While this month mostly belongs to NaNoWriMo and writing Storm Raven, today I would like to present to you the cover art for The Azrael Initiative, produced by Diana Buidoso via DesignContest.com. I hope you like it. In December, you can expect to hear much more about The Azrael Initiative.
Today I want to introduce you to Nereyda, pirate captain of the Storm Raven. However, rather than just describe her to you, I present an excerpt from early in the story. I hope you enjoy meeting Nereyda.
The ocean air breezed through Nereyda’s black hair as her violet eyes gazed at the enormous lumbering vessel across the water. It was the largest cruise ship she had ever seen and it would be carrying some of the wealthiest lords and merchants from the Empire. She didn’t see any other armed passengers aside from any personal bodyguards that were along for the ride. Just as importantly, no cannons were visible. The ship didn’t even have any ports for guns. Easy prey.
Pirates never dared strike so close to the mainland. There was usually far too much naval activity, along with a large number of ports from which reinforcements could be sent. However, Nereyda was confident that they could get in and hit one ship before escaping into the ocean.
“Send them a warning,” she commanded. It wasn’t even really necessary, since there was no way that they could flee or outmaneuver the Storm Raven. Still, they should at least give their target a chance to surrender.
The shot splashed just aft of the cruise ship. A minute later, they had furled their sails and run up a white flag. As they drifted, the Storm Raven pulled alongside them. The crew tossed hooks to link the two vessels. Due to the height of the cruise ship, ladders were extended across the gap.
Nereyda mounted one of the ladders and climbed to the deck of the Luxura, followed by the rest of the boarding party. As she vaulted the railing at top of the ladder, she looked around the deck. The passengers remained seated at tables strewn about the area, apparently enjoying their afternoon tea. All of them wore terrified expressions. Nobody, not even the bodyguards, moved against them.
She yelled to the travelers, “Surrender any gold, jewelry, or any other valuables you have and we’ll let you keep going on your nice little journey. My friends here have some convenient bags. Just toss your things into them as they come around.”
Her crew scattered about the deck, holding up their canvas sacks as the wealthy passengers surrendered their possessions. As they worked on collecting these treasures, Nereyda spotted a table with an open seat where some fluffy looking merchant or lord or whatever sat with his wife, along with another young man. Maybe their son.
“Is this seat taken?” she asked. They just stared at her as she plopped down into the available chair.
“Is now, I guess.” Nereyda reached across the table for the tea pot and an empty cup. After she had poured herself some tea, she pushed aside the tea pot, leaned back in her chair, then lifted her legs to rest her boots on the table, dripping muck onto the table cloth.
“Having a nice trip so far?” she asked in a bright voice, looking around the table.
They gave her no answer other than looking away from her, avoiding eye contact.
“Come now, what happened to all of those manners you rich people spend a fortune to teach your kids. I asked you a question.”
Still no answer from the couple, but the young man leaned forward. “Why should we treat you with any sort of manners?”
“I’m a guest at your table, aren’t I?” Nereyda flashed a smile. “We don’t have to let this be unpleasant.”
“You call robbing our ship pleasant?”
“That depends on how you look at it. I may be taking some of your things, but you should look on the bright side. You get to leave with your clothes on. I’m not taking your food. And, best of all, you get to sail away from here, alive. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.”
“You talk like letting us live is some kind of favor. I’ve seen what your kind do, falling on ships and villages alike, taking what you please and killing whoever gets in your way.”
“You actually missed the bit about how we snatch children away in the night to eat them.” She winked at the young man. “Wouldn’t want our reputation to miss that bit. But is what we do really better than taxing your subjects to death and enslaving your enemies? At least we’re honest about being criminals.”
“You mock us, wench!” The young man jumped to his feet, knocking aside his chair. He drew a sword from his hip and pointed it at Nereyda. “I will not let you leave this ship.”
The pirate captain chuckled. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. You brought a sword to tea? That’s not very gentlemanly. A pity those etiquette lessons didn’t stick.”
“Who are you to talk of etiquette? You sit at our table with your weapons, drink our tea, and laugh at us.”
Nereyda shrugged. “I’m a pirate. I do what I want.”
“Stand and face me, coward.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes as she lazily eased her feet from the top of the table. Pushing herself to her feet, she looked into his eyes with her purple gaze, but did not draw her own weapon. “Do you know how to use that thing?”
“I’ve had lessons since I was a child. I know what I’m doing.”
“Oh, I’m sure you know how to swing it around with all the right moves. Maybe you know where to stick it. But have you had to use it for real?”
She took a step toward him and held his gaze with her own. “Have you ever had to kill a man?” she asked. “Have you ever been one wrong move from losing your own life, or one right one from taking someone else’s?”
His eyes flicked away for a moment. He swallowed but did not respond.
Another step. “Have you ever looked into a man’s eyes as the life left his eyes, just after you spilled his blood and guts from his belly?”
He went pale and shifted uncomfortably on his feet, as if he wanted to retreat but held his ground out of pride. His grip loosened slightly and the sword dipped lower.
A third step and the tip of his blade pressed against her sternum, resting between her breasts. “Now is your chance. You can get your first taste of blood right here, right now. I’d be honored to be your first,” she said with a scarily seductive smile and a wink. “All it takes is one little thrust, or a big one depending on the sword, and you can bring me to my knees. What do you say, boy? I hope you don’t disappoint me.”
The young man let dropped his sword arm to his side and slouched his shoulders.
“Don’t worry. Even the best sometimes have trouble keeping it up.”
“Just take what you want and get out of here.”
“I think my crew is just about done anyway. You’ve been a great date. Thanks for the tea!” Nereyda strutted past him and patted him on the shoulder.
Storm Raven will be released later in 2017! You can sign up for my newsletter to get updates as the launch approaches.
Since I’m starting National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) today, I want to share a bit about the project that I will be working on during the month of November. The working title of this book is currently Storm Raven.
The main character, Nereyda, is a pirate captain, leading her crew on grand adventures and looting merchant ships. When they attempt an overly ambitious raid, Nereyda and her crew are captured. While serving her sentence aboard a naval vessel, she is shipwrecked on an unknown island. As she explores it, she stumbles into some ancient ruins and finds…something. Whatever it is, it wakes a part of Nereyda that she had not felt before. Something that could help her free the rest of her crew and return to life on the sea.
Because the main character is a pirate, the fantasy world where this story takes place is a bit more advanced than the typical Medieval European fantasy setting. Instead, the technology level is post-Renaissance but pre-Industrial. This coincides roughly with the Golden Age of Piracy. Nations are competing for land, influence, and resources. This conflict threatens to bring an unprecedented war to the world and force Nereyda to abandon her apathy toward the politics around her.
I will be sharing bits of information and excerpts along the way as I continue my NaNoWriMo journey, so stay tuned!
Also, I am doing a fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network during the month of November. Click here to make a donation and earn a chance to win a signed copy of the manuscript for Storm Raven!
Today, I would like to give you a brief introduction to the main character of The Azrael Initiative, Kayla Falk. At the beginning of the story, Kayla is finishing her last year as an engineering student at South Dakota State University. Like many people at that stage of life, she is trying to figure out what kind of career to pursue and where she wants her life to go. Highly intelligent, Kayla is an excellent planner and has a talent for thinking her way through tricky situations. She cares very deeply about her family and her best friend, Olivia Bellamy. It is this passion that drives many of her actions throughout the story.
The inspiration for the character of Kayla Falk came from a number of sources. Ever since I thought of the story idea, I’ve known that The Azrael Initiative would feature a female lead. I always enjoy a strong female protagonist and women tend to be underrepresented in thrillers of this kind. Part of Kayla’s background is derived from the experiences of my sister and myself as engineering students at SDSU. I wanted to start the story in a place where many readers could identify with the main character. From there, I wanted to explore what it would take to turn a typical young woman into a motivated and skilled terrorist hunter. What skills would she need to learn? How would she get pushed to blur and cross moral lines?
There are a few elements that Kayla has in common with characters from other works. Like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, Kayla is clever and quick to think her way out of a dilemma. Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider video game series is another character who is pushed toward violence by circumstance and tragedy. In the Throne of Glass series by Sarah Maas, Celaena Sardothien is a badass assassin who struggles with the morality of the life into which she’s fallen. If any of those sound like characters you do or would enjoy, I expect that Kayla will be another character you will like. I hope you enjoy following her journey when you read The Azrael Initiative.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Chicago Writing Workshop. Despite being just a single day event, it was packed with great sessions on several topics of interest to me. I learned a lot from the speakers to whom I listened and was even able to pitch an agent on my first novel, The Azrael Initiative. As my first time attending a writing conference such as this, I found it to be a very rewarding experience.
The first session that I attended, a presentation by Chuck Sambuchino on traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, was quite timely for me. This has been a debate I’ve been having in my head for a while, as I’ve thought about how best to bring my novel to market. I’ll save the discussion of my personal thoughts on this matter for another time, however, this presentation did an excellent job of laying out the pros, cons, challenges, and opportunities of each option. Self-published authors get to keep more of the income from their sales and have the benefit of complete control over the editing, marketing, and selling of their books. However, they are then responsible for handling each of those aspects on their own. In traditional publishing, on the other hand, an author gives up a greater portion of his or her earnings, along with some control, in exchange for a team of editors, artists, and publicists provided by the publisher. As I am still somewhat on the fence, I have settled on pursuing the traditional route for now, while still building my own audience and doing my own marketing. If the traditional path does not work out or if my audience gets large enough, I can always change course toward self-publishing later.
Next, there was a session on agents and query letters, again led by Chuck Sambuchino. However, while I got some great information out of this talk, I missed a large chunk of it due to a pitching session. My pitch was scheduled with agent Alice Speilburg of Speilburg Literary Agency and it went very well! She seemed quite interested in my novel and requested to see the first three chapters. I have been editing those pages this week so that I can send them off over the weekend. I’m very excited that my first pitch ever went so well and I look forward to seeing where things go from here.
After lunch, there was a first page critique session with a panel of agents. At the beginning of the conference, each author could submit the first page of his or her novel. During this critique session, the moderator, Jessica Bell, randomly drew from the collection of pages and read the each selection aloud. As a page was being read, agents would raise their hands whenever they would have stopped reading. Once five agents had raised their hands, the moderator would stop reading and the panel would provide feedback. It was an intense, rapid-fire way of providing advice. I didn’t know whether to be afraid or hopeful that my submission would be picked. While my own first page ultimately escaped judgment, I did pick up some great ideas to implement in my writing to make it more engaging.
In the second to last session that I attended, Lori Rader-Day provided some tips for revising, editing, and proofreading. Since I am currently in the midst of fine-tuning my novel, I found this to be incredibly useful. Already, I’ve been able to apply some of the lessons learned. It was also fun to hear about her own experience as an author working within the traditional publishing structure. Hearing a firsthand account has helped to provide perspective as I consider my own publishing path.
Finally, Chuck gave a presentation on Ten Keys to Writing Success. The main focus was on the things writers can control to give themselves the best shot at achieving their goals. As a new author, I found these tips to be inspiring and helpful.
Ultimately, I had a wonderful experience at the Chicago Writing Workshop. I left with a wealth of fresh knowledge, some new friends, and an agent’s request to see the first part of my novel. I can’t wait to put all of what I learned into practice. I will definitely be attending more conferences such as this when I can. Before the workshop, I was excited to get into writing and I am now more eager than ever to take this journey.
Welcome to K Hanson Books, the official website for new author K Hanson! Here, you can keep up with K’s writing journey. His current project and first novel is The Azrael Initiative. Check it out and, if you enjoy the synopsis, please share it with your friends. To stay updated, visit the social media links to the right to get all of the latest news.