Monday, 17 October 2016

Meet author Angelique Anderson, creator of young adult stories and much, much more

Angelique Anderson is the author of the Redemption series, the Little Lost Girl series and her tale of the forbidden fruit of immortality, Eden's Serum. She stops by the blog to chat about her work.

Hi Angelique, and welcome to Altered Instinct. You have quite the mix of stories in your history – YA, fantasy, Christian-influenced work, biographical – and the sci fi of Eden's Serum. How do you describe yourself as a writer with such a range?

Ha ha ha, when you put it that way. I am not sure if there is a way to classify myself. I generally file myself under young adult author, as I try to write books and stories that are simple but interesting to read. Things my teenager could read and be excited about.

Eden's Serum is how I first encountered your work, where did the inspiration from the story come from?

I can’t even lie, the basic story was my husband’s idea. He came home at 4:00 AM, and knowing my love for all things vampire and mythical, he said (and yes he woke me up to tell me) “What if you wrote a book about an immortality medicine, or something…. Something that could make someone live forever, but it backfires?” I loved the idea, because it felt like a modern twist on being a vampire, without being about vampires. So I started plotting it out. I wanted something completely different from anything I have ever written, so anything that felt like the opposite of my writing, I tried to include.

Adam is a protagonist that isn't always likeable – in part, his poisoned apple, the serum offering immortality is almost a deserved comeuppance. What draws you to more complex characters in that vein, and is there a challenge in getting the empathy of readers for them?

I think the majority of my closest friendships start out with people, who society may not always deem as the most likeable. I, myself, was that person growing up, the outsider, the unlikeable one, etc… That is reality, not everyone is a hero, not everyone is likeable at first. However, I think that everyone given the chance….can be…. Adam was so fun to write that way, because even though I know I could have delved further with his character (which I hope to do in Eden’s Demise, the sequel to Eden’s Serum) I think he sort of encourages people to realize that just because someone isn’t likeable, doesn’t mean they can’t be or that they don’t deserve a chance.

Away from books, you're a singer and songwriter too, I understand – I'll freely admit envy for such talent! Do you have substantially different approaches to your songwriting and your story writing or do you find them coming from the same spark?

Funny you should ask, it was while I was songwriting in Nashville, Tn, that I realized that songwriting was so close to story writing, and I was creating lengthy songs… because I was trying to be a story teller. Which is why I moved back to California and decided to put my singing aside and fully commit to writing books. There is such a similarity, and I think the best songwriters, are the ones that can tell a story in just a few stanzas…I need books to do that!! Ha ha ha ha.

Where can readers catch up with your music?

All of my music has been removed from online, but hold tight, because I have a Christmas song that my producer is pitching for me! So hopefully I will have something soon!

The Redemption series you describe as a YA fantasy – and I see you have it listed under Christian fantasy, and refer to CS Lewis' Narnia series. How strong a part does your Christian faith play in the Redemption series, and your work as a whole?

My Christian Faith plays a huge part in everything I do, I do not preach at people, nor do I try to ‘talk people into my beliefs’ but I do try, as fully as I can to create environments in my books that are God-honoring, but fun and interesting. I know that people don’t need to be preached at, so I work to be the kind of writer, and person that people see as not just a good story-teller, but kind and compassionate as well. My faith is not a rule list, it’s a relationship with God and I have a responsibility to live my life passionately and freely in the gifts I have been given. I genuinely love to write, and although the Redemption Series has strong allegorical ties to my Christianity…. My other books are not allegorical. They have Easter eggs, as people call them… if you know I am a Christian, you’ll know why the serum in Eden’s serum is tied to plant extract, and etc.. And you’ll understand the connotations behind the main character’s names being Adam and Evelyn. In my newest book, releasing in a few weeks, you’ll see the paranormal ties between demons and angels, I try to have fun with my faith when it comes to writing. :D

Tell us more about Redemption – what's your elevator pitch to a would-be reader? Hook us in!

Evangeline loses her entire village to a man deemed ‘The Hunter.’ She tries to fight him and almost loses her life in the process, wandering off in the woods to die (or so she believes) she awakes to find herself stuck in a wolf body. With no knowledge of how she got that way, or to get out of it, she proceeds to live her life as an animal for many years. Until one day she meets a complete stranger, who is just like her. 

They both have questions and an ancient book may hold the answers, but first they must both embrace their race, a special breed known as ‘The Changed Ones’ meant to protect the human race, or there may be nothing left to protect.

Together they will discover their true purpose, heal from their past, and fight the greatest evil the world has ever known.

Turning for a moment to the Little Lost Girl series, this seems to delve into your personal history, with some particularly difficult subjects tackled. Tell us a little about the work.

Something most people don’t know is that my father was a code breaker for the US military. His service messed him up badly, and he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when I was young. Before he knew there was something medically wrong with him however, my father and step mom made many choices that involved not being able to care for a child. As such, I was sent to live in many different homes, and eventually back in foster care. I was reunited with my birth mother when I was sixteen, but my upbringing before I was finally put with her was traumatic, and abusive, and etc… I think there a lot of people with stories like mine, and my hope was to encourage them to share that. I think fear stops people from healing, and when I finally let go of the fear and shared my story, I know it was very healing.

Was it hard as a writer to confront such subjects? Or cathartic?

I had moments of such difficulty when I wrote Little Lost Girl, that I was sure I would quit. Which is why I wrote it as a short story series, and then later published it as a complete series. I knew it was going to be difficult, and even though it is a memoir, I wrote it in a fictionalized way, where its not “I” telling the story, it really is a story about a little girl who just wants a home to call her own, but everything in there is true (except for some details, like names and conversations.) It was amazing to write, and the feedback I got! WOW!! For a while, the inboxes, and emails about the story, touched my heart so much. It did exactly what I wanted it to do…. It encouraged people to keep going.

You recently featured as the King of the Hill in a writer's promotion from fellow authors – how much of an impact has that had on getting the word out about your work do you think? It must be awesome to get such a swell of support from your colleagues!

That was such an incredible confidence boost for me! To know that the people I care about the most, support me, and care about me too? There is nothing better than that for me. I think it was a great spotlight for my work, and if I could do something like that every month, I dare say… I would be well on my way to being successful! It was fantastic!

With such a range of work behind you, what is the starting point you recommend for new readers? And what is it about that work that makes you think it's such a key to unlocking your work?

I think it really depends on what a person is into! I have favorite things I like about all of my books…. Eden’s Serum was the most fun to write, and has so many twists and turns, I think its great for people who get bored easily. I know there are some people who really love to get to know the writer whose work they are reading, and I think Little Lost Girl will give some a taste. The Redemption series is fun for anyone who loves fantasy, and it’s allegorical, which I think gives it more personal meaning.

If you are stuck on that proverbial desert island – and have only three books to take with you, what do you choose?

Just three books? If I take my kindle, is that okay? I am just kidding! I would take Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, (I have read it a million times, and could literally read it a million more) The Lion, The Witch and The Warddrobe (of course!) and not to be cheesy but the bible would come along too, because just like C.S Lewis’s work… which had so much allegorical meaning, the bible has so much. I mean where else are you going to find stories of murder, deception, miracles, birth, death, soap opera, songs, poems and more, all in one??? It’s like the ultimate eclectic collection. 

I'll let you throw a musical influence in there too – whose records are a major influence on your songwriting work?

Oh my goodness, so many!! I grew up on angry girl music… Alanis Morissette, Meredith Brooks, Fiona Apple, Joan Jett…. My all-time favorite music and my biggest influence on my songs is Evanescence and Jewel. I am not even ashamed of that.

What are your future plans? What's next on your list?

Future plans…. I plan to take over the world. Just kidding.
I have a new paranormal releasing later this month, another genre I haven’t done before:
Twisted Intentions
As well as a poetry and short story book:
Embers and Flames
I have a children’s Halloween and Christmas book that are a part of a children’s read aloud series I am doing:
The Brave Jungle Kitty Goes Trick-or-Treating and The Brave Jungle Kitty Learns the Meaning of Christmas.

And lastly for November, I am participating in Nanowrimo to write my sequel to Eden’s Serum, I had to many requests to not do it! Eden’s Demise should be out by January.

I'll be joining you in NaNoWriMo, though I'm not sure what I'm writing yet! And lastly, a traditional two-part question here. What are you reading at the moment, and what is the best book you've read in the past year?

I am reading a slew of indie author books, several that I have started all at the same time, and I have been jumping back and forth: Icarus Rising-N.W Moors… one of my favorite indie authors, Dragon Moon by Julie Nicholls, Fang and Claw by Markie Madden, and Out of the Darkness by Kat Caffee…. And yes… all at the same time, a few pages here and there.

The best book I have read in the past year, hands down is The Rise of Nazil: Aaron Micheal Hall.
Proud to say they are all indie authors!

Angelique, many thanks for visiting!

Thank you so much for giving me a chance to share, I truly, truly appreciate it!

You can follow Angelique's work on Twitter here, or on Facebook here.

Editor's note: Angelique has also just won first place as favourite sci-fi author in the Virtual FantasyCon 2016 Awards

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Book review: Nathaniel Keene, by Aditi Ramaswamy

Nathaniel Keene, by Aditi Ramaswamy

"Nathaniel Keene was dead to the world."
It's a striking first line, and it sets the confident, sometimes snarky tone from author Aditi Ramaswamy. You see, poor old Nathaniel is about to become a vampire. Worse, a vampire facing the horrors of... high school.
Told with zip and zest, we follow the outsider Nathaniel, now forced to hide behind sunglasses and a deeply unfashionable umbrella, as he discovers, against all his past experience, people he can call friends.
With more than an occasional nod to the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nathaniel soon finds himself part of his own Scooby gang, adjusting to his bloodlust by swigging packets of pig blood provided by an unfazed school nurse. You see, there have been vampires in town before, and the town knows how to adapt. The school may know a little too well how to adapt, for before you know it, and barely by the time the bonds of friendship are forming, Nathaniel finds himself framed for the murder of his German literature teacher.
He faces a trial, and at the same time has to figure out who the real killer is, unexpectedly assisted by a talking cockroach. Things get weird.
In all of this, there's a good deal of fun - but there are a couple of big things that don't quite work out in the story. The villain - spoiler alert, there is a villain - has a habit of excess monologuing, while the trial itself alas seemed very fake, almost pantomime in its nature, and shook me out of the story.
Ramaswamy writes with flair, but the back end of the story is a bit clunky, and with too many characters explaining what was going on all along. There's fun to be had along the way, though, and Nathaniel is a fun character to hang out with, unfashionable umbrella or not.

AI rating: 3/5

Friday, 14 October 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Points of Possibility, by Norman Turrell, and Outliers of Speculative Fiction anthology

Points of Possibility, by Norman Turrell

Anyone who knows me by now knows I love a well-crafted short story.
I grew up on tales by the likes of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Stephen King, or the kinds of tales that filled all kinds of sci fi and fantasy magazines, stories that sparked the imagination in just a handful of pages.
Norman Turrell isn't a name I'd come across until recently. I wish I'd found him earlier.
From the story of the arrogant noble upgrading himself physically and hunting human prey until he goes too far, to the exploration of a fully immersive online world and the controls placed on it from outside, Turrell writes with a thoughtfulness and manages a pace that lets the stories breathe despite the short length.
He can make the skin crawl too, such as in the disturbing Little Angel, or the building horror of The Muse (even if the Irishman in me smiles at an error or two in the setting, but no harm there!).
There's an odd story that doesn't work for me - From The Grave To The Grave is an interesting experiment but didn't quite pan out, and Court, a fantasy story, just didn't catch me. That's to be expected, though, in a short story collection.
I like Turrell's style - he makes you think, and sometimes makes you fear, and that's a talent to be commended.

AI rating: 4/5

Learn more about Norman Turrell at his website,

Outliers of Speculative Fiction, edited by LA Little

Outliers of Speculative Fiction is a new anthology, something that's to be encouraged in the publishing landscape.
This debut has attracted some strong names, too, such as Cat Rambo, the SFWA president, and Dark Lane anthologies editor Tim Jeffreys.
There's no strong, abiding theme to the collection, which is both a blessing and a curse. It encourages diversity - in both content and representation - but leaves a lack of focus at times.
That said, there's some brilliant work in here, such as by the aforementioned Tim Jeffreys, whose No Other is a hard look at post-apocalyptic life, or Kelly Dwyer's Liminal Hill, a sci fi in a seedy future world of cigarettes and spies, bullets and lies.
Kama Post's intriguing and otherworldly When We Go Flying unnerves, while The Boomtown Clurry Snatch, by Kristin Jacques is a fine caper.
That said, there are others that don't sit as well. Cat Rambo's story, for example, has no plot or indeed any named lead character, and reads as a rant by a blogger in a superhero world - a member of the League of Extraordinary Superbloggers, perhaps, all about how superhero names ain't what they used to be. Fine enough for a bit of fun, but too slight as a story. The editor's own Somnambulant strays too lightly into territory well trod by Neil Gaiman and is overshadowed as a result. A couple of stories feel like they're just getting going when they come to an end too - such as PE Bolivar's The Forest Realm, where online gaming turns obsessive and deadly, or Heather Harris McFarlane's Pandora's Toybox, which chills but feels like it needs more weight.
There's experimentation in form by Jetse de Vries, in Random Acts of Cosmic Whimsy, which I found almost unfollowable, and S Kay writes an entire story in Twitter format, which is an achievement technically but as a story focusing on someone not understanding bots and talking about Kim Kardashian is a feed I actually would unfollow. Technical challenge over artistic achievement in that case, I think.
Throw in some bumpy editing and odd formating in the version I received to review and this works out as a middling collection. But middling ain't bad for a first pitch, and I hope it proves a firm stepping stone for future anthologies.
One last special word for a story that's lingered in my head since I read it. Eric Landreneau manages to combine rock and roll, a dead end Virginia town, parental abuse and urban myth to spin together a very affecting tale. Well played, sir, this lingers like the effects of a good moonshine whiskey, and burns all the way down.

AI rating: 3/5

Outliers of Speculative Fiction is available on Amazon here.

Pick a path through Science Fantasy

Richard M Mulder is a one-man dynamo, spreading the word of Science Fantasy - or Sci Fan. Here, he makes a guest visit to the blog, to talk about a new venture, where you can choose your own path... 

A new era in Virtual Conventions is peeking around the corner. SciFan Society is very pleased to present Adventure Quest!
Have you had the intent to attend a Virtual Convention, but got annoyed by the constant alerts on your phone? Did you turn off the Facebook notifications order to keep your sanity, and then completely forget about the event? You’re not alone!
We have the solution! We are currently designing a Choose Your Own Adventure styled text-based online game where you can earn points, win prizes, and interact with your favorite authors worldwide… all without having to deal with all those annoying Facebook Event alerts, trying to scroll down to find a certain booth, etc.

Click the picture to follow the link and join the adventure!
A fortress so heavily guarded, no one's been able to even get in the door. That's why we're calling on you! Are you itching for a new adventure? Come demo our new mini quest game in Richard M. Mulder's booth at Virtual FantasyCon 2016!
Come dive into a forgotten genre of Science Fantasy with an immersive Choose Your Own Adventure styled text-based game! Puzzles! Magic! Monsters and more. You'll take the role of an able explorer ready to crack the most high tech safe, fight off mythical creatures,  sneak past AI security guards, or anything in-between.
Do you have what it takes to unlock the fortress?
This event will be only a small teaser of the full game. In the full version of the game there will be extra items, puzzles, side quests and lots of hidden back story to truly immerse yourself into. Not to mention tons of hidden treasures! Go play the demo now!

What is SciFan? Find out at Do you have a SciFan story to share with the world? Can you think of existing stories that should be properly classified as SciFan? Let’s revolutionize the publishing industry and clamor for the debut of the SciFan genre taking the stage! Come join our SciFan Society to learn how you can participate in this growing movement!

You can follow Richard M Mulder's adventures in science fantasy on his Twitter here. Or catch his Facebook page here.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The hurricane knocking at the door

First thing first - we're ok.

Hurricane Matthew came rolling through The Bahamas and hit hard. Andros is a mess. Grand Bahama is a mess. Where I live in New Providence is a mess - but our house itself is in pretty good shape. We're still out of power, we're still out of internet - this is hastily being scribbled at work - but we're well.

I don't know how long it'll be before things get back to normal - power could take a couple of weeks yet to get in shape, and the cable company then needs to follow on behind. They're getting the work done, bit by bit, but it's a big job given the scale of the hurricane that hit. We don't have waist-deep water in our house to worry about, unlike some. We don't have a delay of months before power gets back on, again unlike some.

So there may be some guests who hop aboard here until things are back to normal, to keep things ticking over. Expect a short delay for reviews and such, but I'm sure you understand. Tweets from @AlteredInstinct may be sporadic with data access thin. Until then, read good books. Love good books. Tell the world about good books.

Catch up with you soon!

Monday, 3 October 2016

PODCAST REVIEW: Tuning in to the elections

ELECTION season is upon America – and so this week we take a peek into some of the podcasts providing a look at the political landscape during the countdown.

FiveThirtyEight Elections

Nate Silver became the most respected name in political analysis with his FiveThirtyEight column in the last round of US elections – and analysis is the beating heart of this podcast.
But don't expect a dry show full of statistics and numbers, instead this is a real delight of a show, with a panel of guests – including Silver – talking about the political issues of the day.
The latest show comes from the Playstation Theater in Broadway, and is timely considering the recent bombing attack on New York, with the guests looking at the response to the attack and the likely effect it will have on the political landscape, particularly ahead of the first presidential debate between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump last Monday.
There's an air of defiance in the New York audience coming out to a show in the wake of the bombing, but the show takes the situation in its stride as it focuses sharply on the ebb and flow of political polls, and the narratives of election season.
If you're a Donald Trump supporter, this probably isn't the show for you, as the host and guests generally sound baffled at the lack of any cohesion to the Republican's policies and approach. Yet they take it seriously, and this is one of the most informative and neatly analysed looks at the current political landscape. It's fun too – full of snark and laughs such as the speculation that Donald Trump might launch his own brand of tacos.
In short, if you want to be up to speed with the nitty gritty detail of the US election but want to have fun while keeping up with it, then this is absolutely the show for you.


The Presidential podcast takes a look back across the history of previous presidents to sit in the White House – and it's a fantastically educational show. The latest episode takes a look at Gerald Ford, the president who arrived by circumstance rather than by being voted in, and in turn, the show talks to three guests – Ford's son, Steven, Berkeley professor Daniel Sargent, and former White House photographer David Hume Kennerly.
Ford took office in unlikely fashion. He became the first person to be appointed to the vice-presidency under the 25th Amendment after Spiro Agnew's resignation, then became president after Nixon's term ended in scandal and resignation. The unelected man, Ford, stepped up in Nixon's place.
The warmest insights come from Ford's son, who talks of the man who would become President. He talks of how Ford met his biological father only once, in his teenage years, a man who had not been in his life until then and suddenly arrived looking to take Ford to live with him, an offer Ford roundly rejected, saying that his father, Leslie Lynch King, had never been his real father. Instead, he was raised by his stepfather and his mother, and grew into a man with long years in politics, who spoke of not being able to work with his opposition unless he could break bread with them too, who would sit down with rivals to work out the best solution rather than hurl abuse across the aisle.
Kennerly too highlights the humility of the man, revealing an argument over photographs of war in the White House, which were to be taken down until Ford intervened and insisted that images showing the consequences of war were never to be removed, as they acted as a reminder of the outcome of decisions made by those in office. His personal troubles are also highlighted, such as the fight against breast cancer endured by his wife, Betty, and the effect that had on the then president.
The desire for bi-partisan politics and the humble approach of Ford marks a very different figure from today's challengers. In the end, he never did win a presidential election, losing out after his only term to the future President Carter.
This is a great podcast, very well worth your time and your attention.


One of the biggest names in journalism is Time magazine – so it makes it rather inexplicable that the company's politics podcast is so weak. An array of short, indeed super short, podcasts is available. These clock in at just a few minutes each and it's hard to fathom who the audience is, because they are so brief. The latest episode lasts just a little over three minutes and ostensibly is a rundown of how each of the major candidate's policies will affect the US national debt – Clinton's policies seeing it rise by about 1%, Trump's seeing it rise by nearly a quarter. But there's just so little of it that it's hard to feel any substance to it – it almost feels like someone is simply reading a press release. Another episode, on Trump's appeal to black voters, lasts just over a minute, and cuts off mid-sentence. It looks suspiciously like this is an area of Time's repertoire that is overlooked and neglected, and frankly for such a strong brand, you would expect them to do better.

Got any recommendations for podcasts to cover? Let me know at @AlteredInstinct or in the comments below. 

BOOK REVIEW: Moments of Darkness, by Jason J Nugent

Moments of Darkness, by Jason J Nugent

I was delighted when Jason Nugent offered me an advance review copy of his new book. I'd reviewed his previous collection, Almost Average, and loved it, a great introduction to his work, so I was keen to see more from him.
Moments of Darkness is a collection of 14 short stories - some flash fiction, some a little longer, but all of them a quick delve into different worlds.
I love the impish fun of Careful Study, with a grumpy alien with a grumbling stomach landing on a new planet. I really like the scritch scratch at your brain that is the insidious madness of Super Moon, with the protagonist becoming obsessed by lunar madness. The dark paranormal tale of With All My Love would fit neatly on a series of The Twilight Zone.
Some of the stories are little more than nuggets, vignettes with a twist, but that's flash fiction - I swear, a form I can never master myself, but I respect those who can be more succinct. As ever with a collection, there will be stories you favour over others, but Jason Nugent has a voice worth listening to.

AI rating: 5/5

Moments of Darkness is available to pre-order from Amazon here

You can read more about Jason Nugent in our previous Q&A with him here