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REVIEW: The Fire Within by Joely Sue Burkhart

REVIEW: The Fire Within by Joely Sue Burkhart

Dear Ms Burkhart,

I was intrigued by the first story in your Keldari world, “Survive My Fire.” Intrigued enough that when you sent us a copy of the second installment, I immediately made plans to read it. It took me a while to get to it but I found it as interesting as the first. I’d like to thank you for creating the Guide to Keldari culture as I think this will assist readers new to this world you’ve created.

There’s nothing gentle, sweet or kind about this story or the people in it. The world you’ve created is harsh and filled with hard people who are willing to do what is required to survive. Everyone is an enemy unless something worse threatens them. Life is based on a ruthlessness that allows no place for the weak. When this is circumvented, chaos results as the hero Zahak discovers. I thought the religion of the Keldaris somewhat resembled that of the Vikings. Life is short and hard, filled with violence and in the end, most of us are going to die in the final showdown with the gods (or in the case of the Keldaris, with their dragon god). They feel their suffering and hard life is due to an ancient sin committed by their people, one which must be paid for with their blood. Question: have you stated what this ancient sin is and I’ve forgotten or missed it? Or will it be revealed later?

When Zahak sees a chance to fulfill an ancient prophecy and thereby offer his people a better chance to survive, he jumps at it. Eleni is of the bloodline needed to raise a Keldari warrior to the position of head of all the tribes. Zahak will see to her delivery to his brother, whom he has positioned and fought for all his life to advance to this leadership role, at all costs. The journey shows just how harsh is Keldari life and is one most people wouldn’t survive. The fact that Eleni does make it shows how tough she is and supports the horrifying background you’ve given her. As bad as the long trip across burning sands with little water is, it’s a cake walk compared to the life she’s lived with her vicious “cruel not only because I can but because I enjoy it” brother.

You gradually show us more about the history and lifestyle of the Keldaris without resorting to an info dump. I would hope that newbies take the time to read the guidelines first before starting any of these books. I wondered if the acceptance of their doomed existence is behind the fact that they don’t try and find or take over a new homeland – one with some water in it? Yet as grim as this world is, I didn’t get quite the hopeless feeling I did with the first book. Yes, there’s going to be more suffering and the prophecy hasn’t been fulfilled yet but there might be hope for these people.

The dragon shapeshifting isn’t as prominent to this story. We do finally see it yet in the Keldari world, shapeshifting is more a curse than in many shifter worlds. It’s something to be fought, feared and avoided if possible. Just because a dragon has mated, it doesn’t mean that s/he won’t try and kill a mate as easily as anyone else who gets in its way. Mating is dangerous in and of itself with biting and marking going on. The bloodsucking leads a sort of vampirish feel to this world as well. There is also a hint, though just a bare hint, of ‘fated mate.’ Though since anyone of a certain bloodline would work, it’s less so than other stories I’ve read. I’ll be honest and say that the relationship between Eleni and her brother was beginning to make me squirm. I didn’t detect any incest but their mental closeness and certain things about their shared political past brought to mind the relationship of Commodus and Lucilla a la “Gladiator.”

As with “Survive My Fire,” I felt the use of adjectives was well done. This is a hot land and flaming, blazing, burning, cracked and parched let us know that. The land and the people are all well described. I did find it a little hard to follow the minutiae during the big fight sequence at the end but overall I could understand what you intended. Since I don’t read too many paranormal books, it might be that this world isn’t as unique as I find it to be but I feel that your approach it separates it from the usual romance fare. B


available as an ebook

Spotlight on Drollerie Press

Spotlight on Drollerie Press


Drollerie Press came to my attention when two authors, Joely Sue Burkhart and Imogen Howson, emailed DearAuthor and wondered if we wouldn’t be interested in reading their books. The covers were gorgeous and I assumed that this was some small print independent publishing house. Upon further investigation, I learned that Drollerie Press is a new ebook publishing house that is offering transformative fiction in any genre. Jayne read Joely Sue Burkhart’s romance Survive My Fire and I read Imogen Howson’s young adult offering, Falling.

Both were interesting pieces of fiction that made us interested in more Drollerie Press offerings. One of the owners, Deena Fisher, emailed me with an offer to the Dear Author readership. Any purchase totaling $2.50 or more, the buyer will receive 15% off if they enter the words ” Dear Author ” (without quotation marks). The code is good through December 31st.

Ms. Fisher agreed to answer some questions about the vision and future of “Drollerie Press ”

Q. What is your niche in the publishing market?

Fisher: Mythic arts. Our goal is to showcase great writing in any genre that includes mythic elements presented in an original way. To use Joely Sue Burkhart’s story as an example, you told her you didn’t much care for dragons as I recall. That was my first response as well. Dragons are overdone. I’m tired of them. They hoard gold, they’re vain, they hate humans for their short lives or brutishness, they’re either sentient and wise beyond mortal ken or they’re incredibly helpful pets. Joely took the idea of dragon and turned it around. She imagined something unique and yet perfectly appropriate to the myth and she made them real for the reader. We find that kind of storytelling exciting and that’s what we want to provide for every genre.

Q: What makes an ebook publisher successful?

Fisher: Well, I may have a different answer 10 years from now, but I think any business enterprise is likely to succeed if the principals find a need and fill it well, manage their product (quality, freshness, reliability), stick out the tough times, provide great customer service, and watch their cash flow. E-book publishers have built an audience on erotica, which, if you’re going to get consumers to adopt something new is one very good way to go about it, and more publishers and wider offerings have resulted from that early boom, which is great. It’s a healthy field, but it seems to me that the rate of growth is slower now in the U.S. Quarterly earnings have quadrupled since 2002, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be much higher. To truly succeed, to grow into a major market, I believe we need to encourage a universal e-book reader format (such as the adoption of the IDPF approved format); simpler DRM, which I believe is the greater hurdle; and more attractive reading options (as an aside, did you know that 68 million dollars worth of e-books sold in Japan in 2006? And that cell phone reading is what’s pushing that explosively rising trend? AnimeNews ).
I think e-books will explode–they are exploding–but who will end up leading the explosion is the question.

Q:. Where do you see your publishing house in 5 years?

Fisher: Drollerie Press will have brand recognition outside the e-book world. We’ll have a large selection of good works available for sale in both e- and print formats and in every genre, with a solid collection of non-fiction, literary fiction, and poetry that work within our greater theme. When a reader picks up a book and sees our logo on it, they’ll know there’s a really good read inside. I see us as providing a great publishing experience for established authors and exciting opportunities for new authors. I see our covers as real works of art that are as unusual and exploratory as the words they cover. We’ll have branched out into related products like art prints, pillow books, and illustrated books for adults, for example, and we’ll have a strong and growing young adult category. I’d also like us to be able to be active in other ways, such as providing a couple of college scholarships one to a budding author and one for an artist, though that may have to wait for the 10 year plan.

How are you determining what content to offer?

Fisher: We accept based on a handful of criteria. First, is it mythic in nature?
Does it take a myth, legend or fairy tale and turn it on its head? Does it create a new legend from bits and pieces of old ones or the author’s fertile imagination? We’re not looking for faithful re-tellings, we’re looking for imaginative stories rooted in the mythic. For example, Cindy Lynn Speer’s retelling of Bluebeard is set in an alternate Spain, includes Kitsune, and reads like an historical romance, Imogen Howson’s Falling puts a mutated Rapunzel in an alternate future. Tala Bar’s heroine lives in ancient Israel, sees visions, and her idea of happy-ever-after doesn’t come with a man. Each is very different in style from the other but they’re all mythic in nature.

Second, does the author have a good grasp of the mechanics: punctuation, spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and does the author know how to tell a good story?

Third, does it really work for us? It can’t just be mechanically adequate and based on a myth. The story has to grab the editor and shake him or her. It has to have its own intrinsic magic. I accepted Atlantis
1999 because it’s not just a good story; but the language is incredibly dense and intricate.

Why should a reader be buying from you?

Fisher: A reader should buy from us if he or she wants a good story that’s well-told. Though we find our stories at the heart of myth, legend, and fairy tale, that’s the sum of what we’re about.

Are there any things you’d like readers to know about Drollerie Press?

Fisher: We want them to love buying our books. If there’s a problem with the software, they have difficulty with the shopping cart, they want to buy it from a particular outlet, or in a particular format, they’d like things differently organized, they want to know when the next book is coming out, they’d like to read a particular kind of story, or anything else they’d like us to know or would like to know about us, we want to answer the questions, fix the problems, and make the whole experience rewarding. We hope they’ll drop us a note and let us know–good or bad–how they feel.