Monday, December 24, 2012

SPOTLIGHT: 2012 Favorites

It's the end of the year, and everyone's making lists bests, worsts, etc. I couldn't let Zigzag Timeline go into a new year without a list of my own. I've enjoyed all the books I reviewed, and I debated for a long time which ones I should spotlight. This list is completely biased; I just picked my five personal favorites.-->

5. Shadow of the Wraith by Ross Harrison

I like spaceships. I like adventure and humor and exotic cultures Shadow of the Wraith has it all and then some, stories of epic battles and entertaining characters told in Harrison's distinctive, dry voice. Travis Archer, a bounty hunter with a heroic drive and a bit of an attitude, is one of the most memorable characters in sci-fi, up there with Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly and Colonel Jack O'Neill of Stargate SG-1.

4. The Curious Diary of Mr. Jam by Nury Vittachi

What does it take to make Asians laugh? Mr. Jam may have a hard time answering that question before a room full of conservative businessmen, but he seems to know exactly what it takes to make a reader smile. Sarcastic, self-deprecating, curious, and endearing, Mr. Jam's unique brand of comedy comes to life in this semi-true story of a down-on-his-luck Hong Kong humorist.

3. The King of Pain by Seth Kaufman

Poor, poor Rick "the Prick" Salter. He's trapped under his massive entertainment system with nothing to do but read a book about prisons while awaiting rescue. But his pain is our entertainment his rants, his flashbacks, his musings. And he runs a reality show about torture, knowing how much audiences love to watch others suffer. Kaufman skewers reality television in this clever satire, weaving in allegories about prisons and the idea that we are all trapped. And did I mention it's funny?

2. Thought I Knew You by Kate Moretti

This is one of those books that can easily be summarized in one sentence: a woman's husband goes missing, and she reconnects with her childhood best friend while trying to move on. And yet it was one of the most suspenseful books I read this year. It's also beautifully written and wonderfully poignant.

1. The Ultimate Inferior Beings by Mark Roman

Hey, look! Spaceships and comedy! The Ultimate Inferior Beings is a witty romp through space, starring a cast of whacky characters who encounter a race of nutty aliens. And it's my favorite book this year because of it's seamless integration of adventure and comedy, its intelligence and hilarity. What's it about? The book trailer says it all:


And because I'm indecisive, here, in no particular order, are a couple of honorable mentions (I wanted to do top 10, but since I only have 31 reviews, that would have been 1/3 of all the books!):

Weekend in Weighton by Terry Murphy
Keeper of the Black Stones by P.T. McHugh
The Seeds of a Daisy by Alison Caiola
Non-Compliance: The Sector by Paige Daniels
The Sound and the Echoes by Dew Pellucid

Thursday, December 20, 2012

REVIEW: Yorick / Vlad Vaslyn

TITLE: Yorick (novella)
AUTHOR: Vlad Vaslyn
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book)

Recommended for readers seeking chilling horror stories to read in the dark.


Yorick is a creepy, chilling novella, the kind of story you would tell in the dark on Halloween to scare your friends.

Yorick has plenty of suspense that keeps the plot moving forward, especially in the second half.

Third person omniscient. The majority of the story is told from the third person point of view of Roberta, but every so often the narrator shows what’s going through the minds of the other characters.

Poor old Roberta has hit rock bottom. Her husband died years ago, she hasn’t seen her daughter in years, and she’s even had to put down her beloved cat. Alone and miserable, she wallows in despair and heads to a nearby riverbank. But before she can throw herself in, she unearths a skull in the mud, a skull that speaks to her, whispering words into her mind. Glad to once again have a companion, Roberta cherishes the skull, whom she names Yorick, and does whatever she must to keep him happy.

Yorick is an unsettling horror novella that chronicles Roberta’s descent into utter madness. Written with rich, gruesome descriptions, it’s the kind of story you read to for chills and thrills. Vaslyn tells the story mostly from Roberta’s point of view but keeps her at arm’s length, giving the reader a sense of an omniscient narrator with a voice of his own, a voice that’s not afraid to paint vivid images. For instance, here is the passage in which Roberta first notices the skull: “The river drew closer in little fits and starts, and as she neared it, she noticed a funny little dome poking out of the grass near the shore, a pimple in a patch of thinning hair.”

Fans of Shakespeare will no doubt notice that Yorick was also the name of the deceased jester Hamlet speaks to in his famed skull speech: “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest… Where are your gibes now?” Like Hamlet, Roberta, too, talks to the dead and pities him for the fact that he can no longer do the things he used to. And because she sees Yorick as her friend, Roberta will do whatever it takes to make the unfortunate skull whole again.

Absurd as Roberta seems, one cannot help feeling bad for her and understanding her motivations, even as she becomes increasingly insane. Watching her spiral deeper and deeper into psychosis is disturbing yet entertaining, somewhat reminiscent of reading the dark tales of Edgar Allen Poe. Creepy in all the right ways, Yorick is a highly enjoyable tale of grief, loneliness, and horrifying madness.

There are a teeny, tiny, barely perceptible handful of errors, so few I feel bad mentioning them.

This novella is divided into chapters, and there is a table of contents.

This book is a horror story, and so some readers may find parts of it disturbing.

Vlad Vaslyn resides in Lowell, Massachusetts with his wife, Jordana. He has an Associates Degree in Journalism from Middlesex Community College and worked as a freelance writer for a few years before going back to school. He is currently a member of the National Honor Society at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where he studies History and English. His favorite authors include Stephen King, John Steinbeck, Richard Adams, William Golding, Isaac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Robert Jordan.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Alison Caiola, author of the mother-daughter drama The Seeds of a Daisy, discusses her novel's background, characters, and inspirations. Visit her website, Follow her on Twitter, or Like her Facebook page.

The Seeds of a Daisy is told from the intimate first-person perspective of a successful TV actress, Lily Lockwood. What inspired her character?

In my years working in Hollywood, in the Entertainment Industry and also as a mother of a successful actor, I have met and really gotten to know many young actors and actresses.  Lily’s character is a conglomeration recipe;  I took a spoonful of one actor, a dash of another and then of course handfuls  of pure imagination. 

It was also very important to me that Lily have room to grow and evolve throughout the story.

Sidebar: Many of the circumstances that both Lily and Daisy have gone through and the events that happened are inspired by real circumstances and  events in my own life.  So it was fun and sometime cathartic to revisit. 

Daisy, Lily’s tough-as-nails mother, is seen only in flashbacks, and yet as she’s revealed over the course of the novel, she quickly becomes as dominant a character as Lily. What was it like writing about her? 

I thoroughly enjoyed writing Daisy. As with all the characters I write, they become real, living breathing people to me.  I hear their voices as I’m writing, and it is always inspiring and entertaining.  With Daisy, in particular, it was my goal to write her as a very strong and determined woman; but also show her vulnerable and softer side. Like all of us, Daisy is the product of everything that has happened to her.  By delving into, not only her past with her daughter, but also her childhood, I wanted the readers to understand fundamentally  what makes Daisy click. 

The Seeds of a Daisy gives readers a glimpse behind the scenes of the entertainment world. Why did you choose this as the backdrop to your story? 

I've been in Hollywood since the early ’90’s. I know up close and personal what goes on behind-the-scenes, so it was a natural for me to use it as a backdrop of the story.

While I wanted to give the reader an insider’s perspective, it was important to show that actors and actresses are real people with the same problems, joys and hurts that we all have.  No matter who you are, what path you walk, we all experience illness, joy, love, friendship, betrayal, and  heartbreak. These are the great equalizers in life, and The Seeds of a Daisy has plenty of it. 

What kind of research did you conduct in order to write The Seeds of a Daisy? 

Research is of utmost importance to me; it is the realistic foundation that all my characters walk upon. Most of the research I did was medical-based. I spoke to professionals in the medical field, scoured books and the internet for answers to my questions. 

There is a component that I also took from my experience as a patient’s relative; the person who is given all the jargon and has to make sense of it. 

It was imperative to me that it was believable; I wanted the reader to feel Lily’s fear, frustration and  confusion when the doctors were downloading all the medical results and explanations to her. 

Were there any parts of your book that you particularly enjoyed writing? Any you found particularly challenging? 

Challenging first: There were many parts in the book that brought back memories that I went through when my own mother was in the hospital. There was one point that I put the book down for many months because it brought back a flood of emotions for me.  But I understood that in order for the reader to believe the story, it has to be real. And in order for it to ring true, it was inevitable for me to relive some of the sadness.

Parts I thoroughly enjoyed:  I must say, that I enjoyed writing most of the  story. I loved writing about Daisy’s colorful, if irreverent friends.  I loved writing about her escapades before and after Lily was born.  And I LOVED writing about Lily’s volatile relationship with Jamie. I guess all in all, I enjoyed the whole experience. 

How long did it take to write The Seeds of a Daisy? Did you outline your novel, or did the story come to you as you wrote? 

From the first moment I started writing until my last edited version took a little more than four years.

I went into the project knowing what the story would be and who the main characters were.  The experience was an extremely free-flowing one and there were times that I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with the inspiration.  Supporting characters emerged during the writing process, and I was able to later flesh them out over time. 

Are you working on anything new? 

Yes I’m currently working on many projects. I’m writing a sequel to The Seeds of a Daisy entitled The Seeds of a Lily. The reader will be able to follow Lily into the next phase of her life. I promise many suprising twists!

I've also written and produced a new Web/TV series The Tyme Chronicles, which is a new action-packed series about two close friends (ex Special Ops) who with their family create an organization and go undercover to work with the CIA and FBI. It's buddy movie, funny, and the romance component and family dynamic really tug at the heartstrings.

You can tell your readers to go to  for more information.  My son, JD Daniels, is one of the stars, so it makes the project even more enjoyable and special.  Besides acting, he’s also a talented writer and is currently getting his MFA at Stonybrook Southampton in Creative Writing. I had the pleasure of collaborating with him on the first episode.

And lastly, I recently started another book where the lives of three characters, who would never ordinarily meet, intersect and are forever changed,  due to a mysterious and deadly set of circumstances.

The Seeds of a Daisy is available at: Createspace (paperback), Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Barnes & Noble (Nook e-book), iTunes (find it in the iTunes store)

Friday, December 14, 2012

REVIEW: Temple of the Sixth / Ross Harrison

TITLE: Temple of the Sixth (NEXUS)
AUTHOR: Ross Harrison
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Createspace (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Smashwords (multiple e-formats)

Recommended for fans of epic space fantasies such as Star Wars.

Science Fiction—Space Opera/Science Fantasy

Temple of the Sixth takes place in the distant future, in which humans have mastered space travel, settled on a new homeworld, and become part of an interstellar alliance with alien races, most of which are humanoid. There’s also a heavy element of fantasy in this novel, involving godlike beings who exist on a higher dimension. In fact, most part of this novel read more like fantasy than science fiction and is free of technobabble.

Temple of the Sixth is the second book in Harrison’s Nexus series. It’s a self-contained story that can be read even if one hasn’t read the first book yet.

Temple of the Sixth opens with a heart-pounding suspense/action scene and keeps up the pace pretty much throughout the novel. While the majority of the book consists of action scenes, there are sections that pull back and set up the universe, explaining its mechanics and mythology.

Third person omniscient. Most parts of this book feel like close third, as Harrison lays out various characters’ thoughts and perspectives.

Thardriik Jhunassi Kortlyn III, better known as Theak, is an ex-military pilot seeking his fortune as a private investigator, so when he receives an anonymous note basically saying, “meet me at this space station, and you’ll make vast amounts of money,” he immediately jumps onto ship and zooms over. What he finds when he reaches the station is a massacre. The next thing he knows, he’s pulled into an ancient conflict between godlike beings, forced to fight for the side of good when all he really wants is to get paid—and live to tell the tale. Meanwhile, in another part of the galaxy, Omar and Palitz, two City Guard secretaries, find their planet overrun by undead former citizens, surrounded by omens of the apocalypse.

Temple of the Sixth takes its conflict to a grand, end-of-the-universe scale. The stakes could not be higher. If this mysterious, ancient evil is not stopped, everything will cease to be. But why are these godlike beings so bent on destruction? What can a mere batch of mortals—not all of them heroes—do to stop them? Therein lies the epic conflict that keeps the pages turning.

Although it’s classified as “science fiction” due to the nature of its universe—spaceships, aliens, robots, laser guns, and the like—Temple of the Sixth reads more like fantasy, reminiscent of some of the more world-ending story lines featured in comic books such as X-Men. Psychic powers, out-of-dimension locations, higher levels of existence, possession—all is fair game. Bit by bit, Harrison reveals the mythology behind his universe.

There’s something satisfying about opening a sequel and hearing familiar voices, reentering a familiar space. Harrison’s dry sense of humor illuminates the text with his unique style of storytelling. He once again shows off his strengths as a writer of thrilling action scenes and creator of immersive worlds. In Temple of the Sixth, he expands upon the concepts he set up in the first book and illustrates his universe from a different angle. It’s is really more of a spin-off to Shadow of the Wraith than a sequel. Travis Archer, the main character from the first book, doesn’t show up until more than halfway through the book and plays a supporting role to his buddy Theak. Other characters, such as Juni, have only brief cameos (for those of you who are wondering—yes, Arkuun-Marl makes an appearance). As such, it can be read as a stand-alone novel even if one hasn’t had a chance to read the first book yet.

In Temple of the Sixth, Harrison tells his story from multiple angles in a rather cinematic fashion. While Theak is the thread that ties the novel together, he doesn’t drive the action—he reacts to it. Flashes to Omar and Palitz’s struggles, to the small man trying to recruit agents for the side of good, and to the perspective of the godlike Sixth herself give the reader a panoramic view of the universe and its conflict. But despite all the noise surrounding him, Theak nevertheless shines through as a memorable and likable character. Confident, cavalier, and a tad ridiculous at times, he’s not exactly the noble hero type and doesn’t even take himself too seriously. Nevertheless, he does what’s right, even if he’s somewhat annoyed that he has to.

For those who read and enjoyed Shadow of the Wraith, Temple of the Sixth, while very different, is a welcome return to Harrison’s world of starships and ancient conflicts, robots and fantastical powers. Harrison’s writing is tighter and more understated than in his debut novel, and yet it retains its snarky sparkle. For those who haven’t—and why haven’t you?—the book stands on its own as a fascinating take on the age-old battle between Good and Evil. Clever, thrilling, and entertaining on all levels, Temple of the Sixth is a page-turning journey through a universe in chaos.

I read an advance version of this book, which has since been proofread, so I can’t comment on typos and the like.

Head’s up to American readers—this novel uses British conventions.

This book, like its prequel, is organized by time and location, not by traditional chapters.

This book contains sci-fi style violence, such as laser guns, beast attacks, and space battles, but nothing gratuitous or gruesome. This book is clean in terms of sex and mostly harmless in terms of language (a couple instances of the dirty D word, no f-bombs).

[From the author’s Amazon page]

Ross Harrison has been writing since childhood without thought of publication. When the idea was planted by his grandmother to do so, it grew rapidly, and after a bumpy ten years or so, here sits the fruit. Ross lives on the UK/Eire border in Ireland, hoping the rain will help his hair grow back.


Ross Harrison, author of the science fantasy Temple of the Sixth, discusses his writing style, his novel's background, and his series' direction. Check out his blog, Like his Facebook page, or Follow him on Twitter.

Prior to Temple of the Sixth, you’d already published the book’s prequel, Shadow of the Wraith, and a steampunk novella, Kira. What can you tell us about your background as a writer?

I have none. I wrote several small things when I was younger, which are hugely embarassing to read now. Probably the first real step towards what I write now were two short stories which totally ripped off the Metal Gear Solid games. Although publishing still hadn’t entered my mind, they were intended to be more of a proper… thing than the previous short, half-written stories about Brazillian gremlins and odd demon things which stole keys out of your heart…

Then I started writing a thriller about an NSA agent, which turned out to be the first proper thing I wrote. It had a proper story, fairly fleshed-out characters, and of course humour. It was going well, until my computer decided to wipe out half of what I’d written, leaving me with only an old version, devoid of the twist and well-thought-out clues I’d written into it – and which to this day I can’t remember.

So I have no actual writing background other than messing about and experimenting.

Temple of the Sixth is more of a spinoff than a sequel in that the main characters from the first Nexus novel, Shadow of the Wraith, play supporting roles. Why did you choose to make this book about Theak instead of Travis?

The NEXUS series was never going to be about Travis solely. Travis and his team will be the main main characters of the series, with them returning fairly frequently, but there will be plenty of others, like Theak. Those others may or may not return for other books, and if so, may or may not be the protagonist again!

I’m not entirely sure why I chose this particular book to be a break from Travis. Perhaps simply so that people could see early on that he won’t be the only protagonist. But I also wanted someone a bit different. Theak and Travis were best friends for quite a while, and you can see some similarities between them. Theak is more able to admit his limits and his fear, however, which is something I wanted for this book.

The conflict in Temple of the Sixth centers around an ancient, godlike evil, one that has more in common with epic fantasies than traditional science fiction. Why did you chose to blend genres?

I’m just taking the fantasy aspect of science fantasy a little bit further. I just thought that was what I wanted the book to be about, and wrote it.

Actually, I didn’t have much of a clue what the book was going to be about until we first meet the Sixth. I wrote her first chapter and realised that this was something very different to the pages that had come before, and the entirety of the first book, even. I was eager to continue that and see where it went.

I always had an idea that there would be a lot more to the universe than was in the first book, but there was no conscious decision, that I recall, to put that into this one.

Do you have a favorite character in Temple of the Sixth? What can  you tell us about him or her?

Well, I like the Sixth, and I like how she changes as she becomes accustomed to being a little more mortal than usual. But I think my favourite is probably Fonau. He’s incredibly weird, and (I think) quite funny. He’s responsible for the book having more humour than Shadow of the Wraith, while it is at the same time a bit darker. That’s one of those things that will be a matter of opinion. Personally, I think the humour helps emphasise the darker, serious parts, but I know there will be some who think it takes away from that.

Actually, I’m quite fond of B4, the little android, as well. I quite like seeing how the androids’ ability to learn creates such unique…"people," almost. Especially paired with the identity of whoever programmed them in the first place. B4 is a Necurian android, so he of course has their compassion. But as an android, he can never truly feel the compassion, and so that has some interesting results.

Did you mean for Temple of the Sixth  to be a sequel, or did the idea spring up on you while you were writing Shadow of the Wraith? In your opinion, does Temple of the Sixth represent a continuation of its prequel, or does it stand on its own?

As I said, the series was always meant to move between different protagonists, and therefore, not have direct sequels. But I think both of those are true of the book. It stands on its own as a unique story, and you don’t have to have read Shadow of the Wraith to understand it. With some of the protagonists from that book appearing, it’s unavoidable that there are some small and infrequent things that require knowledge of their background, but those things aren’t vital to the story, and the reader won’t feel like they’ve stumbled through the door in time to hear the punchline but not the joke.

One example is a crossover scene between the two books. At the end of Shadow of the Wraith, Travis meets Theak, and near the beginning of Temple of the Sixth, we have that same meeting. This time, though, it’s from Theak’s point of view, and will allow the reader who has come from SOTW a slightly different perspective on things. Seeing from Theak’s eyes how worn out and "beat up" Travis looks certainly isn’t vital, but it pads out the reader’s mental image of things.

At the same time, there are a few scenes that continue Travis’ storyline. For example, the second time we meet Travis, we learn a little more about the fate of his team and their ships. We also find out a tiny morsel about him and Juni. But again, new readers will get the gist of it, and likewise, readers of the next Travis novel won’t have to have read Temple of the Sixth in order to understand things.

Rather than calling it "Book Two of the NEXUS Series," it is "A NEXUS Novel." I intend most of the series to be standalone in terms of main story, rather than direct sequels. But of course, the series is called "NEXUS" because of the themes of connectivity, so there will almost always be some kind of connection between novels. However large or small!

How did you go about plotting Temple of the Sixth?

It started when Theak came aboard the ship in Shadow of the Wraith. I decided then that he would be the protagonist of a book, wherever that would come in the series.

When it then came to writing the book itself, I started with an abandoned space station. I wanted to set the scene of something a little more sinister, but I still didn’t know what that would be.

It wasn’t until I got to the Sixth’s first chapter that I knew what the book was going to be about. From there, I decided that I wanted to have it told from several perspectives. They would all be varying degrees of normality. From Theak, a pretty normal man, but with some military training, to Omar and Palitz, two secretaries who have never left their home town, let alone their planet, and have no clue what’s going on or how to deal with it.

The main problem with the story was how to end it. How do mortals destroy an immortal force? The answer always ended up the same: they can’t.

Much of Temple of the Sixth has to do with godlike beings existing on a higher dimenstion than our earthly realm. What can you tell us about them? Why did you choose to center your novel on these celestial beings?

The Hierarchy’s leadership were normal people once. They were killed in a way that created such rage and hatred in them that they were unable to properly cross over to the spirit world (whatever you want to call it). They were caught between worlds, and left to seeth in rage. Eventually, they bagan to harness that rage and hatred and use it to fuel their return to the mortal world. Here, they attempted to take revenge for what happened to them.

In response to this unforseen threat, something up there in the higher realms created the Celestians: six immortal beings whose sole purpose is to prevent the Hierarchy from destroying all life. Temple of the Sixth sees the Hierarchy finally become more intelligent, taking the Celestians by surprise. The six immortals are then forced to do something that isn’t in their nature: put their faith in mortals.

The Hierarchy is particularly dangerous because they are able to "infect" people. This works on two levels. Firstly, people are made to see what they want to see, and experience what they want to experience. In this way, the Hierarchy can sway that person to their side, without force. After all, they want the entire universe to wipe itself out, so having people willingly do so is a very enticing prospect.

Another form of this "infection" is more direct and forceful. The Hierarchy’s power takes over a person’s mind and bends it to their will. They become, more or less, zombies. In this way, the Hierarchy has a massive army to sweep across galaxies, and if those armies are defeated, it’s still a victory for them.

Above the Celestians and Hierarchy are the Ascentians – basically, angels. Or my version/idea of them. They aren’t in the book a huge amount, partly because I think writing such things requires more delicacy than I possess!

As for why I chose such beings… I don’t know.

Why did you choose to make the novel about Theak, who had only a supporting role in Temple of the Sixth’s prequel? What can you tell us about his character—what inspired him, how you developed him, etc.?

I took quite a risk putting Theak into Shadow of the Wraith, because he actually serves little purpose in that book, other than to set their course straight. But looking at the bigger picture of the series – at least in the short term – it made sense and had to be done. The whole idea is that it is not coincidence that brought them together.

Theak was on his own little mission when Travis came across him, and that needed exploring. What was it he was doing? Why was he floating in space in a damaged fighter? What was it that ensured their paths crossed? As I said, I wanted to show right away that the series is much more open than the reader might otherwise think, and isn’t only about Travis and his team.

Theak joined the Air Force with Travis, and so is a military trained pilot. Like Travis, he found the military too rigid and left. He was unemployed for three years before giving a go at private detecting. That went horribly wrong, and he decided that line of work wasn’t for him.

To begin with, Theak is completely against any idea of anything beyond what he can see, and dreads Travis’ speech, upon their first meeting, about how there’s no such thing as coincidence. Of course, it isn’t long before reality is thrown in his face, and he discovers that there’s a lot more than just what he can see in his own little world. Though, even with all the evidence in front of him, he’s still not entirely sure he believes it.

Theak is not a soldier, and he doesn’t pretend to be brave and courageous. So when he’s recruited to rescue a kidnapped god from an army of immortals, he’s understandably reluctant. He does agree though because on the one hand, how likely is it to be true? And on the other, he thinks he should do what he can to help, just in case.

What’s next for the NEXUS series? Will Theak or other characters from Temple of the Sixth be returning?

Some surviving characters will return, I’m sure. After all, there must be a reason they were kept alive! Others, perhaps not. Travis and his team will of course return. I intend Theak to have a small but fairly vital part in a dark turning point of Travis’ life. Just what place in the order of the series that will take, I’m not sure. Not in the immediate future, anyway.

I can say that B4 will definitely return, perhaps as soon as book three! In that same book, I haven’t quite decided whether to have a brief appearance by a certain other character or not. Another thing I can say is that the book will feature a protagonist readers almost certainly won’t be expecting.

Next for the series is a break. I’ve rewritten, edited and published two books of the series in short succession, with the creation of novella in between, and it’s quite tiring. On the plus side, book three isn’t actually written yet, unlike Temple of the Sixth, which was written before I even started properly rewriting and editing Shadow of the Wraith! That means I can finally get back to proper writing, instead of all this "maybe that paragraph should go before that one" rubbish.

As mentioned, book three will not see Travis return as the protagonist, as I wanted to explore someone else pretty closely connected to him.

The theme of connections will become more and more prevalent in the series, and although I intend to keep the humour, I also intend some entries in the series to be quite a bit darker and more serious than these two. That’s not to say they’ll become more adult, though.

For now, they’re entertaining adventure and allow the characters to…play, almost. But, just like children growing up, the time for play is ending. The galaxy is nearing a defining moment, and everything must change to prepare for that. No one will come out unscathed. Some heroes may not survive the journey, will turn on their friends, and will find their spirit broken.

Until then, we’ll just let Travis, Juni, Theak and all the others enjoy their blissful ignorance of the darkness to come.

Temple of the Sixth is available at: Createspace (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Smashwords (multiple e-formats)

Thursday, December 13, 2012


James Butler, author of the space epic New Dawn: Deception, discusses his novel's universe and his writing methods.

New Dawn: Deception takes place in a dangerous and mysterious universe. How would you describe the New Dawn galaxy in a nutshell to someone who hasn’t read the book?

This galaxy isn’t like most fictional galaxies out there. It’s a dark place, run by criminal organizations posing as governments. Since they’re the law and make the law, pretty much anything goes and they can slip a veil of justice across it at will, just to keep up appearances. Individual people make true justice as they go and try to stay out of the way of their local syndicate. I see it as an allegory for life today with my often times sarcastic, cynical nature.

Why did you choose to write New Dawn: Deception as a series of several seemingly disjointed tales that take place in different corners of the same galaxy?

For the reader’s perspective and my own writing style, mainly. I’m a huge fan of Harry Turtledove, and his best works in my opinion involve a couple of dozen characters set across his universe. I also think it’s important that the reader see multiple sides of the same conflict, to better “flesh it out” so to speak. Sometimes, it’s the ordinary guy or gal in a seemingly ordinary place who makes for a grand story, especially when you combine it with other, similar but different stories.

Of the different characters and scenarios featured in your book, do you have a favorite story arc?

Many of the characters are dear to me. Kiv for his darkness and hostility toward everyone. Maryse for her choices. Kyle for his ingenuity in a crisis. But Tak Vedis is probably the closest character to me. I invented him in another universe of fan fiction and took him with me into this universe. He actually has an original novel all his own, called Sentience: Sensations, set a little while before New Dawn: Deception. He might qualify as my favorite; he and the sentient bots he trails.

What inspired you to write New Dawn: Deception? What was the first idea you had for the novel?

The first idea I had for Deception was the galaxy shattering potential of the alien species. I’m a Christian, and often find myself in debate with those who believe in evolution. I thought, what if I combined the worst of both: religious and scientific fanatics? In the second part of the New Dawn series, you will really see that idea take off. As to what inspired me? This is a universe a co-writing partner (who is also a dear friend) and I created many years ago. She’s writing other things at the moment, but we’re hopeful to write together again someday. She gave me the go ahead to do this myself and I ran with it.

If you were a character in the New Dawn galaxy, who would you be? A pirate? An athlete? A starship commander?

Well, that’s the thing about writing… you end up putting bits of yourself and the people you know into your characters. As I see myself, I’m part of several of my characters, including the rock musician (I’ve been one) Rumos, Gianny (I really was good at football), but I probably have the most in common with Tak, the tragic, unwilling hero, lol.

New Dawn: Deception features more villains than heroes. Did you choose to focus on the bad guys, or did the story just come out that way?

It’s a matter of perspective, really. This is a galaxy where everyone has grown up under the heel of gangsters operating freely, doing as they please. People have learned the hard way that no one will help them but themselves. They’ve also learned that others will do whatever they please and get away with it. Justice is taken by the individual, as they see it, not handed out by a kind, benevolent government. It’s become necessary to be more aggressive in fending for yourself.

What can you tell us about your writing method? Do you outline or just write by the seat of your pants? Any favorite locations? Songs you have playing in the background?

I like to write in a dark, quiet place, very soon after I wake up. That way, there are no distractions, and any dreams I may have had while asleep are still somewhat fresh in my mind. When writing, first, I go to my regular job, and when I can, I think about what I want to do, what characters I want to have. After I’ve taken a lot of free form notes, and combined events and character traits together, then I like to organize everything into what I call a Time Line of chapters. I summarize what each character will do. After that, I get to the writing, usually following closely to my time line, but occasionally diverging when the character leads me somewhere I didn’t expect to go.

New Dawn: Deception is the first in a series. What can you tell us about the rest of the series? How many books will there be? Will new heroes or villains pop up? What will carry over from the first book?

The New Dawn series will end with the second book, Revelation, coming out in a few months. All of the characters in Deception will find resolution in Revelation. Some of the characters, like Tak, Kyle and Dauphine, will live on beyond the New Dawn series. Others, however, are not quite so lucky. However, the New Dawn series won’t be the end of the universe, not by a long shot. I already have other ideas for future books swimming around in my head. However, in the short term, I have a fantasy novel in a new universe, and an alternate history staring me in the face (not to mention an alternate history based on ancient Chinese history to edit). Once I finish those, I shall return to this universe.

New Dawn: Deception is available at: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

REVIEW: The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains / Rodney Jones

TITLE: The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains
AUTHOR: Rodney Jones

AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Smashwords (multiple e-formats), Barnes and Noble (Nook e-book), All Romance (multiple e-formats), OmniLit (multiple e-formats)


Recommended for readers seeking 19th century American historical fiction and/or innocent romance.


Romance—Young Adult/Historical Fiction

The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains is a nightmare to shelve. It contains elements of a variety of genres, being about a pair of teenage sweethearts, one from 2009 and one from 1875. Although it involves time travel, this book hardly counts as science fiction, as the time travel device is never explained and unimportant. The book is primarily concerned with the life of its teenage protagonist, John Hartley, a lad from 1875 who finds himself in 2009. The majority of the book takes place in 1875, and so it could also be considered historical fiction to some extent.


In The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains, Jones takes his time to develop his characters and paint a rich setting, detailing each scene with care. John’s conversational narration and the uncertainty of how things can possibly work out between John and his sweetheart from the future keep the pace moving forward even though this book isn’t a traditional page-turner (even so, I finished it much sooner than anticipated—curled up with it one night and finished the next).


First person past. John Hartley, a 17-year-old boy living in 1875, narrates this book in a conversational voice. Since he speaks from the point of view of someone living over a century ago, some of his word choices are a bit old-fashioned.


John Hartley, a 17-year-old miller’s nephew living in 1875 Vermont, wanders into the woods near his hometown one day and finds himself in 2009. Clueless and confused, he meets the vivacious Tess, a girl his age. She soon gets over her disbelief over meeting someone from the past and does what she can to help John find his way back to 1875.

John, who narrates the novel, is immediately likable. His voice, down-to-earth and often contemplative, shines through the writing in a way that makes it easy to forget that he’s a character on a page. Honest, humble, and kindhearted, he hasn’t a wicked bone in his body. The only remotely negative thing anyone could possibly say about him is that he may be a bit too nice and thus vulnerable. His wide-eyed wonder at the curiosities of 2009 is funny and endearing, especially in his interactions with Tess, who (gasp!) runs around with bare, shaved legs and cusses more than a girl ought to.

Tess is one of those characters that you either love or hate right off the bat. Spunky and smart-mouthed, she comes off as a bit obnoxious as she teases John for his naiveté. And yet it’s that very spirit that draws John to her, that keeps her in his mind even after he finds his way back to his regular life. Not much is said about her back-story other than that she is the child of divorced parents. But actions speak louder than words, and despite her somewhat annoying mouth, her willingness to go out of her way to help John reveals her fundamentally kind nature.

When Tess unexpectedly shows up in 1875 after John finds his way home, trouble ensues. Why is she there? How can John explain her presence and strange behavior? The events that unfurl in the latter part of the book lead to an ending that completely blindsided me (and I’m rarely shocked by twist endings), so much so that I yelled out loud at my Kindle app. And yet, by the time I reached the last sentence, I found myself utterly satisfied with the way things worked out.

The majority of this novel takes place in John’s time, 1875, and the historical setting and everyday culture are believable and clearly well researched. There are barn dances and trips to town, old time justice and contemplation of courtship. The time travel element of this novel is left unexplained, as it is unimportant. It is an Act of God, the hand of the almighty Jones throwing John into Tess’ world to see what he’ll do. Neither John nor Tess have any way of knowing or controlling how or when they’ll end up jumping through time, only that it has something to do with a certain stretch of woods.

The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains is a charming tale of young love that blossoms from the most unlikely of circumstances. Engaging and absorbing, it swept me away and left me with a smile on my face.


This book is impeccably edited.

This book contains a few instances of the “s” word but otherwise is completely G-rated.


While a past resident of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, New York, and Vermont, Rodney Jones now resides in Richmond, Indiana, where he whiles away his days pecking at a laptop, riding his ten-speed up the Cardinal Greenway, taking long walks with his daughter, or backpacking and wilderness camping. Rodney's interests include: art, science, politics, whiskey and chocolate, music (collecting vinyl records), gardening, and travel.

Disclosure: Red Adept Publishing is also the publisher of my own novel, Artificial Absolutes. I bought and read this book on my own, and the above reflects only my honest opinion.