Monday, July 22, 2013

Blogger Book Fair Day One: Character Interview

Welcome to day one of the Blogger Book Fair. Today, I'm doing an interview with Neiko, the main character from A.K. Taylor's MG/YA Fantasy Adventure Series, The Neiko Adventure Saga.

What does it mean to you to be a warrior?


Neiko: A lot of people think being a warrior and the greatness of it equals how many people you kill or how many butts you kick and that kind of thing. It is only when necessary, but from where I come from and places I have been it’s necessary just about all the time.
My idea of a true warrior and a strong one is to defend and protect the weak and those who can’t protect themselves, the land, and the tribe—in some cases tribes. Strong warriors make sacrifices for the benefit of others as well as for yourself at times and to withstand what comes your way. That’s not easy. Strength isn’t measured by how far your throw your spear or tomahawk or how big of a sword you can swing.


Is it hard being a female warrior, or is that normal where you come from?


Neiko: At times it’s hard because I usually fight men most of the time. I have to use wits and speed a lot more. I’m pretty strong for a girl my size—I’m just 5 feet tall—but I can’t go all She-ra all over a well trained male warrior and expect to beat him in less than five seconds or a large group of them by myself.
It’s pretty normal in the part of Hawote where I come from because of the Crackedskulls. Girls go through warrior training to learn how to protect themselves, so they ain’t easy prey; then they choose if they want to serve in battle. Some do and some don’t. With or without my title I would have signed up.


What kind of training did you have to go through?


Neiko: In general it’s called “warrior training”. We learn weapons training, hand to hand combat, archery and marksmanship, tracking, balance and endurance, terrain training, and wilderness survival skills. It’s the kind of thing passed down from generation to generation.
I started all this training when I was six years old and completed it when I was eight and began commanding my tribe’s warriors. Seemed to come naturally. My author will tell you about that in a prequel that I think she is calling “Hawote” that also includes the stories of some of my ancestors. She needs to get started doggone it—well, I can’t complain—she is working on another one of my adventures right now and when she finishes writing that one she’s going to start the process to publishing one. I don’t really get why it takes so long.


What is it like being the “Chosen One”?


Neiko: I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it does make my life more interesting, sometimes hard. I always have to look over my shoulder for my enemies and pray they don’t hurt my family and friends. The burden is kinda heavy, too, since a lot rests on my shoulders. If something happens to me, then the Seven Tribes and the hole land is up the creek.
I end up finding out I am the Chosen One in the Five Lands—kind of the same thing but different.


Does your name have any special meaning?


Neiko: It’s really, really ancient Greyhawk—that’s the language of my tribe in case you didn’t know—that means “Strong One”. Of course it goes without saying that don’t mean it’s just physically speaking. I am known for my strength among other things. For some weird reason a lot of people find that attractive.


How does being Native American affect your interactions with other races?


Neiko: Mostly with Outsiders more than anyone else. It’s mostly because there are all these assumptions about us that are so wrong that it isn’t funny. We like our ancient culture and preserve it, but we also embrace modern culture as well. We like reading fantasy books and playing video games and air hockey just like the next teenager. I don’t know where people get we live like the Amish or something. We only do that on camping trips or expeditions.
And for the love of Pete, we didn’t all live in teepees. *Facepalm*. That is mostly from some of the plains people like the Sioux who followed the buffalo. In the Southeast we don’t use adobe either—that’s the Hopi. In the olden days we lived in longhouses or huts. These days we like to build log homes or normal modern houses.
Oh, I almost forgot, the recent run-in with the ancient Egyptians with my friends and me, that was interesting. You know that they thought we were savages, and that’s nothing new either. I heard through the grapevine some of the uppity rich elite from Egypt wondered if we were even housebroken. They tried to fit me into their society and change me into a beauty queen while my friends were just going to be slaves. Ugh! Don’t even get me started on Ramesses…
No matter what time or place we are in none of us like to be called savages. It’s mostly untrue. Every race has their fair share mean, savage killers.


How does Hawote differ from other lands?


Neiko: I suppose you must mean as opposed to the Five Lands. Hawote is located on Earth for one and not in another universe. Of course everybody knows where Egypt is. Anyhow—Hawote coexists with the US, Canada, and Mexico. It’s like a land in a land and it is hidden in plain sight. Some people might get a bit confused about that, so can you imagine living that way? It’s hidden on purpose. Hawote is hidden in the rural areas of those countries, not in the urban areas—easier that way. That patch of forest you drove by on the way to the lake could have Indians living there!


How do you deal with having so many enemies?


Neiko: This is what makes life hard. I have to keep a look over my shoulder all the time. I meet new ones all the time, so that doesn’t help. It’s basically to take it as it comes and kinda-sorta plan for ahead for them. It’s basically make it up as you go along. I have some dumb brutes and some smart ones. The smart ones cause the most havoc. The dumb brutes are more of an inconvenience and an annoyance more than anything.


A.K. Taylor will be giving away several copies of her books. If you're interested, please leave a comment.

Neiko’s Five Land Adventure
Series: The Neiko Adventure Saga
Publication Date: September 1, 2010
Format: Mobi, ePUB, and Paperback
Genre: MG/YA Fantasy Action Adventure (ages 7-16)
Length: 352 pages in paperback
Review formats: pdf, mobi, epub
Paperback for US residents only

The Indians and the Crackedskulls are locked in the turmoil of war and presently in a stalemate. Her enemies, Raven and Bloodhawk, have come up with a scheme to up the ante and break the stalemate into their favor. Neiko later finds out that a land she thought she had only imagined is actually real and contains a legendary and otherworldly evil within it. Not only that, she becomes trapped there and must escape the world, the people within it, and the sinister evil within.
Neiko must find her way back home and turn the tables on her enemies. Can she come back home and escape the evil that seeks to claim her


After her eyes adjusted to the glare, the two friends could see there was a cavern that was full of perfect crystals. They were in all shapes, sizes, and colors and they came out of the walls, floor, and ceiling. The beauty was spellbinding. “Wow! If I found this in Hawote, then I’d be rich! This is a rock collector’s dream come true!”
“Yeah, but didn’t you say that there were writings about Ramses somewhere in here? I wonder where the ruins of Shadazar are,” Quickstrike rambled.
“Somewhere in here, I guess, and I think we’re close. Let’s keep walking and look at the walls. If there are any branch-offs, then we’ll split up. If you find anything, then come looking.”
“Actually, I’d rather stick together, so we won’t get separated.”
“Good idea, well, I like that idea better too,” she said as they journeyed deep into the caverns. They walked and looked at the walls, but all they found were arrangements and shapes created by crystal; they gleamed and
sparkled when the light hit them like multicolored diamonds. Luckily for them, there were no branch-offs, and the caverns appeared as if they were carved into the crystal. New formations were growing in the hewn walls.
Neiko found several broken pieces on the cavern floor; she picked them up and slipped them into her pocket.
“Look, there’s an exit up ahead,” said Quickstrike as he saw a break in the glamour and a darkened cave. As they entered the door, darkness overtook them and there were ruins just ahead. “We found what’s left of ancient Shadazar!”
 “Yeah, and we have an underground lake to cross. I wonder what’s on the other side.”
“I dunno, but I’ve noticed the further we go in, the further we go back in time, so that could mean the writings are probably after the lake. How do we get across?”
“There’s a boat right there.” They climbed into the boat, and Neiko got the oars and began to paddle while Quickstrike carried the torch. They could see broken columns and the remains of a bridge that possibly was a
shortcut long ago towering over them. She kept paddling, and then they saw a waterfall just ahead. Neiko paddled around it and parked the boat on the bank of the hidden cavern. When they entered the hallway, there were pictures and writings. “Neiko, look! We found it!”
“Hmm,” she said as she looked at the letters which were surprisingly in the alphabet of her tribe. “Well, it’s written in English, but it is written in the alphabet of my tribe. This will be easy for me to translate.”
“That’s good. So, what does it say?”
Neiko looked at the battling figures and the dark, shadowy form of the Dark Pharaoh fighting and slaying them. She ran her finger under the letters as she read. “This is talking about something called the Good
Pharaohs. It says that God created powerful beings called Pharaohs to protect the universe from evil."

Escape From Ancient Egypt
Series: The Neiko Adventure Saga
Publication Date: December 19th 2012 (ebook) Paperback coming soon
Format: Mobi, ePUB
Genre: MG/YA Fantasy Action Adventure (ages 7-16)
Length: 215 pages in paperback
Review formats: pdf, mobi, epub
Seeking his revenge on Neiko for exposing him, Francesco banishes Neiko into ancient Egypt just like he did her friends eleven years ago. During her stay there, she unravels the mystery of what happened to her four friends. Now she’s faced with a bigger problem—how to get home. After a series of unfortunate events, Neiko is now entangled with Pharaoh Ramesses II. Francesco also comes to make sure their fates are sealed. Can Neiko and her friends beat impossible odds and return to Hawote and back to the present?

Excerpt: Chapter 3
Neiko’s vision turned from the green light to the world spinning around her in dizzying speed. Neiko wasn’t moving, but she felt like she was in freefall—like someone had cut the cable from an elevator and she was plummeting with it. Descending in what—space and time? The evergreen and colorful deciduous vegetation of the Hawote woodlands changed to a desert with a river with some greenery and palms nearby. The cool autumn air of Hawote in October transformed into stifling, searing, dry heat. Pyramids, sphinxes, and strange statues spun around her after her house, porch, and front yard disappeared within the vortex. It was nighttime in Hawote, but the sun rose and set as time flew by—from west to east--backwards. Beneath her bare feet the wood from her front porch turned to nothing then into hot, soft sand.
Neiko’s world stopped spinning, and the sun was high in the sky. Neiko watched the sun to be sure it didn’t move again. Wherever she ended up, she guessed the time must be about high noon there judging by the sun’s position in the sky after a few moments of observation. The heat was intense, and she discovered she must be somewhere far from home. “Where?” was the ultimate question. A gust of wind blew the feathers in her long, black hair. Her hair wrapped around her face, and she brushed it back. Sweat beaded out on her body, and she tugged at her shirt and headband. “Phew! It’s hot out here! Where am I--Death Valley?” she asked. Death Valley was the only desert place she thought of off the top of her head. She had never been there, but she’d read and watched TV programs about the place. She looked around, and a city was only a few feet away. She could see the buildings down below from the high dune where she stood. She took a deep breath and fingered the fringed sheath of her knife to reassure her confidence—without thinking and by instinct. Then after a few more seconds, she trudged down to the city in the soft sand from the dune to go find some answers.
Neiko entered the city still dressed in her buckskin, decorated warrior clothes and painted for war. As she took in the sights and from the confusion, she had forgotten she was armed. Her machete was sheathed to her back, and so was her knife on her side. Incense, perfumes, and music filled the air. She didn’t recognize any of the smells, but the music seemed to be like Egyptian reenactments in movies. The buildings were white alabaster covered in brilliant wall paintings. Some men rode on camels like horses and others led them by a leash. Chariots cantered by. Neiko looked around in amazement. This ruled out Death Valley, Arizona. Neiko lifted her eyes to the sun to get a bearing on north. North was as good of a direction as any to begin a search for answers. After her eyes fell from the sun and to the north, she could see the Pyramids of Giza towering in the distance. She recognized them instantly. She had seen enough pictures and documentaries on the monuments—they were unmistakable. Even though they were miles away, they towered above the city and in view. This definitely wasn’t Death Valley.
In that case I can get on the first flight home, she thought. She believed that she had landed in Cairo. This city came to mind because it's the only one close to the Pyramids of Giza. Then she realized she didn’t have any money as she put her hands in the pockets of her buckskin shorts and only felt the house key. She had left her wallet in the car back at home when she left from Phoenix’s house after the battle.
 “Well, I can probably make up some story that I was abducted or something—which is sort of true. Really funny, Francesco. I guess you meant no way back since I’m broke. I’ll hitchhike back to Hawote if I have to. I’ll scrounge around to see if I can find some change for a pay phone on the road,” she remarked to herself, and maybe the phone book would have some information on where to find an airport or something. But, then again, would the phonebook be written in English or Arabic? It was a chance she had to take. The worst that could happen was not getting anywhere.
Neiko began walking to find help, change, a pay phone, the U.S. Embassy, an airport, or whatever she could find first. After a few more minutes of exploring, she recognized the clothing of the people: white linen kilts, some wore robes and fine jewelry, some wore headcloths while others did not. No one seemed to be dressed like the Arab residents of 21st century Egypt. “Why is everyone dressed like ancient Egyptians?” she asked herself. She wondered if this was some sort of a cult or a weird secret society that lived like the Amish in Cairo.
A small group of armed soldiers marched in front of her, but they didn’t pay any attention to her. They carried swords, shields, spears, and were dressed in ancient Egyptian armor. She had seen it in books and movies. They weren’t carrying guns or dressed in desert camouflage BDUs like Egyptian soldiers of the 21st century.
She headed farther in to the marketplace. It was obvious since people had shops and bazaars selling goods. People were yelling and haggling. People thrust things at Neiko trying to entice her to buy. Neiko put up her hands and shook her head. She couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying. Funny, no one seemed to be selling T-shirts, souvenirs, or that type stuff for tourists. Quite frankly, no one seemed to be selling any maps.
Neiko walked up to a man who was a merchant at a bazaar. He was selling all manner of fine jewelry. Heavy collars, bracelets, necklaces, arm pieces, earrings were on display. All gaudy like the ancient Egyptians liked. “Excuse me, can you tell me where I am? I seem to be lost. Do you know where I can find a map or where the airport is? A phone?” she asked as she made her hand like a phone and put it to her ear; her thumb the earpiece and her pinkie the mouthpiece.
The man looked at her startled because of her strange appearance and because he couldn’t understand her. He was dressed in linen like everyone else and sported some of that same Egyptian bling since he was a successful jeweler.
“That’s a little out of style, don’t you think? I mean, guys don’t wear eyeliner…and, that skirt and that sheet on your head are not how people dress nowadays. People dress like ancient Egyptians only on Halloween. Last I checked it was still three weeks away,” Neiko said to the man as she shook her head.
About the Author
A.K. Taylor grew up in the backwoods of Georgia where she learned about nature. She enjoys hunting and fishing, beekeeping, gardening, archery, shooting, hiking, and has various collections. She also has interest in music, Native American history and heritage, Egyptian history, and the natural sciences. A.K. Taylor has been writing and drawing since the age of 16. A.K. Taylor has graduated from the University of Georgia with a biology degree,    and she shares an interest in herpetology with her husband.
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  1. Replies
    1. You're very welcome, Amanda. *waves back*

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