Cate: Please join me in welcoming Rae Lori. Rae, will you please share a short bio with us?
Rae: Thanks for having me, Cate! I’ve been writing and doing art since I was about 10 years old when I wrote a short story on a dare to myself. The writing bug bit me ever since then and I’ve been juggling the two. Now I work as a graphic designer and book cover artist while working in between my writing projects.
Cate: You have a fantastic web site! I encourage everyone to explore it - especially your free reads and art work.
Tell us about your latest release, Within the Shadows of Mortals and where it's available.
Rae: Within the Shadows of Mortals is the second in my Ashen Twilight Series after A Kiss of Ashen Twilight. Jace and Ariya will continue as the main characters but there will also be other happenings going on in the house. When we last left off, everyone was headed toward the West coast to leave the desert after they’ve been revealed. Not everyone makes it there, unfortunately, and the bulk of the story deals with getting those folks back. There’s also a free short story that’s available on my site which takes place in between the first and second novel. It’s called Upon a Tide of Wintry Morn and it’s available here: http://www.raelori.com/akoat-tide. Mortals takes place right after the events in the second story and gives an idea for the main villain’s motive and how he ties into the first book’s villain.
Cate: Sounds fantastic! Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Rae: I’d love to! This is the opening scene to the first chapter which continues after ‘Upon a Tide of Wintry Morn’ where Jace and Ariya have retreated to her world for some solace.
“Tell me what your world is like.”
Ariya gazed at the moonlight streaming through the wide window of her room that morning. It had been much too long since this serene calm washed over her. Coming home had been a last minute decision, but she was glad when Jace agreed to join her in the Aziza realm. They took their chance for escape during the Ashen Twilight House’s trek across the states to the west coast. Jace’s skin couldn’t take the harsh sun’s rays and live to see the night. It had been a concern she didn’t have to consider previously. Then again she hadn’t been aware of Nightwalkers until recently. Once she fell into the care of the house after escaping her world, a whole other underworld opened up to her. One filled with Nightwalkers, Lycans and Shifter Elves. It was nothing like she had ever encountered. Now her life had taken a dramatic turn once she lost her heart to Jace Archane, Regent in the House of Blood. His uncle Julian wasn’t so pleasant at first, and Ariya didn’t exactly extend a welcoming hand herself. Of course a bloodthirsty elemental creature had been after her so hospitality wasn’t exactly high on the list of priorities while running for her life.
Now it was time to return to the beautiful green lands that served as her home. After almost having the life sucked out of her, being nearly beaten to death by a shifter renegade—or Shifter Ren as the house calls them—and passing through the portal of her own demise, Ariya could afford some time to get away from it all and return home to serenity. Before leaving, they promised to meet the members of the Ashen Twilight House in Los Angeles for a new start once she and Jace returned from the Aziza realm. Soon the time would come when they would have to leave the realm and return to the mortal world. For now, she wanted to enjoy every quiet moment together while they had it.
Jace’s cold touch brought her back to the present. His hand wrapped around her chin, gently stroking the skin with his thumb.
She turned back to the bed where Jace Archane, her love, watched her from the soft ivory folds of her bed sheets. He was beautiful. Perhaps the most striking creature she had ever laid eyes on. Dark strands of his wavy shoulder length hair fell over his strong, smooth pale visage. He was in his early twenties at the time of his change; an age he would remain as mortals leave behind their legacy of ashes. He’d always have his charming boyish face with cupid’s bow lips, bright blue eyes and a strong sharp nose. Now she had his undivided attention. His handsome expression was curious, waiting with the question of his words. His muscled chest was bare under the dark red shirt that lay open over the rise and fall of his breathing.
“Soft damp green hills fill every part of our lands, with cool springs and large bodies of water in between.”
Jace chuckled. “Sounds like Scotland.”
Ariya nodded, smiling. “It does have similarities. Like with the hunters we assisted when we ventured to Dahomey in the mortal realm. Different worlds yet so much alike.” Her forehead wrinkled with thought. “It was there I noticed that the men were bred to be warriors since the dawn of humans. Here the warriors, my guard, are women. We still have a specialized guard composed of men who stay in the outskirts of our world. But the tradition has always been to keep female guards for the castle.”
“Hmm, well the House of Lycan is the only house structured similarly.”
“But not bred. They’re born into their strength.”
Jace nodded. “You have a point there. So girls grow up to be in the guard?”
Ariya’s shoulder rose in a slight shrug. “Some do. If they wish it.” She waved a hand before poking Jace in the chest. “Anyway, I was describing. The days are longer here than the nights in the mortal realm. They have been since I can remember. We can bring the rain whenever the crops need it. And we celebrate every aspect of life’s changes. From life itself to life passing on, to birth, the changes of the season and betrothals followed by wedded unions.”
Her fingers traced the hard line of his chest as she spoke.
“And what of your betrothal?” Jace caught her finger and looked up at her, his blue gaze focused on her.
Ariya shook her head. “I never really considered it growing up. I guess I always had my head in the books, learning about the mortal realm. Teaching the young ones and honing my own powers.”
“And then you found me.” A sly smile sneaked across his lips. He lifted her finger and kissed it softly. “Tell me more.”
Ariya shrugged. “There’s much more and yet some of it’s not too terribly interesting.”
“It’s of interest to me. What if an outsider wanted to stay here?”
“I—I don’t know.” She looked away. “I don’t think it’s ever happened before. For a while it was just us and the mortals. Everything else was myth or the inhabitants of our world.” She smiled. “Why do you ask?”
Jace turned away, staring ahead into space as he spoke. A crease formed in the middle of his forehead, and his lips thinned into a straight line as he thought. In the silence that followed, he finally looked up at her. The hard gaze melted into warmth as he smiled.
“Curiosity is all.”
Ariya cocked a single eyebrow. “And that’s why you blocked your thoughts from me?”
“Privacy, my love,” Jace said, grinning. Traces of his Scottish accent filtered in and out. She noticed it tended to mix with others, mostly American. Probably due to America being his home for the past few decades.
“You would miss your home if you stayed here,” Ariya said. She meant it more as a question, but the statement was clear.
Jace idly ran his hand along her warm, dark skin. “I already miss it. I often wonder what my kids are thinking, even at this very moment. Or my faculty bosses. Do they think I died in the chaos? Or just up and left?” He shook his head. “Not sure which I think is worse.”
Ariya remembered Jace loved to teach. When she first met him, he appeared aloof and full of himself. But as she got to know him, his shell opened and she discovered the love he had for teaching.
“Traveling for so long and seeing so many things can be like inhaling a well of knowledge,” he had once told her. “Like water. Sooner or later that excess has to come out one way or another. I wanted to share mine.” And so it did as he shared his expertise and experience with the college kids—although said knowledge was sold as second hand hearsay or from his reading in books rather than first hand encounters that would reveal his true secret.
“Enough of that now,” Jace said smiling up at her. He slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her close. “I think we’re both in need of a break once in awhile.” His voice grew softer, huskier as he drew near. She anticipated the kiss that lingered in the next moment.
Ariya’s stomach fluttered as Jace’s lips brushed hers. Her eyes closed and only touches remained to overtake her senses. Jace’s strong yet gentle hand moved up her arm, the warmth of his tongue and mouth welcomed her at the same time. How much her life had changed since she fell in love with him. The single act of being in his presence transformed into a magical experience itself the moment her heart became his. No more was he just a man or a Nightwalker that she felt drawn to. He was hers, an extension of herself in a way that had broken the barrier of personal space to become a part of her that she was free to touch and love anytime she pleased.
The moonlight in the dark sky had shifted, bathing them in darkness while the room fell in light.
“Taste me,” Ariya said, feeling Jace move to her neck. His grip on her froze.
Morning would be upon them soon, and it’d be awhile before she could feel Jace again. For as the sunlight drew upon the lands, the rise and fall of his chest would cease, his breath would be frozen and death would claim his body.
“You want me to feed upon you, Ariya?”
His breath brushed against her neck as she spoke, his hand caressing the dark curves of her body.
Ariya arched her head to look at him in the shadowy room within the night. Already she could see the bright white shine of his elongated fangs peeking out from between his parted lips. The sight made her heart race, her breath shallow and her wings flutter slightly against her back.
“Yes Jace,” she breathed.
His masculine grip slid down to her hips urging her legs to wrap around his and straddle him.
Jace’s fingers immediately went to the soft gossamer sleeve of her dress. He pulled them down with a controlled urgency that sent her heart racing further. Careful of her wings, he gingerly opened the dress down the front to reveal her dark full breasts.
Ariya sucked in a breath sharply, feeling the brush of his sharp fangs against her soft tender chest.
“I, Jacinus Aurelius Archane, now take you Ariya to be my wife.” His hand slipped behind her back, brushing against her wings before resting against her shoulder blades. “In the presence of God and before the Aziza realm and the mortal world, I promise to be a loving, faithful, loyal husband to you, for as long as we both shall live.”
Ariya grinned, feeling his lips move into a smile once he leaned to kiss her.
“Both technically and figuratively,” Jace added.
Ariya brushed her fingers through his hair, peering down at him. “I, Ariya, now take you Jacinus Aurelius Archane to be my beloved husband and lifemate,” she spoke softly against the crown of his head, cradling him to her chest. “In the presence of Mawu-Lisa and before the Aziza realm and the mortal realm. I promise to be a loving, faithful and loyal lifemate, wife and friend to you, for as long as we both shall live.”
She felt his hand grab hers and raise it up. Despite the darkness, the bright shine of the moonlight shined across her silver ring. The Claddagh ring he had called it. The same piece of jewelry that had belonged to his mother who handed it down to him to give to his own beloved. Ariya remembered the tale he shared when he first placed it on her finger.
When worn as a ring it’s supposed to symbolize friendship and love, he had told her. Jace’s mother had come into contact with the woman who first owned it. Along with the gift came the legend of the goldsmith who molded it for his love. Shortly after, he was kidnapped and taken aboard a pirate ship, and thus began their five year separation and still he promised to marry her.
“Thy beauty and brightness/And lightness is going/Under the bonnie brown waves of thy hair/Thy lips red and luscious/And blushes bright glowing/Smote me with love and sweetest despair,” Jace said softly, then kissed the ring. He wrapped his hand around hers so that their rings touched in a quiet clink. “Mo ghaol ort.” I love you.
Cate: Wonderful! What inspired you to write about the theme?
Rae: I love stories that continue with the same characters and I knew I had more story to tell after finishing Within the Shadows of Mortals. Since this is the middle of the trilogy, this is where everything breaks down. The stakes are higher, relationships go through a bit of turmoil and I wanted to mold the two together especially with Ariya gaining her royal status as Queen. Her and Jace come from two different worlds and although they love each other very much, there’s also other things happening as an external conflict that starts to encroach on their internal one. I love seeing couples strive through adversity so I wanted to work with the theme of banning together to fight for their love and life and coming out stronger. The theme does continue onto the third book, Inheritance of Ashes, where lots of things will be coming to a head in the battle but settling between Jace and Ariya.
Cate: How do you develop your plots and characters?
Rae: I try to think of them as people with desires and wishes. Sometimes they surprise me and lead me in different directions to the story but I like to start out knowing what they want and how they plan to get it. Then once I have the main conflicts down the minor obstacles and story revelations start popping out. With this series it got a bit complex because much of who the characters are now are shaped by who they were as they integrated into their new lives as immortals. So I wanted to show both aspects to propel the story forward and give the reader a chance to see how they’ve progressed in certain aspects while still trying to work through other issues that have impacted them from the past.
Cate: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Rae: Oh definitely! I still feel them off the page in my head and they come alive when I’m writing them, sort of a different world that I feel apart of but I’ve never had any dreams or anything of my characters. More like wakeful daydreams. :-)
Cate: What's next for you?
Rae: Next I’ll be working on a fantasy short story and finishing up some in progress works (a novella and a novel) and also I’ll be working on the beginning to Inheritance of Ashes because the intro has been swimming around in my head for a while and I think it’s finally ready to come out!
Cate: Any other published works?
Author: Yes, I have a few works available now. Voice of Abandon, or the Princess and the Violinist is a short contemporary sweet novella about a princess overcoming the sudden death of her husband and she learns to live again with the help of a traveling violinist and his music.
I also have some works with Freya’s Bower, Before Dawn Breaks which is a romantic suspense novel with a kick butt heroine and a handsome former secret agent hero, One Evening in London about a female author finding love and understanding abroad, and finally Uthiel’s Embrace about a Undine faerie who finds love with a mortal prince in an ancient fantasy setting. My science fiction short story ‘A Day in the Life of Simplicity’ appears in the Weirdly Anthology from Wild Child Publishing. I also have some freebies on my website including a short romantic science fantasy novella illustrated and written by me called The Eye of Alloria and some other goodies as well.
Cimmerian City, my first novel, is currently being rewritten and revised into another story called A Feast of Shadows which I’ll be re-releasing in the near future.
Cate: Describe your writing in three words.
Rae: Vibrant, descriptive, romantic
Cate: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Most rewarding?
Rae: The most challenging for me is getting the story out of my head and onto the page. Sometimes it pops up in my head but sometimes it’s like pulling teeth! The most rewarding is hearing from my readers who’ve enjoyed the story and really see the progression of the characters and why they do the things they do. I love hearing feedback from them.
Cate: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Rae: Recently a new reader with the same exact name as one of my characters contacted me. It’s not really a common name and it’s one of my fave characters I’ve written so it was awesome to hear the enthusiasm from the reader and how she came across the book while googling herself!
Cate: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Rae: My favorite book of all time is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I read it in high school first and was hooked ever since. I also love Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Julie Kagawa is a new favorite of mine, love Diana Gabaldon’s first two Outlander books, Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson. I’m still working my way to some authors who are prevalent in the sci-fi and fantasy world but I’m really enjoying discovering some oldies but goodies.
Right now I’m reading Jon F. Merz’s The Fixer Files, an ARC of Julie Kagawa’s The Iron Daughter and a non-fiction book about Mom & Pop bookstores.
Cate: Where can you be found on the web?
Rae: You can check out my website at http://www.raelori.com. I also blog at http://raelori.blogspot.com where I post recommended reads and reviews of books from my TBR pile and spotlight authors. I also tweet sometimes at http://www.twitter.com/RaeLori and you can also find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RaeLori
Cate: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Rae: I’d love to know what everyone is reading as I’m always on the look out for new good reads. And also, how do you guys find new authors?
Cate: Readers, Rae is giving away A Kiss of Ashen Twilight and Within the Shadows of Mortals ebooks to a random commenter... so start commenting. She'll pick a winner on Friday, April 30th around 7 pm EST.
Thanks again for being my guest, Rae, and best of luck with all your projects!