Monthly Archives: September 2019

Yankai’s Skull by Faramond Frie Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young warrior’s obsession leads to disastrous consequences and a journey of redemption on author Faramond Frie’s novel “Yankai’s Skull”. 

The Synopsis

200 years ago, a Tibetan Shaman entrusts Yankai with the secret that other worlds connected to ours exist and contain immense and dangerous power. Yankai is obsessed with gathering the knowledge required to protect his people from these worlds and following years of study, he stumbles upon a doorway to one of them. Yankai crosses into a dark and advanced world powered by the essence of Human Beings. Captured and tortured, he fights back and escapes to Earth but brings with him a being of immense power and is followed by another intent on revenge.

Over 2 centuries, Yankai seeks the elusive and deadly Poet whom he believes can help him destroy these beings. Aided by an immortal, a psychic and a man prepared to risk his life for Yankai’s cause, the threads of all their lives converge into a single moment where the fate of all will be decided.

The Review

In this short yet powerful read, the reader is treated to a dark fantasy driven narrative infused with a bit of sci-fi action and a historical style of fighting in a modern day world. This mashup of genres and story devices make for an engaging read, giving the reader just enough backstory peppered throughout the narrative to connect with the characters without taking the reader out of the moment entirely. 

The only critiques for this novel would involve transitions. There were moments in the narrative where it can be somewhat hard to discern where one character’s perspective ended and another’s began, so the use of transitions would have done well to help the story flow a bit more smoothly. However this wasn’t enough to take the reader out of the narrative completely, and I still found myself engaged in Yankai’s tale.

The Verdict

The novel is a fast paced, action-fueled fantasy that blends many different genres and has a way of making the modern world still feel ancient and mythical in its approach. The twists and turns that bring a plot device early in the narrative back into the novel’s finale is going to be a fun and shocking twist readers won’t see coming, so be sure to grab your copy of Yankai’s Skull by Faramond Frie today!

Rating: 8/10

https://amzn.to/2oJzwsz

www.faramondfrie.com

Weekly Comic Book Roundup #6

Nightwing: The Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 1 (Nightwing (2016) (Single Issues) -1, 1-15)

by Tim Seeley (Goodreads Author),

 Javier Fernández (Illustrations)

Synopsis

Back in blue, the latest hit NIGHTWING series is now collected in hardcover in NIGHTWING: THE REBIRTH DELUXE EDITION BOOK 1!

Dick Grayson is his name. Heroism is his one true calling. To heed that call, he’s worn many faces. He was the first Robin and a replacement Batman, a superspy and a dead man walking. But the greatest of the masks he’s worn into battle against evil is the one he created himself–the one he’s just won a hard-fought battle to take back.

He’s Nightwing. And he’s returned to reclaim the streets of the cities he loves.

From Gotham City to his adopted home of Bludhaven, Nightwing is taking the war on crime personally–and he’s taking it right to the enemy. The all-powerful Court of Owls and their rogue agent Raptor. The old foes out for his blood and the new serial killer framing him for crimes he didn’t commit. Even his mentor, the Dark Knight, and his longtime love interest Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl, won’t stand in his way.

Now more than ever, the night belongs to Nightwing!

Discover the start of an all-new saga in the life of one of comics’ greatest heroes in NIGHTWING: THE REBIRTH DELUXE EDITION BOOK ONE, from the creative team of Tim Seeley, Javier Fernandez, Marcus To and Chris Sotomayor–exploding from the pages of the blockbuster DC: UNIVERSE REBIRTH event! Collects NIGHTWING: REBIRTH #1 and NIGHTWING #1-15.

Verdict

One of the few heroes who worked under Batman’s wing and managed to secure his own path to being a hero himself is Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing. The Rebirth era solidifies his push to identify himself as his own hero apart from his mentor and friend, Batman. The incredibly unique distinction in combat styles and approach, mixed with a creative new storytelling arc introducing new villains, iconic heroes and the reintroduction of the iconic city of Bludhaven into the DC Rebirth era make this first deluxe collection of the Nightwing series a must read. It has great character arcs, great artwork and a deep dive into the DC Universe as a whole.

Teen Titans, Volume 2: The Rise of Aqualad

(Teen Titans (2016) (Collected Editions) #2)

by Benjamin Percy (Goodreads Author), Khoi Pham

Synopsis

The Teen Titans are settling into their new lives in Titans Tower in San Francisco…even if answering to Damian Wayne takes a lot of getting used to. But Beast Boy, Raven, Starfire and Kid Flash soon have a lot more than an overbearing Robin to worry about—a prison breakout has led to a string of disappearances, and some of them hit close to home.

Now, to rescue the kidnapped, the Titans will have to go toe-to-fin with King Shark, and the Titans are out of their depth…literally!

But a new teen hero named Jackson Hyde has seen the Titans in action, and he’s headed to Titans Tower to try to join the team. Will Aqualad be enough to turn the tide for the Teen Titans…or will the mystery of his powers unleash an even deadlier threat on the team?

Writer Benjamin Percy and artist Khoi Pham continue the DC Rebirth adventures of the heroes of tomorrow, today in TEEN TITANS Vol. 2! Collects TEEN TITANS #6-7, #9-11.

Verdict

A fantastic next chapter in the Teen Titans Rebirth era. Exploring more of Damian Wayne’s leadership skills and introducing Aqualad into the DC Rebirth era, it was refreshing to see an LGBTQ character like Aqualad not only get his spotlight in the series, but have a fantastic character arc that explored the real life struggles of meeting a wayward parent and dealing with the heartbreaking consequences of not being accepted. Exploring his relationship with his shocking villainous parent will keep readers engaged throughout this exciting new chapter in the team’s history.

Titans, Vol. 1: The Return of Wally West

(Titans (2016) (Collected Editions) #1)

by Dan Abnett (Goodreads Author) (Writer),

 Brett Booth (Penciler), 

Norm Rapmund (Inker),

 Andrew Dalhouse (Colourist),

Synopsis

A part of DC Universe: Rebirth!

Wally West is back in the DCU and he’s once again teamed up with former teen heroes and fan-favorite characters like Nightwing, Donna Troy, Arsenal and more!

Spinning directly out of the events of DC Universe: Rebirth, this new band of Titans are on a quest to find out the truth behind the earth-shattering, universe-changing revelations that Wally ushered in in his return to the world he thought he’d lost. Wally, Donna, Arsenal, Garth, Lilith and Nightwing are on the hunt for the mysterious force that erased their memories, forcing them to forget what they could accomplish together. Reunited with their memories returned, the Titans must destroy the interdimensional demon that broke them apart and threatens reality itself.

CollectingTitans 1-6, Rebirth 

Verdict

A great way to bring back the original Titans lineup and merge the past with the Rebirth era of storytelling for DC Comics. Seeing these friends interact and have their memories come flooding back as a beloved fan favorite character returns to the DC Universe is fantastic storytelling at its finest. The artwork is incredible, and the group dynamic is what really draws the reader in with the core members reuniting and finding what made the group the powerful team they originally were to begin with. A must read for anyone who is a fan of the Rebirth era.

Justice League: No Justice

(Justice League: No Justice #1-4)

by Scott Snyder (Goodreads Author), Joshua Williamson

Synopsis

The creative team of Scott Snyder, Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV and Francis Manapul unleash new super-teams in Justice League: No Justice.

The events of Dark Nights: Metal have transformed the universe in ways both wonderful and terrifying…and unleashed four ancient entities with the power to destroy it all.

Mystery. Wonder. Wisdom. Entropy. These four forces govern all of existence, and now the godlike beings who embody them have awakened. All life is in jeopardy, and the only chance the superheroes of Earth have to stop the unthinkable lies in new alliances…the likes of which have never been seen before!

Superman, Starfire and Martian Manhunter search for the secrets of the cosmos in Team Mystery!

Batman, Beast Boy and Deathstroke battle chaos itself as Team Entropy!

Wonder Woman, Zatanna and Etrigan the Demon unlock bizarre alien technologies with Team Wonder!

And the Flash, Cyborg and Harley Quinn learn the astonishing truths of Team Wisdom!

Can these amazing new Justice Leagues stick together to stop universal annihilation? Some heroes will not live long enough to find out…

Collects issues #1-4 and stories from DC Nation #0. 

Verdict

A brilliant crossover event that pushes the boundaries of the known DC Universe into directions fans will not see coming. Returning an iconic villain like Brainiac and flipping the script when it is revealed he is not the biggest threat to the universe this time around, the story has a fantastic set of character arcs that see Brainiac separate heroes and villains alike into unusual groupings to battle monstrous and devastating entities unleashed from the Source Wall’s crack in previous storylines. Seeing these heroes and villains interactions make for great mythology and character buildup, and the side story being told back on Earth between Amanda Waller and Oliver Queen leads to a shocking conclusion for the DC Universe. 

Deathstroke, Vol. 1: The Professional

(Deathstroke (2016) (Collected Editions) #1)

by Christopher J. Priest (Writer), Carlo Pagulayan (Penciler), Jason Paz (Inker), Larry Hama (Breakdowns), Joe Bennett (Penciler), James Bennett (Illustrator), Mark Morales (Inker), Belardino Brabo (Inker) , Jeromy Cox (Colourist), Cary Nord (Illustrator), Denys Cowan (Illustrator), Willie Schubert (Letterer), Bill Sienkiewicz (Illustrator), Norm Rapmund (Illustrator), Diogenes Neves (Illustrator)

Synopsis

Deathstroke may be one of the most hardened anti-heroes in the DC Universe, but there’s no cutting corners when it comes to contract killing, especially when your family is on the hit list!

Confronted by his own troubled past and challenged to reinvent himself before he loses everything and everyone in his life, Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke, finds himself and those he values most in the crosshairs–stalked by an unseen enemy.

CollectingDeathstroke 1-5, Rebirth

Verdict

Definitely one of the grittiest comics of the Rebirth era, the first story arc of Slade Wilson’s very own comic series showcases why he is one of the most ruthless and dangerous mercenaries in the world. A man with his own “unique” code, the story does a great job of thoroughly exploring the anti-hero/villain’s past and bringing out the complex family dynamic he has created amongst himself, his ex and his children, especially Rose, who finds herself more of an outsider than most in the Wilson family being a daughter from another woman Slade met. It highlights the complex family drama and mind games within the Wilson family and shows how even the most powerful heroes of the DC Universe should be wary of Slade Wilson, as few who have ever managed to go up against Deathstroke have survived for long. 

Justice League: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 1

(Justice League Rebirth: Deluxe Editions #1)

by Bryan HitchTony Daniel (Illustrator)

Synopsis 

The first two volumes of Justice League as a part of DC Universe: Rebirth are collected here in hardcover for the first time ever!

Spinning directly out of the events of DC Universe: Rebirth, a new day dawns for the Justice League as they welcome a slew of new members into their ranks. The question remains though: can the world’s greatest superheroes trust these new recruits? And will the members of League be able to come together against an ancient evil that threatens to reclaim not just the world, but the entire universe!?

Masterful storytelling, epic action and unbelievable art come together in Justice League from best-selling comic book writer Bryan Hitch (JLA) and superstar artist Tony S. Daniel (BatmanDetective Comics).

CollectingJustice League 1-12, Rebirth

Verdict

The first deluxe collection of the Rebirth era of Justice League was fascinating and enthralling. From new recruits into the League to the interesting relationship of the New 52 heroes merging into the Rebirth era and meeting the Pre-Flashpoint Superman, who has emerged and introduced himself to the world after the previous Superman’s fall. The powerful forces that are introduced showcase the need for this new and powerful roster of heroes to join together, learn to trust one another and fight off threats that could tear the universe apart forever. From grand cosmic tales to intimate stories of loss and grief fueling a threat against the JL, these first twelve issues are a great way to jump into the series. 

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad

(Suicide Squad (2016) #2.5)

by Joshua Williamson (Writer), Rob Williams (Writer), Tim Seeley (Goodreads Author) (Writer), Jason Fabok (Artist), Tony S. Daniel (Artist), Riley Rossmo (Artist), Giuseppe Cafaro (Artist), Christian Duce (Artist) , Carlos D’Anda (Artist), Jesús Merino (Penciler), Andy Owens (Inker), Fernando Pasarín (Artist), Robinson Rocha (Artist), Howard Porter (Artist)

Synopsis

The day that Amanda Waller has long dreaded has finally come to pass: the Justice League has discovered the existence of Task Force X! America’s paragons of truth & justice won’t take well to a government-sponsored team of black ops super-villains (with bombs implanted in their heads), but before the Justice League can shut down the Suicide Squad, a bigger problem looms: another deadly strike team is lurking in the shadows, one that could expose dark secrets throughout the DC Universe, with ties to the hidden truths of DC UniverseRebirth. Longtime enemies such as Batman & Deadshot, the Flash & Boomerang, & Wonder Woman & Harley Quinn will have to put aside their differences when an evil threat once thought lost to the DC Universe makes their return.

CollectingJustice League vs. Suicide Squad 1-6, Justice League 12-13, Suicide Squad 8-10

Verdict

This is a gritty tale in the story of the Justice League as the more grueling world of the Suicide Squad envelopes the team and a threat beyond anything either team could imagine emerges to take over the world. As the JL seeks to bring the criminals of the Suicide Squad back to prison and justice, the Squad fights to maintain their fight and right to stay on the team they’ve been forced on, all while under the orders of ruthless leader Amanda Waller. However the deeper threat of a group of villains so dangerous they had to be hidden away from the world and the one man dangerous enough to release them takes center stage quickly, and forces each team to determine whether they should fight one another, or join forces to stop this even greater threat. 

Interview with Author Christy J. Breedlove

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

My early writing accomplishment were multiple hits within a few years: In my first year of writing back in 1987, I wrote three Sf short stories that were accepted by major slick magazines which qualified me for the Science Fiction Writers of America, and at the same time achieved a Finalist award in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. This recognition garnered me a top gun SF agent at the time, Richard Curtis Associates. My first novel went to John Badham (Director) and the Producers, the Cohen Brothers. Only an option, but an extreme honor. The writer who beat me out of contention for a feature movie, was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. My book was called Dinothon.

A year after that I published two best-selling non-fiction books and landed on radio, TV, in every library in the U.S. and in hundreds of newspapers.

I have been trying to catch that lightning in a bottle ever since. My YA dystopian novel, The Girl They Sold to the Moon won the grand prize in a publisher’s YA novel writing contest, went to a small auction and got tagged for a film option. So, I’m getting there, I hope!

2) What inspired you to write your book?

It all started with the dream catcher. This iconic item, which is rightfully ingrained in Indian lore, is a dream symbol respected by the culture that created it. It is mystifying, an enigma that that prods the imagination. Legends about the dream catcher are passed down from multiple tribes. There are variations, but the one fact that can be agreed upon is that it is a nightmare entrapment device, designed to sift through evil thoughts and images and only allow pleasant and peaceful dreams to enter into consciousness of the sleeper.

I wondered what would happen to a very ancient dream catcher that was topped off with dreams and nightmares. What if the nightmares became too sick or deathly? What if the web strings could not hold anymore visions? Would the dream catcher melt, burst, vanish, implode? I reasoned that something would have to give if too much evil was allowed to congregate inside of its structure. I found nothing on the Internet that offered a solution to this problem—I might have missed a relevant story, but nothing stood out to me. Stephen King had a story called Dream Catcher, but I found nothing in it that was similar to what I had in mind. So I took it upon myself to answer such a burning question. Like too much death on a battlefield could inundate the immediate location with lost and angry spirits, so could a dream catcher hold no more of its fill of sheer terror without morphing into something else, or opening up a lost and forbidden existence. What would it be like to be caught up in another world inside the webs of a dream catcher, and how would you get out? What would this world look like? How could it be navigated? What was the source of the exit, and what was inside of it that threatened your existence? Screamcatcher: Web World, the first in the series, was my answer. I can only hope that I have done it justice. You can be the judge of that.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The overall message of Screamcatcher is survival. This is accompanied by teamwork, love, persistence, loyalty and dedication. Teenager, although they can be reckless, they are nearly immune to complete failure and so resistant and resourceful that they often solve problems as fast as they encounter them. I always had The Hunger Games in mind because it showed undaunted courage and determination–that working hard and continuing on was the main thrust of the characters. I thought to mash-up Jumanji and The Hunger Games. There is a very slight sub-theme that I thought I would sneak in, whether it was popular or not. I didn’t care. And that was the message that sometimes, the nice does finish first and get the girl. Hardly an Alpha prospect, but one that I wanted to touch on nevertheless.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I do like adult thrillers and science fiction, but I’m now leaning toward upper YA in the low fantasy realm–portal fantasies. I’m really addicted to YA dystopian!  Divergent and The Hunger Games had quite an impact on me, among others like Harry Potter series. There is a huge cross-over appeal to writing YA, and my sample is in the upper age range of YA, from about 14-15 to 19 years-old.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I guess I would ask Jory why she didn’t notice how infatuated Choice was with her, or if she purposely denied it. We find out later that his courageous and unselfish behavior gets the team out of quite a few jams. He’s smart and resourceful. She does notice him, but I wonder why she pushed those feelings aside at first. Since I’m a guy (no big surprise there) I was curious about the female mindset and how she would ultimately react to him. It seems I wrote my own nagging mystery, for which I had no real answer.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Gosh, I couldn’t pick just one, without admitting that I belong to over 25 major social media sites; display sites, writing groups, contest sites, promo companies and all others in Sundry. It’s very, very difficult today to get noticed. We have a glut in the industry like we’ve never seen before. Every author I know is clamoring for attention, some of them spending thousands of dollars on ads. I would imagine my FB followers of nearly 4,700 strong have contributed more than the others. I spend 14 years in a giant writing group and always got clicks from them about my posts and articles. My blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers helped out too, since my members were very familiar with all of my books, not just one.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

If a budding writing asked me if they should pursue a career in writing, I would tell them to take a couple aspirin, go into a dark room, lay down and wait for the feeling to pass. Don’t stop until you’ve finished a first draft. Then edit like there’s no tomorrow. After publication,seriously watch your spending on ads–they can be grossly ineffective. Use social media and generously interact with fellow writers and readers. Don’t abuse FB and Twitter solely for the purpose of “Buy My Book.” Join writing groups and learn from the pros. Ask politely for reviews–don’t pressure, harass or intimidate. Be creative. Target your genre readers. Offer incentives and freebies. Craft a newsletter and send it out bi-monthly. Don’t take critiques as personal attacks–learn from honest opinions. Don’t despair. Never give up. Revenge query.Get started on your next book.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?


The Screamcatcher trilogy is bought, and the next two books are in the dugout awaiting my publisher’s editor, which should be soon. There is a lot to do there, even as far as doing some major revisions and added information in books 2 and 3. Book 2 is called Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers, and book 3 is Screamcatcher: The Shimmering Eye. I’m nearly done with totally revising a weird werewolf book, and I’m stuck halfway through a Middle Grade Fantasy.

AUTHOR SEMI-BIO

I’m a diehard frantic creator of Young Adult fiction, whether it’s paranormal, science fiction, suspense or fantasy. I believe in pure escapism with unceasing action adventure and discovery. If you want a moral message or cultural statement, you’re apt to get a small one. But let me tell you something, reader, I want to make you laugh until you gag, cry until you’re dry and tear out tufts of your hair. Today, young adult literature needs some support and renewed interest.. How soon we’ve forgotten about Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight. Oh, the mania! Where has it gone? Are we losing our young readers? We need something really fresh and new. I and several writers are going to pour everything we have into that end. You are the kindly judge–help us get there and we will deliver!

AUTHOR BIO

Christy J. Breedlove (Chris H. Stevenson), originally born in California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009. Her occupations have included newspaper editor/reporter, astronomer, federal police officer, housecleaner and part time surfer girl. She has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Today she writes in her favorite genre, Young Adult, but has published in multiple genres and categories. She was a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and took the first place grand prize in a YA novel writing contest for The Girl They Sold to the Moon. She writes the popular blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers (special weapons and tactics), hoping to inform and educate writers all over the world about the high points and pitfalls of publishing.

Amazon Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Harold-Stevenson/e/B001K8UUBK

Christy’s Website:  https://christysyoungadultfabuliers.com/

Blog:  http://guerrillawarfareforwriters.blogspot.com/

Interview with Author Anne Joyce

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I started writing because I was bullied very badly throughout my childhood. I didn’t have a lot of friends or anyone I could really talk to, so I channeled my frustrations into comic books. I was the sidekick to the superhero and in my own world I was somebody really cool instead of the kid that got beaten up. When I got a little older, I moved into poetry and eventually novels

What inspired you to write your book?

I was watching a conspiracy theory show that documented the stifling amount of lakes and rivers that are mysteriously being drained throughout the country. It appears some powerful force has a very specific motivation for the water disappearance. It just got me thinking about so many different possibilities and outcomes

What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Always be cognizant of what’s happening around you. Stand up for what you know is right even if others disagree with you

What drew you into this particular genre?

I’m not sure, to be honest.  I guess many years of being a nerd

If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I would ask Blane why he made some of the idiotic decisions that he made because he’s not a stupid man at all. I can’t provide a lot of detail or I’ll give too much away

What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Instagram and Facebook

What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Network with other authors. Promoting and selling your work is a group effort so be part of a community and scratch each other’s backs

What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’m currently writing a Prequel to Arid called “Parched-The Days Before Exile.” 

About the Author

Anne Rasico (AKA Anne Joyce) was born in a small town in Indiana you’ve probably never heard of. She composed short stories and comic books as a child to amuse her family and began writing poetry at the age of thirteen.

In 1998 she received an Honorable Mention for Literary Excellence for her poem “She Didn’t Come Home.” She attended business school and made the Dean’s List for three consecutive years, putting her love for writing on the back burner. It wasn’t until her mid-twenties that a political post on social networking rekindled her literary flame that has since become a bonfire.

In 2013 her novella When the Chips Are Down was named a Finalist in the MARSocial Author of the Year Contest. When she is not writing, thinking about writing, or going insane from writing she enjoys camping, fishing, swimming, and otherwise spending time with loved ones. She is mother to three extremely spoiled cats. Crazy cat lady? Probably.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7159849.Anne_Rasico

Anne Rasico (AKA Anne Joyce) (@AnneRasico) | Twitter

https://www.facebook.com/AnneJoyceWriter

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Interview with Author Kenneth Richard Fox

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

There came a time almost twenty years ago that I felt I had actually been quite fortunate to have had so many experiences already during my lifetime that I wanted to share.  I had invented and patented some laser technology which could, if introduced deep inside the human body, remove even potentially lethal obstructions, as in clots in small blood vessels and otherwise.  I had practiced medicine and surgery around the world.  And more.

I focused first on a few of those and wrote short articles about some of them.  Mirage in the Desert was about my period of living and working in the Persian Gulf.  Here Today, Gone Tomorrow had to do with some of the tragic losses in my life when I lost loved ones under the most painful of circumstances.  Something From Nothing was about the strange process of inventing with all of its uncertainty– somehow, one day,  coming to believe you actually had stumbled upon something new and potentially important or valuable.  Monster in the Midst was about the tragedy of living with a loving spouse who is turned into a human monster by the emergence of violent, psychotic bipolar disorder. But then I felt there was more I could say and at the time, to me, the most efficient way to do that was using free verse.  That lead to my anthology of some 88 poems I wrote over the course of about one year.  In 2018, finally, I decided to write At the Point of a Knife, a narrative that encompassed a lot of the above in just one book.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

At the Point of a Knife is also the story of a lot of things that can go very wrong, with the backdrop of  a lot of others which are very right.  I was certain that there are so many people who struggle with living with severe untreated mental illness, even if that manifests itself in a partner or someone else very close.  It is tragic in its destruction, and with the stigmas about such things which run so strongly in society, there must be better ways.  First, though, something cried out for this tragic type of circumstance to be called out and exposed. Somehow society needs to not only recognize the enormous destruction that these severe mental illnesses cause to it, not only to the affected individuals directly, but it needs to open channels for proactively identifying these ill people who desperately need help, and force them to get it! The costs of not doing so are far too great.  Mental hospitals hardly exist any longer in the U.S., but if the stigmas are removed, their benefits are great and the costs of not having them are extreme.  Having these facilities is half the battle. Forcing their use in extreme situations is the rest-  proactively, not after people die and lives and livelihoods are ruined.

After my experience with losing fabulous children who were so horribly abused by their other, alienating parent, ruining our family and my relationship with them and theirs with me, I came to realize that there were many such circumstances, albeit with differing degrees of  adverse impact.  In the 90s when my children were so severely alienated and abused, Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was still being broadly challenged in society, in essence a cover up of an enormous problem which destroys families.  Since, through the hard work of many dedicated mental health, medical, social work, justice and other professionals, that has changed to a signficant extent, although the battle still rages in society about PAS.  But it turns out, quite conclusively so unfortunately, that if courts don’t both enforce custody and visitation by and with the non- alienating, normal parent and restrict and severely control the visitations with the alienating one, the problem will not only not be solved, it will become permanent.  When the abused, alienated children grew up, they retain that ‘blind spot’ in their brains inculcated by the abuse, and they can not re- form relationships with the non- alienating parent.  Again, as with severe mental illness, ignoring the problem is horribly destructive and futile, and proactivity, by society, in all such cases is imperative.  This is one situation for judicial pro- activity.  

My problems, as described in At the Point of a Knife, also included how horribly one rogue judge was able to piggyback on his own sordid past  to wield power from the bench which made a mockery of justice. While he turned a blind eye to  the above mentioned severe problems squarely before him, the system let him carry on his own psychopathic brand of jurisprudence unabated, while he slashed and burned everything in his sight.  Not satisfied with allowing a potential murderer to run loose, a beautiful family to be destroyed, he persisted in destroying a thriving start- up international business involving life- saving technology, a professional career and sought for as long as he could to put in jail his chosen victim.  For the judicial system to hide behind veils of opacity, while according no recourse in reality even in situations of gross abuses of power by a few who clearly have no business having been given the trust placed in them, is simply a wrong crying out for change. Juries of peers sit on crucial cases, both civil and criminal, in American jurisprudence.  There is no reason that peers, ordinary citizens, can not sit in courtrooms so that when the obvious, gross abuse of power and justice does occur, they are there to see it and have the authority to make those few perpetrators of these quasi- judicial horrors disappear into the oblivion they deserve.  Anyone sitting in that Virginia judge’s courtroom would have likely recognized in short order that he was an outlier who did not belong in that position.  There were lawyers sitting in the gallery at times, unrelated to these cases, who said as much openly– but they had no power to act.   No one deserves that kind of immunity from exhibiting even a minimum level of responsibility in society which places trust in their hands, or the impugnity to openly scorn that society while abjuring that trust.

Large companies are also given huge sway in our society.  Perhaps even like big government itself, they become too big to control.  Unrestrained, they continue to get bigger and more powerful yet.  But since there are, alas, too many flaws in societies, manifested by the underlying flaws in the individuals of which they are comprised.  Somehow the society must rein in not only the sickest individuals before they can harm themselves and others, they must control those who abuse their powerful positions for their own gain and to the detriment of so many others.  My small, but very successful start- up hi- tech company was robbed blind by a few in power in some large companies that knew they could just steal our patented technology and probably never have to pay for it.  By virtue of bonuses, stock options and the like, sometimes well deserved, othertimes not at all, those individuals could steal from us, not pay royalties and get away with millions.  Their companies benefitted financially as well, but inventing is thwarted and society several disadvantaged when the incentive to invent is stifled, particularly when that is done totally illegally.  We had fought for the international patents and we even managed to enforce them in courts.  But the losers in all of that simply went on to lie and cheat about their royalty- bearing revenues, having little to fear.  If, in the end, after almost endless litigation all over the world, we would win, time and again, they might have to pay, but no more really than what they owed in the first place.  That is not justice, it favors the greedy and the rich and discourages the honest and the inventive among us in this type of situation.  Patent cheating is theft and that is a crime, and societies should extend that type of control to patent infringement and to wanton breaches of patent royalty  license agreements. Those crooked executives who are in it only for their own aggrandizement and care not a wit about who might benefit from new and better technology, including in the life sciences, or even if they ever do, should risk being put in jail for patent crimes.  That might put some control in place on what, now, is their unfettered rampage over smaller inventors whose technology represents, collectively, the way forward for societies and stimulates the growth that they all need to stay healthy.  Furthermore, the companies that steal this technology, if found guilty of same in the courts, should pay treble, not just once for their crimes and defalcations, and that might get the proper attention of their shareholder- owners who are all too happy now to put their crooked managers in place and look the other way from their foibles.

My story, told in At the Point of a Knife, from my experiences, points to a lot of grotesque wrongs that exist quite openly today and which reap huge destruction on our society because they are not realized and even less addressed in meaningful ways.  It is death, injury, mental abuse and the collective pain and ravages of corruption, negligence and distrust.  That is what inspired my writing this book.

3) What drew you into the field of developing new technologies and inventions as mentioned in your novel?

My entrance into the field of innovation, via the basic medical science investigations and inventions ultimately happened by accident.  My late inventive partner asked me a seemingly simple question, having to do with laser energy, something I used in my clinical practice therapeutically, but the answers were anything but obvious.  We discovered that no one else seemed to know those answers either.  We experimented, with the laser energy, applying it in the laboratory to human and animal tissues, and we observed what happened.  Eventually, quite literally, we stumbled upon a way to control that laser energy which produced the desired results we sought, but avoided the damaging ones which had thwarted prior efforts.  We defined what we had done and that lead to patents being written, then prosecuted before patent offices around the world. As is often the case with innovation, it was happenstance.  In this case, things went well.

4) What is the biggest obstacle facing the legal field in regards to mental health and those afflicted from it (not to mention the families of those individuals)?

How to make societies more attentive to and focussed on real problems is very difficult.  The problems are complex and there are always seemingly forces of evil which miltate to take advantage of those problems rather than to ameliorate them.  It is in the end about the people.  If they want and can take responsibility, then that is hopeful.  But when and if they won’t, they are doomed.  Abdicating that responsibility is often disastrous, whether to those powerful in business or to those in even any branch of government too. After all, they are all made up of people, sometimes even the same people.  Blindly trusting all justice makes that justice blind.  When something is fundamentally wrong, someone has to be both motivated to, but also empowered to be able to do something about it.  Letting a judge like the rogue described in At the Point of a Knife to act unempeded is disastrous.  Letting a violent mentally ill individual, untreated, reak havoc on those nearest to her, and indirectly even those not so close, is calamitous.  Similarly letting those in high authority in private industry trade on their enormous advantages unchecked is extremely dangerous.  I believe we all need a much stronger fundamental level of responsibility and personal integrity, or else we are doomed.  Society can not  determine for any of us specifically what those things look like better than we  individually can by  deep personal searching within.  Education is crucial, since the more each of us  knows, the better chance we have.  

5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

The lessons I perceive from my own extensive experiences which are chronicled to some extent in At the Point of a Knife, and in my other writings, are varied and cut a broad swath through society.  I have been very fortunate to have seen so much of that over many years.  It is, now, difficult to point to any social media which directly speaks to a lot of that.  Probably the answer may be that a lot of social media speaks to a little of what I write about and very little current social media speaks to a lot of it.

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

People sometimes seem to say that writing a memoir or a narrative non- fictional story is cathartic.  Actually, I am not sure that is so because it is so painful to do, and the pain persists.  It is also a sacrifice, as such, but one I felt compelled to undertake in these ways, manifested by the written words.  Also, as before so often in my life, whether in Medicine or in inventing life- saving laser technologies, in trying to be a loving parent and spouse and son, I like to believe I cared enough to make the effort, to face the problem and to react to it, this time in words rather than in deeds.  Given how popular writing seems to be, that must be, in general, a good thing.

There are, of course, many genres of books, of stories, as there is variety in life itself.  I seem to be inspired by what I have seen and felt.  One can only encourage that sort of thing in others.

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

For me it is important to continue to confront challenges, which is, to live.  I continue to try to find what seems best, and to act on that as best I can.   I continue to learn since that, too, should never end.  I always want to find what motivates me most, and to act on that as much as I can.   I continue to be inspired by those around me most, who I love.   I continue to seek justice, even all too often in all too mediocre courts.  But I continue to seek harmony, compromise and peace.  I continue to try to support technology, inventiveness and innovation since, alas, it seems to me we continue to need those things.  I continue to tell tales, and to write, as I am doing now. 

About the Author

Kenneth R. Fox is the inventor of a great deal of laser medical technology and the patentee of many international patents. Dr. Fox has practiced Medicine in six countries on four continents and has lectured in many others. He has taught both Medicine and Business at several universities in a number of different countries. He is the author of many peer- reviewed medical and scientific articles, quite a few published poems and several short articles, mostly related to various aspects of health, but all based on his personal experiences over many years, as is At the Point of a Knife. 

Your can find more at http://www.kennethrfox.com

The Blurb Factor: 3 Crucial Steps to Optimize Your Book Description | Guest Post

I am honored to be able to share this next guest blog post with you all. Writer Greg Josselyn from Reedsy has reached out with a brand new post on the Blurb Factor to share with aspiring authors and writers out there. Enjoy and be sure to follow Greg’s work on Reedsy.


From botched to bestselling

When romance writer Alessandra Torre uploaded her first book on Amazon eight years ago, she only sold three on the first day. And for the next few months, she averaged a still-disappointing 15 – until one night, she looked at her book description and said: “I’m going to re-write this.” 

That re-write sparked a renaissance. First, it was 100 books sold in one day. Then 300. Then 2,000. That’s when she started ranking as a top seller in the Romance category, and offers from agents and publishers came flooding in. Now, Torre is an Amazon International bestselling novelist, with over a dozen books to her name. 

We can’t pin Torre’s success entirely on a book blurb – she is a good writer, after all! But we would be remiss not to poke around the subject, especially since this is a great Amazon self-publishing success story. The fact is, without the social credit and marketing budget of a big publishing house, the seemingly small things we usually save for last – like book descriptions – will make or break you. 

If you’re a writer who’s planning to self-publish, this post will help improve your book description (or back cover text) and grow your profitability on Amazon. But even if you aren’t quite at that stage yet, you can apply these techniques to query letters and pitches for your book. After all, it’s never too early to start selling people on your ideas.

Step 1: Get a hook and bait

Hook, hook, hook. That seems to be all writers and editors ever talk about, and yet, most of us still wonder what it really means. When we say “hook”, we mean like a fish hook, with – you you guessed it – bait. This is particularly important in the sea of distractions that is Amazon.com. But what are the raw materials that will make up your hook and bait? You’ll require: 

  1. A brief – we cannot stress this enough – summary of the story (no spoilers, please!) 
  2. A question that the story poses (which, of course, makes the reader want to find the answer so much that they’re willing to pay $9.99 for it). What’s going to compel Suzie So-And-So to forgo her mocha lattes this week for your book? 
  3. A little typography dress-up. You don’t have to go to coding boot camp to try on bolds, italics, and colors when setting up your product page. For example, on Amazon, you can:
    • Make things bold: <b>Be Bold My Friend, Be Bold</b>
    • Italicize Things <i>don’t go overboard though here because sometimes readers breeze over italics </i> 
    • Headline: <h1>This is a classier way to do all caps</h1>
    • Amazon Colors: <h2>Jeff Bezos will approve.</h2>
    • Indent: <blockquote>for anyone who likes a good old indent, you’re welcome. </blockquote>

Step 2: Blurb it out

Try to think of your book description in the most succinct terms possible. This isn’t a school book report; it’s like more like an elevator pitch. In other words, don’t blurt it out – blurb it out!

And when it comes to blurbs, our friend Torre is the master. If she didn’t revise the blurb for her first book, she may have switched careers instead of rising to the New York Times best seller list, which is why we always refer aspiring writers to her video tips on the subject. But in brief, she stresses these two essential facts: 

  1. The first three sentences of the blurb matter most. It’s like a teaser trailer – after those three sentences, users are going to have to click “Read More” to well, read more. To keep them scrolling, or get them to move onto the “full trailer,” as it were, those three sentences should stand out by utilizing the problem/question structure mentioned above.

One strong way to do that is to employ the classic proposition “but.” For example: “Will Byers lived a normal life in a boring suburban town. But when a mysterious alien creature shows up, his life turns upside down. Will it ever turn right side up again?” (Read More…)

  1. Leave out unnecessary details. All too often, authors use their blurbs to share irrelevant details like character surnames, where they live, their professions, or other excess exposition to no end. Cut all of that out – just set up the problem and the stakes of the story. You can always go full-on Charles Dickens in the actual book. But don’t make your blurb into Bleak House, or you’ll send readers running for the hills. 

Step 3: Demonstrate (and prove!) a social benefit

You’ve done it all so far: The blurb is short enough for a social media share. Your first three sentences set up a key question and further dilemma. You’ve omitted unnecessary details, like your character’s middle name or their township’s population.

And yet, potential readers are still scrolling to click on other book titles in your category. Yes, it could be other factors like book cover design and reviews, but still – there’s one last ingredient needed to seal the deal on your blurb. This is, of course, why the book matters to the potential buyer. What does your book provide for them? How will it make an impact on their life? Advertisements do it all the time, so why not utilize this technique to sell your book?  

For example, if your book is self-help, be sure to mention that they’ll never think the same way about X problem ever again. Or if it’s fiction, show how your main character is relatable to readers, and how they overcome problems that many of us experience in our own lives.

If you have reviews or testimonials to prove this, even better: up the social proof to the max. And if you’re new to self-publishing, drawing comparisons to pre-existing works is one great way to do it (e.g. “This Gender Bending Historial Fantasy is Games of Thrones meets Queer Eye), or just stress how it’ll change the reader’s way of looking at the world (“fantasy fans and fashionistas will never be the same again…”). 

Takeways

In order to make a successful book blurb, be sure to include:

  1. An enticing lead to grab readers
  2. A question that a reader can only answer by actually reading your book
  3. Proof that the story will benefit the reader’s life – this might be pure entertainment, or genuine self-improvement

There are endless ways to play around with these elements. Try out different options – at least three – and test them with friends and family, as well as pro beta readers. Ask: which description pulls you in? Which one doesn’t do it for you? And why? Or, do an A/B test in Amazon: swap out the different descriptions and see which one performs the best.

Still no sales? Keep re-writing and testing until you do, like Alessandra Torre. Otherwise, accept that the marketplace just may not be ready for this particular book, and start re-examining your content from the ground up.  

Greg Josselyn is a writer for Reedsy, a curated marketplace dedicated to empowering authors. When he’s not covering KDP Select, he writes short fiction and makes podcasts.

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Interview with Author Lynn Nanos

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing? ​

I never considered myself a writer until literally just a couple of days immediately preceding the start of creating Breakdown. Rather I considered myself a full-time mobile emergency psychiatric social worker. As I struggled to shake off the sense that something was missing within me professionally, the idea of writing a book about my profession came to me suddenly. I completed an online writing course, researched the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing, purchased writing software, learned how to cite research, and began researching marketing techniques for books. I felt intrinsically rewarded upon completion of every major milestone. Sure there were obstacles to overcome, such as when the interior formatting company sent me a 20-page sample ridden with mistakes they refused to fix. And when my requests for testimonials to publish at the beginning of Breakdown were ignored. And when the first illustrator I hired plagiarized her work before I quickly fired and didn’t pay her. Writing a book takes intense commitment to the finished product. The recognition I’ve received from people has been priceless. 

2) What inspired you to write your book?

I had done mental health advocacy work on a national scale for years before beginning to work on Breakdown and was very inspired by advocates’ tragic stories. Their stories motivated me to become a better social worker. I increasingly realized that there is no opportunity to influence legislators to change the system in the clinical setting. I didn’t feel that my employment was enough to make a difference in the world. Certain clinical cases were at the forefront of my memory because they were especially dramatic and shocking. All of a sudden it dawned on me that the world has to know these stories. Very few people are aware of the population I help and what they struggle with. Breakdown aims to close the gap between clinical and legislative settings. 

Breakdown Nanos

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The most common reason that approximately half of people with schizophrenia are unable to initiate treatment independently or adhere to treatment is anosognosia. This means they lack awareness of being ill. Anosognosia is a key factor contributing to the need for involuntary treatment. When schizophrenia goes untreated, the consequences can be deadly. I’ve detailed high profile cases based on media reports and my interviews with family members. These cases have involved people getting killed due to untreated mental illness. This statement is bound to make many people uncomfortable for fear of stigmatizing mental illness by suggesting that people with mental illness are violent. The majority of people with mental illness are not violent. Yet a small subset of the population with untreated serious mental illness, especially involving psychosis, is more violent than the general population. Truth does not enhance stigma. I make a strong case in favor of involuntary outpatient treatment, otherwise known as Assisted Outpatient Treatment. Just three states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maryland – do not allow this while all other states and Washington, D.C. allow this life-saving treatment. Not coincidentally, Massachusetts has a very strong antipsychiatry movement. Groups promoting the belief that mental illness doesn’t exist are funded by the government and supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This is wrong.  

4) Your novel was expertly crafted and showcased just how expertly researched and utilized the statistics were for the mental health care profession and mental health stats overall in our nation. Based on your research, what was one statistic that shocked you or would shock the average reader who is unaware of the problems facing the mental health profession or those suffering with mental health struggles?

The extent of malingering on inpatient and emergency settings is astronomical. According to a study, 12% of those admitted for emergency psychiatric care lied about their symptoms to get admitted to inpatient. The reasons for malingering vary. Malingerers drain health care resources and literally take away precious and limited inpatient bed space from those who truly need it. 

5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership? 

Facebook.

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors or anyone working in your field of study out there?

Please read Breakdown to learn from example or learn about emergency psychiatry. 

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects/studies on the horizon?

I am still working as a full-time mobile emergency psychiatric social worker. I will not write another book, though plan on resuming blogging about my profession in the next few months. 

When it comes to therapy, there is no better site to find relationship advice from a licensed therapist than Regain. Click the link https://www.regain.us/advice/therapist/ to learn more!

About the Author

Lynn Nanos is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in her twelfth year as a full-time mobile emergency psychiatric clinician in Massachusetts. After graduating from Columbia University with a Master of Science in Social Work, she worked as an inpatient psychiatric social worker for approximately seven years. She is an active member of the National Shattering Silence Coalition that advocates for the seriously mentally ill population. She serves on its Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee committee and co-chairs its Blog committee. 

Dagger and Scythe The Ichorian Epics Book 2 by Emilie Knight Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Two supernatural beings skilled at hunting down and stalking human prey for a god find themselves banding together to take the god’s throne for themselves in author Emilie Knight’s novel “Dagger and Scythe”. 

The Synopsis

Dagger and Scythe spent good decade’s together, stalking human prey at night, and taking out the targets the god Maniodes deems worthy. With one hundred years under her belt, Scythe is comfortable in her ways, and takes incredible enjoyment of her skills. Dagger may be new to the undead order, but he’s relishing in the work. The two of them together set beautiful bonfires, with the occasional corpse inside that fire.

When they enjoy each other’s time a little too much, and an entire village burns down because of it, Maniodes becomes sick of their rogue behavior. Regular punishments haven’t worked on either of them, so he tries something new: marrying them to each other. To keep each other in line or they’ll both end up properly dead.

Both have grown tired of the god’s odd punishments and lazy control, taking over his throne and the land of the dead should fix things.

Her scythe is perfectly curved for slicing.

His dagger, made of folded steel, is ready to strike.

But are they strong enough to take on gods?

The Review

A truly one of a kind, original and gritty dark fantasy novel. That’s the best way I can describe this novel, which took me as a reader on a roller coaster of emotions and thrills as the story followed two monstrous killers and made them into protagonists. The author did a marvelous job of playing with the reader’s feelings towards the characters. A balancing act between being disgusted by the character’s bloodlust and compassion for the circumstances that brought them there, the book takes a deep dive into exploring the minds and souls of Dagger and Scythe. 

What was most interesting was seeing Dagger grasping onto the remains of his humanity, while Scythe fought the memories of her human life that clashed with her growing feelings for Dagger and her growing bloodlust. Combined with the amazing world building that went into the creation of this fantasy driven narrative, and readers are given a rare treat of a story that begins as a mission to take the power of a god and turns into a fight for the souls they once had. 

The Verdict

One of the top Dark Fantasy novels of 2019, this is a book fans will not want to miss. Releasing on October 1st, 2019, this book is filled with action, dark fantasy characters with a tie into Ancient Greek mythology and a pair of protagonists that keep the readers in a balancing act of empathy and fear, challenging the reader to determine for themselves who the true monster of this story really is. With a splash of dark fantasy romance tying these protagonists together, this is a must read fantasy novel like no other, so be sure to pick up your copy of Dagger and Scythe, the second in the Ichorian Epics Series by Emilie Knight, today!

About the Author

Emilie Knight is a writer, and author of her debut Era of Undying. After years of reading fantasy and horror she combines them together into her own dark fantasy writing. Using her BA in Classical Civilizations and fascination in Ancient Greek mythology she blends it well into her fiction. Other then reading in her spare time she plays video games quite often.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45434518-dagger-and-scythe?from_search=true

https://www.emilieknight.com/

https://www.facebook.com/emilieknightwriter/?

eid=ARCHdGNchXsS1RRZlI-HuC-lj4Ebk46zFW90bxV4jA0q7ZbjNaH_IosxGyyTUu1Bu9fZsZd-9WCkOTIt

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INTERVIEW WITH Lachlan Walter

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I’ve always loved books and stories, and like many people who love these things, I always wondered if I had it in me to be a writer. And so I started writing in my late teens, working on short fiction and poetry but never taking it very seriously. One day, I just stopped. Almost a decade later – having moved back to my old hometown in the bush, at the tail end of a ten-year drought – I had the idea for my first book. It seemed to come from nowhere, and I hadn’t even considered returning to writing. But the idea burned within me, so I decided to take writing seriously. After all, no one else was going to bring this idea to life. 

I returned to university, took a bunch of writing classes, and eventually undertook a PhD that involved writing both a novel and a piece of literary criticism. In effect, I took the small-talent I already possessed, and the passion I felt, and nurtured them and learned how to make them grow, and practised and practised and practised until I understood what discipline meant. And then one day, while working on my second book just for the fun of it, I realised that I’d become a writer.  

2) What inspired you to write your book?

I’ve always been a voracious reader, and sometimes an obsessive one, and giant monster fiction was one such obsession that consumed me around the time I completed my first book – I’ve also always been a fan of giant monsters, which I’ll get to shortly. 

Gripped by this obsession, I devoured whatever giant monsters fiction I could find, looking for something that took giant monsters seriously, and something that was more than just capital-A action or zany in a post-modern way. But nothing really scratched the itch I’d developed. And so, looking for a new writing project that I figured should be distinctly different from my first book, I settled on the serious work of giant monster fiction that I had been craving. 

In other words, I decided to write the book that I wanted to read. Isn’t that what an author does?

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

My real hope with We Call It Monster is that people might start to see that life will go on, and that hope perseveres. It’s just that life in the future – life after we’ve faced the earth-shaking forces of climate change – won’t be the same as it is now. We’re a persistent, determined, ingenious and tenacious species, and I firmly believe that we’ll still be around once it’s all over. As far smarter people that me have said: It’s not really the end of the world, just the end of the world as we know it. 

This is the lens through which I hope people interpret the various beasts and kaiju of We Call It Monster. I hope people see them as forces almost beyond comprehension, and from which is there no real escape or ability to defeat. The only real solution lies in accommodation; only by changing the way we are now, will what’s to come be that little bit brighter. And to do so, we must remember that the things that will be most important are those that have always been the most important: Community and compassion, love and family, kindness and togetherness, hope and faith.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I’ve always been fascinated by giant monsters. At first, as a kid, it was a childish fascination with things being smashed. After all, every little kid has thrown a tantrum, broken something and then experienced relief at the wordless release this brings. Giant monsters flattening cities for no apparent reason readily reflects our own difficulties in articulating and making sense of our emotions at a young age. As well, giant monsters conjured a feeling of awe and mystery, in much the same way dinosaurs did – show me a kid who’s never gone through a ‘dinosaur’ phase’ and I’ll eat my hat. 

But beginning in my teenage years and continuing on into the present day, I’ve loved the metaphorical potential inherent to giant monsters, and their ability to ‘stand in’ for so many incomprehensible problems that seem beyond our control. Nuclear war, environment degradation, international terrorism, industrial pollution, climate change, the staggering number of displaced people around the world – giant monsters can represent them all, and more.

And so, as I mentioned earlier, when I was looking for a new writing project that would be distinctly different from my first book, I settled on revisiting this fascination. 

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

Owing to its structure, there are at least two-dozen featured characters in We Call It Monster, and so choosing to sit down and talk to just one of them is tricky. Instead, if I could, I would sit down with Sue Fleming from the first chapter, and Melaarny from the final chapter, and encourage them to talk to each other, in the hope that what they have in common outweighs that which distinguishes them. 

Here things get a little dicey, as I don’t want to be so gauche as to unleash any spoilers. But I will say that despite the years that separate them, Sue and Melaarny are really the same and are inextricably linked, and are just like all us. They live their lives, making do as best they can; they have friends and families, hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties.

And so I would like to sit down with Sue and Melaarny in the hope that they realise this, and that we could all share in the comfort of this realisation. After all, isn’t that the point? No matter who we are – or what or when – in the end we’re just like them: We’re living our lives. 

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

There’s so much advice for aspiring authors out there, much of it contradictory, so I’ll share something that works for me. 

If you want to write, you need to have some understanding of the science and art behind it, and have some small talent. After that, all you have to do is keep at it – like all creative arts, writing is something you need to practise. By writing and writing and writing – and keeping your chin up as you wade through it – you’ll eventually get there.

But remember, there are no real rules when it comes to writing – what works for some doesn’t work for others. Finding your own way is what’s important.

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

If I’m not careful, I end up with too many different projects on the go at the same time. And so aside from my semi-regular pieces of science fiction criticism and the occasional piece of short fiction, I’m trying to be disciplined about focussing on my third book – a piece of metafictional science fiction that’s a bit “lighter” than the rest of my work – rather than get lost in daydreams about the book after it, or the book after that. 

With a bit of luck and perspiration, it’ll be done by Christmas. Won’t that be a nice gift to myself?

About the Author

Lachlan Walter is a writer, science-fiction critic and nursery-hand (the garden kind, not the baby kind), and is the author of two books: the deeply Australian post-apocalyptic tale The Rain Never Came, and the giant-monster story-cycle We Call It Monster. He also writes science fiction criticism for Aurealis magazine and reviews for the independent ‘weird music’ website Cyclic Defrost, his short fiction can be found floating around online, and he has completed a PhD that critically and creatively explored the relationship between Australian post-apocalyptic fiction and Australian notions of national identity.

He loves all things music-related, the Australian environment, overlooked genres and playing in the garden. He hopes that you’re having a nice day.

AN EXTRACT

The old man shuffled out to the balcony, dusted off an outdoor chair and

then made himself comfortable. The sky was a shade of blue that painters

only dream about; it was a beautiful sight. The old man drank it in,

leaning back in his chair. He sipped at his coffee and smoked a cigarette.

He was happy to wait as long as was necessary – he had all the time in

the world and he wasn’t going anywhere.

The monster finally appeared, a blurry smudge in the distance.

Slowly, but not as slowly as he would have thought, it grew both

closer and more distinct. The old man laughed out loud; it looked like

nothing more than a child’s drawing of something that might have been a

lobster or might have been a spider or might have been both, propped up

on flagpole-like legs that supported a wetly-shining carapace, a beaked

head, and a tail as long as a bus.

It was enormous and ridiculous in equal measure. The old man was

surprised to find that it failed to frighten him.

It drew closer to the city. It stopped suddenly and bit a great chunk

out of a stately old tree lining a boulevard. Chewing slowly and

methodically, it worked its way through the mass of wood and foliage

before throwing its head back and opening its mouth wide. Despite his

deafness, the old man felt the monster’s keening in his bones and in the

pit of his stomach.

He pulled his hearing aid from his pocket, turned it on then slipped it

in place.

The beast’s cry was low and mournful, more a melancholy bellow

than a ferocious roar. Thankfully, the klaxon-blare of the evacuation

alarms had stopped. The monster cried out again and it shook the old

man, both literally and metaphorically. The beast shifted its legs,

presumably adjusting its weight, and destroyed an office building in the

process.

Almost comically, it looked down at the destruction it had wrought

and seemed to shake its head.

It looked back up and cried out a third time, and then started walking

again. It seemed to meet the old man’s eye. Without breaking its gaze, the

old man took another sip of coffee before lighting another cigarette.

Slowly-slowly-slowly, the monster drew closer. You could almost see

a smile on the old man’s face.

A Q&A WITH THE AUTHOR

What is it about giant monsters that appeals to you?

Initially, it was a childish fascination with things being smashed. Let’s face it: Every little kid has thrown a tantrum for reasons they can’t explain, broken something and then experienced relief at the wordless release this brings. A giant monster barging through a city for no fathomable reason can reflect our own difficulties in articulating and making sense of our emotions at that age.

This fascination soon turned to awe and wonder at their scale and mystery, a reflection of the feelings inspired in me by my discovery of dinosaurs and cryptozoology (the study of creatures such as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Yetis and the like). My love of dinosaurs is easy to explain – show me a kid who hasn’t at some point gone through a ‘dinosaur’ phase’ and I’ll eat my hat – while my love of cryptozoology was inspired by a book entitled Creatures From Elsewhere, which my parents gave me and which is actually still sitting on my bookshelf.

Beginning in my teenage years and continuing on into the present day, I’ve loved the metaphorical and symbolic potential that giant monsters possess, and the ways in which they can ‘stand in’ for so many different problems that seem beyond our control and almost impossible to deal with. Nuclear war, our negative impact on the environment, international terrorism, industrial pollution, climate change, the staggering number of displaced people around the world – giant monsters have represented them all.

Why did you decide to write about giant monsters?

As mentioned, I’ve always been fascinated by them. But I’ve also always been a voracious reader, and sometimes an obsessive one. I’ve been known to occasionally get my nerd on for a particular sub or micro-genre, looking up ‘similar title’ and ‘you might also like’ lists online when I should be doing better things with my time. But I still keep searching, because there can’t just be one example of Mystery Sub/Micro-genre X out there.

Giant monster fiction was one such obsession that carried me away, the timing of which coincided with the completion of my first book. I binged on literally anything I could find, looking for something that took giant monsters as seriously as some of the movies do, something that was more than just capital-A action. I found lots of fun, post-modern stuff out there – some of which could even be described as zany – but not much that approached giant monsters with a serious eye.

Looking for a new book to throw myself into writing – a book that I wanted to be distinctly different from my first book – I decided upon a piece of serious giant monster fiction. In other words, I decided to write the book that I wanted to read. Isn’t that what an author does?

Do you need to be a fan of giant monsters to appreciate We Call It Monster?

Nope, but it probably helps… In all seriousness, though – no, you don’t need to be a fan. My aim with We Call It Monster wasn’t only to write a serious piece of giant monster fiction because giant monsters have, historically, rarely been written about in such a way. Instead, I also wanted to write a piece of speculative fiction that does what all good speculative fiction should: Use the speculative element within to make us look at ourselves and our place in the world with fresh eyes.

Despite its title, We Call It Monster is more concerned with people than monsters. It isn’t a ‘wham-bam, shoot-em-up’ but instead a serious look at how we might react to forces beyond our control, and to forces that illuminate the precariousness of our position as world-conquerors sitting atop the food chain. And ultimately, it’s the story of what really matters: community and compassion, love and family and friendship, hope and faith. Anyone that appreciates such people-centric stories should find something within We Call It Monster that they can enjoy.

Why did you decide to write We Call It Monster as a story-cycle/novel-in-stories?

To me, one of reading’s biggest attractions has always been in my sense of engagement with the world being built on the page (a process even more absorbing when reading science fiction and speculative fiction). I think this enjoyment of engagement applies to most people. We all ‘see’ things in written worlds that the author didn’t actually write, even at the most mundane level: we populate a footpath with pedestrians, a street with cars.

A story-cycle/novel-in-stories can increase this sense of engagement to an incredibly strong degree, and their traditional structures allow writers to work magic. They can give us different perspectives on the same events, blocks of ‘missing time’ that exist between stories/chapters, events that are only alluded to rather than seen first-hand, a multiplicity of narrative “voices”, and so much more. But ‘missing time’ begs to be filled; events only alluded to tantalise us; we can’t know the truth when presented with different perspectives, or even if the truth exists. And so our minds do this work for us, conjuring up and giving life to parts of the story the writer has withheld.

The way story-cycles/novels-in-stories allow us to create the world right alongside the writer is a beautiful thing. However, the structures behind them aren’t just beautiful, but also incredibly practical. They can allow a story to cover a span of time longer than a regular person’s life; and help do away with the inevitable and repetitive ‘amazing coincidences’ that prop-up stories where one single character guides us through an incredible sequence of events covering an incredible amount of time; and enable a wider representation of voices from a wider variety of countries and cultures, without also falling back on the aforementioned trope of inevitable and repetitive ‘amazing coincidences’.

IMPORTANT LINKS, SOCIAL MEDIA & CONTACTS LINKS

Official Website

Severed Press

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