My dear friend Jon Keys just released the second book in his Obsidian series with Dreamspinner. He stopped by to hang out with me a bit for an interview:
Today, Jon Keys: Hello, Scott! Thanks so much for having me visit on the release of my newest novel, Obsidian Moons. This is book number two of the Obsidian series. The trilogy has a unique mix of high fantasy magic, unique characters, and world building. The interview was great fun. You had me scratching my head a few times. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.
Thanks so much, AUTHORNAME, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: How did you get started writing?
Jon Keys: I’m a latecomer to writing. I never considered writing until a few years ago. I’d been a long-term reader of the on-line erotica sites since they first appeared in the 1990’s. Some of them were good reads, some were a little rough. But the thing that frustrated me was how characters with rural backgrounds were depicted as barely intelligent enough to find their ass with both hands. In the fall of 2011 I wrote the story I wanted to read. So I struggled through the first chapter and submitted it. Now I read those first manuscripts and cringe, but that’s how I got started.
JSC: Who are your writing influences?
JK: Oh jeez, I read a lot of different science fiction and fantasy. McCaffrey was an early favorite as was Burroughs and Allen Dean Foster (I’ve read Midworld over and over again). I loved the humor and underdog stories from Robert Asprin. I’m sure there are more, but I can’t recall them right now.
JSC: Like me, you seem to write a bit of sci fi and a bit of contemporary – what do you get from each one of these as a writer?
JK: Good question. Everything I’d written before Obsidian Sun was a contemporary. For me they were “What if” stories on some level. A soldier and a cowboy, or a lacrosse player and a cowboy, or two guys in college, corporate VP and his tomato connection at the farmers market or… well you get the picture. They were all a mix of similar or opposite couples I stuck together and then tried to see how they worked out issues to reach their HEA.
With fantasy I get to make world cultures exactly the way I want them. I like setting situations that are similar or wildly different. So it gives me more room to create unique worlds. Pulling together all the diverse elements and creating circumstances where the character literally live or die.
I guess the shorter answer is I have more room to try new things in fantasy where with contemporary I play with existing themes.
JSC: I read and enjoyed Obsidian Moons in beta. How many more books are you planning in the series?
JK: It’s a three-book series with a third one, Obsidian Storm, in the works. Although the Ubica people are introduced in Obsidian Moons and I’m fascinated with exploring the twists and turns of a society based on assassins. They would be a whole new series.
JSC: Tell me about your fascination with cowboys. 🙂
JK: Wow, did it get warm in here? Iced tea anyone. Oh my. LOL!
The whole cowboy thing, huh. Well, I guess the obvious thing is they fall into that rugged look I find attractive. The other half is I grew up on a farm/ranch so I was always around guys in butt hugging Wranglers, working muscle, well you get the picture. They say you should write what you know. They are something I know.
JSC: Is there any kind of character you have always wanted to write, but never had the chance or the courage?
JK: Actually I do. I’m fascinated with native cultures from across the world. Sacred Dance is a mystery/thriller series I started that deals with a couple who hunt down native bad guys. The twist being the characters are two of the Kachina of the Hopi people. I was fortunate that someone on the Queer Sci-Fi group read through it and offered a few suggestions. It’s one manuscript on my short list.
The other character I’d like to explore is a member of the deaf community. That novel is much further away from exploring. I know far too little.
JSC: Will we see you soon at any Cons?
JK: None soon. As for further down the road, it’s hard to tell.
JSC: What else do you have in the pipeline, and when can we expect it?
JK: Several things. Already in the publishing pipeline and closest to release are two short stories. The first one, A Single Night, is part of the One Pulse anthology with the proceeds going to the victims of the Orlando shooting. The other short story is Iced, which is part of the 2016 Advent Collection and will be released in December. Both are from Dreamspinner Press.
I have a novel titled Camouflage that’s coming out in February. And yes, it’s another cowboy story. 🙂
Further away is a new high fantasy working its way through the submission channels. Aerie has a primitive setting and the Chinjoka people are dragon shifters. Still in the revision, writing and editing phases is Tackling the Subject, a college love story, Sacred Dance, which I talked about a little earlier (Not sure where it would fit, paranormal, mystery, thriller?), and Grease Monkey, another contemporary.
Oh! I’m working on mapping Obsidian Storm. There is a lot of fertile ideas from Obsidian Moons.
And now for Jon’s new book: Obsidian Moons:
After achieving the impossible and releasing their people from the Varas slavers, Anan and Terja, a spellweaver and spellspinner, start the arduous journey back to their homeland. A winter trek across the grasslands is dangerous enough, but the traitor, Xain, is tasked with recapturing the slaves, and failure will mean his death. As added insurance, the Varas High Regent hires a Triad of legendary Ubica assassins and assigns a full regiment of his personal guards, along with their captain, to the task. Their mission is clear: recapture the escaped Talac slaves destined for the Varas pleasure houses—and the bed of the High Regent—at any cost.
The newly freed Talac travel toward their homelands with the full knowledge they are likely being pursued. The flight westward is fraught with new and unexpected dangers as Anan and Terja struggle to save their tribe. The battle for shelter, food, and a way to defend themselves becomes an all-consuming task, but they are reminded by the avatars of their gods that all is not as it appears.
Obsidian Series Book Two
HE FINAL strands of Llyca’s unraveling drifted past the tops of the massive featherleaf trees the Talac sheltered beneath. They’d had far too many last rites so far as Terja was concerned. Every day they moved closer to their homeland and farther from the Varas who had held them captive, but for the ones who were dying, it was not enough. Llyca joined the Great Weaving shortly after they had stopped for the night at one of the islands of trees scattered across the eastern hills. The sun touching the western horizon served as a reminder of their goal: the unending sea of grass, and the massive earth lodges that made up their winter village. The region’s blazing hot summers and brutally cold winters made it an inhospitable land, but it was home to the Kuri clan of the Talac people. His home. But Terja worried none of the Kuri they’d rescued would survive the trip.
Known for their fine weavings, the clan and their herds were so intertwined that they shared a name. For as long as any of the Talac Elders could recall, the weavings of kuri fiber were the hallmark of the Kuri clan. A clan almost wiped from the savannas by the Varas and Xain, the traitorous Talac who aided them. The band of slavers attacked the Talac because of their value as pleasure slaves. The velvet covering the spellweavers was a sexual addiction to many of the Varas, including the High Regent. The people who survived and were trekking to the Kuri winter village had suffered many days of abuse and neglect after their capture, and subsequent rescue, by Terja and Anan, with some guidance from the gods. Now they had lost another, and he knew Anan took each death as a personal failure. As Llyca’s last fiber disappeared from sight, Terja felt the same sense of defeat he did each time they sent someone to the Great Weaving.
“She shouldn’t have died. What am I doing wrong?” Anan asked.
Terja studied his twining for a moment before shaking his head. “Anan, she was free. She died a free woman. You gave her that.”
He shook his head. “No. I’m past the guilt of trying to save everyone. But we shouldn’t have so many injuries that aren’t improving. We certainly shouldn’t still be losing people to wound fever. Our kilt panels were filled with the matama you spun from us. And even though some colors have been used and the thread faded to dust, my healing weavings should be working.”
Terja thought for a moment. “What about the trap Xain set inside Joven? The twisted healing warped him until he tried to kill you. That bit of treachery almost cost your life, and Xain was the one who crippled many of the captives.”
Anan’s lips narrowed to a thin line. “That isn’t something I’d forget. I checked for traps in the wounds, but found none. I don’t think he had the time. But the cuts Xain made on the Talac who were captive won’t heal.”
Terja slowed his pace for a moment then stopped. “They possessed Ubica locks….”
Anan spun on his mate. “The assassin people? You think Xain had one of their spiritknives?”
“The former captives are slowly dying. Their wounds will not heal. The Elders said the Ubica smiths could embed their blades with forces, something similar to matama.”
Anan let out a dismissive snort. “That’s just a story for Iceweaver’s season.”
Terja shook his head and considered his twining for several moments. “The Varas believe we spellspinners are the healers. They pursue us in the hope of finding a skilled healer while in truth we velvetless spellspinners could do little more than the Varas could do themselves. I have a few skills given to me from the First Twining.”
Anan considered him for several moments before speaking. “It can’t hurt to weave a healing targeting a spiritknife. All I’ve been looking for is twisted matama. I know little of the assassins’ weapons and how they function.”
A heartbeat later, Terja shrugged. “I don’t remember much either. The spellspinner Elders were strangely silent on the assassin people. It is said they always work in threes, and each member has a specific role as dictated by their gods. One of the Elders called them Ironweavers. Their talent in the smithy is as extensive as ours at the looms. But they are not hired for their talent to create, but their ability to destroy. They are masters of their weapons.” He struggled to remember more, but then looked to Anan with a frown. “That’s all. They didn’t tell me anything else. Perhaps to be certain I was not the object of a Ubica contract.”
“I’m sure the two of us can stop three Ubica, regardless of their reputation. We wiped out a Varas slaver company and rescued the Talac they had taken.”
The conversation concerned Terja. “Hopefully we’ll never find out. Come, let’s see if Xain wielded a spiritknife.”
Terja and Anan made their way to the main camp and found Joven and Soneri waiting for them. Terja considered the two men for a moment while Anan explained their new idea. Both of them would be willing to do anything to keep from being recaptured. Between the value of Soneri’s sunbird-colored velvet and the living trap they had made of Joven, they would rather die than be returned. Terja stepped closer so he could hear their ideas.
Joven motioned to the people spread around the camp. “You’re doing all you can. They just aren’t healing. Soneri and I have tried too. Even Morea cast a weaving.”
Anan studied him for a moment. “Is her weaving progressing?”
Soneri held up his hands in a helpless gesture. “I can sense the vision inside her. Her weavings are perfect. But they have little strength. She’s becoming discouraged.”
Anan nodded, and Terja could tell this was one more burden he placed on himself. Terja sent him a wash of comfort through their twining connection. Anan flashed him a smile that Terja savored for a moment before refocusing on the others.
“We’ve been talking about it too. The Varas had locks made by the—”
Soneri immediately saw the connection. “You think Xain had a spiritknife?”
“Maybe,” Terja said.
Soneri looked pensive for a heartbeat before turning to Terja and Anan. “You might be right. He had other surprises no one would expect from a Varas slave.”
Jon Keys’ earliest memories revolve around books; with the first ones he can recall reading himself being “The Warlord of Mars” and anything with Tarzan. (The local library wasn’t particularly up to date.) But as puberty set in he started sneaking his mother’s romance magazines and added the world of romance and erotica to his mix of science fiction, fantasy, Native American, westerns and comic books.
A voracious reader for almost half a century, Jon has only recently begun creating his own flights of fiction for the entertainment of others. Born in the Southwest and now living in the Midwest, Jon has worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy; with interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to painting and cooking, he draws from a wide range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.