Archive for fantasy

Author Interview: Ksenia Anske

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2013 by royalmanaball

Ksenia Anske is an author of reckoning. Probably the first writer to ever be interviewed by The Huffington Post – without having published! How cool is that? She is the proud author of the brave trilogy The Siren Suicides. It’s an irreal, bizarre and sad tale of Ailen, a teen who commits suicide in order to escape her morbid home life only to transform into a siren, or rather, a vengeful mermaid upon her death. Despite her new-found existence, her problems fail to cease…

This transmission, we are interviewing Ms. Anske and are going to pick her wild brain about her writing process, her books and her coping mechanisms with life, love and happiness as an author. Let’s begin!

The author in her natural environment.

The author in her natural environment.

Hello, Ksenia! So nice to have you on Royal Manaball. We have a few questions that we and many of your fans are sure to be interested.

This is a question I must ask about the nature of Ailen. Is she undead or has she been reborn?

She is undead, kind of like a watery zombie, and she can only be killed by a very high frequency noise that will literally blow her up. It could be done two ways, either the classic old-style way (they’ve been blowing up sirens like this in the Middle Ages) by a whip, cracking it so what it produces a sonic boom, or by a special sonic gun, blasting her at close range into her chest.

Speaking of death and undeath, what does death mean to you? How instrumental of a concept does death hold for your writing?

I was very close to death when I wanted to take my life, but when I decided not to go through with suicide, I sort of felt reborn, but better than reborn, I felt like I was a clean slate, a clean piece of paper, and that I could build my life anew any way I wanted to. Because of this experience death is a very big topic in my books, I suspect, it will be in the future. I tend to have a birth and a death in every one of my novels, so it might become a recurrent theme? In any case, birth and death are two things that are part of life, so I think they have to have central place in any story. And a clock, because life is ticking away and we are closer to our end every minute . I think Chuck Palahniuk said at one of his book tours that I attended that every story needs a birth, a death, and a clock. I took this advice to heart.

Now, as we talk about life, how has your life changed since publishing The Siren Suicides? Does it feel like a rebirth for you?

It felt like a beginning of something new. I couldn’t believe I wrote a whole trilogy (still pinching myself), and because of it I feel like I can write books now. I mean, if you have written 3, then the 4th one doesn’t seem so scary, does it? I have also connected to people on a level the depth of which I couldn’t imagine. These are people I have never met, these are my readers from all over the world, from France, to Australia, to Egypt, to UK, to even Russia (yes, I am from Russia, although I write in English). These people said that they felt EXACTLY like Ailen, and they so far have sent me in the mail: postcards, checks with money, boxes of chocolate, shoes painted with an image of the siren, t-shirts with my quotes, and even flowers. I mean, my readers became my family, and I love them to pieces, and they love me too, across the boundaries of space and time! What else could one ask for?

Once a saga is complete, how does it feel for you? I mean, how do you feel in that it’s over and the main event has passed? Is there a sense of grief that you and Ailen aren’t playing together anymore, or do you feel fine putting her back in the toybox?

I feel relieved. It was very painful to go back into my own memories, extracting my feelings, and writing about them. I had to drag myself almost by the hair every day into my pain, to get it out. I felt cleansed and happy every day after writing, but to start was torture, because everything I’ve written about I have felt for real. Now that it’s over it feels like I cut it out of myself and gave to the world, leaving a hole behind that is already healing, and hopefully is helping others heal as well. So to me it’s a stage of my life that is over, but to every new reader it’s current, happening now, so when I get their feedback, I go back to my story, and think, wow, did I really feel all of this, did I really do through this Writing, like nothing else, has helped me see my own change and growth. It’s an amazing feeling, really. I recommend to everyone to write a novel, just for therapy.

In regard to my previous question, do you feel the characters of your saga are like toys or dolls and your books are the “dollhouse?” I see it this way with my YA work. No matter how grim or grotesque the plot gets, I still have fun playing with my characters and wondering what they might do next.

No, they felt real to me when writing. In general, when I write, I dive into the story fully, as if scribbling down complete scenes of a movie. I get fully submerged into it, with music, images, smells, and touch. That’s why it is hard for me to start sometimes, because to me writing is like acting, I have to get into character, only then do I produce good work. The down side of this is, of course, getting out of character, but that’s a whole another conversation.

Tell us a little about your upcoming release, Rosehead. Does this tale hold similar facets of The Siren Suicides? Is it YA?

It’s very different, on the surface. But deep underneath it has the same longing of a child to have a family, something I never had. So, on the surface, it’s YA. There are no swear words, no nudity, no sex scenes, as there are in Siren Suicides. The main character, Lilith Bloom, a twelve year old from Boston, is very polite, likes ballet, books, and handmade knit berets. Her pet whippet Panther can talk and is her only friend. They typically engage in a very sarcastic banter, imagining themselves Holmes and Watson. Lilith and Panther to Berlin, to Lilith’s gradnfather’s mansion for the family reunion. Alfred Bloom is the owner of BLOOM & CO, the company that grows and produces exclusive roses, shipping them fresh all over the world. And so, the entire book happens in the Bloom property, in the mansion and the rose garden, which eats some very strange things, as Lilith and Panther discover. They embark on an investigation of the mystery, that is both funny and bloodcurdling.

The author in her not-so-natural environment.

The author in her not-so-natural environment.

Now, I do this with all my interviewees – Word Association. I give you a word, and you tell me what comes first to your mind. Shall we?








The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.




Bloody rose.




Zombie monkey chasing me across the field.

Okay, that was painless, yes? Thank you for your time, Ms. Anske and I do appreciate your time with us. We at Royal Manaball wish you all the best of luck with The Siren Suicides Saga and Rosehead. Below are all of the relevant links to Ksenia’s work including her magnificent blog. Be sure to pick up The Siren Suicides today!

Click the pic and get your copy!

Click the pic and get your copy!










M.C. O’Neill Interviewed by Maria DeVivo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2013 by royalmanaball

Maria DeVivo is the esteemed author of the wonderful YA novel The Coal Elf.

Just for the record, I can sometimes be a bit of a cold bastard. Yeah, that’s right. A cold bastard, but The Coal Elf had me in tears.


The book is published by Twilight Times Press and is making some real waves in the market. I’ve reviewed it on this blog before and I’d recommend every one of you Manaballers to buy and read it. You can read my five-star review of it here.

When I was approached by Ms. DeVivo to be interviewed on her personal website, I about choked on my egg fu yong! What a remarkable honor! I felt like Stannis Baratheon charging onto King’s Landing for a proper ass-kicking!

On March 28th, the interview went live and you can read it here.

Today I felt like I was lifted upon the shoulder of a giant. Maria is a great writer and I cannot wait for her next offering. I promise to be its first customer.

Thank you so much, Maria. You are one for the YA Revolution!



Review – The Coal Elf

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2013 by royalmanaball

As I write tales exclusively about elves, I was searching around and had stumbled upon a book called The Coal Elf and just had to get it. As you can see by the cover’s illustration, one may think this is a classic take on The Lord of the Rings/ Elder Scrolls-variety of lanky, lean beauty. Majestic beings who stand a good foot taller than humanity.

I was wrong.  Let me explain.


Collapse! The lungs malfunction!

After a few swipes of the Kindle, I realized that I was reading about SANTA’s elves! I can’t believe how I didn’t put two and two together (bad kids get coal = coal elf).

This story focuses on wee Ember Skye. The elfmaid is from an upper-middle class, soft-skill family from the North Pole.  The Skyes do honeyed work such as songwriting, fashion design, graphic design – stuff you’d expect to see guys named Bertram doing on Michigan Avenue. From birth to age ten, this is the only life Ember knows and it’s sweet.

Upon her tenth birthday, all elves are put into an apprenticeship for their Lifejob. As the moniker indicates, you are chosen to do this job forever.

Maybe it was a clerical error, maybe it was dumb luck, but Ember is assigned to the Mines to dig coal for naughty kids until the day she drops dead. Being from softer gentry, no one in the Skye family can figure out why she was chosen for such work, but once your number is drawn, there’s no going back; debate is verboten. Ember is to stay in these mines and never see daylight again. The only notion of day or night is the rush of bats leaving the caves for the evening.

As expected, this book does have hot cocoa, candy canes and lollipops, but the elven society is a sugar-coated hell and author Maria DeVivo pulls no punches. These beings live under Santa Claus’s jackboot.

By the time Ember is sixteen, she has been dredging the Mines for six years and has begun coughing blood and lung-bugs. One day, Santa allows her to enjoy a forty-eight hour weekend pass to revisit her old life. From here, things get worse.

Central themes to this novel involve the examination of the nature of systems and their architecture of checks and balances. Tyranny is also examined, but this book questions why a society runs the way that it must, despite the heavy hand.

Solipsism is reviewed here as well. What is reality? Who is running the show and is it all a lie? Through the mechanics of negative reinforcement and conditioning of behavior, here, systemic flow is maintained.

This story is not a plea for egalitarian sunshine, like so many fantasy/sci-fi novels, but a consideration of what happens when you get what you wish for.

Five stars.

The Future: Near and Distant Dreams

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2013 by royalmanaball

Well, it’s been a bit of a stretch since my regularly-scheduled blogging. Aside from being compelled (obsessively so) to rave on an author spotlight for the immensely talented Lada Ray, I’ve had to take a break from Royal Manaball so that I could finish book two of my opus, The Ancients and the Angels.

Yes, folks, it is done. Prepare to see The Ancients and the Angels, Book Two: Archons hit the shelves early March. Right now, this monster is in post-production.

The saga continues! So many burning questions for my readers will be answered in this volume, yet new mysteries arise! Don’t expect a logical continuation of plot or Celestials Redux with this installment. Not gonna happen.  I don’t work that way and I thank the gods for my ADHD due to this. Do expect a more in-depth examination of the spiritual and mystical realm, yet I won’t bore you with a Theosophical diadem. Archons details a more philosophical approach to my characters and the worlds around them, yet will be pure fun.

This novel is, well, quite grim. Turns of events for Maiden Quen’die Reyliss go south here. WAY south. For younger or more sensitive readers – this addition may piss you off. Too bad. Blood, puke, gore and heartbreak abound. Book Three shall be much worse. Promise.

For the uninitiated – and there are too many of you – to my series, you’ll have to buy The Ancients and the Angels, Book One: Celestials first, or you’ll be completely confused. My stories are intricate and involve quite the investment in the lives of the myriad of characters whom I’ve rendered. I am a fan of Tolstoy, after all. That, and I’m a greedy $cumbag.

Get Celestials HERE!

The Ancients and the Angels - Celestials

So, what more is in store for M.C.? Let’s see… I’m going to have to put wee Quen’die and company back in the toybox for a bit. My next literary foray is into the realm of the bizarre. I’m penning a Bizarro book chock-full of short and micro fiction, followed by a full-length Bizarro novel. Must warn you, it’s NOT YA. Nasty, filthy and scatty things abound here. It wouldn’t surprise me if I get put on the “no-fly” list after I unleash this. Rockin’!

I can’t help it! Lately, I’ve been reading the fine works of Bizarro writers like Andersen Prunty, William Pauley III, Gina Ranalli, Sam Pink and Jeff Burk. These brave souls care not for convention, and neither do I, frankly. Never did.

Good news! I have now gained the attention of my first (well, possible) literary agent! We’ll see what becomes of this, but I never want to test the energies of the universe, so I won’t go into too much detail with that. Hatching chickens and whatnot.

Right, then. More author spotilights and reviews on the way in the coming weeks and months. Get ready for surgical examinations of Gina Ranalli, Sam Pink, and many other talents. I have also gained a personal photographer to my stable- the multi-talented Indigo Moran, CEO of Enchanted Waters Photography. Soon, you shall see what I look like! (Gods help us). No, seriously, she makes me look hot. Almost as good as KISS back when they still wore makeup. Shout it out loud!

Author Spotlight: Lada Ray

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by royalmanaball

Lada Ray is a real gem ensconced within the science fiction/fantasy genre. What I really enjoy about her writing is the immense research and accuracy into the themes featured in her plots. Sure, nobody can truly understand what life in Atlantis was like thousands of years ago, but she draws upon logical inferences mixed with modern parallels that render an amazingly realistic civilization.

Don’t get me wrong, this is fantasy, and not alternative history that becomes, well, a dry history book. Expect to have fun and be entertained whilst you turn the pages (or swipe the Kindle).

I had begun my voyage into Ms. Ray’s fantasies with her excellent book Catharsis. It details the struggles of prototypical human life thousands of years ago – on another planet! You can read my five-star review of this work in this link.

Now she brings us The Earth Shifter. This novel is a companion to Catharsis and is what I could compare to Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow in theme, but it’s actually enjoyable to read and understand upon your first go-through. Much like Gravity’s Rainbow, the tale involves the concept of remote viewing and sympathetic communication. Sympathetic as in sympathetic magick a’la H.P. Blavatsky. Throw in a bit of Baron Lytton’s The Coming Race and you have The Earth Shifter. But let me add, unlike The Coming Race, Ray can actually write and is quite the wonderful wordsmith. She will not dumb-down her language for the lazy reader. Her works, all I’ve read so far, really require some study and knowledge for a writer to pull off as well as they do.

I’m not interested in giving away any plot points here, but be prepared to enter a landscape of magick, mysticism and behind-the-scenes history. Here is the book’s Goodreads page which gives you a detailed rundown of the story’s characters and other vital properties. As this is a first in a trilogy, be on the lookout for books two and three in the future.

Another companion to this epic is The Lemurian Crystal, but I cannot seem to find it on Amazon! What’s up with that? Get ready for her third companion piece, Atlantis, to be released this spring. I know I’m getting a copy!

Earlier works are her Accidental Spy series which focuses on a conspiracy-laden investigation by an amateur detective. What begin as local puzzles, unfold into international – and mystical- intrigue. I really need to get a hold of these. The books’ descriptions alone seem right up my alley.

When you read Lada Ray’s works, expect to face a litany of cool stuff. Mysticism, magick, oneironautical travel, remote viewing, the occult, secret societies and a wellspring of accurately-illustrated Russian culture.

Visit Lada’s blog for an in-depth look at her working and writing process. Her official website can be found here.

Update! Straight from the author, The Lemurian Crystal will be available in March with Atlantis following shortly thereafter.

Make All Their Dreams Alive (or not?)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 22, 2012 by royalmanaball

On the topic of writing for fantasy and science fiction, there is a fine line in regard to what details, you, as the author, should be aware.

As a master of fine art in painting and design, one issue with image-making my classmates (students and colleagues) at my school had frequently glossed over had been the factors of focus and the level of rendition. How detailed should one portion of the composition be in contrast to another? Sometimes that’s a tough question; elements such as distance, weather and atmosphere could cloud or denature the portion in question.

When writing fantasy and science fiction, it isn’t quite as involved. I would always err on less being more for these genres. Some of the best sci-fi/fantasy out there refuses tight, painstaking descriptions of featured technologies, creatures and otherworldly designs, not just for eyeflow and pace, but for one inherent attribute of those genres – fantasy.

J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t go into explicit description of the Nazgul or the orcs. All we knew was that they were big, bad, dark and twisted elves. Stygian boogeymen that wanted the main characters roasted on a spit. Good enough.

Not a lot, but fantastic!

Why is this important? When you read fantasy, the goal is not to simply enjoy fiction, but to fantasize.  I, as the author, cannot do that for you, dear reader. Sure, the cover illustration can impose the overall tone and mood of the mystical setting nestled in between the preface and afterward, but you, as the reader, must use your imagination to fully appreciate the experience of whatever guidelines the author had set as a basis – a springboard – for your mind’s eye. It will make a profound reading experience for your audience when you go minimal with the glitz and gloss. Not too minimal, or else you’ll only confuse your readers unless they have an immense tooth for imagination. Don’t assume they do, but don’t hand it to them on a platter either. You’ll ruin the story’s beat.

Horror is a different matter altogether. I employ many elements of horror in my writing as it punctuates my plots. Horror is visceral. You must, with a surgeon’s scalpel, at these points render the grue and the gore, the stink and the terror and woe of your horrific scene. Go crazy in describing the sweaty, fat cannibal who sings in a high-pitched shrill and reeks of spoiled milk (ugh). Horror is a mood while fantasy is a state of mind, and ultimately, a chore. Your chore as a reader. Again, I cannot do that for you as the writer.

It’s like upshifting and downshifting a car. When your fantasy must delve into horror, punch up the detail, and then put on the brakes when the fear settles. H.P. Lovecraft was a master at crossing these genres. When the elements of fantasy confronted the protagonist, he would describe these wondrous monsters in abstract terms, and so, the terror in which the stories were set mutated into surreal fantasy. His Elder Gods defied description because they were physically unknown to humanity. They were fantasy. We all fear the unknown in some ways and, as such, Lovecraft’s fantasy fell back into horror because of that. Like I said, it’s a fine line.

Give your audience what they want – the work of fantasizing. You, the author are the boss and your readers must make the product.


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