Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don’t forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book. 
Also, one of this author’s books will soon be FREE!  Read to the bottom for the link to download it!

Author’s name:
H. L. Burke
Title of book and/or series:
Beggar Magic

Brief summary of the story:
In Gelia City people are divided into two classes based on their ability to access the magic of the Strains. Leilani Weaver, a young Common girl, befriends a Highmost girl, Zebedy Brightly and the girls develop an unbreakable bond despite Zebedy’s greater social status. When Zeb pulls Leilani into her world, Leilani discovers a hidden threat to the Strains, but no one will listen to her. Defending her beloved Strains may cost her not only her friendship with Zeb but also her life. 
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:
Gelia City is built in concentric rings separated by canals. The area around the city is a mix between woodlands, country estates, and farms, but doesn’t really come into the story much. The  first ring of Gelia is the Trade District where skilled laborers have shops. This is Leilani’s world. Her father is a weaver, and she anticipates a life in a trade. Next is the Merchant District, with banks, money changers, and markets, then Civics Circle where the Guard (the peace keeping/military force of Gelia) are garrisoned and also where public courts are held. The Leisure District consists of parks, monuments, and the Cathedral, and then the Manor District where the Highmost live and work. The Highmost divide up into Manors the same way the Common group in guilds, devoted to specific studies and uses of the Strains. 
If we were to visit Gelia City as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?
Definitely the Leisure District. Most of Gelia City can be experienced in a quick walking tour, but if you want a nice rest and relaxation trip, the parks, fountains, hedge mazes, and green houses that make up the Leisure District allow for a perfect day of de-stressing. However, each Manor has its own aesthetic, including massive libraries, statues, and telescopes. You could easily spend a day exploring each Manor in turn. . .except for Civics Manor. Civics Manor is dreadfully dull. 
What dangers should we avoid in Gelia City?
Gelian society is generally peaceful, but as Captain Goodly, a member of the Guard, says, it is a different place after dark, so I wouldn’t go traipsing about the city at midnight. You might get mugged. Most Gelians are peaceful because taking another life will alienate the Strains. They refuse to speak to anyone who has done such a deed, rendering that person Wordless. In a society where your worth is judged by how well you can wield the Strains, most people won’t risk killing . . . however, you can still rob or beat up a man without killing him. 
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Gelia City?
Weapons are not commonly wielded in Gelia City (for the reasons given in the last question) but the Guard is an exception. Each Guard is issued a saber and a dueling pistol with a single shot, and while most Guards retire never having discharged their weapon other than in practice, they are adept in the use of them. Guards also wear bracers of imbued silver that can repel attacks from the Strains. 
A slightly less savory character actually finds a way to weaponize the Strains, creating grenades of pure sonic power, but these things are not generally found in Gelia City. 
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Gelia City?
Gelians tend to keep to their own classes and neighborhoods, and the city itself is not that large. Other than horse drawn wagons used to transport goods, most people stick to their feet. They have been playing with the idea of a Steam Barge system that would run in the canals, but the first barge launched ran into a bridge, and they haven’t been able to find the funding to continue the project.
What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Gelia City?  If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used.
Everything in Gelia focuses around the Strains. The Strains are unique to Gelia, which is a small, isolated nation. They are everywhere, manifesting as sounds. You can’t see them or feel them, but they speak to folks. The Common hear them as various sounds – music, birdsong, even natural sounds like falling rain – but the Highmost can hear their voices, and the Strains speak directly to them and obey their commands. The Strains are sentient and unique to each individual, like guardian angels. Common folk learn to use them in small ways, to help them in their work or maybe get a box off a high shelf, but it is more difficult for them to access and control them, which is why Common magic is called “Beggar Magic”. 
Since the Strains are purely audible, those who are deaf are unable to use them at all and are often given jobs that both Common and Highmost do not want. Many deaf men enter the Guard because of this, since the Guard may sometimes be required to take a human life in service, which would deprive them of the Strains. 
Is there any advanced or unusual technology in Gelia City?  If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples.
The technology level in Gelia City is roughly Victorian, but they are far more dependent on magic than on technology. They have telescopes, steam engines, gas lamps, and pocket watches.  
Is there a particular religion practiced in Gelia City?  Please describe what it involves.
Gelians worship and omniscient, omnipotent Creator, often called simply  “the Maker”, who created the world then gifted them with the Strains to guide and aide them. Most Gelians tend to focus so heavily on the Strains that they do not pursue communion with the Maker other than prayers left on holy days, which are written on strips of paper and burned at the Cathedral altar. The Cathedral is run by the Sanctified Brothers who see to the poor and distribute texts describing the creation of the world and praising the Maker for his gift of the Strains. 
What is the political or government structure in Gelia City?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?
Gelia City is run by an academic oligarchy. Each Highmost Manor is ruled by a senior scholar who oversees various fellows. Every five years they elect one of these senior fellows to serve in the Highmost Seat, overseeing disputes between different manors. The Guard and courts are overseen by Civics Manor with approval from the Highmost Seat and judges are appointed by a council of senior fellows from all Manors. 
Similarly, the Common folk have a guild system with different trades joined into multiple guilds which meet to settle disputes and set guidelines for business practices. 
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
While the majority of my characters are Gelian, Leilani, my main character, is the child of immigrants, her grandparents having come to Gelia from Rynar fleeing a famine. I chose to make Rynar resemble Japan in a lot of aspects due to the three years I spent there. My husband is military so we were stationed in that country for some time, though living on an American base did allow me to function without learning more than a handful of Japanese phrases.
What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?
One of my characters is deaf which I don’t mean to be controversial, but in researching for his character, I found out that it really can be. There are a lot of opinions in that community about how to handle things like lip reading and sign language and I realized my character would not please everyone. I just did my best to make him real. Also, Gelia City is not our modern world. It is a world where people are judged by their ability to use magic that is audible, so the deaf would be even more marginalized than they are in our world. It was important to me to show that my deaf character was capable and content, not seeing himself as disabled, but I also needed to show how he would be realistically treated by people in this society. 
Author Autobiography:
I grew up in Oregon in a rural area and always had plenty of free time on my hands to spend with books and exploring the woods. I married my high school crush who had grown up to be a handsome US Marine, and we have two daughters together. My long term goal is to be a cat, but if that doesn’t work out, I’m content with “writer/mom” on my resume.  I am the author of multiple fantasy novels, including the four part series “The Dragon and the Scholar Saga”, the first book of which, Dragon’s Curse, will be free 12/31/14-1/4/15 on Amazon Kindle – click here to download your copy!  The series is a full length fairy tale centered on the friendship between young scholar, Shannon, and a dragon with a mysterious past.

Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book(s)?  
My books are available through Amazon in both paperback and ebook form. They are listed together nicely on my Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/H.-L.-Burke/e/B00EYQ1HLW

Where can readers connect with you online?  

My website is www.hlburkeauthor.com. You can sign up for monthly email alerts there. I also am active on facebook at www.facebook.com/hlburkewriter and twitter at https://twitter.com/typativemamacat 

I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Gelia City.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to another fantasy world, in Realm Explorers Part XXXI!
-Annie Douglass Lima