Current Project

Tales of the Darksome Thorn: The Dead Forsworn
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Nifty Newly, featuring Leslie Heath

Writing interesting characters is much easier when you've met a few. And as a night shift emergency nurse with over a decade of experience, Leslie has met more than just a few. Please welcome fantasy author, long-distance runner, pet-rescuer, and people-watcher Leslie Heath.

What's the title of the book you're currently working on? I'm working on the second installment of the Nivaka Chronicles, but I haven't settled on a title for that work yet.

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? The Last Mayor's Son was my first novel. I'm editing my second book, and have outlined and begun to write the third.

What inspires you, as a writer? I love people-watching. Whether I'm at a mall, a theme park, or a Renaissance Faire, I pay close attention to the people around me: how they walk, how they talk, how they interact with each other, and how they handle challenges. They inspire me to create interesting characters who react to the world and events around them, as well as events that push those characters to their breaking points.

How do you come up with names? Sometimes, I use online name generators. Other times, I've spent hours playing in translator apps, searching for just the right combination of letters. I even named one of my characters after my dog; I just translated his name to a different language.

How do you come up with ideas? I usually start with an interesting detail, whether it's plot, character, or setting related varies from story to story. For example, The Last Mayor's Son was borne from a day at a treetop adventure park. I wondered what it would be like to have a whole town built at that height, and the story evolved from there.

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important? It's important to develop characters that stand out in readers' minds. If you manage that, along with a plot that engages the readers, you'll have a winning combination.

What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction? In The Last Mayor's Son we meet Aibek, a young man raised by his aunt and uncle in the city. We get to experience the wonder of discovery when he arrives in Nivaka and sees how glorious a village in the treetops can be. Nothing in his previous experience has prepared him for the shock of a fully developed civilization built fifteen feet off the ground, and most readers haven't read anything similar, either.

Thank you so much for joining us Leslie, and for sharing your approach to writing original fiction! If you would like to experience more of Leslie's work, please check out the excerpt below. At the bottom of the page are links to her websites, as well as links to where you can purchase her book, The Last Mayor's Son. Please show your support! 

Excerpt from The Last Mayor's Son:

None of the travelers spoke as they carefully picked their way along the narrow trail. After a few minutes of walking, Aibek began to hear sounds of small animals moving in the brush, then birds singing overhead. He relaxed somewhat now that the silence was broken by
what he assumed were normal sounds. A short time later, he heard a new sound—the soft tinkling of water flowing somewhere nearby. The sound gradually grew louder as they walked, and soon Aibek saw a narrow stream with a rocky bed just to their left. He picked up the pace and hurried toward the welcoming brook.
When he reached its banks, Aibek dropped his pack on the mossy ground and stooped to drink from the cold, clear water. Beside him, Serik and Faruz did the same. Though the trees shaded them from the midday sun, the heat and humidity were oppressive, and the travelers smiled as they splashed the icy water over their sticky faces.
Aibek knelt on the stony bank and dunked his head under the swiftly flowing water. He gasped as he sat up, his hair dripping the cold water down his back and soaking his white linen shirt. He sat for a moment and stared up into the dense foliage above him. How could a village exist among those branches? What would the people have to eat? He looked down at the stream again and watched as a school of colorful fish swam downstream. How would they cook food in the trees? He hoped he wouldn’t be expected to eat raw food from now on. He shook some water from his hair, then bent and used his hands to drink from the cold stream again.
“It’s not much farther from here,” Serik announced.
Aibek smiled to hide his apprehension, then rose to his feet and gathered his pack. He barely noticed Faruz’s anxious expression as he waved his friend on by. They carefully picked their way over the crumbling bridge one at a time, with Serik leading the way. Faruz went next, and Aibek followed close behind.
As they walked, Aibek kept looking up into the densely-packed branches, trying to spot some sign of the civilization he knew somehow existed up there. He thought about his earlier imaginings of rope bridges and small treehouses. Was that what his new home looked like? Would he be able to see it among the heavy branches and thick leaves? He’d need to learn to navigate above the ground before he could consider taking over as the mayor. A new stab of apprehension struck him. What if he humiliated himself trying to learn? At least the thick moss on the ground would cushion his landing if he fell.
His thoughts kept his eyes trained on the foliage above the trail for long minutes. He looked down just in time to avoid colliding with a tree. He stopped short and looked around; his friends had continued around a bend in the path. Maybe he should pay closer attention to where he set his feet.
After that, he made sure to lower his eyes to the path at least once every three or four steps. Aibek certainly didn’t want to arrive at his new home bloodied and bruised from a mishap on the trail. Still, his thoughts remained distracted. He’d grown up in an area with few trees, and he’d never seen anything like the tall, thick trunks packed close together in this forest. The heavy foliage overhead obscured every trace of sunlight, leaving the path below shrouded in shadow and darkness.
Finally, Aibek peered into the leaves above the path and thought he could make out a wooden railing between patches of leaves. It was high in the trees; a large house could easily fit underneath the hidden structure. It looked like some sort of walkway—a sidewalk made of wood suspended in the trees. As he stared and continued walking, more of the wooden structure came into view between the branches and leaves. He slowed his steps and nudged Faruz, mutely pointing up at the mostly-hidden structure.

Find out more about Leslie at:

Twitter: @leheath_author

Buy the Rest of the Book Here:

Publisher’s website:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review of David Gowey's Jire

JireI recently finished David Gowey's short story, Jire, a beautiful piece that defied a lot of my expectations. He avoided all the easy answers to the problems he raised, and the result is a very well-thought out, heartstring-pulling piece. You have to feel something for Jire. You have to want better for her. Her pain is so real, and her situation so familiar. The decision she makes at the end, whether you agree with it or not, begs the question: "Would I have had the strength to do that?"

Here's the review I wrote for Goodreads:

 In Jire, Gowey takes a serious look at poverty, colonialism, and the endurance of the human spirit. With the odds stacked against her, Jire has to balance, every day, between the weight of caring for a father who bleeds her dry, and the weight of a society that demands every bit of effort she can muster in exchange for food. Every choice she makes influences her chances for survival.

Gowey offers us a day in the life of Jire, a day that turns out differently in many respects, and yet the same in others. The language is elegant and yet real, the dialogue terse and believable, and the message is universal.

If you would like to experience the world of Jire for yourself, check out the link below. As of the time of this posting, Jire is free for those with Amazon Unlimited.

And if you would like to learn more about David Gowey and his other fiction, check out the interview I did with him just a couple weeks ago:

Nifty Newly, featuring Kenneth Gordon

Ken is a fellow Class Act Books author, with a focus on science fiction titles. If that weren't enough to take up all his time, he's also a web designer, an app and game developer, and he has a brown belt in kung fu. Right on! Please welcome to Nifty Newly, the one and only Kenneth Gordon.

What's the title of the book you're currently working on? 
In My Blood is about to come out in May.

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre? 
5 books so far. One is coming out in Aug. My 6th book, I'm still working on. All are Science Fiction.

What inspires you, as a writer? 
It could be almost anything. This book coming out was inspired by my cat scratching me in a particular pattern.

How do you come up with names? 
For me names are quite specific. I will spend time looking at baby name sites, sometimes name generators are helpful. I have a meaning in mind, so it can be difficult to find a name that matches that meaning. Most lead characters, however, have common names so the reader can more easily identify with them.

How do you come up with ideas? 
All I need is one flash of inspiration and I'm off and running.

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important? 
I'd say it is very important. It's up to us as writers, especially in the sci-fi realm, to take what is known and expand on it, to look towards the future. Originality will keep people coming back to your books. If each one follows the same formula, what is in it for the reader? If you know the detective will solve the case in five minutes every time, what is the point of reading it?

What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction? 
From my soon-to-be-released In My Blood, the ship that travels to the alien planet performs a series of quantum jumps. During them, the ship appears transparent and you can see the stars whizzing by. I do not think that has been seen before.

Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Ken! If you would like to learn more about Kenneth Gordon and his newest book, please check out the bio, blurb, and excerpt below. I've also included links to his website and social media pages. 

Web Site:
FB page:
Publisher’s website:

About the Author:

Kenneth Gordon grew up in Milford, NH and still lives in that state. When he isn’t writing scifi-infused horror novels, he plays PC games, electric and acoustic guitars, and drums. He also holds a brown belt in Kung Fu.

There is a plague on an alien world and emissaries have been sent to all inhabited planets to find the Chosen One. It is he that will cure that plague that now afflicts so many.
Thomas Anderson, from New Hampshire, is just about to start his third year of pre-med at Emory University when he meets a strange little man.
Tom is whisked away to the whirlpool galaxy as he starts researching the plague and begins working towards a cure. Little does he know that the cure will cost him everything! He must decide if he is willing to give up his life for a people he doesn’t know on a world that is not his own.

“This is what we know currently. The disease originated on the second planetary orbit. The Crown Prince and two companions went to the jungle world on an exploratory mission. The Prophet had already told him before he left not to eat from the Faluth tree. After a couple days of exploring, they came upon one of those trees. He was warned again not to eat it by one of his companions, but I suspect his pride overcame his good judgment. I postulate that he may have said ‘I am the Crown Prince, I can do anything I want.’ Thus mocking the words of the Prophet. Six months later, he was dead."
“I don’t understand. How could a fruit kill him?”
“Not only him, but his companions and the royal physician who treated him. Now it has spread to the rest of the province. There are even reports it is in the other provinces as well. If you do not act, our entire species is doomed, along with the other people groups on our world.” The alien lowered his head, closed his eyes and made some sort of humming noise.
“That is our ‘Jick-now,’ funerary song,” Kai explained.
“Again, how can a fruit kill?”
El stopped humming and continued, “We don’t know. He presented with gah-fla symptoms for a couple of days, but seemed to recover. Six months hence, he was at a gathering, took a drink, and dropped to the ground, dead. It was only after we performed a post mortem that we found his heart was completely black.”
“What is the normal color?”
“Red to pink.”
“So, much like us; humans, I mean.”
“I really don’t know what exactly I can do. I’m only in my third year of pre med with one infectious disease class under my belt.”
“My son tells me that you are the Chosen One, therefore you will cure this plague. I must confess to you, human, that I have my doubts about you.” Thom stood up and took off his shirt. El-min’s eyes grew wide and his mouth opened wider. “You are indeed the Chosen One. Forgive my doubts.” El-min bowed his head low.
“Nothing to forgive.” Thom said as he put on his shirt, “Truth be told, I’m not sure I can live up to your ideal, but I’ll try my best. Can I get—”
El-min raised his hand. “I just received a message from the ship that we are about to make our first jump. Please sit down and prepare yourselves.”
The three sat down in the chairs.
“Don’t we need seatbelts or something?” Anderson asked.
“Remember the car?” asked Kai-min.
“Passive restraints?” the younger alien said.
“Oh, yeah. Ok, same deal.” Thom said as his body stiffened, not knowing what to expect.
“Jump in 3…2…1…JUMP!”
Thom closed his eyes tight and gripped the chair with a white knuckled grip. There was a strange rushing sound. He dared not look, but his curiosity got the better of him and he peeked open one eye. It was as if space itself were passing through the ship and him. He could see stars, constellations, planets; like the ship was invisible, and he was traveling alone in the dark, cold, vastness. Particles passed by him; he felt he could reach out and touch the very fabric of spacetime itself. In an instant it all compressed and whirled past him at incomprehensible speed, yet the ride was as non eventful as sitting on his own couch. Then the wall of the ship came back into view, and the trip continued as if nothing had even happened.

In My Blood will be released in May by Class Act Books. It will be available from the publisher’s website and

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Nifty Newly, featuring James Austin McCormack

Welcome to another Nifty Newly! James is a Class Act Books author, like me! Unlike me, he's also a college lecturer from Manchester, England. In addition to writing, he loves hiking and playing the guitar, though not at the same time. Please welcome James Austin McCormack

What's the title of the book you're currently working on? 
The Clockwork Man, a sort of Arabian Nights/sword and sorcery fantasy novella. I have also just finished the last book in my science fiction series, Dragon. The book is called The Prisoner of Valathia and will be out in June this year

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre? 
I have two novels, four novellas and a quite a lot of short stories in various anthologies. published so far. I also have about twenty or so unpublished short stories which may or may not see the light of day sometime in the future. I write speculative fiction, mainly science fiction, horror and fantasy.

What inspires you, as a writer? 
Escapism, pure and simple, the more I can create my own worlds, setting and characters the better.

How do you come up with names? 
I often look up real and ancient names, then give them a twist. It's too easy to come up with cheesy sounding names when writing science fiction, especially of the space opera variety. I try to avoid this at all costs.

How do you come up with ideas? 
I'm not a prolific writer by any means. I tend to write 300 to 500 words over the course of the day. I find when I do this the ideas keep coming. All I need to do is give my subconscious time to work on plots and themes. This wouldn’t happen if I set aside a writing hour or couple of hours like a lot of authors do.

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important? 
I think it all depends on what you are trying to do. Personally, I enjoy writing pulp flavored speculative fiction (mostly sci-fi). I'm not trying to break new ground or write a post- modern classic. I write the type of stories I enjoy reading. I don’t worry too much about being that original.

What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction? 
Well, if I had to point to something it would be the blending of genres. Several reviews of my first science fiction book, Dragon, have mentioned how different and original the ending is, as much fantasy as science fiction. The last installment is even more of a mix, equal parts science fiction, fantasy and also with more than a touch of horror in there as well. There is also, as with all the books in the Dragon series, a large dose of humor.

Thank you so much for joining us, James! If you'd like to find out more about James's fiction, please check out his social media and author pages here: 

There are more purchase links following the excerpt. 

After the death of the Tuolon Ambassador Lagua and the failure to bring the non-humanoid worlds into the Alliance, Sillow and Brok’s long partnership is finally at an end. Now a reluctant solo agent, Sillow is called upon to undertake his first mission, investigate the Tower, a high-tech prison complex along with the oligarch who runs it, a mysterious nobleman who calls himself Tamerlane.

Seeking evidence to prove Tamerlane is responsible for a series of terrorist attacks, Sillow quickly uncovers the sheer scale of his plans, a lethal military strike on all four humanoid home worlds. Caught and imprisoned however, the Sylvan finds himself helpless to warn the Alliance of the coming danger.

All the while, something has been evolving, growing stronger inside the Tower, something intangible yet far more dangerous than Tamerlane ever could be, a being implacably opposed to all life in the galaxy.

And only Sillow has any chance of stopping it.

EXCERPT from Dragon: The Tower of Tamerlane:

Laser fire and shouts echoed as Sillow was thrown headlong into the cell.

What are you?” a female voiced asked. “Some type of green midget?”

Sillow groaned and tried to get up. He settled for a slumped kneeling position.
I’m a Sylvan,” he replied. He squinted into the shadows and saw a figure seated on the upper berth of a bunk. He could make out little apart from a muscular, yet shapely pair
of legs. “Who are you?”

The figure jumped down from the bunk. She was an Amazonian, strong and athletic with an impressive cleavage and long chestnut hair falling around her shoulders. She was
also extremely pretty despite the artificial eye and cheek implant. She stretched out a perfectly formed silver arm, extending her hand. “Titanya.”

Sillow’s eyes widened. “The Pirate Queen?”

The woman nodded.

The Sylvan took her cybernetic hand and let himself be hauled to his feet. He found himself head high to her magnificent chest.

Sillow,” he replied, smiling at her breasts. “I’m from the Alliance.”
Up here, short stuff,” the woman told him.
Slowly and very reluctantly, Sillow turned his attention upwards. He grinned. “Nice to meet you.”

Outside, cries and weapon fire continued to echo through the halls.

Titanya frowned. “Any idea what all that’s about?”

Whole place is going crazy,” the Sylvan replied. “Something got into Tamerlane’s AI system.”

The woman took a couple of tentative steps toward the door. Screams echoed through the walls.

Sounds like a warzone out there,” she remarked. “You sure the AI is causing all this?”

Sillow frowned. “You know, this is going to sound kind of crazy but…” he paused, running a hand over his pointed chin.

What?” Titanya demanded.

Well, it kind of looks like the one causing all this is Darius Drake. You heard of the guy?”

Oh yeah,” the Earth woman answered. “We’ve met.”

Well, somehow he’s put himself into the computer system.” Sillow gave an embarrassed shrug. “Sounds sort of off the wall I know.”

There was a sudden explosion and flames tore through the slits at the top of the door.

Look out.” Sillow threw himself at Titanya, knocking her off balance and sending her tumbling to the floor. The Sylvan landed on top of her, head buried in her thick auburn locks. A fireball tore past them, turning the bunks into cinder.

It was some moments before Sillow glanced up. He found himself looking at the stern, beautiful features of the Terran woman.

You okay?” he asked. “Just so you know, that was me protecting you.”
Just so you know,” Titanya replied, “under any other circumstances I’d have busted your jaw for that.”

Sillow grinned. “You mean saving your life?”

Titanya flung the little Sylvan back onto his feet. “Yeah, right. I can’t believe a pipsqueak like you got the drop on me.”