Spotlight, Excerpt & Author Interview: Heir of Amber and Fire, by Rachanee Lumayno

Heir of Amber and Fire Cover

Heir of Amber and Fire
by Rachanee Lumayno
Series: Kingdom Legacy series #1
Genre: Fantasy/YA Fantasy
Intended Age Group: 10+
Pages: 216
Published: 2021
Publisher: Miss Lana Press
Amazon / Universal Link / Goodreads

Jennica is a princess on the run. On the run from an arranged marriage. On the run from a king whose mysterious plans could completely destroy her beloved home, the magical kingdom of Calia.

And, she hopes, she’s running toward the truth of her heritage.

To uncover the mysteries of her past, Princess Jennica will have to rely on a dragon seeker and his team to lead her to the creature who once kidnapped her mother.

But how can she fully trust her allies, when she knows she must betray them?


Content/Trigger Warnings:

Shown on page:

  • Violence
  • Sexual Assault
  • Torture of children/yound adults (off screen, this is the aftermath)
  • Torture of the MCs mother (happens off screen)

Excerpt:

Chapter One

There were times I really hated magic.

This was one of them. I was working on a new spell I had recently learned, one that was proving to be particularly challenging. I couldn’t seem to get the hand motions exactly right. If I could eventually master that, then I wasn’t able to hold my concentration long enough to marry the gestures to the spoken part of the spell. I had been working on this for the greater part of an hour, and my head was throbbing.

“Your Highness!”

Gracefully, I sketched a figure in the air —

“Princess Jennica! Where are you?”

And then I — Oh, never mind.

I stood up, brushing the leaves off my dress, and moved away from my little hiding spot in the palace gardens. I turned the corner, trying to make it appear like I was just strolling among the roses. As soon as she spotted me, Taryn, my lady-in-waiting, rushed over to me.

“Your Highness, there you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” Taryn said breathlessly. She dropped into a belated curtsy that somehow conveyed respect and hurry up all at the same time. Her blond curls bobbed around her face as she straightened and took a good look at me. “What have you been doing, sleeping in the bushes?”

I smoothed my hands down my long, straight black hair. My hands found a twig, some leaves, and a little fuzzy prickly bur. “No, I was practicing my magic.” I aimed for dignity but ended up sounding faintly defiant. “Is there a problem, Taryn?”

She clicked her tongue at me, her green eyes dancing in mild disapproval. “Just as well you were practicing out here. You know how His Majesty feels about you learning magic.”

“Don’t remind me.” King Hendon’s hatred of magic and magicians was widely known. Earlier this week, Father had dismissed my magic tutor. That was the fifth one he had sent away, for no concrete reason other than a vague dislike of all things magic. I often wondered how he was able to tolerate ruling in Calia, a kingdom known for its magicians. Pretty much everyone in the land was born with some innate magical ability, although only those who could afford lessons were able to cultivate their talents. Of course, Hendon had inherited the kingship when he married my mother, Queen Melandria, and my grandfather had passed away. But still, for him to hate the very thing that set Calia apart from the rest of the Gifted Lands…. Well, there were many things about my father that, even after nineteen years of being his daughter, I have never understood. “Well, if you’re not here to stop me from practicing, then why were you looking for me?”

“Your Highness, we need to get you ready for dinner right away,” Taryn said. She stopped just short of grabbing my hand and tugging me, but we both knew she was thinking about it. Taryn wasn’t the type to be easily flustered. Whatever sent her out here in a panic to find me must be pretty important.

“All right,” I acquiesced. “I’m coming.”

We left the gardens, hurrying through the ornamental rose garden and then past the fruit and vegetable patch used by the kitchen servants. Taryn chattered at me as we walked, catching me up on the latest news and gossip. Passing by the stables, we entered the courtyard. As we walked, various courtiers and servants saw us and dipped low, bowing or curtseying and murmuring variations on, “Greetings, Your Highness.” I barely noticed. My attention was captivated by the sight of the palace, as it always was when I saw it.

My family had ruled Calia for at least ten generations; I believe we had founded the kingdom, although after all those generations the history gets a bit fuzzy. Somewhere in our family lineage we had a water mage, who loved water (obviously) and had designed the Calian palace accordingly. Cool grey stone shimmered in the sunlight, reflecting off the blue and green cobblestones which were laid out in an eye-catching pattern in the courtyard. It gave you the sensation of swimming. Two impressive stone fountains flanked the front doors of the palace, always flowing with pure, clear water. Although the overall effect was very calming, it didn’t quite resonate with me. I could appreciate the palace’s beauty, of course, but privately, I would have preferred something more… exciting.

And speaking of exciting… I pulled my attention back to my one-sided conversation with my lady-in-waiting. “Excuse me. What was that, Taryn?”

Taryn paused mid-ramble. “Sava ate too many blueberries, and now the kitchen staff is unsure there will be enough for the dessert Cook had planned, but I doubt Sava will be punished for it?”

“No. Before that.”

“Oh! Sava’s brother came home. Sort of. They found him sleeping on the street, in an alley in the town, just a few blocks from my brother Rufan’s house.”

We entered the palace, the guards standing at attention as we passed them. The Great Hall stood before us, its imposing wooden doors firmly closed. The room had been used by generations of Calian kings and queens for banquets, formal events, and — most importantly — weekly open forums where the people of Calia could bring their issues before their sovereigns for assistance and judgment. Nowadays, the Great Hall was usually silent; when my grandfather passed away, my father didn’t keep up the weekly tradition of listening to his subjects’ petitions, much to my mother’s disappointment. The most we used the room for was the occasional, and uncomfortable, family dinner. On those rare occasions when I was in the Great Hall, I envisioned it as it might have been in my grandfather’s time — full of people talking and laughing. Joy was something in scarce supply these days, at least in the Calian palace.

The great gilt-framed painting that held a place of honor right by the entrance to the Great Hall caught my attention. I slowed my pace slightly to take it in, as I liked to do whenever I passed by it. It depicted the most recent event in royal history. And for me, it was the most personal.

As a little girl, I would spend hours running up and down the torchlit corridors of the castle, which held our family history in various paintings. And while I loved looking at our family portraits — the water mage who built our palace, the princess who could command air, the king and queen who raised an earthquake against an invading army — it was the painting by the Great Hall that always captivated me. Chronicling the events from twenty years ago, it depicted my brave, handsome father, back when he was the knight, Sir Hendon. In the painting, he defiantly held a shield against the flames from a massive golden dragon, whose claws clutched a beautiful maiden and held her captive.

The entire kingdom of Calia — and beyond — knew the story of how my parents met.

The people loved their love story, and we celebrated Hendon’s victory every year, along with their marriage and coronation anniversary. How an evil dragon had ravaged the kingdom of Calia, and taken my mother as a tithe. How my grandfather, the former king of Calia, had called upon the neighboring kingdoms, asking any brave princes or knights to rescue the Princess Melandria, in the hopes of winning her hand in marriage and, thus, the kingdom. How the noble knight Sir Hendon faced down the wicked beast, driven it away, and rescued the fair maiden. Sir Hendon and Princess Melandria’s wedding had been the biggest event Calia had ever seen; their marriage and their love, legendary.

Well, I knew from personal experience, living in this household: Sometimes legends lie.

Taryn and I continued on, down the grey stone corridors, up a flight of stairs and down more hallways toward the private apartments of the royal family. My room was at one end of the hallway, with my mother’s rooms at the other end. My father’s much larger suite of rooms was around the corner from my mother’s, further down the hallway. As befitted his status as king, his chambers took up nearly the entire wing.

My lady-in-waiting was still talking, recounting (again) the story about Sava’s brother. Well, I had asked. I reeled in my attention (again) and tried to follow her story.

I vaguely remembered hearing about a situation with Sava, one of the kitchen maids. Her twin brother, who was apprenticing with the blacksmith, had gone missing about a week ago. Taryn had mentioned it while doing my hair one morning; it had been a bit of scandal, apparently, since the boy was known to be a conscientious worker. Unlike his flighty twin sister. No one knew what would have caused him to run off, and the family had been worried sick over his disappearance.

“Well, that’s good that he’s back,” I said now. “But why wouldn’t he just go home? Was he afraid of being punished?”

“That’s the thing,” Taryn said. “He’s completely lost his mind. Won’t talk for days, and then he’ll start screaming out of the blue, and it’s hard to get him to stop. He didn’t recognize anyone in his family, not even his twin sister. And you know what a strong bond twins have.”

Since I was an only child, I could only guess. But I did know that certain bonds between people were stronger than others, and that twins especially had strong magical ties to each other.

“That’s a shame,” I said. “Poor Sava, she must be heartbroken.”

“It’s odd,” Taryn mused. “She’s more jumpy than anything. She said she had nightmares every night while her brother was missing, and now she’s afraid something might happen to her. Poor thing.”

I agreed, but didn’t really know how I could help. While I was skilled with magic, I didn’t have the ability to take away a young girl’s nightmares. “I guess… I could talk to Cook and definitely make sure she’s not punished for the blueberries?”

Taryn laughed and pulled open the door to my chamber. Once inside, she all but pushed me in a chair to start dressing my hair. Her hands were a blur as she combed, teased, tucked, and pinned my heavy black hair into something she muttered was “acceptable.” I watched her flitting about in the mirror as my hairstyle took shape. It was fancier than I expected.

“Taryn, what — ”

“Here, Princess,” Taryn interrupted me. She must have really been frantic to let such a breach of etiquette take place. She stepped back, indicating a dress that lay on the bed. “Your father requested you wear the red.”

Now I was nervous. The dress in question was gorgeous, the most stunning gown in my collection. But the fact that my father wanted me to wear it was suspect. Whatever his reasons were for wanting me to look extremely elegant tonight, I knew I wouldn’t like them.

“Taryn, it’s just dinner with my family. There’s no need to be so dressed up.” I reached up toward my hair, intending to pull a pin or two out.

Taryn made a motion as if to grab my hand, but pulled her hand back and pushed it through her hair instead. Seeing her consternation, I slowly lowered my hand and left the hairstyle intact.

“Please, Your Highness.” Taryn was all but outright pleading with me. “You need to wear the red dress. Please.”

I looked at my lady-in-waiting sharply. “What’s wrong, Taryn?”

Her voice barely above a whisper, Taryn said, “The king insisted you wear the red dress and come to dinner formal. In the Great Hall. Otherwise, he’ll have me dismissed immediately, with no pay for the last month.”

I was seeing red, but it wasn’t just the dress. How dare he threaten Taryn like that? Taryn gave me an imploring look, knowing my thoughts. “Don’t say anything to His Majesty,” she begged. “Please, just wear the dress. And we need to hurry and get you into it. We’re running late as it is.”

Sighing, I turned and let her nimble fingers roam over the laces of my current attire, loosening my day dress and letting it slip to the floor in a heap. I silently stepped into the red dress, feeling the satin swish against my skin. Taryn had a matching pair of slippers ready, and then I was out the door, heading toward the Great Hall for what was supposed to be dinner.

Instead, it felt like my doom.


Author Interview:

1. What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve been writing for quite some time, but mostly scripts — comedy, rom coms, sketch comedies. In 2020, I found myself with a bit of free time on my hands (gee, I wonder why!) and, since I love fantasy novels, I decided to start writing in that genre. I usually avoided it as a screenwriter because, let’s face it, filming a sci-fi or fantasy project is expensive. But when you write a novel, you can do whatever you want and not worry about the budget.

I had always wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons, but for years I had trouble actually finding a group to play with. It seemed like whenever I heard about a group they were closed to newbies. Right before the pandemic hit, I found a new group that was forming, but then the pandemic started. We tried to meet on Zoom but it just didn’t really work out, and the group ended up disbanding. But I had the backstory for my character in mind. That character was Jennica, and the more I thought about her, the more I had a whole story idea in my head. And with all the craziness going on in the world at the time, it was nice to be able to create and focus on something positive. So that’s how Heir of Amber and Fire came about!

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?

I’m a total pantser when it comes to writing, and in a way, screenwriting is more forgiving about that style than writing a book. Scenes get added and cut all the time in filmmaking; in a book, it’s all on me as the author to make sure everything makes logical sense and there’s a flow to the scenes. As Heir of Amber and Fire was my first novel, I think I went through something like 17 drafts before the final one. The word count was also way too low for a young adult novel — again, you cut to the chase in a screenplay, but you don’t have to do that in a novel. So it was a lot of big adjustments for my brain and writing style.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?

I was surprised at how much fun I had with it, just throwing things at the characters and wondering how they would react if they were in certain situations. From a technical standpoint, I realized how much I had to change gears as a writer. As a screenwriter, I rely on my director to come up with the visuals. Now I actually had to write out what I would envision on the page in my book. You wear a lot more hats as a novelist, or at least I did!

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?

Hmm… it could be a bit of a spoiler, so let’s just say it refers to her heritage.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?

I always write myself into my projects. 🙂 Jennica has a lot of my personality, at least later in the books when she gets a little more street smart. The rest of the characters are a mish-mash of other people, so not necessarily inspired by any one person. One of my editors thought the cover art looked a lot like a mutual friend, but that was pure coincidence.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?

That’s a good question, I certainly didn’t set out with a specific lesson or moral in mind. I just wanted to show people in their messy, chaotic lives. Many of the characters have mixed motives for their actions, which of course affect the people around them. But as my husband always says, “It’s all about intent.” So if you have good intentions, but less-than-good execution, does that negate your good intentions? It’s all very shades of gray. Which is life. 🙂

7. What is your favorite part of the book?

Spoiler free – I loved writing any of the interactions between Rhyss and Farrah, since comedy is my thing. 🙂

Spoiler – I also enjoyed writing the final battle scene, where the Queen of Rothschan kept fainting. And with more snarky dialogue between Jennica and Farrah.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Kind of a spoiler – The character that was probably the hardest was the villain, King Hendon. I mean you can tell he’s the bad guy from a mile away, and he doesn’t even really have any sympathetic reasons for doing what he does. I want to create multi-faceted characters, but I find it hard with villains, probably because I don’t really write bad guys a lot.

9. What are your immediate future plans?

I have a second book in the Kingdom Legacy series coming out in May, called Heir of Memory and Shadow. I also have a few other books and book ideas in the works. The biggest challenge now is setting aside time to write everything! 🙂


Author Bio & Information:

Rachanee Lumayno is an actress, voiceover artist, screenwriter, avid gamer and amateur dodgeball player. She grew up in Michigan, where she spent way too much of her free time reading fantasy novels. So when she decided to try her hand at writing a book, it made sense that it would be in her favorite genre. Heir of Amber and Fire is her first novel.

 

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Additional Information

The author has created a one-shot campaign module set in the world of her books to be used with D&D5E so players can run a game set in her book world. It’s a really fun idea and she is giving it out free to anyone who signs up for her newsletter! Please try to reference this in your posts because I think it’s something unique and could be fun for our readers.

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