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Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody

Suzy Spitfire is a take-no-bull fugitive on the run. Her best friend Aiko, who was her father’s lab assistant and is also on the run, wants to see her and she’s taking a big risk by coming back to Earth. She wastes her time at the bar flirting with Ricardo until Aiko shows up. Her friend reveals the location of a top-secret Artificial Intelligence her father developed for the government, and also informs her that her dad’s death was a murder, not an accident. Almost on cue, the bar is raided by the feds. Ricardo comes to their rescue (while stealing a case of whiskey on the way out) and they are on the run again, this time with a price on their heads and Special Forces on their heels.

With the feds, a fleet of pirates, and a criminal gang all gunning for them, this crew of outlaws has nowhere to turn. Blurr, the Special Forces commander, has no qualms about using extreme methods to get what he wants. Getting to Suzy – and the secrets she knows – would be even better.

I really got into the rapid-fire action. There’s never a dull moment in this book. Suzy is a larger-than-life antihero who would rather shoot than talk, and when she does speak, it’s usually a string of smartass remarks. Surrender is for weaklings and arguments are best ended with her pistol set on “stun” so she can mock the loser later. The action escalates through the book, with the crew of the Correcaminos Rojo bouncing between criminals, pirates, and the law, trapped on posh spaceships, hell-hole prisons, and domed spaceports. Her banter with Ricardo is fun, and her inability to keep her mouth shut gets her in trouble more than once.

Along the way, Suzy begins to second-guess her impulse to fight and starts listening to Ricardo. There may be a lot more to the guy besides his stunning good looks and bad poetry. She realizes she might be falling for him, but she can’t be sure that he’s not working for one of the factions trying to chase her down. It makes for a nice romantic subplot that may or may not involve bullets before it’s all over.

I also liked getting occasional glimpses into the stories of the people on the other side of the fight. Getting insight into what was going on behind the action provided a break between fight scenes and added a lot of scheming and intrigue. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but getting the inside scoop on other key characters added a lot of excitement to the story.

If I had to criticize one thing, it would be that the action gets a little repetitive. Several encounters with enemies are similar, but the great thing is that none of these situations resolve in the same way. It was nice to see the characters playing to their strengths and weaknesses, and the author does a great job at blending screwball humor into the mix. There is a minor loose end concerning a secondary character, but that might be covered in a sequel.

I would absolutely recommend this for a quick, fun, summer read. It’s a great blend of over-the-top action that reads like classic pulp fiction, and characters who play their tropes for all they’re worth. Suzie Spitfire Kills Everybody will leave you smiling.

Pages: 297 | ASIN: B072PXT1P7

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Zombie Mage

With Zombie Mage Jonathan Drake has moved beyond the tiered story lines of your basic flesh eating zombies and brings a fresh take to the zombie genre. Zombie Mage is the story of Olligh, who is known as a Walker. He is a zombie that can travel the cosmos and transcend time and space. A group of cultists, called the Dark Cloaks, have trapped the Walkers claiming to be helping them find finial death and peace. They enlist Olligh to help them bring back five Walkers that have gone missing in exchange for his and his wife Laura’s final death together and an end to this life as zombies.

I found it difficult in the beginning to understand what was going on. There was a lot of shifting from one location to another as well as change in time periods. Going from ancient times to modern and then into the future. I was thrown off a bit at first because there is not much context given. But the story really starts to pick up after we are introduced to the characters and the order of the Dark Cloaks. This brings the story into focus and kept me flipping pages. I was fully invested in the story once we discover that Olligh is a mage and the possibility of magical zombies or, zombie mages, existed. This was unique to me and is a novel approach to the zombie genre.

Olligh’s one goal is to reunite with his wife Laura who is also a zombie. She wants nothing more than to be with Olligh as well and makes life difficult for the Dark Cloaks on several occasions in her insistence to be reunited with her love. I felt that this was similar to Romeo and Juliet where they want to be together but circumstances keep them apart. It is sweet that they were so dedicated to one another even in death.

Marvin is probably my favorite of the missing Walkers, all that remains of him is a skull, one disconnected eye, and his brain in a jar. This doesn’t stop him from having a great sense of humor and a love of playing practical jokes. His sarcasm adds much needed comic relief to the novel at a time when Olligh is so serious and focused. The novel does a famtastoc job showing Olligh’s internal emotional struggle. I felt that Olligh’s struggle was an example of humanities constant struggle to find balance a balance between good and bad while fulfilling ones own selfish desires. The love story that develops throughout the book is well developed and adds a another romantic layer to what is otherwise a bleak genre.

Zombie Mage by Jonathan Drake is a fresh twist on the zombie genre. It has all the ingredients of a great story and combines them into a tale that is consistently entertaining. Don’t worry, there isn’t too much gore; Drake often uses humor and sarcasm to accent the gruesome parts of the novel. Overall a fantastic new take on the zombie genre.

Pages: 220 | ASIN: B00A4HQM42

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Black Inked Pearl: A Girl’s Quest

Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest

An epic tale spun from erratic thoughts placed into text and delivered to the world. That is the sense that readers will get from Black Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest by Ruth Finnegan. Our protagonist, Kate, is searching for something. She is on a journey through years and lifetimes as she seeks out this piece that is required to complete her. We see this world through her eyes, her thoughts and her experiences. The tale is epic not only in page count, but in content as well. We know that Kate has lost something, that she is searching for this thing, but we don’t know exactly what it is. We are left with speculation and can only turn the next page to find out if she has achieved her goal. With songs, poetry and influences of dreams long past, this tale is one that is begging to be heard.

The way this book is written, with its dream-like prose and fractured sentences, allows this epic fantasy novel to be told in a stream of consciousness style of writing. The thoughts are thrown at the reader: fast and unforgiving. At first glance, the reader may think that our protagonist, Kate, has simply gone mad and the first chapters are from her point of view. However, the entire book reads that way and, if you are not paying close attention, you may get lost. Readers are quickly taken from scene to scene and thought to thought with barely a lull. Perfect for readers who like to be fully engaged in a story.

The words are very beautiful. The poetry both original and borrowed lends a mystical air to the story. If you view the entire book as a sort of waking-dream, it begins to make sense. This writing style is wonderful for conveying emotions and we can get a better sense of how Kate is feeling as she continues her search. The blending of a warped reality with a warped sense of fantasy lends well to the thought of this being a dream-like state that Kate has found herself in.

A whirlwind of a read is what you’ll find between the covers of Black Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest by Ruth Finnegan. The mystical sense of the book is intriguing. This is a book recommended to be finished in one sitting as you may find it hard to pull away. The dream-like madness that seems to grip the pages make for an exciting read, but this can also be overwhelming. This may be a book suited to seasoned readers who are looking for a dreamlike story of epic proportions.

Pages: 286 | ASIN: B0158VRF26

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A Sinister Combination of Joy and Pain

Alex C. Vick Author Interview

Alex C. Vick Author Interview

Breaking Magic takes place in a world where people are genetically engineered for jobs and no one is able to question their function in society. What was your goal when you started and how did it change as you were writing?

This question is interesting, because I’m not really a plotter. The details of each story tend to evolve as I’m writing, and in the case of Breaking Magic, things changed a lot. What the villain did to recreate the world of Imbera according to his own evil design was more complicated than I originally expected. It allowed me to be quite creative in terms of my protagonist’s journey. My goal was to show that everyone has unlimited potential – no matter what society tells them, or the obstacles they face. That did not change, but the story behind it certainly did!

The story follows Callax, one of the workers, as he struggles to overcome his predetermined life and learns more about the world. What was your inspiration for his character?

Callax is the storyteller, and he shares what he learns and the emotions he is feeling without much of a filter! He gets scared sometimes and he says the wrong thing as often as he says the right thing, but he’s brave and determined too. I wanted Cal to be someone the reader could relate to and care about.

In Breaking Magic the Opta are the ruling class and the Exta are the workers. What themes did you use to develop these two contrasting groups?

The overriding theme is the importance of hope, even in the face of the impossible odds that the Exta are facing. The Opta needed to appear invincible, so their leader, the Breaker, is an intelligent antagonist. The Exta are not allowed to grow up, they are engineered to be only fragments of their potential selves, and his magic uses a sinister combination of joy and pain to disorient them. Yet they never quite stop hoping, and this gives them the strength to fight.

How does this book fit into your Legacy of Androva series and what is next for Callax?

Breaking Magic was a great opportunity for me to take a minor character and bring him into the limelight in a standalone book. I expect that Cal will turn up again at some point, but for the sixth book I am writing Galen’s story. Galen is a seventeen-year-old Androvan magician from Seeking Magic, the third book in the series, who abandoned his world two thousand years ago for love of a Terran girl. I plan to return to the core series in the seventh book!

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Breaking Magic (The Legacy of Androva #5)

Callax is fifteen, and he already knows he won’t ever grow old. Twelve years after leaving the childstation he will be summoned to the Gathering, where life essences are taken by a deadly, irresistible spell. On his world, this is one of the many ways in which the Exta serve the Opta. His best hope is to avoid an early binding by staying out of trouble.

But in protecting his younger brother Benedar, he was noticed by the Breaker, the evil magician in charge of the Gathering. The closer Callax gets to the ruling house and the girl who lives there, the more he learns, and the greater the danger. A danger he might not understand until it is too late. Callax thinks the Breaker’s defeat will save him, but he is wrong.

Additional information: Although Breaking Magic is part of the Legacy of Androva series, it can also be read independently. If you have read Controlling Magic and want to know more about Imbera, Breaking Magic is Cal’s story. The book retells part of Controlling Magic from Cal’s point of view. Recommended for lower young adult.

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The Destiny She Cannot Escape

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

Protector of Thristas takes place fifteen years after the tumultuous One Day War and Lisen is faced with something far more challenging than ever before. What were some important themes for you to capture in this novel?

I’ve taken on several archetypes in these books with an eye towards shifting what originated as masculine-oriented myths into their feminine equivalent. Lisen is the hero of a story in which she must overcome many obstacles, including her own self-doubt, to rise at the end of the original trilogy to the destiny she cannot escape. I looked at heroes, such as Luke Skywalker and King Arthur, and asked myself how this would look not simply with a “girl” as the hero but with a gentler and more sympathetic way of presenting the momentous events that occur in the story. The battle at the end of Blooded is a case in point. Lisen found a way to break through the fighting and turn the combatants towards a negotiated resolution rather than one in which many people died or were left physically or emotionally injured.

So, when I decided to explore Lisen and the others as adults, to look at the relationships and their children fifteen years on, I made another decision–to raise the bar and tackle an archetype I refer to as “the king must die and live again.” This myth can be found in many nature-focused cultures. The leader of the people sacrifices his life (or acts the sacrifice out in ritual) and goes to the underworld, then rises again, all of which is symbolic of the “burying” of seeds in the fall and their rising as plants in the spring. It is a form of fertility ritual. It is also, in some ways, the Christ story, but this time it’s a young woman.

I think this book did a fantastic job displaying how emotional a mother-daughter relationship can be, and family relationships as well. How did you develop these complex relationships? Anything pulled from real life?

My mother was not the nurturing type which left my father with that role in my life. In fact, Korin’s nickname of “Fa” is the way my father, in his later years, signed birthday cards and such. But there was more to it than that. As I foraged deeper into the story and the wounded relationship between Lisen and Rinli, I realized one very important thing. I had to be very careful about how I framed the discord between the two of them. The critique group I belonged to at the time loved the portrayal of the mother-daughter conflict, but I began to recognize that I had created a very “earth-centric/potentially sexist” struggle. In my experience, women in our culture learn at a very early age that they must challenge one another over the attention of a man. Men are taught a similar lesson, but it manifests differently. Men thump their chests and growl at one another (figuratively) or go out and kick a football around, whereas women get mean. And it often begins in the relationship between a mother and daughter and their desire for the male in their lives–the husband/father. It’s fairly subtle in most cases, but it’s there, and once girls become teenagers with all those hormones raging, they may not “desire” their father, but they want what their mothers have and the fight is on.

I couldn’t let this be the basis for Lisen and Rinli’s conflict, so I struck out on my own to find something that didn’t smack of the sexism in the “typical” tension that can tear a mother and daughter apart. And although I may have no control over the enculturated eyes the reader brings to the story and her interpretation of what she sees in that relationship, I had to be true to my commitment to present Lisen and Rinli sparring not over the mean-girl stuff that can mess with a mother and a daughter but over the betrayal Rinli feels at her mother’s use of her as a bargaining tool to bring a war to an end. Add to that the fact that Lisen is not the nurturing parent in the family, and it becomes clear, in my eyes, at least, that their relationship was likely doomed no matter what Lisen did.

Rinli is resistant to the idea that she has her mother’s magic abilities. How did you handle magic in this novel that was similar and/or different from the previous novels?

In some way, I think the magic became more central to the story than it had been previously. I have always played the push as something unacceptable but sometimes necessary, even to Garlans who are pretty accepting of most hermit magic. As a Thristan, Korin distrusts hermits and what they can do, and Lisen has a powerful gift. This presented its own set of problems in the first trilogy and ultimately tore them apart. Now, with Rinli growing up and it becoming obvious to both of her parents that she has inherited her mother’s gift, Lisen and Korin have to make their peace over the magic thing and then band together to convince Rinli that the only way to stay safe amongst magic-fearing Thristans is to master her gift in order to control it. This is where that conflict I mentioned above manifests with Lisen trying her damnedest to reach out to Rinli and Rinli turning away. (I had one reviewer say, “So many times I just wanted to scream ‘Say I LOVE YOU!'” which would, of course, have simplified things a great deal. But it was about the magic in Lisen’s mind, and “I love you” wasn’t in her lexicon.)

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I began a followup to Protector of Thristas with the idea that it would be the final book in the series. I had to find a way to put down the characters and the world I’d created in order to move on to something new. Five books. The series would be five books. I was adamant with myself. Then as I wrote and wrote and wrote, I began to realize that this was going to be one hell of a long book. I set a word limit at which point I would break it up into two books. I’m still on first draft, and I am within 2500 words of that limit I set. It’s definitely going to be 2 books. Because I’ve been making changes that affect earlier scenes as I go along, I must finish the entire tome before officially splitting them up. (And even then, I’m probably going to produce draft 2 of both books together, incorporating all the necessary tweaking at one time, before I turn to book 5 of the series and complete it.) All of this is to say, that this has taken far longer than I wanted it to take, but I continue to move forward.

As regards where we go from here, having sent a young person as flawed as Rinli through the experience of dying and rising from the dead, I discovered (upon working on the final two books) a character who is not doing well emotionally at all. It’s been an interesting trip. Rinli was originally intended to be the character to whom Lisen would pass the baton, but she turned out to be a character very different from what I had expected when I began. Her last words at the end of the book blew me away, coming as they did as I was writing that last scene, and they set the tone for the remaining story. I had to ask myself “what does a world broken by Mantar’s Child look like?” It took a while to answer that question. Now first draft is finally winding down for books 5 and 6, and all I can say is “whew, what a ride!” “When will it be available?” I’m hoping for some time early in the new year for book 5 and spring for book 6.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Blog

Protector of Thristas: A Lisen of Solsta NovelFifteen years after the One-Day War, Lisen, now Empir Ariannas, has developed into a just and capable leader. Together she and Korin have created a union of two souls based on respect, commitment and love, and their family has grown. In addition to Rinli, their daughter who made her first appearance in Blooded, two more children have joined the family, completing their complement of three complicated adolescents.

Now the sixteen-year-out Rinli prepares to take on the mantle of Protector of Thristas, a title destined for her in the treaty that ended the war. The Empirs of Garla have carried this title for hundreds of years, and Lisen anticipates changes once she hands this single title on to Rinli at the girl’s investiture. But the prophesy of Mantar’s Child, upon which Lisen and Korin depended in the treaty negotiations fifteen years earlier, refuses to remain but a convenient myth, and with the advent of the fulfillment of the prophecy, an epic begins.

Although Protector of Thristas includes the familiar faces and settings of the young adult Lisen of Solsta trilogy, it begins a new adventure for an older and often wiser Lisen and her allies. Looking at their world through their matured eyes, the book takes on the heroic tragedy that the trilogy could only hint at. Return to Garla. Enter its mystical environs for a new encounter with Lisen and her world’s gender-free culture. The adventure awaits.

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People-Watching

Michael Pronko Author Interview

Michael Pronko Author Interview

The Last Train revolves around Michiko Suzuki and the team of detectives that are investigating the train murders. What was the inspiration to the setup to this thrilling novel?

For quite a few years I was writing about jazz every week, so I was always going to Roppongi and Shinjuku and Shibuya, nightlife parts of the city. I’d see the hostesses who work in all the clubs there, and they would often be in the jazz clubs. They were almost always strikingly attractive, but underneath that seemed some sadness. Whatever one thinks of their work, the women seemed smart. What impressed me most, though, was the great personal dignity with which they carried themselves. So, I started wondering what kind of life those women lived, and what if they turned the tables. What if one of those people-savvy women took things into her own hands to do things men usually do? And what was this odd dynamic between men and women that seemed so unfair to women, but then again, was something else, too. Many Japanese women might not even say Japanese society is unfair exactly, perhaps because Tokyo is home to a vibrant urban culture where women are incredibly free to do what they want and live how they like. But, what would that freedom turn into if taken to an extreme? Michiko is that extreme. The men struggle to catch up.

Michiko is the daughter of a factory owner whose mother died when she was young. Her character continues to get deeper as the story progresses. What did you use as a starting point for the character and what was your guidance as you built the character?

I think the way Michiko grew as a character was based on my observation of women, and men, in Tokyo, but all kinds of women, not just hostesses. There’s a lot of people TO observe in Tokyo, for one thing, but I like to talk and interact with people as much as I can. Michiko is a “typical” character in that her experience parallels the shift in Japan from a manufacturing society, which is where Michiko grew up, to an information and service society, which is how she makes money. I wondered how that shift affected women? Is it easier for women to adapt to economic changes than men, or harder? Michiko is working class in origin, growing up above a factory, but she turns herself into something else altogether through her own efforts. She’s tough and resilient, which is how I see most Japanese women, and yet still very feminine in traditional ways. She has no hesitation to compete in a man’s world, and to do it on her own terms. Like many characters, once she was created, everything followed from that.

The novel takes place in Tokyo. Why did you choose a train station in Japan as the setting to your novel?

Trains are one of the things I love most about Tokyo, but they are also these huge masses of steel shooting through a very densely populated city. Just as America is built around the car, Tokyo is built around trains. Suicides on the train lines, sadly, happen all too often.

I came upon the clean-up after a suicide one time years ago, and the image stayed with me.

Like every other commuter, I have been stuck waiting on a train or a platform when a suicide shuts down the entire train system. It’s so shocking because usually everything runs on time. So, I guess, if you transplant the American car chase to Tokyo, it becomes a train chase, or a chase on a train. I also like that as a setting because trains and train stations are great levelers. Everyone takes the train, together, equally. I also love trains and train stations because I can completely indulge in people-watching. It’s startling how many people you see in a day. Still, it’s never so lonely as in a crowd, and there’s always a crowd in Tokyo.

What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next novel is called Japan Hand and Detective Hiroshi is again in the lead, together with Sakaguchi. They investigate the death of a long-time Japan specialist who helped negotiate the complicated relations between Japan and America, including the US military bases in Japan. That novel should be out by December of this year or early 2018. The next one after that is called Thai Girl in Tokyo and will be out in spring of 2018. I’ve finished writing those both, so they’re now being edited and polished.

Pages: 348 | ASIN: B071DPXP7M

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The Tenth Nail

Nate knelt beside the dead girl. This wasn’t his first homicide, it wasn’t even the first dead prostitute he’d investigated. It wasn’t the first strangling death he’d been assigned to. But, this one bothered him.

Maybe it was her youth, she appeared to be in her early twenties. Maybe it was her looks, as death had yet to rob her of her beauty. Maybe she reminded him of his own daughter, Lizzie, who was only a few years younger. Maybe it was something else entirely.

The big detective looked over the body, careful not to touch or disturb her. He had one of the best crime scene technicians, Winston Rawls, and he did not want to make his job harder.

“Look at her fingernails,” Rawls observed from the other side of the body.
“What about them?”
“Most of them are broken and some are torn free of the quick. Some are missing.”
Nate slowed his visual scanning of the girl and focused on her hands. Rawls was right, the nails were ragged, broken, and torn. Some of her fingers ended with just the bloody fingertips.
It made his injured finger hurt. Maybe this was why this murder haunted him from the start.

The girl’s hands were bagged in plastic to preserve evidence that hopefully was there. Gently, Nate lifted a hand, holding it on his open palm. He looked at the girls eyes, that looked down and away from him.
“I don’t know what happened that led you to this place. I don’t know why you chose to live the life you did. But you deserved better than this.”
Rawls looked at Nate with an expression that asked, “What are you doing?”
Nate glanced at the technician and then focused again on the girl’s hand.
“I promise you, I give you my word, I will find who ever did this to you and I will bring him to justice. I will hold him accountable for this. Rest assured.”
Gently, as if he didn’t want to wake her, Nate lowered the girl’s hand to the pavement. He stood and Rawls stood with him.
“Do you want to tell me what that was all about?”
Nate studied the bearded tech, “I made her a promise.”
“Nate, you and I both know solving the death of a streetwalker is one of the hardest crimes to solve. Unless she was killed by her pimp, or another girl jealous of her, the doer is a complete stranger. There’s just not enough to tie the two people together.”
Rawls shook his head, “You’ve worked more of these than I have. You know how difficult this is going to be.”
Nate looked at Rawls, placed a hand on the technician’s shoulder, “I made her a promise.”
He turned and walked from the alley, giving the technician a controlled wave, “See you at the morgue.”

The Tenth Nail is the story of a homicide detective obsessed in finding the killer of a streetwalker. It is fast paced, with well developed characters and a twist at the end most will not see coming.

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Totally Unexpected

Harry James Fox Author Interview

Harry James Fox Author Interview

The False Prophet is set in a post apocalyptic America and follows Donald of Fisher, our unlikely hero, as he must confront an army raised to conquer the land. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

The question applies to the first novel, The Stonegate Sword as well as The False Prophet although it is not necessary to have read the first book in order to understand the second. The initial idea was to create a character with a world view similar to present-day America and place him in a society with very different values, such as Medieval Europe. I considered a time-travel approach, but then hit on the idea that in the future the world could enter a second Dark Age.  So the main character, Donald of Fisher is a lore-man, steeped in the study of the past from an early age. Then circumstances forces him to take up a sword and take on the role of a warrior. The conflict between the evil figure in the west owes a bit to Tolkien and a bit to the prophecies of the last days in Biblical prophecy. I made no attempt to create the details associated with the Antichrist, except that if the imagery in Scriptures is taken literally, it sounds as if the final battles will be fought with antique weapons. I realize that this could be figurative language, but I decided to take it literally, and that implies, again, that a dark age lies in the future.

The story follows two characters, The False Prophet and Donald of Fisher, which I felt were two contrasting characters. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?

The story follows the archetypal “hero’s quest.” Don is the hero and must face adversity. The False Prophet is the anti-hero and he does not actually appear in the first novel, being only a rumor, a malignant force driving the forces of evil. In the second novel, he is revealed to be a ruthless despot of the kind with whom we are all familiar. The Prophet’s armies are the driving force behind much of the conflict that Don must face and overcome, though human frailties (his own and those of his companions) are other obstacles in his path.

There were many biblical undertones throughout the novel. Where do you feel you paralleled the Bible and where did you blaze your own path? And how did that help you create an engaging story?

The story of the novel does have some similarities to the Bible in that the Israelites were often raided by their enemies and the kind of weapons were similar. The military tactics I describe are probably not similar to those used in Bible days, although some of the principles are timeless. The use of walled cities reminds one of the Bible and also Medieval Europe. The political situation in the free cities east of the mountains reminds me of Israel during the time of the Judges, when there was no king, and “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The apostasy or falling away from the faith is prophesied in the Bible. The rediscovery of lost technology, for example, cannons, is a new path. The idea of a man of sin arising in the last days is found in the Bible.

The False Prophet is the second book in the Stonegate series. Where does book three take readers?

Book three will take place a generation later. The False Prophet was not destroyed, and the evil in the West rises again. It is up to the children of Don, Rachel, Carla and Howard to bring the saga to its final conclusion. Donald, now a middle-aged man, past his prime, attempts to mount an invasion of the West to overthrow the Prophet, but his attempts are met with disunity among his friends and overwhelming might of his foes. As to be expected, the victory depends on help from a totally unexpected quarter.

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The False Prophet (Stonegate, #2)This is the sequel to the award-winning Christian fantasy novel, The Stonegate Sword. All the major characters return, Donald, Rachel, Carla, and Philip.

Stonegate remains the key, and Donald returns to that great walled city and his beloved Rachel just as the hosts of enemy are also closing in. Part adventure, part love story, this epic saga covers the vast panorama of New Mexico deserts and Colorado Rockies in a possible future that looks very much like the medieval past. But duty, love, courage, and honor remain and are even more important than ever.

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Could the Legends be True

S.M. Porter Author Interview

S.M. Porter Author Interview

The Mystery of St. Arondight’s tells the story of six teenagers on a mysterious supernatural quest across Europe. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?

Like my characters I was a teenager when I had my first taste of field archaeology. It was exciting, that feeling that you never quite knew what was waiting under the ground for you. It didn’t seem to matter how many of the experienced archaeologists on the site told me that treasure is unlikely, I firmly believed that every shovel full of dirt could hold some priceless artefact of great importance. Now, having been a professional archaeologist for ten years I have learned that not every excavated site uncovers great historical mysteries. In fact the closest I have ever come to treasure is five scattered Roman Denarii, probably from a lost purse. But I still have that belief that something important could be hiding just under my feet.

History itself consists of so many unanswered questions, so many what ifs, so many intangible stories. Folk law suggests the presence of ghosts at sites of violence, or in places they knew when alive. Legends tell of strange women living in trees, lakes or isolated ruins, of heroes who transcend time. There are so many mysteries out there to solve, who is to say that the conclusions must always be rational. Some stories tell of tangible artefacts, a philosopher’s stone, a sacred cup or a powerful sword. Legends give us all the chance to daydream … What might happen if one day I excavate a sword of Arthurian date from a waterlogged deposit. Could the legends be true?

The story has a host of young characters all with their own unique personalities. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?

With my characters I aimed to create firstly a group with a shared interest, archaeology, but to give them their own skills, knowledge and personality. The intention was to balance them so that no one character held all the aces and there was essentially no go-to hero of the piece.

I wanted to make sure that the girls were just as capable as the boys. When I was growing up I spent most of my time wanting to be one of the lads. So called ‘girly’ activities did not interest me and I felt that as a teenager there were no characters in my world, with perhaps the exception of ‘George’ from Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’, that represented me as a perpetually bruised, knee skinned tomboy, hanging out with the boys, fencing with sticks and pretending that my bicycle was a motorbike. What I wanted to do here was to create characters that represented my sixteen year old self. The girly side, the tomboy side and the downright laddish part of me. Alongside my own traits I have borrowed elements of personality from the many wild, passionate, and possibly crazy archaeologists of all ages and genders, that I have met whilst digging holes all over the country. I had to try and capture some of that combination of crude humour, intelligence and boundless enthusiasm, encountered on all archaeological sites.

The action scenes and references to historical sites was well developed. Was there anything you pulled from you own life and used in this novel?

I first started fencing at university and was lucky enough to fence for my university, even becoming captain of the team and later the club. Fencing is a lot like chess, but played at the speed of light and with significantly bigger bruises, but you get a real appreciation that timing and intelligence are every bit as important as strength and skill. In writing the sword fights in St. Arondight’s, I wanted to put across some of my own experience as a fencer – the noises, the exertion required and the clear presence of mind required to make a successful attack.

Having lived in the UK all my life, I have visited many of the locations from the book, although I do admit that for a few of them I may have used a little creative licence  – getting to the “beach” below the White Cliffs of Dover is much more difficult than Sarah and Jerry found it and I certainly wouldn’t advise trying it!

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am currently working on the sequel to The Mystery of St. Arondight’s, following the same characters on their next archaeological adventure. I’m hoping it will be available March/ April 2018 although the first draft is playing hardball right now, and it’s fair to say that working full time as an archaeologist, active fencer and motorcycle enthusiast does take up some writing time. So I’m afraid the date is tentative and it may be a little later.

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The Mystery of St. Arondight's (Archaeological Adventures Book 1)

Camping at ruined abbey at the end of the summer holidays, six teenage archaeologists find themselves witness to a violent haunting and discover a secret crypt below the abbey.

The discoveries they make set them on an epic quest across the country. In a race against an unhinged academic and armed with only their honour, knowledge and swordsmanship the group will have to trust one another and work together, as reality and mythology merge and the quest for an artefact of legend becomes a fight for survival.

Told in a unique blend of first and third person narration, The Mystery of St. Arondight’s follows Suzannah Jones, Melody Knight, Sarah Heddon, Claire Scott, Jerry Llewellen and Símon James Matherson in their first archaeological adventure.

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The Seasons of a Giant

The Seasons of a Giant

The Seasons of a Giant by Pamela Hartley is a fun read! We follow Isabel LaDuke, known as Izzy, as she tries to discover who or rather “what” is stealing her family’s cows. A young girl with no real talents or skills unless you count her courageous heart. She eventually finds her quarry, but then soon is transported to the home of Behemorphs, giant shape-shifters, and their world Skyworld, which rests above the clouds. For Izzy to find her way home, she will have to team up with the monster she hunted. Her disappearance intensifies a conflict between her people, the Groundlings, and the Behemorphs, which will mean she may have to make a fateful choice…

With 250 pages, one would think this would be your average children’s novel, but I was pleasantly surprised. A fun twist on Jack and the Beanstalk, Izzy is a fun take on the heroine trope, although I may have enjoyed it more if she was more self-actualizing then what occurred in the story itself. I think the courage that Izzy embodies is brilliant and an excellent message to children. I think the “journey of self-discovery” is a classic tale to come up again and again and is given fresh legs by Hartley’s narrative.

The classic turn of “foe turned friend” is great because it allows Izzy to then reflect upon herself and evaluate her own strengths and weaknesses. The character, Boone, is great because he is everything she is not. She is small and weak with too few real skills. A Behemorph, he is larger than life and has his own magical abilities of shape-shifting. The juxtaposition is almost too pointed, but Hartley saves this with humor and keeping the story pace brisk and fast for even the most anxious reader.

Hartley’s prose reads well and both her voice as the author and the voice of her characters come through. Izzy is a great heroine to follow and I hope there’s another story on the way with her being the lead character again. There is something very relatable with a character who is not talented and instead has to rely on what she has on the “inside”. Again I believe that sort of theme and message is perfect for children and adults.

Overall, the pacing was spot on. The ending was unexpected, but well developed. I believe that Hartley has a gift for story, especially when telling children’s stories. The world she has built was fun and enjoyable and overall it will make a great read for anyone looking for an entertaining weekend read.

Pages: 250 | ASIN: B06XSN4JG3

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