Thursday, December 19, 2013

Another Hot New Release from Twilight Times Books - Dragon Fire - by Dina von Lowenkraft

[When the Mad Muncle heard about Dina's debut YA fantasy, Dragon Fire, he couldn't wait to tell the world. That day has finally come. Not only does he get to share the goods, but Ms. von Lowenkraft has graciously provided a bit of world building wisdom. Enjoy.]

Dragon Fire

Some choices are hard to live with.
But some choices will kill you.

When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to the pulsing energy that surrounds him. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June.

Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, that could cost them both their lives, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.

Born in the US, Dina has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt – and still thinks the two are connected. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children, three horses and a cat.

Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth... after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.

Excerpt (Chapter One):

In the Arctic winter, the sun never rises.
In the Arctic summer, the sun never sets.
In the Arctic, the world is at your feet.


 Chapter 1
The Circle Tightens

The candle flickered in the subzero wind but Anna made no move to protect it. She stopped on the hill in front of Tromso’s three-year high school and watched the water of the fjord shimmer below. Even though it was mid-afternoon there was no sun, just the luminous reflection of the moon. The procession of students continued on without her, leaving only the fading sound of crunching snow in their wake.

“You seem as eager to go to Fritjof’s memorial vigil as I am,” June said, startling Anna with her sudden appearance.

Anna fingered the oval piece of bright orange coral that she had carried around like a talisman since she was a child. She usually kept it in her pocket, but today she wanted to feel its soothing energy closer and had it in her glove. She had never liked Fritjof, and even though she wasn’t glad he had died, she wouldn’t miss him.

She turned to face June whose cobalt blue eyes were at odds with her otherwise Asian features. June and her boyfriend had also been out on the mountain when the avalanche claimed Fritjof. “I’m glad it’s not yours too,” Anna said. “I’d really miss you.”

“It would take more than an avalanche to kill me,” June said, trying to smile. But Anna could feel her friend’s pain lurking under the surface.

“Hey.” She wrapped an arm around June to comfort her. But as soon as her hand touched June’s shoulder, a burst of energy exploded from her stone. Anna ripped off her glove and the piece of coral went flying. “What the—”

June spun around, pushing Anna behind her as if to protect her from an attack. She scanned the area, her body tensed for a fight.

“Who are you looking for?” Anna pressed her palm to dull the pain as she glanced around the deserted hilltop. “Whatever it was, it came from my stone.”

June relaxed her stance. “Are you okay?”

“I think so.” Anna gestured towards the coral-colored sparks that crackled in the darkness of the Norwegian winter. “What do you think it’s doing?”

“Don’t know.” June crouched down to get a better look. Her hand hovered as a bright green light flashed around the stone.

“Don’t touch it,” Anna said sharply. Her stone had always had a special energy, but never coral-colored sparks. Or green flashes of light.

“It’s okay now.” June pulled her hand back. “Look for yourself.”

Anna knelt next to June. The stone was dark and lifeless and she felt a sudden pang of loss. She prodded it gingerly with her good hand, but felt nothing. She picked it up. It was just a pretty bit of coral. The gentle pulsing energy that she had liked so much was gone.

“Can I see it?” June asked.

Anna nodded, her throat constricted. The stone had always reminded her of her father. Its energy was something he would have been able to feel too. The only other person she had met so far who was open to that kind of thing was June. Everyone else got freaked out, or thought she was crazy. So she had learned not to talk about it.

June closed her fist around the stone. “Where did you get this?” Her voice wavered.

Anna’s attention flicked back to June. She never wavered. “I found it in the mountains. Years ago. Why? What is it?”

“A trigger.”

“A trigger for what?”

June returned Anna’s searching look. “I have no idea.” She handed the stone back.

“So how do you know it’s a trigger?”

“I just feel it.” June picked up the candles that lay forgotten in the snow. “If you’re okay, we should go.”

Anna picked up her discarded glove and froze. In the middle of her left palm was a star-shaped scar. She stretched her hand to get a better look. It was about the size of a dime. She touched it. Like an echo under the fading pain, she could feel the energy of her stone pulsing faintly in her palm.

“Here,” June said, offering Anna a candle. She stopped mid-motion. “What is it?”

“I don’t know. The stone…” She held out her palm. “Look.”

June dropped the candles and took Anna’s hand in hers. Gently, she ran her fingers over the slightly raised ridges of the scar. “A Firemark,” June said as if talking to herself. “But how…?”

“What’s a Firemark?” Anna examined the scar. It was almost silvery in the moonlight.

June looked up, her fingers still on Anna’s palm. “It’s like a living connection between two people. But… there was only the stone.”

“It always felt alive,” Anna said. She touched the Firemark one last time before putting her glove back on. It was warm and smooth.

June shook her head. “But even if it felt alive, it shouldn’t have left a Firemark.”

Anna shrugged. “Maybe. But I like it.” Anna closed her hand around the Firemark. It felt like she was holding her stone. She smiled. She’d never lose it now.

June re-lit the candles again and handed one to Anna. “Ready?”

Anna hooked her arm through June’s. “I think so.” They walked silently through town and across the bridge that straddled the green-black fjord.

“Do you think it’s over?” Anna eyed the Arctic Cathedral that sprawled like slabs of a fallen glacier on the other side of the fjord. It was lit up like a temple of light.

June shook her head. “It’s only just begun.”

            “That’s enough.” Khotan’s voice snapped like a whip across the barren land of Ngari in western Tibet. “You’re not going to kill her. I will.”

[Hooked? You can read more at Twilight Times Books.]

Guest Post - World Building

I have always loved world building - and, as most kids do, I did it constantly, whether playing with my friends in the trees or building homes for my stuffed animals. What we were all doing, without thinking about it, was creating a setting for our story. No story can happen without characters, and no character can come to life in a void. They need a setting. The setting is the structure in which the characters will evolve and the story will unfold. It shapes how the characters view the world and how they react. Whether done consciously or unconsciously, the world we create as writers informs the story problem and its themes.

One of the exciting things about world building is that you can create your world starting from any point, be it the physical realm, the society, the character or the story problem. But no matter where you start, at some point you have to decide how your main character and his/her story problem fit into the larger world he/she lives in. It is this interplay between the character and his/her world that will help give a story the depth, and coherence, necessary to engage readers and create a vibrant world that will live on in their minds well beyond the end of the book.

Although it is easy to see details of world building when reading about Middle Earth or Starships, a contemporary novel set in a small town also has a distinct world that the author has created – either by constructing a fictional setting or by choosing which parts of a real setting to include or to omit.

A world is a complex system of interdependent threads ranging from the physical to the metaphysical and covering everything in between. Geography, population, government, history, ethics and religion are just a few examples. The clearer you are about the impact of each thread on your characters and story arc, the more depth your world will have and the more alive it will feel.

A river that floods, such as the Nile, can be seen as destructive or life-giving or both – but it can’t be ignored. No matter how it is perceived, the river’s cycle will affect how the civilization that it nourishes develops. Climate and local resources influence everything from clothing to fighting techniques to societal structure and religious beliefs.

Just as in our world, the way fictional characters perceive the world around them is shaped by the culture they grew up in, their past experiences and their own ideas of right and wrong. This in turn will affect how each character can evolve over the course of the story.

For example, in The Game of Thrones, Dany wouldn’t be who she is, or where she is, without the past events that pushed her and her brother into exile. Of course, what she chose to do afterwards was based on her own experiences and understanding of the world around her and the potential she had within herself.

All worlds, even ones with magic, have limitations – and limitations are often a great starting point for introducing problems and increasing tension. And tension, especially when it is innate to your world’s structure and your character’s personal view of the world, is what makes a book something a reader can’t put down.

What are your thoughts on world building? What do you usually create first, the world, the characters, the story problem? I’d love to hear from you!

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