Chris M. Arnone
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Number of pages: 325 print
approx 299 ebook
Word Count: 103,000
Cover Artist: Cassandra Whitney
Gabriel Drake had royally fouled up his life. Before his wife died, he was wealthy, respected, and loved. He pissed away the small fortune he and his wife built, drove away his friends, alienated his family, and even took a few precarious steps on the wrong side of the law. He lost his way. The world had forgotten the man he was, and then a head-on collision between his Jeep and a tree changed everything.
Death would have been easier. Instead, he’s woken up in a strange place where all the lost and forgotten things and people of our world go to rest. The laws of physics seem to be driven more by magic than logic. Cats fly and talk into his mind. He’s in a place where real power has been trampled under the foot of a maniacal emperor, and Gabriel alone has the power to free these forgotten people from the emperor’s iron grip. Which will Gabriel save: these lost and broken people, or his own shattered life?
The expansive cave was filled with statues. Gabriel was immediately reminded of the terracotta army in China, row after row of warriors guarding the tombs of ancient Chinese emperors, but these weren’t warriors. They weren’t distinctly Chinese, either. They were cyclopean; that was the first thing Gabriel noticed. Rather than two equally distanced eyes, each statue had one large eye right above the nose.
Unlike those Chinese statues, these weren’t uniform, either. Different bodies, faces, attire, genders, and ages of Cyclops made up the horde of stone figures. Dread began to creep back up Gabriel’s spine as he saw something they all had in common other than their lack of depth perception: every carved face was locked eternally in an expression of fear. Stout warriors crouched, hiding their faces. Women with horrified looks stood guarding their children. Gabriel wondered what foul mind could have sculpted such horrors over and over again.
“What is this?” Gabriel asked in a hush, frightened voice.
“I don’t know. I’ve never even heard of this place,” Anansi responded. For the first time since Gabriel had met the manticore, he heard and felt doubt and fear coming from the creature. Zhiyan kept staring at the ground, impassive, as Finkle Prime led him along.
“Who is here?” said a voice from the darkness. It sounded like a young woman, with a bright, luscious voice. Something was amiss with it, though Gabriel couldn’t figure out exactly what.
“Who is that?” Gabriel asked Anansi.
“I asked you first, mortal,” The voice said playfully. Gabriel realized what was wrong. The ‘s’ sounds were extended, like Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe, or like a snake using a human voice. Gabriel couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. It wasn’t in his head. He’d heard enough telepathy to know the difference, but this woman’s voice seemed to bounce and echo around the cave and off the statues that filled it.
“Gabriel. My name is Gabriel. Who are you?” He asked, trying to keep his voice steady.
“Gabriel. So kind of you to visit. No one comes to visit anymore. Zhiyan, he keeps them from me. Now here he is, marching to his death, how fitting,” She said happily.
“Prime, halt,” Gabriel said. The big clockwork man stopped and Gabriel saw Zhiyan with his head still bowed, but his eyes were closed tightly and a small smile crept over his face.
“Oh, shit,” Anansi said, suddenly angry. “Zhiyan, if we live through this, I hope the council draws and quarters your giant ass.”
“What is it?” Gabriel asked nervously.
“Ptolema. Eldest and most vicious of the Gorgon sisters,” Zhiyan finally said, still holding his eyes closed tightly and smiling wryly.
“Gorgons? Monsters like Medusa?” Gabriel asked, half in disbelief, half in growing panic. His mind raced. He tried to think of Medusa’s sisters, but the monster didn’t give him time to remember them.
“What do you know of my sister? She was no monster. She was a sweet, innocent girl. Raped and then villainized. No, she was no monster,” Ptolema said, her voice smooth as silk.
“Don’t look her in the eyes!” Anansi suddenly screamed telepathically. He almost didn’t say it in time.
“I am the monster,” She said, her voice dripping with venom. Out of the corner of his eye, Gabriel saw a woman come out of the shadows and into view. One moment later, and he would have looked at her squarely. Instead, he looked several feet to the side of her, taking in her form using his peripheral vision. She was tall as a man, a bit taller than Gabriel from what he could tell, and she wore a ragged red dress that came almost to the ground. Rather than legs, Gabriel saw a mass of writhing snakes skimming along the ground. She tried to dart directly into Gabriel’s view, faster than he expected, but he dropped his eyes fully to the ground. Her arms gleamed a brilliant, shining gold color, and reflected light from Prime’s shoulder lamps all around the cave. Gabriel wondered if her hair was made of venomous snakes like the stories told, but he didn’t chance looking up near her face.
“Why do you look away, Gabriel? Why do you not meet my gaze? Am I not beautiful?” Ptolema asked, almost pouting.
“No thanks. I’d rather not turn to stone today,” Gabriel said, his voice shaking. He remembered the stories of Medusa, how she turned men to stone with her gaze, and how Perseus destroyed her with a mirrored shield.
“There are worse ways to die,” Ptolema said, all the playfulness, seduction, and beauty suddenly gone from her voice. She was deadly serious. And then she was moving. She was fast, so much faster than Gabriel could have imagined. He leapt out of her way, but only just in time. He felt the wind move past him and smelled her, a waft of rotting flesh and dry snakeskin.
Gabriel scrabbled along the cave floor to get away from the horrifying woman. Tiny snake heads snapped at the air behind his heels. He looked all around for something, anything to fight with, to hide behind, anything.
“Oh, get up, little man. Die on your feet,” Ptolema balked, and then laughed at him, but only briefly. A massive shadow suddenly came over Gabriel, blocking out the light from Prime’s lamps. Fearful of looking up, he looked around and saw a massive paw, like one belonging to a lion that was three times larger than it should have been. A deafening roar filled his ears and Gabriel crawled out from under the creature, seemingly unnoticed. It was almost a giant lion, except it had two equally huge red feathered wings and the tail of a scorpion, its stinger poised to strike some thirty feet up in the air.
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
Not really. I was pretty sure I’d be a performer for a long time. In school, I was in choir, band, and theater. I majored in Theatre in college.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
2009. I landed a freelance writing gig with the now-defunct Wizard Magazine. That first time I saw my name in print, for a piece I’d been paid for, that was golden. It was an interview with writer Matt Fraction about an upcoming X-Men story.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
I’m a Senior Technical Writer for an unnamed Pharmacy Benefits Administrator by day. I’m also the host of the YouTube show, BlizzPro Weekly and I occasionally emcee some shows around Kansas City.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
The Lost and Broken Realm.
The world forgot Gabriel Drake and now he’s in a world of magic and myth. Can he find redemption?
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
I wrote this book over the course of about a year, with a big push toward the end. There was a time where I wrote 15k words in four days. That was a big help. It took another 3-4 months to edit, then alpha reading (my wife) for a month, beta readers took another three months. After formatting and getting the cover art lined up, the whole process probably took over two years.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
All of the above! Right now, I’m writing the second book in the Things Forgotten Trilogy. I have so many ideas, though. Superhero fiction, dystopian cyberpunk, space opera, speculative fiction. Pretty much anything geeky, I’ve got ideas.
What genre would you place your books into?
The Lost and Broken Realm is contemporary or cross-realm fantasy. The sequel, however, will be urban fantasy.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
I went where the story took me. That’s part of why I’m self-published. The traditional publishing industry puts a high priority on the genre and sub-genre. I’m just telling the story the way it needs to be told.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
To me, characters are all aspects of the writer’s soul. Choosing a favorite? I actually don’t have one from The Lost and Broken Realm, but my deuteroganist for the next book, Lorelei, she’s a bad-ass, street-smart, magical, burlesque dancer. She’s a lot of fun.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Absolutely. Take the good with the bad. The only truly bad reviews are the ones that are personal attacks.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
Yes. I always choose a working title, but then I re-examine it before publication. The working title for the second Things Forgotten book is currently, Reclaiming the Lost.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
That really depends on the character. I decided early on that all of the characters born in the lost and broken realm wouldn’t have normal, human names. Anansi is named after one of my cats, which is actually a gray and white tux, though he isn’t telepathic and doesn’t fly. Finkle and Finkle Prime are named after a character from Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. I honestly can’t recall how I came up with Gabriel Drake and he’s my protagonist.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
No chance. I believe it’s the writer’s job to ask the questions, to make the readers think while entertaining them. It’s not my job to come up with the answers.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
Not paperback, bleh. I collect first-edition hardcovers of books I really love. I also get a lot of use from my Kindle Paperwhite, particularly borrowing eBooks from the library.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Chabon is one of those writers that can put a paragraph on the page that will make me think, “wow, I’ll never be that good and that’s okay.” This particular book is a brilliant, poignant story that is set in New York City in the Golden Age of comics, when they were as much about anti-Nazi propaganda as they were about entertainment. I’ve only read it once, but I’m sure I’ll come back around to it one day.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
I have a strange answer to this, possibly from my theater background. Theater is a collaborative art form. It takes dozens of people to make one theatrical production. Movies are even bigger. While a book is one person’s story with a little help, a movie is a collaborative creation. I think people need to separate books from movies, take them as their own creations with their own merits. That said, the Battlefield Earth movie is horrendous.
Your favorite food is?
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Chris grew up in Independence, MO. He attended college at Truman State University where he pursued his loves of theater, music, and the written word. Now, he makes his home in Kansas City, MO with his wife Christy and their four cats.
Aside from writing feverishly, he is an avid supporter of the Kansas City burlesque, performance, and arts communities. He is an occasional emcee, outspoken supporter of LGBTQ equality, and King of the Nerds. No, you didn't vote for him; that's why he's king, not president.