Wednesday 26 April 2023

A Slice of Cake With... Kristina Gruell

Kristina learnt storytelling at her grandparents’ dining room table. Growing up, she rode horses, participated in FFA, danced, and read voraciously.

After a car accident left her wheelchair-bound for eight months, and chronic health issues limited her previously active lifestyle, she turned to books and play-by-post roleplaying. This was in the early days of AOL chatrooms. Her original stories and first novel attempt were background for her online characters.

Eventually, she began writing and telling stories to entertain her friends.

She’s a tea snob who loves dogs and enjoys a good brandy in the evenings. She spends her spare time reading, building elaborate Lego sets, and playing World of Warcraft, where she met her husband, because she is that geeky.

Her published works include The In Blood and Fire Series: From the Ashes, A Burning Ember, The Flame WithinThe Conflagration, The World Ablaze and the In Blood and Fire Companion and Short Story Collection.

What kind of books do you write?

I write characters that could be your best friend or your worst enemy. Or both. The world isn’t black and white, nor just shades of grey. It includes all colors. My characters are the same. No one is just good or evil. We all have some of both, though some might have more good and less evil, or vice versa. We all have to do our best with the hand we are dealt and some of us falter while others soar. That is what my stories explore. With a side of swords, guns, trains and … magic! 

Can you describe your writing why?

I wanted to tell stories about characters that overcome the hard things and thrive, friendships that endure, unexpected love in all its forms. Heroines that don’t do it for the glory or power, but to protect their chosen family. 

Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most

High Prince Gavantar Coden
Keltonmere, Providence of Andolin: Caeldenon
15th & 16th of Nane

The smell of burning grass and scorched earth, and worse, filled the air. 

The healers had set up tents well behind the staging grounds, a line of soldiers defending their station. The stories told of long, drawn-out battles, wherein men fought with unflagging strength for hours, only to emerge victorious to celebrate till dawn the next day. The truth was something altogether different. 

The men on the front lines rotated; those who had been on the field this morning were now resting before the healers’ tents. They would be the last line of defense for the wounded and the Masters, should the army fall. In another hour, they would move to the back ranks, and those in the front lines would fall back, moving toward the healers’ tents to take their own rest. Water and strong sweet tea would be provided, and those who could eat, would. 

The ranks of men, the gunners and their cannons, were all distractions. The real work was happening elsewhere. Should they take the town—and Gavantar damn well intended to do just that—he didn’t want the Hathorites or their magi to escape to the ships that filled the harbor. The Hathorite soldiers had retreated inside the city walls, but their magi had shown the Caeldenon forces quite effectively what their range was, and they could defend those ships. 

Gavantar and his generals had decided to send the Lynene ‘ah Hanal, Daughters of Night, to pay a quiet visit to the harbor. The Daughters had needed time to move behind the tree line to the north, to the edge of the cove, where they could slip into the water without detection. From there, the forty women would split into teams and set fires in the holds of the dozen ships that lay at anchor. For now, the army’s job was to keep the eyes of the magi on them. 

To the south, Masters Isra and Amir were doing more than distracting: they were waging a private war. At least two magi were engaging them from the walls, with fireballs and lightning, concussive waves of sound, and even boulders moving through the air between the city and the hills to the south. Gavantar couldn’t spare much thought for what the Masters were going through, though, as battle reports were constantly flooding in. 

“Your Highness!” a messenger said, thrusting a folded note toward him. 

Gavantar took the note, which was from Blood General Olind, and read: 
Magi has moved to the north wall. Snipers advancing on city gates. -O

He handed the note to Galwyn and dismissed the messenger. 

He pulled his spyglass out and turned back to the walls. Men and women atop the walls above and around the city gates began falling at regular intervals, most from sniper fire. Teams holding metal shields that measured ten feet by eight had advanced on the field. Each shield had two ports that, when opened, allowed a sniper room, and a view, to shoot. They wouldn’t hold up against the magis, but facing men with little cover and guns that weren’t as advanced, they stood a fair chance. 

This proved to be so. Once the Hathorites realized they were outmatched, they began rushing for cover, and in their haste, they pushed more than a few of their number off the walls. 

Smoke rising from the harbor told Gavantar what had pulled the magi away. He turned his spyglass out of its holster and scanned the line of ships: he could see sleek figures in black, diving off the stern of the ships closest to him. The magi could see the same thing, it seemed. There wasn’t much they could do to save the ships, but they could punish those who had denied their escape. 

A series of small fireballs began flying off the wall, but Gavantar could not see if they hit their targets. 
An explosion, louder and larger than any Gavantar had heard before, came from the south. Screams filled the air, hundreds of voices from inside the walls; some with panic, and others keening a death song. Lightning danced in the hills, the trees and brush to the south of the city were ablaze; ships to the north were now fully afire. The air crackled, and the smoke was beginning to make seeing the battlefield, let alone the actual city, difficult. 

Gavantar walked back into the command tent, Galwyn beside him. Blood General Zarin and Lord General Lyss were inside, sitting amid piles of reports. 

“Send word to Olind and then pull our forces back,” Gavantar ordered. 

“Yes, Your Highness,” Lord Lyss said without hesitation. 

Zarin looked out the open side of the tent, taking in the scene for a long moment, and then nodded to Lyss pen the order. 

Lyss was regular army, here representing King Jennatar Elindger of Andolin, but Zarin was part of the Mael’Hivar. The Blood-Sworn took orders, but they would sure as hell tell you when they thought you were fucking up.  

However, in this case, it was clear that Zarin agreed with Gavantar’s assessment: the field was becoming too hazardous. It was time to pull back and recoup before assaulting the walls. 

Tell us about your latest project

My most recent project is the final book in my In Blood and Fire series. In The World Ablaze we face the end of the world. The goddess who has moved players behind the scenes for centuries has come out of the shadows. The rulers of the world have gathered in Lithonia with their amies to face the Goddess Nemesistaea and her followers in a last, desperate battle to save the world of Redolan. 

What is your favourite cake?

Black Forest or vanilla bean cake with strawberry filing and vanilla bean buttercream. 

You can connect with Kristina here:

Join me next week when I will be having a slice of cake with Emily Hornburg. 

If you would like to take part in A Slice of Cake With... please get in touch. I'd be delighted to have you.

You can also support my writing endeavours through Kofi and buy me virtual tea & cake - it's what makes the world go round!

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop. Never miss out on future posts by following me.

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