Interview: Mysti Parker, Author of The Tallenmere Novels

MystiParkerProfileDab of Darkness welcomes Mysti Parker, author of The Ranger’s Tale, Serenya’s Song, and Hearts in Exile. Mysti was kind enough to subject herself to my nosy and prying questions. Enjoy!

1) In your writings, what makes a complex character an essential part of the story? 

Thanks so much for having me here!

To answer this question, it really boils down to my love for character-driven stories. I love writing and reading stories in which the main characters have several options they can take when faced with a challenge. Should they choose option A as opposed to B, it becomes a whole different story. Remember those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books?

When characters have to make choices, you really get to know them and what makes them tick. They may even make a choice that goes against their beliefs or morals, but the motives behind it add to their complexity. Their faults and hang-ups get in the way too, adding more layers to their personality. For example, Jayden Ravenwing, one of the leading males in my series, has a weakness for women, and sometimes married women.

‘Mary Jane’ (perfect) characters are boring. Give me a character who’s uncertain, unwilling, bitter, scared, or lonely. I want to see imperfection—moments of selfishness, jealousy, rage, and lust—and then you’ve got a complex character who may or may not rise above the challenges. That doubt keeps you reading (and rooting) for them to succeed!

ParkerRanger'sTale2) The Tallenmere series strongly features elves and romance, so I have to ask: Did you read Tolkien and wonder what was going on behind the scenes with the elves? 

YES!! Those elves were just too perfect, don’t you think? Better than everyone at everything, like those perfect soccer moms who attend every PTA meeting with J. Crew sweaters draped over their shoulders and a Starbucks latte in hand. Ahem…

Tolkien’s elves, though I dearly love them (my God, don’t get me started on Orlando Bloom as Legolas *drool*), they were all so whimsical. I just knew they had skeletons hiding in those tidy closets of theirs, so I decided to expose some of those bones once and for all.

In Tallenmere, elves put on a perfect show for the world around them, but as soon as you step inside their private chambers, you’ll see a whole different act. Pure elven women can give birth to a maximum of three children, but if you listen to the gossip, you’ll find out about all the half-siblings there are, many of whom come from Leogard’s nobility. All the elves tend to be xenophobic and intolerant of every other race, even other elven races. Half-elves like Galadin Trudeaux (A Ranger’s Tale) are especially looked down upon.

In reality, elves are just as imperfect as the rest of us, suffering from petty jealousies, inflated egos, self-doubt, and wanton desires. But, I did keep one aspect of Tolkien’s elves: they’re still very good-looking!

3) In writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

ParkerSerenya'sSongThis really depends on the story. Complex villains are best—those who show more than just a 100% evil attitude. They have to have motives for their actions. Not just “I want to take over the world”. Ok, so maybe they do, but why? Did Mom abandon him? Did Dad get drunk and beat everyone in the family? Did one of their siblings steal all the attention?

Take Sebastian Crowe from Serenya’s Song, for instance. At the beginning of the story, readers just hate him, but as the plot unfolds, we start to see a completely different side of him, one that’s much more than just a big, mean brute.

Just like the main characters, I want to make it obvious that the villains have a choice in their actions. Sure, they may have someone in the background driving their evil deeds, but ultimately the choice is still theirs whether to continue on their path of destruction or not. I think just leaving that question in the readers’ minds is best. Give the villains a little bit of heart, some hints that they could do a 180, but keep the readers wondering (and hoping) until the very end.

4) You’re a gamer, so tell us your addictions: Oblivion? Titan Quest? Assassin’s Creed?

Big fan of the Elder Scrolls series. Currently, it’s Skyrim. Before that, it was Oblivion, and before that, Morrowind. Before all of those, it was Everquest & Everquest II. I’ve also had moments of addiction with Zoo Tycoon 1&2, Webkinz, and several others.

5) If I stumbled in to your Super Secret Writer’s Cave, well, you would need better security, but what would I find? 

My son has some sort of Lego construction on my desk. Some papers are strewn on the floor near the printer. There’s a messy book shelf. Make that two. A few instrumental CD’s scattered by the CD player and a too-full bulletin boards covered mostly with children’s art. A coffee cup with a ring of dried coffee in the bottom (better make more while I’m thinking of it). And copious amounts of dust and cat hair. Crap, now I need to clean…be right back!

ParkerHeartsInExile6) In the Great Mighty World of Fiction, what are 5 creatures you would want to avoid and why? 

Flitters: These are native to the Eastwood Mountains of Tallenmere. Butterfly-sized creatures with cute little pixie faces and pretty patterns on their wings. Just don’t look them in the eye for too long, or you’ll wind up in a paralyzing trance, while they shred you to pieces and have you for dinner.

Vampires: Yeah ok, so they’ve become sparkly lovers in recent years, but seriously—what’s so romantic about a guy biting your neck and drinking your blood?

Were-anything: Same here. If a guy can eat me for breakfast should he so choose, I’d rather not sleep next to him. No offense to the Jacob-lovers out there.

Zombies: This should be obvious. All instinct, some are very strong and fast, and always ravenous. And they smell bad, too.

Angry dragons: In Hearts in Exile at least, they’re usually not a threat unless you cross them or they think you’ve crossed them. There’s an old Haddo saying that goes something like this: “Never break a promise to a dragon; ye won’t live long enough to be braggin’.”

7) In passing nuggets of wisdom on to aspiring writers, what are some non-writing, non-reading activities that you would suggest to improve writing? 

Play roleplaying games like Skyrim. They’re like visual novels in themselves, filled with massive worlds and storylines. They can really get your imagination flowing.

Watch movies—not just for the special effects, but for the stories. See how the plot unfolds, how suspense is built, how the characters react to different situations. You’ll catch some brilliant ideas and some not-so-brilliant ones that will teach you both what to do and what not to do in a story.

Also, travel and visit as many places as you can, even if it’s local, like different restaurants, zoos, museums, parks, etc. You’ll gather all kinds of visual and sensory information that could provide new settings and help spice up your stories!

ParkerHeartsOfTomorrowAnthologyThanks again for letting me be Chatty Cathy for a while. These questions were really fun!

Mysti Parker (pseudonym) is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger’s Tale, was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and the second in the fantasy romance series, Serenya’s Song, was published in April 2012. The highly anticipated third book, Hearts in Exile, has already received some great reviews. The Tallenmere series has been likened to Terry Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series, but is probably closer to a spicy cross between Tolkien and Mercedes Lackey.

ParkerChristmasLitesAnthologyMysti’s other writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, and Christmas Lites II. Her flash fiction has appeared on the online magazine EveryDayFiction. She has also served as a class mentor in Writers Village University’s six week free course, F2K

Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specific publication, and is the proud owner of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.

Contact the Author:

Blog: www.mystiparker.blogspot.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mysti-Parker/103786449704221 

Twitter @MystiParker

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4625596.Mysti_Parker


A Ranger’s Tale, Tallenmere #1

Serenya’s Song, Tallenmere #2

Hearts in Exile, Tallenmere #3 Available June 3 @ www.melange-books.com

The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey

Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.

Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.

Why I Read It: It was a teen favorite of mine.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy a strong female lead and a whirlwind adventure.

Publisher: TOR (1993)

Length: 576 pages

Series: The Halfblood Chronicles Book 1

Shana is a half-blood in a world where half-bloods are forbidden, and killed when discovered. Her mother was a human concubine to a powerful Elven lord. Shana was born in the desert to a dying mother who had no use or love for her in the presence of a camouflaged dragon, Alara, who becomes her foster mother. She was born into a world where humans have been enslaved for generations by the invading elves from another world. Their written language, history, and culture have been all but eradicated. The Dragons too are from another world, but have remained in hiding, in secluded colonies out of the way of both humans and elven kind. All three races have individuals with magical abilities. Hence the half-bloods often contain the strongest powers of both parents, and are very dangerous to the ruling elves.

When I was in my teens, I read this book and thought it was one of the best books I had ever read. So when SJ from Snobbery and I teamed up for a read along of it, I was quite thrilled to revisit it. The first half of the book is a very good lead into the world created by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton. We get to ride along as Shana grows up in a dragon colony (why can’t I be that lucky!), as she explores her own magical abilities, and eventually as she learns that the dragon colony may not be for her.

However, then things drastically shift gear for the second half of the book as more and more new characters are introduced and Shana is thrown into ever increasing dangerous situations. In fact, the second half of the book became kind of muddled for me and I am pained to point out these flaws. I really wanted to love this book as much or more so as an adult. I think the major issue for me was that in the first half of the book we have pretty clear story rules about what the dragons could do magically, what the elves could do magically, and what the humans could do magically. Each had their own flavor of magic where certain things were possible and others things impossible. Then individuals within the race had varying strengths. Made sense. But the second half of the book kind of broke all those rules, or threw them out the window….was there a window or did they just smash against the wall and get all mixed together?

I could go on about the lesser flaws, but it’s really unnecessary. One of the weaknesses and greatest strengths of the fantasy genre is that you can literally make anything happen to your story and your characters. However, it is then extra important for fantasy writers to stick to the rules they have created for said story. If you start breaking those rules for plot convenience, then you’re going to loose the strength of your story, and your readers. I am not sure I will continue the series, even though I am itching a bit to see what happens to Shana in further adventures. She was very easy to get attached to, and to stay attached to.

What I Liked: The dragon colonies were real societies with their own cultures; Shana was an adventurous, strong, flawed character; Keman was my knight in shiny scale – the best friend and foster brother Shana could ever hope for; the history of the world with the past strife between humans, elves, and half-bloods gave the story depth.

What I Disliked: Somewhere around the mid point, lots of new characters were introduced; the delineated rules of the first half were tossed out the window in the second half; some characters did major things that were not in character; suddenly Shana is performing feats that no half-blood has successfully pulled off before.

OnceUponATime7Tis the Fantasy Season over at Stainless Steel Droppings, who is hosting the spring reading event Once Upon A Time. This is a celebration of all that is fantasy. Make sure to stop by and check it out.

If you would like more in depth discussion of this book, check out the read along posts:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

The Elvenbane Read Along Part III

Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.

Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.

Hello Everybody – I hope folks have continued to enjoy this book. This week, SJ from Snobbery provided some rocking discussion questions for Chapters 14-18. Make sure to stop by her place and leave a comment.

Shana is taken in among the other halfblood Wizards as an apprentice.  She’s never lived with two-leggers of any variety before this, but seems to have adjusted rather quickly.  Do you think you’d be able to do the same in this situation?

Heck no! My form of adjusting means sticking my nose in a book and sitting in the corner until someone decides to guide me through this new, pesky, foreign situation. Or I need some essentials – like food or the bathroom. I think Shana did so well because she was always something of an oddity and an outsider with the dragons, so she was brought up in a kind of foreign environment.
While she’s wandering through the Citadel, Shana learns more about the first Wizard War than any of the living Wizards have so far.  Why do you think none of the others have bothered to explore?

My overall impression is that the Wizards are somewhat lazy. Yep. I said it out loud. They get really focused on their little projects, and their apprentices tend to their daily needs (food, cleaning, etc.), and they occasionally venture out to the real world to rescue/kidnap a young wizard in danger. They use their mental powers to filch everything they need from the elven lords – they have no gardens, don’t seem to hunt in the normal way, no need to weave cloth, etc. Yep, lazy. Thank goodness Shana is easily bored, perhaps has a touch of ADD and needs to explore.
We found, along with Shana, hidden rooms that were created by a dragon in halfblood form.  Do you think Kalamadea is a dragon we already know?  If so, any idea of his/her identity?

I read this nearly 2 decades ago and I totally forgot the second half of the book. I probably read it all in one sitting, tucked under the covers with a flashlight. I tend to forget stuff easier if I imbibe it too quickly. Anyhoo, nope. I think Kalamadea is dead, having long since squandered his/her life away in the futile attempt to rescue halfbloods, and perhaps humans.
Alara went to visit Father Dragon to ask for advice on how to handle events that have recently happened in the book.  Father Dragon says he thinks it’s a good thing that “the world at large is about to discover their existence,” because the Kin have grown “complacent and fat.”  Were you surprised to hear this from him?  Is he, personally, about to come out of hiding?  What will the repercussions be if the Kin reveal themselves?

I was a bit surprised. I think this is partly due to the shift in pacing of the book. I feel like the first half of the book had some definite plot that was being tackled, and now we have upped the speed of the story and thrown in some things I thought would be answered by the overall series story arc. So, I really thought we wouldn’t have any dragon support (other than Keman and Alara) for this book. I also think the dragons are divided on coming out – and some will fight it until some other source offers them a bigger problem – like the elven showing up at their doorstep to turn them into pretty clothing, drapes, and tea cozies.
Huzzah for finally meeting an elf that is sympathetic to humans/halfbloods!  And even better that he’s the son of that bastard, Dyran!  Were you surprised to learn about Valyn and Shadow’s relationship?  Do you feel like they’re equals, or does Valyn still think of Shadow as his inferior?

Well, I figured there had to be at least a few elves that were softer, if not sympathetic, to humans some where, but I expected them to be isolated and among the lower elven castes – the ones who have more contact with the humans. I was most definitely surprised that Valyn was sympathetic to the cause and hiding his cousin, the halfblood, right under Dyran’s nose! Definitely risky for both Valyn and Shadow to be in such close proximity to Dyran. Valyn is obviously affectionate towards Mero (Shadow), but I am not convinced yet that he sees him as an equal – and it would be hard for him to do so (his learning, upbringing, culture, and the fact that there are no halfbloods in society).
Shana was able to use her “treasure horde” to scry even further and into the mind of a young elf maiden, Sheyrena an Treves.  She even planted a suggestion in the girl’s mind that maybe her “minor” power could be used to do some very big things.  Will anything come of this?  Either with this particular girl, or with the elven women in general?

This is one of those points where I don’t expect to see anything this book, but maybe later in the series. We already have plenty going on, with new characters introduced for the second half of the book. I felt that this particular scene was minor for the immediate plot line – but hopefully will turn into something for the series story arc. It would be nice to have some more strong female characters.
What is going to happen with these rescued magic-having human children?  And is Keman going to be able to pull off the halfblood thing when they return to the Citadel?  Will Shadow and Valyn be welcomed?  WHEN WILL THEY REALIZE THAT VALYN IS SHANA’S HALF-BROTHER?!  Did anyone else “ewwwww” at that?  EW.

1) Uh….Since they are children, I don’t think they will be turned out. But they will have to do endless chores. No Disneyland experience for them.

2) Things are a little blurry for me on this point because I thought the halfblood Wizards could tell there was a shape shifter among them – but maybe Shana is the only one who can do this? I hate to say this, but does anyone else feel like the initial story rules are getting a bit bent?

3) I am very worried about Shadow and Valyn. Shadow is very devoted to Valyn, so if he is harmed, Shadow could end up harmed or dead in his defense. Still, I am not sure how they would disguise a full elven lord as I think the Wizards have tests/defenses for that.

4) Argh! The whole half-sibling thing with Shana’s infatuation! So not right. I hope there is some conversation that reveals their familial connection and that puts a squash on it before something truly awkward happens!

Other Tidbits:

Shana was a total show off with that large ungulate (deer or elk? i forget.) for her share of the goods for the week. But it was a but inconsiderate to leave it in her Master’s quarters. Large dead animals are heavy and hard to move. Plus they usually loose bowel control. Would have been much better to have it down to the butcher’s right away. The animal can’t simply lie around in private quarters for a few hours – bloat sets in and the meat begins to spoil. tsk, tsk…..

What Others Thought:

Snobbery

Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers

The Elvenbane Read Along Part I

Yes, Smudge does want to bite me.

Yes, Smudge does want to bite me.

Welcome everyone to The Elvenbane read along. Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton were favorite authors of mine when I was a kid and teen. It sure is a pleasure to return to them with this excellent spin on Elvish fantasy. sj over at Snobbery is going to be my copilot for this bookish adventure. While I am kicking it off by hosting this week, make sure to stop by her blog for snark and insight all rolled into one.

If you are just joining us, this week covers Chapters 1-6. Click HERE for the entire schedule. There will be spoilers ranging free – beware!

You can join us in the comments and if you have thrown a post together leave your link in the comments so I and others can hop on by.

The Questions:

1) Serina gives us our first glimpse into not only elven society but also the upper echelons of human society. What stood out for you?

The over all ignorance level of the humans pervaded everything. As we move forward, we learn that they have no written language of their own, so that definitely explains much of the ignorance. Also, Serina was not use to the open sky, which kind of blows my mind being a country girl myself. Even big cities get to see the sky usually twice a day, right – entering the work building and leaving the work building.
2) Alara, our first dragon of the book, has no qualms at all about playing pranks on the elven and smaller ones on the humans. What pranks would you pull on the elves & men if you could get away with it?

Hehe! There would definitely be some embarrassing jokes – like some elven lords and high ladies suddenly finding themselves naked in a crowded hallway, with a questionable assortment of fruit and love oil. As for the humans, I wouldn’t want to make thier lives too difficult, but perhaps some lesson pranks to get them to think for themselves. Surely there must be some humans entrusted with accounting of kitchen stores that have basic math skills – so something that would push them beyond their current needs. Might involve an abacus and some interesting fruit ;).
3) The elven Lord Dyran is one of the ‘good’ lords. *shudder* What do you think the bad lords are going to be like?

Perhaps they eat humans? Lord Dyran already beds them and has them fight to the death purely for his amusement. So, torture, mass killings, and eating them seem like the next step. Perhaps we’ll come across someone more devious who is skilled in mental torture. The Elves could be really bad at poetry, which might rival the Volgon form of torture ;).
4) Do you think being able to walk another’s memories as Alara did with Serina’s increases or decreases empathy?

Well if I came across an exhausted soon-to-be mother in the desert, I would give assistance, even knowing nothing about the person. But Alara had the opportunity to walk Serina’s life through her memories and she nearly left her there to die with her unborn child. I have to be honest and say I would have the same waffling as Alara, but in the end would at least try to save the child. While Serina didn’t deserve her punishment for getting pregnant, she probably deserved it for other questionable acts.
5) We met and heard about several of Keman’s pets. Do you enjoy the idea of dragons having pets? What has been the most interesting pet so far?

This book is such a refreshing take on dragons – they have art, preferred living quarters, writing, games, and pets. In this book they are not the semi-intelligent, yet highly dangerous and savage beast, nor are they the lone dragon who simply wants peace and/or gold. Nope, they have pets. Or at least Keman does. I was a bit surprised that this group of dragons had not learned the benefits of cohabitating with cats (to keep the vermin down) and lizards (too keep the insects down) until Keman brought some home. they have been in this world for several generations and supposedly are pretty intelligent and all about peaceful coexistence. Anyway, the real fascination for me has been the one horns. Vicious guard beasts. they sound like the mythical Asian kirins (or qilin).
6) Shana is a kid by the end of this section and she thinks she is really a dragon stuck in human form. How do you think that this misconception does and will affect her place in dragon society?

So really only Alara and Keman think of Shana as an intelligent being worth rights. the rest of the dragons are, at best, indifferent to her if not out right hostile and want to eat her. Yet Shana and even Keman are under this misconception that Shana’s mom was truly of the dragon kin but stuck in human form when she birthed Shana. Personally, I think this should have been cleared up right away. Alas, this misconception is going to lead to 1 of 2 things – great heartbreak when Shana does figure it out or some stupendous act of magic that actually allows Shana to shapeshift because she simply doesn’t realize she can’t. Either way, I expect that me as the reader will be immensely entertained and that is the true point of the book ;).

Other Tidbits:

Shana is wearing sloughed off dragon skin. Now I don’t know how many of you have ever smelled a discarded snake or lizard skin, but it is a pretty pungent scent. And that is what Shana smells like all the time, expect when newly bathed & naked. But as soon as she puts her ‘clothes’ on, she smells like stinky lizard until her next bath.

These elves are like pandas. Yep, you heard me. Generally solitary creatures, the females only come into heat a few days of the year, detest one another, usually only have 1 cub, and half the time that one dies to first time mothers because they don’t know what they are doing. I love my pandas, but evolution has stuck them in a dead end branch. I don’t love these elves, and I look forward to their dead end branch being torn off during a dragon storm!

What Other People Thought:

Snobbery

Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Smudge does not snuggle books, even really good ones.

Smudge does not snuggle books, even really good ones.

Why I Read It: Because I like riding on the tail of wagons. Oh, and this dude in line for Sanderson signatures at Bubonicon highly recommended the series.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To:
Epic fantasy freaks who love their characters grey and their plots twisted about each other.

Narrator: Roy Dotrice

Publisher: Books on Tape (2004)

Length:
28 CDs

Series: Book 1 Song of Ice and Fire

This is a very complex book. I suggest you check out this wikipedia article if you want a comprehensive summary of the book. I will simply tell you every little thing I loved about this book. First off, the characters are complicated; while there are some few that are more evil or more good than the rest, by and large they are all grey, each having a gentler side and a ruthless side. At first, the Starks of Winterfell seem driven by honor and therefore, will hold the bulk of the good deeds for the book, while the various competing families of the capital city King’s Landing appear to hold the lot of plotting, scheming, nefarious deeds. But the plots quickly become much more interesting, especially as the ‘heroes’ are forced into hard choices and the supposed villains show hints of decency (such as Tyrion Lannister)

Add to that a removed, but related, plot line occurring across the seas on the grassy plains of the wandering tribes of the Dothraki. The last remaining Targaryens live in exile among these horse nomads, dreaming of the day they will reclaim their throne. Daenerys became one of my favorite characters because she grows so much throughout this book. While I know her end goal could put my other favorite characters in jeopardy, I couldn’t help but root for her.

Much closer to home, the Wall north of Winterfell is manned by the Night’s Watch and they keep eyes on the forest and the possibility of The Others, a race thought to be mythological by most. Jon Snow, the bastard son of Ned Stark, joins this Watch along with his direwolf. I am really looking forward to see what George Martin does with Jon, the Night Watch, and the walled-out forest in the next book.

I loved Arya right away, the younger daughter of Ned Stark. She’s strong-willed and much more interested in being self-sufficient than her very lady-like Sansa. I found Sansa young and vapid, until the last bit of the book, where she is forced to grow up quicker than she wanted to. Tyrion Lannister is a dwarf and the younger son of the Lord Tywin, a hard man who has little use for his ‘deformed’ son. Tyrion had some of the best lines throughout the book and I always looked forward to the sections told in his voice.

The narration was excellent. The cast of characters in this book alone is HUGE and Roy Dotrice did an incredible job of making each one of them distinct and recognizable. He varied the accents and ages of each, as appropriate. If I have any criticism, it is that his feminine voices just aren’t really feminine. Distinct, but more like soft-spoken males. Still, I loved his narration and plan to continue the series with him, as I can’t imagine Tyrion’s voice any other way.

And no, I haven’t watched HBO’s series yet, and have been very diligent about avoiding any such spoilers.

readandreviewbuttonWhat I Liked: Direwolves; dragons; spies; traitors; death; the well thought out intricate plots; complex characters; Tyrion Lannister; plenty of sex; Martin world building includes these full-fledged varying cultures.

What I Disliked: The narrated voices for the ladies could benefit from a bit more femininity; alas, there are no maps with an audiobook.

This review is part of the Read&Review Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to stop by there to see more great reviews.