Thursday, January 31, 2019

Takeover Thursday with Lara Lee ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Lara has offered to give away an electronic copy of the book. You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends February 7, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)  

Excerpt from The Gryphon's Handmaiden

Once they were in the middle of the garden, Lord Ansil quickly turned and shot a red fireball at Timothy. Timothy was surprised but dodged it rolling in the grass. Then Lord Ansil created a wall of yellow fire around Timothy as he came to his feet.

What is he doing? thought Timothy as he noticed Lord Ansil’s glittering black eyes.

Timothy pushed the fire down and jumped out of the closing circle. Lord Ansel shot yellow fireballs that Timothy deflected to the side with his hands. Then came a red blaze. Timothy dropped down under and rolled. He tried to shift the blaze in a curve back to Lord Ansil. Timothy was breaking a sweat.

He shouldn't be doing this without sleep or much in his stomach, but his adrenaline was starting to kick in. He grimaced at the effort. Lord Ansil's mouth curved into a slight smile before shooting blue fireballs at Timothy.

These were not practice lobs, but shots that could kill. Timothy rolled out of the way of one and nearly got singed with another. He jumped to his feet to run around to Lord Ansil's side.

If he wants to play tough, then here we go, thought Timothy as he matched Lord Ansil’s intense expression.

Timothy gritted his teeth. He shot a series of red fireballs. Lord Ansil caught them and shot them back at him. Timothy dodged each one, but his clothes got singed again. Lord Ansil smiled as he again surrounded Timothy with the blue flame. Timothy struggled to fight the flames as it got closer to his legs. He was able to force an opening enough to jump through. He bared his teeth, turned, and threw a big blue fireball. Lord Ansil immediately burst into flame and walked right into Timothy's fireball. Timothy gawked and panted in tiredness.

“Enough then,” said Lord Ansil putting his fire out. “You did well, but there are definite gaps in your knowledge.”

“Right,” said Timothy still breathing hard.

He looked at his clothes covered in singed holes. This was a nice outfit too.

Lord Ansil tilted his head.

“Are you injured?” he asked Timothy.

Timothy couldn't tell if he was mocking him. He stood up tall calming his breathing.


Lord Ansil bared his teeth in the feral way that only Huldra can. He crouched down with his hands in front of him ready to cast a spell.

“Good. Now again.”

Q:  How did you come up with the concept for your novel?
A:  My first novel, Gryphendale, came from a desire to write a Christian fairy tale. At the time I wrote that book, I had lost my mother to brain cancer and my son was born extremely premature (23 weeks). The young adult fairy tale ended up being a wrestling with God about why do bad things happen to good people. The book offers no answers, but the characters find resolution in trusting that the creator God, the blue Gryphon, has a reason and plan. The story came out of a dark time for me, but the feel of the novel is light and optimistic. I write about hope.

Gryphendale was a stand-alone novel, but I missed the faerie world I had created. I then decided to write this trilogy 30 years after the events of Gryphendale. I didn't realize how much I still had to learn.

The Shadow of the Gryphon started with an old retired Brownie, Arthur, who helps twin princes, Timothy and Nathaniel, travel to the underside of their coin-shaped world to break the curse that turned Nathaniel's fiance to stone. Timothy and Nathaniel are named after my sons who died from being born too prematurely after my first son. The land they travel in is a swamp with many of the features of Florida. If my first novel had a lot of focus on mothers, this one focused a bit on fathers and father figures. I found myself wrestling with my past as each of the main characters do throughout the story. Each character has a different past crisis that they had to overcome to become who the Gryphon had created them to be. I too had to let go of my past pains and hurts. Again, this is a book about hope.

This newest book, The Gryphon's Handmaiden, was finally going to be an easy one to write, but it didn't turn out that way. Timothy and Arthur set out into the Nomad Desert to find the Gryphon's Codex. They meet a mute runaway slave girl, Tabatha, with extraordinary power who has all the answers.

Tabatha's significant disability, mutism, is caused by trauma. I had debated in making her autistic, but it made the story too complicated. I wanted to encourage my son that no disability can keep you from pursuing your dream. This is part of my message as an author. I've been very involved in the special needs community and have often seen children told what they can't do. A person may have to work harder because of a disability, but there is always a way to find your path in life. I too have had to work through my dyslexia to be a writer. God uses everyone, not in spite of their disability, but with it.

Q: That's so true! Your level of creativity makes me wonder about your childhood. Would you say you were very creative when it came to getting yourself out of trouble?
A:  I had to laugh at this because I was a very creative child. My mother always said I was sneaky. I wasn't a liar, but I was a great negotiator. I did tend to find more trouble than most children as well: getting stuck on top of a fence, standing in ant piles without meaning to, almost drowning, getting a tour group lost in Paris, tripping over a pew in a church in Austria, just to name a few. I have been told I was like Anne of Green Gable once, which may give you a clearer picture of my personality.

Q:  Ha! When you say that your book is a young adult fantasy fiction, who is your target audience? How does the age of the audience determine what you write?
A:  In many writing guides, you will get conflicting advice. Some say you need to consider your audience first and others say to just focus on the story first. I write what I like to read. Perhaps it is a little narcissistic, but I still enjoy reading my books after working on a zillion drafts. I think I write good stories. At first, I marketed Gryphendale as straight fantasy fiction because my main characters are not teenagers. Then I found that teens enjoyed them and that some adults liked young adult books because they were cleaner. I changed my marketing and haven't looked back. It really comes down to finding your audience. My books interest people twelve years old and older. Some of my best compliments came from women in their forties. I really haven't had to adjust my writing style at all.

Q:  Tell me a little about your writing journey, thus far.
A:  My writing journey has been a bit like a drunk squirrel searching for its used up hoard of nuts. I've been making up fairy tales and stories as long as I can remember, but I was discouraged from writing for a living because of dyslexia and the fact that authors don't earn much. Since eating was a priority in my life, I got a real job until I was forced to quit to follow my husband on a crazy half-baked adventure to Scotland and then around Europe with a baby in tow. It wasn't until my thirties that I self-published my first book with fear and trembling. Since then I have had short stories and articles published as well as other books. My third book comes out this week. I'm now pursuing writing full time since I let my husband pay the bills while I play mom.

Q:  How many books of the Gryphendale series have you written so far and how many more do you have planned out, or at least you have ideas for them?
A:  I have two published books, one coming out January 29th, an anthology of short stories written, and five novels planned out. This isn't going to be a linear series, but an anthology series, an exploration of Gryphendale following the example of L.E. Modisett's Recluse series or Terry Brooks's Shannara series. I plan on continuing to write in the world of Gryphendale until I run out of ideas.

Q:  What challenges did you face when writing this book?
A:  I struggle with dyslexia, so the editing process of my books takes a great deal of time. I mostly struggle with spelling which computer spelling checkers help. I often have to run a grammar checker to check for missing articles since I read in chunks and struggle to see those mistakes. Grammarly is a great help, but it isn't perfect. I have learned some tricks to help my eyes to isolate what I want to proof, but it is very slow. I really have to thank my beta readers and editors for helping with those issues.

Along with the practical side of dealing with dyslexia, there is an emotional struggle. I wasn't encouraged to write when I was young and failed every spelling test I took. Many people would wonder why I still choose to write. It's because I have to. I am a natural storyteller and have been telling my own made-up fairy tales since I was a small child. I remember even forcing my younger brother and cousins to act out the adventures I invented for them.

It is hard to publish a book when you know that your greatest struggle is being exposed to the world. Can God use me even as I am? YES! This is the message of The Gryphon's Handmaiden, and it is a struggle that is very real every day to me. God often chooses the weak to teach the strong.

"I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness."

- Isaiah 42:6-7

That's so true! Thanks so much for sharing a bit about you and your story with my readers. 

About Lara...

Lara Lee is the author of the young adult fantasy fiction novels Gryphendale, The Shadow of the Gryphon, and The Gryphon's Handmaiden. She has also had two short stories published, "The Worst Hero Ever" and "Trust Old Juniper." Sometimes, she is also a graphic designer, wife, and mother. After growing up in Florida with her head stuck in various books, she ran away to Oral Roberts University to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design and a husband. Then, she worked professionally with the children's curriculum publisher Mentoring Minds in Texas before following her husband on a crazy adventure in Scotland. She has lived in three states and four countries and has visited even more destinations with an insatiable curiosity that shows up in her writing. Currently, she lives in Texas with her husband and two sons who all regularly participate in her misadventures and random schemes.

Where you can find her online...


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