Hello, I’m Elizabeth Noble and welcome back to another Genre Talk here on The Novel Approach! Today I’m so pleased to have DSP Publications author Ravon Silvius join us today with a great new fantasy release, The Storm Lords.
Before we dig in and learn about Ravon let’s see what the book is all about.
The Storm Lords Blurb: The heat took everything from Rowen: his parents, his voice when the local cure for heatstroke poisoned him, and the trust of his fellow villagers, who branded him a water thief. It would have claimed his life when he was deemed unworthy of precious resources and left in the sun to die, had not a strange man named Kristoff ridden in on the wind and told Rowen he had power.
Rowen works hard to become a Storm Lord, one of a secret magical group that brings storms to break the heat waves overtaking their world. But Rowen is starting his training at a disadvantage since he cannot speak and is much older than the other novices. The desire to please Kristoff inspires him to persevere even more than the threat of being sent back to his village to die should he fail. Still, he cannot gather rain, and when his abilities manifest, they are unlike anything known to the Storm Lords. Unless Kristoff can help him control his deadly powers, the entire world will be in danger.
Kristoff might be among the mightiest of the Storm Lords, but he’s never been a mentor before. For a chance to be with Rowen, he’s willing to risk everything.
Elizabeth: Ravon, would you tell us about your genre?
Ravon: The Storm Lords is fantasy, a genre I’ve loved since I was a child. While I love reading basically anything, fantasy is the genre I love most–where anything can happen, and I can be introduced into a completely different world with different social structures and even completely different environments and histories. Sure, fantasy can reflect the real world, but it can also be a wonderful escape.
Elizabeth: Talk to us about The Storm Lords?
Ravon: The Storm Lords is a book about sacrifice. That theme came together as I was writing it (I’m a pantser, not a planner), but stayed strong throughout the story and really came through as the book formed in edits. Rowen begins the story as a sacrifice, a mistaken one, to bring rain. He sacrifices his old life for a new one as a result of that. And as the story goes on, you see how more sacrifices are made, as characters work around dwindling resources in a harsh world. But ultimately, characters realize that perfect sacrifices aren’t really perfect–Rowen learns that completely forgetting what was lost defeats the purpose of that sacrifice, and both Rowen and Kristoff learn that making sacrifices sometimes isn’t the best solution. The characters must become adept at identifying what they really want, and how to get it without losing too much.
Elizabeth: How do you define “diversity” in your writing, and how you explored it in this book
Ravon: I came up with Rowen just after I came up with the world–a young, humble man who happens to be unable to speak due to injury. I had never seen a story that addressed mutism before, or explored it in a setting where a quick workaround (typing, telekinesis, etc) wasn’t immediately available, or the character didn’t just get better over time. Characters with disabilities, especially mutism, are often included as the friend, sidekick, or sidekick to a villain, but its rarer that they are the main character–although this is thankfully changing more recently. The other thing I had seen in previous books that always annoyed me is disabled characters who magically get better or recover after working at it. That’s well and good, especially in fantasy, but is not always how the world works. Those with disabilities can’t always “get better,” and Rowen is one of those who is the way he is, and Rowen and those around him have to learn to accept it. Rowen’s learning to accept that part of himself, and those around him doing the same, will hopefully be relatable to everyone, whether they have disabilities or not.
Of course, as this is a DSP novel, it also includes LGBT relationships. Rowen and Kristoff’s relationship is an important part of the novel, though most of the novel is about Rowen’s learning to use his magic and adjusting to life outside of the home he grew up in.
Elizabeth: The Storm Lords 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 and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Ravon: Most M/M books that are squarely classified as Romance are not genre, and have relationships that begin very early, often within the first two chapters. Rowen and Kristoff are a very slow burn. The world is unique, and the first bit of the book introduces the reader to not only to the characters, but the world as well, and the conflict faced by the Storm Lords–being the only line of defense in a world where the environment, in this case the weather, is the enemy, and that overshadows every other conflict. The powers used are similar to the Weather Wardens series, although the similarities end there, as the Storm Lords is fantasy while that story is urban fantasy. Mention should of course be made of Glenda Larke’s The Last Storm Lord series, which has similar concepts (and a similar title)–a desert world where water must be brought–but has more political intrigue and violence while The Storm Lordshas personal sacrifice and LGBT romance with a focus on only two characters and a very different world.
Elizabeth: Glenda is one of my favorite authors! At one time we were in the same critique group, such a lovely person. Could you talk a little the evolution of this story? What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of The Storm Lords?
Ravon: Back in my second year of grad school, when I had very little money, I was living in a second floor apartment in NYC with no air conditioning during the hottest part of the summer. I couldn’t even open my windows, because not having screens meant bugs, and bugs meant the more energetic of my two new kittens would try to jump out of the window trying to catch said bugs. I was miserable for three weeks–taking cold showers, filling bowls with ice and putting the one working fan in front of it to try and blow cooler air around the room. My kittens seemed fine–apparently cats were initially desert animals–but I still rubbed them down with ice cubes sometimes. They looked at me like I was crazy, but tolerated it. All I could do was hope for a storm to come and break the heat.
That experience gave me the idea for The Storm Lords, where an entire world faces heat waves that rely on those who control storms to break. The first scene, with Rowen’s sacrifice, came to immediately–as did the image of Kristoff appearing in a storm and reaching out to help. The ideas flowed from there.
Elizabeth: Now for the lightening round!
What do you do for fun? Do you have a pet who supervises your writing?
Ravon: If by supervise, you mean sit on my lap and rest their little kitty feet on my mouse button so I can’t do anything, then yes. The two kittens who helped inspire the story by being with me in that sweltering apartment have grown into two very cuddly cats who love to sit on my lap. One of them is still very energetic, and while he doesn’t jump out of any windows, he still enjoys chasing every bug he finds.
As for fun, when I’m not writing I’m usually playing video games. I love all kinds of games, from MMOs to adventure game to puzzle games, and a lot of my free time is spent playing them. Its a good way to unwind.
Elizabeth: How has your writing changed since you published your first book?
Ravon: I’d like to think its gotten better! Of course, the biggest change is longer works–I began writing with shorter novellas, and now my works are full-length novels. Of course, some of those novellas make up long series–My Enforcers series, a steampunk LGBT adventure, is well over 200k words total, eight novellas and counting!
Elizabeth: If you were writing your book today is there something you’d change or do differently?
Ravon: I am happy with the way The Storm Lords turned out, for the most part. I might consider adding in more details about the world, or expanding on the epilogue. Then again, that could always be done in a sequel!
In terms of how I did the writing, I did take a long break between writing the first few chapters and the rest of the book due to life events. If I could go back in time, I’d write it a lot faster!
Elizabeth: What goes into naming characters? Do the names have significance?
Ravon: I wish I could say there were some deep hidden meanings in the names, but as a pantser, names are the one thing where usually I use whatever pops into my head. I like how the name Rowen sounds, and Kristoff Hurricane flows well in my mind. Volkes sounded like volt, which matches his power over lightning. There are some complex themes in the novel, but the names are not where they are found.
Elizabeth: Do you write in different genres and if so how difficult is it to do?
Ravon: I write a lot, and like to dip my fingers into different genres–I’ve written M/M in science fiction, steampunk, and fantasy, and perhaps one day I’ll dip into paranormal. Fantasy is my favorite genre, but science fiction is the one I have the easiest time writing in–its easier to keep things consistent when you’re following actual science. Fantasy takes the most work with intense worldbuilding, but is also the most rewarding, in my opinion. Paranormal is hard–you want to keep it grounded in a version of the real world, but I keep wanting to turn it into fantasy!
For The Storm Lords, I drew up a whole map of the world (it was drawn badly, of course–I’m a writer, not an artist). But bad art aside, that sort of thing is so fun to do when coming up with a fantasy story.
Elizabeth: What sort of research did you need to do?
Ravon: Since Rowen is mute and must learn to write, I did some reading up on how long it would take an adult to learn to read and write. I also did some medical research on what sort of injuries would render someone unable to talk. With medicine now, its thankfully rare that someone can’t speak! Rowen has aphonia caused by poisoning–I made up the pit seeds, which hurt the vocal cords but leave other things intact, but vocal cord paralysis can be caused by different poisons (like the ones in bug sprays) or even carbon monoxide exposure. Of course, those also have other nasty effects.
Of course, for the sections where Kristoff summons storms and for knowledge on how the weather in the world works, I did some research on climate and weather systems. It was tough, because we know a lot about weather that people in Rowen’s world wouldn’t necessarily know–the setting in The Storm Lords is nowhere near as advanced as ours!
Elizabeth: And because everyone likes to talk about what they’re doing the old standby: What projects are you working on now and what is coming next from you?
Ravon: I have a lot of projects in the pipeline! The next book in the Enforcer’s series is coming out soon, for those have been following that. I am also working on anthology of short, erotic stories featuring cyborgs. And finally, the next story I’m writing is about vampires, called Thrall. That on is still in progress, though.
Elizabeth: Ravon, thank you so much for joining us today! I know I’ve really enjoyed getting the chance to ‘chat’ with you.
I’d also like to thank our awesome audience. Enjoy the excerpt of The Storm Lords and there are buy links at the end of this post.
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Don’t forget to join us when Lloyd Meeker takes over on August 22, 2017. He always has wonderful things to say.
The Storm Lords Excerpt
THE HEAT hung over the village like a smothering blanket.
Rowen watched his neighbors carry water out of their huts, the image dancing in the heat waves that shimmered off the baked clay. They carried the metal buckets with care to the center of the village, where everyone prepared for the daily gathering, always necessary during a heat spell. The gathering was a time for people to spread out precious goods like water and pit seeds, which would cool down the body and prevent heat death. Everyone shared, carrying the village through the heat that sucked the life out of the area.
Rowen had nothing to share, nothing anyone would accept. He walked to the gathering with a heavy heart, his scalp burning from the sun as though his red hair were aflame.
The others who passed him glared, their eyes full of suspicion. None offered help when he stumbled. His store of food, desiccated insects and a few precious dried lizards that he’d hunted for himself, had grown small, and the water bucket in his home was mostly dry.
He would never steal water, but no one would believe him. Not after what happened. He took his place near the edge of the gathering, closest to the sun that threatened the shade provided by the elder’s enormous hut.
Alain, the village elder, called the meeting to order, his powerful voice carrying over the throng. There were fewer people here today than the day before. A bad sign.
“Report any losses.” Alain’s words were heavy with exhaustion. This heat spell was in its third week, the longest Rowen had ever experienced.
Hands went up, and Rowen looked down at the shady ground. “Tessa.” An eight-year-old girl who had loved to play outside in the rain during winter. “Fredericks.” An older man who dyed fabrics. “Abigail.” The seamstress.
“Emilia,” his neighbor Maria said, and Rowen’s stomach fell. Her infant daughter. Rowen had heard her crying sometimes at night when she was first born.
“This is day twenty-two of the current heat spell, the second of the warm season,” Alain said. His voice carried the heavy tone of ritual. “To honor them, they will be buried on the edge of the village, under the watchful gaze of the Brush Goddess.” Over a dozen small sticks marked graves there now. “We have suffered greatly so far, but—”
“Too much!” a man cried out. Rowen looked up. Timothy, Maria’s husband.
“Something must be done!” Maria shouted, her face pinched and sad.
“There is nothing that can be done.” Comments like these came up every day of every heat spell. Rowen thought of his mother’s stories, of the times when belief in mythical rituals that could bring the storms was rampant. Dances, offerings of food, even offerings of precious water that no one could drink. Rowen swallowed down thick saliva, his mouth dry. The longer the heat spells stretched on, the more desperate people became.
“Erik has measured the temperature currently at 134 degrees, dropping to 100 at night,” Alain continued. “This heat spell is intense, but that should only mean that the storm will come soon.”
“The heat spells are longer and hotter. We should go back to the old ways!” A man on Rowen’s left got to his feet, red-faced in anger. Andrew, the blacksmith, whose shop had stood abandoned for the last three weeks. “This would never have happened when I was a child!”
“There is no point in wasting energy on a ritual that won’t work.” Alain didn’t bother raising his voice. “The best thing to do is to wait and keep calm. Exertion will bring death. Trust in the Goddess of the Brush. Her gifts keep us alive.”
Rowen frowned, his throat tight. That was true, but the pit seeds had destroyed his voice.
“We must do something!” Maria yelled again, louder this time, and people responded, turning to her and some agreeing, whispering under their breath. Rowen’s heart sped up. Whispers spread throughout the villagers, then grew into shouting.
“A dozen dead!”
“This is the longest heat spell ever!”
“Maria’s right. We have to do something!”
“What would you have us do?” Alain said, his voice still calm against the rising flames of anger. “The dances will only cause heat death faster.”
“There is no need for dances.” A man spoke up from the back of the throng, an accent shading his words. Rowen turned to look.
The speaker was a man with pale hair and eyes, a traveler from the north who had settled here only a half year ago. The heat had been unkind to him. His pale skin burned red from the sun all the time. He always told tales of his travels, of lands to the north where hundreds and thousands of people lived in gleaming cities.
“Where I come from, heat spells never last this long.” He spoke slowly, calmly, with a soft commanding voice. Rowen took a step away from the gathering, a strip of sun heating his shoulder.
“How?” Andrew asked, some of his belligerence gone.
The man seemed to choose his words carefully. “Where I live, life and the heat spells are… harsher. Everyone fends for themselves. We are not as quick to share.”
A few people exchanged glances, and the man quickly picked up his tale. “But we have found a way to deal with that. Some people are not worth sharing with, after all, and more is left for others.”
Maria glanced at Rowen. He swallowed, looking away.
“Surely this is not necessary,” Alain spoke up. His voice trembled. “We will begin the dispersal of water and seeds—”
“Where I come from, we give up the people who do not deserve resources,” the man continued, ignoring Alain, and the crowd hung on his words. “Sacrificing them to the Storm Gods brings the storms faster and makes those who survive more comfortable.” He held up his hands, and the crowd followed them as he moved, not quite gesturing. “Surely there are some who don’t share. Or who may not deserve to be shared with. Someone who brings danger, or takes more than they’re worth.” People were nodding, their mouths set in thin lines.
Rowen took a step back. Anthony, an older man with a crippled leg who hadn’t been able to dig wells for years, met his gaze, the other man’s eyes wide. Rowen’s muscles tensed.
Alain spoke up. “The Brush Goddess does not—”
Then someone behind him grabbed Rowen by the arm.
“This one killed his parents by stealing their water!” Andrew yelled. Rowen opened his mouth to deny it, but of course no sound came out. He had never been able to speak, not since it had happened.
“Criminals make perfect sacrifices,” the man said, looking at Rowen but not meeting his eyes. “The Storm Gods are vindictive and respond quickly.”
“He will suffer the way his parents did,” Maria said, and people around her got up, swarming toward him like flies.
Anthony turned his back, hobbling on his crutch back into the shade.
Rowen’s heart thudded, but he didn’t try to fight. There was no point. There were too many, and running during a heat spell would only bring on his death faster.
“Tie him up!”
“This is not the way!” Alain shouted. “There are no Storm Gods!”
“It’s this or death, Elder, isn’t it?” Timothy said. “There’s too little water left. He deserves it anyway, after his parents. Water stealers can’t be trusted. The Brush Goddess cursed him for it.”
Rowen tried to shout, to scream. But his voice didn’t work, hadn’t worked since that day, and no one could hear him. Grabbing hands from people with angry faces stripped his clothes off, binding his ankles with cord and forcing his wrists behind his back. He strained against the ropes, the fibers cutting into his skin, but weeks with little water and food had already taken their toll.
No one used any more force than they had to, but the strong grip on his shoulders, arms, and legs, of everyone in his village arrayed against him, showed Rowen how pointless it was to fight. He could barely even stand, his legs bound together and his hands behind his back.
Andrew stepped up to him, staring into his face with unseeing eyes. Andrew had once given his mother his most beautifully forged metal bucket to store water and had joked with his father about sleeping underground while he dug wells.
Andrew pushed him, and Rowen fell into the dust.
“Leave him in the sun,” the man from the north said. “One less to take your water, and one more death to bring the storms faster.”
Hot tears formed in Rowen’s eyes, but he was too old to let himself cry. He hadn’t wanted their water anyway.
They dragged him into the sun, and the ground underneath him burned. He shut his eyes tightly, and the sun baked him. Nobody stayed, the coolness of their shadows dispersing. They had their dead to bury.
Rowen knew that his own death would come quickly.
The sweating began first, and his head swam in the heat. He didn’t dare open his eyes to see the merciless sun beating down on him. His skin was pale, and if he lasted long enough, he would be covered in blisters. He hoped he passed out before the pain got too bad.
He tried to think of his parents as the sun moved across the sky, focusing on memories rather than the pain of his skin burning, the heavy weight of the heat beating down on him, and his body’s desperate craving for water. He had been close with them, as an only child. His father had introduced him to village girls and had not shown disappointment when Rowen had confessed to feeling nothing for any of them. He had said only to be careful.
He thought of Lucas. Lucas, the blacksmith’s apprentice, a boy his age with blond hair and an eager smile, full lips and bright blue eyes. Rowen had never told him how Lucas had made him feel, quickening his blood and stirring him in his dreams.
Lucas had died in the same heat spell that had killed his parents. Since then Rowen had felt nothing. Too much loss all at once. He groaned on the heated ground, but it was silent, and no one was there to have heard it even if he could make a sound.
He had survived that heat spell. It should have killed him like it killed his parents, but he had lived, eating pit seeds that silenced him forever and leaving him mute to defend himself to the villagers when they claimed he stole his parents’ water. The Brush Goddess had cursed him for no reason. Or maybe there was no Brush Goddess.
A wave of nausea flipped his stomach. Heat sickness was setting in. He rolled over to vomit, nothing coming up but whitish bile. Rolling made him dizzy, and that made the sickness worse.
Soon, nothing came up at all. Heat surged through him, but he could no longer sweat. The ground spun.
This was fitting. He couldn’t survive again. He had struggled to live alone for the past year, a ghost no one wanted in their village.
He opened his eyes and was greeted with darkness.
Night had not come. He rolled, impossibly slow, to look up. The sun had been covered, a thick, dark cloud blanketing the village.
The skin around his mouth burned and flaked as he smiled. He had been sacrificed, and the storm had come.
About the Author
Ravon Silvius lives in a tiny apartment with two tiny cats in a tiny town in the United States. Despite the cramped living quarters, Ravon enjoys coming up with big ideas for novels, with some plots coming from Ravon’s findings as a neuroscience researcher and others coming purely from Ravon’s imagination.
Be sure to join Elizabeth and Carole on August 22nd, when they welcome author Lloyd A. Meeker to Genre Talk and his monthly installment of Through My Lens. You can also follow more discussion and find weekly giveaways at the Genre Talk Facebook Group.