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!

Review: Tales of Mist and Magic by Marya Miller

The Bottom Line

A fun, (mostly) lightly-hearted collection of fantasy flash fiction. The stories are connected by virtue of being set in the world of Dragonish and sharing a few key characters.

B+

The Review

If flash fiction isn’t your thing, don’t let that stop you from picking up Tales of Mist and Magic. Because it’s not usually my thing, either. If light and funny isn’t your thing, you also shouldn’t let that stop you. I had actually come across Marya Miller’s website a while back (I don’t remember how) and wondered away without reading anything because I got the impression I wouldn’t be interested (again, I don’t remember how). So I’m very glad that Josh brought this book to me because it is well worth the read.

There’s not a whole lot of bad things to say about this one. Honestly, the biggest complaint I have is that it’s a collection of flash fiction stories and not a full novel. My second biggest complaint is that it’s a bit too light hearted for my tastes. I like fiction that’s heavy and on the dark side just a bit (pun intended). So let this be your warning that you won’t find much dark material in Tales of Mist and Magic.

You will, however, find quite a bit of wit. While they might not be as engrossing as a full-length novel, these bite-sized stories are packed full of humor and ironic twists. For some light, humorous reading, you can’t do much better than Tales of Mist and Magic. The writing is superb and I enjoyed almost all of the stories. My least favorite is actually the very first one, so don’t let it deter you when you pick it up. Most of the stories are entertaining but not necessarily enduring. A week after finishing the book, I can’t say I remember most of them. I do remember the key, recurring characters, though, and I harbor a strong desire to spend more time in the world of Dragonish. That is the great brilliance of Tales of Mist and Magic because there is a full-length novel coming that will feature those memorable characters and take us deeper into their stories.

So here is another warning: if you read Tales of Mist and Magic, you will end up buying Marya’s novel when it comes out.

I said I didn’t remember most of the stories, and that’s true. But there were some that stuck with me. Two to be precise: “Like Father, Like Son,” and “The Meaning of Flowers.” These two flash pieces stray ever so slightly from the light hearted humor that characterizes most of the collection to hint at a more complex world behind the jokes. “Like Father, Like Son,” is actually quite dark but in a subtle way. Since I enjoy subtlety as much as dark fiction, this one is easily my favorite in the bunch. “The Meaning of Flowers” hints at tragedy without exploring it in depth and gives us insight into one of the main character’s background. It retains the bubbly humor of the collection in most regards but still manages to inject a profound truth that resonated with me. So it makes my favorite list as well.

I don’t want to give the impression that the other stories aren’t good, because they are. The whole collection is an entertaining read, if not an engrossing one. This book is the perfect thing for those of you who “don’t have time” to read. Reading a single story won’t take more than two minutes and, by the time you’re done, you’ll be so hooked into the world that you’ll find the time to read Marya’s novel when it’s released.

Click here to read the first story from the collection. The full collection has not yet been released but I will tell you right here when it is. You can also sign up for Marya’s email list to stay up to date.

To Read or Not to Read

Read. Absolutely read. Tales of Mist and Magic is fun, quick, and easy to read but you’ll still come away with some nuggets to chew on. Best of all, you’ll find unique characters to love and look forward to seeing more of.

A Quick Excerpt

I told you a few weeks ago about “The Waters Above,” a new short story I’ve been working on that blends sci-fi and theology. Now I’m almost finished with the first draft and I want to share a brief snippet of the story with you. In the next few days, I’ll be making the first draft available to my creative team for feedback, so if you’d like to get on board, head over to Patreon and join!


Anomaly detected.

The thin electronic voice of the Star Duster’s on-board computer cut through his stupor and dragged him back into consciousness.

Anomaly detected.

The voice was calm, almost soothing, and Waqaz’s body begged him to ignore it and go back to sleep for just a few more…

He came fully awake as he remembered where he was. And how long he had been “sleeping.” Of course, there was no way to know how long that had been. Sleeping wasn’t really the right word for it. What the body went through in carbon hibernation was nothing at all like sleep. If Waqaz had ever doubted that before, he certainly wouldn’t again. There was no REM in hibernation, no real rest at all. Only suspension. In fact, he was still plagued by the same headache that had been with him when he went down.

Waqaz spent a brief moment wondering how long ago that had been. The question was a useless one. When time was measured by the earth’s sun, it had little relevance beyond the solar system. And they were far, far beyond the confines of the solar system. It was impossible to say how long he’d been under in terms that meant anything at all.

Still, his eyes were drawn toward the place he knew the clock was positioned.

Except that he couldn’t see the clock.

Or anything else.

Before his rational mind could catch up and assure him that hibernation blindness was a perfectly normal reaction to spending so much time in suspension, the panic set it.

He had designed the pod he was in. He knew that once the outer barrier had retracted, there was a raised edge of about four centimeters to step over. He knew that the cylindrical hibernation pod rested at an angle of about ten degrees back from vertical.

He knew all of these things, but, in his desperation, it didn’t matter.

Waqaz surged forward, tripped over the edge of the hibernation pod, and went sprawling onto the cold floor of the Star Duster. The impact jolted him back to his senses and he closed his eyes — unnecessarily — to take long, deep breaths.

“It’s normal, it won’t last long.” He spoke the words out loud in an effort to reassure himself but the sound of his voice was so hollow and dry that the last word almost didn’t make it past his lips.

Anamoly detected.

The ship’s mechanical voice intoned its warning again and Waqaz pushed himself to his feet. Traveling in hibernation meant they didn’t need much room, so the Space Duster was small. Even though he’d only been in the cabin for a few days before going under, Waqaz remembered the layout well enough.

The pods were in the back, about five meters behind two chairs that were situated in front of a bank of controls he knew little about. Beyond the control panel, a broad, flat view screen would be pointed out into empty space. If had been able to see, he would’ve had an unobstructed view of countless stars.

The thought led to another spike of panic and he stumbled forward. His knee slammed against the hard base of the chair and he smacked my face on the firm, upholstered back rest as he doubled over from the pain. The combination of blows sent him reeling backwards and onto the floor again.

“Waqaz?” Another voice, this one thin and nasal, but definitely human. “Waqaz, are you alright?”

Waqaz got his feet under him and stood on shaky legs, ignoring the throbbing pain in his knee. A moment later, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Waqaz, what’s the—” Faadi’s sentence ended a gasp, probably as he saw Waqaz’s blind, vacant stare.

His hand moved from Waqaz’s shoulder to his elbow and he guided him into one of the seats.

Waqaz hated being led around like a useless old man, but what choice did he have? When he was still a few centimeters away from being settled in, Faadi gasped again and released his arm. Waqaz could hear his boots striking the floor as he staggered back two steps.

“In the name of Allah…”

“What?” Waqaz demanded when Faadi didn’t say more. “What is it?”


That’s all I can share for now! The full story will eventually be available in a magazine if things go the way I’d like them to. But you can also read it early (and even improve it!) by joining my creative team at Patreon.

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!

The Waters Above

I’ve noticed that it’s rare for sci-fi and other forms of speculative fiction to give much place to religion. Think about it: the typical story set in the future will give practically no mention to religions of any kind, despite the fact that the vast majority of humanity holds some type of religious belief. I’m not saying that sci-fi writers should devote vast quantities of time and effort to religion, simply that creating worlds without religion makes for worlds which are quite unrealistic.

I can’t change an entire genre myself, but I do want to contribute to sci-fi, and spec fic in general, stories which give a reasonable place and thoughtful consideration to religion. I think I’ve already done that to some degree but my next short story is going to be my first intentional effort in that direction.

Its current working title is “The Waters Above” and it will be about two Pakistani physicists on an expedition to explore the farthest reaches of space; the very edge of the known universe. What they find there will bend the expectations and realties of both science and religion. The story will be shaped in a significant way by both Muslim and Christianity theology as well as hard science facts — and healthy speculation!

At this point, I’m planning to shop the completed story around to major sci-fi markets like Clarkesworld and Asimov’s. So if all goes well, you’ll need to purchase one of those publications to read 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.