Blog Archives

Covert Activities

Phyllis A. Still Author Interview

Phyllis A. Still Author Interview

Fleeing the Shadows is a satisfying follow-up in the continuing Dangerous Loyalties series as our brave heroine flees with her family into the Kentucky frontier. What direction did you want to take this novel in that was different from the first book?

After the danger caused by Papa’s covert activities in book one, I wanted readers thrust headlong into survival mode with thirteen-year-old Mary and her family.

The family is always running from something and danger seems to lurk around every bend. Did you plan the plot twists before writing or did they develop organically?

I used a rough outline to keep the story moving but allowed surprises to happen naturally.

 Mary continues to carry the bulk of the family’s worries as her Papa makes increasingly difficult decisions. What were some obstacles that you felt were important for her characters development?

Mary struggles with PTSD. She must deal with each fear and keep going. Mary rises to the task of taking charge of her siblings when Papa must care for Momma. When Mary shuts down in fear, she allows her family to care for her. Her ultimate challenge leads her to face real and imagined shadows to save her family.

Where will book three in the series take readers?

Mary hopes life at Fort Boonesborough will fulfill her dreams of a peaceful life with friends and suitors. She has her heart set on a certain someone and is determined to win him for her future husband, but Papa and the American Revolution say otherwise.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

She blames herself for the bounty onPapa’s head.

Book Two in the Dangerous Loyalties series–a historical novel for teens–continues the riveting story of Daughters of the American Revolution patriot Mary Shirley McGuire.

It’s late summer in the Alleghany Highlands, 1775. Colonial Virginia has resolved to support the American Revolutionary cause for liberty. The British are determined to retain control of the fur trade and keep frontiersmen fighting Indians instead of joining the Continentals.

Thirteen-year-old Mary Shirley is still recovering from emotional wounds inflicted when she risked her life delivering traitorous dispatches. She trusted the wrong men, and now the family must flee Indian Creek to stay ahead of British Loyalist who seek her papa’s life.

But they can’t risk being captured by taking the main road to Daniel Boone’s trail that leads into Kentucky territory. They must endure the more dangerous and grueling hunter’s path that leads to rough frontier forts along the Clinch River.

Passions are ignited, friendships are formed, and shocking lessons are learned.

Papa ignores the warnings to wait for other travelers, causing Mary’s anxieties to worsen. Once they cross the Cumberland Gap, they’re at the mercy of God and the Chickamauga Cherokee to make it to Fort Boonesborough alive. Frontiersmen tell them the settlement of Fort Boonesborough isn’t defendable, and Mary doesn’t want to continue. Papa is confident that the Indians are too busy preparing for winter to raid.

A few days from the fort, Mary is feeling hopeful for the future. Then disaster strikes, leaving the family devastated and heartbroken. There is no other choice. Mary must lay aside paralyzing fear and excruciating pain to save her family before time runs out.

Fleeing the Shadows (Dangerous Loyalties Book Two) invites readers to experience traveling the dangerous wilderness trails with Mary and her family through thick wild forests of Southwest Virginia and into Kentucky territory that leads straight into a Native American hornet’s nest. Mary just wants to make it Fort Boonesborough and live in peace.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Fleeing the Shadows

Fleeing the Shadows (Dangerous Loyalties Book Two)

Fleeing the Shadows is a satisfying follow-up in the continuing Dangerous Loyalties series by Phyllis A. Still. Continuing only days after the events of the previous Defiance on Indian Creek, we are swept away as our brave, thirteen-year-old heroine, Mary Shirley, must flee with her family deeper into the Kentucky frontier. They seek to escape the British loyalists who dog their every step, but as they run farther from colonial territory proper, the family finds themselves in equal peril and at the mercy of Native American braves. Mary’s Papa relies on her to do what is right and help protect their family.

Having read the previous book in the series, this was a welcome return to the world of Dangerous Loyalties. Still has a great YA voice that carries the reader away with her pages. The novel has a faster pace to it, considering the family is always running from something and danger seems to lurk around every bend. For a historical YA novel, Still does not hold back on making sure that we feel the desperation of the family in every chapter. This anxiety is only enhanced as the family drives deeper into the wild unknown North American frontier.

Still keeps the reader much more on the edge of our seat with this narrative, because the stakes or that much higher. If the first could be called a ‘slow burn’, this can be called a ‘flash fire’. The story rips right off the page. The setting of the summer of 1775 keeps the historical urgency matching the urgency of this very personal story, but the overarching nationwide feelings are much more muted in this second book of the series by virtue of the very present danger. At times the narrative leans on the setup of the previous too much to be a true standalone narrative, but as a second book it works perfectly well enough.

Mary continues to carry the bulk of the family’s worries as her Papa makes increasingly difficult and sometimes questionable decisions of what they should do, while running from the loyalists, even while Indians shadow their every step. Mary is still dealing with the emotional turmoil after delivering the dispatches and her Papa only makes this worse. Overall, Fleeing the Shadows is a stirring, nail-biter of a read and will be sure to please fans of the first book of the series.

Pages: 212 | ASIN: B072C23D6R

Buy Now From Amazon.com

What is Reality?

M. Thomas Apple Author Interview

M. Thomas Apple Author Interview

Adam’s Stepsons follows Dr. Heimann as he designs the perfect soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. What was your inspiration for the setup to this interesting science fiction story?

At the time I wrote the kernel of the story, I was working in a used bookstore and devouring all the short stories and novels by Phillip K Dick and Robert Heinlein that I could lay hands on. I was (and still am) fascinated by questions of “what is reality?” but I was (and still am) also intrigued by the question “who am I?” not only in terms of shared realities and perceptions but also ethnicities, religions, and personal relationships within the family. The sense of self is inextricably bound with community and history; my own family history, for example, is filled with generation after generation of soldier in nearly every major conflict since the 1680s. So I knew that I wanted the story of Dr. Heimann and his clones to take place during a military conflict of some sort. The US made it to the Moon first, so I figured any Moon Base would be set up by a future version of the US. But the rising powers of India and China would necessarily lead to competition and colonial expansion elsewhere in space. So I based the UAAF on the Moon, India on the ISS, and China (basically) on Mars. But something has gone wrong, as it usually does, and that sets off the conflict.

I should point out that, when I initially plotted the story and sketched out the characters, Dolly the Sheep hadn’t been announced, Battlestar Galactica was a late ’70s TV show starring Lorne Greene, and “The Clone Wars” still consisted of a single line spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi. So as much as I’d love to say that I got the idea for soldier clones from the current zeitgeist, the underlying premise of Adam’s Stepsons actually predates the trend. My high school library had beat-up copies of Nancy Freedman’s Joshua, Son of None, and Ben Bova’s The Multiple Man, so it’s likely I internalized elements from those stories and subconsciously reproduced them in my own story.

Dr. Heimann and one of his cloned soldiers, Seth, have an intriguing relationship that becomes very deep. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

Dr. Heimann prides himself on his scientific bent of mind, but he struggles to cope to grips with the fact that he basically has no family left, and as Seth grows and begins to develop a real emotional attachment, the doctor desperately tries to push away the feelings he had for the person Seth is clone of. Meanwhile Seth has been trained (“brainwashed,” as the doctor puts it) to be an efficient killing machine, and his need for order compels him to seek out and eliminate anything unknown or unreasonable. Yet he, himself, can’t help feeling strong conflicting emotions, first toward the doctor and then toward his fellow clones. Both characters are driven to discover, deep down, who they really are as people, outside their rigid societal roles as scientist and soldier. Dr. Heimann knows that Seth is not his real son, but can’t help treating his stepson’s clone familiarly because it reminds him of what he has lost. Seth has been “programmed” not to think of anything other than army orders, but he can’t shake the sense that there is more to who he is as a person. Finding out he is a clone, and who his “brothers” are, is the trigger for the final confrontation.

Science fiction has always asked the ‘what if’ questions, but I feel that your novel went a step further. What were some ideals you used in building your story?

My original intention was to investigate not just the “what if” of human cloning (i.e., how would this be done? how would the clones grow physically and mentally?) but also the “what is self?” to a cloned human being. The scientists argue that personality is partly inherited and partly environmental; so if you were to make several different clones of one person and then controlled the information input,  they would all become the same person. But personality also consists of emotional attachments made with other human beings on a deeper social level. Human beings are social animals; we need other humans to survive and thrive, and without others we have no clear sense of who we are and what our purpose is. So in order to examine this in a futuristic setting like a clone facility on the Moon, I needed to have a reason for making clones in the first place, plus other people who would provide the clones with that social environment. Once that was established, the real question became “Is what we’re doing morally ethical?” The military paying for the clones display classic cognitive dissonance, by using people they claim are not really people but know they actually are, in order to win what they call a morally righteous war but actually is destroying their entire society. Yet the General clearly also feels a sense of internal conflict, feeling obligated to protect every member under his command, including the clones, and also knowing through his friendship with Dr. Heimann who the clone really is and how this might affect his friend. Ultimately, I was interested in making sure none of the characters were typical “scifi” stereotypes, that they had ideals but were deeply flawed people, and ultimately would find themselves trying to make the best of what basically could turn out to be a lose-lose situation in the end.

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

Right now I have a couple of projects I’m working on in various stages, but the one most closely related to Adam’s Stepsons is a metaphysical science fiction series set mostly on Mars. The first book is called Bringer of Light; a crew of ethnically diverse and somewhat misfit asteroid hunters recovers an extra solar object from beyond the solar system, experiences physical and spiritual changes, and ultimately becomes the new leaders of the united Mars colonies as they break away from the old political chaos of Earth and form a new society. The story combines hard science with various mystical systems of belief, ethnic and religious sense of self and identity, and international/interspacial political intrigue. I’m about a third the way through the initial draft; the aim is to finish writing by the end of summer 2017, and have an edited, polished manuscript done by spring 2018. The next two books (Defenders of Aeropagus and Return to Omphales) have already been outlined and plotted.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Adam's StepsonsDr. Johann Heimann designed the perfect soldiers: superhuman in strength and intelligence, immune to sickness and disease, programmed to lead the United Americas to a quick victory in the Mars Colony War. But Heimann didn’t anticipate the military’s unrealistic demands, or his own emotional responses to his creations. And now Number Six is calling him “Father”! What exactly is going on during the clones’ personality imprinting cycle? As Heimann starts his investigation, Number Six grows in confidence and self-awareness…and both discover the project hides a secret even Heimann, himself, doesn’t suspect…

Buy Now From Amazon.com

See Me Forever

See Me Forever by [Oriel, Susann]

See Me Forever begins in an old alluring home in Erradale Bay where Arianna Harte, a beautiful woman oozing with class, purchases the home in hopes to begin a new life. A spirit is instantly drawn to her, becoming obsessed with wanting her to himself. Edmond Nathaniel Wilde is the man behind the spirit, a well-spoken man who comes from the Victorian era where sins such as infidelity are not to be tolerated. Meanwhile, Logan, a detective, is investigating an incident involved with Arianna’s home and finds himself beginning to fall for Arianna’s beauty and charm. Between a passionate spirit and a detective filled with skeletons in his closet, Arianna will be thrown into a dark and brooding love triangle with supernatural twists.

See Me Forever, written by Susann Oriel, is a beautifully written love story that has a touch of all the right genres; including action, mystery and supernatural elements. It is hot and steamy, romantic and at times frightening, providing a story line that is full of entertainment for all readers.

The words drip with elegance and sweep the reader through a colonial home. Gargoyles adorn the outskirts of the beautiful colonial styled Oak Lane property, giving the reader a glimpse into a home which would have been luxurious in the Victorian era. Susann’s style of writing is easy to read but descriptive; the conversations and interactions between both spirit and human are easily imagined and felt by the reader.

I love the way Susann Oriel describes Arianna Harte. She is innately beautiful but also physically stunning, catching the eyes of suitors around her. But she isn’t sleazy or forward and has a level of class and integrity that is to be admired. Her encounters with others are filled with lustful desire and will leave the reader feeling as though their blood is on fire. Arianna’s is a sensitive, different from a medium in that she sees the spirits as well as feeling them. This particular talent will land her in sticky situations as she sees the faces of those who pass everywhere she goes.

The story begins with more questions than answers and I was eager to know how Edmond had passed. There is an element of suspicion surrounding his death and how his first wife may have died. A woman who previously lived in the home is now an elderly lady and once held Edmonds affections. How do they fit together to form the pieces of the puzzle? You will have to read it to find out!

You’d be mistaken to think that this novel is only a love story. There are mysterious plot changes, broody characters and action scenes that will leave you begging for more. I would recommend See Me Forever for those who enjoy a romantic novel but also enjoy their haunted house styled stories.

Pages: 296 | ASIN: B06XXML53F

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Another Tribe: Our Eternal Curse

Our Eternal Curse: Another Tribe by [Rumney, Simon]5 Stars

Heartache and pain follow our protagonist, Julii, as she makes her way through the life she is living in America during the 1860’s. Our Eternal Curse – Another Tribe by Simon Rumney shows Julii as a young, naïve Aboriginal woman living with her small tribe and ignorant of the world. She does not know about war on the scale of what the white American’s are fighting. She doesn’t understand racism and slavery in the way we have learned about. She lives carefully and quietly with her family. She is extremely intelligent and takes her small world for granted. Then she meets a man who is gravely injured at the side of a river she has always gone to. A man who does not look like the men she knows. A man who may never wake up from the coma he slips into. This man is Robert, and he will change the very way she lives.

While this book is part of a series, it’s easy to read on its own. Required knowledge of the previous books is not necessary, although it may heighten the experience. This book is overflowing with raw, human emotion while not being afraid to look at the disgusting parts of colonial history. Rumney certainly knows how to spin a tale. While told in the third person we see the tale from Julii’s point of view: we hear her thoughts, and we begin to understand and learn about the world through her eyes. It’s a clever way to do it, especially for those who may not be aware or understand this point in history.

As Julii learns about the reality of the outside world, we learn about it as well. Her confusion and the struggle with a foreign language are easily portrayed and the reader feels as though we are Julii: we are also the ones who are seeing this world for the first time and learning this language for the first time. The world of 1860’s America is cruel. To understand how an Aboriginal person, a woman for that matter, would have felt during this time is difficult. This is a time of rampant racism, of distrust and the inability to treat all human beings with respect and dignity. It can be painful to read, as it is important to realize that these thoughts and attitudes still exist almost 200 years later. Rumney does a great job of making the reader identify with Julii, the marginalized main character in our tale.

With a story so beautifully crafted it’s hard not to get immersed while reading it. Julii goes through so much in her life: she experiences things so rapidly that it’s hard not to feel for her. If you are looking for a heart-tugging story with excellent character development and a subliminal message, Our Eternal Curse – Another Tribe by Simon Rumney is definitely worth a pick up. Readers won’t go wrong by potentially stepping outside of their comfort zone and reading about the fantastical life of Julii.

Pages: 314 | ASIN: B00TI01JH6

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: