Thursday, 19 September 2019

Inklings Press helping The Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian

When Hurricane Dorian hit The Bahamas, it caused devastation to the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. The final death toll is expected to be high, with one former prime minister saying he expects it to be hundreds in Abaco alone.

Inklings Press has a long-standing connection to The Bahamas - it's where editor-in-chief Leo McBride lives, and some of the stories we have published are set there. And we want to help - so we're giving you something in the hopes that you might give a donation in return to those who need it.

There is so much that needs to be done to help people as they recover from the storm - with hundreds likely to be in shelters or tent cities for months to come.

So we at the Inklings would like to encourage readers to donate to one of the organisations based there that is committed to helping people over the long term.

We've chosen Lend A Hand Bahamas for several reasons - they have partnered with Equality Bahamas and the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas to distribute aid. They also have a fundraising link for donations - which we think will make international donations for our readers easier.

The link to the donations website is:

There are other ways, however, and the Bahamian government has set up a donations page rounding up several other ways you can give if you prefer:

To encourage people to drop a little in the tin, we're giving away our entire collection of books in Kindle format. Every single book we have released will be free on Amazon from Friday, September 20, until the end of Tuesday, September 24. The links to each are below.

We won't get a penny out of this offer - but we hope it will encourage you to give those pennies to those who need it most. You don't have to, of course - the books are free if you donate or not, but whatever you can give to Lend A Hand Bahamas is appreciated.

We thank each and every one of you for any support you are able to give - even if it's just sharing our posts to help spread the word.

The links to the free books (offer runs from September 20-24)

Tales From The Tower:

Tales From The Universe:

Tales From Alternate Earths:

Tales of Wonder:

Tales From The Underground:

Tales From Alternate Earths 2:

Tales of Magic & Destiny:

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Hurricane Dorian and The Bahamas

An aerial view of the destruction in Abaco

I live in The Bahamas - and if you've been following the news, you'll know that part of The Bahamas was badly hit by Hurricane Dorian earlier this month. 
For those who don't know, my day job is as a journalist here, so things have been hectic covering the build-up to the storm, the impact of the hurricane itself and the aftermath. 
Even now, many days after the storm, we don't know the full impact it had on the north-western islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco. 
I've been lucky. Where I live in New Providence, all we had was a bit of wind and a bit of flooding for those areas already prone to such. We didn't get hit hard. 
The same can't be said for Grand Bahama and Abaco. One of our reporters, Rashad Rolle, along with a photographer, Terrel W Carey Sr, spent the hurricane in Abaco, underneath the storm as it ripped the island apart. I can't tell you adequately what it was like to be on the island during that - but Rashad can. You can read that story here.
Both of those were out of contact for days. Communication with Grand Bahama and Abaco was difficult - the phone networks got blown out by the storm, and the rush to try and contact family and friends in its aftermath left the remainder overloaded and clogged with traffic. 
The short version of the storm's aftermath is this: Many are dead. Many are missing. The official death toll so far is 50, but all officials say that is expected to rise considerably. One former prime minister says he believes the death toll is in the hundreds

What happens next is the recovery - Grand Bahama and Abaco are just two of many islands in The Bahamas, so there's a real split between how the rest of the country fared and how those two did. As far as the rest is concerned, it's not quite business as usual, in the sense that people are still trying to support relief efforts and track down missing family and friends - 1,300 are missing at the last official count by government. But in terms of the country welcoming people back again to visit, business as usual is the best thing that can be done to help those affected. 
People evacuated from affected islands will need jobs, will need places to live, and the tourism trade will help them do that. 
So if you were considering coming to The Bahamas and have thought twice because of the hurricane? Don't cancel. Unless you were going to one of those two islands, your visit will be no different than it was before - and it's one of the best ways you can help people here too. 
For those who want to help in other ways, the Bahamian government has rounded up a number of approved ways of donating either goods or money that will help the relief effort. You can find that at
There is also an excellent local group of citizens who have worked tirelessly to provide relief, and they have a GoFundMe that has already raised more than $1m. The link for that is here.
Along with friends over at Inklings Press, we hope to do something that will help a little too - of which more details when that's finalised. 
Ultimately, my family and I are fine - and that makes us the lucky ones. There are a lot of people who cannot say the same, and I urge you to donate anything you can spare to help out those left without homes or without members of their families. 
The Bahamas needs whatever help you can give. Thank you. 

Saturday, 3 August 2019

MEET THE AUTHORS: E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago, creators of the Dai & Julia Mysteries

I'll make no secret about this - two of my favourite people that I've encountered since starting writing are E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago. You'll be hard pushed to find two people more supportive and helpful of fellow authors. So it's a pleasure for me to get to chat to them about their work - particularly in this instance the Dai & Julia Mysteries, a series of alternate history stories set in a Britain where two detectives wrestle with crimes in a world where the Roman Empire never faded. 

The latest book is out today - and E.M. (or Eleanor) and Jane join me to talk about the process of working together and how the series came to be. 

Hi there, and welcome to Altered Instinct. The two of you have quite a long-established partnership now when it comes to writing together – how did it come about? Who suggested it and how did you go from there?

Eleanor: As I recall I was the one who mooted the idea. But I can’t quite recall what motivated me doing so. We tried a collaboration around two characters, each of us writing one and with minimal initial planning.

Jane: Yes. It’s all Eleanor’s fault. She says: ‘Wanna write a thing together?’ Me: “That’s a fine idea. But. What?”

How does the partnership work – do you outline together and then alternate with writing? Or divide up characters? What’s the dynamic?

Eleanor: Nowadays, one or the other of us will have a core concept for a story, then we put that in a Google Docs file and both add in ideas, and comment on each other’s thoughts until we get a decent skeleton we both think works. The actual writing is divided with one of us writing Dai and one of us Julia, but we both have full input to try and avoid any inconsistencies.

Jane: That’s about the size of it. But what Eleanor hasn’t mentioned is the squabbles. Or the amount of beer that is necessary.  Or how much bullying she has to do to keep me on track. I’m a natural pantser so the necessity to plot a collaborative effort is unnatural but good for me. In the finished books, I do indeed  write only one character but if I told you which one, I would have to send you to the arena armed only with your teeth and a loofah

How did you decide on Dai and Julia?

Eleanor: We wanted to write an alternate history short story for this upcoming anthology of alternate history stories we were keen to submit to. Our first attempt was more revisiting a ‘what if’ moment in history, but that didn’t really work so we came up with the idea of an ancient empire still running in the modern day.

Jane: The first novella was indeed intended as a short story. But it grew. And even then it was a surprise to us when it became part of a series. I guess we decided on Dai and Julia because they gave us the scope to write something with a twist in its tail.

I do like it when a concept outgrows its origin! What do you most enjoy about the process of writing together?

Eleanor: It’s fun! Sharing ideas with someone who is just as invested in the plot and characters as oneself is a really good feeling.

Jane: Writing is fun. But collaboration adds a whole new layer of giggles, frustrations, support, and story fuel. Oh. And she is a good little soul, which helps.
And what’s the biggest hurdle?

Eleanor: For me it’s making my brain run in the right track to get the story written. But that is how I am with all my writing. Having a co-author is an extra help and incentive with that though.

Jane: Getting my best/worst flights of fantasy past teacher….

The Dai and Julia books are pretty heavily researched – who’s the addict among you for getting everything just right?

Eleanor: Um, I think I’m the more fussy one there.

Jane: That is the truth. Teacher is very strict about research. I tend to rely on my over-educated brain. And the seat of my pants.
What’s been your favourite moment of writing and publishing together?

Eleanor: I think it was - and is - the awareness that Dai and Julia really do seem to be something people enjoy reading.

Jane: It’s all good. But it will be hard to find a moment to surpass the feeling of achievement when we completed the first novella. That was a rush.
And what has been your favourite part of the stories so far?

Eleanor: Gosh, um - pass. I think most of the stories have really cool moments in them and it’s really hard to pull one out as being the coolest.

Jane: I’m always most invested in the story we’re currently writing. Although I did enjoy Aelwen learning a swear word.
So what’s next for the dynamic duo? (Either Dai and Julia or your good selves!)

Eleanor: Dai and Julia will continue to face ongoing trials and tribulations as long as our mutual creativity endures. For myself, I have to finish writing the last Fortune’s Fools novel and round off that series.

Jane: Next for Dai and Julia? I think we have two more novellas in the pipeline. Plus a handful of short stories. Next for me? I intend to remain as outrageously silly as ever.

Thank you very much for stopping by - delighted to chat. Readers wanting to know more can follow Eleanor on Twitter as @emswifthook and keep up with her Fortune's Fools space opera saga on Facebook here. You can find Jane Jago on Facebook here. Jane is a recent newcomer to Twitter as @JaneJago1. You can also find both on their blog,

The pair's latest release, Dying On The Streets is available at GETBOOK.AT/DOTS - go check it out! 

Oh, and for readers wanting to know more, there will be a follow-up blog soon, with Dai & Julia themselves joining us to talk about life in modern Roman Britain! 

Monday, 29 July 2019

BOOK REVIEWS: Hell's Own, by TS Weaver; Murder in Black, by NC Stow; All The Nothing We've Done, by Christina McMullen; American Vampire vol 1, by Scott Snyder, Stephen King and Rafael Albuquerque

 It's review time here at the blog - starting with a slice of military sci-fi from TS Weaver, and ending in some stylish period horror in a comic book alternately written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King. In between we have a couple of short stories, each surprising in their own ways. But let's start with war, gunfire and blood on distant Pluto...

Hell's Own, by TS Weaver

There are bad days, and then there are the days the survivors of TS Weaver's Hell's Own have to get through.
A group of Marines are enjoying some downtime - but not for long. An attack rocks Pluto, and everything becomes a rush to survive. With the Pluto dome fractured and every scratch of an environmental suit perhaps risking death, the soldiers scramble to get civilians to safety - and then face up to whatever it is that has attacked them.
Forming uncertain alliances with the likes of a shady mercenary whose knowledge of hidden stashes might get them through, just getting through the rubble is dangerous enough.
And that's when they found just who - or rather what - has attacked them.
Pacy, energetic writing sends you zipping through this book, which very much lives up to the "Book 1" in its subtitle, the story is very much left unresolved with book two to pick off where the marines leave off. The chapters are short and sharp, and the characters memorable.
The action is largely confined to Pluto - though that series title System War promises a much broader canvas to come.
The emphasis here is less on the conflicts that seem likely to come and more on the survival of the first attack - think the episodes of Falling Skies where the survivors are trying to get by with not enough food and not enough equipment rather than the full-on gun-toting battle.

AI Rating: 4/5

Murder in Black, by NC Stow

NC Stow is a subtle writer. I've really liked the stories of hers that I've read - especially the likes of The Kupala Night and The Leshy, drawn from Russian folklore. 
This takes a different direction - up. Instead, here we find ourselves pitched into a Russian cosmonaut's mission in space, and the robots there to aid her. Or are they? Isolated on her mission, cosmonaut Sima finds little discrepancies starting to add up to... well, something unusual. When your life depends on the facts being accurate, such inconsistencies could be a sign of going space-happy - or they could be a sign of an attempt at murder. 
The mystery is deftly handled, and an old-school sci-fi treat. It's the first in a series - so I look forward to more. 

AI Rating: 4/5

All The Nothing We've Done, by Christina McMullen

By golly, this story confounds expectations. 
We start with the death of the implausibly named lead character, Chevelle Falsetto. 
Chevelle is perenially late, not terribly interested in her job and, well, was she really making hte most out of life? Before, well, you know, death. 
But then those confounded expectations come along, bringing with them a bunch of questions. Such as who gets to decide a person's fate, and who can really judge a person's life from the outside? 
It's a wryly told tale, that maybe serves as a reminder to not judge those around us without knowing their perspective. 

AI Rating: 4/5 

American Vampire, volume 1, by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King

This feels like a blockbuster idea. Take two great writers, set them loose on the story of American vampires in a period setting, and enjoy the fun.
A lot of it really works too. The story is told across two time periods - Snyder tells the story of a 1920s Hollywood actress, Pearl, who falls foul of bloodsuckers behind the scenes, while King tells the tale of Wild West outlaw Skinner Sweet turned vampire exacting his revenge years earlier. 
What ties them together are the villains they face - Eurotrash vamps in it for the money, the blood and the power, using up these upstart Americans as they see fit. 
It's a bit gruesome, but then it's vampires, ripping throats out with their teeth and manipulating people for fun, so what do you expect?
King's story appealed more to me - with Pearl pushed around and not engrossing enough. Skinner Sweet, however, was great. Malicious and magnetic in equal measure, an anti-hero and vengeful villain all in one. On the whole, though, I don't think either made the most of the setting - which makes it slightly miss the mark overall. 

AI Rating: 4/5

Monday, 22 July 2019

Meet the Author: Jeanette O'Hagan, author of the Under The Mountain series

I'm delighted today to welcome to the blog Jeanette O'Hagan. Jeanette is a talented writer who I've come to know through the Inklings Press anthologies and the Sci-Fi Roundtable anthologies - she's appeared in a couple including the latest, Tales of Magic & Destiny. She has also practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology, earned a Master of Arts... suffice to say I get a little overawed at her talents. She joined me to chat about her story in Tales of Magic & Destiny, and her most recent book, the fifth in her Under The Mountain series. 

Hi Jeanette, and welcome to Altered Instinct! 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!

That would be Caverns of the Deep – the fifth and final book in the Under the Mountain series.  It concludes the adventures of shapeshifter Zadeki and the twins (Delvina and Retza), as they fight to save the underground realm from a progression of disasters.

Seven Gates, locked and warded, stand between life and starvation.

As belts are tightened notch by notch, Watcher Retza and Lady Zara seek to find the seal and open the Gate.

Meanwhile, Delvina, shapeshifter Zadeki and Danel race to return to the Caverns in time to help their friends.

Danger and betrayal stalk the tunnels and shadows grow darker in the deep caverns beneath the mountain. Will Zadeki, Zara and the twins (Retza and Delvina) find a way to save the Glittering Realms and secure a better future?

What inspired the story?

The first book in the series – Heart of the Mountain – which started as a short story on the theme glimpses of light (for the Glimpses of Light anthology). I set the story in an underground realm in which the power and lights were failing. But, as often happens to me, the story grew too long, so I submitted another story instead (Ruhanna’s Flight). Heart of the Mountain became a short novella which birthed the Under the Mountain series.

As a writer, have you ever had a character grow to be a much bigger part of the story than you expected? Who was the character and what was it about them that made them emerge from the sidelights?

Yes. Dinnis in Akrad’s Children started off as a side-kick to Mannok.  I loved his snarky, cynical view on life and, as the story developed, his wrenching back-story, difficult circumstances and motivations gave him a strong presence, until it became obvious that the first book in the series was, in fact, his story.

What are your favourite genres to read – and what is it about those genres that draws you in?

Fantasy is my favourite genre to read – and to write. I became enchanted with Narnia and Middlearth at an early age and ever since then I love discovering new and wonderous worlds. The flights of imagination and especially the world building and the often-epic scope of the story ignite my own imagination and allows my spirit to soar.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Tell us about yourself.

Hmm, read. I also love travel, having coffee with friends, spending time with family, gardening, photography, painting, pondering life, and delving into family history.

What’s next for you as a writer? What’s cooking in your literary kitchen?

I’m currently editing Rasel’s Song, the second book in the Akrad’s Legacy series. I’m also putting together a Companion volume for the Under the Mountain series. And I have a trilogy based on the Project Chameleon (in The Quantum Soul anthology) which I’m itching to write once I’ve finished Akrad’s Legacy series.

Away from books, what are your loves when it comes to TV and movies? (Altered Instinct will plant a flag on behalf of Quantum Leap, Babylon 5, Stargate, The West Wing and Star Wars, and fight to protect it!)

I’m a confirmed Doctor Who fan – both classic and new. Loved Babylon 5 series as well as Star Trek (classic, New Gen, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery), Battlestar Galactica (old and new), Firefly and Avatar the Last Air Bender series (but not the movie), but also the BBC Pride and Prejudice. In terms of movies – Star Wars – all of them – as well as the Marvel movies (especially Ironman, Infinity War, Captain Marvel). Also, the recent Alita Battle Angel,
Ready Player One, The Hunger Games, Inception – and in the non-spec line – The Dish, Hidden Figures, Amazing Grace, Chariots of Fire, The Help – okay, too many to name 😊

Ohhh, I love The Dish! A really under-rated movie. I have to ask for readers who might want to know: Is this a kissing book?

My editor might have disowned me if Caverns of the Deep didn’t have one or two such scenes.  I didn’t start out with romance in mind at the beginning of the Under the Mountain series, but it does become a subplot from book 3 onwards. Caverns of the Deep ties up the romantic threads and also references the prequel story, Shadow of the Deep (in Tales From the Underground).

Speaking of kissing, I loved the undercurrent of romance in Wolf Scout - was that at the heart of the story as you imagined it? Tell me how the story came to be.

Yes, the heart of the story was the relationship between Talia, a young Vaane princess, and the Wolf Scout, Kiernan. The story speaks to judging people by first impressions and allowing our fears to control us. I originally wrote it for a charity romance anthology, Tied in Pink (to support breast cancer research) – hence a reference to ‘pink ribbon’ which I left in the story even after a couple of rewrites. However, like many of my short stories Wolf Scout grew way beyond the word limit. I was more successful with The Herbalist’s Daughter, which was included in the Tied in Pink anthology and was my first published story.  

Wolf Scout feels like it's part of something larger, do you revisit this world elsewhere?

It is indeed set, like most of my stories, in the world of Nardva. While the Under the Mountain series and the Akrad’s Legacy series are set in the southern hemisphere of Nardva, Wolf Scout is in the Barrakan mountains, on the eastern edge of the main land mass northern hemisphere. I have written a few related stories – Full Moon Rises (in Like a Woman anthology) and Broken Promises (in Another Time Another Place) and I intend to write more with this location in the future.

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

All the usual places:

Jeanette O’Hagan Writes

Sign up to my newsletter here  with a copy of Ruhanna’s Flight as a bonus.

A traditional question here at Altered Instinct – what are you reading at present, and what is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

I’m half-way through Stephen King’s It. This book makes up for the shortness of its title by the number of its pages (well over 1000). And of course, it’s a classic horror story, though I would say also mystery and slice of life.  I’ve read some brilliant books in the last year, so it’s hard to choose one. But if pushed, I’d say Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow for some great world building, quirky characters, zany humour, and gripping plot.

Thanks very much for calling by the blog, Jeanette - and good luck with Caverns of the Deep! I'm really glad we got you into Tales of Magic & Destiny, it's a pleasure to feature alongside you. 

Tales of Magic & Destiny is available as both an ebook and a paperback at