Conversation with R.K. Thorne Author of THE ENSLAVED CHRONICLES


I thought I'd try something a little different with my blog. I want to highlight some of the wonderful authors I've had the opportunity to work with and narrate for. Today, I'm chatting with R. K. Thorne. She's created a wonderful fantasy series with strong female and male characters, a dimensional world, and a plot that sucks you in. I had the honor of narrating the first book in the series THE MAGE SLAVE, and will start work on MAGE STRIKE later next month. 

R. K. Thorne

1) How did you get the idea for MAGE SLAVE and The Enslaved Chronicles?


I struggled for a long time to finish a novel, literally almost two decades across different projects. I had a lot of obstacles, but eventually I was sick of myself not finishing something. I went to a writing workshop Orson Scott Card ran for two days one summer. As part of the workshop, he made some key suggestions. The first was to just forget every writing rule you’d ever learned and just focus on a character and their struggle. That’s it. And the second suggestion was to get an index card and write a single sentence that would summarize the story you were going to tell. Which, as it turns out, was really hard for me. I wrote a lot of really bad ones. I’d say the only good one that came out of that exercise was the beginnings of what would become MAGE SLAVE. I started tackling the book in earnest that fall during Nanowrimo.

Between summer and fall, I worked on the characters and the world building. I read this random news article about a royal family, I think it was British but I’m not sure. The story talked about how isolating monarchy could be and described one historical prince actually listening through walls and floorboards, so that he could hear the normal conversations of normal people. That isolation was both bizarre and logical to me, and it also was an interesting and realistic side of royalty that isn’t a super common trope. (Except for maybe when princesses get locked in towers to safeguard their virginity, but I digress.) So I thought this idea of isolation could be an interesting thing to build a character around. What would it be like to be so isolated? How might you escape? Could you? Was the isolation even real or just in your head?

Those themes play a huge part in MAGE SLAVE, where my isolated and somewhat naïve prince gets kidnapped and actually finds that himself more free while an actual captive than he was in his own life. Some reader reviews have commented on this, and it makes me so happy to see people get it.

Themes of freedom in various forms play a central role in the story. Another idea I wanted to play with was how sometimes people use guilt to manipulate us, and how bizarre the results of that can be. In the world of the Enslaved Chronicles, significantly more powerful people have been enslaved by those less powerful but more corrupt than them, in part due to fear and in part due to their own guilt. (I’m working on a prequel of how it all went down.) And this is funny because sometimes people start to think or say, hey, that’s kind of implausible, why would they submit to that? But then we can look at the world around us and see examples of it every day. 

2) In building this world, what challenges did you encounter? What about it was exciting?

I struggled with a lot of things from a craft and mindset perspective: perfectionism, a sloggy middle, endless revisions, a much too slow start. (About the first 2-3 chapters were cut from the first draft.) Ironically, while I was so focused on the ending, it was the only part of the rough draft that didn’t need serious work.

Because this is a secondary world fantasy (as in, a world that is not historically-based or supposed to be Earth) world-building is frankly a lot easier! I also think creating secondary worlds inspired by our world but different is more exciting. There’s more room to be creative. I study a lot of history to inform my worlds, but I don’t have to limit it to the history of one or two nations or just the Europe of the Middle Ages. In fact, ultimately, Akaria and the world of the Enslaved Chronicles are inspired by Viking and ancient Greek culture, with some dashes of 1400s - 1500s Hungary and Italy thrown in there. For example, it is not a feudalistic society, which I can’t get excited about writing about. Akaria more of a federation, technically. That is commonly thought of as a more modern governmental structure, but it did actually predate feudalism in a few places around the globe.

 And now I’ve totally gone off an a history geek tangent. ^_^ But suffice to say – digging into all that nerdiness is at least 50% of what makes building this world exciting for me!

 The other 50% is dropping the characters into the maelstrom and seeing the sparks fly. ;) 

3) MAGE SLAVE is now available in audio, narrated by Tanya Eby. How was that process for you? Anything you’ve learned about your own writing by listening to the audio?

 I analyzed to death what approach to take to get MAGE SLAVE to audio, and I am really satisfied with the route I chose. Working with Tanya has been amazing! I had heard from some people that independently publishing an audio book could take a lot of time, but I was pleasantly surprised that it took nowhere near as long as I thought it would. The mostly time-consuming thing was reviewing auditions and listening to the proof. Ultimately, as I am not an audio book reader, I enlisted the help of my awesome editor Elizabeth and one of my great writer friends Sherrie to listen to my top audition favorites. Luckily for me, they both picked my favorite (you – Tanya!). I was lucky to have their help because I was going crazy. ;)

 I did learn some things about my writing, both good and bad. I actually found it very difficult to listen to my own work and was constantly blushing or yelling at myself aloud. =) But then I would get caught up in the story and think, oh, hey, this actually isn’t half bad. I am entertained. ;)

 By the time, I was listening to MAGE SLAVE, I had already written and mostly edited its sequel MAGE STRIKE, and I could see how much I had grown as a writer in that short time, both fortunately and unfortunately. I found a few parts that killed me because I wanted to do them better, or I could see ways to improve them now. But ultimately it’s a good lesson in “the perfect is the enemy of the good” because I will never stop seeing places to improve. If we are growing, our taste always outpaces our ability, and that’s a good thing. A lot of people are really enjoying it, and that’s good enough for me. A friend likes to throw out the quote, “Art is never finished, only abandoned,” and I think that’s really true.

 More specifically, I discovered that I spent more time on romantic internal dialog than I had realized, especially in Aven’s point of view. I had worried if my bad guys were bad enough, but I actually got chills from your epically evil narration of their lines, so I guess they were bad enough in the end.

And it was also interesting to see when a line could be read with a different tone than I imagined it. That helps me understand the multiple experiences readers could be having as they read. For example, I think you brought out a wonderful vulnerability to both of the main characters at times that I hadn’t imagined. It was better than I imagined.

 Also for some of the different voices, like that of Evana, the Mistress, the wolf, the dream voices…. Those transformed it from a rambling in my head in my own author voice to verging on 80s fantasy movie territory. Somehow it makes it all seem more real. That aspect has been awesome.

4) Your second book is out now (and will be available in audio this spring). What can you tell us about it?


My second book MAGE STRIKE is the sequel to MAGE SLAVE and continues the journey pretty much where Book 1 leaves us. It’s hard to describe it without including spoilers on the first book, so I’ll just say it continues the struggles of Book 1 while also introducing us to some pretty awesome new magic (if I must say so myself) and a whole new romance.

 Personally, I love reading science fiction and fantasy, but I rarely read anything without a heavy side helping of romance. (Or sometimes it’s the main course with a side of magic and/or laser weapons.) And I personally always hate when the romance starts strong and then peters out as the series goes on. So I put a new couple in this book, and there’s another in Book 3. (Assuming everything goes as planned.)

5) How can people hear more about you and your work?

You can get to all my social media from my website at For new release news, the mailing list is the best bet: I’m pretty much a Pinterest addict, so that’s worth a look if you like pictures of swords and dragons and stuff like that. And Facebook is a common procrastination destination. Thanks!


Just enter in a comment and we will choose a winner (maybe more) to receive a free download of THE MAGE SLAVE from Audible! Drawing will take place January 31st. 


And if you're a writer that Tanya has worked with, and you'd like to talk about it more, let Tanya know!

StoryBundle and Meet Martin Kee

Yesterday, I introduced you to Jack Wallen, one of the writers for this month’s StoryBundle (a horror collection which my book TUNNEL VISION is also a part of). Today, meet Martin Kee, writer and also curator of this bundle.

Meet Martin Kee

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1) Your book is included in StoryBundle’s horror collection. What draws you to horror?

I don't typically outline what I write, so as the book progresses, it seems that things just tend to gravitate in that direction. There's a sort of inexorable truth to horror, that idea that we all, at some point in time, will end. It's a universal constant. Things decay. So I guess the more I write on a certain subject, whether it be about dark matter or parasitic fungus, or robots, or graphene, there's always a deeper horror there at the bottom, a deeper truth that a lot of people don't like to think about. That truth usually lies in bad things happening to people you care about.

2) Tell me a little bit about the book in the collection.

BLOOM is essentially two stories, taking place in two very different places, in very different times. One story tells the tale of a young man whose childhood friend suffers from a brain tumor. Every time she meets him, she doesn't remember who he is, so Tennyson has to essentially reintroduce himself. But as bloom, a parasitic fungus, begins to overtake the coasts and sweep inland, he loses touch with her. Determined to find her, Tennyson sets out to delve into what the world has become in order to be reunited with his best friend.

The second story, one that shares the same space as Tennyson's, is that of Lil'it. She isn't entirely human. She's smaller, with odd tumors on her back in the shape of wings. She's referred to as feh which is just one sound short of spitting. In her world, she is essentially vermin, handled like a poisonous serpent. This is due largely to the fact that she is able to secrete custom prions and viruses in her salivary glands. When she is sold off to a wealthy land owner, she makes a play at freedom and finds that it's much more complicated than simply running away.

The two stories are related to one another in spite of how different they seem, and it's up to the reader to find that connection.

3) Do you have anything else published?

I do! My first novel, A LATENT DARK, was in a horror bundle back in 2012, and I've just released a short science fiction novella on Amazon called GLEAN, which is the beginning of a series.

Both books can be found here:

I also write short stories and content for video games.

4) What really scares you?

Shame, I think. Disappointment. I don't like to disappoint people, so I often sink into some dark places worrying that I might screw things up for folks I care about. I suppose that's an odd thing to be scared of, but there it is. Now, of course, disappointment comes in many forms. It could be not winning the lottery, or having your spouse cheat on you. I think I could probably survive those things pretty well. But knowing that I might have lost the trust and faith of the people I love... well, it would be hard to live with that, especially looking at the long road ahead to regaining that trust.

Death, surprisingly, doesn't really scare me much aside from the physical desire to survive. I mean, everyone does it eventually, right? And there are far worse things to worry about. I think worse than death, would simply being erased and forgotten, to look back from my death bed and realize nothing mattered and nobody would remember me. That seems much more terrifying, not so much the void, as in the wasted time. I mean, I'm 42 years old. If I died tomorrow, I hope I'll have more to show for it than a level 70 druid in WoW.

5) What’s your writing process like?

I'm one of those "gardeners" you hear about. I start with some very vague plot points and sort of explore as much as I can. It's a much more enjoyable process to me than outlining first, but it's messy. I do a lot of rewrites, and sometimes don't even really know what the book is about until the 8th draft or so. It's time consuming as well.

That's not to say that I don't outline though. I do, just afterwards. Thats' where I chop the book up and put all the pieces back together in the right order, then go through and pick apart every chapter, then every paragraph, then every sentence. Usually the rewriting process is more fun and more involved than writing the original draft.

6) Where can people find out more about you or see more of your work?

Well there's my author page:

And I also have a poorly maintained blog: where I sometimes go to vent or ramble. There's a lot of flash fiction up there as well, along with links to anything new I might have published. I don't live in any delusions that I am a blogger by any means. Most of my ideas end up in my books instead of on the site.

Then there's Facebook: which is, you know, Facebook. I post updates there maybe more than I do on the blog, because it gets the most traffic. You can follow any of these with Likes if you want to see what I'm up to as I shuffle around in my comfy pants, making things up.


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Check out the bundle by clicking on the above picture, and/or leave a comment below to be entered into a drawing to win the entire bundle. Winner chosen August 1st.

Umbrella Love

Here is the second piece I wrote working with an amazing photographer Justin Leveque. I had the privilege of having Justin in a writing class where he wrote pieces that were acerbically witty and filled with heart. He's a cartoonist, artist in general, writer, and photographer and I was so glad he was willing to give me a couple of images to write a story around. Here are his images and the words I wrote around them:

UMBRELLA LOVE by Tanya Eby Images by Justin Leveque


Image by Justin Leveque

The umbrella waited for him in the rain-kissed street, as if a movie had been filming nearby and had wetted the pavement just to enhance the moment for him. When Brent saw the umbrella, he felt drawn to it. If he’d had an umbrella when he’d run out to order a burrito from Señor Loco, he’d have had one of those sturdy black umbrellas with the sharp point at the end. Actually, he’d have had one of those cheap umbrellas that they sell on the corner for five bucks. The blue kind. The kind that tatters and flips in the first strong breeze. If Brent had been an umbrella, that’s the kind of umbrella he’d have been: easily flipped and torn apart.

This umbrella was different. See-through, spotted, feminine, delicate. It rocked in the middle of Fulton by the corner of Fuller, the corner where bistros sat across from the Veteran’s park where they lined up for free tacos on Tuesday. This umbrella called to him and before he knew what he was doing, he was crossing the busy street to rescue her.

This was an umbrella that belonged to someone and Brent knew in his gut that something bigger than himself and Señor Loco was happening tonight. Something that could possibly be love.

He scooped up the umbrella, held it above his head even though it was no longer raining, and ran across the street as an angry driver in a Cadillac laid on the horn and flipped him the bird. Brent turned his back to it.

Now what? What did he do? His hunger was momentarily forgotten, as love and burritos did not mix, and he scanned the street. This was one of those moments that happened in the movies. Those cute-meet moments. He would find the quirky girl that this umbrella belonged to. She would be wearing a red rain coat and a beret. He would say “Hey, I think I have your umbrella,” and she would say, “Yeah, that’s mine. It doesn’t go with your outfit,” and they would laugh and there would be a close-up of her red lips, of his hand running through his messy hair, and this would be the start of love.

Men thought of love too. Not just in the movies. Just this morning, Brent had stood under the lukewarm stream of his apartment’s shower, imagining a woman with curly brown hair in the shower with him, her red lips parting, a smirk on her mouth as she wiped a bead of water from her chin and then said “I want to taste you,” and he closed his eyes and knew that was love. Real love. Love you could hold in your hand, or in your mouth. Love that fit in your palm like the weight of a handle.

But where was she?

That was the question.

He would look for her and find her on the corner of Fulton and Fuller. He would hand her the umbrella. “This must be yours,” he’d say, and they would laugh as it started to rain again.

But how do you find love on the corner of Fulton and Fuller when it is no longer raining? When the homeless across the street look to you and hold up signs asking for money and food? Do you run to the library and cry out your longing? Do you go into the dress shops in Monroe Plaza and scare half-dressed women trying on clothes that don’t suit them? “Is this yours?” do you call, knowing that you sound desperate, and sad, and hollow?

An umbrella in the road is not a mistake. An umbrella in the road has been abandoned.

After a few moments of searching, Brent closed the umbrella up, and crossed the street again to Señor Loco. He ordered the burrito that promised to be bigger than his head and was, in actuality, exactly the same size as his noggin. He sat in the cold booth, letting the air conditioning chill his skin. He cut into the burrito, sprinkled it with hot sauce, and clutched the closed umbrella between his closed thighs to keep it from falling.

What he wanted was more than a moment. He wanted words against his skin, and laughter, and those ridiculous inside jokes. He wanted beers with her on the porch, and hungry kisses at a party while the music pounded in their blood and in their hearts. He wanted her thighs wrapped around him. He wanted to look into her blue eyes or dark eyes or hazel eyes and he wanted her to see him and be okay with that. He wanted to say “You know what I mean,” and have her laugh a little and say “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

The burrito sat in his stomach like a weight. He left it on the table, half-eaten, grabbed the umbrella and walked outside where the sun was shining.

He began to walk.

A man was not supposed to want love so much, but a man did. A man dreamed just like women did. A man noticed couples everywhere, happiness everywhere, balance, perfection, kindness. A man held an umbrella even though it wasn’t raining and waited for the moment when he would be needed.

He walked for a long time. And when the day blended into night and he walked down an abandoned alley, the umbrella nestled against his shoulder instead of using it like a cane, Brent thought that maybe it was time to do something with his life.

He didn’t know what that something was, but he was sure it had something to do with being a better person, a fuller person, a person who had some kind of purpose. He could’ve set the umbrella next to a dumpster and it would’ve blended in with the shadows and the detritus of the alley. Instead, he walked home, the see-through, polka-dotted umbrella still in his hand, waiting for the time when it would be needed. Maybe that time would come. Brent would be ready for it. It would rain again, someday.

Image by Justin Leveque




Follow Justin on Twitter @levequejustin


Top Ten Books I Read, Narrated Or Listened To in 2011

There are certain things you can count on in connection with the calendar. In July, there will be magazine issues all about grilling. In September, it’s back to school stuff. November and December is all about food…and January is all about losing weight and looking back on the year and making pointless lists. I love pointless lists. Nothing feels so organized and meaningful to me than the Top 10 Movies of 2011, or the Top Ten Books About Girls, or whatever. So I’ve decided to write my own list, and randomly organize whatever stuff I want to. Here’s the first of those lists.

So here’s my

Top 10 List for Books* I Read, Narrated, or Listened to in 2011.

(*The books aren’t all written in 2011; that’s just when I read them.)


#10  “Eat Me” by Kenny Shopsin

Kealoha bought this for me for last Christmas. I opened it and was like “Oh. Ok. Thanks.” Then I read it. Couldn’t put it down. It’s about this Kenny character who owned a diner in New York where if he didn’t like the looks of you, he’d refuse to serve you. He’s angry, irritated, and has an enormous menu. The book is his philosophy of cooking. It’s surprisingly down to earth and takes all the snobby foodie BS out of food. Plus there are some great recipes. And he finally taught me that I will never make pancakes better than pancakes from a mix, so I can finally stop trying. What a relief.


#9  The Dante Valentine 5-book series by Lilith Saintcrow

I narrated this series at the start of 2011. 5 books right in a row. The books are about a Necromancer and Bounty Hunter set in a futuristic world. There are battles with demons and the Devil, and Dante falls in love with a demon. Talk about complications. The novels were filled with terrific characters, and I got to do some kick ass character voices. (My favorite was a deep and gravelly bounty hunter that pushed my vocal register into the basement.) I also lost my voice during the recording and we had to take a week off.

Strangely, in the book, Dante gets her vocal chords crushed by Satan, so there’s all this talk of her voice being ruined. We plowed through the narration anyway, and used my cracking voice to fit the text.

I was super proud of my performance in these. Sadly, it’s not on iTunes, nor did I ever receive copies of the 5 discs. I’m wondering if they didn’t produce the books after all. And they were never reviewed. It’s a shame. It’s a terrific series.


#8 “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

Lot of press on this one, but for good reason. This dystopian YA novel should be considered a classic. It fits right in with “Lord of the Flies” and “Catcher in the Rye”.


#7  “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

I re-read this to consider using it for my Women and Madness in Literature course. It’s still a shocking read. You think you’re reading this nostalgic bit about a girl in the 50s in New York, but then it starts to change. The book makes the reader feel what madness feels like…how it feels utterly normal. It’s devastating and beautiful, and I’m having my class read it.


#6  “Matched” by Allie Condie

Another dystopian YA book. I put it above “Hunger Games” simply because this one didn’t get as much hype. It’s about a futuristic society where The Society.


#5  “Split Second” by Alex Kava (Maggie O’dell series, backlist)

I love narrating the Maggie O’dell series by Alex Kava. She’s a complex character. You can tell she has heart, but there’s been so much that’s happened to her in her life, that she’s shut herself off from feeling. For some reason, they decided to have me narrate one of the earlier books in the series (I think I took over in book four or five). It was fun to see Maggie when she was a little more green as a detective, and meet her nemesis, and the man who ultimately changed her.


#4  “The Silent Girl” by Tess Gerritsen

Loved narrating this. I was tentatively scheduled to narrate this with the instruction that I needed to sound a little tougher. The author thought I was a little too ‘soft’ in “Ice Cold”. So I tried to give the characters more edge. More darkness. My director encouraged me to push the accents and vocal distinctions for the characters. I was nervous, but tried anyway. Audiofile Magazine nominated this as one of the top 10 in mystery and suspense and said “listening to Tanya Eby is like listening to a full cast recording”. That was incredibly satisfying.


#3  “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Eagan

I read this one in the summer. I was immediately drawn into a world of pulsing music and characters who are weighted down by time. I still think about this book. It’s a terrific piece of writing.


#2  “We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver

One of my favorite books I’ve ever narrated was by Lionel Shriver called “The Post Birthday World.” It was never reviewed, but I feel like I gave the performance of my life. Or at the very least, the book came at a time in my life when I was on the brink between two worlds. It pushed me to change my life.

I decided if I couldn’t narrate all of her books (which I wish I could) I could at least read them. This book “We Need To Talk About Kevin” is a journey of regret, remorse, and an attempt to understand the very human mind of a monster. It’s compelling. Disturbing. And deeply emotional. To read a book about a kid who kills his classmates sounds awful. Who wants to read that? But Shriver manages to tell a story about being a parent; a story of hope and loss; a story that feels very real and reminds the reader that there is so much in life that we have no control over.


#1  “Ready Player One” narrated by Wil Wheaton, written by Ernest Cline

And finally…my top favorite book of 2011… “Ready Player One”. I listened to this and was transfixed. First, the inner geek in me rejoiced that Wil Wheaton (from Star Trek TNG) would narrate it. But the book itself sucked me right in. It’s an epic journey into the futuristic Oasis. A quest for a Holy Grail, imbedded in video game lore. If you liked 80s movies and video games, if there’s anything sci-fi in your little heart, if you like nerds and geeks and outsiders…you’ll love this book. It was entertaining, delightful, suspenseful, and the characters are filled with heart. Wheaton’s performance is also terrific.



Next list? Hmmm. 80s montages, or geek movies, or food I ate in 2011, or....I dunno. Stay tuned.

On the Kardashians, Magic, and Fiction. For real.

I do not want to write about this. I don’t! I swear to you! But…I. Can’t. Stop. Myself.  

Why? Why do I insist on writing about the Kardashians? And her broken marriage?

Bear with me. (Or is it ‘bare’ with me. No. Can’t be that. We don’t want to be naked together). Bear with me. I have a point to make. And it’s a point, actually, about fiction and magic.


Magic doesn’t exist. I’m sorry. It doesn’t. But we WANT it to. And there are magicians out there who are terrific and making us see things we want to see. They’re illusionists. We watch them knowing they’re playing tricks on us, but we go into it willingly because if an illusionist is good, really good, then they make us BELIEVE that magic is actually possible, even if we know deep down it’s not. The trick isn’t about seeing birds appear or disappear. The trick is making us believe the impossible is possible.

I realized this is true with fiction at a young age. I remember telling a story on the playground. I must’ve been in fourth grade. I had a whole group of kids listening to me as I told them about a story where I knocked a kid out and sent him to the hospital. My audience was enthralled. They couldn’t believe it! They laughed. They were shocked! “Really?” they asked me “You did that?” I felt proud of my story. So I told them the truth: I made it all up. I thought they’d commend me on a great story. Instead, the group turned on me. They called me a liar. They were mad at me for making them believe. They were upset that the story wasn’t true. They had wanted THE BELIEF and I took it from them.


This is why people are upset with Kim Kardashian. It isn’t about her or her marriage. It’s that we’re fascinated with reality stars because they’re just human enough to create a fantasy world that we can believe in. We can see ourselves living in a mansion, being beautiful, having crazy exciting things happen, having a wedding that costs ten million dollars. We know the whole thing is a sham…but it’s just real enough to make us believe for a little bit that  this kind of life is possible. For a while, we live as them. As disturbing as it is, we ARE the Kardashians.

It’s the relationship of fiction. A world is created the people can visit, inhabit, and feel is real. What happened this week is that the Kardashians said “It’s all fake” even though we all know it’s fake. But by ending the relationship with her husband, Kim Kardashian almost admitted to the sham. She’s a magician who showed the trick to the illusion. And we didn’t want to know the details.


I guess the deeper question to all of this is why do we need fiction at all? I think of it as the way in which I can live multiple lives without repercussions of actually making those choices. In my real life, I’m a mom and a wife. In my imaginary life, I’ve been an explorer, a heroine, a victim, a magician who can save the world. I know it’s not real, but I don’t need anyone to tell me that. I enjoy the fantasy.


I think what happened this week is that Reality TV just admitted that it’s not real. It’s a bit like hearing that Santa Claus is really a metaphor and not an actual person. It’s sobering. It’s sad. But it isn’t anything surprising.


In a while, a new celebrity will rise up and we’ll be able to believe the fantasy all over again. Until then, maybe people should just read some books. There are worlds to inhabit out there where the magic is still very much alive.