Rayne will be awarding an ebook copy of The Colour of Dishonor, Stories from the Storm Dancer World to a commenter on every stop (chosen by the host). One grand prize winner will received the following ten ebooks: Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Beltane: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies, Bites: Ten Tales of Zombies, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, Six Scary Tales Vol 2, Six Scary Tales Vol 3, Six Quirky Tales, Six Historical Tales. Every host will receive a copy of the ebook Spells: Ten Tales of Magic.
1. What or who inspired you to start writing?
The stories we had to read in primary school were boring, so I made up my own. When I was six, I told the teacher the stories were stupid and I could write better ones. She took me up on it - bless her! - and gave me this assignment: a story about a letter's adventures from writing to delivery. When I handed it in, she was startled that a six year-old could write so well. Of course, she didn't know I'd had the help of my older sister. From then on, when the other kids had to read the dull pieces for their homework, she often assigned me to write stories, and I soon learnt to do it without my sister's help.
At first, I didn't choose writing as a career, but allowed myself to be steered into 'sensible' career paths. But my passion for writing would not be suppressed. I became a journalist editor and non-fiction book author, and made a living from my writing. I also mastered the fictioneering craft and now I write mostly atmospheric horror and dark fantasy.
2. How did you come up with ideas for your books?
Coming up with ideas is the easy part. Finding time to write them all is difficult. Ideas come to me all the time - childhood memories, deeply held convictions, personal fears, quirky characters, objects, overheard snippets of conversation, historical events, ethical dilemmas, worldbuilding concepts, unusual locations, things that puzzle me. - and they all demand to be written. My mind is like a rotating drum filled with jigsaw pieces, each piece representing an idea. Sometimes, two or more of these ideas lock together, and that's when a story starts to shape.
With Storm Dancer, the first jigsaw piece was a vague idea that two people who hate each other other must become allies to survive, and although they have previously betrayed and harmed each other they must now depend on each other and learn to trust.
Further inspiration also came from ancient cultures (especially Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Persians and Hittites), from places where I've lived and travelled (in Central Asia, North Africa, Middle East).
The novel also probes the question to what extent we're responsible for our deeds. Dahoud is a troubled hero with a dark past. As a siege commander, he once razed, raped and killed... and he enjoyed it. Now he needs to atone. He has sacrificed everything to build a new identity and a life of peace, and he devotes himself to protecting women from harm. But Dahoud is not alone. Inside him lives a devious demon, a djinn that demands he subdue women with force. It torments him with pains and tempts him with forbidden desires. When the women in Dahoud's life repay his kindness with betrayal, his hard-won control over the djinn breaks, and he does things his own conscience abhors.
To what extent is Dahoud responsible? If the demon possessed you, would you accept responsibility for the deeds?
3. What components are necessary for the genre of this novel?
Storm Dancer is a fantasy novel, straddling the epic and dark fantasy subgenres. Epic fantasy typically involves imaginary lands, magic, battles and a story sweeping across a vast setting, while dark fantasy has paranormal, frightening or disturbing elements and probes the nature of good and evil.
4. What expertise did you bring to your writing?
My background in the publishing industry helped with writing and marketing. I'm a trained publisher with thirty years of experience in the publishing industry, mostly in editorial roles.
For Storm Dancer, I was able to draw on my personal experiences. For example, I used to teach and perform bellydance. So when Merida learns to bellydance in the harem, and when she pretends to be a tavern entertainer and performs for an audience, I could write about it with authenticity.
I also know what it's like to live and work in a foreign country - including what it's like to arrive and find none of the promised arrangements are in place.
5. As far as your writing goes, what are your future plans?
I'm already working on several new projects. Right now, my main work in progress is a non-fiction book Writing About Magic, to add to my bestselling Writing Craft Series (Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, The Word-Loss Diet, Writing About Villains).
I have several short stories in progress - a historical story about the Battle of Hastings in 1066, one about a Regency governess accused of smuggling, a Victorian ghost story, and a quirky yarn about an introvert dragon.
I'm also working on the next volume of the Ten Tales books, a series of multi-author anthologies (Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft) of which I'm the editor. The next is Seer: Ten Tales of Clairvoyance.
I've also started a new novel set in the Storm Dancer world. And that's just the start of all the things I plan to write.
6. Do you belong to a critique group? If so how does this help or hinder your writing?
Good critique groups are invaluable, and I belong to several. These days, there's a wide choice of critique groups online. Choose one that focuses on your skills level or your genre. If a group makes you uncomfortable or if feedback doesn't help you improve your writing, leave and find another one. Personally, I like critique groups where the feedback is constructive, thorough and tough.
7. What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)
A lot of advice is good... but not right for that particular story or for that author. Fortunately, I know enough about writing and publishing to judge whether a piece of advice is useful for me.
An interesting piece of advice came from the late David Gemmell (a famous fantasy author). He lived locally, and we sometimes chatted about our writing craft. He read my early fantasy and horror fiction, and recommend I never allow the reader to guess what will happen next. Being able to guess lessens the suspense, he said, even if the guess turns out to be wrong.
That was useful advice, and I've applied it to my writing. I'm not using it for everything I write. With short horror stories, I sometimes do the opposite: I create suspense by letting the reader know in advance what will happen but keeping them wondering how. But for my novels, David's advice has been invaluable. Readers praise the constant plot twists and turns in Storm Dancer. I wish David were alive and could read it.
8. Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I do both at different stages of the progress. To start with, I free-write, exploring ideas, letting my creativity flow without censoring the output, and see where it leads me. At the next stage, I look at it critically and decide how to structure and shape it to create the greatest impact. I alternate between the creative flow and the structured approach, and this leads to strong results.
My early fiction attempts, before I understood the dynamics of plot structure and character arc, were pure seat-of-the pants writing. When I look back at them now, I see that they were boring drivel and went on and on.
For a while, I tried the strict-planning approach. The resulting stories had neither passion nor soul. So now I mix the two, switching between them all the time, and this works well for me.
Storm Dancer changed a lot during the process, and I rewrote it several times. When I started, I created Dahoud as a standard swashbuckling hero. I had almost finished the novel when he confessed that he was possessed by a demon. Of course, this changed everything, and I had to rewrite the whole book. During the rewrite, his personality changed, so I had to start yet again. It took several rewrites before I realised just how dark his past was and what a terrible secret he carries inside him, what drove him and what he needed to do to atone.
9. If you were a casting director for the film version of your book, who would play your lead roles?
Several fans have told me they would like to see the actor Joe Manganiello in the role of the dark hero Dahoud.
10. Anything else you might want to add?
Storm Dancer isn't for everyone. It contains disturbing situations, and some readers find it's too dark for their taste. You may want to try it for yourself to see if it's your kind of book. I've posted the first six chapters here: http://sites.google.com/site/stormdancernovel/storm-dancer-free-sample-pages
Demon-possessed siege commander, Dahoud, atones for his atrocities by hiding his identity and protecting women from war's violence - but can he shield the woman he loves from the evil inside him?
Principled weather magician, Merida, brings rain to a parched desert land. When her magical dance rouses more than storms, she needs to overcome her scruples to escape from danger.
Thrust together, Dahoud and Merida must fight for freedom and survival. But how can they trust each other, when hatred and betrayal burn in their hearts?
'Storm Dancer' is a dark epic fantasy. British spellings. Caution: this book contains some violence and disturbing situations. Not recommended for under-16s.
Even in the shade of the graffiti-carved olive tree, the air sang with heat. Dahoud listened to the hum of voices in the tavern garden, the murmured gossip about royals and rebels. If patrons noticed him, they would only see a young clerk sitting among the lord-satrap's followers, a harmless bureaucrat. Dahoud planned to stay harmless.
The tavern bustled with women - whiteseers hanging about in the hope of earning a copper, traders celebrating deals, bellydancers clinking finger cymbals - women who neither backed away from him nor screamed.
The youngest of the entertainers wound her way between the benches towards their table, the tassels on her slender hips bouncing, the rows of copper rings on her sash tinkling with every snaky twist. Since she seemed nervous, as if it was her first show, he sent her an encouraging smile. Ignoring him, she shimmied to Lord Govan.
The djinn slithered inside Dahoud, stirring a stream of fury, whipping his blood into a hot storm. Would she dare to disregard the Black Besieger? What lesson would he teach to punish her insolence?
Dahoud stared past her sweat-glistening torso, the urge to subdue her washing over him in a boiling wave. For three years, he had battled against the djinn's temptations. To indulge in fantasies would batter his defences and breach his resistance. He focused on the flavours on his tongue, the tart citron juice and the sage-spiced mutton, on the tender texture of the meat.
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Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes, The World-Loss Diet and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).
She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.
Twitter https://twitter.com/RayneHall (Twitter is my most active social network)
Independent Author Network http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/rayne-hall.html
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