Interview with Author Marya Miller

Last month, I reviewed Tales of Mist and Magic by Marya Miller. At the time that review was posted, the flash fiction collection wasn’t yet available, but guess what? Now it is!

Click here to buy the book on Amazon, or if you haven’t seen my review yet and want to get my take first, click here to read my review.

Today, I have something even better than a review for you, though. I got the chance to ask Marya a few questions about Tales of Mist and Magic and her upcoming novel set in the same delightful fantasy world, Under the Splintered Mountains. If you’re not excited about her work yet, you will be by the time you finish reading this interview!

RF: Granny Maberly feels so real with all of her quirks and weird traits. Is she based on a real person, or combination of real people?

Marya: She’s got elements from both my own grandmothers; she looks like my Polish Babka and has her wisdom and strong sense of morality and duty; and she has my Nottinghamshire grandmother’s accent, plus her practicality, pith and bluntness.

RF: I loved the story, “Like Father, Like Son!” I’m curious if we’re going to see any more of those characters, or the tower that’s in the story, in the full-length novel?

Marya: Yes and no. Neither is in the first Dragonish full-length novel, Under the Splintered Mountains (which is mostly about Granny, Ushguk and Anno the Tarn), but the Tower is a key element that runs through the entire Morwen Trilogy that follows. Idalos plays a major role in Book One of the Morwen Trilogy, A Sliver in Time; and Feynrir too.

RF: I can see parallels between Elves/Tarn and Orcs/Moraggim but Ushguk stands out as a unique creation. What was your inspiration for his character?

Marya: The inspiration for Ushguk was my father, who never fit in anywhere. Ushguk’s accent is his. My father was Russian-Polish, of Mongolian descent; and in post-war Britain, he might as well have been a Martian. He grew up on a very isolated farm on a mountain (Baba Goria) and learned to play guitar from Russian gypsies who would visit the village every year–I loved hearing his stories about his childhood and I loved listening to him play.

My dad survived hard labor in a Siberian POW camp and a trek across the desert before serving with the RAF as a radio operator. Feasts and food were a huge part of his childhood, and starvation was the key event of Siberia for him. He spent all his time there trying to get more food for his fellow prisoners (and staged possibly the first successful sit-down strike in Russia) and for the rest of his life, feeding people was his big thing–he was incredibly nurturing. Though I am NOT sure he would appreciate being cast as a big, hairy monster! And my dad could run rings around Ushguk, who is very much his own person with his own history. But still, there it is: My dad was the original inspiration.

RF: The stories in Tales of Mist and Magic seem to span a considerable period of time. Can you tell us where the novel will fit in? Before these stories? After them? At the same time?

Marya: “Like Father, Like Son”, “The Metallurgion” and “A World Without Magic” take place well before “Under the Splintered Mountains”. “Cannibal” and “The Prophecy” occur at the same time of the novel. “The Rabbit who Lived in a Tree” and “The Meaning of Flowers” take place at the beginning of the Morwen trilogy. “The Bits that Count” takes place literally about a week before Ushguk and Granny run into Anno the Tarn in the novel. He’s still wearing his pink sparkly dress (courtesy of Volkurr the Despoiler) when they meet him.

RF: This one’s just for my curiosity. Where does the name “Dragonish” come from?

Marya: From two words: dragon + inis (pronounced “inish”). “Inis” is Scots Gaelic for “island” and Dragonish is an island. I was born and grew up in Scotland, and still speak a smattering of Gaelic so it works its way into everything (including the Tarn language).

RF: How can we make sure we don’t miss Under the Splintered Mountains when it comes out?

Marya: Follow me on my Facebook Page, because I’ll announce it there. Or sign up to my mailing list at http://maryamiller.ca. (If you like the Dragonish stories, the advantage with this is that signing up will land you a completely original Dragonish short story not found anywhere else, “A Tail in the Mist”.)

Thanks so much to Marya Miller for answering my questions! Be sure to check out Tales of Mist and Magic to get pumped up for Under the Splintered Mountains.

Click here to sign up for her mailing list!

New Patreon Page

I recently discovered the platform Patreon and knew right away it was something I wanted to get involved in. I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking of how to build a page that delivers real value to my potential patrons and now it’s ready. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already one of my core fans so I hope you’ll take the opportunity to take our connection to the next level and share the page with your friends.

What I’m most excited about is the way Patreon is going to allow me to get you involved in my work. I’ll be posting updates about new ideas all through the planning stage and inviting feedback on everything from character names to plot twists and beyond. You only have to pledge $1 per book in my upcoming series The Silent Path, to get on the team.

But if you give more, you get more. Lots more. Rewards for higher pledges include downloads and paperback versions of The Silent Path books, plus all of my new works. That means every time I publish anything, you get it. Directly from me.

I hope to see you on my team!

Free Kindle Copy of The Other Side of Hope

Exciting news! I’m giving away thirty copies of the The Other Side of Hope! All you have to do is answer a brief survey and you’ll be entered to win! Just click here to get started!

The Other Side of Hope is a war drama set in a world in which the global roles of Christianity and Islam are switched. It is a story of loss and revenge, of redemption and hope. You’ll see a virtually unrecognizable North America mired in poverty and religious extremism. A devastating terrorist attack in Istanbul, Turkey, the thriving economic center of the world, touches off a war driven by revenge and fueled by mutual hatred and misunderstanding.

Fast-paced and exciting, The Other Side of Hopehas been called “flawless,” “captivating,” and “powerful.” Don’t miss your chance to read it!

Q&A From the Islam Sci-Fi Anthology

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Islamicates Volume Inow is the time! It’s a free short story anthology, so what do you have to lose! As an extra bonus, IslamSciFi.com has also released a brief Q&A with the three winners of the contest (which includes me!). It’s a chance to learn a little more about the writers, where the stories came from, and what else we’re working on. Who knows, you might find a new author whose work you want to follow!

Islamicates Volume I is Out

Technically, it’s been out for a couple of weeks now, but I was slow to notice and share it with you. I shared a few weeks ago that I placed 2nd in a Sci-Fi short story contest run by IslamSciFi.com. Well, that story is now officially available in Islamicates Volume IIt’s an anthology of the best stories from the contest, including my entry, “Inshallah.”

The anthology is completely free and available for download in a wide range of formats, so there’s no reason not to go check it out! I just downloaded my copy and I’m looking forward to reading the other stories! Take a look, then let me know what you think. And don’t forget to sign up to get more free stories from me!

Book Launch Party!

Who doesn’t love a good party? Who doesn’t love a good book? So why not put the two of them together and come out to Baines’ Books and Coffee in Appomattox this Saturday?

I’ll be there from 12 to 3 in the afternoon, signing books and making friends. It would be awesome if you were one of those friends! You can stop by anytime, say hello, get some coffee (or tea if you’re like me), and pick up a signed copy of The Other Side of Hope. Baines’ is a great place to hang out and find fantastic books so don’t miss it!

I Got Second Place!

A few months back, I entered a short story contest. That’s not something I do often but this one was a perfect fit for a story I’d been sitting on for a while and didn’t really have any particular plans for. That story is called “Insha’Allah” and deals with issues of free will, God’s sovereignty, and technology from a Muslim perspective. I’d sent it to a magazine or two without getting accepted but I wasn’t really shopping it around too hard.

Then I found Islam and Science Fiction on Twitter and soon ended up reading about their Islamicate Science Fiction Short Story Competition. Since that’s a bit of a mouthful, the short version is that it’s for sci-fi stories with some connection to the Muslim world, whether through characters, setting, themes, or something else. With “Insha’Allah” just sitting on my hard drive, I figured I had nothing to lose by entering it. I sent the submission and mostly forgot about it. Until I got an email saying that I’d won second place in the competition!

You can read the announcement here and be on the lookout for news about when the FREE anthology of all the best stories from the competition will be released.

Review: Emergence by Liberty Speidel

Bottom Line

Fascinating world, interesting story, mildly fresh spin on two well-trodden niches. But the writing is sub-par and the spin isn’t that fresh.

C+

The Review

Emergence is the first in a series of three novellas that make up The Darby Shaw Chronicles by my fellow independent author, Liberty Speidel. The trilogy’s tagline is “A superhuman detective novella” and, based on what I’ve seen so far, it delivers on that promise. It’s a mash-up between a next-step-in-human-evolution approach to mutants with powers and a police procedural. Well, this first installment is really more of a juxtaposition than a mash-up.

It starts off all police thriller, with an end of shift call to a domestic violence incident that quickly becomes a murder scene. Then it morphs into a political drama about the rights of mutants with special powers. These superhumans, as they’re called in this world, have been around for some time, but our protagonist, Darby Shaw, has a new ability that some government agencies argue puts her in a different category. Then we jump into a detective story with a bit of mutant powers dashed in for the climax. All of that in seven chapters.

All in all, it’s not a bad book. It’s a quick read at just about 50 pages with an interesting story, a fascinating world, and at least a couple of deep characters. However, the writing feels a bit awkward in places, particularly the dialogue. And the whole middle chunk will very familiar to fans of other franchises that have already explored the idea of the government going after mutants (Heroes, The Tomorrow People, and X-Men have all been there in multiple media). With all of that combined, I had a hard time getting into the story, despite its bright points.

Among those bright points is a very unique world. Unlike TV shows like Heroes and The Tomorrow PeopleThe Darby Shaw Chronicles picks up decades after superhumans have become commonplace. There is a Superhuman Bill of Rights in place to protect them and the chaos documented by those TV show I mentioned above is a distant memory for most citizens. Some people in Speidel’s universe have accepted superhumans and get along with them, while others remain fiercely prejudiced against them. A scene with a police chief referring to Darby’s powers as “witchcraft” captures that attitude well. Another highlight is Darby’s partner, Mark Herman. While many of the characters, especially the government officials from the middle act, feel very flat and boring, Mark is quite well-rounded. He has a believable mix of good and bad traits that makes his interactions with Darby very entertaining.

Overall, I’m giving Emergence a C+. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really stand out either. I will say that I’m excited for what’s coming next in this trilogy. Liberty has already heard the substance of this review on my podcast and she agrees that Emergence could have been better. She also says that the following installments are better.

To Read or Not To Read

Read. It’s not perfect, but it’s only 50 pages long and, best of all, it’s free. If you like detective stories, mutants, or both, you’ve got nothing to lose by picking this up.