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Thursday, February 11, 2016

GUEST POST: 2015's Ten Best Fantasy Novels (According to Me) by Charlotte McConaghy

Visit Charlotte McConaghy Website Here 
Find Limerence on Amazon Here

Fantasy Book Critic is excited to welcome Charlotte McConaghy to our blog. Charlotte is promoting her newly released novel Limerence: Episode 1. Limerence is a dystopian NA (New adult) novel that has the perfect mix of action and romance.

About Limerence

No injection can cure love. Only life can do that.

Deep in the darkest tunnels hide the last of the resistance fighters. Hunted by the savage Furies and the ruthless Bloods, they live in constant peril. The only means of survival is to seek strength in family and find courage in love. So what happens when love is cured, scoured away, leaving death in its place?

In the final battle for freedom, there are no lines that won't be crossed. And for Josi this means becoming the creature she fears most of all: the girl with a blood moon heart.

The gripping conclusion to the dystopian trilogy The Cure, Limerence is a love story for the monsters within.

Perfect for fans of Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater.

Today, Charlotte has stopped by to talk about her favorite books from 2015. Please welcome her to Fantasy Book Critic! 


2015’s Ten Best Fantasy Novels
(only according to me, of course)

As we begin a new year I’ve been – unsurprisingly – reflecting on the last. While 2015 was a big output year for me as a writer, I realised that I couldn’t have written so much if I hadn’t been hugely inspired by the books I was lucky enough to be reading. So to celebrate the release of my own novel, Limerence, I’ve decided to share my ten favourite fantasy novels from 2015 in the hopes that they’ll inspire you, too!

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  1. Golden Son, by Pierce Brown
This is such a great series. Red Rising remains one of my favourite novels, so I was relieved when its sequel captivated me just as much. Though the set up isn’t quite as interesting as the first book’s – the war games challenge in Red Rising was exciting beyond belief – and though it took me a little longer to get into the story of this book, by the time I’d finished Golden Son I was deeply embroiled in the twisting plot and the struggles of the main character, Darrow. Pierce Brown has created a highly imaginative, action-packed world, but not only that, he’s created a wonderfully conflicted, loveable protagonist whose voice is undeniably charismatic. When I wasn’t gasping aloud I was swallowing the lump in my throat.

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  1. Magonia, by Maria Dahvana Headley
I was blown away by this book. I feel like I’ve been waiting for a story about a girl who was born in the sky, and whose life on earth was so unnatural it caused her to drown on the air. The rich poeticism of Headley’s prose is truly gorgeous, and such a treat to read, while the mix of real world and fantasy elements is elegantly handled and didn’t feel in any way jarring. Romantic, imaginative and poignant, my only complaint is that Magonia was over too quickly.  

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  1. Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
What a triumph of a novel! I can honestly say I was not interested in reading a book made up entirely of gathered files. I’ve tried others like this and they usually fall way flat. But Illuminae is the exception. I was astonished at how true and complex the characters felt from page one – they leapt off the page, and that’s no easy feat when you’re not telling the story from either of their perspectives. Kaufman and Kristoff have created a funny, emotional and savagely smart read – it’s a real page turner.

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  1. Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
A fantastic read. Clever, suspenseful plotting, an intriguing world and the best part of all? Wonderful, beautifully drawn characters – several of them! The story of a team of criminals on a suicidal mission into enemy territory works mostly because of the dynamic between the characters, their individual complexities and the skillful way they interact with each other. Also, I must admit I was surprised at how well the prose was written. Can’t wait for the sequel!

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  1. The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle
It’s so refreshing to find a mainstream novel not written by an American. Irish Fowley-Doyle has created a sweet, honest, magical world with The Accident Season, one that swept me away into my imagination but also kept me grounded in the real. Her main character is so engaging you can’t help but love her, and her forbidden romance in no way felt clich├ęd or tired, but true and gentle. Fowley-Doyle has dealt with a difficult subject matter by seamlessly – and sensitively – immersing it in a world of strange beauty. Well worth a read.

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  1. A Darker Shade Of Magic, by V.E. Schwab
This is another one that surprised me. I hadn’t read any of Schwab’s work before, and was pleased to find her writing engaging, fast-paced and a lot of fun. I read A Darker Shade Of Magic while living in London, so it was extra special for me, as the book takes place in three fantastic versions of London, each vastly different to the other. With two strong lead characters, you tumble through the hasty, imaginative events, through the skillful character arcs and their moving sacrifices, and are left wanting more.

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  1. The Darkest Part Of The Forest, by Holly Black
I’m a huge fan of Holly Black’s work, having come to it via the Curse Workers Trilogy, so I was extremely excited to discover her latest. It didn’t disappoint! Black has a wonderful knowledge of fairy lore and mythology, and this novel is rich with spine-tingling, swoon-worthy detail. The strangeness of the fey world makes up the heart of it, while the gorgeously odd characters navigate their way whimsically through it. You sort of get the sense that they shouldn’t tread too heavily, lest they wake the dark and dangerous creatures waiting in the forest, while at the same time knowing these characters are well and truly brave enough to deal with whatever they find.

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  1. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
I think my favourite thing about this book is the fact that it’s about one hell of a female character, and she doesn’t rely on her romantic lead to guide or motivate the action – she spends the book making her own choices, following her instincts, plunging into danger alone and generally being pretty damn kickass. That said, I did totally adore her love interest – he was great too. Full of magic and adventure, Uprooted was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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  1. Menagerie, by Rachel Vincent
I kept putting this book off, and I have no idea why – I really wish I didn’t because as soon as I started it I couldn’t put it down. What a wonderfully, weirdly imaginative world. I love monsters, and Menagerie is full of them. Though frightening or grotesque, Vincent has imbued her mythical creatures with true beauty and an undeniable kindness. My heart broke for each of them again and again, and I was so on board with the protagonist’s fury. At it’s heart, Menagerie is a poignant story about cruelty, compassion and the terrible treatment of those who are different.
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  1. The Infinite Sea, Rick Yancey
Although this book technically came out in late 2014, I didn’t get to it until last year, so I’m including – just because. The Infinite Sea’s prequel – The Fifth Wave – was such a fun read that I couldn’t wait for the second book. Not only is this dystopian world full of danger and excitement – and a whole lot of really cool action sequences – it’s also a heartfelt and insightful look at what it means to be human. I connected so deeply to the characters that the stakes rose even higher, and my nerves could hardly take the danger they were constantly shoved into. Get in quickly and give it a read before the film adaptation comes out this month.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ex-Isle by Peter Clines (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
Order the book HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic Interview with Peter Clines 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Ex-Heroes 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Ex-Patriots 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Ex-Communication 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Ex-Purgatory
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Junkie Quatrain 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of 14 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Fold
Read I See Dead People by Peter Clines (Guest Post) 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Peter Clines was born and brought up in Maine, he moved to California when he grew up and worked in Hollywood for a number of years. He has also been a prop master for several movies and TV shows. He has published several pieces of short fiction and countless articles on the film and television industry. He has previously written reviews for the Cinema Blend website and for the Creative Screenwriting magazine as well interviewed many famous film personas such as Frank Darabont, Paul Haggis, Kevin Smith, George Romero, Akiva Goldsman, David Goyer, Mark Herman, Nora Ephron among many others. He currently lives in Southern California.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: It’s been years since the tidal wave of ex-humans washed over the world. Since then, thanks to St George and his fellow heroes, the community known as the Mount has been the last known outpost of safety, sanity, and freedom left to humanity.

But even for the Mount, survival still balances on a razor’s edge—and after a disaster decimates the town’s food supply, the heroes must make a risky gamble to keep its citizens from starving. And then the news arrives of a strange, man-made island in the middle of the Pacific. An island populated not just by survivors, but by people who seem to be farming, raising children, living—people who, like the heroes, have somehow managed to keep the spark of civilization alive.

Paying this place a visit should be a simple goodwill mission, but as the island reveals itself to be a sinister mirror-image of what the heroes have built at the Mount, the cost of their good intentions becomes dangerously high.

FORMAT/INFO: Ex-Isle is 400 pages long divided over a prologue, thirty-one numbered/titled chapters, and an epilogue. All chapters are either divided into “Then” or “Now” sections. Narration is in the first-person for all “Then” chapters and in third person for all the “Now” sections. The POV's both first person and third person are via George Bailey (St. George), Madelyn Sorenson, Danielle, Zzzap (Barry Burke), and a few other characters. Ex-Isle is the fifth book in the Ex series. And it wouldn’t be a good idea to start reading the series from this book.

Ex-Isle will be published in paperback and e-book format on February 2, 2016 via Broadway Paperbacks (Crown Publishing) in the US.

CLASSIFICATION: Mixing zombies with superheroes in a desolate world, Peter Clines’ Ex series is George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead crossed with The Avengers (Marvel).

ANALYSIS: Ex-Isle is the fifth book in Peter Clines’ exhilarating series, which has an interesting take on superheroes and zombies. So far I’ve been a big fan of the series and Peter has wowed me with each volume. So when this book was announced, I was very excited to see where he would take the story after the tumultuous event of Ex-Purgatory.

This book has two plot threads, the first one focuses on St. George, Zzzap and Madelyn the corpse girl who undertake a mission to look into an island made up of ships. On another track, we have Danielle, Cesar and the super soldiers who decide to take a sojourn out into the country to try to see if they can scrounge more help in the food department. The story takes its turns twisting both threads and upping the tension.

The main story deals with a new group that’s discovered which is ruled by a person who can be best described as this world’s Aquaman. But he’s not the benevolent kind and neither is the group. Our heroes find themselves in a quandary as the folks they decided to help look at them with scorn and distrust. Back at the outpost, Danielle is trying to overcome her PTSD and imagine life without being in the cerebrus armor. Life is made doubly hard when the exes are just on the other side of a chainlink fence and the super soldiers are acting a tad weird.

Overall this story was something that falls short of the high standard that has been set by the previous four books. Ex-Isle tries to go with a different track but ultimately isn’t quite able to shake off the malaise that hangs around the story. Yes the story is fast paced and very exciting but so far we don’t get something new and feel it’s a bit of the same. St. George and Stealth’s relationship isn’t explored much and after Ex-Isle I was hoping to see more of them together. Madelyn does get a lot more page time, which is tremendous. Her character is one of the most tragic ones and she has quite a baptism by fire within this book.

Overall Ex-Isle is a pleasant read, it doesn’t have the suspense or mystery of the first 4 volumes. It does have a charm to it and thereby making it a fun read. As a reader I’ve enjoyed reading more about all my favorite characters but as a fan I’ve come to expect so much more from Peter Clines.

CONCLUSION: To sum it up, Ex-Isle is a good read but doesn’t match the high of its preceding volumes. I’m still a fan of Peter Clines and will gladly recommend the Ex-Heroes series one and all as Peter’s writing and characters are what make this series a special one.

Monday, February 8, 2016

GUEST BLOG POST: Children in Fantasy by Duncan Lay

 Amazon Link for The Blood Quarrel: The Complete Edition Here

Fantasy Book Critic welcomes Australian fantasy author Duncan Lay, author of the Dragon Sword Histories and The Empire of Bones series. Duncan Lay recently released a thrilling fantasy novel The Bloody Quarrel.

In his guest blog post, Duncan Lay explores the use of children in fantasy series and the role they play in plot development. He explores how they are used in his novel and his opinions on this topic.

Summary for Bloody Quarrel:

Fooled by the treacherous King Aidan, Fallon has shot down the one man he trusted to save his beloved nation of Gaelland. And yet, when the King could grind Fallon underfoot, he draws the simple farmer and fighter closer, making a hero of him.

Embroiled in plots beyond his comprehension and weighted with the guilt of the prince's murder, Fallon must tread carefully if he is to accomplish the task that first brought him to the cursed capital: rescue his wife, Bridgit, and the rest of his village from Kottermani slavery. If he and his hopelessly ensnared men can survive, they may yet find redemption.

Meanwhile, across the ocean, Bridgit is rallying those around her to spring an escape. But who can be trusted? The ever-present danger of traitors and liars among the slaves, and even among her fellow Gaelish, is poison to her plans.

With an ocean between them and fouler nightmares looming, Fallon and Bridgit will be driven to their very limits to escape their prisons, find each other, and bring justice to Gaelland.

This epic fantasy is perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Joe Abercrombie.

A huge thank you to Duncan Lay for stopping by today. 

Children in Fantasy by Duncan Lay 

Children don't tend to get a good run in fantasy. If they're not being hunted for sport (Hunger Games)
or chosen for sacrifice (Harry Potter) they don't even get a line of dialogue above the occasional grunt (Feral Kid in Mad Max 2). If someone is going to fall over in front of a monster, it's usually a child. Scream at the wrong moment? A child. Get used to move the plot along in an unconvincing manner? A … well, you get the picture.

I didn’t set out to give a voice to children in fantasy or anything remotely noble. I just wanted to write a story that appealed to me, a tale of a man in a dark place, coming back from that through the love of a small child. But, with my third trilogy now out, I have discovered there is a common theme running through my work. Children aren’t there just to motivate the heroes or salivate the monsters.

In The Dragon Sword Histories, Karia’s powers allowed her to physically save Martil, while her love emotionally saved both Martil and Merren. In Empire Of Bones, Sendatsu’s desire to get back to his children first drove him across Vales – and then his children changed the way he looked at the world. Their view of life changed his.

Now, in The Arbalester’s Trilogy, Kerrin will also fundamentally affect the story. In The Last Quarrel, his mother, Bridgit, was prepared to sacrifice herself to protect him. Afraid of the dark, not very healthy, he was unable to save her. In The Bloody Quarrel he needs to save his father. Fallon is lost after being tricked into killing his beloved Prince Cavan. He’s unable to help himself, let along save his son. It’s time for Kerrin to step up and help his father, if the pair of them are going to get Bridgit back from Kottermani slavery.

In The Poisoned Quarrel, the third and final book of the trilogy, he’s going to have to – ah, but that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Now these are children in an adult world, learning that life gives them no concessions because they are smaller. Mistakes can kill you or the ones you love. Just because they are small, doesn’t make anything cute and cuddly. I enjoy writing children because I always enjoyed telling stories to my own children. They changed me, so of course I believe they can change the characters in my books. And I write them because I feel it is a theme that can reach across the ages, as well as the divide between a fantasy setting and our own world.

Fantasy is always better when it comes with a bedrock of reality. If you believe the characters, then you are prepared to go on a journey with them and accept whatever strangeness may come their way. You are required to suspend your disbelief when you crack open the cover of a fantasy book but that’s far easier to do when you believe in the characters. Love of a child, love of a parent, wanting to protect your children, see them grow up in a safer place – these are all themes that anyone can relate to.

Apparently there are only seven basic story archetypes. Yes, it’s great to throw in twists and turns and shock endings and have the reader wondering what will come next. But, realistically, there’s not too many plot twists that haven’t been tried before. When it comes to characters, however, there is no limit. You can give them all the foibles, the mannerisms and the mistakes you see among your friends and family. Creating these characters is one of the real joys of writing. I just happen to like making some of mine smaller than usual.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

SPFBO Second Round Mini-Reviews (by Mihir Wanchoo)

I've been delayed with these reviews so here's the first bunch of mini-reviews. The scores are updated on Mark's original post. So without further adieu, here are first four:

The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClungThis was a debut, which I came across thanks to the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off. Combining Sword and sorcery elements but with a dark flair akin to Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard books. Michael McClung gives us Amra Thetys and the world she inhabits. This is a tale about a thief with some morals and what happens when she indulges them.

Michael McClung has to be lauded for giving us a story that not only showcases the best of a sword & sorcery tale but also gives us a protagonist that we can root for entirely. Yes the protagonist is a grey one but Amra is written so well that I couldn’t stop reading about her plusI'm sure other readers like me will be left wanting more tales about her. The story ends with a revelation of an impending apocalypse; and yet the tale feels complete. I absolutely am stoked for the forthcoming sequels and this scores a solid 8/10 from me.

Blood Rush by Ben Galley My original introduction to Ben’s writing was via his debut  Emaneska series. With Blood Rush though, Ben takes an entirely new approach and gives us an alternate historical book that also acts strongly as a western. The story focusses on Tonmerion Hark, a 13-year old who is (sort  of) banished to a foreign frontier land called Wyoming. Wanting to return to his British homeland, Tonmerion will have to try to fit in with his extended family in Wyoming while also trying to figure out secrets about the land.

What I enjoyed about this book was that the author doesn’t quite dwell too much into the world setting and gives s a story that is entirely dependent on the characters present within.  What I mean by that is that there are strong hints and secrets scattered throughout the story, however the readers will have to piece them together to figure it all out. Plus the book’s pace will keep the readers glued and the ending is one that will leave you waiting for the sequel instantaneously. Blood Rush gets 7.5/10 for its ingenious plot approach.

The Weight Of A Crown by Tavish Kaeden The Weight Of A Crown is epic fantasy that shines a strong light on all its glorious trappings. Muti-POV structure & solid characterization, check, a complex geo-political storyline, check, various nations/lands in strife check, a magic system that’s not quite explained properly, check. Tavish Kaeden’s debut is something that struck a chord with me. I’m a lover of epic fantasy and this book did its best to keep me enthralled.

One thing that sort of a drawback with the title is that, because the author gives such an in-depth story, the pace of the story is something that isn’t of the fast variety. So for readers looking for a short, well-paced read might not enjoy it. For those lovers of epic fantasy who want to be immersed in a world and three-dimensional characters, Tavish’s debut hopefully will strike a strong chord with you as it did with me. TWOAC also gets 8/10 for its solid epic fantasy approach.

Shattered Sands by W. G. Saraband Shattered Sands is a book that had me excited a lot based on its description. The book’s setting was one that hearkened to a Middle Eastern frame. Plus the book has two main female POV characters as well. However this book didn’t quite work for me, I’m not sure what the exact reason was. It could be that the book has a sluggish pace or that this book definitely needs a better editing pass. The world settings are quite dark and usually that’s a plus point for me in my reading. However with this story, it was a tad depressing and the main characters really didn’t strike my fancy. Overall I thought this was an interesting book by the author but it was one that wasn’t to my liking. A 6/10 for Shattered Sands.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Interview with Chris A. Jackson - Author of Pirate's Prophecy: A Pathfinder Tale (Interviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Pathfinder Tales is a longstanding sci-fi/fantasy novel series based on the best-selling tabletop adventure game. On February 2, 2016, Tor released the latest installment in the series – Pirate's Prophecy by Chris A. Jackson.

About Pirate's Prophecy:
Captain Torius Vin and the crew of the Stargazer have given up the pirate life, instead becoming abolitionist privateers bent on capturing slave ships and setting their prisoners free. But when rumors surface of a new secret weapon in devil-ruled Cheliax, are the Stargazers willing to go up against a navy backed by Hell itself?

Cindy got to sit down with Chris A. Jackson and talk about this new release, how it feels to write for the Pathfinder Tales, and about what it is like to live life on the open seas!

A huge thank you goes out to Tor for helping to arrange the interview and for Chris A. Jackson for stopping by.

Please welcome Chris A. Jackson!

1. Hi Chris! Thank you for stopping by Fantasy Book Critic! Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My pleasure!  Let’s see, my father was a boat builder and fisherman, so I grew up around boats and on the sea. The most important thing I learned during that tenure was that the ocean will either earn your respect or kill you. She’s certainly earned mine, but I also learned to love her despite her occasional homicidal tendencies, and even sought a career in marine biology. Despite loving the field, and even marrying a marine biologist, I went into biomedical research as a career. Trust me, it pays better. During my twenty years in that field, I started writing seriously. After a few years of attending conventions and making contacts, I was picked up by a small publisher, and it’s been full steam ahead ever since. In 2009, having saved up some money and needing a change, my wife Anne and I left our scientific careers to go sailing on our forty-five-foot sailboat, Mr. Mac, and write fulltime.  We thought to sail until our savings ran out, but my writing is now paying for our seaborne lifestyle, allowing us to cruise the seas from Maine to Trinidad. Anne is my first-draft beta reader/editor and co-author for some of our books, which tells you something about her level of patience and the durability of our relationship.
2. How did you get involved with writing in the Pathfinder Tales series? Was it something that just happened to cross your path?
I had played table-top role-playing games since my teens, and the Pathfinder RPG for several years, and I had just finished a four-book nautical fantasy series—the Scimitar Seas novels, published by Dragon Moon Press—which won three consecutive gold medals from Foreword Reviews Magazine for best fantasy novel of the year. Paizo had been publishing Pathfinder Tales for a couple of years, and had just published the pirate-oriented Skull and Shackles adventure path, but had no one writing nautical Pathfinder Tales. So I knew gaming, the Pathfinder RPG, and how to write a nautical fantasy. The opportunity just begged me to take advantage, so I pitched myself to Paizo’s fiction editor, James L. Sutter, as the guy who could write nautical Pathfinder Tales.  He was intrigued, and asked for a web fiction story, which I happily submitted, but before Stargazer was even published, I got a surprise. A hole had opened in his publishing schedule, and if I could give him a manuscript in five months, I was in.  I said yes, spent the next few months on anchor in St. Lucia furiously working on the manuscript, and submitted Pirate’s Honor by the deadline.
3. Pirate's Prophecy is a continuation of your previous books in the Pathfinder Tales. For readers who haven't read the first ones, could you give a brief summary of what they can expect?
In general, Pathfinder Tales are written such that a new reader can enjoy any one of the books without having to read them in any particular order. There are, however, some events that build on previous ones, and there are some minor spoilers here if you haven’t read Pirate’s Honor.  
My “Pirate’s” stories revolve around three primary characters: Captain Torius Vin, his navigator and lover Celeste, and the deadly and seductive Vreva Jhafae. Torius is a former slave turned pirate turned privateer/spy for the fledgling democratic nation of Andoran. He loves three things: his freedom, his ship, and Celeste.  Celeste is an atypical protagonist for a Pathfinder Tale, not human or even humanoid, but a lunar naga with the head of a human and the body of a large black snake. She’s quite beautiful, if you don’t mind scales. Lunar nagas love the stars and astrology, making her the perfect ship’s navigator. The romantic relationship between Celeste and Captain Vin is problematic. Aside from the obvious obstacles to their intimacy, Celeste is venomous, and Torius has, over the years, become inured and even addicted to her deadly venom.  The relationship is strange, but fun, and the fans love it.  
Then there’s Vreva Jhafae, courtesan/spy for Andoran, and devotee of Calistria, goddess of trickery, lust, and revenge. A minor character in Pirate’s Honor, she was so much fun to write I had to expand her role.  Vreva uses her seductive wiles, beguiling magic, and mind-numbing toxins to ply her trade, and often drags Torius and Celeste into intrigue and trouble.  Pirate’s Prophecy is a mix of Mission Impossible and Master and Commander, with spies, witches, devils, and nautical combat. Our intrepid trio has been assigned a covert mission to neutralize an unknown and potentially devastating secret weapon that the devil-worshiping Cheliaxians intend to unleash upon Andoran.  I won’t go into too much detail, but rest assured, mayhem ensues.
4. Who is your favorite character to write about in the Pathfinder Tales?
Vreva Jhafae is just so much fun to write. She is courageous and capable, relying on cunning and deception to accomplish her missions instead of brute force and brawn. A mistress of magic, disguise, seduction, and subtle poisons, Vreva is an atypical femme fatale. Her familiar, Mathias—a smart-mouthed tomcat—is always up for a scrap with a rival or a tumble with a kitty cat. Her life of constant danger, seduction, and intrigue is very different than the piratical characters, and adds an espionage element to the tales.
5. Pathfinder Tales is a pretty established world. You have written several other novels in the series before Pirate's Prophecy. What was it like working yourself into an established series? Was it different than working on your own separate series in a world you have created?
 The Pathfinder Tales authors are given a lot of creative freedom.  I create my own characters and plots for the novels, weaving them into the fabric of the Pathfinder game world of Golarion. However, writing in an established world is very different from writing in my own fantasy world.
Basically, I’m playing in someone else’s sandbox.  I can have fun, but I can’t break the toys.  That means that I have to abide by the gaming rules with regard to character types, magic, religions, etc., and refrain from sinking islands, blowing up cities, or killing heads of state. Writing in my own world, I can break anything I like, though I still have to adhere to my own rules for magic, technology, religion, etc.  And of course, in my own worlds, nothing is sacred, and the stories are much more epic in scope.
6. There are several dozen authors who also write within the Pathfinder Tales series. Do you read their books too? If so, do you draw inspiration from what they are writing as it occurs essentially in the same type of world or do you keep your novel completely separate from theirs?
I read as many of the Pathfinder Tales as I have time for, and have started listening to the audio versions to allow myself more exposure. I draw inspiration more from the other writers’ styles than the content of their stories. Dave Gross creates wonderful characters, Liane Merciel is the queen of dark tension, Howard Andrew Jones is a master plotter, and Tim Pratt’s wit reminds me that humor is vital to a good rollicking tale. I’ve done some beta reading for several of the other authors, as they have done for me as well, which is invaluable.
There’s virtually no crossover between authors, other than a few mentions of places or events, although it would be fun to actually coordinate, perhaps have our characters cross paths.  I’d love to write a scene where Dave Gross’ primary character Varian Jeggare makes a cameo appearance, perhaps dancing with Vreva Jhafae.  Haven’t gone there yet, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
7. You have extensive, hands-on experience sailing the open seas. How does that play into your recent novel or any of your other novels?
I like to think my sea experience adds authenticity to the nautical scenes and sailing maneuvers. It certainly did in my Scimitar Seas novels, which were much saltier than my Pathfinder Tales.  Much like a little experience with martial arts, or at least knowledge of them, adds realism to a fight scene, experience with heavy weather, squalls, dead calms, and even the simple act of eating a meal on a table lurching with the motion of the ship, adds realism.  
One aspect of my Pathfinder stories that is directly from personal experience is Celeste’s love of the offshore night sky.  There is nothing quite like the sky a hundred miles from land on a clear night. Beyond my own experience, I must admit that a big influence for the large ship warfare and terminology was Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. Reading those novels is a baptism by fire into nautical jargon and tactics.  I pull my punches with regard to jargon in both in my Scimitar Seas and Pathfinder Tales books, to keep the reader interested, but I use enough to give it authenticity.
8. What inspired you to basically pick up everything and live aboard a ship? What are the most challenging aspects of this type of life?
Our original impetus for living aboard a boat was the view of a marina from our apartment window. We watched enviously, then finally decided, “We can do that.” So, we moved onto a small boat together, fell totally in love with the lifestyle, and have lived aboard for twenty one of the last thirty years. Even without sailing, living in a marina is a unique and wonderful experience. It’s the best neighborhood I’ve ever lived in. You know and socialize with your neighbors regularly, and you all have something (boats) in common. The cruising community is similar, but on an international scale. Leaving our careers to go sailing drew quite a few dumbfounded looks from our professional peers, but we shrugged that off.  We are both experienced scientists, and could get real jobs again with little trouble if need be.  Thankfully, that need has never arisen, mainly due to the success of our books.  
As far as challenges go, everything on a boat is more effort. We do dishes by hand, cook in a space roughly half the size of a twin bed, and have to be self-contained in all respects. Everything has to have a place and be in its place, since things tend to fly around the cabin in rough weather if they’re not secure. Space is minimal, so we don’t have a lot of “stuff”. No big-screen TV, no vast library, no big toys or cars, and, much to my dismay, no broadband Internet connection. Wifi, when we can find it, can be dreadfully slow. We also take care of all the systems aboard ourselves, including plumbing, electrical, fiberglass repairs, paint, brightwork, woodwork, diesel engine mechanics, refrigeration, and sailing hardware. Every full-time sailor must either be a jack of all trades, or have very deep pockets, and we’re far from rich. It’s not an easy life, but it pays off in freedom and adventure.
9.  Can you tell us a short, adventurous story about your life aboard a boat?
Okay, picking only one is the hard part here, but this is a moment I’ll never forget. In the spring of 2014 we were sailing back from the Eastern Caribbean to the US to do some boat maintenance and spend time with family. The passage from Culebra along the north shores of Hispaniola to the Bahamas follows a very deep trench.
One day we were becalmed, motor-sailing along on perfectly flat seas in water that was nearly three miles deep, when we decided to go for a swim.  One might think this is no big deal. Many sailors do it regularly, but we had never done it before in such deep water, out of sight of land.  We stopped the boat, threw out a long safety line, and dove in.  The water was literally clearer than tap water, and looking straight down the shafts of sunlight piercing the azure depths was quite beautiful…and also quite unnerving.  As writers, my wife and I have very active imaginations, and we couldn’t help but think that something way down there might be looking up at us.  We both had the same thought at the same time and scrambled for the swim ladder to climb out, laughing nervously at each other.  Realistically, this was perfectly safe, but still…what could live down there that might think two swimmers would be tasty?  My skin prickles just thinking about it.
10. The Pathfinder Tales is based off the tabletop game. Did you play it at all, perhaps in the name of research?
Oh, yes, I’ve played role-playing games since I was a teen and Pathfinder for years before I wrote stories for them.  I don’t play for research, actually, but for fun.  I will say, however, that I’ve used events that have happened during games in my novels.  In fact, my first novel-length writing effort was a novelization of an adventure that I ran for my wife and friends in graduate school. It was set in my own world, using characters created by the players, and over many re-writes, turned into the Cornerstones Trilogy, which I co-wrote with my wife.
11.  You've mentioned before that you regularly play RPG games in an effort to clear writer's block. Do you have any favorites that really help unblock that stubborn writer's block?
For table-top games, Pathfinder is my favorite. I enjoy the system design and I’m familiar with all the elements. I also enjoy Shadowrun for the fantastic world, and was lucky enough to have contributed the short story Sweating Bullets to their World of Shadows anthology.  
As far as computer RPG’s go, I love the Elder Scrolls series for the freedom of character creation, and the sheer depth and detail of the world. I need a better computer to play Skyrim, but maybe it’s better that I can’t… Addictive games are a writer’s bane. It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a broadband connection, too, or I’d have become hooked on MMORPG’s long ago. I use diversions like these because they’re fun, stimulating, and of course, in the genre I enjoy most.  I also keep a collection of my favorite old novels that I read to break blockage on occasion.
12. Before you go, I'm going to give you the floor to say or share anything else I may have left out. Here is your chance!
Thanks for the great questions and the opportunity to shout out some of my other projects. I have two more Pathfinder Tales novels in the works, as well as a nautical fantasy novel for Privateer Press, based in their Iron Kingdoms game world.  
I’ve also joined a new publishing effort, The Ed Greenwood Group, which will incorporate multiple worlds and myriad “creatives”, including authors, artists, game designers, musicians, and even chefs! My first novel with TEGG—Dragon Dreams, released in November 2015—is set in Hellmaw, a contemporary dark fantasy/horror universe where daemons live among and feed upon humans. My second TEGG novel, Queen’s Scourge, a nautical fantasy set in a different world that has yet to be formally announced, will release in 2017.  My successful Weapon of Flesh series, a self-published magical assassin saga, continues this summer with the release of Weapon of Pain, and next summer with Weapon of Mercy.
As far as short fiction goes, I’m writing Pathfinder related Swords and Planets stories for Legendary Games’ soon-to-be-released Legendary Planets adventure path, and last, but far from least, I’m very excited about my short story, First Command, in the upcoming Women in Practical Armor anthology, from Evil Girlfriend Media. There are more projects on the horizon that I’m not free to talk about yet, but one never knows what might crop up.  
Anyone interested can drop by my writing website to keep track of my creative work, or follow my real-life sailing adventures on our blog

CHRIS A. JACKSON is the author of the Pathfinder Tales novels Pirate's Honor and Pirate's Promise. His self-published and small-press work includes the Scimitar Seas and Weapon of Flesh series, which have won three consecutive gold medals in the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year awards, as well as becoming Kindle best sellers. Jackson has also written a novella set in Privateer Press's RPG fiction line. He lives on a sailboat in the Caribbean.

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