This is my site for information about the fantasy world known as the Lands of Hope. I have the usual bio and buy pages, also Maps and a free Compendium of lore, plus a cool notification feature if you want to see posts in your email box. Sign up for that and you get two quick Tales for free. Because no one should have to wait for a little Hope. Continue reading →
Once again we open the doors wide to that chamber from which all answers are obtained, through a surfeit of duress and a dearth of mercy. Bring in the next vi- ahm, guest! Ah yes, Ms. Jenni Wiltz, we’re simply delighted I assure you. Let’s just get the manacles on… bit tighter, yes, and mind you lock the liquor cabinet on your way out, she’s a tippler this one.
Now then, madam, shall we begin? I’ve been looking forward to this for months, ever since I fool- eh, cajoled you into accepting my invitation. The court has read your most-excellent book, The Romanov Legacy. Such thrills! What wondrous historical detail! Such obvious HERESY! But now you’re here and we’ll shortly get to the bottom of this. :: whip-crack ::
Q: Confess! You tell a gripping tale of conspiracy, lost treasure and international pursuit in Romanov Legacy. But the history– such specifics, such loving attention to the past stretching back a hundred years and more. Tell the truth: you have mastered time-travel, isn’t that right?
A: If by time travel, you mean “completely ignoring the world at hand and focusing solely on the infinitely preferable world I found in history books,” then yes!
I was a bit of a misfit as a kid, and historical intrigue made more sense to me than the world of pre-teen girls. I could explain how and why the Romanov dynasty fell better than I could explain who Boo Radley was or how to get a guy in your math class to talk to you. Never underestimate the power of a lonely little girl to absorb arcane and seemingly insignificant details about 19th century monarchies!
Luckily for me, that little girl grew up to be a writer, so none of that information has gone to waste.
Q: ::muttering:: Boo Radley, look him up… Ahem. Research, nonsense, everyone knows you can’t derive any excitement from HISTORY BOOKS. Come clean, and it will go easier for you. Where did you acquire this insane notion that the past could be a source of tension and interest? It’s some kind of payoff from the Russian Ministry of Tourism, isn’t it!
A: I’ll admit, the timeshare dacha in Siberia is a nice perk!
All bribery aside, I’m most interested in historical personalities and their dysfunction. I think that’s a fantastic source of tension. In college, they make you read history books that talk about grassroots this and intelligentsia that. Bo-ring! Who cares? Not me. But if you tell me that after Stalin’s first wife died, he threw himself into her grave and said that “with her died my last warm feelings for humanity,” after which he disappeared for two months and was largely unaccounted for, I start to get curious.
Even the people we’ve come to know as evil have feelings. Find out what they are, why they make people do the things they do, and you have a story.
Q: You are bound to be a hard case, very well. Just let me locate the emerald-studded flensing knife, it goes so well with your tiara… By the bye, tell us more– in fact, tell us everything– about your schismatic interest in feminine headwear. Was this before or after you discovered time-travel?
A: Well, if you read the fascinating Outlander series of time-travel books by Diana Gabaldon, jewels – the raw stones, to be exact – are what enable time travel! How’s that for synchronicity? The problem is that you lose the stones in the process, and I’m a hoarder, so I’d rather stay put and be covered in diamonds.
This question also takes us back to my lonely-little-kid days, prowling the John Steinbeck library in Salinas. I found a picture book called The Queen’s Jewels with jaw-dropping close-ups of the queen’s gorgeous tiaras. The pictures drew me in… I mean, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, right? But when I read some of the stories behind the jewels, especially the ones smuggled out of Russia during the Revolution, my mind was blown. Beauty, intrigue, and a portable source of currency – I was hooked. Plus, tiaras just look better on the head than those honking coronation diadems and crowns. Those suckers are downright tacky.
Q: Ah, here’s the beauty: look here, watch what happens when I drop a single hair on it. Marvelous, is it not?
A: You know, the emeralds in your knife should really be remounted in a tiara, by the way. I could help you out with that. They make some fringed tiaras that are sharp and pointy, totally weapons-grade if you turned ‘em sideways and threw ‘em at your enemies.
Q: Erm, I don’t think you’re entering quite into the spirit of this interrogation. Before I test it again, tell me: what of your plan to compound your heresy, and take a second trip back, even further in time? A prequel!? What has come over you, woman! Why start at the end and move backwards with your tale?
A: This prequel got out of hand! It was supposed to be a novella…but it’s 102,000 words. This tells you two things: (1) I suck at estimating, and (2) Some major stuff goes down that I just couldn’t trim out.
I had to go back in time to flesh out some of the characters and events I hinted at in The Romanov Legacy. The forger Natalie mentions catching, the gangster who kidnapped Constantine’s sister – all of that stuff needed explaining because those characters are going to reappear in the next couple of books. So instead of having future books that were half full of flashbacks, I said what the heck – let’s do a prequel. Also, I threw in one crazy plot twist that affects one of the characters who didn’t make it out of The Romanov Legacy. You know. Just to mess with my readers’ emotions.
Q: I must say, it’s sounding more and more as if I should have this Natalie in here for a session. Does science have a single word for her condition, perhaps one less than twelve letters long? I’d just say “crazy”, but not as long as I’m wearing this floor-length robe…
A: It’s probably best to quote Natalie on this one. In Chapter 23 of The Dante Deception, her sister tells her she’s not crazy and Natalie herself says, “No, I totally am. It’s okay.”
The doctors say she’s schizophrenic. Early-onset paranoid delusional schizophrenic, to be exact.
Me? I’m not so sure…but I know the next few books in the series will do their best to sort it all out.
Q: I hardly know what court could extend mercy to such tortured souls as you and your heroine. First you dare to write a tale set in our recent past, but which clearly travels back to the days before World War One– silence, the facts are plain– and now your so-called prequel set even earlier than the first, and hinting of the Middle Ages! Just between us and off the record, this time-machine, what sort of mileage do you get?
A: I had the hubby install a nifty fuel-injection system, so
we’re getting a good 30 years per gallon. He says he can get another 10 years a gallon if he
rips out the back seat (much like racing a muscle car, the weight to horsepower ratio is key).
Timewise, The Dante Deception covers a lot of ground! There are references to Dante and a few words from the master himself, but the main action takes place from 1968 onward. We go from The Black Forest in West Germany to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in time for the great museum robbery of 1972, to Soviet-era Moscow, to San Francisco and Moscow in the early 2000s.
I don’t know about you, but boy, are my wings tired.
Q: I admit defeat! Your commitment to your apostasy is too deep for my poor skills. Release the prisoner, for now, and bear in mind we shall call you back at the slightest sign of your continuing heresy. Or that you have stopped writing. Be sure to leave full particulars of where the public can access more evidence of your heterodox activities, and go in peace. Unless you’d prefer a small tipple before you go?
A: You know me too well, my dear Mr. Hahn. I never say no to a small tipple.
Readers looking to indulge in a little heresy and time-travel can find Natalie’s first adventure, The Romanov Legacy, on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play. Get all the links, plus character profiles and the book trailer, on my website: http://jenniwiltz.com/the-romanov-legacy
The Dante Deception, Natalie’s second adventure, is coming soon! You can check out a free 8-chapter sample on my website – and sign up to be notified when it comes out later this month! Visit http://jenniwiltz.com/the-dante-deception for details.
Many thanks to the dungeon master for the excellent accommodations this time around! Dungeons get a bad rap, but you know what? It’s a relief not to slather on the sunscreen for a change. I’m not kidding about those emeralds, either. It’s tiara time, people. If you need some design inspiration, check out my Tiara Tuesday archives: http://jenniwiltz.com/category/tiara-tuesday/.
Jenni Wiltz writes thrillers, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. In 2011, she won the RWA Kiss of Death Chapter’s Daphne du Maurier Award for Romantic Suspense. “That was cool,” she said. Her short stories have appeared in The Portland Review, Gargoyle, and the Sacramento News and Review. She’s worked as a web editor, a copywriter, and a USAID grant program coordinator, which gave her the opportunity to travel to Kenya. “The leopard is my new spirit animal,” she said. When she’s not writing, she enjoys mixology, sewing, running, and genealogical research. “Note to self: never name a child Preserved Smith,” she said. She lives in Pilot Hill, California and has not yet struck gold in her backyard. Visit her online at JenniWiltz.com.
The second figure in my warm-ups for the Big Boys I mentioned earlier, and things are going pretty well overall. But I’m starting to feel my limits.
Final Judgement, Solemn’s father from Judgement’s Tale, is certainly one of the most influential characters never to make it into one of the Tales of Hope. He’s dead, you see, having used his last ounce of strength to get his son to shore and the relative safety of this new world in the very beginning:
At forest’s edge, the Gypsy band huddled and watched a boy on the seashore, burying his father.
-Judgement’s Tale, p.1
Solemn has no idea what he is supposed to do now. He sets out to follow his father’s example, and draws encouragement from him throughout both stories, particularly when they speak again in the sequel The Eye of Kog. I know, I said dead. You’ll need to pick up the tale to find out.
In the back-story, Final Judgement was some kind of high ranking advisor to the king of a small European-style kingdom, in a place a lot like the past of our Alleged Real World. Widely learned, puissant in combat, and able to cast miracles with holy power, yet Final chose to keep Solemn and his two brothers ignorant of his own religious beliefs, since he was a member of some fiercely pious minority and despite his high position he feared persecution. Forced to flee the king’s madness, Final was only able to save his youngest son, making it to the sea and sailing east into another world. But his son only picked up hints and glimpses of this. On the voyage, he taught Solemn about every subject in the catalog, again excepting religion. It took two years and everything he had left in him.
Final Judgement points to the one idea most people in the Lands of Hope don’t want to talk about: namely, what happens after death. As Judgement puts it “what is its true sequel”: thanks to the liche Wolga Vrule, necromancy is “alive and well” in the Lands once again, and no one likes to think about the power to pull back a person’s spirit or animate their body against their will. But is there a heaven of some kind? Do the Heroes that the Children of Hope reverence have any future beyond the end of their lives? Like Solemn’s father, the Heroes never mentioned one. But as Judgement asks an Elven noble, to whom did the Heroes pray when they taught us to do likewise? Solemn Judgement believes in a life after death, and that his father looks down on all that he does in his adopted world. Hardly anyone he meets wants to talk about such subjects, and the Man in Grey makes few friends as he walks the length and breadth of the northern kingdoms in search of lore and answers.
The figurine is uncannily like Judgement’s father, bearing a sword (as Solemn confesses in Judgement’s Tale, he was never taught the sword, as it was a weapon for adults– Final taught him to use the quarterstaff instead), and also an early pistol (which Solemn shows familiarity with when he discovers one in The Eye of Kog). The overall dress of the figure is very Puritanical, and that certainly fits the story of Final Judgement’s eerily-similar homeland. Think Cotton Mather with the ability to cast holy miracles.
This figure proved the old adage that much like life itself, it has to get worse before it gets better. The coat of grey primer wasn’t too far off from the finished product! But Final Judgement needed some color– on his skin, for example– and he was not as married to shades of grey as his son became. This time I cracked out my smallest paint brush, something I’d been resisting because I know the psychological consequences. Namely, now I have “nowhere to go” when the call for detail increases. But I wanted to try eyes and pupils, among other tiny touches, so out it came and I did fairly well. Lots of mistakes in the mid-game, going back over earlier colors to touch up, whoops, now touch up the other one. This can be a serious pain when you’re mixing virtually every shade and not able to get back to painting for days. Stuff dries out.
I find for most of the finish-work it was useless to keep my glasses on. Once the shade was mixed I set them down and held the figure approximately five inches from my eyes, where my natural vision can still see clearly. It is an innately sad activity, bringing to mind the same mortality as Final Judgement no doubt experienced.
To take the pictures, I have had the devil’s time getting proper light on the figures down in my basement where the painting happens. I finally resorted to using my magnifier in front of the iPhone camera, with its internal light turned on! That brings the figure closer, retains focus, and puts a little light on the subject without washing it away like the flash does.
A very special thanks to the local Days of Knights store for their support as I restart an old vocation in painting figurines.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this excursion to other worlds and states of being. One more “test run” figurine in Vuthienne (another character who appears in The Eye of Kog) and then it’s on to the 32mm figs!