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Literary Titan Book Awards June 2017

The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Literary Titan Gold Book Award

Gold Award Winners

Deity's Soulmate (The Goddess Training Trilogy Book 1) by [Kerner, Angelina]I'm With You by [Frost, Allie]See Me Forever by [Oriel, Susann]

The Fugitive's Trail (The Sean Kruger Series Book 1) by [Fields, J.C.]End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces (Reverence Book 2) by [Landeros, Joshua]The Perfect Teresa by [Silva, Ulises]

The Last Train (Detective Hiroshi Series Book 1) by [Pronko, Michael]Einstein's Fiddle by [Smith, W.A.]

Literary Titan Silver Book Award

Silver Book Award

Dining and Driving with Cats - Alice Unplugged by [Patterson, Pat]The University of Corporeal and Ethereal Studies (Students of Madness Book 1) by [Edwards, Wolfgang]False Gods (The Sentinel Book 2) by [Ramos, Yolanda]

Another Summer by [Lilley, Sue]Globes Disease by [Keeble, Lance]Barrow of the Damned by [Drake, Jonathan J.]

A Burning in The Darkness by [McGrath, A P]Sins of the Father (Larkin and Colt Book 3) by [Cressman, Ken]The False Prophet (Stonegate Book 2) by [Fox, Harry James]

“For me, books are important because they feed the imagination. Books can be portals to incredible worlds and thrilling adventures or a mirror to real life, and they offer unique perspectives through diverse characters, voices, and stories.” – Allie Frost, author of I’m With You

Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

The Last Train: A Tokyo Thriller

The Last Train

Michael Pronko is a scholar and an on Japanese culture. He is also an excellent story teller that captivates readers and takes them on an adventure through his words. The Last Train is set in Tokyo, and even if you have never been to Tokyo, don’t worry, Pronko draws you into the life there. His attention to detail is not limited to the scenery, but the customs and mannerisms that make up the Japanese’s culture. There is extensive time devoted explaining the life and world revolving around the hostess clubs, not sex clubs, rather clubs where men go to find a woman to entertain them for a period of time, while drinking and getting their ego stroked. It is within this society of hostess clubs that murder mystery is flushed out. A killer, targeting foreign investors is using the trains as her weapon of choice.

The story revolves around Michiko Suzuki and the team of detectives that are investigating the train murders. Michiko is the daughter of a factory owner whose mother died when she was young. She was raised by her father and his workers. She learned early that business is not always neat and clean, and that sometimes getting their hands dirty and making backdoor deals is the norm there. As Pronko tells Suzuki’s story he alternates between current events and her memories of the past, telling how she got to where she is, and how she has picked her victims. The main detectives investigating are Hiroshi and Takamatsu. Hiroshi is an accountant that due to spending part of his life in America is fluent in English so he works white collar crimes for the police. Takamatsu is a homicide detective that pulls together his own dream team to work on this case. Their case takes a high profile turn and soon they’re dodging politics as well the cultural need to keep everything neat and tidy. Michiko tries to keep her activities low key but when several of her victims survive her plot, things get messy for her and the police.

One of the most fascinating things about this novel is not the mystery aspect. The murder is not a secret from the beginning. What is a mystery is why she is killing people, figuring out what drove her to this life. Hiroshi is a complex character as well, and his dynamic interactions throughout the investigations add to the plot as well as provide an unique look at the culture. Even though he is from Tokyo, spending time in America gave him a different perspective on the way things are done; whereas Takamatsu comes off as the typical Japanese man. They make an interesting and effective partnership. Having the diverse views interacting with witnesses and other characters makes for a dynamic story line, it is diverse and provides multiple views from different cultural perspectives.  Much of the story takes place in Roppongi, here you see all the varieties of hostess clubs, the basic lounge style, mud wrestling, nude women, and the high-end invite only David’s Lounge. Each club gives readers a different taste of the culture.

Overall The Last Train by Michael Pronko is a well written and enticing look into the culture of Tokyo. The story behind Michiko Suzuki is compelling and engaging, you can’t help flipping the pages to see what she is going to do next and find out why her victims were chosen. Hiroshi connects well with everyone he interacts with so there is an emotional response from the reader. Pronko uses emotion, mystery and attention to detail to keep the reader engaged and wanting more. I look forward to seeing more from Pronko and hope he has more stories to tell with Hiroshi.

Pages: 348 | ASIN: B071DPXP7M

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I’m With You

I'm With You

Allie Frost’s debut book I’m With You, is a passionate and gripping novel that draws the reader into her world with dynamic characters and an engaging story line. Ciarán and Remiel are siblings that have lost their mother. Their father has lost his mind due to her death and blames Remiel for the death of his wife. Remiel was born with an unusual gift, the ability to see a person’s death before it occurs. Five years after their mother’s death, their father has put out a hit job on his daughter, saying that she must die for the world to be right again, claiming that Remiel is a demon that kills. Ciarán loves his sister and when he learns of the plot to kill her he takes matters into his own hands and sets out to save her. With the help of an unlikely bunch of strangers, Ciarán and Remiel set out to escape the assassins that have been sent after Remiel.

The novel starts out in Kevlar a city in the realm of Empirya. This is a typical industrial city, similar to the early industrial periods of America. After learning of the plot to kill Remiel, Ciarán literally runs into to vagabonds, Ramus and Valkyrie. Fate brought them together and they help the two siblings escape Kevlar. Once away they are quickly found by the assassins hired to kill Remiel and they add a young prostitute names Camilla to their group. As they travel barely staying one step ahead of their enemy’s they add to their growing company Kaz the circus fire juggler, and Mitzi the librarian. Together they encounter danger and learn surprising things about one another. They bond together in the common goal of keeping Remiel alive and getting her and Ciarán home again.

Allie Frost tells the story from the view of Ciarán. His perspective is insightful for a young 15-year-old boy. While he seems more mature at times, there are defiantly times where his young age is apparent and the other characters’ step in to guide him. Ramus takes on the fatherly role for Ciarán and Remiel while Valkyrie is more the depressing voice of reason that battles internally between keeping to himself and away from trouble, vs doing the right thing and protecting the kids from the dangers after them. Camilla starts off as a very shallow character and through the novel builds into a deep meaningful part of the story line. The same is for Kaz and Mitzi, they evolve from the time they are introduced all the way to the epilogue. The bond that is formed from this unintended group becomes a family. Circumstances of the story give each character a chance to grow and evolve. Frost does an amazing job showing the transformation and growth while keeping the perspective in Ciarán’s eyes.

For a first novel Allie Frost, has created a dynamic world, taking the reader all over, showing a multitude of cultures and communities while keeping all relatable to modern earth. So, while the land is a work of fiction, many of the religious beliefs and cultural references are easy to relate to and understand. I’m With You is a perfect title for the novel as all the characters form a bond and grow together to create a family that Ciarán and Remiel  lacked ever since their mother died. This is a captivating novel that will keep the reader engaged from the first page to the last.

Pages: 241 | ASIN: B01MAYT60F

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Painful Sacrifice

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

In the final installment of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded takes us on a gruesome journey as we learn how Lisen will affect the future of the Garlan people. When writing the first book in the series did you know where you would end up in this third book or did it come about organically?

Fractured and Tainted had been written, rewritten and re-formed at least 3 or 4 times. I had a plan for where it was going to go, a plan that would provide redemption for Lisen. Or so I thought. Then the friend, to whom I tell everything, said–after hearing my idea for the finale–“but how does Nalin feel about that?” Boom. Lisen’s redemption would lean on Nalin’s painful sacrifice, something I hadn’t seen until this friend pointed it out. Back to the drawing board. During the year I spent re-forming and rewriting Tainted, I made notes, 11 pages single spaced, to find the story that would bring closure to the series. No organization by plot points whatsoever; the notes were organized based on the date I entered them into the file. Once Tainted was complete, I put the notes together in the order they occurred in the story, then wrote them out on 4 x 6 cards for each scene. I had 57 cards at that point. By the time I finished the first draft, I had 94. I did, however, have the ending when Lisen and Korin are finally alone together all prepared well in advance, including the little bit at the end about the fairy tales (which I had word for word). So, the short answer is yes, it came about organically because I had no idea where I was going when I wrote the first two books.

The cover art for your three books are very well done. What decisions went into the art direction for the covers?

My cover artist, Aidana WillowRaven of WillowRaven Illustration and Design, is brilliant, and she definitely knows her stuff. She has taught me a lot about the art of the cover. We began with book II because I’d already created a cover for book I, and I was about to publish II. The process began with bringing Lisen to life. We worked back and forth for quite a while. The plan was to show her pouch through the material of the gown she’s wearing. We worked through several drafts of that. Then we came to the mutual decision that in order for the cloth the gown was made of to be transparent enough to see the pouch, it would end up showing things we thought inappropriate for a YA book. So the pouch disappeared behind the gown. It was a pity, but on the other hand, it leaves some of it up to the reader to fill in for him/herself.

After finishing up the cover for Tainted, we turned to replace my cover of Fractured. My desire was always to show a pivotal moment from the book. For Tainted, it seemed natural to show Lisen up on the top of the mesa after the Farii. For Fractured, the moment she falls apart after running from the chaos in Halorin was an obvious choice. For Blooded, I originally wanted the Garlan throne. Aidana loves slipping into alien worlds, and I had described the throne in the book specifically for her to have fun with. She informed me, in her experienced opinion, that with the covers of the first two books being set outside with a character in them, we needed to guard the brand and stick with that formula. I hated losing the throne (though it does remain in the book), but she was right. So the moment I chose was the one where Lisen and Korin must part after the blood bath in the Khared. (If you look closely, you can see Lisen’s eyes are black because she’s still blind.) This put both Korin and Pharaoh on the cover with Lisen. My artist definitely had a great deal of fun with Pharaoh. Korin was a challenge to be sure. I had some very definite ideas, as did she, but we got through it, and that cover is my favorite.

What were some things you wanted to clear up or wrap up in this final book in the series?

One important thread was what would happen to Lisen and Korin’s baby and whether or not they would finally find each other. The other was Lorain. The first was easy; the second, not so much. I knew what I had to do, but not how to set that up. Then the idea of a truly treasonous act rose up before me as a gift, with a little inspiration from Game of Thrones.

Was there anything that you didn’t have time to get to or wanted to leave open ended?

What I wanted to explore but had no place for in a YA trilogy was who would Lisen be (along with the other major characters) as she grew into her role as Empir. So when I finished Blooded and sent it off to Amazon, I sat back wondering what to work on next. I have several barely touched projects I could have turned to, but Lisen called. Rinli called. And it was at that juncture that I returned to Garla and Lisen 15 years on.

What is the next book that you’re working on? A continuation of the Lisen of Solsta series or a new series?

Yes, the Lisen saga continues. The first book, Protector of Thristas, is already finished and available. It begins 15 years on and follows the relationship between Lisen and Rinli. Let me tell you, a 15-year-out Rinli was an interesting character to place into the mix, and her two younger siblings are complex beings as well. And how has Korin reconciled his two roles–captain of the Guard and Empir-spouse? I answered most of my own questions that hinged on “what next?” and then, at the very end, created one hell of corner to paint myself out of in the book or books that will follow. I hesitate to commit to one or two as the “one” book I’m working on now grows longer and longer and will likely end up broken into two books. But this will conclude the story for me. I have an ending that I find satisfying and look forward to sharing it with others to see what they think.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Blooded (Lisen of Solsta Book 3) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]“From the award-winning author of Fractured and Tainted comes Blooded, the finale to the Lisen of Solsta trilogy. After committing an act that terrifies her in its calculated coldness, and losing Korin, her valued companion, as a result, Lisen shuts down emotionally, allowing her to perform her duties as the Empir of Garla. But the arrival of a child, an abduction culminating in captivity and a drug called gryl provide Lisen with new insights, and faced with a civil war, she opens up to startling perceptions which offer a unique solution to the conflict.

Will Korin relent and reveal the secret he’s kept from her? Will Lisen come to forgive herself for her self-perceived sins? Will she recover the sense of family support that she once felt on Earth? Will she ever feel anything but alone again? Or will the nightmare of reality overwhelm her as the story concludes in this final volume? In a story that brings traitors to justice and two opposing lands to an inevitable confrontation, Blooded completes the Lisen of Solsta trilogy.”

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Monster Literary Book Awards May 2017

The Hungry Monster Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and The Hungry Monster is proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Literary Titan Gold Book AwardGold Award Winners

Return to Babylon (The Orfeo Saga Book 5) by [Eiland Jr., Murray Lee]Descendent Darkness: Book One: Stirrings by [Macready, A.]

 Tarbabies Book 2: The Siege at Friendly Haven by [Brady, Allen]Just Shut Up and Drive by [Laird, Chynna]Mestlven: A Tale from Perilisc by [Teller, Jesse]The Law of Moses (Sam and Laura's Story Book 1) by [Griffeth, Kwen]

Literary Titan Silver Book AwardSilver Award Winners

The Paranoid Thief by [Estes, Danny C]

Tainted (Lisen of Solsta Book 2) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]Blooded (Lisen of Solsta Book 3) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]

The Battle of Barkow by [Simmonds, Paul]The Reaper (The Fallen Conviction) by [Matthew James Stanley]

Cassie's Marvelous Music Lessons by [Poe-Pape, Sheri]The Passer by [Christophersen, Robin]

“Books are the original “golden tickets.”  They grant us passage to Hogwarts, flights across galaxies, or desert treks with Alexander.  Books document that which we were, what we are, and who we may become.” – Kwen Griffeth, author of The Law of Moses

Visit the Hungry Monster Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

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

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A Thief and a Master of Code

Danny Estes Author Interview

Danny Estes Author Interview

In The Paranoid Thief Randolph finds himself thrown into a strange cell after being tried and convicted for an atrocious murder he did not commit. What was the inspiration for the setup of this novel?

At work and as an author, I use computers all the time. Because of the complexity of programming, only those who constantly read up and experiment with programming code can truly understand how to create the world we now live in. But as a writer I can briefly pretend I’m apart of these masters of code. Yet I’d like to be more. So Randolph came into being. A thief and master of code. Still, the start of the book had to introduce Randolph in way the reader could catch his personality and some of his flaws. As for the set up for the first few chapters, I simply considered what would happen if companies took over the global economy.

The Paranoid Thief is told from Randolph’s point of view and we’re often treated with a humorous look at the world through his eyes. How do you find moments of levity in dramatic fantasy novels?

I love action adventure movies. Thus I try to write in a style which is not always serious. For me to do this, I picture myself as the main character and try to see the world I created through his or her eyes.

Randolph and Jill are intriguing and well developed characters. What was your inspiration for them and their relationship?

Although Randolph is purely fictional, I have met people who have a split personally. As I like to throw in surprises, something to make readers think, I thought what would happen if Randolph had no choice but to cope with someone whose personality swings far to the right and left. I’m also a bit of a romantic, thus after some trial-and-error Jill was born.

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

My next book is call Braxton Snow P.I. In this book animals are like people, and my main character is an arctic wolf. With luck I hope to have the story out in 2 to 4 months.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

The Paranoid Thief“In the year 2050, the United States is owned by corporations. Citizens are mere commodities used to make the already wealthy CEOs richer. Professional hacker and cat burglar RANDOLPH McCANN finds his skills sought after by average people seeking relief from the oppressive corporate system.

Then his newest client—a powerful city official—murders a family and leaves damning evidence aimed at him. As the court’s lethal injection crawls through his veins, Randolph vows eternal vengeance on the man responsible.

He awakens to find he’s been kidnapped from his execution by a corporation that uses death-row criminals to gain political power through theft and assassination. He’s assigned MAJOR JILL WANDER as a partner, a tough ex-military sniper with a dual personality who is also wrongly accused on the public record.

When a job goes south, they join forces off the grid. With Jill’s help, Randolph evades law enforcement and closes in on the man who double-crossed him. And he can clear Jill’s name at the same time—if only he can keep her from killing the wrong people.”

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Mistaken Judgments and Rash Conclusions

Phyllis A. Still Author Interview

Phyllis A. Still Author Interview

Defiance on Indian Creek is an enthralling story that follows a smart and courageous young girl on the eve of the Revolutionary war. What was the inspiration for the setup to this young adult novel?

I discovered the real Mary Shirley in a box of family genealogy documents I received from my uncle. As I researched an incident that took place when she was an eighteen-year-old mother of a two-year-old son, I knew her story had to be told. I realized Mary had to acquire tenacity and survival skills well before this event and, therefore,Defiance on Indian Creek, begins the series right before her thirteenth birthday on Indian Creek in now, Monroe County, West Virginia.

Defiance on Indian Creek takes a quiet frontier family and brings them to the forefront against an increasingly dangerous time in history. What research did you do to maintain the accuracy of that moment in history?

My online research of New River history revealed names, places, and leads to additional information. I printed articles, slid them into plastic coversheets, and placed them into large three-ring binders with dividers. I even used calendars. These calendars were marked with historic events of the time and place, along with the fictional plot line. Yes, I’m OCD, and the day I discovered Scrivener was a happy day.

I felt that the relationship between Mary and her father was deep and intriguing. What was the inspiration for their relationship and how did it develop as you wrote?

The close bond between Mary and her papa came naturally for me. I was blessed to have a “Daddy’s girl” bond with my own father. I plotted the story to include the mistaken judgments and rash conclusions all teen girls experience. Mary’s disbelief in her papa’s actions fueled her defiance. I raised three close-in-age daughters to adulthood and experienced these clashes. Most teens really do love their parents but don’t let on.

Defiance on Indian Creek is book one in the Dangerous Loyalties series. Where does book two take readers and when will it be available?

Mary’s recent emotional trauma worsens when the family flees Indian Creek ahead of angry men who are seeking Papa’s life. But they’re not taking Daniel Boone’s trail to Kentucky territory. They’re traversing the old hunter’s path to the rough-manned, frontier forts along the Clinch River—until they cross the Cumberland Gap—then they’re at the mercy of God to Fort Boonesborough. I’m hoping for a summer 2017 release date for book two.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Defiance on Indian Creek“Emotionally riveting adventure, survival, and precarious family relationships are weaved into this teen historical about Mary Shirley–a brave, tenacious thirteen-year-old girl who lives on the remote frontier of West Virginia in 1775 at the onset of the American Revolutionary War.

Cooped up in a dimly lighted cabin with her seven siblings and Momma, Mary dreams of a peaceful future with friends and suitors. But she’s worried about her family’s survival.

When Papa returns home with news that the Indians have agreed to stay away from the Western settlements, Mary breathes a sigh of relief. But when he speaks of pending revolutionary war against Britain, declares his loyalty to King George III, and plans to move to Kentucky territory, Mary is confused and afraid.

She discovers mysterious surveys with riddles and a hidden box in the barn that contains secret documents. When she witnesses Papa betray a patriot neighbor at a nearby fort and later reads a disturbing letter that implicates him as a traitorous spy, Mary is ashamed of him. He is endangering the family, and she must find a way to change his mind. Her emotional struggles lead to lost trust and acts of defiance.

When Papa returns deathly ill from a survey job and asks Mary to deliver a lifesaving dispatch, she balks. Is loyalty to Papa more important than loyalty to the revolutionary cause? Lives are in danger no matter what choice she makes.”

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On A Hero’s Journey

Rocco Ryg Author Interview

Rocco Ryg Author Interview

The Genocide Gene is the third book in the thrilling Onryo Saga and continues the adventures of the teenage superheroes in their fight to save humanity. I felt this story was very well written. What is your experience as a writer?

In addition to term papers in grad school, I wrote fanfiction about my favorite shows growing up. It was great practice to hone my craft and experiment with my original concepts. As fun as that was, nothing beats creating original characters and guiding them on a hero’s journey.

One thing that stands out to me in The Genocide Gene is the creativity embedded in this world. What was your inspiration for creating such and imaginative world?

As I was researching Africa, I had to come up with ways to integrate what I had learned into a creative storyline. I read about the business of portable gas stoves, so I had a battle in a factory. I read about the African boda-boda drivers, so I envisioned a chase scene on their mopeds. Every time I read something interesting, I wondered how I can utilize it in an exciting way.

I also created my own African country so that I could integrate the culture, history and issues of other countries into it, such as civil wars and age-old divisions brought about by European colonization. That way, I could write about the political problems of places such as Uganda, the Congo, South Africa and others all at once.

The Genocide Gene has an intriguing setup to a novel that is high in social commentary. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?

Bringing people together in harmony has always been my main goal, whether it be American liberals and conservatives or feuding African tribes. I wanted to present a war-torn nation keep impoverished and dysfunctional due to prejudice and hatred, but it was important to show people of other backgrounds getting along in spite of what their groups teach them. While the political extremists seek to tear their nation apart through fear, those who serve the cause of unity and understanding are the only ones who can bring peace to their people. While my conclusion can’t happen in real life, I can only keep the faith that the people of these lands find ways to bring about prosperity.

When will the fourth book in the Onryo saga be available and where will it take readers?

The Tree of Zaqqum will take readers to Israel/Palestine, and others Middle Eastern locations too. My heroes will have to stop a mysterious mastermind and his followers from destroying cities with stolen WMDs and quantum technology. Their friendship is further tested as Chikara gains a new ally that may become something more.

I’m still in the research phase at that moment, but the story is coming together piece by piece. I’m guess it may take two years to complete.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

The Genocide Gene (The Onryo Saga Book 3) by [Ryg,Rocco]“It has been only a few months since Chikara Kaminari was given strange powers and a mission from her precognitive mother. Joined by her friends Renka and Gen, she traveled the world and stopped a band of super-powered extremists from imposing their will upon humanity. Now, a new menace has surfaced to threaten the lives of millions.

In the segregated African nation of Ghadhia, two fanatical brothers are scheming to ignite a new civil war and commit genocide against the tribes they have been raised to hate. The heroic trio must unite with new friends and old enemies to stop them, facing African terrorists, Afrikaner supremacists and enraged mobs along the way. But as Chikara and her friends journey further into the heart of darkness, their deepest fears and hidden feelings threaten to tear their friendship apart.”

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A Frontier With No Kings

M. Walsh

The Jinxed Pirate has a delightful cast of characters from the mercenary to the tragic warrior princess with a splash of other-worldly beings as well. How did you set about creating such a colorful cast of characters?

I enjoy playing with tropes and conventions usually found in genre stories, and I guess most of my characters came about from just asking questions. Not necessarily looking to deconstruct, but seeing what can happen if a story or character zigged where it might normally zag in a more traditional telling.

What happens if a hero, who’s been led to believe she is the Chosen One, ultimately discovers her destiny meant absolutely nothing? What if the proverbial “Hero’s Journey” ended, not with a great triumph or even a bang, but a fizzle? To exist in a world where there really is tangible, objective “pure evil” … for one thing, just how surreal would that be, but also how would people define their morality in the face of it? And in such a world, where demonic creatures just ARE evil, what if one somehow turned out to be a decent, kind-hearted person? We’ve seen plenty of roguish scoundrels who love a good fight … but wouldn’t something have to be severely wrong with such a person to get that much enjoyment from violence?

I also like mixing tropes or concepts from different genres and seeing how they gel or clash. For example, even though he doesn’t actually appear in The Jinxed Pirate, the Enforcer is essentially a slasher-movie villain thrown into a fantasy adventure. I like seeing what can happen when varying genres intermingle.

Once I start thinking about these question, several characters start to take shape, and then it’s a matter of throwing them all together and taking them to their logical—or absurd, or surreal, or horrific—conclusion.

Who was your favorite to write for?

I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise my three main leads—Katrina, Krutch, and Lily—are my favorites. I’m not sure I could pick one, especially as their arcs fluctuate with the story. Katrina is the most fun to write when she’s tormented about her past and trying to rein in her temper. Krutch is most fun when things get out of his control and he’s frantically trying to bluff or botch his way through trouble. And Lily when she’s conflicted about her own nature and trying to be a good person in spite of what she is.

I feel like the world you’ve created in The Jinxed Pirate is brimming with possibility. What was your inspiration for Graylands and how did it evolve as you wrote?

Most of my main protagonists were created separately, and I only had a vague notion they would exist in the same world. Since most of the archetypes and tropes I liked playing with—destiny, good & evil, etc.—were best suited to fantasy, I needed a sandbox for them. So Graylands began as a pretty stock Tolkien-esque world of medieval villages, knights, wizards, and demons.

When thinking about what I wanted my world to be, it occurred to me the standard fantasy setting is usually modeled after medieval Europe because that’s what Tolkien did. However, Tolkien based Middle-Earth on that for a specific reason. He wanted to create a distinctly European mythology that was based on Europe’s history and culture.

As an American, we don’t really have a medieval times in the United States. The closest we have is the frontier times and Wild West. So I decided to take the standard medieval country of knights, swords, and wizards and depict that through an American frontier/Wild West filter, and as a result, Graylands took shape as a land where people would flee their ‘old world’ for the new one—whether for freedom, escape, or to just disappear. A frontier with no kings or emperors and a loosely defined system of law, ideal for my cast of misfits, difters, and outlaws.

The pirate Krutch Leeroy is an intriguing character that is meticulously developed. What were some hurdles in the story that you felt were important to the characters development?

When I first began outlining the story, I thought Katrina would be the more active figure in Seba. I assumed she would pose as a mercenary and infiltrate Clock’s organization while trying to find Jagger, leaving Krutch as a more passive, almost comic relief character. Everyone would assume he was the mastermind behind everything, when in reality he’d be trying to mind his own business.

But after the first draft I realized that wasn’t going to work. Katrina didn’t reach Seba until the mid-point of the story, and our introduction to the city and its various players wound up through Krutch’s POV. He needed to be more engaged and active, otherwise we would’ve been left with a tedious series of scenes where Krutch meets someone, they talk at him, and he doesn’t react. It also created a question of why he doesn’t just leave if he doesn’t like these people bothering him.

So I needed Krutch to actually want to be in Seba and have a goal. It soon occurred to me that a logical question to address was, if everyone believes Krutch Leeroy is this dangerous bad-ass, why doesn’t he embrace it and enjoy himself? If his attempt at playing a hero in The Ghost Princess blew up in his face (literally), maybe he should try playing villain?

Audra and how he responded to her was also important. In the first draft, she was an unwanted companion tagging along against his wishes, and it was fairly obvious she might be trouble. So I adjusted her character to make her more appealing and have him more open to a relationship with her, which turned out fitting with the other protagonists being tempted by a seeming ally—Scifer for Katrina, and Dust for Lily.

Running with that, I was pleased to find Krutch developed a pretty solid arc through the story that fit thematically with the other characters’ efforts to find themselves and decide who they want to be—or, in Krutch’s case, what he isn’t.

The Jinxed Pirate seems like it’s ripe for series. Is there another book in the works?

Yes, definitely. As of right now, I’m debating whether to jump into the third book or to try something different, but the Graylands story will continue. We’ll see Vincent Dune and his army steamrolling around the country, which will lead to conflict with Trayze Kilnerova and war for control of Graylands.

Everyone’s going to get caught in the middle of this coming battle. Lily, by chance, finds herself a target of Trayze. Katrina and Krutch will both get caught up in this mess, and they will actually meet in the next book, finally. Lock is searching for Cassie, and as Dune was the one who kidnapped her, he’s going to end up going in that direction. Cassie, meanwhile, is trying to find her way home and along the way might find “help” from a certain scar-faced serial killer. And there’s the Elder Demon the Jackal unleashed flying around.

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The Jinxed Pirate (Graylands, #2)“Graylands is where people go when they don’t want to be found.

Within this unsettled country of drifters and outlaws is a city where the worst of the worst gather. A place of thieves, brigands, and murderers known as Seba. In Seba, law is an illusion and order is kept through cruelty and bloodshed.

On the run from Sentry Elite and bounty hunters, supposed pirate Krutch Leeroy finds himself in this bloody city where his infamous reputation garners him the attention of Seba’s various feuding powers. Despite his efforts to lay low, Krutch is soon caught in the center of backstabbing schemes and deadly plots.
Meanwhile, after the disaster on the Blind Cliffs, fallen princess Katrina Lamont finds herself nearing rock bottom. Her drinking and temper worse than ever, she sets out on a desperate quest to find what remains of her people. Her journey will also lead her to Seba, where she will tread the line between salvation and damnation.

Amidst this are the Synclaires–a family just moved to Graylands in the hope of a fresh start. However, chance of fate and rash decisions will draw the family into a sinister plot that threatens to bring tragedy and doom to their door

As Krutch, Katrina, and the Synclaires face threats from all sides, they will each unwittingly find themselves caught in a battle that may destroy the delicate balance keeping Seba from consuming itself in chaos.”

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