Category Archives: Wild Card Wednesday

Author Dungeon: The Interrogation of Annie Lima

:: COUGH-COUGH-aHACK-hack-hack :: Great Zook, what a disaster! Dust the entryway and the rack, leave the curtains and forge alone for now. Hurry, dolt, we have a guest. Look at these manacles! The thumb-screws have rusted solid, where on the green earth is that dratted oil can…

After a long hiatus I’m pleased to reopen my author interview dungeon, this time for a veteran of such treatment, Annie Lima. She knew what could happen, and yet she agreed to give me another crack at interrogation. I said, another crack… blast, the leather’s all rotted. Find me some wood blocks to slap together, and show her in. :: COUGH-COUGH-hack ::, drat this mess, I’ll get bronchitis for sure.

Q: Welcome, welcome Ms. Lima, just settle back there. Uncomfortable? Marvelous. Now then! We begin where we left off some time ago, on this completely heretical notion of yours of a modern world with what appears to be gladiatorial combat. And it continues in The Student and the Slave?  Confess! Is this world of yours dystopian?

A: The setting is similar to that of a dystopian novel, but technically this world isn’t dystopian. It’s a whole different world that has never been connected to ours (even though it’s very similar in many ways).

Q: Not dystopian? But, but, slavery, young persons forced to do combat for entertainment. What else is this, Iron Chef Junior?

A: I think the problem at the heart of society is the basic idea that my needs and desires are more important and I matter more than they do. Without that basic mindset, slavery would never have been allowed to exist in the Krillonian Empire. Of course, thinking back through our own world’s history, you could argue that that same mindset has been at the root of every social injustice and societal conflict since the dawn of time.

Q: Aha! A classic case of whataboutism if I ever heard one.

A: And I don’t think I’d want to live in the Krillonian Empire. The prevalence of slavery would be too disturbing. Of course, it would be fun to watch an occasional cavvara shil match, or maybe even learn the martial art myself.

Sorry, word association…

Q: I still say this is completely unorthodox: slavery has no place in society, only in the privacy of our own homes. And speaking of that, tell us now on your honor, how does the existence of slavery affect the role of the family?

A: Enslaved families can be ripped apart at any time when one of their members is sold. Free families have it much better, of course, but when they own slaves, their kids tend to grow up without learning much personal responsibility. Not having to do chores or pick up after themselves, and being able to order adults around, tends to produce some unpleasant characteristics (as we see in the character of Raymond).

Q: By the rules you just laid down I think my child may qualify an owner. Is your hero fighting for the same things classic fantasy heroes have fought for?

A: Classic fantasy heroes tend to fight for good to triumph over evil in one form or another. It’s the same in this book. My two heroes, Bensin and Steene, are both fighting for freedom from captivity and injustice (Steene for his own, Bensin for Steene’s). In addition, both struggle toward the goal of their family being reunited. Bensin also struggles to make the right choice when he is caught in an ongoing moral dilemma (raising the money needed for Steene’s rescue and to provide for his little sister, when the only paying job he can find involves providing combat training to members of a dangerous street gang).

If I told you this photo was doctored…

Q: Ahh, now that’s more like it, a marvelously painful dilemma. How I wish I’d thought of that one. How do you get out of being a slave anyway? Is there any chance at all except through winning at the games?

A: Actually, winning at the games doesn’t set a gladiator free.

Q: Whaat? How cruel! Lady, you can be the substitute torturer around here, are you any good with dusting?

A: It just allows him to stay alive a little longer as an enslaved gladiator. Most slaves don’t have the combat skills to go anywhere near the arenas, though (luckily for them). The only way they can legally leave their life of slavery is if they are allowed to hire themselves out on their weekly day off and save their money until they can one day purchase their freedom – assuming their owner is inclined to sell them, of course. Kind owners do occasionally set their own slaves free, but that’s rare. In recent months, though, another possibility has opened up. Tarnestra has become the first province to outlaw slavery, meaning that if a slave anywhere in the Krillonian Empire manages to escape and get there, he or she won’t be sent back and cannot legally be recaptured. However, Tarnestra is now full of homeless and hungry former slaves looking for work, so freedom has not been quite the “happily-ever-after” that many people hoped. (This is the situation that Bensin now finds himself in.)

Q: I see, quite interesting. How hard would it be to pick up this book without reading the prequels?

A: Someone who hadn’t read the first two books in the trilogy would still be able to understand this one. Early on in the story, I do refer back to enough of what came before that things would make sense. However, I think readers would get the sense that they haven’t gotten the full story, so I would definitely recommend reading the trilogy in order if at all possible.

Q: We can facilitate that I think. Here are all the links you need to pick up this wonderful series, which has a new volume coming out now. And you can also contact Annie Lima (that is, once I get her hands out of this manacle- where’s that accursed oil!)

::COUGH, hack ::

Click here to order The Student and the Slave from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through November 31st!

Connect with the Author Online:






Amazon Author Page:



 Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of the first two books in the series!

Author Interview: Jenni Wiltz

Once again we open the doors wide to that chamber from which all answers are obtained, Hahn_critic_1through 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.

donjon2Now 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 TheRomanovLegacy-Promoon 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 tongscan’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.

WaterTortureSingSingQ: 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 JW_TiaraTue1could 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.

donjon1I 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…

TheDanteDeception-PromoA: 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?

JenniWiltz_authorphoto_504x600A: 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:

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 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:

About Jenni

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