Indie Zone: Talking with Daniel J. Barnes, Author of The Monster Home

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Dan Barnes

An all round creative type who enjoys drawing caricatures and creating worlds. Also a professional Wrestler (Known as “The Metrosexual” Danny Devine) and former creator/writer of comics under the banner of Dead Bride Comics. During 2012-2016 self published several comics like VATICAN (1 Issue), MONSTER HOME (3 issues), REVENGE IS GEEK (1 issue), STARLEX (2 issues) also worked for Bluewater Productions as a colourist working on several comics such as (JACK WELCH, MARILYN MONROE, WHITNEY HOUSTON, LADY ALMINA, STONEWALL RIOTS)

Facebook: @Metrodstuff
Instagram: @Metroddtuff @The_Metrosexual


Talking with Daniel J.  Barnes

Sci-Fi & Scary: How would you describe your writing style? Are you a big fan of descriptive language, lots of world building, and so on? Or are you more to the point and on with the plot? Or somewhere in between?

Daniel J. Barnes: I am very much in the realm of descriptive, I really enjoy describing to the finest detail the images that appear in my head while I am writing.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Where did you get the idea to lock Van Helsing up in an asylum with all the monsters he hunted?

Daniel J. Barnes: Back in around 2010, friend of mine (Swedish artist, Daniel Thollin) drew a picture of an old insane Van Helsing in a straightjacket in a cell entitled ‘Abraham’s Hell’. We talked back and forth about making a comic around Van Helsing in an asylum, then I came up with the idea to have him incarcerated with his arch nemesis Count Dracula, which then grew to include the other famous ‘Monsters’.

Thollin did a few promotional art pieces but his schedule wouldn’t allow him the time for the collaboration (because he is really good at what he does and was in demand) so I started looking for other artists to work on it. I worked a little with artists (firstly) Danny Kelly, Gill Murillo and then Nik Poliwko before shelving the project due to finances.

With the idea eating away at me I converted the story into a script and planned to try and see if I could get it made as a movie because I believe it would make none hell of a film, there is nothing been done like it, and to put all these infamous characters on screen in the same environment would just be mind blowing to me as a fan of the horror genre. But sadly nothing came of it as it is ridiculously hard to find anyone to look at unsolicited work.

One more attempt at making it a comic in 2015 saw Stefano Cardoselli take the pencil and I managed to release 3 issues of the comic digitally. But again finances come into play and I made the decision to stop it there as I’d always had the idea to one day write a novel I thought why not use The Monster Home story, and that’s what I did.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Which one of the ‘classic’ monsters is your favorite? Why?

Daniel J. Barnes: My favourite is The Wolfman (Or The Werewolf as he is referred to in The Monster Home) I think he has more layers as a character, he’s not one dimensional. You can connect with his human side, he is vulnerable because he can’t stop the metamorphosis that occurs and really feel for him when he returns to his human form because he has no recollection of what he has done. Plus he’s damn cool! Who doesn’t like a werewolf?

Sci-Fi & Scary: Is your version of Van Helsing true to most people’s ‘idea’ of him? Or did you take some liberties?

Daniel J. Barnes: I went with a younger Van Helsing for this particular story, I suppose he’s more like the Hugh Jackman interpretation than the classic Peter Cushing version.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Is The Monster Home more of a supernatural action/thriller or a horror?

Daniel J. Barnes: It’s an amalgamation of several things really, it’s horror, nostalgia, survival, camaraderie. People assume it’s all about Van Helsing but it actually isn’t, but to find out you’ll have to buy the book.

Sci-Fi & Scary: How long did it take you to write The Monster Home from the first time you jotted the idea down on paper until the time it was finished?

Daniel J. Barnes: The initial idea was around 2010 and like I’ve stated it started life as a comic, then a movie script then I rewrote the whole thing as a novel throughout 2016 and was released in January of this year.

Sci-Fi & Scary:  I noticed you are independently published – was it hard to find someone to proofread and edit your book for you?

Daniel J. Barnes: I’m lucky that I have some wonderful friends that support me. One of those friends is Emma Wilson, she has always supported ever project I have ever been involved in, from my early badly written and rough scripts (all 18 of them) of Vatican:Angel of Justice. She kindly took the reigns of my editor and I love her for that.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What project are you working on now? When do you think it will be published?

Daniel J. Barnes: I’m currently working on my baby. Back in 2006, the first character I ever created was Vatican: Angel of Justice and again started life as a comic project but now I’m just focusing on bringing him and his world to life in what I hope will be a series of stories about Thomas Gabriel who is a priest by day and a vigilante by night called Vatican. I’m hoping early next year release for this one.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Who are some of your favorite horror authors? What draws you to their work?

Daniel J. Barnes: The main man, Stephen King. I just love his work, the descriptive style and his character development really draws me, something I am trying to do with my writing style. He creates characters you care for and that’s what makes his books hard to put down.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your favorite horror movie of all time? Why?

Daniel J. Barnes: Halloween. It’s just an amazing film really, the music has you on tenterhooks throughout as it builds to key points, the music so simple but so eerie and effective. The fact that Michael Myers appears throughout the film almost stalking his prey sets him apart from his other horror franchise counterparts. I also have a soft spot for Poltergeist and The Thing.

Book cover for The Monster Home

The Monster Home

What would happen if infamous monster hunter Abraham Van Helsing, was locked in an asylum with all the dreaded creatures he used to hunt?… You’re about to find out! Are you a fan of the famous classic characters of horror, such as Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and Jekyll & Hyde? Do you like ‘who done it’s’ and unique twists and turns around every corner? Then this is the book for you! Just when you think you know all the answers The Monster Home changes the questions.

* Contains language unsuitable for people under the age of 16.

Buy link: Amazon UK

Indie Zone: Talking with Dylan Callens, Author of Interpretation

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Profile pic for Dylan CallensDylan Callens lands cleanly. That would be the headline of a newspaper built with an anagram generator. And although Dylan is a Welsh name meaning god or hero of the sea, he is not particularly fond of large bodies of water. His last name, Callens, might be Gaelic. If it is, his last name means rock. Rocks sink in the sea. Interestingly, he is neither Welsh nor Gaelic, but rather, French and German. The inherent contradictions and internal conflict in his life are obvious.



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Talking with Dylan Callens



Sci-Fi & Scary: Well, we’re here to talk about Interpretation primarily, so let’s get right to it. What’s the target audience for Interpretation?

Dylan Callens: I wrote this for adults that love the classic dystopian novels.  There is a very minimal amount of profanity and only some violence, so it’s also decent as a YA read.  However, I feel safe in saying that if you love anything like Nineteen Eighty-Four, then you’re going to love this one too.

Sci-Fi & Scary: How did you come up with the premise for Interpretation?

Dylan Callens: I was on a bus supervising a bunch of high school students on a long trip.  I’m a teacher, so this isn’t a creepy story, I promise.  A group of them started to discuss their favorite scenes from science fiction movies.  I was listening in for a little while, then my mind started to trail off, and I was thinking about scenes in science fiction movies that I would like to see.  Something inspired by Brave New World came to my mind.  I began writing it out.  A story started to come out of that scene and I ended up outlining the entire novel within a couple of days.  That original piece started off as the first chapter but by the time I had the story worked out, it didn’t fit quite right.  I reworked it for a scene later in the novel.  If you want to see that original piece of writing, it can be found here:

Sci-Fi & Scary: What kind of research, if any, did you do for the book?

Dylan Callens: There was a ton of research that I had to do.  Without giving too much away, the book is based around a body of psychological experiments that the governing body has chosen to push forward.  These are all based on real, historical experiments.  It took several weeks to go through all the material that I wanted to incorporate into the book.  The most fascinating stuff was from Dr. Jose Delgado, a man who worked on mind control devices.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What was the hardest part of writing Interpretation?

Dylan Callens: There is a timeline of historical events that happen prior to the events in the book.  Those dates were impossible for me to keep track of, it seemed.  I must have gone through it twenty times, trying to make sure it made sense and lined up with the events in the book.  I think that I finally managed to get everything right.  But we’ll see.  I’m sure someone will find an inconsistency.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Who did the cover art for the book?

I did the cover art.  I have some background in this type of design.  Usually, someone else will work on parts of my covers, like create an illustration since I can’t draw, but I had good idea of what I wanted this time and I knew that I could accomplish the look I wanted.  I started the design about six months before the release and was still making small tweaks up until the week before I submitted it.  The funny thing is, the first copy that I received was a single proof of the hard cover version and it was misprinted – the entire thing was crooked.  I had to go and double check to make sure it wasn’t my fault!  I’m relieved to say that it was, in fact, a misprint.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Did the story of Interpretation change any from when you first started it? (I’ve heard authors say that stories take on a life of their own sometimes.)

Dylan Callens: From the initial concept there were a number of changes made to tighten up the story but nothing too major.  I think once the story presented itself to me, I was hooked.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Now for some more general stuff. What got you interested in becoming a writer?

Dylan Callens: When I was in grade four, I wrote these little illustrated books.  I brought them to my teacher and she really liked them, so she pinned them to a wall in the class, so that other kids could take them down to read.  I remember this girl that I liked enjoyed some of those stories and I think that’s really when I started to like the idea of writing.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your support system like?

Dylan Callens: I get support from family members and friends.  It’s more of a passive, ‘oh that’s really nice,’ kind of thing.  I suppose that’s not so bad.  I think the most support I get is from other authors.  Since I have started publishing, I find that the community of authors is incredibly supportive of each other.  It’s almost like we all share in someone’s success.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Tell us a bit about Cosmic Teapot Publishing.

Dylan Callens: That’s kind of a funny thing.  Cosmic Teapot Publishing wasn’t really my idea.  Last year, near the end of August, I wanted to put together an anthology of humorous short stories, so I queried a number of authors and we managed to get this book together.  I published it because it just seemed like the easiest route to go.  After that, one of the authors, Mehreen Ahmed, told me that I should start publishing.  She wanted me to republish her novel, Moirae, and her collection of travel stories, Snapshots.

Truthfully, I was quite reluctant to take on the project.  I just wanted to focus on my own work.  After some more prodding by her and thinking it over by me, I decided that there were a number of opportunities there, so that’s how Cosmic Teapot Publishing came into existence.  It’s been quite the ride over the past year, to say the least.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Who are your biggest literary influences?

Dylan Callens: Oh my, there are so many that have influenced me in so many ways.  I mean intellectually, philosophers from Plato to Nietzsche have had a huge impact on how I think and the topics that I choose to write about.  Stylistically, I’m sure that I have borrowed too much from George Orwell, Douglas Adams, and maybe even a little Irvine Welsh along the way.  But I strive to write a little more like David Foster Wallace and Salman Rushdie.  I doubt that I’ll ever be as good as them, but why not strive for the best, right?

Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your favorite science fiction book and movie?

Dylan Callens: My favorite science fiction book – my favorite book of all time – is Nineteen Eighty-Four.  I love those classic dystopian novels and that one above all others.

However, the movie version of Nineteen Eighty-Four doesn’t quite cut it.  I have to go with Empire Strikes Back with The Matrix being a close second.

Sci-Fi & Scary: You’ve got a few published works under your belt. Do you think you’ve found your writing style or is it still in development?

Dylan Callens: I hope that it’s still in development.  I know that I can be better than I am now.  Moreover, I don’t think that I want to be tied down to one genre.  My most recent work is dystopian and I might have one more dystopian story to tell.  But I do have a wide variety of interests and a number of stories that I want to get out there.  Most importantly, I want to improve in every way possible.



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Book cover for Interpretation by Dylan Callens

Interpretation Blurb:

Carl Winston awakens to find his son, Liam, screaming with fear. Trying to understand why, Carl tries to soothe him. Neighbors gather in front of Carl’s apartment to help – until they see him. The crowd cowers back, afraid of this monster.

Carl runs. His life of luxury is ripped away. Forced beyond the city limits, Carl sees a land bereft of life. Traveling in search of answers, his quest comes to a sudden halt when he collapses. As darkness shrouds him, a figure hovers from above.

Traveling along the same route, Eva Thomspon finds Carl and nurtures him back to life. Together, they continue the journey, finding out that their lives have too much in common to be a coincidence. As their affection for each other deepens, an unknown nemesis attempts to remove their only source of happiness – their love for each other.

Interpretation is a dystopian fiction that explores hope and happiness in the bleakest of conditions and what happens when it’s torn away.




Interpretation Excerpt:

Carl closed his eyes and tried to laugh at himself.  Barely a squeak left his mouth.  What was he thinking, trying to enter this godforsaken wasteland by himself with no supplies?  Still on his back, he dreamed about opening a bottle of Ocean Surge.  Wet bubbles danced against his tongue, bathing his taste buds with refreshing fruit-infusion – small bursts of happiness made his lips sing an ode to joy.

But forget that fantasy; sulfur-ridden tap water would be just as good.  Carl knew the taste would not equate, but its effect would invigorate.  Carl smiled, his eyes wide open, staring into the dimming sky, into the nothingness that surrounded him.  Gulp after glorious gulp of imaginary liquid until he couldn’t keep up, showering his face with it until a puddle formed around him.  That puddle turned into an ocean and Carl sank to the bottom, his faint breath weakening further.  The light grew dimmer.  He tried to reach up, to reach out of the depths of his hallucination, but his arms felt too heavy, as if the pressure at this depth couldn’t be overcome.

A shadow hovered over him.  Carl tried to speak to it, but words didn’t make sense.  The shadow spoke back with a meaningless, muffled slur.  Water entered Carl’s mouth, nearly choking him.  Nonetheless, the delicious wet felt so good, like ocean refreshment in every bottle.  That was the slogan, right?  Carl laughed or cried, he couldn’t tell.  For all he knew, he was dead.  The shadow grew, saying something that he couldn’t work his mind around.  Darker. Darker.  Clock, what the hell was that clock song?  Darker. The shadow drew nearer.  Or maybe it was the darkness.  It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born, And was always his treasure and pride… Ah yes, there it is.  But it stopped short – never to go again – When the old man died.  That’s the one.  Darkness.

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Interview with Dina Rae, Author of The Best Seller

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Author image of Dina RaeDina Rae has written seven novels. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs outside of Dallas. She is a Christian, avid tennis player, movie buff, teacher, and self-proclaimed expert on several conspiracy theories. She has been interviewed numerous times on blogs, newspapers, and syndicated radio programs. She enjoys reading about history, religion, UFOs, New World Order, government conspiracies, political intrigue, and other cultures. The Sequel, Volume 2 of The Best Seller series, will soon be released by Solstice Publishing.



Talking with Dina Rae


Sci-Fi & Scary: What got you interested in becoming a writer? 

Dina Rae: I teach English and reading to special ed. high students.  Fiction is one of my passions.  Writing a book was something I envisioned for myself once retired, and then I got laid-off.  One book turned into two, three, and now seven.  I found another teaching position, but keep on writing.  I love it.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your support system like?

Dina Rae: My husband and children are wonderful.  They are my cheerleaders, sounding boards, and idea people.

Sci-Fi & Scary: How many of your book ideas come from dreams/nightmares?

Dina Rae: Great question.  Once entrenched in a novel, I dream of the characters and the story line towards the end.  It’s like a movie that I must finish.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Who are your biggest literary influences? 

Dina Rae: I love so many writers, hmmmm…..  Dan Brown, Stephen King, Jim Marrs, Brad Thor, George Orwell, Joel Rosenberg, and Suzanne Collins are just a few.  I love to read and force myself to read new authors as well as best-selling ones.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your favorite science fiction book and movie? 

Dina Rae: I love conspiracy, so I would have to say Angels and Demons, and more recently, The Circle for the books.  Both are not exactly sci-fi, but love them because of the conspiracy angel.  I also love the classics such as Brave New World and Frankenstein.  My favorite sci-fi movies are Gattaca, Minority Report, The Matrix, and Total Recall.  They all have something much deeper going on and make you think of where the world is headed.

Sci-Fi & Scary: How long does it generally take you from the time you put the first words on paper to finishing the final draft of a project? 

Dina Rae: My writing goes very slow at the beginning, but then it picks up at lightning speed.  I work full-time so a full novel takes me nine or ten months.  If I didn’t work, I could probably write one in four or five months.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Tell us about that gorgeous dog in your Goodreads profile pic! 

Dina Rae: I have two dogs who both have been in my author pics.  My newest pooch, Cassiopeia, is three-quarters Anatolian Shepherd and one quarter Great Pyrenees.  She is in my most recent author pic.  My other dog, Calpurnia, is a designer breed called a Native American Indian dog (NAID).  I love dogs.  If it wasn’t for my husband, I’d have at least five of them!  Love the big ones especially.

Sci-Fi & Scary: How much of you is in The Best Seller’s main character, Maya Smock? 

Dina Rae: Not too much.  I had a rough childhood, but nothing like her.  She is very naive in the beginning of the story.  I was also naive in my younger days.  Time and pain smarten you up.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What was the hardest part of writing The Best Seller

Dina Rae: I didn’t want it to end.  I wrote The Sequel, the book’s sequel, which concludes the series.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What research did you do in preparation for writing The Best Seller? 

Dina Rae: I did a ton of research, starting with genes, genetic therapy, cloning, test-tube birth, CRISPR, Nazis, Roswell, the U.S. Air Force, constellations, automatic writing, and much more.  My favorite part of the writing process is the research.  I love learning about new things.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Did the story-line for The Best Seller change at all when you started writing it? (I’ve often heard authors say stories have a life of their own.) 

Dina Rae: Yes, a zillion times!  The characters had other plans for the plot and I liked their ideas better.  I am not much of a planner.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Does religion play any role in The Best Seller

Dina Rae: Another great question!  I do not beat my readers down with religion.  I am a believer in Christ.  God is of course brought up in the book, but only in brief moments of dialogue amongst the characters.  So many people believe that you have to pick sides-God or aliens.  The Catholic Church invested millions/maybe billions in an observatory-why?  They got to know we are not the only ones out there.  The book’s main theme is not religion or even politics.  It’s conspiracy-the world’s inner circle is hiding alien life from all of us. It is a fun story that entertains and teaches the reader something new.

Book cover for The Best SellerThe Best Seller Synopsis:

When Maya Smock writes her first novel, everything seems to go her way. Her book practically writes itself. She marries her gorgeous agent. Her name is on all of the best seller lists. Billionaire author Jay McCallister takes an interest in her meteoric rise to fame and invites her into his world of alien-believing celebrities. Her life changes forever when he tells her that they were both created inside of a laboratory. These authors are embedding an alien genetic code within the pages of their novels that originated from Nazi Germany because…

The time has come. They are here.

Purchase on Amazon.




The Sequel (Volume 2 of 2 of The Best Seller Series) Coming out this summer.

Maya Smock gets inside of a time capsule and travels back to 1944 Germany.  A Nazi doctor forces her to meet his superiors, proving to them all that his invention works.  Hitler studies Maya like a laboratory rat at his Eagle’s Nest and then introduces her to the Reptilians.  She plummets deep into the hollow earth.  Will she ever get home?  Only Maya’s next novel can show her friends how to get her back.

As Operation Chrome expands, General Andreas steals more babies.  He believes that he is saving them from an extraterrestrial agenda connected with World War II.  The hybrid babies have grown.

They are here.  They will take what is theirs.


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Interview with Brian Burt, author of the Aquarius Rising Series

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Author picture of Brian Burt

Brian Burt writes both short and novel-length speculative fiction. He has published more than twenty science fiction and fantasy stories in various magazines and anthologies. His short story “The Last Indian War” won the Writers of the Future Gold Award and was anthologized in Writers of the Future Volume VIII. His debut novel, Aquarius Rising Book 1: In the Tears of God, won EPIC’s 2014 eBook Award for Science Fiction. Aquarius Rising Book 2: Blood Tide won the Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for Science Fiction in 2016. Brian works as a cybersecurity engineer and lives with his wife, three sons, a corn snake, and an adopted stray cat in idyllic Southwest Michigan. The cat, in particular, remains unimpressed with his literary efforts unless they come with tuna.  You can sample Brian’s writing at



Talking with Brian Burt


Sci-Fi & Scary: Outside of your work that was published in Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future 8 , it looks like (according to Goodreads) most of your  published works have all been in your Aquarius Rising series.  Do you have any side projects that you’ve worked on during the process that just haven’t reached publication stage yet, or was this series your sole creative focus?


Brian Burt: Great question! Actually, the vast majority of my fiction-writing career has been spent writing short fiction. I’ve had more than twenty short stories published in various magazines and anthologies over the years. With short fiction, it’s easier to experiment with different styles, different sub-genres, etc., which is a wonderful way to learn the ropes and find your comfort zone as a writer. I’ve tried my hand at everything from traditional sci-fi (like “The Last Indian War,” which as you mentioned, won the Writers of the Future Gold Award) to dark fantasy and horror (like “Phantom Pain,” which earned an Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Tenth Annual Collection).

When I finally worked up the nerve to try a full-length novel (gulp! ;-), I wrote the first book in the Aquarius Rising trilogy, In the Tears of God, and committed to my publisher that I’d follow through on the other two books in the trilogy. So, yes, I definitely focused pretty exclusively on that world and that series over the past five years. Now that the trilogy is finished, though, I’ve been returning to short fiction as a change of pace. I recently had a dark fantasy tale, Lianhan Shee, accepted for publication in an upcoming anthology called Otherworld Hearts. I have to confess that short stories are less intimidating than novels; more immediate feedback! But I am considering another “eco-fiction” novel series in the near future.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Please tell us a bit about the Aquarius Rising series as a whole.


Brian Burt: The Aquarius Rising trilogy fits into an emerging sub-category of speculative fiction that some reviewers have labeled “climate fiction” or “eco-fiction.” The trilogy takes place on a future Earth where global warming, and a disastrous attempt to reverse it, radically altered the planet. Human-dolphin hybrids called Aquarians have built thriving reef-cities amid the ruins of drowned coastal towns. Other hybrid species dominate different environments, like the mole-like Talpidians who create intricate underground burrows beneath the arid wastelands. And human scientists known as Redeemers cling to the barren desert realms, dedicating themselves to undoing the ecological damage and restoring the climate at any cost. These different groups inevitably come into conflict as they struggle to protect their own vision of the future, distrustful of their fellow humanoid subspecies and determined to win what some insist is a zero-sum game.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What was the hardest part of writing the first book, In the Tears of God?


Brian Burt: I have to admit, as a short-fiction writer, the thought of tackling a novel initially terrified me. I felt like a novice climber standing at the base of Mount Everest, without a support team or a guide, staring up at a summit shrouded in storm clouds. The hardest part, really, was taking the first steps: compiling notes about characters and a plot outline, figuring out a plan of attack, and developing the discipline to chip away at the novel every day. It’s very different than writing a short story. For me, the key was learning not to dwell on how far away the finish line was, to instead focus on reaching the next milestone – the end of the scene, the end of the chapter, the end of the section.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What kind of (and how much) research did you do for the Aquarius Rising series?


Brian Burt: I probably did far too much research before I had the guts to start! I knew I wanted to depict a fictional world set primarily beneath the ocean waves, a place with which I had limited experience. I’m a landlocked Midwesterner; we have the Great Lakes, which are awesome, but they aren’t comparable to the Pacific. So I read everything I could find on marine biology, oceanography, climate science, bioengineering. I visited family members living in Oregon and had a chance to explore the Pacific Coast, where the novels are set. And thank god for the internet! I threw myself on the mercy of some wonderful marine scientists on various web forums who graciously answered my questions and volunteered to read rough drafts of the first novel.


Sci-Fi & Scary: How much of you is in your protagonists?


Brian Burt: I’m no psychologist, so take this with a grain of salt… but I think every writer extracts “psychic splinters” from their own internal lives and injects those into their characters, both good and evil. We’re all complicated. We all have light and darkness inside us. So, certainly, my protagonists aren’t “me” by any means. But I think they’re derived from bits and pieces of me, intermingled with people I know, people I admire, maybe people I envy or fear a bit. Ocypode, the main character in the Aquarius Rising Trilogy, is someone I think I’d call a friend, and definitely someone I’d strive to emulate.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Obviously, with the premise of an Earth ravaged by global warming, you’re definitely aware of the problems that we’re facing right now. Do you have a pet project you champion to try to help us not make more of a complete mess of things than we already have?


Brian Burt: Great question – I wish I had a great, simple answer. I do worry enormously about humanity’s future on this planet as I read the latest developments in climate science. I’m an enthusiastic member of numerous organizations that I believe are doing their best to help:, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Greenpeace for example. And I work with local organizations closer to home, like the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and For Love of Water. Connecting with concerned people, both globally and locally, seems like a good place to start. Also, I’m tremendously encouraged by the explosion of passion from other fiction writers who are focusing on this subject in their own published works. Web communities like Eco-Fiction ( ) provide a platform for both fiction and non-fiction contributions aimed at spreading the word about the dangers of climate change inaction.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Do you think your writing style changed any from book one to book three or did it just become more refined?


Brian Burt: I think, honestly, that I learned quite a bit (the hard way 😉 from writing that first novel. Very few of us hit a home run with our first at-bat, and I made mistakes. Reader and critical feedback helped me understand what I did well, what I didn’t, and how to improve on the next attempt. Still, it was gratifying to win EPIC’s 2014 eBook Award for Science Fiction with Aquarius Rising 1: In the Tears of God. It provided encouragement to continue the hard work of finishing the series. I do think my writing style matured steadily through Books 2 and 3; I’ve had readers and reviewers reinforce that belief. We all improve with practice!


Sci-Fi & Scary: What is your writing routine like?


Brian Burt: This probably violates most expert guidance, but at least when working on the novels, I generally start a writing session by rereading and revising the last few pages I wrote during the previous session. For me, it helps prime the pump and get the creative juices flowing, gets me back into the thread of the story. Then I launch into extending the tale. At that point, I try very hard not to agonize over every word or phrase but to keep moving the story forward, maintaining some “momentum of imagination” without dwelling on how well (or painfully) it’s going. Some days, the words spill out as fast as I can type them; other days, it feels like pulling teeth. But after the good days, I often discover during revision that the Muse hid a lot of blemishes from me; and after the bad days, I find that the prose isn’t as hideously ugly as I feared.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Who are your biggest literary influences?


Brian Burt: I adore Stephen King and gobble everything I can by him. He creates such vivid, believable characters and puts them in incredible situations that become utterly real in the reader’s mind. I also love many of the “Golden Age” science fiction writers like Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Bradbury. But my tastes are pretty eclectic. There are so many brilliant writers of SF, fantasy, and horror out there, I feel like I’ll never be able to read a fraction of them… and I learn invaluable lessons from every book I read!


Sci-Fi & Scary: You spent 16 months in Dublin, Ireland. That sounds like a dream! Do you have any experiences from there that influenced your work in any way?


Brian Burt: Absolutely! Working in Dublin was a transformative experience, for sure, one of the best of my life. The people were wonderful! The Irish are great storytellers, as you’ll discover in any pub, and the country inspires that gift in visitors as well. It’s a beautiful, lush, ancient, haunting place, filled with history and mythology and dripping with magic. I credit my time in Ireland with inspiring me to write. I’d thought about it, often, but had never mustered the gumption to actually give it a shot until my tenure in Dublin, when I finally muddled through my first real science fiction story. It was dreadful, honestly; I had so much to learn. But I kept trying. And I got better!


Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your writing support system like?


Brian Burt: My family forms the core of my support system, especially my wife. She’s my first reader, my most trusted editor, and the critic I most want to please. She reads voraciously, volunteers at the local library; if I can satisfy her, I feel like I’m on the right path. I’ve also enjoyed the benefit of feedback from other writers through an online critique group for speculative fiction writers, Critters ( ). I’ve been fortunate enough to make some “virtual friends” there through exchange of story reviews and have learned vital lessons from my peers on that site.

Book cover for Aquarius Rising

Aquarius Rising: In the Tears of God by Brian Burt

On an Earth ravaged by global warming, human-dolphin hybrids called Aquarians have built thriving reef colonies among the drowned cities of the coast. Now their world is under siege from an enemy whose invisible weapon leaves no survivors. Only Ocypode the Atavism—half-human and half-Aquarian, marooned in the genetic limbo between species—knows why. Disclosing the reason could be as deadly to Aquarius as the Medusa plague itself. Ocypode and his comrades must face the perils of flight into the open ocean, a friend’s betrayal, a killer storm, a lethal kelp forest haunted by mutant monsters, and a fundamental challenge to their most cherished beliefs if they are to have any hope of saving Aquarius from destruction. They must enlist allies of the most unexpected sort from the most unlikely of places. Even then—when confronted by rogue scientists determined to resurrect the land by slaughtering the sea—it may not be enough.

Winner of the 2014 Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition (EPIC) eBook Award for Science Fiction.

Buy In the Tears of God on Amazon or Barnes & Noble






Small Sci-Fi and Scary Divider


Megalops floated in the twilit waters of Juno Reef, in the shadow of the Tombstone Tower, and grieved.  Other Aquarians considered this a sacred place: a memorial to all the victims of the Medusa Massacres who had been entombed in calcite, here and in other reef-cities up and down the coast.  There were only two victims who mattered to Megalops.  The ghosts of his mate and child haunted his every waking moment, flailed madly through his nightmares.  Their final, frantic screams filled his ear channels, rebounding and reverberating inside his skull until his sanity lay in tatters.  Other mourners made the pilgrimage to Tombstone Tower to find peace.  Megalops came here every day to remind himself why he should unleash war.

The high-pitched chatter of approaching Aquarians drew near.  He drifted into the ruins of a submerged building as Mother Ocean smashed against the tower’s windward side above him.  She, too, seemed ready to do battle with those who would threaten Her children.

A pair of biosculptors from neighboring reef-cities swam out of the murk: Auriga of Tillamook and Makaira of Nehalem.  Megalops liked Auriga.  She was beautiful, of course.  She had skin of smooth, unblemished silver; perfectly formed, scalloped fin ridges along her arms and legs; long, delicate flipper-feet.  The webbing between her toes and fingers and at the outer edges of her fin ridges paled to a milky white.  Her colony, like his own, had been savaged by Medusa.  Makaira’s had not been touched, and her sympathy felt as hard and unnatural as the stone-coated corpses of fish that lay half-buried in the surrounding seabed.

Megalops watched the pair glide toward the plaque near the tower’s base and said nothing.  Makaira chittered loudly enough to make eavesdropping unavoidable.

“I know this place is meant to be a tribute to the fallen, but it freezes my blood like the Deep Black.  I don’t see how he can bear to live in this graveyard.  The memories must torment him without mercy!”

“I wonder,” answered Auriga, “if memories are all he has to comfort him.  Many survivors find themselves trapped in the same dark currents.  Each of us fights the demons in his own way, Makaira.”

“And each of us surfaces to breathe when our lungs demand it.  I fear Megalops means to linger in this morbid place and hold his breath until he drowns.  Juno doesn’t need more death, it needs more life.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” said Megalops as he kicked out of the shadows.  Auriga looked chagrined, but Makaira recoiled as if confronted by unquiet spirits.  Perhaps he wasn’t the only one to see such things in these accursed waters.

“But life grows out of death, doesn’t it?  We biosculptors built Aquarius on the bones of drowned Human cities, planted gardens in the wreckage and seeded them with living works of art.  We Join with the Living Reefs to draw inspiration from the memories of long-dead ancestors.  And here, now, we resurrect a murdered colony beneath the world’s most towering monument to genocide.  If I linger here more often than I should, it’s to remember what we sacrificed to save ourselves.”

He swam between the two of them.  Auriga’s jade eyes brimmed with compassion.  Makaira arched away from him, face pinched and anxious, a healthy creature terrified of catching a disease.  Did she fear he would infect her with his madness?  Perhaps he would, at that.  He pointed one webbed finger at the gruesome statuary encircling the base of Tombstone Tower.  A tiny white crab speckled with red, like a blood-spattered skeleton, scuttled from the crook of a frozen elbow and dove into the crevice between two fossilized legs, joints clicking as it moved.   Megalops’s extended arm held steady.  On the inside, his heart tumbled, flotsam on a stormy sea.

“My mate Loreto and daughter Decora are a permanent part of the memorial…near the top, almost to the surface.  Hard to make them out, in that tangle of arms and legs and faces.  When Medusa struck, Loreto’s only thought was to protect her child.  You see how she holds Decora above her, as high as she can reach, trying to lift her child to safety?  Even as the other dying members of her pod clawed at her, clambered up her back, as the nanomechs wove their smothering cocoon of calcite around her flesh, she struggled to push her child above the waves.  Impossible.  She must have known.  And still, she didn’t stop trying.  She never will.”

He turned to his fellow biosculptors.  Auriga’s delicate features crumbled, reflecting his own grief.  Makaira’s expression more closely resembled the faces of the statues: trapped, terrified, wanting only to flee.  “I believe there’s a lesson there, don’t you?”

Auriga drifted closer and squeezed his arm.  “You’re right, Megalops.  We’ll honor your mate’s courage by bringing this reef and this colony back to life.  We won’t ever stop trying, either.”

Makaira nodded tepidly, relieved that his attention had been diverted elsewhere.  Megalops chirped a brittle laugh.  “Hmm.  I see that the lesson depends on the student.  Yours is uplifting, Auriga.”

“And yours?”

He didn’t answer, simply swam away. He could hear Makaira chattering to Auriga and had no desire to listen.  As Tombstone Tower receded in his wake, its upper stories jutting high above the waves like the polished tusk of a beached leviathan, the ghosts of his lost mate and child followed him.  No matter where he drifted through the sprawling Juno reefscape, where new life wriggled its way out of Death’s skeletal embrace, they were never far away.

He appreciated that biosculptors from other reefs came to these cemetery waters, spent their creative energies fighting to revive his home.  It was a noble effort.  But it was not enough.  The rest of Aquarius clung to the belief that the Redeemer scientists from the barren lands above the waves who had unleashed the Medusa Plague had been an aberration, the threat eliminated by incinerating one isolated nest of vipers.  How could they be so naive?  Did the history of dirt-swimmers teach them nothing?

A pair of elfins darted from a stand of elkhorn coral beneath him, diaphanous bodies luminescing pale blue as they dove through a crumbled window into the cavernous blackness of a nearby building.  For a moment, before the spectral light that marked their passage faded, Megalops glimpsed Loreto’s and Decora’s somber, pleading faces.

He would find a way to guarantee the survival of Aquarius, even if the others never understood his actions.  Even if they hated and reviled him.  Let them curse, let them claw and clamber at his back.  He would still hold them up.  He would still lift them to safety.

Someday, they would build a monument to Megalops, commemorating the destruction of their enemies instead of the slaughter of innocents.  Then, finally, his mate and daughter would be at peace.  And so would he.




Indie Zone: Talking with Nick Sullivan

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Photo of Nick Sullivan

NICK SULLIVAN has worked extensively on Broadway and at many theaters throughout the U.S.  His television credits include The Good Wife, The Affair, Madame Secretary, Boardwalk Empire, 30 Rock, Elementary, BrainDead, Alpha House, Royal Pains, All My Children, Reading Rainbow, and all three Law and Order series.  Film credits include Our Idiot Brother, Prison Song, and Puccini for Beginners.  Nick has recorded over four hundred audiobooks, is an Audie winner, and has received numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards. Find him on:

I recently had a chance to talk with Nick Sullivan, author of Zombie Bigfoot, about his work as an audiobook narrator. Nick has narrated a lot of titles and was able to give us some fantastic answers to our questions. Haven’t you ever wanted to ask a narrator about how they got into it, what goes into it, and how it all just…works? So did we. So read on.


Interview with Nick Sullivan


S&S: You have done a ton of audio books!  How many have you done? Did you do any pre-Audible? (It’s hard to imagine a time where there were audio books before Audible!) How many do you do per year on average?

Nick Sullivan (NS): I’ve been around quite a bit longer than Audible and including old pre-digital titles and a bunch I recorded for the Library of Congress, I’ve narrated over four hundred titles. I work in film, television, and theater too, so it varies year to year.  This year it’s been a couple a month.

S&S: You narrated your own book, Zombie Bigfoot, fairly recently. How did narrating your own compare to narrating other people’s work?

NS: Well, for one thing, anytime I thought a sentence was clunky when spoken aloud, I got to change it! I had planned all along not to finalize the book until I recorded it so I’d have a chance to make any final changes that hit me during the performance.  I was also able to sculpt characters that I knew I could voice well.  Although the Afrikaner character was a beast; I’ve never used that accent before but I’ve always wanted to.  I had to seek out a South African buddy of mine to give me some pointers.

S&S: What has been the most challenging book you’ve ever narrated?

NS: That would be “JR” by William Gaddis. I’d call it the “Ulysses” of American literature.  The book is 97% unattributed dialogue.  No “he said/she said”.  I had to piece each scene together, figuring out which character was speaking by context or by mannerisms of speech.  For a pretty cool review from a Gaddis fan check out:

S&S: About how many hours do you put in per, let’s say, one hundred pages of narrating?

NS: You really have to go by words, since every book’s pages are different. A 300-page book with typeset similar to “Zombie Bigfoot” would be about 70,000 words… and that’s about an eight-hour book.  So, figure 100 pages is about 2 hours forty minutes.  To record, that will take me about four hours at home, a little less if I have an engineer.  If I’m really rolling with a well-written book in an engineered studio I can do about 45 finished minutes every hour my butt is in the chair.  But, that doesn’t take preparation into consideration.  If it’s a dense book with a lot of foreign language content and pronunciations to look up those 100 pages might take a few hours to prep… if it’s simple fiction in a long-running series where I already know a lot of the characters, it might take only a half hour to prep.

S&S: Where do you do your narrations at? (Home studio, etc.)

NS: I’ve been narrating since about 1994 and I started using a home studio in 2009. For a while it was about fifty/fifty but now I record most books at home.  This year I’ve done 5 or 6 at home and one out at Audible with another one scheduled for next month.

S&S: What’s the biggest compliment you’ve ever been paid in regards to your narrating skills?

NS: I’ve had several authors I do series for tell me they “hear” me when they write now. LOL, at least I HOPE that’s a compliment.  Maybe they’re clawing at their scalps, screaming “Get out of my head!!”

S&S: From the layout on Audible, it would appear you tend to narrate more mystery/thrillers and sci-fi/fantasy. Which one is your favorite genre?

NS: It’s not a dodge for me to say I really do enjoy recording across many genres. If I only did a couple I’d lose my mind.  Different companies tend to hire me for different genres and I kinda love that.

S&S: How much choice do you have over what books you narrate?

NS: I can bid for what I want to record on ACX but I haven’t done that in a long time. I tend to take what I’m offered, though sometimes I’ll call up a company that’s just given me a book and say, “Do you know this book is first person and the protagonist is British?” (or, in one case I remember, female) In this case, they’ll take it away from me and maybe assign me another.

S&S: Has there ever been a scene you’ve been uncomfortable narrating?

NS: On the funny end of that question, vividly depicted sex scenes.  On the more sober end of that question, hospital scenes where a parent is dying.

S&S: What determines your pay for a book? Hours? Pages? Etc.

NS: All union actors work on a per-finished-hour rate. If you do a ten-hour book you just multiply the rate by ten, easy peasy.  SAG-AFTRA has different rates with different companies but usually, they are pretty comparable.

S&S: How did you get into narrating?

NS: My father used to record for the blind, and when I was young I was obsessed with Dick Estell’s “Radio Reader” program on our local NPR radio station and in my college and summer stock years I listened to them every time I drove long distance. When I was beginning to work professionally in New York an opportunity to record for Talking Books kind of fell into my lap; I was shooting a small budget movie and the actress playing my wife recorded for them. Shortly after that, I began recording for Chivers… which became BBC Audio… which became AudioGO… which was bought by Blackstone.

S&S: If you could have your pick of any novels out there to narrate, which ones would it be?

NS: Wow, is it Christmas? Hmm… I’d say the “Game of Thrones” books but I’d ALSO have to magically become a Brit… you really need a native-born UK narrator for that.  Oh, I know!  “Confederacy of Dunces”!  Actually, I’ve recorded John Kennedy Toole’s first novella, “The Neon Bible” and a non-fiction book about Toole.  As close as I could get!  Oh, shucks, just thought of another: “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss.

S&S: What kind of training did you do for your job?

NS: When I first auditioned for Talking Books I had a lot of voice, speech, and accent training from various schools and classes but no actual audiobook training, apart from listening to them. Of course, it took a long time to learn all the tricks: how to prep a book and do research, how to record for long periods with proper mic distance, how to breathe just a teeny bit without making a sound so you can get through a long sentence.  And for home studio you have to learn a whole new skill set.  I can take a tiny mouth click out of the middle of a word… I don’t HAVE to do that for most companies, but it’s kinda cool.

S&S: Is there anything about your job that the average person would be shocked to know?

NS: That it’s exhausting. Fun, but exhausting.

S&S: Do you listen to audiobooks during your spare time?  Do you have any favorite narrators?

NS: I drive long distances to visit family and to travel to theater gigs;  I listen to an audiobook every time.  Some of my favorite narrators are Katy Kellgren, Dion Graham, George Guidall, Chris Sorensen, and Barbara Rosenblatt

Zombie Bigfoot by Nick Sullivan

Bigfoot is real.

That’s what Sarah’s father told her before his academic disgrace and untimely death.

Now, primatologist Dr. Sarah Bishop is eager to restore her father’s good name. Survival show host Russ Cloud is just as eager to boost his plummeting ratings. They’ll both have a shot at redemption when they find themselves hired by eccentric billionaire Cameron Carson. After a series of his publicity stunts end in spectacular failure, Carson has a plan to redeem his tarnished image: capture a live Sasquatch.

Sarah and Russ join an expedition with an eclectic crew: an Afrikaner safari hunter, a ‘roided out former wrestling star, a Shoshone master tracker full of surprises, a heavily tattooed Russian warrior woman, a pair of wise-cracking nerds, and a cute gum-chewing intern with some hidden skills. Will they find Bigfoot?

There’s something in the woods… but it’s not what they’re expecting. – Goodreads

Zombie Bigfoot received a 4 Coolthulhu Rating from Sci-Fi & Scary. You can see our review of the book here


Purchase Zombie Bigfoot now on Amazon.

Indie Zone: Talking with Teri Polen

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Teri Polen Author PhotoTeri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium. She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat. Visit her online at



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Indie Zone: Talking with Brenda Cooper

Brenda Cooper InterviewBrenda CooperBrenda Cooper is the author of nine science fiction and fantasy books. Her most recent novel is Spear of Light (Pyr, 2016). Her other works include the P.K. Dick nominated Edge of Dark (Pyr, 2015) The Creative Fire (Pyr, 2012) and The Diamond Deep (Pyr, 2013) as well as the Silver Ship and the Sea series (Tor Books) and Building Harlequin’s Moon, with Larry Niven (Tor, 2005). Her most recent short fiction includes Elephant Angels (Heiroglyph, 2014) and Biology at the End of the World (Asimov’s, August 2015).

Winner of the 2007 Endeavor Award for a distinguished science fiction or fantasy book written by a Pacific Northwest author or authors Brenda lives in Bellevue, Washington with her wife and three dogs.

Find her at:


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Indie Zone: Talking with Kevin Chambers

indiezonekevinchambers - God's RogueKevin Chambers God's Rogue

Brief Bio: Kevin S. Chambers, in addition to writing novels, has a series Daughter of Time (Time Needs an Assassin) currently in post-production that should be available next year. When he’s not writing, on set, he’s at home with his wife and dog, or out playing baseball, fishing.

Talking with Kevin S. Chambers

S&S: Where did the idea for God’s Rogue come from?

Kevin S. Chambers (KC): Back in early 2014 as we were wrapping up filming the first run at Daughter of Time, my current web-series in post production. One of the actresses, I had a thing for. We were going to shoot a new Web-Series together titled God’s Rogue. Well, things never worked out with the actress (She along with my costar in Daughter of Time broke my heart (they aren’t bad people)), so God’s Rogue got put on the back burner.

Fast forward to last February, when I was down in LA meeting with a distribution agent / production company for Daughter of Time. They asked for other ideas I had, we talked about God’s Rogue becoming a movie instead of a series. As I was writing the screenplay, I realized there was too much there. As such, I turned it into a novel.

S&S: Why do you write?  / Do you consciously try to work social commentary into your work?

KC: I have so many stories to tell, and all of them, whether it’s a screenplay, novel, short story, all have to do with The Traveler. Or they can all be traced back to The Traveler. I find that time and the idea of the multiverse, are perhaps the best story tellers.

For social commentary, I would say it is conscious. My main characters all share a common desire, the desire for life.The idea that each individual sentient life is sacred, that no one life is above the rest. No one can tell another how to live, and no one can tell you how to live.

S&S: What book/movie got you interested in science fiction?

KC: Stargate the movie got me interested in Stargate, which got me interested more in SciFi. For Novels, well my favorite(s) are the Sword of Truth Series.  Anyways, back in high school, I would watch Power Rangers. My senior year was Jungle Fury, well I saw two of the leads were cast in a series titled Legend of the Seeker. I started watching said series, finding out it was based on Sword of Truth. I began reading. I guess you can say Power Rangers brought me to where I am today.

S&S: What do you think is the recurring theme in science fiction right now? (Hope, despair, etc.) Why?

KC: Apocalypse. I just see a lot on the idea of an apocalypse, which you even see in my book, just a bit. Divergent, Walking Dead, Hunger Games and more. However, In God’s Rogue, we see a reset, not a total end of the world.

S&S: What (aside from publishing) was the most difficult part of writing God’s Rogue?

KC: Having a life outside. Having work, baseball, and friends, made it hard. At times all I would want to do is write, spending hours to listen to the muses tell me the story. I’d even wake up in the middle of the night when their characters were excited to tell me what happens next.

S&S: Who is your favorite classic science fiction writer? Who is your favorite contemporary science fiction writer?

KC: Is Terry Goodkind a mix of both? If not I’m still going to use him for both.

S&S: I noticed from your Goodreads profile that there is a certain amount of association with religion. Did this making writing God’s Rogue, a story in which aliens created humanity, challenging in any way?

KC: This reminds me of a question a social science teach asked me at my old college. “How do you as a Christian, and an earth scientist coexist?” I told him “Religion tells us why, science tells us how.” I think there is a lot of good religion does, but it’s not the entire story. There are multiple accounts of the bible being changed. Gnostic Christians were hunted, because they could do various miracles, and believed differently than Paul. The biggest being reincarnation. Going through research, being able to see patterns, I don’t believe the bible and other religious texts tell the entire story. Instead, they offer a simplistic path. I still had a lot of holes when I read the bible, and doing some of my research has filled in the gaps. Yes, I do believe in Ancient Aliens, not quite to the level of extremism in God’s Rogue; but I do. Who knows that may change, as a scientist I have to be open to being wrong. So no it was not too difficult, it expanded my view and my mind.

S&S: Fancast the first 3 characters that pop into your head from your novel for me. Why did you choose those actors? Was it based on looks, attitude, etc.?

KC: A little caveat here, I purposely do not describe skin color as I want my readers to imagine it in their head,along with other features.

Kaden Hunt: Bradley James. He just fits it for me.

Raze Gron: Daniel Radcliff. I don’t know why, the energy, the craziness.

Aria: Abigail Spencer. Think Eragon, and I just watched Timeless.

S&S: Do you already have another novel in the works?

KC: The Travelers Tower is the next novel in the God’s Rogue series, and that’s started. I’ve got several more series planned, but I really enjoy these characters.

S&S: If you could partner with a famous author in your genre for a collaborative work, who would you pick and why?

KC: Terry Goodkind and Christopher Paolini.

Terry and I write and share very similar values (He helped shape my values). I read a quote from him where he says not everyone has the gift to be a writer. To me that reminded me of Wizards First Rule (I believe) where Kahlan and Richard are talking about Wizards and the gift. Kahlan is explaining how Zedd has the gift, and the others have the calling. To me, I believe Mr. Goodkind was also talking about writing, a lot of people of the calling, and can become pretty good writers. But not everyone has the gift. This is another belief I share with him.

Christopher – Eragon was the book that got me reading again, it set me on the path of a nobody becoming somebody. For years I would only read books where it started in a small village, where a kid just happened to be, and great things happened to him.

S&S: How many revisions did you go through with God’s Rogue?

KC: By myself 4, with my editor another 4.

S&S: How difficult was it to find a proof-reader / editor?

KC: I know a pretty good proof-reader, who has worked with me on Daughter of Time for two years. So it wasn’t that difficult. The difficult part was him trying to understand something I wrote, that made complete sense to me. We would spend hours discussing paragraphs as we tried to get the other to see where they were coming from.

S&S: How did it feel when you finally finished God’s Rogue and it was ready for publishing? Relief? Happiness? Wonder what to do with yourself?

KC: Nervousness, because now it’s out there for people to read. I would guess it’s like watching your child go off on their own, will they sink or swim.


God’s Rogue Synopsis

Kaden Hunt has been fighting a hidden war for humanity, alone. A war that changed one night when his oldest friend tried to kill him. Now Kaden the most powerful human in existence has drawn the complete focus of Enki and Shamash the two warring leaders of the Annunaki; the aliens who created humanity. Both are determined to stop Kaden from becoming what he once was, who he once was. For if he becomes the Traveler a more powerful enemy will be freed. – Goodreads

Check it out on Goodreads.

Want a free copy? Kevin is giving some away himself via this link.

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Indie Zone: Talking with J.B. Rockwell

Indie Zone J.B. Rockwell

jbrockwellJ.B. Rockwell is a New Englander, which is important to note because it means she’s (a) hard-headed, (b) frequently stubborn, and (c) prone to fits of snarky sarcasticness. As a kid she subsisted on a steady diet of fairy tales, folklore, mythology augmented by generous helpings of science fiction and fantasy. As a quasi-adult she dreamed of being the next Indian Jones and even pursued (and earned!) a degree in anthropology. Unfortunately, those dreams of being an archaeologist didn’t quite work out. Through a series of twists and turns (involving cats, a marriage, and a SCUBA certification, amongst other things) she ended up working in IT for the U.S. Coast Guard and now writes the types of books she used to read. Not a bad ending for an Indiana Jones wannabe… J.B.’s sci-fi novel SERENGETI (published by Severed Press) made its debut in February 2016, with the sequel, DARK AND STARS, due out in December 2016. Website:

Talking with J.B. Rockwell

S&S:  What was the first sci-fi book you read that made an impression on you? What about the first movie?

J.B. Rockwell (JBR): As a kid, all my sci-fi influences came from my father and his collection of books. He had lots of them and I used to walk up and down the bookshelves admiring spines and covers. I can’t say that I remember every book of his that I read and which order I read them in but two that come to mind are Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness (which, as I kid, I think I only half understood) and David Brin’s The Uplift Wars. I liked that second one because it had spacefaring dolphins piloting a ship filled with water. That’s cool. Really cool. As for movies, I’d have to go with the original Star Wars, which came out when I was just a wee tot and I’m pretty sure I later saw when it was re-released in the theaters. That movie was huge for the time and certainly a huge influence for young, little me.

S&S: We’re planning on reading Left Hand of Darkness next year for our Decades of Sci-Fi Challenge! I’ve only read The Lathe of Heaven by her, but I loved it.


S&S: What is so appealing about your chosen genre? (In other words, why should someone start reading sci-fi?)

JBR: I think it’s the freedom and the endless possibilities. When people think sci-fi, they tend to think hard science or space wars (both good things, by the way) but sci-fi has so much more variety than that. Sci-fi is spaceships and robots and far-flung planets, aliens and spacestations and all sorts of cool toys! Basically, with sci-fi, if you can dream it, you can have it. Even a trashy, schmexy romance (in space!) if that floats your boat. What you don’t have is the boundaries and limitations of the boring, hum-drum existence we experience here on present day Earth. Sci-fi dreams big and delivers big—that’s why you should read it.


S&S: Do any of your stories ever come from dreams or nightmares that you’ve had?

JBR: Not so much from dreams or nightmares (mostly those are about kittens, finding kittens and losing) but I definitely have thoughts of varied (and sometimes dubious) quality right before I drift to sleep. If I’m awake enough, I’ll scribble a line or three down in my little notebook and see if they lead anywhere. I’m pretty sure that’s how SERENGETI came to be. It definitely started as a scribbled line in my notebook, anyway, though I can’t remember now if that was a ‘half asleep’ scribble or a ‘random thought generated while running’ scribble.


S&S: Not counting publication, what do you think was the most difficult part of writing it?

JBR: Writing it! Seriously, when I start writing a book I usually only have a few ideas of what will happen so I’m always worried about whether I’ll be able to come up with a long enough (and interesting enough) storyline without throwing in a lot of useless padding. I’m not much of a plotter—I just write one chapter at a time and when I move on from a scene I sort of sit back and think, ‘Alright, brain. What happens next?’ Then my brain gets angry and starts whining about me being a lazy ass writer and it doing all the work and somehow I end up eating half a pound of chocolate before taking a nap…


S&S: So, from start to final daft, how long did it take you to write this one?

JBR: Something on the order of two years. I worked on other projects during that time, though, so it wasn’t two solid, unending years of effort. I wrote a draft and walked away. Edited that draft a couple of times and walked away. Betaed and edited, queried and subbed and entered contests, and edited some more based on feedback from everything before I finally got an agent who finally sold SERENGETI to Severed Press.


S&S: If you could partner with a famous author in your genre for a collaborative work, who would you pick and why?

JBR: Oh man. That’s a tough one. On the one hand, it would be an amazing experience to work with a big name author I really respect, like Elizabeth Bear or C.J. Cherryh or Stephen King. On the other hand, that’s terrifying because those are really big names and I’m just a little fish. I’d love to partner with one of my Inkbot writer friends (the Inkbots are my writer group—an awesomely creative and supportive contingent of writers who’ve helped me immensely with my writing over the years) or one of the newer big names in sci-fi. Someone like Becky Chambers, or V.E. Schwab, or Jen Williams.


S&S: What was the subject of the first story you ever wrote?

JBR: A dragon. Well, an Ice Dragon, specifically, who fell in love with a fox. I like dragons, you see. And foxes. A lot.


S&S: What’s the most constructive criticism you’ve ever been given?

JBR: ‘Too much!’ I’ve gotten that several times from writer friends who’ve betaed my work and it’s always a good reminder to simplify and avoid dragging out a scene. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when you’re over-explaining, or when your book desperately needs a diet.

S&S: I can think of a few authors who need to learn how to tell when their book needs a diet. Sounds like you’ve got a great group you work with!


S&S: Fancast the first three characters that pop into your head from your book for us. 

JBR: I went with Gina Torres for Serengeti (Serengeti’s actually a spaceship, but when I was writing her character, I always heard Gina Torres’ voice in my head…also, she kicks ass), Karl Urban as Serengeti’s captain, Henricksen (he fits the gruff but loveable and ruggedly handsome mold quite well) and Ellen Page (who I love-love-love!) as Finlay, who’s one of the crew. She doesn’t quite look like Finlay as I’ve described the character in the book but she certainly has the attitude.


S&S: Do you have a favorite line from this book (that won’t spoil anything?)

JBR: Ack. I’m terrible at the ‘pick a favorite’ game, and I always panic when someone asks me to pick out one of my own sections of writing because I scan the doc and think ‘this is all crap!’.  That said, I settled on two small passages (I violated the one line rule and went with a short paragraph in both cases). I don’t think either is particularly spoilery, but…fair warning if you haven’t read the book!


“Humans craved planets, fought endless wars over rock and dirt and vegetation, but Serengeti cared nothing for those balls of water and soil. All she’d ever wanted was the stars. To explore the universe and drink in the endless black.”


“And there she slipped to sleep—peacefully this time, dreaming her dreams of days gone by. No fire this time, no destruction. Just Henricksen swapping pithy bits of wisdom, keeping Serengeti company in the dark.”


S&S: Do you consciously try to work in social commentary in your pieces?

JBR: Ha! No, definitely not. Things slip in—how could they not?—but this deep well is more of a shallow pool. I’m more Deep thoughts by Jack Handy than social commentary by big brain. I greatly admire those who really, truly are deep thinkers, but I find that the more I try to consciously include symbolism, themes and social commentary, the more wooden and fake it feels. So, I just let my mind slip things in here and there when I’m not paying attention and go with it.

S&S: I’m a “shallow pool” when it comes to my reading. Perfectly described!


S&S: What’s your writing routine like?

JBR: Chaotic. As I said before, I’m not a plotter—I’m just not good at it. Sitting down and trying to plot a book seriously stresses me out and I usually find a million ways to sidetrack myself and not actually do it. So, in the grand tradition of ‘fake it to make it’, I pants my way to success! Once I do start writing, though, I’m pretty disciplined and focused. I hate stopping before a chapter is finished so I typically write for as long as it takes to work the chapter through to the end. Same with editing—I guess I like to follow threads.


S&S: How much of you is in your main character?

JBR: Well, she’s a spaceship so…probably not a lot. That said, Serengeti is a sentient AI, which means she has her own personality—a very strong personality, by the way—and even learns to feel, in an AI-ish sort of way. So, I’m not sure there’s a lot of me in her—except the snarkiness that comes out once in a while—it’s more like Serengeti represents a lot of the things I’d like to be. She’s innovative and inventive and never gets up, even when the chips are down.


S&S: Will there be more of Serengeti in the future?

JBR: Great question! Thanks for asking! And, yes! Severed Press signed me up for a sequel that’s due out in December 2016—that’s more Serengeti right around the corner and just in time for the holidays!

serengeti by J.B. Rockwell

It was supposed to be an easy job: find the Dark Star Revolution Starships, destroy them, and go home. But a booby-trapped vessel decimates the Meridian Alliance fleet, leaving Serengeti-a Valkyrie class warship with a sentient AI brain-on her own; wrecked and abandoned in an empty expanse of space. On the edge of total failure, Serengeti thinks only of her crew. She herds the survivors into a lifeboat, intending to sling them into space. But the escape pod sticks in her belly, locking the cryogenically frozen crew inside. Then a scavenger ship arrives to pick Serengeti’s bones clean. Her engines dead, her guns long silenced, Serengeti and her last two robots must find a way to fight the scavengers off and save the crew trapped inside her.

Check out Serengeti by J.B. Rockwell on Goodreads.

Buy on Amazon.

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @Rockwell_JB
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Indie Zone: Talking with Andrew Hall

Andrew In Space


Andrew Hall is an indie author with a passion for science fiction and fantasy. His influences include Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern, Tetsuya Nomura, Susanna Clarke and George R R Martin, as well as the artist Yoji Shinkawa and the films of Ridley Scott.




Andrew Hall Author Interview

S&S: You described Tabitha, your first book, as “28 Days Later meets Alien”. Was that the general idea you had in mind when you started writing it, or did the story decide that was where it wanted to go?

AH: The story definitely took on a life of its own. Tabitha began as a short story, which I had intended to be as ordinary and real-life as possible. Turns out that my brain just couldn’t handle the normality of it all, and promptly added in a killer plant from outer space just to shake things up. Tabitha the novel really just grew out of my own curiosity to find out what happened next to this character, and the book grew organically to include my love of all things fantasy and sci-fi horror. Tabitha’s tale is a bit of a hybrid.


S&S: How hard was it to make the decision to quit your day job to pursue writing full-time, especially as an indie author?

AH: It would have been a difficult decision a few years ago, but a career in writing and self-publishing ebooks on the side has given me the confidence I needed to just jump in. It’s always been my ambition to be a full-time author since my student days, but I couldn’t have made the decision without the support of everyone reading and enjoying Tabitha. I want to repay the favour by writing more books for Tabitha’s fans, but to do that I needed more time in the day to write them. I’ve always loved stories and I feel like I’ve been working towards this decision all my life, so it wasn’t a tough choice to make.


S&S: What does your favorite coffee mug/drinking glass say about you? (Mine says I don’t like morning people. Or mornings. Or people.) 

AH: My go-to tea vessel is a black Game of Thrones mug, with a gold kraken and the Greyjoy words We Do Not Sow. Partly because I’m a House Greyjoy man, but mostly because it reminds me to get writing and make something of my own ambitions, not someone else’s. And because it’s black. Batman’s “Does it come in black?” pretty much informs any purchase I’ve ever made. (Disclaimer: I have never paid the iron price for any purchase.)


S&S: Tabitha was published in mid-2014. How long have you been working on the sequel Skyqueen?

AH: Too long! Work and life permitting, I’ve been working on it for about eighteen months. Tabitha’s second book is a real departure from the first, and I’m a perfectionist, so it’s taken longer than I’d hoped when I started it after publishing the first book. Going full-time as an author though, I’ll be able to finish up Skyqueen much faster and get straight on to Tabitha’s third instalment, Ghost, this summer. Followed by another trilogy that I’ve been wanting to write for years.


S&S: How many editors/proofreaders/beta-readers did Tabitha go through before you felt it was ready for publishing? Did you do the less/same/more for it’s sequel?

AH: None – I’m too impatient to wait for feedback and too stubborn to act on it! Once I’d written Tabitha I gave it two passes myself to chop and change things and polish it up, but I was too eager to get it out there, so it never went to an editor or beta readers before going live in the Kindle store. So I guess it’s just the concentrated contents of my brain, which is maybe why some people love it and some people hate it. But I like the fact that people feel strongly about it one way or the other. As for the sequel Skyqueen, it’ll be the same again I think! I’ll be too eager to move on to the third novel, Ghost, to wait for edits on the second.

S&S: Ahh… dangerous waters, those!


S&S: Who is the ideal audience for your books?

AH: Tabitha’s for any fan of science fiction, fantasy or superheroes who’s looking for something completely different. I’ve never had one favourite genre I like to read, so I think that’s why this novel throws real-life drama headlong into sci-fi, horror and fantasy. I wanted to write a novel that mixed up aliens, superpowers, horror, post-apocalyptic themes and elements of fantasy, just to find out what would happen. Despite the fact that it’s post-apocalyptic, alien-invasion science fiction, I think because of the creatures Tabitha encounters the book also really appeals to fantasy fans, and gamers too. At least from the feedback and reviews I’ve seen.


S&S: Was there any part in your books that you had particular problems writing?

AH: Getting to grips with the organic alien machines that Tabitha finds herself up against were some of the most challenging parts to write, as well as figuring out how their ecosystem fitted together and what they wanted with Earth. There was also a definite challenge in marrying up all the different elements that the book seems to go through to develop Tabitha’s character – real life, post-apocalypse, action-adventure, vampire, sci-fi, superpowers – but the toughest parts by far were her little moments of transcendence, as her abilities grow. There were a few brief moments where I wanted to absolutely distil the new way that Tabitha sees the world. The changes she goes through don’t just affect her physically, but mentally. They open up a new part of her mind, so I needed to get the wildest language I could into those moments. Oh, and Seven, Tabitha’s animal machine. Seven was a bugger to write convincingly. I just hope I pulled it off.


S&S:  Are there any ‘triggering’ events in your book(s) that potential readers should know about? (child death, rape, etc.)

AH: To become who she is by the end of the book, Tabitha goes through some real horror, and there’s frequent gore throughout – including a dog attack, which may be a triggering event for some readers. Part of Tabitha’s developing abilities is that she can heal rapidly, and at one point she’s a test subject because of it, because of this biological potential to help in Earth’s war against the alien threat. Other potentially triggering events in Tabitha aren’t explicit but there is a brief instance of attempted sexual harassment, and there are brief references to infant death. In trying to write a convincing invasion by a hostile, genocidal race, I thought that this was a tragic truth Tabitha would necessarily encounter as she wanders Earth post-apocalypse.



S&S: Tell us about the primary location in Tabitha. What made you choose it?

AH: Tabitha ventures further afield towards the end of the story, but the majority of the tale takes place in northern England and the coastal town in Wales where she grew up. They’re fictional towns and cities, loosely based on places where I’ve spent time myself, which I think was crucial in being able to write them in detail. With all the craziness of an alien apocalypse going on, there was definitely a need to ground as much of the story as I could in reality to balance that – and I’ve got plenty of personal experience of grey rainy places with castles and piers to (hopefully) smudge the fantastical in a little more closely with gritty reality.



S&S:  If you could partner with a famous author in your genre for a collaborative work, who would you pick and why?

AH: Good question! Famous author in history, in the sci-fi genre; Isaac Asimov. Purely in the hopes that I could learn to be anywhere near as prolific as the man himself. Famous author of our times, Neil Gaiman. I’d be over the moon to have my name with Gaiman’s on the strangest sci-fantasy anyone had ever read.



S&S: How do you handle negative reviews?

AH: I’m not sure there’s anything an author can do to handle a negative review, other than change their own way of thinking about it. I think it was the marketing guru Seth Godin who said that all you can do is to be too busy with the next project to have any time for your negative reviews. There’ll always be people who dislike an author’s work, but also plenty of people who love it too. All I can really do is tell myself that a negative review is that person’s truth, and I don’t have the right to make them wrong about it. And just carry on writing for the people who love my stories.

S&S: That’s as good a way for dealing with them as I’ve ever heard.



S&S: Going back to the “28 Days Later meets Alien” thing… Is this a favorite horror/favorite scifi thing? If not, what is your favorite horror AND your favorite sci-fi movie? Briefly tell us why.

AH: 28 Days Later and Alien are among the most tense, tight, perfect stories I’ve ever seen on the screen. 28 Days Later was the loneliest, grittiest thing I’d ever seen when I was young… and the zombies(/infected) ran! That’s terrifying! As for Alien, it’s pure sci-fi horror perfection. The claustrophobia, and Giger’s designs, and the way the creature wears the pitch black dark when it appears… and the great Ash twist… but most of all the pure humanity of the story itself. Every good sci-fi is ultimately a very human story. Nothing else I’ve seen comes close.

But my favourite horror and sci-fi movie, combined, will probably get hate. It’s Prometheus. Not because it’s a good film with a good story and believable characters, because it isn’t, but because it’s a total freakshow of genetic possibilities. That’s what I love about it, and absolutely it inspired Tabitha. It’s my favourite sci-fi horror because it really opened up the floodgates for me in terms of the monsters genetics could create if things start getting messed around with. That potential and monstrosity is the scariest thing for me, and the most fascinating. The idea that there are no rules to what can be created, that deeply inspired Tabitha. That’s why Prometheus has to be my favourite of the lot.

S&S: I actually kind of agree with you. I don’t regard Prometheus as a great film by any means, but it definitely is a very interesting film to watch, and one that I’ve seen a few times now. 28 Days Later and Alien are both great films, too. 


S&S: What makes a gripping story?

AH: In a word, suffering. Not the happiest of subjects, but suffering is easier for readers to relate to than happiness. (I’ll cite The Matrix there.) I’m not saying that stories should be devoid of happiness, but it’s misfortune and tragedy that really sharpens a character into something more engaging. When you’ve shared in the woes of a protagonist and you see how that experience makes them stronger next time and the time after that, that’s when reading words on a page really starts to become something more spellbinding.

Tabitha by Andrew Hall

Nothing could prepare Tabitha Jones for the dead infested world she woke up to. Robbed of her loved ones and altered by the venom of an alien species, she’s forced to leave her old life behind and survive the ruins of Earth.

Haunted with grief and pursued relentlessly by monstrous swarms and desperate survivors, Tabitha must face her own changing nature and ever-evolving abilities as she searches for the remnants of civilization. But when humanity turns on her, and the alien threat hunts their hybrid creation ever more obsessively, Tabitha quickly realizes that there’s only one side left to fight for – her own.

Tabitha sound intriguing? You can support an Indie Author and buy it now on Amazon.

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Andrew Hall.