Rave Reviews Book Club’s “Spotlight” Author Blog Tour for Author John Fioravanti

Author Pic, Blog Tour 10-17-14

 

Hello, I’m John Fioravanti, and welcome to the tenth post of my “Spotlight Blog Tour” sponsored by my family at Rave Reviews Book Club. I am so grateful and excited to be a guest today with Carol Marrs Phipps!

In earlier posts this week I have talked about several aspects of my new novel, Passion and Struggle  Publishing your very first work of fiction is a very exciting experience! It has also been an exhausting journey, too! On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked about my experience as an Indie author/publisher. Today, I’ll describe my journey to date.
About Indie Publishing

Prior to my novel, my two published non-fiction works, Getting It Right in History Class  and A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching  were released by Indie Publishers. I had no real idea what was involved in getting a manuscript prepared for publication. When Anne and I decided to become business partners in December, 2014, and launch our own Independent publishing house, we had a lot of help!

Teaching Cover, Blog Tour 10-17-14

My award-winning ‘Journey’ book was published by Iceberg Publishing  owned and operated by the Tam family here in Waterloo, Ontario. Iceberg was founded in 2002 and they took me in as an author in 2006. Journey was published in 2007, and it won an IPPY Bronze Medal in May, 2008  When Anne and I decided to strike out on our own, the Tams enthusiastically agreed and suggested that Iceberg Publishing should enter into an alliance with Fiora Books – separate companies, but allied.

What did that alliance look like? We operate separately with our own websites, our own contracts with retailers, printers, and the like. Kenneth Tam, my former student, is Iceberg’s most prolific author and their IT person, so he offered to teach me the business end of publishing. I thank my lucky stars that he did!

I remember that December evening when my wife and I pored over the task sheet that Kenneth and his parents, Jacqui and Peter, had created for us as a guideline. Task #1 – company name. ‘Fiora Books’ came fairly easily – as a play on my surname. When I taught high school, I prepared writing skill guides for my students to follow, and I called them ‘FioraBooks’. They thought that was cute. Then one year, I set up a system of bonus marks they could earn, and issued play money that I called ‘FioraBucks’ – they thought that was cuter yet. So that was settled.

Task #2 – create a logo. “Fiora” translates from Italian as “flowers”. So we thought our company logo had to have a book or books and a flower. I suggested a rose since it is Anne’s favourite flower. I can’t draw to save my life, so I went looking online, found what I was looking for, bought the rights to it, and we had our logo. Then I suggested we have a tag line to go with the logo. I liked Iceberg’s, “Look beneath the surface” – that went beautifully with the concept of an Iceberg. As you’re reading – look for meaning beneath the surface. I thought and thought… Anne could smell the wood burning! Then it hit me out of the blue… I have loved reading books since I was a kid – over five decades of reading! How to express that? Bang! It hit me again… getting bruised up pretty good here… “Cherish the written word.” Anne loved it and so did I. Check out our website and see if you like the combination.

Once I got the company registered with the Province of Ontario and we had our business licence, then we were ready to set up our website. Kenneth designed that after consulting with us, and then taught me how to maintain the site. Then he told me to start writing a blog each week, if not more often. A blog? What’s that? He’s a very patient and sensitive young man, so he didn’t laugh at me. So Anne and I learned to blog. Then we followed his suggestions and set up our Fiora Books page on Facebook, and a similar account on Twitter. Then Kenneth explained about Tweets. Tweets? Why do I gotta go Tweeting online?? What’s this got to do with publishing? He rolled his eyes as I ranted on about silly birdies… oh my! It’s about online marketing, he explained. Gee… I don’t know anything about that.

After four months of intense online research I started to understand a few things about book marketing in the twenty-first century. I found out that there are tons of Indie authors and publishers worldwide. No Kidding! Yes, and they are gradually wrestling large numbers of consumers away from the mainstream publishers. Really? Uh-huh, right again. It was near the end of that sojourn into the wonderful world of online research that I found a gentleman in the UK who was participating in a LinkedIn book marketing group discussion. His name is Chris Ward, and he gave me the best online advice I had yet received. He suggested that I join the Rave Reviews Book Club because they are all about helping fellow Indie authors/publishers be successful.

What did I do? I did the second smartest thing I’ve ever done in my 63 years – I joined Nonnie Jules’ Rave Reviews Book Club! What was the first smartest thing I did? I married Anne Runstedler in 1973… you had to ask?

King James’s Escape

“Fates! What was that?” said James with a moan, as he sat bolt upright. “Oh bell tolls from the Pit! Probably something going off in my stupid, stinking head. Why sit up, anyway? There’s not a thing I can ever see, even when I bump into it.” He reached for the familiar itchy place on his scalp, which had just lately gotten gooey, and found it unexpectedly painful. He lay back with his hand over the spot to keep the filthy straws from poking it. “Mmmm! It throbs just lying down. Why, oh why doesn’t Spitemorta just execute me…?”

“Mercy no, King James! Fates forbid it…!”

“Damn!” cried James with a wail, not knowing in the least whether he was delirious or whether some speaking something had gotten into his cell with him. 

“Sire! Your eyes are mattered shut,” said the young soldier, nodding at another to come forth with a torch, as he knelt to peer into James’s face. “I’m Owain, I was…”

“Yes!” cried James as he accidentally broke into sobs. “You brought me that nice supper, didn’t you! You’re the one, right? You’ve got to be…!”

“I am! I said I’d be back. I’m terrible sorry hit took so long…”

“Yes. I see you do have a light…I mean through my lids…”

“Well we had a delay, ye might say. We found one amongst us who was a stinker, a traitor, if ye know what I mean, a loyalist to the queen. We had to carry on very careful Hit took us a right smart number of days to be safe. Here sire, let me help you up.”

“You’ve come for me then?”

“Why absolutely. I gave ye my word, sire.”

“Certainly…” he said, breaking into sobs all over again. “Oh forgive me! I’m not acting like much of a sovereign…”

“Why, you’ve run clean out of hope, is what. Anybody would, slow as I am, if ye know what I mean, sire.”

“I’m just so very, very grateful.”

“Easy, Your Majesty…Here. Take his other arm, Llewyrch. He’s right wobbledy.

“Well as I was saying, there was one amongst us who was a-spying for Spitemorta. She never did find out that he was, but he was fixing for to wheedle his way into her good graces, the best he could.”

“He’s as big a fool as I was,” said James, trying to steady himself. “Spitemorta has no good graces.”

“You’re no fool sire, but she certainly has no good graces,” said Owain as he and Llewyrch carefully helped James to the door. “Anyway, as I was a-saying, we caught him attempting to take her news of our plans to get you out of this dungeon. Well. We pinned him down last night and the varmint confessed everything. There’s ‘way more to the story than that , but…”

“What will keep him from going to her behind your backs if you already can’t trust him?” said James.

“Oh he won’t have a chance. Ol’ Culwch (that’s his name, by the way) won’t be bothering a soul.”

“You killed him?”

“Nay. Not yet. I guess you don’t have your eyes open yet…”

“I haven’t tried. They’ve felt like they had sand in them and I couldn’t see anything anyway, so…”

“Well, we got Culwch standing right before ye, all blindfolded, gagged and tied up. There are five more of us here to keep him pointed the right way, and we’re going to make him nice and comfortable in your old cell. Won’t take but a minute.”

James heard some scuffling and a muffled yell before the groan of hinges, a heavy bang and the rattle and jingle of hasp, lock and keys behind him. He felt light and giddy, but there was no way he could stay on his feet. As his knees buckled, he felt Owain, Llewyrch and the others grab him up to haul him hurriedly down the corridor, up several flights of gritty stone steps and outside for a good way in the gloriously fresh air of early dawn. A rooster crowed. He could smell unicorn manure and hay. Somebody was cooking breakfast, maybe egg in a hole. He felt like singing. “I’ll thank the Fates for the privilege of being allowed to enjoy this world, every single day,” he thought.

“Oh, that’s right good advice for each and every one of us, Your Majesty,” said Owain with a grunt, right at his ear.

“My word! Have I lost track of when I’m speaking?”

“You’re a-having your first joy in quite a spell, sire. I’d speak out too, and that’s a fact.”  

At last they carefully stepped through a narrow door with him into some other building. They set him down. “Here sire.” said Owain as he carefully took James’s hand and put his fingertips into some warm water. “What do you think of that? If that’s about right, we’ll get those filthy rags off you and Pryderi here will give ye a proper bath. He’s a barber and a healer, and he’s right good.”

“Oh, it’s perfect…”

“Now, there ain’t no women around sire,” said Llewyrch. “Let’s get your shirt.”

Soon James was in bath water up to his chin. “Do you object to Elf medicine, Your Majesty?” said Pryderi as he carefully examined James’s head.

“Not in the least. It was Spitemorta who tried to pin the sukere burning on the Elves, not I.”

“Well I have something that’ll put you right quicker than anything I know of, but it’s the bitterest thing you’ll ever have in your mouth. You need to chew it up real fine and swallow every bit,” said Pryderi as he put a black twist of leaves to James’s lips.

“Mercy! I’ll say!” said James after a couple of thoughtful chews. “It makes my tongue and mouth feel like old dry wood.”

“Oh, it’s just got started, sire. Just keep a-chewing. Try not to bite your tongue. It’s called aquilaria. It’s very difficult to come by. My grandfather found out about it from an Elf called Talamh Coille Graham, right before he was murdered by a witch known to the Elves as Bailitheoir Cailli. Ever hear of her?”

“I’m afraid so. She was Spitemorta’s real mother. I had no idea when I married her.”

“My word!” said Pryderi, falling silent for a time before resuming: “Well, the Elves’s name for aquilaria is sláinte ollmhór. How’s it doing?”

“Makes wormwood seem like something sweet. You’re sure that I’m not turning into some kind of stump?”

“You don’t have to worry about that, but I’m going to have to cut your hair. It’s nothing but a filthy mat of snarls and nits. Now before I do, lay your head back here so that I can put a poultice of aquilaria, eyebright, goldenseal root, rue and fennel on your eyes. When I get your hair cut, I’m going to put burdock root and dandelion root on this awful festered sore on your head. If it doesn’t dry up in a few days, someone will have to put a hot iron to it.”

After a while, James found himself dressed in fresh plain wool and linen clothes, and able to partly open one eye as he sat in a chair, pressing a poultice against his face. “Do I smell food?” he said as he took down the sopping wet muslin and tried to use his eyes.

“The board is set for you in the next room,” said Owain as he peered into his face. “Can you see to get there, or do you need help?”

“Let me try,” he said as he stood and slowly shuffled to the next room, navigating with the flaming red slit of one eye. He paused as Llewyrch drew back his chair. “My! This is wonderful!” He took his place at the head of a sumptuous table of plain fare: roast chickens, cabbage and carrots, buttered squash, hot brown bread and heaping saucers of cottage cheese and honey. A dainty old lady whisked up and poured him a cup o’ tea. “My word! Each of you, please, please have a seat and eat with me. And please don’t be so formal. You will always be my friends.” He spread wide his arms and bowed his head.

Never had a meal tasted so heavenly to James. At last he wiped his mouth and sat back. Just as he picked up his poultice to daub his eyes again, in came the little old lady with a steaming hot apple pie. She set it down before him and cut him a big piece. Suddenly he grabbed her by the waist and gave her a squeeze as tears ran down his cheeks. “My wonderful, wonderful friends!” he said.

“We are right honored to serve you, Your Majesty,” said Owain.

“I am indeed grateful beyond anything I’m capable of putting into words,” said James, “but you all are taking an unbelievable risk. The longer I’m here, the more peril you’ll be in. I should be getting away immediately, but I’ve no idea how that would even be possible with Spitemorta and Demonica and their spies everywhere.”

“This be the perfect time, sire,” said Owain as he shared a look with Pryderi. “They’ve got all their attention on the birth of the new babe… Oh my stars! I apologize, sire! We neglected to tell ye that your queen bore a baby girl.”

“Wasn’t there another child?”

“There certainly was,” said Owain with an anxious glance each way, “but he was stillborn, much as I hate bearing you such news. And worse yet, Spitemorta was so blithering furious over it all that she up and killed the midwife and all the attending help cleaning up the birth.”

By now James had both eyes open.

“They keep saying she used some kind of witch’s power to stop all their hearts,” said Llewyrch. “And lots of folks reckon that she did indeed do it from different things people have seen. Do you suppose she actually did, sire?”

“Oh very possibly. Did you hear me tell Pryderi that she is Bailitheor Cailli’s own daughter? Brutelee and Bee secretly adopted her.”

“Well, we’re right sorry we had to be the ones to tell ye, Your Majesty,” said Owain. “But now, that’s a piece of news about Spitemorta’s dam.”

“I appreciate your courage,” said James.

“Thank you, sire,” said Owain. “Anyway, we figure tonight’s the night to get ye out of here. The servants think Spitemorta will be laid up for at least a week, and not only that, Demonica seems to have quite vanished, and no one has the slightest idea where she’s gone off to.”

“Then tonight’s the night,” said James. “But I’ll say this: you need to keep a right sharp eye out for Demonica every single moment, because she reappears just as suddenly as she vanishes.”

“We’ve heard the like,” said Owain with a solemn nod. “We’ll be as careful as we can be. And if ye don’t mind my saying so sire, nobody’s ever seen you with a beard. Maybe you should keep it for a while.”

“Suits me, my dear fellows,” said James as he stretched wide a bushy red-eyed grin.

 ***

On the eve of Queen Spitemorta’s campaign to take over the world, King James is caught by her and her grandmother Demonica, tortured and imprisoned in the fetid blackness of Castle Goll’s dungeon. He and his rescuers flee into the Gollmore countryside to join the Elves in their flight to the Wilderlands in Chapter 19 of The Burgeoning.

Have you ever experienced sudden hope after all was lost? Please tell us about it.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Who is Queen Spitemorta?

Queen Spitemorta of Goll is the beautiful raven haired daughter of the witch known as Ugleeuh, the granddaughter of the evil sorceress Demonica and the mother of Abaddon. She is secretly given by Ugleeuh to King Brutelee and Queen Bee of Goll to raise. As soon as she is grown, she poisons Brutlee and Bee, assumes the throne of Goll and marries King James of Loxmere. 

When the news reaches Pennvro on the Dark Continent that Spitemorta is on the throne and has the First Wizard’s Great Staff, in Stone Heart, Demonica kills and replaces Abaddon’s nanny and begins plying Spitemorta with a strategy of world conquest, which requires finding the Crystal Heart of the Staff in order to have the needed power. In time they do find the Heart and set out to conquer Niarg and the rest of the world, thereby fulfilling the first part of the Elven Prophecy.  

 

Discovering that Spitemorta is a dangerous sorceress when she destroys her own nation’s main cash crop and begins addressing her subjects with crystal skinwelerioù to incite them to go to war with their peaceful neighbors, in The Burgeoning, James hides Abaddon from her and tries to flee Castle Goll. She captures and tortures him and throws him into the dungeon.

Years before, when Spitemorta is still a princess in The Collector Witch, it is she whose vicious rumor sends Rose into the perils of the Chokewoods in search of her identity, and she who takes away the Staff from Ugleeuh’s frantic grasp. And in spite of her lifelong reputation for cold bloodedness, she is assumed to be the granddaughter of the benevolent wizard Razzmorten, until far away in the volcanic cauldron of Mount Bed, the great oak tree Longbark touches Abaddon and determines that he is actually the great-grandson of the evil sorcerer Razzorbauch.

The Reaper Witch 01 copyAs her power grows, Spitemorta’s fits of wanton destruction and murder soon have the Jutland Elves calling her Baineor Buile Cailli, The Reaper Witch, as they, James,  Abaddon and the diatrymas flee her for their very lives into the Wilderlands.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Fire Sprites and Glow Lichens

 

Fire Sprites - Homo sapiens luciferestris L. a diminutive and highly luminescent human whose melanin has been replaced by luciferin, the light producing pigment in fireflies. Fire Sprites glow with such intensity that many who have gotten fleeting glimpses of  them have mistakenly reckoned them to be engulfed in flames, though in daylight their skin is an almost translucent alabaster white. They inhabit the utterly lightless lava tubes of the volcanic formations in the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent. They communicate with one another and with other races of humans almost exclusively with thought projection and extra sensory perception (ESP), reserving their arcane and mysterious language for their singing of eerie aeolian chorals in the echoes of their caverns.

  

In Elf Killers, Oísín and Doona and their party escape the marauding trolls by hiding in the tunnels of Ubh Ollmhór, where they are rescued by the Sprites and led through the maze of inky black volcanic passages to the grasslands of the Great Strah on the far side of the mountains. 

The Fire Sprites are actually the ones who originally made what becomes known as the Elven Prophecy about the rise of an evil which will seek to take over the world. This prophecy has a part in The Collector Witch, Stone Heart, The Burgeoning and TheReaper Witch (to be released early in 2013) and Doom (to be released late in 2013).

  

Glow lichen - Cladonia antrolucidus R., is a close relative of the reindeer lichen (reindeer moss) and lives in moist underground caverns. Its fungal symbiont takes up nutrients saprophyticly from the moist cave walls and emits a strong bioluminescence, using the pigment luciferin, which allows its plant symbiont to photosynthesize in turn, releasing sugars to the saprophyte. Glow lichen is common throughout lava tubes in the Pitmaster’s Kettles and in deep cavern systems throughout the southern half of the Northern Continent. Luxuriant growths can light up caverns with their greenish yellow ambience at least as bright as artificially lighted rooms.

 

Glow lichen lights the caverns of the Magic River in The Collector Witch and the volcanic tunnels of Mount Bed in The Burgeoning. It also illuminates the Fairy underground in The Burgeoning, The Reaper Witch and Doom.

 

Carol Phipps & Tom Phipps

The Hualapai Indian Baby

Years ago when we started teaching at Peach Springs, the teachers in the lounge began at once filling me in about what terrible students the obstreperous, gasoline sniffing, hairspray drinking Hualapai were, with horror stories of drunken mothers backing over their own children and kids watching their stumbling drunk father bleed to death from stepping on a whiskey bottle.

What I found were lots of damned good artists. Where there might be one or two kids who draw well in a class of twenty to twenty-five Anglo students, fully one third of these Hualapai kids were good at drawing, complete with a sense of perspective and depth. And I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine slow wits doing that well with a pencil.

One day, I had a particularly quiet Zoology class. I walked all through the classroom, handing out papers, lecturing and answering questions. They nearly all were taking notes. When we finished up, perhaps five minutes before the hour and I suddenly realized that the class of sober faces sparkled with eyes of merriment, the room erupted with a roar of laughter, for they had kept a baby absolutely quiet all hour, passing it from student to student behind my back!   

Tom Phipps

The Great Stone Tree

The Great Stone Tree - Glossopteris titanodendrum-dactylophyllum W. was discovered as a 52 foot diameter fossilized tree stump by the First Wizard, who chiseled out the Heart of the Staff from its center. In search of what he believed to be Meri Greenwood the Fairy’s source of commanding renewal power, the Heart of the Forests or Calon Fforydd, he found it standing upright, exactly where it had grown, surrounded by sections of its trunk and a layer of its own fossilized fallen leaves, in the middle of the exposed Permian deposit, known as the Koad Karreg or Stone Forest on the south edge of the Mammvro on the Dark Continent. It differs from other glossopterids by virtue of its immense size and by its deeply lobed leaves. Sections of its trunk add up to a tree which could not have been any less than 530 feet tall, and with the size of its stump, it remains the largest individual tree ever discovered. The Koad Karreg is the Permian location of the South Pole, which shifted to its present position with the multiple impacts of asteroids which closed the Age of Fishes. Compasses do not work reliably in the forest, and under its perpetual cloud cover, many a traveler has vanished.  

 

Since the Great Stone Tree is where the Heart of the Staff came from, there are indirect references to it in each book of The Heart of the Staff, but particularly so in

The Burgeoning.

 

Tom Phipps

The Real Pebbles

Years ago, I bought Carol a female baby green cheeked Amazon (Amazona viridigenalis C.) which she immediately named Pebbles. She was so young that she was all pin-feathers and Carol had to feed her with an eye dropper. Since Carol had a background in psychology and I in ethology, neither one of us was inclined to read human motivation into the bird’s behavior. However we were interested in her inclination toward language, so Carol decided to treat her as if she harbored the same sort of undeveloped intelligence as a baby human.

Carol made no attempt to teach her to talk. That is, she did not endlessly repeat phrases over and over to her nor drill her in any sort of way. What she has done since, every single evening before covering her cage for the night, is spend some time scratching her head and talking to her.

Within a few months, Pebbles began calling out to Carol by name, and not long after that began calling out to us when she wanted things, such as, “I want out!” In time, she was telling us about how she felt about things such as, “I don’t like it!” She began asking us questions such as, “How are you?” and, “Am I coming?” After a few years, she was not only asking questions, but talking about things removed in place and time, such as, “Is Carol at work?” and, “You’ll be all right.”

Pebbles also has a sense of self. She always correctly refers to herself as the subject, “I,” and she calls herself a “bird.” She loves to watch films and shortly after watching The Dinosaurs, said, “I’m a dinosaur.” To say that she uses her words in the proper context is an understatement. Her contextual usage is every bit as correct as that of a typical two year old human. What she is not is fluently conversant. Only now, after living with her for decades, are we managing to converse with her. After saying things back and forth two or three times, the conversation usually stops.

Here is a list of her words that we are certain of. She may have a repertoire of as many as a hundred words, but frequency and clarity limit us to these seventy. They are not listed in nice columns because of the contrary behavior of this website.

a, about, all, almonds, am, are, at, baby, bad, bad dord (bastard?), be, bear, bird, bye, care, Carol, come, coming, dinosaur, do, doing, duck, fair, for, girl, going, good, got, has, he, hello, here, how, I, it, is, know, like, look, love, nightmare not, now, okay, out, Pebbles, ready, right, rubber, school, sorry, talking, thank, that, the, they, to, up, wake, want, weird, well, what, where, will, work, wrong, yea (yow), yeap (yip), you.

And her phrases:

All right. All right! All right? Almonds. Am I coming? Am I going? Am I going to school? Are you coming? Are you going to school? Bad! Bad dord! (bastard?) Bad girl!
Bear! Bye. Come here. Carol! Hello. How are you? How are you are you all right? How are you are you okay? I don’t care! I don’t like it. I know it. I know what you’re talking about. I like it. I look all right. I love you. I’m a bird. I’m a dinosaur. I’m a good, good, good, good bird. I’m a good, good, good, good girl. I’m all right. I’m ready. I’m sorry. I’m the baby. I’m the Pebbles. Is Carol at work? I want out. Okay. Okay? Right now! Rubber duck! Thank you. That’s not fair! That’s right. Wake up. Well come here. What is that? What is wrong? What’s he doing? What’s he got? What’s that? What’s that for? What’s wrong? What’s you doing? Where are you going? Where are they at? Yea!(yow) Yeap! (yip) You coming? You going to come here? You’ll be all right. You’re all right.

We did not by any means teach her to talk. Her ability to talk is a capacity that comes from her own DNA. She can communicate using a code of arbitrary sounds about things removed in place and time because it has survival value for her species. Providence only knows what sort of languages she might be using had she stayed in the Mexican wilds.

Our character Pebbles, Hubba Hubba’s wife, behaves like an Amazon, but is fluently conversant, and appears in Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector Witch, Stone Heart and The Burgeoning.

 

Tom Phipps

Elven Trees of the Maidenhair Woods

The Maidenhair Woods of the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent has the following indigenous tree and fern species of essential importance to the Gwaelic Elves who still live there (Stone Heart and Elf Killers) and to the Jutish Elves who fled to the Northern Continent with starts of each of them one thousand years ago

 blue maidenhair - Ginkgo cyanophyllum R. is a twenty to sixty foot tall broad leaved 

evergreen gymnosperm with chalky blue-green leaves, living on the mountain tops up to the tree line of the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent. It is amongst the oldest living things, with some trees having been found with over 16,000 annual rings. The wood is so dense that trees felled next to water have been known to sink as though their trunks were made of stone. The dried leaves, which are drunk as a tea by the Elves, contain ginkeine, an alkaloid complex which includes caffeine and other phytochemicals, some of which may induce DNA repair.

 

fringed maidenhair - Ginkgo fimbriflabella R., is a deciduous gymnosperm that lives in waste and burnt over areas where woods meets grassland. It seldom grows taller than 35 to forty feet. Its leaves are deeply lobed with closely spaced fingers, scarcely broader than one mm, giving the tree its name. Its wood is almost white and very soft, and it seldom lives more than 65 to 75 years. Along with plums, crabapples and hawthorns, it is amongst the first woody species of trees to invade after a section of forest is completely burnt off by fire.

maidenhair tree - Ginkgo biloba ingentissima R. (The Sacred Maidenhair of Oilean Gairdin is a G. biloba ingentissima) are broad leaved deciduous gymnosperms. These are the tallest living trees on earth with mature specimens towering from 375 to over 400 feet. The largest individual known, living near the bottom of the slopes of the 

Pitmaster Gorge in the Maidenhair Woods, measures 427 feet and is estimated to be well over 7000 years old. They are indigenous to the Maidenhair Woods of the western Eastern Continent where they are the dominant tree, forming the canopies in the deep valleys and steep slopes of the Eternal Mountains up to about 6500 feet. They are amongst the oldest living things on earth with some trees having nearly 10,000 annual rings, though the record for age is held by the very much smaller blue maidenhair, Ginkgo cyanophyllum R., of the mountain tops and tree line.

 

red maidenhair - Ginkgo erythrofolium R. is a deciduous broadleaved gymnosperm living throughout the Maidenhair Woods in the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent where it overwhelmingly predominates at elevations below 8000 feet. It ranges in height from sixty to ninety feet, the taller trees occurring in low places. It has the interesting ability to thrive under the canopy of the maidenhair trees, Ginko biloba ingentissima R. where the two species overlap. The red bottom surfaces of        its leaves are thought to enable it to thrive in low light conditions. Its dried leaves bear alkaloids, which when chewed by the Elves like tobacco, steadies their nerves.

 

silver maidenhair - Ginko genetrex-argenteus R. also called “mother tree” by the Fairies and Gwaelic Elves, its leaves and stems are covered with a silver colored cuticle, hence its name. It lives in symbiotic association with the mycelia of Fairy ring mushrooms, and whilst its leaves, stems, fruit, bark and roots are each said to have potent medicinal properties, the tree’s great rarity has prevented substantial empirical study.    

 

maidenhair fern - Adiantum capillus-veneris R. is the commonest of all species of fern occurring in the Maidenhair Woods of the Eternal Mountains of the west coast of the Eastern Continent, where it forms rank growths along streams, in deep loamy gorges and blankets the north-facing slopes of hills and sandstone bluffs. Its fan shaped leaves resemble the leaves of the maidenhair tree. It grows from six to eighteen inches in height from creeping rhizomes, six inches to six yards long. It is a major part of the diet of the maidenhair red deer, Odocoileus rufi-ginkgus R., and is the likely reason for the animal’s meat having its renowned woodsy flavor.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Ugleeuh’s Mad Peppermint World

 Ugleeuh is a beautiful raven haired young woman who is the half sister of Queen Minuet of the kingdom of Niarg. She is raised by the good wizard Razzmorten Dewin, and throughout her life is thought to be his daughter by a brief marriage to the evil sorceress Demonica. In Good Sister, Bad Sister, she falls under the influence of her wicked uncle Razzorbauch, who makes her a partner of sorts in his sukere enterprise.

Razzorbauch appropriates the Forest Primeval, a vast virgin oak wilderness and burns off a substantial part of the middle of it to establish a great plantation in order to produce the seriously addicting sweetener, sukere. He allows the un-burnt forest surrounding his plantation to remain standing, but he magically alters all of the oak (Quercus) trees, turning them into deadly choke oaks (Pseudoquercus horridus R.) to discourage visitors.

 

Ugleeuh becomes hopelessly addicted to sukere, and though she remains an active sukere peddler to promote their enterprise, she tires of Razzorbauch’s overbearing influence and takes to living by herself in a cottage in her own part of the forest. When she tries to poison Queen Minuet and her husband King Hebraun, the crown banishes her to her cottage and has Razzmorten keep her there by putting up magical barriers.

Ugleeuh spends the rest of her life alone, turning into a sallow hag from the ravages of her sukere 

addiction. To keep from going mad from loneliness, she begins magically altering her surroundings at once. She turns all of the choke oaks into peppermint trees (Mentha lignumpiperita R.), with ludicrous red and white barber pole striped trunks. And by the time that Rose and Lukus find her in The Collector Witch, she is more dangerous than ever, living with a bloated crow, too obese to fly and a palsied cow with colored teats which give flavored milk, and she has managed to turn most of the remaining animals of the woods into talking enchantments, all addicted to sukere. 

 Carol Marrs Phipps &Tom Phipps

Who are the Beaks?

The Beaks are the nation of humans who live in the Kingdom of Mar, a territory that takes in the extensive fens within the Chokewood Forest known as the Beakmore (Beakmoor). The Beakmore surrounds a raised and well drained pastoral area known as Caistealbeak which supports the town of Caistealbeak that in turn surrounds the Beak castle, known as Caisteal-Beak, an early Iron Age style circular stockade within a moat, which encloses a massive earthworks crowned by a rambling wooden castle proper that overlooks the surrounding countryside.

The Beak nation is widely regarded as dangerous and barbaric and takes extended spells of making raiding forays against neighboring communities. Troops of naked tattooed soldiers, their bodies smeared with a blue stain known as woad, are led by captains who in turn are commanded by the king who is addressed by either the title “ru” or “brude.” In Stone Heart, book three of The Heart of the Staff, Brude Taylorg, Ru of Mar, governs every bit as naked and even more tattooed and stained with woad than his soldiers and believes himself to be the direct descendent of the deity Eochaid, the fastest luathas unicorn who ever lived, and also believes that he is watched over and protected by the mighty wolf deity, Madadh-Allaidh Neartmhor. Taylorg’s daughter, the beautiful Princess Tramae, is half-sister to Queen Myrtlebell. When Myrtlebell is murdered by Queen Spitemorta of Goll, Taylorg seeks vengeance by sending Tramae to arrange an alliance with Myrtlebell’s father, King Theran of Bratin Brute.

 In the days when Ugleeuh created the Peppermint Forest from part of the Chokewoods, Brude Taylorg refused to be cowed by her threats. To force matters, she cast a spell on the Beaks to keep them in perpetual submission and humiliation by turning them into a nation of pot-bellied, marshmallow suckers, known as the Gobblers. So in The Collector Witchbook two of The Heart of the Staff, Taylorg was known as Greedygut, Caisteal-Beak was the Gobbler Castle and the Beakmore was known as the Gobbler Marsh.

 

Are there fearsome blue meanies that you know about? Please let us know.

 

Tom Phipps