Friday, 10 September 2021

BOOK REVIEW: The Gulp, by Alan Baxter; One Word Kill, by Mark Lawrence; Notna, by JD Cunegan

It's book review time again, and time to catch up with antipodean horror, globe-trotting mythological thriller and D&D-inspired adventure.

The Gulp, by Alan Baxter

Some horrors start off with creeping dread and mystery. This one sits down across the table from you, flashes a devilish grin, slides you a beer and asks what's the worst possible thing you can imagine. Then chuckles and says that's all you've got? Let me tell you a story. 
Five stories, in fact. Each a slice of life and death in the remote Australian community of Gulpepper, nicknamed The Gulp. It's the kind of town you might find in The Twilight Zone if Clive Barker was mayor. Everything's a little twisted, a little wrong, a little off-kilter. 
The five stories seem separate at first - how a trucker finds his safe world slipping away from him, how some teenagers deal with the weird things happening to their mother, how a group of backpackers fall under the spell of a local rock band... but the pieces start to make up a bigger picture. Something strange is always going on in The Gulp, but now... well, strange is stacking up on strange. 
Alan Baxter does a great job of inviting you into a weird part of the world, starting with uncomfortable before plunging into the grotesque and the ominous. There's clearly more to come, but building slowly, steadily. Each of these stories is a crack of distant thunder, warning that the storm is coming nearer, nearer. I'm looking forward to when it arrives. 

AI Rating: 5/5
The Gulp is available on Amazon.

One Word Kill, by Mark Lawrence

I should be a sucker for this book. It's about a teenage boy who is both a genius... and who is dying. He's also a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons, and in a time when at last roleplaying games are kind of cool, and affectionately regarded in hit shows such as Stranger Things, more fiction that treats gaming as a delight rather than a menace ought to be welcome. 
As a long-time gamer myself... let's not talk about how many years exactly as that makes me feel old... that really ought to hit the mark for me. 
But it didn't, sadly. Things set up as major hurdles are resolved so easily you wonder why they were part of the book to begin with, and the plot itself, which tosses in time travel on top, manages to be both predictable and contradicting its own rules. 
This feels like a missed opportunity, there's a great chance to tell a good story here, but it falls flat and ends up feeling by-the-numbers. Not quite a critical miss, but I won't be giving the rest of the series a roll of the dice. 

AI Rating: 2/5
One Word Kill is an Editor's Pick on Amazon - so mileage may vary. 

Notna, by JD Cunegan

Globe-trotting, myth-shaking, world-threatening thriller your kind of thing? Step right up, for this thrill-ride from JD Cunegan.
Look, there's one name I'm going to mention right from the off. Though I hesitate to do so because it's an author name that a lot of people have a bit of scorn for. Dan Brown. But, you know what? I've read a bunch of Dan Brown stuff and what's good about it is the way he conjures up these threats from across history and binds it into a story that hops from one location to another around the world. He has his failings elsewhere, sure, but that's what works - and it's also what works here. 
Here, an archaeologist is on the trail of the Gem of Notna, whose power can be both a threat to the world and... perhaps, in the right hands... its redemption.
This is the first book I've read by Cunegan, and his writing is fun, brisk and keeps the plot moving along, revealing a story set in the modern day but stretching back to the dawn of time. Ancient beings and gods are woven throughout, but overall it becomes a very personal tale as our heroes learn the power that they're dealing with, and try to work out how they can use it to save the day, and the world. 
A good, fun read. 

AI Rating: 4/5
Notna is available on Amazon.

Friday, 3 September 2021

BOOK LAUNCH: Wolf Killer, by CH Clepitt

Those of you who have been regulars at the blog for a long time will know I'm a fan of the work of C H Clepitt - and they have a new book out! Wolf Killer is the title... and the details are below. 

Release Date: 26th September 2021

Author: C H Clepitt

Pre-Order Links: Amazon, Smashwords

ARC Requests:

Interview Requests:

Release Party Link: 

“Honey, it’s the ’80s. You need to find yourself a woman who can hold your hand in public, not one who calls you her ‘friend’ and keeps you away from her boss. You don’t need that kinda heartache. You think it’ll be OK, but it won’t, trust me. It starts to eat away at you.”

FBI Agent Clara Hunter might not be girlfriend material, but as Red soon discovers, if you have a serial killer on your heels she is just the woman you want in your life!

Book 3 of the Magic Mirror collection takes Red Riding Hood, and tells it in a way only C H Clepitt can!

The Magic Mirror Collection

The Magic Mirror Collection jumps through history, retelling fairy tales with a queer twist. So far we have seen Beauty and the Beast set in 1930s France and Snow White set during the Second World War spanning Germany and rural Wales. In this latest installment we find ourselves in 1980s America, and on the hunt for a serial killer. 

Told with C H Clepitt’s unique style, fans of the author won’t want to miss out on this exciting new collection.

Comment from the author

I love the fact that historical fiction gives you a snapshot into an era that you may not have previous knowledge of. There’s something about reading a work of fiction set in a different time that is so much more immersive than just reading a history book. 

With each of the Magic Mirror collections I have tried to write them in the style of the era, and Wolf Killer may be the most grown up yet. It deals with issues of queerness and identity the way the previous two books have not and I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Good luck with the book, C H! 

Thursday, 2 September 2021

It's new book day! Tales From Alternate Earths 3 is out now!


Hi all, it's new book day!

Tales From Alternate Earths 3 is out today - in paperback and ebook format - and by golly it's a great collection of stories. 

Am I biased when I say that? Honestly, I don't think so. I have a story in there, sure, but let's leave talking about that until another blog. For starters, just look at that list of authors. 

From the top, there's Alan Smale, whose tale A Clash of Eagles won the Sidewise Award, and whose bibliography is a fantastic list of great reads. His story starts the collection, and... well, I don't want to say too much because part of the joy of the story is piecing together the who, how and where of it all. I do love, however, the viewpoint he tells the story from, that of a real woman of the times he writes about. It's the kind of story that raises big questions, not just about the changes in history, but about how the characters involved are affected, and what it means to them personally. It's splendidly done. 

More great writers! How about Daniel M Bensen, who returns from previous Inklings books - another Sidewise Award winner, for his story Treasure Fleet, in Tales From Alternate Earths 1. Or DJ Butler, a big name in the alternate history field? 

I shouldn't pick favourite stories from the collection, so I absolutely won't hint strongly that my favourite is the fantastic story To Catch A Ripper, by Minoti Vaishnav, who is also a television writer who recently staffed The Equalizer on CBS. (And by golly, I'd love to see her story get the TV treatment too)

Then there's JL Royce, who has been a finalist in the Writers of the Future contest (and his story here is a doozy, mixing noir detective fiction and some shocking post-war history). 

Matthew Kresal was only yesterday named as a finalist for the Sidewise Awards for his previous story Moonshot, and his story in this collection is an intriguing film biography-style take on the making of a much older version of the movie Titanic. 

Add to that returning Inklings names such as Aaron Emmel, Brent A Harris, Rob Edwards, Christopher Edwards, Ricardo Victoria, Jeff Provine and dynamic duo EM Swift-Hook and Jane Jago, and you've got quite the set of authors. 

It's been a pleasure working on this anthology with such great stories. And I hope you might dip your toe to discover them yourself. I won't say too much about each story just yet - as there are twists and turns I don't want to spoil!

I always fall in love with stories in the anthologies we publish - but that's because so many authors give us stories to love. 

You can fall in love yourself by picking up the book at It's available in paperback and in ebook format. 

For reviewers, we also still have review copies available and a full press kit at with graphics and more information. By all means, email to request a review copy, or hit me up on Twitter

Monday, 26 July 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Tempest Blades: The Cursed Titans, by Ricardo Victoria


Tempest Blades: The Cursed Titans, by Ricardo Victoria

Let the tournament commence!

The Cursed Titans is the sequel to Ricardo Victoria's The Withered King. It largely stands alone - but the first book did so well at introducing its large cast of characters that it would be a shame not to start there. 

This time around, with all those introductions done, the plot can rattle away at pace - and it certainly does that. This is full-on adventure, full of zip and zest, with witty one-liners being dispensed faster than the energy arrows launched by lead character Alex. 

The plot centres around a tournament that doubles up as a way of nations resolving their differences. There is a swirl of politics around the tournament itself - and it provides the perfect opportunity for chaos itself to be unleashed.

I've said before that the Final Fantasy series is a good touchstone for Ricardo's writing, and it holds true here again. It has that anime spirit, that high sci-fi feel. There are new friends to be made, and new enemies. 

Adventure? Check. Fun? Check. Freewheeling sci-fi? Check. If you want all of that, it's all here. 

But what impressed me is that this time around there's something more. Alex is wrestling with depression, and the story explores that in some depth. I've been lucky in life, I've never really had to deal with depression personally, but the story spoke to me in the way it reflected what friends have gone through. It shows how characters around Alex deal with his depression - or sometimes how they don't deal with it, perhaps even not noticing it until it's pointed out by others. Sometimes I've been that person, who didn't notice or who didn't know how to react, so this story really hits home. 

In the end, this is as much about Alex confronting himself as the monsters unleashed in the world, and the most important alliances and friendships are the ones that help him on that personal journey. 

This kind of exploration of depression in science fiction and fantasy is not common - so Ricardo adds a welcome voice to the conversation. 

This is a good read. A fun read. But it's also perhaps an important one. 

AI Rating: 5/5

Tempest Blades: The Cursed Titans is available on Amazon and through other booksellers.

Check out my interview with Ricardo here

Monday, 12 July 2021

Ricardo Victoria's going on an adventure... with a brand new Tempest Blades book

Ricardo Victoria is a regular here at Altered Instinct. He’s a big part of Inklings Press as writer, designer, cheerleader and more. And he has a new book out! So he stopped by to have a chat as his sequel nears publication.

Q. Hey, Ricardo, congratulations on book two in your series! A large part of book one was very much assembling your cast of characters – with your cast already introduced, how different was the approach to book two? 

Thank you! It has been quite exciting to write the second book. Regarding your question, well, I took two approaches:

For the original cast of the first book, the key was to build upon their character arcs from the previous book, showing the consequences of their actions. You can save the world, but it has a toll, both in your personal live and in a grand scale. So I started with asking myself a few questions: how the world would change if they find out that one of their heroes form the past became a monster bent of the destruction of his own people, that the ruling family built a kingdom based on a lie and that the main character was complicit to a point in said lie. How you move forward with that, how that affects the relationship between the three species – human, freefolk and samoharo - and how that moves and shakes the geopolitical stage in an unstable world. Then at a personal level, which scars the adventure left, not only physical, but mentally. For this, I changed the focus of the plot from Fionn and Gaby, to Alex and Sam. Particularly Alex’s struggle with depression helped me to frame how going in these adventures can affect you as a person.

I did introduce three new main characters, Kasumi, Joshua – yes, the same Joshua of my Buried Sins story you read before in Tales from the Underground by Inklings Press-  and Yokoyawa - who also appeared in the Cosmic Egg story published in Tales from the Universe - who join the plucky team of heroes with their own agenda, needs and arcs. To be honest, I created them since the very beginning of the Tempest Blades Universe and in previous version they join the team in the first book, but couldn’t find a satisfactory way to do it with an already bloated cast, so I decided to leave them out and hoped that if I ever got around to write a second book, they would be introduced there. And here we are as their arcs intertwine with the general plot and the character arc of a couple of the original cast members. 

Q. So what’s going on in book two – what can reader expect, without too many spoilers?

The basic plot is that there were political and personal repercussion of what happened in the last book. You see Alex struggling with his depression, Sam having problems to use magick after what happened, the Free Alliance in turmoil and a shadowy force making things worse. So the city states members of the Free Alliance, plus the Foundation and allied nations decide to settle things at a diplomatic conference that will take   place this time in the capital of the Kuni Empire, while the Triannual Chivalry Games take place there as well. Think the Olympics but with a twist: it’s a martial arts tournament with peculiar rules, where each fight takes places in different, moving, wacky scenarios and the representatives of each participant nation can be hired to represent them while at the same time using the combats to settle dispute between nations in a somewhat peaceful way without going to armed conflict. And with Harland’s Foundation and the Freefolk added to the mix, the whole team gets split representing different factions with different agendas. This is when Alex recruits an old friend – Kasumi, a demonhunter who is also hard-of-hearing - who in turn brings a man with a mysterious past to help him represent the Foundation at the Games. After something happens during the event, things spiral into a chaotic night that threatens to destroy the Alliance, destroy friendships and worse, resurrect the dreaded Cursed Titans of the title, former benevolent beings that were corrupted by the same dark power that is working behind scenes to throw everything into chaos. All of this while Alex – the main focus - has to deal with a really bad bout of depression. It becomes a question of who will crash and burn first: Alex or the Alliance. It’s a tightly packed, fast paced book which is also mostly self-contained.

Q. One of the features of the book is dealing with depression – a tough task to do in an adventure tale, what made this such an important part of the book to you and what do you think you were able to say through the story?

Because I suffer from chronic depression (which got so bad in recent times due to a myriad of things, including the pandemic, that I went back to take anti-depressants in recent weeks), I sorta, kinda used this book as a means for therapy and as a way to final express out loud how I personally perceive my depression. I’m not an expert nor a therapist, so I won’t presume that everyone feels the same way. However, in this particular case, Alex’s struggles with depression, the way he perceives it is the way I struggle with it, the way I perceive. Alex even says some of things I have said in my personal life and acts in some (unhealthy at times) ways I tend to. I know, a writer shouldn’t put themselves in the story, but in this case, I couldn’t find other way. In that regard, this is probably the most personal piece of writing I’ve ever done. Which I know is risky to put out there for others to read and judge. But in this case, I wrote the book more for me and my mental health that for others. If the book helps others with the same struggle, then I think I made a worthy contribution to this planet. 

Also, there is one thing that I wanted to prove: you can write a character with mental health issues that can be the hero and said issues can be described in a careful way (the tricky thing was not doing it in a triggering way), while still having a hopeful, fun adventure of story. Usually in SFF, mental health issues are described either as the reason why the villain is, well, the villain, or as a crippling weakness that takes away the worth of the hero, a weakness they can magically cure away, which is far from the reality of the issue. In other words, media for years have demonized mental health issues under the assumption that they make you weak, or worthless, that talking about them is boring, or taboo, or being a drama queen and I hate that. Many people live day by day with mental issues, and work hard to have meaningful lives, while still struggling with those issues. My point is that yes, you can have depression, you can have anxiety, and that doesn’t make you weak or incapable of having a meaningful life. It’s high time we present mental health issues in SFF as something normal, that anyone can go through. The only scene I could recall from when I was younger, that was sorta positive about the issue, was that famous scene in All Star Superman, where Supes comforts that girl in the roof of a building, telling her that she is not alone. Which is true, many people suffer from mental health issues, which needs to be normalized, not mocker nor demonized. And by normalizing the idea, you can also normalize the idea of going to therapy, of taking meds under the supervision of a physician, or taking care of your mental health the same way you take care of your body and realize that like that comic vignette, you are not alone in this struggle. I mean, it wasn’t until I started to write this book that I realized that Frodo suffers from PSTD. The good thing I guess, is that I’m not the only one thinking about it, you see that in WandaVision (an exploration of grief and depression), Falcon and the Winter Soldier (PSTD), but there has to be more positive examples. I’m not sure if I’m making sense or I’m rambling at this point. Anyways, that was my approach.

Q. What was one of your favourite parts to write?

There are a couple of action scenes, can’t tell much because it would be a spoiler, but they feature Alex in a big way. The first one was an homage to a scene in one of my favorite movies ever. The other two are scenes that believe it or not, I dreamt a decade ago, wrote down in a pad and finally found a way to incorporate them in the plot. In fact, one, Alex’s first round in the competition of the Chivalry Games, was the reason why the whole subplot of the games came to be. I also got a kick out of writing a setting inspired by the sights I had the opportunity to visit in a trip to Tokyo I did with my wife before the whole pandemic. So yeah, I might have gotten a bit carried out with the world building this time, but in a good way.

Q. Splendid – so now… what’s next? Book… three? What can readers expect in the future?

Regarding Tempest Blades, I already have plotted the whole remaining of the story. It should take 2-3 more books to finish all, depending how the next one shapes and if it needs to be split as I’m planning two parallel plots. Time will tell. As well I’m trying to get off the ground a collection of stories set in the same universe, some have already been published, some are brand new that I’ve already written these past years but have never been able to publish them. And for some reason I want to write an ‘in character’ book about the folklore, beliefs and traditions of the world of Theia. So basically I have plans to keep me busy in the writing side for the next decade.

Meanwhile, I have a quirky Alt History short story to be released at some point of the year in an Inklings Press anthology. You have already read it. I tried to write my second comical story, let’s see if I pulled it. If not, at the very least, I will end having the concept for a boardgame. Yeah my mind works in weird ways. Not sure I will write more short stories for the foreseeable future after this one, but I’m not closing that door either. Time will tell.

You can still pick up book one of the Tempest Blades series here and the new book is available here. Keep up with all of Ricardo's news and chat on Twitter at @Winged_Leo

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

BOOK LAUNCH: Meet Kristin L Stamper, author of Ternary

Kristin L Stamper is a writer of YA and adult science fiction - having also served in the US Navy where she gained experience in computers and robotics. And now her debut novel is out. Ternara publishes at the end of May, with pre-orders available now, and she stopped by the blog to talk about her work, her life, and... well, tribbles. 

Tell us a little about your most recent book – what is it called, and what is it about? Give us your elevator pitch to make us fall in love with it!

Ternary is my debut novel: a sci-fi tale narrated by a sarcastic cyborg with a unique twist on a polyamorous love story. Elora, our recently mentioned sarcastic cyborg, has never been sure if she’s actually human or just an incredibly advanced simulation of one. But when the consciousness of a dead man is accidentally downloaded into her cybernetic brain, she finds herself falling for his still-living spouse and rediscovering her humanity—But are those her feelings or his?

Without spoilers, what was one of your favourite moments of the story to write? What was it that made you enjoy that section so much? 

There’s a section toward the middle of the book where the lead trio find themselves in dire straits. The main character, Elora, is doing everything she can to save them. But the thing about Elora is that she cannot allow herself to be seen in any kind of positive light. It’s a defense mechanism to keep from making genuine connections that will eventually lead to her getting hurt. Even when she is helping someone else, she’ll still find ways to twist it into a selfish act.

So, in this scene where she is trying to save the day, sacrifice herself to save someone else, and the pressure is really on, instead of being a hero—she ends up snapping. She goes off on this mini-tirade about dying and coming back to seek vengeance as an angry ghost. Somehow, she even manages to make the point that her dying will give her an advantage in an argument she’d been having earlier. Her intentions in the scene are good and yet her justification for them are ridiculously terrible.

I love this scene first of all because it was so much fun to write. Elora is already a fun character to write. Think Rocket Racoon meets Dr. House. But in this scene, Elora isn’t in her right mind, so her usual cold, stand-offish quips become a downright temper tantrum. But also, Elora is a grade-A self-sabotager, and that’s something I really relate to. Even when I am doing something right, I tend to have to find a way to blow it up. I just can’t help myself. And neither can she. So this scene, for me, is a turning point in the story where I really start to form a deep bond with Elora.

Are there any particular themes you address in your story? What issues do you explore, overtly or otherwise? 

I think one of the most important themes touched on in this story is what it’s like to be the “other.” For the record, I am a white individual, and as such, I have no idea what it’s like to experience racial prejudice against me, nor would I ever claim to. This is not a story about race. If someone is looking for a story about othering in regards to race, they should check out The Forgotten Girl by India Hill—which I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed—or countless other books by authors of color.

I am queer. However, it has been my personal experience (and others’ experiences will be different) that I have actually been through more othering, more prejudice, more persecution merely as a woman in society than I have being queer. I was raised in a family of all boys. As the only girl, I was always left out of everything. My family was also the kind to strongly value boys and more “masculine values” if you will, causing me to feel that I was literally worth less than my brothers. Additionally, we were a military family. We moved every 2-3 years. Which meant outside the home, at school, I was always the new kid. I had few friends, and it seemed whenever I made any close connections I would move away shortly after.

As an adult, I joined the military to pay for college. And I have to tell you. If you ever want to experience being the other, try being a shy, artistically inclined, smallish woman in the military.

All these things combined means that I have literally never been a part of anything. I have always been the odd one out. And when everyone around you sees you as the odd one out and treats you differently, it really wears on you. You internalize it. You begin to see yourself as the other as much as they do.

This is exactly what Elora experiences in this story. As a cyborg in a society that recently defeated a robot uprising, she is the other. She is unaccepted by those around her. She’s different. And Elora has really internalized that. So not only does she have to actively fight for her place in the solar system, but she has to do so while not really believing that she deserves it. Or knowing for sure if she even wants it. And even when it comes to the romance aspect of the story, which is poly, she still finds herself as the odd one out. Her love interest is already married to someone else, so how does she fit into that? It’s a theme that’s tied into all the events of the book.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 

Firstly, I’m a single mom of a three-year-old. That takes up a good portion of my time. But I love her more than anything, so I’m completely okay with that. She’s the most important thing in my life. I’m also a college student. I’m trying to rewrite my life a little bit. Trying to find where I belong. And in that effort, I’ve been working toward a degree in Special and Elementary Education. I should have my license within the next few years. Most of my life goes toward those two things.

But when I’m not chasing a three-year-old or doing homework, I’m into lots of artsy type things. This summer I hope to get back into plushie making. I’ve made a few in the past. I’m really terrible at it, but I also refuse to look up patterns (I make my own), and I don’t have proper materials so I always end up MacGyvering it. I also do digital art, although I haven’t really done anything in a few years. I might try to create a few images for the launch of Ternary. If I do, they’ll be popping up on my Twitter.

What has been your favourite reaction from readers? 

I love when readers tell me about which of my characters they have crushes on. My very first reader referred to Bertie as “Best Boyfriend Bertie” throughout their review, and I’ll never forget that. I also had a few readers tell me about how much they loved Gareth’s subtle insecurities. Elora hasn’t had so many crushes so far (most of my readers so far have been cishet women and gay men), but she’s gotten lots of compliments on her snarky attitude. Basically, I just love hearing the different things people like about the characters. They’re very close to my heart, so it means a lot.

Away from books, what are your loves when it comes to TV and movies? 

Star Trek. Let’s just get that right out of the way. Yes, I love Star Trek. Yes, there are Star Trek inspired elements in Ternary. Star Trek is such an integral part of who I am. I have seen every episode of every series. I’ve been to conventions. I love the lore, the universe, the way it focuses on a future in which humans came together and thrived instead of falling apart.

I am all about this idea of looking to the future through a hopeful lens and seeing the best of what we could be instead of viewing it through a dark, dystopian, apocalyptic lens. And I’m all about sci-fi that is built on thoughtfulness instead of just shooting lasers and beating up aliens (although shooting lasers and beating up aliens is also good—just in moderation). So, yeah. Let’s go to Quark’s and bond over Romulan Ale. Live long and prosper. Stay away from the borg unless Janeway is your captain. Don’t feed your tribbles.

Where can readers follow you to find out more about your work?

You can find me on Twitter (@klsmopit) and my website and blog are both in the same spot ( You can also subscribe to my newsletter (

What are you reading at present, and what is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

Right now I am reading The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown. I’ve been reading a lot of MG fiction recently. I really highly recommend The Wild Robot. But the best book I have read in the past year is Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. It is a brilliantly written and thoughtful sci-fi story about a group of humans on their way to a new world after the Earth is destroyed and the alien race of spiders who already live on that world. 

Ternary will eventually be available from most major retailers. Right now it's available at:

Friday, 14 May 2021

PRESS KIT: Tales From Alternate Earths 3

The countdown is on until the launch of Tales From Alternate Earths 3 - and this page will act as a press kit, with more material being added the closer it gets to publication. 

Book link:

About the book

Have you ever asked the question “What if…?”

What if things had turned out differently, what if history had taken another turn, what if our world had gone another way? 

That’s the question at the heart of the genre of alternate history – and that powers the stories in the new Inklings Press anthology, Tales From Alternate Earths 3. 

Alternate history has had quite the renaissance in recent years – from TV shows such as The Man in the High Castle, an adaptation of the Philip K Dick novel, to the HBO series Watchmen, and more light-hearted adventures through history such as Timeless or Legends of Tomorrow. Even Disney is getting in on the action with their “What If?” series looking at what might have happened if key moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe had gone differently. 

That’s the fun of it – there’s so much range in the genre, but all so close to home that it could just be the slightest difference that takes us there.

That difference is usually called the point of departure, the moment when history departs from our own. That can be something huge – an alien ship arrives, say – or it can be a tiny difference. In one of the stories in the new anthology, it hinges on a man having a pair of boots. 

Stories in the book span the world, from Hitchcock directing Titanic to a hunt for Jack The Ripper, from Cold War chicanery to a Roman Empire that never ended, from mythological beings turned real to post-World War Two genetic experiments. It’s a big canvas and it’s great to see what the authors involved bring to the table. And that's not even getting into stories where we wouldn't want to ruin the surprise!

There are stories by Alan Smale, Daniel M Bensen, DJ Butler, Minoti Vaishav, Brent A Harris, JL Royce, Jeff Provine, Ricardo Victoria, Rob Edwards, Matthew Kresal, Aaron Emmel, Christopher Edwards, EM Swift-Hook, Jane Jago and Leo McBride.

The book is out in paperback and ebook format from September 3, and available from Amazon at


Here, then, are the graphics announcing the first authors to appear in this, the next alternate history anthology from Inklings Press. 

Author biographies

Meet Alan Smale

For his Tale, Alan takes us to an alternate England where the Gunpowder Plot succeeded in all its horror and devastation. Recent analysis has shown that if the 2500kg of gunpowder placed beneath the Houses of Parliament had really gone up, the cataclysm might have been even more devastating than Alan describes. Had Guy Fawkes witnessed what he’d wrought, he might have had a few mixed feelings.

Mary Frith (aka Moll Cutpurse) was a real woman of her times, though her life proceeds rather differently in this newly transformed London. 

Alan’s novella of a Roman invasion of ancient America, “A Clash of Eagles”, won the Sidewise Award, and his associated novels Clash of Eagles, Eagle in Exile, and Eagle and Empire are available from Del Rey (and received a second Sidewise nomination as a trilogy). His Roman baseball collaboration with Rick Wilber, The Wandering Warriors, appeared recently from WordFire Press, and Hot Moon, his alternate-Apollo thriller set entirely on and around the Moon, will be released by CAEZIK SF & Fantasy in 2022. Find him at, Facebook/AlanSmale, and Twitter/@AlanSmale. 

Meet Matthew Kresal

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. He’s written about and discussed topics as wide-ranging as the BBC’s Doctor Who, Cold War fact and fiction, and the UFO phenomenon. He has appeared on podcasts including Spybrary, Dead Hand Radio, The 20mb Doctor Who Podcast, and The Saucer Life. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Press and short fiction including The Aurora Affair in Belanger Books’ A Tribute to H.G. Wells and The Light of a Thousand Suns in in D&T Publishing’s After the Kool-Aid is Gone. He was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

Matthew’s story so very nearly came true in real life. He was indeed hired by David O. Selznick, having agreed to work on a film about the Titanic disaster, but there our worlds part. Instead, he made Rebecca, and from there went on to make a catalogue of films so famous you know them already. 

You can find Matthew on Twitter, as @KresalWrites. He also has a novel, Our Man On The Hill, available through Sea Lion Press. 

Meet Rob Edwards

Rob Edwards is a British born writer and podcaster, living in Finland.  His podcast, StorycastRob, features readings from his short stories and excerpts from longer work.  His work can also be found in the anthologies published by Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press.

His greatest geek pride is his entry on wookieepedia, the result of writing several Star Wars RPG scenarios back in the day.

He is also a published novelist, with his debut novel The Ascension Machine published by Shadow Dragon Press, and a sequel, The Crossover Paradox, due in March 2022. 

You can find him on Twitter as @StorycastRob, or at his website, 

Meet Brent A. Harris

Brent A Harris is a two-time Sidewise Award finalist of alternate history. He writes about dinosaurs, fantasy, the fears of our future and the mistakes of our past. While he considers Southern California home, he currently resides in Naples, Italy. You can learn more by visiting 

Other books by Brent include: A Time of Need: A Dark Eagle Novel (an alternate history of the American Revolution); Alyx: An AI’s Guide to Love and Murder; and Dickens Meets Steampunk in:  A Twist in Time  and A Christmas Twist: A Twist in Time Book II. 

You can find Brent on Twitter at @brentaharris1. 

Meet Minoti Vaishnav

Minoti Vaishnav is a short fiction author who has had five short stories published in print anthologies this year alone. She is also a television writer most recently staffed on The Equalizer on CBS, a former pop star with three albums under her belt, and a documentary television producer who has created shows for Netflix, NatGeo, Travel Channel, and Discovery Channel among other networks. Minoti also has a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Oxford University and is an alumna of the ViacomCBS Writers Mentoring Program. 

Meet Christopher Edwards

Christopher Edwards retired from the oil and gas industry having spent twenty years on several production platforms in the Northern North Sea. Before retiring he also spent time on assignments in Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. He always enjoyed making up stories for his children and now his grandchildren but was only recently persuaded to start writing. 

This Tale considers the fate of Louis Bonaparte, who in our world was killed in a skirmish with a group of Zulus in 1879 while serving with British forces, his death bringing with it an end to thoughts of a restoration of the House of Bonaparte. Of course, other worlds have other possibilities...

Meet Aaron Emmel

Aaron Emmel is the author of more than fifty published short stories, as well as the Midnight Legion gamebook trilogy, an historical fiction graphic novel and dozens of articles and essays. He grew up in the mountains of New Mexico and graduated from high school in Central America, before cofounding and selling a record label and an online music store. Aaron lives with his wife and two children in Maryland. His story “The Sword of Bone” appeared in the Inklings Press anthology Tales of Magic & Destiny. Find him online at

Meet Daniel M. Bensen

Daniel M. Bensen is an American-Bulgarian author of science fiction, alternate history, and fantasy. His work includes the speculative-biology novel Junction and its sequel Interchange, the optimistic post-apocalyptic comic-book First Knife (with Simon Roy). and the Sidewise Award-winning alternate history short story “Treasure Fleet” (in the Tales from Alternate Earths anthology). These stories have been called “clever, entertaining, and thoughtful” (SFBook Reviews) and “at times poignant” (Big Comic Page).

You may also enjoy his other alternate history short story, “The Goose’s Wing” in the Tales from Alternate Earths 2, his novella Petrolea, and his self-published novel Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen. Daniel is represented by Jennie Goloboy of Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Daniel classifies his work as “speculative aspirational fiction,” which means that he explores other, better places, and the doors that lead to them. He loves learning about real life and extending from it to build plausible and surprising worlds. At odds with themselves and each other, the people in these worlds struggle to turn themselves the right way around, and so generate stories.

Daniel studied biology and history, teaches English as a foreign language, and has survived cancer. After growing up in Chicago, Maine, California, Montana, Japan, and Boston, he followed his then-fiancée to Sofia, Bulgaria, where he has continued to grow up. He now teaches, writes, and resides with his wife, daughters, and in-laws in the Balkan Tower of Matriarchy.

He says: “This story is dedicated to Emil. Life is full of strange and terrifying choices, but that’s better than the alternative. Da rastem, no ne staraem.”

Meet J.L.Royce

J. L. Royce is a published author of science fiction, the macabre, and whatever else strikes him. He lives in the northern reaches of the American Midwest. His work appears in Allegory, Ghostlight, Little  Demon, Love Letters to Poe, Mysterion, parABnormal, Sci Phi, Utopia, Wyldblood, etc. He is a member of HWA and GLAHW. Some of his anthologized stories may be found at: 

Twitter: @authorJLRoyce     

Facebook: AuthorJLRoyce 

‘Not My Monkey’ was a Finalist in the Q3 2020 Writers of the Future competition.

Unit 731 was a real unit in the Second World War, that undertook lethal human experimentation. A number of researchers were given immunity by the United States secretly in exchange for the data they gathered. 

Meet Leo McBride

Leo McBride is a journalist, editor and fiction writer. He has been published previously in each of the Inklings Press anthologies, along with collections from the Sci-Fi Roundtable, Rhetoric Askew, Starklight Press and elsewhere. He has also self-published his own short story collection Quartet, available on Amazon, and ghost written and edited a number of biographies. You can find more of his work on his blog,, on Twitter as @AlteredInstinct and on

This Tale looks at how things might have turned out differently after the Challenger disaster. There was indeed a description after the disaster that NASA was “throwing junk into space” and the Marshall workshop did take place - though there the hopes of a space elevator ended. At least... for now. There are still talks, still discussions, and still technical hurdles to overcome. At least, in our world. 

Meet Ricardo Victoria

Ricardo Victoria is a Mexican writer with a Ph.D. in Design — with emphasis in sustainability — from Loughborough University, and a love of fiction, board games, comic books, and action figures. He lives in Toluca, Mexico with his wife and pets, working works as a full-time lecturer and researcher at the local university. He writes mainly science fantasy.

His first novel, Tempest Blades: The Withered King, was released in August 2019 by Shadow Dragon Press, an imprint of Artemesia Publishing. The sequel, Tempest Blades: Cursed Titans, published in July 2021. He has a number of stories published by Inklings Press, and other indie outlets.

His short story Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon, jointly written with Brent A. Harris, was nominated for a Sidewise Award for short form alternative history.

You can find out more at his website,, or follow him on Twitter, @Winged_Leo. 

Meet Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Professor of English in Oklahoma, USA, tackling topics such as Charles Chaplin, mythology and the history of comic books. He collects local folklore and has created three walking tours of ghost stories in the Oklahoma City metro. His fictional works include YA adventure Dawn on the Infinity, steampunk Celestial Voyages, and alternate history Hellfire. 

Check him out on Twitter @JeffProvine, follow his updates at, and read some of his twists on history at

Meet E.M.Swift-Hook 

and Jane Jago

The writing team of E.M.Swift-Hook and Jane Jago has produced a number of books following the characters of Dai and Julia in a world where the Roman empire never faded. 

E.M.Swift-Hook has had a number of different careers, before settling in the North-East of England with family, three dogs, cats and a small flock of rescued chickens. 

You can find her on twitter @emswifthook, and you can also catch up with her Fortune’s Fools series of space opera. 

The term genre-hopper could have been coined to describe Jane Jago and her books, modern-day thrillers sitting side by side with sword and sorcery, wicked dragons, and short stories and verse. You can find her on Twitter at @JaneJago1. 

You can also catch up with both authors at

Meet D.J.Butler

Dave (D.J.) Butler writes adventure stories for all readers. He has been a lawyer, a consultant, and a corporate trainer. His interests include languages, guitar, hanging out with his wife and kids, astronomy, and history.

Sign up to get updates about Dave and his books at:

The characters in this story are real - Mikhail Lyubimov was a colonel in the KGB, and is also a novelist. 

Oleg Gordievsky is regarded as one of MI6’s greatest triumphs, working as a double agent and playing a crucial role in avoiding nuclear Armageddon. He left the USSR in 1985 in Operation Pimlico. 

Story frontispieces

Ebook cover

Other promotion graphics

Podcast discussion between Brent A Harris and Rob Edwards 

Podcast discussion featuring several of the authors 

Also available at this link and all are welcome to embed media:

Podcast discussion featuring several of the authors 

Also available at this link and all are welcome to embed media: