Chippewa Valley Book Festival Author

Some time ago I was named as a guest for the Chippewa Valley Book Festival.  I have to say that I'm very honored to be included and I'm looking forward to discussing my books and meeting some new people!  I plan on attending all the dinners the festival is sponsoring, so there should be ample opportunity to meet me for anyone who is interested.

Furthermore, on Monday, October 15th at 7 pm, I'll be presenting at the Calhoun Memorial Library in Chetek, WI.  My presentation is called "From the Birkie to Peru: How North America's Greatest Ski Race Can be the Start of a Remarkable Journey."  Please attend if you are able!

If you're curious to learn more about me, you can peruse this list of interviews I've done over the years.

Thanks for checking out my page.  You can also check these blogs for more updated information:

See you at the presentation!

Walter Rhein is the author of Beyond Birkie Fever and The Bone Sword which are both available over at the Rhemalda Bookshop or here and here at Amazon. If you happen to pick up either of these books and write a review somewhere, please let him know at!

Save Me by Trevor Alderson

Here's a nice little piece that I just received in the mail today.  Give it a look and leave some constructive comments if you're so inclined.

Markus staggered down the beach, clutching his bleeding side. There were cliffs above the sand, and Markus was forced to be careful of jagged rocks as he crawled forward. He could hear the voices of the men following him. Shouts and the barking of dogs. The tide was coming in. Soon the beach would be flooded, and the force of the waves would dash Markus against the rocks. His face twisted in pain as he tried to stand upright. 

The voices were getting closer. Markus’ breathing was becoming shallow. He crawled to the cliff base, looking desperately for a place to hide. There! Six feet or so up the cliff was an outcropping of rock. He reached up and started to haul himself upwards, gasping in pain. His hands were slick from blood, making the climb more difficult. The waves were catching up to him. He could barely hear the sounds of his pursuers over the crashing at his feet. With an aching groan he made it. His limp body rolled onto the thin outcropping, far enough above the waves. He didn't know if he could be seen from the cliffs, but soon he forgot even that as blackness took him. 

Markus awoke to a cold ocean spray. For a moment his eyes were blinded by the sun. Then he came to his senses. He looked down and saw his hand caked in dry blood. The wound in his side had stopped bleeding. Hunger pulled at his stomach, and his throat was dry. He lifted himself up and climbed down to the beach below. The tide wasn't rising again yet, but it would be soon. He half limped half jogged down the sand until he found a place to safely climb up. Minutes later he emerged onto the wide field above the cliffs, gasping for air. 

He walked. His side was in pain from the beginning, and soon the wound reopened and warm blood began to soak back into his clothes. He could see the castle far off in the distance. Thin flags flew above it. Most of the village and keep were obscured by trees. Markus walked in the other direction, listening fitfully for the sounds of a patrol. He made it about three hundred yards before he heard them. The sound of horses and men. Panicking, he made for the trees. They weren't very far away, but the horses had been kicked into a gallop. He stumbled over roots and scuffed his hands on the forest floor. The sounds of horses came inexorably closer. He could hear the barking of dogs now. He came out onto another field and hurried towards the far side. He wouldn't make it. 

Men spilled out of the trees behind him, arrows whizzed overhead. 

“I’ll save you,” said a voice in his head. It sounded like a child.

“Save me!” shouted Markus as an arrow pierced his back, the tip bursting from his chest. His body 
collapsed to the floor, blood pooling around him. 

“Don’t worry,” whispered the voice in his head as Markus’ eyes glazed over. 

The dogs reached the body first. The dragged it across the grass until the men arrived, hoisted it over a horse, and went back the way they came. 

All that was left was the imprint of the body in the grass and the pool of blood, soaking into the dirt. As the last of the soldiers disappeared through the trees, the blood began to stir. Bubbles started to burst upwards, then a quivering finger rose from the dirt, followed by a hand and an arm. The shaking limb reached out and grasped the dirt. It was followed by another arm from the same spot, then a third. 

Arms and hands continued reaching out until a mass of limbs was hoisting itself out of the dirt where the blood had been a moment before. Then there was a head and shoulders. Markus’ face appeared between one pair of arms. His eyes were glazed over. Then another head, a third, a fourth. Eight men finally pulled themselves from the blood soaked earth, and one by one they stood. Eight copies of Markus stood naked on the plain. As one, the bodies exhaled and began walking in different directions. 

No noise escaped their lips aside from the sounds of breathing as they disappeared in different directions. One made its way through the forest back towards the village. Its spine was rigid and the eyes stared blankly ahead, glazed over as in death. The other bodies fell out of sight behind it. Slowly the glaze fell away from his eyes as he came closer to the village. The grass gave way to the dusty road that led into the village, and soon he encountered people. A farmer and his family along with a man at arms looked up from their dealings to see the naked body of Markus approach them and stop.

Markus’ body looked from one to the next, his mouth opened as if to speak. No sound emerged but a tiny, almost silent “eh.” Then Markus’ expression turned to one of pain. His skin cut itself, drawing a flow of blood as words were cut into his chest. One by one bloody letters spelled out “Where am I?” 

He gasped and more words cut themselves into his abdomen. 

“What is happening to me?” 

His hand opened up reading, “Help me! Make it stop!” 

His leg began bleeding, then his face and his back. 

“It hurts. Please, please help me. Why is this happening to me?” 

Markus’ body cut itself until pieces started falling to the ground and a pool of blood formed beneath him. The woman screamed as the body in front of them disintegrated. The village came abuzz while its people tried to comprehend what had just happened.

The next body of Markus walked through the foothills of a mountain until it reached a woodsman’s cottage. The man asked Markus his business. In response, Markus’ chest was sliced open. 

“I don’t know.”

He fell to his knees. 

“What did you do to me?” 

He reached out in pain to the man in front of him. 

“Help me! Please help me!”

The woodsman rushed to his side, his fingers shaking. Markus’ hand reached up and grabbed the back of the woodsman’s neck, trying to lift himself until the hand was cut to pieces. The woodsman was left sobbing, covered in blood. 

The next body walked into a wheat field, then fell before the farmer tending his crop. The next walked over the cliffs of the ocean and lay broken on the beach until he was found by a fisherman, forced to watch what he thought was a corpse cut itself apart. Each of the bodies were torn apart trying to communicate with those they encountered, until there was only one. 

The last body of Markus walked for three days over the mountains. He met no one. His bare feet were bleeding, but his body was otherwise uncallused and unblemished. Finally, he found someone. An old man lying motionless on the edge of a river, dead with a fishing pole next to him. Markus’ body looked at the other body. No words appeared; he just stared. He reached down and slowly pulled off the old man’s shirt. He looked at the thing for a full minute, then put it on. He slowly disrobed the old man, putting on his clothes one by one. Lastly he put on the old man’s hat and picked up the fishing pole. He looked back to the river and cast the line. In that moment his eyes unglazed fully and a sigh escaped his lips. 

He heard the whisper of a child in his head. “I saved you.”

Words with Lisa Morgan, author of "Phoenix Rising"

Can you tell us a little bit about "Phoenix Rising”?

Phoenix Rising is the first book in my YA series Maggie Henning and The Realm. In this first book, we meet Maggie, a 16 year old girl living in a small Upstate NY town and under the shadow of her father. Her father was sentenced to serve life in a psychiatric hospital after firebombing a church and killing the 8 people inside. Maggie receives a strange letter in the mail, offering her a warning to “guard the blood”. Seeing the return address as the psychiatric hospital, Maggie sets it aside and chalks it up to some sort of mad ravings. Maggie receives the same warning during a visit with her father and it’s after that verbal warning Maggie begins to see strange visions. People change--their once normal faces look to be rotted flesh or bones, mouths full of pointed teeth. These are creatures called Revenants, and they have been waging a war with The Realm, beings that live parallel to our own world, a world Maggie never knew existed. Maggie is the last of an ancient race of Phoenixes, beings with the ability to control fire, and the Revenant leader Ossa needs Maggie’s blood to “cure” him and his followers and rise to control both The Realm & The Mortal worlds. Maggie must learn what she is and who to trust, what her destiny is, and to fight to save creatures of myth and legend.

What's your background with writing?

I have been writing for as long as I could hold a crayon in my hand! I grew up in a small town, the daughter of a nurse and a house painter, so as you can imagine, money was pretty much always nonexistent. I learned at an early age that books, and the fantastic stories within the pages, were a great way to escape everyday life- a little vacation of sorts. I used to write poetry, and still do from time to time. I have tons of notebooks, full of stories. I have always been drawn to fantasy and paranormal genres, seeking out the strange new worlds and beings only found in places like Tatooine or The Shire.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

My mother and grandmother were always my biggest supporters. They were avid readers themselves, as well as my go to folks when I was seeking a creative word. My eighth grade teacher, Mr. Knodel, would be the driving force though. As our final exam that year, he assigned us to write a 1,000 word story about anything we chose and he gave us one weekend to do so. The following Monday, while my classmates were turning in their tales, I handed in a typed story about a plantation owner’s daughter who falls in love with a slave… and it came in at almost two dozen pages. After reading my story, Mr. Knodel asked me to stay after class. He asked me to always carry a notebook and writing utensil with me, wherever I went, and told me “you have stories to tell that people will want to read.” That advice always stuck with me, and I followed it. Even to this day. "Phoenix Rising" is dedicated to him.

What was it like working with Firefly & Wisp Publishing?

Firefly & Wisp has been fantastic! Today, the YA market is simply flooded with all sorts of books, and I knew early on the odds of getting my story published were slim because of that. The attention I’ve received from FF&W has been sensational! It’s a small company and all of the authors are more like family to me than merely fellow authors or coworkers. They have been supportive of my whole process from signing the contract, to cover art, to editing, to finally seeing Phoenix Rising out for sale. I’m not sure how the huge publishing houses do it, but I bet they could learn a thing or two from Firefly & Wisp. It’s been a sensational experience!

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

I actually designed the cover for Phoenix Rising! I had a vision of what I’d love to see there and was fortunate enough to make that vision a reality.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

This has been the most difficult part for me, as I tend to want to be a more private person living vicariously through books or my children’s accomplishments! I have my first blog tour coming up. It begins August 25th and is being set up by Tempting Book Tours, a fantastic group of authors who want to help other authors spread the word. The tour will run until September 23rd. I know that I have a Blogtalkradio interview on September 11th at 1 pm est., too. My publisher hosted an online Facebook launch party on release day with contests and giveaways. That was a humbling experience- to see so many people, most whom I don’t know, spend a couple of hours learning about my book and supporting me. I can’t thank folks enough! I will also be having an author chat with Addicted 2 Books Book Reviews in the near future.

Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.?

As I’m still new to this, I haven’t had any of these for my own books. However, this past April, I drove over 10 hours to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend a book signing that JR Ward (The Black Dagger Brotherhood book series) held. When I finally reached the table where she was signing, a friend with me asked how her arm was doing. Ms. Ward commented that her shoulder was getting a little sore (she was on signing #350 by that point.) I remarked that I’d driven the 10 plus hours for her signing. Ward laughed and replied, “So you’re probably saying ‘to hell with you b*tch! I can’t feel my ass!’” It was in jest, but I immediately went fan girl and responded ‘Oh no! Never! I don’t need to feel my ass to see you!” The line laughed at me, as I realized exactly how loud my voice really was!

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?

I have a small blog on my websiteand I’m attempting to get better about actually writing on it! Also on the website, I have a monthly newsletter with character interviews, contest information, and news about my books. I also post snippets from my books as well as the playlists that help inspire the writing. I also like to share books that I have read/am reading that visitors may enjoy.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

Book two in the Maggie Henning & The Realm series--"Phoenix Burning," is set to release this September, so I have the final edits to go over in preparation for its launch. Book 3 is also finished and I hope to have that out early next year. I have many other little stories I’m toying with, almost all in the fantasy or paranormal genres, and I continue to work on the Phoenix books.

Is there anything else about you we should know?

I love tattoos! I find them to be pieces of living art work. I currently have nine, but I plan on growing my “collection”. I’m a mother of 3 kids and have been married to my husband for 12 years. I am also a volunteer advocate with Parent to Parent of NY State, helping families navigate their ways through the Special Education system, (I have a child on the Autism Spectrum.)

Thank you for taking the time to discuss my book!

About the Interviewer:
Walter Rhein is the author of Beyond Birkie Fever and The Bone Sword which are both available over at the Rhemalda Bookshop or here and here at Amazon. If you happen to pick up either of these books and write a review somewhere, please let him know at!

The Sacred Band: Sword and Sandal Fantasy, Robert E. Howard Style

“The Sacred Band” is a classic work of heroic fantasy. This novel takes place deep within the established rules of Janet Morris's Thieves World, and I like that it doesn't waste any time on throwaway passages designed to “catch up” those readers who are new to the realm. This is a sink or swim type novel, and the reader as well as the characters involved are not the least bit coddled. The result is that you start to acquire a sense of achievement as you piece together all the clues, as if you have earned the right to enjoy this world and become a member of its legions of fans.

The first Thieves World novel is “Beyond Sanctuary,” and I believe I might tackle that one now that I've had a taste of Tempus and the Sacred Band of Stepsons. Janet and Chris Morris create a great classic ambiance in “The Sacred Band.” I found myself imagining a setting that looked much like Dante's version of Hell decorated and populated with people and artifacts out of Greek Mythology.

The action is instant and non-stop, and the characters are not “squeaky clean” by any stretch of the imagination. For example, early on in the book Tempus takes a troop of new recruits into a brothel and decides to just wait and see “how things play out” when he begins hearing terrifying screams from the room of one of his charges. When the prostitute in question turns up dead a few days later, Tempus embarks on an investigation that is more about maintaining his own autonomy over his group than correcting any wrong. I like the fact that Janet and Chris Morris have the courage to make strong statements on wartime morality, rather than try to push modern society's sometimes hypocritical views of right and wrong into a setting that simply cannot support it (Thieves World deals with individuals who have bigger issues than whether or not the phone store has run out of the 4G portable you've been dreaming about for six months—yes, there was a time when people had REAL issues to deal with people).

The Morris's make some interesting stylistic choices in their writing. Quite a bit of the novel is written in the present tense. At first I found the switches from past to present tense a bit jarring, but after a while I began to enjoy the emphasis on immediacy that the present tense passages provided. The tense shifts help put you in the proper frame of mind to correctly comprehend the more traditionally written text. This is a novel that's happening here and now, and there is a certain sensory overload that the writing creates when you allow yourself to fall into step with it.

Overall, “The Sacred Band” evokes the brutality and lyricism of Robert E. Howard combined with the old school “sword and sandal” movies we all grew up watching. For those of you who aren't quite up for the challenge of swimming in the deep end, you might want to check out “Beyond Sanctuary.” For the rest of you, buckle up and prepare to enjoy the ride!

Pick up "The Sacred Band" here at Amazon.

Interview with author Helen A. Rosburg

Can you tell us a little bit about "Angelique?"  
Angelique is a novella that began as a poem I wrote in 1980.  Influenced by the poetry of Robert Service that I grew up on, I wrote poems that were stories complete unto themselves.  Angelique was always one of my favorites, with its surprising and twisty ending.  When my company, Medallion Media Group, developed the Masterpiece imprint, I thought Angelique would be perfect for the line if I turned it into a novella.  And that process morphed into it becoming an illustrated and animated audio book.

 What's your background with writing?  
I've been writing all kinds of things all my life:  feature articles for newspapers; short fiction for magazines; a volume of poetry; then novels.  My first novel was published by Dorchester in 1998.  A second followed.  By then I had learned how stupid and flimsy the publishing business model was, and decided to start my own pub company.  I continue to write novels, with 7 now under my belt.  I also continue to write short fiction for various publications.

Who are your inspirations/influences?  
 I grew up on the historicals of Thomas Costain, Kathleen Woodiwiss, and Taylor Caldwell.  When I read in an introduction to one of Stephen King's books, that if you wanted to be a writer he had three words of advice, read, read, read, I read every genre I could get my hands on and gradually got a handle on the craft.

What was it like working with "Medallion Media?"  Um.  I created Medallion Media Group.  I'm the CEO and Executive Editor.  Working with them is always a pleasure because I love and respect every one of my staff.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?  
The illustrators, Fortin and Sanders.  Cherif Fortin and Lynn Sanders.  They are an incredibly talented team and have done other work for my company.  I suggested that particular cover from one of my favorite, and scariest, scenes in the book.  They nailed it.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?  
Angelique has a Web site, and we of course use all the social media and traditional advertising.

 Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.?  
My favorite book signing was at an RT convention I attended with a cat who went everywhere with me at the time.  We were in a huge room with dozens of authors and tables.  My cat sat right on my table and greeted people who went by.  A TV reporter came by and said "Hello" to my cat.  She meowed.  The reporter then asked her facetiously, "So, who's your favorite author here today?"  My cat, a very clever girl, replied, "Maa maaaa."  The reporter and her cameraman nearly fell over!

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there? 
There is an editorial blog I started on the Medallion Media Group Web site.  It's called the Editor's Corner.  Every month we give tips about writing and getting through the editorial process.  Lots of fun dos and don'ts, too.
What projects do you have planned for the future?  
I will be writing another novella for the Masterpiece line based on another story-poem.  I also write short stories for a magazine.  We'll see about another novel.  I'm getting pretty busy.  Might even be co-hosting a radio talk show.

 Is there anything else about you we should know?  
 I don't think you SHOULD know these things, but they're fun.  I ride Harleys and race Porsches, rescue animals, mentor at-risk urban youth, and have some awesome tattoos. 

Shells chats with Melissa Conway author of XenoFreak Nation

In writing what do you find the most difficult?

Shutting out the rest of the world in order to concentrate. As a wife and mother with pets, I often have to ask my muse to ‘hold that thought’ while I get up to take care of my family.

Where did the idea of XenoFreak Nation come from?

Probably, it began with a single, simple notion - perhaps I saw a tattoo of an animal-skin pattern and thought, “What if that were a skin graft?” But I don’t recall the exact moment the basic premise of the story occurred to me. It would have certainly begun slowly, and my imagination would have built upon it over time. At some point, it would have struck me that there might be a story there...

Bryn Vega is a really strong character, where did the idea come from for her?

Because I plot as I write, my characters develop as I go. Like all the people populating my stories, Bryn began nebulously and gained form and function as the story took on momentum. She is an ‘imperfect heroine’ because she makes mistakes. Those are my favorite characters to write, so I can show how they learn and grow by the end of the story.

How important is the relationship between Bryn and Scott in the story?

To me, it’s essential. I think romance is the stuff of life, and I make sure all my books have it in some measure. But in order to accommodate my male readers, I avoid treating it with a heavy hand.

XenoFreak Nation hits on politics, moral dilemmas, and discrimination, how do you feel this story relates to problems of today's world?

Today’s world is incredibly complicated. The average person is on the ‘user’s end’ of technology and politics, with a vague, conflicting notion that bureaucracy is a bloated but necessary evil to ensure checks and balances. If you dig into any system, you’ll find the history behind why it functions the way it does. And sometimes that function is tied to an outdated catalyst - why the system was set up in the first place. Xenofreak Nation is set twenty years from now and attempts to depict what will happen if today’s world maintains status quo. Whenever a system, like the one in the book that regulates how and why bio-engineered animals can be used, is caught between debating factions - some believe it could benefit from a good overhaul - others think it’s fine the way it is (generally because it benefits them) - any potential improvements are stalled until one side gains a majority of the power. The checks and balances can effectively halt progress.

Tattoos are either considered body art or something disgusting, you brought that into your story in such a new way. How important was that for you to showcase it in XenoFreak Nation?

By nature, tattoos make the body a billboard, saying either, “This image is important enough to me to permanently affix it to my body,” and/or “I enjoy using my body as a canvas for these images.” They are often used to stake a cultural claim, “I belong,” even if it’s just to say, “I belong among those who flaunt society’s expectations of me.” In Xenofreak Nation, the new tattoo consists of an animal skin graft, and there are ethical arguments for and against the practice. On the ‘against’ side, is the animal cruelty argument. On the ‘for’ side are those who insist that, just like using all parts of farm animals raised for food such as leather for our shoes, all parts of the animals bio-engineered to provide organs for human transplant should be used - and why not for decoration, like a designer pair of shoes?

What do you wish readers will get from XenoFreak Nation?

Hopefully a rollicking good read! But also a unique perspective on cultural tolerance - there is more than one side to any given story, no matter how abhorrent it may seem.

Where can readers buy XenoFreak Nation?

It’s available from all major ebook retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords).

In one word how would you describe XenoFreak Nation?


Where can readers learn more about you?

From my blog.

27 Likes For My Abandoned Towers Story--Keep 'em Coming!

Recently I decided to go back to my roots and find some markets on Ralan that wanted some short stories.  I still think it's a good idea to get your work out there in as many venues as possible, so on the days you don't have energy to work on a whole novel, rattling off a short story can be fun.

Hey, who knows?  Sometimes I find that you start going on what seems like a throw-away story and find yourself not stopping until you've ripped off 50,000 words.

Anyway, I shipped off a fun little fantasy story titled "Quillon's Quarry" to Abandoned Towers, and they've just thrown it up on their blog.  Please do me the favor of giving it a read and hitting "Like" or "Retweet" or giving it a shout-out on whatever social network you prefer.

I'm already sitting at 27 likes, and the more I get, the more likely Abandoned Towers is to pick up stories of mine in the future.  I've got a special affection for them because they were the first ezine to interview me when "The Bone Sword" came out.  Incidentally, the kindle version of "The Bone Sword" is still sitting at ninety-nine cents, so give it a look if you enjoy "Quillon's Quarry."  The story is free to read, I hope you like it!

Words with Ernie Laurence Jr., Author of of "Islands of Loar: Sundered"

Can you tell us a little bit about "Islands of Loar: Sundered?"

The setting for Sundered is twenty chunks of a planet that exploded a couple of millennia in its past. These "Islands" are roughly the surface area of Oklahoma to Montana. In the world of Loar, the gods are said to have left before The Sundering, the great cataclysm that tore the planet apart, which is part of why it happened. The legend goes that they grew upset with the growing dependence on technology and left the mortals alone with it. Technology is alleged to be the direct cause of The Sundering.

Magic, specifically elemental magic, saved those Islands and life on them, though the raw energy from the cataclysm warped a lot of things, especially the flora and fauna. The Geomancers have disappeared after creating these gigantic gates called pulons that allow travel between the Islands. The Hydromancers are river rats and treated as third class citizens. After the War of Wind and Fire, the Aeromancers nearly wiped out the Pyromancers and enslaved the rest. Now the Aeromancers dominate and many fear to rebel against them since they still maintain the atmosphere around each Island.

There are a number of forces attempting to finish the destruction of Loar, from within and without. Three groups of heroes, unknown to one another, are set on paths to address these issues. In a world that is withering away in body and soul, crushed by despair, these heroes and a few others who will join them later, are all that stands between total annihilation for the world.

What's your background with writing?

I've been writing since the 6th grade. I have a lot of novels written, but never published. You can visit my wiki  to see more of them. While in college I was hired by a gaming company to help design a Lord of the Rings game. I was in charge of the design of Barad Dur, all of the romantic interests, and designing quests, layouts, and a host of other things. After the company had its funding pulled, I went to work for Sony Online on the Star Wars Galaxies MMORPG as a quest designer.

Through it all I've kept writing. Islands of Loar is the latest series I've written but will be the first published because it is the most mature and refined.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

Heh. That list is so incredibly long it's hard to mention here. I have a Goodreads page and anyone who wants can look at it. Tolkien, certainly. Madeline 'Lengle "A Wrinkle In Time" was my first science fiction/fantasy book ever. (I was into Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew before that.) Terry Brooks had a very large influence throughout my writing career.

Of course I would be remiss if I did not state that my biggest influence, especially in those earlier books, is the Bible. I do my best to be a devout Christian. One of the biggest inspirations for me in that vein is that I am what is known as a preterist with regard to eschatology. My earlier books are built directly from that belief.

Some of the newer authors that I have loved are Brent Weeks (Night Angel trilogy), Brandon Sanderson (Elantris, Mistborn), and George Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire). I've also been reading a number of indie authors that have some really good stuff.

What was it like working with "Hero's Guild Publications"?

The owner, chief editor, and staff are all a bit crabby and work too long. They are slave drivers and are on me constantly, 24/7 and never let up!

Hero's Guild Publications is my company, and I am sole proprietor, chief editor and dishwasher, marketing executive, etc. Though I will be considered self-published for a while, in a couple of years the plan is to begin publishing other authors as a full, small-time press. I want to make sure I work out the kinks of publishing on my own novels before I start working with others whose book's I'll be responsible for managing.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

A man named Alex Broca. I found him on I gave him the layout I wanted and he fulfilled it exactly. Also, a fellow author named Ray Mauritsen designed the title and author name parts and did a fantastic job. Alex will be doing all four covers for the series and possibly the rest of the novels as well if our relationship continues as well as it has so far.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

At the moment I'm doing the social media thing, Facebook ads, word of mouth and blog interviews like this one. As income flows, I'll be looking into other forms to reach a wider audience. I'm still learning like a lot of others. I'm not afraid to listen and learn if others have advice that has worked for them.

Where can people learn more about you?

I tend to post up a lot more information on my author page on Facebook. I also have a digital appendix for Sundered and all the other novels at the wiki.

I'm not as in to blogging yet as some might advise me to be. I imagine as time progresses and I learn more worth posting I'll post more. For now, I'm content to read others' blogs and stick with writing/editing novels. If some want to add me, I guarantee they won't get inbox spam from goodreads on my blog posts for the next few months. Here it is.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

I have three more books in this quartet to polish and publish. Then I will consider going back to my very first works and bringing them up to date and publishing those. I also have three more trilogies planned in various time settings in Loar that are as of yet unwritten. There is definitely no dearth of material for me, just the time needed to get them all out and done.

Is there anything else about you we should know?

I'm happily married to my wife, Heather, who is the one motivating me to publish instead of just write. I have twins that are two right now. Kade Auren is my son. He is named after one of the characters, well, maybe the character, in my novels. Gwynevere Anne is my daughter. I'm a Physics teacher. I suppose if one wants to know more than that, they can look me up on the wiki or like my author page on Facebook.

Words with Mario E. Martinez author of "Twin Burials"

Can you tell us a little bit about "Twin Burials?"

Twin Burials is a Post-Industrial Sword & Sorcery novel that centers around the different emotions surrounding revenge. Kaze Yamazaki, the protagonist, must venture to the capital city of Vivoura to hunt down the man responsible for the death of his mentor and his lover. As he leaves his small village, Kaze is bombarded with strange characters, odd encounters, and the bizarrely barbarous culture of the capital city.
Though this is a fantasy novel per se, it feels much grittier, doing away with some of the conventions of high fantasy, namely the overblown and unbelievable dialogue. Also, instead of subjecting the reader to pages upon pages of history, they learns the landscape through the eyes of the protagonist, balancing description and storytelling so that the reader enjoys learning about the world instead of reading a fictitious history lesson.

Twin Burials is the first of a projected 5 novels, two of which are in various stages of completion. But, for those of you that like an open-ended story that feels complete, this is the book for you. The possibility of a sequel is there, but don’t expect a cliffhanger on the last page or anything like that.

What's your background with writing?

Though I’ve only been writing for a little over 5 years, I’ve been a story-teller all my life. To some though, they’d just call that lying, but I’ll take the highroad on that one. Other than that, I received a minor in Creative Writing, served as a writing tutor for a number of years, and had numerous short stories and poems published in Reflections and The Writer’s Forum, magazines distributed by my alma mater.
But, aside from the involvement in technical writing skills, I’ve been writing stories and novels in a number of different genres over the years.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

How much space do I have? I’ve got a number of different influences for a number of different reasons. As far as fantasy goes, Robert E. Howard is a must. I spent most of my childhood reading his Conan the Barbarian stories, and it shows in my writing. Hideyuki Kikuchi, the author of the Vampire Hunter D series, is another big influence as far as this type of writing goes.

But, two other names that seem to be with me whenever I write are Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy. They teach me something new every time I read them, though usually that lesson is humility.
Other than that, I’ve always enjoyed the works of the Literary Brat Pack, Clive Barker, Charles Bukowski, and Stan Sakai.

What was it like working with Author House?

I’ve got to say, when first dealing with a self-publisher, I was a little skeptical. But, the people working at Author House really know their stuff. They helped me every step of the way, no matter how many questions I had about contracts, PR, or anything else. They made the publication Twin Burials a very smooth process.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

That would be Team Tigris from Author House. They really tried to envision what would look best for this novel and came out with a great cover. Dark and simple, much like the novel itself.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

I’m doing everything from dropping promotional business cards at local bookstores to hounding every man, woman, and child that I know to buy the book. Aside from that, I’ve sent out promotional material to any independent bookstore with a webpage or easy access to their address.

I’ve also appeared on the My So Called 8bit Life pod-cast twice, hoping to drum up sales, but mainly to get my name out there.

Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.?

Only about my own inexperience with them. The first time I did the My So Called 8bit Life, I collected as much concrete information on myself as possible. Everything from the number of stories I’d published to the number of poems I’d written in college. I literally had two pages worth of information in front of me before the whole thing began, and, truth be told, I think I talked about Twin Burials for about 15 minutes that initial pod-cast, never once having to look at my notes.

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?

My website,, was originally designed to promote Twin Burials only. Friends had told to put a blog on the site, but I was against it. I’ve never had much to say in the way of blogging. There is a Blog section on the site, but it is mainly an outlet for short stories and poems. It’s updated 5 times a week.

In addition, I can be reached through Facebook and Twitter.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

Currently, I am working on my first e-Book. It is going to be a compilation of stories based in Texas. In them, Texans will have some interesting run-ins with monsters out of Japanese mythology. All proceeds are going to be donated to the Japanese Relief Fund.

Also, I’m finalizing my second novel, Flamingo In a Cage. It’s not Sword & Sorcery, but it is one strange little story. All I have to do is decide whether to find a publisher or use Author House again. Well, that and revise it a few more times. But, more on that as it develops.

Is there anything else about you we should know?

Twin Burials is available in three different formats: paperback, hardcover, and e-Book. All of these versions are available through the major online retailers such as and Barnes and Noble.

Review of "Monarch" by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Tom Clancy with Less Tech and More Romance

Michelle Davidson Argyle's “Monarch” is a spy thriller with an emphasis on human emotions. The main character, Nick, is a Jack Ryan type spy (of all the Jack Ryan films I think Alec Baldwin would be closest to Argyle's protagonist, not Harrison Ford or Ben Affleck). Nick is the kind of spy who is more familiar with pushing papers than toting weapons, but he's well-versed enough in combat to be able to handle himself should the need arise. Good thing too, because the need arises plenty throughout the course of “Monarch.”

The novel begins with Nick contemplating the body of an assassin he's just killed. He notes that the blood stain beneath the body pools out in the shape of a butterfly's wings. This, along with the title, are the first indications that butterflies are to be important and repeating symbols throughout the novel.

What do the butterflies mean? Well, their thematic importance was to build a kind of ominous sense of impending dread. Much of the action in “Monarch” takes place at a small bed and breakfast run by a woman named Lilian who Nick has a past with. Lilian is concerned about the fate of the Monarch butterflies that are one of the main reasons tourists come to visit her establishment. The association of butterflies and extinction/death becomes underscored when wings “that resemble that of a butterfly” start showing up in a repeating tattoo.

I enjoyed the pace and the action of this novel. There are several characters that are interesting and fully developed, and they're all dealing with various traumas of greater and lesser complexity. The spy plot lines and the dysfunctional family plot lines intertwine and collide in an explosive conclusion. I would have liked to spend a bit more time with some of the marginal characters, but then again, sometimes you find characters interesting because of the mystery.

There's plenty of mystery, action, and romance in “Monarch” to keep every reader entertained.

Monarch is available through Rhemalda here.
And through Amazon here.

Shells chats with author John X. Grey

What made you want to be an author of fiction?

After my failure to complete a Master’s degree in history during the 1990s, and a later personal religious salvation experience in April 1997, I gradually got the notion of trying fiction writing as a potential career by 1999. I had been an avid reader of fiction in the fantasy, horror and science-fiction genres, and non fiction academic subjects. I thought fiction writing might be the best possible career where I could become self-employed and use my active imagination for creativity’s sake.

What is your favorite thing to write about?

The basic answer would be whatever ideas come to mind. To elaborate further, I would say the less-than-perfect hero rising a basic evil force’s challenge or some daunting goal with greater (possibly cosmic) significance. And if the hero can be a little cynical or beaten down by life but not destroyed from adversity, I find that more appealing than the knight in shining armor type hero coming out of the muck immaculate and smelling like a rose.

What is your inspiration as an author?

My relationship with Jesus Christ since being saved in 1997 has inspired some of my novels. Various daydreams and nighttime dreams or fragments from those have also formed the basis for some of my shorter works. Also the good old fashioned settings of movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Rocketeer or The Shadow with their strong nostalgic pulp fiction content depicting a simpler if imperfect actual past.

How has your studies in the history field helped with your writing?

What I learned as an aspiring historian has added some background color and setting structure to certain books or stories I’ve written, especially 20th century settings in my Jack Petrov stories and debut novel (A Legacy of Blood) and certain characters from that century (Evelyn Weiss from 1957 in Sister Helena of the Sword - an unpublished novel I intend entering at’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest this year). Another example was reading as a youth about the murderous Countess Elizabeth Bathory of 17th Century Hungary and later using that historical figure as the origin for the vampire in A Legacy of Blood.

Which do you find it harder to write short stories compared to longer works?

The short stories have sometimes proven far easier, especially when I have them clearly thought out to the point they could almost write themselves. On a few rare occasions I wrote stories in a few days, and during last year finished 45 fresh pieces of short fiction. My first novel took from August 1999 - June 2000 as a first draft, but my creative speed improved over time, and now a new rough draft novel can take from one to three months with additional months of revisions. The two novels written for 2010 and 2011's National Novel Writing Month were the briefest obviously at 28 and 26 days out of the 30-day contest period.

Is there a specific character you have written that is your favorite and why?

I would have to say private eye Jack Petrov at present, who came to life as an idea in 2001 when I wanted to create an adventurer in the Indiana Jones mold, but ended up mixing into that some of the hard luck from a Jim Rockford and the slightly-paranoid atmosphere of literary or film noir in creating Gotham, New Jersey as his home base. Jack is the hero almost worn down over time by evil forces, both supernatural and corrupt humanity, arrayed against him, but refuses to give in to the darkness, or at least not entirely, while championing his own sense of justice. A close second place goes to my costumed crime fighter Professor Midnight, inspired by similar pulp fiction or movie serial heroes of the 1920s and 1930s. That psychiatrist-turned-masked adventurer suffers tragedy but leads a more charmed life than the grittier Petrov even with the private detective’s innate inherited knack for hunting down vampires and the supernatural.

What do you find most challenging about being an author?

Finding an audience for my fiction, lacking reservoirs of self-confidence needed to be skilled as a shameless self-promoter. I get so little feedback from any readers complementing one of my two self-published novels or mentioning a story from some anthology I appear in. I began a website and blog in December 2010 and self-published two of my books last year, along with joining writing message boards and other similar web sites toward greater self-promotion. Unfortunately I cannot tell yet if these efforts are working or do not know what else I can try toward that end at present.

In your experience, how do you view the current writing world out there?

From my limited pessimistic vantage point, things look bleak, but then I’ve almost always been a glass half-empty person. Some bookstores that once sold the printed word are disappearing like relics, while online book sellers take their place even if I cannot tell whether those distribution channels are helpful to my career so far. I also see the increasing popularity of the e-book reader pads (Kindle, Nook, etc.) and am having my first novels adapted to the Kindle by CreateSpace even now. Personally I still like to hold printed pages between my hands for any reading and hope print never disappears entirely in a few more generations. Based on things I’ve read about the publishing business, mainly through the Internet in recent years, it seems harder for any new talent to break into the traditional writing career paths. I have only received token payments for a few stories in 2011, most of my work appearing in for-the-love story collections that grant some exposure at least, for which I remain grateful. The basically bottom line-minded book business (but all businesses think in those terms) wants the sure thing fiction bestseller from established names, just as with celebrity non-authors in non fiction books. Self-publishing appears to be one way around the career roadblocks, but could also become glutted with many books seeking some attention in the marketplace. I hope my work will stand out more in the future.

What is your ultimate goal as an author?

To become one with sufficient name recognition and a reputation for steady output of good material people will want to read, interweaving some ideas throughout stories that might make readers stop and think while being entertained. If I ever become the best seller, well and good, but I’d settle for a long career as the excellent second or third-tier writer with the small to medium very loyal and strong fan base awaiting the next John X. Grey novel or other project. The only things I imagine to stop me once having achieved that goal are death, disability preventing new work or just running out of good ideas. I would never want to retire.

Can you tell us a bit about your novels Worldjumpers and Legacy of Blood?

Worldjumpers: An amazing Journey to Parallel Worlds begins on a parallel Earth where World War III in 1997 destroyed all life except beneath an experimental force field over the small Ohio town of Hope Valley. The scientist responsible for that miracle, Dr. Thaddeus Woodcock, learns in July 2012 the field will fail by December 21st. His unacknowledged biological grandson, the mutant orphan Alon E. Strange Chance, accidentally activates a previously failed experimental machine, while hiding from tormenting bullies in Woodcock’s basement, that creates wormholes to parallel universes. The scientist sends Alon and six other orphaned mutants from the town’s orphanage as scouts to find another Earth where Hope Valley’s 5,000 survivors can begin again. Losing their connection to home through that machine, Alon learns he possesses an innate power (inherited from the biological father he meets on one parallel Earth) to move himself and anyone near him from one world to another, and the scouts continue journeying to various universes, but find each other Earth unsuitable for different reasons, even though they must locate the right one before Hope Valley’s protection fails. They will discover one paradise-seeming Earth, but also learn that living there requires a spiritual price.

A Legacy of Blood - Jack Petrov: Private Investigator/Vampire Hunter begins with a prologue showing how Jack Petrov learned of his vampire hunting abilities in 1919 Russia while a US Army soldier. Jumping forward to 1925, the story turns to that newly-minted private eye’s first case, after his pardon of crimes he was framed for by superiors in Gotham, New Jersey’s police department and city government. Jack is hired by a retired railroad executive Joshua Sloane to investigate the man’s estranged younger wife Helena after she left him and took their young son with her. Aided by bookseller and his retired mentor Willy Krauss, former police comrade Detective Dennis Dooley and local social worker Annie Mertz, Jack uncovers Hungarian immigrant Helena Sloane is in fact a 331-year-old vampire kidnaping and murdering Gotham inhabitants with aid from her loyal domestic servants to drink and bathe in blood for the sake of perpetual youth. Helena is also an illegitimate granddaughter of infamous 17th Century Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Frustrated at every turn to expose Helena, when corrupt city leaders consider him a traitor for his exoneration sending Gotham cops and politicians to prison instead, and losing Annie as he realizes his attraction toward her to Helena’s hypnotic powers, Jack must pretend joining the vampire’s conspiratorial circle for destroying her.

Is there a specific thing from each of these novels you wish readers to understand?

I guess from Worldjumpers and A Legacy of Blood the idea of continued perseverance in the face of adversity, whether from the unfriendly inhabitants of some parallel Earth or the dark, sinister forces both supernatural and mortal in a fictional small New Jersey city, is presented in both my novels, even though practicing it myself in real life has been difficult sometimes. Worldjumpers also concludes with the literal and metaphorical leap of faith required by Alon Chance to gain a new life in paradise, faith being required pursuing a career I consider my calling from God.

Where can we find these novels?

They are for sale at both CreateSpace and Worldjumpers is now $11.99 (reduced in price from the original $12.99 last month) and A Legacy of Blood $14.99. The Kindle editions for each should be available in a few weeks. I also expect a wider distribution with CreateSpace to other booksellers and including any libraries ordering copies if patrons request those books. They can be found with the keywords "parallel worlds" and "science-fiction" for Worldjumpers and "horror fiction," "vampire hunter" and "vampire noir" for A Legacy of Blood.

Based on your experience with self-publishing, what advice would you give to an author that wanted to take that route?

When all else fails in terms of getting your books to readers, assuming you have the money and time to work with CreateSpace or some other reputable self-publishing company, I say go for it. I regret not trying self-publishing sooner after almost a dozen years of wall-to-wall rejections by large and small publishers and literary agents since 2000 for six different marketed novels. You don’t have to settle for rejection by those gatekeepers in the traditional publishing routes. Just make certain your work is the best possible final draft before any self-publication.

Where can people find out more about you?

I have an author page at ( and my web page with blog from (, the latter site with a revamped blog starting over this year after removing some controversial or self-pitying rants from 2011. Both contain listings of my short and long fiction work, and the Weebly site also has some first chapter excerpts from some of my nine unpublished novels. I also plan to post unpublished short stories for feedback visitors wish to give. Someday I intend publishing those stories in an "orphaned" tales collection. The web site has the label "Anti-Celebrity" to make my pen name John X. Grey more distinctive and mocking America’s celebrity-worshiping culture. I hope at least some visitors to those pages will eventually read and enjoy my work.

Review: Legends Reborn (The Light of Epertase: Book 1)

Old School Fantasy

I just finished reading “Legends Reborn (The Light of Epertase Book One)” on my new Kindle and my three word response to this book is simple: Old School Fantasy. Douglas Brown gives us a straight action story with clear-cut villains and noble heroes. It's a little bit “Conan the Barbarian” a little bit “Game of Thrones” and there's even a touch of “The Road Warrior” for those of you who are looking for a wrinkle in your fantasy.

The hero is an honorable warrior named Rasi who is pushed nearly to the brink of insanity by the horrors that befall him. On some of the youtube interviews I've seen with Brown, he seems almost gleeful about the amount of torment to which he subjects his hero.

Rasi is a pretty straight-laced hero and for those of you who are looking for a highly moral protagonist, this is the book for you. As an example, Rasi is the type of character who feels guilty about stealing a horse, even when he's in desperate pursuit of an abducted princess (who he also happens to be romantically involved with).

Early in the book, Rasi is bonded with several self-aware tentacles (he refers to them as “straps”) that make him resemble Dr. Octopus. I was actually left curious as to what these tentacles are and if there are any more of them in Epertase, but I guess I'll have to wait for those answers in the second volume of Light of Epertase since Rasi is kept too busy to contemplate it in book one.

“Legends Reborn” follows Rasi's fall from revered hero to disfigured outlaw, while an invasion from a hostile, technological society allows him a shot at redemption. I also enjoyed the world building of Epertase, especially the “Lowlands” society that is based on a kind of “Brave New World” mind control.

The pace is set firmly at breakneck speed throughout the novel, so much though that at times I would have liked Brown to slow things down and give a few more details. However, I came to appreciate the “cushion” distance the author gives us from the action, since some of the events are so traumatic that they wouldn't be at all enjoyable if seen from a front row seat. Perhaps you could compare the narrative style to something like “The Call of the Wild,” although “Legends Reborn” is a bit more complex.

“Legends Reborn” is a tough novel from a new author that knows classic, barbarian style fantasy. You'll be intrigued by what's included and left yearning for more!

Pick it up here: