Friday, March 31, 2023

Author Feature Friday - Kris Bird

Kris Bird is an Atlanta-based SciFi Author. She started her freelance writing business in 2019 and has been working on the Time Bender Saga for over a decade. Her debut novel, The Talismanic Urn, released in 2020 and has 5-stars on Amazon. Her newest book, The Home Landing, is a proactive, new age alien invasion story with a twist. It released March 28th.

Genre: Science Fiction

Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what is it about?

The Home Landing. Unlike most alien invasion stories, our main character, Jordan, is tired of hiding and waiting to be beamed up by aliens. She's ready to take fate in her own hands and face the aliens head-on. Jordan joins a rag-tag group of militants that she believes will bring her closer to the aliens, but instead she finds the family (and love) that she has been searching for her whole life. Will she decide to stay and fight alongside her new family? Or will curiosity finally get the best of her?

Q2: How long does it take you to write a book? How long does each stage of the process usually take?

Usually about a year. I take my time with the first draft, (about 4-6 months) and I HATE editing but after I've thrown back a Scotch (or two) that usually takes me about 1-2 months. That, with the procrastination, self-loathing, and eventual hyper productivity, the whole publishing process usually takes at least a year.

Q3: What is your favourite type of character to write?

Damaged. People that you want to hate for their choices but you can relate to why they do the things they do.

Q4: Do you mine your own life for ideas, settings and/or characters? If so, please give an example from your current book release where you have done this.

My current book, The Home Landing is actually about a dream that my friend told me about an alien invasion. We always have this idea in the SciFi genre of aliens attacking, and humans running from the aliens, hiding and trying to destroy them. But it never occurred to me that maybe in that scenario, we might behave differently. Humans are curious creatures and they might be tempted to want to give up the fight just to find out: why?

Q5: What is something you wish you had known earlier on it your writing career?

You are not the exception, you are the rule. The only way to be a successful writer is to work at it.

Q6: What do you do when you find yourself in a bit of a writing rut? Is there any strategy you find works for you to help the words start flowing again?

Lucid Dreaming

Q7: What is your favourite writing resource?

Thesaurus! I'm definitely old school, but I could spend hours on there just to craft the perfect sentence.

Q8: How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

I want to get women excited about the SciFi genre.

Q9: What authors or books inspire you the most?

Nova Sparks. It's hard to find decent female SciFi writers to look up to and I'm currently desperately waiting for a sequel to The Dome.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

Astonishing X-men Volume 2, The Witcher series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, It all depends on what I am in the mood for I guess.

To find out more about Kris Bird check out her or give her a follow on Instagram @KrisBirdAuthor

The Home Landing is available now. Check out a sneaky snippet below:

"It reminded Jordan of a storm cloud; ominous and unsettling. A cloud made up of metal and joints; twisting into each other. The air in her lungs felt stale and compressed against her chest. The ship seemed to take on a life of its own; breathing in the very oxygen she needed and converting it into something dangerous. And just like a storm cloud, there seemed to be an anticipation, a feeling of uneasiness and preparation for the storm ahead. The world around her fell silent and somehow Jordan was not surprised when cloud above her opened up."

Like this interview? Please consider Buying Me a Coffee to keep them coming :)

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Author Interview - Jess Alexandria

Jess Alexandria is half of the dynamic writing duo J.S. Alexandria, authors of Frost and Sunshine. Jess loves a good story with incredible characters, and a little spice (or a lot of spice) never hurt! She lives in New England with her husband and cat children, and when she's not writing, she can be found reading, playing video games, or enjoying some good food and a TV show.

Genre: Fantasy Romance (adult)

Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what is it about?

My most recent book is actually my debut novel! Frost and Sunshine by J.S. Alexandria. This one is coauthored with me and my best friend. It's an adult fantasy romance within a modern, contemporary setting. It follows our two main character Slate and Daniella where Slate finds himself a target of the fae and he's rescued from being kidnapped by Dani. Adventure and romance ensue. And it's more than just fae, which I know is super trendy right now, but this world includes traditional faerie lore, Asian magicks, vampires, witches, and other magical creatures. It's quite varied! Slate and Dani are supported by a diverse and fun cast of side characters—Slate's best friends Jian and Kari, and Dani's best friends Roger, Maddie, and Sellie the griffin.

Q2: How long does it take you to write a book? How long does each stage of the process usually take?

Well Frost and Sunshine has been a labor of love for Sierra and I for over FIVE YEARS. But that's because we created the world, wrote Slate and Dani's story... then proceeded to write several more books within the world before we decided to go back and edit Slate and Dani. I would say that we draft a book within a year, usually, then another year for editing (which includes a round with our beta readers!). It's fun because it's the two of us. I will be embarking on some solo projects, and I can't say yet how long the process will take me. I'm definitely not an intense drafter and I don't see myself being able to put out more than a single book a year on my own. Sometimes the process takes time!

Q3: What is your favourite type of character to write?

I LOVE a snarky male lead who also has a short temper. Bonus points for a little trauma baked in. Characters like Greed/Ling from Full Metal Alchemist, Zuko from ATLA, Inuyasha from, well, Inuyasha, Rhys and Cassian from ACOTAR... Slate (my male lead in FAS) is a little bit like this, and so is his best friend Jian. They are two peas in a pod, those two, though Slate has a little more temper while Jian has a little more... edge. And we really get to see Jian's character develop in rich ways over the course of the next few books. Bonus points - Sierra LOVES an angsty, stoic male. Roger is her favorite to write in FAS. Think like Sesshoumaru from Inuyasha, Itachi from Naruto... she loves a tragic stoic lead.

Q4: Do you mine your own life for ideas, settings and/or characters? If so, please give an example from your current book release where you have done this.

YES - the martial arts parts of Frost and Sunshine are absolutely mined right from my life. I'm a 3rd degree black belt in traditional Taekwondo, and my husband is a 6th degree. It's a family affair, hahaha. A lot of Slate's interactions with his male friends were based on observations watching my favorite men in my life talk to each other as well. I also have a new WIP that works on a martial arts ranking system as well. It's such a core element in my life... it's hard to not put a little taste of it into each of my books! Bonus - Sierra lived in Japan for five years and speaks the language fluently, so the very Japanese elements of our book are absolutely well-researched and thought-out... from lived experience!

Q5: What is something you wish you had known earlier on it your writing career?

How f-ing difficult the publishing process was... yet also how easy. I'm 33 years old... it didn't cross my mind until two years ago that Sierra and I could SELF-PUBLISH and skip all the misogynistic red tape of the traditional publishing sphere. Not that it's a bad path (great for some) but those of us that write Fantasy Romance have a harder time fitting into the trad-pub sphere because our work doesn't align tightly to a single niche. You can't take out the fantasy or the romance plot of Frost and Sunshine and still have it be a cohesive novel... so where does it live in the genre world? If I had known that self-publishing was as easy as a little research and a hell of a lot of ambition, I would've done it a lot sooner. I'm an Enneagram type 3... I love a good to-do list and I'm ambitious and I love to have control over everything. As stressful as it is, I have loved the self-publishing route because I get to control everything. I just wish I had known about it sooner!

Q6: What do you do when you find yourself in a bit of a writing rut? Is there any strategy you find works for you to help the words start flowing again?

The beautiful thing about a well-balanced coauthorship is that if I'm in a rut, Sierra can take over and help. I can give her the barest bones of a raging dumpster fire scene and go: "FIX ME" and between the two of us, we can usually motivate each other! However... that doesn't always work, especially for my solo projects. One thing that usually works for me is driving with a music playlist. I pick a few songs that match my WIP vibe and I go out for a drive. I live in the country so the roads are winding and unpopulated and it's easy to loop around and connect the roads together, so I can just loop around in my car for an hour or two and ruminate. Other strategies include just... writing scenes and head-canons from my own works. Sometimes it flows easier than anything that happens in the story and gets me into the heads of the characters. For example, I wrote some scenes about Slate's father's backstory... does it go into the book? Absolutely not, but they are fun scenes and it keeps me sharp and motivated and in the mood. Some authors will tell you that words are 'wasted' because they don't make it into the story (especially if the author is a pantser) but I don't believe that's true. Any writing keeps you sharp and honed for your craft. Words are never ever wasted.

Q7: What is your favourite writing resource?

Reading!!! Seriously the best thing to do to keep your mind in story-mode. Read good books. Other than that - I've been getting into craft books lately on writing. I don't yet have any to recommend because I've only just started reading them. But I also love the Author Media podcast on Spotify. The podcast creator does come from a religious background and that bias sometimes creeps into his podcast, but not always and I've learned a lot from that podcast on marketing and writing strategies. Additionally... OTHER AUTHORS. Seriously, Sierra and I have been writing together in a silo for over 20 years... but the moment I branched out into social media and met other authors and participated in critique groups and received feedback from other people... incredible. My writing chops expanded. I did go to college for Education with a minor in English so I was accustomed to feedback and critique groups, but it's one thing when you are doing it for a grade and another thing to volunteer to do it to get better. Highly recommend people connecting with other writers and authors. The power of the collective cannot be understated.

Q8: How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

Demographic is 18+ due to the graphic nature of our books, but more than that, the characters are adults going through adult things. Dani owns her own house. Slate runs a business and cares for his elderly father. They go out drinking... these are adult activities that someone under 18 might not connect with. Beyond that -- if you are someone who loves the idea of fantasy but wants it to be approachable... or someone who loves romance and wants to dabble into fantasy romance... or someone who grew up reading the paranormal romance books of the early 2000s (the ones we all had to hide from our mothers)... someone who loves following incredible characters through an approachable and digestible plot... loves dialogue and banter... and you are someone who loves to go the distance with incredible characters... Frost and Sunshine is your next read, for sure.

Q9: What authors or books inspire you the most?

It's super cliche of me to say SJM, but I really do love the character dynamic of her books. They are the kind of characters you want to go the distance with, and I love their banter. BUT - I love JR Ward (the Black Dagger Brotherhood series), and I've been a lifelong fan of paranormal romance. Sierra too. Those types of "stand-alone in the series" books inspired us all our lives. We loved seeing a new couple in each book with an overarching plot and revisiting our fav couples from the past in new books. Some recent authors who have become staples in my life - VE Schwab, Katee Robert, AP Walston, Amy Daws... inspired by all of them in different ways. And of course, all my indie author friends just inspire me all the time with the tenacity and creativity: Lindsay Clement, TM Ledvina, Miranda Joy, and so many others.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I just finished an ARC of These Wicked Truths by Miranda Joy! I'm about to read Of Blood, Bones, and Truth by TM Ledvina... but right now I'm more focused on my own writing and I'm actually doing another play-through of Zelda Breath of the Wild, which is its own inspiration!

To find out more about Jess Alexandria check out her here, or give her a follow on Instagram @jess.alexandria.books.

Frost and Sunshine, Book 1 in the Magic in Myth Series, is available now in ebook, paperback, hardcover and Kindle Unlimited.

Like this interview? Please consider Buying Me a Coffee to keep them coming :)

Friday, March 24, 2023

Author Feature Friday - Judith McNees

Judith McNees lives in Michigan, where she enjoys spending time hiking with her kids and breaking out into random songs to annoy them. She loves to travel, and visiting all 50 states with her husband is at the top of her bucket list. She has a B.A. in English from Western Michigan University and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance 


Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what is it about?

My latest book is called A Heart to Redeem, and it is the third book in my Tranquil Shores Sweet Christian Romance Series. The series is a family saga which follows the siblings in the Morgan family, and book 3 is about the youngest brother, Chris. This book touches on themes of loss, trauma, family, and redemption. It is a marriage of convenience book…my favorite trope to read!

Q2: How long does it take you to write a book? How long does each stage of the process usually take?

It varies. It took me about three months to finish A Heart to Redeem, but I wrote my Christmas novella in two weeks. My process has gotten cleaner with each new release, so my drafts are fairly clean when I finish them. I have my editing fairly streamlined at this point, so the majority of my process is spent on writing and discovering the story.

Q3: What is your favourite type of character to write?

I love writing my heroes. Chris, from A Heart to Redeem, was my most challenging character to write due to his story arc and flaws. I actually didn’t like him very much at the beginning of the book, but by the end, he was one of my favorites!

Q4: Do you mine your own life for ideas, settings and/or characters? If so, please give an example from your current book release where you have done this.

A Heart to Redeem is set in the fictional town of Tranquil Shores, Michigan, which is on the shores of Lake Michigan. I love visiting the lake, although I don’t ever swim! There are also several childhood stories in this book that are either directly from my own childhood or based on one of my own kids. The one where Chris’s brother fed him a jalepeno to torture him? That was something I did to my youngest sister…lol.

Q5: What is something you wish you had known earlier on it your writing career?

Find a mentor who understands your mission and will help you sort through all of the writing advice. I had five beta readers for A Heart to Redeem, and two of them tried steering me in the direction of more of a women’s fiction/Christian fiction type of story. I went back to my mentor, and she was able to help me sort through that because she knows my mission and my goals as an author, and she’s also an author and editor in my genre who understands the conventions and expectations in a CCR story.

Q6: What do you do when you find yourself in a bit of a writing rut? Is there any strategy you find works for you to help the words start flowing again?

 I like to brainstorm with my mentor when I’m stuck. The other thing I’ve realized is that a lot of the time when I think I’m in a rut, I’m just procrastinating. I set a timer for 15 minutes and write. Usually, when the 15 minutes are up, I keep going!

Q7: What is your favourite writing resource?

Novelpad. Hands down. I was blessed to discover it about two weeks after I started writing my first novel and never looked back. It helps me keep my notes, character profiles, and writing all in one place.

Q8: How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

My books mainly appeal to women who enjoy romance books with a strong Christian thread but who are looking for characters with flaws and who don’t always make the right choices. I have readers I’ve met from 13 to 97, so almost any age would enjoy them.

Q9: What authors or books inspire you the most?

The Holy Bible

Q10: What are you currently reading?

The Spark Brothers series by Liwen Y. Ho.

To find out more about Judith McNees check out her or give her a follow on Instagram @judith_mcnees_author.

A Heart to Redeem is available now.

Like this interview? Please consider Buying Me a Coffee to keep them coming :)

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Author Interview - Ana Stanojevic

Ana Stanojevic, author of Fire Wave Trilogy, lives in Calgary, AB with her family. Her dream was always to become an author.

She got the idea of her Fire Wave Trilogy when she was on a vacation with her family in Greece and from there,she started to map out the trilogy, jotting down the ideas on paper. She also owns a blog where she fangirls about books as well as sharing updates about her life.

​After Fire Wave Trilogy, she hopes to write many more fantasy fictions that are on her list including a reimagined Aladdin novel.

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi


Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what is it about?
My latest book is the sequel of Fire Wave which is called Fire Burns. It is where Aiyana continues to fight as the vigilante, Fire Wave, against the evil that threatens the Earth. However, in doing so, she meets another adversary, The Shadow and soon Aiyana must fight the enemy before she loses her mind.

Q2: How long does it take you to write a book? How long does each stage of the process usually take?
Fire Burns (which is the sequel to Fire Wave) took me a few months but even after a few months, there was a lot of revising and editing which added another few months. Writing, is usually the easiest stage for me because I know what happens in each scene so it doesn’t take me long; I would say about five months of writing and then another five or six months of editing and revising.

Q3: What is your favourite type of character to write?

I absolutely loved writing about Opsidia! I might write a novella about her…who knows…

Q4: Do you mine your own life for ideas, settings and/or characters? If so, please give an example from your current book release where you have done this.

Toronto, Canada has been the main inspiration for Iron City and I mostly used Norse Mythology for the book. There are also aliens in the book!

Q5: What is something you wish you had known earlier on it your writing career?

Don’t rush! It takes time to write and edit books. If you rush, you’ll miss important details of your story and there won’t be a nice flow to your book. Take time with your edits. You WANT your book to be as clean as possible. And have fun! It’s important to have fun otherwise you’ll have burn out and lack of inspiration so have fun!

Q6: What do you do when you find yourself in a bit of a writing rut? Is there any strategy you find works for you to help the words start flowing again? 

I normally take a break if I have a writing rut and watch some YouTube. When I’m in a writing rut, the last thing I would want is to force myself to write. If I force myself to write, it’ll become a mess. So instead, I just take a break, relax and once inspiration hits, I start to write again. I also read as well; I love to read Fantasy books.

Q7: What is your favourite writing resource?

I mostly follow authors on Instagram for writing resource. One of my favourites would be Heart Breathings on YouTube by Sarra Cannon; I absolutely love the advice she gives out for authors. I also like Bethany Atazadeh!

Q8: How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

My book is for anyone who likes Superheroes, Fantasy and Sci-Fi!

Q9: What authors or books inspire you the most?

I love Kerri Maniscalco! I love her books.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading The Song that Moves the Sun by Anna Bright

To find out more about Ana Stanojevic, check out her website here, or give her a follow on Instagram @anniekatie58.

From the blurb:

Like this interview? Please consider Buying Me a Coffee to keep them coming :)

Friday, March 17, 2023

Author Feature Friday - "Original Cyn" Cynthia Vespia

"Original Cyn" Cynthia Vespia writes fantasy novels with edge including urban fantasy vigilantes and heroic adventure fantasy. Her characters are outcasts and anti-heroes with depth and real vulnerabilities. Every plot is designed to give heroes a challenge and villains a purpose. It's escapism entertainment at its best keeping pages turning and hearts pounding.

Genre: Heroic Fantasy and Urban Fantasy


Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what is it about?

My latest release is titled Rayna the Dragonslayer. It is the first novel in the exciting dragon fantasy adventure series A Time of Dragons. It's a symphony of sword and sorcery, high fantasy, and a heroic quest that is like The Mandalorian merging with Game of Thrones. 

Q2: How long does it take you to write a book? How long does each stage of the process usually take?

I’ve written books in as little as 3 months and as long as 3 years. It really depends on the story I’m writing and if my Muse is behaving! When I started my career, I was doing a lot of stand alone novels which took less time to complete. Now, I write mostly trilogies and longer series so the staging process is different. I like to flush out the main components of each novel that is to come so I can make certain there is a pay off for the reader throughout the journey. Initial outlines are usually the spark of my idea coming to life and I whip those out in about 30-min to an hr.

Q3: What is your favourite type of character to write?

I lean into writing anti-heroes and outcasts. My characters have flaws and layers to their personalities. To me, it feels more natural and real. No one in the world is a perfect person. It would be a disservice to readers to write a character that they can’t relate to. Also, it would be pretty boring. I also really enjoy delving into my villains to ensure they have as much of a backstory and a purpose as the heroes do.

Q4: Do you mine your own life for ideas, settings and/or characters? If so, please give an example from your current book release where you have done this.

Yes, I often draw from real life experiences or characteristics from someone I know. My hero Rayna is a compilation of strong, determined women I’ve known throughout my life. I gave her a take no BS type of attitude which I suppose came directly from me!

Q5: What is something you wish you had known earlier on it your writing career?

There are a few things. I wish I had pinned down my genre early on and stuck with it. I wish I had started a long series of books with distinct characters that kept growing over the years. Mostly, I wish I would’ve known just how important marketing and networking were at the onset. I started writing and publishing before everything went digital. So, when the shift came and everything went online I had to re-learn everything I knew before. It still feels like I’m behind but all I can do is write good books that readers enjoy.

Q6: What do you do when you find yourself in a bit of a writing rut? Is there any strategy you find works for you to help the words start flowing again? 

When I’m stuck in a rut I will do anything but writing to get my creative juices flowing. That could mean working out, reading, or even watching TV. To be honest, I’ve gotten some really good inspiration from TV shows.

Q7: You mentioned you give villains a purpose. How do you balance that without seeming like their actions should be condoned?

What I mean when I say “purpose” is that the villain believes in their mission, it doesn’t mean the reader has to condone their actions. I don’t like when a villain causes chaos for no reason or the reason doesn’t make sense. Even The Joker has his reasons for doing all the malicious actions he does to Batman. A villain should be flushed out just as much as the hero is or you wind up with a flat, one-dimensional character that makes readers wonder why its taking so long for the hero to wrap this up!

Q8: How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

My readers have describe themselves. I’ve heard on multiple occasions that my books are easy to read page turners. I take readers on a journey with the characters in an entertaining way and I don’t waste time with non-essential filler. We hit the ground running with action, character drama, intrigue, and a little bit of humor if the moment strikes! Rayna the Dragonslayer is for fans of pure fantasy with interesting world-building, creative characters including monsters, magic, and of course dragons!

Q9: What authors or books inspire you the most?

I was first inspired by Dean Koontz. He was the reason I wanted to become an author. C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, Robert E. Howard, those authors began my love of fantasy. These days I’m interested in authors that bridge the gap between fantasy and reality like Jim Butcher or Patricia Briggs. 

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I always read a non-fiction book and a fiction title simultaneously For my non-fiction I just finished the biography of MMA fighter and WWE superstar Ronda Rousey. Now I’ve started On Writing and Writers by C.S. Lewis. For my fiction novel I turned to some older titles from an author named Richard Kirk. He created a series of fantasy novels that follow a female warrior named Raven. See the correlation? I read book one in Kirk’s series years before and I remembered it well enough to want to write something similar. Now, I tracked down the rest of the Raven series (which wasn’t easy!) to be a little more motivated to write my own fantasy series.

Rayna the Dragonslayer is available as ebook, paperback and hardcover. Check out Chapter One at the end of this post. Find out more about Cynthia Vespia and her books by checking out her, or give her a follow on Instagram @originalcynwrites.

Rayna the Dragonslayer

A Time of Dragons I 

Copyright © 2022 Cynthia Vespia


A sudden, fierce wind raked coarse sand across Captain Falkon’s cheek as he made his way through the Red Waste. He traveled with an escort of ten warriors far into the sprawling desert where it had been said no man had ever returned. Here they saw the remnants of a once great city now sand ridden and half-buried.

Cracked spires and fallen towers lay in ruin as they sat exposed to the unyielding desert air. These remnants of history, now corroded by time, marked the men’s passage through the Red Waste.

They galloped at length with the wind-gathered sand seeming to chase them. Sometimes it met the bellies of their horses in a swarm of a sandstorm. Still, they pressed on even as the dry sand clung to their sweat covered faces.

The collection of swordsmen at Captain Falkon’s flank groaned as the storm increased. Each one shielded their eyes and pulled up their mouth guards so as not to taste the bitter red sand.

They were sea-faring men used to the gentle caress of an ocean breeze. Out on the open water, exploration abounded in every direction no matter which way the ship steered. Here the sand stretched on for miles with the ruined city laying like a marked grave along the way.

Captain Falkon longed to have the shifting planks of a ship’s deck beneath his feet as it routed through the pounding of high seas with full sails billowing above. Duty called him back to Atharia, and recent orders brought him to the red death they traveled through now.

Above him, the sky stood silent. No birds took flight overhead, not even the great bird-of-prey from which he gained his name. Nothing dared breech the sky now that dragons had returned to the land.

An aching spread over Falkon’s skin as the shimmering sun kept pace with their journey. He longed to strip from his armor and slick his thirst with a mug of cold, dark beer.

The desert stretched on for ages in each direction. Tales of lost men going mad in the great Red Waste haunted Falkon. If not for his dedication to the study of maps, they could’ve taken a wrong turn and wound up in the desolation of Corinth at the edge of the world. 

The men’s morale grew low, but Falkon insisted they press on. Stopping under a strong desert sun threatened a deep slumber they would not soon wake from. How many bones of men were buried deep beneath the sand, lost to the sunken city? Falkon did not want to learn the answer to that question.

None of the men at his back would refute the manner of his orders except for one. Valerios, his right hand and special counsel, often held Falkon’s ear. Breaking formation at the back, he galloped up alongside his captain. Matching pace with Falkon’s steed, Valerios updated him with a health report.

“The men are waning under this accursed sun.”

“As am I,” Falkon replied, running a cloth across his dampened brow.

“Any further and I fear dehydration will set in.”

Valerios was a scholarly man. He spent as much time studying alchemy and herbs as he did honing his mastery of weapons. Falkon took his advisement under consideration but dismissed it.

“They’re men, not boys, and I’ve built them to survive worse than this.”

“I suppose if you can last in this Red Waste, then we have nothing to worry about,” Valerios replied with a smile.

The two of them had a good laugh at Falkon’s expense. He allowed a certain amount of levity with Valerios. They had been friends since they were boys getting muddy out by the ports and dreaming of adventures. Having a laugh with Valerios now and then kept Falkon from growing weary under the weight of duty. 

“Still, I wonder if a brief rest might rally their spirits.”

Falkon examined Valerios’ face to deem his intent. Beads of sweat filled his dark beard and his usual tan features pinked up under the scorching sun.

It wasn’t the soldiers who waned under the heat; Valerios wasn’t faring well himself. Still, Falkon reminded him of the severity of their mission no longer as his friend, but as his Captain.

“King Favian himself tasked me with this undertaking. It holds such importance that time is of the essence. There shall be no rest until we reach the town of Theopilous. Now fall back in line. I shouldn’t hear about the damned heat again.” He waved Valerios back. “Tell the men to drink their own piss if they’re that thirsty.”

Valerios gave a slight nod of his head and then rejoined the rest of the pack. It didn’t matter that King Favian was his father; he was the ruler of Sandhal and soon all of Atharia. That meant Falkon would carry out his orders without question. It was an honor to be leading the charge on such an important issue. 

If Falkon were to ask anything of his father, it would be why they needed to trek so far from Sandhal to find one lone woman. Give him the ten good men at his back and they would make quick work of any threat to the kingdom. What could a woman warrior do that he, as captain of the guards, could not?

Perhaps Falkon would see how this woman fared behind closed doors. After he sated his hunger and thirst, she could satisfy his other cravings. Although, sell swords of the female persuasion were usually too homely to bother with. Maybe he could throw a rucksack over her head and enjoy her that way.

Thoughts of gratification gave Falkon new vigor. He pressed his horse into a hard gallop, forcing the men behind him to do the same. The burst of speed brought a stream of hot air over him like a slap to the face. Falkon grimaced but continued on.

At his back, he heard a rumble. The horses jeered, and the men sounded out in surprise. Falkon slowed his horse and angled it around to see the disturbance.

One soldier had fallen from his horse; a victim of the blazing sun. The others surrounded him, trying to encourage his rise.

“Leave him,” Falkon called. “But take his horse.”

The soldiers seemed surprised, but did as they were told. Falkon returned to his gallop, content with his decision. If a man couldn’t ride, they didn’t need him. No sense wasting time trying to get him to remount and nursing him back to health. Soon, the soldier’s pleas for mercy were nothing but a distant memory.

Powering on made all the difference. Only a short time later, Falkon saw refuge in the distance. The harsh sands gave way to scrub grasslands and a direct path into Theopilous.

They never actually left the Red Waste, but rather the city seemed to spring up around them. Falkon trotted his horse onto the leveled stone streets with great relief. When he at last turned to look back, only a hazy view of structures told the story of a once great civilization now swallowed beneath the sinking sands.

The city of Theoplious had been built on the remnants of that old world. As Falkon and his men rode deeper inside the city, they found large columns of obsidian structuring the walls. It encircled the perimeter, casting down dark shadows which brought relief from the intense heat. Falkon would’ve thought the city itself a mirage if not for the unmistakable smells of spiced meats on the air.

Theopilous was well known for their trade markets. Merchants from all corners braved the journey to barter their wares. The town also housed all manner of thieves and murderers, some still with a bounty on their heads.

Regardless of its reputation, Theopilous remained a welcome sight after such an arduous journey. Falkon looked back over his shoulder and called out to his soldiers.

“Look men, we’ve reached our destination!”

They cheered his words and raised their swords high. A long journey to be sure, but the satisfaction from seeing it through made Falkon smile. Now all he had to do was to find this woman and bring her back with him. If she wouldn’t go willingly, they would take her. There would be no discussion about it.

King Favian demanded an audience with the so-called dragonslayer and the king’s orders would be carried out no matter what.

As the lot of them rode into town, the villagers let them pass. Those bustling around outdoors at their shops scattered from the streets as the king’s guard came through. Some watched in awe as the royal colors of green and gold plumed out from the banners. Others spat on the ground as they rode by.

His father was not well liked in many parts of the land. The more Falkon traveled among the people, the more he learned of the sense of betrayal they felt after his father took the throne. King Favian laughed off their complaints, but Falkon felt all of them like a tick under his skin. When he became ruler, he would be revered by all or he would have their heads. 

Theopilous was a melting pot of clans and characters. As the only thriving town before the long ride through the desert sands, it was a popular resting place for weary travelers. A man could get good food, drink, and entertainment all in one night.

Some enjoyed the spoils of the town so much they never continued their journey and wound up settling there. Still, for as prosperous as Theopilous was, Falkon couldn’t wait to return to his own feather bed safe inside Saltwood Stronghold.

He instructed Valerios to take a few of the men to feed and water the horses. The remaining lot would be at Falkon’s back while he talked to this dragonslayer.

They headed to the tavern first. Any respectable tavern owner would have good information, along with excellent beer. Inside the place bustled with activity. Lively music came from a two-man band in the back. One sang while the other strummed a lute. Dancing girls moved in rhythm to the tune, letting their long hair and the skirt of their dresses toss about. The smell of fresh baked bread wafted on the air, making Falkon’s stomach call out.

As soon as they entered the tavern, his men’s spirits had been raised. He rewarded them for the long journey and sate his hunger as well. They set up at a table near the back so Falkon could keep his eyes on the entire room. A round of beer and sweet breads were brought over shortly after. He enjoyed a few sips of the beer before seeking information.

The owner tossed out orders to his tavern wenches as they hurried out with platters of food. Falkon wedged himself between a crowd of men drinking at the bar top and called out to the owner. The man had a gruff face with a shaven head, but when he spoke, his voice sounded melodic.

“How can I oblige a kingsguard today? More beer?”

“They call me Falkon, and I’m captain of the Saltwood Soldiers, my good man,” Falkon corrected him as he handed over his mug for a top off. After a quick sip, he got back to business.

“I’m seeking a woman.”

The tavern owner laughed. “Brothel is next door. They have a full menu of choices.”

“This one is a warrior,” Falkon replied. “Hair like golden wheat. Built like an ox. Carries a large I’m told.”

One man seated at the bar interjected himself into the conversation. The smell of cheap mead wafted off his breath, forcing Falkon to turn his face away.

“Aye, you seek the dragonslayer?”

“I don’t know you, friend,” Falkon told him.

“No, but I know of her.”

With a stomach that jiggled as he moved, the man hopped upon the bar. Booze on his breath, he spun a tale like a traveling bard seeking a coin for his cap.

“Legend has it she’s half-dragon. Breathes fire and everything!”

Hearing the start of a story, another man jumped in, stealing the attention away from his drunk comrade.

“I heard she was born of a dragon.”

And then another got in on the fun.

“Aye, her mother fucked a dragon is the way it goes.”

The laughs carried back and forth. Each man tried to one-up the other in vulgar statements. A voice at the back of the room spoke up over the rest. It was an appealing mix of smooth wine and crushed glass. 

“’Twas my father, not my mother. And he wasn’t fucked by a dragon, he was cursed by one.”

Falkon turned around towards the speaker and saw a beauty unmatched by any woman he’d ever come across. Golden hair was tied back in fierce braids that caressed her shoulders. Her arms were like a blacksmith, lean and strong, with smooth, muscular legs to match. She stacked them together, worn-out boots resting on the edge of the table.

There was a roughness about her, but it did not detract from her appearance. Her simple leather garments enhanced the curves of her femininity. Sun-kissed skin proved she spent her time traveling, though her coloring suggested she wandered farther than just the deep recesses of Atharia itself. 

A pipe sat between her full lips. On each puff, she let a ringlet of thick smoke encircle her head. Falkon approached with caution as the others went back to their drinks and jovial conversation.

“So, you breathe fire after all,” he said in jest.

The woman smiled, tamped out the pipe, and set it aside. Shifting her legs off the table, she kicked out a chair, offering him a seat.

Falkon eagerly accepted and then regretted his haste. Only now, as he came closer, did he see her face fully. The lone candle at the table illuminated her strong cheekbones and a small metal piercing weaved through her bottom lip.

She held youth and vigor but also an underlying hardness of battle, usually worn by soldiers alone. But it was her eyes that concerned him the most. The left was a calm shade of blue that a man could get lost in, while the right was obscured by a leather patch.

Falkon saw such coverings before when he trolled the seas. Pirates wore them to hide disfigurement. It made him wonder what else she could be hiding. He steadied himself, trying hard not to show his discomfort, though he already knew he failed.

“You’re the dragonslayer then?”

She nodded. “Call me Rayna.”

“I’m Falkon Fourspire, captain of the Saltwood Soldiers.”

Whether Rayna heard of him or not she didn’t react to his title. Her heavy stare made Falkon uncomfortable. He took a swig from his mug then pointed to his own eye so as not to move too familiarly towards her.

“Part of the curse?” he asked.

Rayna leaned back and put her feet back up. This time she rested them across Falkon’s lap. He didn’t know what to make of this woman. She was brazen, to be sure, but something about her was more intoxicating than the finest wine in the kingdom.

“Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you my tale,” she said. “Otherwise, I have no use for you.”

With that, her feet moved from his lap and gave him a firm nudge to get up. As Falkon stood, he continued to stare down at Rayna. She took it as a threat and moved her hand to the hilt of a massive sword he hadn’t noticed before.

It rested against the wall at her side, unsheathed. The blade alone looked to be thirty inches long and the heft of it would give a grown man trouble, let alone a young woman. But Rayna forged her body for war. Something told Falkon she could handle the sword with ease. He didn’t want to test his theory, at least not tonight. 

She noticed his eyes fall on the sword and pulled it into her lap. Sure enough, the weight of it gave her no trouble at all. She patted the blade as though it were a child and spoke its name with the same adoration.

“It’s called Bhrytbyrn.”

“You named your sword?”

“A gift from my father. He named it.”

Falkon studied her as she ran a cloth over the blade. Now she seemed as enamored with her Bhrytbyrn as she would be a lover. This Rayna grew more curious as the night drew on.

“I’ll see about that drink now,” he told her.

Falkon pushed through the crowd and made his way back to the bar. The innkeeper,Talos, awaited him there with a pitcher of mead and a platter of assorted cheeses.

“What’s this?”

“Trust me, friend. She’s going to want a generous amount of ale, and the cheese is her favorite. Made with goat’s milk, fresh churned this morning.”

Intrigued, Falkon reached over and plucked a sampling of cheese from the platter. It melted over his tongue in a robust mix of flavors that delighted his refined palate.

“A woman who enjoys fine delicacies. What else can you tell me about her?”

“She’s a warrior forged from flame,” Talos told him. “Legend is she lived through the burning of her family home. Walked out with nary a scratch on her.”

“What happened to her eye?”

“Curse of the dragon.”


Falkon gave a soft chuckle to himself and then paid his fare. Many legends surrounded Rayna. There were only two reasons a warrior had so many stories about them. Either they invented the tales themselves to up their prices as a mercenary, or some parts of the tales were in fact true. When weaved together, the tapestry of deeds done stood more impressively than a made-up song or story.

So far, Rayna appeared to be more than a mere myth. Falkon wouldn’t be surprised if she had survived a great fire as a child. She even smelled of smoke, her face smudged with ash. The woman had been kissed by a dragon.

Like this interview? Please consider Buying Me a Coffee to keep them coming :)