Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

wow cover sean rodden


Book one in The War for the North.

WAR IS DESCENDING UPON SECOND EARTH. Red winds howl. Monstrous armies march. Foul powers from the past rise……… In Druintir, ancient city of the Fiannar, a dashing young Ambassador from the Erelian Republic finds himself embroiled in both the preparations for war and the fiery heart of a beautiful Fiannian Shield Maiden. From Druintir three legendary heroes are selected. WAR IS DESCENDING UPON SECOND EARTH. Red winds howl. Monstrous armies march. Foul powers from the past rise……… In Druintir, ancient city of the Fiannar, a dashing young Ambassador from the Erelian Republic finds himself embroiled in both the preparations for war and the fiery heart of a beautiful Fiannian Shield Maiden. From Druintir three legendary heroes are selected and sent on a final desperate quest of destruction. Upon Druintir marches the torrential tide of the Blood King’s army; at its head the horrid demonic creatures called Waif and Urchin, the formidable Halflord and his indomitable Bloodspawn…….. Beneath banners bright and beautiful, and aided by allies old and new, the doughty yet dwindled Fiannar ready for a war they know may very well be their last………. Drawing from history, mythology, philosophy and theology, the story is exquisitely layered, extremely well-written, with strong plot, sub-plot and character developments. Humour, horror and heroism abound, and the places, people and relationships are compellingly believable and captivating. Comparisons to classics like Lord of the Rings and to modern popular fantasy epics such as Game of Thrones are inevitable, but the author has certainly carved his own distinct niche between the two with his unique style and fearless deviation from the standard tried and true formulaic fantasy tale. Brilliantly done


5 /5 Stars

This book is one of those lovely surprises I receive occasionally in my book reading travels. No hyped publicity telling me how wonderful this book is and I must buy it, no author’s face / cover art all over my media feed. This book and it’s author came to my attention through friends and I believe that can be the best way to discover new things.

Sean Rodden writes in a lyrical almost old fashioned style. There is lots of wonderful imagery and the author is a very competent with his play of language. As it says in the synopsis there is definitely LOTR comparisons but the author has his own unique style and his creation of Second Earth is all his own. The history and mythology are detailed and well constructed. The quotes and verse at the beginning of each chapter are an extra treat. There are horror elements, written deftly, subtly, but still dark and shocking. There are places and people of magic and beauty shimmering amongst the demonic forces destroying their world. Multiple layers of secrets, both political and personal to intrigue the reader. And there is great humour, droll and dry just the way I like it.

But the characters are the stars of this book. Axennus & Bronnus Teagh, the Erelian brothers, Ambassador and Captain, leaders of the North March Mounted Reserve. The interactions between these two had me chuckling as I read. Teji Nashi the Dice man healer who is so much more. Runningwolf the Rheln man, outcast and spirit warrior. The other members of the North March Mounted Reserve. The majestic Fiannar. The unyielding Daradur. The Athair Sun Knights. Kor ben Dor  leader of the Bloodspawn and his Black Shield warriors. There are so many more. All well fleshed, compelling and well written characters.

I will finish with this quote from Chapter 7.


“Few are the sorrows that surpass

that of a good tale gone untold”

Old Erelian Toast

There is no sorrow, the good tale is told.




Sean Rodden is a native of Ontario. He shares his home with one cat, two dogs, five turtles and three children. When he isn’t writing Sean runs a Specialty Steel Business, enjoys the great outdoors and follows the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Team. He collects Belleek Pottery from Ireland, likes his food Hot ( extra sauce on Double Suicide Wings) and his music to be in the  Melodic Metal and Hard Rock genres. His favourite band is ACCEPT. He has happily found a near perfect work, writing, leisure formula that is envied by many.

mu29BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or  did you come to it later?

SR: I was always an avid reader, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I started writing.  My first real effort came in the second half of grade eight.  My best buddy and I were so far ahead of the rest of the Language Arts class that the teacher suggested we each use the time to write a story.  Mine was a mythological fantasy set in post-Iliad ancient Greece called ‘The Aster’ (yeah, I was a little nerdy).  As I remember, it was quite the tale, but the teacher failed to return the story, and she quit teaching at the end of the year (because our class was just THAT bad), so the story is long lost now.  Since that time I’ve written several short and long stories, hundreds of poems, and a few abandoned efforts at novels, until finally completing ‘Whispers of War’.  So yeah, writing has been with me most of my life.

BCN:  Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?

SR: My inspiration comes from all over – mythology, history, life experience – but I often feel pumped to write after reading a good book, especially good epic fantasy.  The great Canadian writers Guy Gavriel Kay, R. Scott Bakker and Steven Erikson often leave me drooling to write.  And, of course, anything Tolkien can cause me to make a mad dash for the pen or ‘puter.

r scott stev erik

BCN:   Where do you find your characters?  Do you use people, personalities you like/loath you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places? Or do they appear as the story unfolds?

SR: I tend to take the easy road and  write about things I know.  The story creates the characters, but the writer gives them their personalities.  I often apply aspects of personalities of people I know or with whom I am familiar, and exaggerate or downplay these as necessary.  I usually have a good sense of each character beforehand, but sometimes I feel the need to go back and adjust somewhat as the story fills itself out on the page.  And yeah, I’ve even been known to slip myself in there a time or two…

BCN: Do you have a writing routine? Or is it something that when inspiration strikes you write non stop till you have it all out?

SR: I have absolutely no writing routine whatsoever.  It comes when it comes, and when inspiration strikes, it tends not to last very long – an hour or two, tops.  I usually write one to three pages at a go, then leave it for a least a day, usually more.  If I try to force it, it turns out like shit, only worse.  I don’t control it, it controls me.

BCN: I know I liked the fantasy aspects in Whispers of War, do you think there is a move away from traditional fantasy by authors and readers ?

SR: Yeah, and I don’t like it.  But to each his or her own.  I prefer classic epic fantasy with a strong poetic foundation.  I do find the drift into graphic sex and violence, and especially pedophelia, in modern fantasy to be very disturbing.  I believe the author has a responsibility to his reader.  Apparently, the traditional publishing world and some of its most successful writers disagree.  Oh well.

BCN: What is next for your readers? I know I am looking forward to the next book Roars of War.

SR: ‘Roars of War’ is coming along nicely…shooting for early 2016.  Following the release of ROW there will be larger single volume version of ‘The War for the North’, which will include WOW, ROW, a related short story or two, and an expanded glossary of sorts.  Should make for one big-ass book!

wow banner

BCN: What is your favourite cake?

SR: Well, before this it would have been cherry cheesecake – I always asked for cheesecake for my birthday when I was a kid ( just another reason for my friends to think me weird)…but now I guess it has to be Bloody Cake!  Just hope it doesn’t have too many calories…the old metabolism  isn’t what it once was…

Thank you Sean for your time and the confectionery flattery.

By Leanne Ellis

Sean Rodden can be contacted through facebook

and has profiles on both Goodreads and Amazon.


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Edward the Third stands in the burnt ruin of an English church. He is beset on all sides. He needs a victory against the French to rescue his Kingship. Or he will die trying. Philip of Valois can put 50,000 men in the field. He has sent his priests to summon the very Angels themselves to fight for France. Edward could call on God for aid but he is an usurper. What if God truly is on the side of the French? But for a price, Edward could open the gates of Hell and take an unholy war to France . . . Mark Alder has brought the epic fantasy of George R.R. Martin to the vivid historical adventure of Bernard Cornwell and has a created a fantasy that will sweep you to a new vision of the Hundred Years War.




Rating 5/5 Stars          



“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, 

and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”   

Isaiah 45: 7 King James Bible


” Shall I tell you a story?”

” Tell me about the making of the world”

” Again?”

” I like the story”

 Nan squeezed him to her.

And what a story it is. Son of the Morning takes everything you know about good and evil, heaven and hell and throws it on its ear, then gives it a kick while it’s lying there wondering what happened.

We are in England, the year is 1330 and King Edward III is having a rough time of it. He needs to win a war against Philip VI of France to retain his crown. Edward has no money, less men than Philip, a black mark against how he came into his kingship, and no heavenly support because of it. He is lying, dealing, mortgaging everything he has and has not to keep his position.

Philip has a huge fortune, large numbers of men, and the support of the church and it’s angels and banners to aid him in his war against Edward. But he is paranoid and untrusting of his own family and the power struggles that are building. With good reason. There are plots within plots. Alliances with evil forces and shifting loyalties.

The characters are wonderful. Dowzabel the boy Luciferist. The antichrist. Holder of the key to open Hell. Bardi the banker, only looking out for himself. The Mortimer, the usurper . Isabella she of dark magic, Montagu the Kings man who lost his faith. They are all entertaining and intriguing. Mark Alder’s descriptions of the people, the smells, the filth and the cruelty,  and the actions taken bring you right into the world of his making. I found myself totally caught up in events.

The battle and conflict scenes are well written. The dark and bloody scenes are well done, graphic and effective. The creatures are imaginative and quite grotesque in some cases. The angels magnificent and alien.

For me the theology is what sets this book apart though. The concepts put forward are intriguing and relatable. I admit to being a avid Mythology and Theology fan, reading anything I can on all cultures and faiths. I found this books version of Heaven and Hell to be just brilliant. Son of the Morning is like an alternate reality that runs parallel to historical text.

Some have said its a bit long (731 pages), that isn’t an issue when a book is this good. I will be reading the rest of this series as it is released and I will also be looking for other books written by this author. Bravo!



Mark Alder

Aka: M D Lachlan,  Aka: Mark Barrowcliffe,  Aka: Mark Daniel

wolfangel elvish

He grew up in Coventry and studied at the University of Sussex. He worked as a journalist and also as a stand-up comedian before he started writing his first novel, Girlfriend 44 under the name Mark Barrowcliffe. He lives and writes in Brighton, England and South Cambridgeshire. Ron Howard secured the film rights for Girlfriend 44 and Infidelity for First Time Fathers is in development with 2929.

Mark achieved early success in the late 1990s as part of the Lad Lit movement, although his writing has little in common with other writers who were bracketed under that heading. He is nearer to Terry Southern, Jonathan Coe and Martin Amis than he is to Nick Hornby or Mike Gayle.This is more than likely a matter of presentation, as most of the British versions of his novels have appeared in the candy-coloured covers favoured by lad and chick lit publishers. Mark’s  early work was noted for its cynicism and black humour, although Lucky Dog strikes a lighter tone, that of comedic magic realism. The Elfish Gene is a memoir of growing up uncool, confused, and obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games.

As M D Lachlan Mark is writing the Wolfsangel Cycle Books. These are a  historical fantasy/horror hybrid that reflects Mark’s childhood reading on the occult and witchcraft. ‘If it makes you laugh, I’ve done something wrong’ says Mark.
The MD in MD Lachlan stands for Mark Daniel – Mark’s real name. He went with initials instead of a name because, as so often in his life, he didn’t really think things through. Now he attends publishing events where people don’t know what to call him. He wishes he’d gone with Mark Lachlan but it’s too late now.

Now as Mark Alder he has begun a new series starting with Son of the Morning. Also historical fantasy/ horror based on a fascinating time in European history.

The man has more aliases than a cold war espionage agent.


BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or did you come to it later?

MA: I’ve done it since I was able to. Most of the time at school I was writing comic stuff and I remember it as very rewarding to hear people laughing at what I’d written. I wrote several books of comedy before I came to fantasy.

BCN: Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?

MA: Too many! I am a bit of a style-hound. I love a good story but I also like someone who can really form interesting, original and arresting sentences. I started with PG Wodehouse when I was very young and loved Raymond Chandler too. Then it was Anthony Burgess – clearly Clockwork Orange in particular and Shakespeare. I remember the first time I saw Macbeth I was swept away by it. In fantasy Tolkien was a major influence, Ursula Le Guinn, Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber and more recently Robert Holdstock, Philip Pullman, GRRM and Joe Abercrombie. When I write a book I try to read around the area to get into the feel. With Son of the Morning it was Chaucer (in modern translation) because I wanted that real 14th century earthy, funny, violent and strange feel to the book.


I don’t look to modern writing for direct inspiration because, if you do that, you’re stuff can end up as a pale copy. Some people are excellent at writing typical genre pieces, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. I’m not, so I try to come up with something a bit different.

BCN : There are so many great characters in Son of the Morning. Where do you find the characters? I know there is a historical base but do you use people, personalities you like/loathe you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places?

MA: If the characters work, they just start talking to me and arrive fully formed. However, I do sometimes see someone who I think bears a strong physical resemblance to how I imagine a character. I picture the Florentine mercenary Orsino, for instance, as the Italian footballer Andrea Pirlo.

pirloI don’t have a very visual imagination so most of the characters I see in glimpses, like memories of people you met a long time ago. They come alive in the writing for me.

BCN: Do you have a writing routine? Or is it something that when inspiration strikes you write non stop till you have it all out?

MA: I did have a writing routine and then I had two kids. Nowadays I fit it around child responsibilities, the administrative super-gravity of modern life and teaching fencing (insert pun here). Last night I started writing at 10 at night and finished at 4 in the morning. That seems to work best for me, though it may well lead me to a ‘pretty much when we expected it’ grave.

BCN: How have people taken the contradictions of faith described in your book? Have they been receptive to this alternate history?

MA: Some people have clearly not understood it’s fiction. I am not saying that Lucifer made the world. I have no idea who, if anyone, made the world and my opinions on the birth of the universe are not informed enough to be worth committing to print. I’m just playing with the contradictions of faith as it was understood by medieval people. If you say God ordains the social order, appoints kings and gives them his power and similarly that fixes the poor in poverty and that social mobility is a sin against his, will then who do the poor turn to if they want to improve their lot? The theology of the book emerged as I wrote it and was a surprise to me – particularly the Luciferian view of the identity of Christ!

BCN: What is next for your readers? I know I am looking forward to the next book.

God-Speed19201080MA: The sequel to Son of the Morning is underway, with Isabella (She Wolf Of France), the Black Prince and a couple of other characters having more prominent roles. The pardoner is back, as is Dowzabel. The angels have gone and now devils and demons vie for control of Europe!

BCN: What is your favourite cake?

MA:  Coconut Rock Cake from the Pavilion Café Brighton.


Thank You Mark for a great interview.

Mark can be contacted on:






jeremy pic jeremy award

A Dome of Chrome.

A Dome of Chrome is an award winning short story. It is a Sci-fi tale of human expansion in new worlds, making contact and forming relationships with other races and how there will always be people who lose their humanity. I have read this and many other short stories produced by Jeremy Szal and I absolutely agree that he is a young man who will do great things with his writing. Please click on the link to read this great story.

 On The Premises Magazine, Issue #23, Honourable Mention (read)

ken kirkpatrick logans run

jeremy pic throne


My name is Jeremy Szal, a 19 year old university student in Sydney, Australia who spends far too much time reading and writing science-fiction and fantasy stories when he really should be studying.

If it wasn’t obvious, I love stories. I love writing ‘em, I love watching ‘em, I love reading ‘em, I love playing ‘em, the list goes on and on. Science fiction, fantasy and horror draw me in more than the other genres do, particularly in literature. I’m also someone who writes them.


BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or  did you come to it later?

JS: Not sure, really. My earliest memories are from reading books that my mum would give me on holidays. Then a weekly trip to a bookshop was quite a regular thing, and I’d pick out my own choices. I just loved stories, and I remember reading the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in a single car trip, and then re-reading them on the way back.

And since I loved to read the stories, I always wanted to write them. I remember sitting on my computer and just pounding way, writing whatever came to mind. I was 14 or so then, and I had no clue what I was doing. My work was a cross between faux neo-noir and urban sci-fi. And of course it was dark – darker than someone my age had any right to be writing about. But I was dedicated; I’d write after school, on holidays…hell, I’d get up at 6 and start writing. Can’t do that anymore – I’m getting old.

It never went anywhere, and looking back I’m glad that it didn’t. I felt discouraged and stopped for a while. I was busying with studying and didn’t have the time. Then in Year 12 (or last year of school for you Brits and Americans) we studied science-fiction as a genre. I was introduced to books like Dune, Neuromancer, Frankenstein, Brave New World and A Princess of Mars. We watched cinematic masterpieces like Blade Runner, 2001 and The Martrx, along others. I was enthralled. I loved every second of that class, and would retake it in a heartbeat. But it really inspired me to dig deeper into science-fiction, so I started buying sci-fi novels and coming up with my own ideas.

A few days later I finished my studies, I started writing my first proper novel. I finished it during the summer holidays, and I’ve never looked back.

jeremy url

BCN: Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?

JS: Far, far too many. The unapologetic and brilliant pulpy John Carter novels. The gritty space opera of Iain M. Banks and his truly alien aliens. The lavishly dark and epic work of Joe Abercrombie. The fantastic prose and characters of Mark Lawrence. The poetic and magnificent work of Robin Hobb. George R. R. Martin’s world of unparalleled scope and brutality. The galaxy spanning space opera of Peter F. Hamilition. The down to earth urban grittiness of Michael Grant. Peter Watts, Brandon Sanderson, Karen Traviss, Greg Bear…we could be here all day. Suffice to say that I find many, many authors to be inspirational. But if I had to narrow it down, I’d say that Abercrombie, Banks, Traviss and Martin had the biggest influence on me and my writing style.


BCN:  I loved your charcters in your short stories.  Where do you find the characters? Do you use people, personalities you like/loath you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places?

JS: Thanks for that. And honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I really, really couldn’t. They just come to me whenever they feel like it, and I put them down in words. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, there’s always someone who I’ve despised over the years. I give them little cameos in my stories, and they always die horrible deaths. It’s rather fun.

BCN: Do you have a writing routine? Or is it something that when inspiration strikes you write non stop till you have it all out?

JS: Tricky. I try to write every single day. I don’t always manage to do so, but I still make it my goal. But there are certain times that I do, like late at night or in the evenings. The majority of my spare time is spent reading, and that always gives me a boost to plunk myself down at the desk and let the words trickle out. We all build off each other in a way. I read an awesome story, and I also want to churn something good.

At the same time, I’m also a university student, have a part time job, amoung other things, as much as I’d like to, I can’t just reject my responsibilities, wear pyjamas, drink coffee and write all day. One day, perhaps…

jeremy QFT_no7BCN: Do you think a lot of life experience, of mixed occupations, travel, study  helps your writing? Are people surprised when they learn your age?

JS: Hmm. I’ll break this down in two. I’ve lived in Europe, Thailand, and my birthplace of Australia. I’ve travelled almost every year to somewhere new (I just came back from Thailand). I’ve visited ancient castles, old moats, torture chambers, temples, etc. And while they definitely do give inspiration for writing, I wouldn’t say they help in a significant way. Sci-fi and fantasy isn’t restricted by time, place or location. One short story was partially written in blizzard winter of Austria, partially in sweltering Thailand, and partially on the plane. Although there’s definitely inspiration to be found, I wouldn’t say that living in suburbia would largely effect how you describe a military war ship or an abandoned planet anymore then if you were living in a palace. The galaxy’s the limit. That’s the beauty of it. Although I will admit the torture chamber gave me a few ideas…

And yes, I get a few people surprised at my age. I was 18 when I sold my first short story, (six months ago now) although Gear Bear did it when he was 15. I’ve been told by many people that 18 is an exceptionally young age, but I don’t think so. You have to start somewhere, and I didn’t want to wait until I was fifty-five with a wife (ha!) and a few kids running around.

I’ve even had people tell me that I may even be too young, which I also vehemently disagree with. You can only get better. Every rejection letter helps you know you’ve got to improve, so you do just that. So my advice: don’t wait! Get those quills out and start scratching away. You have no idea how many people I’ve met that claim to be ‘writers’, but admit that they just need to figure out a way to get the words down on paper…

BCN:  What else is on the horizon from Jeremy Szal? A book deal? A short story Anthology?

JS: I originally decided to write short stories because my original novel wasn’t going anywhere. Since then I’ve had nearly twenty published. It’s a gold mine, and I’m not going to quit writing them anytime soon. And although I am going to be in several upcoming anthologies, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever publish one. I don’t self publish, and I never will. As I said, rejection letters are good. If it’s not good enough for traditional publishers, then you’re doing something wrong.

jeremy Issue2_cover_2

And about a book deal, I’ve nearly finished a novel of mine. An editor from one of the “big five” has already shown interest in it, which is enthralling. We met at a SF/F convention, and we exchanged details. I keep the business card on my desk while I write, and it really helps me out. I don’t know if it’ll go anywhere, but I’m praying that it will. And if it doesn’t, I’ll write another. And another, and another. Until I strike oil. Just make sure to be there to buy ‘em when it happens, eh?

BCN: What is your favourite cake?

JS: Pfft. That’s easy. Black Forest cake. Or anything with lots and lots of berries.



Thank you Jeremy.

This is the link for more on Jeremy’s short stories:

Jeremy can be contacted through his blog :

he is also on facebook and twitter @JeremySzal

By Leanne Ellis.

Rough Magic Cover alt - OutlinesSynopsis:

Niksabella the gnome has tinkered in the shadows for years, developing an invention that might change the world, even if she doesn’t know it yet. She has few friends and even fewer allies in the city of Hightower, where social and academic status is quite important. Her brother, Nikselpik, is a cantankerous wizard who drinks too much, sings dirty songs, and makes rude passes at gnomestresses. A dark addiction consumes him, a habit called bugging, which gives him increased power and feelings of euphoria while pushing him closer to death. Dark creatures from the ultraworlds have come calling. Niksabella must fight to protect her life and her invention, while Nikselpik engages the enemy as an unlikely guest of Hightower’s military elite. Niksabella and Nikselpik must find their true powers together, or perish apart. Will they heal the wounds of their childhood before it’s too late?


4/5 Stars.

This book was a really lovely surprise. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nasty, dark and deliciously twisted. But its also a story about the love between family and how no matter how much they annoy us, abuse us we still stand by them and come when they need us. It’s also about how one young female can make a difference. Niksabella and Nikselpik are sister and brother gnomes. They have had a hard upbringing and have been left to themselves by a non existent family. Niksabella has locked herself away, an eccentric recluse, tinkering with her inventions, exploring the forbidden and avoiding life. Nikselpik is ambitious, magically powerful, unfeeling and addicted, socially awkward,  he cares for only himself, money and prestige. He is a troubled, young gnome whose time is running out.

The landscapes and concept of different worlds that are accessable through magic works well and adds to the threats from within and without. I loved the humour and absurdity. Niksabella”s  conversations with Termund and pushing the First Wizards buttons in the court scenes are very well done.

The baddies are wonderful, Raulnock the First Wizard is the sort of guy you want to punch. He is obnoxious, magically strong and probably a psychopath. The General and his army of amorph controlled, animated hosts are scary. The imagery used to describe the victims of the parasites and their actions is quite graphic and confronting.

I was struck by Niksabella though. She is an amazing female character. Her strengths and weaknesses are so relatable. Her cheeky, tough, clever personality had me grinning. I look forward to reading The Tinkermage and seeing what powers and mayhem Niksabella and Nikselpik unleash..


Kenny Soward Profile:

Kenny Soward greCapturew up in Crescent Park, Kentucky, a small suburb just south of Cincinnati, Ohio, listening to hard rock and playing outdoors. In those quiet 1970’s streets, he jumped bikes, played Nerf football, and acquired many a childhood scar.

Kenny’s love for books flourished early, a habit passed down to him by his uncles. He burned through his grade school library, and in high school spent many days in detention for reading fantasy fiction during class. The transition to author was a natural one for Kenny. His sixth grade teacher encouraged him to start a journal, and he later began jotting down pieces of stories, mostly the outcomes of D&D gaming sessions. At the University of Kentucky, Kenny took creative writing classes under Gurny Norman, former Kentucky Poet Laureate and author of Divine Rights Trip (1971). Kenny’s latest releases are ROUGH MAGIC (GnomeSaga #1) and THOSE POOR, POOR BASTARDS (Dead West #1) with Tim Marquitz and J.M. Martin. By day, Kenny works as a Unix professional, and at night he writes and sips bourbon. Kenny lives in Independence, Kentucky, with three cats and a gal who thinks she’s a cat.


BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or  did you come to it later?

KYKENNYKS: My need to write came hand-in-hand with a need to play music. At age six I was reading heavy horror and sci-fi books and playing air guitar to Monkeys and Beatles records. While I kept up with both, music seemed to provide the more immediate gratification, so I spent a good portion of my 20’s and 30’s trying to “make it.” I guess that’s why a part of me still wants to be in the spotlight, and probably why I make YouTube videos, as hideous as they are. But writing began to take over as I approached forty. It provides a broader emotional spectrum to play with, a deeper sense of discovery, and that seems incredibly important to me now. Plus it’s easier on the back.

BCN: Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?

KS: Indeed. China Mieville. Because trains. Two of his books, the Iron Council and Railsea, both feature those magnificent  iron beasts. I’m slightly obsessed with them, which is why I couldn’t resist creating the train chapters in The Ten Thousand Things. There’s actually a set of train tracks less than a mile from my house Drowning_Girl_book_coverrunning between two hills, and sometimes the distant squalls lull me to sleep at night. Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah, China Mieville. I don’t agree with all his political beliefs, but he writes with a flare that ignites my imagination. I love his characters, poor, hopeless bastards that they are.

Caitlin R. Kiernan. Brilliant curmudgeon. I only say that because she talks about her issues with the world quite freely and honestly on her blog. And I have personal experience with her less-than-pleasant disposition. But I think her personification (and realization) of the typical ‘crazy’ writer gives her prose a deadly sharp edge. There are times when I’m reading a Kiernan passage and I have to stop and think about the depth of what I just read. As a writer, she surpasses me in just about every way, and I admit I’m a little envious of that level of insight. Anyway, enough fawning.

Mist2007I most relate with Stephen King because he seems like a regular dude. Loves Red Sox baseball, steaks, and rock n roll. He’s gone off his rocker on more than one occasion, but he’s still the King. Timeless. He has always had his finger on the pulse of the American culture. Take the Mist, for example. He captures a fair spectrum of American personalities about as perfectly as anyone I’ve ever read – minus LGBT issues, of course. We’re a crazy lot, to be sure, full of contradictions and strife. He captures the good things, too; our bravery, doggedness, and a willingness to help those in need. One of my favourite recent books of his is 11/22/63 which is an epic King story complete with time travel, history, mystery, and tear-jerking moments which break your heart. Ah, I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

BCN: I loved your characters in Rough Magic.  Where do you find the characters for your books? Do you use people, personalities you like/loath you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places?

KS: Thanks! I’m glad you liked them. Nik and Nika, the main protagonists in Rough Magick, evolved from some Everquest Online adventures back in 2001. As I started to develop the actual story, they took on real qualities. They capture two sides of my own personality. Nika, for example, personifies my work ethic and insecurities as an ‘inventor.’ Nik, on the other hand, represents my willingness to ‘wing it’ and my love for good beer and conversation; my sarcastic sense of humor as well. The one big difference between me and Nik is that I’m an ass man, and Nik clearly favors breasts.

As far as my other characters go, I draw from real life people who I may either sympathize with or hate. I work in corporate America, so there’s no shortage of asshole personalities to draw from. TV is also a big influence on potential characters. For me, the Netflix era has helped a lot of things click. The ability to watch episodes of a series back-to-back sheds light on character development and plot weaving like never before.

kenny blissBCN: Do you have a writing routine? Or is it something that when inspiration strikes you write non-stop till you have it all out?

KS: I’ve tried a million different things by now. The day-to-day I have down. I’m a 1 to 2k-a-day type of guy. The ‘big picture’ has been more elusive, like, what can I realistically accomplish in a year? The pattern I’m starting to see is to write and revise for three months, outline for one. That gives me breaks in August, December, and April. I’m constantly inspired, which is frustrating because the day job always gets in the way. I have to pay the bills – I haven’t had the courage or the book sales to ever quit – so the day job comes first. Unfortunately, it often leaves me drained when it comes to producing good words.

BCN: Do you think a lot of life experience, of mixed occupations, experiences helps your writing?

tinkermageKS: Strangely enough, much of the banter in my stories comes from years working in a restaurant washing dishes or waiting tables. From the relationships I developed with co-workers comes some interesting conversations, especially at the most hectic moments.

Me (at Dennis the gay waiter): Hey, quit throwing plates at me. Just set them on the edge there.

Dennis the gay waiter: How about I shove them up your ass next time?

Me (laughing): Oh, you’d like that.

Dennis the gay waiter (with a sideways grin): You’re not my type. I’d get no pleasure out of that.


dead westGail the salad wench: Hey Kenny, we need more salad plates.

Me (ducking a thrown crouton): Ask nice.

Gail the salad wench: Don’t make me come over there.

Me (ducking a thrown olive): What? No magic words?

Gail the salad wench: Hey Kenny, get me some fucking clean salad plates or I will destroy you.

Me: Love you too, Gail. Plates coming right up.

It’s trite, but funny, and helps me quickly establish a character’s personality within a few sentences. I’d almost say I’m a bit of an expert in banter. Of course, I haven’t worked in a restaurant in a long time, but that’s where I learned the art of verbal jousting. I still have a lot to learn.

There are the deep depressing life experiences too, which I hate to dwell on, but are necessary for personal and professional growth. Funerals always leave me sort of shocked and speechless. Drug addiction and the resulting deaths from it seem to be a big part of my life for some reason. I’ve known (and still know) a lot of addicted people, so that certainly lends some perspective, especially in the case of Nikselpik and his bugging addiction in Rough Magick. When you have a heroin addict at your house trying to help them recover … it certainly is an eye-opening experience.

BCN: What else is on the horizon from Kenny Soward? The Tinkermage? Any other Kenny Soward Delights in the pipeline we can gnaw on?

18040285KS: I’m always open to be gnawed on. A good gnawing goes a long way with me. I’ve always thought people don’t gnaw on me enough, but maybe after this interview they’ll get hungry for some Kennah.

First thing is that Ragnarok is going to release the entire GnomeSaga series within a six-month time frame. I’m not sure if that’s ever been done before. Rough Magick in September (we hope), Tinkermage in November, and Cogweaver in February 2015. I still have to write Cogweaver but the outline is done so, barring difficulties, I should have it done by December. The announcements have been slow in coming but we’re working feverishly in the background to make this happen.

In December, I’ll be working on an outline to expand upon a novella I completed but never tried to get published. I can’t really discuss the details other than it will be more in the vein of China Mieville’s strange fantasy. I’ll be exploring an incredible new world and more diverse characters than ever before. I’m chomping at the bit to get started, but my heart must remain in Sullenor (GnomeSaga) for a few more months.

After all that, I have some ideas, but nothing solid. Maybe more Dead West?

BCN: Instead of the cake question, I know you are a man who likes his Pizza, what is your favourite type?

KS: As you already know, I’m a simple, ass man. I have no problems with a straight up cheese pizza, especially if the cheese is unprocessed and the sauce is good. My other favorite lands all the way across the spectrum, and is what we call in America the ranch pizza. Green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and bacon with a white ranch sauce. Nothing like a Sam Adams Boston Lager to go with it.

BCN: Thank you Kenny, that was an amazing, funny and informative interview.

Kenny can be contacted through his website:
Twitter: @KennySoward
Also check him out on Youtube, he is a very funny guy: Kenny Soward Youtube.


By Leanne Ellis.





There is a place where sorrows pile up like snow and rest in your hair like cherry blossoms. Boys have wings, monsters fall in love, women fade into nothingness, and the bones of small children snap like twigs. Darkness will surely devour you—but it will be exquisitely lovely while doing so.

Mercedes M. Yardley’s Beautiful Sorrows is an ephemeral collection encompassing twenty-seven short tales full of devastation, death, longing, and the shining ribbon of hope that binds them all together.


Mini Review:

4/5 Stars.
This is a touching, moving, confronting and even a little bit twisted (in a good way) collection of creative fiction. I was trying to think of a good way to describe my delight at each new tale. It’s like when you are at Grandma’s house, sneaking a look in her jewellery box. With each new treasure you bring into the light there is that moment of joy mingled with a delicious fear that you will be getting caught out any second. Her characters are beautiful and endearing. Little worlds of hurt and wonder swirl around you. This book made me smile and cry. Mercedes is a very clever lady.

I borrowed these words of wisdom from Mercedes website to share.

1. People will give you terrible advice out of love. They’ll tell you to give up on writing and focus on a more stable career. Thank them, with a smile, for their concern. Then ignore them. Firmly.

2. Enjoy every success. It’s easy to look ahead and work for the next big success to the exclusion of where you are now. Don’t let this happen. It will steal your joy away.

3. There will be controversies and scandals and feuds. Writers like to be heard, and one way to do that is to hop on the bandwagon and shout along with everyone else. This doesn’t make you stand out. It almost always gets you in trouble. If you have a firm opinion on something and want to share it because it is dear to your soul, absolutely go ahead and do so. But instead of taking the time to be part of an argument, use that time to write.

4. If you’re not having fun anymore, go ahead and quit. There’s no shame in it. The rewards for writing are few and far between. Write for the love.

5. You’ll find that much of the wheeling and dealing happens at conventions in hotel rooms after the main event. And for women, you’ll be treated differently in this situation. It is not necessary, ever, to be someplace that you feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable. Writers like to spin tales. Don’t ever put yourself in a situation where you could become a victim or villain in somebody’s story. Be a person of class, and eventually the opportunities you hope for will come to you. You won’t need to chase them.

Good luck!

Posted by Leanne Ellis

Mercedes can be contacted via

on Facebook as Mercedes M Yardley  and Twitter @mercedesmy

traitors blade coverSYNOPSIS:

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn.


4/5 STARS.

rapiereTraitor’s Blade took me back to Saturday Afternoons, on the couch watching Hollywood Classic Movies on TV. This was and still is a guilty pleasure. I remember the 1948 version of Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers with Gene Kelly and Vincent Price. Or Christopher Lee and Oliver Reed’s fight scene in the 1973 remake. The gallantry and dare devil antics of Errol Flynn in his varies incarnations, or the nobility and sacrifice of Charlton Heston in El Cid.

All glorious escapism. And so is this book.

Falcio Val Mond is a man of nobility, strength, honour and intelligence. He is a charming but damaged human being who continues to try and uphold the wishes of his dead king. Falcio, Kest and Brasti are for better or worst Great Coats. They were the embodiment and enforcers of the kings law. They are now reviled outcasts forced to work as mercenaries, guards or lose all and become criminals. Theirs is a world of corruption, violence and black magic. The Dukes and their allies slipped into the vacuum created by the kings death and they are robbing, raping, killing and grinding the people under their rule. Will the late kings secrets be discovered and aid given to save the land of Tristia?

The fight scenes are wonderful, well described and vivid. The callous cruelty and deviousness of some characters shocking. I enjoyed the twists and turns in this tale. I loved the banter and humour. I was deeply affected by the physical suffering and also the touches of joy and kindness. I am looking forward to book two in this series and what happens to these characters.



sebastienSebastien de Castell had just finished a degree in Archaeology when he started work on his first dig. Four hours later he realized how much he actually hated archaeology and left to pursue a very focused career as a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, and product strategist. His only defence against the charge of unbridled dilettantism is that he genuinely likes doing these things and that, in one way or another, each of these fields plays a role in his writing. He sternly resists the accusation of being a Renaissance Man in the hopes that more people will label him that way.

Sebastien lives in Vancouver, Canada with his lovely wife and two belligerent cats.

BCN:  When did you realize you wanted to write? Is it something that you have done since childhood, or was there something that happened in adulthood that caused you to start?

SDC: The idea of being a writer started for me in an odd way: when I was about ten years old my mother told my brother and I that my father, who had passed away not long before, didn’t have enough in his pension fund for us to live comfortably. My mother decided that the simplest and easiest way to make money was to write novels and wanted my brother and I to know in advance so that we wouldn’t be embarrassed when her books were published. She proceeded to write two of the least romantic love stories ever conceived. Despite all that, what really stuck with me was the way my mother thought of writing as simply a natural human activity – something we could all do if we set ourselves to the task. Years later I decided I’d write a book. My first one was a rather terrible mystery novel but I couldn’t believe how rewarding it was to complete it. Over the next decade or so I wrote several books, one of which became Traitor’s Blade.

BCN:  What author’s or books have you have found inspirational?

SDC: Because I’ve worked in different fields within the entertainment industry I tend to draw from a wide range of influences that span novelists, comic writers, filmmakers and sometimes even designers. Authors such as Roger Zelazny and his Nine Princes in Amber were a big influence on me – you never knew what was coming at you next in that novel. Fantasy’s my first love, so writers like Steven Brust and Charles de Lint influenced my sense of character. But I also find inspiration in guys like C.S. Forester (writer of the Horatio Hornblower adventure stories) and Raymond Chandler (noir pioneer who gave us Sam Spade.)

Aaron Sorkin, who writes largely for television and film (notably, The West Wing), is unmatched for my taste when it comes to dialogue and making even small moments between characters feel dramatic. Finally, because I write fantasy and adventure, I have to think about balancing the more bombastic nature of heroic characters with a more grounded approach to personal relationships. Brian Michael Bendis does this brilliantly with super-heroic figures, as do a number of new comic writers out there.

BCN:  Do you stick to a routine when writing? Or does spontaneity help the creative process? Do you do pots of research prior to beginning?

SDC: My basic process is to go running a lot and develop story ideas by seeing what grabs me in that state of pushing myself physically. I’ll then turn those into beat sheets for scenes and, when I think there’s enough magic there to build something I believe in, I’ll construct an outline. Of course, it all goes off the rails pretty quickly when things you expected to work fall apart and other, often more interesting things, take their place.

BCN:  How do your ideas come to you? Some writers have dreams, some hear a phrase or a story from history.  What has given you that “Yes!”  moment?

SDC: For me it’s often the intersection between a particular thought and a piece of music. I’ll sometimes happen upon a moment in a song that connects with something I’m thinking about and suddenly I’ll feel a strong emotional reaction. I’ll often replay the song over and over and over while pursuing that thought inside the spaces within the music. It sounds a bit fluffy but it works for me.

BCN:  Now that Traitors Blade is out and being enjoyed by all, can you reveal what is in the pipeline for us to enjoy next?

SDC: The second book is complete and with my U.K. publishers. It’s tentatively entitled Greatcoat’s Lament, and it takes the main characters on a darker and more perilous journey than they’ve faced before.  Falcio will come to question his idealized memories of King Paelis, Kest will pay the price that comes with wanting to be the greatest swordsman in the world, and Brasti will discover he can no longer get away with simply playing the charming rogue. Valiana, Aline, and the Tailor all take more central roles in the second book than they did in the first, and the clash between their different visions of right and wrong will shake Tristia’s very foundations.

My other fantasy series, Spellslinger, is about an outcast mage hunted by his people whose business partner is a slightly murderous raccoon. It was one of my favourite books to write so I hope readers will enjoy it as well.

Finally, I’m partway through a strange detective novel that’s best described as Nancy Drew meets Chinatown. It’s remarkably dark but I think it’s going to be very exciting once it’s done.

BCN:  What is your favourite cake?

SDC: I’m an absolute chocolate addict. I would happily eat chocolate cake and ice cream every morning for breakfast if I thought I could get away with it.

BCN: Thank you very much Sebastien.

Sebastien can be contacted on his website make sure you go on and do the quiz to see which Great Coats Shield you are. I got this:

Your colour is black to show your willingness to sacrifice
The kraken symbolizes your intellect
Your ability to go on long journeys is shown by the wings
You’ll face any opponent with your broadsword


He is also on twitter @decastell and on facebook : Sebastien De Castell

By Leanne Ellis.




elemental rancor coverA far away star supernovas and sends waves of force and change rippling through the cosmos. The waves crash into Sarnen Karnea’s world and thrust him into a deadly struggle to keep his loved ones from harm and to keep a secret about his son from the Zangava Empire.

The waves awaken new and old forms of consciousness, and stir ancient primordial resentments, that threaten to destabilize the Empire’s dominance in the world. Challengers from across the ocean, and from under it, seek to capitalize on newly developing Imperial problems.

Like the Empire, Sarnen must adapt to survive, and must ask himself which of his virtues he is willing to deny in order to reach his goals.


Rating 4 / 5 Stars.


Charles Lominec has created a interesting world of creatures, non-human and human races.  The merchant Sarnen Karnea dreams of the day he can retire, stay with his family in one place and keep away from the politics of the Zangava Empire. Journeying on his ship Windrider and making a profit is becoming harder. Even with the aid of his college friend Jorsana Faylen, Tutor to Lorgen his son,and retired Elemental Tutor.

shipThe Elemental College has always helped kept peace and aided the people. The Elements of Water, Air, Earth, Fire, Flesh and Ether worked with by the Elemental Tutors. But things are stirring. Why can’t Fire be found and Air is becoming harder to deal with. Who is causing beasts and the other races to attack without provocation, leaving death in their wake? What are the other dark Elements discovered and used in this destruction?

I found this book to be an enjoyable and different type of fantasy read. The characters are wonderful, especially Sarnen and Lorden. The world and its cultures are unique and intriguing. Charles writes with  a nice rhythm that keeps the tale rolling along from one scene to the next. I am looking forward to the second book in A Chronicle of Consequence.


Charles lominec picMy five-year-old daughter asked me to attach a small knit blanket to her shirt so she could have a cape. Once the cape was secure, she turned on me and began an epic battle. Her little fists punched with imaginary yet primordial force as she proclaimed, “I’m going to take you to jail bad guy!”

It was a concentrated dose of joy to see my daughter love the same stories that I love. Super-heroes, science-fiction, modern and historic fantasy have all held special places in my heart and have inspired my imagination for a world better than the one we have.

While studying Philosophy and History at Florida State University, I spent a lot of my free time writing stories for numerous role-playing games with which I was involved. Eventually, I took my love for Philosophy, story-telling, and writing; and wrote my debut novel.

I think we’re living in a fantastic time where the predictions of our sci-fi fore fathers are coming true or close to coming true. Continuing exponential advances in technology, medicine, and our understanding of our cosmos stands ready to propel our species forward to an exciting future. Our potential for greatness is tempered by our equal potential for self-destruction. The same advances promising to send us forward could hurl us drastically backwards.

In order to tip the balance toward greatness, we need to reawaken humanity’s imagination and love of learning. We also need to encourage empathy and compassion for not only other humans, but all the lifeforms that share existence with us.


BCN:  When did you realize you wanted to write? Is it something that you have done since childhood, or was there something that happened in adulthood that caused you to start?

CL: I started creating stories at eighth grade when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons and other role playing games. I got better at creating stories as time progressed, to the point where I found myself running games more often than playing: which suited me just fine. By the time I was in college, gamer people, who I didn’t even know, were looking me up to ask about joining my games.

After college I decided that I had read enough and learned enough to start writing a novel. I wrote a few chapters of a D&D/Planescape novel, a few chapters of a modern super-hero tale, and then some initial chapters of what would later evolve into Elemental Rancor. Though I was creating stories since childhood, I hadn’t considered myself a serious writer until 2002.

BCN: What author’s or books have you have found inspirational?

CL: George RR Martin’s depth of character; Tom Clancy’s military detail; The dialogue style in Plato’s The Republic; The eloquent prose of The Federalist Papers; The political viciousness of Machiavelli’s The Prince. I’ve done a lot of reading over the years, but I think these stand out of my most inspirational.

BCN: Do you stick to a routine when writing? Or does spontaneity help the creative process? Does being a family man help or hinder?

CL: I belong to an online writing group. We post our daily activities: word count, proofreading, research in book marketing, etc. My personal rule is to meet my daily word quota before I allow myself TV or video game.

My family is more of an inspiration than a hindrance. Sarnen’s family is modelled after my own. Though there are times when I have to close my laptop to attend imaginary tea parties, but that’s ok. The tea is quite excellent.

BCN: How do your ideas come to you? Some writers have dreams, some hear a phrase or a story from history.  What has given you that “Yes!”  moment?

CL: I wish I could just dream my stories. That would make the process less tedious. I get the majority of my ideas from current events, history, philosophy, science, and my own vision. My “Yes!” moments come when all those elements fit nicely together. The development of The Magmanoid was a good example of a “Yes!” moment.

BCN: Now that Elemental Rancor is out and being discovered , can you reveal what is in the pipeline for us to enjoy next?

CL: I’m working on the sequel: currently on chapter 4. I also see a sci-fi project in the future. I’m collaborating with a friend on a series of short stories. Those who like Elemental Rancor have a lot to look forward to.

BCN. And last but not least, What is your favourite cake?

CL: Cheese cake.

BCN: Thank you very much Charles.

CL: Thank you. I’m delighted to work with Bloody Cake. I’ve become quite the fan.

Charles Lominec can be contacted on his website: , Twitter @ElementalRancor and Facebook

by Leanne Ellis


half a kingHesitant we may be, but when God opens a door for us, we eventually go through – whether it leads to life or death. But what might that life be like, if we are given half the blessings others were so generously granted? A life of shadows. A life of shame.

Until one day the sun rises to seek us out, to mercilessly chase us out of our safe harbour of false dreams and sets us on a journey to find our purpose, our strengths and most importantly, ourselves.

And with that the swords clattered and rough words rattled, the icy winds swirled and the pages turned, and the journey grew into an epic adventure.

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie is a tale of betrayal, revenge, a bloody song you dance with death on and on, as the world shifts around you, turning love into joeabercrombie-bw2-600x900hate and hate into love, with no rules, no choices and no exemptions given when you pay the price. Always you pay the price.

Cheated out of his own destiny, Prince Yarvi must face a perilous path, armed only with his mothers’ wisdom and cunningness, driven by his father’s anger and determination, bound by an oath, chased by enemies in a land where steel speaks and the weak listen.

While, as only to be expected, this was a skilfully written, highly enjoyable book, for me it was the last five chapters that truly turned a good story into a great one. Brilliant ending to the first book of the series, indeed very well played, Mr. Abercrombie.


Photo by Lou Abercrombie

Jay Kristoff profile

jay-kristoff-headshotJay Kristoff is the author of THE LOTUS WAR trilogy, a Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press & Tor UK. Part 3, will be released in September 2014. He’s also co-author of the upcoming ILLUMINAE (with Amie Kaufman), a YA Sci-Fi… thing, to be released by Knopf/Random House in 2015.

Jay is 6’7 and has approximately 13520 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.

He does not believe in happy endings



stormdancerStormdancer. Book #1 The Lotus War

Rating 4/5 Stars

This book had me engaged from the start. Set in a dark and stifled world that is being torn apart by itself. Yukiko is like a gem of light amongst the polluted dross. She and her friend Buruu the Griffin are thrown together but respect and sacrifice create bonds that even the Shogun and others cannot break. Please may I have more?

“To be a servant can be a noble thing, but only as noble as the master served.”


kinslayerKinslayer. Book #2 The Lotus War

Rating 5/5 Stars

Wow Jay Kristoff! The second book is even better than the first one. Well done, Sir. The Shima Imperium is in a shambles. The Lotus guild is making its play for power over the dynasty. The rebels are in a race against time to prevent it all from happening. The other clans make a grab for it all while chaos reigns. Yukiko and Buruu are trying to aid the rebels while fighting her grief and rage. The mind powers by which they communicate are growing uncontrollably. There is gore and blood here. But this is a dark, damaged place so it is understandable. These people are cruel and savage, the result of living undervalued lives in a hellhole. I was greatly moved by Jay’s characters. And I despaired for the land that is dying beneath their feet. Thanks for a great read. Bring on The Lotus War #3.


endsingerEndsinger. Book #3 The Lotus War

Endsinger is due out 23rd September 2014 and early reviews are already giving it 5 stars.

The synopsis:
The flames of civil war sweep across the Shima Imperium. With their plans to renew the Kazumitsu dynasty foiled, the Lotus Guild unleash their deadliest creation—a mechanical goliath known as the Earthcrusher, intended to unite the shattered Empire under a yoke of fear. With the Tiger Clan and their puppet Daimyo Hiro in tow, the Guild marches toward a battle for absolute dominion over the Isles.
Yukiko and Buruu are forced to take leadership of the Kagé rebellion, gathering new allies and old friends in an effort to unite the country against the chi-mongers. But the ghosts of Buruu’s past stand between them and the army they need, and Kin’s betrayal has destroyed all trust among their allies. When a new foe joins the war tearing the Imperium apart, it will be all the pair can do to muster the strength to fight, let alone win.

The traitor Kin walks the halls of Guild power, his destiny only a bloody knife-stroke away. Hana and Yoshi struggle to find their place in a world now looking to them as heroes. Secret cabals within the Lotus Guild claw and struggle; one toward darkness, the other toward light. And as the earth splits asunder, as armies destroy each other for rule over an empire of lifeless ash and the final secret about blood lotus is revealed, the people of Shima will learn one last, horrifying truth.

There is nothing a mother won’t do to keep her children by her side.


Jay Kristoff is contactable on his blog , twitter and Facebook

by Leanne Ellis

 jeff salyards banner
Scourge of the Betrayer Review.

Rating 4/5 stars.

scourge of the betrayer coverThe first book in The Bloodsounder Arc does a great job introducing us to this world and peoples through the eyes of Arkamondos, the Scribe. He is the narrator of the story and as a trained scribe he doesn’t miss much. Arki, as he is called, is hired by Captain Braylar Killcoin to chronicle the doings of him and his company of Syldoon soldiers. Somewhat naïvely Arki finds himself in the employ of a dark and dangerous man and his staff of hardened warriors. Even though Arki has had a far from ideal upbringing, he is in turn terrified, repelled, and sickened by the actions of those he is travelling with. Lloi, the Grass Dog woman, maimed and cast out by her people because of what she is. The Captain, Braylar, Syldoon veteran soldier, killer and bearer of Bloodsounder the strangely wrought flail that causes him to descend into a hell of mental and physical torment whenever he kills with it. And the company, Mulldoos, Glesswik, Vendurro, Hewspear and others – Jeff Salyards has created wonderful characters and delightful dialogue.

There are well worked fight and battle scenes, nice little twists, sweet droll and dark humour. I like Jeff’s creation of the God Veil, The Memoridon Magic and the Gods who left them all behind. There is some nastiness and blood but this is a world of darkness and corruption, populated by creatures of nightmare and people hardened by necessity. And through it all moves the Captain and Co, causing mayhem and disruption in the service of their Emperor. A great start to this series.


Veil of the Deserters Review.

Rating 5/5 stars.

This, the second book in the Bloodsounders Arc series does everything I hoped it would and gets an extra star.

There is more of all the good stuff laid down in Scourge of the Betrayer to keep us all enthralled. More great fighting, intelligently thought through. More wonderful dialogue and humour. Characters that you will get involved with, and care about, or dislike because they are so twisted and bad. All the gang that remained are here from Scourge and we learn a lot more about them as individuals. There are some wonderful new characters who will have you entertained. We also discover more about the magic and mythology of this world and how it may be connected to its people.veil of the deserters cover

Captain Braylar Killcoin is still suffering from the effects of using Bloodsounder. He and the company are continuing to disrupt the elite of Alespell as per their previous mission with Arki still trying to make some sense of it all. The Syldoonian Emperor is recalling all operatives for a formal oath of fealty. The capital is a vipers’ pit of intrigue and danger but Braylar must go.

Dragged into the machinations of deposed emperor Thumarr and current emperor Cynead the company finds itself caught up in a game of “Who is friend and foe?” We also meet Braylar’s sister Soffjian who is capable of helping him with his mental torture but with who he shares a mutual distrust. Arki begins to come out of his shell and shows his skills. Jeff Salyards has a well paced story telling style that is improving with each outing.  A great read and I can’t wait for book 3.


Jeff Salyards Profile.

I jeff-salyards-headshot-colo1grew up in a small town north of Chicago. While it wasn’t Mayberry, with all the doors unlocked and everyone offering each other slices of pie and quaint homilies, it was pretty quiet and sleepy, so I got started early imagining my way into all kinds of other worlds and universes that were loud, chaotic, and full of irrepressible characters and heaps of danger. Massive explosions. Tentacled aliens. Men with sharp swords and thousand-yard stares and secrets they would die to protect. Clearly, I was a full-bore dork.

Royal Crown bag full of multi-sided dice? Check. Blood-red hooded cloak? Check. Annual pilgrimages to Renaissance Faires? Check. Whacking other (curiously athletic and gifted) dorks with rattan swords in the SCA? Check. Yes, I earned my badges, thank you very much.

My whole life, I’ve been fascinated by the fantastic, and of course this extended to speculative fiction of all kinds. Countless prepubescent evenings found me reading a worn, dog-eared copy of Thuvia, Maid of Mars (it sounded so much dirtier than it was!) or The Frost Giant’s Daughter (high hopes for that one too!) well past lights-out, flashlight in hand, ignoring the repeated calls to turn in. That’s as quiet and harmless a rebellion as you can have, and my parents mostly sighed and left me to it.

I live with my lovely wife, Kris, and three daughters in a suburb west of Chicago. I am indebted to Kris in countless ways for her steadfast encouragement, support, and thick skin in dealing with a prickly, moody writer. I don’t always like living with me, but she has a choice and stays anyway.

And before you are tempted to mention it, I am fully aware that siring three daughters is certainly karmic retribution, particularly when they all transform into teenagers. I cling to the hope of discovering at least one of them reading covertly in the middle of the night. That kind of transgression I can handle.


Author Q & A

BCN: When did you realize you wanted to write? Is it something that you have done since childhood, or was there something that happened in adulthood that caused you to start?

Jeff : Yeah, I’ve always enjoyed writing. When we were in fourth grade and had to write a little essay about what we wanted to be when we grew up, I wrote, “Jewel thief, stuntman, or writer.” At the time I was probably gravitating towards stuntman, but sadly, nobody wants to train a 40-something year old apprentice on jumping out of burning buildings, so I missed my window for that one, and I’m really too big and clumsy to be a successful jewel thief. So writer it is.

BCN: What authors or books have you have found inspirational?

Jeff : This is always such a tough questions, since I could rattle off huge lists and go on about it for days, neither of which you probably want. I would love to be able to write a book like A Prayer for Owen Meany, poignant and moving and resonating. Or something absurdly funny like Catch-22. Or something as disturbing or almost pulverizing as Clockwork Orange. If I could muster dialogue half as clever as Tom Stoppard’s I’d high five myself. I read prose by someone like Octavia Butler and am stunned at how sharp and evocative it is.

And as far as inspiring just in the sense of trying to be a better writer, hard to go wrong with Stephen King’s On Writing. I’d recommend that to anyone interested in an unvarnished and very accessible book on craft.

BCN: Do you stick to a routine when writing? Or does spontaneity help the creative process? Does being married with children help or hinder?18040285

Jeff : Having a supportive spouse is great. So is having three kids, but not gonna lie, it can be a challenge to carve out time to write with a young family at home. That said, it’s easy to make excuses—and I’m good at it!—but I’m sure plenty of people with bigger challenges create the time, so really I’m just whining.

I usually write late in the evening, and sometimes on the weekend, but it’s not consistent enough to be called a routine.

BCN: How do your ideas come to you? Some writers have dreams, some hear a phrase or a story from history.  What has given you that “Yes!”  moment?

Jeff : Ideas come out of the blue sometimes, and I scramble to write them down in a notebook. The Syldoon culture and infrastructure was inspired by some research I did for a project ages ago on the Mameluke Sultanate in Egypt. I was fascinated by the slave solider dynamic, and while I took it in a different direction and added some layers (and of course, the Memoridons) to avoid it being a complete and utter historical rip-off, there is no denying that impacted the direction the book went in.

BCN: Now that Veil of the Deserters is out and being enjoyed by all, can you reveal what is in the pipeline for us to enjoy next?

Jeff : I’m working on book three in the series, tentatively called Bane of the Revenger. But that’s a super soft tentative—I’ll probably change my mind a hundred times. Anyway, that’s going to occupy this next year. Not sure if I’ll do any short stories. And then after that, it’s sort of murky. Do you have a Magic Eight Ball?

BCN: Thank You for your time, Jeff.

If you want to contact Jeff Salyards  his website is :

He is also on Facebook and Twitter @JeffSalyards.

by Leanne Ellis