Kathryn Berryman’s Erinland infuses Christianity into ancient rites while catapulting 21st Century characters into a 9th Century Viking war. Two teens, Amy and Richard, serve as threads in an intricate tapestry of historical fiction. Sharing the weave is Aiden, a monk protecting valuable antiquities with his life.
The story moves along through the points of view of one of the three most important characters. When Amy and Richard land in their respective, opposing villages, they are fully embraced. Both are long-awaited reincarnations of gods of the time. We’d expect the teenagers to feel displaced and confused, but they adapt quickly.
Berryman provides much in the way of Viking history, landscape, and relic description. Erinland is driven by her vast interest in these. We learn much lore through the tale of these ordinary, troubled children endowed with extraordinary powers from the glorious beings they represent. Berryman’s depictions of the cultures during the time are lovely and detailed as she describes their villages, clothing, and lifestyles. “The kransen, a gilt circlet worn on the head by unmarried girls, is removed from the young bride to be. It is a symbol of her virginity. The kransen is wrapped up by the bride’s attendants and put away until the birth of her eldest daughter who it will pass to.” (Page 194).
In Berryman’s desire to share her knowledge, she writes long monologues. These establish her as a credible authority on ancient history, but do so at the expense of natural dialogue. After suddenly being transported in time, the three primary characters are plunked down and force-fed tons of information. “Richard listened closely to Vagn as he spoke. It was a lot of information to absorb.” (Page 325).
The lack of meaningful exchanges sacrifices character development. This is particularly true for Amy, but less so for Richard. Relating to the characters is essential for us to want to read on.
Because war is the foundation of the plot, we may find it difficult to suspend belief when we are told the teens can learn how to become warriors in a few afternoons. Berryman relies upon descendent memory to take care of the problem. “Familiarise yourself with our ways. Your memories will return. A son of Odin retains his father’s essence and with it his memories and might.” (Page 183).
In the end Erinland is a fascinating story that fuses mythology with well-choreographed battle scenes.
Pages: 278 | ASIN: B01MR9IAQL
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A Small Bronze Gift Called Mirror follows Lydia who is a sixteen-year-old girl living at a boarding school when the headmaster of the school forces Lydia to compete in a mirror contest. What was the inspiration for this very imaginative story?
A quote from Plato’s Apology of Sokrates served as my inspiration for my story:
“something divine and spiritual comes to me, (…) I have had this from my childhood; it is a sort of voice that comes to me, and when it comes it always holds me back from what I am thinking of doing, but never urges me forward.” – Plato’s Apology of Sokrates- 31d. What if we could not only hear this divine and spiritual voice, but also give it a face? Would we be satisfied with the image? Would it be what we imagined it to be or would it be what others expect it to be?
Lydia is a strong-willed, independent teen who takes matters into her own hands. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
Like most characters of the story, Lydia has many challenges to overcome and a difficult task to carry. She faces a lot of issues that people today struggle with. That require many morals and values like self-respect, compassion, altruism and justice. Lydia is a strong-willed young girl, who changes and develops these values as she grows up.
The story has a wonderfully unique take on magic mirrors that’s different from the fairy tale version. How did this idea come to you and how did you develop it into a story?
From the beginning I wanted somebody for Lydia to talk to, because it’s not easy for a child to be left grow up alone. This resulted in the creation of Phoebus, who could prove to be a true friend or an enemy. I tried to show how difficult it is for us today to protect ourselves from bad influences. That’s why the reflections in the mirrors are often shaped by how we perceive ourselves through the manipulation of the others.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Currently I’m writing another mystery novel about two very different people, which have nothing in common until they bump on each other. It will be available as soon as the English translation is finished.
“A small bronze gift called “Mirror” follows the story of Lydia, who is forced to go on the run at the age of 6 when her mother is murdered. Protected by her grandmother, Lydia’s life is shrouded in mystery, compounded by the small bronze gift she was given and which she calls ‘mirror’.
At the age of 12, Lydia is left in the care of Mrs. M, and is given a place at a school filled with unusual characters. When she arrives there Lydia discovers that all the children have the same ‘mirror’ as she does. But it’s when she starts to learn how to use it that the real story unfolds and she must undertake a remarkable journey.”
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Move over, Homer. These aren’t your gods and goddesses anymore. Angelina Kerner puts a whole new spin on the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods in her book Deity’s Soulmate. Our usual suspects are there: Athena, Zeus, Hera, Hermes, Hades and others. We’re introduced to a new structure of the world thanks to the first person perspective of a young goddess, Gardenia. At first, we’re not sure who she is as she leads us through the universes to the Milky Way Galaxy. She comes across humanity in their bloody splendor immediately. This shatters what she has been taught about humans. Not all is what she has been told. It’s time for Gardenia to learn the real way of the world. She has a place in her family’s pantheon, but will she be twisted around the thread of a Fate first? This entertaining story about gods, goddesses, dragons and the creation of worlds is the first installment in what is sure to be an amazing trilogy.
While most of us have perceptions about the gods and goddesses from ancient Greece and Rome, seeing Hera in a black suit with white stilettos is definitely an interesting image. Kerner builds her world in a fascinating way. Yes, there have been more ‘modern’ interpretations of such heavenly beings before, but the way Kerner does it makes the reader feel like this is how they have always been. Her description on the creation of galaxies and worlds, giving each god and goddess an entire mini universe to be responsible for is an interesting take on the creation myth. She does not deny the science of a world being born yet the way she peppers that in with the mystical ability of the gods and goddesses seems natural.
This book is more than just what the gods and goddesses get up to in their spare time. Gardenia is a very new, very young goddess. She is scorned by the majority of her family and she strives to show them she is not someone to be taunted. However in the beginning she is just that: young. Barely alive for eighteen years, which is less than a wink for immortal beings; she is taken advantage of and manipulated by the Fates. Even on the brink of death she does not give in. She is a strong, fiercely independent young lady. She realizes she’s been dealt a bad hand at life and is determined to make more out of it than anyone expects. To this end, she journeys. She travels across galaxies in her search for teachers older than her family: dragons. These mystical beings that hold the power of creation yet can’t be bothered with using it.
A coming of age story is wrapped up inside a mystical journey. Not only is Gardenia searching for herself, she is striving to rise above the path that has been laid out for her. The eternal question on whether or not someone can change their ‘fate’ is addressed in this delightful read. Deity’s Soulmate by Angelina Kerner sports beautiful illustrations and a fantastic story to match. Will Gardenia change her future? Or will she be a pawn of the Fates? Only time will tell.
Pages: 180 | ASIN: B06Y1GCCF5
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The Sky Throne is a tale set in Ancient Greece and follows young Zeus who finds himself entangled in a conflict that reaches the slopes of Mount Olympus itself. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Many myths feature deities as fully grown. Since I’m a young adult author, I wanted to re-imagine them as adolescents. I wanted to try to use the myths as a base from which to pull, and then use their grown personalities to drill down and perhaps find out how they came to be that way.
The story has roots in the Greek mythology. Do you read books from that genre? What were some books that you think influenced The Sky Throne?
I’ve read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, The Odyssey, The Illiad, The Aeneid. I’ve also read some young adult books that feature Greek deities, or at the very least, their offspring. Such titles include Tera Lynn Childs’ Oh. My. Gods. and Sweet Venom, Jennifer Estep’s Touch of Frost, and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.
I enjoyed seeing these mythological gods as young angst filled teens. I found Zeus to be a very well written and in depth character. What was your inspiration for his emotional turmoil through the story?
Once I set Zeus on his path, I just tried to get as far inside his head as I could. I did find some inspiration from various bits of movies, though no single movie stands out.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?
I am currently writing book 2 of The Sky Throne, tentatively called The High Court. It will be released in spring of 2018.
“When the family of young Zeus is attacked by Hyperion, Zeus’s mother is knocked unconscious and his best friend is left for dead. Stacking epic insult upon fatal injury, Zeus discovers the woman who raised him is not his biological mother. But to ensure her safety while she recovers, a heavyhearted Zeus leaves her behind to seek answers at Mount Olympus Preparatory Academia. Zeus embarks on a quest to discover who ordered the attack on his home, avenge the death of his friend, and find his birth mother. When some of his new schoolmates vanish, Zeus’s quest is turned upside down, and the only way to make things right is to access the power of the Sky Throne, confront a most dangerous enemy, and take his life back. On his way to becoming king of the Greek gods, Zeus will learn to seize power, neutralize his enemies, and fall in love.”
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The Sky Throne, by Chris Ledbetter, is a tale set in Ancient Greece. Zeus, a youthful prankster, finds himself entangled in a conflict that reaches the slopes of Mount Olympus itself. Living a life as an unknown, Zeus’s world changes entirely with the violent attack by an Elder deity, Hyperion. Zeus, seeking an answer for this attack, finds himself at Mount Olympus Preparatory Academia. He finds sanctuary and a temporary reprieve from the sorrow that haunts him, but trouble still follows him. Students and faculty begin to vanish from Olympus, which leaves Zeus and his peers to solve the mystery.
Ledbetter takes the best pieces of contemporary YA and gives them their own mythological flare. The academia of Harry Potter becomes the independent schools of the Mediterranean and Aegean. The survival of The Hunger Games is embodied by Zeus’s ingenuity throughout the story. Even tones of Red Rising can be felt in the opening pages of the very humble beginnings of a character we have known about for thousands of years. The breadth of the world is very thorough, and will please any Grecophile. Ledbetter covers everything from Crete to Tartarus, and all that lies in between.
These very familiar characters from mythology are made a new by being “made young” and formed into literal student roles. The twist on these old figures was one of the reasons why I kept turning the page. This, and the mystery of Zeus’s parentage, kept me enthralled with the character; especially since Zeus is a character that not only grows and changes throughout the book, but becomes endeared to the reader. For example, he consistently struggles with how to flirt with girls!
The actual pacing itself is done quite well. Within the first dozen pages, the reader feels the very real consequences of violence and aggression and the plot only gathers speed from there. It especially begins to escalate when the real threat against Olympus Prep arises and Zeus begins to show the true core of his character, to the delight of the reader.
If anything negative can be said against the plot and world building of the book itself, I would say that Ledbetter’s technical skill could use a bit of Olympus grace. While reading, I found some of the sentences awkward, while others were quite unnecessary based on context. This forced me out of the story. Beyond that, I found the dialogue to be inconsistent along the lines of pushing melodrama or self-deprecating humor. This is not to disregard the appreciation I had for his presentation of different cultures that actually did have their own way of speaking.
All of this taken into account, the reader of YA literature will not be disappointed. Following in the footsteps of Rick Riordan, yet also striking out on his own when his path diverges, is not a feat to be taken lightly. Ledbetter achieves this with brilliant originality and a story uniquely his own.
Pages: 324 | ASIN: B06W5LXJFN
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The Wanderer’s Last Journey opens to Orfeo being kidnapped by mysterious strangers and heroes from all over the Aegean join forces in the quest to find the lost prince. What excited you the most to write this 4th book in the Orfeo saga?
This book was the one that involved a trip to the New World. There have been many theories about Mediterranean contact with the New world, and I knew that in some ways the plot would be “far out.” Interestingly, there have been traces of cocaine found in ancient Egyptian mummies, so I had a plausible reason for travel. I did not want to fall into the well worn idea that any contact with the New World would be from a more advanced “European” culture. I think I portrayed the contact as one involving matched but very different cultures. In fact, Orfeo was taken in order to be a symbol that could be manipulated by extremely savvy leaders.
The Wanderer’s Last Journey has all the makings of a classic fantasy epic, as the rich and evocative world is as intriguing as it is intricate. Did you set out to create such a detailed world or did it happen organically?
I would like to say that I planned it all. In reality the Orfeo Saga happened book by book for the first few, and then I had an idea of a wider sweep later on. This novel marks the beginning of a larger plan. At the end of the day it is all about writing about interesting periods in history. What could be more interesting than a very early journey to the New World? What if that culture could be just as treacherous and manipulative as any in the Mediterranean? Of course I had fun with this part of the book. The second part of the book, dealing with Sparta, also has a bit of humor. However, I explored how dangerous a defeated people can be. Sparta will of course emerge during the Classical period as a very serious threat to Athens. More to the point Sparta will also emerge as a threat in my (fictional) Bronze Age Orfeo Saga. I have many more books planned.
The Iliad seems to be a source of inspiration for this book and your love of this period clearly shows. What is it about Greek/Roman mythology that you find interesting?
I read a huge amount of Greek and Roman mythology when I was younger. I had to take Latin in school and I always found myself wanting to read at a much higher level than my Latin ability would allow. I finally decided on a career in psychiatry. At the time Greek and Roman myths were mined for their insights into human nature. They express rather unvarnished characters (good and bad, sometimes in the same character). I was really interested in motivations, and of course the biggest motivation of all. There is phrase “collective unconscious” that coneys something like “cultural memory.” I am not sure that anything like that exists as an entity, but as a concept there is something to that. People collectively wanted to move their culture and civilization on to other things. I am not so silly as to think that everything in society just keeps on getting better, but there is something in that argument!
Where does the story go in book 5 of the Orfeo saga?
There is unfinished business in Babylon. Zinaida has been put on the throne in Orfeo 2, and now she feels like she should exert the power of Babylon to conquer her neighbors. Orfeo 2 dealt with Babylon using military force. This novel introduces a new character called Cyrus. He is extremely resourceful and takes up the identity of a merchant. He is a character that I will use in some future novels. I like the fact that he is not just simply a warrior or even a Wanderer. He becomes something entirely different.
“A Powerless Prisoner: A Captive God
No one is sure when the New World deity Quetzalcoatl was first worshipped. The god-man can be portrayed as a feathered serpent – and also associated with a bright green bird of the same name – but he was worshipped in a variety of ways by various cultures. Some versions of the myth state that he was a man with light hair, beard, blue eyes, and light skin. After helping humankind, he was said to have returned to his home, promising to return. It is not surprising that he has been identified as a Viking by some historians (and as an extraterrestrial by more adventuresome scholars). The Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II is reputed to have initially believed that when Hernán Cortés appeared in 1519 Quetzalcoatl had returned.
Here Orfeo has been kidnapped by a New World tribe. They plan keep him as a prisoner while presenting him to a subjugated populace as a god. He has no desire to live his life in a gilded cage. His wife, Clarice, his aging mentor, Zurga, and the jack of all trades, Daryush, must cross the ocean to save their friend. They soon find they are involved in a civil war between the Nastases and Ixtlans. It will take all their cunning to rescue Orfeo and get back alive. Back at home a war is brewing between Sparta and Pylos. This time Zurga is not there to keep the peace.”
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The Chimaera Regiment follows Hector as he sets off on a world altering journey. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
The first idea that I incorporated into this story, or what eventually became this story, was the question, “What if someone compelled a worldwide society, perhaps not far into our future, back to a level of technology and culture comparable to the very first tribal communities?” Of course, by the time I wrote the book, I had decided to aim for something closer to the late Bronze or early Iron Age than the Stone Age, and the whole question became part of the world-building rather than a story I tell during the book.
The character of Hector started to develop as I began to catalogue ideas and lay out a basic plan of the plot. Up to that point, I had never completed anything longer than a short story (in spite of my best efforts), so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for myself to get all the way through a novel. To that end, I took that advice so frequently bandied about, “Write what you know,” and decided to make the hero someone a little younger than I was at the time.
The first draft of the novel was quite a bit shorter than it is now, and it ended up collecting dust in a box for a few years. (I prefer to write first drafts by hand.) Around the time a movie was released with, by total coincidence, my working title, I decided to go back to it and see what I could make of it. By that point, I had gotten a college degree and learned enough to know that the first draft had a good core, but the implementation was all wrong. Over the next couple of years, I went through the entire book and rewrote it, this time trying to make sure all the pieces aligned. It was at this point that I incorporated mythology into the story and titled it The Chimaera Regiment.
That initial idea is still in there, and you can see the edges of it as the backstory develops through this book, but I’m going to explore that question more closely in future books.
I think the story has roots in mythology. Do you read books from that genre? What were some books that you think influenced The Chimaera Regiment?
It does, and I do. My bachelor’s degree is focused on the Classics, which some may have heard called Classical Studies or (my favorite) Classical Philology, so I learned Latin and ancient Greek and I read a lot of Greco-Roman mythology, both in English and in the original languages. (My knowledge of Norse mythology is pretty limited, I’ve barely touched Egyptian mythology, and I’m as clueless as the next guy when it comes to anything else.)
For The Chimaera Regiment in particular, I looked to a lot of different sources for inspiration. What I wanted, perhaps most of all, was to craft a story that people would enjoy regardless of their educational background, but I also wanted to include a lot of “Easter eggs” for people with the same knowledge-base I have. So on the surface you have Hector on his quest to save the world from the Chimaera Regiment, and underneath that, I’m incorporating themes and plotlines from the myth of Bellerophon. Bellerophon, of course, was the hero that killed the Chimaera in the Greek mythos. Most of that particular tale comes to us from the writings of Apollodorus and one section of Homer’s Iliad, but there are a lot of minor references in other works, too.
While the myth of Bellerophon and the Chimaera is interwoven with the main plot, I also included references to other myths, both significant and minor, throughout. The vast majority of those can be found in Homer (either the Iliad or the Odyssey), Vergil (the Aeneid), or Ovid (the Metamorphoses), but to be honest, I enjoyed the process of hiding those references so much that I’m not completely sure I could tell you all of them at this point!
I found the characters in this story to be complex and engaging. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
Especially when it came to Hector, whom we follow more closely than anyone else, I wanted something realistic. I find a lot of “coming of age” hero stories jump too quickly from “callow youth” to “great warrior” without much reason for it. I didn’t want my readers to ask, “Wait, why can he do that? How come he’s not daunted by this fight or fazed by this tragedy? When did he have time to learn strategy?” Incorporating that development was important to me.
When it came to the other characters, it was a matter of establishing ideals for each of them—how they saw the world, how they expected life to go—and then challenging those ideals with reality. Sometimes reality is better than they thought, but usually, it’s worse; either way, they have to adjust to deal with that. It’s a process not altogether different from the way we deal with change in our own lives.
I find a problem in a well written stories in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planned?
There is a second book planned (and, very roughly, a third). The sequel is titled The Aegipan Revolution and picks up, not where the main story of The Chimaera Regiment leaves off, but rather where our epilogue leaves off, with the child learning this epic tale from his history.
I’m in the midst of writing The Aegipan Revolution, and I’ve passed the halfway point, but there is still a lot left to tell. After that, I’ll need to edit it thoroughly (though hopefully not as slowly as the first book!). On top of that, my day job has me incredibly busy these days. So I’d love to set a date for the next book’s release, but I can’t realistically estimate that right now.
It is late autumn in the 2040th year of the Sixth Era. For centuries, peace has reigned among the tribes of men, but as an early chill descends on the land, a new war looms from the south. Lord Derek, ruler of the Chimaera Regiment, seeks to reestablish the ancient Fylscem Empire under his banner, and he will stop at nothing to restore the dominion of his bloodline.
Before him lies the idyllic Valley of Kyros, home of the Alkimites, where the last direct heir of the old empire lives in ignorance. Guided by the ancient Guardian Lord Aneirin, Hector son of Abram must travel to the primeval capital of his heritage. There, in the Library of the Ancients, he must retrieve the three Blessed Blades of the Emperor, symbols of his authority. Agents of the Chimaera Regiment pursue him, and barbaric tribes stand in his way, but his path may unlock the secrets of the past, and it could bring light—or darkness—to the future.
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The Nightmare From World’s End is a science fiction thriller that begins when various people go missing along a river and a mythical squid may be to blame. What was the inspiration behind the idea for this book and how did that change as you were writing?
It was two things, actually. The first was an offhand comment by my wife one day while we were having lunch along the Hudson River. It was something out in the water that I took a grainy photo (zoom lens) and it came out looking like the classic ‘Loch Ness’ hoax photo. She looked at it and said: “Oh, that’s Ossie!”. “Indeed it is,” I replied, and so it started. The second was a massive crate I discovered along the shore of the Hudson after a big storm. It looked like it had been underwater for some time. That’s how it usually works – something I saw here, a comment there.
Along with that was a genuine curiosity about the American Indians that once populated this area, which go back at least 8,000 years. For me it’s a fluid process of researching and letting it inform the story as it develops. For example, I’d had the concept of the ‘Crazy Jack’ character for years, but dismissed the name as a product of me watching too many movies or TV shows. So, I initially wrote a scene where the American Indian anthropologist – Sarah Ramhorne – is saying as much. Then I discovered (to my shock) that in Munsee/Lenape mythology, there really is an enigmatic trickster named ‘Crazy Jack’. The joke was on me.
Native American folklore around the Hudson River area is a relevant theme within the book. What was the inspiration to infuse such rich culture in this novel?
So little is written about it yet aside from local names – Wappinger, Kitchawank, Weckuaesgeek, Sint Sinck – almost nothing remains of it here. It’s like a ghost hiding in plain sight. Many of the local tribes here were wiped out completely within a couple decades of first contact – we don’t even really know what they looked like. That naturally piqued my interest.
Is there anything that readers connect with in your story that surprises you?
People seem to really be into the characters in this one. That and the American Indian history. A frequent comment I get is: “Is all that stuff true?”. As far as I know, yes.
Your story makes mention of the ancient alien theory. Why did you include this in your novel?
Mainly it was by accident. I was at a local Indian pow-wow researching the story when I ran into an American Indian vendor who in a confidential tone started going off about ‘lost technology’, Atlantis and how the Indians ‘really’ got here in spaceships and had forgotten it. I immediately thought “This is too rich, I have to work this into the novel!” Then it became a running joke through the story: what if some real phenomena was going on to one side while everyone in the story is focused on the hoax phenomena happening on the other?
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Currently writing another novel for Severed Press titled The Lost World of Kharamu. It’s an updated take on Michael Crichton and Arthur Conan Doyle themes. It’s due out later this year – stay tuned.
In the aftermath of a major hurricane, a massive antique crate washes up on the shore of Raadsel Point. It’s smuggled cargo from the wreck of the Edmund Wood, an unregistered transport returning from a very unusual expedition. . . a ship that went down in the deepest and most dangerous part of the Hudson known as ‘The World’s End’. The nightmare creature it contains is about to unleash havoc on the citizens of the sleepy river village of Wyvern Falls and inadvertently draw to it a predator thought extinct a millennia ago. It will come down to two people to figure out what both these creatures are and how to stop them: expat CID Detective John Easton and American Indian anthropologist Sarah Ramhorne. The two of them will have to unravel local Indian myths, outmaneuver a corrupt mayor, a failing Ancient Astronaut Theorist TV show and an overzealous Green Folk Festival if they are to stand any chance of saving the day.
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The Nefarious, Noble and Nocturnal is a collection of short stories that follow three ghostly women and a vampire. How did this collection come together for you? Did you write them individually over time, or did you set out to write a compilation?
My short story compilation came together when I was getting my apartment organized one weekend this past summer and found some college ruled notebooks. From notations I had made in side margins, all four of them had been written years ago. Frankly, I had forgotten all about them. They appear in chronological order; “Another Helen’s Haircomb” was written in 2011 and is the oldest. The last short story, “There’s Always Another One,” was finished in 2014. As readers can see, even with all of them combined, the cumulative word total is less than 8,500 words, but I remembered that while I attended business college I had enjoyed various compilations and Reader’s Digest editions during breaks from classes. An idea of putting four of my own writing projects together grew more and more appealing to me, so I ran with it. Pun intended.
I really like the cover of the book. How did you decide on what cover to choose?
I appreciate what you wrote about the cover for my compilation, many people have had similar comments, for which I’m grateful. But credit doesn’t belong to me. The Chief Executive Officer of my publisher, Captive Quill Press, is also an author friend of mine, Kenya, and that attractive, haunting woman on “The Nefarious, Noble and Nocturnal” cover was Kenya’s idea. She said market research showed potential consumers react with more interest when a striking female model appears on a book, especially when it is in the paranormal fiction genre. I trust my friend’s savvy, so I approved her suggestion.
I consider this a thrilling paranormal romance collection. Do you read books in that genre? Are there any books in that genre that have influenced you over the years?
Yes, I do read paranormal romances. Perhaps that’s unusual for bachelors, but my reasoning is there’s more opportunity for the creative half of my brain to engage when I read stories with supernatural content, and I can immerse myself with the element of “what if” because it makes for great entertainment, a great escape from my work life which is compartmentalized, ordered. I see enough drab, plain stuff everyday.
I want my imagination to have adventures.
Stephen King’s “Bag of Bones” influenced me to write “Intervention” in particular.
I felt that the characters had a lot of depth. What ideas did you have about your characters when you started and how did that change as you were writing?
As I mentioned earlier, “Another Helen’s Haircomb” was written in 2011, so I can’t remember specific ideas about my characters as I wrote at the time, but the reason I thought it was so important to include within The Nefarious, Noble and Nocturnal is our basic human curiosity and awe when it comes to the vastness of eternity. However, what dove tails with that concept is simply no matter how many technological advances are made, we’re still much like my fictional character of Helen from ancient Athens, in that we grieve and love deeply. Furthermore, according to what I’ve read and heard over my life span, thirteen-year-old girls, especially those who have faced traumatic incidents (such as the loss of a parent), seem to be more apt to accept paranormal manifestations they witness. I took some liberty with a father “rolling with the punches” too, granted, but I thought it was reasonable if I demonstrated a dad and his daughter seeking to adapt as best they could together. Where my other three short stories are concerned, the characters remained as originally written, except for Moira in “There’s Always Another One.” When I did a final edit before I sent my file to you, I decided to make her a bit more complex. While I wanted her to keep a degree of seductiveness, it was vital for readers have a more pronounced idea that she’s no bubble-headed nymphomaniac who happens to be a vampire. She has an agenda, and she has every intention of carrying out her objective with a mercenary’s calculating, cold willfulness to succeed.
What is the next story that you are writing and when will that be published?
Currently, I’m in the process of writing a novel, still on its fifth chapter, which is a ghost story entitled “The Stein and the Studebaker: Book 1 of the Norseman Chronicles.” Another of Stephen King’s older works, “Christine,” is influencing me again, but there will be notable differences when my book is done this coming summer or autumn. For starters, King’s supernatural auto, a 1958 Plymouth Fury, is written as a homicidal, vengeful wraith on wheels. By contrast, the 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk in my story is motivated by a desire to see justice is brought to bear for a murder investigation that went cold in 1960. My intent is to have the story written sometime between June and October of 2017, but I have no idea how long it will take to get the book published after that. Oh, and it will be the first of a trilogy series.
Readers, prepare yourselves, and embark on a supernatural journey spanning the battlefield of Marathon in ancient Greece to the present day in America’s Pacific Northwest. Three long distance runners will encounter ghosts, one falls in love with a beautiful vampire who has an agenda, and all four will cross very different finish lines, whether they’re ready or not.
Posted in Interviews
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Zurga’s Fire takes place in historical Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean and is broken up into four books filled with short tales of adventure. What was the inspiration for this third book in the Orfeo Saga?
The fictional universe laid out by Tolkien in Lord of the Rings was probably the series that got me thinking along the lines of an extended saga. I liked the way Tolkien used ancient sources to create heroic fiction. At the same time I wanted to be more historical like Robert Graves and his series I, Claudius. I wanted to write something that would not be fantastic, and which would not re-tread well known history. The Bronze Age offered scope to speculate. There are few written sources, but what there is offers scope to invent characters and place them in historical context.
Zurga’s Fire introduces the issue of nomads and how they impact civilization. I had been researching nomads for my other interest, Oriental carpets. Nomads were very effective warriors, and they could overwhelm sedentary societies. They did have one weakness, and that was leadership. Every group from that lead by Attila to Ghengis Khan eventually fell apart. A charismatic leader is essential for nomads. In Zurga’s Fire the leader of the nomads is eventually undone not so much by a face to face challenge, but by a crisis in leadership.
Why did you go with the format of short stories told as a collection?
This is a very good question. I really did not think about the format before I started writing the series. I wrote many short stories over a period of years that were never published. Looking back that was probably a good thing. I always liked reading short stories. I think I have a short attention span. The result is that I am quite comfortable writing short stories and I have structured my Orfeo Saga that way too. Many books in the Orfeo Saga are made up of two different stories which are divided into books. In contrast my other series about a Los Angeles based private eye (the Bart Northcote series) are entire novels.
I felt that the characters in this book were complex and well thought out. What was your favorite character to write for?
I think that the character I had the most fondness for was “Zurga.” I gave him a rather ridiculous name because the character went by many names. This name suggests that you cannot take the character seriously. Zurga likes to deceive people as to his true intentions, as well as build up a mythology around himself. Zurga realized early on that he would not be fully accepted. No one would ever select him as a leader. In contrast his protege Orfeo can become a leader. Again I was well aware of Orpheus in the Greek pantheon. While Orpheus was a gifted lute player, he is also credited introducing civilization to savages. My Orfeo character has some similarities with Orpheus, but I have taken all supernatural elements away.
I think of Zurga’s Fire as a historical adventure tale. Did you do any research to keep the setting and characters true?
I studied ancient and modern nomads for years. I read about them, their social structure, history, and particularly art. Many of my research trips were to see nomads making textiles, particularly Turkish speaking people. I knew that for the Bronze Age there were not good historical sources, so I filled in the blanks with what I understood from more modern nomadic groups. I tried to capture their lifestyle in the novel, without going into the nuts and bolts of their society. The interesting thing is that the Greeks had recently settled by the Bronze Age. In the novel they were well aware of the kind of enemy they faced. The same pattern repeats throughout history many times. A group settles and then the next group of nomads impinges on them. Every sedentary group has the same choice. They can fight or they can flee. For Zurga’s Fire I wanted to show how the nomads being horse riders and archers had an advantage. Sedentary society, with farmers, had fewer people who would naturally take on a warrior role. They could fortify cities to stop nomads, but that does not always work. That is the tension I wanted to accentuate in the book.
What does the next book in the Orfeo Saga take readers?
The next book is also divided into two main parts. The first part takes the characters to the New World. There has been a huge amount of scholarly speculation about the contacts between the Old and New Worlds. I think that there must have been limited contact between these two areas, but I am not sure that it occurred as early as the European Bronze Age. However, there was likely early contact. There was a report that a scientist had found traces of cocaine as well as nicotine in Egyptian mummies as early as 1000 BC. I think it is important to look at evidence with an open mind but have a healthy skepticism about big claims.The Orfeo Saga volume 4 has a bit more humor in it than other books in the series. I also thought it was important for Orfeo to take a greater role in his own fate. His teacher disappears during this story.
Part II of the book deals with the rise of Sparta. This is not as far-fetched as some people think. Archaeology is pushing the date for Spartan civilization further back in time. I try to post interesting links to the archaeology on my Facebook page.
The Getae inhabited the region on either side of the Lower Danube River, in what is today northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. They were in contact with ancient Greeks from an early date. Herodotus – writing in the 5th century BC – extols their martial spirit: “…when it lightens and thunders, they aim their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the god; and they do not believe that there is any god but their own.”
They ruthlessly incorporate conquered people into their society through enslavement, and are prepared to kill those who are not useful to their plans. They have no need for the luxuries of city life. Fighting in troops of mounted archers, they mock individual heroes. Getae have a long history of reducing enemies in deadly hails of arrows while not getting close enough to lose warriors in single combat. Here Orfeo and his warriors must deal with an expanding Getae empire during the heroic age of Greece. Vastly outnumbered, can they stop an invasion that threatens not only their lives, but also their entire culture?
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