Today, I’m happy to welcome Joni Parker to Authors to Watch. She’s here for some Q&A and has also brought along an excerpt of her novel, Blood Mission. Before we get started with the interview, let’s have a look at Blood Mission…
When the lives of the two most powerful Elves on Seaward Isle are threatened in a plot by the rogue Elf Mellen, Prince Darin of the Water Elves and Lord Odin of the Tree Elves charge Alex, a young female tracker with a Blood Mission—to hunt him down and kill him, or die in the attempt. Blood Mission puts the fate of the kings and the safety of the inhabitants of Seaward Isle in the hands of a teen-age half-elf warrior. Can Alex survive her mission long enough to discover her own true destiny?
Tricia: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Joni: I was born in Chicago, Illinois, but left when my family moved to Japan for four years. When we returned, we moved to Phoenix, Arizona where I graduated high school. I started college at Arizona State, but dropped out to join the Navy. I served 3 years as a photographer, and after I was discharged, I got married and went back to college. I didn’t know what to major in and decided on Accounting only because I figured all businesses needed to have an accountant. After working in the field for a year, I went back into the Navy and stayed until I retired with 22 years. My husband and I traveled the country for several years in our motorhome until he passed away. Then, I went back to work until I decided to devote my time to writing.
Tricia: When did you begin writing?
Joni: I wrote my first published article when I was in first grade. I did a report on a field trip, and it ended up in the school newspaper. I enjoyed writing stories through elementary school and in the eighth grade, won second place for a short story and an honorable mention for a poem. From that point until four years ago, I couldn’t write a short story to save my life. Talk about a writer’s block! Anyway, I came up with a story that I couldn’t get out of my head, so I wrote it down before it drove me insane.
Tricia: Can you tell us about your most recent release?
Joni: My latest book is called “Blood Mission.” It’s the third book in my series called The Seaward Isle Saga. My young heroine, Alex, is charged by the two most powerful Elves on Seaward Isle to hunt down and kill a rogue Elf in a ritual called a Blood Mission. Alex is taxed to the max as she pursues this Elf before he takes over the island.
Tricia: How did you get the idea for the book?
Joni: The idea followed the first two books. In the first one, “The Black Elf of Seaward Isle,” Alex, a young orphan, swears revenge on the wizard who killed her parents, a feat only the Black Elf can accomplish. In doing so, she trains to be a soldier and tracker and excels. The second book, “Tangled Omens” takes Alex to the next level as she pursues a dangerous and secretive pirate spy and encounters government corruption at the highest levels. The third book, “Blood Mission,” follows Alex as her skills are recognized by the Elves and requested. In addition, I wrote a bonus book upon the request of my publisher to explain the background history of Seaward Isle. I created a new character, Olivia Richards, a modern day journalist from New York City who investigates the island to figure out how she got there and where it is. I liked her so much she appears in “Blood Mission” as a minor character and will be in future books.
Tricia: If you could recommend just one of your books to my readers, which book would you choose?
Joni: I would recommend “Blood Mission.” I feel that it is my best work so far.
Tricia: Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
Joni: My favorite character is my main character, Alex. I love her sense of adventure and willingness to meet life head-on.
Tricia: What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
Joni: Believe it or not, writing the book turned out to be easier than the marketing. I’m no salesman that’s for sure, and I realize there’s no quick way to do it. I even had a book trailer done to help me with promotion. It’s really fabulous, and you can find it on Youtube
Tricia: That is a fantastic trailer! What is your primary goal as an author?
Joni: Writing is an occupation without a retirement date. I can write for as long as I want (or am able).
Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?
Joni: I’m working on the next series for Alex. I call it The Chronicles of Eledon. It takes Alex into the Elf World (Eledon) and will be another trilogy.
Tricia: Do you write with your audience in mind?
Joni: Initially, I thought my books were young adult because my main character was in that age group, so I did write with care. However, when my editor read it, she immediately told me that the themes in my book were too mature for the young adult audience. On the one hand, I felt freer to write without constraints, but on the other hand, it left me confused. I wasn’t sure where my books fit in. Recently, I found a new category called New Adult where my books seem to fit. My main character is only fifteen, but she has adult responsibilities.
Tricia: What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
Joni: Stay positive. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you can’t get anyone to review your book, and no one will buy it. Keep trying—I’ve been told persistence pays off in this business.
Alex rode east on the coast road through the barren winter landscape. Just ahead, three large men rode towards her. There was no way to avoid them, so she continued on.
As she got closer, the men blocked the road. Their clothing was worn and dirty–ragged scarves were tied around their necks. Their broad-rimmed hats were pulled low, obscuring their eyes, but broad, unpleasant grins revealed their yellow teeth.
On the sly, Alex checked her weapons as she came to a stop.
“‘Morning.” One of the men raised his hand to his hat and tilted the brim politely.
“Good morning.” Alex nodded. “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it? Could I please get by?”
“You can’t get by without a fee, girl. All girls have to pay us,” the man said. “If you come quietly, we won’t hurt you.”
Alex frowned as they moved in. They looked familiar. Then, she flashed a smile and cocked her head. “How have you been, Wallace?”
“Fine.” Caught off-guard, the man straightened in the saddle–very surprised. “How do you know me?”
“We’ve met a few times, and these are your friends, Gorman and Turnin.” Alex pointed at the men as she identified each one. “I met you at Lord Odin’s house several years ago when I was with Scout Nora. Then, I saw you again a few years later when you were going to attack Chancellor Ebbit and the Scinthian Scouts. Weren’t you searching for the Black Elf?”
The men were stunned into silence, exchanging confused glances and pulled nervously on their horses.
“Damn!” Wallace grabbed his hat and slapped it against his thigh. “You’re the Count’s daughter, ain’t you? What are you doing here?”
“I’m following the Black Elf.”
“What? Who is it?”
“I was told that the Witches of Winden identified him as the Elf Mellen, and I think he went east to the Castle-by-the-Sea.” Alex paused, waiting for a reaction to her concocted story.
The men glanced at each other and frowned. In hushed tones, they discussed the issue among themselves.
Wallace turned back to Alex. “Now just wait a damned minute! Why is Mellen the Black Elf? He rescued the Wizard, so why would he kill him?”
Alex shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe he was done with him. I didn’t ask why.”
Wallace pursed his lips and turned to his friends. He wanted to pick up the pursuit, but the other two argued that it could lead them into a confrontation with Mellen.
Alex hid her smile. There was no need for these men to know the truth.
“We saw Mellen last night,” Wallace said. “He stopped in Winden before he went to the castle.”
“That’s why I’m going there.” Alex raised her horse’s reins, ready to leave.
“You’re going in alone?”
“Unless you want to help.”
“Help? Do you know who he is?” Wallace put his hat back on his head and tilted it back, glancing at his friends. “We’ll show you where he is, but you can’t fight him alone. He’s got a lot of men with him, and he brought in a lot more Elves.” He scratched his head and adjusted his hat. “What do you want him for?”
“He killed my brother,” Alex lied again. “Shall we go?”
Wallace moved his horse out of the way as Alex passed. The men turned their horses around and rode east with her, leading the way to the village of Winden, a few hours away. During their conversation, Alex found out that the men had given up the pursuit of the Black Elf when they found out the witches, Aqua and Eclipse, had left Winden.
Winden was a village even smaller than Nyla. It had a single dirt road with a dozen huts along either side. The huts, called shanties by most, were built as temporary housing for survivors and had sturdy stone walls with thatched roofs. A few had been decorated with flower boxes under the windows. There was no charge for survivors to live in the shanties–all they had to do was take care of them. In the center of town was a small fountain for fresh water with an area for a market and the community stables with a horse pen.
The men took her to the stables, where they dismounted and put their horses away. They went to a nearby shanty where Wallace pounded on the door.
“Becky! Open up!” Wallace stared at the door and pounded on it again. “It’s me, Wallace.” He waited and rolled his eyes. “Come on, bitch!”
The small opening in the door slid open, and a pair of green eyes peered out.
“What are you doing back here so soon? You was supposed to go to Agana and report that Elf!” Becky stared angrily at him through the little opening. “Who’s with you?”
“We found this girl. She was traveling alone, so we brought her here for you to look after. Open up!” Wallace pounded on the door impatiently.
Becky unlocked the door and opened it, staring at Alex suspiciously. Her light brown hair hung in long curls around her head and was tied back with a scarf. Her face was pale and devoid of makeup, with deep lines of worry.
“Who are you?” She wiped her hands on a faded flowered apron.
“My name’s Alex, and I’m hunting the Black Elf.”
“Holy Mother of Jesus! What are you doing? You’re just a girl! Are you nuts?”
“She thinks it’s Mellen, and he’s at the castle.” Wallace pointed with his thumb. “Are you going to let us in, or do we have stand out here all day?”
Becky stepped aside and let them in. “What the hell do you think you’re doing running after Mellen? He’s a mean son of a bitch! He raped me! These bastards were supposed to report him to Agana. I heard there was a reward for any information about him.”
Wallace threw his hat on a hook by the door, and the other men did the same.
Alex nodded at her, feeling her anger and pain. Becky’s eyes followed her every move as Alex sat at the table with the men. Becky set some cups out and poured tea, then put out a loaf of bread.
The men tore into the bread, leaving Alex one small piece.
Becky brought out some bowls and served soup. She pulled up a chair next to Alex and sat down.
“Why do you want Mellen?” Becky asked.
“He killed my brother.” Alex maintained her story.
“So what? He’s killed a lot of people. He’s like…death.” Becky leaned forward. “How do you know he’s the one? The Black Elf?”
“The Witches of Winden told me.”
“Those evil witches! Thank the Lord, they finally left!”
“Yes, they’re in Southport now.” Alex finished her soup.
“Well, good riddance to them! I hope they stay away from here forever. That evil Aqua! She would come around and tell us about these visions she had. She made these three chase after that Black Elf to kill him, but couldn’t tell them who they was searching for! She told them if they didn’t, they’d be cursed for life.”
“How did she get these visions?”
“She saw them on her window, usually around midnight. I think she was seeing the devil. She worshipped him.”
Alex didn’t know much about the devil. She had heard of him when she was in school at the Sword Academy. The boys used to have a contest about who could tell the scariest stories. Anything about the devil usually won. No one would explain to her who he was, but he frightened her.
“We’re going to show her the castle in the morning, Becky. Can you put her up for the night?” Wallace finished eating his soup. He held up his bowl for another.
“Sorry, more wrecks on the beach today. I got a few guests that need tending to. My place is full.” Becky handed a bowl of soup to Wallace. Then, she took the other bowls and filled them.
Alex put her hand up to stop her from filling hers.
“You need to eat up if you’re going to face that bastard.” Becky filled Alex’s bowl and got more bread. “The only place that’s empty is the witches’ old place. It’s haunted.”
“I’ll stay there. I’m not afraid of ghosts.” Alex drank more soup.
“You got more guts than anyone here. I’ll show it to you. You might change your mind.” Becky stood by the door and folded her arms.