The Bug Boys vs. Professor Blake Blackhart follows Alex and Ian who still have nanobots inside them and retain the ability to take on the different aspects of bugs they swallow. What direction did you want to take this book that was different from the first story?
Well the first book was the origin story. How the kids got their powers, and a lot of get-to-know-you stuff, where they live, etc. In the second book, I didn’t have to go over all that again, at least not as much, so I focused on upping the ante with bigger bugs, robots, action, and a proper super villain character. I also wanted to explore what being a hero was all about.
The writing in your novel is very artful and creative. Was it a conscious effort to create a story in this fashion or is this style of writing reflective of your writing style in general?
This is my writing style. I like to keep things moving along at a brisk pace, and I always jump on an opportunity to see the funny side.
I felt this story was very well written. What’s your experience as a writer?
Thank you! As a kid I was always a story teller. More recently I set up my own movie review blog, and after a couple of years doing that I decided I was ready to construct a full novel. Since I’ve watched and analysed so many films (and books, I read a lot too) I think I’ve got a good handle on what’s needed in a story. It also doesn’t hurt to review one’s work with critique groups either!
Will there be a book three in The Bug Boys series? If so, where will it take readers?
There will, eventually! Tentatively titled, The Bug Boys and The Bullet Ant Queen. This one will spend a lot more time exploring the alien’s planet (The Bug Boys are going to visit!), while I explore the subjects of change, and the environment. This one will likely take a bit longer to put together as I also have another novel I’m working on. Something for adult readers, a little afterlife dramedy!
The fantastic superhero adventure that began with The Bug Boys continues! Alex Adams and Ian Harris take on Blake Blackhart, a disgraced Oxford professor. He discovers the boys’ source of power and plots to use the Secti’s alien technology to wreak havoc across the galaxy.
With a proper real-life supervillain in the village, the boys must step up their superhero game if they are to put a stop to the professor’s nefarious schemes. Along the way, they make new friends, and they encounter new bugs and superpowers. With the fate of the galaxy in the balance, the boys dig deep within themselves to truly understand what it means to be a hero!
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Song follows Rayph Ivoryfist as he gathers his friends to return the prisoners that escaped from Mending Keep. What was your inspiration for the setup of the story and how did that help you create the ending?
It’s a simple idea. There’s a prison break. The worst criminals in the world are released, and one man takes it upon himself, with no funding and no support from the crown, to hunt these fugitives down and end their reign of terror. It’s an idea we’ve seen before, but I got stuck on it, and I thought, “What would make this idea different?” I realized the thing I wanted to focus on was the characters themselves, their relationships, and the relentless nature of their leader. It’s not a crime story. We’ve seen crime stories. Song is an exploration of friendship. So that’s what I focused on. I’ve always had this idea that if real trouble ever hit, I could call on a small collection of men and women who surround me to face off any horror that entered my life. And I think it’s not unique to me. I think everybody has that group of people, that if things really went bad, they could call on to help them fight their way out of it. This book is a love story to that kind of friendship. It asks the question, “If my back was against the wall, and I desperately needed help, who would I call on?”
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?
When I started writing the story, I had the prison break. I had the characters of the Manhunters themselves, and I had the villains. But when I write all my books, I do not know exactly how it will end or how the plot will progress. All of that comes to me as I write. This book just kept surprising me. I would write a scene and see that it was going in a completely different direction. I would write something and see a twist coming down the road. I let a friend read this book before it was published. His criticism of the book was that it paid off too many times. He said it reaches one climax after the next. I think Song is unique in the fact that I spend 250 pages setting up four different climaxes. But it wasn’t planned. The book is just complex.
As always, your characters are thoroughly developed. What is your writing process like for creating characters?
When I write a character, I like to do away with all archetypes. I think they get in the way. When I meet somebody in real life, I don’t think to myself, “Oh, that person is an underdog.” or “Oh, I know people like this. This guy is a survivor.” Those aren’t the kind of things that hit me when I meet someone. So why would I think that when creating a character? A lot of people talk about knowing the motivation of your characters. But motivation is pliable. I can tell you why Rayph does a thing because I want him to do it. The traits I like to concentrate on are my characters’ hang-ups, the things that bother them, the things they cannot tolerate. I think too often writers create characters in a bubble. They try to describe their character in artificial terms. They create a character outline or a character spreadsheet. They try to create their character in a sterile environment. But that’s not how we get to know people. I like to think about character creation as going to a soup kitchen and meeting people there. Real lives, real problems.
What is the next story that you’re writing and when will it be published?
Well it’s already written. The entire Manhunters series is completed. I will be doing some rewrites and final touch-ups of course, but the story’s already been told. The second book in the series comes out April 15th. It’s called Hemlock, named after the city that is the poison capital of my world. In this story, the main villains the Manhunters find themselves up against are vampires. These are not vampires as we know them in the modern world. I took inspiration for my vampires from the original legends. This is before Anne Rice, stories centuries older than Bram Stoker. In the original vampire legends, they were all monsters. No good, no mystery, no romance, just vicious monsters. When they were hungry, they were pale. After they fed, they took on a ruddy complexion. And when they were full, they were a close shade of purple, because their bodies were suffused with blood. My vampires are old and powerful, nearly immortal, and diabolical. Vampirism spreads like a poison, like a plaque, and the Manhunters fight to stem the tide. So look for it April 15, 2018.
Some of the darkest minds in Perilisc attacked Mending Keep, releasing all its prisoners. Despite his strained relationship with the crown, Rayph Ivoryfist calls old friends to his aid in a subversive attempt to protect King Nardoc and thwart terrorist plots to ruin the Festival of Blossoms. But someone else is targeting Rayph, and even his fellow Manhunters might not be enough to save him.
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The Enigma Ignite, by Charles Breakfield and Roxanne Burkey, is fraught with technological advancements and a lesson in all things computer. The entire team of characters assembled by the authors is rich with all the appropriate levels of humor, drama, and romance. The diverse cast of characters are members of an exceptionally knowledgeable team working overtime to rescue Keith Avery and Eilla-Zan from terrorists while simultaneously solving the dilemma of safely and successfully transporting Su Lin, Daisy, and Franklin (a pig and Su Lin’s prized possession), who themselves may hold the answers to cleaning up the mess made by the horrendous failures in battlefield communications technology.
Once again, Breakfield and Burkey have created some villains of epic proportions. Oxnard (that name alone is sneer-worthy), kidnapper and all-around cretin, is one of those evil-doers readers will revel in hating. At one point he seems to almost cherish describing the beating into submission of elephants as he taunts his captive, Keith Avery. Oxnard represents everything vile in a human, and the authors have more than hit the mark with this character.
The various pairs of team members who work together all have a chemistry that can’t be beat. The authors have succeeded in crafting characters like Julie and Juan and Petra and Jacob who rather effortlessly morph from business-like and focused to laidback couples thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. Each couple is as intelligent and driven as the other, and virtually all of their dialogue flows smoothly and is laden with relatable humor.
I found Su Lin and Franklin’s storyline to be rather intriguing all the way around. The fact that Su Lin’s experiments could yield results helpful to the military and stemmed from her work with a pig, well…it was a fascinating spin. Daisy’s very personal and painful experience related to her work makes the entire subplot much more believable and personal for readers.
Though filled to the brim with technical terms and bubbling with all the seriousness of big screen drama, the authors lace their work with humor. The acronyms themselves are, more often than not, based on levity. For example, the acronym COBWEB represents Civilian Observer Blokes Wearing Excessive Bling. I had to laugh out loud at the appearance of the brothers, Won and Ton. Breakfield and Burkey, without a doubt, deliver the humor.
I have to say that the addition of Andy to this cast of characters is a welcome one. Andy, experienced in communications and a native of the South, was a pleasure to read. Being from the South myself, I appreciated his southern drawl and the references to his hospitality. Stereotypical? Maybe. In a good way? Absolutely.
I have to rate The Engima Ignite by Breakfield and Burkey a 5 out of 5. I thoroughly enjoy the dialogue between the characters whether it be between the villain and the heroes or between the good guys in their private moments. The authors manage to take highly technical terms and procedures and make them relatable for the average reader. Their well-drawn characters are a huge part of that success.
Pages: 331 | ASIN: B00KTGJ0QA
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Apocalypsia by Jerry Veit is a saga in the best sense of the word. I was able to read the complete edition of this work, which consists of three books and three parts per book. They detail a post-apocalyptic Earth after what appears to be, for all intents and purposes, the end. Demons comb the land, freed from Hell and what is left of humanity struggles to survive and trust one another. It is left to small bands of warriors to come together and unite the warring factions, otherwise they will all perish with the rising of a new demon army.
The vision that Veit has for this world is expansive. It is also a fun blend of science fiction, fantasy and post-apocalyptic. These elements may seem to much for the casual reader but for Veit they are all ingredients that lend themselves to the epic that this work is. The edition I have, has a couple, very thick appendices, which was helpful for the wide cast of characters Viet details in all of these stories. Some of the terms, locations and overall history of this Earth is also given. All in all the world building that Veit skillfully brings to life is very present and rich for the reader to sink into and lose themselves.
I found Veit’s prose to be stilted in places and I wonder if his work would hold up better in an audio book or audio drama form. He did not shy away from any action and made sure the story kept moving through these pages, especially as the conflict became more and more intense until the dramatic conclusion. He does follow the time tested formula of having a band of hero’s and a singular villain, bent on destruction. The setting he built around this formula is what refreshing for this type of tale and the considerable scale he chose to write it in. The story itself could have been confined to two books but with drawing it out into a third he was able to deepen the plot just enough to please the reader. I won’t say anything else in that regard, lest I spoil the story.
What was difficult was the way that Viet chose to tell his tale. He took some grammatical liberties that a seasoned reader may have trouble reading at first. The most notable one is that Veit does not use traditional dialogue tags or quotation marks but instead uses names labeling who speaks (i.e. ADRIAN: Welcome to Apocalypsia). This is similar to how one labels dialogue in screenplays, which I am aware is in Veit’s background.
All in all Apocalypsia is an epic tale of loss, bravery and learning what it is to be human. Lovers of quests and end of the world tales will find something to enjoy here.
Pages: 387 | ASIN: B0726374N1
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The Testimony of a Villain by Aaron Harrell is a dark, slick ride into the gritty alleys of the inner city. The book is not your typical crime thriller but one with a social lens that can only be given substance by one who has lived it. The reader follows Manuel Doggett, a boy who lost everything to be formed by the streets and remade in its’ dark image. He is out for retribution not redemption when an opportunity arises to have his vengeance on one of the murderers of his family.
Harrell provides a fresh and new take to the “true crime” thriller. His style is so firmly set in the bitingly grime reality of the inner city that the reader could even give this novel a new sub-genre of socio-economic thriller. The new threads do not stop there either, because the plot of the book itself is almost like a hero’s journey in reverse. Manuel is the classic anti-hero and one that does not once look to the audience for sympathy. Instead, there is only apathy towards almost everything, except towards the memories of his past.
The weaving of the inner city struggle and the complex inner life of Manuel makes this novel a stand out for readers of not only crime thrillers, but also those who wish to delve into the dark, broken mind of a man walking the line between light and shadow. The writing is fraught with graphic images of both violence and sex and is not for the weak-hearted.
I found myself enjoying the book from the start, because of the quick and realistic dialogue and the meta conversation about corruption, justice and social strata. There are a lot of binaries at play here, between the poor and wealthy, justice and injustice, and morality and immorality. Harrell does a fantastic job with surveying these issues, touching on them just enough without becoming too explicit. I can only guess at what Harrell’s personal experience has been with the inner city, but I very much appreciated the taste of authenticity that he lends to the narrative.
I find Manuel to be a compelling character. Most readers may find something akin to the backstory of Batman here, but there is a real human struggle that Harrell puts on display often.
Overall, I do believe that The Testimony of a Villain stands up to the best the crime thriller genre has to offer. It makes for a pleasurable read for any fans of such novels!
Pages; 489 | ASIN: B06XG6FYVH
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By Summer’s Last Twilight is the latest novel from horror author Robert J. Stava, set in the deceptively sleepy New York state village of Wyvern Falls. The book continues a long line of Stava’s work set in Wyvern Falls, and as such contains a great deal of information that may not be clear to the newcomer reader. Characters emerge, engage, and disappear – or get killed, since according to Stava that’s his favorite thing to do in a horror novel – without much in the way of apparent rhyme or reason, though there is a core group of heros and villains to tie the story together.
The nexus of the plot focuses on the nefarious work of the villain Steven Crowley, the latest descendant in the line hailing from the Occult provocateur Alistair Crowley – the latter infamous for his no-holds barred orgies and invocations of arcane rituals. In this story, though, the orgies and rituals have a sinister metaphysical purpose, shattering the membranes that separate our dimension from that of maddening demons who want to feast upon our flesh and our very sanity.
Steven Crowley has managed to worm his way up to the top of this quiet little town, his arcane calculations proving that this town would be the optimal spot to perform his ritual. A hurricane late in the summer washes a body out into a tree, catching the attention of the local plucky teenage gang of racial stereotypes who inevitably get to the bottom of things.
A man named John Easton is the grown-up that helps them get to the bottom of this, facing off against snakelike thugs like Razor and Weatherman who seem more motivated by violence for its own sake rather than any kind of humanity, however perverse it may be. Easton has numerous torrid affairs – this book drips with explicit sex, if that’s your thing – all of which end in bizarre disaster and let him sort of elbow the reader and go “women, right?”
Easton’s affairs include a near-sexual encounter with the breathy 15 year old French girl which, while going uncompleted, remains the most horrifying event in the entire book. Women don’t really get to do too much in this book except be lovers or mothers or crazy ex-girlfriends or literal objects of sacrifice, but so it goes in the world of Wyvern Falls.
There’s plenty of violence too, which would be remiss of a horror book to forget. The violent scenes are some of the most lovingly crafted and passionately executed sections to be found, giving the book a clear claim to the genre.
However, there’s too much of everything else. The horrific moments of the book are few and far between, interspersed with vast sections where characters sit around and explain things to one another.
Such lengthy exposition can somewhat be forgiven, given the by-design arcane nature of the source material. Crowley’s cult drew upon vast swaths of information that would be unfamiliar to the average reader today (or indeed to anyone ever) and Stava does an admirable job with providing expository backstory through the several interludes that intersperse the main story line.
All in all, though, the book remains in its own little world – if you are the type of reader who already enjoys this genre or Stava’s work in particular then you’ll find yourself right at home.
Pages: 288 | ISBN: 1515150747
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