Friday, November 23, 2012

REVIEW: Tormented / J. Ann

TITLE: Tormented (Immortals Saga)
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Smashwords (multiple e-formats)

Recommended for fans of paranormal romances, such as the Twilight series

Fantasy—Paranormal Romance

Tormented takes place in a modern world in which vampires and vampire-fighters, known as the Ultorum, exist out of view from the general populace. Familiar territory for fans of contemporary paranormal fantasies such as the Twilight series. It is the first book in a series and ends with something of a cliffhanger.

Tormented is a fairly quick read. J. Ann drops the reader right into this world of vampires and Ultorum and keeps a quick, efficient pace throughout.

Third person limited. The majority of the novel is told from the point of view of an Ultorum called Angelina. The novel sometimes rotates perspectives to tell the story from different angles.

200 years ago, an attempt to create a super-vaccine turned ordinary humans into a vampire race. A group of specially trained vampire-fighers, called the Ultorum, keep them in check. Over the decades, they have developed an uneasy truce. The Ultorum keep the vampires in check, and the vampires keep from killing humans.

Angelina Davis is a stand-out among the Ultorum. Her superior strength and speed are unmatched. Along with her friend Michael, also an exceptional Ultorum, she hopes to protect humanity from supernatural dangers. One day, her friend and fellow Ultorum is killed. The investigation into the death leads Angelina to discover that someone is killing vampires and Ultorum alike. In order to find out who or what is behind the bloodshed, Angelina agrees to go with a handsome vampire called Ethan into his world in an attempt to flush the killer out.

In Tormented, Ann gives the popular paranormal romance genre her own spin. She takes all the staples of the genre—a relatable female lead, attractive and charming romantic interests, temptation, looming danger, suspense—and throws in her own mythology. What starts out as a seemingly straightforward tale of vampires versus humans soon expands in an unexpected manner, raising questions about Angelina’s own true nature. Why is she different from the other Ultorum? What do her strange recurring dreams mean?

While Tormented is reminiscent of vampire series aimed at teenagers, such as Twilight, it is clearly intended for an older audience and takes a more mature tone. Some aspects of the atmosphere are more similar to Anne Rice’s vampire tales. The main players are in their twenties—young adults, but adults nonetheless. While a love triangle between Angelina, Michael, and Ethan does develop, the romantic tensions are woven into the fabric of the plot in a way that keeps them relevant to the primary story.

Ann’s vivid writing brings each scene to life. The scenes in which Angelina enters and experiences Ethan’s underground world of vampires are especially well crafted, shining from the page in a manner only the book medium can capture. Ann takes you into the characters’ heads, letting you see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. It’s easy to get lost in Angelina’s head as you experience the story through her perspective. Ethan, while less prominent, is similarly well written, a character who is simultaneously sympathetic and a touch frightening.

Tormented is one of those books that could easily be read in one sitting. The mysteries and thread of suspense running through each scene keep the story rolling forward at a relatively quick pace. Ann does a thorough job of developing her paranormal world, setting up systems and hierarchies for both sides with an impressive level of detail. The history between the vampires and the Ultorum feels familiar and original at the same time—familiar enough to draw in fans of the genre and original enough to keep them interested. Part romance and part heart-pounding suspense, Tormented will appeal to adult and teen readers alike.

There are a teeny, tiny, barely perceptible number of typos.

This novel contains a few fight scenes and blood-sucking scenes typical of vampire literature. These scenes are relatively mild.

[From the author’s page]

Jessica is a single mother who has been telling stories since as far back as she can remember, even to the point of telling them to her family on long car rides. She dreams of having her books someday become Best Sellers. For now though she is just happy spreading what she loves to those around her.

When she is not working or writing, she can be found playing with her daughter, listening/dancing to music, or just lounging around. She loves romance novels, especially if they are paranormal and she would love to hear from you!
Tormented is her first novel.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Ronan Cray, author of the horror novel Red Sand, discusses his inspirations and motivations as a writer. Visit his blog, Follow him on Twitter, Like him on Facebook, or Contact him by email

Red Sand is about shipwreck survivors being picked off one by one on a dangrous and mysterious island, often in quite gruesome fashions. Can you tell us about your background as a suspense/horror writer?

Red Sand is my first novel. Prior to this novel, I wrote extensively on non-fiction horror – climate change and war. After I watched the movie The Ring, I became interested in the horror genre, when done right. I despise slasher flicks. I prefer psychological horror/suspense. As for the gruesome deaths in Red Sand, well, I couldn’t have them die in their sleep, now, could I? 

I’ve written a great many short stories but never managed to get them published in my dream publication, Fantasy and Science Fiction. Years went by. The novels built up in my head, begging to get out.  A few years ago, they even wrote me a letter. I thought it was time to set them free. Red Sand was the first because it was the easiest. I’ll challenge myself in the near future.

What was the first idea you had for Red Sand, and how did that grow into a story?

Five years ago, I had a dream about the scene where Emily is running away, only I was the one running away. In the original dream, it was Dumbo, not Angel, chasing me. When a horn blew, Dumbo stopped chasing me, saying, “No! Wait! I can do this. Don’t send them now!” The fate that meets Emily in the book was mine and Dumbo’s.

I often write snippets of my dreams that turn into stories later.

What’s your favorite part about Red Sand? Any scenes you particularly enjoyed writing? Concepts you enjoyed developing? Characters you enjoyed writing about?

Carter's death, without giving it away. I'm fairly certain this is an original death, at least from the point of view. I once read a story about a method of deep frying fish in a special way so that it... well, that's giving things away.

What was the most challenging part about writing Red Sand?

The format. I wanted the reader to quickly realize that whoever the chapter starts with is the next to die. I thought that would be a novel approach. In reality, that was extremely limiting. The story arc had to include each character so that it continued after I killed them off. Since not every character was around during key moments, I found it very challenging to keep up a coherent narrative. It was like creating a mass consciousness. At the same time, I had to keep it interesting for the reader by letting them know more than the characters. That was a slack rope to balance on.

I think this concept will work for my next two books, but after that I’ll use something more traditional.

Although your characters are ultimately victims to the mysterious island, you take the time to flesh out each of their backgrounds. Why did you choose develop them so thoroughly?

I used to write about war and read a lot of war books. I noticed a huge chasm between the reality of war and the perception of it in popular fiction. Namely, in books and movies, we follow the protagonist from the beginning to end, usually knowing they’ll survive or, if they don’t, that their death happens at the very end. This portrays an unrealistic life expectancy we end up carrying as a culture. In reality, when those boys go over the wall, no one knows which will die and which will live.

I thought the most realistic war book would introduce a character, give us deep insight into his/her life, motivations, and life plans, then send them into war. Fifteen pages later, that character gets shot dead. The remaining 200 pages of the book are blank. In a movie, the main character gets killed off fifteen minutes into the film, and the remaining two hours are just darkness. That would be realistic. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be very entertaining.

I’d been playing with the idea for years when I decided the only solution is to use this format with an ensemble cast. Each character gets a chapter to shine in, then dies. We see it from their point of view, because that’s a hell of a lot scarier. We know what they feel, what they think, as they die. We see idiosyncracies as their minds unravel and grasp for meaning in death.

To me, death is the most horrifying prospect of all because it means the end of learning. In Red Sand, Carter’s last act is one of learning because he lacks the capacity for proper emotion.

Thanks to a constant inundation of slasher flicks, crime novels, and murder in nearly every medium, we are inured to the true horror of death. I wanted to try to bring that into play. I hope I succeeded. If not, I’ve got two more tries.

If you were a passenger of the Princess Anne, shipwrecked and left at the mercy of a heirarchical band of survivors, what role would you assume?

Like everyone else, I’d like to assume I’d be the hero, taking charge, showing compassion, beating the bad guys. In Red Sand, I tried to remove that option from all characters. There are no heroes, no bad guys. Every character has a shade of gray.
I would always be one step behind someone who led, trying to retain some form of independence. I would look for a way off the island on my own while supporting others in their quest. I don’t think I wrote that into any of the characters.

I would be Paul. I’m not good at politics, and I’d like it off in Departure Camp on my own. Maybe I wrote him from my own fantasies. I fear, though, that I would be one of the first to die.

Can you tell us a bit about your inspirations?

Orson Scott Card made a big impact on me in my teens. I was amazed at how real his characters seemed and how he delved into their motivations.

Joss Whedon is the king of dialogue. I have a hard time creating realistic dialogue so I try to study his work for clues. He can make a character loveable or hated with one sentence. I still don’t know how he does it.

When it comes to action, Neal Stephenson takes the cake. I love how he crams so much information, colloquial thought, and possibilities into each sentence. It burns the brain as the action explodes.

When it comes to horror, I’ve never read anything so deeply terrifying as Danielewski’s House of Leaves. That book haunted me for months after I read it. I aspire to his greatness.

When it comes to reading, though, I typically pick dead authors. This made it difficult to write a contemporary book. Modern readers don’t tolerate the old language, far superior though it may be. I could never buy into Hemmingway’s “The River Was There,” when I had Conrad, Kafka, Dickens, Poe, and Stevenson illuminating the path.

Red Sand is not a work of literature, and my Great American Novel still collects dust in the chambers of my mind. When the time is right…

Are you working on anything new?

I have ten books to write. After writing one, I’m energized to write the rest. I’m trying to finish the next one by July, a zombie apocalypse book with a twist. Stay tuned!

Red Sand is available at: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Smashwords (multiple e-formats)

Monday, November 19, 2012

REVIEW: Red Sand / Ronan Cray

TITLE: Red Sand
AUTHOR: Ronan Cray
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Smashwords (multiple e-formats)

Recommended for fans of sci-fi horror and suspense, such as the TV show Lost


Red Sand is reminiscent of the TV show Lost in that it’s about shipwrecked survivors on a mysterious island. As in any good horror tale, the survivors are picked off one by one. Some of the deaths are quite gruesome, disturbing even. The story is wrapped in mysteries that are gradually revealed as the characters discover the truths behind their unfortunate circumstances.

Red Sand alternates between sections detailing the characters’ backgrounds and high-intensity horror scenes. The back story sections are written in the characters’ voices and maintain a steady pace. The mystery surrounding the island keeps the suspense going until the violent end.

Red Sand is told from multiple third person points of view.

The Princess Anne was just another cruise ship making its way across the ocean, ferrying people from all walks of life, each on board for his or her own purpose. Most are neither heroes nor villains, only ordinary human beings with ordinary problems.

Then their ship goes down, and a few lucky survivors are fished out of the water by inhabitants of a nearby desert island. The inhabitants aren’t savage natives—they’re fellow Westerners, survivors of a previous shipwreck. Having lived on the island for years, they’ve developed a system to keep food in their bellies. The survivors of the Princess Anne are put to work fishing, farming, and otherwise maintaining operations necessary for subsistence. But it soon becomes clear that there’s more to the island—and its inhabitants—that meets the eye. One by one, the Princess Anne’s survivors vanish, picked off by both nature’s and man’s brutality.

Red Sand is an ensemble show. Although some characters drive the plot more than others, Cray treats each one as if he or she is special, presenting the reader with lively backstories told from the characters’ points of views. He wants you to know them before he kills them. It’s a refreshing take on the genre—too many horror writers throw people away simply to illustrate the external dangers. But even though they are props in a bloody show, they’re nevertheless human beings, each with a story.

Cray seems all too aware of this. His cast isn’t made of faceless redshirts; they’re living, breathing people, each with his or her own motivations, on the island for different reasons. There’s Howie, the formerly henpecked widower whose wife left him a cruise ticket—and another wife to henpeck him. And Lauren, the coupon-clipping con artist running away to her new life. And Mason, the lonely single man seeking adventure and companionship. Cray lets you know at the very beginning, in his Author’s Note, that no one will come out alive.

But don’t be fooled by Cray’s seemingly innocuous backstories. Behind the developer of sympathetic characters lies an unapologetic sadist. The horror in Red Sand is more than gruesome—it’s the stomach-turning stuff of nightmares, largely thanks to Cray’s gift for description. Through vivid yet tight language, he brings each scene to life, whether it’s painting the setting or depicting a grisly death. For example, without spoiling too much, here's the death of poor Howie: "He thrashed his arms and legs, pushed against the sand, whipped his head in fury and terror, to no avail. Unbreakable bonds held him to the ground...It wrapped around his ribs and exerted pressure, oh so gentle pressure, until his scream tapered off into a wheezing his...The sun glinted off something near his eye. A slender tentacle slid into view, silhouetted against an azure haze. It drove in figure eights through his eye sockets."

The deaths are told from the close third perspectives of the victims, allowing a reader to feel their terror and hear their thoughts, which are often bizarrely incongruent with the circumstances. Cray’s writing also smacks of the philosophical at times, through dialogues discussing what it means to be cut off from civilization and internal ruminations on what was left behind.

But even knowing the characters’ inevitable fates, I found myself caught up in the story’s suspense. Mysteries abound on the island. The motivations of the islands’ de facto colonizers, so rational at first, soon become garbled. They maintain a rigid hierarchy, keeping themselves behind a salt wall while the Princess Anne’s survivors are made to camp outside. What is it that they fear? What are they hiding from the survivors? And what are they hiding from each other? Tuk, the leader, seems so benevolent at first, but it’s soon revealed that there’s much more to him than a determined John Smith-like survivor.

Red Sand is a fairly quick read. Cray’s vibrant writing makes it easy to get lost in the passages, whether it’s the colorfully told backstories or the intensely depicted scenes of violence. It’s more than just a gore fest—the plot and concepts are fascinating. All in all, a wonderfully entertaining—and sometimes scream-inducing—story.

This book is very well edited. If there were typos, I didn’t notice any.

The front section of the book contains an illustration of the island and a list of characters with brief descriptions.

The book is organized in eight long chapters with section breaks.

This book is classified as “adult” on Smashwords for good reason. Many of the character deaths are described in gruesome, bloody detail. There is some adult language. Sex is mentioned but not described in detail.

[From the author’s Smashwords page]
When he's not eating horse meat in Kazakhstan or sipping civet in Macau, Mr. Cray is drinking his way through New York. His hobbies include fashion, architecture, and pouring social opprobrium into his writing. Mr. Cray is available for dinner party conversation before 7, weeknights.

Visit his blog, Follow him on Twitter, Like him on Facebook, or Contact him by email

RELATED: An Interview with Ronan Cray

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

REVIEW: The Curious Diary of Mr. Jam / Nury Vittachi

TITLE: The Curious Diary of Mr. Jam
AUTHOR: Nury Vittachi
PUBLISHER: Blacksmith Books
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Blacksmith Books (paperback)

Recommended for fans of satire and those with an interest in contemporary Asian culture


The Curious Diary of Mr. Jam, as its title implies, is written in diary format. It’s the mostly autobiographical, mostly true story of a year in the life of an Asian humorist, detailing the trials and tribulations of being a comedian in part of the world known for censorship and lack of humor. It’s also an examination of how comedy is treated in this part of the world—its history, current attitudes toward it, and the Western world’s perception of it.

The Curious Diary of Mr. Jam isn’t a plot-driven thriller or anything, so it’s difficult to comment on the pacing. The majority of the book deals with attitudes toward humor and the difficulties of being a comedian under repressive regimes, loosely framed in the context of Mr. Jam’s various gigs.  Vittachi’s snappy writing style, infused with comedic elements, made this book hard to put down.

First person. This book is written in diary format, which means that most passages are written in a stream-of-consciousness present tense style.

It’s hard out there for a humorist, especially if you live in a part of the world that’s not exactly known for its sense of humor. The Curious Diary of Mr. Jam chronicles a year in the life of Sam Jam, a Hong Kong-based comedian who, through stand-up routines, newspaper columns, and an online blog, tries to make Asia laugh. While it is classified as a novel, the author’s note reveals that it is mostly autobiographical (“Sam Jam” is Nury Vittachi’s Anglicized middle name, as well as his stage/online name).

The sprawling, irony-infused contents of The Curious Diary of Mr. Jam are difficult to summarize. Indeed, this may be the hardest review I’ve ever had to write, as I’m not sure I can do the book’s brilliance justice in a few paragraphs. The simplest way to describe Vittachi’s book that it concerns humor in Asia. Parts of it detail the difficulties of being a comedian in a place where most people lack a sense of irony—Mr. Jam’s attempts to create stand-up routines around stringent censors (no bathroom jokes, no sex jokes, no political jokes, etc.), his difficulties with a publication that randomly edited the punch-lines out of his columns, his foray into the digital world in the form of a humor blog. Other parts are Mr. Jam’s musings (forgive me, Mr. Jam, I know you hate that word) on Asian comedy. For instance, Mr. Jam discusses the history of humor in Asia with his blog readers. There are also sections that document his life in a droll manner—his dealings with his children, his interactions with his bank, his ill-advised marathon, etc. And then there are sections that are primarily jokes, such as a list of what computer terms mean to the older generation (“Remote server: Waitress who will not flirt with you”).

Calling Vittachi’s book a “page turner” may be misleading, since it’s not a suspense novel, but I’m going to go ahead and call it one anyway. Vittachi writes with a ceaseless beat of wittiness that I found hard to walk away from. Flip to any page, and you’ll find a fun bit worth sharing—“Hey, you’ve gotta hear what this guy said!” I rarely laugh out loud when reading, and yet even I couldn’t help involuntarily chuckling at Mr. Jam’s humor, which ranges from the subtle to the bizarre to the outrageous. And yet it is universally “clean,” which, in my opinion, adds an extra layer of virtuosity. So much modern day comedy hinges on being insulting, offensive, or simply random. While Mr. Jam is certainly irreverent, he achieves his laughs chiefly through cleverness—self-deprecation, satirized scenes from his life, observations.

Aside from being a wonderfully entertaining comedy, The Curious Diary of Mr. Jam also offers a fascinating commentary on culture. Through his encounters with various types of audiences—straight-laced government officials, clueless schoolchildren, conservative conference-goers—Mr. Jam shows just how different attitudes toward humor can be. One of his biggest challenges is that many Asians lack the sense of irony so prevalent in the West. Out here in the States, it’s hard to go five minutes without someone making a sarcastic comment. But in Asia, as Mr. Jam discovers, most people take words at face value. Mr. Jam also looks into attitudes toward Asian humor. He dryly remarks on numerous occasions that Asians are almost universally considered unfunny, and many of the Westerners portrayed in the book seem to share this view. On the other hand, Mr. Jam’s blog readers from the East respond by presenting examples of Asian jokes, some dating back centuries, to prove that hey, Asians can be funny too.

Part satire, part commentary, and part autobiography, The Curious Diary of Mr. Jam offers a nonstop flow of zaniness and charm. It offers a fascinating perspective on the clash of cultures, wrapped in an endearing tale of writerly woes.

I noticed a teeny, tiny, barely perceptible handful of typos, so inconsequential that I feel bad pointing them out. Since this book is written as a diary in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness manner, I presumed any liberties taken with grammar and such were intentional.

This book is “clean” in terms of sex, violence, and profanities.

Nury Vittachi is a Hong-Kong based writer, journalist, and comedian. He has penned a number of books and articles under various pen names, including “Mr. Jam,” “The Spice Trader,” and “Lai See.”

Monday, November 12, 2012

REVIEW: Non-Compliance: The Sector / Paige Daniels

I read this novel back when Paige Daniels self-published it. It has since been edited and re-released by Kristell Ink.

TITLE: Non-Compliance: The Sector
AUTHOR: Paige Daniels
PUBLISHER: Kristell Ink
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book)

Recommended for fans of cyberpunk, dystopia, and stories featuring strong, realistic heroines

Science Fiction—Cyberpunk

Non-Compliance features the kind of “high tech, low life” setting that’s common among cyberpunk novels. The main character, Shea Kelly, is a resourceful engineer and hacker living on the edge of a dystopic society. The descriptions of technology are kept vague enough so that the reader knows what’s going on without getting bogged down in details. References to current vintage items, such as a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda, suggest that the story could be taking place in an alternate version of today.

Non-Compliance has an action-and-release type of rhythm. There are several fast-paced action scenes and tense build-ups typical of page-turners. At the same time, Daniels takes the time to develop her characters and her world. There are many “slice-of-life” types of scenes that depict what Shea’s life in the NCS is like and how she interacts with those around her.

First person present. Shea narrates the story as it unfolds and describes events as they happen.

Shea Kelly chose to live in the Non-Compliance Sector of the United States, which has become a shade of its former self following a disastrous international war, rather than be implanted with a chip that would store her personal information. Spirited, strong-willed, and intelligent, she makes a living as a bartender and moonlights as a hacker-for-hire. The Non-Compliance Sector, or NCS, was meant to be a “separate-but-equal” arrangement but effectively forces its residents into lives of poverty and desperation. As Shea points out, most people don’t last that long and willingly sacrifice their privacy for basic human needs and comforts.

Frustrated by the bullying and shenanigans of a new gangster in town, Shea reaches out to the NCS’s established crime lord, whose name is Robert Jennings but is simply called Boss by most people. Boss may be a mobster who demands payment in exchange for protection, but unlike the newcomer, Danny, he maintains order and allows life to run smoothly. The presence of Danny and his thugs threatens to destroy whatever freedom is left. As Shea puts it, “We came out here so we couldn’t be controlled by others and so we could make a difference, but the joke’s on us. We’re just two little cogs in the big piece of machinery.”

Daniels paints a vivid picture of Shea’s life in this rough world. Because the government limits what kinds of goods can be sent to the NCS, she and her best friend, Wynne, use their computer skills to change the shipping orders and procure useful items, such as flour. Despite the bleakness of her situation, Shea has no desire to leave the NCS. At the very least, she can keep her independence here. She regularly clashes with drunken bar patrons and ruthless thugs, sometimes getting severely injured, and yet she takes her punches with her head held high. She truly isn’t afraid of anything—not the goons, not the government, not the ongoing hardships of her life.

Shea eventually joins forces with Boss’s right-hand man, Quinn Knightly, to find out what Danny’s master plan is and get rid of him before he takes over the NCS. Some of the most captivating scenes in Non-Compliance are the dialogues between these two characters. Whereas Shea is a tough-talking smart aleck, Quinn is the strong-and-silent type who prefers to communicate via growls. Shea knows all too well how to infuriate Quinn, and Quinn responds by pushing her buttons. Although Shea regularly calls Quinn a jerk and says that she despises him, the atmosphere sizzles with chemistry whenever the two are alone together. One is baking soda and the other is vinegar—put them together and things start fizzing, and you watch their effervescence in eager fascination.

Shea intentionally adopts a sexier persona when sniping with Quinn, playing a character to get under his skin. Although she presents a strong front to those around her, her first person narration allows the reader to glimpse the vulnerability underneath. Externally, she’s as tough as nails and seemingly invulnerable, even when getting beaten up. And yet she never misses an opportunity to talk to her father, cares deeply about her friends, and is somewhat insecure about her looks. Her narration is straightforward, blunt, and sometimes curt, as though she wants to get her point across to the reader without wasting her breath on whining or flowery descriptions. Even in her internal monologues, she doesn’t say much about her emotions, and yet her meanings are clearly conveyed by the context.

Through her eyes, the reader is shown a fascinating possible future in which comfort is the price one must pay for independence and true freedom is virtually non-existent. Non-Compliance plays on the well-known tropes of cyberpunk, such as invasive technology and a rebellious protagonist, and adds its own spin through Shea’s unique voice. The futuristic technology fades into the background, and it’s treated as a given fact of the setting rather than the center of attention. By zooming in on one woman’s life, it allows the reader to experience the novel’s world in an up-close-and-personal manner, making for an engaging and absorbing story.

This novel has been edited since the version I read, so I cannot comment on things such as typos, etc.

This novel contains adult language, including prolific use of the “F” word. There is sexual tension but no sex scenes. Some of the action scenes can be violent, but there's nothing gruesome or graphic.

[From’s author page]

Paige Daniels is the pen name for Tina Closser. When she isn't busy with her nine to five job as an electrical engineer she helps her husband with a small hobby farm complete with a mini horse, cows, and sheep. In between farm duties and running the kids to gymnastics she likes to write, thus the creation of this novel.


This interview was originally conducted in August. Non-Compliance: The Sector has since been edited and re-released by Kristell Ink.

Paige Daniels, author of the cyberpunk novel Non-Compliance: The Sector, answers questions about her novel's characters and inspirations. Visit her blog or Follow her on Twitter

What served as the inspiration for the invasive government technology central to Non-Compliance?

The inspiration for the invasive government technology or GovTek came from some conspiracy theories I’ve read about the Mark of the Beast. The Mark of the Beast comes from the Bible and basically anyone who accepts it, is marked by the devil. Some modern day conspiracies for this say that this mark will come in the form of a chip. Others insist that flu vaccines have been spiked with microscopic forms of these tracking chips and many of us have already been marked.

The story came about from me extrapolating scenarios that would make people get  chipped willingly and what would happen if people took the chip and what would happen if they didn’t. So this is a very secularized version of the Mark of the Beast tale.

One of the most memorable aspects of Non-Compliance is Shea’s tough-and-nerdy personality. How did you go about developing her character?

Really it was born out of frustration with characters in various types of media. There aren’t many women characters that I can identify with. There are plenty of tough-as-nails women and there are plenty of women who are smart; however, it is rare that you find a main character who is both. Usually, the smart women in books or movies are relegated to the quirky sidekick or they are super serious. I wanted a fun smart character. I wanted someone that was smart and could kick butt like MacGyver. It was also important that she wasn’t super human tough, because that wouldn’t be believable to me. That is why there are many incidents where Shea gets her butt kicked too.

What can you tell us about the gruff and reticent Quinn Knightly, the man whom Shea claims to dislike but has undeniable chemistry with?

It’s funny, because I didn’t think I would end up liking this guy as much as I do. As a matter of fact, many of ladies who have read it have commented that they like Quinn a lot.

Quinn initially comes off as just another surly thug, but we later find out there is more behind his growls than meets the eye. On the surface he and Shea seem like polar opposites, but down deep they are very similar. He cares deeply for his team and the whole NCS. Even though he thinks Shea is a total pain in the ass, he can’t help but genuinely care for her too. Shea is the one person that has gotten Quinn to let his guard down. In the next book we will find out the story behind why Quinn is so guarded and surly.

How did you come up with the names of your characters?

For most of the characters I just thought that a certain character “looked” like the name I gave them. Some of them I just liked the names. For instance, Wynne Myers, Wynne is a former co-worker and I always thought her name was cool so I named a character after her.

However, there were some that had a little more thought behind them. Shea’s first name is really Saoirse (pronounced SEER-she) and she has adopted a shortened version to save herself time from correcting people. The only one who calls her by her full name is her father. Saoirse actually means “freedom” in Gaelic. I thought it was fitting.

Quinn means “wise” or “intelligent” in Gaelic. Quinn is quiet and thoughtful and a lot smarter than people give him credit for.

Boss’s name is Robert Jennings, but everyone calls him Boss. I used Robert as homage to the best front man ever, Robert Plant.

If Non-Compliance were made into a movie, who would you cast?

When I started writing this book I actually started keeping a document where I have a character synopsis of some of the main players with a picture of an actor that I think of when I see this character in my brain.

Shea: It’s probably not what anyone would expect me to say: Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck in Battlestar Galatica). Yes, I know she is blonde but that is what they make hair dye for. Katee has that smart aleck quality I love. She is pretty, but in an approachable kind of way.

Quinn: 100 percent hands down my favorite actor of all time, Adam Baldwin. So, Mr. Baldwin if you are reading this blog right now, give me a call, we’ll talk.

Wynne: Jewel Staite; Frank: Danny Devito; Boss: Edward James Almos; Nikki: Ali Larder; Conner: Collin Farrell; Lindsey: John Malkovich

Non-Compliance is more about the people living in the Non-Compliance Sector than the technology that drove them there. In your opinion, should science fiction focus more on the speculative technologies and possible futures or on the people living with them?

I guess it is all in what you like to write about and can make interesting. For instance, Isaac Asimov is one of my all time favorite writers and there usually isn’t much on character development, but he writes a darn interesting story. I love how he speculates on the technology and how society will ultimately be in a thousand or so years from now. However, I like character driven books too. Like Kim Harrison’s Hallows series. If the characters weren’t so interesting I would’ve stopped reading a long time ago.

I like to dabble in both. In real life I like to watch interactions between people, especially people who are polar opposites. I am a pretty quiet person and when I’m at meetings at work I like to sit back and just take it in. I use a lot of that interaction as material in my book. Especially all the smack talk and lab talk.

In the second book there will be a little more science-y stuff, but I haven’t left out the banter, because that is just as interesting for me to write.

Do you have any tales about funny things that happened while you were writing Non-Compliance? Sudden epiphanies? Strange places you found yourself writing? Unexpected inspirations?

I’ve been formulating ideas for this book since college. I’m thirty-seven, so that is a long time. Finally, in the last several years, after earning my Master’s degree, I decided it was time to do something I wanted to do. So I gathered the courage to write this book. I pretty much wrote after the kids went to bed and in spare pieces of time I could get on the weekends. I always take my iPad with me when taking the kids to gymnastics or where I’ll be waiting in case I get an idea.

I found myself on the website, How Stuff Works, a lot to get better explanations of how some of the technology Shea uses works. I also did research on nano-technology. When I had to take some students to Purdue University for a field trip I made sure that we visited their nano-technology center and I got a lot of inspiration from that. I work in an environment where science “happens” all the time, so I’m lucky to have all kinds of inspiration day to day.

What’s next for Shea Kelly?

Shea and Quinn are going to get together. I don’t much like the will-they-won’t-they scenarios. So there it is: they will get together in book two. I hope you didn’t consider that a spoiler, because I didn’t. However, like any couple, they will have issues they need to work through.

Also, Shea and Quinn will be thrust into more of a leadership role. We’ll see Shea struggling with this because she doesn’t view herself as a leader. Also, we’ll meet some new characters that will have some insight into Shea’s past. Don’t despair. Shea will still be fun and will, of course, kick ass and make cool gadgets.

Non-Compliance: The Sector is available at: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

SPOTLIGHT: Dropcloth Angels / Gerald Johnston

It's rough out there for a reviewer! With all the books out there I want to share, I don't always have time to compose a full-length review. Therefore, I'm beginning a "spotlight" series to as a quicker way to highlight some of the books I've read and enjoyed.

TITLE: Dropcloth Angels
AUTHOR: Gerald Johnston
PUBLISHER: Freakshine Press
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon US (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback)
APPROXIMATE LENGTH: 480 pages (paperback)

GENRE: Horror/Thriller

Zoe isn't exactly a model citizen. She's a hooker with a drug addiction, a bad attitude, and a penchant for talking to the imaginary Purple Monkey. Zane is an artist. He carves ordinary women into beautifully bloody paintings and captures it all on film. Their worlds collide when Zane creates a gruesome masterpiece out of Zoe's angelic sister.

Gideon is a businessman. He knows how much people will pay to see a brilliant performance like that.

I was lucky enough to read the manuscript of Dropcloth Angels before it was published. It's both a horror story about a serial killer and a character study of two perverse and determined individuals. Zoe counts as the good one, but she's far from being, well, good, with her foul mouth and unrepentant ways. Zane, meanwhile, is charming and sophisticated, the kind of villain you can't help being in awe of. 

And then there's Purple Monkey. The smart-mouthed Purple Monkey is a childhood toy come to life—and a complete nightmare for Zoe. A figment of her imagination, he seems to show up whenever she least needs him and torment her.

Johnston drew me in from the get-go with his unique voice and knack for suspense. He really gets into his characters heads and lets the reader get to know them—their philosophies, their drives, their ways of thinking. He's also not afraid to "go there" when it comes to the plot, so if you have a weak stomach, beware. This isn't a book for the squeamish ones. But it's certainly a book that will mesmerize you with its twisted vision, one that is disturbing yet irresistible.

Visit the Author's Website