I want to welcome Jean Lamb! First I’d love you to introduce yourself.
Tell us about your latest release.
Phoenix in Shadow is a large fantasy novel with a romance at the heart of it, though many of the branches go off in other directions. It is also the first of a series about the same fantasy world. Lady Idabel is a young woman with strong ambitions of her own, most of which have to do with revenge against the evil forces that destroyed her family, and the city that they once ruled. She has been raised in the Temple in Anyakora, and its leader is using her as a weapon, though she doesn’t really mind. Lord Treasurer Fennoy seeks her hand—but is he really the right man for her? Or should she vow herself to the Maiden, as the Priestess-Mother would like?
Then there’s Tar-Kapel Demytry, who knows he must marry, but hides a sad secret that keeps him from trying. He desires women, especially the tempting Lady Ardry—but fears he cannot have children. Who can heal his heart and release him from this curse? His friends include the aging spymaster Afac Stellin, who protected Demytry when he was a child from his ill-tempered father, and Dar Wolfraven, Demytry’s sword-brother and truest friend.
Demytry and Idabel must find each other in a world full of betrayal, the evil forces from the south who will do anything to keep them apart, and finally, love. There seem to be times, though, when even love might not be enough. They must find the courage to be honest with each other, and to survive the worst that life can deal to them.
This world, unfortunately, is full of graphic and sometimes sexual violence, and there are times when the reader might wonder if those who are guilty of it will receive their just deserts. Still, there is also hope, atonement…and always, there is love.
Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.
1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?
The Penguin on Gotham is a very bad person and I should not like him. And yet, I do. He manages without any special superpowers except his mind and tongue, I am perpetually amazed that someone hasn’t managed to kill him yet. The first time I saw him, I was, “OMG, that’s Tom Riddle’s weird American cousin!” He has a hit or miss record on manipulating people, but even with that really strange psychiatrist doing his best to break Mr. Cobblepot, under extreme stress he bounced back. Ok, it was in a really creepy Norman Bates way of bouncing back, and I’m sure Fish Mooney really, really wants to talk to him again, but I can’t look away when he’s on screen.
2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?
Tonio Vitor, from Dead Man’s Hand. He begins as a typical somewhat spoiled brat (I think of him as Tony Stark’s younger, crazier brother) and then I put him through hell, from which he emerges as Ravin Gambrell, aka the Ghost. He was really fun to write, because even though he’s scarred up rather badly, he still does so many things competently (he’s way better at gambling than I am, just to name one). He’s sociable, highly emotional, doesn’t mind if he’s down on his luck or back up again, and can sail the Inner Sea all he wants. If only he could stop seeing ghosts. Or having people interested in that ability.
3.) What do genre do you write? What made you pick that one?
I write in several genres. So far, the only published ones on Amazon are romance and fantasy, but I have several books planned in other ones. I read very widely, and have 30 books planned, including a mystery series, an SF series or two, and even a Western saga series moderately planned out. The three fantasy books up now (Dead Man’s Hand, Hatchling, and Phoenix in Shadow) are all the beginning of their own separate series. Keeping track of everyone’s ages and other personal data as they age—well, that’s what spreadsheets are for, and I’m not joking. I worked a lot with spreadsheets in the past couple of decades, and they are your friend!
4.) What are you working on now?
It’s called The Dragon’s Pearl, and it’s the sequel to Hatchling. I already have a version of it done in Crappy First Draft, and will spend the next few months revising it. I take my young hero Tameron dayn Sidian, and dump him in a new land where he doesn’t know the language. Just for fun, he picks up a local children’s disease, only a lot harder, because he’s not acquainted with the local microbes. That keeps him in one place long enough to pick some of the language he needs to know, and that delay complicates his life in other ways, as well.
As a treat for making my daily quota of words for revising, I allow myself Candy Crush, or to play with a little fanfiction—I write Harry Potter fanfiction under the name of excessivelyperky on Fanfiction.net. Note: my husband is a chemistry teacher, so just *guess* who my favorite character is. I have both short stories and a really long one on that site.
5.) What got you to start writing?
I have always made up stories since I was a child. I just like getting paid for them now <G>. I began working on a story in the universe where Phoenix in Shadow takes place back in the 1980’s, because it was something to do that wasn’t school or babies when I was using the GI Bill to learn accounting. I became active in the National Fantasy Fan Federation back then, and also joined an Amateur Press Association (APA) called Imaginapa, and that was a lot of fun. I attended several SF conventions and knew I wanted to be one of the writers up at the front of the room sitting on a panel. The print publishing world has become ever more interesting as time went by, and I thought I would rather publish my books independently rather than spend a decade or so trying to submit them to print publishers (Baen Books, one of the few SF places that looks at work without an agent, once took a year and a half to look at and return an earlier version of Hatcling). So instead of playing agent roulette, I went the Amazon route, and have had both low and fairly decent sales (some people will buy anything with a dragon on the cover, God bless them!).
6.) Where do you get your ideas from?
I get free movies in my head of stuff that hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes I run scenes from more than one character’s point of view, so when I switch to that character, they already have an opinion of what happened to someone else. I could so write holo-novels!
7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?
That I once learned how to do a barrel roll in a T-38. See, I was in Air Force ROTC, and as a cadet went on four weeks of field training (which is basically boot camp for officer wannabes). Part of that training involved going down to Webb AFB (no longer with us, think the cockroaches finally took over) and getting to sit the in the back seat of a T-38, a training jet, and seeing how well our stomachs held up to Fun Flight Maneuvers. Fortunately, mine was just fine, so I got to learn a few things, and even got a little bit of simulator time to play Take Off and Landing Without Crashing. Alas, I was two inches too short for navigator school (this was back in the old sextant days, and for some reason people had objections to me becoming a flying nunchuck during turbulence. Hey, I *said* I’d wear heels…). So I spent four years in the Air Force flying a desk and having the NCOs wonder if I was really old enough to be out of school yet. But flying is just way cool.
8.) Do you have any special talents?
I can mimic voices, and when someone speaks or talks, I can feel in my throat and mouth where and how they are speaking or singing. Also, I love to dance, and it’s very easy for me to choreograph any kind of music. I once won an Undanceable Music dancing contest at a science fiction convention, because if there is sound, I can move to it. Music just feels nice inside me.
9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?
(uses high-pitched Thermian voice from Galaxy Quest: “Never give up! Never surrender!”)
Seriously, no writer really knows what is going to hit and what isn’t, so you may as well write what you want to write and hope for the best. And always do your best, no matter how horrible that one writer you know who is making bazillions out of his or her last book even though it patently sucks royal as far as you can tell. Your voice can only come through more clearly if you take the time to do it right, and I think we all know what that really means (although, if after the last rewrite you hate the characters and want them to all die, you are better off going on to Warcraft and whacking some orcs before going back to the manuscript). A book is worth the extra work it takes to make it good.
10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?
I would love to talk to Oprah Winfrey, because establishing a career is still different for women than it is for men, most of the time. She struggled with an early family life that was quite unpleasant, and still managed to create a wonderful life for herself (also, she struggles with her weight, too, so we could pass each other dieting and exercise tips). Seriously, she overcame some huge hardships to become the woman she is today, and I would love to find out how she set priorities when, at time, they were set for her by others.
11.) What song would you say describes your life?
Rhapsody in Blue, by Gershwin—it has quiet moments, loud moments, sentimental moments, jazzy moments—it contains an awful lot in just 16-18 minutes (depends on the version how long it is, there’s quite a lot of improvisation there which also describes my life pretty well).
12.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?
A swan. Though awkward-looking as hatchlings, they grow into grace and beauty. Plus, those wings and beak are wicked strong. I live near a very large lake, and a friend of mine lives where she has the lake in her back yard. She can’t have picnics because the local swans come up into her yard and demand to be fed. Ok, perhaps I’ve revealed too much about swans…but I still like them anyway.
Idabel never forgot the horror of the burning city.
Cleophis once sat peacefully in the mountains at the southern edge of the Phoenix Empire and overlooked the passes to the land of the enemy. Dar Nidas Idarlo and his Lady Consort Denali ruled the city and the territory surrounding it. Idabel had been a child then. She was excited when her oldest sister Minshall was betrothed to Tar-Kapel Demytry, even though Minshall herself was less enthusiastic.
That had been over half her life ago. She was only eight when Cleophis fell to the armies of General Durchan, leader of the Dramen who lived to the south. Idabel had been the youngest of seven noisy girls. Now she was alone.
As she sat inside the Temple in Anyakora, she relived the bumpy wagon ride barely ahead of the flames consuming her home. Father had wanted to send them away two weeks ago, and Idabel still remembered the argument she’d overheard.
Father had been right. Now he fought with his troops to cover their retreat. Idabel sat in the wagon and saw nothing but the back of her mother’s head. Her sisters huddled together and moaned in fear, despite Minshall’s attempts to calm them. Shouting and the sounds of fighting filled the air everywhere around them.
Idabel was more excited than frightened. Father had let her begin arms training a few months ago. Shosann, one of her other sisters, showed her some of what she had learned of weapons when no one else could be spared to teach her once the Dramen army began their siege. Now they had to run, though Idabel wished they could stay and fight.
Lady Idarlo screamed and lashed the horses to greater speed. Idabel didn’t understand. Mama always told them to be gentle with the beasts. The wagon lurched forward. All of them shrieked in terror when something hit the wagon, and a spear point stabbed through the heavy canvas at the side.
Idabel coughed from the smoke. This couldn’t be real. As if in a dream, the pins fell out of her mother’s hair, except for one at the top. The long, looped braids fell. Streaks of white hair winding through black looked like ribbons. Her mother’s face, usually kind with her olive-skinned, fine-boned beauty, was now a mask of fury.
The wagon stopped. Then it moved again. Idabel could tell they were off the road now. She held her hands over her ears to stop the horrible noise. Wood cracked and popped as something battered the frame of their cart beyond endurance. Gigantic green-skinned warriors on horseback seized the reins from her mother, though Lady Denali struck them with her whip.
Idabel struggled to move closed to her mother, but Minshall pushed her down beneath a leather trunk. Why did she do that? The heavy thing squeezed her, and she found it hard to breathe. She wiggled first one way, and then the other, to escape the pressure. I only want to help! Why won’t Min let me?
The wagon stopped. Idabel heard her mother and sisters shouting, and then weeping. One side of her prison broke wide open, and she slid down to the ground along with the trunk. Dramen warriors in dusty armor rode by laughing, while others pushed her family into the dirt. How dare they! What did they mean by taking turns?
She finally pushed her way out from under the trunk, scooped up a fallen dagger, and flew at the enemy with a scream of rage. They paid her no attention till her blade sank into a soldier’s leg. One sweeping stroke of a spear-butt sent her flying. The last thing she remembered seeing was a torch being thrown onto the shattered wagon.
Idabel never knew how long it was before she opened her eyes again. At first she didn’t understand why she wasn’t in her room. Everything shimmered and her head ached dreadfully. Her dress was partly burned, while one of her braids was charred to a stump. Her face hurt on that side, too.
The wagon—the wagon was gone. A heap of smoldering embers sat in its place.
Idabel struggled to her feet and looked for her mother. Mama would know what to do. The soldiers were gone. She was glad of that.
She looked at the bodies on the ground without understanding at first. One of them had a green skirt, though it was now soaked with blood. Shosann always wore that color.
The young girl was afraid to look at the faces. It was so quiet.
She heard someone screaming. She wished they would stop. Then she realized why her throat hurt. She was the one screaming. She was screaming because the bodies on the ground were her mother and sisters—one, two, three, four, five, six—that wasn’t right. She had one mother and six sisters, that should add up to seven bleeding lumps, not six.
Then Idabel forced herself to look at the faces, the frozen horrible faces. Minshall was gone. Just…gone.
She thought she heard a whisper. Oh, merciful Mother. Mama was still alive.
“Idabel,” Lady Denali murmured. Her mouth bled. “Look in my hair…under the left braid…”
“Yes, Mama.” She gently lifted her mother’s head and searched through the filthy, crusted hair. She found a hard lump the size of a large bean under the braid’s beginning. She was afraid to yank on it. Her mother had other lumps on her head now.
“Take it,” the dying woman said. “It won’t hurt much.”
Idabel pulled it out, like a small bead sewn into a small cloth bag. She held it tightly in her hands, because she knew it was the Rose of Cleophis, a flaming ruby with a tiny flaw in the center like a miniature rose. It had been the talisman of the Idarlos for centuries. She didn’t understand why Papa didn’t have it with him, though.
“Take it to your father,” her mother said. Then the light fled from her eyes. She was like everyone else on the ground now.
It was quiet again. Mama had told her what to do. Where was Papa? He’d told them last night that they were going to Anyakora. Maybe the Tar-Kapel could help—he had a spymaster who told him everything, her father had said. Maybe he would know where Papa was. Maybe he could find Minshall, too.
Anyakora was in the north on the map her tutor had shown her. I want to go home! But she couldn’t. The Rose was her responsibility till she could give it to Papa. Idabel took a few steps and fell down. That was silly, she was much too old to trip like a baby. She stood up and started again.
I would like to thank https://spittyfish.wordpress.com/ for my beautiful cover! She adapted one of her premades to my needs, and I am delighted with the outcome.