Blog Archives

The Hazards of Adolescence

Robert Joe Stout Author Interview

Robert Joe Stout Author Interview

Miss Sally is a portrait of a young girl growing up in Texas in the 1930’s. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Primarily because I was living in Texas when I wrote it and my three daughters, though not yet in their teens, faced the hazards of adolescence, the coming of age which always is difficult and which Sally Halm, the protagonist of his novel, confronted in exaggerated form. I spent my boyhood in a small predominantly Protestant rural community and felt it important to portray what rural life was like for a contemporary audience.

The 1930’s are one of my favorite eras because of how much was going on across the country. Why did you choose this as the time period for your story?

My parents were severely affected by the “Great Depression”: they lost everything and had to start life anew in very changed circumstances. Texas was one of the states most affected by migration and the social changes that the Great Depression triggered. Mere survival became the primary preoccupation of millions of people. These are basic ingredients for the making of a novel.

Sally is a simple minded girl, she is not beautiful, and her family treats her this way. How did you set about capturing the thoughts and emotions of a young girl in the 1930’s?

I had a clear impression of Sally, who she was and what she was like, before I began and in the process of writing became Sally, at least to the extent of feeling what she felt, seeing the world as she experienced it, incorporating my own background of growing up in a socially restricted rural community where failed crops and tent revivals were a reality.

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

I’ve just completed a novella about how an incapacitating illness affects a marriage. It’s being considered by several editors. Also in the hands of editors is a recently compiled book of published short stories about Mexico. This fall I’m issuing as an ebook a nonfiction account of government repression of a teachers’ movement in Oaxaca, Mexico, which includes firsthand reporting. It’s to be called Kill the Teachers! And I’m beginning work on a freewheeling journalistic appraisal of the confused political and economic shenanigans involving the United States and Mexico.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Miss Sally: and the Sinners That God IgnoresThis is the story of a young girl’s painful initiation into womanhood: the discovery of sex without hope of love, and grief without the release of tears. The setting is rural Texas in the 1930s, a rough and tumble environment in which the thirteen-year-old Sally Halm questions but tries to appease her authoritarian mother’s religiosity, appeasement that leads to misguided attempts to seek a salvation that her environment ruptures
Sally’s father has distanced himself not only from his wife but Sally and her two older brothers and two older sisters. The mother’s ally is the son who hopes to become an evangelical minister; the rebel is Sally’s oldest sister, who Sally and the middle sister Hill’ry discover in a lovemaking tryst with a neighbor boy. Hill’ry is the family’s child protégé who is given privileges that Sally is denied and who Sally both envies and admires, attributes which tumble her into misadventures than Hill’ry sidesteps.

As Sally struggles to reconcile the concepts of “sin” and “salvation” that seem to dominate her life she ricochets between hope and rejection. Inspired by the testimony of a woman evangelist who recounted rising from degradation to achieve happiness and prosperity thanks to accepting Jesus as her personal savior Sally tries to emulate her but realizes “everything I do I do backwards, I can’t even sin without people laughing at me.”
Sent to live with relatives in another part of central Texas, Sally becomes infatuated with an older cousin whom she helps to milk and to breed a mare. Though supportive he’s a man who seems to hate himself, a hard drinker who has no use for religion and prefers the company of prostitutes than that of “churchy people.” Again Sally does things backwards and alienates him as she’s alienated others. Her decision to run away from family, from the she’s leading and has led, thrusts her into even greater entanglements, entanglements that make her realize how difficult it is to have one’s immortal soul saved, even when that’s all that one has left.

A reviewer cautioned, “You’ll love Miss Sally, but she’ll break your heart.”

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Just How Sordid

Tantra Bensko Author Interview

Tantra Bensko Author Interview

Remember To Recycle explores a twisted state of dystopian society run rampant with political tension and censorship as experienced through the eyes of a sordid slew of characters. How did you decide on the starting point for this novel and how did that help create the rest of the story?

Thank you for asking. I based the novel on current reality based on in-depth study of foreign policy and traditional patterns of involvement by intelligence agencies who use propaganda to skew public opinion toward a military agenda.

I began the book inspired by the guys who go through my recycling bins to take what they can sell; I made a recycler character who has a clever scheme to take what he learns about the people in the neighborhood that way. The idea made me chuckle, and I wanted to see what kind of goofy brilliance he might display. I also had often joked around with a housemate about the empty buildings across the street which are owned by the church. We’d see people go in and never come out. I was also inspired by our jokes about the counter-intuitive business choices of the local ice-cream truck driver. The truck indeed broadcasts the recording of a scolding woman’s voice, just like in the novel.

Though entertainment is the ultimate point of the book, my main serious goal with the book is to balance the propaganda about the White Helmets, though characters in the United States who had hear the stories about a group like them on the nightly news or watch the Hollywood movie about them.

This novel follows the introduction to Nancy and her relationship to the Agents of the Nevermind in book one, Glossolalia. Nancy has done sordid things in her past, but she was forced into it. In this book, she’s again given the chance to be a hero and make amends for her role in political intrigue, even if it means using the dirty skills she was raised with. Some methods are so dirty, she hardly even lets herself know just how sordid she can be. But like all the other POV characters, she has a good heart.

I chose the beginning scene because it was cinematic, with the dramatic contrast arising from Nancy relaxing at her unusual dwelling, chuckling at the anomalous sound of the ice-cream truck that never seem to make any sales. That prepares us for dark humor in the book. She’s being startled by the loud sound of a hard snowball smashing the glass of the window beside her head. She puts on her costume when she realizes someone outside might be looking at her, so we see how she’s been living “underground,” hoping no one recognizes her, in a somewhat primitive location, but someone mysteriously is communicating with her.

She finds a painted rock inside the snowball and the image reminds her of herself and her one friend, a lovely artist named Becky. Nancy has followed another such anonymous note to lead her to Becky in the past. So that beginning creates questions about the dynamics of some major characters, as it sets in motion Nancy’s sleuthing, and involves the reader in the mystery.

I remember the excitement of thinking of the snowball, with ice-cream and a rock inside, at the beginning. Most of the book was already written, but that image created a colorful motif that I went back and inserted through the novel. It was gratifying the way it drew a lot of elements together.

You’re able to weave together the intricate lives of a ragtag group of characters. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?

I focused on the theme of the heroism of examining and exposing social engineering, and the difficult choices, nobility and sacrifice that can entail.

I felt this story was very well written. What’s your experience as a writer?

I appreciate that. I’ve been writing all my life, as well as studying the form, not only for my benefit but for my students, as I teach fiction writing and edit manuscripts. I’ve explored a variety of genres; psychological suspense, which is the overarching category all the diverse books in the series fall into, fascinates me because of human psychology making propaganda and other forms of deception easy and bewildering, creating the need for answers. I love the feeling of figuring out the answers to such mysteries, such a rush, a shudder. It’s the perfect genre to dramatize the ability of intelligence agents working behind the scenes to gaslight the public. So, I read and watch movies and TV shows in that genre a lot, to understand what works best. I’m always studying more about fiction and screenwriting techniques. I learn as much from the screen as the page, and organize my books like movies.

This is book two in the Agents of Nevermind series. Where will book three take readers?

It continues the theme of the Agents who combine deception, mind control, blackmail, and occult practices. I’ve been including history about that intersection in the books, returning to certain historical figures such as John Dee and Edward Kelley, and their use of Enochian language as a spy code as well as an attempt at magick.

The novel is called Encore, and is Gothic. A highly-acclaimed performance troupe has a special requirement to make their shows work: the audience can’t be aware if any of the actors are replaced by a standby (similar to an understudy.) Their resident hypnotist, Dune, who is rumored to be an Agent of the Nevermind, accomplishes that by hypnotizing the standbys to believe they’re the actors they’re mimicking, and even coat their own auras with the residuals of their actors.

His wife is the star, but must leave the troupe due to cancer. Her standby and Dune have strong chemistry. He kidnaps her while she’s hypnotized to believe she’s his wife, and takes her to an alchemist’s castle. Underlying the story is the real history of a few powerful countries’ competing mythologies meant to gain supporters for them in wartime.

I hope this book will move readers to appreciate themselves for who they are.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

What if the homeless men going through your recycling know more about your life than you do? Like who is going to die. One of the recyclers, Dave, wearing disguises he keeps under a bridge, memorizes the information in people’s bins. He, like many others, idolizes the Rescuers, a supposedly neutral, unarmed humanitarian aid group in a Balkanized country, as the possibility of WWIII looms. The Nevermind Agents lie on the evening news to garner support for proxy wars. They say the Rescuers are unarmed, neutral, and giving humanitarian aid to a Balkanized country. Their movie about them is a blockbuster. Rescuer costumes are the bit hit for Halloween. But it’s time to unmask them. And that requires a plan so ingenious, even the planner can’t know how it’s done. Living not far away from Dave’s bridge, Becky donates generously to the Rescuers, making her finances even more insecure. She doesn’t know what to think when she finds things in her apartment moved slightly. The toothbrush is wet. There’s a stain on the ironing board. The cat food is nearly gone. Is it her imagination? Is someone messing with her mind? Could it be Stan, breaking in because he loves her? He certainly loves putting her body into mysterious BDSM contortions for their videos. But what’s that muffled moan she hears in the background when she calls him on the phone? Becky hires her friend to spy on Stan. The woman has gone underground since escaping from the Nevermind; she wears a wig, and a mask meant for burn victims. She has traveled across the country to befriend Becky, taking a chance on an anonymous message recommending she do so, though she doesn’t yet know the reason.

A Thriller for Thinkers

Buy Now From Amazon.com

He Could Literally Smell Murder

John Matsui Author Interview

John Matsui Author Interview

Gravity Games follows Nathan and his sidekick as they venture through an international conspiracy full of super-humans and super-villains. What was your inspiration for a novel that turns a foodie into a detective?

About Food: I love food and became intrigued with foodie mysteries but the ones I’ve read seem to have a disconnect between the mystery and the food. Food just happens to be part of the journey. I wanted to write a novel that made food a driver of the plot and the MCs. Top Chefs always talk about tasting as you go. The sense of smell can sample with every breath so it makes sense that someone who could collect that information would have far greater control over the cooking process. The best cooks always buy their own fresh food products and allow their senses to guide their selection. No tool is better than the sense of smell.

About the Sense of Smell as a superpower: If the MC has a super sense of smell, why not put it to other uses. In Nate’s case, he didn’t have a choice because he could literally smell murder. As a youngster I bought every Batman comic and read every Sherlock Holmes story. Both detectives (that’s what Batman was known for in the beginning) sniffed every piece of evidence. Recently scientists have discovered that the sense of smell may be the most powerful if all if our senses. We can detect scents important to us as low as a couple parts per billion. Try to pick out two red grains of sand in a billion grains of multi-colored sand.

Gravity Games has a fascinating set of characters that could easily have their own novel. What was your favorite character to write for?

I have two characters that I liked best for different reasons. Bonnie and Big Ed.

Bonnie Nakagowa plays Watson to Nate’s Sherlock but rather than being merely the recorder of events Bonnie serves four key functions:
1. Guide post / moral centre: If you become a world celebrity, you can lose perspective. Bonnie grounds Nate. Bonnie humanizes Nate and the story. She does this as both his conscience and protector. I wanted a strong, non-powered female to protect a superpowered male in a credible way.
2. The best comedy in my mind comes from duos e.g. Abbott & Costello, Martin & Lewis, etc. Nate is the straight man for Bonnie’s cringe humour / attitude. Humour is important to me because it both balances and enhances the darkness.
3. Bonnie is key to advancing the plot. She has insight into Nate and can provide needed background and carry out secret missions. She can also be an unreliable narrator because she may not understand everything that’s happening in Nate’s head.
4. Bonnie, of course, is the love interest.

Big Ed is just plain nasty. I hoped everyone would hate him. My youngest daughter proofread an early draft of Gravity Games and called me one night at 11 p.m.
“Why are you calling me so late?” I asked.
“I hate Big Ed. I’m not going to sleep so I thought you shouldn’t sleep,” she said.

Was it your intention to write a fun and quirky novel that moves along quickly, or did this happen organically as you were writing?

I’m not sure that’s what I intended. It’s just the way I write. My first novel, Late Bite, features a vampirish character who has millions of social media followers and is host of the top-rated late night talk show, Late Bite. It has lots of quirky characters, laughs and lots of darkness. My projects all seem to fall in the same vein.

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

I’ve completed Lycanthrope Rising, a continuation of the saga of Dragul Mangorian, the MC in Late Bite. It will be on sale Sept. 15.
I’m well into a sequel, prequel, and spin-off of Gravity Games.

The Gravity Games prequel [working title: Where The Nose Goes] is intended to be a permanently free YA novella about secret 14-year-old crime solvers Bonnie and Nate, which I hope to release as an eBook before Christmas 2017.

The Gravity Games sequel [working title: Murder On The Menu] picks up where Gravity Games left off with a non-superpowered Nate facing the world’s top chefs. Nate faces the loss of reputation and his $10 million a year contract. One after another, his competitors are murdered. Fingers point to Nate as the key suspect. Expected release date early summer of 2018.

The Gravity Games spinoff [working title and series: The Revenants, Justice Inc. series] features quiet accountant Rick Summers who has an attack of conscience after he escapes the clutches of Big Ed. He embarks on a mission to right wrongs committed by Big Ed and others and is ably aided by Matches, a transgender teen. The expected launch date is fall 2018.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Gravity Games, a dark and delicious thriller. Nathan Sherlock is the world’s most renowned celebrity chef and wine expert. His fans know him as Nate the Nose, a culinary artist whose incredible sense of smell helps him create dining experiences that jolt the mojo transforming aged couples into hormone raging lovers. But Nathan has a dark secret. Best friend Bonnie has helped him hide the true extent of his olfactory powers. He can literally smell murder. U.S. Homeland Security and CSIS, the Canadian anti-terrorism agency, go into panic mode when a scientist disappears along with all traces of his anti-gravity research. The joint FBI-CSIS task force needs Nathan to sniff down the terrorists before they drop an iceberg the size of Manhattan on New York City. 

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Remember to Recycle

Remember to Recycle: Psychological Suspense (The Agents of the Nevermind Book 2)

Remember To Recycle explores a twisted state of dystopian society run rampant with political tension and censorship, as experienced through the eyes of a sordid slew of characters, each crafted to be as unique as they are controversial. Author Tantra Bensko unapologetically invites readers into the thick and gritty atmosphere of this nefarious nation on the brink of war. As seedy government organizations work through mass media to manipulate the opinions of the general public, three oddball outcasts must struggle to uncover their own personal truths, regardless of how dark and uncomfortable that truth may be.

There is an oddity and nuance to the style in which Bensko develops the story, weaving the intricate and disharmonious lives of the ragtag crew together. The characters are so individually strange, perplexing me at times to debate whose personal version of the truth I should put my stock into. What they lack in relatability, they more than make up for in personality. For instance, there is little for me to relate to in a neurotic homeless man suffering from a multiple personality disorder, but nevertheless, I found myself rushing to reach his chapters, drinking in the off-the-cuff humor and casual profanity of his perspective. Each character in the disjointed trio is unique and realized to the point of feeling authentic, boasting a well-rounded checklist of endearing qualities as well as anxieties and vices – certainly enough to make you love or hate them, respectively.

Although the modern literature lover in me appreciates the quirky and informal tone of Bensko’s writing, I do have to admit that I struggled a bit with the sporadic pace. The narrative voices are wildly different between each character, and on occasion, the sudden shift felt so abrupt that it confused me for just a moment. Bensko lovingly lingers in the details of certain interactions for quite some time, while briskly splicing other important moments into the middle of a quick paragraph. The revolving narrative among the trio is certainly a testament to Bensko’s strength in voices, but it didn’t make for the quickest read. Still a charming one though!

I felt a bit sheepish upon realizing that Remember to Recycle is actually the second installment in the Agents of the Nevermind series. Whoops! I suppose that’s always one tell of a good book though – if it can stand alone within a larger collection. Without knowing any of the events from the previous title, readers are still able to quickly grasp the tone and plot of this work, even within the steep setting of an economic fallout. Benkso poured such a generous amount of attention into the thoughts and motives of the characters, which served well to support this work standing on its own.

Overall, this was an undeniably interesting read, although the density of the political theme felt a bit heavy to me at times. I’d recommend it to readers with interests in the dystopian and psychological horror tropes, that also have an appreciation for quirky writing styles.

Pages: 285 | ASIN: B06XY4CF1S

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Seal of Confession

Picture

A Burning in the Darkness follows Father Michael serving at an airport when he becomes the prime suspect in a heinous crime. What was the inspiration to the setup to this thrilling suspense novel?

Essentially it was the opening set up/dilemma. An anonymous voice in a darkened confessional confesses a murder to Father Michael Kieh. Circumstance and evidence points to the Michael’s guilt but he remains faithful to the Seal of Confession and doesn’t betray the identity of a young witness. Michael’s dilemma is between remaining true to his ideals or saving himself from a long prison sentence.

Father Michael Kieh is an intriguing and dynamic character. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?

In relation to Michael, I often asked myself: Is it possible to be so good that it becomes self-destructive? Is it possible to have the same degree of love and imaginative sympathy for the entire human race as one’s family and not be overwhelmed? Even asking the question seems exhausting and tiresome but the answer is self-evident. You would be overwhelmed to the point of physical and psychological destruction. Yet Michael comes close to this form of destruction.

Michael’s childhood was forged in the horrors of the Liberian civil war, but he chose a life dedicated to the Good. Michael has the moral freedom and strength to be different to his environment. He was a child witness and was protected from harm so he knows the importance of the strong protecting the weak. But we all need a little selfishness to survive. And Michael certainly has a smattering of selfishness because he is not afraid to assert his need for love as a strong-willed lover. But the reader roots for Michael because he refuses to betray his higher ideals. I wanted the novel to justify Michael’s faith in the ideals of putting the needs of others who cannot protect themselves before your own needs. It’s easy to talk the talk on this, but entirely different to walk the walk when you have to make a big sacrifice.

I wanted to write a page-turner novel, but the action explores a deep morality without, I hope, being preachy and self-justifying. It’s also important to me that whether you’re a diehard atheist or fervent believer that you will be engaged by Michael’s character, dilemma and beliefs.

When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?

I wrote a 5 or 6 page outline which I tinkered around with for a year or so, not sure if it was working as a story. This gave me the main plot and character points. It was more like what they call in the movie/TV business ‘a treatment’. I’m a film school graduate, so it was part of my training. I spoke to a close friend of mine about the story and he encouraged me to write it. (By the way, I work as a cinematographer on TV drama.)

I find a problem in well written novels in that I always want there to be another book. Are you writing another book? If so, when will it be available?

Your kind and positive response makes me want to write another. Most of my time and effort has been spent getting A Burning in the Darkness published. Michael’s story is complete so there’s no room to revisit it. I am working on an outline for another novel. Actually, mostly researching it at this point.

A Burning in the Darkness took me a good 7 years to write. That’s too long! I’d also like to write a novella in the meantime. Maybe 80 to 100 pages. I’d like to be able to do it in about 6 months, but I’m a slow writer.

Sadly I lost my wife to breast cancer 18 months ago. I have three amazing teenage children who are the best thing about my life, but being a single dad and working to keep them fed and housed takes up a lot of time. But that’s my primary responsibility. Nevertheless, my kids are also a powerful source of moral strength and determination. And somehow writers always find the time to write.

Author Website

A Burning in The DarknessA murder at one of the world’s busiest airports opens this simmering crime story where a good man’s loyalty is tested to its limits. Michael Kieh is a full time faith representative serving the needs of some of the 80 million passengers, but circumstance and evidence point to his guilt. His struggle to prove his innocence leads him on a charged journey that pitches love against revenge.

Michael’s loneliness was eased by a series of brief encounters with a soul mate. When she confides a dark secret, he is motivated to redress a heart-breaking injustice. Together they must battle against powerful forces as they edge dangerously close to unmasking a past crime. But Michael faces defeat when he chooses to protect a young witness, leaving him a burning spirit in the darkness.

Michael’s commitment to helping those in need was forged in the brutality of the Liberian civil war. Protected by a kind guardian, he too was a young witness to an atrocity that has left a haunting legacy of stolen justice and a lingering need for revenge. More poignantly there is a first love cruelly left behind in Africa because of the impossible choices of war. When Michael and his former lover find each other once again they become formidable allies in proving his innocence and rediscovering their lost love.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

A Burning in the Darkness

A Burning in The Darkness

Father Michael Kieh suffered the loss of his family in Liberia as a child. Taken in at a Catholic center for children, he went on to become a priest. Father Michael was stationed at the airport in London, listening to confessions of passing travelers. He became involved with a crime that happened years before involving some of the most powerful people in London, and found himself drawn into a very dangerous situation. Through love, loss, and love again, Father Michael navigates the difficult terrain in which he finds himself, trying to heal his past through his actions in the present and his hopes for the future.

This book ended up being one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in some time. I don’t read a lot of thrillers because I often find myself disappointed with how un-thrilling they turned out to be, but that was not a problem I had with A Burning In The Darkness. I was drawn in from the very first page, finding myself looking for stolen moments to sneak in a few more.

One quirk of the book is that it appears to have been written by a non-native English speaker, which left behind some stilted English. The first time I encountered it in the book I worried it was a bad sign, but on the contrary, I found that the mistakes in English made it quite charming, like listening to someone with an accent telling a story. Though there were some grammatical mistakes in it, on the flip side, much of the language was beautiful and parts of the writing were almost poetic. I found myself, more than once, reflecting on a beautiful turn of phrase.

I felt all of the characters in the book were well developed, and Father Michael was both sympathetic and borderline heroic. I had some strong feelings about nearly every character that appears in the story, and that’s not always an easy task to accomplish. A.P. McGrath did a wonderful job breathing life into each person in the novel, giving them their own personalities and making them deeply likable, or deeply detestable, driving the story forward with strong character development.

If I have one complaint about the story itself, it’s that everyone was perhaps a little too charmed by Father Michael. It seemed that everyone he met fell under his spell right away, and that seems rather too neat for me. I felt as though it was too easy for him to convince the right people to trust him and to help him.

All in all, I found this to be an addictive book. So much so that I was sad to say goodbye to the characters at the end and wish there was a sequel. This is my first exposure to A.P. McGrath’s work, but I will definitely be keeping my eye out for the next novel!

Pages: 253 | ASIN: B06ZYXJ1KL

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Glossolalia

Glossolalia: Psychological Suspense (The Agents of the Nevermind Book 1)

Nancy is like any woman in the prime of her life; active, engaged with hobbies, and busy with a normal day job. But underneath the surface, she is anything but ordinary. Plagued with a strange form of narcolepsy, Nancy can’t help but feel the grip of forces other than her own. With her uncle’s seemingly gracious help coming into question, she is soon exposed to the world of government conspiracy, mind control and espionage. It’s up to her to find out who’s behind it all, but can she get a grip in time to save herself and others?

Tantra Bensko’s Glossolalia is a thrilling and bumpy ride through the mind of a woman who comes off initially as relatively boring and normal. She’s crushing on a co-worker and at the mercy of jokes from her cube mates. She has her hobbies, piano and karate, and a good friendship with a girl named Alyssa. After Nancy’s parents died mysteriously when she was younger, her uncle Geoff took her into his care and provided her with a stable job at his corporation. Plagued with fugue states and narcolepsy her whole life, her uncle has also been giving her a steady supply of pills that she can’t seem to break her addiction to. She starts to question her uncle’s intentions and in an effort to break free from him and the pills, she coincidentally starts to reveal Geoff’s much darker agenda for her.

Initially, I began to question Nancy’s motives and her own sanity. The writing was quite scattered and jumped around enough to make me wonder if Nancy was just in a constant state of a psychotic break. In one moment her mind was scrambling for answers and in the next it was calm and reasonable. It took quite some time to figure out the relationship between Emily, Angela and Nancy, but the slow reveal did add to the suspense. Nancy’s tenacity and constant questioning of her life kept the book moving along at a nice pace. And there is plenty of references to the Nevermind, the CIA, MKULTRA, and other government groups which helps to build the psychological suspense of the novel.

Pages: 250 | ASIN: B01I8SLVTY

Buy Now From Amazon.com

End of Knighthood

End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces (Reverence, #2)

End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces by Joshua Landeros is a ripping tale of military science fiction. The novel follows the continued struggle of William Marconi a cyborg super soldier as he continues to figure out his place and duty as a soldier and knight in this futuristic warzone. Will ends up joining the resistance movement. Fighting the UNR, the new world government superstructure, or curbing its growth becomes the center of conflict. Chancellor Venloran is the locus of these plans and wishes to destroy his enemies completely. Can non-UNR countries survive the rising tide and hardened troops?  The principal question is, what will Will do to make up for his past transgressions on behalf of his former role?

Landeros paints a picture worthy of the classic military science fiction writers in their hay day. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers can be felt in every leap of Will from rooftop to rooftop. He masterfully borrows what made these novels great by their action and dialogue. One of the strong parts of the End of Knighthood is not just the fantastic action, but the dialogue between the soldiers is some of the best I have ever read. This is what keeps these soldiers human and what makes them instantly relatable to the reader. Sure, it is cool to read the amazing action scenes that Landeros crafts, but in the quiter moments we get to see how these individuals struggle with their in between status and their struggle in the midst of war.

As far as action goes, you can’t get too much wrong when you have cyborg on cyborg action, but Landeros takes painstakingly careful steps so that the reader does not become lost in the rain of bullets and blows. We are able see every body fall, but we are also able to see the glimpses of humanity from these soldiers as they reflect later their deeds. Will, the main protagonist, and one of the few carry overs from the previous book, is one such character that we get to see who continues to develop.

In our current times of political upheavals and nation states, one would think a book such as End of Knighthood would be hard to swallow. The UNR seems to be something that could occur in the not so distant future, but with the addition of these tech enhanced soldiers, Landeros has given the reader enough of an escape to enjoy oneself rather than wallow in more reality. Despite having a military science fiction bend, the novel could appeal to anyone looking for an action centered yarn along with some political thriller overtones. The genre blending on Landeros’ part is spot on and should please a wide variety of readers.

All in all, the reader may lose some sleep going through one battle scene and turning the page for another, but it is sleep happily given up. I look forward to the next installment of the Reverence series.

Pages: 233 | ASIN: B06ZZCDJ44

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Very Secretive Field of Science

James Powton Author Interview

James Powton Author Interview

In Paracelsus we see the horrors of an ongoing war of subterfuge and nuclear weapons as it spans nearly fifty-years and encompasses the world. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

The idea came to mind when I read about Alexander Lebed, (who placed third in the 1996 Russian election and was also chairman of the National Security Council. Lebed led negotiations with the Chechen President, Aslan Maskadov, and signed agreements in the town of Khasavyurt in Dagestan which ended the first Chechen war.) He claimed that Russia had produced and lost track of suitcase sizes nuclear weapons whose primary purpose was sabotage. The Russian Federation rejected Lebed’s claims and stated that such weapons had never existed. Within six years he was dead, killed in a helicopter crash on April 28, 2002, after it collided with electric lines during foggy weather in the Sayan mountains.

Subsequently a GRU defector, Stanislav Lunev, confirmed that such nuclear devices existed and speculated that they had been deployed. He then worked as a GRU intelligence officer in Singapore in 1978, in China from 1980, and in the United States from 1988. He defected to U.S. authorities in 1992. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the FBI and the CIA. As of 2000, he remained in the FBI’s Witness protection programme. Lunev asserted that portable tactical nuclear weapons known as RA-115 “Suitcase bombs” had been prepared to assassinate US leaders in the event of war. Russian authorities denied the existence of such weapons and then announced that all Atomic demolition munitions “ADMs “were in the process of being unilaterally destroyed? This raised my interest somewhat.

It was then that Red Mercury started to appear in articles across all media types. It was widely dismissed by authorities as a hoax designed to snare would be terrorists who wished to purchase it for nefarious purposes. Nevertheless Samuel T Cohen, an American physicist who worked on building the atomic bomb who was also described as “The father of the neutron bomb “, claimed for some time that red mercury is a powerful explosive-like chemical known as a Ballotechnic. The energy released during its reaction is allegedly enough to directly compress the fissionable material in a thermonuclear weapon. He claimed that he learned that the Soviet scientists perfected the use of red mercury and used it to produce a number of softball -sized pure fission bombs weighing as little as 10 lb (4.5 kg), which he claimed were made in large numbers. Again the contradiction intrigued me and I set about pitching a nightmare scenario where one weapon is employed against the other.

As I have been employed in the refuelling of nuclear reactors for the last thirty two years the probability of further development in nuclear weapon systems over the last seventy years seemed inevitable to me. Neutron bombs are now feasible therefore other advancements in this very secretive field of science have no doubt developed unilaterally.

I felt that the characters were intriguing and well developed. What were the ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

The characters are all based upon real characters and as you surmised each event was based on an actual event right down to the munitions, ships and operations that they were actively engaged in at that particular point of time in the story. Paracelsus has in my opinion six protagonists and whichever the reader chooses to affiliate with depends upon their social, political or religious persuasions. (One person’s terrorist is another’s hero.) I tried to balance this between each and remain unbiased, expressing an understanding of each characters motive through some backgrounding of their earlier lives.

In Paracelsus corrupt businesses blur the line between government and industry while ideological extremism spreads. What the inspiration for these turn of events in your novel?

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the oligarch including the clandestine energy deals brokered between Russia and its neighbouring states also included the circumventing of agreed sanction limits on the sale of Russian commodities to both known terrorist organisations and rouge states. This was occurring whilst Muslim extremism began to rise across much of the globe primarily in countries liberated from dictators by western forces. It occurred to me that these adversaries could be brought together and ultimately contest each other on many levels, allowing me the freedom to expand the narrative across almost fifty years and four continents.

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

I hope to conclude the battle between Nasser and Colonel Ryan in the next book STRONTIA and stretch the story into true science fiction whilst utilising real scientific advancements – including Nano technology and the recent CRISPR 9 biological advancements to set the stage for the rise of a completely new anti-hero. I am not sure when STRONTIA will be available as Paracelsus took me years to research and write.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

This God, I

This God, I (The Onryo Saga Book 2) by [Ryg, Rocco]5 Stars

This God, I, written by Rocco Ryg, is a novel based around a group of teenagers turned Japanese superheroes as they band together in a battle against evil. The group of ordinary teenagers have their lives upturned when they gain superpowers from a ring adorned with a black rock from Sierra Leone that was passed down to Chikara from her mother. Together, three of the teenagers, Chikara, Gen and Ren band together and travel to America to help rescue their friend Michiko from the evil Damian Chillingworth. However, they soon discover there’s another evil at work, RAMPAGE; a vicious group of white supremacists and anti-government terrorists. The teenagers must learn to work together in harmony if they are to stop the world from being destroyed.

Rocco Ryg has an extraordinary talent of being able to engross the audience deeply with his powerful and exciting story line- right from the first page. This God, I, begins in 1993 where you meet Mika Kaminari, a successful woman who can foresee future events and then soon flashes forward to the year 2012. It’s in 2012 where you meet Mika’s daughter, Chikara and her friends, Gen and Ren. A ring, superpowers and a crazed up white supremacist group of militia combine together for a story of epic proportions.

Japanese anime styled characters cross political extremists set the tone for this action packed adventure. There is a super power for everybody- from an empath who can manipulate the emotions around her to others who can sift through memories to extract the deadliest ones that they need. Personally, my favourite power was being able to heal someone- imagine what we could do with this in the real world!

The superheroes come from a range of backgrounds, such as the Chillingworth family who exude power through their billionaire, lavish lifestyle. The son Damian, sometimes violent psychopath, sometimes brilliant crusader is a complicated character that the reader will quickly form a love/hate relationship with. His rich boy demeanour and sleazy lack of compassion seem to be a cover to an inner child who wishes to be seen as a superhero.

This book has political undertones and I found some of the themes to mirror some of the political issues we are facing today. The story clearly outlines the different political parties which will help explain any terms you may not be familiar with. However, the main theme of the story revolves around the mystical powers given by the ring and the ability to use them for harm or good. This can provide a breath of fresh air when the political plot begins to thicken.

Epic battles crossed with an intense torturous drive to gather intel means the reader will be unable to tear themselves away from the book until the very last page. The reader will question the values of the character as each one faces the ultimate battle of deciding to cross a line between good and evil. It questions the integrity of the human race and raises the question- what would you do if you were given a super power? I would recommend this for anybody who enjoys action crossed with a touch of politics and mystical powers.

Pages: 361 | ASIN: B008HL4XM0

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: