Sunday, March 22, 2015

Realm Explorers Part XXXXI: Visit Malorn with Annie Douglass Lima (and a Giveaway!)

Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don't forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book.  
Don't forget!  At the bottom of this post there is a link to enter a giveaway for a number of free books, including Prince of Malorn!


Author’s name: Annie Douglass Lima

Title of series: Annals of Alasia

Titles of books: The main trilogy consists of Prince of Alasia, In the Enemy’s Service, and Prince of Malorn.  There is a short companion book entitled Annals of Alasia: The Collected Interviews.

Brief summary of the series:

Each book in the trilogy deals with events surrounding the same major political incident: the invasion of the kingdom of Alasia by the neighboring kingdom of Malorn.  Prince of Alasia begins on the night of the Invasion and describes what happens to twelve-year-old Prince Jaymin after he is forced to flee for his life.  In the Enemy’s Service tells the story of those who were not able to escape from the Alasian palace when the enemy invaded.  Prince of Malorn begins several months earlier and focuses on the Malornian perspective of the events leading up to the Invasion.  In each of the books, main characters from the others make brief appearances and interact with each other at the point where the timeframes and settings overlap.  Though each of the three can stand on its own, they each fill in gaps left by the others and together provide a much more complete picture of what was going on in the two kingdoms.

Annals of Alasia: The Collected Interviews is a collection of twenty-four “interviews” I conducted with major and minor characters in the other three books.  Though not a novel in and of itself, it is interesting to read alongside the trilogy.  In the interviews, characters reveal more about their personalities, motivations, and backgrounds, talking about themselves in their own “voice” and giving extra insights into the events of the series.  You can download it for free here.

Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:

The kingdom of Malorn is mostly surrounded by a huge mountain range that curves around it to the east, south, and west.  To the north, the Grenn River separates Malorn from Alasia.  The Impassable Mountains, as their name suggests, are dangerous and difficult to travel through even in summer, and almost impossible in winter.  The highest peaks are covered with snow all year round. 

Two races of people live in Malorn.  The Mountain Folk are a small, nomadic tribe of hunters and gatherers who live in extended family groups up in the Impassables.  Each family keeps a flock of goats for milk and meat.  They seldom venture down to the “Lowlands”, as they call the rest of Malorn, except when they must trade for supplies in one of the foothill towns.  But they are suspicious of Lowlanders, whom they accuse of cheating them in trade and mistreating them, and they avoid interaction with them whenever possible.

Lowlanders (who think of themselves simply as “regular” Malornians) live mostly on the plains, where they make a living through a variety of trades.  Many work as farmers, since the weather there is mild and ideal for growing a variety of crops.  Coffee grows well in the foothills, so you’ll find coffee farmers there, but few Lowlanders care to venture much higher than that.  Miners do travel into the mountains in search of gold, but again, most of them prefer to set up camp in the foothills where it’s safer and life is easier.  Those who live on or travel into the lower slopes of the Impassables are suspicious of Mountain Folk, whom they regard as dirty and primitive.  They often accuse the Mountain Folk of cheating them in trade and stealing crops.

If we were to visit Malorn as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?

If you like hiking or mountain climbing, there are numerous rugged and scenic spots to explore.  If shopping is your thing, you may enjoy browsing some of the high-class shops in Sazellia, the capital city, where you can buy fine clothing, jewelry, or gold decorations for your home.  Music is popular throughout the Lowlands, and minstrels can often be found performing in taverns, parks, or on street corners.  It’s polite to leave a coin or two if you stop to listen.  The best musicians perform in large concert halls where admission is expensive, but if people like a street minstrel’s performance, they may hire him or her to play for a party or special event at a more reasonable price.

What is the political or government structure in Malorn?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?

Malorn is a constitutional monarchy, so the king there has less power than in neighboring Alasia.  The government is made up of a High Council, which includes the king and up to 19 other members, and a majority vote among them is required to pass new laws or make most decisions for the kingdom. 

King Kerman passed away under suspicious circumstances four years ago.  His son, Prince Korram, was still too young to take the throne (the legal minimum age for kingship in Malorn is 18), so a regent was chosen from among the king’s High Council to hold the reins of power until the prince came of age.  An honorary member of the High Council in the meantime, the prince can offer input into the running of the government but has little real power.  Regent Rampus, on the other hand, has done much to improve life for Malorn’s citizens and thus has been gaining popularity throughout the kingdom.  Conveniently, his political opponents have almost all dropped out of the picture due to a variety of unfortunate circumstances.  Rumor has it that if Prince Korram were prevented for any reason from taking the throne next year, the High Council would be sure to select Rampus as the next king.  In the meantime, Rampus continues to rule in Korram’s name, and the kingdom rests assured in the knowledge that their beloved regent is assisting the inexperienced prince in his royal duties.

Prince Korram is concerned that Rampus may not be planning to allow him to survive to his eighteenth birthday next year.  But there is no one to turn to for help, since practically everyone of any consequence in the kingdom is under the regent’s control in one way or another.  Even the military answers to him.  Only Malorn’s reclusive Mountain Folk, who care nothing for Lowland politics, are certain not to be influenced by any threats, bribes, or promises from Rampus.  And so Korram determines to journey into the Impassables to recruit his own personal army from among them, hoping thus to protect himself until he can legally claim his rightful throne.

What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Malorn that we don’t see on Earth?

A root vegetable similar to a turnip, called lumjum, grows plentifully in the mountains.  Other plants in Malorn are pretty much the same as those you’d find in similar climates on Earth.  If you trek high enough up in the mountains, you may glimpse a snowcat, though I don’t recommend trying to find one or getting close to it if you do.  This pure white, long-haired feline is about the size of a tiger and at least as dangerous.  Korram has two separate (and very different) encounters with snowcats during his time in the Impassables.

Humans are the only sentient race in Malorn.  However, Mountain Folk would argue that their horses are more intelligent and affectionate than mere animals.

What dangers should we avoid in Malorn?

It would be unwise to venture into the Impassables alone or with anyone not familiar with the area.  Besides the risk of getting lost, you would probably have difficulty finding food, unless you’re experienced in wilderness survival and living off the land.  In addition, you would face the possibility of blizzards and avalanches on the higher slopes.  Wild animals, including snakes, wolves, bears, and snowcats, are plentiful there.  If you met any Mountain Folk, they would be unlikely to help you for free, though for enough money they would probably sell you goat milk or a little of their food.

You would be much safer in the Lowlands, though there is always the risk of encountering pickpockets and other petty criminals in the cities.  Regent Rampus is not to be trifled with, but unless you plan on speaking out publicly against his leadership, you are not likely to attract his attention.

Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Malorn?

I hope you like coffee!  It’s by far the most popular beverage in the Lowlands and is available at any time of day anywhere food or drinks are served.  You can request it pretty much however you like, but it’s most commonly brewed strong and served with cream.  Lunch and dinner often include either potatoes or a variety of flatbread made with several types of grain, served beside vegetables (and meat, for those who can afford it).  A popular breakfast dish among the upper class involves eggs scrambled with cheese and sausage.

Mountain Folk have an unusual meal schedule which they fit around their day’s work schedule.  They typically wake up early to milk their goats, and then they share a small “meal” of goat milk.  after that, two or three members of the extended family group will take the goats out for the day to graze on a nearby slope (the grass is better the higher you go).  They will usually pack leftover cooked meat or other food to eat later in the day.  Meanwhile, the rest of the family will spend the next few hours working in the area where they are camped (usually in a valley by a stream or river).  They fish and gather nuts, berries, lumjum, and other edible plants, or they may go further afield to hunt.  They also spend time shaping tools from wood, stone, or bone; gathering firewood; or skinning animals they have caught, tanning their hides, and sewing them into clothing or bags or tents.  In the autumn, they will butcher several of their goats and dry the meat to last through the winter.  They keep busy at these tasks through most of the day, but they do take a break in the mid morning for breakfast.  In the early evening when the goats are brought back to camp, everyone stops their other work to help milk them.  After that, they eat supper and drink the milk together.  Both breakfast and supper can consist of meat, fruit, and small fried cakes made from mashed lumjum.  Though they don’t eat lunch, Mountain Folk snack on berries or anything else edible they come across throughout the day.

What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Malorn?

Soldiers in the Lowlands fight with broadswords.  Mountain Folk make wooden spears, though they’re primarily for fishing.  They occasionally use them to protect their goats from predators or to scare Lowlanders who they feel are threatening them, but on the whole they are a peaceful people and practice no traditional fighting techniques.  This makes Korram’s job all the harder when he seeks to raise and train an army from among them.

What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Malorn?

Lowlanders usually ride horses (or mules, if they’re traveling in the foothills).  Carriages are common among the upper class, and farmers will take their crops to market in carts or wagons.  Mountain Folk use horses as pack animals when they move camp every few weeks to find fresh grazing.  They seldom actually ride them, though, except occasionally for short hunting trips.

Are the days of the week and months of the year the same in Malorn as on Earth? What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there?

Yes, they are the same, though only Lowlanders use them.  Mountain Folk don’t keep track of days or months, measuring time only with seasons and phases of the moon.

Every year, Mountain Folk look forward to the Mid-Autumn Gathering.  This week-long event is basically a reunion in which their entire tribe comes together in a certain valley deep in the Impassables.  During this time, most work ceases, and friends and extended family members who haven’t seen each other since last year can relax and enjoy each other’s company.  Weddings always take place at this gathering.  It’s also a time to share news and discuss any issues of interest to the whole tribe.  During the rest of the year, the Mountain Folk live and travel in extended family groups, usually of ten to fifteen people, but at the annual Gathering, these groups are often rearranged so people can spend the coming year with different relatives.  Occasionally unmarried young adults will arrange to spend a year with someone else’s family, especially if they are hoping to get to know a friend of the opposite gender better.

Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in Malorn.

Most Malornians in the Lowlands are more interested in the performing arts than in sports.  Horse races are popular, though, and many people from the middle and upper class enjoy social outings on horseback through meadows and farmland, often including a picnic. 

For most of the year, Mountain Folk lead busy lives that don’t leave much room for sports and games.  In the Mid-Autumn Gathering, however, they often engage in activities such as archery and spear-throwing contests, and young people play games similar to tag and hide-and-seek on horseback.
  
What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?

Racial prejudice is a theme I delve into in Prince of Malorn.  Those Mountain Folk and Lowlanders who are willing to get to know each other and learn the reasons behind their cultural differences find that they are not as different as they had thought.  But they come to realize that they can’t just blame the other group and sit around waiting for “them” to stop mistreating “us”.  Both sides have wronged each other over the years, and both need to be willing to take the first step toward reconciliation.  I believe it’s the same in our world: it’s easy to hide behind cultural differences and assume that “they” are strange and different and “we” are normal, and “they” are in the wrong for any conflict or misunderstandings.  But if we’re willing to get to know each other and learn about each other’s cultures, I think we’ll all discover that we’re not as different as we might think.




Author Autobiography:

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published eight books (three YA action adventure/fantasy novels, a collection of character interviews, one puppet script, and four anthologies of her students’ poetry, all available through the links in the sidebar to the right). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.



Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your books?

Prince of Alasia ($2.99 temporarily 99 cents)

In the Enemy’s Service ($2.99 temporarily 99 cents)

Prince of Malorn ($3.99 temporarily 99 cents)

Annals of Alasia: The Collected Interviews (available for free!)

Where can readers connect with you online? 

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com
  









I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Malorn.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to a science fiction world known simply as The City, in Realm Explorers Part XXXXII!
-Annie Douglass Lima

4 comments:

Katy Huth Jones said...

So glad to visit Malorn again! Thanks for posting this. :D

Annie said...

My pleasure! I enjoyed the visit too. :-)

Tina at Mommynificent.com said...

Annie, I just finished "In the Enemy's Service" yesterday and started right into "Prince of Malorn." My 5th grader is ahead of me and has finished all three and started on the collection of interviews today. We both absolutely love your books. I am so impressed with them and am recommending them to all my daughter's friends! I don't know if you know this, but we are in Penang, Malaysia, quite close to Dalat, so if you ever make it this way for any Morrison/Dalat meetings or just for a vacation, please let us know as we'd love to get to know you in person!

Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
Tina

Annie said...

I'm so glad you're both enjoying the series, Tina! And wow, I really appreciate your recommending them! Reviews on Amazon would be much appreciated when you're done. :-) Yes, I know you're in Malaysia. I was there a few years ago for a teaching conference; if I'm ever in that neck of the woods again, I'll be sure to look you up! And let me know if you ever plan to come to Taiwan!