Interview: H.O. Charles, author of The Fireblade Array @HOCharles

Today it is my pleasure to host one of the hidden gems of self-publishing, H.O. Charles! Charles’s epic fantasy romance series (and by epic, I mean it spans multiple centuries and lifetimes) is one of my favorites and I’m delighted to be hosting the insanely talented creator!

How did you get the idea for The Fireblade Array?

I’m not sure, really. It was years ago, and I used to make up stories in my head to amuse myself on dull train journeys. I like the idea of another universe that has some similarities to this one, but then I want to add in what’s missing in this world. Why is X so unfair, why do we have to suffer Y, and why must we be limited by Z? But as you know, we can’t have everything good all the time – the human psyche just isn’t wired that way. Angst and trials are entertaining to us – to me! So as soon as you start conjuring amazing powers and piecing together beautiful places in your head, you know there has to be some sort of balance – a price, if you will.

So for example, people in The Fireblade Array are very nearly immortal, but can you imagine how overpopulated our world would become if that were true? There has to be a correcting mechanism or mechanisms in there because of the way The Darkworld was formed (you discover some of the history behind this in Book 6), and the balancing mechanisms you see in my books pretty much wrote themselves. Interestingly, and while looking into mortality, I discovered that if we were no longer susceptible to disease or age in this world, we would still *only* have an average life expectancy of 1,200 years. This is because we are so accident-prone and (to a lesser extent) given to murdering one another. (Ref: Finch, C. 1990, Longevity, Senescence, and the Genome) Isn’t that fascinating?

If you broke the ideas in the series into their constituent parts, you’d probably find that they’re a Frankenstein’s monster of bits and pieces from Western literature, film, TV and even video games. I get a great deal of enjoyment reading nineteenth century novels as well as modern, but it would be wrong to discount the huge influence gaming and film have. Games, in particular, are another fantastic modern-day mode of storytelling. The Bioshock series blew me away. Books and games each offer something the other does not have, and they both activate that creative bit of the brain. I think everything an author sees and reads and consumes ends up being churned up and spat out in their writing one way or another (sorry, that’s not very nice imagery, is it?! I’m in Mirel mode. Radiated might have been better there). I radiate all that I consume. Haha. Hmm. Okay, onto the next one before I start to sound like an hubristic narcissist!

Fantasy backed by scientific articles! I love it. The Fireblade Array has a very unique format in that it’s more of an epic chronicle than a stereotypical narrative. What inspired you to write that way?

I wanted the story to be told from different points of view. I cannot claim credit for it, as it’s fairly standard practice in the fantasy genre (Robert Jordan, GRRM both do it, as do others I cannot remember offhand). It made the most sense to me, and I knew the story would be a long one. I can do single-point narrative, but I find I become bored easily. I also REALLY enjoy cliffhangers. << laughs wickedly >>

I know you love cliffhangers, you wretched goblin. *glares* What made you decide to become an indie author?

Haha. You mean, why didn’t I get a big-name publisher?! I tried a couple, but I started young and for whatever reason (I’m not bitter. Nope) I wasn’t picked out of the pile. I took it personally (I shouldn’t have), but I don’t feel I’ve missed out. The world is different now. The big publishers still have their finger in the publicity pie, and enough budget to hire powerful literary PR agencies, but the book world is a much more heterogeneous place compared to that of ten years ago. Yes, there’s some dross out there (there was before, let’s be honest), but it’s better for readers now. Back in 2010, I stumbled upon a very amateurish book on Smashwords, and thought (as we often do) “I can do better than that!” and decided to have a go. I always hoped my books would do well, but I never expected to leave my job/PhD and make a living out of it. Really, I just wrote and published because I loved creating the stories. Still do!!

Yeah…publishers can be like that. But good for you! How did you pick your penname? Do you feel it has allowed you more creative freedom?

YES. I picked the penname because I thought it sounded like the typical, middle-aged, bearded dude that writes fantasy (I think it’s some sort of uniform that you have to adopt once you get signed to a major contract). Is that who I am?! I’ll leave that up to your imagination, but YES, YES and YES, it has given me huge creative freedom. I am seriously self-conscious about anything I do, and I was scared of having my friends cut and paste romantic scenes from the books onto my Facebook page for laughs (they would do this, srsly), so I made my own little secret world where I could write anything I bloody well liked. “Write like everyone you know is dead,” they say (I cannot find the source for that quotation) – well, instead I killed me and invented a person too new to know anyone.

I still haven’t ‘come out’ to most of them about my penname. I’m working up to it…

You have to do what you’re comfortable with. Your three favorite characters to write and why?

Silar – for teh swearz

Morghiad – if I said here, I would spoil the next book…

Mirel – because she’s just so wicked!

Personally, Morghiad is my favorite. <3 (And not just because he’s dreamy, I swear.) What’s a story idea that’s come to you recently?

What? Give away all my hugely lucrative ideas on your blog?! Okay then! I started writing both a prequel and a spin-off to the series a while back. I hope to finish those within a reasonable time frame.

I have some other ideas that are still in development stage. One will be an historical fiction-type-adventure thing. With a ton of romance. Mustn’t forget that. I also want to do a near-future dystopia one (think Charlie Brooker/Black Mirror), but I don’t have time just yet!

YES for the romaction! How would you describe yourself in three fictional characters?

My own characters are basically me if I were significantly better-looking and braver and cooler. Take Silar, Artemi and Morghiad, and stir them all in a pot. Something like me will come out of it. Probably. Maybe a bit more evil Ambrose from Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind. And possibly some Emma Woodhouse from Austin. Sorry, that’s more than three, isn’t it? See? That’s why I added evil/scheming characters, because they don’t like doing things the proper way.

Pieces of yourself to each? Hmm…that’s either great or concerning. Your favorite online haunts and links?

Ooh. I’m going to be really boring and say I don’t go anywhere exciting online at the moment. Aside from the news, Wikipedia, checking my own reviews (I know, I need to STOP doing that) and the usual social media pages… there’s not a whole lot online these days that I have time to wander around. If you know of any good places, do tell me though.

Thank you so much for stopping by! Here’s to the best of luck and looking forward to Fall of Blaze! 🙂

H.O. Charles was born in Northern England, but now resides in a beige house in Suffolk.

Charles has spent many years at various academic institutions, and really ought to get on with writing a PhD, but frequently becomes distracted by writing fantasy fiction instead.

Hobbies include being in the sea, being by the sea and eating things that come out of the sea.

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Review: The First Chill of Autumn (Shards of a Broken Sword, #3) by W.R. Gingell

29614612Llassar is an occupied country– but nobody seems to know it.

Fae began to filter slowly into the land shortly after the birth of the crown princess, Dion ferch Alawn, supposedly fleeing a dark threat in Faery known as the Guardians. But that was fifteen years ago, and now there isn’t a town in Llassar that isn’t populated by or under the control of the fae.

Smaller, weaker, and less talented at magic, Llassarians are quickly finding out that there’s no fighting the invasion that crept in so quietly and politely. Even the castle isn’t free of fae: those closest to the king and queen are faery advisors.

When Dion ferch Alawn returns from a carefully sanitised tour of Outer Llassar, the most exciting thing she expects from the near future is the present her twin sister Aeron promised for their seventeenth birthday.

Then her carriage breaks down, and Dion gets a taste of what the real Llassar has become: desperate, enslaved, and ripe for rebellion. Getting home safely is just the first problem she faces: the real struggle begins when Dion returns to the castle. Her new knowledge is inconvenient and unwelcome– to declare it, treason.

Her parents expect her to publicly embrace the Llassarian policy of acceptance and deference to the fae.

The common Llassarians, their injuries passed over and their weapons long since confiscated, expect her to fight for them. Dion must choose between doing what is convenient and politic, and what is right.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

This is the final book and with impending doom, so it’s just a tad darker than the other two. There was still plenty of laughs and cute, sweet “aww” things, not to mention the return of the characters from the first two books. It was a splendid ending (especially since I was rooting for Barric from the beginning—shh!) and I loved it.

The plot:

Since it’s a novella, the story moves along quickly, following young Dion from toddler years to when she fulfills her destiny and saves the human world from Faery. I very much appreciated the whole “political correctness” storyline with the faeries and how the humans basically outlawed defending themselves. It was strikingly familiar to some real world historic issues. At the same time, we get to meet wonderful, awesome, lovable faeries and some sides of familiar faeries we really haven’t gotten before. It was a good, realistic balance, I thought, and definitely a take I had not encountered before.

The characters:

Dion is sweet and brave, having accepted from a  young age that she is destined to die for her country. While she starts out naive and too trusting, she is forced to learn quickly. She’s the kind of character we admire most for her heart.

Just in case that opening paragraph misled you, there are no—I repeat—NO LOVE TRIANGLES, okay? There are two love interests (Padraig’s sweet and brave and awesome, but the other one is the perfect one), but no love triangles. There was still bittersweet romance tossed in with cute romance, we get to see Markon and Althea in their banter-filled wedded bliss and Carmine play damsel in distress to his warrior princess, plus Rafiq and Koto be awesome dragons together.

Novellas get taken for granted too much, but this one is definitely a series worth a shot. Magic, quests, and romance mix together in clean fairytale-flavored adventures any retellings fanatic is bound to love.

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Read my reviews of Twelve Days of Faery (Shards of a Broken Sword, #1) and Fire in the Blood (Shards of a Broken Sword, #2).

Blog Tour Review: Eclipse (The Priestess Trilogy, #3) by @MelissaSasina

Priestess Trilogy Tour

P3 Eclipse 750Tensions escalate between two clans, threatening their fragile peace. On one side stand the Túath, on the other the Milidh. The prize: control of the land of Éire. Yet amidst this brewing conflict, another more dangerous threat looms. The village of Tara is ripped apart, not by war, but by the seed of betrayal as the priestess’ own kinswoman, Gráinne, conspires to seize control. Enemies shall become allies and Shiovra is faced with a difficult choice, one that will ultimately engulf her world in an irreversible eclipse.

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4 out of 5 stars

This is the last book. The conclusion. The END. It’s hard to believe that this series is finally complete, but one could certainly do worse by way of endings.

I’ve been following this series since I downloaded the first, Defiance, during a free promo over a year ago. One of my favorite things about this book has been the world building and the historical tidbits Sasina tosses in with her mythological references and there was definitely more of that!

The plot:

I admit I was a little intimidated at that word count, but the scenes are broken up into bite sized pieces and this reads very quickly. Like its predecessors, this book has a plot that moves along at a grueling pace and you’d better be ready to keep up!

Something important happens in nearly every scene, so there’s very little “drag.” This is the kind of writing style I like best—the kind that makes you lose track of time.

The characters:

There’s a great deal of what I call “head hopping” in this book, which is to say we get inside the heads of quite a few characters. On one hand, I think I would have preferred a greater degree of exclusivity in order to give us more insight into the main cast. On the other hand, we did have a glimpse into everyone—villains, heroes, and everything in between.

There is one point I wish I could ignore, but it influenced my opinion of the book too much not to mention. There’s this thing where the leader of one of the villages tells his wife to sleep with this other guy in order to secure said other guy as an ally. The result is this love triangle with a mutual understanding and consent between three partners.

The thing that bothers me about that is…well, I didn’t feel there was enough explanation. I get that the husband was okay with the whole arrangement, but why?

Was it supposed to be a cultural thing like in ancient Sparta (where wives could take any lover they wanted so long as their husband approved)? In the second book, it was kind of implied that women were supposed to remain chaste before matrimony, is that only before? Was it a personal thing where the one character just really wanted Other Guy as an ally? I just feel like there wasn’t enough set up for the modern western way of thinking and I would have liked a little more of that.

Otherwise, I truly did enjoy this book. This author excels at world building and making the setting feel authentic. She truly brings myths to life and I would definitely recommend this series to anyone interested in a different kind of fantasy novel.

Defiance
The Priestess Trilogy # 1
By – Melissa Sasina
Genre –  Fantasy/Romance
 
Shiovra has been named High Priestess of the village Tara, but she quickly finds herself hunted by the Milidh, a clan born of war and vengeance. With the safety of Tara at stake, it is decided that she is to seek aid from her betrothed, one she considers the enemy. At her side is Odhrán, a Milidh warrior sworn to protect her and determined to gain her trust. But their journey is fraught with peril and Shiovra learns that darkness lurks in the hearts of her own kin. Steeped in ancient Irish myth, this tale is spun of love, war, and DEFIANCE.
 
 

Continue reading

Review: Betrayal (The Priestess Trilogy, #2) by Melissa Sasina @MelissaSasina

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Shiovra, High Priestess of the village Tara, is set to wed one considered the enemy for the sake of her clan. Torn between her heart and her people, between love and duty, Shiovra decides her fate and faces the truth about Odhrán.

Still hunted by both the Milidh clan and her own kin, she learns that not all enemies are quite what they seem.

Loyalty is brought into question and power lost within enemy ranks in what shall ultimately lead to one thing: BETRAYAL.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

4 out of 5 stars

I have been looking forward to this book for some time and was very excited when the chance came along for me to snag it. It was an enchanting, exciting read and it had all the elements that made the first one memorable—mythology, magic, and mayhem.

One of my favorite things is the archaic, era-appropriate terms and language. It gives the story a wonderfully authentic feel and who doesn’t like learning new words? These stories are woven in with just the right dose of the arcane, yet never enough so as to make it seem foreign, just right.

The plot:

These books trot along fairly quickly and I’m never quite sure which direction they’ll take. There is never a shortage of action or sword fights and the detailed battles are always an exciting shot of action.

There is a lot more sex in this one than in the previous, which I suppose makes sense in the storyline, but yes, I did skip them. It’s a policy I don’t plan on repealing in the foreseeable future and it also means I wouldn’t consider this as young adult by any means, just so you YA readers out there know.

The characters:

We meet a good many new characters in this one as well as some familiar friends (and enemies). There is a greater exploration of the different tribes and clans as well as their dynamics which made for excellent world building.

In addition, there is a great deal more delving into marital institutions of the era. Despite this being a fantasy, the characters’ attitudes and opinions regarding marriage and the entailed responsibilities/duties of husbands and wives came across as highly realistic and was one of my favorite elements. However, there was this one part where I think a character basically told his wife to cheat on him. I may have misunderstood and sincerely hope I did, but…yeah, let’s just say I hope I misunderstood.

I had a great deal of fun in reading this book and I am very much looking forward to Eclipse coming out later this year. I recommend this for fans of mythology and Celtic-based fantasy worlds—the author certainly put a great deal into the world building and it shows.

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Review: Nation of Blaze (The Fireblade Array, #2) by H.O. Charles @HOCharles

24834993The country is leaderless. The queen is gone and hope is failing. Morghiad must find The Fireblade again if he is to secure his home and his heart, but the path will not be an easy one to tread. New enemies will rise to battle him as he battles with himself, and the most fearsome woman in history will continue to produce her army of blood-hungry eisiels. Will The Fireblade be the same as before? Will she aid him? Danger looms from all corners of this Nation of Blaze.

Volume 2 of The Fireblade Array

 Blurb and cover from Goodreads.

4 out of 5 stars

This was not so much an emotional rollercoaster as an emotional sucker punch. The portion of the story that is contained within this book spans close to fifty years and has more twists, turns, and little loop-de-loops than the average tangle of yarn. I read and read and read and found myself becoming more and more invested and this investment led me to skipping off to buy the third book right after I finished this one.

The plot:

This series reads more like a chronicle, talking about a series of adventures, tragedies, and happenings and how they are all linked together. Normally, I despise books like this, but it seems Charles has managed to pull it off. I am definitely a fan of this series (love the new covers, don’t you?) and I’m trying to figure out why I haven’t heard about it before. It takes a certain mindset going into these books, one must do away with the modern dogma of how a story is supposed to be structured and just enjoy the ride.

The characters:

I had a fondness for Artemi in the last book, but it became an all-out “my dear sweet little girl who must be protected from all evil” complex in this one. Artemi with her memories was a bit humbler than Artemi without and I found her much more empathetic and likeable and just plain adorable.

Morghiad is still an honorable, endearing, masochistic bastard. Really, there are parts were it was impossible not to want to beat some sense into him. I mean, yes, man, you screwed up. Now move on! That aside, his and Artemi’s relationship is adorable. I seem to be a sucker for multi-lifetime monogamous romances.

Artemi’s ages-old rival makes her first formal appearance. Someone really needs to lock Mirel in a lead box and chuck her in the ocean or something permanent because her existence is not okay. It really sucks when you have a bad guy who will just be reincarnated over and over. It sucks so bad.

I actually started to like Silar in this one and there was a whole new cast of characters who where introduced. Artemi’s father is undeniably huggable and her half-brother kind of disappears by the third book, but I’m fond of him, too. There’s also a cropping up of more woman warriors in this one, some of which I liked and some of which I did not.

To give fair warning, this book ended with another cliffhanger. I refused to believe that what had happened had happened and I was right, which is a good thing, or else it would be a repeat of The Assassin and the Empire. I’m about halfway through the third book and probably about to go grab the fourth once I finish and I certainly recommend this series to anyone with a taste for hardcore, original adult fantasy.

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The Priestess Trilogy Giveaway! @MelissaSasina

trilogy giveaway

Today, I have the honor of announcing that the awesome Melissa Sasina is hosting a grand giveaway for copies of her complete The Priestess Trilogy! Check out the cover candy, the giveaway link at the end of the post, and my review of book one!

P1 Defiance 750 pixelsDefiance (Priestess Trilogy #1):

Shiovra has been named High Priestess of the village Tara, but she quickly finds herself hunted by the Milidh, a clan born of war and vengeance. With the safety of Tara at stake, it is decided that she is to seek aid from her betrothed, one she considers the enemy.

At her side is Odhrán, a Milidh warrior sworn to protect her and determined to gain her trust. But their journey is fraught with peril and Shiovra learns that darkness lurks in the hearts of her own kin.

Steeped in ancient Irish myth, this tale is spun of love, war, and defiance.

Amazon

P2 Betrayal 750 pixelsBetrayal (Priestess Trilogy #2):

Shiovra, High Priestess of the village Tara, is set to wed one considered the enemy for the sake of her clan. Torn between her heart and her people, between love and duty, Shiovra decides her fate and faces the truth about Odhrán.

Still hunted by both the Milidh clan and her own kin, she learns that not all enemies are quite what they seem.

Loyalty is brought into question and power lost within enemy ranks in what shall ultimately lead to one thing: BETRAYAL.

Amazon

P3 Eclipse 750Eclipse (Priestess Trilogy #3):

Tensions escalate between two clans, threatening their fragile peace. On one side stand the Túath, on the other the Milidh. The prize: control of the land of Éire. Yet amidst this brewing conflict, another more dangerous threat looms. The village of Tara is ripped apart, not by war, but by the seed of betrayal as the priestess’ own kinswoman, Gráinne, conspires to seize control. Enemies shall become allies and Shiovra is faced with a difficult choice, one that will ultimately engulf her world in an irreversible eclipse.

Coming Soon!

 

 

IMG_20140913_143001Author Bio:

Born in 1982 in Cleveland, Ohio, Melissa has always been an avid lover of fantasy. In her youth she would write short stories and add artwork to them. Inspired by the encouraging words of her high school English teacher, she decided to change her career path from graphic art to writing. When not writing, Melissa enjoys doing freelance art and is an avid gamer. She still lives in Ohio with her husband, son, cat Trinity, and ferret Rope.

 Social Media links:

Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Pinterest ~ Tumblr

giveaway button

Click here for the Rafflecopter!

 

Review: City of Blaze (The Fireblade Array, #1) by H.O. Charles @HOCharles

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Fantasy Romance Epic.

The city is crumbling beneath a mountain of indulgences. Its soldiers find entertainment in the beds of the castle’s servants rather than fight, believing they are safe from the deadly embrace of wielders. Wars are fought to encourage otherwise absent mortality, and countless citizens suffer the terrible pangs of nalka – the hunger for intimacy. All the while, Cadra’s king concerns himself with choosing which of his disappointing concubines to execute next. The duty falls upon his son, Morghiad, to restore the city’s strength and the army’s purpose. As Morghiad attempts to do just that, he uncovers darker horrors and encounters a young servant who could either be his greatest ally or his greatest hindrance.

City of Blaze is a story of changing allegiances, self-control and love.

Includes glossary of terms

 Blurb and cover from Goodreads

4 out of 5 stars

It’s no secret I’ve fallen behind on my reviews, but I read this baby last autumn and it’s taken me this long to tell you lot about it. (Yes, I’m a horrible blogger. Bad me.)

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started the book. I grabbed it under the old cover (without the seminude man) because it was Epic Fantasy and it was free for Kindle and that combination is like a siren song to me. It sat around on my Kindle for Lord knows how long before I read it, but once I did, I got involved, I got emotional, I became invested. Next thing you know, I’m buying the second book, the third book. I’ve never read anything quite like this and it got its hooks in my brain.

The thing to be aware of when reading this is that it truly is an epic. The tale spans several years and takes us through a great deal of character development. The book takes commitment to finish, but I found it exceptionally worth it. Not to mention the world building and the rules of the world are about as original as I have seen. It was so different, so thought out, it’s pretty much impossible not to be impressed.

The plot:

I’ll admit I was kind of stumped about this for a while. My inner editor was trying to identify the exact plot and I couldn’t, so I just stuffed my inner editor into a cupboard and decided to enjoy the story.

It might seem like the plot meanders a bit, but I actually didn’t mind. There was plenty of action and I got hooked on the romance, though I’m going to take that opening and tell everyone that this is not Young Adult. There were some pretty intense lead-ups to sex scenes and I’m going to assume those parts of the scenes were also intense because I still maintain my practice of sex-scene-skipping. (Yes, I’m nearly 20 and still do that, shut up.)

The characters:

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Artemi at first. I was certain that I wasn’t going to like her because in general if a girl is playing two different men at once (which she kind of did, but kind of didn’t), I tend to get upset. However, we ended up getting along quite nicely and I really want to ask the author on where her name came from.

As for Morghiad, I think we can safely say that he has joined the ranks of my babies (a hypothetical collective of fictional characters over which I am viciously protective). He seems to have this masochistic belief that he’s horrible, which doesn’t go away—at least not in the first two books. But he’s a sweet chap overall, so we’ll cut him a break.

This review is running a bit long, but I just want to mention Silar—whom I didn’t like at first, but who grew on me. There are also several different antagonists who provide varied amounts of antagonization at different parts of the story and the book has an open ending—which is code for “cliffhanger,” so be ye warned.

Looking back, I’m not really sure what I loved most about this book. I finished reading and the characters kept bouncing around in my head until I broke down on downloaded the sequel. I truly did enjoy this and am very excited to see what lies in store for the series.

P.S. It’s free on all eBook venues I’ve checked!

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