Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Eleanor's Tears: Chronosmith-Inspired Tea from Adagio!

Book 2 of The Chronosmith Chronicles, Eleanor's Tears, is now available in paperback and digital formats. If you know anything about book author and co-creator Kara Dennison, you know she likes tea a little. She entertained that hobby (is it even a hobby anymore?) in this latest book, and even more so.

The estate where Eleanor's Tears is set has a special tea blend that you won't find anywhere in the world... and that's probably a good thing. But in anticipation of the book release, Kara has come up with teas inspired by the characters from the series — and you can purchase them from Adagio!

Adagio Teas is a long-running tea maker with all sorts of blends for all sorts of tastes. Several years ago, they gave customers the option of making and sharing their own custom blends. A few creative sorts began making blends inspired by their favorite TV shows, along with custom labels. From there, Adagio became a major supporter of the fan community, and encourages and promotes "fandom" blends.

A fancy tea assortment

At the moment, there are six Chronosmiths blends, which you can order in sample sizes, 3 oz bags, or 5 oz tins. (Note that some products may be temporarily unavailable due to the holiday rush — just wait a bit and they'll be back!) You can get:

The Soldier-Poet: Classic and romantic but strong, like Savalia. A blend of Earl Grey, rose, and vanilla black teas.

The Engineer: Smoky, sweet, and with enough caffeine to keep Mordicai going. A blend of Lapsang, Irish Breakfast, chocolate, and a sprinkle of chocolate chips.

The Senator: A light and calming chamomile with fruit, perfect for Kendo. A blend of chamomile, white peach, and white peony teas.

The Super-Soldier: Mysterious and unique, like Tor Fasa. A blend of Pu-erh Dante and vanilla oolong with accents of cardamom.

The Detective: Strong, vintage, and down-to-earth, like Inspector Edensh. A blend of Irish Breakfast, Lapsang Souchong, and butterscotch black tea.

The Freelancer: Sweet and strong to get the job done, inspired by Tati Rhys. A breakfast tea base with chocolate, vanilla, and almond flavors and safflower accents.

Fandom blends can also be shipped with each other (in the romantic sense), meaning that ordering them together is worth your while. In our case, ordering Savalia and Mordicai teas together gets you a discount!

Also, Kara has foregone her loyalty points from orders of these blends — don't worry, she gets them in plenty of other ways — in order to donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. So a small portion of every Chronosmiths tea sale goes to Kara's personal charity of choice, the Epilepsy Foundation.

If you like these teas, have a look at the Total Party Wipe collection: a set of teas blended by Kara based on the Oxventure Dungeons & Dragons campaign, with label art by Ginger Hoesly! (Neither Kara nor Ginger has any official ties to Outside Xbox, Outside Xtra, or Gamer Network, and their cut of the proceeds goes to the charity Child's Play.)

Be sure to review the teas if you like them — and should you be interested in more (maybe a set for Aliens for Hire?), let us know!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

THE CHRONOSMITH CHRONICLES #2: Eleanor's Tears Is Now on Sale!


We're pleased to announce that, despite the many delays 2020 has dropped on us, Eleanor's Tears is now available for purchase! The second book in The Chronosmith Chronicles takes our heroes to Earth in the year 2012, where the hidden history of a tea plantation threatens to blossom into an extinction-level event.

Author and Chronosmiths co-creator Kara Dennison penned the new book, and sat down for an interview telling us what's to come in the heroes' second outing in a brand-new universe.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm Kara Dennison, anime news writer and occasional other things writer. I'm also 50% of Altrix Books and co-creator of the Chronosmiths along with Paul Driscoll.

What is Eleanor's Tears about?

My elevator pitch has been that it's an apocalyptic time-travel ghost story set on a tea plantation, with time cops and time robbers. That seems to have interested at least a few people.

More specifically, it's about the Chronosmiths having a bit of a locked-planet adventure. They've discovered that something is threatening to wipe out life as we know it on Earth (that's how you know this book was originally written in 2019!), but when they attempt to land and investigate, their time machine is tethered and they have no escape unless they basically consent to being arrested. So they have a small window in which to, as they see it, save the world. Meanwhile, there are two other parties from different points in time with their own designs on the situation.

Sign: Margaret's Hope, Maharanee Hills

Where did the concept for Eleanor's Tears come from?

From a real place! There is a tea plantation in Darjeeling called Margaret's Hope, which has a very sweet (and much more benign) legend concerning how it got its name. I learned about it while visiting a tea shop owned by two friends of mine.

I love horror and ghost stories, and I thought it would fun to throw something supernatural like that into the series. And, given my love of tea, setting a story right at the source like this only seems natural.

The Chronosmiths went through a lot in After Vincent. Where were they before Eleanor's Tears, and where are they now?

The Chronosmiths are an interesting group. They're very much that "why do we hang out with each other" energy that a lot of D&D groups get. They're conflicting personalities with conflicting goals and methods, even if they have an essentially similar aim. At the end of After Vincent, they'd come to terms with the fact that they won't always align on what are frankly pretty important decisions. A lot of this book deals with the four of them trying to define themselves. What is a Chronosmith? What's their code of ethics? Where do they align? The story at the root of Eleanor's Tears pulls them in several different directions — deep down they all want to do what's right, but there are little pivots where "right" can take on conflicting meanings depending on who you're trying to do right by.

And what about Mordicai and Savalia in particular? Did their time together one book ago change anything about their relationship?

Savalia and Mordicai are the closest of the Chronosmiths - they all have some degree of crossover with each other, but their relationship is the keystone. They've spent a lot longer in each other's company than the rest of the group has with them or each other, thanks to the events of After Vincent. They still bicker because they are these very opposite personalities, but they're a work in progress.

I love a comment Paul made when he saw the covers for these first two books side by side, where we see Ginger Hoesly's gorgeous art of Mordicai and Savalia. Something to the effect of her being way out of his league. Though all joking asking, they really are an odd match, and I love exploring the places where they butt heads, and then what it takes to make them stop. How serious do things have to get before one or both of them back down?

There are also some new characters added to the universe. There's Isaac Edensh - what's his deal?

Edensh is, in short, a time detective. His presence cracks open this whole other level of what's going on in the 83rd century, where time travel is heavily legislated. He's a bit Gene Hunt, a bit Inspector Zenigata. If you've outlawed renegade heroes, someone has to go around picking up the slack, and that's him and his team. And now he's got these free-floating entities, the Chronosmiths, and he's not a fan at all.

His underlings do gossip a bit about him, especially this idea that he might have been around for whatever it was that caused the time travel ban in the first place. He's definitely impassioned about it — he's very clear that his goal is to someday make his own job obsolete — but beyond that he's not giving away any history. For now, at least.

And then there's Tati Rhys, of course.

Of course! She was designed by the aforementioned Ginger many years ago for another set of stories. I saw pictures of Tati when I was visiting a while back, and I liked her deal so much that I asked if we could put her in The Chronosmith Chronicles. 

Tati is a freelancer operating outside the law, which she can do thanks to a rather unique method of time travel. She's also a great foil for the Chronosmiths: she asks the questions they won't, and she's equally likely to be friend or foe or passive observer. She just wants to get paid. And sharp-eyed readers may have caught mention of her in After Vincent — but now you get to see what she's about.

Will readers need to read After Vincent to appreciate Eleanor's Tears?

When I write anything in a series (alone or with others), I write it with the assumption that someday someone will pick this book up at a thrift store or garage sale with no prior knowledge. I want any reader who finds this book at random to be able to enjoy it for itself. So you'll get a lot of the previous back story seeded through, a lot of nods to what happened before, so you won't be left completely  in the dark.

That said, After Vincent is a lot of fun, and so full of historical research and so beautifully written. And there are a lot of things that will eventually feed into the end of this "season," I suppose, that are worth diving into. Ideally, and a little greedily, I'd love to see people read the whole series.

The two books do have a tie thematically, though.

It wasn't planned, but Paul and I both hit on a similar theme: the fetishization of illness. With After Vincent it was mental illness; with Eleanor's Tears it's physical. I've endured a lot health-wise and gotten this kind of thing myself from genuinely well-meaning people. This allowed me a way to say something: not just "I don't like it," but why it's so important to view people for who they are and not what they suffer.

Despite what Mordicai may think, the Chronosmiths aren't about fixing history. They're about fixing conceptions of it, and what those conceptions do to the here and now (or, in their case, the future). Sometimes that does involve saving the day; other times it just means making sure a lost story is told.

What's next for the Chronosmiths?

Two books from people who aren't us! Next up is Jon Arnold, who's writing a really fantastic time-hopping political thriller. Then MH Norris is writing what she's described as The Aztecs meets Disney's Cinderella, and it's just as lovely as it sounds. Paul and I round out this first (and hopefully not last) run: he'll be tackling a medieval story, and I'm currently pulling together a great big daunting book 6.