Ashes and Blood Dalya Book 1 by Katie Zaber Genre: Fantasy
“I’ll start at the beginning. Long ago, before roads, before we built structures, before medicine was discovered, before the government was created, before man gained any knowledge, there were The Five. Independent from each other, The Five had a mutual respect for one another. They knew their roles in the world and their duty. They were gods…”
An adventure begins when an otherworldly tree captures the attention of Megan and her friends. The environment morphs around them, transferring them to an exotic planet. Stuck in a rural town still maimed by the plague, a chance encounter with a familiar face gives Megan and her friends some security during their adjustment period.
While settling into new, promising lives, they are attacked and stalked by planet Dalya’s humanoid inhabitants, who focus on Megan. One dark night, after an epic, magical attack, the Fae King’s knight is sent to fetch Megan. When she wakes up a prisoner, she learns that there is much more to this strange world, and it is oddly more like her own than she ever would have expected.
It gives me chills to stand in front of the forest that morphed in front of my very eyes. I’m hesitant to walk through the tree line and down the path. The last time I walked down a path for leisure was a week ago. We had planned a picnic. Something simple, always easy to organize and do. It wasn’t hard planning our walk to Brynjar’s cabin today. What could go wrong?
I try hard not to think of all the possible outcomes—from returning to Earth to traveling to a completely new world.
Sarah and Dana were able to walk by without stopping to take notice or reflect. Ciara paused for a moment and then smiled gleefully, saying she had a good feeling.
I don’t. I feel dizzy, angry, and like I need to vomit. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to go into the woods that changed my life, I don’t want to meet Brynjar, and I don’t want to go back where it all started. I don’t.
Below Dark Waters Dalya Book 2
Princess Megan, who never had a reason to assume she was anything but human, has been on the run, protected by her friends. With each step toward the city of Delmont, she hopes they will have time to regroup before setting sail to the Ka’Pamau Islands, their final destination. Instead, her bad luck shadows her and chaos continues to ensue everywhere she goes—including a new part of the world that most air breathers have yet to explore. Confronted with another royal family and a smitten prince whose advances turn cold, she faces another life-altering decision with ramifications she can’t possibly begin to guess at.
Back on land, Lilly reveals more of her secrets, her story, and her goals. Monumental changes and challenges are headed her way as she embraces her new role in life.
On the sea, Aunt Carmia is stirring up trouble while continuing her hunt for the treasure she most desires. She experiences upheavals, but she is always prepared for the unknown.
As their stories unfold, they remain unaware how fate connects them in the world of Dalya.
There’s no point in me lying in bed all night. It’s not like I’m trapped in a Dalya dome. At least there’s a bar for me to sit at while I can’t sleep. Moving as quietly as possible, I change and sneak out of the room. Kilyn is fast asleep and Mana is either asleep or is pretending to be. The hallway is still. There are no voices coming from the other rooms, so I’m going to assume everyone else is asleep.
Downstairs, Meeka sits at a table, chatting with another white-haired man. Two other tables are occupied, but there are at least ten empty tables to choose from. By the fireplace, a low fire crackles and I decide that a seat by the fire is not what I want. It looks inviting but reminds me of too many dark things. I shudder and take a seat on a stool at the driftwood bar. There’s one other man at the far end of the bar, cloaked in shadow, not bothering to look up from his drink as I sit down.
Heda comes from the back of the kitchen with a mug in her hands. She takes a sip before setting it down on the counter. “Can’t sleep, dear?”
“No. Can’t remember when I did,” I say. “Got anything to help with that?”
She gives me a sly smile. “I think I can help.”
Heda slides bottles out from under the counter and starts pouring them into a glass. Most of them are clear, except two. She adds a drop of amber and green liquid. I can’t say if it’s alcohol or not. Last, she takes out a glass jar and takes out a pinch of ground orange powder.
I’m not sure if I should drink this otherworldly concoction.
“Here you go. You’ll sleep till sunrise and feel refreshed, guaranteed.”
I stare down at the eight-ounce glass of mystery. “What’s in it?”
“A bit of everything, plus a little something extra. I make it for Meeka when he can’t sleep.”
“Are you normally this busy at night?” I ask.
“Sometimes. Sometimes busier. The regulars are here, plus an unfamiliar face or two.” She scans the room, glancing over at the two I suspect are new.
The one man her eyes stop on has long, scraggly black hair past his chin and an unkempt beard. He is wearing a hat that reminds me of a witch; it even has a pointy top and wide brim. With his back to us, he faces the fireplace with his shoulders hunched. The other man is the one at the other end of the bar. Neither looks talkative. Good. I’m not in the mood for a conversation either.
The door swings open. A scowling human woman stands in the threshold wearing a brown buttoned-down blouse and pants tucked into calf-high boots. At her hip is a dagger, on her back is a quiver secured tightly to a harness, in her hand an unstrung shortbow. Strands of messy brown hair unravel from a semicontained braid that I’d guess hasn’t been paid attention to in at least a week. Her clothes also reveal that she hasn’t changed them, and the smell confirms she hasn’t bathed. She searches the bar and lands on me.
She dashes across the tavern and my heart pounds. This is it. My father sent her to kill me. I made it easier for her by coming down here all by myself. I have no clue if Mana can sense what’s happening or if I’m too far away from him. I’m not sure if he cares right now.
However, she steps past me and gawks at Heda, who is already mixing another drink. In the few seconds that passed, I didn’t realize that I had held my breath. I let out a lengthy sigh of relief and inhale fresh air that tastes slightly sweeter than before. Relief will do that, especially when moments ago, death seemed so imminent. To help calm myself, I decide to take a sip of the strange drink Heda made me. Surprisingly, it has a peach sangria flavor, like a fruity, potent wine, with maybe a shot or two of something stronger. I could get used to having a drink of this at night, if it helps me get some sleep.
Heda leans across the bar, passing the traveler a drink. “Rough journey?” she asks. “Where are you going?”
“Nowhere fast,” the woman replies. Her scowl melts away as she cracks open a smile and laughs full-heartedly, throwing her head back.
Katie Zaber is originally from Southern New Jersey. Her childhood home is just minutes from the Long Beach Island Bridge. When not writing, Katie can be found at wine tastings, sun bathing at the beach, going for hikes, screaming at Six Flags, reading, or in her favorite place, her kitchen, baking desserts and breads. She currently lives in Morris County, New Jersey with her boyfriend.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Waretown—pronounced where-town, New Jersey. The name is a perfect description of the town. As a child in the car, I would blink and be in the next town over. My childhood house is blocks away from a lagoon and is a quick walk to Barnegat Bay. With ice cream cones in hand, our family took many walks down to the bay, to say hi to Old Barny—the Lighthouse on Long Beach Island. My elementary school was inland in the Pine Barrens, home to the New Jersey Devil. I can remember going to Wells Mills Park, a mile away from the school, to go on a field trip and read about the notorious birth and how the Devil still haunts the woods. He was even rumored to make appearances at kid’s birthday parties. There were tons of woods and swamps to explore. When the streetlights came on and our shoes were too muddy from the day playing, a quick splash in the bay was all they needed before going home for dinner. Our shoes never were allowed inside the house. My imagination went wild in the woods by the bay and I went on many adventures within my small community. It’s those childhood memories that continue to inspire my writing, revisiting those distant lands not too far from my childhood home.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love baking delicious desserts and breads, almost as much as I love to eat them. I spend hours in the kitchen, blasting music, sipping sweet wine, with flour up to my elbows. When not in the kitchen, I’m reading a book or trying to find something to find on TV. If the weather is nice, I’m visiting my hometown and going to the beach or heading to Six Flags Great Adventure to scream for the afternoon.
Describe your desk.
My desk is a wonderland of post-it notes in three different colors: pink, neon-yellow, and green. A yellow, mini-spiral notebook holds all my scribbles on marketing tips and info. The notebook is separated by little sticker tabs, the ones not in use are floating on the surface of pamphlets and lists of login information to accounts I never visit. A leather bounded diary with nautical embellishments, complete with anchor bookmark, holds random thoughts that need to be worked out on paper. A mechanical pen can be spotted, hiding between the yellow notebook and leather diary. Its extra parts: erasers & extra graphite are strewn about the entire desk. Lastly, a rectangular, leather box holds a brass kaleidoscope made to look like it was used on a whimsical pirate ship. I zone out, staring through it when confronting a writing block. Somehow, all the colors and childishness of it helps me every time.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
The first draft for Ashes and Blood started when I while I was recovering from surgery and bored out of my mind. A Christian song, Lord of the Dance, somehow was stuck in my head and my imagination took over. I pictured a king singing the song—a much more sinister version—while destroying a village of people that disobeyed him. At first, the story was going to be about him and how his reign ends, which made me change my focus. I wanted the story to be about someone ordinary, without any powers or ability to fight. Someone who should die when faced with impossible feats, but can overcome them.
What are you working on next?
Dalya series is my main project with the first five books already plotted. The second book, Below Dark Waters, is in the editing phase, and should be out in the summer. Book three, Stranger Shores, is in the first stage on being drafted. When I need to focus on something else, I have another book and series that I’ve been toying with. DNA—Demon’s N Angel’s, is a standalone book about a woman’s journey through her mysterious pregnancy. I’m hoping to have that out in the fall. Another series I’m developing is called, Lullabies from the Grave. It’s about a woman that can get in touch with her past life’s, every life that her spirit lived. She sees ghosts and is involved in the paranormal.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love books that take me to a different world or way of thinking. So I mainly go for authors in that realm: J.R.R. Tolkien, Kevin Hearne, Jim Butcher, Karen Marie Moning, John Conroe, Laini Taylor, Margret Atwood, Chuck Palahniuk, George R.R. Martin, Jennifer Estep, Naomi Novik… just to name a few.
How do you approach cover design?
I search for an artist whose gallery looks close to what I want as a finished project. Each artist has a unique style, vision, and way of creating your idea. It’s all about finding the right match. Then I tell the artist what I envision, send them a couple images of things close to what I want, and then let their mind go to work. One of the most important things about working with a designer is to let them mold your idea into what will sell. They know art. They know what graphic design’s catches the eye and what colors to use when trying to portray a certain feeling or tone. They know what they are doing.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I wrote, was after I had read the elementary school book, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. I wanted a sequel to the book and was mad that there wasn’t one. So I got a bunch of paper and started to write. I think I wrote around 50-60 pages before I started a different project and forgot about it. Years later, when I told my mom that I had finished writing Ashes and Blood, she said I still have your first book. I told her one day I would finish it, just for her.
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