Interview: Jeremy Flagg, Author of the Children of Nostradamus Series

Folks, please give a warm welcome to author Jeremy Flagg. We chat about his love of graphic novels, the hope for a Salvatore-based tabletop game, and plenty more.

Is there a genre or literary niche that you feel hasn’t gotten its deserved amount of attention?

Currently with the boom of comic book movies and TV shows, I’m honestly surprised the same hasn’t happened in the literary world. I grew up on comic books, in fact, it’s how I learned to read. However, the jump from illustrated stories to novelization seems to be a slow process. With only a few breakouts such as Brandon Sanderson or Peter Clines, the market is vastly underserved. But despite the market having yet to sway in that direction, there are some amazing superhero inspired stories happening. I think the ability to get inside the head of the hero makes it a unique medium that brings a lot to the table for the genre.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

I’m a superhero writer, I should pick a superhero, but I think I’d have to go with the supernatural. There is something about these myths and folklore that continue to make us wonder. I like the idea that there is a world we’re not quite sure about. I’m curious to see what wonders there are. Granted, with my luck I’d be stuck with a grumpy gnome saving me.

What decade from the last century would you pick to have been a teenager in?

I’m a 90’s kid through and through. I was born in the early 80’s, and loved the music of the time, but nothing will surpass the 90’s for me. My playlists are filled with songs from the late 90’s and even the weird look we had during that period sticks with me. Despite that though, there’s a bit of an 80’s child hiding in there. I secretly like to think I’m a punk in corporate clothing.

What future invention would you like to see not only created during your life time, but readily available to the public?

We’re on the verge of so many emerging technologies, I think it’s fascinating to see how much science fiction has simply become science. Still, the thing I’m dying to see is the computer screen from Minority Report. I find myself frequently annoyed that I don’t have enough screen space and constantly flipping through windows. I frequently have my laptop hooked up to a TV and my iPad next to me. It’d be amazing to have it all in one place and just be able to manipulate it with my hand. We’re not far from it, I think this one may actually happen during my lifetime.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Not the worst by a long stretch, but definitely the most difficult would have to be teaching high school. I’ve been a high school art teacher for a decade now and it’s a demanding job. You’re constantly pushing kids to be creative and step outside their comfort zone. It’s extremely rewarding, but after a day of wrestling with kids, you find yourself lacking the creativity to do your own work. There are the hand full of kids who give back as much as you put in, and those have been the ones that continue to inspire. Writing on the other hand, during my off months is a walk in the park. The only temperamental thing I have to deal with is my laptop, and that’s nowhere near as complicated as wow-ing a room of twenty-five teenagers. The only difficulty is in forcing myself to sit down and write when I have the time (which isn’t too difficult for me.)

You’re granted a super power and given the chance to team up with 4 other superheroes (or supervillains). What power do you have and who have you teamed up with?

The obvious answer is teleportation. I will always want the ability to teleport. I hate going places, but I’m always happy once I’m there. As for the others I would team up with? Not that I haven’t thought about this in depth, but it’d be Nightcrawler, Colossus, Magneto (every time needs the slightly villainous character) and Phoenix. That’d pretty much be the unstoppable superhero team. I may have spent more than a little time figuring this out (aka a lot.)

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I would love to see R.A. Salvatore’s Demon War Saga turned into some sort of tabletop game. Salvatore has a wonderfully unique perspective on traditional fantasy and I think it’d make for a great storyline. I’d love it even more if it were turned into a console game similar to Skyrim. I’d want to play Pony, one of my favorite female leads who wields magic and her female intuition like a weapon. That’d be a pretty badass game.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in comics & graphic novels, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

I actually teach a college class about graphic novels. There are a variety of great pieces that should be in there. I like to blend great stories such as the Watchmen alongside classic superheroes such as X-Men’s Inferno with things like Maus. My favorite question to pose the class is to ask, do comics influence society or does society influence comics? I like exploring the need for diversity in mainstream comics and how smaller companies are filling in these niche categories. I feel if given enough time, there could be entire concentrations in comics similar to Art History at this point. Unfortunately, I don’t think we respect comics as much as we do novels. I am happy however to see them get more attention thanks to the popularity of movie adaptations.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Marvel beats DC. Star Trek over Star Wars. Sub before Dub. With the company I keep, there are always geeky conversations happening. I’m always down for a geek argument.

About Author Jeremy Flagg:

Jeremy Flagg is the author of the CHILDREN OF NOSTRADAMUS dystopian science fiction series and SUBURBAN ZOMBIE HIGH young adult humor/horror series. Taking his love of pop culture and comic books, he focuses on fast paced, action packed novels with complex characters and contemporary themes.

Jeremy is the Co-creator of Massachusetts Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors and member of the Metrowest Writers writing group. He is also an active member of the New England Horror’s Association and Broad Universe.

Jeremy spends most of his free time at his desk writing snarky books. When he gets a moment away from writing, he watches too much Netlix and Hulu and reading comic books. Jeremy, a Maine native, resides in Clinton, Massachusetts and can be found in local coffee shops pounding away at the keyboard.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

Synopsis of Nighthawks:

New England is a walled off radioactive prison. People exhibiting extraordinary abilities are hunted for experiments. The only talent twenty-six-year-old Conthan has in life is his art and knack for sarcasm. When a cop threatens his life, Conthan discovers he has the ability to teleport. Hunted by the military and a woman with her own gifts, Conthan finds exiles in the Boston wastelands with powers of their own. For the first time, he sees potential to become a hero. But as he unravels a conspiracy threatening the world, he must decide between his survival and his humanity.

Audible ~ Amazon

Book Giveaway & Review: David Travels to the Past by Gonzalo Martínez De Antoñana

DeAntonanaDavidTravelsToThePast

Don’t forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom of the post!

Illustrator: María José Mosquera

Publisher: Saure Publisher (2016)

Length: 74 pages

Author’s Page

Note: This book contains two distinct adventures: The Rock Painters, Art of the Upper Paleolithic Period and also The Babylonians, Art of Mesopotamia. Each story starts with a little introduction page. David is an apprentice artist to Master Messina and Angela joins in the second adventure. While there are a few typos, perhaps due to translation errors perhaps, in the first story, there are more in the second, including a few lines that are rather clunky. Please note that my copy was an ARC and these typos and translation errors may be corrected in the final publication. They did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.

In the first tale, The Rock Painters, Art of the Upper Paleolithic Period, Messina uses hypnosis to transport both himself and David into the distant past – the Paleolithic period. There, they befriend a small group of nomadic hunters and they then spend weeks with them learning about their various types of art. Po-pec and Ae-tel are the most prominent characters among the the tribe. They act as guides for David and Messina in exploring caves and learning how to do their art.

What I really loved about this story is that the author didn’t shy away from using big words, which were then usually explained by Messina or by the context of the images the words related to. Also, the story shows several different types of art, such as portable art (images carved on small bone pieces), narrative art (art that tells a story), clay modeling, bas-reliefs, and others. The story also goes into some of the techniques used in making the art.

In between the bits of art lesson, David and Messina are on an adventure. There’s animal hunts, dancing, mudslides, and more. Not only do our heroes get to examine the prehistoric art up close, they get to live the life for several weeks, giving them a deeper appreciation of the art. My little criticism for this story is that while there are a few females depicted in the tale, none of them get names, get any lines, and aren’t a significant part of the story.

In the second story, The Babylonians, Art of Mesopotamia, David and Messina use the same method to be transported back to around 600 BC in the city of Babylon. Angela, Messina’s niece, was also transported with them and she’s just as ready as David for an adventure. They start their hunt for the origins of Mesopotamian art. They see several famous buildings, such as the Ishtar Gate and the Babylonian gardens. It’s not just architecture they investigate, but also the decorative friezes and and the glass bricks with relief patterns.

Still they hunt for the origins of this fine art. With the aid of the god Marduk, they are transported even further back to 645 BC at the Ninive library. At this point in the story, somehow they are able to understand the Niniveans and vice versa. In the first story, such linguistic abilities were not possible. However, they are unable to understand the written cuneiform. While I found this odd, it wasn’t a major point in the story. Besides, I was having too much fun with this ancient history adventure. There’s the ruler Assurbanipal and the mythological hero Gilgamesh to meet! There’s wall paintings and sculptures to enjoy!

The next leg of the journey has them even further back in time, in the second millennium BC, where they meet Hammurabi. Here, I was pleased to see the diorite sculptures. Finally, Marduk transports them to the third millennium BC, in the city of Uruk of the Sumerian civilization. Here they meet the high priestess of the goddess Innana. Finally, they discover the origins of the Mesopotamian art. Indeed, I found it very clever to walk back in time and see how architecture and art grew from these earliest Sumerian works. I enjoyed this second adventure more than the first, partially because it wasn’t just an art adventure, but also architecture and history. Also, this story had three female characters (though only two have names) that each had lines and roles in the story.

Illustration: I really enjoyed the illustrations for this graphic novel. In the first adventure, The Rock Painters, Art of the Upper Paleolithic Period, I especially liked that Mosquera has this distinct style for the story, but then also uses a different style to depict the Paleolithic art. Her depictions of the cave art is immediately identifiable as such. As with the first story, The Babylonians, Art of Mesopotamia has the distinct style for all the characters and background, but then totally different styles to depict the various art. I like that Mosquera rendered true-to-life depictions of the various art, which added to my delight in the book.

What I Liked: Adventures in art and history!; great illustration!; David and Messina appreciate the art more with each adventure; Angela joins in for the second adventure; the Mesopotamian gods and rulers; how David and Angela mimic the art they’ve learned about.

What I Disliked: The first adventure was all about the men.

Be sure to check out other reviews on the book tour via iRead Book Tours!

Buy the Book

USA: Amazon  ~  Kindle ~  Barnes & Noble

UK: Amazon  ~ Kindle

Australia: Fishpond  ~  Booktopia ~ Kindle

Author and Illustrator

María José is a teacher. She won international illustrations awards.

Gonzalo has a degree in art history. He works in museums and as a tourist guide.

Connect with them: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook ~ Pinterest

GIVEAWAY!!!

Win a print copy of the graphic novel David Travels to the Past (open int’l / 5 winners)

Ends Dec 10

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Ember's End by Arthur Slade

SladeEmber'sEndWhere I Got It: Own it.

Illustrator: Christopher Steininger

Publisher: Arthur Slade (2014)

Length: 88 pages

Author’s Page

Note: This book is a stand-alone adventure that follows two of the characters from Slade’s The Hunchback Assignments series. It works quite well.

Modo and Tavia are trained secret agents with the British Empire and have been sent on assignment to the Wild West town of Ember’s End. Set in the mid 1800s, the story is lush with western archetypes but also with a few all-too-often left out aspects of the Wild West, such the ethnic diversity of the time and location. I was pleasantly surprised to see the story had some extras in turbans throughout the town. Also, the ladies weren’t relegated to the brothels or being ranch wives.

This book, and The Hunchback Assignments series, are touted as steampunk. There was a touch of steampunk goodness in this book, but it was really minor. I kept waiting for that to become part of the story, whether as part of a character or simply background. The town does use pneumatic tubes to shoot messages around quickly. And much later in the story a character is revealed to be part steampunky robot. So my only little quibble is that this story could have used a bit more steampunk.

Tavia does like to dress in style but she’s also a practical woman, able to keep up with Modo in the field. Modo himself is a curious character, often keeping his face covered. He has a special ability when it comes to working in disguise. I liked the camaraderie between these two and could tell from the start they would always have each other’s backs.

Ember’s End is a strange place. The first building our heroes head to is the town saloon, which also happens to be the town library. They learn from the barkeep/librarian that there is no whiskey to serve, but they have a fine fresh milk from a Jersey cow. Also, the now-departed mad scientist who founded the town (Mr. Ember), put a field over the entire town that prevents gunpowder from working. Of course this renders firearms useless. So here we readers are, in the depths of the Wild West with no whiskey and no gun fights. Never fear! There’s still plenty of action.

Ember’s adult daughter has her secrets and is apparently at the heart of the mystery that surrounds Ember’s End. As Tavia and Modo try to untangle this mystery and set things right, they comes across a gang of worthy foes including a ninja, because every great steampunk Western should have a ninja!. With no bullets to trade at decent velocity with the bad guys and no half-aged whiskey to toss in their faces, our heroes have to get creative.

The humor is pretty good with this story as well. Tavia and Modo trade it back and forth in good natured jabs. Then there is the librarian/barkeep who has several other town jobs as well. I also enjoyed the preemptive undertaker. In fact, it felt like a nod to the the old Spaghetti Westerns. It’s a fun story for both kids and adults and I look forward to reading more Modo & Tavia adventures.

Illustration: This graphic novel is lush with color and detail. Christopher Steininger did a good job catching the rust reds that make up a good chunk of the Southwestern pallet. I liked that the point of view was often switching, showing the scene from far away and then up close, etc. Modo’s eyes are very expressive!

What I Liked: Fun story for all ages; the Wild West setting; perhaps some hidden nods to classic Western movies/TV shows; plenty of humor and action; interesting with no bullets and no whiskey; the ladies and minorities are portrayed as real people and not just shoved into stereotypical roles; great illustration.

What I Disliked: This book could have used a bit more steampunk.

Tullus: Adventures of a Christian Boy in Roman Times by Joe Newton

CookTullusTofuWhere I Got It: Review copy

Illustrators: Bob Magnusen, Danny Frolich

Editor: Rick Norwood

Publisher: Manuscript Press (2016)

Length: 52 pages

Series: Volume 1 Tullus

Author’s Page

Teenage Tullus and his friend Nereus are off on adventure in the ancient Roman empire. They’ll go through many sidetraps and pitfalls as they do their best to assist Ajax and his daughter Helena to retrieve a hidden treasure. They’ll have to pit their wits against Roman soldiers, bandits, and a wolf-worshiping clan.

I’m not Christian but I absolutely adore ancient Roman empire stories. So going into this comic, I had a little concern that the Christian views would outweigh the story. Not to fear! I really enjoyed this tale and while Christian values are incorporated, I didn’t feel they took center stage and detracted from the story.

Tullus himself kind of reminded me a young Jim Kirk. Indeed, he and Nereus have hairs cuts similar to Kirk’s and they run around doing good deeds while holding to this high moral code. While there aren’t any Red Shirts to be sacrificed to Drama, the two young heroes do manage to sway a great number of people to their way of thinking, gaining assistance throughout the story.

One of my quibbles with the tale is that there are only 2, maybe 3, female characters. Helena features at the beginning and then at the end. She has a maid servant that’s in one or two frames. If there was a third female character, I don’t recall who she was. Now, this comic was originally published 1940s-1970s, but even keeping that in mind, it’s still a little sad to see the female gender underutilized.

Helena herself doesn’t get a real personality until towards the end of the story. She does keep her wits about her (which Nereus seems to have trouble doing) and is instrumental in getting the guys out of a fix. Yet once that is accomplished, she goes back to being background.

My favorite secondary character is the Roman war horse Blaze. He definitely has his own personality! The guys save him and in turn he adopts them and assists them throughout the story.

I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t more ancient Roman empire stuff thrown in – there’s no Roman myths, holidays, or customs. There are the wolf-worshipers at the end though the author doesn’t tie them to a specific culture. While Nereus and Tullus stay in character with their views on the worshiping of a wolf god, not all the worshipers are portrayed as evil or ignorant (which is good and realistic).

Over all, I was pretty entertained by the story. It’s definitely G rated with no cussing or nudity and only mild violence. Yet the story itself is compelling enough to propel me through to the end. The inside back cover gives a short history of the Tullus comic strip, including the fact that Newton’s wife illustrated the first few runs of the comic. As a bonus, this issue has some panels of another comic, Sir Bagby, on the back cover.

I received a copy at no cost from the publisher (via Word Slinger Publicity) in exchange for an honest review.

The Illustration:  The front cover, credited to Danny Frolich, is done in luscious colors and highlights. I like the image that was selected from the comic as it has a sense of mystery and imminent action to it. The internal artwork, attributed to Bob Magnusen, has a catching attention to detail: face wrinkles, arm hairs, folds in clothing, etc. The colors are rather muted compared to the cover, but enough of a pallet remains to distinguish each character. There are some frames that use predominately black and white to illicit suspense and concern for our heroes (for example, a thunderstorm scene). I was most satisfied with the illustrations for this comic. 

What I Liked: Fun adventure; the comic kept my attention despite it’s lack of death and sex; Blaze makes a great and worthy companion; the complexity of the wolf worshipers; worthy illustration; great cover.

What I Disliked: So few women; no references to Roman myths and culture.

What Others Think:

Bluerose’s Heart

The Story Is Enough

The Caped Crusade by Glen Weldon

WeldonTheCapedCrusadeWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Glen Weldon

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2016)

Length: 9 hours 25 minutes

Author’s Page

Batman has been around for a long time, longer than I was aware of before giving this book a listen. I knew he had been a comic book hero before the Adam West Batman series, but I hadn’t realized how many versions of him had graced the comic book scene. Now I do. This book is a treasure trove of Batman info that entertained this Batman fan.

The book is laid out in a mostly linear timeline, though once the movies come on scene the author did focus on a movie at a time (including production time and stuff that leaked to the internet) interspersed with what was going on elsewhere in Batmania world (cartoons, comics, etc.). I didn’t know the original Batman started off toting a gun and several of his earliest comic escapades were lightly veneered copies of Dick  Tracy or The Shadow storylines. I think this might have irritated The Shadow fans of the time, just as knock offs of Tolkien’s works irritate Tolkienheads today. So I’m glad that Batman eventually grew into his own.

I found it very interesting that Batman cycled throughout the decades from dark crime fighting vigilante, without a side kick, to a kind of campy, more kid friendly version and back again…..  and again….. and again. For me, I have always gravitated more towards the darker versions. I am surprised that Batman did not start off with an origin story, but leaped on to the pages of a comic strip doing what he does as a full grown man with his own objectives. Later, he ditches the gun and gains a cape, a sidekick, and an origin story. I’m a bit undecided as to whether or not the trade actually assisted Batman in solving crime.

So let’s talk about the underlying gayness (or not) of Batman and Robin. My first thought is, who cares? Whether or not Batman and Robin have had an intimate friendship doesn’t stop them from fighting crime, having torn up psyches, or looking buff in tights. I hadn’t realized this was such a big point for Batman fans until I read this book. If Robin and Batman came out of the closet, I would still be a fan. Their sexual orientations don’t detract from them being interesting characters. Batman has had many, many adventures, in the future and the past, in other worlds, magic and science fiction colliding, being a good guy and a bad guy, so I don’t see why there isn’t some alternate universe out there where Batman is gay. Anyway, it was interesting to see all the fan comments on the movies, cartoons, and comics concerning Batman’s personal relationship with Robin.

This audiobook comes with a downloadable PDF that features examples of Batman art & comics throughout the ages. Each image has the related text from the book making it a great addition to the audiobook. I had fun reading through it and seeing how Batman changed throughout the ages. Over all, this was a very entertaining and enlightening book and now I’m inspired to go out there and track down some Batman goodness that I haven’t seen or read before.

I received a copy at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Glen Weldon does a great job narrating his own book. He’s a true nerd with a passion for this topic and that comes through clearly in his narration. I really appreciate him using silly voices for quotes by other Batman fans, fanatics, and experts throughout his book. His humor is on display, though I like that he delivers it succinctly without laughing at his own jokes. 

What I Liked: Plenty of Bat-facts; the cover art; PDF of images to accompany the audiobook; great narration; Batman’s image has cycled through the ages; commentary from fans and experts; the author’s own enjoyment of the subject.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it’s a very interesting book!

What Others Think:

Smart Bitches Trashy Books

Comic Book Herald

Comicsverse

The Three R’s Blog

Giveaway & Interview: JD & Amy of Whimsy & Wonder Creative Press

CollinsOfRobotsAndZombiesAndWizardsAndStuffDear Dabbers, please give a warm welcome to the brains and beauty behind Whimsy and Wonder Creative Press, Amy & JD. It was a real treat to interview this couple. We chat about several TV shows, where to spend the holidays, the tribulations of self-promotion, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss out on the paperback GIVEAWAY – scroll to the bottom for that.

If you could be an extra on a TV show, what would it be?

J: We actually were extra’s on TV show once. It was a show called “Murder In Law”, a show about people getting murdered by their in laws, and we were in one of the cheesy reenactments, which was a lot of fun. If I could do it again I would want it to be on Game of Thrones as a Wite, or on The Walking Dead as a Zombie, because who doesn’t want to be put in professional quality zombie make up at least once in their lives?

A: I would like to be an extra on Outander. So I could potentially see/meet (stalk) Sam Heugen.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

J: I think a supernatural creature, because I’ve always wanted to befriend like a cool monster or something that would be my friend or companion or something, so maybe if I was rescued by supernatural creature, like a mogwai or a hippogriff or something I could make that a reality.

A: Space Alien. That way we can become friends and they can prove to me that everything they cover on Ancient Aliens is true.

What fictional world would you like to visit for the holidays?

J: Harry Potter for sure. First of all it’s just really friggen magical. Secondly, I’ve always dreamt of Christmas at Hogwarts, and thirdly, I feel like less terrible things happen in the Harry Potter world than a lot of others. Like, Westeros I would be for sure worried about whether I would even make it through the holidays. Middle Earth is also extremely terrifying, although a holiday in a hobbit hole does sound rather cozy. Basically I don’t want to spend the holidays in a universe where I end up being somebodies red shirt, and overall Hogwarts seems pretty safe, what with the Dark Lord vanquished and all.

A: I would go to Who-ville.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

J: We were actually just talking about this. I would love to re-watch the Sixth Sense and Empire Strikes Back again without knowing the twists ahead of time. I was too young to watch either of those movies when they came out (I wasn’t even alive when Empire came out), so by the time I was able to watch them they were entirely spoiled for me.

A: I think I would want to experience The Lord of the Rings movies for the first time.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

J: I think The Hunger Games would make a really bitchin’ video game, but I would want it to be something where I could design my own character and pick my own weapons and skills and stuff. Like you could choose whether you want your weapon to be a bow and arrow, or a sword or a trident or whatever, and then choose to build up specific skills like foraging, or hunting, or camouflage before finally duking it out in a random arena with different environments like forest, or dessert or tundra. Actually the more I think about it the more that sounds like an amazing game. Somebody should get on that.

A: I would really enjoy a video game version of Carrie. It’s probably the closest I will ever get to having telekinesis and working out my high school issues.

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

J: Warning: Is Prone To Dancing In Embarrassing Places (including but not limited to; grocery store lines, bowling alleys, and movie theaters).

A: Warning: Can become very hungry – keep snacks nearby.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

J: I have a really hard time with this actually. It’s really challenging to get anyone to listen to you in the void that is the Internet, and there’s way to many talented people making good stuff, so it’s really hard to get noticed. Add to that a crippling condition I have called social awkwardness, and it can be kind of a mess sometimes. That being said, it does have it’s moments, when people really seem to enjoy what your doing.

A: It’s a very fun job to have, getting to be like hey everybody look at how awesome we are. The most challenging part is some people just aren’t interested or may give criticism on things you have spent a really, really long time on. That can be very nerve racking.

CollinsPeopleSuckIf you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

J: Sherlock Holmes, because I would be really curious to see what he would deduce just from seeing me. GandalfProfessor X and Dumbledore, because they’re so wise and I’ve always wanted them to be my life coaches, so I would seek their guidance. Since I get one more probably Xander from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, because I feel like we would be good friends.

A: I would choose Jamie Fraser from Outlander Because he’s gorgeous I’m not going to pass on that opportunity. Gandalf from Lord of the Rings – I feel like he would have really good advice on life. Furiosa– from Mad Max: She is just so bad ass would love to have a beer with her. Effie Trinket– from the Hunger Games- I feel like she could give me style advice and I could see her getting along really well with Gandalf. And Michone from The Walking Dead- another bad ass female who probably would become best friends with Furiosa…..and maybe me…..

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

J: Well, we’re just getting started so I’ve yet to have anyone gushing over my work, but I did get to meet Stan Lee at a Comic Con once. It was at the little photo booths they set up where you pay to get your picture taken with a celebrity and I was so excited, so I wanted to come up with something clever to say. It’s crazy because I had a very long line to wait in to figure it out but I didn’t, so when my turn came I couldn’t think of anything except for “it’s so great to meet you”, and because it was Stan Lee, and because he is possibly the coolest human on the planet he just clapped me on the back and said “You’re god damn right!” and then they snapped the picture. It was awesome. I still have the picture.

A: When we got our picture of George Takei he said “OH My Look At Youuuu.”  So I took that as a compliment and felt like my life was pretty accomplished after that.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

J: I can’t say that I can think of just one, because that’s kind of just our life. We’re always bickering about some odd movie or another. Amy still makes fun of me for liking the movie “The Mist”, which she refers to as “The Mist-take”, which she thinks is very clever.

A: There are many to choose from and now that I cant think of any but Jerrud and I tend to get into arguments about how fast the zombies would be moving on TV shows. Pretty much our whole relationship is arguing one geeky thing to another.

CollinsOfRobotsAndZombiesAndWizardsAndStuffBook Blurb for Of Robots and Zombies and Wizards and Stuff:

Have you ever wanted to read a story about a dancing robot? How one about a vicious hamburger eating, teenaged zombie? Or perhaps a retired super hero working a day job as mailman? Have you ever felt that your life would be enriched by a fierce and vitriolic debate amongst wizards about beard lengths? Have you ever once felt a talking tree might have the answer to all of your problems? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book might be for you*. In the tales within, you will find all of these, and so much more. So go ahead, give it a try. You just might find what you’ve been looking for. *Please consult with your doctor before reading this book to discuss risks of an awesome overdose

CollinsPeopleSuckBook Blurb for People Suck

People suck, especially when your not one of them. In this adult(13+) picture book follow the journey of human suckage as explored by creatures suck as a yeti, a swamp monster and space aliens.

Places  to Stalk JD & Amy

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GIVEAWAY!

JD & Amy are generously offering up two copies each of their books: Of Robots and Zombies and Wizards and Stuff, and their new picture book People Suck. These will be paper books and, therefore, we have to limit this giveaway to USA only due to postage. To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) What state do you live in? 2) Do you have an awkward fanboy/fangirl moment to share? 3) Which book would you prefer to win? 4) Leave a way to contact you! Giveaway ends November 15th, 2015, midnight.

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Anne Manx: Birth of the Cat by Larry Weiner

WeinerAnneManxBirthOfTheCatWhere I Got It: Review copy

Adaptation: Todd A. Kaylor & Tom Dheere

Illustrator: Karl Waller

Publisher: Radio Repertory Co. of America (2013)

Length: 24 pages

Series: Book 1 Anne Manx graphic novel, prequel to the audiobook series

Author’s Page

Anne Manx is a rookie cadet at the intergalactic police academy. There, she meets Jean Richmond, who is a senior cadet. Fans of the audiobook series will also recognize other characters like Jack Reynolds.

Since I am already a fan of Anne Manx via the audiobook series, I was quite intrigued by this graphic novel. Here we have the origins of Anne and her law enforcement career. She’s young and has some self-confidence, but circumstances will harden her further into the tough, decisive private investigator I know and love from the series.

Jean Richmond, oddly, becomes her friend somewhat and also gives her some mentoring. This really explains some of the exchanges these two characters have later in the series. I really enjoyed this blossoming friendship as both women can be a bit bullheaded.

The plot itself was an exciting mix of character development, getting to know the police academy, and action. It’s law enforcement, so sooner or later we have to have some weapons play and hand to hand combat. I was not disappointed! Also, this was a great way to sneak in some future scifi tech, which I also enjoyed.

We have several male characters tossed in to balance the ladies. While Jean & Anne are the primary females, we see some others, mostly as background but all in academy uniforms looking professional. The men some times needed saving and some times did the saving. It was a great give and take balance that I so like about the audiobook series.

The dialogue varies between serious talk about the plot and sharp, sometimes cutting, humor. This book is an excellent origin story to the Anne Manx series. It really is a good fit, mirroring everything that I enjoy about the audiobook series.

I received this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Illustration: The cover art of the audiobooks reflects the faces of the voice actors for the major characters and I wondered if the art in this book would do the same. Indeed it does! Since I already have this idea of what Anne and Jean look like, it was awesome that the illustrator kept this going, perhaps smoothing the lines a bit to make Jean & Anne look younger. While both ladies are curvy, I didn’t feel they were two exaggerated. Also, both men & women at the academy where tight pants with big bulky jackets. While I appreciated that the uniforms were the same for both sexes, there were more backside shots of women than men. I personally would have liked this to be a bit more balanced – meaning that I wouldn’t have minded a few more backsides of men being on display. 

What I Liked: Anne’s earliest days in law enforcement; her relationship to Jean Richmond; unisex uniforms; illustration goes well with the audiobook cover art; good mix of action, character development, and academy life; by the end, Anne is a bit tougher. 

What I Disliked: This is a small criticism, but I would have liked a bit more equality when it comes to the occasional focus on buttocks. 

Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Alex Hurst, Author of D. N. A.

HurstD.N.A.1Everyone, please welcome Alex Hurst, author of D. N. A.: Alta, a most entertaining illustrated novella. WE chat about comics, TV series, artist influences, and plenty more! Also, there is a sweet giveaway – check out the last question in the interview for that.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Oh, definitely a superhero. The idea that there could definitely be the promise of super powers in the human race is an amazing concept for me. While aliens would be interesting, I’ve always considered them an inevitability (just look at how big this universe is!) and the likelihood that I would be able to communicate with my savior would be quite slim… same goes for any mythical creature. But a superhero would be like me, like you, like all of us –– just with something a little extra.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

If I could interview any dead author, it would be Edgar Allan Poe. A couple of years ago, I took it on myself to read everything he’d ever penned: short stories, poems, essays, and his one and only novel. I had so many questions by the end. He seemed to have a wicked sense of humor (he had a habit of writing fake news stories that ended up on the first pages of respectable papers) and a really interesting philosophy about art and life. I feel like being able to interview him would make for some fascinating reading, and I’d really be curious to know how he would feel about his cult icon status in the world these days.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

I’d love to experience the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes TV series with Jeremy Brett. While I’m also a fan of Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, Brett’s will always be my favorite. I’ve watched the episodes so many times that I can’t get the same thrill from them that I used to. I’m hoping if I wait to watch the series again for another ten years, it really will feel like experiencing them again for the first time! I suppose a close second would be A&E’s Horatio Hornblower adaption.

HurstHeroes&VillainsOver the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

This question is a little harder for me to answer, as my benchmark only begins with the 80s comics of Marvel and DC, but I would say so. The prevalence of superhero films and TV dramas has brought the world of comics into grit (especially with DC, as seen with the Arrow and Dark Knight series), which we see most obviously in cinematic adaptations. Heroes are getting darker, more antihero than hero, and villains are getting dirtier and scarier. The Joker from the 80s is not the Joker of 2015’s Suicide Squad movie trailer.

While in some cases, I have liked the industry’s tilt into further character development and psychological meanderings, I’m still undecided as to whether those things automatically need to be explored via gratuitous violence. The range of human emotions is broad, and I do not think they are being explored to their full potential on either side of the equation.

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?

I would love if D.N.A. were to get adapted into a fully-illustrated comic or graphic novel, and of course the nature of Alta’s universe, I think, would make for some excellent animation of film adaptations. But for now, the important thing for me is to deliver the strongest story I can for readers, one that uses the superhero world as a foil to explore the weaker parts of the human and cultural psyche.

As for the publishing industry, I think it will always find a way to adapt. As the technology becomes more available and more stable, I think we will see more stories making the multimedia jump from one platform to several. With books, we saw this with audiobooks and then ebooks, which are now industry norms, but I imagine it will continue with the development of illustrated editions to full-on graphic novels, animated features, and so on. Motion Books (a 3D comic platform) will likely continue to gain steam, as well, as soon as their technology becomes available on more than one platform.

HurstDarklyNeverAfterWho are your non-writer influences?

Artists and musicians. My favorite artist to contemplate a story to is Lightwave, a new age, lyricless artist. I often pop in their song Uraniborg when I’m trying to work my way through a scene. I have a lot of artistic influences, as well, including Frida Kahlo, Jim Lee, Helena Nelson Reed, and Alphonse Mucha. I was so happy when my artist, Kevin Nichols, agreed to take on the D.N.A. project because it meant a marriage between my two favorite art styles: Golden Age and comics.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in super hero/ super villain literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

I’m more of a Marvel fan, so my list might be a bit biased, but there are a few comic arches that would have to be required reading for character study:

  1. Magneto, the independent comic series by Marvel currently exploring the psychology of one of their more fascinating hero-turned-villain-turned-hero characters.
  2. Batman: The Killing Joke and Batman: Year One, because as a hero, Batman straddles the line between the limits of a normal human going “super,” and all of the trials those limitations place on him.
  3. X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga, because it is one of the most important arcs for the characters of that universe, and it was also written at the height of X-Men’s popularity before the movies.
  4. X-Men: Mutant Massacre, because this is the critical arc for my favorite X-Men character, Gambit (yes, I told you this was going to be biased!). The arc deals with the ramifications of a mutant-led mutant massacre, and Gambit’s struggles to define himself as hero or pawn to villainy.

I admit, my comic reading has not been as extensive as it used to be –– I poured over my brothers’ collections as I never had the money to purchase my own, but in recent years I have started reading in the genre again, and I am finding myself really in love with Storm’s standalone comics, as well as Dr. Mirage and She-Hulk. There are so many comics to read and explore I’m having a hard time catching up!

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I would like your readers to know I am more than happy to give away 3 copies of D.N.A. Tell me in the comments what you would do if you could adopt the genetic code of any animal to fight crime (or perpetrate it!) and I’ll pick my favorites to send a book to. Or do the Rafflecopter thing (right below this paragraph) for extra entries. Giveaway ends August 31st, 2015 midnight.

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HurstD.N.A.1D. N. A. #1 book blurb:

D.N.A. is an illustrated, serial novel written by Alex Hurst. The story chronicles the adventures of Alta Williams, a woman of a future where genetics dictate quality of life and scientific discovery advances at an inconceivable rate. Alta is known to the media as the Human Doll, the first successful case of a full nanoCell organ transplant.

Alta appreciates the technology around her: without it, a chemical fire would have killed her in her early twenties. Though the fire destroyed her extracellular matrix, scientists from the medical behemoth nanoTech were able to replace her ruined skin with their patented nanoCell material, giving her a second lease on life.

However, with nanotechnology now advanced enough to alter the human genome, and a company determined to capitalize – and control – the endeavor, it is up to Alta to expose their plans.

And she’s not alone.

Helping her every step of the way is D.N.A., the Digital Nanocell Accelerator, a self-learning computer program charged with telling synthetic cells which tissue they should build. D.N.A. fuses with Alta’s fully-synthetic skin and convinces her to fight against those who would otherwise oppress society as she knows it.

Of course, it helps that D.N.A. can change the genetic makeup of Alta’s skin at will, gifting her with the characteristics of any living recorded in the Genome Project. With the world’s genetic code at her whim, Alta has the power to overcome anything…

…but at what cost to her humanity?

**Please note that this is a novella with illustrations, not a comic or full-length novel**

About Alex Hurst:

Alex Hurst writes primarily character-driven fantasy, in such sub-genres as urban, Gothic, uncanny, and regional fantasy. Sometimes, she dapples in science fiction, horror, and LGBT literature.

She was raised in the wilds of the south. Lightning storms and hurricanes created the playpens of her youth, and in the summers, she used to spend all of her time dodging horseflies in a golden river, catching fish and snakes with her bare hands, swinging from vines, and falling out of magnolia trees.

In the dawn of her adolescence, her family took her on a journey across the United States, from the white sands of Pensacola, FL, to the razor’s edge of the Hell’s Backbone in Utah. They finally landed in Marin, CA, where lotus eaters tried to make city folk out of them (but miserably failed.) She currently lives in Kyoto, Japan, working as a writer and dream-smith.

She also freelances as an editor for the Writers’ Anarchy anthology series, designs book interiors at Country Mouse Design, and admins on the Fiction Writers community on Facebook, assisting emerging writers.

Places to Stalk Alex Hurst

D. N. A. website

Hurst’s Blog

Facebook

Twitter

 GIVEAWAY!

Alex is giving away 3 copies of D.N.A. Tell me in the comments what you would do if you could adopt the genetic code of any animal to fight crime (or perpetrate it!) OR do the Rafflecopter thing (right below this paragraph) for extra entries. Giveaway ends August 31st, 2015 midnight.

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D. N. A.: Alta by Alex Hurst

HurstD.N.A.1Where I Got It: Review copy

Illustrator: Kevin Nichols

Publisher: Bookmark Comics (2015)

Length: 24 pages

Series: Book 1 D. N. A.

Author’s Page

Alta Williams suffered through a chemical accident in her early 20s that left her in a very sad state. Her skin was ruined. But nanoTech corporation stepped in and offered her a then-experimental replacement of her skin using their new nanoCell tech. Later, she developed a lung cancer due to the accident, and again, nanoTech stepped in offering her an experimental lung replacement. But now she is positive that nanoTech is up to no good. She just needs the proof.

Helping her is a self-learning A.I. program that needed a friendly host – and Alta’s skin was the perfect residence for this program, the Digital nanoCell Accelerator (D. N. A.). We readers enter the story where the two are still getting to know each other. Alta is both amazed and a little frightened at D. N. A.’s ability to temporarily alter her skin and even her DNA to her immediate benefit – hardened skin, claws, heightened hearing, etc. Together, they pry into nanoTech’s secrets.

This was a fun read, being a mix of the superhero and science fiction genres. I enjoyed the underdog versus the mega corporation theme. The pacing moved us along at a swift pace. There was never a dull moment. Alta herself was feeling the pace of things too and you could tell she needed a hot, luxuriant bath and a lengthy nap once it was all done. There’s some fun tech, though most of it deals with the AI character D. N. A. The science part doesn’t ever go very deep so you can focus on the plot and action. As a biologist, I wanted a bit more. Altering DNA is not easy, especially quickly and temporarily. There was one scene where Alta needed very hard skin so D. N. A. went for a soft-bodied mollusk. Now these particular mollusks do have a very hard shell that is created over time, but that shell is not part of their body. So, I scratched my head a little at that one. Still, suspending my biology-based disbelief, it was a fun tale with many possibilities open to the duo.

Alta’s character is still in the ‘let’s get to know one another’ stage even by the end of this story. I would have liked to know her a little better by the end. I felt that I knew D. N. A. better than Alta simply because of the joking between the two. However, with that said, I enjoyed this read enough to want to dig up Book 2 once it becomes available and spend more time with these characters.

The story does spend some time doing a little world-building. It’s the future and the Earth has become heavily polluted. There are those who are not genetically tolerant of all this pollution. Some few humans have the right genes to be legally sanctioned for reproduction but many are not allowed such a privilege. It is an interesting world with an intriguing mix of the dark, polluted world and shiny new tech that may save us all.

I am very pleased to say that we have a non-Caucasian female as the lead character in a superhero book. Hooray! It is excellent to see some diversity in this story, and it doesn’t end with Alta’s character. I rub my hands together in anticipation of what the author will include in subsequent books. There’s plenty of world left for Alta and D. N. A. to explore.

Illustration:  Kevin Nichols made some beautiful illustrations for this novella. Most of those illustrations focus on Alta. She’s a lovely woman who looks like a real woman with real muscles and facial features. I really liked that she wasn’t heavily made up in make up or had distended limbs and unbelievable cleavage. Then we had some illustrations of the modifications D. N. A. made to Alta and those were quite fun to see. Fur, fins, etc. At the end of the book, we had some bonus info about the author, but then several bonus illustrations and sketches from the illustrator. It was very cool to add those in and I spent quite some time enjoying them. The mix of the dark background (giving the tale an almost noir detective feel) and the science fiction components built into Alta’s skin was a captivating combination.

I received this book from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

What I Liked:  Female non-White superhero main character!; the cover art; the magnificent illustrations; underdog versus the big tech company; fun AI side kick; plenty of bio modifications; diversity in side characters; fun start to the world-building; looking forward to more!

What I Disliked:  As a biologist, I sometimes scratched my head at the bio modifications; I wanted to know Alta a bit more by the end.

The Reason for Dragons by Chris Northrop & Jeff Stokely

Pico was chasing the little green got my camera flash makes.
Pico was chasing the little green got my camera flash makes.

Why I Read It: I needed some graphic art in my life.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Enjoy coming of age stories? Dragons? Knights? Don Quixote? Check this work out.

Publisher: Archaia (2013)

Length: 120 pages

This is the tale of Wendell, a nerdy dragons & fantasy loving kid bullied by other kids, Ted, Wendell’s motorcycle-loving step-father, and a deranged knight living in an abandoned fairgrounds. Wendell seems to have few ambitions at the beginning of the book, but I cut him slack since he is probably somewhere around 16. He likes reading books, especially if there are monsters and partially clad women in them. Who can blame the kid? After messing up on a simple motorcycle maintenance task and being tossed out of the garage, he wanders looking for a nice tree to read under. Some school bullies come along and after the requisite name-calling and shoving, dare him to go to the old haunted fairgrounds and steal a pamphlet as proof. That is where Wendell is challenged, in more ways than one, by the reality-challenged knight. The rest of the book shows their few adventures together.

I enjoyed this book from the beginning, in part because there is this fake pamphlet at the beginning that shows the fairgrounds and has lots of words that end in unnecessary ‘e’s. Ye olde booke was a delight from there on out. I could relate to Wendell on many levels. While my parents are still together, plenty of friends and family come from homes with step-parents or grandparents or aunties, etc. acting as the secondary parental figure. Also, he is a book nerd. If you’re here reading this review, then you get that. For the longest time, you could NOT find a SFF novel that portrayed a woman clothed in practical clothing suitable for space flight or dragon combat (some publishers still have this problem and yes, they know who they are), so it’s no surprise that Wendell’s mother’s few lines are about one of his fantasy books that have scantily clad women. Been there. Had that conversation. Then there is the awkward conversations between step-dad Ted and teenaged Wendell. Ah, the awkwardness comes through in simple gestures and looks, thanks to the art work.

Pico admiring the artwork.
Pico admiring the artwork.

The 16th century classic Don Quixote was given several nods in this work (Northrop & Stokely – thanks for that windmill). The knight isn’t quite who I expected him to be, but he eventually gets there in the end. It was a fine journey arc for his character. The clash of the old and the new, the modern-day reality and fantasy don’t clash in this book, but rather shake hands and agree to look the other way. There is this great scene with the motorcycle and a mythical beast that I won’t ruin for you. If I have any complaints, it is that there are zero main female characters, and in fact, zero secondary female characters. But do not despair, this book isn’t as bad as The Hobbit for female character count (which has a grand total of zero females at all – even if you look closely at the donkeys) as there are some female tertiary and very minor side characters.

The art work was crisp and clear, though the modern-day men all had square pants which gave them the unlikely square groin. The biologist in me wanted to know if this was portraying a medical condition, but I told that nosy scientist to shut up and eat popcorn while the rest of me enjoyed my book. The action scenes felt like action scenes. Many of the more heavy or mixed emotional scenes were portrayed with a series of clever gestures and facial expressions.

This was one of my favorite scenes in the book.
This was one of my favorite scenes in the book.

I originally requested this book from Netgalley. Alas, I had some technical difficulties due to the fact that I live in a very rural area. There are no cell phone services, pager services, cable, G3, G4, or wifi (other than our local house wifi). To add to that, I have an older Kindle that needs to talk with cell service to download. It will not chat with my house wifi. By the time I figured out the new ADE DRM super secret ultra-adult diaper protection software for downloading books to my computer (I was recovering from ankle surgery and wouldn’t be driving to the nearest kindle/cell service area any time soon), this book had been archived. I put in a query, not once, but twice, to Netgalley to either open it up briefly so I could download or to let the publisher know that I couldn’t download the book due to technical difficulties and therefore would not be reviewing the book. I received zero response on this query. I have not used Netgalley much. It may stay that way, as all book bloggers know authors & publishers are quite ready to throw books in our general direction anyway, even without services like Netgalley.  Still, it resides on my queue on Netgalley, so I will be posting my review there. Also, I want the folks there to know that this is an awesome book and worthy of more readers. In the end, I bought my own copy off of Amazon.com. I’m glad I did.

What I Liked: The art work; Wendell was immediately easy to like and connect with; Don Quixote references; all the extras at the back of the book; the fake pamphlet at the beginning of the book; the evolution of Ted’s and Wendell’s relationship; it had a most satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: Almost no female characters and none with a significant role.

What Others Think:

Nerd Span

Geekadelphia

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The Geeks of Doom