Check This Out: Chasing Bedlam

Return to the Shattered States
for a tale of love between a woman & her jeep!

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger

Lloyd and Cassidy’s last adventure was to honor a life. This time they are out to end one.

It was a normal, violent mission to Texas that should have had nothing more than beer-induced hiccups. That is until an old enemy makes off with Cassidy’s jeep and most of their gear. Needless to say, she’s pissed off and challenging Lloyd for the psychopath of the month award. With the mouthy serial killer by her side, she is going on the warpath from Dallas to Miami even if it means declaring war on the drug cartels.

So strap in for another wild ride through the Shattered States and learn why you never mess with Cassidy’s jeep.

Available on Amazon for 99 cents!

Want a taste?

“So your boss thought she could send assassins to kill the Riflemen,” the black-haired leader says, earning a cheer from his men. A firm smack to the prisoner’s head silences her gurgling attempt to deny the charge. “Nothing you say can prevent the inevitable. Don’t go thinking that pet serial killer will save you either. The idiot brought a paintball gun to Texas and thought he’d win a gunfight? I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did. All we need to do is find the body and we can collect the bounty on him too. Guess you’re lucky that he’s wanted dead and you’re wanted alive by that warden up north.”

“I’d be careful, boss,” a sword-wielding gang member warns. She leans away from the angry glare, but rolls up her sleeve to reveal a sloppily stitched wound. “While this one isn’t as tough as her reputation says, she can still hit hard. Lost two men before we restrained her and three more are nursing broken balls. Maybe we should use some of our tranquilizer stash and keep her sedated.”

“No reason for th-” Top Hog begins as he runs his hand across the prisoner’s forehead. He rubs his fingers at the sensation of something sticky between his fingers and looks closer to figure out what he has touched. “This scar is fake. Made from glue or something. Are you sure this is Cassidy?”

“She was with Lloyd Tenay at the bar,” a one-eyed man replies in a shaky voice. He shifts from one foot to the other when everyone else takes a step away from him. “You told us to look for him and a blonde woman. She had the denim jacket, the forehead scar, cursed a lot, carried two pistols, and even has the correct tramp stamp. Everyone was calling her Cassidy after she drove up in the blue jeep too. We made sure that everything checked out, boss. Even bribed the bartender and two waitresses.”

Sweat beading on his face, Top Hog draws his large gun and presses it to the prisoner’s temple. He leans around her, his eyes repeatedly darting toward her hands to make sure they are still bound. Lifting her white shirt, he sees the unique tattoo that the widespread stories mention Cassidy getting a little less than a year ago. The design is two pistols back to back with vines of bone curling around and binding them together. A strange discoloration catches the gang leader’s attention and he rubs his thumb along the woman’s side, pushing his weapon harder against her head to prevent wiggling. He swears that he feels a seam, so he gets a dirty fingernail beneath what turns out to be a flesh-colored sticker. Top Hog yanks it off and shows it to his men, the prisoner biting her lower lip to avoid screaming. He can already see that the tattoo is smeared from where he has touched it with his meaty fingers.

Enraged and embarrassed, the gang leader is about to kill the fake Cassidy when he hears distant rock music. Within seconds, he realizes that the source is getting closer and is soon joined by maniacal laughter coming over a crackling megaphone. With a snap of his fingers, Top Hog orders one of his men to take the prisoner to his office while the others run for the exit. Nobody gets very far before a blue jeep, which has been outfitted with a wide battering ram, smashes through the front of the warehouse. The vehicle leaves a gaping hole in the wall, which is made worse by hooked chains on the rear bumper that catch and tear more of the obstacle down. The jeep continues at full speed through crates, shelving units, and the slower gang members whose deaths are celebrated by honks of the horn. Tires screech as the driver hits the brakes and gets the car to spin, the move appearing to have no purpose beyond making those inside dizzy. With an embarrassing thud, the vehicle hits the back wall and hisses to a stop.

The gang have already drawn their weapons and are cautiously approaching the jeep when the sunroof opens. Bullets fly at the blonde figure that leaps out, the projectiles creating so many holes that the top half of their target falls off. The legs of the cardboard cutout are casually tossed to the floor before the shriek of a megaphone makes everyone cringe and cover their ears. With the tattered remains laying face up, the frustrated criminals realize that they have destroyed another Cassidy decoy. They are about to inch closer when the jeep briefly roars to life and a man inside begins making engine noises. The sounds change to the exaggerated screams and detailed begging of those whose parts are still stuck to the scuffed battering ram.

“So that was your plan, Cassidy?” Top Hog asks with a chuckle. He turns to see their prisoner is trying to roll away and fires his gun into the air to stop her. “Two decoys, so that you could get the drop on us. Guess you thought more of us would get run over. You still have thirteen of my crew standing and you’re cornered in that jeep. Now, the only question is if I send a piece of you back to the Duchess as a message that she should stay out of my business. Damn northerner needs to stay out of Texas’s business.”

“Actually, that young woman was the bait and I was the distraction,” Lloyd announces from inside. With a gleeful laugh, he opens one of the doors and yanks it back when the gang shoots at him. “Well shit. That was my favorite power window button. Anyway, people make that mistake all the time. You see, bait draws you in and, at least here, allows the real predators to follow you back to the previously hidden hideout. Not even a sign to help us out, which is very rude and unaccommodating. Now, the distraction’s job is to keep you looking in one direction while a mischievous maiden of mayhem prepares her new toy somewhere else. Don’t bother running, boys, because she’ll take that as an insult.”

Top Hog and his men turn toward the hole in the wall, which has exposed them to the large parking lot. The sun forces them to squint at the lone figure standing behind a loaded mini-gun, the weapon glinting in the midday light. Clouds move across the sky, which makes it easier for the gang to identify the denim jacket and blonde hair of their enemy. They take a few shots at the distant woman, but their bullets either miss completely or bounce off several riot shields that are strapped to the weapon. A slamming car door causes them to jump, but they turn in the wrong direction and are unable to stop Lloyd from racing toward the prisoner. Wearing orange pants from his time as a prisoner and a red shirt with a lightning bolt, the black-haired serial killer seems like an obvious target as he scoops up the young woman and dives behind a box of grenades. Suddenly afraid for their lives, Top Hog and his men attempt to scatter and hunt for cover.

“I hate moving targets,” Cassidy growls.

And don’t forget how it all started in
CROSSING BEDLAM!
Also on sale for 99 cents!

charles

About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Check This Out: The Spirit Well

Return to Windemere in THE SPIRIT WELL!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Born from the light and darkness, Dariana can no longer avoid her fate.

The final corrupted temple stands between the champions and Baron Kernaghan having their great battle. Only one problem: the Compass Key refuses to work with Dariana, who long ago wiped all memories of the Spirit Well from her mind. Now, they are forced to follow a trail of clues that Dariana’s former self left behind centuries ago. It is a path that will lead the champions into a part of their friend’s past that could tear them all apart.

Will the bonds of friendship be stronger than the call of blood?

Grab it on Amazon!

Add it to your Goodreads ‘To Read’ List!

Excerpt: I’m Sorry . . . Again

“I’m sorry, but I told you that my powers make the Compass Key argumentative when it comes to the Spirit Well,” Dariana sheepishly explains while rubbing her clear ring. She smiles when Fizzle lands on her head, the drite’s cool tail running down her spine. “This is very scary for me. None of the champions have made it to this temple, much less the final battle with my father. It’s hard to take in after this destiny being my entire life for so long. I used to always dream of how I would handle my temple, but things are different now that it’s no longer a distant dream. What if I make a mistake and get someone killed?”

“We trust you, my friend, and know that you will not fail,” Timoran whispers as he slides the Compass Key across the table. He is confused when the relic sparks at her touch and gets pushed back into his hand. “That is fairly disheartening. If you cannot use the Compass Key then there is no way to find this Spirit Well. Perhaps it does not like your physical touch and will respond to your telepathy. I wonder why the gods would create this obstacle.”

“It’s possible that we did this,” Delvin suggests while using one of his enchanted rings to create a delicious cup of coffee. He gestures for the barbarian to throw the relic over to him, but the red-haired barbarian refuses. “You’re right, Timoran. Probably not a good idea to toss something like that around. Anyway, we had the Compass Key warded against agents of the Baron. They aren’t able to see it, which means they can’t find or use it. The decision made sense at the time, but things are different now. Maybe our spell has a small effect on Dariana. Not saying you’re working with the Baron, but there could be enough of an aural touch to cause this problem. Do you think we should cancel the spells, Nyx?”

The channeler heats up a cup of tea, which she sips at while considering the possibility of her magic being the issue. “They should stay because I don’t think they’re the problem. Dariana said this has happened before, which means the gods made a mistake. Sorry for how that came out. Gabriel, who better not get angry at this conversation, created the Compass Key first and then turned Dariana into a champion. He couldn’t fix the problem thanks to the Law of Influence, so it’s remained all this time. Though he had to have created something to help us move on.”

“Maybe we have to find Isaiah and he’ll lead the way,” Sari says from the couch. Flipping to her feet, she joins her friends and immediately takes a strawberry off Luke’s plate. “He hasn’t been much help since the first temple, so one has to wonder what his purpose is. I doubt we need his protection any more, which means he has to have another role to play. What do you think, Dari?”

The telepath rubs her temples while scanning the city for a sign of the fireskin, part of her praying he is not nearby. Dariana finds evidence that Isaiah has been spying on them until recently, but the caster is long gone. She considers tracking the faint trail and goes as far as the outer wall, which is where the psychic tracks make an odd leap into the sky. The strain of following Isaiah any further makes Dariana pull back and return to find that everyone is staring at her again. Realizing that she can no longer delay the inevitable, she gets out of her chair and kneels to her friends. Fizzle is still clinging to her head, which makes the apologetic bow both amusing and awkward.

“I know I say this a lot, but I really am sorry, my friends,” Dariana states while keeping her forehead pressed to the stone floor. She looks up at the sound of rustling feet and is surprised to see that everyone is approaching her. “Long ago, I managed to avoid being put back to sleep long enough to track down the Spirit Well. My curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to know where my path would meet its end. I was still forced to wipe my memory of the location, but I do know that I left a map behind. There are a few clues that I buried in my subconscious where even I could not dislodge them after erasing the original discovery. More may come to me as we get closer, but all I know now is that we should go to Rodillen. I was hoping the Compass Key would work and we could avoid this extra journey.”

“Like our luck would be that good,” Nyx mutters while she helps Dariana stand.

Need to catch Legends of Windemere from the beginning? Then click on the covers below!

You can start for FREE . . .

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Or grab the $4.99 ‘3 in 1’ bundles!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen 3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

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Also Available in Single eBooks:

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Interested in a new adventure? Then grab your Kindle & dive back into the world of Windemere! Don’t forget an apple for Fizzle.

Author PhotoAbout the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

[L. Marie here. I plan to give away a copy of The Spirit Well to a commenter. The winner will be announced toward the end of the week.]

Guest Post: Chosen for Greatness

Whoowee! I can relax in this here comfy chair, since Charles Yallowitz is guest posting today. Please take it away, Charles, while I have something cool to drink and put my feet up.

Comfy Chair

Thank you to L. Marie for helping to promote the first book of my fantasy series, Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Hero. It’s been out since 2013, but I’ve made it permanently free to help get people into the series. All of that is beside the point since I’m here to talk about the Chosen One trope. You know that character destined to destroy an evil villain and has everything handed to him? Well, that’s the lazy way to do it. Let me explain how I did it and use poor Luke Callindor as an example. He’s the half-elven warrior you see on the cover and he’s not nearly as shiny these days.

Authors who use the Chosen One template have to be careful and avoid the trap that has people hating this thing. That trap is having the hero destined to DEFEAT the obstacle. For example, Harry Potter was destined to defeat Voldemort. There is no ambiguity there. His path is to win the fight no matter what. Chosen Ones of this school worked way back when, because people didn’t want their heroes to lose. Times have changed and people don’t always want the victory to be handed to the Chosen One.

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In Legends of Windemere, six champions have been crafted by the Destiny God to face an ancient evil. Not win, but merely face the villain. The god admits that he can only lead them to the final battle and the victory is entirely in their hands. There isn’t even a promise that they will get there in one piece or all of them will survive. In fact, it’s mentioned that the heroes will reach the final battle “in some form” and one of them has to die. So here you have multiple Chosen Ones continuing on with the knowledge that one of them doesn’t have a future beyond the big battle. That’s if they win anyway.

This addition makes the Chosen One trope more like a curse, which is how it should be from some perspectives. Luke Callindor starts the series as a young warrior looking for his first adventure. He takes beatings, nearly dies multiple times, and has his ego brutalized all in the first book. This is before he learns that he is destined for greatness. When that happens, things get even worse for him. Powerful creatures are out to kill and torture him and terrifying powers are offered to him. A Chosen One really shouldn’t step into the role and carry on like it’s a natural thing. They’re simply humans with a great story to tell and a big target on their backsides. Luke has doubts, fears, and comes close to breaking so often that a few readers have dubbed him weak. They haven’t even seen the worst that happens to him.

I think we forget the downside to being hoisted above the crowd when we read or write about Chosen Ones. Those characters are exposed and targeted because the villains always know they’re coming. Loved ones are in danger and those who aren’t chosen may become resentful enough to turn into enemies. There is no flexibility of path and they can’t think too much about the future since they are a pre-written story to some extent. All of this can create some level of anguish or distance for the character. Without that, the heroes are empty and can come off as arrogant.

matrix-bestSo, should the Chosen One trope be retired? No, because it isn’t really any different than being born with natural talent. I’ve met artists like that and it isn’t always pretty. Instead, maybe authors should make it less of an honor and more of a Sword of Damocles. Personally, I don’t think a Chosen One should reach the end of the road without baggage, scars, and being less shiny than they were at the beginning. For example, quality of movies aside, Neo in The Matrix lost a lot before he came to the end. That’s what I’m hoping to do with my champions if they win the final battle. The survivors will not be getting away clean and become symbols that being a Chosen One isn’t as great as one would think.

Hero Cover FinalCover art by Jason Pedersen

Links
Legends of Windemere
Twitter
Facebook

Grab Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Hero for Free!

New Charles Author Photo Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. Legends of Windemere is his first series, but it certainly won’t be his last.

Harry Potter and Voldemort from blog.wordnik.com.
Beginnings of a Hero cover courtesy of the author. Keanu Reeves as Neo from 21stcenturywire.com. Target on back from peacebringer7.wordpress.com. Comfy Chair Shopkins figure photo by L. Marie.

Guest Post: When a Hero Returns Home

slateToday, I’m turning over the floor to a familiar face around here and the blogosphere—the awe-inspiring Charles Yallowitz. Take it away, Charles!

Thank you to L. Marie for hosting this exciting and informative blog post. Well, at least I hope this is entertaining, but I can’t guarantee any of those three things.

The newest volume of Legends of Windemere focuses on one of the heroes, Delvin Cunningham, returning to his homeland. He comes from the Yagervan Plains where people live in nomadic tribes, but he was separated from his family at the age of eight. Left adrift on a chunk of ice in the northern ocean, the child crossed into a neighboring kingdom and has never returned until now. So, what is the point of having a hero return to his home?

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Cover by Jason Pedersen

First of all, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this. Legends of Windemere: Allure of the Gypsies involves the heroes visiting Luke Callindor’s hometown. He has been around since the first book and the adventure revealed more about his past. You learn about what drives him to be a hero and what he is running away from. Discovering the origin of a character shows more about them than you would get from seeing only where they are going. It brings an added dimension to their story and makes a character appear more human. After all, most of us have a place in our past that we have to face for good or for bad.

allure-final-cover

Cover by Jason Pedersen

Then there’s Delvin who has almost nothing.

Remember me saying he was separated from his family and never returned? Of course because it was only a paragraph or two ago. Well, this puts him in a position where he is returning to the unknown. This is another version of the hero’s homecoming. Instead of the assurance that loved ones will be there and the area is even remotely familiar, Delvin is practically walking into a foreign land. He remembers his parents and pieces of his culture, but those things could have changed since he’s been away for over a decade. This is a homecoming for a ghost who might as well be an outsider, which changes the dynamic.

The homecoming is no longer about revelation alone, but exploration too. Delvin is seeking his family while wandering a landscape that is practically a faded dream. This creates an emotional distance for the character, which is the opposite of Luke’s close bond to his hometown. Of course there is a desire to reunite, but it comes along with the acknowledgement that rejection or failure are highly likely. This means part of the homecoming for Delvin is about creating a fresh bond that will have an impact on his future and bring a close to his limited past. This can be done in a variety of ways that all depend on the character. If the hero is emotional, then that makes it easy, but a stone-hearted hero would have another hurdle to openly overcome. Yet the homecoming can soften or harden a character.

home-sweet-home-md

When a hero returns to his or her home, it tends to bring their burdens and dangers to their family’s doorstep. This can result in any number of endings, so one has to wonder what the point is. Well, it’s to connect a hero’s past with their present and future. Like humans in the real world, a character should possess these three time periods. They act in the present and look to the future, which are easier compared to having their past appear. The homecoming is possibly the easiest way to bridge the gap. You can even give the hero another goal if the bad guys make an appearance. Other uses are having the hero claim a local relic, gaining a family heirloom, or getting extra training like in several animes.

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Animes like this one

The usage and reasons are only as limited as the author’s imagination.

Check out the results of Delvin’s homecoming in
LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE: THE MERCENARY PRINCE
And visit me at
LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE
@cyallowitz

New Charles Author PhotoCharles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. Legends of Windemere is his first series, but it certainly won’t be his last.

Thanks, Charles! Now to announce the winner of The Mercenary Prince. That person is Penny O’Neill! Congrats, Penny! Please comment below to confirm.

Louie the Rune Soldier image from nnm.me. Home signs from oocities.org and clker.com.

Check This Out: The Mercenary Prince

Now on Amazon for $2.99!
LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE:
THE MERCENARY PRINCE

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Delvin Cunningham has left the champions.

Lost to his tribe in the Yagervan Plains, fear and shame have kept the former Mercenary Prince away from his homeland. With his confidence crumbling, he has decided to return and bring closure to his past. Reuniting with his old friends, Delvin’s timing could not be worse as a deadly campaign is brewing within Yagervan’s borders. Dawn Fangs are on the march and these powerful vampires are determined to turn the entire region into a graveyard.

To protect his family, friends, and two homelands, Delvin will have to push his doubt away and become the cunning Mercenary Prince once again.

Art by Jason Pedersen

Art by Jason Pedersen

Please feel free to put this on your ‘To Read’ list on Goodreads by clicking below:

The Mercenary Prince on Goodreads!

Excerpt from The Mercenary Prince

With the hint of a smirk, Selenia quickens her pace and unleashes a barrage of blows on her former student. Each strike and stab is deflected by the sweat-covered champion, his speed increasing to match her every time. At one point, the half-elf leaps forward and is struck in her stomach by his shield, which forces her to flip over his head. The headmistress lands in a crouch and whirls around to block the counterattack, the point of Delvin’s sword gently running along the leather patch over her stomach. Realizing that he is still holding back, Selenia bats his next attack away and delivers a painful kick to his exposed side. The blow knocks him against the fountain and he comes dangerously close to falling into the water.

While rubbing his bruised side, Delvin circles the headmistress who turns to continue facing him. He makes a few feints that she refuses to acknowledge because they are clumsy and pathetically amateurish. The gathered students and teachers shout for more action, all of them believing the brown-haired warrior to be afraid of the legendary woman. None of them realize that his circles have been getting tighter and his fake attacks have caused Selenia to misjudge his distance. It is something she realizes when Delvin makes a quick swing for her hip and their weapons strike closer to their hilts than she expects. The moment the half-elf steps back to gain some space, her former student pushes forward with precise strikes that mirror the onslaught she previously unleashed. Without a shield, the headmistress finds it more difficult to block every attack and has to twist her body away from several attacks. The movements prevent her from throwing a kick or punch, which would probably hit the shield that he has yet to include in his advance.

Selenia eventually catches Delvin’s blade and slides her weapon along its edge to step within his swinging range. The pair push against each other, their muscles straining to gain the upper hand. Every time one of them is about to gain ground, their opponent shifts enough to continue the frustrating stalemate. With a grunt of exertion, Delvin moves his shield in front of the headmistress’s face and blocks her view. Knowing she is expecting him to push forward, the warrior falls onto his back and lets the surprised half-elf’s momentum slam her face into the wooden disc. The back of his head bounces off the ground as he flicks his wrist to deliver an extra shot to Selenia’s chin. She rolls away from him to recover her senses, but Delvin scrambles to keep her in reach and continue his attack as they stand.

“You actually hit me,” Selenia states when she notices that her nose is bleeding. She ducks under her opponent’s swing and aims her hilt for his stomach, the blow only grazing his shirt. “I think you’ve achieved two firsts for this academy, Delvin. Nobody has ever drawn my blood or made me dizzy during a match.”

Want to Dive into the Adventure from the Beginning?

Find all of these exciting adventures by visiting the Amazon Author Page of Charles E. Yallowitz.

So charge up your Kindle and end 2015 with an adventure full of action, humor, old friends, new enemies, grudge matches, tears, ale, and vampires.

I’m giving away a copy of The Mercenary Prince to a commenter! Winner to be announced on January 4, 2016.

author-photoAbout the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: Legends of Windemere
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Check This Out: Heading North

Here on the blog today is the awesome Andy Murray. You probably know him from his blog, City Jackdaw. We started blogging in the same year, each reading the other’s fledgling efforts. So I’m thrilled that we’re here today to not only say happy birthday to him but also to celebrate the launch of his poetry collection, Heading North, which was published recently by Nordland Publishing. Woot!

12294646_10153732827966740_3177437019818522964_n  Andy Photo

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El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Andy: 1. I haven’t moved very far from my roots—I live next door to my childhood home [in Manchester, England].

manchester_map2. I have a thing about sharks, courtesy of watching Jaws as a kid.
3. My dreams begin while I am still awake.
4. I almost died from loss of blood after an accident with a vinegar bottle when I was eighteen months old. Imagine a world without City Jackdaw!

El Space: I can’t! 🙂 Please tell us how this poetry collection came about. How did you come up with the theme? What was the time frame for putting the collection together?
Andy: I saw a call by Nordland Publishing, a great new Norway-based publisher, for submissions of fiction and poetry inspired by Scandinavian folklore for an anthology that they were putting together. My story, about a Myling, was accepted and came out this year in The Northlore Series Volume One: Folklore. I was particularly pleased as this was my first published fiction. I also have a poem in it.

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The editor contacted me, enquiring about other work, and we got talking about the possibility of doing a poetry chapbook. Nordland were planning to publish books by different poets in a series under the umbrella of “Songs of the North.” The first book, recently released, is by a great poet named Katie Metcalfe, and I have been given the daunting task of following her.

I came up with the idea of a collection of poetry arranged in a deliberate order, reflecting a journey of both geography and time: from the childhood and youth of summer in the south, to the mortality-facing winter of the north. Hence the title Heading North. I already had some poems that fit this theme, and I wrote some new ones to compliment them. The collection took shape over a period of about six months. The oldest work included in the collection are two poems that were written around twenty years ago, and the newest being a last-minute addition from when I recently went to Sweden, when, it being the furthest north that I have ever been, I thought it too good an opportunity not to write something for the book.

310px-Arrow_North_CFCF.svg   Winter 2

El Space: What’s the genesis of a poem like for you? Do you get an idea and start jotting down words? How much revision is involved?
Andy: Most of the time I “get” a few words or sentences when I am out and about, normally thinking of other things. My antennae must be up. I try to make a note of them, otherwise they become lost. When I was a postman, I used to scribble lines on “while you were out” cards. No wonder the post was always late! Then, when I have a little quiet time, I rewrite those words and take it from there. Normally I write them pretty fast, maybe an hour at the maximum, once I have that initial inspiration. There might be the odd word or line that doesn’t feel right and I will return to it later. I find that, for me, labouring over them doesn’t work. It becomes heavy, while inspiration is light. If I’m struggling, I leave it for another day.

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Sometimes I mess around with words, a bit like how musicians jam on their instruments to come up with a song. While sitting in front of the TV, or listening to music, I write down any old thing that immediately comes into my head, adding lines together, substituting one word for another, until occasionally, something starts to take shape. There are times when the poem takes on a life of its own and runs, becoming by the end something totally different to what it was at the beginning, subject wise.

El Space: What first brought you to poetry? What causes you to stick with poetry?
Andy: In my schooldays I used to write humorous poetry, daft things really. I still have some off these lying around. Being a big Beatles fan, I discovered that John Lennon used to write similar, nonsensical things that were compared to the English poet Edward Lear. I have never read Lear, but knowing that one of my musical idols wrote things in a similar vein to me kind of validated it for me. But I never had any pretensions about it—it was just something that I did for a laugh. In my early twenties I discovered The Doors. Jim Morrison is one of the few rock stars to be taken seriously as a poet, and through him I discovered the likes of Blake and Rimbaud. Everybody points to somebody else! Poetry, fiction, music—they are all part of a family tree.

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I have stuck with poetry because it is how I think, and so it is how I express myself. And of course I love words, and the endlessly possible combination of words.

El Space: What do you consider to be the qualities of a first-rate poem?
Andy: I think this is different for everybody. One man’s meat is another man’s poison: I think that this is especially true of poetry. Music too. Different styles and subjects speak to different people. Sometimes a poem can touch you but you cannot say exactly why. In a similar way, I am not one for explaining the meaning of my own poems. I like people to take from reading a poem what they will, as long as the poem itself is not too obscure.

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El Space: On your blog, you also post a lot of old photographs. How have you united both passions—old photographs and poetry?
Andy: You remember that great, old photograph that has featured on my blog a couple of times: “Mary and her grandfather, Jasper, around 1900”?

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El Space: I do.
Andy: Well in a poem called “Old Town,” there is a woman reading a book by Truman Capote (I had The Grass Harp in mind), and she is using that old photograph as a bookmark. I love old photographs such as this one, although most of the time we never know the names of the people that feature in them, and never know what happened to them after the photo was taken. Did they go on to have good lives? Tragic lives? Were they part of a great love story, or now lie miles away in foreign soil? Are their descendents walking around among us now, unaware of these people and their own beginnings? This absence of resolution both haunts and gets the imagination going.

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El Space: What books or authors inspire you?
Andy: All of them! I am never without a book, or a backlog to work my way through. My wife bought me a Kindle in a last-ditch attempt to consolidate what space is left in our home. My favourite book, like so many other people, has always been To Kill A Mockingbird, since I discovered it in my English Literature class, and these days I am working through many titles from the Penguin Modern Classics range. But I read anything, all genres. Recommend me a book, Linda—I will read it!

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El Space: Let me think about that. 🙂 In the meantime, what advice do you have for people who would like to start writing poetry?
Andy: Do it! Don’t worry about style and subject and comparing yourself to others. Just keep writing and find your own voice. It develops over time. Some of my very early stuff from when I was younger makes me cringe now. You will never see it—I’m burning the evidence.

El Space: Ha ha! What are you working on now?
Andy: Currently I am writing the second draft of a story for the next anthology in the Northlore series. It involves the Scandinavian God Loki being in the trenches in First World War Belgium. After that I am gearing up to attempt a novel-length book of short stories containing recurring characters, based in a fictionalised version of the town that I have grown up in. But that is a big step up for me, in terms of length. Let’s get Christmas out of the way first! And, of course, some poetry.

El Space: Thanks, Andy, for being my guest.
Andy: As a long time reader of your author interviews, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity.

El Space: My pleasure!

Heading North is available from Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes and Noble.com.

I’m giving away a copy of Heading North to a commenter. The winner will be revealed on December 14.

Book covers and author photo courtesy of Andy Murray. Other covers from Goodreads. Manchester map from manchester.university-guides.com. Winter image from natural-hd-wallpapers.blogspot.com. Jim Morrison from pedrocolombo.blogspot.com. John Lennon from veteranstoday.com. Birthday image from sodahead.com. Poetry images from fanpop and msfindlater.blogspot.com. North compass image from en.wikipedia.org.

Every Dad Has His Day: Fiction’s Father Figures

016Here in the U.S., we celebrated Father’s Day on Sunday. (Happy Father’s Day again, Dad! And I hope all of you other dads had a good one too.) Though the day has passed, in honor of Father’s Day, here’s a list of cool dads or surrogate dads in fiction. This list is by no means exhaustive. I don’t have enough room to list every great dad in the history of fiction books, shows, or movies. Most of these are characters of recent vintage. So please do not yell at me for leaving out an era. I wanted to include dads from various media and eras. While they aren’t perfect by any means, they are beloved. To avoid too many spoilers, I listed their names, rather than elaborate on why most of them made this list. Got a favorite? Who would you add to the list?

Sirius Black, Harry Potter’s godfather in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling (played by Gary Oldman in the movies)
Arthur Weasley, father of Ron, Ginny, Fred, George, Percy, Bill, and Charlie in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (played by Mark Williams in the movies)
Atticus Finch, father of Jem (not seen below) and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (played by Gregory Peck in the film)

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Hans Hubermann, surrogate father of Liesel, in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (played by Geoffrey Rush in the film)
Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), father of Margo, Edith, and Agnes in Despicable Me (2010) and Despicable Me 2 (2013). Even a supervillain can grow to love a child.
Eduardo Perez (El Macho) (voiced by Benjamin Bratt), father of Antonio in Despicable Me 2 (2013). He may be a villain, but he loves his son. And have you seen this dude dance? Me gusta mucho.
Tenzin (voiced by J. K. Simmons), father of Jinora, Ikki, Meelo, and Rohan (not seen below) in The Legend of Korra series (2012—2014).

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King Théoden, father of Théodred; uncle and surrogate father of Éomer and Éowyn in The Two Towers and The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien (played by Bernard Hill in the 2002 and 2003 films)
Lawrence Fletcher (voiced by Richard O’Brien), father of Ferb, stepfather of in Candace and Phineas in Phineas and Ferb (2007—2015).
Tonraq (voiced by James Remar), father of Korra in The Legend of Korra series (2012—2014). He certainly wins a prize for being a hot dad. 🙂

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Korra with her parents, Tonraq and Senna

Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz (voiced by Dan Povenmire), father of Vanessa in Phineas and Ferb (2007—2015). Though a villain, he too is a caring dad.
Elrond, father of Elladan, Elrohir, and Arwen in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series by Tolkien
The Great Prince of the Forest (voiced by Fred Shields), surrogate dad of Bambi in Bambi (1942)

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The Abhorsen, father of Sabriel in Sabriel by Garth Nix
Mr. Ping (voiced by James Hong), adoptive father of Po in Kung Fu Panda (2008) and Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Philip Banks (played by James Avery), father of Hilary, Carlton, and Ashley; uncle to Will in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990—1996)

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George Banks (played by Steve Martin), father of Annie in the Father of the Bride (1991)
Iroh (voiced by Mako Iwamatsu and Greg Baldwin), father of Prince Lu Ten, uncle to Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender series (2005—2008)
The Samurai Lord (voiced by Keone Young and Sab Shimono), father of Samurai Jack in Samurai Jack (2001—2004)
Ward Cleaver (played by Hugh Beaumont) father of Theodore/the Beaver and Wally in Leave It to Beaver (1957—1963)
Dr. Eli Vance (voiced by Robert Guillaume), father of Alyx, in the Half-Life games (Valve)
George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), father of Zuzu, Tommy, Pete, and Janie in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Honorable mention goes to Homer Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta), father of Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, and Ned Flanders (Harry Shearer), father of Rod and Todd, in the long-running animated series, The Simpsons (1989— ).

Dads Who Seriously Need Parenting Lessons from the Dads Above
Anakin Skywalker, father of Luke and Leia in the Star Wars movies. An otter can teach this dude a thing or two.
Firelord Ozai, father of Prince Zuko and Princess Azula in Avatar: The Last Airbender series (2005—2008)

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See that burn mark on Zuko (left)? Guess who gave it to him.

King Lear in King Lear by William Shakespeare
King Leck, father of Bitterblue in Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms series. As creepy a dad as ever breathed.
Denethor, father of Boromir (not shown below) and Faramir in The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien (books and movies; in the 2003 movie directed by Peter Jackson, Denethor was played by John Noble)

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Someone is not getting a Father’s Day card. . . .

Mac Dara, father of Cathal, in Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series
Unalaq (voiced by Adrian LaTourelle), father of Desna and Eska in The Legend of Korra series (2012—2014)
Lucius Malfoy, father of Draco in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (played by Jason Isaacs in the films). Though he was a decent enough father to Draco, his unpleasantness and Death Eater status earned him a spot on this list.

If you have a minute, please enjoy this video of an otter who was voted Best Dad.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch found at searchingformymrdarcy.blogspot. Tenzin found on pinterest.com. The Great Prince of the Forest and Bambi found at fanpop.com. Denethor (John Noble) with Faramir (David Wenham) found at councilofelrond.com. Firelord Ozai and Zuko found at avatar.wikia.com. Gru and his daughters from bonclass.blogspot.com. Korra and her parents from w3rkshop.com. James Avery and Will Smith from tuneblaze.co.uk.