Kathryn Meyer Griffith: Human No Longer (Backstory) [guest blog]

Kathryn Meyer GriffithHuman No Longer Backstory
By Kathryn Meyer Griffith

Amazon Kindle buy link

Human No Longer. It’s my 17th published book — yeah! — and my fourth vampire novel. First, let me tell you where I got the idea for it. About five years ago, I was still trying to please the agent (who I no longer have) who’d sold four of my earlier paperback novels to Zebra in the 1990’s and, because she didn’t seem to like any of my new potential concepts, I asked her what she would like to see. Out of nowhere, she said, “You know your 1991 Zebra vampire novel, Vampire Blood? I liked that one a lot. The characters. Well, how about writing me a sort of sequel with basically the same cast, but with this premise: A woman, a mother, after being turned into a bloodthirsty vampire, must learn to adapt to the human world and still be a good mother. You know, how would she deal with everything when she had children she loved; didn’t want to hurt or leave them… but still had the need to feed on blood? Still had all the urges and desires of a vampire?

Yikes. I hated the idea but, to please her, I went ahead and begrudgingly wrote the book. I tentatively called it The Vampire’s Children or The Vampire Mother or something like that. I finished it. Not too happy with it. I had never liked writing what other people wanted me to write. Stubborn, I guess.

My agent, in the meantime, had begun her own online erotic (which I don’t much care to write) publishing company and when I’d gotten done with the novel she was too busy to even read the finished book. She handed it off to an apprentice intern. An intern? What? Who didn’t like it at all. Duh. So, disgusted, I tucked the file away on my computer and, fed up with the whole agent thing, returned to writing what I wanted to write. An end of days novel called A Time of Demons and a new vampire novel where the evil vampire wasn’t a mother. In 2010 I went with a new publisher, and she contracted not only those two books but asked me if I’d like to rewrite, update and rerelease all 7 of my older out-of-print Leisure and Zebra paperbacks going back to 1984. Heck yes, I said! So for the next 2 years I was busy doing that. Some of those books were over twenty-five years old and very outdated. Their rewriting, editing and rereleasing took a lot of work and time.

Human No LongerThen, in late 2012, I decided to take a very old book of mine (Predator) which was contracted to Zebra Paperbacks in 1993 but, in the end, never actually released, and just for the heck of it, as my 16th novel, self-publish it to Amazon Kindle Direct. Just in ebook form. A kind of grand experiment. The first time I’ve ever tried self-publishing. See how it’d sell. Dinosaur Lake. A story about a hungry mutant dinosaur loose in the waters of Crater Lake that goes on a rampage. Hey, I wrote Dinosaur Lake before Jurassic Park, the book, ever came out! Really. I had my cover artist, Dawne Dominique make a cover for it…and it was stunning with a dinosaur roaring on the front. And I did everything else myself. Editing. Proofing. Formatting. With forty years and endless publishers behind me I felt I was capable. And it’d been selling so well I decided to self-publish another one…and I remembered the mother/vampire book. Hmmm. So I revamped (ha, ha, inside joke), polished, and self-published it, as well. I retitled it Human No Longer. Got my fabulous cover artist, Dawne Dominique, to make me a lovely haunting cover with a troubled-looking woman standing outside a spooky house, with two children behind her in its shadows, on the front and voila! All in all, I don’t think the book turned out half bad. In fact, with the changes I made I think it’s not bad at all. Now I just hope my readers will like it.

So that’s the story of Human No Longer. My 17th published novel.


About Kathryn Meyer Griffith…

Since childhood I’ve always been an artist and worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and for newspapers for twenty-three years before I quit to write full time. I began writing novels at 21, over forty years ago now, and have had seventeen (ten romantic horror, two romantic SF horror, one romantic suspense, one romantic time travel, one historical romance and two murder mysteries) previous novels, two novellas and twelve short stories published from Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, and Amazon Kindle Direct.

I’ve been married to Russell for almost thirty-five years; have a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and I live in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. We have three quirky cats, ghost cat Sasha, live cats Cleo and Sasha (Too), and the five of us live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though I’ve been an artist, and a folk singer in my youth with my brother Jim, writing has always been my greatest passion, my butterfly stage, and I’ll probably write stories until the day I die…or until my memory goes.


My books: Evil Stalks the Night, The Heart of the Rose, Blood Forge, Vampire Blood, The Last Vampire, Witches, The Nameless One short story, The Calling, Scraps of Paper, All Things Slip Away, Egyptian Heart, Winter’s Journey, The Ice Bridge, Don’t Look Back, Agnes novella, In This House short story, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons, The Woman in Crimson, The Guide to Writing Paranormal Fiction: Volume 1 (I did the Introduction), Dinosaur Lake, 4 Spooky Short Stories, Telling Tales of Terror (I did the chapter on the Putting the Occult into your Fiction), Human No Longer.

All Kathryn Meyer Griffith’s Books available at Amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Kathryn+Meyer+Griffith


Find Kathryn Meyer Griffith on the web:
MySpace (to see all my book trailers with original music by my singer/songwriter brother JS Meyer)
Romance Reader and Writer
Romance Book Junction



Jenny and Jeff Sanders on a summer night become the victims of a bizarre crime, leaving Jeff dead and Jenny in a coma. Their attackers aren’t caught.

She returns to her children and her life. With Jeff’s death his business and their income are also gone. Jenny, a novelist, hasn’t written a book in years, so she must move back to her childhood home in Summer Haven, Florida, where years before she and Jeff destroyed a sadistic family of vampires.

At least her brother, Joey, who owns a local diner, is there to help.

But Jenny has no appetite. She’s edgy. Her eyes hurt. Could be trauma from the attack. Grief. Until one night, after they’ve moved into the rundown family farmhouse, she can’t resist the night woods and going out to drink animals’ blood.

Gradually she accepts the truth. Her attackers were vampires. Now she’s becoming what she once hunted and fears she must either kill herself or run. She can’t abandon her children, but promises never to drink human blood; to find a way to live in the human world. It’s not easy. They renovate the farmhouse, which local gossip says is haunted. At night she hunts, and hides what she’s becoming from everyone. She fights to be a good mother and not let the bloodlust overpower her. Gets a job and attempts to fit in.

People, bodies emptied of blood, begin dying. Like years before. With her blackouts, she fears she may be the killer and confides in Joey. While a detective, investigating her husband’s and his daughter’s murders, complicates things.

Jenny suspects it’s her attackers doing the slayings. They’ve found her and demand she join them–or her family will die. When she resists, her children are taken; to save them, she becomes part of the vampires’ killing spree. Becoming a monster like them…until she finds a way to outwit and ultimately destroy them.

In the end it takes supernatural intervention, a ghost, and the help of a childhood friend to set her, and the world, free from the vampires once and for all.



Shutting her eyes, she lingered at the door and listened to the night animals beyond the glass. They were frolicking out there in the autumn murkiness among the crispy leaves and cool dirt covered ground. Little creatures, with nocturne eyes and speedy feet, full of hot blood.

The mother in her fretted over leaving her children alone in the house but the hunger overpowered the mother and she snuck outside into the darkness.

She told herself they’d be fine. She’d be back shortly. That she should reward herself for her self-restraint all day. She hadn’t attacked one living person. Hadn’t gone crazy or hung from the rafters by her feet. She’d done well.

She told herself that killing innocent little animals wasn’t all that creepy, wasn’t all that bad, considering the alternative. It didn’t work. She loved animals and hated having to kill them at all for any reason. Or had. But, she had to keep reminding herself, animals died every minute of the day to fill humans’ stomachs. Right? Was what she did any worse than that? All she wanted was their blood. It was her food.

She felt guilty only until she captured the large fox, humanely snapped its neck to drink the blood (which tasted better than anything she’d ever drank or eaten) and then was too exhilarated to think of anything but further feeding her hunger; not even that she could run faster than she ever had, could see like an owl through the darkness, smell her prey miles away and that her teeth were changing. When she stuck her finger into her mouth she could feel the points. Oh, great. Little fangs. Oh, Lord, could this get any weirder? She thought about those horror movies she’d seen over the years where some unlucky human had been bitten and was slowly turning into god-knows-what and couldn’t believe or accept it. Was in shock. Now she knew exactly how they’d felt.

Though, in the end, she did feel regret for killing the poor fox and the one the night before. But, yes, it was better than feeding off homo sapiens. Damn straight it was.

After ingesting the blood she felt as if there was nothing she couldn’t deal with. No problem she couldn’t solve, no disaster she couldn’t avert. She was superwoman.

This wasn’t so bad, was it? It’d occurred to her perhaps if a good person became a vampire that might be the key. Good person equals good vampire? Bad person equals bad vampire? She could only pray that was the case. Oh, it could be worse. She could lust after human blood and not be able to resist. Now that would be a deal breaker.

She absorbed the night poised beside a towering tree, its limbs shifting in the wind; inhaled the dizzying perfumes of the forest. Her lips on the verge of smiling. She felt better than she had since she’d come out of the coma weeks ago.

Her new world revolved around her in slow motion. The night birds cooed in their nests. The air danced among the dying leaves. Insects skittered between limbs and under bushes. On the breeze there were aromatic wisps of brewing coffee and chocolate (cake she thought), fresh baking bread and as always now, blood. Animal blood in the small bustling creatures hiding out all around her and in the distance the cloying scent of human blood. Her children asleep in their beds. Amazing.

God, the night was beautiful.

That’s when she saw the pale figure hiding between the trees to her left. A tall man dressed in drab clothes watched her.

She merged deeper into the woods among the thicker underbrush but when she looked back, he was still on the fringe observing.

Waves of uneasiness rippled through her and the vertigo was unbalancing. This man stalking her wasn’t her friend. This man was dangerous. If he was a man.

She ran all the way home at a speed she never would have imagined a human capable of. More like flying really. Her feet barely touched the ground, her night eyes so keen she never once collided with a tree or stumbled over a rock.

Within seconds she was inside the farmhouse peeking out the windows; the mysterious stranger nowhere in sight. Thank God.


Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Human No Longer cover art: Dawne Dominique.

Karina Fabian: Keeping Zombies Fresh [guest blog]

Good morning! Author Karina Fabian is back on this patch of virtual real estate today, talking about her new book, Neeta Lyffe 2: I Left My Brains in San Francisco (the sequel to her popular Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator).

I’ll be giving away a free PDF copy of Neeta Lyffe 2 to one randomly chosen commenter on this blog entry! (That is, on my main blog itself, where these missives originate, not on places they are echoed, such as my LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, or Tumblr accounts). Comments must be in by Saturday, October 21st, 2012, 11:59:59 e.d.t.

Karina FabianKeeping Zombies Fresh: guest post by Karina Fabian

Gary asked me to write a blog on “how to keep zombies fresh.” He was probably talking about the genre, but pffth! What fun is that? Instead, I offer you the trials of Josie Gump, who (in Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator), mistakenly believed her late Jebadiah, who came back from the grave to plop himself in the easy chair to demand beer and watch Jerry Springer, was somehow still a person, but “life-challenged.” May I present, Mrs. Josie Gump:

I’m a pretty ordinary person, living a quiet, contented life with a loving husband and four great kids. However, I have a brain crowded with characters who live far more interesting lives than I ever will. (Mind you, they also experience a lot more pain and stress, so I am not looking to trade.) I write their stories in order to get them out of my head before it explodes, and because I love their adventures so much, I want to share them.

Well, this is all rather personal, but the Zombies Are People, Too Movement asked me about I was “keeping things fresh” with Jebediah. No one’s ever asked me for my housekeeping tips, before, and well, Jeb didn’t much care about the house as long as the food was ready when he got home, the beer was cold, and the TV screen clean.

Anyways, I have to admit, it has been a challenge. At first, it seemed all right–easier, even. Death has changed him, you see, and while I don’t want to talk bad about nobody, Jeb used to keep tight hold of the money. Now, though–now, I tell him I want a little extra for new curtains or a better broom, and he just grunts his assent. And he did show up kind of dirty from digging himself out of the grave, but he didn’t have any problem with me sweeping him off with the whisk broom. Just so long as I didn’t get between him and the TV, of course.

It’s gotten worse, though. First, that reporter mentioned a smell. I thought he meant the house! I threw him out, even sic’ced Pinky on him. I’m so embarrassed now, because he was right. I’ve kind of run through most of the commercially available products. In desperation, I even tried B to Z FreshAire. I mean, it says “Bathrooms to Zombies.” Jeb did not like that! One spray, and he started groaning, was so mad! I threw it out. Later, I found out, it’s zombie repellant! How horrible is that? I’m so glad for ZAPT; they’re trying to make that poison illegal. Anyway, there’s this expensive stuff called Orange Blaze that gets your house all citrusy, but it’s expensive, so if you can’t afford it, lots of Freedbreezy works.

Another unfortunate problem with the “differently living” is, well, insects. I tried the natural methods–mint, basil, and lavender–but I finally had to break down and get some repellant. I worry about the dogs, but at least my Jeb never leaves his chair. I mean, even if I have to run an errand, he just waits so patiently for his next beer! It’s really a change; he just so gentle now. Of course, I’d be glad for any suggestions. I think there are some creatures making a home inside the chair. I’m so embarrassed. I’d call an exterminator, but they all seem to specialize in zombie extermination, now. I have to think of my Jeb.

In the end, it wasn’t the challenge of keeping Jeb fresh that drove Josie over the edge. She finally turned off the TV in the interest of keeping their marriage “fresh,” whereupon Jeb tried to eat her brains and she realized he’d lied to her again. She went after him with the shotgun, then sold her home, packed up the dogs and became a spokeswoman for “Zombies Are People-NOT!”

Conclusion: While there are probably as many ways to keep zombie stories fresh as there are writers, keeping the zombies themselves fresh is quite a challenge.


Neeta Lyffe 2 I Left My Brains in San FranciscoAre you the next “Zombie Idol”?

Karina Fabian is looking for someone to sing the theme song I wrote for I Left My Brains in San Francisco. She has the words and the tune; but they need a singer. They are offering prizes for the best singer, the most creative audition video, and are giving one in ten entries a copy of the e-book. The details are at http://fabianspace.blogspot.com/p/are-you-next-zombie-idol.html.



Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator–but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she’s looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it’ll be a working vacation after all.

Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.



If there’s such a thing as ADD of the imagination, Karina Fabian has it–in spades. Craft books, devotionals, serious science fiction, comedic horror and chilling fantasy–she follows her interests and the characters that tell her their stories.

Even before she could write, Karina strung tall tales about everything from making human pyramids in Kindergarten to visiting alien worlds. Her first attempt at novel writing was in fourth grade; she completed her first novel in college. However, her first published work was an anthology of Christian science fiction, Leaps of Faith, an EPPIE finalist for best anthology in 2006. Her next anthology, Infinite Space, Infinite God, featured Catholic characters and themes and won the EPPIE for science fiction. The second Infinite Space, Infinite God anthology came out in 2010.

Watching the comedy improv show, Whose Line Is It, Anyway, inspired her noir-style dragon detective, Vern. Vern and his partner, Sister Grace, have solved mysteries and saved the Faerie and Mundane worlds numerous numerous times in the DragonEye, PI stories and novels. Their serial story, World Gathering, won a Mensa Owl; and the novel, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem (Fabian’s first published novel), won the INDIE for best fantasy in 2010. The second DragonEye book, Live and Let Fly, came out in April 2012.

At a friend’s request, Karina wrote a funny story about a zombie exterminator, which grew into the Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator novels. The first, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, won the 2011 Global E-Book award for best horror, and was runner-up in the eFestival of Words for best YA.

She also writes serious science fiction. Her SF novels, Discovery and The Old Man and the Void, are currently under consideration, and she’s working on the next DragonEye novel, a superhero spoof, Gapman.

Karina has a strong faith, which she explored in her devotional, Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life, which she wrote with her father Steve Lumbert, and which won the 2011 Christian Small Press Publisher Award. She also writes Catholic school calendars and has written three craft books for the Little Flowers/Blue Knights clubs.

Fabian is married to Colonel Robert A. Fabian of the USAF, and they are currently enjoying a long distance relationship while he’s stationed in Iraq. They have four children, an overgrown pup, and a harried cat. When not writing, teaching writing, or chatting about writing, she’s hanging out with her kids or swinging a sword in haidong gumbdo.



Survival Hardware hadn’t seen such a rush of customers since the last Armageddon prediction coincided with Black Friday.

Manager Clint Sanders rubbed his hands with glee. Oh, Marley, if only you hadn’t gotten drunk and decided to go zombie hunting. Was it only last Christmas?

He hurried to Customer Service, crafting an announcement in his mind. “You want to live! We want to live! That’s why you are going to file calmly to the back if you need a suit.”

Yeah. Sense of urgency, plus that “We’re in this together” crap.

He got to the counter and nodded at Bitsy, who had rung up a chainsaw and a half-crate of bleach.

God bless survivors. Clint continued to the back. Out of habit, he checked the exit door, even though it was always locked from the outside. He needed to delete Marley’s old code from it.

He cleared his throat. “Listen up! You want to live! We want to live!”

The exit door clicked.

“That’s impossible!” he declared. The store fell silent.

“Boss?” Bitsy’s voice ended in a squeak.

“That’s not what I meant! Security team to customer service!”

He reached under the counter for a shotgun. Bitsy grabbed the chainsaw. They had filled them that morning–another example of the excellent service at Survival Hardware.

The door swung open, and the zombiefied remains of his late business partner, Marley, staggered through.

Clint to blasted him with the shotgun. The impact knocked the Marley out the door.

Clint used the gunsight to scan the parking lot. “He brought friends! Call Nine-One-One. I’m putting this place on shutdown.”

“Screw that! I’ve been prepping all my life for this!” With a howl of challenge, Bitsy dashed out the door. She swung low and decapitated her former boss before moving on.

Thundering footsteps signaled the customers following in her wake.

He gaped at the carnage while Dirk called 9-1-1. It’d be too late by the time they got there. All that’d be left was to clean up the zombie parts and get the customers back in to pay.

God bless survivors.


Find Karina at:

Website: http://fabianspace.com, http://dragoneyepi.net
, http://zombiedeathextreme.com
Blog: http://fabianspace.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karina.fabian
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/KarinaFabian
Google +: https://plus.google.com/103660024891826015212
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/10981939-karina-fabian

Find Neeta Lyffe 2: I Left My Brains in San Francisco at:


Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Photo: Karina Fabian. Neeta Lyffe 2 cover art: George Silliman.

Bryan Hall: Hooks in Novels and Novellas [guest blog]

Good morning, everyone! Today I’m welcoming author Bryan Hall to this patch of virtual real estate, and a guest post by him regarding his new book, The Girl, the second in his Southern Hauntings Saga, published by Angelic Knight Press. Take it away, Bryan!

Guest Post by Bryan Hall

Bryan Hall

Some of you may be aware that myself and a couple of my writing friends (Armand Rosamilia and Billie Sue Mosiman, to be specific) get together on a weekly basis with one or more people from the writing community and talk books, mainly from the perspective of a reader. That discussion is called ‘The Pub’ and is hosted on my site. The reason I bring that up is because one of our first discussions ever was about hooks in novels or novellas. Over the course of the conversation some guests made some great comments in the comment section and joined in the discussion. It got me thinking about The Girl, out today from Angelic Knight Press.

The Girl is part of The Southern Hauntings Saga and is the first real introduction to what the main character–Crate Northgate–is going to have to deal with over the course of this series. In that initial discussion we talked about how important it was to get those hooks sunk deep into a reader quickly so that they don’t set aside your book and pick up a different one. But one particular commenter–I can’t credit him properly since he didn’t leave his real name–added some very valid points as well.

Pick up a Stephen King novel. I’m sure you’ve got one and if not, that’s okay too. Plenty of other writers will fit this exercise as well. Start reading through it. Now, you’ll notice one of two things.

The Girl

1. If you’re reading an old King novel, odds are the first pages have something to draw you in–to hook you nice and tight. ‘salem’s Lot has the tall man and the boy in Mexico and it leaves you wondering how they got there, urging you to read on.

2. If you’re reading a newer novel, or even one from the nineties, there’s a good chance the hook isn’t there. That’s not always the case, of course. Under the Dome gets going pretty damn quick, and some of his other stuff does as well. But Misery? Gerald’s Game? Nope. Hell, even my personal favorite The Shining takes a while to get going.

The point? Well, as our mystery commenter pointed out, style goes a long way towards drawing a reader in and keeping them there as well. Some writers–like King–have a unique style that some fall in love with (some happen to hate certain styles as well, obviously). Another wrinkle in this idea is simply that as King’s career progressed he didn’t have to work as hard to hook readers. They knew the goods were coming, and they’ll wait through one hundred pages of character development and backstory to get to it if need be.

With The Girl, I had to create two hooks. I had to hook readers into the story of The Girl itself. I hope I did that with the use of the main character and the overall mystery that drives the narrative. But I also had to hook readers into the Southern Hauntings Saga as a whole. As it stands I plan on this series running five or six books long. The number could change, but that’s the figure I have in mind right now. Hopefully this story and the mystery of Crate’s past hooks you in and makes you want to find out more. If so, I’ve done my job. If not… well… I just hope it does. Either way, I hope you enjoy the story and take the time to check it out.


Buy links:

The Girl is available from Amazon.com (U.S.) for Kindle and from Smashwords (multiple e-book formats).


About the author:

Bryan Hall is a fiction writer living in a one hundred year old farmhouse deep in the mountains of North Carolina with his wife and three children. Growing up in the Appalachias, he’s soaked up decades of fact and fiction from the area, bits and pieces of which usually weave their way into his writing whether he realizes it at the time or not. He’s the author of the sci-fi horror novel Containment Room 7, the collection Whispers from the Dark, and the upcoming Southern Hauntings Saga. You can find him online at www.bryanhallfiction.com and learn more about the Southern Hauntings Saga at www.whoiscratenorthgate.weebly.com.


Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light. His blog originates here. Guest post written by Bryan Hall. Cover art for The Girl by Rebecca Treadway.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt: The Story Behind Lord Xalivar

Good morning, everyone! Today I’m welcoming author Bryan Thomas Schmidt to this patch of virtual real estate, and a guest post by him highlighting the main antagonist of his spectacular new space opera novel, The Returning: Book 2 of the Saga of Davi Rhii. Take it away, Bryan!

Guest Post: Character BG Profile: The Story Behind Xalivar
by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Randy Streu as XalivarName: Lord Xalivar Rhii
Profession: Deposed Dictator (High Lord Councilor Of The Borali Alliance)
Appearance: Like this (see photo at right) Oh wait! That’s my editor. But in my mind, Xalivar does look like this. Just saying.

Like his father and grandfather before him, Xalivar held the highest office in the Borali solar system, ruling all thirteen planets and all who lived on them, until his nephew helped the ancient enemy slaves, the Vertullians, fight for freedom. Now, Xalivar is in hiding and Davi a hero. To make matters worse, Davi is a slave name. The nephew’s given name was Xander Rhii, a curse on the family name. Xalivar’s sister Miri secretly adopted Xander when she was unable to have a child of her own. Wanting a heir, and filled with memories of his harsh upbringing by a father and grandfather he could never please, Xalivar determined to treat Davi like his own son–the way he thought a son should be treated: with the respect and love Xalivar himself never knew as a child.

But now Davi and Miri have betrayed him along with everyone else. Justice must prevail and Xalivar must be restored to power, whatever it takes. After all, traitors don’t deserve mercy, kindness or forgiveness. Xalivar had given Davi everything and Miri as well. They lived in luxury in the Palace, the richest in the land, royals. Their betrayal must not go unpunished.


The ReturningGods, Xalivar hated Xanthis! Such a worthless lump of floating rock! It did have its advantages though. Only slightly more populated than its neighbor Italis, it was ice cold at night but pleasant during daylight hours. And its rocky plains were filled with hundreds of places to hide–cavern after cavern–making Xanthis the perfect place to keep a low profile while he put his plan into place.

After the humiliation on Eleni 1, Xalivar hadn’t looked back. He’d stopped at the starport on Legallis and swapped from the Imperial shuttle to a private transport. The as-yet-uninformed Royal staff had met him there with the belongings and supplies he’d requested already loaded. He’d bid them adieu and headed off on his “Royal retreat.” He could only imagine the confusion they later experienced upon learning he wouldn’t be coming back. As stupid as Gungors. He wondered if they’d welcome him back if he just showed up at the Palace doors one day. He wished all the citizens treated him so warmly.

To be an outcast! Like some criminal in his own empire! His fists clenched at his sides as he pondered it. He would redeem his family’s honor and name. His power and position would be restored. They hadn’t seen the last of Xalivar!

As he made his way into the hollowed out chamber he now used as a conference room, the rest of his core allies sat waiting around an old wooden table they’d procured from the abandoned settlement nearby. Who knew how long the place had been abandoned. Xalivar was just pleased the settlers had left so many valuable resources behind. If they ever came back, they’d discover someone had raided them with flourish. Not much remained to come back to.

The others watched him as he made his way past toward the head of the chamber and the table itself. The walking space was lumpy rock, making passage challenging and causing him to slow his pace whenever his feet found questionable footing. He did his best to nonetheless look confident. This was no time to be seen as weak. Any one of these so-called “allies” would jump at the chance to usurp his role and leave him forgotten in their wake.

His majordomo, Manaen, waited for him beside the chair at the head of the table, smiling and handing Xalivar a datapad as he moved past. An Andorian from Idolis, Manaen’s yellow teeth stood out against his blue skin and red eyes. He stepped back as Xalivar accepted the datapad and slid into his seat, facing the others. The chair’s wooden arms sent a cold tingle up his arm. He deliberately kept the temperature in his chambers set at a level which made the others uncomfortable–first, because he liked keeping them on edge, and second, because whatever energy and air escaped was then less likely to draw attention from passing air or ground security patrols. An unexpected heat source in this barren region would draw attention Xalivar didn’t need. So far, he’d had no interactions with the local authorities and he much preferred it stay that way.

“You have word from Bordox?” he asked as he panned the table, meeting the others’ eyes each in turn.

Lord Obed nodded from a chair to his right. “The Academy leadership is baffled as to why anyone would murder one of their own. The mission’s expanding to Iraja and Legon now. It’ll be a matter of time before the press takes notice.”

Xalivar smiled. “They are all too easy to manipulate, as expected.”

“Perhaps not if they knew who was pulling their strings,” Obed replied with a somber expression and tone.

Xalivar fought to contain his annoyance. Obed was the former chief of the Lord’s Special Police under Xalivar, the most elite security forces of the Borali Alliance, yet he made no effort to conceal his identity in public, going about in his old Council robes as if he had not a care in the world. Everyone else had resigned themselves to new, less-noticeable wardrobes so as to maintain as much anonymity as possible. Obed refused. Xalivar had only allowed him to join the allies out of necessity and a desire to have a scapegoat for certain treacherous activities which might be required. He couldn’t wait to be done with him.

Swallowing the bile which had arisen in his throat, he kept his voice even. “When done well, they always believe they are the ones doing the manipulating, my dear Obed.”

Borali Military Crest“And no doubt they will again, my Lord,” Admiral Dek said, shifting in his chair opposite Obed. It was only the second time since they’d launched their plans that Dek had been able to meet with them. As the new head of Borali Alliance military forces, he couldn’t slip away easily without undue attention so he primarily communicated with them via coded transmissions. Despite his years of military experience, the Admiral became noticeably uncomfortable whenever tension flared between the two ex-Council members. Their history of rivalry was well known, and Xalivar had no doubt Obed’s current alliance with him was by necessity not loyalty. It’s why he’d asked General Lucius, his chief of security, to keep a special eye on Lord Obed. And also why he’d made sure Obed was in charge of the field operations. It would make it all too easy later on to let the right information slip out and watch Obed take full blame for a series of actions which would disrupt both the harmony and the integrity of the Borali Alliance. Xalivar, of course, would move in to restore order and save the day. He chuckled as he imagined it.

“Make sure the proper messages get left at each location,” Xalivar reminded his rival and enjoyed watching his reaction.

“He’s doing everything exactly as planned.” Obed stiffened, leaning back in his chair with a look of annoyance. Obed’s son was a known embarrassment, yet the father still bristled when anyone criticized him in public. Except, of course, Obed himself. Bordox was yet another reminder to Xalivar why he’d never wasted time having children.

Xalivar couldn’t resist needling him a bit more. “Good. We don’t want the same incompetence he evidenced the last time.”

“He more than redeemed himself on Eleni 1. It’s hardly his fault the Council chose to interfere.”

Xalivar forced a smile and nodded. “Are we making any inroads with the government on Italis?”

General Lucius sighed. “We are increasing the pressure, but so far they remain noncommittal toward our request.”

“They fail to see the advantages for them in the arrangement?”

“They remain determined to play a neutral role and avoid any commitments.” Lucius slid a datacard down the table toward Xalivar, who inserted it into his datapad and began scanning the report.

“The time has come to widen our circle. We can only proceed in strength.”

“Perhaps our strength is what they question.” Obed’s eyes cut into Xalivar like a sword.

“Your choice can be unmade at any time, Lord Obed. Should you desire another arrangement, you need only give the word.” Their eyes met in a cold, staring contest.

Finally, Obed looked away. “Of course not. I have chosen properly.”

Xalivar smiled, his eyes narrowing into a warning. “You have so far.”

“They will commence construction of the ships as planned at the end of the month,” Dek continued. “We have secured investors to cover the initial phase, but the rest remain resistant until they see results from our campaign.”

“Are they unconvinced of our sincerity?”

“They remain determined to move slowly.”

“The time for action is upon us.” Xalivar slammed his fist on the table for emphasis, watching Dek flinch, while the others remained undisturbed.

“Some would rather speak to you personally.”

“You explained why that isn’t possible?”

Lucius nodded. “They question whether you’re even alive, my Lord.”

Xalivar sighed. That meant part of his plan might be working a little too well. He’d been forced to reveal his involvement to entice the types of investors he would need, but at the same time refused to meet with them in person. If proof of his activities leaked out to the rest of the system, it would destroy the mystique surrounding his disappearance. He may have been mistaken in assuming the assurance of his known close associates, like Lucius and Lord Obed, would be enough to engage their sympathies. Some of these men hated uncertainty and the changes occurring in the Borali Alliance since Xalivar’s departure had increased their nervousness and left them on edge.

“Perhaps when the first prototypes are ready, a meeting will be necessary. For now, General, let them wonder if we’ve lost interest. If they don’t meet our needs, there are other options.” Xalivar never trusted anyone. He always had backup plans.

Lucius leaned back in his chair. “As you wish, my Lord.”

“But keep them under watch to be sure they don’t reveal anything in the meantime.”

“The sincerity of our desire to maintain anonymity did not escape their notice, my Lord.”

Yes, these men knew all about secrets; they were used to living out much of their lives in secrecy. It’s why he’d dared to trust them, yet still, Xalivar never trusted anyone much. Not even men he knew had sworn their lives to his service. “And what of Phase I of the recruitment, Admiral?” He turned back to Dek. “We must maintain our schedule regardless of the status of any equipment.”

“Indeed. The recruiters have found eager volunteers for the private militia, my Lord.”

Xalivar laughed. Farm boys and poor laborers were as easy to manipulate as the media. Some things never changed. He leaned back in his own chair now, glancing around the table again. It pleased him to see that none of his allies looked as relaxed as he felt. That was the way he’d always liked it and he rued the day it might cease to be the case. Things were coming together just the way he’d envisioned it. The investors’ hesitation was hardly a hiccup. Even they would become convinced in a matter of time.

He found he couldn’t sit still. Such was his excitement at the thoughts of success racing through his mind. Adrenaline pumped through him as he spun around and reached for the remote to the broadcast channels. It was time they entertained themselves with news reports on the success of their activities. Nothing motivated men like watching their plans unfold perfectly. For the first time in his life, Xalivar reveled in creating chaos. It was the polar opposite of his previous drive for order in all things. But he knew this was only a phase. Soon this diversion would pass and order would be restored with Xalivar in the Palace again, right where he belonged.

Throne Room - The Worker Prince


In Bryan’s second novel, The Returning, new challenges arise as Davi Rhii’s rival Bordox and his uncle, Xalivar, seek revenge for his actions in The Worker Prince, putting his life and those of his friends and family in constant danger. Meanwhile, politics as usual has the Borali Alliance split apart over questions of citizenship and freedom for the former slaves. Someone’s even killing them off. Davi’s involvement in the investigation turns his life upside down, including his relationship with his fiancée, Tela. The answers are not easy with his whole world at stake.


The Returning is available now for pre-order (in print and for the Nook) from BarnesAndNoble.com, and should shortly be available (in print and for the Kindle) from Amazon.com.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and several previously published and forthcoming short stories. He can be found via his website, his blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in many other far-flung places on the Internet.

Jake Elliot: Author Interview

Good morning! Jake Elliot is over here today, talking about his dark fantasy novel The Wrong Way Down. Welcome, Jake!

1. Tell us about yourself, and what drew you to writing.

“Tell us about yourself” has got to be the hardest question in the world to answer. “Quantify yourself.” If I try to sound too deep, I look like a fool, if I try to show my tough-guy side, people generally don’t like me and call me names. Everything is so speculative. But, here are the basics —

I am married and my wife is a social scientist. (Anthropologist — so, yeah, it’s not hard to figure who the smart one in our relationship is.) We live in Las Vegas but neither of us really fit here. Las Vegas is a very unique city to live in because no one really fits here, but everyone seems to be trying. My wife and I stopped trying years ago, and that is why we don’t fit.

Much to the disappointment of our families, we have avoided having kids. It isn’t too late, but we both agree that traveling light has opened many opportunities that couldn’t have happened if there was a little-one cruising around under our wings. Being a full time writer is one of those things. As you may know, 95% of us don’t write for money, we write because we can’t stop.

We do have a cat. His name is Samson. He isn’t a very nice cat and I am usually bleeding from random claw strikes that I didn’t deserve.

As for what drew me to writing–I’d have to say reading drew me to writing. I’ve always liked books, and I’ve always been a strong reader. I wrote a bit in high school, but in college one of my instructors believed I had talent and encouraged me to try and sell some short stories. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I started truly honing my skills with the art. Sometime in my late 30’s I got published, but there is nothing I’d put my name on until just last year.

The Wrong Way Down2. Tell us about your latest book, The Wrong Way Down.

Well, I’m glad you asked. It is the beginning of one hell of a roller-coaster ride. The Wrong Way Down is the Samson Cat of fantasy fiction. There are a fair number of sneak attacks that I’m not going to disclose, but…

The story begins with two thieves breaking into a remote monastery to steal a golden scepter. One thief kills a priest and runs away with the treasure as the other thief is caught. Unknown to the thieves is they have stolen a healing scepter of great power. It would be like stealing the Holy Grail. As a result of their crime, the lives of the thieves have become cursed and forfeit.

Popalia is a young faith healer who is charged with the task of escorting the captured thief through the wilderness to the nearest military garrison, but the thief escapes. Unwilling to go back and accept her failure, she and the wilderness guide assigned to assist her agree to pursue the thieves, and exact justice. It doesn’t happen quite as planned. Hence the name, The Wrong Way Down.

This first chapter in the series isn’t too dark, but as the series progresses, I hope to add decent portions of horror to the equation. I prefer to write about situational fear more than the boogie-man kind of horror. My wife said the first book is PG-13, but book two gets a full R-rating. Book Two: Crossing Mother’s Grave is quite frightening–I’ll only edit when the sun is up.

I have high hopes that Crossing Mother’s Grave will be released on September 1st, but it could be as late as December if the numbers don’t fall just right.

3. Who would be the perfect reader of The Wrong Way Down?

Adults who read Harry Potter but now want something a little rougher. Anyone who loved The Talisman from Stephen King. Readers who liked the Lord of the Rings movies, but found the novels to be confusing. Any of these readers would be perfectly happy with my books.

Who is NOT my perfect reader are children under the age of fourteen. In fact, if you are terrified you child might read about boobies, don’t give them my books because there will be boobies. Oh, yes! Not now, but they are coming in Three-Dee–like a pop-up book. After all that being said, book one is PG-13.

4. In general, as a reader, what do you think good writing is?

That is a great question. Again, it is so speculative. A thousand authors could answer that question and never give the same answer.

Blanket definition — good writing conveys the intended idea of the writer to the reader.

Among my personal favorites are solid characters like in Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead, or Robert E Howard’s Conan; two books of many favorites. But that isn’t always true, I loved Palahniuk’s story Survivor, and that has got to be the most pathetic protagonist I’ve ever read. It worked well for that book. Good writing isn’t manufactured, it is alive.

5. You’ve stated in other interviews that you like to travel, and you relocate frequently. How has this helped your writing, and is there any place you haven’t yet been to that you’re determined to see before you die?

I was born is Sothern California, in an agricultural city that became swallowed by L.A. as it grew. I’d moved to Oklahoma thanks to the USAF, and I escaped as soon as I could and moved to Phoenix, that was unpleasantly hot. Then to Dallas, stayed there for many years, now I’m in Las Vegas. In each place I saw very different ideas about how their cities could, and in contrast, do operate. In Dallas, when it snows, pissed-off people are on TV, asking what the Mayor plans to do about it. In Las Vegas, snow means riot police and total anarchy. Yeah, it all affects my world building.

Book three, which I’m working on now, is heavily influenced by the architecture of Amsterdam. Book two was heavily influenced by Carlsbad Caverns and Lehman Caves at Wheeler Peak National Park.

I would love to live in Central America, or South America for at least one year. I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, but because of my wife’s career, it could happen. Hell, if the miracle every writer wants does happen and my series takes flight, I could afford to do it. One can achieve anything with enough money, that’s why only a few people have all of it.

6. If you were able to take a one-way ride, staying on Earth but going anywhere in time (taking along whomever you wished), would you, and if so, where would you go and what would you do when you got there?

Just like Bill and Ted, eh?

Man, I am a deviant at heart. Everything I think about is immoral, if not illegal.

In all truth, I wouldn’t go back too far. Maybe I’d go back as far as the beginning of the hippy movement, but since I’m married I couldn’t get any ‘free love.’ I’d go so I could follow the Grateful Dead, and see Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix — all the great rock bands that aren’t so vibrant now. I love old rock, I could go to the Whiskey-a-Go-Go in L.A. and watch Eddie Van Halen perform before he had a contract, back when he was young and passionate about his music.

I’d put all my money into Warner Brothers and Apple so that when I got back here in the world of today, I’d be mega-rich and I’d just do whatever I wanted. My skanky daughters could have their own T.V. show, “Keeping up with the Elliots,” it would be super-cool.

7. What’s next for you, if you can share it?

I’ve got two new releases expected in the next eight months–hopefully both will be out within the next five months. Crossing Mother’s Grave is planned to be available on September 1st, and also expected on the same day is the anthology Fading Light, an Anthology of the Monstrous. My inclusion is about Vikings and a pesky little sea monster. That one will be being released through Angelic Knight Press. It will be a fun compilation, I’m sure.

If you need more info, here is my link, http://jakeelliotfiction.com/. Thanks Gary, for the great questions and the chance to share my kooky ideas with your readers.



Sometimes the right way turns out all wrong.

I saw his body lying there. My teacher, my mentor, my friend – face down in a pool of his own blood. His white robes were starched brown with dried blood, his throat cut open by the thieves who’d stolen the spiritual artifact we’d been entrusted to protect.

The Blessed Mystery smiles, we caught one of the two thieves, and it is my duty to escort this foul woman to the garrison for interrogation. God, how I thirst for revenge! I cannot afford the luxury of anger, for it is my duty and responsibility to love. I am a priestess on the side of light. However, this hate, it is so heavy…it is too heavy.



Jake Elliot learned how to write the hard way; trial and error, and then more by error than trial. Life experience warranted the biggest contribution to his art; being a vagabond at heart, he is always re-planting himself every five years in a new location to see a different side of life. He and his wife, who is also an explorer and a traveller, curiously wonder where the future will land them next.



“No, we didn’t break in to steal trinkets,” Thorgen answers, nodding toward the altar. “That is the prize, there. Are you ready to do your part?”

Atop the marble surface, two silver prongs have been crafted into feminine hands. Resting between the thumbs of silver lay a black-handled scepter. The shaft of the rod appears reflective like obsidian. The treasure is crowned with four golden prongs, each ribbed with platinum. In the very center and planted within the golden head, a diamond the size of a walnut twinkles in the candlelight.

Katia reaches into a dark-stained pouch tied at her belt, withdrawing a small looking-glass and three small iron rods. These were the most important tools of her trade. If their prize was protected by traps, she would find and remove each of them. Gingerly, she walks into the room, mindful of where she places her feet. In her line of work, assumptions often ended poorly, if not fatally.

She holds the looking glass behind each tile before stepping to the next one. With relative quickness, she moves closer to the altar, one tile at a time. Two long paces from the altar, she sensed a change and a deep fear tickles her spine.

There’s no natural air movement in the room. Upon entering the room, she’d seen the holes in the ceiling set to release smoke and heat from the room, but they were too small to change the air flow. The candles’ flames did not waver, yet the smoke from the incense began lashing aggressively above the black and gold rod.

She stands up as soft wisps of sweet smoke draw together, appearing firm and solid. The smoke forms into a sharp face, wisps curling where cheekbones end. Materializing above the altar, a smoking chin and cruel lips hover in the air. Hollow holes instead of eyes fix upon her.

Stopping cold, she stares at the magical warding before shooting a desperate look to her partner. Knowing nothing about magic traps, her eyes express how this is beyond her ability.

“Just grab it and let’s go!” Thorgen ordered.

To return empty-handed would mean no protection from their employer. Her partner killed the monk, affording her no choice but moving forward with the heist. With retreat no longer an option, she damns caution and takes two steps closer.

Her partner signals to snatch and run. The smoke hardens solid as granite. Rows of predatory teeth linger behind sneering lips. Evil teeth grin– daring her to try. Hoping to snatch the scepter from between silver hands before losing her own arms up to the elbows, she swipes her prize like a snake would strike, lifting the rod from off its holder.


Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and several previously published and forthcoming short stories. He can be found via his website, his blog A Taste of Strange, as @gwox on Twitter, and in many other far-flung places on the Internet.

Preorder link for Live and Let Fly

Last week’s interview with author Karina Fabian about her new novel Live and Let Fly did not have one important element: a pre-order link. Let’s correct that right now:


Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and several previously published and forthcoming short stories. He can be found via his website, his blog A Taste of Strange, as @gwox on Twitter, and in many other far-flung places on the Internet.