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: Anomaly of Blaze (The Fireblade Array, #3) by H.O. Charles @HOCharles

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An Anomaly of Blaze is the cause of a great many troubles, but he may also offer a solution to the woes faced by our heroes.

In Calidell, The Fireblade must deal with her wars alone, and the battles she faces are nothing like those of the ten millennia before.

A new monster has taken up residence in her mind, and it seeks to control her power. She must do all she can to protect the ones she loves, but can she achieve this before her will to fight leaves her?

Volume 3 of The Fireblade Array

4 out of 5 stars

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: Some spoilers for previous books in the series. Also, this book contains mature themes and  is not Young Adult.

I…have many emotions regarding this series. The books are huge, the timelines covered in each installment can span for decades, and the author most likely stays up late thinking “how can I hurt these characters next?”

The plot:

This book picks up just a few days after the end of the previous installment with a grieving Artemi and her children. Again, there is the same story style that takes on more of a chronicle/episodic format that your usual plot arch. There might be years lapsed between chapters, but in a world where old age doesn’t exist, the characters all stick around.

I admit I panicked a few times in reading this. I did not see the twist about who Morghiad’s reincarnated self thought Artemi was and once that was revealed…well, I can see how he would be upset over her trying to seduce him.

The characters:

There were a few times I wanted to upside Artemi with a good smack, but not for the reasons the other characters did. I suppose she’s entitled to make mistakes, but she should have taken a cue from how Morghiad dealt with her back when she didn’t remember him. Just give the dude some space!

I freaked out when Morghiad came back, especially when we started seeing things in his POV. I had no idea what the hell was wrong with him or where he got all these outlandish theories. To make matters worse, he never fully explains anything until BOOM we’re in big trouble and he’s about to make the biggest mistake of both his lives. Still…he’s my favorite character and darling little cabbage.

To be brutal, I do not like Silar. He started to redeem himself to me in book 2, but he’s pretty much fixated with Artemi and it only appears to be getting worse. At this rate, in two or three books he’ll be the new super villain/stalker that’s obsessed with her. Seriously, the poor slob needs to find a new girl or a new hobby or hard core therapy before this gets out of hand.

Morghiad and Artemi’s children, particularly the older two, can take all the <3 ‘s. Medea and Tallyn’s relationship is precious and adorable and I could just hug them both to bits. The youngest, Kalad, is kind of the stereotypical rebellious teenager. Kalad and his father’s reincarnated version do not get along at all I am not looking forward to this blowing up down the road.

Wow, that review got long fast. There’s probably a whole other review I could write just about the secondary characters and assorted villains who make their appearance over the course of the book, but I’ll stop there.

To sum up, I am still hooked on this series, I have downloaded the next book. If you’re a fan of romance epics with monogamous, multi-lifetime stories, for the love of Earl Grey, pick this up.

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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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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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Post-Mission Report: Spring Break 2015

17342700Day #1
Monday began with a rude gesture to the alarm clock as I slept in. Eventually, I dragged myself out of bed to complete my weekly running ritual in case I ever do find that blue police box.

The rest of the day was invested in writing (I refuse to tell you what) and as soon as I met my daily word quota, I turned to reading Gathering Darkness (Falling Kingdoms, #3) by Morgan Rhodes. I laughed, I cringed, I freaked, I fangirled—and I didn’t even finish it.

Day #2
As the sun set, I had once again bested my dread word count quota. After completing the last few chapters of Gathering Darkness, I reached for The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2) by Brandon Sanderson. I had missed Elend and Vin and I was delighted to see them again—sweet babies that they are.

Day #3
On this day, I had to get up at the ungodly hour of 6:30. Can you imagine? 6:30 on a vacation?

However, it proved to be worth it. I spent the morning getting the Key of Amatahns uploaded, proofed, and approved for Amazon and began setting up the celebratory blog hop. I was even able to meet my daily word count quota on The Project That Shall Not Be Named.

That night, I stayed up with my adoptive children Vin and Elend past 3:55 a.m. There were three armies attacking at once—I had no choice.

2115046Day #4
I made more progress with The Project to Which I Shall Never Confess. There was a minor panic attack somewhere in there over something, but I can’t remember what it was.

I finished The Well of Ascension at 2:50-something in the morning, then spent a bit of time too scared to turn out the lights because of the creepy being that showed up at the end.

When I finally did get up the courage, I laid there in bed, feeling depressed. How the hell could I ever hope to write as well as Mr. Sanderson? That guy’s a bloody genius.

Day #5
I started the very adult Epic Fantasy, Anomaly of Blaze (The Fireblade Array, #3) by H.O. Charles. This endeavor was interrupted by a great deal of arguing, yelling, and general mayhem as my mother and brothers attempted to get the house presentable for a playdate.

Despite everything, the playdate was a success and I made friends with their classmate’s three year old sister, who seemed to think I was cool for some reason.

24860279Day #6
Saturday came with packing in preparation for our move and more panicking, but when we were done, everyone else went out to watch Kingsman and I was left at home because they knew better than to drag me out in public.

I worked on my word count and paced around the house, enthusiastically quoting Khan, Ravenna, Morgana, and some of my own villains. I find that practice oddly therapeutic. (Had the neighbors heard, I’m sure they would be moving right now, thinking that they were living next to a psychopath.)

Day #7
We went to church and then lunch, where we discussed politics over Bulogi wraps and green tea. After a delightful time watching Cinderella, we all went home before I departed for my father’s house where I fooled around on the internet and did more work on That Which Must Not Be Mentioned.

As you know, honor demands that all homework be completed as late as humanly possible. At 1:00 Monday morning, I began to work on an assignment from two weeks earlier. Hopped up on caffeine, I managed to get it done before crashing into bed and thus ended my Spring Break of 2015.