Chatting with Annie

What better way to finish a good book than having the opportunity to interview the author? I’m talking to YA Author, Annie Douglass Lima today. Check out the end of this interview for a chance to win a gift card or digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach. It’s a hard book to put down!

Annie Douglass Lima

S: Give us a brief description of The Gladiator and the Guard.

 The Gladiator and the Guard is Book 2 in the Krillonian Chronicles series. I’d like to first give you the back-cover blurb for Book 1, The Collar and the Cavvarach, if I may:

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 Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

And now for The Gladiator and the Guard:

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

S: Take us into the world of your book. What goes on here that we should know about?

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A: The stories take place in a world almost exactly like our own.  Although most aspects of the culture are just about what they are currently on Earth, a few sports are different, such as the martial art known as cavvara shil.  The main difference, however, is that slavery is legal there.

The Krillonian Empire rules much of the world.  An emperor, who is never named, governs from the capital city, Krillonia, on the continent known as Imperia.  Eight separate provinces (independent nations before they were conquered) can be found on nearby continents.  Each province, plus Imperia, is allowed to elect its own legislature and decide on many of its own laws, but the emperor reserves the right to veto any of them and make changes as he sees fit.  This seldom happens, however, and to most people the emperor is merely a vague and distant ceremonial figure.

The prevalence of slavery is probably what would stand out the most to visitors from Earth.  There are nearly as many slaves in the city of Jarreon, where both books take place, as free people, and they are easily identified by the steel collars they are required to wear locked around their necks.  From each collar hangs a tag inscribed with the slave’s name, their owner’s name, and a copy of their owner’s signature.  On the back of the tag is their owner’s phone number and a bar code that can be scanned to access additional information.

Many families own one or more slaves who do their housework and yardwork.  Businesses often own a large number of slaves, usually for manual labor, though some are trained for more complex tasks. Those who don’t own their own slaves may “hire in” one belonging to someone else.  The accepted rate for an hourly wage is two-thirds the amount that a free person would earn for equivalent labor (the money goes to the slave’s owner, of course).

To read more about the culture of the Krillonian Empire, take a look at this post on my blog.

S: What makes The Gladiator and the Guard stand out from other books in this genre?

A: I don’t know of any other books that take place in a world so similar to ours, and yet so disturbingly different in just a few key areas.

S: How did you get the idea for this book series?

A: I’ve had the idea growing in my mind for the last few years.  It started as just a picture of the setting and its culture (with legalized slavery), and the plot and individual characters emerged little by little.  The martial art of cavvara shil, which Bensin is proficient in, didn’t enter my imagination until just before I started drafting.

Annie post

S. Does it relate to anything going on in our world today?

A: Not directly. I hope this story will make readers think about the value of human life and perhaps take a second look at some of the practices we accept or choose to turn a blind eye to in our own culture. Legalized slavery sounds so impossibly wrong that it’s easy to think we could never let it happen in this day and age, but how many other wrongs do we overlook just because it isn’t convenient to do anything about them?

S: What do you do when you’re not writing?

A: Besides writing, I enjoy reading (especially fantasy and science fiction) and scrapbooking.  Hiking and other outdoor adventures are high on my list as well as travel (especially internationally). Oh, and my day job: I’m a 5th grade teacher.

S: What’s next for you after The Gladiator and the Guard?

A: There will probably be one more book in this series, though I’m tossing around ideas that may eventually lead to other stories set in the same world. In the meantime, I’m working on a final book in my Annals of Alasia fantasy series, which should be ready to publish in the next few months. I also have a science fiction novel that I drafted for last year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, in November). I hope to have that one polished and ready for publication in another year or so. Lots of irons in the fire!

If you want to connect with Annie, click on the links below:

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Smashwords

LinkdIn

Google Plus

Enter  Below to win an Amazon gift card or free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach.

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Contest Monday

Happy Monday everyone. I’ve been busy this week, talking with Grace Thorson at A Sparrow Reads (giveaway) about writing. She has a lovely blog–I encourage you to pay her a visit. I’ve also been studying, and working on my WIP (more on that later).

But today I bring you an awesome giveaway. A Young Love giveaway to be exact…tons of books to win, and a generous amazon gift card. The contest is open until February 14th.

 

YA Giveaway image

Go her to enter: Young Love and Bleeding Hearts Giveaway.

 

 

 

 

Have a blessed week, and I’ll see you next Monday

The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen, intervew with Tosca Lee

She’s the queen of prose, the storyteller of the century—she’s Tosca Lee, the author that will make even the non-reader devour the written word.

Her latest book will be released tomorrow. Here’s a bit about The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen, and an interview with the author herself (stay tuned for a giveaway):

There is the story you know: A foreign queen, journeying north with a caravan of riches to pay tribute to a king favored by the One God. The tale of a queen conquered by a king Queen of Sheba Coverand god both before returning to her own land laden with gifts.

That is the tale you were meant to believe.

Which means most of it is a lie.

The truth is far more than even the storytellers could conjure. The riches more priceless. The secrets more corrosive. The love and betrayal more passionate and devastating.

Across the Red Sea, the pillars of the great oval temple once bore my name: Bilqis, Daughter of the Moon. Here, to the west, the porticoes knew another: Makeda, Woman of Fire. To the Israelites, I was queen of the spice lands, which they called Sheba.

More from Tosca:

• What do we actually know about the Queen of Sheba?
We know something about the Sabaean (the Israelite Sheba = ancient Arabian Saba) people: that they had a capital in Marib, a sovereign “federator” who united the kingdoms of Saba, an elegant and evolving script, a sophisticated dam near the capital that turned Marib’s dusty fields into oases, and that there is great evidence of Sabaean settlement in the area of Ethiopia near what would become Aksum. We know the Sabaeans of the 10th Century BC worshipped the moon god, Almaqah, though experts do not agree whether this was a male or female deity. We know that in terms of the ancient world, they were quite rich due in large part to their cultivation of frankincense in the southeastern region, and that they had an extensive and evolving trade network that extended as far north as Damascus, as far east as India, and as far west across the Red Sea as Ethiopia and the continent beyond.
The queen is a very minor character in the scope of the biblical narrative, but you assert that her famous visit to King Solomon is vitally important in the scope of Old Testament history. Why?
For two reasons. If the story of the United Monarchy (the kingdom of David and his son/successor, Solomon) is not true, then the bedrock of three major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) collapses into fiction, and the claim of Jews to the land of Israel with it. Perhaps the authors of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles knew that, because they took the opportunity to basically say, “Hey, this queen from the ends of the earth, that famous Queen of Sheba, came and brought tribute to our king, and blessed him and our god and said ‘All that I heard was true, and I never even heard the half of it!’” This is fascinating. It begs the question: what was it that was so great about this female sovereign—in a time when the world was ruled by men—and a pagan, no less… what was it about her that was so outstanding that her endorsement of Solomon, his riches, wisdom, and god, held so much weight as to be included in the Old Testament narrative? Who was this woman who matched wits with the wisest man in the world—whose throne was so secure that she could leave it and make the 1400 mile journey of half a year to visit this king… before making the long trek back? Well, this must be a woman worth knowing something about.

Tosca PhotoYou recently won the 2014 Gold Medallion for fiction—what people may not know is this is the only award given each year by the ECPA for Christian fiction across all genres. And yet you’re known for your controversial points of view and pushing limits of the category. What is it about your books that you believe resonates so much with Christian readers?
I think it’s that I’m willing to go there and get gritty. To admit that halfway through the writing of Iscariot, I realized I was no longer writing his story… but my own. Havah is also my story. They all are. And we’re not that different, you and I. I like writing about these maligned characters because even though we may not want to, we can often identify with them far more readily than the good guys, who seem so untouchable. We all feel let down at some point by the way God fails to adhere to our agendas for Him. We all have moments when we think, “if you knew me—really knew me—you would not love me.” We all fail with the best of intentions, and we all want to be embraced exactly as we are. We are all as capable of darkness as we are of light—and often the darkness is far more tangible. The stuff in the Bible isn’t sterile—far from it. It’s gory, violent, sexual, and messy. But so is life. I want to be honest about fear and compromise as I am about hope, beauty and redemption.

It’s probably no surprise that you used to be a freelance writer. But you’ve also been an online gamer, a pageant queen—were first-runner up to Mrs. United States—a model and a leadership consultant to Fortune 500 Companies with the Gallup Organization. How have each of these seeming disparate experiences informed your experience as a best-selling author?
Online gaming, when I was doing it—before avatars and the time of EverQuest, even—was solely text-based. We’re talking about the early 90s, during the time of dial-up modems when online gaming boiled down to collaborative story-telling. I spent nine years writing about imaginary characters online. I don’t know how many words or pages that amounted to (hundreds and hundreds), but I assert often that everything I learned about characterization happened from role-playing in text and writing online—from slipping into the skin of characters I could only portray with words. The pageant thing, the modeling thing, gave me invaluable training in media. The year I was Mrs. Nebraska (1996) was when I started public speaking. Suddenly, I had a platform, and people assumed I had something to say. Well, I did, and that led to me going to work for Gallup. Working as a consultant, my primary job was as a speaker and teacher. This, too, has proved invaluable when it comes to speaking on writing and to the media. I’m very comfortable in front of an audience of 20 or 1000.

What are one or two things that your readers don’t know about you?
I danced semi-professionally as a classical ballerina in my teens. I also used to be a concert pianist. I have the greatest fans in the world, am terrible at math, can’t work if my house is messy, and am a crack shot with a deer rifle.

• What are you working on next?
I’m taking a break from biblical historicals. My next two books will be something different. And then I’ll delve back into the biblical world again.

What others have said about The Legend of Sheba

“An epic masterpiece.”
-Michael Napoliello, Radar Pictures

“Another winner from Lee.”
-Publisher’s Weekly

“Tosca Lee has outdone herself with Legend of Sheba.”
-Best-selling author Erin Healy

Links to Download Ismeni, the prequel FREE:Ismeni photo

Amazon: http://bit.ly/IsmeniPrelude
Simon & Schuster: http://bit.ly/LegendofShebaPrequel

P.S. I’ve read it—it’s awesome.

A few links to find Tosca:

Website: http://www.toscalee.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorToscaLee

Links to buy:

Amazon: http://bit.ly/LegendofSheba
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/RiseofaQueen
CBD: http://bit.ly/1oRPae6