by Laurel Anne Hill
In a world where justice is achieved through careful customs of vengeance, Gundack pursues love and the preservation of his honor. But can he break the cycle of vengeance? Can he reach into his personal darkness and find the light of reason?
Desert kren are nomadic beings who believe their customs and mythology show them how to be honorable and thrive. Gundack, a trader and tribal leader, seeks revenge for the murder of his wife Talla in the prescribed manner of his kind. He must fulfill a vow of decreed vengeance against Tarr, the ruthless mountain kren responsible for Talla’s murder, without harming the innocent in the process. Gundack must also complete a pilgrimage to the Mountain of the Dead. Only then may he marry the fair kreness Eutoebi.
Gundack forms an unlikely alliance with the human Rheemar, who searches for a beloved sister stolen by Tarr. Rheemar’s mysterious past holds many secrets, but the human is blinded by loyalties he won’t reveal. Meanwhile, Gundack's hate for Tarr festers. If only Gundack could strike down a kren Tarr loves.
As time grows short and some vows are satisfied, circumstances thrust Gundack into escalating tribal tensions. Only then does he realize that he must confront an ancient kren belief: If vengeance swallows the land, Tharda shall bring a white light to give strength to the least of us, and unbelievers will make heroes arise. But can the least worthy prove themselves to be heroes, and the most worthy at least heroic?
MK: Tell us a little about yourself!
LH: I was born in San Francisco and grew up sharing a two-bedroom, one-toilet rented flat with my parents, siblings and grandparents. These days, some kids complain about not having their own bedroom. I couldn't count on having my own bed. My father drank way too much and alcohol unleashed his abusive side. I retreated into my own fantasy worlds in order to survive.
Now, as a happily-married writer with four grown children and three granddaughters, I still create worlds of fantasy. But I'm not my own "main character" anymore. I find inner peach through the real world around me.
MK: Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?
LH: I've always been a writer. I started writing before I could read. I thought up stories and my older sister wrote down the words. I cut pictures out of magazines and comic books to provide illustrations for my tales.
MK: Is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day?
LH: I'm a former scientist, safety professional and underground storage tank operator. In 2008, I embraced a new full-time career: retirement. I spend my work day writing, promoting my work and trying to make this world a better place. One of my projects in the "better place" category involves increasing people's awareness about the global land mine problem. Thus I geek for good, moderating the Minds Clearing Land Mines WordPress blog.
MK: If you had to sum up Heroes Arise in 30 words or less, what you would say?
LH: Heroes Arise is a parable about honor, love and breaking the cycle of vengeance. It's about reaching into our own personal darkness and finding the light of reason.
MK: What inspired the idea behind your book?
LH: Several times a year I help cook dinner at local homeless shelters. On one such occasion, I sat down to eat with some of the shelter's residents. A woman at the table, a writer, showed me a sample of her dark inner reflections. She'd written the piece to let other homeless people know they weren't alone in their struggles against inner darkness. Her story triggered some of the disturbing memories of my childhood and youth. I decided to write a science fiction/fantasy story about an honorable character who struggles with dark personal desires.
MK: Do you have a favorite character in Heroes Arise? Who and why?
LH: Actually, I have two favorite characters in Heroes Arise. As work on my novel progressed, both characters developed in ways I had not anticipated. I respect Gundack, my kren point-of-view character, for his willingness to accept and mentor Reheemar, a human youth. I also thank him for talking inside of my head so I could write his story. Zydra, a diminutive albino kreness in Gundack's tribe, also has earned my respect. Although she's a minor character with regards to time on the page, her insight and actions in the face of disaster transform her role into one of major significance.
MK: What message do you hope readers take away from Heroes Arise?
LH: Settle quarrels through peaceful means, and sooner rather than later.
MK: What kind of research was involved for Heroes Arise?
LH: The need to design a desert-dwelling, alien species sent me delving through books and articles about photosynthesis and comparative animal physiology. For example, what color should I make kren blood? Not that I planned to include any blood pigment science in my novel. But Gundack would battle his enemy and bleed. I couldn't avoid a color choice.
Red blood with an iron-based pigment--the system humans have--seemed too unimaginative. A copper-based blue pigment would lack the ability to deliver enough oxygen to Gundack's massive frame. I settled on a two-pigment system and made kren blood chestnut.
MK: What do you have in store next for your readers?
LH: In May 2012, two of my short stories in the horror genre were published in anthologies. The collections, Spells and Swashbucklers (Dragon Moon Press) and The Wickeds (Horror Addicts.net), are now available on Amazon. Two more of my short stories are pending publication in anthologies, which scheduled release dates in late 2012. In addition, I'm shopping my completed fantasy novel "Woman of the Light", a spirits-meet-steampunk adventure set in an alternate nineteenth century California.
MK: What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?
LH: Science fiction, fantasy, horror and steampunk offer the writer broad creative latitude. I have a vivid imagination and love to put it to good use.
MK: What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?
LH: Stay close to point-of-view (p.o.v.) characters. Let readers experience story worlds only through what p.o.v. characters perceive. If I'm close to my characters, my readers will be, too. I won't slow down the forward momentum of my stories by including details my characters don't care about.
MK: Is there anything else you'd like to share with your readers today?
LH: I've often claimed that I craft stories with inspirational premises. Worthiness is rewarded. The power of love, honor, faith and duty can surmount daunting obstacles and transform lives. Yet I write some short stories in the horror genre and those tales don't have upbeat endings. How do I reconcile what I claim with what I sometimes do?
First of all, unworthiness has its reward, too, and the prize might not be a pleasant one. Next, achieving worthiness can be a multi-stage process. If a short horror story of mine ends with the p.o.v character in an early stage of worthiness achievement, the outcome may appear bleak.
A Blood Alliance
Gundack glanced back into the darkness. His caravan of drivers and sandship lizards had settled for the night and now only awaited his return at Jular Plateau. He would join them again when he had concluded his business at the merchant encampment before him. Crumbled rocks encountered on the climb down irritated the webbing between his toes. Less bothersome though than the predictions of that soothsayer. A human, not a fellow kren, held vital information, if not his very future. Not a desirable situation. Humans were so unpredictable.
Scant moonlight coated the animal-skin tents at the merchant encampment. A jagged black line marred the sloped roof of one tent, the disfigurement like a claw wound festering with rot. The mental association did not bode well. This was the merchant man’s enclosure. Gundack’s transcendent associations and abilities to read fellow beings had often been the difference between success and failure, life and death. But clicked signals of alarm to his tribal kin would not span the distance between Jular Plain and the caravan. He had traveled too far to let potential danger dissuade him.
Gundack grasped the edge of a weathered hide tent flap, pulled the drape back, and ducked his cowl-covered head and broad torso. He stepped from darkness through the tent’s narrow portal into modest luminance and warmth. His shoulder jiggled an inner hide flap, and the crust on his head scales prickled. Something unusual—an object with power—must have brushed against his hood. He looked up. A braid of gut thread dangled from above. An amulet. If only a talisman’s touch could resolve his pressing matter of the heart.
Laurel Anne Hill
Author and Former Underground Storage Tank Operator
Author and Former Underground Storage Tank Operator
KOMENAR Publishing released Heroes Arise, Laurel Anne Hill's award-winning debut novel, in 2007. Her shorter works of fiction and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of publications, including "The Vengeance Garden" (in Spells and Swashbucklers), "Wings of Revenge" (in The Wickeds), "Grip of Chaos" (in A Bard's Eye View), "The Grave of Mario Bandini" (in Fault Zone), and "Thar Be Magic" (In Rum and Runestones). The fans of HorrorAddicts.net voted Laurel "Most Wicked 2011" for her steampunk/horror podcast, "Flight of Destiny."
Laurel gives creative writing workshops for adults and young adults, and has served as a writing contest judge. She also "geeks for good" by moderating the Minds Clearing Land Mines WordPress blog, a site dedicated to providing information about current land mine clearance technology. Laurel is a member of California Writers Club, Broad Universe, Wicked Women Writers and Women Writing the West. Visit her website and podcast at http://www.laurelannehill.com.
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