Jonathan Maas ~ Spotlight

Life got in the way of my reading this last month, but I did get to read Flare. So without further ado, I introduce the author of Flare, Jonathan Maas. Jon gave me  very in-depth interview answers and you can find them here. My review of Flare can be found here.

JonathanMaasJon Maas was born in New Haven, Connecticut and grew up in San Antonio, Texas. After graduating from Stanford University with degrees in Biology and History, he’s earned a living as a Musician, Peace Corps Volunteer, Standup Comedian, TV Producer and Web Designer.  His first novel, City of Gods – Hellenica has been well received, and his second book, Spanners: The Fountain of Youth won the award for ‘Best Young Adult Fiction’ at the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, as well as ‘Best Science Fiction’ at the 2015 IndieReader Discovery awards. Spanners: The Fountain of Youth is the sequel to the independent movie Spanners, which is currently available on Amazon Video. His third book, Flare, has been well-received so far, and won ‘Best Science Fiction’ at the 2016 Los Angeles Book Festival. He has just released his fourth book, the comedy/fantasy The Dog That Laid Eggs.

He hopes to release his fifth book, Dion, shortly, and is currently working on City of Gods II: Horsemen. He writes on his bus commute to and from work, and has a soft spot in his heart for all types of Public Transportation.





Tales from Alternate Earths

tfae-coverToday’s spotlight is different. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing five out of nine authors from a wonderful anthology called Tales from Alternate Earths. What a great time I’ve had both reading the short stories and interacting with these talented people. Because there are so many stories and interviews, I will put the bio of each author with their short interview. You can find my review here.

Our first author wrote Stargazing on Oxford Street. Meet Rob Edwards.

DQ: Your story felt so normal at first and I was curious to see where the alternate history part came in. What made you think of this particular “alternate” possibility?

RE: Alternate History was something of a challenge for me, I’m not a history buff like Brent or Cathbad, so I chose to write about something I do know, which is London. I lived there for twenty years, and the journey my characters take in the story is, after a fashion, my old commute to work. I lived near White City, where the 1908 Olympics were based, and the idea crystalized when I realized that the Tunguska meteor fell during the span of time those Olympics covered… although as far as I was able to find, no actual events were taking place on that date.

DQ: You’re from the UK, but living in Finland. Where else in the world would you like to live?

RE: Hmm. Tough one.

I moved here earlier this year, my wife is Finnish and she is the reason I’m here. It’s a great place, the lakes are beautiful, and the pace of life is much quieter than London, an ideal writing environment in fact. There is, perhaps, an alternate history where I live in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. I lived and worked there for a while in my youth, and back then it had a great atmosphere, but I’ve not been back in years.

Oh, I know! The moon. I’d like to live on the moon, in some sort of permanent lunar settlement. Can we get on that?

DQ: What is your favorite genre to read? To write?

I wrote an article on the Altered Instinct blog about the books that stayed with me* and they are mostly science fiction and fantasy (although my love of comic books is also represented). I love a good adventure in a setting which is a little bit off-beat, and that’s what I read and what I write.

Note* I did check out the article on Altered Instinct and Rob has a great list of favorite books.


Rob Edwards is a British born writer and podcaster, currently living in Finland.  His podcast, StorycastRob, features readings from his short stories and excerpts from longer work.  His work can also be found in the anthologies Tales from the Universe and Tales from Alternate Earths, published in Kindle format by Inklings Press, and as guest spots on episodes of R B Wood’s Word Count Podcast.

His greatest geek pride is his entry on wookieepedia, the a result of writing several Star Wars RPG scenarios back in the day.

Rob is currently working on a YA novel featuring superheroes in space and an  urban fantasy novel set in and under 90s London.

Follow Rob on Twitter and his blog.

Tunguska had much of the dark feel of Stargazing on Oxford Street. It was gritty and I expected any moment to see devastation. Then it surprised me. I love when I think I have a story figured out and it twists at the end in a way that fits my preconceptions yet adds more. Maria Haskins gave me chills with the story that closed this anthology.

DQ: I have to say your story was the perfect close to this anthology. What made you think of this type of alternate history story? Where did you get the inspiration for it?

MH: Thank you so much! I’ve never really written alternate history before, so when I saw that Inklings Press had a call out for submissions for an anthology, I initially didn’t think I would participate. But I guess my brain had other ideas, because two scenes kept sort of tapping me on the shoulder. One was the opening for the 1987 storyline, with a girl looking out her window and seeing a spaceship land just beyond the birch trees. And the other was the opening “chase scene” for the 1929 storyline, with a man running through the snow, being pursued and shot at by some kind of drone. I tried ignoring those scenes for a while, but finally decided to see where they’d take me if I tried to put them together in a story. My working title was “The Best of All Possible Hells”, imagining an alternate timeline that’s sort of a Utopia because there’s peace and humanity has avoided all the wars since 1908, and where there’s also some kind of environmentally sound progress. And yet the people in that world do not necessarily feel particularly happy, because, well… Utopias are complicated.

Right from the get-go I had a strong idea about what the two people in the two timelines were like, and once I figured out the connection between them, the whole storyline sort of popped into my head.

Around the same time, I’d also gone through some old photos of mine that included a photo of the dog my dad had when he was a kid. That dog’s name was Ajax, and that’s how a dog named Ajax ended up as part of my story. I knew from the start that the story would be set in northern Sweden. That’s where I grew up, and the 1929 storyline is partly inspired by the real lives of my grandparents – my grandfather’s squirrel hunting, particularly.

DQ: This story had so many elements that reminded me of others I have read, yet you kept it uniquely your own. What is your favorite genre to read? To write?

MH: Thank you again! That’s high praise and much appreciated! I was trying to take familiar themes and tropes and sort of put some sort of unique spin on them: hopefully I succeeded to some extent. My favorite genre to read is any kind of speculative fiction: different shades of science fiction and fantasy, a lot of dark fantasy, some horror as well. Those are the genres I’ve loved reading since I was a kid. Speculative fiction is also what I love to write right now: over the last year I’ve mainly worked on short stories that are either fantasy-ish or science fiction-ish. I also write poetry, and that crops up occasionally for me no matter what else I’m writing.

DQ: Can we look forward to other, perhaps longer, works in this genre from you, or do you have other plans?

I definitely got a taste for alternate history storytelling while writing this story, and also while reading the other stories in the anthology. I have no alt-history projects brewing right now (too many fantasy and science fiction tales on the go!), but I think I will probably dive into the genre again in the future. There are so many cool “what ifs” to imagine.

Thank you Maria. I do hope you will write more in this genre, but from the quality of this story, I’m sure all your work is worth the read.

MariaHaskinsMaria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and certified translator. She writes speculative fiction and poetry, and debuted as a writer in Sweden in the far-off era known as the 1980s. Since 1992 she lives in Canada, just outside Vancouver, with a husband, two kids, and a very large black dog.

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook. You can also learn more about Maria and her work on her website.

The Secret War was a great read and Leo McBride kept me guessing until the end. I should have caught the clue in the protagonist’s nickname, but I didn’t. Other clues told me what was going on in this wonderful twist on a well known tale.

DQ: Of all the stories this one was the most fun for me, more for its sheer audacity than anything else. It takes some cheek to take on one of the best known Science Fiction writers in the world. You did it well and made the story your own. What inspired you to create this story?

LM: Thanks! And very much felt under pressure considering who I was paying tribute to! I’ve always been a huge fan of HG Wells, and The War of the Worlds particularly, not just the book but the fabulous Jeff Wayne version on record which I used to play over and over on vinyl. I think it was one of the first stories that stuck in my head in which humans face such an overpowering, overwhelming force, but at the same time, I always wondered what next for the world? The Martians are wiped out by bacteria, but what next for humanity? I also figured a lot of contributors would be writing about the world taking a twist and turning out differently, so I thought perhaps it might be fun to have something take place in our world that we didn’t know about, that shaped our world in the way it turned out, but all remaining hush, hush.

DQ: You obviously have read at least one classic Science Fiction book. What is your favorite genre to read? To write?

LM: Gosh, that’s a tough one. I’ve always loved science fiction, but also fantasy and horror. I think any genre that makes the imagination take flight is one that I’ve enjoyed reading, so I grew up reading the likes of Le Guin, Clarke, Tolkein, Donaldson, but the writer whose work I most fell in love with was Ray Bradbury and the way he could transport that picket fence world of small town America into futures far and distant. He has a magical way with words that makes the incredible seem like you could reach out and touch it, and creating worlds that feel lived in, and the people seem like Jimmy from the bar, or Annie from down at the library, folks you could have as your neighbours, no matter what planet you’re on. In terms of writing, I think I’m still finding my way. I seem to have taken to writing science fiction tales more easily so far, and enjoy exploring the possibilities in those stories. That said, the two novels I’m working on are very different from that – one a supernatural horror and the other a paranormal comedy. That latter is the main one I’m working on most at the moment, and sprang from just a silly idea that seemed far too good to ignore!

DQ: I’ve now read this short story and another on your blog. I enjoyed both. Do you have plans for more anthology work, or perhaps a longer alternate history book?

LM: You’re very kind! And I’ve got a couple of plans. There’s a story of mine due to feature in a collection by Starklight Press, and I’m sure Inklings Press will have another call out this year for the next anthology there. I’m also planning a series for the blog involving other authors in a shared-world series of weird Wild West tales. That latter one is mostly for a bit of fun writing and to try to encourage some of the other authors from the Inklings group who might want to take part without the pressure of a deadline. My main focus for the rest of the year though is to try to make progress on the novel. I’m being outpaced by some friends who have completed their novel projects, so I need to catch up!

Thank you Leo McBride for your answers. I look forward to reading more from you.

StephenHuntLeo McBride has worked in journalism for more than 20 years and lives in The Bahamas. He self-published a collection of short stories with a fantasy twist, Quartet, and has featured in four anthologies published by Inklings Press in the science fiction, horror, fantasy and alternative history genres. He has also had a story accepted by Starklight Press in their Blue Moon Season anthology. He blogs at his website, Altered Instinct, where guest authors are also welcomed to publish short fiction, and where he features his book and podcast reviews. Leo is working on a paranormal comedy novel, set in the world of US politics.

Follow Leo McBride on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn more about Leo at his website.

Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon is a joint venture by Brent A. Harris and Ricardo Victoria.

DQ: Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon was a serious subject, yet you seem to have injected some fun into it with the troodons and some of Gon’rak’s attitude. What made you come up with the idea of “alternating” history from that far back?

RV: Because I have never read a story like that and Brent is a fan of dinosaurs. The story actually started different. The first idea was a homage to the Apollo 11 mission but in a world where the asteroid that hit Yucatan was deflected by the Moon (hence the Scar in the Moon) and dinosaurs (of the raptor kind) evolved into sapient, sentient beings with a civilization paralleling ours but millions of year before and with some differences, such as the mission being a joint effort between different ‘nations’ as an Ice Age is approaching and the whole species is looking for ways to survive it, including going to space. Then Brent, who had his own ideas by the time I pitched the idea, took it to the possibility of the species evolving to the point where they could time travel to stave off a cataclysm and end changing the timeline. It was a mix between two parallel stories coming about and deciding to merge them to make them work with their respective best bits.

BH: Two reasons: dinosaurs are fun. And I wanted to break the mold that alternate history is limited. There is so much out there to explore, ponder, all sorts of ways: environmental, geographic, bacterial, I mean even how the Earth tilts, that could have profoundly changed Earth’s history.

DQ: You work well together. Was it difficult to keep the story to short status with both of you working on it?

BH: Thank you. Ricardo can write short stories. I cannot. It did require a bit of policing and self-control to make sure it didn’t become an unabridged history of the world. There’s always a danger in not knowing if you haven’t given enough of a story or you’ve given too much. It was a fine line and I hope we found a balance people will like.

RV: Brent and I have very different approaches to writing, so yes, it was tricky to keep the story under a limit. Luckily Brent is evolving (lots of evolution going around here folks) into a good editor on its own and thus he is aware of where the story needs to be trimmed. Brent writes in a more linear fashion, from start to end, while I’m more of writing individual scenes and putting all together. Getting the story done required a fair share of back and forth emails, but nothing too difficult.

DQ: Can you give me an idea of why this particular story worked for you?

RV: Because it is different and crazy. I like different and crazy. And in my case the theme of a species trying to save itself from an impending doom hits a personal fiber since it relates with my field of work (my actual day job, not the moonlighting as writer), see I have a PhD in Sustainable Design and most of my work is either researching or teaching the topic. And the question about what we could do as species to stave off climate change and all the different scenarios that are in front of us is one that keeps popping up in my head all the time and in my lectures. So having the idea of a doomed species trying to survive through science appeals to me, even if the consequences as you saw in the story are… well, not as expected. Finally, the ending that Brent proposed reminded me of a classic science fiction story from the golden age. You can’t go wrong with those!

BH: I was inspired by Ricardo’s short story about a sapient civilization of dinosaurs coming together to work on landing on the moon, as sort of an homage to our own historic moon landing. Not to be cynical, but it does seem we’ve lost sight of setting and attaining goals as a civilization, of working together. Mesozoic Moon works for me because it’s a reminder on a couple levels: first, our civilization isn’t guaranteed—it can be wiped out at any second, as it has for other species several times in the past. Secondly, our knowledge of even our own history is incredibly thin. We know almost nothing. We only have an inkling of an idea of the sacrifices, tragedies, and triumphs that have come before us to get us where we are right now. Hopefully, the story is a reminder of not just the fragility of our species, but also the strength. Plus, dinosaurs.

DQ: I would like to read more by the two of you as a team. Do you have any plans to collaborate again?

BH: Not at this time. We both have our own projects going on. I have an alternate history novel about the American War for Independence that I am shopping around to agents and publishers (hopefully I’ll close on a contract soon!) while I’m steadily working on the next book in the series. And I know Ricardo has his hands full with his own projects. However, I think that if enough people like our story and it gets a good response (fingers crossed) I’d would definitely work with Ricardo again.

RV: Right now as writers in specific, we don’t have something as such planned, although talks of a shared ‘universe’ a la Wildcards from G.R.R. Martin have taken place between Leo McBride, Brent and myself. For the time being both of them are helping me with editing my first novel and a short story anthology that derives from it. Depending on the next anthology’s theme and the reception of this story we might see.

DQ: There were quite a few social issues in this story. Women’s rights, religion having a strong influence on government, the state controlling scientific advancement all were touched on. Were you intending to make commentary on these issues or did the story just unfold that way?

BH: The idea of alternate history is to create a world that—no matter how different—is also just similar enough that there’s this kinda creepy reflection of our own world, which hopefully provides the reader a new perspective. Again, it’s another one of those fine lines—you don’t want to beat your audience’s head in with social commentary. Yes, I want everything I write to mean something, sure. But if it isn’t fun, no one is going to read it anyway

With that in mind, there was a lot of work that went into the creation of Gon’rak’s world. We wanted to make it fully fleshed out so we had to ask how this society might function. From cosmogony, we know that early civilizations typically deified whatever it was which could make or break them. Usually, it was water, often-times, volcanos, corn and crops. Things of that nature.

In Gon’rak’s case, he has this very precarious lunar object just kind of hanging out in the sky, looking like it’s just going to fall at any time. We knew that would have a profound role in his civilization. From that, we were able to sort of grow Gon’rak’s world somewhat organically, taking cues and filling gaps in from our own society as part of that reflection alternate history does so well.

RV: It unfolded organically. I mean, Brent and I tend to have politically charged but always amicable discussions from time to time, since he is a student of history and sociology and me because of the postgrad studies I did. Thus we talk about those topics because they are derived from our respective fields of study and/or work. The original pitch for the story was more like a blockbuster idea of a cracking team of dinosaurs trying to save their world with a few hints of social and political issues that affected the way the characters went about the mission. But as with the collaboration that grew organically, those topics found a way from our day jobs into the story. And I’m glad for it because as writers we have a certain duty to explore such topics and how society is molded from them. Doing it without coming off as preachers is a tricky thing, but I believe we accomplished that with the story. Again, I give credit to Brent’s skills as editor too, as he kept us in check.

DQ: Given the chance, when and where would you travel in a time machine? Do you believe in the Butterfly Effect?

RV: For the first part? I would like to witness the Roman period in Britain or the birth of the first civilizations. Maybe a detour to the Renaissance or Mexico’s War of Independence. Those time periods are the ones that spark most of my imagination and would be good places to visit as writer. On the second part of the question. I’m going to be honest here: I hate time travel stories, with the exception of Back to the Future and our story of course. I not only believe in the Butterfly Effect, which is scary unto itself, but I kinda subscribe to the theory of Many-Worlds from Quantum Physics and as such thinking on the consequences of time travel gives me a headache. You not only would end with a different future on your path, but might not even be able to go back to your original timeline because you could end in a different universe. As with any chaotic system, a small change in time can create massive consequences.

BH: I’d be too overcautious to travel back in time, because I do believe in the butterfly effect—though I’d really want to see the dinosaurs. Safest bet is to travel to the future, just to see if we make it to the stars like I am really hoping we do. Then, I’d come back and write about it as a science fiction television show, featuring a diverse cast, social themes, and Vulcans.


This has been a fascinating discussion and every bit as enjoyable as your story. Thank you Brent and Ricardo for your thoughtful replies.

BrentAHarrisBrent A. Harris is a part-time history and sociology student, part-time writer, and full-time stay-at-home-dad. He has lived in the U.K. in Lincolnshire and has traveled to Greece, Spain, and many parts of the U.S. He currently resides in Southern California where he is finishing his history degree in between bouts of writing and continuous diaper-changing. He has several works of short fiction published in anthologies through Inklings Press.

You can follow Brent on Facebook and Twitter.

RicardoVicrtoriaRicardo Victoria is a full time lecturer-researcher at his local university, part-time writer and game designer, and full time absent minded toy collector. Holds a PhD in Sustainable Design. He lived in the U.K during his postgrad and has travelled across northern Europe. He currently lives in his natal hometown in Mexico with his wife and dog. He is currently working in editing his first full length science fantasy novel ‘Tempest Blades’, a short story companion anthology titled Ravenhall and an illustrated book with a friend as well as designing his first board game. He has published short stories in anthologies through Inklings Press.

 Follow Ricardo Victoria on Facebook and Twitter.


Brian Rella ~ Author Spotlight

2014 350x350Brian lives in Tarrytown, NY with his wife, who he says is far too good for him, and his two vivacious boys who challenge his light-saber skills and knowledge of Transformers daily.

Most of his writing is done on the train to the cube farm where he works so he can buy stuff. In an effort to escape said cube farm, Brian decided to follow his passion for writing, and published two books in 2015. He hasn’t managed to escape yet, but he’s patient, and chips away at his dream every day. He published his first book in 2015 and hopes to write from his beachfront property overlooking the Mare Tranquillitatis one day.

The Monsters & Demons Horror Anthology he wrote in 2015 spawned the Second Death Series based on the story, “Arraziel”, from the collection. “Arraziel” was rewritten into a novella called, Rising: A Second Death Novella, which is currently free on Amazon. Watchers of the Fallen is Book One of the Second Death Series and picks up where Rising leaves off.

There are two more books planned in the series. Book two will be released in 2016, and Book three in early 2017.

Brian also enjoys American football, BBQ, 80’s Rock, craft beer, and the occasional small batch bourbon – not in that order specifically, though he wouldn’t complain about that sequence either.

0 Rising 415x622When Jessie unleashed the demon, Arraziel, she also awakened an ancient evil in the Realm of the Second Death. With a dark power at her command, will she leave her tortured life behind or take revenge?

Rising is the prequel to the Second Death Series.


When Jessie Hailey stole a book of dark arts from the bookshop in her backwoods hometown of Beauchamp, Louisiana, she freed Arraziel, one of the Fallen, and used his power to take revenge on her tormentors. But Jessie was unaware the ancient evil she unleashed was intent on destroying the world.

Spellbound by the King of the Fallen, and with Arraziel at her command, Jessie travels to Chicago to build an army and free the monstrous King of the Fallen from the Realm of Second Death.

Watchers of the Fallen is Book 1 of the Second Death Series.

Amazon Author Page:

Jonathan Maas ~ Interview

This interview gives some great insights into the worlds of Jonathan Maas.

I found Flare an unusual and intriguing read. So let’s get to some questions with the author.

DQ: There was a strong allegorical feel to Flare. It reminded me very much of Pilgrim’s Progress, but set in a much more modern world. What led up to this story?

JM: First of all, thank you for the interview, Ducky, and thank you for putting the book in such good company with your comparison!

In any case the story of Flare was a long time coming! Originally, the filmmaker David C. Keith and I were hoping to turn it into some sort of film, and that could still happen!

But in the meantime I just sat down with it day after day, night after night, and hammered it out. The concept was straightforward – a solar flare makes daylight so deadly that it blinds you instantly and kills you within minutes. And as I sat down with it for a long time, the life around the concept just grew.

As far as the allegorical feel, one of my theories is that there are some things in life we may not be able to answer. What can bring about world peace? What happens in the afterlife, if there is one? What’s life on a different planet like? What’s the purpose to our own existence?

What I like to do with these questions is come up with a completely fictional response. Though that obviously doesn’t lead to a definitive answer, the process of doing this can yield some truths. Not the answer, but some truths.

With Flare there were many questions I had to answer, questions that might not have an answer to begin with. I asked them through Flare’s allegorical nature, and though they are by no means definitive answers in the book, I believe truths can be gleaned from it.

DQ: It was interesting to have a mute as a major character in the story and I kept waiting, as I read, to find out his background. Why is Zeke mute?

JM: First of all, a side note before I get to Zeke’s lack of speech – like many authors I don’t consider myself so much a ‘writer’ as a ‘listener.’ I don’t always choose how stories come into being, so much as I maintain the discipline of getting in front of the page every day and intuiting what the universe is saying.

I don’t want to alienate readers of this interview by detaching myself from reality – it’s just that as an author I listen to things and some things are beyond even my understanding.

This happens with songwriters quite a bit – I believe ‘L.A. Woman’ from the Doors just happened spontaneously in the studio, with no planning!

Don’t quote me on that, but there is a great passage in the documentary 20,000 Days on Earth when Nick Cave talks about his favorite part of songwriting is when a song is in its wild state, just being played by a group of musicians, and not yet wrangled into a definitive form.

In short, sometimes things just happen – and the same can be said for writing!

But I digress and back on to Zeke –

His muteness just happened, and he takes up half the book without saying a word. I have my theory, and it’s probably true, but I don’t want to say it lest I take away the readers’ ability to come to their own conclusions. I sat down with Zeke every morning for a long time, and his muteness was just there because – I’d rather not spoil it. I have my theory though ;).

DQ: I’ve read your bio on Amazon and I find it interesting that you write on your commute to work. Tell me more about your background and why you became a writer.

JM: Thank you for asking about this! Before I get on my background and why I became a writer – I’d love to talk about both public transportation and time management.

In any case – I do indeed write on my way to work! As a working parent, it is the only time I can write practically!

My commute is my method of taking time from the day. Most every author struggles with this same issue. How do you find time to write?

Before we ask this, let’s consider the supreme value of time to an author.

As an author, your primary currency is time. Above all else you need time to write a book. If you win a grant, write books for your day job or are otherwise time-rich, good for you – you’ve figured out perhaps the greatest challenge facing an author! But if you’re like the other 99% of us in this world, time is not on your side.

Kids. Work. Commute. Spouse. Dating. Friendship. Going to get groceries. A number of other things that eat away at your time!

And when you do get time to sit down and write? It’s 9pm and you can’t keep your eyes open.

So you not only need time, you need regular, quality, non-tired time. Notice how I put regular in there. This doesn’t mean every once in a while you might have an hour. This means every day you have an hour, or two, and if more time pops up you take that as an addition!

So how do you get this time? Every author must find their own path. If you can get to write a book for your day job or take three months off – great! But if you can’t – it’s up to you to find a way.

For me it was my commute. City of Gods: Hellenica was written on the 218 bus, my work moved, and then Spanners: The Fountain of Youth and Flare were written on what was then known as the 760. I changed jobs – and The Dog That Laid Eggs was written on the subway. My upcoming book Dion was written on the 183, as well as the one after that – City of Gods II: Horsemen.

Writing on the bus makes you dizzy? Train yourself until it doesn’t. Don’t live near a bus stop/ train station? Drive to a Park N’ Ride.

If you still can’t commute on public transportation, then it’s up to you to find another way to get time. Regular, non-tired time is the main thing you need – it’s up to you to grab it.

Note – you can see more tips at my blog post here – Eight Ways a Working Parent Can Find Time to Write!

Now on to the second question – my background and why I became a writer?

I’ve had a lot of jobs, a lot of careers – from Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia, Africa, to a standup comedian, to my current career in the world of tech!

Why do I write? So many reasons, but I’m primarily in it to provide value to others. I want to inspire others, and take away their problems, at least for the moment. I want say to the world – life is difficult, but for the next three hundred pages or so, your problems do not apply!

DQ: This question is standard fare in author’s interviews. However, I am very interested after reading Flare to learn who has influenced your writing?

JM: Influences? Oh my gosh way too many. John Updike, Frank McCourt, most recently Octavia Butler, Andrew Kaplan and Ann Druyan along with Carl Sagan. Stephen King said it best in his brilliant The Bazaar of Bad Dreams that each work is influenced heavily by what the author happens to be reading at the time, and that’s true for most everyone.

An aside here if you will, Ducky – King writes a little preamble before each story in that book stating which author influenced his style before the short story, and then you read the short story so adroitly-written in that author’s style!

But influences –

For Flare, Cormac McCarthy to begin with, but it ended up as Larry McMurtry.

For The Dog That Laid Eggs, perhaps its silly style was influenced by Piers Anthony, particularly Ogre, Ogre.

I was also a bit inspired by Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and the band Steel Panther – both that book and the band really pick a direction and stick with it come whatever may.

With the upcoming book Dion I included a bibliography, but in short it was inspired by The Girl on the Train, JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst’s S., and a song from the band A Pale Horse Named Death called Dead of Winter. Arthur C. Clarke taught me how to think big, and of course Dante’s Inferno influenced it heavily!

I could go on and on Ducky! I’m sure I left some authors out!

DQ: During your free time, what books/genres do you enjoy reading?

JM: I of course love Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I’m trying to deliberately have something in front of me that I wouldn’t normally read. I picked up Gone Girl on a whim awhile ago and was rewarded for it!

Though it’s a page-turning thriller so it doesn’t really count. But still – I try to expand my horizons whenever I can by jumping into a genre I don’t normally gravitate towards!

I also enjoy ‘big’ non-fiction. Something that can help us truly understand the world. Jon Ronson’s books take on big themes, and Ann Druyan / Carl Sagan’s Cosmos takes on the biggest them of them all. I most recently read The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: The Birthplace of the Modern Mind, and it basically shows a fundamental chapter in the history of humanity – from Alexander to Cleopatra and beyond. It’s a great history lesson, but it’s more than that – it helped me better understand humanity as a whole.

And of course Murder in Absentia by Assaph Mehr!

DQ: What can we expect from you next?

JM: Right now I’m working on getting out my next book Dion – which already has a pre-release review from JennlyReads here.


After that, I’m getting through the first draft of the sequel to City of Gods: Hellenica, hoping to get that soon to my brilliant editor Patty Smith. It’s coming along, and I hope to get City of Gods II: Horsemen out by January 2017.

I also filmed a movie with David C. Keith, Spanners – which is available on Amazon Video here, free with Amazon Prime. It is a full-length movie and a prequel to Spanners: The Fountain of Youth.


We are just pushing it out there!

That’s it Ducky – and again THANK YOU for the opportunity!

Thank you Jonathan for sharing with us.



Flare ~ Review



3.8 ducks for Flare

A massive solar flare has scorched the earth, destroying all living things that dare to venture out in the daylight. Worse the flare seems to be permanent and isn’t going to mellow out any time soon. Ash wakes from a coma a couple of weeks into the disaster, saved by being in the basement ward at the hospital. Zeke is a gentle giant and a mute. He has survived by being very careful who he approaches during the nights when he can travel and by being non-threatening. Each man is traveling to a place called The Salvation hoping to find a way to survive in this blasted world. The first part of the story is the journey, the second is what happens after they find what they are seeking.

This story surprised me. It had the feeling of the Book of Eli, but in this story the characters travel through a world rendered completely inhospitable to life by a change in the strength of the sun. As the story moves along, it gets weirder, but not in a way that lost me as a reader. Rather it became more compelling like watching some kind of horror that you can’t look away from. The writing is technically almost perfect with very few typos or grammar mistakes to distract me. The twists the book took into the paranormal/supernatural arena were not expected, I thought it was Sci Fi, but it turned out to be more dark fantasy. However the premise was interesting and the extreme flip of the normal ideas of heaven and hell, was well done.

On the down side, the science is completely wrong, so if you are someone who can’t enjoy a story with bad science, don’t read this book. It reminded me of Pilgrim’s Progress or Dante’s Inferno with a modern setting and modern language. It takes a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief, but if you can get past that one issue, it is a good read and makes you think.



Tales from Alternate Earths ~ Review

tfae-cover4.5 ducks for Tales from Alternate Earths

I normally don’t like anthologies and tend to avoid short stories. Yes, I’m one of those people who gets very involved with the characters and the story and I hate for them to end. I would read a thousand page book just to stick with my favorite characters. With that said, I loved this book.

Alternate History is such a fun genre. I’ve spent hours daydreaming about alternate endings to books and movies since I was a kid. In college, I started thinking about the possibilities if one tiny thing changed in history. What would the world be like? What about time travel? What would it be like, if I was allowed to go back in time in my own life? Would I be willing to sacrifice the present to change the past?

Tales from Alternate Earths addresses many of my daydreams. Time travel, slight changes that affect big outcomes, and what if possibilities abound. At the same time, you get the feeling you could turn a corner or wake up from a nap and the bent timelines would be real. As Brent A. Harris so deftly stated it, “The idea of alternate history is to create a world that—no matter how different—is also just similar enough that there’s this kinda creepy reflection of our own world, which hopefully provides the reader a new perspective.” This book is full of tales that have that “creepy reflection of our own world” feeling.

*Fair warning, the links in each review might be considered to be spoilers. Click through at your own risk.

September 26th, 1983  by Jessica Holmes was well chosen as the opening short story. I will freely admit that I am not as well informed on either current world events or historical events as I should be. I was busy with my small life in 1983 and never heard of Stanislav Petrov. Despite not knowing the original history, this alternate version was so well written and compelling that it kept me glued to the page until the masterful twist at the end. What if the button had been pushed? After reading this story, I was eager to dive into the next one.

One More Dawn by Terry Pray was a complete contrast in style and setting. The story opens with the knowledge that someone has come to the end of their life, yet the emotional impact is softened for the reader by description of the lavish, luxury of the surroundings. Very soon I realized this story was an alternative of ancient history in Egypt. Reading it, I felt the soft breezes blowing the linen hangings, heard the fear in the voice of the priestess, knew the sorrow of the Great Queen. The story has no action, no great cataclysmic changes, but was written almost poetically as the loss of a loved one was suffered by one of the most famous of ancient rulers. What if love was stronger than ambition?

Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon, a joint effort by Brent A. Harris and Ricardo Victoria, is a fun ride that left me guessing until the end. I thought I knew what it was about when the Two Faced God was mentioned, but the twist at the very end completely surprised me. This particular alternate history is really alternate PREhistory. However the authors wove an interesting story with commentary on many aspects of modern life that made me think. This story, most of all in this book, exemplifies the “what if” aspect of the alternate history genre. What if another species had evolved instead of us?

One World by Cathbad Maponus was the one story in the book that scared me. I was born the same year that President Kennedy was assassinated and grew up with that extreme event being the pivotal horrific event in US history until 9/11. The assassination was awful, but it could have been so much worse. Unlike many, I never really hero worshiped JFK as so many seem to do. For this reason, I jumped right to the premise of this story and it felt like reading a real account of that period in history. This story is well written and I could tell the author had a good background in history by the little details he included that made the story seem so real. What if a President decided to seize more power?

Stargazing on Oxford Street by Rob Edwards is a poignant story of loss, sorrow, and angry grief. If the previous story scared me, this one made me sad. A midnight trip through the tormented ruins of a great city, one slight change in trajectory and millions of lives lost rather than a lot of forest. Such a loss is unfathomable to us. Yet it could happen, we could lose more than the lives of millions. One small change in trajectory and we could lose the whole world. This is the kind of thing that this story made me think about. The author wrote it in such a way that I could feel Charlotte’s pain, a deep, soul wrenching pain at such a monumental loss. What if a big one hit?

The Secret War by Leo McBride is wonderful and the title did not give away even a bit of what was to come. From the first hints of calling an automobile a contraption to the nickname of the protagonist that my mind kept telling me I should know, the author gave pieces of the puzzle to the reader.  There are probably very few adults in the English speaking world who would not know the protagonist once his name is put forth at the end of the story, but Leo McBride wove his tale in such a way that I was not completely sure until the end. This story delivers a delightful twist to the alternate history genre. It follows one of the crooked paths my own mind often wanders. What if the stories in books were about real events?

Treasure Fleet by Daniel Benson in my opinion does not belong in this anthology. I did not enjoy it. The story idea is interesting. Unfortunately the execution is juvenile at best. It read a lot like an essay done by the class screw up who thinks he’s funny, but isn’t.

Tunguska by Maria Haskins closes the anthology with a fascinating story of alien overlords and struggle in a world of peace, prosperity and plenty. In Maria Haskins own words, “Utopias are complicated.” She delivers a well crafted story that made me think one thing then changed it all up on me at the end. I particularly enjoyed the past time line blended with the present time line, so that clues were dropped along the way, but I never guessed what was coming until the author was ready to reveal it. This was a great choice to end the book.

I enjoyed Tales from Alternate Earths enough to keep it in my stack of “to be read again” books and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys thinking “What if?”

Altered Earths release date 2

Here are a few other short stories by these authors at Altered Instinct.

Leo McBride 

Brent A. Harris

Ricardo Victoria

Rob Edwards

Jessica Holmes





The World of Alterraden

map-alterradenWhat is Alterraden?

I will let its creator tell you in her own words. Introducing Kat Caffee and her fantasy world.

Alterraden is the world I’ve built for my stories to be set in.  At first, I hadn’t really considered naming it, since I expected to work with just a single world that had a few decorative Realms attached magically to it.  Then, my stories not only took on a life of their own, but the demands I had for space on my starter blog exceeded the “space” I had available.

That is how Alterraden was born.

Alterraden: The World

Every book has something unique about their world, even ones set in “modern day” Earth.  However, when working with fantasy, there is more than just “something unique” to help the story stand out.  Unless the author is writing historical fantasy, they have a chance to take their readers to far off places, and to far different times.  I’m no exception.

Alterraden is a little play on words, suggested by Elizabeth Noreen Newton, one of my street team members.  (She has some fantastic books, and though she claims not to write in fantasy, had the most memorable idea offered.)  It’s a combination of what Alterraden initially was supposed to be – an “Alternative Terra Eden”.

Though my stories happen, for the most part, in a pre-human world, it wasn’t until I started having to fend off the concepts for a second series that I realized I wasn’t writing stories set on a pre-historic Earth, but an alternative Earth entirely.  Add to that the nostalgia of fairly straight forward black and white definitions between good and evil, I think you can see where the name fits so well.

I have not yet explored the entire world.  I’ve only “traveled” over a  tiny fraction of the available land in the stories written so far, which is reflected by the small map on the Alterraden website.  I’m sure, as time progresses and new stories emerge out of the wilderness of my imagination, or are patiently chiseled out of the cortex of my days story mastering various role play campaigns, I will see more and more of not only Alterraden, but also the Realms and worlds that you can reach from this central location.  That is one of the best things about the world I’ve created:  it IS a central core location for other stories and adventures to connect to.  There is so much potential, I find myself eager to explore it.

Alterraden: The Website

Like the world I’ve built, the website has a lot of unexplored potential.  It is the center piece of all my activities:

  • The Home Office, where I host interviews, articles about writing or platform building, and various reviews (mostly books, though a few movies slip in every now and again)
  • The Followers of Torments – where I post articles about the books belonging to that saga: “Behind the Scenes” articles that take you on a trip through the process of writing the saga; character sketches for important characters introduced in each book – these are not always the same characters that make it into print, just the initial concepts I started working with; and ongoing notices (if applicable) for how the writing is progressing.

Alterraden has information about the places, religions, cultures, and languages relevant to all the books that will touch upon the world.  These will be a constant work in progress, though I hope an ORGANIZED work in progress as I discover new races, new cultures, and new deities during my travels in the world.  Also, as new stories are written, and new series take shape, there will be new connections created so they, too, will filter into the cumulative collection, and help make Alterraden a rich and vibrant site with plenty to explore and investigate, just like the stories I write.

Welcome to Alterraden: A Multi-Realm Composite of the Real and Imaginary!

Travel to other blogs to learn more of Alterraden and inhabitants.
Monday: The Evolution of Pukah Works from Blog to Website by Zora Marie
Tuesday: Alterraden Spotlight by Ducky’s Quill
Wednesday: Nameless Interview  by The Protagonist Speaks
Thursday: Author Interview Kat Caffee by Kristan’s Desk
Friday: Celecanepo Interview by Aaron-Michael Hall
Saturday: A guest post by Kat Caffee by Character Madness and Musings


Assaph Mehr

assaphmehrThis week the spotlight shines on a talented author who likes to dabble in mixed genres. I very much enjoyed his first novel and have also enjoyed reading the short stories about Felix the Fox on his website.

Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learned to read at the age of five, (he had to yell at the librarian that he can read already so he could get a card) and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This was exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy – he whinged horribly when they dragged him to “yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling”, yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art.

With a rather diverse taste in reading – from fantasy to philosophy, from ancient times to the far future, he has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked up a copy of a Lindsay Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin.

After years of reading and only dreaming of seeing his name in print, he suddenly started writing in 2015. He owes this to his wife, who complained that there was nothing good left to read. Once the challenge was accepted and Murder In Absentia was born, Assaph just kept on writing – short stories, flash fiction, and now a second full length novel. You can find them all on  His first novel Murder In Absentia is an “historically-themed, urban high-fantasy, hardboiled murder mystery, with just a dash of horror”.

When he’s not busy mashing up genres or interviewing other author’s characters on, this ex-Israeli-turned-Aussie enjoys his kids, cats, wife and even his day job. He hopes that his thirty years of martial arts make his fight scenes realistic, and that his love of history shines through his work.

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife Julia, four kids and two cats. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he’s writing – he seems to do his best writing after midnight.

All the places you can find Assaph and his writing on the web

Twitter: @assaphmehr
Google Plus:
Amazon Author Page:
Amazon buy link:

From the Author

Murder In Absentia is the story I always wanted to read. I have been in love with ancient history, and in particular Rome, since I first laid eyes on Asterix. Growing up in Israel, a country steeped in millennia of human history, and playing D&D just helped cement that love.

As a kid, I was a voracious reader. I borrowed my sister’s library card when the librarian said I was too young for the Sci-Fi & Fantasy section. I grew up on all the classics, reading and rereading them as I matured. Along with sci-fi and fantasy, I loved mysteries and thrillers – Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Alistair MacLean to name just a few.

So when it came time to write, I had it all in my head – all jumbled together in my hand. I sub-titled Murder In Absentia as “a story of Togas, Daggers, and Magic”, as it draws elements of ancient Rome, Fantasy and Mystery. It’s also a bit shorter than “an historically-themed urban high-fantasy noir detective mystery (with a splash of horror)”.

If you like any two out of the three (Rome, Fantasy, and Mystery), give Murder In Absentia a shot. I trust you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Videas Lumen!

Ducky’s Quill interviews Assaph Mehr

DQ: Your bio says you were raised in Israel. Do you think growing up in a country once controlled by the Romans influenced your interest in that historical period?

AM: I recall standing on the hill of Old Jaffa, looking at the archaeological digs down. From the top you can see the Ottoman walls, and a few of Napoleon’s cannons that were brought up from the waters. Looking down, you can see the Arab settlement, and under it the Roman, which stands on top of the Greek. If you dig even deeper, you’ll find Phoenician (Philistine) and Egyptian temples. Across the waters are a few jagged rocks jutting out of the water. They are called Andromeda’s Rock, as according to legend this was where Andromeda was chained to the rocks to appease the sea monster Cetus, and Perseus rescued her by riding Pegasus.

I don’t think that the Roman occupation of Israel had much of an effect about my specific interest, but growing up in the place that was part of the dawn of civilization greatly influenced my love of history in general. I always liked the day trips to any old ruins, whatever the period (and, being Israel, almost every corner has a history going back a couple of millennia).

My love of Roman culture can be attributed to my love of Asterix, and to a trip to Italy my parents took me when I was 13.

DQ: I took a trip to Italy when I was in college. I loved Pompeii and Capri and would go back to spend more time in either place. Have you had a chance to go back to Italy since you were a child? What places there would you most want to visit again or for the first time?

AM: Sadly I have not. I also haven’t been south of Rome (we went north in our trip). It is certainly something I am looking forward to doing again!

I’d love to visit Pompeii, as well as Rome, Rimini and many other places I have only heard about.

DQ: As I read Murder in Absentia, I noticed that you included several kinds of food from the very common to richer fare. How did you come up with the dishes you describe?

AM: Some of them (most, really) are historically accurate. Garum (fermented fish sauce) in particular. The recipes come from various places, especially Apicius. There are also plenty of “experimental archaeologists”, who try to find out how Roman life was like – from how the legions fought, to how food was cooked and hair was braided. The obsession with squid is purely my own.

This goes beyond the food itself, though. All the dining arrangements and the culture around cuisine are true as well. From the street food (Romans were big on take away) to the arrangement of dining couches in formal dinners, it’s all historically accurate.

Food, wine and dining are such an important aspect of any culture, that I felt it critical to integrate it into the novel, to bring another layer of realism and richness to the culture in the novel.

DQ: Your book reminded me very much of the TV show Rome, except for all the backstabbing and plotting among the nobility. I couldn’t help but see a certain actor from that show as I read the book. Tell me who would you most want to play Felix the Fox should your book ever be made into a movie or TV series?

AM: There are a lot of good options… A younger Javier Barden or a (much younger) Harrison Ford would do nicely.  The role will need that rascally charm, as well as the darker undertones for some of the adventures.

As for the TV series Rome, I absolutely loved it despite the occasional historical inaccuracies. I think the cast was generally excellent, and carried the roles very well.

Ciarán Hinds (Caesar) is probably the best fit, both in looks and in charm (though again, he’s a bit older than Felix). Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo) is a good actor, but he’s about a foot taller and twice the muscles than Felix.

DQ: There is a remarkable amount of data from the Roman era available to us. What made you decide to go with the “fantasy” aspect and add magic rather than a simple detective story?

AM: Two aspects. One, I know enough to know how much I don’t know. I knew that I could never be completely satisfied with the amount of historical research I’ll be able to do, and I wanted to get on with the actual storytelling. Second, it’s not necessary for the stories to be tied to a particular time in Rome’s history, with the associated people and events. It might actually be more distracting.

So instead I opted for a fantasy world. This opened up a lot of possibilities. I was able to pose many “what if” questions, and play around with how Roman society would develop – given the existence of magic, and certain highly influencing events.

For example, there is a list of past events detailed in the description of the bas-relief on the Pharos lighthouse. These all mimic events from our Rome’s history – but with a twist. I also toned down the grecophilia that took over Rome in later years.

DQ: I grew up on shows like Columbo, McCloud, Murder She Wrote and Quincy. The style of your story reminded me very much of Columbo and the way he would wrap it all up in the end based on one little thing he had observed that the viewer might not have. What “detective” stories/shows influenced Felix the Fox?

AM: I grew up on the same shows, as well as many similar novels – from classics like Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, to modern thrillers like Alistair MacLean and Tom Clancy. I think they all had an influence on the style of the novel – mixing adventure with cozy mystery.

In particular, two Roman-era detectives, Lindsey Davis’ Falco and Steven Saylor’s Gordianus, had the most influence on Felix. As a tribute, I made a passing remark that he learned to be a detective from Gordius and Falconius.

DQ: I thoroughly enjoyed Murder in Absentia. Do you have further adventures in store for Felix and when can we expect to see another book from you?

AM: Certainly. I am currently working on the second book, titled In Numina. I have plots for two more full-length novels, In Victrix and In Memoriam (spot the theme). I’ll probably come up with more as I write, considering the plots for these novels came to me as I was working on Murder In Absentia.

In the meantime, I publish short mysteries with Felix on my blog. It can give you a taste about the style of storytelling and about Felix. You can find them on

DQ: You seem to have carved an interesting little niche with your Historical Fantasy story. What other genre/s might you try your hand at in the future?

AM: I’ll probably remain with historical fantasy (I just adore this blend). I have these plans for a retelling of the Crimean War – from the Russian side – with steampunk elements. I mean, who can resist a young and dashing Count Tolstoy with a mechanical arm?

It is a long way in the future though.

DQ: What character do you tend to play most in D&D? Do you think that has affected your writing?

AM: It’s been years since I played, but I often played the wizard. I have a tendency to pick up jacks-of-all-trades, but with a magical bend. Somewhat like Felix…

And if you ever played Shadowrun (and this joke will only make sense if you did), I used to play a Troll Decker.

Thanks much for the opportunity! It’s nice to see the personal questions.

DQ: Thank you Assaph for your answers to my questions.

Read on for my review of Murder in Absentia


Murder-In-Absentia-cover4.5 ducks 4.5-duckies

Murder in Absentia is a mixed genre tale of intrigue, complete with a plot to overthrow the 1%, travel to exotic locales, and hobnobbing with some august presences. The tale begins when Felix the Fox is summoned to the home of a wealthy politician. There he discovers a murder most foul and the father of the deceased hires him to find out who did the deed and why his son was killed. As Felix travels about seeking the answers, many wondrous creatures and events are uncovered. But can he find the murderer?

My flowery language above is an attempt to help prospective readers get in the right mindset for this story. I am a fan of the murder mystery genre, the fantasy genre, and the historical fiction genre. Consequently, I was happy to dive into this book that mixes and mashes all three into one delightful romp. The possibility for over the top campiness was skillfully avoided, as was the easy path of making everything magical. Instead Assaph Mehr wrote a story that could have taken place in a Sherlock Holmes mystery weaving the mundane with a light touch of magic to make an altogether engaging read.

I particularly liked the attention to detail in the historical dress, lifestyle, food, and housing of the people of Egretia. As I read it, I recognized names slightly changed and a focus on a different type of governing bodies than in ancient Rome, yet the places, names, styles and customs had so much familiarity that I felt like I was there walking the streets of the great city, sipping wine in the Forum while my contemporaries argued politics, economics, and academics. Any student of ancient Rome knows the mythology of the time was an integral part of the daily lives of the people. Because of that, meeting a sybil on a lonely island was not out of place at all. Each detail of the lives of the Egretians was skillfully interwoven with the fantastical and mythological.

I have traveled to Italy, visited the ancient ruins of Pompeii, and experienced the Italian propensity for good food. This murder mystery did not ignore the national past time and it made me hungry in several places reading about the meals in detail. (Although I must admit the tour of the garum factory left me very much not interested in sampling that delicacy.) I particularly enjoyed the fast thinking Felix exercised with the governor of Kebros before the feast.

Now to talk about the issues. There were a few typos and misused or missing words. This can be found in just about every book I’ve ever read. These kinds of errors were rare and not glaring, so it did not interfere with my enjoyment of the book. The part I did find distracting was the words in italics. I learned they are the ones in the glossary and I am the type that will interrupt the story to go look something up in the glossary, so that broke the rhythm of my reading a lot. It is a quirk of mine and should not cause anyone reading this to pass this book by. The story is compelling enough that these small issues can be easily overlooked.

Overall, I loved this book and recommend it to anyone who likes any of the genres listed above and isn’t too much of a purist about mashing them up. Good job Assaph and I’m giving you my highest compliment here: I can’t wait to read more about Felix the Fox.


Review: Rising: A Second Death Novella

0 Rising 415x6224 ducks 4-duckies

I do not read horror usually. Almost every time I do pick up a creepy book, I am disappointed with the read and frustrated. However Rising was the exception. It is an introduction to the Second Death series and I did not expect to like it. I was wrong and now I want to read the series. That is one of the highest compliments I can give to any book or author, that I want to read more.

Rising starts out slow and gives only tantalizing hints of where the story is headed. I felt compassion for Jessie, whose mother has buried her grief in sex and booze. The author captures the angst of a teenage girl living with neglect, abuse, and grief very well. The build up is steady with events building the suspense in a way that left me knowing something was coming, but barely prepared me for the intense ending that grabbed me like a monster and smashed all my preconceived notions about the story into mangled bits.

Was Jessie justified in the path she took? That is like asking if it’s ever alright to be a homicidal maniac. No she wasn’t justified. Did she have a choice? I believe she did not. She was only fourteen and not able to resist a powerful force that took advantage of her pain and emotional distress. What I liked about this book was that Jessie wasn’t some snot nosed brat who didn’t care about anyone but herself. That would have been Marie. No Jessie was a good girl for the most part who was vulnerable because her home life was a mess. Brian Rella did an excellent job of “speaking in the voice” of a 14 year old girl and she was very believable.

Since this is a novella that focuses on Jessie and her life, the other characters are really only snapshots. They are like the straws that are stacked up, one at a time, that finally break Jessie’s good nature and then evil uses the cracks they created to call her to itself. Over all, it’s a good read and despite not liking horror, I will read Watchers of the Fallen.

Brian’s Author Spotlight

Interview with Brian Rella


Today’s spotlight is shining on someone I am happy to call a friend. When I started on the perilous journey of gaining followers on Twitter for Stormhaven Rising, Brian offered a hand, some good advice and lots of support. This interview, I think, reflects some of what a great guy he is. It’s my pleasure to introduce Brian Rella.

DQ: Some authors say they have always written stories, while others chose it as a career, but only started writing fiction later. How about you? When did you first start writing? Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

BR: I have a friend who knew he wanted to be a lawyer since the seventh grade. That wasn’t me at all.

After high school, I wanted to take a gap year and figure out what I wanted to do for a career, but I was nudged (with the best intentions) by my parents to go to college, which I did. Halfway through my sophomore year, I withdrew from school and went on a road-trip across the US with friends that started in New York and ended two years later in Alaska. It was during that adventure when I started to write. Journaling would be a better word for what I was doing, but still, it was the first time I wrote on a consistent basis.

When I came home from that trip, there was still resistance to write in me, and I went on to finish my degree in Finance and Information Systems, going to work on Wall Street.

Fifteen years later, I got the writing bug again and in December 2014, my first short story, “Scarlach”, was published in Stranger Views Magazine, and I will never forget that moment, the feeling of accomplishment, and the inspiration to keep going.

DQ: Who have been your greatest influences in choosing “the path of madness?”

BR: Stephen King has always been a huge influence on my storytelling. I remember going through his backlist when I was in junior high, methodically moving from book to book. I read The Stand cover to cover in three days and then immediately read it again. It’s still my favorite book of all time. I remember thinking, “I wish I could tell stories like that.”

But it was author and teacher, Joe Bunting, that actually got me to jump off the road of sanity and onto the path of madness as you so eloquently put it. I took his Story Cartel course in the summer of 2014, and was off and writing stories from then on. I published my second short story and first anthology with a group of writers from Joe’s course. We still keep in touch and help each other out regularly. Story Cartel was an amazing experience.

 DQ: If you were a rich and famous bestseller, what single thing would you say most contributed to getting you there?  What tidbit of advice would you give others that were just beginning to consider writing professionally?

Consistency and practice have been key for me. Writing is hard work and takes a lot of energy and practice. A lot of people, including me before I learned better, believe that authors like Stephen King and James Patterson have some kind of superhero-writing-power, and just sit down and the story pours out of them in one draft. That’s a fairy tale. Writing is an iterative process, and I don’t know anyone that knocks out a perfect first draft.

So my advice would be, every day, sit in a chair, close yourself off from the rest of the world, and write. Don’t aim for perfection because there’s no such thing, but revise until your mostly happy with it. When you have something you’re mostly happy with, publish it. Publishing includes posting to your blog, fan fiction on Facebook, self-publishing on Amazon, traditional publishing, etc.. Just get it out there.




DQ: Writing takes up a lot of time, so when you find (make) time, what do you read for pleasure?

BR: A bit of everything really. Online periodicals and dailies for news and story ideas. Some non-fiction about writing craft and self-publishing. I also enjoy reading religious mythos and of course, genre fiction.

I read a lot of horror, but I also read science fiction and fantasy, and the occasional thriller.

I’m an eReader convert, and my Kindle is always backlogged with a full “to read” list. Right now I’m finishing The Psychonaut by Tom Adams (Horror). Here are the next several books in my queue, in the order of most recently purchased first, though I probably won’t read them in this order:

  1. Prometheus and the Dragon by Eric Michael Craig
  2. The Sundered by Ruthanne Reid
  3. 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox
  4. Jet by Russell Blake
  5. The Colony: Genesis by Michaelbrent Collings
  6. Monster Hunter Vendetta by Larry Correia

DQ: Can you give a sense of what your books are about, without revealing too much of the storylines?

BR: I am focused mainly on writing horror right now, and most of my stories have a supernatural evil antagonist, and a protagonist that must fight against it, or else something incredibly bad will happen.

My current project is a horror urban fantasy series called the Second Death, based on a short story I wrote called “Arraziel”. There are three books planned, and I also rewrote “Arraziel” into a prequel novella called Rising: A Second Death Novella. Book One, Watchers of the Fallen, is published, and Book Two, tentatively titled Queen of the Fallen, is in editing and rewriting stages. I hope to release it in September 2016.

The story begins with a fourteen-year-old girl named Jessie, who unleashes a demon (Arraziel) to help her — let’s say overcome — her difficulties with an alcoholic mother, her abusive boyfriend, and the boyfriend’s daughter.

Jessie is seduced by a supernatural evil, and as the series progresses, Jessie comes more and more under the evil being’s influence, and the two of them plot to raise an army and take over the world.

If H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Jim Butcher had a book-baby, I like to imagine it would look like this story.

DQ: Rising gave hints of the darkness under the surface. (I particularly liked the Cthulu clock in Olga’s bookstore.) Where do you gather inspiration for the horrors you create?

BR: H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos was part of the inspiration for the Second Death Series. The other part was the Book of Enoch, a Christian manuscript, which was considered for inclusion in the bible, but ultimately rejected.

The opposing groups in the series, The Watchers (good guys) and The Fallen (bad guys) are my interpretations of good and evil beings from those two works. The antagonist and the Fallen are characters from the Cthulhu mythos with my own little twist on them. The backstory about who the Fallen and the Watchers are, comes from the Book of Enoch.

I also get ideas from the news (lots of horror stories there, unfortunately), and I put a little of myself into my fiction as well.

DQ: What sort of things can we expect to read from you in the future?

Books 2 and 3 of the Second Death will be released this year if all goes as planned. Following that, I have outlined a more traditional fantasy story in the same vein as Tolkien or George R R Martin.

I also have my “junk drawer” of started and unfinished stories that I’ve been collecting for two years, and there’s definitely some stories in there I want to tell.

I would like to write science fiction one day, but I honestly find it difficult to write, so that may be a while.

I’d like to thank you, Ducky, for your thoughtful and interesting questions, and for the opportunity to share my thoughts and work with your readers. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know you over the last couple of months and I’m so grateful we connected.

Thank you, as well, Brian Rella for your participation and your well thought out replies to my questions. I am not a horror fan, but I am looking forward to reading more of your Second Death series.

Brian’s Author Spotlight
Review of Rising: A Second Death Novella