Hey, all, and welcome to the latest of Genre Talk here on The Novel Approach Reviews! Today we’ve got DSP Publications author A.M. Burns here to tell us all about his new Fantasy/Paranormal/SciFi release Native Wind, the first book in Native Ingenuity Chronicles and available right now. So let’s just dive right in.
Native Ingenuity: First Chronicles
After his family is killed by thieves, sole survivor Trey McAlister is taken in by a nearby Comanche clan. Trey has a gift for magic and the clan’s shaman, Singing Crow, makes him an apprentice. While learning to control his powers, Trey bonds with a young warrior and shape shifter, Gray Talon. When they are sent out on a quest to find the missing daughter of a dragon, they encounter the same bandits who murdered Trey’s family, as well as a man made of copper who drives Trey to dig deeper into the magics that created him.
It doesn’t take them long to discover a rancher near Cheyenne, Wyoming is plotting to build a workforce of copper men—and has captured the dragon’s daughter they’ve been searching for. Trey and Gray Talon must draw on all their knowledge and skills to complete their quest—one that grows more complicated, and more dangerous, with each passing day.
Carole: Wow, so you’ve got what sounds like a wide-ranging story that crosses genres all over the place. Where would you say Native Wind fits in the spec fic spectrum?
AMB: The genre for Native Wind is a mixed genre. To me, it’s overall a steampunk western with bits of fantasy thrown in for good measure. My understanding of steampunk is a historical with bits of fantastic and even futuristic technology thrown in. Things like dirigibles in Victorian England. A large number of steampunk books are set in Victorian England, or at least the colonies. I decided the Old West was an era ripe for steampunk, and added fantasy elements, magic, dragons shifters and more to make a very exciting and thrilling tale.
Carole: And what do you think Native Wind is at its heart?
AMB: Native Wind is a fantasy quest turned on its ear. The classic quest is the brave knights riding out to save the princess from the dragon. This is the story of a mage and his shifter lover going out to save the dragon from the evil rancher. In this book, the cowboys are the bad guys and the Indians are the good guys. It was a lot of fun to write.
Carole: You’re dealing with some interesting cultures in this one, and doing so in a speculative setting that sounds pretty diverse. Tell us how you define “diversity” in your writing, and how you explored it in this book.
AMB: I’m not sure I ever set out to purposely define diversity in my writing and it can mean different things in different books. In Native Wind we encounter the hard feelings a lot of the settlers have for the Native Americans. One of the POV characters is Gray Talon, a Comanche warrior. We get to see how the frontier people of Cheyenne Wyoming treat him like he’s little more than dirt and how he has to use his shapeshifting ability to hide from them. One of the other themes here is also how the men in power are upset about not being able to enslave people and are looking for cheap labor. This touches a bit on the plight of the freed slaves, and I’ll be going more into it in future books in this series. I did what I could to have a cast of characters that was more than just straight white men… there are only a few of those. I also made a point of showing that the Comanches in my world have no problem with same sex relationships. Gray Talon and Trey are honored members of the tribe.
Carole: Native Wind is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for genre novels that don’t necessarily focus on or even contain romance. Tell us about the relationship in Native Wind and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
AMB: In Native Wind Trey McAlister and Gray Talon are already an established couple. We don’t get to see them meet and fall in love. The story is about their quest to save the dragon’s daughter and in the process have a grand adventure and find out more about themselves. It does have a bit of romance spice, but it’s not a romance with lots of beating hearts, staring lovingly into each other’s eyes and emotional turmoil. This book is an adventure at its core.
Carole: It sounds like this is going to be quite an involved series as it goes along. Tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of Native Wind?
AMB: Native Wind started out as a book about a boy in the Old West whose family was killed by outlaws and was taken in by the Comanche tribe and raised as one of their own. I knew he had magical abilities. I knew the Native Americans could shapeshift, but instead of doing it like regular shifters, I decided to go with an idea almost like spirit animals. It’s worked out really well in the series. I figured the book was going to be about Trey finding the men who killed his family and getting revenge. Then I wrote a short story about Rockwall McNair, who became the villain in the tale. It’s said that an adventure is only as good as its villain, and Rockwall is a really good villain, even if he didn’t start out that way in the short story. So I set Trey and Gray Talon off on a quest, and then I realized there was a missing dragon. From there I ended up with men made of copper, a hardy frontier widow, a railroad tycoon, an evil rancher… and a little dog too… sort of. It’s all made a wonderful mix of ideas and a fantastic book.
Carole: It sounds it! And you’ve pretty much thrown genre constrictions out the window to build a world that sounds wonderfully fantastical and riveting. Mixing genres can be a challenge, but it sounds like you take great delight in it.
AMB: I do. I love it. For me it’s not hard. I think writing in different genres helps keep things interesting. I know some writers who get majorly burned out and they always write the same story in the same genre. I can see where that gets boring after a while, but then my reading is varied too. I read urban fantasy, high fantasy, westerns, science fiction, contemporary, mysteries, romances, the whole gambit. One thing I always do is have LGBT characters in my work. I like writing about people like myself. It keeps things lively and it was something I really missed when I was growing up. I know how excited I was to find books with LGBT characters and I hope my readers feel the same way, no matter what genre they happen to be in.
Carole: Okay, before we wrap this up, let’s get to the question I know most readers want answered: What projects are you working on now and what is coming next from you?
AMB: I’ve got a lot coming up, both traditionally published and a few self published. There’s a YA trans novel that I wrote with Caitlin Ricci called Shifting Tides that’s coming out next month. That was an interesting book to write since I’d never written anything trans before, although I’ve got transsexual friends. I’ve also got another YA coming out I wrote with her Running with the Pack that’s got an asexual character. It was a lot of fun, and one Caitlin bailed me out on. I had a deadline on it, my father went into the hospital for heart surgery and I called Caitlin who’d been wanting to write something with me. After explaining the situation, I sent her the start of the book and off we went. We’ve done a fair number of collaborations since then. And there are so many ideas in my head clamoring to get out right now. First thing I’ve got to finish is Native Flame, the sequel to Native Wind and then get the other three books I want to do in the series finished so we complete Trey and Gray Talon’s tale.
Carole: Wow, that’s a lot to look forward to, and we’re so glad you took the time out of that incredibly busy writing schedule to come chat with us today. Thank you, A.M. Burns, and thank you, Awesome Readers, for joining us. Buy links are at the bottom of the post, but first, please enjoy the following excerpt from A.M. Burns’s Fantasy/Paranormal/SciFi release Native Wind:
After rabbit stew for dinner, as the waning moon climbed higher in the sky, Trey stared at Copperpot where the construct sat on the ground near the fire. Ever since he’d reawakened his own memories, he’d been wondering what he could do to help the spirit trapped in the metal shell to remember his past. He’d had several ideas. With Sarah along to guard them, he thought it might be a good time to try a couple.
“Copperpot, do you remember me asking you if you remembered anything about your life before you were a construct?” he asked.
The copper head slowly inclined. “Yes, Master Trey. I have been pondering it when there is nothing going on. So far, I have not been able to come up with an answer for you.”
“I’ve been thinking about it too. I may have a couple of ideas that might help us pierce the past for you. If you are willing to let me try.”
“What are you two talking about?” Sarah asked.
“Copperpot has the aura of a living person. Actually it’s a bit stronger than that of a living person,” Trey explained. “I believe that McNair may have used magic to trap a spirit in Copperpot’s constructed body. There is also a very strong magical power source deep within him. I’d love to explore that more someday, but right now, I want to try to find out who he was before he was Copperpot.”
“That’s evil,” Sarah said. “Who would think to call back the spirit of a dead person to inhabit an artificial thing like that? Why would they do that?”
“I think that McNair and Dabinshire might be trying to create a kind of clockwork slave. Since slavery is no longer legal in the United States, they’re probably trying to find a cheap source of labor. That’s all I can think of. With the advancements in technology, I think it’s very interesting that folks are trying to combine magic and technology, but like you, I find it appalling that they would try to trap a soul in this body.”
“Maybe it was just a body without the soul?” she suggested. “Maybe before the soul animated Copperpot, he was just a big pile of gears and rods.” She looked at the construct. “Don’t get me wrong, Copperpot, you’re kinda nice for being a construct and all. Not that I met any before you, but it just doesn’t seem right.”
The construct shrugged his brassy shoulders. “I understand, Mistress Sarah.”
“Hey, will this figure out why he calls everyone master or mistress?”
“Maybe. I think there might be some kind of magical programming that does that,” Trey explained. “Like when a shaman makes a totem that will heal someone. When we are putting it together, we are forcing the energies to behave in a particular way. By doing that, the totem won’t harm anyone. It will only heal. This magic is much more complex than that, but it could be that Copperpot was designed to be a servant and was created to be overly polite.”
“Like slaves were to their owners.”
“That’s wrong too. Sorry, but my family lived in the North long before the war broke out. We never had slaves and always viewed the practice as barbaric.”
“I agree. It is my understanding that long ago, the Cheyenne used to take slaves from the other tribes that they would war with. They viewed it was better than killing the tribe entirely. But they haven’t done that in years.”
“Did they buy and sell them the way the South did?”
Trey shrugged. “I honestly don’t know. It was long before my time with the tribe.”
“Good. So what kind of thing were you thinking about doing for Copperpot?”
“If there is a soul in there, it will have to have a physical anchor, something holding it to this plane. Otherwise it should’ve gone on to its next life or be stuck to something that had meaning to it in its last life.”
“You mean like a hair or bone or something?” The woman who had no problem cutting the heads off outlaws looked repulsed by the idea of a spirit tied to a piece of its old body.
Author Bio: A.M. Burns lives in the Colorado Rockies with his partner, several dogs, cats, horses, and birds. When he’s not writing, he’s often fixing fences, splitting wood, hiking in the mountains, or flying his hawks. He’s enjoyed writing since he was in high school, but it wasn’t until the past few years that he’s begun truly honing his craft. He is the current president of the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group: www.csfwg.org. Having lived both in Colorado and Texas, rugged frontier types and independent attitudes often show up in his work.
For Elizabeth Noble and me, that’s all for this week, and thanks for spending some time with us. See you next time!