Author Dianna Gunn Drops by to Talk about Her Novella: Keeper of the Dawn

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Why I resisted including romance in Keeper of the Dawn

There were many struggles on the road to publishing my first YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn. One of the biggest struggles came when Lai, my leading lady, came out and told me she was in love with her roommate, a woman named Tara.

I immediately resisted the idea, though probably not for the reason you think. I didn’t care whether my character fell in love with a man or a woman. What bothered me was that she fell in love at all.

You see, I was raised a feminist, by feminists. And as both an avid reader and a writer, I grew up knowing exactly how powerful stories can be. I knew how easily we get caught up in the narratives society imposes upon us as “normal”, and I wanted to challenge those narratives with every one of my stories.

One of the most pervasive narratives of them all is that we must all find our one true romantic love or die alone and unhappy. The types of relationships permitted in these narratives is expanding, but characters still always seem to end up in one kind of romantic relationship or another.

Romantic relationships are obviously important for the continuation of human life and the right relationship can infinitely improve your life, but they are not absolutely essential for every human on Earth. I know several people who have never had a serious romantic relationship, and most of them enjoy their lives anyway. Some of them are interested in romance, some aren’t.

Unfortunately most of the media we consume doesn’t seem to believe these people exist. A character who is single at the beginning of the story is rarely still single at the end, especially if that character is a woman. They find their “one true love” (who is actually a creep half the time, but that’s another rant), and when the story ends they get married and live happily ever after. The same story plays out in all genres, across all mediums, over and over again.

The narrative telling us we must find romance or be sad and lonely pushes people, especially women, to stay in bad relationships. It tells us that if we do not find our one true love by a certain age, we never will, and without that one true love, we will be sad and alone until the day we die. It preys on the greatest fear most people have: that nobody will give a damn when we die. Any relationship, no matter how terrible, seems better than that.

I’ve had a few books in intensive editing for the past few years, and until a year and a half ago Lai was my only main character who didn’t fall in love at any point during the story. I was immensely proud of her, this warrior woman who needed nobody but herself. A character who challenged many harmful stereotypes all at once.

Her falling in love with a woman was a little outside of conventional norms, but not part of the narrative I wanted to tell. So I resisted the idea for months, until I realized I couldn’t properly finish the story without the romance. Part of me felt like a bad feminist—some part of me does this every time I do something that is part of society’s “normal” narrative—but in the end I knew that a good writer always listens to their characters.

And her relationship defies many other aspects of the common narrative. It’s between two women, it doesn’t end in tragedy, and there’s absolutely no sex. After all that resistance, it is one of the things I love most about this book, and I hope you will love it too.

ABOUT KEEPER OF THE DAWN

Sometimes failure is just the beginning.

All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.

From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum—a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.

Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order.

Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.

Keeper of the Dawn is a tale of new beginnings, second chances, and the endurance of hope.

 

EXCERPT

Lai practiced until well after dark, ignoring the call for supper. She tore a massive hole into one of the dummies with a training sword in her rage, but it didn’t make her feel better. She had spent most of her life training for this day, and Kaiden ruined it with a few words about their father.

Eventually she gave up and collapsed in a heap on the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest so she could rest her chin on them. She forced herself to breathe deeply, using all her willpower to push the rage into the ground. Bit by bit it drained into the soil around her, dispersing harmlessly.

She sat like that in the clearing until clouds engulfed the stars and rain started pouring, one of the last rains before the dry weeks of summer. Lifting the hood of her robes to cover her head, she rose and hurried towards the temple.

Her left foot caught on something and Lai flew through the air, losing her grip on her sword and landing face first in a puddle. Her nose shattered when it smashed into the tough ground, and when she grabbed it to feel the damage her hand came away covered in equal parts mud and blood. Her stomach churned as she picked herself back up, her whole body aching.

Something sharp pierced her back, tearing into her skin and muscles like sharp fire. She screamed and fell face first to the ground. She caught herself on her forearms, avoiding bashing her head against the rocky path.

Lai’s attacker pulled the knife out of her shoulder. She screamed as warm blood flowed freely down her back, mixing with the rain. Fiery agony filled her body, blurring her vision. She gritted her teeth and flipped over to face her attacker.

She froze at the familiar sight of white robes with golden cuffs. Another initiate. Her hood hid her face completely.

Lai gathered her strength with a deep, ragged breath and reached for her training sword. The initiate kicked Lai in the back then stomped on her wrist, grinding bone under her boot, sending sharp waves of pain up Lai’s arm.

“You understand, it has to be me.”

Lai knew that voice, but she couldn’t focus on it through the pain, couldn’t remember who it was.

The initiate seized a clump of Lai’s hair and yanked her head backwards. She knelt and raised her knife towards Lai’s exposed throat.

Something knocked the initiate into Lai’s back. Black spots appeared at the edges of her vision as agony surged outward from her wound. The other initiate didn’t move, suffocating Lai with her weight. Lai tried to lift herself up with her elbows, but a fresh wave of pain knocked the wind out of her. She col­lapsed onto her stomach and closed her eyes, willing her body to die quickly.

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BUY LINKS

Amazon:

Ebook: http://amzn.to/2nHgqNN

Paperback: http://amzn.to/2o5ZrI6

Paperback: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34810880-keeper-of-the-dawn

Ebook: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34810885-keeper-of-the-dawn

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/716545

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/keeper-of-the-dawn-2

Google: https://play.google.com/store/search?c=books&q=9781942302476+

 

 

 

Kojiki has a Cover

After too long away, I’m back to show you the cover for my debut novel, Kojiki, available Aug. 2 in the US and Aug 4 in the UK. Look for it pretty much everywhere you buy your books. Click here to read the first chapter or visit fantasy-faction.com.

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Thanks to my publisher Angry Robot Books and fantastic cover artist Thomas Walker.

 

New Release Announcement: The Island by Clarissa Johal

It is my absolute pleasure to share this announcement with you. Clarissa Johal is a good author friend of mine, and a chilling horror writer. Please take a peek and pre-order her new book, The Island, using the buy links below. Unless you’re scared 🙂

“Exploring a remote island can sometimes get you into trouble.

Especially when you stumble upon a cave and awaken two demons.”

 

 Island

 

 

 

Book Details:

Title: THE ISLAND

Genre: Paranormal Horror

Author: Clarissa Johal

Editor: Marisa Chenery
Booktrope, Forsaken Imprint (2015)

ISBN-13: 978-1-5137-0161-5

ASIN: B010TE7W1G

Number of Pages: 210

 

About THE ISLAND:

Emma Keller’s estranged grandmother has been missing for seven years. Emma journeys to her grandmother’s private island with the task of readying it for sale. Local rumors say it’s cursed, but she dismisses them as superstition. While there, she unearths a hidden cave, and is visited by two men soon after. Itu is well-spoken, though he hides his face in shadow. The other is more of a worry; with skin of alabaster, Thim’s feral presence sets her on edge. Emma discovers the island has a dark past. The two men aren’t human, but awakened demons…and they have their sights set on her.

Excerpt from THE ISLAND:

 

She was jarred awake by a cry. The vestiges of her nightmare dissipated as she orientated herself. Nightmare. Emma let out a sigh of relief. The cry sounded again. A distant sound, high and wailing. A baby’s cry. Her heart quickened. Good god, surely that can’t be a baby?

The fire in the stove had burned down, its embers lending a glow to the living room. Emma looked out the front window. The yard was still. She unlocked the door and opened it a crack. The cry drifted in with the breeze, faint but unmistakable. She ran through her mind what possible bird or animal could make the sound and came up with nothing. Characteristically, the island was blanketed with silence, almost like a vacuum. She stood, uncertain. After several minutes, the sound started again—the unmistakable high wail of a baby. She slipped on her boots and parka.

Fog trailed like cobwebs in her wake. The mournful cry threaded through the trees and came from the direction of the house ruins. In spite of a growing anxiety at what she’d find, she quickened her pace. If that is a baby, it’s still alive, and I need to get to it. If it’s not a baby… She blocked out the possibilities of what else it could be.

She approached the ruins and the sound stopped. Her heart raced. I know it was coming from here. The area held an unnatural heaviness. A branch cracked behind her and she turned with a start. Something dark darted through the trees.

“Hello?” Her voice sounded muffled in the fog. Emma’s attention snapped to the left. The dark figure ducked out of sight. She took one step backward, and fled.

Heavy footsteps echoed from behind as she plunged through the trees. They were catching up with her. Emma pushed herself to run faster, terrified she’d lose her footing on the uneven ground. The cabin loomed large, a haven in the thick fog. Stumbling across the cabin’s porch, she hurdled through the door and slammed it shut, locking it.

Emma rooted her feet to keep from running around in circles. Straining to hear, she was greeted with eerie silence. Several moments passed before the baby’s cry started again. And this time, it sounded from right outside the door.

***

THE ISLAND Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

About the Author:

 Clarissa Author Pic

Clarissa Johal is the author of paranormal novels, THE ISLAND, VOICES, STRUCK, and BETWEEN. When she’s not listening to the ghosts in her head, she’s dancing, taking pictures of gargoyles, or swinging from a trapeze. She shares her life with her husband, two daughters, and every stray animal that darkens their doorstep.

*Member of the Horror Writers Association

*Member of the Authors Guild

THE ISLAND

Coming August 5, 2015 from Booktrope

VOICES

(May 2015) Permuted Press

STRUCK

(2014) Musa Publishing
(2015) Clarissa Johal

*Second place in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll 2014
*Winner of the Indie Book of the Day Award

BETWEEN
(2012) Musa Publishing
(2015) Clarissa Johal
*Second place in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll 2012
*Winner of the Indie Book of the Day Award

PRADEE
(2010) Clarissa Johal
*Second round finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award Contest 2012

Short stories:

PIGEONS (Susurrus Literary Journal)

THE ROPE (Susurrus Literary Journal)
Find Clarissa Online:

 

Author Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Pinterest

 

Lois Lane Fallout is Flawless

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Take note Hollywood: THIS is how you move an overshadowed character from the darkness and put her into the spotlight. Until now, I’ve never seen Lois Lane as anything but Superman’s requisite window dressing and love interest. Not that it’s her fault. She’s faired rather poorly in most media incarnations. Granted, my knowledge comes from her various movie and tv incarnations, (I’m not a comic reader, so it’s entirely possible she’s received better treatment there. I just haven’t seen it.)

With Fallout, she’s no longer an after-though. She’s front and center. Gloriously so. Ms. Bond’s Lois Lane is fearless, feisty, and engaging. She’s far more interesting than ‘Smallvilleguy’, whose cameos never made me want to see more of him. I love what Ms. Bond’s done here. Making the MC someone other than the superhero adds an air of wonder and mystery to Superman that Ms. Bond gloriously exploits. Let’s be honest: wouldn’t Batman be far more interesting if the shorty presented him like the Alien in Ridley Scott’s classic Alien film: a nightmare in the shadows. Imagine that, a horror movie, but one substituting villains for comely coeds, a movie with the hero as the monster.

But I digress, something Fallout never does. From the start, Lois Lane is central here–even if she’s only 16. Wonderfully drawn, and easy to cheer for, she takes on a group of creepy students who find themselves caught up in a larger conspiracy. Saying anymore would be too much of a spoiler–and I don’t want to spoil it.

Suffice it to say, I blew through this book. I loved every page. I can’t wait for the next book! Please hurry, Ms. Bond. I need more!

Rating: 5-STARS

A JOURNEY INTO FANTASY FOR NORFOLK AUTHOR

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Norfolk author Keith Yatsuhashi recently published his first book, “Kojiki” a fantasy themed novel. Courtesy Photo

By Heather Gillis Harris
hharris@wickedlocal.com 

Posted Apr. 26, 2014 @ 8:29 am

NORFOLK — It took more than a decade, but Norfolk author Keith Yatsuhashi finally finished what he started, writing and publishing his first book.

“I remember (Ronald) Regan had just died,” Yatsuhashi said as to when he started writing his recently published fantasy novel, “Kojiki.”

The lifetime Norfolk resident lives with his wife Kathleen and their three children, Kaitlin, 15, Jeffrey, 13 and Justin, 11.

Writing a book was something Yatsuhashi always wanted to do, but felt intimidated by the process.

“I put the idea on the shelf,” he said. “Then one day I had an idea and started to write, one sentence at a time.”

It took him two years to write the first draft.

“It was a very long process, because I didn’t have a background in writing,” Yatsuhashi said. “So I had a lot to learn.”

He sent his book off to various publishers, only to be rejected or not receive any feedback. To get some guidance, he hired independent editor Lorin Oberweger. Oberweger works out of Tampa, Florida, so the two conversed over emails and phone.

“I was lucky, she happened to like the book,” Yatsuhashi said. “She was very hands-on. Not only did she edit the book, she acted as a consultant on how to submit. She really taught me how the industry worked.”

Yatsuhashi said Oberweger helped him pare down the book, about an 18-year-old Japanese-American girl named Keiko who finds herself on a spiritual mission after crossing through a ceremonial gate in Japan. Originally Keiko was written as an older protagonist, based loosely on Yatsuhashi’s elderly and eccentric aunt Kikiyue.

But Kaitlin, Yatsuhashi’s daughter, suggested that, since the book is fantasy, Keiko is old in mind, but something happened to her that keeps her physically young.

Yatsuhashi followed his daughter’s advice. “It made for a much more interesting story,” he said.

The story is about a quest that Keiko must take after she is left a poem and a one-way ticket to Japan following her father’s death.

“She must find a gate and uses a camera as a sort of talisman to help her find the way,” Yatsuhashi said.

Without giving too much away, Keiko finds the gate and enters a doorway where she encounters god-like beings and learns that the myths and legends she was taught as a child are actually reality based.

“The world history she learned was all a lie,” Yatsuhashi said.

While the book bears some resemblance to Japanese folklore, Yatsuhashi said the book is entirely fiction.

“People who like animation will like this book,” he said. He added that teenagers seem to be drawn to the book as well, that many of the online reviews have labeled it in the “young adult” genre.

To purchase a copy of the book Yatsuhashi said it is available at http://www.amazon.com and other e-book platforms such as iTunes, the Sony Store and the Barnes and Noble digital store.

For anyone thinking about writing and publishing their own book, he offers this advice: “It’s a lot of work. You do more work than you think. When you’re writing you can’t just say ‘it’s good enough,’ be open to editing.”

Heather Harris can be reached at hharris@wickedlocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @heatherharrisWL.

*THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN THE COUNTRY GAZETTE, WRENTHAM, MA. SEE THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE.

Book Review: Libba Bray’s The Diviners is a Must Read!

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Source: Amazon.com

Libba Bray’s The Diviners is the best book I’ve read this year. From its gripping opening pages to its thrilling conclusion, The Diviners grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. This book has everything I love in a story: great characters mystery, suspense, supernatural powers, and a freakishly diabolical villain.

Typically, when you think ‘urban fantasy’, you won’t conjure images of 1920 era New York City. Ms. Bray’s decision to set her book here is both original and ingenious. The Roaring twenties was a unique era in American history. Fresh off the Great War, the United States spent a decade releasing the national tensions that war created. Women in particular gained some measure a freedom, shortening their skirts, cutting their hair, and embracing their sexual power. Into this world, enters Evangeline, Evie, O’Neill, a liberated, ‘modern’ seventeen-year-old girl from the midwest. Evie has a secret power, one that gets her exiled from Ohio and sent off to live with her uncle in New York. Unbeknownst to Evie, she’s not the only one with powers. Many others exist, and she’s about to meet a few of them. When a series of brutal, ritualistic murders rock New York, the city’s lead investigator calls Evie’s uncle, Will Fitzgerald, to consult on the case. Turns out Uncle Will is a paranormal expert of sorts, having run a museum on the subject for years. He discovers an awakening evil and enlists Evie’s help to stop it.

While none this sounds particularly original, let me assure you it is. Ms. Bray skillfully takes this age-old premise and spins it into a grand and golden yarn. She goes all in, using the time period’s unique slang, fashion, and giltz to create a living, breathing portrait of New York during prohibition. Her characters live and breathe it, especially Evie. She’s the glue holding it all together. Bright and vivacious, she posses the smarts and savvy to turn almost any situation to her favor. Her conversations are often hilarious, and her personality is infectious. She’s easily the most interesting and charismatic character I’ve read in a long time. Her supporting cast is just as good, each character drawn with a distinct voice and personality. They play off each other beautifully no matter the situation, their dialogue fluid and natural.

I loved The Diviners; I loved every word. Reading it made the world fall away. I was sad to finish it. I wanted it to keep right on going. How often can you say that about a book?

Five Stars. 

Speechless. This 5-star KOJIKI review from Amazon leaves me speechless (and a little teary-eyed)

5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing and unique perspective on fantasy!, February 11, 2014
This review is from: Kojiki (Kindle Edition)
I tend to be very choosy when it comes to what I will admit I enjoy in a book. I will read nearly anything, but few make the list of all time. Few make me want to read it all over again the moment it’s done. Few leave me with a profound feeling of being a more fulfilled person for having read the words between the pages.Kojiki is no exception. The characters are beautifully written, and though I’m not anywhere near Japanese in heritage, I have always admired the culture, the rich history and philosophy behind Japan. The characters all embody what I believe is the heart of not just Japan, but our entire existence.

The author says that the book is anime inspired, and though I can very clearly see this book being developed into an anime, I think there is so much more that you just cannot capture with the eyes. By reading this, I was able to transport myself into a world rich with creatures of lore, vivid in imagery and rich in absolute fascination factors. I plan to give this to my son to read next, because I’m sure his 16 year old mind will eat this up. He’s my anime watching partner, and I’ve told him no less than three times about this book.

I love that there are words in Japanese, used in context within the text, along with an explanatory English word so we understand. It keeps it feeling very genuine, and keeps you in that floating ethereal place you’re meant to be while reading it. As the characters grow in substance, so too do our feelings of attachment and a sense of being parallel. We are watching their struggles as they encounter them, and though they cannot hear our cheers, we remain their supporters from behind the pages.

What can I say that isn’t shining about this book? Maybe my greed in wanting more like it! The ending was incredible and felt exactly right, but I hate that it ended at all.

I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially those who require a high degree of mental sophistication in their fantasy novels, those who won’t read “just anything” and people looking for a fresh and direct perspective on a new premise entirely. It definitely is nothing like anything I have read before, it is not the same old story that is predictable, nor full of beings of evil or good that we’ve all seen and heard from in other ways before.

5 stars doesn’t even do this justice. I will continue to come back for more.