Secrets and Doors

As the blog blitz for Grá mo Chroí kicks off, I’d like to get in a bit of a word for fantasy author, Christine Haggerty, whose story Simple Magic appears today in the anthology Secrets and Doors. All royalties are to be donated to charity.
Here is Christine to explain.

All proceeds from Secrets & Doors will benefit Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in their fight against T1D. We are donating all author AND publisher proceeds.
http://jdrf.org/
About JDRF
JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D.
As the largest charitable supporter of T1D research, JDRF is currently sponsoring $568 million in scientific research in 17 countries. In 2012 alone, JDRF provided more than $110 million to T1D research.

Where to order the book (also available on Amazon, but they take all the money)
http://crimsonedgepublishing.com/bookstore/

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I had a sneak preview of the Secrets and Doors anthology in the shape of Christine’s contribution, Simple Magic.
I knew I was going to like it from the first line:

I cannot kill the child.

As an author who opened her first book with the mass murder of newborn babies, I could empathise. These are Elves we’re dealing with here. They have the classic Elf look, long silver braids and green eyes, but all similarity stops there. This short story is a complex affair mingling magic and fantasy with spec fic. These are more like Aliens than the Elves we have come to know and love through the likes of Tolkein. Whatever is noble and upright about them is riddled with corruption, and they have brought the seeds of their destruction with them from the world they have fled.
The story describes how, on the eve of becoming a fully-fledged priest, an Elf begins to doubt, then to ask questions, then to realise the true nature of her existence. What she surmises horrifies her, and suddenly, the ethereal beauty of her crystal castle in the sky, with its gardens and marble halls, seems so paltry compared with the earthy pleasures of human beings and the nature that surrounds them.
What I enjoyed most about this story were the descriptions of the Elf dwelling, which had a truly dreamlike quality about them. If anything, I would have said the story didn’t need to be so complex. I would have been happy without the technical explanation given at the end in a denouement that came over as just a little contrived. The simple contrast between the cold, decadent beauty of the Elf world and the familiar human world of hard work and love, would have been enough for me.
Having said that, many people prefer to have all the loose ends tied up at the end of a story, and I very much enjoyed Simple Magic. If this is representative of the quality of the anthology it should be one worth reading.

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Christine Nielson Haggerty grew up in rural Utah with three brothers, a sister, several chickens, a goat, and an outhouse. She always loved the escape of fantasy and the art of writing, and her passion for life is to craft stories of strength and survival.

As a former high school language arts teacher and a black belt in karate, Christine has found a niche in combining those skills to help authors write effective fight scenes.

Links
http://www.christinehaggertyauthor.com
Facebook: Christine Haggerty, Author
Twitter: @chaggerty99

Promote Yourself: Over to Susan Navas

I’m loaning my blog to another fantasy author today, and just for a change, a writer for children. Here is Susan Navas to tell us a bit about herself and her books set in Agnil’s World.

A very short while ago I started a new chapter in my life. Until the end of the summer term I was a primary school teacher in Cambridgeshire, UK and now I’m a full-time writer. If you had told me last year that I would be in this position now, I would have laughed. Inspired by a literacy unit of work I was teaching about stories set in imaginary worlds, I wrote a short story which became the basis of my first book. I took that story and began the journey into writing children’s fantasy in the autumn of last year. So far, I have three books in the Agnil’s Worlds series published by Ant Press. All the illustrations in the books are by Charlotte Moore.

The books follow the adventures of a half-elf called Aggie (Agnil in the elf worlds). A life changing secret is revealed to her in The Rise of Agnil and she discovers she has powers greater than any elf or human. With a magical trout which turns into an elf, a mysterious old man of the woods and an evil wizard, The Rise of Agnil has all the ingredients of a perfect fantasy for 7-10 year old readers.

What follows is the first chapter (kid size!) of The Rise of Agnil and its accompanying illustration by artist Charlotte Moore.

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The Rise of Agnil by Susan Navas
Illustrations by Charlotte Moore

Sitting on a small canvas stool on the riverbank, Aggie held her fishing rod in both hands. It was the first time her dad had trusted her to go fishing on her own. Until now, it had always been the two of them, always together. Aggie had pleaded with her dad and this time he’d given way.
The reeds that lined the bank on the far side of the river quivered in the cool morning breeze. As Aggie sat, she dug deep into her thoughts looking for an image of her mother. She had died a long time ago when Aggie was only three. Seven years of living just with her dad meant that her memories of her mother were fading. Please don’t let me forget her, she thought, and felt a warm tear roll down her cheek.
On her 10th birthday, her dad had given her a bracelet that belonged to her mother. Until then her wrist had been too small and he was afraid she might lose it. Her mother had always worn an identical bracelet but had another made to give to her daughter. The bracelet was precious, her father had said, and was all that was left of her. Aggie could never understand why her dad had never kept any photos of her mother and so all that was left were Aggie’s memories and the bracelet she now wore every day.
Glancing down at the silver bracelet, she reminded herself of its strange and delicate beauty. A silver tendril wound round her wrist, completing the circle with two leaves and a simple silver flower from which three small gemstones cascaded like coloured dewdrops; one purple, one claret and the third, a milky white, each one smaller than the next.
Suddenly, Aggie felt a powerful, sharp tug on the end of the line. She was pulled to her feet as the force dragged her closer to the water’s edge, her feet slipping along the muddy bank. She gasped from shock as she hit the icy river water but didn’t have time to scream. Then she was under the water. River weed tangled through her limbs, dragging her further and further down, deeper and deeper. Where was the river bed? I’m drowning, she thought. Darkness and cold surrounded her. She closed her eyes.
When she opened them again, she found herself lying on a bed of straw in a gloomy cave. A small fire was burning a short distance away and the smell of the smoke
tickled her nose. For a few moments she watched the flames as they licked around the glowing logs. And then she noticed it. Rather oddly, a trout stood next to the fire. Aggie rubbed her eyes in disbelief.
A trout? she thought. But trout don’t stand!
As she watched, the trout seemed to shed its skin and a thousand silvery scales flew like sparks up to the roof of the cave where they sizzled against the rock and became
small star-like lamps. Where before there had been a trout, now stood a strange small man.
He was a little shorter than Aggie, dressed from head to toe in bright green, his pointy ears sticking out beneath spiky blond hair. Aggie had seen pictures of elves in some story books she’d had since she was a small child and this little man looked just like one. All that was missing was the pointy hat. She thought she had to be dreaming; she knew he couldn’t be real and had stopped believing in the tooth fairy when a boy called Alex in her class had told her it was a load of rubbish that babies believed in. She didn’t want to be called a baby so had put thoughts of such things right out of her mind.
“Who…oo…oo are y…ooo..uu?” Aggie quivered. “Garallil, at your service!”
The elf smiled and bowed politely. As he held out his
right hand to one side, a shiny silver platter appeared on top of it. Aggie couldn’t help thinking how he looked like some kind of undersized waiter!
“I am so pleased that I found you, Agnil! Now you can fulfil your destiny and help us get our world back to normal!” He held out his free hand to pull her up from the ground.
Aggie’s mind was in a whirl! How did this being know her name? Her father was the only person who ever called her Agnil and only when he was telling her off. The last time had been the previous week when she’d stubbornly refused to do the washing up.
Aggie hesitated and tried to stand on her own, but her legs felt stiff and her chest felt as if someone had been sitting on it. Eventually, she let the elf help her up despite being unconvinced that he’d be able to, as he was so small. Garallil, however, lifted her to her feet effortlessly.

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If you have children who like a dose of magic with their adventure reading, you might like to check out Susan’s books. You can find them here.

http://smarturl.it/AmazonAgnil1
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-rise-of-agnil-susan-navas/1117790597?ean=2940148919179&itm=1&usri=2940148919179
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id788443271
http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-rise-of-agnil-1
Also on Scribd: http://www.scribd.com/book/230477571/The-Rise-of-Agnil-Agnil-s-Worlds-1

Book review: Land of Midnight Days by Katrina Jack

Land of Midnight Days is a story without the usual fantasy tropes, and the familiar elements (elves, ogres) are altered in such a way as to appear completely original creations. The hero is a lonely, mute boy, whose sole possession and tenuous link with an unknown past is a silver flute. The setting is out of the ordinary too. There are no orderly Hobbit-type Shires, desolate howling deserts or leafy, elf-filled forests; this is a mucky, violent, industrial city.

These are perhaps the story’s greatest strengths. The city is a character in its own right, ever-present and menacing. The underbelly of our large cities with their gang violence and underground economies becomes in this story the reality for everyone. There seems to be no escape from the street gangs, the despair, and dirt for the apathetic population. Into this grim, monochrome setting is introduced Jeremiah Tully, an engaging, intelligent waif-like boy who, as a half-breed, is an object of revulsion even in this city where nobody seems to give a damn about anything. Katrina Jack doesn’t clutter the storyline with explanations about the history behind her world. She doesn’t need to; we can all understand prejudice, and know it doesn’t need a reason.

This was my favourite aspect of the book, the atmosphere of indifference and menace, in which Jeremiah’s blundering search to find out who he really is seems doomed to failure. Circumstances push Jeremiah out of his fragile nest and into the maw of the city, and as he searches for clues that might lead him to a link with his lost family, the reasons for his very existence start to appear. The clues lead to real people and the action takes off into surprising realms.

If I were to make a criticism of this magical story, it would be that the introduction of the other characters in the second half occasionally seems rushed. Zebediah takes form gradually (and very surprisingly!), but the others appear already made; credible and original, but for that very reason I would have liked a bit more background about them. The action moves into a higher gear, and the intimacy of Jeremiah’s perspective has to take a back seat. But this is YA, there is a limit to the amount of introspection a younger readership will tolerate, and the action is very well done, ending with a fabulous, demonic tableau.

Land of Midnight Days is the kind of story that stays with you, and I am looking forward to reading the next instalment. From what we know of Katrina Jack’s world, we can be certain it isn’t going to be all beer and skittles.

See Katrina’s blog for details of where you can buy this wonderful book

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