Wednesday, February 27, 2013

REVIEW: Hera, Queen of Gods / T.D. Thomas

TITLE: Hera, Queen of Gods
AUTHOR: T.D. Thomas
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book) 

Recommended for fans of urban fantasy and Greek myths

Fantasy—Urban/Young Adult

Hera, Queen of Gods is written in a style that’s conducive to page turning. Between Hera’s snappy voice, the ongoing mystery, and the action scenes, it seems like it should be a fairly quick read. However, the length slows down the pacing, and I started getting impatient toward the second half.

Hera, Queen of Gods is written from the first person past perspective of its titular character. Hera’s voice is very stream-of-consciousness and could almost be first person present.

The Fates, who hold the universe’s order in their hands, have been kidnapped. An enchanted cloud covering one town prevents divine interference, forcing Hera, queen of the Greek gods, to inhabit the body of a mortal girl in order to search for them. Along with five of her fellow Olympians, she explores the mortal world searching for answers. Because of their mortal bodies’ limitations, each god and goddess can only bring one divine power. Hera chooses the power to enter peoples’ minds and command them to do her will.

Hera is joined on her quest by a teenage boy, Justin. Although Hera tries to hide her true nature, Justin soon realizes that she and the others aren’t his high school classmates. He boldly volunteers to join the quest, and the Olympians agree because whoever took the Fates has the power to block them, but not mortals. As mysteries unravel and danger approaches, Hera finds herself growing unexpectedly close to Justin. 

Hera, Queen of Gods is a fantastically imaginative urban fantasy with elements of paranormal romance. Thomas writes under the assumption that the audience is familiar with the basics of Greek mythology—the twelve gods, Hera’s reputation as an unforgiving queen, Zeus’ fondness for mortal women, etc. He adds his own twists to the mythology, such as a dream dimension and a universal set of laws called the Necessity, which binds even the gods.

To those familiar with Greek mythology, Hera is a coldhearted shrew with a nasty temper. Many stories tell of her wrath, especially against the mortal women Zeus beds. Thomas tells, for the first time I know of, Hera’s point of view. In Hera, Queen of Gods, Hera is a strong, independent woman who has been forced to maintain order while her faithless husband enjoys himself. Her ruthless determination earned her the unfavorable reputation, since she cares more about getting things done than making people like her. She is very much the modern career woman. She sacrifices her own happiness and remains loyal to a philandering husband to keep her house in order. Seen in this light, it’s easy to sympathize with her.

The relationship between Hera and Justin adds forbidden romance to the novel. It soon becomes clear that Justin is completely taken by the goddess. Hera is quick to dismiss his affections, for she must remain married to Zeus in order to co-rule the heavens. Although she repeatedly denies her feelings, it’s impossible to miss her attachment to Justin. Her dilemma is one that will be familiar to anyone who has read of divorce dramas or arranged marriages.

Perhaps Thomas’ greatest strength as a writer is his ability to blend Hera’s personal struggles with the danger surrounding her. The stakes are high—so high that if Hera fails, the universe could shatter. She and the Olympians face dastardly monsters, powerful villains, and puzzling riddles. Much of Hera, Queen of Gods is devoted to action scenes. Giants, harpies, pythons, witchcraft, dreamlands—there’s plenty of excitement in this novel. Thomas has a relentless imagination, and the plot takes many twists and turns.

My one criticism of the novel is its length. Much of what happens could be significantly condensed, especially since Hera has a tendency to repeat herself in her narration. She does it for emphasis and as a rhetorical device, but it loses its bite after being used so many times. 

Hera, Queen of Gods easily falls into the Young Adult category. The bodies the gods inhabit are teenagers, and the Olympians behave accordingly. Many of their attitudes and ways of thinking feel very adolescent, which could be explained in the novel by the fact that mortal bodies have an effect over the immortals’ minds. Several scenes take place inside a high school, and much of the supporting cast consists of teenagers.

All in all, Hera, Queen of Gods is an entertaining and exciting read with a clever plot and an original premise. Hera is a powerful protagonist, who is far more human than she’ll admit to herself. I’m glad I took a chance on this novel, for it was, to me, a fantastic adventure that never loses sight of the characters at its core.

I didn’t notice any significant typos or errors.

This book contains some violence (mostly monster fights), but nothing gruesome or graphic.

[From the author's Amazon page]
When not battling to save Azeroth from its latest calamity, T.D. Thomas lives and works in the frosty north known as Canada. He lives with six of his closest friends, all of whom are ruled over by a little white dog named Teo, who firmly believes he's a reincarnated Egyptian pharaoh and demands to be treated as such. Favourite things include temperatures above 0 degrees Celsius and cats who don't take guff from pretentious little white dogs.  

RELATED: An Interview with T.D. Thomas

Sunday, February 24, 2013


P.T. McHugh, author of the YA time travel adventure Keeper of the Black Stones, talks about his book's inspirations, characters, and background.

What inspired you to become a writer?

Insomnia, and an over active imagination. 

What was the first idea you had for Keeper of the Black Stones, and how did the story grow from there?

My favorite cartoon growing up was Johnny Quest.  Even though it was originally released before I was born, my father introduced me to the reruns on Saturday morning and I was hooked.  I always loved history and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a story that contained the excitement of Johnny Quest and the intrigue that only real-life historical events could create?  I loved the idea of a normal kid, thrust into incredible circumstances. I wanted to see what he would do.

That and the fact that anything having to do with a badass bodyguard equipped with modern weapons thrown back in time sounded fun.

What was your favorite part of Keeper of the Black Stones and what was the most challenging?

Without giving too much away, I just love adventure, drama, and action, and there are a couple of scenes where Jason’s bodyguard, Reis Slayton, gets to flex his muscle as well as his weapons. Writing those scenes was extremely cool.

Least favorite?  I don’t necessarily have a least favorite, although just like any author writing the first book in a series, I had to take time to set the stage, introduce the characters, and develop the plot. Had to get that all out of the way before I could jump into the action, if you know what I mean. So getting through those scenes – finding the right tempo in regard to introducing all the details without bogging down the reader … that was tough for me.

Keeper features a colorful cast of characters, from the nerdy but intrepid main character, Jason, to the dastardly villain Dresden.  Do you have any favorites?

Ironically my favorite character wasn’t even in the first version of the manuscript.  Tatiana is by far my favorite character.  She’s everything I wanted to date growing up, and I believe represents what all girls wish to be – bright, assertive, tough, beautiful, and determined.  She was great fun to write.

What would you say motivates Jason, an ordinary teenager, into throwing himself back through time?

I really wanted to create Jason as the ordinary teenager.  I didn’t want him to be at the bottom of the totem pole in regard to how his peers treated him. That’s been done to death. I did want him to think, act, and feel like most teenagers – alone and full of doubt.  I wanted him to be a normal kid, thrust into extraordinary circumstances. With that being said, Jason goes back in time for two main reasons. The first is obvious – to save his grandfather.  But the second is a little subtler, and in line with both Jason’s age and station in life.  Like most teenagers, Jason is sick of being told what to do, and not being in control of his life or his destiny.  Even when it comes to the stones, he has adults telling him that he can’t or shouldn’t go. In that way, it’s pretty obvious that he – as a teenager – is going to do exactly what everyone is telling him not to do. Besides, this is his chance to make a decision on his own, control his own destiny, and save the world. What boy wouldn’t jump at that?

What can you tell us about the mysterious black stones that serve as the time travel devices?

Well you already know exactly what you’re meant to know! I can tell you that the stones give people the ability to go back in time, but only certain people. Everyone can travel on them, obviously, but only certain people can see where they’re going and when. Perhaps some people can also control the stones … but who knows? In the next book we’ll discover that the stones can also give some insight … but only in certain situations. I know I’m being vague here, but I’m not going to give it all away!

If someone were to walk in on you while you were writing, what would they see?

They would see a messy desk, with sticky notes scattered all over my computer screen, a half-empty can of Diet Mountain Dew (yes Diet – it took about two weeks to make the switch, but you have too after you hit a certain age), and a NE Patriots mouse pad.  All essential ingredients.  

How have your real life experiences influenced your writing? 

My favorite question. We tend to write what we know.  In this case, Jason’s home town and friends resemble the town where I grew up, and my friends and family there. Even some of the teachers from my high school. Many of the quirky conversations and experiences that Jason and Paul experience come straight out of my memory – growing up in a small town, wondering if this was all life had to offer, and wishing for more. So my real life experiences have actually become fodder for my writing.

In Keeper, Jason travels back in time to 15th Century England.  Why did you choose this setting?  What kind of research did you do?

To be honest, I didn’t know much about that time period or the historical events that surrounded it, which made me want to research it.  I read a wonderful book several years ago written by Ian Mortimer called Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England.  Ian did a wonderful job telling the reader not so much what took place at that time, but how the people lived and the environment that surrounded them.  I love it, and highly recommend it.  It made me want to know more about the time period, and get into it myself. When I started writing Keeper, that was my second choice for time period. It ended up being the best place to start the book, and the series.  Other research came down to visiting my local library (old school), scrawling through my old history text books, and falling in love with the vast knowledge at my fingertips via the internet. 

What’s next for Jason and his pals?

Well I know where it’s going, and my editor knows where it’s going. I believe we’ve already released the fact that it’s going to be in … wait, maybe we haven’t released that yet.

Then again, perhaps I’m having fun with the reader and I don’t actually know where it’s going. I’m waiting to find out where Dresden shows up next, just like everyone else.

Keeper of the Black Stones is available at: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook e-book)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Scott Bartlett, author of the medieval-style comedy Royal Flush talks about background and inspirations. Visit his website, Like his Facebook page, or Follow him on Twitter.

Royal Flush is an over-the-top comedy taking place in a medieval-style kingdom. What inspired this book, and why did you choose to write in such an unconventional style? 

I was inspired to write the book by my impeccable record in high school of striking out with women. My success rate was exactly zero percent, and I found that hilarious, so I wrote a funny book about it (at least, writing it cracked me up).

As for the unconventional style, I was fresh from reading Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “trilogy,” and the central lesson I took from it was that it’s a good laugh to take the rules of writing/story and stomp on them repeatedly until left with a mushy gel. 

Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer? Do you remember what made you first want to write? 

I was (and am) a tremendous book nerd, and one day I decided I wanted to create one of these textual artifacts for the enjoyment of others, since I’d always enjoyed them so much myself. I started my first novel in grade nine, which petered out partway through Chapter Three.

I managed to complete one in high school—it was atrocious, of course, and I never did anything with it. Royal Flush was next. I wrote it in my first year of university, basing it on short stories I wrote in high school. I’m now in the editing stages of my third novel,  and I’ve just recently begun a fourth. 

Like all good satires, Royal Flush uses impossibly humorous situations to skewer contemporary stereotypes. Are there any particular themes or messages you hoped to convey? 

No, not really. Any message you might encounter emerged organically—which is often how these things happen, anyhow. Retrospectively, I can see that the theme of persistence is among the most important in the novel.

Nowadays I find myself more conscious of messages and such as I write, though I don’t know whether that’s a good thing. 

Of all the nutty and quirky characters in Royal Flush, do you have a favorite? 

The King, of course! He was my favourite to write—which worked out well, since he’s the main character. I thoroughly enjoyed abusing him. 

What was the most challenging aspect of writing Royal Flush? What was your favorite part of writing? 

I wrote the first draft of Royal Flush in the eighteen days leading up to a competition deadline. So I’d say the hardest part was the gruelling writing schedule. My favourite part was reading what I’d written and being inordinately pleased with it. Sounds awful, I know, but that’s my ultimate rubric for success. 

Do you have any writing habits? Songs you listen to? Places you like to hang out at? 

I like going to coffee shops to write. For some people, the appeal here is the white noise in the background, but not me—I just like the caffeine, the free wifi, and the getting out of the house.

I stick my earphones in as I work. Lately I’ve been listening to Danger Mouse’s mashup of Jay-Z and The Beatles, remastered by sound engineer John Stewart. But my music tastes are pretty eclectic—also featured on my current playlists are Justice, Death Cab for Cutie, Animal Collective, K’naan, Interpol, Wolf Parade, Mother Mother, Massive Attack, The Decemberists, Scissor Sisters, Bon Iver, Broken Bells, Brand New… anyway, this answer is getting tedious. 

Do you consider yourself primarily a humorist or a storyteller? 

Good question! And one I haven’t considered before.

It’s a rare story by me that doesn’t have some humour in it, but I guess ultimately I consider myself a storyteller. My first novel was science fiction, and contained very little humour. And the one I’m now editing now takes itself much more seriously than Royal Flush does—that said, I’ve also included ample amounts of what I consider to be comedy in it. 

How did you come up with the title of your novel? 

After I made the decision to call the initial short stories “The King of Hearts”, “The King of Diamonds”, and so on, the title Royal Flush just sort of popped into my head. Four kings do not a royal flush make, of course—but if you play them right, they might as well be one. (And that’s all I’ll say about the book’s ending.)

The title’s also atrociously punny. Everything “goes to shit” for the King, if you’ll pardon my French. 

Are there any authors whose work you find particularly inspiring or influential? 

Well, Douglas Adams, as I’ve mentioned. Also, Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Stephen King, and Dave Eggers. But those four influenced the next novel much more than they did Royal Flush. 

Are you working on anything new? 

Taking Stock, my novel in the editing stages, is about Sheldon Mason, a reclusive writer who is about to kill himself when Sam, the man who lives above him, walks in. It’s the first time they’ve met, but Sam gets him help, and then puts in a good word for him at a local grocery store, where he’s hired. The workplace politics there are incredibly fraught, and Sheldon gets into drugs as he tries to navigate his new social life.

The working title for the novel I’ve just started is Air Earth, and it’s a humorous dystopia set in the far future about a society in which functional anarchy has ostensibly taken hold, but in fact corporations run the show even more than they do today. Life is so inconvenient in this society that everyone wants to get out, and instead of saving for retirement they save for a one-way plane ticket—a purchase that has grown extremely expensive.  One company, called Air Earth, has a monopoly on air travel.

Royal Flush is available at:  Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon US (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Barnes and Noble (paperback), Barnes and Noble (Nook e-book), Indigo (paperback), iTunes(e-book), Kobo (e-book), Sony (e-book) 

Monday, February 18, 2013

REVIEW: Royal Flush / Scott Bartlett

TITLE: Royal Flush
AUTHOR: Scott Bartlett
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon US (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Barnes and Noble (paperback), Barnes and Noble (Nook e-book), Indigo (paperback), iTunes(e-book), Kobo (e-book), Sony (e-book) 

Recommended for fans of quirky comedies such as the humor of Monty Python.


The world of Royal Flush is reminiscent of the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail in that the story takes place in a wacky medieval-style land that makes no sense in the real world. The nonsensical nature of Royal Flush’s universe is the source of much of its comedy.

Royal Flush is a quick read. Something about its wackiness makes it addictive and hard to put down.

Third person omniscient. The narrator often feels like a character in the story, offering commentary and insights outside of the characters’ perspectives.

Scott Bartlett’s wacky medieval-style comedy takes place in a far-off land known only as the Kingdom. The King took over the throne because no one else wanted the job, not even the former king’s sons. A useless and blustering tyrant, he exists mainly for the entertainment of the populace, who enjoy reading about him in the Kingdom’s tabloid. Royal Flush follows the King’s woeful attempts at finding love, consolidating power, and holding onto his throne.

In Royal Flush, Bartlett describes a nonsensical world of exaggerated personalities and mad happenings. His satirical style keeps the King’s abuses at arm’s length, making the outwardly horrific events in the book into punch lines. The narrator often seems to be a member of the crazy cast, with his unique voice and somewhat rambling nature. Bartlett writes with an energetic and snappy style that keeps the story moving forward pretty quickly.

The book intentionally throws all real world pretenses out the window, and the result is a shameless and fantastically entertaining farce. The King rides a goat because the horses are all too colicky. The editor of the national tabloid forces the King to cross-dress in exchange for ad space, which the King uses to declare his love for a woman he met at a bar. The population becomes so enamored by a bandit that they eagerly give him their goods and consider it an honor to be robbed.

The King is an arrogant, incompetent, and ridiculous man whose nuttiness makes him a delight to watch. He blusters about declaring his kingliness, yet does little in the way of ruling. He abuses power left and right, yet regularly gets his comeuppance in the form of humiliation. Despite everything, there’s something endearing about this wacky character, and I even found myself rooting for him.

The King is accompanied through his adventures by a number of odd—and perhaps somewhat deranged—characters. There’s Sir Forsyth, a doctor of sorts whom the King seeks to cure his broken heart. Sir Forsyth, it turns out, is capable of far more than the King anticipated. And there’s Frederick, the King’s fiddler and sole companion when an enemy army lays siege to the castle. The King and Frederick delight in hating each other due to their mutual attraction for a woman. And then there’s the Wisest Man Alive, who has his own designs on the kingdom and, in a somewhat meta moment, turns out to be writing a biography of the King.

The plot of Royal Flush is unexpectedly clever. When I first started reading, I thought the book would be a simple, humorous depiction of a wacky kingdom, but as the novel progressed, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns. Seemingly random events weave together to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. In addition, like all good satirists, Bartlett uses his exaggerated narrative to skewer certain stereotypes.

Unconventional, quirky, and over-the-top, Royal Flush is the kind of comedy that asks a reader to check reality at the door. It may not be for everyone, but personally, I found it rather addictive and ended up reading the whole thing in one afternoon

This book is well edited. If there were any errors, I didn’t catch them. 

Royal Flush is divided into four long chapters with section breaks in between.

References are made to violence, but the acts themselves either occur “off-screen” or are described minimally.

[From the author's Amazon page]

Scott Bartlett has been writing fiction since he was fifteen. Since then, he's written three novels and several short stories. His second novel, Royal Flush, won the H. R (Bill) Percy Prize, and his third novel, Taking Stock, received the Lawrence Jackson Writers' Award and the Percy Janes First Novel Award.

Scott also maintains a blog about environmental issues. In April, he won the Rio+20 Big Blog Off, and as a result traveled to Rio de Janeiro to blog at World Environment Day for the United Nations Environment Programme and

Visit his website or Like Royal Flush on Facebook

Monday, February 11, 2013

REVIEW: The List / Tom Wallace

TITLE: The List
AUTHOR: Tom Wallace
PUBLISHER: Hydra Publications
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (Kindle eBook), Amazon UK (Kindle eBook), Barnes & Noble (paperback), Coming Soon in paperback!

Recommended for fans of conspiracy thrillers and stories featuring assassins.

The List contains all the must-haves of the thriller genre—danger, intrigue, and suspense. Powerful villains. Exciting action scenes. Anticipation. There are elements of the crime/murder mystery genre, as one of the main characters is a homicide detective seeking the truth about his mother’s death decades ago.

Page-turner. While The List isn’t the kind of heart-pounding thriller that advances the plot at breakneck speed, the ubiquitous sense of tension that surrounds the story makes it hard to put down.

Third person. The List is written from the points of view of multiple characters, following them closely and laying out their internal thoughts and motivations. At times, Wallace backs up and tells the story from a more omniscient perspective in order to depict a scene from more than one angle.

Tom Wallace’s latest thriller, The List, brings together two characters from his previous novels, the dedicated cop Jack Dantzler and the ruthless assassin known as Cain, and sends them on a mission that twists both their pasts into a “sordid saga of a few men whose desire to make huge sums of money trumped loyalty to the United States.”

Both of Dantzler’s parents were killed when he was a child—his father, Johnny, killed in action in Vietnam, his mother, Sarah, murdered several years later. It was his mother’s murder that drove Dantzler to become a cop in the first place, but despite his admirable track record and reputation as perhaps the best homicide detective in Lexington, he was never able to find her killer. The List opens with Dantzler receiving a visit from a Vietnam veteran who claims that not only is there more to Johnny Dantzler’s death, but that Sarah Dantzler was killed for trying to unearth the truth. The veteran is unable to say much more, but leaves with, “Find Cain. If you seek answers to your questions, he’s your best bet for finding them. However… the smart play, the safe play, would be to let the ghosts from the past rest in peace.”

While Dantzler’s investigation that kick-starts the plot, The List is less his story and more a series of scenes, strung together like distinct multicolored beads on the thread that is Apollo Enterprises, a private security firm from which the United States army rents mercenaries. Wallace constructs detailed portraits of every character and point of view, laying out their motivations and allowing the reader to watch the story unfold from multiple angles. Dantzler—the man who is both a cop and a vengeful son. The top dog at Apollo whose reach extends into the most powerful circles of the U.S. government and who can make problem people disappear with a wave of his hand. The intrepid investigative journalist determined to expose his company’s more nefarious—and treasonous—activities. The Russian assassin both in awe of Cain and after his blood. And of course, Cain himself.

Cain is a fascinating and wonderful creation, a character who is both terrifying and mesmerizing to watch. A Vietnam veteran who once served with Dantzler’s father, Cain first made a name for himself as a bringer of death during the war. Although decades have passed since, his age is no obstacle to his lethal abilities. He dispatches his victims efficiently and never once contemplates the rights and wrongs of his bloody profession, viewing himself not as an assassin, but a soldier—someone who obeys orders to track down and eliminate enemies. As Wallace puts it, “for him, opponents were nothing more than obstacles that had to be cleared away, and emotion wasn’t required when removing an obstacle.” Cain’s steadfast loyalty to his friends, including Dantzler, is the only sign of humanity beneath his otherwise psychopathic cold-bloodedness, and yet it is enough to make him a person rather than a weapon, a character rather than a plot device. He also possesses a dry wit—and a twisted sense of humor.

Where Wallace excels as an author is in his ability to make his characters come alive. He deftly utilizes the unique tools of his medium, the written book, to give them purposes and personalities, to allow the reader to get to know them through their back stories and internal thoughts as well as their actions. Not all his characters are sympathetic—in fact, many are deeply unlikable—and many possess the larger-than-life personalities characteristic of the genre. Nevertheless, they are a convincing and thoroughly entertaining cast to read about.

The List reads like a best-of demonstration of Wallace’s strengths—his skills in characterization and his talent for suspense, not to mention the flair with which he writes his dialogues. Wallace’s efficient and straightforward writing make it easy to get lost in the story. As with Wallace’s previous thriller, Gnosis, I ended up finishing this book in less than two days. Some plot points could be improved upon, but all in all, this book makes for an absorbing and enjoyable read, the kind that had me incessantly turning the pages.

There are many scenes of violence, some of which are quite gruesome, although most involve Cain swiftly offing those who stand in his way. There is one short, somewhat graphic sex scene depicted. This book contains adult language.

Tom Wallace is a Vietnam vet and an active member of Mystery Writers of America and the Author’s Guild. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky, and has penned three previous mysteries featuring Detective Jack Dantzler (What Matters Blood, The Devil’s Racket, and Gnosis) as well as a thriller featuring Cain (Heirs of Cain)


Tom Wallace, author of the conspiracy thriller The List, answers questions about his characters and  writing process. Visit his website or Like him on Facebook.

One of the main characters in The List is a ruthless assassin known as Cain who has a day job as a literature professor. What inspired this character?

In 1969, not long after I returned from Vietnam, I wrote a poem titled “The Heirs of Cain.” It wasn’t a great poem, more Dylan than T.S. Eliot. After I had finished my first novel in 1989 (titled Match Point but eventually published as The Devil’s Racket), I began thinking about writing a novel that featured an assassin who was a good guy. Why I chose to make him a literature professor, I simply can’t remember. Perhaps it was because I love literature so much, and I felt comfortable in that world. At any rate, I wrote “Heirs of Cain”, which I finished in 1992. It wasn’t published until 2010. I’m convinced that if publishers knew how lethal Cain is, they would not have snubbed him for 18 long years.

Why did you choose to have Cain cross paths with Detective Dantzler, who was featured in three previous murder mysteries?

Great question. It actually came about when Medallion Press, publisher of “Heirs of Cain”, wanted to try something called One More Moment. What they wanted was for me to write a brief piece about what or where the “Cain” story might go next if I took it one step further. I wrote the scene in which Dantzler first meets Cain. It all fell into place because I had written in all three Dantzler books that his father died in Vietnam and his mother was murdered eight years later. Dantzler learns that his father’s death didn’t happen the way he had been told all his life, and that his mother’s murder was connected to his father’s death. He wants the truth, but he knows that to find those truths means entering a world that is beyond his capabilities. Therefore, he needs Cain, his own Virgil to guide the pilgrim on his dangerous journey.

The List is written from multiple points of view. What’s it like getting into the heads of so many characters?

I never think about that stuff in advance. I just write what I suspect a particular character thinks/feels/needs/wants. Creating characters is fun—you get to be God for a while—but strangely enough, most of my secondary characters/villains sort of pop into my head, and then what they become just seems to write itself.

One thing I noticed while reading your books is how you lay out the back-stories of the minor characters, allowing the reader to get to know them even if they play a relatively small role in the overall plot. Why do you choose to do this?

Again, I don’t think about it all that much. Once a character enters the story, either by my choosing or by forcing himself into the narrative, his back story seems to write itself. Oftentimes, you never know how it’s going to turn out. In “The Devil’s Racket”, I created a character called Boggsy. He was a nothing character, just a guy who happened to be Dantzler’s friend. However, I knew moments after creating Boggsy that he would be a central player in the drama. As it turned out, he was in many ways the thread that led me through the remainder of the story.

The List is a conspiracy thriller fused with crime fiction. What genre conventions did you play on—or intentionally flout?

Well, I suppose the answer is in your question—thriller and crime fiction. I didn’t think of genre, nor did I intentionally flout anything specific. I simply wrote a story that I felt would be interesting for me to write, and interesting for readers to read. In the final analysis, interesting the readers is what really counts.

Were there any scenes in The List that you particularly enjoyed writing? Any that you found especially difficult?

I don’t consider myself to be a very good descriptive writer, so any scene where I describe how a person looks/dresses, or how the inside of a house looks, or stuff like that is always tough for me. I much prefer scenes between individuals, or action sequences. I love the scene where Cain meets with the FBI agent in Las Vegas. I love the scene with the alligators in St. Augustine. Also, the flashback to Vietnam, where Cain works with Dantzler’s father, is one of my favorites.

If you could meet any character from The List for a drink, who would it be?

I would say Cain. Why? So I could ask him the question that Dantzler wants to ask: How do you stay sane when you have so much blood on your hands?

What are your favorite books? Has anyone’s writing influenced your own work?

I have dozens of books that vie for my favorite, but if I had to choose one (fiction), I would say “Crime and Punishment.” I suppose every writer you read influences you in some way. Among current fiction writers, my favorites are Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Faye Kellerman, Ridley Pearson, John Sandford and James Ellroy. I’m also a huge fan of William Goldman, although he doesn’t write much anymore.

Do you have a favorite writing spot?

In my fantasy world, I would sit on the beach, hoist a pint or two of Guinness, and do my writing. However, in the real world, I write at the computer in my condo.  

The List is available at: Amazon US (Kindle eBook), Amazon UK (Kindle eBook), Barnes & Noble (paperback)

Friday, February 8, 2013

REVIEW: Nomicon Saga / E. Glover

TITLE: Nomicon Saga (Anthology Book One) 
AUTHOR: E. Glover
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (paperback), Egsa Outfitters (paperback)

Recommended for readers seeking dark magic and plot-based adventures.


Nomicon Saga is an anthology of eleven short stories that take place in the same world and feature the same characters. It’s like a TV show, with each story being a different episode in the same series. The stories mostly take place in an urban setting, with the main characters running into all kinds of supernatural dangers. It focuses on the dark side of magic and is akin to horror.

Each story within Nomicon Saga is densely written—that is, the stories move from plot point to plot point with not much in between.

Third person omniscient. The narrative rotates between the points of view of several different characters, often within the same scene.

Nomicon Saga is a series of eleven dark short stories depicting the adventures of Jake West and Cody Durant, keepers of an urban pawnshop who stumble upon artifacts containing supernatural powers. After an ancient and enigmatic box falls into Jake and Cody’s hands, they find themselves at the center of a mysterious game, played by unknown forces lurking beneath the surface of everyday life.

Jake and Cody were childhood friends, and several passages flash back to their pasts. Their relationship becomes strained at times as they embark on their adventures, with the stressful circumstances fostering distrust. Both are tough, fearless men who are not intimidated by the strange circumstances they encounter. They’re not afraid to be the bad guys where necessary, threatening their foes and taking crap from no one. Basically, they’re badasses.

Nomicon Saga is based on the world of ShatterCaster: New Kingdom, a tabletop game. The book contains a game-like atmosphere, focusing on external conflict and dangerous atmospheres. The characters are like chess pieces moving across a board composed of supernatural mysteries.

Like episodes of a TV show, the stories are self-contained tales with common arcs stringing them together. Each story begins with a short prologue and is divided into three Acts, then concludes with an epilogue. The stories are written in a focused, rather dense style, moving from plot point to plot point at a relatively quick pace. The vivid descriptions bring images to life, highlighting the fantastical elements.

It’s these elements of magic and mystery that make each story intriguing. The omniscient narrator depicts circumstances in a cinematic fashion, showing scenes that occur outside the main characters’ points of view. Several forces are at work, and it’s up to the reader to figure out how they are connected. Reality becomes twisted, and Jake and Cody find themselves dealing with situations beyond their understanding. Each new discovery seems to lead to more questions, which further drives their desire to solve the puzzle. As Cody says in frustration, “We can’t keep chasing shadows in the dark. I want some answers.”

The book doesn’t offer all of these answers, leaving room for more stories to come. Nomicon Saga offers glimpses into an expansive world of adventure, suspense, and dark magic, exciting and at times frightening.

I found some typos and small errors, but nothing distracting.

This book contains some frightening scenes, but nothing gruesome or graphic.

Egsa Press is a Chicago-based publisher. Together with Egsa WoftWorks, Egsa Press released the tabletop game ShatterCaster: New Kingdom. Nomicon Saga is based on the world of this game.

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