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.

Headshot

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+

 

 

 

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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.

 

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

When a Reader Says THIS, It Reminds You Why You Write

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Last year, a blogger approached me for a review copy of my debut novel, Kojiki. She gave it glowing marks; she also gave it to a friend she thought would like it. That friend not only liked it; she RAVED about it. So, when Torii came out–a short story prequel to Kojiki–I made sure this person knew about it. Here’s what she had to say:

“I finished it and felt bad for wanting so much more. But there again, that’s the sign of a good book, and well developed characters you feel like you know personally and want to share in their story and what happens to them down the line.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and felt my heart break when Botua died… the feeling of horror from Vissyus in his child-like state, replete with unheard of power, yet too broken to wield it properly and ending up hurting those he loves… Lon-Shan risking all for the job of a hero, all of it… and the entire thing wrapping up being this big massive thing that went totally awry that the big man didn’t want his people to find out about through history, so instead… made up something more palatable and noble, so they wouldn’t fear what lurked in the future. Oh, and the formation of the barrier by his own guardian, the entire thing was so epic…

I truly can’t say anything that will encompass how it makes me feel to be put back into a world that delights me this much. And, I was going to enshrine that book you sent me, but I felt like it would have been wrong in so many ways because something that good NEEDS to be shared until it’s pages are lovingly worn, the spine has multiple lines down the center, despite everyone being careful as they read it… I borrow it to everyone I can, and stress to them the importance of giving it back. It’s easily one of my most precious possessions, and I have few of those

You didn’t disappoint, but I didn’t figure you would.”

My reaction to these words was a mixture of awe and humility! Oh, and Torii is available from musapublishing.com as a FREE download. It’ll show up soon on other retailers too. Look for it!

Book Review: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey Rocks!!!

 

 

Source: Amazon.com

Source: Amazon.com

The Girl with All the Gifts is a fantastic read. How good? When I first came across it, it had so many aspects that I usually dislike. I typically don’t do books this grim. I’m not a fan of books written in the present tense. If fact I rarely get through them. For The Hunger Games, I had to go to the audio book. Something about the style doesn’t compute in my head. I’m also not a fan of zombies.

None of these biases mattered. This book pulled me in so completely, I forgot about them. How often does a book overcome personal odds and earn such a high rating? Rarely. But The Girl With All the Gifts is that good. It’s transcendent. The girl herself, Melanie, is so perfectly written. She starts out sheltered but grows throughout. Her voice matures and becomes powerful.

Kudos to Mr. Carey for perfecting such a complex and compelling character. The same goes for the story itself. I thought this would be a hard science fiction story, one stuck in a lab or compound. That’s all there, but Mr. Carey wisely moves the action beyond the labs and turns it into a true survival tale.

Another reviewer likened it to The Day of the Triffids. I can definitely see that. It also has a similar tone to James Cameron’s Terminator and Aliens. Bleak, desperate, and thought provoking, this book will keep you turning its pages. I hated to finish it but admit to it having a stunning yet perfect ending.

I will remember this book for a long, long time.

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.