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Thursday, October 20, 2016

SPFBO: Hondus Pointe by R. D. Henderson & Mini-interview with the author (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Hondus Pointe is the first novella of the Nambroc sequence, what drew my eye to this novella was its blurb and what held my attention throughout the story was its quick pace & grey characters.

The plot begins with Nestor deNeffo, a black elf and senior operative in the Nambroc Knives. He’s extremely efficient at his work and soon realizes that there’s more money to be made if one were to be a bit more unscrupulous and were to have no master. So that’s what he does and soon recruits a number of knife operatives who are loyal only to him and follow his profit plan. This book dwells on a wide cast of characters and the repercussions their actions start to have.

This story being a novella is on the shorter side but definitely reads quicker and packs quite a punch. Our main protagonist (or is it antagonist) is as Machiavellian as they come. Nestor deNeffo only wants to get rich no matter the cost to anyone around him. He loves the finer things in life and knowing the high price that they cost. He will do anything and everything including selling information, weapons and other stuff to anybody on the black market. While being such a duplicitous agent, he also has to be careful as to not let his fellow Nambroc colleagues know of his true nature. This premise of this novella and the characters reminded me a lot of the TV series The Shield and its main protagonist (?) Vic Mackey.

Sure Nestor deNeffo is more calculating and perhaps a shade more dangerous but both these characters share similar reasoning for their shady activities. Vic proclaims to be doing it for the betterment of his family and Nestor proclaims the same for the betterment of his own life. As the story consists of only twelve chapters, the story opens up pretty quickly and then as quickly descends into a lot of murder, back-dealings and chaos. The pace of the plot is extremely high as the reader is constantly shunted from page to page wherein the actions shifts from the octane kind to the simmering type before twisting back again. The readers will never be sure where the story is headed and how exactly it will end and that’s the biggest draw, the unpredictability.

I liked this story a lot as it seemed very much in line with stories by Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and Rob J. Hayes, R. D. Henderson showcases that there are no heroes in this tale. Just various shades of grey that turn more and more towards the black as the story progresses. The novella ends also on a big note and sets up the sequel novella as most readers will want to know what happens next and what will Nestor do?

The only drawback I can think of for this story is the novella format and the world-building which seems to be eschewed for the reasons of plot and pace. Sure there are some tidbits scattered here and there but the world most stays dark as most of the action occurs below ground. I hope in the ensuing novellas the author expands on the world scene and we get to know more. But for now, I couldn’t stop myself from finishing Hondus Pointe as quickly as possible. Folks who love dark characters and plotlines, the Nambroc sequence is exactly what you have been looking for.


Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. To begin with, could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

RDH: Thank you for the warm welcome. Very happy to be here.

I live near Seattle, Washington. I am married and have two boys. I grew up in the Midwest, completed my education in New England, worked for about a year in Japan, and then settled in the Pacific Northwest.

My background includes playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school and throughout college, collecting and reading comic books monthly for the last twenty years, and have a passion for fantasy as well.

Q] Can you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, what experience you went through in finishing your book, & why you choose to go the self-publishing route?

RDH: Since I was young, I was always interested in being a writer. The problem was I did not really write unless it was school assignments, or papers in college and graduate school. I have always been a reader, and fantasy has always been my favorite genre.

In 2007, I was finally inspired to take the next step in the process to becoming a writer when I had a germ of an idea for a story that I could no longer ignore. The problem was the idea was not clear, concrete, or vivid enough for me to take pen to paper. After awhile, I guess I lost focus and my attention was drawn to the ebbs and flow of everyday life, and forgot about the idea.

In middle of 2009, I read the First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, and I really became enamored with the Northmen characters he created, especially Logan Nine Fingers. I was inspired to read more fantasy, and I read the first two books in the Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch, and I like the plot points featuring cons. I started to put pen to paper because I was inspired by these characters and these plot points. The more I brainstormed, the germ of an idea returned in full-force and became more clear, concrete, and vivid.

The experience I went through in finishing my book started with NaNoWriMo in 2009. I did not have a specific character or plot point, but I wanted to write a fantasy story featuring elves, gnomes, kobolds, halfling, dwarves who could be criminals. One aspect of the story I enjoyed writing was a corrupt and traitorous intelligence operative who was a black elf named Nestor deNeffo with an intelligence service called the Nambroc Knives.

I started writing and accomplished the fifty thousand word goal for NaNoWriMo, and then I kept writing until February 2010 with what I thought could be a potentially interesting story, but it needed to be revised and rewritten to become a better story. I enjoyed writing the first story so much that I continued to write fantasy stories for the next couple of years.

I did not start thinking about publishing until I felt the quality of my writing improved technically and grammatically as well as the qualities of the story, plot, and character.

After my writing and stories improved, I started to research online about publishing. I knew traditional publishing was not for me because it would take too long to get to market. I did not have the patience to endure the time to wait submission process of getting an agent to a traditional publishing company taking my book to market. Self-publishing was preferable because I controlled the publishing process and could publish my books on my schedule.

Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main motivation and source of inspiration?

RDH: I don't have a muse.

I really don't have a specific process or way I get ideas for stories. Sometimes a character or a plot point pops appears to me. Sometimes I get an idea by reading an interesting article in the newspaper or online. Another way is I am reading a novel or non-fiction book and I see an interest plot point and that gets me thinking. I have also gotten story ideas from something I have seen on television or in a movie or film.

My main motivation to write is to get the stories out of my head and into a fixed and tangible form so I can write the next story. My source of inspiration is to write stories that I would like to read.

Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of HONDUS POINTE occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea (if any)?

RDH: The genesis for Hondus Pointe was that part of story was in the original book I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2009.

After I finished writing the book, a developmental editor read it and told me a story was somewhere in there, but it was hidden in the flat characters, too many dropped story lines, and large and gaping plot holes. She suggested that I pick one major plot point and the applicable characters and develop and deepen them.

I took her advice and ripped the original book to the studs and Nestor deNeffo and the Nambroc Knives made their presence known to me. In the fall of 2013, I started to write the story which ultimately became Hondus Pointe and it was published in January 2015. Yes, the published version evolved a great deal from when I completed the first draft at the end of 2013.

Q] Hondus Pointe is the first volume in the Nambroc Sequence. Could you give our readers an outline of your plans for the series as a whole? Is it complete and what can readers expect from it?

RDH: Nambroc Sequence is a fantasy series featuring Nestor deNeffo, a traitorous and corrupt black elf intelligence operative, who holds an important senior position within the Nambroc Knives. The Nambroc Knives is the pre-eminent black intelligence service in all of the Nether Realm -- self-proclaimed by its operatives -- and based in Nambroc which is a black elf city.

Nestor is motivated by his love of money so he can acquire the finer things in life. He is very comfortable passing state secrets to the enemies of Nambroc as well as being an enforcer and fixer for a local narcotics trafficking organization. The rest of the series features Nestor expanding his criminal activities to the Earth Realm because it enhances the possibility of him making more money.

Nestor engineers a deal of selling a cache of specially-constructed black elven arrows with each of them armed with an explosive component to an unknown buyer in Hartshire which is a city in the Earth Realm. The black arrows are used in the assassinations of several politicians as well as other powerful, wealthy, and influential people in Hartshire.

In Hartshire, Luigi Darkhawk, a mage, has to contend with the fall-out from the assassinations because all of the victims were his colleagues on the Hartshire Noble Council. The noble council is the organization responsible for mediating disputes between criminals as a way to ease the burden on the already over-worked members of the local constabulary.

Luigi is very concerned that one of the black arrows is meant for him. What makes this situation particularly difficult for his is he accepts bribes and other favors from a certain portion of the criminal element in Hartshire because of his love of money so he can acquire the finer things in life.

Readers can expect the Nambroc Sequence to feature standard fantasy tropes such as elves, dwarves, gnomes, kobolds, goblins, and orcs, but with a bent blended both of crime and espionage. Hondus Pointe, the first novella, along with the remaining six novellas in the fantasy series are available in ebook format to download from Amazon.

Q] Your covers have a very distinct look and all together look quite striking. What was your thought process in their creation? Who's the artist/designer for your books?

RDH: Thank you for the kind words.

The person responsible for creating the striking and distinct-looking book covers for all of the novellas in the Nambroc Sequence as well as the Water Falcon Trilogy is Clarissa Yeo of Yocla Book Cover Designs. I told Clarissa that I wanted to have a symbol on the cover similar to the covers of some of recent editions of A Song of Ice and Fire novels and the UK editions of Wheel of Time series. She weaved her magic and created the awesome and eye-catching covers. Clarissa is an overall awesome book cover designer and produces stellar covers.

Not only she a great designer, she is great to work with as well. She produces great work by the promised due date, responsive, and very personable. Please check out her work at her site.

Q] Could you tell us about the research which you undertook before attempting to write this series and what were things which you focused upon and any fascinating things that you found amidst your research?

RDH: I read my interviews of authors of fiction, including fantasy and science fiction, mention they get ideas for potential stories and characters as well as to ensure get the setting, atmosphere, context, emotions, among things just right to make the story interesting, plausible, immersive, and believable journey for the reader.

Following the lead of more experienced and established authors, I read a fair bit about espionage and traitors as well as about criminals and the crimes that they committed for potential story ideas or interesting characters. When I was reading about espionage and traitors, I learned about Lisbon during World War II was full of spies from both the Allied and Axis countries because Portugal remained neutral. Portugal, however, was very important strategically and tactically to both Allied and Axis countries because of its location. Everyone knew everyone was spying on each other, and Portugal secret police was spying on the spies. It was also very difficult for the Portuguese government leaders to remain neutral because of the imminent threat of military incursion from both the Allied and Axis powers.

One interesting nugget of information I discovered in my reading about criminals was Al Capone, the famous Chicago gangster of the 1920s and behind the brutal St. Valentine's Day massacre, was never convicted of murder or any of other numerous heinous crimes he committed, but he was convicted of tax crimes and sentenced to five years in prison. He was sent to Alcatraz which was one of the most secure and isolated prisons locate on an island off the California coast near San Francisco, and housed the most dangerous and difficult felons in America between 1934 and 1963.

Q] What other books have you written? Can you tell us about them and what genres they belong to?

RDH: Besides writing the Nambroc Sequence, I have also written the Water Falcon Trilogy which is also a fantasy series and takes place in the same world but in the Fairy Realm.

Wit Fallo, the first novella in the trilogy, features Wit Fallo, a white gnome and shiftless boat captain, wants nothing more than to retire and enjoy the free and easy life. He accepts the deal of a lifetime when he is offered to be part of a narcotics trafficking operation to deliver narcotics on the high seas on the Earth Realm

Life sometimes does not go as planned.

When circumstances occur beyond his control and three of his associates are killed during one of the deliveries, he is forced to leave the Earth Realm for the Fairy Realm with a hope of a new start and life. The new life is very much like the old life when he is forced to work for a halfling crime lord because he owes the crime lord a great deal of money.

The trilogy focuses on the relationship between Wit Fallo and the halfling crime lord as the white gnome is involved in deals of the criminal sort such as delivering narcotics, passing intelligence and information to the highest bidder, and killing enemies of the crime lord as ways to pay what is owed to the halfling. The series also features pixies, sprites, brownies, elves, dwarves, gold goblins, pirates, mages, and a bard who are involved in crime, espionage, and business transactions.

Wit Fallo along with the other two novellas in the Water Falcon Trilogy, a fantasy series, are available in ebook format to download from Amazon.

Q] Your book deals with some grey and essentially morally unreliable characters. What was your inspiration for the setting and characters?

RDH: The setting was inspired was my interest for Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role-playing game I used to play while I was in high school and college. I took what I remembered from the setting for the D&D adventures I played as the starting point, and then brainstormed and worked on the setting until I created the setting which is used in the novellas in both the Nambroc Sequence and Water Falcon Trilogy.

The inspiration of using elves, gnomes, dwarves, halflings, orcs, and other standard fantasy type of characters in my stories was also inspired by D&D as well as the drow elves featured in the Forgotten Realms novels written by R.A. Salvatore. The inspiration for creating gray and morally unreliable characters is my interest in television shows such as Sopranos and Breaking Bad and movies such as Usual Suspects, Godfather, Godfather II, and Spanish Prisoner.

I combined my fond memories of D&D with my interests in crime dramas and created characters that are elves, gnomes, dwarves, halflings, and the like who are criminals, spies, and traitors in the Nambroc Sequence and Water Falcon Trilogy.

Q] Please tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination and inspired you to become a wordsmith in your own right. Similarly, are there any current authors you would like to give a shout out to?

RDH: The books and authors who have captured my imagination are Noble House by James Clavell, Return of Moriarty by John Gardner, Revenge of Moriarty by John Gardner, and A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. The Canadian television series Intelligence produced by Chris Haddock also captured my imagination.

I became very interested in incorporating espionage and corporate elements in my novellas after reading the novel written by James Clavell. My interest in inserting both espionage and criminal components in my novellas was due watching the Intelligence television series.

My imagination was captured when I read the two novels by John Gardner featuring Professor James Moriarty, primary nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, as the head of a mafia-type organization in Victorian England.

My interest in gray and morally unreliable characters crystallize after reading the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin. Martin is the master of creating gray characters and political machinations in a fantasy setting. I do not think I have read anything more surprising, gut-wrenching, and exhilarating as the Red Wedding scene in A Storm of Swords.

The author who got me to think about becoming a wordsmith was Joe Abercrombie after reading his First Law Trilogy and becoming very enamored with Logan Ninefingers and the other Northmen characters he created. These characters are as gray and morally unreliable as can be. I finally decided to start writing for publication was after reading about the Northmen character of Caul Shivers in Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie.

Caul Shivers is the epitome of the gray and morally unreliable character I would like to create.

Besides the authors that I have already mentioned, I would like to give a shout out to the following authors: Michelle West for her Sun Sword series and House War series; Adrian Tchaikovsky for his Shadows of the Apt series; Timothy Zahn for the Thrawn trilogy and the sequel Hand of Thrawn duology by, and James Luceno for Darth Plagueis.

Each of these authors does a tremendous job of including espionage and criminal components in both fantasy and space-opera stories. I recently started to read the Sanctuary series by Robert J. Crane which I find to be rip-roaring and action-paced fantasy series about mercenary company/guild populated with very interesting characters.

Q] Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

RDH: I want to thank the good folks at Fantasy Book Critic for this opportunity as well as the review of Hondus Pointe the first novella in Nambroc Sequence a fantasy series.

I also want to thank Mark Lawrence for creating and sponsoring #SPFBO as an opportunity to get self-published authors to get their fantasy stories exposed to a wider audience. I look forward to reading Powers of the Six by Kristal Shaff, Storm without End by R.J. Blain, The Moonlight War by S.K.S. Perry, The Dungeoneers by Jeffrey Russell, Nolander by Becca Mills as well as many other due to #SPFBO.

Because of #SPFBO, I have learned so much about all the great fantasy being created, and it is amazing.

In the next few months, I plan to publish a four novella series which is the sequel to the Nambroc Sequence. I hope people give them a whirl and find them interesting. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

SPFBO: Powers Of The Six by Kristal Shaff & Mini-Interview with the author (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read an excerpt HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Powers Of The Six was my first selection among the 30 books that I was alloted. It was a fantasy book that mixes epic fantasy with magical powers and was very reminiscent of the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson as well as the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher but with younger protagonists.

The main plot of the book begins with Nolan who is a scribe and has a sectret that he wishes to hide from everyone. It has been under wraps for the past two years and if Nolan has his way then will continue on to his deathbed. Alec Deverell is a blacksmith’s son wth a temper to boot. He tries to control it but being a fifteen year old, it’s hard for him to know the ways of the world. Both Nolan and Alec meet under trying circumstances however they both will show their mettle in ways they can’t imagine as the world of Adamah finally begins to understand what is truly happening to the powers known as the Shays.

The main plot line begins from this thread and the story focuses on the six Shays which can grant spectacular abilities to mankind. The Shays are for accuracy, empathy, healing, perception, speed, and strength. Most individuals only have one, a few have two and rarely three, there’s only one person who has mastery over all six Shays and that’s the king Alcandor. The king however is a tyrant and a truly evil one at that. The story then basically twists into a quest as Nolan and Alec along with Nolan’s cousin are forced to endure and find out why everyone’s powers are slowly going away?

The main thing I enjoyed about the book was the book’s pace and snappy plot. The story unfurls rather quickly and the readers will be zooming along our intrepid heroes as they fight off evil doers and nasty creatures. This book while seemingly YA isn’t a YA book, it deals with some pretty gruesome stuff. The king is as psychotic and sociopathic as they come, he indulges in some nasty sexual proclivities towards both sexes and most readers will hate him to their core. This book while talking and referencing rape doesn’t showcase it so there’s that. Also while the main plot concerns teenagers, they don’t behave like teenagers. These children are exposed to some dark stuff and they are shown to react accordingly. There is very little teenage angst showcased  however they do behave like teenagers from time to time (as is their wont). The best example of this is Alec in the beginning chapters as he constantly tries to stay out of trouble but manages to find it all too often.

Another aspect which I enjoyed was the characterization, even though we get the story via two POV characters, the other characters Megan, Emery, the highlander, etc. don’t feel two-dimensional. The author tries her best to make everyone seem complex however doesn’t quite manage to hit the bullseye with the villains who come across as boorish and one-dimensional. Lastly the author also does her best with the Shays as we get characters who appear to have superpowers and some of the action scenes are truly fun to read.

Going on to the parts that I didn’t enjoy was the fact the world and magic system isn’t all that clearly defined. There’s a few mentions towards the last third of the story and a lot of plot set-up for the second book but overall the reader is in as much mystery along with the main characters. Then there’s the aspect of the villains, we don’t get much backstory about the king as well his general (who is Nolan’s older brother) as to why they are that way. We are told that they are arrogant and act as such but there wasn’t any clear cut motivation exposed.

Lastly I would recommend this book to anybody who wants to read a fantasy book about teenage protagonists who act mature for their ages and with very little angsty romance. This was a solid plus point for me and I was excited to see how the author setup the world with regards to the Shays and I hope we get further light shed on the magic system in the sequels.


Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. To begin with, could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

KS: Thanks for having me! I was born in Northwest Indiana, pretty much in the shadow of Chicago. I attended Ball State University to study music education after high school. It was during my time in college when I met my future husband. Once we both graduated, I moved out to Iowa to become a wife of an Iowa farmer. After a really horrible year of teaching music, I put that hat away to become a wife and mom to four awesome kids.

I’ve always been very right brained and I juggle a lot of creative balls. From music to crafts, I tend to move quickly from one interest to the next. (I suspect that I am a little ADD). Writing is actually something that has lasted for many years, but during those years I’ve thrown other activities into the mix. The last seven years I’ve also been a professional face painter. It’s a fun and rewarding job.

Q] Can you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, what experience you went through in finishing your book, & why you choose to go the self-publishing route?

KS: I’ve always loved reading; my first job was in the local library shelving books. My first go at writing was creating a play in my 3rd-grade class—which we performed about the Easter Bunny. It was a memory I’d forgotten until I started writing again.

I gave up writing until about ten years ago. It was a “let’s try this” moment after I’d read the book ERAGON by Christopher Paolini. I found out he was a teenage author and it inspired me to try myself, just for fun. I didn’t realize what a long and emotional journey writing and publishing would end up being.

My book, POWERS OF THE SIX, was a labor of stubborn love. It was originally titled THE EMISSARY, and its first messy draft was over 200k. After trimming it down considerably, I got an agent and we submitted it to many houses. At that time, it was an adult fantasy, but my agent pushed me to turn it into Young Adult because of the voice.

After I changed it to YA, we submitted it again. Little Brown Publishing offered me a rewrite and resubmit. In the end, it didn’t sell and my agent and I went our separate ways. I subbed it to many houses on my own after leaving my agent, including Angry Robot’s open submissions. Again, Angry Robot told me it felt more like YA, so they passed it on to their YA imprint, Strange Chemistry (which is no longer in business).

***This moment in my career was very enlightening. After having someone else tell me my writing was YA again, I realized that my writing voice was much younger than my actual age. I am more of a YA/children’s author, which is why my writing comes across as more streamlined than other epic fantasy books. It was a moment of self-discovery that I am actually… immature. (grin)***

After another rewrite and resubmit, I was rejected by Strange Chemistry. It was a hard time to be that close to success and still fail, especially when two other authors, Wesley Chu and Laura Lam, where with me in the process at that time. Both of these authors were accepted, and have since then moved on to great things. I couldn’t be happier for either of them.

I had planned to self-publish at that point, and I was already working on a cover with an artist. It was then when I was offered a contract with a small press I’d submitted to. The journey with this small press was very long, very painful, and very discouraging. It really sucked the joy of writing out of me for a long time. In the end, I got my rights back and publish on my own with a new title and an awesome new cover by Anne Drury. I couldn’t be happier to be self-published and in control of my work.

I can’t say that I regret the hardships to get where I am today. My book and writing have grown through the experience. I think that even my last, bad publisher, enabled me to grow, as well as it helped me appreciate the freedom that self-publishing has given me. I am grateful for the long journey.

Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main motivation and source of inspiration?

KS: I don’t have a muse. However, I do become depressed if I don’t express myself creatively. This is one of the avenues that feeds my imagination.

Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of POWERS OF THE SIX occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea (if any)?

KS: POWERS OF THE SIX is my first book. The first draft started around ten years ago. It took me several years working on the book to learn different aspects of the craft. I know it sounds backward, that people say to write a lot and throw out your first book, but there is something to be said for reworking and polishing something over and over again. I learned a lot that way. I’ve deleted characters. I’ve deleted chapters. I’ve added layers for world building. I changed it from 3rd person to 1st person and then back to 3rd person POV again. The manuscript has evolved dramatically from where it started. There were long breaks in-between when I worked on different projects, but I kept coming back to POWERS OF THE SIX because I really did believe in it. Input from industry professionals, critique partners, etc. gave me tons of insight to improve. Throughout the changes, the primary storyline has mostly stayed intact.

Q] Powers Of The Six is the first volume in the Emissary Of Light series. Could you give us a progress report on the next book, offer any details about the sequel and outline your plans for the series as a whole?

KS: My second book is already out. It has a much different feel than the first one as it focuses more on relationships, character building, and it has more romantic elements than the first. It is called BLOOD OF THE GUARDIAN. The third book will go back to more fighting/conflict and focus less on relationships, though I’m sure my characters might have a say since they have a mind of their own. Book three is still in the early stages of planning as I am finishing up a separate Middle-Grade project which I am really excited to get out into the world; it’s been really fun to create. However, my writing time has been… complicated this last year since we adopted our youngest son from Bulgaria. Having a two-year-old around the house (as well as three teenagers, one of them with autism) can make personal writing time a challenge.

Q] Your book has a magic system which very much reminded me of the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson with regards to its ingenuity and the differing combinations that users had access to. Can you talk about its inception and how you developed it?

KS: I am a fan of fantasy, swords, and all geeky endeavors. I am also a huge fan of superheroes, especially Superman; he is such a good-hearted boy scout. I wanted to create a world where both aspects exist. So the powers in my world came from different aspects of superheroes: super speed, inhuman strength, mind control, etc. It was fun to combine two of my favorite things. I also have always been interested in rainbows, which is why I incorporated the glowing eyes and the rainbow colors in the story. In elementary school, I did a science project on the spectrum and how white light contains all the colors. Even now, I have a crystal prism hanging in my kitchen to catch the morning light. Ironically, I found out later that my mother has always had Iridophobia, an actual, genuine fear of rainbows. She never let on when I was growing up. I wonder now how she had put up with me as a kid!

Thank you so much for any comparison to Brandon Sanderson! It is truly an honor since he is my favorite author. A funny thing about Brandon. I discovered him by blindly picking up his book, ELANTRIS, at a bookstore when it was first released. One of the main reasons I bought his book was because I was afraid that it might be similar to my POWERS OF THE SIX book (which I was finishing at the time). It was different, of course, and I was glad to discover my new favorite author. I’ve watched Brandon’s career take off over the years, and I’m glad to say I liked him before he became so well-known.

Q] Could you tell us about the research which you undertook before attempting to write this book and what were things which you focused upon and any fascinating things that you found amidst your research?

KS: My husband has always been a great sounding board. He’s a smart man who can tell me when I’m being stupid with facts, such as travel, map-making, weapons, and especially blacksmithing questions (he’s an armature blacksmith/ bladesmith). I also researched on types of boats and even on how to hold and shoot a sling. There is a great forum for slingers that I found (, and they were very helpful and welcoming to all of my questions. One of the guys even sent me a couple of handcrafted slings so I could do hands-on research of my own. I also discovered other details such as musical instruments and eyewear in history. Even though my world is fantasy, I didn’t want information to stick out as strange. Small details can pull someone out of a story, and my goal was to make things as realistic (fantasy-wise) as they can be.

Q] Your book has an intriguing world with some different characteristics. What was your inspiration for the setting and what are your thoughts on world-building in general?

KS: My inspiration for the setting? I guess I started with a generic world, and then I found ways to make it different and layered. Approaching world building in increments was the most helpful to me. I added different aspects during different drafts, building details one on top of another. A person doesn’t need to build a world all at once. Building a house starts with a structure. Then the walls. Then siding and a roof, followed by paint and landscaping. Decor and furniture are added for interest at the end. You can think of writing much the same way. The base, then other aspects, followed by small details to make it more connected and interesting and rich.

Q] Please tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination and inspired you to become a wordsmith in your own right. Similarly, are there any current authors you would like to give a shout out to?

KS: Through my teen years, I read a lot of historical romance, most of them focusing on medieval knights. When I started dating my husband (after our first date at a renaissance festival), he shoved the book THE HOBBIT into my hands and told me I needed to read it. I resisted at first, but once I started reading, I threw out my historical romance and picked up more fantasy. I never looked back.

Since then I’ve taken to reading fantasy in a multitude of different ways. My favorite adult fantasy authors are Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn) and Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files). Then in Middle Grade, I’ve read and enjoyed Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson), Jennifer A. Nielsen (The False Prince), and JK Rowling (Harry Potter, of course). I also enjoy Young Adult books from authors such as Veronica Roth (Divergent) and Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles). These are just a few. I enjoy books in all sorts of age groups and styles.

Q] Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

KS: I’d love to encourage writers to find others to support them, to keep going when it feels hopeless, and to remember that there are lots of paths to publishing. Work hard and remember there is always room to improve.

I also wanted to bring to let everyone know that my audiobook recently came out. It was a ton of fun to choose a narrator and be a part of the process. Gary Furlong, my narrator, did an awesome job. Check it out if you get a chance.

Thanks for having me on here and for taking time out to participate in the SPFBO. I’m sure that reading 30 books and making this type of decision wasn’t an easy task. Also, thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to speak to your readers. I hope they give POWERS OF THE SIX a chance.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

SPFBO: Storm Without End by RJ Blain & Mini-Interview with the author (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Storm Without End is the first book in the Return Of The Rift King series, the story begins with Kalen who seems to be wrestling with some big internal demons while trying to be as incognito as possible. He’s a bit diminutive in size and so folks often mistake him for being a child. Those who try to inflict harm upon him for believing him to be small, don’t live long enough to change their erroneous ways. He finds himself waking up without boots and at pains to recall how he got into his current state. In the place known as the Rift, there are several guardians who are alarmed at the disappearance of the Rift King and are actively working to figure what happened exactly. If this blurb sounds confusing, then it is exactly what the author intended.

The book drops the reader into the happenings without much of an explanation very similar to the Malazan books. The reader shares the confusion experienced by the main character Kalen as both are trying to figure out what exactly is happening. The Rift is a hot, dry place that separates the sox kingdoms and keep the fragile peace. However with the disappearance of the rift king, all bets are off and nobody knows what exactly is happening. This book actively uses the reader’s vertigo as the author slowly unveils the world and the geo-political rumblings within. While I admired the author’s approach in setting up the story this way, the reading experience was certainly hampered to a minor degree.

Going on to the characterizations, this being a multi-POV book, we do get to see the action unfold from other characters besides Kalen and that is helpful as the world is fleshed out better. Kalen however is the main draw as the readers will be drawn to him the most, he certainly is a big highlight of the book as he struggles to accept his power and the troubles that follow because of it. I loved watching his internal and external struggles and an extra bonus to the author for providing us with a hero who is physically handicapped but does his best even with it. Fantasy books have at large ignored physically handicapped characters and so this was an interesting change. The pace of the story is such that while the readers might feel confused at the beginning, there is enough impetus provided to keep on reading. Plus after the first third, the story picks up properly and then we are racing along all the way to the brutal climax. Another plus point is the addition of sentient horses to the plot and this was another cool feature about the book. I can't wait to read more about them and see their increasing influence across the plot.

Now the things that didn’t make the story work, firstly was the fact that majorly this book felt like a big set-up for the entire series. Some authors like Tad Williams and Kate Elliott can pull such a thing off however Storm Without End suffers because of this feature. Also there’s a lot of world details that seem confusing as those very details only are hinted towards the end.

Overall I feel that this book is a good book that perhaps needed a couple more drafts. It has some telling action sequences, a very likeable hero trapped in desperate circumstances and overall an intriguing plot. I enjoyed it in spite of its minor foibles and will be interested to see where the author takes the story in the sequel. Storm Without End is an interesting fantasy that features a physically handicapped protagonist and hints at darker and more fantastical things to come. 


Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. To begin with, could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

RJB: Hi! Thanks so much for having me. I’m RJ, and before I became an author, I was an office paper shuffler in a marketing department. Before that, I helped people write and customize content on their websites so they’d be found in search engines. Pretty glamourous, huh?

I went to college for approximately half a semester a long, long time ago, broke free of the joint, and moved to a different country to get married to a wonderful man. I’m still married to him over fourteen years later. I own cats. Oh, who am I kidding? The four furballs own me, and they make me like it.

I enjoy painting and playing computer games when I’m not writing or reading a book. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be?) I’m rarely not writing or reading a book, which suits me just fine! I began publishing in 2013. In 2014, I wrote and published my SFWA (Science Fiction / Fantasy Writers of America) qualifying novel, and I joined the organization when they opened their doors to self-published authors.

Q] Can you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, what experience you went through in finishing your book, & why you choose to go the self-publishing route?

RJB: This is a tough question for me. Until fourth grade, I was essentially functionally illiterate. I could, with work and effort, sound out words. I could form letters with a pencil, but beyond that, I couldn’t do a whole lot more than spell my name and do the absolute bare minimum to not fail a grade.

I wasn’t a very good student. Then, in fourth grade, I got a teacher who understood me and the things that interested me. She gave me a copy of A Wrinkle in Time, and I discovered stories could be fun and intriguing, and that not all books would bore me to tears. By the end of fifth grade, I was reading Stephen King and had progressed to a college reading level. My advancement, such as it was, actually caused me a lot of problems over the years. Without the benefit of the formative education years, everything I learned about English, I learned from books. This meant I had a very… unique… view of basic grammar.

I had to relearn the English language from the ground up sometime during high school. (To be exact, my senior year in my English Honors course, our teacher got fed up that absolutely no one in the class had any understanding of the basics. We could pick apart Chaucer in its original form, but we couldn’t define the structure of a sentence to save our lives.) It was a very interesting experience.

I didn’t start ‘seriously’ writing books until high school, and even then, it was as a passing interesting. I really began pursuing novels after I graduated and moved from the US to Canada. Turns out there’s very little someone can do when they can’t work or go to school while waiting for immigration documentation, so I took up writing, something I could pursue until I got a work permit.

Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main motivation and source of inspiration?

RJB: I don’t prescribe the muse theory, although I do believe my current artist, Holly Heisey, has a direct connection with my general creativity. She makes these gorgeous premade covers, and without fail, many of these have so many stories I could tell using them as inspiration, so I buy the cover… then I end up having to write the novel.

One of my favorite projects, WATER VIPER, came to life this way.

Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of STORM WITHOUT END occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea (if any)?

RJB: Of all the stories I’ve written, STORM WITHOUT END was the most intensive. It began with a desperate need to just sit down and finish a book, so I spent 3 days, two cases of Nestea, and wrote. In that story, I created the Requiem for the Rift King world, and I also created several of the kingdoms.

The Rift wasn’t one of those kingdoms. The Rift came later—much later. Several years after I wrote that first story just to prove I could, I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month. I reentered the world of the Rift King, once again writing a story in the same world. I didn’t visit the Rift, not yet, but I did create the main political thunderstorm that would form the canyon system and the circumstances leading to the Rift and the events in Requiem for the Rift King.

The following year, I participated in NaNoWriMo again, and I created the other half of the Requiem world and the skreed who would serve as one of the main focal points in Requiem for the Rift King. Still no Rift, though.

The next year, I created Kalen, the main character. I initially called the project TRIAL BY FIRE, and it was absolutely ridiculous. But, I loved the boy who grew to a man in that story, and I wanted him to be something more than the star of an absolutely ridiculous novel with no direction and a lot of fun ideas.

But when I wrote that story, I knew Kalen was going to be something far more—and less—than my initial creation of him. I dove into his next form, and the Rift was born, as was its crippled king. It took me six complete rewrites of Kalen’s story to come up with STORM WITHOUT END over the course of seven or eight years.

Q] You have a sequel out as well called STORM SURGE. Is this the end of the Requiem For The Rift King series?

RJB: No. Requiem for the Rift King is a four book series, including STORM WITHOUT END, STORM SURGE, THE TIDES OF WAR, and REQUIEM FOR THE RIFT KING.

THE TIDES OF WAR is going to be a monster of a book. Every title in the series will have certain events happen, no matter how long it takes me to write the book. I expect THE TIDES OF WAR to be the longest title of the set, as it is the centrifugal point of so much in the series.

REQUIEM FOR THE RIFT KING, however, will be a monster in its own right, too.

Q] Your main character is handicapped (in a very specific way) so as to speak. The fantasy genre has been very deficient in showcasing heroes in such a way. What were your thoughts behind framing the story in this manner? What were you aiming to tell via this move?

RJB: Kalen is handicapped in a lot of ways, both physical and mental. STORM SURGE faces the traumas of his very existence head on, while STORM WITHOUT END very much answers the question of how someone with the handicaps he has can still manage to survive in a world where handicaps often mean death.

I didn’t really go out to address a deficiency in the fantasy genre, although you’re right—there are very few stories where such a deficiency is showcased as something the main character must constantly overcome. In Robert Jordan’s THE WHEEL OF TIME, such deficiencies are waved away and healed. In Jim Butcher’s THE DRESDEN FILES, Harry’s are overcome with time and magic. THE DRESDEN FILES come closest to a real main character being forced to face critical handicaps. But, in the end, his are waves away after a few books, too—or masked with a mantle.

Kalen overcomes his handicaps in a variety of ways, though he does what he does best: whatever it takes to survive. I look forward to writing more about how he is forced to deal with the upcoming changes in his life. Some are for the better. Others prove there is always a price to magic, and it must eventually be paid.

Q] Could you tell us about the research which you undertook before attempting to write this book and what were things which you focused upon and any fascinating things that you found amidst your research?

RJB: The amount of research that went into the series is staggering, but I did it over a decade. I had to research various types of governments and monarchies to have a basic understanding of the diplomacy of nations. How could I build a world that functioned but was also rife with tension and warfare?

The Six Kingdoms is the equivalent of the United Nations, although its formation was… different. Drastically so. I borrowed a lot from history. Nations rose only to fall, and in the ruins of great civilizations, new ones were born. But to build a political landscape, I needed a geographic one, one where I could justify magic, its influences, and how a gigantic scar across a continent could forever change everyone living there.

Hundreds upon hundreds of hours went into building the world. My favorite bits of research involve horses. I combined my two favorite breeds of horses to create the Rift Horses, and the Yadesh… well, trying to figure out how to create those occupied many a happy hour. But if I’m completely honest, the most rewarding piece of research was the extensive amount of cultural studies I had to do in order to create the various societies populating the Requiem for the Rift King world.

Q] What other books have you written? Can you tell us about them and what genres they belong to?

RJB: I’ve written a lot of books. Between full-length novels and a handful of anthologies, I’ve published nineteen titles. All of them are science fiction or fantasy in some fashion or another!

My main titles include stories from the Witch & Wolf world. The main series, entitled Witch & Wolf, is a four book set, with the last installation, SILVER BULLET, scheduled to release late 2016 or early 2017. I’m hoping for late this year. I have several spinoff series in the Witch & Wolf world, as I can’t quite seem to leave that sandbox for very long…

Of the nineteen titles, two are Dystopian Science Fiction and were released under a pseudonym.

Q] Please tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination and inspired you to become a wordsmith in your own right. Similarly, are there any current authors you would like to give a shout out to?

RJB: A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeline L’Engle made me love reading, which in turn made me want to write many years down the road. Mercedes Lackey is responsible for my adoration of fantasy horses with a magical twist.

Patricia Briggs got me started on writing werewolves and other shifters. Ilona Andrews is my current love affair with another author, as I’m a huge, huge fan of the Kate Daniels series. I also like the Innkeeper Chronicles they’ve written as well!

Q] Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

RJB: Thank you for having me! I’d just like to take a moment to thank every last reader and book lover out there for taking the time to read, no matter the reason. Keep reading and loving books!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

GUEST POST: Characters or Plot, Which Is More Important? by Matthew B. J. Delaney

You’re sweatpantsing it at home slouched into the sofa shoveling Americone Dream into your mouth using your friend’s borrowed HBO Go password and you come across the following film choices: Boardwalk Empire. Game of Thrones. A documentary about your Mom.

You freeze, Americone Dream dripping down your chin. You read that right. HBO has made a documentary about your Mom. Do you think, “Well, I don’t know…does it have a good plot?” Of course not. You hurl that Americone Dream across the room, fired up on life and watch that docudrama with a passion.

Why? Because characters rule.

In the movie of your life, your Mom is a main character; and we all worship characters we know. That’s why human beings love story telling gossip. Gossip isn’t plot driven. It’s character driven. The content of the stories isn’t what interests, it’s that the stories are cast with people we know. Nothing bores more than gossip about strangers. Next time you’re on the subway, listen in on some gossipy conversation. Within seconds you’ll feel the will to live drain from your body.

Stories only work if we have an attachment to the people involved. We need to feel close to the characters. If there’s no closeness, there’s no feeling. And getting the audience to feel something, anything, anger, sadness, joy, should be the goal of any good writer. You want to hear that story about your Dad, neighbor, co-worker, whoever, because you care about him or her. If a writer can generate that same feeling of closeness in fictional characters, plot becomes almost irrelevant.


Of course, after a while, a great character with no plot is like hanging out with your grandmother. Nice person, but nothing ever happens when you’re with her. If terrorists never seize Nakatomi Plaza, we never get John McClane. If the Holy Grail, and the Arc of the Covenant were already sitting in a museum, we never get Indiana Jones. Good characters are made great by the plot they find themselves in. People who rush into burning buildings become legend. Good characters who do stuff become great characters. And those things that happen to people you care about is called the plot.

So which is better, plot or character? Depends....

In general, plot driven stories are more marketable than character driven. Plot is film trailers and blurbs on book jackets. We choose new stories to read or watch because of exciting plots. The 5 highest grossing films of all time are heavy plot, light character:
- Avatar 
- Titanic 
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens 
- Jurassic World 
- The Avengers.

These are all entertaining movies dominated by things happening. The characters are interchangeable pieces to throw explosions or dinosaurs, or sinking ships at. They don’t really matter. People don’t walk around reciting quotes from any of these films, because characters are made memorable by the things they say. And there are no truly memorable characters in any of these movies.

Memorable scenes, yes, memorable quotes, no.

On the other hand, character movies are filled with amazing lines.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Here’s looking at you kid.

These are the kind of things that characters who really blow your hair back say. The cool comebacks and one liners you wish you could have used on anyone who pushed you around or made you fall in love. These are character driven quotes, and the top IMDB highest rated films of all time are filled with them:
- Shawshank Redemption
- The Godfather
- The Godfather: Part II. 
- 12 Angry Men
- The Dark Knight (Don’t be fooled by The Dark Knight. Thanks to Heath Ledger, this is a total character film; just one in which lots of action happens to the characters.)

Notice there’s no overlap in the two lists. As a general rule, box offices favor plot and critics favor character. Plot stories make good money. Character movies make good memories. Character movies also make sequels. And sequels make money and memory.

No matter how much we like the idea of a boy going to a school for wizards, or a millionaire playboy fighting crime, if we don’t love the characters created in the Philosopher’s Stone or Dark Knight, we never have the rest of the series. Superhero stories always start off as character driven. Once we know the backstory, how this person came to be ‘super’, then we can proceed with the explosions, and the 37 sequels.

We need character to build the base of interest. Then we need a bunch of stuff to happen to that character we’ve grown to love. The best stories combine plot and character, by allowing the plot to define and shape the character. Something exciting happens and by seeing how our character responds, we get character development.

I don’t care why people love each other. What’s interesting is what keeps them apart. What keeps them apart is plot, and that’s where the character comes from. Remember those awful minimum wage high school jobs that older people were always saying built character? They do build character. Memorable, exciting, terrible events, and how people respond to them are all ways we can form and shape our character. Every hero needs to battle a villain. Every lover needs an obstacle. Every character needs conflict. The plot helps chisel away the stone that reveals the great character underneath.

So which is better, plot or character? Depends on you.

Do you want that vacation villa on Lake Como or an Oscar? Vacation villa writers do plot. Oscar writers do character. The best writers do both. They create well plotted stories filled with conflict and brilliant characters, stack their villas with Oscars, then go on to become the world’s greatest lovers.


Official Author Website

GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: Matthew B.J. Delaney published his first novel, Jinn, in 2003. Winner of the International Horror Guild Award, the novel was optioned for film by Touchstone Pictures, was featured as People magazine’s Page-Turner of the Week, and received a Publishers Weekly Starred Review.

Delaney received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dartmouth College and a master’s in public administration from Harvard. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, he left a career in finance and moved from Boston to New York City to join the New York City Police Department. He has been a member of the NYPD for twelve years and has been assigned to precincts throughout Manhattan and the Bronx as well as within police headquarters and the Intelligence Division. He is currently a decorated Special Operations Lieutenant serving in a Brooklyn violent crime suppression unit. He continues to write in his spare time.

Order Black Rain HERE

Official Black Rain Blurb: In a darkly warped near future, lucrative disease cures are brokered on Wall Street’s Genetic Stock Exchange. And the hottest consumer products are artificially synthesized humans that serve as everything from domestic slaves to combatants in savage gladiatorial games. For Jack Saxton, the young heir to genetic design powerhouse Genico Inc., these Synthates are just a fact of life…until the murder of a high-profile genetic scientist leads a pair of seasoned NYPD detectives to Genico’s door.

As a small band of Synthate rebels steps up its attack on the status quo, Jack encounters a pleasure-parlor girl who opens his eyes to their cause. When he dares to sympathize with the rebels, Jack is hunted down and arrested for the murder. Sentenced to die in the brutal games on Bloomberg Island, Jack will be forced to fight—for his life, for the future of all Synthates, and for a chance to uncover the mind-bending secret buried in his past.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Interview with C. T. Phipps (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order Cthulhu Armageddon HERE
Order Straight Outta Fangton HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Chthulhu Armageddon
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Straight Outta Fangton
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Esoterrorism
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with C. T. Phipps
Read "Giving Back Vampires Their Bite" by C. T. Phipps (guest post)
Read "To Mythos Or Not To Mythos" by C. T. Phipps (guest post)

Charles T. Phipps has been leading an interesting career. With every new book release he goes forward in a different genre. Two of his most recent releases were Cthulhu Armageddon & Straight Outta Fangton. I enjoyed reading both of them and wanted to discover his thoughts on their inception, possible sequels and what will be his next release...

Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic and thank you for taking the time. How does it feel to have close to six books published since you made your debut in 2015?

CTP: It’s an ecstatic feeling to have so many volumes out. It’ll also be seven before the year is out. The Rules of Supervillainy, The Games of Supervillainy, The Secrets of Supervillainy, Esoterrorism, Straight Outta Fangton, Cthulhu Armageddon, and the upcoming Wraith Knight are everything I’ve written over the past four years. So, to see them all released or read for release is a heady experience. Better still, they’re also all in a wide variety of genres.

Q] You recently had two books release which are distinctly different in terms of genre as well as plot and characters. Can you tell us how the inception for both of them occurred? How long have you been working on them? Has either book evolved from its original idea (if at all)?

CTP: Straight Outta Fangton was inspired by my love of vampire fiction throughout the Eighties and Nineties. I'm a huge fan of the Nosferatu but they haven't been treated all the best recently. I felt they needed to get some of their bite back (so to speak) and wanted to make a book which deconstructed some of my favorite elements of the "curse" and reconstructed others. I also wanted it to be equal parts funny and serious. As one of my fans put it, "Straight Outta Fangton is to urban fantasy what The Rules of Supervillainy is to superheroes."

Cthulhu Armageddon was inspired by my love of two things, H.P. Lovecraft's mythology and post-apocalypse fiction. I like to think of it as what you'd get if you'd combine Mad Max with the Call of Cthulhu. There’s more than a little Fallout influence too. I figured just about everyone in the horror has done a Cthulhu pastiche so I wanted to do something slightly different. I was helped along by the fact I wanted to do something serious as well as epic. For me, that was the idea of a gunslinger wandering the Great Old One-ruled wastelands with an eye toward revenge.

Straight Outta Fangton was a very easy book to write and took only about a month from start to finish. Cthulhu Armageddon has taken several rewrites and a number of years to finish. It’s one of the works dearest to my heart and one of the ones I consider to be my masterworks. Both books have benefited from my increased experience and lessons learned.

Q] Talking about Cthulhu Armageddon, I loved the plot concept of our world that has been rendered alien by the invasion of the Old ones. I thought an excellent pitch for the book would be Mad Max meets Lovecraftian Mythos. What do you think? What was your pitch for it?

CTP: Haha. I find that funny because I not only mentioned it above but it's actually listed in the Foreword as the pitch I made. I've always been a big fan of Mad Max and the idea of people surviving in a world gone mad seems like it would be an excellent model for the people eking out an existence in Cthulhu's shadow. There's plenty of other influences which have gone into my books like Brian Lumley's Titus Crow novels, the Fallout series, The Walking Dead, The Dollars Trilogy, and Red Dead Redemption. There’s a little bit of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower and The Stand as well.

Q] After finishing the book, two thoughts came to my mind. Firstly I hope you write a sequel because this world is too cool not to explore more & secondly I was truly distraught upon reading the demise of a secondary character. Any chance you might pull a Tolkien?

CTP: I do, in fact, have plans for more volumes in the Cthulhu Armageddon series. Crossroad Press has expressed a lot of interest in my post-apocalypse vision of Lovecraft's world and I've already finished the second volume in the story, The Tower of Zhaal. It follows the protagonist and six other characters in a fun little "The Magnificent Seven vs. Cthulhu" plot. I hope fans of the original book will check it out. As for the secondary character, I'm afraid they'll be restricted to flashbacks from now on.

I felt it was important that despite the fact our characters are a good deal more durable than your average Lovecraft protagonist that we show just how dangerous the wasteland is. Still, it was with great reluctance I decided to off them.

Q] Speaking of the CA series, how many volumes do you think will be required for Booth's saga? How far along are you in the next book, and is there anything you can tell us about books two, three and the series beyond?

CTP: I currently have plans for four volumes in the series, depending on what the response is I might do more but they're already prepped for. There's The Tower of Zhaal as mentioned, The Tree of Azathoth, and Cthulhu's Canyon. Each of the volumes will be discussing a different element of the Wasteland and focus on another kind of Lovecraftian monster. No one, not even Booth, is necessarily safe though he's a remarkably good character at surviving. I think only Randolph Carter and Titus Crow have a better record against the hazards of a Cosmic Horror Story.

I don't want to diminish the threat of the universe they live in, for example, or really ruin the feeling of the characters by making them invincible. Instead, I just want to focus on the prospect of showing how people react to living in a world where not only is humanity not on top of the food chain but they may actually be sliding toward extinction.

Q] In your book, you seem to mix horror, SF & Lovecraftian mythos nicely. For those younger readers who aren’t quite acquainted with the Mythos, what would you say to put their minds at ease?

CTP: The Cthulhu Mythos can be summarized as humanity is actually just the latest in a long line of races which have inhabited the Earth. Millions of years ago, it was visited by huge alien gods (called the Great Old Ones) and their servitors who decided to settle down on our planet and take a good long nap. Their immense psychic powers and alien presence has warped the world in subtle and grandiose ways. There are offshoots of humanity which live in the deepest parts of the oceans, in the depths of the Earth, and even in humanity’s dreams.

In the Cthulhu Armageddon-verse, those ancient alien gods have awakened and reclaimed the Earth. They were barely aware of humanity when they killed much of our species in the planet's reshaping. Now it's a hostile alien wasteland where humanity has reverted to a kind of Wild West lawlessness.

My story follows a Recon and Extermination Ranger from New Arkham named John Henry Booth after his exile. He’s a African American descended soldier who is less interested in trying to save the world than surviving and getting revenge on those who wronged him.

Q] Moving onto Straight Outta Fangton (cool title btw), what led you to craft this story about a down on his luck vampire who has to work at a gas station? Also who came up with that title?

CTP: I was struggling for a while about what would be a good idea for a vampire story which hadn't been covered before. Bluntly, everything about vampires being sexy, rich, immortal badasses had been said and I didn't want to just treat them as pure monsters. God knows, I didn't want them to sparkle or be romantic leads either.

In the end, I was inspired by the odd combination of Straight Outta Compton and Clerks. I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to be the vampire who wasn't blessed in every conceivable way by their transformation or cursed with generic angst. What about the vampire who just has to hold down a job? As for the title, that was me after many-many failed attempts.

Q] Will this book herald a series as well? What are you plans for the sequels? Will we see Peter travel to other cities and get to see their quirky facets?

CTP: I'm mostly done with 100 Miles and Vampin' the sequel to the book. It's not exactly a series, per se, though. Basically, much like Gary Karkofsky in The Rules of Supervillainy, I just feel like writing book after book as the jokes come to me. I have charted out a little bit more of the world and what parts of it are controlled by which factions. It's a world where vampires and humans are coexisting in something of an uneasy peace since the former have all manner of impressive powers while the latter have guns.

Lots and lots of guns. Bombs too.

Q] One thing that stood out was that for both these stories, the protagonists are black & I have to laud you for making that choice. Even in 2016 do we rarely get to see protagonists in a different shade than Caucasian. What was the key factor for you to go down this route?

CTP: Straight Outta Fangton's Peter Stone was always black in my mind because he's a character who is fundamentally tied to Detroit and that has a predominately African American population. With the exception of Blade, Blackula, and a handful of others, vampires are also rarely depicted as of African descent. It felt appropriate in my deconstruction of the "traditional" vampire narrative that the undead would be as diverse as the rest of humanity. It also would be a very weird title for the book if our protagonist wasn’t black.


As for John Henry Booth, he's a character I rewrote from my original draft when I realized that his fundamentals had shifted. One of the things I challenge in Cthulhu Armageddon is a lot of the basic assumptions about Lovecraft's world (such as his xenophobia) even as I celebrate others (such as his awesome pantheon of alien gods). In the future, particularly after the apocalypse, people aren't going to care about skin color or ethnicity.

I lucked out that Idris Elba was signed up for Roland Deschain in The Gunslinger while Denzel Washington got the lead in The Magnificent Seven. They both provided me with encouragement that this was a good decision.

Q] The Fangton series has a deep dark comedic streak to it which is very comparable to the movie “What We Do in the Shadows”. It however does slip into grim territory from time to time. How do you balance this fine line between comedy & horror?

CTP: I'm a huge horror aficionado but I grew up in the late Eighties and early Nineties so the mixture isn't nearly as strange to me as it is to others. Army of Darkness, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Lost Boys have always been in the back of my head for favorite horror films even though they're also comedies. Plus, I just watched What We Do in the Shadows before I wrote Straight Outta Fangton.

For me, comedy is fundamentally about the laughing at the world's absurdities which can range from the aggravating to the horrific. I love trying to get a laugh a paragraph but I don't ever want to make my vampires stupid or weak. The humor comes from the fact Peter Stone is a monster capable of tearing people apart with his bare hands but he's not enough of one to exploit that fact. Hence, the only people who really profit from a vampire’s powers are those who are the worst of (in)humanity.

Q] You have also written a comedy supervillain series wherein you provide your own touch to the superhero & villain tropes. Is Fangton an attempt to put your stamp on the vampire story genre? If so what are you trying to accomplish?

CTP: Oh yeah. Straight Outta Fangton is basically the spiritual cousin of The Supervillainy Saga. I wrote the latter as a love song to everything I loved about comic books and superheroes while also a way to criticize the elements which didn't work for me. I feel the same way for my vampire novel. I love vampires but they've suffered a lot of villain decay due to being constantly shown with all of their benefits and few of their weaknesses.

For me, I wanted to show vampires who did have serious drawbacks to their condition (homicidal urges if you're hungry, most of the weaknesses of traditional lore so that every vampire loathed crosses or even people causally calling on God). I also wanted to show them compensating for these weaknesses. Then I enjoyed simply making poor Peter the kind of guy at the bottom of the totem pole. As a vampire who is a few years old, he's aware of his position in society and has a few abilities but has to live in the shadow of the genuinely powerful vampire elite and the humans who envy as well as loathe the undead in equal measure. 

Also, to tell a funny story about a guy who has seen hundreds of vampire movies.

Q] Talking about your Supervilliany saga, you have 3 books out so far. Where is the series headed and how many books do you think you will need to bring it to its conclusion?

CTP: The Supervillainy Saga is meant to imitate the style of an ongoing comic book with all that entails. As such, I consider each chapter of the book to be an "issue" of the Merciless comic. So, really, I'm not ready to cancel or reboot the series just yet. I think The Supervillainy Saga will go on until I get tired of writing the series. As for where the series is headed, I have an endless number of ideas of what sort of scenarios and situations to throw Gary into.

The Science of Supervillainy is the next book. Gary successfully manages to prevent the end of the world and President Omega’s plot to take over but it results in him getting brainwashed into living a normal life in a specially constructed suburban prison for years. Rescued by Nightgirl, Gary and Mandy find themselves in a retro-future Falconcrest City where everything fun is outlawed. Who is the party responsible for this? Gary’s virtuous doppleganger, the superhero Merciful!

Q] You also have a dark fantasy boom coming out from Ragnarok Publications. Can you tell our readers more about Wraith Knight, the world it’s set in & what can readers look forward to from it?

CTP: Wraith Knight is a dark fantasy story following Jacob Riverson, an epic hero about four hundred years ago. Killed during the Fourth Great Shadow War and reanimated as one of the King Below's generals, he spent a century as a monster. With the King Below's death, he has been freed from his slavery and found himself in a strange new world where humans have to deal with living in peace with the monsters once enslaved by their Great Enemy.

It's basically my deconstruction of the usual fantasy tropes of Always Chaotic Evil monsters, high fantasy wars against Dark Lords, and other classics of the genre. What happens after you win the big epic war and it turns out the bad guys are people you have to learn to live with.

Q] Based on all the above answers you seem to be a writer who doesn’t want to be tied to down to a specific genre? In that regards you are in a small club of writers. Is this done intentionally? What are your thoughts about it & why do you choose to publish all your titles under the same name (going against the industry norm of having different pseudonyms for different genres)?

CTP: Being an independent author has offered me a certain level of freedom in terms of picking and choosing my projects. I imagine if I was worried about everyone knowing whether or not I was the author of Cthulhu Armageddon (sci-fi action/post-apocalypse horror), Esoterrorism (urban fantasy), The Supervillainy Saga (superhero comedy), Straight Outta Fangton (urban fantasy comedy), and Wraith Knight (fantasy) then I wouldn’t have done it. I want my readers to be able to appreciate all of my work, though.

Q] Nowadays the internet is a very important tool for authors and publishers in promoting their books and you seem to have embraced that philosophy whole-heartedly. Yet, with technology becoming more advanced every day, is the future of print in jeopardy and what are your thoughts on e-books?

CTP: I don't think the medium of relaying novels matters as much as some authors think it does. As things like Kindles and other ebook readers become more available, print books will become less prevalent just like Ipods have replaced some portion of the CD market. I think we're decades away from them ceasing to exist, though, and even then I think there will always be a market for them in the way vinyl records continues to exist. Ultimately, what matters is the writing itself and it doesn't matter if it's ebook, print, or audiobook format. Indeed, I do my best to make my book available in all three if I can.

Q] Thank you very much for your time and for answering all the questions. What would like to pass on to your fans both old and new?

CTP: Read as much and as widely as you can. There’s so many books out there which need love.

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