Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

Genre: Contemporary
Rating: ***
Pages: 280
Laila used to be the princess of an unnamed middle eastern country. Then came the coup. With her father dead, she's forced to flee to America with her mother and brother, Bastien, seven year old King of Nowhere. Now she struggles to adapt to a normal life of homecoming dances, American football, and joke bomb threats. But Laila can never leave her memories of home behind. As the horrors of her father's regime blare at her from the television Laila is forced to confront the truth. Was her father really the kindly king he claimed to be, a ruthless dictator?
As mentioned before, Laila's homeland is unnamed. Characters speak "my language" and eat "food from my country". Of course, the story can't take in any real country because it's fiction, but I wish the author could've slapped some name or another on this imaginary land. The character names-Laila, Amir, Yasmin-add exotic flavor without being unpronounceable. Though the jacket flap hints at conspiracy and CIA agents, most of the novel consists of Laila's interactions with her friends. They're stunted thanks to Laila's regal upbringing and standoffish personality.
Laila hears snippets of conversations by eavesdropping at doors and watched her mother wearily argue with the CIA. But it's not until two thirds of the way through the book that we get a vague idea of what's going on. Even then, Laila is a passive observer to a worldwide conspiracy. The most she ever does is snoop through her mother's paper and intercept an email. Light in conspiracy though rich in voice, The Tyrant's Daughter is a powerful, current novel for today's war torn world.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Author Interview with Lance Conrad

The Price of Creation

The Historian is a reluctant immortal who wanders through times and worlds to witness great stories. His own story, however, is unknown to him. As he participates in the great stories he witnesses, he get glimpses of what his life might have been before he became a Historian.
The Historian chances upon Surac, a land where people's destinies are defined by powerful pendants they have from birth, called Stones. Those whose Stones give them useful skills call themselves Creators, and isolate themselves from all others with a wall that splits the entire continent. When Aric, a Creator blacksmith, has a son born with a Stone that marks him for violence and destruction, they find themselves in danger from those they called their friends.
When the boy, Sadavir, is ultimately banished, he discovers secrets far darker than the villagers' petty prejudices. On the far side of the wall, he learns the origin of the Stones' magic and a war that dates back centuries. As he uncovers the true power locked in the Stones, he must find a way to unite ancient enemies in order to save his family. To stop a genocide, Sadavir must face his own destiny of violence.

Lance Conrad, author of The Price of Creation, joined me for an interview today. The Price of Creation is the first of the Historian books. The fantasy series will eventually contain at least ten books and can be read in any order. What they have in common is the narrator, known only as the Historian. The reader gradually gets to know him and his past over the course of the books. The next book, The Price of Nobility, comes out this June. 

 What motivates you to continue to write?
"The stories. I get new ideas all the time, but a few of them stick around in my head and won't go away until I write them down."
 How did it feel when your book first got published?
"I know that the classic answer is that I felt overjoyed and accomplished, but that's not how it felt. In truth, I felt more like a soldier at the beginning of a battle. As soon as I held the first book in my hand, I knew I was committed to this path and I had a LOT of hard work to be done to get the books out there."
 What can readers expect from your upcoming books?
"I've got two more books coming out this year, The Price of Nobility and The Price of Loyalty. I see each book as an escalation as I try to outdo myself. I'm especially excited to introduce the new characters in these new books. The Price of Nobility has a character named Asher who has really grabbed the minds of my alpha readers. I'm excited to see what other readers think about him."
 What was your favorite part of writing The Price of Creation?
"I love the training of Sadavir. His father, Aric, is not a fighter himself, but he must train up his son to be a master warrior. The problem he faced captivated my mind and I loved watching him come up with new ways to test his son and push him to new heights."
 What's do you hope readers will take from your books?
"Each book is written with a specific theme in mind. What I would hope is that my readers take some time to make it personal, to think about what they would do if they were put into these situations."
 What's the greatest challenge of being a writer?
"The emotions. I say in my books that creation is an act of emotion, never is this more true than with writing. We authors pour pieces of ourselves into these books. While we try to keep ourselves distant, it's not really possible. I feel drained after writing a really intense scene. I worry every day about whether my books will sell. I worry that someone won't like my books and say mean things about them online (I have a plan to curl up and cry if that happens)."
That's okay, Lance. Everyone gets criticism sometimes. What is the oddest reaction you've ever gotten from a reader?
"That was probably when one of my alpha readers, a man named Tom, finished reading The Price of Nobility. He went on a spree of spinning theoretical situations. He would put the character of Asher into other books and have him destroy the bad guys. He's kind of a weird guy."
 And now, for a very serious question. Favorite vinegar?
"Obviously the dish affects the choice of vinegar. However, if we're going purist and drinking the vinegar straight from the bottle, I'd have to go with an 18-year aged balsamic, flavored with black currant. The aging makes it smooth and sticky, and the black currant flavor blends magnificently with the musky taste of the balsamic."

Lance was raised on a farm and tries to bring a cowboy work ethic into everything he does. He decided to pursue publishing after faking and succeeding at several jobs. He's been an electrician and an ACT prep teacher at a private school. Now he wanders the world, talking to teenagers, and trying to convince them not to be so boring. In his spare time, he builds lasers, programs computers, and climbs mountains. One day he attacked himself with a taser five times. Out of curiosity, not because he had a logical reason like researching for a book. He lives in Utah with his two children and a vinegar collection that puts your vinegar collection to shame. And yes, he does drink it straight from the bottle.