Traitor Angel {review}

In Traitor Angel, the second book of the Angelkiller Triad,  the war between The Army of Light and The Enemy continues behind the scenes. Unknown to the general population, the battle for control of humanity is heating up.

Jonah Mason, called Angelkiller, faces more than one decision. His Army resistance cell is wounded physically and emotionally, on the brink of falling apart. The mysterious allies calling themselves Knights are pressuring him to abandon his people. Meanwhile, the world outside draws closer to Armageddon.

As Mason and his friends pursue their campaign against Dorian Azrael’s global megacorporation, Andlat Enterprises, the stakes get higher with each desperate foray into the enemy’s computers. They are fated to lose one of their number and gain an unlikely ally, but any advantage they gain could be fleeting at best.

If they fail, it could mean the end of The Army and all resistance to the forces of Darkness.

Traitor Angel is the second installment in H. David Blalock’s Angelkiller Triad. I don’t normally read books concerning a “war in heaven”–to be honest, books about angels typically strike me as being a variation on the same theme. (If you’ve seen The Prophecy, you’ve read them all.) However, the concepts behind this trilogy have intrigued me for a long time and as a result, when the tour opened up, I decided it was well past time to give the book a chance.

There is a lot about Traitor Angel that distinguishes it from other books in this genre which I found a pleasant surprise.  It begins with a war, yes, but it is a war waged largely in cyberspace.  The terminology used is different as well–while there are angels and demons, they are referred to as the “Army” and the “Enemy.”  The war is important but it’s not waged with a literal fiery sword–instead, it relies more on the kind of technology you might see in a MMORPG.

I felt that the story itself had a bit of a DaVinci Code feel to it though I don’t know whether this was intentional on the author’s part.  It was the events that pulled me to the book rather than characterization.  I love a character-driven novel and would have liked to have seen more focus on characters but having not read the first book, I didn’t have the same attachment to them that I might otherwise have had.  The events, setting, and plot were strong enough to keep me really interested in the story so in the end, this isn’t a criticism of the book so much as it’s a suggestion that reading both novels would be likely to add more layers to an understanding of what is a fairly complicated piece.

Traitor Angel brings to mind books like Jacqueline Carey’s Banewreaker in terms of its willingness to push the tradition of good versus evil into new places (though its world is very, very different).  All in all, I think that this book would  appeal to fans of the genre who look for books that fall outside the norm and who like innovation in setting and story.  This book (and its predecessor) are available on Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


The Existentialism of Science by Tonya Cannariato (guest post)

by Tonya Cannariato

The interesting piece of writing a scifi/romance story was exploring the unique kind of arrogance that comes from the scientific perspective. This is a class of people that is certain it can always find the answers, if they just ask the correct set of questions. My suspicion is that the more correct truth is we will only ever find the answers we are in the mindset to be able to understand.

The character of Mark Inman came to me as I was reading pro and con news coverage of the workings of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Cern, Switzerland. Prior to the device being fired up for the first time, there was concern on the part of a small group that the scientists involved in the project would end up ripping a hole in the sub-atomic universe. That premise intrigued me.

I wondered how this person would react, should he face a situation far outside his normal experiences. I suspected this particular scientist, who was used to finding answers he could understand, would face a special kind of crisis of confidence. Scientific method could help him ask more questions, but would it help him find any answers?

In the end, I’m not sure any of us has answers, but I suspect it’s the interactions we share with those closest to us that help us build a context and perspective that gets us closest to some comfort level with the world around us. From that point of view, the relationship he has with Sarah is the key to his evolution as a character. Without her to focus him, I don’t know that he would have built any coherence out of his wild experiences.

The story skirts the questions relating to the debate of science versus religion, and focuses instead on the inner life that connects both. Do you feel there is a tension? How would you resolve those questions? I’d love to hear your perspective.

About Tonya’s book, Dementional

Mark Inman has two loves: particle physics and Sarah. She agrees to become his wife
at the same time his experiment to find the Higgs boson goes off the rails.

Journey with Mark while his existence melts and reforms in unpredictable ways as the
veils between realities thin. His exploration of the minutiae of quantum physics builds a
fascinating tapestry of alternate universes.

His search for survival, and the search for meaning and what is real, drive Mark as he
experiences lives he never dreamed possible. His only touchstones: find Sarah and find
his way home.

Book Links for Dementional:

Paperback link –

eBook Link:

About Tonya

A voracious reader since she was a toddler, and an ordained spiritualist, Tonya Cannariato has now presided over the marriage of her love of reading and her love of writing. She’s lived a nomadic life, following first her parents in their Foreign Service career through Africa, Europe, and Asia, and then her own nose criss-crossing America as she’s gotten old enough to make those choices for herself.

She’s currently based in Milwaukee with her three loves: her husband and two Siberian Huskies. She suspects her Huskies of mystical alchemy with their joyous liberation of her muse and other magical beings for her inspiration. She loves to sleep, to watch her interesting dreams, some of which are now finding new life in written form.

The Singularity is Coming: Review of Digital Rapture

The title of this post, “The Singularity is Coming,” is actually something of a lie.  After reading some of the stories in the anthology Digital Rapture, I seriously found myself questioning whether or not the singularity was already here.

What is the singularity?  According to the wikitionary, this is “a predicted future event in human history caused by the ever-increasing ability of new technology to speed up the rate at which new technology is developed.”  Editors James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel do an excellent job of discussing what is a very difficult (and all-embracing, at times) concept in their introduction.  They travel between the stories of H.G. Wells to medieval ascetics to intellectuals of today, all while asking questions of the reader and inviting them to form their own judgments.  Rather than feeling extraneous as many editorial narratives do, this story is fascinating and the threads of the discussion carry on even in introductions of the pieces presented here.

A standout piece in Digital Rapture was “Hive Mind Man” by Rudy Rucker and Eileen Gunn.  In an age where human beings are increasingly encouraged to share more and more of their personal lives and thoughts in the global blogosphere, this story does not feel as far-future as it should.  The protagonist struggles with a boyfriend who is asked to effectively give his life to the pursuit of constant data-mining and promotion.  I found this a great cautionary tale–at what point does spewing out our thoughts and ideas into the ether turn us away from being individuals and instead, becoming part of a national, or worldwide, consciousness?

Another piece particularly compelling to me was “Crystal Nights” by Greg Egan.  In “Nights,” Egan examines the question of building a race from scratch.  The process of evolution as seen through the eyes of one who wants to control it is fascinating to observe, moreso when things begin to go awry.  I hadn’t thought of this particular theme as being an aspect of singularity and yet it is, beautifully done here.

There are many other stories by those that I’d regard as the greats in this field–Asimov, Stapledon, Sterling, etc–and I would recommend taking the time to sit down and read this particular anthology not in one sitting, but in several.  The questions that it raises are relevant and topical.  I think that careful consideration of Digital Rapture will reveal more about ourselves and our time than the casual reader suspects.

HUMAN: Behind the scenes with Gabe Smith

I’m happy and excited that Gabe Smith has stopped by my blog today.  I met Gabe through discovering his amazing project on KickstarterHuman.  This graphic novel is compelling, filled with incredible imagery and action.  With only 7 days and counting to reach funding, I asked Gabe if he’d join me to answer a few short questions about the project and share a sample with us.  I hope everyone checks it out-I love it when the speculative fiction community comes together to make projects like this happen.

On to the interview!
Gwen: Tell us a little about the mechanics of your project–what inspired you to use such a visual medium? Why did you select this genre?

Gabe: I didn’t select this genre, cyberpunk selected me. I had visions of this story for years before I had written anything down. After i had finished writing a couple of issues, I realized it would be way too expensive for an unknown screenwriter to do animated or live-action filming, but I really believed that I had made something good. I decided to start smaller and try to gain a following for my story through comic books. This is my debut.

Gwen: Why have you chosen to do Kickstarter as opposed to looking at more traditional means of funding?

Gabe: Because it is important to me create this story while still maintaining ownership of my work.

Gwen: Let’s get into the story… do you mind sharing a little of the storyline behind Human?

Gabe: Without revealing too much, the story takes place in the future in an age where people are installing illegal biotech weaponry and upgrades into their bodies. Cezra is a bounty hunter tracking down these criminals and bringing them to justice. The first issue is an action packed issue, that serves as an introduction to thes story, this world, and its characters. Society is facing tough times as difficult political decisions are being made regarding these new technologies. In addition, a viral outbreak known as the nano-virus has occurred and is worsening without the proper medical knowledge or treatments to combat it.

Gwen: You’ve got a colorful cast of characters. Tell us, who’s your favorite and why? What makes him/her different from others in comics?

Gabe: I like Drolo. He’s this big ugly scary misunderstood guy that just demands freedom at all costs. I feel like i can relate to that. Except the ugly part. Cezra probably has the most dramatic story of the cast though. She took forever for me to figure out. Drolo came easy.

Gwen: How did you and Ryan [Ryan Merrill, artist] connect? Any tips for those of us seeking to be successful in artistic collaborations?

Gabe:  Craigslist. My tip: search hard and don’t stop until you found what you are looking for.


Now I’d like to share a page with you from the comic.  To order a copy and support the project, visit the Kickstarter.  Time is running out!


Guest Post: It Comes in Slices! (Serial Fiction)

It Comes In Slices!

A Word on Serial Fiction

by Michael Shean, author of Bone Wires

Since Scheherazade held back Shahriyar’s axe, the art of serial fiction has been one of suspense and anticipation.  Through the separation of a larger work into smaller, regular sections, the serial can allow an author to introduce his readers to a smaller story alongside the development of other works – and, if he or she is good at it, can ensure that their tales are never out of the minds of readers.  That, as you can imagine, can be a very important thing.

Serialized fiction can be traced back to One Thousand and One Nights, which in itself consisted of a string of serialized novellas.  Wrapped up in the frame of Queen Scheherazade’s attempt to stave off death at the hands of her bloodthirsty husband, the collection of tales contains some of the most memorable works of short fiction in history – Sinbad the Sailor and Aladdin being some of the most prominent examples.  With the development of movable type in the 1600s, episodic narratives became more and more available; given the expense of books at the time, publishers were very interested in expanding the market while keeping prices down.  In the 19th century, popularity exploded during the Victorian Age when growing literacy, advances in technology, and the expansion of distribution pooled together to make serialized fiction a powerful force in getting literature of all kinds in the hands of as many people as could afford it.  Henry James, Herman Melville, Gustave Flaubert, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and of course the inestimable Charles Dickens all found great success using the serial model.  In modern times, the rise of the Internet and the Web allows everyday people to write serialized fiction and post it on their own websites as they desire; all that’s required is an audience, something which grows easier to secure through every day through social media and the like.

The serial structure can be very challenging.  When I wrote my second novel, Bone Wires, it was released as a serial on the website of my publisher, Curiosity Quills.  Being a detective story, it was relatively simple to set up through a series of episodes – I eschewed writing a chapter at a time, mostly because my schedule wouldn’t allow it and also because the flow of the work was better without attempting to expand things in a synthetic way.  Aside from ensuring that episodes are released on a consistent schedule, this is the major secret behind serialized fiction: ensuring that episodes are relatively short, exciting, and always contribute to the greater whole.  There should be no such thing as a ‘filler’ episode; with a serial work, when deadlines are absolutely vital, there is always the temptation to try and pack a story in with material that may be ‘soft’, or does not strictly further the flow of the story or develops the characters.  But consider something: most of you reading this have favorite television shows.  How do you like it when the flow of the story gets broken by a random filler episode?  The same applies with fiction – anything necessary is annoying, breaks the flow of the work, and generally makes your audience unhappy.  Nobody likes it when a writer’s work feels lazy.

Putting the tyranny of deadlines and the perils of ‘fatty’ writing aside, however, the serial can be a major boon for an author’s career.  Consider: you might be working on a larger or more complex work, but that keeps you out of the proverbial game for four to six months.  Your readers might be panting after your next work, but in the absence of an alternative there’s room for someone else in their proverbial heart of hearts.  Writing a serial alongside that ensures that readers have something to enjoy – remember that writing has its business side, and ensuring that you’re forefront in the mind of your readers is absolutely necessary for when that next big novel drops.  Not only that, serial fiction gives an author the ability to stretch their creative wings, to reach out and try new things and keep their minds fresh while still meditating on their primary work in progress.  I’ve found that being able to work on another work to break up the occasional slog is also very effective at staving off writer’s block.

Since the completion of Bone Wires in its serial form, it has been released as a complete novel.  I don’t have current plans to start a new one, but that’s not because this wasn’t rewarding; my schedule just doesn’t allow for it.  You can be sure that when it does, however, you’ll see another serial tale with my name on it out there for all to see.

Writing a work of serial fiction can be very difficult, but don’t let the potential obstacles keep you from working that magic; as long as you can keep things regular and don’t veer into the land of filler, serials can be among the most rewarding methods of writing for any author, veteran or newly-established.  You don’t have to take my word from it, though.  One need only to consider the role of those mentioned above to see the power that the serial can bring.



About Bone Wires:
In the wasteland of commercial culture that is future America, police are operated not by government but by private companies.

In Seattle, that role is filled by Civil Protection, and Daniel Gray is a detective in Homicide Solutions. What used to be considered an important – even glamorous – department for public police is very different for the corporate species, and Gray finds himself stuck in a dead end job. That is, until the Spine Thief arrives.

When a serial killer begins harvesting the spinal tissue of corporate employees all over the city, Detective Gray finds himself plunged into the first truly major case of his career. Caught in a dangerous mix of murder, betrayal and conflicting corporate interest, Gray will find himself not only matching wits with a diabolical murderer but grapple with his growing doubt toward his employers in the dawning months of the American tricentennial.

A thrilling mystery set in the same world as the Wonderland Cycle, Bone Wires is a grim trip into the streets of the empty future.


Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Print) | B&N (Nook & Print) | Books-A-Million 

Author Interview: Sumiko Saulson

It’s an honor today to welcome Sumiko Saulson to the blog.  Sumiko’s novel, Solitude, is a fascinating examination of the lives of diverse individuals isolated in a San Francisco seemingly void of all other human life. In the absence of others, each journeys into personal web of beliefs and perceptions as they try to determine what happened to them, and the world around them.  I’m happy to have Sumiko here as we delve into some of the concepts and personal histories behind her novel.

Gwen: You open this story with a powerful scene–that of young Margo folding a paper crane with the knowledge that “only a few, martyred youngsters were able to have their stories told.” She folds the crane not because she believes that she’ll save a life but because she empathizes with the Sadako story and the rough life that the girl had. What inspired you to begin here?

Sumiko: Originally, the story didn’t start with that scene, but with the next scene, which establishes another character Angela’s extreme and catalytic resentment towards her ex-husband. I have a tendency to imagine my books as a movie: I blame film school for that, because I spent a year at Film Arts Foundation’s “STAND” program for first time directors learning about story arch and character development. In the little movie “Solitude” I was imagining in my head, where Gerry is being played by a 1990s version of Bruce Willis, the story needed to begin with a lot more character connectedness than Angela’s two-dimensional hatred. Her pain was a bit too forcefully expressed to allow the reader to relate to her very well. I needed a softer touch at the beginning.

I went back and inserted the prologue about half way through the story, when I was in the middle of explaining Margo’s relationship to Josette and her Chihuahua, Crazy. I realized that because she was written as an agoraphobic shut in, Margo was a character with whom people would relate primarily through her internal life. Giving her rich and interesting internal dialog would make her interesting. That was important because she refuses to leave the house: she is a character for whom a decision to go outside is a tremendously big deal. I was a very introverted child, but I became a lot more outgoing as I matured. That is why I decided to make the reader’s connection to Margo begin in her childhood. You could say that Margo is a character with whom I have certain things in common but whose life takes a divergent course from my own. I felt I could write a more convincing narrative by starting at the period in life when Margo and I would have been the most alike. I used books I read as a child to make this connection.

Gwen: There are a number of perspectives that you use to tell this story which makes the world of Solitude incredibly rich with diversity, both in terms of your cast and the scope of the novel. Did you find it challenging to weave a narrative with so many voices? How did you select the voices that you finally used?

Sumiko: The greatest difficulty was in keeping the timeline consistent, because when the narrative switches from one character point of view to another, especially at the beginning of the book, it is talking about something that happens in more or less the same period of time. In the first draft of the book, I switched from perspective to perspective too quickly for some readers to follow. They found it confusing. I was writing these quick-switch edits as an almost reflexive response to my history as a video editor. When you want to show action and excitement in a video or a film, you go back and forth fast, like in a music video. That doesn’t work as well in a novel. The other reason I kept changing points of view quickly was because I hadn’t mastered a way to keep time moving forward when these incidents were occurring at or near the same time. That issue was eventually resolved with the help of the book’s editor, Stephen Douglas.

We worked together to identify a few pieces of writing that would be more effective put together. He had me do a series of re-writes connecting the action during the initial event. For instance, the scene where Shane is on the Bay Bridge when people start disappearing is considerably more action packed than it was the first time around. The same can be said with the scene involving Gerry and the newly feral dogs circling him at Safeway. By the time we were finished with re-writes, the book was 50-pages longer, and the timeline was consistent. Switching character voices in the middle of a major catastrophe such as the event these individuals experience does require a lot of attention to detail with regards to the consistent movement of time. The character voices themselves were not difficult for me: I have been good with characters for quite some time now, but I spent over a decade with great characters that had no story to tell.

Having a story was the hard part.

I’d written a number of shorter works prior to writing Solitude, my first novel. I also attempted to write a novel many years ago, and found myself “stuck” in the middle of it. To avoid getting “stuck” in the middle of Solitude, I developed a rough mental map of where I was going, and how to get to the end. This was my substitute for an outline. It was a notebook filled with character sketches, and I used the traits of any given character to determine how she or he would react in a given situation. That made it easier for me, because when the story wasn’t moving forward, I could switch to a character that would be most likely to react in a way that would cause things to progress and keep me on course.

Gwen: As I was reading, I felt a connection with Margo almost immediately, one that deepened as we progressed into the novel and saw her at an older age. There’s a couple lines that just really hit home for me in particular: “None of these challenges stopped her from making something of her life. In a way, they formed her, created for her a sense of direction.” When I read that, it just resonated. Are there characters that you discovered you had more affinity with as Solitude unfolded?

Sumiko: I am happy to hear that. Margo is a character with whom I have a personal connection due to my own anxiety issues. In a way, I used the character to process a lot of feelings I’ve had related to my disability, and while we are definitely not the same person, we have some challenges in common. I think that my own history deepened my understanding of the character’s challenges. I am not agoraphobic but I do have post traumatic stress disorder and I suffer from social anxiety in crowded places, sort of a lesser version of what she’s dealing with. I wrote her as someone I could relate to, with the hope that the reader might feel the same way. She is not me, but there is enough of me in her for me to feel happy when a reader likes her.

The character I became increasingly connected to throughout the course of the story was Gerry, the homeless guy. He more than makes the most of a bad situation: he acts like a guy who was born to play this role. He’s already used to facing challenges, and he adapts to this situation heroically. The bad situation just happens to have the proper sort of alchemy to bring out the best of him. He’s a diamond formed under pressure.

I also really, really like Rosalind. She was a character I wrote into the story later for continuity, and to keep things moving forward. She is from my parents’ generation, and she sort of embodies everything I have come to love about Baby Boomer chutzpah. She is protective and maternal, but liberated and vital at the same time.

Gwen: Sumiko, I think as authors, we often incorporate small pieces of our own lives into the stories that we tell but they often appear in unusual or surprising ways that are not obvious to anyone who doesn’t know us. Do you agree with me here? Is there a scene with a connection like this that you’d like to tell us about?

Sumiko: Yes. It’s true. The strangest and certainly least obvious connection is between the Chihuahua, Crazy and my calico cat, Marla. I didn’t write the dog as her own character, but readers related to her as such. The dog ended up with her own kind of little fan club – but the dog is based on my cat, Marla. Margo is also named after Marla, and Margo as seen through the eyes of Crazy is exactly as I imagine my cats view me. The sort of impatient affection she has for the dog is similar to my attitude towards my cat: I love her, but sometimes she gets on my nerves, and she was an especially large pain in the butt during the time I was writing the novel Solitude. She was a nine month old feral who had been abandoned by the previous tenant of my apartment. By the time I convinced her to move in she was a year old, which is the age at which the SPCA will formally consider them feral and spay for the catch-and-release program. They said that cats can usually be redomesticated during the first year of life. Almost a year on the dot, she decided to move in. I got her spayed. That didn’t change the fact that she’d started to mark territory, and especially my things because I was “her” human and there is another cat in the home. I got advice from animal experts and they told me to use a spray bottle, so I did. Marla is probably the inspiration for the number of wild evil animals roaming around the San Francisco of Solitude.

When Crazy calls Margo the “Okay Lady” it’s precisely how I thought that Marla felt about me: I mean, I fed her and petted her, but I also let this other cat live in “her” house, and how dare I? I took her to get surgery, and I sprayed her with the water bottle for trying to pee on my blanket, so she might have had mixed feelings about me. Anyway, I think that’s pretty random, and most people wouldn’t make the Crazy/Marla connection even if they knew me.

Angela’s rage over her childless state is more than a nod to my own struggles with fertility. I noticed infertile women or women who regretted not having children showed up on all three of my novels, so I guess that’s something I’ve tried to process through writing.

Gwen: Science fiction can be a powerful medium with which to examine contemporary issues. What influenced your choice to tell this story in that way rather than going with another genre? Do you think that there were particular strengths and/or weaknesses in this choice? Did you ever consider telling it in a different way?

Sumiko: I didn’t set out to write a science-fiction novel. I intended to write horror, but the novel has been categorized in either genre or more frequently, in both. I agree, science fiction has been a popular platform for issues that people are better equipped to face when they involve alien life or robots. Gene Roddenberry practically made a career out of inserting modern political struggles and wars into “Star Trek”, and a lot of the original series episodes deal with civil rights issues regarding both race and feminism. I take up a lot of these issues, but I would be doing so even if I weren’t writing science fiction because I am a woman of color and we all write what we know.

When I first began to shop it around locally, I found myself in a number of conversations about Octavia Butler, because I’m African American and Russian-Jewish American, and I write multicultural characters. I found the comparison both flattering and intimidating: Ms. Butler is largely responsible for the fact that it is becoming increasingly acceptable for women of color to write genre fiction. For a long time, if you were a black woman, you were expected to only write very serious literary fiction. There was an unspoken rule that we all were going to write like Toni Morrison. It wasn’t okay to write fantasy, or romance.

But the day I decided I was going to write a novel I was reading two books, The California Book of the Dead, by Tim Farrington, an old friend of mine: a work of literary fiction taking place in San Francisco, and Forsaken by L.A. Banks*, an extremely prolific African American paranormal romance writer. The book was number seven in her Vampire Huntress series, so you know: this woman writes a lot. I got about half way through the book before someone stole it off the bar at a karaoke club, but it was one of the two books that inspired me to believe that someone like me could write horror.

And I did. But it looked a lot like science fiction.

Being categorized as science fiction is definitely a boon, horror being a maligned genre. Saying you write horror is almost like saying you write erotica: a bunch of people are going to decide from day one that they are not going to give your work a chance. Anne Rice said that your readers define your genre for you. I think she’s right.

Gwen: If readers want to find out more about you and your work, what’s the best way for them to do so?

Sumiko: I have a website and blog at From there, you can learn just about all there is to know about me as an author. I’m also on Facebook, and Twitter, and you can find me there and all other places Internet via my website.

* Editor’s Note: We regret to note that LA Banks has since passed away. Her death is a great loss to the speculative fiction community but she lives on in the wonderful body of literature that she left behind.  Sumiko writes of this loss on her blog.

Guest Post: Magic and Science

Today on A Few Words, Becca C. Smith, author of Riser speaks about two things I love: magic and science. Welcome to the blog, Becca!

Magic and Science
by Becca C. Smith

Magic and Science…

Can a book have both? At first I didn’t think so. In my teen fiction book Riser it started out as strictly science fiction, but the more I created the dystopian future, the more I realized that a combination of magic and science was exactly the right formula.

On one hand there’s Age-pro, a drug that stops the aging process. And since Riser takes place in 2320 and Age-pro was invented in 2020, there are people that are over three hundred years old and still look twenty. That’s the science aspect.

Then there’s my main character, Chelsan, who has an innate power to control the dead. She wasn’t born with this gift. It was accidently given to her when her father sacrificed himself to save Chelsan and her mother in a black magic ritual. That’s the magic aspect.

I found that combining science fiction with rituals and magic ended up being the perfect combination. It gave me so much more freedom to play and experiment with ideas and concepts that would have been limited if I had only picked one.

The research alone was as fun as writing the book itself. It wasn’t just the research in science that was exciting. It was actually the research of Vodun and VooDoo that were the most interesting. There are a lot of spells and rituals that people perform today including one to raise the dead.

Magic and science, though they appear to be opposites, actually fit together in a way that made writing Riser an amazing experience. It gave me great material to create an action-packed story in a messed up world.


About the Author

Becca C Smith received her Film degree from Full Sail University and has worked in the Film and Television industry for most of her adult life.

Becca is the author of the teen horror/sci-fi novel, Riser. She is also the co-author of the teen graphic novel Ghost Whisperer: The Haunted and also wrote and illustrated Little Family Secrets, a graphic novel based on the true story of her great aunt who was famous for murdering her husband.

She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and two cats Jack and Duke.

Find Becca C. Smith online at:

Or get your copy of Riser on Amazon!

Author Interview with Jeffrey Zweig II

Jeffrey Zweig II

Jeffrey Zweig II

My special guest to today’s blog is fantasy author Jeffrey Zweig II. Jeffrey is the author of the brand-new novel, The End Begins: The Nine, and also runs the blog “Stories of a Sleepless Mind” where he spotlights excerpts from his works-in-progress. The End Begins is a great story with such a dramatic twist that I’ll have to work hard to restrain myself from spoiling you!

And so with no further ado, I bring you an interview with Jeffrey Zweig II.

Gwen: Hi, Jeffrey, I’m excited to have you here. First, let’s start by having you tell the readers a little about your book.

Jeffrey: Thank you for taking the time to learn a little more about me and my work, Gwen.

The End Begins: The Nine is a science fiction, fantasy story about Cassarah Telmar, a sorceress who finds out the students of her Academy, The Nine, are being used in experiments to pilot a war for a group known as The Coalition. She escapes their program and sets off to bring them down. However, her actions could devastate the people she’s trying to save.

Gwen: One of the things that I found particularly interesting was how this novel mixes real-world events and history as part of a broader alternate universe beginning with World War II. How did you decide at what point to alter history, so to speak?

Jeffrey: One reason I think I chose World War II (WWII) is because people know about it. So many movies, video games, TV shows are based on it – it’s familiar, and since I had so many strange elements going, I wanted that familiar base to draw from. I did some research on “what if” scenarios during the war – as in what if a battle went this way or that, and in turn a much different outcome could have happened. So I toyed with who was involved, how long it went, and tried incorporating some relevant issues one could see today. WWII always has a lot of potential to work with, and making those changes opens up many more things I can work with to make it my own.

Gwen: During The End Begins: The Nine, the reader is taken on a journey that shifts focus to a number of different characters. Changing perspective from one character to the next really gives us, as the readers, a much broader sense of the world that you’ve created. Of your main characters, who was the most challenging for you to write and why? How did you get into their head?

Jeffrey: The hardest to write for was James. First, he’s like Cass where he’s foreign to the world he’s journeying through because he’s dealing with a form of amnesia. But at the same time, he’s coming from a world that is similar to our modern day. So I had to resist the urge to constantly compare one to the next as a running commentary.

Second, because he initially starts as a mini-macguffin and has so little to do with the start of the story, he was a risk to have. I had to make him relevant but not be obtrusive. That was also hard to do. Whereas most of the characters had a clear objective at the start of the novel, James did not. He was kind of a wild card, and that can be dangerous for an author if the reader doesn’t want to go along with it.

Gwen: I know that in my own writing, minor characters often end up being some of the characters that I like the best. Was there any character that you’d like to focus on more in future stories?

Jeffrey: Kevin Barone – the group’s mechanic, tech guy, and the outsider of the independent nation of Arcovia. I think because he is so rooted in the world being a kind of drifter, that through him I could explore the world in more detail. Having known people like that, I have fun writing someone who is a little more relaxed/reckless than Cass. But in my story he evolves from that drifter, to becoming heavily relevant to many people, and I would be interested to see how his actions affect those around him trying to keep that independence.

Gwen: Another big part of your story is culture. One of my favorite scenes was when Cass ended up going into the world and had to learn how to interact among people and ideas with which she wasn’t familiar. How do you prepare to write a scene like that?

Jeffrey: First I had to decide while building the world for my novel how different things were on that personable level. Once I had that, I had to think of Cass, more or less, as a foreigner as if she visited another country entirely (Which you could argue is the case here). How would I (or Cass) react when dealing with food, social norms, or science. I did my best to make things different, but not too different in that respect. I’m reminded of an exercise you would do in a creative writing course, if you were an alien exploring another world – that’s basically what I had to do.

Gwen: Tell us about something that you think makes the Nine particularly unique.

Jeffrey: This is a hard one, truth be told. Because I could say a lot of things that appear to make it unique, but you can insert that answer for many other books, games, movies, etc. which are great.

“Her actions could devastate the people she’s trying to save.”

So instead I’ll get down to the core of the human element for Cass, our main protagonist – it’s a story with a very straightforward question – what is your choice? Cass’s choice – to live a slave or die with freedom is a choice many people are faced with in one way or another. Maybe its being tied to a job, an abusive relationship, or maybe its on your death bed living on life support. Very different situations, but that choice is a choice people may live with every day. Some stories are caught up in the grand scheme of the major plot. Really, in the end, the book is about Cass’s choice in her own self worth when she learns everything she has too. That is one of the things I think make this book unique – the boldness of that one choice amidst a epic sci-fi plot.

Gwen: Where else do you see yourself going with future novels? Will you be continuing in this universe or do you have other stories ahead? Tell us a little bit about your future projects.

Jeffrey: I will be continuing this universe in a sequel but it will follow a different character this time around. I hope to have it ready by the end of the year, maybe 2013. Right now, it’s still in the outline, rough draft stages so I don’t want to get into that right now, other than its coming.

My future projects are two Novelettes called Lost in a Dream-scape (tentative title) which is a high epic fantasy about a man who discovers their dreams may not have been dreams at all. And I also have The Tales of Captain Force, which follows a journalist as he discovers the secret of the heroic urban legend of his city.

Other than that, working on short stories I hope to have done before the summer rolls around.

The End Begins: The Nine

The End Begins: The Nine

Gwen: Last but certainly not least, what’s the best way for readers to find out more about you and the book?

Jeffrey: My blog, Stories of the Sleepless Mind, is updated most frequently with information about what I have going on which has not only has bi-weekly updates with prototype material of new stuff I’m working on, but interviews and nuggets of advice to my readers. There’s a link to a Wiki I’ve established giving more in depth information about ongoing projects and stuff I’ve published in the past. You can also find me on facebook and twitter, which is the best way outside my own e-mail to chat me up. I’m always interested with connecting with authors and readers!

The End Begins: The Nine is currently available at in both Kindle and print editions.