Happy Monday, and Happy Memorial Day (in the US).
Today's an important day.
It's a chance to remember those who have sacrificed for the greater good - not just military, but people from all walks of life who have put others before self.
Now, about today's first guest!
Born and raised in Wausau, Wisconsin, A.R. Grimes started writing “books” about dinosaurs in the second grade but moved on to writing fantasy after reading J. R. R. Tolkien, Madeleine L’Engle, and C. S. Lewis. She spent over twenty years trying to complete her debut novel, Wyldling Snare, and is living proof that any fool can get published nowadays. Several of her poems and short stories won awards in her alma mater Carroll University’s literary magazine (1998-2001). Other than reading and writing, she enjoys singing in the church choir, listening to music, making fused glass art, drawing, daydreaming, and going on nature hikes. Currently, she’s furiously crafting the next installment of the Wyldling Dreams saga, Wyldling Trials, and thus far successfully resisting the temptation to work on other projects. She is married to a martial arts enthusiast and currently lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. They share the house with two male offspring and two three cats who—naturally—are the true overlords. To see what else she’s up to, please visit her website: http://cycleoftehara.com
Get the book: https://mybook.to/wyldlingsnare
Preorder Wyldling Trials: https://mybook.to/wyldlingtrials
Free short story: https://BookHip.com/NFNTMNF
Come, follow me!
Amazon author page: https://author.to/ARGrimes
Star Trek or Star Wars?
Firefly – gone too soon or overrated?
Definitely gone too soon! I loved that series.
Coffee, tea, or cacao?
Yes, please. But if I had to choose one… tea. It’s such a versatile beverage. 🙂
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Probably second grade, when I started writing stories about dinosaurs. Sadly, they all died tragic deaths.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
The premise for the Wyldling Dream series came from a weird dream I had one night. Quite a few of my ideas come from my dreams, or a mish-mash of other books I’ve read, films, and T.V. shows.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was eleven or twelve, and I wrote a book about orphan duck-billed dinosaurs joining up with other dinosaur species to defeat an evil T-Rex. I may have been influenced by the animated film A Land Before Time.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Reading, making fused glass art, designing art and memes on Canva, editing and critiquing other indie authors’ books.
How many books have you written? Two and three-quarters. Which is your favorite? The next one. 😉
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
What is your writing Kryptonite?
My day job. It’s an energy vampire. Also, my Internal Editor. I’ve gotten better at shutting her down, but she still attempts to stymie my efforts.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m friends with Huckleberry Rahr, YA Urban fantasy author of the Jade Stone Chronicles. She and I complement each other very well as critique partners because she’s good at finding places to trim the excess and I help her add detail. She’s helped me keep my story on track and focused on essentials rather than going off on tangents that I find interesting but don’t advance the plot.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
All of the books written as A.R. Grimes will be connected in the Teharan universe in some way. The overall brand of my epic portal fantasy is called the Cycle of Tehara, of which the Wyldling Dream series is part. I plan on five more series involving the same group of characters and their descendants, and a prequel series of novellas.
It’s difficult to make a book that ends on a cliff-hanger “stand alone” outside of the series, but I write them as self-contained arcs where the most pressing conflicts are resolved within the same book.
Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
Han shot first. I don’t see why people want to make him out to be less of a scoundrel. He’s awesome as is.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
You should have found a writing group to help you develop your craft and give you feedback on your work. I highly recommend all writers find and join a critique group or partner with whom to swap manuscripts. It may take some time to find the right group or partner - it involves quid pro quo - but it’s worth the effort. You learn so much and make great friends along the way.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Hiring a designer (GetCovers) to create my book cover for Wyldling Snare. Everyone compliments it and I think it’s beautiful. I haven’t gotten the cover for Wyldling Trials made yet - I only have the mock-up I made on Canva - but I plan on going back to GetCovers for the rest of the series.
Are you traditionally or self published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other? I’m self-published. I like having control over my creative content, even though it means I have to do all the work of finding editors, formatting, cover art, etc, and marketing.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
At last count, five. The second book of the Wyldling Dream series, Wyldling Trials, is under revision (read as: rewriting half of it) and due to release before October 2023. Parts of the next three books in the series are partially written. I also have another fantasy series I started about an octopus-human hybrid, and the first book is ¾ finished. This doesn’t include a medieval fantasy collaboration I’m working on with five other authors, or the dozen or so ideas, premises, and outlines I’ve jotted down for other books and series.
What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything?
Isn’t it 42? 😉
Personally - for me - it’s dedicating my life to Christ, treating others with compassion, and leaving the world a better place for the next generation.
What does literary success look like to you?
It’s twofold. First, having a group of dedicated fans and followers who aren’t friends or family. I can’t quantify that. If I hear back from readers claiming that they enjoy my stories, and my books have a positive impact on their lives, then I’ll consider my mission accomplished. Second, when I get to the point where I can quit the day job and write full-time - which has become my dream and personal goal. The trick for me will be hacking the marketing code to find my target audience.
What do you have coming next?
Wyldling Trials, book two of the Wyldling Dream series will be out September 2023.
I’ve already begun writing book three, tentatively titled Wyldling Armor, which will be published before the autumnal equinox of 2024.
I intend to write the first draft of a paranormal romance for NaNoWriMo in November 2023 and publish it on Kindle Vella under a pen name in January 2024.
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!
Death From Above
The soot panther fell upon them in utter silence.
One moment, Enoch led his riding deer along the trail, digging in his belt-pouch for mint leaves, and the next, a dark-furred predator dropped from the branches above onto the back of his companion’s mount.
Enoch gasped. “Red, behind you!”
The Lord Seneschal, Raeden von Bleistaff, dropped the bridle and whirled around, staff in hand. His emerald eyes, wide and wild, stood out in stark contrast to his white-furred face. “Stay back, Enoch!”
Enoch stumbled backward, fumbling for his sword. The contents of his belt-pouch spilled and his mount trampled it, struggling to escape from the fanged menace. The pungent scent of mint filled the air. His mount dragged him from the trail before jerking her bridle from his hands. Enoch let her go; his stomach, upset from traveling through the waystone, lurched. He choked back the bile rising in his throat and ripped the sword from its sheath, scanning the forest for other threats.
I let down my guard. Should’ve known better; the Caravan Route is outside the Veil. Good thing I have Red with me.
Red jabbed at the soot panther. The wily beast dug its claws into its prey and flung itself to one side, putting the mount’s bulk between itself and Red. Squealing, the riding deer bucked to dislodge the predator. The soot panther clamped its powerful jaws on the riding deer’s neck. Crack. The mount went limp and collapsed on the trail. The limber feline twisted to avoid entanglement with its limbs. It fixed Red in its amber gaze and crouched, preparing to spring.
Quicker than thought, Red spun and slammed the iron-shod butt of his staff against the soot panther’s head. Stunned, the beast dropped like a stone. Red stabbed it at the base of its skull with his sky-iron hunting knife and severed the spine. Enoch flinched.
Bloody knife in one hand, staff in the other, Red backed away from his kill with black-tipped ears raised and his tail rigid. He licked the blood from the blade while scanning the edges of the trail and the canopy above.
Enoch sheathed his sword and joined his friend, skirting the dead mount. He hunkered beside the slain beast. The soot panther appeared less formidable with its fierce amber eyes glazed in death, but the bared fangs were the length of a man’s finger. Gingerly, he rested a hand upon its dark gray flank.
How could a vicious animal have soft fur?
Red slid his hunting knife into its sheath on his belt. “Enoch. One scents nothing, but others may soon come for the dead.”
“Soot panthers are tricky and scary fast.” He chuckled past the unease in his gut. “No way I could ever move fast enough to kill one. I’m glad you’re on my side, Red.”
Red bowed his head, his ears drooping. “Forgiveness. Your servant should have moved faster; he suffers from the Waystone sickness, but this is no excuse.”
Enoch smiled and patted his arm. “Don’t worry, we’ll be more careful in the future. Everything will be better when we get home.”
Enoch tugged on the halter of his lame mount, encouraging her to pick up the pace. The riding deer shook her head, snorting, and then trotted along behind him. He didn’t dare ride her—not after she’d sprained her fetlock trying to flee while the soot panther killed her mate. Instead, he’d placed the pack containing the gifts for his friends from Treehome on her back. A much lighter burden than an adolescent boy’s weight.
He scanned the trees along the road. Leaves unfolded from their buds now that winter had gone to its grave. However, the fresh growth made it even easier for soot panthers to ambush unwary travelers.
We have seen none since. Praise Yshua.
The first sun, Klotho, had set, and Lachesis was soon to join her, but the heat of late spring lingered. He wiped the sheen of sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief damp from frequent use. The sweet, heavy scent of peonies grew cloying in his nostrils.
“Wow,” he remarked. “If the flowers smell strong to me, then they must be overwhelming you, Red. Are they giving you a headache yet?” No response. “Red?” With a frown, he turned around to check on his companion.
Despite the perils lurking in the surrounding woods, Red had stopped. Ears raised to their fullest extent, he stared into the canopy. His black nose twitched as he scented the air.
“Um, Red?” Enoch scanned the surrounding woods for signs of danger. He licked his lips and tasted salt. “Is it another soot panther?”
“No.” Red swiveled his ears toward the Northeast. Toward Lilac Grove. Home. “Someone is coming, Enoch,” he replied, rolling his staff between his hands and creating a divot in the trail.
“A syrax messenger.” Red’s whiskers twitched as he scowled. “For goodness’ sake,” he muttered in his native tongue. “They have sent Peter. He is…” He closed his eyes. “He is like…” Grimacing, he dug his nails into the wood of his staff. “He is like the wind blowing sickness upon everything it touches.”
Enoch gaped at him for a moment. And then he laughed aloud, slapping his thighs. “That’s a new one. Nice try, Red. Did you mean to say: ‘An ill wind that blows no good’?”
Red nodded. “Yes, Enoch. Those words describe Peter to perfection.”
Enoch huffed out a brief laugh. “But, Red, that isn’t fair! You can’t say Peter always brings bad news. There was one time—” He paused, listening to the faint sound of approaching wingbeats. He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted: “Peter, we’re down here.”
A piercing cry answered his call and a creature with a ten-foot wingspan plummeted through a gap in the branches to alight in front of them. Enoch hopped back. If it weren’t for the brazen pink color of his feathered, aquiline forequarters and furred, feline hindquarters—and his brown eyes filled with friendly, gleeful mischief—Peter would be downright terrifying.
Presently, he displayed none of his usual spunk and humor. Ears drooped, the syrax panted with his tongue dangling from his orange beak. The pink feathers of his front half were disarrayed after plunging through clutching branches and several drifted lazily to the ground. Having caught his breath, he shook his wings and then furled them.
“Lawks,” Peter exclaimed, eyes wide and tail lashing. “Eenie, you’re a hard person to find! I’m about done in. I’ve been lookin’ for you and the Senny-shall for ever and ever!”
Red bristled as he stalked up to the messenger. “Peter! Have you a message from Sir Frederick? Report it to this one, at present!”
The syrax hunkered and stared up at the kaenhir with his ears laid back and eyes round and glistening. Unease slithered inside Enoch. What in Tehara could render the normally garrulous Peter speechless?
Peter’s orange beak opened and closed several times before words came out. “Not from Sir Rick,” he gabbled, unsheathing, and then sheathing his talons. “Can’t be from Sir Rick. Can’t be. Cappy sent me. I hafta find Sir Thomas first, but I can’t find him; he’s gone, gone, gone. I’m supposta find you next… only I didn’t know if you all’re still at Treehome or if—”
Red cuffed him. “Arrive at the peak!”
Peter squawked and hunkered until his belly touched the ground. “Eenie,” he whimpered. “Eenie, what’s he mean? What’s he mean?”
Enoch rubbed the back of his neck. “He means you should get to the point, Peter.” He crouched beside the syrax and patted his feathery mane in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. “Just breathe, slow down, and tell me the message.”
Peter glanced from one to the other, his eyes brimming with tears. “Okay, Eenie. But it’s bad news. Real bad.” He curled in his talons and tucked his front paws under his chest, shuffling his feline hindquarters under his belly and then curling his tail against his torso.
“Bad news?” The chill of foreboding crept up his spine like a stalking soot panther. He’d never seen Peter so upset. What cruel tidings did he bring? Had a storm destroyed the crofterfolks’ homes? Were the newly sprouted crops ruined? Did a roving pack of lykharim breach the Veil? Or worse: had the nehmwights invaded the Northern Marches?
Enoch gulped, recalling every horrific, spine-tingling story he’d ever heard about the belligerent race dwelling far to the North in the Icemountain Wastes. “Are we at war with the nehmwights, Peter?” He looked at the seneschal. Red gazed back at him with his mouth set in a grim line, gripping his staff in both his hands.
Eyes wide, Peter blurted out, “Eenie, you and the Senny-shall better come home quick. We can’t find Sir Thomas and Sir Rick is dead!”