Suit Up for Ralene Burke’s Armor of Aletheia

K.A.:
Ralene, welcome! Thanks for stopping by to give us a tour of the world featured in Armor of Aletheia. Tell us about the story that takes place there.

Ralene :
Armor of Aletheia is a YA fantasy that can be enjoyed by all audiences, but it is targeted at people striving to find their place in this world, their calling.

Ralene :
The death of her king changes Karina’s life forever. Fleeing the royal house, she must leave her life behind to seek out the Armor of the Creator—to save the very people who now hunt her.

Faramos, the evil warlock waiting to unleash hell, knows the Creator has already chosen his warrior, so he sends his bounty hunter to retrieve her. After Tristan abducts her, he witnesses Karina’s gentle nature and strong independence, and he finds he can’t complete his assignment.

Together, they set out to retrieve the armor and defeat the hordes of creatures sent to destroy them. But is Tristan’s heart secure as he faces certain death for defending the queen? And will Karina have the courage to become all the Creator intends her to be? Failure will condemn the world to eternal darkness.

You can find Armor of Aletheia on Amazon!

K.A.:
Karina’s got an intense battle ahead of her—saving those hunting her and fighting to keep the world from eternal darkness. What’s her world like? Hopefully, the weather’s at least nice.

Ralene:
The Sacred Armor trilogy takes place on an island world of the Three Kingdoms: Aletheia, Soter, and Tzedek. The first book takes place (mostly) in Aletheia, a snowy kingdom where warmth is found in the heart because it’s definitely not outside!

K.A.:
Oh, that’s cold! Seriously, I’m shivering just imagining Aletheia. Lol.

Ralene:
The Western Mountains take up about a third of the kingdom with their almost uninhabitable mountains which are too steep and rocky. To the east, you find Shadowed Forest, the only place you’ll find any green in Aletheia—but that’s only in the spring/summer. Along the southern edge of the mountains, the Barrens—a desert-like tundra stretches across the kingdom.

In the center of the kingdom is a large lake that is iced over year-round, called the Ice Plains. The capital city of Calliope rests between the Western Mountains and the Ice Plains, with snow-covered roads leading to the Northern Sea and Shadowed Forest.

Aletheia (inspiration)
Aletheia (inspiration)

Ralene:
The people of Aletheia are a kind people, always on the lookout for their neighbors, having taken the cue from their noble king. While there are still classes that separate the nobles from the peasants, the differences are not felt as deeply as in the other kingdoms. The king, his family, and the nobles go out of their way to make life better in the kingdom, just as the Creator has asked of them.

K.A.:
Sounds like peaceful place to live. In terms of history and day-to-day living, how does Aletheia compare to our world?

Ralene:
Aletheia is a medieval fantasy, and much of the world is set similar to our medieval times. The main character, Karina, is a healer, and you see her working with herbs and using traditional medical supplies from the time period. The capital city is set up like some of the traditional smaller cities as well.

Of course, the world has none of our actual history. And there are fantastical creatures, magic, and the physical manifestations of the Armor of God in this world!

(inspiration)
(inspiration)

K.A.:
Tell us more about these fantastic creatures.

Ralene:
While you’ll find some traditional creatures like dragons in Aletheia, I’ve created some unique fantasy creatures for this world. Lupens resemble muscular werewolves but do not change or anything like that. Aqlaqs are giant albino ferrets that live underground and have a special taste for human flesh.

There is a race of elves in this book, but they only live on one island, off the cost of Tzedek. They are trained and chosen to be Guardians throughout the world. Guardians are charged with caring for a specific area of land. For instance, in Aletheia, you meet 3 guardians: Rashka, Guardian of Shadowed Forest; Asharan, Guardian of the Northern Plains of Tzedek; and Brusho, former Guardian of the Barrens.

K.A.:
Flesh-eating ferrets and intense, high-stakes conflicts…what inspired you to write this story? Where did the idea for Aletheia come from?

Ralene:
Like the story itself, the world came to me during a prayer. I wanted to write a story centered around a snowy-white kingdom (I love winter!—well, most of the time.) where I could showcase the beauty and the warmth of curling up with a good book. I love looking at photos of snow-covered mountains and—well, snow-covered anything. LOL. I also like seeing evidence of spring pushing its way through the snow.

K.A.:
I love snow too. It’s one of the things I miss about living in Minnesota. What influences and research went into building your story world?

Ralene:
I remember reading a few other fantasy books to see how they handled winter seasons or winter-like realms. I also spent time researching medieval life during the winter, but also just in general. I know I had to find out what kind of medical supplies they used!

Most of my research was done on the fly. I tend to research only when I run into something I don’t already know. Hmmm…Karina needs to stitch up this soldier, what kind of thread would she use? Time to Google! (Note: It’s not usually thread.)

K.A.:
Google’s an incredible resource, especially when it’s a topic that can’t be drawn from personal experience—like medieval life during winter!

K.A.:
Armor of Aletheia is available on Amazon in both ebook and print.

Ralene:
Thank you for letting me hang out today. Have a great weekend!

K.A.:
The pleasure was all mine, Ralene. It was good to have you here. And thank you for giving us an inside look into the Armor of Aletheia!


About Ralene Burke

Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a social media wand, or a freelance editor’s sword, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone #SHINEBeyond their circumstances! Her novels, Bellanok and Armor of Aletheia, are available on Amazon. More fantasy novels coming soon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all-around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . . You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or at her website.


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Venture to Randall Allen Dunn’s The Island of Myste

K.A.:
Randall, I’m glad your here. I’ve just started reading The Island of Myste, and the story pulled me in right from the first page. But this is a series, right?

Randall:   
This is a middle-grade fantasy trilogy called The Island of Myste.

K.A.:
Would you give us an overview of each book?

Randall:
She went searching for her birth mother and found another world…from which no one can escape.

In book one, Yumiko Corr never knew her birth mother. She loves her adoptive parents, but she can’t help wondering who she really is and where she belongs. While searching for her mother in Tokyo, Yumiko and her parents are swept into another world, where nothing exists but an enormous island. An island filled with mythological creatures that aren’t supposed to be real.

But the island is ruled by a spoiled boy, King Rodney, who has taken control of the creatures through some strange magic. He refuses to let anyone leave, including Yumiko and her parents!

Can Yumiko find a way off the island and back home, for herself and the other imprisoned creatures?

Discover your destiny.

Book Two

Trapped in another world on an island filled with mythological creatures, Yumiko and her adoptive parents struggle to survive. Lost in the jungle, Yumiko must find her father and free her mother from the spoiled boy-king, Rodney, who rules the island by powerful illusions.

But first she must teach the Nephilim tribes to forgive the most hated and barbaric of their scattered tribes: the murderous giant Roc known as Kun!

And the only way to do that is to throw herself at his mercy.

Face your fear.

Book Three

Yumiko Corr and her adoptive parents are ready to escape the island of Myste, along with any Nephilim tribes who choose to join them. To free Yumiko’s mother from the spoiled boy-king Rodney and his powerful illusions, they’ll have to work together. But some of the Nephilim still don’t trust one another.

Their rescue plans depend on the entire Nephilim tribe. If Yumiko can’t convince them to forgive one another, they’ll never escape King Rodney’s castle, let alone the island.

Can the Nephilim learn to forgive and be forgiven, in time to escape before the Vortex closes and imprisons them all forever?

Find your freedom.

K.A.:
A dangerous and exciting destiny for a young girl and her adoptive parents. I love that your story features an adoptive family dynamic. My husband’s adopted, so that’s part of what intrigued me about your series.
Tell us more about your story world and the Nephilim.

Randall:
Myste is the only island of an alternate world, which exists as a prison for the Nephilim, who are like the living creatures described in the Bible. They are various mythological creatures like centaurs, minotaurs, mermaids, fairies, and gargoyles, who were created to serve and guide humankind. Instead, they rebelled and attacked humans after seeing their depravity, and so the Nephilim were banished to this inescapable world.

Learn more about the real Nephilim in the Bible on ZondervanAcademic.com.

Randall:
The island is the size of a small continent, with a rocky shoreline shaped like a clawed talon, where Yumiko and her parents first enter it. There’s more to the island than what is explored in this trilogy, which mostly shows jungles and beach shorelines. There’s also a small mountain area called the Roc Cliffs, which house the nesting grounds of the giant Rocs, gigantic predatory birds that are at war with all of the other Nephilim.

Randall:
Further inland, there is a large clearing within the jungle where a courtyard and castle have been built for King Rodney, the English boy tyrant who rules the Nephilim with an iron fist. He stole magic powers to create illusion, by drinking from the Pool of Dreams that belongs to the Meral (mermaids). He can now make the Nephilim do anything he wants, and he has imprisoned a Meral to serve him and keep his power flowing. His castle contains a throne room, lower dungeon, and outer courtyard with various toys belonging to King Rodney.

Randall:
Farther away is the vast jungle of the Centauri Forest, where the Centauri continue to hide and rest from their ongoing fight against King Rodney. Within the Centauri Forest is the Valley of Mist, a small pit full of green mist that the Centauri leader strolls into, whenever he needs guidance. It’s like a place of solitary prayer for him, and the sensations from the green mist always bring him peace and wisdom to make decisions. Once while he was in the mist, he received a prophecy that a child would one day lead all of the Nephilim to freedom, to restore them to their former positions of honor. When Rodney landed on the island, Aramad and the other Nephilim assumed he was the Child of Prophecy. Later, when they realized they were wrong, most of the Nephilim became so bitter that they doubted that the prophecy would be fulfilled, if it was ever a prophecy at all.

Randall:
Near the shore is Nephilim Bay, a valley where many of the Nephilim gather to relax, away from King Rodney’s imposing castle and his oppressive rule.

And beneath the ocean is the distant home of the Meral, but I can’t tell you anything more about that. Not yet, anyway. (wink!)

K.A.:
I understand. Discovering secrets is part of the fun of reading. :)
How is the island of Myste similar to our world?

Randall:
Myste is something like the Garden of Eden after the Fall. Everything is fairly primitive with open landscapes of mountains and valleys and jungles, with little advancement in technology. And it’s full of these unusual creatures who were thought to be mythological, the way Eden would have been filled with various animals that humans could have communicated with, the way Adam and Eve communicated with the serpent.

It’s like our world in terms of the characters and their personalities, dealing with war, politics, art, and other parts of daily life. The difference is in their physical nature, as a mermaid or Centaur or giant Roc. But even in that, I tried to consider what each creature’s purpose would be, as one of God’s creations, and what they might be like, having those abilities and purpose. The Nephilim are basically just like us, if we were mermaids or Centaurs.

K.A.:
Wow! If the Nephilim are like us, then what makes them unique and how is the island different from our world?

Randall:
All of the Nephilim speak their own language, but humans understand it as though it’s their own language. This is because the Nephilim were created by the Keeper to serve humans, so humans perceive all of the Nephilim’s words clearly. One character, a Pharai (fairy) named Zip, even talks in slang that the humans interpret for its meaning, so she says things like “dude!” and “bummer!”

Also, there are swirls of green mist that cover the island, always swirling at people’s feet.

K.A.:
Where did the idea for this series begin?

Randall:
I originally wrote it for my niece, Emily. When she was in grade school, she told her teacher, “My uncle is a very great writer.” I was so touched because I didn’t even have anything published back then. But I felt awful because she was giving me such praise while I was writing action thrillers for adults, and I didn’t have anything she could actually read. So I interviewed her to find out what books she loved and why. She told me about Harry Potter and other fantasy books, so I decided to write a fantasy. That was years ago. Emily is now married and starting a family, but I dedicated the book to her and also to my own adopted kids, as something they can connect with. The idea finally came together for me when I was listening to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne on audiotape, while driving home from work. I needed something unique and intriguing for my fantasy world but I couldn’t come up with anything that wasn’t already being done. Then I thought, “That’s it! I’ll use a sea theme. With palm trees and sea creatures and mermaids. And I’ll set it on a faraway island, like in classic adventure stories!” So I set it on an island, but I didn’t go much farther with my sea creatures idea than the mermaids, once I started rolling. But the isolation of an island works great for the story. Back when Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island were written, being stranded on an island was like being stranded on Mars, with no hope for escape or rescue. So that built into the plot and the theme, the feeling of being completely abandoned.

K.A.:
What influences or research went into building your story world?

Randall: 
I heavily researched Star Trek: the Original Series and the 1980’s Flash Gordon cartoon.

Yeah, I’m not kidding. Those were my main sources.

I had trouble at first with creating this fantasy world of various creatures, because I had several tribes to work with, and each one had to be unique but also have individual characters within them. But I had learned that the original Star Trek series based its alien races on specific cultures, such as basing the Klingons on Soviet Russians during the Cold War. So I applied the same technique. The Centauri (Centaurs) are like a proud and noble Arabic tribe, very fierce and very focused on achieving noble purposes. The giant Rocs are based on Soviet Russians, very proud and full of false bravado but also very passionate and focused on honor and dignity. The Meral (mermaids) are based on the French, passionate about art and things of beauty, and about nurturing relationships. Each group acts a little differently, like separate families with their own values and goals, and their own unique way of speaking and acting. It was really fun to make them all different, once the Star Trek helped me figure out how to do it.

I also drew inspiration from Flash Gordon, because The Island of Myste is a lot like Flash Gordon for kids. All of the various tribes maintain a sort of Cold War with one another, few of them trusting one another. I borrowed a line from the Flash Gordon cartoon where the alien races say, “Each man stands alone on Mongo”, to show how the Myste tribes are divided. And I used it for some ideas on a couple of action scenes.

Myste is also ruled by a tyrannical dictator who’s very similar to Ming the Merciless, except that King Rodney is a boy. I borrowed an idea from the Flash Gordon movie, when Flash says Ming is a psycho. I have Yumiko call King Rodney a psycho, too, but follow it with what I thought Flash should have done, telling King Rodney that “psycho” meant something good. Which turns out really funny in The Island of Myste.

K.A.:
So many influences and sounds like tons of research. You really put a lot into this book. Any other interesting details you can share with us?

Randall:
I used a lot of symbolism for the main characters within the Nephilim. Aramad’s name and personality are derived from the first man, Adam. As the leader of all the Nephilim tribes, Aramad feels the most responsibility and the most shame for their imprisonment. He feels as if he alone is to blame for their punishment, the same way that Adam brought sin into the world. Aramad wants nothing more than to see all of the Nephilim set free.

Lura is like Eve, serene and motherly, full of nurturing affection. While Eve was deceived by the serpent, Lura was imprisoned for using her beauty to deceive and destroy humans, and now she deeply regrets all the harm she caused.

Kun, the leader of the giant Rocs, is patterned after Cain, the first murderer. As one of the great Nephilim leaders, Aramad and Lura see him as a prodigal son, who turned against the Nephilim and began killing them. Like Cain, Kun was ultimately exiled from the tribes for his crimes.

K.A.:
The Island of Myste is available on Amazon in both ebook and print. Or you can view the whole series (and Randall’s other books) by visiting his Amazon author page.

K.A.:
Randall, thanks so much for sharing all these great insights into theThe Island of  Myste series. I’m looking forward to reading more.


About Randall Allen Dunn

Despite 900 years of Jedi training, Randall Allen Dunn was rejected as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts. He later used his Lunar gifts to become a volunteer Watcher guiding future writers and Vampire Slayers, until the Sorting Hat placed him in the YA ThrillerWriter faction. He now writes action thrillers that read like blockbuster movies, packed with action, adventure, and infinite possibility.

You can contact him by using the Force or by email: Randall@RandallAllenDunn.com

Connect with Randall through his website, or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.


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Enchanted by Laurie Lucking’s Common

K.A.:
Laurie Lucking, the author of the lovely fantasy adventure Common, is here to give us an inside look into the world building featured in the story. Also, yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Common‘s release date!

Happy Book Birthday, Laurie, and thanks for coming on the blog. For those who aren’t familiar with Common, tell us a bit about it.

Laurie:   
Only one person knows of the plot against the royal family and cares enough to try to stop it—the servant girl they banished.

Leah spends her days scrubbing floors, polishing silver, and meekly curtsying to nobility. Nothing distinguishes her from the other commoners serving at the palace, except her red hair.

And her secret friendship with Rafe, the Crown Prince of Imperia.

But Leah’s safe, ordinary world begins to splinter. Rafe’s parents announce his betrothal to a foreign princess, and she unearths a plot to overthrow the royal family. When she reports it without proof, her life shatters completely when the queen banishes her for treason.

Harbored by an unusual group of nuns, Leah must secure Rafe’s safety before it’s too late. But her quest reveals a villain far more sinister than an ambitious nobleman with his eye on the throne.

Can a common maidservant summon the courage to fight for her dearest friend?

Laurie:
Common is a young adult fantasy story recommended for pre-teens, teens, and adults who enjoy fairy tales with happily-ever-afters. :)

K.A.:
I love that the heroine is a maidservant. What sort of places will we travel to in the story?

Laurie:
Most of the story takes place at the royal palace of Imperia, Dorendyn Castle, which is a large structure with white marble, tall windows, wide arches, and beautiful gardens. When my protagonist, Leah, is forced to travel to Trellich later in the book, she finds the mountainous landscape to be beautiful but desolate. Glonsel Palace, the home of the Trellan royal family, is a much darker building encased by a wall and topped with pointed turrets.

K.A.:
Castles, gardens, and mountains–sounds beautiful. How are Imperia and Trellich different from our world?

Laurie:
On the surface, Imperia and Trellich don’t look too different from a historical version of our world. The plants and landscape have some slight variations, but overall I think most of us would feel like we’d been transported back in time rather than to a fantasy world. But the differences show up during the course of the story – dark magic exists in these countries, though the sorcerers have been driven into hiding. Also hidden away in seclusion are women who can fight that dark magic with a power of their own derived from the Luminate.

K.A.:
The nuns–those women hidden away in seclusion–they were some of my favorite characters. What inspired you to write about nuns with mystical powers?

Laurie:
As for the nuns, I knew a sorcerer would be involved in the plot against the royal family, and I needed someone who would be powerful enough to fight against him. But I wanted their power source to come from God. I’ve always enjoyed studying the saints, and there was a particular group of saints called mystics who lived in seclusion to achieve a greater union with God. At the height of such union, they might receive a vision or revelation. Using my creative license as a fantasy writer, I took the idea one step further and made the mystics in my story capable of calling on their amplified union with God to perform mighty deeds in His name, thus creating sorcerer-fighting nuns!

Learn more about the real-world inspiration of the mystics on MysticsoftheChurch.com.

K.A.:
I never knew there were a group of saints known as mystics. That’s awesome! So what makes Common‘s world unique?

Laurie:
The most unique aspects of the world of Common come from its history and customs. Imperia and Trellich have long been at odds with each other, making for a tense relationship between the royal families and a tightly-guarded border. The Gravedigger’s Bounty, an illness that spread quickly through Trellich and caused Imperia to close its borders completely for a time, only put further strain on their relations. While the royalty of each country have the opportunity to take pleasure in many lavish banquets and parties, the servants of Imperia look forward to the Peasantry Festival each year, when they’re allowed to take a day off to peruse food and goods vendors and enjoy music and dancing.


Peasantry Festival (inspiration)

K.A.:
Every story world starts with an idea. What idea inspired the story of Common?

Laurie: 
My world was really inspired by the story itself – as my story grew, the characters’ world developed around them. I love fairy tales, so I immediately pictured my story taking place in world with a quintessential fairy tale feel. And back in college I had the opportunity to spend a semester in England, so my travels there definitely inspired a lot of how I pictured the landscape and castles in Common.

K.A.:
It sounds like you did a lot of research in writing this story. I know you have plans for a second book in this series, but can you share with us some of the research that went into this book?

Laurie:
Most of my research involved historical details about carriages, clothing, building materials, etc. Since Leah embarks on a fair amount of travel during the latter portion of the book, I looked into how much ground can reasonably be covered in a day on foot, on horseback, and via carriage. I also did some research into the mystics of the early Christian church, since they were my inspiration for the unusual group of nuns that provide shelter and aid to Leah. I wish I could say more, but…spoilers! :)

K.A.:
I understand. Definitely, don’t want to spoil the story for anyone else. :)

Grab a copy of Common at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Kobo, or iTunes.

K.A.:
I’m so glad you stopped by to talk about Common and the wonderful influences that went into building your fairy tale world. Thanks, Laurie!


About Laurie Lucking

An avid reader practically since birth, Laurie Lucking discovered her passion for writing after leaving her career as an attorney to become a stay-at-home mom. When she gets a break from playing superheroes and driving windup cars, she writes young adult fantasy with a strong thread of fairy tale romance. Her debut novel, Common, won third place in the Christian Women Reader’s Club Literary Lighthouse Awards, and her short story, “Threshold,” was published in a Fellowship of Fantasy anthology titled Mythical Doorways. Laurie is the Secretary of her local ACFW chapter and a co-founder of Lands Uncharted, a blog for fans of clean young adult fantasy and science fiction. A Midwestern girl through and through, she currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and two young sons. Find out more by visiting www.laurielucking.com.

Connect with Laurie through her website, or follow her on Facebook and Instagram. You can also find her on Lands Uncharted talking about books and the business of being an author.


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View the full schedule here. ***