Author Interview: M. B. Weston

OOTS Front Dark OakDark Oak Press author, M. B. Weston, gave us an interview about not only her current fantasy series, The Elysian Chronicles, but also on her writing style and other things she has going on.

What genres do you enjoy writing? I started out with fantasy, but I’m also enjoying writing paranormal, suspense, urban fantasy, Steampunk, and I’m working on some pulp now. I also see a bit of mystery writing in my future.

Tell us about your latest book: My latest book is Out of the Shadows, the second book in the Elysian Chronicles series. The Elysian Chronicles is military fantasy about guardian angel warfare and treason with a lot of action. In the first book, A Prophecy Forgotten, my hero Davian must keep a young boy prophesied to save the world safe while at the same time stop a conspiracy of his fellow soldiers from taking over his home government. In Out of the Shadows, the scoundrels have successfully taken over, and Davian must do everything he can to bring them down, despite the fact he only has a few soldiers at his disposal.

What inspired the story? Where did you get that first bit of “ah ha” inspiration? Out of the Shadows is a sequel to A Prophecy Forgotten, and I have to admit that it was quite easy to come up with the idea for it since I knew what would happen once I started developing APF. It all began when I was imagining a scene with little boy drowning in a river. A young woman rescued him, but she ended up hitting her head on a rock and getting amnesia. When she woke, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if this boy thought she was actually his guardian angel?” Then I thought, “What if she was?” At that moment, the entire story changed into epic fantasy, and the angels–cherubians, I call them–became the central culture instead of the humans.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Davian is a special operative in the guardian angel military who excels at leading black ops against the angel’s greatest enemies–mornachts. (If I’ve got angels, I’ve go to have some demons, right?) He’s a hard core soldier with a tremendous amount of focus on his mission–often at the expense of other aspects of his social life. I think my favorite thing about him is that he would really just rather live in peace in the country with a vegetable garden. In Out of the Shadows, Davian is imprisoned for 10 years and then finds himself with a chance at a new life when he escapes. Unfortunately, his loyalty to his country overcomes his desire for peace. He decides–with prodding–to free his country from the new dictator who rules it.

How about your least favorite character? I don’t have a least favorite character because all of them are vital to the story. However, most of my readers seem to hate Loraine, Tommy’s mother, the most.

How much research did you have to do for this book? Any travel involved? I did a lot of research on Delta Force, Green Berets, and Navy Seals to come up with the culture for my special ops team. I tried to blend the idea of navy-seals meets Roman soldiers with wings. The earth sections of Out of the Shadows take place at the United States Naval Academy. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel there for a weekend, and it really influenced my writing.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? Trying to coordinate the battle going on in Heaven’s Realm (the name I have for the dimension the guardian angels live in) and the battle on earth. I had to make sure the timing fit into the appropriate parts of the Naval Academy’s academic schedule. (I used their 2006 calendar.) I also ended up dealing with two sets of characters on both earth and in Heaven’s Realm, and that meant I had to track each one’s development and make sure each was given his or her fair amount of time.

Which writers inspire you? Tolkein, C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, and in this one I used a lot of Tom Clancy.

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser? I’m a modified pantser, meaning I write by the seat of my pants–mostly. I start out with a story idea. I do a bit of brain work to give myself a big picture concept of where I want the story to end up. Then I just start writing it. I’ve tried an outline, but using an outline takes me double the time because the story always changes once I get into the scene and into the characters. To keep from writing too much that might be deleted during the editing process, I write in layers. My first draft is really more of a rushed, bare-boned pre-draft with dialog and stage directions. I go back in and fill in the details, which means that if I delete a scene or change things around, I’m messing with something that only took me five minutes to jot down instead of a highly edited bit of writing that took a day.

What are you working on at the minute? In order of timing:

  • The Lodestone Series: This is an urban-fantasy, pulp novella series for ProSe Press about an immortal wizard named Michael Lodestone who sets out to free the world from his nine, more evil immortal counterparts who are bent on taking over. Basically, he knows he has to kill them, and the process of killing an immortal wizard is quite complex. I’m going to deal with one wizard or witch in each novella. In this first story, he faces off with the evil queen from the Snow White tales. I based it on a short story I wrote called, “The Witch Hunter,” which is featured in The Big Bad II short story anthology.
  • Unleashed (Working Title): A paranormal suspense thriller about a woman who discovers the person stalking her is 1) responsible for 90% of the world’s unsolved serial killings and 2) isn’t human. I’ve got the rough draft done and I’m in the middle of the 2nd. I was asked for a pulp novella, so I put this one on hold in order to finish the fist Lodestone book.
  • The Elysian Chronicles: The Sword of the Vanir (working title): I need to get this done before I start getting death threats from readers. I have some reasons it has taken a while, but I have to keep those to myself.

 

Why do you write? Because I have to. I know, silly answer, but it’s true. I have stories in my head, and I need to get them out.

Where do your ideas come from? Everywhere. Anything can spark an idea. That’s why its so important for writers to pay attention to everything.

What is the hardest thing about writing? Making sure the plot feels organic instead of contrived. The plot needs to feel seamless and real, and as odd as it seems it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes organizational work to make the story feel like it’s just unfolding effortlessly in front of you.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Well, most of the advice we all hear all the time is pretty relevant: don’t give up, keep writing, etc. I guess to be different, I would say to learn how to really edit. Learn the craft of writing. Don’t just think that because you’ve got a great story you can rush through and be done. Learn about style and grammar. Make your manuscript sparkle before you turn it in to a publisher. There is no such thing as good writers, just good editors. The ones who make it to the top are the ones who edit their own work the best.

Michelle-021 MediumFind out more about M. B. Weston at these sites:

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Dark Oak Sample Sunday: M. B. Weston’s A Prophecy Forgotten – Chapter 1

Fall is here! It’s the perfect time for curling up with a cup of spiced cider and a good book. Look no further than M. B. Weston‘s epic fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason, The Elysian Chronicles. Here’s part of the first chapter  of book one, A Prophecy Forgotten, to get you started:

APF

Chapter 1: A Message of Hope

Hoof beats pounded against the forest floor. Alexor concentrated on keeping himself upright on Jeleth’s back as they galloped through the woods. With each stride, the herald grimaced. The damp soil did little to mute Jeleth’s steps. Anyone a mile away could hear the clamor, but they needed to forego stealth for speed. Though a soft mist had settled around them, Alexor could see darkened shadows darting through the trees above. The odor of rotten garbage and burning sulfur—the familiar stench associated with their enemies, the mornachts—began to spread throughout the forest.

“They’ve found us,” Alexor muttered. He chastised himself for choosing a path through the woods. He knew better. The southern front was infested with mornachts waiting to ambush a single cherubian like him. He should have sacrificed time and ridden around the forest instead of through it.

An arrow whistled near the herald’s head and imbedded itself deep inside a tree. The prickle of adrenaline coursed through Alexor’s body, numbing him to the autumn chill that only a few minutes ago seemed to seep through his black breastplate and tunic.

Jeleth neighed and veered left around a massive trunk that blocked their path. The herald leaned into the turn. His sweaty palms gripped the silver-white, almost iridescent strands of hair that flowed from Jeleth’s mane.

Three more arrows screamed past. One nearly hit Jeleth’s long neck.

Jeleth took another sharp turn—this time to the right—to avoid another tree. Alexor struggled to stay on his back. His thighs stung with exhaustion from gripping Jeleth’s sides. Riding bareback on a unicorn who made his own decisions was no easy task. Normally, the herald could have used his wings for a balance. Unfortunately, his caramel-hued wings extended to twice his body length and made excellent targets.

Alexor’s hand involuntarily patted the brass cylinder that jostled around in the pocket of his maroon kilt. The buttons would keep it secure, but he still worried. Did their enemies know about the scroll locked inside the cylinder? Did they see Ahimus, the head of the scribes, hand it to him? If he died, would the mornachts search his body and find it?

They must not get this scroll.

If the mornachts found the scroll before he could deliver it to Seraph Zephor, it would destroy everything his people had fought for during the past 3000 years and endanger those under Elysia’s protection. Dying in this ambush was unacceptable.

For a tempting instant, Alexor considered leaping off Jeleth’s back, hiding in the trees, and then soaring into the sky. Though many frowned upon it, Elysia did not penalize soldiers who abandoned a unicorn who had agreed to bear them. Protecting the scroll was paramount, he tried to reason.

Alexor clenched Jeleth’s mane harder, resisting the temptation to bolt. He would rather die with honor than live as a coward.

The few moments it took for the herald to make up his mind were the only moments he had to flee. The mornachts’ sulfuric smell increased. Several of them scurried through the limbs above them. He could not escape through flight now; they would surely shoot him down once he left the shelter of the trees.

A shower of arrows flew past them. One embedded itself in Alexor’s leg. He let out a sickening grunt and twisted Jeleth’s mane in his fingers as acidic poison from the arrow’s shaft leaked into his flesh. He reached for the poisonwood arrow with his right hand. If he could remove it, he might survive.

He pulled his hand back. The wound was too deep. The poison had already burned into his skin, and its sting coursed through his bloodstream. The arrow’s effects would be irreversible at this point. Removing the barbed head would only damage his leg more, and he would lose his hand if he touched the shaft.

Conserve energy. Live as long as possible.

Reaching Seraph Zephor before he died was his only option. Alexor might have fifteen minutes, thirty if he was lucky.

“How much longer?” he yelled, hoping Jeleth would hear him over the wind rushing past their ears and the thundering hooves.

“Twenty minutes,” neighed Jeleth.

With one hand holding Jeleth’s mane, the herald reached into his pack and yanked out his long cloak. He risked half-way extending his wings for balance. What damage could an arrow in the wing do now? He ignored the throbbing in his leg while he wrapped the cloak around Jeleth’s long neck, tying himself to his steed.

“Take my body… to Seraph Zephor,” said Alexor. Both the race through the woods and his wounds had drained him. “Tell him that… the message from the scribes is in my left pocket.” He braced himself as Jeleth bounded over a fallen tree. “Tell no one but the seraph.”

“Or the officers?” asked Jeleth, displaying a unicorn’s typical lack of emotion.

No officers!” panted Alexor. “Zephor only. Alone.” The scribes had warned him about a traitor within the Elysian military and instructed him to tell no one but Zephor about it—not even the unicorns. Their desire for such secrecy confused Alexor. He would rather have announced the traitor’s name to all of Heaven’s Realm and bring him to justice, but he trusted the scribes.

“My mission was secret,” Alexor explained, “but the mornachts were waiting for us…” He took a few breaths. “…after we left the scribes’ library.” He groaned. The arrow’s poison was traveling up his leg. “Someone put them on our trail. Someone… with access.”

An arrow buried itself in Jeleth’s right hindquarter. The stallion whinnied but continued to run.

“Can you make it?” asked Alexor. Pain and fatigue muted his voice. Jeleth’s survival was now Elysia’s only hope.

Jeleth grunted. “I can make it as long as my horn stays attached.” Unicorns’ horns possessed healing powers so great that an enemy could only kill one through crushing, drowning, or burning.

“They won’t take your horn,” said Alexor. “Not while I’m alive.” He took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders, and pulled his sword out of its sheath. The sword felt heavier than usual, and the herald knew he could not fight in his weakened state. He thrust the sword in the air, hoping a show of valor would encourage the mornachts to stay hidden in the trees. He adopted his fiercest glare, staring up the tree trunks that disappeared into the fog above.

The fog has thickened, he realized. The mist might hide them long enough to escape the forest without attracting more arrows.

Jeleth continued galloping, but Alexor could feel him favoring his back leg. The herald’s head fell to his chest. Exhaustion overcame him as the poison spread throughout his body. He worried for his guardian, Arch-Seraph Zephor—the only father he had known. Zephor had taken him into his service after his parents were killed in a mornacht raid when Alexor was just a boy. He wished the scribes had written down the warning for Zephor instead of just telling him.

“I feel you fading,” said Jeleth. “I can run faster once we leave this wood. Lean up against me.”

Alexor had heard that unicorns’ sweat contained some of their healing power. Maybe Jeleth’s would help keep him alive long enough to find Zephor. He leaned his head and body against Jeleth and wrapped his arms around his warm neck. In a few moments, the pain lessened and his muscles relaxed.

Soon, the swirling mist around them turned from dark grey to light grey. They had escaped the forest. Every part of Alexor’s uniform felt damp, and beads of dew dripped off his helmet onto his nose. The sword fell out of his hand. Jeleth’s speed would be more effective than a weapon at this stage. He shivered and tightened the cloak that held him to Jeleth.

“Hold on,” said Jeleth. His iridescent horn glowed bright red as he accessed his stored energy. He took off in a gallop most cherubians had never experienced. The herald felt as though he was soaring down the mountainside, something he never expected to feel on the back of a unicorn.

Alexor tried to control his breathing as they ran. He needed to keep his heart rate low to slow the poison.

A few miles later, the red glow in Jeleth’s spiraled horn began to fade, and his breathing sounded labored. Jeleth was losing his stored energy, especially now that he needed it to heal himself. Alexor hoped they would make it.

“We’re approaching the tower,” said Jeleth.

Even without Jeleth’s words, Alexor knew they were close. The fog may have hidden the southern front’s charred, leafless trees, but it could not block out the territory’s smoky stench or the scorched grass under Jeleth’s hooves.

Through the haze, they finally beheld the Southern Command Tower, an obelisk encircled by a gated wall. They were close enough for Alexor to see a lone figure pacing along the parapet. For the past few months, Zephor had been pacing more than usual, and Alexor knew his tidings would only burden the seraph more.

Alexor leaned against Jeleth’s neck, unable to move. Bodies of fallen cherubians, his people, lay strewn across the ground. Healers and other soldiers knelt beside the wounded. He and Jeleth must have missed the battle by half a day.

Jeleth’s gait slowed, and Alexor could feel the unicorn’s body quiver as he hobbled to the tower.

Just a few more minutes and we’ll be there, he thought. He felt too weak to speak. Hold on for a few more minutes.

Jeleth, sensing the herald’s urgency, let out a neigh and fought on until they reached the tower gate where he collapsed. Alexor, still tied to Jeleth, fell with him. He lay on the ground with his leg trapped under Jeleth’s body. He kept his hand close to the scroll in his left pocket.

Alexor, lacking the strength to twist his neck up, saw only a sea of soldiers’ black boots and maroon and black kilts surrounding them in frenzied commotion. Suddenly, the soldiers hushed. Their boots parted, creating a path. The soldiers’ fists hit their breastplates in salute to the officer who walked toward them. The black leather trim on the officer’s silver seraph’s kilt swished about his knees faster than usual. Seraph Zephor, Alexor realized with relief, was only a few paces away.

Zephor knelt next to Alexor. His face was as stoic as usual, but the creases around his brown eyes had deepened with worry. “Get me a healer!” Zephor yelled. The silver star on his black helmet flickered in the sunlight.

The soldiers stayed put, staring at the wounded herald with pity. They knew healers would be of no help.

Zephor’s nose flared and he flashed the soldiers a snarl only an unlucky few had ever seen. “Quickly!” he roared.

Zephor yanked a knife out of his boot and slit the cloak that tied Alexor to the unicorn. He pulled the herald out from under Jeleth and laid him on the ground. Only then did Alexor notice the damage Jeleth had sustained. Not one, but three arrows stuck into the unicorn’s side, and blood striped his white coat. Jeleth’s eyes were shut. He barely breathed.

Alexor turned his gaze back to Zephor. Rarely did unicorns die, and he did not want Jeleth’s death to be his last sight. He struggled to lift his right hand and crossed his fist over his chest.

“Seraph,” he gasped. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the scroll. “From the scribes…. Davian…was right.” His vision blurred. Only Zephor’s face remained in focus. He felt Zephor’s strong hands grasp the scroll.

“Tell the High Seraph…” He tried to finish the scribe’s warning, but his lips fell silent. Alexor, herald to Elysia’s second most powerful military leader, died with honor in his guardian’s arms. The name of the traitor died with him…

*****

Click here to find out more about A Prophecy Forgotten and its sequel, Out of the Shadows.

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