Saturday, July 18, 2015

From the Mountain by: L. L. Crane

Title: From the Mountain
Author: L.L. Crane
Series: Mark of Powers (Book 1)
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Fiction
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: February 14 2015
Edition/Formats Available In: eBook & Print
  What would you do if you were one of the last of your kind on earth? Sixteen year old Teak’s Mark of Power has kept her alive, but will it last?  Although she is a trained killing machine, it isn’t by choice. Slated to be one of Siv Gareth's elite soldiers, her life seems to be on course, but she has a decision to make.  Does she follow her father’s wishes and become a soldier, or chase after her own dreams of training dragons?  Persecuted, shunned, and tortured because of her skin color, Teak is mad, and somebody is going to pay for it.  Siv Gareth’s race war has just begun, and now that the Purity Law has passed, the Destroyers are out in hordes to kill her and any others with light skin.  When she shoots an arrow at Siv Gareth, a chain of events unwinds that ultimately threatens her very existence.  Accustomed to going it alone, Teak finds herself on a long journey with a group of inept teens, and she must learn to depend on them…or die.  When two boys enter the scene, one irritating and the other mesmerizing, Teak wonders if she has a shot at a normal life. But will her lack of Power and skin color ruin it? This dystopian society novel, Book 1 in the Mark of Power Series, is riveting with suspense, action, betrayal, and the brimming hope of romance.

The other boy seems sullen, his arms crossed over his chest.  He is leaner than the Light Skinned boy with an olive complexion and coppery curls that frame his face.  His jaw is firm, solid, and his eyes are a vivid green, like emeralds or green diamonds…if such a thing existed.
“Geez, what happened to you?” the Light Skinned boy asks.  I blink my eyes a few times, trying to understand what he is talking about.
“What?” I manage to say as I turn to close the still opened door.
“You’re covered with blood.”  I glance down at my healing robe.  When I woke up this morning it was white…but it would be difficult to tell that now.
“Emergency,” I squeak out, swallowing to clear my throat.
“What, did someone get his head chopped off?”  It is the Light Skinned boy, and his golden eyes are twinkling, as if he is enjoying this. 
“Yes…well, actually it was a woman.”

I am pleased to have L.L. Crane the author of From the Mountain with me today.

Sixteen year old Teak is one of the last of her kind left on earth.  So far, her Mark of Power has kept her alive, but after just barely surviving the first ethnic cleansing, Teak's father forces her into training to become one of Siv Gareth's elite soldiers, but she hates it with every core of her being.  After finally standing up to Bello, her Weapons Instructor, Teak has a decision to make. Does she follow her father’s wishes and become a soldier, or chase after her own dream of training dragons?  The year is 2087, and after the Final War there is no technology, although previously cloned dragons have survived the deadly chemical wars. All Teak wants is to work with dragons, like her mother did. Instead, she is persecuted, shunned, and tortured because of her skin color. Teak is mad, and somebody is going to pay for it. 
At a competition, Teak shoots an arrow at Siv Gareth, and a chain of events occurs that ultimately leads Teak on a long journey with a group of rag-tag teens, and she must learn to depend on them…or die.  When two boys, Thann and Koree, enter the scene, one irritating and the other mesmerizing, Teak wonders if she has a shot at a normal life. But will it last? Siv Gareth brings his race war to full force, and he is especially interested in finding Teak. Destroyers are out in hordes searching for her, and they make their point clear when they brutally kill Soot, a Light Skinned member of the group.  Thann and Teak, the last of the Light Skins, must literally run for their lives in the tunnels under Mount Gareth in hopes of reaching the hopeful safety of Harcourt. 

            The horn blares, a jolt that echoes through the thin walls of our dormitory. We automatically throw open the doors and race into the halls.  Our feet match each other’s in perfect precision, just as we have been trained. We don’t need to think about our positions – we have fought hard for them. 
            Glendon is first, me second, and Pride third.  Twenty-two others are behind us as we march in unison, Glendon setting the pace. The rhythm of our footsteps sings to us like a lullaby, even though that is the last thing any of us have heard in years.   I fall into place behind him silently, two ivory handled knives at my waist and my bow slung over my shoulder.  My quiver of arrows is perched comfortably on my back.  An empty sheath is anchored to my belt…to all of ours.  We haven’t earned our swords yet.  All of us are more than aware that only three of the sheaths will ever hold a ruby handled sword – those of Lord Gareth’s elite guard.
            We blast through the front doors and Glendon steps up the pace.  We keep time with him, as we always do.  He is tall and lean, just as I am.  But he has dark black hair, a slightly hooked nose and black eyes that appear to be hard, unfeeling.  And his skin, like all the others is dark.
            Pride is in perfect step behind me.  She is small and petite, and it has always been difficult for her short legs to keep time with Glendon’s and mine.  But she manages it somehow.  I respect her for that.  But it doesn’t go any further.  She hates me.  And I hate them all.
            Reese is fifth in the pack.  He has made it to the finals.  But just barely.  I smirk to myself thinking of his empty armband. Glendon has three purple stripes sewn to the armband of his red jumpsuit.  I have two, and Pride has one. 
            Glendon leads us out onto the field.  Thump. Thump. Left. Right. Our boots hit the soft grass as the aroma of salty ocean air teases my nostrils.  We line up in front of a wall of targets, stopping at once.  We spread our feet apart and stand at alert, waiting for a signal, motionless statues.  We are one and yet we are none.
            It is a Friday, and the massive field is empty.  After today two things will happen.  Five of us will be chosen to compete for Soldier Academy, and ten others will become simple guards.  Anyone behind Reese knows this, but desperately hopes for a chance today…for one of us to mess up so a slot will open, a rare opportunity to take our place at the final competition tomorrow.  And a chance to have a gleaming sword placed in an empty sheath.
            It is our last day of Weapons Training School.  We are all sixteen years old and have trained together since the Purification Law passed and the Final War began when I was six years old. Those of us who had parents with money, power, or influence were immediately funneled away to Weapons Training School.  I suppose their thinking was that we would be safe here.  But they were wrong.  I have been anything but safe.  I am one of the only Light Skins left in the city, perhaps even in the world, and it haunts me every second of my life.
            After the competition three of us will walk away with swords.  One gold, one silver, and one bronze, and of course the handle of each sword will be pure ruby…the color of blood.  They will fit perfectly into the empty sheaths on our belts.
            At this point, I know two things to be true; I am sure I will make the top three and someone will place a sword in my sheath.  I also know with every fiber of my being that it is the last thing I want.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live, etc.? When did you start writing? 
  I live in a remote area of Northern California in a town of about 300 people.  I have always written, but couldn’t write seriously until my last child left for college.  I own my own business, which offers flexibility, so I have the opportunity to write almost every morning.  I started writing as a child on my mom’s old blue typewriter.  Stapler in hand, I cranked out book after book with a pen name of Katie Bush, who of course, was rich and traveled around in a limousine.  With my business, I have done a lot of writing, but it is all serious stuff, so I had this itch to write fiction, especially young adult fiction.  I’ve been having a blast with it!

Tell us a little about the book and where did you get the idea to write this story. 
  The setting of this book series is a dystopian society, which always fascinates me. Since we have horses, I got to thinking about using dragons like horses, so in this futuristic world, the few remaining people travel around on dragons with saddles and carts. Siv Gareth, the leader of the Alliance has forbidden all dragons to fly except his own.  Teak came about as being an oppressed girl who was being forced to do something she didn’t want to do - Weapons Training.  After standing up to her father, a healer, she is allowed to go to Dragon Academy, but the journey there proves to be anything but easy. Teak witnesses   horrible things, is captured because of her skin color, and must learn to summon inner strength to survive.  I think it is important for young girls and women to know that they can own their own power, inside and out.  Teak’s personality evolves throughout the book, where many times she finds herself literally fighting or running for her life and often thinking more about her friends’ safety than her own.

What’s the best and worst part of being a writer?
  The best part about being a writer is getting to create wonderful, exciting stories and characters that come to life on paper.  I also love envisioning beautiful book covers.  When I am driving or waiting in line I can think of pictures and names of books, plots, etc.  It keeps my mind busy.  Sometimes the characters seem so real to me that I think they might walk through the door!  The worst part is definitely marketing.

What is your writing schedule like?
  I get up and write every morning before I go to work.  I usually can get a couple hours in.  Sometimes I have other engagements, and I become cranky that I have to leave all of my characters and plots behind.  At first I just disciplined myself to write daily, but it has become an itch that needs scratched every day.

Who was your first author crush and why?
  Pat Conroy.  He spins a tale like nobody else and his words turn into music.  I can only aspire to be as great of a writer as he is.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
  Never give up.  Don’t fall in love with any words - they can always be changed, often for the better.  Write every day.  Read a lot.  Always strive to be better.  Edit. Edit. Edit some more.    I went to college with writing scholarships and I remember a professor telling us that 80% of writing is rewriting.  I have never forgotten that.

If you could write another genre other than romance what would you write?
  I am intrigued with paranormal romance novels.  I just haven’t been able to wrap my arms around writing any yet.   I love the thought of creating creatures or beings that haven’t been heard of before, although I am trying to come up with something that isn’t trite, like demons or zombies.

Are you panster (write by the seat of your pants) or plotter? How do you write?
  I am definitely a punster!  Ideas just come after I’ve thought of the story line in my mind.  Sometimes I’ll be writing and the book takes a different turn than I thought it would, and it’s usually better than I dreamed it would be.  I write like a fiend and get the framework in, then I go back and edit, edit, edit.  I used to hate the editing part, but now I look forward to it, because that’s where I get to plug in beautiful words, similes, and metaphors. 

If you could turn any of your books into a movie which book or series would it be?
  I would choose my next series, The Blue Spectrum Chronicles.  Forbidden Rain has just been released  and Vanishing Rain is almost finished.  I have weaved autism into this futuristic novel, because I have worked with so many autistic children, and we need to sit up as a nation and world to better understand what the future will be like if we don’t do something about this crippling disorder soon.  Also, I really like the relationship between Rain and Orion and how their love story weaves throughout the entire series.  I get so tired of reading the same romance plots, so I added a different twist to theirs. 

Do you have a character in one of your books that continues to haunt you at night or surprised you when you wrote the book?
  Orion in The Blue Spectrum Chronicles turned out to be a deep character, when in the beginning I pictured him as just some beefy dumb guy who broke Rain’s heart and left her.  But in Vanishing Rain, he revealed himself to be so much more, and I was surprised at how he developed as a person, his loyalty to Rain and her autistic brother, and his unconditional love for both of them.   I focused mostly on Rain in the first book, but Orion became a pivotal character in Vanishing Rain.  I love him!

Do your books have a particular theme or premise?
  So far I have just written about dystopian societies, although I have a started a book about wild horses and a young girl.  Also, in all of my books, the protagonist is a female, and I think it would be a challenge to have the protagonist be a male.  I have great respect for John Green writing The Fault in Our Stars from a female point of view and having it come across so real.  When Hazel falls in love with Augustus, it is very female.  I respect that so much, and strive to one day write that well.

What is next? Any new titles we should be looking for?
  I just finished To the Moon, which is the second book in the Mark of Power Series.  I am currently working on the third book in the series, Into the Black Night, and it should be ready in a couple of months.  Forbidden Rain has just been released, and I am almost done with Vanishing Rain, the second book.  Rain Born will be the third book in that series, but I haven’t even started it yet.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
  I have been so grateful for reviews and the kind words and emails I have received. 

Please provide us with a snippet from your latest book below.

Snippet from Forbidden Rain:
Orion leaned down toward my neck and his lips grazed against my skin.  He nestled his head against the nape of my neck, my hair spilling over his head, and I could feel his breath under the tent of it, hot and steamy.  We stayed clamped together like that for a while, our arms clasped around each other. Then, he throatily whispered in my ear, his breath sending shivers up my arm. “I’m crazy about you, Rain. I think about you all day long.”
“Me too,” I breathed out.
He pulled his head up and caught my eyes, a lopsided grin forming on his full lips. “Well, that’s good,” he comically answered.  “It’s settled then.  We both think about you all day long.”
I laughed out loud, and Orion pulled me close to him again.  “Shhhh, they’ll hear us.”  He kissed me on the forehead, then, and gazed down at me, blue fire in his eyes.
“I’m falling for you, Rain.” The words wound a ribbon around my heart, binding it tightly to his.
“I’m falling hard.”

L.L. Crane lives in a remote area of Northern California with her two horses, six goats, three dogs and two cats.  When she was a child, L.L. Crane dreamed of being a writer. She used the name, “Katie Bush” as a pen name for the famous writer she hoped to become, cranking out book after book on her mom’s old blue typewriter.
 As life often has twists and turns, L.L. Crane found herself becoming anything but a writer.  She graduated with a B.A. in Education, even though she was honored to begin her college career with the aid of writing scholarships.
After becoming a teacher, raising three children primarily on her own, as well as owning and operating a business, L.L. Crane finally pursued her dreams and began writing novels.  She brings her own experiences from teaching and her love of animals to her stories.
L.L. Crane is an avid reader and writer and loves children, animals, reading, riding horses, and gnomes.

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