I'd like to extend a warm welcome to Ann Gimpel, author of the Earth Reclaimed series. Ann was kind enough to join us and answer some questions regarding her new series.
Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog. One of the best parts of these virtual tours is all the amazing blogs I discover along the way.
Tell us about the main character in the Earth Reclaimed series. Who is Aislinn?
Aislinn Lenear was a nineteen year old college student when her world turned on its axis. Three years later, not much is left in her world—or her soul. She’s been conscripted into a mercenary role and has discovered the safest course is to not trust anyone. Over the course of the three Earth Reclaimed books (300,000+ words) the scabs over her heart are torn off again and again. She’s courageous, feisty, bitchy, and willing to go to the wall for those she loves. Because she’s such a strong character, she goes head to head with anyone or anything standing in her way. In a rare moment of introspection, she tells Fionn that she goes balls out because if she stopped to think things through, she’d be immobilized by fear.
In many ways, Aislinn is my hero. She’s been handed a rotten hand, but she can’t trade her cards for something better. Instead of giving up, she plants both feet firmly and says, “Bring it on.”
What inspired the series? Did you do any special research while prepping and writing?
What inspires any author? My muse can be an overbearing witch. At the front end of things, I knew I wanted to include the Lemurians. I’d read a lot about them and their mythical city, Taltos, beneath Mount Shasta. Actually, I had no intention of having Celtic gods in the first book. No one was more surprised than me when Fionn strode out of that forest with Bella on his shoulder. Not only that, he brought Gwydion, Bran, Dewi, and Arawn along before the first book ended. At that point, I just kept at it and let the story flow.
I didn’t need to do much research into the Celtic deities because I know that pantheon fairly well. However I did boatloads of research on the early Irish kings and queens as I wove them into the story. In fact, a research paper titled, Genealogy of the MacLochlainn Families of Inishowen is still on my desk.
I love your covers! Did you have any input in the design?
Oh yes. One of the huge benefits I’ve found in self-publishing is being able to work hand in glove with Fiona Jayde, my cover artist. It’s so much better than getting an email with a cover and a short note that says, “Here it is.” I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I’ve hated some of my covers. Arguing with a publisher about covers is a waste of breath because they all tell you that the author isn’t a good judge of such things.
I love Celtic and Norse mythology. What role does it play in the Earth Reclaimed series?
I touched on this some in one of my earlier answers. Norse mythology comes into play with Nidhogg, the Norse dragon in book two, and is expanded in book three with Thor, Odin, and the full complement at Asgard. Until then, the Norse deities had taken the same tack as their Celtic brethren, sitting out the carnage as the dark gods rampaged through Earth.
The Celts play a more central role because of Fionn and Aislinn. I don’t want to include plot spoilers, but let me just say there are good reasons for their intense attraction. Once Fionn decides all bets are off and he’s in with both feet, the other Celts join him.
And then there’s the dragon angle. Both the Celtic and the Norse deities include dragons, and they’re featured in this series. Not as shifters, but as themselves.
The series looks like an interesting mesh of urban fantasy and dystopian. Tell us a bit about how they blend together in the story.
I’m smiling. I’m the queen of crossed-genre fiction. I blame it on my muse. If you look at traditional descriptions, urban fantasy takes place in an urban setting in the real world, but with fantasy elements added in. There are indeed urban settings in the Earth Reclaimed books, but the buildings stand empty. Most humans are dead. That leads to the dystopian label, but it’s not entirely accurate. Actually a dystopia is government gone bad. Think utopia, with dystopia as it’s opposite.
There’s no evidence of government in this series unless you count how the Lemurians are organized. Since pigeonholing books is critical to their placement in the vendor search engines, I picked what I felt the series fell closest to and what readers searching for something specific could latch onto and feel satisfied after reading the books. No one’s complained—yet, so I’m thinking I got close.
Fun Question—If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would you entertain? What would you serve?
Any fictional character, huh? Gosh, there are so many yummy leading men out there, but lots of strong, dynamic women too. I think maybe I’d want to have dinner with Kate Daniels. She’s one of my favorite heroines. Since I’d rather spent my time talking than cooking, we’d eat simply. Maybe a large green salad with goat cheese and smoked salmon and a freshly made balsamic vinaigrette. Nuts too. Macadamias chopped fine and sprinkled over the salad. We’d have bread fresh from the oven, one of my paleo recipes with plenty of grass-fed butter. Wine, whiskey, and a sinful dessert (paleo style) would finish things off.
Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know about you or your novel?
I love connecting with readers. If you read any of the Earth Reclaimed books—or any of my other books—please connect with me and tell me what you think.
Where can readers find you online?
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)
I’m also on Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad, and Tsu.
Earth's RequiemEarth Reclaimed Book One
Dream Shadow Press
March 1, 2015
Resilient, kickass, and determined, Aislinn's walled herself off from anything that might make her feel again. Until a wolf picks her for a bondmate, and a Celtic god rises out of legend to claim her for his own.
Aislinn Lenear lost her anthropologist father high in the Bolivian Andes. Her mother, crazy with grief that muted her magic, was marched into a radioactive vortex by dark creatures and killed. Three years later, stripped of every illusion that ever comforted her, twenty-two year old Aislinn is one resilient, kickass woman with a take no prisoners attitude. In a world turned upside down, where virtually nothing familiar is left, she’s conscripted to fight the dark gods responsible for her father’s death. Battling evil on her own terms, Aislinn walls herself off from anything that might make her feel again in this compelling dystopian urban fantasy.
Fionn MacCumhaill, Celtic god of wisdom, protection, and divination has been laying low since the dark gods stormed Earth. He and his fellow Celts decided to wait them out. After all, three years is nothing compared to their long lives. On a clear winter day, Aislinn walks into his life and suddenly all bets are off. Awed by her courage, he stakes his claim to her and to an Earth he's willing to fight for.
Aislinn’s not so easily convinced. Fionn’s one gorgeous man, but she has a world to save. Emotional entanglements will only get in her way. Letting a wolf into her life was hard. Letting love in may well prove impossible.
Earth Reclaimed Book Two
Clinging to their courage in a crumbling world, Aislinn and Fionn vow to save Earth, no matter what it takes.
In a post-apocalyptic world where most people have been slaughtered, the Celtic gods and a few humans with magic are all that stand between survival and Earth falling into chaos. The combination of dark sorcery leveraged by the enemy is daunting. Destruction is all but certain if the small enclaves of humans who are left can’t get past their distrust of the Celts.
Captured by the enemy, Aislinn Lenear wonders if she’ll ever see her bond wolf or Fionn, a Celtic god, again. She’s had nothing but her wits to rely on for years. They haven’t failed her yet, but escape from her current predicament seems remote.
An enticing blend of dystopian urban fantasy and romance, this second volume of the Earth Reclaimed Series provides fertile ground for Aislinn and Fionn’s relationship to deepen. Headstrong and independent, the pair run up against each other’s demands time and time again. Fireworks spark. In the end, they learn to savor every moment in a bittersweet world where each day may well be the last.
Earth Reclaimed Book Three
Power so old, deep, and chilling it hurts to think about it will overrun Earth if nothing changes. Targeted, furious, and fighting back, Aislinn runs wide open, gathering allies and putting her life on the line.
Aislinn Lenear has traveled a long road since the dark gods invaded Earth better than three years ago. After seeing her father slaughtered in front of her, and her mother sink into madness, Aislinn built strong walls around her heart. First her bond wolf, and then Fionn MacCumhaill, changed all that, but she and Fionn are far from home free.
Four of the six dark gods are still sowing destruction, and they’ve joined forces with Lemurians, a desperate lot, running just ahead of the tide of their own mortality. In a bold move, they try to coopt a group of young dragons, and very nearly succeed. Dewi, the Celtic dragon god, and Nidhogg, the Norse dragon god, banish their brood to the dragons’ home world, but they refuse to stay put.
In a fast-paced, tension-riddled closure to this dystopian, urban fantasy series, Earth's Hope sweeps from Ireland to the Greek Islands to the Pacific Northwest to borderworlds where the dark gods live. Fionn’s and Aislinn’s relationship is strained to the breaking point as they struggle to work together without tearing one another to bits. Fionn is used to being obeyed without question, but Aislinn won’t dance to his tune. If they can find their way, there may be hope for a ravaged Earth.
Excerpt from Earth's Hope
…One of the red dragons leaped from the water, wings flapping, and dive-bombed her, showering her with slimy moat water.
“Ewww.” Aislinn sputtered the dank water away from her lips.
“Play with us,” the female dragon demanded.
“It’s almost time for bed.” Aislinn tried to sound stern, but she had the same problem with the younglings that plagued Dewi. They were so damned cute, it wasn’t easy to pull rank.
“Bed?” echoed from six other dragonlings. They vaulted from the water and converged on her, nearly crushing her beneath their bulk.
“Get off me,” Aislinn cried. “You’re heavy.”
“Yes,” the one black dragon announced proudly and nudged Rune with his scaled snout. “Once I rode you. Soon you’ll fit atop my back.”
“Don’t count on it,” Rune snarled.
Aislinn snickered. Flying atop a dragon wasn’t the wolf’s favorite activity. He tolerated it when he had to, but avoided it when he could.
“How’s it going, leannán?” Fionn strode down the greenway separating the moat from his castle.
Aislinn scrambled to her feet and shook water out of her hair. Her beige trousers were thick, boiled wool and fairly resistant to moisture. A cloak woven from the same wool wrapped around her body. She’d found the clothes in one of many trunks in Fionn’s attic. He couldn’t recall who they’d belonged to, but she assumed it was an earlier wife or girlfriend since he’d been born in 1048.
“Good, you’re here.” She squinted through the gloom. When he got close enough for her to see his face, the welcoming smile died on her lips.
“Aye, well at least someone is glad of my presence.”
“Didn’t go well, huh?” She held out her arms. He walked into them and wrapped his around her.
“Nay. Mostly the humans want to wait until we’re attacked. Bran wants to annihilate the Lemurians first.” He tightened his arms around her shoulders. “I want to bash our way through the dark gods until they get fed up enough to retreat, but I canna do it by myself.”
“We’ll help.” The black dragonling tried to wriggle between Fionn’s and Aislinn’s bodies. His scales caught on Aislinn’s pants.
“We will, we will,” other young voices chimed in.
“The dark ones killed our sister,” the black dragon went on, his piping voice serious. “We want revenge.”
“Mother won’t let us fight,” a green dragon spoke up. “She already said so.”
“Father disagreed,” the red dragon who’d invaded Aislinn’s lap said.
She’d gotten better at telling them apart, but it would be a relief once they named themselves. In all, there were two red females, three green males, the black male, and a copper male.
“I fear all of us will get our chance in battle afore this is over.” Gwydion, flanked by Bran, walked into their midst. “Come with me. Time to give Aislinn a break.”
“Will you tell us a story?” the copper dragon demanded.
“Yes,” a red dragon clapped her clawed forelegs together. “You tell the best stories.”
“I’ll be your bard tonight.” Bran made a sweeping bow. “Mayhap you’d care to hear about how dragons came to be.”
“Yes!” the red female shrieked.
“Follow Bran,” Gwydion urged. Once the dragons were in motion, some flying, some walking, he rolled his eyes and brought up the rear.
“Thanks,” Aislinn shouted after him.
“Ye owe me, lass,” he called over one shoulder.
Aislinn leaned her head into the nook between Fionn’s neck and shoulder. “Would you like to walk a bit before we go inside?”
“Aye, lass. Now ye mention it, I’d like that verra much.”
“Do you suppose we could go as far as the sea?”
“I thought we’d remain within my wards—”
Bella flapped out of the darkness and landed on Rune’s back. “We’re coming,” she announced.
“Of course we are,” Rune seconded. “My bonded one would never consider leaving me behind.”
Aislinn stifled a snort. The bond animals had their own network and frequently shared things among themselves that they’d never tell their humans. Apparently Bella had complained about Fionn ditching her, and the wolf was reminding her of that in a less-than-subtle manner.
“Since we’re all going,” Aislinn cut in before Fionn got into another argument with the cantankerous raven, “let’s do this. I sat for so long, I’m cold.” She wriggled out of Fionn’s embrace, reluctant to leave the warmth of his body.
“Would ye like me to find you a warmer wrap?” Fionn asked.
She shook her head. “I don’t want this to be a big production number. Mostly, I want to work the kinks out of my legs before we go to bed. Thank Christ Dewi will be back by the middle of tomorrow.”
Fionn hooked a hand beneath her arm and guided her toward the wall that rose all around his manor. He’d had the mansion built in the fifteen hundreds to exacting specifications. Flat, gray stones comprised the outer wall; they fit together so precisely it was nearly impossible to detect their edges. The house itself was built from huge wooden beams and river rock. Five stories, with turrets and a tower and leaded glass windows, it looked like something out of a movie set.
Aislinn fell into step beside him, grateful for her long legs that let her keep pace easily. They passed beneath one of four curved gateways set into the outer wall and out onto open moorland. Humans who’d been assigned sentry duty nodded as they passed. The salt tang of the sea deepened, tickling her nostrils. For a moment, she felt homesick for the dry air of the American west where she was from. Rune jumped to one side, jaws snapping, and came up with a small, wriggling creature.
“I shall hunt too,” Bella declared and launched herself off the wolf’s back. The black of her wings melted into the shadows until Aislinn couldn’t see her anymore without magic.
“Why’s she unhappy this time?” Aislinn asked.
“What it comes down to,” Fionn replied, “is she doesn’t enjoy sharing me. Aye, she likes you well enough. Not like your mother, who she detested, but jealousy still gets the better of her.”
“She’s good to have by our side in battle, though.” Aislinn licked her lips and tasted salt from perpetual mists that hung in the air. “Speaking of which, I assume there’s another pow-wow with the humans.”
“Aye, that there is. If nothing else, we must craft a defensive plan should we be attacked.”
“Not if, but when,” she cut in. “I can’t put my finger on it, but time grows short. I feel it here.” She laid a hand over her chest.
“Ye and Bran, both. He says the Lemurians are closing, and I presume the dark gods are masterminding whatever they’re up to.”
Rune growled from around his impromptu meal. “I’m ready.” He shifted to mind speech because his mouth was busy.
Aislinn waited for the raven to jump in, but either Bella was out of earshot, or biding her time. The roar of breakers on sand got louder as they closed the distance to the beach. Fionn stopped walking and spun her in his arms until they faced one another. He murmured a string of Gaelic endearments just before he closed his mouth over hers.
Aislinn wove her arms around Fionn’s muscled torso and opened her mouth to his insistent tongue. Need flared, hot and urgent, but Fionn always had that effect on her. From the moment their bodies had first slammed together, passion drove reason from her mind.
She’d lost her father to Perrikus and D’Chel the night they’d pierced the veil separating Earth from their borderworlds. Lemurians had killed her mother a year later, and Aislinn had vowed to never let another soul get close enough to hurt her if something hideous happened to them. She’d held firm for two years, but first Rune and then Fionn, had walked into her life and changed everything.
Too late. It’s too late to worry about it now. Her breath quickened, and her nipples formed hard peaks where they were squashed against his chest.
Fionn dropped his hands lower and cupped the curves of her ass, pulling her hard against an obvious erection. She tore her mouth from his. “So, do you just want to fall into the wet grass and get it on?”
He made a decidedly male sound deep in his throat. “Not a bad idea, leannán. I can make us a dry place with magic.” He butted his hard-on against her pelvis. “At least we’d have a shred of privacy. No telling who’ll burst into my rooms back in the house.”
“No kidding. Do you suppose the dragons have figured out how to work their way past the deadbolt?”
“Och, lassie. Now ye mention it, I caught the black one using magic to do just that earlier today.” He tugged one of her arms from around him and pushed her hand over his engorged flesh. “We willna be long. Think of the adventure aspect.” Muted humor ran beneath his words…
About the Author
Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.
Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.
In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.