Mythic Tales: Author Interview

Alex Butcher, the curator of the Mythic Tales bundle, has been doing interviews of the characters that appear in the bundled stories, as well as conducting Q&As with several of the contributing authors. Recently, she posted her interview with me on her website.

She asked some great questions, so I’m sharing her first few questions, along with my answers, in this post on my own blog.

What first prompted you to publish your work?

In 2007, I re-discovered Maddy Prior’s amazing song ‘The Fabled Hare.’

Listening to her powerful lyrics and expressive voice, I grew suddenly aware that time was passing, I was getting older, and I didn’t have forever.

The imagery of the hunter and hounds closing in on the hare made me feel as though death were snapping at my heels.

If there was something I really wanted to do, something I had not done yet, I’d better get going or I might miss my chance entirely.

I didn’t ‘click the publish button’ in 2007, but that year and that song were the beginning of my publishing journey.

Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’?

I do some of each.

I prefer having a skeletal outline at the start of a story. Doing without —pure ‘pantsing’—feels like walking a tightrope over Niagara without a safety net. Very uncomfortable! And yet . . . I’ve done it.

Once I awoke in the middle of the night, so afire with inspiration that I got up out of my bed to write the first scene of what would become the novel Caught in Amber (my title in the Mythic Tales bundle). I didn’t work out an outline until I was a third of the way through the book!

More usually, I sort out the foundational plot line before I start writing. I need to know what happens, but (oddly) I need to not know how it happens. I discover the how as I write, and that keeps the story feeling fresh to me.

Even when I follow an outline, I always feel free to ‘have a better idea.’ Sometimes my outline writhes like a river in flood!

What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey?

I’m going to pretend you asked me about my writing journey. 😉 Because there’s a piece of advice that I really, really needed and didn’t get, way back when.

For some reason, I thought that the process of writing was much more cut-and-dried than it ever could be. Why I thought this, I don’t know. Perhaps because I formed the impression when I was very young, at age ten or eleven.

But the result was that, when I sat down in my early twenties to write my great fantasy novel, and didn’t get anywhere with it, I concluded that I must not be made of such stuff as goes into the bones of real writers.

I longed to write novels, and believed I could not. I spent more than two decades believing this and writing poetry and story vignettes and gaming adventures instead.

And then I listened to Maddy Prior’s ‘The Fabled Hare’ and got serious about my creative aspirations. I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, did every last one of the written assignments in the book, and read several of the titles in its bibliography.

That’s when I encountered Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, and one of her suggestions set me free.

So the advice I wish I’d gotten? Find out how other writers do it! Not just one or two, but dozens. Ask them. Read biographies. Whatever it takes, find out.

Because if I’d learned that there are as many ways as there are writers, I might not have concluded so wrongly that I was not a writer. I might have been writing novellas and novels (as well as poetry and vignettes and gaming adventures) between 1980 and 2007. I might not have been so unhappy in my creative desert.

What are your views on authors commenting on reviews?

Do not go there! Reviews are a reader space. What reader wants to write his or her honest opinion and then discover that the author of the book has been peering over his or her shoulder the whole while?

Sort these into order of importance: Great characters. Good plot. Awesome world-building. Technically perfect.

As a reader (not a writer), I want them all. If the characters aren’t great, I have no interest. If the plot is stupid, I get cranky. If the world-building is unconvincing, I get thrown out of the story. If there are grammar errors, I’m tempted to email the author with the necessary fix. ‘Lay’ when it should be ‘lie’ makes me wild, unless it’s in dialogue, of course. Gah! 😉

I believe I’m known as what one writer calls a ‘fussy reader.’ That’s being kind!

As a writer…what can I say? I go for all four.

For the rest of the interview, I urge you to visit Alex’s site. She asks about my views on research, what my writing space is like, and whether my stories contain a message, as well as prompting me to tell her a little about the novel that I am smack in the middle of writing!

Library of Erana

The Mythic Tales bundle (with 14 titles, including Caught n Amber) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Tempus

For another author interview of me, see:
5 Quirky Questions from Shantnu Tiwari

For more about my writing epiphany of 2007, see:
Writer’s Journey



Mythic Tales: Tempus

Tempus was the fourth story I read fom the Mythic Tales bundle. It’s a complex tale, and it drew me in so completely that I felt disoriented when I finished and needed to emerge from the world of the book into my own life.

I’m still pondering the story, mulling over the metaphysical arguments that lurk in its foundations, and contemplating the exotic nature of the setting and the vibrancy of the characters. Because it’s a book that’s going to linger with me, I find I don’t want to simply give you the brief, official blurb and skate onward with nothing else. I want to share a bit more.

So I will. 😀

But first, the blurb:

Relive the iconic adventures of Tempus and his Sacred Band through the eyes of Nikodemos, his right-side companion, as Niko seeks his spirit’s balance on Bandara’s misty isles. Five iconic Sacred Band stories from a world of thieves, plus tales available nowhere else. Join the Stepsons from their earliest days.

Nikodemos is a soldier in a mercenary force called the Sacred Band. Niko has come to the town of Sanctuary in the van of his commander, Tempus.

Tempus is an immortal, a demi-god, sworn to the service of the war god.

The novel Tempus tells the story of what happens to Niko in Sanctuary and how the events there shape him, transforming him from boy into man.

That story is interwoven with a frame story in which Niko re-examines his years in Sanctuary in order to see more clearly what transpired there and to learn from his experience.

At the story’s beginning, Niko’s commander, Tempus, is presented as a force for good. Niko says of him that he “never turned away from injustice, never left a problem for another to solve . . . never let the pain or difficulty of an undertaking persuade him not to pursue a resolution his heart thought was right.”

Justaposed against Tempus is Askelon, the sorcerer lord of dream and nightmare and death. Askelon is portrayed as haughty, angry, crushing, and evil.

But Niko, in the course of his scrutiny of the past, realizes that he must reconsider his love and loyalty for his commander, Tempus, as well as his fear and hatred for the dream lord Askelon, who courts Niko’s fidelity.

Along with Niko, the reader sees that Tempus often does great evil in pursut of his principles, while Askelon “brings healing for the tired mind . . . wonder for the ailing spirit,” as well as compassion.

The mood of Tempus is dark and rich. The mythological stature of its characters reminds me of Tanith Lee’s Tales from the Flat Earth series, while its melancholy tone calls to mind Days of Grass, also by Lee. A tantalizing obliquity present in Tempus, similar to that in E.R. Eddison’s Mistress of Mistresses, contributes to its great sense of depth.

For those reasons, it’s a demanding book, but it pays exemplary dividends on what it demands of the reader.

I quite enjoyed Tempus, despite the fact that it verges on being too dark, too violent, and too disturbing for me. Somehow Janet Morris handles the disquieting elements deftly enough so as not to overwhelm.

I will note that the frame story leaves the matter of Niko’s allegiance unfinished. Niko says, “I know what I’m doing. I’m choosing — or choosing not to choose. My heart is still with you, Commander.” By which I conclude that Niko is now a man divided, his head seeing Askelon’s purposes as redeemed, but his love still given to Tempus.

I speculated that the loose threads of the frame story were present to allow for the many sequels that I understood existed, but a little surfing the web proved me wrong in that speculation. Although the sequels are indeed numerous, the chapters of Tempus were originally written as stand-alone short stories, and the novel was created from them later. The interweaving of the chapters with frame story was so skillfully done that the result forms one whole cloth.

But never mind how it was written; Tempus is worth reading!

The Mythic Tales bundle (with 14 titles, including Tempus) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Author Interview



Beacons Unreachable

Crowned with gold by the rising sun
         the tree tops taunt me

They reign joyously in their airy empyrean
         illuminated, exalted, beacons unreachable
                   from the vale of shadow in which I stand

Down upon the earth,
         the grasses tangle in an untidy carpet
                   dull and trampled, littered by crumpled brown leaves

The mock orange has lost half its foliage
         and the ragged fronds
                   reveal ivy encroaching from its roots

The memory of bridal blossoms, a mix of glad buds
         half-unfurled petals, and flowers full-blown
                   cannot charm, as unreachable as the crowned oaks

The glory of autumn gone
         nature half-dead lacks the clean clarity of winter
                   messiness drowns in dimness, made yet more dim
                         by the brilliance of the overarching heavens

As the dawning progresses to full morn
         light will reach the shadows, dispelling them

Would that it might reach me

In memory of my mother:
Too Late
One Crossing
Grievous Loss



Too Late

               furled soft pink
                    the petals of a late summer rose

          The air should be langorous
               abuzz with bees
                    demanding the wafting of a fan for comfort

          Matte green
               traced by veins with a hint of red
                    the rose leaves are all they should be

          But the air chills my face
               crisp, autumnal
                    and the rose petals are brittle, frozen

          The month is November
               not the August
                    to which I cling


In memory of my mother:
Beacons Unreachable
One Crossing
Grievous Loss



Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana

I love Alex Butcher’s trolls! They are so exactly the opposite of mine.

Mine possess aching bones and sore joints, along with enlarged ears, curved and lengthened noses, reddened watery eyes, sagging skin, twisted thumbs, and hunched spines. Even worse than the physical deformities is the progressive madness that compels each to destroy all that is good in the world around him or her.

My trolls come into being when a spellcaster in my North-lands forces too much power into a spell, ripping the energetic lattice within his or her being and bringing troll-disease in the wake of this destruction. Greed or hubris or simple desperation—nothing wholesome—lies at the roots of troll-disease.

But in Alex’s magical world of Erana, the troll kind are shapechangers, seers, and oracles who dwell in the secret fastnesses of the mountains and worship the beauty of nature. The gods walk among them, and they are faithful and wise.

One of three mortal races—elves, humans, and trolls—the trolls of Erana are strong and comely. In “The Tale of Treyna the Beloved” (a short story in the collection Tales of Erana) Alex gives this description of the troll daughter Mira:

“A child, golden-haired and dark-skinned stood with her grey eyes wide at the magnificence of the world. Small twisting horns poked from her bright curls and her small mouth creased in wonder.”

I can see her in my mind’s eye, small and sturdy with her face full of reverent awe, her golden curls contrasting with her velvety dark skin, her horns forming a delicate coronet.

I wish I could visit her mountain meadowland and play tag with her!

Tales of Erana is one of the fourteen titles in the Mythic Tales bundle. So if you share my yen to visit little Mira . . . well, you can’t visit her, of course, but you can read the legend of Treyna as her grandmother tells it to her. 😀

To pique your interest yet further, Alex has interviewed the protagonist of “The Moon on the Water” (another story in Tales of Erana). Acionna is a goddess born of rock and running water and snow.

Which book/world do you live in?

I live in the Jagged Peak mountains, they are in the world called Erana by those who live there. I am in a book? I know of books and lore. Then am I not real? – I feel real, and the mountains around me seem real. Is it, perhaps, that I am real here, and you are the myth, you are the imaginary?

Tell us about yourself: (Name, race/species, etc.)

I am an ancient elemental, a Goddess to some. Born of the mountain, and the pounding waterfalls when the world was young and the magic free. It was so long past I could not tell you how many years or centuries of your time. Once there were many of my kind – creatures of magic and wild places but the magic was chased away, corrupted and sickened and many of us fell, or hid, or faded. Now I am a myth, a legend told around the fire and a drop of blood here and there in lineages old and noble. The Plague came and everything changed. The land changed, the magic changed.

I’m an adventurer – why should I recruit you to accompany me?

I have had my adventures, I have warred, and lost all save myself. I have walked the mountain paths and fought with monsters and men who would seek to kill every last trace of magic. Why should I wish to adventure again?

If I were to consent I would bring you elemental magic, of the oldest sort. The Power of the elementals, the Power of nature and the furious waters and mighty peaks.

Tell us about your companions?  How do they see you?

I have none. My mate is long dead, now nothing but a statue and even I cannot undo the curse. My daughter is gone, fallen to wicked magic and I walk these peaks alone. Sometimes the trolls come and bring offerings but they see me not. For I know now that mortals and immortals should not mix.

For Acionna’s views on the future, the past, heroism, and her most grievous mistake, I urge you to visit Alex’s website, where the whole interview is present. Here’s the link:

Library of Erana

The Mythic Tales bundle (with 14 titles, including Tales of Erana) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tempus
Mythic Tales: Author Interview



Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem

I’ve read and enjoyed several of Leah Cutter’s novels. Poisoned Pearls is probably my favorite to date, although her body of work is large, so I have a lot of pleasurable exploring ahead of me.

When I saw that Cutter had a novel in the Mythic Tales bundle – A Sword’s Poem – it leapt to the top of my want-to-read list. Nor did it disappoint.

The rich world building and compelling story telling swept me straight into the milieu of classical Japan (794 – 1185) and the spirit beings who have stepped out of myth and legend into the wild places within the forests and on the flanks of mountains: fairy foxes, enchanted fish, and the kami of the rivers and glens.

Sword’s mood is striking, possessing some of the melancholy and fatalism of Shogun by James Clavell, but brightened with scintillas of youth and innocence and hope.

The protagonist, a fox fairy named Hikaru, captured and held my interest, but I came to love two of the secondary characters – Iwao (lord and guardian of Mount Shirayama) and Kayoku (his lady) – just as much.

All in all, A Sword’s Poem is excellent. Here’s the official blurb:

Hikaru and her one true love Norihiko defy both their families and kitsune (fox fairy) tradition by getting married.

However, an evil magician kills Norihiko, steals his soul, then reforges it into a sword.

Hikaru seeks the sword, determined to break the curse and bring back her one true love, no matter the cost to herself or her family.

Set in Heian era Japan and composed of three novellas: The Making, The Breaking, and The Reforging.

The Mythic Tales bundle (with 14 titles, including A Sword’s Poem) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Tempus
Mythic Tales: Author Interview



Character Interview: Fae of Caught in Amber

The Mythic Tales bundle includes fourteen titles:
    • 8 novels
    • 1 novella
    • 4 short story collections, and
    • 1 short story

Thus far, I’ve read Beneath the Knowe by Anthea Sharp, A Sword’s Poem by Leah Cutter, Tempus by Janet Morris, Raziel’s Shadow by Joseph Robert Lewis, and Magic for a Rainy Day by Alexandra Brandt, and enjoyed each very much.

Of course, my own Caught in Amber is one of the novels in the bundle. For those of you who haven’t read Amber yet, here’s a little bit about it:

When young Fae awakens in a locked and deserted castle, she remembers nothing. Who she is, where she comes from, none of it.

Beauty from all the ages graces the castle – medieval towers, renaissance columns, and gothic vaults – but underneath the loveliness a lurking evil stirs.

Fae hates the loneliness and the sense of hidden malice oppressing her. Even more, she hates the feeling that just around some receding corner of lost memory lies the answer to her predicament – an answer just out of reach.

An answer essential to surviving this castle’s dangers – both subtle and not so subtle.

Somewhere in her forgotten past lies the key.

A mythic tale of family and betrayal told with all the twists and moments of sheer joy that epic fantasy allows.

The curator of the Mythic Tales bundle, Alex Butcher (byline A. L. Butcher), has been presenting interviews on her website, both of the bundle’s contributing authors and of the characters who appear in the stories. Just a few days ago, she featured a Q&A with Fae, the heroine of Caught in Amber.

I think you might find Fae’s thoughts (outside the covers of her book) to be interesting. Here are the first few of her answers to Alex’s questions…

What is your name?

Oh, I wish I could remember my name! I wish I could remember anything. I feel so . . . lost, knowing nothing of who I am, where I come from. Yesterday, when I was pretending to be brave, I gave myself a name. It feels right, but it might not be right. How could it, when I remember nothing? But . . . I’m Fae (she raises her chin) and I’m going to pretend to be brave again. I have to.

Which book/world do you live in?

I seem to be trapped in a castle. It’s very beautiful, with marble halls and tall windows looking onto flowering summer gardens. But it’s utterly deserted; I’m all alone and locked in! None of the doors to the outside seem to even have functioning latches and hinges. And when I tried to break a window with a paperweight, it bounced off!

Tell us about yourself: (Name, race/species, etc.)

When I look in the mirror, I look human. But something tells me I might not be. Oh, I’m not anything truly strange, like the creatures in fairy tales or the monsters in myths and legends. Yesterday I thought I might be the granddaughter of a goddess, but that’s not it either. I’m trying to figure it out, because I think that if I can only remember something, that’s the key to escaping this castle and finding . . . home? Oh, I wish I could go home, wherever home is! (She raises her chin again.) But I’ll do it. I’ll figure it out. I won’t give up.

I’m an adventurer – why should I recruit you to accompany me?

Adventurers . . . (Her tone is musing.) I always thought they were ne’er-do-wells, the black sheep of their families. But sometimes they’re soldiers of fortune, aren’t they? I wonder if a soldier—a warrior—could help me? I don’t think so. This castle, this situation, is a puzzle, not a battle. And I’m going to solve it. (She sighs.) But I wish someone were here. Besides me. It’s so lonely. I miss my friends, even though I can’t remember who they are. Oh, I hate this!

I don’t want to steal Alex’s thunder, so I’m not going to reproduce the entire interview here. Instead I urge you to visit Alex’s website to learn Fae’s views on heroism, failure, love, and more. Here’s the link:

Library of Erana

Mythic Tales is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Tempus
Mythic Tales: Author Interview



Mythic Tales Bundle

I told you all about story bundles when my own Serpent’s Foe was chosen to be in a bundle called More than Human. Now I have another story appearing in a new bundle! Caught in Amber.

To refresh your memory about bundles…

A curator chooses a theme for her collection and then seeks high-quality stories that fit that theme. The idea is to give readers a chance to conveniently and inexpensively try new-to-them authors.

Because I call one of my own series “Mythic Tales,” this new bundle of Mythic Tales made me wonder if the curator had been reading my mind! But many fantasy writers are inspired by the myths and legends of the past, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

The Mythic Tales bundle includes 14 titles, and I’ve enjoyed every one of the four that I’ve read so far. I’m looking forward to the rest! Eight are novels; one is a novella; four are short story collections; and one is a gem of a short story.

My first selection to read was the first title in the bundle, the short story Beneath the Knowe by Anthea Sharp. I’ve read some of Anthea’s work before and liked it, but this story just happens to hit the heart of my taste and I found it especially excellent.

From the official ebook description, here’s a little bit about Beneath the Knowe:

From USA Today bestselling author Anthea Sharp, a magical faerie tale featuring an ancient Celtic setting, music, and the ageless denizens of the Bright Court.

Can music overcome fey magic? When the chieftain’s infant son is stolen away by the fey folk of the Bright Court, Maeve Donnelly journeys beneath the faerie hill to save the child. Her only weapon is a simple pennywhistle, and the music running in her bard-gifted blood…

I plan to say a few words about several of the titles in the bundle in future posts, because there are so many good choices. But I’ll conclude this post with a description of the collection as a whole.

Remember those epic legends of heroes and monsters? Stories of great adventure woven with magic and myth live once more in this collection; read of ancient lore, magic swords, wicked beasts, courageous souls, desperate champions, and unholy bargains. Fairy tales and bold ventures come together in this boxed set.

Beneath the Knowe by Anthea Sharp
Tales of Erana by A. L. Butcher
A Sword’s Poem by Leah Cutter
On the Edge of Faerie by Stefon Mears
Sorcha’s Heart by Debbie Mumford
Tales Fabulous and Fairy by Kim Antieau
Tempus by Janet Morris
Caught in Amber by J.M. Ney-Grimm
The Warden of Power by Karen L. Abrahamson
Beautiful by Barbara G. Tarn
Lost: Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries by Ron Vitale
Tales of the Faie: The Beginning of Days by Diana L. Wicker
Raziel’s Shadow by Joseph Robert Lewis
Magic for a Rainy Day by Alexandra Brandt

Mythic Tales is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about the stories and novels in the Mythic Tales bundle, see:
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Tempus
Mythic Tales: Author Interview



One Crossing

   now the grief is sharp
   my mother, oh, my mother
   come back, please, come back

   let me hear your voice
   let me touch your hand
   let me kiss your cheek

   you are dear to me, so dear
   my heart breaks that you have gone
   between one breath and the next you were gone

   oh, Mother, my mother
   return to me
   I want you back

   the pain is sharp
   but no one returns from that last departure
   I know it even as I beg for your return

   between one breath and the next, you slipped from the flesh
   freed spirit sitting easily, smiling
   you stood without thought, happy, and walked onward

   there is no crossing the same river twice
   I struggle with that truth
   longing for you


In memory of my mother:
Missing Her
Grievous Loss