Saturday, March 23, 2013

Book Tour: Storm Dancer by Rayne Hall Interview & Excerpt

Reading Addiction Blog Tours

Dark Epic Fantasy
Date Published: 9/9/2011


Demon-possessed siege commander, Dahoud, atones for his atrocities by hiding his identity

and protecting women from war's violence - but can he shield the woman he loves from the evil inside him?

Principled weather magician, Merida, brings rain to a parched desert land. When her magical dance rouses
more than storms, she needs to overcome her scruples to escape from danger.

Thrust together, Dahoud and Merida must fight for freedom and survival. But how can they trust each
other, when hatred and betrayal burn in their hearts?

'Storm Dancer' is a dark epic fantasy. British spellings. Caution: this book contains some violence and
disturbing situations. Not recommended for under-16s.


Even in the shade of the graffiti-carved olive tree, the air sang with heat. Dahoud listened to the hum of voices in the tavern garden, the murmured gossip about royals and rebels. If patrons noticed him, they would only see a young clerk sitting among the lord-satrap's followers, a harmless bureaucrat. Dahoud planned to stay harmless.
The tavern bustled with women - whiteseers hanging about in the hope of earning a copper, traders celebrating deals, bellydancers clinking finger cymbals - women who neither backed away from him nor screamed.
The youngest of the entertainers wound her way between the benches towards their table, the tassels on her slender hips bouncing, the rows of copper rings on her sash tinkling with every snaky twist. Since she seemed nervous, as if it was her first show, he sent her an encouraging smile. Ignoring him, she shimmied to Lord Govan.
The djinn slithered inside Dahoud, stirring a stream of fury, whipping his blood into a hot storm. Would she dare to disregard the Black Besieger? What lesson would he teach to punish her insolence?
 Dahoud stared past her sweat-glistening torso, the urge to subdue her washing over him in a boiling wave. For three years, he had battled against the djinn's temptations. To indulge in fantasies would batter his defences and breach his resistance. He focused on the flavours on his tongue, the tart citron juice and the sage-spiced mutton, on the tender texture of the meat.
Govan clasped the dancer's wrist and drew her close. “Come, honey-flower, let's see your blossoms.”
She tried to pull herself from his grip. Panic painted her face. Against a lesser man's groping, she might defend herself with slaps and screams, but this was the lord-satrap. She was too young to know how to slip out of such a situation, and none of her older colleagues on the far side of the garden noticed her plight. The other clerks at the table laughed.
“My Lord,” Dahoud said. “She doesn't want your attentions.”
“She’s only a bellydancer.” Contempt oiled Govan's voice. Still, he released the girl’s hand, slapped her on the rump, and watched her scurry towards the safety of the musicians. “These performers are advertised as genuine Darrians. I have a mind to have them arrested for fraud. I suspect ...” He ran the tip of his finger along his eating bowl. “They're mere Samilis.”
Dahoud, himself a Samili, refused to react to the jab. Govan was not only satrap of the province, but Dahoud's employer, as well as the father of the lovely Esha.
“Samilis are everywhere these days.” Peering down his nose, Govan swirled the wine in his beaker. “Not that I have anything against Samilis. Given the right kind of education, their race can develop remarkable intelligence, practically equal to that of Quislakis. They can make valuable contributions to society.” He stroked the purple fringe of his armband, insignia of his rank. “Provided they respect their betters.”
The other clerks at the table bobbed their chins in eager agreement.
Dahoud the Black Besieger would not have tolerated taunts from this pompous peacock, but Dahoud the council clerk had to bow. Submission was the price for guarding his secret.
At the entry arch, a short man in the yellow tunic and turban of a royal rider was consulting with the tavern keeper.
“Is that messenger looking for you, my Lord?” Dahoud asked.
Govan shifted into his official pose and summoned the man with a flick of his sandalwood fan. The courier walked on bowed legs as if he still had a mount between his thighs. Conversations halted, glances followed him, and whiteseers peered, anticipating business.
Lord Govan put on his official smile to receive the leather-wrapped parcel.
“Forgive me, my Lord,” the herald said. “The message I carry is for Dahoud, the clerk.”
Govan’s hand pulled back and his smile vanished.
Dahoud's stomach went cold: The Queen or her Consort would not write to an ordinary clerk. After three years of respite, his anonymity was breached. He stripped off the camel-skin wrap and broke the scroll's seal. The ends of the purple ribbon dropped into the mutton sauce.
“The High Lord Kirral, Consort to the Great Luminous Queen, greets Dahoud, council clerk in the satrapy of Idjlara: Present yourself at the palace without delay. The Queendom needs the Black Besieger. K.”
The expansive curves of the signature “K” claimed more space on the parchment than the message.
 In his bowl, the uneaten mutton was going cold, whitish grease separating from the sauce. A large fly drifted belly-up in the liquid, its legs clawing for a hold in the air. The memories of siege warfare wrapped around Dahoud, those sour-sweet odours of fear and faeces, of disease and burning flesh.
At twenty-five, he had a conscience heavier than a brick-carrier’s tray and more curses on his head than a camel had fleas. He had left the legion to cut himself off temptation, to deprive the djinn of fodder. After a siege, rape was legal, a soldier's right, practically expected of him, part of the job. By returning to war, he would forfeit his victories over his craving. The djinn would again be his master.
Yet he ached to wear the general's cloak again, to silence sneering bureaucrats, to make women take notice. He lusted for that power the way a heavy drinker, deprived of his solace, ached for a sip of wine. The yearning to wield a sword ached in his arms, his chest throbbed with the urge to command, and his loins flamed with the dark desire. He felt the panting breaths of women and their hot resisting bodies, smelled the scent of female fright and sweating fury.
“Why is the Consort writing to you?” Govan leant forward to grab the document. “You’re out of your depth with royal matters. I'll read and explain.”
“Why should I want your counsel?” Dahoud tucked the rolled parchment into his belt.
“Don’t get pert, Samili!” Govan barked. “Give me that letter.”
“The Consort summons.” Dahoud rose. “Good afternoon, my Lord. Don't expect me back soon.”
He strode to the exit, his mind reeling like a spindle. Could he deny that he was the Black Besieger? Refuse a royal order? Lead an army without stimulating the djinn?
On a low stone wall near the entrance gate, a row of whiteseers perched like hungry birds. Whiteseers had glimpses of futures others could not even imagine. One of them slid off the wall and sauntered in his direction. A coating of pale clay covered her sharp-boned triangular face and her long hair, and painted black and blue rings adorned her clay-whitened arms.
“Your hands,” she demanded.
“I need to know what will happen if -”
“Give your copper to a soothsayer,” she snapped. “We white ones only give advice. We can see the future; we can see several futures for everyone, but we won’t tell you all we see.”
“Advice is all I want.”
“That’s what they all say. Yet everyone asks for more. I give one piece of advice, the best I can give to help a client. They always demand that I tell them what I see. Well, I won’t.” Nevertheless, she grabbed the copper ring from Dahoud’s fingers and threaded it on her neck-thong. Her tunic smelled of old sweat and mouldy wool.
She grasped his hands to pinch their flesh, her long nails tickling. Her white paint contrasted with Dahoud’s bronze tan. When she felt the pulse and lifted his hand to her face to listen and sniff, he could have sworn he saw her blanch under the white clay as her closed eyes stared into his past. She sagged forward and stayed in a silent slouch.
At last she straightened, her eyes wide, her mouth open, but no words burst forth. So she had seen what he had done, and worse, what he might do once more.
“I assure you, I'll never again...”
“I can’t read if you chatter.” She frowned at his hands. “My advice: Get stronger arms.”
He flexed his biceps, startled. “My arms are strong! I do trickriding, I wrestle, I lift weights.” Every night, Dahoud exercised until his muscles screamed, to block out his cravings and punish his body for its desires.
The seer’s mouth curled with contempt, making more clay crumble. “You’re not listening. I didn't say strong. I said stronger.” She pinched his biceps. “Much stronger.”
“What difference can arm muscles make?”
“I told you to give your copper to a soothsayer.” She ambled off, leaving a cloud of unwashed stink and crumbles of clay.
Dahoud hurried to the stable to ready his horse. He had to persuade the Consort not to send the Black Besieger back to war. 


Note: Answers are in British English. 

1) Where did you get the idea for the novel?
Many ideas clicked together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
I was staying in a ger (yurt) at the edge of the Gobi desert in Mongolia when I the idea struck. It was a vague idea at first - two people who hate each other must become allies to survive, and although they have previously betrayed and harmed each other they must now depend on each other and learn to trust.
Storm Dancer also explores the theme of how we're not responsible for what fate deals us, but we're responsible for how we deal with it.
Further inspiration also came from ancient cultures (especially Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Persians and Hittites), from places where I've lived and travelled in Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.

2) Your title. Who came up with it? Did you ever change your title?
“Storm Dancer” was my idea. The two leads are both storm dancers, in different ways.
Dahoud is a troubled hero with a dark past seeking redemption. In the metaphorical sense, he is dancing in a storm of violence and temptation. 
Merida is a magician who can change the weather by dancing. She's on a mission to bring rain to a land in the grip of drought and starvation. Her dance rouses a violent storm and unleashes the events that of the story.
Storm Dancer was the first title that came to my mind, even before I had written the first chapter. Although I played with several other title ideas - including Dahoud and Djinn of Darkness -  I always reverted to Storm Dancer because it felt right.

3) Why did you pick this genre? What do you like about it?
The great thing about  fantasy is that I can make things up. I love creating whole worlds with their own fauna, flora, society, culture, religion, traditions and laws.  Even magic is real because I say so, and it works the way I decree. I can add demons, dragons and other creatures and bring them to life on the page.
My fantasy often has a dark slant, even when I don't plan to make it so. Storm Dancer started as a straightforward epic fantasy, but halfway through the story I discovered that Dahoud was possessed by a demon. That changed things, and I had to rewrite everything. Then I found out about the atrocities he had committed as a siege commander, and what he needs to do to atone... things got darker and darker.
So now the genre is dark epic fantasy. I like it, because the darkness allows me to delve deep into the human psyche, and to explore ethical dilemmas. It adds excitement and depth.

4) Since becoming a writer, what’s the most exciting thing to ever happen to you?
I love it when I meet new people in a context unrelated to books - at a concert or a college class - and they ask “Are you THE Rayne Hall? Wow! Then you've written Storm Dancer. That's my favourite book!”

5) What book are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?
I'm fast, book-hungry reader, devouring several hundred books every year. Right now, I'm reading The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet, a Shakespeare-inspired historical novel by Myrlin A. Hermes. Most of the books I read are thrillers, non-fiction, fantasy, horror and historical fiction.

6) What is your writing process?
I mix different methods. Sometimes I plan and structure, at other times I let it all pour out onto the page. I enjoy sitting in a quiet coffeeshop, writing with coloured gel-pens into a lined hardback notebook. At home, I work on a laptop.

7) At a book signing, do you just sign your name or do you write a note? How do you come up with stuff to say?
I like to add their name, and the place and date, to make it personal and memorable. “For Rowena. Glastonbury, 16 March 2013.”
These days, I sell mostly ebooks online, and much of my contact with fans is via email or Twitter.

8) What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I used to be a bellydancer, and I was good at it.

9) How do you react to a bad review?
If someone has read the book and taken the time to explain why they don't like it, I'm pleased. Their review helps others to decide whether or not this is the right book for them. For example, if a reviewer says “I didn't like Storm Dancer because it lacks steamy sex scenes” then other readers in search of explicit erotic content will avoid it, and those who prefer fiction without sex will buy Storm Dancer. That's excellent.
If someone reviews a book negatively without reading it (“I don't need to read this book to know it's crap.”) or blasts it because it's in British English (“This writer should learn proper English before publishing a book.”) that can be annoying.
Negative book reviews can also be a source of fun. I've compiled some of the funniest ones here:

10) How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
The sale wasn't one specific occasion, rather, it happened in stages over several months. The most exciting moment was when I received the letter from the publisher, asking if I would be interested in writing a book. I was so thrilled, my heart thudded in my ears and my fingers didn't stop trembling.  Then there was the moment I received the contract, and some days later, signing it. Receiving the galley proofs was thrilling, too... they looked and smelled like a real book! And the first book cover, oh, seeing that gave me a big thrill. Then the author copies arriving in the post, six of them, glossy and pristine... I loved it. Each of those moments was cause for a celebration, a crazy private dance around the room. On the official publication date, I invited friends for a garden party with barbecue and wine.

About the Author:

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include 
Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Historical Tales Vol 1, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories),Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).
She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Twitter: @raynehall
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