Monday, 26 September 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Stormhaven Rising, by Eric Michael Craig PLUS The Outer Ring, by Martin Wilsey and Fracture, by Trip Ellington

Stormhaven Rising, by Eric Michael Craig (Book one of Atlas and the Winds)

If you want a book with all the feeling of a blockbuster, then this hits the spot. 
This is Big science-fiction, with a capital B, spanning a host of characters around the globe and beyond. Earth is under threat with an asteroid big enough to wipe out life on the planet tumbling through space towards our little blue orb, and this is the story of how the world responds. Does it unite as one to face the threat? Does it ever? 
As different nations start to deal with the threat in different ways, a science-driven corporation, Stormhaven, home to innovations far beyond those in use by the world's governments, begins to emerge as humanity's best hope - if only humanity will let them act. 
Seemlessly hopping from within the US government, to the Chinese scientists' response, to within Stormhaven, to the crew of the international space station and on to the members of an impromptu lunar colony founded as a failsafe, the story cannonballs along, as countries try their best to respond while keeping a lid on public panic. 
Craig's a talented storyteller - though his story style isn't always conventional. There's no central character to focus on here, with a canvas so broad. If there's a central focus, it's on the people surrounding Colton Taylor, the enigmatic leader of the Stormhaven group, both brilliant yet internally gnawingly insecure. If you're a reader who enjoys focusing in on one character, then this isn't for you - but if you want story, story you've got. 
This is a blockbuster in the style of Niven and Pournelle hits such as Lucifer's Hammer or Footfall, where the life and death of the world hangs in the balance, and wrong decisions made along the way put everyone in peril. 
As for the conclusion, does the asteroid hit? Does the world succeed in fending it off? Well... that's still to come in the sequels. Don't worry, though, by the time you get to the last page, you'll be bursting to read more. 

AI rating: 5/5

The Outer Ring, by Martin Wilsey

Do you ever find yourself reminded so completely of a moment in another medium when reading? I had that moment reading this short story by Martin Wilsey. Not in a copycat kind of way, but reading this tale of life - and imminent threat of death - on board a space station reminded me of a moment in Stargate Universe. There was a fabulous montage in that show set to Julian Plenti's Only If You Run as members of the crew went about their daily grind, trudging along with the chores of space living, and there's a feel of that here - the grimy side of work in space bringing a synchronicity with that moment.

As short stories go, this gives an insight into the technology and life of Wilsey's Solstice 31 series, and it's a good feel. His writing makes a good companion for that of Eric Michael Craig's above, both full of solid science and thoughtful projection of how things would be in a future world.
It probably makes a better companion piece than an outright introduction, as it doesn't really feel like it's a standalone story, with events happening but no real resolution to the piece. Still, if you're reading it alongside his Solstice Saga series, starting with Still Falling, I suspect it'll fit in very neatly as a director's cut extra.

AI rating: 4/5

Learn more:

More free stories from Martin Wilsey here:

Fracture, by Trip Ellington

I'm really not sure what the point of this story was - according to the blurb "a scientist aboard the earth military vessel, Galilea, must race against the clock to discover the source of an anomaly that threatens to tear apart the fabric of space-time itself while the Krians, an alien race at war with the humans, threaten to attack for trespassing into their area of space". Sounds fine enough, but really you have a passive lead character being driven along by events towards a resolution that leaves you guessing what happened. I picked this up through Instafreebie but it doesn't entice me towards Ellington's other work, and as he's charging $2.99 for this on Amazon for about a 4,000 word story, I'm very sure you can do better with your money. Ellington seems to have some skill with description of action and dialogue, but this is too light a story to show it off.

AI rating: 1/5

Learn more:

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Beyond The Stars - At Galaxy's Edge PLUS Marigold

BOOK REVIEW: Beyond The Stars: At Galaxy's Edge, a Space Opera anthology

Last year, I stumbled across the splendid Dark Beyond The Stars anthology - in fact you can read my review of that smashing collection here - and I wasn't aware at all that there were more anthologies following in its wake until I saw Jennifer Foehner Wells tweeting about a discount weekend. Duly spotted, duly bought.
There are two successor anthologies to that collection - Beyond The Stars: A Planet Too Far (lined up on my Kindle for future) and this one, At Galaxy's Edge, which puts the focus squarely on space opera. Jennifer Foehner Wells - who featured in that previous anthology - also returns to provide a foreword.
One notable difference from the off is that previous collection was an all-woman anthology, bar editor David Greenwood, whereas this collection is a mix of men and women, each spinning their story universes.
This collection has a heady brew of tales too - straight out of the gate we have a tale that author of A Boy And His Dog, Harlan Ellison, would approve of, though this time about a marine and his modified K9 unit. The pair are assigned to investigate a terraforming project gone wrong. It seems routine, it seems like little more than an excuse for the dog to frolic among the new green - but they're very wrong, as things take a turn for the worse. The Good Food is by Michael Ezell, and I really like his style - he'll definitely go on the list for authors to keep an eye on.
That set the tone nicely for a good selection of tales. David Bruns' The Epsilon Directive is very much a story asking where you draw the line in following orders, and where personal choice has to come to the fore. Chris Fox conjures up a fun expedition into space archaeology with the added threat of arms being pulled off.
There are a couple of disappointments in here - I found Just An Old-Fashioned Lust Story by Christopher J Valin to strain the suspension of disbelief with its tale of bounty hunters killing one another under the manipulation of a three-breasted beauty, while Piers Platt's Last Pursuit was going just fine until it ended all too soon.
There were three real stars in the collection for me, though - Adam Quinn's Procurement packs so much world building into its short tale of an emergency service for the stars struggling through the perils of bureaucracy that it feels like a whole movie packed into its length. Brilliant.
Nick Webb's Second Place could sit down and share a beer with the stories of Ray Bradbury, as it captures the home-spun drama of the second man to set foot on Mars, who hopes to become the first man to die there. The character work is fantastic, and it just feels like a wonderful, comfortable walk alongside the story's protagonist, as he sets about a landmark few would want to achieve.
But perhaps the story I salute the most is Anthea Sharp's One More Star, Shining. Inspired by the real world horrors of the Pulse shooting in Florida, she creates a universe of miners and those trying to outrun their dreams, all caught up in a moment of horror when an attack shatters the mining community. What makes the story so worthwhile is how it attempts to approach such horror, and examine the ways in which people deal with it. There is the horror of hope as you wish the pain would visit someone else, someone you don't know. There is the aftermath, and the attempt to understand how you can go on, and what is important. And for that, crafted in a short tale in the stars, Anthea Sharp deserves much credit.
Overall, the collection doesn't feel quite as strong as Dark Beyond The Stars - but that was a high bar to set, and it's not far behind. Series editor Patrice Fitzgerald is to be commended.

AI rating: 4.5/5

Beyond The Stars - At Galaxy's Edge is available on Amazon.

Marigold, by A L Wright

This was one of those stories you see passing through your social media feed. I caught sight of it when a fellow reviewer shared it and recommended it, so I took him at his word.
It's the story of an imprisoned soldier, whose walls are measured out by memory, the distance to the dirt and soil, the limited light he has to see by, the years that have been engrained in his head as they tick by, one by one.
That imprisonment comes to an end, and he finds freedom, and the companionship of a perfect woman - perhaps, though, it's all a little too perfect...
I've not read anything by A L Wright before - so this made a good introduction. I wasn't sold on some of the sexual elements in the story, but that's really just personal taste, this still makes a good read, and one that probes the inner psyche as much as the world in which the trapped soldier walks.

AI rating: 4/5

Marigold is available on Amazon

Sunday, 11 September 2016

PODCAST REVIEW: Behind the silver screen

This article previously featured in The Tribune Weekend section on September 9.

This week, the podcast review delves into the world of movies – and what goes on beyond the silver screen.

I Was There Too

Never mind the superstars of film, what about the other guys? This show is devoted to the extras in movies – and it's a hoot. How about the other folks who were on the bus in Speed? What goes on for the people who were also in the movie.
Each week, the host, Matt Gourley, chats to various people who tell stories from behind the scenes, the selection process and more.
The latest show features Rick Overton, starting off with his appearance in Beverly Hills Cop. Check out his picture here and say “Ohhhh that guy!” That's what the show is all about, the “that guy!” moments.
Overton has had a steady career in different movies, and the show chats about his work doing improvised scenes on Beverly Hills Cop, the process of shooting alongside Val Kilmer in Willow, the jokes going on during filming with the likes of Kevin Pollak, what it was like to be on Lost, and lots more besides. He even throws in an awesome Sean Connery impersonation, complete with exact facial movements that you can only judge by how much they make Matt Gourley laugh.
It's a fun show, great to listen to on the road or when you need to chill out.

Rick Overton visiting the I Was There Too team

You Must Remember This

Delving into the history behind the stories of Hollywood, You Must Remember This is as thorough a history show as there is out there.
The latest show looks at the moviemaking history of Joan Crawford – specifically her “middle years” when she was no longer the young ingenue but had not yet reached her fearsome older self, the time when she was struggling to define who she was in what was still a relatively fledgling industry.
It's a very informative show, but it does take a bit of concentration to listen to. It's presented by a single host, Karina Longworth, with a sometimes intrusive amount of background music that occasionally distracts from your listening. But in terms of sheer knowledge, you'll be hard pushed to find another show you'll come away from having learned so much. The show covers a vast range of categories, so delve through their archives and learn more about the artists you love.

Movie legend Joan Crawford

The /Filmcast

A much more straightforward show is The /Filmcast, but it's a whole lot of fun. There's reviews in here, sure, but there's just a great deal of love for the world of movies on show too. The latest show has a review of Don't Breathe in there, but they also banter about how much popcorn gets thrown away each day at movie theatres and how little it's really worth, chats about what the hosts have been watching and lots more besides.
This is the kind of show you want to dive into every week for a good bit of fun, and with plenty more for the movie lover beyond the latest movies themselves.

Got a show you want to feature in the reviews? Leave a message in the comments or tweet me @AlteredInstinct.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Meet the writer: Daniel Peyton, author of Legacy of Dragonwand

Daniel Peyton is an author of fantasy fiction – and more. Throw in some science fiction, superhero stories, and a love of Star Wars and Star Trek. He stops by the blog to chat about his work.

Hi Dan, glad to have you at the blog. For those not familiar with your work, let's start with Legacy of Dragonwand, which published earlier this year – in which a young man aims to go to wizard school and ends up becoming a hero. Tell us a little more about it, where did the story come from and what drew you to the YA fantasy setting?

Happy to be here. Legacy of Dragonwand was inspired by a series of events that culminated into the book. First, I was at Dollywood during an art festival and found a hand crafted bubblewand that I thought would make an interesting wand for a book. Later, a friend held a contest for an anthology. I decided to try out by writing a 10k word short story. I failed to keep it short. Next came NaNoWriMo and I used the start of this story to work on for NaNo. Three months later, I had a finished novel. (Yes, I did 50k in November, the book finished well over 110k)

About Legacy of Dragonwand: It is a young adult fantasy set in the mythical land of Gallenor. Four years prior to the book, all the wizards were ordered to surrender to the Royal Guard and be put in the Pale Labyrinth, for the safety of the kingdom. The king and his head wizard were searching for the last Dragonwand. Four years later, young Markus leaves his little farm community in search of a wizard to get a letter so he can go to the Wizardry College at Thendor. He doesn’t know about the decree. He finds a wizard, who gives him a mission to find the Dragonwand before the king does. Unfortunately, before Markus can learn more details, the wizard dies. He leaves and stumbles upon the Rakki, a dog people. He meets a girl named Crystal who is also a young wizard who lost her parents to the decree and wants their safe return. They both learn some disturbing information about the kings true plans and they have to set off to find the Dragonwand before the king can, or all the wizards in the Pale Labyrinth will die.

Markus - the main character from Dragonwand

You've had some smashing reviews for it – including I notice from Wendy Siefkin who we follow on Twitter over at Inklings Press. She always seems to know what she's talking about! Another string to your bow is your artwork, and I notice you've done some artwork for the Siefkins – how did that come about?

I love the reviews. They keep my spirits up as an author. So far the reviews have been very positive and encouraging. Yes, I love to draw. For years it was just a hobby...and mostly still is. I perfected this skill while writing. I simply wanted to see some of the characters I wrote about. Especially the unusual characters in my early Star Trek fan fiction. A few years back, I noticed Wendy Siefken posting on Facebook about wanting a piece of art but not knowing how to get it. She found something she sort of liked, but couldn't find the artist. I drew her something similar and she loved it. Since then, I have done several pieces for her. I have also branched out to other authors. I am responsible for several book covers for authors with the publisher who currently has Legacy of Dragonwand.

One fun element of drawing my characters, sometimes the drawings change the character. By seeing them in front of me, I know them better. Once, when working on a Star Trek piece, I drew one of the characters. The model I used was a swimmer and the drawing really gave that away by his physique. The character was a member of the a feline species. I decided to give this particular character a love of swimming, which was an oddity for his race. It has turned into a really awesome extra flavor for the story.

Legacy of Dragonwand is the first of a trilogy – this is your first publication of a series in this fashion, did you find it took a different approach from writing single volumes, does it take a lot more planning and outlining? Any challenges that format brings?

Actually, my original intention was a two-part story. However, my publisher convinced me that even a two-part would be too big for the average YA audience. The challenge to writing even the two-part was to craft a really good place to split the story. Something that would flow so that it didn't feel like a forced split, but also would feel right as a split...if that makes any sense. Since the books haven't arrived at that place yet, I don't want to spoil it. It really is an awesome sequence of events that drives the story forward.

I say that it's the first series in this fashion – but over on your blog, you've been serialising stories too. You're a long way into a serialisation of a Star Wars fan fic, for example. What draws you to writing fan fic and what do you enjoy about the process?

I started with fan fiction. I started writing in the fourth grade, but really got into penning novels in the eighth grade. My first books were Star Trek stories. At that point in my life, I had no idea that being an author would be my career goal. So, writing them was fun and it frees up a lot of the world building required for the creative process. What I truly enjoy most about writing fan fic is that it lets me step into the universe of something I love. I get to be a part of it.

Of course, with fan fic, there are the obvious restrictions that it's unlikely to see print for copyright reasons – but does that lend a certain liberty to the writing? You can experiment or use it as a learning process about your writing knowing that it's being written as much for fun as anything? I've not been a fanfic writer though – so feel free to shout at me if I'm misunderstanding that process!

What writing Star Trek fan fiction did for me was push me into learning about writing deeper than anything I could pick up in class. I cut my teeth on world building and character development through this. A great deal of fan fiction revolves around people writing their own stories around the established characters and stories. I wanted something that was my own. I created my own characters and story and simply set it in the Star Trek universe. I picked the Deep Space Nine timeline to work with and then created my own series. The captain has his unique backstory, the crew is made up of developed and unique people, the whole story is in harmony with the canon but in itself it is also unique.

I got my first, best review from this. Let me explain: I wrote my first, full, start to finish novel in the 9th grade. Star Trek the Eleventh Fleet, book one. The teacher had given the class free-write time and told us to simply write and turn in whatever we did. I started but couldn't finish in one day. The teacher liked that I was so engrossed in my writing, so she told me to keep writing and finish it at my own pace. I took it home and wrote there, then wrote in class, then wrote in other classes (which didn't set too well with the other teachers). When I turned it in, I was so proud I could have exploded. Then she promptly lost it. I was devastated. She apologized profusely and told me that she had read it and gave me a stellar grade. Three months later, I get it back. She found it, really her mother had it by mistake. Her mother was an English teacher at the local University, Oklahoma State University. She had a creative writing class and thought my book was one of hers. She graded it according to her normal standards, (it got a C+) but when she realized it wasn't a college student, but a 9th grader in public school, she wrote out a long note to me. She said that she loved the story, was impressed with my character development, descriptions, and lack of any plot-holes. She gave it a C+ in her class for the bad grammar, and suggested I look into working on that. I was on cloud 9. It was the first time in my life I can remember thinking “maybe I can be a published writer one day”. I didn't start working on that there, my first ambition in High School was to go into acting and become an actor on television...which fizzled. But, through it all, I kept writing. I wrote five more 11th fleet books in my spare time, just for fun. Little did I realize that I was practicing an art that would become my passion.

What an awesome way to kickstart your writing experience! Though hat horror moment of it being lost! Next up, Legacy of Dragonwand is being published through Cosby Media Productions – but you had a rocky experience with a previous publisher. You're not the first, I understand, to have had bad experiences with PublishAmerica – it's also featured prominently on the Writer Beware blog and you detail your own experiences extensively on your own site. After such an experience, how hard was it to find and put your faith in another publisher?

That experience really hurt. I cannot fully express how much it impacted me for several years. In fact, I wrote a novel called The Crystal Needle: A Stitching Fantasy, during that time and refused to publish it. I wrote it originally as a gift for my friends in the local Embroiderers Guild of America. Everyone who read it simply loved it and told me to publish. I would push that idea away every time. I had given up. Then, Amazon opened up their self-publishing platform and my father gave me an article about an author who had great success with that. I decided to try. It turned out better than I expected. After several years of being self-published, I had gleaned a lot of information about publishing and learned that not all publishers are wolves out to devour victims.

Has it made you more aware ultimately of what you should expect as an author from a publisher? What would you say you look for most now in that regard?

YES! PublishAmerica promised the moon and delivered nothing. They told me that all publishers charge for their books, they neglected to tell me that authors shouldn't be paying full price to get them. They told me that my original manuscript I gave them was perfect and didn't need editing, then published it and promptly offered to edit for a HUGE fee. A true publisher will clean your work for you, they should want to make it as good as possible so that they make money...and so will you. PA promised to put my book in all the book stores, with grandiose claims of being the #1 supplier for Barnes and Noble. They lied. I learned to research claims and check out the market for myself. I learned that if a publisher is more interested in garnering more and more authors and not promoting the books they offer, they aren't in it for the audience, they're in it to soak their authors for every last dime.

You've also written about how you got hit by a spate of bad reviews by one particular individual – and looking at some of the reviews, I can't help but notice a bunch of reviews following the same pattern of numbered lists of what he thinks is wrong and, um, you'll forgive me for the language, but he's patently talking bullshit. That must have been infuriating! How did you manage to deal with that?

It hurt. I still have a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach at times just thinking about that time. First, he didn't just give me bad reviews, he stalked me on every website I was connected to in an attempt to discredit me and get me thrown off. It was a pure case of internet bullying. He hasn't done one thing to me in years, but I still fear every review. Yes, I see my review number go up and then I force myself to scroll down, praying deeply that he hasn't started again. When I first published The Crystal Needle, I wasn't eagerly waiting to see those first sales or read that first review, I was terrified. I almost took the book down every day for months. I would wake up, scared to log onto my computer, certain that he had done it again and dumped a bunch of horrible reviews on my book.

How have I managed to move forward? God gave me strength, He also gave me a passion for writing that overshadows my fear of failure. Also, when I published through PA, I had no author friends. I was alone in the publishing world...which explains the mistakes I made. Now, I have a slew of good friends who are authors/editors/publishers/readers. When I think of that bad man attacking me, I know that I won't be alone. In fact, I know a few of those friends who will be like a pack of lions pouncing on him. They know the strife in my heart over what happened and they want me to not fear expressing the passion that permeates my life.

Okay, I promise – no more questions about annoying things! What do you most enjoy about the writing process? 

Creating. That sounds vague, but it's the truth. I love developing the world, the characters, the drawings, everything. As I get deep into the story, I surround myself with it. It is a world that I escape to much like a reader escaping into a good book.

As an artist as well as an author, do you find one line of creativity feeds the other? Or do you plow different strands with those? 

As I talked about before, the drawing is part of the writing process in a way. Often I draw the character after I have created him/her. But, sometimes I draw for fun and then use the image to base a new character on. One example is Treb from Legacy of Dragonwand. I drew this dog-man picture just for fun. Then, as I wrote the story, I wanted Markus to encounter a fantasy race, but wanted to avoid the cliché of him coming across elves. I flipped through my art book and saw that dog man and crafted a whole race around him.

Treb, the dog-man creation who inspired a race in Dragonwand

You also have on Amazon the books Wisdom Springs and The Crystal Needle – tell us a little about each of those.

The Crystal Needle: A Stitching Fantasy, is a fantasy novel set in America. It tells the story of two stitching witches who are sisters. They are 3,000 years old. During the Salem witch hunt, they lived in fact they were the only actual witches there. They left and founded a town to help the poor people put out by the hysteria. One sister turns bitter over what has happened and decides to use her considerable magic to control the humans. Her sister stops her, for that is a violation of all the rules they abide by. With the help of a lost family of Kitsune, the good sister has to bind her evil sister in the woods behind their homes. In the process, the kitsune children are cursed and their father killed. 300 years later, a family moves into the evil sisters old home to turn it into a bed and breakfast. The son in the family meets an unusual girl and the kind sister, who lives next door. He falls for the girl, not realizing she's older than the USA. She is determined to take down the evil sister when the binding spell fades, but finally lets go of vengeance for the love she feels for the boy. At the wrong time, the evil sister returns.

Wisdom Springs is a Christian fiction novel. It tells the story of a man who was once one of the most famous Broadway producer/director/choreographers. He made a choice of conscience over contract and broke a deal. That spells the end of his career and good name. He is forced to take a job as a choir director for a big Baptist church in East Tennessee. There is one small catch, he's an atheist. He was hired by the church administrator who controls everything and everyone. She only cares about making the church a success financially. She knows what Ken is, but only sees his fame as a useful tool. On his first day at work, he meets a girl and a strange old man. The girl has an amazing voice but a trouble spirit. The old man is an odd, wise person who seems immune to the machinations of the churches administrator. Ken soon realizes he has tough decisions to make about life. The pastor also has learn how to take control of his own church back.

For new readers, which is the best place for them to start with your work? 

If you like fantasy, either start with The Crystal Needle: A Stitching Fantasy, or start with Dragonwand book 1. If you like Christian fiction, Wisdom Springs is a standalone book.

What would you say your influences are as a writer? 

A major influence right now is where I live. East Tennessee is beautiful. To me, it feels like the setting of an epic fantasy, or gentle story. I will go out and simply enjoy the countryside for a while and be inspired.

And what next? What are you working on at the minute? 

Book two of Dragonwand or something else brewing up? Books two and three of the Dragonwand series are written, they are simply in the processing stage. My publisher is also going to be producing a novella I wrote that is a post apocalyptic drama. Also, they have contracted for a superhero book I penned a while back.

Finally, the last question here is a traditional double question – what are you reading at the moment and what is your favourite book you've read in the past year? 

Currently I am reading the NAC commentary on the book of Ezekiel. This past year I picked up and read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series end to end, that would be my favorite from this past year. (I admit that I hadn't ever read them all before, so it was a new experience for me.)

Legacy of Dragonwand is available on Amazon here. You can check out the rest of Daniel Peyton's works on Amazon here

You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Meet the author: Arthur Frawley, creator of Kill All Heroes

Today we welcome Arthur Frawley to the blog, creator of Kill All Heroes, a story set in a world full of superheroes, but one that is going very, very wrong...

Hi Arthur, and welcome to the blog. Tell us a little about Kill All Heroes – what was your inspiration behind the story?

My inspiration for the story came from a lot of different places, but most recently I watch the slew of super hero movies like Suicide Squad and Captain America: Civil War and the thought occurred to me “why do these all powerful super heroes care what some humans think?”. From there, it evolved and grew and after several rewrites it got to where it is today.

The story follows Eric as he discovers the grim truth behind the seemingly idyllic front of a world of superheroes – what was it about the nature of power that drew you to this tale?

I’ve always be interested in how humans and other beings deal with power and to what lengths people will go to get power. From there, I simply asked myself “what would a person do if they had Superman’s power” and the answer was simple: take over the world. Humans innately want to be the strongest smartest creature on earth and if we can’t, then we strive to control anything stronger than us. What would happen if we tried to control something that can’t be controlled? Read Kill All Heroes to find out.

You're publishing via the Inkshares platform – a few of our readers might not know much about that approach, how does it work and what was it that drew you to that platform over others?

I initially heard about it through Geek and Sundry and I really loved the idea of testing people's interest in the book before I fully write it and spend a ton of money on a book I’m not sure people will like. It works very similarly to Kickstarter in that you finish a portion of your project and put your project out there to help raise funds to finish it.

You've previously been a video game writer and journalist – a similar background to mine, actually, how has that background in writing helped you when it comes to working in fiction?

It has helped me be able to get ideas and concepts down on paper in a very concise and clear way. It also exposed me to a ton of amazing games and amazing ideas to learn from.

You're a roleplaying gamer too – any of this story spring from your gaming days? I know I've got an old Superworld campaign that I keep meaning to brew up into a story sequence!

As far as gaming the biggest influence has probably been either the STALKER series or Papers, Please. There really aren’t a ton of role playing games in which you don’t play some all-powerful being that eventually rules the world. My book is meant to be about the average person in a dystopia who has their world destroyed both literally and metaphorically. I would love to help with your campaign too haha, I’m actually the VP of my college’s D&D society.

Ahh, I wish my campaign was still rolling! Too many years ago now for that one! What was the first RPG you played and what hooked you in to keeping playing them? I remember for me it was playing D&D aged seven by lamplight after the main light bulb blew. When that giant spiders appeared for the first time, my seven-year-old imagination was captured!

I came into RPGs very late, my first RPG was Fallout 3 and from the moment I left the vault I was hooked on dystopia and apocalypses and RPGs.

We start off the story in Peach Trees Park... I gotta ask... Judge Dredd fan? And if so, how much of a travesty is it that it didn't get a sequel?

I’m a huge Judge Dredd fan! It’s a massive travesty that there aren’t more Dredd movies in general! The universe is so interesting and so many amazing stories have come from it. I think it speaks a lot to the fan base and to the writing itself in that there are a plethora of Judge Dredd fan made movies that are absolutely amazing!

What were your writing influences particularly for this story? Any hint of Wild Cards or Watchmen in there?

I took a lot of writing influences from Ready Player One and the works of Edgar Allen Poe. I also reference comics and movies throughout the book. Initially I was writing Kill All Heroes to be an actual comic book series, but the story has changed a ton since that time.

Ready Player One keeps coming up as a recommendation to me, gotta catch up with it! Obviously with the superhero influence here, that also suggests a hefty comic book leaning to your reading, what do you recommend in comics reading right now? What's on your pull list?

I would say my favorite series right now are Southern Bastards, Old Man Logan, and Manhattan Project. My favorite super hero/ comic series of all time however is the Punisher.

And in general terms, who are the writers who are your touchstones when it comes to your own writing?

Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Cline, and several philosophers including Nietzsche and Nussbaum

We start the story 60 years in the future, did you work out a future history that would lead us to your novel? How much effort did you need to put into the backstory of your novel?

Yes, in the book around chapter 6, I explain how our current history branches off into the Kill All Heroes universe. I put a lot of thought and research into the timeline and backstory of the novel. I researched the French and Russian revolution, communist takeover of Vietnam, and the peaceful protests of the 70s and 80s in America.

Do you have a website or blog where readers can dip their toe into your work? And have you had any creative work published elsewhere as yet?

For Kill All Heroes, there is an Inkshares and Twitter, but my other works are scattered around Cliqist and mmoknight and a few other gaming journalism sites. I’ve written several other short stories and scripts and parts of novels, but I’m currently looking for a platform to put those on.

Will Kill All Heroes be a standalone book or do you envision it being part of a series?
It is currently a standalone book, but if it is received well it could turn into a series.

Thanks Arthur – how can people here follow you and learn more about your work?
They can tweet at me @robofrawley or email me at

And a traditional last question here at the blog – what are you reading at the moment, and what is the best book you've read in the past year?
I’m currently reading Red Shirt and Armada. The best book I’ve read is probably Animal Farm.

Thank you very much, Arthur, all the best for Kill All Heroes!

Saturday, 3 September 2016


Red Sun Magazine

There's a new face on the speculative fiction magazine scene - and a welcome one it is too.
Red Sun magazine has recently launched its first issue, and aims to publish three times a year, bringing with it interviews with authors, in-depth book reviews by Ann Stolinsky, and a selection of fiction stories.
The first issue frontloads its big names. The two big interviews are with David Morrell, best known as the creator of Rambo in his book First Blood, and Margaret Weis, familiar to many a Dungeons & Dragons fan for her work on the Dragonlance series and so much more.
Both bring a disarming honesty to their conversations - Morrell talking about how family tragedy affected the course of his writing and providing a keen insight into his version of the character that became larger than life on the movie screen, while Weis shares a moment that makes your heart leap in your chest as she tells how at a book signing a veteran wanted her and co-writer Tracy Hickman to accept his Silver Star because a character from their books inspired him to save the lives of 12 men.
The military side of things is particularly poignant as the magazine is particularly interested in featuring military-themed science fiction, especially written by veterans.
Such is the spirit of the first story in this collection, The Orion Incident, by David W. Amendola, a gripping story of survivors exploring the hulk of an asteroid-smasher ship, and finding a dangerous and disturbing payload beyond the nuclear missiles they sought to secure. I really enjoyed this story - it reminded me a lot of Matthew Harvey's story Dead In Space, in the Tales From The Universe collection. Both capture that claustrophobia, that nervousness - even if they end up going to very different places in the end.
Taste The New Drug, by Rhoads Brazos, has the feel of James Steakley's Vampire$ Inc fused with Greg Bear's Blood Music - as an expert team of hired killers run into a problem not so much too big for them to handle, as too small for them to deal with, as an insidious plague takes hold of the city in which they make their undignified living. This is my favourite story in the collection, although the one that follows it, Star Jelly, by Brenda Kezar, is a close second as it propels us into old school Twilight Zone style 1950s horror, with globs of goo falling from the sky and leaving two women fleeing in the face of the terrifying outcome that comes with it.
Lastly, the collection is rounded out by a story by Aeryn Rudel, Paper Cut, about an origami samurai sent to kill a hitman. He features in the closing interview too, chatting amiably about his rejections, his dinosaur nerd nature, and more besides.
A good value package at $3.99, Red Sun is a splendid addition to the market. More power to them!
A free copy of Red Sun was provided to Altered Instinct in exchange for an honest review.

AI  rating: 5/5

Red Sun is available on Amazon here - and you can find out more on their website,

BOOK REVIEW: Watership by Jenna Whittaker

WATERSHIP, by Jenna Whittaker

A few years ago, I read one of the most extraordinary science fiction novels I've ever picked up - This Is The Way The World Ends, by James Morrow. It was an end of the world tale in which the surviving humans of a nuclear holocaust are put on trial by the spirits of those who never had a chance to live because of the armageddon. It was a rich, vibrant tale, whose execution didn't always live up to the marvellous ideas within.
I'm reminded of the work as I read Watership because again, here is a book that is filled with smashing ideas.
The Watership of the title is a colony ship, bursting free from the world it was hidden under, while its insect-like inhabitants cultivated the DNA of the humans in the surrounding area to suit their needs when it came time to harvest them and carry them to the new world that would be the sanctuary for both races.
Things unwind, however, first when the leadership of the Crawler, Desu, is challenged by a captive human, Iyarid, after he discovers she has smuggled a non-approved child onto the ship in addition to those chosen for removal. He lashes out recklessly in his decisions, endangering his own people as much as anything else, but worse is to come as the living ship comes under the control of the powerful Charn, an aeromancer, and things take a bloody and sinister turn.
Along the way, we take in other scenes of humans becoming voluntary slaves to the entertainment system that is supposed to fill only their leisure time, and encounter the living beings created within the ship but who may have to be sacrificed to achieve its ultimate goal.
This whirlpool of ideas certainly sucks you in, though at times the background is a little too hazy. As the ship blasted off from the planet, I had lots of questions remaining about the world and the society it roared away from - was this our world, what level of technology did this society have? The ship itself felt like it lacked definition - I wanted more detail so I could see it more clearly in my mind, a solid ground from which the ideas could soar.
In the end, I find it hard to rate the book exactly. The hazy details leave the book a little shy of a four-star rating, but the ideas are stronger than a three-star one. In the end, I'm going to favour the ideas.

AI rating: 4/5

Watership is available on Amazon here.