Afterworld follows Leon as he discovers a new world after death and explores questions of life and the afterlife. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
As you rightly identified in your book review, there were various religious aspects in my book. As a child, I was raised to be a Christian, and since have found myself towards a more agnostic approach in life for many different reasons.
The story is built on that from start to finish while adding in ideas of other religions and gods. If they are indeed real, who is to say one way or another for sure and what is undoubtedly right or wrong in the grand scheme?
So that’s where the story came from which I started back around 2010. When my grandfather passed away in February, that is when I got back to completing the book.
Leon is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
Both Leon and his grandfather are actually heavily inspired by my own life and my grandfather’s. My grandfather was a farmer and always did his best to help people as he could, and others did the same for him
when he was battling his cancer and no longer able to farm his wheat fields. I created Leon knowing those factors, and what I strive to do is to help those around me, best I can. I honestly do find our world more mundane than not, you see fantasy movies and read stories, and the possibilities are endless; yet, we seem to be stuck in a world full of the mundane. So I guess you could say that the way I was raised, and what I’ve learned over the years from taking a look at myself are essential factors behind his development. There is still plenty of room for growth in both Leon, and myself, so hopefully, you’ll see that when the sequel finds itself completed.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Humanity, as a whole, can do some extraordinary things if we are willing to come together. We just need to be willing to set aside our own aspirations and greed for only a little. You definitely get a glimpse of what humanity has the capabilities to do, both on the positive, and on the grim darker side. Other than religion, my political nature definitely played a role in this book. I think, for the most part, we are starting to see people come together more as a society than run apart. You can see this through things such as the European Union, United Nations, WHO, etc. Even if they are not perfect, and some actors shouldn’t be in the positions they are, it at least gives hopes that our world is closer. The fact that we are willing to communicate at all to solve things shows just that. This doesn’t always work, but it is better than if it weren’t there at all.
This is book one in your Next Life series. What can readers expect in book two?
So, this is where things get a little bit complicated. The Next Life series deals directly with Leon and his journey and struggles with the events in Afterworld and our universe. There is also the Next Life Universe series which is where the website gets its name, which may or may not be connected directly with Leon or even with each other. I’m building a universe that I like to call the mix between Stephen King and DC comics. The next book coming out is The Ripper which deals with the mysterious story of Jack the Ripper in a whole new perspective on the character. This will eventually be woven in with the Next Life series, so it’s worth the read. The third book will be The Desperado’s Tale which then tells of someone from a different world, that’s all I’ll say about that one. Then finally we pick back up with Leon in my 4th book Untitled (Next Life, #2). This will deal with Leon upon his return to Earth and in search of an ancient weapon. Along the way, you will see him encountering those that linger in the shadows. You will get a glimpse of this aspect in The Ripper, but it will be expanded upon in this book. Then there will be the witches and others that Leon will come in contact with and you’ll see how those relationships develop. All this as he tries to make his way back to Afterworld in a race against time. For every day on Earth, there are 100 days that pass by there.
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Journey to the Hopewell Star follows young Sam on an adventure across the stars to save a dying alien planet. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting story?
The inspiration came from a combination of different sources. I started writing the story when my husband and I moved from Ontario to the East Coast. Along with the excitement, there was also some uncertainty about the move and what to expect in terms of the transition. Without the long commute, I’d found I had more time in the evenings to explore creative pursuits, and with the new setting, the friendly community, and the beautiful landscape, I felt inspired and compelled to start this new project.
Using my imagination and writing in the fantasy/science fiction genre was the perfect outlet. I wanted to write a story about a strong female character who was thrust on a journey of self-discovery, but I also wanted to make the stakes high, the plot complex, and present her with several obstacles to see what she could handle. I wanted to make it accessible to a young adult audience, hoping it might resonate with others who were going through trying times, with the main message being to never give up, no matter how difficult the journey is.
Sam is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
Sam has a lot of qualities that reflect the strong women in my life and the women whom I admire. I wanted to bring to light a character who was empathetic, introverted at times, but also persistent and sometimes bold and outspoken, who had different layers and complexities. Sam has a willingness to expand her boundaries, to question conventional beliefs and to be open to other possibilities. She loves to question things, and this helps her grow and transform as a character.
What were some themes that were important for you to focus on in this book?
I wanted to incorporate themes that interested me and that had timely, urgent implications, such as concern for the environment, problems with inequality and corporate greed, and the risks of unmonitored technological development. I thought it would be interesting to see some of today’s issues from both human and otherworldly perspectives, to look at some of the similarities and differences that played out across galaxies, and explore whether we would have common goals.
Other themes that I wanted to explore to make it more relatable to the young adult audience included anti-bullying, friendship, dealing with anxiety, overcoming obstacles, and believing in oneself.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on a sequel to Journey to the Hopewell Star that will take Sam and her friends on another journey, but the tone will be somewhat darker than in the first book. I’m also working on a dystopian story that has been simmering in the back of my mind for a while, in which the theme of gender will play a major role. There are no scheduled dates for their releases yet.
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Stone Fever: Erebus Tales Book 1 by Norman Westhoff is a captivating adventure story full of inspiring narratives! In the story, we follow Keltyn, a geologist who is exploring a now defrosted Antarctica. Keltyn is trying to find iridium around Mount Erebus, a volcano that the local Onwei tribe has predict will erupt soon! While on her mission, Keltyn makes friends with two teens from the tribe; Luz and Joaquin. While on their adventure, the trio grows, learns, and discovers the ulterior motives of a certain Oscar Bailey! Keltyn must find a way to stop Oscar before it’s too late!
Despite the hardships found within this story, Westhoff has managed to create a heartwarming tale that I could not get enough of! He touched on so many relevant topics, including colonization, global warming, and cultural diversity!
The character development was spectacular and a particular focal point of this novel. We watch Luz grow emotionally from a naïve young girl to a fierce young woman by the end of the novel. I must say, I really enjoyed Luz’s relationship with her mother in this book; it strayed away from the typical nuclear family unit.
The world-building was fantastic! Westhoff took a risk using the real-life issue of global warming as a plot device and world-building tool, but he handled it with grace and elegance. His portrayal of the issue left me with a hopeful outlook, despite it being fiction.
Westhoff’s storytelling abilities are also praiseworthy! He can keep you hooked from page one all the way to page 299; it is incredible! There was never a dull moment; wait until you get to chapter 13; you will not be able to put the book down!
The writing style also captured my attention. It’s simplicity made the story easy to follow and a joy to read. There was never a moment where I had to go back and reread a passage due to intricate text, which can be a common issue amongst indie authors. The chapters where Keltyn was narrating were my favorite!
Stone Fever: Erebus Tales Book 1 is a thrilling adventure story that touches on important topics while always entertaining the reader.
Pages: 386 | ASIN: B085YF4RWG
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The last person you’d expect to take on the role of time travel pioneer is Marshall, who is not your typical hero. Rail thin, six foot three, and not the least bit athletic, he’s hardly inconspicuous. Nonetheless swayed by the perks that come with working on a top secret new project, Marshall is nervous and insecure in his new role. But he’s far more concerned about the necessity of travelling through time naked than he is with the situational ethics of doing so. Mike Murphey’s Taking Time: A Tale of Physics, Lust, and Greed is part science fiction, part thriller, and part light comedy. The work treads the line between something more scientific, with discussions surrounding the theories and laws related to time travel, and almost slapstick humor, mostly derived from the characters appearing in front of each other naked.
The characters are well developed; all thrown together into a strange environment early on in the book; tightly integrating their relationships and inner conflicts and allowing the reader to get to know them more. Sudden flashbacks dramatize the otherwise smooth narrative, while the explanations of the concept of time, of dark matter, and physics more broadly, eventually give way to the stark reality that the project Marshall has been hired to work on is being used by both governments and large corporations for their own ends.
Taking Time is a fun book that blends lite versions of the science fiction, thriller, and comedy genres without fully embracing one. You may find yourself chuckling in parts, and enjoying the entertaining twists and turns, if you’re able to suspend your disbelief for a few short hours. Taking Time kept me sufficiently entertained with its charm and humor.
Pages: 358 | ASIN: B087PP8DPL
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Before the Origin by F.S Bala is an account of events in several people’s lives all connected by the change in pattern in the world’s occurrences. Amy Taff, an outstanding character in the book, is thrown into a world of magic, science, and mystery. Her life changes drastically after she gets a job at Scythe. Immediately she realizes that a thread holds the balance between life and death. Ash, a talented young man, partakes in scientific government projects but his friend Abel, has several conspiracy theories surrounding this project. The lives of all these people are connected in one way or another by the environment, science and technology.
F.S Bala has outlined every event in a systematic manner that creates a balance between different generations and lifelines. The writer has embraced vivid imagery creating in depth visual representation that brings depth and color to the magical realism genre. The story is not a far-fetched work of fiction but based on normal day to day life occurrences and the prediction of the future. Although the book leans more towards science and technology, Bala uses poetic language that is filled with humor to bring levity to what could have been a drab experience. I am impressed with Bala’s writing style and the author’s ability to incorporate African folklore into this story, which made this book educational as well as entertaining.
Before the Origin is a engaging action adventure novel that excels at creating alluring characters in an intriguing world.
Pages: 124 | ASIN: B08KJ3MTF1
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Petrified finds the state of Georgia under siege when demons threaten to bring the Keepers to their knees. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting story?
It started when a friend sent me an article about a werewolf mythology from Scotland called Wulver. I based the Keepers of them. What I loved about them was that they were so much different than other mythologies. As someone with a deep love for shifters, it was exciting to find a story that I could expand on the traditional tropes.
Obie is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind the characters development?
As a rule, a Keeper has to be hard. Keepers don’t age and can heal very quickly. This means they are very hard to kill. It also means they put up with a lot of pain in their lifetimes. This kind of life could make someone bitter and jaded. I wanted Obie to have the resilience about him. one of his defining characteristics is his ability to keep doing the hard thing, the right thing, even when it would be easier for him to be more selfish. That’s not to say he always does the “right” thing but he is a character that is easy to root for.
What were some themes that were important for you to focus on in this book?
Besides what I spoke about above, the book deals with loss, specifically the loss of a loved one. The inability to let go, anger, doing anything to keep them, and finally acceptance.
I also explore cruelty to a certain degree. There are some characters who are more apathetic than we would think is acceptable. Unfortunately the consequences for this are paid by the people around them.
This is book one in The Keeper Chronicles series. What can readers expect in book two?
There’s a line in the beginning of the book, “Everyone up here crosses the line at some point or other.” If the reader pays attention they can find a place in the story where every character “crosses the line”. In the second book many of the consequences of these misdeeds come due. Alliances and friendships are pushed to their limits.
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Looking for Life is a collection of thought-provoking and fun science fiction stories. What was the inspiration behind this collection of stories?
Imagining universal situations and populating them with fascinating characters, usually with a dilemma to solve—now that’s an infinite depository of inspiration. After all, the stories may all be true, or become true in the future [or is it the past?
The size of this universe, the possibility of other universes and dimensions; they are all a source of wonder to me. They are also a cradle of countless possible happenings—just by the act of being there. It’s a challenge, yes, but it’s also a load of fun. And if you can make ends meet, so to speak, there’s a wonderful sense of satisfaction in completing a short story; any story really.
My favorite story from the collection is ‘Looking for Life’. Do you have a favorite or stand out story from the collection?
That’s a bit like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. ‘Looking for Life’ covers many facets of science and speculative fiction, but if you twisted my arm it would be a battle between ‘Desperate Times’ and ‘Looking for Life’ and ‘Mother’. And it would be a prolonged battle with no outright winner.
Did you write these stories for this collection or did you write them separately over time?
I certainly didn’t compile the stories one after the other with a view to hurriedly compiling a collection. I write a short story when an idea surfaces, and it may lie fallow for a quite a while before it clamours to join the nest of possible publications. I would say the majority of these stories were written over the past two or three years. But they are well-loved creations and never leave my mind.
Do you have plans to publish more works of short stories? Or possibly expand on a short story?
‘Looking for Life’ follows on from my first collection of short tales ‘Silently in the Night’, which was published in 2018. I guess that means I enjoy writing them. In between, I have also written three novels, so they are a love also. Currently my prime focus is writing the third book in the ‘Milijun’ series.
I often get reviewers or team members asking about expanding a short story into a novel, one particularly in ‘Looking for Life’ was ‘Mother’, which may very well suit that scenario. I think that ‘Worthy of Consideration’ would also fall into the basket.
However, I have never done it yet, but I guess it would be a new challenge. It’s nice to know something is there that readers appreciate and could serve as an inspiration for future tales.
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Carla Trystan has spent her life running from monsters. She never understood why she was different, or why she didn’t age. She just followed her instincts and ran whenever she encountered someone that wasn’t human. Vampires, shapeshifters, Djinn and Fae are all involved in this mystery. Azrael is tracking down rogue shifters, and in this hunt, he runs into Carla, he knows instantly she is his one true mate. Carla only knows she is surrounded by monsters and needs to get away but stays to save the young coworker of hers that the rogue has taken hostage. From this point Carla is now part of hunting party. Azrael introduces her to the many supernatural beings that become involved in this much deeper plot than he or the council of Laizahlia ever expected.
This is the second book by Denna Holm I have read, Rise of a Warrior did not disappoint me at all. The novel starts out with Carla telling readers that she has to run again. You can feel the fear she has, but at the same time, her deep desire to protect her friends in the diner. The desire to protect humans is a Laizahlia trait that she is unaware of in her genetic makeup. Over the first few chapters we learn just how strong Carla is. Her need to run isn’t just fear, it is survival. Azrael finds her and she starts handing everything he throws at her in stride. Going from knowing there are monsters out there, to learning you are one is intense, and Holm lets the reader experience all of it with her detailed and precise writing style.
You can find hundreds of books out there on shapeshifters, vampires, fae, and other creatures, but Holm’s version of these beings feels fresh and different. She isn’t taking the same old character sheets and giving them new names, she instead has taken traditional “knowns” about these beings and enhanced them. They come to life more and are relatable in their thoughts and actions. This book is hard to put down because the characters are so engaging, and you get attached and want to know how things turn out. The plot line is complex and layered. It isn’t just a simple story; it builds as it goes and you uncover more and more players all twisted together. There is the building romance of Carla and Azrael, but I wouldn’t classify this as a romance novel, the relationship is just part of the story and mystery, not the end all destination.
While Rise of a Warrior is book five in this series, it stands on it’s own but leaves you wanting more. With so many plot lines twisted you know there will be more to explore, more questions to answer, and even some more romance to build.
Pages: 398 | ASIN: B08KLB36FX
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