Reality vs Fantasy


One of the best parts of writing, of course, is getting to create the story from scratch. It’s an awful lot like playing pretend when you’re a kid and you get to make up all sorts of fantastical things. The kid stuff doesn’t have to follow any set of logic or rules. When you’re a kid, you can have the biggest weapon and be unbeatable by any foe. You’ll also be smart and handsome and generally the best player in the game.

While that’s all fun when you’re tootling around the playground with your buds pretending to fight the forces of darkness and winning handily, it doesn’t make for good grown-up stories because beating the bad guys senseless without any real stress doesn’t create our good friend dramatic tension.

“Yep, whooped up on the bad guys and went home to XBox and the best Cheetos and chocolate milk money can buy. Didn’t get a scratch on me.”

Fun. Not exciting, though.


Teeming with dramatic tension

One thing kids do have that adults seem to lack is a lot of imagination. In a kid’s world, fantasy and reality combine to make a kind of surreality soup that tastes great with Cheetos and chocolate milk. The fantastic can be incredibly fantastic and the realistic can also be incredibly fantastic because kids don’t see the world through the same jaded eyes adults do.

In the adult story world, things need to make a least a modicum of sense or, at the very least, be very truthy. Even the fantastical stuff needs to have an air of rules and some grounding in reality or it starts to smack of deus ex machina solutions and over-the-top fantasy where a girl falls in love with a billionaire and changes him for the better. No one will ever fall for that.

Wait. Scratch that. It’s a common trope these days.


A show chock full of realism.

Anyway, even if the fantasy world filled with magic and dragons, there still needs to be some limit on just how far things go. The hero – who is righteous and brilliant and handsome – can’t change the rules at the last minute because the story got to a point where there was no reasonable way out.

The inherent perfection of the characters is also something that can kill the tension. Heroes don’t necessarily need to be dashing or beautiful any more than villains need to twirl mustaches and tie damsels to train tracks. Realistic heroes can be monsters (literal or figurative) and villains can be people doing the wrong things for all the right reasons.

I’ve been working on my first fantasy novel, Greetings From Sunny Aluna. I promise, it won’t be a traditional fantasy novel. There will be dragons and magic, but there’s also crime, drugs, fighting, and drinking. In order to keep things at least borderline realistic in a world where there are two suns, two moons, magic is real (and used to power lights, among other things), and humans and dragons fought a nasty war at some point in the past, I’ve been digging into a lot of Chinese mythology and trying to reconcile it with the rules of the world. Sure, there are dragons, and, yes, they are magical creatures. But they’re also unrepentant apex predators with gigantic egos. There’s magic, but very few people completely understand it and even though it’s everywhere, most people are content to power their lights and ovens with it.

These are the things that help ground the story and, in my opinion, make it fun. That little hint that this could be real, no matter how bonkers the rest of the story may be. Too much fantasy and you lose the human element of the story. Too much humanity and you might as well be rewriting Beaches or The Piano because you’ve lost the fantastical element in the story. Figure out just what humans are good at (being lazy and finding the easiest way out of working) and wrap that with a magical world and you’ve got the makings of a good story.

There are rules on Aluna, and an awful lot of broken people doing awful things in the name of good. It’s still fantasy, but it’s not high fantasy. Think of Greetings From Sunny Aluna as down in the gutter fantasy. It’s going to be fantasy merged with the mean, gritty realism you only get when you’re knife-fighting behind a 7-11 at 2am. It’s just that the 7-11 will serve fried tarantulas and the knife fights will be epic.



Indie Authors & Fantasy Art


This isn’t exactly a guest post, but it’s kind of a guest post, so bear with me.

For anyone interested, a buddy of mine is holding a Facebook discussion panel tomorrow (02/24/2017) on Fantasy Art, Book Cover Design, and the Indie Author. Come by and check it out. I’ll be on over my lunch break, so I may be chowing down at my desk while I’m answering questions. My slot is 12:30pm to 1:30pm, but the event runs all day and Michael Dellert (the host) has a whole host of indie authors, cover designers, and illustrators slated throughout the day. If you’re an author, designer, or illustrator, come on by and chat it up. This is a great opportunity to meet some new folk and share some ideas and stories.

Linky Thingy

Common Sense Says A Lot Of Things. Oh, Yeah.


I was picking up my son from summer camp last year when I saw a woman in Tesla Model S talking on her phone. Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Elon Musk’s auto of the future, but the car is so advanced you could probably remote control the ISS from it. With that kind of capabilities, you’d think it was common sense that the native radio in a Model S would have a Bluetooth connection. It should also be common sense that you’d want to have a hands-free device while you’re driving a car in a crowded parking lot with a lot of kids around.

I keep hearing people say, “Common sense isn’t that common.” It’s a great rhetorical argument that doesn’t hold a whole lot of water because common sense is a constantly shifting thing; it’s become nothing more than an argumentative tactic that means about as much as velvet painting of a naked Elvis hanging in the family room.

“Let’s create a common sense plan to do x.” Where x is pretty much anything from fishing for compliments on the Internet to banning Muslims while not banning Muslims.

We tend to think of common sense as innate knowledge – that there are things that are so rational they can’t be assailed logically – but that’s not really accurate. I think the problem is we’ve – as a society – forgotten exactly what common sense even means. The baseline definition of common sense (from is:

“Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”

Wikipedia expands on this (as it is wont to do), by defining common sense as:

Common sense is a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things that are shared by (“common to”) nearly all people and can reasonably be expected of nearly all people without need for debate.”

I’m just gonna toss this out here and say Wiki’s definition is better. But, for the sake of argument, let’s take both of them apart and see what’s inside.’s definition sounds an awful lot like how people see common sense these days. Unfortunately, it’s not really common sense; it’s more akin to making a snap judgement without drilling down into the situation and that takes us from the realm of common sense into the realm of bumper sticker logic.

From there, madness follows.

Look out a window. Any window will do. Unless you’re working in a basement hammering out nuclear missile code, there should be a window handy. What do you see? Trees, birds, mermaids. Does it look flat? Flat-ish? Common sense, according to snap judgement will tell you the planet is flat. I can’t see any curvature, so it’s a sound and prudent judgment that the Earth is flat.

I’ve even got empirical evidence to back it up. I mean, just look outside. It’s obviously flat.


The problem is, the planet doesn’t actually look like this even though there’s a bunch of allegorical data to back it up.

Taking a simple presentation of the situation or the facts is the antithesis of making sound or prudent judgments. It’s roughly analogous to judging a book by its cover or voting for a president because he’s really, really rich.

Wiki’s definition hews closer to a useful definition. Even though most people who will tell you to use common sense are referring to’s definition, Wiki’s definition is what they’re implying – the idea that something is inherently reasonable to a group of people. Unfortunately, one of the reasons Wiki’s definition is better is because it’s narrower; it implies common sense only applies to things that are common to a group of people and not really open to debate.

  • “We need clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.”
  • “The pointy part goes in the enemy.”
  • “Firefly was the greatest show ever made. Seriously, like EVER!”

Common sense would dictate he’s using the right port-a-potty. See, because it’s on the right. Never mind.

The problem is all of those are open to debate. Except the Firefly one. Plenty of people will tell you clean air and water are overrated, especially where profits are concerned. There are swords that slash rather than stab. In the right collective – specifically rapiers and such – yes, the pointy part goes in the enemy, but in other collectives like scimitars, the best use is for slashing.

Almost every example you can think of where someone refers to something as common sense actually indicates a learned response to something. Even something as simple as “fire burns” had to be learned somewhere. You put your finger on the candle and – holy cow! – that doesn’t feel good. To put it bluntly, there’s no such thing as innate knowledge.

And that right there is the problem with referring to anything as common sense. In the right group, it’s just common sense that we ban all the Muslims (I don’t fall into that group, by the way). There’s not necessarily a solid rhyme or reason behind this, it just seems truthy. It ignores a huge amount of data, though.

Even some generally accepted truisms fall apart under scrutiny:

  • If you work hard you’ll be rewarded
  • You can be anything you want to be
  • Your vote counts

More often than not, hard workers are exploited by people who are better at working the system. I’m still not Batman. Tell three million people their vote counts when gerrymandering can change the results or the Electoral College can appoint a president who lost the popular vote.


Common sense says you don’t wear a bunny suit to the lake. That’s a bear suit place. Duh. No wonder you’re all alone. Loser.

All too often calling something common sense is shorthand for saying, “Why can’t you understand this? Everyone else gets it, dumb ass.” Common sense has a very narrow definition and using it outside of its intended place cheapens the argument to the point that it’s little better than slinging insults at your enemies.

To go back the lady in the Tesla talking on her phone without using Bluetooth, well, apparently the Model S had some issues connecting iPhones with Bluetooth. A software patch fixed that. The bottom line is, I assumed it was common sense to use a hands-free device – it is the law, after all – but it may not have been working at the time. It’s still not the brightest idea in the world to roll around a crowded parking lot with kids everywhere, but that’s a different debate and her experience may have taught her she was safe doing it.

The next time someone tells you something is common sense, stop and think about it for a moment. Common sense to who? And why should it be considered common sense? If it’s just bumper sticker logic, nod, smile, and do whatever you were going to do anyway.

After all, it’s just common sense.

Got any examples, bones to pick, general rants of your own? Leave ’em in the comments. I love comments and usually respond to them.

PMRC And Writing

Back in 1985, a group known as The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) dropped a bomb on musicians. That bomb was set off (or so the story goes) when Tipper Gore walked in on her daughter listening to W.A.S.P. album and the detonation is still felt today, albeit less seismically than back in 1985.

The bomb was the idea that some music (namely W.A.S.P. albums) needed some kind of mechanism to inform parents that the albums they were buying for their kids might be less than vanilla. As if any parent picking up Inside The Electric Circus would think they were getting savory easy listening.

After months of Senate hearings and Dee Snyder folding like an amateur poker player at pro night, a mighty black and white sticker started appearing on music deemed inappropriate for kids. You still it sometimes today, for those of you that actually look at CDs rather than ripping them to MP3 and tossing the disc.


The sticker that guaranteed a good album

Now, the funny thing about all this – at least in hindsight – was all the hysteria on both sides. Tipper Gore and her Washington Wives Club were absolutely terrified that heavy metal music would turn kids into Satanists, which was largely unfounded. Sure Blackie Lawless is on the cover of a W.A.S.P. album wearing nothing but body paint and fake nails, but the album itself wasn’t bad. Especially once you got the image of Blackie Lawless wearing nothing but body paint and fake nails out of your head.

On the other side of the spectrum, artists were apoplectic that they were being censored and, like many other things, the move would destroy freedom of expression. Again, this was largely unfounded. Although, to be fair, after the PMRC bombshell, W.A.S.P.’s next album – The Headless Children – was surprisingly tame. Whether that was due to the efforts of the PMRC or the band simply got older and ran out of alcohol and floozies is a question for the ages.

But remember, this was all going on in 1985. It was in 1986 that the Beastie Boys taught us how to party with License to Ill, 1989 saw 2 Live Crew releasing As Nasty As They Wanna Be, and Body Count dropped Cop Killer on us in 1992. Any one of those would likely have caused Tipper & crew to seize and shake violently.

Music went on. It’s still going on. In the end, all the PMRC did was give a bunch of bands free advertising and cost record labels extra money.

So, what does all this have to do with writing?

Well, I was reading blogs this morning and came across an interesting entry by A.A. Frias titled “Should Books Come With Content Warnings?” My first, immediate reaction was “Not only no, but hell no.” Fortunately, I’ve been living up to a promise to myself to listen not only to what people have to say, but why they’re saying it, so I read the whole piece with an open mind. Or at least a mostly open mind. It was early and I hadn’t finished my coffee.

Especially after I read the whole post and realized she wasn’t advocating content warnings, just trigger warnings.

She makes some interesting points and does a great job of differentiating between Content Warnings and Trigger Warnings, and establishes a case for why trigger labels could come in handy for some people. It’s a thought-out post and I suggest you read it, especially if you don’t really get the difference between content that offends and content that can trigger.

Now, her post was on the net benefit of trigger warnings and I’m not in any position to debate that. She also doesn’t agree with content warnings on books. So, essentially, we’re on the same page.

But it got me thinking. We have warnings on all sorts of media. Movies get MPAA ratings. TV shows get ratings and warnings. Music has warnings. Guess what doesn’t have warnings?

I will pretty much guarantee there is someone out there right now, sick to death of seeing 50 Shades of Grey at Target and wondering what can be done about this awful, awful thing. To some people, that book is the literary equivalent of walking in on your child listening to W.A.S.P. So, the question of the day is, should there be, or will there be content warnings on books? After all, it happened in music, movies, and TV, what makes us think it can’t happen in books, too?

I’m pretty dismissive of the idea of warning labels ever showing up on books. Frankly, I’m dismissive of warning labels in general. But remember Rule 34: if it exists, there’s porn of it. The explosion of erotica might just be what’s needed to jump-start someone’s campaign and once that happens, it’s a forgone conclusion that we’ll all (well, at least me) be putting warning labels on our books.

Did you know there’s Trump/Putin erotica out there? I’d heard the rumors and, yes, they are true. No, I haven’t read any, but I can imagine coming across the following line when it wasn’t expected (consider yourself warned):

“His tiny hands searched in the darkness, desperately seeking a way to make his own perestroika from a tower of glasnost.”

Go ahead, get that one out of your head. I dare you. I double dog dare you. BTW, I totally made that up.

Also by the way, the cover of that book should be content warning enough for anyone. Yeesh.

So, would I freak the heck out if I read that line? Not gonna lie here,  I’d probably laugh my ass off. But, yeah, it’d be unpleasant and leave me wondering what kind of book I picked up and how to get my money back.

But does it warrant a warning label on the book? No, not really. After reading the blurb, and the title, and looking at the cover I really should expect lines like that and know to leave that book alone. If, perchance, you happen to have written that book, you’re welcome for the free publicity.

Because of all that, and the fact that the PMRC’s warning labels accomplished diddly squat, I don’t think we really need content labels. Just like Blackie Lawless on the cover of Inside the Electric Circus (and song titles like “95-N.A.S.T.Y.” and “King of Sodom and Gammorah”) gave listeners a pretty good idea of what to expect, a book cover and blurb should give readers a pretty good idea of what to expect.


This looks like wholesome, family music. Besides, wasps are neat bugs.

A title like Putin on the Trump: A Vladimir Putin Donald Trump erotic journey helps give the reader insight into what they’re in for, too. And let me just say, um, yuck.

But just because I don’t think we need content warning labels on books doesn’t mean someone out there isn’t looking to kick start their career by going after books they don’t like. We’ve seen plenty of times where books were burned (by the way, never burn a Kindle, the smoke is lethal), so it’s not too much of a stretch that we’ll see warnings at some point in the future.

Should it happen, should the stark fist of government intervention find its way into the literary world, there will likely be much wailing and gnashing of teeth along with wails of 1st Amendment violations and stifling of creativity. But I have a feeling the literary world would soldier on just like the musicians of the 1980s. We’ll just have warning stickers on our book covers and, just like the music warning stickers, they’ll guarantee a good time.

What do you think? Are warning labels a good idea or a bad idea? Do you think we’ll see a time when they’re mandated? I’m not in any way, shape, or form informed enough to debate trigger warnings, but feel free to weigh in on those, too.


Guest Post by Robert Holt – On The Nature Of Horror


Today we have a special feature. I’ve never done a guest blog post before, but Robert Holt kindly offered to share his views on the horror genre and give us a tantalizing glimpse at one of the new books he has coming out soon. As anyone who’s read my books can attest, I use elements of horror, but Mr. Holt is a genuine horror author.

Without further ado, let’s hear from the man himself.

Hello, I’m Robert Holt. Eric was kind enough to invite me to discuss horror. I am a horror author with several novels under my belt and dozens of short stories published in anthologies and on the web.

What does horror mean?

Horror is more than a genre. Horror, like romance, is a state of being. A good horror story, whether it be ghosts, zombies, are carnivorous sea slugs, will leave the recipient in a feeling of discomfort and unease. Horror has received negative publicity ever since it was founded. It has been called immature, disgusting, and void of art, but that is simply politics. Horror can be immature, as that is what it truly is, a maturing experience. Like baby lions pouncing upon each other to prepare for hunting, children tell stories of the hook handed maniac and the glassy eyed ghost to prepare for a life where threats lie around every corner, and identifying them is crucial to survival. Horror teaches us when to be afraid. This differs from terror. Terror is a driven fear that haunts every aspect of life. Some books can bring a state of terror, but more often than not, they will be non-fiction books such as Mein Kampf.

Disgusting? Sure horror can be disgusting. It doesn’t have to be. Just as a romance novel can depict graphic sexual imagery or a simple peck on the cheek, horror can have intestines hanging from the ceiling fan or a little girl afraid of her breakfast grapefruit. In fact, both are in examples of my work. In a scene in a yet to be published novel of mine, a werewolf disembowels his victim and tosses the entrails around in glee. In my published collection of children stories, a girl is haunted throughout her day by the ghost of her breakfast grapefruit. It sounds silly, but the story was probably the scariest in the book and one that my daughter won’t let me tell her before bedtime.

Now the void of art claim is one that really fires me up. The same people that will say that horror is void of art will joyfully watch Jurassic Park, Sixth Sense, or Silence of the Lambs and claim they are good science fiction, drama, or suspense thriller, but they are all horror movies. All three films set out to unnerve you, scare you, and drag you through the fear to the other side where you emerge a little apprehensive of the future. The horror is the driving force of these films. Just as romance is always James Bond’s driving force and nobody calls 007 movies romance, many films with horror in the driver’s seat are never called horror. In fact, most movies that find mainstream commercial success through horror are often called something other than horror to differentiate itself from the schlock horror that smothers the genre. Terminator and Alien were both sold as science fiction despite them being classic style monster movies with very little science fiction tropes in them. Horror is an art form, and perhaps the greatest of all arts. Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, Melville’s Confidence Man, and Austen’s Northanger Abbey should be viewed as testimonials to the craft and art of horror.

What is scary to me?

Everything. That is not to say that I’m a panophobic. I get around alright, better than most, I dare say, but I see the underlying threat in all things. It’s my job. A piece of paper may look harmless, but imagine having your eyelid pried open and receiving a paper cut across your cornea. Yep, these are the things that cross through my mind every day. Sometimes I even fear the weak nucleic force within the atoms of my own body. If one atom were to spring a leak, I and everyone within a thirty mile radius of me would be vaporized in a wave of radiation. Don’t think about it too much or rationality will kill the horror.

What do you think is the state of the horror genre right now?

The genre is suffering from the bad press it gets, but with King still near the top selling authors, The Walking Dead still holding onto fans, and new generations being lured to the genre with great horror for the youth like Harry Potter and Serafina, I feel secure that what I do will keep finding an audience.

What trends do you see coming down the pipe and what’s completely played out?

I think we are is for a revival of bizarro style horror in a big way. Whenever the conservative party is in control, things get weird. We will see a revival of the unexplainable horrors that I grew up loving, like Hellraiser and Phantasm. These were stories that you tried to wrap your head around but couldn’t, and that made them all that much scarier. I think it will come back in a big way.

As for what is played out, I think vampires and zombies are about tapped, with that said, I have two books coming down the pipe and one is a vampire book and the other is a zombie book. And that’s the thing. I thought I would never write a book about either of those, but when a good story came into my head, I had to run with it. My zombie book should be out very soon, and the fun part is that there are no zombies in the story. The book is about Americans and how we would react in a scenario where Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia have all fallen to the zombie apocalypse. There are no zombies in America. Let me repeat that since it is the title of the book: There Are No Zombies in America. T.A.N.Z.I.A. Thank you for indulging in that self-promotion. But yeah, I think nothing has been fully explored and the worlds created by the monsters that have been played out can still offer fun avenues to explore.

Thank you for allowing me into your day to discuss my craft.
Robert Holt
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Pleased To Announce…

If you’ve been waiting for the chance to get a good look at Wilford Saxton on his own, the Complete Saxton is now available. The stories have been available for a while, but I know some folk prefer to read a series once it’s complete. Think of it as binge reading rather than binge watching.

The Saxton spin-offs filled a void between the events of Arise and Transmute, and covered the adventures of the on-again-off-again antagonist of the Henchmen series. Simply put, he became too interesting to let go of.

This short series compiles the four complete Saxton stand-alone novellas into one epic collection that reads like a shot of whisky and a punch in the gut. At the end of Arise we find Wilford running from Eve after she threatens to pull his spine out through his nose. He’s been shot with a serum made by neo-Nazis that makes him nearly invulnerable to everything and is packing a weapon stolen from one of the otherworldly minions of Fear.

How he goes from wanting to hunt down and kill every monster to focusing on going after The Brotherhood of the Sane takes him down dark paths where bogeymen stalk him, a poof of smoke teaches a young woman to kill, werewolves stalk the Navajo reservation, and he promises a favor to the spirit of the land. In the end, he comes face-to-face with his own monstrosities and learns to accept who he is.

This collection contains the following novelette and three novellas:

  • The Hunt
  • Uneasy Allies
  • Yee Naaldlooshii
  • The Brotherhood


A unique blend of horror and adventure, the Saxton series follows the adventures of Wilford Saxton and his talking gun. He started out as a simple DHS agent, but found himself caught up in the events of the Henchmen series. After confronting gods, Nazis, and Valkyries, Saxton finds himself mutated beyond belief. Struggling to understand a world that’s not as simple as he expected, Saxton soon finds himself hunting monsters and wondering what he’s gotten himself into.
As if the monsters weren’t enough, Saxton has attracted the attention of the people that made him like he is and they’re willing to kill his only friends if he doesn’t accede to their demands.
This collection includes The Hunt, Uneasy Allies, Yee Naaldlooshii, and The Brotherhood. If you’ve ever wondered what Wilford Saxton was up to between the events of Arise and Transmute, here’s your chance to experience adventure with a new kind of hero.

Get your copy on Amazon or read it on Kindle Unlimited

Book Review – Losing Nuka by Kayla Howarth

If there’s one thing we can safely assume about humanity, it’s that fear of the other is deeply ingrained into our consciousnesses. Much as we hate to admit it, we’re a clique-y group of primates who will put up with a lot from those are like us and tolerate absolutely nothing from everyone else. We all love to give lip-service to the notion of diversity, but when faced with “the other” a lot of that bravado disappears.

At least until we get to know “the other” and the nervousness disappears because we realize that most people really aren’t all that different.

There you go, the unspoken fact for the day: people aren’t that different from one another.

Back in around 2013 or so, Kayla Howarth set out to write a series detailing the after-effects of a devastating war and the impact it had on society. Consider it post-dystopian, if you will. Dyspostian, I guess. By the way, I just came up with that word, you owe me a nickle every time you use it.

Anyway, Howarth’s first books (The Institute Series) showed humanity’s enduring love affair with the other. After the devastation, a new group of people rose up from the ashes to live side by side with the rest of the survivors. They looked like humans and acted like humans – heck, they were even born to human parents – but they were far from human. This new group had manifested powers. Some of the powers were amazing – people could fly, they were powerful psychics, and all manner of strange and powerful people started popping up.

Naturally, the pure humans flipped their wigs and set about finding new and exciting way of jailing and exploiting these strange new humans. True to form, we set about punishing people for being different.

The Institute series gave way to the Litmus series, a collection of books about the aftermath of the aftermath. The first book, Losing Nuka, follows the misadventures of a young woman with purple eyes as she tries to – and does – find her birth mother. The problem is, her mother is somewhat less than motherly.

Long story short, Nuka winds up in an underground fighting ring where she uses her powers of heating things up rapidly against other enhanced fighters. It’s a brutal, terrifying world, but one Nuka sticks to even as it becomes more and more obvious how twisted that world is.

That’s another thing you can safely assume about people: If we ever did have mutants, we’d make them fight each other for our entertainment. That doesn’t say much for us a species.

The fighting Nuka engages in is brutal and detailed and Howarth handles it with an eye for accuracy. It’s not gory or excessively violent, but this is basically MMA for people with limited superpowers, so be forewarned. I’ve personally written the same kinds of things, so it didn’t bug me, but I understand there are people who prefer to avoid the nastiness. For those people, read the book anyway. You can always skip to the end of the fight.

Whereas the predominant theme of The Institute was one of tolerance in the face of “the other”, the Litmus series is more attuned to the gritty realization that there are some seriously messed up people out there and even as Nuka’s world had been healing itself, it is still very much in turmoil.

For all the gritty backdrop, this is a coming of age story. It just happens to be a coming of age story with underground superhuman fighting in a damaged, but healing world. Nuka leaves her past behind to find out more about her true self. What she finds is shocking even to her.

Losing Nuka is book one of a three book series and, not gonna lie here, it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Fortunately, the remaining books in the series are available now (Howarth must type like the wind), so you won’t get stuck waiting for the next book to read.

As an added bonus, Losing Nuka appears to be on sale right now. If my math is right (and it sometimes is), you should be able to pick up Losing Nuka for only 99 cents until Feb 11, 2017.

Act now, supplies are limited.


Raised by adoptive parents since the age of six, Nuka James starts questioning her past. Unable to get the answers she seeks, she goes in search of the one person who can tell her the truth– her birth mother.When searching lands her in the belly of Litmus, Nuka wants to prove she’s worthy. Litmus is an underground club where Defectives use their supernatural abilities to fight it out for money, fame, and glory. Litmus is where you find out what you’re made of.Winning her mother’s approval without losing herself won’t be easy, though.***Litmus is a spin-off of The Institute Series. While it is set in the same world, and characters from The Institute make appearances, it can be read as a separate, stand-alone series.Losing Nuka is a YA/NA crossover, suitable for people fifteen years and older.

In case you’re interested, my review of The Institute can be found here.


Note: purple eyes.

Get your copy on Amazon

Follow Kayla on Twitter

Check out her website

Research & Why

The background research for the Henchmen series was based on experience. I had already worked with things like the locks in Radula and Mosler safes. The fight scenes were based on years of training in Kenpo, Kenjutsu, & Okinawan Karate. Some of the later stuff, especially the spin-offs in the Saxton series and a couple of the stories in The Clock Man required looking a few things up, but again, it was all stuff I was relatively aware of. In other words, I didn’t have to do a lot of original research to get those books off the ground.

In some ways, I guess this is to be expected. They say the first novel is always somewhat autobiographical. Not that I’ve fought gods and monsters, mind you, just that a lot of the background details were already firmly in place.


What a Mosler may look like

I’m working on a new book, a follow-on to the events of The Clock Man novella, that explores the world of Aluna further. It’s moving along nicely. Thank you very much for asking. Greetings From Sunny Aluna takes a look at the fallout from the events The Clock Man and, more importantly, asks the question of “Why”?

Greetings is my first true fantasy novel in that it takes place on a planet that doesn’t exist and makes use of magic. At least, that seems to be the functional definition of fantasy. Aluna is a world populated by people from Earth at some point in the past. Magic there is a fundamental force; someone with enough skill or training can handle it, but most people use it to turn on their lights.

The magic part is neither here nor there. You can research magic until the cows come home and never get to the bottom of it because there’s no scientifically valid research to do on it. Seriously, even the Time Life Mysteries of the Unknown series doesn’t do a very good job with magic. This leaves me with non-standard research sources.


My Zatanna comics didn’t help much, either.

In the end, I decided the magic part was best handled delicately and in small doses. And no, Zatanna doesn’t make an appearance.

Other research I wound up doing – stuff that is a bit more grounded in the real world – pertained to the cultures that would spring up when people were transplanted and forced to deal with an alien world. Certain things, like mammals, would be forgotten after a few generations on a planet that doesn’t have those things. A simple thing like a dog would be incredible. Other things – food, for instance – would adapt to the available buffet. In a world with no mammals, steak simply wouldn’t exist. Fortunately, I can look to extant cultures and extrapolate what the food would look like. Probably fried tarantulas and extremely large bird barbecue.

Those are the fun things about building a new world and, I have to admit, I’m having a lot of fun integrating a culture with heavy Chinese influence into a world where magic and dragons are very real. Speaking of Chinese, integrating the language into text has been, at best, problematic. I would like to take a public moment here to thank Google translate. Without that, I’d be dead in the water.

But the best part about writing fantasy is realizing that no matter where you go and who you talk to, people are still people. Organized crime will still exist. Drugs will still be peddled. And, most importantly, the quest for power will still be there. All good fantasy should focus on the characters; the world and all the accouterments that come along with it are window dressing.

In case you’re wondering, yes, Greetings From Sunny Aluna spends a lot of time in the gutters of Aluna. Consider it fantasy crime noir with a touch of wuxia.


Power is always a good motivator.

Which leads to the “why”.

I studied LEAN Six Sigma some time back because my job decided we all needed to be Six Sigma certified. For those unfamiliar, Six Sigma is a process for examining (among other things) efficiency and defects in manufacturing. We were shoehorning it into a programming environment to mixed results. One of the things I did pick up on was the Six Sigma concept of root cause analysis. That’s the idea that for a given problem there might be dozens of symptoms, but when you dig down far enough, you’ll find a single cause that explains the myriad of problems. I took that one to heart in development.

Root cause analysis can also be useful in writing. We already know we need conflict and fun characters and all kinds of wacky adventures, but the root problem isn’t always easy to ferret out. Why did the Clock Man go off the rails like he did? What precipitating event kicked off the events of that story and lead Felix Crow down the path he wound up on? In the story, I hinted at those things, but they were guesses from Crow’s point of view. Greetings From Sunny Aluna is told from a lot of different points of view and when each character realizes they have a part of the solution, the whole reason is laid bare.

Trust me on this, it’s a doozy. To find out what it is, you’ll just have to read the book when it’s done. In the interim, have a fried tarantula and revel in the fact that you live in a world where you can get a steak.


Supposedly they’re pretty tasty.

The Darkness is back …

Darkly Wood was an amazing book. The sequel looks to be pretty incredible, too. It’s good to see Max Power (the man whose name you want to touch, but you mustn’t touch … Max Power) taking us on another tour of the Darkly Woods.

Maxpower's Blog

I have a secret.  The thing about secrets is that the minute you spill the beans the secret is gone and it loses all of its power.  In a sense I have lots of secrets because every book I write has something waiting at the end that I don’t want to reveal until the moment is right. Today I published my fifth book and it is the second in a series of three.  I always say that every book I write is completely different in subject and genre but today I theoretically at least put that idea to bed by releasing a sequel.

That being said I do have a secret.  Writing is much tougher than many people think.  I find the actual creative bit easy and I suspect all writers feel much the same.  The difficult part is the work that goes in after and in my case, my five…

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