog
@LornaSuzuki - Twitter

Monday, 4 November 2013

Chris Mentzer: Interview with the Author of The Askinar Towers Trilogy

It's been a little while since I've hosted an author interview (and if you're thinking of doing one with me, I am considering moving the format to video via G+ Hangout) but today we welcome chris Mentzer, author of The Askinar towers trilogy. thanks for joining us today, Chris. Could you share a little bit about your recent projects? 

My trilogy The Askinar Towers is completed and I’m waiting for book 1 release in December by Tiger Dynasty Publishing. In addition to these, I’m working on a new Towers story featuring a supporting character that appears in both book 2 and book 3 of the trilogy. I’m also working on a blog series called Observations of a Café Waiter. This features a waiter named Chuck and his employment at the Floor 17 Café found in the Tower of Water. 

Busy, busy! Do you tend to put messages or themes in your novels? 

Adventure can be found everywhere and anywhere you look. A simple trip to the grocery store can be made exciting just by using your imagination. But always remember that when you are out on an adventure, home is the place you always want to return to in the end. 

What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why? 

From book one, I would say my favorite chapter to write was How To Rescue a Damsel in Distress. The reason being that first, it is an off-the-wall title, and secondly, the chapter gives a breakdown of the rescue but it doesn’t go as planned.

From book two, my favorite part would be the Black Friday scenario in a sleepy town called Pleasington. I won’t say anymore for fear of spoilers.

From book three, it’s a toss-up between the chapter called Angry Villagers 101, and the pirate scenario. Both were fun to write and the outcome is somewhat unexpected. 

Did you choose your genre, or did it more choose you? 

I got interested in Fantasy primarily from reading the Chronicles of Narnia series in junior high. From there I progressed to David Eddings novels and the Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett. The Askinar Towers trilogy was greatly inspired by Narnia in that it too is a Portal Fantasy series. 

Some of my own early favourites! I would have read The Chronicles of Narnia before I even knew what fantasy was, and David Eddings was my first 'real' fantasy as I understood it. I pinched Castle of Wizardry off Dad when I was ten. I was well into Discworld by age twelve.

What book are you reading now? 

Currently I’m reading The World of Karov by Elyse Salpeter. It’s book 1 of the Children of Demliee Series. I recently met her online and picked up an e-copy of her book. Very inspiring story.

I'm not familiar with that one. I might need to check it out. Are there any other new authors that have seized your attention? 

In addition to Elyse, I’ve been following Kayla Curry, Scott Bartlett, and Ciara Ballintyne. I’ve haven’t read much from them but I’m in the process of making the rounds. 

Awww, me? I'm flattered! I have to say this is a first for me.

Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? 

Hands down it would have to be M.C. Beaton. She write small village mysteries featuring a local constable by the name of Hamish Macbeth. What I love about her writing is her ability to make the fictional town of Lochdubh seem real including the residents. I’ve read all her Macbeth books and hope to collect them all and reread them in the order that they were released.

That got my attention! Although the Scottish angle always does that for me. No, I do not have a 'men-in-kilts' fetish, just some relatively recent Scottish roots, as my Dad was born in Edinburgh.

I imagine like many authors (myself included) you have a day job as well. Are you happy to share that with us? 

Yes, I’m currently serving a life sentence in retail. Been with the company for 17 years and I hope to survive long enough to reach 20. Time will tell. 

Yikes, that's a long time. I hope you make 20 as well.

If you were a Star Trek® character, which one would it be? 

Definitely a Red Shirt crewmember; Ensign Expendable. I can’t see myself surviving any particular mission down to a planet (hostile or non) and most likely would die shortly after arrival. 

That has got to be the funniest answer I've ever received, although I certainly hope you are not that expendable!

What would I find in your refrigerator right now? 

Surprisingly this is a difficult question to answer. We have two refrigerators in our house. My wife is a diabetic and has a gluten intolerance and she (and our youngest daughter) has control of the main fridge. I have the secondary one which houses basic things like bread, tortilla shells, and other items that can’t be eaten by the other two. Of course if you look in just my fridge, you’d probably wonder how I survive! 

If you looked in my second fridge, you'd think I survived on a steady diet of beer and ice cream...

If you were a car, what kind would you be? 

A 4x4 car crushing monster truck. I am so sick of the way people drive on the road these days, I’d rather just run right over them to get to my destination. Plus I’d enter competitions on the weekend. 

*makes a note not to annoy Chris*

Thanks for joining us today, Chris. 

If you'd like to know more about Chris and his work, keep reading and check out his contact details at the end. Nexus of the Worlds, Book 1 of The Askinar Towers Trilogy is being published by Tiger Dynasty Publishing and is expected to be released on December 3, 2013. Watch Chris's Facebook Page and Twitter account for details of the release.   

About Nexus of the Worlds 

Sara and Erika weren’t looking for an adventure but when but they are given a special key, they find a portal that takes them into a world dominated by four towers. They soon realize the towers themselves are the center of every known world. Their quest is to locate the legendary fifth tower, encounter the entity that lives within, and then find a way back home. Meanwhile a sinister cloaked figure is watching from the shadows and following their every move. Are they ally or foe? Do they want the girls or the special key? Find out in book one of The Askinar Towers. 

About Chris Mentzer 

Chris has been interested in writing ever since 1982 when he was given an English assignment in the 9th grade. He had to write a paragraph using a lot of detail. Although he wasn’t sure he completely understood the assignment, he wrote a scene in a bank where a guy was coming out of the bathroom and witnessed a robbery in progress. The detail portion came in when the witness described the robber to the police. From that moment Chris decided he wanted to be a writer.

Between 1982 and 2005, he made several attempts to write a story; it was his goal to write the great American novel, you know the one that everyone wants to own and read. The majority of his work lay incomplete in a personal slush pile in a filing cabinet.

Having read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and all fantasy books by David Eddings, he took a stab at Fantasy with minimal success. Even tried his hand at Science Fiction with a couple of buddies while he was in college. The bottom line was he lacked discipline and the desire to stick with any one project. But that was all to change in 2005.

In November of that year, Chris entered his first writing challenge held by the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) website. Although the goal was 50,000 words, he obtained his personal goal of 25K, which went on to be the foundation of book 1 of The Askinar Towers Trilogy. He later wrote foundations for books 2 and 3 in ’07 and ’09 respectively. His inspiration for the Towers books came from John DeChancie’s Castle Perilous series and Doctor Who’s Paradise Towers. 

Chris lives in Mesa, AZ with his wife and two daughters. He is currently employed in the retail industry working in the produce department. In his spare time, when not writing or stalking the social media streams, Chris loves to hike out in the Lost Dutchman area and Saguaro Lake. 

Here’s another interview with Chris Mentzer 
Contact information 

Platform Bloghttp://2150.wordpress.com 
Askinar Towers Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/Askinartower

Friday, 1 November 2013

Why I Originally Liked Falling Skies Better Than The Walking Dead

Don’t shoot me! I always liked The Walking Dead, but my fondness for the show grew rapidly at the beginning of Season 3.

Before that, while I enjoyed the storylines, watching it was sometimes an exercise in frustration for me. So many people doing so many stupid things. Mostly characters who are dead now. And you know why they are dead now? Because they did stupid things!

Well, that’s natural selection for you, but with my disposition and low tolerance for stupidity, it wasn’t my idea of entertainment. My long-suffering husband had to endure hours of my rants, or screaming at the TV.

‘Take someone with you!’

‘Don’t wander off in the dark alone – I don’t care if you need to pee.’

‘Where is your gun? Where the hell is your gun, moron?’

'Oh my god, why are you letting that kid wander off alone? This isn't a playground!'

Eventually these explosions evolved into a reorganisation of the survivors by yours truly – if only Rick had listened to me sooner, he might have made it out with more people alive.

Of course, then my husband had to listen to me wax lyrical about how I’d be running my band of zombie survivors.

I may not be able to fight. I’ve never shot a gun. I’m short, so I probably can’t run that fast, and god forbid I would have to ditch my heels - a sacrifice I grudgingly admit I would make in the interests of survival. God dammit, why can't one be an efficient zombie survivor and look stylish?

But assuming I managed to survive the initial zombie onslaught using my brain, I’d be organising the hell out of my band of survivors, and you bet I’d be the one running the show. There’d be a buddy system. No wandering off alone, especially at night. In fact, no wandering around at all without a good reason. Everyone would be armed with something. There’d be guards posted.

Ah hell, I forget now a lot of the stuff I said. I’d have to watch it all again.

I know that people were getting used to the idea that humanity was no longer top dog, but hell, we are the most adaptable species on the planet. That’s why we survive. And most of Rick’s little group weren’t doing a good job of demonstrating that – although they were doing a good job of demonstrating what happens if you don’t adapt.

You die.

At the time, Falling Skies appealed to me more because the characters in that show got it. They immediately understood they were no longer top of the food chain, and they were organising themselves to deal with that situation as best they could. They were mounting guards. They were armed. They expected something to jump out of the shadows and try and kill them at any moment. They were treating life like a hostile situation, not a jaunt in the woods, and consequently far fewer of them died.

They were smart. I liked them.

Then of course at the end of Season 2 of The Walking Dead, Rick basically declared it was his way or the highway, and that’s when things got better. At the opening of Season 3, the survivors were finally behaving the way I thought they should have been from the beginning. Better late than never, I guess, although for some of the original characters late was too late…

Season 4 has started, and I’m still waiting to watch it because my husband is working long hours out at the Sydney bushfires, and we’ve had no time together to catch up on TV. So the episodes just stack up on the DVR… eventually I’ll get to watch them.

What do you like about The Walking Dead or Falling Skies, or how do they compare for you if you watch both of them? Yes I know they are different things, zombies, aliens, blah blah blah. It’s all sci-fi, and both these shows are post-apocalyptic dystopian stories.

Just, don’t talk to me about Season 4 of The Walking Dead.

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