Dianne was the last person that you would expect to write books. Oh, she’s always had a great imagination, but there was that little problem with learning disabilities. When Dianne left high school she couldn’t write a letter she was proud of. When a fluke got her enrolled in university, Dianne didn’t know if the word she wanted was their, thier, or there when it came time to write an essay. Perseverance paid off and Dianne went on to do a master’s degree.
At one point in her life, Dianne decided that mature people did not read fiction and especially not fantasy. She did not read fiction for several years running. She almost crashed and burned by trying to be mature and serious about learning and self-development. Dianne decided there was something missing in her life. The missing element was fantasy. Dianne never dreamed that she would one day be a writer with books read and loved by people around the world.
Dianne lives on the West Coast of Canada with her husband, his three cats, and her beloved dog Thomas.
Book Title: Moses and the Dragonborn
Genre: Epic fantasy
Synopsis: This is the third book in the Six World series that began with Ben the Dragonborn. In the first book, Ben discovers his mother was dragonborn and he has the ability to transform from human to dragon and back again. In the second book, Ben and the Watcher of Zargon, Ben goes to his mother’s home world because he is having problems with the dragon side of his heritage. He is in danger of becoming something that is neither human nor dragon if he doesn’t how to manage his transformations. In the second book, Ben meets grandfather, who is also the King of Zargon. At the end of book two, the dragonborn king sacrifices himself by capturing a demon and taking it through a portal to another world.
In book three, Moses and the Dragonborn, six are chosen to rescue the King, including a former brownie slave named Moses who has no reason to love him. Moses goes with the words ‘let my people go’ singing in his heart.
Can the six chosen ones overcome their differences and a half-crazy Watcher’s reluctance to help them? Find out by joining Ben and his companions on a quest that will change each one of them and the world of Farne in this New Adventure of the Dragonborn.
Published: November 2017
C. Rene Astle is the author of the Bloodborne Pathogens dark fantasy series. She gained a love of fiction - fantasy in particular - and a voracious appetite for story literally at her mother's knee, being read The Hobbit and Chronicles of Narnia because those are the types of stories her mom wanted to read. From her father, she got an enduring curiosity about the universe, earned shivering in the dark beside a telescope on cold, Canadian winter nights waiting to witness some celestial event. Now she fits in writing between her day job, gardening and getting out to enjoy supernatural British Columbia.
A Plague of Shadows, Bloodborne Pathogens 2
Dark, urban fantasy
Mina Sun is hunting a creature of shadows, with no clues but the dying words of a homeless man raving about night and a blade of darkness. Can she solve the riddle in time?
Publish date: October 2018
The story behind C Rene's book cover:
This was a challenge. The first book I worked with a cover artist, and that was something I’d never done before. Trying to convey the sense of the story was a challenge for me. In the end, I provided the basic idea in a really rough sketch and the designer implemented it. By the time of the second book, my cover creation skills had improved, and I actually did that cover myself, as well as the novella.
One of the challenges I had is that neither of the lead characters in those stories, which I wanted to feature on the cover, are Caucasian. It’s getting better but it is still difficult to find good stock images of people with diverse shades of skin to incorporate into a cover. And I can’t afford to have my own photoshoot with my own talent!
Kasper: Welcome Dianne and C Rene to the FSF Readers' Lounge. Are you all settled in and ready for takeoff? It is a levitating Lounge BTW, I hope you aren't afraid of heights.
Dianne: Thank you for the invitation. Definitely ready for take-off. Heights are best treated with respect. I have been atop of very high ladders to clean gutters and paint ceilings in a stairwell.
C Rene: Looking forward to it!
Ooh, a couple of thrill-seekers, I love it. Here we go... 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, lift off.
Q1: How did you meet (haha) and do you have a pen name?
Dianne: Christine Astle is my daughter so I’ve known her ever since we welcomed her into the world.
I used my own name for the Ben the Dragonborn series, but have just released a time travelling historical romance where I used the pen name Eliza Broughton because I didn’t want the ten year olds who love Ben to find and read that book.
C Rene: I've known Dianne Astle all my life. I write under a highly secret pen name -- C. Rene Astle. Honestly, the reason is that I already had a day job website set up under my name, and I needed to keep those separate. In the end I probably should have gone completely different, since there's already crossing of the streams.
Oh, a Ghostbusters reference, awesome!
Q2. What was the event that made you start writing?
Dianne: I had been working too many sixty hour weeks so I took time off and went to a retreat centre. They were offering a fiction writing course so I signed up for it thinking it would be easy. It wasn’t. On the way home I came up with the idea for Ben the Dragonborn. Now, I was not only working long hours but spending time every week writing. I might have stopped but I fell in love with the characters and wanted to bring them to life. A few years later I took a part time job which gave me more time to write.
C Rene: There wasn't really a single event. I can't remember a time when I didn't write or at least make up stories. Though the first book in my first published series - Bloodborne Pathogens - took a long time to finish because it was very off and on. I think I really got serious about finishing it after mom published her first book. I saw what was possible. The other books have been completed much more quickly. Now I have stories rumbling around in my head that I just don't have the hours to write after the day job.
Dianne: Wow, Christine. It makes me feel good to have inspired you to bring your gift to light.
Great answers, thanks ladies. Q3. What do you do when you have writer’s block?
Dianne: I had writer’s block when I sat down to write the fourth book in the Ben the Dragonborn series, so I wrote a time traveling historical romance instead. Larkin’s Choice is now finished. While I was writing that book an idea for the fourth book in the Ben the Dragonborn series came to me.
Gosh, I have only read 2, must catch up. And you, Christine?
C Rene: If I get writer's block, I often keep writing, even if I think what I'm writing is horrible. It keeps me in that writing headspace and sometimes results in a gem. I'll go for walks to clear it out, and I also have friends I'll chat with about what I'm writing - sometimes they have suggestions, and sometimes I break through the block just by talking it through.
Cheers to perseverance. Q4. What are you writing now and do you compare ideas at all?
C Rene: For me, I'm working through the final revision of the third book in the Bloodborne Pathogens series before I send it off to beta readers. After that, it'll be time to revisit the first book in a new space opera series. This is the time when perseverance comes in...working on revisions when there's a new story waiting in the wings Mom and I don't tend to compare story ideas because we write such different things, but we do share ideas on how to connect with readers.
Dianne: As mentioned earlier I am writing the fourth book in the Ben the Dragonborn series. In book four, the other students learn he is part Dragonborn. I plan to write at least one more book in that series after finishing book four. I’m also thinking of expanding Charla Visits Earth, the short story based on the series. I have a literary fiction book outlined and waiting to be writing. I’ll publish that one under the name Eliza Broughton.
Gosh you are both so busy writing. I love it.
Q5. What is your basic plot in the book you are featuring today?
C Rene: I'm featuring A Plague of Shadows. It's the second book in Bloodborne Pathogens. Spoiler alert: Mina, the main character from the first book survives In book 2, she's trying to balance life as a vampire with her former, human life. She sees a new threat rising but feels like her new vampire family doesn't believe her. So she tries to fight the evil on her own, which goes about as well as you might expect. Some of the relationships introduced in book 1 deepen in book 2, and some minor characters take on more of a role.
Dianne: I’m featuring Moses and the Dragonborn which I think is my best book in that series so far. In this book Ben and five others go to a world that is blighted by a war to end all wars. The life that exists has been altered or gone underground. Ben’s grandfather is missing somewhere on that world and their job is to find him and return him to Zargon. When they arrive on Farne they discover a Watcher who has been driven half mad by centuries of isolation. Zachery is reluctant to help as he wants them to stay and play games with him. One of the six Chosen is a brownie named Moses who goes on the quest with the words let my people go ringing in his ears.
Check out these cool pics while we have a cup of dragon brew...back soon
Q6. Who is your favourite Indie Author and traditionally published author?
Dianne: I am very proud of Christine and would definitely say she was my favorite, but I do have several additional favorite Indie authors. I read everything Ninie Hammon writes. Other authors I’ve enjoyed include C.M. Grey and Katy Huth Jones. My reading is limited by my eyesight and my busyness. My favorite traditionally published authors are Terry Brooks and Stephan Lawhead. I really loved the Children of Armageddon series by Terry Brooks. I used that series as the main resource for a workshop I put together and presented at When Words Collide in Calgary on the face of good and evil in epic fantasy.
C Rene: Aw, thanks Mom. I have a hard time with favourites -- there are so many! I recently read Travelers by V.S. Holmes after see it in one of the takeovers on the Readers' Lounge, and would recommend it. I've also really enjoyed Lindsay Buroker, Chrys Cymri, C.L. Schneider, Claire Buss, A.M. Rycroft, Jeannette Bedard (full disclosure - she's a friend), and Trish Heinrich. I have books by many of these folks waiting to be read. I rove across genres, though I tend to stay in the scifi/fantasy realm, with some mystery and thrillers thrown in.
Dianne: I really enjoyed Chrys Cymri’s book too. It was unique.
Q7. Who would you like to read your audio book?
C Rene: I don't really have an answer for you. Although I can often pick out which celebrity has done voiceover for a cartoon or an ad, I can't pinpoint a celebrity voice that really fits and don't know any other voices. Not that I could afford a celebrity narrator, but it's kind of like dreaming what you'd do if you won the lottery.
Would you have a preference of a man or woman then?
C Rene: I'd probably go for a woman, but that's just because my main character is a woman.
Dianne: I have plans to read my own books. At Christmas I bought a Mike, and starting an on-line course on producing audio books. I won’t be as good as a professional narrator, but I work cheap. I plan to record in the cold room of my house. Since it is right across from the furnace that starts with a loud bang, I’m waiting for the weather to get warmer. One of the challenges I face is that I find some words hard to take off the page and pronounce properly.
C Rene: Mom has a great storytelling voice
That will be exciting.
Q8. Which is your favourite character and why?
C Rene: Again, I'm not good at favourites. I love all my characters; it's why I'm so mean to them. But there are characters that I didn't expect to become as fully fleshed out as they did. I mean Bee got her own novella because I loved her so much. Another character is Rhys, who started as just a slightly eccentric old man and ended up being the love interest of one of the vampires at the centre of the books. That was unexpected. And that something I love about writing - characters I supposedly created end up surprising me all the time.
Dianne: Charla, the mermaid was a favorite character in book one. I wrote a short story about her visiting Earth for an anthology that has been available free. I’m not overly satisfied with the story and I’m thinking of doing an expanded version of the one that appears in the anthology. I also plan to have Charla come back and make an appearance in the fourth book I’ve just started to write. Charla is a rule breaker. She is opinionated and head strong. She makes things more challenging for the other characters.
Q9. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
C Rene: I have a day job as a technical writer...so I write. I also run and have an allotment garden (I think this has different names in different places - basically a garden where you can pay a membership fee and get a plot). I've started doing cover design this past year and am trying to learn more about digital art to get better at that. And when time and budget align, I love to travel.
Dianne: I have a part time job as a United Church of Canada minister, sing badly in two choirs, throw mud on a wheel, and love to fish. My life is very full and rich and I feel extremely blessed by family, friends, and the community I live in.
I like nothing better than to travel and fish. I’ve caught a 78 pound Halibut off the west coast of Vancouver Island and fished and caught barracuda off the coast of Belize.
LOL Is 'throwing mud' working on a wheel 'pottery' or some strange Canadian mud-slinging custom?
Last one: Q10. What advice would you give to someone wanting to write a book?
C Rene: Oh gosh. There are a few things I wish I'd done earlier. First, try different ways of writing, if you will. Longhand vs computer vs dictation? Plotting vs pansting vs plantsing? At home vs at a coffee shop vs under a tree? There are lots of opinions about what works "best" but what works best is what gets the story from your head to the paper AND to the end. Also, I'd say if you can find a critique group (that offers feedback in a kind and caring way). Getting feedback was important, but more important was critiquing others' work let me look at my own with a more critical eye. Also a media kit would be so helpful as promoting is time-consuming.
Dianne: I agree with Christine when it comes to a critique group. I drive almost two hours to be part of one and they have really made a difference in my writing. The other thing an indie writer should so is hire an editor if you can. I tried to skip that step with my last book, because I find that I pay so much money out for cover designers and editors that it takes a long time to make enough money to pay for it. In the end I recognized the need for an editor. My books aren’t on any bestseller list. I am a lousy marketer. I signed up for an Udemy course on marketing. If I take a break from book production and actually do it, it might help.
C Rene: Yeah, definitely one of the challenges of being an indie author is doing it all...or paying/bartering for someone to do it for you.
Kasper: Great answers, thanks ladies. Looks like our Levitating Lounge is coming in for landing. We'll just get some last quick answers and let you get back to your writing. It's been a blast having you on the Readers Lounge today.
Quick quiz: Dianne
Favourite thing to cook:
I actually don’t like cooking, but I do love eating great food. One of the things I like to make so I can eat them is curry dishes.
The saying I’m most noted for is not really silly. I don’t know if Chris remembers it, but I remember saying this to my poor kids, ‘life’s not fair and then you die’
Best holiday spot:
I have had some wonderful fishing holidays off the West coast of Vancouver Island with my sister and two brothers. We fish in the daytime, play cards at night, and laugh non-stop.
Most played song:
When I was about 14 I saw the movie Annie Get Your Gun and discovered we had the music from the movie. I think I wanted to be Annie and I sang that song over and over again.
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser?
For the Ben The Dragonborn series I have definitely been a Pantser. I have a generally idea where I’m going, but no set idea on how I’m going to get there. I prefer fantasy
Do you prefer SciFi or fantasy:
I prefer fantasy
My best superpower in real life is that I have have fairly good ability to discern the shape of the future
Number one thing to do on your bucket list:
High on the bucket list is a fishing trip to Haida Gwaii
Quick quiz: C Rene
Favourite thing to cook:
Canadian curry (as in not really Indian but delicious nonetheless)
I’m not sure. My sayings seem normal to me until someone says something, which they have – I just can’t remember what those were. I do try to sneak in some Canadianisms into my stories. You’ll definitely find toque, possibly give ‘er, and I might have put askookum in there somewhere.
Best holiday spot:
I can’t say – I might not have been there yet. I’ve loved all the places I’ve visited, but there are so many I haven’t been to yet – what if one of them is my favourite?
Most played song:
I can’t say I have a most played song. I don’t listen to music all that often.
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser?
I used to be a panster, but I’ve transitioned to a plotter in the past few years as I try to write more and do it more efficiently. I think it’s also improved the end product. The only book out there that I’ve used this on fully is my novella, A Circus of Devils.
Do you prefer SciFi or fantasy:
Sorry, but I can’t choose.
I not very good at ‘bests’, but if I had to pick one, I’d vote for shapeshifting, especially if I can shift into anything. Being able to fly like a bird or run like a cheetah would be could.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list:
I don’t actually have a bucket list. One of my big things is to travel to as many places in the world as feasible (when time and budget allow). But I wouldn’t say it’s a bucket list because I am working through it slowly.
Dianne Astle's Links:
Amazon: ** https://www.amazon.com/Ben-Dragonborn-Six-Worlds-Book-ebook/dp/B00GMAUA5C
Excerpt from C. Rene Astle's Bloodborne Pathogens
Seema was a silent, mostly off-screen character in book 1. But she comes into Book II a lot more. This is the first encounter between her and Mina Sun in the book, starting the relationship that follows.
Seema slunk down the alleyway, weaving through piles of soggy boxes and overflowing garbage cans. The hair on her neck stood up, her tendons strung like zither strings on her limbs. Examining the shadows instead of watching where she was going, she stepped in a puddle of icy water. She scowled and shook off the unctuous liquid.
God only knows what's in that water. She wanted to clean herself off but knew now was not the time. She shook her leg again, the shaking travelling up her spine and into her ears. The temperature had dropped, and snow was starting to displace the rain. But that wasn't why she was out of sorts. She knew that much even if she didn't know the cause. Something just set her teeth on edge. She sniffed the air, cocked her head from side to side. A scent in the snow tugged at her memory. Something sweet and sour and sickly all at once. Something that didn't belong there.
A shadow to her left twitched, and she jumped right. Her heartbeat raced through her veins, but her senses soon told her it was a rat. An ordinary rat. Normally she would have thanked the gods for such a gift, a plump and juicy morsel. But tonight was not normal. Tonight her stomach jittered, the meal she'd eaten earlier burbling uncomfortably.
So Seema left the fortunate rat alone. She needed to get back to Mike, to protect her protector against the deepening night.
Slinking along the alley, she kept close to the brick and concrete wall to her right, not wanting to be startled by another rat. Or something worse. To her left, the passage widened, allowing glimpses of a busier street and the sky above. Grey clouds reflected the lights of the city, casting the sky in a nauseating orange and skewing her internal clock.
Seema picked up the pace, wending her way back towards the square. There was a whisper in the wind, like something she'd heard before, though she couldn't make out any words. Tickling her whiskers, it told her something wicked this way cometh. All of it spoke of things better left slumbering in the abyss.
She rounded the corner.
And stopped short.
A body lay in the alley, its blood congealing on the cold asphalt. She craned her neck, trying to discern the manner of the wound without getting any closer. Failing that, she breathed in, inspecting the air for a hint as to the killer.
She crept closer, inch by inch, keeping as much distance between herself and the body as possible while still getting close enough to examine it. One lesson she'd learned the hard way – never trust a corpse to stay dead. She couldn't smell any nascent putrefaction; this death was recent. But she did catch a scent she recognized. Disbelieving, she got close enough to see the face. The skin was ghostly pale, and the slack mouth revealed an impressive set of canines. Cautiously, she sniffed the dark pools that had formed between the ridges of buckled pavement.
Vampire. She skittered back against the wall and glanced left, right, up. But she saw no sign of the creature that took down the vampire.
She stepped gingerly forward again, one careful step after the other. This bloodsucker she didn't know. She inched closer and sniffed. Over the stink of alley, blood and entrails, she smelled something else.
Seema spat. Gargoyle. The odour of mildew and rotten earth they left behind on their kills had filled her nostrils too much of late. She huffed to clear her nose of the metallic tang of blood mixed with rotting garbage.
Then something shifted in the shadows and Seema jumped, her ears twitching. But she didn't run. Another lesson learned: it was running that let the predators know where you were. Instead, she crouched low, and let her eyes absorb the dim light. A breeze stirred, carrying a whiff of another smell, one more familiar to her. Of spice and warmth and kindness. She breathed in deep, taking in that scent. Her whiskers twitched. This time it was mixed with blood. Could this be the killer? The thought caused her supper to burp in her unsettled stomach. It seemed out of character if the owner of the scent was who she thought.
She was torn between investigating and going home to curl up for the night. She looked out to where the alley opened onto the welcoming square. Already she could feel the warmth of being nestled close to a beating heart. She glanced back down the dark alley, devoid of even rats. Huffing out a breath of air, she turned away from the square and towards the limp form, ignoring her mother's voice in her ears saying something about curiosity and cats.
Sidling up to the body slumped against the brick wall, she moved sideways, hackles up. She got close enough that she could clearly smell it through the reek of garbage and unidentifiable detritus. Through the blood that splattered its clothes and hands.
This was the source of the scent she associated with warmth and caring, not with a killer. The new vampire, the woman who had been kind to Mike.
The one who was different.
C. Rene Astle
Author of fantasy, sci-fi and other speculative fiction
(¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.•:*¨¨*:•..•:*¨¨*:•..•:*¨¨*:•..•...
Excerpt from Dianne Astle'sMoses and the Dragonborn
A DRAGON RIDE
With no moon in the sky and clouds obscuring the stars, it was the perfect night for flying without being seen. The greenish blue dragon and the dark skinned boy had waited for a cloudy night without rain, a rare occurrence on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
This was the first time the dragon had flown through the skies on Earth, and he was enjoying the flight every bit as much as his rider. Below them was the island where the two of them attended school. They’d been in the air for an hour and the dragon reluctantly made up his mind to return to the school.
“Yeah!” the boy yelled as the dragon did a nosedive toward the ocean. “This is better than a rollercoaster.”
They skimmed over the waves until a grey whale breached nearby. The dragon arced around the whale before climbing toward the clouds.
“Hold on,” the dragon called back, his words carried away by the wind. “I’ll do another roll.”
The dragon rolled to the left and soon they were flying upside down. The boy laughed. “Ben, that was so cool. Do it again.”
“Once more, then we need to head back.”
“So soon? Okay, but on the next moonless night I want to fly further up the coast.”
“Denzel, we’re not doing this again. We agreed that if I took you for a ride you would stop asking.”
“That was before I knew how awesome it was,” Denzel said. “I was meant to be a dragon rider.”
The dragon did what dragons always do when they are angry: He breathed fire, which streaked out like lightening across the sky to light up the clouds around them.
“Cool! Do that again,” Denzel yelled into the wind.
The dragon roared in response.
“Okay. Okay. You’re right. I did promise, but I still hope we can do this again sometime.”
Denzel knew that Ben was just as reluctant to return, even though every moment they were in the air increased the chance of getting caught by Miss Templeton.
They were racing away from the island when the unthinkable happened. There was a clap of thunder and a huge face appeared on the cloud in front of them. They knew the face well, but had never seen it angry before. Static electricity danced in the dinner-plate sized eyes that were staring straight at them. Ben’s wings beat backwards as he desperately tried to keep himself from flying through Miss Templeton’s face.
The huge mouth spoke. Lightening flashed with every word. Denzel and Ben did not hear actual words, they heard loud claps of thunder, but they knew what was said. Come see me! Come see me, right now! Then the face broke apart and disappeared.
When Ben turned and flew back towards the school there was smoke coming from his nostrils.
“Don’t go back yet,” Denzel coughed. “We can’t get into any more trouble then we’re already in. At the very least take the long way back to the school by flying across the Island and around the southern tip.”
Ben erupted in a roar. Fire lit up the sky.
“I guess that’s a no then?” Denzel asked.
The dragon remained silent, but there was still flame coming from his mouth.
“What! Are you mad at me?” Denzel asked.
Ben roared again.
“I guess, that would be a yes,” Denzel said, “but let me remind you that you wanted to do this as much as I did. You weren’t that hard to convince.”
Ben remained silent.
“I guess you did say no the first time I asked,” Denzel said.
Ben didn’t speak, but more smoke and flames issued from his nostrils.
“I guess you said no more than once,” Denzel said. “I’m sorry for getting you in trouble, but I’m glad we did this. It was so worth it even if we get a detention.”
At the word detention, the amount of smoke and flame coming out of the dragon’s snout increased.
“Don’t worry,” Denzel said. “I’ll tell Miss Templeton it was all my fault.”
The dragon never said a word, but the smoke decreased a little.
Ben landed in the same spot where they had taken off, behind the barn, out of sight of the residences and the large gray stone building known as the castle that served as a school for the students attending Fairhaven. Ben transformed and in place of the dragon stood a fifteen-year-old boy with wild brown hair and brilliant green eyes. Smoke continued to come out of Ben’s nose and mouth even after his transformation back into a human.
Denzel and Ben silently turned and walked toward the castle. On the third floor, above the classrooms, they would find the Principal of Fairhaven; Earth’s Watcher and the Guardian of the portals that linked Earth to other worlds.
Denzel remained uncharacteristically silent as he walked beside Ben. He thought of and discarded excuses they could give the Watcher to avoid the detention that was sure to come. He also thought of the school’s secret purpose. It trained the Chosen and sent them to other worlds to do the work of the Guardian. Denzel envied Ben who had been off world twice. The first time, Ben had stopped a war between humans and mer on Lushaka and discovered he had a secret identity. The second time he’d been sent to Zargon to find his mother’s family so they could teach him how to safely transform from human to dragon and back again. Without that training, Ben had been in danger of becoming something that was neither human nor dragon. Denzel wondered how long he would need to wait to be Chosen to go through one of the five portals to another world.
Author of epic fantasy