Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Interview with Author, RYK E. SPOOR

Today I’m interviewing Ryk E. Spoor. His book, Phoenix Rising is epic fantasy and was released on November 6th, 2012. 

*** Ryk will give away 3 copies of his book today!***

Please tell my readers a little bit about your book.

Phoenix Rising is the first part of a trilogy I call The Balanced Sword. The main character, Kyri Vantage, loses first her parents and then her beloved older brother to forces unknown, and when she discovers the truth behind those horrifying events, becomes the last Justiciar -- a warrior for the god Myrionar -- to avenge the loss and bring justice back to her homeland. There are two other protagonists: Tobimar Silverun is a Prince of Skysand, on a quest to discover his people's true homeland -- and there are powerful dark forces that don't want him to succeed. Poplock Duckweed is an Intelligent Toad -- measuring about six inches long, from nose to rump -- who finds himself the only hope for his village against a conspiracy to sacrifice their people to summon a great Demon; it turns out that stopping that summoning merely shows him there's much worse going on behind the scenes and he sets out to find out the truth.

Naturally, all three of them are encountering different parts of the same huge, overarching plot against all the established countries on the world of Zarathan, and eventually they come together and join forces. There is a clear start of a romance between Kyri and Tobimar, though they won't get obvious about it until the second and third books.

Describe the genre of this particular title, and is the only genre you write in?

This is a grand-scale epic fantasy -- countries or worlds in the balance, heroes who must rise to the challenge, dark manipulative bad guys you can love to hate, magical powers, all that -- with my own twists on it to make you think the world is one way, when it's really quite different, and the start of a romance between the two (human) leads.

I have actually written and been published in no less than three other genres: Urban Fantasy (Digital Knight, Diamonds Are Forever), Hard SF (the Boundary series), and epic-scale space opera (Grand Central Arena and forthcoming sequel Spheres of Influence)

When did you start writing toward publication?

A long time ago; I sent my first story to a publisher when I was 11, so that was 1973, or 40 years ago. Dang, I feel old now.

Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself?

Good lord yes. I must have written a dozen novels and pieces thereof long before I was published. After multiple rejections I stopped sending them out because it was taking too much mental effort. I put parts of what would eventually become Digital Knight up for electronic purchase -- back long before E-Books took off -- and they sold a grand total of six copies.

Then I got into an argument with Eric Flint online and this eventually led to my publication. If you want the whole story, it's here, about halfway down the "About Me" page: http://grandcentralarena.com/about-ryk-e-spoor/

What is your writing routine like?

It may be exaggeration to call it a "routine". I'm limited to two days to write in -- Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon. I have four kids and a day job, so family and regular work obligations severely limit my time.

When I'm writing, I sit down, put on headphones with music to screen out the rest of the world (I also often devise a soundtrack for the books I'm working on), and start writing once I've settled into the right mindset. Fortunately for my output, I average 1200 words per hour and I don't do "drafts", really -- I write, I'm done unless the editors say they need something changed or my beta-readers convince me there's something wrong.

What sort of promo do you do? Do you have help?

Fortunately I do have help; I'm traditionally published (Baen Books), I have certain contacts as a consequence of having been online since 1976, and I have an excellent agent (Marisa Corviserio) who all help me find ways to publicize my stuff.

I'm not nearly as good at it as I should be, but again -- full-time job, family with 4 kids. I only have limited time and money for anything outside of that, and most of that time, of course, has to go towards actually *writing* something. *grin* All the publicity in the world won't do any good if I don't get the product out, so to speak.

Are you a member of any writing organizations and, if so, have they helped?

I used to be part of a writer's group in Schenectady, years ago. They did help to some extent, at least to being able to point out my general weaknesses. For a while I belonged to SFWA, but I never got much of a sense of what they could do for me or what I could do for them, really. Probably partly my fault -- I'm pretty private and introverted as a rule (though if you see me at a convention you might get the opposite impression).

I do have a beta-reading group on LiveJournal that read the stuff as I write it and offer constructive criticism. This is very useful because I'm incapable of seeing flaws in my own writing unless they're pointed out to me; I assume stuff is there that isn't, etc.

What’s next for you?

Well, the sequel to Grand Central Arena, Spheres of Influence, comes out this November. The final volume in the Boundary trilogy, Portal, just came out at the beginning of May. I'm working on a couple of other things in that universe.

I'm fairly sure I'll be working on the other two volumes in the Balanced Sword trilogy, (titles still under discussion; I wanted Demon, Dragon, Phoenix, Toad and Promise of the Dying God, but the publisher thinks the one might be silly enough to hit the wrong note, and the other doesn't have "Phoenix" in it as a marker for the series), and I am also doing a revised and greatly expanded version of my first novel. Digital Knight, which will be titled Paradigms Lost and will probably be out sometime in 2014.


First her parents were slaughtered in their home. Then after joining the Justiciars of Myrionar, her brother Rion was also killed by something monstrous that tore his very soul apart. When Kyri came to understand what connected these events, she had to swear herself to Myrionar's service to seek out justice and vengeance. But even these dark deeds were only a small part of what was happening on Zarathan; demons harried Tobimar Silverun, Seventh of Seven, as he searched for his people's ancestral homeland, while little Poplock Duckweed, a little toad with immense curiosity, discovered a shrine to evil gods beneath his own hometown. The three heroes must first survive their own challenges, and then meet each other, both to fully understand the perils that face the world -- and to keep all of them from being wiped out for what they know!

A little bit about the author. 

Ryk E. Spoor wanted to be published for decades, but none of his submissions managed to make it to the right people... or the right places. But then he cleverly figured out a scheme to be noticed: insult an established editor and author for his butchery of other people's work! What could possibly go wrong?

Fortunately, all the things that could have gone wrong didn't, and his first novel, Digital Knight, was published by Baen Books in 2003; a Top 10 Locus Bestseller, this gave him a good start and he has now published a total of seven novels, with several more already on the way. Phoenix Rising is one of the most personally important, the beginning of a story he first started working on in 1991, with ties to material going back all the way to 1977.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Ryk has lived in Atlanta, Georgia, Latham, New York, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, among other places. Today, he lives in Troy, New York, with his wife Kathleen and their four children Christopher, Gabriel, Victoria, and Domenica. In addition to his current job as Research & Development Coordinator at International Electronic Machines (IEM), Ryk has held many other jobs from fast-food worker to project manager and quality assurance director for an internet company, and has freelanced for Pearson Education's computer publications division and for the gaming company Wizards of the Coast; online, he is more often known as "Sea Wasp", an apellation he has had since 1977, and is well known as a science-fiction, fantasy, and RPG fan.


(From Chapter 14)

She took a breath, steadying herself. This was one of the more demanding parts of the ritual, since you were supposed to stay still throughout the remaining several minutes – sometimes up to a quarter hour – of the service.

But now there was a commotion, shouting outside, running feet, and Kyri felt a terrible foreboding, even as the doors burst open. "Arbiter! Arbiter Kelsley, come quickly!"

She recognized with a shock that the voice was that of the Watchland. Even as she did so, she saw the blue gaze of his eyes across the room, somehow recognizing her, and something in that gaze sent a chill through her, even as the Watchland whirled, drawing his sword, calling for more aid from any who could come, and she heard the three-note clanging of the Watchland's Cry, the warning that Evanwyl was under attack.

Even as she recognized that alarm, an alarm she had never heard rung for real in her entire life, she heard other cries. Those are screams of pain – and I hear fighting!

She saw others backing away, the children in the ritual taking cover, looking for shelter, but to do that never occurred to her. Instead she looked desperately around. A weapon! I don't have armor, but I need something to fight with –

And it was so obvious, really, the great sword which was a part of the Balanced Sword at the altar. She leapt up and wrenched it free, whispering a prayer for forgiveness as she did so. Well, I wasn't blasted to ash, so I guess Myrionar thinks I'm doing the right thing. The greatsword was solid and well-balanced, which was a relief; she'd been afraid that it was merely a show-blade, but apparently the main Temple of the Balance Sword had felt real weapons were in order.

She sprinted out the door, following the sound. The Watchland was vaguely visible ahead, and suddenly he stopped his run, his sword was up and something – several somethings – were slashing at him. Closer now, and the things were twisted creatures, something like caterpillars grown monstrously huge, but with a humanoid torso, massive arms gripping clubs or maces. The heads were worse, with flowing hair and high foreheads and calm blue eyes… and the mouth of a lamprey below. From Rivendream Pass. They must be.

She saw the Watchland's blade dancing back and forth even as she approached, and one of the things fell.

She was stumbling to a halt,frozen now, realizing that this was no sparring match, no fantasy of heroism, no practice, no dream. This was real. Those monstrous… things were attacking her friends, her neighbors, and she was going to have to face them with weapon and speed – and die, if she wasn't good enough.

She tried to make herself move forward, but the fear dragged at her. Did Rion have to face this? Or was he already prepared, able to face it as soon as he knew the fight was real?

With a tremendous effort she forced discipline upon her trembling limbs, made her gut steady, repeated the calm and focus of the Way of the Eight Winds to herself: Speed of East, Guidance of Spring, Light of South, Circle of Summer, Wisdom of West, Flow of Fall, Hardness of North, Cleansing of Winter . Her heart still hammered, she still felt sweat under the ceremonial robe even in the cool of evening… but she could move, and the sword of Myrionar's temple was in her hands. More screams from ahead – I have to hope Jeridan can handle these creatures!

She ran past the Watchland, who saw her and gave a quick nod, as if to say yes, I'm all right, keep going!

She passed near one of the things and felt a crawling on her flesh – both from the wrongness of its presence and the realization that she would have to fight such a thing and kill it. She still wasn't sure…

But then she realized where the screams were coming from. It was the Monn farm, and she felt a surge of horror, remembering little Gallire and Lehi, the twins who had been Vengeance and Truth in the ritual just a few moments before.

Two children, hiding in fear in the Temple.

Two children away from their homes, while their parents screamed.

Fury surged up in her, fury and memory of her own loss. No! I won't let them be orphaned! I won't let that happen to anyone!

The anger sped her feet, and she hurdled a three and a half foot post fence. The night was dim, only a sliver of a moon showing, but she could see the nightmare shapes ahead, one already grasping a man's shadowy form, bending the head down…

A desperate leap and she slammed into the creature, impaling it completely through with the sword of Myrionar. It shrieked and gurgled, as blue-white light shone from the wound. She felt a surge of momentary nausea and revulsion as the semi-human torso and arms twitched and shuddered, forced it down. Turning, she ripped the sword clear, seeing two more of the monsters rippling towards her on shuffling pseudofeet, even as she saw Phenre Monn staggering into the farmhouse, helped by his wife Ballu. They'll be safe there for now. If I can –

And then she heard another cry of pain and horror, but this cry she recognized, the sound piercing her to the heart, sending a wave of cold through her body.


"Rion, hold on!" she shouted, and with a pirouette spun past the caterpillar-centaur monstrosities, decapitating one and flowing past the other's grasping hands. They're slower than me… but if they try to chase, I'm at least leading them away…

But her main focus was on the beloved voice somewhere in the thin forest ahead past the edge of the farm, now cursing, and a clash of steel that showed her brother was fighting something in earnest.

She wasted no more breath on calling, just ran, ran with the horrors of the years before shouting at her heels, a terrible forboding making the run seem slow, mired in oil and tar, as in a nightmare.

Ahead there was a flash of silver light… and the light seemed to vanish, even as she heard a choked, bubbling cry.

For a moment – the slightest of moments – she thought she saw… something standing there, something darker than the darkest shadows, with sparks of venomous yellow where there should be eyes, and a monstrous, phantom smile like moonlight through ice. But even as the terror of that vision jabbed like ice through her chest, it was gone – if it had ever been – and she heard and sensed, rather than saw, someone or something else running away, running at a pace that made her own sprint seem slow and lazy.

But she didn't care about that, because on the ground ahead was something else, something silver with black smeared across it. No, no, no, not again, please, not again…

She could not see, and surely there were still things following her, not far behind, and still with prayers in her heart she spoke the words they had all been taught and the flare-light went up,blazed out, turning what had been black to red, bright, horrible blood-red, and she knew her prayers were in vain, for her brother lay there, the Armor of Eagle rent asunder, blood pooled about him, and the last traces of life were fleeing. She dropped to her knees, taking his hand, saw his eyes flicker open for a moment to catch her gaze with wide-eyed horror, trying to speak – but the terrible wounds gasped with his movement and she knew he was getting no air.

"ARBITER!" she screamed, and leapt to her feet, hearing scuttling movement coming up fast. "No, no you will not take him, no!" she heard herself saying, voice trembling, tears starting from her eyes, blurring her vision; but she didn't really need to see the misshapen thing, just swing, block, swing again, and it gave a screaming hiss and tried to back away – but she gave it no chance. More coming, she thought with fresh horror, hearing more movement from three sides.

She refused to give up. Her brother was not going to die undefended and alone, not now, not ever. A club whipped out, grazing her unarmored shoulder, and even that slight contact felt like it broke her arm. She gritted her teeth, refused the pain, focused past the terror and the fear and ducked under the next attack; her blade slid in blue-shining perfection through the lamprey-fanged mouth.

But there were more – not two, three, four, half a dozen, more, and she realized that there was no chance for her or Rion now. They were more cautious, not stupid, perhaps even intelligent, and they recognized how dangerous she was. They were maneuvering, ringing her in, and then…

One suddenly fell, convulsing as its head flew from its body, even as the one next to it shrieked, a slender blade flickering through its body from one side to the other, and Lythos continued, jumping over the falling body, blocking two strikes in a single motion and impaling the next creature, a flowing dance of death that showed her just how very little she had yet learned, and why Lythos was called Sho-ka-taida, Master Of Weapons.

That was a far and distant thought, though, for now she looked down and her brother's gaze was beginning to glaze, horror still in those eyes and desperation and in his wheezing futile attempts to breathe she heard him trying to form words.

"Let me through!"

It was the voice she had most wanted to hear in that moment, and she moved aside, praying that the Arbiter was in time, taking Rion's hand in hers. "He's here, Rion, the Arbiter's here," she said. "It's okay…"

But Rion's gaze did not shift, even as the Arbiter placed hands upon his wounds and one of the Seekers came to assist; she saw Rion's eyes widen, as though to try to tell her something from the sheer intensity of that look… and then roll and fall shut, the hand spasming and then going limp.

"He's fading!" the Arbiter snapped. He gripped the symbol of the Balance tighter and she felt, suddenly, that presence, strong and certain, and blue light radiated from the priest's other hand, forcing wounds to close, knitting them with power channeled from a god directly into the mortal body of Rion Vantage.

But Kelsley's face was pale, and vaguely, at the edge of her shock and denial she realized there were more shouts of consternation now… other victims… She should rise, she should go to them.

Rion's hand twitched, and for a moment she felt a spark of hope. But that was dashed as she heard Kelsley gasp. "I… I cannot hold him." Seeker Reed – one of the students of the Temple – caught his shoulder. "I will help you, Arbiter… By the Balance, what is this?"

They were gazing at things Kyri could not see, and their faces showed utter horror. "Arbiter, what can we do?" Reed gasped.

"I… I do not know. I have never…" Kelsley swallowed, then leaned forward. "Soul injury. It is spoken of in the texts, but so rare…"

"What is wrong?" Kyri demanded.

Even as Kelsley answered, he was busy, focusing more power, pale agony clear now on his face. "His soul itself is injured, cuts across his very essence in parallel with his bodily injuries. Those injuries… were mortal. If I cannot bind… his soul back together… it does not matter if his body is completely whole."

Sweat trickled down his cheeks and Kyri was suddenly aware that the pain he showed was much more real and immediate than the pain of failure. "What are you…"

"Arbiter! Stop!" Reed shouted.

"Reed… I cannot let him…" The Arbiter's voice was weak, but iron-hard in determination, and suddenly Kyri understood. Only pieces of another soul… could bind together a soul so injured. Kelsley is ripping his own spirit into pieces, into bandages of his own essence… to save my brother?

"Arbiter… others are injured. And he…"

Kyri looked up at Reed, wanting to rage at him, but seeing only tormented sympathy that struck her silent.

Kelsley's hand dropped to his side and he crumpled – almost, Kyri realized with another dull shock, dead himself.

And in that moment she knew.

Rion… Silver Eagle… Her brother… was gone.

How can my readers buy your book?

Readers may purchase my book at Amazon, at : http://www.amazon.com/Phoenix-Rising-Ryk-E-Spoor/dp/1451638418 , in trade paper or Kindle format.

All of my books are also available both in book form and in a variety of e-formats at my publisher's website: http://baen.com/author_catalog.asp?author=rspoor

You can find more information about Ryk E. Spoor and his book, Phoenix Rising (as well as his other books) by visiting my website, http://www.grandcentralarena.com, or my LiveJournal at seawasp.livejournal.com. 


  1. Ha! Ryk, my sister and bil and niece all lived in Troy!!! I visited them many times. They now live in Greenwich.

    Anyway, great interview, blurb, etc.! Sounds like a great book that I'll have to get!

    Here's to many, many futures sales!

  2. Thank you, Lani! I hope you enjoy it! :)

  3. Thank you Ryk for being here with us and thank you Lani for stopping by!