New Release – Here Be Brave New Worlds Bundle

Here Be Brave New Worlds

Myth, Monsters and Mayhem Vol 11


Worlds on the brink of apocalypse, or already there.

Nature’s wrath and dominion over humanity, and humanity’s folly incarnate.

Dark magic, terrifying tech, greed, ravaged environments, rare courage and grim hope in lost cities and fallen worlds.

Brave new worlds or last best hopes — Dare you glimpse the future?

Platypus          J. D. Brink

Six Sci fi Stories Volume Four           Robert Jeschonek

Dystopia          Charles Eugene Anderson

Of Myst and Folly       Leah Cutter

UTOPIAS – Book 1    Don Viecelli

Brainwaves     Barbara G.Tarn

Ultraviolet       Joseph Robert Lewis

Terra Incognita           Karen L. Abrahamson

The Reckoning            Russ Crossley

Ice Monarch    Michele Laframboise

The Last Ant   Dawn Blair

The Consensus            Harvey Stanbrough

The Last Forest           A. L. Butcher

Brave New Worlds2 FINAL

Book Spotlight – Assassin 13 – Adult Dystopian

Title: ASSASSIN 13

Author: Tom Reppert

Genre: Adult Dystopian TimeTravel

Main character description (short): Like all badass heroines, Lauren projects sass and grit to cover past hurts. She’s trained as an elite assassin and takes pleasure in the lives she ends to better her world. Then she ends up in 1920s Hollywood, and her purpose shifts from hit jobs to caring for and protecting others, ironically, from gangsters who were idolized in her dystopian world.

Synopsis: Lauren Ramirez, an Assassin 13, which means she’s the best at her profession, is betrayed by her employer, the President of the United States, when she takes a high-rank target job to get information on her mother’s killer. While she’s attempting to escape in a space shuttle from his trap, she hurtles through a time displacement anomaly and lands in the glam of 1927 Hollywood.

 Lauren finds herself working for one of Hollywood’s top actresses, Pauline Windsor, who is dating mafia member Benny Sorrentino. He is caught up in a gangland war with the Colombini brothers for the city’s profitable bootlegging and gambling rings. Even as she clings to the revenge for her mother’s death and somehow fixing her broken shuttle to return for the information, Lauren’s relationship with the people she meets, stunt pilot Remy Garnett, Pauline, and Pauline’s children, all begin to change the hard surface of her heart.

 When Pauline’s relationship with Sorrentino draws her and her family into the gangland war, Lauren must decide whether to use her 22nd century talents and technology in their defense or abandon them to slip back into her time and get the information she needs to avenge her mother.

Brief Excerpt 250 words:
A malignant aura emanated from him that only Lauren could see. The Pelosi brothers flanked him like two cobras.

When he walks, he brings menace like the night, Matt said quoting some long forgotten future movie.

Leaning down, Sorrentino kissed Pauline quickly on the lips. “Hey, doll.”

Doll? That’s a bit cliché, isn’t it? Matt said. Is he going to stick a grapefruit in her face now?

Focused on the gangsters, she didn’t answer.

Pauline’s eyes lit up, then worry crossed her face. “Ben, are you all right?”

He waved her concern away, “Hardly more than a scratch. I’m fine.” He glanced at Lauren with raised eyebrows. A dark look came into his eyes. “I remember you, toots.”

“Ben, this is Lauren Ramirez. She manages my business affairs. She was at the dinner party.”

“Yeah, good to see you again.” Sorrentino reached for Lauren’s hand, but she kept both under the tablet. Frowning, he retracted his, and locked eyes on her. “Business manager? Then you’re just the person should be here with what I got for Pauline. Miss Ramirez, or is it Mrs.?”

“Benny the Bug,” Lauren said. “How did you get a name like that?”

He stiffened. His features grew dark.

Pauline glared at her. The room had been silently watching. Now, tension floated through like static electricity among gasoline barrels.

Lauren’s hand went theatrically to her chest in a picture of innocence. “I hope I didn’t offend you, Mr. Sorrentino. I meant no harm. Benny the Bug? That is your name, isn’t it.”

“What the hell’s with you?” His voice, low and cold, sounded like gravel being stomped.

Why should readers buy this book (50 words max)? Buy this book because it is a fun read. It is entertainment pure and simple. I write books I would want to read. It is heart-pounding, thriller action, so I’m told, with a little romance and strong emotions. I hope people will feel those when they read it.

Assassin cover3 mar 2.jpg

Author bio:

Tom Reppert is an army veteran with a BA in English and History, as well as MAs in Creative Writing and Professional Writing. He spent twelve years in Africa and Asia teaching English Literature and Composition. An award-winning author, his writing includes educational essays, short stories, and novels Past Murders, The Far Journey, and The Captured Girl. Tom lives in Sandpoint, Idaho on idyllic Lake Pend Oreille, where he is currently working on his next novel, one set both in the future and the past.


Author Social Media Links

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Author Goodreads:


Amazon UK

Category/ Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Teaser: Assassin 13 is a time travel thriller set in a dystopian future and 1927 Hollywood.

Lauren Ramirez, an Assassin 13, which means she’s the best at her profession, is betrayed by her employer, the President of the United States, when she takes a high-rank target job to get information on her mother’s killer. While she’s attempting to escape in a space shuttle from his trap, she hurtles through a time displacement anomaly and lands in the glam of 1927 Hollywood.

Lauren finds herself working for one of Hollywood’s top actresses, Pauline Windsor, who is dating mafia member Benny Sorrentino. He is caught up in a gangland war with the Colombini brothers for the city’s profitable bootlegging and gambling rings. Even as she clings to the revenge for her mother’s death and somehow fixing her broken shuttle to return for the information, Lauren’s relationship with the people she meets, stunt pilot Remy Garnett, Pauline, and Pauline’s children, all begin to change the hard surface of her heart.

When Pauline’s relationship with Sorrentino draws her and her family into the gangland war, Lauren must decide whether to use her 22nd-century talents and technology in their defense or abandon them to slip back into her time and get the information she needs to avenge her mother.

Click to Tweet Get your FREE copy of ASSASSIN 13 by @repptom MARCH 16! #timetravel #scifi #ontheporch #hollywood #dystopian #readers Please RT!
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Kirkus Review: “Characters are dynamic, especially headstrong Pauline, but Matt is a real surprise; he adds comic relief and Hollywood trivia to keep Lauren informed, even if she occasionally threatens to scrub the opinionated AI from her neurobots. The old Hollywood backdrop imbues the story with authenticity, including the name-dropping of classic film stars and the impending introduction of movie sound, a possible detriment to the current silent-era actors. Reppert wisely simplifies the time traveling, with its explanation decidedly less important than rich character development. Regardless, the oddly practical ending should appease fans of the subgenre. A striking tale flaunting a strong protagoni

Review – 1984 #Audiobooks edition

1984 on

George Orwell – author 

Andrew Wincott – narrator

It’s been a while since I read 1984 – one of the masterpiece dystopian books of all time and I’d forgotten what an excellent, and terrifying book this is.

1984 is dark, it is not a happy-go-lucky read and the audio edition does not make easy listening. That said Andrew Wincott was the perfect narrator for this timeless story. It’s a deep, thought-provoking boo laced with a terrifying dystopian truth, and the narrator really nailed that in his reading. From the contemplative, yet naive Winston Smith to the intelligent and brutal O’Brian he roused emotion in the listener. I found myself transported to the frightening world of Winston Smith and thinking how familiar it seemed in so many ways.

Although set in a futurist 1980s (it was written in 1948), the book has a timeless air. History as the reader know is it very different. In Winston’s world Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace and Ignorance is Strength. Many terms people use regularly stem from this book – Thoughtpolice, Big Brother, Doublethink and many people argue that the surveillance in our own societies is reminiscent of Orwell’s world.

His view of crowd mentality is awfully prescient when one looks at recent events across the world. (When individuals may be harmless people, but as a group they become ‘A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.’)
1984 (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
Describing the “Two Minutes Hate”, Part 1, Chapter 1.

Orwell’s dark story brings us politics gone insane, the nature of freedom and slavery, thoughts about what we believe history to be, the human spirit to survive, and the human will to power. Winston Smith is, to a great extent, an Everyman; a man of middling, but not great intelligence, in a rather mundane job, unsettled in his life and questioning what is around him, but not really able to understand why things are as they are.

I’d also forgotten the ending – which I won’t spoil but it did make me want to shout ‘No!!!!’ rather loudly.

I Can’t recommend this highly enough. It’s a superb story – which everyone should experience – and a brilliant rendition.

5 Stars to the narrator.

5 stars to the author.

Read 1984 or listen to this awesome retelling – it’s worth the time and it might just broaden your outlook. Read it!

Book Spotlight – The Carnelian Throne – Science Fiction/Spec Fic/Fantasy

Layout 1

Title: The Carnelian Throne

Author: Janet Morris

Genre: allegorical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, political fiction

Main character description (short).

In a far and dystopian future, three rulers seeking to make truth of prophecy explore the “shores of which none are empowered to speak,” a forbidden continent where humanity no longer rules.


Brief Excerpt 250 words:

“Gate!” he bellowed over the storm, his dripping lips at my ear. The deluge had made us sparing of words. Under leathers soaked to thrice their weight, I shivered in spasms. Arms clutched to my sides, I stared into the rain. The driven sheets slashed me for my audacity. Lightning flared, illuminating the riverbank white. A moment later, the bright noise cracked through my head. The hillock trembled.

Over the gate danced the lightning. Its crackling fingers quested down thick-crossed slabs of iron, seared flesh. Emblazoned as they tumbled were those six-legged amphibians, their streamered tails lashing, scaled, fangful heads thrown back in dismay. I saw their afterimage: beryl and cinnabar, aglow upon the storm. Then their charred remains splashed into oblivion, spun away on the fast current.

“Down!” One man shouted, the other shoved me, and as I staggered to kneel in the sedges, the god that washed this land shook it, grumbling. I crouched on my hands and knees on the bucking sod, between them. Little protection could they offer up against shaking earth and searing sky, not even for themselves, without divorcing themselves from the reality they had come here to explore. And that they would not do.

Somewhere far off the weather struck earth again. We knelt on a fast-declining shore. On our right and left, steeps ascended, cresting in a plume of dense rain forest. In that moment of illumination the whole river valley and the gate set into the river stood bared of shadow. Six times the height of a man was that gate.

Why should readers buy this book (50 words max)?

The Carnelian Throne makes you think as it explores the revenge of nature upon humanity once we have despoiled land and sea, and what our manipulation of genetics may mean for the future as the three foretold seek truth in prophecy where men no longer rule.




Links etc.

Kindle On Amazon:

Hardcover on Amazon:

Trade paper on Amazon:


Hardcover on Barnes and Noble

Paperback on Barnes and Noble

Nook Edition


The Silistra Quartet on Black Gate Magazine:

Google Books:

About the Author:  Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels. She wrote the bestselling Silistra Quartet in the 1970s, including High Couch of Silistra, The Golden Sword, Wind from the Abyss, and The Carnelian Throne. This quartet had more than four million copies in Bantam print alone, and was translated into German, French, Italian, Russian and other languages. In the 1980s, Baen Books released a second edition of this landmark series. This third edition is the Author’s Cut edition, newly revised by the author for Perseid Press. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of nonfiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.


Swift Six Character Interview – Lloyd Tenay

Character Name:  Lloyd Tenay

Which book/world do you live in?

I live in The Shattered States series, which is named after the supposed world.  Technically, it’s Earth, but one of those alternate ones that authors love to play with.  This one is where the United States has been walled off and blockaded from the rest of the world.  Nobody is allowed to leave and some putz decided to nuke Washington D.C., so chaos just took over.  You get some warlords and various towns that have carved out a niche, but most of the place is a violent dump with very few laws.  Guess it doesn’t sound that different than reality.  We do have more cannibalism here though.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

I look forward to working with your company . . . Wait . . . Think I got mixed up here.  Well, being a former serial killer, most of my strengths deal with murder.  I say former because the job market has become saturated since the collapse.  Now I consider myself a purveyor of death and, if you make friends with me, hugs.  Have I answered the first part of the question?  Okay then my greatest strength is that I’m very good at thinking on my feet and finding unique ways out of situations.  Cassidy is the planning type while I’m more of a free spirit.

Greatest weakness is supposedly that I don’t know when to shut up.  I’m also easily distracted by knives, women, and food.  Always itching for a fight and I have a habit of looking for challenges that could get me killed.  Not a fan of guns, which puts me at a disadvantage, but I have a paintball gun to cover that.  Wow, I probably should have died a long time ago.  Good thing I’m a protagonist or I’d be screwed.

Name three important people/creatures/institutions in your world (such as lovers, pets, government institutions, leaders, gods etc).

Not sure about institutions.  Been in a few over the years and it’s always filled with people that want to talk about my problems.  They claim to be doctors, but they don’t even have a stethoscope and I can read their handwriting.  So, my three important things are:

  1. Cassidy who is my partner and the one that busted me out of prison. She’s like the little sister I never had.  I’m not saying that because I just saw that she bought a few more tasers.
  2. I kind of have a girlfriend, which is the big change since our first adventure. Katie is tough, smart, unpredictable, and energetic.  She’s also a warlord up in Illinois, which means we also have a business relationship. Did I mention she killed a man for getting her tea wrong?  So sexy.
  3. My machete has my name on it, but I’m going with my t-shirt collection. I have so many graphic shirts that I’m surprised they can fit in the jeep.  Seriously, we have so much in that thing and it never causes a problem.  I get the feeling that the laws of physics don’t really matter to the guy in charge.

What does ‘heroism’ mean to you?

That will certainly get you killed out here.  Heroes jump into the fray for the greater good and to save the innocent.  There’s a sense of sacrifice for those true hero types.  I want to say that courage is a big part of it too.  All I really know is that these types tend to get praise and can’t possibly look at someone suffering and go about their lives. Good for them, but that’s not my way.  I guess I can respect the desire to help others and I do get the urge at times.  Just because I’m a fun-loving murderer doesn’t mean I can’t like people and want to help them.  Typically with a lot of slashing and stabbing.

What do you think of your ‘creator’?

He’s a sadistic, horrible monster that comes up with some of the most disturbing challenges for us.  I mean, do you know what he did to me in Wyoming during Crossing Bedlam?  At least he made up for it in Chasing Bedlam, but I still have nightmares about that spoiler heavy section.  On a more personal note, the guy needs to get some sun and lay off the fast food.  Seriously, I think Captain Ahab is going to start looking for him if he doesn’t get his act together.

Do your worst to me, author!  I die and the series ends!  I am immortal-ish!

Give us your favourite piece of advice:

“If you can, be the craziest bastard in the room.  If you can’t do that then make friends with the craziest bastard in the room.”

Also:  “Never argue over pizza toppings. Just get half-and-half.”


Links to book

Chasing Bedlam

Horrible Creator’s author page Charles E Yallowitz – author page

Shattered Mirror: A Poetry Collection – New Release!

I’ve diverged a little from fantasy for my latest release. Shattered Mirror is a collection dark poems covering themes such as war, politics, nature, fantasy, and the vagaries of life.  These have been written over a good number of years and some do feature in other anthologies but, for the most part, they have not been published together before.

Poetry, I think, is one of the deepest and most personal mediums, and often shows a good deal about the writer. For me, it helps me deal with the darkness and idiocy of the world in general, a way of trying to make order of the chaos you might say. Poetry tends to be a marmite genre – either you love it or hate it. I wonder why that is. Perhaps poetry is akin to music – something which resonates in our souls (or not). The epic storytellers of old, the bards and the minstrels used it to recount the great deeds, and the soldier poets of the First World War told used it to recount the great dead.

One of the favourite books from my childhood was an old book of poetry, which my father would read to me. Kipling, Masefield, Wilfred Owen, and so many more. Inspiration from history, from soul and heart were they as I heard those words, then later, read them for myself.

Anyway I digress!  Currently the book is only on Amazon but will find it’s way to the other stores shortly.

Shattered Mirror: A Poetry Collection

(cover art image via fotolia (c)Bonezboyz)

Shattered Mirror1

Back into Hell – Hell Week 2015 – John Milton

The Jack O’Lanterns are carved, and the marshmallows are toasting over the hellfires. Pull up a pitchfork and join me once more in the devilish domain of His Satanic Majestic.

Characters and authors aplenty for your infernal entertainment.

Character Spotlight: John Milton

About yourself: I am the author of Paradise Lost, the English epic in blank verse, and other reflections on life and immortality, including Areopagitica, a blow stuck against pre-publication censorship. Free speech and freedom of the press were my passions while alive.

*Who are/were you? A poet, a revolutionary, a sentry guarding the gates that kept ignorance at bay. Samuel Johnson called me an acrimonious and surly Republican. Perhaps. I did fight with my tutors, who felt need to tame my mind’s adventurism, put caution in my heart. Caution has no part in an honest heart. I was born in 1608. I was eight years old when Shakespeare died. In 1660 I hid from the restoration lackies, avoiding a warrant calling for my life and the burning of all my works. In 1674 I died, blind and destitute, of kidney failure – to escape such pain, I welcomed death.

*Why do YOU think you’re in Hell? Paradise Lost brought me to Hell, for taking Satan’s part. I tried to make Christianity classical, make freedom the birthright of any soul on Earth, and failed because politics have no part in the true struggle, against death itself.

Who are your friends/allies here? You jest. The Great Deceiver finds me useful, and that puts me on the opposite side of Cocytus from most penitent souls. Nor am I penitent -, nor will I ever be. But no fool, these days, with an infernity around me. The fallen angels enjoy my company.

Describe your home/environment in Hell. I make my home in Pandemonium – a term I thought I coined, for a place I thought a product of my own mind. Pandemonium is a vast breath of foul air and brimstone, a citadel whose spires scrape the heavens, with adamantine walls and filled with Satan’s legions, both doomed souls once men – full of mischiefs and hardier souls who’ve never been men. Some days I have comfort, more than most, when I’m sent with messages or punishments to this damned soul or the other. From Pandemonium ‘tis a long walk to anywhere, but a short flight when the angelic wings of the Devil’s stalwarts wrap me round.

Do you have any enemies here? Do I have anything but enemies? I brought the underverse to life, made infernity real and inescapable. The damned duly hate me.  I have peers – quite a different story; an innumerable lot, including Kit Marlowe and his wittol, Will Shakespeare. These two love words for their own sake – and each other. I find them too full of greatness self-proclaimed, chasing after this clever turn of phrase or that rhythm:  they forgive all for tragedy and comedy, and naught for the true fight: the fight for freedom of the mind. But the devil doth love his Bard of Avon – more than me, so until obliteration comes to pass, I suffer them, and fool upon fool, so every realm of hell is littered with their wrongs.

Come on be honest, what do you think of HSM leadership? Honest?  About the Prince of Darkness?  About the Father of Lies? About my hero – whose glorification brought me here to waste away and away?  The Adversary allows me my sight, so I can see all the evil done and blamed on me; he allows me my youth, so I can go among the damned from one hell to another – except for Tartaros, so far: even a glimpse of the afterlife of Hellenes is denied me, who wanted so to put a Christian face on Homeric odes.

So, this plague – who’s responsible? The damned themselves: the selfish, the foolish, the overly bold and the bloody. The plague seeks the damned, who in their turn seek escape, every dumb brute among them. Satan’s so-called rulership of all the New Damned fell to laxity: the problem with the devil is he’s not devilish enough, by half, to suit the Maker. So those who rule Above sent down Erra and his Seven personified weapons, to put the punishment back in hell that Satan’s sly courtship of the doomed eschews. Satan’s plan is too clever for those punishers from Above: his ever antic calculated to prove the damned are damned by their flawed nature, by all they do and all they say, and Satan’s soft-seeming leadership forces the Almighty into the role of Overlord of Evil. This, Satan watches, and bides his time, and proves again and again that humanity’s flaws are intrinsic, and not the fault of the stars or of hellfires where their souls finally abide. Thus, call humanity the bringer of plague, not the Babylonian god who brings pestilence only on orders from higher powers. And call the devil the greatest of poets, who brings this tragedy to life and light.

What is the WORST thing about being here? The worst thing about being in hell is that mankind creates it every day, anew and worse. As I said in my poor play, obliteration is the cure.  Sad cure.  And yet the animal within each soul wants only to live to struggle on, and on…

Erra and his Seven – what’s going on there then? I said all I should need to say about the lackeys from Above, those ministers of due punishment and undue suffering alike. Erra’s forte is plague and mayhem, and hell is, truly, where he doth find his place.

What are your best tips for surviving in Hell? Keep eyes averted.  Write and say the truth. Hell is no worse than Reformation England, really – with faults aplenty to fight and fools to spare.

Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock! I thought…I’d dreamed Paradise Lost. Yet when I wrote it, each day was a summoning of His Infernal Majesty. So here I came, and am, and will be until obliteration can be mine – and sleep.

Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here? I foment what discontent I may, and take commissions from the lords of hell when warranted.

What do you miss most about your old….life? Nothing. My life turned out to be practice for my sentence here. If what I publish here is bowdlerized, at least to some those words strike true and ring the knell all the damned so crave:  their final rest.

What is the technology level of the culture you chose to write about? Technology provides amusement for the shallow and ungifted, who’ll proliferate inanities until we slog waist deep in the dimmest wits ever born. What humanity does is no better or worse now than before technology – yesterday’s, today’s or tomorrow’s. All gadgets reproduce, but ne’er make anything unknown become known – or knowable. I wrote about infernity, about humanity’s reality – about what we are: our wizened souls, our selfish lusts, our need to break others to our will. Now I can be anywhere among the manifold mistakes of the Almighty’s cruelest jokes:  they are no better in the future than in the past. I wrote about this hell in which I stand, and now here I am.

Author Spotlight

*Name and bio.

Janet Morris.  Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 40 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. Her debut novel, written as Janet E. Morris, was High Couch of Silistra, the first in a quartet of character-driven novels with a female protagonist. According to original publisher Bantam Books, the Silistra quartet had over four million copies in print when the fourth volume, The Carnelian Throne was published. Charles N. BrownLocus Magazine, is quoted on the Baen Books reissues of the series as saying, “Engrossing characters in a marvelous adventure.”

Morris has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes.

She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris.

Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Her 1983 book “I, the Sun”, a detailedbiographical novel about the Hittite King Suppiluliuma I was praised for its historical accuracy; O.M. Gurney, Hittite scholar and author of “The Hittites,”[2] commented that “the author is familiar with every aspect of Hittite culture.”[3]

Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on non-lethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

*Tell us about your story for this edition. In Doctors in Hell, with Chris Morris, I wrote about the underworld’s single volunteer angel, and a wager he made with the Price of Lies. Chris then wrote about Milton, who is sent on a mission for Satan. Then together Chris and I wrote about Shakespeare and Marlowe, to whom Milton is sent with the true ‘cure’ for the plagues in hell. Hearing this ‘cure’ gives Marlowe the malady an author most dreads when facing an infernity never-ending: writer’s block. And Shakespeare tries to help Marlowe by taking him to the most fearsome and famed witch doctors in New Hell… so they think until they cross a certain threshold…

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen? I wrote these characters almost accidentally: I was doing an introductory story for Rogues in Hell, and down came a clutch of new characters, into my story which was called Babe in Hell. One I’d had a taste of Shakespeare and Marlowe, they found enticements against which I was helpless, including the introduction of John Milton. Milton is daunting to portray, and his voice complex, so Chris and I waited as long as we could to introduce him – first in walk-on roles, and now finally, in an entire story that’s worthy of such a character, therefore a story that begins to turn hell on its collective and pointy ear.

How did you become involved with this project? Serendipity, truly. I had a multibook contract with Baen Books, and proposed the Heroes in Hell series, since at that time my parents were dying and death and what may lie after were much on my mind.

Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge? Writing for a shared world is challenging, yes; but editing one, and writing the introductory and final stories for the volumes, tests me every time I do so. But in HIH I can try things, do stories I wouldn’t try to do elsewhere.  Hell is, in its way, liberating.

Tell us why you chose this story to tell out of so many possible options? This ‘story’ is actually a group of three:  one an introduction, followed by Chris Morris’ characterization of Milton, then in turn followed by Chris and my final story for the volume, in which the final story “Writer’s Block” sets some groundwork for later volumes while bringing our several strings of plot together.  Writing this way is difficult but great fun.

What drew you to these characters? These characters came because I wanted to rewrite and use the first story, which was the only HIH story that Jim Baen wouldn’t publish because the content offended him, and so we sold it to be published in different form for the current version in an a literary sf quarterly, Argos.  Since that story would have been the first in a different volume, it was already structured properly to be an introductory story, so we updated it and rewrote it into the current HIH moment, where it worked very well. SO we had had Altos the volunteer angel for a very long time, and it was a good time to re-enter him.  As for Milton, he’s a bit daunting but in Hell, we choose a story we want to tell, then we find characters who would be the best a telling that story. For the story we wanted to tell that would wrap the Doctors in Hell volume, we needed to end with Shakespeare and Marlowe – and a few others….

What are you currently working on? A novel.

Name the last two books you’ve read – tell us about them. Euripides, The Rhesos, Lattimore translating; Aeschylus’ Suppliant Women, A. J. Bowen.

One is directly for the book I’m doing, Rhesos of Thrace, in which the Euripedes version figures;  the Aeschylus is part of my rereading of Greek tragedies, as much to recover the sensitivities of this period as to clarify what concerned the writers and protagonists.

I really always write the book I want to read, and to write Rhesos the way I want to read it I need to be deeply seated in his culture, both while alive and what Euripdes made of him.

What are your views on authors offering free books? In general, I think that people don’t value what they do not pay for.  In the book business, however, there is a long tradition of giving books to people to read who may talk positively about what they’ve read.  The numbers of copies involved now are simply greater.

What marketing tips/writing advice can you offer other authors? Write what impassions you:  you’re trading away your real daily life for time spent in an imagined construct:  make sure it’s worthwhile for you to do so.

If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?

“Hell is just a frame of mind.” – Marlowe in Faustus.

What other books/short stories have you written?

From Wikipedia:

Science fiction novels ·         High Couch of Silistra

·         The Golden Sword

·         Wind from the Abyss

·         The Carnelian Throne

·         Dream Dancer

·         Cruiser Dreams

·         Earth Dreams

·         Threshold

·         Trust Territory

·         The Stalk

·         ARC Riders

·         The Fourth Rome

·         The 40-Minute War

·         Active Measures

·         Outpassge

·         Target

Heroes in Hell ·         Heroes in Hell (book)

·         Heroes in Hell (series)

Fiction ·         I, the Sun

·         Medusa

·         Warlord

·         Kill Ratio

·         Afterwar

Historical fantasy ·         Beyond Sanctuary

·         Beyond the Veil

·         Beyond Wizardwall

·         Tempus

·         City at the Edge of Time

·         Tempus Unbound

·         Storm Seed

·         The Sacred Band

Short fiction ·         Raising the Green Lion

·         Vashanka’s Minion

·         A Man and His God

·         An End to Dreaming

·         Wizard Weather

·         High Moon

·         Basileus

·         Hero’s Welcome

·         Graveyard Shift

·         To Reign in Hell

·         Power Play

·         Pillar of Fire

·         Gilgamesh Redux

·         Sea of Stiffs

·         The Nature of Hell

·         The Best of the Achaeans

·         The Collaborator

·         […] is Hell

·         Moving Day

·         Sea Change

Nonfiction work ·         Nonlethality: A Global Strategy

·         Weapons of Mass Protection

·         The American Warrior

If you could have a dinner party with any man and woman from anywhere and anywhen who would invite and what would you eat? Heraclitus of Ephesus, Homer, Sappho, Harold Bloom, Suppiluliumas 1 of Hatti, Kit Marlowe.

Which 10 books would you save to keep you sane after the apocalypse? (Only 10 allowed). Oxford Classical Dictionary, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Complete Shakespeare (RSC), Lattimore’s Iliad and Odyssey;

What are your views on authors commenting on reviews? Don’t, unless some specific review was important to your development and you’re commenting in the course of an interview that includes something salient to say about a review/reviewer.

Which books/movies/plays have influence your life? Too many to list.

In these days of movies and video games are books really influential? I hope so.

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Twitter: @uvmchristine


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Author Interview Number Ninety-Seven – E.M. Nelson – Horror/Apocalyptic

Welcome to E. M. Nelson

Where are you from and where do you live now? I’m originally from the great state of Utah, but for now I call Bavaria, Germany home.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. My debut piece is a short story in the apocalyptic horror genre titled Dark Assent. It is published in the anthology Nation of the Moon. I don’t generally stick to that genre though- preferring coming of age and dystopian themes more.

Where do you find inspiration? Google. Ha, only partly joking. I actually draw most of my inspiration from everyday life- how could I not living in the lands where the Grimm brothers got their stories from? My husband enjoys talking about how cool it’d be if… fill in the blank here with any number of out of the box ideas. His suggestions get the juices flowing and the next thing I know, I have a full story built up waiting to come out.

Are your characters based on real people? Some of my characters are based on real people- I have one character in each of the pieces I work on who is based completely off my best friend. We are close enough to be sisters and I feel it’s only fitting to include her in the stories since she is a huge part in my motivation to write. I also used my youngest daughter as part of the inspiration for Dark Assent.

Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? Ha ha, not yet, but don’t put it past me. That’s a warning to all of my enemies- if I had any… darn, guess I’ll have to stick to my imagination.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? Research is my favourite part! There’s something so thrilling to me to figure out what a place would look like, how a certain scene will play out based on the natural way things happen in the world, or what to name that pesky character who insists on being in the story but doesn’t provide the name they wish to be called. Seriously, if you ever need to relax while you’re on the computer try searching for abandoned theme parks… probably one of the most amazing  things you’ll ever see.

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? Dark Assent does have an underlying theme of preservation, determination, and love, but I also hope that the reader will take away from it the idea that no matter how dark and dismal our destiny proves to be, it is ours alone and we should embrace it and accept it as shuch.

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? Nation of the Moon is offered in both print and digital format.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I think all authors do to an extent. It helps us realize just what needs to be improved. I also think every book needs professional help because after so many hours of talking to yourself, you tend to become a little stiff and a good editor can take that and help you massage your work until it flows the way it should.

Do you read work by self-published authors? I love indy authors! There’s something great about someone who doesn’t just give up when others say no and instead choose to take their destiny into their own hands and run with it. Don’t get me wrong though, there is a ton of crap out there by those too lazy to put the effort in to polishing their piece, but overall I do believe the self-published author is a great asset to the industry.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? Reviews are the lifeblood of the market- especially the indy market. I don’t think authors should respond to the reviews directly though. I’ve seen this go badly on one too many occasions. A general thank you to the readers for their reviews and for simply giving them the time of day is awesome, but when the author starts the trend of commenting on each review, it can lead to trouble when the inevitable bad review arises.

When buying a book do you read the reviews? I graze them. I enjoy seeing the good and bad, but I find that reading the full reviews before reading a book tends to spoil the experience of discovering the book on my own.

What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? World building. Our brains are way more efficient at taking a sentence and turning it into a magical experience than any movie out there. Besides in a book you are forced to connect with the characters, feeling like you are almost living the story while in a movie you are merely along for a ride.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? Don’t stop until you finish. I mean at all. Make it a daily challenge to make the words come out.

Editing is for the second draft, not while you’re writing the first- I struggle with this one daily.

Write for you because if you are writing for the money, the fame, or to appease the masses, you will only fail and hate yourself while doing it.

What are your views on authors offering free books? Is this even a question? If you are writing for the love of writing and you want to put all that work and dedication into something and hand it out freely, be my guest! I love many a free book that I have read- I’ve hated equally as many but we’ve already discussed the why behind that.

Do you have any pets? I have 5 children. There is no time for pets.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I can lick my nose. It’s a talent really. Most people can’t even get close, but me? I can lick the top of that bad boy!


As we begin pulling out of the parking lot, there is a flurry of movement in the building across the street. In an instant, a group of raggedly dressed people come rushing out, waving weapons and yelling loudly. The hair on the back of my neck stands on end. It isn’t words but howls, like those a wolf would make.

Book links, website/blog and author links:

notm cover

Author Interview Number Forty-Four – Nicolas Wilson

Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m going to write in third person, because I’m working on something third person right now and it’s hard for me to switch gears (or I’m just ashamed of my pretentiousness). Nicolas Wilson lives on the rainy end of the west coast with a wife, a dog, and two cats. He writes more than he reads, but has been known to collect comics, quirky pulp-fiction masterpieces, and outdated or bizarre cultural references.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. Nic tends to dabble, though you can find some common threads if you’ve got an entire afternoon to devote to the task. His first novel involved a dystopic near-future scenario, in the genre often pretentiously referred to as speculative fiction, but is as often as not what people ashamed of their predilections for sci fi call their sci fi. Nic’s second novel, Dag, is a quirky near-future science fiction adventure, though he would probably argue that it’s less sci fi or spec fic than it is a normal, literary fiction that just happens to have some artificially advanced genetic engineering thrown in because it’s amusing. Nic’s third novel is like Star Trek, but raunchier, and not limited to aliens that can be built from people in silly costumes. Nic’s fourth novel is a dark urban fantasy, as a group of magicians fights off a challenge to their authority. Nic’s fifth novel is a dark spin through the mind of a sociopath building his career. Some might say Nic’s writing is schizophrenic. They might be right. But the overall consciousness is Nic’s, and is similar from genre to genre. So maybe Nic’s the schizophrenic one. Discussing his work in third person probably isn’t helping his case any, is it?

Where can readers find your book? Visit his website for links to available retailers, or check his author profile on Smashwords or Amazon. The website also has a metric fertilizer load of short stories from the days before Nic was too pretentious to write anything shorter than a novella (or a response to an interview question).……

You can also follow along through goodreads, facebook, and twitter.……

How long have you been writing and what, if anything, made you choose the genre in which you write?Nic’s always been easily distracted. He practices writing in as many genres, and characters as he can. His stuff covers a pretty full spectrum, from literary fiction and introspective vignettes about love, to dystopias examining political and social issues usually too taboo for polite discussion with relatives over tea. He started seriously writing and posting short stories weekly around seven years ago, and wrote for an arts magazine called Dangerous Ink. He got a lot more practice shaping concepts and characters than many noobie writers do, especially now with the rush to e-publish everything as soon as possible, regardless of its merit. And being a journalist- you learn to listen to people, to shape conversations, and all of that is incredibly useful in writing natural, quirky, and convincing dialogue.

Who or what are your inspirations/influences? Okay, the pretention of trying to write about myself in the third person has overwhelmed me; I’m going back to first (may my current project forgive me). I’ve accumulated quite a few influences over the years, but there’s a few that have really stuck with me, for various reasons. I grew up with comics, so I’ll always have an overreaching fondness for Garth Ennis. He’s got a nack for painting a fascinating, beautiful and effed up rendition of the world, and populating it with interesting and real feeling people. And his work has a soul, too; I always feel like there’s a passion behind it, even if there isn’t always a particular end it’s pushing towards.

Outside of comics, though, I was very heavily influenced by E.A. Poe, and Hunter Thompson, in my youth. Poe echoed the dark corners in my head, and was the reason I didn’t want to be an “author”, growing up. For all of his talent, he died alone, in the gutter, suffering from mental illness and possibly drug addiction, and it’s hard to imagine his professional success balancing his personal woe (as a note, Edgar Allen Woe would be an interseting title for something). Thompson, through, for all his problems… his energy connected with me. For him, it wasn’t about only about the story. He got what I think a lot of journalists today don’t, that there’s a bigger thing happening beyond the telling of any one event, and that that context is the difference between a sad story about a man kicking a puppy, and a heroic story about a man pulling a crippled dog from a burning building and smothering his still smoldering flesh with his own bare feet. Thompson understood that while the world is not black or white, there are villains in it, or at least people who will act like villains until their villainy is pointed out (and a few, like Nixon, who will just get butthurt about it).

There’s many others, though I have to admit I’m pretty under-read for a writer. I read very slowly, so it can take me just as much time to finish a novel as to write the first draft of a new one. It makes revising go very slowly. I think that’s why I take a lot of my storytelling cues from more easily digestible media, like comics and TV.

Can you name a positive experience from your writing and a negative one? I’ll do it in reverse order, because then it makes more narrative sense, plus it doesn’t end on a down note. I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage about meeting your heroes. Well, as a journalist for an international arts magazine, I got to meet my fair few. One in particular, who I won’t name, walked out of an interview. Technically there wasn’t any walking, because it was conducted over email, but he read my questions and declined the interview. Now, this wasn’t my first interview; I’d had several published, a few at that point with higher profile folks than he was. But I loved the author at the time – probably was my favorite. And I put more effort into that single interview than in every one I’d conducted for the magazine up to that point. I included questions about every single project he was involved in, so that he could plug them all without having to tap dance or overwork himself. And he just walked away. And it completely ruined my ability to enjoy his work.

But positive’s easy. After the prior fiasco, one of my other interviews caught on, to the point where I was contacted personally to do an interview with Adam West – Batman himself. And I was terrified. I’d lost one hero, and I was worried. He seemed so cool. His biography was so down to Earth. On Family Guy he played a deranged version of himself. But what if… and then I met him and he was the sweetest man. Funny. Thoughtful. Inquisitive. I was completely prepared to just write off the whole journalism/talking to other human beings thing off as a lost cause. I guess what I’m saying was I needed a hero- so I was lucky that I was interviewing Batman.

With the rise of e-books do you still publish in print as well? Is this medium important and why? Well, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for print copies, just because it feels more tangible, but I’m a huge fan of the rise of e-books. It allows a greater diversity of content, more cheaply, and puts more control in the hands of the authors. I considered going the traditional-publishing route, but ultimately couldn’t get on board with the idea of limiting myself and my work by forcing it into the long production schedule, and being unable to explore the themes I chose, lest they be too controversial.

But ultimately, I think what excites me most about the medium is the immediacy, and the connection it allows with the audience. If I wanted to write something about the Boston attack, or perhaps less ambulance-chasingly terrorism as a whole, I could smack it together and as soon as it met my standards I could put it out for the world to read at whatever price point I thought made sense. As an example, I’m putting out slightly cleaned up versions of my older short stories as free downloads. Sure, they technically come with little previews of my for-pay work, but I’m thrilled that some of those earlier projects will get a wider audience; if some of them love what they read enough to buy something else, that’s cool, too, but it’s about having new avenues to try and reach out to readers.

Do you listen to music or watch TV whilst you write? Sometimes, but I’m very finicky about it. I get easily distracted if my white noise isn’t familiar enough. I listen to the same bands I did in high school when I write, because I can’t focus on the songs, they just blur in the background. I also don’t write in coffee shops or waiting rooms. I’m oddly neurotic about people seeing my computer screen before something’s finished; I don’t even like my wife laying with her head on my shoulder while I work.

Books are important, why is this the case? What can a book provide that say a video game cannot? Well, I may be biased because I game more than I read.There’s a shared aspect to games that’s harder to come by in a book, seeing everyone around you jump and swear at the same horror monstrosity that just jumped up from the floor, even though you could SWEAR you just killed it. Books and games are completely different experiences, though, and offer completely different types of engagement.

There’s certain kinds of storytelling and nuance that can’t be executed in games, or even movies, for that matter. TV? With the right production and network, you can get a very subtle, moving story captured over the course of seasons, but not all(maybe even not many) networks or shows are into that. You don’t play a game because you care about the characters. You play for the experience, the visuals, the catharsis. A book engages on a deeper level, forcing you to care about the characters(or be aware that you don’t), and to examine the world around you a little differently.

Most games are not created with the full story in mind. You have to structure it to space out the action, get to new areas, pixel-hunt to unlock stuff. There’s really only a few games that attempt to pull a coherent story all the way through, and to provide a more human relationship with the characters. Dragon Age is a great one for the latter, once it gets going. Your followers bicker and banter, but all in the background, rather than as any kind of plot point for the story.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself?

I’m a product slave. That new flavor of Cookies-N-Cream M&Ms with sprinkles on top (why haven’t they made that yet?) or that limited-edition flavor of Diarrhea Doritos? Gotta try it once. Of course, it’s going to be disgusting, and if I do like it, I won’t be able to make it a regular part of my diet because it’s only available for a limited time, but I have to try it. We won’t discuss the Candy Corn Oreo debacle. I was watching for months, and tried several stores, and never did actually try them; my poor unsatisfied taste buds.

Honestly, I don’t think I’m that interesting- that’s why I write fiction and not any kind of memoir. My mom would tell you stories about my first sarcastic quips. My wife likes to torment me with sentences that have been long since excised from drafts in a sing-song voice whenever my head gets too big, my first awkward sex scene being her favorite. I think my wife hates me, and just hasn’t quite figured that out, yet.


Author Interview Number Thirty – Larey Batz

Second Dawn - Cover     Welcome to Larey Batz: Author of ‘Second Dawn’

Please tell us a little about yourself. – I’m originally from Memphis Tennessee, but I’m spent the last six years in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. I’ve been writing since I learned how to put sentences together. I gave screenwriting a serious go before flipping over to fiction, but I still have projects in both arenas. I’ve been described a number of ways over the years, but I think it can all be summed up by the following: Tall, hilarious, beer-drinker.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. – I don’t specialize in a particular genre. I like to dabble in, combine and redefine genres whenever possible. My current novel is ‘Second Dawn’. It combines a little of everything—alien abduction, dystopian setting, rabid hordes of primal creatures and a wisecracking female protagonist who manages to rub everyone the wrong way. It’s the first book of a trilogy. The soon-to-be-released follow up is titled ‘OBEY: Second Dawn Book II’

Who or what are your inspirations/influences? – I draw inspiration from everywhere—writers old and new, mainstream and indie, film, TV, comics, graphic novels, comedians, musicians, friends, strangers on the street. Whoever and whatever captures my interest, for whatever reason, can be both influence and inspiration. You just have to train yourself to be perceptive.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? – I believe in researching as much as necessary. That said, no amount of research can make you an expert overnight, but I believe the responsible writer should try to avoid as much glaring inaccuracy as possible.

Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? – Sometimes I enjoy it, because learning new things, or debunking popular assumption can be very intriguing. Sometimes it’s just a pain, especially if it’s an obscure variable that doesn’t have much info available. For a scene on a train in ‘Second Dawn’, I actually had to go down to the train station in Philadelphia and interview some of the workers. I needed to find out how heavy that glass was in the emergency window exit and how it would fall if you released the lever. They were very helpful. Chances are, I could have made up something and no one would have ever called me out on it, but it was really bothering me and I wanted to know for sure. Fav resource is probably the same as everyone else—‘google is your friend’. But I will contact people who have real world experience in certain areas if the need arises.

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) E-Book and paperback.. Are you intending to expand these?  – I’ll expand as warranted, but right now, the main focus is building a platform

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? – Yes. I believe it’s an important skill for any writer to learn and getting practice correcting your own mistakes actually makes you a stronger writer in my opinion.  Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? Yes Of course. And I would never advise that a writer just stop with self-editing and then publish. The final edit should always be done by a sourced/contracted editor. As a professional courtesy, I just believe you should edit your manuscript to the best of your ability before sending it over to your editor. For one thing, it ensures that the final version is closest to your best vision. Just having someone correct a first draft can lead to a great deal of your own voice being lost. You want an editor to correct mistakes, not re-write your work.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? – I don’t think authors should comment on reviews. It’s a waste of time. No book is going to be universally loved by everyone. Challenging a review or even commenting and trying to take the high road, makes you appear amateurish and insecure about your work.

How important are reviews? – Depends on the quality. When I read a thorough, in-depth review, I can appreciate the time the reviewer put into explaining the reasons why they liked or didn’t like a book. As a result, I tend to give those types of reviews more weight, both as a writer and as a potential buyer of books. If it’s just one of those, “I loved this book! OMG! I couldn’t put it down!” typed of reviews, I don’t pay much attention to those.

What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? – Activating the imagination. Video and film are rigid depictions. You’re totally at the mercy of your eyes and ears. Books leave room for your imagination to fill in the gaps. In a novel, you don’t have to be worried that Ben Affleck won’t make a good Batman. When we read, the characters look exactly as we need them to look. The explosions sound like we need them too. A hot coffee on a cold day, tastes as perfect as we can imagine. Books are interactive experiences and that’s what makes writing a process of sharing. I share my vision. You interpret and filter my vision through your own senses.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? – 1. Take yourself seriously. You’re your journey. Do what YOU need to do in order to be successful at it. And stop sitting around wait for someone to encourage you. Encourage yourself. 2. Don’t dismiss or accept any writing advice until you fully understand the reasoning behind the advice. 3. BE INTERESTING. No one wants to read a grammatically correct sleeping pill. Grab my attention.

What are your best marketing/networking tips? – Make connections. Get your book in the hands and on the lips of people who can/will spread the word. There’s only so much you can do yourself. You need word of mouth. You’re not gonna sell a billion books by standing out in the middle of the street like a town crier and ringing a bell. You’ll annoy more people than you’ll interest. Let someone else talk about how great you are.

Most authors also like to read, what books do you enjoy? – Indie primarily. I’ve read, enjoyed and developed appreciation for about as many of the classics as the average person, but lately I find myself gravitating toward those undiscovered gems floating around the indie landscape. I run across a few duds too, but the fun is in the hunt.

Do you have a favourite movie? – It rotates. Last week it was ‘Michael Clayton’. The week before that, it was ‘Jerry MaGuire’. This week, it’s ‘School Daze’ by Spike Lee.

Do you have any pets? – No. I’m sure to get a beagle before I die though. Once I get old, bitter and cranky and no one wants to be around me anymore, I’ll need the comfort and loyalty of a friend that I can keep chained to a post in the backyard.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? – I invented the internet. Well actually I didn’t, but I’m so awesome on it, that everyone assumes I did. I also believe, to the very core of my being, that watching ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ with a cup of spirited egg nog, is the best holiday experience there is, was or ever will be.

Book links, website/blog and author links:

Amazon KDP:

AMZ Paperback:

Facebook Author Page:



And here’s an excerpt….

“Can I see her?” I asked.

“All business. You haven’t changed.” His perfect white smile grew wider as he looked me over. There was a sparkle in his eyes which almost made them look kind. “Come.”

Neal and I followed him into a smaller hallway. Kline stepped up to the scanner, and a beam of emerald light waved over his eyes. The three-foot thick steel doors separated. They’d switched to retinal scans instead of fingerprint I.D., probably as a precaution after my incident with Sentient One.

“After you,” he said. I stepped forward and he ushered me through the doors.

The first door we passed was the one—the one where I beheaded an alien and lost my job. Nervous energy shot through my gut as we walked by. Neal glanced over at me. I looked away and stared straight ahead while Kline chatted away about some boat he’d bought recently.

Soon we came to the end of the hallway and turned to the right toward an area I’d never been to before. Kline took us through another set of double doors leading to a larger hallway. Wide windows of thick glass lined the left side of the hall, allowing us to see into a huge examination room.

Through the windows, I saw a teen-aged girl chained to a metal bench. Jennifer Thomas’s head hung low. I noticed the clumps of hair at her feet and the reddish patches of scalp they’d left behind. On the bench opposite the girl sat what looked like a toolbox surrounded by various instruments of interrogation. The pool of urine under the bench suggested Jennifer had been introduced to more than a few of them.

I walked closer to the window. Her bruised and blood stained body reminded me how much I despised the aliens and enjoyed seeing them in pain. Even though she looked human, I knew the truth. To a civilian, the scene I witnessed would seem deplorable. I saw it as no less than just.

“She looks human,” I said.

“Remarkably so,” Kline replied. “Even bleeds red. The normal tests identify her as having human DNA. The alien cells are masked, hidden at almost sub-atomic levels—a perfect genetic mixture of human and alien chromosomes. Needless to say, the scientific community has never seen anything like this.”

“We dropped the ball, Doc,” I said. “We should have known they were up to something.”

“Hindsight my darling,” he said. “And unfortunately none of us can reverse the hands of time.”

“What does she know?” Neal asked.

“She hasn’t told me much so far. What we do know is she goes by the name Jennifer Thomas and until yesterday was a recent high school graduate, assigned to a technical services position in the General Communications Office.”

“Shit,” I said. “Aliens who look like us and can blend in with population. That ain’t good.”

“No.” He paused and watched Jennifer through the glass. “I’m afraid it isn’t.”

“Has she gone primal since she’s been here?”

“It comes and goes, usually when I get rough with her. She doesn’t seem to be able to control it at will, otherwise I fear I’d be wearing a few scars on my lovely face.”

Kline smiled. Even after all I’d seen him do, I wondered how someone so polite and cordial could be so systematically ruthless in the art of inflicting pain.

“She’s crying,” I said, as I watched Jennifer’s tears splatter against the metal floor.

“Yes,” Kline said. “But in my profession I’ve seen a vast number of people cry. I don’t ever think I’ve seen tears as empty and as devoid of soul as hers. Almost robotic.”

“So what happens next?”

“They want her alive when I’m done. That’s all I know.”

“I wanna talk to her,” I said.

He glanced at Neal then returned his smile to me. “Access is restricted for now. But I’ve posted my preliminary findings on the server. You’ll have my full report when I’m done.”


“We’ll have to catch up, when this is done,” he said. “It’s been too long.”

Kline extended his naked hand and I reached for it. He surprised me by pulling me into a tight embrace. He held me for several seconds before whispering, “Don’t close your eyes darling, not even for a second.”

He ended the moment with a quick kiss on my temple.

I watched him walk away and enter the door at the end of the hall. Seconds later he appeared in the room with Jennifer. The girl looked up as Kline fished through the toolbox. They were in a soundproof room, but the look of panic in Jennifer’s eyes and her muted scream assured me Kline’s report was about to be updated.

“You hungry?” Neal asked.

“If the Buffalo wings are as ruthless as I remember, I’ll pass.”

We took the elevator to the second floor, level “B’. As the doors closed behind us, Neal led me toward the small office at the end of the hall known as the ‘Broom Closet’, a location where agents were individually de-briefed after missions, or given psych evaluations. It was a necessary step before my reinstatement could become official.

Once inside, a burly agent with hairy arms jutting from his rolled up sleeves pulled out a wooden chair from beneath a metal table. He motioned for me to come forward. I noticed a pulse monitor polygraph on the table.

I turned to Neal.

“You know the drill.” Neal walked toward the door. “Hopefully this won’t take too long.”

“You’re not staying?”

“I’ve got to go get prepared for the briefing. I’ll send someone to get you when they’re done.”

I sat in the chair and placed my arms on the table. “Let’s get this over with, Cupcake.”

As the door closed behind Neal, I felt the man’s thick fingers clamp around my wrist. He wrapped a blood pressure gauge around my bicep and pulled it tight before securing the Velcro. As I adjusted to the tightness of the strap, the agent pressed my palm flat against the table and slid a plastic sheath over my ring finger.

My eyes followed the wire leads from the sheath up to the base of the monitor. The agent pressed a button on the device. After a few seconds, a pair of rectangular screens jumped to life and waves of thin lines began flowing across the panels from left to right.

Meanwhile, the agent reached behind the monitor and lifted a small syringe filled with a rust colored fluid. With a blank expression, he leaned in, lifted my right elbow and hovered over the bulging vein. Just as the needle punctured my skin, a light flickered on at the rear of the room. I made out a shadow of a person sitting on the other side of a window. A speaker clicked on, followed by an electronic hum. The burly agent left the room and a woman’s voice echoed through the audio system.

“I am going to ask you questions and you are going to answer truthfully. We have injected you with a chemical agent that will help facilitate this process. When this is over, you will most likely not remember what was asked or what you said. But in compliance with Agent Neal’s request, a video transcript of these proceedings will be made available to you after we have made our assessment. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“What is your name?” The woman asked.

“Dillon Shaw.”

“What is your agent CID?”


“What was your last assignment?”


“Have you killed for this agency before?”

My eyes grew heavy and my vision blurred. As the warm liquid snaked through my veins, it became more and more difficult to focus. My mind felt unhinged, like my brain was floating in a thick fog and I no longer felt in control of my thoughts. As I struggled to put words together and form a clear response, the woman’s voice boomed over the room again.

“Have you killed for this agency before?”

My lips began moving without my consent.