Category: Book Reviews & Interviews (Page 3 of 4)

Book Review, Horror: The Boulevard Monster, by Jeremy Hepler

You can find Jeremy Helper’s book The Boulevard Monster on Amazon and in print.

Disclosure: I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

So once upon a time there was this guy. He meant well. Or at least…51% well over 49% ill. On average he meant well. And then he made a mistake. One teensy, tiny little mistake. But clearly not one that shifted the balance the other direction. Clearly he’s still a good guy. Who at least still means well.

One teensy, tiny little mistake after another, and he’s not sure where he is anymore. Did he mean well? Or ill? Or something else? Is ANY of this his fault? Surely not all of it is his fault…

You’ve read that story before; it’s the classic tale of a life gone wrong. Almost always, for reasons that vary from book to book, it was already going wrong anyway, before the monsters and uncanny stepped in.

What sets The Boulevard Monster apart is the warmth that fills the pages. Unlike many of the anti-heroes that carry out their own self-destruction, aided by the supernatural, bad luck, and Very Bad Men, our hero Seth Fowler is actually, genuinely likable, not just a self-justifying jerk of an unreliable narrator. He spends his time caring for other people, trying to make their lives a little easier. He has fond and even delightful memories of the past; he is grounded in solid realities rather than ambition and drive. When the time comes for him to make an ethical choice (at the very beginning of the book), he makes it without hesitation: in fact it’s his ethical choice that gets him in trouble. When he digs himself deeper and deeper into gray and then black areas of morality, you know that he’s making a very clear-cut choice between bad and worse. The mistakes he makes are the ones that we all make every day, out of the desire to help our loved ones, or prevent them from coming to harm. And his family is actually worth it.

This is no whiny, self-centered character who you secretly wish would get a two-by-four-sized clue stick to the side of the head. This is a genuinely nice guy, which gives the classic tale a lot more impact than I expected. I couldn’t hold myself back and go, “Well, if only he’d admitted that he was wrong here, here, and here, then he would never be in this place.” There was never a moment where I could say that. The actions that the character take throughout the novel have nothing but admiration and sympathy from me. Even during Seth’s worst moment, I went, “Ahhhhh…I’d have at least been tempted.”

The ending, in my opinion, nailed it. I’d like to see more in this universe, too. Recommend.

Interview with Richard Bamberg, author of Wanderers: Ragnarök


Amazon | Goodreads | Author Website
 Author Facebook PageAuthor Goodreads Page | Author Amazon Page

Welcome to fellow author and former long-term critique partner Richard Bamberg, author of the Wanderers urban fantasy series and other novels.  Previous interviews with Rob Chansky, P.R. Adams, and Megan Rutter are also available.

1. You and I were in a critique group together when this book was first being developed.  (Full disclosure to the audience: I finally read the final-final version only recently because I’m a terrible person.)  One of the things that stuck with me was that said a few times that you didn’t know where a certain scene was going and just wanted to see how your early readers would react before writing the next scene.  What benefits did you get out of doing that, besides leaving your early readers hanging on the edge of a cliff?  And has your pantsing vs. plotting quotient changed or have you always been that crazy?

Yeah, sometimes I have no idea what happens next. When I was still having early readers tolerate my horrible early drafts, I’d get some great ideas from their feedback on what directions a novel would take. Sometimes they’d come up with something so surprising that I had to change where my overarching plot line was headed. I’ve always been a chronological thinker. I come up with a scene that would make a good opening for a novel. Once I’ve written that scene, I step back and consider just what would make sense for that scene to become a story. I’ve tried plotting an entire novel and did so only once. I found it tedious and trying to stick to the outline kept spontaneity out of my plot. Granted, some of the best novels ever written were done by plotting the story out before the first word was written, but that’s not me.

My limit of plotting these days, after that opening scene is finished, is to come up with a vague ending. For instance, in Wanderers: Ragnarök, I had the meet-cute scene of Raphael riding into town on his manticore possessed Harley and saving Cynthia from a nasty little demon. Of course, nothing can be straightforward so I had to throw a twist into the opening. From that opening, I sat back with a glass of…well; it had alcohol in it, bourbon? Probably, or maybe scotch on the rocks. Anyway, while sipping whiskey, I decided that any good story needs a big finish. From that proven concept, I decided what the climax would need. Then it was just a matter of connecting the opening to the ending.

Granted, there’s no such thing as a straight line in writing, but in an effort to make the characters come alive, I give them a lot of leeway to surprise me. In each scene, I find good characters saying and doing things that were not in my head when I started the scene. It keeps the story interesting for me and hopefully for the reader. It’s doesn’t all lead to hugs and puppies–Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling, so many times I have to throw out my character’s great idea and substitute a more mundane one of my own.

I still preferring flying by the seat of my pants, but I have a couple of dependable first readers who get to tell me whether said seat is becoming thread bare. I’ve had to change more than one ending after letting someone give me “constructive criticism.”

2. What brought you to write this particular book and series?  I seem to recall that you might be a wee bit of a slight fan of Supernatural and The Dresden Files, but what brought you to write this particular story (rather than something else in the urban fantasy/contemporary fantasy genre)?  What’s driving you to finish a huge series like this?

I actually started this series about the time Supernatural first aired on television. It may have been the WB back then, but now it’s the CW (where do they get their names?). I’d been a huge fan of Buffy and all things Josh Whedonish. Buffy had a great run. When Supernatural came out, I have to admit that I watched the first two episodes and then stopped watching it. A year later, one of my oldest and dearest friends and fellow writer, Del Stone Jr. sent me the first season of Supernatural on DVD. Well, I couldn’t tell him that I hadn’t been watching it. (In my defense, the Supernatural team rates that second episode “Wendigo” as their worst episode in 12 seasons.) I now have the first 11 seasons of Supernatural and never get tired of the Winchester boys and Babe–for the uneducated, that’s their 1967 Chevy Impala. Anyway, I’d found a real fondness for contemporary fantasy and I thought I’d give it a try.

The concept of Wanderers and Raphael A. Semmes in particular, is based on the thought of someone who has found a calling, a reluctant calling, but heroes seem to me to be more a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time. Wanderers are longed lived powerful magic wielders who are reaped from the battlefield by Valkyries. They serve Verðandi, one of the Norn sisters of Norse mythology. Raphael, Rafe to his friends, didn’t volunteer for the job, in fact; he’s always been under the impression that Fate has placed a geas on him that he cannot escape.
It’s the idea that the hero doesn’t really have a choice in the matter that appealed to me at first. The Wanderer is a lonely soul, roving from place to place, fixing problems that Fate has identified as needing his particular form of attention. He develops few friends, has no home, and doesn’t control his own destiny. I guess it was the idea that so few of us can really chose our own fate that sent me into this series.

3. Your hero is a Vietnam vet with a Harley and a smartass, yet practical, attitude.  What, if anything, do you admit to having in common with him?  (Note:  If I don’t get a story out of this question, I’ll know for a fact you’re lying.)  Also, do you feel like the character comes mostly out of yourself as far as an attitude toward life goes–and does that make him more fun to write?  Do you make anything over the top out of wish fulfillment?

Story? That’s what I put in novels.

In common with my protagonist? I’d be lying if I didn’t say that all of my protagonists have some part of me at their core. Rafe could be what I’d be, if God had asked me what I wanted to be in life. He’s handsome, smart, sometimes amusing, and a bit of a ladies man…if that’s still a thing. He’s a free spirit that answers to no one (if you don’t count Fate) and travels the roads that lead to that next adventure, just over the rise, where the grass is always greener, the ladies friendlier, and death is just a slipup away.

I’d like to say that I have his devil-may-care attitude toward life and danger, but that’s where I depart from my protagonist. I could say that I have his situational morality, but I’ve never considered my morality to be truly situational. Sure, I believe bad guys should always get their comeuppance whether a government’s legal system plays into that or not is immaterial to Rafe and mostly to me. Our justice system is a misnomer just as calling our government a democracy is an error. Our justice system is a system of laws and justice has little to do with our lawyers and judges. Our republic has never been a democracy.

What Rafe gets from me is belief that I’d call libertarian, the lower case “l” being deliberate as it has nothing to do with the Libertarian Party in this country. It’s more like Stan Lee’s Spiderman’s saying: “with great power comes great responsibility.” In Rafe’s case, he has the power, answers to almost no one, but doesn’t abuse his power. He does, however, set himself apart as judge, jury, and executioner when necessary.

There was a time, long ago, when I considered–briefly–casting my responsibilities aside and riding off into the sunset on my motorcycle (no, it wasn’t a Harley). But like so many dreamers–what writer isn’t a dreamer–I held onto my life of responsibilities, of putting family ahead of dreams.

It’s been said that writers write of things that they know they’ll never do. I’ve had my share of little adventures over the years, my first being a tour of Vietnam that, regardless of what I say to family and friends, did affect my life every day since my return.

4. I know that some of your earlier work was released on audio first (although I can’t remember what the name of the company was).  Do you have any plans to do audio on any of these books?

I am planning to submit a few of my newer books to Books in Motion and see where that leads. It’s a nice market that originally catered to having displays in truck stops across the west. You could pick up a title in Washington state, drive for 15-20 hours, and then exchange the title for another at one of their many locations. These days I believe you can download the titles from anywhere and then exchange it later.

Having a novel on audio is a bit of a kick, assuming you have a good reader. I was lucky with the first three novels they released and all three had decent readers who brought along their own followers.

For those interested, Books in Motion can be found at: If you’re an author, they have simple guidelines for submitting published work to them.

5. This is the first book in what you’ve said is going to be a longer series, but one of a definite length (I forget how many books, like twelve?) and an overarching plot, and you’re working on book 4 now.  Geeky writer question, what techniques are working for you in opening the various books to keep your readers grounded?  Are you trying to leave room for new readers to pick up books in the series as they come out (then hopefully double back to the beginning), or do you just write the opening as it comes to you?  I may or may not be struggling with this at the moment myself–I mean, inquiring readers want to know.

Your memory is better than mine. When I started Wanderers I really hadn’t expected it to be a series, but favorable feedback on the protagonist–and that it was a fun story to write–led me to concluding the first story with a setup for a sequel. By then I’d decided that I enjoyed writing about Raphael and Beast and thought I could make a nice series out of it. The length of the series is not firm in my head right now. I’m enjoying writing book four and I bring in new and some old characters that should make sure Rafe and his Apprentice, Therese, have plenty to keep them busy for years to come. As for a definitely series length, well round numbers are nice, but so is a dozen. I guess that will remain a mystery for now.

On a favorable note, I’ve recently turned to full time writing and I’m intending to complete a novel every six months or so. They won’t all be in the Wanderer series, but a minimum of one per year will be.

and last but not least, the bonus question:

6.  Is there any note that you’d like to leave your readers on?  (Hint:  the additional promo question.)

Ha, I would like to say that I always welcome comments from my audience. While my website has crashed, I have someone feverishly trying to get it back on line and as soon as it’s up I’m going to start giving away copies of some of my eBooks to people who are interested in following my work.

I’m going to be at GalaxyFest ( February 24-26,2017 at The Antlers Wyndham Hotel in beautiful Downtown Colorado Springs, CO. Stop by and see me, I’ll have hard copies of most of my novels available and everyone who gives me some kind of contact information (email address) will be entered in a giveaway of autographed novels. I’ll give one of each of the non-Wanderer series books (5 currently available) to five different winners and then give the complete (so far) set of the Wanderer series to one lucky winner. As an added bonus (this is starting to sound like an infomercial about Ginsu knives) I’ll throw in a signed copy of Wanderers 4, when it is released later this year.

Richard Bamberg was born in Alabama, to middle-class working parents. After high school, he enlisted in the USAF. He later earned a degree in engineering from Texas Tech and went on to work for Boeing and the Missile Defense Agency. He sold his first novel, Emerald Eyes, to Books in Motion in 1994. Since then he’s published ten novels and numerous short stories.

His work has appeared internationally in print and on-line in science fiction magazines as far away as Poland. His short stories have also appeared in USA publications, including the award-winning anthology Bending the Landscape.

His works have ranged across thrillers, horror, and science fiction; lately his focus is on urban or contemporary fantasy and has two on-going series: The Wanderers and The Hunters.

His hobbies, when not writing, have included fencing, shooting, fishing, RPGs, computer games, and reading.

He’s an avid fan of SpaceX and their goal for occupying Mars.


Interview with Rob Chansky, Author of Hundred Ghost Soup


Amazon | Publisher Site | Goodreads
Author Facebook

Welcome to author Rob Chansky, who recently published Hundred Ghost Soup.  I received a copy from his publisher in exchange for a fair review; you can find the review here.  I liked it so much that I decided to beg for an interview.  You can also read previous interviews with Megan Rutter and Philip Adams.

1.  When I first saw Hundred Ghost Soup  come out, the first thing I thought was, “Okay, is this book going to be a superficial treatment of China?  Is it going to feel thin and fake?  Should I be scared?”  Fortunately it was immediately obvious that this wasn’t the case.  My question is this:  the world of Hundred Ghost Soup is rich enough to point almost toward obsession.  What drove you to build it?  

I think there are three reasons, and they all boil down to luck, both good and bad.

Foremost (of the good fortune) is my daughter Sophia, who we adopted from China in 2005. The adoption process was a bit like entering (the movie) Spirited Away for real. Then came the part where you’re living with a being new to both the world and this country. A tiny girl, feeling so lost, who smelled like coal smoke for weeks. At that point I was happily writing a book about a mechanical elephant made by an ancient alien Mughal and I didn’t want to be bothered by this young man with the big square glasses who sprang fully formed into my creative life. But as our daughter grew, the urge also grew to tell a story just to her (and whoever else might want to read it). Eventually the desire to do this overtopped the current project, and at some point I couldn’t resist it anymore. Stepping back from a book was a bad writing-career decision, yet one I don’t regret. So I began the Meiren saga—at its end. Not Hundred Ghost Soup, but the last book in this series, although I didn’t know it at the time.

Sadly that story (the last day of Meiren’s career) got bogged down and I decided I needed to answer the question of Meiren’s origin, so I thought I’d start with how he got his name. Just a short story, something to settle those nagging questions so I can get back to it. And that short story became Hundred Ghost Soup. Stepping back from that other book should have been a bad writing-career decision, too, and I don’t regret it either.

So you can see that planning and foresight really aren’t my copilots here. I expect to do better in the future.

My third bit of fortune (a mix of good and bad) was a complete lack of confidence in writing about China. The Chinese say no illness, short life; one illness, long life. Knowing the lack I started reading. When I had a shelf of books read I felt competent to portray someone who lives there. I was writing the book the whole time, though, and had to revise it as I learned. Do I know enough about China now to live there? Not a chance; I only picked up a few things. China is far more complicated than I can imagine. I’ve explored a couple of alleys and talked to some wise people; I don’t live there.

Along the way the wise ones were: Lin Yutang, whose sharp and happy writing voice (particularly in The Importance of Living) was the inspiration for Meiren’s; Barry Hughart whose Bridge of Birds and sequels inspired my writing; and Earnest Bramah’s Kai Lung character.

Now my daughter’s just old enough for me to pester her to read it. “It’s weird,” she’s said. I guess that’s all I’ll get for a while. But she’s got a long life ahead of her. One day I’ll be gone and she’ll have that to read.

2.  I’m struggling for a way to phrase this.  On the one hand, the story feels very ancient with a modern, somewhat surreal skin slapped over it (I kept getting startled when people sent emails, for example).  And yet on the other hand, it seems very postmodern in its sense of uncertainty, more like something Kafka would have written or a Chinese version of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  There are so many quick twists and turns that it seems impossible to read this book without an eye to modern thrillers, too.  Your approach works–but why was this the approach that you took?

So there are three Chinas: the Old China, traditional with Confucian values and Taoist superstitions; the New China, Byzantine in its entrenched communist bureaucracy; and what’s called the New New China, a strange capitalist (except in name) wild west with the trappings of money, greed and lust for power that call to mind the USA’s rail baron age. Many Chinese live in one or two of these Chinas, and Meiren has to navigate the tension among all three. The environment for telling a good story is richer than any other I’ve touched.

Maybe for the next interview, if there is one, I’ll try to pretend I planned it all. The fact is I let the thing grow and took opportunities as they came. I didn’t direct or plan the book. Perhaps I was just portraying the busy conflict going on in myself (my traditional spirit, bureaucratic heart, and modern mind) and I lucked out that it happened to correspond well enough with actual China that the story clicked together there.

And the way it all wrapped up rather neatly at the end? How the hell did that happen? Until I wrote the scene, I had no idea how Meiren got his name. I’m still not sure how I deserve to have finished a book so tidily, considering my appalling lack of foresight and planning. But it worked, and I’m going to pray a lot more and then do it again.

Maybe the upshot answer to your question is simply: my mind’s a mess but it arrived at some complex equilibrium and from that came a book. Uh. Next?

3.  Normally I hate first person present tense writing.  You pulled it off.  Why use it, and how do you make it work?

Early inspiration for this work came from Stross’ Laundry novels, also written in first-person present. There Stross uses a neat trick to get around the limitation of first-person present: he presents it as a journal, and points out that some of it’s been filled in later to complete the story. That worked for me but not everyone.

I began the Bureau world back when first-person present was a bit of a fad. I don’t normally follow fads, because I knew even back then what happens to them. (Hundred Ghost Soup was finished just as rumors flew that editors were refusing first-person present stories point blank.)

I’d love to say that I did it because Meiren is the most human character I’ve ever written and I wanted him to experience life like we all do, and first-person present is the most like all our moment-to-moment experience.

The fact is, I’ve regretted this decision many times, specifically whenever I wanted to do foreshadowing. I love foreshadowing. I feel like my whole life is foreshadowing. I’m in the grocery store and I reach for the peanut butter and the foreshadowing voice says he did not know that overnight his body chemistry had reorganized its allergies and he held his death in his hands. I’d be in the dentist’s chair and get little did he realize she was no cheerful dental hygenist; this was the serial murderess the papers had already dubbed ‘the perky killer.’ The phrase this tastes suspiciously like human flesh occurs whenever I eat beef stroganoff. So yeah, I like foreshadowing. And I can’t do it here. At least not directly.

But I get over my regret, because there’s so much immediacy that first-person present gives you even as it takes away your ability to easily show what happened when your main character isn’t around. As for showing what’s going on when he isn’t around, something’s always come to me, and making up an excuse for why he finds it out has driven the plot handily, so that has always worked out for me. So far.

Those all sound again like pre-planned reasons. But the fact is I felt my way along as I worked on his voice, telling stories and having him talk to me, and he talked in first-person present. He didn’t seem comfortable in any other narrative type.

4.  Please answer this as best you can without spoilers.  The main character is an orphan.  He has an older brother who is minutes older than he is, and yet is an arrogant bastard.  It’s almost like Elder Brother is yet another level of bureaucracy that the main character has to face.  I have to ask:  What is Elder Brother’s problem?

Ha! That’s a fun observation.

When Elder Brother first started out he was a simple foil for Meiren: yang to his yin, the guy who won’t let Meiren stay in his box out of trouble. Meiren can blame Yang for whatever goes wrong in his life. Now that I’ve had years to think on him, I know that this is a two-way street. Meiren had the chance to call Elder Brother on his crap and never did. He had the chance to teach him what Meiren seemed to come out of the womb knowing. Elder Brother might have listened. As a team they might have been far more than they were separately. Instead, Meiren found it too easy to look down his nose at his brother. When Meiren will realize this, he will be heartbroken.

And while Meiren is going through all this agony, Elder Brother is just having fun and enjoying what he can take from life.

Elder Brother is one of those immovable objects that we all have to deal with. It was once a cliché that he’d never change. Then the cliché became that his type of character would reveal sudden, hidden depth and leave you on that note. I’m wondering what the current cliché is.

But mostly this is about Meiren. He’s Tolkien’s hobbit. He’s a Charlie Brown and a Don Quixote and Dostoyevsky’s Prince Myshkin. He can do no martial arts, he commands no one beneath him, he can do no magic of his own. Even his name shows you the lack of regard the world has for him. He has only his wit and a certain worldly earnestness to get him out of bad situations. He is all of us: keeping the world working every day in little and big ways that no one notices.

This series springs from a set of feelings I’ve grown up with. That there is hidden power in quietness. That there’s a foundation beneath the world that we can sense and interact with, and it interacts with us. I can’t tell you its nature. I get the idea it’s different for everyone. It may exist only in our minds. Even if so, it works better to deal with it as if its origin is outside.

And this: few of us get superpowers. Almost none of us command armies or magic. And yet we have to deal with a large and complex and powerful world, and try to get what we want, and failing that, what we need. And yet each of us has something unique we bring to the table.

Meiren’s story is there to help out with that.

5.  What’s the plan for sequels?  Are there any, if so when, and what kind of stories will they tell?

My upcoming book is The Manchegan Candidate, a Don Quixote in space SF. I’ve just done the first draft and expect to get that out next year. After this I will continue the Bureau series. Hundred Ghost Soup was Meiren’s origin story; next come his career and life:

In Thousand Dream Thief, Meiren now works for Uncle and the shadowy Bureau for Eternal Prosperity. He hopes to take the university entrance exam at last. But someone is stealing the dreams of the politburo. Chasing the Dream Thief through the dreams of the world reveals a hidden war and a pending revolution, and Meiren must assemble a dream army, and lead it, to deal with the threat. But first he’s got to choose a side.

In Tea of the Ten Thousand Things, Meiren embarks on what seems a routine mission to get a magic tea leaf, and incidentally find a home for an orphan girl. But demons of all stripes are after him, and the girl is more than she seems.

6.  Is there any note that you’d like to leave your readers on?  (Hint:  the additional promo question.)

The sequels will have Meiren negotiating the problems of adulthood as he also wrestles with demons, ghosts and more human sorts of corruption. He won’t triumph. But there are more ways to victory than that.

Mr. Chansky was born in the US, attended college at UC Santa Cruz and Edinburgh University, and now makes his home beneath the shadow of Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs, CO. As his day job he works at modeling and simulation for the Naval War College. He can often be found writing in one of many fine cafes in the Springs.
He and his wife adopted their daughter from China, and from that emotional center comes this work.

Interview with Philip Adams, author of Momentary Stasis


Amazon | Apple | Kobo | B&N |  Goodreads
Author Facebook | Author TwitterAuthor Website

Welcome to fellow author Philip Adams, author of Momentary Stasis and other works.  The previous interview with Megan Rutter went so well that I decided to do another one–and once again got an interesting perspective on a book that I liked.  (Full disclosure, I helped edit this–and I still found out things I hadn’t known.)

1.  Momentary Stasis is a military SF novel.  What’s your relationship with the military–and does Rimes’s attitude reflect your own?

I’ll break my answer into three pieces.

First, I would stress that Momentary Stasis has the chassis and transmission of a military SF novel, but there’s more to the Rimes trilogy than a big slog through a military campaign. I’ve followed the expected tropes and structures of the sub-genre, but I also have influences from cyberpunk, thrillers, horror, and there’s a lot in common with the transhumanist sub-genre, which I discovered after wrapping the series.

Second, I had a twenty-year career in the military, most of that in IT.

Third, yes, I think there are elements of me in Jack Rimes. On the positive side, some of Rimes’s innocence and decency comes from my own naïveté and hopefulness. I signed up for service at 17, and I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into. I just knew I wanted to get out of a dead-end life. My objectives were to get a degree and marketable skill. I lucked into the opportunity for the latter. For Rimes and so many people in the modern military, there’s only one option: learning to be a warrior. Rimes has the motivation to be great at that, combined with a curiosity and resourcefulness, which provides the rationale for the story. On the negative side, I think some of my outsider tendencies are at least hinted at with Rimes. He questions authority a bit, he thinks outside the box, and he just won’t let something go when he knows it’s wrong.

2.  Most dystopias tend to focus on one element of society that has gone amuck, then extrapolate how other elements of society and technology would be affected.  Do you feel like that’s how you put the dystopian aspects of your story together? What sent you off in that direction?

I guess you could pull back to a spy satellite view and say that human nature at its worst caused societal collapse in the setting, otherwise, it’s a messy stew of causes.

The original story idea I had in the 1990s had at the core of the setting hostile corporations run amuck. When I started refining that story into the final version, I had to challenge that. A corporation is only as powerful as a society allows it to be, so I had to drill down into how things became so broken.

We had mega-mergers galore back in the 1990s, and we dropped the ball on enforcing sanctions against the most abusive corporation in history when Microsoft’s penalties were turned into a wrist slap. But how does that allow for private armies and direct influence over basic government functions? That’s a huge jump, and it had to be addressed, even though we can see the beginnings of this today with Blackwater and K Street in the US.

We had two crushing recessions in a six year span to study like tea leaves, and it would be easy to argue there was corporate influence over some of the wars we’ve had lately. But all of that can be attributed to individual greed, hubris, ideology, and incompetence in positions of power. Corporations could be argued as enablers rather than the drivers.

So, I had to drill down a bit to explain what created this world. In the timeline for the setting, there are specific individuals and actions behind the mega-merger rush and dissolution of policies that would otherwise prevent those mergers. All of that ends up eventually creating the big metacorporations (corporations consisting of corporations).

I didn’t go bold and wild on my speculation. I took existing trends and projected those out. We already have a significant body of evidence about what happens when you let an economy run wild. In Momentary Stasis, I offhandedly mention the depressions that have led to a world where that has more or less reached economic equilibrium. Those depressions come from greed and continued agglomeration of wealth and the resulting power to a smaller and smaller group of individuals. There’s a theme throughout of intelligent life being self-destructive. I consider this behavior one of the manifestations of that. We’ve seen before what happens when the gap between the wealthy and poor grows too wide—guillotines and purges and all sorts of other terrible things. Will a society that can be distracted and placated by reality TV and smartphones have the will to rise up and stop something that’s clearly destroying them? With the setting in the Rimes trilogy, my answer is no, they won’t.

As for the technology impact, I mention this in the books without diving into detail. When there’s such a disparity in wealth, and there just aren’t that many people acting as consumers, the impact is pretty obvious. Corporations cater to government, the wealthy, and other businesses. Your motivation to innovate plunges. So the innovation is there for the customers I mentioned before, and Joe and Jane Average see incremental ticks in technology and a never-ending quest for efficiency. Wal-Mart in Space!

3.  Are there any incidents in the book pulled more or less out of your experience? 

I was a REMF, so only in the broadest sense possible do my experiences come into play. Corrupt people in positions of trust, gross incompetence or arrogance that threaten the mission and the good people relying on support, crazy bouts of nationalism and loyalty, and a heckuva lot of petty vindictiveness: Those were the things I experienced that informed the story, and they helped kick that silly naïveté out of me.

4.  Okay, I don’t want to give any spoilers for the rest of the series, but would you talk for a few moments from a writerly perspective on the difference between plots of the individual books versus those of the larger series?  I thought that the fact that the series blossomed into a bigger scope so smoothly in the second book was one of the big highlights for me, and I want to talk about how you decided to do that, what techniques you used–feel free to go full nerd here.

I need to insert a little background for this to make sense. As I mentioned, the Rimes story comes from something I worked up in the 1990s. I launched a comic book company that started out with a superhero universe just as the market imploded. I turned to non-superhero stories after that. One of those was this massive, sprawling dark sci-fi series originally called The Doll House. It was multi-POV, with Rimes being one of several protagonists. Other characters included a police detective investigating murders among the UN staff (including a diplomat), a young journalist investigating corporate shenanigans, a scientist doing deep space research (Jennifer Credence from Awakening to Judgment), an assassin cleaning up messes left by several metacorporate executives, and a young executive fighting her way up the ranks at the biggest metacorporation. And all of those stories were designed to slowly connect over the years.

When I started turning that into the Rimes trilogy, I had to figure out how to boil things down to their essence. I did what I would imagine is fairly typical and worked backwards, taking the ending and building to the beginning. Going in, I had the final situation, the two wars that were necessary for that final situation to come about, and the events that were necessary to make those wars happen. I needed a continuous build from the start toward that crescendo, so I had to make sure the seeds were sown throughout the first two books. How does the Colonel Rimes at the close of Awakening to Judgment grow from the Sergeant Rimes we meet at the start of Momentary Stasis? Anything that wasn’t critical to that story, to that specific trajectory, was dropped out. And then more was trimmed out during editing, which made for a more focused and faster-paced opening.

One thing I was happy with was the way I was able to give each book a distinctive flavor. Momentary Stasis owes a bit to techno-thrillers, Transition of Order has some nods to horror, and Awakening to Judgment mixes mystery and spy thriller elements in with the more conventional military SF. That helped keep things fresh for me, and many readers have said it helped make the series more engaging.

Once all the planning was done, I had to figure out how to make what was really a story with cyberpunk aesthetics fit into this military SF framework. My experience with military SF at the time was limited to Gordon R. Dickson’s Childe Cycle (Dorsai), Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, John Steakley’s Armor, several of David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers short works, Karen Traviss’s Republic Commando Star Wars books, “Aliens,” “Starship Troopers” (the movie), and a few aborted attempts at Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers novel as a teen; I would include in there the “Space: Above and Beyond” TV show and some military non-fiction as big influences. Thanks to encouragement during editing, I expanded that list out to more Hammer’s Slammers, Traviss’s Gears of War books, actually finishing Starship Troopers, and reading some newer military SF works from the trad pub and indie world.

None of that directly helped with the Rimes trilogy because of the difference between what I was trying to accomplish and what those accomplished, but the experience helped me grow as a writer.

5.  I think you mentioned that this series was your “Philip K. Dick”-influenced series.  (Feel free to correct me.)  If so, what made you decide to write a PKD military SF dystopian thriller?

I’ve read more PKD than any other SF writer, and that’s by a healthy margin, so I think it’s inevitable his work influenced me. I would boil his works down to three major themes:

  • the everyman protagonist’s struggles against things gone terribly awry
  • reality isn’t so certain as you think (not always associated with drugs)
  • what makes us human?

When you start talking about transhumanism, you nail that third theme. In the Rimes trilogy, there are several things that challenge the definition of human, starting with the genies. If you construct a human from tailored DNA—sometimes alien DNA—is that person truly human? Rimes wrestles with that. Then there are proxies. Rimes is obviously put off by these, and we see some of the reasons in the second and third books. To a lesser extent, there’s genetic modification (gene tweaks) and chemical enhancements. Even the ever-present “stim,” the chemical tool used to fight off sleep, pain, and injury takes a toll on a person’s humanity.

The nature of reality is addressed at different levels throughout the series. Rimes’s work with the Intelligence Bureau in Momentary Stasis dramatically changes his understanding of the world. The revelations grow in scale as the series progresses.

Given Rimes’s exceptional training, some would argue he can’t be an everyman protagonist. Considering the level of growth he undergoes throughout the series, I would argue he is the classic everyman. His bewilderment about his own ignorance and his despair over the sorry state of things are both fairly typical of that type of character. Knowing how to kill someone in a dozen different ways doesn’t make someone a superhuman protagonist, especially in a world where such a person is a commodity. Knowledge is what makes someone exceptional in an information society, and it’s probably the most heavily guarded valuable in the universe.

And last but not least…  6.  Is there any note you’d like to leave your readers on?  (The additional promo question.)

Although I trimmed out a lot of the universe’s non-essential elements for the Rimes trilogy, I didn’t throw it all away. The ERF series continues where the Rimes trilogy leaves off. The Lancers series picks up around the same time, but it explores the universe through a very different set of eyes. There’s also a prequel trilogy I need to get rolling on, and that develops a good bit of the history. And one day, I hope to get to the Go series (Matthias “Go” Goonetilleke is a private detective who shows up in Awakening to Judgment).

And I have a pretty cool urban fantasy series (The Chain) starting next year also.

Phil Adams was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. His twenty-year Air Force career took him from coast to coast, with stints at Homestead AFB, FL, George AFB, CA, Scott AFB, IL, and the Yongsan installation in Seoul, South Korea. He retired and moved to the greater Denver, Colorado metropolitan area.

Phil writes speculative fiction, mostly science fiction and fantasy. His favorite writers over the years have been Robert E. Howard, Philip K. Dick, Roger Zelazny, and Michael Crichton.

Interview with Megan Rutter, author of Dangerous Grounds

Dangerous ground-001-2

Amazon | Publisher | Goodreads
Author Facebook | Author Twitter | Author Instagram

Welcome to fellow author Megan Rutter, who has just released the romantic suspense novel Dangerous Grounds (which I’ve read and liked and recommend).  She kindly agreed to answer some questions for me.

1.  First, you have to tell me about you and Minnesota.  What’s your relationship with the state?

My relationship with Minnesota is COMPLICATED, but loving.

I moved here sight unseen from Colorado in 1998.

My husband, who at the time was just a friend that I met online, offered me an internship on his sustainable agriculture research and development farm the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college.  I figured I’d take the summer doing something completely different to decide if I really wanted to stay in my field of study (forensic anthropology and ancient history) or move to an easier major.

I’d spent my first years of college and my last 2 years of high school studying under Dr. Michael Charney who was a professor emeritus of forensic anthropology. He passed away and I was devastated.

I took the summer internship, fell in love with my husband and his farm, and he urged me to continue my studies.

I spent a long time traveling out of the state, chasing my education, but I kept coming back.

Every time I left Minnesota I found myself missing it. I loved theseasons, even the winter, and the people. I missed the peace of the farm.

So when I decided to pack away my traveling shoes, this is where I planted myself. I haven’t left the state for more than a vacation in the last 5 years and I LOVE it!

2.  Did you come from a large family like the one in the book?

I did not come from a large family.  I have one older brother and older

My mom comes from a large family (9 kids), and my dad comes from a largish family (4 kids).

However I do have some cousins that are part of large families and I find their dynamics fascinating.

Even funnier yet, is that I don’t have a large family myself. I only have 1 child and have no plans to have more no matter how much she begs me. 😉 However around here, in southeast Minnesota, large farm families are common. Most people have 3-5 kids, and the Amish have tons! The largest Amish family in the area has 24 kids.  Wow!

When I created my family, the Olaffsen’s, I though it would be hilarious if they had a pack of girls. The jokes would be endless.

3.  What’s your background in forensics?  It sounds like you followed a twisted road to get to your expertise as a writer.

First you must understand that I have always wanted to write.  I have written even when it seemed like I would never be a writer.

But I’m also intelligent and a realist and I know how hard it is to become an author. Also I started my journey to publishing over a decade ago, when independently publisher authors were not valued in the way they should have been, and e books were still a new thing. So it was a long, hard road with a few 50 car pile-ups on it.

So while I was that kid always writing in my journal during recess and study hall, I wasn’t the kid causing a scene by emoting all over the place with a crowd of sighing followers who announced that they were going to be a WRITER. I was in a corner either studying or writing.  Kinda boring actually. 😉

So as a realist I went to college and studied. I studied a LOT!

I have 3 major degrees and a boat load of minors.

When I was in high school, I was placed on advanced track, which is where I was taking mostly college courses by my junior/senior years. I met Dr. Charney in his skull lab (officially the Human Identification Laboratory) in the basement of one of the buildings my mom cleaned while she was working her way through college.  It was literally a 40 x 40 foot room filled with shelves that were filled to capacity with boxes of human skeletal remains. I was fascinated. And Dr. Charney thought I was the most interesting kid he had ever met. He agreed to teach me.

He died and I didn’t know what to do. As far as I knew he was the only one who studied skeletons the way I wanted to study them.

So I enrolled at Luther College, which had decent physical anthropology and ancient history departments. My ancient history advisor wrote me a recommendation letter to Dr. Snow at the university of Oklahoma. I studied for a semester with Dr. Clyde Snow and then moved from undergraduate to graduate school at the University of Minnesota, CSU Chico, Northwestern and the College of St. Mary’s at Oxford, working on my specialization of identifying and reconstructing ancient remains.

Remember this was before forensic anthropology was a major field of study in more than a few universities. Most people thought we were insane to study it.  So a lot of us had to move around piecing our education together by finding the professors who were experts in the field and studying with them for a semester or two before being sent to the next.

I primarily worked out of the biological science school at the U in Minnesota, but I took every fellowship I could get. It was a LOT of traveling. Especially during grad school after I was certified as a lab assistant, I went where my advisor sent me.

Yes this included New York right after 9-11, and some pretty nasty mass grave sites in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

I did get a few internships working on ancient bodies, but I sat down one day and did the math. For every bog body, mummy or ancient skeleton I had the horn of studying I reconstructed 25-30 murder victims. It was depressing.

I did get a few amusing cases like the Moose-icide as my daughter calls it, and the call out to the subdivision built on an old hog farm.  It’s really hard to convince people that bones are truly animal when they’re certain they have stumbled onto a serial killer’s lair. Trust me. Not kidding here. Even the antlers on the moose wasn’t enough for some people. My mind is still boggling about that one. Yes it will appear in a book some day.

I had a daughter and realized that I would be spending my life putting dead children back together, because without my PhD I wouldn’t get into the research institutes that really work on ancient remains. Once again hubby came to the rescue. I felt that I had spent so much time and money learning my field I should stay in it. He knew I wasn’t completely happy even though I was still fascinated. He knew I still wrote stories in my spare time as a way to stay sane.

One night he sat down with my computer and read them.

The next morning he bought me my first ticket to a writer’s conference and a plane ticket. A month later he drove me to the airport and literally kicked me out of the car and drove off. I had no choice but to get on the plane.

It took one writer’s conference, but I was hooked. I would be an author one day.

Now I’m a very well educated author, who really knows how to hide a body and make forensics interesting in my books. And yes… Many of the strange stories in my books are real. Like the cat and the stoned cow. Because face it, reality is often stranger than fiction. 😉

4. Dangerous Ground is a very sex-positive book.  Did you deliberately include those elements, or did it happen naturally in your writing? (Note:  I had to rewrite this question like five times to get rid of inadvertent innuendos.)

(Ok I had to write this answer a few times also. You put my mind in the
gutter! Mwahaha!)

I love the term “sex positive”. It makes me very happy.

I’m pretty sure those elements happened naturally.

I’m a sex positive person, raised by an ex-hippy with an older sister.

Trust me we talked the “sex talk” thoroughly growing up.  Actually I think I know more about my sister’s plumbing than her husband does.  😉

I also talk openly about sex with my daughter who is going through puberty right now. Which according to her is the most awful thing to ever have to face.  I feel it’s better to be proactive and give her the correct information that to have her develop fears and insecurities because people are filling her head with “sex is taboo and only enjoyable for guys” nonsense.

I feel strongly that female sexuality is a natural thing, and we should embrace our needs and desires.  There should be no shame in it. Sex makes us happy! Sex between consensual adults is an amazing, fun, happy, and beautiful thing. It should be celebrated as one of the best parts of being human.

So when I wrote about sisters, of course they’re going to talk about sex. And I wanted to write about it in a way that would make my readers feel positive about their own sexual needs. Because face it, I write romance and sex is part of love. Also I spent most of my adult life facing the worst humanity can do to each other.  I literally had to stare into the abyss of human cruelty.

Trust me, you don’t want to see those things.

I saw things that made me question if people are capable of kindness. So if I can spread a little positivity about our natural wants and desires, then I will. Because people are good and loving. Sex is a part of that.

Have sex. Enjoy it! Just remember consent is key.

5.  What are the next projects coming up for you?

I’m currently working on 2 novels.

I hope to have the second draft of Plain Murder done by the end of the month and to my editor and beta readers.

Plain Murder is Marilyn’s story.  It’s the sequel to Dangerous Ground. Yes the sister who doesn’t have a filter between mouth and brain. The   strong farmer, who doubts her abilities, but really understands people. Marilyn is faced with the murder of a friend. She must realize that she holds the key to finding justice.

Plus she gets to tell a stuffy Marine for an old blue blooded family how to remove the stick up his butt before she does it just to beat him over the head with it. Yeah, Marilyn is vocal about falling in love with the wrong guy.  😉

I’m also working on a dark romantic suspense from a new series, set in the near future. It’s still in rough draft form, but trust me you might not recognize the world you thought you knew. 😉

and last but not least…

6.  Is there any note you’d like to leave readers on (hint: this is the additional promo question):

Please look for my book on Amazon or through my publisher, Solstice Publishing. It’s the result of a long, meandering and sometimes dark path to becoming an author.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you have questions, you can find me most days
on social media.  I try to be approachable.

M.R. Rutter was born in the mountains of Colorado to an ex-hippy and former Marine. She spent much of her childhood on her grandparents ranch near Leadville CO.

She studied forensic anthropology and ancient history in college and started her professional life as an assistant to her advisors while working on her coursework and thesis. After years of teaching other professors’ classes and putting murdered children back together rather than working on her focus, ancient remains, Megan left the field to pursue a career as a writer.

She now lives and works on a sustainable agriculture research farm in Minnesota with her husband, daughter and a menagerie of animals where she is a full time farmer, research assistant, mother and writer.

Happily for M. R. she can still fill her novels with mummies, skeletons and corpses.

Book Review: The Dreables

**** Excellent

Male main character who should appeal to both boys and girls.  There’s a girl character later on, but you never really get into her.  Gran, although not a ten-year-old, definitely rocks by the end of the book.

About 100 pages.

In short: Ten-year-old Sam Jones has about had it with getting shuffled off to Gran’s house whenever his parents go on hiking vacations: she’s superstitious, has tons of nonsensical rules (no whistling after dark), and never has any interest in letting him do anything fun. But one day while they’re on “vacation” together, her car breaks down, and a girl appears in the mist from their radiator, asking for Mother Merryweather’s help.  The Dreables have returned…

This book, a very enjoyable read, walks a fine line on the lesson of being polite.  There are some real stinkers of kids’ books out there that all they do is preach, preach, preach.  This isn’t that kind of book.  While it looks like, in the beginning of the book, that it’s going to be about the value of being nice and polite, it’s not.  If there’s any real lesson here, it’s that sometimes old people are more interesting than your parents, and have awesome things to teach…as long as you can get them to open up.  Despite going off about the value of politeness, Gran isn’t the nicest, most perfect, most trusting soul out there.  She’s a glutton for sweets, thinks Sam is nothing but a brat, doesn’t want to get dragged into saving other people…and doesn’t listen to the animals around her, after making a big stinking deal about how they just “know” the truth about people.  Gran has to learn as much, if not more, than Sam does, and it’s interesting (as an adult) to watch her have to grow and adapt.

Book Description (from Goodreads):

Sam Jones’ holiday with Gran is all baking and cats (yawn). But when she gets a cry for help from her old village, everything changes. Something bad is happening and only Gran can fix it. But when she falls victim to a shapeshifter’s trick, Sam is left alone with just dog, cat and cherry bakewells. Things look bleak..But the Dreables haven’t bargained for Gran’s secret gift to Sam. Cunning…

About the Author (from Goodreads):

RA Jones was born in a mining village in the Swansea valley in Wales where he attended primary and secondary schools. In 1974, he was offered a place at Medical school in London and qualified in 1979. Medicine and a family followed, but writing as Dylan Jones, he published 4 novels in the nineties, two of which were filmed by the BBC. But a growing desire to moves away from adult thrillers is what has preoccupied him of late. He also plans to write contemporary adult novels (urban fantasy) as DC Farmer.

Sometimes all three of his personae will start speaking at once, at which point he lies down in a dark room and waits for the feeling to pass.

RA Jones’s website is here.  You can buy the book from Amazon.

Book Review: Thunderbird, by Deb Logan

**** Excellent.

The book has two narrators, a boy and a girl, both with fun stories.

Abut 150 pages.



by Deb Logan

In short: Twins Janine and Justin are stuck at their father’s dinosaur-digging camp for the summer.  While most kids would be thrilled, they’ve seen it all before.  However, when Janine is called to find a mysterious egg for a mythological creature (the thunderbird), they’re both drawn on a quest through the regular world and the spirit world in order to save the creature from dying.

When I read like a kid (I’m actually a grown up, despite what my daughter might say), I think differently than I do as an adult.  Some kids’ books you can read as an adult (like Harry Potter), but some kids’ books you have to read like a kid (like Goosebumps).  This book is a book you should really read as a kid, and that’s a good thing.  When twins Janine and Justin take off without their father knowing where they’re going to follow a magical quest, my adult brain wanted to go, “No!  Bad bad!  Kids shouldn’t take off without their parents!” but it’s a book.  So I turned off that part of my brain and just enjoyed the book for what it is, which is an adventure story.  You know, a story in which people do stuff that they wouldn’t normally do, which, you know, most kids can figure out that they shouldn’t take off on magical quests without at least leaving their parents a note first.

One thing my adult brain really got into–Justin and Janine end up making part of their lengthy journey through the spirit world.  As an adult, I’ve read a lot of stuff about traveling through various spirit worlds that just leaves me bored, but the adult side of me found the spirit world described here just as interesting as my kid brain did.  I really enjoyed the fact that it changes depending on who your guide is?  Loved it.

Fast action, not a lot of blah blah blah, good characters, interesting plot and locations:  this book receives my kid-brain seal of approval.

Book Description (from WDM Publishing):

Janine Prentiss, a twelve-year-old Native American girl, is tired of spending her summers digging up dinosaur bones with her single-parent father, an eminent paleontologist. But neither does she want to spend her summer vacation listening to her shaman grandfather’s lame tales of spirit quests and totem creatures who talk. Instead of messing about with dead bones or fairy tales, Janine wants to go to cheerleading camp with her best friend. She wants to be a normal girl! Unfortunately, Dad doesn’t consider cheerleading a legitimate use of her time or his money. Bummer.

Justin Prentiss thinks his twin sister is nuts. What kid in their right mind wouldn’t love field camp? The wild beauty of Montana mountains, fresh air, and adults too busy to pay attention to what a guy is doing as long as he shows up for meals and bedtime. Field camp rocks!

However, it isn’t Justin who is drawn to the mysterious rock. It’s Janine, and the idiot girl is convinced that the chunk of granite–a fossil at best–is a real, live egg and that she’s got to protect it while it hatches. Girls!

The discovery of the thunderbird egg sweeps Janine and Justin off on the adventure of a lifetime. Not only will they discover that thunderbirds exist, but they’ll come face to face with malicious evil in the form of Unktehi, a spirit of disruption straight out of their grandfather’s legends.

About the Author (from the author’s website):

Deb Logan specializes in fantasy tales for the young at heart. She loves mythology and is especially fond of Celtic and Native American lore. She writes about faeries, dragons, and other fantasy creatures for the younger set with a light touch. Deb’s stories touch on the core of what it is to be young without the darkness prevalent in so many of today’s YA works.

You can find Thunderbird  and other Deb Logan stories at her publisher, WDM Publishing.  Her website is here.

Update: Deb put up a short article on…having twins.  She’s the mom of actual twins 🙂

Book Review: The Exotics Book 1: The Floating Menagerie

Another incredibly lucky day.  I don’t know.  I was overwhelmed this morning by Emma Hunneyball’s review of Exotics 1:

In Rachael the author De Kenyon has drawn a heroine who is intelligent, brave, fierce and loyal. Rachael is superb: she is an open-minded girl who is able to accept bizarre truths about her existence and the world around her, and uses her new-found knowledge to influence the situations into which she stumbles.

I liked the way that Rachael (who is after all only eight) is unable to deal with the enormity of her mother’s disappearance: she frequently “tries not to think” about it, and states early on that she can’t do anything about it. But when she is pitched into the world of the Exotics Rachael finds she actually can do something about it, and works relentlessly to free her friends and protect her mother’s secrets. Like so many of De’s child-protagonists Rachel is on her own, an outsider making her way in a world of the bizarre, often pitted against adults. De doesn’t write passive characters and Rachael is no exception. She’s faced with the smallest glimmer of hope in an otherwise impossible scenario and not only does she come up fighting but she learns how to win.

I often have a hard time when people say nice things.  But this series seems to cut particularly close to home for me, so I have an extra hard time not going looney-happy.  I’m a total sap.

Book Review: Peter Swift’s Fright Files: The Broken Thing

**** Excellent.

The main character is a boy, but a strong girl character is with him throughout most of the book.

About 100 pages.

Peter Swift’s Fright Files:

The Broken Thing

by Peter Swift

In short: Stevie likes horror movies and books…but when he discovers a real haunted house and a real haunting, he chickens out and has to be dragged into finding out more by his best friend, Angie.  What they discover is a threat to their lives and the ones they love.

Stevie, a big horror movie and book fan, is also the victim of bullies in Nohope, Vermont.  The bullies chase him into some woods that are supposed to be, if not haunted, then at least too creepy to be running around in.  While there, Stevie finds a broken doll-thing that almost seems to move in his hand–the doll is later stolen by the bullies.  Soon afterwards, Stevie’s mom gets into a car crash (she doesn’t die) trying to avoid a ghostly, broken-looking girl in the middle of the road…a girl who wants to get back something that was stolen.

Stevie and his best friend Angie, another horror fan, find out that the ghost used to be a girl who lived at a house just past the creepy woods…a girl who supposedly murdered her whole family, then killed herself.  Stevie’s teacher doesn’t believe in ghost stories (but likes local legends), yet recommends they talk to his dad, who has a different, even scarier opinion of the old house…

Okay, admittedly, with Goosebumps, sometimes you just have to laugh.  Some of the situations that people get into are just too funny, especially when compared with adult horror movies.  The Broken Thing, however much it may go in the Goosebumbs category, provides a few more chills than that.  What makes the thrills just slightly annoying is that there are so many cliffhangers that lead to fake-outs–it wasn’t the monster sneaking up on them, it was only his sister! kind of things.  But that’s a minor quibble.  The characters were fun, the action exciting, and the slow parts tinged with creepiness.  A couple of silly moments…but sometimes you just have to have a little cheese with your screams.

Book Description (from the author’s website):

Stevie Barton loves a scary story, until he finds himself living one! Two days before Halloween in Newhope Nohope, Vermont, Stevie discovers a mysterious antique toy sitting in the spooky forest the townspeople call The Grove. He pockets the abandoned toy, but a local bully drives him deeper into the dark forest. Soon, Stevie learns that the bully is the least of his worries. Something evil slept in those dark woods, and he woke it. Now the evil is after him! Along with his best friend Angie Lewis, Stevie must find and stop the horror before it finds him.

About the Author (from the author’s website):

What’s not to love about telling scary stories?  I work with kids, and I love writing horror and mysteries for them.  There’s a freshness and acceptance of the unknown that dulls in adulthood. That which adults too readily dismiss as implausible will run icy fingers along a child’s spine and send their imaginations off the deep end. That’s what it’s all about.

Download the book (for free) at the author’s website or Smashwords.

Book Review: Jack Dervish, Super Spy

**** Excellent.

The main character is a boy, but a strong girl character is his partner throughout most of the book.

Abou 200 pages.

Jack Dervish, Super Spy

JC Andrijeski

In short: After Jack’s superspy parents go missing, he hides in their secret lair for years…learning how to be the perfect spy.  Now he has to face a terrible challenge:  in order to find his parents, he has to to learn how to act like a normal kid.

Jack Dervish’s parents disappeared when he was four years old.  He was smart enough to hide out in his parents’ secret lair under the house, even after new people moved in upstairs.  Living off his parents’ savings and by using the Internet, Jack survived more or less alone.

But on his twelfth birthday, Jack finally realizes that a) he cannot accept that his parents are dead and b) they aren’t going to be able to come back on their own.  He decides to go on a quest to rescue them; however, he has no idea where they could be, or what they were involved in when they left (well, he was four).

He decides that the only way to search for his parents is to go into the outside world.  And that means…pretending to be a normal kid.  After eight years in his parents’ secret hideout with nobody to talk to (except for a few people over the Internet), it won’t be easy.

Despite making a ton of mistakes (including deciding that “Rasputin” is a good name for a kid), Jack faces down bullies, fools the school into thinking he’s from a foreign country, and makes a couple of friends that like him despite his really weird way of doing things.

However, Isobel is one of the worst friends that he could have made; her father works for the Homeland Security Office…and is out to capture Jack and find the truth of where he really lives, and the source of all his gadgets.  The thing is, Mr. Spencer knows something about Jack’s parents…why else would he have a picture of them?

I had a lot of fun reading this.  Jack does not fit in, and that’s what fifth grade was all about for me: being smart and not fitting in.  If you enjoyed The Mysterious Benedict Society or the Artemis Fowl books, I highly recommend this book.  I thought the beginning was a little silly–a four year old living on his own?  Really?–but hey, why not?  This looks like the start of a fun series.  Lots of gadgets, traps, and sneaking about.

Book Description (from the author’s website):

Jack Dervish was just four-years-old when the nasty incident took place at 74 Eaton Place and his super-spy parents vanished. Now Jack is twelve, and after years of living in his parents’ super-spy lair, training in every manner of super-spy skills, he’s decided it’s time to attend school. After all, how can he foil the international crime syndicate and fight evil if he can’t pass as a normal, youngish Londoner? Unfortunately, Jack quickly catches the attention of the Homeland Security Office…along with the most dangerous bullies at St. John’s Preparatory School. His only hope lies in his new friends, Isobel, William and Squid, and the super-spy skills he’s never had the opportunity to test, at least not against actual people. When the evil mastermind following him ends up being linked to the disappearance of Jack’s parents, Jack is determined to find out what the man knows, no matter what it takes.

About JC Andrijeski (from

JC Andrijeski is a bestselling Amazon author who has published novels and short stories, as well as nonfiction essays and articles. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and webzines, and a children’s story in the illustrated anthology Ogner Stump’s 1,000 Sorrows by Wonderella. She also published a graphic novel set in the world created in her Bridge series, and has penned the occasional screenplay. Her nonfiction articles cover subjects from graffiti art, meditation, psychology, journalism and history, and have been published in online literary magazines as well as print venues such as NY Press newspaper and holistic health magazines.

Obtaining an MA in political science from the New School for Social Research (NSSR) in NYC, she did most of my graduate level studies in the areas of race and caste systems, slave and ex-slave systems, religion and its impacts on social systems, and historical weirdnesses she didn’t understand more generally, which fitted her surprisingly well for both fiction writing and being extremely annoying at parties.

She moved from NYC to San Francisco in 1997, and since then has lived or spent considerable time in India, Vancouver BC, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, San Diego, Prague, London, Berlin, Sydney and Swinoujscie, Poland. She currently lives in McLeod Ganj, India, a location she drew on a fair bit in writing the Allie’s War books.

Please visit JC Andrijeski’s website at: or her blog at

To buy the book or read the beginning:

Barnes and Noble


Page 3 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén