Today we're starting something new on the Monstrosity blog. Instead of just me and my thoughts, I'm going to introduce to you other awesome speculative fiction writers. After a little Q&A, I'm asking my spotlight authors to give you a little glimpse into their work with a sneak peek at one of their novels, so be sure to check that out at the end!
I am crazy excited to introduce you to our first author -- Jaimie Engle is an impressive force of an author, and a fellow beachside resident here on Florida's Space Coast!
Tell us about yourself:
Thanks for having me on your blog, Emily! I am a trivia-playing, dog-loving, family-oriented
author, editor, speaker, and writing coach. I love all things science fiction and fantasy, host my own podcast, and love creating crazy videos and educational videos on YouTube and Snapchat. I guess in a nutshell, I love being creative. Whether it’s writing a book or helping an author to
market by turning their book covers into jewelry (seriously, check it out on YouTube!), I just love the creative process.
Where did your inspiration to write Dreadlands start?
It actually started as a story I wrote in high school that I never finished. I was going through my Word files and I came across it. There was this family living in a desolate place in a snowstorm, a boy and his little sister who he loved more than life itself, a missing father, a nervous mother, and the creepiest grandmother in the world. All I had figured out was that somehow, the grandmother had supernatural powers and that if the father didn’t return home before the full moon rose, he would never make it home. From here, I decided I wanted to retell the classic monsters in a historical setting, namely Viking era Canada. Dreadlands has my version of werewolves, called ferine, who rise with the full moon and hunt each month. Well, in this world, they are suddenly breaking free of their bonds to the Dreadlands without lunar assistance, and main character Arud is sent away to a estranged uncle with his little sister. It’s all about family secrets, blood sacrifice, love, and redemption, told in an epic fantasy adventure.
What was the hardest thing bout writing Dreadlands?
This book was actually so easy for me to get out. I think the hardest part was the editing process, because I am so tedious and dedicated to my system when it comes to editing. I utilized The Emotional Thesaurus to really get some different visuals for the reader and I recorded each chapter, played it back, and edited some more. In the end, it was well worth it, as I couldn’t be happier with the story or the reviews.
Writer’s block: How do you beat it?
I try to juggle a new project, editing a current project, and marketing a published project at all times, that way writer’s block is harder to come by or at least I have somewhere else to turn when it strikes. I find that just thinking about my story while I’m walking my dog or doing dishes helps me to work through the process. I constantly watch movies and shows or read books to see how other stories are similar and different to my own. Somehow this can even inspire a twist in my book to beat writer’s block. Other times, I have stopped writing and simply outlined the remainder of the book. As a pantser, I generally have an idea where I’m headed, and get started as soon as I feel inspired. Writer’s block sometimes means I have some outlining to do during the writing process.
Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?
My favorite authors are Matthew J. Kirby, Suzanne Collins, and Orson Scott Card. I’ve met Matt and Orson, and hope one day to meet Suzanne. What I love about them are their characters and worlds. All with the fantastic in mind, Kirby writes beautiful historical books for middle graders with thought provoking narrative. Collins builds these immense story structures with rules that don’t break and tormented characters that must face their fears. Katniss Everdeen is a beautiful depiction of this in her constant inner turmoil of doing what she must verses what’s right and choosing constantly between those she loves while putting everyone else in danger. Card, much in the same way, builds these story worlds and characters that are so real I swear they must exist somewhere. Ender Wiggins, from Ender’s Game, is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. He is so dedicated to not becoming his greatest fear, that he ultimately is his own self- fulfilling prophecy. It was the coolest thing in the world to sit with Card and discuss Ender in person. Card is a true storyteller, something I strive to be with each novel I write.
What do you absolutely need in order to write?
Coffee….more coffee…spiral notebooks…pencils…lots of pencils…Pandora station on Hans Zimmer, John Williams or Danny Elfman radio.
What do you love outside of writing and reading?
My family, first and foremost. Playing trivia (I’m a total knowledge nerd). Church is super important and God plays a major role in my life. Trying new stuff, like super silly videos on YouTube where I play this old granny character named Dolores. Podcasting. Live music. And nature. I really love being outdoors.
Thank you again for having me on your blog!
FROM THE BOOK:
After twenty minutes, the bedroom door flung open. Vinter flew into the room, her skin layered in a fine sweat. “Hurry, Arud.”
He looked up. “What’s the matter?”
“Your grandmother is coming soon. You must leave before she can prevent it.”
Arud quickened his pace, tossing the rest of his and Lykke’s clothes into their bags.
“What’s happening?” Lykke asked, rubbing her eyes. Noticing Arud packing, she added, “Where’s Arud going?”
Vinter knelt beside the cot, brushing a strand of curls behind Lykke’s ear.
“You and Arud are going on a journey.”
Lykke yawned. “A journey?”
Lykke reached for her mother’s hand. “Are you coming with us?”
Vinter shook her head. “No, lovell. I am waiting for your father. But when he returns, we will meet you and Arud in Vithalia City.”
Lykke’s face lit up. “The city?”
“It is beautiful beyond your wildest imaginations. You will have so much to occupy your time, you’ll hardly notice my absence.”
Arud strapped the first bag closed, then handed a clean slip and dress to his sister. Lykke lifted her nightgown over her head and changed into an ankle- length linen slip. “Of course I will notice.” She raised her arms for Vinter to put on her dress. “When will you be coming?”
Vinter slid Lykke’s shoulder straps into place, attaching a bronze brooch to each side. “I will come with your father once he arrives home.”
Lykke’s face turned down. “But what if he doesn’t come?”
Vinter’s eyes faltered, but then her mouth curled into a smile as she reworked the already placed brooches. “Of course he will come.”
“It isn’t your job to worry about Father,” Arud said. “Now, finish getting dressed.”
“Here.” Vinter unhitched the beaded necklace from around her neck. “Take this.”
Lykke traced her finger across the smooth glass and amber beads, twirling them to scatter the light. She looked up. “But Father made this for you. I’ve never seen you without it.”
Vinter took the necklace and clasped it around Lykke’s neck. “Yes, and I will expect it returned when we meet again.” She grinned and Lykke smiled back.
Arud dropped a bag at Lykke’s feet. “Lift this. Is it too heavy?”
She picked up the sheepskin bag then shook her head. “No. It’s fine.”
“Good. Strap on your boots.”
Vinter stood. “Arud, bring your bag with you into the kitchen.”
She left the room and he followed, leaving Lykke to finish getting ready. His stomach wrung in knots. Any moment his grandmother could appear, and nothing good would come from it.
Vinter removed herbs from a row of tins descending in height beneath the kitchen window. Meticulously and with practiced hands, she measured the herbs by sight, combined them, and placed the blend into a small decorated tin. “This is the mix for Lykke’s tonic. You’ll need her to drink it once before you reach the city.”
Arud placed the tin into his bag. “How will I know when?”
Vinter packed dried meat and vegetables into various sized drawstring
pouches, along with loaves of dark bread, hard cheese, and dried fruit. She passed them to Arud, along with two sheep bladder waterskins. “When you see Lykke’s symptoms surface, prepare her tonic. The fever precedes the rage. Any abnormalities in her body or behavior indicate her sickness is flaring, and you must give her the tea at once. Do not wait long after she shows these signs, or it could be too late.”
“What if I have no way to make a fire? Or no water to boil? What if I—”
Vinter placed her hands on Arud’s shoulders. He stood nearly a foot taller than her, with a lean build like his father; broad shoulders to carry heavy loads, long legs and arms with muscles defined by many years working in the fields.
“You will do fine, my love. And your father and I will see you soon.”
Arud stared into her blue eyes, trying to decide if what Vinter said was true.
“The animal you saw in the woods, the one that stole your kill, you are certain it was a ferine?”
He nodded. “Yes, but I don’t want to believe it.”
“Nor do I. Something strange is happening to the creatures. Somehow, they have managed to crawl without the full moon. I hope you will remember that as you travel.”
“Do you know the way to the city?”
“I’ve heard from Father,” Arud said, attaching his rolled blanket to the base of his pack. “The Tess Woods cover the realm from the Outlands to the Scynnthe Valley. The Thiannes River courses through the realm to the Labrador Sea where Vithalia City lies. I know my way to the river. Beyond that…I don’t know the way.”
Vinter gleamed, her head turned ever so slightly to the side. “I’m glad to hear that you have minded your father’s words. At the river’s bend where the bank lies the widest, you will wade through the shallow water to the Scynnthe Valley. Two mountain chains tower at the valley’s edge. The Torngats wind toward the Great Expanse, long and wide, but the pass is full of hidden dangers. The Sindri-Urd Range is jagged and steep, and although its pass leads more directly to the city gates, it is less frequented. Many find they are not able to survive the climb. But don’t worry. Each will eventually lead to Vithalia City. When you arrive, you will know which pass to take. Do you understand?”
“No. I do not understand. Why would you send Lykke and me away when there are ferine hunting in daylight? How could that ever be a solution I would understand?”
“Are you questioning my decision?”
“I am questioning your sanity.”
Vinter turned her focus back to the work of her hands. Arud’s heart pounded as his anger fed him courage. “What would Father say?”
Vinter slammed her hands on the counter. “Your Father would not question me. If he were here, he would be the one telling you to go. It is not always necessary for you to know the details, Arud. You and Lykke are no longer safe here. You will take her to Vithalia City and make haste. Do you understand?”
“As much as I am able.”
“Good. When the time comes, everything will be clear. But now you must leave.” She called out toward the bedroom. “Lykke?”
Lykke appeared in the doorway, wearing a black travel cloak. Blonde curls popped out from the bottom of a tan handkerchief drawn in a knot at the nape of her neck. “Is it time to go?”
“Yes. And quickly.”
Arud followed his mother to the door. Lykke walked with him, hand in hand. “I still don’t understand why we are going without you,” Lykke said.
“I’ve already told you. I am waiting for your father.”
Vinter scanned the yard before leaving the threshold, scampering quickly to the edge of the surrounding woods. Arud stayed close to her heels and Lykke pattered in hurried steps to keep pace. The grass bent beneath their boots. Arud watched as a flock of geese headed south across the clear blue sky. When they reached the woods, Vinter turned.
Lykke’s lower lip trembled. “Must we go?”
Vinter bent low, taking Lykke into her arms. “It isn’t safe here anymore. I have kept you in the Outlands too long.”
Lykke wrapped her stiff body around her mother’s waist.
“Then come with us,” Arud pleaded. “If it isn’t safe here.”
Vinter brushed the backs of her fingers down his cheek. “I cannot leave without knowing your father is safe.” She shook her head. “But you and Lykke must. That ferine will return for you at the next full moon. They seldom change their minds once they have found a scent they desire.” She grasped Arud’s hand with her cold palm. “That ferine won’t stop looking for you until you are caught.”