by Andrew Anzur Clement
GENRE: Historical Young Adult Fantasy
Keepers of the Stone. Book One: The Outcasts
In a far corner of the British Empire, a mysterious girl gallops away on a horse, fleeing for her life. Malka has sacrificed everything to protect an all-powerful stone from falling into the hands of the malevolent Urumi. The last in a Sect of thieves, the girl is a trained killer. But will her lethal skills be enough to defeat the Shadow Warriors and their superhuman abilities?
The fate of the stone may depend on Stas, a courageous youth born into exile from a country that is not on any map. Nell, his friend since childhood, has been caught up in the Dark Order’s evil designs. The young outcasts must confront demons, real and imagined, with the help of mystical new allies. Their journey will take them to distant lands and change their lives forever.
Stranded on the American frontier, Malka must stop at nothing to safeguard the all-powerful stone. She has come under the protection of a snarky felinoid – a shape-shifting girl who traces her lineage back to the court of Vlad Dracula. They must rescue with Henry, the American orphan whose thirst for knowledge could help decipher the clues to the next leg of their journey – if the Urumi don’t kill them first.
Alone in yet another strange land, Stas mourns the unthinkable loss of his friend, Nell. Cryptic messages offer new hope. But the Dark Order has devised another strategy to outwit the band of misfits. Plans are betrayed and alliances are formed as history points to the final objective of their quest.
Keepers of the Stone Book Three: Homecoming
Stas and his companions have made their way to the partitioned homeland he has never visited. He dares to hope that Nell may be alive. The doomed princess Bozhena vows revenge on the Shadow Warriors, who have enlisted Malka’s most bitter enemy in their latest plot to control the powerful stone.
With the help of a streetwise gypsy girl, the unlikely travelers must outwit the Urumi and deliver the stone to its final destination. All they have to do is put aside the differences that threaten to tear them apart. The secrets of the past hold the key to the history of the future.
Excerpt One: (Book One: The Outcasts)
“The firearms,” Malka whispered. “We still have them from the bank.”
“Do you even know how to fire a gun?”
The Thag shook her head.
The felinoid harrumphed. “Figures.” Then she began thinking out loud.
“So, we’re low on ammunition. Only six shots per gun, assuming they’re completely loaded. Okay. They’re in the open. We can use the wagon as cover. Target what shots we have. I’m not very good at aiming, but maybe if Mister Bunny Burglar over there takes….”
She stopped. Looking behind her, to the empty space off to the right side of the wagon’s seating area.
“Where is Henry?”
Malka and Liza looked around. Both of them spotted their erstwhile captive at the same moment.
“Ugh! He’s in front of the wagon running away with one of the cages,” Liza said, as if the situation needed any clarification. “I told you we should have killed that little….”
The gunfire ceased abruptly, replaced in short order with the quick screams of men and horses. Then silence. The escaping youth was forgotten for the moment. Liza quickly poked her head just over the stack of cages.
“Oh, no! Oh, please, no!” For the first time since Malka had known the felinoid, she seemed more genuinely worried than annoyed at their situation; she knew what Liza had seen.
“The Urumi,” she confirmed in a quiet voice.
“All three of them. And they’re moving towards us.”
Malka untied the sash from around her waist and inserted the brass knob into one of its ends. She listened for one of the dark forms, as it approached her side of the wagon.
Andrew Anzur Clement departed his native Los Angeles at the age of nineteen, with a curiosity for far-off lands. He quickly discovered an insatiable wonderlust that has led him to live, work and study in many fascinating places around the globe. Now in his late-twenties the unabashed opera fan is based in Europe. He continues to travel and read widely, finding new inspiration in the places he discovers. In his ‘other’ life Andrew is an academic researcher, focusing on nationalism and identity formation. He enjoys including insights from his research in his books and the characters he inhabits.
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Purchase Links to book one (Books two and three already out):
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m originally from the Los Angeles area, but I left six/seven years ago. I went across the pond as a 19 year old for study abroad and never came back. Since then I’ve lived in five European countries and spent rather extended stints in Asia as well. I’m currently living in Belgium where I’m an academic researcher studying European identity formation, migration, and EU integration. For me, writing is like having my own personal TV series and I enjoy bringing insights and descriptions from my own academic research as well as the locations I’ve encountered during my travels.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Keepers of the Stone is a period-fantasy trilogy that follows the (mis)adventures of an international group of misfit teenagers originating from three different continents — and two different species — during the late 1880’s. Despite their differing values and belief systems they must work together to keep a powerful stone from falling into the control of the Dark Order of the Urumi — a cult of indentured servants with superhuman abilities, created to serve the devil himself shortly after the dawn of creation. They find themselves thrust onto a journey of unknown destination that could determine the future course of a world that would never accept them.
I got the idea for Keepers while standing in front of the Lady Godiva statue in Coventry, England. The Syrian migrant crisis was in full swing in Europe at the time; the statue’s image of the girl on a horse spoke to me. I knew that I wanted to tell a story about ostracized people from different and even opposing backgrounds who come to identify with each other, while facing impossible odds in a world that has given them no place to call home. Well, that… plus evil Orders, deadly Sects, magical gems, and cat-people with supernatural fighting abilities….
How do you create your characters?
Different ways: there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Stas and Nell’s back-stories in Keepers of the Stone, were inspired by characters of the same name in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s classic work: ‘In Desert and Wilderness.’ The same was the case for Malka and a separate tome, which as far as I know has never been translated from the original Polish. In these cases, the back story on ‘my’ characters may have been taken from a previous tale. However, they all took on lives, quirks and personalities of their own quickly after I begin writing. The same was true for Henry, the badly adjusted American orphan who was originally conceived of as an insert character. But,he took on his own distinct persona, shortly after I started writing him.
In other cases, I simply pull characters from my behind. In Keepers this was the case with Ziya, the Urumi’s commander and Bozhena, the order member who is sent to track, Malka and the mystical stone that she carries (Bozhena ended up being my favorite character). This was even more true for Zaima, another of Malka’s enemies. At first, I just included the name ( which is the same as someone I actually know from the Maldives) as a minor mention of another person who also lived in the camp of thieves where Malka grew up. Over time, she evolved into a fully fledged character without my even realizing it.
Finally, there’s the grouping of characters who are partially based on the personalities of people I know. Jurgen, Stas’s Swiss German roommate, was partially based off of a German family friend. Then there’s Natalia, the Roma girl who aids Malka’s group on their quest. Her personality was partially based on one of my friends from high school.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I’m most inspired to write by my travels and while traveling. I wrote most of Keepers of the Stone, books two and three, while on trains in Bulgaria, or while overlooking the city of Piran on the Slovenian coast. I’m currently writing this while looking at the bay of Kotor on summer holiday in Montenegro. I’d planned to use the time to finish up drafting book three of Voyages of Fortune, the sequel trilogy I’m writing to Keepers. But, I seem to have wound up using most of the time doing blog posts!
Insofar as music or drinks: I’ll confess that in the evening a glass of wine or two can be good liquid inspiration while drafting new content, and working out how my ideas are going to be pressed into paper. I’m not sure that I could write while listening to music. But that doesn’t meant that music doesn’t play a role in the process. I enjoy going to the opera and am often most creative there, coming up with new plot developments during the intervals. An opera provides the backdrop for some of the superhuman fighting action in Book 2.
What do you like to read?
I have kind of an eclectic taste in reading. I enjoy things mostly in the area of historical fiction as well as sci fi and fantasy. As a teenager, I was a huge fan of Star Trek, and must have read hundreds of Star Trek books. I think it was through this that I was introduced to ‘alien’ characters who comment and often harrumph at the human condition. At some point in the alchemy of my mind this may have been where the character of Liza, the snarky were-cat who serves as Malka’s protector, came from.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Just do it. It’s not like something is going to happen that is going to suddenly make you into a writer. If you have an idea for a story that you’d like to tell? That, as far as I’m concerned, makes you the best qualified person to tell it. You’ll find that writing is the easy and fun part of the process, too. Editing is the scut-work part (But, ok. It’s your story. So, that’s kind of fun too.) Promoting the book is what I would call the arduous part. Don’t underestimate how time consuming and challenging it can be. Get started with it early. The sooner the better.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks for having me on your blog and to all my readers. Great to know you’re out there!
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION :
Andrew Anzur Clement will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.