Thursday, November 24, 2016

Halloween Contest Selections

This was more difficult than I thought it would be. I printed out the entries, blacked out names, and chose the ones that made the most impact on me emotionally.

I'll be contacting the entrants today about their prizes and I've made up a fifth prize for 3 others who sent in amazing writing.

This contest wasn't really about the prizes (although it is fun giving stuff to people who've read my books!) It's about inspiring people to write, to have fun. And I hope all of you had fun with this:)

I'll be posting the winning entries who give me permission.

And thank you to everyone who entered! I hope you love your gifts!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Fantastic Fantasy Finds: Crystal and Steel by Lyndan Darby

Crystal and Steel (1988)
Bloodseed (1989)
Phoenix Fire (1990)

These books were published in the UK. The trilogy begins as a quest fantasy, with a prince trying to take back his throne. There are dark lords and mystical objects aplenty, but it's the characters I loved. Eider, the prince, is naive and idealistic. His friend, the young wizard Nairb, is vulnerable, but powerful. Regor the elf is a trickster. Lehon is a young man hoping for adventure. There's only one memorable female character, and she turns out to be something completely different.

The fantasy has a Tolkienish plot, but the mood is decidedly Mervyn Peakeish. There's a warm friendship between the questing companions. The villain Zarrat the usurper is a typical tyrant, but the other villains are wonderfully drawn; the repulsive gnome monarch, the slithering Black Queen, the Baobhanshee, and Ruthra, the seducer masked in beauty.

Eider attains his throne, and, in the sequels, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Eider's friends must try to save Eider's soul in stories of surrealistic grandeur.

This series is for anyone nostalgic for Moorcock or Lord Dunsany's picturesque fantasies, weird and lavish, with a company of friends at its core.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Guest Interview: Liana Brooks, author of Decoherence

Welcome, Liana Brooks, author of the science fiction thrillers The Day Before, Convergence Point, (available now) and Decoherence (available in November 2016 from HarperVoyager) to It's All About Story.

You can find Liana at her blog:
And her books on Amazon:

1) Describe Decoherence in one paragraph.

Decoherence is the final chapter in the Time & Shadows trilogy. It's where all the loose threads get tied up, and we finally see what happened to Jane Doe who was found in chapter one of book one (The Day Before.)

2) What inspired Decoherence?

Decoherence was never alone in the universe, I guess. It's the natural conclusion to the rest of the series and so I'm not sure it was inspired by anything outside that universe. It was influenced by things on the outside. I think little pieces of other stories snuck in. There might be a nod to Agent Carter in there.

3) Were The Day Before, Convergence Point, and Decoherence your first works of fiction?

Oh, no. The Day Before was my first published novel, but it was nowhere near the first one I wrote. That one is moldering under my bed somewhere. You do not want to see my first novel. I don't want you to see my first novel. It's embarrassing.

The Time & Shadows trilogy is the first series I've written and published completely. The reading order is: The Day Before, Convergence Point, Decoherence.

4) What song or music piece would you put on a soundtrack for Decoherence?

I put together a 30-song playlist for Decoherence. It is mostly from Two Steps From Hell's Battlecry album. If I had to pick a single song, it would be Canon in D Minor from that album. I love the energy and the mood. It really works with where Sam (the heroine) is at throughout the book. She is fighting so hard to hold on to reality and rescue Mac, she's fighting herself at every turn, but she won't quit fighting.

5) Which character in Decoherence was easy to write? Which was the most difficult?

The easiest scenes are always when Sam and Mac are together. I've been writing them as a pair since 2009, throughout many (far too many) drafts of The Day Before and Convergence Point. They're my sweet spot. They play off each other well and they're just fun to write.

The hardest part to write was anything where I had to juggle multiple Sams. Because there is time travel and the multiverse theory, I wound up with three (four?) Sams in Decoherence. Writing them each as a unique person with her own personality and style was a wonderful challenge.

6) What is your writing space like? Or can you write anywhere?

I can write anywhere (because I have a handy-dandy folding Bluetooth keyboard), but I prefer to write from my office. My family moved to Alaska in the middle of winter and I couldn't fly up to see the house we were renting, we just picked one that had enough bedrooms. And when we got there I found this odd little corner room that's too small for a bedroom, but works perfectly as an office. I have a view of the pine trees out my window (and snow during the winter), and it's a cozy nook for writing.

But, I wrote about half of Decoherence on the folding keyboard while my kids were at sports practice. I'd put in headphones, write a chapter in an email to myself, and edit the next day. You have to be flexible.

7) Any odd writing habits? Rituals?

You know, I think writing habits and rituals are a luxury you earn after you've written a few dozen books and have no small children at home. Maybe someone else has it figured out, but for me all I need is some headspace away from stress and a keyboard. If I waited for the perfect conditions to get a book done, it would never get done.

8) George R.R. Martin describes 2 kinds of outliners, the Gardener (let it grow) or the Architect (plan it.) Which are you?

I'm a Gardener by habit and an Architect because of training. There is no way to finish a series without a little bit of planning. You can write one while being as wild and free as the flowers, but pulling all the plot strings together and wrapping up the story in a satisfying way requires planning. Not a ton, but you do need to think a few steps ahead of where you're writing if you want to get to The End.

9) What are some of your favorite world myths or fairy/folk tales? Why?

Oh, that is a good one. I don't think I actually had a favorite fairy tale. I grew up on Tolkien, not the Brothers Grimm, so I'm at a bit of a disadvantage here. I suppose....1001 Arabian Nights, because a woman was able to save herself through the power of her storytelling. And anything with dragons or mermaids.

10) What is your favorite fictional world, one you'd want to visit?

I'd like to hang out with the crew of the Warhammer from The Price of the Stars/Mageworlds series. It was my favorite series in high school and their good advice got me though some rough days.

11) Who is your favorite fictional character?

Oh, that's a tough one. This is like asking me to pick a favorite child. Let's go with Harry Dresden. I like a person who fights losing battles just to save friends.

12) What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

Either quit whining and write, or quit writing.

That was the swift kick in the pants I needed to get The Day Before finished, polished, and published. It's always easier to complain about writing, while not writing. But, if you want to be a published author, eventually you have to shut your mouth and get writing. It's going to be hard, so suck it up and write anyways, or go find something that you love so you don't whine.

13) In Decoherence, are there any hidden acknowledgements to friends, places you've lived, favorite writers, etc;

Here's the short list...

Cannonvale, Australia--because my best friend and spiritual twin, Amy Laurens, lives in Australia.

New Smyrna Beach, Florida--because I lived not far south of there for four years and wanted to introduce the mangal swamps to everyone in Convergence Point.

Alabama--because that's where I lived when I started writing the series.

Donovan (the villain in Convergence Point)--is actually named after one of my beta readers

....and there's one more in the very last chapter that I think you'll be able to figure out all on your own.

14) Can you tell us anything else about your writing experiences?

When I started writing seriously back in 2007 or so, I had no big plans I was going to write my weird, little books and see what happened. By reading widely and writing regularly, I finally reached a point where I could not only tell a good story, but I had an inkling of an idea of what readers wanted. The sweet spot for a published author is where our interests and our fans' interests collide.

15) What do we have to look forward to after Decoherence?

I have five projects on my desk right now waiting for attention, including the long-awaited Even Villains 4. There's another novella series that I've been teasing on Twitter for a few months now, and that kicks off with Bodies in Motion next spring. And then, hopefully, one of these novels I'm pitching will find a home in the next few months and I'll be able to announce that series.

In the meantime, I publish monthly short stories on The Darkness and Good blog ( ) with Thea van Diepen and Amy Laurens, so you can always catch me there or on Twitter at @LianaBrooks.

Thank you, Liana!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

10 Favorite Literary Witches

Okay, so most of them are women, (because I don't believe men can be witches.) Although there is one warlock. And not all of them are wicked. Here are my favorites and the reasons why.

1) ELPHABA Gregory Maguire's Wicked. Green-skinned and rebellious, Elphaba begins fighting for the rights of the sentient animals in her world. She doesn't start out wicked, only idealistic. A fantastic heroine.

2) JADIS The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. A terrifying and seductive snow queen, she's one of the best villains EVER.

3) MAGNUS BANE The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. The High Warlock of Brooklyn is unpredictable, shady, brave, and a trickster.

4) SERAFINA PEKKALA The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman. The beautiful and valorous witch who rides a broom and leads an army of witches. Immortal and compelling.

5) HERMIONE GRANGER The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. She grows from an annoyingly precocious child into a brainy and courageous young woman with the fiercest wand around.

6) JENNY WAYNEST Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. She's officially a wizard, but the wizards are an eccentric tribe, like scientists and creatives, only maligned. Middle-aged and daring, with a be-spectacled husband who killed a dragon, she's a force to be reckoned with.

7) MELANCTHE The Green Pearl by Jack Vance. Solitary, mysterious, and beautiful, she's a powerful enchantress in a magical world of kings and fairy creatures.

8) THE DUST WITCH Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. She's horrifying and elemental,a  feature of a sinister carnival.

9) LANGWIDERE The Oz books by L. Frank Baum. The princess who collects other girl's heads to wear as her own. Disturbing to say the least.

10) CIRCE The Odyssey by Homer. Another solitary sorceress on an island. She turns men into animals if they anger her and lures a hero into her home.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Halloween Story Contest

So this is how it works. Make up a brief story (between 50-100 words) about the picture below. Make this wholly your own and nothing to do with Thorn Jack. The story must contain these words to be eligible:


There will be one grand prize winner and 3 runners up.

The grand prize is the entire Thorn Jack trilogy in trade paperback, signed, as well as the printed out manuscript of a lost Thorn Jack chapter (short story titled TRIBUTE), a butterfly mask, a Fata flower wreath, a fortunetelling game, an original print of one of my paintings, & some lovely trinkets.

The following prizes will be rewarded to each of the three runners up.

1ST PRIZE: Day of the Dead  art book by Russ Thorne + some beautiful trinkets

2ND PRIZE: The Story of Pandora coloring book + a trinket

3RD PRIZE: Pop Manga Coloring Book by Camilla d'Errico + a trinket



The winner will be announced on this blog and on my Twitter (@katharbour) after Nov. 20, so keep posted!

This contest is available only to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, September 19, 2016

10 YA Fantasy Books You should Read if You've Never Read YA

THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater

Five young people in a contemporary rural town search for a legendary Welsh King. Even with bit parts, the adults are just as interesting as the young protagonists, who are beautifully rendered individuals. And there are some fabulous villains. Blue, the girl whose first kiss will lead to the death of the boy who kisses her, is a beguiling hero, and the four boys each have their own personal demons. The beginning of a four book series.


Set after the Civil War, this fantasy series is about a group of young women who have been targeted by the malevolent fairy folk. The fairy prince is seductive and terrifying, not the typical romantic villain. Each book in this series features a different heroine and her battle against some truly monstrous fairies.


Truly creepy. Set in contemporary Savannah after a hurricane--which turns out to be a horrifying entity in itself. The heroine, Dovey, tries to save a dead friend's soul while discovering an original world of demons and otherworldly creatures. When she meets the seductive trickster Isaac, she's drawn even deeper into this world.

THE GOLDEN COMPASS by Phillip Pullman

A race of good witches, martial and intelligent polar bears, animal familiars, and a tough young heroine and hero make this an original fairy tale for all ages. It's got a steampunk flare and wonderful villains.


A romance between an angel and a demon, but not what you think. The angels are a warrior race who have tried to conquer what they feel is the inferior race--the monstrous looking Chimerae. Karou is a young woman living in Prague, raised by benevolent Chimerae. When she meets Akiva, a fierce, winged, young man, an ancient romance is revealed between them.


Darker shades of 'Once' in this fantasy series about a friendship between a contemporary Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Snow White, in a future that has been transformed by the arrival of magic. Detailed, original worldbuilding and the genuine way in which the three girls care about each other make this series highly enjoyable for fairy tale lovers.

THE WINTER PRINCE by Elizabeth E. Wein

A different and disturbing take on King Arthur, centering around Medraut, King Artos's eldest, bastard son. His half-brother Lleu is their father's favorite. Medraut both loves and hates him. Artos's sister--Medraut's mother--is horrifying and bewitching. Themes of abuse and twisted family dynamics make this myth poignant and suspenseful.

THE DARKANGEL by Meredith Ann Pierce

Set in an alternative world on the moon, this strange and beautiful fantasy is about a girl named Aeriel who is stolen away, with her friend Eoduin, by one of the feared darkangels--a heartless and lovely creature who wants Eoduin as one of his wives and Aeriel as his servant. His wives are all phantoms because he's a vampire, and captive of an evil witch.

THE WHITE CAT by Holly Black

Cassel is a young man who lives, gypsy-like, in a secret world of almost gangster-like magic. Curse workers are a distrusted minority in this not-too-distant future. When he's betrayed by people he trusts, he must run a con of his own on the best magic-using con artists he knows. An urban fantasy with a dash of noir.

THE SILVER KISS by Annette Curtis Klause

Zoe is losing her mother to cancer. She's targeted by a feral and strange young man named Simon--whose enemy, a creature pretending to be an innocent little boy, stalks him. It's an exquisite tale of defeating monsters and accepting death. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Mythology of Briars, Nettles, and Thorns

Natural and beautiful, sharp and serpentine, usually found in the wild and unwanted in most tamed gardens, these plants have been used in folklore and witchcraft for centuries.

In the story of 'Sleeping Beauty,' the slumbering princess is surrounded by a wall of briars and brambles. (Brambles are also blackberry bushes and notorious faery fruit.) Briar Rose is another name for Sleeping Beauty, suggesting that her beauty might conceal prickles.

The nettle is known for its healing properties, despite being a stinging plant. Blind nettles are called Lamium album (A lamia is a female demon who kills babies.) The nettle plant wards off ghosts. It's the plant of the Noridic storm god Thor. In the fairy tale 'The Wild Swans,' a girl releases her brothers from their enchanted swan forms by placing nettle shirts over them.

Blackthorn and hawthorn are traditionally faery trees. Infamous for crowning sacrificial kings, thorns also blind the prince in the original 'Rapunzel.' Thorns pierce, shed blood. In 'Sleeping Beauty,' the princess punctures her finger on a spindle and falls under the spell. Snow White's real mother pricks her finger on a needle and uses that drop of blood to wish for a child. In 'Little Red Riding Hood,' Red Riding Hood is offered a choice by the wolf; the Path of Needles or the Path of Pins.

The spindle and the needle, symbolic thorns, set a story on its path.

Briars, nettles, and thorns symbolize barriers, pain, enchantment, but they also keep the vulnerable from being breached. In storytelling, they signify that life has teeth. And, like most faery things, they are beautiful, and something to be wary of.