Interview with Speculative Fiction Writer Annie Douglass Lima + A Giveaway!

I’m excited to introduce you to a fellow writer I met through a wonderful Facebook writers group, Clean Indie Reads. Please welcome speculative fiction writer Annie Douglass Lima!

I was intrigued when I met Annie because she currently lives in my place of birth (Taiwan) and teaches at a school that one of my girlfriends taught at before. Plus, I always appreciate authors who can write genres I can’t write, and Annie definitely falls into that category. I haven’t read her books (yet), but this review from Publisher’s Weekly proves her writing is wow-worthy:

“What looks, at first blush, like a Hunger Games pastiche turns out to be anything but. First in the Krillonian Chronicles series, Lima’s novel is an uneven but gripping tale of loyalty, captivity, and redemption.”

So without further ado, let’s get to know Annie and her books better. Be sure to read to the bottom to enter the giveaway for an Amazon gift card or a digital copy of her book!

Hi Annie, thanks for joining us today! Please tell us a little about yourself and what a day in your life looks like. 

I was born in Southern California but raised mostly in Kenya.  After college (in Southern California), I spent a year teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in Indonesia, which was an incredible experience.  Shortly after returning to the States, I married my husband Floyd, and the two of us lived in California for several years.  Eventually all the pieces fell into place for us to move overseas together, and now we’re serving at Morrison Academy, an international school in Taiwan.  I’ve been teaching fifth grade here for nearly nine years now, and I love it!

During the week, my day often starts when the alarm rings at 5:00 a.m. I like to begin by reading my Bible over breakfast, and then I often go out jogging around the track. (I read books on my Kindle as I jog – as soon as I discovered this ability, my motivation to exercise went up several thousand percent!)

I’m usually in my classroom by 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., at which point I squeeze in some writing if I’m ready for the school day. School goes from 7:50 to 3:15 on most days. After school, I plan lessons and get ready for the next day, and then if my brain isn’t too fried from a day of teaching, I work on my own writing again. In the evenings after dinner, I write some more or catch up with my author groups on Facebook. Most of my best writing happens on weekends or school holidays.

What started you on your writing career?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can recall.  When I was seven years old, I had a sudden inspiration for what I thought was an amazing story and decided then and there that I was going to write a book and be the world’s youngest author.  I ran to my room in great excitement, found an old notebook and a pencil, and started in.  Well, that first novel was never actually finished, let alone published, but it got me started.  After that, I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t working on at least one book.  Prince of Alasia, which I started in college, was the first one I finished that I thought was worth trying to get published.  I looked into traditional publishing and spent a long time trying to get an agent, but to no avail.  Finally I learned about Kindle publishing and did it myself the indie way, eleven years after I first started writing the book.  A few months later I added the paperback edition.  It was quite a thrill to me to finally fulfill my childhood dream! Now I’ve published a total of twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of my students’ poetry).

What do you like most about the genre(s) you write? What do you like the least?

Speculative fiction in some form (fantasy, sci-fi, alternate reality, etc.) is just plain fun to write. Reality simply doesn’t give me enough freedom! I don’t think there’s anything I dislike about writing in this genre.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your new book. Which character(s) do you relate to the most?

I’ve had the idea growing in my mind for the last few years.  It started as just a picture of the setting and its culture: a world almost exactly like ours, but with legalized slavery.  The main characters, Bensin (a teenage slave and martial artist) and Steene (his owner and coach) emerged gradually, along with the plot (in the first book, Bensin’s struggle to protect and free his younger sister, and in the second, his struggle to survive as a gladiator).

The Gladiator and the Guard is book 2 in the Krillonian Chronicles, book 1 being The Collar and the Cavvarach. The stories take place in a world almost exactly like our own.  Although most aspects of the culture are just about what they are currently on Earth, a few sports are different, such as the martial art known as cavvara shil.  The main difference, however, is that slavery is legal there.

The Krillonian Empire rules much of the world.  An emperor, who is never named, governs from the capital city, Krillonia, on the continent known as Imperia.  Eight separate provinces (originally independent nations before they were conquered) can be found on nearby continents.  Each province, plus Imperia, is allowed to elect its own legislature and decide on many of its own laws, but the emperor reserves the right to veto any of them and make changes as he sees fit.  This seldom happens, however, and to most people the emperor is merely a vague and distant ceremonial figure.

The prevalence of slavery is probably what would stand out the most to visitors from Earth.  There are nearly as many slaves in the city of Jarreon, where both books take place, as free people, and they are easily identified by the steel collars they are required to wear locked around their necks.  From each collar hangs a tag inscribed with the slave’s name, their owner’s name, and a copy of their owner’s signature.  On the back of the tag is their owner’s phone number and a bar code that can be scanned to access additional information.

Many families own one or more slaves who do their housework and yardwork.  Businesses often own a large number of slaves, usually for manual labor, though some are trained for more complex tasks. Those who don’t own their own slaves may “hire in” one belonging to someone else.  The accepted rate for an hourly wage is two-thirds the amount that a free person would earn for equivalent labor (the money goes to the slave’s owner, of course).

To read more about the culture of the Krillonian Empire, take a look at this post on my blog.

My favorite character in this book is definitely Bensin.  The struggles he is forced to go through make him stronger, and I admire him for his perseverance and determination to meet his goals no matter what.  He is willing to sacrifice himself for those he cares about, and while his choices aren’t always the wisest, he is committed to doing what he feels is right.  Society is against him, since he’s a slave and has few rights, but that doesn’t stop him.

What do you hope readers will learn/gain from reading this story?

I hope readers will realize, as Bensin eventually does, that we can all choose the type of person we want to be, no matter what our circumstances are. We might not have a say in what happens to us, but we can decide how we will respond and who we will be.

Thank you, Annie, for giving us a glimpse into your life and books! 

Annie’s young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach


First Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?


The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).  

Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

 

And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

 

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats) 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

 

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.
Connect with the Author Online:
Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!
Or find the giveaway at this link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ad2fd99a3/?

 

When The End is So Close (But Not Close Enough)

Oh sigh! This is how I’m feeling this week …

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I’m at the point in my WIP (work-in-progress) where all I can say is, “This story is killing me!” The characters are getting tired of me, I’m getting tired of them, and we (yes, all the voices in my head, haha!) just want to get this book done. The finish line is so close, but not close enough. I’m on the second to the last chapter and it’s taking me forever—the same kind of forever the kids experience during a car ride longer than 30 minutes—and I am pooped. So pooped that one evening after we were done with dinner, I just fell over onto the dining room chair next to me and shut my eyes. Hubby watched me go down and promptly murmured, “Oh no.” Don’t worry, he’s used to my writer’s drama by now. 😉 After venting to him about my struggle to finish my book, he stated (a little too matter-of-factly!), “That’s normal. The last 5% always requires 95% effort.”

Argh. That is so true. And why is hubby always right?!

I can remember having this similar struggle during my firstborn munchkin’s birth when the nurse told me (after hours of intense labor!) that I STILL had to push him out. Years later when I ran a 5k with my (much younger and energetic) sister, I was the one pushing myself up that final hill to reach the finish line. These days, each time I write a book, I also have to push through the uncertainty and frustration of writer’s block to get to the last page. In all these situations, I wanted to give up even though I was so, so close. Why is that?

Fatigue is probably a good reason. Actually, it’s likely THE reason. When we start out doing a project or task, we have all the optimism in the world that what we’re doing is going to be exciting and worthwhile. But that’s before we face the bumps in the road and have to work hard to overcome those obstacles. So by the time we’re nearing the end, we’re weary and maybe very disillusioned. That’s why the last 5% requires us to give all we’ve got—and then some.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this with my writing. One thing that’s been helping is to tackle each 1% of this last 5% by itself. I’ve found that forcing myself to write in short 15 minute spurts keeps me focused and limits the amount of time I’m staring at the screen. I also reward myself after the 15 minutes are up with some TV (for research purposes, of course!) or a walk or a snack. There’s been times when I’ve been so focused and productive during the 15 minutes that I have no problem going over that time, so I keep on typing! And the more I can focus and type, the closer I get to the finish line.

All righty, all this talk about finishing is motivating me to go write! And here’s a song I’ve had on repeat to help me do just that. Check out Justin Timberlake’s new song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”, a catchy dance tune that will put a smile on your face. 🙂

What do you do to get through that last 5% of whatever it is you’re pushing to finish? 

Taking the Practicality Out of Relationships

Ask any of my girlfriends and they’ll tell you I have the best mother-in-law in the world. God totally blessed my socks off with her, and I’m forever grateful that we have a good relationship. The original Mama Ho is a sweet, spunky lady who once caught a fish with her bare hands when she was a little girl. She LOVES pizza, possibly more than my cheese-lovin’ son does, but moreover, she loves her family through her words and deeds. When the munchkins were small, she stayed with us for extended periods and helped us out by cooking and cleaning. There were times when I found her on her hands and knees cleaning our bathrooms, and boy, did I feel terrible (not to mention, embarrassed about the state of the toilets)! Even when I insisted she didn’t need to do that, she would always say, “You’re busy with the kids; I have nothing to do” and continue to bless me. She also prays for us with the sincerity and earnestness of a mother’s and grandmother’s heart.

These days, she and my father-in-law have their own place about twenty minutes away and just so happen to live about ten minutes away from hubby’s workplace. And because my mother-in-law is always thinking about how to help us, she’s been cooking for us for the past few years. Twice a week, hubby will stop by her place after work and pick up a hot, home-cooked, yummy meal, and bring it home. Let me tell you, it’s amazing to have dinner just show up on the dining table. (If you can’t tell by now, cooking is not one of my favorite pastimes!) And my mother-in-law takes her “job” so seriously that she hardly ever misses a day and she’ll even be disappointed when she can’t cook for us.

Which is why when hubby changed jobs a couple of years ago to work in the city, he still made a weekly trip to my mother-in-law’s. Back then, his commute home consisted of a one hour ride on BART (the Bay Area’s public rail service) where he usually had to stand the whole time due to a lack of seats. Then when he picked up his car in our home city, he would drive another 60-90 minutes (roundtrip) to get dinner. By the time he reached home, he was pooped. 🙁

It wasn’t long before I began thinking that it wasn’t worth it for my mother-in-law to continue cooking for us. I really didn’t mind making dinner if it meant hubby could come home earlier and not have to sit in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. So I relayed my thoughts to hubby, but was shocked to hear his perspective.

“But my mom loves to cook. I don’t mind picking up dinner. Sometimes letting other people help us, helps them.”

WHAT?! All the practical, no-nonsense alarms went off in my head and I wanted to spew off a list of reasons of why it didn’t make sense. It was not efficient, economical or a good use of time. Right? But then, hm…. I thought about his statement and began to understand what he was saying.

As a square gal, I often get caught up in the logistics of things. I want to make sure I use my time well and get the best deals. I aim for practicality and efficiency. I want things done my way (which is of course, the best way, haha). But if there’s one thing I’ve come to realize since becoming a mom, it’s that not everything can be planned, organized or controlled. When people are involved, the intangibles outweigh the details. Personalities and preferences come into play. Feelings, motivations, and needs must be considered.

Because sometimes it’s not about you. Okay, most of the time, it’s not about you. When you have a relationship with someone—a friend, spouse, child, or other family member—you can’t always be practical. But you can always choose to love. And sometimes, loving means doing things that don’t follow your plan. It means seeing the bigger picture. It can mean letting others help us even though it’s not the most efficient thing to do. Because most all of the time, loving someone means treasuring the person’s heart. And that makes the most sense of all.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/freedigitalphotos.net

Take a listen to this beautiful song, “For Good”, sung by Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel (from the musical, “Wicked”) that sums up how our relationships touch us. I love the lyrics: “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good”.

Who in your life has taught you the value of relationships?

Celebrating 15 Years of Marriage!

I was driving with a girlfriend a while back and she was kindly holding my phone up so I could hear the directions from the GPS. Midway through our route, my phone beeped to signal that an incoming text had been received. A preview of the text then popped up at the top of the screen, causing my friend to gasp in surprise.

“Is it your anniversary?!” she exclaimed.

“Huh?”

“D just texted that he misses you!”

She held up the phone for me to see and, sure enough, there was a short text from my Honey (that’s actually the name I have for him in my phone, LOL) that read “Miss you!” with a couple of kissy face emoticons next to it.

Hehehe. 🙂

Nope, it wasn’t our anniversary that day, but it is TODAY! And I am soooo thankful to be celebrating 15 years with hubby today!

I almost feel like we should receive an award of some kind for all our effort (’cause according to hubby, 15 years of marriage has felt like a loooong time, haha), but the best reward we have is the blessing of waking up and being able to “do life” together these past 5,475 days. And looking back, I know we couldn’t have gotten here without the help and support of:

Our friends, especially in the early years when we were navigating through the ups and downs of a new relationship.

Our Pastor P. and his wife, M., who counseled us in the early stages and helped us tie the knot.

Our families, who have been especially helpful in offering to babysit the munchkins so we can go on dates and have grown-up time.

Our kids, who always seem to squirm in between us when we’re sitting next to each other on the couch, but who unite us as partners in parenting.

Our favorite TV shows (hello, Lost and Fringe fans!) that gave us something to do and talk about when we were up to our ears in diapers and tantrums.

Our cell phones that make it possible for us to communicate throughout the day and send one another mushy texts like the one referenced above. 😉

Our church, for reminding us of what’s important in life and providing lots of material for deep discussions.

And most of all, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who brought us together in the first place and has been growing us into better people and better spouses. Because of Him, we have reason to die to ourselves in order to mature in love.

It’s been a fun and wild ride and there’s no other person I’d want to take this journey with. Happy 15 years, Honey! 😀

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This song, “Thank You”, by Jason Chen perfectly sums up how I feel today.

Who do you want to say thank you to for supporting you in your life?