Saturday, April 30, 2011
It's been a long time coming, but we are here.
Suitcases packed, van loaded. Heading to North Carolina for Home Schoolin' Week with my publisher, Comfort.
I have a sample chapter of the new book on my site. You can also watch the book trailer on YouTube.
I did want to say thank you to a few people. First, and most importantly, to my wife. Thank you, Traci, for supporting me and encouraging me and doing all the behind-the-scenes stuff that you do. Thank you to my children for inspiring me and to the rest of my family for supporting me. Thank you to Comfort Publishing for making The Empyrical Tales possible.Thank you to my teachers, students and fans for sharing my imagination and stories.
Got a long drive ahead. See you when I get there!
And yes, you can purchase the first two books of The Empyrical Tales at www.MillerWords.com or from your favorite bookseller!
Friday, April 29, 2011
Making my first post from my "mobile device". Downloaded the android app, using swype, the whole deal.
I thought about how to incorporate technology into Empyrean. It would make a lot of their adventures a lot less difficult.
What if Zandria put a small blue bug in her ear? When it bit her, the creature's tooth gave her the ability to communicate over long distances. Call it a blue-bug tooth. Eh, maybe not.
Alright then. No technology. Better to make the characters rely on their own abilities, each other, some magic and a little faith.
Only two days until The Lost Queen. Order now at www.MillerWords.com or your favorite bookseller!
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Which reminds me, I have already written Book III: The Secret Queen.
I won't spoil too much, but Olena gets into some trouble. I had to research Egyptian history and mythology, plus dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs. See, The Empyrical Tales is not only for girls (young and young at heart), but also for boys of all ages. True, the main characters are sisters. However, I've tried to have enough supporting roles for guys.
After all, I've got to keep myself interested too. I need things like werewolves and dinosaurs. After this much time, Zandria and Olena are like a second set of daughters for me, so I could never lose interest even without the monsters. I enjoy watching them grow up like my real life kids do!
Look for The Secret Queen in 2012. In the meantime, The Empyrical Tales Book II: The Lost Queen will be available everywhere on May 1, 2011. Get your autographed copy at my site or purchase it anywhere quality books are sold.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I actually had someone ask me "what happened to the first three?" I explained that The Fourth Queen was the first book and The First Queen will be the fourth book. I probably left her more confused.
But you get it, right? Empyrean is ruled by four queens, one for each compass direction. The Fourth Queen is the story where we meet Zandria and Olena. One of the queens disappears and the sisters go on a journey to find..........the fourth queen. The Lost Queen is about a queen who is, uh, lost. The Empyrical Tales continue the adventures of Zandria and Olena with each story centered around a particular queen.
The Fourth Queen official release date was February 2009. Finally, we are up to May 2011 and The Lost Queen. I have it on fairly good authority that the wait for The Secret Queen will not be quite as long (but nothing official yet).
Thanks for waiting with me.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I've created a nice little study guide/companion packet to go along with The Empyrical Tales.
I had already written some comprehension questions to use at school with Renaissance Learning's AR program. I converted those questions into two quizzes, one for each book. There's also a study guide with different activity suggestions for both younger and older students. For fun, I included an old-fashioned word search.
For those that really want a challenge, I made a Hero's Journey study guide. Basically, take the elements of Campbell's hero's journey and apply them to the plot of The Fourth Queen. It should make for some good discussion.
Anybody that wants the packet, please send me an email to Mark@MillerWords.com. I am offering them free for a limited time.
With only 5 days until the release of The Lost Queen, now is the perfect time to get this. Order from www.MillerWords.com and I will include the study guide along with your autographed book(s)!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
It All Starts With a Bang
Zandria loved the feel of the warm, wet sand squishing between her toes. It meant that she was safe. This was important to her because she had not felt safe for a long time. Here on the beach of Banookanook, she was protected. To the north and south stood the rock walls that cut their village off from the rest of the world. Behind her grew a nearly impassable jungle and in front of her was the unending sea.
She wriggled her toes against the mounting sand and decided that it was time to rinse her feet in the clear water. Zandria waded out to her knees and let the rhythmic waves clean her toes and feet. She was on the beach with no greater purpose than playing with her sister, Olena.
They were four years apart in age and sometimes that made all the difference in the world, while other times, they were as close as if they shared one mind and one heart. Today was one of those days. There were no sisterly quarrels, only laughter. Neither could do anything to upset the other. Zandria did not even scream when Olena sneaked up behind and splashed her.
The cold water on her head and shoulders sent goose pimples across her skin. She turned to her curly-haired sister in time to see the smaller girl knocked flat by an unexpected wave. This erupted more laughter from both of them.
The sound must have been louder than Zandria realized because it caught the attention of her father. He walked out of their small hut with her mother. They were holding hands and smiling.
This made Zandria’s heart feel like it was going to burst with love. She had waited for six years to see her mother again. Around the time of Olena’s birth was the last time she had seen her mother. She was angry with herself for forgetting how beautiful the woman was.
There was no doubt in Zandria’s mind that this woman should be one of the four queens of Empyrean. Zandria saw that she stood slightly taller than her father and carried her slender body with grace. Looking at her mother now, she could see how Olena resembled her.
She did not want to turn away from this chance to hug her mother and hold onto her, but the ocean spray kept splashing in her face. Zandria tried to wipe the water away, but still, it clouded her eyes and blurred her vision. The more she brushed her face with the her fists, the more water flooded her eyes.
Suddenly, the bright sun faded to darkness and she was alone.
With tears in her eyes, Zandria woke in her bed at the Castle Empyrean surrounded by darkness. She instantly realized that she was dreaming about her mother. The spray from the ocean was actually her own tears. The thought of that imaginary day on the beach that could never happen tore at her emotions with both love and hate. The anger disappeared quickly because she was not that person anymore. Instead, she chose to remember her with the love and kindness that she knew her mother would have.
She lay in her bed, staring at the ceiling with drying tears on her cheeks. The battle was over and the celebration feast earlier that evening was amazing. Zandria still felt stuffed because she ate like she had not eaten in a month. The stress and fear of her journey from Banookanook to the castle took its toll on her, but finally she was able to rest and recover. The Forgotten Evil was defeated, at least for now, and she could be at peace knowing that Olena was the fourth queen.
That is when she heard a faint sound of crying.
At first, Zandria thought it was her imagination. So many memories flashed through her head. She thought the crying might be an echo of her dream. Then she considered that it might be her sister trying to cope with the recent events. As she lay there, she thought of the werewolves, the animals of Bremen, Baba Yaga and the bottomless canyon beneath the bell chamber. Even the thought of the entire castle hanging out over that same nothingness would be enough to bother her.
Through all her mind’s wandering, in the dark of her bedroom, the distant crying did not stop. Zandria sensed it to be a very lonely sobbing. After their victory on the battlefield and Olena becoming queen, how could anybody in Empyrean be sad, especially her sister? Zandria decided to ignore the sound, since she believed it was only in her imagination. She tried to sleep and buried herself in the fluffy covers. She did drift off for an instant, but she snapped wide-awake and her whole body jolted like she was falling out of bed. She was not falling, though, and the sensation made her think of the canyon again. Zandria did not like when she woke for no reason.
The room was not any lighter since the last time she opened her eyes. It was still the middle of the night. Like most of the rooms in the castle, her room had no windows. Somehow, moonlight magically refracted or reflected its way inside the walls and she could make out the glistening outlines of her crystal bedposts and the tall, glass dresser by the wall. Still, the opulent room did not feel quite like home.
She was not scared to be sleeping alone. After all, she was in the safest place in all of Empyrean. She knew Olena or the other queens would come if she called, along with a hundred other attendants or soldiers. Plus, her friend Adam’s room was close.
Zandria liked the thought of him being near. He proved himself to her while getting her across the plains and into the castle. When she first met him, she did not trust him, but that feeling was always outmatched by those pestering butterflies in her stomach. She knew it would take a long time to get used to those butterflies, if ever, she thought. That was okay for now, she decided.
Now, she listened again for the crying sound, thinking she would not hear it. Whatever trick her mind was playing on her, the crying was still there.
She knew there was nothing else to do now, except find this exceptionally sad person. Zandria swung her legs out of bed. Her bare feet only touched the cold glass floor for a moment, before recoiling. She found her slippers tucked slightly back behind the dust ruffle. She tried them on and, despite all of the magic surrounding her, found the slippers to be completely uncomfortable and not at all her size.
Zandria left her room barefoot. She followed the crying sound as it gradually became louder. Still not convinced that it was real, she continued searching. Enthralled by the sound, she moved through the castle not attempting to keep track of her many turns through the hallways behind her. Apparently, no one else could hear the crying, as she did not bump into anyone else along the way. This fact also made her believe that she imagined the sound.
At last, she came to a door that was strangely out of place in its crystal surroundings. The door was made from an oily, black wood. This sight alone made her not want to open it. Zandria was certain the sound, now clearly crying, was coming from the other side. She was no longer certain it was only in her imagination. She did not go in right away, but stood, listening to the tears and gentle sobs. The sound seemed so close, almost in her head, yet so far away at the same time.
As she carefully placed her hand on the glass knob, chills ran up her spine. The knob was not cold, as she expected, and Zandria instantly got the feeling that she did not want to know what was on the other side.
Maybe the old Zandria would have walked away, but not this new version. This Zandria felt the true power of Empyrean still warm in her heart and was literally an arm’s reach away from being the fourth queen. She would never again let fear stop her. She knew that as long as she believed with her heart, everything would turn out right. Whatever waited on the other side of this door, she thought, could not hurt her or possibly even affect her in any way.
She turned the knob and the door opened.
The room was not much different than any of the others she had seen in Empyrean. The floor and ceiling were made of glass, but the walls were very narrow like she was walking into a hallway, or more likely, a closet. At the far end of the room stood a short pillar and on top of the pillar lay a small white pillow. The pillow looked as smooth as silk and had white tassels dangling from each of its four corners.
Nestled in the center of the pillow was a single crystal shard. Now Zandria realized that the crying was coming from that crystal. She smiled to herself, thinking how silly it would be for a piece of glass to be crying. Then she realized that the sound was not coming from the crystal itself, but rather from inside it. That is why it still sounded so far away even though she was right next to it.
Zandria looked down at the shard. It was narrow and would easily fit in her hand like an oversized hairbrush handle. The inside of the crystal looked smoky, but it cleared as she gazed closer. Then, through the mist, she saw a woman holding her head in her hands. Zandria knew this was the person who had kept her from sleeping. She could hear this woman’s haunting cry across the entire castle. She suspected the sad woman could not see outside of the crystal even if her long, wavy brown hair was not covering her face.
Suddenly, the woman turned and looked straight out at Zandria. She stopped crying in a single breath, looking fierce and frightened at the same time. For an instant, Zandria thought she was looking at Olena as a grown woman. Then she recognized this person.
Zandria said, “Mother?”
Her mother looked directly at her and said, “Zandria. Please help me.”
The crystal swirled with smoke again and the face disappeared. Zandria turned to get help. Of its own accord, the door swung closed behind her, and she ran face-first into the thick wood.
Everything went black.
Continued in The Empyrical Tales Book II: The Lost Queen...
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The Lost Queen: The Empyrical Tales Book II
A young girl wanders the moonlit halls of Castle Empyrean. She follows the mysterious sound of someone weeping. Zandria could not expect what she would find on the other side of the black door. Her mother has been missing for six long years. She vanished on the day of Olena’s birth when she was summoned to become Queen of the Eastern Sky. Now Zandria discovers there is something more to her strange disappearance.
Zandria and her sister, Olena, start the next step in their journey the very next day after the events of The Fourth Queen. This time the quest is for something more valuable than either of them could imagine.With the help of friends old and new, the sisters have a chance to bring back their mother and save the Lost Queen.
However, the sinister Raymond Shadaway and his traveling Carnivale Chaotica are doing everything in their power to stop them. Will Zandria and Olena save their mother in time as evil forces once again threaten to destroy Empyrean?
Monday, April 18, 2011
A very sinister ring leader of the traveling Carnivale Chaotica. He is soft spoken and dresses in a white suit. He is searching for something that may have the power to defeat all of the queens.
His inspiration comes mostly from Bradbury. When I get into the inner workings of the Lost Queen, I will post more detail on that. For now, be warned that something wicked this way comes.....
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Eisenhahn is nine feet tall with skin made of iron. He is kind and gentle, yet quite powerful. Although he is an adult, he has a childlike view of his world. Maybe he is a little simple, but he understands right and wrong. This makes him a loyal friend and his size may prove helpful.
I'm not going to tell you here how his skin turned to iron, but I will say there is more to this story in future books as The Empyrical Tales continues...
Thursday, April 14, 2011
"...the writing is good.....and there are no wasted pages in the mix."
Follow the link above to read the full review or copy and paste this: http://gelatisscoop.blogspot.com/2011/04/mark-miller-fourth-queen.html
Better known as The Silent Tihi, she is a Friesian of the Northern Wood. Despite being ruled by Queen Snow White and Empyrean being ruled by four queens, the northern army is a place of honor reserved for stallions. Mares are turned out into the wild until they are old enough to be work horses.
Whether she wanted it or not, Tihi joins the quest to prove her worth, not only to the male-dominated army, but also to herself.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Don't worry, many of your favorites will be back, like Adam, William and Fury. Of course, Zandria and Olena will be there.
There is a spirited young girl you should get to know. She is forty-four years old, so when I say young, I mean young in elven years.
Dew Lantisphere is the epitome of independence and self-confidence. She is strong and intelligent, but it comes with a quick, sharp wit. Her silver eyes do not give a deep glimpse into her deep soul. While she has been around a lot longer than Zandria, she is, essentially, still a child.
The elves of Empyrean are very much like past Native Americans. They are in tune with nature and live a secluded life. Dew has managed to bridge the gap between their secret world and the larger one of the queens and their four realms.
Dew meets Zandria by chance and quickly joins her on her quest. They are two adventurous girls out to solve the mystery of The Lost Queen.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Read the full review HERE or copy and paste the link: http://homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolbookreview/786414/
Sunday, April 10, 2011
As Zandria continues her journey, she must cross several thresholds. These can be viewed either literally or metaphorically as doorways deeper into the special world. Many times these doors are blocked by guardians which test the hero's resolve and worthiness.
Aside from the hero structure, I wanted to incorporate familiar elements from other fairytales and folklore. I wanted to see characters that I knew, that my kids new, or maybe some we'd never heard of before. This led to extensive research. The result being that the major threshold guardians all come from our global subconscious and mythology.
First there is Baba Yaga from Russia. Then The Four Musicians of Bremen. In The Fourth Queen, they are quite opposite of their origins. The Kappa, who seems to be an audience favorite, came from Japan. Then Vasilissa and Psyche take on new personae from their source material.
The final threshold is guarded by an essential archetype of fantasy, the dragon. What fairytale would be complete without a dragon? I wanted Empyrean to feel ancient, so I decided to make common fantasy characters, like dragons and unicorns, either endangered or extinct. To me, this kept the focus more on the characters than on the monsters.
All of this leads to the Inmost Cave, Final Ordeal and finally the Death of the Hero.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Meanwhile, back in the pages of The Fourth Queen, Zandria is about to meet her mentor.
Campbell says, in the broadest terms, the mentor can simply be any source of wisdom. The mentor is there to assist the hero in overcoming basic fears. Many times this can be an evolved hero.
So, in a frozen part of the Dead Forest, Zandria and Olena meet William. He is a tragic character who once was something of a hero himself. Now he is 500 years old and, in Zandria's opinion, quite useless. As the story progresses, William does reveal his usefulness though. He has knowledge and wisdom to share with Zandria. Her view of the world is limited to Banookanook, while William has apparently traveled to all of the realms of Empyrean.
As I mentioned, William is tragic. He is found frozen and has been that way for 500 years. Everyone and everything he knew is gone. He found himself in this predicament because he lost his one true love. We know her as the late Queen of the Eastern Sky, but he knew her in an entirely different way. He almost calls her by her name once, leaving us with the clue that it starts with the letter "R". William awakens to a new world to see his home destroyed and his true love gone into the twilight. Yet, as a true hero, he pledges to aide the girls and helps them continue their journey. He repeatedly shows his compassion and bravery in each encounter. William even gives Zandria the final push along her path while apparently sacrificing himself.