A Review of Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight"

I remember watching “Pulp Fiction” on the day it was released. I was in the middle of a road trip out to California and I stopped in a little town somewhere in North Dakota and decided to spend the night just so I could see Tarantino’s latest film. I’d spent my last year of high school forcing all my friends to watch “Reservoir Dogs,” a film I’d discovered on DVD and I was the first in line to see “True Romance” as well. Tarantino was the shit, and I couldn’t figure out why more people hadn’t figured that out yet.

“Pulp Fiction,” unlike “Force Awakens” for example, had me leaving the theater with a spring in my step. That was greatness...perhaps even better due to the fact that nobody else seemed to recognize how great it was. Of course, “Pulp Fiction” would go on to become a phenomenon. The point of all this is that I’ve been a fan of Tarantino for a long time.

So what do I make of “The Hateful Eight?”

Well, I don’t know if I’m getting older, or if the schtick is just worn out, but I kind of wish Tarantino would revisit the tone he used in “Jackie Brown” rather than give us this. My feelings for “Eight” aren’t disappointment exactly, but I’m probably not going to watch this movie again (as was the case with “Django”...I don’t feel drawn to these stories).


Well, they’re kind of nasty. There’s a moment in “Eight” where the always tremendous Samuel L. Jackson baits a confederate general into a gunfight with a story that involves the rape of the general’s son. Yes, I realize this is the type of thing that went on in this historical period...but that doesn’t mean I want to see it dramatized. Add in the fact that this scene isn’t an outlier, but easily fits in with the overall tone of the film and you see what I’m talking about.

How is this different from “Inglorious Basterds?” To crank it back a notch, I think that might be (as Lieutenant Aldo Raine says) Tarantino’s “finest work.” Yes, “Basterds” was brutal, but it was cathartic. Honest to God, I felt a whole lot better about WWII after seeing that because, damn it, that’s the end that Hitler deserved! The whole concept of the film was a risk, but I think the world needed that film to exist. It’s a contribution to our collective mental health as a species.

“Hateful Eight” is just as violent, but there’s no release. The same can be said about “Django.” Slavery, misogyny and race relations seem to be Tarantino’s latest thematic interest, but he’s not “solving” the wrongs of these human travesties as much as he is reveling in them. I, for one, don’t walk away as happy.

All that being said, this is a film that deserves a viewing. There is some really top notch writing, although Tarantino’s quirkiness would have been served by getting reeled in from time to time. Perhaps the guy has gotten too big for his breeches, but if there’s one thing the Prequels taught us it’s that no artist ever outgrows the need for an editor.

It’s great to see Kurt Russell in another Tarantino flick, I hope he continues to get leads before QT finishes up his “10 movies” (put me in the camp that says QT is not going to quit after 10). Samuel L. Jackson is magnificent. He deserved an Academy Award for “Jackie Brown”...probably for “Django” too. But it’s Jennifer Jason Leigh who really steals the show, particularly in the last 15 minutes.

I think Tarantino’s importance has peaked and his movies are trending to the “also ran” status. He might soon find himself once again in the category of directors who produce works of unrecognized quality...which might not be a bad thing. From the get go, Tarantino has always been a filmmaker who takes chances at the risk of looking like a total jerk. You always have to admire that fearlessness. “Hateful Eight” achieves what it aspires to, my complaint is that I’d like to see Tarantino aspire to something better.

JJ Abrams Turned Han, Luke and Leia into Losers

Ahhh, Luke, Han and Leia, our childhood heroes. When we last saw them, they were in a moment of great triumph. Against all odds, they’d just destroyed the galactic empire. In one fell swoop, they proved their innermost personal philosophy to be right and true. At the same time, their victory justified us, because we had cast our lot with them. From that moment forward, we’d use the lessons they'd taught us to guide our own development. It’s for this reason, that many of us were so excited to see Episode VII. What was next for our great heroes? What further accolades had they won in the intervening time? Surely the championship trophies they’d accrued in the last thirty years were sufficient to require several industrial sized buildings to display them all!

Er....well, not according to JJ Abrams. According to him, our heroes are and always have been MAJOR LOSERS!

So what happened after all the heavy lifting got done in “Return of the Jedi”? The Emperor was dead and our heroes had the universe presented to them on a silver platter, ready to be molded into a new and better society. Did they succeed?

Nope, they totally blew it.

Turns out, Han Solo is such a terrible father that his kid becomes basically the worst person in the whole galaxy. He’s running around slaughtering villagers with a poorly constructed lightsaber (our venerable triumvirate couldn’t even teach the kid to make a lightsaber).

Luke Skywalker is such a bad Jedi teacher that he scurried off like a coward to live in hiding for 30 years. His one student? Yeah...the same kid who is slaughtering villagers. But you know, that’s a good lesson Luke, if you make one mistake don’t try to fix it, just run off and live on an island for 30 years and cry into a corner while another empire takes over. Wow...what a grand hero.

Also, Leia and Han can’t get along and they’re both too stubborn to make it work. So much for the power of love folks, divorce is a totally acceptable alternative, even if it means your kid turns into a homicidal maniac who slaughters innocent villagers with a lightsaber that he didn’t put together correctly. As long as YOU have free time to hot rod around the galaxy or be a general in a terrorist group, who gives a crap about the emotional problems of your kid? If I wanted to see all this, I would have just stayed at home.

Look, I realize that it’s not “marketable” to have 60 year old actors as the leads in major films. I also realize that some of those actors have been pushing to have their characters killed off for decades. But how about having a little respect for the source material? I mean, when did the greatest freedom fighters in the universe turn into a bunch of incompetent, selfish wimps? Did it happen just about the time JJ Abrams took over? Ahhh...I see.

The way I remember it, Han Solo was THE MAN. It’s kind of pathetic to see him hot rodding around in his old age. Look, he can still be THE MAN and have EVOLVED.


In real life, Jack Nicholson was a bad ass at 30 and he was a bad ass at 60, but he wasn’t the SAME kind of bad ass! That’s where the creativity comes in. You can’t use 60 year old Harrison Ford to play 30 year old Han Solo. In the first meeting somebody should have said, “so is Han Solo still a cocky rogue?” Everybody goes, “YEAH!” Then they think about it for two seconds and say...but wait, wouldn’t it be even MORE bad ass if he was in charge of like six planets and spent all his time talking about all his great exploits like a TOTAL BOSS? That guy should walk into a room and people should pee their pants because they all know this motherfu#$er shoots first!

And you know what, why not have him still be with Leia? That would have been the daring choice, yeah, those two are still together. They’re still the people they were in the trilogy, but they’ve grown, they’ve become BETTER! That’s good writing, that’s good storytelling. Why not do that?

Also, I don’t understand why you spend 5 billion to buy the rights to certain characters and then kill them. That’s just knee-jerk cheap lazy storytelling designed for temporary impact instead of longevity.

Way to go JJ Abrams. You should have just had Luke, Han and Leia wake up after the 2nd death star blew up only to find out it was all a dream and that they were just three drunk losers sitting around on a bar on Tatooine, every now and then Luke and Han get into a fist fight over Leia as Chewbacca buys her shots and slips her out the back. Then they wait for their next support check from the empire so they can feast on Domino’s pizza. That’d make a great merchandising tie-in by the way.

Ya blew it...people are going to start figuring that out when they get over the special effects (which are pretty cool I have to admit...too bad the story needs to be trash compacted, and where the hell is Lando?).

Force Awakens Is Mediocre (Spoiler Free Review)

On the way to the release of "Force Awakens" a friend of mine said he'd heard talk that this was the best Star Wars ever. I couldn't help but pump the breaks. If there's one thing that life has taught me, it's that it's best to temper expectations. That way you're protected if the film is garbage, and pleasantly surprised if it isn't. "The Force Awakens" is not garbage, not by a long way, but it is also most definitively not the "best Star Wars movie ever."

It's a little bit difficult to give Star Wars films a fair shake immediately after seeing them. After all, "A New Hope" came out in 1977, which is basically as long as I've been alive. When I watch that, I can't help but remember playing with the plastic figurines in my back yard; going to see the film on various occasions with friends; having some idiot ruin the twist of "Empire" and make me hate spoilers to this day. For many of us, there is a lifetime of nostalgia associated with Star Wars, a new film feels kind of like celebrating Christmas with dad and his new wife.

That being said, my first thought after watching "Force Awakes" was that the prequels didn't seem so bad anymore. I realize there have been a lot of "click bait" articles defending the prequels lately (I've dismissed those), the feeling I got at the end of VII was curiosity as to what Lucas would have done with the source material. I never thought I'd be wondering that.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot that VII does right. Daisy Ridley is as perfect as can be for this film, as is Oscar Isaac and John Boyega. The casting for the new characters was spot on...which is a relief. 

The actual interactions of characters is a lot more natural than what we saw in the prequels. The dialogue is better, although I think they swing into "joke mode" a little too frequently. The prequels missed comic relief completely, this one gives us maybe 20% too much.

Let it be said that doing a legacy type film is always a challenge. The characters everybody loves present themselves and then turn over the baton to a younger group. This is one of the places where film is limited in a way novels are not. In the novels, a character can live for a thousand years and never age a day. In a film, actors show their years.

In terms of modern film making, JJ Abrams is much more on the cutting edge than Lucas is. However, there's a certain gravitas that Lucas managed to hit from time to time which elevated the franchise which seems beyond Abrams. Obviously things like Ewoks and Jar-Jar were misses, but Alec Guinness, for example, always spouted his lines with the dignity and poise of absolute belief. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if maybe Alec Guinness is almost single-handedly responsible for the success of the whole franchise. Much as Sean Connery showed us what James Bond acts like, Guinness showed us what a Jedi is, and all other actors aspire to his example. Even Max von Sydow's presence in VII can't evoke the grandeur of Guinness.

What does all this mean? Well, it means the dog fight scenes in VII are more spectacular, but you care less; the camera moves more frequently, but your imagination is limited; everything is bigger and better, yet smaller all at the same time. When it comes right down to it, there are some issues with the script...again. I think Abrams and company locked themselves in to some "end game" ideas early on, and they stuck with them even though they couldn't come up with reasonable motivations to get their characters where they wanted them to go. It's a shame too, because the film is beautiful.

I remember leaving "The Phantom Menace" completely shell shocked and semi-angry. I wasn't that angry for this one, but I wasn't thrilled or elevated either. There are a couple very solid high points in this movie though. I am curious to take my 5 year old daughter and see what she thinks. Honestly, I believe her impression will be a more accurate indicator of VII's quality than mine.

I think I'll revisit this in a month or so. It's entirely possible that my opinion will change. Again, I don't think it's a bad film, but there are impossibly high hopes floating about and it would greatly serve viewers to temper their expectations.

Review of "Hell Bound" by Andrew P. Weston

The Grim Reaper Has Got His Problems Too

What a fun idea for a protagonist! The Grim Reaper! Apart from Darth Vader, there’s probably not a more foreboding character in all of literature (and Darth Vader is really just the Grim Reaper with his face painted black). In “Hell Bound,” Satan has tasked Grim with hunting down Thomas Neill Cream known to infamy as the Lambeth Poisoner (there’s also speculation that he might have been Jack the Ripper). It turns out that Cream is just as much a problem in Hell as he was on Earth as this book finds him in league with Nikola Tesla to finagle an escape from eternal torment.

Never fear as Daemon Grim is on the case, tracking down Cream and his accomplices in a novel that is part detective story, part noir, and part tour of Hell. The Hell in question obeys the rules of Janet Morris’s “Hell” series (if you are unfamiliar with the series it’s a must read). For those of you unfamiliar, Morris’s Hell is a shared world built more or less on the framework of Dante’s Inferno featuring the famous names of history. If you think it sounds like a downer, you’re mistaken. The purpose of this series isn’t to give you a lecture on morality, but rather form the framework for a series of discussions on torment, the legacy of historical figures, and...really awesome medieval (dare I say “Biblical”?) battles. There’s even a fair bit of humor thrown in for good measure.

It’s fun spending some time with the Grim Reaper as we get a first person account of his life and daily routine. His memories extend back only to his existence as Satan’s reaper, but occasionally he does have some interesting flashbacks to a time before that when he was something else? Maybe an angel? Grim doesn’t know, and he doesn’t particularly care as he’s grown accustomed to his lot. He’s got a job to perform, and the outcome is as certain as taxes (among other things).

It occurred to me once or twice throughout the novel that perhaps Grim is a little too likeable considering what he is. I think those are glimpses of Andrew Paul Weston’s personality shining through. However, a focused meditation on death would be something of a downer and this book is all about entertainment. Grim comes across as a pretty regular guy, despite the fact that he’ll sometimes depart a whole room of innocent bystanders because they happened to overhear a phone conversation. This kind of thing happens in Hell, and you can assume that those suffering that treatment have it coming.

If you’re a fan of history, Biblical artifacts, and mythology, this is a book you’re going to have a lot of fun with. Educated people are going to delight in seeing lesser known figures, items, and places referenced front and center for a change. This is a good book to read with some research material at hand. More than once I paused my reading to look up a name only to delight in an hour or two of discovery. I met some folks that were new, and learned a little more about things I was always aware of. In the end, however, I returned to Grim as his story is magnetic. Also, this is the type of character that comes after you if you leave a task undone.

Heroika Goodreads Giveaway! Click Here!

Enter to win a paperback of Dragon Eaters, and learn the art of dragon killing.

Dragons have been eating humans for centuries. Now you can join the heroes throughout history stalking their legendary foe. A literary feast for the bloody-minded.

In Janet Morris' anthology on the art of dragon killing, seventeen writers bring you so close to dragons you can smell their fetid breath. Tales for the bold among you.

HEROIKA 1: DRAGON EATERS, an anthology of heroic fiction featuring original stories by Janet E. Morris, Chris Morris, S.E. Lindberg, Walter Rhein, Cas Peace, Jack William Finley, A.L. Butcher, Travis Ludvigson, Tom Barczak, J.P. Wilder, Joe Bonadonna, Milton Davis, M. Harold Page, William Hiles, Beth W. Patterson, Bruce Durham, Mark Finn.

Blackgate eZine raves that Dragon Eaters is "a terrific set of stories".

About the editor: Best selling author Janet E. Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris.

To enter the giveaway, click the button above this post!

Fantasy Short Film Review: "Cassandra"

Teaser - Cassandra from Guy-Roger Duvert on Vimeo.

Today I was fortunate enough to receive a request from Guy-Roger Duvert to review his short fantasy film "Cassandra." I was waiting for my kids to get dressed so we could go out for dinner, so I had a bit of time and I thought "why not?" 

So I asked for the link, and sat back to watch the 14 minute film. It only took about 30 seconds for me to decide that I want to see a feature film made by this guy, and at the end of the preview, I was conniving to get him to adapt my novel "The Reader of Acheron" to a feature film (seriously, you're the man for the job, and "Reader" could be filmed inexpensively--it's post-apocalyptic!).

Guy-Roger Duvert has some serious talent. Just check out how fantastic this knight looks:
Or check out this establishing shot of a distant village:
I sat up when I saw that one. I admit that I wasn't expecting to see such quality. I assume this was made on a small budget, but those two shots rival any similar scene in major Hollywood releases that were made for hundreds of millions of dollars.

At around 14 minutes, the film doesn't have a lot of time to establish a convoluted plot, but you see plenty to learn Duvert is a capable filmmaker. The acting is solid, the fights are solid, the costumes are great, and the art direction is absolutely fantastic.

The plot revolves around two thieves who get in a little over their heads and have the opportunity to show what they're made of. We meet the titular Cassandra when she's having a bit of an existential crisis, but let's just say that by the end of the film, it's fair to say Cassandra has found whatever iron she thought she might be missing.

If you're a fan of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, or Black Angel--Cassandra is a short film you have to check out. You can go have a look at it for $5 at IndieGogo here. Is $5 too much? Not if it gets a filmmaker like this to make a feature length movie. Reference the teaser up above, and if you decide to watch the film, please leave your comments below. 

As far as I'm concerned, we need more movies like this! Check out the Cassandra Facebook page here.

Hail the Dragon Eaters!

The dragon eaters have come!

It has been fun to watch Heroika perform on Amazon since its release a few weeks ago. I've worked with Janet Morris on several projects over the years, but this is the first time I've participated in one of her anthologies. It's great fun to watch the interviews and articles written about the book get promoted by the other authors in anthology. It's also fun to watch the positive reviews trickle in.

I'm pretty familiar with the works of most of the authors in this book. Quite a lot of them hang around on the Heroic Fantasy Facebook group, so check that out and say hello. We've even had a few writers stop by and inquire about joining forces with us. The best way to go about doing something like that is to pick up a copy of Heroika and write a review. We do read the reviews, and believe me a review is read with much greater attention than a query letter (that's just human nature--take advantage of it whenever you can).

If you're curious about Heroika, here are a couple interviews I've done recently about it:

Do check out a copy of Heroika, it's great fun and if you're a fan of dragons this is a must have addition to your personal library.

Why All the Hate for Jupiter Ascending?

Ok, before I get going let me just state that by no means is "Jupiter Ascending" a good movie. It's not. It's pretty terrible actually. However, I don't think it's any more terrible than any other big budget film I've seen recently. 

I got a chance to watch Jupiter Ascending recently at the ultra discount bargain theater. I figured, "what the heck, it's worth a buck." It was easy to convince my wife to go and see it because it had Channing Tatum in it. I was willing to go because it had Mila Kunis (she looks like a real life version of a Margaret Keane painting). If there would be a couple cool space shots and some things getting blown up that would just be a bonus.

Most of the reviews I read said that the film becomes unwatchable at about the 1 minute mark. Prepared for that, I was pleasantly surprised to find a little bit of back story and character development. Again, nothing great, but it wasn't incompetently done. Even the first few space battles struck me as entertaining.

The big mistake the film makes is the costume design for Channing Tatum. He looks absolutely ridiculous. Honestly, if you'd swapped out Channing Tatum's dopey half-dog/whatever character for something like Boba Fett, science fiction fans would NEVER stop raving about this film. But we're stuck with essentially Mog from Spaceballs and that sinks the whole ship.
It's a pity too because there's some good stuff in "Jupiter Ascending." The idea that the life on earth is going to be "harvested" by an interstellar aristocracy that has lived for millennia is compelling. There's a throw-away line where they say the Earth had to be prepared by creating an extinction level event which cleared the way for human settlement. Little tie-ins to reality like that help strengthen the illusion. There's a similar line in "The Matrix" (also directed by the Wachowski siblings [formerly brothers]) where a character points out that maybe "everything tastes like chicken" because the computer doesn't know how things were supposed to taste. Moments like that make you pause and say "whoa," which is good.

But people just hated "Jupiter Ascending." What boggles my mind is how audiences felt it was so much worse than say "The Avengers" (which I thought was super mediocre). Sitting here now and writing this, I'm similarly disinclined to watch "Jupiter Ascending" again as I am to undertake a repeat viewing of Tony Stark and company. I thought "Battleship" (equally panned) was better than both of them. Basically all you have to do to enjoy "Jupiter" is get over how stupid Tatum looks...oh and wait for Sean Bean, Sean Bean makes anything watchable.

It concerns me that I'm totally missing whatever it is about this film that critics found so contemptible. Some reviews said that "the script made no sense," but that's hardly news. Almost no films have good scripts. The only way you're watching a film with a good script is if the director and producer is also the writer and it's an independent film with no studio involvement. The Coen brothers almost always have good scripts. David Mamet generally writes good scripts, super hero movies usually don't have good scripts (Spider Man II was good, mainly due to Michael Chabon's involvement). If the script for "The Avengers" was a 75, the script for "Jupiter Ascending" was a 73. Why is one praised and the other smashed (is it really just because Tatum looked so stupid...could that be it?).

Anyway, "Jupiter Ascending" is one of those films you should give a chance when you're half drunk on a Thursday evening and stuck channel surfing. You've heard it's terrible, but if you feel like having some background noise while you send text messages, you could do worse. You might even find yourself offering 61% of your attention to the film. Yeah, it's pretty terrible, but it's no less terrible than any of the other films and TV shows that make billions of dollars.

"Jupiter Ascending: Channing Tatum's Life as a Dog"--The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced Tatum's poor costume is the downfall. 

Alexandra Butcher releases "Tales of Erana: Volume I"

Here's another little book that you all need to go out and pick up. A. L. Butcher's "Tales of Erana: Volume 1." At 108 pages, it's a slim volume, but it's filled with quality work that's going to leave you wanting more. Here's the back cover copy:

Erana is a world of magic, and although forbidden the magic persists for magic is wild and will not yield to law. It is a world ruled by oppression but hope walks in shadow, ever watching for a chance to flourish. It is a world where there is love and despair in equal measure. These are the tales and myths from such a world. A collection of short fantasy tales set in the mythical world of Erana. *All previously published elsewhere this is the first time the stories can be found together.

Check out my review, and get your own copy on Amazon, here.

Announcing the Release of "The Doom of Undal" by Katrina Sisowath

5 Prince Publishing has just announced the release of "The Doom of Undal" by Katrina Sisowath, book two in the "Dragon Court" book series. I found this to be a pretty compelling book, but it's rich and detailed enough that I'd recommend readers begin with Book 1.

Here's the back cover copy:

The Dragon Court has ruled Tiamut uncontested for millennia, bringing knowledge and prosperity to all. 

Yet all is not as it seems---far to the West in the land of Undal, mightiest of the nations, the Royal Queen and her children are struck with a mysterious illness and perish. Was the Dragon Court responsible? Or had the Queen had been experimenting with dark magic? 

Her grieving son, trained in the dark arts by the goddess Eris herself, swears vengeance. When he defies the Dragon Court and they rescind their blessing on his royal house, he must turn to his mother's experiments and ancient blood rituals to achieve his aims. In his quest for truth he will become the greatest threat Tiamut has ever known. 

With details pulled directly from Plato (yes, THAT Plato), The Emerald Tablets of Thoth, Sumerian and Egyptian mythology, The Doom of Undal tells the story of the Fall of Atlantis.

Check out my 5 star review (and pick up your copy) on Amazon here.

"Heroika: Dragon Eaters" Now available for Pre-order!

Hey Folks, 
This is the beautiful cover for the latest short story compilation edited by Janet Morris. The theme is dragons which, let's face it, is awesome. This volume includes the work of some tremendous authors (yes, I'm included...should I spend four or five pages discussing how great I am?  Just read this).

The book will be released on May 25th, but you can pre-order your Kindle copy now by clicking here. Please grab it right away, you won't be sorry! This is a great way to support authors you already love, and get to know some new writers you'll be excited to get to know better! Thanks for the support! Now go get some dragons!

Words With Nicholas Conley, Author of "The Cage Legacy"

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a writer who has been writing since I could hold a pencil, although I now vastly prefer a keyboard. My identity as a storyteller forms the core of everything I do, and everything I am. Because I’m a storyteller, I love traveling to new places, learning new things and meeting new people. There are always new insights to be gained from the world, and I greet every idea with an open mind.

My first novel, The Cage Legacy, was published back in 2012. My second novel, which is science fiction, will be released this year.

Tell us about your books

Well, I have a new book coming out this year from Red Adept Publishing. As followers of my blog will tell you, I’ve been dropping hints about it for a long time now! At the moment, what I will say—without spoiling too much—is that the book deals heavily with issues of cognition and perception. Alzheimer’s disease, in particular, is at the heart of the story in a big way.

My first novel, The Cage Legacy, is a psychological thriller about a young boy named Ethan Cage, who shares a close bond with his father, until he discovers that this same adored parent moonlights as a brutal, sadistic serial killer. Years later, Ethan is now a tortured teenager, and he now has to deal with the repercussions of his father’s actions—and the looming question of what he will become.

Do you think fantasy still has lessons to teach us about who we are and the human condition?

Absolutely. Though I do love literary novels, I’ve always felt most at home in genre fiction: sci-fi, horror, fantasy, slipstream, and so on. Though genre fiction is sometimes casually dismissed as escapism, I truly believe that good genre fiction uses cloaks, mirrors and larger than life figures in order to force us to look deeper at issues in the real world, in ourselves, and in others.

Through its use of symbols and allegories, genre fiction gives the reader a lens that allows them to process important ideas on a more subconscious level. Sure, the dragons and aliens are thrilling…but it’s what those dragons/aliens say about us that’s really fascinating, at least to me.

Tell us your views on authors using violence and/or sex in their writing?

It completely depends on the book. Violence and sexuality are important weapons in a storyteller’s arsenal, if used correctly, but it’s extremely important not to inundate the reader to the point where he/she becomes desensitized—unless, of course, desensitization is the point. So, it varies.

See, that’s the key to it: there needs to be a point, whatever that point might be.

I’ll openly admit that I’ve written some intensely violent scenes in my work, but these sequences always serve a deeper narrative purpose. I do strongly believe that violence shouldn’t be glorified; if one is going to show evil, then make it evil. Violence, when used effectively, accomplishes that goal. The reason that the color red has such an impact on us is because blood is red, and blood is life. If a writer is going to spill blood, it should mean something. It should hurt.

Do you use ‘anti-heroes’ in your books?

One could say that, I suppose. Not necessarily in the most common way that the term anti-hero is used, but I could see it.

I’ll say it like this: my protagonists tend to be idealists, at their core. But at the same time, these same characters also tend to be tortured souls, pinned to a wall by poisoned arrows and suspended over the edge of a volcanic chasm. Most of my characters are inherently good people who are struggling to find their way through their own sharp, painful lives—and as a result, they don’t always make the right decisions. It’s not easy to be good, and it’s even harder to be an idealist; that’s the struggle that many of my characters have to go through.

If there’s one theme that repeatedly surfaces in my work, it’s the concept of a light in the darkness. The notion that hope exists somewhere in the shadows, just out of reach, but potentially accessible if one keeps looking for it.

How much research do you do for your books? What sources do you prefer?

I research exhaustively. Long, long nights, filled with lots of coffee. The first notions of a potential book occur to me quite some time before it’s ready to be written, so by the time I do start writing I’ll usually have researched the subject matter for years beforehand. I’ll take out books from the library, make phone calls, ask questions to people in the field, read magazine articles…anything that gets me the information I need.

My upcoming second novel is probably the most heavily-researched novel I’ve ever written. In addition to drawing upon my years of healthcare experience, I poured through an absolutely gargantuan pile of reading material.

What was the last book you read and what did you think of it?

I’m currently a third of the way into Darin Bradley’s Chimpanzee, a dystopian science fiction novel. It’s an absorbing read, and remarkably clever.

Can you remember the first fantasy book you ever read?

Okay, it’s hard to say, but I’d bet that it was The Phantom Tollbooth. After that, it was probably either The Sword in the Stone or The Magician’s Nephew.

Thanks for stopping by Nicholas!

Reader of Acheron Sequel Teaser

Notes for the Sequel to "The Reader Of Acheron"
"The Reader of Acheron" was released in January of 2014 by Perseid Press. It currently has 63 reviews at Amazon and I've seen it have nice little sales spikes lately (not "The IX" type sales spikes, but few books achieve those). I'm happy with this book and have been planning at least two more in the series since I wrote it. The first sequel is titled "The Literate Thief," and this article is a teaser as to how progress is going.

Originally I intended to have a sequel to "Reader" ready for January 2015 publication. However, Perseid has another book of mine in the queue, a travel memoir about Peru (and semi-sequel to Beyond Birkie Fever) that pushed the Reader sequel back a bit. I'm glad to say that I've been working exclusively on "Literate Thief" since December and making good progress. However, this book has proven to be more complicated than I anticipated.

Above is a little diagram I did just to straighten out some timelines and plot elements. I don't think I actually followed the conclusions I reached in that diagram, but it was helpful to initiate progress. Note that I did the diagram on old dot-matrix computer paper--the kind that had holes punched in the side so the printer could feed it through.

I just finished up writing the first version of the final chapter of "The Literate Thief". How close that chapter will be to the finished project is something yet to be seen. Now, having written the final chapter doesn't mean that I've completed my draft. I've known how the book is going to end for a long time...but getting there is often something of a problem.

Generally, I conceive of several interesting scenes with unique characters and write those, then the book becomes an exercise in figuring out plausible ways to get those characters into those scenarios. I've heard this isn't a common way to construct a novel, but I like it. If I just go where the book takes me they end up looking nothing like what I conceived when I started writing (and I usually leave the project in frustration). A little order is necessary, although some room for spontaneity is what gives the book life.

As it currently stands I still have a couple problems to solve (getting people where I need them to be without violating their essential character or disrupting the existing timeline...all while being coherent and interesting), but I'm confident I can get to the end. I don't think it would be unreasonable to expect I could have the first draft done at the end of this month (I'm currently at 47,000 words, so I need about 20,000 more).

Once I get the book to Perseid, there will be about a month of their editing, followed by me evaluating and addressing their concerns (it will add about 5000 words I think...unless I start deleting chapters which I have been known to do). Then it will be off to line editing and publication prep. So...maybe 4 months minimum yet?  Could be faster, we'll see.

In the meantime, there are a lot of great releases coming up from Perseid including a collection of short stories featuring one of mine. Also, that Peru memoir should be available soon and I think you'll find that interesting (I'm looking to have a group of reviewers ready to go for that, so if you're interested in that write me at: walterrhein@gmail.com). Please, if you've read The Reader of Acheron, take a moment to write a review on Amazon. That is a huge help. Send me a link to the Amazon review and I'll put you on my "reviewer" list and you'll get a review copy of the next one for free! Also, grab a review copy of The Bone Sword...I'm hoping to do a sequel to that one before the end of the year as well.

Thanks folks!  More announcements to come!

Words with Andrew P. Weston, Author of "The IX"

Your recent release with Perseid press, “The IX” has become an international bestseller on several Amazon genre lists. It’s also topping lists on Goodreads. Can you give readers a little background on “The IX” and who it would appeal to?

Certainly, I undertook the writing of The IX following an animated discussion during a Royal Marines veterans reunion dinner in the early part of 2013. Military history has always been a hobby of mine, and several ex-colleagues started a debate as to the true fate of the legendary lost 9th Legion of Rome. Five thousand men marched into the mists of Northern Caledonia (Scotland) around AD100 – 120 and were never seen again.

That conversation stayed with me for several months until I happened to catch an old movie on TV, Millennium. In that film, time travelers visit the present day and steal passengers from doomed aircraft with the intention of repopulating a barren world of the future.

I am an avid science fiction buff, and the conversation from the reunion dinner immediately sprang to mind. Obviously, I began to imagine what if?

What if they were taken? Not into our future...but somewhere and somewhen else entirely. And what might it be like if their antagonists were also snatched away with them?

I started to let that though roll, and came up with a nice twist. Would it be a good idea to include other groups of refugees from varying time periods, and throw them together into a nightmare scenario where they had to face the very real prospect of death all over again?

It took a great deal of research and preparation, but I was very pleased with the resulting outline, as it provided a fresh approach to an exciting genre.

Those who like their science fiction fast paced and gritty, and full of realistic action and dark humor in the face of overwhelming odds will love the IX. In particular, I think fans of Julian May’s “Saga of the Pliocene Exiles,” Robert Heinlein’s “Have Space Suit, Will Travel”, and Jerry Pournelle's “Janissaries Series” will really relate to the message it portrays. It combines the divergent elements of the past, present, and future, and blends them together into a slick and stylish package that will leave you breathless and hungry for more.

How long have you been working on this book?

After I devised the idea, I did quite a bit of research. Three months worth. Then I started to write. As I’m still a part time novelist, that took about five months. But it was one of the best five months of my life.

Perseid press is owned and operated by Chris and Janet Morris, the authors of the Tempus Thales and Sacred Band novels. What was it like working with them? Specifically, what was the experience of the editing process like?

Fantastic. It’s clear they have an extensive knowledge of the business and a great many professional contacts. Receiving the benefit of such a pedigree has helped my work immensely and encouraged me to excel.

This was particularly reflected during the editing process, where many layers came together to play their part in cutting and refining and polishing the rough diamond we started with, and transforming it into a pristine gem of an end product. It truly is priceless, and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out

I notice that you are a regular contributor to Amazing Stories Magazine. What kind of work do you do for them?

I submit monthly astronomy and physics related educational articles, and snippets regarding some of the latest scientific breakthroughs reaching the news.

I notice you have nine novels available on your Amazon author page. Can you give us some background on these? Which has sold the best? Which is your favorite? Who the various publishers are?

The Guardians Saga is a science fiction series devised over my many years of service in the military and police force. Basically, it deals with what might happen if it were ever to become public knowledge that beings with extraordinary powers and technological sophistication were looking out for us from behind the scenes. Human society can be extremely fickle. While many people would love the idea that ‘Guardian Angels’ are watching over us, others would merely perceive them to be a threat, and go out of their way to be as obstructive as possible.

The Cambion Journals Series follows the life and struggles of Augustus Thorne, a demon-human hybrid, cursed with a hunger he can barely control. He hates what he is with a passion, and goes out of his way to use his extraordinary powers to hunt down and exterminate any Incubi or Succubae he can find. Along the way, he has to struggle with the loneliness his lifestyle imposes on him, and of course, with the ever increasing efforts of the demon council to end his unholy crusade.

Let’s just say, the results are as explosive and as bittersweet as they are action-packed.

Both series are produced through Pagan Writers Press – as are a number of other short stories and anthologies – and they are the first publishers who recognized my talent, and the promise I showed as an aspiring writer. I’m very grateful to them, as they encouraged me to experiment with aspects I wouldn’t normally even look at, in an effort to improve my depth and range as a writer.

Finally, we come to Perseid Press, and The IX. I’m obviously continuing to apply myself to my craft, as the IX has outsold everything else I’ve ever produced by far, and has become an international bestseller. Needless to say, I am extremely pleased about this, and am keen to make writing my fulltime vocation. In fact, it’s an obsession of mine now, as I feel that’s the only way I can go, to ensure I devote the necessary time and energy to my work as it deserves.

Any hints as to a follow up novel to “The IX”?

No hints as yet...But watch this space :)

Thanks for dropping by Andrew!

Words with M.S. Olney, Author of "Heir to the Sundered Crown"

Can you tell us a little bit about Heir to the Sundered Crown?

The Heir to the Sundered Crown is the first part in what I hope will become an epic series. Last year it won Wattpad's Write Awards 2014 and in the first two months of release it became a top ten bestseller in the USA, UK and Australia. 

The Kingdom of Delfinnia is in chaos. After assassins kill the king and his family, greedy self serving men battle one another for the crown. Unknown to them is that one heir yet lives, a baby boy now hidden and protected. 

In the mage city of Caldaria is a boy named Luxon. A young mage who will discover his past and his powers. For he will one day become known as the Legendary, the wizard who would break the world, the man who would embrace death and live and the hero who would give a realm its greatest king. 

Sent on a quest to find the one responsible for the King's assassination Luxon teams up with Ferran of the Blackmoor the legendary Nightblade and hunter of fell beasts, Sophia Cunning the land’s greatest witch hunter and Kaiden, a noble knight sworn to defend the world from darkness. 

Together they find the answers they seek, but the truth is far worse than anyone could possibly imagine. 

The Heir to the Sundered Crown is a fantasy tale that will ignite the imagination and set the stage for an epic battle between the light and the darkness.

What's your background with writing? 

I write for fun and for a living. When I am not writing stories I write content for a leading foreign exchange company. Prior to getting a job as a copywriter I got myself a degree in Journalism and am a NCTJ trained journalist.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

I love Tolkien, and Patrick Rothfuss. They were/are master story tellers and one day I would love to become as skilled as those two at storytelling. I also love the works of Bernard Cornwell, the guy is a master at writing battle scenes. 

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

A very talented digital artist called Phil Barnes. I stumbled across his work whilst browsing through deviantart and he was generous to allow me the use of the image that became the book's cover. He has also created the cover for my current work in progress. You can check out his stuff here.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

I have hit the social networks pretty hard and have generated a pretty solid following on Facebook and get some decent traffic for my blog. I also try to interact with as many readers and other writers as possible via Wattpad. When Heir won the Write Awards 2014 I definitely saw a boost in sales. 

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

My blog can be found here. I tend to post updates about my works in progress and offer insights on how I go about planning and creating my stories. I also post previews of works in progress as well as background information on world and character building.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

I am currently working on the sequel to Heir to the Sundered Crown and hope to have it released sometime this year. As well as that I am working on a science fiction trilogy called Terran Defenders and hope to get back to my historical fiction series Unconquered.

Is there anything else about you we should know?

I love to talk to other authors and readers, so feel free to get in touch with me on my blog.

Thanks for dropping by!

Words with Martin Bolton, co-author of "The Best Weapon"

Can you tell us a little bit about "The Best Weapon"

The Best Weapon is the story of two young men, born on the same day on opposite ends of the world and into two vastly different cultures, who are inexorably drawn together by forces outside their control or understanding.

As they come of age and face their own personal trials, they begin to become aware of their true identities. Driven by dark forces, their shared fate draws them on a journey to the center of The World Apparent, where their enemies gather in wait.

As their world slides into war and chaos, they discover there is much more to The World Apparent than meets the eye, and glimpse the other worlds that lie beyond the physical plane. Created and manipulated by demonic forces, they must seize control of their destiny, conquer their fears, vanquish their enemies and prevent the very disaster they are supposed to bring about. But first they must learn that the power to do so lies within...

What's your background with writing?

Before I met David Pilling in roughly 2007 at the Tate Archive (where we both worked), I spent most of my time writing small pieces of nonsense, mainly just for the amusement of my friends. I posted a few surreal and ridiculous blogs on MySpace. When I met David, he encouraged me to try and write a serious short story, so I wrote a nightmarish, gratuitously violent story called The First Day.

It was a bit raw, but he seemed to like it, and we got talking about co-writing a fantasy novel over a few beers. That's when we came up with the idea for The Best Weapon.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

My influences tend to change and evolve over time, but the ones that stay with me and really inspire my way of writing are Robert E Howard, H.P. Lovecraft and Bernard Cornwell.

The writers I have recently been reading and taking a lot from are Rafael Sabatini, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Joe Abercrombie and Charles Bukowski, to a name a few. I take something from every writer I read. I enjoy reading almost as much as writing and I think it is important for any writer to read as much as possible. After all, my love of writing was born of my love of reading.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

The cover is by More Visual. We had a vision of what we wanted the cover to look like and I did a very scruffy sketch and sent it to More Visual. They pretty much nailed it first time. They also do the covers for David's historical fiction books.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

We've done a few interviews on various blogs and we're trying to take advantage of social media as much as possible with Twitter and the Bolton and Pilling Fantasy Fictionfacebook page. We also gave away three paperback copies on Goodreads.

We have several four and five star reviews on Amazon and a few different fantasy blogs and websites, but you can't have too many reviews and I'm now looking for reviewers.

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

Bolton the Writer. I mainly talk about my writing on my blog, I do the odd author interview and occasionally I'll post a short story. You will also find artwork posted, as and when I complete a piece. I document my dreams too, whether they're sleeping dreams or day dreams. I find I have particularly vivid dreams and for some reason my memory of them often seems to remain clear, this may be a result of irritable bowel syndrome as discomfort and sometimes pain in my stomach seems to disturb my dreams.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

We have written a sequel to The BestWeapon, titled The Path of Sorrow, and it will be released later this year. We are currently working on a third epic fantasy novel set in The World Apparent, but further to the east and with a whole new cast of characters and new cultures and landscapes. I can't say much more about it and this stage and we're still discussing the title.

I also write a short story every month for The 900 Club, a group of four writers who each write a 900 word short story and post them on the blog  on a monthly basis.

Those two things take up most of my time but I am also working on some artwork and potentially starting a new t-shirt business using some of my designs. So I have plenty to keep me out of trouble!

Is there anything else about you we should know?

You can see some of my artwork here. I mainly work in ink (dot drawings) and pencil.

Thanks for coming by Martin!  Pick up "The Best Weapon" at Amazon here!

The Ever Changing Demands on a Modern Writer

I've come to believe that there are four stages to any writing career.  They are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Nobody wants to publish your writing
  • Stage 2: People want to publish your writing but they don't want to pay you
  • Stage 3: People want to publish you and they'll even pay you a little bit
  • Stage 4: People want to publish you and they want to pay you a lot
I fit pretty much right in the middle of stage 3. If I were a single man, I could probably support myself on writing alone, as long as I didn't mind living out of a van (which I probably wouldn't to be honest).  I have a family though, so in addition to writing I also have to devote a certain amount of time to making money.  What I've found is that after spending significant effort attempting to sell your written work, you learn everything you need to know to sell more viable products with ease.

There certainly are paying gigs out there, it's just a matter of how much time you want to spend pursuing them.  Ralan.com remains a great resource for finding paying markets for your work.  I'll still dabble in that from time to time, but I find it's a better tactic to have your work sold before you even write it.

For a while there, blogging seemed to be the answer.  Google Adwords made it possible to generate a regular income just from posting Google Ads on your site.  The result of that was that all bloggers became focused on producing "click bait" articles in the hopes of generating a million views (which lead to ad revenue).  These articles still proliferate the web, and you are probably familiar with them in the form of the links with the snappy titles that appear on your Facebook news feed.  The problem is that producing "click bait" isn't writing so much as it is typing.

I blogged daily for about five or six years on my Peru themed blog StreetsOfLima.com.  In its lifetime, this web page has received 1.25 million hits...which seems like a big number but it's hardly remarkable for a blog.  I never made much from Adwords (maybe $400 to $500 a year) but for a while I did very well selling individually placed links on specified keywords.  I had two major accounts, Adbeans, which paid me $65 per link, and a travel page that was good for about $150 in advertising per month.  Adbeans used to provide me with 12 to 15 keywords a month which was perfect at the time because I was launching a business and I didn't have any extra money.

Eventually Google changed their search engine algorithm and I was summarily dismissed from both of my accounts because link placement on my site had begun to actually hurt the clients.  I began to receive emails requesting that the links be removed...which I agreed to do for a $5 fee.  Some of them balked at paying this, but the reality was that it took around fifteen minutes to find the article and erase the links, so I didn't feel I should be expected to perform that action for free.

I stopped writing Streets of Lima daily a few years back, but not before I had produced 2069 posts for the page.  Isn't that an insane number?  If we estimate that each article is around 500 words in length that comes out to 1,034,500 words.  Jack Kerouac once said that you must write one million words to forger yourself into a writer, and I think there is some truth to that idea, but, again, blog writing barely qualifies.

Beyond Streets of Lima, I also wrote (and continue to write) for CyclovaXC.com.  That page currently stands at 1359 posts.  There are other contributors to that page, but my guess is that about 1,000 of the articles are probably mine.  Using the same metric as before, that adds up to another 500,000 words.  My guess is you could find another 500,000 words of mine online (credited and uncredited) for stories, articles, and interviews that I've written throughout the years.  Wow...2,000,000 words!

Blog writing is not novel writing though.  As I write this I'm just composing directly into the blogger interface and when I'm done I'll give it a quick re-read before hitting "publish."  A novel is different.  For my upcoming work that is to be released shortly with Perseid, I'd guess I've reread and rewritten the novel in excess of 20 times.  These days I find that I'm most taxed by novel writing.  I do that in the morning when I'm fresh.  In the afternoon/evening I still have energy left over for...you guessed it...BLOGS!

I signed a publishing contract with Rhemalda Publishing back in 2011 for my novel The Bone Sword.  Part of the agreement included writing 100 blog posts for the Rhemalda page...although some of the other authors complained and we weren't required to finish that (I wrote over 80 though I'm pretty sure--they were probably deleted at no great loss to posterity).  Rhemalda also published my second book Beyond Birkie Fever before finally ceasing operations about two years ago.  In a kind move, Rhemalda let all the rights revert back to the authors.  I kept "Birkie," and placed "Bone Sword" with Harren Press.

I'd seen the writing on the wall with Rhemalda and managed to develop a good relationship with the folks at Perseid Press before Rhemalda closed its doors.  Perseid is a wonderful publishing house run by Chris and Janet Morris.  They have an editing team that knows what they're doing and I've learned a ton from working with them.  Also, they're in it for the long haul, so there's no ridiculous pressure to try to write the next "trendy" piece of literary trash.  My first release with Perseid was The Reader of Acheron in January of 2014, and the next one will be a memoir about Peru which should be released in the next month or two.  A lot of my readers are patiently waiting for a sequel to "Reader," and I'm working on it diligently at the moment, but the book was delayed due to work on the Peru memoir.  I hope to have a first draft done soon...but again, submitting a novel to Perseid Press is not like writing for a blog.  I've got to distill some greatness because I don't want to waste the time of Chris and Janet Morris.

These days I get a couple monthly requests to provide articles for local publications.  In exchange, they give me advertising space to promote my business.  I also recently was selected to become a paid blogger for Singletracks.com.  They have suggested the pay will be around $200 a month, but my guess is that the biggest benefit to me will come from the exposure writing for them will give to my other work.  I also occasionally field requests for travel articles that pay in the $100 to $200 range.

I like that there is a lot of demand for my work, but it is just getting to the point now where I need to turn down "for the love" assignments.  If a magazine has major circulation, or they allow me to put an ad in for an event I'm promoting or a business I'm involved in, then it's worth it, otherwise it is not.  I've received a lot of benefits through writing, and I'm even starting to get review requests from Amazon that involve shipping me free products.  As a writer, you must be cognizant of the "trade" value of your work.  Rarely do you receive a check, but I once got to tour the Inca Trail for free in exchange for writing some articles...that was about a $4000 value.

Achieving writing success has basically seemed hopeless for the whole time I've been pursuing it.  In the beginning, there was some delight in the idea that I could write a novel, release it, and then never have to work again.  I was wrong about that idea. Go time yourself writing 1,000,000 quality words and see how long it takes you.

I still think there's a certain amount of luck involved in this whole pursuit, and I'm a long way from getting so much attention that my work really becomes valuable, but I'm pleased with the current progression of things.  In any artistic endeavor, there is plenty that you cannot control.  The only thing a writer should worry about is becoming a better writer.  Success will take care of itself.  But one thing I know for sure, you aren't going to find success until after you've written millions and millions of words.  There's nothing wrong with that though...after all, it's kind of what I signed up for!

If anyone is interested in receiving a review copy of one of my books, you can request one by writing to: walterrhein@gmail.com

Best of luck everyone in everything that you do!

A Review of "The IX" by Andrew P. Weston

Thoughtful Fantasy With Breadth and Punch

As I was reading “The IX” I was reminded of “A Canticle for Leibowitz.” It was more of a shadow correlation because it was about fifteen years ago that I read “Canticle,” but the enduring trait of that novel is its breadth. You get a sense of the passage of time and the enormity of the universe and this sensation also applies to “The IX.”

First of all, the concept of “The IX” is fantastic. The idea of gathering up warriors from different ages and throwing them into a fight for their life is the kind of starting point most sci-fi/fantasy fans will jump at. The only drawback of an idea like this is realizing it in a way that doesn’t appear campy or contrived. If the author rushes to get to the punch, the effect is cheapened. However, Andrew Weston is too skilled an author to fall into this trap. The mechanics of this book are rock solid, and Weston stays true to the established rules.

The first quarter of the book details the backgrounds of the various protagonists who will populate the novel. The reader gets to spend significant amount of time with all of them in their native setting. These moments are not rushed, and the presence of significant back story sets up the suspicion that there is an interconnectedness of fate which causes the actions of their past to impact the future. However, this theme isn’t applied in a “Cloud Atlas” kind of way, it’s just a lurking presence that adds spice to the whole experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It has enough action to keep you entertained and turning the pages on a first reading, and enough subtext to make you want to revisit it again and again. Andrew Weston is a skilled storyteller and his work shows the polish of an experienced craftsman (with minimal search I found many examples of his writing published with “Amazing Stories”).

Check out “The IX,” you won’t be disappointed.  Get your copy here!