Book Tour: Confronting the Demon, by Ciara Ballintyne.


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Guest Post: “Short Stories with Delusions of Grandeur”

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I think big. Even when I’m not trying. When I think I’ve finally managed to think small, someone reads a short story and says “Wow, I can’t wait to read the rest!”

Uh… Rest? What rest?

Now it’s fantastic that people want more. As writers, wanting readers to want more is the holy grail. I should be grateful people want more. I am grateful.

But wanting more becomes a problem when there is, in fact, no more…

To start with, it usually means the story has been crammed into a pair of jeans about four sizes too small, and it’s obvious. That thing is busting at the seams. There’s so much potential, so much story, but nothing is working because the word count doesn’t allow the story to get up and stretch its legs. Character development is stunted. World building is sketched out in stark lines. Emotional responses are skimmed over.

And the ultimate problem: the enthusiastic reader will be bitterly disappointed when you tell them “here is no more”.

Confronting the Demon started out as one of those starved stories. I’d been bumping it around for maybe close to two years, trying to fix whatever wasn’t working with it, without much luck. My frustration levels were rising. Confronting the Demon, along with a half-dozen other short stories, just wouldn’t come together for me. People liked the stories. they loved the characters. but after every positive piece of feedback, there’d be one of those dreaded statements.

“I can’t wait to read the rest.”

“The setup for the main story is excellent.”

“This story is going to be epic.”

No, it’s not epic, it’s teeny weeny. OK, it’s teeny weeny epic fantasy, but it’s still teeny weeny. Isn’t it? Isn’t it? No?

Eventually I decided it would be easier to write the ideas I had to the length they required than to keep trying to think small, when it obviously wasn’t working.

I took the short story, with the dubious and uninspired working title, Tentacles, and outlined it, something I hadn’t done previously with this story, even though it’s something I do for every novel. After I was happy with the plot outline, I rewrote the entire thing from scratch. I kept the final scene, and adapted it as needed, but everything else was largely ditched.

The result? A 25,000 word novella instead of a 5,500 word short story. Just a bit of a difference…

I’m working on some of the other failed short stories too. One of them, I think, can work as a short story – it’s problem is that it is actually connected with a full-length trilogy I want to write. So, there is more… but not to this story. I think if I more obviously disconnect it, then it will stand on its own.

A third short story, In the Company of the Dead, is now going to be a full-length novel. Yes, a full-length novel. And in fantasy that means more than 100,000 words. From 3000 words, to 100,000. Just a small increase… This is the one I’m working on now.

I hear writers say a story can be as long or as short as you want it to be, and it’s just a question of the words you use. I call bullshit. Of course, you shouldn’t use redundant words, and flabby writing is to be avoided at all times. Writers shouldn’t be lazy. But some stories are just longer than others, and if you try to cram them into a box where they don’t fit… well, it won’t be pretty.

I like my pants to fit. I’m sure my story would like pants that fit, too!

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The gates to hell are thrown wide when Alloran is betrayed by his best friend, Ladanyon, and framed for forbidden magic. He is hunted by the guards and the wizards both, tormented by the gruesome murder of his friends and loved ones, and crippled by fear for the living.

Now Alloran must face his demons, or damn the woman he loves.

Also featuring bonus short story ‘A Magical Melody’

Genre – High Fantasy (17+)
Length – 110 pages
Published – September 24th
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What early readers are saying about the novella

Ballintyne gives wonderful descriptions and I found myself becoming lost in the magic of her words in a picturesque world with every turned page Bella Doerres

The power-packed action will leave you breathless and the eerie suspense will make you chomp on your own nails, beware! Satarupa

With imagination and detail that paints a full scene for the mind’s eye, Ciara takes us on a short but exciting journey into a world of magic, love and demons from hell. Miranda Wood of DustyKattís Stuff Reviews

I actually enjoyed a good fantasy novel that didn’t take days and days to read, but still offered the opportunity to get caught up in its world and story. Tracy Riva Global eBook Awards Judge

“This story wasn’t quite what I expected; it was better! The first pages surprised me, reminding strongly of THE WAY OF SHADOWS by Brent Weeks (the scenes, setting and story feel). I was immediately drawn in.” – Dr. S. Drecker

“I will be recommending this to all my paranormal addicts.” – Leanne Herrera

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Ciara-Ballintyne-smallCiara Ballintyne was born in 1981 in Sydney, Australia, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, one masochistic cat, and one cat with a god complex.

She holds degrees in law and accounting, and has been a practicing financial services lawyer since 2004. She is both an idealist and a cynic.

She started reading epic fantasy at the age of nine, when she kidnapped Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings from her father. Another two years passed before she began her first attempts at the craft of writing. Confronting the Demon is her debut book.

She enjoys horse-riding, and speculation about taking over the world. If she could choose to be anything it would be a dragon, but instead she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House. M.D.

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Alloran stared at the alley mouth, mallet hanging slack in one hand and chisel in the other. This wasnít yesterdayís alley. It was a different one, but it felt the same. Like seventh-circle demon. Like hellcat, now that he recognised the feel of one. Gooseflesh covered his bare arms. Did a shadow move in the darkness? A cat? Something else, something bigger than a cat? Surely, there couldnít beÖ Ladanyon wouldnítÖ.

Yes. He would. The man heíd once known, the man whoíd been his best friend for nearly a century, wouldnít. But the man heíd become, after summoning a few demonsñhe would. His footsteps dragging, Alloran ventured deeper into the alley.

Once he looked, the body, hidden beneath a thin blanket of rotting food and assorted garbage, wasnít hard to find. It was a man this time. He nudged food scraps off the corpseís face.

The victim had jade eyes, a nose too big for a bearded face, and almost invisible blond brows. The details hit him with the force of a hammer blow. A wizard. A mentor. A man heíd known all his life.

His knees hit the ground and his bones turned to water from the shock. The wizard, Mandron, lay close enough to touch with his belly sliced open by teeth sharper than any blade and his entrails gnawed on. The rest of him left to rot. Sweat dripped down Alloranís face. Another victim of a hellcat. Another victim of Ladanyon. What was the chance that Ladanyon coincidentally killed two people he knew and accidentally left them somewhere he would find them?

None. Every part of this had been planned, right down to the finest detail. Sweat broke out on his forehead. Ladanyon knew too much. He must be watching, watching and playing, as a cat does

with its food. Alloranís gaze darted up and down the alley as if Ladanyon would pop out of an alley or appear on a rooftop.

Nothing stirred.

The corpseís fist held a rolled-up piece of paper. With trembling fingers, he pulled the note loose and unrolled it.

How do I surpass you? Let us examine the matterÖ. I have mastered the minions of hell and enslaved them to my will.

The paper fell from his numb fingers and fluttered away.

Jealousy? Was that all? Thirty years had passed since Alloran gave up research. Ladanyon had nothing to prove, given he made every discovery worth mentioning since then.

Alloran wiped sweaty palms on the coarse fabric of his pants, his hands coming away filthy from the dust embedded in the cloth. The bodies would just keep stacking upñuntil Ladanyon ran out of things he had mastered better than Alloran. He backed out of the alley.

ëWhereíd you run off to yesterday?í

Alloran jumped and spun around, bringing the mallet up reflexively as his stomach sunk. The sight of Dek, even with his arms folded and a scowl plastered across his square features, elicited a sigh of relief.

ëWhatís the matter with you, man? Yer white as a sheet.í

Alloran affected a frown. ëDonít like dead bodies. Donít like violence. Got the heeby-jeebies. Supposiní they come back?í

That was true enough, as far as it went. Everyone thought heíd Choose martial magic when he came of age if only because of his height and the breadth of his shoulders, but heíd never been interested. What he wanted to know was ìwhyî and ìhowî. Why and how for everything. It was a pursuit more dangerous than martial magic as it turned out. He licked his lips and tried not to look at the alley. This was what too much curiosity brought.

Dek was staring at the alley, squinting in the sunlight. Alloran slapped him on the back before the mason could connect the alley and his partnerís nerves.

ëWe got work to do, aye?í He gently tried to steer Dek towards the statue. ëWhere íave you been all morniní anyway?í

Dek turned away from the alley. ëAnsweriní questions for the hell-damned city guards, which is where you woulda been if you hadnít run off faster ían a deer.í

ëDidnít know nothiní. Donít wanna know about no bodies or talk to no guards.í Turning his back on the alley and its gruesome contents, he strode back towards the statue and hauled himself up on to the scaffolding. His arms were cold despite the heat of the summer afternoon, and he rubbed them. ëTopís all done, I reckoní. Weíll be needing to break all this down and get started on the bottom half.í

Alloran slapped the rough timber with a gloved hand, trying to shunt the corpse and its message from his mind. Eyes that werenít there bored into his back. At least, he hoped they werenít there. To be sure, he glanced over his shoulder, scouring the edges of the square for movement.

Dek clapped a hand to Alloranís shoulder, causing him to flinch and fumble his mallet. ëHey, you got a parcel, did you know?í

ëA parcel?í Alloran lost his battle with the mallet, jerking his foot out of the way just in time. ëFrom who?í

Dek shrugged. ëHow should I know? Came in the regular delivery. Down there.í

Alloranís gaze followed Dekís nod. A crate sat at the foot of the statue. Heíd been so pre-occupied with the alley, the corpse, and Ladanyon that he didnít even notice. Stomach twisted in knots, he swung down from the scaffolding.

The crate was nailed shut. His breath whistling through gritted teeth, he seized a claw hammer and wrenched the nails out.

He removed the lid. A scream clawed its way up his throat and choked off into a whimper. The topaz eyes of a sorceress stared at him from a face locked in death. The pain of the crate lid falling on his toes was a distant thing.

Ismyn. Nearly eighty years ago, she was his first lover. He stepped back and stumbled, landing on his arse in the dust. Dek yelled from somewhere nearby, but the words were meaningless.

Recently dead. Her complexion was still the colour of clotted cream, and death hadnít filmed her fixed gaze. Straw filled the bottom of the box, absorbing blood from the stump of her neck, and more blood matted the ends of her red hair. Another scroll poked from rosebud lips.

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