H. L. Burke
Title of book and/or series:
Lands of Ash: Elemental Realms Book One
Brief summary of the story:
After decades of Elemental Invasions, the once flourishing Kingdom of Forra has been reduced to ruins. A band of survivors pulls together in one last attempt to defend their homes and families as the Elementals make a push to wipe them out completely.
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:
At the beginning of the book, the majority of the continent is a scorched wasteland with the humans clinging at the edges in scattered settlements. These include the forested Mountain’s Feet and a swath of land near the sea called the Green Band. Few cities remain, most humans dwelling in small hidden encampments. The Fire Realm is a parallel version of the human land, but with fiery molten seas and hot acrid atmosphere, perfect for the Fire Elementals who live there but inhospitable to humans. Of course, the rains and seas of the human lands are just as deadly to the Elementals.
If we were to visit Forra as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?
Stay near the sea. Much less chance of getting toasted there. The mountains and forests that remain are beautiful, old growth pines, pristine air, but every year more land is devoured by the fires.
What dangers should we avoid in Forra?
If you see a swirling blue whirlpool of light forming on the ground, that’s a portal. Elementals come through portals. Elementals burn things. Run!
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Forra?
When fighting Elementals, water is your friend. Large settlements will often have water bucket brigades or even wooden tubes set up to pipe water onto open portals. There is also a special metal called “icestone,” a blue ore, cold to the touch, found in glacial melts. This is poison to Elementals and even a scratch from an icestone blade will cause an Elemental to break apart. However, icestone is rarely found in large deposits so normal steel blades, stone-tipped arrowheads, and other mundane weapons are frequently used.
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Forra?
Horses are rare. They were never common in the northern reaches of the kingdom where packrams and goat carts are the more common means of transport, and so most were lost when the valley burned. Packrams are large, horned sheep, about the size of donkeys. The males are used as beasts of burden and the females for milk.
What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Forra that we don’t see on Earth?
Elementals come in multiple sizes. They are born as tiny “Sparks” out of the heat of their world. As they expand they become “Flares” and finally “Inferno Lords.” They also have the ability to reanimate human corpses into the mindless but still deadly “Charred.” Charred resemble blackened corpses with a flaming core giving them strength. They can fade, becoming smoke, to travel and avoid weapons, but lack the intelligence needed to be truly formidable foes.
What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Forra? If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used.
Humans have two varieties of magical healers. The abilities are hereditary, and while both can heal the sick or injured, they are polar opposites in their approach. A syphonic healer draws lifeforce from one individual to bolster another. The absorption of energy becomes addictive to syphonics, and they often steal energy from others when they don’t really need to. A syphonic’s powers are also an effective weapon, as they can weaken or even kill a person (or Elemental) by drawing away their lifeforce.
An empathic, however, heals with shared energy. She/he draws on her own lifeforce and the powers of memory and emotion. Empathics feel the emotions of those they are in contact with and can read their patient’s memories during the healing bond. Also, if you harm an empathic, identical harm will immediately befall you, but the sword cuts both ways. If an empathic healer strikes another, he/she will feel identical pain, and if an empathic kills, they will perish.
Is there a particular religion practiced in Forra? Please describe what it involves.
With most of the society scattered and living hand to mouth, organized religion is almost non-existent. Few temples remain, but some people still keep faith in an unnamed Creator. The most widespread remaining practice is that of the Late Litany. People awaken after midnight to say prayers, meditate, or make an offering. The traditional offering is three bowls, one with water, one with a live coal, and the other with some form of plant life, often a flower. Water offerings are often given over graves, to cleanse the souls of dead in preparation for the afterlife.
In recent years, a cult has arisen that worships the invading Elementals.
What is the political or government structure in Forra? Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?
When the Royal City fell in the early days of the invasions, the last King of Forra left no heir. A militia rose up from the various settlements in order to drive back the Elementals and protect the remaining human settlements. Militias are controlled by influential village leaders, usually the oldest man, and certain “hero captains” have sprang up, most notably Draven at Fork Vale Fortress and brothers, Karvir and Ketyl, out of the isolated Haven.
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
I grew up in rural Oregon, and wildfires were a yearly occurrence. I remember specifically one night when we were ordered to evacuate our home and the sense of dread knowing that a wall of fire was creeping towards my house, but I could do nothing about it. (Thankfully our home always stayed out of harms way. We kept it pretty clear and irrigated.) There’s something so primal, destructive, and yet alluring about fire. Also, seeing the burned out skeletons of trees and blackened earth was emotionally gutting.
I’m also a military wife, and a major theme in the book is seeing fathers and husbands go off to war. To me there is nothing scarier than that, and so in some ways in this book I was playing with my worst fears.
I’m a life long fangirl who 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 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 in paperback and ebook through Amazon.com. You can view my author page at this link.
Where can readers connect with you online?
Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.
An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.
Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.
She self-published her four part fantasy/romance series “The Scholar and the Dragon,” followed by YA Steampunk Fantasy Beggar Magic, and a children’s chapter book. She is now working on an epic fantasy trilogy.