Phantom’s Mask is a thrilling continuation of your War of the Realms series. What were some new ideas you wanted to introduce in this book that were different from book one?
Each book in the series has a very different tone. Book I thrived on suspense and the hunter/prey relationship, and it introduced the scaffolding for the world building. Book II has much stronger action scenes and shows off more of the supernatural powers. It also portrays a completely different side of the main character cast. In the first book, the Alpha fugitives were relatively helpless, always on the run with many of them unable to access their true abilities. In the sequel, they’ve shifted from defense to offense in a big way. Azar played a more direct role as an antagonist. Character development is a gradual process throughout the series, and you’ll definitely know the characters much better after this book.
I enjoyed the delve into Cato’s past. Did you have his past already planned or did it develop as you were writing?
Yes, it was planned! I had to be careful with the way I presented Cato in the first book in order to set up his transformation in the sequel. Because Cato’s memory has been so critically damaged after two years of torture, the reader gets to discover his past piece by piece as he searches for the answers. Cato actually has two different journeys; navigating his way through the present and uncovering the truth about his past.
I likened the book to Stranger Things or The Boys on Amazon, but I found it difficult to find a comparison as the book was quite unique. What sources of inspiration did you draw from?
Cato’s earliest conception was heavily influenced by a cartoon I loved when I was young. The idea of having ghostly powers fascinated me, and I often pondered what that kind of world would look like when I was bored and letting my mind wander. I thought, what if all the stories about spirits and mythological beasts were actually true, at least in part? Maybe we got some parts wrong in all the retellings. But what if those beings had been here a long time ago? What if they still exist, just not in this world anymore? Cato evolved into his own being, and I pulled religious concepts, fairy tales, paranormal superstitions, mythology, magic, and natural phenomena into a brand-new world around him where the spiritual and physical could coexist.
Cato in particular was an interesting study because I had to figure out what kind of Cryokinetic he should be. There are so many examples in comic books, movies, television shows, literature, etc. Should he create elaborate structures, like Elsa from Frozen? Slide on ice tracks like Frozone from The Incredibles? Create walls and shoot a frosty blast out of his hands like Iceman from X-Men? This factor would determine what kind of fighting style he would have. I also had to think about how his technique would have changed from the time he was Phantom to the present, how he would have honed his abilities during his intense trials. I decided to make him conservative with his ice. He rarely uses it on a large scale, instead preferring to protect himself with armor, form shields on his arm like a gladiator, utilize ice blades on the offensive, and shoot small projectiles across short distances. Because the creatures in this world have a limited reservoir of power, Cato has to be smart about how much he uses at one time. No ice castles!
This is book two in your War of the Realms series. What can you share about book three in the series?
Book III is going to focus heavily on character development and internal conflict. Cato and Axel were both pushed to the brink in Book II; the next installment will show Cato grappling with the person he was, the person he’s become, and the person he’s expected to be, and Axel is in a dark place psychologically after the events of Phantom’s Mask. Character relationships across the board will be put to the test. RC’s secretive past is going to come back to haunt him. Azar, who is used to always getting what he wants, just suffered a devastating defeat and will need to reevaluate his strategy. But most importantly, Cato finally uncovers the truth about what happened to him, and he has to come to terms with it and decide how to move forward.
Posted in Interviews
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Rise: A Blood Inheritance Novel by M. Ainihi is the first novel from the “Blood Inheritance” YA dark fantasy series. It follows the story of Amanda Garrett, a fifteen-year-old girl who lives in a small town with her father. The book starts off with a prologue set hundreds of years before the main story takes place, where we learn of the imprisonment of Erol, a jinn(genie), and the reason behind it. Hundreds of years later, while on a day trip in the woods with her dad, Amanda stumbles upon an ancient artifact she discovers contains a jinn(genie), which is Erol, that will change her life forever. Amanda’s life soon spirals out of control as she is sucked into a fantastical world where she’s orphaned, kidnapped, and forced to work for a powerful wizard who seeks a mythical talisman. All the while, Amanda harnesses dark powers unbeknownst to her. And as she sets off on her journey, Amanda learns about the creation of the universe, different mythical creatures, realms, and her own demonic ancestry. She has to deal with unwanted feelings and make decisions that will harm those she loves, some of which leave both her and the reader shocked.
Rise is an incredibly fast-paced novel, one-second you’re following the story of a joyful girl, completely unaware of the journey she’s about to begin, and the next you’re reading of genies, evil wizards, gods, and the creation of the universe. Although it is 160 pages it is extremely detailed and provides the reader with a good understanding of the characters and the realms they reside. As for the language used, it is fairly simple to understand, which makes it a suitable read for anyone. I did find a couple of spelling mistakes and redundancies but really nothing to fret over. The main character, Amanda, is very believable. She starts off as a naive young girl, happy to spend time with her father and worried over trivial matters. But as the story develops, so does she, as she becomes a troubled young woman trying her best to understand and control the dark powers and impulses within her.
Throughout the book, we get to see two sides of the same character and that makes it a lot more interesting. Other characters, such as Erol and Aden, also provide a refreshing break from what you might expect from a genie, for even though they want to do good with their powers, they also have secrets and desires that add complexity to what could otherwise be bland and predictable characters. M. Ainihi does a great job creating a beautiful setting, making you feel like you’re actually visiting the realms described. The theme is very fun and original. the author provides a different concept with the genies, as opposed to your typical vampires and werewolves. I very much enjoyed reading about these mythological creatures and all the lore behind them.
Pages: 162 | ASIN: B075PX97CK
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Summer of the Shark is a coming of age story about a 12-year-old boy named Ryan. His parents send him to spend the summer with his grandfather, Artie. He sets off, expecting to have an awful time and instead has the best summer ever, filled with sharks, baseball, an almost teenage romance and lots of bonding with his grandfather. It turns out to be an unforgettable summer.
What stood out for me was the ability of DiVitto Kelly to write the dialogue in such a way that I could really ‘hear’ the accents in my head. That helped the characters come alive, especially Artie. Having the ability to create characters that can jump off the page is a genuine talent.
The author shows us a heartwarming relationship developing, starting with a reluctant Ryan flying out to spend the summer with Artie only to discover that in fact Artie is pretty cool, driving a Jag, letting him do things his parents wouldn’t, and letting Ryan explore his love of sharks. The other main character is Veronica, who Ryan falls for during his visit. She was my least favorite character, only because I felt that she was not as developed as Ryan and Artie so I didn’t get the same feeling of knowing her as I did with Ryan and Artie –but that didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the story. The book is set in the mid-1970’s and that comes through loud and clear in the book, with talk of Kodak projectors, flash cubes, Wendy’s opening and so many other excellent descriptions that clearly set the time period. The book centers on family, friendship and relationships. As a 12-year-old, you would rather spend time with your friends than elderly grandparents. But this book shows that you shouldn’t discount your grandparents from being friends, you can have fun with them and that relationship can teach you so much. It left me with a genuine feeling of warmth and made me want to give my kids more time with their grandparents so they can have a relationship like Ryan and Artie’s.
Pages: 275 | ASIN: B088P5M2VJ
The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
A Little Bit Extraordinary by Esther Robinson
A Saint and a Sinner by Stephen H. Donnelly and Diane O’Bryan
Silver Award Winners
Mountain Heat by Natrelle Long
Pandora’s Gardener by David C Mason
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Tags: action, adventure, author, author award, author recognition, biography, book, book award, book review, bookblogger, business, childrens book, crime, dark fantasy, drama, ebook, entprepreneur, epic fantasy, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, historical, horror, kids book, kindle, kobo, literary titan, literature, memoir, mystery, nonfiction, nook, novel, picture book, poem, poetry, read, reader, reading, romance, science fiction, scifi, space adventure, story, suspense, teen, thriller, writer, writing, young adult
Kaji Warriors: Shifting Strength follows Atae, a hybrid Kaji half-breed, aiming to prove herself as a Kaji among a culture of strength and honor. What was the inspiration behind this thrilling novel?
I wish I could say that the story came to me in a single burst of inspiration, but it didn’t. I pulled inspiration from a lot of sources, including music, books, real-life experience, random conversations, etc. For example, Atae’s scene with Jeqi in a dark tunnel was inspired by a difficult night after my divorce. Queen Sula’s wild hair is a tribute to a friend that died a few years ago. Another friend’s mother-daughter relationship inspired Jeqi’s relationship with her mother. Plus, I watched a lot of Dragonball Z and Sailormoon as a kid.
Atae is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
While Atae is a well-trained fighter, she’s also the typical naive, young woman that a lot of women are at her age. She still thinks in black and white and struggles to think clearly about matters of the heart. Add in her oblivious nature and a bit of social awkwardness, and you have Atae.
I enjoyed the deep world-building and backstory. What were some themes that were important for you to capture in your world?
I wanted to create a culture that centered around an individual’s strength and honor. My world-building was a natural extension of what that society would look like, i.e., the benefits of it and the drawbacks or consequences. A major theme that I touched on is the old-school prejudices from purebred Kaji against hybrids like Atae and Jeqi. While most of this plays out in the background of our main character’s story, some of it touches her packmates’ storylines.
Do you have plans to continue this story in other books?
Absolutely! We have to find out what happens in the Gridiron.
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Dark Days is a story about a girl named Maya. who is an outcast because she hasn’t completed a traditional rite of passage known to her people as the Leighesan sect. While being born to the Leighesan sect, she belongs to the Dempsey clan and spends her days training to become the best she can be. Her goal is to achieve knowledge and skill that surpasses people of her age and the elders as well.
Maya must compete in the Cluiche which is an ancient set of games and competitions that, for years, has showcased the best of the best. Little does she know that by competing in the Cluiche, she will not only have the chance to change her future but the prospect of clans everywhere. Learning who she truly is and standing for what she believes is right, she begins her journey with her two friends Jeremias and Willum, and finds support and hardship in places she never thought she would. War is budding on the horizon and the appearance of a figure that for a time only she could see, she knows that time is running out, and her destiny might be coming sooner than she thought.
Dark Days was a compelling read that was consistently entertaining. The book’s ending leaves the reader desiring more as well as wanting to see what happens next. One minor complaint I have is the ending of the book seemed a little rushed. Maya’s strength is inspiring and I admired her ability to not care what others thought of her. It’s a nice change of pace to see such a strong and intelligent female character in a book.
D.W. Saur does an excellent job of developing complex characters such as Maya’s friends Willum and Jeremias. There were times when I wanted to yell at Willum because he wasn’t serious when the stakes were high. This shows the level of attachment I had with the characters and how much I had invested into this epic story line. Maya made some decisions that were a little questionable, and I wish she had been a little more honest with her friends, but I understand where she thought she had no choice. I am still not completely sure who the villain is and am looking forward to finding out in the next book.
Dark Days plunges readers into the depths of a complex dark fantasy world that begs to be explored. D.W. Saur sets up intriguing characters that face some enormous challenges, but watching them overcome them is half the fun of this adventure novel. I look forward to reading the sequel when it comes to fruition.
Pages: 278 | ISBN-10: 1646630491
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Nankin City is thrown into chaos when a magical cyborg attacks a country club. As the city’s forces attempt to nab the culprit, emissaries from Albac, a magical planet arrive to join the investigation. They believe the perpetrator comes from Albac and want to help Nankin City find him. To do this, they recruit a few of Nankin’s residents. Dark Sparrow, a bounty hunter finds herself among those selected to travel to planet Albac and help solve the mystery. But she also has a side job to investigate the case of several missing children. She juggles these two cases while struggling to quell the raging demons from her past. The attempts to unveil the cyborg’s identity reveals a deeper agenda that will change the lives of all the investigators forever. Who are those behind this troubling scheme and what do they want?
Andrew Casey’s Dark Sparrow is a delightful mashup of science fiction and fantasy. It has all the usual elements of these genres of fiction. Magic, a fascinating but bizarre planet (that’s not earth), superhuman abilities, fantastic beasts, cool weapons and all the works. Casey’s work is detailed, immersive and very stimulating.
Dark Sparrow is packed with man versus man and man versus alien fights that will give action lovers good value for their money. I particularly liked Dark Sparrow. Her skill, defiance and quirkiness showed her to be a kick-ass protagonist you don’t want to mess with. At times I felt there were too many characters in the story early on and it was hard to keep track of each one. Some of the characters took on separate identities on earth and on Albac which added to my confusion. I am able to overlook little snag with the characters and highly recommend this book.
The thrill of fiction lies in its ability to help readers to escape reality while still feeling its strong pull, Casey generously provides this benefit in his book. While giving my imagination something to lap up, he carves his story around many relevant social issues. From divorce to parenting, empathy, cyberbullying, love and LGBTQ themes, Casey touches them all. All this might sound overwhelming but Casey skillfully holds every bit together with engaging dialogues and a strong story line. What’s more, he delivers each theme with a fresh perspective that rings true.
Pages: 284 | ASIN: B089YBXX2Y
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Ever Alice continues the story of Alice in Wonderland and finds Alice in an Asylum at 15 years old. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
Narratives that explore the inner world, and in this case Alice’s inner world, are the ones I am most interested in. I’ve always had a long-standing fascination with psychology. From my academic studies to my work history to my writing, it can be found in nearly every aspect of my life. Since I see things from that lens, when I read the original Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, I saw undertones of mental health throughout the text. To me, this was a girl who had a mental health disorder. When I set out to delve into this, I wanted to stay true to the time period by examining what mental health treatment would have looked like back then, including the use of the asylum, and what would have most likely happened to Alice if she were talking about a place called Wonderland.
Alice is a different character from Lewis Carrol’s Alice. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
In Ever Alice, I wanted to take Alice away from being this observer-type who is trying to make sense of Wonderland, though there is an element of that, to becoming more of an active participant and throwing reason and logic to the wind. In keeping with my mental health theme, I wanted Alice to ultimately embrace who she was and the beauty of her own mind.
I enjoyed Wonderland and felt it captured the same oddness as the original. What were some themes you wanted to maintain and what were some new themes you wanted to introduce?
I definitely wanted to keep the original coming of age theme, but I also wanted to look at the themes of acceptance and belonging. The idea of finding the persons, places, and situations that fit us and not trying to change ourselves for others or for how we think society wants us to be.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The last several years I’ve been looking at work that I finished and abandoned for one reason or another. Ever Alice was one of those. I wrote it 10 years ago and randomly opened the file one New Year’s Eve and decided I was going to self-publish it. The next book I’m working on is even older, so it’s been collecting dust for a while. Just like with Ever Alice, I’m coming at it with new eyes and really loving the massive changes it’s going through. It’s a big story, one that I see being at least a trilogy. It’s about a girl who has been given the gift of prophecy by the god Apollo and sees the destruction of her home, the mythological island of Atlantis, and she has to grapple with the weight of that information. I’m hoping to have the first book available sometime 2021.
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