by Elexis Bell Genre: Dark Fantasy with Straight and LGBTQ Romance
A broken-hearted priestess and a deposed prince team up with a ranger and a rebel with one too many secrets. In the name of The Allmother, they go to war to save their lands.
A coup in a neighboring kingdom brings threats of invasion and fire to Priestess Rising Veliana’s home in the forest. Under the guidance of her goddess, The Allmother, she forms an alliance with the deposed prince, Tyrvahn, and his ex, Garle, the leader of a rebellion that’s been brewing for years.
But Garle has many secrets, one of which could unravel Veliana and Tyrvahn’s budding romance and the future of these uneasy alliances. Veliana’s best friend, Kivala, tries to soften Garle with the ways of their fallen homeland, but what she learns chills her to her core.
At war with a vicious man twisted by the god of greed, they can’t afford to fight amongst themselves. Can they overcome their differences to save their home and their goddess from the new king? Or will the forests burn over blood-soaked earth?
Fans of magic and grit, high stakes and godly secrets will love this dark high fantasy novel with straight and LGBT romance.
A maelstrom stirs within me as the doors click softly shut. Suddenly far more anxious, I ache for something to do. My eyes wander to the tray of ointments, but I know my parents will tend to each other’s wounds when I leave.
The sun of renewal hides, seeking shelter behind clouds and letting us fend for our own warmth. It sends only faint light in through the windows, so I light a few candles and gather furs from a chest. I drape them around my parents’ shoulders, careful not to nudge their maimed, bloody ears as I pull the plaits of their hair from beneath the thick pelts.
They settle into carved wooden chairs near the window and motion for me to join them. Nervous glances pass between them, and the storm inside me intensifies. A million terrifying scenarios play out in my mind. Are King Kelgon and Queen Halde really dead? Did Paikon really murder his own sister, his brother-in-seal, his nephew… All for the throne?
I can’t imagine a land with so little of the Allmother’s influence as to allow Aia, the god of greed and power, to poison someone so deeply. Do they not know her? How will the new King lead without her hand to guide him?
My mouth goes dry, and I swallow hard. Does the new King want some of the Allmother’s land?
My questions go unanswered as my parents struggle for words. I glance out the window at Kin territory, eyes lingering over every branch of the magnificent Sailon Forest. Homes dot the trees at varying heights, connected by rope bridges. Moss hangs from them, and vines wrap around rope railings. The High Seal has governed this forest, guiding the Kin according to the Allmother’s will for so many generations. If Paikon or his son, Tumai, want part of this land…
I shudder at the thought and turn my attention back to my parents. “Are the rumors true?” I ask, unwilling to wait any longer.
My mother nods, crisp blue eyes finally meeting mine. “Paikon has… taken the throne. The Furen family rules with no intention of peace.”
The churning in my stomach intensifies and my palms begin to sweat. I rub them gently on my robes but it does little to help.
“He demands a third of the Sailon Forest,” my mother says.
I gasp and my jaw falls slack. “He can’t! They control so much land, already!”
“Aye,” my father says. “But they have abused their land. Trees are scarce, and they tear great swaths of minerals from the earth for the sake of ‘progress.’ The Allmother’s presence faded quickly as we moved into Jun.”
“I wept for the loss of her, for the loss of so many feats of nature,” he continues. “Crops and animals are butchered in great numbers. The surplus is gluttonous, yet so many go without.”
He touches my cheek and the silver undertones of his skin glitter in the faint sunlight. “Darling Daughter,” my father whispers apologetically.
My mother’s hand finds mine upon the table, and she squeezes it tight.
“Paikon demands more than land.”
A choked sob escapes my mother’s lips, and I tense, preparing myself. How bad is it?
“He wants a third of the forest, now. But he knows it is unusual for a Priestess Rising to go unsealed for so long…” my mother says, trailing off.
My stomach drops, filling me with dread. She struggles for words, mouth opening and closing silently. Please… No…
A burst of loneliness spreads through me at the mention of my seal status, colored by images of Materva, the Light Watcher I could have been sealed to years ago. Shadows flood my mind, tinged by his betrayal.
The smiles he seemed to save for that other girl, another Light Watcher. Laughter shared only with her. The sound of his voice telling me that he wanted her, wanted a life in the sun at the top of the trees with the freedom of the skies… without the burden of Rising.
Finally, Mother continues, “His son has recently… come unsealed. He wishes the two of you to be sealed so that, on his own death, Tumai will rule all of Jun and Kin territory. Kin will be no more.”
“What?” Outrage burns hot within me, coursing through my veins, but it is not strictly my own. The Allmother’s fury surges alongside mine, boiling my blood. “What makes him think we’d agree to that?”
“If we don’t,” my mother says, voice so small I barely hear her, “he promises to burn the entire forest to the ground.”
Elexis Bell writes gritty and emotional novels. Born and raised in the midwestern United States, she dreams of a cabin in the woods rather than a house surrounded by cornfields.
She loves writing well-developed characters facing real problems in vibrant, magical worlds. Armed with a degree in psychology and a rollercoaster past, she sprinkles gut-wrenching emotions over high fantasy romance, science fiction, and the occasional thriller.
What are your favorite books?
I’d have to say it’s a tie. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, of course. It’s a classic for a reason. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are just perfect. I’ve read it many times. I’m a sucker for slow-burn romance, and they’re love is the slowest of burns.
And then there’s The Host by Stephenie Meyer. It isn’t a perfect book. The writing leaves a bit to be desired. BUT. When I’m reading it, that doesn’t matter. I get sucked in, every time. The characters, the relationships, the worlds… It gets me every single time.
I even have my favorite scenes bookmarked so that I have a little marker to show me how close I’m getting to them when I go back and reread it. And every time I read those scenes, my breath catches, expanding in my throat in a weird, reverse hiccup of excitement. The Destined Queen series by Deborah Hale comes in at a close second. (Or would it be third since two books are tied for first?) Maura and Rath are another glorious slow-burn couple, and the world in the series if just phenomenal. I’ve reread this one many times, as well.
What are three unique/quirky things about you?
I have a small army of cats.
My house is slowly becoming a jungle.
My hair is currently purple.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
I find four-leaf clovers all the time, and I’ve seen the end of a rainbow. No luck or gold, though.
What are some of your pet peeves?
I think the biggest one is when people complain about a problem in their life but do nothing to change it. Complaining is easy. It requires no more effort than breathing and speaking.
Fixing a problem, even trying to fix a problem, requires real effort. Seeing someone take that easy way, moaning and groaning about things they could fix with just a bit of effort but never making a move to fix it, infuriates me.
But I’ve always been the type to do things.
Whether I’m writing to try and make my dream come true or doing something as simple as cutting out soda and drinking water to feel a little better, I do things. Even when my OCD is acting up, even when my depression rears its head, I do things. Because I know that if I don’t, when the bad day passes, I’ll regret it. I want to make progress so that when the bad times pass, I have the good things I’ve accomplished to keep me company on the other side.
And I just can’t stand seeing other people complain about their weight while chugging soda or saying they hate their life but doing nothing to better it.
Because no one else is going to fix these things for them.
And they’re just guaranteeing themselves more misery later.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in the middle of nowhere, between cornfields, cow farms, and creeks. There’s something about the smell of freshly tilled dirt or the sight of the appearing and disappearing lines in a field as you drive that just makes me nostalgic.
I’d love to live in the middle of a forest, though. Eventually, I want to get a plot of wooded land, close enough to a town to get decent internet, but far enough out to be left alone.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I’d like to say I’d be proficient or confident.
But in all likelihood, I’d be a tired ruler. Haha.
I’d be so worried about doing the job correctly, about making sure everyone was as safe and healthy as I could manage, that I’d just end up running myself ragged.
But that’s just me. I try to do my best at any task I put myself to. I have unbelievably high standards for myself, and with so much on the line, I’m sure my standards would be even higher if I were a ruler of any sort.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Well, writing tends to energize me and help me focus, so I suppose I shouldn’t use that as my answer. Graphic design and reading are pretty relaxing. Music and watching Friends helps, too.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was just a kid, but I never considered myself a writer until the past couple of years. I never really dared to dream of anything for myself thanks to a… rough start in life. Low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder have plagued me since I was a child, and they robbed me of ever thinking I was good enough.
For anything, really.
But I’ve been working on all of those things, and their root causes. At 24, with a couple books written, I dared to think of publishing. Of course, I was one of those unwitting writers that fell prey to a vanity press and started off on the worst foot I could have imagined.
On finding out that I’d basically been scammed, I was ashamed. I felt like a fraud. I was terrified that the real authors I knew would find out and shun me.
But a couple years later, I got the nerve to try publishing another book. I tried my hand at traditional publishing, diving into the query process, but it turns out that I write too quickly for the traditional route. I turn out a first draft in about 4 months, so by the time I started to hear anything back from the agents and publishers I’d submitted to, I had three more books to start submitting. I was spending more time researching publishers and agents than I was writing.
And my hopes started to dwindle.
But I discovered the indie publishing route and did a massive amount of research into the pros and cons. I got my first book back from the vanity press and took time off from writing to just edit everything. Then, I started self-publishing my books.
Even then, I didn’t feel like a real writer.
It wasn’t until I started networking with other writers on Instagram, until I started getting good reviews, until I had four books out that I even considered myself a real author.
It’s been a long journey so far, and every day I learn more.
And I can’t wait to see what I learn tomorrow.
Do you have a favorite movie?
I’m not usually a movie person. I stick more to books and YouTube, to be honest. But I do have two movies that tie for my favorite. Moulin Rouge and Pride and Prejudice both hold very special places in my heart. The relationships they depict both break my heart and restore it.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
For most of them, I see them play out in my head like a movie as I write them. So honestly, any of them. I’d love to see them all on the big screen. A Heart of Salt & Silver, Allmother Rising, World for the Broken. Even the series I’m writing now, The Regonia Chronicles.
It’d just be amazing to see them played out on screen.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
The octopus, for many of the same reasons that make it my favorite animal. They’re smart and weird. They’re great at multitasking and problem solving. All of those are vital for writing a cohesive novel and then publishing it.
And of course, they’re rather reclusive. Yes, that might be a stereotype for writers, but it applies to me.
I can never get enough of these strange little creatures.
What inspired you to write this book?
Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I imagine a character, just… a random person. Maybe two. Then, I just see what they do, where they go. It centers my mind and stops me from worrying about all the things that happened that day or that week or that year. (Hello, anxiety.) Eventually, with my mind sufficiently soothed, I fall asleep.
The next day, I file away whatever I came up with for future use in a story. Sometimes I like the character but the world doesn’t fit them. Sometimes I like the world but not the character. Either way, I remember these things, and they just kinda float around in my head.
But if I really like a character and world combination, I’ll come back to it the next night while I’m trying to sleep, picking up with the scene wherever it left off before I fell asleep the previous night. I’ll do that a few times, just seeing where the characters lead, how the scene unfolds. Then, once I have a decent foundation for a scene, I start writing.
That isn’t how I get the idea for all my books, but that’s where this one came from. The scene that helped me focus and drown out my anxiety for a few nights running became the start of chapter three. Of course, once I wrote chapters one and two and got a better feel for the characters’ personalities, I had to adjust that initial scene a bit.
But the foundation was rooted in fending off anxiety so I could actually sleep.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I always have a lot of projects going on at one time, so in addition to releasing Allmother Rising, I’m also editing and writing. All my books are intensely character focused, so their internal struggles are always in the forefront.
My current projects in editing:
Second to None, a dark thriller romance with murder, an abusive relationship, star-crossed lovers (not the abusive relationship), and ghost stories.
A Blessed Darkness, a dark romantic fantasy featuring a fated couple, blood magic, power that makes even the gods wary, and the dangers of losing yourself in love.
My current writing project:
The Regonia Chronicles, a dark romantic sci-fi series full of unethical experiments, genocide, aliens, alcoholism, and a very close look at the ways that families break apart (and break the people within them). Books 1-3 and one of the prequels are written. I’m currently writing book four and the other prequel.
After all that, I have an idea for a second standalone novel in the universe of my last release, a dark paranormal fantasy romance called A Heart of Salt and Silver, as well as several ideas in new worlds.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Allmother Rising?
There are four main characters, so in order of appearance:
Veliana is the Priestess Rising of Kin territory, but Rising to lead her people makes her nervous. And with the new king of Jun threatening to invade, the stakes have never been higher. Shy and struggling to recover from the betrayal of her former love, she carries a lot of burdens into battle.
Tyrvahn is the deposed prince of Jun. Once conceited and wasteful, a near-death experience brought him to the Allmother’s door. She showed him a better way to live. He just has to escape the assassins his uncle sent after him, deal with the recent deaths of his parents, and get his throne back to lead them according to the Allmother’s ways.
Garle hates the new king and his nephew. After they led the invasion of her homeland more than a decade ago, killing her parents and running everyone out of their homes, she vowed revenge. Having lived undercover in Jun ever since, working her way into an… acquaintanceship with the royal family in the name of gathering information, her opportunity to kill them and the evil god that twists the hearts of Jun residents has finally arrived.
Kivala thinks she’s moved on. Her brothers died in the invasion of her homeland, but it’s been years. She’s safe and sound in Kin with her parents, best friends with the Priestess Rising, and always has a brightside or a joke. But when war comes to her doorstep again, the thought of losing another home and more family pushes her to the front lines.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
It’s hard to pick, honestly. I’m not sure how to choose between the characters, the world, or the animal companions.
Who designed your book covers?
I actually do my own covers. I really enjoy graphic design, and once I get started, it absorbs hours of my life. Of course, I always get feedback from other authors, artists, and readers before finalizing a design.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I did end up going down a rabbit hole researching how bears show affection. The book has animal companions, and I have no experience with bears… so my google search history took a surprisingly wholesome turn compared to some of the other things I’ve researched for books.
How did you come up with name of this book?
The Allmother is the primary god in the world within the book, and she desperately wants to reach the rest of her people. Aia (her son and thus a lesser god) holds them beyond her reach in a kingdom without the trees that connect the mortal realm to her realm.
In Kin, the person in line to lead the territory is called the Priest or Priestess Rising.
So, since the Allmother is reaching out to lead the rest of her people home, I combined the two terms and got Allmother Rising.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Nope. I don’t base any of my characters off people I know. They pop into my head, and they quickly become their own people, making decisions and thinking things all on their own.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
I never have the reigns in my stories. The characters quickly become their own people with their own personalities, pasts, opinions, and struggles. The story just flows, with each character doing what a real person like them would do in that situation. A lot of the time, they surprise me with what they end up doing. Sometimes, I’ll realize what they’re going to do ahead of time and not know why until I get there.
And then, there are the times where they don’t give me all the information I need from the get go, hiding from their own wishes so thoroughly that they hide it even from me. Then, I have to go back and fix things to reflect how they really felt.
Ness from A Heart of Salt & Silver pulled this little stunt. Despite being a demi-demon, she’s very repressed. She was dragging her feet in relation to another character, but I didn’t understand why until I had half the book written. When I finally figured it out, I had to go back through and completely rewrite the first half of the book before I could continue on.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Yep. Five, actually. Two of them are in the editing stage. Three of them are part of a series I’m still writing and won’t be released until the whole series is written for a few reasons. It’s partly because I don’t plan my books, so the first book keeps changing as the rest of the series unfolds. But it’s also because as a reader, I hate waiting a long time between book releases. If the whole series is finished, I can edit it all and release the books one right after another. Then, readers won’t have to wait long between books.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Probably… Lilac, sap, and the dark, earthy scent of potting soil.
What did you edit out of this book?
It’s actually rare for me to have to cut things out. I tend to underwrite rather than overwrite. I’m far more likely to have to add things.
What are your favorite books?
Tied for number one are The Host by Stephenie Meyer and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Then, The Wizard’s Ward by Deborah Hale (and the rest of the series). Then, the Partials series by Dan Wells and Highland Fire by Elizabeth Thornton.
I’ve recently realized that they all have some form of the enemies to lovers trope and was a bit surprised. But it makes sense. I like seeing people develop and overcome preconceived notions.
What book do you think everyone should read?
Whatever book they like. Everyone is different, and no book in existence is perfect for everyone.
How long have you been writing?
My earliest writing-related memory is from when I was about 9 or 10. I was called on to read a story I wrote for the class (which I always dreaded). We’d been told to write about a horse and a bat, and I remember my teacher saying, “Knowing Elexis, they both probably die.”
Which… to be honest… is fair. I’ve always tended toward darker subjects and themes.
But that was just over 20 years ago.
In high school, I moved into the realm of poetry in addition to short stories, but I didn’t write my first full length novel until college. Sadly, that one was lost to the ether when the computer and the external hard drive it was backed up on both fried back before cloud storage really became a thing.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
Most of them come to me as I write. I always have at least two of the main characters before I start writing, but the rest fill in as I go.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
None. I start writing and figure everything out as I go. If that means stopping to research how bears show affection for half an hour, then so be it. (I actually did that while writing this book.)
Do you see writing as a career?
First and foremost, it’s something I love. Whether it eventually pays the bills or not, the joy of writing is enough to continue. But in the future, I’d like to make enough money from my books to be able to quit my day job and write even more books.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
Of course. I’ve actually turned one of the spare bedrooms at my house into my own personal library. I read fantasy and sci-fi, always with romance. The darker, the better, and I prefer character driven books.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I can write regardless of what’s going on around me, but I prefer music. I make playlists for every book, adding to them every time I hear a song that reminds me of one of the characters, a scene, or just the book as a whole. That’s my preferred soundtrack while writing, but I’ll write regardless.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I usually have multiple projects going at a time, but only one in the writing stage. At the moment, I’m writing a sci-fi series, editing a dark romantic fantasy and a thriller romance, and releasing Allmother Rising.
I just can’t write two books side by side. I get too excited about the characters and worlds, too consumed. And inevitably, one sucks me in, leaving the other project on the backburner until the first is done.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Honestly, whatever I have on hand. I’ll type on my phone or my laptop. I’ll write in a notebook or on loose scraps of paper.
Sometimes, I come home from work with my entire forearm covered in scenes and conversations that I thought up throughout the day. I work in a factory, and my machine tracks my progress to the tenth of a second, so I don’t have time to dig out paper and write out every detail in my head. Instead, I just jot down the barest bones of what I come up with on my arm, just enough to make sure I remember everything when I get home to type it up.
Any advice for new authors?
I have a few pieces of advice that I will always, always, always tell any new writer that asks for advice.
1. As long as the first draft is written, it’s a perfect first draft. Don’t stress over what others will think or whether it’s good enough or whether it’s original or too long or too short. A first draft is perfect as long as it’s written.
2. Writer for yourself. Edit for your readers.
3. NEVER PUBLISH WITH A VANITY PRESS. They’re legal scams. Please, save yourself millions of headaches, infinite heartache, bullying, and thousands of dollars. If a publisher approaches you, unless you’re famous, it’s probably a vanity press. If they call themselves a subsidy press, they’re a vanity press. If a publisher expects you to pay them, it’s a vanity press. (Ingramspark is the exception in that they charge $25-$49 to list your book in their massive wholesale database.)
Please, research every publisher you consider. Ask other authors and check out Writer Beware to see if they list a publisher that seems even the slightest bit suspicious. I was taken in by a vanity press when I first published nearly a decade ago, and it very nearly destroyed my faith in publishing altogether. Spare yourself that trouble.
Describe your writing style.
Gritty, lyrical, character-driven, and punchy. My characters drive the plot, and I don’t waste time with unnecessary details. I use a lot of sentence fragments, a lot of dependent clauses and paragraph breaks, all in the name of flow.
And I never shy away from the tough subjects my plots demand.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I’m what’s known in writing communities as a pantser/discovery writer. Some people prefer discovery writer because it sounds more serious. I prefer pantser because it sounds more fun and writing is supposed to be fun. But regardless of what you call it, I write by the seat of my pants.
No outlines. No story bible. No character profiles.
I get an idea, and I start writing.
Beyond that, I do a lot of things that are commonly preached against in writing circles. Many people say not to edit as you go because it might trap you in a cycle of rewriting/fixing rather than writing the rest of the book. But I edit as I go, and it works for me.
A lot of people say to write every day, but I work 12 hour shifts at least two days a week. I don’t usually get to write on those days.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I just let the story be what it needs to be. There’s an audience out there for any book. It’s just a matter of finding them. Yes, writing this way rather than writing to market means that marketing will inevitably be more difficult, but the integrity of the characters and the story means more to me than saving myself a little difficulty in advertising.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I write somewhat quickly. Despite working full time and maintaining a semblance of a social life, I can usually finish a first draft in about four months. Some books take a little longer, depending on how much overtime I end up with during that time.
Allmother Rising took one day less than four months. The writing started out slow thanks to work, but then Covid happened, and the factory I work at got shut down for two months. So, I still got it done in four months.
However, my current project, The Regonia Chronicles, is an exception. It’s a series that I didn’t know would be a series until I was about 90,000 words in with no end in sight. (Most sci-fi/fantasy novels are between 70,000 and 120,000 words, for reference.) And then, when I started writing what I thought would be book two, I had to go back and add several chapters to book one, which changed the point at which book one ended. Then, book three meant more additions to book one.
So, for this project, I honestly have no idea how long each book is taking because they’re all under construction up until the completion of the whole series. Not to mention the fact that I’ve stopped to write unrelated books a few times, and since I’m making up a complete language for one of the races in the book, I occasionally have to stop writing to fill out their dictionary.
But usually, I can stick to an average of four months per first draft.