The Lost City Blog Tour – Q&A with Amanda Hocking!

I was so excited to be approached to take part in the blog tour for The Lost City by Amanda Hocking, thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press and Wednesday Books for inviting me! Despite Amanda Hocking being a new author to me and her fantasy world well established, I felt completely at home with The Lost City which I found a really light and fun read!

First here’s the blurb!

Welcome to a world in the shadow of our own, a fairytale land where the dangers are very real . . . In this first book in the Omte Origins trilogy, Amanda Hocking creates a fantastic adventure in her much-loved Trylle universe.

Can she unlock the secrets of her past?

Ulla Tulin was abandoned in an isolated Kanin town as a baby. Taken in by strangers and raised hidden away like many half-blood trolls, she has never stopped searching for her parents, or wondering about them.

When Ulla hears of a project to help half-blood trolls, in the beautiful city of Merellä, she seizes the chance to discover her true heritage. She enlists the help of Pan Soriano, who is both handsome and resourceful – a half-human with telekinesis powers. And she must also contend with Eliana, a mysterious girl who claims she’s being pursued. Though Ulla suspects there’s rather more to the story.

Ulla and Pan work to unravel the truth about themselves and Eliana. But in the process, they realize that someone – or something – is determined to stop them. And they face a force that will do anything to keep certain secrets.

The Lost City by Amanda Hocking is the terrific first book in the Omte Origins trilogy.

If you new to the series or an established fan, sit back with a beverage and a biscuit and enjoy this wonderful Q&A with Amanda Hocking!

There’s been so much excitement and anticipation for more books in the world of the Trylle and Kanin.  What made you decide to revisit those worlds now in The Omte Origins trilogy? 

I knew as soon as I wrote Ulla as a small character in Crystal Kingdom (the final book of the Kanin Chronicles) that I was going to write a trilogy about her, but it was just a matter of when. After the Kanin Chronicles, I wanted to take a little break from that world and visit others – which I did with Freeks and the Valkyrie duology. By then, I was so ready to dive back into the world and answer some lingering questions I had left for the Trylle and Kanin. 

Why make this the final trilogy?

With the Omte Origins, I feel like I’ve been able to say everything I want to about the worlds. Through the three trilogies, I spent time with all five tribes. Wendy’s mother is Trylle and her father is Vittra, and her story has her visiting both kingdoms. Bryn’s mother is Skojare and her father is Kanin, and her trilogy shows life in the Kanin and Skojare cities, as well as travelling to others beyond that. I won’t say who exactly Ulla’s parents are (that would be spoiling the story) but her journey takes her through the troll kingdoms, with interesting detours through the Omte, Trylle, and Kanin tribes.

What are the most challenging aspects of writing a new trilogy that can be read independently, but is set in a world–the Trylle and Kanin–that you’ve written about before?  

The hardest challenge is getting new readers caught up with the world and the lingo without feeling repetitive and boring to longtime fans of the series. I try use this an opportunity to show characters and situations from different angles. The Wendy the audience meets at the beginning of Switched is vastly different Wendy than the that Ulla knows in the Omte Origins. So for new readers, they get introduced Wendy as she currently is, and for repeat readers, they can see who Wendy has become and who she appears to be through the eyes of an average citizen with Ulla.

What’s the most fascinating thing you researched while writing The Lost City?

With the Omte Origins, I really looked back at the course of troll history, and their past has dovetailed with the Vikings and other artic peoples. So I did a lot research on early Vikings and indigenous arctic people, primarily the Inuit and the Sami. My favorite parts were reading their folklore. I even got an Inuit cookbook, and I attempted to make Bannock (a traditional Inuit bread). It did not turn out well, but I blame that entirely on my cooking skills (or lack thereof) and not the recipe.

The “Glossary” and “Tribal Facts” sections at the end of the book are fascinating and really help create a layered, fleshed out world.  Was putting those together as much fun as writing the novel?  

It was so much fun. It’s been over ten years and nine books (and several short stories), so I have spent a lot time of thinking and doing world-building. I honestly have enough information for a history book about the worlds of the Trylle, but I don’t know there’s a demand for fictional textbooks. The Tribal Facts were actually one of the first things I wrote for the Omte series, because I went through and get myself reacquainted and made sure I had all my important facts straight.

Was your writing routine affected by the stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic?  

My routine itself hasn’t been too affected, since I write from home, but I would say that the stress has a negative impact on me, the way it has for many of us that work in creative fields – or any field at all, honestly. My husband has been working from home, and my stepson had been doing long distance learning before summer break, but that hasn’t really changed too much for me. I usually work after they go to bed and stay up late into the early morning hours.

Were there any favorite songs or music you listened to while writing this book?  

Yes, definitely! I listen to so much music when I write, and I even have curated playlists to go along with my books on Spotify. Some of my favorite songs to write to were “Ella” by Myrkur, “Wild World” by Cat Stevens, and “Delicate” by Taylor Swift. I also listened to a lot of Wardruna, who are this Norwegian band who make traditional Nordic music with historically accurate instruments. For the soundtrack to the Omte Origins, I wanted it be a blend of traditional Nordic music, mellow seventies folk to go with the trolls delayed pop culture tastes, and pop music that gets through with the trendier younger generations of trolls.

Do you think the music you listen to has an influence on the stories?  Or do the stories influence the music you choose?

I think it’s both, honestly. When I’m picking songs for the playlist, I definitely choose them based on the kind of emotions I want to feel and the tone I want to set for whatever I’m writing. Sometimes I’ll put particularly romantic songs on repeat when writing a love scene or an angry fast-paced instrumental for a fight scene. 

What books or authors are you reading or excited to read lately?

I’m super excited about Faith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy. It comes out the same day as The Lost City, and it’s about a plus-size teenage girl who discovers that she can fly. I recently read A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Rosanne Brown, and I’m counting down the days until The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna and The Project by Courtney Summers. 

Any hints you can share about what’s coming next after The Omte Origins Trilogy?

I’m currently working on a stand-alone fantasy inspired by Greek mythology, but I don’t know when it will be out yet. I’ve got ideas for dozens of projects after that, and I’m working hard (and having fun) getting through them all.

The Lost City is out today and available through the following retailers!



Barnes & Noble


If you wanted to catch up with all things Amanda Hocking related there are so many ways to do so through any of the links below!

Author website

Twitter @Amanda_Hocking


Author Blog





The Deck of Omen’s Playlist – Guest Post by Christine Lynn Herman

I’m ridiculously excited because today it’s my stop on The Deck of Omens blog tour! A huge thank you to Sarah Mather and Titan books for not only providing me with a copy of the book for review, but for inviting me to take part in the blog tour by hosting a guest post from the author herself, Christine Lynn Herman! I was so ready to return to Four Paths to find out how the story ends and honestly it did not disappoint, the conclusion was everything I hoped it would be. My guest post today is talking about the music that helped bring those pages to life – so if you want to know what The Deck of Omens playlist is, read on!

The Deck of Omens Playlist by Christine Lynn Herman

I’m the kind of writer who is heavily inspired by music. So needless to say, playlists are an integral part of my drafting and revising process. As I gear up for THE DECK OF OMENS’ release, I’m excited to share five of the songs that helped me write it with you all…plus a little non-spoilery insight into what exactly they inspired.

1. Did It To Myself by Orla Gartland

One of the most prevailing themes throughout this duology is responsibility and blame, especially in relationships (platonic and/or romantic). Did It To Myself perfectly encapsulates the way some of the characters (….one in particular) feel during THE DECK OF OMENS, and their worries about self-sabotage.

Isaac Sullivan’s POVs are an important part of this book, and this song helped out a lot when I needed to channel his mindset–he feels a lot of guilt for everything that’s happened to him in his past, and trying to sort out what is and isn’t his fault is always simmering in the back of his head. 

The audio engineering of the song also got these emotions across to me: the percussion, the guitar, the resignation in the vocals, the perfect understanding of when to strip the sound down and when to build it up. Highly recommend a listen if you want to feel angsty :).

2. Dynasty by MIIA

May Hawthorne is another new POV character in THE DECK OF OMENS, and the perspective she provides on her family was both challenging and exciting to write. May is a closed-off, quiet person–for reasons that are thoroughly explored in this book. Her arc talks a lot about what happens when the things you’ve always believed in turn out to be flawed–shaken faith in a family, in a destiny, in your own power and purpose.

I put Dynasty on this playlist the moment I heard it because I could see how perfectly it tackled all of that, and how much it felt like May’s journey to me–things falling down and crumbling. But there’s a whole lot more to May’s story than despair, and I’m so excited for readers to watch her grow.

3. Bad Decisions by Bastille

Supernatural powers might seem fun at first, but when you stack up the consequences–malevolent forces in the woods, big responsibilities, ill-advised pacts with said malevolent forces–it’s easy to see how quickly they become overwhelming. And with overwhelming stakes come…well, Bad Decisions.

All of the main characters in THE DECK OF OMENS have to handle a lot, and they don’t always handle it well. To me, Bad Decisions encapsulates a part of this book where everyone is struggling, whether internally or externally. It all culminates in a very dramatic series of scenes where big secrets come to light and big decisions get made, some positive, some very self-destructive. And I had Bad Decisions on repeat while I brainstormed all of it.

4. Organs by Of Monsters and Men

Sometimes, when I was a teenager, I would feel things so strongly that it felt as if pieces of myself were being destroyed. The lines between emotional and physical pain blur often in adolescence, or at least they did in mine, and so I tend to write characters who are handling similarly big feelings.

Organs is a song about being so overcome by things that you want to take yourself apart piece by piece, and it’s also a little gruesome in its imagery. So obviously it was pretty on-brand for a book about supernatural manifestations of trauma, and it also affected me deeply as I wrote said book. There are moments where every single one of the five main characters in THE DECK OF OMENS feels this way. They’ve been given more responsibility than anyone should have to bear, but they need to find a way to shoulder it. And they can’t do it alone. Some things are too big. Some things, you shouldn’t have to handle by yourself.

5. Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire by Rogue Valley

Which brings us here, I guess. I like writing books about darker topics and themes, but I also like emphasizing the way community and support can help lift the burdens life places upon you. This song has always emphasized the importance of those bonds to me: that while we can’t control what life throws at us, with good friends, we can make it a lot easier to deal with. 

In Four Paths, my main characters have to handle a dangerous corruption coming from the Gray, worsening tensions between their families and the rest of the town, and even more dark and deadly secrets that just might be the death of them all. It’s the kind of problem that was never meant for just one person to solve. Writing a duology where five very different teens learn how to trust one another despite all odds was incredibly rewarding, and I’m excited for readers to see just how they all deal with all these obstacles in THE DECK OF OMENS.

Thank you for reading and thank you to Christine Lynn Herman for this fantastic insight into her story and characters, I am a little in love with Isaac Sullivan – but don’t let my other book boyfriends know! The Deck of Omens is out now and available through Titan Books!

Guest Post: The Importance of Sandwiches by Rachel Chucher, Author of the Battle Ground Series

The Importance of Sandwiches: Food and Drink in the Battle Ground Series

Welcome to January – season of left-overs and let-downs. After the excesses and shared meals of Christmas celebrations, the new year’s food offerings can feel a little disappointing.

And it matters, doesn’t it? Going back to work in the dark and the cold, with nothing but soggy sandwiches to look forward to – no wonder January is a peak month for depression.

Food is more than just fuel. You eat meals with your eyes before you taste them. Good food makes you feel good when you eat it. And food is a focus for coming together with other people – sharing a meal is a powerful social experience.

So what makes food and drink important in the Battle Ground series?

Food as a feeling

I like food. I enjoy eating amazing meals, and sharing them with good friends. Food provides a focus for conversation and connection. A shared experience, and a reason to stay at the table and talk.

In stories, food can hint at connection or separation. Sharing food can be the glue that brings characters together, or the trigger that breaks them apart. Withholding food can be a sign of cruelty and neglect, or an indication of the balance of power, or the importance of class. Stealing food is a sign of desperation. The quality of food tells you something about the class and wealth of the person eating it.

How important is food and drink in the Battle Ground series? I didn’t set out to make eating and drinking central to the story, but the more I wrote, the more the symbolism of nourishment and connection slipped into the plot. I didn’t plan this up front, but as I lived the events of the books with my characters, mealtime scenes kept creeping in. Meals, food, and drinking became essential to their journeys.

Bex: Protagonist

For Bex and her friends, sharing meals and preparing food for each other are fundamental elements of their relationships. Most of their conversations take place over meals, whether at their army training camp in Battle Ground, in the safe house they share in Darkest Hour, or later in the series. Mealtimes are their breaks from training in Battle Ground, and the highlights of days spent in hiding in Darkest Hour. They provide a pause in the demands of the lives of the characters, and an opportunity to connect with the people around them. They deepen relationships, and give the characters the strength to keep fighting.

If they’re not eating together, and they’re not training or fighting, the chances are that Bex and her friends are making tea for each other, or pouring coffee for someone who needs it. A warm, comforting drink is at once a recognisable social ritual, and a metaphor for the comfort the characters find in each other. It’s a reinforcement of the idea that they don’t have to face the harsh realities of their lives alone.

And when they celebrate? Chocolate cake and beer bring this group together. Chocolate cake is their comfort food, and beer is an occasional indulgence – and an indication of the tension between the ages of the teenage characters, and the adult responsibilities imposed on them. No one in this group drinks to excess, and beer is always seen as a privilege – a reinforcement of their need to grow up fast.

Bex: Competition and Collaboration

There’s a flashback scene early in the first book where Bex and two of her friends use chocolate as currency in a game of cards. The first scene of the final book shows Bex sharing a bar of chocolate with two of her friends, and it is noticeable who is present, and who is missing, compared with the scene in Book One. I hadn’t planned this at all, but if you notice the connection, the effect is heartbreaking. 

The competitive use of chocolate in Battle Ground, and the act of sharing in Victory Day, also reflect the journey the characters have followed. In the flashback scenes, Bex is at school, with no reason to believe her life will change until she graduates. The classmates engage in friendly competition, not suspecting that they will need to fight together, and eventually trust each other with their lives. By the time Bex shares the bar of chocolate in Victory Day, she is taking care of her team. There is no competition between the characters – they are looking after each other, and sharing a moment free from external demands.

Ketty: Antagonist

Ketty’s story is different. Unlike Bex, Ketty is used to fighting alone. She treats other people with suspicion, always figuring out what they can do for her, and whether they are a threat to her ambitions. Unlike Bex, Ketty rarely sits down for a social meal. In the later books, she seems to survive on coffee, water, and painkillers. 

When we see Ketty sit down to eat, it is either with Jackson – the only person she trusts at the army training camp – or as a performance, to intimidate other people. Mealtimes with Jackson are filled with competitive banter, and she is just as likely to eat alone as she is to spend time with him. In False Flag, when she realises she is in danger of losing her job as Lead Recruit, she deliberately choses to eat a meal with her competitors, just to demonstrate that she is still in command.

Ketty: Addiction

Alcohol and alcohol addiction are an important element of Ketty’s story – not for her, but for the people around her. She uses her awareness of addiction to manipulate other characters, and to reinforce her place in the chain of command. And when Ketty celebrates? It’s with vodka and whisky. There’s no cake, no chocolate, no comfort food. Shots are a way to get drunk, and she can sober up afterwards without making meaningful connections with anyone else.

Where Bex deliberately builds a team, taking care of them and trusting them to look after her, Ketty keeps herself deliberately isolated. She sees herself as strong, disciplined, and capable, and her childhood with an alcohol-addicted parent has convinced her that she can’t trust anyone else with her wellbeing and her secrets. This isolation is reflected in her preference for eating alone, and her manipulation of other people’s addictions. 

Dan: Sandwiches

I can’t talk about food in the Battle Ground books without mentioning Dan, and sandwiches. Dan’s sandwiches are a running theme in Bex’s story, and they reflect his personality as well as their friendship.

Unlike Bex and Ketty, Dan isn’t a Point of View character. As a reader, you’re never inside Dan’s head. As a writer, I have to find other ways to show who Bex’s best friend is, and what his motives are for joining the group.

Dan comes from a privileged background. His parents are both lawyers, he attends an expensive boarding school, and he can’t understand why anyone would cut corners with something as important as food. Among his friends, Dan’s sandwiches are legendary. Limp slices of cheese with margarine will not do, and his mission to share deep-fill multi-topping creations with everyone around him is a symbol of his generosity, as well as providing some much-needed comic relief. He wants to nourish and protect his friends, body and soul. He has grown up in a household where food is plentiful, and his instinct is to share that with the people he loves.

Trust me. Dan is someone you want on your team.

Charlie: Chef

And then there’s Charlie. Cool Aunt figure to Bex, and to Topher in Making Trouble, Charlie is the adult member of the group. She cares about Bex and her friends, and understands that they have been forced to grow up quickly. She sees their inexperience while respecting their abilities. She gives excellent pep talks. 

It’s no accident that Charlie is a professional chef. Like Dan, you never see the story from her point of view, so it is important that her actions reflect her character. 

Charlie connects with people. She nurtures and protects the teenage characters, while allowing them to grow and take responsibility for their actions. She’s the cool Aunt, enabling things a parent would have nightmares about, but keeping the teenagers safe as much as she can.

And she cooks. She brings food and drink. She provides the focus for group meals and connection. When she smuggles food and hot chocolate to Bex in Battle Ground, it is an act of extreme kindness, in direct contrast to Ketty’s cruelty. When she first meets Bex, she shares chocolate and beer with the sixteen-year-old – acts that define her attitude to the teenage characters. By providing comfort food and an illicit grown-up drink, she establishes a connection, shows kindness, and guides Bex towards her place in the adult world. She shows that she cares, and understands, what the protagonist is going through.

Fiction and Reality

So here’s to the end of the festive season. The end of feasting and snacking and too much to drink. And here’s to the meals that come next – actual meals with family and friends, and fictional meals that bring characters together. 

There’s a lot you can learn from someone’s attitude to food. Their generosity, their need to connect or remain apart, the importance of shared experience. Friends, family, and fictional characters will all give you clues to their thoughts and feelings through their relationship with food.

So in this post-Christmas darkness, I wish you sandwiches like Dan’s, hot chocolate like Charlie’s, and mealtimes of companionship worthy of Bex and her friends. 

Victory Day, Book Five of the Battle Ground series, is published today on Amazon. To celebrate the launch, Battle Ground, Book One of the series, is FREE to download on January 9th and 10th. 

Battles and Beats: The Battle Ground Series Playlist – Guest post by Rachel Churcher

Today I welcome back Rachel Churcher, Author of the Battle Ground Series! To celebrate the release of Book 4 today, Rachel has completed another fantastic guest post about her musical inspiration behind the stories and the playlists she imagines for her characters. A great follow up to her earlier Pacifists Guide to Guns and Armour post, you should definitely check that one out too if you haven’t already!

Over to Rachel!

Battles and Beats

I’m going to say something surprising to kick off this post. 

I’m writing about music, and how closely I associate certain songs with my Battle Ground series of books – but I don’t normally listen to music while I write, and I don’t surround myself with music most of the time. I have playlists, but they are mostly for special events and parties. I’m not someone who puts on their headphones to walk around town, or to help me concentrate. I prefer silence when I’m writing.

So what am I doing, writing about the songs connected with my story and characters?

It all has to do with music, emotion, and sharing the thoughts in my head with my readers.

Words and music

As I write, I can see each scene like a movie in my mind – and movies need soundtracks. Soundtracks enhance the emotional experience of watching stories on a screen. They suggest and guide the emotional responses of the audience. They reinforce the connection to the characters. They help to immerse the audience in the world of the story. 

But these soundtracks, for me, come later. I’m not thinking about them as I put the story together. Everything I write leaves an emotional print in my mind, and if I hear music that triggers that emotion again, my brain will jump me back into that scene. I’ll be feeling the same things all over again – inside the head of my character.

One of my proofreaders describes what I do as ‘Method Writing’. Like Method Acting, this involves becoming each character as I write their scenes. It’s intense, and exhausting, and it gives me a very strong emotional connection to all the events in my story.

Retrospective soundtracks

So what happens when I hear music that connects me to those events? I find myself back inside my character’s head, living the scene again. It’s intense and exciting, and it helps me to understand what motivates and inspires me as a writer.

In Battle Ground, the first morning my characters spend at their training camp is chaotic and noisy. I love the idea of playing ‘I Predict a Riot’ by the Kaiser Chiefs to illustrate their first experiences of following strict rules in a new setting. 

Later in the book, Bex, the Point Of View character, is returning to camp through the woods at the end of the morning run. She takes a moment to appreciate the sunshine, the beautiful surroundings, and the birdsong. Poor Bex. Having a happy moment generally means that I’m about to put her through hell, again. The contrast is intentional (sorry, Bex!), and needs contrasting, lighthearted music to make the happiness happier, and the dark stuff darker. ‘You Bet Your Life’ by the Lightning Seeds is perfect for this sequence, contrasting a carefree, happy moment against what happens next.

Ketty’s ‘iron fists and steel toe caps’ scenes in Battle Ground and False Flag need something heavy and euphoric. ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ by Muse, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica, and ‘Here Comes the War’ by New Model Army all evoke the feelings of power, fear and brutality in these scenes.

The music and lyrics of ‘Manhattan Skyline’ by A-ha turn out to be spookily relevant to a scene in False Flag, where one character sees another in a hospital bed. The verses convey quiet sadness and shock, while the loud choruses suggest anger and determination, fitting the scene precisely.

In Darkest Hour, there’s a sequence of chapters that removes the characters from their routine lives step by step, until they find themselves waiting silently in an unfamiliar place in the dark. The scene feels almost dreamlike, with an other-worldly quality. ‘Hey Now’ by London Grammar fits perfectly here, capturing the emotional displacement as well as the physical isolation and the feeling of transition and uncertainty. The scene feels important – pivotal to the plot and to the characters – and the music reinforces that feeling. 

I’d argue that the same track works at the end of Fighting Back, as the characters react to a dramatic event. The feelings of displacement and uncertainty are appropriate, and the track reinforces the significance of the events. 

Walk-on music

Ask yourself which song you would want playing every time you entered a room. It needs to sum up your personality, and your attitude to whatever life throws at you.

Walk-on music for me? ‘Unwritten’ by Natasha Bedingfield if I’m in a positive mood, or ‘One and One’ by Robert Miles if I’m feeling a bit more introspective. 

And my characters? Bex and Ketty both have walk-on music. For Bex, it’s ‘Stand By Me’, by Ben E. King. Loyalty, friendship, and bravery, in one neat package. For Ketty, the choice is equally obvious: ‘Tubthumping’, by Chumbawumba. Discipline, determination, backbone, and not letting the world get you down.

The books have walk-on music, too. Battle Ground shares ‘Stand By Me’ with Bex, and False Flag shares ‘Tubthumping’ with Ketty. Darkest Hour’s theme tune is ‘The Swing of Things’ by A-ha (I know I’m showing my age here, but check out the lyrics!), and Fighting Back walks in to ‘The Old Boys’ by Runrig. Victory Day’s song sums up the entire series. John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ is the perfect end-titles music for the final book. Political, confident, and empowering – everything I want the series to be.

Music in my ears

I should give a special mention to the music that helped me through writing the Battle Ground series. Singing along to the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman is a fantastic way to wake up in the morning. Lady Antebellum’s album Need You Now works wonders at calming my thoughts if they’re racing when I sit down to write. And Faerie Stories, the album by the Peatbog Fairies, is amazingly effective at breaking through writers’ block, allowing me to put my first draft into words. 

I may not spend most of my time surrounded by music, but when I do, it’s an emotional experience. My job as a writer is to communicate events, plot, and character to my readers, but more importantly than that I need to make you feel what they feel – and what I feel while I’m writing. Film-makers use music to enhance those feelings, and to bring viewers closer to the action, and I believe the same trick can work for readers and writers.

If there’s a song playing in the background, and you see me stumble, or brush away tears, you know there’s a character in my head, going through something. I can’t avoid that musical trigger (my characters will have revenge for everything I put them through!) but I can notice it, live through the moment, and come out with a better understanding of my story. 

And a new song for my Battle Ground playlist. 

Fighting Back, Book Four of the Battle Ground Series, is published today on Amazon. To celebrate the launch, catch up with Battle Ground, False Flag, and Darkest Hour in the Kindle Box Set of Books 1-3 free to download today!

Find the Battle Ground Book Series playlist on Spotify.

Thank you so much Rachel for another amazing guest post, these really bring the reading experience to life even more! You can find my 5 star review of Fighting Back here and more about the author and the series at Taller Books!


Guest Post: The Pacifists Guide to Guns and Armour by Rachel Churcher (Author of the Battle Ground Series)

When Biba and I went to YALC in July we had the good fortune to stop and speak with Rachel Chucher who was there to promote her Battle Ground series. The series sounded like the kind of thing that I would love as I’m a sucker for a dystopian as regular readers will know! I got a book and Biba got a sticker, happy days 🙂 

After reading Battle Ground one of the things that really stood out for me was the creativity and imagination behind the weaponry and the armour, which only increased when I read False Flag. When Rachel Churcher reached out to me I knew that I would love to know more about the process behind this and she kindly shared her thoughts with this amazing guest post, happy reading!

The Pacifist’s Guide to Guns and Armour

Here’s what you need to know about me.

I’m a pacifist, but I’m also uncomfortably aware that there are some things I would fight for.

I would describe myself as anti-military, but my first two novels are based in a military training camp.

In real life, I don’t like guns, but some of my favourite books and films feature beautiful weapons and very satisfying fight scenes.

I’m a British child of the 70s and 80s, so I grew up watching bombs and riot police on the news, and Star Wars and Star Trek on TV.

So what made me write the Battle Ground series, and what inspired the shiny military tech that is central to the story?

To answer that question, you need to know a few more things about me.

I’ve been reading Science Fiction for as long as I can remember.

I’ve been watching Science Fiction for as long as I can remember.

I consumed so much SF that I went and got myself a Master’s Degree in Science Fiction Studies (yes – it’s a thing!).

It is safe to say that my worldview has been shaped by generations of SF writers and film-makers. A lot of SF is concerned with conflict – conflict between oppressor and oppressed, between lawless factions in a dystopian setting, between old and new, and between expectations and reality. There are sub-genres of SF that are simply Westerns wearing spacesuits, or fairy tales with starships. In SF, conflict is everywhere, technological advancement is a common theme, and shiny weapons are part of the furniture.

Writing the army

So why Battle Ground? Why set a dystopian story in the very near future, and then populate it with high-tech weaponry and armour? It’s a character-driven story, after all. Sixteen-year-old Bex and her friends are conscripted into a branch of the Army, and trained to defend civilians from terrorist attacks. They don’t have a choice in what happens to them, and they are expected to use guns and defend themselves, starting on their first day at training camp.

The easy answer is that this tech is cool. Shiny black-and-grey armour with integrated radio, contamination monitoring, and clips across the back for a prototype next-gen power-assisted rifle. Who wouldn’t want to try it on, just to see how it feels? Like Han Solo’s blaster, a Jedi’s lightsabre, or Iron Man’s suit, there’s something satisfying about a personal defence system, fitted to you and your abilities. 

It’s also vital to the story. I needed to be able to send my characters into dangerous situations, and give them a realistic chance of making it out alive. Guns and armour provided the obvious solution, and their training gave them the knowledge they needed to use the armour effectively. Acquiring and using armour is essential to the decisions made by the characters, and the protection against chemical weapons allowed me to ramp up the danger without killing the plot.

Writing the people

What about the effect on the characters? Bex and her friends are ordinary schoolchildren, recruited without their permission, and sent out in public to deter attacks from terrorist groups. The armour gives them confidence, and allows members of the public to see the uniform, not the individuals inside. They describe themselves as looking like ‘space-age badass ninjas’ while they’re wearing the armour, and the anonymity provided by helmets and identical outfits makes them feel supported, and part of a team.

But Bex also finds the armour isolating. Putting the helmet on blocks her senses, and takes away her awareness of the outside world. She finds herself disoriented when she is expected to communicate using the radio, and when she can’t hear the background noises she’s used to. She wants to feel the air on her face, and see clearly everything around her, but the armour breaks that connection. She wants to connect with her friends, but the armour keeps them apart.

So it’s a metaphor, as well as a plot point. Bex is used to looking after people, and building relationships, but the training camp aims to take that away. The recruits are expected to look out for themselves rather than helping each other, and Bex’s isolation is increased by the uniform she is expected to wear. It’s my pacifist comment on the dehumanising effect of training people to be soldiers, backed up by the characters’ experiences.

Writing the future

Advanced technology is also a signal to the reader that this isn’t the world they are used to. SF relies on a sense of difference, or ‘cognitive estrangement’ – throwing the reader in at the deep end, and allowing them to figure out what’s going on in the story. To create a convincing SF setting, the furniture needs to make sense. 

In the Battle Ground series, a totalitarian government has taken control of the UK to protect the population from an increase in terrorism following Brexit and Scottish Independence. There’s no civilian Internet access, and the mobile phone network has been switched off. The setting could feel confusing to readers – it’s set in the future, but it feels like the past – so advanced military technology provides a way to bridge that gap.

The inspiration for the series was the 2016 Brexit vote, the lack of accountability that characterised the campaign, and the apathy surrounding the vote. Dreaming up a suit of armour for my conscripted child soldiers helped to illustrate these threats to our democracy. The recruits become a faceless fighting force, stripped of their individuality and expected to follow orders without question. I wanted to show my readers the UK without democracy, where citizens no longer have a voice. Lines of teenagers in identical armour and anonymous black-tinted helmets provide a visual demonstration of a totalitarian society.

Writing the story

Of course, in the world of the Battle Ground series, the armour is none of these things. The armour is just armour, designed to protect the recruits and impress the public. The design is drawn from every book I’ve read, and every film I’ve seen. There’s some Ray Bradbury in there (Montag’s ‘black-beetle coloured helmet’ from Fahrenheit 451), some Lois McMaster Bujold, some Elizabeth Moon, some Hugh Howey. There’s some real life, too – lines of riot police facing protestors in Hong Kong or Rio de Janeiro. And the obvious visual ingredients – Stormtrooper clones from Star Wars, body armour from Starship Troopers, and combat uniforms from Ender’s Game

As an author, I’m a magpie. I pick up ideas everywhere, and hide them away until they merge and grow. Until something triggers the start of a story, and I have to write it down. Until all the subconscious signals I’ve been picking up come together and become something bigger – something new. 

Battle Ground is one of those stories. The inspiration has been building since I first picked up a book, and since I first watched Star Wars: A New Hope  and the original Battlestar Galactica in a world without mobile phones and Internet connections. Since I watched Miners on strike facing police on horseback on the news, and waited for the details of the latest IRA bomb. I remember the IRA attack on my home town, and I remember feeling afraid. And maybe the guns and armour I’ve given to my characters are a reaction to that fear. Who doesn’t want to cheat death? Who doesn’t want a way to defend themselves when something unexpected happens?

Maybe it’s my 7-year-old self’s fantasy – a way to take control over terrifying events and make them safe again. Give me a suit of armour and a prototype next-gen power-assisted rifle, and maybe I can get through this. Maybe I can survive. And maybe my characters can, too.

Darkest Hour, Book 3 of the Battle Ground series, is published today. Book 1, Battle Ground, and Book 2, False Flag, are available on Amazon. Find international download links on the Taller Books website.


Interview with G.S Denning author of the Warlock Holmes Series

Last month I was invited to read and review the latest book in the Warlock Holmes series: Sign of Nine by the lovely people at Titan books. It was a wonderful book with real laugh out loud moments and a ton of great happenings to investigate. When I was asked if I would like to interview the author G.S Denning, I jumped at the chance to find out more about this take on these well loved characters and about the author himself.

For readers like me who are new to the series can you give a short summary of what to expect from Warlock Holmes?

Well, let’s see… Murder? Mayhem? Demons, certainly. Betrayal. Laughter. Toast and soup. Really, Warlock Holmes is a pretty close parody of the original 60 Sherlock Holmes stories, just with a focus on the supernatural and the ridiculous. So far, it’s been a hell of a fun series to write.

Have you always wanted to put your own spin on a classic tale? What drew you to Sherlock Holmes as inspiration?

I spent 15 years doing improv. We’d do your first date in the style of Shakespeare, or your last job interview as a Mexican soap-opera. As soon as I got the idea to re-do the original Sherlock stories as a comic supernatural adventure, I was off and running.

Watson’s narration is spot on and I loved how quintessentially English he sounded, is his narration something you spent a long time researching or does his voice just flow for you?

Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. I didn’t have to work too hard, to be honest. I’ve always been an anglophile. Though American, I was raised on Monty Python, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. By the time I got round to doing this, I was already so steeped in English dialogue and humor, it wasn’t hard. That said, my editor does give me occasional email slaps when I say “yard” instead of “garden” or dare to hint that English muffins are basically just round toast.

Speaking of research, have you ever visited the UK to see any of the iconic Holmes and Watson sights?

Since I spent my young adulthood as a poor theater-rat, I’ve never traveled. I’ve got books of all the iconic Sherlockian sites, but I’ve never personally been. Tell you what: get one million of your friends to buy my books and I’ll totally take that vacation.

I felt the comedy and the tragedy was really well balanced in this story, was it difficult to not let the story stray too far to one side?

That has always been the challenge with this series. How many jokes should there be? How much mystery? How much adventure? How much craziness, vs. how much Sherlockian logic? Where should I be ridiculous and where should I let people feel genuine emotional connection to these characters? It’s not hard for me to do any of those things, but it’s incredibly difficult to do them all without letting one overwhelm the others.

Have mythical creatures always fascinated you? I love the mythology around the Selkie and was so pleased so see it featured in the story.

Hey, a selkie fan! Those are almost as rare as selkies, you know. Yeah, I love mythical creatures, especially rare ones. In book 3 I actually named a character “Barghest” thinking that most people would not know that was a mythical beast. Even more importantly, I figured the readers who did know would probably just smile a bit and congratulate themselves on being smart enough to see what was coming. And guess what? Spoiler alert: Barghest was a barghest. Yep. Violence ensued.

There are some pretty gruesome yet creative demises in Sign of Nine, which was the most fun to come up with?

I think my favorite was the lovers’ pistol duel where one of the guys didn’t know he was in a fight. I chuckle when I picture that poor girl sitting on the swing with bits of her lover’s scalp all stuck in her hair, wondering what just happened. Oh, and given that the narrator of that scene is somewhat untrustworthy, I’m not sure she ever even knew Johnathan Small had a crush on her. I like to think it was entirely out of the blue. I’m a little cruel to my characters, like that.

Dreamscapes play an important part in Sign of Nine, do you feel that dreams hold a lot of symbolism or is that something you reserve for Dr Watson?

It’s not reserved for Dr. Watson, per se, but it is kind of unique to this book. Hmmm… it’s a clever observation on your part, so I’ll reward it with a peek behind the curtain. Moriarty and Adler are super-important in modern Holmes stories—as they are in my universe. Here’s the problem: they each appear in only one of the 60 original stories. I therefore had to find a way to show what they were doing, what they were planning, and why they were who they were with very limited materials. Fortunately, Holmes had this drug problem in the original that I knew I wanted to transfer to Watson. I thought about making him a drug-abusing healthcare provider (which is a common problem, sadly). Yet the way to solve my Adler-absence problem was clear. In book 3, Watson accidentally got ahold of a mystic source of knowledge. I made abuse of that magic double for Holmes’s drug problem. It lets me get that spiral of self-damage I needed for Watson, along with allowing him magical insight into the lives of Adler and Moriarty. It also makes book 4 my dark middle chapter. It’s my series’ Empire Strikes Back.

What would you say is your favourite thing about being an author?

You know something weird, it’s exactly my favorite thing about doing theater. I love coming up with things I think are funny, or interesting, or cool, then bouncing them off an audience and seeing if they agree. I think there’s some basic programing in humans that makes us want to share the things we enjoy. The only hard part is having a book written but not published. You know that crazy friend you’ve got who knows the name of every actor in every Star Wars film and the name of every starship and the inflection of every line ever spoken in any of the movies or cartoons? Well, imagine if you were that guy and that Star Wars had never been released. That’s what it’s like having a finished book that nobody’s read. The day it hits shelves you breathe this huge sigh of relief because you know you’re not just a freak anymore.

We always round of our blog interviews by asking for your fictional five! Which 5 authors or book characters would you love to sit around the dinner table with?

Oooooooh! Ok. Let’s see… I mentioned two of them earlier. I want Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett sitting with me and Starlord and Don Quixote. Pretty sure Don Quixote will never realize he’s got the same complex as Starlord, but I bet by the time desert comes Starlord will realize he’s basically just Outer-space Don Quixote. He’d probably need some drinks to cope with that one. Which is fine. Me and Doug and Teri would drink a ton of cheap red wine and just watch the fireworks. Oh, and the 5th guest? If we wanted a light evening, we’d probably invite Martin Luther to sit there, totally ignored and wondering what the hell was happening. Or if we were in the mood to make it memorable, the Marquis de Sade. Which, I admit, we might come to regret. Still, you can’t say he’s not an interesting author. Even after all that crazy sex-torture, know what they arrested him for? Two of his books. Ah! C’est France, eh?

Huge thanks to G.S. Denning for this brilliant interview, you can find my review of Sign of Nine here and you can discover more about the series by visiting Titan Books.

Warlock Holmes: The Sign of Nine by G.S. Denning, published by Titan Books on 21st May 2019.

Character Guest Post: Sebastian Blackwell of Love Lies and Hocus Pocus!

Today is an amazing day, massive congratulations to Lydia Sherrer on the the release of Betrayal (book #5 in the Love Lies and Hocus Pocus series) What better way to mark this day than with a character guest post from everyone’s favourite witch, Sebastian Blackwell! I have been a huge fan of this series from the start and one question I was itching to ask, was how did he learn to tame all the magical creatures that help (and also sometimes hinder) him in his escapades. Lucky for me, and you, he’s prepared this handy guide to help you tame a magical creature of your very own!

Sebastian Blackwell here, devilishly handsome Professional Witch and your guide to all things magical and beastly. It seems there is cause for celebration today because another one of our adventures has been “leaked” to you mundanes.

I think that’s all fine and dandy, but Lily is worried that some “poor” and “innocent” mundane is going to have the wrong idea and get themselves killed trying to copy us. Sooooo, I’m here to assure you that no cats were harmed in the writing of…hmm, that doesn’t sound right, what was it I was supposed to say? Oh yeah! All magical feats were performed by trained

professionals, and do not try this at home.

There, got that out of the way.

Now, since you’re going to pay as much attention to that warning as you do to the speed limit, the suggested serving size on a box of thin mints, and that safety tag you always tear off of your mattress, here’s a handy little guide to get you started. If you follow these ten rules, your chances of survival will go from about 1 in 5 to a good fifty percent.

Probably. Have fun!

Sebastian’s 10 Rules For Taming Magical Creatures

(AKA Sebastian’s Guide to Avoiding an Untimely and Grisly End)

So you want to tame magical creatures? Well, it’s not all exciting adventures, exotic animals, and fashionably dramatic cloaks, let me tell you. It’s more like life-threatening mishaps, seat-of-your-pants guesswork, and lots and lots of bleach—you’re gonna need that stuff by the gallon. Oh, and cloaks? Seriously? Talk about strangulation hazard right there. Ditch the cloak and stick with jeans and a t-shirt (and not your favorite jeans and t-shirt either, because they’ll probably get torn, stained, burned, and vomited on in short order).

  1. Never summon a demon.

Seriously, just don’t do it, no matter how desperate you are. Been there, done that, regretted it for the rest of my life. Plus, they stink like rotten eggs. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

  1. When it comes to ghosts, do your homework.

Or don’t, if you feel particularly lucky and enjoy the thought of gambling your eternal soul on the off chance that whatever spirit you’re bargaining with is a stand up kinda guy. Unlike the fae, your run-of-the-mill ghosts, poltergeists, and the like don’t follow any rules and will happily lie to your face if it serves their purpose. So, make sure you research the history of said floaty individual and know what kind of person they were in life, not to mention what’s motivating them to stick around in death. People don’t change when they die, they just get cranky about all their favorite foods they can’t eat anymore.

  1. Invest in a sturdy pair of leather boots.

They come in handy when those miniature alligator fae decide they’d rather take a chunk out of your juicy human foot instead of eating the perfectly good slab of raw beef you just threw at them.

  1. Pay attention to your teacher in Spanish class.

Why bother developing your foreign language skills when everyone speaks English anyway? I’ll tell you why, because when you mispronounce that demon’s name you’ve just summoned (because, of course, you’re a reckless masochist and have ignored Rule Number 1), the demon is going to laugh at you and then bite your head off. So, kids, bring your teacher a nice box of chocolates, sit in the front row, and study Spanish (or French or Latin or whatever) like your life depends on it.

  1. Never accept a gift.

Because probably, it’s not. No matter how much that magical creature seems to like you, gift-giving is just a sneaky way to rope you into doing something later that you’ll severely regret. Ask me someday about the time I got hoodwinked into hosting a full moon fae jamboree in my apartment. Imagine one hundred drunk toddlers…yeah, and Lily wonders why I never bother cleaning my apartment.

  1.  Take a bartending course.

Do you have any idea the kind of social skills it takes to bargain, cajole, bully, persuade, threaten, and trick various creatures into doing what you want? If you can’t make it as a bartender, don’t even think about trying to be a witch, not unless you want to be eaten alive, turned into a goat, or stuck in unending nothingness in-between dimensions (those are

just the first three things that came to mind, there are worse fates, believe me). Assuming you can handle bartending, such training will have the side benefit of teaching you about mixed drinks, which are a prime bargaining chips with pixies. Those little stinkers will do anything for a well-made cocktail.

  1. Always carry dog biscuits.

Because you never know when a well-aimed dog biscuit will be the difference between normal life, and life as a quadriplegic. Most hungry things with sharp teeth aren’t picky about what goes in their mouth, as long as something does. If you want to spice things up, you could even invest in some of those super fancy dog biscuits that look like cookies with icing and everything. Just don’t get them mixed up with the actual cookies (because who doesn’t carry around a handy bag of emergency cookies?)

  1. Build a greenhouse.

No, I’m not going all hippie on you. The greenhouse is so you have somewhere to cultivate the variety of grubs, herbs, and various other living things you’ll need to attract magical creatures. Or, if you’re lazy like me you could just use your kitchen sink and the back seat of your car. Back seats are a great place to ferment aged pizza, and there’s nothing better to attract mold fae.

  1. Adopt ten cats.

This one is not for the faint of heart. But I promise, if you can keep ten cats happy, you are much more likely to survive being a witch. Why do you think we have all those stories about witches keeping cats? It’s not because of the feline race’s winning personality, I can promise you that. Plus, cats are good at catching all the mice that’ll be hanging around if you’re cutting corners on Rule Number 8.

DISCLAIMER: I was in no way influenced to add this rule by the large grey ball of floof currently sitting on my lap. If Sir Kipling had his way, the rule would say “Find the nearest cat and give it salmon,” on the off chance that he might be near anyone reading it. When I pointed out that cats aren’t technically magical creatures, Sir Kipling decided to use my lap as a scratching post, so I quickly dropped the subject.

  1. Make friends with a wizard.

This is probably the most challenging rule, since wizards aren’t overly fond of witches. In fact, if you ever meet a wizard, best not to tell them you’re a witch until you’re reasonably confident they aren’t a “curse first and ask questions later,” kind of person. But if you do happenacross a rare specimen of magical impartiality and tolerance, be sure to:

a) Do your research (in case they are secretly a megalomaniacal narcissist plotting to rule the world—those are more trouble than they’re worth)

b) Give them lots of gifts (real cookies, not the dog biscuits) and

c) Don’t tell them about the greenhouse in your sink.

If they stick around after they meet your ten cats, then you’re golden. As long as you keep the cookies and/or mixed drinks coming (depending on their preference), they will most likely be excellent backup in any magically hazardous situation, and might even be persuaded to let you “borrow” their magical knick knacks (and by borrow, of course, I mean procure with no firm return date in mind).

Well, there you go! Ten sure-fire ways to stay on top of things when interacting with the various creatures of the magical underworld. Of course, it would be safer to just read about our adventures from the safety of your armchair with a cheese scone and a hot cup of tea close at hand. But then nobody has ever accused me of being “safe.” *Winks*

Good luck!

Betrayal (Love Lies and Hocus Pocus #5) is live now and you can grab it from Amazon here and it’s also available to KU subscribers.

You can also find my 5 star review of book five here and don’t forget reviews from all the books in the series are available in the blog review archive!

Guest Post: Stacey Rourke’s Apocalypse Five

Last month I was privileged to receive an advanced copy of Apocalypse Five by Stacey Rourke, it was a hugely enjoyable read and left me thinking about who I would want to see in that role – I then got to thinking about who the author would visualise, so I reached out to Stacey to ask this very question, the results – well, see for yourself in this fantastic guest post!

When Gaynor Smith first approached me about doing a blog spot of who I would put on my own Apocalypse Five team, my mind instantly began buzzing and clicking with possibilities. For a team designed to be earth’s last line of defense against looming catastrophe, who would I want acting as champions to man-kind? In the first draft of my list, I found many Marvel characters added into the mix. Anyone else see the fatal flaw there? Recently, Thanos proved that particular group can be whipped out with a snap of the fingers. Maybe they aren’t the best choice. Back to the drawing board for me. To make this a little more challenging, I decided to make all my picks from literary works. What better way to celebrate the launch of a new book, than by showing love to other amazing titles?

That being the case, let’s roll up our sleeves and really break this down. The security of the planet just might depend on it … (It totally doesn’t, but thanks for playing along.)

Okay—cracks knuckles—let’s get started!

We need a strong team leader, someone people will clamor to rally behind. They need to have unmatched strength of character, a self-sacrificing mentality, and an iron-clad will to fight for the greater good. I appoint to this role a young lady that knows a little something about being the face of a revolution—Katniss Everdeen.

Team lead in place, we need someone in charge of security. They need to be an expert in weaponry, security, and surveillance. Sharp-shooting skills being an added bonus. Who do I think would be an ideal fit? Jason Bourne. Even when the dude doesn’t know who he is, his training is embedded in his DNA. He would do whatever it took to keep the team safe.

So, what happens when a hostile lands a lucky shot? Or someone gets harmed in a simulation? We need a first rate healer in our group. I nominate Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser from the Outlander series. Having started as a war-time nurse, and going on to become a surgeon, her travels through time have educated her on how to find healing properties from her surroundings to best treat her patients.

Wherever the grid takes them, the team will need someone with a first rate knowledge of botany—to know what can be eaten, and what could turn them inside out. This person needs mechanical skills, a creative mind, and unparalleled problem-solving skills.   My selection? Mark Watney from The Martian. A guy that can find his way back from Mars by himself would be a huge asset to the crew.

Four strong individuals at the prime of their game. Who do we add as their fifth, to complete the unit? This one is going to seem a little far-fetched, so go with me on this. Everdeen, Bourne, Beauchamp, and Watney are all strong, self-sufficient people. What we need is a heart of the group, to rally them all together. Someone strong in spirit, but weak in stature or strength. This character will bind them as a unit. Their presence will make it mandatory for the A5 to work together towards their mutual goal—which in large part will become keeping their more vulnerable counterpart safe. When things get rough, and differing opinions make them want to go it alone, they will stay … for him. With this in mind, I select Auggie from the book Wander to be the glue that basically holds the team together. The safety of that boy, will become their driving force. Failure will no longer be an option.

There you have it, my picks for our A5 team. Now, they are loading into their pods and beginning their countdown to launch. That means there is only one thing left to say …

Good luck, and have a pleasant apocalypse.

Hope you all loved that as much as I did, amazing choices and some of which are favourite characters of mine too. Others I need to check out and add to my tbr (which is about to topple and crush me!)  Apocalypse 5 is released today and you can check out my review here and find it at amazon by following this link

Author Interview with Lindsey S. Frantz!

At the end of 2018 review team member K.D. Reid read and loved The Upworld by Lindsey S. Frantz, so when the opportunity arose to find out more about the author and the world she had created, it was a no brainer! With special thanks to K.D Reid for coming up with these great questions and, of course, Linsdey S. Frantz for taking part!

Q: For those new to you as an author, let’s cover what got you into writing.

When I was about 13, I was at my Papa Cardona’s house visiting with my family. My uncle Vaughn, who’s about my age, was reading a book about dragons, and I’d forgotten my book at home (I always had a book with me), so I asked to borrow one. He let me borrow DRAGONSEYE by Anne McCaffrey. From the moment I started reading it, I knew I wanted to do what McCaffrey did. It wasn’t her best book, and it was in the middle of the series, but completely fell in love with Pern, the planet where the dragons  and their riders lived, and the dragons themselves. That was 20 years ago, and now I own MOST of her books, and have read everything of hers I can get my hands on.

Q: Where did you get the idea for Vitium?

Honestly, I needed something that could mutate people, or their brain chemistry, that didn’t have any rules already attached to it. At first, I was going to use nuclear waste, but I wanted to have more freedom with the side effects than that would allow. So I created my own substance and started looking up Latin words that might fit it. Vitium, in Latin, can mean fault, crime, or vice. I thought, since Vitium is the culmination of pollutants gathering and congealing over centuries, that it was an appropriate word. It’s the fault of modern man, it’s a crime against Mother Nature, and at some point in the books it will become a vice for some.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit of backstory about The Wylden without giving away anything about Book 2 or giving away spoilers for The Upworld? A big ask, I know!

I think so! So, in book two, Erilyn will go on a journey to try and figure out some stuff about the Wylden. I don’t want to say too much about that, since it’s all still in progress. But—and I think this is OK, since Erilyn realizes a little of it in bits and pieces in book 1—while the Wylden seem like animals, they’re people just like the upworlders and just like the cave dwellers. I won’t say how, but Vitium plays a big part in their lives, just like it’s played a big part in Erilyn’s life. And as Erilyn discovers various truths about Vitium and the Wylden, it changes her perception of them and of the entire world around her.

Q: How many of your characters have traits of or were based off of people you’ve known in real life? And what are the other ways that you build a character?

I think all of my characters have at least one or two traits or characteristics from people I know. Sometimes I do it intentionally, and other times I realize I’ve done it after the fact, but I see a lot of my family and friends in my characters. And then other times, I’ll create a character with the intention of basing him or her off of someone I know, but they’ll take on a life of their own and the only similarity might be some piece of backstory the reader will never even see. When I create any character, though, it usually starts off with a single trait. It may be a physical characteristic like their eye color or an expression, or it may be a way they behave—shy, talkative, mean—and they sort of grow from there. I also like to get to know my characters as I write them. Before I wrote THE UPWORLD, Erilyn lived in my head for about ten years. She was waiting for the right story, I think, because I tried to put her into a lot of stories before THE UPWORLD was born. That being said, even though I don’t usually let characters sit in my brain for a whole decade, I do like to let characters live in my head until they mature to a point that they’re ready for their story. That may be a week and it may be years, but I don’t like to really write them until they’re ready to be written. I guess I kind of went off the rails with that question. So, short answer, most, if not all, of my characters have at least something about them based on people I know.

Q: In The Upworld, we get two different perspectives: Erilyn and Finn. Erilyn’s view is first person and Finn’s was third person, if I recall correctly. What made you decide to use two different points of view?

Well, at first it was going to be purely from Erilyn’s point of view, but there was a lot that I realized I couldn’t share if it was a close first person POV. So I added Finn! In the first draft with Finn’s POV, both characters were in third person, but I felt like the voices of the two characters became two similar like that. I wasn’t sure if having Erilyn’s POV in first person and Finn’s in third would work, but in the end I was happy with it. It helped me keep their narrative voices straight in my head, and I think it helps the reader differentiate between the two. I’d also read UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi a few months before I started writing my book, and she does a truly wonderful job of utilizing two characters’ points of view, which made me want to give it a shot. Hopefully I did both points of view justice.

Q: Considering all of the different parts of how an author gets their work published, what was your favorite part of putting this book together?

Honestly, my very favorite part was typing the last sentence, and then starting the first revision. Revision is something I’ve always really, really enjoyed. I compare it in my head to baking a cake. Writing the book is like mixing all the ingredients and putting it in the oven to bake. It can be a long, complicated process, but putting all the raw pieces together to create something bigger is fascinating. But the FUN part is icing the cake. You can cut the cake into pieces to create a new shape, ice it, and just in general have fun as you change it into something new. Icing it, for me, is like the revision. And then, of course, the day that Amanda from Line by Lion Publications actually offered me a book deal, that was a pretty amazing part too. (And THAT was the understatement of the century. I got her email. I cried. I laughed. I cried more.)

Q: What was your favorite book that you read in 2018? Why did it speak to you?

I started a new job last year, so I didn’t have a lot of time to read, but my husband got me a book for Christmas that once I started reading I couldn’t put down—SKYWARD by Brandon Sanderson. It’s a sci-fi YA novel with a protagonist that I am nothing like, and yet, I really felt like I understood her. She was rough and rowdy on the outside with huge ambitions, but on the inside she was like every other nervous, teenage girl faced with big life choices. I’m not sure why I loved it so much, but I did. I could easily read it again, and again, and again.

Q: We like to round off our interviews with this question!  Fictional 5: Can you choose 5 fictional characters or authors that you would love to invite for a dinner party, what would make them such great guests?

The five authors I’d like to invite over would have to be Anne McCaffrey, JK Rowling, Veronica Rossi, Suzanne Collins, and Elizabeth Hayden. All five of these women have had such a huge influence on my writing, and I would LOVE to be able to just sit and talk with them, or just listen to them to talk to each other, about writing and life and everything in between. Anne McCaffrey inspired me to write. JK Rowling inspired me to dream as big as I could and to keep workin and trying. Veronica Rossi inspired me to try challenging the “rules” as I knew them (like staying in 1 POV at a time). Suzanne Collins inspired me to not be afraid to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable. And Elizabeth Hayden inspired me to write beautifully and to dig deep into my stories. A conversation with all five of them would be life changing and brilliant.

What a great interview, Skyward was certainly a 5 star read for this blog too! Thank you again to Lindsey S Frantz and K.D Reid for making this post possible. If that has piqued your interest in The Upworld it’s currently available through Amazon and you can find the link to our 5 star review here!

Guest Post: The Tech of The Fall by S.T. Campitelli

Last month Beverly reviewed The Fall by S.T. Campitelli, Set in 2052 Post Apocalyptic Australia, the novel secured a 4* review from this blog and can be found here.  Following this great review, when S.T. Campitelli approached me about a guest post I jumped at the chance to get to know more about the world he had created.  So sit back and enjoy a delve into the tech of The Fall and how it may not be all that far fetched after all…….

The Tech of The Fall

By S.T. Campitelli

‘The smartfybre material, boys,’ – John raised an eyebrow at Matt, ‘boys’ was a liberty – ‘is a lightweight but damn resilient carbon-nanotube mesh of graphene with a reinforcing cross-matrix of goethite thread. You can see it as the grey running through the black. The suit is ten times tougher than Kevlar,’ – rapping her knuckles against her chest – ‘but super flexible with fibre-reinforced hydrogel at the joints. Go on, do a couple of squats.’

Set in close-future 2052, this snapshot from The Fall takes place on the training ground as two of the characters get taken through the paces of the BACC – Bio Armour Combat Chassis – suits, fictional body-armour worn by the military in the book. But is it all fictional? Yes and no. The BACC suits themselves are, but the tech behind them certainly isn’t. The Fall attempts to make use of tech that is possible, and while the intent was that it was certainly futuristic, it also needed to be anchored in reality because that’s where sci-fi or future-facing authors get the buy in. The best stories incorporating tech present it as a seamless part of the story, in the background, not dominant or too prominent. I hoped I’ve achieved that in this book, but it’s the grounded reality of the technology of The Fall I’m writing about today. A caveat before we start: any of the tech bloopers are totally mine!

Let’s look at some of the elements of the excerpt. We’ve known about graphene since Andrew Geim first discovered it in 2002 at the University of Manchester. And although the ultra-thin carbon sheet is thought to be the strongest material on Earth, a challenge has always been to turn it into a material useful for industry. In 2017, a team of researchers at MIT designed a new material with graphene, modelling it into a sponge-like configuration called a ‘gyroid’, an incredibly light yet amazingly strong sponge-like shape taken from nature. The graphene as gyroid is about ten times stronger than steel, and just as importantly, it’s more workable. It is still prohibitively expensive to produce graphene products, but by 2052, I’m betting we’ll be well down that track.

The hydrogel mentioned as being at the joints of the BACC suit is also a real material, right now. A mesh developed by scientists in Japan, it is thought to be five times as strong as carbon steel. The uber-strong, yet flexible and stretchable, fabric brings together hydrogels, like those found in jelly (yes, the kid’s treat – jello if you’re in the US), with glass fibres, resulting in a very resilient yet elastic material that could have a range of future applications. It’s probably no surprise that the suits themselves are a long-investigated branch of military R&D, but how far they are going at the cutting edge in protection and other applications, including medical, is quite sharp indeed.

And it’s not just the protective suits. The people populating the walled compounds, including the military, are mostly equipped with the fictional ‘360’ – a comms and apps system based on microchip tech implants at the back of the neck. Wearable tech? Uh-huh, embedded implants are here now, so I envisaged that by 2052, we would no longer be using hand-held devices, but have them in an array around us. I pictured them as hovering, movable apps around the head, hence the 360, activated with a swipe through the virtual image of the app. Picture the view that Ironman gets from within his suit and you get the idea, without the need for the helmet. Sound fanciful? The microchip debate is already taking place with, at the very least, one Swedish company already into it for employees with subcutaneous chipping.

Surely, though, we can’t ‘touch’ the projections and activate them? Haptic technology would suggest we can. Haptic tech is behind what makes your smartphone generate physical feedback when you touch buttons, for instance. However, through ultrasound technology, the much greater possibility of experiencing a tangible result when handling virtual objects is possible now. But how can a small projection of a virtual app even occur? It already is. Ostendo Technologies in California have developed an imager chip smaller than a piece of chewing gum which, when paired with a miniature projector, is capable of generating crystal clear 2D and 3D imaging from a phone or flat display device bringing images to life.

So, what else does The Fall imagine 2052 life to be like, apart from the impending Apocalypse and super-aggressive infected beings?? The compound has paintable touchscreens enabling portal access to those with the reading tech, bioenhanced soldiers augmented with nanotech, and doctors that can make diagnoses with hand-held devices able to detect medical issues, including cancer, in moments.

Sound like a stretch? It isn’t.

And maybe it isn’t all available right now from your online electronics supplier, but if you want a sneak peek into how augmented reality of the not-too-distant future may look for you, video artist Keiichi Matsuda has given us a vision of it.

Check out The Fall at Amazon or The Fall homepage.