An interview with Sandra Ulbrich Almazan, author of Seasons’ Beginnings

Seasons rgb, FINAL, med, low resBetween gods and humans stand Avatars…and him…

Kron Evenhanded is an artificer, able to enchant any man-made object, but he finds people more difficult to work with. When he visits the city of Vistichia, he encounters Sal-thaath, an extremely magical but dangerous child created by Salth, another magician Kron knew at the Magic Institute. Kron attempts to civilize Sal-thaath, but when his efforts lead to tragedy, Kron is forced to ally himself with a quartet of new deities and their human Avatars. Together they must defend Vistichia as Salth attempts to drain its life and magic. But Salth has Ascended halfway to godhood over Time. Will Kron’s artifacts be enough to protect the Avatars, especially the woman he loves, or will Time separate them?

Author interview:

  1. Thank you for joining us today, Sandra. To start off, please tell us a little about the world you created for your book, Season’s Beginnings.

In Seasons’ Beginnings, the world of the Season Avatars has a technological level similar to the Bronze Age. The biggest cities are ruled as city-states by kings with harems. (Salth grew up in a harem.) However, the common people have had to endure plagues and war. They need magic that can help them.

  1. For what purpose did the magician, Salth, create the dangerous magical child, Sal-thaath?

Salth created her son partly as a magical experiment and partly to remember her half-brother, Tham, the only one of her many siblings who was kind to her.

  1. Do all magic users in your world attend the Magic Institute? What subjects are taught there?

Up to Kron’s time, all magic users attend the Magic Institute, where they learn subjects such as healing, magical transport, artifact creation, and transformation. In addition, magicians also learn mundane subjects such as astronomy.

  1. How does magic work (what are the rules) in your world?

The rules of magic actually change during Seasons’ Beginnings. Initially, a small percentage of people are naturally born with the gift to wield magic. Some, like Kron, have a specialized type of magic, while others, like Salth, can use a broader range of magic. However, when a new type of magic descends from the stars, it creates a variety of local deities who take control of magic. Each god or goddess gifts a mortal or mortals with magic to use on the deity’s behalf.

  1. If you could be any of your characters, which one would you choose, and why?

If I restrict myself to the Season Avatars series (so I don’t spoil my other series), I would choose Gwendolyn lo Havil, a Spring Avatar and the heroine of Scattered Seasons, the sequel to Seasons’ Beginnings. Gwen has both touch telepathy and healing magic. A noblewoman and the leader of the other Season Avatars, Gwen is determined and practical. I’d like to think there’s a lot of me in her already.

  1. What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I read a lot of science fiction, fantasy and non-fiction. I also spend a lot of time with my family, doing things such as taking my seven-year-old to museums, practicing archery, or watching improv comedy shows with my husband. My son is very much into Star Wars, and my husband and I are thinking of joining the Rebel Legion, a group of Star Wars costumers that appear for charity. Unfortunately, neither of us can sew, so we’ll have to find someone who can make our costumes for us.

  1. How do you market your books?

I’ve tried a lot of marketing techniques, but I’ve found the most effective way to sell my books is to advertise them on free/bargain book websites and mailing lists. I’ve made Lyon’s Legacy, the first book in my SF Catalyst Chronicles series, permafree on Amazon, Smashwords and other sites. Hopefully, readers will move on to Twinned Universes, the next book in that series.

  1. What do you hope readers will gain from reading Seasons’ Beginnings?

I hope they enjoy it and want to keep reading about the characters and the world. In addition, perhaps readers will have new ideas about how love can make people use or abuse power and what makes gods different from strong magicians.

  1. Do you have any advice for other authors?

Read a lot and always try to improve your craft. If you’re an indie author, don’t expect instant success with your first book. Most authors will need to publish several books to develop a fanbase, so be patient, write the next book, and write what moves you.

  1. When can readers expect the release of Book 2 in the series?

I’m currently revising Scattered Seasons and plan to release it next spring.

Purchase links:

Barnes and Noble

About the author:

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan--resizedSandra Ulbrich Almazan started reading at the age of three and only stops when absolutely required to. Although she hasn’t been writing quite that long, she did compose a very simple play in German during middle school. Her science fiction novella Move Over Ms. L. (an early version of Lyon’s Legacy) earned an Honorable Mention in the 2001 UPC Science Fiction Awards, and her short story “A Reptile at the Reunion” was published in the anthology Firestorm of Dragons. Other published works by Sandra include Twinned Universes, Seasons’ Beginnings, her haiku collection Life at Seventeen Syllables a Day, and several science fiction and fantasy short stories. She is a founding member of Broad Universe, which promotes science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women. Her undergraduate degree is in molecular biology/English, and she has a Master of Technical and Scientific Communication degree. Her day job is in Quality Assurance for an enzyme company; she’s also been a technical writer and a part-time copyeditor for a local newspaper. Some of her other accomplishments are losing on Jeopardy! and taking a stuffed orca to three continents. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, Eugene; and son, Alex. In her rare moments of free time, she enjoys crocheting, listening to classic rock (particularly the Beatles), and watching improv comedy.

Sandra can be found online at her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

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NEW RELEASE: When Dark Falls – extract and introduction

bannerFBToday I bring you fellow author Pippa Jay’s latest release, a superhero romance titled When Dark Falls – enjoy!

whendarkfalls_blogIn a city where Dark Technologies Inc. now runs the show, Kadie Williams has more immediate concerns than the fall of Blaze, their guardian superhero. Almost every morning for the last few months she’s woken up with cuts and bruises on her body, and no idea how she got them. There are no nightmares. No evidence that she sleepwalks, or any sign of a break in. And nothing to tell her who’s been cleaning up after her. As just one of thousands of civilians conscripted to slave away in the labs of Professor Dark, she knew there’d be trouble ahead. But she never expected it to be so bad, or so personal.

Desperate for answers, Kadie looks to the new defender of the night, the only person who can hinder the total domination of Professor Dark—Nocturnelle. The mysterious vigilante superhero came from nowhere with her cybernetic sidekick Shadow, set on putting an end to the brutality of Dark’s regime. But as his laboratories work on a new secret super-weapon, Nocturnelle and Shadow may not be enough to save Nephopolis…or to save Kadie either.

When Dark Falls is an alternative 1920s superhero romance released from Breathless Press 21st November. Add it to your Goodreads shelf HERE. Sign up to the author’s no-spam newsletter HERE to stay up to date with releases, cover reveals, sales and giveaways for all my titles and more.


The roar of the cloudburner flaming into life woke her. The vibration as it powered up rippled through the building created a disturbance impossible to sleep through. No more being roused from sleep by the dawn chorus of traffic or a rowdy neighbor. Those days were long past. Everyone in Nephopolis woke to the sound of fire burning into the clouds, to cast a false darkness over the city. The shadow of Dark.

Kadie stretched…and froze. She stared at her left arm. A pattern of blue and purple covered her forearm, a harsh contrast to her otherwise pale skin.

She shuddered, turning her arm this way and that. Had she fallen out of bed? And if so, why hadn’t she woken? She didn’t remember catching it on anything yesterday that would have gone unnoticed and yet left such intense bruising. One day blurred into another now, but even so, surely she’d remember hurting herself that badly?

If I’d been conscious. She sat up and examined the bruise. It was the fourth injury in as many nights, and yet there’d been no dreams. No sign she’d left her bed in the night. Would she know if she’d been sleepwalking? After all, she lived and slept alone. Unless she was leaving her apartment to wander around in the corridors… Continue reading

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Doorway to Destiny – the perfect Christmas gift for the readers in your life


With Christmas just around the corner and the economy in a sorry state, everyone is on the hunt for bargains. If you’re looking for an affordable Christmas gift for the readers in your life – a gift that won’t cost you an arm or a leg, but also won’t appear cheap – take a look at Doorway to Destiny, a 13-book fantasy and science fiction adventure ebook bundle, only 99c for a limited time.

boxcover_thumbWith eight novels by TC Southwell and three novels and two anthologies by Vanessa Finaughty, this box set offers fantasy and sci-fi lovers escapism that will keep you up long past your bedtime. Dive into fantastic worlds and meet fascinating characters whose trials and tribulations will enchant and inspire. Discover how a vengeful assassin reshapes the fate of three kingdoms and share in a quest to discover the origins of mankind, then follow the tale of a young queen’s fight to be free with the aid of a combat cyborg. Two short story anthologies spice up the fare with dragons, sorcerers and magic galore, and a child of another god strives to save his world from mankind’s ravages. When a mortal dark god treads a tragic path as he rises to destroy the Overworld, a brave young girl risks her life to try to change his savage ways. Each hero and heroine takes a definitive step through a doorway to destiny as he or she seeks to right wrongs and save worlds.

Read a free sample at Smashwords.

Watch the book trailers for some of the books in the bundle


Purchase Doorway to Destiny for only 99c

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Thank you for your support, and let us take this opportunity to wish you an early ‘happy holidays’!

Vanessa & Tammy

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Extract from Berend van der Poll’s Post-Apocalyptic Thriller

It’s multi-genre Friday again! Today’s offering is a post-apocalyptic thriller from fellow author Berend van der Poll.

Disclaimer: The below extract contains some swearing.

487923_524334047649030_978925357_nLife is never going to be the same for Michael Munroe, his brother and his family. Seven years ago, scientists warned the world of a NEA – near-Earth asteroid – but assured everybody that it posed no threat to life on Earth. They were wrong. Billions of lives were lost, leaving only a million survivors scattered across the globe.

Surviving is the only thing on Michael’s mind and sticking together is the only way his family and the handful of people under his watch are able to live to see the next day.

However, this annihilation gave birth to a new kind of threat, The Night Wind – a community who scour the city at night, abducting women and impregnating them to help give birth to a new world, and those who refuse and stand against their visions for the future are butchered without mercy.

With The Night Wind growing every day, Michael is forced to make decisions to keep pushing forward and keep his family alive, but, unlike his brother, Julian, who eliminates a threat without hesitation, Michael prefers to talk his way out of bad situations… How do you question your beliefs, hold onto your morals and reluctance to kill or be killed after The Night Wind comes knocking?


It must have taken Julian and Stephen around fifteen minutes to spot the trio. They observed first, taking in the surroundings and paying attention to sudden movement in the dark city.

They could hear the three Night Wind members talking about the good old days when the world was still alive. It seemed strange that merciless and remorseless killers were still able to reminisce and talk about family. Is there still hope for them? Of course not! There was nothing to live for if this was what the world looked like… what it turned into. Now, The Night Wind only wanted women and children to procreate, and looted survivors after killing them if they refused to join their vision.

“So what’s the problem with you and Tony?” Stephen thought that, while they observed the three men down the road, this was the perfect time to ask.

Julian signed. “Tony… Forget about Tony.”

“I know that you, Tony and Jeff are having problems. Why did we take them in when we came back to Cape Town if there was something cooking between you?”

“You want to do this now? Julian asked, looking down the road.

“Those fuckers are not moving. Looks like they found something. So what’s wrong with the three of you?”

“Jeff and Tony are minor, man. I allow tiny shit to cook in my head and I turn it into a feud. It’s silly.”

“Then let’s hear it, if it’s silly,” Stephen pressed.

Julian sighed. “You are not going to give up? Okay. Jeff and Tony were old drinking buddies. They were regulars in this pub I worked at a few years ago before all this shit happened. Two arseholes walked in there and I threw some beer in one prick’s face. At the end of my shift, these fuckers waited for me outside and shit went south. They caught me off guard, you know, but Jeff and Tony came out of nowhere and pulled them off me and got them into choke holds. I was a bouncer at this night club before the pub, which also had a fight club underground where I used to fight. So Jeff and Tony wanted me to take these guys out that night, and I was not a killer…”

“So they wanted you to kill them?”

“These guys came to my fights. They bet big bucks on me. Man, I made them rich.” Julian paused. “Yeah, they wanted me to kill them. I walked away from that. Anyway, I asked Tony and Jeff after we picked them up when we came back here if they let those guys go and you know what they said?”

Stephen asked, “What did they say?”

“They said they did what I couldn’t.”

“No shit?” Stephen sounded a bit surprised, because Jeff and Tony didn’t seem the killer types.

“Yeah, man, no shit. But you know what the scariest part is? Those guys became family men and they regret what they did back then. Ever since this shit started, I killed many men, but I did it so we could survive and not to satisfy myself.”

“Yeah, there is a difference,” Stephen told him.

“Maybe I should talk to them. Maybe it’s what they need to put it behind them.”

“Yeah,” Stephen agreed. “It could help you too, because we need them to watch our backs and we need to do the same.”


Stephen looked down the road again. “They’re on the move.”

Julian moved closer to Stephen. “We take these arseholes out quietly. No guns. Only knives.”

“Got it,” Stephen acknowledged and swung the rifle over his shoulder.

“Let’s get up close and personal with these fuckers.”

About the author

25122010_005_I was born in South Africa in 1979 and discovered my love for writing twenty-three years later. I find it very easy to create good characters, because each one of them is created using a part of me. As a child, it was hard settling down and making friends, because we moved around a lot. When I am not writing, I am enjoying fine pencil art – something I have been doing since I was seven years old, and spending time with my beautiful family.

I live in Fish Hoek with my wife, Melanie, and Tyler – our son.

Free download links

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EXTRACT from The Sibyl by Cynthia D. Witherspoon

Today’s extract is from Cynthia D. Witherspoon’s paranormal fantasy book, The Sibyl – enjoy!

The Sibyl extract:

The Sibyl“Eva, is it? That’s nice.” Kathy reached over to the table to pick up a heavy hand mirror. “The spirits are telling me you don’t believe in them. You detest the paranormal. Is this true?”

“Honestly?” I looked to Elliot, then to the scryer. “No, I don’t detest the paranormal. I just think you are all here to make money.”

“And you? Isn’t that why you are here as well?”


“I really need to get going.” I tried to ease away from her, but this woman was quick. She grabbed my arm again to hold me in place.

“Then look into this mirror. If you see nothing, then I will release you.” She handed it to me with the care one would preserve for a child. “Yet if you see anything – anything at all – you must tell us at once what you see.”

“I am going to see my reflection. Nothing more, nothing less.” I shrugged. “I hate to break it to you, but that’s how mirrors work these days.”

“Indeed.” Kathy pushed the mirror against my hands. “Well, then. The sooner you take a look and do as I say, the sooner you can sit back down with your love over there.”

Love? Who did this lady think she was? Her assumption made me angry. I couldn’t explain my sudden anger, but I felt defensive towards her. I wanted nothing more than to snatch the mirror from her hand and smash it against the carpet. Yet, just as I wrapped my hands around the handle, I remembered the contract I’d signed saying I would put myself in these exact same situations for money. Continue reading

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An Overview of Orion, Conspiracies and UFO Mythology

MoonConspiracy theorists have had a field day with the moon landing. In fact, many believe that humans have never set foot on the moon and the whole thing was faked – but that’s another story for another time, perhaps. For now, I’m more interested in connections to the Orion star constellation and aliens.

Let’s begin with a little conspiracy history. It’s widely believed that NASA is controlled by a secret group that deliberately hides evidence of alien presence and anomalies on Earth, in space, on Mars and on the moon. A well-known example is the alleged 1947 crash landing of an alien spacecraft in Roswell. Conspiracy theorists say that it’s not just the military who are interested in aliens, but also groups or ‘cults’ that seem to have some beliefs in common with the Ancient Egyptians. Some people believe there is a cult that worships Osiris – aka Orion – and sources say that the first manned moon landing was on 20 July, which is apparently the date the Egyptian calendar begins.

Orion’s alignments with the horizon for important landings and launches, including the moon landing, are interesting to note. According to some, these alignments are so mathematically precise that they cannot possibly be coincidences. It should be taken into account, however, that NASA does not try to hide any connections with Egypt or other ancient cultures, as is evident in the names of some spacecraft, missions, programmes and the official mission patch, on which humanity is represented by Apollo. For example, the names of projects Apollo and Mercury come from Roman mythology. Mercury was seen as the gods’ messenger in ancient folklore – a fitting name for a single-man capsule used for quick missions. One Greek legend says that Orion was murdered by the moon goddess Diana (or Artemis), after being tricked by her brother, Apollo. Many believe that the Apollo Mission was so named because of this legend. However, this could easily be seen as a modern representation of what the ancient cultures believed – that there is far more out there than we can see. If NASA didn’t believe that, I don’t believe it would be quite as interested in the rest of the galaxy. Regardless, most missions were named by the astronauts themselves, so probably don’t have any deeper significance or double meaning.

266px-AlienigenaApollo 13 mission commander Jim Lovell seems to have let something slip when he said that he hoped that Aquarius, the mission’s lunar module, would ‘bring back life from the moon’. Perhaps he was referring to Aquarius bringing the crew back safe and sound, since the moon was already known to be lifeless, but I think it’s a peculiar choice of words. There’s no need to wonder where some conspiracy theories come from….

UFO mythology often claims that there are benevolent human-like aliens from the Pleiades star cluster, and, from the Orion constellation, the ‘Greys’ that are said to experiment on humans.

As far as the moon landing is concerned, if there are, in fact, aliens among us and/or visiting us, or perhaps residing on the moon, this will surely come to light at some point in the future. No secret, great or small, can be hidden forever.

What are your thoughts?

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10 Outstanding Fantasy Movies

Most authors have dreamt about their books being made into movies. If I am ever one of those lucky enough to see this dream fulfilled, I’d want ‘my movie’ to be in league with these outstanding fantasy movies (in no particular order – except for Avatar):

1. Avatar (2009)

2. Priest (2011)

3. In the Name of the King (2007)

4. Ladyhawke (1985)

5. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

6. Hansel & Gretel, Witch Hunters (2013)

7. The Last Airbender (2010)

8. Thor (2011)

9. Lord of the Rings (all three – 2001 to 2006)

10. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

What’s your favourite fantasy movie?

Posted in Books, Inspiration & Creativity | 6 Comments

Extract from Dragon Kin and other fantasy stories

Extract from Dragon Kin and other fantasy stories: Jeepers’ Creatures

Dragon Kin and other fantasy storiesJeepers was still learning the spells in the beginners’ section and had barely mastered the simplest spells in the book, but now he flipped to the middle, turning the pages carefully until he found the spell he was looking for. He grinned in glee. A creature for anything. It conjured half-dragon, half-human creatures that would do his bidding. He placed the candles in a triangle in front of him, then dripped dragon’s blood in a semi-circle above the triangle’s tip. He pointed at the candles and zapped them alight, then leant forward and began the chant, tense with anticipation.

The moment he started, blood-red smoke rose from the dragon’s blood. It splashed onto the flames, sending them higher than Jeepers’ head in sparks of black-red. The smoke wafted upwards, quickly fogging the small cave. Jeepers continued to chant. When he said the last word, there was a soft pop, a few loud grunts, and then silence. Jeepers was almost too afraid to look. The book warned about using advanced magic before you had mastered the basics. It could have disastrous effects, simply because your mind wasn’t properly tuned in at the time… or if you lacked the power to complete the spell once the creatures appeared. There were a number of other reasons advanced magic might backfire on a novice, but Jeepers hadn’t got around to reading them all yet. Continue reading

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4 Simple Steps to Help You Survive Organising Your Virtual Book Tour

organised_woeOrganising a virtual book tour can be daunting. With good planning, however, it can be fairly stress-free. At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, I’m probably the most organised person I know – I have a list or folder on my PC for almost everything, from work- to personal- to book-related things and everything in between, and so many reminders on my cell phone that my dad is amazed I don’t have one to remind me to breathe. Like certain of my friends and family, some of you may laugh at this, but I don’t mind at all, because it’s the reason that organising a month-long tour for my recently released fantasy series, Wizard of Ends, was relatively free of panic and stress, despite the fact that I am working full time and have a teething baby in the house most of the day. Due to my planning, I could enjoy the tour and answering comments rather than panicking about the extra time it cut from my schedule.

You, too, can organise your virtual book tour in a way that enables you to have fun with it.

Here’s how, in 4 simple steps: Continue reading

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Just published – Wizard of Ends companions

It’s been a stressful last few days, with my husband being rushed to hospital after an angle grinder fell on his foot and then, on my way home from the hospital, witnessing an armed robbery. Three days later, hubby had a foot operation and was back at home with us late the next day. There are a few weeks of stress ahead, as he’s unable to do much with his leg in a cast, so if you see me acting a little crazy, it’s probably due to sleep deprivation and trying to be the Energiser Bunny with no energy.

On a more positive note, a few minutes ago, I published the promised two Wizard of Ends companion books, both of which you can download for free. These companions are ‘a little something extra’ to thank my readers for the support.

WoE magic companion_thumbDelve into the world of Ancient Egyptian and Irish magic, discover ancient magic books and ‘magical’ plants, and learn the difference between modern science and ancient magic. A real world school of wizardry? Yes, it exists! Healing magic in today’s world and modern attempts to use magic? Yes, those are real too.

In today’s world, the percentage of people who believe in magic as a real phenomenon cannot be easily calculated, as the number of believers is considerable, yet magic is not accepted as real by the general population. Are people who believe in magic nuts, or is there something to it?

Download it for free from Smashwords.

WoE companion_thumbThis companion to the Wizard of Ends fantasy adventure series includes character interviews, a guest post written by the series’ main character, Lashlor Leaflin, insights into the series, its characters and the author, and the first chapter of Books 1 and 2.

Download it for free from Smashwords.




Wizard of Ends, Book 1_blog2Download Wizard of Ends, Book 1 for FREE
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Wizard of Ends, Book 2_BlogPurchase Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature
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